- Story structure in three words: Order - Disorder - New order
- A good main character in three sentences: Has a lot of screentime and is shown in a lot of different situations (so we get to know them well enough to care) - Is actively doing stuff (as opposed to reacting to external events) - Has something personal at stake.
- Research in two sentences: Look for the exotic details in the mundane (how to make a taxi driver interesting) - Look for the mundane details in the exotic (how to make us relate to the people on the space station).
- Good dialogue in three sentences: Remember that people are basically only interested in themselves (everyone has their own agenda and should not merely be servants of the plot or the main character) - Cut out all the courtesies of the conversation (hello, goodbye, thank you) - Skip all the yes and no anwers or replace them with something interesting.
- When dealing with exposition, it can easily feel like a truck just backed up and started unloading information in a very indescrete way. Fupz suggested a series of situations where the unloading of vital information would seem reasonable; The interview scene (i.e. the job interview, where it's perfectly natural to get a lot of exposition out), the interrogation scene, the scene at the doctor's office, the date scene or the "new kid" trick, where you have someone not familiar with the situation or location show up and ask a lot of questions, providing for a very convenient opportunity to dump a lot of exposition. If none of this is applicable, try to spread out the exposition through several scenes, so it doesn't feel too obvious.
Thank you, Fupz. Much appreciated!