Weekly Writing Roundup: End of Aug 2022

One day I’m going to spell writing wrong and its going to be the worst.

Been busy at work this week so have been leaning more into Youtube than written resources but there area few good ones:

Personally I don’t usually plan plot twists in novels, my preference is to realize “O wow if I tweak this and that this could actually be a twist“. Like Jenna I kinda think when too much effort is on the surprise element of a twist it often comes across melodramatic.

Turns out Jenna is releasing a ‘how to’ book on writing soon which is really good news, I’ll certainly be picking it up ASAP and providing a review 😀 Haven’t read a craft book for a while so it will be good.

This video is particularly focused on flawed and traumatized characters which appear to be ‘in’ right now (which paradoxically means they’re ‘out’ publishing are usually looking ahead for the next thing, not more of what’s popular on Tiktok AFAIK).

It was good timing for me though, the current draft I’m trying to make good leeway in is about a woman fleeing to a repopulated ghost town with her children. I wanted it to have a Silent Hill type feel which is basing the supernatural elements around personal and psychological trauma of the characters, so the above video was vital in avoiding cliche.

Maybe a slight diversion on Reddit, I do like posts like this although I have to confess (am I a bad writer?) that often MCs don’t necessarily live that rent free in my head, by which I mean I’m not as in tune to their goodness vs badness as many readers seem to be. Don’t get me wrong I’m not oblivious its just I don’t reflect enough to realize stuff like ‘Oh Luke Skywalker is actually a jerk”

If this isn’t something to aspire to I don’t know what is.

hmmm
I feel like places like this are just asking for Fantasy stories to be set in them.

And finally for this week: An Article in Nature about the importance of ‘saying no’ to projects big and small.

Hope every had a good week 😀

Don’t forget to comment or link me interesting stuff to include in roundups

Weekly Writing Round-up: Aug 2022

Hmmm, I haven’t actually been absorbing too much writing related content this week, as I have actually been trying to do some of my own writing (WHAT) but lets see what has been going on about the place.

This is possibly one of the more terrifying and sad events in recent times. For anyone not sure about why Rushdie is a target, his fourth novel written in the Eighties, The Satanic Verses depicted Islam in a way that offended many, which is putting it mildly. Pure speculation on my part but the title likely irks many in other religions too.

Rushdie not only went into hiding after the novel was published, translators and others associated have been murdered, and obviously the violence continues.

I personally haven’t read that book, but I’ve read Midnight’s Children which is quite a trippy spiritual read. One day I’ll pick up Satanic Verses to see for myself.

Looks like someone else tortured themselves through Atlas Shrugged, bonus points I learn about a satirical sequel Sisyphus Shrugged, a story apparently in the same style but displaying the opposite political viewpoint. Not sure if I grin and bear it though.

Onto a more specific issue – power creep is an interesting challenge in action focussed stories of all kinds. I think the key issue is never losing sight of literary tension. Don’t pit your unkillable MC against the same sorts of challenges as the weakling did change the key tensions.

LOL to the sorry state of literary discourse online. I think the weird thing about this is that online discourse is much stranger dynamic than IRL. For example even though the review the OP refers to is a highly liked and popular review, I don’t get ANY sense whatsoever that this is a common or mainstream opinion of The Road. Almost any online discourse is highly dependent on users engagement, ‘likes’ could be agreement or just kudos for a funny review. Amazon for example you can sort reviews by star ratings suggesting your not going to let your opinion get swayed by reviews, instead your reading of reviews is swayed by your opinion.

That’s not to say online reviews are meaningless, its more that they live in a weird blurry ether that is the online community. It’s funny because I’ve felt frustrated that online discourse can be shallow and pithy, whereas this review was gatekeepery and pretentious.

It’s kinda of a pro and a con of the internet.

That’s all for this week – take care team and if ever you have any good links or such to include in these posts do let me know!

Review: Moving Pictures

Wow its actually been 3 months since my last Discworld read (At this rate I’ll be done in about 10 years!).

Moving Pictures is one the standalone Discworld novels, although has a fair few familiar Ankh Morpork characters, I and I think, unless I’ve got this wrong introduces a couple of recurring wizards who remain in place for the rest of the series (Ridickully or however you spell it and Ponder Stibbons).

MP is possibly one of Pratchett’s more pointed satires where he more squarely takes aim at Hollywood – God only knows what this book would be like in modern times but I suspect there would be a lot more skewering going on, although something to always keep in mind is that Pratchett was masterful at satire without actually targeting anyone hurtfully so he would have found a way to make us laugh.

