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CN"S Guide to Writing
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:24 pm    Post subject: Re: CN"S Guide to Writing Reply with quote

jdalton wrote:
Hey, man. I could totally write a space ship battle set in Mesoamerica where the Jaguar Warriors (which are Aztec, not Mayan) wind up in Han Dynasty China, 1500 years into their past. Don't cramp my style. Razz


I honestly believe you could pull that off, JD, and I would pay to watch you do it if I had money.

But yeah, on topic, fantastic advice Mr Notice. I never really thought about the "bit part characters: props or characters?" thing before. It's something to think about when I eventually start writing my second novel.
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Metruis
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thestripedone wrote:
Excellent. It's always good to see people touting the importance of good writing.

Personally, I'm a fan of "know what you write" over "write what you know," if only because if I only wrote what I knew my stuff would be very very boring. Razz

If I wrote what I know I'd have to write about a teenage girl who sits on the computer, cleans toilets and occasionally laughs at video game jokes even though she hasn't played the game.

It would be very boring.

I think this is why fantasy is often so popular as you don't actually NEED to research like crazy. Sure, it's good to know your history and geography so you're not making a really crazy place and you have realistic politics and whatever... but ultimately, you can just say MAGIC.

One of the biggest points I disagreed with, though, was 'don't write space opera unless you know these things'. No. Space OPERA is fine. Hard sci-fi isn't. Space opera is a more Star Wars sort of genre and the payoff is not the intensive study of realistic sciences and theories, unlike hard sci-fi where the payoff IS knowing that the author put twelves weeks of study into advanced physics and quantum mechanics to write those two paragraphs on his engines. There's several variations of science fiction, and the intense knowledge of science actually, in my opinion, kills some of them. Star Wars would be dead to me the moment they started using science to explain the Forc--oh.

Same with fantasy. If you're going to write steampunk, chances are you ought to do some serious study on steam mechanics, as the world's only half magic and half technology. Bastardized technology! Just like, to write urban fantasy, depending on your setting and plot, you might want to study cities and crimes and whatnot. To write Lord of the Rings, you'd want to start studying history.

Writing what you know is all good and dandy until you realize that's probably why there's an obsessive amount of gamer on a couch comics.

Write what you have the potential to know. Know what you write. If it's an invented world, know what you're writing. But don't overwhelm your readers with it. Granted, I have pages written up on the Ekaeli language, even more pages written on the Malchani race, pages on the theories of Maldlahin, but all my readers NEED to know is that 'this language is spoken by these people and used to cast magic' 'these people have pointy ears and get drunk fast' 'Maldlahin are ELEMENTAL THINGIES. STOP ASKING!'

Create something to know before you write it, if necessary. That's the big key of fantasy. You don't necessarily need a language or a map or twelve pages on the key characteristics defining the Malchani race and their history. But maybe it'll help. For me, it does.

There's no one way to make a setting. It's certainly not 'write what you know'. If you feel you need to spend three years in college to learn everything possible about quantam mechanics before ever writing your story, go for it! I'm satisfied just knowing 'okay, great, but how can I make it explode?'

There is an unfortunate lack of writing tutorials for webcomics, alas.
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Metruis wrote:
I think this is why fantasy is often so popular as you don't actually NEED to research like crazy. Sure, it's good to know your history and geography so you're not making a really crazy place and you have realistic politics and whatever... but ultimately, you can just say MAGIC.


I have done far more research for my fantasies than I have for my science fiction.

And this in spite the fact that I wrote a hard science fiction story that ended up in an anthology that won an award for science writing. (See banner.)

In fact, the idea for that hard science fiction story came to me, WHILE I was doing research for a fantasy story.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
A short plot summary[/b]—this doesn't need to be detailed, but it should be right there on the first page so you are always reminded, the minute you open the bible, where you want to go.


Some writers can't write anything that they have already summarized. It triggers "already told" syndrome.

Patricia C. Wrede always has an outline... but she *never* manages to follow it. (The Star Wars novelizations are exempted from this rule because they were someone else's story.)

Pesonally I'm ambidextrous on outlines. Sometimes I write with, sometimes without. If anything, my endings are stronger when I write without.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You need to know enough about something, whether you experienced it yourself or whether you researched it, to make it *believeable*. If it's not believeable, the only people who will enjoy that bit of writing are those who know very little about the topic.

