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SharonBell
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« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2005, 04:45:56 PM »

And, I suppose every story should do all of the above?  scratch I give up NOW!  Cheesy
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JoyceCarter
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« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2005, 05:39:43 PM »

Yah, Sharon, you do all that by instinct anyway!  grin
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Ed
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« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2005, 06:04:08 PM »

Thanks for the list, Chef - interesting to see it all broken down like that.  It makes a good check list for when you're editing a short story.   afro

I'm not sure that I agree that a character has to have an emotional reversal, though - not simply from happy to sad or vice versa anyway - it seems a bit twee somehow.  I think sometimes it can be just as engaging to have a character change and then revert to type, because of something that happens to disillusion them or cheer them along the way.  What do you reckon? scratch
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« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2005, 06:53:50 PM »

I just posted that cos peeps was posting plot list stuff.

I think I used the plot skeleton once and ended up with a short story that was 14,000 words long (not that short then). 

The different listy stuff is from a couple of different sources too, just saved on the same word doc.

Not sure about the emotinal reversal stuff, I haven't broken any short stories down into scenes to see if published writers do it or not, I'm pretty sure I don't, not knowingly anyway. I do know it's a pretty common device in sitcoms though.

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Missy
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« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2005, 07:05:07 PM »

Sorry, I've just noticed this. My books still haven't come!
I did manage to lift myself out of the 'not being able to write' thing, but only for a few days. It has just taken me two days to write 400 words.  embarassed
I'm not short on ideas at the moment, I've got some stonkers loafing about, but I can't make the words come out how I want them to, so I'm leaving them alone for the time being.
I suppose it happens to everyone and the best thing is just to keep writing drivel until you get out of it.
I am going to print Chef of Doom's list off and keep it pinned to the wall next to me!
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Ed
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« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2005, 07:14:29 PM »

 grin  14,000 word short - I've been well on my way to one of those before.  Thing is, you know absolutely nobody could be bothered to crit it, no matter how good it was.  Shame, really scratch

Common advice is that the character should go through a change, because of the events described, which can be good, but some characters can't be (permenantly) changed and still be believable, IMO.  I think it is important to see changes from beginning to end, though.  Even if it's just a change of circumstances.

It would be interesting to get hold of a recognised good quality short and dissect it, match it up to the list and see where it comes out.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2005, 07:15:19 PM »

Hi, Missy afro 

I know that feeling well huh
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
SharonBell
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« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2005, 07:31:26 PM »

Oy! Are these new blue skins I see?  dance
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« Reply #23 on: November 30, 2005, 05:17:12 AM »

Nah, the optician gave you the wrong lenses, I expect. Wink

Missy, if you mentally agree to the 'thing' that's saying you can't write anything, you're feeding it and making it stronger.  You may be able to bypass it by a technique I learnt from the playwrights who tutored us at university - have a regular time of day, which you WON'T allow to be set aside for anything, sit down, and WRITE.  Don't worry about content, although if an idea for fiction crops up, that's fine.  Start in with anything - what's in the room with you, what you can hear from outside, how you're feeling, the fact that the neighbour's music is annoying you, you've got an itch on your big toe - and KEEP GOING no matter what, until you've been writing for the target you set yourself.  That could be a number of words, or it could be a number of physical pages, or an amount of time.  But whichever, you DO NOT STOP WRITING even if you're fumbling for a word or thought - you keep the words flowing even if they're, 'I can't think of the flaming word, I know it begins with a g and it's not galvanised or gelled or groovy or Goliath but it's in there somewhere and I can't think what to write and I still can't think of it and I don't know what to write I don't know what to write I don't know what to write it's really annoying but I'm going to  leave it and my cornflakes went all soggy at breakfast why does Dad always phone up when I'm in the middle of something'  and so on.  The content is not the point (although occasionally a nugget does crop up that you can pick out later and use).  What matters is that you're reclaiming the power to write pages and pages, and disproving the 'I can't' monster.  Also, there often is an element of writing out the drivel, sometimes within one session and sometimes over a longer time.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2005, 09:21:11 AM by JoyceCarter » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: November 30, 2005, 08:02:24 AM »

Thing is, you know absolutely nobody could be bothered to crit it, no matter how good it was.  Shame, really scratch

Yeah, never had it critted, had a few peeps read and comment though at a couple of sites. It's a comedic fantasy story, I've sent it off to Black Gate Magazine, not too confident as fantasy comedy doesn't seem that popular - the Prathcett backlash no doubt, or maybe he's cornered the market so well nobodey else need apply.

Missy, I think going through a slump is natural I'm in one at the moment, only managed a measely 7,000 odd words this month.

I think Joyce is right, the only way out of it is to just grit yer teeth and write through it, I'm determined to try and get 500 words a day done next month and Christmas can go spin. (BTW are you the same Missy from BC? If so hallo!)

Blue skin Sharon? Was it something you ate?  confused
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« Reply #25 on: November 30, 2005, 09:53:54 AM »

Good advice, Joyce, thanks.
I am going to start that tomorrow!
I'm annoyed because I took part in this Children in Need flash challenge and I managed to write for that, although I did have a mate on the end of MSN who kept telling me to shut up and get on with it!
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« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2008, 10:38:29 PM »

In 1921 George Polti published his 36 Dramatic Situations, in which he declares that there are no new plots, merely variations on these themes. Initial revulsion at the notion settles down to a modified acceptance. Luckily it is often not so much the originality of a plot that matters but how you tell the story, bring alive the characters, and keep the reader eager!

