Writing Tips - Let's help each other not be crap.

Replicant Sasquatch

Do Lolcows Dream of Electric Hedgehog Pokemon?
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One thing I've avoided since middle school is writing anything in first-person perspective. I did it a lot when I was younger because of the story prompts we were given for creative writing in elementary school ('so-and-so and I'), but I found that reading first-person perspective annoyed me a LOT because I'd often forget WHO was speaking. "I this" and "I that" got soooo repetitive, too. I prefer third person perspective, typically third person omniscient (or close to omniscient), because it's easier to read, and easier to keep track of who is who. But that's just my opinion and two cents worth of :autism: :autism:.
In my experience, first person works best for military fiction because it makes the work feel like you're reading an actual soldier's memoir.
 

Koby_Fish

The advice of the GALACTICALLY STUPID
True & Honest Fan
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In my experience, first person works best for military fiction because it makes the work feel like you're reading an actual soldier's memoir.
yeah, I can buy that. That's a thing that works for the format. Certain forms of first person don't use a lot of I's, especially where military is concerned, I've noticed. They tend to drop the pronoun usage if they're not using "we".

Boilerplate drama though? Hurlequin romance? Mystery? Fantasy? Bleh. I remember being turned off from Black Beauty because of all the "I" 's, even though I knew full well it was from the horse's perspective (first person), because hurr durr, horses don't talk, and I highly doubt they cogitate in that manner. If it had been done in third person it could have been done well and still incorporated the horse's perspective and feelings without all the annoying I's.
 

Deadwaste

insert witty comment here
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one thing i tried recently is during outlining, when im having trouble laying out the story, i take a moment and thing to myself how would sparky from thug notes talk about it so i just imagine him reviewing some version of the story, reading out the basic premise and outline or how the story goes or whatever and that somewhat helps? i guess?
 

Koby_Fish

The advice of the GALACTICALLY STUPID
True & Honest Fan
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one thing i tried recently is during outlining, when im having trouble laying out the story, i take a moment and thing to myself how would sparky from thug notes talk about it so i just imagine him reviewing some version of the story, reading out the basic premise and outline or how the story goes or whatever and that somewhat helps? i guess?
I never, EVER outline. I dunno if that's the :autism: or what, but I manage without it just fine, I guess. But then again I have a mental ability to play back what I've got down like it was a TV show and analyze it that way, so maybe I don't need it. If it flows properly like a TV show, I'm happy with it.
 
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Q

QT 219

Guest
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For a writing exercise, never start at the beginning. Think of an event and extrapolate outward from that. For me, characters and situations seems to sprout naturally from then on. Plus, you can always go back to the "beginning" and write your way up on what led to said event. It's keeps me from being bored.
 
M

MW 002

Guest
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I never, EVER outline. I dunno if that's the :autism: or what, but I manage without it just fine, I guess. But then again I have a mental ability to play back what I've got down like it was a TV show and analyze it that way, so maybe I don't need it. If it flows properly like a TV show, I'm happy with it.
I'm actually the opposite- I find outlining a story to be helpful in that I can physically see how I plan to let a story play out. Also because I have a really short attention span.

If I do recall correctly, George RR Martin said something about how some writers are better at planning their books with an outline and how some are better at just making it up as they go.
 

Erwin Blackthorn

enjoy yourself and eat pussy
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I used to never outline and just wing it. Ended up with a story that didn't go anywhere. I know some of us can do it on a whim and others need to outline to make sure they're on the right path, so it's all about which you are comfortable with.

But I must urge this: try both and THEN decide.

Here are a few unconventional tips I haven't seen so far, and I hope they help out anyone or at least spark an idea to further their craft. Also, if anyone has a question for a writer or how to get their projects going, feel free to quote me and ask away.

1. Treat your previous projects/stories as your nemesis. If you think of your old self as a rival, you will try to one up them in a competitive way and automatically improve yourself.

2. Try to start every sentence in your sight with a different word. If every sentence in a paragraph begins with "I" or "The", it looks lazy and the sentences will start to mix with each other.

