Step Five—Come Non Scrivere
For the last four steps, I've told you what to do to become a better writer. What I haven't done, though, is tell you what NOT to do. As with anything, writing has an assload of unsaid rules and regulations, like to avoid too many descriptions and to shoot for realism (as much as possible. You get more leeway with fantasy and sci-fi stories).
PARTE PRIMA (Part One): Purple Prose
When you're in elementary school/primary school/grade school/ whatever the fucking hell you people around the world call grades K through 5 (and occasionally 6), your teachers stress the importance of description and the positive or negative impact it can have on writing. You're constantly pestered to describe, describe, describe, and if you don't get the fuck out of that habit soon enough, you end up consulting the damn thesaurus every other word like Christopher Paolini.
In other words, your poor prose starts to take on a purple tint. Depending on its level of purple-osity, you can either edit the shit out of that motherfucker, or trash the bitch and start over. It's up to you, but the amount of violet usually constitutes which choice to make.
Here's an example of good description while keeping the prose non-purple:
"Allowing a comfortable silence to fall upon the two for a few minutes, Canada contented himself with humming his national anthem as America gnawed on some frozen beef jerky with an unbreakable resolve." ~Caught in a Bad Bromance, Satan's Sweeties (unpublished as of now)
What define this as descriptive while not being purple are the clear descriptions that show what's happening, but don't go overboard with adjectives to describe every fucking thing in the scene.
And now, we shall purple it up:
"Silence fell upon the nearly identical pair of brothers like a soft blanket of fleece, comfortable and soothing to the touch. Nestling further into the sheepskin seat cover draped over the driver's seat of the vehicle, Canada, a nation often forgotten at the G8 meetings due to his soft-spoken nature and habit of being almost transparent, began quietly humming his national anthem, content with the moment. America, however, was finding his frozen beef jerky particularly difficult to eat, but if his show of constantly nibbling at the icy meat strip said anything, he was not going to surrender."
Fucking hell, it's almost three times as fucking long as it was before, not to mention the fact that I just shoved a shitload of adjectives down your throat. Sure, it's descriptive as fuck and sure, it probably paints a better picture than the original passage, but can you imagine trying to read an entire fucking story that's written like that? I'd have to kill someone. Dunno about you.
Now, I know what you're thinking—"What are good markers for purple prose? How can I test whether or not my story is purple? What types of stories are the most susceptible to purple passages? Why are you stating questions I might ask?"
If you're thinking any of those, you're in the right place.
What are good markers for purple prose?
Ideally, you want a sentence to be between fifteen and twenty-five words, but shorter sentences are accepted for action sequences and broken thoughts. If you notice that your sentences are obscenely fucking long, you might wanna go back and read through it, wearing your purple goggles this time. Like the examples above, purple prose can multiply the length of your story—not in a good way, though. The first sentence, the actual snippet, was 33 words. The purple version was three sentences, totaling 98 words.
How can I test whether or not my story is purple?
Generally, if your main character has "long, flowing tresses of golden wheat, glinting like a diamond in the afternoon sunlight" and "wide, endless pools of purest cerulean," it's probably purple.
Let's put that shit into context:
"Leila, a young girl of just twelve, enjoyed spending the pleasurable summer afternoons in her grandmother's large, open backyard. Despite her age, she was lovely, wavy chestnut locks always bouncy and rich, chocolate orbs always alight with vigor and passion."
Oh, shit, the purple. LET'S CHANGE IT, SHALL WE, GRASSHOPPERS?
"When summer came, twelve-year-old Leila could always be found outside in her grandmother's backyard. Brown eyes always cheery and equally brown hair always well-kept, many called her beautiful."
Gives a better picture without throwing descriptions at you, eh?
What types of stories are the most susceptible to purple passages?
