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Old 06-22-2017, 05:08 PM   #26
AwkwardMD
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Correction: you are not, as I have argued, inserting your preferences in place of objective criticism. What you are doing is inserting advice on what you think makes your stories popular in place of objective criticism.

It's "My stories about blondes have gotten tens of thousands of views in a day, ergo you should write about blondes."

I apologize for misconstruing your reasoning, but it doesn't resolve any of the larger arguments. You are conflating popularity tactics with good writing, and that disingenuous. A) it assumes that the purpose of improving is to be more popular, and b) it assumes that popularity is a metric for quality.
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Old 06-22-2017, 07:57 PM   #27
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FWIW, I thought the first few paragraphs gave a pretty good idea of Tommy's age without explicitly stating it. Tommy talks like a six-year-old, and his mother treats as a mother does a six-year-old.

Is there perhaps a regional usage difference? IME, it's not unusual to address a small boy as "young man", either affectionately or in a "you're in trouble" kind of way. The connotations are different to describing somebody as "a young man", which implies late teens or older.

See e.g. Macmillan Dictionary: "young man: an expression that older people sometimes use for referring to or speaking to a boy or young man".

But I notice that quite a few dictionaries don't mention this usage, so maybe it's not as widespread as I thought it was?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 8letters View Post
Let me google up "advice for writers character description. Clicking on the first link, I get:

link #2:

Link #3:

All of those articles recommend you describe your character enough that your reader can have a picture of them. None of them recommend not spoon feeding your readers.
Actually, #2 kinda does, though it doesn't express it in quite those terms. See point 8: "Description doesnít have to be direct to be effective."

I'll offer up another link that takes a somewhat different attitude to description: "Rewrite your work, excluding every scrap of description. Now how does the story read? If a detail was not necessary, its absence will not be noticed... You'll be surprised how little description you actually need... A basic rule of writing is to have nothing that does not propel the narrative, either because it furthers the action, or because it illuminates character within that action. Two people rushing through the night to the hospital is action, two people arguing in the car as they rush to the hospital is character development within action. The fact that one of them is six foot tall with blue eyes is neither action nor illumination."

I think most advice for writers is better taken in the vein of "here are some options to consider" than "you must do these things". If you try to squeeze all these things into a story you're liable to injure your writing muscles, since different writers have very different ideas, and usually they're talking about what works for them in a context that may not be applicable to your stories or mine.

For example, link #3 above is explicitly identified as advice for writing novels. Short stories are a very different animal to a novel; space is at a premium, so you can't afford to spend a couple of pages describing peripheral stuff.
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Old 06-22-2017, 08:31 PM   #28
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Now I'm off the clock I have the time to address certain points raised about the story.

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Originally Posted by AwkwardMD View Post
What it means is that you are allowing your personal preference to color your feedback but still presenting it as objective. This is like me saying "Your story is badly written" because incest makes me sick (it doesn't, that's just an example). It's not objective.
I donít think anyoneís opinion is really objective on how they judge a story, a song, or a movie. Hell, even on subjects like analyzing statistics, medical or scientific studies there have been many occasions where bias or assumptions have influenced the results. I know I read that in at least 50% of these medical studies that are always being trumpeted in the news that the results canít be duplicated in other studies. (Which is why coffee or butter or whatever is alternately good or certain death.)

As far as Ďartí, which Iím not claiming my stories are, even professional critics have ideas or themes they favor or disfavor so all should be taken with a grain of salt for what they are Ė an opinion, some more informed than others. I try to tell stories which hopefully entertain the reader and in cases of erotic stories arouse them also. If those that read the story donít feel they wasted their time then I succeeded in my modest goal. This particular story has a great ratio as far as how many times it was favorited to the number of votes cast so I suspect that many who read it also enjoyed it which is all I can strive for.

I think it is a fair criticism that I am undisciplined in my writing. It is just a hobby I do in my increasingly small amount of free time and when writing erotic fiction if you push the right buttons for people they will like and overlook the flaws. If I was trying to write something mainstream with the hopes of publishing it I would certainly need to approach things differently.

