General Writing Resources

The Short Story
What is a short story? More importantly, what isn't? There are many things you need to keep in mind when you write short fiction, and this resource should help. It includes a definition of the genre, a template to help you develop your idea, and some general guidelines for what you need to make your story more effective.

Show, Don't Tell
Have I ever told you that your story explains too much? That you need to show more? That your piece is more like an essay than a story? That you need to use a narrative style instead of an expository style? If so, click the link above for a general demonstration of what I mean, and to get an idea of what I really want you to do.

Verbs of Doing
Many of you probably define a verb as an "action word," but that's not necessarily true. There are actually two kinds of verbs, we'll call them verbs-of-doing and verbs-of-being. This page will show you the difference, and which kind to use when writing stories. Also: How to use verbs-of-doing in literary essays

Momentary Acts
A further, more specific demonstration of the difference between a plot summary (or essay) and a story, this resource explains what I mean when I say your piece needs more narrative detail. It takes the idea of verbs-of-doing one step further, showing that simply passing the Verb-of-Doing Test is not always enough.

Beginning a Story
There is no worse way to begin any piece of writing than, "My name is…. This story is about…. I'm going to talk about…." or any variation thereof. Even essays shouldn't begin this way. Since a story is not an essay, it doesn't require an "introduction" to explain everything that follows. So how do stories begin?

Establishing Setting
Along the same lines as Show, Don't Tell, this page demonstrates how to establish the time and place of your story without coming out and explaining it.

Revealing Character
Creating characters is one of the most remarkable powers, and greatest challenges, of narrative writing. But how do we make our characters into real people and not just names? How do we let the readers know what kind of person a character is, without just coming out and explaining it?

Writing Dialogue
Since stories are generally about people, and people do talk from time to time, we often need to write dialogue in our stories to show the reader what the characters are saying. But more than that, we need to show them how they're saying it, and we also need to construct it properly so the reader doesn't get confused. This resource will show you how. (For a more detailed demonstration of how to use punctuation and capitalization when writing dialogue, click here.)

Informal vs. Formal
There is a big difference between the English we speak and the English we write. We need to recognize the informal expressions we use in our everyday speech and replace them with words and expressions that are more formal and appropriate to writing. This resource provides a list of some of the more common ones, and a few suggested alternatives for each.

Inexcusable Errors
We all make mistakes when we write. Many of those mistakes could be avoided by simply going  back and reading what we wrote, before we click "Print" or hand it in. But there are some things that, at the high school level, should be automatic; some mistakes we should simply not be making anymore. Click the link above for a demonstration.

Free-Floating Hostility
To borrow from my favorite comedian, here are eleven minor language items I'm bored with, tired of, and pissed at. Some of these are covered in Informal vs. Formal and Inexcusable Errors (see above), but I feel the need to reiterate them here, and offer some explanation as to why these issues trouble me so, and what we can do to avoid them. (Please don't take it personally…)

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