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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old January 25 2014, 03:09 AM   #91
sojourner
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Re: Writing questions

Been reading through the thread and enjoying the knowledge presented. I have a question that may not have a good answer.

Ideas for scenes come easily to me, but I struggle to find the story, so to speak. I've read that a good story changes the protagonist by the end. How do you develop a plot/story without it becoming just a string of scenes? Am I too hung up on what makes a good story?
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Old January 25 2014, 03:53 AM   #92
Christopher
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Re: Writing questions

sojourner wrote: View Post
Ideas for scenes come easily to me, but I struggle to find the story, so to speak. I've read that a good story changes the protagonist by the end. How do you develop a plot/story without it becoming just a string of scenes? Am I too hung up on what makes a good story?
A good rule of thumb I've recently found useful is the traditional three-act structure:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-act_structure

It helps give direction and arc to a story, to make sure that it's going somewhere and has things happening.
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Old January 25 2014, 08:28 PM   #93
BrentMc
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Re: Writing questions

I have read not to do a run down of character description such as he is this tall and has this hair color etc.

Does anyone have any recommendations for racially sensitive ways to suggest the character is a particular race without just saying their race?
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Old January 25 2014, 08:31 PM   #94
Sho
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Re: Writing questions

^ Hmm isn't this back to ground we covered on page 1 of the thread?
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Old January 29 2014, 12:36 AM   #95
BrentMc
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Re: Writing questions

What is your favorite book on writing?

What is the most important lesson you learned as a writer?
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Old January 29 2014, 01:14 AM   #96
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Re: Writing questions

BrentMc wrote: View Post
What is the most important lesson you learned as a writer?
When determining who the POV character is in any given scene, go for the character who is under the most stress, physically or emotionally. I use this rule every day and it works 90% percent of the time.

(A notable exception: murder mysteries, where often you can't go into the heads of certain characters without giving things away. Makes POV issues more complicated.)

To give credit where it's due, I learned this from the late Terry Carr, a veteran sf editor and author, and privately think of it as "Terry's Rule."
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Old January 29 2014, 02:18 AM   #97
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Re: Writing questions

Reminds me of a rule I heard for writing stories as a whole, which is that the central character should be the one with the most at stake in the story's events. Which, again, doesn't work for a lot of mysteries or client-of-the-week series, where the main characters tend to be detectives or lawyers or doctors or fugitives who are helping out the people who have the most at stake. Which is maybe why these days we have so many client-of-the-week TV series where the clients' cases always have a coincidental resonance with whatever personal crises the heroes are dealing with at the time.
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Old January 29 2014, 03:00 AM   #98
BrentMc
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Re: Writing questions

Interesting stuff. Thanks for the replies. In a book I am reading about writing I read about the point of view character and I realized I had done some head-hopping. Now I am determined to be more careful and establish my POV character.

That book btw is "Writing Fiction for Dummies". It may sound silly to try and learn writing from a "For Dummies" book, but I think its pretty good and I am only doing this for fun anyway.
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Old January 29 2014, 05:09 AM   #99
Sho
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Re: Writing questions

BrentMc wrote: View Post
What is your favorite book on writing?
While the author is unfortunately a thoroughly unpleasant person with hard to stomach views on politics and society, "Characters and Viewpoint" and "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card are informative reads that align well with many of your questions.
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Old January 29 2014, 05:34 AM   #100
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Christopher wrote: View Post
Reminds me of a rule I heard for writing stories as a whole, which is that the central character should be the one with the most at stake in the story's events. Which, again, doesn't work for a lot of mysteries or client-of-the-week series, where the main characters tend to be detectives or lawyers or doctors or fugitives who are helping out the people who have the most at stake. Which is maybe why these days we have so many client-of-the-week TV series where the clients' cases always have a coincidental resonance with whatever personal crises the heroes are dealing with at the time.
Yeah, the one time Terry's Rule failed me was when I was writing CSI books, since those were more about the forensics than any personal dramas or conflicts. Who should be the POV character in a scene that's all about finding fiber evidence or comparing mitochondrial DNA? In those books, I just tried to balance things out among the regulars so that nobody got neglected.

