1. JohnathanRS
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    JohnathanRS Member

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    The Mystery Of Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JohnathanRS, Jan 14, 2011.

    Is there a such thing as too much character thought? If restraints are advised, how do you achieve that "deep character" and still, leave room for that compelling story?

    When do you think "tell" is better then show?

    When is it best to leave room for imagination, and when is it best to not?

    Finally, what do you do when you don't know how to describe something properly? Getting or achieving a effect like a feeling, imagining a scene, exc.

    I am not asking for a quote from a book, a lecture from a writing article you read, I want opinions from your own experiences.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    1) Is there a such thing as too much character thought? If restraints are advised, how do you achieve that "deep character" and still, leave room for that compelling story?
    I suspect as I go on to write my Gus and Iris story my answer to this will change. At present my books are first person and present tense, they take place inside the head of the main character. All of it is character explanation, thought and interaction, my character is the story. However a good combination, of description, character interaction, thought makes a better story.

    2(When do you think "tell" is better then show?
    If the character is telling the story it is more believable, to have some tell. With my work in the review room I found when I tried to abandon a mix of show and tell readers didn't become as pulled into the story. Where I find it very effective is when you tell whilst the character is doing something that shows it but the character is telling about it.

    Again I think I would probably use less tell in a third person story than my current narration. This is an example from the first page of one of my novels:

    In the novel I have just spent an entire page showing they don't get on with a row. However this is the point at which Angus tells the reader how he feels about it. There are lines like this throughout the book and are often the ones I get the most positive feedback about.

    3)When is it best to leave room for imagination, and when is it best to not?

    This is something I think you decide yourself by reading, what do you like to see? I like a certain amount of description - I do like to know my characters height, body build, hair colour, eye colour what they are wearing etc

    My rule is don't treat your reader like an idiot - don't tell them what they already know, fill in the details from the scene they don't know. Despite being early on in my writing I think visually Final Flight (in review room under Fantasy) remain my most successful piece visually this paragraph standing out from the rest of it.

    I didn't spent a huge amount of time describing what the sea looked like I live in the UK no one is more than 70 miles from the beach, we know what the sea looks like. If it had been a tropical sea I might have added a tad more. Also always remember a character has five senses - I do think I actually have a lot to improve on in this piece. However I am pretty sure the majority of the readers haven't transformed into a bird so I place the emphasis on that. That way simple language that doesn't interrupt the flow and cause the reader to pause can be used to greatest impact. Hmmm actually that might be what I do today improve Final Flight.

    4) Finally, what do you do when you don't know how to describe something properly? Getting or achieving a effect like a feeling, imagining a scene, exc.

    I either create a scrapbook of images from google (just a rather large paint document or word document) of elements that make up something or I sketch it out (I am not a talented artist but it is just for me lol) For the birds and my fighting scenes I watched youtube videos (my gay men kissing I was gutted to watch Torchwood scenes over and over again it was pure torture lol). The things I couldn't get I asked for help with - for example someone on here helped me get fist fights right, someone is helping with my harrowing scene and giving me a male perspective, I had teens to tell me when my seventeen year old male character was being a middle aged woman lol I take help to get something right whereever I find it.
     
  3. JohnathanRS
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    JohnathanRS Member

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    Great responses, as always.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    anything you want to ask based on said diatribe lol ?
     
  5. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's all I can think of at the moment. Hope it helps.
     
  6. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I am no PhD dude or published author, but I hope that I helped.

    J
     
  7. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I recently read a first person story called Version 43 about a cyborg cop who was investigating a tough situation and kept getting killed. The MC mused about life, tried to figure out how he kept getting killed, and it was mostly his thoughts with some action. I loved it because it was an exploration of a type of mind which doesn't exist yet.

    I'm all in for anything, as long as it's done well.
     
