Writing weaknesses: Characterization and reader manipulation

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Herman Snerd, Feb 17, 2007.

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  1. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    A few weeks back I was reading some fiction on another site and as I was reading one particular fic, something really jumped out at me that I suppose I've noticed all along but I never saw it so blatantly done.

    Even though this was an original work and not fanfiction, after a few pages it was glaringly obvious that the writer didn't care a bit about good characterization but instead only used the characters as a vehicle to attempt to manipulate the emotions of the reader.

    Then while at some pointless company meeting the other day, something that actually made sense snuck through. The speaker was trying to make a point about company image and perception and pulled out some quote that I'll paraphrase. Essentially, every poem is really three poems. There's the poem that the writer hears in his head, the poem that the writer puts on paper, and then there's the poem that the reader perceives. All three are supposed to be the same but are usually different.

    So flashing back to this piece of badfic I'd read, what became clear was that the writer didn't want to allow the reader to form his/her own opinion, but instead was using the character reactions to force the readers to read the story in a pre-determined way.

    Admittedly this was an atrocious example of original fiction, but with fanfiction the danger of attempting to manipulate the readers is even worse because we're dealing with characters that so many people already know. While there are admittedly differences of opinion about how characters might react to a given situation, there's no question that when attempting to write an established character there are guidelines that shouldn't be crossed. For instance, Palpatine would not make slapstick comedic remarks in a non-parody story. It just doesn't fit his character.

    So, to finally get to my point, as writers how hard is it to evoke an emotion with the reader without tampering with characters to manipulate that reader? As readers, how often do you come across stories where the writer clearly wrote someone out-of-character for no reason other to make a point?

    As always, if you want to cite an example of bad writing, only use your own work. Otherwise, consider these questions as generally as possible.
  2. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I would argue that all characterization that is intentionally done has the potential to be reader manipulation in the first place. After all, you are manipulaitng the emotions of the reader so that the conclusion is acceptable and logical to them, based on their perception of the character. I mean, I wrote my first story here called The Other Half and my main aim of my characterization of Luke Skywalker was making my readers hate him. The end result of him being turned back from the Dark Side and being forgiven by his own sister had to come as a contrast to that because it would make it more powerful.
  3. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jul 20, 2002
    I'll second what Ish said, and add that it's not always 'tampering' with characterizations so much as interpreting them. And those that are completely changed . . . well, AU is a 'what if' and the circumstances in that 'what if' can alter a character in ways that that character wasn't changed by the events in canon.
  4. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    But I'm talking about stories that are allegedly supposed to follow 'canon' and where the characters aren't even characters, but are merely props for the writer to say: "Now feel sad. Now feel happy. Now feel scared."

    Obviously everyone wants to evoke an emotional response from the reader, but the story and plot should do that. When the writer says: "Hey, everybody in the story is weeping at the beauty of the scene I just wrote and so should you." that goes too far.

    Do you come across stories or scenes where the author is clearly more worried about making the reader feel a certain way instead of actually developing a coherent plot or three-dimensional characters?

    IMO, the writer is there to create the scene, but there's also such a thing as attempting to force emotions down the throat of the readers.
  5. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    I think I understand what Herman means here. I'll point to a very recent example: Timothy Zahn's Allegiance. The impressions of some characters about certain other characters seemed [to me] deliberately, well [face_blush] , laid on thick so that the readers could share that impression. I got the impression that the writer was speaking through the observing character that this was the way to view the observed character.

    Like Ish said, every writer is guilty of that technique to some degree... However I feel that this should only be deliberately done in a case of misdirection e.g. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. There the PoV deliberately leads the leader to initially scorn the eventual hero and laud the eventual villian. However even then (and in any good story with a twist element), the clues for the reader to draw the right conclusions were present from the start. It's only the narrator's voice not the narrator's facts that mislead.

