Theory of Writing

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Thread: Theory of Writing

  1. #1

    Theory of Writing

    The dominant theory of writing (true?) is starting with some problem (conflict, issue). This hooks the reader. The climax+resolution then shows the resolution.

    The middle of the book is then filled with smaller versions of this -- some problem, which is resolved (or not), then the next problem arises.

    And then we can have variations, such as having two problems or having the initial problem escalate or change.

    How much does this model influence our approach to writing? Using this model, we make the problem as important as possible. We want the reader to care about the characters so the reader cares about the resolution. Jay has suggested making it seem almost impossible that the protagonist will succeed in the final conflict. We try to hook the reader as quickly and strongly as possible.
    How to write a good start: Hidden Content . Useful, original information. Long and thorough.
    Includes Hidden Content (do you start with description?), Hidden Content (a favorite with publishers apparently), starting with Hidden Content (a lost art), and more.

  2. #2
    In fact, it's hard to even say what a different theory of writing would be.

    I have been playing with the idea that there are a lot of different things we can do, as writers, to make reading a scene (or book) enjoyable. The kitchen sink theory? One is resolution and another is suspense. So the conflict-resolution idea works, but it's just one source of enjoyment. And obviously humor, and I suppose dramatic irony and saying something insightful or profound. There is the surprise and awesome moment. Some people like horror. Someone said characters are everything. I think the list is even larger, but I don't know all of it.

    Does the reader read because reading is enjoyable or because the reader is hooked? Actually, finding out that the girl has been kidnapped by the psychopathic serial killer could be really stressful. And when she is saved, that could just be relief, not enjoyment. Or, since we kind of know she will be saved, how does any of that model work?

    It's an important topic. I think the dominant model works for some readers . . . but the theory that everyone wants to read about horses works for some readers. It doesn't work for me as a reader.
    How to write a good start: Hidden Content . Useful, original information. Long and thorough.
    Includes Hidden Content (do you start with description?), Hidden Content (a favorite with publishers apparently), starting with Hidden Content (a lost art), and more.

  3. #3
    I gotta say, I come at a story from a much different perspective. For me the story and its conflict are really just a backdrop for my characters to play in front of. The story is more like the sets and props in a stage play. Sure, I create a storyline with plenty of conflict, but that's just something to keep my characters busy while they entertain the reader.

    Sometimes the conflict is nothing more than friction between the characters.

  4. #4
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    Johnstone and L'Amour like protagonists who thrive under pressure and nullify the conflict with expertise.

    Some authors shun the idea of putting a main character in an impossible scenario because the point of their main character's existence is to resolve whatever conflict propels the story.

    It depends on the writer's mentality and intentions I suppose.
    My favorite word in the English language is "shenanigans." My favorite thing to do is cause them.

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  5. #5
    As soon as any writer subscribes to a 'theory' of structure, they limit their creativity. Yes, some genres have an almost formulaic structure and you'll find hundreds of published works that follow it. However, the odds are that a classic - as accepted by the readers of that genre and not by writers with a point to make - often don't follow that structure. That's what makes them stand alone.

    I tend to work towards a story the reader can experience, in terms of mood, emotion, conflict and enjoyment. All of these elements are dispensable, so long as the story remains of interest to a reader.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Does the reader read because reading is enjoyable or because the reader is hooked? Actually, finding out that the girl has been kidnapped by the psychopathic serial killer could be really stressful. And when she is saved, that could just be relief, not enjoyment. Or, since we kind of know she will be saved, how does any of that model work?
    Fiction is read for enjoyment. Often it is enjoyment mixed with other things, like history (historic romances, historic fiction, alternate history, etc), or science (science fiction). Readers may be interested in horses and therefore like to read fiction with horses in it, or they may be interested in the military and read military fiction, but the driving force is always the pleasure of reading. The book's theme, or setting, or characters must resonate with a reader, or there can be no 'hook'. The hook is the pleasure. When you read that opening line, or paragraph, or scene and say to yourself, "I like this," or "Just one more page..." You are doing that because the reading is enjoyable. Enjoying what you are reading and being hooked are the same thing.
    Last edited by Terry D; January 10th, 2018 at 09:50 PM.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    Hidden Content






  7. #7
    I suspect that hooking a reader is psychologically similar to many forms of advertising in that one convinces them that they have a deficiency that they didn't know about previously. That hook may have very little to do with the subsequent story though. There's little difference between being told that one may have bad breath, body odour, yellowing teeth, receding hair or a visible panty line and being implicitly told that one doesn't know why a character was killed in the opening paragraph of a story or who did it. Both in writing and in advertising the product and the need for it may be presented to the consumer simultaneously as they probably didn't have such a need beforehand. If there is a fundamental need for conflict in writing it is probably more the conflict caused by ignorance, meaning lack of specific knowledge in this case, in the reader's mind than any experienced by characters within the story. My angel said that she couldn't see any point in watching the film Titanic because one already knows that the ship sinks and any side stories are just that. The promoters didn't create the need in her mind because it was presented as the story of the ship, which she didn't feel the need to be told.

