The Well Written Story v The Good Story - Page 9


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Thread: The Well Written Story v The Good Story

  1. #81
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    It was not a fair contest, methinks. Thanks for trying. I choose an action scene on purpose. You slowed it down a lot with thoughts and reflections, about the past and future. Not what a man running for his life would do. So, fair contest or not, you took the action out of an action scene.

    About a month ago I saw an action scene with a metaphor in it. That did not seem to work well either. So I'm not sure adding imagery is going to work either, if that's a feature of literary.

    And now that I think about it, I can't imagine a more literary rewrite of the kiss scene from a romance book. It seems that reflections about the past and future would take all the passion out of the kiss.

    I suppose Brown was trying to create a mystery -- why was the curator of a museum ripping down a painting? And then mystery two, why did he want the gate to come down? You were trying to resolve those mysteries. That of course could have been a problem of context.
    It's not a fair contest because you are asking for a scene to be rewritten yet expect it, and the parent book, to be otherwise totally unchanged. This is the equivalent of expecting gourmet food to be made at the speed of fast food, you can't have it both ways.

    Of course the scene is going to be 'slower' if there are more words in it. Where I disagree with you is that you are conflating lack of brevity with lack of impact. I understand that conflation because it's a popular truism: In critique we often tell people to 'trim the fat' to increase the immediacy of the scene. Sometimes we do need to do that. But there are other scenes in the book and there are other ways of telling the same, or a similar, story.

    I actually think Llyralen did a pretty good job. Hell, I'll go further: I think he/she's version -- with adequate editing -- would be superior to Brown's. That isn't a huge compliment, Brown is a generally considered a fairly poor writer (just google it!) but yes, their version was far more literary, far more interesting than Brown's. Certainly ,there is far more depth to it. I don't think anybody can dispute that?

    So the question becomes is what Llyralen's rewrite provides in addition worth the slight loss of 'action' (assuming we agree there is a loss in action -- for the sake of argument, let's agree on that). That's obviously going to be a matter of opinion and a matter of case-by-case study to decide if it is, in fact, worth it. Sometimes it is not.

    Certain scenes, even in literary novels, are trimmed down 'action'. Despite what people think, Literary novels aren't always meandering purple navel-gazing. Hemingway is literary fiction. Is Hemingway not action packed?

    When the shooting started he had clapped this helmet on his head so hard it banged his head as though he had been hit with a casserole and, in the last lung-aching, leg-dead, mouth-dry, bullet-spatting, bullet-cracking, bullet-singing run up the final slope of the hill after his horse was killed, the helmet had seemed to weigh a great amount and to ring his bursting forehead with an iron band.
    I would argue, though, that in general immersivity is really important and adding rich detail (to a point -- nobody wants to get too purple) is better than how most commercially popular novels these days are written and it gets super tiresome. The number of books I read which start with some unknown character 'doing something' gets tiresome. It gets tiresome not because I am opposed to in media res (I am not) but because so often it is formulaic and, yeah, not unique or challenging at all...

    "Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery..."
    "Jill Morton, a lonely housewife, slipped off her sheer lace panties and turned to her lover..."
    "Big Tony, big man, ran down the beach and jumped in the ocean..."
    "One morning, Terrance Reaver decided to kill his wife with a chainsaw..."

    Again, there is a place for this kind of writing, but it's sheer dominance and establishment as being now the norm of 'good writing' is tiring. It's not good writing. It's decent writing and may well have a more-than-decent plot (as the Da Vinci Code certainly does) but it's definitely not writing that has any sort of power beyond concept.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  2. #82
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    It's not a fair contest because you are asking for a scene to be rewritten yet expect it, and the parent book, to be otherwise totally unchanged. This is the equivalent of expecting gourmet food to be made at the speed of fast food, you can't have it both ways.
    I am thinking now that you can't have it both ways. Some readers like action. They are going to like authors who can tell an action scene as well as possible -- or at least as good as anyone else.

    And those scenes need to be judged by the standards of producing good action. I think you are not going to match them by trying to add literary, which they apparently have learned to take out.

