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!

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.

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?

Weekly Writing Roundup (End of July 2022)

I have spent FAR too much time this week reading AITA and BestofRedditorUpdate posts.

The funniest/light heartediest is by far (whoa whole thing cut and pasted – bonus points for the ‘can’t waits’ at the end)

Speaking of awesome – Sandman is out this week, I’ve been waiting for this for what seems ‘Endless’ (get it?). Although with a definite sense of anxiety. I’ve actually become very open minded with adaptions lately (I even watched a few episodes of The Watch without barfing) but I feel like Gaiman’s Sandman does not deserve a bad TV show, and being somewhat more niche I don’t think its going to get 20 reboots every decade.

Anyways point is – from the trailer the show looks absolutely killer, and I’m excited. I will of course review on here so if you’re not interested this is fair warning.

On that note – what you do you think is worse, a bad adaptation OR a good series going bad?

In more writerly focussed resources I found Alyssa Matestic’s channel, above you can see a review of the Querying Trench right now. To be honest I haven’t thought about querying for years or really tried too hard to keep tabs on publishing as my main focus is having some material worth publishing before I worry about how to go about it.

It’s kinda funny, I don’t know if other writers have gone through the same experience, but when I first started writing novels in the dark nostalgic ages of the late 00s I of course believed that my first manuscript was going to sell and be the best and most especially lead me to not needing to work fulltime anymore. So I had been all over Query Shark and other such sites and learnt quite a bit about query letters. Absolutely still useful information to have stored away but not something I’ve been too worried about most of the time.

Speaking of, feels like #pitchmad literally came and went without me ever actually taking a crack at the slightly alternative pathway to traditional publishing. Hmmm wonder what’s next PitchTok? (sounds potentially problematic)

Once again we have an r/writing poster who wants to write but doesn’t like reading, post kinda blew up a bit though. Funnily what was a bit different about this OP is they genuinely liked writing and simply also genuinely didn’t enjoy reading, they were perfectly open to studying texts and learning they just didn’t have a general enjoyment. This is a bit different to the stunted individuals who want to know how to git gud at writing without having to read.

Over to r/books an interesting thread on books at people enjoyed at first but came to loathe later on. I have to confess I haven’t really had this experience with books so much, but it’s definitely something I get with movies quite often. My goto example is the Original Suicide Squad movie, at the time I enjoyed watching the movie and thought it had some pretty funny gags “ya ruining date-night bats”. It was only every-single-time I gave the movie even an once of reflection I’d be like ‘wait a minute the whole purpose of the squad was senseless’ ‘what did croc actually contribute under-water’ ‘Why is Harley Quinn so pro-child murder?”

Quest for Glory Book

So in case you’re not aware of my nostalgia tripping for Sierra games and most especially Quest For Glory, something amazing is brewing in this area where the Coles and helpers are putting together a book about the original games and will be looking at crowdfunding publication.

It’s pretty high on my list of things to look forward to 😀

Weekly Writing Round-up (July 2022)

Funny how quickly a weekly commitment comes around

How’s everyone’s side hustles going?
https://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/w4d7ud/anyone_feel_like_death_of_the_author_has_become/

I didn’t have much to add to this commentary – just that the title made me laugh a lot. I have Posted on the topic before, but the short version is that I do think works can take on a life of their own, but author’s perspective is an interesting and valid interpretation to consider. After all you don’t want to end up being someone who misunderstands Rage Against the Machine:

Link

This quietly understated issue – while I’ve often said that not all plot holes are created equal there is an ironic truth to the fact that mo’ story you get done the mo’ problems or potential problems arise. It’s usually more of an editing problem (which for me means a never actually fix problem).

Just a timely reminder to anyone reading this that there are any number of writerly scams out there. “Publishers” that defer all costs to the author OR ask authors for payments are one of them. Unfortunately its probably quite a lucrative market, in that there are many young (in age and author years) folk out there who may not have simply heard of the scam and/or many an author just excited to get a bite from a publisher and figure that putting their own cash forward is just a worthwhile.

For anyone wondering how the scam works – basically in genuine traditional publishing a Publisher will purchase your book, and cover all costs of distributing the thing in the hopes of making some money off of your work. The publisher may do more or less of each element depending on what kind of deal etc and the most they’ll expect of the author is to do some promoting (of your own work mind) which is totally reasonable.

Self-publishing is basically taking on all costs and work yourself.

