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Sins of the Writer.

Posted: Tue May 09, 2006 10:43 am
by Magus
What do you consider to be your greatest strength when it comes to your writing? What, then, is your greatest weakness? And why is it that you chose these?

Posted: Tue May 09, 2006 3:34 pm
by t_tibke
I would have to say that my greatest strength is the ability to create a vision of a living, breathing world that has had layers upon layers of history and events. I've spent a great deal of time on this sort of thing, and anyone who's read any of my writing samples here in the SciFi/Fantasy fiction section has made simmilar comments.

On the other hand, I still tend to have a difficult time with making my dialogue feel real. I like to keep an air of ancient heroic epics in my writing, but its difficult for me to find that balance. I once was told by an editor, in regards to a lengthy bit of dialogue during an action/fighting exerpt "Its like the opera; the fat lady spending ten minutes singing and going on and on as she's dying." In a way, I sort of liked that it had come across as something somewhat heroic, on the other hand, I began to wonder about how the characters breathed while talking and fighting. Its all about balance there, and I'm working on it :D

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 2:25 am
by Dragonfleet
I would say my strengths would consist of developing and creating ideas for story plots and finding ways to twist ideas after looking at a book or film. I'm also happy to say that I come up with some neat characters from time to time.

My greatest weakness? There's a whole litany of them really. Not finishing my darn stories for one! Also, I'm not sure about some of my dialogue, it's a little cheesy and my descriptions lack substance and coherance sometimes. *sigh* So much to learn.

I don't believe one chooses a particular strength but to discover them through one's own writing and then flesh out any weaknesses they may find and hopefully improve their technique through hard work and painful thinking. :)

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 5:25 am
by Magus
I actually like epic dialogue, but I know what you probably mean. It's not exactly the most natural thing for people to spout off, is it?

It seems that a lot of people have trouble with dialogue in particular, just based off of their comments both on this site and on others. I'm just wondering if anybody has an idea as to why that is.

Dragonfleet, I'm just curious about what books/movies have inspired you? Are there any in particular that did so more than any other?

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 8:07 am
by SchoolTheOld
I tend to be quite adept at images and ingraining themes into stories.

I also tend to finding characters to fit these ideas and making them real.

Where I fail is finding adversary to these characters, and creating supporting characters to bring out their shine...with all that entails, clever dialogue etc.

I find it hard to make dialogue not sound staged...or explainatory...

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 8:33 am
by Caltana
It has been my observation with Fantasy novels in general, that dialogue seems to be less important than description and history.

It is afterall a very visual medium, in that Fantasy aspires to feed the mind with amazing and unusual creatures, beautiful scenery etc and less on what the characters say and more what they do.

It also doesn't help that often the characters are the zenith of their stereotypes, ie they are warriors or healers or villains, and this sometimes doesn't give the writer much chance to do anything with in the narrative that could expand the character out beyond these particular stereotypes because that is what the story focuses on for their role.

This irritates me as well because often the stories are brilliant but the characters often so one sided and basically uninteresting. They're always good examples of 'a warrior' or 'a mage' or whatever but they just seem to lack that extra something which takes them beyond, makes them really original.

Not because of any lack of skill on the part of the author, but because the narrative simply doesn't allow for it in telling the story to explore the character deeper.

Hence dialogue in fantasy tends to be for proving a point or pushing the story along, and less about establishing a character's personality through dialogue as if often the case in other genres...

Well that's my thought anyway...

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 10:33 am
by Chaeronia
An interesting post, Caltana.

It is a common thing to see a character limited by the stereotype's zenith, as you succinctly describe it, but, to me, this fault (if you choose to see it as one) can most definitely be attributed to the author. Certainly the market they are writing for is a consideration, but a one-dimensional character acting within the field's often strict definitions of these stereotypes is, for me, primarily the writer's look out. If the writer has the skill to be able to flesh out his/her characters then s/he should use it. If they don't do so, whether they feel restricted by the stereotype or not, then that reflects badly on them.

You mention that a story can be brilliant even when the characters are not interesting. I understand what you're getting at here, but to me this is a contradiction. No characterisation = no story, imo.

Hence dialogue in fantasy tends to be for proving a point or pushing the story along, and less about establishing a character's personality through dialogue as if often the case in other genres...

Yes, this is a good point and something I have noticed in a number of works, and this disregard for dialogue (which is what this amounts to) is very often a missed opportunity. But fortunately, I am currently reading Tigana by Gavriel Kay, and he suffers from no such problems.



Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 1:37 pm
by t_tibke
Another point about dialogue that I'd like to make (since we're on the topic), is that we have almost no exemplary people around us to express dialogue as it once was expressed.

In fantasy, we are trying to work with language that is no longer in full fledged use, and that in itself sets us a step back from finding it natural to us. This points me at something I really hate about a great deal of today's fantasy: the way the author uses modern english as a substitute for well-spoken english of old.

The greatest point I'm making here, is that people nowadays don't speak propper english, and that helps to destroy what we think of as good and natural dialogue, be it for good or bad.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 2:33 pm
by Magus
My dialogue seems natural to me, but, then again, one of my friends once described me as "talking like Shakespeare", and that was 6 years ago!


I do see and agree with almost everything said here. Poor dialogue does seem to be something of a genre trapping, but, while that is the case, is still completely the fault of the author who does not try to rise above the industry standard. And, while we don't speak like many of characters in a fantasy setting do, that still doesn't mean that natural sentence flow can't be fealt. Even in older English, a reader should be able to read and understand if a work has good syntax, regardless of the diction used. If it does not then it is again the fault of the author, not the genre specifically.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 11:09 pm
by aldan
Wow, for me, I hear what is being said and understand the difficulty there. I'm a very visual writer, myself, but I ENJOY reading stories that are all about character interactions. I'd not say it's my weakest point as a writer, but it's not one of my strengths.... However, for strengths, I'd have to say that I'm best at being able to make my writing flow fit the 'feel' of the situation. It's something that I've been working on, but I think I'm really close to where I currently want to be with it. I'd like to think that I'm also pretty good at coming up with at least a few interesting backstories for the more minor characters I'm writing with, but again, that's for others to judge, and because I'm like several others here (in that I can't seem to finish!), it may be awhile before I'm to a point at which I can share any of my story so that others can be the judge....

Posted: Wed May 17, 2006 1:42 am
by Dragonfleet
Magus wrote:Dragonfleet, I'm just curious about what books/movies have inspired you? Are there any in particular that did so more than any other?
Most action/scifi inspire me I believe. I could be watching a wacky stargate episode and one little thing will pique my interest (e.g. one of those Zat guns) and I'll take from that and flesh out something that suits my own little world, like a stun rifle for some futuristic riot police. When I write fantasy I only have to watch something like Gladiator to create a proud and conquering race. I can pretty much take anything from any genre and find some means of using it in my work. ^^

Posted: Wed May 17, 2006 5:08 am
by Caltana
To me its often not just the fact that as Magus rightly points out we don't speak in the way fantasy characters do in our day and age, its the fact that the subject of the dialogue can be so utterly boring and inane that what they're talking about could be expressed in the narrative instead of being dialogue often because though the character might be in a perilous situation, there isn't much in their character to enable them to react in anyway other than with banal dialogue.

In fact the character's personal lives barely seem to have any relevance at all to a lot of fantasy and I think that's ashame because you can do so much with it.

Perhaps its because I'm getting older and more cynical but to me any sci-fi or Fantasy that is just about the fights and the situation makes me switch off immediately because we've all seen it in hundreds of stories before. The stuff that really grips me is characters who are well drawn and deviate from the stereotypes I mentioned before.

Dialogue to me is the method by which you can communicate your character's prejudices and preferences, where you can explore in fact, how that character thinks. Where you can have religious maniacs spouting meaningless drivel about the demon god they believe in, or the passionate warrior tell interesting stories about monsters they've slayed and what they learnt from it and most of all make it interesting and meaningful.

Eg; Instead of just saying 'five years ago, Joe bloggs took on a werewolf and fought it for five days and after an epic battle he managed to kill it but it left him with a scar and a mean attitude.' You can have Joe tell you the tale of how he fought this werewolf, spit with venom as he tells his friends how he loathes this werewolf for scaring his face, making him ashamed to show his face in society, filled his heart with a need for revenge against all werewolf kind, and made him surly, moody and introverted.

That's just a vague example of the top of my head but I'm sure you see the point. To my mind dialogue is the only real way to show information in an interesting manner.

So I think that my greatest strength as a writer is with character and dialogue as its what I do the most with. I've got a creative imagination to when it comes to the scenario and all that stuff but its the character's I spend the most time on, using them to explain my scenario rather than just do it in backstory or narrative.
My weakness by the way is description I think, I really need to work on that a lot more.