"Hmm. Been awhile since we've done a Catherine scene. I guess I better have her find the bloodstain . . . ."
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Old January 29 2014, 05:48 AM   #101
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Re: Writing questions

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Yeah, the one time Terry's Rule failed me was when I was writing CSI books, since those were more about the forensics than any personal dramas or conflicts. Who should be the POV character in a scene that's all about finding fiber evidence or comparing mitochondrial DNA?
My first thought was, someone who doesn't know the science and needs it explained, e.g. Captain Brass. But then I remembered that CSI often annoyed me with its abundance of "As you know, Bob" speeches where the scientists explained basic science to other scientists who already know it. That's kind of unavoidable in TV, but in a book you have internal-viewpoint narration so you don't need the stilted lecturing. So maybe it's better to be in the head of the scientist performing the test, so it can be explained through their thoughts.
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Old January 29 2014, 05:55 AM   #102
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Christopher wrote: View Post
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Yeah, the one time Terry's Rule failed me was when I was writing CSI books, since those were more about the forensics than any personal dramas or conflicts. Who should be the POV character in a scene that's all about finding fiber evidence or comparing mitochondrial DNA?
My first thought was, someone who doesn't know the science and needs it explained, e.g. Captain Brass. But then I remembered that CSI often annoyed me with its abundance of "As you know, Bob" speeches where the scientists explained basic science to other scientists who already know it. That's kind of unavoidable in TV, but in a book you have internal-viewpoint narration so you don't need the stilted lecturing. So maybe it's better to be in the head of the scientist performing the test, so it can be explained through their thoughts.
On the other hand, I found the lab scenes worked better if there were two people in the room, so you could at least have some dialogue and character interaction going, instead of just describing a single character carrying out a procedure and making a discovery, which could come off as dry and textbooky.

On the show, of course, you've got the snazzy montages and visuals and music to make spinning test tubes visually exciting to watch, but you don't really have that option in prose!

Dialogue at least helped dramatize the lab scenes.
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Old January 29 2014, 06:12 AM   #103
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Re: Writing questions

Y'know, it's strange. On the one hand, I've internalized many lessons about narrative structure and prose styling over the years. But I'm at a point where if I think too much about the nuts and bolts of a story, I'll paralyze myself into inertia. At this stage of my career, I have to simply write towards what feels "true" or "honest" about a character or story. Somehow, my subconscious has a knack for steering me in the right direction most of the time.

The rest of the time … is why we have beta readers and editors.
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Old January 29 2014, 04:33 PM   #104
Christopher
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Re: Writing questions

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
On the other hand, I found the lab scenes worked better if there were two people in the room, so you could at least have some dialogue and character interaction going, instead of just describing a single character carrying out a procedure and making a discovery, which could come off as dry and textbooky.
Well, sure, it's good to have character interaction so the scene isn't just about the technicalities, but their conversation should be about more personal stuff or their emotional reaction to the case rather than lecturing each other about the science that they both already know. Instead of:

"Hey, look, there are twelve common alleles. As you know, Wendy, that means they must share a common parent."
"Wow! That means her gardener is actually her brother!"

It would be more like:

"Hey, look, there are twelve common alleles."
"Wow," Wendy said, instantly recognizing the significance: they shared a common parent. "That means her gardener is actually her brother!"


On the show, of course, you've got the snazzy montages and visuals and music to make spinning test tubes visually exciting to watch, but you don't really have that option in prose!
I've often thought that CSI had a lot in common with Mission: Impossible (the show, not the movies): They're both heavily procedural shows in which extended sequences of characters wordlessly performing technical work are livened with a heavy emphasis on musical accompaniment, albeit with profoundly different musical and editorial styles. I think there were some M:I novels back in the day; I wonder how they handled the long technical/procedural stuff.
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Old January 29 2014, 05:48 PM   #105
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Re: Writing questions

Christopher: Yes, the second version is definitely the way to go!
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