Tips, tricks & discussions: How to make your story better

Seems really useful. It’s thoughtful of you to do it, @fcukforcookies

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Thank you :slight_smile: forgot to post one more today.

Ahhhh this thread lives!!! :smiley:

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Episode can’t kill it xD

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Character flaws - what, why and how


“Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull.”W. Somerset Maugham

Why flaws are important?

It is actually very often we’ve got to meet “sterile” characters in stories. They are just perfect… Well, not necessarily for the reader, but definitely for the writer.

Why is it very important to incorporate inner (not physical) flaws not only for main characters but for secondary as well?

The flaw is one of the main things that make human…well, human.
Flaws add depth and conflict, make the character more real and memorable.

If a character is perfect , then all the conflict in the story is someone else’s fault. The character is the victim of circumstances and just goes with the flow, too often relying on other people help. So many stories with “perfect” characters, that experience drama and bad treatment not because of their own decisions, but just because, for the sake of drama. The character becomes just a static thing in the story, that is being affected by other characters decisions.

Flaws also serve as a sub-plot for the story, that allows creating character development. H ow can character progress through the story without inner conflict, something to overcome? Flaws lead characters towards degradation and destruction or overcoming these flaws, and becoming a better person. Readers relate to the struggle, and they get an emotional connection with the character, especially if the character succeeds.

Why am I saying that physical imperfections are not flaws?

Because it’s not the physical imperfection that defines character’s actions and emotions. It is how it feels about them. Shame for disability? The regret of some past decisions that led to them? Pride for being different?

Now, this leads us to the thought, that when you choose a flaw, keep in mind that there has to be a reason behind it. Beliefs, traumatic past…
Now. IMO it is better to show the reason behind character’s major flaws because it will make the reader more sympathetic towards MC. The reason grounds the flaw and gives the reader a basis on which to judge it less harshly. It allows the reader to understand why the character is the way he/she is.

You don’t have to explain secondary characters flaws (while it is necessary to give them these flaws), but it’s better than you have this explanation in your head. When you know the reason behind the flaw - you will incorporate these flaws more successful , meaning that character won’t contradict himself, and there will be more logic in his actions/words/emotions. But you also should remember not to make the character be overwhelmed by these flaws.

How to better portray character’s flows

So first of all, don’t just label characters. Use the specifics to show the flaw, dialogues, reactions of other characters and MC own reactions and emotions to display these flaws.
Have him make a different mistake each time because you don’t want to get caught in the loop of similar scenes. It is extremely annoying.
I remember reviewing some story, where the character was positioned as a very independent bad-ass woman. Like, literally positioned, as writers described her precisely in the narration, which is the first thing to turn me off personally because I really enjoy getting to know the character at a reasonable pace. Now, there were put a lot of scenes, where MC interacts with other characters. And every conversation, although was happening with different characters, was written by the exact same scenario - someone scolds MC for being alone (sister, mother, best friends, the waitress in the restaurant (not kidding), and MC yelling at them that she is independent, and don’t need anyone. It was extremely annoying and basically looked silly. Don’t be too blunt when you show these flaws. Put the character in different situations where the flaw can be shown.

What else is important?

Flaw doesn’t mean shit if it doesn’t have any consequences.

In my story, MC has some unresolved problems with the past, that results in a few flaws. She doesn’t like to open up to anyone. While it drives away some people from her because it takes time to get through this shell, this is the thing she can work on, by trying slowly to build the trust, at least for some people. Also, because of the traumatic past, and her inability to open up, she was forced to find a way to deal with her feelings. I decided to go with the drinking problem, as it is kinda common, plus I can portray this problem realistically, because I incorporate my own past into this character, while raising awareness of the consequences this will lead to. I often see how writers portray drinking as a very fun thing to do, but in reality, it can be very ugly, and hard to deal with.

Punish your character for the actions and decisions, that were caused by their flaws. And let them deal with this punishment, either by overcoming them or by sinking even deeper until there’s no point of return.

