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NeuroFizz
06-09-2005, 07:22 PM
In a discussion with a writing colleague about what makes a good scene, I flashed on a verification rule that, I’m led to believe, originated in mathematics theory. It was adopted by the field of economics, and also in neurobiology where I came across it. It’s used for different types of verification in the various fields, but the way it’s used, in a general sense, is always about the same. This suggests that the rule may be of broad, even universal application. I’m suggesting its usefulness may extend to the area of writing as well. It's the necessity/sufficiency rule. Here is a possible writing application that may be useful when considering adding or deleting a scene. When pondering that scene, ask two questions: (1) Is the scene necessary, that is, necessary for movement of the primary story arc, or of a subplot? This isn’t as big a “duhh-generator” as it seems. (2) Is the scene sufficient, that is, sufficient to move the story, either on the primary arc or through a subplot? The two may sound similar, but they are quite different. For each scene, the answer to BOTH should be yes. If either is a no, it might be wise to consider dumping or modifying the scene. Presumably, exceptions abound, such as for genre-specific peculiarities or personal style differences. But if one has a low word count in a completed draft, and wants to add scenes, it might be a good rule to apply to avoid fluffing the story.



Some points for discussion: Backstory as a focus for a scene. Backstory is typically necessary, but is it sufficient to warrant a separate scene? Same with characterization. Necessary, but maybe not sufficient (in terms of the centerpiece of a scene).



What is being said here about crafting scenes has been said before in other threads, and in many other places (there are books about it). There is nothing new here, except for the way it is approached. I’m really interested in the application of the necessity/sufficiency rule to writing—in the way I’ve mentioned, or in any other way. For example, it could be used to determine whether a new character should be added to a story, or even a new setting. Do you think the necessity/sufficiency rule is a useful verification tool? In writing, it may be so basic that it is used automatically, or subconsciously by most writers, or at least most EXPERIENCED writers. This would be contrasted by the very specific uses it has in less subjective types of creative activity, like mathematics, economics theory, and neurobiology. Any thoughts?

Jamesaritchie
06-09-2005, 07:51 PM
Darned if I know. I just write a story, and I don't even think in terms of scenes. For me, a novel is one long story, and not a bunch of connecting scenes. It's like a chess game where each move causes a reactionary move, which causes a reactionary move, etc. Attack and defense.

Pace and flow, mood and tone, highs and lows, action and pauses to rest, and a seamless novel from beginning to end are, for me, far more important than individual scenes.

For me, the notion of scenes conjures the image of a chain, a bunch of connecting links. I prefer the image of a rope. . .one seamless story beginning to end.

I'm sure my stories have seams, but certainly not consciously, and I never, ever work while thinking in terms of scenes.

NeuroFizz
06-09-2005, 08:06 PM
Thanks, J.

What you're saying makes perfect sense, but you do write in scenes--to be true to POV, to provide hooks, to do a number of things. Obviously, your command of the craft is such that it comes without thinking about it. But, what happens when you go back over that first draft and you want to chop, modify, retouch. Do you evaluate scenes then? Have you ever had a scene, or chapter, where you stopped and thought...that isn't right. Do I need to go there? That's what I'm thinking of. You probably go on gut feeling on the first-to-second draft step, but without knowing it, you may be doing a similar mental calculation. So, this "rule" may not have to be spelled out for you, which is the way it should be for someone who has that gut feeling, who is comfortable with the craft. What about those who don't yet have that waistline intuition?

Thanks again for your response. I suspect most people here will have a similar approach. I'd like to hear about the general applicability of the necessity/sufficiency idea in addition to everyone's approach to scene crafting (in these terms, of course).

scribbler1382
06-09-2005, 08:15 PM
You know, this reminds me of my golf game. I'm a pretty damn good golfer -- until I start *thinking* about it. If I just walk up and hit the ball, I rock. If I stand there and start thinking about my stance or where my hands are or how my shoulders are turning, my game goes in the crapper.

I think for a lot of people, this applies to fiction writing too. If you start thinking too much about what you're doing, it can bind you up faster than some of Mama's oatmeal surprise. Which is one of the reasons my answer to the "how do you do it" question is usually "I don't know and I don't wanna know". YMMV.

Lisamer
06-09-2005, 08:33 PM
These are interesting thoughts to ponder. I'm a fiction novice, but in the process of developing my plot, I found myself becoming more interested in the backstory.

The main plot revolves around a women's relationship with her ski instructor. The backstory involves her father, a former 10th Mountain Division member, who is killed at the Trade Center on 9/11. At first, the main character simply told her instructor about her dad, but my "beta readers" wanted more. They wanted to be sitting around the fireplace in Vermont when the first idea of the 10th was talked about.

As I began to research this period in history, what started out as a backstory became a sub plot, and a rather interesting one at that. I think that if I had been too concerned about the scene's necessity, it would have never had a chance to develop. Sometimes you have to "go with the flow," then check back later to determine whether or not the scene is supurflous.

NeuroFizz
06-09-2005, 08:41 PM
Thanks, S.

This is a standard response I fully expected. I've used it myself on occasion. I'm going to be provocative here (provocative does not equal being a jerk, so take it in the way it is intended, please). We all have received rejections that have made us second guess parts of our stories. We have all received critiques suggesting a particular weakness or weaknesses. What do we fall back on when these things are received? Do we just sit back and try to not think about it, re-write something else in the hopes that solves the problem? We don't write in a vacuum of rules and common practice, no matter how much we claim we empty our minds about it. Do you go to the driving range? Why? Maybe you try to perfect that draw or fade shot. Maybe to better deal with sandtraps. Do you empty your mind then, or do you think about changes in grip, stance or swing that might give you future advantage? Do golf pros go to driving ranges? Why? Do they tinker with technique?

I think we write our best when we empty our minds about technique, like you do, but then we have to move on to the next draft, and that typically involves some analysis. Writing is best when we let emotion drive us. Editing is another story. We have to do both. Do you edit without thinking about the peculiarities of the craft? I wish it was that natural to me, but I doubt it will be--ever.

Thanks for your input.

NeuroFizz
06-09-2005, 08:43 PM
Hi, L.

I agree with you. No one says the "rule," or any rule/convention has to be applied in the initial draft. In fact, they are best considered in the post-draft editing sessions.

Thanks.

zornhau
06-09-2005, 09:00 PM
My name is Zornhau. I am an Analytical Writer, so I'm happy to discuss technical approaches on their own merits. (Non-Analytical Writers should change channel about now, lest the discussion fry their muse.)

