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Author Topic:   I'm writing a story because I'm bored.
Inactive Member

Message 2 of 24 (635631)
09-30-2011 8:46 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by nlerd
09-30-2011 8:27 AM

Show, don't tell. If Eric is a "perennial night owl", show that he's a night owl - don't just say he is.

It's not clear if Eric is supposed to be your POV character, because we don't really see things through his eyes. I feel like you want him to be, but then you also want to describe things as they happen independent of Eric's understanding and perception of them. (For instance, we're still privy to events that happen while Eric is unconscious; that's impossible if we're seeing things through his POV because he has no POV when he's knocked out.)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by nlerd, posted 09-30-2011 8:27 AM nlerd has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by nlerd, posted 09-30-2011 8:53 AM crashfrog has responded
 Message 9 by IamJoseph, posted 10-02-2011 4:41 AM crashfrog has responded

Inactive Member

Message 6 of 24 (635782)
10-01-2011 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by nlerd
09-30-2011 8:53 AM

I don't feel like I know Eric at all, he seems to come into existence only as the story begins. If he's old enough to be out on his own at night, he's old enough to have a job, have some training, maybe gone to college or the army or something, maybe he had some life experiences, and all that stuff may not matter in a world with magic and gorilla girls, but it's still going to matter to Eric and so it should matter to the people Eric is supposed to matter to - us, the readers. Why does he recognize that the guy is stoned? Is that because Eric is a cop? Or a stoner himself? Why is he a night owl? Because of his job at a video store or as a self-employed graphic artist?

Picking stuff like that at the beginning can be random, but trust me, it'll help you out in act four when Eric is in some kind of bind and you can't figure out how he figures it out. And then it comes to you - "Oh, right - Eric works at Blockbuster, so of course he's seen Buffy like a hundred times; obviously, he knows that you can defeat a lamia with construction adhesive and kerosene."

I know you want to get to the good parts, but fleshing out a character so that he feels real to the audience is a good part. We should see a little more of Eric's normal behavior in a normal night than the thirty seconds or so you show us before the plot starts. Also it's going to help you find a unique voice for Eric, which is something your characters currently lack. Your dialogue doesn't give any clues as to who is actually saying what aside from the usual "said Eric" type indicators. In good writing, those should be unnecessary for the most part - a character's unique voice will be all the indication anyone needs of who said what.

Also, you've missed a lot of opportunities to foreshadow. Your chapter one should really be chapter three, at the earliest. Even in disaster movies where the apocalypse takes all of our characters completely by surprise, they foreshadow the cataclysm. A story about a New Yorker swept up without warning into the events of 9/11 would most certainly start with an intelligence briefing about Bin Laden determined to strike inside the US. Chapter two would be the start of a regular day for our POV character, and it would end with "And so I need those reports by - oh, fuck, did you just see that plane?"

This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by nlerd, posted 09-30-2011 8:53 AM nlerd has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by nlerd, posted 10-01-2011 5:59 PM crashfrog has responded

Inactive Member

Message 8 of 24 (635801)
10-01-2011 7:15 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by nlerd
10-01-2011 5:59 PM

Like the story is from the point of view of "someone else" who just happened to be on the street at the moment Eric and Andy passed each other, that person wouldn't know anything about either man unless they told that "someone else" about themselves.

Except that he can hear their thoughts, too? It's your story, I hope you'll continue to write it as you see fit. Regardless there's a number of common "best practices" for fiction writers, and they're not adopted because fiction writers want to be exactly like each other, they're adopted because, in practice, they've emerged as generally the best way to tell a story such that audiences are engaged and entertained. But, your first go-round doesn't have to be perfect. Like I said I hope you'll keep using your own best judgement. I just wanted that out there.

Audiences don't want to read about heroes, they want to be the hero. The most engaging writing gives the audience somebody to be. If all your characters are basically a mystery, or are no more fleshed out than a random person you might meet on the street, the audience doesn't know who to "be."

I think Andy does "sound" a bit different then Eric at this point though. Dunno if his dropping "dude" and "fuck" left and right is enough though.

