1. Nom de Plume
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    Nom de Plume Banned

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    Plot Development

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Nom de Plume, Aug 20, 2008.

    I recently finished reading a story a friend asked me to give my opinion on. This is the first time I’ve reviewed another writers work (still building up the courage to do so on here) and the problem is I’m always questioning my own opinions and I’ve ended up feeling quite inadequate and with a permanent feeling of confusion floating around my head.

    The main problem I encountered with her work was a particular part of the plot that was just all too familiar. The first thing that popped into my head after reading it was ‘write-by-numbers’.

    My question is, is it enough to just change the hows and whys of the story (in this case why he left). I mean, to me, even with those types of changes it still came off very stale. Or does this only work well when the particular changes are enough to impact and change the development of the story? Basically- is it just the way she’s written it?

    Sorry if that didn’t make sense, but I feel like I’m running two steps behind my brain right now.
     
  2. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

    Casually asking around will get opinions from people who have much less idea than you do on how to form one: only "You suck!" or "Best ever!" -- not particularly constructive, but they're still entitled to thinking that, so don't you apologize for your perspective. Whether your friend can discern which opinions to take to heart for the betterment of the piece and of her skill is her responsibility, not yours. You're only reviewing, not writing it for her.

    If it helps, you can mention beforehand that it's your first time reviewing, or warn her that if she asks you then you'll be honest.

    What I do sometimes, when I can't quite pinpoint why I don't love it, is pen a private review loaded with as much snark as I dare. It exaggerates what you notice could be improved so that you can point it out more clearly (but politely!) in the review you actually give.
    Sometimes, reading it over it would dawn on me that something I didn't like about the piece was more a personal issue that any fault of the writer's skill.

    Oh, but don't forget to destroy all evidence of the snarky review afterwards. ;)

    I haven't read it, so I can't answer that. But if she can explain why she doesn't apply your suggestions, or point out some other aspect changed that was exactly what the piece needed, then consider it a learning opportunity as a reviewer. Reviewers aren't perfect, either.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A familiar plot is not what makes a stale piece of writing.

    Weak storytelling, poor word choices, thin or flat characterization, absense of a distinctive "voice" - things like these are what make a piece of writing stale.

    Where plot can hurt the writing is not in its similarity to something else. A weak plot comes from an absence of a good logical progression.

    A plot is defined by the conflict it is built around. Each conflict is the basis of a plot or subplot, and each plot or subplot has an associated external or internal conflict. Other events making up a storyline are simply events, if they doi not impinge upon conflicts.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    A familiar plot is actually a good thing from certain perspectives. Think of why stories like Cinderella have survived, and why people go to see Romeo and Juliet even though everyone knows how it ends. Even though we want the story to be as individual as the one telling, having a familiar overall story can feel comfortable.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Rei is on the right track with her comments. While there are readers who seek something new or different every time out, many readers prefer some well traveled ground.

    As an example, many romance lines have requirements that insure this for their readership. ie, the HEA or 'happily ever after' ending is a staple of every book they publish. The readers know that before picking up and reading another book put out by that publisher/imprint. The characters and setting and some of the conflicts change, but the process and where the story ends is virtually the same.

    How many SF stories are there of invasion or human conflict against an alien race with superior technology? They may take a slightly different tack with the aliens, technology, human military/political/populace response, but it is the same basic storyline.

    Terry
     
  6. Nom de Plume
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    Nom de Plume Banned

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    Thanks guys, recieving information like that is the reason I joined. I've began reading it over again (thankfully it's not a very long piece) and your comments, especially yours Cogito, have helped me look at it with a different percpective.
     

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