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  1. #1
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    Default Novelist, storyteller

    Note I haven't said author. That just doesn't sit right with me for some reason. I've got a steady job that pays well that also gives me time to write. For years I've wanted to live this dream but have failed to put anything to paper. Procrasinating and not being able to come up with a good enough plot. But I've decided to go for it now, to get the engines started I'm reading many different authors and picking apart what I do and don't like about their stories and style. Are there other people here with a similar ambition? Care to chat about it, share frustrations and idea's?

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Sure. What types of things are you hoping to write? Have you participated in NaNoWrMo?
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  3. #3
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    I'm not sure of the genre yet, I like stories which are visually rich and present a distorted world that is both disturbing and compelling. My greatest ambition is to create complex characters with real depth. I've been reading a lot of other authors trying to gauge what it is I either like or hate about their work. Picking it apart to find out what their talents and failings are. So far I've been horrified by the stereotypes parading around as characters, often as lead characters.

    One book I just finished featured a female character supposedly raised by a sociopath and emotionally moulded into a needy and spineless creature. Nice concept, except the character has the emotional depth of a puddle. I think I threw the book across the room when she failed to display any kind of internal conflict during a critical scene. And she was forever mouthpiecing the plot instead of saying things that made sense according to who she was and where she was at. It was intensely annoying.

    So I suppose you could say I'm in the early stages of education and struggling to put anything worthwhile on paper. I want to write something with a gothic edge (note, not victorian romantic vampire gothic nor psycho, hitchcock horror either) but something that speaks of the inherent darkness in the soul. That is both seductive and repulsive in its own way. Ideally, I've like to work in the fantasy genre, but I fear that genre because of the Tolkien effect - the guy both created and killed fantasy with his stuff. Every fantasists mind is littered with memories of Tolkien and therefore derivative. Except Neil Gaiman, who seems to have his own brand. But Stardust should never have been made as a film IMHO.

    Elves seriously need to become victims of genocide because they ruin every fantasy novel that ever features them.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ghost's Avatar
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    Hi, Chthonic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic View Post
    Are there other people here with a similar ambition? Care to chat about it, share frustrations and idea's?
    Yes.

    I'm doing something similar to you, actually. I cultivated a list of just over 100 novels to study. Since my work tends to fall into speculative fiction, I've pulled a few seminal works from fantasy, horror, and science fiction, as well as some classics and a few modern/contemporary literary novels. The plan is to write a brief literary analysis to dissect each novel. I've only done five books so far. I've also read thousands of blog entries, hundreds of articles about the publishing industry, dozens of books on craft, and who knows how many threads on writing forums. It's probably a way procrastinating, but I tell myself it's useful.

    I took a break from fiction because my writing voice felt disjointed. I had two or three different styles, and they didn't mesh with each other. Each style overemphasized aspects I wanted to incorporate, and that overemphasis made them difficult to meld together. I focused on poetry for about two years, and now I have a much better handle on my voice.

    I attempted novels in my teens and early 20s with no real idea of where those they were going, and I never got farther than 50 pages in. I've been outlining, world-building, and figuring out characters for my first novel. From the outline, I can see there's not much tension in the first two chapters. Starting without establishing some kind of tension would be foolish given my pattern of quitting when my enthusiasm wanes. Once I figure out how it begins, I'd like to try barreling through a first draft. After that, I'll have a better idea of what topics to research in depth and whether the structure works for the story I'm telling.

    I share your disdain for elves. I don't think it's the elves that ruin fantasy novels, it's the self-imposed limitations that authors heed. Either they try to write what they've seen before, sticking to a formula to make it easy on themselves and the readers, or they try to "twist" a common trope, not realizing even that has been done before. There's also a lack of care when creating cultures. They should have individuals in them, with diversity of thought and complicated motivations (unless the uniformity is reasonably explained). An elf acts all the other elves because he's an elf. It's boring and unbelievable.

    Even if someone does a good job with them (and that's unlikely), the story gets lost in the avalanche of other elf stories. I don't see the point in doing them.

