jd's Writing Guide

Ten Guidelines for a good GTS story.

These are guidelines because if I said they were rules I'd be guilty of violating all of them. For any guideline I list here there is no doubt in my mind that you can show me a situation where they don't apply. I agree. However, as rules of thumb they will aid you in getting your story across in a much better fashion.

1) Let your readers see the story for themselves

Don't try to control their every thought as they read the story. Some things require only a suggestion, others require only a mention by the characters in dialogue, and some will require a detailed description. But as a rule of thumb, the detailed description is a rare requirement indeed.

Don't over describe your characters. Remember that in order to describe in detail you need to stop the action, but without the action the description has no meaning. As Paul Raymond Martin would say,

"Provide enough detail to stimulate the readers imagination, then get out of the way!"

Pick up a favorite novel and mark descriptions of the characters with a yellow highlighter, you'll be surprised how little description there is in spite of the detailed view you have of them in your mind.

2) Trust your readers

There is often a temptation to over tell the action.

Alfred Hitchcock once noted, "Drama lies in what the characters, and the audience, don't know."

Sometimes it is better to leave details unsaid, or to reveal them in dialogue rather than hitting the reader over the head with narrative.

There is also a temptation to show off as a writer because you know what is going to happen and then reveal the next sequence before it gets started. Again, the reader will figure it out.

"In fiction as in real life, what is suggested is far more powerful than what is revealed."


3) Fiction/Fantasy or not - things happen for a reason

"But this is fiction/fantasy, I don't have to be logical", you will say. Yes it is Make Believe. And because it is make believe it has to be more logical than real life in order to have a believable flow to it. The fact that some things happen in real life for no reason at all does not give the write license to have events occur for no reason. In truth, this is the only way for the mind of the reader to be caught up into the Make Believe of GTS.

Every character needs to have a motivation. Even if it is only a curiosity of "what if?" on the part of a character, be certain that you have reasons for actions and events.

"Motive is the linchpin between character and plot. Character's motives drive the action"

4) Keep in mind, the domino theory

Along with motivations, there is also stimulus response. Characters and events react to stimulus.

How many people out there will react to being shrunk to six inches tall with the following, "Oh, I'm six inches tall now." And then sit down to ponder the Bears Vikings score.

I know what I would probably say, "Holy S#$%, what the F@#$ has happened? There is now way this can be happening, I've got to be drugged or something. This is completely impossible." Etc. Put yourself in the shoes of the character and think out the reactions. Upon realization of the facts the next step would probably be a panicked flailing of arms and running around, while trying to avoid at all costs, the person or persons responsible for my situation.

Question: Is shrinking an everyday occurrence in the story environment? If the answer is yes then it will make no more of a stir when someone gets sthunk than the new Ford Explorer will stopping at the corner down the street. If, on the other hand, it is not then consider how the citizens of .Ghettysburg Pennsylvania during the year 1864 would have reacted to a Ford Explorer pulling up with General Meade in the driver's seat. You've provided the stimulus, now give the response.

Also keep in mind that there may be a stimulus to cause the character to notice that they are suddenly smaller than they were. Provide the chain of events.

"In Fiction as in Real Life, Everything relates to everything else, only more so."


5) Don't forget sensory impressions

Let the reader know how the character feels, and what the character feels.

Remember, at normal size, a hand is a hand. But to a six inch man a hand is the equivalent of a mattress, possibly a very hard mattress. It won't be grandma's feather bed, that's for sure. And it won't squeeze like a hand anymore.

Give us the fear and the allure the character feels. Give us the wonder and the terror. If a flash thought on the part of a GTS that is gentle toys with the idea of the destruction she can do, don't be afraid to let that out. While she has self control to maintain her gentleness, the fact that the though is there gives the reader just one more insight into the 'real' her, especially if such a thought gives her that heady feeling of power, and that temptation to unrestrained action.

6) Don't be afraid to say - said.

To quote Jack M. Bickham

"When you want someone in your story to say something, use the word said. And for heaven's sake, put the noun or pronoun first."

Also avoid the temptations to put the word said yipping behind a block of descriptive behind a quote. Example; "But I've been shrunk," Brad, the director of the high powered bio-technical institute, said.

Avoid the temptation to explain dialogue as well. Most dialogue will express to the reader what you're after, you don't have to explain it to them. (Remember Trust your readers.) I'm referring to the propensity for using the 'ly' verbs.

Example; "I'm going to squash you, that's why," she said harshly.

The statement is pretty harsh on it's own.

Example; "Just because I can," she answered indifferently.

Again, the statement is pretty indifferent on it's own.

7) Use dialogue for dialogue

"It's an old process that was developed by Gypsies in the old world. It's been passed from mother do daughter for centuries," she said

That is much better than: She told him it was an old process developed by Gypsies and passed from mother to daughter.

Any time you have dialogue that you place in narrative form you lose some of the action, and make it less direct. It is always better to hear it come from the horses (GTS) mouth than to have it presented as an aside.

"Plot gets readers involved, Characterization makes them care."


8) Show don't tell

There is a great temptation to take a good scene, filled with action and dialogue and summarize it for the reader. While this will shorten your story in the number of words you write, it also takes away opportunity for the reader to get involved with the characters before the main action begins.

Example: Ed was feeling down because he'd just broken up with his girlfriend. He was tired of her prudish attitudes about sex.


"I just don't understand you Stacey," Ed said.

"What's to understand, I told you when we first met, I'm not that kind of a girl," Stacey answered.

"Yes, but we've been through so much together now. Why won't you reconsider, for crying out loud you're living in the dark ages."

"Well it's a dark age I choose for myself. You knew what my feelings were going in, why are you so upset at this late date."

"Because I thought you'd change once you got to know me," he told her.

"Why must I change? Why can't you just exercise a little patience and wait?"

"You're hopeless!" Ed looked at the ground for several minutes. "I'm sorry, I can't go on this way, we're through."

Stacey looked at Ed but was unable to speak. She held herself in check as she felt tears welling in her eyes.

"I'm out of here Stacey," He said as he left her apartment.

While there is more economy in the summary, you get more involved with Ed through the dialogue that shows what happened.

"Never make the reader aware of being told a story, unless the narrator is also a character."


9) Whitespace is your friend

This dovetails with number 8. A block of text with no separations is intimidating to a reader. Use the peanut butter theory; A teaspoon full of peanut butter is good, it tastes good, it's good for you too. A mouthful of peanut butter will choke you to death.

One thought per sentence, one subject per paragraph.

Whenever a focus on a character changes, new paragraph.

Whenever a speaker changes, new paragraph.

Whitespace does not make your filesize any bigger, but it does make your story more friendly.

10) Punctuation is for reading

I'm not saying we all have to be English majors here. But remember that periods and comas provide a method for the reader to get a cadence from your story. They help to set the tone as well as the pace at which events take place. Remember, you're telling the story to someone who cannot hear your voice or read your mind. The only option they have is to read your copy. Be good to the reader.

I won't mention spelling, I have too much trouble with that to be talking about it to others.

** Paul Raymond Martin -- The Writer's Little Instruction Book

This is not the difinitive list by any means. It is just a list.