TV Tropes will ruin your life.

April 2, 2017

TV Tropes might save your writing, though. It’s a venerable wiki from the early days of the internet that has chronicled countless story elements:

“A trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize. Tropes are the means by which a story is told by anyone who has a story to tell. We collect them, for the fun involved.”tv_tropes_is_like_crack

This website is the most undervalued tool for writers I know of. It’s a kick for readers, too.

Don’t believe me, writers? Try these:

Dialogue

Plots

Settings

Symbolism

In the short story I’m writing, I wanted a prison break as a minor offstage event. But how to portray it originally? How to include details that aren’t cliched? If only there were a list of every prison break trope ever portrayed in anime, comics, film, literature, TV, video games, cartoons, and the web? Oh, look! I’m saved!

The folks at TV Tropes say that the site may ruin your life. But you might think it’s worth it. Have fun!

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Write or Die, etc.

December 27, 2012

I’ve found a couple of great writing tools lately, and I want to pass them on. Both are by a guy called Doctor Wicked. Normally I would hesitate to recommend anything from someone with a name like that, but it’s the internet age, and apparently, that sort of thing is okay now.

One is a proofreading program, what I would call a bot editor, called EditMinion. You paste your work in, and it makes suggestions. It’s borne of the universal frustration created by the mentally challenged spelling and grammar checkers found in Word and similar programs, and designed specifically to catch what the checkers miss.

But how good can a bot editor be? Don’t you still need beta-readers? Don’t you still need a good critique group… with humans in it?

Of course you do. But a bot editor may show you things that your human readers missed. And bots are fast. I like clicking a button and getting results instantly, because I can consider those results while waiting three weeks for that email.

I can’t declare that something like EditMinion (or even impressive, expensive bots like Nina Davies’s Autocrit) will make you a better writer. But I do think that they are pretty neat.

And information tech improves quickly, so in another year… watch out. They might be smarter than you.

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Doctor Wicked’s real masterpiece, though, is a little gem called Write or Die. I’ll quote his description of it:

Write or Die is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences…

The idea is to instill in the would-be writer a fear of not writing. We do this by employing principles taught in Introduction to Psychology. Anyone remember Operant Conditioning and Negative Reinforcement?

When I sit down to write, it takes me forever to get going, and when I get stuck with the need for just the right verb, I stare at the wall. Then I’m relishing the glory of the previous scene or daydreaming about the upcoming chapter, and ten minutes have gone by.

I’m a daydreamer. It’s what made me a writer in the first place. But it costs me a lot of hours in the chair to get a novel down. Write or Die happens to be just what I need to crank my words-per-hour up to a reasonable level. It keeps my fingers striking those keys.

Or else.

Consequences:
*Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
*Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
*Kamikaze Mode: Keep Writing or Your Work Will Unwrite Itself.

Write or Die screenshot

I used to write in four-hour blocks on the weekends. Nowadays, I get the same wordcount in a handful of ten-minute sessions, because if I stop typing, my computer screams at me. It doesn’t sound fun, but strangely, it is. And I can sneak writing time in on weekdays, which is boosting my weekly wordcount.

It feels a little funny saying it, but I will: Thanks, Doctor Wicked.

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If you’ve got a program or website that helps you write or edit your work, please mention it in a comment!