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W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 offensive Japanese insults 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five offensive Japanese insults.

Coming after last week’s top five strange ways to be polite, it only seemed right to do a full 180 and talk about how to be rude with some Japanese insults!

A few months ago I looked at the top five most offensive Japanese swear words, and people seemed to like it. Luckily there were still plenty of terrible words left over ready to be brought to the attention of the internet, so I jumped on the chance.

Originally this article was supposed to be a true sequel to the original and be “top five MORE offensive Japanese swear words.” But after my editor looked it over, we deduced that some of the items in the list strayed a bit far from “swear” territory and into just “not-so-nice slang” territory. I had to rewrite it a bit, but I think it’s a lot stronger now, and I’m looking forward to writing that “not-so-nice slang” article someday in the future.

The reason I really like the rewrite is mostly because of the #1 item on the list. What is it? Check it out to see.

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strangest ways to be polite in Japan 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five strangest ways to be polite in Japan.

One of my favorite differences to examine between cultures is what is considered polite and rude. It’s always fascinating to discover that something you’ve been raised to do is considered rude in another culture, or how something that seems common sense polite to another culture seems bizarre to you.

For someone raised in the West, Japan abounds with these kinds of cultural differences. It was a lot of fun to think up the list of top five things, and there was a lot of shuffling and cutting that had to be done, though the number one item stayed firmly locked in its place the entire time.

What is it? Well there’s only one way to find out!

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most insane kanji place names in Japan 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five most insane kanji place names in Japan.

I wrote an article a few months ago about the top five myths of learning Japanese, and (spoiler alert!) learning how to read Japanese kanji was number one on that list. In my opinion learning how to read Japanese isn’t too much harder than learning how to read English.

English spelling has tons of exceptions and irregularities that sometimes make it seem more like a hieroglyphic writing system itself than an alphabetic one (I’m looking at you “colonel,” “indict,” and “mnemonic”).

But then there’s place name kanji. All bets are out the window when it comes to kanji used to spell place names (and people’s names too for that matter, but that’s for a different time). You could know every single reading a kanji has, and there’s a good chance you’ll still be completely wrong when it comes to pronouncing it correctly when used in a place name.

So that’s why this week I picked out some of the most insane kanji place names all over Japan that I could find. Even if you don’t know how to read Japanese at all, I think I wrote it in a way that will at least show how ridiculous some of these are. Enjoy!

Read the article here.


W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 crazy awesome features of Japanese restaurants 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five crazy awesome features of Japanese restaurants.

I think I’m different than a lot of people in that I really, really don’t like going out to eat. In fact it’s something that I really don’t understand about other people. Let me explain with a list of the reasons why, in my opinion, going out to eat is usually miserable:

  1. It costs more (usually way more) than if you made it yourself.
  2. You may not be full afterward (can’t just go to the fridge and get more).
  3. It may not be prepared the way you like it (under/overcooked, something nasty mixed in).

Yes, I understand that there are some benefits of going out to eat (no cleanup, you can eat food you couldn’t prepare yourself, etc.), but in my personal opinion those pale in comparison to the three items on the list. Why would I want to go somewhere I have to pay more, may not leave full, and may not even like what I get? For atmosphere? Please. If I need atmosphere, I’ll go skydiving.

But all that changes in Japan. I really don’t mind going out to eat in Japan because most restaurants address those three issues like this:

  1. There’s no tips, so the meal is at least 20% cheaper.
  2. Most places offer some free food refill (rice, bread, cabbage) so you’ll leave full.
  3. Realistic 3-D plastic food samples so you know exactly what you’re getting.

It’s remarkable how much of a difference those three small changes make. And it’s not just those either. The whole dining experience from start to finish is always just less awkward, more relaxed, and overall more pleasant in Japan.

Why? Well go ahead and read the article to find out!

Read the article here.

Tips-y Tuesday: Cosplay as Your Novel’s Characters

Last week on Tips-y Tuesday we talked about the benefit of writing your query letter’s synopsis letter before starting your manuscript. This week I’d like to change gears and talk about something completely different: cosplaying as your novel’s characters.

For those unaware, “cosplay” (portmanteau of “costume” and “play”) means dressing up like a character from a movie, video game, or TV show. For some extensive examples of cosplay, check out the cosplay-related articles on RocketNews24.

But the thing about cosplay is, not all characters are as popular to cosplay as others. Sure, the most popular characters are of course going to be from the most popular media (anime, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, etc.), but there’s also another factor: how identifiable the characters are.