I suggest adding these questions below, for your major character questionnaire. And remember, that there can easily be more than one flow.

What is the general flaw?

What are the specifics?

What is the cause of this flaw?

What makes it seem reasonable to the character?

What mistakes can the character make because of this flaw?

Do the consequences have an effect on the storyline?

Is the character aware or unaware of the flaw?

What form does the arc take in relation to the flaw?

Thanks @WritingWithStars for the very interesting topic :slight_smile: (LoL xD Glad it can stay)

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Motivation and Inspiration


I bet everyone here once in a while is being visited by Writer’s Block. Maybe this beast has even moved in into your head.

Here I’ll try to put some thoughts and advises on how to prevent and/or overcome it.
Note that not everything might work for you.

  • Make time for writing
    Well aren’t you freaking Captain Obvious, you might ask me. Well, what I mean is that you should write every day. Make it a goal, like a morning workout. 100 lines a day for example . Seems like it’s not much, but 1) these 100 lines a day will move the whole thing, as it is 1000 lines per 10 days and 2) if you’ll get an idea on what to write in these 100 lines, most likely you will want to finish the piece until some point, so it will make it more than 100 lines :slight_smile:
  • Use the dead time to think
    To be honest best ideas come to me when I’m walking my dog. I just keep replaying the plot in my head and search for different routes, and reasons how to ground them. Use that time when you aren’t focused on anything and just force yourself to play the story in your head, whether you are driving to work, or waiting in line or having a silent lunch.

  • Stop for the day trick
    Ernest Hemingway advised writers to stop for the day when writing is going well and the writer knows what will happen next. Some writers even advocate stopping in the middle of a paragraph or sentence. That makes it easier to dive in the next day.
  • Discuss the story with your friends
    I found this to be really helpful for me. So I’ve made 2 or 3 episodes and asked some of my friends (the ones that aren’t afraid to tell bitter truth lol) to share their opinions. I got a bunch of very creative ideas from these conversations. Once I release every new chapter I ask my friends (the ones who willingly read my story) a bunch of questions - like how do you feel about this scene, did your opinion about this character changed, or what do you think will happen next. The answers you will get might inspire some great plot routes.
  • Listen to your fans
    Well, the fan is a strong word. Fan-mails. You might have a pretty detailed plot in your head, but we are just people. We might ignore something that our readers might notice. I recently got a fan-mail asking, simplified “Why is this character is acting like this? This is so bad”. At first, it got me irritated, like, these are characters, why do you want me to change them? But then I thought, well it really concerns them, which is flattering to be honest, as you know that readers are invested in these characters, then they must not get why the character acts this way. And I paid attention to this and created a nice dialogue scene, that helped me with a few characters developing process.
  • Read a book/watch a movie/tv show
    It might be even a book or a movie/tv show that is not really related to your plot. Just keep attention to the plot and conversations, and you might get some great ideas.
  • Try Worldbuilding websites
    Discovered it basically 2 days ago. There you can ask questions, like how to justify this and that about your story, and get answers. There is a lot of already answered questions, that can serve as a source for some great ideas. Just search stuff related to your story and go through a bunch of questions/answers.

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange

Q&A for writers/artists using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings

  • Plan your plot
    This should go at first, to be honest. A lot of times we get the writer’s block because we don’t know how to continue our story. Ideas don’t match, and we just get stuck. To prevent at least this type of the WB plan your plot in advance, up until the end, and with all the minor plotlines.
  • Take a rest
    Sometimes it’s just it. We are tired and emotionally drained. It happens. Take some time off, and then try to get back on with the writing. Before continuing I usually read my story again, just to refresh everything that has happened, and also to get some inspiration in how to move the story forward.

