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Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Wallet posted:

Chapter six is a little out of joint with what comes before it for me. It feels like the taxonomy you've been developing is supposed to reach towards some kind of climax that clarifies why using these elements in this particular way makes a collection of words into a story, but instead we get a sort of perfunctory unpacking of genre. [...]

Awesome. It's good when a reader can pinpoint the exact moment in the manuscript when you had a baby. If the clearance readers bounce this MS back to me, it'll be on Chapter 6, which was originally supposed to be a short reference and got bumped up to a standalone chapter.


quote:

Also you've got what looks like a sentence trapped between two versions in editing on page 73:

"Imagine that I want to a Tropical Island card for my Magic: The Gathering deck."

On it. Thanks!

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Wallet
Jun 19, 2006



Brainworm posted:

Awesome. It's good when a reader can pinpoint the exact moment in the manuscript when you had a baby. If the clearance readers bounce this MS back to me, it'll be on Chapter 6, which was originally supposed to be a short reference and got bumped up to a standalone chapter.

Sorry . If you do end up messing with it I think you could sort it out without spilling much ink by cutting the coverage of genre (or turning it back into a short reference) and reframing the introduction to the application section as more of a "and here's how it works when you put it all together" which would also make the applications feel more integral and less like bonus content.

Probably fine as it is, though. I'm not sure I've ever seen a course actually get to the end of a textbook.

Pontius Pilate
Jul 25, 2006

Crucify, Whale, Crucify

Thanks for finding time to post in between your hellishly hectic schedule. It's good to have to the thread back during this nonsense. Being a magic nerd I had to check out page 73 (I promise I'll start from the beginning tomorrow!) and noticed a couple of other things: Never Cry Wolf is cited as coming out in 2983, and your corner coffee shop sells magic cards?

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Pontius Pilate posted:

Thanks for finding time to post in between your hellishly hectic schedule. It's good to have to the thread back during this nonsense. Being a magic nerd I had to check out page 73 (I promise I'll start from the beginning tomorrow!) and noticed a couple of other things: Never Cry Wolf is cited as coming out in 2983, and your corner coffee shop sells magic cards?

Right. That's (obviously) 1983 and (not obviously) comic shop.

Thanks to Scrivener on iOS I have enjoyed the dubious productivity boost that comes with writing significant sections of this manuscript on my phone. What I've learned:

1) iOS's autocorrect produces typos that are difficult to spot. Untangling them takes more time than I save by writing a paragraph or two in the dentist's waiting room.

2) Generally: I am impatient in the specific sense that I can't tell the difference between (a) actual convenience and (b) an opportunity to do something immediately, but also slowly and badly.

I'ma dive back into the MS for a round of proofing. I have, like, zero doubt that I'll have to do it anyway. Better earlier than later.

DrGonzo90
Sep 13, 2010


I found a few typos as well, should we let you know here in the thread or PMs?

Also, regarding the Tropical Island card, it's mentioned in a note (47) out of context before it's mentioned in the text. Not sure if this is actually a mistake but I didn't understand the reference until it came up later in the text (apparently on page 73, though I converted the file into Kindle format so I just have the dumb locations)

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

DrGonzo90 posted:

I found a few typos as well, should we let you know here in the thread or PMs?

I think PMs are probably best. The thread will fill up pretty quickly otherwise.

Wallet
Jun 19, 2006



Brainworm posted:

Right. That's (obviously) 1983 and (not obviously) comic shop.

Yeesh. I saw the coffee shop thing and thought "that's a little weird" but it didn't even occur to me that it was an error. Those are going to be fun to find!

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Wallet posted:

Yeesh. I saw the coffee shop thing and thought "that's a little weird" but it didn't even occur to me that it was an error. Those are going to be fun to find!

Oh are they ever. I'm rolling on some newborn-and-toddler parenting, so proofreading is like:

quote:

Such as John Arderne's Treatises of fistula... Ardene? Google that. Yes, you're a kitten princess. No, you can't hold your brother. Because he's sleeping. Don't you dare. Because I will eBay your kidneys. Because only a special kind of dipshit wakes up a sleeping baby. Yes, it's a bad word. It means someone who thinks a bad idea is a good idea. You're not cute enough to do that. Such as John Arderne's -- Arderne? OK. Arderne.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

And an update: The clearance read came back, and it's good. I've got some prose to fix in the last chapter (which isn't as energetic and upbeat as the others) and typos, typos, typos. My deadline is June 5th.

So thanks to everybody sending me stuff. The leading typo, by far, is Never Cry Wolf (2983).

Baron Porkface
Jan 22, 2007




Is there a rational reason Shakespeare decided to anglicize Marc Anthony's name?

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Baron Porkface posted:

Is there a rational reason Shakespeare decided to anglicize Marc Anthony's name?

