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#248551 16/06/04 03:51 PM
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Hello, everyone.

The current "Adorant" - discussion has led me to the decision to open a new thread dedicated to writing in general.

Anyone who writes anything can participate - especially those who are writing one of the RPG threads or stories here. But anyone who wants to improve his or her skills in expressing in language can write here, too.


This is NOT a thread exclusive to writers, but instead open to anyone who wants to write anything - and seeks advice.

I wish this thread to be a learning thread , or, to put it more emotionally, a learning experience.

Therefore critics are insofar not allowed that I intend this thread to be a sort of "Question & Answer" - thread : Anyone who seeks advice can ask questions here and anyone can answer here, regardless of experience or lack of it.

Additionally, I would like this thread for people who want to improve their language skills - mostly English (since it's the main languge), but also other languages are welcome in this thread here.

Which means that if someone asks for a certain word or expression, or for the meaning of an idiom-expression for example, I wish that anyone could try to help.

To emphasize this : I want this thread to be a "learning thread" , rather than anything else.

So try to be nice, and try not to judge advices : Like in Philosophy, any point of view is in a way right, only the evaluation of it is different (and often a matter of taste).

Alrik.


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Hello, everyone.

Additionally, I would like this thread for people who want to improve their language skills - mostly English (since it's the main languge), but also other languages are welcome in this thread here.

Which means that if someone asks for a certain word or expression, or for the meaning of an idiom-expression for example, I wish that anyone could try to help.

To emphasize this : I want this thread to be a "learning thread" , rather than anything else.

So try to be nice, and try not to judge advices : Like in Philosophy, any point of view is in a way right, only the evaluation of it is different (and often a matter of taste).

Alrik.


Hey Alrik! Ah, yes - Philosophy - one of my favorite subjects. And yes, I have always thought any point of view is valid for the person whose view it is. I may not agree with it, but that's what makes this world go 'round.

I'd be happy to participate in this discussion. Sounds like fun and I love anything that has to do with language, communication and writing. Excellent idea.

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Al your idea is so nice! Of course I will not be able to enter my work in here because I write only in my language, Greek, but I will jump in the experience in order to improve my English and enjoy other people's work. And I trust and hope that I will have the pleasure to see some of your work here.


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Good idea, Alrik <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

I'll just borrow one of my most basic advice sheets from Hero Realm, as it seems like a good place to start - how to make the decision on which perspective to use in your writing. All writing begins with this decision, really.

Anyone who has any questions about this piece should just ask. I'll be more than happy to answer - assuming I can <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/biggrin.gif" alt="" />

First Person vrs Third Person

When you are starting a story, the first real choice you will have to make is deciding whether the character will act as the narrator, or if the author will. The strengths and weaknesses of the the two main styles differ, and the difference in emphasis in your story will consequently make or break the whole.

As such, it is an important choice, and it is vital to consider not just the type of the story, but also the characters and the way you wish them to interact and relate with each other.

First Person View

I watched, dread coursing up my spine, mouth dry and heart beating wildly as SOMETHING moved, deep within the shadows. There had been three murders already - was I to be the next?

There are two main strengths to the first person narrative - identification and depth of characterisation. If the reader can identify with the narrator, they themselves will become the 'I' in the story, and they will share each pitfall and pratfall with baited breath. The narrating character can share all of his/her innermost thoughts and feelings with the reader, to an extent that is not possible with the third person form.

The weaknesses of this view, however, need careful handling. The main weakness is that your main viewpoint character must be at the centre of events, as they (And thus the reader) will only see things from the singular perspective of the narrating character. This can be mitigated using multiple viewpoint characters, but if this is done then the reader must be quickly informed which character's view they are now reading, and the same depth of characterisation is needed for all characters.

A variation on the multiple viewpoint style is the one Bram Stoker uses in Dracula - where the entire story is told through extracts from diaries, letters, and other personal notes that give multiple first person viewpoints. This approach requires consummate skill, as you might imagine.

The second weakness of this style is simply that the character's viewpoint does not allow certain things. A character will not necessarily understand anything outside of their own knowledge, for example, and might naturally ignore things the author might prefer to describe. Also, no viewpoint character is going to describe any area with which they are intimately familiar, simply because they would not thiink about it at all. When was the last time you walked into your bedroom, and thought, "Sony stereo stands between two wooden bookcases, with CD racks on the wall above. A wardrobe is jammed into the corner, fighting for space with a chest of drawers positioned so close I can barely open the wardrobe door..." You just don't. The real trick with the first person form is balancing the reader's need to know things with the narrating character's ability and desire to tell them.

