June 21, 2018, 11:03:20 AM

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Topics - The Gem Cutter

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Writers' Corner / A Hero Character is a Convergence
« on: April 24, 2018, 05:48:10 AM »
Just a rambling series of thoughts that I am wrestling with as I contemplate protagonists. We'll see if I arrive at the lofty destination suggested by this post's title.

I watched an interesting analysis of the character Batman/Bruce Wayne (as envisioned by Christopher Nolan) by JustWrite, and will not replicate the analysis here except in part; the video is informative and speaks for itself.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfz22vYBeIg

What I will do is share my observations, building upon Batman's status as a hybrid-hero with a multifaceted pedigree of Classical (powerful but internally flawed), Tragic (self-destructing or victimized beyond whatever is deserved), Romantic (isolated, brooding, introspective & melancholic), Rebel (in conflict with society and norms of heroism for their time and setting).

What I realized is that these primary well-established types of heroes are each rooted in different primary elements of writing, which I consider to be plot, setting, character, and theme as primaries, with description, dialogue, exposition, and narration as the lesser elements. I call them lesser not because they are less important, but because they are prisms through which the primaries are communicated by the writer and experienced by the reader - so not lesser due to importance, only due to distance from the conceptual nature of the story, as opposed to the telling of the tale - where they are really all there is. The point, if I have one, is that the way these elements converge determines the kind of hero, or rather, how the audience will experience the hero.

This is important, because most poor writers I know (myself included) visualize a certain type of protagonist in a certain kind of story - but don't actually achieve that pairing, or achieving it, fail to sustain it.

For example, it occurs to me that Classical Heroes (Samson, Hercules, Achilles, etc.), are closely tied to setting more than anything else. They war with the primary elements of the setting - not a bad guy but a whole rival kingdom, misbehaving gods (metaphors for the natural world and the most dangerous aspects of humanity), etc. They usually are or become powerful and prominent enough in their world to actually be a major part of the setting. They have gods for parents with powers and relationships that literally warp the world around them. Interestingly, as mentioned in the video, they tend to be powerful enough that the things that brings them down are their internal flaws. So to deliver a Classical Hero, one should attend first to the setting to ensure the roots of the hero will fit and anchor him or her well.

Tragic heroes are tied most closely to plot; outcomes and reveals shape our perception of the hero as tragic more than anything else. Outcomes most simply include unintended negative consequences, costs to themselves and others, etc., but reveals can also contribute to the perception of the hero as tragic - the slain foe turns out to be a kinsman, for example.

Romantic Heroes seem to be the archetype most closely linked to Character; it is their outlook and personality that define them, although it must be mentioned that how they relate to the setting is also critical. A Romantic Hero in a society of other romantics would be ... nothing, just as a well-adjusted, team-player in society can be many things, but not a Romantic Hero.

Rebel / Anti-heroes seem to be a reversal of the Romantic. They seemed defined as having one foot in character with absences of Romantic notions, and the other in their relationship to their setting and the society they are in (or that the reader is in, I am not sure), which is very similar to a Romantic hero's layout. The older versions of Rebels have more involved plots than their modern, shallower versions, and accordingly, perhaps have a third foot in plot, for if they're not fighting society or at least in conflict with it, they're just unusual/atypical 'vanilla' protagonists.

Which brings me to my first theory/conclusion: mixing things to avoid all of these will result in a vanilla protagonist that will not strike chords so strongly with the audience. We know the archetypes of Edmund Dantes and Hercules the moment we see them, and when we encounter a protagonist that does not strum these chords, they do not have access to the cultural momentum the archetypes possess. This is not to say that cannot be compelling, only that they won't be viewed in heroic terms as such.

My final theory is delivering a particular type of hero is not accomplished by conceiving the hero, but by carefully shaping the convergence of plot, setting, and character elements that the archetype depends upon. More simply said, calling a character tragic and adding a negative outcome do not necessarily deliver a tragic hero. It requires more care, just as thinking of a dish with a particular flavor does not impact the flavor - it is the use of ingredients and specific cooking techniques that result in the desired flavor and texture of food.

