September 16, 2019, 01:47:46 PM

Author Topic: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)  (Read 3613 times)

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2015, 10:31:20 PM »
But you can be assaulted by both verbals and visuals, so it works for me (may not for a copy editor however!)
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2015, 02:22:50 AM »
I am interested in hearing what realizations people have made while working on their stories about things that just didn't work out. Flawed methods, wrong approaches, and ideas that are far less interesting in practice than theory.

I think I just figured out why the idea I am currently developing just doesn't get really interesting. Despite several cool scenes, locations, and characters, I actually didn't have a reason why the protagonist would really care. The hook was that he's hunting a sorcerer who stole a magic gem (it sounds a lot cooler in my head than this) and then tracks him to a ruined city full of monsters and things get complicated. But why does he do that? That he's a demon slayer and witch hunter is an obvious answer, but if it's just his job then there's no real investment. I actually had not even considered if he does get back the stone after the final confrontation. Because it really didn't make any difference.
The protagonist does not have to succeed. But for a good story he has to at least care if he succeeds!
He's in those ruins because it's his job and his goal is to not die while he hangs around. That's no plot. Not even a bad one.

The Witcher series is all about a monster-hunter-for-hire, and that works. Not every story has to be about saving the world.

Offline ClintACK

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2015, 02:29:53 AM »

The Witcher series is all about a monster-hunter-for-hire, and that works. Not every story has to be about saving the world.

Yeah, but he still has a very personal motivation.

Not every story has to be about saving the world, but every character has to have a motivation.  And every story needs personal stakes.

Offline ClintACK

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2015, 02:32:56 AM »
"couldn't withstand the visual and verbal assault"
I really like this one :-[

until you look at it and think:  you can verbally assault someone, but are visually assaulted.

meaning, your visual senses can be assaulted, but your verbal senses can't.  it should probably be "couldn't withstand the visual and aural assault" -- which sounds dumb.

stupid language anyway.

Oh.  Cool.  So you can withstand a visual assault, and you can withstand a verbal assault, but "visual and verbal" assault seems ill-formed because they modify assault in different ways.

I had a whole silly poem once using different Verb+Pronoun idioms.  Lines like "Up she showed and off as well..." and "Then they made her up and over..."

(Yes, I write truly atrocious poetry.  It's usually to get things out of my system so they don't infect my prose.)

Online ScarletBea

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Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2015, 08:26:12 AM »
But you can be assaulted by both verbals and visuals, so it works for me (may not for a copy editor however!)
Exactly, that's how I read it.
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all" - Douglas Adams

Offline cupiscent

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2015, 02:54:56 AM »
Some problems I've definitely had include:
  • Boring scenes that have to happen to further the plot. My compounding problem with this was that the novel in question was very mannered and society-based, and lots of "action" didn't make sense. The breakthrough in fixing this without breaking the novel came when I realised that action scenes weren't the only ones where characters had burning goals. Reframing all my scenes in terms of characters with conflicting goals made even flower-arranging more compelling.
  • Don't pile on the Big Events. You really need to give the reader a chance to breathe and process, otherwise events start to lose their meaning. For instance, I had four chapters in a row, from three points of view, that included Big Damn Shocks, and that made the fourth one just fall flat. Recovery and consolidation space is important in the narrative - that way the reader can stagger back to their feet before you knock 'em down again. :D
  • Be careful with figurative language in the setup phase of a story. When you're still establishing your world, things are a little malleable, so the reader is still watching carefully for your clues about what's fantastical. The example I always use of this is a book where, in the second chapter, a maid's hands were referred to as "paws", and for a little while I assumed that the serving class were were-bunnies (not actually the case; she just had large hands). You have a lot of power to paint your world in details in the opening sections, and you have to be careful with it.

Offline Yora

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2015, 10:38:30 AM »
I think to tear something down in a spectacular way, the readers probably have to had a good amount of time to get used to it and seeing it frequently present in the story in some way.

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Mistakes were made. (How not to write a good story.)
« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2015, 12:03:33 PM »
    • Be careful with figurative language in the setup phase of a story. When you're still establishing your world, things are a little malleable, so the reader is still watching carefully for your clues about what's fantastical. The example I always use of this is a book where, in the second chapter, a maid's hands were referred to as "paws", and for a little while I assumed that the serving class were were-bunnies (not actually the case; she just had large hands). You have a lot of power to paint your world in details in the opening sections, and you have to be careful with it.

    I recall reading something years ago about how SFF readers and non  SFF readers often read the same thing differently. Presented with a story set in an airport, the phrase "Crocodile bus" was used. Non SFF readers assumed it was one of those bendy buses. SFF readers imagined a bus that actually was a crocodile....
    My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


    Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

    http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/