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Old 04-05-2010, 08:20 PM   #1
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Default Adventures in College Creative Writing

Spring term which started for me last week on the 28th, opened up a strange possibility. For awhile- counting 3 months, now, I've been stumped on story writing. It's actually made me somewhat depressed that I've hit writer's block so incredibly fast. I guess I'm not as good as spontaneous story ideas as I used to be. Perhaps I should even say, "Was I ever good at this to begin with?"

Or so I think.

The first genre I ever wrote about went straight into high fantasy. You know: magic, elves, battleships, and Death Stars. That kind of thing. I always loved the sword fights and the dramatic duels and what-not when I was little. However, I started growing out of after watching dull re-runs of Dragon Ball Z. I can sum it up, already: "Spin in a circle for five episodes." That was two and a half hours of my life. Why do I need to watch that? *sigh*

That was when I was... about eight years old. I came to Wc3Campaigns around my freshman year in high school and instantly found myself attracted to the roleplays that used to be in the Off-Topic section before the admins gave us our own sub-forum in the Stories/Writing section. However, since I was new to the whole community and the small amount of RP'ers that were here, I just read their stories for a year and then decided to join them.

Needless to say, I can't look back at what I've written. Why? Because, I know now that after five years, I sucked. Hard. But, that wasn't all that happened. Everyone else in the RPs left, too. First it was Fladian (yes, I still remember their names) and night_elf. After the real veterans left was when Wc3c hit it's temporary doom. Thanks to Tim., the site came back on after a few months, I believe. DarkHorde (who changed his login name to Taur after the upheaval) appealed to the admins and got us our own sub-forum so we wouldn't have to "flood the Off-Topic thread with RP posts".

Things started to boom for a year before real life happened and Taur had to leave. Plus, he had his project Unsung Legends at the time, so he had even less time to do any real RPing. Soon afterwards, the rest followed suit: erwt, vig0r, murloc_lover, Dominate-Male, and Mc!. All gone. Just as everyone left, Plasma joined. He and I were the only ones for- what? two years? We didn't do anything, or more like couldn't. If you wanna RP, you need people, something we were significantly short on.

All the while this was happening, I decided to take my writing seriously. So I started to practice. Writers are never done practicing, just like every other profession out there. Even the professionals are always learning.

It doesn't seem like others appreciated the practice as much as I did, though. It wasn't until Hunter came by that I went around looking for places meant for RPing. I've probably gone to about eight sites now (including wc3c.net). Had a taste of the community, and things were fine. At first. My aim was to find a place where RPing was meant to be exciting and fun, but put in the extra hours it takes to make a good post and a great story. There are two dismays here: all but one of those eight could only dream of doing that, and wc3c.net is not the place. In the places on the net that I've encountered, I've felt so out of line when I'm the only one doing a page's worth of writing every post while everyone else does the minimal paragraph. At one site, one of the admins who RP'ed with the rest of the users asked me, "Why do you try so hard?" I told him that it takes me 2-4 hours to make a good post, and he sat there with his mind boggled.

I try too hard? To me, it looked like they weren't trying hard enough. A few sentences or a paragraph per post. The sentences aren't complete, the grammar isn't correct, the depth of their characters are cheap, I have no idea what the environment looks like when their characters are observing, and the plot is so vague and unplanned that it takes a few weeks before anyone is rarely interested in a roleplay. Remember that these are sites dedicated to roleplaying and that I'm just using the best of the worst examples.

That isn't too say that I didn't find a diamond in the rough, though. As in matter of fact, I found a place where I was highly outclassed by almost everyone else. All those of searching proved fruitful. Just the place I need to practice and hone my skills. However, that place is emptying as well, because everyone who is in that forum now attends college and are always studying, working, or tending to life. Gradually, it's happening to me, too. Less time to RP, because my priorities are on what's real and right in front of me. Then, when I do have time to RP, I don't RP, I do stuff like what I'm doing right now, which I find more productive than RPing, strange as it may seem.

Enough about the past. Back to the present. I realized that I had never taken an official Creative Writing class in my life. While some say that the best writers are home grown, many in the craft do better when that craft is presented to them formally.

While I was registering for this once a week, four hour class, it figures that I was put in the waitlist. I was number three and thought, "Oh, great. I'm never gonna get in, now." It's a Creative Writing class. You get to write about whatever you want so long as it's from your own imagination, but that's incredibly easy. Who doesn't want a writing class like that? My hopes sunk, but there was still a chance for me to get in the class if registered people didn't show up on the first day.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010. 8 AM in the morning. Our instructor is 10 minutes late, but he says that he's not used to teaching in the building that our class was assigned to. I could understand that, because my previous writing classes were all held in same building, so it was strange to have a Creative Writing class that wasn't in that building. We were put in a lonely classroom that is basically non-existent unless you tried looking for it. "This is great, though," our instructor says. "It's so deserving for people like us."

A little background on our instructor: He has a Ph.D in writing and has been teaching writing courses for over 20 years.

