Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us $3,400 per month for bandwidth bills alone, and since we don't believe in shoving popup ads to our registered users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
«38 »
  • Post
  • Reply
Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


You're probably thinking of this:

https://www.amazon.com/Emotion-Thes...n/dp/1475004958

I'd be wary of relying on things like this too heavily. Substituting someone else's observations for your own is bad practice and likely to result in clichés. Like..... Please don't only use that Rural Setting Thesaurus to write about nature.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Okua posted:

We know that 500 question character sheets suck, but does anybody have some actually good resources for creating characters?
I'm starting a new novel and this time I'm trying to *actually plan things out* and have some reference sheets for setting/characters/magic stuff.

So, this isn't a pre-set character reference sheet, but it is some ways to think about and develop characters. As you create your characters, you can make reference sheets with the information that is actually relevant to what you are doing with that individual character. If you rely on the same character sheet every time, even if it's "good," it will probably lead to you focusing only on what's on the sheet for every character, instead of thinking about them more holistically. What I mean is that if you develop characters by filling in the same form every time, all of your characters are likely to have the same aspects emphasized and ignored.

For example, I talk about using details to reveal character below, including an annoying phrase my mom says a lot. If you put a slot for "frequent sayings/verbal tics," suddenly you start thinking of them for every character, and thinking about them more separately from the characters, too. As you will notice in the details section below, I don't really talk much about things that could slot easily into a generic form. Not sure if I'm explaining this well enough, but hopefully you get the gist.

Anyway. From the last thread:

AUGH WTF IS A REAL CHARACTER????

Soooooooooo the post above also asked about "sympathetic characters" and I think that's a pretty good starting place, but compelling characters and sympathetic characters are different. A compelling character is necessary. A sympathetic character is not. A sympathetic character is easier, in my opinion, and also better in probably 95% of stories if not more. Sometimes a story demands a non-sympathetic character and you have to deal with that. God help us if you render such a beast as well as Nabokov, because then everyone will think he was really a sympathetic character and... Anyway.

I really cannot stress enough how important characters are, especially in flash fiction. Nine times out of ten, an engaging character or two are going to be your ticket(s) to a good story. The other time it’s going to be either putting together a delightfully clever plot which is exciting enough to keep the reader engaged (still much easier with a good anchor character) or quickly sketching a delightfully interesting world (also going to be better with a good anchor character).

The "secret" to all good characters is detail. Good detail not bullshit detail.

GOOD DETAIL REVEALS CHARACTERS AS COMPLEX PEOPLE

Not as just "Sympathetic Characters" or as "Necessary to Plot."

uhhhhhhh, so I recall I may have made a post in the past quoting a bunch of examples of physical details of character building, and i might just quote that and then make some commentary about using similar techniques re: making characters to build on the rest of what I say below.

But other than that, details, details, details, I guess.

The main thing that brings characters to life is always going to be details. Not random bullshit details that you make up to make them "unique" or whatever--I hope you know what I mean--but the real, closely observed details of humanity, that make people what they are. I think I made an awkward post about this earlier, referencing my mom, who I love, but who I borrowed some annoying traits from to create a horrible overbearing mother that I think was kind of effective. Because that's what you do. You steal details. You never say "Oliver had an overbearing Mom." Or--I mean, maybe you do. Lots of successful stories say stuff like that. But I still think it's better if you can just recall that time someone laid their hand on your stomach saying "boy or girl" and you said "what?" and was repeated like three times until they finally said "oh you just need to lose some weight" and then you remember that every time someone offers you their seat on the subway.

All the things you observe in life are what makes your stories real. Not the exact "write what you know" in the pedantic prick interpretation, but all the things you see and hear and smell. That pregnant woman on the train, who is sweating, and no one is giving up their seat. But maybe it's just me, and I'm fat and I have a hangover. Or maybe you're unsure if it's a pregnant person or a fat person with a hangover and you don't want to be offensive. Or maybe you're me me and someone's offering you a seat and it's humiliating because you know they think you're pregnant but you're hungover but you really want to sit down.

