Yurika S. Grant's Author Site

Tag Archive: Writing Tips

Music Choice When Writing

Music Choice While Writing

Do you listen to music while writing? I do. More or less without fail, in fact. Humans are sensory creatures, and music can help put you into the right frame of mind to write particular scenes. So let’s talk quickly about music choice while writing.

In general, I’ll normally have something easy to listen to (for me, your mileage may vary) such as late 90s trance. It’s a genre of music I have a particular fondness for, for personal reasons involving my own misspent youth, and therefore has a positive effect on me when I listen to it. That’s great when writing, because it puts me into an overall happy state where I’m likely to write more effectively.

But what if I’m writing something specific, something where I want to evoke a particular feeling or emotion in the reader? Ah, well then I’ll break out my playlists. Romantic scenes? That’ll be my romance playlist, including various tracks from the eras I like. Energetic trance for fight scenes or similar high-stakes events. For creepy or chilling I’ll use soundtracks from games such as Silent Hill (obligatory #FucKonami). Something epic and grand in scale? I might use this amazing piece from the final level of Serious Sam 3 (it’s actually 4 pieces stitched together, keep listening, it ramps up in epicness as it goes). (more…)

Describing Characters Through Environmental Details

There are nearly as many ways to describe a scene or character as there are stars in the night sky. Sometimes a quick description with additional hints sprinkled through the following action and dialogue works well. Other times a more thorough description, with metaphor and simile, might work better. And for some things, a description is barely even necessary, it might be enough to simply hint through clever placement of objects in a scene. It’s the last option I’ll be talking about here, describing characters through environmental details.

Describing Characters Through Environmental Details

This is possibly a bit ‘too’ much…

Indirectly describing a scene, location, or character is a great way to give your reader a good idea of what’s what without needing to overtly tell them. In other words, this is a form of the old ‘show, don’t tell’ technique. First, let’s take a quick example from one of my own works, Starlight:

Meg moved across to the kitchenette and stared at the cooker. Then at the sink. A variety of pots and pans, plus several plates and a number of pieces of cutlery lounged there, awaiting her attention. She turned to the centre of the room where her sofa and TV stood. T-shirts, random pairs of pants, and various jeans and trousers lay strewn across her sofa.

This simple paragraph of description gives the reader some hints as to the sort of girl Meg is. Potentially a little lazy—not necessarily true but a reasonable assumption for now. Untidy and disorganised—plainly accurate based on observation, but could also indicate she simply hasn’t had time to tidy. Not hugely interested in cleaning when she has other things to be doing—it’s previously been shown that she’s an art student at a university, and artists are often portrayed as untidy, so this is again an okay assumption.

By showing that Meg attends university, the reader is given the general idea that she’s probably fairly busy a lot of the time. Then showing her flat in a disorganised state gives additional clues about her personality, without ever using the words ‘untidy’ or ‘disorganised’ in the actual prose. (more…)

Writing Large Groups

Writing Large Groups

Feeling sheepish about writing large groups?

Excuse me a moment while I scream. YAAAAAAAARRGGHHH!11!!!!ONEone. Okay, that’s better. So now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about writing large groups of characters, a topic of much hair pulling and flustered frustration.

There are a few basic ways to handle more than, say, four characters in a scene. The easiest is to simply not do it. This is normally my preferred method because I like to keep things focused on specific characters, pairings, or small events.

But there are always exceptions, and I do occasionally bite the bullet and write anything up to eight characters. Or even ten to twelve in very rare situations. So let’s go over some of the ways I handle this when necessary.

Split the Group for the Whole Chapter/Scene:

Potentially the easiest option for a large group, simply split it into two or three smaller, more manageable groups. For example, I have a group of eight characters and a part of my story demands that all eight characters be taken on a special trip/event together. So I split them into two groups: Group A, the important group, and Group B, the less important group.

Group A has the four characters this part (chapter, scene, whatever) mostly focuses on. Group B has the more incidental, background characters. By determining which were most important to this part of the work, I can easily focus on them while still keeping the others around for cross-group dialogue and events, without confusing matters by trying to have eight characters talking in one scene. (more…)

The Importance of Word Choice

The Importance of Word Choice

So let’s discuss the importance of word choice. Today on Twitter I noticed a brief excerpt a writer had tweeted out from their in-progress work:

So why am I mentioning this? Well, the title of this post should give a clue, because choosing the right words for your scenes is important. Before I say anything further, I’ll just point out that this tweet clearly indicates a first draft, the #AmWriting tag is used by writers to share things they’re working on right now, so I’m not actually critiquing this author’s work, merely using it as an example.

