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 Post subject: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:03 pm 
Luna
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G'day everyone. :keke:
I've had the idea to do a thread where I can teach anyone here whose inclined to write - anything at all; fanfiction, non-fiction, essay writing, just to list a few - how to improve their skills and write better. So I've been working out a few lessons of sorts to cover some of the broader rules and tricks before going into specifics for fiction writing. Before I begin though I'd like to take the opportunity to talk a bit about my own writing 'career' for a moment.
I've written a lot! :lol: I started writing when I was in high school. I forget exactly but for some reason I loved writing in school, especially for English and History. In fact some of my oldest and original ideas - 'science-ing' magic, infusing music into art - were from this time. During my last year in high school i joined deviantArt and of course once I dumped my fractal art there I began to write as well where over time I dabbled in both original work and fanfiction, including unfinished Sailor Moon and Age of Mythology fics. After I abandoned dA I did a lot of article writing for a group of modders for the game Civilization V, if you have the game and have picked up mods from the group More Civilisations there's a good chance you have some of that on your computer! :lol: I've written Civilopedia entries for civilizations, leaders, units and buildings; my pride and joy is the pedia entry for Saladin for the Ayyubid civ. Since last year I've been working on a project with my brother, trying to make a computer game and I've been writing a ton of backstory, it took ALL of last year to write it and now I'm trying to cobble together the story proper. That brings me to today! :keke: I started working on Sailor Moon X in April after contracting Whooping Cough and had to stay home for a week, since then I have been writing like crazy the whole time adding more chapters and branching out into Forbidden Love.
In all that time I picked up a lot of methods and tips in creative writing so now in between my writing I'll spend some time to discuss and explain some of these and encourage others here to flex their creative muscle and try some exercises. Everything here is meant to be constructive and positive, if at any point anyone feels like their experience here is contrary to this please send me a PM and I'll try to resolve any issues. Now, onward to the first lesson.

Lesson 1 - Basic Sentence Structure
How to Write a Sentence

As strange as it may sound at first a knowledge in how to form a sentence is actually vitally important in writing. For the most part we all learn about this in primary school; capital letters at the start, full stops and the end, commas in between, question marks when asking something. There's a good reason for all this, punctuation in writing helps to convey what you want to say in a clear manner, this is important - especially in creative writing where your art form requires you to paint a picture with your words. This goes all the way back to the very roots of communication; all communication is the expression of ideas that can be understood between other people, words are the tools we use to form these ideas and sentences are what we construct to convey them. It is therefore very important to be able to write a sentence properly because without the ability to do so you can't express yourself clearly.

Quote:
A Huge Fortress Appears In The Sky But Thanks To Powerful Magic It Cannot Be Seen By Anyone, Inside The Fortress In A Giant Looking Throne Room Sits A Giant Chair And Right Below It Is A Giant Vertical Table With Many Chairs All Of Which Have People Sitting In Them And In The Giant Chair Sits A Woman The Only Thing About Her That Can Be Seen Is Her Arms And Long Black Fingernails Which She Taps On The Arm Of The Chair.

The Woman Chuckles Darkly And Says "Now That My Annoying Older Sister Galaxia Is Out Of The Way My Full Power Is Restored!" Everyone At The Table Gives Her A Round Of Applause, She Holds Up Her Hand And The Clapping Stops As She Says "Enough Of That Goody Two Shoes Crap!, Now Find The Guardians And Kill them!".
...

