Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade
, Dec 5, 2012.
I've written characters who stopped counting after the first couple millennia.
October 2014's Topic: Lurking vs. De-lurking
“You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.” ~ Arthur Conan Doyle
First off, this was another topic suggested by Nyota's Heart, for which I thank you for! (That said, remember, if there is anything if you would like to see discussed, feel free to shoot me a PM. )
And now, as for this topic . . . Lurking. We have all been guilty of doing so at some point or another. So, I ask you, what about a story or a conversation topic draws you to comment, rather than reading and enjoying in silence? Are you a lurker by nature, or are you more outgoing in your posts? Is it a time issue that contributes to your lurking, or is a taste and personal preference thing - or is it a little bit of both? As authors, we have all watched the hit count raise on our stories, and wondered just who was out there, and what they are thinking. And now, we would all love to know what we can do to break your silence.
There is no exercise for this one, just feel free to discuss!
I lurk. Partly because of time issues (I've done a lot less posting on the boards in general), and partly because I often can't find anything to say beyond that I am enjoying whatever it is I'm reading.
I tend to use the like system to let people know I'm out there, watching, waiting.....
Once I stopped lurking, I never looked back My reviews are chockfull of emoticons and enthusiasm I might go into lurk-mode temporarily when (1) catching up or (2) reading through a cliffie and its resolution. In the latter instance, I do also applaud the edge of seatness and wait for the update that settles the current crisis ... but there are times when I know the fixing the situation update is coming up quickly, so I'll wait. I do have chronic can't wait to read-itis. LOL
And long updates do not put me off in the slightest.
By long updates, do you mean lots of words in an update, or a long gap between updates?
Because I can definitely do the second.
Definitely a lot of words. Even if I have to read them in segments ...
Well, I admit I like to lurk. This is mostly because I have rather stupidly high hopes of being the writer who only shows up to drop a brilliant update on everyone before disappearing again into internet oblivion.
I'm becoming more vocal though. I guess I've done that as I've gotten more comfortable with the regular group. Also, I want people to appreciate my work so I figure I should actively appreciate theirs. That's the only way one gets into mutual flattery circles.
Aside from wanting to be the mysterious and brilliant writer, my reasons for not commenting are probably one of two:
1- I'm interested enough to skim the update but I'm not really reading it that well and/or if I did comment it would probably just be critical. (No reason to do that.)
2- The story is amazing, the writing is wonderful, and all I can think is "Oh my freaking goodness, I'm not even close to writing this well or being this clever and imaginative!!!!" (yeah, um...a hangar full of exploding ultra-braided edition dolls or whatever that was sortof comes to mind) and I don't feel I can comment to that effect because I would just end up sounding like I'm fishing or whiney.
If I'm interested in the story, I actually prefer longer updates. It's less important on this site since the stories are posted in forum format, but I really hate when writers on other sites post 75 chapters of 500 words each. (Drabble and one-shots are obviously another matter.)
...and on that note, I'm not lurking tonight. Much. Hi. Have been utterly guilty of returning to my lurking roots for like a year for school... not that that is a bad thing. It's not.
November 2014's Topic: Cliffhangers
"This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last." ~ Oscar Wilde
Ah, the dreaded cliffie - the bane of readers and the great delight of authors everywhere! Do you find yourself using these 'to be continued' moments when you write? How much is too much? When do cliffhangers detract from the story, rather than enhance it? What are the best ways to build up to such a drop - how do you build anticipation in your writing to leave your readers wanting more? What kind of genre do you think fits a cliffhanger? Is it just an acceptable coda to an action scene, or can it be used as a conversation stopper? Anything and everything, folks! The forum is yours.
The challenge, if you accept it, is to write a five hundred word story and then just end it with a big cliffhanger. What did you find yourself doing to build suspense and anticipation, especially so quickly? What were the difficulties; what was enjoyable? Please, do tell all.
(Once again, I thank Nyota's Heart for the stellar idea. )
LOL! Cliffies! earlybird-obi-wan and RedGold introduced me to the cliffhanger first and foremost as a reader. The more I read them, the more accustomed I got to them. Now I call them edge of seatness moments. Action and drama seem to lend themselves more to them than anything else. Although I'm thinking of using a mini cliffie in a thread but it won't last too long because the time interval will be short and also can't wait to post-itis will strike. Cliffies could be used for romance I suppose if a person proposes or there's an argument and the answer or making up is saved for the next update. It's a gentler cliff. The only cliffies I don't like are those that leave the characters stuck and then the story stops/stalls so the reader never gets a resolution, although that's an effect of a totally different cause.
