Doctor Why

Personally I’m glad of the shake-up!

Thought Attempts

So, this morning I?like many others?woke to the announcement of who’s playing the next Doctor. Somewhat predictably, there has been online ranting from the extremes of the pro/anti spectrum1.

Am I the only one thinking “That’s interesting. I’ll have to see how they turn out.”?

But then, I tend to have that reaction to any new Doctor announcement2. Generally I haven’t heard of/encountered the new actor before, so I don’t have any particular preconceptions before I see them in action. It’s hard to judge how good a Doctor someone will be beforehand3, as it’s not just a matter of who the actor is, but what their “style” is going to be (both costume and manner), and where the writing team take them.

Doctor Who is at rather an advantage in this regard, having not just a built-in mechanism for cast changes, but an

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HULK PRESENTS: THE MYTH OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE

FILM CRIT HULK! HULK BLOG!

HEY EVERYONE! HULK HERE! PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A FULLY RE-WRITTEN, UPDATED VERSION OF THIS COLUMN RIGHT HERE: http://badassdigest.com/2013/12/11/hulks-screenwriting-101-excerpt-the-myth-of-3-act-structure/

PLEASE CHECK IT OUT! HULK THANK!

*  *  *

HULK HEAR IT ALL THE TIME: “PROBLEMS IN THE FILM’S SECOND ACT.”

ALL… THE FUCKING… TIME.

NOW HULK UNDERSTAND THE INTENTION OF THE STATEMENT, IT USUALLY IMPLY WHEN FILM TREADING WATER, OR LOSE TRACK CHARACTERS, OR RUNNING OUT OF STEAM, OR CRAMMING STUFF IN, OR WHATEVER. HULK GET HOW COMMENT INTENDED. THE PROBLEM WITH THIS GENERIC “SECOND ACT” DESIGNATION THAT REALLY IT CAN IMPLY A PROBLEM WITH ANYTHING IN THE “MIDDLE PART” OF STORYTELLING. IT BEYOND VAGUE. SO WHAT CREATE SUCH WISHY-WASHY STORYTELLING? AND THE EVEN WISHY-WASHY-IER WAY OF EXPLAINING IT?

IT BECAUSE EVER-POPULAR NOTION OF THE 3 ACT STRUCTURE = THE MOST ABOMINABLE WAY TO EXPLAIN STORYTELLING IMAGINABLE. EVEN IF SOMEONE WROTE A STORY USING THE MODEL AS GUIDE, IT…

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You Are Not George RR Martin: how to get published in the grimdark era of fantasy

Ed McDonald

Before last year, I used to want to hear what authors had to say about how they managed to get published, and when I attended events or asked them online, they generally didn’t have much to tell me. To some authors, it seems that getting a publishing deal almost happens by chance – or at least that’s what they’d like you to think. The truth is much different.

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How to Remain Sane and Write (part 2)

See part one here

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Artists sauce: http://www.fearfuladventurer.com/why-the-internet-is-making-us-all-fing-insane/

Disclaimer: I don’t always practice what I preach, but I do preach what I hope to practice and what I genuinely belief will help!

In my first post on this subject I wrote about some reasons that writing is hard on the brain, since then I’ve worked out a few more things to avoid to keep your brain from actively escaping your skull:

Don’t Compare!

Comparison is natural thing to do, in fact its kind of necessary to vaguely make sure that we aren’t going completely nutso against the grain of society, that we aren’t letting ‘the team down’ so to speak and be able to relate to other people.

But it can definitely get out of control in many areas as well as writing. I’m sure its not a new thing that people can develop FOMO (fear of missing out) and downward spirals of negative comparisons when looking at others life, but I feel that this sort of thing has worsened since the profilication of social media. Now I can see just how many follows J.K. Rowling is, all the blogs dedicated to Game of Thrones, learn everything I wanted to know about E.L. James. In small doses this information isn’t too harmful but in mass amounts it gets hard to ignore.

The problem is that in writing in particular the race/journey is actually with ourselves. Too often us aspiring writers see getting published a bit like auditions for American Idol; and the existence of younger hotter more talented people makes us feel like our shot is getting further from a real possibly.

Truth is we’re all, all over the place. I see published writers who are miserable and full of regrets, I see fanfic authors who couldn’t be happier. Online I see people of all ages and all levels of writing with similar and different struggles, some people can’t find moments to write, some people are too full of anxiety to write anything. I guess my point is comparing yourself to anyone is fairly meaningless, BUT the more you do it the more likely you are to hurt yourself. Sure some people are highly competitive and thrive off getting ahead of others, in the end however negativity has a way of sticking worse than positives, and if writers spend too much time starting into the abyss of comparison sooner or later some younger, better whatever person is going to make you feel like arse.