    In summary, I believe to be safe the Show But Not Tell rule should be upheld.
  6. Darth_Lex

    Darth_Lex Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 17, 2002
    Herman: I don't know that I've read anything lately that's quite as atrocious (traumatizing?) as the one you've encountered, but I do know the dynamic you're talking about. I see a lot of it, at least to some extent, in a great deal of the angsty, instrospective fanfic here on the boards. In those types of stories, authors often don't just explore the character's thoughts - they beat the reader over the head with the angst. In doing so, they fall into exactly the problem you describe - demanding that the reader see the scene "their way" instead of letting the reader interpret the scene for him/herself.

    Actually, I think this is a very good example of the principle of "show not tell" in writing. One of the big problems in the stories you're describing is that the author is just flat out telling the readers what the characters are thinking and feeling, instead of letting the readers figure it out for themselves based on what they're shown about what the characters say and do.

    Take the scene in ROTS when Padme is standing at the window, watching the Jedi Temple burn. What does George do? He shows us her tears and her facial expressions. There's despair and fear in her tone of voice when she thanks Threepio. Everything we need to know about her emotions is shown in Natalie's acting. What don't we get? "Oh, Threepio, I'm so worried for Anakin!" Or worse, "Isn't it awful how sad this is?" That kind of telling would ruin the scene.

    But in the kind of badfics you describe, we see exactly that kind of writing. And I agree, it is bad writing. :p

    LN: As for Allegiance, I think you're missing the point. First of all, some of those moments were misdirected POV, just like Pride & Prejudice. For example, Mara's thoughts about Vader are meant to be dramatic irony. The reader knows that her assessment of the Dark Lord isn't nearly as perceptive as she thinks. Most of the other moments in the book were examples of dramatic irony, too. For example, LaRone's thoughts about Mara are a way of showing (not telling) just how duped by Palpatine she really was. Her naivete is another example of dramatic irony revealed through POV, not by authorial insertion.

    In neither of those types of situations was Zahn cramming down the readers' throats the author's viewpoint on the characters. Instead, he was using POV to show how different characters can interpret (and misinterpret) the same events.
  7. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 6, 2006
    As a writer of more 'emotive' fiction I feel I should respond here, even if I'm ignored like usual . . . :p

    Angst and introspection have their uses. You need them to show the reader the characters' thoughts, their feelings, and why they act the way they do. I always try to mislead and alter the scenes depending on the character's perspective, though. Tenel Ka will view the same situation in a manner different than Jacen. And the majority of the writers here write in at least a limited third person perspective, so a lot of the character's viewpoint fills the POV. And when someone writes a personal third-person POV and especially first-person the character's viewpoint universally takes up the whole POV. That means we only see things from the character's POV and there's a certain amount of misdirection. An ultimate example is YodaKenobi's Aero Gev. We don't know she's a cyborg until the very end of Age Of Heroes despite her having a number of POVs in the fic.

    Not to mention there's stuff that just flies over character's heads (in one of my vigs Allana had no idea what was going on until the very end, although I made sure to lay out all of the evidence of what was going on to the reader). You need to convey all of that in fiction, but I think there should be a degree of telling as well, so the more . . . ignorant readers who are impatient or those too tired to see the signs know what is happening. And there are times where you have to beat the reader over the head with the scene, if it's really serious and earth-shaking. If a planet blows up do you expect the characters to just shrug it off immedately?

    If you don't want to read something so personal pick up a KJA novel. Otherwise, grin and bear it. Personal and emo is in right now in music and is starting to show up on film and TV (watch Lost and 24 lately? And judging from reviews Bridge To Terabitha, a fantasy film, not a romance, is a major tearjerker). And if this website is any indication of the future, there's going to be a wave of 'emo', deeply personal fiction charging into the market soon as these writers here grow older and start getting published.
  8. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I think it depends on what you mean by out-of-character. To some, 13-year old Obi-Wan crying over losing a puppy might be out of character (and an obvious attempt at manipulating the reader into feeling sorrow); to others, Obi-Wan crying is perfectly in keeping with the character. So, depending on how much you would allow the characterization to get a little off-note, it may seem fine or horribly wrong to the reader.

    However, even with bang-on characterization, the situation that you put your characters in may bring out the desired point as well. If you want to show that Qui-Gon is cold-hearted, write him during the Council scene where he rejects Obi-Wan. If you want to show Qui-Gon as warm-hearted, show him interacting with young Anakin. Both canon.

