BLUE SUN ROOM

Opinions about writing style

POSTED BY: DESERTGIRL
UPDATED: Thursday, October 25, 2007 11:36
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Saturday, October 13, 2007 6:34 PM

DESERTGIRL


Hello – I decided to start this thread to solicit your opinions about writing style.

Since I began writing and really paying attention to the craft of writing, I have been noticing little things that other author’s do that make me quit reading their stories. Since I started noticing them I am trying conscious of them in my own writing. But strangely it’s hard for me to notice anything about the storycraft when an author is doing everything right, I’m enjoying the story too much.

I’m not talking about grammar or characterization; there are several other wonderful threads out there that address these topics. I’m talking about style.

For example, the thing that bothers me in stories, the thing that I always catch myself doing and have to go back and fix, is when an author tells about characters doing things rather than actually having the characters do those things.

Another style issue that my wonderful beta is constantly on me for is repetition of words several times in a paragraph. So now I notice that in other stories as well. She also taught me all about point of view.

There’s a host of really good authors out there on FFN, so I am picking your brains.

What are your writing style pet peeves? What should I make sure I do or do not do as I write?



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Saturday, October 13, 2007 7:27 PM

FLATTOP


Misspelled words, other than those used as conversation. Any given character may not speak well, but the author MUST.
Something I've noticed as I read Homer's Illiad - repetition of entire blocks of text. Some is poetic, and acceptable, other chunks should be reduced to "Deliver this message...", description of a bit of action, blah, blah. When the emissary delivered Achille's message to Agamemnon... NOT a complete reprint of the message.
Spread out character descriptions, don't use a paragraph as nothing but describing physical characteristics/personality traits. Sprinkle them through the text as bonus descriptors. Don't /tell/ that Mal is an honorable man; /demonstrate/ it (returns the meds).

'Course, there are other schools of thought.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 4:53 AM

AGENTROUKA


Something that tends to put me off are descriptors instead of names or personal pronouns.

"Leave me alone," the Companion said.

Or, the Captain, the mechanic, the mercenary, the pilot, the shepherd, the crazy girl... Whatever, we know what they are.

Why create an artificial distance by using the most basic description or title? We think of Mal as Mal, Inara as Inara, Kaylee as Kaylee. Who they are encompasses so much more than what they do for a living.

Names or pronouns. Please.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 8:58 AM

RIVERFLAN


What really annoys me is when authors skip out on details to get to the action quicker. Also, foreshadowing really bugs me. I don't want to know what the whole story is going to be like from the first couple of pages. That makes reading the book pointless.

Hopefully that helps you at least a little bit. Just so you know, this isn't coming from a writer (I don't have the talent), but I do love to read. If you want another beta reader, just ask me


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Sunday, October 14, 2007 9:29 AM

DESERTGIRL


Quote:

Originally posted by AgentRouka:
Something that tends to put me off are descriptors instead of names or personal pronouns.

"Leave me alone," the Companion said.

Or, the Captain, the mechanic, the mercenary, the pilot, the shepherd, the crazy girl... Whatever, we know what they are.




Interesting - This is something I never thought would bother people. I do this sometimes just so you know who is speaking, without saying their name, over and over and over again. To you know, switch it up abit.

River Flan - I agree about to much forshadowing, but as a reader I find it really cool when an author works details in that end up being important later. Not that I am good at it, but J.K. Rowling really is.

Also thanks for the offer to beta. I don't need one right now but I will keep you in mind if I find my self in need.

Flattop - I totally agree that repeating entire sections of dialog gets a bit much, good one.

Ok all the rest of you out there - I'm sure there are more...............

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 10:16 AM

ALLIETHORN7


Quote:

Originally posted by RiverFlan:
What really annoys me is when authors skip out on details


YES!!! *Bows down in appreciation*
YES!!!
That's the thing in writing- You can the best story to tell in the whole world, but it's the details that make or break it. Don't make it bloody purple (As most folk would rightly get in it), but give more then is strictly necessary. Better a lot then a little, as I always (Never) say. The plot itself can wait. If Steinbeck can take an entire chapter to describe a turtle crossing the street, then folks can take a few extra paragraphs to describe the place the characters are in.

-Danny

We move for all mankind,
A million miles from everything we've ever know...
We're on their hearts and minds,
A million heads are bowed to bring us safely home...
Hemmed in by emptiness,
A million ways that everything could be undone...

THRICE RULES!!!!!!!!!
My Master went to the Moon in a Rocket of Flamin' Cheese!
I LIKE CHEESE!!!
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Sunday, October 14, 2007 10:44 AM

REGINAROADIE


To the last three posts, I agree with you on whole counts.

One of the reasons it's taking me so long to finish up YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, is in writing the details and the experience of the concert. I would like nothing more than to get to the big stuff at the end of the story, but I need to have that other stuff there just to get to that and not make it seemed rush. So I'm not going to take a short cut in terms of story.

