1. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Living in my own little world Contributor

    Feb 24, 2017
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    Lessons learned from books

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Stormsong07, Nov 7, 2018.

    What are some good writing lessons/tips/advice you have learned from reading fiction?

    For example, re-reading The Seven Realms series by Cinda Chima has shown me the importance of narrating in your character's voice. She has a character who grew up in the slums and speaks that way, using all kinds of historical and made-up words: slide-hand, scummer, on the daub, lytlings, mumper etc. The chapters in his voice are so realistic.

    I learned from Harry Potter that too much of a good character trait can be a flaw (in his case, loyalty to his friends) and still think about Ron and Hermione when I'm writing my MC's best friends.

    Sever Bonny's The Arinthian Line series (is AMAZING and you should go read it now) made me sit back and realize some things about fantasy as a genre. An excerpt from my progress journal where I wrote about it:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that some major motivating concepts are love and death. Most notably, our capacity for love, and the tendency for the villains to underestimate that capacity, and the fear of death…most notably, the fear the villains have of death and the lengths they will go to avoid it. You see this in Harry Potter and many others. Our heroes are strong because of their capacity for love- for strong friendships and allies and loyalty.
    Conversely, this is what makes the villains weak- their "friendships" are based on fear, not love, and the consistently underestimate our hero's capacity for love and why that makes them strong.
    Successful fantasy fiction deals with love, death (a fear of, or struggle to understand death), and good vs evil.
    Villains tend to fear death and go to lengths to avoid it. Heroes tend to struggle to understand and come to terms with death. But it's another one of those main themes of fantasy.
    And of course, the struggle of good versus evil. Heroes know that if they don't stand for something, all that is good in their world will cease to be. Villains want to control their world. They want power and seek to subjugate others to gain that power. Heroes just want to live their lives- they are not out looking to be a hero, but they understand that if they don't do something, others will perish. And that's why they make a stand.

    What have you learned about writing from the books you have read? Tell us what books and what you took away from them.
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    May 1, 2008
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    Puerto Rico
    Arthur C Clarke showed me you can construct entire universes out of the simplest pieces. He never once made me reach for a dictionary.

    Samuel R. Delany showed me a similar lesson, only we were hella faded when we did it. ;) The man can twist a sentence into some crazy shapes.

    Octavia Butler taught me that the best stories are made out of questions, not statements. I'm still asking myself many of the questions she posed to me.
    Stormsong07 and minstrel like this.
  3. Night Herald

    Night Herald Mr. Dalliard, command the earth to swallow me up! Supporter Contributor

    May 23, 2012
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    The most concrete lesson which comes to mind is one I learned from Words of Radiance, book two of Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive. Because this is an instance of foreshadowing and spoilerific in the extreme, I'm going to tag it below. You've been warned.

    A certain character (A) was presumed dead after the events of the first book (I don't remember the how of it, but it "happened" off-screen). At the very beginning of book two, another character (B) hears A speak to her from another room, which she understandably finds rather unnerving. Of course, it's only B's magical pet-familiar thing that has learned to parrot A's voice. Cue disappointment, and shame at "having been so stupid as to think it was real". At this point I put the book down. I said to myself, "Sanderson, you sneaky git, I see what you're doing. Character A is gonna show up alive by the end of the book, you mark my words." And, sure enough...

    I think it's only after this I began considering the power of foreshadowing, and how to go about it in creative ways. By extension, it made me think more seriously about craft in general. It also made me more attentive as a reader.

    I was similarly educated by GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire. It was one of the earliest multi-POV stories I read, and I loved the way the words of the narration was shaped by whoever's chapter it was. It was only later that I learned about things like narrative distance.
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  4. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Active Member

    Sep 13, 2015
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    For me, the most potent lesson of the year so far was when Robert Aickman showed how, “In the end it is the mystery that lasts, and not the explanation.” (Sacheverell Sitwell).
    Stormsong07 likes this.

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