What isn’t helping

  • Refusing to write until you feel inspired
    Writing is a work, just like any other. If you got your rest, did everything else and you still don’t feel inspired - just sit down and write something. At least basic abstract ideas. Otherwise, you can keep looking for inspiration until you are completely uninterested to continue your story.
  • Wallowing in self-pity
    This is something that doesn’t help with ANYTHING in this life basically.

  • Watching TV
    Now. I mentioned how watching a movie or TV show might help. Well, don’t make it an excuse to just mindlessly keep yourself busy with this.
  • Making endless excuses and postponing writing until…
    Well you got it…

Overall.
When you know you just have to start somewhere - just sit down and write something. Anything that comes to your mind, even if it seems silly. Finish at some point. Re-read and make corrections and over and over again.

Good luck with your stories people :slight_smile:

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What’s the best way to develope a character?

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Specify please. You mean throughout the story or at creating point?

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At creating point- this is the same character- Tod, and all I can think about for his personality is that he wants a good relationship with his mom and he is kind of a nerd

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Then you really should check posts I already wrote here. They are
III. Inconsistent Characters
IV. Character Flaws
Basically, you just need a character questionnaire. The link on the one I posted contains important questions, and this will be probably enough to create a very consistent and developed character. After you can also check Character Flaws post, as an addition to the questionnaire. Questionnaires are time-consuming, but it will save you time in the future and will help to create a more solid plot too.

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Thanks, I have read your posts- but I still wasn’t sure how to do it.

okay, so I have one post I haven’t published, where I cover some questions from the questionnaire. Maybe it will help you. Not all questions, but it could give you an idea on how to fill it. Just copy questions into some doc file, and start thinking and writing. Hold on, I’ll post it.

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Thanks so much for this- your tips are amazing!

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The Power of Questionnaires - Part I


So me and @Cheyara_M are writing a colab story, so this is the part of the process we went through.

We are on the first questionnaire, and it took days to get over with this one. I guess cause it’s about the MC, but anyway.

It is a second time I do this thing, so I kinda forgot, so now I have a moment to appreciate this process, and share it with you.

First of all, when we started, we had a very subtle idea about the plot, and characters.
At this point, we are almost done with MC questionnaire and…
WHOLE PLOT AND CHARACTERS CHANGED DRASTICALLY . I mean it. We got the main plot changed and formed, roughly, but still. Plus a lot of minor plotlines are developed.

I’ll go through with questions and comment on how this question can help, why it’s important, in regards to our story.

  • Name
    I know, what’s so special about the name? I see dozens of these annoying threads, where people ask for names. First of all, heard of Google?
    Now we actually decided to give more to the name and made the MC Spanish suddenly. So we were searching for Spanish cute names and surnames. So you get what we have here? We made some part of the backstory while picking a name, plus we formed her look.

In case you are curious, check out this cutie <3

Summary

image

  • Age
    Yep, at this point, we decided on what MC’s occupation is. Just be sure to correlate your chosen age/occupation/country. Some countries have a difference in finishing school/college time. Keep it real.
  • General physical description
    Well, it was partially formed at the name tab, but still. Think about how her body is for example. 'Course you can’t choose body type in Episode yet, but you have Narrator and other character’s thoughts about this to point. Maybe your character is skinny, or curvy. Don’t leave it out.
  • Hometown + Type of home/ neighborhood
    Here we formed almost the whole backstory of her family , and also a bit of her family background, how they got here. Also, added some traits , that were affected by the neighborhood type. For example our character whole her life was at the dominantly black district, kinda poor and with the high crime rate. Don’t think I am being racist here, as we chose the city where MC lives, and I just scrolled through most poor districts and found one. The place is real.
  • Relationship status
    Yep. Don’t have to say why it’s important.
    Is your character single/dating/hooking up/married? We also thought a bit about her previous love relationships, that helped us forming MC and reason her traits. Here we create more characters as well.

