Theory of Writing - Page 10
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  1. #91
    Quote Originally Posted by Garvan View Post
    What list Emma? You keep referencing things that I have no-one about! What are you talking about?

    There is no question about how many characters should be in a book... There really isn't. You are now looking for questions that aren't.
    I started this thread with the claim that we have techniques for making a book enjoyable. Terry seemed to agree with me. In my astonishment I checked to see if this could really be true, and he said yes. ("I don't always disagree with you, sometimes you are right"). That's what I meant by "list".

    I think we do not pay enough attention to these.

    For one item on the list, I would say that authors tell a story about problems, like a high schooler is pregnant or she has an obsessive-compulsive boyfriend. I enjoy reading about that, when it is done well. I am not necessarily interested in who wins or the outcom, in contrast to the problem of the kidnapped child where I just want to know the outcome.

    Next. We can disagree about the notion that there is a problem with too many characters and a writer might try to reduce the number of characters. That's how we learn, right? If you told me that most of the people here had never even thought about this issue, I would not be surprised. King and I could be wrong, and certainly there might be a better way of saying the idea of minimizing characters, I would love a better way of saying things.

  2. #92
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    I started this thread with the claim that we have techniques for making a book enjoyable. Terry seemed to agree with me. In my astonishment I checked to see if this could really be true, and he said yes. ("I don't always disagree with you, sometimes you are right"). That's what I meant by "list".


    This is what I agreed with:

    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.


    As for actually trying to list all the ways to make a book enjoyable? That list would be as long as the list of enjoyable books. Each is enjoyable in its own way. It cannot be codified.

    Where did King ever say he chose to minimize characters? I'd be interested in reading his take on that.
    Last edited by Terry D; January 24th, 2018 at 10:44 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

    https://www.amazon.com/author/terrydurbin






  3. #93
    I'm not sure if it's the same passage Emma is referring to, but King did talk about the time he had to kill off some characters to solve his plot problems (On Writing, pp. 202-205):

    For weeks I got exactly nowhere in my thinking—it all just seemed too hard, too fucking complex. I had run out too many plotlines, and they were in danger of becoming snarled. I circled the problem again and again, beat my fists on it, knocked my head against it . . . and then one day when I was thinking of nothing much at all, the answer came to me. It arrived whole and complete—gift-wrapped, you could say— in a single bright flash. I ran home and jotted it down on paper, the only time I’ve done such a thing, because I was ter- rified of forgetting.

    What I saw was that the America in which The Stand took place might have been depopulated by the plague, but the world of my story had become dangerously overcrowded—a veritable Calcutta. The solution to where I was stuck, I saw, could be pretty much the same as the situation that got me going—an explosion instead of a plague, but still one quick, hard slash of the Gordian knot. I would send the survivors west from Boulder to Las Vegas on a redemptive quest— they would go at once, with no supplies and no plan, like Biblical characters seeking a vision or to know the will of God. In Vegas they would meet Randall Flagg, and good guys and bad guys alike would be forced to make their stand.

    At one moment I had none of this; at the next I had all of it. If there is any one thing I love about writing more than the rest, it’s that sudden flash of insight when you see how every- thing connects. I have heard it called “thinking above the curve,” and it’s that; I’ve heard it called “the over-logic,” and it’s that, too. Whatever you call it, I wrote my page or two of notes in a frenzy of excitement and spent the next two or three days turning my solution over in my mind, looking for flaws and holes (also working out the actual narrative flow, which involved two supporting characters placing a bomb in a major character’s closet), but that was mostly out of a sense of this-is-too-good-to-be-true unbelief. Too good or not, I knew it was true at the moment of revelation: that bomb in Nick Andros’s closet was going to solve all my narrative problems. It did, too.

    The rest of the book ran itself off in nine weeks.

    ...

    The real source of my malaise, I decided, had been that in the wake of the plague, my Boulder characters—the good guys—were starting up the same old technological deathtrip. The first hesitant CB broadcasts, beckoning people to Boulder, would soon lead to TV; infomercials and 900 numbers would be back in no time. Same deal with the power plants. It certainly didn’t take my Boulder folks long to decide that seeking the will of the God who spared them was a lot less important than getting the refrigerators and air conditioners up and running again. In Vegas, Randall Flagg and his friends were learning how to fly jets and bombers as well as getting the lights back on, but that was okay—to be expected—because they were the bad guys.

