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Old 12-22-2009, 03:19 AM   #26
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You aren't making an effort now. You're looking for some kind of confirmation to legitimize your writing from other people.

If you've been writing for years then go write. Once you get the story down, that's the point to analyze it, to look at the characters and develop them, to clean it up and tighten the storyline. Not before.

And you shouldn't get defensive when people are trying to help you. Seriously. We are all writers here in varying stages of development. I am trying to help you as both a writer and an editor and I am telling you that it is in your best interests to stop torturing yourself about what is "right" and "wrong" and just write the damn story.
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Old 12-22-2009, 03:30 AM   #27
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Okay, look. Last thing I am going to post here.

Free writing. Sit down, fingers on keyboard (or pad and pencil) write for 10 minutes. Only rule is you don't stop writing. If you get stuck on a word. Yous just keep repeating that word until you get unstuck. Do this everday at the same time. Don't read back what you've written. Don't even look at it. Just get the fear of the blank page out of your soul.

Example of one minute free writing:
Start
I'm not going to do ten minutes because that would be silly, have allmost a aaaaaa words without number cluttering up the screen screen screen screen all the world for pieces of silk to make into sows ears so wecan all go home.
End
It don't have to make sense, it don't have to do anything, but get written.
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Old 12-22-2009, 03:31 AM   #28
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maybe i should have used doesn't there :~)
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:05 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
but how do you make everybody 3d or feel
real and interesting, even the supporting and minor characters?

A three diemnsional character is just one that has a life outside of whatever you're using him for at the moment. It takes very little elaboration to round out the most minor of characters. Just a line of narrative or a line of dialogue can turn a one show, one paragraph character into a real person.
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:43 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
I think I'm one of those people who can't create interesting characters (or characters at all).
Honestly, Dwayne, if you think you suck so bad at writing, maybe you should find something else to do with your time.

If we all threw our hands up in the air the way you do every time we doubted our abilities or the going got tough, there wouldn't be any books on the shelves.

So I'll say what no one else really seems to want to say: maybe writing isn't for you.
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Old 12-22-2009, 06:36 AM   #31
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I am trying! I've been trying for years! So don't go accusing me of not making an effort!
Have you completed stories?
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:21 AM   #32
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I've written and published three books, first one in 2002, but they all sucked.

I've written fiction for the Rugrats, All Grown Up, and Futurama as well.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:32 AM   #33
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I am trying! I've been trying for years! So don't go accusing me of not making an effort!
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I've written and published three books, first one in 2002, but they all sucked.

I've written fiction for the Rugrats, All Grown Up, and Futurama as well.
"Trying for years"?

A wish to the Basic Writing forum: may all your attempts be so successful.

Further reading
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:35 PM   #34
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A wish to the Basic Writing forum: may all your attempts be so successful.
The books were printed by various vanity presses, though writing and completing them is still an accomplishment.
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Old 12-22-2009, 03:47 PM   #35
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Well, one exercise is to pick a TV show you like, or a movie, and write fan fiction. Not the kind of fanfic with wild adventures in it, but the kind with pages of talking, where the characters bounce off one another and show themselves. Try to get the voices right, so they sound on the page the way they do on the screen. How would these two characters sound if they were stranded together in an elevator/on a desert island/on an alien planet? Would they try to kill each other, fall in love, work together? Would one be cheerful while the other sulked? What if the hero of the show went through a trauma that left him or her emotionally crippled -- claustrophobic, anxious to the extreme, terrified? How would the other main characters treat him?

But, no fictional character is real, as a person is real. You are creating the illusion of a 3D character only, and the way you do it is by his actions. Personality and character are shown by what one does. Does he run into the burning building to save the child, or not? Does he run in, but when he's in there, wishes he hadn't? Does he run in, deliberately shutting out fear so he can find the child? Does he forget entirely to be afraid, in the urgency of the moment? And afterwards, in the hospital for smoke inhalation, is he an impatient patient? Is he nice to the nurses? Does he look back and think he was nuts to do it and would never do it again?

Get the story down. Figure out how the character needs to act. Then worry about figuring out what kind of person would act that way, or what kind of person could be forced to act that way against all his inclinations.
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Old 12-22-2009, 03:57 PM   #36
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some time ago I started a thread on this forum that asked the question, "Can not everyone create interesting characters?" Lot's of people who responded said, "nope".

