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writer's block's Journal
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Date:2002-08-31 14:28
Subject:Plots. Not the cemetery kind.
Mood: calm

When writing about plot, it is important to begin with restraint and emphasise concreteness. In more familiar parliance: SHOW RATHER THAN TELL. Make the characters act. Plot revolves around ACTION.

Focus on the plot and complications (conflict) to show how plots can be built around relationships. The following story is a great example of that.

Coo-Coo-Ca-ChooCollapse )

There are several traditional plots: man in a hole (introduction, rising action, climax, denouement, conclusion), man on the road (a travelogue), man in a tub (a change in POV, attitude, feeling, world-view, conviction, self --- which may lead to concrete action).

There is a causal relationship between all the events in a story; something happens because something else happened prior to it. Things were going along fine (equilibrium) until something happens to disturb this equilibrium (dramatic problem), one thing led to another, escalating the tension (rising curve of the action), culminating in a dramatic confrontation (climax), and resolving things back to some new equilibrium (denouement). (Gerard)

Complications: from without (a person, an event, an accident), from within (a doubt, a hesitation, a change of heart/conviction); good versus bad, bad versus good.

To make a compelling story, you have to select the more interesting experiences. Always keep in mind that you are writing for an audience (even if it is an audience of one: yourself) --- we need to be intrigued, touched and entertained.

Writing exercise: Think of all a character from one of your stories (if you don't have one, create one) and make him/her introduce you.

(1 uploaded chapter | got a story?)

Date:2002-08-03 16:25
Subject:The narrative...
Mood: cheerful

...consistently follows the guidelines of the assignment.
...employs a novel approach to the subject matter.
...consistently demonstrates originality of thought and freshness of expression.
...is consistently developed with relevant specific details that serve to illuminate the narrative's experience and help to involve its reader.
...is organised well and guides its readers with appropriate transitions.
...is free of error in grammar, diction, punctuation, etc.
...shows evidence of thoughtful revision.

If you notice, the most frequently used word is 'consistently'. This serves to underscore the importance of doing these things until they become like second nature, that is, without fail.

The best way to do this is with constant practice. We compose and then look at our compositions with a critical eye, then do endless revisions until we have to turn in our assignments. Sometimes, even afterwards.

This is what we actually do when we have to make essays and narratives. The difference between the two is quite simple ---narratives are like essays but with more descriptive aspects. This community is more concerned with the narrative. This is why it's for creative writing.

It is often hard to criticise one's work, and having beta readers fulfills the role of devil's advocate. However, beta readers, in RL, come in the form of teachers, friends, editors, etc. It is good for having feedback but might be tempered by personal bias (either for or against --- if you've ever had teachers/colleagues from hell, you know what I mean). So training oneself to become one's beta reader can be very helpful. Feedback from others is still great but if you give them your best-revised work, it will save up on time and energy for both of you.

The best way to do this would be to get one of your works and cast Moody's magic eye on it. Practising the use of questioning (see questions in previous entry) will someday result in this becoming an automatic response to any article you read and before you know it, you already have an editor's eye.

Sample work and critiqueCollapse )

Which brings me to the next commandment of writing: Show it, don't say it. Later, I'll post something that you can practice critiquing on. You can use the comments portion to make a critique, if you have the inclination and the time to do so.

(got a story?)

Date:2002-07-29 22:15
Subject:So you want to be a writer...
Mood: creative

This is a group for those who would like to start writing fiction and nonfiction creative writing. It's also for those who are already writing but would like to pick up pointers to help them along. I wanted to start something like this because there are so many people who have their own stories to tell but have no idea how to go about it and they become discouraged about it.

First, do you have a story? If you do, then proceed to the next part of this entry. If you don't, write one. Just write the ideas as they come to mind --- let it all flow out. And when you are finished, set it aside for a while. My basic guideline for writing is, "Write in heat, edit in cold."

Second, take out your story and try to look at it from an clinical point of view. Here are questions to help focus one's writing. Try to keep yourself in an objective frame of mind when critiquing your own work.

1. What is your overall reaction to the narrative? What are its best features?

2. Does the beginning compel you to read on? How does it do this? If it does not, how do you think the beginning could be improved? Or is there a place in the narrative that could make a better beginning?

3. Is the organisation easy to follow? What makes it easy or difficult to follow? Are the transitions done well? How could the organisation be improved?

4. How well are the people portrayed and the places depicted? Point out the distinctive parts of the narrative.

5. Are there parts of the narrative that need more details? What sort of details could these be?

6. Describe the main insight or impression that you carry away from the narrative.

Once you have critiqued your own story, you can point out its strengths and weakness. This will allow you to 'tighten' the plot, the characterisations and the descriptive aspects of the story.

(got a story?)

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