I think, what you describe is on of those implicit rules of good writing such as Motivation-Reaction units, which most people do, but not everybody thinks about.

IMHO, your two tests are useful as far as they go. However, they only really apply after writing a scene.

I tend* to work the other way around. I start off with the plot points, then create scenes to show them.

If I haven't got spare plot points, there is no scene - your Law of Neccessity.

All the plot points have to go into the scene outline before I start writing - your Law of Sufficiency.


Cheers
Z

*Actually, "tend" is an understatement. I have a very systematic way of developing plot based on nested story questions, each with their own plot points/"moves".

PattiTheWicked
06-09-2005, 09:07 PM
I don't think in terms of scenes so much as "segments". I'll use one of my WIPs as an example. I know that in the first segment, my MC has to total her car, lose her job, learn she's the benificiary of a sizable inheritance, and fly to Scotland to claim it. These four things need to happen -- in that order -- to move the story on to the second segment.

I just write the darn thing, and cliched as it sounds, let the characters do what they want. If they do something that's not really going to move the story along, I'll probably just delete it later.

NeuroFizz
06-09-2005, 09:21 PM
Thanks, Z.

Suggestions are forwarded in the hopes they resonate with some of the audience. Some, not all. But, that's why we share ideas--to get a range of views. I suggested this because I'm still blown away by its apparent broad applicability in fields as far apart as writing fiction, mathematics, economics, and biological science.

With the extreme mechanists and the truly etherialists, scene construction/editing is probably automatic. I suspect most of us are lurking somewhere between these two extremes.

Cheers back. I did a sabbatical at the University of St. Andrews a few years ago. I'm halfway to learning the peculiarities of the kilt and the kilted.

NF

NeuroFizz
06-09-2005, 09:48 PM
I don't think in terms of scenes so much as "segments". I'll use one of my WIPs as an example. I know that in the first segment, my MC has to total her car, lose her job, learn she's the benificiary of a sizable inheritance, and fly to Scotland to claim it. These four things need to happen -- in that order -- to move the story on to the second segment.

I just write the darn thing, and cliched as it sounds, let the characters do what they want. If they do something that's not really going to move the story along, I'll probably just delete it later.

Hi, Patti

"...probably just delete it later..." Check. That takes some analysis.

Sorry, but I'm kind of weirded out by the "...let the characters do what they want" part. I think this stance is greatly exaggerated by most writers. We are all surprised by how our characters turn out, or by some of the things they do, but in your case, she has to total her car, lose her job, learn she's a benificiary, and fly off to claim the inheritance--in that order. Most of us probably lay down similar constraints on our character's development. It's hardly "doing what she wants" at least at that level. So, even the most die-hard "let the characters show their own way" writers still use analysis and pre-destined construction (at least through the first draft).

I like your segments idea, as a bridge over sets of scenes. Looking back, I think I do something like that, then break them into scenes.

Thank you.

scribbler1382
06-09-2005, 10:31 PM
For me, there's a difference between revision and analysis. I think you can be too rule-bound or scientific when it comes to things like this. For instance, you can learn the notes on a piano keyboard, practice, record yourself and analyze what you're doing -- adjust what you do based on that analysis, and people may even recognize the song when you play it. But it's not going to sound anything like a virtuoso who learns music by ear and just plays. (I'm not trying to say *I'm* a virtuoso, just that that type of approach is what I strive for.)

Maybe it all comes down to right brain versus left brain. Left brain people are attuned to things such as logic, sequence, literalness and analysis. While Right brain people are attuned to design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. While most people have a mix, there's always a dominant side. For me, this is one of the reasons I believe writing fiction can't be learned. You can learn the steps and rules, of course, but I don't think you're going to produce any works that...um...work.

Just my .02 cents. (or maybe 4 by now :))

Lisamer
06-09-2005, 10:59 PM
In the skiing world, we call it "analysis paralysis" which I confess to be guilty of. Sometimes, I have to just let myself feel the snow. Then, later, when I see myself on video, I can analyze what was not quite correct.

I recently interviewed a singer/songewriter who is also a ski instructor. He siad that people who are overly analytical about the sport tend to be over achievers in their physical execution. Thus, despite having the best equipment and studying with the best instructors, they still end up getting injured.

Perhaps there is an analogy for fiction, here.

That being said, I do not believe that this was where NF was going in his post. Many of us, myself included, probably assumed this when we saw the mathematics analogy, but that is given proof that even writers sometimes don't read for full context. ;)

I have a few scenes in my novel that are fictionalized versions of events that happened in real life. When looking back at them, it's a "you had to be there" issue. The scene is funny, but does very little for my plot.

write4details
06-10-2005, 12:32 AM
These "rules" are an extension of the principle of Occam's Razor. They are only useful to people who do not have a sense of those factors. That sort of weighing is going on at every level of writing, from the number of words in a sentence to the overall length of the piece. That's why some people writer more readable stuff than others...they make those decisions at every moment, as part of their voice and style. Just like athletes and singers do. If they have trouble in an area, they might go to a coach and think about some exercise like that. Probably they say, duh.

Yeah, this is like the golf swing, or like the centipede who couldn't walk after somebody asked him how he did it.

sunandshadow
06-10-2005, 12:48 AM
I am also an analytical writer, but I'm going to disagree with zornhau a little and say that before I write I consider what scenes will be necessary and sufficient to get me from the beginning of my story to the end. Although necessary and sufficient seem like rather strong words - personally I prefer 'useful (meaning useful towards fully exploring the themes and primary characters) and entertaining'.

In point of fact, I am currently working on a novel outline that doesn't have scenes yet. I described what should change in each act, and now I'm working on cutting each act into smaller movements and specifying what should be happening in each, then I will cut each movement into scenes and group them together into chapters to give me the final detailed structure of the novel.

PattiTheWicked
06-10-2005, 01:47 AM
Hi, Patti

"...probably just delete it later..." Check. That takes some analysis. .

It's hard, because obviously if I didn't think it was wonderful I wouldn't have written that part in the first place. But when you go back a year later and think, "Gee, the dialogue is really snappy and fun, but this whole page doesn't do ANYTHING for the story," it kinda sucks. But out it goes anyway.

Sorry, but I'm kind of weirded out by the "...let the characters do what they want" part. I think this stance is greatly exaggerated by most writers. We are all surprised by how our characters turn out, or by some of the things they do, but in your case, she has to total her car, lose her job, learn she's a benificiary, and fly off to claim the inheritance--in that order. Most of us probably lay down similar constraints on our character's development. It's hardly "doing what she wants" at least at that level. So, even the most die-hard "let the characters show their own way" writers still use analysis and pre-destined construction (at least through the first draft). .

