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April 28, 2021

            This post may seem a bit on the harsh side. In a way it’s a vent. However, it harkens back to several posts in the past about writers on the various forums asking for help with this or that.

            For the most part, especially for beginning writers, the obvious questions are natural.

            I’m talking about function things like point of view, tense, dialogue, you know…

            Technical thingies.

            Where I have to draw a line is when the beginning writer, or even one that’s been at it a while starts asking the community to come up with ideas for them.

            Folks, that’s when I start to cringe, scrunch up in my chair, and sometimes want to yell at the screen.


            Of course, context matters.

            Context is everything. In a real-world setting, when a writer is looking for the name of a particular breed of horse used for plowing fields in England at the turn of the century, that’s a legitimate RESEARCH question. It’s no different from looking it up online, or, finding out if someone in the community knows. I’m all for that!

            However, say, you’re in a fantasy world and you’re looking for names for races of creatures not used before.

            Hold on here!

            In the case of world building in a fantasy world, there are no rules except the RULES YOU CREATE!

            If you ask the community to make up your names for you, you’re giving ownership to them, not you! They’re no longer your creatures. Even if you alter the spelling slightly, you’ve basically used THEIR CREATION, not yours.

            That’s letting them write your story for you.



            This one really gets me.

            “I want to write such and such but I need a plot. Please help.”

            Say what?

            In other words, you want us, the community to write your plot out for you and then let you take credit for what we did for you?

            To me, if you just want to write something but have no idea what, you need to sit back and wait until you have a genuine idea before you even think about starting something. Letting the community create it for you is not the way to do it. Why should we give you an idea we could use ourselves?


            “I want to write a story but don’t know what to write. Please help.”

            You would be surprised how often this question comes up.

            So, this person is asking us, the community to come up with an idea for them?

            I have to admit that when I first started out, I had an itch to write, but no idea what to do with that itch. Therefore, the infamous ¾ page Star Trek satire.

            They need a prompt. They need something to get them going. The thing is that of the several hundred people out there, most of who will never respond, for those that do, who would ever give them an idea they could use? Most would be out-and-out rejects. Without knowing this person’s likes, wants, and needs, nobody could ever guess what this person would want to write about.

            Once in a while I’ll respond with something like “Whatever you write about, it has to come from you, not from us. If you really want to write, you have to feel the urge and already have a story in mind. If not, wait, listen, observe until one hits you. Patience Grasshopper.”

            Then again, as if this were an on-line writing class and the instructor has everyone throw out ideas for an impromptu short story, that would be similar.


            “I’ve got this cop and he has a girlfriend. She loves him but…I don’t know where to go from here. Please help.”

            So, in other words, you want us, the community to write the subplot for you?

            Here again is a case of not research, but asking the community to write the story for the writer.


            It’s great to have a big community through multiple writing forums where one can ask questions to other writers. It’s especially invaluable for research. Usually the information is reliable, but even then, one must do backup research to verify technical issues. As for writing technicalities, plenty of opinion is also part of the deal, especially with people flaunting or out-and-out ignoring basic writing rules. This is especially true with the advent of self-publishing.

            The not-so-great aspect is using the community as an inspirational crutch to write your story for you. Unfortunately, I can see a time where there’ll be an author who derives almost an entire story from the community, yet takes credit for it as his or her own.

            Now, as I alluded to before, when a starting writer comes to the community looking for inspiration, as in what they might get from a class with writing exercises, there is a logic to it. However, for a writer who has it in their blood, or at least from my perspective, we have so many stories in us we don’t need prompting to get them out. What prompting we need is maybe how to get started, or how to get unstuck, or some other mechanical or technical issue we get hung up on. That’s not the same as letting the community come up with the stories we should already have bursting from our brains.

            Am I wrong here? I’m leaving this open ended because there are more avenues and areas I have not addressed to this issue.

            Happy writing!

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