1. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Experience

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SeverinR, Mar 3, 2011.

    My favorite author encourages people to get out and experience the things that could be in her book.

    I experienced alot before I decided to start writing. I think it helps to write about doing it, rather then trying to imagine what it would be like.

    There is no words to describe charging towards a quintain, lance in hand, the sound of the lance meeting the target, and riding past without getting smacked by the counter weight.
    No better way to know the sheer boredom of a long ride in the saddle then to experience it. The feeling at the end of the day, when rider and horse are about ready to fall asleep standing up.

    If I had not experienced it, I would not have realized how annoying a cloak can be on a windy day. Horseback when your cloak suddenly blows over your head, you are blind and the horse doesn't know it.
    Primative camping with horses. Your horse falling alseep, with his head resting on your shoulder. Horse hugs. Who would have thought of a tunic needing adjusted for horseback riding? During the winter, the middle ager probably wore every piece of clothing they owned, and there was bathing except when at home on special occasions.
    Belly dancers dancing to muscians in the light of a bon-fire.

    I know we can usually find some description of events, but to experience them makes it alot easier to describe them.

    I would recomend, if you can, experience something first hand, do it. You can provide information that someone simply researching will never know.
     
  2. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    Well 'they' say write what you know, but I tend to use writing to satisfy my adventurous nature. I say adventurous nature, and by that I mean a lazy person with an active person's ambition for experience. Yours is good advice and a new (at least, to me) twist on a trite mantra.

    I definitely agree, and am embarrassed that I've not really given it much thought before. But it makes complete sense that the little details that a writer's imagination alone can't conjure are the little touches that put the reader exactly on the back of the horse, alongside the intent of the writer.

    My thing's sci-fi and epic battle scenes. I've never raced a space ship, but I can use my experiences of general hooliganism on motorcycles. I've never been on a battlefield, but shouting orders during a game of paintball, and talking to friends who have served gives me a very, very rough idea. My point is yes, when available, recreating the experiences of what you write about is a great idea. When it's not available because of time, money, reality, etc., use second, third or fourth best - but definitely use something.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah. I'm on the get out and experience stuff you want to write on. First hand experience is always a plus.

    But, it important to remember that any first hand experienced is a plus. Perhaps you don't have a lot of experience of military starships, but you have spent a lot of time in lunchrooms, and it might be safe to assume that the ships lunchroom (erm perhaps it called a mess hall on ship?) in essence will be pretty much like the lunchroom you encountered. And trough the small details you can get right from whatever life experience you have you can make it all feel a lot more real.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a fantasy writer this one is always a little odd, I can learn about a lot of the things I write about but I can't really experience it. Having said that I can be pretty sure none of my readers have turned into a swan either so an afternoon looking at them on youtube was enough research.

    Having said that I have a new character a Jack Russell called 'Russ' having owned one for over 16 years (she was 20 when she died) - I do find him very easy to write. But then I also write teenagers, gay men, children and old people. One day I will sit down and write about a straight middle aged woman lol.
     
  5. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Thats true too.
    We have experience that we don't realize, even without my Middle ages recreations.

    But I would look for anyway to feel the event, rather then hear someone else describe it.

    Paintball: I could describe what it feels like being shot in the head. Paintball to the forehead, stopped me and almost dropped me.(right above the mask)

    Even going to events that show experiences can show subtle things someone watching on youtube, or reading about it could miss.

    I doubt anyone could describe being in the zone, unless they have been there. The zone being everything goes silent, slow motion, you are moving regular but you see everything in slow motion. I have been in the zone playing sports, HS graduation, car accidents and probably other places I don't remember.
    You have experiences, don't forget to tap those, but also look for ways to find similar experiences as you write about. (Not to mention, they are interesting too.)
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whilst wide experience and a good education is helpful with writing part of me thinks why not research and use your imagination. There is no right way to do things but I am wondering about when Dustin Hoffman got himself all tired, sweaty etc to get himself into part for the Marathon man and Laurence Olivier says something along the lines of, 'My dear boy why don't you just act it.'

    As I said in a previous post there is a lot in my stories I cannot experience or understand first hand I need to rely on research and imagination for a good portion of it. I can't even experience what it is like to live on the planet I have to fill in the gaps from things I do know.
     
