Thursday 29 December 2011

Hello The Future


For my last post of the year I thought I'd put down how I see things going in 2012 (should be good for a laugh in twelve months' time). I've always been enamoured of culture and the arts, and I think the battle between what Old Money wants to keep the same, and what New Technology wants to see take over, is a fascinating one. My hope is things come to a head in 2012. I'd like to be part of the generation that saw the world change (hopefully into something better).

I already spend most of my time interacting with people I've never met, I think the society that could develop would be a great way to bypass the vested interests that tell us what to think and what to buy and who to hate.

Monday 26 December 2011

End of Year Report

I started this blog in February of this year and in that time have made over 100 posts and gained over 500 followers. I'd just like to thank all of you who have dropped in to read posts, make comments and start arguments. I very much appreciate all of you for sparing the time to interact with me, and I've tried to respond in kind as much as possible.

This blog has had a very specific agenda, dealing as it does with my personal obsession with becoming a writer. It's been very gratifying to meet so many like-minded  souls out there.

Most Visited Posts of 2011:

Thursday 22 December 2011

Movie Binge December

I've been watching a lot of movies recently so I thought I'd do a review post. I should point out that I saw none of these films in 3D (which may or may not explain some of my views).

HUGO ~ Very poor visuals (perhaps they're more impressive in 3D) with very obvious fake backgrounds and way too much CGI endlessly weaving between passengers on train platforms. A sweet message about the love of imagination, but quite a long, drawn out narrative structure with lots of Tell me/It's a secret/ But you must/No, I can't/Oh, go on/No, really, I can't... And quite a few plot holes too, where stuff that's important one minute is totally forgotten the next.

TINTIN ~ Visually very impressive, really used the freedom of the CGI world to get the camera to do things you couldn't do in real life. Action set pieces were very good, although the story itself suffers from the same problems as the source material (Tintin tends to solve cases through luck and coincidence), although fortunately they toned down the casual racism in the books. Still prefer Asterix and Obelisk, myself.

Monday 19 December 2011

No Subtext Without Context

In order to create a story that resonates and affects people on more than a superficial level, you need more going on than appears to be going on.

For subtext to work you need two things:
1. There must be a clear and plausible reason for why a character does something.
2. That reason is not the true reason they’re doing it.

The character may or may not be aware of the real reasons for their behaviour, but the writer needs to know exactly what is behind a character's actions. It may seem an attractive proposition to just write the story and hope the deeper meaning inserts itself, but that is not going to produce a satisfying story.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Dead Story Walking


You’re writing a scene and it’s active and energetic. The character has a goal, he’s motivated and the stakes are high. He’s putting maximum effort into getting the job done.

And yet...

On his tail are one or more highly incentivised adversaries, doing whatever it takes to bring down our hero.

And yet...

Everything is in place, all the elements for a good scene are present. And yet... it doesn’t work. The action feels flat, the outcome feels predictable, and even though it’s all vivid and clearly conveyed, it’s boring. Why?

Monday 12 December 2011

Your Dialogue Is Showing


Whether you are a strong advocate of Show vs. Tell, or you find it an overused instruction that’s oft misused, one thing is for certain: dialogue is always considered showing.

There are some people who don’t really understand why this is so, to them dialogue often seems the very opposite of showing: people telling each other things.

The reason isn’t do with what is being said—the content of speech can be all telling and it would still be considered showing—but because you are enabling the reader to visualise what’s happening in the scene. Someone is talking.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Chapter One: Magician by Raymond E. Feist


The latest genre in my series of first chapter dissections is Fantasy. As with the other books I’ve analysed (here), I will attempt to work out how a debut novelist managed to create an opening to his story that successfully pulls readers in.

Raymond E. Feist’s Magician (1982) was hugely successful, and is still considered one of the great fantasy books today. Coming up with a swords and sorcery epic at a time when fantasy of that kind had pretty much been done to death shows there’s always room for more stories, in any genre. It's such a good book that it encourages you to read the many sequels and follow-ups, all of which are terrible.

The storm had broken.

Monday 5 December 2011

Writers Who Know Everything

A problem I’ve been coming across a lot recently when reading and critiquing on various writing workshops is the writer using his knowledge of future story events to guide present ones. 

This is a fairly simple thing to fix, the problem is more in trying to convince the writer they are in fact doing this. It’s one of those things where if the person isn’t aware they’re doing it, proving it to them can be very difficult. They just can't see it.

The reason this is something to be aware of is because misusing that knowledge can make the story lose credibility. If a character just happens to go to the right place at the right time, or if they assume or guess or hope for the best — and luckily everything works out in a way that's very convenient for the story, it will feel contrived and fake. Here's an example of what I mean:

Thursday 1 December 2011

Interesting Characters: You are what you eat


Story is viewed differently by the writer than it is by the reader.

A writer knows what kind of person he is writing about, and uses that to inform what that character does on the page.

A reader knows what a character does and uses that to understand what kind of person that character is.

Both are looking at the same thing, but from different ends. The thing they are both looking at is this: what people do reveals the truth of who they are.

But truth and fact are NOT the same thing.
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