Sorry onto the actual book, not my weird daydreams. MP is also a little different from other Discworlds its a bit more traditional in plot structure with a straight MC, inciting incidents and epic battles towards the end. It also introduces the best character ever: Gaspode! I can’t believe I forgot about him until rereading!

Overall MP feels like the beginning of the more familiar Discworld novels, packed with crazy subplots, multiple characters and unexpected turns of Discworldly magic. While its not my favourite story its a fun romp.

Reaper Man is next, another one that I can’t remember much of which is actually a bonus on this journey!

Weekly Writing Round-up: Aug 2022

I already tweeted this once – but funny enough to share again

Feeling pretty average this weekend (probably not the Vid-19) so going to be of a lazy weekly post, just a few random explorations.

This post really hit home for me – up until recently long running Epic Fantasy has probably been my favourite genre. I think its the added sense of ‘Epic’ that that series gives. But its hard to deny the risk, it’s not just unfinished series but its hard to keep a series readable over long periods. Stakes risk rising to ridiculous levels OR stagnate and become boring. Something I’ve noticed as a common pattern is that Epic Fantasy almost always has multiple characters and starts to follow a pattern of one major development for each character per book, rather than having a character arc per se. I don’t think its a matter of quantity but quality, and perhaps as stories get very big you naturally end up with less eventful individual arcs.

But in terms of long running fantasy series a couple stand out:

A Song of Fire and Ice

It would be hard to discuss this topic without a mention of this series. Funny to think in just a few more years this series may become old news and kids will be talking about that ‘old show’ that nerds are still upset about.

For anyone who somehow does know the situation GRR Martin published Game of Thrones way back in the dark ages of 1996 (yes almost 30 years ago not 10-20) and created a much beloved series which skyrocketed into mainstream popularity when a TV series was produced in 2011 ( a much more tasteful 10 years ago). If my memory serves that was about the same time that the latest book in the series was published #5 Dance of Dragons. The series was expected to have two more books within its series.

So the first controversy was realized that at a yearly schedule with approx. 1 season per book the TV show was quickly going to overtake the books. I think more many this was more of an awkward but not unwelcome scenario, where basically the book readers would abruptly lose their superiority, but ultimately the show was very awesome so no-one worried too much.

The real issue began when, well things did not go well within the last few seasons of the show. I don’t really want to rehash the details here – its actually somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and while I usually try not to join in on hate-trains the reality is Game of Thrones the show went from being a show so popular that workplace lunchrooms became unbearable for non-fans during seasons showing, to being so bad that people basically don’t talk about it, no anniversaries, no memes, only endless youtube essays on why the series failed.

Anyway apologies for the longish waffle, the point is this all comes back to the awkward and unique position of GRR Martin finishing the book versions of the series. I don’t think there is a single other creative series in the same position and to be honest I feel for Martin a bit as he is not oblivious to the show (he worked closely on it as well), he is apparently still working hard on book 6 however rumours abound of him perhaps losing a bit of passion for it due to the reactions. And to be honest surely there won’t be a less scrutinized book ever when it finally gets published.

But if we put aside the wider context, A Song… is also a very challenging series to write and highlights something to be considered in Epic Fantasy series – typically long series expand and contract in scope, what I’ve noticed in 1st books usually have 1-2 main characters and a tight story, whereas the next couple of books introduce more characters and settings. What good series typically do is resolve some plotlines and contract the story a bit before the final book, as it become impossible to wrap the whole thing up neatly. That’s where GRR Martin has a challenge, his series famously is incredibly expansive, despite the fact Martin is well known for not shying away from slaughtering his characters, he still manages to keep expanding the cast and their respective tensions.

So I for one do hope Winds of Winter gets published soonish, but I honestly have no idea how in the contact of a complex story and a backdrop of the TV series its going to go.

The King Killer Chronicle

This is a pretty popular series within Fantasy circles but I’m not sure if its as widely known as GoT. What’s interesting about this series is a very devoted by also divided fanbase. To try and quickly summarize the books are largely narrated by the MC Kvothe (pronounced like Quoth the Raven) detailing his young life and quest for revenge against the creatures that killed his family. The first book was published in 2007, and the second 2011 which seems respectable, however the third is still unannounced, and the rumours of never finishing are starting to swirl.

I’m not sure if there is as much controversy to discuss with this one but I suspect a similar expanding story problem (light spoilers head) while the King Killer Chronicle only focusses on one character, the two time frames and multiple plot threads, I think lead to a challenge to tie up. The tricky thing in this tale is that not enough has happened in the first two books. Don’t get me wrong, lots happens in each book, but not enough to really even make sense of how the story might resolve.

