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Author Topic: How does the writer impact the story?  (Read 7718 times)

Offline shadowkat678

How does the writer impact the story?
« on: April 21, 2016, 09:33:50 PM »
In class today we started watching J. K. Rowling - A Year In The Life, and it got me thinking about something. I'll link to it. I tried using the YouTube option, but that doesn't seem to be working.

https://youtu.be/p6-6zaa4NI4

Anyway, watching it I started to realize just how much of herself she put into the Harry Potter series. Then, I wondered if that had anything to do with the impact it's had on me and so many other fans of her books.

From the start she knew exactly what she wanted to say, exactly how she wanted it to end, and exactly the message she would be sending to her readers. What she wrote came from her heart and beliefs. It's a story that brought together millions of people around the world. I've heard stories about people whose lives took a entirely different direction after reading this series. I don't think that could have been done if she hadn't put so much of herself into the world and characters she created. The Dementors, for example, came from her experiences with depression. The problems she had with her father influenced the many figures Harry found. Sirius, Dumbledore, Hagrid, and Mr. Weasley. Her mother's death had a profound impact as well.

She used her own convictions and beliefs of what was right and true. I can see it, and I believe that's what really makes it come alive. It comes from something deeper than a simple desire to write about a magic school and evil Dark Lord.

I've noticed it in some other series as well. Red Rising for example, which is my most recent book obsession. Then I thought about books I don't like, and started thinking about what it is that pushes me away. The lack of true feeling and depth. Artificialness. The situations feel shallow, the emotions week and unmoving. I can tell when a writer doesn't feel for what they're making, when they've distanced themselves and don't feel passion for what the story they've sat down to write.

That, or they focus too much on themselves. I've seen a lot of books that feel like wish fulfilment. I have no problem basing a character off of yourself. They're easier to understand. However, when it's a matter of crafting a story with no purpose other than to fulfill a childhood fantasy, I as a reader often find myself shut out in a way. It's not here for me. I'm not really sure how to describe it. It's hard to put into words.

Often I feel cheated if I can't find any meaning, nothing that touches me as a person, nothing to see myself in, and nothing that conveyed a tale worth remembering. Hunger Games and Divergent, for all their faults, kept me reading because I was made to think about things. I later found out that those authors also used their books to explore their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. None of these I've mentioned win a medal  for their prose, but I'd say there's a reason they saw the success they did. I use books to explore myself and reality in ways I can't do any other way. Books raise questions about myself and what I'm told, and often the books that do that are by writers who do the same thing themselves. That put meaning and heart into their words.

This was probably very messy, and I apologize for it. I'm not sure if I made any sense, but I'm wondering if anyone else feels this way. What do you think makes stories connect and come alive with you? How much does the author and their thoughts have to do with it? Can you tell when there's a disconnect?
Be not a writer, but a Storyweaver. For that, my friend, is how you'll truly leave your mark.

Offline Peat

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2016, 01:14:38 AM »
Yes and no.

On the one hand, I like stories where the author has something to say.

On the other, I don't like being preached at.

And that leaves a very narrow space between the two where I'm going "Ah hell yeah". Tightrope narrow. I suppose the space gets wider when I agree with the message, but even so. I think the key is "Does the message only sink in once I'm already hooked by the story?" If the answer is yes, then things are good. If the answer is no, I'm being preached at.

I think with most authors, knowing their history will make their books a little more interesting. There's a hint of the autobiographical about most authors. And yes, I like it too. A few more examples:

Tolkien's Catholicism, experiences of World War One and dislike of industralisation really mark Lord of the Rings.

David Gemmell's books are very marked by his childhood experiences of being shy in a rough area and having an old school step-father who made him stand up for himself.

The Wheel of Time is influenced by Robert Jordan's deployment to Vietnam iirc (and the Two Rivers by his own home).