3. NEVER begin a sentence with "And then" unless it's within dialogue. I've seen this in a few published novels and it looks so unprofessional.

4. If you get stuck on an idea that you don't quite enjoy, write it out and take it as far as you can for ONE day. Just take one day to flesh out the shitty idea. Once the day is done, you will wake up hating it as much as possible and your brain will find a way around that idea or make up a better one. This is similar to the "A-ha" moment.

5. This one might sound odd, but it's pretty good to follow: make your plot familiar and your ideas out of the ordinary. Write down the plot in a short summery and just change around the nouns and verbs from an already popular plot. This will save you time and headaches.
 

UnclePhil

Deliberating from a screened-in porch.
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I took a few writing classes in college to get better. If I got anything out of them, it was that "genre" is a filthy, vulgar word. The only font of originality that's still wet lies in "literary" fiction. I took that to heart. I also decided there are no "rules" and writing guides are worthless. Fuck Syd Field, fuck Robert McKee, I got this.

Well, last year I produced an entire manuscript, 100,000 words, revised and edited no less than three times. It ended up being the kind of "character study" those writing professors jilled over so much, with nothing to show but backstory, exposition, preachiness and zero plot. As of now I'm rewriting almost the entire book from the ground up, except this time the character has an actual fucking goal.

Here is what I discerned from that fiasco:

1). Yes, "rules" and "principles" are bullshit to a certain extent, but Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Adaptation were both doing it wrong. If you're an aspiring writer who has never been published and you want to make a sale, you need to work within generally established guidelines. Most people who pick up a book aren't looking for pretentious forays into the human condition. They want an engaging plot and a character they can follow to a conclusion. In other words, yes, a "genre" Books-A-Million can categorize. The character doesn't have to win. They don't have to be a better person and learn an important moral. They can die at the end. Endings don't have to be 'happy.' But characters need to reach for something. They need to be taking steps to get there. You cannot get away with murder unless your name is famous.

2). Keep as little bullshit as possible between the beginning and the main story. Don't spend pages and pages obsessing over family histories, what kind of cartoons your character grew up watching, or what their first boner was like. The only time these elements are important is when they're feeding into the story.

3). Don't overdescribe places. It's good to get a sense of setting, but going into detail about the leaves on every tree, the feel of the ground beneath the character's feet, the temperature, the color of the sky, the sounds of the birds, all that drags the pacing down. Find a balancing act when it comes to sensory input.

4). Don't overdescribe people either. Mention that they're fat, wear glasses or have red hair if you need to but don't go overboard with what they're wearing or their entire facial structure. Readers tend to get the gist and fill in the rest with people they know. A good guideline to keep in mind is to avoid cheating them out of that.

5). Don't overdo it with exposition. Reveal details about your characters, stories or settings in an organic manner, either through dialogue or showing how your character reacts to stimuli. If you need to explain, keep it under five lines.

6). Avoid adverbs if possible.

6). Most importantly, however...write. Fucking write. Pick a time of day and get at least 2,000 words down. Stop screwing around. Stop making excuses. Your first draft is not your last. You can make mistakes. Follow 1-6 when you are revising and editing. The second, third, forth, and however many more drafts are for trimming fat and cutting out all the bullshit.
 

Kurosaki Ichigo

Super Sp00ky
kiwifarms.net
Keep a notebook and writing utensil around you at all times. ESPECIALLY at your bedside. I've found that ideas that form when I'm half conscious tend to be the more interesting writing prompts.

The best advice I've been given about writing was by my creative writing professor. "Kill your darlings" he said. Just cause you personally think something you've written is the hottest shit, later down the line as things progress it may or may not work. Don't be afraid to tear it out if it ends up weighing things down.
 
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[Insert Meme Here]

Bonjour--I mean, Buenos Diás!
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It's okay to make two characters who like each other fight without it being the end of the world. This is a real problem in romance; every little disagreement is a huge dealbreaker for some reason. But small disagreements can be a quick and dirty way to show a little character.

Person 1: My favorite ice cream is pistachio.
Person 2: Who likes pistachio? That's a little weird.
Person 1: You just haven't tried the pistachio at Scoops McGoops!

