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

Mar 14, 2003
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What is the best way of showing desire, specifically as a thought that manifests itself within a character.

For instance.

I have a character who misses real snow, but has to make do with manufactured stuff. When said character is drying herself after a warm bath, the fluffy towel she is using is soft and the texture reminds her so much of it, that a craving manifests within here purely on the touch of the cloth.

Would it be correct to do something like this.

'Snow. Natural and pure white' came the desire.

Thx for any tips.
 

Amric

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That is one way to go....or perhaps....


The soft fluffiness of the towel drew her memory back toward her childhood where newly fallen fresh snow powdered the landscape. A far more innocent time she fondly remembered<or recalled> with great nostalgia.


That could work too, I guess.

Or perhaps this....

the softness evoked the memory of making an angel in pristine powdery soft snow, the flakes still falling around her as her arms and legs moved in a rhythm to create her childhood masterpiece.

Or even....

She saw in her mind's eye the vision as a young girl with the first flakes of snow drifting down, caressing her cheeks only to disappear. A flake vanishes on her outstretched tongue like a misty promise of winter wonderland.


That is just from the top of my head, mind you...don't know if any of them might be helpful to you.
 
Mar 14, 2003
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Theyre very good, but I was after a way of showing through dialogue, of her desire. What sort of adverb/adjective would be good to describe someone saying something about their desire.

So if I wanted her to say something like She sighed. "Yum, I love fluffy towels they remind me of that time......" she deeply desired .

Is "desired" good wordsmithry?

I thought about longed, yearned, wanted, but desired is what I want to portary in my specific instance.
 

stnylan

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She smiles, a faint creasing of her lips, as she touches the fresh towel, bunching it in her hands. "Like snow to touch," she whispers, and she holds the fabric tighter, thus destroying the mirage her senses had so briefly allowed. She flings the towel against the wall, in anger at her dream denied, her desire dispelled.

OK, that's a little dramatic, but sort of how I would likely do it.
 

Amric

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Desired can be used...although I DO like the yearned as well...
 

Vann the Red

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Question for the authAARs: typos, when your loyal readAARs find them do you want to know or not? And, if so, through posts or PMs? One one hand, I hate to seem a nitpicker. On the other, I'd hate a typo in one of my posts.

Vann
 
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Mettermrck

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Vann the Red said:
Question for the authAARs: typos, when your loyal readAARs find them do you want to know or not? And, if so, through posts or PMs?

Vann

Definitely. I'm the type who rereads his posts months later and corrects grammar. :) So, if someone sees a mispell, a word that doesn't look right, or has a better suggestion, I certainly appreciate being told in a post or PM. It only helps make my work better.
 

Amric

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Mett's right....Always good to know about them....I've had people do it in the thread and one fellow did it by PM...which I then asked him if it was alright to repost it in the thread...as it was a very valid question and I wanted everyone to see it. I've been known to do it threads, just ask Mett...:) He is such a great writer that when I see something I find myself forced to tell him about it so that his prose stays at it's most excellent form.
 

Alhazen

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I totally agree, and God knows Ive had my share of mulligan's on prose-writing. We all do it, its nothing to be ashamed of, typos happen. Id rather know and be able to correct it.
 

Alhazen

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Here's a topic. Ive long wanted to get into writing and submitting short stories of a more sword-n-sorcery and horror vein, but can never seem to compact a tale into a mere 14 or 15 pages of type. How do those of you whove made the successful conversion truncuate your stories to fit the smaller scope? Im a glutton for little details that takes alot of space. I've been reading alot of REH again lately, as he was a master of description with few words. How do you plan your stories, story arcs, with hook, buildup, climax, etc.
 

Storey

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This has come up a few times in the Solarium but you’d have to read through its entirety to find the answers. :D :D At least one of the basic rules with a short story is not to put anything in unless it’s absolutely necessary. For example if I mention that there is an ancient sword mounted above the fireplace then that sword had better be damn important later in the story. I once tried an experiment of writing a short story and started by just listing the basic facts. Then I started filling it out but with just enough embellishment to create the atmosphere. To tell the truth is wasn’t very good but I did learn a bit about what I could get away with using sparse prose. My problem is that my style of writing works against a short story. I write and rewrite and rewrite and all the time the story gets bigger and bigger not smaller. :( ;)

Joe

One more thing read a movie script. If you go to a movie you’re actually seeing a short story. They have only a couple of hours to tell the story and in the good movies there isn’t a wasted word. There might be an off-handed comment that you don’t pay much attention to but later it develops into an important part of the story.
 