For example, even though the Twilight series, Divergent series, and Percy Jackson series are very popular, you almost never see Bella or Tris or Percy cosplays at conventions. Part of that is due to some of them being seen as “lesser” series in the eyes of some, but another very important factor is the lack of unique features on the characters themselves. No one would be able to tell you’re cosplaying as one of them instead of just walking around in your normal clothes.

Not the most easily-identifiable cosplay.


Whereas other characters that are more popular to cosplay have lots of unique features: Harry Potter has his scar, glasses, robes and yellow/red scarf; Daenarys has her long white hair, translucent gown, and her dragons; and pretty much every anime character from Ash to Naruto to Goku to Sailor Moon has a list of unique features that could fill pages.

Why is this important in writing a novel? Because it helps create more memorable characters that stand out.

When I started writing, one huge problem I had was that all my characters were too generic. They were just too normal. Would Harry Potter be as popular without his scar and glasses? Would Daenarys be as popular without her dragons? Maybe, but chances are, probably not.

What helped me start down the path to creating better characters was imagining what it would look like if fans of my book cosplayed as the character. If my main character was just a girl in normal clothes, no one would cosplay her. But if she was instead, say, a fancy half-spider half-human with eight eyes, two sets of legs, two sets of arms, a top-hat, monocle, and cane, then suddenly she becomes a lot more unique and cosplay-able.

You tell me if that’s memorable.


Of course, you don’t have to go to such an extreme in your own character creation. If your book is just about normal people, that’s perfectly fine, but give us something to help identify the character.

Maybe they always wear a rainbow dress. Maybe they have a hat shaped like a volcano. Maybe they’re in a wheelchair decked out to look like a race car. Maybe those traits can work their way into your character’s personality, or even the plot, opening up details about your story that you didn’t even know existed.

Ironically, making your character stand out more by giving them less-common features makes them feel more real than if they were just generic.

So when creating your characters, don’t be afraid to go crazy. Give them unique features you’ve never seen before, and while you’re doing so, imagine how someone might dress up as them. Keep cranking up the uniqueness until you get to the point where you can imagine someone going up to your character’s cosplayer at a convention and screaming, “Oh my god! I love that character. Can I take a picture with you?”

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)

Masterpiece Monday: Awesome Authors DO-ing Writing DON’Ts (Parentheses)

Last week on Masterpiece Monday we had an installment in the series of Awesome Authors DO-ing Writing DON’Ts, and this week I’d like to continue with another addition.

When we read articles about writing online or attend writing groups and such, we’re often told NEVER to do certain things. Never tell always show, never use adverbs, never use ellipses, never use more than two adjectives at a time, etc. etc.

While many of those are usually good advice, they can be a real hindrance if stuck to all the time. I talked previously about how forcing myself to always show in my writing and never tell held me back.

This week I’d like to talk about parentheses. As writers we’re often told to never to use parentheses, unless we’re using it to cite a source in non-fiction writing.

Most of the time that makes sense. Parentheses are meant to insert extra information to the main text, so why would you use them when writing a story? If the information is relevant enough to be included, just put it in normally; if it’s not relevant enough, then just don’t include it. Right?

Not necessarily. Parentheses can do something special to fiction writing that other devices can’t: they can lift the text out of the story.

Here’s an example of what I mean, from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. We’ve looked at this passage before on Masterpiece Monday for a different reason, but now let’s take a look at its use of parentheses. This comes from the beginning of the book, where Hazel is describing her cancer and “depression:”

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)”

Those parentheses are doing a lot of work here. They feel like they’re separating part of the text, enhancing the idea like Hazel is talking just to us, like she’s pulling us aside for a private whisper.

Not only that, but because the more macabre thoughts are encased in parentheses, the parentheses make them hit the reader less intensely than they would have if they were part of the main text. Rather than making Hazel seem actually depressed, she comes off as self-depricating and humorously cynical instead.

A little bit later in the chapter, the same thing happens again, after she talks about how only kids who will die soon take the elevator:

“Michael was next. He was twelve. He had leukemia. He’d always had leukemia. He was okay. (Or so he said. He’d taken the elevator.)”

Again, without the parentheses, Hazel’s words would come off as cruel. But with the parentheses, it turns her thoughts into another private whisper that lets us see into her morbid coping mechanism.

