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forbloodysummer


The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai'don.

Hi everypony!

Oct
24th
2020

How to Write Compelling Villains · 3:33pm Oct 24th, 2020

I posted this a while ago as a reply comment to a blog of Wanderer D's, but thought it was worth a blog of its own. Because this is something so many people screw up, when it's really the easiest thing to get right, and I struggle to understand how many seem to find it so hard.

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3006133 Ooh, cool, I had no idea people were still reading that! So that was about 3.5 years ago, and I'd only written four MLP stories at that point. And in those that have come since, it's been a mixed bag with descriptions. Some were quick and easy, some took several revisions, and some I'm still not happy with.

This is the story in question, regarding that example:

TRainbow Dash Is A Massive Fanny
Sirens or Shadowbolts, Rainbow Dash always wins. But one’s been outsmarting and embarrassing her in the school corridors, day after day, and she may have profoundly misunderstood the other. But she can’t NOT win, right? She’s Rainbow Dash!
forbloodysummer · 18k words  ·  34  5 · 1.6k views

It was written all as one chapter, but came out 10x longer than planned. So I split it into two after the fact. The idea there was that the situation with Adagio got Rainbow and the girls talking, and the Shadowbolts thing just came up in conversation naturally. But the Shadowbolt discussion got so huge that it became more what the story was about than what I'd intended to be the main focus, with Adagio. I liked it like that, but lots of the comments I was getting talked about how the story became something else halfway through, and that the change of subject could be jarring. So I found that if I warned people about that going in, they could prepare for it a bit better. As such, I put it in the description.

I don't really like doing things like that, and I've tried to avoid it where possible. This one, for example, has a first chapter that didn't come out as funny as I'd thought it would. But chapters two and three are much funnier, I think. So it has a little sentence on the end of the long description about how the other chapters are a bit different.

These days I like short, snappy descriptions where possible. Things like:

EShowmareship
Trixie learns from the best.
forbloodysummer · 6.2k words  ·  26  0 · 168 views

or:

TA Cruel Angel's Faeces
Neon Genesis Evangelion. As told by Pinkie Pie.
forbloodysummer · 9k words  ·  12  10 · 483 views

And after a bit of practice doing that kind of thing, I grew to see longer descriptions as rather bloated and unnecessary a lot of the time, so I try to keep them fairly minimal too. When I first started this story, for example, I imagined the description being some massive thing. By the time I'd finished, I realised it really didn't need much, and I preferred to let the work speak for itself. I've wondered sometimes for that one about including something like 'this story was written over several years, so the writing in the second half is much better than in the first,' to try to avert it being dismissed. But that would be too close to apologising for it, which doesn't really help build confidence in the story being something worth a reader's time, so I've left it as it is. I think back to Justin Timberlake telling Jesse Eisenberg to drop the 'the' from 'The Facebook.' It's cleaner.

Because I focused on getting the descriptions nice and short, I became quite accustomed to analysing what exactly a story is about, in a thematic sense, and distilling that down to a short description. A lot of the time with things I've been writing more recently, I've had the title and short description written very early on, sometimes before I've even started a word of the text. Means you don't have to go through the hassle of coming up with a description after you've finished, too, when you're eager to get on with publishing.

I remember with RDIAMF, the one linked at the top, the key thing for writing that long description (and the short one too, actually) was understanding why both sections of the story were in there. Seeing the things they had in common, and how they both served the character. In both cases, they're about Rainbow assuming she'll come out on top because she always does, oblivious to how she's completely misread a situation. The title, likewise, reflects this. So I would say if you do have to have a description that covers multiple plot threads like that, try to focus on the commonality between them.

For change in tone, think carefully about the tags, too. Try to decide what should be a surprise vs what's an intrinsic part of a story's appeal. And don't assume that people will read your story, if the change in tone (or tone the work develops into, rather than starts with) is a big selling point, make sure you make that the focus of the description. This one, for example, has comedy, random and tragedy tags, all of which are central to it, and none of which it could go without.

That's all I have time to say right now, I'll think about it some more. Does that help at all?

I have a question about an interview you did: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/768262/forbloodysummers-why-are-you-here-your-majesty-royal-canterlot-library

I wrote a story, for example, where reader feedback quickly highlighted how suddenly the subject and tone changed halfway through. I thought it was ok, but then I’d always known that swerve was coming when I wrote it, so it never struck me as being as shocking. But it seemed to put some readers off, so now I warn them about it going in, and that appears to improve their experience.

Could you kindly say more about how (you like?) to warn readers about the story's change in subject and tone, to put the readers off less?

Thanks!

2998911 Ooh, I didn't realise anyone looked at those!

That's a very good point. One of the five former occupants wasn't that special, I guess? I think I removed it a year or two ago. I think I'll replace it with The Maretian once I've finished rereading it.

Thanks for the interest!

Hey, I noticed that of your list of biggest favorites, the description denotes there are 5 stories you hold on to closely but the list only has 4 on it. Did on go private, or fall off the shelf on accident?

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