May 30, 2020, 07:13:35 PM

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Messages - Magnus Hedén

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I think in the west we're a bit obsessed with the idea of 'thought crime', i.e. the idea that if you have bad thoughts, you're a bad person (thanks, Catholicism). But that is (of course) ridiculous; everyone has bad thoughts and impulses -- the question is if we accept the fact and try to deal with it consciously.

In eastern philosophies tied to beliefs like Buddhism and Taoism (as well as others) there's a much more healthy attitude which I would characterise as "we all have darkness in us, the only way to deal with it is to accept that it's there and face it".

It's funny how modern research has been catching up with the idea that our unconscious controls our decisions and actions a lot more than we thought. And it throws into question some old, deeply established ideas about who a person is. If we are what we think or what we do, and what we think and do often is determined unconsiously, where does that leave consciousness in relation to identity?

Thanks for comments and thoughts so far!

I use Scrivener and I organise my project in a similar way to Skip, and the search function and ability to add keywords (tags) is awesome. Overhauling my basic folder structure and tagging everything seems to be the next step for me. I'll keep working on it, and even though it feels like treading water, it should save me a lot of time and headaches in the future (and not just on this project).

That's the 'physical' part of it. As for my mental approach, the thread on aphantasia has really had me thinking about how I process information. Like I said, I believe I rely a lot more on visual imagery than might be 'normal', which can be powerful but also has downsides. I feel it's like my working memory gets full faster because I fill up with images instead of 'raw data'. There's no simple way to get around it, but the awareness of it may help construct my information flow around the fact.

Anyway, if anyone has more thoughts or ideas, keep them coming. I'll be working on this for a while.  :o

Let my try to express my problem better: I recently went over all the notes for a sci-fi novel project and consolidated and revised them into historical information, an encyclopedia, character backgrounds and info, and I made a folder for potential scenes and started writing scene cards for the stronger ones that include plot and emotional development (all of this in a massive folder tree in Scrivener). I've started building a routine of transferring all my notes (from hand-written) to "incoming" documents for each section and transferring that to the appropriate place regularly.

It's 35k words, none of it actual draft. And I have a pretty good idea in my head of what the world is like, who the characters are emotionally and where they might be heading, etc. But it's so much information and it all relates to itself in maddening patterns. I can't 'picture' the whole anymore (this may relate to my overactive visual imagination, mentioned in the aphantasia thread: I like to 'see' everything in my head, including timelines, character relationships, etc. and I guess I can't here, and that puts me out of my comfort zone).

I guess first and foremost I'm looking for tips and tricks about how to organise and access large amounts of information.

Part of the problem is that when this information starts interacting with itself the potential implications boggle the mind. I realise I can never get a full picture of all that, but I need to update the way I store and process it all (perhaps mentally as well as physically) so that I can more easily grasp the things I need. Anyway, I hope this didn't confuse you more.

My current thought is to use keywords to build information flow based on characters, concepts, events, etc. (when you click a keyword you get all related documents). That could be something because I need to access the information in different ways depending on what I'm looking for. But any tricks you use to more easily organise and access your information are welcome.

Oh and I've tried mindmaps; that was a complete dud for me. Just more information on top of the information. It's not how I see things at all so it just confused me more (and I'm not sure I can explain how I actually see things, but perhaps that something I should work on). Outlines murder my creativity; with the story I like to know where I'm heading, but more in a road-sign kind of way, not in "x happens in scene y" kind of way, which kills all my joy in writing.

Sorry for a wall of text. I'm just trying to process what the hell my problem actually is, so if nothing else this has made me approach the problem from a new angle.  8)

I keep hitting a wall with my big writing projects where I get overwhelmed by all the information, both what I have down on paper and what's in my head. I think mostly the problem is that I don't have a consistent process of consolidating all the information into something I can actually wrap my head around (and easily find the information I need). I've made progress with this over the years, and part of it is certainly just about putting in the work of constantly refining what I have, categorising etc. But I still have issues.

I'm guessing most writers experience this at some point, but I get the feeling I'm particularly susceptible because I've always had issues staying focused. Creativity is not a problem, but organising it into something useful is.