Sailor Moon: Armageddon! by Ryo Urawa

I have to admit that when I first read Ryo's work I was flabbergasted at the structure - it was very difficult to follow exactly what was going on, so difficult in fact that I needed to reread sections I just read to make sure I understood it properly. The fact is that while Ryo does have an interesting story to tell the execution of the writing has made it very unclear to understand the scene he's trying to portray. Before I go any further I want to say that I support Ryo's writing and while I do use his work as an example of bad writing I do so A) with his permission and B) for the purpose of improving his writing skill, I take no interest nor pleasure in insulting him or his work. Please support Ryo and his writing. That being said, the structure of his work appears to be very muddled; very nearly every single word has a capital letter and while most of the punctuation in his sentences are correct the sentences themselves are inflated and cram in way too many points into one sentence. As a result of this his story seems to be very rushed and tries to cover all the relevant scenes and dialogue in the least amount of text.
Honestly the fastest and easiest way to improve this is to bare in mind the same basic rules we've learned about how to write a sentence;
  • Capital letters are only ever used at the start of a sentence or for a proper noun - such as Usagi Tsukino, Crown Arcade or the Moon Kingdom.
  • The general function of a comma is to separate the broader, less specific contents before it from the more specific grammar after it, or to separate clauses.
  • Generally a full stop or period is used to mark the ending of a sentence.
When applying these simple rules the text changes into this;

Quote:
A huge fortress appears in the sky, but thanks to powerful magic it cannot be seen by anyone. Inside the fortress in a giant looking throne room sits a giant chair, and right below it is a giant vertical table with many chairs, all of which have people sitting in them. And in the giant chair sits a woman, the only thing about her that can be seen is her arms and long black fingernails which she taps on the arm of the chair.

The woman chuckles darkly and says "Now that my annoying older sister Galaxia is out of the way my full power is restored!" Everyone at the table gives her a round of applause, she holds up her hand and the clapping stops as she says "Enough of that goody two shoes crap! Now find the Guardians and kill them!"
...

The story is now much easier to follow and does not appear rushed. Breaking up the sentences has created a much better rhythm and therefore provides an air of professionalism. In short, Ryo's story is much clearer and easier to understand.

Today's exercise - just post!
This really isn't an exercise so much as it is a way to practice writing sentences. I'd like everyone who wants to improve their sentence structure to just post in the forum regularly as they would do normally, but to do so using basic sentence structure. It's not mandatory throughout the whole forum, although it is recommended, however whenever you post in this thread please try to maintain the structure, every time you write a sentence this way it becomes much easier to do so again and again and again until eventually it becomes second nature.

I hope this is helpful to you and I'll see you again next time, happy writing. :keke:

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:06 pm 
Luna
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I think this is a fantastic idea, Chris! I guess I'm participating just by replying to this thread. :)

I'm a writer, myself -- one of my two majors at university was actually creative writing. I have a draft of a young adult novel, but I'm still not really proud of it. :(

Lately I've been in a real rut when it comes to my writing. I haven't felt motivated or interested in writing in a very long time, and since that's really one of my only skills in life, it's really been dragging me down. I'm going to participate in this "seminar" of yours in order to flex my own creative muscle. I'm pretty sure I have the basics down :P but every little bit helps, I'm sure.

I might even go back to fanfiction, as that's what made me interested in writing in the first place. It does feel a bit awkward going backwards, as fanfiction isn't necessarily publishable unless you change things to avoid breaking copyright law, but one of my struggles has to do with getting published vs. writing just for fun. I think I forgot how to do the latter.

Stringing sentences together is indeed a fun exercise, though, and I think it's helpful. I'll keep an eye on this thread.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:17 pm 
Stella
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That's good to know Chris I always figured using capital letters made it look better and I wasn't aware it was rushed looking lol I'll keep it all in mind when I write more chapters of my current story and later my new SM Fan Fic XD so was my writing style in Dark of The Moon better than Armageddon in your eyes Chris?

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:45 pm 
Stella Nova
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I personally like Ryo's writing style.It's a style I sometimes see in some books I read
And I tend to never use capitalized letters in my writings-unless spell check makes those letters capitalized.But it's because I don't like writing with my keyboard.I don't do it when I hand-write :googly:

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:53 pm 
Stella
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litacan wrote:
I personally like Ryo's writing style.It's a style I sometimes see in some books I read
And I tend to never use capitalized letters in my writings-unless spell check makes those letters capitalized.But it's because I don't like writing with my keyboard.I don't do it when I hand-write :googly:


why thank you my dear *takes a bow* i appreciate your kind words :happy: :blush:

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:29 pm 
Luna
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Wow! Such a great response so far.

