The Madhouse
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Annything

This shall be a kickass thread for a kickass revolution for the kickass writing nerds. Come with your writing questions for characters, plot, grammar, punctuation, story universes, and any general writing questions you may have. You can also discuss recent books you read that makes you want to fangirl, rant, or simply discuss about it.

Posts/replies are all free and easygoing. Discussions are all accepted freely and we will sing campfire songs around a metaphorical campfire and possibly sing the Campfire Song Song and eat smores and we can meditate and become zen with our writing flow.

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SONG!

7/8/2013 . Edited 7/8/2013 #1
TheOneAndOnlyBangBang

AWESOME

7/8/2013 #2
Annything

We will now commence the free writing discussion.... NOW!

Post, babycakes, post!

7/8/2013 #3
Complex Variable

*Activates Forum Owner Power*

Stop.

It was already established that ShatteredUniverse would be the moderator for the "Badass Society of Literature and Writing" thread. That assignment and thread still stand, capiche?

7/8/2013 #4
SolarisOne8
That assignment and thread still stand, capiche?

Until it doesn't. ;-)

7/12/2013 #5
Complex Variable

Damn you. ;)

7/12/2013 #6
taerkitty

So... do we use this thread?

4/9/2014 #7
Annything

Not really.

4/9/2014 #8
taerkitty

Can we use this thread (without an admin/moderator-imposed one-week vacation)?

4/9/2014 #9
TheOneAndOnlyBangBang

Yes the thread is usable.

Short Story: The small detail up top about not being allowed to use it only came about through mis-communication.

Long Story: A long while ago, John, Shattered Universe, was a moderator here and had a thread very similar to this one. I can't remember precisely what happened but he ended up quitting his modship, and in doing so he deleted the thread attached to him. So Ann made this one to replace it. CV, the forum owner, Complex Variable, missed out on those occurrences and just saw this is a copy-cat thread of John's thread. Afterwards it was all cleared up, so yes this is free to use without gaining someone's permission.

4/10/2014 #10
taerkitty

Let's start with the simple stuff. What's important to you when you read a fiction? For a work in a given genre:

- What must the story have, to some degree?

- What must the story be absent, to any degree?

Now, the hard part. Put these in buckets (Critical, Important, and Don't-Give-a-Fuck) by importance, and add stuff I forgot

- Plot. The who, the what, the why, the how.

- Setting. The when and the where.

- Characterization. The why behind the why.

- Theme. The why behind the author.

- Style. This is a toughie, because style varies with each person.

- Pacing. How fast, how slow? Jerry Bruckheimer film, or something contemplative.

- Presentation. The English 101 shit. Stuff like punctuation, grammar, spelling, syntax, and the like.

4/11/2014 #11
Complex Variable

Hey, Kitty. Long time no see. Welcome to the forum. :)

Now, to my opinions. xD

First off, I really like that you put "read" in italics right form the get-go. I can definitely say that, as a writer, my standards/expectations for what I write are rather different from what I expect of other peoples' fictions. This is definitely an important distinction.

Anywho....

Like with most things, I think that it's rather difficult to create general rules as to what I will like. I think that it's easier to figure out what I don't like than it is to figure out what I do like. To that end, I tend to function according to a variety of "little rules"—pet peeves and whatnot—that govern my reaction to fiction.

As for what needs to be present, it's not any specific criteria, but rather, is a more holistic quality, explained as follows. For me, when I read a piece of fiction, a "mind-movie" forms in my head. The more I'm into the story, the better the movie is. If I can't form said mind-movie (whether due to a lack of interest in the story, or incompatibilities with the writing style), I (usually) can't enjoy a piece of fiction. When I'm really *in the zone* as a reader, the mind-movie is so gripping that I tend to become disassociated with the very fact that I'm reading something; it becomes an experience that just happens, not something where I'm consciously pushing myself through each sentence.

Of course, the "mind-movie" doesn't always apply to fiction. It works for most stories, but there are some outliers that often come my way: these are the highly contemplative / non-plot non-scene oriented pieces of fiction, among others. I suppose that for me, that sort of thing is hit-and-miss; either it resonates with me, and I enjoy it, or it doesn't, and I don't.