I think that's just a thing writers and speakers do in every language. The same thing happens to toponyms and demonyms, too. They're usually etymologically related to the original, done partly for familiarity reasons (Mark is a bit more common in English than Marcus, plus it's the English form of a biblical gospel name, and Antonius is especially rare compared to Ant(h)ony), and often it's about replacing exotic or nonexistent letters and clusters with more comfortable sounds for native speakers to pronounce. Plus, directly adopting loan words unmodified is much more common and accepted today than it was back in England circa 1600, when it was much a more isolated and parochial place, and Latin and French were just about the only non-English languages most people were ever likely to encounter, if any.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Fuschia tude posted:

I think that's just a thing writers and speakers do in every language. The same thing happens to toponyms and demonyms, too. They're usually etymologically related to the original, done partly for familiarity reasons (Mark is a bit more common in English than Marcus, plus it's the English form of a biblical gospel name, and Antonius is especially rare compared to Ant(h)ony), and often it's about replacing exotic or nonexistent letters and clusters with more comfortable sounds for native speakers to pronounce. Plus, directly adopting loan words unmodified is much more common and accepted today than it was back in England circa 1600, when it was much a more isolated and parochial place, and Latin and French were just about the only non-English languages most people were ever likely to encounter, if any.

All this is true. It's also worth noting that the commonly-accepted major source for Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra is North's translation of Plutarch's lives of the noble Grecians and Romanes.

Lives was a long book and was manually typeset. Compositors used a lot of ingenuity to cram as many words as possible onto the page. Here's what a full page from North's 1579 Plutarch looked like:



A typical sentence reads like this:

quote:

This treaty conteineth the liues of Demetrius, surnamed the Fortgainer, & M. Antony the Triumuir, & great examples to confirme the saying of Plato[...]

This is from the life of Demetrius, but I think you can see the point: even though the chapter titles had names like "The Life of Marcus Antonius," once you get into the text itself, you're dealing with abbreviations and shorthand. Even if North had written out "Marcus Antonius" every time the name was used, the compositors would have shortened it to "M. Antony" on principle. London's printing practices gave compositors a lot of leeway.

The same is, or would have been, true for Shakespeare's plays themselves. We can't necessarily infer that because we see "Marc" rather than "Marcus" in a Shakespeare edition that Shakespeare himself elected to shorten the name. Unlike other writers of his day (e.g. Ben Jonson), Shakespeare doesn't appear to have managed (or even cared about) how his plays appeared in print.

The degree of Shakespeare's apparent indifference to printing, and the degree of editorial authority exercised by the printing process itself, is really counterintuitive for people who are used to ideas like "copyright," and "royalties," and "writers are artists." Back when, printers -- rather than authors -- were considered the authorities on a printed text. There's a version of Titus Andronicus, for instance, where it appears that the printer added four lines to the end of the play because he thought it needed something extra. That's, like, unthinkable today. Simon and Schuster isn't just gonna slap another chapter on to the end of Dr. Sleep to tie up the loose ends.

Incidentally: this was abetted by a printing market that was what we'd call "vertically integrated." Most printers had their own storefronts, and most printers were also writers and translators. In an era before copyright, this got kinda crazy. You get pamphlets by people like John Trundle, which are 1% "there are reports of a dragon in Horsham" and 99% "here's everything I can find about dragons that's already been printed someplace else."

Baron Porkface
Jan 22, 2007




If Chekovs gun doesn't fire and the other shoe doesn't drop, is that bad writing?

Edit:

Baron Porkface posted:

Is there a rational reason Shakespeare decided to anglicize Marc Anthony's name?

I should have included, "and no one else gets anglicized"

Baron Porkface fucked around with this message at 01:48 on Sep 3, 2020

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Brainworm posted:

Incidentally: this was abetted by a printing market that was what we'd call "vertically integrated." Most printers had their own storefronts, and most printers were also writers and translators. In an era before copyright, this got kinda crazy. You get pamphlets by people like John Trundle, which are 1% "there are reports of a dragon in Horsham" and 99% "here's everything I can find about dragons that's already been printed someplace else."

What I'm getting from this is that pre-copyright printing was the original clickbait padded out with reams of tangentially related text lifted wholesale from Wikipedia.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Baron Porkface posted:

[...] I should have included, "and no one else gets anglicized"

Ooh. That does make it interesting.

One thing worth noting is that Shakespeare's contemporaries did the same thing. The 1595 Tragedy of Antonie, for instance, goes like this:

quote:

Antony, poore Antony! since that daie
Thy olde good hap did farre from thee retire.
Thy vertue dead: thy glorie made aliue
So ofte by martiall deeds is gone in smoke:
Since then the Baies so well thy forehead knewe
To Venus mirtles yeelded haue their place:
Trumpets to pipes: field tents to courtly bowers:
Launces and Pikes to daunces and to feastes.

Although the prose introduction to Antonie calls him "Marcus Antonius."

This is a lame possibility, but it might be that (a) "Marc Antony" fits an iambic line more easily than "Marcus Antonius," and (b) some quiddity of Latin (the vocative case?) makes that form of Antonius's name seem passable, and (c) that both A and B aren't true for other names. I'm speculating way out of my depth here, though.

