What do you think about these writerly advices I've been told before?

These are some things I’ve been told before writer to writer. Most of these are from YEARS ago before Wacky Writers existed. I sometimes still think about them. I don’t feel any type of way about them now (I learned, I grew, you know, all that good stuff). But at the time, I might have either seriously considered fixing the issue, or felt annoyed or discouraged.

Maybe this can bring about discussion.

I’ve been told…

  • to never mention a female character’s period. Never have her think about it either. No period. Ever.

  • that no one would want to read an unlikable character. I should not write a character that is so unlikable (I know they were trying to be helpful, but this kinda hurt).

  • to show, not tell. Do not EVER tell.

  • that if my story is set in a certain era, all my characters’ names have to reflect that era (although I explicitly stated this was a fantasy story in a fantasy world and I was just inspired by the Victorian-Edwardian Era for the setting).

  • that I should not write about blue bipedal felines because of Avatar and Khajit. I should change the species entirely. How about foxes or dogs? (yes, a writer did tell me this).

  • that if a story begins with the MC at twelve years old, that automatically makes it a middle grade story, so I should make her older if I want to write YA (I did end up starting the story when MC is older because it made more sense for the plot, not because of this “advice”).

What are your thoughts on these?


I greatly dislike this advice.
Balance is key. It is better to show and tell. Not do one over the other, in my opinion.

Showing throughout the story won’t just make the story longer, but too much description isn’t good in that regard. That can make the story come off as grossly pretentious and unnecessary.

Telling throughout the story is just as bad, because it can make the story jarring to readers who want to get immersive and see what the characters are seeing, taste what the characters can taste, and more.

There’s a time and place for showing and telling in a story. You just need to know how to balance it.

That’s just my opinion.

This is weird to me.

Human females get menstrual cycles till they reach a certain adult age. I mean yeah, it’s strange to have that mentioned in a story, but it does depend on the story and if it really calls for it. So, it isn’t like you can’t dismiss it entirely. The same like using the bathroom to pee and/or poop.


That was stupid advice. At least to me.

My world of Alagossia has a mixture of names found on earth and made up names. The names found on earth are a combination of unique and generic names.

I wouldn’t pay much mind to people like that.


Wow…did you stifle a laugh from that advice or try not to make an obvious confused face?

So, if your story gets published or well-known enough, people will assume that your blue bipedal feline species is a total knockoff of the blue species from Avatar when it has nothing to do with it?

Damn…people are stupid!

And I suppose religious extremists will think the Rhaks are demons or some satanic race if they read my story…



Huh? How does that make sense?
Why would it change because the character starts off at the age twelve then becomes a teenager or adult?

That’s stupid to me.

Not every character can be likeable.
Like real life people, fictional characters have their quirks, issues, and flaws too.


Ooof. That is the biggest advice I’d throw in the toilet. Like seriously, why is it so taboo? This advice is everywhere. When the movie Red came out, everyone was going crazy about it because of that scene where Mimi told her mom she had her period. SHE WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD! Twelve or thirteen, but still! And parents were like, “I’m never telling my kids about periods. They’re secretive!” WHYYYYYY? And kids can get them as early as eight years old—I got mine at eleven, and my mom had hers at nine! And when you don’t talk about it, kids are gonna think they’re dying or in trouble. Not to mention, when it’s not taught, people don’t know a thing about them. I’ve had a male doctor before, who was like in his 30s or 40s, who tried to convince me that I was pregnant when I told him I hadn’t had my period in months. I WAS A VIRGIN. Still am, too. And I was nineteen at the time, and he didn’t believe me. He kept saying, “You sure you’re not pregnant? Because I believe you are…” DUDE. UNLESS I AM PREGNANT WITH JESUS’S BROTHER, I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT I AM NOT.

And the parents were like, “She’s four, she’s too young.” BRUH. If she learns about it, she can prepare herself. It’s better than her going to school and bleeding, thinking she got hurt and not knowing what to do or how to use a pad. Or, the parents are like, “My son shouldn’t hear about it.” WHY? So you have him grow up to be clueless and make fun of girls on periods? Who have no sympathy for them or help them out? Nothing is more manlier than a guy giving a girl a pad or tampon in case they need it. Not to mention, educating them on the subject really helps them understand why periods are a thing in the first place. You’re going through puberty, from girlhood to womanhood. Once you have a period, your body is capable of making a baby. What happens when they get raped and end up pregnant at ten years old?