    Anyway, I hope you get something out someday. Your aesthetic sounds like exactly the sort of thing I enjoy.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
    I took a break from fiction because my writing voice felt disjointed. I had two or three different styles, and they didn't mesh with each other. Each style overemphasized aspects I wanted to incorporate, and that overemphasis made them difficult to meld together.
    Hi Ghost, welcome....

    Yes, voice is so important. In my teens I was a big fan of authors with narrator's voices, maybe it was just because I was a kid, that I liked the feeling of someone telling me a bedtime story. Now though, I can't get past the first page. I like authors who disappear to become like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain and just let the story get on with it. I think it's because I've got more sophisticated imagery abilities now and prefer to run a movie in my head and lose the words on the page. This is what I hope to acheive for myself, that kind of casual easy and unobstrusive way of facilitating a story rather than telling one. I guess this is why I like Naeil Gaiman so much , his books are an easy read from the first page. The book I'm dissecting now is a struggler, the first chapter was just ugh! material for me but the characters seems worth it now I'm a few chapters in. What kind of voice do you enjoy? Have you developed for yourself? What are your dissecting and by who? Care to name any works and your honest thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
    I attempted novels in my teens and early 20s with no real idea of where those they were going, and I never got farther than 50 pages in. I've been outlining, world-building, and figuring out characters for my first novel. From the outline, I can see there's not much tension in the first two chapters. Starting without establishing some kind of tension would be foolish given my pattern of quitting when my enthusiasm wanes. Once I figure out how it begins, I'd like to try barreling through a first draft. After that, I'll have a better idea of what topics to research in depth and whether the structure works for the story I'm telling.
    I completed a home study course on writing a few years ago. I have to say it was a pretty useful course and not at all expensive. Our work was gone over by published authors in our chosen genre, I think my mentor had published something like 27 novels. I chose young adult fiction just because I was too scared to attempt the fantasy genre. It was really useful to do that. Because I had no emotional investment in the genre it was much easier to focus on the mechanics of storytelling. During the course we finished our first ever novel. I wrote a teen romance..., it took me about 3 months of writing for 3 hours a day. I can't say it was a great novel, but at least I finished it from beginning to end. It's what gave me the confidence to realise I can get it done if I have to. I was surprised how easy it was to do even with subject matter that didn't fascinate me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
    It's the self-imposed limitations that authors heed. Either they try to write what they've seen before, sticking to a formula to make it easy on themselves and the readers, or they try to "twist" a common trope, not realizing even that has been done before.
    OMG! Yes. You are dead on about that. There's only been one other author in the vast swathes of fantasy that I think has ever pulled this off without it being cheesy. And I have the same complaint about mileu, where it's historical, fantasy or whatever fiction. So often you get the idea the characters are running around a studio prop instead of a real world. Oh look, there's a Welsh word....must be a fantasy world. She lives in a country manor must be Victorian times. For some reason the modern world only ever happens in New York.

    Although I have to confess I had the biggest shock one day. I'd been working on a desert world, with a moorish glittering city at the centre of trade I had called Samarkand. Turns out this city actually exists in the middle east and was on the silk road. Google Samarkand, I guess originality is harder to come by than we think. No matter how hard we try our minds reference things we don't even know are in there. Such is the paucity of the human brain we cannot even distinguish between imagination and memory.

  6. #6
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    I decided to post some book analysis for the hell of it. I'm reading a bunch of virtual unknowns from the library, don't want to waste $$$

    Bridge Of Swords - Duncan Lay

    Overall, C-. Very juvenile but written for the adult market. Obvious lack of development into milieu and characters. The landscapes were generic, the characters like cardboard cutouts with unbelievable scripts.

    What I hated

    The male characters were wistful nice guys who just wanted a peaceful life growing daffodils forced into leadership roles by circumstance. The lead female character was so easy to despise for being a hapless, mindless thing you just hoped fell into a ditch and died by accident. The only novel in which I wanted someone to succeed in either killing or maiming the lead characters because I disliked them so much. It was totally unbelievable that these three completely useless individuals escaped death for so long. For example, the one with actual military training and awesome shogun-like skills, freed some captives but forgot to grab a horse before they all ran off. Foreign country navigation 101, don't stumble around in mud on foot if you can help it. The banter between them resembled early middle year writing in which the only way anyone ever conveyed emotion was by yelling and chest puffing or curling up into the foetal position and sobbing into the dirt.

