1. Ben_
    Offline

    Ben_ Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK

    A Matter of Perspective.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ben_, Jun 19, 2012.

    Hello everyone, I’ve just joined and I thought I should make a post to say hello :)

    I’m new to story writing, and after I’ve written something, I find myself reading back my work and being presented with a kind of dilemma. The best way I can think to explain it, is to use the example of old photographs: I love looking through my old photographs, when I look at them they remind me of places I’ve been, people I’ve known, people I’ve loved. They remind me of heartache and good times, happiness and tragedy. They are images made vivid to me through the intensity of the experiences they represent. I can look at them for hours! However, when I show other people the same pictures, they smile and nod for a while, comment on how young I look etc, but after a while they become bored. I don’t blame them, I’ve had exactly the same experience when looking at other peoples photographs. They’re interesting, but don’t glow with quite the same light as my own.

    My problem is that I get the same sense when reading back my writing. I find myself thinking about how interesting it seems (although often badly written), and I wonder how much of this is because it was me who created the characters, me who furnished the scenes, me who gave them light and colour. The events I have written about are vivid to me because they come from my own experience, my own thoughts.

    What I am asking (I think) is whether any of you have ways of dealing with this problem, ways of determining whether what you have written would seem interesting to a reader, ways of gaining some sense of objectivity about your writing :confused:

    I suppose I’m also asking what it is that grabs readers, and holds their attention.
     
  2. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    Well, there does come a point where you just cannot worry too much about what will interest the reader. While writers shouldn't disregard readers, pandering to them often leads to a compromised story. Tell the story you want to tell. Odds are, if you tell it well, there will be people who will want to read it.

    Of course, you can always find somebody you trust to be a beta reader/editor or sorts. That gives you an objective look at it. Don't just get a friend who will give a simple "I like it." I'd try to find somebody to give it a critical eye.

    But again, try to write what interests you. Just about any idea can be made interesting. It's all in how (well) you write it.
     
  3. Ben_
    Offline

    Ben_ Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK
    Thanks for your reply Show. Writing the stories I want to tell definitely seems like good advice, and showing people my work has got to be a good idea, if a slightly frightening prospect for a shy soul like myself.

    However, it's your last point that I find most interesting, I think it might say something about what I'm trying to get at. I wonder what it means to write "(well)": what it is that captures a readers attention, and makes them think "this is interesting, I want to read more"?
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    There is no one secret to writing well, no single technique to turn "Nyeh..." into "Yowza!"

    Writing isn't easy. If it were, a few exceptional writers would raise the bar. In fact, that is exactly what has happened, over and over again.

    There are many threads on this forum, discussing various aspects of what makes writing, great, mediocre, or redolent. Furthermore, there are millions of works of fiction to learn from, what works and what doesn't. You don't have to read them all, but the more you read, the better you will understand the workings of fiction.
     
  5. Ben_
    Offline

    Ben_ Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK
    Thanks for your reply Cogito. From your insight I can see I'm asking far too general a question.

    Maybe I can reframe my question in an attempt to illicit some ideas.

    Can I ask people to think of a book which they have read recently. One which they found compelling. What was it about that book that drew you in? What was it that captured you?
     
  6. JackElliott
    Offline

    JackElliott Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2011
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    12
    It's fairly simple: time brings objectivity. Put aside the completed draft long enough (weeks, months, years, etc.) to "fall out of love" with it.

    And you can't afford to always wonder about a reader's interest. Write what interests you.
     
  7. Program
    Offline

    Program Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Writing a Program
    Personally, what grabs my attention is when I see the first "cool" subtlety in a piece of literature. To me, it feels like I've just put a piece of an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle on correctly, so it makes me want to keep reading - and read it over and over again to find everything I can possibly find, which is analagous to solving the jigsaw puzzle. Reading books with these little hidden things here and there (sometimes everywhere) is also like the author is playing a game of I-Spy with me. If I read a book without these subtleties, I get bored after I read it once. Reading a book with few (or without any) of these "cool" little connections here and there, or these clever word choices, etc. is like being presented with a completed puzzle, or an I-Spy with all the things you are supposed to find circled in big, bold marker. I just take one look at it, say "Cool..." and leave.
     
  8. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    I think it's when you can predict with a fair degree of accuracy if what you have written is working or not, only then you become a fairly good writer. Getting away from what you've written for at least a week and coming back with fresh eyes helps me see the flaws. BTW, I can look at the photograph of a stranger for hours if it has all the elements of professional photography.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    good fiction writers can distance themselves from their writing... even when using scenes, events and feelings from their own experience, they can view them as happening to their characters, not allow themselves to be dragged back into memories from their own lives and thus be critiquing their work through the colored lens of nostalgia... taking yourself out of the equation allows you to read over your work with the eagle eye of an unconnected, dispassionate editor, instead...
     
