The SolAARium: Discuss the craft of writing - Alphabetical Index in the 1st Post

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My modern day influences would include Glen Cook, David Gemmell and William Forschten

Fortschen, IIRC, and nice taste. :D

Authors that have really influenced me... now, this is a fun question. There's more Terry Pratchett in my writing style than I care to think about while sober; fortunately, you people haven't seen me letting 'go' on comedy on this forum yet, but when I do... yeah, you'll wonder if I'm just copying Pratchett passages and changing the words a few times.

What you have seen of me is my dramatic stuff, and there's three authors I can consciously identify as incorporating elements of. Only two of them are scifi, which, for me, is shocking (scifi geeks represent!)

-Robert A. Heinlein. The king of them all. This is where I learned Everything I Ever Wanted To Know About Characterization. Stranger in a Strange Land, IMHO, is one of the biggest books the 20th century will be remembered for as part of the literary canon in time, if just because it's such a wonderful characterization of the outcast.

-Larry Niven. No, his characterization's paper-thin. And yes, sometimes his technicals leave something to be desired. But... this guy can tell a story like nobody else. His imagination's fertile, sure, but that's only part of it. He can take the things he thinks of and spin them into stories that stay in my head for *years*, because he's jsut that good at raw storytelling. If I could figure out precisely how he did it, I'd make money writing instead of as a hobby.

-T.S. Eliot. Specifically, his language. In every poem, the man sets mood with just the word choice. "...like a patient etherized upon a table." You don't have to know the poem to know that the author's referring to something almost dead, something emotionless, and is probably projecting his own feelings of angst and depression onto <whatever>. And that's with seven words. Simply amazing.
 

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Good (and difficult!) question.

I like a lot of Norwegian authors, so they are probably not too well known, but I should mention...

Johan Borgen - Has written a lovely trilogy descriping the life of a boy growing up in a bourgeoise family at the end of the century and how he goes crazy in pre-war Oslo.

Alexander Kielland - Late 19th century author whose novels mainly dwell on the hypocrycies (sp?) of society. Vivid descriptons of both persons and places with a message that hits you right in the stomach.

Gunnar Staalesen - Perhaps Norway's finest living crime author. Has a way of making life and characters appear so gritty and disgusting its...marvellous.

Of international authors I like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Vikram Seth, altough I haven't read more than a few titles of both. I used to read a lot of Umberto Eco and Milan Kundera as well, but their later work turned me off. And as already mentioned, Tolkien is enourmous!!

Are noone here interested in comics? The Sandman and Transmetropolitan comics (amongst others) are magnificently written by Neil Gaimann and Warren Ennis respectivly and makes for very good reading.
 

stnylan

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Are noone here interested in comics?

I haven't read many comics, though I agree The Sandman is excellent, as is just about everything Gaiman has done. However, if any comic inspires me it was 'The Watchmen' by Alan Moore, which a friend introduced me to a couple of years back.
 

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Originally posted by Jarlen av Juks

Are noone here interested in comics?

Well growing up in the US exposed me to Mad Magazine. Those strange perverted comics warped my soul. Not that you can tell just by looking at me. But that style of comic humor had an impact on how I write a humorous scene.

But what about movies? Have they affected your writing style? I mentioned in another thread that "Highway 61" is a favorite of mine. Bruce McDonald, Allan Magee and Don McKellar wrote it. It has just the right amount of irreverence, sarcasm and cynicism and yet ultimately the characters find redemption even though it’s not the conventional happy ending. Being one of the original TV generation I know that TV and movies have affected the way I write. As much as books? Well maybe not but I think if I ever sold anything that I wrote it would more likely be for the silver screen. It’s one of the reasons that I spend so much time on creating atmosphere in my stories.
 

Director

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It's been a while since anyone posted, so I'll throw out a topic.



Do you lie to your readers? You do, don't you. Ducks.
And I don't mean that cliche of 'all fiction is a lie that tells a deeper truth', either.


As someone very wise said not long ago, 'Your readers know only what you tell them.' And - since this is a well-educated, experienced and mature forum - they also usually know a great deal about whatever the topic is at hand.

They're hard to confuse, harder yet to fool - and that makes it a lovely challenge, doesn't it?



Let's see - what are the beneficial aspects of lying, from an authorial point-of-view?