    Metaphors. I don't want the image of 'getting hit on the head with a casserole' in a serious battle scene.
    Meaningfulness. I got bored by your adjective string -- they were everything you wanted them to be, but I didn't know what they applied to as I read them.
    Temporal order. You present events out of order and I think are describing everything in the past (had clapped, had seemed). I am guessing that a good action scene is very much in the present flow of events.
    Word count. Action writers seem to reduce word count with a fervor. So, amount of action per word matters to them.

    Thanks for the example, and the point is not to criticize one example, and I don't know what is essential to being literary. There is no argument here against trying to write a book that is both literary and has action in it and trying to appeal to those readers who want both.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  3. #83
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    It was not a fair contest, methinks. Thanks for trying. I choose an action scene on purpose. You slowed it down a lot with thoughts and reflections, about the past and future. Not what a man running for his life would do. So, fair contest or not, you took the action out of an action scene.

    About a month ago I saw an action scene with a metaphor in it. That did not seem to work well either. So I'm not sure adding imagery is going to work either, if that's a feature of literary.

    And now that I think about it, I can't imagine a more literary rewrite of the kiss scene from a romance book. It seems that reflections about the past and future would take all the passion out of the kiss.

    I suppose Brown was trying to create a mystery -- why was the curator of a museum ripping down a painting? And then mystery two, why did he want the gate to come down? You were trying to resolve those mysteries. That of course could have been a problem of context.
    Oh this was The DeVinci Code? Lol. I should have recognized it. Okay just knowing where it was from would have made the fight more fair. Oh yeah that was supposed to be suspenseful. And it wasn’t supposed to be comedic either which I kind of think it was with the painting coming down in him and logistics I’m not quite sure he got anything quite right, but anyway...

    Okay, you did see the even faster way to write that quote that I also put down, right? I just took out his clutter. It removes you from the action when you start mentioning specific nouns. But the sleeked down version is devoid of interest in and of itself (although more literary bits could sandwich action in a more literary book) and therefore suspense.

    Good action is not actually about speed— which Dan Brown must agree with because look at all the cumbersome things in his quote. Making something more literary is about making it more interesting, conflicting and about characterization but good action is about seeing if a bomb that got placed earlier is going to go off. How is someone going to get out? So... I think Dan Brown was okay at suspense if I remember right. Nothing in the quote was very suspenseful except knowing that he is going to have to get out or something. I can’t remember why he wanted to set off alarms. The type of writing in the quote with all the super specific nouns is distracting though and hinders the action rather than helps though. But again, it’s not about speed.

  4. #84
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The number of books I read which start with some unknown character 'doing something' gets tiresome. It gets tiresome not because I am opposed to in media res (I am not) but because so often it is formulaic and, yeah, not unique or challenging at all...

    "Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery..."
    "Jill Morton, a lonely housewife, slipped off her sheer lace panties and turned to her lover..."
    "Big Tony, big man, ran down the beach and jumped in the ocean..."
    "One morning, Terrance Reaver decided to kill his wife with a chainsaw..."

    Again, there is a place for this kind of writing, but it's sheer dominance and establishment as being now the norm of 'good writing' is tiring. It's not good writing. It's decent writing and may well have a more-than-decent plot (as the Da Vinci Code certainly does) but it's definitely not writing that has any sort of power beyond concept.
    Now you have my curiosity. Do you think we should start our books with a few sentences of "who" the MC is before we get into the actual first scene?

  5. #85
    Metaphors. I don't want the image of 'getting hit on the head with a casserole' in a serious battle scene.
    Meaningfulness. I got bored by your adjective string -- they were everything you wanted them to be, but I didn't know what they applied to as I read them.
    Temporal order. You present events out of order and I think are describing everything in the past (had clapped, had seemed). I am guessing that a good action scene is very much in the present flow of events.
    Word count. Action writers seem to reduce word count with a fervor. So, amount of action per word matters to them.