So I'd be happy to hear how any of the other writers out there deal with that. I know that I'll have to carve my own path; I can't transplant someone else's method wholesale. But I like to snatch up good ideas where I find them and incorporate into my process. So let me know any tips or tricks you have!

A sci-fi book whose blurb I vaguely remember. I wanted to pick it up for later, but lost track.

It's about a sentient ship (or perhaps AI or something like that) that crashed after a war but the memory core still survivies. Story is told with 2 POVs one of which is the ship, I believe.

Ring any bells?

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie?

I can recommend that, either way.

Monthly Writing Contest / Re: Let's Refresh the Writing Contest!
« on: May 26, 2020, 12:27:11 PM »
It may seem counterintuitive, but constraining yourself is an excellent way to flex your creative muscles. Practising writing within limitations like a theme/cue/prompt and a low word count is something I recommend to anyone wishing to develop their writing skill. Particularly if you step outside of your comfort zone. That's where you learn the most.

Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 24, 2020, 03:05:11 PM »
I find that most of the stuff that people call rules are just advice or convention. The craft doesn't have rules as much as it has elements; core components which by understanding you will improve your capacity to tell a story. I remember having long discussions here about that. ;D  My experience is that the people telling others that they have to do this and can't do that haven't got the first clue about the elements of the craft. Prologues, flashbacks, whatever -- it comes down to if you understand how to use them in a way that supports the story.

With that in mind, I'll go straight to giving some advice based on what I believe is one of the most common misconceptions about writing: that plot = story. That belief has killed many a writing dream.

Story is tough to nail down, in particular because for all the writing on the subject, I find that the larger community lacks a vocabulary to discuss it with. Sure, I think most people know what terms like foreshadowing, hook, and deux ex machina mean, but if you start looking for a larger framework, you get all kinds of theories, many that vary wildly from each other (though there's a lot of insight to be found and a lot of areas that overlap).

I'll try to make this short and sweet. I believe the most compact yet useful definition is this:

Plot = things that happen.
Story = what happens when characters react to the plot and change internally as a result.

That's a massive reductionism, of course, because nothing is that simple. I'm working on a piece that expands on it based on me experiences and research on the subject over the past few years. It's really interesting but incredibly difficult to put into words. I started looking into it years ago when I started taking writing more seriously; and my, what a rabbit hole! But I went down it due to my insufferable need to understand what I'm doing. Here's hoping I come out the other side with my sanity intact.

General Discussion / Re: Free speech (or not) - and some tea
« on: May 21, 2020, 08:09:00 AM »
It's always going to be hard drawing a definite line. I believe "oriental" is considered offensive by many because historically it was used to clump basically all Asians into one group, and included were all kinds of colonial racist connotations. But others simply consider it a reference to (outdated) geography. Phrases like the "Middle East" are similarly outdated but still in widespread use. To me, "oriental" isn't as obvious a slur as for example "chink", but it's still problematic due to its history.

Of course, as a white dude from Sweden, it's not really up to me to be the judge of that. So I avoid it as I can certainly see that it has a negative history. I think if there's doubt, that's the better course of action. The way I see it, the trouble of policing my language a bit is a drop in the ocean when compared with the shit people go through on an average day because their skin isn't white.

General Discussion / Re: Free speech (or not) - and some tea
« on: May 18, 2020, 09:40:20 AM »
Context matters for the crime, as has been pointed out. It also matters for racism.

A white person calling a black person by the n-word is an act of racism regardless of intent because of the connotations of that word; for hundreds of years it was used to refer to someone who was at the short end of a massive power imbalance. The word was used to categorise someone according what was at the time an indisputable 'fact': having black skin made you inferior, less than human.

And while things have changed for the better, there is still a power imbalance today. That's the difference between a slur and an insult; with a slur, due to historical and present-day context, the word carries much broader connotations. Most importantly: those connotations exist whether the person using the slur intends to draw on them or not.