  8. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think what Van Kiddo said is basically the rule - as long as something's written well, it doesn't matter how much is shown/told, or any of the hundreds of other things you're always advised against doing. Obviously a 100% of something story, like, all showing or all telling, would be pretty hard to pull off even for a master - it would be more about pretending like that gimmick wasn't even in there. I believe, though, that a natural writing style and a good story and interesting ideas will cover over all the little things that only people who know and care (sometimes too much) about how a story SHOULD be presented will pick up on. Most readers don't really know or think too much about the kind of stuff a writer would spend months agonising over, switching between things.

    Obviously, if you're not confident, just starting out, or whatever, it's best to just keep going with what everyone says you're meant to do. If you have a feeling it's best not to do too much of something because a Literature teacher from way back is floating in your mind's eye glaring at you, then it's a safe bet that you probably shouldn't do it. :p A lot of the best writers break most of the rules along the way one way or the other.

    Is there a such thing as too much character thought?

    In my third person, I do use a fair bit of thought, and I do need to cut some of it back. But I figure as long as there is always an action spurring that thought, it isn't too bad. Say, something happens at the beginning of a paragraph, then there's some thought, and then it moves on into more action. Often breaking up a longer chunk of thought and weaving it through the action is a good idea. I don't mean action, like, a fight scene. But having a character think his whole internal monologue sitting on the train, versus the whole process of using the trains, plus perhaps a chance first encounter with an important secondary character, can feed the thoughts. Thoughts always look so much better when they spring from the actions. If there's something for the character to look at, and for it to remind him of something, is so much better than just starting a paragraph with, "because he was feeling sad that day, Bob was in the mood for remembering this other sad thing that happened to him three years before, before musing for several pages about how he was now psychologically twisted..." compared with "Bob saw the mushroom shaped lamp in the window of the shop, and its dumpy shape reminded him of the woman who had wrecked his life..." blah :p Basically, keep the thoughts grounded in a scene. If there are too many the story becomes a floating white void with a philosopher sitting in the middle. Make sure he at least has some good surroundings.

    If restraints are advised, how do you achieve that "deep character" and still, leave room for that compelling story?

    A lot of character depth comes from their actions as well. Showing how they react, talk, move, and speak reveals as much, or more than their back story. Showing a guy jumping when he sees a dog can reveal a fear without having to have him reflect on it - maybe he doesn't for another 100 pages, when it becomes important, but we know it about him from the first few pages because of a scene where he didn't think a thing but showed it. If you mean deep philosophically, then having someone to talk to would probably be the best way to get out his beliefs without having his thoughts fill page after page. In first person it'd be more acceptable, and if this was your main character, it'd be best probably to tell it that way. In third person, having a philosopher character means they're either a smaller part and only impart the wisdom needed for the story, or, well, that you really should have written it in first person if they have so much to say.

    When do you think "tell" is better then show?

    Mostly, I'd say, summaries of stuff you don't need to show. Establishing paragraphs at the beginning of chapters are usually more telling, all the exposition stuff. Never emotions, descriptions, or impressions of characters. Anything that looks like the author just imposing is bad.

    When is it best to leave room for imagination, and when is it best to not?

    Generally character descriptions, and descriptions of places/things that everyone is familiar with. It makes speculative fiction way more descriptive because so much more is new, but in a real-world set story, the only things that really need to be described are settings in the broad sense, but not, like, every detail of the kitchen of the house you've already lovingly described. Walking scenes through city streets are a bad idea to name every street and place they pass that you like to go in and get a coffee unless you're writing an actual city guide - using you story just to advertise a city for free can get really grating to read if it's just a boring city like any other. Aside from that, it's pretty circumstantial, and it's up to what's important in the story. But you need to throw in SOME distracting details if you've got any mysteries going, otherwise all your important plot elements will stand out because they're the ONLY things described, and ruin the fun. Have actually read books where it's blatant what's important just for that reason.

    Finally, what do you do when you don't know how to describe something properly? Getting or achieving a effect like a feeling, imagining a scene, exc.

    Research.:p
     

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