1. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada

    Cool Now Corny Later - Dated Fiction - a form of cannibalism?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, Aug 11, 2013.

    I started this discussion elsewhere and was hoping to get some new thoughts. Just for the record I'm not
    against modern fiction, I'm for all writing techniques but modern seems to be pushed especially in how-to-write
    books.

    I read a lot of vintage fiction and though it's only been a few decades, the difference in
    story telling is incredible. It's not just the lingo, it's the way people respond to one another, it's trends, it's mind set,
    it's sentence structure. The curious thing is - each timeline has it's own authors that sound so eeriely similar they could be
    the ghostwriters for the decade. Makes me wonder if in another thirty years will people will be shaking their heads at our
    ass-kicking women, gay best friends, token giant black guy, words like - sa-weet, fun bags, and whatever, health trends,
    drug culture, shlumpy beer drinking dads and iconic serial killers?

    Are we too greatly influenced by each others works, are we cannibalizing off each other to the point
    where though our stories seem different, the execution of language is so familiar that we're becoming ghostwriters
    to an idea. That too much focus on modernism and audience has left our stories different but our execution insipid.
    What do you think, do you think modernism is essential or overdone or not even an issue?
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. NeonFraction
    Offline

    NeonFraction Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2013
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    South
    I think evoking nostalgia in your writing style can be a powerful tool, but also risks losing some of the more modern audience. It all depends on how it's handled, of course. The Tolkien style of writing is popular and well understood, but Shakespeare can leave readers confused and grasping for a dictionary.

    Slang is always going to date a work, and many publishers say to try to avoid it altogether.

    Modernism is more a small part of one giant flavor, because no two modern writers will be alike. In many ways, modernism is responding to trends and mindsets of people because readers fell out of favor with the old style. The old, slow paced style of many old books now strikes many readers as dreadfully boring. Not in the sense of 'not enough exploding cars,' but in the sense of 'why dears you spending 8 pages on a soliloquy that just saying the same thing over and over.'

    Its tricky to evoke the old style without evoking the things that readers have outgrown. All the women being useless and dependent is something we did well to grow out of, but you're right in saying that many authors have now gone to the other cliche extreme and made many women just as unrealistic and one dimensional.

    Perhaps it's because I spent so much time reading manga, which is based on a different culture which embraces a different kind of modern than we do, but I think that unless you go for overtly vintage, you risk just making a story that people have outgrown.

    Of course, as always, there's nothing in writing that can't be done! I'd actually be super interested to see something done in a more vintage style, and making something more vintage could be an incredible and interesting style of writing.

    So in conclusion, vintage sounds awesome and I think there's a ton we can learn from the past while still not getting stuck in it.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I don't think it's the writing that changes so much as the times people are writing in change.
     
  4. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,035
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Yeah. How does the writer not write to some extent or another in his/her contemporary language? And since language is the vehicle by which culture progresses forward, how is the writer to divorce his/her when from the writing? Not long ago I read The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan. Very much an S&S Fantasy, but it was hard not to notice the very modern manner of expression, not only from the actors in the story, but even from the 3rdP narrator. Snark and sarcasm in the story (of which there was much) was of the Seth Rogan films variety. For me, jarring. For a younger reader, perhaps perfectly transparent. *shrug*
     
  5. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Gingercoffee - true. But -And maybe I'm using modern wrong - maybe it should be modernizing, is the modernizing of
    books making them better? I've read some D.H. Lawrence and some of his aren't that dated
    he wrote as though he wasn't trying to appeal to anyone accept himself. However, other authors
    ,same decade and some more popular, bare the stigma of sounding too forties and blending with a
    lot of other 40's authors. Is it that some authors set themselves apart and the bulk follow one another?
    Their change is more towards trend?

    Neon - I didn't mean that vintage was better ( did it seem that way? ) I mean that their vintage was their modern.
    And some of our modernized fiction will soon become the unreprintable vintage.
     
  6. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Wreybies -
    Good question and that is what I'm trying to explore - ditching the usual cause and effect reactions of a typical conversation. Conversation
    becomes dream language. Stripping away the usual comparisons, the knee-jerk urge to fall into modern cliches. Redefining a word by using it in an
    unusual way. Breaking modern patterns. Scrapping every bit of slang. Altering the blueprint, story-pattern arch.
     