The reason why I function on little rules rather than big ones is because it tends to be the pet peeves that knock me out of my mind-movie. Such pet peeves are as follows:

• Most avant-garde gimmicks: no quotation marks for dialogue; no punctuation; whatever the *bleep* is going on with House of Leaves;sentences that are so abstract as to be meaningless and/or ridiculous, etc. (As a rule, I loathe avant-garde things, in all their forms)

• Prominent visibility of the "author's hand". That is to say, twists or developments in the story that are obviously contrived by the author solely to advance the plot, and that occur in such a manner as to have no doubt that the only reason they occurred was because the author made them happen, rather than having the ingratiating appearance of being at least a somewhat-plausible consequence of the setting, the backstory, and the characters' desires and dispositions. A classic example of this is the "boy bumps into girl in a hallway; romance ensues". It's so contrived; it forces me to recognize that this is a piece of fiction, and thus, knocks me out of my mind movie.

• Too much paucity of detail and description. This pet-peeve is highly variable (there are many authors who can get away with it just fine) but, whenever it does manifest itself to me, the effects are always the same: my mind-movie is filled with empty white space. Characters are just disembodied voices in my head; the setting is mostly blank canvas, with individual parts appearing inexplicably at haphazard intervals (something I call "retroactive description"). If I don't have enough material with which to create a mind-movie in my head, I can't get hooked into a story.

Intentionally archaic writing styles / dialogue (ex: what GRR Martin uses in his A Song of Ice and Fire series). This is actually something of an extension of my dislike of the avant-garde; for me, intentionally archaic writing styles (aside from being a major turn-off in their own right) interfere with my ability to smoothly read the story and integrate the information and events presented into my mind-movies. I expect smoothness and easy readability from any contemporary piece of fiction that I read; the idea is to communicate clearly, not to obscure one's meaning.

• There's also another, more personal aspect to the previous point. As a writer of fantasy/speculative-fiction, I frown upon any *serious* literature (particularly "high fantasy") that relies on the reader's preconceptions of its content. Writing in an archaic manner usually occurs as part of the author's attempt to create an atmosphere of a different time/place; my problem with this is that the presentation or other superficial elements (simply talking about knights and castles and kings, for instance) often becomes a big part of the means through which the author communicates the reality of their story-world. However, by using these things—these loaded ideas/concepts which popular culture has attached images and connotations to in the minds of the reader—the author is allowing said preconceptions of their creation's content to do the work of actually presenting what the story-world is like. I feel much the same thing for writers—in any genre—who rely upon the reader's aesthetic preconceptions of what their genre should be like to do work (in whole or in part) of conveying to the reader the reality of their story-world. Honestly, by letting the images and ideas present in popular culture / conceptions fill in the details for you, you are making it more difficult for any other author in your genre who is trying to do something that doesn't conform to those aesthetic stereotypes. More generally, then, when a story relies heavily on the stereotypical aesthetics and tropes of its genre(s), I expect it to possess creativity and originality in some other of its aspects (dialogue, plot, depth of world-building, etc.) to make up for the lack of creativity that stems from relying on those stereotypes.

• In general, I dislike depictions of sex in literature. It's just not my taste, and—for me, anyway—there are limitless multitudes of things that are vastly more interesting than explicit chroniclings of sexual encounters.

• I look down upon "realistic" fiction set in the present day, especially in an environment that is more-or-less familiar to me. In fact—unless the setting itself bears enough novelty to be interesting in its own right (for instance, a period piece)—I tend to find contemporary realistic fiction to be immeasurably boring. I know it sounds elitist, but, from my perspective, contemporary realist authors have less imagination than their speculative-fiction counterparts: the fantasists and science-fiction writers. Seeing as all fiction is, by definition, fictional, any fictional story can be understood as lying within the fantasy/speculative fiction genre; realistic fiction is what happens when you take the imagination out of speculative fiction. And, in today's world—where artists can get away with virtually anything—writing realistic fiction (like with making incomprehensible works of avant-garde) seems to me to be a waste of talent and effort. Call me a snob, but, that's what I think. x3

Having listed some of my pet-peeves, I think there's another issue that I should mention: the seriousness of the reader. Although I'm an okay example, my father is an even better example; he's as near to a totally indiscriminate reader as any person I've ever met. He treats all the fiction he reads in more-or-less the same way: as pure, trivial entertainment, and nothing more. That's "low pleasure"; enjoyment of reading that comes from simple escapism. For me, as long as the mind-movie in what I'm reading is sufficiently interesting, I can read stories with this mentality. However, there are also stories that appeal to me at deeper levels than pure entertainment; these are the stories where themes, emotional content, and life-like characters create a tale that I'm truly invested in, not something I'm merely interested in. The former makes for reading that I'll remember for many, many years to come; the latter is just something to pass the time.