Do you see?

My "New" "Cool" Theory Of Dimensional Characters:

One dimensional characters:
1) Exist purely for plot. He wants something; he declares he wants it; he moves unerringly towards it, as long as that moves the plot forward, though he may randomly deviate from that plan, if the plot demands it. Nearly always boring. Either entirely predictable and if not, awkwardly inconsistent. Frequently an excuse for the author to write clever dialogue or cool action scenes. ALWAYS BAD. Possible exception is comedy, but even comedy is improved by having at least two dimensional characters.
2) Have a single goal. REVENGE. VICTORY. POWER. Think "Cartoon Villain."

Two dimensional characters:

1) Two dimensional characters have a "secret self." People have a "self" and a "mask" they present to the world. Most of us have several masks. The more circles we move in, the more masks. I don't mean something as dramatic as different personalities, but we behave differently around family, friends, work colleagues, etc. We don't explicitly announce what we want. We subtly negotiate, hint, hedge our bets, etc. We protect ourselves. We lie. Mostly little lies. Withholding information -- maybe we don't consider it lying. But in any case, there's an internal world and an external world, and they are different. Two-dimensional characters embody and demonstrate this element of humanity. Classic example: they feel inadequate so they over-compensate -- whether that makes them an rear end in a top hat or just successful.

Creating this second dimension of characters is one of the most fun parts of writing. This is when all your hard work of observation pays off!! And by that I mean all of your years of anxiously wondering what other people were thinking about your and what every word and gesture they made might mean. Or you know, just casual observation, no big deal. But seriously. This is when you tap into every single detail you have catalogued over your entire loving life, and why you will now meticulously catalog future observations -- or however else you do it -- so that in the future, when you are writing a story about a woman fresh out of law school feeling awkward at an interview, you can also remember that time your pantyhose didn't fit right and were inching down your butt as you were standing there and you really wanted to pull them up, but you couldn't because everyone would look at you funny. Anyway, this is when you get to contrast what is happening inside vs outside.

You do think about what other people think, right?


2) Two Dimension Characters want more than one thing -- they want the money AND the girl; Want the money TO GET the girl. Sometimes this is actually interesting

A good two-dimension character faces the ultimate test when two of his desires conflict with one another.

(I don't think you can get much further than this in Flash Fiction except in exceptional stories)

Three dimensional characters:

1) Three dimensional characters have a "denied self." People lie to others, but they also lie to themselves. As much as we carefully craft the image we present to the outside world, we carefully craft who we are to ourselves. Amusingly, I really learned this from romance novels, where this concept has to be over-dramatized to make two people who don't realize they love each other falling in love with each other the plot of a novel over and over again. Nonetheless, it is true. For example, the person who over-compensates rarely thinks "hey, I am over-compensating!" or if they do, they certainly don't think about ~why~ they overcompensate in the first place, oh no, that is all buried. I'm not saying you should go All Freudian All The Time, but people build personalities for themselves, and they believe in their own personalities. That whole thing in "plot" up above, where the protagonist learns a little bit about themselves? that's where they learn about the difference between their personality and their true self. You can only do that if you really have a three dimensional character. I'll say it again:

That whole thing in "plot" up above, where the protagonist learns a little bit about themselves? That's where they learn about the difference between their personality and their true self. You can only do that if you really have a three dimensional character.

2) Three-dimensional characters want things that end up conflicting with each other. Oh, we all want more than one thing, of course, but mostly we want things that if we sat down and thought about it, we couldn't actually have -- not all of them. I want lots of money and also not to work at all (or not all that much). It's also taken me like years and years to be able to admit that. But let's talk about the Average American Dream. You want a Steady Job -- hahaha, okay, I actually can't do this without going on a political speech, but anyway, let's talk about a typical Fantasy Novel -- or just out-right Lord of the Rings -- Frodo wants to keep the ring but knows he needs to throw it into the fire. (Frodo never actually makes this decision, interestingly..?,) Luke Skywalker wants to avenge his dad and kill Darth Vader.