I swear, parents who don’t want to educate their kids shouldn’t even be parents.

Sorry for the rant…

This would depend on the term “unlikable,” because without clarification on what an unlikable character is can change the answer. If a character is unlikable because perhaps they’re misogynistic, racist, and homophobic, and their character is supposed be unlikable, then this is okay. Even if they are the protagonist and we’re not supposed to root for them because of these traits, in my opinion, I’d say they’re fine to have. But if they’re unlikable because they’re annoying, and many other negative traits, but we’re supposed to feel sympathetic toward them, then yes. I’d agree that no one would want to read that. Or at least, not the majority.

An example I’d give would be the Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The MC is a divorced 30+ year old who is an alcoholic and keeps obsessing over her ex-husband. As a reader, it felt like you were supposed to feel sympathetic toward her, because she was hurting and in depression, but for me, I didn’t get that. She kept saying she’d quit drinking and find help, she kept saying she’d find a job, but these weren’t put into action. I got 80 pages in and felt angry, like if I’d met her in real life, I’d grab a metal chair and hit her with it. This is because I come from a family of alcoholics and even though I try to be sympathetic, it’s hard to when they don’t want to get help, they want to wallow in their self-pity and continue messing up their life, and I’d agree with Rachel’s friend/ex-roommate… it’s exhausting and when you are put into that situation, you’re done. And so, I had to DNF the book because I couldn’t get passed Rachel’s character. It not only felt too close to home, it was just to aggravating.

I find that whoever says this doesn’t understand what the advice means and therefore, if you get someone saying this, it’s best to just ignore it.

I completely agree with you.

If a story is set in a fantastical world and is inspired by a particular era or time frame, it doesn’t have to meet this kind of requirement. However, if a story is historical fiction and is set in a contemporary setting (like no fantasy or anything), then it should meet said requirement because it wouldn’t make sense for someone to be named Liam in 1782 in England since, according to Google anyway, the first recording of the name was in the 1930s.

The other thing I really hate when people give advice about names is that it has to match up with their location. Like, you can’t name someone Nicolas because it’s not a “Mexican” name or a “Jewish” name or a “Hindu” name or something. Like, y’all do realize that people can be named something that doesn’t have to deal with race, culture, or religion, right? I once had a character named Caden who immigrated to America from England, and people were like, “This name sounds unrealistic. I’m from England and I’ve never heard of such a name.” Like, cool for you but you do realize that people can name you for any reason, right? Especially nowadays when people are naming their children after soups.

Now, last names? In a fantasy setting, I’d say they don’t have to go along with their culture or whatnot. But if it takes place on Earth, I’d agree that they should match up with their culture unless they legally got it changed—by themselves or through marriage. Like, my family is super white and our last name is Meyers. My sister, Rachelle, got married to a Mexican whose last name is Cuellar. When they got married, her name was changed from Rachelle Meyers to Rachelle Cuellar, and I also found out that she ended up taking both of her in-laws last names—Cuellar from the father, and Perez from the mother. So she’s Rachelle Cuellar-Perez… because that’s just how it works. And men can change their last names too when marriage hits. It doesn’t always have to be women. And people can change their entire name if they want to, too.

But this was why I had to change my MC’s name from Nicolas Carter (basic whitey) to Nicolas Eissa, because his ancestors were Egyptian, even though in the book, cultures and races and countries like so aren’t a thing in his present time.

That’s just ridiculous.

Also dumb, and tells you that they don’t understand target audience. If a story starts off with a twelve year old who, on the page, explicitly rapes and murders people, should this book be considered middle grade? Of course not. It’s adult fiction.


Like, in normal circumstances, it can be true. Most of the time, character ages line up with target audiences. But that is just half of the problem. The other half includes content wise, as in, how explicit is the book? How appropriate is it for a certain audience?


