If you’re writing fiction — be it for fun, professionally, or because you’re aiming at professional publication — you might want to jet over to the Hatrack River writer’s workshop forums. I recommend the forum called “Ways to Critique.” The threads called “critiquing guidelines (set 1)” and “critiquing guidelines (set 2)” are a great check list for gleaning how-to-write tips.

To give just one example, in the list of plot problems we find: “offstage action — point-of-view character (and therefore reader) doesn’t see what happens and so needs to be told.” There are, naturally, cases where this technique is needed. If you’re writing a mystery, for instance, your detective is not likely to be present at all of the key events in the plot. Often, he or she will be interviewing witnesses, so the witness will have to tell about offstage action. But a mystery in which all of the action (or even a big slice of it) is offstage is going to fall flat, at least for the modern reader. And in almost any other genre, putting the action onstage is vital.

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