Scam Publishing, often called “Vanity Publishing” and in the case above “Author-Invested” basically tricks authors into thinking that the publisher will do all the things of a typical publisher but basically charge the author for them. What they really do is just provide a service to do the mechanical part of printing and binding your book, and usually just dump however many you paid for on the author. This is why they’re called “Vanity” because you can legitimately use them if you literally just want some physical copies of your book and you can wave them at friends (that said I’m not sure I’d trust them even do to that).

The real trick though is making it seem like traditional publishes, only provides costs for editors and printing presses, etc. When in fact the real merit of traditional publishes is distribution, an ongoing royalties relationship and invaluable contacts. Even if you thought it was worth paying various costs yourself to get a book in hand, you almost definitely could just look at those services yourself for less cost and probably less head and heartache.

It’s a bit like fraud education courses that just assign reading material from legit courses. You might be fooled into thinking they are helping by directing you to said sources, but the cost of using them is way higher than just putting some effort into finding those sources yourself.

What is the piece of writing advice that has helped you most, personally?

Not going to lie – don’t have any comments for this – just one of those generally helpful threads – more focussed on good writing habits (which I probably do need to pay attention to).

Turning to a Fantasy Specific Post:

Link

This is such an interesting topic – a lot of people worry about specific rules, when really the challenge is understanding your own work and how it all fits together. For example, in Lord of the Rings there is a lot of exposition about the One Ring, and the odd explanation about magic, and this very much fits with the style of the book(s). Other stories have slow discovery phases, and as the OP mentions they want to just explain briefly how things work.

All of these things can work, but basically you just don’t want to clash, a fast paced exciting action heavy fantasy story is probably not going to do well with Gandalf taking up half a chapter explaining the history of Middle-Earth, but that might be the perfect story to have some sort of short exposition.

My thoughts are to always keep the interaction of character and reader in mind, you don’t want to upset either and what will keep the story running as planned.

Finally something Deep and Meaningful

To be honest as a psychologist and writer I’d probably say “ackshully neither really”

Its an interesting post – writers are kinda tasked with revealing something significant about human nature, but to their advantage they don’t have any lousy restrictions like ethics, peer-review, or scientific consensus to deal with. And there is a kind of survivor bias with literature – in the sense that if books get human nature wrong no-one will probably mind if they pen a great story nonetheless and/or if what the book is saying is liked by people as deep and meaningful.

Whereas psychologists don’t necessarily have a deep understanding of human nature, what we have is a scientific perspective, which is really only as deep as the evidence allows, while the stereotype is a (coke-fused) grey-haired shaman sitting next to a couch who knows all about what it means to be human, the reality is more like a person who knows this and that and usually more about what isn’t legit in psychology.

Anyway my practise of drawing clients with my psychology registration but just reading them my own writing has not taken off so I guess the discussion continues.

That is the week that was – take care team and link me into any great sources for next round-up!

Weekly Writing Round-up

This week NZ has been cold AF – but hope people everywhere around the world are taking care:

I assume they mean of the book

Fairly quiet this week, but a few topics of interest:

LINK

The above post about evil authors. I think I’ve discussed this on the blog before but its always a topic worth updating. Generally speaking I don’t research authors much, and most of the time I’m probably going to be oblivious to personal controversy. If I do become aware of something for me the main judgement is just how bad is it – would addressing it in a review suffice or am I literally supporting a Nazi if I buy the book?

The linked post is more about support through purchase but the other common question is whether is OK to simply like or enjoy a book from an evil author. My stance on this is that artwork can be separated from artist. Probably the worst offender in my liked works is I LOVE HP Lovecraft’s works but MY GOSH the man was despicably racist.

Aren’t Writers Group a Contradiction

This is a familiar topic and one that I always feel the need to comment on. OP asks aren’t writer’s groups going to be a hot-bed of plagiarism??

To be fair I think in 2022 where online writing is much more prolific and Fanfiction (IMHO) has grown from a cringey niche to a valid and widely enjoyed genre, the internet is a risky place for copying especially in freely posted and shared forums. The most embarrassing scenario (wish I saved the link) was a poster saying they’d been outright plagiarized and it looked like they even had proof…

Until it became apparent they’d posted their word on Wattpad and well within Terms of Service another website had posted their work fully accredited to the original author.

Back to the original post, typically people are going to groups to get their ego’s stroked for their own ideas not steal others, and I think most writers at this point know that ideas are not the valuable part of stories, nonetheless the fear persists.

Does Flowery Prose Make Better Writing

Last one from Reddit, always asking the real questions. Flowery Prose is a funny one because most advice givers will suggest not to go there, but this is usually in the interests of getting a newbie author’s book over the line with an agent and publisher and erring on the side of plain-speak prose.