As everyone finally settled in class, the first thing our instructor said was, "If you're expecting to write some fantasy or sci-fi, you should leave the class, right now." That certainly opened up some eyes. Mine, too. A few "huh's" and "why's" came here and there. Our instructor further clarifies by saying, "Fantasy fiction, science fiction, romantic fiction... All of that plays off of fiction. When we add a genre to that fiction, rules change. I know that we don't like to say that creative writing doesn't have rules- let's just say that there are some things in creative writing that you should do and some things that you shouldn't do. In order to fulfill the class expectations by the time you guys are done with this class, you will learn these things."

"So," someone asked, "What kind of fiction are we writing?"

"Realistic fiction."

Out about about 23 students, I'd say that about a fourth of the class left. Our instructor was expecting it, though. It's happened every single time he's taught the class. Looks like I'm getting in the class after all.

Our instructor lectures us on how important the plot is, and what its focus should be. "The plot is what the main character wants, but it's not a plot unless there are obstacles. If the main character wants a happy family, then gets married to a happy wife and together have happy kids, that's not a plot, because it's too easy." He mentions something else, as well. "Conflict is important as well. Conflict is the glue that keeps the characters together. What's the point in the main character- or any character from staying in the story if there's nothing that holds them from leaving? More and more we're seeing stories where some characters just decided to stick around because they want to."

Someone said that he said is contradictory- which it is. Characters that stick around WANT to stick around. Isn't that normal in itself? "We're getting too far," our instructor laughs, "but I'm glad you noticed. While conflict keeps characters together, when that conflict is gone and characters can choose to leave... but it is a common story element that they normally don't. There are two reasons why. If the character just leaves, you've just wasted your time getting to know this character from the inside out. No reader or writer wants that. It's offensive. The second reason is because we specifically focus on these characters because they mean something to the plot, the theme, or the moral of the story. Otherwise they're better off as a nobody."

Hmm... Perhaps the reason why I feel stumped is because there are writing fundamentals for fictional writing in general that I've skipped.

Now that I think about it some more, I almost feel like I put myself into a fictional story in itself. I have a plot and a conflict. The plot is "what's gonna happen in the next 11 weeks of this class?" and the conflict is "if I ditch the class, I lose my full-time student position, get less financial aid, and get no refund for dropping the class."

This will certainly be fun.
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Old 04-13-2010, 08:24 PM   #2
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Second week.

We were supposed to read several stories within our "textbook" this week. However, I didn't read the stories, but I had a few reasons. Reason number one was because I didn't have the money to purchase the book. Reason number two is because I got paid on the same day that I went to school that day. While we were discussing a short story concerning a consisting of two sisters, a mother, and a father, I made quick note to realize how very little comments there were about the stories.

How that is even possible, though? This was an open book discussion. It's sad how I didn't have a book after two weeks- enough about that. Why wasn't the remainder of the class discussing the book when everyone except me had the book? Something was definitely wrong. A few people were taking the open book discussion seriously and- I stress- tried to analyze the story. Although I hadn't read the story and hadn't even taken a glimpse at the story, at least I tried to take an active part in the discussion. I even went so far as declaring to the entire class that I didn't read the book because I didn't have the book because I didn't have the financial resources to purchase the book. Everyone gets a good laugh out of that, and so do I. So why wasn't anyone else joining the discussions?

My instructor's patience blew off when we moved on to the second story we were supposed to read that week. Book discussion number two... Except the same five people who had the evidence to prove they read this story, no one else says a thing. Finally, my instructor pulls out the gun: "Who didn't read the stories this week?"

More than half the class rose their hands.

What the hell? Seriously? This is terrible, considering the situation. I find it so mocking how everyone laughed at me because I was the first to admit that I hadn't read the book and didn't have the book. However, when I see more than half the class raise their hands telling us that they didn't read the book when they have the book... No one laughs? I've never been pissed off at a class before... but this is just...

Luckily for us, the instructor didn't want to humiliate our class anymore than he had to. Once that was over, we went back to discussing the elements of fictional writing.

I think I got some terms wrong in my last post. Am I gonna look to bother and check? Not really, because I'd rather spend my time on the chance that I did get something and correct what I wrote then with what I'm writing now.

I never gave much of this a great, big thought, but there is conflict and inner conflict. Conflict occurs when "a character's desires meet resistance". In many cases, conflict comes from other characters in the story, but it also comes from institutions, society, or from within the character themselves, which is called inner conflict. However, a story writer shouldn't make the mistake of spiking conflict. It should progress with the story gradually.

What happens if there is no conflict? If there's no conflict, why tell the story? Basically: No conflict, no story.

I think this is where I messed up... or something. The crucible is the glue that keeps characters within conflict. You know, the consequences a character must suffer if they leave the conflict. Usually, the crucible is threatening to the character, so it makes them not want to break the crucible. Our instructor wanted us to give examples. Here's a good one: The primary reason why couples would marry in the far, far, past was to promote family's status in society. Although the man and the woman may not have been happy with the arrangement, if they were to break their marriage or reject it, it would hurt the family's status greatly. Sometimes, disgraced family members were thrown out and left to rot on the street. Or they sold them into slavery. Something extreme.

