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Miscellaneous questions...

Posted Jan 1, '13 at 8:12pm

Kasic

Kasic

5,734 posts

For a while now I've been thinking about writing my own book (that isn't what I want to discuss btw) and I had a few questions on opinions about various parts.

First person or Third person? I've read plenty of books with both and characters can have the same amount of depth in either. Which do you think feels more involved with the story though, being told how the character feels (third person) or reading the thoughts of the character directly (first person)?

How critical are you about minor details (such as exact passage of time in a conversation, sun position during the year, what stars would be visible, travel time) that are general things and how picky are you with fictional concepts or devices (for example, if someone had a laser gun, would you need to be told exactly what is being shot and where the heat resulting from that goes or would you not care)?

Do cliched sayings bother you, or do you find them humorous? What about characters that know what they're saying is cliched and acknowledge it? I personally don't mind cliches (not that I plan to use them a lot).

Pace of the novel. This one seems to me to be the most tricky. Do you prefer the characters to constantly be dealing with something, or do you like seeing how they act in down moments too? What if they are traveling, how much do you want to know of what happened, even if it wasn't all that important to the overall plot? Things like that.

Level of detail. Another thing I'm split on. I personally enjoy a lot of detail as to what the characters actions are while talking, their surroundings and what not. What do you think?

I'm not looking for advice on how to write or anything like that, I'm pretty well versed I think. This is me looking for what other people think of certain aspects in writing and a discussion on why they prefer one over another.

 

Posted Jan 1, '13 at 8:42pm

Freakenstein

Freakenstein

9,238 posts

Moderator

The choices of First Person and Third Person depend on "how much at once you want the readers to know". You probably already know that in Third Person, there are two types which are omniscient and limited, omniscient meaning the narrator knows all that occurs, and limited meaning the knowledge unfolds as the story progresses. With First Person, the author is limited even further, only allowing one character to possess and reveal knowledge in his/her perspective. The tough part is determining which perspective would be best with your story, and only yourself can come to that conclusion. So my advice for anyone is to choose your perspective based on how much information you want to give out and withhold and priority of characters you wish to dole out.

The story that I have been (slugishly) working on is Limited Third Person, which means I can give out perspectives of all characters and reveal information a little at a time, even explore scenes away from main characters to let only the readers and other characters possess it, leaving other characters in the dark. Harry Potter does this a lot, what with the forced third eye that looks into the business dealings of Voldemort.

Whenever I come across a story in the AMW and decide to read another story someone else has graciously decided to show to us, a glaring flaw I see all the time is the amount of detail they labor to add into describing their environment, which is very little. That being said, there is a such thing as "too much"; you don't want to be overly autistic as to exaggerate and asphyxiate your story with paragraphs upon paragraphs of what is taking place in the first few minutes. Otherwise, your story will become the mixture of JRR Tolkien and The Borrowers inside a hoarder's mansion. My belief is that it will delay plot progression and just plain bore your readers to tears.

Although I prefer for a story to be quicker in pace, my last two chapters of Paragon don't have that feeling yet. I still need to look over those two to see if I really did add too much trivial detail to it. You want the reader to be immersed in what's taking place, though you don't want to shell out "everyone and their mothers' trees with the number of leaves sprouting and the amount of sap each crevice contains five minutes ago". So for me, (although such a thing hasn't really happened yet in Paragon) it's important to know when something is at ease and when something is becoming intense so you know when you can broaden the amount of detail or to speed things up. Because when characters are at ease, they are more prone to examine more around them than when they are attacking a pack of wild animals.

I hope to see other writers in here giving their 17 cents; this is a thread I'm going to enjoy if that's the case.

Cliches don't bother me, though

 

Posted Jan 1, '13 at 8:56pm

Kasic

Kasic

5,734 posts

With First Person, the author is limited even further, only allowing one character to possess and reveal knowledge in his/her perspective.


Not necessarily, if you switch between character perspectives at clear intervals. Like each chapter, or a divided within the chapter. Although that might get confusing for some people...

, which means I can give out perspectives of all characters and reveal information a little at a time, even explore scenes away from main characters to let only the readers and other characters possess it, leaving other characters in the dark.


In my experience, all of the best books I have read do not look at the story from only one person's view. It stagnates fast.

That being said, there is a such thing as "too much";


I definitely agree. Best example I have for "too much" is the early Wheel of Time books. They go on and on and on about the environment/clothing of people and get quite repetitive, often telling you a lot more than you thought that you didn't care to know.

I prefer for a story to be quicker in pace,


One element I've noticed that I really like is for it to vary in speed. Having periods of intense action and then downtime keeps my interest better than constantly having things happen or a long buildup.
 

Posted Jan 2, '13 at 12:43am

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

9,700 posts

For detail...you can make it work by just giving the season and time of day (like A Farewell to Arms)...but a lot of times, for classical books anyways, details usually have deeper meanings than what they come off as. Something as simple as the colour of a persons shirt could be a representation of how they live their life

For cliches...if you are going to use them (and this is just me personally)..but just make sure they work. Don't just put in cliches to have cliches. And what type of cliches do you have planned? There is a difference between cliche and themes/motifs (also..you can have multiple themes and motifs...some people have a mindset of you can only have one for some reason..)