Say you know very little about computers. You can have a comic where computers don't appear, or appear very peripherally and that would work. Or you could figure out what role computers play in our society or people would like them to play and you could create a world that's clearly different from ours where you have computers fulfilling these functions but in a different way from real life, and if you did that consistently then it would also probably work. But the second you tried to write gags about real technology, you'd fall flat on your face because you don't have the knowledge to make it believeable.
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ttallan wrote:
What I find interesting, though, and would love to discuss, is how the writing process differs between the more traditional novel and a comic. I'm not really a novelist even though that was my original goal-- I never completed a novel. But some of you out there have... do you find writing for comics very different? I've got plot outlines and character bibles and scripts by chapter and all these things ready to construct my story, but when it gets down to laying it on the page I often find I need to alter it to make it work better with the pictures. Or maybe I'll just come up with a better idea. I know this happens all the time when you're writing novels, but if you change your mind mid-novel you can always go back and fix the earlier bits. You can make a new draft. But you really can't do that with a comic. Even if you're not publishing each new page at a time, going back and making major adjustments is out of the question. After you've invested that much time in making the first draft, you're not going to do it over*.


Writing for comics is much much much shorter. I doubt that my 240 page comic epic would get me more than 40K words in prose format. But creating the actual artwork takes much much much longer. (At least for me. I guess that guy who does Groo doesn't have that problem?)

First I scripted, then I storyboarded, and now I'm doing the actual art, and then I plan to revise. Scent of Spring's going to get an extra step where I do the coloring. That's an extra step (or two) compared to when I'm writing prose... but it's not more steps than some other writers I know use.


And yes, I've been making changes at every stage so far. And I plan to go back and make more changes, when I've finished this stage.

I doubt there will be any major changes to the plotline, though. That's largely because I never do have major changes to my plots. Whatever story I end up with the first time through, I seem to be stuck with. But also, I've been trying to get feedback at every stage of the process. I talk people into reading the script. I bribe people to look over the storyboards... I hope to be hunting down betareaders for the Scent of Spring pencils by this time next year. By the time the story goes live, I ought to know exactly what is and what is not wrong with it, and have decided that I can live with it as it stands.

(Just to get an idea of how much changing I do, for Black Flag I added one entire chapter when I went from script to storyboard, and another entire chapter after I had people read the storyboards. I think I've rewritten over half the dialog, and it looks like I'll be doing some major rewrites to the first chapter at the very least, now that I've had people looking at the actual art.) :shrug:

I'm... um... not noticing that I'm having that much problem keeping track of details. I think maybe because of the way I work all the way through the story beginning to end at each step?
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Metruis
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
Metruis wrote:
If I wrote what I know I'd have to write about a teenage girl who sits on the computer, cleans toilets and occasionally laughs at video game jokes even though she hasn't played the game.

I wrote:
that doesn't mean that if you're a high school kid living in Northfield Minnesota that you should only write about high school in the Minneapolis suburbs. But it does mean you should make an effort to understand your subject as much as possible.


I'm not seeing a conflict.

I didn't see a conflict either, and I didn't say it, I was just expanding on the topic. Must this thread be 'and we all listen to what Casual Notice has to say and say nothing about what we think about writing advice in general'? Crying or Very sad
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Metruis wrote:
I didn't see a conflict either, and I didn't say it, I was just expanding on the topic. Must this thread be 'and we all listen to what Casual Notice has to say and say nothing about what we think about writing advice in general'? Crying or Very sad


Can't be. That would mean, at the very least, keeping the thread on topic. And when do we ever keep a thread on topic?
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

haikucomics wrote:
munkymu wrote:
You need to know enough about something, whether you experienced it yourself or whether you researched it, to make it *believeable*. If it's not believeable, the only people who will enjoy that bit of writing are those who know very little about the topic.


Agreed. But what is believable? The shoe only fit the foot of Cinderella. The wolf convinced Red Riding Hood that he was her grandmother. Only Arthur could pull the sword from the stone.


Children know very little about reality, so that sort of thing goes over reasonably well with them. When was the last time you read Cinderella for entertainment?

But there is a pretty variable range of what people will consider believeable or not. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief quite a bit, if the things that are *really* important to the story hang together well -- and that's usually the characterization, as jdalton said. Other people can't read fantasy at all -- the slightest bit of it makes them unable to enjoy the book. I might be willing to ignore some gaps in computer knowledge if the family comic does the family dynamic really well, but I'd never let it slide in a comic that makes technology its focus.

