March 12, 2013 at 10:16 pm #217443Weird JimParticipant
romanticallyfantastic wrote:I think the worst advice comes from taking things literally when they were never meant to be in the first place. Like the “write what you know” thing. Don’t be so literal, folks. I agree wholeheartedly that any absolute is worth at least questioning, if not just throwing out
- Topics - 131
- Replies - 420
I’ve run into a lot of situations where I think the person reading my work has lost perspective. IMHO sometimes people critique work thinking they absolutely must find something wrong (sure, that’s usually the case, but it shouldn’t be your only objective!) I don’t know, I feel like people get into this tight, literal, humorless state, and then things just get ridiculous. I’ve had a lot of instances where my work included a joke or a smart-Alec comment, and had people take it literally. I’m just staring at my screen wondering, God, do you even HAVE a sense of humor? That’s not how real people read.
Economist and humour writer Stephen Leacock claimed that a reader read halfway through one of his books on economics laughing his head off before he realised it was a serious work.
Somewhere at the back of my mind there’s instruction for stand up comics. They don’t get laughs unless they set up the joke first. You need to let the reader know you’re ‘trying’ to be funny. This is one reason why we have emoticons. 👿March 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm #217446Weird Jim wrote:Somewhere at the back of my mind there’s instruction for stand up comics. They don’t get laughs unless they set up the joke first. You need to let the reader know you’re ‘trying’ to be funny. This is one reason why we have emoticons. 👿
I still stand by my statement, since every non-writer that read it got it. Agree it has to be set up. It was.March 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm #217494romanticallyfantastic wrote:Weird Jim wrote:Somewhere at the back of my mind there’s instruction for stand up comics. They don’t get laughs unless they set up the joke first. You need to let the reader know you’re ‘trying’ to be funny. This is one reason why we have emoticons. 👿
I still stand by my statement, since every non-writer that read it got it. Agree it has to be set up. It was.
I wonder if there’s something else at work here, if non-writers all got the humour, and at least a certain number of writers didn’t. Humour is very much a cultural thing. Try telling a joke to someone from another country, and chances are, they won’t get it. Foreign jokes don’t usually sound funny to us, either. (Although I did read a joke that – very quietly – went the rounds in certain circles of Berlin after Rudolph Hess was captured that I found funny: “The Thousand Year Reich just became the Hundred Year Reich, because one of the zeros is gone.” So some jokes can transcend culture.)
And there are jokes that printers get that everyone else just stares at; every single sub-culture I know enough about to be able to say has their own humour. Now, I haven’t seen the jokes in question, so I can’t say for certain, but just as a theory, I wonder if they don’t work as well for writers, because we look at language a bit differently. Because it seems odd otherwise that it would be writers in specific who happened to lack a sense of humour. Most people do seem to have one, and I’ve never noticed writers in general to lack that particular quality. If anything, I think we may be a bit crazier than the rest of the world.March 15, 2013 at 12:17 am #217518
I agree that we all have a sense of humor, what I’m getting at is I think some people lose that when they go into critique mode, they CAN take it too far, too serious, too literal, and at times, over anylitical…. um, just like this joke discussion :ohmy:
:cheer:March 15, 2013 at 1:15 am #217523romanticallyfantastic wrote:I agree that we all have a sense of humor, what I’m getting at is I think some people lose that when they go into critique mode, they CAN take it too far, too serious, too literal, and at times, over anylitical…. um, just like this joke discussion :ohmy:
Sorry. I do tend to analyse almost everything – that’s the way I come up with a lot of story ideas. The whole notion of subcultures with their own humour is percolating in my mind right now.
But, yes, some writers in critique mode seem to transform into lunatics. The rules on Forward Motion seem to restrain the worst of that, but I prefer not to let just anyone crit my work. I have to have at least some idea they’ll be sane about it. “I don’t like cats, I like dogs, so you should change the cat in your story so it’s a dog” is not a valid crit. (But it is something that was said to me once.) Ooookay. Next!
I think the only solution to that is to ignore the people who can’t give you decent crits. Although that can be pretty specific. I remember a story posted on one of the FM crit boards, and I thought it was very good, but another critter gave a decent enough crit – except that they really didn’t seem to have the knowledge most people who would read that type of story would be likely to have. So they complained about things that didn’t make sense to them. While they might be a great critter for certain stories, for others they’d be useless. At least, that was my opinion.
