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Tag Archive: Writing Tips

How Can I Shake Things Up? (Writing)

Have you ever tried writing a story and hit a point where you think ‘I need some extra conflict and drama’? Assuming you’re not writing slice of life where conflict isn’t much of a thing, you should have been asking yourself this question virtually non-stop. But depending on where in the story you are, the type of conflict can change dramatically.

Let’s say you’re two thirds through the story and everything’s gone to hell for your guys. At least one main character has died, you’ve pushed the rest to the edge of sanity by having disaster after disaster befall them, and the bad guys are on the verge of completing their Doomsday Weapon. But your good guys still have their home base, a place of safety from which to launch operations and provide resistance. That’s good.

Or is it? In general, when writing a story the stakes should be gradually going up to introduce tension and uncertainty at every turn. Even when the characters are at their lowest point, another disaster can still be introduced into proceedings. Especially when they’re at their lowest.

The secret ingredient here is known as tension and release, or the Rollercoaster Effect. Build up the tension slowly and surely, let the reader feel the stakes as the protagonist stumbles through the darkened house being startled by every little creak or thump. Then BAM! The protagonist gets out of the house and runs into the night. Tension is released as you realise they’re not about to be eaten by a scary monster… but now the tension creeps back up again as the reader speculates on where the monster might be… (more…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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Is Conflict Essential to a Story?

Most writers will tell you that conflict is essential to a story. Some would even go so far as to say a story can’t exist without conflict. And sure, depending on the medium involved, conflict is pretty crucial to a story. But is it essential to a story? Short answer: nope. The longer answer is a bit more involved.

There are several major exceptions to this rule. The most prominent examples I can think of would be humour and slice of life. In both instances, something else takes the place of conflict. For humour it’s the concept of set up and pay off, using jokes and crazy situations to propel the story. And for slice of life it’s having stellar characters the reader will fall in love with and simply enjoy watching or reading about in fairly normal (and occasionally fantastical) situations.

Often the above two categories of story will coincide, of course. Slice of life thrives on ordinary situations made humorous by putting a new slant on them. Something like GJ-bu is a great example of this. Likewise, Aria’s various seasons are all heavily focused on what we in the business like to call ‘cute girls doing cute things’, and is what you might call a healing show. (more…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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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…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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Describing Characters Through Environmental Details

Describing Characters Through Environmental Details

This is possibly a bit ‘too’ much…

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. 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 Blues:

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. (more…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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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. With that 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 solution 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…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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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.

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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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 should 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.

Some people posit that you should also read garbage, stories and books that are utterly terrible trash piles of epic proportions. And sure, reading that sort of thing might give you ideas of what not to do. But frankly, I’m of the opinion that you only get one life and a limited number of minutes and hours on this Earth, so maybe just read stuff you like and learn from writers who don’t suck.

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 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. (more…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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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! (more…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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Fetishizing vs Fetishes

Footwear, one of the staples of fetishland.

You’re probably wondering why I’m making a distinction between two very similar words. And that’s entirely fair to wonder, so let’s talk a bit about it. In the context I’ll be talking about here, specifically writing erotic fiction, fetishes and fetishizing, while basically the same on a superficial level, generally refer to two quite different concepts. Especially anything like romance and ero 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. I’ll write a post on fetishes at some later date.

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…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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Using Euphemism in Explicit Scenes

An image completely unrelated to euphemism in any way.

English is a flexible language with huge variety in vocab and many, many alternate words you can use to describe things, and euphemisms can be some of the most fun and enjoyable of the lot. 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/lesbian 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.

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 said girlfriend has a large and shapely pair. I therefore 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…)

Yurika

Yurika S. Grant is a writer and yuri lover who writes lesbian fiction and lives in the sunny yet unbelievably flat East Midlands. Secretly a witch.

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