    If you want to make a political point, show Palpatine at his finest manipulation of the Senate and the Jedi.

    Angst and mush are two prime examples of using the characters in order to get some kind of reaction out of the reader. Political fiction is used to make a social point. If done well, the reader may not even be aware of the manipulation. When it's not done well... I personally like angst (and introspective fanfic) so I'm more forgiving of author manipulation than others might be. Really depends on your POV.

  9. Earthknight

    Earthknight Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 3, 2002
    I always feel it's good to be descriptive and paint a picture for the reader. This means show how the character is feeling and even what is happening. Some might not like this and prefer a blank. But I like the style of writing like as if the story is a book or a movie. Where we learn about the characters and the plot. I try as a writer to keep all characters in character but at the same time develop them.

    In other words, I'm not too much of a supporter of vague storytelling.
  10. LLL

    LLL Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 16, 2000


    I once wrote a fic that went against everybody's prior thinking about a major character. And in it was a female who started out life in 1999 as quite a Mary Sue.

    Back then (gee, was it really almost eight years ago??) I was in that trap of trying to work against people's perceptions of the Mary Sue. I was told, repeatedly, that she was a doormat. I was telling these little vignettes, and I kept getting told, "Nah."

    Ultimately, I was unsuccessful in trying to get others to accept my characterization, and I ended up revising the character to try to eliminate "doormattedness."

    I found myself in the same situation with the canon character. I posted my views about him on the 3SA board a few times, and when I got pelted with extremely rude and derogatory comments, I realized I was going to have a tough roe to hoe to get my story to work.

    I had to analyse what people were saying, and try to realize what their objections were. I discovered that in order to convince anybody of anything, you have to do two things: 1.) Start with yourself. If you can't convice yourself ... well, you're going to have to give up your characterization. Eventually even you won't like it any more. But, if you can buy your own argument, then you become even more impassioned about it. And then you have to 2.) Start where your audience is. When I started my fic, I presented the canon character, with maybe a little extra history thrown in, exactly as people expected to see him. It was sort of like doing a mathematical proof.

    If you are doing something that can actually be done, it will feel challenging but doable, and you'll be really absorbed and have a lot of fun doing it. If you are trying something that just isn't valid, you'll feel angry and discouraged a lot, and it may or may not seem very hard. But one way or another you'll start telling yourself you'll never get it right.

    I suppose in the first case, you aren't tampering with the character. You are showing new facets of that character's whole self, and it's a test of how skillfully you can do that. In the second case, you are tampering with the character, and although it may feel easy to you while you're writing it, reading the comments you get or the lack thereof will never prove easy.

  11. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    I did recognize moments of dramatic irony/writer-reader winking at the characters in the book and neither situation you mentioned were the ones I had in mind as an example to Herman's scenario. I deliberately will not/do not state the specific scenes and characters in order not to derail this thread into a discussion of the novel.
  12. 1Yodimus_Prime

    1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 13, 2004
    I vaguely remember a sci fi author once explaining that writing introspection was fun, but very hard. Because rarely do we ever truly know why we do the things we do. We can only interperet. And those interpretations rarely even jive with the explanations we give later. We hide truths that we aren't even sure are true. Makes things complicated. So I agree with this comment wholeheartedly. Angst and introspection do have their uses.

    I would also like to note from experience, walking around now to the other side, that 'angst,' while a great narrative tool, makes for a poor Thematic Focus. But I digress.

    To bring this back to the topic, manipulation is exactly what we're doing, every time we write a work of fiction with any sort of emotional impact at all. Remember, these are pretend people, whose lives and fate do not - and will never - matter, because they don't exist. Yet somehow, we make them seem to, to the reader. That requires some skill in manipulation to pull off.