I think I'm one of those people who can't create interesting characters (or characters at all).
... if that's the case then why not base characters on people in real life that you know who are interesting. No need to make up characters from scratch. Plenty of writers borrow from real life like this. I'm thinking of trying the approach myself, one day, instead of making everything up as I do. We could embark on the experiment together.
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:40 PM   #37
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I've written and published three books, first one in 2002, but they all sucked.
I very strongly recommend keeping an open mind about the problem and not assuming you're bad at characterization. That may be what people have identified as the problem, but they may not have identified it correctly. I've spent more than ten years trying to battle against writing way too short. Other people have told me that my idea must not have been big enough for a novel or to just add another subplot--and the problem hasn't been either one of those. Often one problem points to another that's harder to see. I ended up having to figure out what the problem was on my own because no one else could see what I was experiencing when I struggled through the revisions and came up short. But it took a lot of time for me to get what I was doing because I fell into the trap of assuming it was caused by something else, and I had to keep working at it to solve it.

My suggestion is write a completely different book than what you would normally write. If you always write action thrillers try a cozy mystery. If you write grim, serious books, go for a lighter one. If you always write in third, try first. Or try an entirely different genre. When I was working on my first cowritten book, we were sending it around while we worked on the next one. Since the first one wasn't garnering any hits with agents, we submitted a few chapters to a critique group. They pointed out some problems in the first chapters, but the comments weren't magically helpful. The critters' comments were wrong, since not one correctly identified the actual problem--but we discovered what it was after some work. Once we had the problem, we could see the second book we were writing going down the same path. We were repeating the same patterns of mistakes. Doing something completely different will shake you out of any patterns than may be causing you to repeat the same problem--and it may reveal the problem to you. I'm going from omniscient viewpoint and sweeping story with lots of characters to first person, small story and few characters.

What other things could your writing problem being? Prefacing this with: I might be wrong--it could be how you're approaching the story. It could be that you had an idea, but didn't develop it into a story. Kind of hard to develop characters if the story doesn't give them enough to do. But everything's fixable if you're willing to fix and don't condemn yourself for not being able to do it. Only you can say, "I'm not going to let this problem win" and keep writing. As Tim Gunn says, "Make it work."
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Old 12-22-2009, 06:56 PM   #38
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I don't know Dwayne. I think you should kick writing aside for a while and try another outlet for your creativity.

Not to say you shouldn't write but you keep asking "how to" questions as though the writing process is like some sort of manual for putting together a bike.

You say you've been trying for years, well, you might need many more years under your belt. I don't know your age so it's hard to assess where you're at. I've been writing since age 11 - I'm 49. Still unpublished (through traditional means or any other means). It could very well take that long for you.

That aside, if you truly want to keep writing then what everyone is telling you in their varied voices is true. And here's my own: You won't learn by asking how to. You will learn by reading good writing and absorbing it in to your own style. Imitate directly if you have to. For years I did this. If I read Edith Wharton, I wrote like Edith Wharton; if I read Ray Carver for a while my writing imitated Ray Carver. Eventually I melded all of this into my own personal style. And you will learn through their examples of how characters evolve, how plots evolve, how the passage of time is played out, how to do scenes with one person or a few people. And hopefully in the process become less stuck on 3D and 1D.

And after many many many years of just sitting down to write -- and not asking "how to" as though you need instructions on how to twist in a light bulb --- you will develop your own voice.

Because that's what I feel is going on here: You're looking for a set of standard instructions for a process that can never be one size fits all. You read good writing. You write. You become better through those 2 things.

Sorry if this sounds harsh - it's not meant to be.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:34 PM   #39
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For crying out loud, Dwayne. Think what you're saying. You've been writing at least for 7 years, you've been here for over 3 years, you've taken a creative writing course, you've read lots of books, you ask infinite questions over and over again...but you still have no idea how to write one!!!!!!!!!!

Dwayne - either sit down and write and see what happens without beating yourself (and everyone else) to death with all these sackcloth and ashes questions or forget about writing and try learning chess instead.


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I've been reading lots of books at home and during free-time at the library, but I have still have no idea how to write one
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:42 PM   #40
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Dwayne,

I fully understand your frustration. I sure wish there were an ironclad technique or system out there that if you used it, by the letter, it would produce a publishable novel. Sadly, this system doesn't exist. What works for one author, doesn't work for another.

When I first started writing, I was spinning my wheels. I had no idea where to start, what to do...nothing. I bought book after book and have quite the collection of writing books now. They are all filled little techniques you can use for varying parts and phases of a novel. But they all said one thing that was consistent through to the end. To write a novel, you have to write a novel.

Well, thanks, I knew that and it still didn't help me get started! Telling me to 'just write' really wasn't helping me at that point.

Then I stumbled on this site: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php

It's yet another person who has all these neat and nifty ways to write the phases of a novel. And like all the other books, he does try to tie them all together. The thing was, I don't know, maybe it was the stars aligning right or something, this method seemed to speak to me. I had nothing to lose and it did seem to have everything laid out from beginning to end on 'how-to' so I figured 'what the hell?' and gave it a shot.