Personally, I usually find cliffhangers annoying. 'Suspense' and 'not knowing' upset my delicate nerves. If I don't understand the context/reason for a cliffie or it's handled poorly I'll stop reading. Style is key to an author as it is any artist but not all writers or readers are wired the same.
Cliffies yes, I love them eager to see where the next update is going.
And there is one in my most recent diary-update.
First off, I can't believe that I did not reply to this discussion. In my humble opinion, pacing and flow of a story are paramount to snaring a reader's attention, and holding it. Personally, I may grumble over cliff-hangers, but they really are a way to keep you intrigued for a story, and anxious to read more. Even in a published novel, I enjoy it when a chapter ends on a 'gasp!' moment, leaving you eager to read the next scene. I suppose that is what you call a page turner.
Now, as an author they are just doubly fun to inflict.
Now, for this month's topic . . .
December 2014's Topic: Action Scenes
"Never mistake motion for action." ~ Earnest Hemingway
For some authors, it is a tricky thing, to incorporate scenes of physical action into our tales. Especially in a Star Wars dominated site, with most of the NSWFF fandoms being ones that are somewhat defined by their battle scenes. So, as an author, how do you do it? Whether it be hand to hand combat, star-fighter scenes, sword-fights, or the ever messy Orc-battle, what are some dos and don'ts that you have found over the years? How much is too much on the action standpoint? Do you enjoy writing it; do you enjoy reading it? The floor is yours!
Once the discussion gets rolling, take some of the suggestions and write 1000 words or so of an action scene, then share it here! What are some things that stood out - both while you wrote it, and to any of your readers in the thread?
I'm very interested to see what people say because I'm absolutely terrible at writing action scenes! I usually go heavy on drama and light on action, both because I don't enjoy reading it that much and because I just plain don't know what to write. Suggestions are welcome; I'm looking forward to getting advice and trying the challenge!
LOL I am like Nat. I describe action via recollections or dialogue, and even though I enjoy reading some sprinling of lightsaber duels and starfighter battles, after a while it gets too much. I like drama, humor, and you guys know, romance, and character growth. Action is a tiny bit of even what a Jedi does, IMO. The planning stages and collecting of intel - that's the kind of action I'm sure they do mostly and the kind of stuff I can write about comfortably.
Oooh, action sequences/scenes. Here's the funny difference between plays and novels. With plays, there's little to no point on describing any action/fight sequence blow-by-blow because the director/fight choreographer is going to throw it out the window, so you usually just put down "They fight." (very Shakespearean; lovely). When I was writing action sequences for fan fiction and novels, there were three things that were important to keep track of: (1) the emotional through-line of the characters, (2) the tactics in order to try to get the upper-hand and (3) the environment.
The emotional throughline is important because it's where the audience can connect to a character. Writing is not like an action film where you can dazzle/distract your audience with explosions or flying orc heads or sparkly gold-covered dragons (*cough* Desolation of Smaug *cough*). The emotional throughline of the characters involved will give the readers something to latch on to, something to empathize with, to feel for. It's also less of a line and more of a maze... emotions get tangled during action sequences and it is fascinating to see a character work through inner conflict in order to discover how to win - or lose. A steady, calm character can suddenly become enraged; an enraged character can realize that their anger is working against them, so they have to focus on staying calm and focused. That's interesting.
Tactics aren't just employed in action sequences, they're employed everywhere. They're the tools that characters use to obtain their goal. (Speak to any actor or script writer and they will be able to tell you what a character is doing and why they are doing it in every action unit of a scene). A fight sequence does not just come down to a dazzling display of moves. It is also about what the character could say to enrage/taunt/distract their enemy (perfect example is Vader taunting Luke with the threat of harming Leia in ROTJ); it's about how they can act towards their opposite (for example, a Bond film where the femme fatale attempts to seduce him before they get involved in a fist-fight). Tactics shift depending on a number of responses to the used tactic. One of the reasons I love Shakespeare is that both the emotional throughline of the character and their tactics are written into the text, which makes it immediately simple and straightforwards to play. Tactics are ever-changing. A character can go from trying to seduce their opponent to taunting them to pleading with them to placating them to enraging them to reasoning with them in a short span. Some tactics last longer than others, especially if the character thinks they are getting somewhere with it. Things to keep in mind: what specifically is the character doing to their opponent(s) in a given moment and why are they doing it.