    But I take it what Snerd really means, if I interpreted the business meeting analogy right, is persuasion. And it's very true that a writer, if he doesn't know how to do it right, can turn a narrative meant to convince you of semething, into a totally infuriating tale. Stories bent toward persuasion have to be carefully written, because it's very easy to kill it straight from the get-go. There's the trap of choir-preaching, which would make the whole thing worthless by turning away exactly the folks who you're trying to convince in the first place. Or there's the easy temptation to start the over-the-head beatings in an effort to make sure no point is missed, though it very quickly insults the intelligence of most of your reader base. Or you might start attacking your argument with straw men, which could be marginally successful, but mostly would serve to alienate anyone not entirely convinced, and anger anyone with a keen eye for that sort of thing, even if they were convinced from the start.

    But the biggest culprit of bad persuasion stories is laziness, rather than weak writing. And it's that very laziness that I would claim is the reason for the clear out-of-character problems Snerd took issue with in whatever fic was the cause of this thread. Because a normal story - whether it's a slice-of-life, an epic, a zany adventure, a romantic comedy, or whatever - lets the hard part be the beginning and the end. Sure the middle can be tricky, but ultimately it's just a matter of uderstanding a quirk in this or that character, or filling in the sticky gap between this or that event in the plot. But in a tale meant to persuade, the beginning and the end were known to the author straight from the story's conception: the beginning is where the protagonist is the detractor, and the end is where the protagonist becomes the champion. The middle is that twisty, turny, series-of-subtle-moments-of-realization-that-should-not-be-obvious-but-still-noticable-somehow road to the end, which is never ever easy. Even for good writers. Because with a tale of persuasion, simply being good at writing isn't good enough. Because you aren't just entertaining them anymore, you're trying to make them think you're right.

  13. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    I think diane has just given a classic example of how easily it is to violate the 'show not tell' rules. Two different readers will read first scene from Obi's and while one will say 'cold unfeeling QuiGon', another will say 'mean much, Obi? While you got your Knighthood, the boy who saved your life was just rejected!'. The same way the second scene from Anakin's PoV will translate to 'Nice man, Qui' to 'manipulative old fraud' to another.

    The problem comes in - and I think this is the point Herman is making - when in obviously ostentatious situations, characters in the story go on and on about one view of the scene: Tahl telling Qui what a bad guy he is, Garen consoling Obi about getting his Knighthood at the expense of losing his Master... :p

    I guess this is why, despite everything, I respect JK Rowling as a writer. In the book 5 scene when Snape trains Harry, we 'read' Harry's anger and frustration at Snape's methods but we also 'know' that those same methods are what Harry will meet in the field, and not the handholding he prefers. So while undoubtedly some readers will say, 'Snape is so evil, poor Harry!' others will say, 'ok, Mr Potter, you want to be a warrior, you'd better start acting like one!'
  14. Earthknight

    Earthknight Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 3, 2002
    It all depends on taste in stories. Some like them vague and some like some explanations behind some situations. You can't be too vague about everything. And if you have a problem with tales getting descriptive, just don't read them. I sometimes don't read stories that get too vague.

    All I know is, some plots and backgrounds need explanation. Otherwise if you don't explain everything in clever ways or some form of way, you will face a little thing called plothole.
  15. Darth_Lex

    Darth_Lex Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 17, 2002
    A good way to think about this issue is to compare the writing in childrens? or young adult readers? books to the writing in ?regular? novels for adult readers. Books in the former category have lots more ?tell? than ?show? ? precisely because the target reader base is not sophisticated enough at reading to understand the characterization and stories otherwise. A children?s or young adults? book might very well say something like, ?Anakin was angry? or ?Obi-Wan was afraid.? But you almost never see something so overtly ?telling? in an adult readers? novel. Instead the author would ?show? the character?s emotions ? Anakin would scowl or shout or glare; Obi-Wan would perspire or shiver or clench his weapon. The author can expect the reader to interpret the emotions from the writing without having to spell them out.

    So if you write for the lowest-common-denominator among your readers, you?ll soon end up giving the impression that you?re writing for an unsophisticated or young audience. Which is fine if that?s who you are writing for. But if you?re not, you?ll likely soon end up dismissed by readers who don?t want their hand held when they read?

    But see, that?s just the thing. If the event is really serious and earth-shaking, that?s when you least need to beat the readers over the head! It will be obvious from the context of the story. Every reader will already know how significant the event is. There?s no reason to belabor the point ? unless, as Herman is suggesting, you?re only trying to browbeat the readers into seeing things exactly your way rather than interpreting the story for themselves.

