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Writing Advice


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#41 Offline Gorag

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Posted Oct 16 2011 - 12:49 PM

Personally, I'm a fan of expanded archetypes. So while you can still have "Hero saves the world from evil king", I like to expand on it, add twists, add motivations. Maybe, just maybe, the hero isn't some legendary chosen warrior that can do stuff no one else can; maybe he's just the only one who cares. Why is the evil king actually in power; what gain does he see from ruling the world? Basically, acknowledge what archetypes you're using, then build on them so you tell a new story constructed of old elements.Unrelated: here's that short story I mentioned; it's a pretty quick read and there's plenty to critique.

Oh yes, of course. Adding twists is great, what I meant was that if you create let's say... 10 stories, and they're all based around "Hero saves the world from evil king" it would be rather repetitive, and borring. Even if you add twists, the reader will know every book you write there's going to be a hero, and he's going to have to save the world. But, if you have 10 different stories based around 10 different archetypes (adding twists), your books would each feel very different and the reader won't know what to expect. After you write those 10 books, you can always make another "Hero saves the world from evil king" story (with different twists this time), but I believe spacing it out would be a wise decision.

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#42 Offline Kragghle

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 12:45 AM

:kaukau: I have to ask, is this topic analogous to the old "Writers" topic, or is it not so general? In either case, since you do specifically ask for advice, I have come up with a few philosophies on writing in the last half year:- Contrary to the opinion of my Calculus friend, I do not believe that the quality of a story is defined by how well it targets a base audience. By his definition, works such as Lord of the Rings were poorly written because they were "obviously meant for a younger audience" but "tactlessly not written in a style appropriately for that audience". While an audience is something to keep in mind, it should not define a story because a story should first and foremost have a voice, which is one of the basic principles of writing. The story has a soul, and it is the job of the author to fully realize that, which leads to the next point:- Don't twist a story into something it's not. By all means, be natural. Usually your first impression of the story when you conceive the idea holds the key to what's at the heart of the story. Build everything off of the heart of the story. If you know what kind of story you're writing, then you can make it better.- Illustrations are okay if they fit your story. Steve from Calculus would beg to differ, which was the biggest disagreement that we had. There is and always will be the philosophy that "readers prefer to see things in their own head". Okay, there is truth to that. Steve from Calculus preferred illustrations that only detailed things that had no significance to the story so that the reader could imagine the more important things for themselves. No, that is just ridiculous. I don't know how he came to that extreme. I'm fine if that's the way he personally prefers things, but his writing philosophy is way off if he's going to try and press it on me. My attitude is that illustration can be good because the importance of showing instead of telling, and for many people writing actually attracts them to the book. Furthermore, illustrations do not have to be only for a younger audience. They can be applied to more serious books as well. In my own writings, the case for illustrations lies in that the story is bold. Illustrations are bold. Illustrations will also add to the sincerity of my story, or so I believe. They will also provide an enhanced atmosphere that gives the story a distinct feel. Yes, the appearance of various aliens, places, and sci-fi objects is important to me. That's part of what sci-fi is.- A professional actor once said that style was "knowing what kind of play you're in". This definition, when applied to writing, means that the style of your writing has to match the type of story you're writing. If you're writing a fantasy epic, it's okay to write in elevated language, because that's the nature of the epic. My friend from Calculus would call that bad writing (and in fact he has, so I'm not being presumptuous), but an English teacher would agree that part of the nature of an epic is the narrative style.- If you ever run into my friend from Calculus, never let him tell you that you can't write about a person of the opposite sex. He'll tell you that your lack of experience will make your character disingenuous and alienate readers of that sex. It is possible to write about the opposite sex without having conspicuous flaws that detract from the story.- The character is a real, living person. Your objective is to get to know them. Since they live in the abstract real of your mind instead of the physical realm outside of it, you do have a bit of an intuitive knowledge of them, but you still have to get to know them. There's the first impression, when you first conceive them. It's like being a casting director and seeing an actor, then thinking "A ha! That's the one I want for the role!" No, you do not create them. They already exist. Your job is to find a character and cast them for a role in the story, or maybe you find a person you like and decide to build a story off of them. it is important to remember that you do not create the character. The character is a person. They are already the way they need to be. At first you might have a few misconceptions about them that throw you off a bit. What most people call "revision" is what I call realizing that you misunderstood the character. Never let Steve from Calculus tell you that you dictate who the character is and that