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coz1

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2Coats, you ask a good question and one that I have been remiss in answering. For me, my best scenes are those that combine good characterization, forward movement of the story relaying all the most imortant details and staying away from more extranious padding, and most importantly, forward movement on the characters in the story. That's the best way I could think of answering part of your question. As to websites to help with that, this one seems highly qualified. I am very interested in seeing Director's Anthology of Treasures back up and running for that very reason. For me, I think scene study is crucial in learning how to build an effective narrative, and extremely important as regards the way we write here in such serial style. If you do not establish the ability to write a good scene, you most likely won't get much response in the long run as your readers will not be inclined to keep following.

However, I actually came to this thread to ask another question. And it is this - how large is the importance of POV (point of view) when writing fiction. I'll admit, I have had little experience in this regard as my major works have been told from one particular perspective. But as I begin another work, I notice the freedom to start branching out to other characters and their views on things. I've seen several authors here work well to establish their characters through POV, but that seems only one way to do it among many. So how crucial is POV in telling a story? Whom do you choose to give it to? How often should you change the POV between characters? And how does one use it most effectively? Let's throw the floor open as I have no answers myself and am very interested to see what the others have to say.
 

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If I may so bold, I would like to comment on the point of view question. Though I'm rather new / bad at AAR writing, I've found that changing POV is one way to keep a narrative fresh. Personally, I think that the number of perspectives one should use in a story depends on what they want to do. If the concept is to explore one person's quest, then a single perspective will do. However, if one wants to show a big picture through a narrative, a couple of different perspectives might be good.

As a person new to writing fiction, I've found that switching POV keeps me interested. It allows me to consider what the enemies of the characters I've established might be feeling. My hope is that readers will also find that intriguing. All the same, I find myself wanting to let more and more characters tell excerpts of the story from their point of view. With this urge comes a fear that readers will become uninterested or confused.
 
Mar 14, 2003
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I would say that its increadibly important, but it does depend on what you want to do and how it is to be conveyed.

Stephen Donaldsons Into the Gap Series is one such set of books that does this very well. It covers an alien v human clandestine conflict which within the books is really just the background to the struggles and strives of the three main characters (+ several more in the later books). Whats clever with this series is how the author shows the relationships between each of the three lead(s) especially good is his coverage of the cycle of one up manship, which changes over the course of the 5 books.

EDIT: He uses the character who is on top, as the pov character more than the other ones. But changes the Pov every chapter than a new character is introduced.

It was so good, I didnt put any of the books down once, unless I had to go to work.

Id recommend you get the firstbook which is really a novella and setup the rest of the conflict brilliantly.
 

CatKnight

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The Song of FIre and Ice series, by George R.R. Martin also does this. Every chapter or two he switches PoV and it helps him tell a much, much larger story than he could with just one or two characters.

One thing I like, for example, is he spends pretty much the entire first book convincing you that a certain group is just...bad. Mean. Semi-evil. Obviously the antagonists. Then he kinda swings around to their point of view, and suddenly you're wondering if you got them wrong.

Circling in to Coz's question I think it's vital....but it also helps to keep in mind you're getting a slanted view when you do a PoV. Taking Coz's "Into the West" for example, it's told mostly from the PoV of Sonny Gamble: Unless Sonny comes off as the antagonist, we as readers are going to align ourselves with his views: His enemies become our enemies, and so forth.

Being able to change PoVs helps keep you honest....but it also holds the inherent danger of confusing the reader. After all, the reader wants to be able to identify with someone - if there are so many characters they can't decide (or decide all your characters are jerks...), then it hurts your implied relationship with them. That's where I think George R.R. Martin slips: Too many characters we might want to root for, and very few to really want to root against.
 

stnylan

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To some degree I feel that this is a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Multiple points of view allow you, not only to vary the focus of characterisation, but also to provide a fuller information picture than keeping strictly to a single point of view. The down side of that is you lose the focus on a particular character, and on that character's situation. If someone is trapped, the drama of the situation is a good deal less if we know that rescue is on the way from a scene in which another character, picking up a fragmentary distress call, suddenly gets a burst of courage or overcomes a fear of heights or something. There might well be good reasons for that second scene, as I try to suggest. I suppose what I am saying is that a single point of view concentrates attention in a way multiple points of view do not.

Though there I would hold a partial exception. One thing multiple points of view can do is slowly build up a picture of an event or a character (a character whose POV we will never see) through the lenses of the others about. I am thinking especially of the chariot race in Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay, where there are at least seven different points of view. This layered technique, not only (as it were) gives a 3D picture, but it draws the same degree of concentration.

