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Alaina Silverman Capstone

Abstract

Reading is one of my greatest passions and I am dedicated to discovering as many stories as I can. Writing a beautiful or exhilarating story is one of the most difficult and unlauded tasks a person can take on - it took me almost a year of unsuccessfully trying to write for my capstone to learn this. During this time, my characters, plot, and fictional world went through so many iterations that the narrative I have now barely resembles what I thought I would write back in September. Even with guidance from Mr. Miles and many writing how-tos, it took time to create unique characters. Though I have not written as nearly as much as I want for this capstone (only 10,000 words), I fully anticipate completing my novel in the upcoming months for my own satisfaction.


The story focuses on a very distant future where the world is ‘at capacity’ - there is no space for people, which leads to the degeneration of civil behavior. When this society inevitably collapses, the plot then jumps to a point past this to examine the aftermath.


Works Cited

"Beyond the Cliché: How to Create Characters That Fascinate | Write to Done." Write to Done Beyond the Cliche How to Create Characters That Fascinate Comments. N.p., 06 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://writetodone.com/how-to-create-characters/>.

I chose writing a short novel as my capstone because I wanted to bring something new to the metaphorical literary gene pool; this source is all about cliche characters, and how to avoid them. Even though I am familiar with many tropes through my own reading experience, it was incredibly helpful to have some of them listed out along with ways to make sure my characters are unique. I believe this source is credible because the writer of the article is also the author of several books (whose genres range from young adult novels to historical fiction). She has also written a book on how to improve writing techniques.


Gerrold, David. Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. Cincinnati, OH:

Writer's Digest, 2001. Print.


This book is aimed directly at science fiction and fantasy novel writers, but many of the tips and advice can carry over into other genres of literature. Worlds of Wonder is full of writing exercises that are fun and interesting to complete; I like the focus that the author puts on creating a sense of wonder in the reader, and how or where to draw inspiration from. He also brings up good points about the importance of consistency and how to make sure a story maintains its believability right from the start. This source is and will be incredibly useful to read through when I am in the process of writing.


Gingerich, Jon. "Five Plot Devices That Hurt Your Writing." LitReactor. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://litreactor.com/columns/five-plot-devices-that-hurt-your-writing>.

I am not used to writing plots - most of the writing I have done in the past five years has been academic essays and informative narratives. Now that I am dipping my toes into stories, which require a plot, this website is a good place to start familiarizes myself with what I should not do. Some of the things to avoid I already know I am susceptible to doing - such as the deus ex machina and writing too much of my personal experience in. The advice the site gives on not getting caught in these pitfalls is sound.


"The Golden Rules for a Good Plot | Scribendi.com." The Golden Rules for a Good Plot | Scribendi.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.scribendi.com/advice/goldenrulesforagoodplot.en.html>.

This site is full of writing resources, mainly focused on logistics and how or when to get things done. This particular article elaborates on the process of making a good plot. It comes from the opinion that plot should be established before the story is written; someone writing a story should create a ‘skeleton’ or outline with the intention of staying on track when doing actual writing. This would be good for me to do because I often go on tangents when I write, which takes up time that could have been spent on editing or furthering my story and capstone.


."How to Write Dialogue That Works – Elements of a Story." How to Write Dialogue That Works – Elements of a Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.creative-writing-now.com/how-to-write-dialogue.html>.

Dialogue is one of the trickiest parts of any book; good dialogue fleshes out characters and gives insight into the world, but bad plot can turn a reader away from the story entirely. This website is concise and gives examples of both what not to do and what to emulate because it’s so good. I plan on having my cast of characters interact with each other extensively. Since this means I will have a quite a bit of dialogue, I want to make sure I am doing my story and characters credit and am not being melodramatic, boring, or unrealistic.


Kirkman, John, and Christopher Turk. Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical and Business Communication. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Google Books. Google. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=JwN6AgAAQBAJ&pg=PT120&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

Effective Writing is an interesting book on a writer can create flow in their stories. Another noteworthy aspect of the book is that it also addresses charts and images, and how that can add to or detract from the reader’s understanding. Reminiscent of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, this book examines word choice, brevity versus colloquialisms, and how to write in an active (rather than passive) manner.  This is important for me because I write many of my academic (and especially scientific) essays in a passive voice to avoid making false generalizations and referring to myself; in a story, a passive voice doesn’t serve the purpose of getting the story across.


"Story Lite Writers Software to Maximize Productivity." Story Lite Productivity Software for Writing and Editing. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.storylite.com/how-to-use-story-lite-software/short-story-stories-novella-writer/>.

While the website is essentially one large ad for writing software, this particular page calls out the difference in anecdotes, novellas, and full length stories. It gives examples of authors who wrote short stories before moving on to longer works of fiction, and also writers who started with short stories but then expanded them into full novels. In describing the distinction between anecdotes and short stories, it also describes what elements make either one good and enjoyable to read. The site also says the most compelling short stories deal with powerful themes, like ageing or love. I hadn’t thought of defining my stories in terms of themes, I think it would be interesting to do so.


"TARA K. HARPERWRITER'S WORKSHOP First Person or Third?" First Person or Third Person? N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.tarakharper.com/k_frstpr.htm>.

Before I start writing, I need to commit myself to a certain style of writing. At its core, this

means either first person, or third person. Both has merits; with first person, I have access to the thoughts and feelings of my main character, while with third person, I have more control over what the reader takes away from my population of characters as a whole. There are also detriments to both: for example, with first person, the narration is limited to the owner of the point of view. The point of view I choose will directly affect how i write my story.


"Voice in Writing: Developing a Unique Writing Voice." WritersDigestcom. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/voice-in-writing-developing-a-unique-writing-voice>.

This article explains the importance of developing a writing voice. I like that a writing voice isn’t described in terms of strength, but rather how true and distinct it is from other voices. I also like that the author took the time to contrast ‘writing voice’ from ‘style’, where voice is the the authors sensibilities and personality coming through. This is important in the foundation of my story, making sure I keep my voice and don’t ‘pick up’ other author’s traits accidentally. Keeping my voice consistent is also very important; since I will be writing in bursts, there might be some fluctuation in how I write.


Wending, Chuck. "The Zero-Fuckery Quick-Create Guide To Kick-Ass Characters (And All The Crazy Plot Stuff That Surrounds 'Em)."Terribleminds Chuck Wendig. N.p., 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/28/plot-and-character/>.

This article was written in an accessible, humorous way. The author disapproves of, and explains why he disapproves of, typical character mapping and character quizzes. Knowing what a character’s favorite color, or how tall they are, ultimately does nothing to develop their personality. Instead, Wending gives the reader a myriad of other exercises to do to help ground a particular character - like writing a 100 character bio for them. The article also explains where plot really comes from; not only is plot derived from conflict, but the character’s inability or unwillingness to address an issue affects the storyline greatly. Figuring out how a character relates to an event is important to establish before writing.



Other Sources

Burroway, Janet, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Boston: Longman, 2011. Print.


Cohen, Richard. Writer's Mind: Crafting Fiction. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Pub. Group, 1995. Print.


"What Makes a Good Story? Tips for Young Authors." What Makes a Good Story? (Tips for Young Authors). N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <http://www.aaronshep.com/youngauthor/elements.html>.