they are purely who you made them. That is a lie. Once you get into that thinking, the character immediately loses all sense of authenticity. Other things not related to my hours of argument with Steve from Calculus is the significance of symbolism. Many people have shunned classic ideas and have called them cliches. One writer even said in her #i writing rule: - There is no such thing as absolute good and absolute evil. This is not quite true. While that is important for stories such as the Hunchback of Natre Dame, Frankenstein, Julius Causar and other such stories with complex, relatable villains, there is no need to be ashamed of having pure evil villains. Sometimes it's good for the moral of the story to be that villains are outcasts because they are evil and not evil because they are outcasts. In various classic epics, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, Harry Potter, and the first and last scenes of Fantasia 2000, there is a distinct dividing line between good and evil, and many of the villains are pure evil. Is does not make them bad pieces of drama, though. Epics often take on the nature of good versus evil. It's not cliche: it's classic. There's nothing wrong with that, and this leads me to my main point about many lasting works within culture. Cultural icons spur from literature and drama that targets the dreams that we all share. Why does Superman appeal to us? He shouldn't be good literature because he's too perfect. Let's face it: he's the man of steel with a heart of gold. Yet, it is because he is ideal that he appeals to us. This is because he's our dream hero. Sure, anti-hero's can be more interesting at times, but there needs to be a man who is the universal symbol for heroism. There needs to be the hero that's always the man we want him to be. Superman is that man. We all wish, to some degree, that we could be Superman, because we all like to think that in tough times we will make the right decisions. He is the hero who does those things, and because this do-gooder is so prominent in fiction, he gives us hope. He is the symbol behind which some people find strength. By wearing shirts with the Superman shirt, aren't we inherently subscribing to his ideals? Likewise, we as a society also need symbols of evil. Sometimes they can be caricatures, but that's okay. Think of them more as muses. These villains are constant reminders of things that we should make enemies of. We should wage wars against sin. Let's face it, would Malefiscent have been as cool if she didn't say that she was going to stop Prince Philip with all the forces of ######? It was always cool that Disney had the nerve to include that line, but it was brilliant because it leaves no doubt to the depths of her evil. Witches have traditionally been people in line with the devil, and therefore they're as godless as they come. Therefore, we have our Supermans and Atticus Finches with our Malefiscents and Makutas to counter them. INcarnations of good versus incarnations of evil. Remember that the heart of originality of not novelty, but sincerity. There are plenty of original books, movies, and plays that are released every day that are very original, but many of them are criticized for being poorly rendered. Just think of all the original books you've read and original movies you've watched and think of how many of them you've probably forgotten about now. It's odd how many people think will throw away a good story just to add a little more novelty. The other feature of epics that I notice a lot is that along with there being definite forces of good and evil at conflict, many of these forces are given strong symbolism that supports their roles. Superman is in bright colors. Gandalf wears white. Kaptain Kirk would be nothing if we wasn't charming and the only guy wearing gold in the entire crew, and likewise, something very similar could be said for James Bond. The orcs are hideous, ugly things that follow a dark Maia wearing black, demonic armor. Darth Vader is tall and black. Let's face it: we're all suckers for those men in uniform and like to imagine that all Nazis look like Hitler. Meanwhile, don't be ashamed by associating goodness with light and life and evil with darkness and death. J.R.R. Tolkein wasn't. It's what makes great fairy tales. It's also okay to have powerful characters if the story calls for it. For epics, it makes things more fun. It can be done wrong, but there are still times when it's okay. Many people like larger-than-life characters who give us something big to cheer for. Imagine how many fewer hardcore characters in the world we'd have if there was no such thing as Mewtwo, Godzilla, Shadow the Hedgehog, Super Saiyans, all our favorite superheroes, Beowulf, Grendel, Hercules, Neo from the Matrix. Every once and a while it's a pleasure to see a hero who can overcome impossible odds without breaking a sweat (the Toa), or to see villains who are not only pure evil but a true devastating menace (our beloved Makuta). If it happens to fit into your story, don't refrain. Finally, there are other ways to make great fairy tales come true on paper. Besides having ideal heroes and villains, Star Trek portrayed an ideal crew with a sense of everyone belonging. Toy Story depicted a tale of friendship and a journey of self worth that would all like to have. In The Lion King, Simba is the little king we all wish we could be and he has the awesome father we all wish we could have. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker saves the princess, which has certainly been done before, but it never gets old. Forrest Gump is the tale of a simple person anyone can appreciate who's kindliness is inspiring. It's A Wonderful Life is the tale of a man who has the strength to set aside his own dreams to pursue the things that truly matter to him: friends, and family, and love. I absolutely adore these types of stories. Almost everyone does. Take a hint from great works such as these. They speak so much. Your Honor,Emperor Kraggh
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#43 Offline Knight Lautrec