VS

Person 1: My favorite ice cream is pistachio.
Person 2: Who the fuck likes pistachio? That's kind of weird.
Person 1: You have to try the stuff from Scoops McGoops, then!

See how big-and little-differences such things make?

Also, when it comes to dialogue, try to pay attention to how people talk irl sometime and remove a bunch of the filler and pausing (like 99.99%). You should be able to name a specific person whose speech patterns a character is based on (you don't have to know them personally.)
 
M

MW 002

Guest
kiwifarms.net
Horse sperging ahead:

If you are writing a medival fantasy (or any kind of fantasy where horses are a main source of transportation) then please, for the love of all that is holy, do some research into horse breeds.

More specifically, if you are writing an adventure story where the protagonist has a horse then make sure you aren't giving them a steed which would probably die within the first day of any long distance travelling.

Friesians are the worst offenders for this. While yes, they are the closest relative of the destrier horse, they still would be a terrible choice for a long journey because they aren't built for it. Destrier horses were only accessible to nobles and wealthy knights who really only used them for show just because of how expensive they were even back then. I have lost count as to how often I see characters on TV use friesians for the wrong purpose in fantasy/historical fiction- nobody would want to risk losing such an expensive horse back then! (Looking at you, George RR Martin!)

A rouncey horse would be much better suited for such as a task because they were mass bred, cheap and therefore disposable if they died on the journey. Sure, they're usually not as majestic looking as your destrier or palfrey, but they're practical! Also, if your story takes place in the winter then the horse is going to have a nice, fuzzy coat- again, not as majestic as the Hollywood horse, but it would add a layer of realism to your works.

While we're on the subject of horses: stallions.

Writers love stallions. Hollywood loves stallions. Even the word stallion has a more romantic flare than gelding or mare does.

However stallions tend to be a lot more unpredictable than geldings or mares are. They have testosterone driven aggression and are in general more difficult to handle. Sure, some stallions are perfectly well behaved but they're far and few in between. There's a reason why it's preferable to have them gelded at a young age, after all.

Unless your character is established early on as an experienced horseman, it would be wiser to give them a mare or gelding for their journey. Even in the Middle Ages, most people usually didn't use stallions very much outside of show and breeding.

Sorry for the rant- having grown up with horses, things like this just bug the crap out of me.
 

Slowboat to China

Level 6 Hairy Hands Syndrome
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6). Avoid adverbs if possible.
My father worked as an editor for a while, and he likes to say "adverbs lie." This does applies more to persuasive/essay writing, but he told me that if you see someone throwing around a lot of "clearly," "obviously," etc., they're not confident in their conclusion.

For myself, I tend to overwrite things at first and then pare it back. Go nuts with all the descriptions I can think of, spend a page giving the reader every possible detail and nuance of every conversation--then, once the first draft is completed and has had some time to cool off, go back to it and cut, cut, cut. Outlines don't really work for me, because I'm never sure how a story is going to end up and I like having the freedom to pursue a crazy tangent. Outlines go with the "elevator pitch" in the pile of BS you write for editors while you're pitching a finished manuscript.

(Later on, when you're established, you can pitch editors ideas and write the manuscript afterwards.)

I took a few writing classes in college to get better. If I got anything out of them, it was that "genre" is a filthy, vulgar word. The only font of originality that's still wet lies in "literary" fiction. I took that to heart. I also decided there are no "rules" and writing guides are worthless. Fuck Syd Field, fuck Robert McKee, I got this.
Yyyyep. I had a couple of teachers in college who creamed their jeans over magical realism and ~narrative~ and wouldn't touch anything that was just trying to tell a fun story.

IMO, genre writing is more psychologically healthy if nothing else. If you write a romance or a cozy mystery and it doesn't sell, then c'est la vie, but my classmates who put their angsty hearts and souls into painstaking five-hundred-page narratives about their dreams aren't going to sell any better AND they'll feel like shit because the world has rejected their masterpiece. Have fun. Kill some characters. Later on, when you've figured out who you are and what you're writing, then you can pour out your soul and bleed on the keyboard in a fit of artistic passion.
 