Dialogue is trickier than I give it credit for. According to my instructor, "Great dialogue- for lack of a better term- zigzags a lot. The main idea of great dialogue is to have your characters break free from the normal, everyday conversations that we have, what is known to be called efficient conversation. However, don't do it in every line of dialogue, otherwise your characters come off as choppy or retarded. About half the time is effective usage. How do we do this? We see it and hear it in movies all of the time. You know, that one character that has something holding them back from saying everything except the most important bit." That was movies, though, and he stressed that point, as well. "But in writing, we have to show the world through words. We don't have the ability to make a picture, but we can do it through words. In novels and such, what we usually see are characters that stop what they're saying by changing the subject, or they ignore questions, or they answer questions with questions. Yes, it's rude when conversing with real people, but remember that we want conflict."

So, why is it difficult to create conflict? Because, it's in our nature to avoid conflict. We don't want to make trouble, we want to keep away from it. The writer's job is the exact opposite: You have to create conflict if you want a viable story.

Dialogue should be kept short: As in matter of fact, in writing, characters that talk a lot or speak with long, eloquent sentences is considered rather annoying. When one character talks a lot, that's more along side a monologue, not a dialogue. I guess that's the difference.

A scene of dialogue should include gestures. Like: "I thought I was hungry," I said while I pushed the plate of meatloaf away. 'This keeps the movie rolling' and gives a description of what the character is doing outside of their own voice. Something like this:

"I thought I was hungry," I said while I pushed the plate of meatloaf away.

"Okay, then." My Mom answered, somewhat upset and a little angry. She took the meatloaf, covered it in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. "Don't blame me later, because I'll be out this evening."

That certainly is more active than:

"I thought I was hungry," I said.

"Okay, then. Don't blame me later, because I'll be out this evening," My Mom answered.

So... What was I eating, again?

The fourth rule to dialogue is to cut out the boring stuff. We don't need to hear our characters say, "Hey, how's it's going?" or "How are you doing today?" or whatever else we say when we greet people. In writing, this is not important to the dialogue, but we don't want to leave it out because this area also concerns a character's personality. So, instead of writing down "Hello. How are you doing?" it's better to just write 'I greeted my friend and invited him into the house.'

I hope this week is better than last week...
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Old 04-22-2010, 07:52 AM   #3
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Wow, at first I was tempted to TL;DR, but as I started to read it I became interested. A question though, why write this? Especially here where there is so little audience?
None the less I have enjoyed what you've written so far; looking forward to the next post.

On a positive note you've put the idea in my mind to start RPing. I might give it a go sometime in the future.
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Old 04-22-2010, 12:57 PM   #4
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Your professor sounds like a great guy. He seems serious about his work, sincere in what he says, and, well, friendly. And it speaks of your talent as a writer that his personality comes across so strongly in the few sentences you've written about him thus far.

Great work so far; I can only assume you put this much work or more into assignments for your writing classes, and therefore enjoy a bit of academic success. Too many writers (both in RP/fanfic and published literature) rely on flowery language that ultimately lacks true substance. You are not one of them.

The best scifi/fantasy (in my opinion, and likely your professor's) uses the fantastic elements only as a tool to deepen a story that is -- in essence -- a story about people. What would, minus the faster-than-light travel across galaxies, otherwise be considered realistic fiction. Certainly, there is some good fantasy that is driven by fantasy; the Lord of the Rings is in some places (but not others) more about the Rings and the ominous, intangible Evil than it is about real people and their true struggles, virtues, and imperfections; Harry Potter, too, is somewhat about people, but allows the magic to dominate the story. These are certainly good books, popular for a reason, but they aren't the only books in the genre.

Isaac Asimov's "Robot" stories often find conflict and resolution in the various loopholes, safeguards, and fantastic abilities built in to Man's ultimate invention, yet the main characters are always human.
spoilers for most Asimov novels

The robot Daneel Olivaw is, arguably, the "hero" who saves Humanity, both in the trilogy that initially introduced him and in the entire Foundation series -- he's literally Deux Ex Machina in Asimov's universe -- and yet the story is never about him. It's about Elijah Bailey, Hari Seldon, Golan Trevize, and several others.

What ends up mattering to the reader, ultimately, is what happens to the great and greatly flawed human characters involved in the story: their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. To be properly inspiring, a story must center around relatable characters, and characters are relatable when they are human. I don't mean genetically; it is neither sufficient nor necessary that a particular character have human features. What is important is that a character has a human personality. Spock and Data are sympathetic characters precisely because they are not merely hard-wired reactions to stimuli, no matter what they claim their "logic" dictates (and these character traits may or may not have been applied subconsciously, given the unfortunate assumptions Star Trek has been known to espouse about "logic").