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Writers' Corner / Consequences of Taking Life
« on: March 30, 2018, 04:10:06 AM »
Caveat: I am referring to situations when violence is or seems justified or at least sanctioned by one's value system, as opposed to just plain old murder/cruelty.

Why do we never see characters wrestling with this? Inflicting death or even "just" great harm has a lasting impact - and I think a character who wrestles with that would be more compelling and sympathetic. Am I just not noticing it? If it really isn't out there, why not? Is it too alien and uncomfortable for most readers?

I've met people who literally do not care, and they're borderline sociopathic. I differentiate between those who suppress and manage the pain one experiences when anyone, even an enemy, is subjected to death or severe injury. It comes right along with the joy of getting someone who was trying to get you, which is more exhilarating than anything I can think of. The joy of still being alive has absolutely no moral compass, in my experience. You may have guilt or remorse on the side, maybe a lot, but they're not connected. The one passes, the other does not.

Just curious what normal people think about this.

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Writers' Corner / An example of distinct style
« on: January 17, 2018, 12:09:28 AM »
So we've had a number of terrific discussions on several topics that all point to style, and by that, I mean the collection of writer's choices in a wide range of key areas. Our discussions have ranged from determining whether to accept feedback, which rules to follow, and others - that all should be driven, in my opinion, by what it is we're trying to do. I use the word "do" because the book should do some things to the audience, and by that I mean something more specific than the true but undecipherable "entertain". We have to have specific goals for specific bits: produce shock, cultivate empathy for our protags, reader animosity for our villains, and ... whatever other entertaining situations we can contrive.

Again, the point is that before we can determine the validity of a guideline or concept or feedback is we have to know what we're trying to do. We have to make stylistic choices, and then execute them. And we should take feedback based on the execution of those ideas.

I came across this video, one of a series that does a wonderful job of looking at filmmakers and the kinds of stylistic choices they tend to make. I think this is a useful guide - for example, with some exceptions, the work I want to produce will align more closely with Christopher Nolan's favored approaches to films. I don't juggle timelines, for an example of where we differ in our objectives. ( @Justan Henner & @Not Lu - I'd be interested if you see any similarities in style between my WIP and this video's description of Nolan's work)

Anyway, we often discuss things from an execution standpoint, and this is probably several points past the area we should be focusing on. What are we trying to do and how do we plan to do it are critical prerequisites for determining A) whether we're doing it B) how well, and C) how we should carry the story forward.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQek7H9fHZs




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Self Publishing Discussion / Novel Translation
« on: June 09, 2017, 10:15:40 PM »
Is there a need/or any interest among Indie authors to translate their novels into foreign languages? If so, how do they normally go about it?

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General Discussion / Aussies! You know the ones I mean ...
« on: May 01, 2017, 06:47:24 PM »
I have enjoyed some success with my lead female character, who is the first female character I have written. This is important because the first books are her mentor's origin story, and she will inherit all the issues he gets going  ;D

People seem to enjoy her layered personality and careful responses to things. To create her, and to help guide me in crafting her responses to things, I recalled a description of Australian culture, something I know very little about - full disclosure. I had heard that Australians are fiercely independent, like Americans *can be*, but with the major difference being that Aussies do not presume to offer advice or tell people what they should do the way Americans (including myself, I do admit) are prone to do to excess.

My interactions with Aussies has been limited to a mission with their SAS (badass cowboys, the lot of 'em) and some of the most stunning, err, professional intelligence analysts that I've ever encountered. So I was curious, what other traits do Australians tend to exhibit? I am interested in their thoughts on themselves, and the thoughts of non-Aussies who've spent time with/among them.

