1. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Concrete vs Abstract

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GuardianWynn, May 9, 2015.

    A friend of mine whom I think is a good writer was taking a strong position. I think it was a bit extreme. She was saying that fiction writing should always try and be concrete or use the things that can be described firmly in the five senses.

    I am expecting you guys think abstract has a time and a place as well as concrete. I just wondering when you think each should be used.

    To add an example. I had a line like this. The friend of mine said this was bad.

    "The familiar sensation of having to pee in the morning woke Jackie up. Poking her head out of the blanket with half open eyes she felt the cold morning air on her face. It was a demon she was not yet willing to face as she retreated back under the blanket."

    My friend thought the use of demon ruined this. Opinions?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not crazy about the line, but more because I think "demon" is a little strong for the every-day sensation of having to climb out of a warm bed. I don't think there's a concreteness vs abstractness issue.

    I'm trying to think of how the rule would apply in other ways. I mean, if demons were real, they'd be concrete, right? So is she objecting to all figurative language, or to the use of imaginary creatures as figurative tools, or...?
     
  3. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah basically. Her argument was something along the lines "The isn't a demon. So demon is abstract or figurative which is bad writing."
    Seemed extreme but I figured there probably is a line of when to use and when to avoid figurative terms. Any opinion?
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a question of style. Lots of great writers use lots of figurative language. Lots of crappy writers use lots of figurative language.

    I certainly don't think figurative language is wrong or bad. Well used, it can add depth and richness to a story. Does she have some sort of authority for what she's saying, or is it just an idiosyncratic thought on her part?
     
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  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it is her own opinion. So you don't think figurative has a proper place? Just skill of the writer?
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think its proper place is anywhere it adds to the writing. If it's taken too far it can turn into purple prose or the writing can get confusing, but assuming it's used well? I think it can be used anywhere.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For examples of abstract, look at Kafka.
     
  8. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Huh? Who is Kafka?
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I wouldn't mind the use of demon if the sentences were edgier. Right now with the flow-y tone of the sentences - demon sticks out. Also the context might not suit it.

    Demon is an edgy word, a sharp image. It needs a good context to set it up. Right now it doesn't feel like it suits the surroundings or the tone. I would maybe just crop it out and leave the sentence as - Not yet willing to face/brave the cold she snuggled/retreated back under her blanket.

    I'm for either or - abstract or concrete - as long as it suits what you're trying to say for the moment and the overall book. I think though metaphors and abstractions can get writers into trouble because they can often be pulled out of an idea that doesn't suit the immediate scene or tone. For me viewing the cold as demonic is maybe for a homeless teenager who wakes up in an abandoned apartment building. The cold becomes viewed as an entity against her. But if it's just a young girl whose trying to stall off getting out of bed it becomes too unnecessarily dramatic.
     
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  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I almost fainted when I read this. Kafka is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Look him up, and read his stuff. He's very good.
     
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  11. GingerCoffee
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    "The familiar sensation of having to pee in the morning woke Jackie up.​
    I'd describe it as more annoying than familiar. Consider adding something that suggests how the character feels about the sensation rather than just recognizing it. We all recognize it. Or just leave the adjective out, again, the reader knows it is a familiar sensation to the character.

    "Poking her head out of the blanket with half open eyes she felt the cold morning air on her face. It was a demon she was not yet willing to face as she retreated back under the blanket."​
    Too many adjectives in the first sentence and I agree with @peachalulu, demon is the wrong word here, regardless of abstract vs concrete. Perhaps the person critiquing the work didn't verbalize the problem well.

    I also agree one could change the rest of the paragraph to make demon work rather than changing 'demon'. Unless she has an issue with the cold, "cold morning air" is not the demon, something else about the morning is.

     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    He was this guy: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka. All about the abstract, symbolism, metaphors, etc. Metamorphosis is a good example of that, Kafka probably didn't want us to think the MC literally turned into a giant bug, it was meant to be symbolic.
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I saw a wonderful stage production of The Metamorphosis once, Gregor was a guy in his underwear that became increasingly covered in tar, making all these strange movements that suggested the transformation was purely psychological - certainly psychologically metaphorical. As for the story itself, I always got the impression the change happened. To each their own interpretation I guess.

    As to the OP. I once heard an editor of a magazine say 'Abstraction is the enemy of good poetry'. I don't think that's always the case to be honest, I think such a comment is reductive. But if you are just starting out in fiction and use 'abstraction' as a cover, especially for something you have not thought through carefully enough, then you should be taken behind the chemical sheds and shot.
     
  14. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I lost you at Abstraction as a cover
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've been to a university creative writing workshop. I've seen far too many instances of people just saying 'Oh, it's abstract' to hide the fact they cannot be bothered to think up a point for whatever was supposed to be abstract. People use 'Lol! 2 deep 4 u!' to pretend they are saying more than they really are.
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There was a member on here once who basically denounced all writing that wasn't literal to be utter trash - and I must say, I vehemently disagree.

    Don't ever let someone else tell you how you should write. Too much of anything is bad. If your figurative language does not convey the message clearly and conjure some reaction or emotion or provoke thought - then yes, it probably doesn't have to be there. And yes, figurative language is easy to overuse and use badly. But there's always a time and place, and with practice you come to know when to use such language and how much, and more important, exactly how.

    I write pretty figuratively - so far, nearly everyone who's read my writing seems to rather enjoy it. Am I about to ditch it - my way of writing, my style, my voice, what makes writing fun for me - because one writer who can't seem to appreciate styles outside of her own says it's bad?

    Not a chance in the world. And you shouldn't either. There's more than just one way to write.
     
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  17. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like your opinion.

    I get caught up in learning. I mean I know I am no master. So I try to meaningfully listen to advice but I guess I have to be careful. Not all advise is good. Please reply to this too. You need a second like for this message :D. lol.

    Thank you.
     
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  18. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find this offensive.
     
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  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I mispoke. I don't know how that conditional got in there. I meant to say, "I mean, demons are real, so your friend's talking out of her ass, obviously."
     
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  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lool. I promise I'm not replying just to get a second like :D

    And yeah, always be open to learn, but then try and fit what you've learnt into your way of doing things :supercheeky:
     
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  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can do it, @GuardianWynn . I think you're awesome and I really like you (Hint, Hint).
     
  22. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel like I am missing something here. I can be kind of dense sometimes
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe we have strayed away from the original post, somewhat. Probably the more you miss, the better.
     

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