Orson Scott Card is another whose fiction is (occasionally) more realistic than fantastic (he is inconsistent; some of his material is substantially less adequate than the rest of it*). Xenocide, for instance. Never mind the space flight, the aliens, the metaphysical Phlebotinum: Xenocide is about prejudice, acceptance, segregation, togetherness, love, rejection, life, sacrifice, honor, and deception. It's not perfect, but it is good -- and how fitting! For I think that description applies equally well to humanity. That came out as more of a paean than I wanted it to, but it stays because I don't know how else to express this idea.

In short, it shouldn't be too hard for you now to transition from writing fantastic fiction -- which you've clearly practiced a great deal -- to realistic fiction, particularly given your demonstrated talent for personal narrative. Rather than think of your instructor's insistence on realistic fiction as a restrictive leash, think of fantasy as a crutch you're not using. And...

...Write!

---

*I can be a rather harsh critic, especially of myself but often of others.
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Old 05-13-2010, 08:44 PM   #5
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Wow, thank you guys for the replies. Unfortunately, my computer went AWOL due to viruses, so I had to reformat my computer. Fortunately, none of the data in my computer was corrupted, only Windows itself. It's been three weeks since I last visited Wc3Campaigns and could stay around to write something. Sheesh.

Asimov's "Robot" is one of the most glorious sci-fis that I have seriously read from start to finish. I don't really like sci-fi because it pains me for being "out there" and not "closer to home". What I mean is the in the same respect for what cosmicat just explained. Very well done, there.

---

Third week. My Public Speaking and Statistics classes gladly gave me laundry loads of homework, so I decided to stay up late and get as much done as possible. I know that it's the close to the weekend, but I know myself better than that. I don't do homework on the weekend. Ever. Good thing I don't have school Monday morning! *weak cheesy smile*

Apparently I had eaten something that didn't agree with my stomach, last night. Throughout the course of the four hour class, I had to use the bathroom three times. It was kind of embarrassing, because I constantly got up and left the class room while my instructor was lecturing about action and verb tense.

I know that I had wishful thinking for the class being better at the book discussions. Even my previous writing classes that focused on analytical reading did better than this class has done in the last three weeks combined and then some. When it comes to authors that have made a name for themselves and have published novels and short stories, I think they have something to share that's worth thinking about. As much as I like that idea, I don't have the time or the patience to read every single article, book, story, and anecdote that my eyes glimpse at. This would be impossible, though. What would I do at first sight in a bookstore? Even worse: what's the scenario if I were to enter a library?

To start the class off, my instructor gave us a free writing exercise. To unwind, I guess. He told us to write any kind of story that concerned a mask and/or a monkey... He said it was his birthday, so he wanted a good laugh. Unfortunately, we didn't get one. As in matter of fact, I kind of want to know what everyone else wrote... I was ungratefully wasting my time by not really writing a story. My "story" was more like a one of those old fashioned action toy commercials. I had a hard time keeping the giggles and laughs to myself. People stared at me as I gleefully smiled. This is what I wrote:

Masked Monkey... ACTION HERO!!! ---> *Insert corny voice over here*
*Three slashes* ---> *Masked Monkey knows it's three slashes, but he doesn't know the difference between M and N.*
With bananasplitting reflexes, Masked Monkey defends primates everywhere! ---> *Despite no mode of transportation*
In the midst of Bananaboat Harbor, Guffaw the Gorilla attacks!
BLARGH?! ---> *Guffaw feels victimized by this commercial*
Who will save Suzy Chimp?! ---> *Who isn't in trouble*
Masked Monkey... ACTION HERO!!! ---> *echo, echo, echo...*

... I was bored. Yeah... Then my instructor says, "Who wants to share?" Hahaha, I don't think so. If I wanted to share this, it had to be envisioned with all of the drama and back up singers who shout "Masked Monkey, ACTION HERO!!!" with the main narrator. And then there would be this guy (or girl) who would slap us back into our senses with the second narrator cracking smart refutes. Obviously, the three slashes is a parody of Zoro and Puss (from Shrek).

The next part seldom bothers me, but I'll write about it, anyhow. I wasn't one of the three people who shared their super short story, but all of their scenarios were excellently crafted with fluffy, floaty language to extend a single scene... which kind of frustrates me for four reasons.

Reason #1: You're reading your story out loud, so when people are listening to you talking about "the deprecated, hollow shaft looped around my neck, whisking and twirling me in spirals..." What does deprecated mean? If I had a dictionary in my hand at the time, I would look up the word, but this means that I have to stop listening to the writer... but then the writer keeps on reading aloud, so when I find out what this word means, I no longer know where the story is, much less have a direction to follow. It's one of the problems of reading aloud to many people who don't really understand the lingo of what's being said.

Reason #2: Our instructor asks for feedback on what we've read to the class, but I honestly do not see a point. If everybody writes something that is fluent, uses vocabulary from the next planet onwards, and manages to have it flow like a poet that reads their stanzas, what's the point in commenting? They did a great job. Everyone does a great job. Who needs to say that when the writer already knows? I just don't get it. It's hard to give feedback, because what was read to us were short scenarios about a single scene. There's no direction given, and in any workplace, we leave people more confused than anything when no direction is given. I felt like I was given a pile of fertile dirt and then was told to place it anywhere on the ground outside.

