Writing Readable Stories
I read stories on Noveltrove and most are pretty good. Arti doesn’t allow garbage on the site, a decision for which we can all be thankful. All writers can improve their writing, though, including the best. As Ernest Hemmingway said –
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
I’ve written erotica for a lot of years, and over the years have been coached by better writers in some of the finer points of putting thought to words. Here are a few things I’ve seen in some stories on Noveltrove and other sites that writers should try to avoid if they want to get lots of reads, some thumbs-up and maybe a comment or two.
I’ll call the first “keyboard diarrhea”, because it reads like the writer got started typing and the words just gushed out on the screen. Arti weeds these stories out so they don’t get published on Noveltrove, but I’ve seen them on other sites. They’re characterized by very long paragraphs, even only one paragraph for the entire story, and have little to no punctuation. They’re often claimed to be “true stories”, and they usually read something like this…
She was sexy as fuck and my cock was getting hard just watching her big tits dance around as she walked down the street so I decided that some way come hell or high water I was going to fuck her so I walked up to her and said she had great tits and I wanted to fuck her and she looked at me and smiled and said she’d been watching me and wanted to fuck me too so we went to my apartment and she stripped off her clothes and poked her big tits in my face and said for me to suck her tits and clit before I fucked her so I sucked her tits and then she sucked my cock while I sucked her huge clit and…
Just a few lines written like this are difficult to read. Imagine about four hundred lines all written the same way. Would you keep reading it?
A large part of the problem with a story like this, besides the lack of punctuation, is that when reading on a computer screen, it’s easy to lose your place in a long string of text. It’s more readable if the writer breaks up the story in to short paragraphs, say ten lines or less. It’s also important to put in a blank line between these paragraphs. That way, the reader can read those ten lines and then start the next paragraph without getting lost.
The next I’ll call “Ginsu sentences”. In case you weren’t around in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, a kitchen knife known as the “Ginsu Knife” was sold on television infomercials by salesmen reminiscent of carnival barkers. As part of the pitch, the salesman demonstrated how sharp the knives were by chopping assorted vegetables into little chunks.
That how one of these stories reads – the words are chopped up into little, short, sentences. Here’s an example revised from the first. It has punctuation which makes the reading easier and the paragraphs are shorter, but when we read, we want the words to flow together. Little short sentences tend to make us start and stop over and over.
She was sexy as fuck. She had big tits. My cock was getting hard just watching her. I decided I was going to fuck her. I walked up to her. I said she had great tits and I wanted to fuck her.
She looked at me and smiled. She said she’d been watching me. She said she wanted to fuck me too. We went to my apartment. She stripped off her clothes. Then she poked her big tits in my face.
She said for me to suck her tits and clit. She said she’d suck my cock too. I sucked her tits. Then she sucked my cock while I sucked her huge clit.
Little short sentences like these don’t let a reader easily form a picture of the characters or the action in the mind. A lot of readers may start reading something like this, but they’ll quickly click the back button and search for something easier and more pleasant to read. It would work better to write it like this –
She was sexy as fuck and my cock was getting hard just from watching her big tits. I decided I was going to fuck her, and walked up and said she had great tits. She looked at me and smiled, said she’d been watching me too, and that she wanted to fuck me.
We went to my apartment where she stripped off her clothes, then pushed her big tits in my face and told me to suck them. She grinned then, and said she’d suck my cock if I’d suck her clit.
The third problem with some writing I’ve read is what I’ll call “Secret Slang”. Writers have to remember that the internet isn’t just in their home country. It’s all over the world, and all over a multitude of different countries, cultures and different languages.
If you’ve ever taken a class to learn to read and speak a foreign language and then visited the country where that language is spoken, you quickly come to the realization that most people don’t speak the “formal” language. Just like English, every other language has a sub-component of slang used by the general population in everyday conversation.
Slang can be defined as any usage of words that doesn’t conform to the original meaning. In the US, “cool” doesn’t necessarily mean a lower temperature, and “sick” doesn’t necessarily mean someone is ill.
That slang has been around for a long time, but the internet has compounded the problem of slang by orders of magnitude. Just one usage of slang by almost anyone can spread to hundreds of thousands of users in only a few hours via the social media sites.
Have you ever heard of “a creech”? I had to look it up on an urban dictionary when I first saw it. It’s just one of thousands of abbreviated or made-up words like “rad”, “dis”, “ASUOFOG”, and “emo” that don’t have any real translation into other languages.
Advertising uses commonly used meanings of words, i.e. “slang”, to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. That works in the country where the slang is in common usage, but not so well in other languages. Here are some examples.
A Pepsi ad said “Come Alive With Pepsi”. That seems understandable, right?” It is to Americans. When translated into Chinese, the words say Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.
When the first McDonald’s restaurants opened in France, they advertised the “Big Mac”. “Big Mac” translated into commonly used French means “big pimp”.
This one’s a doozy. A Coor’s advertising campaign in Spain told potential consumers to “Turn It Loose”. This translates in Spanish to “You will suffer from diarrhea”.
Noveltrove is published in English, so you’d think using slang should be fine. If you read stories on Noveltrove, you have to be able to read English, so what’s the big deal?
Well, the big deal is a lot of people in countries with a different native language do read and speak English, but what they understand is the English they learned in school. That is “proper English”, you know, the kind of English the teacher demanded you use when you wrote something. It’s not the English commonly spoken in either the USA, Canada, or the UK.
The USA, Canada, and the UK have distinct slang that might not be understood by someone with only a knowledge of proper English. A lot of the time, UK slang doesn’t mean the same thing in the USA and vice versa.
In the UK, you’d say you put your suitcase in the “boot” and then fucked the woman over the “bonnet”. For someone with only an understanding of proper English, those statements would seem strange. It would be better to write that you put your suitcase in the boot of the car and then took the woman on the bonnet of the car while it was still warm from the engine heat.
In the southern US, we call a shopping cart a “buggy”, and we “carry” people to the doctor. In reality, our shopping carts look exactly like the shopping carts in New York and anywhere else, and we drive people to the doctor in our cars or trucks, but to someone in Germany reading that, it must be confusing. It would be more easily understood if you wrote you pushed the shopping buggy through the grocery store and carried your wife to the doctor in the back seat of your car.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use slang in your writing. If you don’t you’ll lose a lot of readers because they’ll think your characters are dry and boring. Just make sure to clarify what you mean for those who might not understand your slang terms. Your readers will then understand what you mean and they’ll learn something in the process.
Image by Gratisography, cc0