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Messages - Peat

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Multiple plots in a book
« on: May 25, 2020, 06:49:10 PM »
Is it sort of like -

Plot A: Set out to beat the Dark Lord. Escape Minions of Dark Lord. Beat Dark Lord's Lieutenant. Be Captured by Dark Lord. Escape and Beat the Dark Lord.

Plan B: Set out to become a Dragon Rider. Find Becoming a Dragon Rider makes you marked for death. Uncover spy against your Dragon Rider-ness but cause war. Fight war as a Dragon Rider. Win daring victory against odds as Dragon Rider.

Plot A is pretty familiar feeling and I think is what you're talking about the single one. The protagonist has the same overriding aim from beginning to end.

Plan B I think is what you're talking about as the new thing. The protagonist's aim shifts with every story section; each section feels like a new plot/arc in a way because the aim has shifted.

Am I close here?
Argh, why can't we be sitting together at a table chatting about this? It would be so much easier to explain with gestures and half sentences, and immediate questions/answers ;D

It's more, all within one book:
Plot 1.1: Dark Lord rules the world, young hero dreams of defeating him. She trains hard, grows up, moves to the city and after a few more things there's a big battle and defeats the Dark Lord. But as he lay dying, he mentioned this special stone that would allow his work to continue. Plot 1.2: Now the hero must learn about that and find out where the stone is. Eventually that happens and she learns the story that the Dark Lord was actually the second in command to a more evil entity, that lives far away and reappears every 500 years. Plot 1.3: Hero must defeat this new entity with new weapons.
--> so there are actually 3 conclusions, almost each a "normal book" in its own right, but in this case not.

You know this happens when you're preparing for a big climax and can't put the story down but you're still halfway (or somewhere far from the end) of the book - more will come.

So your 'plot B' is closer to my idea, yes, but it lacked that sense of urgency that the middle climaxes/conclusions also have.

Right?

Aha! I'm with you now I think.

I'm actually doing re-reads now on two fairly old series where the books (and overall arc) do at times approach that - The Empire Trilogy where each political challenge beaten leads to another; and the Deverry Cycle, which is hard to explain due to a bunch of reincarnation plots. But yes, I do think it seems to happen more often now.

And I think it's part of a move in the genre being more character-based than plot-based. If you're following the character's arc, then it's easier to have this sort of thing I think.

And I am in favour of it :)

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Turning Darkness Into Light is a wonderful read and something I heartily recommend to all but, maybe this is going to be a series and you'll be happier waiting?

The Wounded Kingdoms is my favourite trilogy of recent times by a long chalk. The second book is comfortably the worse in the series so Alex, if you enjoyed the first I'd do the third, but the second is still decent enough and the first is cracking and the third is awesome. The Hobbian comparison... I kinda buy it, as Girton the MC does make life more difficult for himself al Fitz style in book 2, but he's a fair amount angrier and in need of a slap from what memory recalls.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Multiple plots in a book
« on: May 24, 2020, 11:07:29 PM »
I'm thinking specifically within one book, yes.
One example is what I'm reading now, hehe, The Priory of the Orange tree (you'll see exactly what I mean as you read), but I've seen this in the past.
The starless sea was another - I'll check my list to refresh my memory and come back to you with more.

Edit: maybe what I call 'multiple plots', others call simply sub-plots. Maybe I'm seeing things in a weird way...

Hmm. I'll have to read Priory of the Orange Tree quicker then, as I've not read the other.  I think I'm grasping what you mean, but am not sure.

Is it sort of like -

Plot A: Set out to beat the Dark Lord. Escape Minions of Dark Lord. Beat Dark Lord's Lieutenant. Be Captured by Dark Lord. Escape and Beat the Dark Lord.

Plan B: Set out to become a Dragon Rider. Find Becoming a Dragon Rider makes you marked for death. Uncover spy against your Dragon Rider-ness but cause war. Fight war as a Dragon Rider. Win daring victory against odds as Dragon Rider.

Plot A is pretty familiar feeling and I think is what you're talking about the single one. The protagonist has the same overriding aim from beginning to end.