3) Three-dimensional characters have a value system. In addition to their goals, three-dimensional characters have some sort of moral system to which they ascribe that limit the paths they can take to achieve said goals. It messes them up all the time. This comes to it's ultimate conclusion in the below explanation of character-driven plots of value conflict. Also good is when a character has the opportunity to get something he wants, but only by violating his value system.


THE BEST PLOT IS "CHARACTER-DRIVEN"

You have probably heard the phrase "character-driven" before -- unfortunately, most of the times I've heard it was in the context of unappealing-to-me literary fiction.** Unfortunate because character-driven plot is ALWAYS the best plot. No matter what you are writing, no matter where you get your ideas from, I very firmly believe that in your final product, it should appear that your characters are driving the action forward.

What does this mean?

A Character's Values Must Collide With His Other Values!

A character's desires lead to reasonable actions. A character's actions have reasonable consequences.

If a character values Honesty and Loyalty to His Friends, the best plot will viciously pit those two values against each other. The protagonist will be forced to chose between publicly claiming he lied about something important, or sacrificing one of his friends up to something terrible. Which will he choose? As a writer, you have to carry the reader through that decision -- either convince them that it was the right decision (if it's at the end of the book), or making the character suffer and learn from making the wrong decision (middle of the book). Personally, I would always want the hero to choose friendship, because that is my personal value, but a good author can make me accept Honesty as the right choice -- that is what being a good author means.

The possible endings to a character-driven plot:

There are many, many different ways to end a story, obviously, but I'll sum up three main ways to end a book with what I consider the classic two-conflicting-desires plot. The options won't surprise you.

1) The Super Happy Ending: It turns out the hero can and does accomplish both goals! Despite the appearance that the goals were incompatible, through ~special skills~ the hero is able to make everything work out for the best in all ways! Don't get me wrong -- poo poo still went hella sideways along the way, but at the end of the day, both of the major goals, which seemed to be in conflict, were attained.

2) The Happy Ending: The hero accomplishes one of the goals, and that is enough because either he realize one goal was just a surrogate for the other goal (i.e. he just wanted money so he could get the girl) or one goal has become unnecessary or no longer desirable (he is no longer materialistic, all his debts have been forgiven, he needed to marry someone respectable to save the family name from scandal and he no longer gives a drat, etc. yeah, i read a lot of regency romances, whatever)

3) The(un)Satisfactory ending: the hero accomplishes the goal that satisfies the greater goal at his personal sacrifice. Thankfully, I haven't read many of these, because it would cause me great personal conflict. I am the worst? But, this should definitely be a thing. Arguably, I think Lord of the Rings probably fits into this category. There's not really any other possible happy ending for Frodo, necessarily, at the end, but nonetheless, at the end, our hero really isn't exactly happy or fulfilled, is he? But he's accomplished all for the world and for the realm? It's honestly wonderful, it's own way, and not something we will see, thankfully (in my opinion) practically ever again. In many ways, this almost deserves to be an unhappy ending.

4) The Unhappy Ending: The hero tries to achieve both endings and by failing to chose one, fails to achieve either (muahahahah?)

A human heart
Oct 10, 2012



Isn't a lot of this advice quite biased in favour of extremely formulaic genre fiction narratives with plot and characters as the main focus. like you're spending all this time talking about plot but lots of great books don't have much of a plot or its fairly unimportant?

Naerasa
Aug 5, 2004

Dislikes: Middle-class ideals


College Slice

A human heart posted:

Isn't a lot of this advice quite biased in favour of extremely formulaic genre fiction narratives with plot and characters as the main focus. like you're spending all this time talking about plot but lots of great books don't have much of a plot or its fairly unimportant?