There's withholding information, long a staple of crime stories.

Then there's misrepresenting information, also common in crime stories.

There's the technique of implying that something is true and then revealing it to be false (or vice versa).

Straight-out look-em-dead-in-the-eye lying. Dallas, anyone?
(By the way, the answer to 'Who shot JR is: the VIEWERS, after the show pulled that stunt).

When is it desirable to lie? When is it convenient? And when should you NOT lie, no matter the provocation?

Other types of lies, gentlebeings?



I do think it's possible to tell a whacking great story without ever withholding information or misleading the reader. But isn't it sneakily fun to try that every once in a while?

One recent example of 'creative untruth' that comes to mind is the movie 'Sixth Sense', another is 'Sunset Boulevard'.

Visually, the works of Georges Seurat are 'lies' that reveal a greater truth as you back away from the dots and the picture comes into focus.

Most all Renaissance art is a 'lie'. Or should we say, a truth covered by another truth? Almost everything in a picture from that era represents something else - even the fruit on the table or the posture and direction of a figure's gaze always has an ulterior meaning.



A more obscure example of 'misdirection' needs a brief explanation.

The Cadets (Bergen County, New Jersey) put on a musical production based on 'To Tame the Perilous Skies', which is a serious piece of concert literature. This production, with musical instruments, choreography, drill and props, took place outdoors on a football field.

One 'staple' technique is that musical climaxes can be 'visually' assisted by the use of fast-moving strong, clean straight lines in the drillforms, just as slow motion and curved forms suggests softer emotions.

So the Cadets are setting up this terrific crescendo, building to what MUST be the climax of the piece. Everything in the drillforms collapses to straight lines that move straight toward the audience... in dead silence.

THEN they hit us over the head with the musical climax, and it was just perfect. I'd been had, I KNEW I'd been had - and I loved it.

They lied to me. And caused me to examine all my assumptions about convergence, climax and manipulation of forms.



So - let's talk about lies.
 

stnylan

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I've been churning this over for the weekend, and these are my (current) thoughts.

I think lying is useful only when it aids creating suspense, or when creating character.

Creating suspense is relatively easy to understand: crime stories do it often as already noted, but many writers do it to some extent.

Often though this is a lie of omission, refusing to reveal information. For example, in 'Lions of Al-Rasan' by Guy Gavriel Kay there is a duel where both the combatants, already major characters in the story, remain unnamed throughout the duel. This hieghtens the tension of the duel, and also clouds the result allowing for the later contrived 'uncovering' of the truth. I think this is perhaps difficult to do well, and here I think the situation is a little too much contrived, comes across as a little too clever.

A more conventional situation might be, when describing a siege from the PoV of the defenders not to mention the state of any relief.

I think lies of commission in writing can only be integrating well if they come about via believable IC ways. For example, someone in pay of an antagonist lies to the protagonist, but where the reader is not enlightened as to the first man's loyalties until later, maybe not until the protagonists are also aware of the treachery.

This leads into lying to create character. Characters are (mostly) biased. This comes out strongest in pseudo-autobiographies, where the entirety of the reader's knowledge might be from a single character's viewpoint. Here of course it is rarely a complete lie, more often a degree of misrepresentation. The same can occur in narrative, where information is perhaps conveyed in the words of a biased reporter or some other similar method.

Outside these I think I would be very cautious in lying to the reader. Certainly I think a lie for no reason is just plain disrespectful to the audience.

However, whether or not you choose to lie I think depends a great degree on what you are trying to acheive. For suspense they are a very useful device, but, to use the example of the dual already mentioned, to sense of possible emotion at the death of a character that had become well known to me as a reader was very muted as a result. Now, the author clearly was not going for a all cyclinders-firing emotional scene, so that is fine. But if he were I would have been surprised if the lie of omission had been extended long beyond the duel, as it was.
 

Valdemar

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I have pondered that question for over a week now and I don't think I can give a very clear answer.

But in short, yes I lie a lot in my story, I omit boring details, I omit knowledge to maintain suspense and build plots and yes, I directly invent things.

This could off course have something to with my one and only story only uses the game as a framework, but in general I will use my imagination to create the best possible story.