One element I've noticed that I really like is for it to vary in speed. Having periods of intense action and then downtime keeps my interest better than constantly having things happen or a long buildup.


I agree. A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind with this...at some parts we have a fairly quick pace with what is happening (example: fight scene between Madam Defarge and Miss Pross and) and other times it is a relatively slow pace (example: Carton grieving about self...Doctor Manette's letter)
 

Posted Jan 2, '13 at 1:45am

EmperorPalpatine

EmperorPalpatine

9,436 posts

How critical are you about minor details (such as exact passage of time in a conversation, sun position during the year, what stars would be visible, travel time) that are general things

I'd keep it simple. A setting with basic elements, a bit of feeling, just enough to give the reader a general idea of the tone, maybe a touch more. As Cobb said, "You are the dreamer: you build this world. I am the subject: my mind populates it." "Only use details: a streetlamp or a phone booth - never entire areas." "The more you change things, the quicker the projections start to converge on you." Let the reader fill it with their own thoughts. Give a vibrant premise, but don't overdo it or it becomes too shaped by the writer. People tend to hate that when it feels like too much, which is why the settings of children's books tend to be very loose. Openness forces the reader to add their own details and interpretations, but do consider the comprehension of your audience, as most enjoy a bit of detail/direction (ex: "In a jungle, an ape slept." vs "The dense canopy of leaves overhead blotted out the sun's rays, while creatures below its lush tapestry scurried about. Overhead, a kookaburra bellowed, yet even this was not enough to disturb the deep slumber of Kulu, the mightiest silverback of his troop."). Don't add too many extra things unless they're symbolic, forshadowing, or later relevant to the plot.

Level of detail. Another thing I'm split on. I personally enjoy a lot of detail as to what the characters actions are while talking, their surroundings and what not.

I like a decent amount of detail. I suppose it depends on your intended audience and what type of event is happening. Base it on how much detail is essential to the plot and go from there, because anything else is filler (ex: an 'implied intimacy' vs '50 shades of grey;), but filler can be good.

Not necessarily, if you switch between character perspectives at clear intervals. Like each chapter, or a divided within the chapter.

I'd rather have that in the 3rd person. There tend to be far too many 'I's in 1st. It gets annoying.

In my experience, all of the best books I have read do not look at the story from only one person's view. It stagnates fast.

A 1st person from the perspective of one who isn't really a main character is often the best way around this without going to 3rd person. In The Great Gatsby, for example, the narration often feels like 3rd because the character usually has that sort of 'fly on the wall' position.

(for example, if someone had a laser gun, would you need to be told exactly what is being shot and where the heat resulting from that goes or would you not care)?

It depends. Perhaps if it were an important plot scene, such as a sniper assassinating an official, or the first shot in a standoff, but if it's a broader perspective of an ongoing battle, then it could be ignored.

Do cliched sayings bother you, or do you find them humorous?

They tend to only work well when said by wise old guys who understand deeper meanings behind them. And tailor it to the era/location.

Having periods of intense action and then downtime keeps my interest better than constantly having things happen or a long buildup.

That's good, but sometimes it's nice to break it up a bit. I'd add some suspense, keeping the reader uncertain of when/if something will happen next, and i'd make each side event have a decent role in the plot instead of "Look, we've got 4 or 5 of the main characters on this ship. I think we'll be fine." Although making the audience jump is nearly impossible in text form, you can get close. Perhaps in a fantasy setting, the adventurers unknowingly became surrounded while taking a path in the woods. Midsentence, one is shot in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt and a raspy voice from an unseen source rings out, "Another step, and the next one goes through your skull!" The intensity of the situation is immediate and the reader never saw it coming.
 

Posted Jan 2, '13 at 4:06am

Masterforger

Masterforger

1,856 posts

Depends on the story, but I am no genius. I think if you want to write something with a lot of mystery, it's better to go first person because you won't reveal as much. That's not to say you can't write mystery with third person, of course.

Third person lets you describe a lot more, i.e. when a character/s walk into a fantasy world and you really want to give the reader an idea of what it looks like, or the feel. And you can still use things like "his heart skipped a beat" for suspense. 3p also lets you switch around the characters better, as Palpatine said. But it all revolves around the story and the feeling you want.

 

Posted Mar 12, '14 at 8:31pm

kylefitch1

kylefitch1

111 posts

I'd say third person, not super critical, I would not care(laser gun), cliches are fine as long as they're not overused, and in my humble opinion, NEVER use 'Wait, what?' or any bad creature called 'Creeper.' It could be a good guy, but 'Wait, what?' and evil 'Creepers' are TOTALLY overused(IMHO). Give the readers some insight into what the characters are like when they aren't facing danger, which tends to bring out the best or the worst in people. Let the reader look into the characters' lives, maybe provide a little backstory in the form of a character's memories. And the detail, it all depends. If you're in a beautiful setting and you want to convey that beauty, if it's complex beauty, you'd need more details. But if it was simple, just like... the sun shining through leaves and making a golden glow on the grass beneath, then you'd want fewer details. It's the same with any other setting. But dull settings that aren't too exciting don't need details at all, really. Just a few simple ones, like if they're in a village, and the houses are all made of wood, you could just say that. There really isn't much else to say.

All this is in my humble opinion as a fellow writer.

Good luck!

 
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