I'm very curious to know which great books you think don't have a plot, because I'm guessing that most of them actually do.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


A human heart posted:

Isn't a lot of this advice quite biased in favour of extremely formulaic genre fiction narratives with plot and characters as the main focus. like you're spending all this time talking about plot but lots of great books don't have much of a plot or its fairly unimportant?

a formula isn't bad, tho. after all, when i bake cookies i use a recipe because i dont know how to cook. some really good chefs use recipes. thats fine, because they still make good food. its the same thing with fiction. you can have plot centric stories and take the formulaic structure and make it work (also, good authors know how to hide that they're following a formula).

also, there are plenty of good stories that have formulaic plots and some that askew having plot whatsoever. while i will probably be a dissenter and say i dont think everything needs plot, i still see the value in writing with plot. and i also think it's important to write plot and learn how it works in order to figure out the ways to get passed plot. and, also, a lot of this is subjective. readers in genres like fantasy or pulp are probably not going to like the no plot stories (even if they're good no plots). probably for other genres as well but idk i don't read genre often enough that say anything definitive.

so, i guess to answer your question, yes it will lead to formulaic structures but that's not necessarily a bad thing. some (probably most but i dont have anything to back that up) readers like to read those kinds of plots. and most good formulas give you room to stretch, letting you still write something that even if it fits, is still your own. even then you can still change the formula, get rid of plot beats, add new beats, subvert beats. after all, it is p boring to read a formulaic story, thats why authors hide that they use one.

TequilaJesus
Mar 17, 2009

CONFIRMED FOR JAY

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

You're probably thinking of this:

https://www.amazon.com/Emotion-Thes...n/dp/1475004958

I'd be wary of relying on things like this too heavily. Substituting someone else's observations for your own is bad practice and likely to result in clichés. Like..... Please don't only use that Rural Setting Thesaurus to write about nature.

Yeah, this is just for when I get stuck. Thank you for the link.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

A human heart posted:

Isn't a lot of this advice quite biased in favour of extremely formulaic genre fiction narratives with plot and characters as the main focus. like you're spending all this time talking about plot but lots of great books don't have much of a plot or its fairly unimportant?

The people reading this thread are probly not the ones who are going to write a dadaist masterpiece, tho

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


Sitting Here posted:

The people reading this thread are probly not the ones who are going to write a dadaist masterpiece, tho

yeah theyre gonna write doodoo (poo)

HIJK
Nov 25, 2012

People were stupid, sometimes. They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.


flerp posted:

yeah theyre gonna write doodoo (poo)

plz leave my fanfic out of this

Chernabog
Apr 16, 2007



Does anybody write in English as their second language? Pretty much all the media I consume is in English but sometimes I wonder if I'd do any better in Spanish. I guess things like plot and character should carry over but when it comes to sentences and dialogue I've been told it sounds awkward.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

Homosexuals roasted my dick


A human heart posted:

Isn't a lot of this advice quite biased in favour of extremely formulaic genre fiction narratives with plot and characters as the main focus. like you're spending all this time talking about plot but lots of great books don't have much of a plot or its fairly unimportant?
People who are ready to go out and create rule-breaking masterpieces probably don't need forum threads to help them out.

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

death is certain
keep yr cool


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

People who are ready to go out and create rule-breaking masterpieces probably don't need forum threads to help them out.

that or they're in a monkey/typewriter sort of situation if they do manage

you could be the monkeys with the typewriters, but why risk it?

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


You need to understand the fundamentals before you can break them.

If you're the sort of person who needs to poke around a thread like this, you're not ready for step two.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


A human heart posted:

Isn't a lot of this advice quite biased in favour of extremely formulaic genre fiction narratives with plot and characters as the main focus. like you're spending all this time talking about plot but lots of great books don't have much of a plot or its fairly unimportant?


No, it's not, and I think you are grossly misrepresenting genre fiction, using an unnaturally narrow interpretation of “plot,” and taking everything people have said as “musts” instead of suggestions on how to think about and approach writing in order to reach this conclusion (which frankly seems to be more about insult than starting a conversation).

