1. Poetical Gore

    Poetical Gore Member

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    Cutting everything not necessary = writing a script not a novel

    Discussion in 'By Writing Form' started by Poetical Gore, Oct 19, 2017.

    I see this happening a lot now where people are saying if it does not progress the story/plot or flesh out the characters then cut it. I believe this came from someone seeing this advice about writing a movie script and applying it to all fiction writing.
    Movies are a very different medium than novels. Movies take about 2 hours or less of your time and are meant to watch in a single setting.

    A novel takes you into another world and maybe as another person. You read a book over multiple sittings (usually). Sure, plenty could have been cut from American Psycho, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and etc, but we like being in this world and seeing all the adventures the characters get into, or hell, even some of the things in some class in Hogwartz are fun just to read.
    Not every page has to be dedicated towards forwarding a plot or fleshing out a character. Sometimes we just enjoy characters. Sometimes we enjoy just reading about what characters do in many situations.

    I think this cut everything is just misunderstood advice...and in novels it could be all the wrong advices (thanks arnold).
     
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  2. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I don't know if it's commonly misapplied advice or not - I can't remember seeing "cut what's not necessary" alongside such advice as "show don't tell" and whatnot. Personally, it's more an idea I arrived at on my own through writing and reading a lot. And watching movies and shows, and playing games, because you can learn about pacing that way, as well. I've seen some real dud movies where they obviously didn't have a script that they cut the unnecessary stuff off of. It's more to do with quality, imo.
     
  3. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    ... That's not even good advice for scripts :(

    Ok, technically it's good advice, but the people who are loudest about insisting on it also tend to have the most restrictive definition of "necessary" and the broadest definition of "not."

    One of my favorite YouTube series about film analysis actually just made a video last week about how the repetitive scenes that made the first half of Rocky so powerful would've been cut out by the most popular scripting formula for being "redundant."
     
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  4. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    I strongly believe that a writer should be willing to cut a section/chapter/excerpt/whatever of their novel if it doesn't accomplish anything. Now, deciding what does/doesn't accomplish anything is where things get muddied.
    There are lots of ways to develop characters, introduce wrinkles into the plot, flesh out the setting, or just provide some unique perspective the reader otherwise wouldn't have had. Now, if you have a flashback (for example) where you show a character learning or developing, but in a way the reader is already aware of... why would you need that flashback? Why not cut it and make your book/movie/whatever slightly quicker to get through? I've read some very long books with sections that seemed to exist to fulfill the writer's desires rather than any need of the story. Paragraphs and whole chapters that do not add enough to the story to justify their length (and the effort needed to read them.)

    Now, it seems common to hear about the modern attention of readers and consumers being so low, oh we need to be gratified instantly, oh we need to be told everything up front, etc. These days, there is so much media vying for our attention. Why finish consuming this 3/5 media when there's probably tons of things I'll think are 4/5 or 5/5? I think that's an important thing to keep in mind as a writer. If there is a tangent you want your story to take, but your feedback is saying it's not necessary, make it necessary. Or cut it.

    (Might have gone an a tangent myself there, apologies.)
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But that is fleshing out a character.
     
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  6. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    Shot in the dark, but are you in the process of writing a book that is full of meandering crap and you simply can't bear to slice and dice your baby open, and throw away all the crap? And for some reason you're trying to justify this to a group of strangers?

    If so, good effort.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    that - if it doesn't advance the plot (including growing tension , romance etc), develop the characters, or develop the setting then its probably not needed ..... commonly (although not always) this is typified by large tracts of exposition in which the author lays out what he thinks is important, not what the reader needs or wants to know.

    Theres not much meandering irrelevant crap in America psycho or harry potter - there is a certain amount in LotR but Tolkein was writing in a different time
     
  8. Poetical Gore

    Poetical Gore Member

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    There is a bunch of redundant stuff in AP (this is my favorite book) or I guess you don't remember all the descriptions of what someone is wearing or the what is on a menu or the huey lewis/genesis/whitney houston chapters--- yes. we get it, he has no opinion except those he reads in reviews and etc.

    Not sure how writing in a different time means you can meander more than now? What changed?

    Harry Potter absolutely has extra stuff you don't need for the plot....now, it is hard to tell because it may come up 4 books later.