4/11/2014 #12
taerkitty

Hihi, CV! Love the energy level here.

(And ObaOba bitches me out for long posts! :) )

I've found the same - what I enjoy writing isn't the same as what I like to read. For one thing, I don't like suspense, but as author, I know exactly what's going on. Also, I like humour (at times, in context, etc.) but can't tell a joke to save my life.

Anywho...

What you say is a "mind movie" I think is the same as what I call "flow" - the story should be like riding an inner tube on a slow river - interesting scenery, but nothing jarring, be it spelling errors, confusing passages, or pointless scenes.

- Gimmicks. No, just no. These just break the flow. If it doesn't conform to my idea of what a story should look like, then it had better be damned good. Disclaimer: I don't mind a well-written "dear diary" story. However, it has to read like a diary: no long conversations quoted verbatim, for example.

- The author's hand. Here I like how you italicized obviously. I do believe there are stories that are "beyond your current level of ability" for any given author. A common result of an author over-reaching is just this: obvious plot turns. A more deft and skilled author can make the same plot turn feel organic, fluid.

- Detail and description is, sadly, a matter of taste. My focus is, after flow, characterization. As such, I hardly give a toss where they are beyond, "it's Grand Central Station in New York." I don't feel any need to "make the reader feel s/he were there" or to go into detail about the newstand in the center, the sun dazzling people as it shines through the keyhole windows. If you know what GCSt is, then you know. If you don't know, you can infer it has trains and people. Good enough. My biggest challenge with my friend's 20k-per-chapter work is that he is the opposite, so there's far too much description.

You know what? I just realized why I dislike over-describing. I don't want stuff in a story that doesn't serve a purpose. I get the fact that the scene is in a kitchen. Okay, a Chinese restaurant's kitchen. But I don't care about the various cuts of meat hanging on hooks in the window, not unless they serve a purpose.

- Archaic writing styles. That's kind of iffy. I can put up with a little bit of that, but it's very little. I treasure readability (flow), so mess with it at your own risk. That said, I did use this very sin when I was writing a diary format story from the perspective of a woman born in the early 1900s.

- I'm currently writing fanfiction, and I know exactly what you mean about the reliance of preconceptions. My stuff, try as I may to make it 'non-canon-reader-friendly', still ends up with nearly invisible dependencies of the reader having at least browsed through some of the canon. It's a weakness, and that's even with me trying to address it.

- Sex is best offscreen/offstage/offpage. They enter the bedroom, and end the chapter. Next chapter, someone is fixing breakfast. Now, talking about how it was, that's different. If the conversation is believable, if the characters are using words appropriate to their characterization (I don't give a fuck about people using the fucking word to talk about fucking, but I do give a fuck if doing so is out of character.)

I also don't like stories that hinge on sex. Laurell Hamilton's later Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter stories were often like this. She, the vampire leader, and the werewolf alpha would have sex, and it would infuse them with some power from this mysterious and impossible unity, power so... bleargh.

-I don't mind realistic fiction. Spy stories, cop stories, even heart-warming "Chicken Soup for Somebody" stories about normal people. I prefer modern-fantasy, where it just looks like the normal world, but actually, there are witches, or mutants, or cyborgs, or .... But just one, please. I don't need a mishmash of stuff.

- For me, I think I'm stuck in a upper-middle-brow mode. I loathe stories that start with action and ... cut! That's the end of the first chapter! Great. We get to see what a bad-ass this person is as he racks up a body count. Why is he doing this? What is the backstory? For me, the character's motivation needs to be deeper than simply "ninjas killed my family." I want there to be a reason to fight.

I don't write fight scenes very well. There might be a showdown to a fight, but fights are usually over and done with in a few seconds. it's actually very rare for a non-staged fight to be evenly matched. MMA and boxing matches are carefully tiered so either contestant has at least some chance. For me, if one person spoiling for a fight is doing it right, s/he will stack the odds as much in his/her favour as possible.