I think my big point is that the practice isn't unique to Shakespeare, and probably didn't originate with him. Tragedy of Antonie predates Julius Caesar by about five years, and Antony and Cleopatra by even longer.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Fuschia tude posted:

What I'm getting from this is that pre-copyright printing was the original clickbait padded out with reams of tangentially related text lifted wholesale from Wikipedia.

It gets better: cheap-rear end printers (guys lower on the ladder than Trundle, even) would buy worn-out woodcuts from higher-tier printers. This meant that the really cheap pamphlets and broadsides included what were basically low-quality versions of images that were sourced from an unrelated original. If you track a woodcut across pamphlets, you can see it go soft and blurry. It's like watching artifacts show up in a JPG.

There's a good example in this ballad about the hog-faced gentlewoman, Tannekin Skinker:



If you check it closely, you can see that the images of the two guys are significantly lower quality than the image of Tannekin herself. Probably, the printer had the Tannekin woodcut done, and either had the woodcuts of the two dudes on hand (from printing an earlier pamphlet) or bought them out someone else's scrap pile. The right-most dude is in really bad shape.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 03:12 on Sep 5, 2020

I would blow Dane Cook
Dec 26, 2008


Do you think the WAP song is well written?

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

I would blow Dane Cook posted:

Do you think the WAP song is well written?

Well yeah. Hard to argue that it's not. It's got clever troping, a cleverer persona, and a well-defined moral vision. That's a lot to pack into a song you can still dance to.

Context and Genre
I don't listen to a lot of rap, outside of Aesop Rock and Run the Jewels, but there's a long tradition of pop rap that elaborates on a piece of sexual anatomy. "Baby Got Back," "My Humps," and "Magic Stick" are good examples, but I'd bet there's a hundred more. It's a genre, or a subgenre, and so one way to make sense of "WAP" is by looking how it's similar to and different from other items in the category. I'll use "Baby Got Back." Here's a link in case you need to refresh your memory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X53ZSxkQ3Ho

Similarities
"WAP," like "Baby Got Back," is basically a series of tropes. In "WAP," half the tropes are about wet pussy, the other half are about rough sex and being good in bed. There's a sprinkling of transactional sex thrown in, and some wordplay. In "Baby Got Back," the tropes and wordplay are mostly about big butts. I think we get the idea: a typical, successful song in this genre is going to be three minutes of punchlines that you can dance to.

By that standard, it's hard to argue that "WAP" isn't at least as good as "Baby Got Back." WAP's tropes in would get emptyquoted if they showed up in GBS, which is a low bar for this forum but a high one by the standards of stand-up comedy or pop music. Pussy so sweet it'll give you diabetes, as wet as a pot of macaroni, and so on. Other artists (like Aesop Rock) might get more tropically complicated, but that's hardly the point. If success in this subgenre "Baby Got Back" or "WAP" is being a set of punchlines you can dance to, well, mission accomplished.

Context
It looks like Ben Shapiro already pulled the same line with "WAP" that earlier critics did with "Baby Got Back": art qua art ought to be about something more elevated than sex. Because -- by that standard -- "Baby Got Back" and "WAP" are bad art, they are therefore bad songs.

That's a load of horseshit. First, there's tons of classic, canonical pop music that's about nothing but sex. Second, this kind of criticism is rarely leveled at songs in which e.g. adult men unironically croon after underage girls, which subject is (a) only about sex and (b) infinitely creepier.* Third, it's possible to talk about sex and only sex in a way that helps people make sense of their experience, which is what art is supposed to do. That's where "WAP" is pretty good, and where a permavirgin like Ben Shapiro either misses the point or convincingly pretends to.

Persona and Moral Vision
The speaker, or speakers, in "WAP" are women who talk about sex, and what they like about sex, directly. We all get that this is healthy, right? It's the romantic holy trinity of authentic, honest, and vulnerable, meaning that (a) you know what you want, (b) you declare it honestly, and (c) you do this even when it risks rejection.**

The premise -- or one premise -- of "WAP" is that this objectively healthy approach to sex and relationships is fraught with judgement. That's what the Frank Ski sample ("There's Some Whores in the House") is all about. Sir Mix-a-Lot can like big butts, and we're like "here's a fun-loving man who is brave enough to declare his unconventional sexual preferences." But when Megan likes a king cobra with a hook in it, she's a whore.

The moral vision of "WAP," or its baseline statement about how people ought to behave towards one another, is that women ought not let fear of judgement keep them from saying what they want. That's obvious, but I think people call a song like "WAP" empowering because women get put in a corner for doing exactly that. Like, it's totally reasonable to want a relationship with someone who can get freaky, earn money, and won't turn up their nose at weed and Hennessy -- especially if those are all qualities that you possess yourself. When a guy says something like that openly, it's normal.*** When a woman does it, she gets taken to task by dry dicks like Ben Shapiro or the speaker in "Whores in This House."

That kind of well-defined moral vision is what makes "WAP" different from "Baby Got Back," "Magic Stick," and so many others. Whether that makes it better depends on whether you (a) like songs with well-defined moral visions, and (b) whether you think that the moral vision in "WAP" is inherently offensive. If you're in camp (b), well, you do you. But you're probably not part of the intended audience for "WAP."