    As for the planet blowing up, go back to ANH again. Leia?s reaction is hardly overwrought and full of angst. She?s a heroine, a strong-willed and proud one at that. When Alderaan is destroyed, she doesn?t break down and sob, or become a sniffling mess for the rest of the story. From context, such as her insistence that the planet is peaceful and her pleading with Tarkin to spare it, we know that millions of innocent people are murdered before her eyes, including her family.

    Same goes for Luke. How does he react when he discovers Owen and Beru murdered? He doesn?t sob or rant or go on a rampage (unlike his father?); instead he chooses to join the cause against the Empire. How does he react when Obi-Wan is struck down before his eyes? He?s sad, but only briefly. Then he?s back to being a hero again.

    We would not identify with these heroic characters nearly as much if George had beaten the audience over the head with their reactions. He doesn?t give us scenes of despondent sorrow. Nor does he have anyone actually point out how heroic Leia or Luke is. Instead he shows us their strength, and lets us figure it out for ourselves.

    It?s not the manipulation as such that?s the issue Herman is concerned with, though. It?s how the author explores the emotions of the story that makes the difference between good writing and bad writing.

    Your example of the Council scene in TPM is a good one. Some people interpret that scene as showing Qui-Gon?s coldness to
  16. Earthknight

    Earthknight Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 3, 2002
    ^I see no wrong in showing it or telling it. Showing it is fine but on some situations explanation is needed. To say one of them is wrong is wrong. The whole judge a book by it's cover thing doesn't always work. Both of them are required for different situations.

    I frankly don't see the issue in dialogue explanations. What you and Herman are saying is a no win situation for a writer. They go the whole show feeling route but then you complain that it shows too much of the character's emotions. Go explanation route and you say it's wrong. Do both and you complain it's wrong.

    Now you're saying that having characters cry is bad.......strange way of thinking. And hear I thought humans cry. I had no idea we were klingons.

    So I'm just going to tell all writers and new ones to just go your route and tell the story the way you picture it. What stuff like this is going to do is make writers and new writers timid.

    Now I have no problem with you guys liking the 'show and not tell' stuff, but I do have a slight issue when you guys are saying other writers are terrible for not using that for everything. Because like it or not, the 'tell' scenario does happen in real life. I don't mean to be mean or anything. It's just the way I see it. Both the 'tell' and 'show not tell' scenarios have been used in literature for years by several writers and both methods work in a story. So that's all I'm going to say.

    I strongly disagree with almost everything Darth Lex, Leia Neberrie, and Herman say. Going the route they described will imo result in a tale with vague and unrealistic dialogue plus a vague story. So I'm sorry I'm taking you guys comments with a grain of salt.

    Down with vague...and let description reign.
  17. LadyZ

    LadyZ Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jun 16, 2000
    Eh, Darth_Lex Allegiance is not really the perfect example of how to make a good characterization. Which is a sad story because the author is so talented. :(
    Unfortunately the "misdirected POV" is Zahn's. The way he writes Vader in Allegiance is in complete harmony with his other works. It doesn't matter in whose POV the Dark Lord is mentioned (Thrawn, Pellaeon, older, more experienced Mara etc.) he is still a dubiously talented evil idiot. Zahn simply doesn't like the character.

    In a well-done misinterpreted POV you sooner or later realise that something is amiss: conflicting situations, the reactions of the other characters and at last comes the big ligthning of realisation: I was mistaken.

    When at the end of the novel Palpy calls Mara "my child" and he is sooo grandfatherly type - that's the dramatic irony :)
  18. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I have to agree with Earthknight in this. Introspection certainly has a place in fiction. The profic writers have been doing it for decades and well. My favorite SW book, Traitor by Matt Stover, has tons of it in the story and it makes everything that happens to Jacen more believable because I know what is going on inside his head.

    In fact, how do you even tell a story with a character if he's alone or two characters if they are apart and struggling to link back up again? There was a brilliant story recently on these boards that did just that and was full of introspection. If done well, it can be a beautiful thing to read.