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 12:52 AM

I'm not trolling when I say that TV Tropes is an excellent place to look for literary inspiration. The site is chock-full of literary techniques and conventions to use and to avoid. :D
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#44 Offline Legolover-361

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 06:28 AM

:kaukau: I have to ask, is this topic analogous to the old "Writers" topic, or is it not so general?

Yes, it's meant to be a follow-up to the old Writers' topic.

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#45 Offline The Shouting God

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 08:27 AM

I tend to prefer order vs chaos rather than good vs evil. Just feels a bit more realistic and a bit more fun.
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#46 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 09:01 AM

:kaukau: I have to ask, is this topic analogous to the old "Writers" topic, or is it not so general? In either case, since you do specifically ask for advice, I have come up with a few philosophies on writing in the last half year:- Contrary to the opinion of my Calculus friend, I do not believe that the quality of a story is defined by how well it targets a base audience. By his definition, works such as Lord of the Rings were poorly written because they were "obviously meant for a younger audience" but "tactlessly not written in a style appropriately for that audience". While an audience is something to keep in mind, it should not define a story because a story should first and foremost have a voice, which is one of the basic principles of writing. The story has a soul, and it is the job of the author to fully realize that, which leads to the next point:- Don't twist a story into something it's not. By all means, be natural. Usually your first impression of the story when you conceive the idea holds the key to what's at the heart of the story. Build everything off of the heart of the story. If you know what kind of story you're writing, then you can make it better.- Illustrations are okay if they fit your story. Steve from Calculus would beg to differ, which was the biggest disagreement that we had. There is and always will be the philosophy that "readers prefer to see things in their own head". Okay, there is truth to that. Steve from Calculus preferred illustrations that only detailed things that had no significance to the story so that the reader could imagine the more important things for themselves. No, that is just ridiculous. I don't know how he came to that extreme. I'm fine if that's the way he personally prefers things, but his writing philosophy is way off if he's going to try and press it on me. My attitude is that illustration can be good because the importance of showing instead of telling, and for many people writing actually attracts them to the book. Furthermore, illustrations do not have to be only for a younger audience. They can be applied to more serious books as well. In my own writings, the case for illustrations lies in that the story is bold. Illustrations are bold. Illustrations will also add to the sincerity of my story, or so I believe. They will also provide an enhanced atmosphere that gives the story a distinct feel. Yes, the appearance of various aliens, places, and sci-fi objects is important to me. That's part of what sci-fi is.- A professional actor once said that style was "knowing what kind of play you're in". This definition, when applied to writing, means that the style of your writing has to match the type of story you're writing. If you're writing a fantasy epic, it's okay to write in elevated language, because that's the nature of the epic. My friend from Calculus would call that bad writing (and in fact he has, so I'm not being presumptuous), but an English teacher would agree that part of the nature of an epic is the narrative style.- If you ever run into my friend from Calculus, never let him tell you that you can't write about a person of the opposite sex. He'll tell you that your lack of experience will make your character disingenuous and alienate readers of that sex. It is possible to write about the opposite sex without having conspicuous flaws that detract from the story.- The character is a real, living person. Your objective is to get to know them. Since they live in the abstract real of your mind instead of the physical realm outside of it, you do have a bit of an intuitive knowledge of them, but you still have to get to know them. There's the first impression, when you first conceive them. It's like being a casting director and seeing an actor, then thinking "A ha! That's the one I want for the role!" No, you do not create them. They already exist. Your job is to find a character and cast them for a role in the story, or maybe you find a person you like and decide to build a story off of them. it is important to remember that you do not create the character. The character is a person. They are already the way they need to be. At first you might have a few misconceptions about them that throw you off a bit. What most people call "revision" is what I call realizing that you misunderstood the character. Never let Steve from Calculus tell you that you dictate who the character is and that they are purely who you made them. That is a lie. Once you get into that thinking, the character immediately loses all sense of authenticity. Other things not related to my hours of argument with Steve from Calculus is the significance of symbolism. Many people have shunned classic ideas and have called them cliches. One writer even said in her #i writing rule: - There is no such thing as absolute good and absolute evil. This is not quite true. While that is important for stories such as the Hunchback of Natre Dame, Frankenstein, Julius Causar and other such stories with complex, relatable villains, there is no need to be ashamed of having pure evil villains. Sometimes it's good for the moral of the story to be that villains are outcasts because they are evil and not evil because they are outcasts. In various classic epics, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, Harry Potter, and the first and last scenes of Fantasia 2000, there is a distinct dividing line between good and evil, and many of the villains are pure evil. Is does not make them bad pieces of drama, though. Epics often take on the nature of good versus evil. It's not cliche: it's classic. There's nothing wrong with that, and this leads me to my main point about many lasting works within culture. Cultural icons spur from literature and drama that targets the dreams that we all share. Why does Superman appeal to us? He shouldn't be good literature because he's too perfect. Let's face it: he's the man of steel with a heart of gold. Yet, it is because he is ideal that he appeals to us. This is because he's our dream hero. Sure, anti-hero's can be more interesting at times, but there needs to be a man who is the universal symbol for heroism. There needs to be the hero that's always the man we want him to be. Superman is that man. We all wish, to some degree, that we could be Superman, because we all like to think that in tough times we will make the right decisions. He is the hero who does those things, and because this do-gooder is so prominent in fiction, he gives us hope. He is the symbol behind which some people find strength. By wearing shirts with the Superman shirt, aren't we inherently subscribing to his ideals? Likewise, we as a society also need symbols of evil. Sometimes they can be caricatures, but that's okay. Think of them more as muses. These villains are constant reminders of things that we should make enemies of. We should wage wars against sin. Let's face it, would Malefiscent have been as cool if she didn't say that she was going to stop Prince Philip with all the forces of ######? It was always cool that Disney had the nerve to include that line, but it was brilliant because it leaves no doubt to the depths of her evil. Witches have traditionally been people in line with the devil, and therefore they're as godless as they come. Therefore, we have our Supermans and Atticus Finches with our Malefiscents and Makutas to counter them. INcarnations of good versus incarnations of evil. Remember that the heart of originality of not novelty, but sincerity. There are plenty of original books, movies, and plays that are released every day that are very original, but many of them are criticized for being poorly rendered. Just think of all the original books you've read and original movies you've watched and think of how many of them you've probably forgotten about now. It's odd how many people think will throw away a good story just to add a little more novelty. The other feature of epics that I notice a lot is that along with there being definite forces of good and evil at conflict, many of these forces are given strong symbolism that supports their roles. Superman is in bright colors. Gandalf wears white. Kaptain Kirk would be nothing if we wasn't charming and the only guy wearing gold in the entire crew, and likewise, something very similar could be said for James Bond. The orcs are hideous, ugly things that follow a dark Maia wearing black, demonic armor. Darth Vader is tall and black. Let's face it: we're all suckers for those men in uniform and like to imagine that all Nazis look like Hitler. Meanwhile, don't be ashamed by associating goodness with light and life and evil with darkness and death. J.R.R. Tolkein wasn't. It's what makes great fairy tales. It's also okay to have powerful characters if the story calls for it. For epics, it makes things more fun. It can be done wrong, but there are still times when it's okay. Many people like larger-than-life characters who give us something big to cheer for. Imagine how many fewer hardcore characters in the world we'd have if there was no such thing as Mewtwo, Godzilla, Shadow the Hedgehog, Super Saiyans, all our favorite superheroes, Beowulf, Grendel, Hercules, Neo from the Matrix. Every once and a while it's a pleasure to see a hero who can overcome impossible odds without breaking a sweat (the Toa), or to see villains who are not only pure evil but a true devastating menace (our beloved Makuta). If it happens to fit into your story, don't refrain. Finally, there are other ways to make great fairy tales come true on paper. Besides having ideal heroes and villains, Star Trek portrayed an ideal crew with a sense of everyone belonging. Toy Story depicted a tale of friendship and a journey of self worth that would all like to have. In The Lion King, Simba is the little king we all wish we could be and he has the awesome father we all wish we could have. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker saves the princess, which has certainly been done before, but it never gets old. Forrest Gump is the tale of a simple person anyone can appreciate who's kindliness is inspiring. It's A Wonderful Life is the tale of a man who has the strength to set aside his own dreams to pursue the things that truly matter to him: friends, and family, and love. I absolutely adore these types of stories. Almost everyone does. Take a hint from great works such as these. They speak so much. Your Honor,Emperor Kraggh

