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Thread: Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips

  1. #226
    Street urchin with a top hat.
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    I have a deep issue with the said rule. I couldn't figure out why until I grabbed a random book from my bookshelf and inspected it. The first three showed my issue.

    Most of my literature is late 19th century and early 20th century, and what I enjoy the style of is French literature from that period. So I can turn to the page and I see, Choked, Wailed, Cried, Counted, Moaned, etc, etc. The only exception are the books gifted to me that are post 1930 in editing or publishing.

    Might explain why I see the issue with the said rule. Everything I love and positively, and adore, doesn't obey that rule. In fact it chucks it out the window for emotion and feeling.

    Said to me isn't invisible. If I see fifteen saids in a row I imagine two people saying things non-heartedly; like a depressed water cooler skit where every party involved is inconvenienced by seeing each other.

    Guess I am the special snow flake here? Guess I am the odd man out.

    Though I do agree with the smile rule. I might have to blow off the dust of a few of the french books and see what they did.

  2. #227
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.T James View Post
    Said to me isn't invisible. If I see fifteen saids in a row I imagine two people saying things non-heartedly; like a depressed water cooler skit where every party involved is inconvenienced by seeing each other.
    I agree with you. In fact, one of the things I look for when I'm deciding whether to read a novel is whether the author uses other dialogue words. If the author is a said-er, the novel has to have some pretty compelling good points to make me read it anyway.

    Most of the things on that list of rules, I disagree with. The fads on that list are a lot of what's wrong with modern literature, IMO. I want imagery. I want an extensive vocabulary. I don't want to have to be dragged through being "shown" every single damn thing, sometimes I'd rather be told and get on with it. And so on.

  3. #228
    Forever learning TravelHat's Avatar
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    Thanks, these are great, and I am guilty of many.

    Although I have never heard the word "pleonasm," I have learned over time I use "that" far too often. When editing, I always need to get out my "that" zapper. Nine out of ten can usually go away.

    That is why I love Scrivener, I put "that" in the search bar, and proceed on a seek and destroy mission. For my second round I put in "ly" and can instantly find most of those nasty little adverbs.
    Last edited by TravelHat; 01-03-2017 at 08:07 PM.

  4. #229
    practical experience, FTW Cascada's Avatar
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    I'm pretty much guilty of all of these in some shape or form, mostly due to unawareness that I'm doing it, but I'm learning!

    This one:

    24: Cut out filtering devices, wherever possible. ‘He felt’, ‘he thought’, ‘he observed’ are all filters. They distance the reader from the character.
    I actually hadn't heard about until I read this thread. Very glad I came across it, because I am really good (or bad) at filtering. So yesterday, I went back to Chapter 1, and started editing out all the filtering.

    Everything else is learning-in-progress.

  5. #230
    figuring it all out laserkey's Avatar
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    11: Avoid sounding ‘writerly’. Better to dirty up your prose. When you sound like a writer, your voice has crept in and authorial intrusion is always unwelcome. In the best writing, the author is invisible.

    18: Give your characters clear goals. Always. Every scene. And provide obstacles to those goals. Always. Every scene. If the POV character in a scene does not have a goal, provide one or cut the scene. If there is no obstacle, add one or cut the scene.

    19: Don’t allow characters who are sexually attracted to one another the opportunity to get into bed unless at least one of them has a jealous partner.
    11 and 18 are ones that I will pin.

    LOL on #19. I can see how that's usually the case, but there are lots of YA novels that explore first love as a theme, and so this can be bypassed.

    Great advice overall

  6. #231
    At one with The Force Keithy's Avatar
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    Pleonasm? This is the first time I've come across the word. I'm already thinking it's something crude.

    But... overall... I've either got or an getting the hang of most of these. At first the adverb thing sounded weird, but losing the adverbs helps with the show/tell thing. I did throw in some Plesiosaurs to get around the adverbs, but now I know that's not really much better. The other thing I did was shunt a few adverbs from prose into conversation. There they found a safe haven(!)

    Another "but" is this: I keep thinking I've fixed all the writing problems to suit the rules, then I find more rules. Yikes!

    But (last but) - I find myself wondering how many readers can actually spot these mistakes. If there's a lot of glaring examples, then yes. But all of them? Hmm, me is not convinced.

  7. #232
    At one with The Force Keithy's Avatar
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    I'm wondering about the "shrugging thing". If a character does not care about a situation, or a question, or perhaps is not very talkative, then shrugging would be better than saying 'xxx did not care' in prose, or else having the character explicitly stating that he/she doesn't have a clue or doesn't care. The "no shrugging" rule seems to contradict the "show not tell" rule. People who don't know something shrug. They don't ALWAYS say "I don't know". And what if they're mutes? Should it be "he held up his little card with 'I don't know' written on it"?

    Shrugging seems natural to me.

  8. #233
    practical experience, FTW Zoe R's Avatar
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    Can someone provide an example of how to replace smiling?! Sighing is also hard to avoid, although I have characters nod and shake their heads more than shrug. #29 would definitely be my hardest to avoid!

  9. #234
    The Alien Writer Thekherham's Avatar
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    Great advice, but what are we saying here? Characters are never supposed to smile or sigh or whatever real people do? Well, I guess if they're robots it might work.
    That's Tee kee' rahm

    Say hello to my whistling dragon, Kykherhenha (and that is pronounced Kich' kee ree' nah)

  10. #235
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zoe R View Post
    Can someone provide an example of how to replace smiling?! Sighing is also hard to avoid, although I have characters nod and shake their heads more than shrug. #29 would definitely be my hardest to avoid!
    Well, I'm not sure whether this is what the list author had in mind, but I'm starting to think of other ways I could express a smile. Perhaps instead of "Pat smiled," I could say:

    * Pat's eyebrow climbed her forehead.
    * The corner of Pat's mouth turned upward.
    * Pat's eyes crinkled.
    * Happiness shone on Pat's face.
    * A laugh played across Pat's lips.

    None of these may be right for any given situation and they may have problems of their own. The general idea I've got in mind, though, is that there are so many evocative ways to convey a smile that a character needn't ever simply smile. In my manuscript, you'll find this: "The young man grinned, and for a moment he seemed all teeth and Adam's apple." I rather liked that one.

    This is actually a pretty fun exercise. We could certainly each come up with a dozen more ways to describe a smile in no time, I think. Likewise for sighing. My characters nearly all smoke cigarettes so I get to have them blow out smoke in various ways when they need to sigh, which is rather convenient. Also rather easy to overuse if I'm not extremely careful (on my list of things to watch out for when I get to revising).

    I do have a character who shrugs from time to time. She's a relatively young woman, and sometimes comes across as very young and girlish to the POV character who spends the most time with her. The shrugs help fuel that impression. When she shrugs instead of speaking, she seems (to the POV character) like a teenager.

  11. #236
    At one with The Force Keithy's Avatar
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    His shoulders went up and down in unison.

  12. #237
    Get it off! It burns! Dennis E. Taylor's Avatar
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    I give him full credit for posting #32. Most 'givers of rules' take more of a ten commandments approach.
    Formerly Angry Guy.

    Speak the truth, but not to punish

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    Website/Blog: www.dennisetaylor.org

  13. #238
    figuring it all out
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    Fantastic list! This one's going to my onenote as reference.
    First time writer. Go ahead, rain on my parade!

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