1. Alexander Kromyk
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    Alexander Kromyk New Member

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    Experience of Reading vs Writing fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alexander Kromyk, May 13, 2016.

    I've enjoyed reading fiction (I guess more specifically sci-fi) and my experiences have caused me to question whether I should try writing to exercise my personal creativity. However, when I begin to conjure up a plot line or character in my head I feel a bit disconnected. Also, casting conflict upon any made up characters feels wrong, even if I'm not that connected to them. I tend to like harmony above all else unless it's someone else creation, in which case I like conflict.

    Is writing less personal than reading? If not, when does one start to feel that they are connected to the plot and characters that are being created. Is it normal for a writer to dislike conflict or do most writers find enjoyment in creating it?
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    How well do you "know" these characters? Have you put anything on paper (or screen) or do you just have basic plot ideas? Like real people, our characters are strangers until we spend time with them. I think it's normal that an emotional connection grows.

    As that connection grows, of course many of us hate putting these made-up people through stress, heartache and danger. But a book without conflict isn't a good book. We have to put aside our desire to make our characters happy, and make them suffer instead. In my genre at least, they're guaranteed a happy ending. I think of it as them having to EARN their happy ending by overcoming obstacles.
     
  3. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Aehm. For me the exact opposite takes place.

    Writing is much more personal. I can't really compare the two, aside to say that since I have started to write I have not manage to read a single fiction-book because the experience pales against what I feel when I write.

    Regarding conflict: In a weird way I actually enjoy putting my characters through misery, yep @Tenderiser , here speaks the serial killer :D ! This is the result of the emotional highs/lows of me, the writer. Yes, I admit to leaping in joy or crying when my characters would feel like it.
     
  4. Alexander Kromyk
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    Alexander Kromyk New Member

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    Interesting. Sounds like there are two motivators here, one is feeling the dynamics of life through a character and the second is generating a greater meaning through conflicts characters endure.

    To be honest @Tenderiser , I don't know my characters at all. I think that's another part of my problem, it's easier to keep everything in a flux so that I can change it later. Think I'm might throw this topic in another thread.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  5. Kikijoy
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    Kikijoy Member

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    For me both experiences are personal and I think that is because whether I am reading or writing, everything that happens happens inside my head. Therefore, when I read I am creating a picture of what is happening and same thing goes for when I write. I guess though writing is a bit more close to my heart because I am extremely invested in my characters. I think that happens when you really believe in what you're writing...I guess that is what makes me a writer. I want to share my characters with people because I want to share a part of me.

    It is an interesting question though, whether authors like to put their characters through conflict. I would pose the question differently and ask what parts of writing do authors not like or like the least? Either way, I put my characters through whatever I deem necessary to get my point across ;)
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I tend to like peace, quiet and harmony myself but life isn't without struggle. Part of that struggle builds character and gives a person a chance to stand up for what they believe in. I read an interesting book a few weeks ago entitled Nice Girls Don't by Caroline B Cooney. The mc was a young girl who rallies to get the same benefits for her basketball team as the boys. Her opposition is fierce - down to even her teammates. But the struggles let me, the reader, feel a lot of feelings.

    Writing is personal. But there's no real time line to where you feel a connection to your stories. I've struggled at creating some and it sometimes takes a chapter to really feel involved. Other times I feel connected the moment the idea comes to me.
    I think you have to consider what conflict is giving you issues. Big decisions like having your character kill or be killed might be a struggle for any writer. But if you're having even issues with simple conflict then that's a problem. Cause writing is all about conflict. Even in nice books like Anne of Green Gables - Anne has to contend with the fact that her foster parents wanted a boy and she's only there on trial. That's conflict. In fact everything that comes to Anne is given a roadblock. She just doesn't meet a cute boy - he in his blundering attempt to flirt calls her carrots and she vows to hate him. It takes a while for her to forgive him and create a relationship with him. But that struggle endears them to us even more.

    I think you have to keep your mc at a creative distance. It's not a baby that you wish a perfect life on. Or a Barbie doll that you can fully equipt. Those aren't stories. A character is a person who wants something and doesn't get it easily. And remember conflict doesn't always have to be mean or something bad. Tension/conflict can be humorous. Or tempered with love. Embarrassment can be later looked back on with a laugh. It's not all sorrow, there should be some successes and victories.
     