I just remembered something. Have you ever read Grumbles From the Grave? There’s an exchange in there Heinlein had with an editor that is absolutely classic. He was working on one of his juveniles, Red Planet in fact, since I recall the editor took exception to a few details about Willis. Now, in his novels for adults, Heinlein did sometimes write things which would curl some folks’ hair – but this editor subjected Red Planet to Freudian analysis, and pointed out all the “filthy” things he’d included. (Which were, by the way, absurd – and the fact she even thought of some of them made me wonder about her…) He sent a letter to his agent and pointed out some of the Freudian implications of one of the editor’s “innocent” stories. 😆 The whole exchange is about the best illustration of your point I can imagine.March 15, 2013 at 11:54 am #217416AmbermooreParticipant
- Topics - 7
- Replies - 85
I’m rather different in view than many here. I am a storyteller at heart, writing is the medium I most commonly use to tell my stories though I use others from poetry to music to art to actual live storytelling. I mention it because storytelling seems to have a rather different outlook than writing. The biggest difference this makes to me is this: I do not understand the ‘I write just for me’ attitude and ‘write for yourself’ advice. Yes, I, myself, have stories to tell; however, telling them is an act of communication. The purpose of these stories is to convey an idea from one person (me) to another (the audience). Everything I do is crafted around achieving the impact I desire and accurately conveying the concepts I’m attempting on the person with whom I am communicating. They may like what I did, or not. That’s a different issue. So in one sense I deeply understand ‘the audience is everything’ attitude. The greatest concept in the world, with the most perfect structure and best plot points is worthless if its intended recipients cannot understand what is being told to them. By the same token I do the audience no service by telling them a story other than the one I intent to tell them.
Perhaps I am too steeped in the historical reasons for story telling (to convey history, law, culture, and moral lessons). My hobby is medieval recreation which is where I do the majority of my verbal storytelling.
In the end all advice breaks down to three things.
1) have I properly understood what the advice is intended to convey.
2) Was the advice actually given in an accurate context?
3) Does it actually apply to what I am trying to do?
Any piece of advice will be worthless. It will also be priceless, the question is when.March 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm #217531Soren_RinghParticipant
Ambermoore wrote:Yes, I, myself, have stories to tell; however, telling them is an act of communication. The purpose of these stories is to convey an idea from one person (me) to another (the audience).
- Topics - 9
- Replies - 334
I agree, and will take it just a little further. Whether it be writing, or telling a story verbally, or using the medium of film, it is all storytelling. Like any artform, and it is art, it is about self-expression(telling the story you want to tell), but it doesn’t end there. We have to reach others with it.
As far as I have been able to gather, all artists seek to convey one piece of information above all others, and that is an intended emotion.
Now I don’t know much about painting, but I do know that if done right, the viewer feels an emotion that the artist intended. The same with sculpture, photography, film, or the written word.
The best story idea with great prose and a perfect plot mean nothing if the writer cannot convey that emotion to the reader. Most readers I doubt would know good prose if it walked up and slapped them in the face, or a great plot with it’s well-placed devices. I don’t blame them. That’s not why they’re reading a given story.
All one has to do is look at some of the wildly successful bestsellers to see that. They want to feel what the characters are going through. Why do people read horror? It certainly isn’t for the prose. They want to be scared. Romance? A whole different emotion is felt there. Fantasy and SF? The wonder of these worlds along with the teeter-totter of emotions the characters go through. Incidently, you ever notice that horror and romance don’t seem to work within the same story? They are both to strong on there own to work together I think. That’s a pretty good testament of what emotion means to our artform.
On taking these literally…A literal description is a part of our art, but only a part. It’s the telling and not the showing aspect of our art. Where would we be without metaphors? Those lively images that spring to a readers mind when one is properly used. Or how about subtext? We’ve all read or seen films where characters are talking about one thing, but really having another conversation entirely. The reader, or viewer doesn’t need to be told what is really being said, but they follow along. The emotion of the scene is right there for them. They feel it, and understand what is really being said, and it isn’t about the slice of burnt toast that the characters are discussing. The reader was able to figure it out without the author or filmmaker uttering a single word to tell them.
