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-   -   What Makes Good Writing? (http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=227671)

David.Blue October 4 2013 06:04 PM

What Makes Good Writing?
 
Since folks want to discuss this, I thought an actual thread devoted to same made some sense.

Just to make it clear, I'm a playwright and reviewer as well as having worked on a five year "virtual spinoff" online (of Buffy).

Personally, and this is my own way of approaching things, good writing seems to me to boil down to character and rhythm.

By character I mean the specifics of how the lead characters as complex individuals react to the world around them. Please note how I worded that. Not "what they are like" and "how they look at things" but "how they react." Partially this comes from my theatre training. The people who play the parts are called actors not feelers or thinkers or be-ers (beings?). As in "to act." Said action can be subtle, may well consist of listening, but it needs to be a genuine reaction to what is happening.

Which brings me to rhythm. Consider breath. No one can breathe by exhaling all the time. You need to inhale. And you need the pauses between each. So too in terms of storytelling. The most compelling stories consist of an interplay between rising and falling action, between different levels and styles of energy to make a whole.

On of the best examples of how character interplays with action in Star Trek is in WOK when Kirk talks to people before the action suddenly picks up. When he discusses his age with Bones, the concept of humor with Saavik, taking command with Spock, how to meet a crisis with Carol Marcus and David and Saavik--all these create tension by leaving some question unresolved. More, they begin with something unsaid or some situation that increases tension. And each precede a period of rising action, when things get "exciting." Sometimes that is humorous (like Saavik taking the helm) or uplifting (Kirk taking command of Enterprise again) or thrilling (the windup to the final confrontation with Khan and Reliant).

What a writer should aim for is to integrate all this together without striking a lot of wrong notes. Character and rhythm need to work hand-in-hand.

For example, I've many problems with STID but the emotions of Kirk after seeing Pike die seemed totally clear-cut. His eagerness to break the rules out of revenge, to seize upon the excuse Admiral Marcus gives him seems totally spot on. What I don't quite like is how rushed the scenes seemed. Kirk came across as nothing but a fairly stupid hothead. Instead of someone with a genuine boiling fury, he looked and acted like someone perpetually on the edge, flying by the seat of his pants. The whole "letting Scotty go" felt rushed and frankly make subsequent actions scenes less effective. Nothing wrong with the idea, not at all. But the rhythm indicated a far less interesting and less identifiable character, while going for an explosion when a burning fuse seemed more appropriate.

It still worked. But IMHO a slight alteration would have worked better, by buidling tension rather than just another firecracker going off.

Now in the first Abrams Trek the meeting of Kirk and Bones worked very well indeed. The hectic getting onto the shuttles, the last minute decision by Kirk, the interaction between these two men who are both taking a big plunge into a new life--all that was like this lovely haiku of screenwriting. It really was very very good! And it was preceded by Kirk reacting without words to all sorts of things, including Pike's words to him and the sight of a starship under construction. Nice!

But look at how awkwardly it could be handled, this idea of dialogue setting things up. At its worst, all you get is exposition where someone shares facts and/or says how they feel. Frankly, this was a chronic problem in TNG, sooner or later showing up in the other Berman-Treks. I still cringe at Picard saying to Riker "Can you imagine--hating each other because of different economic systems?"

But that's my couple of pennies. Seems to me perfectly rational well-meaning folks can disagree. I for one hope to learn something from replies to this.

BillJ October 4 2013 06:16 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Good writing means different things to different people.

I'm simply not sure it's something you can define.

Andymator October 4 2013 06:19 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
While we're at it, what makes good food?

grendelsbayne October 4 2013 06:53 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Pizza. Pizza makes good food.

And bismarks from Jolly Pirate Donuts.

And my grandmother's broccoli casserole.

BigSnake October 4 2013 07:03 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
This thread is a good idea, David, thanks for putting it up. I'll try to post a reply later this evening.

Andymator October 4 2013 07:16 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

grendelsbayne wrote: (Post 8728396)

... And my grandmother's broccoli casserole.

Yeah, but here's the thing; brocolli tastes really bad.

Now don't get me wrong! It's totally okay for you to like it, but you just have to be honest about how it's crappy food and you like it anyway.

BillJ October 4 2013 07:18 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

Andymator wrote: (Post 8728525)
Quote:

grendelsbayne wrote: (Post 8728396)

... And my grandmother's broccoli casserole.

Yeah, but here's the thing; brocolli tastes really bad.

