1. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    A few tips please!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by StormWarrior, Jul 31, 2008.

    I'm starting to write a novel, for my own entertainment only. I used to do this years ago but have gotten out of the habit. I need a few tips from other writers before I get back into it:

    Do you think it's better to write in the first or third person, and why?

    Do you think it's better to tell the story through the eyes of one character only?

    Do you think you should write in the style of a genre that you actually read? For example, I do not enjoy reading fantasy books, but I want to write one.

    If you have a vague idea for a story, how do you go about developing it into a fully fleshed out story with an interesting middle, a good ending, characters, events, etc? What is your own personal technique for coming up with these details?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Do you think it's better to write in the first or third person, and why?
    If you are just starting out, you are probably better off writing in a third person voice. First person is often used as well, but when youi slip up, it becomes much more obvious. Also, in first person you will find yourself using I and me a lot, unless you are proficient at first person narration.​

    Do you think it's better to tell the story through the eyes of one character only?
    Again, for a first project, I would say yes. Switching POV is easy to do poorly, and you also should develop the ability to do character driven narration, reflecting the voice of each character, before tackling multiple POVs.​

    Do you think you should write in the style of a genre that you actually read? For example, I do not enjoy reading fantasy books, but I want to write one.
    You should be very familiar with the genre you are writing for. I honestly don't understand why you would want to write to a genre you don't enjoy reading. It will undoubtedly show in your writing that you dislike the genre. Besides, when revising and proofreading, you will be reading your work repeatedly.​

    If you have a vague idea for a story, how do you go about developing it into a fully fleshed out story with an interesting middle, a good ending, characters, events, etc? What is your own personal technique for coming up with these details?
    That is a question that will fill more than one post. The quick answer is to work on creating interesting, multifaceted characters, and then complicate the hell out of their lives! Hurt them, frustrate them, put barricades between them and their goals. Conflict is the core element of plot. But there's also developing your own individual style and voice, keeping the reader intersted by always providing more questions than answers, many dimensions to improve the writing.​

    Here's a blog entry I recently put together to discuss point of view considerations: What's Your Point (of View)?. I hope it helps.
     
  3. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    What do you mean by slipping up? I thought first person narration is I and me? If you want to really get inside one characters head do you think first person would be easier?


    What is character driven narration?

    I want to write something vaguely fantasy, ie with battles and vast landscapes but none of the typical magic and weird creatures. I love fantasy films, I just think fantasy books have way too much description and silliness. I want to write a very toned-down fantasy-cum horror, but written in the style of history books, as I love to read history.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read the blog entry - narrative voice and grammatical voice are not the same thing. First person narration will typically contain sentences written grammatically in first person and in third person.

    By slipping up, I mean stumbling outside your chosen POV. In first person, that could mean bringing out a piece of information the character has no way of knowing or observing, even something as simple as a description of self that is out of character, so you are in essence becoming an anonymous observer LOOKING at the character.

    Narration is the description of setting and action that takes place between dialogue, and is written from the narrative point of view. Character-driven narration uses word choices and thought patterns that are matched up to the POV character. If you are writing from a single POV, it's not as noticeable that you give you own voice to narration. With multiple POVs, character driven narration makes it easier for the reader to "get into" the current POV, and makes the story livelier as well.

    My favorite examples of character driven narration are Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries. Among the latter, pick up a copy of T is for Trespass, which alternates between two POV's at the chapter level.
     
  5. Burman
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    Burman New Member

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    I like this advice. =)
     
  6. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Conito summed it up pretty much.

    This question did catch me off guard.

    I was rather stunned by this as I equated this idea with trying to go pro in a sport you do not like playing.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    3rd!... only a rare few of the very best writers can do it well enough to pull it off effectively... and it's a pain for the reader, since it keeps them from being able to identify with any of the other characters, which is the key to good fiction... plus, it's a sure sign of an amateur to the agents and publishers, which will keep you and your work from being taken seriously, should you ever want to have it published... the best writers write for the reader, not for themselves and first person has an egotistical feel to it... the only exception, imo, would be if you're writing a 'noir' style detective novel... but if you do that, you'd better be really good at it, if you want it to work...

    only for the exception i mentioned above... otherwise, it's too limiting and will not engage the readers as well as an omniscient pov...

    i think it's nonsensically silly to try to write in the style of something you don't read!... if you don't read them, how can you know what they're like and be able to write one?...

    you're asking for a complete course in creative writing!... and i don't have any 'technique'... i just get ideas and i write... when/if i ever need an outline of any sort, to keep from getting tangled up in time line and/or subplots, then i'll make one...
     
  8. Silver Random
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    Silver Random Senior Member

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    Personally i prefer to write in 3rd person, as it gives you the ability to switch point of view (though this can technically be done by having both 1st and 3rd person, as in the Bartimeaous trilogy for example).

    I usually prefer to have a few characters through which the story is told at different points of view, as i do not always have all main characters doing the same thing, and i like to include a villain point of view as well

    I dont think this is such a shocking question as others seem to find, particularly when it comes to fantasy. After all, there is a great deal of criticism of modern fantasy basically being a rip off of Tolkein, C S Lewis, etc. rather than actually being completely derived from the imagination of the writer. If you arent reading a fantasy a lot, then it could actually have the benefit that you will not, consciously or sub-consciously, copy ideas from other fantasy books. But at the same time, you could end up doing something which has been done before without realising it :confused:

    And i kind of understand why you would ask it, as, although fantasy is what i prefer to write, it is not the genre i read the most. But to not enjoy fantasy at all yet still want to write it seems a bit odd...
     