* I'm talking about songs like The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and "You're Sixteen," and not about The Kinks' "Art Lover" (which is pretty self-aware).
** That's not some new age idea. It goes back at least to Shakespeare.
*** Like, so normal that it was basically my Match.com profile back in 2013.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

I would blow Dane Cook posted:

Do you think the WAP song is well written?

Also, this was super welcome. It's good to have a distraction. Things at the college have been a bit of a shitshow.

1) Last weekend -- as in about ten days ago -- someone drove their car into a Black Lives Matter march as the marchers crossed the street about ten blocks from here. Nobody was hurt badly enough to go to the hospital, but I had students, colleagues, and friends among the marchers. Some of them are pretty rattled. That the driver was identified and the scene, but has not yet been arrested or charged, does not make the situation less emotionally fraught.

2) Covid -- or, more specifically, our government's inability to mount an effective response to it -- has hit higher ed. pretty hard. We're a small enough college that we just test everybody every week, and that we've only had two positive cases so far (out of roughly 2500 tests) means that we're keeping our on-campus population reasonably safe. That is the most important thing.

That said, the combination of lower enrollments, lower on-campus residency, and increased Covid-related expenses has absolutely gutted our budget. We've had one big round of layoffs and I'll bet a finger we have a second. I also took a 20% pay cut, which means I'm making about what I did ten years ago.

Things could be worse, obviously. The family Brainworm isn't gonna skip any meals. At the same time, I'm self-centered enough to suffer from a sense of injured merit over the pay cut, and also to wonder whether the money and energy I've put into this town has been, like, fundamentally misinvested. So I'm glad to spend an hour digging into some lyrics.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 17:05 on Sep 14, 2020

Siivola
Dec 23, 2012



It's been ages, but thank you for recommending T.H. White's The Once and Future King. I finished the audiobook edition recently and I really enjoyed it. Even though it gets really dark in The Candle in the Wind, it was still a really positive and touching experience.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Siivola posted:

It's been ages, but thank you for recommending T.H. White's The Once and Future King. I finished the audiobook edition recently and I really enjoyed it. Even though it gets really dark in The Candle in the Wind, it was still a really positive and touching experience.

The end of Once and Future King gets me every time. So does the end of Slaughterhouse-Five, and both of Mickey Rourke's monologues in The Wrestler. No idea why.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




I'm in the middle of The Once and Future King right now. Book 3 was crackerjack but I'm really questioning the need for the long Rule Brittania diatribes about modern politics particularly in Books 1 and 4.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

CommonShore posted:

I'm in the middle of The Once and Future King right now. Book 3 was crackerjack but I'm really questioning the need for the long Rule Brittania diatribes about modern politics particularly in Books 1 and 4.

Yeah. Even a good book is a mixed bag. I love Dune, but the Fremen's fantasy-novel dialogue is a bit much. I love a lot of Stephen King -- especially his early work -- but his habit of reaching for an evil version of the Fonz whenever he needs a supernatural henchman/non-supernatural villain is also a bit much. Toni Morrison's sex scenes read like they were run through Google Translate.

And other great pieces of writing just age badly. Willy Loman and Troy Maxson (from Death of a Salesman and Fences) read like entitled babies. Oh no. Your single income from an eight-hour-a-day job supports your entire family. Oh no. A functional network of social programs and veterans benefits paid your disabled brother enough money to buy a house. I mean, Willy and Troy make problems for themselves. That part of each story holds up. But pretending that either character is embattled is kind of a hard sell in TYOOL 2020.

I try not to let things like that get in the way of enjoying a book, you know? Even a perfect one is only gonna get it 80% right.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




Brainworm posted:

Yeah. Even a good book is a mixed bag. I love Dune, but the Fremen's fantasy-novel dialogue is a bit much. I love a lot of Stephen King -- especially his early work -- but his habit of reaching for an evil version of the Fonz whenever he needs a supernatural henchman/non-supernatural villain is also a bit much. Toni Morrison's sex scenes read like they were run through Google Translate.

And other great pieces of writing just age badly. Willy Loman and Troy Maxson (from Death of a Salesman and Fences) read like entitled babies. Oh no. Your single income from an eight-hour-a-day job supports your entire family. Oh no. A functional network of social programs and veterans benefits paid your disabled brother enough money to buy a house. I mean, Willy and Troy make problems for themselves. That part of each story holds up. But pretending that either character is embattled is kind of a hard sell in TYOOL 2020.

I try not to let things like that get in the way of enjoying a book, you know? Even a perfect one is only gonna get it 80% right.

Oh absolutely. Whenever I read (or watch!) Dune I get annoyed at the load-bearing but I can get past it because it's part of the storytelling. There's something about the passages in White that amount to "now remember children that the Irish Republican Army is made of literal face-eating monsters who are obstructing the destiny of our great empire" that ruffles me a bit more because it's a complete tangent and the book would lose literally nothing by simply striking that paragraph.

I'm noting on his Wikipedia page that the complete edition (which is what I'm reading) included some revisions to the older material for the single-volume publication. Many of these diatribes are anachronisms for the original publication dates.