Reason #3: Since it's just a single scene that doesn't seem to relevant to anybody, this is rather counter-intuitive to what we've been learning in class. We're more concerned about the characters of the story, not the action that drives the characters in the story.

Reason #4: Maybe I like to complain because there are people out there who write better than me? :P

The lesson of the day: How significant is action and verb tense? I have never given this any thought. Every story that I've written until now has always been past tense. Doing things in present tense just never stuck with me. All I know about present tense is, that when we are commenting in a written work, we consider what we cite from them as a claim they are making now. For example, "The Bureau of Environmental Statistics states that in 2004, issues concerning deforestation dropped 6.3%." It's fictional, but my intention is to make a point.

"A lot of writers don't write in present tense," the instructor says. "It's rewarding in the end, but we have to manage how appropriate it is for the story." He also said that it is difficult to write in present tense, because we have to find work arounds through various scenarios that characters get into. "Another problem we have is subject-verb agreement. It's when a character's or an object's actions do not coincide with the time things happen."

It sounds kind of complicated that way. Basically, a lot of authors slip up on present tense action and get the tenses confused with past tense action, something many authors are used to writing. Thus, our homework that week was to write a short scene of two characters in action. Once in past tense, and another time in present tense. I was running really dry on imagination, so I decided to use two characters that I already know very well: Arron and Erith from OtbL.

---

Action/Verb Tense: Past

Arron’s hands winced and bruised as he climbed the flight of stairs. He was not in the mood to be competing with Erith, a youngster who was half his age. It wasn’t fair how her parents suddenly pressured him into caring for a sixteen year-old girl who had a lot of spunk for her age. It completely came from her mother’s side, considering that Erith’s aunt was just as vigorous and aggressive. Erith’s legs seemingly flew up the stairs and did a U-turn into the hallway on the second floor. Arron lagged behind, unable to gasp for breath as he attempted to catch up with her. The young girl jokingly laughed at her “babysitter” as she ran into the nearest room that was on her right. No one could say that Erith was a baby anymore. Arron hit the last step of the staircase when he pleaded for help and surrendered.

---

Action/Verb Tense: Present

Arron’s wincing and bruising hands climb the flight of stairs. He is not in the mood to be competing with Erith, a youngster half his age. The fairness of the competition is low, considering how her parents suddenly pressured him into caring for a sixteen year-old girl with a lot of spunk for her age. It completely came from her mother’s side, considering that Erith’s aunt is just as vigorous and aggressive. Erith’s legs seemingly fly above the stairs and perform a U-turn into the hallway on the second floor. Arron lags behind, unable to gasp for breath as he attempts to catch up with her. The young girl jokingly laughs at her “babysitter” as she runs into the nearest room on her right. No one could say that Erith is a baby anymore. Arron hits the last step of the staircase, surrendering and pleading for help.

---

I know that I'm making Arron look and sound like a doofus, but half the time, Arron's joking around. Plus, I didn't get the present tense scenario correct all the way through the first time around; the one up above is the corrected version.
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"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
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If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

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Last edited by Ignitedstar : 05-13-2010 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 05-18-2010, 06:47 PM   #6
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Week 4 was great. It was about point of view, and it opened my eyes to something... I always felt that there was something wrong with the way that I was writing the characters in the story... Nevermind that. It's the way that the characters were conveyed. How I had to make this scene that describes everything that every character feels. And, if I felt I couldn't do it, it really felt like I was hurting myself on the inside. Well, now that I think of it in this particular way that my instructor explained it, it makes sense.

There are three GENERAL points of view. The ones we know so commonly are:

1st Person - Where the story is told through a character's eyes.

2nd Person - Where the story is told as YOU, the reader being the main character.

3rd Person - Where the story is told outside of a character.

I'm putting the third person Point of View in bold this is what we focused on. So my instructor asks, "What does that even mean? A story told OUTSIDE of A character. ANY character. Any AMOUNT of characters. It means a lot of things, and this is what plagues many, many novice fiction writers."

... Really? From what I've learned, treat the third person point of view as a camera. How close are we to the character? How much should we know about the character? If the "camera" is too far from the character, it would be difficult to discern what is being expressed on the character's face. Instead, a camera shooting from far away focuses on the scenery, not necessarily on the character (symbolism says otherwise). In contrast, a camera that is very close to our character puts their body and face in full view of the reader, so we know what they're thinking because body language says a lot (something I wish more people would do and pay attention to). Third person goes even closer, where the feelings of the character are conveyed, and it can so close as to us being able to read what the character is sensing (taste, touch, hear, see, smell, and think).

So what do we called these small sects of third person perspective? Well, there's really only two.