That problem sounds a bit vague, so to explain – in the present we have our MC hiding out in secret but telling his ‘story’ which takes up the most of the page-time of the book. Probably the most major tension of the story is as I mentioned Kvothe’s family being murdered and Kvothe desiring revenge. However we also get hints of other important threads e.g. the very name of the series. It’s heavily implied that Kvothe has done his King Killing by the time of the ‘present’ hence the hiding out. But its not 100% clear, and its also seems like maybe the conclusion on the whole story will be in the ‘present’ but that Kvothe’s backstory is nowhere near the ‘present’ after two books.

Finally something I haven’t mentioned is that real life often hits authors too. One series by JV Jones that I would like to read the finale of, has been delayed more due to various hardships of the author over the past few years which unfortunately is part of the risk of embarking over multi-year journeys.

Enough of that topic!

In all honesty I haven’t read the full article because my eyes start to hurt if I screen too long (which is a pain because screening is all I’m up for while sniffly) But I love this!

Closer look is a pretty interesting content creator on writing – usually focussed more on TV and Movies, however in this heartfelt video he explains how having a rigid view of writing got a bit broken when he commented on Dune.

It’s a really tricky topic, because as a content creator he is probably going to be much more popular dealing in absolutes. Even though its correct, Youtube videos that say things like “well writing rules are more like guidelines” aren’t actually that interesting to watch, whereas people that say “Last of Us 2 is Bad and Wrong and Here’s Why” are more interesting.

Hopefully Closer Look moves on to more intriguing videos (rather than despairing) on the topic I find Vonnegut’s theory useful: (especially Which Way is Up?)

That’s the Week! Take care team.

Off-Topic: The Fault in Our Tramlines

Those that know me know I love moral conundrums – including the seminal ‘trolley problem’ since I’ home from work sick and moping I thought I’d riff on some the limitation of the scenario and present my thesis on why I’m the perfect moral person (ok just the first topic.)

Very quickly just on the odd chance that anyone is unaware: the Trolley Problem is a simply moral question of whether or not you would switch a runaway trolley FROM a track hitting 5 people TO a track with 1 person or leave it on its original course.

Just who are you anyway?

My first flaw with the TP is that we don’t really have any backstory to our presence next to the line switch. I don’t mean like I need a good Act One to get emotionally involved in the story! Rather than in real life we usually exist in spaces with some sort of mandate, purpose, or role to play. We don’t usually find ourselves in otherwise neutral choice conditions where we have to make a decision like this.

For example perhaps the character on the trolleys is a safety observer whose job it is to adjust the train tracks to minimize harm to others… Now just to be clear I’m not saying that we should make moral choices if its in our job descriptions. It’s a bit clearer if we consider the scenario of a random boy drowning in a body of water – if we’re a lifeguard on duty then I think the answer is YES.

Also I’m not saying that we should pass our moral choices onto higher order mandates or rules. More that as we navigate the world we usually have a variety of roles and rules and assumptions about what we do. These may not actually specify your moral actions but they certain flavour your choices especially in scenarios where you have made a commitment towards a certain action.

Through a Scanner Foggily

One of my favourite weird variations of the TP is ‘you’ve not worn your glasses so you can’t make out what is going on.’ In its own weird way the variation actually presents a more realistic presentation of moral conundrums. Rarely in life are we presented with choices where we can see the exact numerical outcome, especially when you factor time into the equation.

It’s bit of a blow against consequentialism and utilitarianism (man that’s hard to spell) because for the vast majority of our choices we don’t see the outcome immediately, sometime not at all, and sometimes are unable to trace which choices lead to which outcomes (e.g. parenting choices spring to mind.)

The Binary Banana

As a final point the TP is decidedly unrealistic in its on/off switch. In reality we don’t actually get ‘choices’ that much, instead every day is filled with immeasurable actions with immeasurable options. In some respects our cognitive biases exist to stop us going mad from free-will – by which I mean we tend to limit our decisions to familiar routines and socially acceptable behaviours, I’m sure there is a chance I could make it big on Tik-Tok inventing conspiracy theories presented with 1920s dance moves but I’m just concentrated on myself right now.

Anyway the point is we make our choices across infinite options in real time. It’s unusual to ever actually have binary conditions, so rare to discuss the morality based of it is kinda like observing social media to try and understand normal human beings…

In Conclusion The Best Result to the Search ‘the silliest trolley problem variation’

THE BOWLING PINS
Instead of lying across the tracks, the five bound people are standing, arranged like bowling pins. While still horrific, you have to admit that this is a little funny—you can’t help but hear that “bowling-ball-knocks-pins-over” sound effect in your head. “

Review: THE SANDMAN

Anyone following my blog will know that I’ve been anticipating this for some time – for me Sandman sits in the perfect mix of nostalgia, genuinely great storytelling, and weirdness.