    What I liked

    The cliffhanger ending left me with absolutely no desire to pick up the next book in the series, and thank christ for that. The author was at least fast-paced with action and at the outset the plot held enough intrigue to get me halfway through the book. The characters however made this novel overall quite hatable. The guy knows how to write an interesting plot and map out a constant stream of action to keep the reader engaged. But lacks a convincing milieu and uses insipid, very stupid characters who have no voice of their own.

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    I relate pretty directly. I wanted to be a writer since early childhood. I was told I was good at it early on, but it was all sci-fi and, in my opinion, diffuse. I just never thought of a ground-breaking idea or plot. So I largely gave up on it and am in a technical field now.

    Writing is about luck, in my opinion. There are plenty of people good with prose, syntax, grammar, and even stories. However, some resonate with others well enough to be really sucessful. It's not just in writing; it's art in general.

    I'm not sure if I'll ever pursue it seriously. But by all means continue. I'm sure JK Rowling didn't think she was writing her way to billions. I think it's important to nail down a type of writing you like. A coming of age story certainly wouldn't bode well with sci-fi style. Have you found a genre yet?

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    I think the genre is ultimately going to be dictated by the story, at present I have a few characters in mind, sketchy on the details but they are coming along and a basic premise for a story. I'm almost reasonably certain it will end up in the fantasy genre, even though that sounds so fan-fiction. What can I do? Its my nature. Happy to report though there will be no elves, halflings, hobbits or wizards, definately no tree spirits or orcs either.

    I've wanted to write since about 7th grade but told myself it was something to do 'later'. My day job is boring so I guess now is as good as later especially while the work is easy, hours variable and I have time to indulge in my made up worlds. Not sure if billions is ever my goal, I would be happy with a small retirement income and a regular fan base. Of course if someone wants to make a film and pay me millions in the process I'll consider it, as long as it doesn't interfere with my artistic sensibilities. Oh wait, my artistic sensibilities can probably be bribed anyway.

    But who knows what's going to become a phenomenon and what isn't. I think Twilight was such a hit because the old vampire theme hadn't been trotted out in a while and what teenage girl doesn't love the idea of undying love at a time when the hormones are raging? I think it was excellent timing and some shrewd marketing. Those books are also easy to read for teenagers with not very well developed language skills. They are rather unchallenging that way.

    Harry Potter likewise filled a void that had been empty for some time. Prior to that the Narnia series still reigned supreme but the style was dated and it was a much overused story. In my opinion Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series is much better and came out around the same time. But that protagonist doesn't have the universal appeal that Young Harry does. He's not a doe-eyed cinderella living under the stairs. Instead he's a young ENTJ who comes across as more of a villain. Not every kid aspires to that kind of cunning, but they are fantastic read, especially if you are 10 and think of yourself as a criminal mastermind.

    I think as a writer I really have to accept that my tastes are niche, being a blockbuster writer like Rowling probably isn't ever going to happen for me because I don't subscribe to universally popular themes like cinderella's, soulmates, undying love etc. But there are plenty of niche writers who carve out a great life for themselves. That's what I'm aiming for.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ghost's Avatar
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    I apologize for taking so long to respond.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic View Post
    What kind of voice do you enjoy? Have you developed for yourself? What are your dissecting and by who? Care to name any works and your honest thoughts?
    I’m the opposite to you, I think, in terms of preference for voice. I like a voice that is interesting and adds personality to the narration. It’s like a splash of color that makes the story more memorable for me. I’m drawn to the voices of Robert W. Chambers, Jane Austen, and Angela Carter. I have a soft spot for the styles of Edward Gorey and Lemony Snicket. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind strikes my ideal in terms of humor, darkness, narrative distance, and the disclosure of characters’ inner workings.