Tl;dr. But seriously I find your generalization hilarious. Not everyone has the same taste as you. I like many people find heroes like Iron Man a great deal more then superman because he built his superpowers and he has many, many flaws. Superman is just that; The super man and if you want that you may as well get a religion. A story doesn't need black/white morality and an epic battle to make it a good story in fact sometimes it can ruin it and make it seem juvenile. I just want to throw out there that theres a reason why most of the films and books you mentioned are most popular with preteen boys. (BTW Beowulf, Forest Gump, and its a wonderful life are no where near as clear cut as you make it out to be and in the actual mythos and not the Disney movie Hercules would be "the bad guy" by your standards) As a writer your job is just to show a little bit of truth about the world with your words, help to peal back some of the scales from societies eyes. You don't need anything and theres no right or wrong way in your writing as long as you make someone somewhere think. Asking again since no one seemed interested the last time. Would anyone like to review a less then appropriate(but not explicit) story that I'd PM to them?

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 09:18 AM.

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#47 Offline Takatu

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:03 AM

Well, when someone earlier mentioned write for yourself, not for others: I'm in the middle. I find my best stuff comes from when I'm consciously writing for both myself AND others. Basically, I take all kinds of movie clichés and questions I and others have questions about, and actively subvert them. One of the more well-known examples would be when I hear people say about the villain, "Why don't you just shoot/stab/whatever him? Don't stand there and gloat, it gives the hero an opening!" And I've said this in some things, too. So my villain does kill someone without gloating if he perceives them as a big enough threat. This particular example requires more careful thinking and crafting, however, because then you need an actual reason why the villain doesn't kill the hero from the start. I consider this to be a bonus, however, because it makes for an interesting story and your villain successfully comes off as dangerous and a very real threat. Anyway, that's just one example, but as I said, some of my best work came from writing for both myself and others. BUT. Going off the the morals debate earlier, I've found that morals pretty much end up in a story in one way or another whether you want them to or not. And relating this to the above point, you may have to make sacrifices in logical storytelling for the sake of the actual point or message of the story. There will be moments when in pretty much every conceivable way a hero should not ever win, but in order to basically not have a completely hopeless ending or something, you'll have to do something that requires some willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. Now don't get me wrong when I say this, because I absolutely LOVE a good story, but I think one of the most important parts of a story is what the reader takes away from it. And like I said, you'll have to make logical storytelling sacrifices on occasion in order to preserve that main point or moral or message or whatever you want to call it. There's a Warhammer 40,000 book titled Lord of the Night that I read a long time back. I loved it, it had some of my favorite storytelling elements, extremely unorthodox protagonist, and all that. I also love the Harry Potter books. Now both of these are COMPLETELY different: the former is a dark, fairly violent, science fiction story where every character except one is in the darker shades of gray, and it's generally aimed for older audiences than the latter. But Harry Potter won out for me in the end, it's stuck with me longer, because the point I think J. K. Rowling was trying to get across was more powerful and important. Anyway, I've rambled enough lol, but I'll end with something that I know budding writers are probably tired of hearing: read. It really is the best way to learn. I didn't have anyone play teacher and sit down with a chalkboard to give me the information I needed, I read books. Also, I recommend at least trying to read a variety of things, so you have several different writing styles in your head. People generally learn to do stuff by mimicking what they know, and if you know different styles, mixing them often ends up helping to develop your own style.
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#48 Offline Willy Brandt

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:23 AM

Tom Mc. Israel: I can't begin to describe how I disagree with you. MORALS IN STORIES ARE COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. In fact, it's probable they'll tick off the reader and you'll come across as a stupid idealist trying to shove his thoughts down another's throat. My stories are moralless, written for the sake of writing them, and that's how people happen to enjoy them.-Dovydas

Like you said about archetypes, morals will worm their way in, too. For example, if you're strongly against capital punishment, your story will include parts where a hero spares an enemy's life and simply imprisons them, or agonizing over a recent victory, wondering if it was self-defense or murder. You'll get your point across either way, but if you try to get your point across, you'll just sound preachy. Even if your main character doesn't align with your personal moral beliefs (which would probably be really tricky to write, but I think I'll have to try it sometime as an exercise), you'll probably wind up creating another character to voice your opinion on the situation.

Yeah, I'm fine with that. Morals can worm their way all they want as long as I'm not going to put them in on purpose so I don't seem preachy. Also, Kraggh, I'm darn sorry but Jonestown Bartender is so right.-Dovydas

Edited by Dovydas the Nerevarine, Oct 17 2011 - 10:27 AM.