I will not tell factual lies and pass them of as truth, unless of course I for example had to use anachronisme as part of my story. I wouldn't create annecdotes on some historical figure, unless it was quite clear that I had taken a litterary license. :D

V
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Jarlen av Juks

Are noone here interested in comics? The Sandman and Transmetropolitan comics (amongst others) are magnificently written by Neil Gaimann and Warren Ennis respectivly and makes for very good reading.
I'm a little late on this one, but, I grew up on comics. (yeah, back then they were called cave-paintings). Admittedly, the only game in town back then was DC (crap, crap, and still crap) and Marvel. Marvel appealed for two reasons. Firstly, the stories featured believable, (super)human characters with everyday problems. And secondly, I got in near ground floor level. (anyone want to see X-Men and Daredevil #1?)

My interest wained when I entered college and discovered the joys of unlimited sex. Nowadays I'm familiar with the (r)evolution within the independent comic world, but sadly I haven't had much chance to pick up the habit. I understand The Watchmen and The Sandman are considered classics. I like Spawn, too, but I find MacFarlane extremey arrogant and anal (which is odd, since he's Canadian :D ).


Storey: I'm surprised you know about 'Highway 61', a Canadian cult classic. Good show, eh.

Director: That's an extremely tough subject. The more I pondered it, the tougher it became.

Lying is essential. It's the glue that holds a story together and allows the writer to draw the reader in. Face it, we're surrounded by lies. Turn on the TV and listen to the news, read the newspaper, talk to the CEO of your company regarding the potential of layoffs - lies - you'll hear nothing but lies. You lie to a reader to create false expectations, then shatter those expectations during the climax.

Do I lie in my material? Never... ;)



The following is a comment, feel free to discuss or ignore. :)

Have you ever read a book that has been nationally lauded, then put it down wondering what the hell all the fuss was about?

Currently I'm reading a book called 'The Shipping News'. I became interested in it after watching the movie starring Kevin Spacey and the Newfoundland coast. Great, great film, BTW. Highly recommended.

Anyway, I've found the book to be poorly written, with literay rules broken at whim. If I wrote like that I'd be ripped in my workshops. But!, the book is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the recipient of several other major literary awards.

I'm not sure what that tells me - break enough rules and you're considered important, or the book has such a deep seated quality that I'm totally missing at the moment.

To be honest, the characterization is excellent, and there are some lines that border on sheer brilliance, but... for me the jury is still out.
 

HolisticGod

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LD,

The same is true of the now Pulitzer prize winning Empire Falls.

Personally, I think Rich Russo is a talentless hack, and his latest novel a compilation of literary masturbation, relentlessly similar jokes and some of the worst characterization I've ever seen in a serious work of fiction.

But it's a national bestseller, (I think) National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, GQ and Time Book of the Year, NY Times Book of the Year, hailed as finest accomplishment of the last decade... That such a characterization excludes Rushdie, Marquez, Roy, Kunzru, Homes and even Updike, all of whom have done better work in the last five years, much less the last ten, notwithstanding, it reaches quite a bit.

As for The Shipping News, the rules don't concern me much, if at all. But I think the novel is a diatribe of ostentatious navel gazing.

The lesson: Art is subjective. Artists are divergently regarded. People are morons.
 

Secret Master

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I was going to leave this particular topic alone, since I felt I had nothing substantial to contribute. But then, our dear LD posted this:

Lying is essential. It's the glue that holds a story together and allows the writer to draw the reader in. Face it, we're surrounded by lies. Turn on the TV and listen to the news, read the newspaper, talk to the CEO of your company regarding the potential of layoffs - lies - you'll hear nothing but lies. You lie to a reader to create false expectations, then shatter those expectations during the climax.

While I suspect that I actually agree with what LD is really saying (and I am posting this to goad him into clarifying himself a bit :) ), I will on the surface say that I completely disagree. I would argue that what we do in literature (good literature, at any rate) is always telling the truth. Just because the reader does not get it right away, and just because some of our characters are either lying or biased in their judgements in no way means we are using lies to glue a story together.

I would argue that when we are writing at our best, we are telling the truth. In a story, if a character is given dialog or actions that are "out of character", we flag that as bad writing. The writing is not true to the character in question. If something occurs in the story that violates pre-established facts, then we call it bad writing. It is untrue to the setting, situation, and characters involved. On the other hand, if a plot twist occurs, but it does not violate character, setting, etc., then we can go with it. We might even think it is brilliant writing if it has been forshadowed enough in subtle language that the reader misunderstands at the time, but that bears out the reality of the situation.

