July 2023's Writer's Support Thread

Hello everyone.

Often I hear feedback and assertions from testers that claim that “the historical record” shows that men have always been the most revered or held the most authority in medieval or earlier societies.

As a writer, we are responsible for building our own story-worlds, and it is important to challenge conventional wisdom or historical record when it comes to social norms and roles.

The reason it is important, is because, often, the historical record and conventional wisdom is based on faulty assumptions and degraded evidence that later turns out to be false.

Case in point is the “Ivory Lady” a very important woman buried near Seville, about 5,000 years ago.

Here is an article about her, her tomb, and how what we thought we knew about her has proven totally wrong:

I hope this provides inspiration to those that challenge assumptions and convention.

Feedback is always important, and you should always use it to improve, but don’t succumb to conventional wisdom and history just because “everyone knows it was a certain way” … often what everyone “knows” proves to be wrong later on.


Sorry for the double post. I felt this did not fit within the first post I made.

I always break my roadmapping down into smaller and smaller bits.

Often, if I try to figure the complete journey from origins to ending, I will lose my way. So in an effort to move forward, I just focus on getting my story to the next plot point.

Doing this will frequently then provide inspiration to help me complete more of my roadmap to story-completion.


When I get stuck with connecting beginnings and ends I try to think about different aspects. I know that this will not work for everyone as none of us write exactly the same.

I will first think about the different characters and their motivations and character arcs. Working backwards on the timeline (most of the time) what steps need to be done to get the character where I want them? I tend to be great with mazes because I start at the end, it makes the real path easier to see. I do this with all major arcs and sometimes will intertwine them.

If that does not help or produce enough. I will look at the theme of the story (if you have one). What message or ideas are the story exploring? What kind of events will test this in the characters? Then think about the motivations and smaller events that need to be done to lead to those events. How many of those events can the MC be there to participate in?

For most traditional stories the middle includes the build up to a major change in the story, the major change, then the fallout. Whether the main character scores a big win or major fall this is the part where you build to it, then drop the big event. This event can be a plot twist, a major event that we have been waiting for (but not the biggest event), but it traditionally is something that changes the direction of the story and MC. They could find out news that changes everything or how they looked at different events of the past or you could give them what the MC has been after just for them to find out that it is not what they thought it would be.

I guess this bring me around to ask, if you did character write ups for character wants, needs, lie, and ghost? This comes from different writing advice for building characters. Building up to the middle is a great time to explore the Want and after the event they might better understand their Need or push the Ghost. You can and should at test the different aspects.

If your MC does not have an arc because the reader controls them, then you can give them to the other characters and have the MC there to participate.

You should be developing the character arcs throughout the story but the middle has a special place for me. It is a great time to push hidden things (not all of them) to the forefront.


You’re talking about the plot, but how are your CHARACTERS? If they’ve solidified in your mind, then full-blown characters should want to DO things, and they should want to do those things in a limited range of ways that fit each character’s personality. Unless you have a specific reason not to, I suggest letting your characters run the plot instead of the other way around.

EDIT: As an added advantage besides helping avoid writer’s block, this also helps prevent stuff like the Idiot Ball.


When I write characters (especially the main ones), I always prioritize breathing in realism to them, making them as human as possible. Even minor characters are not except from this.

The only types of characters that I write as caricatures are villains with no redemption factor. Tragic villains or supporting characters who turn heel (but are redeemed later) are an exception.

Yes, beyond the usual anime tropes I sometimes employ, I make my characters as human as possible. This is what playing visual novels for almost 20 years (plus immersing in Western media and IRL stuff) taught me.


I am feeling very, stupid reading all of your comments because I don’t feel stories like the rest of people do. I see the story as a whole, not as a strange puzzle people divide in chunks and put big schemes and big names like action blah blah,

For me is a machine that works organically like a river flow. I know where the flow goes and how the flow feels. But I don’t understand all those techniques and all that,

When I think of a story, I know all will happen not how the structure will go but the flow and the way characters act and develop.

I have a clear feeling of inadequacy when I read how others have beautiful words and weird schemes about trees and divide stories like they were selling body parts. I am not capable of it, and that is maybe why I am so bad writer.