Now that is art.
I would hate to have to read a poem literally. Besides telling me, instead of showing me the intended emotion, it just wouldn’t make any sense.
That and the Mona Lisa is just a painting of a woman, and that Adams guy took some decent outdoor photo’s.
The rules are there for us to explore. They are our way to identify our own unique method of writing expression. I hear a rule and ask why is this a rule. Maybe it is like an old legend where a grain of truth resides. Maybe more, maybe less. We have to figure that out for ourselves.
I believe in the end, when we are doing are revisions, that we have to keep our audience in mind. Not selling out on our creativity, but on making sure we express it correctly. A story that is written just for me won’t mean much to others. We have to figure out how to have them feel the emotion of it. That’s what an artist does.
So we learn this, an experiment with that, always seeking to get better, and maybe, just maybe, we can create some memorable art along the way.March 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm #217524
Agree:)March 16, 2013 at 12:40 am #217532Ambermoore wrote:I’m rather different in view than many here. I am a storyteller at heart, writing is the medium I most commonly use to tell my stories though I use others from poetry to music to art to actual live storytelling. I mention it because storytelling seems to have a rather different outlook than writing. The biggest difference this makes to me is this: I do not understand the ‘I write just for me’ attitude and ‘write for yourself’ advice. Yes, I, myself, have stories to tell; however, telling them is an act of communication. The purpose of these stories is to convey an idea from one person (me) to another (the audience).
I don’t think I was very clear in what I said. When I’m working on the first draft, I simply write the story I want to read. Period. Then, I can go back and make sure I’ve communicated the things I wanted to so others can understand me, but I would not be able to get the rough story down at all if I worried over all those details in that first pass.
In addition, although I do want to communicate with an audience, there is no one who is going to please all the people in all possible audiences. So I worry about telling the story I wanted to tell – not necessarily the one someone else wants to read, since they may not be my natural audience.
In other words, it is not that I’m unconcerned with communication, only that I follow a different process – one that works for me. And that process involves getting the basic story down in rough form before I worry about fixing issues that might make it more difficult for others to understand the story, and even later only worrying about the audience likely to be interested in the story I’m telling. Obviously, this process won’t work if you’re telling a story ‘live’. (Although I believe many storytellers work out what they’re going to say in advance, and rehearse it. In that case, they could presumably use a similar process if they chose.)
I think that’s one reason some pieces of writing advice make no sense to some of us – we simply follow very different processes. And one piece of writing advice I think may actually be universal is this: find the process which works best for you, and stick to it unless you find something better. That’s also why it can be useful to discuss the process behind the bare advice, and the rationale behind that process. Because those are the areas where it might be possible to learn something about writing, even from someone who follows a different process. For example, when I have a bit more time, I want to go back and read your posts in this thread much more carefully, because I think paying more attention to the process used in storytelling, as opposed to writing, is likely to yield at least a few very useful tidbits I can adapt to my own use.March 16, 2013 at 1:03 am #217533J.A. MarlowModerator
- Topics - 309
- Replies - 1,097
We’ll leave aside those writers who do not write to sell (yes we have some here) because as a whole, FM is about moving forward towards writing professionally…
First, it looks like we are saying the same thing when it comes to communicating. Yes, the writing medium is a type of communication, but this is a craft issue. If you are not communicating then it’s not just failing the reader, it’s failing in the entire CRAFT.
But, what about those readers?
Saying “The reader is everything” is too vague. What reader? Who are these ephemeral readers we are writing everything for? What is their perfect story? What elements do all these readers like? Serious tales? Funny? Thriller? Bloodthirsty? A little fun on the side? Who hate sidekicks? Who love sidekicks? And on and on and on.
There is no sure-fire way to “make it all for the reader” that results in a bestseller, much less a moderate hit. Authors have been trying to do that for a long time. No one knows all the ingredients that goes into making one. If they did, then they would be able to consistently do it. They can’t.
