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message 1: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments The writer's toolbox. That elementary school explanation for the wide array of styles, purpose, and means of turning words into prose, and then into a story. Each one says a lot about each individual writer, what they use and how they use it. I'm always interested in branching out beyond what I currently am and learning new tricks and techniques and would like to know what's buried in yours.

Here are a few staples that I like to keep close at hand.

The Unreliable Narrator:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unreliab...

see also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring

A perfectly reasonable explanation. An invaluable tool when pacing the plot or revealing exposition. Only certain things are known, and even then, they may be wrong. If you're doing it right, you'll feel a little shameful that you're lying to the readers. Its okay.

Which leads into The False Protagonist:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_pr...

Did I mention I like lying to the reader? I still feel guilty about it though. These mysterious gray characters are usually my favorite, and the most realistic. Not to be confused with, but may be used alongside:

The Tragic Hero:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragic_hero

Ok, so that one is overused and cliche. It still works well with minor characters, I think, if executed properly, for the desired effects on the MC's life and emotional state. Killing the main is no fun anymore, so lets kill off everyone around them instead, in a tragically noble fashion. Oh the guilt.

Conflict:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seve...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thir...

A story is useless without some form of conflict many would argue, and I personally subscribe to that belief. The more unforseen complications you can work into, and then through, the better the material will be (usually). Subplots can reinforce the overall world better than all the poetic prose you can wrestle from yourself. These are very helpful when deciding what subplots to weave in to help fill out the world.

Alot of the other things I use or dont use depending on what I'm working on are widely discussed on here, like the 3 act system, but I hadn't seen any mention of these yet, and thought I'd bring them up.

Anyone have any unique tools tucked away that they're not talking about? :D


message 2: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments I suggest reading widely to expand the language part of the toolbox, especially work outside your chosen genre and most especially work that might not at first appeal (and still may not appeal you're done with it). It helps to keep writing fresh and alive.


message 3: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Expanding the toolbox should be an eternal quest. :D


message 4: by Morris (new)

Morris Graham (morris_g) No toolbox would be complete without editing support.

I used:

1) Microsoft Word with spell check enabled.
2) Google: an internet connection for "at your fingertips" research of any subject. Makes an amazing quick reference and fact-checker.
3) Final grammar checker. This is a paid for service but worth it. http://www.grammarly.com

est regards, Morris


message 5: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Stream of consciousness:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stream_o...

This one I think, should either be used for one character per scene only, or not used at all. Very useful for bringing readers into the minds of your character. But using it for more than one character in a scene devalues the intimacy of it, and can cause clutter.

The elusive Motif:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motif_(n...

Is it ever really done right? If it is, nobody will ever notice it. It still helps the author keep their head in the game, and adds an extra element for fans of the work to dig for. To me it is best used as an easter-egg. Hidden in plain sight.

Monomyth:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth

Pretty much every kind of challenge that a hero (or heroine :D) can face. I just found out about this one recently and haven't had time to read through the list.


message 6: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
Charles wrote: "The writer's toolbox. That elementary school explanation for the wide array of styles, purpose, and means of turning words into prose, and then into a story. Each one says a lot about each indivi..."

Drafted!


message 7: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Hellstorm (aehellstorm) | 196 comments Great thread, Charles. Sometimes we get so absorbed in our own writing that we forget what kind of tools are at our hands.


message 8: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Keep in mind these are just my preferred tools, and how I choose to use them. They are not by any means "hard and fast", like everything else in fiction, and I'd love to know what everyone else uses, like Morris did. :D


message 9: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Hellstorm (aehellstorm) | 196 comments Charles wrote: "Keep in mind these are just my preferred tools, and how I choose to use them. They are not by any means "hard and fast", like everything else in fiction, and I'd love to know what everyone else us..."

*lol* You want me to think? Well, I guess I'll have to come back to you on this topic. Sorry to disappoint you, but I honestly haven't thought about these things since my creative writing class twenty years ago.


message 10: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments They are boring, and take the fun out of it sometimes.


message 11: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Hellstorm (aehellstorm) | 196 comments Charles wrote: "They are boring, and take the fun out of it sometimes."