I wrote my first novel this way when I won my first NaNo! So I have a complete novel. It needs work. It needs a lot of work. Of course it does, it's my first draft! There are writers on this board whose first draft is very close to their final and boy do I envy them. That's the way they write. This is the way I write. Maybe one day I'll be at their place. But for now, my first draft is a mess and I have a lot of work left on it.

That's ok, though. Because for all the books and all the reading I've done, I now have yet more tools and techniques in those books to help my ms further along. I just needed something to jumpstart me.

This new work I'm in the middle of, I tried the snowflake method and failed horribly. That's ok, too! I have listened to the others on this board, I have pm'd with many of them and talked about how they do things and made note. Mulled them in my head. Turned them over and over, looking for a fit. Even experimented with a few.

I think I've found one and I'm running with it.

It may work, it may not. One thing I've learned with the writing process is you are guaranteed nothing except that you will work for it.

So keep at it. Try something new. If that doesn't work, it's not a failure, it's only one way that didn't work for you right then, and then try something else. Soon you'll hit on a way to pull yourself into the next phase.

It may never get easier for me and I'm ok with that. My joy comes in the effort and with the knowledge that one day, I will have something worth publishing because I'm working hard toward that end and I'm having fun while doing it.

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Old 12-23-2009, 02:02 PM   #41
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And, unfortunately, -as per the adjacent above response - folk who may not check out previous postings and don't know Dwayne has been asking these same questions for years waste their time reading the threads and giving advice which goes in one ear and out the other.
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Old 12-23-2009, 02:54 PM   #42
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Look, since there's no agreement on what makes a character "two-dimensional" or "three-dimensional," you're obviously not going to get an agreement here. Furthermore, a character who only appears in a few paragraphs or sentences is not going to be as three-dimensional in execution, even if the author has worked out a whole complicated back story for her. Some authors like to do this and feel it helps them. Others feel it's a waste of time. I doubt if someone could pick out which authors use which techniques from reading the finished product. Bottom line, decide what works for you, experiment, and don't worry so much.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:15 PM   #43
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And, unfortunately, -as per the adjacent above response - folk who may not check out previous postings and don't know Dwayne has been asking these same questions for years waste their time reading the threads and giving advice which goes in one ear and out the other.
Perhaps I was just spitting into the wind if the response is considered for DwayneA only.

Or perhaps, anyone else, maybe someone new to the forum and coming to this thread, can read it and get something useful. My apologies if it was a waste of your time.
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The first draft is a huge pile of clay that you've laboriously heaped on your table, patting it into a rough shape as you go along. From the second draft onward, you'll cut away chunks, add bits, pat and punch and pinch, until you finally have a gorgeous figure of, oh, Marcus Aurelius. Or a duck. But a damn fine duck.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:18 PM   #44
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And, unfortunately, -as per the adjacent above response - folk who may not check out previous postings and don't know Dwayne has been asking these same questions for years waste their time reading the threads and giving advice which goes in one ear and out the other.
Bufty--I've had the same problems with running short. I've asked people for help for twelve years to figure out how to solve the problem. Usually I gave up asking in frustration because I always got the same answers (i.e., add more plot; add more subplot; maybe the story isn't big enough for a novel; and "I wish I had that problem!")--none of which solved my problem. I finally identified the cause of the problem, and it wasn't anything anyone in twelve years suggested because it was a very non-standard problem. It is very easy to look in the wrong direction and keep looking in the wrong direction. After I finally discovered what the problem was, I realized it had been right there in front of me for years. I'd even revised for it! But I never saw it something that would make me run short. Some problems take hitting it from many different angles before they yield a solution.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:27 PM   #45
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Now I'm curious, Linda. What WAS the real problem with your writing that the critiquers kept missing?
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Old 12-23-2009, 07:52 PM   #46
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I'm used to going with the flow--just jump into a story and work out everything as I go along, when it's needed. It worked pretty well with short stories, because they were more simple, had fewer characters, and were only 10-15 pages.

Come to novels, and that's where the problem really showed up. I tended to leave pretty important questions unanswered until I needed to deal with them. I guess the best analogy is someone writing a whodunit mystery and not figuring out the murderer until they reach the end of the story when the murderer is revealed. Add three or four major questions, in addition to all the smaller unanswered ones that pop up--and the story is 25K short. In the one I'm finishing up, I left what a magical weapon did until the end of the story--and stayed around 68K despite all my efforts at additions to subplots and expanding scenes. I answered that one question and jumped 12K from all the scenes I needed to add throughout the story.

