The Essentials of Good Writing (Both essay AND discussion)

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LegendZilla
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Re: The Essentials of Good Writing (Both essay AND discussion)

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Gojira21 wrote:We all struggle LegendZilla! that comes with anything though. I've struggled plenty of times with my stories and still do to this day.

However, never means should stop or give up though! So if you want to make that fantasy world then go for it! It will take time, but should use that time to plan out all the details, etc. You can do it!
Thanks for your support. ;)
Last edited by LegendZilla on Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Essentials of Good Writing (Both essay AND discussion)

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Your welcome! 8-)
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Re: The Essentials of Good Writing (Both essay AND discussion)

Post by Titanoterror98 »

Great essay, Giratina93! This is a very good starting point for all us aspiring writers. Plus, it gave me thinking about how I can apply this to my own stories, too!
I really hope you make/made more essay like this!
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Re: The Essentials of Good Writing (Both essay AND discussion)

Post by Dawsbfiremind »

LegendZilla wrote:I have been struggling to write my own stories for my years. Particularly I have always wanted to create my own high-fantasy world a las Middle Earth, Azeroth, Tamriel ect.
Then do it! Here, let me show you something.

Pick up whatever you're reading this on (unless you can't) and carry it to whichever bookshelf you keep your fiction in. Okay, your really great fiction section. Ignore the titles, read the author's names.

Great writers, yeah? No! Just people. People who decided they want to create something and did, unsure if anyone would like it. They got rejections, form and otherwise, from agents and publishers and editors and magazines over a period of months and even years. And then one person - one person - said "yes". Now look, you have their book! They succeeded and made it into the centuries-old extended family of great published writers, a brotherhood of an art form! If you want your name with them, you have to go through the same fights and doubt and rejection but just remember: this is your dream and it isn't over until you succeed, then succeed after that and ad nauseum, because your name won't just be with them if you do your best every time, your name will be with the greatest.

Good luck Legend, I look forward to having your book on my shelf.
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Dawsbfiremind wrote:People have asked me how I can want to be a writer
With skills like this......I wonder too.
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Re: The Essentials of Good Writing (Both essay AND discussion)

Post by T_Wylie2014 »

This thread is a few years old, but as a fanfiction writer myself who's also looking to become a published author someday, I felt it'd be good to add another perspective on the subject of writing and offer some tips about four of the most important fundamentals of writing that everyone, fanfic writers included, really need to know and pay attention to if they want to maximize their story's potential.

Hopefully you find this all helpful and informative! Though I will warn you there's a section in the first point which may be a major trigger to some G fans.

So, here goes!

1) Meaning

Meaning in storytelling is all about delivering on your promises. The more promises you make, the more you have to remain focused on keeping them. And the more promises you break or forget to keep, the worse your story will be in the end.

For example, when we're first introduced to Dr. Daisuke Serizawa in the original Gojira film, it's hinted that he has a dark secret. This is the promise. We get a glimpse later of a tiny sample of the power of his creation, the Oxygen destroyer, with the fish tank. This is the story's way of reminding you of his secret, since it's been a while since he was introduced, and showing a hint of its potential impact later on. And finally, after Godzilla's rampage, we have Serizawa being convinced to use it against Godzilla. And not only does he deploy it and kill Godzilla with it, but he also takes that dark secret to the grave in hopes that it would never be used again. And this is the deliverance of the promise. That little hint of a dark secret turned out to be humanity's salvation, but at a terrible cost.

Another great example is the key that Eren Yeager keeps in Attack on Titan. (Also, minor spoilers if you haven't read/seen that show yet) From the moment the key is introduced it's told to be sheltering a great secret. That's the promise. And once they finally reach the basement of his home in Shiganshina, they find that little box inside the drawer and discover a photograph of Grisha and his wife and their firstborn son, Zeke. But that photograph itself is the deliverance of the promise. Why? Because the world within the walls doesn't have photograph technology. They don't have cameras. The existence of this simple photograph taken by a camera is proof that there's an entire other world beyond the ocean with technology they've yet to even see in action, let alone use for themselves. And it triggers the final stage of the Attack on Titan story as Eren and company venture across the ocean towards the series conclusion.