A character with a fairly limited vocabulary is not going to give fantastically elaborate descriptions of things, but can plausibly ask about any concept or difficult word that the author may feel needs some explanation for the sake of the reader. A highly educated character with an enormous vocabulary will create some wonderful descriptions, but will tend to understand ideas and concepts the reader might wish were better explained. This can best be mitigated (In either case) by the use of supporting cast.

Remember that you do not have to explain everything upon the instant it comes up, as long as you get around to it by the time the reader really needs to know. Some element of mystery is never bad.

The last potential disadvantage is that the narrating character sets the tone and the atmosphere of your story. A happy-go-lucky charmer will not create a good gothic horror. Although they may of course begin that way... Your skills at characterisation and personality building will be stretched to the limits by this style - your ability to build mood, atmosphere and elaborate descriptions will not be.


Third Person View

A man, head tucked down against the driving rain, hat pulled low over his ears and collar turned up in a futile attempt to avoid being drenched, walks slowly down the Old East Road, past the boarded up shop windows with their peeling notices, now sodden in the rain. His footsteps would normally echo on the worn flagstones, but now they squelch, his feet long since drowning, the cold clammy flesh long ceasing to cringe back from the cold, cold water that fills his shoes.

The third person view allows mood, atmosphere and description in far greater detail than the first person does. This is overwhelmingly the strength of the form, and is the reason it is so popular with many writers. It also allows every character - including the main protagonist{s} - to hide their thoughts from the reader if the author so desires.

The restrictions of this style are the main virtues of the first person narrative. The protagonist is far less easy for the reader to completely identify with, and the true depths of thought and feeling will remain unplumbed. This distancing between reader and character will lead to the reader being less emotionally affected by the fate{s} of the character{s} - but will also mean that the negative effects of a character they truly hate/despise will be similarly mitigated.

There is a form of third person narrative that blends with the first person narrative - where the protagonist is effectively writing in the third person. This is incredibly hard to do, but, done well, it mitigates the disadvantages of both styles to an extent and allows a shift of emphasis at need between the two. This style is almost never used, as not only can it be somewhat confusing for the reader, but it also requires a very skilled writer indeed (So don't go expecting an example here! <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/biggrin.gif" alt="" /> ).


End Note

Choosing a character view that best suits your intent for character and story will help you to create a memorable tale - and is one of the most vital decisions you will make as an author. The correct choice will suit your skills and cause your story to flow - the wrong choice is fatal.

And as a last note - no, nothing says the narrating character has to survive, whatever form you choose. A dying man reviewing his life in flashback is just as worthy of the first person form as any other - and can allow you to build in a real tear jerker ending.


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1. Thanks, Alrik, for opening this thread!

2. I wonder whether I understood this correctly:
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There is a form of third person narrative that blends with the first person narrative - where the protagonist is effectively writing in the third person.

Exhausted the man stumbled through the jungle. "I wonder, where the hell I am", he thought, "And why, for God's sake, did I have to parachute from a perfectly working airplane". But there was nobody to answer his questions.

Is this, more or less, what you wanted to describe?


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1. Thanks, Alrik, for opening this thread!

2. I wonder whether I understood this correctly:
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There is a form of third person narrative that blends with the first person narrative - where the protagonist is effectively writing in the third person.

Exhausted the man stumbled through the jungle. "I wonder, where the hell I am", he thought, "And why, for God's sake, did I have to parachute from a perfectly working airplane". But there was nobody to answer his questions.

Is this, more or less, what you wanted to describe?


That's pretty much it, GlanceALot, thank you <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

I find that style appallingly hard to write, for some reason <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />


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That's called the limited third-person viewpoint. Personally, I find it the easiest to pull off, and it seems to be the most commonly used one, but that's just me. (Hey, I write nearly all my stories with limited third-person. Lots and lots of writers I know use it, too. So...) It strikes the perfect balance, I think, between the intimacy of the first-person and the alacrity and flow of omniscient third-person.