    However, if you want examples of only our own work, I did a story of Obi-Wan at five and the first page is full of the kid thinking about his situation - in five year old terms, of course - but it set up the rest of the story.

    It may really be a matter of taste. I agree that there is a line of introspection that tips a story into "badfic" (Obi-Wan crying over a hangnail would be an example of it but Obi-Wan crying over the death of Qui-Gon might not). But I think people need to be careful about what they say characterizes "badfic". That's their own interpretation. Perhaps, instead of calling it "badfic", they might call it a story not to their taste. One person's "badfic" might be another person's great story.

    Oh, and Lex, I like being a passive sponge sometimes. [face_batting]
  19. Earthknight

    Earthknight Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 3, 2002

    If you like 'show not tell' stories more than 'tell' stories, it doesn't mean the 'tell' stories are bad. It just means you're not into that style. And by making this thread and calling all stories that have 'tell' style bad, you're basically saying I suck and several other writers on here that I know suck. Frankly, I find it offensive and uncalled for since it's a style of literature that has been used way before you were even born. Everyone has a different style of writing and everyone has a different taste. You just don't go around making threads saying everyone sucks because they follow a different style than you like.

    Now as much as some of you hate the 'tell' scenario, it's realistic and sometimes characters will ask questions to things they don't understand. If something happens out of the blue and the character knows the answer automatically, you have a too perfect of a character and that could get boring and unrealistic. When a character sees a group of dead bodies and he has no clue who killed them all, he or she is going to question it and wonder who did it. Or let's say your characters are going to be discussing war plans and some don't agree with each other, there's going to be a lot of talking and several characters are going to be explaining they're points. Or you have a situation where a certain character knows about the main villian or some of his past and the main character confronts him or her about it, there's going to be some explanation. You might not like it but sadly it's realistic. It happens in REAL LIFE. And as for the beating over the head thing, some readers actually enjoy knowing what their reading about. Maybe you and you're posse doesn't, but some do. Calling them stupid or sponge, is a little immature and tasteless imo.

    Now I might have taken Herman, Lex, and Leia, a little more seriously if they hadn't gone into that my view is supreme and anyone who doesn't do what I think is stupid thing. So in the end as a writer and reader, I find this thread offensive and just created for the soul purpose to insult others for no reason except you have different taste in styles of storytelling.
  20. Darth_Lex

    Darth_Lex Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 17, 2002
    A lot of really awful things happen to the heroes in SW movies, right? Okay, then by your logic, I guess we should expect to see the characters crying all the time? o_O

    How many tears are shed in the entire six-movie epic? How many characters cry?

    TPM: One. Obi-Wan cries when Qui-Gon dies in his arms. That?s it. Period. Padmé doesn?t cry when her planet falls, or when her hyperdrive fails, or when she sees the transmission from Sio Bibble about the supposed massacres, or when the Senate refuses to act? Anakin doesn?t cry when he leaves his mother. Shmi doesn?t cry when Anakin leaves. Etc etc?

    AOTC: One. Anakin cries when Shmi dies in his arms.

    ROTS: Two. Padmé cries when she watches the Jedi Temple burn. Anakin sheds a tear in the Council chamber as he decides to go save Sidious from Mace, and he sheds another on the walkway at Mustafar after killing the Separatists. Despite lots of other horrible things in the story, that?s it?

    ANH: None. Leia doesn?t cry for Alderaan. Luke doesn?t cry for Owen and Beru, or Obi-Wan. Han doesn?t cry when the Imperials capture his ship.

    ESB: One. Luke cries when he loses his hand, in part from pain and in part in denial from Vader?s revelation. Arguably he cries a bit more, from pain, when he?s rescued by the Falcon. But there?s no other tears shed. Not when Luke and Han are lost in the cold, not when Luke fails in the cave, not when Han is tortured?

    ROTJ: Two, maybe. If you count Luke?s sorrow when Anakin Skywalker dies in his arms, and Leia?s fear when Luke leaves and Han holds her. But no other crying, not in Jabba?s Palace, even when Han is unfrozen, not during the Endor mission, not when Luke and Leia talk about their real mother, and not even when Vader tells Luke he?s going to the Emperor?

