1. Let me be redundant here--why not, when everyone else is?--and repeat that you DO NOT NEED TO TELL ME this:
    "Why?" Al asked.
    The fact that you used the word "why" followed by a question mark TELLS ME that Al asked, as opposed to stating or exclaiming. You don't need to say, as another writer did:
    "Yes," he nodded.
    Either say he nodded, or put "Yes." (We know who said it, because someone else just asked him a question, unless the question was addressed to a crowd. Who else would be answering? A passing UFO?)

    Furthermore, don't say "He nodded his head." What else was he going to nod?

    Similarly, when we "glanced at Brown who was grinning all over his face," we wonder where else would he grin, and why there is no comma after "Brown." (See the section on DIALOGUE, above.)

    (As a side note, Ms. Nitpicker just finished reading a SENTINEL fan fiction piece where heads nodded so often that she was holding her breath, waiting for them to topple off various necks. Jim, Blair, and Simon must have had severe muscle strain by the time that story was over. There were 27 nods and 17 head shakes in just sixteen single-spaced 10-font pages!)

  2. Avoid using the same word twice in one sentence, or even in one paragraph. For instance, a fannish author told the reader that "This sudden thought suddenly depressed him." (Gee, let me make a sudden guess: could this have come on suddenly?) Get a good thesaurus, and look up alternatives to "sudden," if you suddenly find you can't think of any. Below, another example of the same word or action repeated too many times:
    "Starting a little early?" Joe smiled, looking at her drink.
    Kira smiled a bit, "Oh yeah, nothing like a 'grown-up' Slushie to kick off my afternoon binge."
    Joe nodded, trying to smile, "Heh, yeah. Ah, you ready to set up?"
    "Soon, there's no hurry, right?"
    Joe looked towards the phone, not hearing her. Kira tried to lighten the mood a bit.
    "You need some time to recruit an audience?", she smirked a little.
    (These people are smiling way too much. Ms. Nitpicker keeps picturing Howdy Doody.)
  3. If the main characters in your universe are named Joe, Duncan, and Richie, why--out of all the names in the universe--would you choose to name your additional character "Joe" and make him an Immortal who needs a cane to walk? Since Joe Dawson uses a cane to walk in that series, I will spend your entire story trying to figure out which cane-wielding Joe is doing what. Name your man Boone, or Jennings, or Thomas, or Burl. If your universe revolves around Jim and Blair, don't add a woman named Blair to your story. Please. We're begging you, here.

  4. If your story is entirely set in one fandom, consider your audience. Do you really need to remind your readers that Julian Bashir is a doctor? Ninety percent of the time, using phrases like "the young doctor" or "the detective" are insulting. Use the character's name, instead. We have probably seen the show before. Even if we haven't, we can figure out that Jim's a detective from the way he works in the police station and flashes a badge when he arrests someone, yet doesn't wear a uniform.


REDUNDANCY AND REPETITION (It would be redundant to click here, don't you think?)

I'm thoroughly chastened, and I want to return to the main page.

I think I need more guidance. Send me to HOLY MOTHER GRAMMATICA'S GUIDE TO GOOD WRITING. Maybe I should visit BAD FANFIC! NO BISCUIT!.

I feel I have learned all I need to learn, and want to take MS. NITPICKER'S FAN FICTION TEST--HOW WELL CAN YOU WRITE?

Copyright © 1999 - 2013, Jane A. Leavell. All rights reserved.