Ryo Urawa wrote:
That's good to know Chris I always figured using capital letters made it look better and I wasn't aware it was rushed looking lol I'll keep it all in mind when I write more chapters of my current story and later my new SM Fan Fic XD so was my writing style in Dark of The Moon better than Armageddon in your eyes Chris?

Sort of yes, I can follow Dark of the Moon easier, but really the key problem is the fact that you tend to make your sentences very big, yet only write one sentence to cover one part of the scene. Like I did with the example breaking up the sentences into smaller ones and keeping each of them to have really up to a couple of points improves the pace of the story. Really I think it's identifying where to stop a sentence, and the only way to work it out is through practice so keep on trying. :keke:

litacan wrote:
I personally like Ryo's writing style.It's a style I sometimes see in some books I read
And I tend to never use capitalized letters in my writings-unless spell check makes those letters capitalized.But it's because I don't like writing with my keyboard.I don't do it when I hand-write :googly:

I also want to make it plain that I'm not trying to criticize other people's writing style. I know that in this case it looks like I have been, and I am sorry if it comes up that way, but really I'm just demonstrating how something as simple as sentence structure can seriously improve the quality of one's writing. The best part with this is it's applicable in all writing, so every time you do it you become better at it.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:32 pm 
Stella
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^^^I'm not upset at ya Chris matter of fact I like criticism I find its very useful

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:38 pm 
Stella Nova
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Same.Constructive criticism is always ok and that's constructive too :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:42 pm 
Stella
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how's my writing style on my OG story is it improving?

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:55 pm 
Luna
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Ryo Urawa wrote:
how's my writing style on my OG story is it improving?

Absolutely! I can definitely tell that my help has improved your writing. :keke: To be honest I feel quite satisfied that I helped another writer, even a little bit.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:56 pm 
Stella
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you are a good teacher Chris XD you should teach writing IRL you'd be really good at it

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:30 am 
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I think this thread is a marvelous idea, Chris!

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:44 am 
Luna
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Usagi-Fifth-Doctor wrote:
I think this thread is a marvelous idea, Chris!

Hehehe, thank you, and thank you as well John.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Write Well, with Chris Sifniotis
PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 2:05 pm 
Luna
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So the response to the first lesson was fantastic, I love how everyone tried to really give sentence structure a real go. So before I begin the next lesson I've decided to add some famous quotes at the start of each lesson, for the first lesson is this one;
Confucius wrote:
"The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

Ah, well said Confucius.
This next lesson helps with story writing in particular, about the importance of one's ability to describe and how to improve and expand your descriptive powers.

Lesson 2: Descriptive Power
How to Paint a Picture with Words

Homer wrote:
"Here Hector entered, with a spear eleven cubits long in his hand; the bronze point gleamed in front of him, and was fastened to the shaft of the spear by a ring of gold."


Literature is a hard art to master. Quite apart from the fact that you need to orate well and read a lot of books, literature requires the writer to be able to form images in their mind - characters, scenes and action - which can then translate into words, sentences and paragraphs that can reform the same images in the minds of readers. It is very much is one of the hardest art forms to take on because unlike cinema, theater or the visual arts literature requires the participation of the audience in order to succeed in it's field. It is especially difficult to reconcile with in today's world where more and more of us seem to want that hit of instant gratification rather than to use our own imagination. A perfect example of what I'm talking about is in the following;