I know it sounds weird, but a lot of times it's true. The MC is doing what *I* want to an extent, but it's hard to keep her from doing other things. You can tell someone to go sit at their desk and work, but it's a crapshoot -- they might be really productive and create a giant spreadsheet for you, or they might just sit and play Tetris and look at porn all day long. Secondary characters, for me, frequently refuse to do what I want them to. In my previous ms I had one who flat out refused to die -- took me three attempts to kill her, because the wench just kept showing back up.

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2005, 03:04 AM
But, what happens when you go back over that first draft and you want to chop, modify, retouch. Do you evaluate scenes then? Have you ever had a scene, or chapter, where you stopped and thought...that isn't right. Do I need to go there? That's what I'm thinking of. You probably go on gut feeling on the first-to-second draft step, but without knowing it, you may be doing a similar mental calculation. So, this "rule" may not have to be spelled out for you, which is the way it should be for someone who has that gut feeling, who is comfortable with the craft. What about those who don't yet have that waistline intuition?


I've studied theory quite a bit. More than anyone should, in all likelihood, and the more I've studied various writing theory, the less I believe in any of it. Pretty much all theory seems to work better when looking back than when looking ahead.

Most theories seems to me to be constructed from dissecting a completely finsihed work and saying "Ah, ha, that's how I/he/she did it." I'm not sure it is how it was done. As Stephen King says, as writers, we really can't tell anyone how we do what we do, we can only tell them how we think we did what we did. And we're probably wrong.

I have no doubt my stories have scenes. I suspect having scenes is unavoidable. Even if it were possible to write a novel without scenes, readers and others would separate various sections into scenes in their own mind. But I don't construct them as scenes, and I don't think of them as scenes, first draft or last.

I tend to think good writing may be a matter for analysis, but I also believe that good storytelling isn't. Really good storytelling is, I think, always instinctual. Most of the really good storytellers I've known wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about, and probably wouldn't read a theory, or even think about writing analysis, anymore than they think about the theory and analysis of breathing.

I never have done a lot of rewriting. I sold the first draft of my first short story. Pretty much the first draft of my first three short stories, in fact. In those days, I didn't even know you were supposed to do more than one draft. I then sold the first draft of my first novel, written in three weeks, and the editor asked for no rewriting, no cutting, no lengthening, no changes, at all.

Point is, I'm not sure getting comfortable with writing is what counts, and I'm not sure it's about those who have learned to write without thinking about rules and theories. Obviously, this was someting I did from the start, and there was no learning curve.

I can think of a quite large number of other writers who also had little or no learning curve when it came to telling stories. It may have taken some of them a while to tell the right stories, but that's a different matter.

To this day, I do very little rewriting. For me, the second draft is only a chance to tighten sentences a bit, and to get rid of any clunkers. And maybe to hone the dialogue just a bit. If I need to do any serious rewriting, there's a serious problem. It means I did something very wrong, very early in the story.

I start stories with a situation that asks a question and/or poses a problem. In the middle of this situation is a character. I never think about what happens next, I just write. The situation and the character determine what happens next, not me. I really just follow teh character around and write down what happens to him, and what he sees, hears, feels, thinks, etc.

The older I get, the more I'm drawn to the conclusion that theories about any aspect of writing, be it scenes, plot, characterization, mood, tone, flow, pace, etc., are mostly fancy ways of saying someone wrote a good or a bad story. They're back-engineered science, but I think they're also largely guesswork.

I think the ability to tell a good story gives you all these things as a byproduct, but I'm not at all convinced that doing these things does anything at all to create the byproduct of a good story. I tend to think that theories and analyses approach writing from the wrong side. It's like trying to take apart the statue of David to see how Michelangelo created it.

My take on this is quite likely the reverse of your own. I don't think good instinctual writers use theory without realizing it, I think good analytical writers use instinct without realizing it.

It seems to me that most successful writers are those who have read thousands of stories, and who then sit down and write a story. What has gone in their eyes for years then comes out through their fingertips. I tend to believe this is all talent is. . .the ability to have what has gone in through your eyes then come out through your fingertips. All those stories that have gone in through the writer's eyes mix and match, get stirred into pulp, and are stored in the subconscious. Talent is nothing more than a pipeline from this pulp to the fingertips. The more a person writes, the more the spigot is opened, the easier it gets to tell a story. But the pipeline has to be there, and all the tehory in the world can't build it.

The writer has read stories all his life, and he thought of them as stories, not as writing. So he knows what a story is, and it's a story that comes out through his fingertips. Not writing, but a story.

When deconstructionism, theory, and back-engineering work for a writer, I think it's only because, sometimes, under some circumstances, for some writers, they help a writer turn on the spigot that connects the fingertips to the subconscious pulp pit.

As another thread suggested, I do think this kind of theory and back-engineering is often too much like painting by the numbers, and tends to produce the same result.

zornhau
06-10-2005, 03:46 AM
I am also an analytical writer, but I'm going to disagree with zornhau a little and say that before I write I consider what scenes will be necessary and sufficient to get me from the beginning of my story to the end.


Disagree all you want - there's no one right way of being analytical!

However...

In point of fact, I am currently working on a novel outline that doesn't have scenes yet. I described what should change in each act, and now I'm working on cutting each act into smaller movements and specifying what should be happening in each, then I will cut each movement into scenes and group them together into chapters to give me the final detailed structure of the novel.

...the outline you describe is built of - call 'em - plot points which you're shepherding into scenes, pretty much the way I do.

write4details
06-10-2005, 04:44 AM
When deconstructionism, theory, and back-engineering work for a writer, I think it's only because, sometimes, under some circumstances, for some writers, they help a writer turn on the spigot that connects the fingertips to the subconscious pulp pit.

Well said. One thing to note is how often you hear a writer talk and he starts mentioning deconstruction and scene analysis as being important to his method.

I usually write longer works in chapters. Since I have spent decades whipping out 3000 words pieces that I can hang in my mind and "see" in one glance, I find it easy to work at that length. It's a matter of arranging chunks of that size into a picture. "Scenes" do not come into it. And it's specious to tell somebody that scenes "really do" matter whether they know it or not. I could just as easily say books are structured from the level of pargraph, sentence or letters...there they are, right?