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#49 Offline Lord Kaitan de Storms

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 11:31 AM

My stories always end up with morals. I think it might partially be my interest in morals, politics, religion, etc., or it might be that my stories are never without a sense of tragedy (my lyrics are even worse- one friend of mine won't read them because they give him depression issues). This is something I've always found odd, actually, because I'm a pretty happy person who doesn't really feel there's anything wrong in my life. Then again, one of my driving feelings is that my luck is not shared by most other people, and that needs to be fixed. As for archetypes: One of my stories I'm working on pokes fun at many of these by have the main characters all be extremely genre savvy (LARPers who wind up in a fantasy world). But even that story spends a lot of time on the horrors of war and existential crises, so...
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#50 Offline JohannDakitsch

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 11:41 AM

I currently writing a novel (about 100 pages already), started this year. It a fantays with some sci-fi elements. Actually my first attempt at a serious novel, so it may not ened up being so good... More of a training before getting in the real business.Its all in (brazilian) portuguese, tough, as it is my native language and all...
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#51 Offline Kitania

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 12:04 PM

Yeah, I'm fine with that. Morals can worm their way all they want as long as I'm not going to put them in on purpose so I don't seem preachy.-Dovydas

Often times, stories are written to be moralistic arguments -- I'd even argue and say all of the time, or at the bare minimum, most of the time. Generally speaking, it'd be hard to write a story without any infusion of the author's morals, because there'd likely be no internal conflict with characters (in fact, if we take out all morality altogether) and there'd be no lesson to be gained from the book -- whether this lesson is a positive or negative lesson to the reader. A famous piece, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, is an argument about the morality of the death penalty, through showing us very detailed accounts of these characters (though these characters were real people) and allowing us (the reader) develop a pathos (or, in the context I use it, an emotional connection) to the characters so that we feel something when bad things happen to them, or when they plot something horrible. However, a key to actually writing a story and not have it come off as preachy, is how well one can write. If someone comes up and, in a very basic overview, says "I'm right, everyone else is wrong, this is the only way" multiple times throughout the story -- to where it's too painfully obvious -- then that'd come off as preachy. (Forcing one view onto others). I suppose you could write a book that has no moralistic argument by design, but odds are, one will surface in the pages and will be attached to your person and your reputation -- which can easily help your reputation, or help destroy it pending on the type of lesson. (Good example here is Twilight, it was poorly written to the point where the main argument -- abstinence -- was ignored by the readers, and the violent, intrusive, over-protective vampire was seen as the ideal boyfriend and this helped destroy the author's reputation amongst those who actually saw harm in that interpretation of the story). For example, the book I wish to write has a lot of bases in societal morality and viewpoints. For me, when I write this story, it's a way for myself to rant in a very productive fashion and without restating the same thing multiple times, but to make it obvious enough so that those who normally ask for a repetition won't be left in the dark the whole while. The actual themes of the book deal with many different things, such as how even the greatest and brightest of lights may turn out to be the coldest, darkest of abysses and many of the inequality issues that face society, and some other issues that become more incendiary towards some political ideals and to religion. (And so will not be said here). It's a story I'm writing with the infusion of my own moralistic philosophies (makes it sound grander than it is), because my story is an argument that's trying to get across a point through using parallels to issues that face the real world, along with examples of historic happenings all of which can't be easily tied together outside of a fantasy-world, the nature of this story bringing that fantasy into the sub-genre of dark fantasy. In the end, there's more meaning to books that use morals and where the author tries to argue his or her point. The book becomes an example to society, in some cases, and might even hold a point obvious enough to affect society. And if not, the piece of literature would have more substance, more depth, more conflict and (in all likelihood) harbor more interest due to the dynamics brought forth by arguing a moral standpoint (as in, this fictional world would have to react like the real world would, often a know-how gained through how historic societies reacted to similar circumstances, or how the current society has reacted when faced with particular issues). At the same time, the book can be argued and actually discussed on a higher level of understanding, and a higher level of thinking, than just "well, why did James walk into the kitchen? I suppose it's because he was hungry...." Though, there are books that are just plain out there and don't really hold a basis in any moralistic argument. In most cases, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland is a pretty good example of that, even though that book really isn't about anything to begin with. Parody books, at least some of the ones I've seen, are also lacking in that kind of substance, which just makes them a read to kill time with and perhaps a smile from a witty joke here or there. But generally speaking, the more serious a story is taking itself, the more serious the thinking that goes into it would have to be from the reader. I guess my argument here is just to say that the infusion of an author's morals into a story isn't a recipe for disaster, but rather has often been the recipe for recognition -- good or bad -- and why some stories have gone on to become classics, and are even taught in schools as well done pieces of writing that are worth to analyze due to the message of the story. While if you take all that away... there really isn't much you'll be left with. -- Unless I'm mistaken by what you wrote, though it seemed to me, by the nature of the words chosen to convey the message, that you're against morals in stories due to them coming off as preachy.

Edited by Spink, Oct 17 2011 - 12:06 PM.