Both examples are damn good storytelling, and both are picture perfect examples of how to deliver upon a promise and inject meaning into your story.

On the flipside...

To point to an example of not so great storytelling, and a total neglect of delivering genuine meaning to what should be an important moment, I must (rather begrudgingly) draw attention to what is a fan favorite moment from 2019's King of the Monsters film: The Oxygen Destroyer.

This is the trigger warning I mentioned earlier. And don't get me wrong. Despite everything I have to say about this moment, I do love KOTM as a film. But narratively there's a lot wrong with the OD's presence. So here we go.

Despite Dougherty claiming otherwise on Twitter, the OD in KOTM is nothing more than a McGuffin. The definition of a McGuffin is "an object or device in a movie or a book that serves merely as a trigger for the plot." And the OD in KOTM fits this definition perfectly.

The OD was never foreshadowed in the events of 2014, Skull Island, or even in the early stages of KOTM. The military just shows up and has it. No hints. No development update from the shadows. No whispers or rumors of its existence floating around MONARCH despite their intelligence network. Nothing. It's just there. This is incredibly weak storytelling and is the textbook definition of "forced plot." They want Godzilla to be weakened, so they threw the OD at him as a quick and dirty way of getting the job done. And because of this fact, the OD presents no promise upon its arrival. It simply shows up, goes off and gives Ghidorah a lucky break to live and fight another night, and then it's gone without a trace or even a mention ever again in the film. No promise made. No promise kept. If there's no promise being made or kept, there's no genuine or narrative meaning for its existence. It's there solely as a point of fan service and to trigger a plot point (giving Ghidorah an easy break) and move the story along. Textbook McGuffin.

It might sound harsh to put it this way, but the fact that it shows up out of nowhere and fails at its ultimate objective also spits on the original OD's legacy as "THE device that killed Godzilla." Where it was once a thoroughly well thought out and foreshadowed device and the only thing humanity ever did that was 100% effective against him, in KOTM it was reduced to a McGuffin which failed to accomplish its one job. And this reality has now permanently given the OD a canonical 50/50 record. 1 success. 1 failure.

And the worst part is that this weakening of Godzilla could have been done in a far more effective way which only further rubs salt into the wound that is the meaninglessness of the OD's existence in this film.

Imagine that Godzilla, who can't swim as fast as Ghidorah can fly (Hollow Earth tunnels be damned), wasn't able to catch up in time to shark him out of the water like in the film. Imagine instead that Ghidorah defeated Rodan and then ignored the Argo because the humans don't matter to him. He has BIGGER plans in mind. He lands on the volcano island and calls to wake up the Titans. Godzilla, still out at sea, hears this and tries to roar as well to get them back on his side. But Ghidorah's call is stronger and they follow him despite Godzilla's efforts. Godzilla is now in a race against time to beat Ghidorah before other Titans show up and make things even more difficult. So now we're treated to a tense scene of the humans showing on their radars several Titans making their way towards Ghidorah while the rest start destroying human cities. Everyone's worried about whether or not Godzilla will get there in time to win before the other Titans show up because there's like 3-5 dots heading his way and at near identical distances to Ghidorah's position as Godzilla. Godzilla gets to the island and it's him versus Ghidorah and Rodan at first. And he's holding his own. But once two or three other Titans show up it's a total beat down of Godzilla. He's scratched, slashed, pecked, gored, beaten and bloodied up something awful before collapsing in exhaustion and rolling unceremoniously into the sea with nothing but a massive pool of blood masking his descent into the depths as all readings of his vitals go flatline.

This alternative scenario, while not as fan servicey, would have given us both more monster action (which is what we're all here for) and it would have given greater meaning to Ghidorah by fulfilling the promise made by the fact that he was revealed to be a Rival Alpha to Godzilla in a far more intimidating and destructive way than in the film's version. Rivals aren't always even in strength. One is often stronger than the other, if even only by a little bit. And sometimes that little bit is all you need. And in this alternative scenario that's exactly what we see. Ghidorah's able to use that slight advantage to get control of the other Titan's loyalty which is the tipping point in this early battle with Godzilla. Promise made. Promise kept. Ghidorah has been given genuine meaning beyond simply being "a rival" to Godzilla. He's now more than a rival. He just conquered Godzilla rather than getting lucky to have gotten away thanks to his alien biology. Remember that Michael Dougherty admitted in an interview post the film's launch that if the OD wasn't in the film Godzilla would have killed Ghidorah in the water. And this admission, sadly, is yet more proof of the OD's status as a McGuffin rather than serving "a larger role" in the film's narrative. Its only purpose was to spare Ghidorah a premature defeat so the film could keep going. Had nature taken its course Godzilla would have won then and there. McGuffin.

