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Thread: Writing Stories

  1. #1

    Default Writing Stories

    Whether it is going to be set of short stories, a (screen) play, or a novel, I don't know. But I've decided I am going to begin story writing for therapeutic reasons.

    Still, I like all my work to be reasonable good, and it has been 11 years since I had a creative writing class, and I know we have a lot of writers on the forum.

    So I have a bunch of questions:

    Regarding Theme
    Without something to say, there isn't much point in saying it. But, as a consumer of fiction I have always been put-off by very "preachy" stories. (Devil's Advocate, the Matrix sequels, etc).

    How do you go about selecting a theme?
    How does it effect your story goal?
    How do you weave it in without clubbing your audience with it?

    Regarding Story Goals

    What exactly is a story goal? I kind of think of it as what the main characters try to accomplish through out the story--the thing tgat when accomplished finishes the story.

    How do you select a story goal?
    How do you relate it to you theme?
    How does it drive your plot?

    Regarding Plot
    How do you weave an interesting story?
    How do you avoid "plot devices" and make the events natural to the characters and setting?

    Regarding Characters
    How do you make interesting hcaracters that "live?"
    Can you use Myers-Briggs, or Enneagram, or other psychology?
    How do you chose how they think, feel, talk, dress, move, etc.?

    Regarding Setting
    How do you bring a place alive?
    How do you make it a place natural for the characters to meet, and for the plot to happen?

    Regarding Style
    What style make a good read?

    I persoally prefer heavy on dialogue and events, and decription to be weaved in instead having long sections of it.

    Opinions on what styles are good to read?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #2

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    Really? Nobody wants to answer?

    I was certain, we had at least a few story writers on the board.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  3. #3
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    The problem here is that there's no right answer to your questions. Different writers/readers have different preferences, and different abilities. We'd probably have to see some of your writing in order to try and help you with this at all, and even then, there are no guarantees.

    The only way to choose most of the things you described above is to just go with your hunches. The fact that you delineated all those categories means you already sort of know what you're doing on a technical level. The problem is that the secret of writing (except technical writing) is passion. Even as an INFJ, I apparently don't have enough passion to be a good writer. I'm too "clinical" according to the writers I know (even though they think I'm sensitive in other ways). INFPs and INTJs usually manage to pull it off, though. Ti, mathematics, and circuit design might have ruined you for every kind of writing except technical writing, in other words (although I can't be sure of that).

    Also, there are many forums on the internet that have writers on them. You'd probably get more appropriate help from them than from a ragtag board of people who don't know anything about it. Think about it... you'd go to a technical forum if you wanted to figure out something about working with a computer, right?

  4. #4

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    yeah. You're right about the forum not being necessarily this best place to find ideas regarding writing.

    I hope you are wrong about Ti and writing however. I think Aurhtur Miller was a Ti Dom, as well as Mark Twain (both ISTPs though, I think). I think Hemingway was an ESTP.

    Sratre was a scientist, and Scott Adams an engineer, so a wide range of writers with technical backgrounds too.

    I posted to the site you mentioned (typos and all).

    Introduction and Questions - Absolute Write Water Cooler

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  5. #5
    Senior Member Accept's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athenian200 View Post
    The problem here is that there's no right answer to your questions. Different writers/readers have different preferences, and different abilities. We'd probably have to see some of your writing in order to try and help you with this at all, and even then, there are no guarantees.
    That was half the reason I didn't respond to this earlier. The other reason had to do with the number of questions, which are covered in John Gardner's "On Becoming a Novelist." As he sometimes admits, there are no rules that must be followed in writing good fiction, but the writer should know which rule is being broken, and why (he sometimes ignored his own guidelines in his novels.)

    As Gardner and other writers seem to agree, theme and style are two of the things a beginning writer shouldn't worry about in the beginning. Theme can be difficult to establish, and many stories never seem to get around to establishing an overall theme. Style can be borrowed from others, but it is another variable based on what the reader enjoys (people always tell me Dickens was a master writer, but I've always disliked his style.) So you write for your own enjoyment, and perhaps ask for advice when you're in doubt.

    For plot and character it seems you really need to consider who the potential reader will be, remembering that if you have no interest in the protagonist, it's unlikely anyone else will.

    It's often said you should write what you know, and some take that to be a limiting factor on what they can write. Maybe it should be to write what you can envision (otherwise there would be no science fiction.)

    I do know you can use MBTI types, although allowing your characters to guide you, it's likely they will take on a type. Gardner didn't believe in astrology, but suggested that it could be used as a rough guide to the personality of a character; an interesting study of those subtler aspects of what motivates. I believe the risk in using MBTI would be in stereotyping your characters into type, where you no longer allow them the opportunity to break free of the restrictions it places on them.

    I think your characters will take over the thinking and feeling. If they don't, you may not be paying attention to their needs. How they talk, dress, move and all the outer displays of personality, you should probably look to everyday people for ideas, considering whether their professions require a certain type of clothing, how it might effect their free time choices (a suit and tie worker might choose jeans and t-shirts away from work, but the casual dress worker rarely chooses to go home to change into a suit and tie.)

    Your characters can meet anywhere, although if one is sitting at home, you will need a reason for a stranger to come to the door. Anything works, as long as it stays in the plausible fiction you're creating. Once you take us from the reality we know, you do have to stay with the reality you establish, otherwise we have to backtrack to find out if we misunderstood the earlier references.

    Plot devices aren't all bad, but it's always enjoyable to find a writer who can find interesting alternatives in dealing with them. Where they can be forgiven is when they are common experiences that are part of living (birth, death, courtship, marriage, etc.) It's definitely something romance scriptwriters are always finding new ways to refresh the commonplace.