    How about GRRM? Do we need to know what everyone eats in Westeros?

    I think it should be cut out if it does not make sense for a character to do. Like in american psycho BEE cut out something he really liked because Bateman would not notice it.

    Ha, not always..... :p

    Shot in the dark, you are miserable and resentful and feel the need to personally attack someone for just posting something really not harming anyone here. The thought that I would post advice here to justify my decisions is very pathetic. Everyone here I guess just posts advice to justify themselves and not to help others or maybe have a discussion on it and get a better understanding of it.

    But I am sure you are a great person... ***note to self keep straight face***
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    So you've pointed out how that information fleshes out the character and is therefore relevant.

    I think that people had a higher tolerance for only tangentially related stuff. Also, a lot of that stuff that looks irrelevant probably is relevant, in ways that only a student of literature or history may understand. For example, someone putting milk in the teacup before the tea, or eating with their gloves on, would, I believe, be a strong class indicator.

    But plot isn't the only point. Character is.

    In a world of misery and survival, the comfort of food, the fact of hunger, the moment of relieving hunger, are all strong triggers to understanding character and getting inside the character's head. And it's a foreign world to the reader; food can be a entrance point to understanding that world.
     
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  10. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    I've noticed a serious discrepancy between this piece of advice being given versus it being followed. It seems liberally broken in every novel I read. Many details don't add to character or plot, but establish atmosphere or environment. Details are added that are unnecessary as far as the plot is concerned, but they add to the overall experience. So you know, I'm with you. I want to challenge the fuck out of this advice, because while I always see it given (and have given it), I never see any discussions on the practical implementation of it. Exactly what must a sentence accomplish to be allowed to stay?
     
  11. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

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    Nah. It's perfect advice. Learning to write is the process of learning what belongs and what doesn't. Just like how learning to sculpt is the process of learning what chunks of rock are garbage and what chunks are David.
     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Something.

    Really, that's about it, as far as I'm concerned. It must accomplish something. I might be more specific and say that it must accomplish something for the reader.

    "Something" could be plot, or character development, or immersiveness of setting, or emotion, or suspense, or humor, or fascination. Edited to add: And what it accomplishes should be more valuable than the weight of having it there. Every sentence should earn its keep.

    Now, I mainly care about character, and little else--the most fascinating setting in the world does nothing for me unless it's tied closely to characters that interest me. So that's why I would usually say "plot or character", because I care about characters and it's hard to totally ignore plot.

    But, in general? Something for the reader.

    That means that high-flown rambling that's just there to make the author look smart shouldn't be there, because the reader doesn't care if the author looks smart. It also means that redundancy shouldn't be there, because if a point has been made, making it again without adding any nuance or other interest is not-doing-something. It means that if a substantial percentage of readers are likely to say, "Why are you telling me this?" about some text, the text should probably go.

    After I write a scene, I quite often go through and find a lot of sentences that don't, actually, accomplish anything. I needed them there while writing, to get from point A to point B, but once the scene is written I cut them, either because the reader doesn't need them, or because there's a better way to make that bridge from A to B.
     
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  13. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    Right, so, redundancies and author-masturbation don't belong. That's fair. It seems to enter very subjective territory when it gets to "accomplishing something for the reader," and I think this is why I'm seeing the advice so frequently ignored. The authors are adding details about the things that they want to advance the plot, but those things aren't necessarily the things I want to read about. I think I get it. Though I'd ask what specifically it means to "advance" the plot. Description of clothing, for example, is something that doesn't seem to have much plot momentum compared to, say, dialogue or character action.
     
  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    So they aren't unnecessary - the golden triangle of writing is Character (including feelings) , plot (including tension), and setting (including atmosphere) - something that doesn't add to any of these is unnecessary and can be cut.

    Very few books include detail that is completely irrelevant to any of these ... where the OP is going wrong is in considering only two of the three.

    The only example that comes readily to mind is in Tom Clancy's Sum of All fears where he takes three pages of excruciating detail to describe the detonation of a nuclear bomb, where the sentence "The nuke detonated" would have served admirably. However Techno thriller audiences kind of expect that kind of thing so its permissible in that genre where it wouldn't necessarily be in others
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2017
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  15. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

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    That's what I've always gone with. Where I find myself asking, "Hmm, is this borderline?" is when I get one or two of those with a scene but not all three.

