Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thoughts On Writing Advice

Okay, Imma go on a bit of a rant here. Maybe more of a soliloquy.
When it comes to writing advice, I'm all over it. What can I do to help build my plot? What are some good ways to organize your work? Charts for character attributes and flaws, etc, etc.
What I DO NOT like is a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. Which is odd, because I generally prefer when there's a correct answer, and things are black and white, either right or wrong. But not when it comes to writing. Well, I should clarify, fictional writing. Essays and letters and such are different.
Okay, here's some People Say vs. I Think for ya.


People Say:
You have to have a theme or message in your book, like, Power Corrupts, or Man's Nature Is Ultimately Good.

I Think:
Well, first of all, man's nature is not ultimately good. But disregarding that, Why?! Why do you have to have a message or a moral? Can't you just write a story for the sake of telling the story? Is the basic Good vs. Evil theme good enough? If I just write because I like to write, or I like to create characters, but I don't have some deep (or even shallow) message to send, does that mean my work is automatically worthless? Or if not worthless, then at least not marketable?
Or does all writing have a message, and in order to make sure it's the message you want, you have to consciously choose it? (If so, could someone tell me the theme or message behind The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss?)


People Say:
Your characters must be flawed, or the reader will hate them.

I Think:
That this is reasonable. I, for one, hate Snow White, but love Merida, I think for these reasons. (And others obviously: Better accent, better weapons, funnier, no prince, and so on and so forth.)
BUT how flawed does the character have to be? Enough to handicap her? Enough to mildly annoy her peers?
And if you hand-pick her (or his) faults, does that mean the rest of their character can be perfect?
Or, if a character IS flawless, but is dynamic enough and meets with enough opposition, can you get away hate-free? Is it impossible to make them dynamic enough without flaws?
This one is particularly frustrating to me because... Well, because of Rienna. I have the sinking feeling she isn't flawed enough, but I love her so much I'd hate to change her. And I haven't thought of any flaws that would fit her without changing her essence.


People Say:
I'd be devastated if my characters stopped talking to me!
They (characters) went in a direction I totally wasn't expecting!
He won't tell me why he hates her.

I Think:
I've touched on this briefly before. I call this the "Characters Going Rogue" phenomenon. It's when characters act opposite the author's wishes or without their consent to assert their real-ness.
When I hear or read something like, "I would be devastated if my characters stopped talking to me!" I think both of two things (because thinking one of two things is obviously not enough, and hey, take as many opinions as you can get):
A: The author/speaker/writer has a real-life, serious mental disorder,
And B: I may be missing out on something pretty cool.
Because my characters never talk to me. I don't know what their voices sound like. When they speak, it's me making them speak with each other. They never address me directly, with my permission or without. (And, to be honest, if I could meet my characters and converse with them, I'd be fangirling big-time.) They've never randomly started hating each other, or asserted their "real" personalities. I never "discover" anything new about them that I didn't know before.
So. Why haven't I experienced this?
Is it because I don't think of my characters as real people, but as... characters? Am I experiencing it, but I just don't recognize it?
I don't know. I read once, and I don't remember where, something along these lines:
"People who "let their characters take control of the story" are losing control of their story. YOU are the author. Write the book the way YOU want it to go."
That's always kind of stuck with me, and again, it's strange because I don't like that kind of advice, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it's true.
Three Questions about this-
1. Does the CGR phenomenon really exist, or is it merely a description of the thought process of writers?
2. If it is real, does it happen with all writers, or just some?
3. If it happens with all writers, why isn't happening with me and how can I get in on it?


People Say:
If you get bored or frustrated with one part of your book, skip ahead and write a different scene.

I Think:
Agh! This one frustrates me no end! I'm sure someone somewhere can do it, but I certainly can't. There are two reasons for this, I believe. One is that I'm not organized enough. I know the scenes I'm looking forward to writing, like a death scene, but I don't know who all's going to be there, or what their environment is like. They could be in a boat trying to escape in the night, or they might be hiding out in a warehouse, or even discussing it over a meal. Where they are makes a huge difference on what the scene will be like.
The second reason is that the scenes before will always affect the scenes after. Even if you summarized all your scenes and wrote them out, there's little inside jokes that the characters make while they're talking, or little habits that you might give them that you're not going to put in every little summary, so the joke or habit won't be woven through the story like it should. Instead it'll pop up like a weed every once in a while.
Maybe if I was really super-organized I could make it work, but it just seems to be an inefficient, confusing way of doing it.


