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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 2

  1. #2251
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
    I have a question about zooming out in omniscient narrative.
    I'm not entirely sure I know what you mean by the question. The baseline in omniscient-third is quite detached. The "zooming in" is a brief exception. You simply return to the status quo.

    You'd probably be best to start out at a distance in the first pages, to give the reader an idea of what kind of book it is.

    After that, I wouldn't worry about it unless your beta readers flag something as confusing.

  2. #2252
    Couth barbarian calieber's Avatar
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    I kept this tab up to link to the page in a thread, but I forget which one. So here, for people exploring the possibilities of person and tense: http://www.lifeisstory.com/2013/01/a-very-tense-comic/
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  3. #2253
    figuring it all out
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    your rules are good for instruction books. when you write like that, everyone who follow it will accomplish what you said.

  4. #2254
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jack lee View Post
    your rules are good for instruction books. when you write like that, everyone who follow it will accomplish what you said.

    I'm sorry, but I really don't understand what you're getting at.

    Instruction books?

    Rules?

    There's only one rule: If it works, it's right.

  5. #2255
    Naked Futon Guy allenparker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I'm sorry, but I really don't understand what you're getting at.

    Instruction books?

    Rules?

    There's only one rule: If it works, it's right.
    Perhaps he is talking about the much coveted, less talked about Writing With Uncle Jim book that would certainly be a big seller here in this forum.

    ...not that we are pushing or anything...

    ...just sitting here with my check book and the 24 33 44 46 cent stamp...

    just filling out the order form...

    No rush, really. I can get published anytime. This year. Next. 2046.
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  6. #2256
    practical experience, FTW Chrisla's Avatar
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    I'd like some feedback on a question that came up in my writers' group tonight. The writer of a very good story--a beginning writer--asks whether it increases drama to change from third person to first every time a certain scarey character is encountered. Some of the group say "yes," as long as she is consistent--that it adds to the drama because "scarey things always seem like they go on forever, so they are forever present." I question that because my root canal seems to go on forever, too, but I wouldn't change to present tense to write about it. I contend that, if you can't make the reader feel the fear while sticking to the tense you're writing in, changing to another tense just confuses the reader. But I'm here to learn, and I've been wrong more times than I care to track, thus the request for feedback. Give me your thoughts on the subject. Please.

  7. #2257
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    I don't know if anyone besides Uncle Jim is supposed to answer questions here, but I'll offer my two cents before someone comes along to tell me otherwise.

    Switching to present tense during scary sequences is like putting up signs telling the reader what's coming next.

    What a tension killer. The reader knows that as long as the narrative stays in past tense, nothing scary is going to happen. When it shifts to present tense, it's the author announcing, "OK, this is the scary part," which of course serves to diffuse the scare factor.

    That's my opinion. Uncle Jim may have a different one.

  8. #2258
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Anyone can answer questions here. All views are welcome.

    As far as switching tense during scary scenes...changing person during scary scenes...changing typeface during scary scenes....

    Does it work in this story? That's the one and only valid test.

    Moving, just for a minute, to an allied art: The background music in movies that tells us "this is the scary part" (or "this is the funny part" or "this is the romantic part" or "this is the exciting part") doesn't seem to kill tension much. Jaws was reckoned pretty scary even though the shark was announced every time by that rich melodic strain.

    You can also do some special effects by having past and present collide in the climax. So ... dunno. I don't see any theoretical reason the author shouldn't bounce from tense to tense on a scene by scene basis, provided that it doesn't annoy or confuse the readers.

  9. #2259

  10. #2260
    practical experience, FTW Chrisla's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses. As always, I guess the answer is "whatever works." I know I don't have the skill to pull something like that off, especially having past and present collide. It'll be interesting to see how my friend's story progresses. Maybe I can learn something new.

  11. #2261
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Oh golly. Can I ever identify with that.

