General writing discussion thread

Did you write something for the Simpsons, Futurama, original fiction or another fandom? Feel free to post it here!
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c_nordlander
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General writing discussion thread

Post by c_nordlander » Fri Mar 26, 2021 8:41 pm

One thing I've noticed about many writing forums is that they can be difficult to strike into, if that makes any sense. So many threads are either reviews/opinion threads for discrete stories or very narrow discussions about a certain writing topic, neither of which have much room for detours.

So there's this thread. Yak about writing in general, ask questions, spitball ideas. Whatever takes your fancy.
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Re: General writing discussion thread

Post by gkscotty » Thu Apr 01, 2021 1:03 pm

Unfortunately I don't have much to say except complain about lack of inspiration. Not sure what brings that back. I guess all writing starts with confidence.
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It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things. - Jingo, Terry Pratchett
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Re: General writing discussion thread

Post by c_nordlander » Thu Apr 01, 2021 8:04 pm

I've had long fallow periods myself. Play games, read stuff, see what ideas come into your head.

If it's any consolation, we all think you're a very good writer.
Welcome to our little town
Why don't you settle down?
Here, just fill out the paperwork and you can look around
We work and then we work and then we work and then we work and then we work and then we work
And then we end up in the ground.


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Re: General writing discussion thread

Post by SirMustapha » Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:36 am

gkscotty wrote: Thu Apr 01, 2021 1:03 pm Unfortunately I don't have much to say except complain about lack of inspiration. Not sure what brings that back. I guess all writing starts with confidence.
It's funny, because I recall starting out stories without much confidence at all. All I had was an idea, and a willingness to see how (and if) it would work out. I figure that, if the idea is compelling enough, I'll make an effort to chase it. Coming across compelling ideas... well, that's the problem. I'm not very good with that, I think, so I just let them come to me.

I probably wouldn't be able to make a living from writing alone.
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Re: General writing discussion thread

Post by SirMustapha » Mon Apr 05, 2021 5:54 pm

There's one thought that's been buzzing inside my mind lately, and I guess it's a pretty broad and complex, but that's exactly the kind of stuff I get caught up with. The question is, more or less, how far does the edge of a writer's "style" reach; in other words, how much of a piece of writing can be validly criticised, before we actually start interfering with the writer's conscious choices and preferences.

And mind you, I'm not asking this as a reader, or a critic, or a beta reader who makes concrit, but as a writer myself. It's more a case of, how much of my writing is actually my style, and how much am I just creating excuses for deficiencies and flaws? One example off the top of my head is that, in general, my stories aren't very rich in visual descriptions, whether it's the characters, the settings, the scenery or anything. I suppose the main reason is that I'm just not a visually-minded person. I've tried on occasion to look at people's faces and try to describe to myself what exactly makes one face different from each other, and it's really, really hard. So, if I had to imagine a face, it's either a complete blur, or a rough approximation of someone I know. It's very hard for me to memorise people's faces, to the point where it can be troublesome: if the person in front of me in the line to the cashier has to leave and asks me to reserve their place, in a matter of seconds, I just forget what they look like, and I get worried that I won't recognise them when they're back--so, theoretically, someone else could take their place and I wouldn't even notice.

So, for example, would it be fair if I made the claim that my stories are short in visual descriptions and details simply because that reflects who I am as a person? Could that work as a "defence" against criticism that my writing is dry? Or should I do the proper thing, which would be to exercise and develop my vision? Do I have a "non-visual narrative style", or am I just lazy and/or incapacitated?

The reason why this bugs me so much is that there are plenty of writers whose style could be criticised as lazy, or even bad, but they're super renowned. One extreme case is Portuguese novelist José Saramago, whose novels have these MASSIVE run on sentences, to the point where it can be hard to read. The dialogue lacks any tags or any cues of what the characters are doing while they're talking, and the only mark that the character speaking has changed is a single capital letter (so a fragment from The Formicide Gang would read like this: It's awful when it happens, right, Dani, When what happens, Insomnia, you couldn't sleep, Yeah, I couldn't, I've brewed some coffee, you can have some, Yes, I saw it, but then, I'll lose my sleep for good, Well, have a seat here, then.). In short, the prose is messy, convoluted, tough to read, and sometimes can make you lose track of who's saying what. The guy had a Nobel Prize in Literature. He didn't have shitty prose: it was his style.

There are other examples that are not that extreme, but that have brought me problems. In some of my works, I've tried to use extremely short chapters, and the narrator explicitly addressing the reader. Those might look like awkward choices, but they were some of the "trademarks" of Machado de Assis, the greatest Brazilian novelist in history (and they can be seen, for example, in Epitaph of a Small Winner, which includes, among other thing, a chapter that consists exclusively of punctuation marks). I deliberately aped that style in The Error, which has a particularly wacky chapter structure, and even though it might look quite gimmicky, I still like that story.

Of course, wacky chapters and "conversational" prose are a conscious choice, and though many people might not like it, I could defend that as a literary style. Now, a lack of visual description is more of a deficiency, but, would it be honest to try to turn that into an actual stylistic choice? I mean, at the very bottom of it, there's no "rights" or "wrongs" when it comes to art, just conventions that pertain to genres, movements, scenes, etc.

Also, I have to make a confession: books that are too loaded with visual description can be very overwhelming to me. If the author spends two paragraphs making a verbal painting of a town, or a forest, or a person, it inevitably becomes a jumble of information in my brain, and I can't just turn that into my own mental picture. On the other hand, sometimes I just naturally, spontaneously create mental pictures of places and people, which may or may not correspond to what the author intended to create, and I think there's a certain beauty to that: the beauty of indeterminacy in art.
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Re: General writing discussion thread

Post by c_nordlander » Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:48 pm

Gonna start right off the bat by saying that I don't have an answer to your question. It's something I've been asking myself, too, especially when reviewing other people's work and realising that they have different stylistic goals than myself.

First of all, glad I'm not the only writer here who doesn't have a very visual imagination.

I remember your short, descriptively-titled chapters in The Error: I consider them a memorable and personal part of the story.

I think some people get their ideas of what is good style from very prescriptive "how to write" books. The style they've learnt may be perfectly fine, but they've come away with the idea that that is the only way to write fiction, and criticise everything that falls outside those narrow limits. Then again, obviously you can't just lean your elbows on the keyboard for thirty minutes and call it "my personal style," either. There are always unhealthy extremes around the middle ground.

At the end of the day, I tell myself that nothing beats getting constructive criticism from a fair sample of people with a range of tastes. The last part is the key: it will help you find people who like your style while still being able to tell you that some things need improvement, as well as people who may help you curb the excesses of your style. Something we all need sometimes, I think.
Welcome to our little town
Why don't you settle down?
Here, just fill out the paperwork and you can look around
We work and then we work and then we work and then we work and then we work and then we work
And then we end up in the ground.


- The Stupendium, "The Fine Print"
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