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Writers' Corner / A question of motivation
« on: April 26, 2017, 09:02:08 PM »
So I am curious about character motivations, main characters/protagonists especially. Looking around at successful works, I see a three-element formula in most.
The first is a need for someone to act, often (but not always) voiced by a mentor character.

The second is the character's stated desire or willingness to act, usually voiced. Luke says he wants to go with Ben, learn about the Force, and become a Jedi like his father. Frodo says he'll take the ring, even though he doesn't know the way. I do not recall Paul Atreides stating his intentions so succinctly, but it's obvious he has the desire to set things right.

The third is a social convention of some kind, be it Luke acquiescing to Ben's urging him to join him (listening to elders) or Paul's doing what heirs to thrones do. Frodo's an outlier here, as there's nothing obligating him to carry the ring, and I do not recall Gandalf stating his desire outright.

But beyond these points, I do not recall any solid foundations of commitment, and the more I look at the tired clichés out there, the more I see that they are most often used to attempt to build a deeper foundation. Such as "I have to [insert story goal] because I must [get princess, save world, fulfill my role as The One, etc.]."

In life, I have found that the strongest motivations are indicated by the simplest and most succinct statements. "I will run a marathon, climb Mt. Everest, be a millionaire before I'm 40, become a Green Beret", or whatever. And these people then go out and do these amazingly difficult, sometimes lengthy things.

But in fiction, there's a belief among writers that more is required. So my question is - just how much depth is needed for a character's motivation to accomplish their goal to be plausible?

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I am curious if anyone has any experience on getting their books listed with major retailers. Is this feasible?
Anyone tried it?

Obviously, you'd be looking at a major investment to produce an inventory that can be spread across hundreds/thousands of outlets, the postage, etc.

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Writers' Corner / Writer's Complaint of the Day
« on: April 18, 2017, 05:26:10 AM »
Once, just once, I'd like to get the "even better if" idea BEFORE I write two and half scenes that are inconsistent with it.

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Writers' Corner / Beta readers sought
« on: April 12, 2017, 05:53:57 AM »
I'm looking for a couple people interested in reading my material in doses over the next few weeks.

Just in case you dread the responsibility of the writer relying on you finding their grammar and spelling errors, I am looking for impressions and opinions on content and execution. Any reader is welcome to dive as deep as they like, of course, but if that seems too time-consuming, that's cool, too.

The material is 95% to 100% free of errors and won't make you scream (often).

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Writers' Corner / The Periphery - a MC No-man's Land?
« on: April 09, 2017, 08:17:04 PM »
Usually, I look for specific ideas or views, but this issue is more open-ended, and I am just curious what people think of things.

My novel has taken a creative turn.  My MC has encountered a mysterious character named the Viridian, a lone fighter opposing the Powers That Be, using his anonymity to transform himself from an individual into an idea in a very Batman-like way. I always intended for my 'everyman' MC to encounter a variety of colorful and interesting (and more extreme) people in his travels, and the Viridian certainly is that. He is an intelligent and ruthless killer (bad things) with very specific goals that are good things. I departed from Batman's "violent but not too violent" approach because I wanted to open the door up all the way - weighing beating up bad guys and killing some by accident / non-intervention (I don't have to save you...) was too removed from the Viridian's intended themes.

The idea has been that though my more centrist and more-vanilla MC's 1st Person POV, I would be able to explore these other characters' more extreme views - their ruthlessness, for example, without losing empathy for my character.

I do not recall seeing this before, but there's a trope called Hero of Another Story http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HeroOfAnotherStory so apparently, I am overlooking things. Like any innovation, I think this idea requires caution. My intent is to explore things like "one man's patriot is another man's terrorist", and similar conflicted views of things - but I don't want to distract from my MC's story too much.

Any thoughts on this?