Plan B I think is what you're talking about as the new thing. The protagonist's aim shifts with every story section; each section feels like a new plot/arc in a way because the aim has shifted.

Am I close here?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Multiple plots in a book
« on: May 24, 2020, 06:12:43 PM »
Your post is quite interesting, because I think we ended up referring to different things, and I see now how it could have been read that way.

Rather than the multiple POV with different stories happening at the same time and coming together at the end (which I also like, hehe, but it needs to be written properly), in this thread I was rather talking about a 'wavy line' of plot instead of the line just going up from beginning to end.

So basically we have a problem, we work towards resolution, there's a climax, and that battle/event/conclusion raises another problem, which gets worked on in a different way, leading to another battle/event/conclusion, and so on. Up and down, up and down, instead of up, up, up, the end!
So what do you think about this one?


Ohhhhhh  :D

Like how Dominions of the Fallen is three related books, rather than one quest split up into three books?

Or just within particular books? Can you think of examples?

(I've just got back from the shops and am rather sleepy)

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Multiple plots in a book
« on: May 24, 2020, 12:43:35 PM »
When I started reading fantasy it seemed that all books had a single plot: a problem to be solved at the end, with an arc that spanned the book.
I don't know if it's the choice of books I'm reading now or things have changed, but now I'm finding more and more books with multiple plots, multiple battles/climaxes, multiple arcs, and they are so much better for it!

Have you noticed this too?

I was with you until the bolded; I'm finding too many books that either drag at the beginning as everything gets set up, or where there's a plot arc I simply don't care for at all, or where the plots never really sparkle and come to life because they just don't have enough space dedicated to them. And as I've thought about this, I think by too many, I mean pretty much all of them. If I'm thinking about the 'new' authors that I really enjoy and wholeheartedly recommend - and there's really not as many as I'd like - virtually all of them still cling to a simpler story; Barker, Gladstone, Novik in Teremaire, Brennan in Turning Darkness into Line, Wecker...

The only author I really feel excited for who goes for this big complexity from the off is De Bodard. That's it. Maybe Butcher with Codex Alera? There's a lot of authors where I've either explicitly or implicitly thought the criticism in my head - Miles Cameron in particular, but Jemisin, Abraham, Stephens - it didn't work for me. Schwaab lost me after one early PoV change, I think Gwynne did too.

Wow. I have to say, I didn't realise I feel so strongly about this, but apparently I do. And the thing is, I love multi-stranded books! But I think the branches have to come from a single trunk and that it's really hard to weave them all together well when they don't. And honestly, I don't think this current generation of writers is so much better than the preceding that they can do it when they can, and I wish agents & editors would tell them no (although clearly it is popular).

So thanks for posting this Bea as I wouldn't have connected the dots without you - but our tastes definitely disagree here!

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 23, 2020, 12:11:42 PM »
I'd suggest writing every day is an idea most writers should at least try if they have time, but if it doesn't work for them (or time interferes) then it's not worth getting hung up on.

The thing about writing work is very true though. There's a good article by Jeff Vandermeer on approaching writing that goes on about this that I might try and dig up; I find it a lot easier to write things I've already plotted in my head.

And I have to say, advice on how to approach writing has honestly done me at least as much good as advice on how to write. I think the majority of us will agree a lot of work is involved in getting good. That means the first hurdle is being willing/able to stick with writing and that is a fair bit easier said than done when you are working and working for scant praise and a long shot of ever getting the reward you want. That's why I'm against musts.

If you work long enough and are willing and able to listening to advice and take it on, you'll get good. Maybe not good enough (which is why I'd also suggest enjoying the journey rather than thinking on the destination), but good. The main obstacle is not working long enough, and and the tallest parts of that which do come from inside yourself is the sense that you have to adhere to something that doesn't work for you. Writing every day, learning the rules, following plot structures... these are all really good things, but they're not musts. Not like finding a way to write and learn writing that you are happy with.