Dik Hz
Feb 22, 2004

Fun with Science



Brainworm posted:

And other great pieces of writing just age badly. Willy Loman and Troy Maxson (from Death of a Salesman and Fences) read like entitled babies. Oh no. Your single income from an eight-hour-a-day job supports your entire family. Oh no. A functional network of social programs and veterans benefits paid your disabled brother enough money to buy a house. I mean, Willy and Troy make problems for themselves. That part of each story holds up. But pretending that either character is embattled is kind of a hard sell in TYOOL 2020.
I dunno. The back of the truck/front of the truck thing for Troy still holds up. I always thought that an essential part of that play is that Troy gets everything he wants, but is still miserable. Him being an entitled baby is a core element. He was dealt a short hand, but he works hard and gets it all: a good family, a decent house, the big promotion, but he just can't ever be happy.

Am I reading that wrong, or did Wilson intend Troy to be a sympathetic character?

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Dik Hz posted:

I dunno. The back of the truck/front of the truck thing for Troy still holds up. I always thought that an essential part of that play is that Troy gets everything he wants, but is still miserable. Him being an entitled baby is a core element. He was dealt a short hand, but he works hard and gets it all: a good family, a decent house, the big promotion, but he just can't ever be happy.

Am I reading that wrong, or did Wilson intend Troy to be a sympathetic character?

That is 100% a fair read. I was wrong to lump Troy in with Willy Loman on that front.

tildes
Nov 15, 2018


(This post turned out longer than I meant it to!)

Iíve been thinking recently about book series which follow the general pattern of the hunger games (Iíve really only noticed it in genre fiction as you might imagine). Book one starts out with some Battle Royale-esque dangerous and forced competition and at the end of the book they win and/or subvert it. Then in book two they move on to exploring the wider world and ramifications of the ending of one. Subjectively, I feel like the first book often ends up being a bit better than the second, and that this sequence seems like a bit more common when a series is a writerís debut.

This might not actually be a real trend (and is super subjective), but, assuming it is real, Iíve been thinking about why it might show up and have two non-mutually exclusive hypotheses.

First, it might be the result of how a plot based around a competition lends itself to a well structured story. It seems like the structure of a competition like this basically gives you a bunch of the key elements of your story for free. Thereís an obvious source of conflict and the events to resolve the story are pretty clear. The scope of the novel is also logically constrained in a way which will feel natural to readers and possibly useful for authors.

Second, maybe this is just a general trend of people starting out writing by copying something they are already familiar with and Iím overthinking the structural stuff.

Iíd be curious what your take is on this! (This might also be way too niche of a thought to engage with so no worries either way)

Also on the subject of first novels, Iím curious if you think that debuts are more likely to be autobiographical*/why this is the case if so? It seems like on the one hand you have the advantage of already having a lot of the story laid out, but on the other turning actual life into the selective sample which makes a good story seems hard as well.

* ideally this would not also be the reason more debuts are Battle Royale homages

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

tildes posted:

[...] Subjectively, I feel like the first book often ends up being a bit better than the second, and that this sequence seems like a bit more common when a series is a writerís debut. [...]

I can feel this, and there are a lot of other reasons it might be true. One obvious one is timeline. A writer's debut novel might have seen five or ten years of planning, rewriting, and revision. Even when a book is written quickly, you can spend a lot of time turning over ideas. And so second books suffer for the same basic reasons that Sophomore albums do: there's pressure to produce a quick follow-up.

But there's a non-obvious reason that these books might get worse: a well-told story relies on highly-technical but natural-feeling relationships between characters and what most people call "setting." It's hard to overstate how important, and how deliberate, those relationships are. You can't just take a set of characters, set them up with a new adventure, and expect to write a story worth reading.

I think that, to talk about this the way I want to talk about it, I'ma have to lay out some basics of characters and situation.

Character
The basic element of story is that a speaker (writer) tells an audience (reader) what a character wants and how they tried to get it. That's what characters do. They want and get. A good piece of storytelling will only tell us about the elements of a character that pertain to wanting and getting. In Shakespearean stories, you can break that down into three parts:

Motivation: or how a character wants to be seen,
Goals: or what a character thinks they need to do in order to be seen that way, and
Flaws: or a characters ways of thinking and acting that hurt themselves and other people.

In a pat Shakespearean story, a characters' flaws will be evident in how they connect their motivation to their goals. For instance: suppose George wants to be seen as a good person. He might think that, in order to be seen that way, he needs a big, clean house and a new car. That way, everybody who looks at George will understand that he's got his poo poo together. George's flaw -- or at least one of them -- is that his expectations are at odds with the world. In his story world, you don't get paid for good deeds.

That's going to hurt George because, as long as he doesn't have nice things, he's going to be existentially dissatisfied: constantly doing the right thing, not getting rewarded, and then wondering what he did wrong. If George is in a conventional story, he'll learn to think and act differently (like, "oh! The evidence that I've done good things is that other people love, respect, and appreciate me!").