  12. #2262
    practical experience, FTW SKDaley's Avatar
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    Changing tense is one thing. You mentioned going from third person to first. Isn't that pov?
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  13. #2263
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisla View Post
    The writer of a very good story--a beginning writer--asks whether it increases drama to change from third person to first every time a certain scarey character is encountered. ...

    but I wouldn't change to present tense to write about it. I contend that, if you can't make the reader feel the fear while sticking to the tense you're writing in, changing to another tense just confuses the reader. .
    Which is it? Changing POV or changing tense?

  14. #2264
    practical experience, FTW Chrisla's Avatar
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    Sorry, I didn't make that clear. Actually she's doing both, but the POV change is in different scenes and not as frequent. I didn't find that too problematic, but did find the change from past to present tense disconcerting, since it occurs only when one specific character appears.I've never seen that done before.

  15. #2265
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I'd encourage the writer to keep going. Changing tense, or changing person, are some of the easiest things to do during re-write.

  16. #2266
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    As it happens, by way of example, our Bad Blood novels were written in third person then re-written into first person.

    Crossover was written in past tense then re-written into present tense.

    And in The Apocalypse Door, I alternate chapters in first person (past tense but set in the Now) with chapters written in third person (past tense but set in some twenty years earlier), and have them collide in the climax.

  17. #2267
    Whore for genre HConn's Avatar
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    I thought the switches between first and third in Apocalypse Door was very effective.

    At one point, I revised a novel from third person to first, and it was the most tedious work I've ever done. More boring than filing, I swear.
    Look for CHILD OF FIRE from Del Rey! Read a sample chapter. Hey! it's been named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2009 list!

    Book 2 in the Twenty Palaces series: GAME OF CAGES. or check out these sample chapters.

  18. #2268
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Uncle Jim, have you ever (you must have at some point in your career) thought about a novel-length book wherein each chapter was a complete story in and of itself, where each chapter is a link in the overall novel, telling its own story, but also linking together the previous chapter and the one that comes immediately after, and wherein all of the chapters together form the overall story arc, but any of which can be read separately on its own? Is there a name for this? Can you think of anywhere it's been done before?

  19. #2269
    practical experience, FTW
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    Clifford Simak did this with City. Or, rather, he put together a lot of same-world short stories and linked them with a framing story and called them a novel.

  20. #2270
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Damn, Buffysquirrel, you're right! I had completely forgotten about Simak's City (my gawds, it's been too long since I read any Simak).

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  21. #2271
    Whore for genre HConn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FOTSGreg View Post
    Is there a name for this?
    It's called a "mosaic novel."
    Look for CHILD OF FIRE from Del Rey! Read a sample chapter. Hey! it's been named to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2009 list!

    Book 2 in the Twenty Palaces series: GAME OF CAGES. or check out these sample chapters.

  22. #2272
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    We tried to write Lincoln's Sword as a mosaic novel, but it just didn't work, so re-wrote it as a regular novel.

  23. #2273
    Naked Futon Guy allenparker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HConn View Post
    It's called a "mosaic novel."
    If it was a disjointed collection of short stories, would it be a Picasso novel?
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  24. #2274
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Got an acceptance today for our Christmas Challenge story, "According to the Rule," from the anthology Impossible Futures (Pink Narcissus, edited by Thomas Easton and Judith K. Dial).

    Did everyone who tried the Christmas Challenge send it out?

    Did everyone here try the Christmas Challenge?

    (If you didn't, not too late. Call it the Easter Challenge and get writing....)

  25. #2275
    "We're all mad here" - Cheshire Cat Silver-Midnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Got an acceptance today for our Christmas Challenge story, "According to the Rule," from the anthology Impossible Futures (Pink Narcissus, edited by Thomas Easton and Judith K. Dial).

    Did everyone who tried the Christmas Challenge send it out?

    Did everyone here try the Christmas Challenge?

    (If you didn't, not too late. Call it the Easter Challenge and get writing....)
    Could you repeat the challenge again? I might break down and give it a try. Just for fun I guess.

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