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message 1: by Cee (new)

Cee Jackson (ceeteejackson) | 178 comments Hi Folks,

yeah - I'm still here, plodding away with 'Evhen & Uurth' whenever I have a spare 10 mins or so ... and my bloody cat will leave me alone. And I do know there's potentially a few jokes available in response to that last bit.
I have a problem ... and thought you folks were the best to ask,:

I am at a stage where several things / scenes are happening at the same time. as I write, I'm growing more conscious of the fact that the reader may feel they are being thrown around a little. For instance: De'Ath; Corolious the crow, RAVEN, I mean; and he staff at Soul Nourishment are all experiencing repercussions of one particular event, each is doing so in their own wee scene, but at the same time.

Is there any particular way in which this should be written? I am dealing with one character at a time, in their own scene - or is there a better way?

Hope that makes sense.

(Oh, and also, since I'm here - can you get away with a character saying 'err' or 'erm?')

Well - that's today's 10 minsused up. Off to training now.

Any pointers gratefully received.


(Cee Tee)

message 2: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 126 comments Colin

Purely personal thoughts here (as always!).

I'll take it in reverse order. The occasional "err" or "erm" is okay provided that the sentence absolutely needs it. But we shouldn't try to replicate how people actually speak. In real life, we stutter, we ahem, we repeat ourselves, we get our murds wuddled. But in fictional speech it is accepted that the author smooths these little interruptions out. If we wrote as we spoke it would probably be an unreadable mess.

I have a personal rule that I (usually) allow myself no more than one "special word" per sentence. That special word could be a malapropism or a coinage or a stumble or a piece of slang. But any more than about one per sentence and it starts to feel forced.

Okay, twist my arm and I'll allow two in one sentence, as long as the next sentence has one or none. Just enough to give the feel of the person giving the speech. I'm not writing like Mellors in Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Next the multiple reactions thing. My rule of thumb is that we're only allowed to get into one head at a time. That generally means one head per chapter or at most, one head per defined part of a chapter. I take it a step further and have one POV per novel. But that's just me and I'm weird.

Other (non POV) characters express themselves by what they say and how they act. Or by what the POV character thinks about them.

Non POV characters throw plates. Stamp their feet. Faint. Give high fives. Sweat/ perspire/ gently glow. They shout, whisper, grunt. Veins pop in their foreheads. They might throw their fists around or take their clothes off. We don't need to get inside all of their heads to know what they are thinking.

Let's imagine we're writing a novel with four or more POV characters. We have to deal with a scene with all of them present. I would choose one of them to be the POV character for that scene, but I would show what the other characters are thinking by the way that they react. I wouldn't then go back and write the same scene three more times to show how the other characters saw it.

If we write the first iteration of the scene vividly enough (and we should) then we shouldn't need to see the scene again from a different POV, other than in very exceptional circumstances.

Purely my POV!

message 3: by Rob (new)

Rob Gregson (nullroom) | 391 comments Mod
I'd agree entirely with Will on the subject of errs and ahems. I once studied transcription for a wee bit, and when you see accurately transcribed dialogue or even a single speech, it looks like the most incoherent gibberish. Use it for effect, certainly, but use it sparingly. (Opinion only, of course.)

As we're all aware, modern creative writing course tutors, critics, agents and publishers all seem to regard head hopping as a sin on a par with incest or treason. Generally, it's acceptable to have one POV per segment (e.g. a section of a chapter separated by extra line spaces and a short, jaunty row of asterisks) but not to mix and match within those segments. But people do. Douglas Adams did it. So did Arundhati Roy, and their books seemed to sell okay.

But... Firstly, that mixed approach seems to be an exception and, speaking personally, I find it jarring when I come across it. I like to see things through one POV at a time, and I'm guessing that's true of most readers.

Secondly, that's not really the problem you're facing, is it? You're trying to find a way to give different people's reactions to the same event, but those people aren't all in the same place, so they can't see one another's reactions and the reader can't infer anything about characters who aren't present. So your only options, as I see them are:

1. Don't try to describe every different character's reactions. Let the reader make assumptions about that. Just focus on one, or maybe two if you must.

2. Don't try to describe each reaction immediately. Some reactions could be delayed - e.g. by having one character read another's reaction in the form of a letter, email or carrier pigeon missive.