I call that moment of learning a revelation. The moment George discovers the right way to measure his own goodness, he'll understand that other people see him in the way that he wants to be seen and his story will end happily.

Situation
I hate the term "setting." A story can be set in modern-day Chicago or during the sunset of the Old West, and that gives the impression that a story's world is a place that characters inhabit. Instead, think of story world as a set of conditions that highlight and define a character. I call this situation, just so that we don't confuse the Old West with discrete sets of character-defining conditions.

In a good piece of storytelling, situation so tightly coupled with character that the two are impossible to separate. In real life, the world shapes who we are. In storytelling, itís the other way around. Situation, or story world, is an extension of character.

For example: take Itís a Wonderful Life. The anchor story in Life is George Baileyís and, at the beginning of his story, heís contemplating suicide. Thanks to a series of cascading misfortunes -- the latest and most serious being a bank deposit misplaced by Georgeís well-intentioned but inept uncle Billy -- George is facing arrest. He gets drunk and jumps off a bridge.

This is where we get the basics of George's character: he wants to be seen as a good person (motivation) and thinks that, in order to be seen that way, there needs to be some kind of correspondence between his good actions and his financial, material, or publicly-recognized success (which is his goal). His flaw, of course, is that he discounts all the non-material, non-public evidence of his own goodness. He thinks he's worthless because he has money trouble.

Just as George hits the water, his guardian angel (Clarence) saves him, and then shows him what would happen if heíd never existed. In Clarenceís alternate timeline, George's wholesome hometown of Bedford Falls has become a sleazy, herpetic little burg called ďPottersvilleĒ -- so named for the slumlord to which George spends most of his story in opposition. It turns out that Georgeís ordinary acts of decency -- preventing a mix-up at the pharmacy, saving his brother from drowning, and keeping his fatherís building and loan running -- have in fact make his world (or at least Bedford Falls) a better place. And so George learns that his good choices have had value after all.

In Life, the town of Bedford Falls, its dollar store twin Pottersville, and an entire metaphysics that includes guardian angels exist solely to help George learn how to measure the value of his life and the extent of his goodness. Bedford Falls, and the universe beyond it, is not an autonomous, self-contained world that George Baily inhabits. Instead, it is a set of conditions that illustrate George Baileyís character by defining his motivation, goals, flaws, and revelation.

Sequels
So here's the risk of changing story worlds: unless you are very careful, characters who are well-defined in one story world will lose definition in another. A character whose motivations and flaws are revealed in e.g. a competition may not be equally well-illustrated by a more expansive and complex story world.

Just for instance: George Bailey wouldn't even be able to be a character in e.g. Life is Beautiful (i.e. as a prisoner in a concentration camp), because there's no plausible condition in that story world with which a writer could define his flaws. There's no tension between living well and being a good person, because nobody gets to live well. In order for George to have a story, you'd need to write him a completely different set of flaws.

So -- TL;DR -- what might be happening in your series, and in series like them, is that characters who are well-defined in one story world (situation) might lose definition in others. If that happens, characters are gonna start feeling redundant, or discontinuous, or their choices are going to feel non-sensical, or the events of their stories will end without their having well-structured revelations.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

CommonShore posted:

I'm in the middle of The Once and Future King right now. Book 3 was crackerjack but I'm really questioning the need for the long Rule Brittania diatribes about modern politics particularly in Books 1 and 4.

I just re-read it, and yeah.

Apart from those, the introduction of the Gaels (Agravaine, Gawain, etc.) is both clumsier and less charming than I remember. There's a lot of "even by the standards of their kind" language that you could read as charming and provincial if you were, say, an American who spent his entire life comfortably insulated from that language's consequences.

Which is a shame. Once and Future King is built from great materials, and its pictures of human evil are, like, effectively adult without being lurid or melodramatic. I want to call them unflinching, which is not a term I'd ordinarily use for a book aimed at young readers.

Agravaine and his brothers killing the unicorn, for instance, is one of those moments that makes you re-evaluate the stakes that everybody is playing for -- like the moment in Dune where Baron Harkonnen says "I don't feel like wrestling." It an elaboration on character that, at first, seems out of place in the world of the story but, in hindsight, adds depth and complexity to it.

Still, you know, the book has problems. I could study it again because it's skillful. But I don't know that it's in line for another leisure read.

don longjohns
Mar 2, 2012



Teaching English online is bad and I don't like it. I am starting to feel like online learning is a loving scam, and the only reason it exists is to fill the gap that capitalism has created: people can't afford the time/money to get a good education? Let them go to school online! That way they can set their own schedule and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I feel EXCEEDINGLY grateful to have a job and have work, but right now I am sitting in the Canvas tech support queue because my audio feedback still hasn't uploaded 24 hours after I posted it, and I might have to re-do nearly three hours' worth of work.

ALSO, we're in the middle of a pandemic and surrounded by massive wildfires. The last thing on my students' minds should be a Literacy Narrative Essay in their ENGL Comp class. One of my students is taking an online course and he is 36 assignments behind, but he's only been behind since September 26th. 36 assignments SINCE September 26th.