It is also helpful to remember something that Coleridge reminds us of. He mentions that being a writer is a participation in the infinite I AM. Now, for those unfamiliar with that term, Coleridge is reminding us that we are essentially God to the setting, characters, and plots in our own writing. When we write something, it takes on a measure of truth simply because we are in the position of God and capable of assigning truth at a whim. If we couldn't, then none of us would be writing fiction of any sort.

To illustrate this, take Sytass's Spain AAR. Sytass's AAR is taken from the perspective of CNN and his alternate history of Spain. Now, since he is playing God in this particular AAR, it has become true that CNN did the news for the Spanish conquest of various parts of the world. Did it historically happen? Of course not. But for the purposes of the fiction, it is true. (With hilarious results, I might add.) When we read it, we take it as the truth. In his capacity as author, Sytass has created the truth.

To borrow another example, MrT's Rivers Run Red will do nicely. Now, his Kurfurst is a young man, younger by far than any of his advisors, but he is also the ruler of the Palatinate. He is also a young lad desperately trying to manage a war against the evil empire, France. Is it true that during this period in history, the Palatinate and its young ruler were in a bitter war of survival against the evil of France? I don't know right off the top of my head, but it doesn't matter. For the purposes of his AAR, it is true. MrT, in his capacity as God of Rivers Run Red (a scary notion, to be sure) has made it true. Now, if the Kurfurst starts acting out of character, once MrT has established that character, then he is no longer writing the truth. But, we would also say he is just writing poorly anyway.

As to the other ideas regarding lying to readers about details in the story, I would say that you have not really lied to them unless you pull a deus ex machina, or put something out of sync with the reality you have established in the story. If Hamlet forgives Claudius at the end of the play, we would call that lousy writing and see it as untrue. But if he kills Claudius in a fit of rage, now that is both good writing and true.
 

Lord Durham

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You probably won't believe me, SM, but I was trying to get a rise out of someone by writing that particular passage. Thanks for rising to the occasion. :)
 

Syt

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SM's post got me thinking? When is a writer lying? I don't mean the background of his stories (e.g. historical inaccuracies), but the actual plot.

Is withholding information lying? I don't think so. I even think it is not lying to have a character make false assumptions, or perceive things wrongly. E.g., if you have a character as a witness, is it lying if he thinks he has seen a short, blond man, and not a tall, dark man? I think not, for this perception is the character's truth. The reader may or may not buy into this, depending on how things are written.

However, I'd be careful to not at least hint to the vaguety (is that a word?) of these points, lest they'll complain when matters are resoved differently as it'll make things look like a Deus Ex Machina.

So what is lying in fiction? Is there lying? Well, only if you make most glaring mistakes, I think. E.g., have a character die a spectacular death (e.g. beheading), only to have him come back some time later. But even then it would be explainable via a Deus Ex Machina ("'twas my twin brother!"), which then again would be true inside the story. But bad writing. ;)

One thing about creating hopes and then crushing them.

I normally don't watch TV anymore. Occasionally, I catch a bit here and there. At a friends' some weeks ago there was a daily soap opera on. Plot line was a guy suffering from Leucemia (sp?). His half brother could have donated bone marrow, but he refused. So the main character was set to die. I said then, "Ah, at the last moment he'll donate it to save him."

Indeed, two days ago, I saw another bit, with the character saved in the hospital bed. His half brother took 7 million (!) € for donating the bone marrow. And I immediately thought that it would be a better plot device with a good emotional reaction to have that guy die anyways, after the donation, with his half brother then being hit by his conscience, and changing his ways.

And I also immediately thought: No, we would never see that, because it would confuse the masses.
 

Director

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There was such a long silence...

After reading over these posts, I find myself agreeing - in part - with just about everything everyone has said - and I'm not even running for political office! :D At least not yet...

My original comments were intended to focus on a narrow part of the broader question:

1) do you intentionally mislead/misdirect/withhold information from your readers?
2) do you enjoy (read feel clever about) this?
3) is there a time and place for this technique which no other method may serve? (or can ten million mystery writers all be wrong? :rolleyes: )

However, I've been fascinated by the broad range and depth of replies. Some of you have taken the topic off in ways I didn't envision - so please continue!