  7. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,788
    Likes Received:
    7,300
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'm always struck by how people are in such a hurry when they read these days. They want the story to 'grab' from the very first sentence. They don't want any backstory, or godhelpus a Prologue. They want the whole story to be over with as quickly as possible. Cut to the chase. Cut all 'inessentials.' Forget about description. We are told not to even bother submitting a novel that is more than 100,000 words long. 90,000 is even better. Geez. I'd feel cheated if every novel I read was that short.

    Readers today seem to want the story to start RIGHT NOW, instead of the more leisurely openers of the past ...and not all that far back in the past either. Slow now equals boring, instead of absorbing. Instead of sliding into an environment, getting to know the setting and characters before the big plot gets underway, readers nowadays seem to want the entire story dashed over them like a bucket of ice water.

    I'm not that kind of reader myself, nor am I that kind of writer. I suppose this makes me old fashioned. I don't really care! I have always loved the act of reading. Maybe people today don't, as a general rule. They won't admit it, of course, but many of them don't really want to spend much time in a book.

    Or, so the publishers would have us believe. Me, I'm a bit cynical about that, too. It's easier and cheaper to publish short books, so that's what they tell us the public wants.
     
  8. NeonFraction
    Offline

    NeonFraction Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2013
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    South
    Nope! You didn't come off as saying vintage was better at all. You just started a conversation about something I never really thought of before, and I'm super glad you did. :love:

    Jannert: Lots of people seem to think 'engaging beginnings' as 'a car chase'. Not sure if that's what you meant, but I do think that that kind of opening isn't needed. But when I think of slow openings, I think of 'In the year 2638, Dragons descended on the earth. Humanity summoned it's greatest warriors and built a wall blah blah blah.' It's not even a story, it's just an exposition dump. I think there's so many better ways to immerse people in a world then dumping exposition on them or halting the plot to introduce everyone. That's not to say stories can't be rushed, but when it comes to getting people interested, I believe 'Never start off with a sloppy handshake!'

    Of course, it all depends on what KIND of slow, ya know? My favorite story ever is what lots of people would consider 'slow paced.'
     
  9. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    As a writer who loves description, I feel ya! I'm also debating on a lengthy description to start the novel I'm
    working on or just charging in. I'm leaning towards description.
     
  10. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,788
    Likes Received:
    7,300
    Location:
    Scotland
    It was interesting to read the latest (October) issue of Writer's Digest, and to come upon an article about why books get rejected by agents. Ho hum, you might say—these kinds of articles are ten-a-penny these days. But actually it was a REALLY interesting article to read.

    One of the points the author made is that many books get rejected because the snappy opener which has obviously been crafted to get attention, doesn't actually fit with the rest of the story. This agent feels too much time is often spent on crafting snappy openers, while the rest of the story is left to swing in the breeze. While a well-crafted beginning may get you the attention you want, if the rest of the book doesn't measure up, it will be rejected.

    She says she wants to be interested when she starts to read, but she's become sensitive to the 'gimmicky' openers people are encouraged to write at the moment, and says their cleverness is often not sustained.

    I really think we've become too fixated on the camel's nose these days, and need to look more closely at the entire animal.

    As to infodumps, well nobody likes them. But description does NOT equal infodump. Prologues do not equal 'infodump.' If you can immediately see the scene unfolding before your eyes, then the author has not written an infodump, even if it takes an entire chapter before anything much 'happens.' Instead, you are 'there,' getting to know the place. Hey, that's why I read. I want to get 'there' ...wherever the author is taking me.
     
  11. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,035
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    And let's not forget the new themeless ideology.

    This I glean I more from conversations here and in other forums. It doesn't matter what word I use, because there seems a great deal of disagreement over terminology, but when it comes to what I regard as theme (the real-world question or concept the writer is presenting for my ponderment within the framework of the fictional story) any conversation I bring up about this immediately evinces a barrage of responses all to the tune of "don't hammer the reader over the head with your presupposing message." It could be the very beginning of the conversational thread, no one has even really had a change to develop or propose any arguments, and by post #3 someone is invariably carping about polemics or preachiness blah, blah, blah... There is a defensive wall that shoots up and in order to get over that wall to have a discussion, you have to assure everyone that the theme in question will be watered down to levels acceptable to homeopathic 'medication' standards. Then, just maybe, you can have a conversation about it.