Watching season 1 of Fargo right now. I'd have to say that first episode was among one of the best (and well darkly humorous) episode of tv I've seen, and I can't wait to find how this story escalates, among everything else.

In addition, I still can't get my head around to the fact that these events in the series actually happened. Like for real? Haha.  ;D

The Fargo series is bloody brilliant and I recommend it to all living people. Season 4 has been indefinitely delayed due to the virus, but I gather they've done most of the filming. I can't wait for it.

The message at the start about how it's all real is a pretty powerful way of making people see the series completely differently. The series creators just keep pushing the envelope when it comes to believability, as if  testing when people will start going "wait, wtf, this can't be real?"

Below, slightly spoilery comments about that (meta-spoilers, not anything about what actually happens in the series):

Spoiler for Hiden:
They are not real events (some events in Season 2 should settle that). If you have doubts, the fact that the standard disclaimer "any similarity to events or characters real or imagined is coincidental" etc. is in the credits should settle that. It's a really funny meta experiment though. I love how they made it all gritty and believable, yet keep depicting these series of events that just keep getting more and more absurd. They had me going for a while.

General Discussion / Re: Free speech (or not) - and some tea
« on: May 15, 2020, 07:41:52 AM »
Because the definition of progressive is "people who want to stop free speech because people's feelings are getting hurt". It's easy to dislike a group of people if you're allowed to define what they believe for them.

To me, both extremes are bad. I'm not of the belief that anything that's offensive should be illegal or that laws should be formulated based on fuzzy definitions of "feelings getting hurt".

But I don't think that people should just be able to say whatever hateful shit they want regardless of the context or time span, either, for reasons (stated in earlier posts) related to the real harm it can and does cause. Imagine for a moment that's it's possible to hold an opinion that's not extreme.

You're happy to bunch up all the people who disagree with you into some imagined group of... puritans? Really? Come on. How do you expect people to engage with you in a serious discussion when that's your stance? And then you casually drop the idea that these "puritans" should be sent away. What the actual fuck? Some proponent of freedom of speech you are when you suggest those who disagree with you should be deported.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: The Art of Re-reading
« on: May 14, 2020, 08:47:49 AM »
I re-read books but only if I really enjoyed them, and then only after significant time has passed. That ensures the re-read will be a new experience. In part because human memory is actually quite bad (non-fiction suggestion: The Memory Illusion by Dr Julia Shaw), and because it means I'll have changed as a person, giving me a new perspective.

I re-read The Earthsea Quartet a while ago and found a whole new layer in it relating to eastern philosophies (like Daoism, which LeGuin was knowledgable about, down to having done a translation of the Tao Te Ching). I've also re-read American Gods, which again had developed as a book alongside me as a person.

The only other books I can remember re-reading are the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the first time when I was 12, second about ten years ago. I think I'm ready for another go soon. It will be very interesting to read them in the new light of all my new knowledge about storytelling.

There are definitely a few books I will want to re-read in the future. The first that springs to mind is the Broken Earth trilogy. I've also felt tempted to go through the First Law books and the New Crobozun books again. But for all those I'll wait a bit longer as it's only been a few years since the last time.

Oh, and I will most definitely re-read the Wayfarer books at some point. But again, too soon.

Cheers! I've just finished Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I've started Gideon the Ninth. Both have excellent narrators. I've gotten my new glasses but I'll definitely keep my Audible sub as it's a nice change from reading (I find the two ways of experiencing a book very different, but both with their advantages), and of course it can be done while doing some chores which is a huge plus.

Ah, that may be so. I resubscribed because it gives you a free credit for the $15, which gets you any audiobook, including the ones that cost $40. :D

Also, I found a 2-for-1 sale with Gideon the Ninth and some other interesting books in it, so for my $15 I got two books.  8)

I might keep the subscription. While I miss reading books, I can see myself having an audiobook going even when I get my new glasses, as I can keep it running while doing chores etc. More book time!

As for all the Sanderson recommendations; I read Mistborn and found it underwhelming. I bought the sequel but never got around to reading it as I've simply not found the interest. So I'm reluctant to pick up more books by him.

On Audible you can.

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