Here endeth the sermon  ;) :-[


Oh! And another tip. If you want a writing exercise to try and help you learn structure, pick a book you really admire, then write your own story using that book's beats as your own. They introduce a character? You introduce a character? They talk? You talk? They describe the landscape then get ambushed? You etc.etc.  It's an idea I tried after learning that's how Bernard Cornwell started his first published book and not only did I find it useful, I also found it a surprising amount of fun.

There's 18 uses of suddenly in Under the Pendulum Sun, which is probably the most critically acclaimed fantasy debut of the last 5 years, so I would take adjunctions on not to use it with a pinch of salt.

18 uses in a full-length novel is not very many! Assuming the book is about 100k long, that's being used once every 5.5k words. What you want to avoid is using it every time something exciting happens - and that goes for everything, really. Try not to use the same words too much, especially not in the same circumstances, or noticing that interrupts the smooth flow of reading.

It's not that many but neither is it that few or something that's been avoided altogether; it's just another descriptive word and as you say, all such words should generally be used sparingly.

But they are used and I'm willing to bet that if you could source a manuscript that avoided suddenly and the adverbs and everything else altogether it'd actually be a little boring and confusing unless written by really good, as it's a lot of drama and structure gone, particularly on the latter with suddenly; either every action and thought must be seen coming, or there'll be things that happen without entirely making sense.

Also, I wish I had the time and energy to go through a bunch of ebooks searching for the suddenlys and suddens (unhelpfully kindle search gets some suddenlys with sudden, but not all) and where they happen, as the amount in UtPS suggests about one a chapter-ish sized chunk of text (consistent with the other two books I looked at before deciding it wasn't necessary to work that hard to make the point), and maybe there's a theory of sorts that can be made out of the idea that generally a chapter-ish sized chunk of text will contain one and only one suddenly; both in terms of how often you can use a word without readers/agents&editors complaining, and in terms of how often the dramatic events that truly warrant a suddenly come about. Are they the pivotal moments of the book? Can you measure it by suddenly?

But... better things to do. Maybe. I do want to go through a few books and see how many individual scenes they have, so maybe at the same time...


Oh, and of course, there are passages that don't follow the generally and do use the same word over and over for effect. The opening of Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell is a good example:

"In the hall of light, they reminded her of her destiny. There, all was light, a pulsing gold like the heart of a candle flame, filling eternity. The speakers were pillars of fire within the fiery light, and their words were sparks."

It may not work for everyone but I personally like it, and get a real minds eye picture of what she wants to convey. Obviously that can't be every paragraph, but it has its place if you really want to hammer home a point.


In any case, the 'why' of any bit of writing advice is as useful as the 'do', if not more so.

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I have an ARC of this  8)

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 22, 2020, 09:12:07 PM »
When it comes to character traits I'd say Show And Tell tbh. Lu's right that Showing is more impactful and is needed to prevent characters being bland, but having their characteristics constantly mentioned is a good way to make sure they stick with the reader.

Which sorta leads me into tags, and I'm just going to link to this archive of Jim Butcher's advice because it covers this and a bunch of other tips far better than I could

https://blog.karenwoodward.org/2012/10/jim-butcher-on-writing.html

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 22, 2020, 09:45:17 AM »
Since apparently this wasn't clear -

I am not talking about what 95% of successful writers say they do themselves.

I'm talking about what 95% of successful writers recommend for inexperienced writers. Virtually all of them make comments that contradict what has been said. A pretty solid amount of them very explicitly reject the idea that writers should be following rules.

I should probably be more diplomatic about this but I have seen too many talented writers get themselves screwed up by advice of this nature, and seen too many successful writers say otherwise, to be anything other than blunt here in case any very new writers see this. There are incredibly few musts when it comes to becoming a successful writer. Rigorous attention to rules or indeed, what anyone's saying, isn't one of them, unless that's what works for you.

And that's about all I've got to say on that.


Why avoid prologues and "suddenly"? Also, what is wrong with weather? :)

We're told to avoid prologues because agents are fed up of seeing a lot of bad ones. That there's so many bad ones tells us there's a lot of pitfalls involved in writing them - mainly the temptation to do boring infodumps that don't add to the story - but the fact that a quick look at the genre's greats reveal a lot of prologues, criticism of using them needs to be tempered.