===

Now having established a difference between what I like to read and what I like to write, I'll confess that what I like to write is also what I love to read. I think that's only natural. However, what I write is a complete subset of what I like to read.

My current project is set in the anime/manga canon Gunslinger Girl. It came about because so many of the other GSG fanfics were basically completely contrary to the mood of the canon. It's very dark, fatalistic, and morally grey. The point is that the cyborg girls the Agency uses as killers are not zombies and not robots, so they're still pre-teens and trying to make sense of the world. They're also brainwashed and their brains will turn to jelly within 5 years time, so they don't have a lot of freedom, but within those confines, there's something very touching about them still trying to hold onto their humanity.

As I said, most of the fanfics I read in the canon were all about action and dispensed completely with all the tragic stuff, so I made my work focus heavily on it.

It's a heavily character-based work. The characters spend most of their time talking and interacting out-of-combat, so we get to see their flaws, their desires, their strengths.

It's focused on emotions, both for the character, and the reader. I am trying to find the line in the grey zone between manipulative and organic, between maudlin and truly tragic. I want the reader to feel a sense of pride when one of the two main characters does something honourable, yet difficult. I want the reader to want to save and protect the cyborg, even though she is the last person in the canon that needs protecting.

It's very small-scoped. This is again in keeping with the canon, but it's also what I like in stories. Yes, there's something exciting about recovering a loose nuke, but ... I find stories at that scale to be too common. In part, that's because it's the upper extreme unless you want to become Galactus - the most we can lose is this world, so the biggest stake we can have in a story is this world.

Lastly, I keep a conscious eye on the pacing. Especially with my friend dropping 20k chapters, I understand the need to let the reader get up and stretch for a bit. I try to work my stories so they're presented in bite-sized chunks, that each chunk ends at a 'logical' place, but they flow together, both within each chapter and between chapters. As such, I'm actually keeping myself to a very set cadence:

- Each story will be 5 chapters 1 epilogue.

- Each chapter will be between 1k and 2k words.

- The epilogue will be under 1k words. (Usually, it's my dumping ground for plot ideas that I can't spin into a full story.)

- Stories will be sequential, and each threesome will be presented on FanFiction as a 'volume'.

I want the reader to know what they're getting, that this current plot arc won't go on for-fuckin-ever.

I guess this segues into a good question: of the choices and buckets above (which we didn't use, so they can go to hell), what is important to you when you write?

4/11/2014 #13
Complex Variable
If you know what GCSt is, then you know. If you don't know, you can infer it has trains and people

Tut tut! x3 This is EXACTLY what I mean by "relying on the reader's preconceptions". This is one of the (IMO, unfair) advantages that people who write realistic fiction and/or highly stereotypical genre fiction tend to abuse: they let the reader's familiarity with a place / aesthetic do the work of actual scene-setting.

- Sex is best offscreen/offstage/offpage.

*As chorus* Amen.

I'm currently writing fanfiction, and I know exactly what you mean about the reliance of preconceptions. My stuff, try as I may to make it 'non-canon-reader-friendly', still ends up with nearly invisible dependencies of the reader having at least browsed through some of the canon. It's a weakness, and that's even with me trying to address it.

This (along with the tendency fanfiction has to ingrain genre stereotypes in writers and readers) is why I place fan-fiction (and, to a lesser extent, contemporary realist or highly stereotypical genre writers) on a "lower" tier than more original forms of fiction.

I like to think of myself a creative person. Consequently, one of the things that I really like when reading is seeing lots of hard work toward the creation of original, imaginative content.

I also don't like stories that hinge on sex.

Seeing as hinging on sex generally implies lots of explicit depictions of sex, I concur.

I loathe stories that start with action and ... cut! That's the end of the first chapter! Great. We get to see what a bad-ass this person is as he racks up a body count.

Ah, that. xD Yes, I generally dislike it too. That technique is called "in medias res" (latin for "in the midst of things"). A lot of people nowadays are writing opening action scenes; I think it has something to do with the changing attention spans of readers, or something like that. More generally, it tends to be an exemplar of that most fundamental of literary blunders: confusing/conflating action with plot. As far as I'm concerned, plot is always more gripping and compelling than mere action.

I don't write fight scenes very well.