I'd say everybody acheives a balance between structure and creative flow. For some, this can be pretty awesome. Harold Robbins reportedly just sits down and starts writing a novel and progresses through until it's done. Mickey Spillane, pretty much the same. Kerouac's "on the road" was written in long sessions of just belting it out (ok, it shows on that one). I did my first novel by sitting by a swimming pool and writing a 3000 word chapter every day for a month and it was done.

Most writing "rules" are of no use while writing. They may or may not be useful during editing...or criticism or discussion.

pianoman5
06-10-2005, 05:09 AM
It's a wonderful aspect of humanity that we occupy such a spectrum of possibilities, illustrated beautifully by so many of the discussions on these boards.

Some can't write with a pre-planned structure or outline, and some can't manage without one. Some find that they write best when their words can flow directly from brain to keyboard, while others get blocked at a keyboard and can only write creatively with a pen.

The answer to many of these curiosities of behaviour lies in the orientation of our brains - the old left/right dichotomy.

Here a useful little program that you can use to test your own orientation and which may give you a clue as to which approaches to writing (and many other life matters) might work best for you.

http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/learningst/brain.exe

brinkett
06-10-2005, 05:37 AM
Well, I tried this brain program, and came out with the following:

auditory: 80%
visual: 20%
left: 68.2%
right: 31.8%

So tell me, based on these results, how do I usually write? Do I outline beforehand? Write with a pen? Always wear a hat? Play opera music? Do tell.

scribbler1382
06-10-2005, 05:55 AM
Well, I tried this brain program, and came out with the following:

auditory: 80%
visual: 20%
left: 68.2%
right: 31.8%

So tell me, based on these results, how do I usually write? Do I outline beforehand? Write with a pen? Always wear a hat? Play opera music? Do tell.

LOL! :)

pianoman5
06-10-2005, 06:57 AM
Jeez, Brinkett, do I have to do everything for you, already?

Did you press the 'Personal Evaluation' button? Mine says:

'Bob, You are strongly left hemisphere dominant with a balanced preference for auditory and visual inputs, a productive combination of traits. The pre-eminence of your left hemisphere implies that you are organised, structured and self-monitoring. You always start analysing situations and problems by looking at details and then attempt to categorise those details in a very systematic way. You persevere on a theme.

Because of your balance between auditory and visual approaches, you can organise details into a pattern or you can arrange them sequentially so that you have at hand at least two alternatives which dimensionalize your organisation and thoroughness.' etc etc

This confirms my experience of feeling a bit lost without an outline and an overriding theme(s). If I don't have at least some sense of direction as to where I'm going I tend to dive off onto tangents, which may be interesting but turn out to be ultimately irrelevant. And I hate 'killing my darlings' once they're on paper.

It's not dealt with here, but recently I read somewhere that a lot of highly creative people (AW members, obviously) with extreme right brain dominance have difficulty communicating through computer keyboards and are far better off writing longhand. Interestingly, those people found typewriters far easier to get on with than keyboards, because there's a better sensory connection between their thoughts and their words.

I also find this little snippet that has relevance to writers.

The War of the Brains

The two brains not only see the world in vastly different ways but, in our current society, the left side just "doesn't get" what the right side is all about. It tends to dismiss anything significant coming into consciousness from its "flaky" cranial twin.

Sometimes two sides can actually disagree, resulting in our perception of emotional turmoil from the expressive protests of right brain. Our conscious mind can only focus on data from one brain at a time. We can switch from one side to the other very quickly (with our corpus collosum intact) but that's not always the most efficient way to act and eventually ultimate authority to enter consciousness is delegated to one brain or the other. In our modern world, this battle is almost always won by the left brain.

It appears that most people will never reach their maximum potential because of compromises that have been made between these two governing bodies. Sometimes skills which the right brain can perform better are routinely handled, with less skill, by the left brain. Ideally, both brains work together in people with optimum mental ability. This coordinating ability may be the key to superior intellectual abilities. In most people, however, the left brain takes control, choosing logic, reasoning and details over imagination, holistic thinking and artistic talent.

Methods have been devised to "shut off" the left brain, allowing the right side to have its say. Creative writing courses often use this method to combat "writer's block." The logical left side is easily bored by lack of input and tends to "doze off" during such activities as meditation (repeating a mantra or word over and over) or in sensory deprivation environments. The right brain is then able to "sneak" into our consciousness, filling our minds with emotional and visual vignettes and freely associated images. All too quickly, though, the left brain will assert itself and dispense with these irrational images with its Spock-like logical dominance and the right brain will have to be content to find expression in dreams.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 07:25 AM
Hi, guys. Thank you all for the great comments. It’s obvious that those to whom writing comes “naturally,” including those who can sell a first draft, are not in need of evaluation beyond the original thought that goes into the story. But for every well-known author who could compose a finished product in a single go-through, there is another well-known author who was an editor’s nightmare—one who agonized over every word, every sentence. I agree that the important thing is storytelling ability, but I suspect that ability is not skewed more toward those who just write versus those who take a more analytical/evaluatory approach to their writing. If we all get to the same place—an interesting, entertaining story—does it make a difference how we get there? Most people who “have the gift” tend to look down their noses (maybe not intentionally) at those who are mindful of theory and who analyze their stories. But equating that gift with a higher talent level, compared to those who have to resort to analysis and theory, is taking a huge step that may not be appropriate. By the way, I’m not saying that anyone who has contributed holds that view (J. I’m not pointing at you—I appreciate all of your comments), but hints of it come through in some of the comments. I guess what I’m saying is this; talented writers come from both ends of the spectrum, and from the middle.



But now, let me get back to a practical matter, and this is directed to all, but particularly to those who shun theory as a waste of time (my exaggeration, for effect). Since we are all participating in this site, I presume we are all interested in helping others develop their own skills and talents. That means there is the opportunity to teach. Let’s say you are in a critique group, and one of the members gives you a manuscript in which one or more chapters (or scenes) are clearly superfluous and potentially interfere with the flow of the story (in other words, you find that the story will progress better without them). What do you say to that person when they respond, “How do I know what I should cut? How did YOU know that they should be cut?” Do you tell them that it’s just a gut feeling and that they should just do as you say because you have more experience? If they want to avoid the same mistake in the future, do you give them a tip? What is the tip? See what I mean? If we can’t give a reason other than “it just doesn’t sound right to me” are we really helping the other person? This is how this whole idea came about for me. Explaining it with a “rule” (real or self-appointed) is helpful to those who are developing their writing talent but who may not have the intuition to realize why the writing doesn’t work. In a real-life analogy, I hosted a Russian researcher in my lab a few years ago. He was nearly obsessive about learning proper English. Whenever an unusual usage popped up (which is frequent in this language), he wanted to know the grammatical rule. I couldn’t always give the rule per se. Telling him, “I don’t know, I just know it’s right” was ten times more frustrating to him than to me because it didn’t help him UNDERSTAND. It was a rule I didn’t have to think about, so I never did. See the problem?