    I've heard that one thing we, as readers, do have a right to expect, is that the protagonist learns or discovers something by the end of the story. It will likely change them, but if not, we should understand why. Jane Austen wrote really long stories of courtship, but seemed to lose interest in her characters once they realized, and accepted the truth (usually long after the reader knew.)

    Another thing Gardner warned about, and I've seen in the works of young, or beginning writers, is the assumption the writer knows something no one else knows. Strangely it can still work in the youth market, but generally it's better to assume your reader has at least a passing awareness of your insights (which helps avoid the urge to preach to them.) Only if you can put a fresh perspective, or an interesting twist on an idea is it worth pursuing in your fiction.

    But, as you are writing for yourself (a great start), and we have no sample of what, or how you write, it's probably best to go with the rule that there are no rules. Which means I've just found a third reason not to respond to this thread, but since it's already done, submit reply seems painless enough.

  6. #6
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    Umm, one question is why are you writing for therapeutic reasons? Writing is one of the least therapeutic things you can do... If you want something therapeutic, you might be better off biking or playing videogames or crocheting.

    Anyway, regarding your questions:

    In most cases your theme will find you, not the other way around. If you start with a theme in mind, you might do well, or you might make something contrived and heavy-handed. Usually the latter, but you know, no rules and whatever.

    The thing about characters and setting and plot is that they can be hard to separate from each other. Here's some writing on the topic (though the writer mainly talks about fantasy, it should probably be helpful). In fact, I almost would recommend not separating them entirely from each other. I know all it's ever gotten me are orphaned characters without a place, but hey, you might be different.

    Like, how you choose how your characters are will depend on your setting, and what your setting is will depend on your plot, and how your plot flows will depend on your characters. They've all got to work together. It sounds kind of daunting to put it that way, but then again, you P types are good at holistic thinking and stuff.

    Style is style is style is style. The only thing I can recommend to you is to write enough to find a voice, and then it just kind of comes. Whether it's a good read or not depends on your readers, though.

    About enneagram and MBTI and personality stuff -- if you want, fine, but I wouldn't type a character until they're at least fleshed out a bit, as in don't start from a personality type. Otherwise, you might find the archetype difficult to alter. I usually end up putting some kind of type on a character, but it takes a while. Last thing I wrote had an INTJ, ISTP, ESFJ, ESFP, ESTP, ENTP, and ISFJ. What I'm currently working on has a 6w7, a 7w8, and a 1w2. This is working, but the character decides the type, not the other way around. It's a helluva lot more difficult to say you're going to create an 'ISFJ' or whatever. Like real people, the characters should transcend type.

    For another resource for inspiration, I recommend TVTropes. It's pretty much any and every setting, characterization, and plot device you've ever heard of, and a lot you haven't. Again, same with the personality types, it can be difficult to say "I want to write a story with a Battle Butler" (you'll see when you see the site), but it's an interesting website, nonetheless.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

  7. #7

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    thanks for the opnoins, advice, and resources guys.

    As for therepeutic value, it is mean to get me in touch with a rich set of feelings within myself. Right now, I am sort of "stuck" on a handful of them.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  8. #8
    Rats off to ya! Mort Belfry's Avatar
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    Regarding Plot
    How do you weave an interesting story?
    There's no answer to that question. Plot is difficult, it usually requires the most thinking. I've written so many chapter ones that never go on because in essence the story had no plot.

    But sometimes it's just a matter of going from situation to situation, don't plan absolutely everything, leave a little bit of mystery for yourself, it'll make you want to actually sit down and write it more often.

    How do you avoid "plot devices" and make the events natural to the characters and setting?
    It depends on the genre. Science fiction comedy is of course the most forgiving for plot devices. Think of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect falling out the Vogon spaceship and how improbable it was for them to get saved.

    So how do they get saved? By a spaceship with an infinite improbability dirve, of course!

    Regarding Characters
    Regarding Setting
    For both of these it's best to write what you know. It's hard in theory to write about the sun drenched shores of Ibizia if you've never been there. It's also immense fun to make your own alter ego into a character. Make them attached to your personailty but let them behave in a way that you wish you could. It's liberating to write and read.

    Regarding Style
    What style make a good read?

    I persoally prefer heavy on dialogue and events, and decription to be weaved in instead having long sections of it.
    People loooooooooove dialogue, when they're reading massive chunks of summary and they see dialogue coming up, it's hard for their eye not to wander over.
    Why do we always come here?

    I guess we'll never know.

    It's like a kind of torture,
    To have to watch this show.

  9. #9
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    I write!!!

    .. To be more precise, I've been working on a script for quite some time. A rough draft, if you will. I want to create a comic book.. but I suppose the best way to do that for me is to write a novel first and then create pictures for it later. It's a slow process, as I too do it for therapeutic reasons and my time is short. I keep it that way.

    The story was based off of a long story line we had started and never completed of improptu roleplay games online.. we, as a community, made it up. I'm basing it heavily off of the characters world and influence of that.
    Kantgirl: Just say "I'm feminine and I'll punch anyone who says otherwise!"
    Halla74: Think your way through the world. Feel your way through life.

    Cimarron: maybe Prpl will be your girl-bud
    prplchknz: i don't like it

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  10. #10
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mort Belfry View Post
    It's also immense fun to make your own alter ego into a character. Make them attached to your personailty but let them behave in a way that you wish you could. It's liberating to write and read.
    Be careful with this if you're going to let anybody else read it, though. It's very easy to stray into the territory where the reader feels like they've just walked in on the writer masturbating.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

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