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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #576
    qatz
    Guest

    Re: helpful and true eh?

    Homer is a better writer than me, Jerry. Always will be.

  2. #577
    jeffspock
    Guest

    re: Endings

    Jim,

    Thank you for the concrete recommendations on fixing my ending--all six of them. I have done three, and am re-sending the story. And you know what? It's better.

    Jeff


    P.S. Sorry about the late reply--I dared to take a week's vacation.



    www.jeffspock.com

  3. #578
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: re: Endings

    May I be so bold as to ask which three suggestions you took, Jeff?

  4. #579
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: The Mid-Book

    Jim, most writers I know write faster and more easily when they're thinking about fun stuff they could do. Have you ever tried keeping a running list of goodies it would be amusing to have in the book, but you're not sure where they fit in? For instance, if you have two different parties wiring two different sets of demolition charges to blow up a ship, you may or may not find a way to have anyone on the ship become aware of this strange and alarming fact; but you can put it on the list of potential fun bits, and then if the opportunity arises you can tuck it in, chortling madly the while.

    I imagine this list thumbtacked to the shelf underneath your Emma Frost action figure, but that's just me.

  5. #580
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: The Mid-Book

    Hapi, all that fits under the general rubric of "playing positional chess."

    That's putting interesting things into the first draft, that may or may not play out. In the second draft, I take out the stuff that was planted that didn't turn out to be useful (provide a fun combination, a surprise, or move things along in general).

    So ... two groups wiring the same ship, at different places. One for a good reason, one for a not-so-good reason.

    Neither goes off.

    Though ... if I'd needed to, I'd be set to blow up the ship as part of the climax.

    I don't keep a formal list of Fun Things taped to my desk. I just put Fun Things directly into the manuscript as I think of them.

  6. #581
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Moved from Another Group

    From the <a href="http://pub43.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm3.showMessageRange?topicID=412.to pic&start=21&stop=32" target="_new">Hello</a> thread.

    <hr>

    I had was,Is It (always,sometimes,never..) necessary to make sure that the reader is forewarned(per sey),that a certain charter has the propensity to do what he may end up doing?? Say,becoming the bad guy,when not expected too ??

    Readers love to be surprised, but they hate surprises. This is contradictory, but it is true.

    Recall <a href="http://users.telerama.com/~joseph/cooper/cooper.html" target="_new">Mark Twain's rules</a> for romantic fiction, particularly "They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency."

    So, you play fair with your readers. You foreshadow all the way through (this foreshaddowing can be symbolic). You don't have your characters break character. The goal is to have your readers say "I never saw that coming," and "That's so right!" simultaneously.

    This is art. You do this in the second draft, if pointing up the things that need pointing, using what you now know.

    May I recommend a couple of films to you, both of which include a character suddenly and unexpectedly shooting another, yet as you look back on 'em, both well foreshadowed? (Film is a different art form from the novel so lessons from one are not universally applicable to the other, yet both share the drive of narrative....)

    <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005JL78/ref=nosim/madhousemanor" target="_new">Minority Report</a>

    <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0790734850/ref=nosim/madhousemanor" target="_new">L.A. Confidential</A>


    Oh, and how about directly telling the audience what's to come? As we all know, the end of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671039725/ref=nosim/madhousemanor" target="_new">Carrie</a> has the town of Chamberlain, Maine, engulfed in blood and fire with hundreds dead. That ending is directly mentioned on ... page five (Signet paperback edition, 1975). Carrie's telekinetic power is mentioned on page one.

    Discussion question for the group: While Carrie is the title character, the protagonist is Sue Snell. Support or oppose; be specific, support your opinion with quotes.

  7. #582
    Dancre
    Guest

    Re: Moved from Another Group

    So, you play fair with your readers. You foreshadow all the way through (this foreshaddowing can be symbolic). You don't have your characters break character. The goal is to have your readers say "I never saw that coming," and "That's so right!" simultaneously.

    This is art. You do this in the second draft, if pointing up the things that need pointing, using what you now know.

    So what you're saying is, the auther needs to drop hints through the story leading to an expected/unexpected climax- a bread crumb trail -right? An example is in the "Book of Ruth" by Jane Hamilton, Ruth's husband Ruby is contually dogged by Ruth's mother, May. Hamilton shows Ruby slowly slipping into a kind of uncontrolled rage, until he grabs a fireplace poker and beats May to death, then turns on his wife, almost killing her. i didn't expect it, but i knew something was boiling. would that be a correct example?
    kim

  8. #583
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Moved from Another Group

    Foreshadowing can be as subtle as the weather, colors, or the sounds of words.