    So, yes, I do think that SW heroes should only cry, or shed tears, in exceptional circumstances. Loss and sorrow are huge themes of the SW movies, but it is how the characters react that makes them heroic. They do not become overwhelmed with grief, or let their mourning get in the way of their duty. Instead they are strong, fighting past their loss to do what is necessary.

    And yes, I do think that fanfics that portray SW heroes with lots of crying and hand-wringing in grief are out of character. That is not how SW heroes act. Maybe that?s how characters in other fandoms act, but it?s not SW.

    Every source of writing advice you look at, every source that tells you what publishers expect, every source that explains skill at the craft of writing ? all of them agree that ?show not tell? is a cardinal rule of fiction writing. Does every writer use some ?tell? now and then? Of course. But the vast majority of the story should be ?show? instead. When there?s too much tell, it?s obvious to the readers that the author isn?t very skilled. I don?t mean to be mean or anything, but that?s why using too much tell is universally considered the hallmark of an amateur writer.

    I?m sorry, but I think you?ve entirely missed the point. Just because a character thinks something does not mean that?s what the author thinks.

    Zahn is making a very creative storytelling move in his EU novels. In the movies, Vader is portrayed as very powerful, very feared,
  21. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 6, 2006
    I think a lot of you might be interested in [link=]this[/link] article. Especially considering his advice is contradictory to what a lot of you are saying. And this guy is a pro, too.

    Earthknight has said a lot of what I've wanted to say but couldn't quite find the coherence to spit it out. There is a reason to tell. If you didn't tell sometimes the famous sentence "I love you" will never exist. And it is notoriously difficult to 'show' a space battle. A couple minutes of space battle, if you wanted to show every little detail, could easily take up twenty pages. Note that in the famed ROTS novelization the first fifteen minutes of the movie take about eighty pages. There are times where you just have to 'tell' the reader what's going on rather than showing them for your own sanity. It makes the space battles slightly underwhelming no matter how talented you are, but it's something that has to be done, unless you want no introspection at all.

    There is no other method better at making readers attach to a character than to give him or her a lot of introspection and give readers a peek into the character's head. Same with disliking a character if s/he's a villain, or for sympathizing with him/her. You need to give the reader multiple glimpses into the thought process into the character, into the mind and sanity. If you want to be extremely personal in the third-person or write in the first-person it is mandatory to write that way.

    If this wasn't posted in fanfiction I bet quite a few SW authors would be taking offense at this thread and its purpose, particularly Stover and Traviss.
  22. rebel_cheese

    rebel_cheese Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 6, 2006
    Okay, here: Tear this old vig apart and tell me how I could've written better using your advice. Because I don't think I could've written it better considering that I had a 2,000 word limit to boot.

    "Allana, wake up."

    "Mmm?" the girl replied as she fought to stay asleep, to stay within the realm of dreamland.

    "C'mon, Allana. It's all right," the voice said again, soothingly.

    Allana opened her eyes slightly, and, blinded by the morning's light shining through her windows, covered her eyes with her left arm.

    "Mommy?" Allana managed to speak out loud groggily. She blinked away the fogginess that swirled around in her vision and saw her mother's tired grey eyes staring at her. This was when Allana realized that this wasn't like other mornings. Usually, when she awoke, her mother greeted her with a loving smile.

    But this time her mother wore a troubled expression, and underneath the surface was an apprehensive woman who was... scared of something, or someone.

    Mother was never scared. And that was when Allana realized something was horrendously wrong.

    "C'mon, sweetie. Get yourself dressed, and hurry. We don't have a lot of time." Mother said hurriedly.

    She turned around then, and Allana could not help but see the vibroblade at her mother's side, along with a strange kind of handle Allana had never seen before. There was nothing attached to the handle, which only made Allana more curious.

    "Mommy, what's going on? What's happening?" Allana begged. She [i]knew[/i] that something really [i]bad[/i] was beginning; she could sense it in not only Mother's demeanor, but Allana could sense the stress in Mother's [i]insides[/i] as well. She could not explain why she knew these things, or why she could sense them, and until then it seemed to be a special talent only she and Mother had, a special kind of game only they could play. Now Allana wondered whether if the talent was truly that, a game, anymore.