The headings of Polti's "situations" are:


1.   Supplication
2.   Deliverance
3.   Vengeance of a crime
4.   Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
5.   Pursuit
6.   Disaster
7.   Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
8.   Revolt
9.   Daring enterprise
10.   Abduction
11.   The Enigma
12.   Obtaining
13.   Enmity of kinsmen
14.   Rivalry of kinsmen
15.   Murderous adultery
16.   Madness
17.   Fatal imprudence
18.   Involuntary crimes of love
19.   Slaying of a kinsman unrecognised
20.   Self-sacrificing for an ideal
21.   Self-sacrifice for kindred
22.   All sacrificed for a passion
23.   Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
24.   Rivalry of superior and inferior
25.   Adultery
26.   Crimes of love
27.   Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
28.   Obstacles to love
29.   An enemy loved
30.   Ambition
31.   Conflict with a god
32.   Mistaken jealousy
33.   Erroneous judgement
34.   Remorse
35.   Recovery of a lost one
36.   Loss of loved ones

You could say that some are so encompassing that no wonder it is difficult to be inventive.

Geoff

I found this site and something was naggingly familiar about it -- lo an behold, Geoff's list here is the same, though I hadn't remembered Polti, the name of the guy who came up with the list. This website has a 37th item: Mistaken identity. The site is set up to be a prompt: every time you log on or refresh the page, it will give you one of the 37 dramatic situations at random, and then you can choose from 37 categories for ideas on subplots, and each of those categories has another 3-7 ideas listed.

There's also something that generates random science fiction story ideas. There are different categories: Characters, Jobs, Emotions, Items, Descriptors, Places, Events. You get a word off a list in each category whenever you push a button, but if you don't like the word or if you want to add another, you can push the button as many times as you want.

It doesn't help with figuring out a character with depth, or a conflict as the basis of a plot, or a "fatal flaw" for your character to deal with -- you have to do all that on your own. It just gives you some lego pieces with different shapes, and hopefully that gets you going in a particular direction. When I clicked through it, I got:

Characters: Being of Energy
Jobs: Starship crew
Emotions: earnest
Items: trumpet
Descriptors: Incomprehensible
Places: at sea
Events: Someone/thing dies

Hunh. All I could think of was the list Sharon posted the link for, the one about science fiction cliches, and the only images in my head were of Data learning to play a trumpet while on vacation on a beach resort ...? I think I have been reading that cliche list too much.

Or maybe I haven't been looking closely enough at it.

~bint
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SharonBell
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« Reply #27 on: March 31, 2008, 11:33:46 PM »

Bint, this is too funny. We now have a computer-generator PLOT-O-RAMA (or similar name). In days of yore, pulp fiction writers had a little wheel they could spin, and the arrow would point to a new situation and a new plot point. What's the expression? "The more things change, the more they remain the same?" Just different technology.  grin

Ahoy there maties, look what I found! Wycliffe Hill's The Plot Genie (1931) http://thepulp.net/PulpCompanion/03summer/hill.html and its friendly companion, PLOTTO! http://thepulp.net/PulpCompanion/03summer/cook.html
« Last Edit: March 31, 2008, 11:38:59 PM by SharonBell » Logged

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Ed
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« Reply #28 on: April 01, 2008, 03:24:56 AM »

Heh - what chance do you stand when your prompt generator unwittingly spits out cliches? grin That's one of the problems with writing sci-fi. Pretty much everything has been covered by now, and some things have been done to death. Same with horror, really. All you can do is try to find a new twist to an old tale and do a good job with your characters. The more real you make them, the harder you make their lives, the more interesting they tend to become smiley
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« Reply #29 on: April 01, 2008, 06:08:32 AM »

And therein lies the rub. Whenever you read guidelines, originality and coming-up-with-something-new are always high on the list, and, as Ed said about Borderlands:

Quote
... there was a story at Borderlands ... but the story is awfully familiar, and for that reason 99% of editors won't touch it. He went on to say if you're a good writer but can't come up with an original story, then you're in trouble, and that rings true to me. In genre especially, I think we like to see something new all the time, rather than a re-telling of an old story.

yet at the same time:

Quote
That's one of the problems with writing sci-fi. Pretty much everything has been covered by now, and some things have been done to death. Same with horror, really. All you can do is try to find a new twist to an old tale and do a good job with your characters. The more real you make them, the harder you make their lives, the more interesting they tend to become

I think Ed's hit the nail on the head, it's all about characters and making them real and interesting and sympathetic and ensuring that their situation is dramatic and difficult. On top of this, the familiar situations (because they will be familiar) can be given subtle twists and perspective changes to at least give a new take on the old themes.

I also think it's vitally important to take your own life experience and ideas, beliefs and attitudes, concerns and outrages, etc etc about the world and to try and use all of this to shine a different light on any given story to that which any other author could do. This way, even a story that contains something so unoriginal as, say, a vampire or a werewolf or a serial killer, can come over as fresh and original. When your readers say "Hmm, I never thought of it like that before," you know you're doing something right.

On the other hand, there may be some brand new ideas out there that we've simply not thought of yet, just the same way there might be a new colour out there that no one's seen...

Cheers,
Del
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