    For my own voice, I was trying to blend a distant, poetic style of narration with a more immediate and emotional contemporary style. I realize now that I was going for fiction with clarity, urgency, and a touch of poetic sensibility. The detachment of the first style didn't mix with the melodrama of the second, and I couldn't seamlessly weave humor into either one. I still need more practice, but my goal is clear to me.

    Here’s a sample of my reading list. It’s the entire horror section. I intend to add more contemporary horror novels at some point. The overrepresentation of vampires isn’t deliberate and some of these are miscategorized. Sorry about the caps.


    As for my own literary responses, they’re longish, and they’re meant for my own use. I focus on summarizing the book and writing my take on the characters, setting themes, and style. If there’s something special, like an unusual structure or an undercurrent of social commentary, I’ll write about it and how it impacts the story.

    Before this, the only thing that mattered was whether I liked a book or not. Having to gather my thoughts and go beyond simple reactions of like/dislike helps me understand literary concepts better. I get to see theories in practice or "in the wild." I loved House of Leaves and Perfume, enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and had a lukewarm reaction to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Erasure by Percival Everett. If you want to know more, I can discuss them. Perhaps after I've worked my way through a few dozen books my impressions and opinions will be easier to summarize.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic View Post
    And I have the same complaint about mileu, where it's historical, fantasy or whatever fiction. So often you get the idea the characters are running around a studio prop instead of a real world. Oh look, there's a Welsh word....must be a fantasy world. She lives in a country manor must be Victorian times. For some reason the modern world only ever happens in New York.
    People underestimate the power of a well-drawn setting. It bolsters characterization and themes. When it’s detailed and cohesive, imagining yourself there becomes that much easier. I’m not talking about pages of exposition about clothing or the types of grass in the plains, but a sense of an entire world that lies beyond those pages. As a kid, I used to get lost in books. I'd like to provide the same experience for others, that sense of immersion and becoming lost in another world. The use of generic settings and flat backgrounds doesn't allow for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic View Post
    Although I have to confess I had the biggest shock one day. I'd been working on a desert world, with a moorish glittering city at the centre of trade I had called Samarkand. Turns out this city actually exists in the middle east and was on the silk road. Google Samarkand, I guess originality is harder to come by than we think. No matter how hard we try our minds reference things we don't even know are in there. Such is the paucity of the human brain we cannot even distinguish between imagination and memory.
    Nothing I’m doing is innovative or startlingly unique. My expectation is that the way I put things together and my particular take on it all will help differentiate my work, that it’s not so much the concepts themselves that matter as it is the perspective and execution.

    Still, I’m astounded when I encounter a concept that’s very similar to mine. I had an rough idea for a story about an old man who gets new dentures. (Earth-shattering, I know.) The story was going to be about the man’s thoughts and reactions to this object meant to replace part of his body and how h. Eventually, he waxes poetic as he begins to appreciate them. While reading a book about writing fiction, I came across an excerpt from Nabokov’s Pnin. In it, there’s a man who gets new dentures and grows fond of them. It’s done better than I would’ve done it and all in a single paragraph. I can change stuff around, make adjustments. My core idea can still come across with different dressing. It was surprising to read that excerpt, though. It was good for me because it taught me not to rely too the concept alone.

    Whenever I have an idea that seems too good to be mine, especially names and story titles, I google the hell out of it. It's reassuring when there are few results or none at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic View Post
    Not sure if billions is ever my goal, I would be happy with a small retirement income and a regular fan base
    Same here. I’d like for my work to achieve some kind of recognition, but a small following that lasts throughout my career seems honorable and less stressful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic View Post
    I think as a writer I really have to accept that my tastes are niche, being a blockbuster writer like Rowling probably isn't ever going to happen for me because I don't subscribe to universally popular themes like cinderella's, soulmates, undying love etc. But there are plenty of niche writers who carve out a great life for themselves. That's what I'm aiming for.
    I think I might be writing myself into a niche as well, not because of the themes but because of my aesthetic and the psychological bent of my stories. I also like eerie, surreal secondary worlds with outsiders for main characters and some horror or weirdness on top. Every artistic choice you make limits your audience, anyway. Might as well go all out.

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