When it comes to saying the characters' occupations, I do agree that it gets boring saying the same names over and over again. Kevin Smith, in the first EVENING WITH DVD talked about how when he wrote his treatment for the Superman movie, he called Superman different names for specific passages, because to him it get's boring saying Superman over and over again. But when he read it aloud to Jon Peters the producer, Jon interrupted him with "Wait, wait, wait. Who the fuck is Kal-El?";"Kal-El is Superman.";"OK. Why?";"Kal-El is his Kryptonian name." (awkward beat) "Krypton, the planet where he's from?";"Right, right, planet, boom. Go." So I can understand why you wouldn't want to keep using the same names over and over again. But I can also understand how that could come back and hurt you.

And I do like it when authors devote whole paragraphs to descriptions. One of the reason Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors is because his books are full of prose descriptions of everything. And it works because it really takes you into the books and places you there with the characters. So I like it when I write whole paragraphs of nothing but prose, just to give places and small characters their own bit of history and relevance.

**************************************************
"And it starts with a sentence that might last a lifetime, or it all might just go down in flames. If I let you know me, then why would you want me? Each day I don't is a shame. Each day I don't is a great shame."

Loudon Wainwright III - "Strange Weirdos" off the "Knocked Up" soundtrack

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 10:48 AM

SHADESIREN


When I first got started writing, I was lucky enough to have a teacher that really encouraged and help me with some important pointers.

* "milquetoast words" avoid wishy-washy or hesitant words I used to have a list of these, but I've lost it.

* Don't "be" - avoid forms of the verb "to be" (was, were, is, etc) She reccomended things like don't say "the car was red", make the "red car" do something. Dynamic rather than static.

* If someone "said" something, it's ok to use "said". Don't overuse the alternatives. If every time someone speaks, they're "exclaiming" or "remarking" or "commenting" after a short while, it's going to stand out. A variation on the "keep it simple" rule.

Not sure if any of that is helpful to anyone else, but it all really stuck in my head, and influences everything I write.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 11:08 AM

DESERTGIRL


Great points Sharesiren. I agree it is very important to make language dynamic.

I'm a little confused by this though:


Quote:

Originally posted by Shadesiren:

* "milquetoast words" avoid wishy-washy or hesitant words I used to have a list of these, but I've lost it.

*



Do you remember any examples?

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 12:03 PM

MOBBEX


I have a not so simple question for you clever fellows

How do you avoid the overuse of personal pronouns? That's something that bugs me in other people's writing as well as in mine. I'm not a native english speaker, and I haven't had an english class since I graduated, so your imput would be most appreciated!

PS: I don't want to divert this thread from it's original purpose. If you believe that my question doesn't fit into it, tell me and I'll go make a thread of my own.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007 4:57 PM

DESERTGIRL


Quote:

Originally posted by Mobbex:
I have a not so simple question for you clever fellows

How do you avoid the overuse of personal pronouns? That's something that bugs me in other people's writing as well as in mine. I'm not a native english speaker, and I haven't had an english class since I graduated, so your imput would be most appreciated!

PS: I don't want to divert this thread from it's original purpose. If you believe that my question doesn't fit into it, tell me and I'll go make a thread of my own.




Mobbex - this is just the type of thing I think we should be discussing. In other words your not hijacking.

While I don't have a difinative answer for you, here's what I do.

Always use a name in the first sentance of the paragraph, whose name depends on who your describing or who's thinking or acting in the paragraph. After that it is ok to use a personal pronoun until another person is mentioned, then you have to go back to the name.

I have been known to switch it up a bit by inserting some visual discription instead of a name later in the paragraph or call them by their job, espcially if they are doing said job at the time. But read Reginaroadie's example how it can backfire, it is very good.


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Sunday, October 14, 2007 10:25 PM

AGENTROUKA


Quote:

Originally posted by Mobbex:
I have a not so simple question for you clever fellows

How do you avoid the overuse of personal pronouns? That's something that bugs me in other people's writing as well as in mine. I'm not a native english speaker, and I haven't had an english class since I graduated, so your imput would be most appreciated!

PS: I don't want to divert this thread from it's original purpose. If you believe that my question doesn't fit into it, tell me and I'll go make a thread of my own.



It's really a question of writing style, stupid as that sounds.

I think a good first step is to try and avoid the whole "..," she said. thing to begin with. Incorporate dialogue without announcing it.

Put some distance between the name/pronoun and the dialogue by describing what they are doing while they speak, or what they feel while speaking.

Short and probably inadequate example:

-- It was gun cleaning day, and once again Mal was cleaning his guns until a shimmering dress in the doorway broke his concentration.

"Do something for you, 'Nara?" He didn't look up, just kept wiping.

"Hardly."

The answer was nearly always the same, but harsher than usual, this time.

At the counter, Kaylee frowned. "Are you two fighting again?"

Inara sent her warmest smile across the room. "Aren't we always, mei mei?"

A snort was all Mal felt obliged to add.
--


Names happen but they're not everywhere and no one needed to be described by their occupation. *shrug*



All this applies to omniscient POV, of course.