First-person is nice for easier identification/relation/empathy with the character, but overdoing things is very easy. Melodrama, stream-of-consciousness and angst are the prime horrors lurking in this technique. Another is self-insertion: start using "I" to narrate things, and you run the risk of using the character as a mouthpiece rather than letting him/her have develop a personality. Symptoms include using language that you, the author, would use instead of one the character would use, or unconsciously turning the character into an outlet for your opinion. This is particularly dangerous when you feel the burning need to shoehorn a "meaningful" or "profound" theme into your story. (Which, by itself, deserves an entirely separate rant, but that's neither here nor there.)

I loathe the omniscient third-person perspective, and with good reasons. It gives the author an excuse to hop from head to head (which may just ruin suspense and intrigue, among other things), as well as dump information. Fantasy/sci-fi writers seem to fall into this trap a lot: shoving clinical, dull diatribes down the reader's throat. Really, if you absolutely have to include information about this race, that city, or this system of magic, then by all the good deities, do it in appendices! Under no circumstance should the reader be forced to go through expository paragraphs that read like a tourist brochure or an academic essay. It's one of the things that'll make me chuck a book across the room faster than you can say "JRR Tolkien."

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I partly disagree with this. Yes, it is common that Fantasy/Sci Fi authors do tend to do this…they are describing new worlds to the reader so this is inevitable. But I think that they are many authors who do what you describe as “information dumping” extremely well… and, if properly applied, these sections can add a lot of depth and colour to the world and story. Personally I dislike appendices…I don’t really want to go thumbing backwards and forth through a book so I can get a clearer picture. Anne McCaffrey does this a lot and although I have a lot of respect for the characters and worlds she has created I don’t want to feel like I’ve got an encyclopedia tacked onto the end of a story. I think this is best left to non-fiction, in general.

However, I think that many of the less well established SF/fantasy authors do tend to suffer from a lack of originality and certainly some strange innate desire to always write not just a ‘book’ but a three parter. I review for SFX from time to time and I always end up with book 2 of an ‘epic’ 3-part saga, of which I have not read the first (nor want to after reading the second.)

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I partly disagree with this. Yes, it is common that Fantasy/Sci Fi authors do tend to do this…they are describing new worlds to the reader so this is inevitable. But I think that they are many authors who do what you describe as “information dumping” extremely well… and, if properly applied, these sections can add a lot of depth and colour to the world and story.


Operative keyword: "done well." Most of the time, it's done terribly, and it just detracts me from the story. And it isn't even relevant. Take, for instance, a scene written in limited third-person seen through farmer Joe's eyes. Would he actually give a fig about the current political climate? Would he suddenly break out into narrating some creation myth of a mysterious fairy land half a world away for no reason? The exposition is also often extremely prosaic, and as a reader, I frankly couldn't care less about it. Yes, I like appendices, because it's optional, whereas if the info-dumping appears in the narrative, I actually am forced to slog through it. Imparting information should be natural. At the very least, say, a local courtier talking to a foreign visitor to explain etiquette and such would be less agitating.

Another thing I hate, hate, hate with an unholy passion in omniscient third-person is this: things like "Little did she know, her action would set the calamity in motions..." in narrative. Guh. Why would any author feel the need to put things like this in, I would never understand. This kind of "foreshadowing" has all the subtlety of a two-by-four to the head or a chainsaw to the guts.

Speaking of lack of originality... Blurbs on back covers. Rhetorical questions like "Can the intrepid band of misfits save the world from the Generic Dark Lord#44534?" or "Will princess Ivorywen Crystalline Pink be able to overcome blahblahblah and find love?" I genuinely yearn to throttle whoever put them there. Of-bloody-course the misfits will save the world, nine point nine five times out of ten, and the annoying brat will find love. For once, I'd like to read a story where the answers to these irrating rhetorics are a bit, fat NO.

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I agree with Leather_Raven. I hate appendices too. Gets on my nerves to go back and check something that the writer could describe it IN his story. After all that is on of the talents a writer should have. I get tired to search in the end of the book.

Last edited by LUCRETIA; 17/06/04 10:01 AM.

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Well, I first wrote everything third-person-view , but somehow tried to write a bit or two with first view.

It turned out to be quite difficult for me, because if you've developed your own world and would like to explain and simply descibe so many things, you cannot do it from the first person view. You've got to "narrows down" your own information, to the grade of the first person view.

The delicate thing is, ihmo, that you've got to imagine what the person sees, feels, tastes and so on. To me, it's partly role-playing, and if you're good at role-playing, this might not be too difficult for you.

