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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #2076
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: And then

    Much earlier in this thread, Uncle Jim disagreed firmly.

    I still disagree firmly. The "and then" word cluster is always and everywhere wrong, illogical, and unsupported by any valid laws of grammar.

    "And then" can be used in dialog to show that the speaker is illogical, ungrammatical, and wrong.

  2. #2077
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: and then...

    My dictionary (Random House unabridged, second ed), lists "then" as an adverb. The third definition under adverb is "next in order of time. We ate, then we started home."

    A later definition states "next in order of place."

    However, several of the example sentences in the definition use "and then" constructions. So I say they're both right.

    But whatever you do, never ever ever say "and into". Just don't do it.


  3. #2078
    Euan Harvey
    Guest

    Re: Openings

    >...Consider the books that are one long flashback, after a present-time opening paragraph.

    Speaking of openings, I read 'The Piano Tuner' by Daniel Mason recently (very good book, I heartily recommend it). It starts with a very vivid image, done like a prologue. It's kept pretty short, but it contains some veyr nice imagery. However, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the book, until you reach the final page, and you figure out what the text at the very beginning was talking about.

    It worked very well IMHO. Unfortunately, I don't know if all the editions of the book have it. The sample pages available on Amazon don't include it.

    Cheers,

    Euan

  4. #2079
    Jules Hall
    Guest

    inanimate objects

    [...]
    "...it moved on with no sign of acknowledgement."
    --
    both require an inanimate object (the helicopter) to have anthropomorphic qualities. You were initially correct to complain about the helicopter noticing anything, since it is no doubt the pilot who does, but to acknowledge is akin to noticing, eh?
    If the pilot were to notice, he might cause the helicopter to do something in acknowledgement of that. In this case, it seems reasonable to say that the helicopter is giving a "sign of acknowledgement." Similarly you could say that someone in a sword fight was wounded by a sword... obviously it was the person holding the sword who caused the wounding, but the sword as agent can be said to have done it, too.

  5. #2080
    pencilone
    Guest

    Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    Uncle Jim & Friends,

    I would be interested to know what do you think the ingredients for a real page turner are (and maybe we could discuss all of them, one by one? :coffee ).

    From what I've read, if the story is good, there might be a chance of publication even if the actual writing may need more work.

    A good story is a story that compels you to read it, to turn the pages and keep on reading till the end, leaving you eager to look for other books written by that author.

    A good page turner makes you want to share the joy of reading with your friends, and that's how the word of mouth about a good book spreads.

    For instance, suspense... How do you build suspense in your books?

    All ideas most welcome ,

    Pencilone

  6. #2081
    Pthom
    Guest

    Re: inanimate objects

    The comment that brought this up wasn't about point of view, it was about "and then" vs. "then." However, the question about inanimate objects "doing" things is a point of view issue, no?

    If you make it clear that the woman (let's call her Suzie) thinks of the helicopter as an animate object, because after all, from her point of view, it moves, hovers, makes noise, seems alive, then I have no problem with Suzie's disappointment that it didn't acknowledge (or notice) her waving. This might also work if the point of view is that of another character in the story, say Suzie's mother.

    But if the scene is told from an omnicient narrator's point of view, I think that in most cases, we don't want helicopters to notice anything--but do want the pilots of them to. Besides, chances are pretty good that the pilot is a character, even if a small one, elsewhere in the story. Maybe Suzie doesn't know him now, but will later on. Heck, she might even discover he is her long lost Uncle Jim.

    No wait. Jim was in the Navy. But they have helicopters. Maybe he piloted one. Maybe he knows if those machines notice things.
    :grin

  7. #2082
    Pthom
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    In a most enlightening 3-hour class taught by Donald Maass at the recent Willamette Writers' Conference, he said the one thing that best keeps the pages turning is tension.

    What is it the character wants?
    What might prevent the character from getting it?
    What will make that situation worse?
    And, what will make THAT situation even worse?
    Answer those questions.
    Write it down in your story.

