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  1. LucyAshworth

    LucyAshworth Active Member

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    Formulaic Writing and the Meta

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by LucyAshworth, Nov 15, 2020.

    Have you noticed any repetitions or trends in your writing? Any habits that you are having difficulty breaking? Or are you completely comfortable in your habits?

    I think I understand where my patterns come from but I am unsure how I feel about them. Nevertheless, I'd like to push myself to break them just to be able to.

    1) My deep introspection has led me to write stories about the human condition. My themes may seem broad and pretentious, impersonal.
    2) My personal history has made me an intense person. I like to push people to feel emotional extremes.
    3) My exposure to education and media has given me a certain philosophy on the relationship between humans and storytelling. As a result, I tend to adhere to the traditional storytelling formula of rising action and climax along with some moral redemption. I might like to try to deviate one day, but that itself might be a predictable rebellion in the form of nihilism or absurdism.
     
  2. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I think these reflections are best suited for a writing blog. I'll leave you the suggestion to start one. This site has that functionality (sorry can't remember the right word for it now, but people have personal blogs going on here).
     
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  3. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course each writer has patterns in writing, be it genre, usage of words and sentence construction (it's called voice), or certain themes we like to explore:

    Some writers have pen names that each focus on a genre for marketing purposes. Most authors don't publish works in a wide range of genres. If you've mastered one genre (i.e. horror), it doesn't necessarily follow that you can write a good romance. Voice is something that is so integrated in a writer and takes such a long time cultivating, you'd be some kind of genius when you try to develop another. As for plot...

    I think it's uncommon for one writer to plot several stories all about the same pattern. Think about Harry Potter. Rowling wrote the series and it became extremely popular, but she didn't write another book about another kid that went to a wizarding school. Instead she wrote other stories; still for young adults/children but not pounding out another wizard book.

    OffTopic for anyone who doesn't know: To start a blog, click on 'Recent Blog Entries': and next 'Create Entry' :)
     
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  4. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've noticed my own patterns as the following:
    1. Generally upright/noble-hearted male leads
    2. Strong females who usually end up stealing the show, and who are usually far more ambiguous
    3. Masks and/or identity issues, whether it's a deliberate hiding of oneself or not
    4. Rape or suggestions of rape

    The dynamics I like can be seen in stuff like Star Wars: the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren, Kylo Ren's internal struggles. The loner outlaw with the heart of gold in The Mandalorian, as well as the book series Jack Reacher. I based my last book around a similar dynamic as Rey vs Kylo. I'm basing my new book around the trope I've seen in Reacher and Mandalorian. I don't think it was an accident I finished my last book in 5 months - it came easily because I was really into it, because it was a dynamic that's always resonated with me, and with that dynamic there are only certain ways the book could go. I'm putting my theory to the test by basing my next book around something else I'm passionate about, as opposed to just trying to come up with an exciting premise with nowhere to go. Let's see how far I get, eh?
     
  5. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    They're called blogs. :supertongue:
     
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  6. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    Not much a quirk; a cultural difference:

    An American beta-reader highlighted an interesting detail in a draft of mine. She said "Gosh, these people and alcohol, how are they even alive?" That was a moment I realized that towards anyone non-European, my characters were alcoholics. I started paying attention to American depictions of Europe/history after that and did find that alcohol consumption is muted/avoided on screen. Growing up in central Europe it was only natural for me to feature my characters share a glass or two of wine for every meal they have and to greet each other with a toast.
     
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  7. montecarlo

    montecarlo Contributor Contributor

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    I should move to Europe
     
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  8. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    I work for an American company and the yearly health check-up questionnaire asks "How frequently do you drink alcohol?" - the most frequent box you can tick is "Weekly". They are such innocent creatures.
     
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  9. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I'm in one of the darkest zones... :whistle:
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I am an ex-American, living in what used to be Europe until the Brexit vote. My understanding is that in continental Europe people do tend to drink quite often, with meals and at social functions, etc. Actually, they start at quite a young age, sharing wine at family meals, etc. But the big difference, so I understand, is that getting drunk is NOT encouraged or fashionable. Unlike in the States, where tying one on and getting blotto is considered a normal way to have fun.

    In Europe, the focus is more on the quality of the drink, not the quantity or the effect.
     
  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Friendly mod here: Please focus on the topic :whistle:
     
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  12. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I have to ask - where did you grow up? Hello from the Czech Republic! :superhello: But feel free to PM so we don't derail the thread further.

    @jannert - sounds like there's a world of difference between Scotland and England!
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry! :bigoops:
     
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  14. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Everyone is writing about "the human condition" in one way or another, but for some reason stating it does come across as pretentious. I'm not directing that towards you or calling you pretentious. When I was in grad school and tried explaining what I write that way I was quickly put in my place with that and felt kind of stupid. So, I do agree with you that saying you write about the human condition does come across pretentious and broad. Maybe if you just think about another way to categorize or explain what you write it will better help you figure out why your themes seem broad, pretentious and impersonal.

    I'm not sure how invoking extreme emotions in your readers is a bad thing. Do you feel like you have to tone it down? There's a piece of advise I was given about that with my own writing that's helped. If a character is coming across too intense, give them a puppy. You don't have to literally give them a puppy in your story, but the whole idea is to introduce something that shows another side of them, giving them an opportunity to be less extreme. If everything in your story is intense and about pushing emotional extremes, it can lose the desired effect. So, maybe that's what you mean. Try the puppy trick.

    There's nothing wrong with the traditional storytelling structure, but it can be fun to play around with it. There's a piece of advice for short stories to start as close to the end as possible. I think this is good advice for novels as well, and it can lead to playing more with structure. Personally, I think the "some moral redemption" can be overkill for an ending. You don't want or need things to be all wrapped up too neatly. One thing that helps me when I want to play with structure is to take an unexpected turn of events every thousand or so words. Writing this way means it's not all about reaching the climax when and where it's expected.

    One bad habit that I catch myself making is that after I write a sentence sometimes I write another sentence or two that basically says the same thing. I'm not sure why I do this. But it is harder to stop doing it than I wish. Another thing I've been known to do is derail from the present narrative too much and for too long. I try to catch it while I'm writing because it can be quite a mess to clean up after the fact.

    Another habit is that first person present tense is sort of my default for writing just about anything. I don't think that's always the best way to tell a story. I can and do write in other POVs and past tense, but I feel like I have to think harder and pay more attention when I do. At the same time present tense can be the right way to tell a story and work well, but I think it's important to change it up from time to time. The last novel I wrote I did in past tense, but the new one I'm working on is in present tense. And I do feel like I made the right choice for both of these.

    My writing is often quirky. I love to play around with dark humor and subtext. I don't think those are bad. Context is everything, of course.
     
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