Amph How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes: The Cheerleader

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Nevermind, Jul 3, 2011.

  1. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    It's cheap as anything at Amazon, Zaz.

    I could always dig mine up, if you like.
  2. MarcusP2 Games and Community Reaper

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 10, 2004
    star 6
    Or rabidly dissecting and chewing over them. This seems to increase the longer they've been waiting for whatever book it is.
  3. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    True. [face_laugh]

    You could post a couple of the next things for me, Katana, if you would.
  4. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Very interesting thread, gave me some good ideas for the story I'm working on. :D
  5. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
  6. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    One month later, no book from ze library, and my ferocious irritation overcame my intense tendency to being a skinflint, and I purchased the book.

    So here we are back again.

    "Zeno's Manuscript"

    "In which irrelevant detail derails narrative momentum."

    Example: "Just wait here, you stud. I'm going to change into something more comfortable," Lubricia promised. She went into the bathroom and locked the door. Then she took off her sensible shoes, placing them side by side in the bathtub. Next to go were her jeans, which stuck a little over her hips, causing her to curse under her breath. Here she paused to inspect her makeup in the mirror. There was a little smudge of mascara under her eyes, which she wiped away with a wetted tissue. She went to the hamper and began to hunt for the sexy negligee she'd let there the day before. She pulled out a sweater, two pairs of pants, several odd socks..."

    Fantasy is terribly prone to this because world-building appears to be addictive. At first the audience stands still for it because they think all this information must be relevant. When they begin to suspect that it isn't and will never be, you may have a full-scale audience rebellion on your hands (cf. the online reviews of G. R. R. Martin's latest book, recently deleted by Amazon.com)
  7. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    Special versions of Zeno's Manuscript include:

    "On My Way to the Scene:

    A common (near-epidemic) version is the transport scene, in which characters are shown traveling to a place where something finally occurs. The result is often similar to what happens when someone pocket-dials your email while out doing errands.

    The Bedridden Scene:

    Any scene in which a character is shown waking up in bead or getting into bed is deeply suspect, unless there is someone new in bed with her."
  8. MarcusP2 Games and Community Reaper

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 10, 2004
    star 6
    I hate this so much.
  9. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Fortuately, this can be easily pruned. Is it important to the story? No? Next!
    It's a similar feeling to putting a pedestrian crossing on a motorway.
  10. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    "The Plot Not Taken

    "It might have seemed more natural for him to have waited for Lubricia to come out of the bathroom, and had his way with her. At least he could have explained why he was leaving. it would have been possible for him to leave anote, even. But his intimacy issues and his inability to sit through long descriptions of meaningless actions, had made him leave without saying goodbye. He could still call her from this phone booth he was passing. No, that one looked too dirty. Maybe a different phone booth, this one coming up? Really, though, he hated using them at all; they just ate your change and the call never went through. Besides, he had his cell phone with him.

    Should he call? What if she was still in the bathroom, brushing each tooth individually? No, better that he..."

    Explain what the character is doing, not why he is not doing something.
  11. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Do something!
    [image=http://www.gwiezdne-wojny.pl/grafika/2006/wrz/space_balls.jpg]

    This isn't Waiting For Godot.

    That example is like talking to an extremely lazy and despressed person. They always have an excuse not to do something.
  12. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    Another version of wallpaper-hanging.
  13. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    In my experience, this can sometimes be the result of writers spending too much time on setting up the "money scene".

    That is, they want a certain scene in the future to unfold a certain way. You have to get characters from one situation into another in order for this to work. Problem is often that in order to do that the character has to do a couple things that at best don't follow Occham's Razor, or at worst are completely illogical.

    The worst writers just don't address this. Better writers see the problems, and use this sort of writing to explain why things didn't unfold in a more natural manner for the given starting situation. Even better writers stop, see the problem, then scrap the transition plans entirely and start fresh: if you can't reliably get from point A to point B, then point B must be sacrificed.

    But the BEST writers not only see the problem, but find ways to incorporate it into the story. This is not to be confused with the above example, which is just the writer trying to anticipate the reader's doubts and shooting them down as they go: "Yeah, yeah, but THIS is why that doesn't happen".

    The best writers might say "Ok, so this is the most logical thing to happen. The reader is going to expect this. So I won't fight that -- I'll either let it happen and make THAT the story, or I'll change the primary story and use that expectation for something else, or at least an interesting tangent that's not SO interesting that someone wishes I wrote that instead."

    "Game of Thrones" is mentioned so that at least comes to mind in terms of the series -- there's a moment in the series where the Queen and King (in a scene not part of the original books) discuss a Dothraki invasion that's been heavily implied as impending in the forseeable future. As it turns out this invasion will never come to pass, so in effect the characters are talking about what if scenarios that the viewer doesn't need to know about.

    But what the writers for the show do is, instead of just throwing out some red herrings, refer to the histories of the Mongol invasions to fully flesh out the what-if scenarios. What's done in this scene is more than writers just anticipating their audience: they take the time to create a mini-narrative of their own and form a distinct and compelling image of a conceivable political and humanitarian situation.