  • Friends
    Friends. Who are they? How did they meet? What bonds them? Like really bonds, their history and traits, that make them a good match as friends. It is important to do, so that you can show their chemistry. Maybe this friend/friends is/are toxic and MC doesn’t notice. Think what fits your story best, and will help to move the plot forward.
  • Family background (parents, previous marriages, etc.):
    Who is present in MC’s family? Divorced, or maybe mother/father left the family/died? Brothers/sisters/aunts? Think about what the relationships in the family are?
  • Other close relationships
    Maybe MC is helping some old granny with her chores? Or maybe gives a few dollars to a homeless guy on the street every day and chats with him? Small details matter, and allow you to show MC (and other characters) personalities.
  • Relationship with men/women
    This is very important. Mostly we act a bit/a lot different with men and women. It should be reasoned tho. Maybe your female character dislikes other women and is quite hostile to them because her ex-best-friend stole her boyfriend? Thinkthinkthink and reason.

  • Job
    OK, maybe MC is a student. If MC has a job. What kind of? Why she/he chose this one? Does he/she enjoy it? Is he/she good at it? Do your research on the chosen job, to portray it realistically I’m so fucking sick of seeing writers putting any “cool and edgy” job for MC and then just ignoring everything this job is about -_-
  • Dress style
    Here I can only advise. Pick some specific dressing style. Don’t just combine a lot of clothes, so that different readers will have something they will like. Dressing style also reflects your personality.
    giphy
  • Religion + Attitude to religion
    Maybe MC is a follower of some specific religion. Maybe not, but still believes, or just doesn’t believe. Maybe doesn’t believe, but forced to fake religiosity? Just don’t go with something you have no idea about. If you don’t know much about religion you want to incorporate - ask people here, or Google.
  • Favorite pastimes
    What your MC loves doing? Maybe she/he watches reality shows after coming home from work? Or does some early morning’s runs? This will affect MC daily routine. And it is also important, cause I see a real lot how writers don’t put anything other than school/job and partying, and create blank dull characters.

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Holaaaaaa, you rang my dear…

Oh bloody questionnaire was a nightmare… torturously long. But really good overall.

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Oh yeah. I made full questionnaires for the PH for like 5 characters and I was dying xD

btw @WritingWithStars for secondary characters I use shorter Q’s, just gotta pick the right questions u need.

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Thank you again for this! I am already starting to his Tod as an actual person!

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I’m glad xD
Feel free to ask for other type of help.

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Hot to create a good villain or Turn to your dark side ^^

"Every villain is the hero in their own mind."
Tom Hiddleston of his character, Loki.
loki

Now note, that in this post I won’t include psycho/socio types. Here I wanna talk about completely sane villains.

I tended to have problems with writing, or even picturing a villain in my head, maybe because I just couldn’t relate. Most of us want to be heroes, right? We can easily find the motivation and qualities to ground the hero. It is not so easy with the villain.

The things you need to define for your villain, in order to create one are:

  • Motivation
    And it’s that thing, where it is easy to fall into cliche motivations. Your villain might commit evil deeds to gain power, or get revenge. But who says you should go down this easy lane? I think in order to find your own kind of evil motivation, that will reflect you, as a writer, and also make the villain more appealing to the writer himself is to take his place .
    What you should understand is that regardless of how good you feel you are, all of us can be villains or evil from time to time . We all have these evil urges depending on the situation, or event or other things that are happening to us on a daily basis. Your colleague bashed you in front of your boss, and you shyly smiled, avoiding confrontation, while picturing how you strangle her to death. Not so dramatic, but I can bet it has happened to you at some point. The difference between you and the villain you want to create is that the villain won’t turn to the social norms, or empathy, or conscience. Just imagine what would you do, if your moral boundaries would lift? You won’t feel the guilt or care about other conviction. Your lack of morals or some twisted understanding will let you do these things, that you can only do in your imagination.
    I’m not telling you to become mean and nasty, but to get into your dark side long enough to know what makes a good villain. Giving your villain a motivation will make him more than a cardboard cutout.
    There have been countless studies where people have been asked if they’d commit crimes if they were guaranteed to get away with them, and the majority always say ‘yes’, whether the crime is something relatively harmless, like the theft of a chocolate bar, or something abhorrent, like murder. If there were no consequences, and we could gain something, we too might easily turn to the dark side. Think about it. :wink:
  • Reasoning
    The thing you should keep in mind, that villains don’t usually think that they are evil. They think they are different, maybe that they understand more than average people. He/she is convinced that he/she is a good guy. Remember Tanos? He is convinced that he is doing the best for the world and that the world just doesn’t understand him. Hell, let’s take a look at the real-life villains, like Hitler. He was sure he is doing the right thing. So the villain must have reasoning within himself, why he thinks these actions he does are justified, although not accepted by society.
  • History
    What made him this way? Why his way of thinking is different than of average person?
    Villains are people to whom terrible things have happened. Maybe when they were kids, maybe in adolescence, or later. At some point, rather than learning and overcoming something, their stopped developing empathy, or understanding or other qualities. On the outside, they may have many, if not most, of the same attractive qualities of your hero, like strength, or cleverness, maybe humor. But just under the surface, there are some qualities, that you can access in yourself only if you allow yourself to. Give in into temptation kind of thing :wink:
    willow
  • Boundaries
    Now there are different kinds of villains. The spoiled high-school girl might be as evil as some superhuman in comic books. How far each of them can actually go, in order to achieve their goals? Usually, the more power you have, the fewer boundaries you have. Can he/she kill? Steal? Rape? Even villains have some things, that they won’t do, unless under heavy circumstances, and these boundaries sure may disappear in the story progress. Make this codex for your villain, define what would make him/her break it.
  • Likeability
    Now your villain might be plain scary and horrifying. But why not make the reader more conflicted and emotional, by giving the villain likable traits? Maybe he is funny? Or loves animals? Or cares for his/her sick mother? His history might contain some facts, that may make us feel sorry for the villain, but why not grant him with something, that will make us like him. Love/hate relationship between the reader and the villain are the best.
    spike
  • Horror
    Maybe you don’t want to make your villain too likable? Maybe you want to create him/her really scary.
    You can make your villain more interesting and frightening by avoiding cliches. Evil is creepier when it’s found in unexpected places and shapes.
    How do you feel about Harry Potter’s Voldemort? The main villain, with creepy appearance and a lot of evil shit done in past and present. I dunno about you, but he wasn’t that scary. You know he is evil, and that he can kill, and torture, but you’re not really afraid of him.
    And then there’s professor Dolores Umbridge. Personally, I found my emotions way more strong towards her, because she is something more real, something that can happen in real life, and something we sometimes can’t fight, due to subordination principle. She is a cruel, sadistic woman with a sugary voice and freaky pink outfits, and an office decorated with pictures of fluffy kittens. While her resemblance with real life was very frightening and causing strong negative emotions, her contradictory exterior made her very memorable.

Good to remember

  • The villain must be worthy of your protagonist.
    What’s the point in creating a villain that doesn’t match your hero? The powerful villain will make your hero shine even more while giving them both a kick in character developing.
  • The reader must like if not the villain himself but at least watching him in action
    He must be exciting, captivating, and create contrast in his and hero’s actions.
  • Avoid creating completely evil villains .
    This concept of pure evil works of course in horror/monster stories, definitely not in drama, or fantasy.
  • The villain should sometimes be kind.
    Because reader must like the villain in some point, and also because giving the villain humanly moments will make him more realistic. Even Voldemort expressed affection towards Nagini :wink:
    nagini

Who’s your favorite villain ever?


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Darth Vader is an all time classic >.< for a very good reason.

Personally I’m particularly partial to some more recent villains like Eric Killmonger from Black Panther or Thanos. Especially Thanos.

I love villain writing and designing, it’s so much fun :eyes:

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