Ami entered in a splendorous vision; her skirt was layered, the fabric of each of the two layers were a different shade of blue. The skirt was fastened to the leotard by buttons, small polished jewels that line the trim at the bottom of her leotard. Small fins of transparent blue fabric trace around the bottom half of her outfit. Her gloves were quite plain for the most part, pure white gloves the length of her forearms with a hint of a light blue motif around the base of each glove. The top half of her outfit was exquisitely detailed; her shoulder pads were not just colored but ornately designed, the image of a raging ocean was visible on each side. The pads were cuffed along the trim of the sleeves with large opalescent jewels on each side. Ami's collar was something else, it wasn't simply an ordinary sailor's collar. Like the shoulder pads the collar was bordered by a wave pattern around the edge of the sky blue fabric. The centerpiece of Ami's outfit was her brooch, a glossy sky blue brooch in the shape of a teardrop and with the symbol of Mercury was affixed to the pure white leotard, holding in place the silk bow tie at the front of her chest. Her choker was a simple one, a blue band of material encircled her neck and held a piece of pale blue jewelry under it. However all this paled in comparison to her tiara, it was the most detailed, ornate object in the world. The metal was indescribable, it possessed a strange blue hue that defied all reality. What's more, the shining blue metal was not a simple straight tiara, it's shape was also designed like a torrent sweeping across Ami's head. Hidden in all this a pure sapphire sat in the middle of her tiara. Lastly her weapon was forming, the golden handle began to spray water from its cavity and, somehow, formed the shape of a blade. The meniscus of the water formed the tight shape of a broadsword, the ripples of the water constantly deforming it minutely, the spray from the action forming a spiral mist encircling the weapon as it vaporized.
This was Celestial Sailor Mercury.


Spoiler: show
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Celestial Sailor Mercury by DREWdesu


This is a perfect example of the most immediate problem that faces writers today; how long did it take you to read that passage? A couple of minutes? Five minutes even? Now, how long did it take for you observe all that detail when you saw the picture? Maybe fifteen seconds? Maybe more? In a nutshell this example perfectly illustrates the value of literature in the modern world; literature requires the complete attention of the audience in order to convey the same information in minutes that any visual medium can do without complete attention in a matter of seconds. This is why visual art tends to be much more widely accepted in the world today, the artist uses their talent to create a visual representation of an image which can be appreciated immediately, the writer uses their talent to create a vision in their head and then write a prose based on his vision which then requires the reader to recreate the vision based on their own imagination. Before I continue, thank you DREWdesu for letting me use your artwork as part of this lesson.

It is therefore very important to gain a command of how to describe, after all story writing requires the writer to paint a picture using language. This is something that also takes time to hone but a few simple tricks can help you improve your ability to describe; firstly get a thesaurus! This simple book is a useful tool in that you can look up words with similar meanings, this is very useful because constantly repeating the same words drags down the quality of the writing - it shows that your vocabulary is limited. Secondly take the time to imagine what you're trying to write, because having a clear vision of what is meant to take place gives you the ability to take in more information about the scene and in turn you can add this into your writing and give it more detail. Last of all while you should inject as much detail as you can be mindful of purple prose; a phenomenon in which the writer in fact over-describes to the point where the scene becomes ridiculous. A good rule to keep purple prose in check is to make sure that you put detail into what you write, but only write about the relevant points; the characters and what they are doing, any interaction with objects or props, changes in the scene, etc.

Today's exercise - 4X: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate
Okay, really just the first two points there - explore and expand. This is a simple exercise in improving one's descriptive power, I'll set out four very small and very neutral statements, it is up to YOU to take these statements and expand on them. These do have a path to go down but that is entirely up to everyone. The rules are simple; each person who wants to give this a go has to add one and only one piece of information to any of the statements, you can't edit or remove anything already there, you can only add to it, but you can remove a full stop in order to expand a sentence and add info. An example of this is turning 'I want to have tea.' into 'I want to have tea at my father's house.' Make sure that whatever you're adding makes sense to the rest of the passage. You can post multiple times so long as you allow one other person to have a shot before you. You can reply and post normally here, but to do so you MUST attempt to expand any of the four statements - when you do separate the passage from your reply just by hitting enter a couple of times and reply as usual. The four statements are;

:rei: I am sick.

:ami: I need to study.

:mako: Time to cook dinner.

:usagi: I'm going to the mall.

Describe and expand each statement; why are you sick? What are you studying? What's for dinner tonight? Why are you going to the mall? I'd love to see how these turn out.

I hope this is helpful to you and I'll see you again next time, happy writing. :keke:

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