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  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Reading is an escape into another reality, and giving in to the imagination with out having to worry about all the little things that piss you off when you write. Writing is personal, compared to allowing someone else whisk you off to fantastic places and adventures, without worrying too much about the spelling and bloody grammar. It should be an enjoyable experience where such things are trivial, and the story is the main focus of the exercise known as reading. At least that is what I do, separate them so I don't wind up not being able to enjoy one without the other. Cause when you blur the two, one will inevitably annoy the piss out of you. I just want a damn good story told the best it can be, not some tedious robotic thing slugging along with an air of perfection. But I guess I have imagination, and there for wish to explore and expand it without getting bitter over all. A thing few people feed is the imagination. All work and no play, makes one a dull boy. :p

     
  8. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you're experiencing, I think, is similar to what I go through whenever starting a story. I don't know the characters, so the only route I have for connecting with them is to write about them.

    I always start with a plot, so when I finally get around to actually writing, I rarely even know my characters' names (that's how disconnected I am from them). I start by giving them whatever placeholder name pops into my head and get to writing so I can see how they fit into the plot. I do, eventually, get down to a very serious naming session where I look up meanings of names and try to get all appropriate. But that comes after I've got some idea of who they are as people and how they react to story events.

    By the time I'm finished a first draft, I've got some idea of who the characters are (likes, dislikes, how they act under pressure, all that kind of stuff) but I still haven't really nailed them down. In fact, even after writing seven full drafts of my current WIP, I'm still finding out stuff about the characters, stuff that's relevant to the story. (And, BTW, I rarely—if ever—make note of any character traits that don't make it into the story. If the trait doesn't come to the surface in the plot, I simply don't care about it. But that's me. I've been told I do things wrong with a capital 'W,' but I don't care about that, either. :) )

    If by 'connected' you mean: knows the character inside and out...

    Hm... maybe never for me. But while writing this (the 8th) draft, I can smell their farts and I know how many toes they have.

    Yup! Well, in my case it is (the first part of your question, not the second). For me, it's so bad that in my first five novels none of the MCs ever got around to driving their plots. Talk about reluctant heroes! For me, the answer was in Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (see my sig below). By following their advice and mapping out plots and scenes, I got the MC involved... eventually. But also, I needed a major nudge from a beta reader (thank you, @Tenderiser) who pointed out that motivation was getting lost somewhere in the first act. Hopefully, that's been remedied in this draft.

    And just to give you some perspective on me as a writer, I don't write simply for pleasure (although it can be as much of a joy as it is a job). I'm intending to get published the old-fashioned way, in print by a publisher.
     
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  9. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Concur with @tenderizer. When you start, you don't know your characters at all. My basic plot for current WIP was some 1st century Romans go to China, have trouble in court, and have a helluva time getting back, and that was all. That was where I started 20 years ago. The first chapter, I had two characters, one apparently a senior officer, the other apparently a soldier who had a long time connection with him. The second chapter, I learned their names, that they had both been with the 12th Fulminata "Lightning Bolt" legion in Syria, the senior officer detached on the diplomatic mission to China because his cousin, a Senator I hadn't yet met, was going as ambassador. The legion commander gives him a geopolitical view of why his mission is important, promises him his own command of a legion if successful, so he would be the equivalent of a modern Lt Col. Thirty-ish, a leader, affable. The other soldier was the senior centurion of the legion (think color master sergeant), been with the officer through both of their careers and two legions, they know each other well enough to be quite straight-spoken. The third chapter introduced me to the Senator, the fourth to a pirate who was going to hijack their ship and the shipping master in cahoots with him. And so on.

    I speak of my getting to know these people because that is what happened. I knew nothing about them when I started, but now, finished and on my fourth revision, they are very real people to me. And because they are real to me, my readers likewise find them real.

    You will find there are two irreconcilable schools in writing, @Alexander Kromyk , the "pantsers" and the planners. I am a pantser, in that I do not write a detailed plot or character sketches in advance, but discover them on my own. Planners lay everything out in advance, then fill in the blanks. Planners think pantsers are disorganized, pantsers think planners write without the emotion of discovery.