I’m not sure if anyone felt the same but whenever adaptions for favourite works happen I get pretty nervous its going to be wrecked (next up Lord of the Rings) but probably the most important thing to begin with is that the new Series, is an AMAZING ADAPTATION.

My two main concerns for a Sandman screenplay is the either is would faithfully adapted but either look like crap or not successfully pull off the esoteric style OR be so heavily tweaked that it wouldn’t be very similar.

Shouldn’t have worried, somehow the creators have remained incredibly faithful to the original story, to the point where I struggled to notice differences, whether omissions or additions. There where a few aesthetic tweaks (such as having Dr Destiny in pyjamas rather then being a kind of deformed naked zombie/thing). There were also a few rearrangements of individual stories which worked really well, and a few adjustments to modernize which worked well.

SPOILER TERRITORY FOR BOTH SCREEN AND PAPER SERIES

It was interesting to me that the creators decided to put both Vol 1. and 2. into the first series. I assumed that each volume would map with a season, with possibly some of the more random stories (such as Tales at the End of the World) merged into other seasons. It worked pretty well for the series to be honest, Vol 1. is a good story on its own, but is more of a traditional hero journey/fetch quest which just touches on the themes of the whole story, whereas Vol 2. introduces the more eccentric tales and longer term themes.

It will be very interesting to see how later seasons go. One possible challenge is that many tales within Sandman comics don’t actually feature much Sandman, but rather interlinked characters – while its a fun concept, and Gaiman pulls it off well, I don’t know if a TV series would survive that way (although based from seasons 1 they did well speeding up the pace of random characters and making the interlinking a bit more obvious)

What I think secretly I liked most is that Sandman himself’s character development is a bit more overt and obvious, the reason I like this is that after reading the intricate graphic novel its cathartic to have a more on the nose show!

I’m really looking forward to future seasons of this show – in particularly further involvement of the rest of the Endless. My favourite part of the graphic novels was any part involving the Family and I’m extremely keen to see what they do with Destiny.

On a final note I might mention the casting of Sandman – I think they did great! I honestly think of Sandman as ever changing, sometimes being older, sometimes more childlike. But something about Tom Sturridge works really well, he seems simultaneously capture the authority and childishness of the character.

What were other’s thoughts on the show?

Weekly Writing Roundup: Aug 2022

Something I enjoy about these posts is looking back on my ‘saved’ posts and re-enjoying them!

LINK

The post above is a common challenge (so much so I had to double check if I’d posted about it before Sort of)

It’s totally understandable to feel unmotivated by catching an idea similar to yours, partly its the shock that you aren’t as original and unique as you thought you were, but also the worry that your own work won’t live up to the standards of similar works.

Like many things writing I think its useful to confront with a mix of arrogance and humility. Arrogance that even though ideas are a ‘dime a dozen’ (and cliche’s are hard to avoid) your work will still be worth enjoying, and humility that the goal of good writing/art isn’t to be so unique but rather to just authentically contribute.

That said a very painful part of writing in particular is being aware of your genre, and being fairly up to speed with current fads, tropes and ‘market bubbles.’ I’m not actually sure what’s “in” right now, but generally you want to time your Harry Potter clone to maximize marketability etc etc. I say this can be painful because it usually involves keeping an eye on what’s being published in your genre which can turn a passionate hobby into a dry and exhausting day-job.

tl;dr – don’t panic about originality but don’t be oblivious either.

This is a very interesting one – Also posted about before – and like the originality issues kind of a ‘rite of passage’ for new writers. I should probably do a whole 2nd post about the topic because its kind of fun to dissect and poke friendly fun at ourselves around this subject. But its honestly very difficult. Often new (and let’s face it old) writers haven’t actually reflected much on feedback and critique and its cringingly (wow kinda surprised that’s a real word) bad when things backfire. In the meantime here are some key points I try to follow.

  • Feedback is a massive effort on behalf of the feedbacker (not a word) respect it as such.
  • I can think of literally no basically no situation (for an amateur) where you should rebut feedback. If you don’t agree, thank the person and politely move on
  • Feedback is for the story on the page, NOT the one in your head OR of you personally

In a similar vein another good one from Jenna Moreci – whom I should really read a book of sometime:

In publishing news it looks like ‘The Big Five’ might become the big ‘four.’

That’s probably enough for the week that was – I need to get back into Sandman! So far sooo good.