Thanks again for the great comments. Keep them coming, particularly with respect to this last practical matter of conveying the information to a colleague in a critique group.



Cheers to all, NF

scribbler1382
06-10-2005, 07:38 AM
Years ago, a really fantastic writer I respected (who, BTW, just happens to frequent these boards, but shall remain nameless...mostly cause they probably don't remember) gave a YA novel proposal I was working on a critique. There were lots of comments, but one stuck out to me then and rides along in the back of my mind to this day whenever I'm working on something:

"Every word has to either reveal character or forward the plot. Better still if they do both."

Now, for your reason to dump a scene, use this as your yard stick and it should be easy to not only justify your opinion, but teach them how to identify similar passages.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 07:45 AM
Years ago, a really fantastic writer I respected (who, BTW, just happens to frequent these boards, but shall remain nameless...mostly cause they probably don't remember) gave a YA novel proposal I was working on a critique. There were lots of comments, but one stuck out to me then and rides along in the back of my mind to this day whenever I'm working on something:

"Every word has to either reveal character or forward the plot. Better still if they do both."

Now, for your reason to dump a scene, use this as your yard stick and it should be easy to not only justify your opinion, but teach them how to identify similar passages.

Or, I could just say, necessity and sufficiency... Both address the same thing, right? The important thing is that another writer gave you a "rule," and you remember it well enough to quote it to others.

Thank you.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 08:00 AM
The War of the Brains



Whoa. This right brain-left brain stuff is getting weird. This was from a popular article, right? The idea of cerebral dominance with respect to certain tasks doesn't mean that the two hemispheres have it out with each other. On the contrary, they are extremely complementary in their activities. An interesting, humorous note--Roger Sperry, who pioneered split-brain research, said the following in his Nobel acceptance speech in 1981 (paraphrased by me). "The honor that my right brain feels is more than my left brain can express." Or something like that. I guess you had to be there...

scribbler1382
06-10-2005, 08:50 AM
Or, I could just say, necessity and sufficiency... Both address the same thing, right? The important thing is that another writer gave you a "rule," and you remember it well enough to quote it to others.


I think you're getting too hung up on the idea of "rules". (Probably my fault for using the term earlier.) It's really more of a guideline. In this case, being too literal can be just as bad as being too vague.

And for me and probably most of the writers I know, your terms are too abstract to really be helpful. Words like "plot" and "character" give people a context to work within.

reph
06-10-2005, 09:49 AM
Since we are all participating in this site, I presume we are all interested in helping others develop their own skills and talents.
Not necessarily. Some people in the world at large, and presumably here as well, do more taking than giving. But on to your next point...

Let’s say you are in a critique group, and one of the members gives you a manuscript in which one or more chapters (or scenes) are clearly superfluous and potentially interfere with the flow of the story....What do you say to that person when they respond, “How do I know what I should cut? How did YOU know that they should be cut?”
You can talk about what went on in your mind as a reader – for instance, "I wanted to know what happened right after Maria got home. Instead, the description switched to her reminiscences about her teen years. I found it distracting. Tension had built up because I expected Maria to find the note from her son on the refrigerator, and I had to wait. The account of her high school friendships came in like an interruption."

write4details
06-10-2005, 09:56 AM
Far out. ANOTHER platitude that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. People should craft their work using the yardstick that EVERY WORD should have a characterization of plot function???????????

Well first of all, let's see...we have all these "the's" and "of's" here. Let's dump them. Ooo, wait, that looks weird. Well now a LOT of these words don't do that,so.....

Beyond that, think about that one a minute. That's all that should be going on in a story? No loving descriptions? No humor? Nobody pausing to have some philosophical insight on any of it? Just drive on through to the chase, one word at a time?

It's ridiculous. So MANY of them are.

zornhau
06-10-2005, 01:07 PM
Far out. ANOTHER platitude that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. People should craft their work using the yardstick that EVERY WORD should have a characterization of plot function???????????

Well yes.


Well first of all, let's see...we have all these "the's" and "of's" here...[ETC]
You're being silly. If you chip away at the language, you lose it's meaning. You know that.


No loving descriptions?

Most readers skim or skip these unless they're part of the story. If the loving description jacks up the tension or mystery (Plot), or illuminates a personality (Characterisation), then it has a place.

This can be quite subtle. A description may seem logically pointless, but in fact mirror or amplify some aspect of the story, e.g. A lovingly described ruined city might serve to remind us that all things, including the characters, die, thus introducing a greater sense of threat to drive the Plot.


No humor?

Humour quite obviously contributes to Characterisation. It also contributes to Plot by way of adding pacing, or providing a good curtain line to a scene which otherwise lacks shape.


Nobody pausing to have some philosophical insight on any of it?

That would be Plot - e.g. if the story was about somebody's personal growth - and/or Characterisation.


Just drive on through to the chase, one word at a time?

That depends on what the chase is. Some chases need lots of description and humour.


It's ridiculous. So MANY of them are.
It's ridiculous to expect people to want to read anything you happen to spew onto the page. Of course, you may be lucky. Your particular raw mentality might strike a chord. If so, good for you!

brinkett
06-10-2005, 04:14 PM
Jeez, Brinkett, do I have to do everything for you, already?

Did you press the 'Personal Evaluation' button?

I think something went whoosh! Yes, I did press the personal evaluation button, and had a good laugh. I especially loved the "you have no problem learning from words but do from visuals" or something like that. I've printed it off to share with the people at work today, since whenever they try to explain something to me, my first words are always, "please draw me a diagram." They'll get a kick out of it.

I'd also assume, from reading about how organized and analytical I'm supposed to be, that I probably can't write a word without outlining first, and then stick to my outline like glue. Wrong! I'm one of those folks who writes by the seat of my pants as the characters lead the way.

Anyway, the point of my post was that it's one of those silly dime a dozen tests you can find all over the internet and not to put too much stock in it. :)

scribbler1382
06-10-2005, 04:30 PM
Far out. ANOTHER platitude that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. People should craft their work using the yardstick that EVERY WORD should have a characterization of plot function???????????

I don't know if you're being deliberately obtuse or if you don't understand, but it's obvious you have no need for advice and your craft is at its apex. Kudos to you.