If we're ever able to sit down for a long afternoon's discussion, Secret Master, your bar bill's on me. :D



On the subject of 'if you write it, it becomes true' I have to weigh in on the negative side. It becomes true if and only if you have the writing talent to convince me it could be true. Overload my 'suspension of disbelief' and I'll loft your book across the room into the wastebasket.

Withholding information IS lying - in my opinion - if the reader could reasonably be expected to need that information to understand what's going on in the story. Slathering on unnecessary detail is a form of misleading the reader (or padding the word count for the teacher or editor).

Misleading and misdirecting ARE also lying, but sometimes desirable in buiding interest and suspense.



Does anyone have a favorite example of an author carefully setting up a situation only to reveal that your 'reasonable' expectations of plot resolutions are completely wrong?
 

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Originally posted by Director


1) do you intentionally mislead/misdirect/withhold information from your readers?

On the subject of 'if you write it, it becomes true' I have to weigh in on the negative side. It becomes true if and only if you have the writing talent to convince me it could be true. Overload my 'suspension of disbelief' and I'll loft your book across the room into the wastebasket.

Withholding information IS lying - in my opinion - if the reader could reasonably be expected to need that information to understand what's going on in the story. Slathering on unnecessary detail is a form of misleading the reader (or padding the word count for the teacher or editor).

Misleading and misdirecting ARE also lying, but sometimes desirable in buiding interest and suspense.

Does anyone have a favorite example of an author carefully setting up a situation only to reveal that your 'reasonable' expectations of plot resolutions are completely wrong?

I haven’t had a go at these question because I wasn’t sure what the question was really about. If you’re writing fiction then you’re lying from the first sentence on. Nothing you write is really the truth except in your mind.


As to a favorite author lying I would use any mystery writer that has ever written a story and yes that’s the easy answer. Every writer lies in a sense. You’re seeing the story through one or more of the characters in the story. Why should the detective know that Bill Brady killed the woman next door? The character in the story doesn’t but the author does. So is this a lie? If the detective isn’t the brightest bulb in the room and doesn’t pick up on an important clue so the reader doesn’t get a key clue to solve the case is this lying? As you can tell I’m having trouble getting my hands on what the real question is here. Let me turn the tables. Name any writer of fiction who hasn’t lied in some way in a book they’ve written. Maybe that will help me get a handle on this question.

Sorry for being so dense but so far HolisticGod comes closest for me when he said.

"Fiction is, at its finest, not only a lie, but an outrageous, bald-faced lie delivered so convincingly it’s accepted as truth."

Interesting discussion.
:cool:

Joe
 

Director

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Yes, all fiction is a lie that reveals a greater truth, but as I said in my first post I'm not addressing that.

Have you ever, in telling a story, related events and information in such a way as to lead your readers to believe that a certain thing has happened or will occur, only to then reveal that something ELSE has occurred - that their 'natural' expectation was wrong? Have you ever thus LIED to your readers through direct misinformation, misdirection or omission?

And if so, what purpose did this technique serve?

Mystery authors do this all the time (although not every mystery is employs this technique). One example is the mention of something that seems to implicate one suspect, but which - when examined in the light of later evidence - implicates another.
 

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1) do you intentionally mislead/misdirect/withhold information from your readers?
2) do you enjoy (read feel clever about) this?
3) is there a time and place for this technique which no other method may serve? (or can ten million mystery writers all be wrong? )

An interesting set of questions, Director. I've been pondering them for some time, but I think now I might actually have an answer.

Withholding information from readers occurs all the time when I write, if for no other reason than I cannot possibly convey everything to them anyway. Sometimes, I also selectively withhold information to build suspense. Also, some of my readers complain (in a friendly sort of way) that I put twists into my stories on a consistent basis. I, of course, have no idea what they are talking about... ;)

Seriously, this does illustrate an important point about the use of information in the story. In my opinion, part of making stories dramatic is letting the reader think that at any point, the story could take a turn in another direction. Not because the author will arbitrarily throw in a complication, but because the characters always have the choice to do something different and change the circumstances they are in while keeping the inertia of the action going in one direction. For example, part of the believable suspense in Hamlet is all of us wondering whether the ghost is really Hamlet's father, and whether Hamlet should do as he says even if he is the father. Shakespeare never tells us whether the ghost is really Hamlet's father in any definitive sense. Hamlet (note itallics for emphasis) thinks the ghost is his father and is convinced that the ghost is giving him good advice; note that just because Hamlet thinks it's so, does not make it so! I think good use of deliberate ambiguity is not only a possible literary device, it is rather essential far beyond mystery novels.

