1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Examples of dubious 'padding' from published novels

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by OurJud, Aug 23, 2015.

    Here's a couple to get the ball rolling.

    Iain Banks' admitted that while writing his first novel The Wasp Factory, he would insert a telephone conversation between the MC and his estranged, loony brother, whenever he started to dry up or worry about word-count.

    Even more dubious is Will Vlauntin's The Motel Life (yes, that book again). In it, the MC Will often tell his slightly backwards brother wild adventure stories that he supposedly makes up on the spot. When this happens, the author switches to italics and gives us the story in full - sometimes going on for four or five pages.

    So it can be done and get past the editors.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Huh, I never thought of those phone conversations as padding. I haven't read The Motel Life, but perhaps these are examples of really-well-done padding getting past the editors?
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure it is a matter of 'getting past' editors. That implies they weren't aware of it. Novels provide plenty of opportunity for 'padding' in the form of tangents and asides. They aren't like short stories, where every word is advancing the story. So if an author has to hit a target word count for a novel there is a lot of opportunity to pad extend the work to get there.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking of the word dubious...

    Any conversation on writing that contains phrases like get away with, get past the editor, etc. are automatically - to me - dubious trains of thought. Perhaps I'm just being a pedantic prig as regards what people mean when they say those words, but a train of thought that contains get away with in regards to my writing is not a train I would personally choose to take. There is something about that phrasing that implies an attempt to sneak something that is substandard past a critical eye. Why would anyone want to deliberately and knowingly include something substandard in their text? I never want to get away with anything. I want to excel. I want to succeed. I want to tread untrodden ground. Yes. Those thing, I want and endeavor to do. But get away with something...? No.
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, neither did I until Iain Banks was quoted saying as much.

    So, Steerpike, are you saying padding, for the sake of reaching a word count target, is acceptable?
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I think padding would have to be something that "gets past" an editor, because it shouldn't be there. If its only purpose is to increase the word count then it doesn't deserve to be included in the book

    But then, I saw the phone conversations as parts of the story that advanced the plot, so they probably don't deserve to be called padding.
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sure. Just like cutting words from a work to hit a word count is acceptable. Only thing that matters is whether the final product is good or not.
     
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  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Calm down.

    Yes, you've misinterpreted my meaning. For starters, not once did I use the expression 'get away with'. Perhaps 'past' by the editor as borderline acceptable may have been a better way to put it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  9. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    But it was Iain Banks himself who said it. This is not my opinion.
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I know :)
     
  11. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    See that's the problem with candour. Maybe you think you are talking about 'writing' with all the associate turn of phrase, the shorthand. Readers get hold of this babble, turn it into something else entirely. It's like a fourth wall breached. Best if writers keep it zipped, and away from the 'little folk.' :)) x
     
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  12. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's too deep for me. What are you saying?
     
  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought I deleted it.
     
  14. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why did you want to delete it?

    I'm still trying to work out if your post is having a pop at me. If so, will you please explain.
     
  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eghh...

    A well-established author such as Iain Banks has the leisure to say [in my words] 'that section was just a croc of shit, there to fill folio, ho ho, my irony.' When he means 'It is integral to the style and flow of the piece.'

    But I don't mean it any more, because I deleted the post. It doesn't seem fair somehow that I must answer for something I never really said, only thought briefly and pressed the wrong buttons. I am innocent.
     
  16. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not popping.
     
  17. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    But why would he say that? What does it achieve?
     
  18. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    The author gave a 'writer response' when he should have been more considerate, given a 'reader response.' That was my meaning.

    I tried to type out a discussion of this point - but I couldn't make it all hang together - so gave up. I'd have to find out more on Iain Banks. I don't want to at the moment.
     
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  19. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, okay. I just wondered if I was the 'little folk' in your OP and you were suggesting my views were narrow-minded and/or unintelligent in some way.

    Just to clarify, I was just trying to say that despite constantly being told that 'filler' and 'fat' are a no-no for bulking out your novel, there are instances in published novels that seem to use the trick.

    Maybe I am narrow-minded to an extent, and I'm simply failing to recognise the true meaning of 'filler'. I suppose, as others have said, if it makes for good reading (whether it's filler or not) then it's perfectly okay.
     
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I think "filler", by definition, is something that doesn't advance the plot or character development in any way. That's why I can't see the phone conversations as filler - they DO advance the plot, quite significantly (whatever Banks' reason for including them). So if you put something in just to bump up word count, but it tells you something new that would be lost if you deleted it... I can't see an issue with that.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I give novel writers a lot of leeway in taking the reader on an aside. Steven Erikson is a fantasy write who does a lot of this. And you can look at classic literature - The Brothers Karamazov is one of the best novels ever written, in my view, and there are whole chapters like Rebellion and The Grand Inquisitor that take the reader down some side path unconnected with the story. Those chapter are connected with the themes, and Rebellion in particular does some good characterization of Ivan and Alyosha, but that's stuff Dostoevsky could have done much more easily without these lengthy asides. In the end, writing a novel is an art, and he make those decisions artistically, not merely as the most expedient way to accomplish a goal.
     
  22. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    @OurJud I read your sci-fi story, isn't that enough? It's good by the way, so keep on keeping on.

    What was in my head ... when people say [and it hasn't happened very often]:

    'What I liked about your story was the way two characters appeared exact opposites: a ying to a yang, representing, well, wow, the human condition internalised and divided...and all the...'

    And you should not say:

    'Oh, I just thought it would be funny, you know: two bank robbers, one fat one thin, ehmm.'

    But do say:

    'You are absolutely right. I am marvellous, and have many other stories you might appreciate in my collection, here priced competitively at £2.99.'
     
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  23. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    Bright Shiny Morning, by James Frey.

    I read it following a recommendation from the receptionist at work. I'm sure she meant well.

    One section describes LA's main roads in somniferous detail; the name of the road, where it goes, what the locals call it. Another section treats us to a manure truckload of trivia trying to masquerade as 'Interesting Facts About LA', or words to that effect.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that even if his reasons for writing those parts were not, at the time of writing, good artistic reasons, the end product turned out to be good art. So to me, this is an argument for Just Write.
     
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  25. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    How about "getting past the censor"? I could see the phrasing "getting past the editor" being used in a similar way, implying the editor is overly restrictive and is cramping the author's creative style.
     
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