For my own part, I think you can learn everything there possibly is to know about writing by reading William Gibson's Neuromancer. Here's an example from that novel of what it means to me for two characters to have different voices:

"I'm doing just fine," said Case, and grinned like a skull. "Super fine." He sagged into the chair opposite Ratz, hands still in his pockets.

"And you wander back and forth in this portable bombshelter built out of booze and ups, sure. Proof against the grosser emotions, yes?"

"Why don't you get off my case, Ratz? You seen Wage?"

"Proof against fear and being alone," the bartender continued. "Listen to the fear. Maybe it's your friend."

You can see how Case and Wage don't just talk differently - they see differently. They're looking through different eyes and looking at different things. Case is all business, he wants to keep up appearances. He's looking at someone who maybe knows something he wants to know. Ratz has a philosophical bent - he's looking at a case study in medicated self-deception. They don't just use different words, they talk past each other because even though they're seated at the same table, in the same novel, they perceive two dramatically different situations. (And, of course, part of the irony is that Case is the novel's POV character and Ratz is a bartender who is in, like, two chapters.)

But, of course, doing that requires having a pretty good idea of who your characters are. Case, as it turns out, has a pretty good reason to keep a laser-beam focus on his "biz". If he tries to take in the bigger picture after what happened to him, he's just going to fall apart at the seams. (No spoilers, though.)

If you post chapter three, I'll change up my posts and tell you what I liked. I've probably been critical enough.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by nlerd, posted 10-01-2011 5:59 PM nlerd has not yet responded

Inactive Member

Message 10 of 24 (635862)
10-02-2011 11:04 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by IamJoseph
10-02-2011 4:41 AM

Doesn't this depend if its a movie screenplay [show, don't tell applies] - or a novel?

No, not at all. The difference between showing and telling is this:

1) Eric was a night owl.

2) Eric managed to flag down Mac just as he was about to lock up the Kwiq Stoppe. "Hey, Eric. The usual, I presume?"

"Yeah, Mac, the usual." Marlboros and a Four-Loko. It was going to be another long night.

In the first we're told that Eric stays up late. In the second we're shown that he stays up late; it's a conclusion we draw from the fact that Eric is out and about while other people are closing up; that he buys cigarettes and an alcoholic energy drink; and that these are things he does fairly frequently. The audience concludes that he's a night owl in a much more authentic way than if they were simply told that.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by IamJoseph, posted 10-02-2011 4:41 AM IamJoseph has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by IamJoseph, posted 10-02-2011 2:46 PM crashfrog has responded
 Message 19 by Drosophilla, posted 03-23-2012 1:25 PM crashfrog has not yet responded

Inactive Member

Message 13 of 24 (635904)
10-02-2011 8:40 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by IamJoseph
10-02-2011 2:46 PM

Don't you think your example is of a movie, where the 'show don't say' is mandatory.

How could my example have been of a movie, when it was words?

The third person writer can add embellishments independent of the dialogue as deeper cadence of the action.

I think I've failed to communicate my point, I guess. Embellishment is ok. It's not that writers have to show, its that a good writer shows rather than tells because it makes for much more engaging writing. If you feel that (1) is somehow a more engaging excerpt than (2), then I've completely failed because my intent was for it to be the opposite. I think (2) is the much more engaging piece of writing.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by IamJoseph, posted 10-02-2011 2:46 PM IamJoseph has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by IamJoseph, posted 10-02-2011 9:54 PM crashfrog has responded

Inactive Member

Message 15 of 24 (635916)
10-03-2011 12:17 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by IamJoseph
10-02-2011 9:54 PM

At the same time, leaving bits and bytes to the imagination is the most powerful

Well, yeah, which is why "show, don't tell" is such a powerful technique.

It's like a kind of "inception", you know, that movie? "Show, don't tell" is a way of... incepting?... the characterization you want into your audience's heads. You make them think your character has a certain quality, but better yet, you make them think they're the ones who figured it out.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by IamJoseph, posted 10-02-2011 9:54 PM IamJoseph has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by IamJoseph, posted 10-03-2011 1:13 AM crashfrog has not yet responded

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