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#52 Offline Tekulo in the Green

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 12:14 PM

I'm actually writing an epic right now (Bionicle related). I have so many ideas going this way and that way right now. I know the beginning of the story just fine and I know how I'm going to end the story beautifully. My main issue is writing the middle. I have a ton of ideas to write the bulk of the story, but I'm not entirely sure how to make them all flow together. I think I'm just going to write about my characters and see where it gets me (doing that has actually progressed the plot to my liking), but if you have any advice regarding story planning for me, I would love to hear it! Also, I'm having a bit of trouble defining my villain. I can't give too much away, but I don't want to just think "You're evil, therefore you are a villain." I want to define personality and figure out why the villain is bent on destruction (It's very difficult for me to relate to, and I want a villain that can be related to). Again, if you have any advice I would love to hear it (or if you want me to go into more detail about this, then I'll most likely respond via PM. Sorry if this is all sounding too vague. ^^').
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#53 Offline Willy Brandt

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 12:20 PM

Yeah, wasn't quite what I meant - sorry for making that unclear. I'm not rigidly against morals in a story, but I would rather not come off as preachy and imposing with my works. I want them to be enjoyable to people from all types of philosophical walks, especially due to my own personal moral system being more or less, "Morals don't exist." I mean, there are some things I do consider wrong, but not much I consider universally wrong - and thus I would rather not give off such an impression to my readers. In other words, I'd rather not try putting across some big only hypothetically true moral behind my story. I'd much rather have the plot and the characterization and the world drive the book. I won't try to make it an allegory intentionally, and, well, if some of my beliefs make their way in, well, it was an accident.-Dovydas
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#54 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 01:01 PM

I think morals are important to a story but black/white morality can really kill a story
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#55 Offline JohannDakitsch

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 01:29 PM

Tom Mc. Israel: I can't begin to describe how I disagree with you. MORALS IN STORIES ARE COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. In fact, it's probable they'll tick off the reader and you'll come across as a stupid idealist trying to shove his thoughts down another's throat. My stories are moralless, written for the sake of writing them, and that's how people happen to enjoy them.-Dovydas

Perhaps they're not strictly necessairy, but they do are important. Books that raise questions and make the reader think are the ones who perdure: pure entertainment just last for as long as you read it... However, even if you want not to include a moral, you will: its impossible to disvinculate oneself from its moral beliefs and experiences, and you WILL includ ethem in a work, even unnintentionally: there's no such thing as neutrality... Of course, you don't need to put a moral and force it to the readers(in this case you indeed become a "stupid idealist trying to shove his toughs down another's throat"), you can just include the idea, suggest it and let it gorw, make people question themselves about it: its up to them if they agree or not. But no, don't think you can make a story without ANY moral: whatever moral it is and how subtle it is, doesn't matter, a person's work will always include some kind of judgement, some kind of ideal... otherwise, just program a machien to write it. EDIT: oh, just saw you posted again explaining it better... Anyway, that is still my point...

Edited by JohannDakitsch, Oct 17 2011 - 01:31 PM.

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#56 Offline Jedi Knight Krazy

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 04:06 PM

Though it may not be realistic, I tend to enjoy stories with clearly defined sides of good and evil, for many reasons. It's a relaxing departure from our world of grey and it gives a reason to connect with the hero. At the same time, heroes can't be perfectly good; they must suffer and even succumb to temptation of evil in order to relate to the reader. What I'm starting to wonder, though, is if an absolutely evil villain is actually something to be avoided. Some of the best stories I've read featured a villain who had no possibly justifiable motivation for their actions. Isn't it more important for your readers to relate to the hero than the villain? The only thing a villain really needs to be is a powerful force that opposes the hero. The fact that they use their powers for their own interests may well be sufficiently realistic motivation; after all, there's selfishness in all of us.
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#57 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 04:15 PM

Why does a story even need a villain?
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#58 Offline Paragon of Demacia

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 05:03 PM

Because a story needs conflict.
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#59 Offline Jedi Knight Krazy

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 05:18 PM

Why does a story even need a villain?

It doesn't; like Undying Light said, it just needs conflict. However, a villain adds a personal level to the conflict: you don't just want the Empire overthrown, you want Darth Vader dead. Er... bad example, but you get what I mean. Of course, that doesn't work if the conflict is caused by natural or impersonal forces (i.e. storms, beasts, disease, emotion, etc.) or if there is no hero's side. Imagine the Lord of the Rings without Sauron; it'd be a free-for-all where everybody's trying to get the Ring. (Not necessarily a bad story, but that's not the direction Tolkien took the series)

Edited by Jedi Knight Krazy, Oct 17 2011 - 05:22 PM.

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#60 Offline Tekulo in the Green

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 05:27 PM

I'd be careful about villains. Plotting to take over the world, being evil just to be evil, etc can get really old really quickly. I like developing my villains more (which is actually all the more thrilling to me. It's one thing to say "You're evil, therefore I hate you and you must die" but it's a completely different story if a villain does something so unforgivable and so disturbing... and then you actually relate to them? It's chilling to think anyone is capable of something horrible, and to me that just interests me all the more. Still, anyone have any tips for villains? I'd really love to hear what everyone has to say. Also, what The Shouting God said is actually what I'm leaning toward in my newer story. It's more Order vs Chaos than Good vs Evil. And that's why I like my villain idea so much.Kinda want to make a character chart now...
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#61 Offline Legolover-361

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 05:45 PM

I have to say that one of my favorite antagonists to use is the mind. We all have one; however, we aren't always at war with it.Picture being a young child, afraid of the dark. Perhaps some part of your mind is begging for you to run to your parents, but the dark is in the way and another part of your mind says, no, those shadows are inpenetrable. That right there is a mental conflict, and can be just as interesting as a normal hero-versus-villain conflict. Examples of mental conflicts include fear, self-doubt, and moral dilemmas, though the list could easily go on.As for tangible villains, I find flawed reasoning can work very well to give them a reason to want to take over. But remember: Not all villains want to conquer the world; some want to conquer a specific being or idea, or steal some device to make millions. The trick is making sure those villains aren't inserted into the story just for the purpose of the hero defeating them. Make the reader wonder if the protagonist will succeed. And sometimes, if you can pull it off, you can hide the real antagonist and thus add an extra dimension of suspense to your writing (think: Jorus C'baoth in Star Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn).One last tip: Not all villains need to be apparently invincible. We've had enough of self-assured villains who believe "NO ONE can stop ME!" Make antagonists as well-rounded as protagonists and you should be fine.
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#62 Offline Jedi Knight Krazy

