1. PJ.Paradox
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    PJ.Paradox Member

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    My Peculiar Struggle With Fiction Writing

    Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by PJ.Paradox, Mar 11, 2010.

    Advice Needed: My Peculiar Struggle With Fiction Writing

    Hello all!

    I am new to the forum as of about 3 minutes prior to typing these characters. I’ve joined because I’m looking for a bit of guidance in how to deal with one of the major struggles I have with fiction writing. I am hoping that my problem is more common than I suspect so that people can share their own experiences with overcoming it, but the more I think about it, the more I feel as if it simply defies all common sense.

    What I am Good At: Character and World Building

    By far, my greatest creative strength is character and world building. I need to feel as if the character has all the depth of a real person I might have a conversation with whether or not I actually reveal even a 10th of what I’ve mapped out in any of my drafts. I need to understand their every motivation be it conscious or unconscious so that the person seems genuine when it is time to use them. Fortunately, I can say that this process is extremely exciting for me and in no way seems a burden. I am a former psychology major, so I quite enjoy analyzing my characters in a variety of ways throughout the creation process.

    Because I am essentially the god of the worlds I create, it is very important me to understand the WHY of everything that is moving through the environment. So far as my characters are concerned, I am physics, religion, and the meaning of life itself even though they have no idea I exist. I tend to write modern fantasy or horror, so world building is usually a very intense process. Before introducing any supernatural elements into my writing, I need to understand in detail why exactly these powers work in my world beyond simply that “They happen because this person is special.” With that in mind, I don’t see any of it as a burden because it is extremely rewarding and enjoyable. Like character building, the details come to me naturally and continue to expand once I begin outlining.

    I have a talent for inventing belief systems and religions for my characters, creation myths, and encyclopedia style histories for their communities, deities, and even species when it is applicable.

    What I Need Help With: Long Term Story Arcs, and Putting Characters into Action

    Sooooo… there I am sitting there with a laptop with page after page of notes, and an about sixty or so hand written pages and I am extremely excited to put everything into action. Sometimes, if you could say every story was an alphabet, I’ll come up with letters F H O L W and Z… and then I trip manage a spectacular face-plant into a metaphorical cinder block. Try as I might, I can’t seem to set everything into motion. I can tell you where they are and what they are doing a various points within the story, but when it comes to actually connecting the dots and linking everything together in a tangible concrete way.

    Sure, if asked I can speak in general terms about how the story progresses but I feel completely crippled when it comes to portraying the events that make them happen.

    My problem is not a matter of mechanics or technique, except that I seem to lack one when it comes to turning the ignition key. I can do a fine job of what I call “snap shots” which is describing approximately up to five minutes of a character’s life in great detail while capturing their passions. I just can’t sustain them, or assemble momentary glimpses into a meaningful whole.

    Likewise, if someone were to say “Write about how Georgia stalks her next victim in a coffee shop and begins to recognize the first pangs of remorse for her actions.” I can do it, and there’s a good chance that what I write on demand will be quite a bit longer than one of my “snap shots.” The block doesn’t happen then. I just… can’t seem to give myself the necessary commands to make it happen. Actually, sometimes I CAN give myself a direct command with a very clear objective such as the one above, but I just sit there looking at an empty page of Microsoft word, and words refuse to come. If I try to power through it, the resulting quality is complete rubbish compared to my little snap shots, or to that of something I wrote when someone who is not me made a similar request.

    Anyway, I think this post is long enough for my first within the forum. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Although I will certainly listen to advice that might be specific to short stories, my goal is that of writing full length novels due to the complexity of the characters and worlds I tend to favor.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hello P. J., Welcome to the Writing Forums.

    Posting your own writing for people to comment on should not be among the very first things you do here. It is worth taking the time to see what other people have done to improve their writing, and see if some of it applies to your writing as well. That is part of why we require members to review other members' work before posting their own for review. On the other hand, there are no restrictions, other than content and copyright rules, on showcasing your work in your member blog.

    Also, be aware that posting a piece of writing on any public site, including this one, will greatly diminish your chances of selling it for publication. Removing the writing later does not alter that fact - once posted, it is irreversibly considered published. So do not post anything more than a small excerpt of any piece you are planning to submit for publication.

    If you haven't explored the site yet, you should probably do so soon. Newcomers often gravitate to the Lounge, the Word Games, or the Review Room, but there is much more to be discovered if you poke in the corners. Remember to check out our FAQ as well, and be sure to read through the forum rules, too, to avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Respect for one another is our principal mandate.

    As for the Review Room, new joiners often wonder why we do things a bit differently on this site than on other writing sites. We emphasize constructive critique as a vital writing skill. Training your eye by reviewing other people's work helps you improve your own writing even before you present it for others to see. Therefore, we ask members to review other people's writing before posting work of their own. The Review Room forums on this site, therefore, are true workshops, not just a bulletin board for displaying your work (and on that note, please only post each item for review in one Review Room forum). Also, please use the same thread for all revisions and additional excerpts from the same piece of writing. See this post, Why Write Reviews Before Posting My Work? for more information.

