1. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    Stories and Fluff

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by live2write, Nov 17, 2013.

    True or false?

    Stories are made up of a single idea or a combination of smaller ideas that are part of one.

    Everything else is fluff to fill in the blanks.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm fairly sure all of the stories I've read all focused on a single idea. A combination of smaller ideas doesn't seem like a good way to write short stories, although I guess you could put together a series of vignettes and call it a story, though even in this case these vignettes would probably be linked thematically.
     
  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on the story.
    Some stories are a single event where the MC has to succeed in this or that to have a happy ending.
    While some are made of plots and subplots all layered together that make the main story.
    Others are just plots and subplots that all come together that deal with a certain obstacle.

    Mostly a story is "Protagonist has a problem, protagonist solves problem, protagonist is happy."
    Any novel can be reduced to a mere sentence almost as the plot is really a movement from A to B or Z.
    But the "fluff" is what keeps us interested as it emulates what is happening by giving emotion and life to it.
    So yeah, stories are made of fluff that cover a centric idea.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    By the way, @live2write, you are talking about short stories, right? I know some people say "stories" when they actually mean "novels." This has caused confusion in the past, so I thought I'd ask you to clarify.
     
  5. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When I say/hear/read "stories" I generally think of it as ANY kind of story, be it novels, novellas or shorts. After all, a novel IS a story, it's just longer than the other variants.
    (I know you asked l2w, but I just wanted to give my 2 cents.)

    To the OP:
    I believe there is always some underlying concept/idea which the story follows, but then multiple ideas can be combined to build up that main point. I.e. there are stories with several MCs who each have their separate story/idea but together they eventually lead up to the main idea.
    But then, it's just my interpretation. :p
     
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  6. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    Either Or
     
  7. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    If it's fluff, it doesn't belong, especially in a short story.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    False.

    Ideally: Nothing you write should be fluff or fill. Everything should have a purpose that moves the plot forward or it can be cut.
     
  9. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    False/not true.

    The 99.99% content part of the story isn't there to fill up pages, it's there to seduce and trick the reader into living and enjoying the idea or group of ideas. That's why characters were invented:).
     
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  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fluff is made from corn syrup, sugar an egg whites. It goes great with peanut butter and banana between slices of bread, but should not be present in a story.
     
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  11. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless a character is eating it in said story? ;)
     
  12. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I'd say yes and no, @live2write . You should be careful with using the word "fluff" around writers. In this context, I'm assuming you are not referring to extraneous junk writing built into a narrative to make it "look better" or "sound better." I think you mean the story itself is in a way a "fluffing up" of an idea. There I will say mostly yes. You may have a single idea or a few that you want to explore, but instead of stating them expressly or analyzing them directly, you choose to write some story around it to exemplify it. In that sense, the story is heap of fluff to expand on the kernel theme/idea. The part that is "no", for me, is that often times this "fluff" story introduces an array of new ideas and presents more to be looked at besides the main idea. Then they come together to create something with multiple satisfying layers and potential take-aways.

    Does that help?

    Edit: Now if you are talking about "fluff" as extraneous page filler, then of course this is false. But that is not how I chose to read the question.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
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  13. Ragnar
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    Ragnar Contributing Member

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    I think rather than the idea itself, it is often more about the execution. There are terrible books, and great books, that are based on the exact same idea.. what separates the good from the bad lies in the execution.. so I would say false.

    If we're talking flash fiction then maybe the idea itself can more or less float on it's own.
     
  14. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hope I understand the dillema correctly...
    I interpret fluff not so much as redundant. Writers sometimes write entire pages of describing past events that don't have anything in common with the main story/plot, but they are describing characters and their behaviour in past, therefore giving you a better image of what protagonist's character looks like currently. When I was younger I skipped a lot of those pages, because they were boring, so you must be careful to put these kind of text in the right context, otherwise it can really become redundant and breaks the flow of the story.
     
  15. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Heh. Kinda.

    Some are the single story and then some are the Star Wars Universe.
     
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  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If that character development isn't relevant to the current story, it's fluff. This is something new writers often fail to understand, and feel compelled to lay out back story so the reader "understands" the character.

    Details for color, details to help the reader distinguish one character from another, these are germane to the story, but shouldn't require a buttload of exposition. Learning where to draw the line separates the hack from the Hemingway.
     
  17. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    In general, a story is about someone who had their predictable life, bad or good, interfered with, placing the character in the position of being out of their comfort zone. The story, in the end, is about their struggle to get their comfort back. Often, to do that the character must grow, and change—may, in the end, do something they never would have at the beginning. In their struggle we, the author, help by tripping them, setting the place on fire, and in general making their life hell. We are, by all standards, sadistic bastards.