Environment is exceptionally important because it gives opposing characters different advantages/disadvantages. Depending on your environment, you have a different set of make-shift weapons, accidents that give one side an upper hand (I once had a scene where one side broke a window, shattering glass everywhere, and then the other side slipped on the glass)... A fight scene that takes place in the snow and bitter cold is going to play out differently than one that takes place in an urban centre with lots of concrete, alleyways and buildings to jump off of. Also, different characters will be better attuned to fighting/working in different environments. Take into account how the environment will affect your characters.
An action scene is just like any other scene. It can be as full of drama as you want it, or a light skirmish. I interweave plenty of dialogue in my action sequences because people do not stay quiet. I've had dramatic conversations be turned into action sequences on the basis that the characters would not simply stay still and talk things out. It's a little difficult for me to describe without entering parts of the script here, but Mira_Jade saw one of my shows last June, so she'll be able to back me up -- I had a confrontation between two characters after one of them had killed everyone else. It was a heavily dramatic scene and very heavy on the emotional throughline. As we were staging it, we realized that the characters would not stand still. The dialogue was woven with such an explosive energy that it would come out in their tactics/actions. Just like that, a conversation became an extremely intense fight sequence that made the scene even more brutal.
I think this concept applies to every scene, regardless of whether or not its an action sequence. Plays have to focus on this because they're not just based on dialogue, they also based on action (it's very boring to watch two characters onstage talk about stuff without ever moving/doing anything). Find active responses to situation as well as dialogue-based responses. In prose, it's very easy to get invested in dialogue/descriptions of inner emotion without focusing on what a character is actively doing - however, I think your work can come alive if all aspects of human interaction is taken into account. We have active responses based on emotion (slamming a mug down, kicking a wall, curling up on the floor). Seek those out because I think they are incredibly helpful in constructing the journey a character goes through in any given scene.
Idrelle_Miocovani - thank you so so much! I'm going to tackle a whole different kind of fic come January or so. And you've helped take a great bulk of the intimidation out of action scenes. (Now if someone could've done such a thing with math...)
I'm glad I could help. Although that was really just me repeating what my supervisor says... (the pros of being in a graduate playwriting program ).
I also wanted to add that not only big action sequences, like Jedi vs. Sith or the last several chapters of OOTP, are action scenes. There are many kinds of action, from huge battles on a field at dawn to a one-on-one fight that runs over scaffolding to an intense emotional conflict between ex-friends or ex-lovers. Action is in everything; active responses are in every scene. Writing a battle sequence wherein the Rohirrim take on Sauron's army is going to be different from a small-scale conflict in the Star Trek universe, sure, but if you fall back to the structural bones of the scene and discover what's driving your characters through it, you'll be able to pull it off.
You really hit a lot of what I wanted to say, Idri! I actually really enjoy writing action scenes - my fandoms tend to include them more often than not, and while I will never enjoy describing an all out Orc-slaying party, I do enjoy the movement and moments of character building that 'action' can add to the story.
Any time an action scene is attempted through a written medium, this is really the one thing that is going to keep your audience interested. Pages and pages of blow-by-blow precision, and detailed tactics are not going to keep your readers engaged. Yet, concentrating on your character's feelings - getting inside of their head and describing what they are going through emotionally during the action - really helps draw the reader through.
Sometimes, with writing - since it is not like a film, or play - I have found that a less is more approach works wonders. Give details - the impression of movement, rather than a detailed description - and let the reader's mind fill in the rest from there. Concentrate on the senses, what a character is seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting. Adrenaline ups the ante in any sort of action scene - use that when describing details where your characters are concerned, rather than solely the action itself. Your environment plays an important role, too! I've found that the scenery I've created for a 'skirmish' often helps me decide how the fight is going to go in the long run. I've even used stick-figures and storyboard doodles to help me 'see' what my characters are doing before I try to incorporate it into a story. And some of those were doosies, let me tell you.
Dialogue, too! Anything from witty banter, to angry barbs, to frantic suggestions between comrades really helps pull the scene on. Like Idri said, an action scene is like a maze, and dialogue can be points for your reader's eyes to latch onto and guide them through. Keep trading back and forth between the tactics of a situation, dialogue, and the senses, and you should be through an action scene in no time.
That was beautifully put.
