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Discussing: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

This is one of my biggest problems in writing. I cannot seem to write long. My stories are always short and one chapter. When I am lucky, the story fills a third page, skipping one line between paragraphs and single spaced. I know that regarding writing, length is only secondary, and that the story should only be as long as it needs to be... but nearly all of my stories contain one isolated incident--all well and good, but I would dearly love to write something more grand... bigger, fuller, and more finished. I even have ideas with potential to develop into a good novel-length story... but as I said before, I cannot write long. What I see in my head as a good, long story always ends up finishing in about five pages, leaving me feeling as if I've failed to develop, describe, and depict as I should have to do justice to the story. It has been a long time since I've made serious attempt to write a novel-lengthed fic. I just cannot *do* it, which bodes ill for my future, since I'd love best to write novels someday. I even plan to major in English/Creative Writing. It's more than words, though, that I have a problem with. How do you develop a story so big and intricate? How do you design the plot of a long story? How do you make sure to cover all the intricacies and subtleties of the story? How do you create said subtleties to begin with? I'd really love it if people might reply with some good advice and tips. ~tineryn

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

My stuff is usually plot-driven too; and I stay away from novel-length stuff (until I manage to finish my part of the humonguous thing I co-write off-site). Instead of worrying about writing A Novel right now, try getting there by degrees. Aim for something between one and five chapters. Design a plot that must take more than one chapter to develop: hypothetical: Chapter One: Erestor thinks he has finally come to terms with his long-lost love Glorfindel's death. He's ready to try to be happy. Elrond summons him to the Hall of Fire and starts talking about great news. In walks Glorfindel. End of Chapter One. Chapter Two: Glorfindel doesn't remember much about the past; including Erestor. He seems very young and confused, perhaps tormented with thoughts of the horror of the Balrog. Erestor is upset about that. Elrond counsels patience. Chapter Three: Whatever you want to do to resolve the situation. It can go on to four chapters if you like; depending on if Erestor and Elrond have started anything, etc. With short chapters of 3000-4000 words or so, you could make this three chapters. You can add misunderstandings, visiting Galadhrim, Dunedain, Istari (if it's the right time-frame), etc. Or, if you want to write a more action-based story; you could newly returned Glorfindel get into trouble (orcs, goblins, misunderstandings with dwarves or Silvan elves) and have Erestor rescue him - in three or four chapters. I based this plot on the one story of yours that I read. Another plot, which has probably been done: Elrond sends Elladan and Elrohir on a diplomatic mission to Thranduil pre-LOTR. (Glorfindel can come along if you like) One twin dares the other to steal something of Thranduil's as a prank, which he does. Thranduil blames another elf (perhaps Haldir, who is there representing the Galadhrim). Elrohir gets in a fight with Legolas and gets hurt, and has to rest up. Elladan, fearing that it will be discovered that Elrohir stole Thranduil's thingy, writes a note confessing that he did it, and leaves, going into Mirkwood, straight into trouble with giant spiders. Elrohir is restrained from going after him, and Legolas goes out instead, maybe with Glorfindel if he's there. During the course of the adventure, Elladan saves Legolas' life. Eventually they return to Thranduil; who has his thingy back, because Elrohir confessed....This couldn't be a one-chapter story. Or, to take a plot that I'd be more familiar with: If I want something short, I write about Faramir thinking about a family member - that's less than 1000 words. For a longer story, say several chapters at least - Post RIng-War Eowyn gets kidnapped by bandits (or Easterlings or Haradrim) on her way home to visit Eomer; Faramir and Eomer ride to find and save her. Or Faramir gets kidnapped by bandits or Easterlings and Eowyn and Eomer ride to his rescue. As soon as the action leaves Emyn Arnen, the plot will self-complicate, because, to be credible, one has to credibly describe the kidnappers, their motives, where they're going, their victim's state of mind and physical trauma, etc. This would entail several chapters. Once one has the basic plot - characters, conflict, resolution; there are other ways to pad the story. Description - what is the environment like, what do the characters wear and eat; what kind of furniture do they use - provided of course, that the viewpoint characters would notice such things. And weaponry; most Elvish swords have names and history. Plus the horses, the trees (which elves would definitely notice) and plants and scenery. And the stars. Elves are nutty about stars. Try to develop plots with more than one isolated incident. I'm sure you can do it. RAKSHA THE DEMON, who is unfortunately very good at writing things that come out longer than intended.