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 06:14 PM

I've found that genocide is an interesting motivation for villains, especially in fantasy worlds where there actually are different races, and there's all sorts of ways to explain the character's hatred of others; usually it's something horrible that's happened to them. Making a villain a victim is always interesting, especially if the perpetrator is/was on the hero's side.
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#63 Offline Tekulo in the Green

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 06:15 PM

Thanks so much! ^^ Though, those aren't exactly where I'm coming from with my villain... And I love adding in mental conflicts with my characters. Only, there's going to be more to the story than just that. Along the lines of "The protagonist(s) must overcome their mental conflict before they can solve the real issue" Imagine the child afraid of the dark. Say the child finally makes a resolve to see his or her parents, but finds that a sibling is keeping them in the room by force. Now that the child is determined to leave the dark room, the child now has more conflict with its sibling. That's more where I'm coming from as a short example. Also, my villain isn't trying to control anything per se... The logic is a bit... complex. XDI'm actually not sure where I should begin to describe it... But, how do you normally introduce a villain? I'm thinking of keeping mine very mysterious, learning little by little of what the villain is like. Edit: Jedi Knight Krazy, that fits my villain pretty well, actually. It's just... their actions aren't fueled by hatred like most villains may be.

Edited by Tekulo: Toa of Wind, Oct 17 2011 - 06:16 PM.

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#64 Offline Takatu

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 06:48 PM

It sounds like you're off to a pretty solid start already. I'd just like to say that I love writing villains, they're so ridiculously fun. Not all stories require a villain, of course, but come on, who was more iconic in Star Wars, Luke or Darth Vader? And the Joker is an extremely popular comic book character. A developed villain with an actual agenda makes for a much more interesting story, I think. In the story I'm currently writing, one of the things I'm exploring (and I know it probably sounds like it's been done to death) is where exactly that line is between evil and good/justice. But I'm kind of doing a different spin on it, whereas it's my villain that spends at least a solid chunk of the story questioning that, rather than my hero. The hero will eventually get wrapped up in that, of course, but I wanted to get a little more inside the head of a villain with this subject. To most people, the things he does are evil without question, but I want to have him struggling a bit with justifying what he does. I don't want to say much more, because I'm going to try and get this one published if I can, and I could use the money if any of you buy it. :P
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#65 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 06:57 PM

Is still don't see why a story needs a villan, many of the worlds bed book have no villan or tangible conflict.

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 06:58 PM.

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#66 Offline Tekulo in the Green

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 07:23 PM

Thanks. I always think about who my character is before I make it a point to develop them. And I agree, villains are always the most fun for me to write about in my experience. ^^ And Jonestown, could you give some examples? I honestly can't think of a single story that doesn't have a conflict. Without a villain on the other hand, I can understand. The original story of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, for example has no true villain. The witch that she sells her voice to is indeed dark, but she seems to only help the protagonist in the end to acquire a human soul. You could argue that the prince's bride could be the villain (as she prevents the Little Mermaid from completing her goal), but she really doesn't seem evil, wicked, scheming or anything of the sort. However, the situation that she presents gives conflict to the protagonist.
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#67 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 07:37 PM

I said no tangible conflict , many exsestential, surreal, and impersonistic works have conflict much deeper then good guy vs bad guy or a problem that must be solved.I don't think that conflict resolution is important for story telling.

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 07:37 PM.

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#68 Offline Tekulo in the Green

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 07:51 PM

Well, on that note I can't really argue too much. Story telling is a pretty interesting concept for me. Really, two people could have the exact same characters, the same plot, the same beginning and ending, but through the way they tell the story, you could end up with two completely different tangents. Sorry, I got side tracked XD Anyway, like I said, it would help me tenfold if you gave an example of a story without conflict resolution. I'm drawing a blank to be honest, and I'm still not entirely sure where you're coming from. =/ The only thing that I can really think of is something along the lines of The Haunting, a 1963 horror film that went around the concept of the unknown. You really didn't know what was going to happen next. Of course, conflict was everywhere in the story, but it never really got resolved. It was more along the lines of something that really got you thinking of possibilities than anything else. Again, I'm not sure where you're coming from, but that's only my guess.
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#69 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 08:11 PM

Fight club, Choke, The Naked Lunch, Do androids dream of electronic sheep to name a few. Unresolved conflict is a favorite theme of transgressive writers.

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 08:16 PM.

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#70 Offline Jedi Knight Krazy

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 08:19 PM

two people could have the exact same characters, the same plot, the same beginning and ending, but through the way they tell the story, you could end up with two completely different tangents.

See George Lucas and Christopher Paolini, ha. On the topic of needing conflict, sure, you don't need it. Writing's an art, so you're allowed to go way outside the normal rules to tell a very unique story.In the same way, you could draw a picture by repeatedly banging your paint-soaked forehead against a canvas in lieu of a paintbrush, and you'd wind up with something very unique, but possibly not appealing to a traditional audience.(I mostly wrote that to share the mental image of a head-banging painter)

Edited by Jedi Knight Krazy, Oct 17 2011 - 08:20 PM.

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#71 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 08:29 PM

Posted Image You don't always need brushes to paint a good picture, you just need some creativity and skill. I find it appalling that you belittle going off the beaten path of story telling by comparing it to smashing your head on a canvas.

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 08:30 PM.