I think there's two things: if you don't know much about ninjas... well, that's okay. Nobody else knows much about ninjas either. Who's to say they aren't really giant alligators living in the sewers? I've never been down there. But if you try to fake, say, writing about sex and you're a virgin with an aversion to research, you're going to make a fool of yourself and just about everyone over the age of 20 will be able to call you on it.

The other thing is that if you don't know a whole lot about something, you're going to be lacking a lot of filler detail. You're going to be working a lot harder to fill in all those little details that create atmosphere and make the world more real. I mostly deal with this in art -- all those little things one observes that come together to make a picture better. Like seams on clothing, texture on wood or metal, being able to make plants look different from one another... people might say that sort of thing doesn't matter, but it can make a big difference in how people perceive the comic. And if you just KNOW all this stuff, you can get on with showing it instead of wasting time making up snergs because you don't know anything about horses.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2009 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

haikucomics wrote:

Charles Schultz
Shel Silverstein
Edward Gorey
George Herriman

vs.

Norman Rockwell
Will Elder
Katsuhiro Otomo
Frank Frazetta


You're confusing "detailed" and "realistic". Shel Silverstein and Edward Gorey have a ton of detail in their work, their work just happens to be highly stylized.

I mean, look at this:

http://www.adventureadvocate.gr/html/interviews/images/Edward%20Gorey.jpg

I can tell the man is wearing a fur over his tuxedo jacket and the folds in the curtains work. The drawing isn't photorealistic, which you seem to think is necessary to be believeable, but it's obvious that Gorey knows what tuxes and furs and balconies and curtains look like.

Same with Shel Silverstein:

http://therhetoric.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/shelsilverstein_195803_russia.jpg

I wish I'd picked up his book of the cartoons he did for Playboy while travelling, actually. I've seen some pretty good stuff in there, but now I can't find any of it online.

I'm not sure I've ever seen any artists I'd consider great who didn't demonstrate great observation skills in at least some of their pictures. Even in very stylized cartoons, you can't make people believe that something's a dog if you don't include the features and proportions that say "dog" to people. Trying to do it without understanding -- without, at least, studying how other artists abstract dogs -- is like trying to win the lottery. Might happen, but it's not something I'd base my retirement plans around.
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps not, but if you're writing about a main character who's a mechanic, then you need to know enough about cars and problems the character might come across to write it well. Similarly, if you're writing a story set in a clothing shop, you need to have at least a basic understanding of how clothes look when hanging up or folded, and probably some reference photos too, in order to draw it convincingly. I think this is when everyone has been getting at: a basic understanding of this stuff is okay if that's all you need, but if you need the detail and make it up instead, unless it's obvious it's not meant to be real - like, say, Miyazaki's flying machines, to use an example I've experienced recently - then it's going to fall apart under even casual scrutiny.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

haikucomics wrote:

Detail in art was being used as an analogy to research in writing. That is, what was being said was that to draw a pair of pants, one needs to understand how different types of fabrics fold, where seams are, etc., just as to write about a car engine dying one must first understand how an internal combustion engine works, what belts do, and what the purpose of the various fluids are.


See, I think you're reading too much into this "research" thing. Nobody is saying you need to know how an internal combustion engine works in order to write about a car dying in the desert. What they are saying is that you ought to have some knowledge of what being in a hot car that's not going anywhere feels like. Nobody's saying you have to know the difference between cotton and linen to draw a pair of pants. But if you put the folds every which freaking way, it's not going to look like a pair of pants. That's true whether you have four lines or fifty.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
You don't get to write a space opera without understanding at least the basics of Newtonian physics (actually, you'd be better off fully understanding Newtonian physics, with a basic grounding in Quantum physics and some small grasp of String and Chaos Theory).
[/quote]

I think CN's full of it there. I don't think anyone needs to have any grasp on String Theory, possibly including the physicists. Although I think Stephen R. Donaldson did get a bunch of mail about his terrible science in The Gap Cycle so YMMV.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
munkymu wrote:
I think CN's full of it there. I don't think anyone needs to have any grasp on String Theory, possibly including the physicists.


I said you'd be better off with a some knowledge of those concepts. What I said you have to have a basic understanding of was Newtonian Physics. Seriously, I don't expect anyone to hold a doctor of Physics, but it helps improve a story if the author knows that pushing forward pushes you back.


So basically, we've all spent 5 pages arguing about nothing.

Situation normal!
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Beertycoon
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

CN, I'm glad that despite the hefty discussion you continue with this serie. Will you be posting it on your own website too?
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