While I love the OD as a callback to the original film, fan service can only go so far when you don't inject at least SOME meaning into these moments. And sadly the OD in 2019's KOTM had zero meaning. It made no promise, showed up out of nowhere, and then was gone as soon as it arrived having ultimately failed in the only given objective it ever had. As much as I hate to say it the OD was, objectively, a complete and utter waste of time to have included in the film in the manner they did. Had they implemented it in a way that was foreshadowed and fulfilled at least one promise, it would have had at least some narrative meaning and would have ultimately been far more effective and impactful than it ended up being.

2) "Show, Don't Tell"

This axiom is the Golden Rule of storytelling, and your ability to utilize it properly WILL make or break your story. It was touched on a little bit earlier, but I think it earns a bit of a deeper dive and a few proper examples.

So, as an example of how to understand "Show, Don't Tell," which would you prefer to see in a Godzilla film:

A. Humans standing around a table in a meeting room talking about how destructive the Titans are and how devastating their special abilities are with maybe a 2 second clip on repeat in the background of Godzilla's breath going through a building.

B. Watching a scene where the Titans are actually battling and destroying things in their attempts to overpower each other and seeing their special abilities tear the landscape and human civilization asunder in glorious displays of power and majesty?

I'm guessing everyone's going to vote for option B. And there's a reason for this that goes beyond it simply being about the Titans we all love: As part of the human condition, we all inherently crave "Show, Don't Tell" with storytelling. We crave an experience rather than an information dump and someone trying to "explain" what's going on to us.

The opposite of "Show, Don't Tell" is "Tell, Don't Show." And "Tell, Don't Show" is, quite literally, an insult to all of our intelligence and our capability to comprehend a situation and make guesses or draw conclusions which is why it's universally hated and why so many people can point to scenes they don't like in so many films, tv shows, novels, short stories, anime, manga, etc.

A fantastic example of "Tell, Don't Show" (aka how to do it wrong) is Jiren from DB Super. From even BEFORE he's introduced visually, we're TOLD of a being in another universe who's "stronger than a God of Destruction." But we are never once shown the extent, or even an example, of how powerful he is at this point in time. Even after his full introduction all he does initially is stand still and not bother with dodging the blocks flying around because he knows they won't hit him. Nice. But what does it truly show us about his strength? Nothing. He just knew he didn't need to dodge. Anyone with enough training and concentration would be able to do the same. So that moment is not impressive in the slightest. And throughout the entire Tournament of Power everyone keeps talking and talking and talking about how powerful Jiren is and how it's beneath him to even bother fighting anyone. The only reason he even bothers with Goku at first is because Belmod tells him to. It's not until the final 3 episodes of the show that we truly get to see and experience the full extent of Jiren's power as he's pushed further and further to his limits and beyond by Goku's Ultra Instinct. And that, my friends, is damn bad storytelling.

Let's look at something different as one final example of how "Show, Don't Tell" works.

We have a scene where we have a pair of would-be lovers are standing in front of each other in a hallway. There's nobody else around. Both are nervous and blushing. Both are tongue tied and avoiding direct eye contact (though sneaking glances here and there). And both suspect the other likes them but are afraid to ask or even bring it up.

What needs to be said? And I really mean what NEEDS to be SAID?

Not a whole lot, actually. Their facial expressions, the blushing, the body language. All of it is showing us how the two of them feel in this moment. We can feel it in the air and in how they're standing and looking away from each other. We don't need them or anyone else to explain via dialogue what's going on. And we've all seen those annoying moments in romantic anime or television shows where the friends are watching from around the corner going "dude, those two are so obviously into each other," "omg, I know, they need to just say it already." Yes. We know they're into each other and we know they need to speak up. What we DO NOT need are these unnecessary side characters dumping exposition about the situation we're all currently watching unfold. Their presence and dialogue are both completely detrimental to the moment between our two romantic interests, and they serve no point except to give the scene a few seconds of extra padding to meet the episode runtime quota.

