1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    An experiment in writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Sep 10, 2015.

    I was reading someone's critique the other day, in which they accused the author of making the common mistake of writing their novel as though it were a script.

    The advice that followed was to 'tell the story', just as they would if they were telling it to a friend, face to face.

    However, because this isn't quite as easy as one might imagine - I try and use this style all the time while writing - I hit upon an idea which I dare say has been done countless times by others. Having said that I've not seen it discussed here so thought I would share my intentions.

    So long as I can get over the self-conciousness of it all and speak naturally, I am going to dictate the next few passages of my novel into my iPhone's voice recorder, just as though I was telling a friend my story. I will then transcribe my words - of course omitting all the pauses, uums and ahhs, and stutters - into my word processor and see how it reads once cleaned up.

    My only reservations here will be dialogue. In literature, more often than not, the tags follow the dialogue, i.e "Get out here!" he shouted. But in speech I think it is common to pre-empt the dialogue with the tag, i.e 'He glared at me and shouted, "Get out of here!"' or 'I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and said, "What d'you think you're doing?"'

    Maybe I just need to mix these up so there's not too many of these 'tag first' lines of dialogue.

    Anyway, I'll let you know the results.

    Thoughts welcome.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, writing a story as if you were telling it to someone face to face is as big a blunder, if not moreso, than writing as if it were a script. It is, de facto, filtering. It's one long report, keeping the reader permanently at a distance from the characters.

    This is why it is important to remember that advice given on an internet forum may only be what someone thinks they know.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't wholly agree with that, but the point is this is an experiment, just to see how it reads on paper.

    I think it's important that the narration has a voice, and I believe a good way of finding that voice is to write in the tone a good story-teller would use.
    And if this is the case, then we're all buggered, aren't we? Might as well stop paying attention to anything anyone says.
     
  4. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    It only takes half of a brain to either know or quickly learn if something you come across on the Internet is right (or if works for you). Go forth and learn! Looking forward to an excerpt of your experiment.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There are several members of this forum to whom I pay close attention on topics of writing and publishing. If I find myself disagreeing with them, I usually ask questions and review my own opinions. But there are also many members whose opinions about what makes good writing (or what is the best path to publication) are nothing more than a composite of other opinions they've read, and there are also many members who give advice, such as the advice we are now discussing, based solely on what they "feel" is right. Well, in my view, when someone is struggling to learn the craft of writing, that's not good enough.

    I often compare this forum to a study group - we are all trying to learn the craft and business of writing. Some of us are further along the path than others. Some are honor students, who've already made the grade; some are almost there; some are raw novices; but many are sophomores in the true sense of the word - "wise fools", possessing a little knowledge but not nearly enough. Ideally, there would be separate study groups for each level, but that isn't practical. So we all struggle to help one another.

    To be more specific about the issue in question (and perhaps you will discover this in your experiment), writing narrative prose as if one were telling a friend (or a roomful of friends) ignores the differences between the two paradigms (to borrow one of @Wreybies' favorite words). In an oral telling to one or more people, the main dynamic is between the teller and his/her audience. The teller's narrative is typically infused with language to maintain that connection: "You won't believe what happened next"; "And you know I've always been afraid of heights"; "...then Suzy - you remember her, she was so pissed when she lost out as prom queen in our senior year..."; "...and Dan immediately lost it, typical for him...". But in a novel or short story, you don't want the connection to be between the reader and the writer, you want it between the reader and the characters. You want the reader in the jungle on New Guinea, or in Times Square, or an apartment in Chelsea, or standing at attention in front of Napoleon, or quivering in his boots as the forces of Khan approach.

    By all means, pursue your experiment. Just make sure you know how to judge the result.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015
  6. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    That feels right to me!

    In the end, it's what you do with the results of any experiment that gives the experiment worth.
     
  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sentence was quite an eye-opener. I think, subconsciously, I already knew this, but seeing it written down was quite a wow moment.

    As for the experiment, I don't think I have any intention of transcribing my words verbatim. I only want to see if it helps inject any energy into my prose.
     
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  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm glad that the results of my many years of reading and analysis and the advice flowing therefrom feels right to you. Truly.

    Yes. And in any experiment, the conductor of it should know what (s)he is looking for. As it happens, I think @OurJud does, based on his most recent post above.
     
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  9. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One problem is that many of the elements of tone of verbal storytelling don't translate into written storytelling.

    If you use a tone of voice that is sarcastic, surprised, excited - none of that translates into written storytelling.

    There's all sorts of dramatic little pauses and inflections that you're barely even aware of.

    One danger can be that you know how you've said something, so if you're rereading your transcription it doesn't feel as flat to you as other readers. You remember bits of emotion that aren't actually discernible from the text.

    I think such an experiment would need a good long time away from the work, for you to be able to discern the real energy levels in what you've written.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015
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  10. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    A few thoughts:
    1) Reading a comment and attempting to apply the lesson/advice in a constructive way to your own situation = excellent work. Active learning! Personal development! I applaud thee.
    2) The experiment sounds workable. Easy to do, very informative in the long run. Regardless of whether you like the results or not, I think it's a great idea to give it a go.
    3) Filtering/show.vs.tell/etc - I don't disagree with what's been said necessarily, but I do think people have rushed to correct before encouraging you and I'd find that quite disheartening. So, yes, heed their advice, but perhaps these are things to consider after you've finished experimenting. For now - do it! It'll be a great learning experience to generate some writing in this manner and then deconstruct/evaluate/critique it with such things in mind.
     
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  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, RachHP. I think I need to get into 'actor' mode before attempting this, as a natural story teller I ain't. I think listening to the real me try and tell a story, audibly, would be a great cure for insomnia :D
     
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