In single-character POV's, descriptors become more than a style question, they become a characterisation question, defining relationships between characters by how they label each other. More flexibility but also more responsibility.



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Monday, October 15, 2007 4:45 AM

MAL4PREZ


Fun thread! And you know I'm going to be all kinds opinionated about this LOL!

Quote:

Originally posted by Mobbex:
How do you avoid the overuse of personal pronouns? That's something that bugs me in other people's writing as well as in mine. I'm not a native english speaker, and I haven't had an english class since I graduated, so your imput would be most appreciated!

This is a hard one! My method is to first write a scene out poorly - the words don't matter, I just sort out all the actions and dialogue and position the people. Then I go back over again and again and again and possibly again to smooth out the writing. It's a bit of a puzzle sometimes, but if you stare at a sentence long enough, you'll find a way to arrange it that minimizes repetition. That may not be so helpful! I guess that important thing is just to recognize the problem in your own writing, and to not accept it. As long as that happens, you'll find a solution eventually (or get help from a beta...)

Re the "he said" tags: when I first started writing, I tried to avoid these as I really hate repetition. But at some point I figured confusion is worse - I want to be clear as to who's speaking so the reader doesn't get tripped up. I figure that when I read dialogue my eyes pass right over the speaker tags except to note the identity of the speaker. So now I throw tags in a lot, just for clarity. Maybe more than I should. (And I'm totally guilty of using "doctor" "captain" etc... but I do try to use them when they fit the POV. I hope!)

Dialogue can be smoothed out by doing as AgentRouka says, which has the added bonus that she's describing the characters' body language and that makes the scene richer. Also, the tag can move around, so it's not always at the end of the quote. It can be used to put a pause in the speaker's phrasing as well. Speaking tags affect the rhythm, which I find useful.

But never put the tag at the end of a long quote! That bugs me to no end! I want to have the right voice in my head right away. It does me no good to have "Jayne said" after I've just read 3-4 lines of dialogue thinking it was Mal. And if I've figured out that it was Jayne speaking, the little "Jayne said." at the end is useless anyway. My rule is that the tag should come in the first sentence of dialogue.

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Monday, October 15, 2007 5:01 AM

MERRYK


Writing dialogue is the most tricky thing, I find, and not just finding the right voice. I like Agentrouka's style, because I've found that scenes where there's just dialogue (and maybe a he said/she said) is distracting and feels unreal. Especially in this fandom, where the canon is visual and auditory...I like to add in sensory details to give it more of a television feel, and also to portray character.

What are people's opinions about using internal thoughts in stories? I like to use thoughts in Firefly fanfic, but only rarely for most characters...I almost never use them for Kaylee or Jayne, because their dialogue speaks for itself 99.9% of the time, and rarely for Wash or River, because they also feel very open as characters, and fairly easy to read through other methods. For Mal and Simon, though, I think those scenes are most effective at character building, and reveal a lot. Instead of saying that Simon feels uncomfortable around Mal, for instance, I have him think about Mal using the title "the Captain". Mal, also, has a lot going on inside his head, and I like to give a little insight into that. For Book and Inara, I use thoughts sparingly also, because they are mystery characters and, I think, should remain so.

I also use introspection scenes carefully...Book, Inara, Simon, and River, are all quiet thinkers, and would naturally introspect, in my opinion. Mal, however, seems to live on the surface mostly, even though you know there has to be more underneath, and so having him think about himself would seem out of place in my opinion. Zoe might introspect...but I'm not sure. And the others, especially because they are so outgoing and open, would definitely not, unless it was a very odd circumstance.

--
"My way of being polite, or however...well, it's the only way I have of showing you that I like you. Of showing respect." Simon Tam, Jaynestown

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Monday, October 15, 2007 5:53 AM

MAL4PREZ


So... introspection.

A big part of single POV fiction (which is all I write) is the POV character's inner life, his or her thoughts about things. I use this plenty - don't get me wrong! Part of the fun of fiction is knowing the character's thoughts and observations.

But here's the thing: people don't always see things clearly, especially in the kind of traumatic situations which Firefly is full of. In fact, I think it's very rare that anyone, no matter how smart or mentally healthy they are, is ever perfectly aware of their own motivations, or is able to see what other people are thinking.

The writer certainly knows all the gory details and sees to the heart and soul of the characters. So the easy way to tell a story is to make the character aware to the same degree, so then he/she can spell it out for the reader. I find it more dramatic (but challenging as hell!) to describe a situation indirectly, without resorting to too many inner soliloquies that see and describe the truth bang on. I think it makes characters more human when they aren't even aware of why they do what they do, and when they don't "see into" the other characters in the scene, though the reader does.