However, there is a big difference between ambiguity and deliberate misinformation to the reader. On the one hand, good literature is rife with just the right amount of ambiguity; on the other hand, deliberate misinforming of the reader is a fairly new developement in writing, coinciding with the Modern Era (that would be the literary definition of Modern, not historical or philosophical...) Deliberately misinforming the reader (in a way that is good and useful) is an outgrowth of first-person stream of consciousness and other modern and post-modern techniques of writing that emphasize stories told from the perspective of characters who are too stupid/insane/confused/flawed to give an objective view of their own lives. Also, when taking away the third person omniscient narrator, we are only left with competing viewpoints on what is happening, without knowing what "really" happened. This is a techniquie that I consider valid; however, it is something to be used sparingly and with much deliberation, for a story told like that is a story that can only do certain kinds of things. This device of writing is not nearly as universal as ambiguity.
 

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I'd like to raise again the point of how much description has to go into locations or persons to make them believable and to give the reader an idea who is where.

When I started reading Tolstoi's War and Peace again two weeks ago, I realized how little information he gives (it's been some years since I last read the book). He gives only very vague decriptions of places, and persons are reduced to general descriptions (old, young, beautiful, etc.), with often one of two characteristics pointed out that come back like a music theme, e.g. Comtesse Bolkonskaya's short upper lip, or Andrei Bolkonsky's nose. Instead, Tolstoi focuses on character development, although he takes a mostly observant role, less one that can look into the emotions of his characters.

I have usually been a proponent of immersive, yet not overdone descriptions with attention to detail to atmosphere. I found this especially important when setting the stage, and doubly so in fantasy stories where readers will not necessarily know what a Tendorim, a Shin-Tenaal, or a Telok look like.

In my current AAR I am trying a less descriptive approach, trying to keep a focus on the plot (you notice a lot of experimenting going on in it). Actually, I usually have a very graphic idea of what a scene looks like, and while the temptation is great to describe it as a painting or a movie, I refrain from giving many details (e.g. the office of Werener Brettschneider - we have not quite a clue what it looks like, we know that there's a room with a fireplace, too, but that's about all we know about the room), and I really like this way of writing (at the moment), although I am sure it evokes many different pictures in the heads of the various readers, probably far different from the ones I had in mind.

Well, I think I have rambled enough - I need to run to work! ;)

Cheers
Sascha
 

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Originally posted by Secret Master
So, LD, what is your real take on the subject. Inquiring minds want to know... :D

Well, I certainly won't wax as poetic, or intelligently as you did, but here's my take on it, in a rambling sort of way...


The word is a powerful tool. The entire concept of using words to create your own world, your own vision, populating it with characters of your own making, pushing them through numerous situations, conflicts and predicaments - all for the edification of the reader - is just too good to pass up. (God, that's a convoluted first paragraph :) )

I'm not sure if the term lie, which I used earlier, is correct. Mislead is indeed more appropriate. After all, it's far more interesting, and pays a certain emotional dividend, when the author creates one set of assumptions for the reader, only to have those very assumptions ripped away at a crucial moment.

There are dangers to that approach, though. It has to be plausible, and within the context of the characters, or plot. Nothing is more dissatisfying than leading the reader through a series of ups and downs, hiding truths and abetting misinformation, just to pull a rabbit out of the hat during the climax and rendering the entire lead-up a moot point. (eg. virtually any ST:TNG episode)

Do I mislead the reader? To an extent. And then it's only if the mechanics of the AAR require it. Austria and Napoleonic Wars were straight forward stories, and the only misleading involved was the order of interpretation of certain game events to make the overall plot-line more effective (at least in my eyes).

Now, the FC (dollar please...) is an entirely different kettle of fish. Withholding information and misleading is the order of the day. But, in this case I do it to the contributor (to a certain extent, since not everyone knows everything about what I'm planning) who in turn interpret the events to the best of their ability, often tossing in their own wrinkles (usually forcing me to rewrite portions of the story arc...). Shake, stir, and present the end result to the reader.