Just to clarify I’m not saying to avoid other writers, or not getting to know them! What I’m saying is don’t look at others and measure them against yourself wondering whether you’re doing better or worse, the race is against yourself – to get better and better at your craft.

Be sensible with goals

Did I mentioned this one already?? Well something I’ve learn only recently about online blogging etc is anything worth saying is worth saying again, words aren’t one tricky ponies.

Anywho, when it comes to goals I’m a shocker. I don’t know if its a delusional imagination, or just a lack of predictive skills, but when it comes to setting word count or other material goals I tend to overblow it dramatically. Luckily for me I’m aware of this and know to either tone my goals down or not be too hard on myself if I don’t meet them. Of course there is slight catch-22 here where of course if you go easy on yourself for not meeting goals you might not do anything.

My advice on the subject is to set minimum and dream goals. This year I’ve finally managed to settle into a consistent writing routine (a goal which has eluded me for years) and I attribute this to having very achievable minimum goals. At first I just vowed to write anything at all towards my novel per day, then I set 500 words (which is a comparatively quick amount to produce if you’re vomit drafting) which I’m still maintaining today, allowing myself to stretch if I have the time and inclination.

At least that all works for me, we all have a different relationship with goals and progress, I recommend getting to know yourself and what works (I’ve definitely talked about this before surely?).

One final word on this topic – don’t reflect too hard on the length of time it takes to produce a novel length work. It’s hard to feel good about crawling and inching towards a big goal like a novel and you’re much better focusing on the behaviour that will lead to the eventual product not ruminating on the final goal overmuch.

Don’t seek compliments

I’m going to tell you something odd about compliments. They are only a dim reflection of your real worth, not to mention the ones you do get are probably not that genuine.

HUH? (Thomas are you saying I’m a jerk???)

Not at all! See here’s the thing. How often do you actually tell people the real genuine positive things you think about them?

And when it comes to writing how many times have you said nice things to writers because they’ve put you on the spot and/or you feel you have to say something nice to not hurt their feelings?

I could go on, I guess my key point is to realize that the quality of your work is not well communicated by the compliments you get. In fact oftentimes people will be more critical with work that is good than not.

Again: HUH??

Hear me out. When you critique a piece of work that’s a complete mess how often do you find yourself struggling to work out what even to feedback to the writer. Yet when you pick up a compelling work, the content is clear and exciting and prompts far more in depth consideration to critique a writer about.

Maybe I’m off on a tangent here. My overall point is that compliments feel really nice because we treat them as evidence of something good about ourselves, but the reality is there are probably dozens, millions of good things about you that people simply aren’t complimenting you about. So when it comes to writing don’t seek compliments, you’ll just feel disappointed when you don’t get them, and misled when you do. Not to mention other people will feel awkward AF when you shove your work under their nose and stand their like a puppy waiting for a treat.

I’m not saying that tough love critique is the only way to go, but just keep a good perspective on what compliments really are.

 

In general people seem to like this topic so it’s likely I’ll do a part 3 (using myself as a case study for the most part 😉

What ways do you keep your sanity intact as a writer, creator or artist?

What ways do you go nuts (forgive my un-PC language) on the subject?

Any thoughts on the topic in general, chuck us a comment!

 

 

On writing: the daily word counts of famous authors

Where do you fit in (I do more than 5 but less than almost all the others)

nothingintherulebook

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Scott Fitzgerald once wrote to a close family friend and aspiring young writer: “nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one”. It takes time, and effort. You have to put the hours in. You have to actually, well, write (surprising, huh?).

We’ve previously asked whether there is such a thing as the ‘perfect’ daily routine for writing. But if there is no such thing as an average writing day, is there any guidance on how much you should be at least aiming to write as you start to pen that epic poem or finally look to finish that novel you’ve been working on?

R.F. Delderfield, the English author of family sagas, wrote 33 pages each day, and he wrote until four o’clock in the afternoon. If he finished a novel at three o’clock, he rolled a clean sheet of paper into his typewriter…

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The Challenges of Being a Millennial Luddite: My Long-Winded Thoughts on Media Today

{ her notebooks & coffee }

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” 

-Albert Einstein

The-luddite-illustration

As someone who writes and reads, craves the crinkly scent of old book shops and quiet walks under autumn leaved trees, someone who was never about “going to the club” or phone apps, and who only just started semi-actively using Twitter, I sometimes feel much too old for my body, and much too old for my tender age.