And Terry Pratchett's anger at the world seeps through Discworld like the smell of Nobby Nobbs getting slowly closer.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2016, 02:04:44 AM »
Definitely!
I think I rave so much about the  light Bringer Saga by Brent Weeks because of how much the questions raised are things I have to face in my own life. Also, I'm very familiar  with his background, and I think his perspective on life matches up closely with mine. In Light Bringer, I get questions about faith, questions about the government, questions about each side of a war, a strenuous family relationship... And then there's Kip. I can't explain my connection to him entirely, but I see myself there. I'm not fat, I don't like to consider myself bumbling and slow at times, but then again... He just makes so much sense to me. His questions about life, his worry of failure, his struggle to fit in where he feels like an outsider... Those who have read the series may understand what I'm trying to say more than the words I'm using. I'm one of the youngest here on the form. When I read the first two books of Light Bringer, I was Kip's age. And when the third book came out, I had aged with Kip. And it's probably about to happen close to that way again.

I'm not even sure where I was going now, but yes. The books I love most seem to question things about my own life. And of course, the plot twists are awesome.

Offline Nora

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Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2016, 02:05:47 AM »
I'm different in that respect, I don't like knowing about my writers, I don't really care about what they felt writing their books... At least I don't like knowing about that until after I'm done reading all their interesting work, otherwise it distracts me in my reading or make me spot meanings I might be spoon fed, and I strongly dislike that.

I like a book that has deep values you have to figure out yourself. Stuff that is wrong, or very good, but don't have to be spelled out to you.

For example, in the book I just finished, City of Stairs, there are strong parts of the story focusing on the shaming of homosexuality, and it was well done, until a character voiced everything very clearly. I'm sure it doesn't bother many, but to me it doesn't carry as much weight as a more discreet way of dealing with it. Because it was a point that was obviously being made over the course of the book, having someone spell it out felt like spoon feeding me the theme.
Another book that is the perfect example of giving you stuff to think about is the most terrifyingly organic way was The Collector, which is the most psychologically terrifying book I've read in my 26 years, while featuring very few acts of violence.
You get into one character's head by first pov and the other through her journal, and it's all deeply twisted and disturbing. There are very heavy themes under it all, on deep as subjects, like the meaning of life, of regret, the responsibility of society in the making of criminals, the rejection of those who are different...
But none of it is ever spelled out. It's the typical book you'd have to study at school with a teacher pointing meaning out for you to understand.

That ending though... I could not pick up another book for days after that, because The Collector was reverberating in my head and draining the colours out of life.  :o

Quote
She used her own convictions and beliefs of what was right and true. I can see it, and I believe that's what really makes it come alive. It comes from something deeper than a simple desire to write about a magic school and evil Dark Lord.

I always assume that it's the case for every writer, unless I identify what I'm reading as an easy buck or "train station book" as we call it in french.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2016, 04:29:58 PM »
I never had an interest in Harry Potter, and the more I read what JK Rowling tweets, or says in interviews, the less interested I am.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline Lu Kudzoza

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2016, 06:35:25 PM »
Quote
On the one hand, I like stories where the author has something to say.

On the other, I don't like being preached at.

Agree. I don't mind a message (and love philosophy) if it directly relates to the plot. But, I don't want the author telling me how I should think. Instead, write the conflict and let me decide who's right or wrong. Give me enough room in the story to think about various ideas and how they apply to the world today (or the past/future). If an author simply preaches a message or has a character that is preaching I'll most likely put the book down.

Offline shadowkat678

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2016, 10:28:10 PM »
I'm different in that respect, I don't like knowing about my writers, I don't really care about what they felt writing their books... At least I don't like knowing about that until after I'm done reading all their interesting work, otherwise it distracts me in my reading or make me spot meanings I might be spoon fed, and I strongly dislike that.

I like a book that has deep values you have to figure out yourself. Stuff that is wrong, or very good, but don't have to be spelled out to you.

For example, in the book I just finished, City of Stairs, there are strong parts of the story focusing on the shaming of homosexuality, and it was well done, until a character voiced everything very clearly. I'm sure it doesn't bother many, but to me it doesn't carry as much weight as a more discreet way of dealing with it. Because it was a point that was obviously being made over the course of the book, having someone spell it out felt like spoon feeding me the theme.
Another book that is the perfect example of giving you stuff to think about is the most terrifyingly organic way was The Collector, which is the most psychologically terrifying book I've read in my 26 years, while featuring very few acts of violence.
You get into one character's head by first pov and the other through her journal, and it's all deeply twisted and disturbing. There are very heavy themes under it all, on deep as subjects, like the meaning of life, of regret, the responsibility of society in the making of criminals, the rejection of those who are different...
But none of it is ever spelled out. It's the typical book you'd have to study at school with a teacher pointing meaning out for you to understand.