    He said more, and you can read all about it in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel.

  8. #2083
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    Good list, Ptom....

    I put up the first two pages of a couple of Grisham novels a while back, and never did anything with 'em (though I'd intended to).

    Does anyone want to take a whack at analysing those two excerpts in light of the breakout novel "page turner" checklist?

    (If the readers haven't turned pages one and two, odds are they won't be turning pages three, four, or a hundred-and-four either.)

  9. #2084
    pina la nina
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    re: the page turner list especially the top 4:
    "What is it the character wants?
    What might prevent the character from getting it?
    What will make that situation worse?
    And, what will make THAT situation even worse?"

    I think, for me, there's got to be a subtle element in there that - for lack of a better word - I'll call "hope."

    That for all of problems the characters are facing and for all of the wrong turns they may take, the reader can see resolution happening. Not a precise solution, preferably (unless it's a vague one, like "find and arrest the murderer" or "make peace with self.") But there can be too much, for some readers, of all the suspenseful bits so that it overwhelms. Depresses, even. More suspense and problems are not always better.

    The book I'm reading now has such a preponderance of all the aspects of the list - so many thwarted desires, so many people acting impulsively against their better interests that it's wearing me down a bit. It's just not that fun a read and it's just a matter of whether I get my lazy bum to the library before I finish it to know if I'll just leave those characters hanging. I'd call that the opposite of a page turner.

  10. #2085
    Risseybug
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    re: the page turner list especially the top 4:
    "What is it the character wants?
    What might prevent the character from getting it?
    What will make that situation worse?
    And, what will make THAT situation even worse?"


    Good, then I did it right. I can honestly answer all of those questions in my finished book.

    What is it the character wants? - the main character wants to get home (this is a YA book).
    What might prevent the character from getting it? The gate is locked and shouldn't be.
    What will make that situation worse? The key that character needs has been stolen by evil sorceress.
    What will make that situation even worse? Evil sorceress has captured all of main characters friends and plans to use the key to rule the world, then the universe.

    It's kind of cut and dry, but at least I answered all the questions

  11. #2086
    tfdswift
    Guest

    Re: inanimate objects

    I just want to say that I finally, FINALLY got to the end of this thread. Now I am caught up with the rest of you. WHEW!!!!:jump :party :clap :snoopy

    ~~Tammy

  12. #2087
    ChunkyC
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    Well done, Tammy! When I showed up here, it was just shy of 30 pages and I thought I'd never catch up. I'm in awe. :thumbs

  13. #2088
    Joanclr
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    Does anyone want to take a whack at analysing those two excerpts in light of the breakout novel "page turner" checklist?
    In my very general, off-the-cuff opinion, I would say that what makes those two excerpts page turners are:

    A: The Summons - Instant mystery. What is 'it'? Who is this strange character who sent 'it'? What will happen when 'it' is opened? How will the main character be affected?

    B: The Street Lawyer - Instant conflict. Not two pages into the thing and you already have a gun out. Can't beat that. And from the first line, there is a sharp delineation of opposites, someone who doesn't belong, with foreshadowing hints of something being "not quite right."

    How's that for a starter?

  14. #2089
    tfdswift
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    Because I live in such a small rural area, I don't have alot of access to books. I have had to order almost every book that Uncle Jim has suggested reading. I always go to the online card catalog of my local library (which is actually across the state line) and see if they have the book first.

    Back a couple of pages, somebody mentioned that some of Karen Ranney's and Uncle Jim's books are in the library. I typed their names into the catalog and nothing came up for them in my local library

    So I was wondering if you could tell me some of the titles of your works so I can try to find them to read. We don't even have a book store nearby, so I can check them out.

    Usually what I do is have my library order them for me and then if I like them I make the two hour trip to the bookstore and purchase them.