Of course, it should be noted that after chapter one, the usage of parentheses is few and far between. That’s because after the first chapter we’ve become familiar enough with Hazel that we don’t need them anymore. Now we know who she is: she isn’t cruel, she’s just a teenage girl dealing with her crappy situation the only way she can, with humor.

The parentheses helped us get to that point of understanding her, but continuing to use them often throughout the rest of the book would probably bog down the reader. Information overload is all too easy, and it would become mentally exhausting having to pick through parenthesized and non-parenthesized text for page after page.

In the end, using parentheses is like using chocolate syrup – great in the right places in small amounts, but terrible everywhere else. A little bit on some ice cream is fantastic. A lot on ice cream and you have a bowl of regret. And even a little chocolate syrup on a steak is a disaster.

Parentheses, like chocolate syrup, is simply another option you have. Whether you’re writing or cooking, it’s important to never label any option as “off limits no matter what,” because sometimes even chocolate syrup is going to be the best tool to accomplish what you want.

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 steps to immigrate to Japan 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five steps to immigrate to Japan.

So originally I had a completely different W.T.F. article all set and ready to go for this week. But then, due to certain recent events, I decided that there was something much more important that needed to be written about – how to leave your country for Japan.

Of course, this is all a bit tongue-in-cheek. I doubt many people will actually be leaving the U.S. because of the election, but it’s still a fun fantasy for some. And hey, if someone really does want to leave, then my article might just provide them with some helpful information.

I actually didn’t know a ton about immigrating to Japan before I wrote this, and I feel like I learned a lot by doing the research and compiling it all together. Immigrating to Japan is certainly not easy, but it’s not impossible either. If you’re really determined to do it, there’s not much stopping you.

So whether you want to leave the U.S. and head to Japan, or if you want to stick it out and see what happens, either way hopefully it will be a fun read.

Read the article here.

Tips-y Tuesday: Write Your Synopsis FIRST

Last week on Tips-y Tuesday we talked about the benefit of writing your query letter before starting your manuscript. In a similar vein, today I’d like to talk about flipping another idea on its head: writing your synopsis first too.

For those unaware, the synopsis is typically a one page summary of your novel’s plot from beginning to end. When you send out your query letter to prospective literary agents, many of them will also request a synopsis as well.

Again, similar to a query letter, writing a synopsis may not seem so bad… until you actually have to do it. At least with the query letter you’re supposed to not tell everything that happens and leave a little room for mystery and intrigue. With the synopsis though, you literally have to condense your book into one page. Double spaced.

Let the tears commence.


While some agents are fine with getting two or three-page-long synopses, many other specifically request one-page-long ones, so its best to have a one-page synopsis prepared. But how can you possibly set up your book’s characters, conflicts, plot twists, sub-plots, and all of their satisfying resolutions in less than a page?

It’s… it’s really hard to do. And that’s why, similar to why I recommend writing your query letter first, I recommend also writing your synopsis first, before you’ve even started your manuscript.

By the time you’ve finished a novel, you’re so entrenched in it that it becomes difficult to pick out exactly what the most important parts are. They’re all important parts to you – you wrote them, you gave birth to them, they’re all your babies!

But if you write your synopsis before you’ve even touched your manuscript, then you don’t have to worry about that. You can just work with the general idea of what you think your novel will look like. In fact if anything, it might be even difficult for you to fill up a whole page summarizing your novel, which is a much more welcome feeling than realizing you need to chop out two pages out of your already “lean” synopsis.

Writing a synopsis is like eating chocolate. It’s a whole lot easier to add it to your stomach until you’re pleasantly full, than it is to remove it from your stomach after you’re bursting at the seams.


Of course there is the obvious question: how can I write my synopsis if I don’t know what happens next in my book’s plot? The answer to that is easy: whatever is most exciting/cool/conflict-y is what happens next. Don’t know what your character should do next after they beat the badguy? Have one of their allies turn on them! Don’t know what should happen after they finally save their boyfriend from a dragon? The boyfriend dies, of course!

Those suggestions may be a little extreme, but the point of writing your synopsis now isn’t to have a perfect synopsis, it’s just to have the most general synopsis that gives the full gist and flavor of the story without going overboard. Once you’ve actually finished the manuscript you can go back and change things in your synopsis that didn’t actually happen, but you’ll probably find that – for the most part – it’s still a pretty good summary of your book.