I wouldn't call them boring, but once you learn them and start to use them, they become part of your writing style and you don't think about them after that.


message 12: by Charles (last edited May 06, 2015 03:52PM) (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I find them useful when I want to add sub-arcs and things like that. They usually fall into place pretty well. Well, the text building tools anyway.


message 13: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Hellstorm (aehellstorm) | 196 comments Charles wrote: "I find them useful when I want to add sub-arcs and things like that. They usually fall into place pretty well. Well, the text building tools anyway."

I can't really wait to read your book. I've downloaded it, but you're fifth on my to-read-list, so it will take a while to get there. It will be very interesting to see how you structure your text and plots.


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Thank you. I hope I can live up to those expectations. :\


message 15: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Hellstorm (aehellstorm) | 196 comments Charles wrote: "Thank you. I hope I can live up to those expectations. :\"

I think you will. I glanced at the first sentences and they looked good. :-)


message 16: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments :D


message 17: by S. (new)

S. McPherson (smcphersonbooks) | 7 comments A.E. wrote: "Charles wrote: "Thank you. I hope I can live up to those expectations. :\"

I think you will. I glanced at the first sentences and they looked good. :-)"


Well now I really want to read it! What genre is it? Also, I think my best tool is reading other authors in my genre that were as successful as I would hope to be and then drafting, redrafting, drafting again and professional editing haha


message 18: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
Charles is humble. I've only read one of his works but I loved every page of it.


message 19: by S. (last edited May 07, 2015 01:08PM) (new)

S. McPherson (smcphersonbooks) | 7 comments Humility is endearing at times :) What was the book called? And what was the genre?


message 20: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I sent you a message. :D


message 21: by L.J. (last edited May 08, 2015 12:39AM) (new)

L.J. Kendall (luke_kendall) Over on RYCJ's blog I noticed a link to an interesting article Good writing vs talented writing. Samuel Delaney is Samuel R. Delaney - you know, Babel 17, and numerous other classics.


message 22: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 39 comments I would suggest "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell for designing protagonists and knowing about the hero's journey for plot.

And, a good Text-to-voice program like "NaturalReader" (they have a free online page). Having your book read to you aloud is one of the best self-editing strategies for catching all kinds of spelling and grammar errors I've ever found.


message 23: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments A personal favorite of mine is...

The McGuffin:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

It's the central motivating thread of the plot. Or is it? Is it really? I find McGuffins all over the place. When I find them in my own work, I usually don't even know the device is being used until I've finished the book and start re-reading. Hmm...I'm not sure I've written anything that doesn't use a McGuffin in some way.


message 24: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Luke wrote: "Over on RYCJ's blog I noticed a link to an interesting article Good writing vs talented writing. Samuel Delaney is Samuel R. Delaney - you know, Babel 17, and numerous other classics."

I enjoyed reading the article. Thanks!


message 25: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Micah wrote: "A personal favorite of mine is...

The McGuffin:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

It's the central motivating thread of the plot. Or is it? Is it really? I find McGuffins all over the place...."



It's really hard not to use one in some way or another. I'm turning my MC into a MacGuffin in the 2nd book.


message 26: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Steven wrote: "And, a good Text-to-voice program like "NaturalReader" (they have a free online page). Having your book read to you aloud is one of the best self-editing strategies for catching all kinds of spelling and grammar errors I've ever found."

On of our Mods is a very vocal proponent of this tactic.


message 27: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Owen wrote: "Luke wrote: "Over on RYCJ's blog I noticed a link to an interesting article Good writing vs talented writing. Samuel Delaney is Samuel R. Delaney - you know, Babel 17, and numerous other classics...."

Yeah, interesting article.

I kind of cringe at the word "talented" though. It implies an inherit quality that you're either born with or not. Which, I think, is a bit elitist. When in fact the qualities described in the article are things writers can pick up as they grow and develop (if they're paying attention and give a damn).