Although I am a technical member of the “millennial” generation, I often scoff at their decisions, attitudes, and social media obsessions, when I myself am guilty of Facebook addiction, blogging, tumbling, and of course, the occasional Instagram. Oftentimes, I feel like an in-betweener; I am equal parts a 40-year-old cat lady speculating hesitently about the future of the techno boom and a young, up and coming, 20-something, dialed-in to today’s fast…

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On Plot Armour

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Have you heard of Plot Armour? (also called, according to Dr. Google, script immunity or a character shield) Plot armour is the idea that because a main character is the main character a reader never really has to feel truly worried about their health and wellbeing because obviously the story isn’t going to abruptly end with them getting ganked halfway through.

While it obviously tends to apply to more action adventure type genres, similar concepts can be applied for romances and general fiction too, i.e. the idea that you never have too worry too much about say the MC ending up alone, unsuccessful or whatever because the story is about them right?

But back to action, plot armour is the bain of many an aspiring writer because action a common element in our writing, and putting the MC in harms way seems the obvious choice for good action. But is it? I’m going to talk about some ways plot armour can be avoided or otherwise managed to still create a tense story.

The GRR Martin approach.

It just wouldn’t be a good discussion about the danger of main characters without mentioning this brilliant author. Martin is somewhat renowned for killing of characters, favoured and unfavoured. And while one of his claimed intents was to make a reader truly worry about their MC its important to note that this isn’t just achieved by being merciless with one’s characters. Martin’s deadly writing is about more than just being willing to slaughter characters on page, after all there are many sprawling epic fantasies that do the same (but are no-where near as popular) where Martin differs is that he puts immaculate effort into the intertwined actions of the characters in Game of Thrones so it would be inaccurate to say characters are killed randomly, while Martin subverts many genre tropes his character deaths are planned and meaningful (unlike say Lost where actors quit the show so characters had to be axed to suit).

I guess my point is that The Song of Fire and Ice series is probably an exception to the rule of plot armour only in part because of careful intricate plotting across many characters and many books, not all stories can afford to be bloated with multiple MC’s or installments so my advice is not to emulate Martin just to avoid plot armour.

So what else is there?

Well…

Death isn’t the only tension

A problem I see in many less awesome action driven plots is that danger and fights are presented simplistically as a risk to the Main Character – for example most superhero fights –  there is a reason that many action flicks include a damsel in distress, hostage situations or bombs about to explode in populated areas.

My point is that not all stakes should be danger to the MC, not only will the natural inclination of the reader be to assume that they will survive (as the MC) but also repetitive stakes get boring. Having nuanced consequences makes for good storytelling anyway. For example in many movie fight scenes element of time-limits are included in a conflict, cheesy as it often seems it successfully adds tension because plot armour doesn’t aways mean that the MC will defeat their foes quickly.

(admittedly there probably needs to be some term like “plot sword” describing the fact that we assume the plot will resolve happily)

How” can be a tenser question than “will”

This may be a good time to point out that most readers will assume a safe conclusion to the story they are reading. Obviously there are plenty of exceptions to that rule, but my point is that people enjoy stories for more than just wondering if their is going to be a happier ending. Thus when challenges face characters readers tend to think “how are they going to get past this one?” not “Will they survive”. The reason I point this out is I’ve noticed that writers can get myopic about convincing a reader that their MC might get killed, forgetting that isn’t the only reason readers find themselves on the edge of their seats.

Achieving this ‘how?’ questions is very much about setup of antagonism. As mentioned earlier many aspiring writers seems to throw enemies at their MC’s and hope that something about this fight will convince the reader to worry that their hero might get slain. I’ve noticed in popular and well written books (fantasy in particular) action and fight scenes are actually relatively scarce, or not always portrayed dramatically. This is because a good writer knows how to emphasize a powerful scene, and not seeing a character in danger every five minutes can increase the tension as the reader isn’t bombarded with constant wins from the MC.

Reasonable Doubt

I’m not trying to completely dissuade  that lethal danger is a no-go for plot tension. It can be extremely harrowing at times reading about a character being put at risk. One way I’ve noticed skilled writers avoid plot armour while there is a mortal threat is using what I’ve started calling ‘reasonable doubt’. Taken from the idea of putting reasonable doubt in jurors minds during a murder, I believe that readers can be convinced to have reasonable doubt that the main character will survive, whether its by having Iron Man getting his actual armour bashed and battered, a character doubting their own success or perhaps there being just a hint of the story still being able to continue should the MC perish often this is enough to worry a reader.

It’s a little ironic that when a reader picks a story up its implied that a main character will be the chosen one, or the hero, or the saviour, by the mere fact they are being written about, but I think its worth considering how to manipulate or manage those expectation to create a tense story.

 

What ways do you avoid/manage plot armour around your characters?