Romance. Read on to find out more~
PARTE SECONDA (Part Two): Romantic Stories and Their Downfalls
Most romantic stories (and I use the term 'romantic' loosely; most of them seem like all-out fuck fests) are guilty of at least one of these three things: a lack of realism, purple prose, and the most ridiculous euphemisms for body parts.
Seriously, I'm not kidding you. At least seventy-five percent of all romance stories embody at least one of the three Things You Should Avoid at All Costs™.
Lack of Realism
A good chunk of the time, romance stories are the most fucking unrealistic shit you could ever force your brain to even attempt to comprehend. From circumstances to execution to dialogue, it just doesn't flow like a real-life romance.
First off, there is no such thing as love at first fucking sight, okay? It doesn't happen. Period. There can be infatuation, lust, longing, etc., at first sight, but not love. Suck it the fuck up, romantics. You do not, repeat do not, look into someone's eyes without even telling them your name and fall in love. Life is not Titanic.
Also, life is not Romeo and Juliet. People don't go around saying, "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and (INSERT NAME HERE) is the sun." At the most, a guy will strut up to a girl, attempt to hit on her, fail, and then admire from afar until he gathers his balls and tries again. In the words of Eddie Izzard, you wouldn't say, "(NAME), I saw you in the classroom today. As the sun came from behind the clouds, a burst of brilliant light caught your hair; it was haloed in front of me. You turned, your eyes flashed fire into my soul, I immediately read the words of Dostoyevsky and Karl Marx, and in the words of Albert Schweitzer, 'I fancy you.'"
(But if some people do go around spouting nonsensical shit like that, they deserve to be dragged out into the street and shot. Just sayin'.)
We don't wanna hear about how "his soft hands, trailing delicately down her sides, felt like the gentle touch of a heavenly angel."
We don't care that "sweat glistened on their skin like tiny drops of moonlight, sliding off the porcelain epidermis to land on the cushioned duvet."
Nobody gives a fuck that "her dress, scarlet-toned and crafted of the finest silken materials, cascaded off her body like a rippling waterfall, a pair of calloused yet tender hands caressing her bare skin."
Really. Tone it down, please.
To me, it seems like most romance writers try to avoid the word 'penis' as best they can. 'Penis' tends to be shrouded in disguises like dick, cock, manhood, groin, shaft, rod, sex (whathafuck), third leg, little (guy's name), willy, and countless other bullshit cover terms.
IT'S A PENIS. If anything, dick, cock, and groin are the most acceptable euphemisms.
It's sex. Not Shakespeare.
'Vagina' is a bit rare, too. They're most often referred to as pussy, as it's the one used most frequently by real-life men, but euphemisms control the female reproductive system as well. Say hello to snatch, flower, cherry, honey pot of desire (inorite?), heat of her femininity, silken warmth, moist warmth, nest of desire, and hot sleeve of love.
Pardon me while I grab the brain bleach.
I don't know if everyone who writes erotica either didn't take health, found health terms embarrassing, or refuses to embrace what actual terms are, but some euphemisms are really fucking ridiculous.
The act of sex itself isn't immune to the purple-ness, either. I just don't have the heart (or stomach) to write some terms.
I need chocolate.
PARTE TERZA (Part Three): Sentence Structure and Flow
Sometimes, a good story's downfall is its sentence structure and flow. From what I've gathered, dialogue seems to be the most difficult thing for an author to master; in order to produce realistic lines for characters, you need to imagine what you would say if you were that character in that situation. From there, play the other characters' lines off of the first one.
Let's pretend that Joe and Fred are best friends. Joe just got into a fight and procured a black eye, sore jaw, and broken nose. Fred is a very sarcastic person.
If Joe said, "Man, my face hurts," what would most likely be Fred's response?
A. "Are you okay, dude?"
B. "Wow, you really got your ass kicked back there."
C. "Yeah, your face hurts me, too."
Think it over.
Another crime in dialogue is using overly-formal language. When speaking, most people don't say, "No, we have not reached an agreement at this time, but we will contact you when it is reached." Instead, they'd probably say, "Nah, we can't seem to agree right now, but we'll call you when we do."
