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  1. #91
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this. Suppose a beginning writer has, in the course of increasing suspense, created no way for the protagonist to live, but he doesn't want the protagonist to die. And he hears your advice: It's okay to end the story there. Did you really want to give that advice?
    My advice would be: end it the way you feel it should end. And if it doesn't work for readers, they'll let you know. Either way, you learn from it and further hone your skill-set.

    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan
    On your example, I think it's supposed to be obvious he dies. Everyone else in his party did; the other wolves aren't going to sit around and watch him fight the leader, they attack from behind. There apparently is a post-credit shot of him on the ground in front of the wolf.
    That's part of the fun of it. To you, it's obvious he died. To my wife, it was obvious he killed the wolves and got away.

    The post-credit shot shows the alpha wolf lying on the ground, presumably injured and dying. It doesn't show the protagonist, though (so the question of his survival is still left, intentionally, in the air). All you're left with is the knowledge that the protagonist (whether he lived or died) apparently gave the wolf hell.

    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan
    Leaving out the moment of resolution, but making it obvious, is interesting. Pride & Prejudice leaves out Darcy's proposal of marriage, mentioning it in the next scene. That actually fits some treasured advice you gave me a year ago: "Sometimes it’s okay to leave the obvious unsaid."
    I think it's an interesting approach, too.

    Sometimes you can go too far in that direction, though, and leave so much unsaid that the reader gets confused. It's a tricky thing to balance out, but it can be worth it when you hit it just right.

  2. #92
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this. Suppose a beginning writer has, in the course of increasing suspense, created no way for the protagonist to live, but he doesn't want the protagonist to die. And he hears your advice: It's okay to end the story there. Did you really want to give that advice?
    So are we just talking about beginning writers? We're going to expect beginners to memorize a lot of rules, and then when they get better we'll tell them, oh, actually, those aren't rules at all?

    This is a genuine question.

    I used to ride horses when I was a kid, and then I took quite a while off, and then I went back to riding took it a bit more seriously, and I was shocked by how much I had to unlearn. The instructor I had as a child taught me the things you teach someone who you don't think is going to be a serious rider - the easiest example is steering with the reins. My childhood instructor taught us that if you want to go left, you pull on the left rein. Simple and easy and good enough for a bunch of kids who were just going to be trotting around in a circle anyway.

    But as an adult, my coach realized I wanted to really learn to ride. So she showed me that reins control the horse's head and neck, but not the rest of its body, and it's the body that actually controls the direction the horse moves in. It's quite possible for a horse to move left while its head is turned to the right. So good riders, real riders, steer with their weight and their seat and their legs much more than with the stupid reins. And I learned that lesson, intellectually, in about two minutes. But it took me years to unlearn the muscle memory and the almost instinctive reaction to steer with the reins. It was a complete pain in the ass.

    Kind of a long anecdote (sorry!) but I wonder if we're looking at something similar here. It's easy to tell people there's a formula to writing, easy to use those websites and programs that will tell you you're overusing the word "was" or whatever, easy to pretend that's all there is to it and there's no judgement required or personal style involved. And if the people aren't really serious about writing, maybe that's the best way for them to get a presentable story in a hurry. Maybe it's an easy fix. Maybe it's like steering with the reins.

    But do you meet a lot of new writers who say they aren't really serious about writing and just want to write something "good enough"? Most of the ones I meet say they're really serious and passionate and want to create something great. Now, probably most of the kids I started riding with thought they were future Olympians, and just like those kids, many writers will lose interest once something else comes along. But it seems to me to be a disservice to just assume that's the case.

    So if I'm not misreading you and if you are suggesting this advice mostly for beginning writers... do you think it makes sense to teach them something they may well have to unlearn later on?
    booklives.com (work in progress!)