  9. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    Thanks for the advice everyone. So, do you all prefer to actually read novels that are written in the third person? Most books I read are written in the first person, there was me thinking third person narration was unusual! I prefer the first person narration, because I feel you get to understand the main character alot more. One of my favourite novels, "The Boleyn Inheritance" by Philippa Gregory, is written in first person narration from three different people. Do you think that if you're going to write in the third person, you should read more books in the third person to get a feel for it?

    I guess it sounded a bit weird when I said I don't like reading fantasy but want to write it. I should perhaps explain myself better. I don't enjoy reading what I think of as "OTT" fantasy; by that I mean Tolkien-esque stuff. I don't read (and don't want to write) the typical kind of fantasy that consists of hundreds of characters of non-human races and that kind of thing.

    I am a massive fan of historical-based fantasy, myths in other words. I absolutely love the tales of King Arthur, the Mabinogion, and other European folk-tales. I prefer this type of fantasy because it is more realistic, more believable and simpler. I am also a great reader of history and absolutely love the dark ages and middle ages. My other inspiration is heavy metal; I love the history, horror and fantasy themes found in black metal, power metal and folk metal.

    So, basically, I want to write a story like that: that hints at fantasy without going OTT, a slightly "horror" ambience, but written like a history novel.
     
  10. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    In that case you should read up a lot about the events you're going to use and read more historical fantasy. The idea sounds pretty cool to me, a historical fantasy/horror. I'd read it. :cool:
     
  11. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Well, all of your questions are matters of choice and style. They all really depend on what YOU want to do. I can tell you what I do, but I wouldn't recommend or suggest my methods to others unless it's what they genuinely want to try for themselves. People's opinions on how they write aren't going to help your process, you need to figure it out for yourself.

    I'll offer my own opinions on how I do things though, since that's what you asked...

    Do you think it's better to write in the first or third person, and why?

    I prefer to write in third person, but I wouldn't say it's "better," it's just what I prefer. I've done a few first-person stories and it was okay for those particular stories, but since I tend to use lots of characters and POVs I stick mostly to third. I wouldn't know which is better for writers just starting out, sorry.

    Do you think it's better to tell the story through the eyes of one character only?

    Again, I don't think it's better to stick to one character or not. I myself prefer to have multiple characters and multiple POVs. In fact I adore it. I find one POV only to be too limiting. But I can't recommend for or against it. I can just caution you to learn how to properly write multiple third-person POV without "head-hopping" or switching POV improperly. Lots of beginners (myself included) are guilty of this, and it just bugs me so much. Even people writing from the POV of one character only can end up putting in observations that can only be from some other person's POV, and they apparently don't even know they're doing it. One way to guard against this is to STICK YOURSELF IN THAT CHARACTER'S HEAD and write what they see and feel and think as if you are them. You'll start to notice that some things you include in your story, they can't possibly think or feel or know, and you'll learn to beware of such things.

    Do you think you should write in the style of a genre that you actually read? For example, I do not enjoy reading fantasy books, but I want to write one.

    I don't think somebody should feel they "should" write in the style of a genre they read. They should write what they want to write. I read mostly nonfiction but write primarily fantasy (although the nonfiction I read has to do with the subject my fantasy stories are about). Reading in one's genre can help, but you don't HAVE to.

    I'm kind of puzzled though about why you want to write a fantasy if you don't "enjoy" reading any? Why write a book in a genre you don't enjoy? Is it because (like with me) you like fantasy, but there haven't been any fantasy books put out on your particular subject of interest yet, so you're going to write one yourself...?

    If you have a vague idea for a story, how do you go about developing it into a fully fleshed out story with an interesting middle, a good ending, characters, events, etc? What is your own personal technique for coming up with these details?

    I focus on really long, multi-chapter stories. I flesh them out by merely thinking about them (and the characters) obsessively for months or years before I start writing them (usually while I'm working on the current story--they're in series, see, so I'll be thinking about the next in the series while writing the current one). I don't have a technique for coming up with details, they just evolve over time. I don't outline or anything. BUT, some people have to, and that's fine. Some people have to brainstorm to get ideas, or take excessive notes. Everyone has their own way.

    Whatever works best for you personally. Good luck. :)
     
  12. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Sorry I missed your explanatory posts. :redface: It looks like your reason for the comment was somewhat along the lines I thought though. I don't read much fantasy (despite writing it almost exclusively) because I like fantasy, but most that is published is in a style or on subjects I really don't care to read about. I tried reading "The Hobbit" a while back, and the Narnia books, and just could not get into them. Ditto with most "high fantasy" online and published, mages and orcs and elves and boy wizards etc., it's just not for me. I really enjoy a particular fantasy work every now and then ("Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" is the last one I can remember), but not most. I'm in love with Egyptian and Ojibwa mythology, however, so this is what my own fantasy is about (since I can't find much fantasy to read on these subjects!).

    That's why I read mostly nonfiction--on the subjects I write my fantasy stories about. (Although I must admit I do have hundreds of characters and non-human races, they're just not orcs and elves and boy wizards!) I don't think it's that you don't enjoy reading fantasy, you just don't enjoy reading most of what passes as published fantasy nowadays! :D
     

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