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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #5651
    Barbershoppin' Harmony Whore BardSkye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Talking to yourself also gets you a seat to yourself on the bus/subway....
    As does trying to read Terry Pratchitt. People think you're dying a cruel death as you snort, turn red, giggle, laugh so hard you cry...

  2. #5652
    Sky isn't falling, ground is rising Del's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paritoshuttam
    Never felt so stupid. I think I swapped the covering letters in my query to two agents. Found out about it when I got a sorry no luck, reply from Agent #1: "NB: Your letter was addressed to Agent #2, instead of Agent #1."



    Has anybody here ever done anything like that?

    - Paritosh
    Look at the bright side. They probably noticed right off and never bothered to READ anything. So! Wait long enough for them to lose your name from their minds (likely 15 minutes but I'd give it a month or two) and then send it properly. The odds of getting anything saying, "Hey, aren't you the guy that botched those two queries?" is pretty slim. In the least they will disregard you which is no worse than you writing them off.

  3. #5653
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Exposition

    So far, I understand the notion that, as far as exposition goes, one should not tell the reader anything he/she doesn't WANT to know.

    But if you think the reader ought to know it (to enrich his/her reading) -- what do you do? Do you work really hard to make it more palatable -- do you consciously aim to craft the story so that the reader wants to know that nugget?
    Last edited by Theo Neel; 10-24-2006 at 09:04 PM.

  4. #5654
    glad to be here Lilybiz's Avatar
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    I'd say it's more NEED to know. What does everyone else think?

  5. #5655
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I recently read an article featuring Teresa Nielsen Hayden that suggests that it's WANT.

    (I'm not sure if that aspect is attributable to her or the other participants, though.)

  6. #5656
    Whore for genre HConn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Theo Neel
    ... do you consciously aim to craft the story so that the reader wants to know that nugget?
    Yes.
    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.

  7. #5657
    Talker of Good Games
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    One trick to good writing, IMO, is...

  8. #5658
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by HConn
    Yes.

    Okay, I bite.

    How?

  9. #5659
    Whore for genre HConn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Theo Neel
    Okay, I bite.

    How?
    Did you ever watch the original TERMINATOR? The movie starts off with lots of weird stuff happening: people appearing out of nowhere, two guys hunting for women with a specific name, the woman they're after living her humdrum life, oblivious to the danger she's in.

    Then, once the two men meet and fight, one shoots the other full in the chest, and the guy gets up again.

    Only after the character shrugs off deadly gunshot wounds do we get a glimpse of the Terminator-cam. That tells us we're dealing with some sort of machine, but why is it after this woman? Where did it come from? What the heck is going on?

    Only then does Reese explain to Sarah Conner what is going on. And all the explanations are mixed in with action scenes.

    So, first they showed us some interesting things that were not readily explained. Then they introduced us to characters who invest in. Then more strange things begin to happen, but what explanation we get comes in small doses until we're curious enough to want one character to sit down with another and explain it all (while we evesdrop).

    And it doesn't have to be all robots and gunfighting, either. That's the genre I chose because I'm a big nerd. You can also start off with something more down to earth: A pleasant, loving housewife makes breakfast for her family, sees her husband off to work and takes her kids to school, then on the way home she buys six eggplants, mounts them on stakes in her front yard, then drives her car downtown and crashes it through the front window of a JC Penny's, killing herself and two others.

    What happened? Why?

    If you show us something that's not the same-ole same-ole ("Hey, a Dark Power has Risen in the South--let's go on a quest!" "Did you hear? Someone's killed the vicar!" "I know about you and your secretary, Bob! How could you?!") and give us characters to care invest in, we'll hang around to find out What the heck is going on?
    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.

  10. #5660
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    It can be anything you want it to be. Theme can also connect. One can be brought to the forefront.

    I'm sorry that that isn't clear -- it's an ideosyncratic method of my own.
    Fair enough. When I came across it in the thread the first time it resonated for me, possibly because it's pretty, possibly because it's patterned. I followed the links to the Drawing Celtic Knots instructions and understood just enough of them to get obsessed with drawing them for the next two weeks (does double-take at date on comic, realizes how long it's been, sighs deeply). I guess i'll just have to play with it some more until it becomes less cat-waxing and more plot-prep.

    Theo Neel, I believe the word you're looking for is "gotta."
    Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little (Niki)

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

  11. #5661
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Don't tell the readers anything until they care.

  12. #5662
    Sky isn't falling, ground is rising Del's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Don't tell the readers anything until they care.
    How can a reader care if they don't know anything?

  13. #5663
    Whore for genre HConn's Avatar
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    Words are information. Every word on the page tells the reader something. It's up to you (and all of us) to choose the words that will give enough information to make them curious.
    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.

  14. #5664
    Naked Futon Guy allenparker's Avatar
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    If I got this right...