A thing I've got *extremely* problems with is the speech pattern. You know, every single person has his or her on way of speaking, expressing and therefore writing. So, if I want to let an NPC in a story speak, I must invent a whole new speech pattern for that one.
The difficulty for me lies with that I personally believe that I must run an Artificial Intelligence (AI) in my head while writing the speech of the NPC. Tht includes his or her thought-pattern, the way of logical resoning and so on, everything that influences the speech, and behaviour.

Somehow I have the feeling that I cannot do this. Maybe it's even the wrong approch ?

So, in short, writing in first-person-view is a kind of role-playing for me.


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imHo (pay attention to the 'H' there) writing is always Role Playing. even the stories we did in the chat forums. same goes for professionel writers imHo


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That sounds like a very humble opinion, imo <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/think.gif" alt="" />


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A thing I've got *extremely* problems with is the speech pattern. You know, every single person has his or her on way of speaking, expressing and therefore writing. So, if I want to let an NPC in a story speak, I must invent a whole new speech pattern for that one.
The difficulty for me lies with that I personally believe that I must run an Artificial Intelligence (AI) in my head while writing the speech of the NPC. Tht includes his or her thought-pattern, the way of logical resoning and so on, everything that influences the speech, and behaviour.

Somehow I have the feeling that I cannot do this. Maybe it's even the wrong approch ?

So, in short, writing in first-person-view is a kind of role-playing for me.


You're not the only writer who has trouble with a character's dialect, Alrik. It's quite common and I take a different approach in developing characters. I actually interview them (in my head). I have a generic list of questions I ask each one, and as they answer (or not answer), I note their body language, expressions, attitude, etc. Then I redesign the questions to get a more personal glimpse of their personalities. This may sound a lot like a person who has a multiple personality disorder - LOL - but in some ways, I think it may be how an actor prepares for their roles.



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Alrik & Viper are certainly right regarding First Person View stories - it is always role playing. Third Person is far less personal, so requires less character depth.

Winterfox spells out the traps in the First/Third person blend very well - which is what makes the perspective so hard to do properly. Anyone can write the style poorly - very few can write it well, which is why I did not attempt it myself <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

I definitely agree with Rhianna & Lucretia about the use of descriptive passages, but Winterfox has a point too - an overdone description that takes pages out of the story in a long lecture adds nothing to the story and often detracts from it badly. The best approach, IMO, is to introduce new things as the characters come across them, or use a flashback story to fill in details.

As with most things in writing, there are ways to work around a problem if we only know what they are <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

Edit: Faralas - that's what I do too <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />


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Descriptive writing is for me "to substitute the reader' senses with words", so to say.


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As for 'Omniscient Third Person' I think the real trick is to avoid the trap of trying to bait the reader by showing you as the author know everything that will happen anyway. "Little did they know that..." type sentences tend to work well if you are aiming for a younger audience, but is not a good approach for adults.

The ideal Third Person approach is basically showing only what the reader would see if they were there themselves. Act as a silent film camera rather than a commentator, and hopefully your readers will follow you into the story.

As an example:

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The village is still burning when the warrior arrives, a mass of crackling flame and burning timber where once there were homes. Dreams rise to the sky in dark palls of smoke, as lives are turned to ash and ruin. Community, family, hope and laughter - all are gone, slain by the savagery of war.


This sets a scene, but does nothing more.


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Hmm, I'd like to improve my writing skills amongst many skills I want to improve... And offcourse only writing will improve writing skills. So I entered in the RPG threads but it has proven hard for such project to keep updating. So I'm poundering, what if we would do some kind of contest closely related to the caption contest.

Something, anything would be posted for writers to base a story, poem, anything entertaining on it. For example a breath taking fotograph, a peice of art, a song. Every written peice can be commented on if the writer wishes so, by adding please comment. Stories aren't limited in writers but every source of inspiration should have a limit such as 3days in the caption contest.

Oh, and I'll have a look at "the adorant", had little time for foruming for a while, I'll free up some time.

The idea came to me while reading this thread just after staring at photoshop bored and whipping this image up:

[Linked Image]

wich has no use at all, wich I feel to have a story in it.


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Descriptive writing is for me "to substitute the reader' senses with words", so to say.


As good a description as any I've seen <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />


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As one with a lot of experience in reading, and none in writing, I would summarize my attitude towards appendices or in-story descriptions somewhat less absolutistic rather as an "and" than an "or".

I like appendices, if they give me additional background or overview. I don't like them, if I have to refer to them to (fully) understand the story.


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