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Hi tineryn, writing novels... somehow I feel compelled to add my two pennies here... I think the first thing I have to say is going to disappoint you somewhat. I believe you can learn some things about creative writing, but the most important things you cannot learn from a book or a course or from others. Only you can find out what works for you and what does not. You just have to keep trying until you find a way that works for you! Let's perhaps start with the long stuff I wrote: - when I was still at school, from age 15-18 I wrote a complete (horrible) alternative universe novel of about 300 handwritten pages, an almost complete novella of about 70 pages and perhaps a third of an adventure story for teenagers, again some 70 pages I think - while I was at university I wrote mainly short stories and vignettes and kept collecting ideas and I was working on and off on a story that is only now, more than ten years after it was first thought about beginning to see the light of day - I started stretching my creative muscles at novel length again last year in LOTR fandom; since then I have written: an Elrond/OFC novel of originally 110,000 words (at the moment I am busy rewriting that... it's about 380 paperback pages now); a girl-falls-into-Middle-earth novella of about 25 chapters and some 65,000 words (I think); my huge, neverending story of "Lothíriel" of at the moment 102 chapters and some 420,000 words and some ten chapters of an original novel that does not grow well as long as I have Tolkien's elves on my mind (*sigh*) What I noticed is that every story has its own dynamics. Usually I have a basic idea of the story and my main hero/ine when I set out to plot it. Usually I don't use any theoretical concepts for plotting that are used in drama or novel writing - but it's always nice to have the option, so I like keeping around some information about the dramatical theories the ancients Greeks already used so well (and other stuff about the theory of writing and literature in general)... What I like doing is this: • I write an outline that has the individual chapters with a chapter title (because chapter titles help me focus - though they are subject to violent changes...) and a few short notes about the things that are supposed to go into the relevant chapter (also subject to frequent changes). • I like having a map for where the story takes place • I have learned the hard way that yes, you should use some sort of file/spread-sheet to keep track of your characters (names, what they look like, maybe what they are all about, why you need them...) Then I start writing and don't really want to stop until I am finished. But: • I might also need some weeks of research before I start writing, going back to the outline and the character file again and again • I might find that I need breaks for research in between • I might have to accomodate chapters/characters/plots that change and turn and grow when I'm not looking... Really, my main discovery is that not every story is the same: I started out writing Lothy with no plot at all, I still have no real outline, only a collection of scenes that I still want to use - on the other hand: rewriting Lothy is easy; that's mainly about grammar and spelling and a few glitches in style, some toning down here and there... rewriting my Tides is *hard* work... so... stories (short or long) develop in a very different way, even when they are finished. Subtleties: I like subtleties. *grin* However, I think many of my "subtleties" in my LOTR stories will never be noticed by anyone but me. *sigh* I think you get intricacies into a story with good research and a firm grasp of your characters - and of course, a complex, multi-layered plot. Which is not something I have done yet, really. I have some subplots branching of my main stories that I explore in short stories, and a romance story is the subplot in one of my novels... but that's about it. But my aim is not really to create great and complex literature: I want to be a story-teller. That's my way of writing: fairly conservative and linear (I mainly jump back and forth inside the chapter I am working on at any given time; I am not comfortable jumping around in a story). One of my best friends is very different - she writes a scene here, then moves on to a completely different chapter... jumping all the time. So, you see, I can only tell you a bit about how I write a novel-length story... but not very much about how you can write one. Oops... that's gotten a bit long now, has it? *blushes* I guess it's obvious that I like long stories even with this reply! At the end I would like to recommend a book my friend used to great effect in her stories: Christopher Vogler, The Writer's Journey. I hope I did not bore you to bits with my rambling! Cheers, Juno