One of my pet peeves is writers complaining about aspects of writing that they feel they don't accomplish well. It's profoundly annoying, for starters, and—more importantly—it's really just whining that needs to stop. If you don't think you write fight scenes very well, Kitty, then, by all means, GO AND PRACTICE WRITING THEM!! That way, you'll not only improve your skills as an author, but you'll also stop annoying your fans with self-deprecating complaints about your own non-existent inadequacies. ;D

They're also brainwashed and their brains will turn to jelly within 5 years time

I've always really hated the use of the word "jelly" in this context. Have you ever seen/touched a live (or nearly-live) brain before? It's basically jelly. You can't jellify something that's already gelatinous! xD Use "liquify" instead. ;)

But just one, please. I don't need a mishmash of stuff.

I disagree. Mishmash hodge-podge stuff can be amazing, if done well. The problem is, most of the time, it ends up being stupid and/or silly because the various aesthetics and tropes of the different elements utilized in the story clash with one another, rather than synergize. I have a friend here who's doing exactly such a story, and it's (at least as far as I'm concerned) all the more wonderful because of it.

As such, I'm actually keeping myself to a very set cadence:

1) That's an inappropriate use of the word "cadence". Try "structure" or "scheme". :3

2) Eh, I'm not the type to set those kinds of explicit constraints on my writing. I like to let the content of the story—the flow of the plot, the pace of one scene moving into the next, and so on—determine my chapter structure. Doing so forces me to think about my stories' structures in terms of scene and plot, which—in the long run—is what will really determine the pacing. A chapter should be as short or long as it needs to be, and—tell this to your friend ;)—if you can't figure that length out on your own, then maybe you aren't as familiar with your story as you should be.

4/12/2014 #14
taerkitty

I think we shared these opinions on some other forum long ago. It reads in a familiar way.

Let's get back to the assumption of setting. It depends on how important the setting is to the plot arc. If all there needs to be are trains and people, then any station will do. Use Grand Central, use Penn Station, whatever. If it's essential that it be Grand Central (say, the bomb is hidden in the clock), then the author needs to describe it more.

So long as the setting has enough on which to anchor the dependencies of the fiction, I'm good. Too much more, and I start wondering if the author is simply trying to "show his work" - i.e. "I spent 5 hours researching this place, so you're going to benefit from my notes, even if it throws the story off track."

With cultural assumptions, there has to be some made. The only matter is if they are reasonable. For that, we as authors must first define our target audience. I see no point in writing for someone who will not enjoy the genre in which I'm writing. Keep in mind there is a marked difference between genre and setting - settings have the details and idiosyncracies unique to that story, while genres hold some of the tropes, cliches, and conventions for that superset of settings.

RE: Mish-mash. This is another case of "this story is beyond your current ability" - to meld two or more genres takes far more skill than simply proficiency in both. The synergy needs to be carefully handled and communicated, lest you end up with people expecting more X and getting too much Y. For most authors on FictionPress and FanFiction, I think a mish-mash is just asking for a weak story. Exceptions exist, but they must be recognized for what they are: exceptions.

Finally, cadence is the correct word, because it means rhythm. Chapter-chapter-chapter-chapter-chapter-epilogue. Repeat.

For me, I both enjoy the challenge of fitting a story into that pattern where possible, and knowing that, should someone else write in a similarly regular fashion, I won't be stuck in the middle of a chapter wondering, "When will this ever frickin' end?"

4/12/2014 #15
bispham

Customers choose to come Rctophobby to shop for radio control helicopters are always guaranteed the lowest prices online, the best service possible along with FREE Lifetime Online Technical Support. I am a horse-fucking, baguette-fondling, serpent-rubbing degenerate.

This is my life now; the Dark Lord Lucifer has demanded the sum of one thousand souls, and only one thousand advertising shitposts will clear me of that debt. In return I shall be given a place at his side at the end of time.

"Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Come." I looked, and behold, a Capitalist horse, and he who sat on it wore a shroud of troll faces, and a keyboard was given unto him, and he went out shitposting and to shitpost."

- Revelation 69:1337

7/27/2014 . Edited by TheOneAndOnlyBangBang, 11/28/2015 #16
Constantine 00

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8/1/2019 #17
Constantine 00

The campus falls deeper into chaos.

8/1/2019 #18
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