3. Make a comic feature of the simultaneity of the events. You could, for example, take the opportunity to show how a deity's mind works - what it's like to be omniscient - and describe how he is simultaneously aware of all these things going on at once. In one of Stephen Fry's novels - it might be Making History - he has to fast forward the reader through a long period in which the mc has to do lots of rather unremarkable preparations. Rather than try to find a palatable way of describing that, he switches formats and says, basically: "if this were now being depicted in film, here's what the film script would look like." And then he literally turns the following few pages into a film script, complete with montage scenes to show the preparations being made over an extended period. It's refreshing and funny. One advantage of comedy is that you're allowed to challenge a few conventions...

message 4: by James (new)

James Court | 227 comments Much of my early writing was evidence for court, and therefore verbatim. It does sound a bit odd when read back, unless you also mimic the original speaker's accent and timing - something that was frowned upon by JPs. But you do need something to distinguish direct speech from ordinary text. Generally I use contractions -I'll, he's, isn't, etc in direct speech and full forms for text. Also the occasional ellipsis ... helps give more natural timing to longer blocks of direct speech.

message 5: by Cee (new)

Cee Jackson (ceeteejackson) | 178 comments Will, Rob & James:

many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

I think I'm ok on the errs and erms fronts, then. I've used them only very sparingly, and only when a character has been confused / caught in an awkward situation. You're right, of course - if books were written with all our bad speech habits, we'd need fork lift trucks to lift them off the shelves at Waterstones.

I STILL have big problems grasping this old POV issue ... but I'm just resolving now to batter the story out and worry about how it looks / correct it in the edits that follow over the next year or two.

I like the Stephen Fry idea, Rob. Cheers for that.

Here's a very brief synopsis of what's all happening at the same time. I'm just a bit concerned that by the time the reader reaches the last scene, it will seem like an age has passed (lets say it's over 10 pages for sake of argument) and will not relate to it happening at the same time as the first:

1) Ancor & Molly @ Soul Nourishment are under pressure from irate relatives of the deceased because the souls of the dead are being held in a holding area and not being transported to Evhen. This is happening because unknown to Ancor and Molly, The Key to Evhen has gone missing and De'Ath is bunking off work to go on a bender;

2) At the same time, Corolious the raven is attending a job interview - and gets wind of the fact that his new employer is also interested in owning The Key..

3) And at the same time Four-Finger Freddie is trying to fence the stolen Key at the local boozer.

There you go - that's a wee taster for you.
(I know - cod liver oil's shit, ain't it?)

Thanks again for your help, lads.


(Cee Tee)

message 6: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 126 comments Does it all have to happen at the same time? You're god of this world that you are creating. You can put the elements in whatever order suits you.

Or simply tell each story and let the readers decide whether it is all happening at the same time, or on the same day, the same week, whatever.

Think about Lord of the Rings. Sam and Frodo go off to the jewelry recycling facilities at Mount Doom. Aragorn, Gimmli and Legolas go off to do heroic and manly things. Merry and Pippin go play in the trees.

All at the same time. Maybe. Or maybe one after the other. It doesn't really matter. With each scene change we simply accept that we're seeing a different group of characters doing stuff to each other.

If an age has past then say so. Or just write each element of the story and let the reader do the stitching together. They're pretty good at that.

I know I haven't commented on the last thing you sent me, but if you'd like to send me an updated version I'll zap you some comments back. I have some time on my hands at the moment.

message 7: by Rob (new)

Rob Gregson (nullroom) | 391 comments Mod
Yup. What Will said.

message 8: by Cee (new)

Cee Jackson (ceeteejackson) | 178 comments Yeah - never really thought on it that way, Will. I don't suppose I do have to say that it's at the same time. I'm maybe making this more complicated than it need be.

Thanks of offer on the last bit. But it's fine. I'm just going to get it all down first - I've been spending WAY too much time editing and restructuring on the way through. I'm learning, though, this being my first attempt at a novel. I realise that no matter how good (?!) I think it is when I type'THE END,' I will probably then spend another few months editing at that point,.

Someone told me recently that the first draft is a 'vomit draft,' in that I should just throw up all my ideas onto the laptop screen and clean up later.

Thanks again for your time - I do hope you're feeling better and recovering well, Will.
And Rob - I hope you're not unwell and in need of any well wishes, but if you are, then please take them as read.

Cheers guys.


Mr Savage Cushions esq (scushions) | 71 comments Colin
Regrettably, I don't know your work, but I thought I'd throw my cat into the room.

'err' or 'erm' - no problem, some people are more hesitant that others, it adds to their character. I use 'pah' a lot for one character.

With regard to several things happening at once, you don't want to underestimate your reader. If it's written well enough, the time line will be clear. Alternatively, there are phrases like, 'Whilst Leopold was having a reptilian reaction to the sponges, Mrs Pendulum was experiencing a very difference response.' ' At precisely the same moment...". Concurrently, simultaneous etc


message 10: by Cee (new)

Cee Jackson (ceeteejackson) | 178 comments Mr Savage Cushions wrote: "Colin
Regrettably, I don't know your work, but I thought I'd throw my cat into the room.

'err' or 'erm' - no problem, some people are more hesitant that others, it adds to their character. I use '..."

Cheers Mr Cushions,

I think I'm just getting neurotic. POVs, headhopping, timelines, too many adverbs, too little adverbs, It all sounds complicated, but maybe it needn't be.

I'm going to batter out another 10 minutes worth right now.

Thanks all.


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