    Neither is true, and neither is anyone entirely one or the other. While I may have not planned the whole book in advance, I did a lot of research on each leg of the journey. I used a map making program to lay out each leg of their route, I knew the ancient names of the places they would visit, read the "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea" which gave me a contemporary 1st century view of the Indian Ocean ports of call, winds, tides and weather conditions. So in each chapter I knew where they were going and how to get there, but not what was going to happen enroute in any detail. I knew they were going to be hijacked, and I knew they were going to have to get the ship back, but I didn't know how until I told the story. Sometimes that chapter didn't turn out at all the way I thought it would when I started it.

    Once I got on a roll, writing the story was literally more like going downstairs to watch a TV serial to see what happened next, than work.

    So I hope this helps, and welcome to the wonderful world of writing!
     
  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're going to get a lot of different answers to this (and I haven't read the rest yet) - and I don't think it's less personal but at times it definitely can be painful. Making a good story requires you to put your characters through horrible things in order to make them grow. As a reader, you're the character's friend - and as a writer I kind of have to accept that they can't be your friends. You're their parent in a weird way, and there's a reason that good parents aren't their kids' best friend. In your own writing, you can't just root for the characters in the face of events, you also have to make the events that they rise to conquer. That doesn't mean you don't love them, but you're in a different role - and to return to the parental analogy, you'll ruin your "kids" if you don't make them do tough things. Get excited about their growth.

    In my opinion, you're actually doing good if you're starting off being concerned about the characters rather than the world. You've just cleared one of the big hangups of a lot of SciFi/Fantasy writers, which is getting excited about the worldbuilding and not being able to get invested in characters at the street level.

    Their are writers who do feel bad about what they do to their characters and writers who don't (I personally do, but I like the people that don't because they're the ones that come up with some truly messed up plotlines that say a lot about society - see: George R.R. Martin). Some level of "disconnection" is helpful, obviously, because you have to think about what you like to read as a storyline and the basic events - which is the structural stuff, the beams that hold up the house. I'm not sure many people feel really connected to the beams as they're nailing them in place, but they're invested in the concept of the house they want to build. The guts of it aren't always pretty, but they're important - and learning about those guts and how they work definitely changes the way I look at fiction I read or watch - I'm now more empowered to look for the plot beats and see the writer's hand behind the story, not just enjoying the ride. For me, after learning writing, the authors become characters - I can see their flourishes and what they're doing and why they're doing it.
     
  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I will concur with everyone that says connection grows to a character over time.

    However, the way that connection grows is different for everyone. A lot of people above (@Lew , @Sack-a-Doo! ) seem to imply they start with plot and then add characters...which is totally fine. I, however, start with character and then add plot. I need the emotional connection up front, so I do my character-building work first (I'll start with a basic world concept and then conjure up a protagonist who fits in that - maybe do some intense background). Then I ask what I'm going to do with these people. So, everyone does this a bit differently.
     
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  12. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    My pirate evolved, in a wholly unexpected way, from villain to friend to hero, who was ultimately killed. He early on in this evolution with his Roman victims turned reluctant accomplices, said wistfully that he, at age 60, would like to know friendship before he died, that he had had accomplices, allies, enemies, co-conspirators, but never a friend. At the end, he died, having rescued the party and led them out of China, almost to the Roman border and a pardon, maybe even citizenship for services rendered. It was a tearful moment as he died in the arms of friends like he had never expected to know, quietly insisting that the centurion take his hands off the sucking chest wound and let him go... he had become their father figure during the long road home. And I teared up a bit as they buried him, and the Jewish rebel, part of the incongruous party, sang the Kadesh hymn of mourning for him.
     
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  13. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually started with neither plot nor people. Just learned from reading that the Romans had a diplomatic mission in China in 166AD and wondered, "Wow! I wonder what that first trip would have been like?" I had to write the story to find out.
     
  14. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love hitting the big idea like that! :)

    I had a recent one where I got a chance to see Wagner's "Ring Cycle" operas and got to thinking that the Valkyries (all but one of whom are REALLY minor parts) would have had some serious emotional issues after that thing ended (if they survived). And since it was Passover week I was thinking about Wagner and anti-Semitism and identity and all sorts of Jewish cultural issues.

    So now I have a story with a fallen Valkyrie nine hundred years after the events of the opera, living as an Orthodox Jew in modern-day Washington. (Things go really bad when her skinhead twin sister shows up - amazing how nine centuries create distance between siblings).
     

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