Cafe Doom

The Critique Crypt => General writing chat => Topic started by: delboy on August 29, 2013, 03:06:00 AM

Title: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: delboy on August 29, 2013, 03:06:00 AM
I've spent a lot of time over the last few years thinking about, and reading about, story. By that I mean what actually drives a narrative from a dramatic perspective. It's all rather simple, really: someone wants something, someone else (or something else) wants to stop them, and away we go. There are other elements such as ensuring that the characters can't simply walk away from the situation, and that they're pro-active not re-active, that characters change as a result of the events etc etc. But in essence it's that simple. In fact, everything I've learned with all this reading and analyising can be summed up in that last sentence - so it looks like I wasted a couple of years!  :bangh:  Heh. But nevertheless, I've read a lot of awful books that were still unputdownable because the set-ups were so strong. It now feels to me like there are two main pillars to this fictioneering malarky = #1 learning how to write and #2 learning how to tell a story. Some folks get by on being very good at just one of the two, some are lucky enough to major in both. Go into Tesco and look at the popular books and there are a lot of very good story-tellers - which tells us something about what the modern market wants.

Anyway, I sense that all this work is just starting to pay-off. Discovered that I'm now beginning to think a little more dramatically than I used to - starting to naturally think this way, I should say, rather than having to force myself to consider such things.

That's all.
Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: delboy on August 30, 2013, 03:55:19 AM
And just to add to this vital debate... read a very interesting observation by William Goldman yesterday. He was talking about the occasion when he was hired to write the screenplay of Maverick. He figured it would be easy - he'd just watch the old episodes of the TV series, pick one which was a bit over-heavy with plot and use that as the basis for the full-length movie.

But Goldman ran into trouble - he discovered that story-telling (at least on TV) had changed a lot in the intervening years and watching the old TV shows gave him nothing to work with. Maverick was, he said, a very passive character, some stuff happened to him, but really there was very little plot at all. So Goldman had to start from scratch with a story that would meet the (then) generation's expectation of what story-telling was all about.

This was a generation ago - I can't help but feel the trend has continued.
Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: marc_chagall on August 30, 2013, 04:10:28 AM
Good point with the whole active v. passive thing. I'm sure this is the main reason why so many old TV series feel lame now even though they were much enjoyed at the time. The ones that have worn well, like the Avengers or Mission Impossible series have very active protagonists. The ones that keep being reincarnated with success are those based on active heroes - Sherlock Holmes being a prime example.

I've been reinventing myself as a short story writer recently, and have realised that passive main characters has been a major failing in my writing - I get so tied up with the poetry and texture of the writing itself, I forget my protagonists have to DO something. If stuff simply happens to them, there's no story. :idiot:
Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: Ed on September 02, 2013, 05:59:48 AM
I'm now on the third book of my holiday. The first was Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynne, which was a mystery. It was OK, but I felt cheated by the narrator not telling me things I ought to have known sooner, and by several improbabilities that didn't sit right with me. In this, the protagonist was very much on the back foot, purely because of circumstances. He's pretty helpless until much later in the story, and when he finally acts to save himself it's all a bit, meh. The second was The Racketeer, by Grisham, which I found a tad tedious -- not enough challenges for the protagonist, and again, vital parts of the story are withheld to create false tension. Lastly, I'm reading The Face, by Koontz. There's plenty going on, murders galore, odd occurrences, etc., but I'm finding it slow because there's too much physical description for my tastes, and it's loaded with similes and descriptions of rainy weather, which is getting quite repetitive. I much preferred the plain language of Grisham. That aside, I think Koontz, despite the unlikely nature of what he's writing about, has written the 'story' in a better way than the other two. The gradual reveal of the situation is accompanied by proactive characters trying to alter their destiny. It's this that keeps me reading.

Now I've read all this stuff it's making me itch to write some more. Let's hope I can make a bit of time for it when I get back home.
Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: desertwomble on September 02, 2013, 06:09:49 AM
Alas, gloom settled over Ed like English precipitation.

DW :cheesy:
Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: delboy on September 02, 2013, 11:33:15 AM
Never really got into Koontz. I've tried many a time but there's just something about his style that doesn't work for me. Recently read a book of his called Intensity that was highly recommended in book on writing. Alas, for me, it was anything but intense. However I suspect, given the number of books he's written and sold, that the problem is me.

Anyway, come and join "The Writing Again" club, Ed  :cheers:

Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: Ed on September 04, 2013, 03:13:09 AM
I'll try, for sure. First day back and my head is already cluttered with other things I have to do by deadlines, so it isn't going to be easy, but if I can keep this itching to write something feeling going then I'm half way there. Where there's a will, and all that.
Title: Re: Where's the story, the drama?
Post by: delboy on September 04, 2013, 06:06:33 AM
Sounds like the title of an Agatha Christie mystery; "Where There's a Will..."