Let’s look at what might make your writing boring:
- Style: If your writing reads as “this happened and then this happened and then this happened”, if you’re not rewriting anything to improve it, or if you’re using redundancies, your style is the problem. There is a style tag on my tags page that can help you with this, but you can also look at the description tag.
- Plot: Sometimes the plot can be boring without the story being boring, but the characters need to be superb in those stories. If your story is not heavily character driven, your plot can’t be boring. Make sure there are risks. Let your characters lose every now and then. Make it interesting. The plot and plot development tags on the tags page can help with this.
- Too Much Detail: Unless it’s important, you don’t need to describe your characters making breakfast or getting dressed. It adds too much unnecessary detail. Ask someone to read over your writing. Have them highlight or underline everything they skip over or have them mark the places where they start to skip parts of writing. Get rid of those parts or rewrite them.
- Pacing: If you have slow pacing where slow pacing is not needed, the writing will come off as boring. Too much description and too slow of a transition from one idea or event to the next can slow down your pacing. For tips on this, check the tags page for the pacing tag.
- Long Paragraphs or Long Sentences: If most of your writing is a string of long sentences and long paragraphs, it can come off as boring. Add some variety in sentence length. Make sure paragraphs aren’t too long. People tend to get bored when a long paragraph is coming up.
- Too Formal: Creative writing does not have to exist within the rules of academic writing. You can start sentences with “because” and you can write a paragraph that is only one word long. Mix it up. Find your writing style.
- No Devices: Try using metaphors, similes, foreshadowing, allusion, symbolism, and other literary devices to deepen your writing.
- Glue Words: This ties in with style. Glue words are words that can be taken out of the sentence without losing meaning. They’re words like: on, out, up, through, after, before, in, but, the, etc. Instead of “He came into the room through the door.” you can say “He came into the room.”
- Character: It’s easier to write a boring story if you write in first person because the reader is then closer to this character. If a character has a boring voice, the story will be boring. Check the style and voice tag for help with this.
i —— foreword
Fairly recently I realized that a lot of writers and US citizens alike don’t really know and fully understand their rights when being arrested/interrogated. This is mostly a writing guide but if you’re a US citizen this stuff is just useful to know. Basically, the police won’t tell you most of your rights aside from what you know — but they don’t even explain those. I hope this helps.
ii —— being arrested
If you are not served with a warrant, the police can not arrest you. They can say they have one, but unless they show it to you, you don’t have to cooperate with them. Upon being arrested, you will be read your rights.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say
or do can be held against you in the court of law. You
have the right to an attorney, if you can not afford one
you will be provided one without any cost to you.”
Every so often the police officers fail to say this to the suspect before the questioning session and usually that results in negative consequences for the officers involved. What they don’t tell you is that you are allowed to have an attorney present before and during your questioning. They also don’t tell you that what you don’t say and do can be held against you. An example of this is, say you’re being accused of murder. If you sit there expressionless and stoic while they’re telling you that you killed your mother its gonna seem suspicious and they can use that in their favor. Now, in that same respect if you sit there sweating and vehemently denying it — they can use that against you as well.
Alright, they also don’t tell you that you can accidentally forfeit your ‘right to remain silent’ (fifth amendment right). If you say “I didn’t kill my mother.” you just gave up your right to remain silent. They will likely try to provoke you to say something like this that will make you give up this right. That’s why you want a lawyer present during and before your questioning.
iii —— interrogation techniques
There are a lot so I’ll only be outlining a few major things. Additionally, this guide is only applicable to lawful interrogations of arrested individuals that are US citizens and do not fall under the “terrorist" category, because military interrogations are quite a bit different. I might touch on that later.
The room is set up strategically. In almost every interrogation room, there is a table, two chairs, and a mirror/one way glass. The suspect sits on one side of the table, a police officer on the other, and the interrogator stands. The sitting police officer serves to corroborate and support the other police officer, or participate in the good cop/bad cop facade. The one sitting will usually pretend to be more friendly and try to feed you the age old lie “if you just tell the truth it won’t be as bad”.
The sitting cop will also look for microexpressions and pay attention to body language while the standing cop will generally pace around and give off aggressive vibes to intimidate you, the suspect.
On rare occasions, you can be questioned without being served a warrant. During these times, you have not been read your rights most likely and you do not have to cooperate. Sometimes its in your best interest, other times its not. Either way you don’t have to stay. On other occasions they are allowed to detain you for up to 12 hours but that is exceptionally rare.
