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Writing Books Is More Than Prose

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Chessie2, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    There are grammar rules, there aren’t really prose rules outside of grammar (IMO). The primary rule of writing is to be understood, which is what a lot of grammar rules are about. I’ve never felt restrained by rules, but then I use fewer -ly adverbs than Hemingway and King without trying. So, I guess if there was a rule to use lots of -ly adverbs I would be forced to rebel, heh heh.

    Story to me is a series of events (emotional and/or physical) tied together in one fashion or another, simple as that, nothing fancy. A story I care to read is something else all together, heh heh.

    I think it would be fascinating to give several writers a three act story arc with all the same plot points, same ending, and all that, and see how different every writer gets where they’re going. Or for that matter, an assignement of a single paragraph with high specificty of what is to happen and what it looks like, and see how different it’s written.
     
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  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >I don't believe story exists without an audience who accepts it as such.

    I started to agree with this but then paused. I've written songs. I play them on my guitar, sing them. No one hears them but me because I wrote them ... well, I dunno. But I wrote them without ever caring if anyone else heard them. One might say it was for a-muse-ment.

    Similarly, I've drawn (very poor) pictures. But they're still pictures and those are still songs. So I sort of have to grant that the novel-in-the-drawer is still a novel.

    And that made me wonder why I care very much that people read my stories. I want that. Maybe one is recreation while the other is art?
     
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  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Ever read Finnegan's Wake?

    Generally speaking I agree, though. And even Joyce wanted to be understood, I imagine. May not have been his primary goal, and he sure made people work for it, but I can't imagine he wrote with the idea that no one would know what the hell he was on about.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  4. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    If you consider what you think of your own work, anything you wish can be a story.

    But sure, you can be your own audience. The story can be just for you. The songs can be just for you. The art can be just for you. I sometimes laugh at my own jokes, which doesn't make them jokes for anyone else, as my wife will attest. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; poetry is in the ear of the listener. What is story for you might be story only for you, and will be if it stays in the desk drawer.

    Have you heard of Schrodinger's cat? Until the box is opened, the cat is both alive and dead. Only when you open the box and observe the cat can you say whether it's dead or alive. It's the same with a novel in the desk drawer--it's story and not story, until you open the drawer and let the world observe it. Until then, it's story for you, and non-existent for everyone else. Even after you share it, it still might not be story for anyone but you. If you're the only person who thinks it's a story, maybe you should reconsider whether it's worthy of the title.
     
  5. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    If a tree falls down in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it is still a tree.
     
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Absolutely agree. It's like the telephone thing. The story is what you have to say, the prose is the telephone line that allows you to send the message.

    If you don't have something to say...why bother picking up the phone and dialing?
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  7. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    What??
     
  8. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    But will the other trees laugh at it?
     
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  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Haven’t read that for years, but Joyce was not doing what most folks do. I used to love Joyce about 30 years ago, but I might be too lazy to read his stuff these days. But the point is making structural sense... misplaced modifiers and other things that can screw the meaning.
     
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  10. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    You want heavy prose? Read The Scarlet Letter. Holy cow. I can hardly tell you what it's about--it was hard understanding a thing! Old English? Yes, but still...

    Look, I enjoy prose that flows and draws me in. But what I look for is immersion. An author who is able to do this for me is using skills far beyond taking pesky adverbs out. Words then don't matter.
     
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    With no one around, at the moment of it’s supposed fall, it did not exist. Now, walking through the forest, you see a fallen tree and assume it must have fell, but really it might as well be an ent taking a nap.
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Bah, read Chaucer in ME! Now that’s fun stuff. I’m glad I did it... but doing it again? No thanks.

    Scarlet Letter will taste like cake after Chaucer.
     
  13. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    LOVE Chaucer! I even had to learn how to read it in Middle English, with the fun accent and everything!
     
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  14. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Did you do the lovely memorizing the opening in ME and having to write it out for a test? I still have the giant Chaucer book, but I will neverread it again unless they cure old age and I get real bored.

    Fun for a 20 year old brain, now, not so much. LOL.
     
  15. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Is it dark Burgundy? I have it still.

    I still have it memorized. It is a fun party trick after a lot of whiskey.
     
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  16. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Sounds like same book, LOL. I’m afraid I killed the brain cells holding that particular memory soon after college.

    But then, one of my proudest moments is when I realized I forgot the “one thing you will never forget” taught to me in high school geometry. Never underestimate my ability to forget, especially when given a challenge such as that.

    Edit: also that’s just an awesome book, great feel with weight and paper. Serious quality.
     
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  17. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    I am now very curious as to what that is.
     
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  18. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Unfortunately... I forgot. I mentioned it to someone from high school a while back and they told me what it was, but I forgot again.

    As you might imagine, a class in college where I needed to memorize authors and poems and put them together didn’t go so well for me. LOL Analysis? Great! Memorization? Oh $%[email protected]&! I woudn’t have taken that class if I knew the final was going to be that, LOL.

     
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  19. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Suppose I'm not impressed by words but by story. Oh well.
     
  20. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I missed some of the replies in here and wanted to come back to this. I think we can agree that simpler prose is a stylistic choice that conveys meaning--if that fits with your genre or intent, so much the better. You can argue that the idea of judging a story by its prose is a shortcut, rather than a universal truth; I said earlier that:
    So let's say you have a great story but polishing prose is not your thing by nature or desire. Forget the idea of whether you "should". The question becomes, what else will get a reader to pick up and plough through your book to get to that story? If they skim a few pages and the language alone doesn't pull them in, what else can?

    - The old action/emotion hook opening. The content of your first chapter/kindle preview should be honed to an edge, even if the words don't need to be.
    - Good marketing. Make sure the story is getting in front of the right people (i.e. NOT the people expecting ornate high-fantasy prose) the right sub-genre, and make sure the story shines clearly through the blurb. Maybe give away more juicy tidbits, rather than less. You're assuring the reader that the book is a labor of love and/or skill, that they can trust you. Cover art is part of this, to be sure.
    - (Of course, word of mouth or book quotes from the right people would make a huge amount of difference--I know as a picky reader, a book being highly recommended has gotten me through first chapters that would otherwise put me off. But obviously that's not going to be available for someone starting out)

    Something to put out there: I don't have experience with the selling side of things, only with what makes me buy a book, but maybe this is a better/closer to home track for the discussion rather than the nature of prose in general?
     
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