On Writing: Touching on Dialogue

You either Speak as a Tree

I stumbled across an r/writing post that was worth linking to all on its own blog post rather than just a weekly list

Comprehensive Guide to Writing Dialogue

I’m not going to do injustice to the post by trying to summarize it here – but its a very interesting take, dividing dialogue into 4 categories:

  • Realistic
  • Perfect
  • Heightened and
  • Snap

to describe the various ways dialogue can be used, and can be misused by combining them awkwardly.

My own thoughts

Dialogue is a very interesting subject firstly because its one of the few techniques that actually carries between screenwriting and prose almost the same, however there are some important twists. Television dialogue obviously has visual cues from the actor and setting to carry meanings whereas prose dialogue needs to be supported by written words.

It’s one area where it can be very useful to study film to better dialogue but not to get too complacent thinking about the differences in medium.

The second interesting thing about dialogue is actually a bit of a head scratcher:

Dialogue is one of the only (and the only common) way that action is directly taken from your story. That is that stories are composed of various descriptions, metaphors, action sequences, narration and summary. Dialogue is a direct transcription of character’s words and as such has some special properties.

(just for fun the only other direct examples like dialogue are onomatopoeia ‘for literary effect’ such as BOOM!)

I find a useful way to understand dialogue is to consider its effects.

Because dialogue comes direct from characters its a very grounding technique. It forces the imagination of the reader directly to the speech of characters at hand. Compared to other literary techniques dialogue leaves the least to the imagination.

In that vein dialogue can be very useful for marking key points during a scene, novels often have a lot of narrative summary, and scene setting so dialogue is a highly effective way of pulling the reader into immediate events.

Similarly dialogue tends to increase pacing, in part this is due to practical properties of dialogue such as usually being shorter sentences and more clipped than general prose. Also because the natural (or rather imitations of natural) rhythms of speech and conversations.

In terms of story Dialogue is typically more direct and thusly fast paced.

So dialogue can be useful in grounding a scene and manipulating pace what else?

Characterisation and Conflict

Probably the most common uses that are so intuitive that the tendency is to naturally just do this, is dialogue as a tool to reveal character and conflicts between. Exploring this element is probably a whole book to itself, but the interesting challenge is to use dialogue in a way which intrigues and is enjoyable for the reader while fitting the book (which brings us back to the linked post).

The final challenge of dialogue is to ensure a good balance with other elements of narration. Too much dialogue can start to feel little ‘talking heads’ but stories with little dialogue can feel very lofty and out of touch. Probably my last thought is that like fight scenes dialogue shouldn’t be used simply because characters are in the same scene together and just interacting, it should have purpose and a use.

To conclude – dialogue is interesting! I confess I’ve never dived deep into whole books devoted to the topic so maybe I should!

What are your thoughts on dialogue, is it easy? Difficult? Weird?

Any interesting insights?

On Writing: Examining My Destructive Writing Habits

Alrighty – watching this vid as I write, let’s do some reflecting…

Not Letting Others Read Your Writing

Hmmm interesting, I don’t really mind this. (Am I the Narcissist?). I think doing a lot of music in my younger years helped with this – I don’t technically share a lot of writing, but its more because no-one has asked for it! Thankfully I’m aware that my writing can be flawed without me being flawed and/or even great writing won’t be for everyone.

Holding Unrealistic Expectations

Well, damn. Went right from confident to being an absolute problem of mine. I don’t really focus on external goals like best-seller lists etc, BUUUUT I am very very bad at imagining a lofty goal around word-counts and or amount of material I should be doing. Exactly as our expert says it undermines real progress daydreaming about hypergoals.

Doubting Your Abilities

I don’t so much doubt my writing abilities – more my short term memory and ability to resist procrastination abilities.

Being Impatient

Feel like this links into expectation – really good points from Alyssa. Strangely I feel I’m OK with the patience part, uh but since I procrastinate maybe I actually need to be less patient? LOL

Distancing Yourself (from others)

This is an interesting one – since most of my writing interactions are online I don’t think I’m too guilty of distancing myself. Although I have noticed by habits come and go over time. For example I used to be every day engaged with r/writing on Reddit, but the past few years I’ve just visited rarely and this year again starting to stop off. Similar habits with Twitter, some years I’ll be frequently liking and commenting and chatting with people some times less so.

Despite being fairly succinct and straightforward I think this video is really sensible – especially if someone is struggling in their head a wee bit.

Thoughts – how did you do on the destructive habits?

Do you have any other habits you’re comfy mentioning?

Any pro tips to avoid habits?