    And this I feel is a sign of our times, and one with which the author is going to be forced to deal, like it or not. Our modern verbiage gives even the youngest thinkers concepts like the political definition of narrative. The idea that this group or that group wants to sell you on their version of reality is everywhere. It's every discussion on every news show on every channel every day of the week. I guess there should be no surprise to me that when I bring up theme, people's Iron Man suits clink-flink-chunk-plink into place.
     
  12. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    There's more to the uniqueness of a work than just the style it's written in and/or the methods/processes used. Each writer's experiences, beliefs, and culture are going to influence how he/she writes. There's no escaping that. Despite any similarities in theme or idea, I think each writer's uniqueness wins out in the end (assuming the writer is any good). So for me this isn't that big of an issue.

    This thread makes me think of a somewhat related issue. The thing with novels and stories is that everything that can be done with them has already been done. There's really nothing new to accomplish with the actual form. Occasionally you'll have experimental works like Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes, but I think such works are trying too hard to get away from the traditional novel format. If you compare almost any modern novel to any novel in the past, you'll see that the structure hasn't changed one bit.
     
  13. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    Yes, I think authors have to be careful about trying too hard to do something new or unique when it comes to the form itself. It can be done, but if care isn't taken I think the reader will get the sense that the author is simply trying too hard. I've mentioned House of Leaves before as a work that is quite unusual in form, and I think that one was successful. But it is more the exception than the rule.
     
  14. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Wreybies - I almost think the anti-theme thing is one of those dangerous signs of the times in which nobody wants to
    even sugguest something might be immoral or wrong, or flipside right or moral and nobody wants to feel guilt over
    a choice, or regret. Everything is being funneled into a choice neither good nor bad just choice - forgetting or denying
    that there are repercussions despite personal beliefs.

    I also think in the day'n'age of the internet a lot of people don't know how to tactfully express an opinion. Put all that together
    and how in the world will a person/author handle something as personal, and tricky as theme without it either being heavyhanded or
    backfiring ( serial killers are actually lovable. ) So I think they chose no theme which can leave some works ( but not all ) vapid.
     
  15. Jade
    Offline

    Jade Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2008
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    England, UK
    It was a good way to describe it - cannibalising - and I think that it has definitely been happening. Isn't it one of the main things that new writers are told to do? To look at other works in the genre, and take notes on structure, etc. Writers retain their own ideas and style, but I think they can definitely be diluted by too much exposure to similar works. There is increased focus on audience, and a formula for structure. No one wants to stand out for the wrong reasons in an age where readers can get a review of a book in seconds, without giving it a chance themselves. I've seen so many articles where it's advised to look at what is currently selling, and to mould your idea to fit that existing demand.

    I think people will look at our chain-smoking badasses, coffee-drinking cops, and iconic serial killers as just the tastes of our time, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If I pick up a book that was written one hundred years ago I don't read it to compare it negatively with modern stuff. As jannert said, there has definitely been a shift towards instant gratification - a story needs to hook immediately - I don't disagree with this, my own attention span when I'm not already interested in a story is pretty short, but at the same time very few stories do have an utterly effective hook now because it's such a requirement to have a body on the floor on the first page that too many authors are doing it. Another example of cannibalism, but I don't really foresee a reverse trend away from that.
     
  16. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Interesting discussion. I was immediately reminded of the English teacher I had in my junior year of high school (1969-70). This was an all-boys, parochial school and this guy (who was only there for the one year before moving on) was definitely New Left in his thinking. He even got the school to replace Animal Farm on our assigned reading list with Catch-22. But what popped into my head about him as I read [MENTION=38314]peachalulu[/MENTION]'s OP was something he told us - that each time influences the writing of that time, not just in terms of events but in terms of ideas, mood, attitudes and trends. He said, "Thirty or forty years from now, people who read today's books and listen to songs from today won't be able to really understand it without some understanding of Vietnam and the struggle for civil rights."

    I'm struck by [MENTION=3885]Wreybies[/MENTION]' concern about lack of thematic material or message, because I know he's raised it before. And I wonder if it's related to the other aspects of writing "advice" we hear and see. I wonder if, 30 or 40 years from now, people will look back on our writing and wonder why we were in such a hurry and had so little to say. Will they be unable to understand it without understanding the digital revolution, the obsession with personal toys that allowed us to cut ourselves off from anything we didn't like and make ourselves the center of our own universe? Will they be able to understand American literature without putting it into the context of an empire in decline, rotting from within? Because it strikes me that our literature is becoming increasingly escapist, much like the films of the 1930s.
     

Share This Page