The police officers questioning you will try to make you trip up on your own story. They do this mainly by trying to speed up the process so you have less time to think and process — the aggressive body language comes into play here. If you feel threatened you’re more likely to stutter and stumble around than if you have a clear mind.
If they’re having a difficult time getting you to start talking, they’ll ask you harmless questions — questions usually about your family members, your birthday, etc. These are always things they know already but it gets the metaphorical ball rolling. Along with that, they can establish a baseline of what your body language is when you’re telling the truth so they know when you’re lying.
iv —— "enhanced interrogation" techniques
As far as the less lawful interrogations go, just keep in mind that all pain would have to start at a minimal level and incrementally increase in intensity to be effective. You also have to factor in disorientation due to pain and possibly blood loss. At a certain point in time, your subject will realize they are going to die and there is no going back and they will stop caring. If they think it could possibly stop, you can get information out of them. There always has to be the possibility of getting out of it alive. Or you could also kidnap someone close to them and hurt them in front of your subject if that works.
The most commonly known about method is waterboarding, but its not the most widely used. The mechanics are basic, actually. Some sort of material is wrapped over the subject’s head — like a thick canvas material, or plastic — and water is poured over it. Essentially they feel like their drowning but you are just asphyxiating them. Its more mental torture than anything else.
Sometimes hypothermia is used, and that is basically just taking the subject’s clothing and putting them in a room about 50* F. Then every couple of minutes the subject is doused in cold water.
A very common technique is to shake the subject and that is fairly self explanatory, I believe. Not enough to hurt them, just enough to instill fear that you will. An open handed slap to the face or abdomen is also used. Punching is usually not employed by the government because it harms the prisoner, but if you’re talking about another country or a rogue operative, maybe a drug dealer — who knows.
Sometimes it is as simple as making the subject stand in one place in the same position for hours. It causes intense strain on the muscles and is usually quite effective.
v —— end thoughts
I could have gotten a lot more in depth on a lot of this but I felt I covered it enough to give a general idea. I do hope this helps people write these sort of things more accurately, or maybe even if they get into a scuttle with law enforcement (which I hope does not happen). If you have any questions, comments, or anything additional that I should add, don’t hesitate to contact me.
I made these as a way to compile all the geographical vocabulary that I thought was useful and interesting for writers. Some descriptors share categories, and some are simplified, but for the most part everything is in its proper place. Not all the words are as useable as others, and some might take tricky wording to pull off, but I hope these prove useful to all you writers out there!
(save the images to zoom in on the pics)
It’s an age-old writers’ question: What do I do about clichés and well-worn tropes? This month, we’ve asked authors about the clichés and tropes they find themselves falling back on, and how they fix, invert, or embrace them. Today, Susan Dennard, author of…
When Describing a Character
- provide enough detail to give the reader a sense of the character’s physical appearance
- highlight details that serve as clues to who the character is and perhaps what their life is like
- describe clothing to establish character or when relevant to scene
- go overboard with too many details or take up too much of the reader’s time describing one character
- repetitively describe features or fixate on certain characteristics
- describe clothing every time the character shows up unless its somehow relevant to the scene.
- describe minor characters’ clothing in-depth unless it’s relevant
Choose a Focal Point
When describing a character’s appearance, choose a focal point and work up or down from there. For example, you may describe them from head to toe, or from toe to head. Try not to skip around. If you’re describing their face, start with their hair and work your way down to their mouth, or start at the mouth and work your way up to their hair.
Describing Race and Ethnicity
There is a lot of debate about the right and wrong way to describe a person’s race. If you want, you can state that a person is Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, First Nations, Latino, Middle-Eastern, Asian, Pacific Islander, etc. Just remember that races are made up of different ethnic groups. Someone of Asian descent could be Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. If you’re describing a character whose ethnicity is unknown or not important to the plot, you could just say that they were Asian or Black, for example. But, the rest of the time you need to be clear about whether they are Chinese, Chinese American, Korean, etc. Also, remember that not all Black people are African-American, such as someone born in England or Haiti, for example.
You may instead choose to describe a character’s race through the color of their hair, eyes, and skin. It’s up to you which you feel most comfortable with and is most appropriate for your story. Just remember, if you describe one character’s skin color or otherwise make an issue of their race, you should describe every character’s skin color or race.