    Similarly the resolution provided by a story may simply be resolution of the conflicts created within the reader's own mind rather than any experienced by characters within the story itself. It is obviously easier to expect the reader to associate themselves with a particular character and share in that individual's conflict so that one can forget about the reader and assume that their experiences mirror the character's. Personally I am more interested in manipulating the reader's experience, which is why I see beta reading as an important aid. In particular I like beta readers who write comments as they read, rather than after reading substantial amounts, so that their state of mind can be assessed at many points throughout the story. A story may only be a means to guide a reader's mind towards a particular state, so feedback from real readers is essential. I find it odd that experienced writers will warn against creating stereotypical characters but often seem to have stereotypical readers in mind when giving advice.

    Maybe I can't contribute to this thread properly because I'm possibly not in tune with the assumed premises about the theory of reading, which must precede any theory of writing. For example, since Coleridge coined the term "suspension of disbelief" it has been bounced between being an aspect of the principles of reading and of writing. The most that can be said is that there is an implicit contract between the reader and writer which incorporates such concepts and a reader will only truly enjoy reading a work written according to the terms of the contract that they assume to exist. Of course, just like the stories, such contracts are potentially fictional and maybe even an intentional device for creating conflict within a reader's mind. So, ultimately can we even have factual constraints on writing fictional stories or is the fictional aspect itself boundless?
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Fiction is read for enjoyment. Often it is enjoyment mixed with other things, like history (historic romances, historic fiction, alternate history, etc), or science (science fiction). Readers may be interested in horses and therefore like to read fiction with horses in it, or they may be interested in the military and read military fiction, but the driving force is always the pleasure of reading. The book's theme, or setting, or characters must resonate with a reader, or there can be no 'hook'. The hook is the pleasure. When you read that opening line, or paragraph, or scene and say to yourself, "I like this," or "Just one more page..." You are doing that because the reading is enjoyable. Enjoying what you are reading and being hooked are the same thing.
    Except for our usual terminology arguments, you seem to be agreeing with me?! We are both saying that writers should write books that are enjoyable to read, readers should read books because they are enjoyable to read, and there are a lot of different reasons for a book to be enjoyable. I might someday want to list all of those ways and talk about how to achieve them.

    "Just one more page" is not necessarily enjoyable. I would like to know if the coral reefs are going to die, but there's nothing enjoyable about that desire (as JustRob notes). I have been caught up in reading a book, and only when I set it down for a moment do I realize that I am not enjoying the book. For example, to me Patterson creates interesting "conflicts" that I want to know the answer to, but there is nothing enjoyable in reading the actual book and I can improve the quality of my life by just reading the end. The ending is not enjoyable but reading it satisfies that itch to know.
    How to write a good start: Hidden Content . Useful, original information. Long and thorough.
    Includes Hidden Content (do you start with description?), Hidden Content (a favorite with publishers apparently), starting with Hidden Content (a lost art), and more.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I gotta say, I come at a story from a much different perspective. For me the story and its conflict are really just a backdrop for my characters to play in front of. The story is more like the sets and props in a stage play. Sure, I create a storyline with plenty of conflict, but that's just something to keep my characters busy while they entertain the reader.

    Sometimes the conflict is nothing more than friction between the characters.
    I agree. Well, In Mr. Mercedes, King started with a character who is soon killed off when someone drives into a crowd. The point was to create horror, and creating a character was to increase the horror. That's making the reader care. But I wrote a book for the characters and their interaction, then added action scenes so that they would have something to do. So the various conflicts played the secondary role.

    And right, I suggested adding a conflict between characters just for interest, not for any plot purposes or that there would be a winner.
    How to write a good start: Hidden Content . Useful, original information. Long and thorough.
    Includes Hidden Content (do you start with description?), Hidden Content (a favorite with publishers apparently), starting with Hidden Content (a lost art), and more.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Except for our usual terminology arguments, you seem to be agreeing with me?! We are both saying that writers should write books that are enjoyable to read, readers should read books because they are enjoyable to read, and there are a lot of different reasons for a book to be enjoyable. I might someday want to list all of those ways and talk about how to achieve them.
    I don't always disagree with you, sometimes you are right

    "Just one more page" is not necessarily enjoyable. I would like to know if the coral reefs are going to die, but there's nothing enjoyable about that desire (as JustRob notes). I have been caught up in reading a book, and only when I set it down for a moment do I realize that I am not enjoying the book. For example, to me Patterson creates interesting "conflicts" that I want to know the answer to, but there is nothing enjoyable in reading the actual book and I can improve the quality of my life by just reading the end. The ending is not enjoyable but reading it satisfies that itch to know.
    Perhaps 'rewarding' would be a better word than 'enjoyable'? I don't know. I don't want start splitting semantic hairs. If you have an interest in the death of coral reefs, then wouldn't it be reasonable to assume you might enjoy reading a work of fiction about endangered coral reefs? I'd suggest that enjoyment and interest are two sides of the same coin. Most people who pick up a novel do so because they enjoy reading, but, if the plot, or style, or characters cease to interest them, then they might put the book down, or, as you suggest, skip to the end. They stopped enjoying it. If you read through to the end, then, on some level, you enjoyed the book. Enjoyment = Pleasure. And isn't scratching an itch usually a pleasure?
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    Hidden Content






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