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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #3176
    13th Triskaidekaphobe Richard's Avatar
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    If I ever do a murder mystery, I'm going to have the murderer confess on Page 147, and have the detective spend the next hundred pages humming.

  2. #3177
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    I think most people have a "stop" mechanism when they read something they shouldn't... I mean, I do -- when I flip to the middle of a book and read something remotely "spoiler" material, I'll stop and flip to another page. By then, hopefully, I'll either be hooked already or bored to tears. I usually don't need to read the whole chapter or more than 3 pages to decide.

    I also don't like to decide on a book based on the first chapter or so. I think most books (except some genres) start relatively slow anyway. They have to develop characters and build things up. And I don't mind a book that starts slow (but not TOO slow that puts me to sleep) -- some of the most emotionally intense books I've read started slow... the authors take time to make me care about the characters and the situations, instead of whacking me in the head with events and blood or whatever.

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  3. #3178
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I'd go for re-readablity. I mean, people re-read books, right? And the book is totally "spoiled" for them, right?

    If all that your book has going for it is a surprise twist ending, that's not much to hang your shingle on.

  4. #3179
    practical experience, FTW Inspired's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    I'd go for re-readablity. I mean, people re-read books, right? And the book is totally "spoiled" for them, right?

    If all that your book has going for it is a surprise twist ending, that's not much to hang your shingle on.
    That's true - I don't re-read books that have a big twist at the ending. But, I do recommend them to my friends. If it's got a killer ending, I'll be spouting off about it for awhile.

  5. #3180
    No, I'm little people now johnnycannuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    I'd go for re-readablity. I mean, people re-read books, right? And the book is totally "spoiled" for them, right?

    If all that your book has going for it is a surprise twist ending, that's not much to hang your shingle on.
    Actually, I do re-read books with twist endings, at least once. Much like watching The 6th Sense or The Usual Suspects - I try to see the clues that were there that I missed and get "But of course!" feeling when I see it for the second time. Kind of one of those ideas that the story is about something the first time through (and is a good story) and that it about something else the second time through (and is still a good story).

    Mike
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  6. #3181
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Yeah, in the world of movies, Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects would be re-watchable because the twist ending isn't all they have going for them.

    On the other hand ... The Village. The twist ending is all that movie has. It's not a watch-again.

  7. #3182
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    As some of you may know, I'll be at Writer's Weekend in Seattle, 9-12 June '05.

    Well, they now have a message board set up, in case you aren't subscribed to enough message boards yet.

  8. #3183
    practical experience, FTW alaskamatt17's Avatar
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    The Village

    I liked The Village and have watched it more than once. The twist ending isn't all it has going for it. It's not a heavy plot-driven movie, but some of the scenes are really well-crafted, and the cinemetography is amazing.

    If it were a book, it would be one that you re-read for the prose, not for the story. Which means, I probably wouldn't re-read it. But since it's a movie, and it's only an hour-and-half long, I can justify watching it more than once.

  9. #3184
    I am a pretty pretty flower Galoot's Avatar
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    By the way, congratulations on your third ball, Jim.
    Okay, I'll stop referencing you in my sig, reph. Happy now?

  10. #3185
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Jim,

    I wanted to thank you for your advice upthread about "and then". It makes so much sense. In my novel, I originally had many sentences of this type: "She did this, then that." Microsoft Word always wanted me to change it to "and then" with no comma. Now, I don't usually pay much attention to Word's grammar checker. It's wrong more often than right, but I had no basis for disputing it. I thought maybe is was something I've done wrong all these years. So I followed it's advice.

    Well, today as a result of your advice, I went back and changed nearly every instance of "and then" to ", then" and where that wasn't appropriate, I decided the "then" was superfluous.

    Thanks again for the tip.
    --Roger J. Carlson

    If you've received spam from me, my apologies. My gmail contact list was stolen and they spoof me every couple of months. Nothing I can do, but if you get spam from roger.j.carlsonATgmailDOTCOM, just put the address in your block list. I still receive email there, but I don't send from that address anymore.

  11. #3186
    Neverending WIP Mistook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Yeah, in the world of movies, Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects would be re-watchable because the twist ending isn't all they have going for them.

    On the other hand ... The Village. The twist ending is all that movie has. It's not a watch-again.

    Oops, I just made a post to the re-read thread about this kind of thing. I'd say, it's not always the big, whiplash inducing plot twists that work for me, but the stories with the subtle twists and turns that gradually reinforce one another until at the end I ask myself, "I can't believe where that took story took me."

  12. #3187
    I have a question. How do you go from one time period to the next without telling the reader you are moving ahead? As in: 'this and this and this happened. A few weeks later, this and this... .' Saying 'a few weeks later' or 'one afternoon a couple of weeks later' just sounds lame. The story I'm working on now moves quickly within a specific amount of time.

    Thanks.

  13. #3188
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Really, there's nothing wrong with saying "What with this and that, some five years passed."

    Look at books you know and like. How do those authors show the passage of time?

  14. #3189
    I will do that.
    Thanks!

  15. #3190
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson
    In my novel, I originally had many sentences of this type: "She did this, then that."
    If you've read the whole discussion in that part of the thread, you know that not everyone who's knowledgeable about such questions thinks "She [verb], then [verb]" is correct. I don't want to start that fight again, but I still don't like such sentences.

