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Making it More

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by T.Allen.Smith, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    As a follow up to the recently hot Making it Worse thread, I'd like to address the idea of Making it More.

    I love metaphor & simile, so I'll start there with how John D. MacDonald referenced a woman's eyes.

    He could've just written....
    That's a perfectly fine & simple metaphor, but MacDonald makes it more by going farther, strengthening the imagery and texture to grand effect.

    MacDonald's use of metaphor inspired me, as a lover of metaphor & simile, to take a harder look at my writing and see where I can Make it More.

    What are your thoughts?

    Are there ways you try to make your writing do more?
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I enjoy metaphores and similies. They're beautiful and can be good fun to come up with. These days I'm wary of using them though. I worry they'll distract the reader from the story.

    I do like the idea behind them though. To give the reader an impression of something by describing something that triggers the same emotions. Rather than using full blown metaphors I try to use keywords that trigger associations. I want to try and achieve the same thing, but without the added distraction.

    I'll try and rewrite the example above in the style I'm currently using:
    It may just be that this is a stylistic variation, but there's one difference I'd like to point out. In the original example the metaphor is a description of the caves, and the reader has to apply it to the eyes. In my version, the descriptive words could be applied to either the eyes or the caves.

    The caves have been mentioned though, and the association is there, but the words are closer connected with the eyes.
     
  3. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    I enjoy metaphor and simile far too much. It is something that I've worked towards reining in and using more sparingly. My writing tends towards the more poetic side and while I immensely enjoy it, I do understand it can be work against a reader's enjoyment and immersion. As with anything, a little can go a long way, and using one, well-crafted and concise simile or metaphor in a scene can have much more impact than spattering them across the page like blood from an arterial wound.
     
  4. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    This is very interesting, and something I've been thinking about a lot lately, though not in terms of metaphor.

    I'm noticing (OK, I have noticed for a while) that new authors, myself included, don't include enough of something.

    Now, I'm not totally clear what that something is... but I notice when I read the writing of a new writer, or an aspiring writer, or myself, I'm not taking things far enough. I'm lazy. It's like my writing is too sparse... not fleshed out enough... there needs to be more.

    I'll take this passage from Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz as an example of what I mean in regards to voice. In this passage the main character, Odd Thomas, has discovered a pitch black room and has entered it. Turning around to face the door he sees somethings strange... himself standing at the doorway.

    Now a new author might try something like:

    Frantic, heart pounding in my chest, I tried to call out to the other Odd Thomas standing in the doorway. He did not move. Instead, he reached into the blackness in which I stood. Shaking I reached for his hand.

    Meh. Ok. It shows something happening... but experienced authors know to give so much more. More thoughts, more feelings, more opinions, more voice.

    Here is what Dean Koontz chose to write:

    If all sound had not by now been entirely suppressed within the house, I would have been able to call out to that other Odd Thomas. I'm not sure that would have been prudent, and I'm grateful that the circumstances prevented me from hailing him.

    If I had been able to speak to him, I'm not certain what I would have said. How's it hanging?

    Where I to walk up to him and give him a narcissistic hug, the paradox of two Odd Thomases might at once be resolved. One of us might dissapear. Or perhaps both of us would explode.

    Big-browed physicists tell us that two objects cannot under any circumstances occupy the same place at the same time. They warn that any effort to put two objects in the same place at the same time will have catastrophic consequences.

    When you think about it, a lot of fundamental physics is the solemn statement of the absurdly obvious. Any drunk who has tried to put his car where a lamppost stands is a self-educated physicist.


    When I read passages like the above, I realize I'm not doing nearly enough. I'm being lazy in my writing and my POV. I feel like sometimes we try so hard to "show don't tell" that we forget to give more because we think it will be boring. But it is not boring, it is voice. It is so meaningful.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
  5. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    I blame the advice of making one's writing lean, don't get too descriptive, avoid the dreaded purple prose. I think some people, especially new writers, take that advice too seriously and end up gutting their stories.
     
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  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    ^^^^^ Agree 100%
     
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I get what you're saying, and I see how that might factor in, but you can write lean and still give a lot to your reader.

    I think, at least for me, it's a matter of bravery & honesty. A letting loose of inhibition and putting yourself out there in character voice, personal attachment to story concepts, things of that nature.

    In the case of metaphor, it can be easy to stray into corny or overstated, but you have to be willing to put your neck on the block to develop your chops.
     
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  8. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

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    I think you need to be careful with this kind of thing. It is great for drawing the readers attention to something you want to emphasize, but I have been put off a few books in the past because the author goes overboard with this sort of thing. I enjoy it from the perspective of a writer because I can admire how the sentences have been crafted, but as a reader they can often break my immersion.

    In the example given

    I think the last sentence is fairly redundant and for me takes the metaphor a bit too far. By the end of the quote I have almost forgotten what the metaphor is actually referring to, her eyes. But the penultimate sentence does add something.

    IMO, the following has just as much impact and emphasizes the emptiness sufficiently.

    There is a difference between writing lean by cutting out unnecessary description (usually of setting or action), and writing lean by missing out on character thoughts, reactions and emotions. Removing the latter just takes the soul out of a story.
     
  9. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I agree that overdoing this type of writing can have a negative effect & it should be used to show a POV's focus or draw reader attention.

    Too much garlic can spoil the sauce.

    I don't entirely disagree, but the metaphor isn't actually speaking about her eyes. That's the entrance into the concept. It speaks to what's behind those eyes. As such, there's a big difference between MacDonald's complete metaphor and the above, abridged version.

    MacDonald's version tells us this woman was once full of life, and art, and burned with an inner fire, but now there's an absence there.... nothing left but cold, lifeless remains.
     
  10. Codey Amprim

    Codey Amprim Staff Article Team

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    While I think creating all the aforementioned prose is an act of artistic prowess, I will also agree that it can become redundant.

    I had recently read a book (I'm at work so I cannot type out the specific quote I am referring to) that the author, while a master at crafting long-winded metaphors and similes, often chose to include them at the worst times. At least in my opinion.

    There would be all this action, and at the turn of a page there would just be this giant wall of text choking out the actual movement of the plot just to nail down every detail. While I can appreciate it as a writer, I get annoyed by it as a reader. The book could have been perhaps 20-30 pages shorter without all the fluff.

    I think that another aspect of this issue is knowing when it is appropriate to highlight a certain event with such prose, and when it isn't. When to give a taste of your flavor as opposed to displaying the entire recipe.
     
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  11. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    I agree on metaphors and simile. I like the challenge of coming up with something that just works well and doesn't trip up the reader because it's just plain bad or doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense. The same could be said about any descriptive prose, but of course these are there own unique animal.
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Before I go all personal on this topic, I will say that this is kind of a cherry-picked topic. It would be just as easy to take a passage from Martin, Rothfuss (gag), King, Le Guin, Williams, Eddings, Brooks, etc., and rip out a paragraph or few and show how less could be more, or at the very least, less could be at least as good. Heck, I grabbed a random chapter of Martin the other day (an interesting way to read, btw, unfair but educational) and that chapter could've been turned into a two paragraph blurb at the start of that character's next chapter.

    For me, I know I am probably too lean on description, keeping the reader grounded in the world and characters, for three likely reasons:

    1: I used to over describe everything like a skinny GRRM long before ASOIAF ever hit the shelves... okay, not as bloated as Martin, but close enough. Lots of people complained because it slowed everything down, so I trimmed.

    2: Screenwriting hammered description out of me, and I found myself enjoying leaner styles.

    3: as a reader, I don't find myself begging for more description, I find myself skimming... hello again, Mr. Martin. Love your stories, but damn man, shut up sometimes, heh heh. It'd really help you beat HBO to revealing Hodor! I don't need pages and pages of descriptions of the world and its banners and its foods.

    And there is a bit of a 4th wheel here, and that is word count. I set out shooting for 100k, then 110k, then 120k... and after cutting fat I got back to 120k before going through to ground readers and again, I'm back above 120k and there's not much to do about it. Pretty much squishing a 150k story into 120k, BUT I'd much rather have a pub ask for more than less, heh heh.

    I am pretty much writing at a level where I'd hopefully not make myself skim if I were a reader.

    As a complete aside, I will no longer pick on Brandon Sanderson, as I realized today he and I grew up about an hour from each other. Midwesterners need to stick together, LOL.
     
  13. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Strikes me that this entire issue is a matter of voice. Author voice, narrator voice, character voice.

    If I look at the differences given in the examples so far, I see how the extended description/metaphors, while giving more meat for the reader to chew on, also signal habits of thought or character traits for narrator and/or character.

    I'm reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman and the transcendentalist type of thinking:

    In other words, a lean approach in which the narrator gets to the point immediately can sometimes seem quite on-the-nose. The character only sees or considers what is right in front of his nose, directly. His immediate thoughts, in-the-moment experiences, are all that he is. But real people contain multitudes. Real people are rarely entirely in the moment. So the reference to the various dimensions of abandoned caves—the past signs of life—are not only a connection with eternity (actual examples of real caves bearing signs of former lives), but the description also shows that the narrator contains more thoughts than, "Oh god, she's looking at me with dead eyes." The extended thoughts in Odd Thomas do a similar thing.

    I might have more to say on this, more clearly, later. :D
     
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  14. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Such a wonderful observation Fifth.. "I am multitudes" is so perfect. I really think that this is what this about. I think that when newer writers create characters they 'forget' (not sure if that is the right assumption, but it is what it feels like when I'm reading stuff from new writers) that the character has a history. A past. An education (whatever that may be). The filter that processes their world is missing from the descriptions so they come off shallow and sparse.

    *Edit: I do notice for myself that when I draft I usually end up with about twenty to thirty thousand words less than what the story needs, because my drafts start out as simply actions. Things happening. As I go through my editing process I find myself adding in all the thoughts, feelings, fears, assumptions... basically the 'voice'. So editing is opposite for me. Instead of taking out, I'm adding in.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2016
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  15. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    And this is my method, to a T. My novel's first draft came in around 76,000 words, and I expect it to be somewhere about 100K when I'm done (or close to being done), at the very least.

    My re-write began last night--the material covered by the first 100 words of the first chapter is now 430 words. Not everything will expand that much, or the novel would end up over 300,000! I blew through the first few chapters when I began, knowing full well I wouldn't be keeping much.

    For me, editing and polishing is not about grammar and fixing typos and culling adverbs--I do most of that at the outset. It's about adding depth and details that I couldn't picture, or hadn't developed, the first time around.
     
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  16. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I like similes and metaphors but suck terribly at them. Awful. Just awful. So I don't use them hardly at all in my work. Every now and then one will pop up for me and I'll pop it in but geesh, it's a rarity.

    They add so much life to prose though. I just wish there was a way to learn how to properly come up with them. I don't think I'm creative enough or something.
     
  17. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Goodness, YES. Yes.

    Over the years, I've forced myself to add more description on the first draft. I typically underwrite...so I go back and add things during my editing cycles like emotions, description, dialogue, etc. I'm a hurry-hurry writer the same way I talk in real life: fast, straight to the point, and sharp. Slowing down my process and taking the time to marinate in the narrative is so very freaking hard for me. Anyone else have this issue? How do you deal with it?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 8, 2016
  18. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

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    What's wrong with Brandon Sanderson? I've almost finished the Mistborn Trilogy and think it's great. I really like his writing because it isn't filled with unnecessary fluff, but his descriptions paint a vivid picture of the world. I never once found myself wanting to skim through parts, which isn't usual for me, especially as the three books are a very hefty ~750k words in total.
     
  19. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Oh, I will pick on anyone, even folks I like. Except Sanderson now I know he's Cornhusker born. I mean hey, sure I feel bad picking on Theon Greyjoy after all he's been through, but I'm a heartless bastard, heh heh.

     
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Okay, this isn't picking on Brandon (his writing isn't bad, don't get me wrong, I own some of his stuff... all writers have weaknesses) so I'm not picking on him, I'm just pointing out one thing quick like... suddenly, suddenly, finally, began, began, began... basically speaking he uses clunky adverbs and motion killers (began) more than necessary.

    NOW! If I were picking on him, which I am not, I wouldn't do that seeing as I said I stopped doing that, I would point out that in one piece of his writing a door "began to crack" twice in 3 paragraphs... the same door mind you. At least as far as I can tell. Either way, the echo is weak.

    THIS would be picking on him, heh heh.

     
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