I heard it said by a big name writer that drama comes from the reader knowing more than the character. So my big challenge is setting that up - how do I inform the reader of things the character doesn't know and can't see? It's damned hard I tell you! I'm stuck in a situation like this right now - I need to show the reader nuances of a conversation between a Companion and a politician, but the POV character is self-absorbed and not at all experienced with people. Grrr! So I need to either explain why the POV char is able to read a Companion, or I need to use some sleight of hand to fill the reader in... Honestly, I'm stuck!

Yeah, so I guess the pet peeve I'm getting to here is that fic writers tend to make the characters completely self-aware, which is too obvious and I think robs the story of it's drama. Ties back to what desertgirl said - telling what the characters are doing instead of showing.

Uh... the extension of this is stories where the POV shifts freely, telling what's in the head of every single character as it happens. I have no interest in that. Too obvious. Loses the dramatic edge.

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Monday, October 15, 2007 6:34 AM

MERRYK


Great post, Mal4Prez! I love playing with the fact that characters are self-deluded, even though I may not always succeed. However, I do think that characters can sometimes understand themselves, or at least parts of themselves, because I know that people have done that in real life. A lot depends on what personality you have. I am constantly aware o the showing versus telling part of my writing, and one thing I use is false introspection...a character may think something about themselves that, hopefully, the reader will see is not exactly true. For instance, I have had Simon think that he understands where Mal is coming from, when really he has no clue.

--
"My way of being polite, or however...well, it's the only way I have of showing you that I like you. Of showing respect." Simon Tam, Jaynestown

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Monday, October 15, 2007 6:47 AM

WYTCHCROFT


firstly - everybody (every character) intropsects sometimes!:)

it's a question of does it suit the character at that moment in that fic - and what would it reveal to the reader.

An internal monologue from YoSaffBrig might be witty and informative but risks spilling the beans on any chicanery!


Quote:

Originally posted by mal4prez:


But here's the thing: people don't always see things clearly, especially in the kind of traumatic situations which Firefly is full of.

I find it more dramatic (but challenging as hell!) to describe a situation indirectly, without resorting to too many inner soliloquies that see and describe the truth bang on.



don't have to be - could be bang OFF!:)
POV means just that - no reason for the character to be RIGHT in what they think. The very subjectivity and the flaws therein can make 'intropsction' interesting.


Quote:

I heard it said by a big name writer that drama comes from the reader knowing more than the character.


well sure, dramatic irony - that's valid as far as it goes - but there are many generic forms where this is not the case. Detective fiction, horror etc - and definitely individual characters in literature where that is also the case.

again - it's a quality of writing issue. An omniscient detective who reveals information concealed from the reader at the denoument is BAD. A detective who has their own agenda, priorities, issues and muddles that the reader has to sort through could be GOOD.

This applies to firefly as well - the characters should be able to surprise the reader... and not merely BE surprised themselves, by events.

Quote:

fic writers tend to make the characters completely self-aware, which is too obvious and I think robs the story of it's drama.


again it's a question of the use - and the degree of accuracy in the awareness. i dare say that Giles in Buffy is very self aware (TOO self aware even!) - but flawless he's not - and many plots have hinged on that friction.


Quote:

Uh... the extension of this is stories where the POV shifts freely, telling what's in the head of every single character as it happens. I have no interest in that. Too obvious. Loses the dramatic edge.


for me, again it depends on the quality of writing - and the inherent interest of the story. Objects in Space and Out of Gas use the visual equivalent at times after all.


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Monday, October 15, 2007 8:28 AM

MAL4PREZ


Thanks MerryK!

Quote:

Originally posted by wytchcroft:
firstly - everybody (every character) intropsects sometimes!:)

Now, Wytchcroft, are you getting me wrong when I told you not to? (Sorry, I have to get sassy LOL!) I said I like hearing thoughts and such. And I think it can be done in a way that doesn't spill the beans. YSB can plot away without telling all. Detectives can keep their secrets. But I think there's a tendency for fic to overuse the sharing of thoughts and feelings. I think it comes from the community being more into storyline than the craft of writing (reference the fic rating thread).

Quote:

don't have to be - could be bang OFF!:)POV means just that - no reason for the character to be RIGHT in what they think. The very subjectivity and the flaws therein can make 'intropsction' interesting.
Indeed! This is exactly what I mean! I love it when they are wrong! But I don't see this level of irony in the majority of fic - characters so often seem so clear-eyed and perfectly self-aware. It makes them agents of the writer, instead of believable characters.

As to the shifting POV, here's an example of what I mean. There's all kind of fic that might go like:

"You can't just leave them to die!" Inara gasped in disbelief.

It angered Mal to have his leadership questioned. "Quit buggin' me!" he snapped, and he got up to leave the table so he wouldn't have to listen to this.

Kaylee hated to see people fight. "How's about we just cool down and think a minute?" she said hopefully.

Book leaned forward; he meant to have his say about the abandonment of innocents. Jayne just found it all funny. He sat quietly and eyed the pantry, thinking of all the food he'd have to himself if the doc and the moonbrain weren't around.