Just like with physical appearance, when describing clothing you want to choose a focal point and work up or down. Think about things like the garments they’re wearing (pants, shirt, coat) and accessories (hat, jewelry, shoes). Be sure to choose clothing which are both relevant to your character and to the time and place where your story is set. You can find out about appropriate clothing by Googling the time and place your story is set plus the word clothing:
"Clothing in Victorian England"
"Clothing in 1960s New York"
"9th century Viking clothing"
Be sure to look for web sites that aren’t providing cheap Halloween costumes. Shops providing clothes for historical reenactors are often very accurate.
Looking for Inspiration
There are many resources online for both historical and modern clothing. For historical clothing, you can look for web sites about the period, web sites for or about historical reenactors, or web pages for historical enthusiasts or museums. For modern clothing, you can simply pull up the web site of your favorite department store or clothing designer. Choose an outfit that works for your character, then learn how to describe the relevant parts.
Resources for Describing Clothing:
Writing Tips on Describing Clothes
Describing Clothes and Appearance (If You Should at All)
Resources for Garments and Accessories:
Types of Dress
Coats and Jackets
Sleeves, Necklines, Collars, and Dress Types
Scarves for Men
Scarf Buying Guide
The Ultimate Scarf Tying Guide
Historical Clothing Resources:
OMG That Dress!
Amazon Dry Goods
Historical Costume Inspiration
History of Costume: European Fashion Through the Ages
Women’s Fashion Through the Years
Clothing in the Ancient World
Clothing in Ancient Rome
Clothing in Biblical Times
Vintage Fashion Guild
Modern Clothing Resources:
Clothes on Pinterest
This is a Fashion Blog
What I Wore
Fashion is Endless
Physical Details Resources:
Women’s Body Shapes
Men’s Body Shapes
Realistic Eye Shape Chart
Facial Hair Types
How to Describe Women’s Hair Lengths
The Ultimate Haircut Guide for Women
Men’s Haircuts (Barber Shop Style)
A Primer on Men’s Hairstyles
Obsidian Bookshelf Hair Color
Obsidian Bookshelf Eye Color
Skin Color Chart
Curl and Texture Chart
Buckle up friends, Headless is talking about antagonism again
Protagonists are great! They are the ones we root for, the ones we rally behind and sometimes see the world of the story through. But a protagonist without some sort of antagonistic force runs the risk of falling stagnant.
Antagonists As Non-Characters
Something I think a lot of people forget is that antagonists do not have to be living, breathing (or undead) characters. A work without an antagonist is not necessarily dead in the water as long as it has an antagonistic force. If the protagonist is still working to overcome something, achieve something, do something, then whatever is stopping them is an antagonistic force. The moment something sentient(ish) gets involved and becomes the source of friction and conflict, they become the antagonist. But sometimes, the conflict has no face attached to it (for better or worse).
What purpose does your antagonist serve? What are they (or it) keeping the protagonist from? Where is it coming from? If it comes from a person, that person is the antagonist. If it comes from a thing, idea, emotion, or something else (the protagonist is battling a drug problem, for instance, or is on a quest to prove themselves or reach a goal), then you have an antagonistic force.
Not every story is in dire need of a villain. The No Antagonist approach works for some stories and not for others. If yours is one of them, embrace it. If not, keep going.
Antagonists as Characters
Antagonists are great and I love them dearly. A great way to start figuring out the antagonist is to really flesh out the protagonist, so you are already doing well. Take a moment to look at their relationship:
How is the antagonist working against your protagonist? Are they a villain with good PR who can leverage public opinion against the protagonist’s missteps? Will they be actively working to trip up the protagonist, or will they stay out of the field and send minions to do their bidding for them? Do they run the show up close and in person, or are they shrouded in mystery and veils of conspiracy?
How does the antagonist fit in to the plot? If you have an outline or a rough idea of the story, you may already have a faint-to-semisolid idea of what the protagonist needs to accomplish and the role the antagonist needs to fill. Look more at what they need to do: will they be taking over a megazillionaire corporation, legally or otherwise? Will they be subverting governmental authority and constantly escaping law enforcement? Do they have control over something they shouldn’t? Think about what your antagonist has that your protagonist needs, or vice versa. Or, consider what your antagonist is standing in front of and keeping your protagonist from getting to.