Ok, I have to say while it might be possible to have killed Tommy off in the backstory and no doubt someone could do that and write a better story than mine it would have been a completely different story and not what I was going for. To my mind the story needed his innocent outlook on life to contrast with his motherís mindset. As far as him fading out that was more because most of the second half of the story was sexual in nature and even if he was eighteen itís not like he should be there while his mom was having sex in the first place (sorry incest freaks). I did have him discover Hoary in his momís bed but what they were up to was beyond his childish knowledge. I could have ended it further down the road after they got the walk in freezer, maybe have the boys watching the three stooges while Jill brings in hot cocoa and iced coffee but what would that have really added? If instead of a fantastical male love interest Iíd written a story where Tommyís teacher or scout leader had wooed Jill would people have the same reaction if the other circumstances remained the same Ė Jill being lonely, widowed, single mom.

Whether it was magic or science (i.e. toxic waste) or a combination of the two really doesnít matter. Not like I find either believable so I hedged my bets and the reader can decide.

8letters, you like what you like and that is cool. I have some stories where I give detailed descriptions of characters and then some like this where I leave it very vague. Just depends on what Iím feeling as I write it. Never thought about his exact age but being how old his mother is Iíd guess he is seven or eight. At the least I think all three characters are likable, story wouldnít have worked if they werenít though I have plenty of stories where no one is likable.

My only disappointment is no one commented on the humor aspects of story. I thought I slipped some funny lines in there and they pass without notice. Guess next time I have to try harder.
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Old 06-22-2017, 09:39 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 8letters View Post
On the other hand, I donít get where you and electricblue66 are coming from with your advice. Make the reader guess the age of the main character child? Make the reader guess that time period a historical fiction story is taking place? Donít provide a physical description of a character right away? Point me to something that explains why readers like that.
Perhaps you missed KatieTay's very next post:

Quote:
Hardly *any*, actually.

Perhaps establishing age is vitally important when writing incest to convince readers that it's ok, little Billy really is over eighteen, but his mom was pregnant at sixteen, and that's ok too, because wow, she's hot now. But for the rest of us, a precise calendar age may not be so important, certainly not in the first two hundred words.

Similarly, you don't always need a physical description first off. Why? Letting little physical descriptions drop slowly can be like blossoms falling from a tree. Each one is beautiful, and together they make up a beautiful picture. Some readers like a slow reveal.

So no, you don't always have to do those things . You do, because that's your own style of writing and your own preference. But that doesn't make it right and doesn't make it universal. It doesn't make you wrong either. It's your preference, sure, nothing wrong with that, but you can't state it as an absolute "writers must do this" - that's all I'm saying.
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Old 06-23-2017, 09:23 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by AwkwardMD View Post
Correction: you are not, as I have argued, inserting your preferences in place of objective criticism. What you are doing is inserting advice on what you think makes your stories popular in place of objective criticism.

It's "My stories about blondes have gotten tens of thousands of views in a day, ergo you should write about blondes."

I apologize for misconstruing your reasoning, but it doesn't resolve any of the larger arguments. You are conflating popularity tactics with good writing, and that disingenuous. A) it assumes that the purpose of improving is to be more popular, and b) it assumes that popularity is a metric for quality.
If you're saying that I try to give advice that will help a writer get more reads, votes and comments, then I totally agree.
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Old 06-23-2017, 09:33 AM   #31
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I'll offer up another link that takes a somewhat different attitude to description: "Rewrite your work, excluding every scrap of description. Now how does the story read? If a detail was not necessary, its absence will not be noticed... You'll be surprised how little description you actually need... A basic rule of writing is to have nothing that does not propel the narrative, either because it furthers the action, or because it illuminates character within that action. Two people rushing through the night to the hospital is action, two people arguing in the car as they rush to the hospital is character development within action. The fact that one of them is six foot tall with blue eyes is neither action nor illumination."
There isn't too much there. I agree with too much narrative summary description gets boring. An overlong description of a character is boring. But I'd argue that erotica should be highly descriptive stories. The most popular advice I've seen on the AH for sex scenes is to describe the scene well enough that the reader feels that they are in the room.

Edit: If the writer can't get me in the room in the first scene, I don't have much faith they can get me in the room in a sex scene. And I'm not in the room in the first scene if I don't know what the characters look like.

All statements are my opinions based upon research and personal experience
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Old 06-23-2017, 09:50 AM   #32
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Ok, I have to say while it might be possible to have killed Tommy off in the backstory and no doubt someone could do that and write a better story than mine it would have been a completely different story and not what I was going for. To my mind the story needed his innocent outlook on life to contrast with his motherís mindset.
Keep in mind that people read stories on LitE to get off. I'm doubtful that many are in the mood to read about the innocent adventures of a seven-year-old boy. At the bottom of page one, how much incentive did someone looking to get off have to click on the Next button?