With that said, let’s take a quick look at the one word I feel drags the sentence down as it currently stands: scent. Scent is more normally associated with positive smells; the scent of a lady, scented clothing, scented oils, etc. From etymology online:

late 14c., “scent, smell, what can be smelled” (as a means of pursuit by a hound), from scent (v.). Almost always applied to agreeable odors.

In the current example, the writer is using a positively associated word with a negatively associated scene such as torture. There are instances where this can work well, as it produces an unsettling dissonance that can make the reader uncomfortable, a good thing when writing horror or thriller type works.

However, in this instance I’d argue that use of a positive word like scent actually produces a less impactful scene. It’s not a strong description precisely because the word evokes a positive image in normal use, and the lingering stench of urine and copper in a dark and dank location where torture was perpetrated really requires different word choices.

I just used the word stench as one good example. Odour also works as it often has a similarly negative connotation (body odour, an odour of decay, etc.). For a first draft, a word like scent is perfectly adequate, first drafts are meant to be crap, they’re the potter’s clay being slapped onto the wheel and shaped into something basic before refining and perfecting.

But once that first draft is complete and you can start looking more carefully at word choice? That’s where the real fun begins, at least for me. Picking the right words is incredibly important for setting the scene in the reader’s mind, and a single well-chosen word can elevate a good scene to something truly great.

Getting Started As A Writer

Getting Started as a Writer

How do you get started as a writer? Simple question with a simple answer: just do it. I realise this isn’t particularly helpful advice, however, so let’s expand the simple answer into something a bit more useful. I’ll link a few good resources, both free and paid, at the end of this post as well.

First, the most important thing: to be a good writer, you must be a good reader. This is an absolute truth of the writer’s craft, simply because without having read a lot of other authors’ works, how can you expect to write anything worth a damn yourself? So step one would simply be to read as much as you can.

Not only does reading the work of others – whether that be fiction, blog, non-fiction, or anything else – give you ideas, hints, and tips on how to write in the mechanical sense, the story and plot and structure side of things, it’s also a great way to learn new vocabulary and ways to form sentences that you may never have thought of.

But beyond this, it’s also important to learn how to be effective in your writing. Readers know fluff when they see it and padding your work out with unnecessary cruft will frustrate and annoy more than entertain. Trimming the fat and tidying your prose happens during editing, but you can save yourself time and effort in the long run by writing effectively from the very first word of your first draft.

One last thing before moving on: write down anything that pops into mind while reading! Story structure, interesting twists and turns, vocab, sentence structure, character traits or quirks, anything and everything you find of interest. Write it all down so you don’t forget it and can refer to it when you write your own works. (more…)

Character Variety

Character Variety

A veritable cavalcade of variety.

Let’s say I want to write a political thriller set, in part or in whole, in Hong Kong. It’s an interesting location because, while it is technically a part of China, it’s also an independent state with its own laws and cultural and societal pressures.

As such, one of the first questions I’d ask would be: what race should my main character be? Chinese? If so, are they natural-born? From mainland China? Grew up in Hong Kong but travelled the world? Or could they be an American or British or French or German person who simply lives there and ends up being involved in something rather more than they bargained for?

The story will largely dictate at least part of the answer to this question. If there is some overriding reason for the character to be a particular race, then I will make them a particular race and build everything else up from there. But let’s say, for sake of argument, that this is just some random, regular guy who gets caught up in a dangerous spy game. Does their race matter then?

The easiest test for whether a character’s race is important to the story is to simply change it. Make your white British newspaper reporter African-American instead. Does it change anything in the story? Or in your plans for the story? No? Then mix things up a little!

But if the answer is yes? That’s even more reason to mix things up! Having them be of a different race or ethnicity or gender or sexuality can change your characters in ways you might never have thought of. (more…)

Fetishizing & Equal Description (Lesbian/Yuri Writing)

Fetishizing & Equal Description

Thinking hard about food. Just food. Yep.

Before anything else, I need to point out a major difference between fetishes and fetishizing in the context of writing. Fetishes and fetishizing, while basically the same on a superficial level, generally refer to two quite different concepts. Especially anything like romance where you’re describing people in detail, including sexually.

Fetishes are obvious, basically everyone knows what those are, and huge numbers of people have them. They’re perfectly normal and not something anyone should really be worried over or ashamed of. Alas, society often disagrees, but here on my site at least I’m entirely open-minded on the subject. Fetishes are also fun to write.

Fetishizing is a whole other ballgame, though. The reason I’m separating these is simple: fetishizing is the act of making something or someone into a fetish. For example, focusing on dark skin or large breasts. It’s perfectly fine to be personally attracted to someone with these or other physical traits, everyone is different and people all have their own tastes, no problem.