Suddenly - People will tell you it's an unnecessary word that doesn't add anything. If you have an e-reader, you can search for suddenly or sudden in big name books and see what the usage is like. There's 18 uses of suddenly in Under the Pendulum Sun, which is probably the most critically acclaimed fantasy debut of the last 5 years, so I would take adjunctions on not to use it with a pinch of salt.

Weather - Far too many books and submissions start with the weather, so it is seen as cliche and annoying to agents.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 21, 2020, 07:38:12 PM »

Rules are not meant to be broken. Of course, all rules do have caveats, predicated on writing style and certain techniques, but rules are established for reasons. Just as an ethical framework might mandate that one should not tell a lie, of course situations arise where, "a group of Nazis come to your doorstep as you are hiding a Jew." This is the exception to the rule, but it does not mandate removal of the rule, nor a tweak. It means the rule's underlying assumptions should be reconsidered in light of the situation, yes, but how very rarely do we run into these situations. The same is true for writers. Very few writers, and almost none at all when starting out, have any reason to break these "writing rules," lest they fall into the poor writing craft they began in. Writing rules are meant to establish baseline competency, to provide some level of consistency, and allow them to develop their craft at a reasonable level of expectation. To say that "rules can be broken" means that, for the experienced writer they might know when it is best to break said rule, but for the writer starting out, means that the rule could be broken 50 pages in when a style or competency truly hasn't set in.

While both of these topics may seem minor, for the fledgling writer, direction is needed. I would always argue that a writer first write a book following these rules, edit, read some other stuff, then attempt to bend the rules in other stories. Focus on the craft first, then the exceptions can be developed.

This sort of approach has put more talented writers off of writing than any other I've known and has been contradicted/downright panned by about 95% of successful writers I've ever talked to/read the words of (conservatively speaking). Fair dinkum to anyone who finds the approach actually suits them and certainly support serious study of the craft, but anybody trying this sort of thing when it doesn't suit them will simply waste time and get frustrated. And probably quit.

Insomuch as any one piece of advice in writing is completely wrong, this is completely wrong.

And even if this approach is right, what rules? There are thousands upon thousands of sets of rules on writing out there. Even if you boil it down to all those rules coming from people who are well regarded, we are still talking a ridiculously high number, and finding contradictions in them isn't hard.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 21, 2020, 03:09:24 PM »
I think I'm getting a hold of this.

Now that I know that tight and loose prose mean, I can say that I've always thought loose prose were a better trait and tight prose can be achieved by anyone :)

Does Gabriel Garcia Marquez also prefer loose prose style? (I think he does, just to be sure)

I haven't really read him enough to say for sure but having leafed a little through One Hundred Years of Solitude, I can't say I think his prose style is particularly tight or otherwise. At least not in English translation.

As for which is more difficult to do - I think it might be easier to write a good bit of prose with a fairly tight style, but to achieve mastery with both seems equally hard.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 21, 2020, 12:20:45 PM »
What Cam said. I'd say that nine times out of time or so it's a good idea but every now and again a bit of excess verbiage is needed to give the thing flavour or give full detail, and there's a few very skilled authors who've made their career out of loose poetic prose. Take for example the following paragraph from GGK's Tigana:

"She watched her brother come into a bitter maturity that first summer and fall, grieving for his vanished smile, laughter lost, the childhood too soon gone, not knowing how deeply the same hard lessons and absences were etched in her own hollow, unlovely face. She was sixteen in the late summer, he turned fifteen in the fall. She made a cake on his naming day, for the apprentice, the one old woman, her mother, her brother and herself. They had no guests; assembly of any kind was forbidden throughout that year. His mother had smiled when Dianora gave her a slice of the dark cake - but Dianora had known the smile had nothing to do with any of them."