    And while you're looking around, don't forget to check out our Weekly Short Story Contest and Weekly Poetry Contest. They actually run more than one week apiece, but any member may enter, and all members are urged to vote for their favorites.

    Enjoy your stay here, and have fun!
     
  3. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Hi,

    The best advice I can offer is "just write". No really, just prattle on from one scene to the next, regardless of quality or grammar. Get char from A to B, even if that means writing how he scrambled eggs with a whisk in a blue bowl before tossing them into a small pan that was his favorite for cooking scrambled eggs, and made toast that was just the perfect shade of brown, it almost matched the oak veneer of the 1970 kitchen cabinets and. . .good grief, it'll bore your reader to death BUT that is not the point.

    Just write from scene to scene. Don't be self conscious about turning out quality or what your readers will think. Just write your chars and what theyre doing between saving the world from a giant octopus before dinner and fending off aliens on the way to the morning latte. After your scenes are strung together with useless linking scenes, you can then go back and cut out the boring bits (which will be a lot more than just "bits"). What little is left, you can build on and improve.

    Once you develop your skill at stringing together scenes, you will find that you have to cut away a lot less rambling. But don't stress too much, you will always have to cut away some excess. That's part of the process.

    You should also realize that books tend to be "scenes". We don't know every waking moment, but you have to be careful that it doesn't start to read like a Shakespeare play :)

    Best luck

    //R
     
  4. PJ.Paradox
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    PJ.Paradox Member

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    Rainy:

    Thanks for your response. user name reminds me of where I live - Seattle.

    When I read "Just write" I had flashbacks to more than one of my teachers who have given exactly the same advice for folks who struggle with writers block which this is a somewhat narrowed form of.

    I think that you might have helped me to realize one of the roots of my problem in your response. When I do write, or do any other project for that matter, I like for everything to have a clearly defined purpose that somehow supports the final project. While I can certainly imagine my characters doing day to day thing, the thought of taking the time to actually capture the eye numbing mundanity between the scenes that move a story give me an instant knee jerk reaction of "You've gotta be kidding me right? You do realize I have other things to do..." On the other hand after that initial feeling I can certainly see the value that comes not with the content itself, but establishing a new way of thinking about writing. I think I can do it, but the first while will feel like I am trying to cut down a 100 year old oak with a butter knife.

    The other part of my problem that I don't think I articulated very well in the initial post is that I tend to do a fairly good job of mapping out key events, , but not so much with the supporting scenes leading up to the critical scenes. This may come back a bit to what I said about wanting everything to have a clearly defined purpose, and not always being able to distinguish between what should be present, and what should be left out.

    In a way you have already given me an answer to this by saying "Don't worry about content, just do it," however I think that I will get more out of the time I do spend writing if I can work out some sort of formula for the in between scenes and their progression. Whenever I learn new things, I like to stick to a clearly defined pattern or method while I am learning, and then completely disregard it later once I have an innate understanding of -why- the established process I had been using works.

    Anyway... I am in very much need of sleep. Thanks again!
     
  5. PJ.Paradox
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    PJ.Paradox Member

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    Cogito:

    Thanks for the welcome I think...

    Most of what you mentioned isn't all that applicable to me since I don't have any intention of posting my fiction or poems in a public forum. I learned my lesson the hard way years ago when I discovered exact copy and pastes of my work on another web site with someone else's name on it and find and replace character name changes.

    I was... most displeased.

    My intent in this forum is simply to engage in discussions about fiction writing. I am interested to know different techniques, the stumbling blocks people experience, and of course find some advice for individual difficulties that I experience as a writer.

    Erm... Why was my post moved to new member intro?

    I didn't much give a personal introduction about who I am etc so much as asked for help with a specific problem. Given the no-spam rules (which I assume means no multi-posting) am I now unable to seek advice on this topic in one of the areas that get more traffic such as "General?"
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your post was moved because it did not stick to a particular question, and was more a personal summation than a focused question.

    You'll probably find a lot of your answers by reading various existing threads in the Writing Issues area of the site. If not, you will get far better information by asking specific questions, rather than a single scattershot post.

    My post is intended to be a general introduction to the site. One key point that is relevant to your post is this:
     
  7. Tigress
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    Tigress Member

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    Welcome, PJ! I know exactly what you're going through because I struggled with something like it for years.

    My personal nemesis is descriptions. Because I don't care about them when I read (I just want to know what the characters are doing, not the color of the walls or the feeling of the carpet beneath their feet while they're doing it) it's always been really difficult to draw a mental picture for the reader of my character's surroundings. Combine this with my former obsession with having to get the writing *perfect* the first time around and you can imagine how far I got before hitting a wall.

    But, after having read many authors comments on writing, I eventually got it through my head that perfection is *not* what's its all about. Telling the story is all that matters. Once that is done, you can go back and struggle with connecting the dots (or in my case I'll be going back and describing the scenery lol). But just get the story told!

    I've been working on my first novel for about 6 weeks now. I am at about 35,000 words and have never felt better. Its ugly and rough, but its getting told and with every day that passes, I grow more and more confident that I will be able to smooth it out and clean it up once I'm done with the initial telling. :)
     
  8. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Welcome. :)
     
  9. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Greetings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     

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