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Lenny Jennison
02-02-2012, 11:58 PM
I know a lot of you may be getting tired of all the questions i ask but there is no way for me to read as many books as i have questions :)

I know in movies the audience almost demands happy endings and spoon feed clarity. Is this the same in most of the books you have recently read?

I have a story line where i would like the readers to judge the characters for themselves and decide whether they are good or bad.

i truly feel there are no "good" or "bad" characters. Life is a grey area and there are no clear definitions of heroes and villains.

example:

someone who kills another is bad

someone who kills another to save a life is good

someone who kills another for an unknown reason is bad until we learn the reason. Whether we agree with the reason or not is the way we depict the killer.

Does this remain true in books today? How do you show the struggle a person fights as they make their way through this life?

seun
02-03-2012, 12:04 AM
I know a lot of you may be getting tired of all the questions i ask but there is no way for me to read as many books as i have questions :)

I know in movies the audience almost demands happy endings and spoon feed clarity. Is this the same in most of the books you have recently read?


Do you mean you don't think you have the time to read as many books as it might take to answer your questions or you just don't have time to read? I don't think there's anyone here who has all the answers so we read to learn and we read to enjoy stories. You should do the same. :) You might not get all the answers but your writing will definitely improve.

As for the ending question, I've always gone with the idea that the best ending is the one that fits the story. And FWIW, there are plenty of films that don't have happy endings.

MoLoLu
02-03-2012, 12:04 AM
I don't judge as a reader or force judgement on the reader as a writer.

That's how most of the books work that I've read. Sure, broad strokes are given, but the specifics and, most importantly, judgement are often left open.

Torgo
02-03-2012, 12:05 AM
I always felt Sauron was misunderstood.

quicklime
02-03-2012, 12:06 AM
Lenny,

I get that you may want an answer in less time than it takes to read a dozen best-sellers, but you're also asking questions that come up a LOT--try scanning the first ten pages worth of threads in "Basic Writing Questions" and "Novels" and I suspect you'll find at least three threads on this.

that said, there is gray and there is black and white. I prefer gray for my heroes, and my villains, but sometimes (esp. monsters, for example, in horror) there is only black. Occasionally there is only white. Generally though, if you're writing to mirror real life, then you know real life rarely comes in black and white, so neither should the book.

as for how to depict this, there's thousands of things you can do at different points, you can't really just say "Have your hero kick a baby so he isn't all good" as a one-stop fix.

Don't take this the wrong way, if you can't find something by all means ask, but I suspect you can find a boatload in the 30 minutes it would take to scan each of the 2 forums above and open any links that looked promising.

Good luck,
Quick

Williebee
02-03-2012, 12:07 AM
Shipmate, just write the story. Worry about what audience finds it later. Look at Moneyball as an example. The book was first. The movie apparently took forever to get made. But, it got made. It and the audience found each other.

Just put your fingers to the keyboard, or pen to hand, and follow the tale. Park the rest of it until after.

ETA: As for the reading thing? We read to find answers, sure. But we write to find answers, too. And we also read to find more, better, or just the next.... questions.

Good luck.

Lenny Jennison
02-03-2012, 12:15 AM
What i meant by the book statement was that i am a very curious person by nature. I will always have more questions than i have answers. If i was to read novel after novel in an attempt to gain the knowledge or bits of insight i needed, i would never have the time to write my own work.

Taking the time to research is not a problem. I am on this site all day and love the information i have read. The problem with researching the information i am looking for is going through each and every thread and then fining the information that i have a question for.

I get questions that sometimes seem like a common question, but is more complex in my mind then say an average answer. Not always, but more often then i would like to admit. Sometimes someone's mere phrasing of their opinion will answer the question for me.

I thank everyone's patience when dealing with my frequent questioning. This is a great site and i look forward to the day that i publish my first book. The book will be a great one because of the useful knowledge people freely share on this site!

Thanks again!

LindsayM
02-03-2012, 12:37 AM
i truly feel there are no "good" or "bad" characters. Life is a grey area and there are no clear definitions of heroes and villains.

example:

someone who kills another is bad

someone who kills another to save a life is good

someone who kills another for an unknown reason is bad until we learn the reason. Whether we agree with the reason or not is the way we depict the killer.

Does this remain true in books today? How do you show the struggle a person fights as they make their way through this life?

It all depends on how you write the characters! Sometimes heroes kill for bad reasons, but can be redeemed. The beauty of being the author is that it's really up to you (at least partially) how your reader perceives your characters.

Sea Witch
02-03-2012, 01:05 AM
Hi Lenny. I think it's the nature of discussion forums that questions are often repeated, and it doesn't bother me a bit. Ask as many questions as you want.

I don't think there's a clear answer to your question. Unless you're writing children's books, I personally prefer if things are less than black and white and it's up to me, the reader, to interpret motives and actions. IMHO, real life is never black and white.