    This situation will not come to pass, remember. This invasion will end up stopping before it ever starts -- at least in this season, or in this form. And given the entrance of Dragons into the series, it seems doubtful that the defenders of Westros will even get the chance of being "holed up in their cities", since Dragons have a tendency to... destroy cities. But the writers have taken the time to consider what these characters are looking at in this point of time, and make the "what ifs" a compelling picture of their own.
  14. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    "The Benign Tumour

    Where an apparently meaningful development isn't

    Candida couldn't help but think that her condition was a mixed blessing. After the diagnosis, her boyfriend shown his true colours, for one thing.

    And, of course, she would never have met Dr. Albicans. The question that faced her now was whether to let him perform the risky experimental procedure that the wanted to do. She reached into her bag for a cigarette, and instead she found the pamplet that sweet young firl had handed her in the waiting room. NATURAL HEALING FOR YOUR CONDITION.

    Maybe it was take this a little more seriously.

    Candida want to her desk and fired up the computer, and was soon exploring a whole new world.

    (There follow fifty pages in which Candida considers unconventional treatments and meets a number of people who practice alternative medicine and recomment it to her, one after another.)

    Back home, she looked at the pamphlet on the counter one more time before dropping it into the trash. "No," she said, shaking her head wistfully: "naturally healing just isn't for me."

  15. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Bad movies do this sometimes. For example, they have an elaborate sequences of someone ecaptured escaping...then have them being recaptured.

    Unless something happens in this "plot not taken" that changed things (the character meets someone, finds out something else) then such a sequence is entirely pointless.
  16. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    "Mr. Sandman, or on Second Thought, Bring Me a Gun

    That night, Ralph had the strangest dream he had had in years. He and his wife Missy were in a court which was being presided over by Leonard Cohen. Ralph looked around, and all the jury members were also Leonard Cohen.

    "How do you plead?" Judge Cohen said, sneering at Ralph.

    "I plead no squid," Ralph replied--which at the time seemed perfectly sensible to him.

    At this, all the Leonard Cohens grew long tentacles and began to converge on Missy. They wrapped their tentacles around her, but shee seemed rather to enjoy than dislike the contact.

    Finally, Ralph cried "Ink! Ink!" and found that he had the power to squirt a paralyzing ink out of his eyes. But he could only do it if he b believed in himself, and Missy's indifference to her ravishment made him freeze. He tried to move forward, but it was as if his feet each weighed two hundred pounds..."

    The book says that 'no respectable novelist would send his book out into the world without a layer of symbolism, dramatizing the unconscious fears and desires of his characters. This was often accomplished by presenting the character's dreams, usually in a font called Stream-of-consciousness Italic...page of page of characters' dream about building walls with bricks of anguish is about as interesting as, well, listening to an actual stranger telling you about his actual dreams."

    They recommend one dream per book, and then excising said dream in revisions.
  17. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    The Second Argument in the Laundromat

    The book gives an example--too crappy to transcribe--wherein a couple argue about the husband's change in career. Ten pages later, they have another argument, in the same location, about basically the same thing.

    The books then says: never use two scenes to establish the same thing. Thus: don't go on a series of job interviews to establish that a protagonist isn't getting hired, nor a series of unsuccessful dates. This only works in the movies, in which you can use montage.
  18. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Have I talked about the film The Room yet? This film is just full of these sort of conversations.
  19. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Lisa. . .you are driving me CRAZY
  20. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Those conversations between Lisa and her mother are essentially the same: she's engaged to Tommy Wiseau's character but it in love with Mark. How many times does this have to be said?
  21. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    Related Problems:

    "Last Night, When We Had the Argument in the Laundromat

    "Characters have a long talk describing to each other all the things they have done in the last scene. Even if that scene had them killing Godzilla just before he destroyed the nuclear power plant, this is not a new scene at all but the same scene again, by other means."
  22. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Can we add to this "Last Episode, Where We Had a Conversation in the Laundromat?" I hate sequels to novels that spend a good deal of time simply rehashing the previous volume. Referring to it is fine, reminding people is okay, but devoting huge swarthes of text is not. Two people I can recall who do it are Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins, I always skip those parts as I usually come to the sequel straight from the previous book.

    And I am one of the people who reads books they like more than once.
  23. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2001
    star 6
    Next: "Let's Go to the Laundromat to Talk About This:

    Characters begin talking at home, then go to the laundromat and continue the same conversation. Even when the substance of what's said in the laundromat includes new information, this reads as two scenes that are essentially the same."
  24. Mar17swgirl Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7
    JKR is also guilty of this - in the second, third and fourth HP book. Though I suppose her excuse is that at the time those were still firmly in the category of "children's books... Thankfully she stopped rehashing the plot of previous books by the fifth one.
  25. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    JKR isn't as bad as the ones I mentioned.