Ok - this is a perfectly reasonable scene. There's nothing wrong with it. But, IMHO, it's not that interesting. Of course, I say this as a writer who always uses single POV (I think single POV is like shaky handheld cams and the weird lenses Joss uses - puts the viewer/reader right into the scene.)

Anyhow, the bit above is *telling* us each character's state, instead of showing. Suppose instead I did this:


"You can't just leave them to die!" Inara gasped. She couldn't believe she was hearing this from Mal - he couldn't be such a hard man as to leave Simon and River stranded. Could he?

But Mal seemed in no mood to reassure. "Quit buggin' me!" he snapped, and he pushed his chair back and left the table. Inara knew by the set of his shoulders that she'd never get through to him.

But a soft, timid voice spoke up before he could step through the hatch. "How's about we just cool down and think a minute?" Kaylee asked hopefully.

Inara nodded her thanks to Kaylee, then looked to the rest of the crew for support. Book was sitting forward in his chair, appearing ready to jump to the Tam's defense. Jayne, however, was studying the pantry - the shelf that held River and Simon's food - and patting his belly thoughtfully.


OK, that's the same scene, but described from Inara's POV. You may disagree, but I think it has more immediacy and personality. We stay in Inara's emotional state, so aren't tugged around between angry Mal and timid Kaylee and covetous Jayne, etc... And there's more layers. We don't just get that Jayne is coveting the Tam's food, we get that Inara is seeing him do this. We see that she's aware of having allies in her argument with Mal.

Or:

Kaylee sank back into her chair, taken aback by how Inara was glaring at the captain.

"You can't just leave them to die!" Inara gasped.

"Quit buggin' me!" Mal snapped back, and he got up to leave the table.

Kaylee hated to fight like an engine hated a gummed up reg couple, but she couldn't just let this go. It was Simon and River they were talking about. "How's about we just cool down and think a minute?" she asked hopefully.

The captain stopped at the hatch and stood with his back to them for a moment, long enough for Kaylee to catch Inara's eye. Inara gave her a grateful nod - she wouldn't have been able to talk the captain down like Kaylee just did. Book nodded to her too. He was clearly on their side.

But then Kaylee saw a look of disgust on Inara's face, and she followed her gaze; Jayne was patting his belly as he ogled the Tam's food stash.


So, Kaylee POV. I think one part is questionable: "Inara gave her a grateful nod - she wouldn't have been able to talk the captain down like Kaylee could." I should only include that if I believe that Kaylee could read that motivation behind Inara's nod.

Again, you might disagree. Style, after all, is all about taste, and we each have our own!


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Monday, October 15, 2007 9:21 AM

SPACEANJL


Seems I have a lot of bad habits, reading over this post. Shifting POV, a lot of untagged dialogue, a tendency to write in the present tense...Add in my penchant for playing with language, ramraiding the silver screen for sight gags, and love of twisty plots foreshadowed by cliffhanger endings to my chapters, and damn.

Still, POV gives insight that a mere expression can't. And without the visual element, we need those extra hints. Every character has their own speech pattern, syntax and vocabulary; done correctly, you should be able to read an entire page and know who is speaking.

Present tense gives immediacy to the action. A blatant borrowing from the scriptwriting school. And the same goes for borrowing the shorthand of the cinema to set the scene.

I have no excuses for the puns, though. Sorry.


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Monday, October 15, 2007 9:24 AM

WYTCHCROFT


Quote:

Originally posted by SpaceAnJL:
Seems I have a lot of bad habits




yeh but... YOU RULE!

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Monday, October 15, 2007 10:01 AM

MAL4PREZ


Quote:

Originally posted by SpaceAnJL:
Seems I have a lot of bad habits, reading over this post.

Hey - I like present tense too! And foreshadowing.

Quote:

I have no excuses for the puns, though. Sorry.
Excuses for puns? Who needs to make excuses for puns?

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Monday, October 15, 2007 11:09 AM

MOBBEX


Thanks people, that definitely shed some light on the matter. Fantastic thred, by the way. It's going to take a while for me to take it all in


PS: Sorry I didn't reply earlier, I just got out of bed

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Monday, October 15, 2007 7:13 PM

DESERTGIRL


Oh my - I go to work for the day and so much happens on this very fine thread. Great work people.

I have to say I have become a big fan of writing in one POV at a time. Like M4Prez said it adds color and complexity to a scene. It also is more challenging for the author, which is fun.

I think one of the issues is that we are trying to use one media (fiction) to extend a completely different media (television). In books authors tend to stick with one POV for the entire book, or they will switch POV between a small numbers of characters at the beginning of a chapter, which doesn’t seem weird because a chapter is a break.

In television, the camera goes from person to person, and we are not in anyone’s POV. We get the introspection visually by the actions and expressions of the characters. In television, breaks come for dramatic emphasis, so we will not change the channel, rather than to switch the scene.

Good fan fic authors are able to navigate the mix of these two media. I like limiting my switch of POV, but switch when I need to. I also prefer to make it real obvious that it is a new scene with some fancy asterisks. And I am a big fan of dramatic chapter endings, to keep readers coming back.