This is why writing advice is just advice, not law. There are successful, traditionally published examples of books that break all of these “rules” – yes, even the show not tell one. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, for one, is entirely told, not shown. But it’s up to the writer to determine whether a “rule” would be useful to follow in a particular instance. *nods sagely*


A lot of this “advice” is just the other person’s personal opinion and doesn’t reflect good or bad writing at all. You should always take advice with a grain of salt. Not all of it is good advice and more often than not, it reflects the other person’s insecurities more than it helps you out as a writer. This goes with other advice too. It’s your book/life. Write/live it how you see fit. Be willing to learn and grow but don’t try to please everyone and don’t change things about your book just for other people because it’s their personal preference.


I think that taking advice too seriously kills your creativity. Do your own research, and see what works and what sticks. Yeah, you can pick up tips along the way, but not everyone is the same.


BS advice. People get periods. Youre allowed to say so, espeically if it impacts the character

There are plenty of unlikeable characters out there that people love reading about. Just look at Umbridge from HP. Majoirty of people loved reading about here so they could see her get what was coming.

As someone with a creative writing degree, i can tell you for certain this is BS. You need a balance between showing and telling. Realistically, in writing, the only place you can get away with just showing is in poetry

They dont necessarily have but to can help with accuracy points depending on the overall context of the story

That is stupid. Write whatever you want. Theres no such thing as an original idea

Not how it works. Well, actually, it depends on how you classify those genres because it can be done via audience age or by character age. But there isnt really a hard and fast rule for this one


Apparently that rule doesn’t apply to anime / manga…

Umm, in my short story A Sister’s Gift the main character Krista is 12, but the subjects she talks about with her brother, Gur, are not suitable for Middle Grade kids.

These are very mature subjects for a YA story ~ My writing teacher’s critique for my YA story’s (Goddess v2.0) opening chapter.
Nah, they’re just mature kids (they’re Israelis) ~ My internal monologue response.

Oh, and there are a few war films with adolescent MCs that would unnerve most contemporary Middle Grade kids.

This is the only rule I agree with, most of the time…there are exceptions, or exceptional authors who can pull this off…


Have they heard of the unknown author Stephen King and his little indie self-published gem titled Carrie?


Tf does that mean. What about summarising dialogue and things that happen off-page.

They’re not seeing the wider picture. You can do so much with names. Having a mysterious character with an uncommon name in the setting would add to the mystery.

Why? Because it looks vaguely similar to something that’s been already done? What about the twenty million Greek mythology retellings we have? Change it to foxes, sure. Oh wait! Reynard the Fox will send you a cease and desist.

Ah yes, of course. It is famously the best book for middle-graders, hell! Even toddlers.

I started out very young on WP. And the thing is, the “advice” sticks with you when you’re developing as a writer. I was programmed to write a certain way, write about certain things, 2000 word chapters for optimum engagement. It took me a long time to break out of writing for engagement and develop my own voice, style and stories — which I’m still trying to perfect.

I think the best approach is to trust yourself, and the best learning is through reading widely and the only advice you need to consider is from your editor lol. Everything else is water off a ducks back :duck:


I have a friend who is a trans guy and period stuff makes him sick to his stomach. There are a lot of people, women even, who find monthly bleeding pretty gross. If you aren’t going to describe poop and pee, then don’t describe period blood.


But what if it’s integral to the story? For instance, if your mc is a serial killer driven to kill by extreme PMS? ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯


Then that’s one less person in your audience!


I’m reminded of a favourite literary quote:
Any author who hides the facts of life from their readers is an author not to be trusted ~ Hemingway.

How about Celtic / Irish Fairies (Pixies?), Smurfs, Banana Man, or Terry Pratchett’s Nac-Mac-Feegle?


Yes, I’ve learned this much later after ignoring the advice and doing my own thing because I didn’t think it was possible to show, don’t tell.

My character had one single thought when she stumbled into a fantasy world: Thank goodness I’m not on my period. (because it was obvious she would have been in trouble)

I didn’t have her go on and on. Idk why this certain writer went off on it :sweat_smile:

Nope :wink:

I created Kattaluna YEARS before Avatar existed. I have proof if they really need to see it :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah and then they’ll want to ban your story and never create a movie out of it. They’ll accuse you of performing sacrificial rituals and eating animals alive…or whatever they think.