One of my coworkers is assigning their students nearly 16 assignments a week for an introductory Literature course. Why does online teaching break some teacher's brains!?

Is anyone else teaching online? HOW ARE YOU STAYING SANE?

P.S. The best part of Dune is that the last lines of the book are spoken by women.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




don longjohns posted:

Teaching English online is bad and I don't like it. I am starting to feel like online learning is a loving scam, and the only reason it exists is to fill the gap that capitalism has created: people can't afford the time/money to get a good education? Let them go to school online! That way they can set their own schedule and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I feel EXCEEDINGLY grateful to have a job and have work, but right now I am sitting in the Canvas tech support queue because my audio feedback still hasn't uploaded 24 hours after I posted it, and I might have to re-do nearly three hours' worth of work.

ALSO, we're in the middle of a pandemic and surrounded by massive wildfires. The last thing on my students' minds should be a Literacy Narrative Essay in their ENGL Comp class. One of my students is taking an online course and he is 36 assignments behind, but he's only been behind since September 26th. 36 assignments SINCE September 26th.

One of my coworkers is assigning their students nearly 16 assignments a week for an introductory Literature course. Why does online teaching break some teacher's brains!?

Is anyone else teaching online? HOW ARE YOU STAYING SANE?

P.S. The best part of Dune is that the last lines of the book are spoken by women.

I'm teaching online synchronous by doing the opposite of what your colleague is - paring the class down to its core components and treating it as a zoom book club. Every student has to do a 10 minute solo or a 15 minute group presentation with a follow-up essay, and then to write a few 2-page analytical papers about our texts on whatever schedule they want. Students have carte blanche to be experimental with the technology for their presentations with zero risk of penalty so long as I can tell that they did their best to work out any technical kinks. I had a group perform scenes from Dr. Faustus last week and one girl used zoom backgrounds and exploited lens flare effects with sudden lighting changes to play 10 characters in 15 minutes. It was awesome.

Beyond that we hang out and talk about our texts and I basically moderate. If we ever have a day where I expect to do more than 20 minutes of straight lecturing, I cancel class, record it as a video, and the students can watch on their own time.

Brainworm posted:

I just re-read it, and yeah.

Apart from those, the introduction of the Gaels (Agravaine, Gawain, etc.) is both clumsier and less charming than I remember. There's a lot of "even by the standards of their kind" language that you could read as charming and provincial if you were, say, an American who spent his entire life comfortably insulated from that language's consequences.

Which is a shame. Once and Future King is built from great materials, and its pictures of human evil are, like, effectively adult without being lurid or melodramatic. I want to call them unflinching, which is not a term I'd ordinarily use for a book aimed at young readers.

Agravaine and his brothers killing the unicorn, for instance, is one of those moments that makes you re-evaluate the stakes that everybody is playing for -- like the moment in Dune where Baron Harkonnen says "I don't feel like wrestling." It an elaboration on character that, at first, seems out of place in the world of the story but, in hindsight, adds depth and complexity to it.

Still, you know, the book has problems. I could study it again because it's skillful. But I don't know that it's in line for another leisure read.

I pretty much agree. On a storyboarding level it's such a great plot and payoff through the four books, but when you get into the paragraph/tangential discussion level there's a lot that could have been improved by a good editor. Weirdly some of the tangents are terrible, but some of them - White editorializing on Mallory esp. - I loved thoroughly.

don longjohns
Mar 2, 2012



CommonShore posted:

I'm teaching online synchronous by doing the opposite of what your colleague is - paring the class down to its core components and treating it as a zoom book club. Every student has to do a 10 minute solo or a 15 minute group presentation with a follow-up essay, and then to write a few 2-page analytical papers about our texts on whatever schedule they want. Students have carte blanche to be experimental with the technology for their presentations with zero risk of penalty so long as I can tell that they did their best to work out any technical kinks. I had a group perform scenes from Dr. Faustus last week and one girl used zoom backgrounds and exploited lens flare effects with sudden lighting changes to play 10 characters in 15 minutes. It was awesome.

Beyond that we hang out and talk about our texts and I basically moderate. If we ever have a day where I expect to do more than 20 minutes of straight lecturing, I cancel class, record it as a video, and the students can watch on their own time.


I pretty much agree. On a storyboarding level it's such a great plot and payoff through the four books, but when you get into the paragraph/tangential discussion level there's a lot that could have been improved by a good editor. Weirdly some of the tangents are terrible, but some of them - White editorializing on Mallory esp. - I loved thoroughly.

I wish I could do that. I teach at Community College in a low-income area and I have been told I am not permitted to have required, synchronous meetings because many of our students don't have access to good enough technology to do that consistently. Aaand tech support says my files are gonzo. Cool, cool, guess I know what I am doing today.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




don longjohns posted:

I wish I could do that. I teach at Community College in a low-income area and I have been told I am not permitted to have required, synchronous meetings because many of our students don't have access to good enough technology to do that consistently. Aaand tech support says my files are gonzo. Cool, cool, guess I know what I am doing today.

I was given the inverse constraint - I am only allowed to do synchronous meetings and I was instructed to tell students that if they have problems making it to class, too bad (but I've made under-the-table accommodations for people).