We are always in motion in some way, and our characters should be as well. As it was in your play! Very rarely was anyone standing completely still, and it helped draw your eyes across the stage, thus keeping you engaged with the scene. The same goes with writing, even though the medium is slightly different - you really want to keep the scene alive in your reader's mind. You want your reader's 'inner-eye' to constantly be shifting and moving with every line, and movement is a great way to help with that.
(That said, I do not envy your hours of choreography - and your scaring passers-by in the park - for those fight scenes at all! Just saying. Wow! )
I think that my last piece of advice would be this: if you have written a dance between characters, you can write a fight. Movement, dialogue, the senses - the principle is just the same, even when used in a different way. In the end, just let your imagination run wild, and have fun with it.
January 2015's Topic: Beginning
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
Sometimes, the most difficult hurdle of a story can be those opening few lines. We know our characters, we know our plot, we even know our ending - but the beginning. Oftentimes, that can be the greatest hurdle when writing. So, what is your process? Do you write the meat of your story - or even just the bulk of the latest chapter you are updating - and come back to add your opening lines later? What are some of your favourite introductions you have used, or seen others use? What advice do you have to give others? The floor is yours!
In three hundred words or less, write three different openings for the same story. What are some things you changed, or kept the same? Did you notice anything about your writing, or your own habits as an author while doing so? We are waiting to know.
I love beginnings especially for mysteries that dive right into the situation at hand. I also love the timely and not overhanded use of flashbacks. JadeLotus uses these brilliantly in "The Shadow of Fate" and "Chasing Dreams". I haven't actually had to write the beginning of the fic itself later but sometimes the beginning of a scene later.
Ugh, Cushy doesn't enjoy beginnings. My mind very rarely works in order when it comes to a story plot. In fact, it's shocking to me that my new fic's first chap was even posted as quickly as it was. I often do beginnings nearly last. I tend to begin in the middle or the end because my end point is far more important to my creative process.
The type of beginnings Cushy enjoys are family scenes. I dislike being thrown into the middle of the 'action' without knowing a thing about the main characters. It makes it very difficult to connect.
I think there is a question that should be raised here: what is a beginning?
Like most things, beginnings depends on style, tone and execution. Not all stories are written linearly. For example, the musical The Last 5 Years is the story of two people entering a relationship, growing together, growing apart, and then ending it. Intriguingly, its protagonists move backwards from each other through the narrative - the man's POV goes in chronological order, while the woman's goes in reverse. Other stories start in media res, and the writer fills in important information as you go along. My Hunger Games fic, perseus / andromeda (which is still unfortunately incomplete), has chapters that are linked by theme and emotion, so it jumps all over Finnick and Annie's chronology.
To answer my own question, there are two beginnings a writer should consider: the emotional/psychological beginning your main characters start in (which then progresses linearly through their chronology) and the beginning you, the writer, choose to present to the audience. This beginning could be anywhere within the characters' chronology.
In the actual writing of a first scene, I always start with an image. I have to ask myself - "what do I see first?" If that image isn't clear, then I don't have a starting point and I usually jump to a piece of dialogue that is clearest. The more playwriting I do, the more I rely on characters' speech to guide me through the story. In my beginning drafts and notes, I have a tendency of jumping around in a scene based on where I can hear dialogue. If I can't immediately figure out what a character says/does in response to what was said to them, I jump to the next thing I can "hear" clearly. Then I backtrack and link it all together.
The other thing to consider is that there isn't just one beginning, middle and end to a story. Every chapter and every scene is composed of an internal beginning, middle and end. Furthermore, if you find yourself stuck or struggling for a beginning, consider that you aren't starting in the right spot - maybe you're starting too early or too late. One of the greatest struggles I've seen with my playwriting students is that they start their scenes far too early. Most of the time, about 3/4s of the action of a scene can be cut out. A later point of attack is more effective than an early one - if you're worried about the audience not understanding key information, don't worry. Audiences are smart; they can figure things out pretty quickly. (For example, David Mamet never explains ANYTHING - his plays have almost no exposition - yet he subtly provides information through dialogue that gives the audience the key to figuring out what is going on.
(I know I reference playwriting techniques a lot whenever I participate in these discussions, but just from my own personal experience, techniques from one creative medium can be transferred to others as, at their core, they are all forms of storytelling.)
So articulate and true Idrelle_Miocovani I love your examples and exposition. I too like to "visualize" or auditoralize LOL from points of dialogue and even internal monologue to drive a scene or to spring forwards and backwards from.