First, I'm not sure what exact “a lot” of the advice you are referring to, as there is plenty that has nothing to do with plot or characters. If you mean the plot outlines that muffin just posted and/or the ones that I shared in the OPs, then you are missing the point of these outlines. They are not absolutes--that is why there are so many of them. Many of them, like the hero’s journey, merely suggest a progression of development, nothing about how much time/attention to give to each stage. I believe I specifically stated in that post that in some situations, especially short stories, it might make sense to start somewhere other than the beginning and/or greatly shrink, or even skip completely different parts of the circle. I know for a fact that I included a warning against relying too heavily on external outlines and reading a lot to see how various authors have altered or ignored these outlines, and encouraging writers to use the plot structure that fits their story, not wedging their story into a strict outline.

As for formulaic characters, I have no idea how you could interpret my above post as being advice for creating such a thing. Perhaps you have been distracted by my mention of romance novels, despite my explanation that the very thing I am discussing is ridiculously over-emphasized and used in the exact same way every time, which is what drew my attention to it, not the way I'm suggesting other authors use it.

When it comes to the idea that it is biased towards “creating narratives that focus with plot and characters as the main focus,” I have to really wonder what books you are thinking of that have neither of those as a focus? I'm sure there are some interesting experimental works out there that do so, but nearly every book, including the greats, not just “extremely formulaic genre fiction,” involve a good amount of plot and characters.

I would appreciate a list of the great books that don't, so I can check them out.

Phil Moscowitz
Feb 19, 2007

Avant de chanter
Ma vie, de fair' des
Harangues
Dans ma gueul' de bois
J'ai tourne sept fois
Ma langue
J'suis issu de gens
Qui etaient pas du gen-
re sobre
On conte que j'eus
La tetee au jus
D'octobre...

Who needs good plotting or characters when you have great ideas and genre-shattering style?

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Phil Moscowitz posted:

Who needs good plotting or characters when you have great ideas and genre-shattering style?

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

Homosexuals roasted my dick


HEY GUYS LET'S MAKE A HUMAN HEART HAPPY, BUT I ALSO HAVE A REAL QUESTION

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOVELS LIKE INVISIBLE CITIES THAT ARE MORE A STRING OF THEMATICALLY-CONNECTED VIGNETTES TIED TOGETHER BY A LOOSE FRAMING NARRATIVE

HOW DO THEY GENERATE FORWARD MOMENTUM WITHIN THE NOVEL, IN THE ABSENCE OF TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING STRUCTURES

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


well first they werent written in caps lock so that helps out

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

Homosexuals roasted my dick


IT IS A THEMATIC CHOICE

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


more like dumbmatic

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

Homosexuals roasted my dick


YOU CAN'T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT I READ INFINITE JEST

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

HEY GUYS LET'S MAKE A HUMAN HEART HAPPY, BUT I ALSO HAVE A REAL QUESTION

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOVELS LIKE INVISIBLE CITIES THAT ARE MORE A STRING OF THEMATICALLY-CONNECTED VIGNETTES TIED TOGETHER BY A LOOSE FRAMING NARRATIVE

HOW DO THEY GENERATE FORWARD MOMENTUM WITHIN THE NOVEL, IN THE ABSENCE OF TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING STRUCTURES

I really didn't like Triburbia but that had less to do with the collected-vignette structure and more to do with the fact that everyone was rich and unpleasant. It did generate some sort of forward momentum through a few plot threads that were expanded on as the novel progressed, not in the sense of a single narrative thread but in providing different viewpoints and adding context, until by the end I felt like I had a full concept of the events from different angles.

Honestly, you could probably get a shambling simulacrum of something like that by writing a bunch of short stories and vaguely tying them together with callbacks.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

This is where I mention Milorad Pavić's Dictionary of the Khazars as the 'hard mode' version of the same question...