  9. #584
    stefpub
    Guest

    Thank you

    Hi James,

    Just a few words to thank you for your advice and your help.
    I've been thinking about writing this novel for several months now - I can't say years, I don't want to seem more weak willed than I am - but I've never gotten past the first chapter. The twenty different first chapters.

    Your BIC method was exactly what I needed to just make me write something. It's been a great first week of BICing and I have no intention of stopping.
    So...

    Thanks.

  10. #585
    JustinoIV
    Guest

    rewrites

    While I rewriting is a very important part of learning how to write, I think some writers get caught in rewrite hell. You know, constantly rewriting, and rewriting. At some point you should have a workable script.

    There are thosw who have maybe one or two scripts, that constantly rewrite in the hopes of making it perfect, hoping they can get a scale. But sometimes a particular project isn't commercially viable, and some projects may be harded for beginning writers to push (i'm speaking as a screenwriter). So in short, I'd say after you finish writing, send out query letters. Lots of them. Move on to the next project while you wait.

  11. #586
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Thank you

    Right on.

    Plunge ahead to "The End." Even if what you're putting on the page at the time is absolute crap. I give you permission to write badly. You're going to revise anyway, right?

    I've found some of my best stuff was writing that I thought was crap at the time I put it down. And some of what I thought was my best turned out to be crap when the re-reading and rewriting stage came. It's a wash.

    But it ain't nothin' if you don't have three-hundred-odd pages to play with, capisce?

    The second mistake that writers make (after Not Writing the Darned Book To Start With) is to only write one book. Look, the first may not be very good. It may be good but not very marketable. So.... the day you send the first one out to the first publisher, that day you start your next book.

    Entirely too many people write just one book, then spend the rest of their lives trying to find a publisher for what may be a fatally flawed manuscript.

  12. #587
    Paul W West
    Guest

    Re: Thank you

    Uncle Jim,

    When do you know your book is ready to send out vs. it still needs work? I may think it's wonderful, but someone else might say keep working on it. When does the revision process end, and the sending out prcess begin?

  13. #588
    Paul W West
    Guest

    Re: Thank you

    (This message was left blank)

  14. #589
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Thank you

    1) Books are never really done. They escape.

    2) Your beta readers may tell you.

    3) Even after laying it aside for a month and re-reading it, you can't see anything substantial that needs fixing.

    4) You're tired of it. What the heck, send it out.

  15. #590
    stefpub
    Guest

    Help! I just can't outline

    I feel pretty good. I've just had a great two hour long writing session (highest number of words written so far and a lot of crappy ones, so you should be happy so I feel a little ecstatic ... except I have no idea where I'm going.

    I'm a very big fan of structure and "positional chess" strikes a lot of chords with me. I've built this universe full of rules that tell me exactly who my characters are, how they should react to events and what kind of interesting stuff can cause the end of the world. I can make these characters talk or do thinks - that's what I've been doing so far and it's fun because I've learnt a lot about my world this way - but I can't seem to make them "move", go to places where they'll be useful later.

    I have a vague idea of the story I want to tell, but none of the story I am actually telling. I can't outline. I come to the keyboard with a blank mind, which is exhilarating in a way because I know I'll write something anyway, and I come up with scenes that seem to belong in the same story, but no plot.

    Could you detail how you move your own characters or how I could kick-start my outlining process?

  16. #591
    Beaver
    Guest

    thanks for the info, Uncle Jim!

    Dear Mr. Macdonald,

    Thank you for all of the valuable knowledge that you have put down here in this thread. Im sure you are tired of hearing "thank you" though. Anyway, I am 20 yrs old and new to this site and im slowly reading through this thread day by day. I have to balance schoolwork with writing. I am a Molecular Biology major, so im usually busy studying. I have always wanted to write and have always written "stories" since i was little.

    When i used to be bad and act up, my dad would make me write "I will not do...blah blah blah.... anymore" and i used to ask him if i could write him a story instead.

    I hope to get through all of the stuff in this post and eventually start participating in the conversation. Thanks for all the pointers. Hopefully one day i can get something published.

    Justin

  17. #592
    Dancre
    Guest

    question on paragraphs

    Uncle Jim, i found this under the newbie section. could you please offer your assistance? thanks.

