Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

Komnena

In Honor of Peter Tomich,USS Utah
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 5, 2007
Messages
13,917
Reaction score
2,071
Location
King Louie's town
I'm trying to figure out how my two main characters are going to get into the same climactic last part of the messterpiece. I'm hoping that the characters themselves figure it out.
 

Komnena

In Honor of Peter Tomich,USS Utah
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 5, 2007
Messages
13,917
Reaction score
2,071
Location
King Louie's town
Fortunately it did work out. The final total stands at around 45,000 words which is way short but adding needed description and back story should flesh it out.
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
VPX
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,781
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
I would be happy to answer that. You see, I am a simple man, rooted to the earth. Four steps up a ladder is as far into space as I prefer to go. Imagery is confusing and I tend to spend so much time trying to pronounce the characters' names, that I forget where they are, how they got there and what they're doing. I relate better to baseball bats, hot dogs, and cigars, unless the author is trying to trick me with symbolism.

My very good friend, I've been trying to present general principles that pertain to all fiction, not just to science fiction.

Have I given my Chess Set Analogy yet?

Let us take one of those games of chess that I've used as a metaphor for plot and character. The novel is the game.

If you use an Orcs'n'Elves chess set, you have a fantasy novel. If you use a Space-Aliens'n'Rocketmen chess set, you have a science fiction novel. If you use a Housewives'n'College-Professors chess set you have a mainstream novel. If you use a Cunning-Murderers'n'Detectives chess set you have a mystery novel.

The game itself is the same. The characters go to their most effective places; the characters move and interact; surprising combinations develop; a satisfying conclusion is reached. All that's changed is the feel of the game.

When you have ideas like that? What do you do? Do you just write it, taking the risk of losing your readers or do you just keep it to your self.

Write your book. When you've finished, write another book. Repeat.

Occasionally I have a similar thought about names especially in Fantasy. Were there never anyone in an alternate reality, or dimension that was named just plain Jim?


Well, I have an eight-volume science-fantasy series where the main characters' names are Owen, Beka, and Ari.

Close enough?

... adding needed description and back story should flesh it out.

Rather than description and backstory (readers need far less backstory than many writers think), consider adding plot.
 
Last edited:

Captain Morgan

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 7, 2007
Messages
255
Reaction score
13
Arrrgh!

I threw the book against the wall.

I keep meaning to finish it, but... it's been five years now. I don't think I will.

You know Uncle Jim... if you read that book a bit deeper, you may find out that the bs story about the drugged guards is just that.. made up BS, and the REAL explanation is yet to come.

:p
 

OddButInteresting

Officially a practicing Novelist!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
253
Reaction score
35
Location
The UKey-day!
Hey, Jim.

I'm not sure whether you've covered this yet, but I was wondering what your stance is on second-person writing.

I'm facing a dilemma at the moment: stay true to the story and write it in the second-person present, or cop-out and stick to the first or third. I don't wish to betray the essence of my story, but at the same time really don't fancy running the risk of alienating my reader.

Bear in mind this is a short story intended for contest submission (if that makes any difference).

I'd greatly appreciate any advice you could impart.
 

MoonWriter

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 31, 2008
Messages
1,017
Reaction score
643
Location
New Orleans
My very good friend, I've been trying to present general principles that pertain to all fiction, not just to science fiction.

Uncle Jim - I didn't mean to imply that you weren't. The reason for the explanation as to why I'm not a big fan of science fiction - I'm a medium sized fan - was meant to show that, in spite of my writing inexperience in that genre, I made the effort to offer you best wishes on your birthday that had a S.F. feel to it. What I should have said was: I suck at writing S.F., but, because I know that U.J. enjoys it, and, because I'd like to show my apprecaition for what he has done, I'm going to make an attempt at wishing him a happy birthday with a S.F. feel.
Tim
 
Last edited:

Komnena

In Honor of Peter Tomich,USS Utah
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 5, 2007
Messages
13,917
Reaction score
2,071
Location
King Louie's town
Thanks for the suggestion of more plot. Right now I have put the messterpiece back for a few days. There are definitely places where I could delve into more plot depth. I don't think I spend enough time exploring the relationships between characters or on the conflict between a viewpoint character's two friends.
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
VPX
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,781
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
I'm facing a dilemma at the moment: stay true to the story and write it in the second-person present, or cop-out and stick to the first or third.