One thing I've noticed about crits is that the critters often identify symptoms, rather than the overall problems. My last book was heavily critted, and they spotted a symptom of the same thing in the opening chapter--I got a lot of odd comments that didn't seem to relate to each other. I fixed all of them, which required some revision throughout. That, in turn, revealed a new symptom. Fixed that, and guess what? Another one surfaced--all, in hindsight, going back to my not paying attention to the questions in the first place. So all the critters spotted the symptoms of it and commented on those things, but they never saw the overall problem.
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Old 12-23-2009, 11:08 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by DwayneA View Post
I am trying! I've been trying for years! So don't go accusing me of not making an effort!
I don't think they're trying to accuse you of anything like that (though I'm not them, so don't take my word for it), but instead are becoming frustrated with your wall of negativity. The people on this forum really do want to help you, but what are they supposed to say when you keep throwing "I can'ts" at them? It's very hard and frustrating to try and help someone who is-sorry to say this-a bit of a downer. I understand that you, too, are frustrated. To stick with something for so long, and still not consider yourself good at it, would be devastating. I know, because it's happened to me.

If you want to learn how to write good characters, then you need to practice doing it. A lot. Here's an exercise to try, if you want: Grab a piece of paper and I want you to write about the most interesting person you can think of. Make it someone you yourself would love to be friend's with. When you've done that (about 300 words or so), then identify their best quality, and their worst quality. Like, maybe this person is funny, but also arrogant. Now, make another character, but give them the exact opposite qualities you gave the first person. This one might be dull, but humble. For example: your first person is a move star, this guy picks up trash. Again, identify this guy's best and worst qualities.

Now, throw them together in a stuck elevator and write out what would happen. Would they talk to one another? Do they try to get out? Maybe they stand in a corner and pointedly ignore each other. Keep writing this scene, and explore these two people and why they do the things they do while stuck in this elevator with each other.

Saying "I can't" isn't going to help you learn to write, especially since if you say it too much, people will start to believe you. On the top of the paper for the exercise above, should you choose to use it, write "I CAN CREATE INTERESTING CHARACTERS." Seriously. Do it. Because the first person in this thread who said you couldn't do something was you, and I imagine one of the main reasons you can't is because you keep telling yourself you can't.

No, it won't be that easy. It's something you'll have to practice a lot, maybe years (and it does take years for some people), but the longer you say you can't do it, the longer it's going to take.

Sorry if this offends you, I don't mean to.
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Old 12-24-2009, 12:13 AM   #48
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Dwayne,

Write a story first. Then you can post it in SYW for feedback. It will be easier to show you how to improve your work if we can see your work, and point out where you can fix it as well as what you're doing well.

Until you actually set to work and write something, though, all the questions you can ask won't help you. Writing requires writing.
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Old 12-24-2009, 02:02 PM   #49
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If someone new to the Forum benefits from your wisdom, fine, but don't read into posts things that aren't intended to be there.

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Perhaps I was just spitting into the wind if the response is considered for DwayneA only.

Or perhaps, anyone else, maybe someone new to the forum and coming to this thread, can read it and get something useful. My apologies if it was a waste of your time.
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Old 12-24-2009, 03:00 PM   #50
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Re your last sentence -you found and resolved the problem eventually because you thought about the responses and worked away at the problem instead of instantly throwing your hands up in the air at every response saying 'I can't understand' and tossing out yet another question to generate more responses but the same reaction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda Adams View Post
I'm used to going with the flow--just jump into a story and work out everything as I go along, when it's needed. It worked pretty well with short stories, because they were more simple, had fewer characters, and were only 10-15 pages.

Come to novels, and that's where the problem really showed up. I tended to leave pretty important questions unanswered until I needed to deal with them. I guess the best analogy is someone writing a whodunit mystery and not figuring out the murderer until they reach the end of the story when the murderer is revealed. Add three or four major questions, in addition to all the smaller unanswered ones that pop up--and the story is 25K short. In the one I'm finishing up, I left what a magical weapon did until the end of the story--and stayed around 68K despite all my efforts at additions to subplots and expanding scenes. I answered that one question and jumped 12K from all the scenes I needed to add throughout the story.

One thing I've noticed about crits is that the critters often identify symptoms, rather than the overall problems. My last book was heavily critted, and they spotted a symptom of the same thing in the opening chapter--I got a lot of odd comments that didn't seem to relate to each other. I fixed all of them, which required some revision throughout. That, in turn, revealed a new symptom. Fixed that, and guess what? Another one surfaced--all, in hindsight, going back to my not paying attention to the questions in the first place. So all the critters spotted the symptoms of it and commented on those things, but they never saw the overall problem.
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