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Hi Tineryn, What an interesting "problem" you have there! It's always fun to discuss writing and different writers' methods. First of all, I do agree with Raksha: don't try to force yourself into "I must write a novel Now". It's more likely to leave you frustrated than successful in the attempt, and it'll take the joy out of writing. I believe that each story has its own natural length. For example, it's impossible to write a novel centering around a single incident. It needs more: more characters, more subplots etc. It's also impossibe to write a long, convoluted story with many plotlines in a ficlet. The hard part is deciding beforehand how long the story should be. It also depends upon what type of writer you are. Are you an "organic" writer, who develops the story as she goes along? Or are you the plotting kind? This blog entry has a great description that I'll quote below: I'm the organic kind, who has a broad sense of direction (I know the ending) and grows the story along the way. So my authorial nose snuffles along the ground, following the scent, too focused on the moment to see the wide view. But an outliner soars above the terrain, able to see the journey as a whole. Through experience, I have learned that I am also the organic kind. I have often tried to follow the guidelines of many writers' manuals, and attempted to outline stories beforehand. It never worked. I either ended up frustrated and chagrined, or with a story that happily ignored my pretty outline and did what it wanted to do anyway. I have since learned to not try so hard, but just go with the general idea I have in my head and see where it takes me. Thus, I rarely know how long a story is going to be (of course, if I have a single incident in mind, I know it's going to be short, but whether it'll be a 1,000 words or 3,000, I won't know until I write it.) To give you an example from my own work: my current WIP "The Long Road Home" (which, I might add, is my first ever novellength story!) grew out of an idea: what if Boromir survived Amon Hen but "got lost" on the way to Minas Tirith and pretended to be dead because he's too embarrassed? Question: What would he do? Answer: Travel Middle-earth, hoping for salvation. Question: Where would he go? Answer: All over the place. Question: What would happen to him? Answer: He'd have all sorts of adventures. Question: How will the story end? Answer: When he returns to Minas Tirith at last. This is very vague and can be widely interpreted. It's not something you can easily develop in a short story. So, I started writing, while all I had were the above questions and answers, a single scene and a final sentence. And lo and behold, I added chapters. And more chapters. And Boromir met all sorts of people and creatures along the way. Then Aragorn learns of Boromir's secret. More chapters formed. Oops, the rest of the Fellowship would have something to say about this! More chapters. During one revision of a chapter of said WIP, one of my betas suggested that Boromir would have memories about the road he traveled. So I entered a short reference to a childhood incident. Then the muse got hold of it and asked "what happened, exactly?". Enter the ficlet "Life Lesson". Here, I knew beforehand the story would revolve around a single incident, and it ended up being around 1,800 words long. What I find hardest about being a) an organic writer and b) writing long stories is that I tend to lose track of the big picture. So, during the beta process and rewrites, I need to go back and try to see how everything fits together on a bigger scale than the current chapter I'm working on, causing major rewrites. Luckily, I have some wonderful people willing to beta for me and help with it. I'm not sure if a plotting type writer would be able to avoid such issues but I suspect they will. I'm not sure if the above "novel-sized entry" will help you any. I suppose my basic advice is to let things develop naturally, try not to force anything. I'd be interested to hear what sort of ideas you had that you think should be longer stories, but when you wrote them turned out fairly short. Amanda.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

I've never written a novel length story, but I have a WIP that is turning out much longer than I expected, so I'll throw my two cents in. I completely agree that everyone must find the way that works for them, and that many stories have their own natural length and shouldn't be forced into a different one. Like Amanda, I'm an 'organic' writer; I'm never quite sure where a story will take me. I start with a basic idea or a question. The story is my attempt to discover the answer to the question. One thing that expands my stories is the questions asked by my beta(s). "Why did he...?" can turn into a subplot, or at least another chapter. Perhaps if you look at the area or characters you like to write, and ask yourself "Why did so-and-so do..." or "How did he come to be that way?" or "What would happen if he..." the answer would generate a longer story. Some of the Challenges are wickedly sucessful at provoking long stories. Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