Regarding reading, all I can say is read as much as you can. Read constantly. I have a writing mentor who tells me this all the time. So as I'm writing, he will suggest different books that illustrate a specific technique or how something tricky is handled. So if you want specific book suggestions to help you with something specific like plot structure or flashbacks or dialogue, then start another thread and people will make suggestions.

I hope this helps

QuantumIguana
02-03-2012, 02:00 AM
Real life may not always be black and white, but I don't think that it tends to be dead-center gray. It tends to be dark gray and light gray. In real life, if you kill someone, you had better have a very good reason, or you'll face some pretty severe social ramifications. Killing people in fiction is often taken far more lightly than it is in real life.

When it is difficult to tell the hero from the villain, it begins to look like we just have two villains. Making the villain not be Snidely Whiplash doesn't mean the villain isn't an awful person, it just means they are a realistic person. Even the most evil people aren't doing evil constantly.

Lenny Jennison
02-03-2012, 02:13 AM
Even the most evil people aren't doing evil constantly.

Great point! This is one of the aspects i want to touch upon. Another topic is the motivation of evil acts out of a respectable place.

What i got from your answer is:

Justification.

Thank you for your insight.

QuantumIguana
02-03-2012, 02:21 AM
Great point! This is one of the aspects i want to touch upon. Another topic is the motivation of evil acts out of a respectable place.

What i got from your answer is:

Justification.

Thank you for your insight.

That's true, but I think the most important thing for a hero or a villain is to be human. A villain that is so evil that they cannot resist any opportunity to cause pain or suffering would be a cartoon character. In Babylon 5, there is a scene where Bester says that he's not such a bad guy, because he goes for walks with his kids. But that only makes sense if you assume that a villain must also do a great host of other evil things.

Sometimes the evil that a villain is enough, nothing is going to make them seem like anything other than a villain. There's no need to gild the lily, so to speak. (What would be the opposite of gilding the lily?)

JeffC
02-03-2012, 02:50 AM
When I read "spoon feeding," I think of a storyteller answering every question, wrapping the answers with a pretty bow, handing them to the reader by the end of the tale and leaving no room whatsoever for the reader to work anything out for themselves.

Some people like that sort of thing.

Personally, I enjoy reading and writing stories where the reader is never told all the secrets. I love unanswered questions and villains with unknown motives.

As to the moral question, I have to echo some of the others here. If your story demands black and white, good and evil, then do that. Shades of gray? Sure. Some stories are better if the reader is given room to sympathize with an antagonist. In others, you want as much distance between the reader and the villain as possible.

JeffC
02-03-2012, 02:54 AM
...I think the most important thing for a hero or a villain is to be human.

I think that holds sometimes, but I believe there are many stories where the villain is most effective when wholly alien to the reader.

kuwisdelu
02-03-2012, 05:07 AM
"A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would not have written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations."
—Umberto Eco, postscript to The Name of the Rose

Little Ming
02-03-2012, 05:35 AM
"A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would not have written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations."
—Umberto Eco, postscript to The Name of the Rose

Um... What is Death of the Author (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathOfTheAuthor)?

crunchyblanket
02-03-2012, 02:28 PM
What i meant by the book statement was that i am a very curious person by nature. I will always have more questions than i have answers. If i was to read novel after novel in an attempt to gain the knowledge or bits of insight i needed, i would never have the time to write my own work.



Read widely anyway. Leave yourself time to write, but read as much as you can. There is no better way to learn than to see the answers to your questions demonstrated there, on the page.

tl byford
02-04-2012, 08:16 AM
I know a lot of you may be getting tired of all the questions i ask but there is no way for me to read as many books as i have questions

I can only speak for myself, but I believe most people are here for one of two reasons:

We are either here to learn, or share what we have already learned. Take comfort in knowing that you may be asking a question that someone else has, but is afraid to ask.

~t

Becky Black
02-04-2012, 11:37 AM
Movies can certainly be useful examples when talking about storytelling. But there are limitations to how useful the comparisons can be. They are different mediums. Movies can often have a much more stripped down and focused story than you can have with a novel. When a novel is made into a movie it may have many of its layers stripped away to keep the focus on the A story. Take the novel Jaws and the movie of it. In the novel there are elements such as an affair between a couple of the characters. There's stuff about the involvement between the mayor and organised crime. All of that is gone for the movie, stripped away to focus on the man-v-shark A story.

With a movie, the audience has to grasp anything important first time around. There's probably no time to repeat anything, the way you can in a novel, just because you've got more time and space. So it might feel like it's almost painfully obvious, if you're someone who's capable of understanding things told more subtlety than that. But other members of the audience are less sophisticated, or paying less attention, or looking at the heroine's chest or something, so need to have it hammered home, because if they miss it the rest of the movie with make no sense. :D