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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #9926
    Back from the dead lucidzfl's Avatar
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    James, I asked this on the Roundtable forum (Accidently, I meant it for the novels forum)

    How do you approach chase/hunting/battle scenes? The only way I can visualize it is to draw it on paper, or even use figurines to determine positioning and reactions.

    Is there a better way?
    Poof!

  2. #9927
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Sharpen, focus, and unify them.
    Right. Thanks. Will do.


    Why should you make your prose the best and most polished that you can? Why should you remove or change clumsy bits? I dunno. You tell me.
    Right. Sorry, Jim. I suppose I should have asked:

    When is it a good idea to use (intentional) alliteration?
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  3. #9928
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post

    When is it a good idea to use (intentional) alliteration?
    Here is an example:

    During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
    You are writing a 100,000 word poem. Every word must be there for the right reason, including its sound. You might want to read "The Philosophy of Composition" by Edgar Allan Poe for more thoughts on this. It's short.

    I first read that essay when I was in high school, and it influenced me deeply. Poe, himself, was a great literary innovator. You could have worse models.

    Just in case you've not read The Raven, here it is.

    Read it silently, then read it aloud. See how different the experience is.
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 08-28-2009 at 07:01 AM.

  4. #9929
    Good essay, but Poe was also the fellow who loved to plagiarize, so as much as I loved The Cask of Amontillado, there are better role models.

  5. #9930
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    The copyright laws then were not as they are now, which is a big part of why Poe died in poverty. (He made $9, total, from "The Raven.")

    but Poe was also the fellow who loved to plagiarize,
    What do you base that on?
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 08-28-2009 at 09:10 PM.

  6. #9931
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    E. A. Poe, Flamewarrior. Newpaper letter columns were the messageboards of the day.

    The subject is plagiarism.
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 08-29-2009 at 02:21 PM.

  7. #9932
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post

    Why should you make your prose the best and most polished that you can? Why should you remove or change clumsy bits? I dunno. You tell me.
    Prose that's too polished tends to be a bit stale and boring. I like it when sentences wriggle like restless worms.
    Last edited by motormind; 08-29-2009 at 08:03 PM.

  8. #9933
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hello Mr. Macdonald... I was wondering, what is a good way to learn how to make your descriptive prose more compelling and... colorful?

    I have tried thesauruses and even a few books on the subject but somehow I still feel something is missing. Well, a whole lot of something, to be exact.

    Anyways... what suggestions would you have?

  9. #9934
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by motormind View Post
    Prose that's too polished tends to be a bit stale and boring.
    Stale and boring prose is not, of its nature, polished.

  10. #9935
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MondayNightFrungy View Post

    Anyways... what suggestions would you have?

    Memorize a whole bunch of Shakespeare. Recite it aloud to inanimate objects (although cattle will do if no inanimate objects present themselves), preferably out of doors, in a loud voice.

    People may start avoiding you, but your prose will become much more vivid.

  11. #9936
    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post

    What do you base that on?
    He wrote a piece about a fellow who traveled to the Moon (fiction!) and lifted whole sections verbatim from encyclopedia-like books of the day. See here for exact details (and a really good book besides). To be specific about it, the example isn't "oh he stole an idea", he literally just copied entire paragraphs from another (scientific) book to lend his description of intra-planetary flight a "authentic" air. Ironically, he was known for strongly condemning other authors for alleged plagiarism. No one's perfect, I guess?

    Still one of my favorite authors.
    Last edited by Salis; 08-30-2009 at 02:27 AM.

  12. #9937
    practical experience, FTW Blue Sky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Memorize a whole bunch of Shakespeare. Recite it aloud to inanimate objects (although cattle will do if no inanimate objects present themselves), preferably out of doors, in a loud voice.

    People may start avoiding you, but your prose will become much more vivid.
    For a break I recommend mooing at the cows. I've had some interesting responses. As long as people are avoiding you anyway.

    Moo!

  13. #9938
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Memorize a whole bunch of Shakespeare. Recite it aloud to inanimate objects (although cattle will do if no inanimate objects present themselves), preferably out of doors, in a loud voice.

    People may start avoiding you, but your prose will become much more vivid.
    I'll wear my cell phone ear-set and tap it from time to time. That way they'll think I'm actually talking to someone else who's crazy!
    My views on writing critique? I'd rather be told my writing sucks six ways to Sunday by a few critters than by a legion of annoyed readers.

  14. #9939
    Bufflehead mkcbunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Page 32 and following in this thread. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...t=6710&page=32

    You can use Google better than the (poor, broken) search function that comes with this site. Use site:absolutewrite.com "Uncle Jim" then whatever term you're looking for.
    Wow. I missed this one. Frankly, I couldn't finish the article. All the moaning and groaning both bored and irritated me. It smacks of the "entitled artist" syndrome. $40k per year? I could live on that, and I live in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive places in the country. What artist's heart hasn't been broken over something? Stop complaining. It's one thing if you are broke and frustrated, wondering if you should quit because you're digging yourself into debt, but if you are making that income? I'd be happy to be so "unhappy."

  15. #9940
    Esteemed thinker Calliopenjo's Avatar
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    Smile

    For general interest, The Ten Best Southern Novels of All Time is an interesting list. I say that because Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is listed in this article. I don't know if anybody remembers but there was controversy over letting children read this book. Why? It has the word "Nigger" in it.

    Wounded I sing, tormented I indite. Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

  16. #9941
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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  17. #9942
    Doc says: Are ARCs nomable? AW Moderator Calla Lily's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post

  18. #9943
    Stalking Jennifer Aniston! Delhomeboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I wonder why that is?

    ^ Awesomeness

    The first draft of anything is shit.
    --Ernest Hemingway

  19. #9944
    Sheriff Bullwinkle the Poet says: RJK's Avatar
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    Question for UJ. Why is an occasional alliteration, unintentional or not, bad?

  20. #9945
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Because it draws attention to the words. If you want to draw attention to the words, that's okay. If you don't, it's not so okay.

    Alliteration can also produce effects. If you want to produce the effect of silken curtains swishing, that's okay. If there isn't a silken curtain in a hundred miles, that's not so okay.

    "Take care of the sounds and the sense will take care of itself."

  21. #9946
    Help!!!! Dicentra P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delhomeboy View Post
    I wonder why that is?
    For the same reason many strike actor/actress off the list probably. (trying not to be a spoiler) One always wonders where acting ends and the person begins.
    Happy birthday all who were born in December

    Happy Festivus
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    And to all whatever you celebrate (or don't) a peaceful and prosperous 2010 and the gift of inspiration in all of your literary endeavors.

  22. #9947
    practical experience, FTW 5bcarnies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I am reminded on 'Finding Forrester". Great movie. I believe Sean Connery's character mentioned that this was why he wrote as well.

  23. #9948
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 09-07-2009 at 09:26 AM.

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