April 24th, 2012, 05:04 PM
Amateur writer seeking some advice
Hey everyone, I'm seeking some help on how to grow myself as a writer but i'm not sure where to expand and what i'm actually good at (from a technical standpoint) i'll give a quick run down of myself and the problems i seem to be facing and perhaps someone here could shed some light on what i should be trying to do or expand upon.
Firstly, i havn't been writing fiction long, less than a year. I've always had a way with words, and i'm a very visual person. I can also come up with a lot of interesting ideas as well. (alot of people say reading my stuff is like something out of a video game, or that it's "interesting") But i usually am labeled as being "cliche" or "flat".
I'm very interested in creating my own world that i can pretty much make up anything i want, and i like to mix sci-fi and historical things together to give it some grounding as far as relatability for the reader. I'm very good at coming up with complete thoughts, such as this action leads to x, leads to y, leads to z, which gives you the conclusion and you feel satisfied. I get alot of people who like my stories and ideas but feel like "something is missing"
This is my problem. I don't know what's missing, or how to expand upon it. I guess my question would be if anyone has any input on how or what to dive into to strengthen writing in general. Any readable books, or technological terms i may not be familiar with. I'm currently trying to grasp tenses and their importance, i've been told i have a good sense of diction. My characterization definitely needs work so any advice towards that would be great. I know i'm not giving much to go on, but i don't want to wall of text you guys on my first post so i figured i'd leave it here and see where it goes.
Also worth noting is that i'm told i have a "cinematic presentation" when i'm writing like short stories and the like. I've dabbled with screen plays, and lately i've been leaning more towards something like an animated series script or something. think cowboy bebop/death note. Procedural drama but having them be stand alone episodes. Not sure what the format or term for this is but i guess dropping the idea here couldn't hurt. Thanks in advance to any responders and HI!
April 24th, 2012, 05:59 PM
Congratulations, you're a minimalist!
Many new writers are minimalists because they aren't thinking of written stories in terms of written words (language use) and emotional experiences. Whether you remain a minimalist as you go depends on a lot of factors, chiefly what interests you most in expressing yourself with words. It may be that you're really more interested in screenplays and video game writing than in written texts. Or it may mean that you simply are a fiction writer who has a sleeker style that is limited in description, imagery and character inner voices in various ways.
When a reader says that he finds a story flat or cliched, it means he's bored. The characters, prose, etc. aren't holding his interest, even though the story idea might be intriguing. You are already aware that character development is not where you are concentrating your efforts. That doesn't mean that you have to go into deep character angst to present your characters. It may mean that you need to consider more their emotional reactions to what is happening to them, (even if they are emotionless robots or aliens, they still have reactions to things.) To make characters more interesting, you can look at why they were interesting to you to make in the first place. Why did you give the lead blonde hair? What do you think is important about a character who sacrifices for the safety of the group? And so on, depending on what you're doing. Minimalism has a long tradition in short fiction in SFF. It's a bit harder to pull off in longer works of fantasy and science fiction because of the involved settings and the interactions between characters and setting, but it's possible.
Look at your visuals, since you're visual. What is it about the setting that got you interested? How are you describing it? (Also, figure out whose viewpoints you're using -- omniscient narrator and/or character point of views.) What is it about action that you like? What fascinates you about violence, if you are so fascinated? Or science. Or your concept of elves. Why exactly is your plot idea neat-o? (Writers are their own therapeutic analysts.)
I would suggest that you read a novel by Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker or Carl Hiaasen. These are famous, best-selling suspense writers who specialize in the minimalist style. They are also quite good at characters and some of their books have been made into movies or t.v. Take a look at them and break down the text -- how do they convey character through dialogue, through action? How do they present character emotion and combine it with the action? When do they use description and when do they not? What is it you like about their style -- if you like it -- and then look at how they do that.
In SFF, you might want to look at David Gemmell or Philip K. Dick. Both were legends and while perhaps not always as minimalist as the suspense writers, they are often using a straight, spare, visual style. Ask the same questions, break it down, just like the suspense authors. It will help you be able to "see" your own text more clearly.
Also, do not ignore the auditory. Written fiction is really all auditory -- it is the sound and rhythm of words, sounded in the head of the author to the heads of readers. And films and games are visual and auditory with both being important components -- the sound and rhythms of the dialogue, the clash of weapons, etc. Consider how things sound as well as how things look.
And try lots and lots of writing exercises. Even if an exercise bores you, it's likely then to tell you something about yourself as a writer. And sometimes the things produce new stories. Also, I'd recommend reading Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is not a minimalist writer, but he is very good with words and his essays in this book may give you some new ways to think about your writing.
April 25th, 2012, 06:41 AM
KatG's advice is excellent; just a couple other thoughts to add to the mix - I'm also an amateur (not published), but have been an amateur for some years so have thought a lot about this.
Read as much as possible. This may sound like over-used advice, but it is very, very important. Read a wide variety, with a special focus on books and stories that are thematically similar to your own, but don't be afraid to step out of the ghetto and read, say, Paul Auster or Ernest Hemingway (a very effective minimalist, by the way). Keep one eye on the structure of the writing while enjoying the story. What do you like? What don't you like? How did the writer accomplish a certain quality?
I'd also think about the process of writing a text itself - the sequence of drafts, in particular. From trying all sorts of variations, I've found that the approach that works for me is to write the rough draft as very rough - just write from start to finish and don't look back. If you get stuck, write a note, maybe in bold or another color saying "conversation between protag and villain here," and then just keep going and come back to it later. "Later" doesn't occur until you read "The End." Then the real fun starts: go back to the beginning and write it all over again. No, not word for word, but you can flesh it out, add depth and characterization, description and dialogue. Imagine painting a house: The first coat looks thin and transparent; you have to go over it at least another time, and then again and again, and then add trim and little curly-cues in certain spots.
There are some other things that have slipped my mind, but I've got to go to my day job!
April 25th, 2012, 06:45 AM
One other thing. Go back to primary sources: mythology, early literature (Homer, Gilgamesh, Eddas, etc). Part of the problem with much (most) of current fantasy is that it is derivative of the genre itself; its roots don't go very deep. So you have writers influenced by other writers who were influenced by other writers, and seemingly fewer and fewer are reading anything outside of the genre, movies, and (worst of all, in my snobbish opinion) video games.
April 25th, 2012, 09:58 AM
Thanks everyone, I'll keep this in mind as a i plug along with my second part. And i'll probably post it on here for a critique. Speaking of which, does anyone know of any sites that i can host a PDF or txt file and link people to it?
April 25th, 2012, 10:38 AM
it could be worse
There are hundreds (thousands, really) of sites you can do this.
Originally Posted by Dirg
You can use a blog site (Wordpress, Blogger, etc).
You can use Google Docs.
You can use this site (the Stories Section or Stories Sub-forum).
Your own website.
And any number of other places that I'm not thinking of.
You can also join an online critique group like Critters. The Absolute Write forum also offers critiques.
You can also post a thread here asking for a critique. Lots of ways to get opinions from internet yahoos.
April 25th, 2012, 05:28 PM
Couldn't agree more. I came across a great example of this the other day in, of all places, the letters column of Empire magazine when some bozo wrote gushingly that Suzanne Collins (author of the 'Hunger Games') must be a fan of the 'epic' film Face/Off because she had called two brothers, Castor and Pollox.
Originally Posted by Alchemist
Last edited by JunkMonkey; June 12th, 2012 at 05:45 PM.