Writing Advice: by Chuck Palahniuk

In six seconds, you’ll hate me.
But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.

From this point forward—at least for the next half year—you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.

The list should also include: Loves and Hates.
And it should include: Is and Has, but we’ll get to those later.

Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write: Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like: “The
mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.”

Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.

Instead of saying: “Adam knew Gwen liked him.” You’ll have to say: “Between classes, Gwen had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’s roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her butt. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”

In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later). In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph. And what follows, illustrates them.

For example:
“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline. was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits. Her cell phone battery was dead. At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up. Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”

Do you see how the opening “thesis statement” steals the thunder of what follows? Don’t do it.

If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others. Better yet, transplant it and change it to: Brenda would never make the deadline.

Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.

Don’t tell your reader: “Lisa hated Tom.”

Instead, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.

Present each piece of evidence. For example: “During roll call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout ‘Butt Wipe,’ just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’.”

One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.

For example: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take…”

A better break-down might be: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57. You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus. No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap. The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late. Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”

A character alone must lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives.

Oh, and you can just forget about using the verbs forget and remember.

No more transitions such as: “Wanda remembered how Nelson used to brush her hair.”

Instead: “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”

Again, Un-pack. Don’t take short-cuts.

Better yet, get your character with another character, fast.
Get them together and get the action started. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. You—stay out of their heads.

And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”

For example:
“Ann’s eyes are blue.”

“Ann has blue eyes.”

Versus:

“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”

Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures. At its most basic, this is showing your story instead of telling it.

And forever after, once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for: “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”

Please. For now, hate me all you want, but don’t use thought verbs. After Christmas, go crazy, but I’d bet money you won’t.

(…)

For this month’s homework, pick through your writing and circle every “thought” verb. Then, find some way to eliminate it. Kill it by Un-packing it.

Then, pick through some published fiction and do the same thing. Be ruthless.

“Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”

“Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”

“Larry knew he was a dead man…”

Find them. After that, find a way to re-write them. Make them stronger.

yeahwriters:

referenceforwriters:

Hemingway App

thetrolliestcritic:

Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. 

Basically the coolest little tool to have as a writer.

This is awesome!!!

yeahwriters:

writtenbymadeline:

A tool to use for find Synonyms: Synonym Finder.

This is a great, unique little tool I found by browsing for writing resources. It’s name speaks for itself: it’s a synonym finder.

The site is clean cut, has soothing colors, and to-the point results for any word you look up.

For example, when I look up the word “romance,” I get this:

Synonyms: romance, romanticism
Definition: an exciting and mysterious quality (as of a heroic time or adventure)

Hypernyms: quality
Definition: an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone
Usage: the quality of mercy is not strained—Shakespeare”

I had no idea what a “hypernym” is. Apparently it’s a word with a more general meaning that a more specific word fall under. Like, color is a hypernym for green.

On the right corner there’s a button to make graphs! So you can trace each synonym from it’s root word, and see how far the other synonyms connect in comparison to others.

I really like it, so I’m going to definitely bookmark it on my writing tools list.

Amazing!!

fucktonofanatomyreferences:

A delightful fuck-ton of mermaid anatomy references.

A bit of a talk-through; Consider how natural swimming is to mermaids/men. When swimming, they often won’t be utilizing their hands and arms to help them move forward, ‘cause they’re adept to using their tails and want to keep their arms free for multitasking. Of course there are situations where it’s required, like when fighting currents and twisting around. Because they’re swimming on a horizontal, their heads will be turned upward, just like if we humans were standing vertically looking up to the sky. Mer-peoples’ chests are often puffed outward, because the arms are typically pulled back behind them (just like when humans are told to “sit up straight and show good posture” by rolling the shoulders back). Do keep in mind that the GIFs above don’t show full tail movement, as human legs don’t bend outward; mer-tails will be like the side-to-side fish swimming motion, but flipped to the side (if that made any goddamn sense). Don’t forget they’ll be breathing underwater (and maybe on land, depending if you want to grant them that ability)! Are you giving ’em gills, or are the human lungs somehow acclimatized to breathing water? Think about whether you’re designing a mermaid for practicality or aesthetics; if it’s gonna be practical, their hair will more than likely be cut short or tied up, ‘cause, though swimming with long hair isn’t too difficult, it tangles wicked easily and can impede sight (in the ocean, a mere second can cost you). Of course we all like the long flowing hair (I do too), but that’s just something to think about. (Be aware that good haircuts on land might not be good underwater, and vice versa. Consider how the water will affect the hair movement.) And designing the fins, too. Think about whether you’re splicing them with another sea creature or if they’re a new design entirely. Think about how you want them to swim and how the fins will help that work. Also, depending on how “cultured” you want ‘em to be, they probably won’t be wearing clothing, because no other creature under the sea does. But, then again, they’ve been in contact with humans (otherwise there would be no myths and rumours), so maybe they took after us. Who knows. Just food for thought. (Merpeople can be creepy as fuck, too; they don’t have to be these gentle maidens.) And of course, there’s the reproductive/excretive system. If we assume mermaids take after whales, the genitalia will be just about ”mid-shin” level in front. Some people put it at the end of the tail (between the two fins), and some make the fish half disappear slightly at the waist to expose “human” genitalia. You can get creative with it, since they’re mythical creatures. Maybe their belly-buttons are also anuses. Who really knows. “What about merman genitalia?” Look up “male whale genitalia” on Google, or “male fish genitalia.” That might help.