Stay true to the story.

If, after you've finished and let it sit for a few days, you re-read it and discover it isn't working, you can re-write it in some other POV.
 

Cassiopeia

Otherwise Occupied
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 1, 2006
Messages
10,857
Reaction score
5,283
Location
Star to the right and straight on till morning.
Let us take one of those games of chess that I've used as a metaphor for plot and character. The novel is the game.

If you use an Orcs'n'Elves chess set, you have a fantasy novel. If you use a Space-Aliens'n'Rocketmen chess set, you have a science fiction novel. If you use a Housewives'n'College-Professors chess set you have a mainstream novel. If you use a Cunning-Murderers'n'Detectives chess set you have a mystery novel.

The game itself is the same. The characters go to their most effective places; the characters move and interact; surprising combinations develop; a satisfying conclusion is reached. All that's changed is the feel of the game.
Now this clinched it for me. Thank you.



UncleJim said:
Well, I have an eight-volume science-fantasy series where the main characters' names are Owen, Beka, and Ari.
Thank you so much for saying that. I'm relieved. I have a hard time with making up "fantasy names" and mine have pretty normal names with maybe a bit of an old world version. I have a hard time reading fantasy work that has odd names because my mind obsesses over how to say them.
 

RJK

Sheriff Bullwinkle the Poet says:
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 6, 2007
Messages
3,415
Reaction score
439
Location
Lewiston, NY
Question for Odd but:
As a beginning author/writer, I try to take advantage of the advice I receive here at AW, particularly from Uncle Jim and the other published authors in this forum. I also read a lot of "How-to" books.
I assume you are fairly new at this vocation. If not, please ignore.
My question is, why would you make things harder for yourself? I see this many times in this forum, where unpublished writers and even those working on their first novel or short story, are trying to incorporate things that very experienced authors often fail at.
I read in another thread where a first time writer had a character with a speech impediment. another one who spoke broken english.
These are very difficult concepts to describe, why would a beginner, add this burden?
Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe this would be a good thread topic?
 
Last edited:

Potluck

Sockpuppet
Banned
Joined
Jan 25, 2008
Messages
138
Reaction score
13
Age
62
Hey, Jim.

I'm not sure whether you've covered this yet, but I was wondering what your stance is on second-person writing.

I'm facing a dilemma at the moment: stay true to the story and write it in the second-person present, or cop-out and stick to the first or third. I don't wish to betray the essence of my story, but at the same time really don't fancy running the risk of alienating my reader.

Bear in mind this is a short story intended for contest submission (if that makes any difference).

I'd greatly appreciate any advice you could impart.

Even though Jim has given a very clear definition of Second person in the past it's still very hard to implement.

Let’s say you love the books that are written in second person. Are you sure they are all second person or do they hop in and out from third to second? You might find that your favorite writings are a blend of first person and second person. You might try doing pieces of a chapter in second person to see how it reads. Even in a short story it might be more effective to hop between third and second.
 

Perle_Rare

Dragon rider
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 18, 2007
Messages
529
Reaction score
164
Location
Lurking somewhere in dark places...
I can't believe I've made it to the end of this thread! I must admit that all the hours spent reading have been worth it. I've gained more insight from this thread alone than the half-dozen how-to books on writing I've read up to now.

1. My Logical Chess Move by Move has been shipped and I'll be eagerly running to the mailbox later today to see if it has arrived.

2. No, I haven't done any of the assignments but I'm hoping to start from here onwards, time permitting.

3. I like the image of the Celtic Knot for plotting but I'm still not clear how it all works. I know it's hard to explain without images but I guess what would help me understand the concept better was if, along with the image on Post #3552 (or any other image actually) there was a short description of a plot that had been based on it so I could relate the threads with the plot elements. (For example, one thread is at the top and two are going down. What does that do to the story?)

My next step? Writing! And learning to play chess, of course! :)
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
VPX
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,781
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
3. I like the image of the Celtic Knot for plotting but I'm still not clear how it all works. I know it's hard to explain without images but I guess what would help me understand the concept better was if, along with the image on Post #3552 (or any other image actually) there was a short description of a plot that had been based on it so I could relate the threads with the plot elements. (For example, one thread is at the top and two are going down. What does that do to the story?)

