1. Acid001
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    Acid001 Member

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    Priorities

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Acid001, Nov 23, 2011.

    What, for you, are the more "important" aspects of fiction? What makes a work stand out in your mind as "the best"? Where did that work put its priorities? More importantly, what aspects of writing do you privelige in your own work? For me, it's:


    1: Character and Empathy. I can't handle a text unless it's relatable. That's why, even though I have a lot of respect for Richard Flannagan's style, I find a lot of his work unbearable because I have no idea why I should care about the characters (see: The Unknown Terrorist).

    2: Language and Style. The words, the structure, simile, alliteration, metaphor, allegory; the big overt and subliminal things which make the work stand out against the crowd.

    3: Theme and Purpose. It took some deliberation not to put this higher up. Themes are the things which are discussed and debated; the things which give books longevity. But this doesn't mean that they're the most important aspects of a text. Ayn Rand's fiction, for instance, has many themes I find sither silly or downright abhorrent - but Atlas Shrugged remains one of my favourite books, because she made me empathise with the characters and drew me in with her style.

    4: Plot. Many authors see plot as paramount. Often, as a result, they develop brillant, intricate stories which bring joy and sadness through the power of events alone. However, I don't see it to be as important as the rest. Again, I'll use Ayn Rand as an example: if Atlas Shrugged were simply about a businesswoman trying to keep her transit company running, I doubt I'd have read past the blurb. While this is an oversimplification (things get awesome towards the second half), it were still the foreshadowing, the characters, the philosophical interludes and the flourishes of powerful language that kept me reading through 600 pages of rail, signals and bridges to see if Dagny would finish building the John Galt Line.

    5: Setting. This is personal preference; lots of genere-fiction writers would probably disagree with me. But I choose my settings based on how best to explore my themes. I wouldn't sit down to write a post-apocalypse story; I'd set out to write a study of human greed or something, then choose a dead-world setting as the best environment to explore these themes.


    Perhaps some philosophers of art have written on this subject. No doubt many of you have put more thought into it than I have. So tell me: what's most important to you?
     
  2. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Character and plot, if you can get those two to play well together you're running in the right direction. But my favorite part of writing (after the daydreaming part) is fine tuning the words. I love sitting down with a scene that is perfect for the plot but roughly written and making the words really work together and flow.

    Of course voice tends to sell a book.
     
  3. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    With me the most important aspects are character, correct use of grammar and spelling (I fail miserably in that regard), plotline and realism or at least believability. If a book has a weak character I will be unlikely to endure it.
     
  4. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    For me it is a cocktail of things that makes the book stand out, but most importantly the story has to be anything to do with reality. It must have nothing to do with what humans are in terms of behaviour, feelings, all the negative emotions of greed, hurt, jaealousy,and anyhting remotley routine life like.
    My characters have to be the perfect opposite of a person and the plot is usually crucial for these characters to be credible and so the plots are to be concepts rather facts or actions.
     
  5. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    For me, when I'm reading, the very first thing that comes up, and I've noticed this just recently, is whether or not I'm interested in it.

    I read a truly terrible book cover to cover because I was interested in the mythology that was brought up in the first chapter.
    I completely failed to read the second chapter of a book that seems much better because the first chapter didn't capture my interest.

    So straight away, I need something that interests me. Usually it's some sort of mythology.
    Next, I need good and clever writing. This does not trump interest as I've stated above, I read a truly terrible book cover to cover.
    Clever writing helps me engage with the world. It pulls me in. I don't have to care about the characters or the plot so much.

    Then, after reading the book, I can decide whether or not I liked it.
    Factors that show whether or not I liked it are:
    Cohesion. It really needs to be cohesive, if it's all over the place, I won't go back.
    Making use of an interesting concept. If it doesn't make use of the concept that interested me in the first place, that makes me angry.
    Then characters and plot and setting. If I don't like any of these, it's in my thinking about the book after reading it that I figure it out.

    When it comes to writing, I have a similar process.
    I start with a concept that I find interesting.
    Then, when I'm writing, I try to be as clever about it as possible. Being efficient with my words and colourful with my descriptions.
    Then I try to make sure my characters are interesting and likable.

    I've not finished a book yet, so I can't give any further thoughts.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess for me it would be style first, then characters. I just slogged through a book by W.E.B. Griffin and I do mean slogged. It was so full of encyclopedic information (a lot of which I already knew) that I found it hard to connect to the story or the characters. So the author has to first engage and keep my interest by the way they write. But if their characters are unlikeable, cardboard, or just boring - they could write like the wind and I still wouldn't care. Give me interesting characters and the plot can suck - I'll still want to know what happens to them.

    ETA - Oh, and yeah - that's how I try to write as well - style, then characters a very close second, then plot and all the rest ;)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    writing quality and story... in equal portions...

    i don't have a single 'best'...

    i don't know what you mean by that... imo, a 'work' can't put anything anywhere... and no one can know where the authors placed theirs, unless they've said so in a foreword, or interviews, or whatever...

    'privilege'?... sorry, i'm not sure what you mean... if you're referring to what i place the highest priority on when writing fiction, then i suppose it would have to be 'story'...
     

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