    ...Oh, and I guess I usually just cut and reorganize at the scene level... Anyway, definitely like the holy trinity, there.
     
  16. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    This helps immensely. I had no awareness of this golden triangle concept.
     
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  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, it depends. I personally don't care about extensive clothing details, but I'd certainly say that clothing can be relevant to character and to the events.

    For example, a low-ranked woman walked into a room with two much higher-ranked men, both in shirts with their formal coats removed. One promptly hurried into his coat out of respect for protagonist as a woman. The other was mildly surprised at that gesture, and half-heartedly followed his example.

    I realize that that doesn't care if the coat is trimmed in embroidered crescents in gold silk thread or some such thing. But there are occasions when those details could matter.
     
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  18. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    There must be a cultural or generational gap here, because I don't understand what coats have to do with women, so the example is a bit lost on me. Here, I found an example from the book I'm reading now.

    "Red suspenders and a linen shirt" is what I've had in mind this whole time. It gave me an image for a certain context of the story that shows up for maybe 40% of the first 30 pages, and then never again. Or does this fit into bsm's golden triangle because it's something that implies character? It's certainly not gratuitous description, which I'm sure helps.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry--I should have noted that the story I referred to was fantasy, so the etiquette is part of that world. However, I am fairly sure that if you go a few decades back, there are many occasions when you'd better roll down and button your sleeves and put your coat and tie back on.

    I'm unclear on the suspenders and shirt. Are you saying that you disapprove of them or that you like them but assuming that others would disapprove?
     
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  20. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    I suppose I'm asking what your thoughts are insofar as how that line applies to the golden triangle, if it does at all. I'd like to hear from @big soft moose on this too, if he feels so inclined.
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think it tells you a little about the character and the setting. And it gives you a sort of visual "handle" on who this character is--he's less likely to be lost in a blur of personalities.

    Edited to add: therefore, I think it earns its keep. If it had gone on to tell you that the linen was Irish purchased on a trip last June, and whether the collar was buttondown or not, and how many buttons the cuffs had, and whether the suspenders had clips or buttons, then it would probably (though not certainly, because I don't know the whole book) not be earning its keep.
     
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  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    In thinking of clothing and character, I found myself looking for a specific quote from An Episode of Sparrows, and found that for some reason a blogger has the exact quote. There are some errors in the transcription, but you can get some idea.

    http://www.charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.com/2015/03/reading.html?m=1

    Lovejoy was taught by her mother to put immense importance on matters of style, and this is part of that.

    Edited to add: This is some time after Lovejoy's mother tells her "It doesn't matter what you wear", which was as clear a signal of don't-care and don't-love as that mother could possibly give that child.
     
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  23. Alphonse Capone

    Alphonse Capone Member

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    Aren't those sorts of descriptions, the suspender one, sort of a combination of character and setting (or could be, I've no idea of that story's context).

    So the clothes description could indicate certain time periods or social class or work environment etc. Or they could indicate something about the character, like someone wearing suspenders might be uncommon or very common depending on the time period, depending which might suggest something about the character.

    The author could be using such descriptions as a subtle psychological trigger playing on our schemas or simply adding to the description of the scene to help the reader build a picture. As long as it isn't overkill I think little additions like these are fine.
     
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  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Initially I thought a man in red suspenders - that tells me he's into cross dressing in the work place and that they accept it (setting and character) , then i remembered that in the states suspenders are braces (what do you call the things girls keep their stockings up with ?)

    That aside it tells us a little about setting - its the sort of place where that sort of dress is suitable, and a little about the character - that hes the kind of guy who wears a linen shirt so hes relatively wealthy and style conscious.
     
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  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Theres also a matter of appropiateness to scene .... e.g it might be fine to tell us about the linen shirt etc in intro, but not halfway through an argument when it breaks the flow. (although in TDS my protagonist has a moment where he thinks 'I wished I'd changed into something a little more street .... it's hell getting blood out of linen ' but that is before the fight kicks off and its a sort of laconic comment which is establishes both character an setting )
     

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