  7. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    True, I am not saying I don't just research and use the information in my work, but I think some experience that others might never know will give the edge.
    Definately do not grab a lance and leap onto someone elses horse with no riding history. (your experience will be falling onto your back, and having the horse look at you like your stupid, btdt and no matter which horse, they all do it.) But look for ways to experience new things.

    I guarantee, there is no describing 2nd hand, being called before a court, bowing to the Baron, and being advised that you are the first Equestrian champion of the Barony(with your daughters watching).

    There are alot of things in fantasy we just have to guess, or pretend we know. But finding the little things that make our fantasy world more real, and it will be that much better.
     
  8. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    It feels odd to say it, but I suppose I'm guilty of associating fiction too heavily with imagination. In any genre, there will be loads of actions that the writer would have performed - from drinking a cup of coffee that hasn't been rinsed since its last use, making the edge stick to the drinker's lip as he, or she, sips and places it back on a coaster, to falling off of something - anything - and feeling the time between falling and hitting something hard.

    The memories that you've got will add tiny details that put the reader smack bang in the scene. Definitely re-enact being advised that you are the first Equestrian champion of the Barony(with your daughters watching), if you can. And, I think, it can make the difference between someone who writes, and a dedicated artist. But I think the lesson here (and I thank you for it) is to experience as much as you possibly can and to use memory as often as imagination.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well there are loads of stuff you shouldn't strive to experience. Getting into an abusive relationship wont make you a better writer, it probably brake you.

    But still, you should try to get enough second and third hand and use analogous experiences as much as you can in your writing in thous cases.
     
  10. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Experience is an undeniable bonus, in any job, and certainly so in writing. But imagination is not be discounted either.

    I have the (unique?) perspective of having written a lot of things without experience, then gaining the experience and looking back on what I wrote (years and years ago) and seeing how it actually matches what I now know. I found that I got most of the little details quite right, what I didn't get right was the big picture.

    For example, while analyzing my battle scenes, I noticed that the behaviour of the individual soldiers and small units was absolutely realistic, even if I was a young teenager at time of writing, whose only source of information was TV. What I got completely wrong was the behaviour of officers and large formations. Worst of all were the generals, particularly if I was writing from their point of view. There is just far too much technical background involved in these professions, and they are much more busy people than I thought.

    Similarly, I think you can't write a realistic boardroom meeting without at least having been exposed to management language. "Increase our profits" just isn't what they say most of the time. It's more like "review our corporate knowledge management processes and cross-check the results with our lean practices".

    So, to sum up, I think whenever you are dealing with "ordinary" people, i.e. people who do not have to juggle dozens of highly complex and technical issues at the same time, your imagination is sufficient to do the job, though experience undeniably helps.
     
  11. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Look up the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). If you like what you find out about them, decide you want to join their group and help in their quest to preserve all things medieval, you can attend their events, classes and workshops, where you can learn real skills in sword fighting, armor crafting, jousting, and courtly life. After graduation from their courses, you can enter into their jousting tournaments, fight in their medieval wars (with padded swords and axes), make sausages and cheese by hand and weave your own cloth, just like they did in the middle ages.

    An invaluable experience for the medieval/fantasy writer, to say the least.
     
  12. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    *eyes Porcupine with narrowed, skeptical eyes, while he chews on his cigar and absently adjusts his power tie*.

    Having reviewed your performance in the above post and the subsequent posts for the last three reporting cycles, I couldn't help but notice that not only did you fail to meet the mandated 4% increase in verbosity for posting, but your quoted replies are not ISO12000 compliant.

    Furthermore, your reply lacked any cost benefit analysis at all and clearly demonstrates your inability to utilize synergy. However, I do like the way you are thinking outside the box. The initiative and drive you exhibit show room for potential growth and that could very well mean a decent return on our investment. If we can just reduce the material costs and outsource the labor for your posting, I think we will have a winning strategy for going forward.

    I'll get with legal and see what can be done about leveraging the service rates for tech support to compensate for your initial slow start up. After that balances out, perhaps we can fast track your posting right up the company ladder.

    - Sorry, I simply couldn't resist ;)
     
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  13. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I am in the SCA and have found it helpful to my fantasy writing.
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Well, sometimes it is not possible to experience everything we write or want to write, or simply, the story demands it before we could go out there and experience it. A writer who is single may have to write about a divorce couple because his/her story is much better that way. He just couldn't experience it even if he wants to. So, observe, absorb, and research is the key. This also has the advantage of writing objectively. Yes, it seems easier to write about things we have already experienced. But sometimes, you might get too involve with what you have experienced, the char becoming....well, too much you, and your objectivity might suffer.