Beyond that, think about that one a minute. That's all that should be going on in a story? No loving descriptions? No humor? Nobody pausing to have some philosophical insight on any of it? Just drive on through to the chase, one word at a time?

I guess we have different understandings of what exactly "character" means. But I have to say if a hero in the book I was reading kept stopping to reflect on how he wasn't hugged enough as a child in the middle of a running gun fight, I'd be hard-pressed not to skim or fire the book across the room.

It's ridiculous. So MANY of them are.

Sorry you feel that way.

zornhau
06-10-2005, 05:47 PM
I'm starting to think that we need a new board for discussing technical/analytical and structured approaches of writing!

At the moment, things go like this:

1st Poster: Here's a cool way of debugging a scene....
2nd Poster: Argh! You must never think about your writing. Your muse will shrivel!
3rd Poster: Another way of looking at a scene is....
4th Poster: Stop stop, you're killing my creativity by even thinking these thoughts near me.
5th Poster: 3rd & 4th posters are fools! Only the structured will survive!
1st Poster: Look. I was just saying. I didn't expect a barroom brawl.

It seems to happen this way every time! Technical discussions get sandbagged by well meaning people who think such discussions are a bad idea. This is rather like an athiest lurking on the religious/inspirational board to pick theological fights.

Now. Does anybody have anything useful to say about scenes?

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 06:02 PM
Not necessarily. Some people in the world at large, and presumably here as well, do more taking than giving.

Yup. I'm beginning to see that.

You can talk about what went on in your mind as a reader – for instance, "I wanted to know what happened right after Maria got home. Instead, the description switched to her reminiscences about her teen years. I found it distracting. Tension had built up because I expected Maria to find the note from her son on the refrigerator, and I had to wait. The account of her high school friendships came in like an interruption."

Excellent advice. This is the essence of a good critique, but sometimes the writer wants/needs a more general "rule*" so he/she can see beyond the immediate scene or story.

*As pointed out by Scribbler (thanks) the word "rule" is not the best--too rigid and it seems to push buttons for many people. "Guidline" is better. Still, the concept is more important than the semantics.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 06:10 PM
Anyway, the point of my post was that it's one of those silly dime a dozen tests you can find all over the internet and not to put too much stock in it. :)

Kind of like the high school test that indicated one's best-suited profession(s). I think plumber was up there for me, but my pants don't slip low enough in the back.

(Sorry, this thread needs a breather chapter that does nothing for character or plot, but merely slows the pace a bit.)

zornhau
06-10-2005, 06:13 PM
*As pointed out by Scribbler (thanks) the word "rule" is not the best--too rigid and it seems to push buttons for many people. "Guidline" is better. Still, the concept is more important than the semantics.

These are Rules of the Thumb intended to exploit hypothetical Laws pertaining to Readers.

In the case of the original suggestion, the Laws might be:

The Law of Confusion: If you give readers sufficient information to know what's going on in the story, they get confused, then bored, and put the book down.

The Law of Interest: Readers only read stuff they're interested in. In genre fiction, this usually means stuff relevant to the story.

Writing doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's not a question of whether or not a writer, e.g., is being self indulgent. It's about whether or not people want to read the result.

brinkett
06-10-2005, 07:01 PM
Kind of like the high school test that indicated one's best-suited profession(s). I think plumber was up there for me, but my pants don't slip low enough in the back.

:)


(Sorry, this thread needs a breather chapter that does nothing for character or plot, but merely slows the pace a bit.)
It's a pity everyone will skim past your post, then, cause it's kinda funny. ;)

write4details
06-10-2005, 07:15 PM
it's obvious you have no need for advice and your craft is at its apex. Kudos to you.

Thanks for that, and your other totally insincere remarks. Your feeling that if somebody doesn't agree with you on a point that it has something to do with their craft is kind of stunted, but what the hell. Maintain that "every word" scrutiny and I'm sure you'll be happy.

Meanwhile, for the interest of anybody who's still reading this thread, I wouldn't cop that that "apex" thing. After almost 30 years of professional writing, I find I am just starting to open up certain doors and angles on how to do things. I have found some boggling fresh challenges in the past year and right now am involved in a project for this summer that has nicely rekindled the old white-knuckle rush of "****, I am betting the farm on pulling this off: can I do it?"

I have a friend who is 72 and started playing saxophone professionally at 16. You talk to the guy and he's always excited about some cool new album he's recording or collaborating with somebody on something. He's an extremely traditional performer, but in his drives and goals he's like a 20 year old just breaking in. I've felt like that all my life...like a kid breaking in.

There are a lot of reasons for this sort of approach to the arts, as opposed to complacency. I would have to say one of them is the avoidance of that "slogan" mentality. People are always coining those bumpersticker phrases (and others sprain themselves defending them) but what they are is blinders.

Just a personal word to those who have yet to reach their acme.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 07:46 PM
it's obvious you have no need for advice and your craft is at its apex. Kudos to you.

Thanks for that, and your other totally insincere remarks. Your feeling that if somebody doesn't agree with you on a point that it has something to do with their craft is kind of stunted, but what the hell. Maintain that "every word" scrutiny and I'm sure you'll be happy.

Meanwhile, for the interest of anybody who's still reading this thread, I wouldn't cop that that "apex" thing. After almost 30 years of professional writing, I find I am just starting to open up certain doors and angles on how to do things. I have found some boggling fresh challenges in the past year and right now am involved in a project for this summer that has nicely rekindled the old white-knuckle rush of "****, I am betting the farm on pulling this off: can I do it?"

I have a friend who is 72 and started playing saxophone professionally at 16. You talk to the guy and he's always excited about some cool new album he's recording or collaborating with somebody on something. He's an extremely traditional performer, but in his drives and goals he's like a 20 year old just breaking in. I've felt like that all my life...like a kid breaking in.

There are a lot of reasons for this sort of approach to the arts, as opposed to complacency. I would have to say one of them is the avoidance of that "slogan" mentality. People are always coining those bumpersticker phrases (and others sprain themselves defending them) but what they are is blinders.

Just a personal word to those who have yet to reach their acme.