  3. #93
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this. Suppose a beginning writer has, in the course of increasing suspense, created no way for the protagonist to live, but he doesn't want the protagonist to die. And he hears your advice: It's okay to end the story there. Did you really want to give that advice?
    Then the writer has some rewriting to do to create a situation where the protagonist can live. Kyle's advice is about authors being free to make choices which don't necessarily fit expectations. The author has the choice of letting his characters live, die, or for the resolution to be ambiguous. Writing one's self into a situation like you describe is like experiencing the Kobiashi Maru simulation at the Star Fleet Academy. Sure, you can find yourself in a no-win scenario, but as the author, you are free to change the parameters.
    “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






  4. #94
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post
    ... I was shocked by how much I had to unlearn.
    This pretty much describes my writing progress over the past year.

    Regarding the thread: trying to unlearn much of Swain's teachings has been, ironically, part of that process. Which isn't to say that Swain deserves to be unlearned—but that, for me, I discovered that I work much better when not adhering to many of his concepts.

    To each their own, though. I've heard from some writers for whom Swain's teachings were like the missing puzzle piece they'd been searching for.

    One person's trash is another's treasure, and all that.

  5. #95
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post
    So are we just talking about beginning writers? We're going to expect beginners to memorize a lot of rules, and then when they get better we'll tell them, oh, actually, those aren't rules at all?

    This is a genuine question.

    I used to ride horses when I was a kid, and then I took quite a while off, and then I went back to riding took it a bit more seriously, and I was shocked by how much I had to unlearn. The instructor I had as a child taught me the things you teach someone who you don't think is going to be a serious rider - the easiest example is steering with the reins. My childhood instructor taught us that if you want to go left, you pull on the left rein. Simple and easy and good enough for a bunch of kids who were just going to be trotting around in a circle anyway.

    But as an adult, my coach realized I wanted to really learn to ride. So she showed me that reins control the horse's head and neck, but not the rest of its body, and it's the body that actually controls the direction the horse moves in. It's quite possible for a horse to move left while its head is turned to the right. So good riders, real riders, steer with their weight and their seat and their legs much more than with the stupid reins. And I learned that lesson, intellectually, in about two minutes. But it took me years to unlearn the muscle memory and the almost instinctive reaction to steer with the reins. It was a complete pain in the ass.

    Kind of a long anecdote (sorry!) but I wonder if we're looking at something similar here. It's easy to tell people there's a formula to writing, easy to use those websites and programs that will tell you you're overusing the word "was" or whatever, easy to pretend that's all there is to it and there's no judgement required or personal style involved. And if the people aren't really serious about writing, maybe that's the best way for them to get a presentable story in a hurry. Maybe it's an easy fix. Maybe it's like steering with the reins.

    But do you meet a lot of new writers who say they aren't really serious about writing and just want to write something "good enough"? Most of the ones I meet say they're really serious and passionate and want to create something great. Now, probably most of the kids I started riding with thought they were future Olympians, and just like those kids, many writers will lose interest once something else comes along. But it seems to me to be a disservice to just assume that's the case.

    So if I'm not misreading you and if you are suggesting this advice mostly for beginning writers... do you think it makes sense to teach them something they may well have to unlearn later on?
    I've said this before and I'll say it again. One doesn't try to train a toddler for a marathon.

    Using the horse riding example, steering with the reins is necessary for someone who doesn't have the body size and weight to use the body to steer the horse. It is also necessary for those with preconceived ideas who won't listen to anything that deviates.

    We toddle, then learn to walk, then move to running. But we don't run from the beginning. The same is true of writing. Experienced writers sometimes forget how they began, or think they can save others from the early struggles. I think that's a mistake.

    I do think there's multiple ways to learn to write. Swain may be a help to some. But the path is different for each of us, and we shouldn't assume we have THE roadmap.

  6. #96
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of all trades View Post
    I've said this before and I'll say it again. One doesn't try to train a toddler for a marathon.

    Using the horse riding example, steering with the reins is necessary for someone who doesn't have the body size and weight to use the body to steer the horse. It is also necessary for those with preconceived ideas who won't listen to anything that deviates.
    Can you give an example of something like this for writing? Something that a "weaker" writer might need to learn just in order to function, but that she will have to unlearn in order to excel?
    booklives.com (work in progress!)

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