    What had stopped me was realizing, on some level of my mind, that the good guys and bad guys were starting to look perilously alike, and what got me going again was realizing the good guys were worshipping an electronic golden calf and needed a wake-up call. A bomb in the closet would do just fine.

    Yes, King decided that eliminating some characters would fix his plot. Though I wouldn't put that into the category of a universal rule. That was just his solution for this single story. For another story, the solution could very well be the opposite: to add more characters. Or even something completely different.

    To me, the lesson from that passage wasn't "Kill off characters if your plot is giving you problems! This is a universal solution!" but rather: "If you've got narrative problems, think through your story and a solution will eventually come to you."

  4. #94
    Thanks, Kyle. I'd forgotten that passage from On Writing. King has never been shy about a large cast of characters though.
    “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

    https://www.amazon.com/author/terrydurbin






  5. #95
    Theory is all well and good, it helps us, as writers, to understand the craft, but theory without practical application amounts to jackshit. As intriguing as discussions can be and are, theory can only take one so far. Reading is the passive part of the learning curve, doing (practice) is the active, screaming plunge to the other side. Theory gives a writer bones, freshly excavated and unassembled, it shows us shapes, all sorts of species. Practice puts the bones into context and through active engagement, interaction with those bones we learn what our beast is, it gains an identity. Like discussions on politics and philosophy there is no end to the permutations of conversations that can be held. As Buzz Lightyear said, 'To infinity and beyond.'

    As a reader, a writer, I think one really needs to actually, actively write, (Unlike the rare professor, who drones about theory, but never applies the inert information.), both creatively and technically, (e.g. critique, editing, non-fiction, research), before any true understanding of writing theories and its historical archetypes really take on a tangible meaning. Without practice, they are just empty words. It is the practice in the preaching, it keeps writers grounded, and illustrates the process. (​On Writing is within easy reach on my table, alongside Joseph Campbell, and oddly enough Stephen Fry...Yes, the man preaches, but so too, does he practice.)

    The reason it is a Theory of Writing, because there is no hard and fast way, no instant fix of do this and it will make your writing good. Yes, Theory A may work for Writer Q, but it could prove disasterous for Writer Phi. Genres will have breed standards and there are many recipes, (archetypes) that work because they appeal to a reader's appreciation of the familiar. Like a good cookie recipe, it is tasty and comforting, classic definition of why a book is labelled as 'good'. Ask an everyday reader why they liked a book and they probably will not give you a detailed litany. 'Good' writing can be quantified as writing that resonates with a reader. It is why recipe writers are bestsellers, that mysterious balance between archetypial elements and practice.

    Theory, bones of a work in progress...

    I like theories because they make sense of things, but what I love us seeing elements of an inert theory come together in an active process. Like watching a Big Bang moment. That instant when drafts and bones (theory) fuse in a seamless whole,viable body of work.

    As Professor Henry Jones, Jr. once said, 'If you want to be a good archaeologist, you need to get out of the library.'

    Just some thoughts.

    - D.
    Last edited by Darkkin; January 26th, 2018 at 05:09 AM.


  6. #96
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post


    Where did King ever say he chose to minimize characters? I'd be interested in reading his take on that.
    As Kyle noted, he did not. Worse, King showed little insight or attempted insight, so I was wrong about that. "The real source of my malaise, I decided, had been that in the wake of the plague . . ." So that's about the specific book. He then gives general advice about theme, if you want to give him credit for that, but he doesn't define theme.

    So I was wrong.

    Here's a pretty good discussion: https://jamigold.com/2014/10/ask-jam...s-is-too-many/ "A good rule of thumb might be:Include as many characters as needed to tell the story and evoke the proper style and scope—and no more."

    The book I am currently reading has too many office characters and I cannot keep them straight. In one story the protagonist seven sidekicks, all with distinct personalities, and it worked! But they had one-dimensional personalities, and even that probably wouldn't have worked except they had names to go with their personalities. So there was no memory load -- when you read about Grumpy you knew he was grumpy, and you didn't even have to be told once.

  7. #97
    I tend to have a lot of characters in my novels, but readers have never complained. I think the trick is to figure out how each character contributes to the story and then give them as much development as they need to do that job. If you find that you have created a character who doesn't really contribute to the forward movement of the story, then cut them -- in spite of how much you may like him/her.
    “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

    https://www.amazon.com/author/terrydurbin






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