Writing is only one type of storytelling, and it’s a rather introverted one. (Some writers enjoy writing be committee, with readers an active part of the storytelling process. I see this mostly on blogs with the writer engaging with the readers who then discuss and vote what direction the story is going. That’s a type of writing, but not one most writers like or utilize (and not all readers like, either)). But, we’ll put that aside, too.
Other types of storytelling? Sorry, but not every story you tell using those methods are going to be liked by everyone, either. Doesn’t matter if it’s television, the movies, music, poetry, or any other type of storytelling.
The above is why “The reader is everything” drives me crazy as a piece of writing advice for writers. It’s “writing advice I just don’t get.” More than that, I find it an insult to me as the writer, as I’m suddenly a non-entity in the entire equation.
The truth is, there isn’t anything readers/audience have in common, so how can you write to “The Reader”? It’s all personal preference for each and every single individual and different reader. As in: they are all different. They each are looking for different things. Just like each and every single individual writer is different.
The only thing the readers have in common is that they want a well-told STORY. This is a good thing, as this is exactly what (typically) writers want to do when they are alone in their empty room (or table) and are writing.
Can a story be written to slant towards a specific type of audience who like a certain genre or sub-genre? Who enjoy a certain atmosphere or character type? Oh yeah, especially if you understand the genre markers and expectations. You can then construct a story that slants towards them, hitting those markers. But, when it comes down to the details of the story? That’s the writer’s vision. It all starts with the writer.
I stand by what I said. Write for you, the writer. Revise to make it readable and as enjoyable as possible for the readers. As I said before: “Revision makes it readable to the readers who like this type of story.”
You, as the writer, must enjoy and like what you are doing FIRST. Learn the craft. If you have the basics of storytelling, then tell the stories calling for you. Because you know the craft, because you know how to revise it without losing your unique writing voice, it will be READABLE to READERS.
And for the readers? The ones looking for your type of story? Some stories languish for years or decades, and then find their market and become ‘cult hits’ or ‘classics.’ Does that delay mean they were a failure for not writing strictly because “The reader is everything”? No, of course not. It’s that the stories that the writer felt they must write down didn’t find their readers yet.
There is no one generic one-size-fits-all audience. It. Does. Not. Exist. This is why saying “The reader is everything” is misleading and will lead a writer down a dangerous path. For some writers, it takes the love of writing away and they stop writing completely. Because the writer loses THEMSELVES in the story-making process.
The key to it all is to tell a good STORY that is highly READABLE in a basic craft-oriented way. If the writer loves the story they are telling (the writer first, here), then the resulting story will show it.
The writer must tell a good story. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WRITER TELLING THE STORY IN THE FIRST PLACE. Get that good story out there. Keep writing more stories you care about (sorry, was about to go into backlist, and frontlist, and the odds of getting a hit by getting more work out there. It’s habit). The readers will respond to that.
But, it still starts with the writer.
(And yes, I’m completely aware that this probably now became one of those “writing advice I just don’t get” things. )
The String Weavers, Salmon Run, Redpoint One series.
Writer alter-ego of Dreamers CoveMarch 16, 2013 at 1:11 am #217541NPhoenixModerator
- Topics - 14
- Replies - 95
If you over focus on writing for that elusive reader you’ll go nuts. It’s the old you can’t please everyone, so do what pleases you and you’ll find those readers who jive along with you.March 16, 2013 at 1:13 am #217542Ashe Elton ParkerModerator
- Topics - 422
- Replies - 9,187
You said it better (and more politely) than I could have, Jam.Ashe Elton Parker
"There's someone in my head, but it's not me." ~ from the song Brain Damage by Pink Floyd
Member since 1998.
Look me up on Wattpad for some of my books!March 16, 2013 at 2:13 am #217417
@J.A. Marlow – you just perfectly explained the element of my process I meant when I said that I write for myself when I write the first draft, and that I then worry about communicating the story I wanted to tell. There are readers who will never want to read a single story I have in me, and I’m okay with that, because I don’t want to write the types of stories that would interest them.
On the other hand, although I could never do so, if there are people out there who can use the maxim “the reader is everything” to guide them in telling good stories, more power to them. As a writer, I care about the process which works for me; as a reader, I only care about the story. How the writer got there is up to them.March 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm #217418Soren_RinghParticipant
- Topics - 9
- Replies - 334
This isn’t a debate. It’s a supposedly open forum to express our opinions. Those opinions may not jibe with a certain group. Nobody is trying to change your minds about anything.