    One I know of that most confuses me, even though I thought I knew the rules, is paragraphing. It's hard for me to determine where a new one should start. Is the line sometimes fuzzy for any of you, too? Anyway, I'm so glad I found this place. All the talent helped me realize that I'm still that "new" writer, but also convinced me that I will learn much if I keep reading

  18. #593
    LiamJackson
    Guest

    Re: question on paragraphs

    Reference "knowing when to stop..."

    I'm not sure how many others have this problem, but an associate pointed out to me that I have a tendency to "over-write." I belive his exact words were, "You seem hell-bent on finding something wrong with the story. Sometimes, you just need to lighten up!"

    His advice was this: In the event you reach a point where the revision seems worse than the piece you started with, it's time to, A. Put the piece away for a few days, then reread/revise after your brain has had time to decompress, or B. Send it to a trusted Beta reader for input.

    For me, the Beta reader, (beta reader=some highly critical ass who should dwell in eternal purgatory for his/her scathing review of my work) has become a staple of the revision process.

    Is over-writing an issue with any you?

  19. #594
    ChunkyC
    Guest

    Re: question on paragraphs

    Is over-writing an issue with any you?
    Oh, yeah. Every time I read my work, I feel the urge to tweak and twiddle...

    It was time to go...

    It was nearly time to go...

    It was almost time to go...

    The time to go was now...

    It was time to stop f*****g around and write the next sentence. :grin

  20. #595
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Help! I just can't outline

    Could you detail how you move your own characters or how I could kick-start my outlining process?

    Tell me, Stefpub, have you run through the example games in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0713484640/ref=nosim/madhousemanor" target="_new">Logical Chess Move by Move</a> yet?

  21. #596
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: question on paragraphs

    Paragraphs ....

    The easiest ones are in dialog. Every time a new person speaks, a new paragraph starts.

    Else ... every time a new thought starts, a new paragraph starts.

    Paragraphs are organized units of meaning.

    I think I talked about paragraphs in one of the opening pages of this thread....

  22. #597
    MacAl Stone
    Guest

    protagonist in "Carrie"

    I've been following this thread from the beginning, and I'm learning a great deal. Thank you, everyone.

    I'm interested in the Sue/Carrie as protagonist discussion, even though no one else has commented, yet. I thought I'd take a stab at it.

    Our modern concept of protagonist descends from Aristotle's hero: described as "good," "appropriate," "like," and "consistent" (from Aristotle's Poetics.)

    Now how we, either as readers or writers, define Aristotle's terms determines how we view a character--assuming we even accept that definition and those terms, to begin with.

    It seems to me that a more modern definition of "protagonist" would also have to include a measure of growth. That is, the character must develop/change over the course of the story. Hopefully for the better. If the protagonist/hero changes for the worse, we have something that resembles either an antihero, or a tragic hero--not a romantic hero, (hearkening back upstream to the discussion of writing novel-as-romance.)

    Tragic heroes bring a set of rules unique to themselves. Without getting into a lengthy description of why the character Carrie doesn't fit the model, I am inclined to disqualify her as a protagonist because she doesn't show growth. She wanders through the novel, a perpetual victim--in spite of her supernatural abilities--and finally dies, completely regressed into a state of childhood, calling for her mother (whole end of the chapter "Prom Night".)

    While I could argue that Carrie does, in some ways, fit the Aristotelian models of "good," "appropriate", and "consistent" the character seems to fail on the criteria of "like" or typicality (is that a word?) Carrie is terrifyingly "other" and becomes difficult to identify with, as a result. On a surface level, anyone who ever felt unlovely and unloved as an adolescent should be able to form some sort of emotional commitment to her...but she proves so terribly alien in terms of her scarred psyche, that I think she beomes ultimately inaccessible.

    I don't think that has to be the case, with characters who typify "other" (Van Vogt's character, Jemmie, from Slan, comes to mind, for example--I found that character extremely accessible, although undeniably "other"..."

    Hmmm...now I'm just maundering, and I still haven't adressed Sue Snell as a potential protagonist. Think I'll leave off, before boring everyone to death.

    Mac

  23. #598
    qatz
    Guest

    Re: protagonist in "Carrie"

    what? mac, you done good.

  24. #599
    MacAl Stone
    Guest

    errr...

    Just for the sake of clarity, "Uncle Jim", how are you defining a "protagonist?"

    Mac

  25. #600
    qatz
    Guest

    Re: errr...

    what?

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