My Circle of Magic series was based on the Celtic Knotwork plot pattern.
 

OddButInteresting

Officially a practicing Novelist!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
253
Reaction score
35
Location
The UKey-day!
Warningo! Long post ahead!

I assume you are fairly new at this vocation.

I’ve been creative my whole life. One of my earliest memories is of drawing Thunderbird 2 with crayons (with the “2” on the back fin written backwards). The next earliest creative memory I have is of when I was eight years old, sat at the kitchen table in the evening, designing a poster for my first film idea: Deep Sea Adventure.

I’ve only been writing prose, seriously, for just under a year now. So yes, I am fairly new to it all. But I’ve been expressing myself in writing and imagery for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a storyteller. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but in that sense I’m a veteran when it comes to crafting a tale.

Which leads me on to…

As a beginning author/writer, I try to take advantage of the advice I receive here at AW, particularly from Uncle Jim and the other published authors in this forum. I also read a lot of "How-to" books.

I'm against all this "How-to" material, personally. I recognise that there are certain standards that need to be met for the sake of consistency (double-spacing, underlining to indicate italics, new paragraph for a new speaker, etc...), but we shouldn't allow ourselves to be bound by other people's expectations.

I requested Jim's advice because, having read a great deal of this (very long) thread a few months back, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he says. That doesn't mean I accept his words as gospel, but it shows that he's definitely given this some thought. I can invest faith in him to deliver an honest, constructive and helpful response. I would’ve defied his advice had I strongly disagreed with it. That's not to suggest that I'm ungrateful of it, though.

My question is, why would you make things harder for yourself? I see this many times in this forum, where unpublished writers and even those working on their first novel or short story, are trying to incorporate things that very experienced authors often fail at… These are very difficult concepts to describe, why would a beginner, add this burden?

I’m an arts student. Our tutors lap it up when we explore areas unknown to us. In fact, we’re often discouraged from going with the flow. But again, there is always a set of criteria that needs to be met. Writing an academic paper is very similar to writing a manuscript; many of the same standards apply.

But in regards to content, the world is your oyster. No-one can tell you how to write a story. One person’s tray of lasagne is another person’s box of West African snails. Write about what you want, in the manner you want to write it.

The reason I’ve chosen to write in the second person is because it works more effectively than the first or third. First would suffice, but second is contextually-relevant to the story. The intention is for it to seem as if the reader is speaking to the protagonist, rather than the narrator speaking to the reader.

As Jim said, it might work, or it might fall flat on its arse. For now, I’m glad to say that it seems to be working.

Let’s say you love the books that are written in second person. Are you sure they are all second person or do they hop in and out from third to second? You might find that your favorite writings are a blend of first person and second person. You might try doing pieces of a chapter in second person to see how it reads. Even in a short story it might be more effective to hop between third and second.

You know how a lot of professional writers stress the importance of being a reader if you aspire to be a writer? To a degree, that makes sense. But to be honest, I’m not much of a reader at all. I only read on occasion. I write what works for me. If my readers tell me it’s not working, I make the necessary amendments. If you spend your time worrying about what Booker Prize-Winner Joe Bloggs thinks is the “correct” way to tell a story, you’re never going to get anything done.

As for your suggestion, though: jumping in-and-out of points-of-view really wouldn’t work for this story. I’m trying to maintain a consistent level of emotional intensity. Jumping here, there and everywhere would sever, or at least weaken that engagement with the reader. I’ll see how it goes, though.
 

RJK

Sheriff Bullwinkle the Poet says:
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 6, 2007
Messages
3,415
Reaction score
439
Location
Lewiston, NY
To Odd but:
The reason I’ve chosen to write in the second person is because it works more effectively than the first or third. First would suffice, but second is contextually-relevant to the story. The intention is for it to seem as if the reader is speaking to the protagonist, rather than the narrator speaking to the reader.

As Jim said, it might work, or it might fall flat on its arse. For now, I’m glad to say that it seems to be working.

Best of luck to you.
It seems that after falling on my arse many times, I'm now much more conservative.
 

Raphee

In debt to AW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 16, 2007
Messages
1,338
Reaction score
178
Location
Lost
I have started re reading Uncle Jim's thread; now that I am stuck with a finished MS that has it's problems.
I intend to go through all of it. Wish me well. And thanks Uncle Jim.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Featured Book