I like using introspection to give us some of the visual clues that we are missing because we are reading and not watching.

This can get very fun when you are trying to stay in one POV

For example:

There she sat alone at the edge of the couch. Mal wondered if her stomach hurt as much as his did. He just couldn’t imagine Inara would drink so much as to get sick, but there she was, looking rather green around the edges.

As far as foreshadowing goes, I believe the trick is to not let your reader know what you are doing is foreshadowing.

For example in Harry Potter we don’t think any thing of it when Hermione is asked about a Bezor in book one, and she tells Snape that it is a stone that is an antidote for most poisons, in book 1. Later in book 4, after Harry uses a Bezor to save Ron’s life, he says he never would have known about it if not for his great book. The Hemione reminds him of Snape asking her about it in book one.

Did I know reading book 1 that someone would be saved by Bezor, not so much; I though the scene was describing what a jerk Snape was. Reading Book 4 I realized I should have.

Oops wrong fandom…..

I once had a creative writing teacher tell me ever scene should have a purpose, sometimes we just don’t realize what that purpose is till later.


Lastly because this response is way way to long.

Spaceangl – did someone really dis writing in the present tense? I must have missed it.

I hope you do not think when I said ‘have characters do something rather than tell us what they are doing,’ I meant don’t write in the present tense. If anything what I meant is do write in the present, rather than as a story teller, spinning yarns around a campfire about some distant event.

And I am big fan of puns – especially around Jayne or Wash

Ok have blabbed enough, at least for this evening.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:55 AM

SPACEANJL


Agree with you on the use of foreshadowing in the Potter books (Just discovered I have one of the rare first editions of HP:PS! Woo!) There's so much hidden away in earlier books that makes you suddenly think 'er...what?!' later on. (Still can't cope with that epilogue though - barf central.)

Action fiction needs a dynamic style to make it flow. Short, choppy sentences, move the POV swiftly between characters, keep it fast and tight.

But you can take your time over personal thoughts and become a little more lyrical. You can expand your sentences, and add a few more adjectives. The prose style can become more descriptive, even poetic, slowing the pace of the reading down to match the observation of introspection.

Every book ever written has tried to show the world what the author was seeing on the back of their eyelids. (Some of the Victorian authors were paid by the word for serialisation purposes, hence the turgid and verbose style.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:21 AM

DESERTGIRL


Quote:

Originally posted by SpaceAnJL:
[

Every book ever written has tried to show the world what the author was seeing on the back of their eyelids.



Exactly, the point of this thread is to get people to share some of the secrets great authors use to show the picture with out the words getting in the way.

Quote:


(Some of the Victorian authors were paid by the word for serialisation purposes, hence the turgid and verbose style.)



Seriously I had no idea. I thought it was a time period thing.

Thanks for the input

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007 5:11 PM

MERRYK


How about getting a little deeper into dialogue...

Obviously, a good fanfic writer could bring across a conversation perfectly well by using just the words and nothing else. Characters have different styles of speaking, and tone could be indicated by people's responses just like in real life. Just as a short rather silly example:

"Sure, Mal, I think you're doing great here."
"Now really, why does everyone seem to think that the blame belongs on me?"

You hear the sarcasm in the first line without being told that the tone was sarcastic, and the frustration in the latter line, right? Knowing a character and their mannerisms and intonation well can make modifiers on dialogue superfluous.

BUT, there's definitely something to be said for modifiers, since dialogue is often tricky. Not too much, because that can sound forced. Also not always using "he said" and "she said". I try for a 50/50 ratio of "saids" and synonyms of "said" and modified "saids".

What about modifiers of other sorts? I don't like dialogue that looks like chunk after chunk of descriptive/introspective text with short quotes in between. I like finding out what characters are doing and/or thinking during conversation...but not when the pace of the conversation is lost.

--
"My way of being polite, or however...well, it's the only way I have of showing you that I like you. Of showing respect." Simon Tam, Jaynestown

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:36 AM

MAL4PREZ


Quote:

Originally posted by MerryK:
Obviously, a good fanfic writer could bring across a conversation perfectly well by using just the words and nothing else.

Hmm. I think this is okay in fanfic because we all know the characters so well, and the personalities and mannerisms are solidly established. Your example works because we all know Mal's voice and general attitude. But if you were writing for a newbie who hadn't seen the show, they might read Mal's response as whiny rather than frustrated.

I definitely agree with the pace issue - too much description loses the thread of the conversation, and that's no fun! But I think something is missing in dialogue if there's nothing given as to body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. I mean, look at Jayne's: "Well, I might." (as in - survive the Reaver stand-off in the BDM) It that's written on a blank piece of paper, it's nothing. But the way he says it with that half shrug thing is fantastic.

And, of course, just about any line Nathan delivers has a wealth of meaning in his face and body that goes way beyond the words. OK, it's impossible to express all that subtlety in prose, but I think it's worth the effort to try, or Mal's complexity can get lost.