Bob Page

Electronic Old Gendo Ikari
True & Honest Fan
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I've been drafting a fanfic (Yes, I know, I know) based on Killzone and here's the synopsis for the curious:

(Takes place between Killzone and Killzone: Liberation)

Though the ISA won a strategic victory with the SD platform destroyed, the war for Vekta is still going on strong with the Helghast and ISA fighting a brutal battle for control of the planet. An ISA detachment sent to secure sensitive data from a military R&D facility got ambushed by the Helghast waiting for them there. There was only one survivor.

Corporal Adrian Freeman was the only survivor of the ambush, trapped with rescue not being possible for 24 hours. To further add to his dilemma, He, by sheer luck, killed the commander of the Helghast battalion in the chaos of the ambush, painting a bigger target on him as he made off with valuable Helghan Military intel. With luck and numbers not on his side, Adrian must survive until a platoon can extract him and bring him home. Being his first combat experience, the next 24 hours for him would be a grueling test of both his mind, body, and will to survive against hopeless odds.

Now as for characters, Here's what I'm aiming for:

-Be in Mid 20's
-Has a family tradition that at least one male from every generation joins the military and he's the latest to carry that torch.
-2 weeks after he graduated from basic, the helghast invade Vekta. He's forced to see the friends he graduated with die like lambs to the slaughter, scarring his mind and displaying the horror of war to him.
-Over the course of the story, the stress from the situation, isolation from friendly forces, and the possibility of him dying being very real would begin to eat away at his mind, adding a psychological element to the plot and would give him shellshock

-46 Y/O
-Known to be a good friend of Mael Radec from KZ2
-Rank: Major
-Patriot
-Is known to have a sadistic streak even by helghast standards but is usually calm when approaching a situation
-Is a firm believer of Scolar Visari's idea of helghasts being superior to humans and hates the humans on Vekta for driving his ancestors out but is disgusted by his oppression of his constituents, especially the half-breeds
-Though he's a command officer, he likes to accompany his men on the field, looking for someone worthy of his battle prowess and enjoys psychological warfare to a degree
For this story, I wanted to explore the psychological toll that one would incur when in a similar situation. With that in mind, It'll be from a first person perspective with the parts that include the villain will be in the form of moments where he'll talk with the protagonist via comm device. There'll be plenty of fight scenes but not to the point of overpowering the whole thing.

Thoughts?
 
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Hatoful Dandy

Minstrel of Sorrow
kiwifarms.net
Horse sperging ahead:

If you are writing a medival fantasy (or any kind of fantasy where horses are a main source of transportation) then please, for the love of all that is holy, do some research into horse breeds.

More specifically, if you are writing an adventure story where the protagonist has a horse then make sure you aren't giving them a steed which would probably die within the first day of any long distance travelling.

Friesians are the worst offenders for this. While yes, they are the closest relative of the destrier horse, they still would be a terrible choice for a long journey because they aren't built for it. Destrier horses were only accessible to nobles and wealthy knights who really only used them for show just because of how expensive they were even back then. I have lost count as to how often I see characters on TV use friesians for the wrong purpose in fantasy/historical fiction- nobody would want to risk losing such an expensive horse back then! (Looking at you, George RR Martin!)

A rouncey horse would be much better suited for such as a task because they were mass bred, cheap and therefore disposable if they died on the journey. Sure, they're usually not as majestic looking as your destrier or palfrey, but they're practical! Also, if your story takes place in the winter then the horse is going to have a nice, fuzzy coat- again, not as majestic as the Hollywood horse, but it would add a layer of realism to your works.

While we're on the subject of horses: stallions.

Writers love stallions. Hollywood loves stallions. Even the word stallion has a more romantic flare than gelding or mare does.

However stallions tend to be a lot more unpredictable than geldings or mares are. They have testosterone driven aggression and are in general more difficult to handle. Sure, some stallions are perfectly well behaved but they're far and few in between. There's a reason why it's preferable to have them gelded at a young age, after all.