Who are they? Antagonists should still be characters, which means that taking the time to make them well-rounded and genuinely interesting can only do you good. Spend some time thoroughly developing whatever aspects of your antagonist strike you first: they might lead you to something else.
But I’m Still Stuck (Your Articles Are Too Long): Antagonist 911
What is it going to take to bring the protagonist to their absolute lowest? This is, after all, in some antagonists’ job descriptions. To create an antagonist specific to your protagonist, center their creation around your protagonist’s destruction. Build your antagonist around a conflict or a particular fatal flaw of the protagonist’s. Figure out what it will take to break your character’s resolve, and then work backwards: what skills does that require? What would be a good job or position for the antagonist to be in? How did they get there?
Antagonists and villains can be different. Not all villains carry a card proclaiming such—is your antagonist villainous, strictly speaking? Or are they more of a rival? There is a divide between them: Antagonism is force against the protagonist, and an antagonist is someone who brings about negative progress in the protagonist’s journey. Villainy is more along the lines of evil. What is the best way to label your antagonist?
When all else fails: Make a giant list of things your antagonist could not be. Oftentimes, this can help jog your imagination to help you think of things they could be.
I have a lot of thoughts about villains, my friend. Here are some more.
I think villains are phenomenal almost without fail, no matter how you spin them. The monstrous villain, sympathetic villain, omnicidal maniac villain, even a lack of a villain can be compelling. However, this is only one aspect of their character. What makes a villain interesting, scary, fascinating, or worthy of fandom scrutiny is a lot more than their motive or their backstory.
Here’s what I think: My “compelling villain” is marked in part by their redeemability or humanity, sure. But there are other, just as important markers in their role in the plot, their interactions with other characters, their dialogue and body language, their action or inaction at plot points… In short, my compelling villain depends on everything that makes them a character existing within the plot of my story. Trying to hand out a “best villain” or even a “best kind of villain” title is an exercise in futility, since it will almost certainly discount in leaps and bounds what makes a villain work or not work.
Before I go on, know that I don’t mean to tear down these villain types as unsustainable or overdone. Rather, I think sometimes it is harder to see why something does not work than to see why it does, especially if it is something we like. A cursory look around Tumblr proves that fans will find all manner of villains interesting and worthy of praise (if not more).
Say you have a complete monster villain. This works in some stories, without a doubt; the complete monster is not without their place. Yet, in some cases, if the villain is being terrible for the sake of being terrible, sometimes the story will suffer for it. The Generic Doomsday Villain is a villain that is all about the deed rather than the method or reason behind said evil deed. In another particular incarnation, complete monster villainy might be a form of Diabolus ex Nihilo (Devil from Nothing), a sort of inverse to Deus ex Machina in that the Diabolus ex Nihilo villain is one who serves no narrative purpose beyond antagonizing the heroes before dying/being removed from the story.
Conversely, say you have a Cry for the Devil villain. This villain can also work in some stories and is a much loved trope. However, this villain can become Unintentionally Unsympathetic if mishandled or if the sympathetic angle is pushed too hard/ineffectively. A worst case scenario would be if the readers start to actively hate the villain/their backstory/all attempts to make them sympathetic, going past Unintentionally Unsympathetic and turning them into The Scrappy despite all your best efforts. Some sympathetic villains are also prone to several types of decay, namely Villain Decay (in which a villain becomes progressively less scary/villainous) and Badass Decay (in which a character becomes progressively less badass, sometimes as a result of natural character development/sympathizing).
Something to further consider is the Audience Reaction and the sheer amount of different reactions that exist. We as writers are fond of yanking heartstrings with our works and evoking tears, yells, laughs, what have you. However, in the end, the audience will see what they see and react the way they want: we cannot control everything about our readers. Trying to dictate how a character (or plot element, or twist, or…) will be received by the audience is another exercise in futility. Personal preference plays a huge part in fiction. What I find compelling might not necessarily match up with Knockout’s idea of compelling, or yours or your friend’s.
Short answer: In the end, whether or not the audience finds the villain (or any other character) compelling, interesting, effective, scary, or anything else might just as well come down to personal preference, no matter what you do. Every villain and every type of villain has their pros and cons. What makes a villain work depends on a lot more than whether or not they have humanity: you will need to focus on a lot more than that in order to create a truly interesting villain.
I’ve seen my share of good and bad endings to stories in my time. Some stories are harder to close out than others, but I’m here to offer some tips on how to make a more satisfying ending to a story.
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)
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.