    Thanks for the example, and the point is not to criticize one example, and I don't know what is essential to being literary. There is no argument here against trying to write a book that is both literary and has action in it and trying to appeal to those readers who want both.
    It isn't mine, it's Hemingway. Whether we individually like the example or not, it's a pretty famous action scene from a pretty famous literary fiction book.

    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    Now you have my curiosity. Do you think we should start our books with a few sentences of "who" the MC is before we get into the actual first scene?
    I don't want to get into rules, especially not rules of my own design. I think there are almost infinite good ways of starting any book and they all have their uses. I am simply calling out that an awful lot of books start according to the 'Da Vinci Formula'.

    Brown is sufficiently unimaginative that he actually introduces all his characters in multiple books according to this exact same formula. All of these are actual openings of his:

    Robert Langdon awoke slowly. A telephone was ringing in the darkness--a tinny, unfamiliar ring.


    Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery
    As the ancient cogwheel train clawed its way up the dizzying incline, Edmond Kirsch surveyed the jagged mountaintop above him.
    Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own. He stared up in terror at the dark figure looming over him.


    Not to rip on Brown too much, nor fixate on opening lines, only to say...this guy is clearly a lost cause as far as writing style. He is replicating the same tired stance that has become almost a caricature of modern genre fiction. I would put money that he could write a thousand books and they would probably all start and end exactly this way. Contrast this with how literary fiction varies and it's eye-opening.

    Why? I think I agree that it basically comes down to reader values. Genre fiction readers don't want complex writing. Maybe because they don't want to deal with it, maybe because they can't deal with it, but either way it indicates laziness.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  6. #86
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    It isn't mine, it's Hemingway. Whether we individually like the example or not, it's a pretty famous action scene from a pretty famous literary fiction book.
    I am relieved to hear you did not write that. Objectively, it's bad writing. Casserole doesn't even make sense. It worries me that you defend it.

    When we read an adjective, such as last, it doesn't really make sense until it's connected to the noun. Last man, for example, would be no trouble. But then we read another difficult-to-imagine adjective, lung-aching. Two adjective are not much problem as long as the noun comes next. But an adjective comes next, leg-dead. Then another adjective, mouth-dry. If this was followed by a noun, then mouth-dry would make sense, but those "meaningless" adjectives at the start have been pushed off the table. And then to have three more adjectives before the noun is ridiculous.

    No one does this, for good reason. Or is this common in literary? Note that the sentence reads just fine the second time, when the reader knows what the adjectives apply to.

    . . . and, in the last lung-aching, leg-dead, mouth-dry, bullet-spatting, bullet-cracking, bullet-singing run up the final slope of the hill after his horse was killed . . .
    It's very vivid. But putting the noun first could have made the sentence very powerful the first time.

    To me, working well the second time is a sign of bad writing. Hemingway didn't fix it in editing because he thought readers would be impressed? He was just experimenting? None of his beta-readers mentioned the problem?
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  7. #87
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    Now you have my curiosity. Do you think we should start our books with a few sentences of "who" the MC is before we get into the actual first scene?
    Forget "Should", think possibilities.
    It is often a viable possibility, one aspect of this can be getting them on side with the hero, save the cat.

    You can place them temporally and geographically to each other, and that may well add to the "Who". If you can get in what, where, when, and who into your very beginning and make them relate to each other and amplify each other

    You can quietly introduce a modest central character. Or introduce a Hell raiser uproariously.

    To me the 'ordinary' book ticks the boxes, the 'literary' one explores possibilities in unexpected ways.
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  8. #88
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Why? I think I agree that it basically comes down to reader values. Genre fiction readers don't want complex writing. Maybe because they don't want to deal with it, maybe because they can't deal with it, but either way it indicates laziness.
    I don't think it's laziness not to crave or seek out complex writing. Maybe it's disinterest. Maybe some don't think literature is the be-all/end- all and want forms of genre fiction to have an enjoyable or interesting escape from life now and then.

    I'm one who loves good books that explain writing or literature. And love many general "how to write" books (how to write poems, short stories, novels).