Unless your character is established early on as an experienced horseman, it would be wiser to give them a mare or gelding for their journey. Even in the Middle Ages, most people usually didn't use stallions very much outside of show and breeding.

Sorry for the rant- having grown up with horses, things like this just bug the crap out of me.
Part 7 of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (Steel Ball Run) did go into it a bit since the story involves a horse race across the US. One of the main characters was noted to have picked an older horse as his steed so its experience would prevent it from running headlong into dangerous territory, unlike younger stallions that'd wrecklessly charge in at full power and risk injury. He's an experienced jockey but he also had to take into account that he's also lost the use of his legs and wouldn't be able to rein in a stallion like he used to.
 
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Something Vague

Keurig Connoisseur
True & Honest Fan
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I found a bunch of lectures from Brandon Sanderson about writing that are pretty interesting if any of you are interested



There is also a lot of other lectures by Brandon Sanderson on Youtube. It is all pretty neat and I watched them all and learned a lot and I thought it would be nice for you all to be aware of them.
 
M

MW 002

Guest
kiwifarms.net
I wanted to bump this so I can add:

1)
It's okay if your first draft fucking sucks. This was a concept that I struggled with the longest time, which resulted in me starting over again multiple times until I just stopped going back and editing. Don't be discouraged if you're re-reading it and it isn't as hot as you thought it was- that just means that the final draft will be even better. That's why we have drafts!

2)
Let your characters wander into some dark territory if the story calls for it. For example- allow a character who might normally be an idealist end up doing (or just think about) doing something really horrible. Whether or not they follow through is up to you, but it does help to add layers to the character.
 

Salt Water Taffy

Only bad witches are ugly.
kiwifarms.net
An important thing I think a lot of writers forget is that you need to give every character a unique voice. Now I come from a play/screenwriting background where that's especially important, but it matters in prose too.
Last year I was writing something that was the same disaster told from the perspectives of five different people, a 60-something year old man, two 30-something professional women, one a newscaster, a 20-something year old angry guy, and an 8-year-old girl. The old guy was kinda snarky and once he was out of harm's way he didn't give a fuck what happened to anyone else, so I wrote him very disinterested With the newswoman I wanted everything she said to sound like it could have come off of a teleprompter so I wrote her very formally. The other professional woman also spoke very professionally, but she was the one most affected by the situation so she got more and more choppy in her sentences as it went on. The angry young man I made a concerted effort to make sure he was the only one who swore - since everyone else was either too old, too young, or too professional to cuss a blue streak it gave him a nice defining feature. And of course, the little girl spoke the most differently of all, all of her sentences were either short and clipped or run-on sentences, and since she didn't have the biggest vocabulary I had her speak around words she wouldn't know (ie. once instead of "the siren blared" she said "the room was filled with siren".)
I find that all the characters speak in the same voice especially when they're predominantly defined by a "gimmick" (usually either in fantasy (where every one is a token of a species like elves and warlocks), sci-fi (where everyone has one role, if the navigator's only character trait is "being the navigator" or the nurse's only trait is "being the nurse"), or stuff that relies heavily on tokenism (which is usually either this or the opposite extreme where everyone's a walking talking stereotype))

I also find it sometimes in first-time writing from people who are really worried about looking professional and all their characters talk very wooden. Don't listen to your first grade teacher, it's okay for characters to say "ain't" sometimes, especially if they're from a dialect that would use "ain't" fairly often. Another problem place I see is in YA writing, especially YA writing that's trying to sound "real" or "honest" or God forbid "gritty." Most stuff I see set in a high school that's not romance fluff (I have enough thoughts on this genre of "gritty" high school/college stuff to warrant its own post) has everyone except the token religious nut speak like they're rejects from a Tarantino movie.

And by "unique voice", for the love of Godbear I don't mean a unique accent!
 