I didn't mean to sound as if I were trying to force myself to write a long story *now*, persay... I value my writing more than that, and will only write a story as long as it needs to be. (It always bothers me when authors simply let their stories keep going, and GOING when the story should have ended ten chapters ago...) I think the "problem" stems from the fact that I feel some of my past ideas (immature and poorly crafted as they were) have been rushed, and not developed and worked to the point they deserved. I also feel that some of my shorter ideas might have potential to become something bigger and better, if only I could manange to write longer... It's not just novels, either. I'd love to lengthen and broaden my short stories, as well. You can probably see from the only story I've posted here (under Beta, as 'In Dreams He Came'. I don't really like the title, but since the idea came from the song 'the phantom of the opera' I figured I should) that I write very short. I think that story is three pages at best. I've seen in other conversations on this site authors quote a short chapter being about five thousand words. I am usually lucky if my longer chapters reach that length! I mostly asked about novels because of an idea that's been brewing in my mind (if only the fog would clear and I could see the actual plot... I only have a feeling now, and background), but the length idea applies even to short stories. Generally, I want to learn more description, and to develop more fully and completely. I know how to write short enough (something, admittedly, more authors need to learn, though I haven't seen any on this site with that problem. You all seem to write well enough, which would explain why I'm putting my questions here). Now I need to see how to write long enough, and how to cover everything, so that I can reach a happy medium. I'm not interested in rushing into a novel--rather, I'd like to learn length now and practice it, so that I'm not fretting when it comes to really writing one. ~tineryn

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Chiming in - There and Back Workshop You might try joining the "There and Back" Workshop. It's an off-shoot of a LiveJournal run by Juno & AranelTook. There are exercises assigned (yes, I know I haven't done my May one yet, Juno! ) for the specific purpose of developing aspects of writing, and you can certainly go back to earlier exercises and do those. Two that I'm recalling were to write descriptive passages, which I really don't do very well. It won't help necessarily on length, but it may help you focus on one thing, rather than everything at once, if that makes any sense. Now let us see if that bloody link works the first time -- any bets? edit Of course it did not! *sigh* No idea what I'm doing wrong, and I keep doing it wrong! So I'm sorry -- I can't link it. But I swear it's in the Workshop section. Link is fixed...

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Well... hm. In general, I would say there are two types of description: 1) Description of physical setting (includes such things as characters' physical descriptions) 2) Description of characters' motivations and personalities In general, I find (1) has to be used more sparingly and carefully than (2), and that (1) is more useful for setting mood and giving your story a sense of "groundedness"—so that your reader has some notion of the space the character is operating in if that is important. Otherwise, minimal descriptions can be quite sufficient. So if you want to increase your description, I would say focus on (2). As a rule of thumb, the more people you have involved in any one scene, the more description you can justify, because you'll need to give each character time enough to show that s/he has a genuine reason for being there, and isn't just 'furniture' for your story. You can get more people into a scene in many ways: through memories and flashbacks if it's a single-character piece; through people coming and going throughout a story, or by allowing character traits to be given through dialogue (which is not just the words exchanged, but the whole set-up and flow of non-verbal signals) if there are multiple characters. Likewise, the longer the time period over which the fic stretches, the more you'll have to talk about, and the more you'll need to draw connections between characters' personalities and motivations. That said, I think learning when and how to deploy description is a bit like learning to see. It's about making the connections that you already know exist, and then learning to recognize opportunities to let them shine through in often indirect ways. It's about setting someone (your reader) up, so in a sense, you're looking at your story from three different perspectives: you are the ideal reader who knows what kind of story is going to be satisfying, you are the characters in your story to capture the internal dynamics, and finally, you're the author who knows more than either the reader or the character does because you know how the story has to go. That doesn't preclude being surprised by a development; it just means that actually working on the story acts as its own check on authorly omnipotence. If you can keep those three perspectives in mind as you write, I think it helps to generate a more nuanced, purposeful unfolding of the plot. Personally, when I write, I find it most useful to find one person who will be my eyes and ears inside the story for either the whole fic or a scene. When I write that character, I try to do it so that I feel as though I'm right there, shoulder to invisible shoulder, with him or her. That way, if the character turns, I know how s/he turns and toward what (assuming that's important to the story [author perspective], but even if not, I know what's there). If the character looks for a place to sit, I know what s/he sees and why s/he might prefer a hardwood bench to a more comfortable perch [character perspective], and so I know if it's important to give out that detail and I can decide what would be the most effective way to present it [reader perspective]. In terms of practicing this sort of description, take a line that is really quite skeletal, and certainly nothing you want to show up in your story if the whole story sounds like this: "X sat away from Y because she hated him." Then try to expand it by asking yourself how that might be suggested without having to come right out and say it (or asking yourself, "If I were a reader, how would I want this to be presented to me?"): "Eldacar glanced around the room. It was well appointed, though hardly a space to put a plainsbred Northman at ease: nautical charts were hung on walls, and the astrolab and spyglass in their cases, to say nothing of the rounded windows, reminded him too much of ships and seasickness. No doubt, that was his purpose in inviting me up here, he thought, as he settled at last upon a bench near one of the porthole windows. Much as he hated to admit to weakness before Castamir, unsettled as he was, he mistrusted his ability to share so close a space with him as the two more comfortable chairs set before the hearth." Notice, too, that the sense of hatred has changed—it becomes more nuanced as you dig into the psychology of choosing a seat. These two are not friends, but we've only gotten a preliminary sense of dislike and rivalry between them. You'd need more time to show actual hatred, and for the reader to realize what the dynamic between Eldacar and Castamir is in this little scene. And that's good—it doesn't pile everything on at once. Doing little exercises like the one above can help. I don't mean to imply your descriptions are so short as that, since I don't know that they are, but perhaps take some of your vignettes or short works and see whether there are some bare patches that you could expand in a similar manner. Another exercise has to do with just paying attention to how people act in daily situations. How do you know when someone's having an argument? What sorts of things do people do with their hands, faces, postures, things on their desks, etc., and what do those non-verbal acts signal? Do any of these signals fit the character you're working with? Etc. Hope that helps.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Quote: 1) Description of physical setting (includes such things as characters' physical descriptions) 2) Description of characters' motivations and personalities In general, I find (1) has to be used more sparingly and carefully than (2) I think that, too, really depends on the story... Usually I really enjoy reading a vivid description of 1) (and writing it, too, LOL), whereas I am more careful with 2)... I don't like "forced" character descriptions... but I can live with a bit of purple prose... Tastes and preferences really differ widely in writing and reading. You have to find out what is right for you. And only for you. I think you can only look at what others do and try and try again on your own until what you do feels right to you. Yes, I am very passionate about writing. Yours Juno

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Quote: 1) Description of physical setting (includes such things as characters' physical descriptions) 2) Description of characters' motivations and personalities In general, I find (1) has to be used more sparingly and carefully than (2) I think that, too, really depends on the story... Certainly. That's why I said "in general" and "I find". I don't mean to make anything absolute; it's just that I haven't seen a lot of stories where paragraph upon paragraph of landscape description or physical description is really warranted. But that doesn't mean there aren't some out there. It depends on what you're trying to achieve. Usually I really enjoy reading a vivid description of 1) (and writing it, too, LOL), whereas I am more careful with 2)... I don't like "forced" character descriptions... Neither do I. In fact, forced character description is the absolute bane of my existence. I can live with overwrought descriptions of things because I can skip past them without losing much, but characterisation isn't as easy to be rid of, since it drives explanations of motivation. At any rate, my point above is that since most stories I've read depend more on conveying something about the characters in order to carry the plot than they do on the physical descriptions, the former would be a natural place to focus one's efforts if one wants to include more description, and hopefully, description that does its job properly, as opposed to being forced. But if a story demands real attention to physical detail, then of course, you focus your efforts there. But I don't have any suggestions on ways of practicing that, since I wouldn't count myself as a particularly skilled descriptive writer when it comes to environment.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Quote: In fact, forced character description is the absolute bane of my existence. I can live with overwrought descriptions of things because I can skip past them without losing much, but characterisation isn't as easy to be rid of, since it drives explanations of motivation. I absolutely agree with you. But I think the most important part of characterization is perhaps not even what is actually written down in the story, but how well the motivation of a character was developed before the first word of the story was ever written. I believe that a longer story really profits from good preparation. The plot of the story and the major actions and decisions of the characters need to make sense... Ah, there are so many interesting facets to writing. *sigh* And now I have to go back to stupid studying... Cheers, Juno

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

But I think the most important part of characterization is perhaps not even what is actually written down in the story, but how well the motivation of a character was developed before the first word of the story was ever written. I agree essentially, if by 'planning' you mean that the "plot of the story and the major actions and decisions of the characters need to make sense...". That's what I'm trying to say, though perhaps in different words. I use the metaphor of "seeing"—learning to write is learning to see the sense of a character through seeing relationships. My mom always said you think when you write; so perhaps another metaphor would be learning to think relationality to get at sense. Others have said it's learning to judge. You get the idea—seeing, thinking, judging, all these are very different from words on a page, though there's no denying the intrinsic connection between words on a page and those activities, or that all of this belongs under the heading "writing". But since the original post and its subsequent clarification seemed to be asking for technical assistance, that's what I aimed to provide. Technical exercises can, of course, be totally useless and dull; but if they're used as occasions to practice seeing or planning or whatever, then they can become very useful indeed.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Quote: (...) if by 'planning' you mean that the "plot of the story and the major actions and decisions of the characters need to make sense..." (...) Yes. Exactly. Relationality/judging... Hm. I think I know what you mean... Personally, I would even put it more generally. To some degree I do feel that you need to have lived a few years with open eyes and an open heart to write well - or at least to write well something that lies beyond your own area of experience. Also, the thing with the plot: I feel that a good plot, with logical, reasonable turns is so important, especially in a long story. See Dan Brown or Grisham. Or LOTR wise: I really enjoyed the modern day AU by Mirrordance "For Every Evil". That plot was really, really good - kept me hooked in spite of a number of weaknesses... Good characterizations are very rare. *sigh* In real life books and in fan fiction. Exercises: I really, really enjoy technical exercises. Maybe I am simply a playful spirit? We did a POV exercise at the "There and Back" workshop that I really learned a lot from - especially paying attention to why I write which POV at what time in any given story. There is a lot one *can* learn. But I think the most important things... well, there just is not a recipe for that. I think maybe a story is a bit like a journey... a dangerous business and who knows where it might lead you... *communes with inner Bilbo* Cheers, Juno

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Plot does not necessarily have to be logical, persay. *Life* is not logical, so why should a story be? Things in everyday life don't happen for great reasons, they just *do*. The key to a good plot is its realism, even in spite of, or embracing it's fantasy. Not everything that happens should have depth and reason. Not every depressed person you meet has a secret, dark past or a reason they feel that way. Some of my friends struggle with depression, and they have perfectly normal, happy lives. Of course, that's only one example. The point is, when planning a story, not everything that happens should be logical, and not everything should have a definite reason or purpose. It's not realistic. Rather, the meaning and the depth should come from the character's reactions and thoughts following said events. It is the characters' growth that should follow logical order and planning. (though, not necessarily the character's actions--not all characters are logical, even if their growth and change, with respect to their personalities and characters, should be). That doesn't mean one should abandon logic in writing a story. The plot has to be *believable*. That is the key to a successful story. The problem with writing like real life is that it is so much easier to write purposefully, so that all loose ends tie up neatly at the end and so that everything happened that should have happened. I won't deny that it makes for a good story that way, but authors (including myself) tend to lose sight of the fact that not everything ties up so neatly. Not everything happens for a reason, and some things you just never know. I don't know if that made *any* sense, or if I even said what I wanted to say... *I* know what I wanted to say. ~tineryn

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Dwimordene said, among other things: I don't mean to make anything absolute; it's just that I haven't seen a lot of stories where paragraph upon paragraph of landscape description or physical description is really warranted. But that doesn't mean there aren't some out there. It depends on what you're trying to achieve. At any rate, my point above is that since most stories I've read depend more on conveying something about the characters in order to carry the plot than they do on the physical descriptions, the former would be a natural place to focus one's efforts if one wants to include more description, and hopefully, description that does its job properly, as opposed to being forced. But if a story demands real attention to physical detail, then of course, you focus your efforts there. But I don't have any suggestions on ways of practicing that, since I wouldn't count myself as a particularly skilled descriptive writer when it comes to environment. I have to force myself to do occasional descriptions of the environment, particularly the Natural environment. I wouldn't know an elm from an oak. But many of Tolkien's characters do, and when I'm writing lengthy (as opposed to drabbles and mega-drabbles) Tolkien fanfiction, I feel like I should include acknowledgments of the natural world - when it is warranted, and according to the disposition of the POV character. I don't think Gimli or Boromir would care about what kind of bush or tree they pass unless there might be orcs hiding in it. But, unless he's in a battle, Legolas would probably notice; as would Faramir, Aragorn, Sam, etc. In the epic I co-write offsite, my descriptions of Things Natural are not long, a sentence or two. I don't think I could do multiple paragraphs of description of trees, rocks, landscape, etc., unless each paragraph is only a line or two, I mean, my eyes would probably glaze over or something. I will have to do more than my usual amount of physical/natural description in an upcoming chapter I write of that piece, because there's a rebirth/rites of Spring dynamic going on, and flowering trees become very important. I'm not looking to that particularly; I mean, I know the effect I want to produce, but I'm not into flowers and trees, but darnit, certain characters are gonna get all excited about the sights and scents of various orchards (they've been cooped up in Minas Tirith too long) and other tree-things, so I'll have to do the scenes justice. And I'm having trouble imagining/describing the physical layout in the preceding chapter, whether it's a field or a thicket or where field becomes forest. Sigh. Not a Nature-person! Character description is a lot more fun. But again, how you do it depends on the POV character (unless you're doing whatchacallit, third person singular, isn't it, or is that limited omniscient, viewpoint, where there's a neutral voice). Faramir is not going to notice what Aragorn is wearing, except maybe if they're going to Council and it's a matter of state that Aragorn wear certain ceremonial accoutrements and Faramir knows the King hates to be fussed at by the tailors, or when they're getting ready to go into battle or something (Faramir's an observant fellow, and the King's welfare is important to him, he might notice what kind of armor he wears, etc.). Faramir would notice perhaps that Eowyn was wearing something new, or what color it was, or if she looked particularly cute, or was running around in trousers, but beyond that, he would neither know nor care about the precise nature of the outfit. He would also know when a friend/family member looked tired or out of sorts...Both Faramir and Eowyn would notice a horse's color and general condition; and Eowyn would probably be more likely to describe a horse in her mind, than a person...And in battle scenes, a trained warrior (Faramir, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, anyone except the hobbits and maybe Arwen) should instantly know what kind of weapons their foes are using, what kind of armor, etc. So some description would naturally occur there. When I wrote throwaway characters, I generally tossed in one or two descriptive terms, just to distinguish the person. If the character is going to appear more than once, I'll try for more, or to display some personality traits to distinguish him/her... That's my take on description in Tolkien fanfiction. Of course, when I do drabbles and mega-drabbles, description, like everything else, must be very brief if there at all... RAKSHA THE gabby DEMON

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

What you said is more or less what I meant to say with "logical, reasonable"... Quote: (...) Things in everyday life don't happen for great reasons, they just *do*. (...) Not everything that happens should have depth and reason. You are very right there. But there's a difference between the way real life meanders along for most of us and telling a story. Of course there are many aspects of what makes a good story a good story, and every single one of them is debatable and the importance each aspect is accorded varies widely from author to author and reader to reader. Two of those aspects are certainly plot & characters. Naturally both aspects are not completely separate things, they influence each other; but they are two different aspects of a story I was talking (mainly) about plot - not about characterization, whereas you seem to be talking mainly about characterization. If you don't write only a vignette - to show atmosphere or certain facets of character - you have a plot, a story-line, a sequence of events that you want to tell and that are supposed to capture a reader's attention. And while I really like doing exactly what you mentioned, namely leaving questions unanswered and some ties at the loose to create a realistic background for *the* story I do believe that the main part of the story has to make sense. Without a believable/logical/reasonable plot, the story is going to fall apart. (I think that you can even have some completely unreasonable turning point - just because that really happens from time to time. And the deus ex machina is a time honoured stylistic device...) But if you do that all the time, the quality of the story is going to suffer. For a good, believable story you need to have a plausible sequence of events. If there is no logical/believable reason/explanation/background for the way your major plot points turn out, for what actually happens in your story, the complexity of your story is going to diminish. It is difficult to analyze exactly how I build a story. So much of it happens intuitively. I think for me, the story starts with the plot. It is like the backbone of the story, or the road it travels along. Or perhaps like the different acts in a play and their functions... The creation of "rounded characters" is the next step. After that I work on how the characters travel that road/plot, how they react or not (which might change the direction the plot takes!) and how the characters interact. After this is done I do the research necessary for the details of the story, which might affect both plot and characterization... And then I start writing and hoping that it will turn out nicely. But that's only how I write and even that is not true for every kind of story I write, so I am not sure how interesting or helpful these comments are for you or anyone else. Yours Juno

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

That doesn't mean one should abandon logic in writing a story. The plot has to be *believable*. That is the key to a successful story. The problem with writing like real life is that it is so much easier to write purposefully, so that all loose ends tie up neatly at the end and so that everything happened that should have happened. I won't deny that it makes for a good story that way, but authors (including myself) tend to lose sight of the fact that not everything ties up so neatly. Not everything happens for a reason, and some things you just never know. The difference between life and art is one of those things one learns to negotiate. If I had only plot-relevant detail in my story, it'd be too contrived. On the other hand, leaving too many noticeably loose ends, as opposed to having believable interludes whose main purpose is to break up the ruthless advance of the plot and give time to other aspects of story-telling, that, too, is a problem. I don't know if that made *any* sense, or if I even said what I wanted to say... *I* know what I wanted to say. Ah yes, I know that feeling. Usually, it strikes just after I've written something, and then I need to go away for awhile. If I'm lucky, the piece still makes sense the next day. Otherwise, it's time for revisions or a rewrite.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Yes. And once again (I'm stealing your quote), it depends on the story. I am well aware that the main sequence of events has to make sense. It can't be completely random (see the end of City of Angels. THAT is random). All I mean to say is that sometimes authors get too involved in explaining the why's and how's of everything. Like, (I am using another characterization example, but I think it applies to plots too) if Elrond is terribly afraid of spiders, that doesn't mean he was nearly eaten by a giant spider as a child. All it means is that he's afraid of spiders. Things have to make sense, but not TOO much sense. Not everybody has a deep dark past, and not every action has to be explained in great detail with background and motivation. Sauron wanted to take over Middle Earth because he wanted to take over Middle Earth. That's it. It has nothing to do with his redeeming his former master's failure, or a Big Bad Inferiority Complex because he was abused as a child. (well, those are far fetched. And he might have, but not for the purposes of this example). He was just ambitious. End of story. So, yes, I agree that the main sequence of events has to make sense. But that doesn't mean that everything in between has to be neatly interconnected. Authors need to learn when to stop, and when to go, myself included. With experience, I think that it gets easier to tell when enough is enough, and when to explain. This probably all had nothing to do with what you were trying to say, or the purposes of this thread to begin with. Oh well. tineryn.

 

 

Re: Fleshing Out The Story/Length In General

Quote: (...) So, yes, I agree that the main sequence of events has to make sense. But that doesn't mean that everything in between has to be neatly interconnected. (...) I think that is exactly what I said. Yours Juno P.S.: Quote: (...)Sauron wanted to take over Middle Earth because he wanted to take over Middle Earth. That's it. (...) I know I am courting the danger of being disemboweled and dismembered on the spot by saying this here... but (and I *do* know it's a mythology and therefore the tale needs an archaic, two-dimensional evil arch-nemesis... and I also *do* know how that figures as a stylistic device... but...) I still think that Tolkien could have done better where Sauron is concerned. (And not only there... okay... I guess now I'll be tarred and feathered for not thinking that Tolkien was the best writer to ever grace the surface of this earth... )

 

 

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