1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Your take on overemphasis in writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by carsun1000, May 22, 2015.

    Hello,

    So I'm just a few pages from finishing Iris Johansen's "The Perfect Witness" and I must admit that despite her success as a bestseller, she "killed" this novel this overemphasis of situations (chemistry between the two MC, their history, and what brought them together). There was so much of that in every chapter that if you read about it one more time, it would cause you not to finish the book. I get it. She's successful, she's written bestseller after bestsellers, but it doesn't seem as if she's still hungry to entertain readers.

    So this brings me to a series of questions which I think can help new writers:

    1. How often do think you need to be reminded of critical situations as you read a novel?
    2. Does keeping a storyline by chapter help you in channeling your thoughts as you write?
    3. Do you write your novels from your own standpoint or that of the reader. If it's that of the reader, do you think you need to remind them of what's going in the novel?
    4. she probably could get away with it because she's established. But can we?

    This novel from Johansen made me go back to my current work ,and I searched my work for over used or overemphasized setting or perimeters. I saw a little of this in my work and began to edit right away even though I am still working on it. Your thoughts?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A critical situation in All the Light We Cannot See for Laure Marie is that she is blind, her house has been bombed, and she knows that someone is in the house and doesn't know who - but the reader knows it's a German officer. The novel jumps back and forth between two stories, but whenever it comes back to Laure Marie, you don't need to be reminded of her situation, you're too frantic about where the German is and what he'll do if he finds her. In other words, her "critical situation" is inherently woven into the setting of the novel. And the action in the novel serves to gently remind the reader without stating it overtly. The same is true for The Orphan Train - Molly is a teen in foster care, doing community service to avoid being sent to juvenile hall, and her foster mother keeps threatening to throw her out. We don't have to be overtly told this because it comes up in the interactions Molly has with other characters, including the foster mother. It's not so much a reminder to the reader as a means of maintaining the tension. I haven't read The Perfect Witness, but I wonder if what you are seeing as "overemphasis" is the author's way of demonstrating how the characters' relationship with one another is either changed or not changed by the tensions of the story. I would think the reader might need a gentle nudge on situations (or characters) who are not so critical, and who are reintroduced after an extended absence from the story (or who weren't very prominent when first introduced.
    Absolutely. After a few attempts at "writing where the story takes me", I took on a historical, so I knew that wouldn't work. I think the key is the Picnic Table Analogy - your outline should be loosely constructed, like a picnic table you put together, leaving the bolts in place but loose until the final step, when you tighten them up. New ideas occur to us as we write - the flow of the story affects the growth of characters, and the growth of characters affects the direction of the story. It's best to let that happen.
    If you're going to write for publication, you have to consider the effect your storytelling is going to have on the reader. Hell, we're usually trying to trigger certain emotional reactions: "No, don't go there!" or "How could she?!" or "That bastard!!" A well-told story only requires the reader to be reminded of that which may have slipped out of notice (as in my example in #1).
    As has been noted, one of my favorite writers was James A. Michener. He wrote lots of massive books. One of them, The Source, was about 400,000 words. But his very first book, Tales of the South Pacific, was under 100,000. If he'd tried selling The Source as his first novel, he'd never have found a publisher. And if he'd had e-publishing to put it up on Amazon back in the day, I doubt he'd have gotten many takers. The same goes for technique, especially techniques used for filler (not sure that's what Johansen was doing but that's the impression I get from your description). So, my advice for first-timers (like me) is to keep it as lean as you can and make the story as compelling as you can.

    That's how you get better. Read what's out there, see what works for you and what doesn't, and then go back and look at your own stuff. @Wreybies once posted something about how sometimes, the stuff he reviewed in the Workshop that struck him as really egregious was the first thing he noticed the next time he looked at his own writing.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    A heck of a lot more than sometimes. :ohno::-D I think perhaps finding that egregious something in another work, whatever it may be, serves as a kind of release mechanism for a new lens through which I had not been able to look prior. Given access to that new lens, and bringing it to bear on my own work, it then allows me to see things I had not seen before.

    Case in point: I'm reading Lord Foul's Bane right now and this book is taking FOR-EH-VER to get anywhere. I'm sticking with it because it's a Fantasy "classic". I'm determined to finish it. It has taught me, though, by showing me the polar opposite, that my scenes are too rushed. I'm not taking enough time to settle myself into my characters or my characters into their places and events.
     
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  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The "Ops Pops"?!

    I'm awed. :supercool:
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    1. Not often. I think the scenes should infer rather just refer to things. I remember reading this mail order bride romance in which the young bride lied about everything including her virginity. Once you first heard about it you really didn't need to hear about it too much afterwards because it was like a ticking time bomb. And because every lie was slowly being exposed it inferred to the big one just by the pattern it was creating.

    2. Probably, I usually have chapter goals but I'm not a big planner. I rely on editing to get rid of some of this stuff. However on a big project like a novel it's harder to edit with no plans.

    3. Depends. Suspense is a strange thing. We want to elicit it in readers but we often go about it in the wrong way. We think by holding back we create mystery. But there is no suspense in putting a man in a boat and then having it suddenly bitten in two by a shark. We either have to have the man aware he's in shark infested waters or show the reader a shark is circling beneath his boat. You have to give the reader something but the angle is up to you. You have decide what the reader needs to know to feel the tension, conflict.

    4. I don't know sometimes I wonder if this isn't a genre thing. Romance has to make a big deal about sexual tension, Horror has to keep hammering over the readers head that danger is lurking in every shadow. Both of these genres aren't known for their subtly. I wouldn't say to do it – but I think it's something to be aware of when editing – ask beta readers and such if you're overdoing it. I'm reading a person's book online and the writer has been called on bringing up a subject too often – to the point where the critiquers have gotten rowdy and blunt about it.
     
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  6. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Peachalulu,

    When you say 'infer', what do you mean?
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I guess I just meant rather than constantly stating things let the scenes do their thing by inferring to something. I read this one writer's story and she did a good job of paying homage to the theme without beating it over the readers head. The mc was poor and struggled to make her farm work. Instead of having the character whine about it or constantly refer to the fact that she was poor the scenes of her struggles implied as much. When she was given precious things like sugar and made a pie and the pie burned it was a loss - but it didn't send the character off on a tangent. It was well handled.
     
  8. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean imply?
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Probably - I'm always inverting or making up words. I keep my spellcheck on it's toes.
     
  10. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very honest. But keep it precise. Otherwise your writing won't be clear.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Readers aren't stupid. I tend to dislike works in which authors assume they are.
     
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