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My only disappointment is no one commented on the humor aspects of story. I thought I slipped some funny lines in there and they pass without notice. Guess next time I have to try harder.
People aren't reading stories on LitE to laugh at the jokes (unless they're reading in the Humor category). I think humor makes a character more appealing and I've used joke-telling as a way for two characters to bond. But I think readers are focused mostly on how hot your story is.

All statements are my opinions based upon research and personal experience
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Old 06-23-2017, 10:46 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 8letters View Post
There isn't too much there. I agree with too much narrative summary description gets boring. An overlong description of a character is boring. But I'd argue that erotica should be highly descriptive stories. The most popular advice I've seen on the AH for sex scenes is to describe the scene well enough that the reader feels that they are in the room.

Edit: If the writer can't get me in the room in the first scene, I don't have much faith they can get me in the room in a sex scene. And I'm not in the room in the first scene if I don't know what the characters look like.

All statements are my opinions based upon research and personal experience
If that's what you want in a story, well, your preference is as valid as any other. It's not a universal preference, though. Some folk are largely indifferent to physical description, some prefer blank slates so they can imagine the characters according to their own tastes.

I have one story here that begins with "I can't remember what Mel looked like. Not her eyes, her hair, her shape, not even the color of her skin." The protagonist gets even less description than that. It doesn't seem to have hurt the ratings.
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Old 06-23-2017, 10:50 AM   #34
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My highest rated story contains zero description of the characters
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Old 06-23-2017, 11:20 AM   #35
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If that's what you want in a story, well, your preference is as valid as any other. It's not a universal preference, though. Some folk are largely indifferent to physical description, some prefer blank slates so they can imagine the characters according to their own tastes.

I have one story here that begins with "I can't remember what Mel looked like. Not her eyes, her hair, her shape, not even the color of her skin." The protagonist gets even less description than that. It doesn't seem to have hurt the ratings.
This reminds me of a thread where someone talked about writing a Romance story where the main male character (MMC) is cheating on his wife with the main female character. All of the Romance writers chipped in with that cheating is a total turn off in Romance and a cheating MMC is inappropriate for a Romance story. The initial poster wasn't impressed - "It'll turn out fine." These Romance writers had hundreds and hundreds of Romance novels and none of them had a cheating MMC. The writers had had been to conferences and workshops on Romance novels. They had read surveys of Romance readers. None of this impressed the initial poster - he knew better.

I can't think of a published book I've ever read where the main characters aren't described. Every reference I've seen on writing assumes you'll describe the main characters and offers advice on how to describe them. But you've had a story that didn't describe the main characters and it didn't seem to hurt the ratings. You know better.
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Old 06-23-2017, 12:02 PM   #36
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Don't conflate short story writing with novels. You don't write novels, and the context of the conversation is not novels
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Old 06-23-2017, 09:57 PM   #37
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This reminds me of a thread where someone talked about writing a Romance story where the main male character (MMC) is cheating on his wife with the main female character. All of the Romance writers chipped in with that cheating is a total turn off in Romance and a cheating MMC is inappropriate for a Romance story. The initial poster wasn't impressed - "It'll turn out fine." These Romance writers had hundreds and hundreds of Romance novels and none of them had a cheating MMC. The writers had had been to conferences and workshops on Romance novels. They had read surveys of Romance readers. None of this impressed the initial poster - he knew better.
You don't see a difference between "I'm gonna do this, it'll be fine" and "I already did this and it was fine"?

Quote:
I can't think of a published book I've ever read where the main characters aren't described. Every reference I've seen on writing assumes you'll describe the main characters and offers advice on how to describe them. But you've had a story that didn't describe the main characters and it didn't seem to hurt the ratings. You know better.
Oh, you don't have to take my word for it.

Mary Robinette Kowal is a major sci-fi author who's won the Campbell and Hugo awards. Here she discusses character description:

Quote:
I was having a conversation with a fellow writer ... the fellow said that he rarely describes his characters, unless itís important, so that the reader is free to imagine them at will. I can understand this choice, because Iíve done it myself and for the same reasons. But this isnít as simple as it sounds.
The point of her post is in fact "not describing characters is problematic because people always assume them to be white", and that's an interesting topic in itself - but it's not at all "readers hate it and it hurts my sales".

An example of what MRK's talking about is the Harry Potter series. Hermione is one of the best-known and best-loved characters of a massively successful series. J.K. Rowling gave some physical description but she never specified Hermione as white; many people took her as white by default, some read her otherwise, and she's been played by both white and black actresses.