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Salt Water Taffy

Only bad witches are ugly.
kiwifarms.net
Sorry to double post but now I need to rant on "honest" high school/college literature.
It's just not realistic for everyone to have a skeleton in their closet, especially not a trendy, hot button issue skeleton. If EVERY character at this high school/college has one or more of the following issues:
  1. Is suicidal/self-harming/a cutter
  2. Has a sexually abusive father/step-father (and it's always a dad/stepdad, by the way, it's never a mom/stepmom or a sibling/stepsibling, the later I don't know why but the former it's because "women can't be sexually abusive! They're women!"
  3. Is gay or trans (never bi for some reason) and isn't accepted by their parents/community, bonus points if they're also suicidal
  4. Wants to shoot up the school (don't really know why it's always a gun and not any other weapon, but most of these writers are in the "guns are pure evil" camp.)
  5. Is a rape victim/survivor (the victim is always female and 100% not to blame, and the perpetrator is always male, likewise the token "bully" character is always a rapist nowadays)
  6. The token Hispanic is always an illegal immigrant/the child of one (no, Hispanics who are legally here won't take offense to the implication that all Hispanics are illegals at all!)
  7. The token black is either A) trying to escape ghetto problems/resist the temptations of gangs/drugs or more recently, B) taking a stand against police brutality/is affected by police brutality, always overdramatized
  8. Is facing an unplanned pregnancy (bonus points if the baby was conceived by rape or incest!), and there's a lot of different ways that they pan out: 8A) she gets an abortion (also usually without the father's permission), and then gets cheered on because abortions are great and wonderful and never regretted ever; 8B) in stories taking the opposite extreme angle she keeps the baby and it's great and wonderful and a perfect baby that never interferes with her social life, or keeping the baby shows how caring and/or brave and hard-working she is, 8C) she wants an abortion but her evil Christian fundamentalist parents make her keep it, especially if it's combined with 8D) the baby is sick and/or developmentally disabled (if it's something like terminal cancer or something else it won't survive it's to rack up pity points, if it's something trendy like autism then it's to show how strong the mother is)
  9. Is a teenage prostitute
  10. Is in a student/teacher relationship (usually male teacher/female student for max drama whether it's sexy forbidden love or the evils of male oppression, because of course female teacher/male student is every boy's dream come true and same sex student/teacher relationships never happen!)
  11. Has an eating disorder (always a girl, bonus points if it's paired with cutting!)
  12. Is doing whatever drug is considered worst this week
  13. Is in an abusive relationship (the abuser is always male, usually the victim is female but I've seen abusive gay male couples too, again the more masculine man is the abuser and the bishie pretty boy the victim)
  14. The one character who doesn't have any of these problems is the token Christian nutcase who speaks out against drinking, partying, and promiscuous sex, and is always looked down upon by both the author and the characters we're supposed to like/relate to, even though yeah, they're right, a lot of the above listed problems would be lessened/go away if the leads would put down the bottle for one second and stopped putting out for everyone in a 30-mile radius.
  15. Historically there'd usually be a few runaways for various reasons, but since that's not a trendy topic anymore they've kinda subsided.
  16. Likewise having beloved characters killed in car crashes (usually right before/around/after prom or graduation for max drama) isn't really "trendy" but it is a staple of these sort of stories (bonus if it's the most or only likeable character!).

Then you need to take a step back and ask yourself whether you're writing a book or an after-school special. If you really have a pet issue that you want to lecture people on, write a memoir/self-help book/pamphlet. First off, you're trivializing these important real world issues into petty drama for bitchy girls to catfight over or angst about, secondly your audience doesn't want to be lectured on how rape is bad. They know these things are bad.

Make sure at least a couple of characters have more down-to-earth or timeless motivations. An obese lesbian Hispanic girl who spends all day feeling oppressed about all her minority statuses isn't interesting or relatable to anyone who isn't exactly like her. An obese lesbian Hispanic girl who's worried about getting into college like everyone else is relatable, despite her minority statuses.

If you write a character who's a sixteen-year-old girl who's raped by her Christian Fundamentalist step-father, gets pregnant and is forced by her parents to keep the baby, said baby has terminal brain cancer and low-functioning autism, and she becomes a druggie prostitute to pay for the baby, all to make the reader sympathize with her, then I will find a way to enter your story, march right up to this character's house, and blow her brains out with one of those guns you hate so much.
 
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