1. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71

    Writing people's stories for them?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by popsicledeath, Apr 13, 2011.

    Is anyone else bothered by the amount of 'what should I do' sort of questions on the character and plot forums? It always seemed, by their descriptions, these forums were for discussing these aspects of writing, not asking other people to write stuff for you.

    Here's the description for the Character Development forum.

    Sharing techniques, in my opinion, doesn't mean asking other people to come up with character quirks or supplying your character's history for you.


    And the description for the Plot Creation forum:

    This one is slightly more confusing, but still states it's a 'place to talk about how to come up with ideas,' which I interpret as finding methods and techniques that will help the writer come up with solutions to their plot woes, but instead many of the posts are just of the 'what should I do' nature, seeming to want others to fill in the blanks in their story.

    It bothers me, because

    a) Someone else really can't say what a character history or quirk should be, or how a plot should be resolved, without having read the entire manuscript, any notes, and interviewing the writer to find what they're trying to accomplish in the piece, etc. If we could supply a simple 'your character could like rats!' sort of solution, then it means your characters are probably not developed very well in the first place.

    b) The forums are designed for improving someone's writing, and them asking how a plot point should be resolved, and then others supplying them answers, isn't really helping anyone learn anything, especially if you take into consideration point a above.


    And this isn't a forum-specific phenomenon. I've seen this a lot in writing classes, groups and workshops, where people think the purpose is to turn their work in and have others tell them what to do next. That doesn't help them improve, and often these writers just get frustrated that nobody is helping them and telling them what to write, and they often end up just quitting the group/workshop/class.

    This seems to be a general issue I've seen, where instead of people writing their own material and struggling to figure a story out, they just want an easy answers. They don't want to hear someone say they should go back, re-read their work for the Nth time, and figure it out. They don't want to hear they should maybe take a break and watch some great movies or read great works to get inspiration or figure out how others are working out and constructing stories.

    Instead, they just seem to want other people to write their fiction for them. What gives? Is this a normal thing I've just never felt compelled to do? Is this a trend with younger writers, and I'm getting old and out of touch? Is it a phenomenon fuel by a want-it-all-right-away generation that just wants answers now, even if they aren't best, instead of figuring out answers?
     
  2. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    I think it depends - when I ask it is to spark inspiration and usually someone comes up with something I can either run with or tweak and make my own. For me being able to bounce round ideas with other people online is invaluable stops me boring my real life friends. Writing for me is not a solo occupation - my stories require inspiration and ideas that often come from other people. Unlike a lot of writers I am a social person and I love sharing my stories and ideas, and love it when people do it with me. My stories are better because of the questions I asked and have helped me stretch my imagination beyond anything I could do alone.

    Also some people do need more help and encouragement I guess especially starting out, just some encouragement or an idea to spark them off - ultimately nothing I will say or do will write someone's story for them. I can give a character idea but without writing the story I can't develop them. Like someone on the forum shared with me a picture of a pair of boxer shorts lol They are now an entire plotline.

    I know Islander wrote a post that gave me a character (it actually wasn't on one of my threads it was one about a beauty contest - I now have Torston Lilly who is a woodsman with five children and enters a male beauty pageant complete with swimsuit and evening rounds).

    My most useful two posts have been asking about fantasy cliches and one about does evil have a reason - the sharing of ideas in those threads I have printed out.

    All that can happen in Plot Creation and Character Development is the equivilent of a plot generator - which can be a useful place to start. Back in November last year I was concerned I would only be a one trick pony - all I seemed to be able to come up with where stories set in my fantasy world. Thanks to someone who posted the plot generator I now have more ideas than I know what to do with - Gus and Iris, Reverend Allsopp and a Children's story, sort of Star Wars crossed with Pinocchio. Can't remember where my current one came from.

    Inspiration comes from many places - I do a lot of my work in a chatroom with other people and they often bounce plots arouns, their conversations give the rest of us ideas (although the next person that hands me a plot bunny is going to have it back in a pie). One gave me my Fairy Boys.

    For someone starting out I guess it can be difficult knowing you have a desire to write but not knowing what. I didn't know I had a desire to write when I started - that came later. Sometimes just having someone kick you up the bum can also be useful - I procrastinated a scene that others helped me through. Without Mallory one night my rewrite of my first book would never have happened I went into a total blind panic thought I had killed the Abbot off - I couldn't bear to write the next sentence - the beggar kept me hanging on a further three thousand words to discover he was going to make it. Three thousand words I very nearly didn't write. Tessie, Taylee, Art, even yourself have all sparked and deepened my work. Sometimes it is worth posting a question just to see what Forkfoot and Lothgar have to say.

    Sometimes the questions asked aren't as big as they seem they are more asking for support to get over panic or fear than actually wanting ideas or asking for a spark of inspiration etc
     
  3. bekajoi
    Offline

    bekajoi Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2011
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
    I have wondered this myself... if I can't even come up with my own character sketches, back story, and get to know them, why waste my time?
     
  4. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I totally agree with you, popsicledeath. I feel that what makes me a writer is that I can come up with my own ideas. Being able to envision your own characters and develop your own plot-lines is what I think is what makes us writers. Being able to convey the ideas on paper is only part of what it means to be a writer.

    Well, let's get more specific. Authors. If you want to be an author, you need to develop your own ideas. Let's compare authors with chefs. As an author, you need to cook ideas in your brain until they are ready, and then you can serve them up in your story. If you let other people define your characters and plot for you, that's like letting someone else do all the cooking, and then you take all the credit for it. You are not a chef, but a waiter: You present the reader with what has been done by someone else. Sure, you might add some garnish, but you didn't cook the food.

    Also, because I flesh out my own ideas, they seem more personal to me. And because they are more personal, they are more original. No one else can come up with my ideas, because they are spurred from my unique experiences and personality. Sure, I might ask for some help every now and again on some details, and when my friends look over my book, they might add some suggestions, but I'll take their ideas and put my own spin on them.

    If you want to be an author, then come up with your own ideas. You are still a writer if you let others do the work for you. It's called 'ghostwriting'.
     
  5. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Most of my 'orginal' ideas have their origins in other places - some were subconcious some were shameful pilferring because I knew if I took it and tweaked it it would work in my story (My Great White Falcon birdform of a young king came when I was watching He-Man, his opponent the Great Skua came watching a documentary on St Kilda later that night). Not sure how using a few words, ideas, sentences from someone on the board or a plot generator is any different to being inspired by a song or a TV show. These threads can't write someone's book or story for them they can just give a starting place. What the OP of the thread chooses to do with the ideas is up to them.

    Two sentences on a plot generator gave me elderly paranormal investigators Gus and Iris which now have four novel length stories planned. A conversation with another forum member about their book - ahh now I remember that is how Cream and Black came about I planned out two serial killers and somehow they became detectives.
     
  6. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    I think this is the root of why it bothers me, now that you bring it up. The one thing my mentor has stressed to me is to write the stories that only I can write. And sure, I appreciate feedback and note if someone says a character trait feels contrived, or a plot-point feels uninspired.... but I'd never ask 'okay, now what should my character do?' or 'what kind of childhood should my character have had?' because as you say, that's getting away from my writing being something only I can write, to something anyone can.

    And I don't mind helping out other writers or talking through these sorts of issues with them, and even giving them a 'this is what I would do' scenario if I know them well enough to trust they'll find their own vision and not just regurgitate mine, but the people that just seem to be asking for quick plug-in options for their story perplex me.
     
  7. aimi_aiko
    Offline

    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2011
    Messages:
    340
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Kentucky
    I understand what you're saying, and I wonder the same as well. Though, I must say, there are times when I take suggestions myself, but I never go with the exact detail someone gives me. I take their suggestion and twist it into what I would write. Though, I NEVER take any ideas of plot lines. Plots are all my own.
     
  8. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Every time you say 'plot generator' I'm confused for a moment, and then my imagination face-palms itself and I remember you aren't talking about your imagination, which, as my own personal plot generator, is why mine face-palms itself. :p

    And no, I don't believe a lot of the posts I'm talking about are really just looking for inspiration or to brainstorm ideas with other writers, but instead just seem to be looking for easy answers, THINGS, they can add into their stories, thinking it will then solidify the meaning, or something. The posts I'm talking about are the slew of ones that basically say: I don't know my character or story well enough to find these answers, so can you just tell me what I should write instead?
     
  9. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    LOL I have slowly learned it doesn't take much for my imagination to generate a plot - the point at which I realised there was a story to be had between a barn board and a fence post I knew I had to be careful. Scenes, sketches, ideas can overwhelm if not careful.

    BUT prior to writing my first book I had never really had any ideas. Some of these are laziness but some are down to people not having written that first story to completion. Imagination is a bit like any other part of the body it gets fitter the more it is exercised. If that person bothers their backside to write AND complete their first story (for me completing stories is very important part of the learning process), then they will probably find the next one easier.

    If nothing else I find responding to them exercises my imagination which improves my writing. Everytime I play with someone else's idea and write a piece of dialogue or a scene it broadens my own a ability.
     
  10. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    You're right, they decide what to do with the ideas. But, as popsicledeath says, the threads we are talking about are asking questions that the writer should really ask themselves first. Example: "Did anything traumatic happen in the past to my character?" "Does the fact that he's short affect things?" "How would my character react if he saw ____?"

    Yes, it's fine to ask for some help. But ultimately, you're the one that has to develop your character. If you are relying on other people to come up with 10 interesting facts about your character, and then you choose which 8 you are going to use, that isn't the same thing as having a starting place and going from there. You are simply putting together the pieces other people have given you.

    EDIT:
    I totally agree with needing to finish a story. We need to be able to see a complete product, and then learn how to make that product better. I also agree with the idea that, if you need help to finish that story, then get help. I just think they should try a little harder on their own work first.

    Also, I liked this thing you said:

    I think it's almost more important to exercise your imagination than to complete a story. By letting others do the imagination part, you're losing that whole process. Yes, you can springboard off it. But it brings me back to the part where I say the questions they are asking are extremely simple to answer, and they should answer it by themselves. If anything, they should challenge themselves to answer simple questions first to get their imagination fit enough to handle more difficult questions that come from a more intricate mythology.
     
  11. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    I just stopped replying to those threads, as nobody liked my answer to get a notebook and jot down anything and everything they come across they find interesting in a day. Which is the annoyance, not the people that want to discuss or brainstorm information-generating methods, but the ones that effectively want to look into MY notebook, for things I've already found, instead of doing the work on their own.

    A barn board and a fence post... There's definitely a story there! :p
     
  12. flanneryohello
    Offline

    flanneryohello Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2010
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    8
    Yeah, I've noticed the same thing. I have to say, this forum is one of the worst for this that I've seen.

    I've personally chalked it up to my observation that this forum seems to have a lot of "kids" posting. Saying that makes me feel old--I'm 32--but you know what I mean: young, inexperienced, amateur writers. Honestly, I think many, many people go through a phase where they decide "hey! I'm going to write fiction!" (at least many of my friends did). Sometimes people decide they want to write but lack the talent or motivation to do so--often they love the idea of being a writer more than they actually love writing. I think sometimes we're seeing those types of writers asking others to feed them characters and plot details. They aren't writing because they have a story to tell. They're writing because they want to be "a writer".

    Personally, I can't imagine asking others for plot or character details. I write stories that I feel passionate about, that I need to tell. I have more story ideas saved in my "Ideas" Word document than I'll probably ever have time to write. My problem is deciding what to write next, not what to write at all.

    When I have trouble with a particular aspect of a story, I tend to talk to my partner or my best friend. Sometimes my partner will offer suggestions, and this will often help resolve whatever issue I'm having. Not because I get an exact answer I can use, but because talking something through and hearing ideas usually sparks an idea of my own. I think that's totally legit. But, to me, asking for the basic details of a character or story, or requesting that someone come up with a plot for you, reveals a lack of imagination and passion. To me, it suggests that perhaps you're not intended to be a writer. If you've got nothing to say, why write?
     
    1 person likes this.
  13. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    It will be one of my children's weeklys I think but not sure it isn't a bit violent (the sheepdog and the chickens die lol) May need to tweak it.

    I am not precious with my ideas lol I love it when someone takes one and runs with it. I would love to have someone play round in the world I created and write stories I could never have imagined. I'm collaborating with a couple of others on a different world going to have a go using it to write paranormal romance short stories lol

    I really enjoyed the Dr Who (sort of inspired by the wickerman) Fan Fiction I wrote - thinking of trying my hand at making it a series of scripts.

    Way I see it my imagination comes up with ideas I don't want or need - if someone else can use it why not.
     
  14. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    Hm...*scratching my head and trying to figure out if I have posted theads like that...* :D What you say really makes sense to me, I totally agree with you on this, even though I am not very annoyed by these threads personally. I think they are quite entertaining to read, hihi.

    In fact it seems like some people wanna take the easy way and aren't interested in doing all the work themselves. I read someplace that there are two types(of 'writers'): those who wanna be and those who wanna do. I think a lot of people belong to the first one. they don't realize how much work it actually takes writing a novel and why should they sit down for hours trying to come up with ideas when it's so much easier to ask someone else to do it for you? :rolleyes:
     
  15. hiddennovelist
    Offline

    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Messages:
    10,256
    Likes Received:
    161
    Location:
    Fabulous Sin City
    I know exactly the kinds of threads/conversations in writing classes that you're talking about. And no, you aren't the only one who is bothered by them.

    There's a big difference between asking someone to help inspire ideas as you work through part of your story that you're stuck on, but when I see/hear people (especially the same people) asking for help over and over on details that they should be able to come up with themselves, it starts to get under my skin. It's fine to need a little bit of help, but it's a whole different deal when you just don't want to put in the work. That seems to be the case with some of the people I've had experience with.
     
  16. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i pass right by all those 'i need ideas' threads with eyes rolling and head shaking... that should answer your opening question, pops!
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think everyone knows my position on them, even when I don't post a response.
     
  18. clockwise
    Offline

    clockwise Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2
    I think it's a lot easier to tell someone they need to come up with their own ideas than for them to actually go out and come up with one. When someone's searching for the idea, anything helps. I know when I was back at home, I'd be asking my mom all the time, "What should happen next? And after that? What'd make this character better?" Eventually she'd stop giving me ideas simply because I wasn't using them, they were just helping me to think of my own ideas. Now, when I go listen to music or read another novel to be inspired, I'm not asking that song, book, movie, etc. to come up with ideas for me. They're just giving me a launching board for my own. On a forum, the difference is just that they're not asking other works, they're asking other people.

    Granted, questions like "What color should my character's shirt be?", unless it's some incredibly important aspect of the story, aren't helping anything. And if someone's doing this right, they may be getting tons of suggestions from other people one day... but on another day, when they've got tons of ideas, they're going around to other people and helping them out. Dialoguing about the ideas themselves doesn't work, after all, unless it's a two-way street.
     
    1 person likes this.
  19. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Great post clockwise. With a new writer I don't see it as being any different to my seven year old - who is apparently writing her first novel - coming and asking me questions - it is a learning curve. To someone who has been writing all their life these threads may seem a little off, but I've been only writing slightly over a year. They are what the OP of the thread makes of them.

    I remain very grateful to the people who bothered to post on my threads when I was starting out and who continue to do so.
     
  20. andrewdj
    Offline

    andrewdj Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    You answered your own question. This is entirely the reason, summed up nicely, and it's not just limited to writing.

    However there will be a few select members of the younger generation who have been brought up with a better mentality, and encouraged to work out things for themselves. This is proving to be an exception rather than rule these days. It's yet another reason why I despair at the young - the other, bigger gripes being grammar, spelling and not being able to switch between formal and informal depending on who you are talking to.

    And I say this as a 31 year old - I still consider myself part of the aforementioned younger generation! I saw the beginnings of this rot and it's well and truly taken a hold now.
     
  21. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    Thanks for clearing this up Pops. when she mentions 'plot generator' I thought it was some kind of search/help tool on google.

    By the way I agree with your op.
     
  22. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    nope a plot generator of which there are many on the web of varying types will give either an idea for a character or a couple sentences which gives ideas about plot:

    Something like :
    The story is about eleven philosophers. It takes place in a manufacturing city. The story begins with smuggling. The issues surrounding first-contact with an alien species is a major element of the story.

    OR

    Main character is a child
    Main character's main trait is Greed
    Main symbol is a cup
    Main theme is revenge
    Story will start in front of window.

    They are not the insipration of all my stories but they are fun to play with - a short story from one of them I find longer to write (For first draft it takes me about an hour and half as opposed to twenty minutes to an hour to write one without). They have been quite fruitful though and a good way of sparking a story or an idea. Character generators have given me a couple of fun ones I have found a place for in my stories. When they were mentioned on here I decided to play on one for a week and walked away with too many ideas :)

    Which is why I love the help me with my story/plot/character threads - even if they don't benefit the OP they have certainly given me ideas for short stories or ideas to deepen my novels. The actual threads even if you give ideas are no more to the OP than a story generator would be except you can maybe bounce a bit further and think out loud when replying to a poster. As one of Cogito's other posts states no two people are going to write the same story from the same plot outline.

    One of my suggestions for the short story contest was to actually use one of the plot generators and use that for each entrant to write the story. Six people can start out with the same plot outline, two sentences, characters and there can be six wildly different stories at the end of them.

    I am not doing the main work for the person by responding to these threads - they are never going to write the same story from that same nugget of information as I would. But then for me writing is just the medium for telling a story. The writing itself is a byproduct of doing that well. With Oral traditions passed around the world stories change and evolve. People told the same story making it their own - how many versions of Lilith, Creation Stories, Flood stories, even Tower of Babel versions are there? Cinderella has a Celtic Version and a Germanic Version. Story evolution was an important tradition. Retelling other people's stories happened around the world and it is where the tradition I write from comes out of.
     
  23. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    That I'm just getting old and out of touch? I can agree with that! lol ;)

    (a joke, assuming you meant the other thing about wanting everything now lol)

    Oh, and I don't want to turn it into a debate on which generation is to blame for the next generations perceived degradation. Do we blame those slipping, or those we allow to slip. This is partly relevant, though, because I do believe the prior generation has some level of responsibility for the next. This is also why it's particularly frustrating to me. In a fiction workshop or class, whether I'm teaching or studenting, there is a 'master' so to speak to guide and focus the students. Whether you like them, or always agree with them, there is at least effectively one generation guiding the next. Yes, it's up to the students to listen and learn, whether they agree or not, so they can figure out things on their own.

    On ye olde internete, it's the old west, a complete free for all, everyone's opinion matters, nobody is ever right or wrong, it's all subjective... inmates running the assylum (no offense mods, not talking about that stuff, in that regard we thankfully have someone to drug and straight-jacket all of us). As an educator (in halted training), it's frustrating how many times a day I see people giving flat out wrong answers (I know, I know, it's all subjective... until you've actually read or done the research and realize it's not). It's even more frustrating how often bad (subjectively!) advice gets taken as gospel, and 'good' advice gets ignored, because honestly the good advice is usually the hardest, least fun, most time consuming, etc.

    So yeah, I think part of the problem is in a fiction class or organized workshop, were you to ask 'why should my character break up with is girlfriend?' the teacher or leader of the workshop would most likely explain that it's their story, and they'll need to figure it out for themselves, and thankfully probably already have exercises or assignments designed to help do this. On an internet forum, that really doesn't happen. It could, but it doesn't. And sure, the people that are going to learn either way are still going to learn, obviously, but the people that need the most guidance and instruction very often don't get it, as they don't know who to trust, as there are no designated people in-the-know, and people are sadly more inclined to just go with the quick, easy answer, instead of trusting some random username telling them to work actually knows what they're talking about.

    Seeing those in most need, going without, is about the height of frustration as an educator (in halted training), and why most of my colleagues laugh at me for ever bothering to 'waste' time on the internet regarding anything related to writing. I think of writing instruction as a religion, of sorts, and find hording knowledge offensive, though I often feel like a missionary trying to convert savages, knowing most days my head will end up on a stake.

    But anyway.
     
  24. KillianRussell
    Offline

    KillianRussell Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2011
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Glasshouse
    Do is it bother me?, nah I gots a live and let live attitude. Do I think it is a collosal waste of time, yes. I fear for me it would create a habit of creative self supression where I become hooked on 3rd party validation.

    However that being said I understand the difficulty inherent with creating "brand new universe" setting, I would personally never want to sweat the details of planet diptron's barometeric pressure, maybe I am lazy.

    I spot plot a heavy plot focused trend, and caviler negilence toward character development, I shrug it off , figuring maybe I am not making the translation in genre, I am a fan of only mainstream fiction. I have never made it past chapter 3 in a fantasy, a sci-fi, wizard, or werewolf. I only read Bram Stroker to get my ged in prison.
     
    1 person likes this.
  25. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I think it is going to be particularly tricky if you want to write fantasy and doesn't have enough ideas (or fantasy) to go through with it and come up with solutions on you own. Often you have to create the entire setting from scratch and without a vision clear enough it will never convince anyone. Better stick to a real world setting then, I think.
     

Share This Page