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

HEY GUYS LET'S MAKE A HUMAN HEART HAPPY, BUT I ALSO HAVE A REAL QUESTION

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOVELS LIKE INVISIBLE CITIES THAT ARE MORE A STRING OF THEMATICALLY-CONNECTED VIGNETTES TIED TOGETHER BY A LOOSE FRAMING NARRATIVE

HOW DO THEY GENERATE FORWARD MOMENTUM WITHIN THE NOVEL, IN THE ABSENCE OF TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING STRUCTURES

With Invisible Cities in particular (which sebmojo finally got me to read), I think it's primarily the novelty that pulls the reader forward. Like, each city can be seen metaphorically, or you can just sit back and enjoy the dreamy imagery if you want. So you can experience some fragment of truth, immersion, or both. Calvino has a skill that can't be taught, IMO, which is rendering extraordinary and whimsical things in a way that's almost...familiar and even nostalgic for the reader (maybe that was just me). I kind of fell forward through the book, kind of like how dreams tend to drag you along with no rhyme or reason.

...Which is all well and good, and is fun to talk about, but in terms of this thread, but I don't think you can tell someone how to write like that. Or how to do whatever the hell that book Thranguy mentioned did. You just have to try it and see if it works. A LOT of people in here want to write more traditional narratives though, which is why a lot of the advice is skewed that way. It's also easier to talk definitively about what makes a good/bad plot for a traditional narrative.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at Mar 1, 2017 around 13:53

Naerasa
Aug 5, 2004

Dislikes: Middle-class ideals


College Slice


So this is what people mean when they talk about posting style...

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Goddammit. That's all. Writing is hard, learning to write better is hard because I want to write instead of learn to write.

But when I write I want to learn to write better.

I hate school.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

Top dog nomination has closed and top dog subforum voting has started!

Go there and vote, then go out and vote up all the other dogs in the other forums, but make sure to only vote for the bad ones (tactical dog voting)

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

also, sign up for Long Walk. Writing lots of words in a dead panic is good for you, like veggies and dogs

https://forums.somethingawful.com/s...hreadid=3812360

sunken fleet
Apr 25, 2010

HONORARY AWARD


Fallen Rib

I read so much garbage guys. Recently I decided I would try to write too, how hard could it be?


It's really hard. Like I spend an hour and poo poo out 500 words that are bad. Like I read them immediately after I write them and I'm like, this is horrible. I hate it. What is this garbage, how can I possibly be so much worse...

I start with this vision in my head and it's gonna be so drat great (or not great but at least convey the meaning in a palatable sort of way) and then I try to hammer it out onto the page and end up going in circles trying to choose between writing the story you know advancing the plot and all that poo poo or else writing a bunch of meaningless detail in, comparing myself to other writers I'm trying to emulate, derailing myself with research on the cool plot thing that will totally happen eventually even though I'm 5000 words in and not out of the first room...

Ah it's frustrating. But it's sort of fun too I guess.

Mostly posting here just to vent and inspire myself to keep at it a bit. But also really wanted to say thank you @Dr. Kloctopussy your huge OP posts because they are very useful, especially with the little mechanical niggles of writing which I'm hoping to get better at by doing this.

A human heart
Oct 10, 2012



Bad Seafood posted:

You need to understand the fundamentals before you can break them.

If you're the sort of person who needs to poke around a thread like this, you're not ready for step two.

I can't really think of many writers off the top of my head this applies to. It often tends to be the opposite, where a writer's earlier works are more experimental and they write more conventionally(as far as that's possible) later on.

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

When it comes to the idea that it is biased towards “creating narratives that focus with plot and characters as the main focus,” I have to really wonder what books you are thinking of that have neither of those as a focus? I'm sure there are some interesting experimental works out there that do so, but nearly every book, including the greats, not just “extremely formulaic genre fiction,” involve a good amount of plot and characters.

I would appreciate a list of the great books that don't, so I can check them out.