BE ESPECIALLY WARY WHEN TEENAGERS ARE SPEAKING. THEY TEND TO USE FUCK ALL OF THEIR GRAMMAR AND FORM PORTMANTEAU WORDS, AS WELL AS THROW SHIT TOGETHER INTO CONTRACTIONS THAT DON'T EXIST.
Sentence structure, even in a well-written story, can be improved upon with a little bit of work. In Higher Education, by Flaming Fangirls, the prose is written rather well, but a quick rework would probably make it flow better. The beginning of chapter nine reads as follows:
"Mels and I had already agreed that we would tell our room mates on our own. I knew Mello didn't like being in the same room as Near, shame to. Near was a nice guy. But Mello just seemed to always want to prove he knew more then Near. So they would constantly get into equations and comprehension questions that made my head hurt. So I told my albino friend that Mello was a light sleep, and that his cousin had quite a loud snore."
Grammar mistakes aside, not horribly written. After reworking, moving things around, adding shit, and the like, it looks like this:
"Mels and I had already agreed that we would tell our roommates on our own. I knew Mello didn't like being in the same room as Near. Shame, too; Near was a nice guy, once you got past the OMGMANCHILD! thing. But Mello just seemed to always want to prove he knew more than Near, so they would constantly get into equation battles and comprehensive wars that made my freaking head hurt.
I told my albino friend that Mello was a light sleeper and that his cousin had quite a loud snore (although, if its horribleness was any kind of accurate to the way Mello described, loud was a gross understatement). 'Do ya think maybe you could room with him, and I'll room with Mello?'"
The revised version flows a little better, and makes more sense logically. To me, anyway.
Oh, and this?
"What bored Matt the most during school was World History, but he had to admit that the idea of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania 'becoming one with mother Russia' (a/n: lol guess what that's from! ! ! xD) sounded pretty funny."
DON'T FUCKING DO IT, YOU ASS.
Author's notes belong at the beginning or end of a story, not the fucking middle. Tossing random shit into the middle of a story interrupts the flow, throws people off, and tends to piss a lot of them off, too. If you want to point out a reference, cite what something was, or translate something, do so in the ending notes. Please and fucking thank you, bitch.
(The reference was Hetalia: Axis Powers, for those of you who are wondering.)
And so it seems that we've reached the end, my little protégés. I must bid you adieu, but not before leaving you with something to think about—a quote by Brian May about the English language:
"I before e except after c and when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh, and on weekends and holidays and all throughout May, and you'll always be wrong no matter what you say!"
Truth. It hurts.
While I can't say shit about just what you've all learned from this train wreck, I can say that I had a blast writing this out for you. After a long hard day, it's nice to come home and rant my feelings out in a way that actually (as far as I know) helps others. I'm not one for sappy goodbyes, but I am thankful for all the support you've given me on this sad mockup of a journey.
I'm dedicating this piece of shit to all aspiring authors out there. May you continue to learn to walk before trying to run a marathon.
Good memories and nightmares,
Mihael "Mello" Keehl
Certificate of Completion
Certificates certify shit. This is a certificate. By process of substitution, one could assume that this certificate certifies shit. It certifies a very special type of shit. This certificate certifies that you fucking paid attention during this whole spiel and actually learned something that'll be useful in everyday life, officially instating you as a useful member of society, rather than a couch potato that hangs out in front of the computer all night long.
We, the faculty, hereby certify that, having successfully completed this course, (YOUR NAME HERE) is an official graduate of FanFiction University. Throughout your time here, we hope that you have gained an understanding of and a respect for the weathered fanfic authors already present on this site.
May your writing continue to improve as time pushes on, and may you never give up on your dreams.
Mihael Keehl . . . . . . . .Mail Jeevas. . . . . . . Stephanie Marie
Course Professor. . . . Assistant Professor. . . . Headmaster