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#72 Offline Takatu

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 09:02 PM

He wasn't belittling anything, he was making the same exact point you were. He was just using an unorthodox example. I'd also debate the Fight Club example, Brad Pitt's character seemed pretty darn antagonistic toward the end, and that conflict seemed to pretty much get resolved to me. I agree the unresolved conflicts make for some very interesting stories, but whether we like it or not, the general audience seems to want closure on stories, for the most part. I admit, I don't think I would have been satisfied with Harry Potter if there wasn't a final struggle against Voldemort.
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#73 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 09:10 PM

...I'm not talking about the movie. If you read the book you'd realize that Brad pit is the kind of person Tyler Durden hates. I'm not writing so that someone can read my words and say "Whelp that was pretty entertaining, guess that killed a few hours" I'm writing to make people think. I want people to come off feeling uncomfortable and unsatisfied after reading my words.

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 09:13 PM.

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#74 Offline Kragghle

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 09:59 PM

:kaukau: Yes, my point was a generalization, and it did lack some clarity since I did not take personal preference into account. However, my point still stands: It is not inherently wrong to have black and white morals in a story. Perhaps the characters are not always black and white. If you'll notice, every hero I mentioned did have their flaws. What I chose to do was to emphasize their goodness. I believe in flawed heroes as much as everyone else on these boards, since it is common knowledge. Yet, that philosophy can be taken the wrong way and create an unlikable character if taken to the extremes. There have been times where I have not liked the main character of books because there was no reason for me to root for them over any of the other forces. Stories seem to work the best when the main character is, in spite of their flaws, a likable person who we can invest ourselves in. Therefore I come to the conclusion that the defining trait of a character should in most stories be something good about them, because ultimately they are the protagonist. Perhaps they have a few obvious flaws, but again, we still have to root for them, because there's something about the hero that makes them the hero. If we want to relate to ad walk in the shoes of anyone, we'd prefer to walk in the shoes of the good guy. Now, I was also arguing the case that for certain stories, the clear forces of good and evil can be detected. Yet, I did forget to mention that even in these stories there are the shades of gray. Both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had a wormtale. Star Wars had its plethora of antiheroes. Yet, the primary heroes were all good and the primary villains were all evil when it came to the ultimate struggle. This is a type of storytelling that does have strong roots, and it also applies strongly to my own series, IDES, in which the ultimate villain is Death, but of the numerous villains underneath him almost all of them are complex and multifaceted, which I feel reflects the way the real world works, since there are black and white morals and forces but no black and white people. Can a strong case be made for the conventional wisdom that everyone on these boards uniformly agrees to? Obviously. Without complex characters, we wouldn't have villains like Hannibal Lecter, who's all the more creepy because of his complexity, and heroes like The Beast (Beauty and the Beast), who is highly flawed but ultimately easy to relate to because of it. I myself am also, like you, a huge fan of the flawed hero. Among my imaginary friends, Ivan is terrible and a bit cruel in his criticisms, knows how to hold a grudge, it judgmental, and sometimes a bit of a control freak. That's okay, because he's awesome in spite of it, and when it comes down to it he's a relatable person because these traits are inherent in all of us. Yet, even though these are a major part in who he is, he's still ultimately good, heroic, and brave. Your point about religion is a bit off. All the various holy texts have used parables to help emphasize their points. The language of parable and symbolism is very strong. Yes, I have religious faith, but in the meantime it is a pleasure to see that ultimate goodness is still emphasized in some of the heroes of contemporary culture. Here's my thesis statement: Know what kind of literature you're writing. My second statement is that a hero's flaws should not detract from them as the protagonist. Your Honor,Emperor Kraggh
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#75 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:06 PM

Why do you keep going back to movies especially childish ones? If you notice in my post I said there was no wrong or right way to write a story, in the last few post I've been talking about what I like to do. I see so many people limiting themselves by setting up rules for their stories "There has to be morality" "there has to be a hero" "there has to be an easy to understand tangible conflict that can be easily resolved" Writing doesn't need anything. There's no formula or method. you just do it. Oh and BTW flaws do not a complex character make, it just makes them two dimensional. You're still one degree separated form an actually likable character and two degrees separated from a complex character.

Edited by Jonestown Bartender, Oct 17 2011 - 10:28 PM.

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#76 Offline Legolover-361

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:17 PM

If you notice in my post I said there was no wrong or right way to write a story, in the last few post I've been talking about what I like to do. I see so many people limiting themselves by setting up rules for their stories "There has to be morality" "there has to be a hero" "there has to be an easy to understand tangible conflict that can be easily resolved" Writing doesn't need anything. There's no formula or method. you just do it. Oh and BTW flaws do not a complex character make, it just makes them two dimensional. You're still one degree separated form an actually likable character and two degrees separated from a complex character.

I agree with all this. However, I have to say that writing for a character who's no better than anyone else in the story isn't the best way to draw your reader in. Note that I'm not saying it's always wrong -- it's just harder to pull off.

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#77 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:19 PM

Who said writing should be easy?
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#78 Offline Legolover-361

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:21 PM

Not me. :P
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#79 Offline Takatu

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:50 PM

I don't think anyone said there HAS to be any one specific aspect of a story, just that those are some of the more common traits and can be the easiest. And since the thread is about writing advice, I think it's safe to assume there are plenty of new, budding writers around, and these are good places for them to start. If someone starts off their writing career by actively avoiding what's common and trying to make something really complex, they're going to get way in over their head. Just out of curiosity, what do you think makes a complex character? I don't think a flaw or two does, but it's certainly a solid stepping stone toward one.
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#80 Offline Jonestown Bartender

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 11:12 PM

I wish I could tell you but if I knew I would be publishing.
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