  16. #3191
    Elder Scrolls devotee
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    Quote Originally Posted by Galoot
    By the way, congratulations on your third ball, Jim.
    Am I the only "12-year old" who giggles every time I read this post?

    On Topic: The "and then" thing. Since reading the posts about it, I consider my use of "and then" more seriously than I did before, but I still use it when it feels right. Sometimes the sentence just doesn't feel right to me if I use just "and" or just "then", but don't ask me to explain why.

  17. #3192
    Grumpy oswann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brinkett
    Am I the only "12-year old" who giggles every time I read this post?

    On Topic: The "and then" thing. Since reading the posts about it, I consider my use of "and then" more seriously than I did before, but I still use it when it feels right. Sometimes the sentence just doesn't feel right to me if I use just "and" or just "then", but don't ask me to explain why.

    Prepare yourself for danger. Oh no! 'And then' is back.


    Os.

  18. #3193
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    And then, what?

    Ok, I missed the "and then" discussion, and I can't find it. Someone summarize, please? I find myself using this, well, not often, but enough.

    "She brought the soup tureen to the table, then ran back off to the kitchen." for example.
    Christine

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  19. #3194
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    Ok, I missed the "and then" discussion, and I can't find it. Someone summarize, please? I find myself using this, well, not often, but enough.

    "She brought the soup tureen to the table, then ran back off to the kitchen." for example.
    It starts up here with a comment by Uncle Jim:
    I have lots of little idiosyncracies; for example, I dislike the word cluster "and then." "And" means two events happened at the same time, "then" means they happened sequentially. "And then" means ... what? I'll change that group to "and" or "then."
    Then, reph made a comment on "and then," and UJ replied and the subject was off and running. It looked like it had petered out for a bit, but reph and UJ got into a bit of an entanglement. And then (ha! joke! don't kill me!) multiple other people weighed in, and there was some intelligent discussion and a few hurt feelings, and UJ wrote some more and the discussion gradually turned to grammar in general (although the occasional "and then" reference pops up over the next couple pages) and the whole thing finally does peter out.

  20. #3195
    a work in progress
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    Quote Originally Posted by reph
    If you've read the whole discussion in that part of the thread, you know that not everyone who's knowledgeable about such questions thinks "She [verb], then [verb]" is correct. I don't want to start that fight again, but I still don't like such sentences.
    One of these days I'm going to start a multiple choice Learn Writing with Uncle Jim poll. It'll have "writer personality test" questions on it like this:

    1. "and then"?
    a) Yes
    b) No

    2. A novel is like a crate. A short story is like...
    a) a key lime pie
    b) a very small crate

    3. Prologues?
    a) Cut 'em out
    b) You mispelled "chapter one"
    c) You mispelled "prolog"

    ...and so forth. It'll be fun!
    Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little (Niki)

    Author, occasionally published. Watch this space for more, or visit the amazing actually writing blog. (It actually writes!)

  21. #3196
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    Ok, I'm confused. A comma has more than one function, does it not? Sometimes it signifies a pause, but sometimes it stands in place of the word "and", like in a list.


    I know my grammar checker has a fit every time I use the ",then", but I'm not sure what else to use if I want to say that someone did something then did something else. If I take the comma out, it looks and sounds funny to me.

    Call me thick on this subject, but I just don't see what the deal is? I am familiar with most of the rules of grammar, but I'm drawing a blank on this one.
    Christine

    Young Adult Fantasy Author

    A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON: Coming Spring 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press

    "The Watchmaker's Ball" (short story), to be included in BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (anthology), coming April 14 from Leap Books


    Represented by Jordy Albert of Booker Albert Literary

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  22. #3197
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Disable the grammar-checker in your wordprocessor. You'll be better off.

  23. #3198
    Fig of authority
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christine N.
    Ok, I'm confused. A comma has more than one function, does it not? Sometimes it signifies a pause, but sometimes it stands in place of the word "and", like in a list.
    In one sense, a comma has only one function: to separate things, to make a visual pause. There are many reasons to want to do that, however, and there are correspondingly many uses of commas. Any basic grammar book should list the uses.

    The comma in a list does signify a pause. It shows where one item ends and the next begins. In speech, we do that with a combination of brief silences and intonation.

    With commas: sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll
    Without commas: sex drugs and rock 'n' roll

  24. #3199
    She Who Runs The Waves Fresie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleJLeBoeuf
    One of these days I'm going to start a multiple choice Learn Writing with Uncle Jim poll. It'll have "writer personality test" questions on it
    Great idea, Nicole. Everybody who wants to participate in this thread will have to pass the test first...

  25. #3200
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Disable the grammar-checker in your wordprocessor. You'll be better off.
    Yes, this is probably true. LOL

    And I was always under the impression from my grade school English teacher (and my mother, who taught HS English, so she kind of made it mandatory to use good grammar 'round my house) that it was:

    Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll and NOT Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. Because commas signify the word "and", so having a comma before "and" was redundant.

    But it's been a while since I went to school - have the rules changed that much?
    Christine

    Young Adult Fantasy Author

    A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON: Coming Spring 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press

    "The Watchmaker's Ball" (short story), to be included in BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (anthology), coming April 14 from Leap Books


    Represented by Jordy Albert of Booker Albert Literary

    I tweet

    Young Adult Authors You've Never Heard Of

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