Writing techniques & advice

Contest discussion

Given that we need a place to discuss writing techniques and advice (see original topic), I figured it might be better to start a new topic than to clutter the Submissions topic.

Use of tenses

zapp, in your story, you use the present tense to describe something "to describe something that is quite technically in the present", as you say. The sentence starting a section in the present tense is the following (for those who haven't read zapp's submission yet): "Every Terrapin has the same basic setup".
While I understand your reasoning, I must disagree.
The change in tense distracts the reader from what is happening, and doesn't accomplish the desired effect of describing what is "in the present". The point of the tense is that it relates to the reader, and I don't see how the Terrapin setup is "in the present" unless the reader is from 1177 NC or whatever the year is, because you have no guarantee that the Terrapin wasn't discontinued two years later. The reader is in the future compared to the action taking place, and so he or she hasn't the foggiest idea what a Terrapin is until he or she picks up your story.
A quick Google search gives the following results on the use of tense in writing: a, b, c.

Fine, I changed the tense. Hope you're happy 🙂

😄

Not quite, though: "was a staircase that leads to" and "it takes four crew".

I'll re-read through your story this afternoon and see if there is any more feedback to give.

This concerns Schlimazel in particular:

Dialogue, commas and full stops

Quote

"Half an hour, sir." the Helm officer reported

This form of crafting the dialogue seems very strange. Why? Because there is a full stop, followed by a lower-case letter.
In all the books I've read, I've always encountered the use of the comma instead of the full stop, because it facilitates reading. The reason is that the full stop (seems grammatically incorrect and) forces the reader to imagine a break. between two ideas (this one was intentional). In a dialogue, you don't want the reader to imagine a break; you want the reader to read the extra information faster, so that he/she knows who is speaking but is not distracted from what goes on in the dialogue.

A small comment, I know, but it's because I haven't yet read the rest. I'll post more tomorrow (bed time now) if I can read the whole thing.

This post has been edited by Pace : 21 December 2008 - 05:15 PM

I'll let Schlimazel know about it when I see him 😉

But, seriously, I agree. That's a good point, a comma would work better there.

I knew I should have checked the spelling 😉

Zapp, here are a few more comments. I've noticed that every now and then you use one word for another, sometimes because it's a preposition (about instead of for, stuff like that).
Two more obvious examples are the following:
"he was gone for" => done
"over his soldier" => shoulder

There is one moment where you use the present again, but even weirder, it's with the second person singular:

Quote

The toughest yet most essential part of repelling boarders is waiting for them to come to you. You plant traps, ambushes, you take them by surprise.

Next, two passages which should also be rectified, in my opinion:

"You check in four guys recently?" => there are five, not four… at least, according to an earlier part of the story.

"If eyes could kill, his would've" => I don't see the point of that part. The receptionist is bored, not angry, so if he gets angry because of the question, you need to show the transition.

Apart from that, I liked the general style.

However, you rhythm doesn't seem balanced. There are moments when you write scenes which are supposed to go fast, but there is no impression of speed. The words are there, but the writing gets in the way. During action scenes, try to make the reader feel the action. The part where they get rid of the second platoon, for example, felt very weak compared to the first boarding attempt.

Okay, a few comments for Shlimazel.

"Dragon G1 lead the way for her trio": led, not lead.

Quote

"The outcry against the Bureau’s actions in the rest of the Federation was unprecedented. People on the street had used camera phones to record the events and upload it to the internet, shortly before Georgia was leveled. Revolution was stirring."

This part is very weak, because you're describing a social & technological phenomenon of 2008. Camera phones? The internet? The story is set somewhere around 4000 AD, and just as we don't use donkeys to travel long distances, people in 2000 years won't be using "camera phones" nor "the internet".

"Suddenly, as the marines advanced down the central corridor, fragmentation mines went off on the ground!"
This sentence is an example of something that one shouldn't do (I'm sure there are plenty of instances in ARPIA2 where I did that, but I wasn't as versed in writing techniques back then).
The use of "suddenly", "then", all these words, is to be avoided. They work when you're telling a story, but when writing it, they should never be used.
Why?
Because you want the reader to feel the suddenness, not to read it. It's linked to the golden "show, don't tell" rule.
At least, that's how I learnt it, but I can't find a single "golden reference" to the use of "suddenly". Here's one close match, and here's another one, which also mentions the fact that exclamation marks should be avoided.

“Roger that, Lt."
Abbreviations should be avoided in novels. I'd go so far as to say that abbreviations should be only used in technical writings where you know everyone else uses the abbreviations in writing.
Here, it's a work of fiction, and you don't want your reader to go looking for "lt" in a dictionary.
I know, one can safely assume that most people on AmbrosiaSW.com know that "lt" is Lieutenant, but it looks weird in any event. Especially in a dialogue.

In general, your story is very fast-paced, and you write very well the action sequences (in my opinion). As a reader, however, I did not feel engaged by your characters. I was watching a fast documentary with anonymous faces. That is a problem, because the reader watches events unfold without knowing who does what.

zapp, in your story, you have characters who seem more real, though you jump back and forth between points of view, often for little reason.
Shlimazel, you jump less back and forth between points of view, but your characters are faceless.

I reckon you could both improve that a little and you'd have very nice pieces in your hands.

Hmm, thank you Pace. That's a very good analysis. You've given me something to think about, that's for sure. I guess in the future I'll just have to Pace myself while writing. Ha! Hahahah!

This post has been edited by Shlimazel : 22 December 2008 - 11:57 AM

This is a gold mine of information for me! It'll help a lot when writing the actual story of HOTS. Good advice Pace, I'll make sure I use it.

And nice pun, Shlimazel. 😉

You know, posting in topic that have been dead for years as if they were only posted in last week is commonly referred to as gravedigging, and it's not really appreciated on these boards. If you want to help these boards be more active, which is a very good idea, why don't you write a story or two? You don't need to be some kind of master to post stories here, I'm certainly not a master. That would be a better way to contribute than reviving these old dead topics, which isn't the most liked thing to do. I'm not trying to put you down, just letting you in to one of the ways we do things around here.

QUOTE (Pace @ Dec 22 2008, 05:32 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Okay, a few comments for Shlimazel.

<snip>

“Roger that, Lt."
Abbreviations should be avoided in novels. I'd go so far as to say that abbreviations should be only used in technical writings where you know everyone else uses the abbreviations in writing.
Here, it's a work of fiction, and you don't want your reader to go looking for "lt" in a dictionary.
I know, one can safely assume that most people on AmbrosiaSW.com know that "lt" is Lieutenant, but it looks weird in any event. Especially in a dialogue.

A slight comment here. Back when I was an officer in the Army (Infantry), it was common for enlisted men to address platoon leaders as "Eltee," particularly in a combat zone. Of course, in a garrison situation at a base in the U.S., they did usually say, "Lieutenant." Likewise, it wasn't uncommon to hear a Captain (company commander) called "Cap'n" (pronounced "Capen," with the 'e' elided or "Capten," again with an elided 'e'). Again, this was in a combat zone and wasn't done in garrison at a stateside base.

Dinna mean to be "gravedigging," Shlimazel. Just wanted to make a point that sometimes the term "Lt." (pronounced "Eltee") is used. Matter of fact, I'd love to be able to submit a story, but I've tried in the past and I'm afraid that i have a tin ear when it comes to dialog. 😞

Cheers

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