    I am by no means saying experiencing things you want to write is bad. These are just points we have to keep in mind in general.
     
  15. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Brilliant, as always! You really ought to go public with some of your stuff. It's wasted on an internet forum.

    Tried to increase your reputation, but since I want to do that for nearly every second post of yours, it doesn't allow me to.

    EDIT: One other thing where writing without any experience can fail horribly are sex scenes, by the way. I sort of noticed this while browsing the "romance" section of the review room. ;)
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Until you have tried roasted squirrel, stuffed dormouse and crow pie the experience isn't that authentic lol :) The swan is out these days because in the UK inbetween middles ages and modern times it became an act of treason to kill and eat a swan.
     
  17. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    You flatter me...but I'm still not loaning you any money :)
     
  18. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Admittedly I am not well versed in UK law, but treason? I thought treason would be selling British military secrets to the Soviets or something along those lines?
     
  19. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    *Points to Silver_Dragon's post*

    SEE! I was RIGHT for once! :D
     
  20. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    This is going slightly off topic, but what I really hate about those medieval "markets" and "happenings" is that most of the food they serve are potato pies, corn cobs, and stuffed bell peppers, none of which would have been available in medieval Europe. Though I'm sure many middle-ages-enthusiasts take these things more seriously even more seriously than I do. :)
     
  21. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    If they did it in the middle ages, the SCA is looking for a way to do it now.
    (Metal work(forge), archery, Jousting, bead making, etc)

    I should point out, the championship was for a small Barony, and was only 7 horses in the running.(ten riders) But the experience will benefit my work.

    I do draw alot of experience from the SCA, but other experiences too.
    That is why I posted this. Just to encourage people to step away from the keyboard and do it.
    Not a life long dedication like a marathon, but the little things that a person can do, to learn and feel what they write.

    I did not mean for this to be a ad for the SCA, but to point out the difference between seeing it on a computer screen and being there.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Treason is an act against the crown - The story might be a legend but the end result isn't: somewhere along the line a king (I want to say Henry VII but could be wrong) decided he wanted something at his banquets that no one else served from that time on the swans have belonged to the crown. Only the Queen can kill/order the killing of swans.

    It's why I picked the swan as Socrates bird.
     
  23. digitig
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    It's true that in the UK the crown owns all swans (jointly with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies), but killing one isn't treason. Treason is an act against the crown, not the breaking of crown law (otherwise every offence would be treason). Killing a swan is the offence of "killing a protected bird" under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, not treason (it came up in Bedford last year, and prosecutors considered also bringing a charge of theft -- not treason -- on the grounds that the swan belonged to the queen and the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, but seem to have dropped the idea because the legal ground was so muddy).
     
  24. madhoca
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    I loved the OP's point about the cloak being a nuisance on horseback.
    When I worked for Bermans, the costumiers, years ago, I frequently tried on costumes. It's great for historicals knowing at first hand e.g. how difficult sitting in an armchair wearing a full crinoline is.
     
  25. SeverinR
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    They do prefer the food be somewhat period(which ever period it is, but basically middle ages) but I have to admit, food was not my strong suit.
    But I do know, ceramic plate and modern utensils are frowned on in the SCA.
    (I never got my feast gear)

    ah, I believe we were talking of previous time periods, the act which you mentioned would not cover the times before 1981. Unless of course the King just recently decided he wanted the unique dish. (I don't believe the royal family has that much power, to decide they want a dish only they could serve.)
    Treason is traditionally a crime against the nation. In writing, some have claimed anything that is against the crown is treason, thus killing the bird that the king says not too, could be treason, depending on the definition.
    but I think it would probably be a different crime. Severely punished, yes, but treason?

    The windy day, also had me decide to not wear the chain maille I had brought. Falling on soft grass much better then falling on a chain fabric.
    Horses dislike windy days, even more so when the area around them is new.
    Those evil horse eating flags fluttering in the wind didn't help either. (Flags and floppy cloth signs were common in that period.)

    and like I said before, research is good, living it is better. Research will tell you what the writer knows about the subject, possibly just from third person knowledge. When your there, you can look around, see how people act, react and so on. When your there you can use all of your senses and get infomation no one reading a reference book would know.
    Even to that point, if you can find someone that experienced the event your trying to describe, it will be better then 2nd hand or third hand information.
     

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