I'm not sure how I'd handle an asynchronous lit class, though I've done asynchronous delivery for composition and entrepreneurship classes. I think I'd actually try to cultivate a shitposting culture on the elearning platforms and get students to do a few very short video presentations per term just filmed on front-facing camera to drive discussion.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

don longjohns posted:

Is anyone else teaching online? HOW ARE YOU STAYING SANE?

I am, even though I'm on sabbatical. I'm half-time for the year, and much of that half-time commitment is convening the Honors Program. I'm teaching a couple courses as part of the job.

The thing I've learned about online teaching is that you've gotta build community between students if they're gonna carry through. Most of my online classes are basically:

1) Students get assigned to groups to do a project.
2) Between classes, they collaborate with one another to do it.
3) During class, groups present their projects. (Everybody presents during every class session.)

The key to making this work is designing projects that let students play to their strengths and interests, and that reward risk-taking, while also being academically rigorous. That usually means:

1) Throwing open project formats, so that students can do videos, games, podcasts, or whatever, and
2) Evaluating on an -1 rubric that recognizes ambition. (A -1 rubric means that you can get a perfect score by doing well in all but one category. An ambitious project can get away with being imperfectly executed, but e.g. a PowerPoint presentation needs to be well-researched and highly-polished.)

For me, it's another case of watching puppies. The key is building an environment where they can play with each other, and where playing produces the results you want. The more you try to tightly govern their behavior, the less well it's gonna work.

That's true for teaching generally, but even moreso for online courses, which -- at least in my experience -- are more morale-driven and harder to police than their in-person equivalents.

don longjohns
Mar 2, 2012



Oh man, I'm feeling really boxed in. According to my contract, I have to follow the Course Outline of Record for a given class, which was designed by a curriculum committee of full-time faculty, only two of which actually teaching Introductory Composition on a regular basis. They require:

6000 words of formal writing from students throughout the semester
lectures and group discussions in-class
8+ hours of homework/week

This hasn't changed for online learning, so even though what I WANT to do is fun, interesting and engaging projects in which my students, say, research a problem that is particular to them or a group they identify with and try to propose solutions based on their research, or write letters to their representatives, or make videos about their writing process. However, because of the work required of them in the course, I can't, in good conscience, also ask them to do those things, and my department is very firm about what formal writing is.

I'm sad, now. Really, really sad. I've never thought before how much my job restricts how and what I teach, because I was still new and inexperienced, and I felt like, "Hey, they are more experienced, they know what's best."

I think my situation is not unique, but I do think it's very different from some of the other teachers here, and I will admit I am feeling really lovely today. I have wanted to teach at a community college for a long time, because I think my enthusiasm and passion for my subject is something community college students would benefit from. I also, incorrectly, assumed that the community college would respect my abilities as a professional and trust me to do my job, but now I just feel like I am constantly being baby-sat.

I think this is all coming up for me today because I'm having to redo so much work that was lost. Which I should be doing instead of posting here. Thanks for your time.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3198184

Should bop over to the Something TOEFL thread. We love talking about this kind of thing there. My first impulse though is that you might have wiggle room around the concept "formal."

don longjohns
Mar 2, 2012



CommonShore posted:

https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3198184

Should bop over to the Something TOEFL thread. We love talking about this kind of thing there. My first impulse though is that you might have wiggle room around the concept "formal."

I DIDN'T KNOW THIS EXISTED, THANK YOU. I have bopped, and am in the process of continuing to bop. Finally got my audio comments through to my students, too, and I'm overjoyed because two of them have already responded thanking me and saying it was helpful. Reminds me why I do this. I love them so much...!

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

don longjohns posted:

Oh man, I'm feeling really boxed in. According to my contract, I have to follow the Course Outline of Record for a given class, which was designed by a curriculum committee of full-time faculty, only two of which actually teaching Introductory Composition on a regular basis. They require:

6000 words of formal writing from students throughout the semester
lectures and group discussions in-class
8+ hours of homework/week
[...]

Iím glad that things are looking up.

Itís been a long time since Iíve taught in that kind of environment, and I think I needed to be reminded what itís like.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




Brainworm posted:

I’m glad that things are looking up.

It’s been a long time since I’ve taught in that kind of environment, and I think I needed to be reminded what it’s like.

I just finished a 5 year stretch teaching in that kind of garbage too. The scary part is that the administration would claim that it is like that everywhere and that actually they were giving us more freedom than most places as they locked things down in more rules and pointless red tape.

Took a pay cut to get out. Very happy with my decision so far.

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tildes
Nov 15, 2018


Brainworm posted:

...
So -- TL;DR -- what might be happening in your series, and in series like them, is that characters who are well-defined in one story world (situation) might lose definition in others. If that happens, characters are gonna start feeling redundant, or discontinuous, or their choices are going to feel non-sensical, or the events of their stories will end without their having well-structured revelations.

This is so insightful! I hadnít thought about the interplay between character and setting situation in these terms before at all. Clearly I need to get around to reading your textbook!

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