I also believe that what they describe as good writing (simple, logical, clearly written) is not mutually exclusive with talented writing. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, used simple, logical, clearly written prose, and yet his style of stark simplicity hid within it extremely talented writing.

So...I take the article with a grain of salt, and the understanding that it speaks in generalities, not specifics.

;P


message 28: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments One thing a lot of people don't realize: Talent is hard work.


message 29: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Charles wrote: "One thing a lot of people don't realize: Talent is hard work."

And every overnight success is at least 10 years in the making.


message 30: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Micah wrote: "It implies an inherit quality that you're either born with or not."

We are all born with inherent qualities (or not). I'm not 7-ft tall, period. Not being 7-ft tall means there are certain things I can't do. There's nothing elitist about it. Feynman had a mind that did things mine will never do, period. Nothing elitist about either. But as you and Charles point out, talent and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

I didn't take the article to imply any conflict between "good writing" and "talent writing", merely that "good writing" does not necessarily give rise to a good story.

If I have a beef with the article and the use of word "talented" it would be that there is a flavor that some test exists that can define "talented writing" in a generally applicable way. That would be elitist, but Delaney doesn't actually go there. (But it kinda seemed like he wanted to, at times.)


message 31: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments One person's talent is another person's annoying garbage. :D


message 32: by L.J. (new)

L.J. Kendall (luke_kendall) Owen wrote: "Micah wrote: "It implies an inherit quality that you're either born with or not."

We are all born with inherent qualities (or not). I'm not 7-ft tall, period. Not being 7-ft tall means there are c..."


The main point I took from it, was not to be satisfied with your writing skills when you think they've become "good", but to strive to become "talented".


message 33: by S. (new)

S. McPherson (smcphersonbooks) | 7 comments Micah wrote: "Charles wrote: "One thing a lot of people don't realize: Talent is hard work."

And every overnight success is at least 10 years in the making."


Absolutely!


message 34: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Owen wrote: "Feynman had a mind that did things mine will never do, period..."

But for every Feynman there are thousands of physicists who would be considered talented who came by that talent through training and experience. Note, the article doesn't use the term 'genius' which is what Feynman would be described as...Merely 'talented' would be an insult to a mind like that!


message 35: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Micah wrote: "Note, the article doesn't use the term 'genius' which is what Feynman would be described as..."

I'm glad he didn't venture into the "genius" waters. Of course, part of the problem with the term "talented" is whether it is seen as in a input, which is worth 0 in the absence of many other factors, or an output, as "talented writing" implies. Whether "talent" describes innate variations or skills acquired through application or both can be a sticky issue. But then I can't think of a better word.

Luke: I agree. The moment a writer becomes satisfied with being "good" I think they are likely to become boring and probably insipid. (How this effects their sales potential is another question entirely.)


message 36: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 39 comments Charles wrote: "Steven wrote: "And, a good Text-to-voice program like "NaturalReader" (they have a free online page). Having your book read to you aloud is one of the best self-editing strategies for catching all ..."

Excellent. The benefits to my writing are beyond counting.


message 37: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Owen wrote: "Whether "talent" describes innate variations or skills acquired through application or both can be a sticky issue. But then I can't think of a better word."

A better word would have been 'effective' except he seemed to be implying something more than that, like 'artistic' or something. That's why, to me, there was the implication of a quality inherit in the author, rather in their skill level.

Could have been a case of me inferring rather than him implying.


message 38: by Hayden (new)

Hayden Linder (haydendlinder) | 85 comments About NaturalReader, That this is AWESOME. I didn't even know it existed. Thanks guys.


message 39: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Micah wrote: "A better word would have been 'effective' except he seemed to be implying something more than that, like 'artistic' or something...."