Getting back to short stories, more relevant to this discussion, you might look at something like Roald Dahl's Lamb to the Slaughter. Or Hemingway's, e.g. The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
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Old 06-23-2017, 10:04 PM   #38
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Old 06-23-2017, 10:40 PM   #39
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I have one story here that begins with "I can't remember what Mel looked like. Not her eyes, her hair, her shape, not even the color of her skin." The protagonist gets even less description than that. It doesn't seem to have hurt the ratings.
I like it, memory works like that. You've immediately set up intrigue - so what is the essence of Mel? I'm guessing not much back story, not much context, but I suspect, by the end of the story, the reader would know Mel like the back of their hand.

I'm like you, I prefer not to know and to have the personalities unfold slowly. As I wrote in one of my own stories, I'm a patient man. I can wait.

When I receive a comment like this:
Quote:
I can't wait to read your next story and become completely lost in the devastatingly gorgeous haven that is your words.
I think my readers appreciate my slow burn, too. But I'm guessing, not to 8letter's taste or style.

Vive la difference!
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Old 06-24-2017, 12:02 AM   #40
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That's it? That's all the examples you can think of? Out of the millions of published novels and short stories? Why not suggest newbie writers write like James Joyce or Gertrude Stain? Or write in all lowercase? I'm sure you can find about as many examples of published works written each of those ways.

Personally, I'm going to advice writers to stick to the basics, which includes describing the characters for the readers. I'm just a porn writer and I can't offer advice on how to write art. As you three are apparently on the level of Hemingway or Mary Robinette Kowal, I won't criticize your writing styles or your writing advice.

Edit: I post later:
I regret making this post. The point I wanted to make was at the end, which was I won't criticize your writing styles or your writing advice. However, I made it very, very poorly. I'm sure that there are readers that would love to read erotica in the style of James Joyce, Gertrude Stein or all in lowercase. They are many readers who enjoy the minimalist style that AwkwardMD, electricblue66 and Bramblethorn advocate. I regret any offense I gave.
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Old 06-24-2017, 12:58 AM   #41
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I'm just a porn writer and I can't offer advice on how to write art.
Writing is art. Art != science.

You can and should offer advice, but slow down on the "My way is best way because lots of views" stance. Otherwise we'd all be writing stories about how our inner goddesses bite their lips and say "oh my!" all the time. EL James is bigger than all of us combined.

Don't demean what you do and bring it down to some kind of lesser level. What you do is enormously popular. You can and should be proud of what you do.
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Old 06-24-2017, 04:33 AM   #42
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Personally, I'm going to advice writers to stick to the basics, which includes describing the characters for the readers. I'm just a porn writer and I can't offer advice on how to write art. As you three are apparently on the level of Hemingway or Mary Robinette Kowal, I won't criticize your writing styles or your writing advice.
The only point being made by any of us is that what works for one writer and reader doesn't necessarily work for the next.

A writer doesn't always have to articulate the things you want to see in the first couple of paragraphs - you want to see context early, that's fine, but it's your preference. But that's all it is, your preference. It's not a "rule" of writing - yet you express your preferences as if everyone shares them and every writer must do them. They don't. That's all we're saying.

It's not "art" vs "porn" - you have conflated that, not us - it's preference or opinion vs critque and feedback. They are not the same thing.
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Old 06-24-2017, 07:40 AM   #43
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I like it, memory works like that. You've immediately set up intrigue - so what is the essence of Mel? I'm guessing not much back story, not much context, but I suspect, by the end of the story, the reader would know Mel like the back of their hand.
Story here, if you're curious. I won't say more here since I don't mean to take over rutger's feedback thread with my own work.
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Old 06-24-2017, 08:01 AM   #44
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That's it? That's all the examples you can think of?
Nope. But I had a train to catch and seeing my sister who's been having a crappy time seemed more important than digging up and checking more examples. It's not the sort of thing I commit to memory, and to check that a story doesn't physically describe its protagonists, I pretty much have to read the whole thing through.

Now that I'm home again, how about one of the most famous erotic novels of all time?
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Old 06-24-2017, 09:10 AM   #45
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Good call. I remember first reading O when I was 16 or 17. Cannot to this day visualise the characters from the book, but will never forget the leather seat in the car....