    One book I am re-reading (for a project I have going) is James Wood's How Fiction Works. It's not the typical "how to write" book. It's quite complex. A beginner writer would likely be disappointed in this book and would probably prefer something a bit simpler. Not because the beginner is lazy but because there might be a better "how to" for the beginner without a huge literary background.

    Wood's complex work discusses the works of Flaubert, Chekhov, Jane Austen, Saul Bellow, V.S. Naipaul, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Nabokov (and other literary writers). He discusses these concepts: free indirect speech or style, unidentified free indirect style (or village-chorus narration), mock-heroic comedy, the contagion of moralizing niceness, "thisness" (haecceitas), commercial realism, and much more.

    Wood's work, while outstanding, likely isn't for everyone. Just as the more simple "how to" books wouldn't be for everyone either. Different types of such books (genres, even?) serve different purposes. And somehow that seems to connect to this discussion.
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  9. #89
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Where I disagree with you is that you are conflating lack of brevity with lack of impact.
    I agree completely. Creating suspense is what is needed to make action compelling. I'm trying to think if a quick pace is what is needed in a certain circumstance and no examples are coming to my mind. The way you put that action on the page is all about what is needed for suspense it seems like to me and creating suspense is about set-up usually, I'd say. Which would make a good thread.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md6folAgGRU


    I actually think Llyralen did a pretty good job. Hell, I'll go further: I think he/she's version -- with adequate editing -- would be superior to Brown's. That isn't a huge compliment, Brown is a generally considered a fairly poor writer...
    I cracked up into belly laughs all 7 times that I read this today. Read it before work, found out I had re-written something of Dan Brown's. lol Read it after work-- still funny. Read it to my husband-- I couldn't get through. The very polite he/she references.... oh my gosh, I'm wiping away tears. This was SO AWESOME! I might have finally arrived at not taking myself too seriously! Thank you for the self-growth! I freaking love this site! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!. (She/her is fine, I'm cis-female) =)

    ... their version was far more literary, far more interesting than Brown's. Certainly ,there is far more depth to it. I don't think anybody can dispute that?
    Let me just take a moment (and many others) for disproportionate satisfaction...
    Very agreed about Hemmingway! And about the importance of writing that challenges readers.
    I realize I don't know as much about the color purple as you do. I must look it up. =)

    What other best-selling authors can I take on today?

  10. #90
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    I am relieved to hear you did not write that. Objectively, it's bad writing. Casserole doesn't even make sense. It worries me that you defend it.

    When we read an adjective, such as last, it doesn't really make sense until it's connected to the noun. Last man, for example, would be no trouble. But then we read another difficult-to-imagine adjective, lung-aching. Two adjective are not much problem as long as the noun comes next. But an adjective comes next, leg-dead. Then another adjective, mouth-dry. If this was followed by a noun, then mouth-dry would make sense, but those "meaningless" adjectives at the start have been pushed off the table. And then to have three more adjectives before the noun is ridiculous.

    No one does this, for good reason. Or is this common in literary? Note that the sentence reads just fine the second time, when the reader knows what the adjectives apply to.



    It's very vivid. But putting the noun first could have made the sentence very powerful the first time.

    To me, working well the second time is a sign of bad writing. Hemingway didn't fix it in editing because he thought readers would be impressed? He was just experimenting? None of his beta-readers mentioned the problem?

    It's Hemmingway. I'll defend a casserole. I'm amazed at how far I am prepared to go to defend that casserole.
    You think the quote you brought from Dan Brown is better? By the way.... that was a really fun exchange of thought.

    But I'm actually wondering about what kind of books you like? Have you read any classics that you like a lot? What do you usually read? Do you think you represent a slice of the pie out there? Because I'm really kind of wondering what the audience out there is like. I am not writing disrespectfully when I'm saying this. I'm pretty curious, because you have written your posts coherently and it sounds like you read. And you thought I was talking about Mary Shelley's style without even reading her work. Do a lot of people do that around here? I'm curious. I'm Gen-X. I think I've got a lot to learn about the current audience, actually. I haven't looked into trends in writing for years.

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