Obviously there's not many books that have no plot at all, but there's a lot where the plot isn't very important, or is basically a few trivial or unimportant events, not the focus of the book.It's especially common in modernist stuff - think of Beckett for instance, who wrote a (very good)book that's just a guy in bed rambling for 200 pages. Wyndham Lewis's The Childermass is another good example - some guys walk around in purgatory for a while, and then the second part of the book is them observing some other people talk about philosophy, but it's very good. Characters are often fragmented or de-emphasised in modernism too, and there's some movements or writers where they barely exist - some nouveau roman stuff for example, or surrealism.

I'd be more interested in this thread if there was more about prose style, more focus on language. That's where everything else comes from after all.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


A human heart posted:

I'd be more interested in this thread if there was more about prose style, more focus on language. That's where everything else comes from after all.

Well, feel free to contribute a post talking about composing prose, different prose styles, and the use of language. I'd be interested to read it. For example, what is it about modernist writing that draws the reader along and keeps them interested?

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



A human heart posted:

I can't really think of many writers off the top of my head this applies to. It often tends to be the opposite, where a writer's earlier works are more experimental and they write more conventionally(as far as that's possible) later on.

While I can see this trend applying to writers' published works (sometimes, at least), it's certainly not the case for an amateur writer, and that's what most people on this forum are. Maybe The Name of the Rose is Umberto Eco's most experimental novel, but it's not the first thing he ever wrote. Very few authors' first published novels or short stories are going to be the first piece of fiction they ever wrote.


A human heart posted:

I'd be more interested in this thread if there was more about prose style, more focus on language. That's where everything else comes from after all.

The difficulty here is that everyone's going to have their own style, and it's hard to talk about it in a purely theoretical context without examples. And we do have a thread for posting and getting feedback on style and language, The Fiction Farm.

Aside from that, be the change you want to see in the world. If it's something you want discussed more, bring up questions about it and people will talk.

TequilaJesus
Mar 17, 2009

CONFIRMED FOR JAY

What's everyone's thoughts on spicing up dialogue tags? One person in my writing group says I use "he said" too much. When I try to throw in "he replied/he asked/he interrupted/he shouted" etc., another will tell me I need to stick with "he said."

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

Homosexuals roasted my dick


TequilaJesus posted:

What's everyone's thoughts on spicing up dialogue tags? One person in my writing group says I use "he said" too much. When I try to throw in "he replied/he asked/he interrupted/he shouted" etc., another will tell me I need to stick with "he said."
Stick with 'he said' 99% of the time. It's one of the invisible phrases of the English language. The advice to "spice is up" tends to come from high-school creative writing classes, which are designed around improving kids' vocabulary instead of writing good prose.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

TequilaJesus posted:

What's everyone's thoughts on spicing up dialogue tags? One person in my writing group says I use "he said" too much. When I try to throw in "he replied/he asked/he interrupted/he shouted" etc., another will tell me I need to stick with "he said."

Your friend who said you use 'he said' too much should shut up.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



For a bit more explanation on dialogue tags:

'said' and 'asked' are two magic words in that they vanish when you read them. (This effect is broken, by the way, if you use adverbs or try to join clauses, e.g., 'said softly' or 'said, swinging his sword'.) They're so simple and ubiquitous that they don't read as prose, they read as information. They are important because the focus the reader on the dialogue, not on the tags.

The problem with fancier dialogue tags is not that they're bad in and of themselves. It's that they're often redundant, and they call attention to themselves, which makes the redundancy all the more obvious. Here's the rule of thumb: A dialogue tag should only add information not available through context.*

quote:

"Are we ready?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied.

I don't need 'replied', because there's nothing else this could be other than a reply.

quote:

Romeo embraced Juliet, pressing his lips against her neck.
"I love you, my dear," he cooed.

I don't need 'cooed', because I would expect that to be spoken that way anyway.

quote:

"How are you feeling, honey?" Mae's mom asked.
Mae smiled. "I'm fine," she lied.