Seeing the movie a few years later spoiled me - Corinne Clťry was pretty damn gorgeous as O. My copy of the novel was in fact a reprint tie-in with the movie - 1975. If I recall correctly, I first saw the movie on a double bill with Emmanuelle.
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Old 06-24-2017, 06:45 PM   #46
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That's it? That's all the examples you can think of? Out of the millions of published novels and short stories? Why not suggest newbie writers write like James Joyce or Gertrude Stain? Or write in all lowercase? I'm sure you can find about as many examples of published works written each of those ways.

Personally, I'm going to advice writers to stick to the basics, which includes describing the characters for the readers. I'm just a porn writer and I can't offer advice on how to write art. As you three are apparently on the level of Hemingway or Mary Robinette Kowal, I won't criticize your writing styles or your writing advice.
I regret making this post. The point I wanted to make was at the end, which was I won't criticize your writing styles or your writing advice. However, I made it very, very poorly. I'm sure that there are readers that would love to read erotica in the style of James Joyce, Gertrude Stein or all in lowercase. They are many readers who enjoy the minimalist style that AwkwardMD, electricblue66 and Bramblethorn advocate. I regret any offense I gave.
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Old 06-24-2017, 10:15 PM   #47
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-^^^^^^^-

8letters, no offence taken by me, no need to sweat it. All good.

Look at it this way, the OP got feedback, we all got discussion; and we can hope that readers with their multiplicity of wants and must haves also find something they like in the fact that we all have completely different styles. That remains the point - there is no right, there is no wrong (but there does remain "good" writing and "bad" writing, but that's a whole 'nother debate!)

Btw, I've not been described as "minimalist" before - slow burn, circuitous and meandering, yes. Minimalist - don't think so
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Old 06-25-2017, 02:43 AM   #48
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I regret making this post. The point I wanted to make was at the end, which was I won't criticize your writing styles or your writing advice. However, I made it very, very poorly. I'm sure that there are readers that would love to read erotica in the style of James Joyce, Gertrude Stein or all in lowercase. They are many readers who enjoy the minimalist style that AwkwardMD, electricblue66 and Bramblethorn advocate. I regret any offense I gave.
Hey, I appreciate you saying this. Hope you have a good weekend :-)

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Btw, I've not been described as "minimalist" before - slow burn, circuitous and meandering, yes. Minimalist - don't think so
I think it'd be fair to call me minimalist as far as physical description of characters goes. My rule of thumb is, I only describe stuff that's relevant to the plot and/or reveals something about that person. So for example, I wouldn't normally mention whether a character is blonde or brunette, but I might mention if they'd dyed their hair or shaved it off.

About other things, not so much.
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Old 07-01-2017, 07:15 PM   #49
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Putting this in the right thread.
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8letters wrote:
>>>The most popular advice I've seen on the AH for sex scenes is to describe the scene well enough that the reader feels that they are in the room.

Edit: If the writer can't get me in the room in the first scene, I don't have much faith they can get me in the room in a sex scene. And I'm not in the room in the first scene if I don't know what the characters look like.<<<

I agree that a writer should disregard a general rule when it makes sense and I think one should be flexible and maybe I'm tweaking you a bit. But that's because you come off as so dogmatic like you did with your words above when it isn't always cut and dried. I don't think you did anything wrong by not describing the sister in the initial scene of your story,
Actually, I followed the advice pretty closely. I think the first scene of "Comforting My Little Sister" is a strong one. It introduces the two main characters and shows the attraction between them. It gets the main plot going - Michelle has broken up with Jared and is turning to Chris for support. I describe the bed in quite a bit of detail as much of the action will be taking place there. I don't describe Michelle as I thought it would have been appropriate for Chris to be thinking about how attractive his sister is in that situation.
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Originally Posted by rutger5 View Post
if you're wrong it's how when you're discussing other stories you act like others are wrong for not doing so. Listen you like what you do and if someone wished to write a story that 8letters would like then by all means give an accurate, detailed description of the characters (and have incest, plenty of incest).
I'm aware that Nonhuman is far away from Incest, so I kept my feedback to a minimum. Whenever I see someone create a thread in Story Feedback, I'm assuming they'd like advice on one or two things to do better on in the next story. Did you not want that? Why did you interpret my post as dogmatic? It's my advice; it's what I believe. How would you have written it?
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Old 07-01-2017, 07:22 PM   #50
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P.S. - call me crazy but I think a thread should be started in the style of Siskel and Ebert featuring Lit's bickering critics AwkwardMD and 8letters.
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My only disappointment is no one commented on the humor aspects of story. I thought I slipped some funny lines in there and they pass without notice. Guess next time I have to try harder.
Not part of your story, but you nailed the humor right there.
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