Flowery prose is I guess also inherently more risky in the same way elaborate gymnastic routines are – there is the potential for more points, but also more points to mess up.

Fight Scene Tropes

Over on youtube we have Jenna Moreci with a really funny takedown of Fight Scene Tropes. Jenna is a published author with a tonne of writing resources which are both hilarious and educative. I totally agreed with #1 which (spoiler alert) is Heroes deciding that not killing the villain is ‘good’ – just don’t worry about the 6,000 henchmen who where slaughtered on the way. It’s about the Journey.

This Letter from Tolkien on LitHub

Turns out we’ve been saying his name wrong its Toll-Kien. But also of interest talking about inspirations for Middle-Earth and his quote “there is no invention in the void”

Apparently Medium is ‘Over’

I don’t really keep up enough to have much of an opinion, I usually read the odd article on Medium and apparently its various changes over the years have kept professional content creators up a night. To be Honest its a shame to see the internet continue its trend towards the ‘Big’ Social Medias but I’m not really sure what is/could be done.

That’s my round up for this week.

Any topics you want me to blog about?

Any book/movie/show/doco recommendations?

Kia Ora

On Writing: The Rule of Threes

“Little Rabbit Foo Foo, I’ll give you Three Chances to Change” (Little Rabbit Foo Foo)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Basic_Plots#The_Rule_of_Three

I’ve been thinking about this literary device/trend/trope/rule/archetype since reading Booker’s Seven Basic Plots – because it intrigues me how this is in no way really a ‘rule’ and yet seems to pop up everywhere despite that.

Three is after all:

  • The most unstable, stable shape (I honestly can’t work out how to explain this, you’ll probably either get what I mean or just move on from my crazy ramblings)
  • The number required for a LURVE triangle
  • Minimum number of things needed to form a pattern
  • Number of statements needed to form an argument
  • Not necessarily the only, but a very easy number to instantly count, and maintain in our short term memory
  • A very tidy number to use for plot-points, the literal goldilocks of numbers

Rather than get too deep into any form of archetypal metaspiritual stuff, I thought I would just expand on some of the above points:

Stability and Instability

OK so what I meant by this point is that three makes an ideal number of moving parts to create stability and instability in your story. For example, three countries at peace/war creates an ideal setup where several different dynamic scenarios can be played out, all 3 at war, 2 allied against 1, shifting alliances, tenuous peace between all. It’s not so much that you couldn’t have more countries and indeed many stories do have more factions in a conflict, its just that 3 countries is very dynamic balance. 2 v 2 is kinda boring and evenly matched, and so on.

That’s a very specific example, you can also have dynamics between characters (see next point) different institutions, different goals of the character (think of an MC having to balance family, work, and war).

The main point which is very hard to explain because its very intuitive, is that the dynamics of three moving parts has the potential of stability, but is prone towards instability all while being not overwhelming the working memory.

Love Triangles

There probably isn’t too much to say here, I know some people find this trope cliché to the point of cringe, but the reality is the Rule of Threes very much backs up love triangles. Similar to the above thesis a love triangle works as a story trope because it defies easy resolution. I’ve read a couple of stories with other love shapes (gross) and unfortunately it tends to suck (grosser) the tension out of the situation because there is always a sense that things are going to work out.

Just a quick side note I’m not saying that stories where everyone gets matched up is bad, its just when a love triangle is a main plot tension, easy matching up is boring.

Patterns

This is an interesting one – scientifically a little dubious (need more data) the human brain is quite happy to see patterns and generally three data points is all that is needed. By pattern I meant things like: the protagonist is a jerk, or the villain is strongest in the land, or the love interest actually doesn’t like the MC whatsoever. Booker, in Seven Basic Plots, points out that in this use of ‘threes’ its actually a ‘four’ situation except the ‘fourth’ is the resolution to some story tension.

Now this isn’t saying that you need to do something three times to establish a plot point, rather its saying that three is a good number to use to establish your elements. whether its how many times the MC asks the love-interest out, attempts to defeat the Dark Lord, whatever.

Arguments?

Probably in terms of stories we’re talking about typical Three Act structures. Not much to say on this one just that sometimes stories can be broken down into premises such as: IF this (character), AND this (faces this tension), THEN this (resolution).

Three and only Three?

Really important that the ‘Rule’ of Threes really is not a rule at all, but more a very interesting literally quirk that probably has as much to do with our psychology of absorbing stories than a strong writing argument. Nonetheless I think its a really useful thing to consider especially when outlining and planning a story.