People Say:
Beware of the "As You Know, Bob"

I Think:
Totally true. An "As You Know, Bob" is when a character summarizes the situation to another character in a little too much detail, or when the second character should already know what's going on.
E.g. A woman talking to her best friend in a cafe-
"And ever since my husband lost his job, we've been low on cash, I've had to get a job working for that guy I hated in high school because he scratched his name on the side of my car and you've had to watch my three boys four days a week! But you know that, Darla. You're my best friend, I tell you everything!"
It serves the purpose of catching the reader up on all the events, but it's SO obvious.
The "As You Know, Bob" is actually kind of fun because once you know it exists, you can see it all over the place. In books, movies, and plays. In the "Avengers" I believe it happens when Nick Fury summarizes their situation after Loki breaks out of the Helicarrier. So, it's not something to be avoided entirely, but it should be well camouflaged when used.


Now, keep in mind, these opinions are what I think. As in, me the amateur, unpublished, seventeen year old. So do not take my word as gospel! If you want The Gospel, though, I'd be more than happy to give it to you.
On another note, I'm nearly finished with my GED studying exception for the Writing and Essay section, which seems to be giving me the most trouble (Oh, the irony). I'll be finishing that part up in April. Which means I may be writing more essays, and possibly posting them here, because, Hey, who said it was a fiction only writing blog?
You may get a good laugh at them because I've written exactly, lemme see... Three essays. In my whole life. And they were all in the last month or so. The most recent one shows promise, but the other two are a little... not great. Fictional writing has a lot fewer rules than essays. Unless you believe everything People Say. In which case there are a TON, and some of them even contradict each other.
Anyway. That's all I've got for today, but you should be hearing more from me after Easter (In April).

Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!

P.S. This is our fiftieth post! Woohoo!
There should be some sort of blogger alert system to tell you when you reach these milestones.


  1. Number 3!

    I used to feel the same way, to not understand how characters can just 'talk' and 'take control' when they were inside your head. And for the longest time, I also felt like I was missing out on something.
    But then, one day, I created a character, his name was/is Vice.
    And he kinda cleared up any confusion on that feeling.
    He wouldn't tell me his name (Meaning: I knew he had a name, but nothing I found suited him). And every name I gave him kept slipping off him like water on a duck's back. Nothing stuck. And then, everything I told him to do, was just wrong. He refused to do the things I wrote him to do (Meaning: It just felt the wrong having him be the dashing hero. Something just always felt wrong). So, at that point I went, "You know what, if you are going to be complicated, I'm going to let you do your own thing" and he has since become the most dynamic and powerful character I've ever written.
    In reality, it's not really your characters going wild, but opening your own mind up to possibilities beyond what you first imagined. Of course, since learning to back away and watch my characters build themselves before I truly built them, has made me a lot closer to them as well. I do suppose you can call it a mental sickness, because they are like real people to me. I can tell you the minutest details about them, and I can even switch to holding a conversation as they would.
    But, it has also been said, Writers have to be a bit mad. And I think that is 1000000% true, and I've also heard it said, "A writer is actually hundreds of people trying to live within one soul" and that's also true.
    It's honestly hard to explain the bond with my characters without freaking you out and making you think me insane, but I consider them more than just characters, they are parts of me, but not at all me.
    I am Vice, as in I have a hard accepting myself.
    But I'm not Vice, as 1) I'm not a guy, and 2) I look at the world with so much more wonder than he can on his own. I'm ready to be a hero, and he is ready to be the villain.

    And honestly, I think one day, it will just 'click' for you. You'll meet a character who insists on doing things their own way, they won't actually talk to you, as that is mental. If you start really hearing voices, you might need help. But, one day, it will just click. and you'll never want to go back. XD

    1. o

      That was quite a comment. XD

    2. Ahhhhh. Okay. That helps me understand the whole thing a lot better. I think maybe I've kind of experienced it before with characters that just don't work. I hope it clicks a little harder soon. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time writing recently... I may be a little out of touch with them. (BTW, I love comments like that! It makes me want to giggle like a maniac. Thank you so much!)


I (Trinity) turned off the captcha test and comment moderation, so you can now comment instantly. (Not that I won't still be moderating comments. I still have the power to delete a comment so fast it'll make your head spin.)