First of all, let's try to keep personalities and verbal fisticuffs out of this. As for the slogan mentality and bumpersticker phrase thing, if you go back to the original post, the thesis forwarded was that a verification tool that apparently originated in mathematics, and used in such diverse fields as biology and economics, might be of universal value, possibly including fiction writing. I suggested a use of the tool for helping a fellow writer on a critique issue. I can't see how this represents a "blinder" to the craft, but I am willing to listen to your reasoning.

scribbler1382
06-10-2005, 07:50 PM
Thanks for that, and your other totally insincere remarks. Your feeling that if somebody doesn't agree with you on a point that it has something to do with their craft is kind of stunted, but what the hell.
Actually, if you go back over your remarks and mine, I think you'll see that I always try to preface what I'm saying with "I believe" or "IMO" or "As I see it", hoping to make sure it's completely understood that what I'm saying is not an indisputable truth, but just what I think. If you had done that, I wouldn't have said anything, but your posts present themselves as fact, saying "This is" "It is" "what they are" etc. That may not have been how you meant it, but perception has little to do with intent.

zornhau
06-10-2005, 08:04 PM
Write4Details - you're obviously an established pro and an organic writer, so it would be interesting to hear how you handle this issue.

During editing & revision: How do you tell whether a scene (or 3K chunk, or whatever) fits your novel? Is this a gut instinct thing for you, or do you have a mental checklist? Or are your scenes always on the nail anyway?

Do you ever crit other people's stuff?If so, how do you justify saying "this bit should probably go"?

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2005, 09:22 PM
It's a wonderful aspect of humanity that we occupy such a spectrum of possibilities, illustrated beautifully by so many of the discussions on these boards.

Some can't write with a pre-planned structure or outline, and some can't manage without one. Some find that they write best when their words can flow directly from brain to keyboard, while others get blocked at a keyboard and can only write creatively with a pen.

The answer to many of these curiosities of behaviour lies in the orientation of our brains - the old left/right dichotomy.

Here a useful little program that you can use to test your own orientation and which may give you a clue as to which approaches to writing (and many other life matters) might work best for you.

http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/learningst/brain.exe

According to this test, I am highly left-brained, which really doesn't surprise me.

The numbers came out :

Left brain 68.2%
Auditory 57.1%
Right brain: 31.8%
Visual 42.9%

Analysis reads: James, your results indicate a strong left hemnisphere dominance with a mild preferance for auditory processing. This blend would indicate that you are an extremely efficient person. Logical perhaps to an extreme (Probably why I always ace the logic sections on IQ tests). Your tend to structure your life and learning in very precise ways.

You benefit from experience, seek the rational in situations, and feel most comfortable with routine.

You are a detail person. You seek each piece of a puzzle or situation with equal clarity and value, and thrive on your ability to fit each piece into a unifying structure.

Your learning style tends toward the auditory, which suggest that you process input sequentially and classify each before moving on to the next. (I find this very true.) You do, however, possess sufficient visualization skills and interest to supplement the auditory tendency and render you more active than a person who is purely auditory. (I also find this extremely accurate.)

But according to this test, I should be a planner and an outliner. I hate planning and outlining writing. People look at such tests and jump to teh rather odd conclusion that the left brain can't work unless you write plans down on paper. But the left brain also taps into the cunconscious, perhaps more efficiently than does the right brain.

I think it has been clearly shown through experimentation that people are either left or right brained, but the conclusions many draw from this bear no resemblance to reality. Being left brained in no way means you have to plan everything before you do it. This is illogical, which is a right brained fault.

Some of our best and brightest left brained scientists work with total logic through left-brained insight. For most successful people, the left brain is dominant, and the right brain serves more as the battery that starts the car, than as the engine that powers the car. Or, maybe the fuel pump is more accurate. The left brain is the engine, and is dominant, but the right brain continually pumps whatever amount of fuel is needed to keep the engine running smoothly.

And in all truth, both halves of the brain had better be working to some degree at all times, else you're functioning with only half a brain, and a quick look at the average politician should clearly show that working with only half a brain is not a good thing.

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2005, 09:29 PM
I guess what I’m saying is this; talented writers come from both ends of the spectrum, and from the middle.

I agree. My point is that both camps us different methods of reaching the same pool of talent.



Let’s say you are in a critique group, and one of the members gives you a manuscript in which one or more chapters (or scenes) are clearly superfluous and potentially interfere with the flow of the story (in other words, you find that the story will progress better without them). What do you say to that person when they respond, “How do I know what I should cut? How did YOU know that they should be cut?” Do you tell them that it’s just a gut feeling and that they should just do as you say because you have more experience?

No, I explain why it works and why it doesn't, but NOT with theory or rule. That way lies madness. Most often what works and what doesn't is a matter of emotion, and overall story structure.

he wanted to know the grammatical rule. I couldn’t always give the rule per se. Telling him, “I don’t know, I just know it’s right” was ten times more frustrating to him than to me because it didn’t help him UNDERSTAND. It was a rule I didn’t have to think about, so I never did. See the problem?

There is , I think, a serious difference between rules of grammar and rules of storytelling.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2005, 10:23 PM
Thanks, J.

I agree with what you say, except the "That way lies madness" statement. Maybe madness to some, but not to all. Some people need that structure. And the grammar versus storytelling thing - sorry, but you missed the point on that one.

Unfortunately, I have to sign off for a few weeks (back to the wilds). I thank you all for your comments and discussion, even the testy stuff. Please keep this alive if you feel it is worth it--I'll check back when I can.

By the way, after all this, I should tell you that I write with a minimal outline (a series of guidepost statements for major turns in the story, which I usually throw out about halfway through), so I'm not even close to analytical about it. I don't think about theory or rules (formal or otherwise) when I'm writing, but I recognize how they shape my writing. And I know several wonderful writers who work from detailed outlines and carefully analyze their writing at every step. On the critique front, I find it useful if a reader not only gives me an opinion on why a segment of a story doesn't work, but also how to recognize the problem in future stories (if it is of the type that can recur). Editing and modifying is more rigid and rule-oriented for me. After the fact, I like think about writing in more theoretical terms. If something piques my interest in a general sense, I like to kick it around. It's fun, so if something fun can lead to madness, I'm well on my way.

To all who are on the two extremes of the just write vs. analytical approach spectrum, we're all trying to meet at the same place, so keep your bottle openers and lime slices handy with the rest of us so we can all celebrate together when we get there. And I bet we find madness in all corners. And fun.
Cheers, Rich (NeuroFizz)

sunandshadow
06-10-2005, 10:28 PM
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There is , I think, a serious difference between rules of grammar and rules of storytelling.

Interesting that you should state it that way. I wrote a thesis arguing exactly the opposite: that humans have an instinct for storytelling which operates just like the human language instinct, by means of a transformational generative grammar system. So we use our instinct to tell if plot structures are 'gramatically correct'. This goes along with the fact that even non-writers will often complain about a piece of writing, "The ending didn't work." or worse, "Where's the ending?" This is the equivalent to reading an incomplete sentence.