I do need 'lied', because without it, that line means something different.

quote:

Andrew grimaced. "I'm going to need more time on the project."
"That's fine," his boss sighed.

I do need 'sighed', because if his boss had said it, it would have conveyed a different meaning. Compare this to, say, ""I'm exhausted," he sighed", where the same tag doesn't add as much information. I can expect someone exhausted to be sighing.


*Yes, technically 'asked' adds information available through context (since it usually follows a question) but to a lot of readers, 'said' following a question reads strangely and 'asked' shares the same vanishing ability as 'said'.

Djeser fucked around with this message at Mar 6, 2017 around 05:12

neongrey
Feb 28, 2007

Plaguing your posts with incidental music.

A friend of mine is published through a (legit) small press and apparently her editor told her to shake up the dialogue tags more often, and that combined with her godawful back cover copy that she got convinced me to never submit there.

showbiz_liz
Jun 2, 2008


Naerasa posted:

I'm very curious to know which great books you think don't have a plot, because I'm guessing that most of them actually do.

I think this is more of a thing in short fiction, but it's definitely a thing. One of my favorite short stories ever is The Author of the Acacia Seeds by Ursula K. LeGuin, which is just a collection of three articles from a fictional journal about the literature of animals. (It's very short, so I recommend reading it, even if just to argue with me about whether it counts as a story!)

I wonder if this is more common/accepted in speculative fiction? This is definitely not the only example I've seen of an SF story that explores a concept without particularly bothering with a plot.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

showbiz_liz
Jun 2, 2008


In the past year and change I've gotten more serious about ACTUALLY writing fiction rather than daydreaming about it. I've written about 80K words total of increasingly non-crappy stuff, and I'm starting to produce some writing I actually feel comfortable submitting to my critique group (the group meetings are typically 8-12 people and 2-4 stories being critiqued, so it's not that weird that I haven't submitted yet). It's been incredibly valuable to attend these sessions and give critiques as I've been working on this. I know that according to the advice in this thread I should have been submitting things the whole time even if they were crap, but c'est la vie I guess.

I spent years periodically trying to write fiction and then giving up almost immediately. I'm a grant writer for my day job and I'm pretty drat good at that, but I wrote some terrible garbage in a few creative writing classes (why would I, a college junior from a city in NC, write a story about a middle aged woman coming home to rural West Virginia to take care of funeral arrangements for her dead alcoholic sister, WHY), and after that, I'd do the thing where I just sat down at a computer and stared at a blank word doc and didn't write much of anything.

After I finally started (because I finally thought of an idea I just NEEDED to write), I figured out a few things I'd been doing that were just completely wrong for me. The first one was that I had been trying to write literary fiction even though I don't actually read it or like it. When it comes to short fiction, I pretty much exclusively read speculative fiction, but my writing teachers all said that you had to start out writing literary fiction even if you wanted to write SF in order to get the fundamentals down. Deciding to say 'gently caress that' was what finally got me actually writing.

The other thing was that I stopped sitting down in front of a blank page, which I know is heresy! But my brain just refused to cooperate with that, and I wasn't productive at all until I tried something else. I didn't set out to do it this way, but it's been working for me: what happened was, I got an idea in my head, and I just kept thinking about it periodically during the day, especially at times when I had nothing else to focus on - particularly during my subway commute, but also in the shower, while falling asleep, etc. So I started taking notes on my phone or in a little notebook, just whatever came into my head. Could be a whole chunk of dialogue or description, or an idea for how to get from emotional point A to emotional point C, or a note on a little tic I wanted a character to have in a specific scene. Then I came home and dumped everything into a word doc and arranged it in chronological order. Once I got a few thousand words down, THEN I'd sit down to actually write the thing (or a chunk of the thing). Does anybody else do anything like this?

showbiz_liz fucked around with this message at Mar 6, 2017 around 19:49

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply
«38 »