1. Slappydappy
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    Slappydappy Member

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    Does everything you write have to be genius or compelling?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Slappydappy, Mar 10, 2012.

    I notice when writing, I spend alot of time just describing things and actions. It isn't terribly exciting. What is my main problem? How do I make everything I write beautiful and interesting, or is it just impossible?

    Will we just have to have boring exposition sometimes? People opening doors, walking, looking at things, etc.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It isn't those actions or exposition that is dull and boring or exciting, but the scene they are a part of. Are you infodumping or are these part of the main action ?

    I've just written a bit were my main character has taken a mug off another character and gone to sit down on a chesterfield sofa. Not terribly exciting, but they are currently having a discussion about a body they have just found. One is a Detective Sergeant and the other is his uncle the Abbot of the monastery where the body has just been found. The sergeant is about to be sat on a stone step waiting for the SOCO (UK CSI) and is going to watch the new Detective Chief Inspector walk towards him. Gives his opinion of his appearance, again it is just two men saying hello and some police procedural bits - however it is also the first move in what will become a will they won't they become lovers relationship. The readers already know they are both gay, one has just ended a bad relationship and the other is still in a rotten relationship. This part is how it fits into the rest of the story that makes it interesting.

    Try not to look at it as individual sentences but as scenes and a complete story.
     
  3. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    You need conflict to get the story exciting. What does your character want? What are the obstacles? What will he do to overcome the obstacles?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exposition doesn't have to be boring. It may be how you write it, or where you write it.

    Never shovel background at the reader before teh reader has any reason to give a crap. Wait until the reader is aching to understand, then drop crumbs and morsels, not an eight course dinner.

    Any passage that strikes you as boring will probably be doubly so for the reader. Such passages are begging for a rewrite. You don't have to deal with it in the first draft, but you will need to deal with it.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Absolutely. I've just finished Paul Hoffman's The Last Four Things, which is probably something like 50% exposition -- but he does the exposition so well (basically, with so many gags in it) that I enjoyed it as much as the progress of the plot.
     
  6. Slappydappy
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    Slappydappy Member

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    Ok here's another question. I've learned that my writing style is weird. I switch from first person to third person alot. I need to pick one and stick with it before I move further into this story. Or is there a way to successful switch point of views?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Best to stick to one or the other for now. As you gain experience, you will learn when and how switching between first and third works, and when it doesn't.

    They have a distinctly different "feel", which must be carefully managed to keep the reader from hitting mental speed bumps during the transitions.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Eliminate the people opening doors and all the rest of it.

    I used to write stuff like this:

    Dave picked up the phone and dialed Neil's number. After four rings, a woman answered. "Neil Smith's office," she said.
    "Could I speak to Neil? Tell him it's Dave."
    "Hold on a moment." Dave barely heard the receptionist's voice calling for someone, and in the background, another, male, voice answering. Then the line came alive again. "Dave? Neil. What's up?"
    "The Robertson contract is going down the drain. What do we do?"

    Now all this is boring, except the last line. That's the first line that moves the plot forward. So I learned to rewrite this kind of thing like this:

    Dave called Neil. "Neil, the Robertson contract is going down the drain. What do we do?"

    See? Much cleaner, and the only stuff you lose is the run-of-the-mill phone answering and pleasantries that everybody knows happens anyway. Skip by all of that. It isn't necessary and your reader will be happier.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Everyone is right in saying that exposition shouldn't be boring. The best way to reveal necessary info is to slip it in naturally, in passing, tiny bits here and there -- a little bit goes a long way, and infodumping is never good.

    As for everything being genius, no. I've got some writing projects that I take very seriously, and some very wacky/campy satire type stories that I write just for the hell of it. Don't worry about being profound 100 percent of the time (unless you're working on a particular piece for which that is the goal). Have some fun, too.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that part of the question is, why are you describing the things and actions that you find to be unexciting? Are you describing a bar (for example) because it allows you to communicate how the character feels in the bar and because that will give some insight into why he behaves the way he does in a criticial upcoming scene? Or are you describing the bar because he's in the bar and so you think you should describe it? If it's the second, why is he in the bar? If you don't have a good reason for describing the bar, do you even have a good reason for having a scene in the bar?

    Most descriptions and actions and scenes and events should have a reason for being in the story, and that reason should be more than just tying the last significant thing to the next significant thing. If something is boring, that may mean that it doesn't need to be in the story.

    Edited to add: Certainly, not everything needs to be genius. But I think that pretty much everything should feel like it's worth reading. If a reader finds himself pulled out of the story with thoughts like, "Why is he telling me this?" then something is wrong.

    ChickenFreak
     
  11. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Hey Minstrel, I've read that example somewhere before - is it from On Writing? I think maybe a reference to where you got it from would be appropriate....
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't remember it from On Writing. I actually wrote it. You probably read a very similar example in another thread on this forum that I also wrote, because this question has come up before and I responded the same way then. I would have linked to the post, but it's easier to rewrite the example than to try to find it.
     
  13. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Possibly, but I'm sure I've read that somewhere in a published 'how to' guide. Maybe you read the same one and unconsciously wrote something similar?
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that it's pretty clear and straightforward (and good) advice that many writers are likely to realize over time. It doesn't strike me as the kind of advice that needs to be attributed to anyone, as long as the words are one's own.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. Slappydappy
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    Slappydappy Member

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    Ok here is a random excerpt from one of my writings. You can see what I am talking about with regards to first/third person:

    "My name is Dale. I live with my mother, brother and sister. Our dad dissapeared when we were young. He went on an adventure into the Old World and never returned. I still believe that one day I will see him again. Whether it is in this life, or the next, I know not.

    ********************************** (section break)

    "Dale, you need to find a wife" said mother, sipping her morning coffee.

    "Brandon doesn't have a wife" said Dale.

    "He has a girlfriend though" said my sister.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    it just needs to be my mother and I said and everything is in first person.
     
  17. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    (Reminded me of this)

    "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next. "

    Russell Crowe - Gladiator

    You plagiariser!
     
  18. Slappydappy
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    I may stick to First Person Past Tense.

    It seems First Person Present Tense is tedious and I don't think I have the skill for it yet. Or can they be alternated within a story?
     
  19. Slappydappy
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    Slappydappy Member

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    LOL I don't even remember that movie.
     
  20. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    I especially like the 'I know not' at the end of the sentence, rather sombre, Roman-esque, like you're about to go into battle

    And shame on you for not remembering Gladiator! :rolleyes:
     
  21. Slappydappy
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    All I remember is saying "This wasn't as good as Braveheart". And that was it. I loved Master and Commander though.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mixing narratives and tenses can be done successfully but they work better if you understand why you are doing it, and it has a purpose.

    The big priority is not to do anything that is confusing and drags a reader out of the story.
     
  23. DaVinci
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    DaVinci Banned

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    “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” -Elmore Leonard
     

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