Third Person Limited - When the reader only has access to ONE character's thoughts. Personally, I think this can be expanded to "one or more, but not all" characters. It would make sense, because it is still a limited point of view if we are seeing an event through a certain number of characters' eyes, but never get a full view of what happened. The line drawn here seems blurry, but consider the next one.

Third Person Omniscient - When there is a clear narrating voice in the story that acts as a godly figure, understanding and conveying the expressions and feelings of as many characters as needed, even if the characters themselves do not know. In essence, the narrator is a character in itself and is playing God.

I'm highlighting this one... because this is the one that I now understand that we, as RPers, always tend to do, but you know what? It's counter intuitive, because Third Person Omniscient is the hardest point of view to write.

So, I think started to think, "Why do we do that, if it's so hard?" Or maybe I should ask, "Why do I do that, if it's so hard?" Thinking back to how I got started writing and RPing, it all started like that. I started RPing with people who wrote that way, so I- of course- "learned" to write that way as well. How come I never questioned it until recently? I guess I never thought about it... Is that way I usually get stuck in my writing? Because I want to show and tell everything? Is that bad? Not really, because it shows that you understand what you're writing. What does that leave the reader?

"Close to nothing," my instructor tells us. "If you're going to tell the reader everything, it's like spoiling a great book or a great movie to a friend. Now you've ruined it."

That's why writers don't write everything. That's why writers always make notes on what they're writing. That's why writers do research. That's why professional writers consider a good day's worth of work six pages. That's why writers make hundreds of drafts of their novel before it gets submitted to a publisher. That's why writing a novel takes so damn long.

... It also makes me realize why I can't appreciate art that only took the person a few hours to make. It's not enough. Can we be fascinated and appreciative at the same time? Sure, how we define each term is confusing until we know what each mean. I can always be awestruck and be "OMG! So cool!", but I'm just fascinated by it. I'm not really appreciating it. Art that is appreciated are the ones that you can stare for hours at. The ones that make us think after we've seen it. The ones that we will come back to see again, then think some more.

That's the difference between "good" and "great", isn't it? Then again, beauty is within the eyes of the beholder, so something should appeal to someone.

Understanding this makes me appreciate what professionals do a lot more than I used to. However, that doesn't mean that I like everything. Heehee. :P

---

EDIT: Going back to what Elite said, I didn't answer your question. How rude, huh? Sorry about that. I'm writing this here because there is so little audience. I want attention, but only from a select group of people. The Stories and Writings forum gets that niche perfectly, because people hardly come by to even click on the link, but those who do are the ones who I am appealing to. I don't demand a need to have people to come to the this part of the forum, but if you do: Please, take a seat.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:10 PM   #7
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Wow, at first I was tempted to TL;DR, but as I started to read it I became interested.
This. I was always too busy mapping to think about writing, but have never plucked up the courage to do a creative writing course. ;_;
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Old 05-18-2010, 08:49 PM   #8
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Thanks for replying, Rao Dao Zao. By the way, I've always liked your name. Reminds me of my real name.

---

Week Five's focus was on the techniques and tools of the craft. Formally, Techniques and Tools of the Craft. Our instructor talked about each rule first and then gave us a paper on it. I'm glad, because it's quite a long list of unwritten rules. "Take note," he said, "that this is only when you are out of character and have moved to narrator. Characters can cheat in writing all they want, because this is how we characterize them." When we are speaking as the narrator though, the writer should write with poise.

This made me also realize that I used to unknowingly commit these writing crimes.

Techniques and Tools of the Craft (when out of character):

1. "Take your characters seriously. Never make them absolutely foolish or horrible people." Amen to that and be at peace with God (not that I can say that I believe in that kind of god). The holy grail of writing is this rule, right here. If there is anything that I am religious for, it's this. If you cannot take your take anyone's characters seriously, much less the characters that you make for yourself seriously, I highly suggest you get out of this forum and never read another story in ANY shape or form in your life ever again. It's insulting, mocking, revolting, and horribly, outrageously disgusting how people will come across a dramatic moment and then laugh their ass off.

2. "Narrate events through a character's point of view and provide their thinking perspective." This is going back to the third person limited point of view. Obviously, one person might not see something the same way another person does. Even then, people who want the same thing sometimes don't want to do it the same way.

3. "Each scene must accomplish something." I've been guilty of not doing this, but I would expand this further, because 'something' is too vague. I like, "Each scene must accomplish something significant," much more. There's no point in a scene if it doesn't carry on anything to know later. If so, the reader is better off not knowing.

4. "Keep characters in motion. If they are not, do not leave them alone for too long." Characters that are left alone also get left behind, because we have to remember that a story has a time line, and all characters should be moving together in that time line. Is this, I will admit, one of the main faults of RPing. People fall behind with their characters, and their characters lose their place in the story line because they are left behind in time.

5. "Transition into the scene when a new scene begins." We want to know where the characters are before they act in it the space. Detail is important, but don't get the reader lost. The example was, "If you've ever gotten lost in any place, before, it was most likely because the main detail gets cluttered with details we don't need to know. Then we lose sight of the landmark and lose sense of place."