  10. Ben_
    Offline

    Ben_ Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK
    Hi Jack. I love the idea of “falling out of love” with a piece. I guess you’re right. When I read old diaries, I often find passages about events I’ve completely forgotten. Reading them back I get a sense as if they were written by someone else, which I guess is the very thing I’m looking for: viewing my work through the eyes of another person. Forgetting what I have written, also reminds me a little of meeting an old girlfriend, and realising I don’t know her anymore.

    Hi Program. I really like this idea of feeling compelled by the challenge of unravelling an intricately woven story, of being drawn in by the depth and subtlety of its carefully sculpted structure. You sound as if you take on the role of a kind of scientist, studying this thing, tracing out its lines and forms. I’m fascinated by this idea, it seems to show how the overall form of a piece can be really important, and connect in a very direct way with a reader.

    I find your emphasis on subtly interesting. I often find myself wondering about whether I’m being too obvious in my writing, or if the subtleties I have tried to convey will be completely lost. It seems to be a rather precarious balancing act.

    Hi Bill. I imagine you are right; being able to view your work with a reasonable degree of objectivity, may well be a defining quality of being able to write well.

    And don’t get me wrong, I like photographs, it’s just when...”Here’s me and Janice on the beach, and here’s me and Janice eating and ice cream, and here’s me and Janice sitting on a wall, and here’s me and Janice by a cathedral, and” on, and on, and... I sometimes lose the will to live.

    And Mammamaia. Yes, I think this distance is something which we should try to cultivate. Your use of the word “nostalgia” set me thinking: “Nostalgia” is a feeling I can recognise. I know what it feels like when I am colouring my thoughts in this way, although I don’t always recognise it at the time. Maybe focusing some energy on noticing these ways of thinking while we are writing or reading back our work, may give us some clues about how to gain some of the objectivity that we are looking for.

    I am overwhelmed by all these great replies. Thanks guys. :)
     
  11. thetyper
    Offline

    thetyper Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2012
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    2
    It depends what type of writer you are. You either write something of value for yourself and send it out to the world for adoption, or you hack commercial crap for money. If the former, you're fine because you like and enjoy your stuff. If the latter you need to make sure you write to a formula and these are easy to understand and replicate and remove the problem you describe because the formula will make the work conform to cookie-cutter fiction and it will "be liked" by those who enjoy formula fiction, i.e. "it's chapter 2 now so baddy's henchman must make an appearance" or "it's plot point 3 now so second murder must happen" etc. The specific quality of the writing is over to you!
     
  12. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    The Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones, City of Ashes, CIty of Glass) is one that I've read in the last year that kept me wanting to read more. They definitely had the 'it' factor but I'm not sure I can vocalize what created that 'it' factor. Probably I became emotionally invested in the characters. I like the genre. The author tied up each story in the series so I could give a contented sigh after I finished each book.

    I say just write a story you love and maybe others will love it too. If not, try again. :)
     
  13. Ben_
    Offline

    Ben_ Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK
    Hi Typer. I like the way you have given an easy answer to a problem which I didn’t see as having one.

    I can see that my line “I suppose I’m also asking what it is that grabs readers, and holds their attention”, does seem to have a suggestion of formula writing, or at least that would be one way of grabbing the attention of a person who buys into that sort of fiction. However, I think it would also be a way of turning a lot of people off.

    Personally, I believe that if I want to communicate with someone effectively, then I have to pay attention to what they are thinking. I would like what I write to interest the people who read it, but I don’t think this necessarily implies selling out.

    I think it is interesting to explore the relationship between writer and reader. I tend to see one of my tasks when writing as being the creation of a particular sort of experience for a reader. Essentially, I’m trying to explore the relationship between the writers experience of writing, and the readers experience of reading. I believe this is of huge importance when trying to determine the specific quality of my writing.

    I guess a large part of what I'm saying is just that I don't want to be a bore.

    Actually, I think I have a good example of an issue with the very problem I'm trying to address. When I wrote “I suppose I’m also asking what it is that grabs readers, and holds their attention”, part of me noticed that this seemed to suggest formula writing. The kind of page turning feeling of reading a formula driven novel, wasn't what I was trying to put across. If I had listened more carefully to myself, I could have seen that this is how the line might be interpreted by a reader, and changed it so that it had closer to its intended effect. I think that it is this idea of controling the effect of my writing, that I was trying to address when starting this thread.

    I apologise if this is a little incoherant.
     
  14. Ben_
    Offline

    Ben_ Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK
    Hi Amy.
    I wonder what it is that causes readers to become emotionally involved with the characters in a story.
    I like this idea of closer.
    I think you're right; I have a terrible tendency to overcomplicate things.
     

Share This Page