    So could you please drop a few titles in here for me to check out? Starting with what YOU feel is your best works. I am sure I have probably missed your website, so if it would be easier just give me your personal website. I have not gone to the workshop site because I am sure I can not afford that.

    Thanks.

    ~~Tammy

  15. #2090
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: inanimate objects

    Tammy, my library website has a page where I can request that they buy books or do an ILL (Interlibrary loan).

    If you enter the ISBN of a book you want to read, they might be able to find it in another system nearby.

    Have you tried that?

  16. #2091
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    In The Summons, our protagonist won't get around to opening that darned letter for another two pages.

    Oh, and Tammy? Interlibrary loan really is your friend. I live in a town of 2,500 (55 miles by road from the nearest bookstore) -- and I can get anything I want.

  17. #2092
    tfdswift
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    I know. I use interlibrary loans, but I need some titles first (hint, hint)

    ~~Tammy

  18. #2093
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    Uncle Jim's Home Page.

    Karen Ranney's Home Page.

    I'm sure they have bibliographies there.

  19. #2094
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: inanimate objects

    Yeah, give him a letter than wait for him to open that darn letter... that's suspense.

    However, if you do that TOO often and not deftly enough, it's coy. And if you (the narrator) say/imply the "hey, I know what it says, but I'm not telling you -- when will I tell you? I'm not telling you that either," it's downright criminal (IMHO).

    Suspense can be really fun, and it doesn't stop at thriller/mystery/horror. A love story can have lots of suspense, too, if done right.

  20. #2095
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: inanimate objects

    In the case of The Street Lawyer, the character's problems go from "Oooo, I'm standing next to a smelly bum," to "How do I get the smelly bum out of the office?" to "How do I avoid getting shot in the head?" all inside two pages.

  21. #2096
    LiamJackson
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    In The Summons, our protagonist won't get around to opening that darned letter for another two pages.
    I'm a character-driven reader. Until I had some insight into the protags character, a sense of his history and background, I didn't give a hoot whether he opened the letter or not. I figured he'd get around to it, when he got around to it.

    Once I had a sense of the setting, and more importantly, the personality of the character, my interest level increased by several points.

  22. #2097
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: Analysing The Ingredients For A Real Page-Turner

    What kinds of characterizations interest you? Does the protag has to be likeable? Quirky? Strong? Interesting (and define interesting)? Or at least show some kind of humanity for you to care if he opens the letter or not.

    I'm character-driven as well. I accept, to a point and with certain genres, some type of suspense (person getting killed, forex, in a thriller's opening chapter) without having to care about the person. But suspense is so much better if you actually care about the character.

  23. #2098
    JimMorcombe
    Guest

    The Summons

    In the Summons, Grisham is not giving him a letter than waiting for him to open the darn letter.


    He is beginning his novel by telling us about the characters in it. But rather than just tell about the characters, he is enclosing it in an element of suspense.

    Note that Grisham obviously had control over the title of the book. The opening wouldn't work as well if the title didn't alude to it. The title makes the letter assume enough importance for the suspense to hold through two pages.

  24. #2099
    JimMorcombe
    Guest

    The Street Lawyer

    Grisham breaks all the modern rules about putting a hook in the first paragraph or in the first line. You don't rush Grisham.

    He introduces characters. He makes the characters so real you feel you know them and live them. Who else can start a book with a slow, boring trip up an elevator?

    In the first paragraph Grisham engages our curiosity. We want to hear the gossip about the street bum. Thats the word I always think of when reading Grisham: "gossip".

    We like to know things about other people and Grisham tells us about other people, all kinds of useless things about other people that are really interesting and have nothing to do with the plot.

    However, in the Street Lawyer, Grisham is really setting up a "hook". He takes his time, he gets us involved and two pages later, we are his. Hook, line and sinker.

  25. #2100
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: The Street Lawyer

    I'm confused there, Jim --

    What't the difference between putting a hook in the first paragraph, and engaging our curiosity in the first paragraph?

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