That ending though... I could not pick up another book for days after that, because The Collector was reverberating in my head and draining the colours out of life.  :o

Quote
She used her own convictions and beliefs of what was right and true. I can see it, and I believe that's what really makes it come alive. It comes from something deeper than a simple desire to write about a magic school and evil Dark Lord.

I always assume that it's the case for every writer, unless I identify what I'm reading as an easy buck or "train station book" as we call it in french.

I believe you can see them and their passion in what they write without having it be spelled out.


Quote
On the one hand, I like stories where the author has something to say.

On the other, I don't like being preached at.

I agree with that. Like above, I believe that you don't have to preach or spell something out. It's just like how a character can be shown instead of told. The underlying clues, things you catch, and how it just feels like it's coming from something the writer knows. It's like how you can tell who has fighting experience and who doesn't by reading a scene in a book. Well, you're more likely to tell. Sex scenes, same. War vets, same. Do you get where I'm coming from there?

I never had an interest in Harry Potter, and the more I read what JK Rowling tweets, or says in interviews, the less interested I am.

I feel like I might regret this being such a fan, but may I ask why?
Be not a writer, but a Storyweaver. For that, my friend, is how you'll truly leave your mark.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2016, 10:30:35 PM »
Quote
On the one hand, I like stories where the author has something to say.

On the other, I don't like being preached at.

Agree. I don't mind a message (and love philosophy) if it directly relates to the plot. But, I don't want the author telling me how I should think. Instead, write the conflict and let me decide who's right or wrong. Give me enough room in the story to think about various ideas and how they apply to the world today (or the past/future). If an author simply preaches a message or has a character that is preaching I'll most likely put the book down.
Fully agree with this. That's why the ending of Calamity annoyed me so much. Sanderson took that moment to preach at me. Ugh. No, the books I love just present questions, that none of the characters have a good answer too. They're all just trying to do what's right.

Offline cupiscent

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2016, 02:40:38 AM »
+1 for disliking being preached at. One of my big issues with the Narnia books was that it felt like Sunday School all over again. (I scoffed out loud in the cinema when the stone table cracked at the end of the first movie.)

Similarly, when that John Wright chap was Puppied onto the Hugos ballot last year, I tried wading through his nominated fiction, and nearly rolled my eyes right out of my head as his characters sat around pontificating on philosophical points rather than there actually being any story.

In contrast, I'm about 75% through The Traitor Baru Cormorant, and while this is a book with many strong messages to think about, it builds the story on them and shows them through very believable characters in interesting storylines, rather than sitting there telling me about them. I'm loving it because it challenges me to think even while entertaining me.

Offline zmunkz

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2016, 04:06:05 AM »
+1 for disliking being preached at. One of my big issues with the Narnia books was that it felt like Sunday School all over again. (I scoffed out loud in the cinema when the stone table cracked at the end of the first movie.)

I agree on that. And when I found out a little later that C.S. Lewis was a Christian apologist writer and the resurrection imagery was not merely an inspiration of his, but a cloaked pitch for Jesus, it turned me off from the books entirely.  Not that I have a problem with anyone's religion, I just don't like it being fed to me clandestinely in a fantasy book.