However, when writing you should be aware of this as a potential issue. I don’t want to linger too long on this so I’ll make it as succinct as possible: describe your characters equally and leave your personal tastes at the door when you write from a neutral narrator’s point of view. Keep your prose as objective as possible, and avoid letting your own interest in dark skin or large breasts or whatever other tastes you have seep into the work. (more…)

Description & Euphemism (Lesbian/Yuri Fiction)

Description & Euphemism

Potatoes. Not actually a euphemism, don’t worry. Or is it?

English is a flexible language with huge variety in vocab and many, many alternate words you can use to describe things. So go nuts and have fun with it! Euphemism, genteelism, analogy, simile, they all have their place. But also be aware of when not to use them, and when to adjust word choice a little for particular situations.

For example, when I had just started out writing yuri romance I used horrible euphemisms like ‘magic button’ in place of ‘clit’. I was hesitant to use that word, partly because I was still unsure of how explicit I felt like being with my works in general. It’s one of those things that can demonstrate a lack of confidence, and you probably don’t want your writing to come across like that.

After reading some recent lesbian erotica and various blog posts by other writers on the subject, I dropped that practice entirely. Just use ‘clit’, you don’t need to worry unduly there, assuming you’re writing something explicit. Be bold and confident in your word choices, you don’t need to beat about the uh… the bush, as it were (I do apologise, haha).

You should also think about your characters themselves. How do they feel about sex and sexuality? Use words appropriate to the characters in question when describing scenes.

Like I have a character who loves breasts, and she can get a bit flustered when seeing her own girlfriend undressed because she has a large and shapely pair. So I use a lot of euphemism for this character, describing in terms of fluffy pillows or comfy airbags, using silly descriptors in the prose to match the character’s own feelings and flustered state.

Likewise, ‘pussy’ is a word I’ll happily use for any girl who is openly sexual and liberated, but I might default to more gentle euphemisms such as ‘wetness’ or ‘moistness’ for characters who are more unsure of things, or who are enjoying their first ever experience. This is by no means set in stone, though, I mix things up a great deal as well.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid using the same word more than a couple of times in a scene. So if I open a sexy scene using ‘pussy’, I’ll switch to ‘wetness’ the next time a direct reference is required. Then I might use ‘centre’ or ‘moistness’ for the next, before moving back to ‘pussy’.

Similarly, a phrase like ‘her most intimate area’ serves well to break things up and prevent monotony, adding some additional variety to the prose. (more…)

How Characters Alter Their Own Stories

How characters alter their own stories

Nothing to do with my new girl beyond being a convenient witch image.

Sitting at my PC, banging away on the keyboard as I write a scene for a new character being added to Aida, something pops into mind. A random scene, not something I’d planned or even thought about before this point. So let’s talk quickly about how characters alter their own stories.

So, I write the scene, laugh at the scene because my character has just been introduced to a new situation and is both mildly annoyed and somewhat flustered, then move to the next scene. If you’re thinking this is in any way unusual, trust me, it’s not. In fact, this is how I normally write, more or less completely at random, at least when it comes to individual scenes.

It’s been said by numerous writers that ‘your characters know their story better than you do’. And the totally random yet utterly perfect scene I just wrote for this character confirms that more eloquently than I could ever manage, even if given an unlimited word budget.

If you’ve read the first book, you’ll remember a flamboyant character by the name of Falconi. He exists to introduce the reader to the concept of character-type idols. People who create a character – a whole persona – and roleplay it at all times, at least in public, and sometimes even in private. (more…)

Maintaining Writing Momentum

Maintaining Writing Momentum

Ready to write, sah!

Maintaining writing momentum is one of those things that can take a bit of figuring out. I was asked a while back how I go about writing past the 10,000 word mark. For me this is a pretty easy question to answer, because I’ve never really struggled to maintain momentum. Quite the reverse, actually… I tend to be way too prolific.

What I do struggle with is keeping my focus on one thing. If I’m in the mood to write something specific I can get 5,000 or more words done in a day. My personal best is 7,500 in ~12 hours, which ain’t bad at all. But if I don’t feel like it? 1,000 might be a struggle, and chances are I’d give up after 500 words. And what I did write probably wouldn’t be very good.

So how do I write so I can maintain a level of momentum, especially past the 10,000 word mark? Simple, I vary what I write and don’t get hung up on writing linearly. Condensed down to a single word, I’d use this: Leapfrogging. Confused? That’s probably a reasonable reaction.

It’s really very simple, though, you simply jump – or leapfrog – back and forth over already-written sections – or scenes that don’t exist yet! – and write whatever the hell you feel like at that precise moment, anywhere in the story. (more…)