SM's note about the modern trend of taking away the third person omniscient narrator, thereby leaving the reader with competing viewpoints regarding what "really" happened is an interesting observation. The beauty of writing in the first person is that you can force the reader to see the truth through the hero's eyes. However, what's even more exciting, albeit harder, is to structure it in such a way that the reader begins to doubt what the hero actually reports... now that's misleading. :)
 

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Originally posted by Rocky Horror
After reading Lovecraft; overdescription can be a valuable tool. It can create whole entire palettes and subnuances of emotion that normal description cannot reach. But if you do it badly, your story collapses under the weight of the verbiage.



What IS this? This is horrible, horrible writing when viewed on its own! But in a Lovecraft story... it just works, perfectly.


This could actually be an interesting topic: What styles work for you, and what styles don't - and how important a part does a brand-name author play in the whole scheme?

I talked earlier about a book I'm reading called The Shipping News, about how it won a Pulitzer and a National Book Award, and my assertion that it was poorly written. Well, oddly enough, I've done a 360 on my assessment (sorry, HG). I've actually grown attached to the style, most probably because of its uniqueness. Could I take it as a steady diet? Certainly not. But as an experience, I've found it quite refreshing - but only after I shelved my writer's prejudices.

Another example, and this is strictly for those who want to follow an author whose writing actually improves over the course of the novel, is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This was his first book, and it's painfully evident, but the treat is watching him find his style and improve on it. The creator of Tarzan of the Apes had to start somewhere. Either way, it's a great read for those who like to trace the roots of fantasy and science fiction. On a side note, when Burroughs submitted the original manuscript he signed it Normal Bean, since he figured the story was too far out there for acceptance. As it turns out, the editors bought it, thought the l in Normal was a typo and changed it to Norman. Hence, the first editions of the book was published under Norman Bean. Now that would be a collector's item. :)
 
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The question of style. You have posed a difficult question, LD, if only because taking the objective look at ourselves is a bit difficult. (this would explain the lack of response...) To assign ourselves (or anyone else) a style is like assigning them a name.

I think I can preface any discussion of my tastes in writing styles by saying that almost all forms of writing have some use or function. Having characters speak in blank verse serves a literary function and has an effect just as lengthy blocks of narration and description serves a literary function and causes an effect.

It is much easier to discuss what I don't like than what I do like. I don't like, in any and all times and places, gratuitous use of writing which serves no purpose. Excess fluff given to dialog, narration that tells us all about the forrest for no reason, and pointless, clever musings on unimpotant details are all things that make me roll my eyes. To a certain extent, almost all writers make this error every once in awhile, if only because we aren't perfect, or we think a line of writing serves a purpose when it really doesn't.

Rocky Horror brings up how heavy use of description in narration is usually a bad thing, but that Lovecraft pulls it off handidly. Without going into the deeper aspects of the merit of Lovecraft's work, I can say with reasonable certainty that if you want to produce an effect of impending doom or something horrible, heavy narration is the way to go, whether it is third person omniscient, or first person subjective. In the Lovecraft I've read, what makes it "work" is that you (the reader) get immersed in the coming evil by experiencing the setting just as the characters are. On the other hand, trying this strategy with a scene involving the use of vocal humor, and you will make your own life very difficult. Its not the right tool for the right job, as it were.

In terms of my own writing, I have been taking advantage of our flexibility here on the forum and have tried out different approaches and techniques. The story of Isabella was my attempt at writing something akin to the "high tragedy" found in Shakespearian drama and stories in that archetype. The story of Kurtz was a story of redemption, while the second half of Juan's story was all about falling from grace. Carlos and Juanita's story fits the typical American story, that of low born folks who make good on their potential despite their low position in society. As I have changed stories, so I have changed technique and style. Miguel's and Enrique's stories are intimate from the first tperson perspective. Kurtz's story is told with a narrator who is very aware of the surroundings, while Isabella all but abolishes the narrator in her installments (yes, once again the Chaste Queen makes her wrath felt... :D ) Since Im not writing novels, per se, here on the forum, I can change style as neccesary, so I can experiment a bit. Sytass has done this as well, with his current project being much different than his previous work.

I don't even know if this really answers your question, LD. But, give an old windbag the chance, and I'll go on and on about various subjects until it's time to get off work.