6. "Do not overuse sentence fragments." It's creative writing, but write with decency in mind. Remember that everything should come in moderation. Besides, wouldn't it be annoying. If I wrote. Like this. All. The. Time? And it. Does. Not make. Sense anymore.

7. "Avoid formal, analytical language." If the reader of this post believes that acknowledging the existence of the flaws of the previous point number six is no definite, sensible source of information, then one may also suggest that this sentence, too, is a nonsensical, abhorrent, and disastrously formulated sentence that wields no social relevance nor any similar sense of correct conduct for it is magnanimously extensive and distractingly invasive in the reader's chronological income spent leering cautiously over this very sentence wielding no periods whatsoever until after instance. Do you understand?

8. "Punctuate dialogue correctly." I would appreciate this, too. The comma at the end of a sentence of dialogue should always end INSIDE the parenthesis. "The boy was running," like this. That isn't fully appropriate though, because the two sentences that are connected due to the comma are relevant to each other, but are not similar ideas. They can be, but that would be expressing that I just told you that a boy was running and that I'm going to mimic the way he was running. That'd be ridiculous. Therefore, a period is needed. "The boy was running." Like this.

9. "Avoid phonetic spellings." This is how annoying it can get. If I were to change the way my sen-tin-cis wir speld, then it wud b dif-fi-kult to reed. Es-spe-shel-ly wen most of the wurds in In-gil-lish r not speld the same way they saund.

10. "Use flashbacks sparingly." Apparently flashbacks are very bad. Flashbacks go back in time, which isn't possible in the real world. We can retell what happened then, but can't go back and relive it. When writing a story, the story has a time line that should be shown from start to end, not start to pre-start back to start then end, or however many combinations we can get out of that.

11. "Show characters in their own colorful uniqueness." This is always true. It's what makes them special. It's why we want to know more them, or would like to pay more attention to them. The great thing about character biography sketches is that we would like to think that the character always starts that way, but sometimes we don't even remember some of their qualities. Why? My instructor says that "it's because you are inherently deciding that those qualities are not important to that character." The more more time we get to develop that character, the more they change due to other characters, but also the writer must let that character take on their own 'shape' and break from the mold they made for them.

12. "Villainous characters should always have a redeeming value. Heroic characters should always have a weakness." This is a given, but seriously. I'm tired of characters that have seemingly mysterious, yet perfect personalities like nothing's ever wrong with them. I believe they are called Mary Sue characters. I didn't know what this was until Kybi0 pointed us out, but a Mary Sue character is a character is completely flawless. There's nothing wrong with them, they're always right, things always go their way, and they always manage to get out of messy situations no matter what the odds are. Yeah, I mean it. ALWAYS. And I use that word rarely. That's why a great deal of readers hate Mary Sue characters.

13. "When describing large groups, do not forget to focus on distinct individuals." This gives the group its own 'character', if you know what I mean. If there's a pale faced clown wearing a purple and yellow stripped party hat and has a whistle in his mouth within a group of angry citizens that are mobbing the street, how could you NOT notice him?

14. "Active verbs and nouns are more important than adjectives or adverbs." A noun is a person, place, or thing. A boy. A verb is an action provided to a noun. A boy is running. An adjective is description of a noun. An athletic boy is running. An adverb is a description of a verb. An athletic boy is running quickly. It would be weird without a noun, though. An athletic is running quickly. Or a verb. An athletic boy is quickly. Or both. An athletic is quickly.

15. "Do not use 'would' or 'to be' too much." I can understand how this could get annoying. 'would' is a very big 'IF' word, while 'to be'... I don't know about that, because personally I don't think I use it too often to realize that I've done something wrong.

16. "Conflict should rise slowly, then climax." Tension is also a good thing. Remember that we want conflict, otherwise there's no story worth telling.

17. "The main character should be the force that drives the story forward." That's why they're the main character.

18. "Do use beautiful, lyric, poetic language unless there's a viable reason not to." Yes, that's right. Beautiful, lyric, poetic language. Not the feathery, fluffy stuff that you put in a pillow. Instead of those feathery, fluffy, stuffy pillows that would poke at your scalp and hurt you in your sleep, or those cotton pillows that leave you with a sore neck, get a memory foam pillow, instead. (Theoretically speaking)

19. "Show action rather than have it be told." When it comes to action, we want to remove the exposition of the action. It's along the lines of, "You should've been there."
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:27 PM   #9
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To end this:

After leaving the last week of class, a few of the writing methods used by a few other students... started to bother me. It bothered our teacher too, but I didn't find that out until after I talked to him about it. I thought it was just a personal style that I liked to take, but it seems like it is considered amateur among writers. I have to frown upon those who would use events that have actually transpired around their own life and use that as an excuse for a story. It's not a bad story... but there's very little put in the thought process because one is spewing out as much as they can remember. It isn't writing to discover and I'm not even sure if it is writing to control.