It isn't hard to see words you could remove to get a tighter prose that achieves much the same thing. But it would only be much the same; it wouldn't have the same cadence and prose to it. It wouldn't have the same sense of wistful memory to it, because the sheer wordiness of it brings a lost, dreamlike quality to it. And each potentially extraneous detail means something.

For me, it comes back to what cupiscent was saying about Showing, not Telling, and what is important. GGK is showing you how Dianora's memories have affected her, not Telling you, and part of that is Showing you just how deep and important and well-remembered and painful the memory is. That's what is important to GGK, which is why he picks a loose style. Most authors would be well advised to rein it in, but it can work. I think a lot of authors prefer to use this sort of thing only for important details - scene setting and emotional responses - and be a lot terser with the action.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Tips and Tricks
« on: May 21, 2020, 10:10:25 AM »
In line with NedMarcus I'd go with "No rules just tips", or maybe "Rules exist to be broken". Sometimes the latter is a better way of thinking about it because then you think about why you do things.

Take "Show Don't Tell". I agree with a lot of what cupiscent said there, but there's some corollaries. One is, as she sort of implied, is "Is this important?". You only have so many pages. If it's not important, it's getting done in a couple of sentences.

Then there's "What is actually being shown here?". If it's just about the queen, then yes, "The Queen was sad because the baby prince had died two years ago and she had never fallen pregnant again," is a definite Show not Tell.

However! If it is part of a paragraph in which we say "The Queen was sad because of her dead baby and not getting pregnant again. The governor's hair had gone white trying to figure out the taxes. etc.etc. Only the King remained cheerful, and not always then", then maybe you don't want to go into detail because what's being shown is how everyone in the Palace is miserable and going to into too much detail risks telling the all of it.

And there's also the matter of voice because, imo, if you're writing a tight third/first PoV, then most people don't  talk about how the person they were talking to read went so red-faced and their nostrils flared. Maybe they do for emphasis at an important point, or if they did so in a really funny way, but mostly they say they got angry.  But then, this goes back to what's important. For me, Show Not Tell is about letting the reader observe and build their own picture of the important thing in a scene, which usually means Telling the minor details.

Incidentally, I think the worst ever example of "Tell not Show" I ever saw (and it was deliberate) was from a webcomic where a character's fanfic read "Harry had sex and it was hot". That's the main thing to avoid.


Anyway. I'm actually trying to build my own list of "really good tips to look at constantly and do" because right now, I don't really pay any attention to them.

Two I will be cribbing are:

"Begin a scene as late as possible, end it as early as possible"

"Every single line must either advance the plot, get a laugh, reveal a character trait, or do a combination of two -- or in the best case, all three -- at once."

Both come from Terry Rossio's reader rules (which means they're aimed foremost at Hollywood blockbuster screenplays) but I like the spirit of them as they're about economy and cramming the pages full of what really matters. Do I need to show my character coming out of the tomb he's just robbed? If it's safe, no. If the act of him doing so wouldn't advance the plot, get a visceral reaction from the reader, or reveal something about the character, no. The moment a scene isn't doing those things, it's time to end it.



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And if I hadn't picked it up already, that would have sold me on the spot. The drive for the genre to be alt-history with magic drives me nuts; viva el myth!

Let me now temper your enthusiasm, @Peat ! :D It's very historical - most of the settings and some of the significant characters are recognisable analogues of real-world things (primarily relating to Elizabethan England, and China and Japan circa Opium Wars). But the style of the story is hearkening to genuine world-saving struggle-against-the-enemy sort of fantasy (and would completely unironically use words like "hearkening" as well).

Even better. The best fantasy lives at an apex of myth and history.

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Sir Pterry.

I don't hope to meet him as that means things would have got very weird.

The actual thinking would have to start if you started asking me for my second...

Guy Gavriel Kay. The sheer number of books he's written and how much I love each of them and his overall style mean I didn't even have to think about this. (If Dan Abraham writes more fantasy, he may yet eclipse GGK for me, but he's busy with too many other things.)

If I started getting into top 3 or top 5, GGK would be under serious consideration, even if doing a Fionavar reread makes me wish he'd stayed a little more fantastic.

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