You shouldn’t worry too much about that. It’s totally normal to not have story structure floating around your head. Whenever I plan a project out, I lookup a few different story structures and then I pick one that fits my story. Then I use that to outline. It doesn’t come naturally, but structure can be very helpful as a writer. And it isn’t a rule. If I want to add, change, or take away anything from the structure to better fit the story, I can


I appreciate everyone who took the time to converse in the replies. :blush: Thank you all!

Response to @Dvalor53 :
This is more or less what I am currently doing, there are some end of book results that really need build up to work so I’m trying to figure out what events would lead the player to be reasonably allowed to have suspicion or guess the outcome (not evidently, but implied). If you don’t mind me asking a clarifying question though what are lies and ghosts in character writing terms? Does the video clarify on this? (I am not familiar with Star Wars at all by the way, so I hope it’ll make sense for a newb.)

Response to @JBento :
I feel this is a little harder to think actively about when considering the setting I ‘ingeniously’ decided to set the story in but I do think I should consider more what the characters actively are in interest of pursuing. (I know what I want for the two primary characters, but what about the minor cast? What are they all wanting or trying to do? Why are they in their current fields, what brings them in proximity to the MC in the first place?)

I kind of guffaw at anything that is done on a subscription basis but I appreciate the recommendation. :thinking: I’ll think on it, I know the subscription isn’t much but I don’t want to be forced to continue to be subscribed for access to my writing materials and having them on an unsecured cloud feels… unideal to me.

Response to @MoonlightBomber :
I mean, personally speaking I try not to work too much in ‘tropes’ but usually frame them around a profession and what kind of skillset or expectations come with the profession (and how well they perform in that profession, be it traditionally or untraditionally). Actually puts me in a pickle for my current project considering most of the characters have the same key ‘job.’

Response to @poison_mara :
Sometimes that is how the story is like for me but at a certain point I start to feel aimless and stressed, like everything I am working on is a mistake. I think for me I can only reach a ‘flow state’ once I can, in simplified terms, anticipate the course of events to some degree that I need to write to avoid myself from making key mistakes at the ‘storyboard’ phase.

Does anyone have like, character sheets they recommend btw for listing out their goals and such? Maybe a DND Sheet is a little too bizarre for something not actually geared for that setting but sometimes having some regimentation/listing for things to ‘know’ can be helpful. :thinking:


I haven’t tried it, but Overly Sarcastic Productions’s Red has mentioned this one, which has a paid and free version, and apparently has stuff for worldbuilding and plot organising, not just character sheets:

EDIT: If someone tries it, let me know how it rolls. If someone likes it enough to shell out for the paid version, OSP’s videos occasionally have a discount code, so check those before forking over money.


Thanks to this thread I’ve downloaded a plot planner app just to organize my characters and miscellaneous info that I’ll forget if I don’t have it written down. My previous habit of notetaking in a journal left me so confused when I would see I wrote just one word for whole plot points and expected my forgetful self to remember what it meant.

I have a question for you other writers: Does the beginning of a story with the character creation phase always feel so awkward to write? I’m having such a hard time making it flow well. Like I know I need to get it out of the way, but is there any tips to make it feel more natural?

I love reading through these threads and just seeing the commiseration of writers supporting each other.


Character creation is always fun to figure out, at least for me.

One thing that is always boring, awkward, and should be discouraged, is just dumping the character creation on the reader immediately at the beginning. By that, I mean that you shouldn’t start your IF with “What is your name?”, “What is your gender?”, “What is the length of your chin in nanometres?”, etcetera…

I find it works best when character creation is integrated into the story. Have a character introduce themselves to the MC, and ask for the MC’s name in return, prompting the player to choose their name. For example, in my own WIP, the MC takes out their credit card to pay for a snack, and you eye your name on the back of the card.

There are many different and fun ways that you can prompt the player to create certain aspects of their character. Height for example, could be decided when you have the MC clamber into their car, and you ask the player whether they slide in with ease due to being small, or have to squeeze in due to being taller than a giraffe.

Ultimately though, it is up to you. If you want an RPG style character creation at the beginning, go for it. But a character creator integrated into the story is never not appreciated.


I approach it differently for each project I write.

For Patchwerks, the customization of the MC is spread out over four chapters, the immediate situation the MC finds themselves in takes precedence over defining their name etc.