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General Discussion / Your favorite spirits, beers, and wines
« on: March 18, 2017, 07:24:41 PM »
Last night I was given a bottle of Tullamore Dew, a 12-year whiskey, triple distilled. I was surprised to discover that I actually love it! It's amazingly smooth and flavorful. I've never enjoyed whiskey or scotch, until last night. Look at this old dog learning new tricks  8)

So given the wide ranging and passionate tastes we have in fiction, I thought I'd ask: what's your weapon of choice in murdering brain cells?

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Writers' Corner / Book Title Epiphany - how late is too late?
« on: March 14, 2017, 01:40:18 PM »
I am curious what people think about the timing of when a title becomes comprehensible to the reader.
Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is pretty quick about it (opening scene?), and many authors take that route, but I am curious - how late is too late?

For my part, I don't care, and don't even mind if it never ties into a specific event/statement. For example, Abercrombie's "Best Served Cold" is an awesome title, but I don't think it ties into a specific moment or quote in the book. And as I recall, there's nothing cold about the revenge achieved.
Tolkien's choice of "Two Towers" has long been considered faulty, so one might get all the way to/past the end without knowing which two towers he was talking about, but no one cared. It should have been three towers, or perhaps "LoTR Two: Towers" hahah.  Whyte's Skystone books take their time - maybe halfway through before the meteorite comes into play.

My book's working title (and my own on these forums) is The Gem Cutter's Son, because the MC is taught the craft by an old gem cutter who bequeaths to him all his tradecraft. So he's the GC's son figuratively speaking, not literally. People have always been mildly irritated about not knowing how the title fits the story in the first half, but I never intended for that to come out earlier than 75%.

This is not a big deal to me, as I've not spent great time/energy in my title yet, but I am curious about this timing of the revelation issue.

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Writers' Corner / Can anyone recommend a good book on revision?
« on: February 27, 2017, 06:30:17 AM »
Anyone know any good books, guides, or other information on the art of revision?

Surely I am not the only person in this august company who struggles to devise solutions to my story's problems. More and more it seems an entirely different activity than composing a new narrative.

The good news is the bad news: I have lots of things going on, but the reaction I get from most people when I show what's waiting in the wings is "Holy crap that is a lot of stuff going on!!", so organizing things is key. My biggest issue is that I am a pantser, and I think a decent one, but I have discovered that a cloak and dagger/intrigue plot is very rigid in the cause-effect sense, which is not a place where pantsing is helpful. This is probably easy as pie for people who are good at plotting things out, but I totally suck at that. This whole exercise feels like I've been dragged from a place of strength to a land of weakness where I don't speak the language and have no map.

If anyone has any general advice, I'm interested to hear it. I've broken my narrative in half, with my causally-related events on the one hand, and the events whose order is not rigidly linked on the other, so that I can grow the intrigue plot with a freer hand. The idea is the relatively sedate sequences of learning will be intermingled with more tense situations where my hero learns about all the skullduggery going on. A delicate balance, but if it works, I think it will work really well. If it works.

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Curious if any other writers have written analogies, metaphors, etc., that they are proud of or really enjoy.

Here's mine. Nothing fancy, but I think it works:  “If iron could speak, it would say that it was hard enough and did not need the pain of the forge or the skill of the blacksmith –– unpleasant things, to be sure. Only after the blacksmith has made steel of it can it understand how soft it was before."


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Writers' Corner / Writers - Empathy and Lack Thereof
« on: February 09, 2017, 08:51:58 PM »
I've heard of writers who are cold fish, but for the most part, the writers I have encountered are passionate and highly empathetic. This led me to wonder how many of you other writers consider yourselves to have more than the average amount of empathy? Does the pain of others hit you harder than most? Do you find yourself angered by injustices that hit others whom you don't even know or even like?

I laughed when I started this thread, because I wondered "Do people who have little empathy realize that? Or do they just assume everyone else is a mushy bowl of oatmeal?" I really wouldn't know. I'm the bowl of oatmeal, albeit one that can set that empathy aside, though at some personal cost.

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