Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

Hi all,

I’ll preface this by saying that, though I understand the mechanics of writing and grammar, I am a pretty inexperienced writer myself. I have read a lot of stories on this forum, however, and managed to churn out one complete story (“A man by any other name would smell so sweet”). I feel like too often the only tips we give to writers are cliches like “show don’t tell” and “slow down the pace,” so I wanted to throw out some observations about what I think many stories are lacking (mine included), and why this is important. Here goes:

Realism: I have seen dozens of posts seeking more “realistic” content. Too often, I think, commenters dismiss calls for greater realism by saying that these scenarios are intended to be fantastic and that all fiction requires some suspension of disbelief. Here are some ideas that could make characters and story-arcs more relatable, if not also more realistic. Most stories center around two individuals, the “diaperer” and the “diaperee,” and it is certainly important to make sure that these characters are well developed personalities with driving motivations, concerns etc… I think the more realistic stories, though, are the ones that contain other supporting characters, who need not be as fully developed but should be filled in a little more. In real life, we interact with dozens of individuals every single day, so why shouldn’t our stories reflect that? Our actions are also not always so rational. So a fight between husband and wife may express itself in the workplace towards a nosy office-worker or a demanding boss. But a story will not feel realistic if said office worker comes out of nowhere in the middle of the story. Therefore, consider using the initial chapters of a story to introduce these people so that they can play a role later on.

Story-arc: My biggest issue with many if not most of the stories that I have read is that the story arcs are either circular or linear. By “circular” I mean that they repeat the same content over and over: This time Joe was diapered in the mall, which was humiliating, and this time he was diapered at the park, which was even more humiliating. By “linear” I mean that the stories follow a slow but uninterrupted path towards the climax: Joe and Jane can’t admit their fantasies to each other, fate intervenes to expose them, and they begin to indulge said fantasies, or Jane on a whim sticks a pacifier in Joe’s mouth, and then decides to try a baby bottle and things progress until he is fully babied. Life is not necessarily so direct. Consider how the story might read if after being fed a baby bottle, Joe is humiliated and they actually break up, and then got back together later. Chapters could explore the aftermath of that breakup and how it changed Joe or Jane or both. Creating forks in the path of the story where the story isn’t moving towards a single obvious next step can help breath life back into these tried and true story-arcs.

Re: Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

I think a lot of it stems from many stories (usually from beginning authors) being too plot-oriented, at the expense of other facets. Since a lot of this is written for self-gratification, main characters are sometimes left undeveloped so that readers can project themselves into the story.

If there is one thing I have learned from playing and hosting tabletop rpg’s (which are ultimately a form of cooperative, real-time storytelling) it is that we need to understand the characters as complex individuals who have dreams, motives, ideas, and personalities. While a couple “act of god” moments are fine in order to prod the plot in certain directions, the characters have to actively shape the story as well.

Re: Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

For all that I haven’t gotten anything written and posted, I was reading some stories and something caught my eye, along with a way to describe it:

Average. Banish the word from your writing unless you happen to have reason for some character to discuss statistical means. Two major issues with it:

  1. Half (or more) of your readers probably don’t know what range of personality, size, physical traits, weather conditions, or other phenomena you are referring to.

  2. Even if readers understand, to be perfectly normal is itself abnormal.

For characters, if they really were “normal” they probably wouldn’t be written into a story, except perhaps as a peripheral character, so get writing about your implicitly abnormal characters and describe them properly.

The word is particularly bad in the first few paragraphs before the reader has any real frame of reference, but should be treated as highly suspect in prose anywhere. The rules are a bit more flexible in dialogue, but make sure you have already described enough to give the reader a frame of reference.

Re: Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

Piggy-backing off what ally said. “She was an average girl” or “he was an average boy” make me cringe. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves as a reader. It tells me the writer hasn’t really fleshed their character out, and is generally an indicator of a story’s overall quality (or lack there of :laugh: ) It’s trying to characterize without any characterization at all. :o

“She was an average girl except for her love of diapers” translates as “Herpa derp, forget story, forget plot- just bring on the diapers!”

Average and normal are relative. Like many things in life, it’s location, location, location. Your average girl in Harlem, New York is going to be different from your average New Orleans girl. Your average girl in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is going to be different from your average girl in Tokyo, Japan.

Sure, they can all have the same hobbies- maybe all 4 girls are artists, or book worms or athletes. or into diapers. Maybe they’re all shy, or energetic and chatty. But each of them will have a different outlooks and beliefs/ attitudes influenced by the culture, religion and social norms around them.

Even just changing the social class but keeping the same location changes the definition of average. The average poor girl is going to have different life experiences from the average rich blue blooded belle.

ETA: I think writers who use “average” to describe a character tend to me “average to my own life expereinces/ socio-economic background”.

Re: Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

Cute-Kitten, I agree that that is the worst use of average, and I think you are right about what writers using it in that way mean. The problem is that because none of use really know the writer, none of us really knows what that means.

The story that got me to post began “It was a[n] average summer afternoon…” Because it goes on to describe that summer afternoon, it isn’t so bad, though much better would have been to describe the afternoon first, and then note that it was a very typical afternoon for the time of year if needed.

Re: Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

You bring up another very good point! ;D Readers are many and varied, so each one would have a different definition for “average”. “An average summer afternoon” in Alaska is much different from an average summer afternoon in Florida.

The solution to this “average” conundrum is for the writer to describe what makes their character or the weather or whatever “average”. Then chuck out the word “average”. It doesn’t have to be some paragraphs long definition or explanation (that would be going to the polar end opposite and would generally be overkill). Just a few adjectives can give readers a sense of who a character is. As the story progresses, readers will get to know her more if the writer does their job right.

Re: Some thoughts from a new writer to help improve all of our stories.

If you really want to make the issue of “average” stand out starkly, consider what “average July afternoon” used carelessly by a Northerner might look like to someone in Southern New Zealand, where the ground might look to a Northerner as though Santa should be coming soon.