To the OP, no I do not think that kind of thing is necessary to create a powerful book.  It probably helps, especially for newer writers, but I think artisans of the craft can create the same depth around any imagery or conflict that suits their characters.
"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." --Isaac Asimov

Offline Nora

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Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2016, 08:49:37 AM »
Talking about being put off by things being force fed to you... Just finished the book called The Humans, and one of the last chapters is a list of "advices" from the alien to his human "son", 5 or 6 full pages of one liners or so, listed, and written in the second person, and man I read like the first 20 then skipped the entire chapter.
"do this, don't do that, you're unique, you live in the present" blah blah blaaaah. It's a great book overall, but a lot is already told and explained, and putting the goodwill preaching in the shape of a list was not welcome.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline cupiscent

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2016, 08:52:57 AM »
Talking about being put off by things being force fed to you... Just finished the book called The Humans, and one of the last chapters is a list of "advices" from the alien to his human "son", 5 or 6 full pages of one liners or so, listed, and written in the second person, and man I read like the first 20 then skipped the entire chapter.
"do this, don't do that, you're unique, you live in the present" blah blah blaaaah. It's a great book overall, but a lot is already told and explained, and putting the goodwill preaching in the shape of a list was not welcome.

But trust me on the sunscreen? ;)

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2016, 12:46:27 PM »
I'm different in that respect, I don't like knowing about my writers, I don't really care about what they felt writing their books... At least I don't like knowing about that until after I'm done reading all their interesting work, otherwise it distracts me in my reading or make me spot meanings I might be spoon fed, and I strongly dislike that.

I like a book that has deep values you have to figure out yourself. Stuff that is wrong, or very good, but don't have to be spelled out to you.

For example, in the book I just finished, City of Stairs, there are strong parts of the story focusing on the shaming of homosexuality, and it was well done, until a character voiced everything very clearly. I'm sure it doesn't bother many, but to me it doesn't carry as much weight as a more discreet way of dealing with it. Because it was a point that was obviously being made over the course of the book, having someone spell it out felt like spoon feeding me the theme.
Another book that is the perfect example of giving you stuff to think about is the most terrifyingly organic way was The Collector, which is the most psychologically terrifying book I've read in my 26 years, while featuring very few acts of violence.
You get into one character's head by first pov and the other through her journal, and it's all deeply twisted and disturbing. There are very heavy themes under it all, on deep as subjects, like the meaning of life, of regret, the responsibility of society in the making of criminals, the rejection of those who are different...
But none of it is ever spelled out. It's the typical book you'd have to study at school with a teacher pointing meaning out for you to understand.

That ending though... I could not pick up another book for days after that, because The Collector was reverberating in my head and draining the colours out of life.  :o

Quote
She used her own convictions and beliefs of what was right and true. I can see it, and I believe that's what really makes it come alive. It comes from something deeper than a simple desire to write about a magic school and evil Dark Lord.

I always assume that it's the case for every writer, unless I identify what I'm reading as an easy buck or "train station book" as we call it in french.

I believe you can see them and their passion in what they write without having it be spelled out.


Quote
On the one hand, I like stories where the author has something to say.

On the other, I don't like being preached at.

I agree with that. Like above, I believe that you don't have to preach or spell something out. It's just like how a character can be shown instead of told. The underlying clues, things you catch, and how it just feels like it's coming from something the writer knows. It's like how you can tell who has fighting experience and who doesn't by reading a scene in a book. Well, you're more likely to tell. Sex scenes, same. War vets, same. Do you get where I'm coming from there?

I never had an interest in Harry Potter, and the more I read what JK Rowling tweets, or says in interviews, the less interested I am.

I feel like I might regret this being such a fan, but may I ask why?

She's just another celebrity that thinks the rest of the world is waiting for her to chime in on political topics, as if she has anything interesting or original to add. She also makes it pretty clear that there is some sort of underlying ideological motive to her stories. She tackles the same topics from the same, run of the mill point of view.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline Nora

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Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2016, 01:31:34 PM »
And that, is precisely why I avoid any informations on my authors. Because I'd also be put off by their work if I discovered I didn't like their personality.

This being said, @CryptofCthulhu, what underlying motives are there, behind Harry Potter? If they aren't shoved down your eyes, I can't see the problem, in so far that most writers do have an underlying set of views that they try to convey through their work... Or else it'd all be like reading the Sun or whatnot.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Peat

Re: How does the writer impact the story?
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2016, 02:59:44 PM »
Personally I prefer to read without knowing the author's personality, then again after knowing about it - it brings more light to the nuances. But I can see why some prefer not to and short of very serious criminality or being very vocally annoying, I don't care too much about what the author is like. That's a different matter though.