image

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[From various sources]

(via fixyourwritinghabits)

clevergirlhelps:

Reference
Dive reflex
Mermaid anatomy
Mythology
Facts and Legends
Types, types 2, types 3
Symbolism and History
Mermaids
Mockumentary, mockumentary whole
Species. Most agree merpeople are some strange mix of mammal and fish. You should probably determine to what extent merpeople are one or the other.
Fish. Fish have gills to help them take oxygen from the water. Some fish (like beta fish and arapaima) also need oxygen from the air; these fish usually live in freshwater. A fish’s tail moves in a side-to-side manner. Fish have extra fins to help them maneuver. Fish are cold-blooded and covered in scales, which protect them and can provide camouflage.
Mammal. Dolphin-like mammals (cetaceans) are totally dependent on air for oxygen. Their tails move in a up-and-down manner and have a different fin orientation. Cetaceans communicate and navigate via echolocation. They are warm-blooded. Cetaceans have hairless skin that easily scars. I used cetaceans for this post, because that is what many merpeople are based off, but you can also use mammals like otters, pinnipeds (see selkies), manatees, and dugongs. 
Read More

clevergirlhelps:

Reference

Species. Most agree merpeople are some strange mix of mammal and fish. You should probably determine to what extent merpeople are one or the other.

  • Fish. Fish have gills to help them take oxygen from the water. Some fish (like beta fish and arapaima) also need oxygen from the air; these fish usually live in freshwater. A fish’s tail moves in a side-to-side manner. Fish have extra fins to help them maneuver. Fish are cold-blooded and covered in scales, which protect them and can provide camouflage.
  • Mammal. Dolphin-like mammals (cetaceans) are totally dependent on air for oxygen. Their tails move in a up-and-down manner and have a different fin orientation. Cetaceans communicate and navigate via echolocation. They are warm-blooded. Cetaceans have hairless skin that easily scars. I used cetaceans for this post, because that is what many merpeople are based off, but you can also use mammals like otterspinnipeds (see selkies), manatees, and dugongs

Read More

(via fixyourwritinghabits)

Filipino Mythology, Ghost Stories, Folktales and Superstitions

shackleboltrps:

Because Filipino stories are scary and just yes.

Filipino Mythological Creatures

Filipino Ghost Stories

Dimensions vs. Parallel Universes

writeworld:

Anonymous asked: Hello! I have a question concerning dimensions. I am writing a story where I include a character going from one dimension to another. Though my knowledge of dimensions is pretty limited. Do you have any reliable sources (whether it be in book form or online)…

13 quick tips when you're starting your novel

keyboardsmashwriters:

  • Wind down. The stress of the day stays in your system until you give yourself time to detox. Do something relaxing, even if that means scrolling a few pages on your dash – but be careful, because Tumblr and other social media sites are time thieves. Two hours later,…

Writing Research - Victorian Era

ghostflowerdreams:

In historical fiction it is important to be accurate and the only way to do so is to research the era. What is highly recommended by many writers is to write your story first. While writing your story, mark the parts that you’re not sure are correct and then do the…

"So You Want To Work With Autistic Kids" Primer

girljanitor:

jack-not-jacque:

Hi everyone, so I made a post a few days ago about putting together a list of links for my lab partner, who wants to work with autistic children. This is what I’ve come up with. Admittedly it’s more of an “introduction to neurodiversity advocacy” primer,…

Anonymous said: I'm more interested in reading and editing but do you have any links/sources/anything which might help get me started? I'd love to take on some editing assignments and work on a lit magazine.

thewritershelpers:

Our editing tag

Rewriting

Editing your work

25 ways to edit the suck out of your novel

Time to revise

Editing checklist

What is editing

Editing tips for fuckups

Anonymous said: Hi, I'm writing a character who is asexual. How do I convey this accurately and respectfully, without it just being that there simply isn't a romance plot surrounding her?

fixyourwritinghabits:

Anonymous said: Hi! I was just wondering if you could help me find some research on precognition and clairvoyance?

fantasticalwriting:

Precognition:

Feeling The Future: Is Precognition Possible?

Precognition (superpowerwiki)

Popular Precognition Books (Goodreads)

Definition

Precognition in the TV show Heroes

What is Precognition?

Clairvoyance:

Clairvoyance (wikipedia)

Definition

Popular Clairvoyance Books (Goodreads)

Clairvoyance (superpowerwiki)

I usually don’t do others research, but I had little to do and I was in a good mood :)

Guide: Medieval Monarchy

clevergirlhelps:

writing-questions-answered: