1. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    Crack the Code

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Stammis, May 8, 2020.

    I don't know if this is just a waste of time, but, I don't like the way I write stories. It's too messy and I feel I'm wasting a lot of time. Obviously much comes from experience and I'm still learning, but I do think, even as a pantser, that is worthwhile to try to understand your process. Like, I want to sit down and write and know exactly what I'm doing. I want it to be like work, I really do, monotonous work where I sit down and do my part and then stop, not this running around like a headless chicken until I'm lucky crap.

    And I'm not talking about following some three act structure, or someones elses design, like archetypes and some such, I'm talking about cracking the code of my brain. And even if things don't go as planned, I should know what to do to remedy it instead of just shooting in the dark until something works.

    Maybe it's too much to ask, creative work is messy, but I still want to have some sort of structure to my style, be familiar with my process, you know. I need to analyse and remember how I solved mistakes, keeping a journal and lamenting my struggles until I know myself inside and out.

    I wonder, is that even possible?
     
  2. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    Yeah, some people function better when they have a documented system to follow. It depends on how much you think of the mind as a machine, which in a lot of ways it really is. My caution is that you probably won't ever fully understand yourself. You're a complicated human, changing all the time; the code is liquid! You'll probably come pretty close though.

    The largest pitfall would be "I can't write a book until I perfect this system." That's just procrastination. It's the same as "I can't write a book until I've finished world building" and "I can't write until my muse calls to me."

    Personally, I've just focused on building intuition through careful reading/listening of fiction that I like. My belief is that's the key to productivity. It seems like the most prolific writers also read quite a bit.
     
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  3. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Some people talk about story structure (3-act or whatever) as if it's an imposed system that limits creativity. That's not what it is. It actually IS the code of the human mind, it's how the mind understands things. Story came long before science, and is the default way we make sense of our experiences.

    Yes, some approaches are over-structured or weird in various ways, but if you want to understand how story works (and how the human mind works) then study story structure in the traditional 3-act form. Learn how it works, and then you choose how much you adhere to it or veer from it. It's like learning to walk—you can crawl around and complain that you don't want to be limited to only using 2 feet and always alternating one leg after the other, but try to invent a better way to get around using the human body.

    Aristotle didn't create the structure of stories, he wasn't imposing anything on it, he discovered what works well and what doesn't, and shared his findings with the world. 3 acts is not an arbitrary division, it's beginning, middle and end. And once you learn what an act is, it's up to you to decide if you want 3 for a particular story, or only 2, or maybe just 1 for a flash fiction. Or however many you need. But to do that, it helps to understand what an act is and how it functions.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2020
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  4. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    Precisely. Story structure exists because that is how humans work. It isn't something that someone dreamed up one day, it came through observation of how human story telling works. There are a lot of different takes on it, but ultimately, it all describes the same process. It isn't a limiting factor, it is what people are going to expect to see if you want them to enjoy your work. You can move a little bit out of the lane here and there, but to toss it all away? You're just shooting yourself in the foot.
     
  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    although there is not just one option , some people... normally people who've written books about story structure (libby hawker i'm looking at you) seem to think that there is only one way a book can be written and all succesful work must follow xyz structure at all costs... (in chapter 18 it is time for 'betrayal by friend" in chapter 23 antagonist attacks etc) ... this is bollocks, books written to that sort of template will be templated and unoriginal
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Yes, absolutely! There's a world of difference between story structure and a template. Be careful not to confuse the 2. It's like the difference between understanding engineering principles when you want to build something, or just following somebody's rules that only knows how to build one thing.
     
  7. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    There are just three simple rules for writing a successful novel!

    (sadly nobody knows what they are)


    W.Somerset Maugham, I believe
     
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  8. A.S.Ford

    A.S.Ford Active Member

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    In my experience, reading how-to-write books have always been good material to read for inspiration and motivation. Also, it's not for everyone, but doing a Creative Writing course really helped me learn more about myself and my writing and encouraged me to expand my comfort zone and experiences. As for knowing where you are going with a story, the only narrative planning I do is make a list of 3 to 6 (depending on word count) major things I know that I want or need to happen in the story (including the beginning and ending). I then just fill in the gaps with what events link those together. In my mind, I allow for those fill-in-the-gap events to change or evolve but make sure my main events stay the same. That way I know how the story progresses but also have some leeway instead a strict structure which, for me, can be damaging to my creativity. I hope this helps!
     

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