It’s fine if they think it. Not a problem if they keep quiet. It’s a problem when they say what they think and take to social media.

It’s not the age that makes it YA or MG. It’s mainly the topics dealt with. Although it’s preferable for MG to have MCs that are close in age with the readers they’re written for. This is what I heard later on.


omg XD

How did he even become a doctor???

This thing with periods being embarrassing or secretive has got to stop. It’s because people don’t learn about that those with periods who go to work get told they are lazy or not working hard enough when they are suffering.

There’s been a little bit of talk in Japan about how men don’t know about periods, so they think that women who have a hard time and need to take off from work are just lazy.

That’s true. The character in question was written to be initially unlikable. It’s the old tale of “bully gets her own medicine”. She talks down to and uses people, then when it comes to her, she realizes how it feels and that’s the moment of growth.

Anyway, according to that writer, I shouldn’t write a character that bullies other characters (although in my defense, there were plenty moments showing a more, kinder side of this character).

I read that and I think as a reader you were supposed to feel annoyed at her. That was the whole point of the character. She’s a train wreck.

Maybe that’s what the train symbolized! :open_mouth: Riding on the train towards a train wreck in her life… Hmm…

There are people out there like her that say they will get better and don’t. They never follow through.

That’s what the story wanted you to feel, I think. I did not root for her the entire time. I was looking to see how much more worse she will get. How much more exhausting she will be. How low will she go? Maybe it’s because I’ve written a character that gets worse, so I was thinking about that.

I understand that subject-wise probably not for everyone :sweat_smile: But that’s the price you pay writing an unlikable character.

Which is what I have been doing :stuck_out_tongue: I find that many people don’t know what this advice means. Even professors.

Seriously? XD

Totally inappropriate for children to hear about characters being murdered and mutilated in the first paragraph :grinning:


TLDR: I disagree with all of this :') Then again, I do often feel that ‘writing advice’ is just bad advice in general, and stifles creativity. Writers often fall into the trap of getting too worked up over what some random writer once said, imo. There is PLENTY of good advice out there, but there’s just as much - if not more - total junk.

This is not good advice. I think it doesn’t really fit in to a lot of stories, but I absolutely think it’s okay to mention if relevant - kinda like how other bodily functions don’t really get spoken about, if it’s relevant or that’s what the scenes about, go for it!

I think this is both good and bad advice. People definitely want to read it. I have unlikeable characters too. But I think it’s important that unlikeable characters aren’t just… annoying. I read a book recently that had such an irritating, lifeless, unlikeable, whining main character that I wanted to put the book down. Someone else who reviewed it said that she wanted to hunt down anyone remotely like the MC, and punch her, lol.

This is… pretty bad advice, imo. Maybe that’s just because I personally prefer to be told what’s happening in most case (namely where emotions are being described), but I do think it’s fine to tell. Obviously it’s better to show certain things, like the weather for example, but telling is okay.

Eh. If you’re writing historical, then yes. I wouldn’t expect to see a dashing 1700s love interest called Chad, but if it’s fantasy, I think it’s okay to go a little out there with the names.

James Cameron doesn’t have ownership of blue aliens (if this is what you meant by Avatar), and Bethesda doesn’t have ownership of feline races (but the Khajiit race is very lore-filled, and I would advise steering very clear of any lore that shares similarities, just because it might rub people the wrong way). Khajiit also can’t be blue canonically, so go nuts.

Bethesda also have plenty of other races that are common to fantasy, because that’s what The Elder Scrolls is - fantasy. I don’t see many people saying Bethesda have total ownership of lizard beastmen or orcs or elves (all of which are just as lore-filled and as important to TES as Khajiit are)… :stuck_out_tongue: Ignore em!

Character ages do often reflect the target audience, but if the character grows up quickly and the book isn’t suitable for kids, it isn’t a kids/MG book. There are probably plenty of books that have a young teen/kid as the MC, at least I can rattle off a fair few horrors that focus on kids that aren’t suitable for under 18s :stuck_out_tongue:


Exactly :clap: