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Writers' Bullshit Bingo

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Kasper Hviid, Dec 19, 2019.

  1. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    A lot of what's being written by writers about writing seems strangely innocent of writing skill; it's the same tired stock phrases going on repeat, stale and lifeless. Whatever merits it may have is being overshadowed by the dominant smell. To get this out of my system, I created this Bullshit Bingo page with some of those which annoys me personally!

    By the way, if you want to replace certain entries, I used Comic Sans MS for the font.

    [​IMG]
     
    Night Gardener and Yora like this.
  2. iramesoj

    iramesoj Dreamer

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    I’m surprised the “Mary Sue” trope annoys you. I have been thinking about that, and I think characters that do all in a perfect way are predecible and can became hateful, so writters shouldn't build them.

    However, I think nowadays there are a "fashion" that says we must hate virtuous characters and this is a mistake. In other words, is falling in the other extreme.

    For example, a sexy, intelligent, brave and honest hero that lives adventures against the evil characters of the story can be a nice character. You shouldn't build that character as "the guy who always wins" because then, readers wouldn't like him. However, you can create a good character with that attributes, but if you don't want that character being fairly hated, you should put him sometimes in hard situations: he should be defeated for someone strongest, being captured, having weak points despite his virtues, etc.

    However, I guess some people would say "I don't like that character, is a Mary Sue" because nowadays, a fashion said characters must be built in a dark way, like in SoIaF. That actual fashion dictates "Good Vs Evil" is a bad trope and characters should be ambiguous (like the man who cheat his wife but loves his friends, etc). As a consequence of that fashion, virtuous characters are looked in a bad way... and this is a mistake.

    I think that because, in my opinion, literature should be varied, so we should have the chance to read about all types of characters: very virtuous, very mean and not as polarized characters. If all characters are built in a same way, we are killing literature.

    Do you put “Mary Sue” in a pannel for these reasons?
     
    Aldarion likes this.
  3. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Mary Sue is simply a character who is shoehorned into an existing series, is better than everyone at everything, never fails at anything, never has to work for anything, and gets praised all the time by all the other characters for being so very amazing.
     
  4. iramesoj

    iramesoj Dreamer

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    When you say “is shoehorned into an existing series”, I think you are wrong. A new character from a new series can be a Mary Sue if he has the rest of characteristics you mention. However, I think there are an exaggerated witch hunt against Mary Sues like I have explained in my previous posts
     
  5. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    Most of those things carries important wisdom. It's the form I'm ranting against, not the content. If there's truth in Show, don't Tell, why can't it be expressed in a way that doesn't sound like a coke-induced tweet?

    Other than that, I agree that virtuous characters have their place; not every story needs to have the hero go on about his stupid flaws. Sometimes, as readers, we just want to inject ourselves into a protagonist who are better than we are.
     
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  6. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    these are all reasonable guidelines for anyone who is interested in publishing commercial fiction aimed at pleasing the reader.
     
    FifthView likes this.
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Don't you need same number of rows as columns for Bingo?
     
  8. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    Oops, guess you're right! Never played it and forgot to do research.
     
  9. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    I largely agree and had meant to point this out in my original post. But it somehow got reduced to a somewhat snarky reference to "whatever merits they may have". I always forget to add rebuttals like this.

    Admittedly, I do think some of the fields are overrated or just plain wrong, so you weren't that far off. But mostly, my intention was that of the original Bullshit Bingo, which makes fun of words like pro-active, which, despite being a legit word with actual meaning, has a rather pompous air.

    A concept like character arc is good for getting an overview of the mechanics of the story. But it is also highly analytical, distanced and impersonal, reducing the life of your character to a line on a coordinate system. (at least that's the inherent metaphor)

    A writer may write a story about a cold-hearted queen bee who rules her clique with an iron fist. She accidentally hooks up with a goodhearted but awkward boy. Gradually, she grows softer, more compassionate. Then the boy doublecrosses her. She returns to her old brutal self, her clique now severely reduced. End of story. But instead of just saying that, some writers have this weird distanced language with words like protagonist, call to action, character flaw, etc. Sometimes, it sounds like they're describing some intrigue machinery, rather than a make-believe story they care about.
     
  10. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    some people really want to know what the formula is. a few people have attempted to satisfy this need through narrative structure analysis. the result of that, taken with some kindness, is a reasonable description of what a basic story looks like and does, and it does indeed include some terminology that a new writer may wish to understand for themselves.

    And so what if they do? what's so dirty about saying a word like protagonist? It's a perfectly serviceable word, made up by one of the ancient greeks, and translates to "first struggler." I think that's a surprisingly poetic way to name the central character of the story. it doesn't carry a connotation the way "hero" does, being not a creature of a pre-assumed nobility or gender.

    I can't think of an art that doesn't ask its pursuers to learn new words. it seems strange and ironic to complain that writing asks this.
     
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  11. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    First off, I'm a sucker for learning whatever terminology I can get my dirty hands on. And I didn't know about the word's origin, so thanks for that!

    In my opinion, protagonist is a great word—when used right. It's perfect for referring to an abstract protagonist, for instance when you're explaining the meaning of third-person limited. Or if you're writing down a story idea and don't want to decide on who the protagonist is.

    However, try picking up a random novel, turn it over and look at the blurb. While the key information is who the protagonist is, the word protagonist is never used! Rather, the reader easily picks this information up from context. The blurb is intended to engage the reader, suck him in. Since the word protagonist creates distance, using it when you want someone to get into your story is unadvisable.

    Most of the time, I want to describe my story as intimately and engaging as possible. Sometimes to other writers. Sometimes retelling it to myself, getting more and more into it. Or maybe I want to note down an idea as vividly as possible so that my future self can get it.

    So I aim at only using the more distanced terminology if they serve a purpose. If they're merely fluffer stating the obvious—Puff, gone!
     
  12. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    okay here's the thing though

    when you're talking about the craft of writing, these terms are all useful, because you don't have to have consumed the same story to understand.

    because if I start talking to you about "Madison and Althea" those are just names from a story i'm writing, and if I go on and on about them without explaining their role in the story, it's asking too much of the person I'm talking to about writing craft about.

    Now if I'm trying to convince you to read my story, then I don't need to use the technical language that we use to talk to each other as writers, and honestly it doesn't really have a place. but here, on the forum, I'm not trying to sell you my story to read, I'm trying to talk about the technical and analytic aspects of writing, and so of course I'm going to use that language rather than just gas on about my wip.

    unless you ask. then i'm going for it.
     
  13. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    You left out: Learn the rules and then subvert them.

    Best rule of them all. It could be a legend for your matrix.
     
  14. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    Thanks, I need more stuff for the last row. However, I don't feel I have encountered this one in a context where it qualifies as "bullshit", as I have with the other entries.

    For instance, "Writers' Block" is being used as a catch-all phrase to describe any kind of problems with writing, including failing to stay off the internet when you write. Clearly bullshit. And "writer's block doesn't exist" is just as wrong, and arrogant too.

    The "hook" metaphor is a really cliched way of thinking about the opening of your novel, and it falsely implies that you need some kind of gimmick or trick to convince a reader that he wants to read it; in reality, the reader has seen your cover and your blurb, and has already been "hooked" by that, else he wouldn't have bought the book. What you have to do is deliver. I prefer thinking of the opening as "getting into gear".
     
  15. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    The hook is as much for your publisher as your readers.

    More so, in fact.
     
  16. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    I didn't quite get that! How is the hook aimed at the publisher? Isn't the hook simply "how to write the first chapters of your novel"?
     
  17. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    the hook isn't for the readers first, if you're going trad.

    the hook is for the agent you're hoping will represent you. yesterday, an agent on twitter said that she received ten thousand queries in 2019.

    She signed three clients.

    the hook isn't a "Gimmick." it's you writing at the top of your game. it's your most impressive introduction. it's the difference between "thank you for submitting your novel for consideration. Sadly, it is not what we're looking for at this time." and "I read your opening pages with great interest, and I am interested in seeing the entire manuscript."

    and then once you get the agent, it's for the editor you're hoping will go to bat with marketing for your book, and get back a go-ahead and the authority to offer the most generous advance possible, based on how sales believes the book will perform.

    and then once you get the editor, it's for the reviewer from the major trades you're hoping will rave about your book and give it a starred review you can crow about in your marketing. It's for the fellow author who is more popular than you who you hope will read your book and then say it's wonderful in a quotable way so you can crow about it in your marketing.

    and then once you get the reviews and the blurbs, it's for the bookseller who will personally recommend your title to readers to buy.

    and then once you get the bookseller working for you, now it's for the reader, who will read your hook and forget the laundry in the dryer.

    Is that a lot of responsibility piled on the first few sentences of your story? Yes. it is.
     
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  18. In my experience, it really doesn't exist. Being unable to write because one just cannot do it is straight bullshit. There is always an underlying reason. The reason is generally one of three things:

    1) Pure laziness/procrastination
    2) External factors (including but not limited to lack of time [me], mental health problems, or physical health problems)
    3) internal factors (such as a broken story)

    Two of these three things can only be fixed by working or being disciplined enough to work on your manuscript in some way, shape, or form. One of them can only be helped through some kind of medical intervention. None of these things is "writer's block."
     
  19. Some of this is because the people saying these things don't have real experience with these things. They're for lack of a better term, noobs at this whole thing called writing. So they spout these phrases without understanding what these mean in their specific contexts and forms.

    This can be seen across the whole spectrum of life. I have heard people shout BS parentalisms and then realize what they mean when they actually become a parent. In my profession, I see people with a smattering of legal education or understanding and throwing statements around that are in fact coke induced tweets (see badlegaltakes on twitter.) It is ignorance. And it takes some time to learn what to filter out in all the noise.
     
  20. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    Agree with just about everything you said, except for the bold bit. To me the "hook" is a device that grabs the reader's attention and demands their engagement with the story. It's something that immediately raises questions and sets up a pleasurable expectation of what's to come; ie, keeps the pages turning.

    That said, you should always be writing at the top of your game.
     
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