Personally, I think of what he was talking about as "evocative" writing. But then, I'm not sure what that conveys to others. I'd likely fall into the trap of: "You keep using the word. I do not think it mean what you think it means."


message 40: by L.J. (new)

L.J. Kendall (luke_kendall) I basically agree with Micah; I think he was talking about effective and evocative writing. Consider what he said about using the specific to suggest the general. Done well, you can use the nuances possible in the specific to control the tone of the general. I thought that was a brilliant tip. Being specific roots your words in something concrete, vivid and real, yet the hint of the bigger concept behind that enriches the experience for the reader; and each reader will have a similar but different response because everyone has different experiences to draw on.


message 41: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Evocative is a good word. It's something that can be achieved in a lot of different ways. As I mentioned before, Kurt Vonnegut's minimalist, purposefully simple style is evocative in its own inimitable way. What little I've sampled of Delaney's work was evocative in a wholly other way: poetic w/out the verse.


message 42: by S. (new)

S. McPherson (smcphersonbooks) | 7 comments Thanks for the Natural Reader information. I will certainly try it!


message 43: by Winter (new)

Winter (wdprosapio) | 16 comments Has anyone used Grammarly? It's been a big help for me, better than MS word, IMHO, for finding issues..

https://www.grammarly.com/?AT301

Also a fan of this post by Chuck Wendig:
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/...

Caution, Chuck works a little blue...


message 44: by Neil (new)

Neil MacDonald | 8 comments As a new member of this group, I really liked this thread. There are some great ideas and tools here. I'm employing a McGuffin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin), similar to a red-herring, in the book I'm currently working on.

I have designed a number of tools to allow me to keep track of plot, backstory, timeline and characters. These mostly exist on spreadsheets. I find, unless I do this, the continuity gets thrown out, and my characters suddenly sprout new and contradictory traits. For each main character, for example, I enter the following information into the character sheet as I describe them:
Name
Age
Background
Description
Sympathetic characteristics
Flaws
Missing inner quality
Mannerisms
Likes
Dislikes
Life goal
Story goal
Relationships

In the plottting of the storyline I try to keep aware of the structure known as the Freytag triangle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramatic... divides a story into five phases:
Exposition
Rising action
Climax
Falling action
Dénouement or resolution


message 45: by Hayden (new)

Hayden Linder (haydendlinder) | 85 comments Neil wrote: "As a new member of this group, I really liked this thread. There are some great ideas and tools here. I'm employing a McGuffin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin), similar to a red-herring, in..."

That is a great way to keep a handle on things, I just couldn't get it to work for me. My mind just doesn't act creatively when I'm in "Order" mode.


message 46: by Neil (new)

Neil MacDonald | 8 comments I agree Hayden. The timeline and character sheets are usually things I use in the editing process to check for consistency, not when I'm actually writing


message 47: by Hayden (new)

Hayden Linder (haydendlinder) | 85 comments Oh yeah. I could totally use that. I guess the last paragraph about how to plot a story was the part that struck me as a problem for me.

I'm not a rules guy.


message 48: by Neil (new)

Neil MacDonald | 8 comments Okay. I understand that more. I don't mean that I necessarily plot a story out in advance, but that I try to keep aware of the components of a story arc, and make sure, again in editing, that I've covered them. I have a tendency to miss out the denoument part and end stories too abruptly.

That said, I did, as an experiment, plot out the whole book I'm working on now using a template of eight stages. Needless to say, though it was helpful, I didn't stick to it. The story went where it wanted to and the template ended up just being a loose guide as always


message 49: by S. (new)

S. McPherson (smcphersonbooks) | 7 comments Neil wrote: "As a new member of this group, I really liked this thread. There are some great ideas and tools here. I'm employing a McGuffin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin), similar to a red-herring, in..."

I love the character form and good idea to help keep track of traits and their direction. It's what I've started doing on odd pieces of paper. A spreadsheet sounds much more orderly!


message 50: by S. (new)

S. McPherson (smcphersonbooks) | 7 comments Neil wrote: "Okay. I understand that more. I don't mean that I necessarily plot a story out in advance, but that I try to keep aware of the components of a story arc, and make sure, again in editing, that I've ..."

Lately I always plan the stages of my stories out, jotting down funny scenes; quotes I would like to add in. It becomes a blueprint and then my writing kind of tumbles over it. I find that I finish the main story much quicker and more efficiently allowing more time for embellishments and any changes the characters suggest.


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