In my first fic, I had an exchange between Mal and Zoe that was several short lines. I imagined it happening bam-bam-bam, with that rhythm they have, so I wrote it as nothing but dialogue. For like 20 lines or something. My beta suggested I throw in a few actions to break it up, which at first bugged me. But I think it really helped. It added pauses in the rhythm and kept the scene visual, and also showed Mal's varying state of awareness. (Um... I don't believe my gall, but if you really care, I'm talking about the very first scene here: http://www.fireflyfans.net/sunroomitem.asp?i=7250)

-----------------------------------------------
hmm-burble-blah, blah-blah-blah, take a left

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:41 AM

MERRYK


Yeah, I have a really hard time writing the Firefly characters because they were so well acted. Especially Simon and Zoe, because their looks and tones are too subtle for, say, "in a sarcastic tone" to work, and yet I can exactly see how Gina Torres and Sean Maher would have given life to the words and made it work. River, too, was given such variety by Summer Glau. I try with just words, but I really wish I could transcribe the movie that I see and hear so clearly in my head.

--
"My way of being polite, or however...well, it's the only way I have of showing you that I like you. Of showing respect." Simon Tam, Jaynestown

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:07 AM

MAL4PREZ


Yeah, the more I write, the more I realize that I am completely unequal to River. I think I can write River-speak ok, but getting her half-insane and half-rational genius tone of voice, and the way she moves - not straight-up dancer but something like... it's impossible!

A-hem, back to the subject...

-----------------------------------------------
hmm-burble-blah, blah-blah-blah, take a left

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:10 AM

WYTCHCROFT


Quote:

Originally posted by MerryK:
I try with just words, but I really wish I could transcribe the movie that I see and hear so clearly in my head.



someone writes Shepherd Book like you... don't need to worry overly:)

But seriously - firstly i think it's just practise.. you find the voice then the dialogue... How does Mal order a burger and french fries? good question - guess i'll go write to find out...
A lot of slog. I'm still not convinced my dialogue is worth a hill of beans - but it's... better than it was - my first attempts at Mal made him sound like fracking Elvis (No offence there Boss! "Well, uh, that's ok then Son - you just do what you're doin uhuh and leave me to ma mess o'blues." ) it's an easy trap...

so i write a lot of voice stuff and keep my fingers crossed.

Prose aint tv - trying to novelise a daydream just doesn't work. One of Fillion's most supreme pieces of acting (From The Train Job) can be reduced to he narrowed his eyes

or in the grisly style of a novelisation:
Pain swept the features of Malcolm Reynolds - despite his best efforts to keep his face hard and unreadable... the visible pain of a man who knew he had unwittingly betrayed everything he stood for - Gorram! To steal something so vital from those who had so little left to lose - those he had fought for and with - who had been stood next to him when Serneity Valley fell - those who remembered the pride of the Independents and were now reduced to hacking out a living in the back of beyond, crippled by a disease that fell like the wrath of God - a disease whose only cure Captain Reynolds now held in his hands... because he had stolen it from them. yick!

so... back to dialogue - live with the characters a little (or, well, ok - actually, a lot) and let them TALK to you - then to each other. Try out different POVs on the same scene of talking... write letters from the characters - pretty soon you'll find it helps make things a little more natural. atleast that's my PLAN!

aw crap, lke i'm qualified to talk about this kinda stuff... and since my next chapter is mostly dialogue i now have the FEAR!
(adopts Ilyria stance "I wish to do more nicotine" and stomps off...)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:42 AM

MAL4PREZ


Quote:

Originally posted by wytchcroft:
(adopts Ilyria stance "I wish to do more nicotine" and stomps off...)

*snort* Good one.

-----------------------------------------------
hmm-burble-blah, blah-blah-blah, take a left

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 2:47 PM

MERRYK


Good points, Wytchcroft. The characters have lived in my mind ever since I watched the show (long before I started writing fanfic for it, too), and they have many many conversations there, which is probably the only reason my dialogue isn't go-se, but I'm never sure if I've got the hang of Verse-speak. Perhaps that's why I like writing Simon and River rather than the others...they speak in unique ways, but I don't need to worry about leaving out the equivalents of "naked and articulate", "a whole acre o' you fellas", "lip ferret", "foofaraw", "corner of no and where", "wheel keeps turnin'", "swear by my pretty floral bonnet", and other such things that make Verse dialogue what it is.

I know it sounded like I write my daydreams, but that's not quite it. It's as if the characters not only live in my mind, they live in the Verse in my mind, and I can eavesdrop on them in the Firefly timeline and also alternate timelines. However, my eavesdropping comes to me very vividly and a lot like a movie playing in my head, so writing it down can be difficult. Though this is prose, I think dialogue is very important to Firefly fanfic especially. I usually don't like fics that don't have a lot of dialogue, because it never feels exactly like it could come from Firefly...it sounds too book-like. (The exception is short fics that give an inside view on characters thoughts/emotions.) Fics that I think are well-written usually give me the feel of a TV episode without being all in dialogue or script fashion. Though I also like the different angles a prose work rather than a TV episode can provide...still, I aim for a style with plenty of visual and auditory cues.