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2005, 10:40 PM
Interesting that you should state it that way. I wrote a thesis arguing exactly the opposite: that humans have an instinct for storytelling which operates just like the human language instinct, by means of a transformational generative grammar system. So we use our instinct to tell if plot structures are 'gramatically correct'. This goes along with the fact that even non-writers will often complain about a piece of writing, "The ending didn't work." or worse, "Where's the ending?" This is the equivalent to reading an incomplete sentence.

To be honest, I'm not at all a big believer in connecting instinct with storytelling.

I can see where the nalogy you use works, but this doesn't make the rules teh same. I would tend to say that instinct is something we're born with, and I seriously doubt anyone is born with the instinct to know what a good story is or isn't.

Whether a person is a writer, a reader, or just a TV watcher, knowing whether or not an ending works is a learned response. A story comes across as an "incomplete sentence" only because of the thousands of complete sentences has read, read, viewed, or personally experienced/witnessed over the course of his life.

So it's incomplete by comparison, not from instinct.

The rules are different, largely because the intrpretation occurs in very different parts of the brain. Good stories affect the emotional centers of the brain, and may well turn the rules of grammar upside down and inside out to get there.

reph
06-10-2005, 10:48 PM
Excellent advice.
Thank you.

This [i.e., reporting one's reactions as a reader] is the essence of a good critique, but sometimes the writer wants/needs a more general "rule*" so he/she can see beyond the immediate scene or story.
I think generating and articulating the rule is the writer's job. As a critiquer, you keep saying things like "This paragraph broke up the flow for me, it strayed from the suspenseful moment, it read like a digression, I wanted to get back." After hearing that a hundred times from different people, the writer should think "What am I doing wrong in all these stories? Hmm – it seems to have something to do with relevance and digressions. Maybe I'm putting information in the wrong place. Maybe I don't need that kind of information at all."

You can try to explain the rule that a writer is systematically violating, if you want to, but he or she has to meet you halfway and get it.

Marcusthefish
06-10-2005, 11:40 PM
I think the completely instinctual, tap-into-the-subconscious writer like James is a rarity. I think someone who's written professionally for 20 or 30 years may have internalized the rules (i.e. developed their talent) to the point where they don't need to think about them and can write almost entirely by feel.

Most of us aren't that talented, and haven't absorbed the rules enough yet to achieve that level of flow. Our unplanned first drafts might have flashes of good stuff--plot and prose and character--but we need the additional tools of planning, analysis, revision, and rewriting to get it all into professional shape. Internalizing the rules and learning to use the tools reliably and effectively is the journey from apprentice to master.

Here's my favorite writing aphorism: "You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing" (Gene Wolfe paraphrased by Neil Gaiman).

MTF

jules
06-11-2005, 12:12 AM
I would tend to say that instinct is something we're born with, and I seriously doubt anyone is born with the instinct to know what a good story is or isn't.

I think most of the time what we call instinct is actually intuition, which is something that we've learned but can't quite rationalise into a set of firm, logical rules (or even, frequently, describe how we've learned it).

Knowing a good story is certainly an intuitive skill, as (for most people) is telling when a sentence is gramatically wrong (as most people do not know the grammar rules that explain _why_ the sentence is wrong). To this extent, at least, I think the analogy is a good one.

Whether this means that you could produce a grammar that encapsulates most good stories (the same as English grammars encapsulate most, but not necessarily all, good English sentences) is a different question. The complexity of the objects you are comparing is several orders of magnitude different, and I don't know if the notion of a grammar can be easily extended that far.

sunandshadow
06-11-2005, 01:14 AM
A story comes across as an "incomplete sentence" only because of the thousands of complete sentences has read, read, viewed, or personally experienced/witnessed over the course of his life.

So it's incomplete by comparison, not from instinct.


Ah, but, if there is no instinct for completeness, where does the completeness observable in the canon we are comparing to come from? If you look at a storyteller telling to a group of young children with a minimum of experience of other stories, the children will complain if they think the storyteller is telling the story 'wrong', especially if the storyteller just stopped at some random point in the story and said "The End".

stace001
06-13-2005, 07:01 AM
I am currently working with a development editor and i thought i'd stick my 2 cents worth in.

i have no problem whatsoever getting the story down, from start to finish. That's the easy part. I tend to write down EVERYTHING my characters do and say in the first draft, set the scene in great detail, and tell the reader everything. The writer i'm working with has much more experience than i, and things i've learned from him have improved my writing incredibly in a short amount of time. He has a gift of being able to explain, in great detail, why some of my scenes and chapters don't work, and the 'rules' behind why they don't work. without these explainations, i'd be making the same mistakes over and over. (an editors nightmare)

so i guess my opinion is this...if there are ideas (i'll use that instead of 'rules') behind what makes a scene or chapter stilted, flow etc, why a scene/chapter should be there or not, i believe it makes me a better writer to know and understand them. Some people may have a gift of being able to write a fabulous novel in one hit, without help of any kind, but i suspect those are few and far between. for those of us who are relatively new to writing, every little bit helps. i like Neurofizz's theory because i think it'd work for me.

sunandshadow
06-13-2005, 07:44 AM
Hey Stace, where did you find a development editor? I'd like to get a job like that, I'm trying to figure out where I should look.

mistri
06-13-2005, 04:19 PM
Hey Stace, where did you find a development editor? I'd like to get a job like that, I'm trying to figure out where I should look.

Try and get a job as an editorial assistant at a publisher or agency. Or even write and ask if they need 'readers'. You're unlikely to be able to jump straight into being an independent developmental editor without some sort of professional experience. Similarly, you're unlikely to get a development editing position at a publisher or agency without starting at or near the bottom first.

Jamesaritchie
06-13-2005, 06:48 PM
Ah, but, if there is no instinct for completeness, where does the completeness observable in the canon we are comparing to come from? If you look at a storyteller telling to a group of young children with a minimum of experience of other stories, the children will complain if they think the storyteller is telling the story 'wrong', especially if the storyteller just stopped at some random point in the story and said "The End".

Sure, but kids are told, view, and live complete stories almost from the moment they're born. They also live complete stories from the moment they're born. It doesn't take instinct to explain the need for completeness. Completeness and endings are something each of us learns from the moment we're born.

Find a kid too young to have lived and heard many, many complete stories, and you'll have a kid too young to listen to yours.