Imagining a story based on events that have happened to you or someone is completely different, because you're not turning the entire event into the story. They just use pieces of it (of almost anything) to formulate the story. These few people-- these few writers who have occupations in places where they are usually around other people. They're complete strangers whom they have had absolutely no contact with, have only met through work, and probably wouldn't bother to know and understand them personally. They eavesdrop on this person's or people's conversation, they make notes on what they're saying (and sometimes how they're saying it), then they go home, write up a quick story with dialogue that closely matches what the said person or people have said, change the names, change what the characters look like, change the setting to a place that doesn't exist (albeit still in the real world), and turn in their assignment. Easy A, right? I hope not.

Unfortunately I go to a school that is plagued by people who think a certain way. People who go into these writing classes usually aren't there for the joy and passion of writing. They're just there "to pass the class and move on". Friends, family, or some student strangers tell them that fictional writing is an easy class to pass, so they go in with the expectation of only passing the class. These people-- the ones who are only there to only to pass the class and could care less about the people who feel that there is not only responsibility as a student but a duty as a writer-- only come to pass the class.

It's discouraging.

How am I supposed to collaborate with people who don't care? How am I supposed to get proper criticism from people who don't care? It's exactly like public speaking classes. Not a lot of people go into that class to become passionate about public speaking-- you just do it, live through it, pass the class, and move on. None of us care fifteen seconds after you make your informative speech about how Wikipedia formed and why instructors frown upon its use. Or after you try to persuade people that unpaid internships follow strict guidelines and are otherwise illegal and businesses get away with this type of stuff all of the time because they take advantage of desperate, uninformed, and naive students who don't know their rights as an intern and/or employee. Listening to this person, writing down questions to ask later, making comments on what they said, how they said it, and their posture while speaking, expanding the topic by asking questions to further your knowledge or to find out how much the speaker really knows (I swear it's mostly the latter)... it's all part of the class.

Personally, I'd beg to differ. Why else would I be writing about this?

There was only one person in my class who told everyone that she wanted to become a professional writer and we never talked to each other even once throughout those twelve weeks of class. Still out of my league. I went into the class to learn how to be a better writer and to find ways to get myself out of writer's block.

So, what'd I learn? I can never be happy with anything. Haha. I need to find a writing circle or something to get what I want. Problem: I don't like cliques. I like being in groups of general people because they have perspectives that others don't see or couldn't see. But I'm never happy with those general people because their investment and commitment to being part of the group dedicated to writing is awfully low. Exactly. Even if I get into a small group of writers, I don't think of any of us would be interested in what other people are writing since we write for ourselves. We're just being polite.

It reminds me of mapmaking. A fraction of us make maps for ourselves. If people like what we make, then okay. If not, we're not going to change our vision. They don't have to like it. We're not going to force them to like it. That means... it's a chore. The irony.

Now that I think about it, all of my teachers so far have made a point to tell students how they grade them. My fictional writing teacher tells us this the last minute of being in his class, "It's impossible to get an A in my class. It's difficult to get a B in my class. Just for getting a C, you should pat yourself on the back." After he said that, it made me unsure of whether I should be satisfied with a B.
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Old 09-17-2010, 05:57 PM   #10
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...I sincerely hope he was joking (or lying to make people feel better) about his grading policy. Although my ideals lean more towards "it doesn't matter what grade you get; how much you learned is more important", realistically, when you submit your transcript as part of an application, your average marks are important. If an "A" is impossible, he needs to re-evaluate his policy; there's no need to ruin a transcript that should show a 4.00 average by making it say 3.98 (which to a lot of people looks much worse). Then again, he probably does grade that way, as what I've seen of your prose would earn better than a "B" average in the writing classes I've taken.

But apparently some things are the same no matter what the local policy or subject. I'm taking a mathematical modeling class now that I truly despise because more than half the class cares nothing for math, or even the experience of learning things. Anything.

They're biology majors and business majors who don't even really have a passion for practicing biology or football: it's just something they think they're "good enough" at to study a bit, "pass" their classes, and get an undergraduate degree to get themselves a middle-class job that will sustain whatever lifestyle they're after. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to get paid.

But what really bugs me is that the professor caters to them. Calculus is a prerequisite for the course, yet the most advanced topic we've covered so far was at the level of high school algebra (dressed up all fancy to show that it has practical applications). I am of the opinion that an upper-division (320) course should expect a degree of competence and should move at an unforgiving pace. That is certainly what I have come to expect from other departments.

What saddens me most is that there are people (and they appear to be the majority) who don't care about anything. It doesn't matter what the class is, or, later, the work; they "pass the class and move on". Collect the paycheck and move on. I, on the other hand, seem to care about everything. I wish I had more room in my schedule to take more history classes, because the two I've had so far were amazing. Chemistry and physics were simply fun, even at entry level. I've no aptitude for biology, psychology, or weight training, but the courses I took under those fields were good, too. Unfortunately, limited time and resources force me to be practical; if I studied every subject that intrigued me, I would be here twenty years, and I can only afford tuition for four.
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