    Mother stopped at the door. Allana suddenly sensed an aching sadness in Mother, and she saw Mother fight sudden tears. Mother placed her hand on the wall and said, "Something wrong. Please, you have to hurry. Something bad is coming, and you need to go somewhere safe for a little bit. Hurry down to the gardens, please. The guards will show you the way."

    That explanation only made Allana more curious, and she suddenly sensed herself welling up with fear. She wanted to know what the bad thing was, but at the same time a different aspect of her wondered whether asking any more questions was truly a good idea.

    "Mommy, what's coming? Is it a bad person?" Allana asked, as she suddenly saw a grizzled, breaded man, with long brown hair, and cold brown eyes... that suddenly reminded Allana of her own eyes.

    Mother had been about to leave again, and again, she stopped, right outside the door. This time though, Mother didn't answer. She left, and Allana only heard her mother's footsteps echoing down the hall until they slowly faded. Allana was left sitting up in her bed and wondering what had changed. She could sense it. Her life had changed today.

    She left the bed and ran to her closet. She could feel Mother pressing her on, urging her to move. She was scared, no, [i]terrified[/i], but Mother wouldn't let her freeze up. Instead, she felt a comforting warmth flow through her, and the warmth told her everything was going to be all right. It would be. It had to be. It was the only possible way.

    * * *

    The palace was a maze, but Allana had memorized everything. Finding the gardens was no problem for her. It was in the middle of the palace, after all, and Allana had been here dozens of time since she learned how to walk. She didn't need the two guards holding her hands. Well, except down the stairs, anyway. She had some problems walking down stairs.

    The gardens were her playing ground. While it was certainly beautiful, with a wide variety of exotic blooming trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers, what Allana loved in particular was chasing the forest animals around. She loved playin>
  23. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002

    Because there aren't the Harry Potter boards. :) And my example of the Book 5 scene was a writer 'Showing not Telling' and it was the opposite for Allegiance.
    [face_laugh] If you'd read a little further into my post, you can tell that I am agreeing with your interpretation. Contrary to what diane said, neither scene is a Showing of QuiGon as respectively cold or affectionate. A BadFanFic would be one that would 'pad' the scene as I illustrated in same post to Make the reader believe/share the writer's own take.

    [/quote]Exactly. Classic example - Pride and Prejudice.
  24. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999

    As the creator of this thread, I assure it wasn't started to insult people. I saw something in original fiction that jumped out at me and I wanted to bring it up for discussion to see if I was the only one who has noticed this issue.

    Let me be a bit more specific about the story I read that prompted all of this. In the story, about every fourth page, one character or another would give some long-winded speech about love or patriotism or whatever. Then after the dialogue was over, the next 3-4 paragraphs were descriptions of how every character that heard it was so moved by the sentiment that he or she just couldn't help but weep openly due to the beauty of the words that were spoken.

    Then after the next speech, everyone was similarly moved to righteous fervor with their hearts now pounding with determination.

    After a few chapters of this, I couldn't stand to read anymore. The author wasn't just creating an emotional connection, he was hitting the readers over the head with a frying pan. Honestly, the characters weren't reacting in their own right, but were instead props for the writer to say: "Hey, look at that great bit I just wrote!"

    What bothered me the most wasn't that the writer was 'telling' instead of 'showing.' The problem, IMO, was that the characters in the story had no purpose but to (in effect) applaud for the author.

    I suppose that's the best analogy after all. I was reading a story where the writer had a built in applause sign.
  25. Darth_Lex

    Darth_Lex Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 17, 2002
    No. That is completely wrong. That is not what "tell" means. And Stover does "show" the ROTS space battle through Anakin's and Obi-Wan's POVs. If you don't understand that, then you don't understand what "show not tell" means.

    Introspection is not the same thing as telling! It is entirely possible to do introspection as show - that's exactly what Traitor does.

    Actually, dead wrong. Stover and Traviss are experts at show not tell.
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