The audience I’m assuming everybody is speaking about is the TARGET audience. What do authors build their platforms for if not for enlarging readership?
Choosing a genre is about marketing, pure and simple. Writers don’t need to know this to begin writing, but it is useful for targeting readers that enjoy that kind of story. The audience isn’t everything, but neither is the writer. Once a reader hands over their hard-earned cash they don’t owe the writer a thing. The writer owes them in whatever expectations have been hinted at with using the genre, cover or blurb, or the opening paragraph that hopefully hooks them. So we do think about the reader.
I realize that some probably disagree, and that is fine by me. Its nothing personal. We just have differing opinions. Take your opinion and run with it.
For me the advice that gets me is “Writers write.” Wow…So that means that runners run, and lawyers work on law, chefs would do chef things.
It states the obvious while giving the aspiring writer absolutely nothing
more to go on then what they already knew. How about something more helpful about the craft or art, whichever way one chooses to look at it. Something a little more thought provoking. Even “Writers write words” is an improvement, although equally obvious and of no help.
I’m not a follower of the flood the market as much as you can philosophy myself. There are writers who believe in this method. Different strokes for different folks. There are success stories for each of the philosophies on what works best to get our stories out there. How is a personal decision. It’s not up to anyone else to say this is the definitive way for everyone else.
J.A, you say that you are sticking by your original statement. That is fine. Nobody was trying to change your mind from what I could see. Why would they? They were just expressing their own opinion on a topic. That is what an open discussion does.
Personally I found one of the rah-rah posts following yours offensive. It gave no helpful feedback whatsover and implied a little too much for my tastes. I didn’t realize that is the way it worked here. People, including you and the others, have a right to express their opinions on a subject. Maybe their right, maybe their wrong. Nobody is that all-knowing to tell them they are definitely without a doubt wrong. That would be a rule, and that is a no-no.
We all have our own opinions like the “audience” out there. If we’re all supposed to say the same thing and agree with each other than that should be made clear so everyone can see it.
Of course those with a creative bent probably won’t choose to monitor such a discussion. It’s not conducive to new ideas, and thought provoking discussion. But hey, everybody would be agreeing, and to some I suspect that would be a very comfortable thing.
That is not a community I want to be part of.March 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm #217558Soren_Ringh wrote:Personally I found one of the rah-rah posts following yours offensive. It gave no helpful feedback whatsover and implied a little too much for my tastes. I didn’t realize that is the way it worked here. People, including you and the others, have a right to express their opinions on a subject. Maybe their right, maybe their wrong. Nobody is that all-knowing to tell them they are definitely without a doubt wrong. That would be a rule, and that is a no-no.
Although I don’t know if my post was the one you had in mind, as someone whose post followed J.A.’s, I apologise if anything I said left the impression I thought anyone was “right” or “wrong” in a larger sense. J.A. did do a very good job of explaining something about the process I was trying to describe, so in that sense I felt it added to the discussion. However, I did not mean to imply that was the “only way”.
Actually, although I do often find it useful to ‘pick at’ the portions of a post that don’t make sense to me (how else am I supposed to make sense of them? ), I find I usually learn more from the posters who are advocating something different or new. After all, although I appreciated the clarity I felt J.A. brought to the idea I was trying to express, I didn’t learn anything from that post, since it describes how I work anyway. On the other hand, although I’m not about to just set aside my own process to do what works for someone else (and I understand you aren’t asking me to ), the better I understand those processes, the more likely I am to gain some insight I can adapt and use in my own work. Perhaps I go about my efforts to gain those insights (which, as I say, will only come when I actually grasp the point of what’s being said) awkwardly, and if so, I am honestly sorry. I actually tend to find disagreement more useful than agreement, because at least it forces me to think. A forum where everyone just repeated the agreed upon “rules” would be utterly useless to me. I don’t even know if that makes sense to anyone else, but I find it most productive to tear ideas apart until I can figure out how they work. Which means the last thing I’d want would be to silence those who disagreed with me. They’re the ones I’m trying to learn something from.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.