When something's unnecessary, either don't include it in the first place or cut it from the final draft. And when something is "Tell, Don't Show," it's all but guaranteed to be unnecessary for your story.

3) Dramatic Buildup

We have all heard this term before at some point. But I'd like to ask you a question: What does it really mean?

Most would answer "it means the stakes and action have to get bigger." Right?

Well, yes and no.

Dramatic buildup is more than just action. It's the tension within your narrative gathering strength before the final release during the climax.

In romantic stories, the dramatic buildup is the continued buildup of romantic tension between our two star-crossed lovers. The moments of conversation they share ending in awkward goodbye's. The few flirtatious moments that lead to soulful gazing into each other's eyes before one finally looks away with a beet-red face. The moments where they come so close to holding hands only to be denied at the last second by random circumstances. All of these are examples of dramatic buildup where the tension between them is constantly increasing because of the frustration building up from their failure to communicate their feelings with one another.

In detective stories, the dramatic buildup is the increasing tension of "will he/she solve the case?" Every clue leads to more questions. Every question answered leads to yet MORE questions. The bread crumbs start to scatter as the case gets more and more complicated due to the enemy's intellectual prowess and hiding their tracks. And the further down the rabbit hole our detective goes the more danger they put themselves in from both enemies and sometimes allies alike who want to stop them and get the glory for themselves. There's very little real action involved in most detective stories because all of the dramatic buildup is powered by the intellectual side of the journey.

In Godzilla fanfiction, most of the dramatic buildup would be contained within a single question: Will Godzilla triumph?

Because we're all Godzilla fans we know that well over 90% of the time the answer to that question is a resounding "yes." However, that's part of the problem when writing Godzilla fanfiction because it's really easy to forget the fact that in almost every single movie he's been in Godzilla has struggled at some point in time against his opponents before ultimately achieving victory. Sometimes he's even defeated in the first round and comes back to win the second round. And that's where the dramatic buildup is for Godzilla stories. It's that tiny hint of uncertainty as to whether or not he'll win due to how much he struggled initially.

If he's always emerging victorious or defeating his opponent with little difficulty, there's no tension. There's no dramatic buildup. No matter how much exposition you dump between the scenes where Godzilla is present, if we know his victory is assured then we've no reason to sit on the edge of our seats waiting for that special moment because it's no longer special. In Final Wars when he was stomping through all of the competition on his way to the mothership and Monster X, there was absolutely zero tension. No struggle. Just a mad dash for the ship while swatting flies along the way. Fun times, for sure. But there's no dramatic build up there which is why the only real good part of the film is the final fight itself. You could argue that Final Wars is only the final fight while everything before it is just filler material. It's when you grab popcorn and soda before coming back for the main event.

While it's always fun to watch Godzilla win, losing is part of the journey as well even for him. The more he wins, the less interesting or exciting his journey is because you really don't earn victories that come at no cost or effort. Steamrolling your way through the competition isn't even a competition. It's a stomp. Pun most certainly intended.

The more dramatic buildup you have, the stronger your story.

4) Stakes and Relatability

The stakes of your story's conflict will always determine whether or not the journey as a whole contains any real value for the reader. And when I say "always," I mean always. The less the audience can comprehend the stakes and relate to the central struggle, the less invested or interested they'll be in the story as a whole by the time they finish reading or watching. If they finish reading or watching. It's one of the main reasons you hear casual non-fans watch Monsterverse films like KOTM and just say "that was fun" instead of "that was awesome!" "Fun," in this context, means it was at least entertaining. But they didn't really care one way or the other what it was about or what the end result was. And within a week, they've completely forgotten the experience because the stakes and journey were not relatable thanks to the "human extinction" threat Ghidorah posed. 2014 had better non-fan reception because simply being sent back to the stone age is more relatable. We all know what it's like for the internet to fail and to not be able to surf the web, game with friends, etc. Getting stuck in a world without tech when we live in the digital age, while still extreme, is at least familiar.