--
"My way of being polite, or however...well, it's the only way I have of showing you that I like you. Of showing respect." Simon Tam, Jaynestown

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:12 PM

SUPERUNKNOWN


I have to admit one of my pet hates is Mary-Sue Fanfiction, where the author creates a stylised version of themselves, drops it into the 'verse, and they end up superseding the original characters. Ironically, I could be rightfully criticised for doing a similar thing in OF A THOUSAND, but I deliberately wrote that in first-person to show how one's experiences of the crew vary.

I've been writing since Kindergarten and I'm seriously hoping to make a career out of writing screenplays (I was even approached to write our college's musical this year ... it wasn't as good as ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING, but I did include Anya and Xander's "I'll Never Tell" as a tribute to it), and one of the reasons I want to move into screenplay is that I find my works are often dialogue-heavy. I'll describe the important things or a speaker's tone, but I often find I skimp on the details. Either that or I'll describe the setting and then the dialogue, which makes it feel very disjointed because there's an obvious transition from one to the other and back again. It doesn't flow. If you read OF A THOUSAND - especially the latest two parts - you'll see what I mean.

But I also think it's very important to develop one's own style. I'm part of another forum for Australian author Matthew Reilly who has a very distinctive style: he writes like it's a Hollywood action film, but without the budget constraints. Each book often has a few action sequence, first and foremost being a forty-page hovercraft chase in one book. I often find that when people write fanfiction on the forums, it's in an attempt to mimick his style. They go for the action set-pieces but it never come soff the right way because that's not their style.

It's the same with Joss Whedon. As much as I love the 'Verse and writing in it - I think the dream of everyone here is to work with him; I know I'd love to - I find it difficult because I have to apply my style to someone else's works. There are often two schools of thought in writing: those who do dialogue and those who do plots. Writers typically fall into one of the two categoies with very little cross-over. Joss is one of those people who does both exceptionally well and I'd like to think I can do both as well, though I feel I lean towards the plotting side of the fence.

I also have an intense disliking for fluff. This is Firefly, not Mills and Boon ...

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:28 PM

DESERTGIRL


Quote:


Try out different POVs on the same scene of talking... write letters from the characters - pretty soon you'll find it helps make things a little more natural. atleast that's my PLAN!



Great ideas for writing assignments to help one improve quality of one’s work.

I have great intentions of doing all sorts of short writing pieces to practice this or that, but I have a really hard time keeping things short. My current fic started off as an attempt at a character study, I am now working on chapter 7 and I’m not yet to the of the climax story.

Anyway I totally agree with you that it is practice that makes the difference, that and attention to detail.

Remembers bad joke “how do you get to Carnegie hall……”

Brings brain back on subject - Another activity someone mentioned somewhere was trying to write an entire scene with dialogue without modifiers and see if your reader can figure out not only who is speaking but what is going on visually as well.

I think a key to good dialogue in a story is to have a good mix. Some just short sentences without modifiers. Some with long modifiers describing the scene and what is going on outside the dialogue. Some ‘saids’ and some more descriptive tags. Some long flowing speeches and some short explanations. If you keep mixing things up the reader will hopefully stay interested.

Quote:

so i write a lot of voice stuff and keep my fingers crossed.


I rely on my beta (at least on the big series type stories) to double check my dialogue, because sometimes I am sure something will come off one way, and well it just doesn’t. Often it is just the change of a few words that can change it for me. There is just no substitute for a second opinion. I make my husband triple check it for type o’s as well.




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Thursday, October 25, 2007 11:36 AM

ANNUETTE


I think with pet peeves, minus some that everyone seem to dislike such as bad spelling mistakes and the like, the phrase 'different stokes, for different folks applies. Someones peeve will likely be anothers love, and someones love will possibly be anothers peeve.

Personally I find second person fics harder to read, i prefer third person or even first. That's my personal preference and i have read a couple of really good second person ones it's just to me, if i chose to read fic, it won't usually be second person because reading that way feels awkward to me.

I tend to rely on my beta's a lot. I have the awful habit of starting to write in past tense then when i get swept into the writing it goes straight to present. I would write in present all the time but i find then using memory, recollection and flashback difficult to write, so past is more workable for me.

Sometimes i know my style of writing can be frustrating. Barring pwp fic (or sometimes including ><), i love to get inside a character's head, to work out their thought patterns and actions, to have them see the others around them and weave it into the plot. Some people might find this jarring, especially with the occassional thoughts and musings, but it's my way of writing and writing another way doesn't feel right. Feels like I'm not telling a whole story to be honest, especially when i know i can put that stuff in. I'm guessing this ties into your own pet peeve because you said about the 'telling' not doing. I tend to do both, tell the past, do the present, i don't know if that would peeve you but it's likely *grins*


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