Whereas if you’d waited until after you’d finished writing your manuscript to do your synopsis, all those delicious details you put into the plot while you were writing would’ve been fighting in your head, screaming “I’m important enough to go into the synopsis!” and would’ve made your job a lot harder. But since the synopsis is already done and written, you can ignore their cries, knowing they’re not needed in the one-page summary.

Do you need to write your synopsis first? No, of course not. But personally, I’ll take the times I’ve struggled to fill up a page-long synopsis over the times I’ve agonized about how to condense my five-page synopsis down to one any day.

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)
(Insert image via GAHAG and GAHAG)

Masterpiece Monday: Awesome Authors DO-ing Writing DON’Ts (Passive)

Last week on Masterpiece Monday we started the series Awesome Authors DO-ing Writing DON’Ts, and this week I’d like to continue with another addition.

When we read articles about writing online or attend writing groups and such, we’re often told NEVER to do certain things. Never tell always show, never use adverbs, never use ellipses, never use more than two adjectives at a time, etc. etc.

While many of those are usually good advice, they can be a real hindrance if stuck to all the time. I talked previously about how forcing myself to always show in my writing and never tell held me back.

This week I’d like to talk about the passive voice. As writers we’re often told to avoid the passive voice like the plague, opting for the active voice instead. For just a quick refresher, the passive voice is when something is done to the subject of the sentence, whereas the active voice is when the subject of the sentence does something.

Here’s some sentences to show the difference:

Passive Voice:
The pizza was eaten by the dog.
Voldemort was defeated by Harry Potter.
Laughter could be heard.

Active Voice:
The dog ate the pizza.
Harry Potter defeated Voldemort.
(I, you, someone) heard laughter.

The difference between passive and active voice can be striking. Even though the sentences are technically saying the same thing, the way they say it is completely different. The passive sentences are longer and feel detached and airy, whereas the active sentences are shorter and feel more concrete and solid.

But here’s the thing: sometime you want to sound detached and airy.

I just recently learned about Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy, and started reading Sabriel, the first book in the series. I loved the opening paragraph, which just so happened to use the passive voice quite a bit:

“It was little more than three miles from the Wall into the Old Kingdom, but that was enough. Noonday sunshine could be seen on the other side of the Wall in Ancelstierre, and not a cloud in sight. Here, there was a clouded sunset, and a steady rain had just begun to fall, coming faster than the tents could be raised.”

Two instances of passive voice in two sentences in a row?! I can see the monocles popping out of its detractor’s eyes.

But yes, the passive voice works great here. The author is describing the scenery in a detached, airy way, as if we’re seeing it through foggy rain. That’s the feeling he’s going for, and it works perfectly by using the passive.

Plus the passive works great in contrast to the active voice in the very next paragraph:

“The midwife shrugged her cloak higher up against her neck and bent over the woman again, raindrops spilling from her nose onto the upturned face below. The midwife’s breath blew out in a cloud of white, but there was no answering billow of air from her patient.”

Suddenly we go from a zoomed-out description of the setting into a zoomed-in description of inside a specific tent. The passive voice worked great to keep us far away for the first paragraph, and the active voice worked great to bring us in close for the second paragraph.

It’s a bit of a subtle thing, but it almost feels like we’re zooming in from the sky to right inside a tent, as if we’re watching a movie camera zoom in, or as if we’re starting off hearing someone tell us a story and then we go into seeing it for ourselves. That effect would not have been achieved as well if the author had simply used the active voice in both paragraphs.

Of course using the passive voice too much or in the wrong places can be detrimental. But it shouldn’t be thought of as wrong to use all the time. Sometimes, as an artist, you have to use finger paints to achieve what you want – and sometimes, as a writer, you have to use the passive voice to achieve what you want.

It can be a little messy, sure, but it shouldn’t be thought of as inherently bad – it’s just another tool in your writing toolbox.

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)

Photo & Haiku Friday: Japanese Trump Mask

Every Friday I like to write a too-cool-for-school haiku inspired by a photo from JapanI bribe my wife to add her own as well, so we can get as many interpretations as possible, and sometimes a Japanese one happens to float in off a gentle breeze of inspiration.

Last week we looked at an advertisement for a hospital from hell. Here’s this week’s photo, a screenshot of a mask for sale on a Japanese website:


My English haiku:
Sold out of Trump masks
Now I must find something else
To impress my friends

Abbey’s haiku:
Why are you yelling?
Sit down and eat your dinner
Here comes the airplane

My Japanese haiku:

(Like a sunrise)
(It comes out from the shoulders)
(A golden turd)

(Images via Ogawa Studios)