For a better and more positive example, let's look at the stakes of the original Godzilla film. Godzilla held the potential to turn the entire world into a nuclear wasteland where humans could never survive if he wasn't stopped. We've all seen or studied the effects of nuclear disasters such as the nuclear bombings of Japan in WWI, Chernobyl, etc. So we know that this threat is all too real and what it would look like. It's easy to relate to the main cast in that film because they too are learning about these stakes as the story progresses and seeing it unfold before their eyes. Our nightmare is their reality.

A quick word of caution to aspiring writers: Even if you don't care or don't want your story taken seriously, other people will take it seriously. And those people who take it seriously are always the ones with the loudest voices in the review sections afterwards which is how a lot of people will judge your story before even reading the first chapter. We've all seen the little whiners in the review sections of any film or tv show screaming about how much "this" sucked or how "bad" that actor was for the role. And that's because they took it way too seriously. And they'll be the first to try and tear your work, and your spirits, down.

Since you know those kinds of people exist, it's a good idea to develop some thick skin before releasing your work to the public. If you think or you know you're the type to get upset and lash back at anyone who belittles your work, take some time to prepare yourself for a life of brushing it off and focusing on yourself. Those little snots are everywhere out there. Miserable people who just don't care who they hurt so long as it makes them feel better. You're going to encounter them. So it's best to buck up now so that you can laugh them off later. If you engage them, you're playing their game. And if you play their game, they've already won.

Back to stakes though. If the stakes of a Godzilla film were to be that if Godzilla lost the Earth would be blown up by the enemy monster... Nobody can relate to that. Nobody knows what it's like to simply stop existing along with the planet. We can visualize it. You can put it to animation or CGI. But you can't connect with it. For almost everyone, in fact I'd wager it IS everyone, the story would be over the moment Godzilla died. That's where the tears would fall. That's where our empathy and attention would be. Once you move past that and have the big bad blow up the Earth, nobody cares because that's not something we can connect with or relate to.

You don't want that kind of disconnect, even in fanfiction. You want the audience glued to a story they can relate to and want to invest personally in. You want them hanging on the edge of their seats waiting to see if Godzilla will prevail.

For most of Godzilla's most successful stories the stakes are made more personal. If Godzilla wins against Biollante, the spirit of Erika will vanish forever. If Godzilla defeats Mothra, her young will perish. If Godzilla defeats the three guardian monsters he'll rampage across Japan and nuke it out of existence just like America nuked it into surrender in WWII.

The more personal the stakes, the more easily relatable they are at a fundamental level. The more relatable they are, the easier it is to draw the audience in. Most of us remember Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) not for the battle, but the fact that Mothra's egg was at the center of the plot and that it was Mothra's sacrifice to protect it that led to Godzilla's defeat in the end. Almost everyone understands what it means for a mother to love her children and do anything, sacrifice anything, to protect them. And that's one of the major elements that makes that movie so memorable and so relatable despite the fact that it's Kaiju at the heart of it instead of humans.

...

And that marks the end of my contribution to the discussion!

Again, sorry about the tirggering bit when I harped on the OD in KOTM. Don't get me wrong, I love that film as a G fan. But as a writer there's plenty to tear down in that film narratively like how they didn't go nearly as far with the symbiotic relationship between Mothra and Godzilla as they could have.

Anyway, just remember that the world of writing is a complicated one. There's a lot to think about and a lot to focus on. But I would argue that fanfiction is the best way to practice these fundamentals of writing because a lot of stress is taken off your back which frees up your creativity and allows you to focus on the technical side a lot more as well.

You don't need to come up with a new world, new worldbuilding rules, new characters, new monsters with new designs, etc. You can focus all your creativity on picking your favorites and then putting together the best story you can while keeping the fundamentals in mind as you move through. Every time you finish a chapter, take a day to let it sit and then come back and read again. If you find any instances of "Tell, Don't Show," change or cut them. If you find that the stakes you established for a conflict are just too out there, consider a subtle revision to make it more relatable. If you find that you haven't really given anything or any character in your story meaning by providing your audience with a promise about them which you intend to keep, get to work on making one.

The fundamentals are the building blocks of everything that make up your story. So nail them down and enjoy the experience!

Your audience definitely will!

Cheers!

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