The problem with multi POVs is fragmentation. Personally I think Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time suffers from this. Multiple POVs tempts too many multiple plotlines, and this is a danger quite apart from having too many narrators, and I think one has to be quite rigorous in stopping these characters from bouncing off down their own paths. The GAP series that 2Coasts mentions, despite the multiple characters, does a remarkable job at keeping focused on the main plotline - and on the 'main' character.
 
Mar 14, 2003
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stnylan dont you think that fragmentation IS avoided in those works with multiple POV, because "the main story" undeniably draws the characters together in an unavoidable ending?

They all are striving to do something towards a climax, maybe unknown through most of the book, but in the end, their paths will entwine. Its that interaction as certain points/nodes in the plot that stops the fragmentation taking place. At least thats what Ive come to notice. In that case I would say that characters MUST be in proximity or must communicate (with some conflict) at least every other chapter at the start of the story, but as the story progresses at least in part of every chapter throughout the book, in one scene or another.

Another example of decent multiple povs is Ray E. Fiests Midkemia series of books. Lots of great interesting characters, but as stnylan says the focus is on the main characters of those books. Pug, Jimmy the Hand, etc.

If you take this argument to the screen, then two great contrasting examples are 24 and Lost. Lost is starting to fragment in my eyes, in that the central plot has gone from non-existant to, very thin - to me they have lost the focus of why they are there, as the writers try to tie in all the characters as to why they are there and not on what the hell is going on. Mind you it only started to happen towards the second half of the second series so, perhaps they can turn it around. But having so many "central" characters and so many minor ones, has definitely fragmented that story for me.

As for 24. Sure its becoming "done and dusted" but you never lose focus on the Jack and the mainplot. Im sure someone talented enough could have made 24 in the style of Lost and it would have worked, but, the single POV or rather the majority POV (through Jack) is the best format for that show.
 
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stnylan

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I would say fragmentation is avoided where the writer can keep them focused on the main plot, whatever that might be. I would say that I think this is easier to do over the course of a single book, than over the course of a series. Take "Magician" by Feist, as you have mentioned him. A book with a number of various plots lines, and though there is a clear main character in Pug, there are two other main PoVs, and a couple of other more minor PoV incidences. Yet it all remains strongly focused - within a single book - on a particular plot-line and all has to be brought together by the final page. That I am sure greatly helped Fiest. In comparison both Jordan and Martin can always carry things over into more books, and I feel that they have rather let some of the subplots run away from them - especially Jordan. Looking back it is one of the oustanding things about the GAP series, is how tight it is compared to many multiple POV books.

I think the problem, as such, is that most books in series do not have their very adequate conclusions in their own right. The Riftwar is an exception to this, as Magician, Silverthorn, and a darkness at Sethanon are all really single novels set sequentially, rather than a trilogy per se. And although most series novels have a sort of climax, there is usually not conclusion. I am thinking of the ending of Chaos and ORder, book 4 of the GAP series, where there is a most dramatic climax - but absolutely no conclusion. Now, at that particular point Stephon Donaldson has things so well focused it does not matter, everything is already hurtling towards the conclusion that is This Day All Gods Die. But where I stopped reading the Wheel of Time (book 9) no end is in sight. Does that make sense?

Alongside this discussion of multiple points of view is one of multiple points of time, which I think is very similar. Take the example of the Deverry/Westwind/Dragon Cycle books of Katherine Kerr, written higgledy-piggledy over about four or five centuries in her fantasy world. While 'the present' is the main storyline, we keep going back into the past to tell further stories there, building up an image of history and of the past, yet that is focused around the fate of a group of particular souls that keeps it all together.
 

CatKnight

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Unfortunately I think stnylan's right here: A main plot certainly helps focus the characters, but unless the author is very disciplined...which in itself can be a mistake...then they are going to happily go do their own thing and hang your plot. Isn't it frogbeastegg's tagline that says 'Harassed by her characters'?

The point of each book having a concrete ending is a good one, as the characters are less likely to wander off in such a short timespan. It runs counter to what we expect of trilogies, but maybe that's a mistake...

I'm thinking of Star Wars as I write this. The first movie (Episode IV) has a very strong ending and it could have been a standalone. There were a few clues the series might go on, but if there was only the one movie people would've been satisfied.

Episode V was much weaker in my opinion, despite some decent characterization because it's very clear this is only a buildup for the showdown in Episode VI.

As for the new series, Episodes I and II also seemed unusually weak, because it was all building up towards Episode III.

Drifting back to topic, I think there's a balance game here. If you're too rough on your characters - force them to toe the line - then they're going to seem false. If you let them do what you think would be natural...they're going to wander.