    One test is that if a given line doesn't meaningfully develop character, set the scene, or move the plot, it's fluff.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would disagree.

    Analogy:

    Imagine a story as being a painting. Maybe the core of the painting is the haunted eyes of the person that is the subject of the painting. But those eyes need a face and a body--without a face and body, the strangeness of just a floating pair of eyes would eliminate the impact of the eyes themselves.

    And the face and body need a background. Maybe the background is just a blank expanse of canvas, but you still need to choose a texture and color, and you choose them to get the feeling that you want from those eyes. Or maybe the background that will give those haunted eyes the biggest impact is a medieval stone room filled with light. Maybe it's a Normman Rockwellish living room, a homelike and comforting space that contrasts with the eyes. Maybe you add more people, happy contented people to contrast with the haunted character.

    The face, body, background, and potential other people aren't fluff. They're less important than the eyes, but they serve the eyes.
     
  19. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I'd agree with @ChickenFreak
    Sure, everything in the story has to add growth or move stuff along but without all the fun details, it'd be very bland.
    I like being shown, and even explained at times, parts of the world around the character that are unique.
    Like the world made by Scott Lynch. It's friggin' magical! And not all the information I was given was necessary to move things along.
    It didn't halt or dump it on me. It was well written and kept my interest and imagination engaged.
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm struggling with this thread because I have no idea how you are defining "fluff" for your question.

    We are told to summarise our plots in one or two sentences for a query letter, so technically, everything else is 'fluff,' isn't it?

    Intense development of details, character, setting ...these may not actually 'move the plot' along, but if these devices entice the reader into your story, or get your reader to feel they are in another world when they read it, then I certainly wouldn't define them as fluff. You could remove them and still have a plot, but it might not be as much fun OR as meaningful to read.

    "Local colour" is something I look for while reading a book. (This matters to me more than plot, sometimes. As an American, I used to read all the Agatha Christie mysteries because of their wonderful window on a certain kind of 'Englishness.' I never gave a stuff 'whodunnit' in her books, and don't usually read mysteries at all.)

    A sense of history also keeps me reading. And I do love getting a comprehensively-built character—a character who lives beyond that particular story and plotline.

    So fluff? Hmmm.

    I know I am put off by endless dialogue stretches—especially without dialogue tags—which seem to just reproduce mundane conversations, maybe in the interests of creating 'realism.' Reality CAN be dull. I'd consider this kind of verbal meandering 'fluff.'

    Descriptions of characters' appearance that sound as if they've come straight from a character profile sheet, and are all lobbed at us together—usually in the wrong place in the story—are also my idea of fluff.

    Brenda Sculpin, aged 22, with sapphire-blue eyes, blonde hair gathered into a pony tail by a blue barrette, freckles on her tiny, perfectly-shaped nose, wearing size five shoes and a perfectly tailored summer dress with short sleeves and an all-over flower print in mainly blue and green on a white background, sauntered out into her back yard to retrieve a stray sheet of paper which had become lodged against the back fence. It turned out to be a note, addressed to her. The note said: Brenda, Beware.

    I'm sure there are many other kinds of 'fluff' out there. Those are just the two examples I came up with, having had only one cup of coffee thus far this morning!
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
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  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you referring to lulls? Like when you loosen the tension up, let the reader recover?
     
  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Awesome.
     
  23. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Fluff (NOUN)

    1 small, loose pieces of wool or other soft material, or the down (= soft new hairs) on a young animal
    2 word you replace "fuck" with on writing forums where you are not allowed to curse.
    3 content in a story (short, novellette, novel) that "doesn't meaningfully develop character, set the scene, or move the plot" (-@JayG)
    4 made from corn syrup, sugar an egg whites. It goes great with peanut butter and banana between slices of bread (-@Cogito)

    That's how I see it, but sometimes I do put a little bit of fluff in my stories. If I want my character to have IBS, he'll damn well have it. It's not like I go on about it for pages on end.
     
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  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the bottom line there is true or not true depending on the ability of the writer...

    for the best writers, every single word is there for a specific purpose, not just as 'blank-fillers' or 'fluff'...
     
  25. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I think @jannert has hit the nail on the head. The appropriate answer to your question lies in your definition of "Fluff" in this context. There are all kinds of "fluff" and using the word fluff around writers will get exactly the kind of response we've seen here, but I'm reluctant to think that you are referring to fluff in the same way as everyone else here. it's a matter of terminology and lingo. :p
     
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