In my Emigre story, I have a prologue of the MC being born on a sailing ship heading to New York … so the MC’s mother takes note of her baby’s features and name right away.

The common thread I have in all my writing IF, is I choose to place customization where it makes sense in the story.

This is not a visual game, so making the character upfront does not always work.

In cases, like Zombie Exodus, the author can use a plot device, like a dating app.

Other authors use the mirror plot device, but this is often overused.

tldr: Figure out from your story plot where the best place is to insert your choices.


Yeah, @Eiwynn I had been using the mirror plot device and I just… wasn’t liking it. It doesn’t flow right. At least not all of it.

I’m probably going to scrap most of it and try again.

Though you saying that you spread the customization over 4 chapters is incredibly comforting. I felt like I was rushing it just to get it done and it just wasn’t working.

And thank you @Leinco for the advice!

Another question for anyone! Does anyone else have difficulty naming things? Like I can do whole detailed backgrounds and plots but naming things and characters is just–ugh.


My original draft of Shengzhang had character customization spanning the first three chapters and the prologue (specifically, your eye colour usually isn’t story relevant, so it got kept out until you see it in your own reflection. Believe it or not a small painting and looking around at yourself do not provide ample opportunities for viewing your own face in detail, specifically the colour of your eyes.) I think taking the piece meal approach is more engaging and less like… affronting.

I would personally avoid the ‘you look in the mirror’ approach if you can help it, though I think having a twist on it can make it work. (For a different project of mine, the Oracle, you see graffiti of your super-persona and can critique it’s accuracy by comparing what the artist painted to what you actually look like.)

Response to @Blunderbutts :
Oh, do you know if the names tend to be accurate or not? I might generate some names and cross reference since I also have difficulties with procuring good names at times. :thinking:


For naming characters I’ve been using this to generate random names until I find one that I like.

Naming places hasn’t been a problem this time round because I went with a sort of real-world setting, but in previous nanowrimo projects I would just zoom in on google maps and steal real place names - ask me to come up with an actual name on the spot and all my characters will be called Dave Smith from Townville.

EDIT: for @Phenrex - I’ve not found any statistics on the last names, though the England & Wales random last names seem pretty accurate in my experience.
For first names, they’re pulled straight from official statistics where available. You can jump into the popularity section of the site and see their sources, like here for Kazakhstan 2022.


I actually enjoy the process of coming up with names for characters.

Although I can’t speak for naming of locations, as all my stories have been set in real world locations so far. Although I did have to name an Izakaya for my WiP, but I literally just let readers name it lol.

For characters, I like to think about their role in the overall story, and then look up names which mean something like that.

For example, if the character in question that we were naming was a detective, I would look for names that mean “truth”, or “justice”. From a quick google search, I got the following names which I like

  • Justine - girls name, meaning - take a guess
  • Alice - means truth and gracious apparently
  • Danielle - “the lord is my judge”
  • Leia - Was surprised to see this, it isn’t my name, but I sometime use it as a nickname. Means law-abiding
  • Verity - truth

Honestly, I could list these for hours, the research is the fun part for me. But I think you’ve gotten the idea.


You can try Features and Tools | One Stop For Writers they have a lot of stuff that can be useful (tutorials, character builders, etc), plus a two week free trial to try them out (no payment information required to sign up too!).

I use this site a lot for name generation (especially of places or shops): https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/. Though it leans more towards fantasy they have some that tend towards other genres as well, and a lot more than just name generation besides.


Can you export the results of your writing to a PDF or other text-editable format after you are finished with a page or document or are you required to sustain a subscription to keep access to what you create there?


I know you can’t export on the free trial but it is an option on an actual subscription, so you wouldn’t have to keep the sub after you export if you didn’t want to: Templates and Worksheets | One Stop For Writers. I would suggest playing around/seeing what’s on offer with the free trial without committing actual work to see if it’s something you’d like or if the resources it offers works for you.


Been writing a new project; about 30,000 words in two weeks of work. It’s not related to CoG so none of you guys will see it, but it’s nice to make such massive progress on something I’m passionate about.

Meanwhile, Dance with Demons is plinking along slowly but surely. I’d like to find some joy in it so I’ll rethink and rewrite some sections to spark that joy. Right now I feel like the plot is just kind of happening and no character has a specific goal.