    Quote Originally Posted by HConn
    Words are information. Every word on the page tells the reader something. It's up to you (and all of us) to choose the words that will give enough information to make them curious.
    "So, the balancing act is to choose a word or phrase that intrigues the reader without giving the reader a sense that she knows everything and need not read any more?" he asked with fear and trembling.

    It sounds so simple. Like riding a tidal wave. Just stay on top of it.
    Save the Tatas: This is important. Please forward the link to everyone you know!
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  15. #5665
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    I think...

    JMc meant that if your readers like and cheer for the characters then they will care to know what is going to happen to them.

  16. #5666
    glad to be here Lilybiz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr
    JMc meant that if your readers like and cheer for the characters then they will care to know what is going to happen to them.
    Makes sense. Give them information as they need it, want it, care to have it, rather than info-dumping it at the top. Kind of like a slow I.V. drip instead of a force-feed.

  17. #5667
    Barbershoppin' Harmony Whore BardSkye's Avatar
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    It's just so difficult to get that fire-hose of info to feed into an IV drip.

    I'm one of those who has problems with info-dumps, but I'm working on it.

  18. #5668
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    If the readers don't care, they won't remember a word you've said.

  19. #5669
    glad to be here Lilybiz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    If the readers don't care, they won't remember a word you've said.
    Or bother to read it, for that matter.

  20. #5670
    Rep Point Whore Nangleator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BardSkye
    I'm one of those who has problems with info-dumps, but I'm working on it.
    By all means let the fire hose flow freely -- in the first draft!

    You'll have some baling out to do when you edit, but at least you will have taught yourself a lot more about the world you are building.

  21. #5671
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Right. It all boils down to getting the reader to care. I suppose that's the Art part.

  22. #5672
    EvilLurks
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    genre v. lit

    I've lurked for a few weeks while reading the entire thread. Thanks for all the thought and time that has gone into it.

    I have a question about genre writing vs. literary fiction. I believe there is a difference that goes beyond marketing, merely placement of the book on the shelf from which it will sell best. Assuming that Plot, Character, and Theme are the three legs on which a book stands, I contend that most genre writing differs substantially from literary writing.

    As an example, consider a best-selling thriller, that Dan Brown book. For Plot there is the form: and then, and then, and then, info dump, and then—times 50. It is procedural, like most thrillers are. For Characters we have the likes of an albino monk assassin—please. And for Theme we have, well no theme, just an idea, daddy Jesus. There is a difference between theme and idea.

    Now consider the Booker Prize winning “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood. There is very little plot, and what plot there is happens “off camera” so to speak—that is, is mostly alluded to. Or the plot is told, not shown, with the device of fake newspaper articles. Character is the book’s strength. All of the main characters are complex, unique, and necessary. And there are several Themes throughout the book, loyalty and duty being two of the biggest.

    Each book was a great success, one commercially, the other critically, but they are almost opposites as far as construction, pace, voice, style, as well as Plot, Character, and Theme. So the question is, finally, UJ in your experience as a writer, and specifically a genre writer (from what shelves I find your work on), do you see a significant difference between genre and literary writing? I don’t mean to subvert your guidelines as to Plot, Character, and Theme, but to say that they are often applied differently between the two. I personally feel a huge difference in my writing as I try to apply genre elements to my otherwise literary book to make it more saleable.

  23. #5673
    Absolute sagebrush Ken Schneider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delarege
    How can a reader care if they don't know anything?

    Because you've endeared them to your characters.

    You've made your characters become real in the reader's mind.

    The readers have their own thoughts, hopes, and dreams, of what may happen to the characters, good and bad alike.

    Four year old Jimmy huddled under the railroad trestle as a cold, wind driven rain bit at him. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He was lost.

    Care what happens to Jimmy?

    If I expand on Jimmy's plight, take you back to how he was lost, circumstances, his life before becoming lost.

    In this scenario their are a thousand ways I can endear Jimmy to the reader to make them care.

    That's the writer's job.

    Writers make up a story with creative imagination and put it on paper, just like readers imagine about what may happen next.
    J.D. Salinger told The New York Times in 1974. "Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."

  24. #5674
    Recovering Gumshoe jpserra's Avatar
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    I genuflect...

    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    If the readers don't care, they won't remember a word you've said.
    Immanent Sage,

    It is more fundamental than that. The writer must care! Enthusiasm and investment are two different sides of the coin. I know lots of enthusiastic writers who don't understand that the investment in the craft means detailing as you go along.
    In writing, motive does have a place, unlike the necessity in real life crime.

    JPS
    Author, Kokopelli's Flute
    www.johnserra.com

    NOT getting rich, one sale at a time!

    Visit my AW Book post!



  25. #5675
    glad to be here Lilybiz's Avatar
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    Ms. Perry's two cents

    Just picked up Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. In the forward, Anne Perry says:
    "Sometimes I am asked, 'Is it true you should write what you know about?' I say, 'No, write what you care about. If you don't know, you'll find out. But if you don't care, why should anyone else?'"

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