Now don't get me wrong! It's totally okay for you to like it, but you just have to be honest about how it's crappy food and you like it anyway.

:lol:

grendelsbayne October 4 2013 07:21 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

Andymator wrote: (Post 8728525)
Quote:

grendelsbayne wrote: (Post 8728396)

... And my grandmother's broccoli casserole.

Yeah, but here's the thing; brocolli tastes really bad.

Now don't get me wrong! It's totally okay for you to like it, but you just have to be honest about how it's crappy food and you like it anyway.

No, no, no - you just need to realize that broccoli is truly one of the best foods ever, and anyway, certainly isn't any worse than cauliflower! I don't know why people have such a need to attack broccoli, which clearly has no real flaws, because so many people do eat it. ;)

Andymator October 4 2013 07:26 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
:lol:

Ladies and gentlemen we'll be here all night! Tip your waitresses!

BigSnake October 4 2013 07:31 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
I love Peeps. I recommend them to my neice as the cornerstone of a healthy, balanced diet, since the fact that I like them obviously makes that true.

(So for reals, are we just importing the infighting and cheap shots from the other thread into this one? Are we planning on spreading them over both threads? Can I vote for Neither of the Above and we actually just try to tackle the thread topic seriously? What do people want?)

grendelsbayne October 4 2013 07:33 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Anyway - leaving that slight thread jack behind, I thought I might say a little bit on the subject at hand.

Bad writing, I think, is writing that interferes with itself. When the point of the story is to show the greatness of Empire A, and all I see in the film is Empire A acting idiotically and everyone around them just constantly reaffirming their greatness anyway, that's bad writing.

When the point of the story is to show the ridiculous absurdity of event b, but nothing in the story actually gets anywhere near being funny or absurd, that's bad writing.

There is also, of course, the possibility of slightly less bad writing, which sort of occasionally interferes with itself in more minor points, without ruining the main point of the story.

BillJ October 4 2013 07:35 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

BigJake wrote: (Post 8728621)
I love Peeps. I recommend them to my neice as the cornerstone of a healthy, balanced diet, since the fact that I like them obviously makes that true.

(So for reals, are we just importing the infighting and cheap shots from the other thread into this one? Are we planning on spreading them over both threads? Can I vote for Neither of the Above and we actually just try to tackle the thread topic seriously? What do people want?)

Why can't we do both?

dub October 4 2013 07:42 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

grendelsbayne wrote: (Post 8728396)
Pizza. Pizza makes good food.

Definitely pizza. Haters gonna hate. If you don't like it, you're in the minority and you're an elitist. With more than 65,000 pizza restaurants, $36.2 billion worth of pizza was sold in 2010, according to the trade publication PMQ Pizza Magazine. It makes huge profits. People are buying it. That means it's good. Period. I can't imagine why people would say over and over how much they hate pizza and keep shoving their reasons down our throats. Nobody ever complains about other food. Only pizza. :wah:

Quote:

LittleCaeserSucks wrote:
The way they make pizza today makes me sick. It's bigger, more colorful, but it's really just oozing with grease and artificial flavors. Where's the real stuff? They shine all sorts of bright lights on it, but that's not fooling me. I miss the days when a tomato was a tomato. :wah: Papa John is an idiot and you guys are idiots for eating the crap he serves! :scream:

That's your opinion. Billion$ of other taste buds can't be wrong.

Quote:

Papa John wrote:
I make better pizza with better ingredients. Screw the haters. :wah:

See...now they're making the people in the kitchen mad. It's embarrassing. If we're not careful, the cooks will go back to making (*gasp*) original crust pizza. Ugh. Long live today's pizza! Pizza is here to stay. Get over it. :scream:

BillJ October 4 2013 07:53 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

dub wrote: (Post 8728666)
That means it's good. Period.

It means that some people like it. Who am I to tell them that their personal tastes (and taste buds) are wrong?

Andymator October 4 2013 08:17 PM

Re: What Makes Good Writing?
 
Quote:

BigJake wrote: (Post 8728621)
I love Peeps. I recommend them to my neice as the cornerstone of a healthy, balanced diet, since the fact that I like them obviously makes that true.

(So for reals, are we just importing the infighting and cheap shots from the other thread into this one? Are we planning on spreading them over both threads? Can I vote for Neither of the Above and we actually just try to tackle the thread topic seriously? What do people want?)

Oh, lighten up buttercup. I was just ribbing you. Some kidding around, and not to mention being completely relevant to the topic of the thread. There's no infighting or cheap shots going on.


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