This is topic Taking A Class From OSC in forum Discussions About Orson Scott Card at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I'm a student at Southern Virginia University, I'll be taking two classes from Scott Card this semester. I was wondering if any of you boot camp or writing class veterans could tell me what to expect.

Talk about lucky, neh?
Posted by mr_porteiro_head (Member # 4644) on :
Talk about lucky, neh?
OK, I'll talk about lucky.

Wait. No I won't.
Posted by accio (Member # 3040) on :
Congratulations!! We want all your class notes [Wink]
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Sure, but I'll warn you, I've never been a very good note taker.
Posted by Oliver Dale (Member # 8398) on :
I'm pretty sure Scott is coming at his SVU class quite differently than he did Bootcamp. First of all, he has a bit more time. Thus, there will be a large amount of reading (short fiction, I'd presume). I also suspect he won't really follow his lecture notes (if he has them) very closely, but will allow conversation and discussion to wander organically. So basically, expect to participate, to be interested, to learn something, and to be more involved and engaged as a thinking being.

In short: don't cheat off the guy sitting next to you.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Thanks for the advice, and I don't plan to. As soon as I found out he would be teaching at my school I asked what the prerequisits for his classes would be. I got those out of the way my very first semester, and registered for his classes the day that registration went online. I didn't take any chances on this opportunity.

I had occasion once to meet OSC when he attended a play at SVU that I was performing in. I told him that Ender's Shadow was my favorite book of his. Then he thanked me for not saying that my favorite was the first one that he wrote twenty years ago.
Posted by kojabu (Member # 8042) on :
What courses are he teaching?
Posted by Hamson (Member # 7808) on :
Originally posted by kojabu:
What courses are he teaching?

Posted by kojabu (Member # 8042) on :
Are you laughing at the incredibly bad grammar of that sentence? Because you should have seen it before I fixed it. My brain was really really not working when I wrote it.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Topics: Writing Popular Fiction

Topics: Science Fiction

I'm in both of them, next semester he'll be teaching the fiction of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, I'll probably miss that because I'll be on my mission.
Posted by kojabu (Member # 8042) on :
Man that sounds really cool, we don't offer anything like that at my university. When do you start/when will you know what kind of books you'll have to read for the sci-fi one?
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Classes start on the twentyfifth. I'll be taking the Writing popular fiction class every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:15- 2:15. The "Topics- Science Fiction" will be Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30- 3:45, and on Wednesday from 6:30 pm-7:30 pm.

He hasn't posted any sort of reading list yet.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
He gave a copy of "I Am the Cheese" to my dad, which I've already read, he also gave my dad a copy of "Orson Scott Card, Writer of the Terrible Choice"

One nice thing is that my dad is the English Program coordinator, so he talks with OSC, or "Scott Card" alot. What's really cool though is that in one of OSC's articles he calls my dad a "great teacher." I'm also taking a class from Robert Stoddard, who has worked with OSC before. That class is Acting IV.
Posted by FoolishTook (Member # 5358) on :
quote: semester he'll be teaching the fiction of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien...
OSC teaching the fiction of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien: my version of Heaven.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Come enroll in the class then.
Posted by quidscribis (Member # 5124) on :
I am so jealous it isn't even funny.
Posted by Icarus (Member # 3162) on :
What quid said.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I know I'm so lucky, this is a once in a life-time opportunity. One of the other things that makes me so lucky, is that my dad works there, so tuition is free. plus I'm living at home so I don't have to pay for housing. If that's not luck nothing is.

Now before you get too jealous remember that my dad is a teacher, and that the only reason his children get to go to school for free is because they probably realise that the salary they are paying him wouldn't be nearly enough to send all of his kids to school.
Posted by Icarus (Member # 3162) on :
Professors' salaries are generall higher than teachers' salaries. [Smile]
Posted by quidscribis (Member # 5124) on :
Zarex, you can quit that whining right now, cuz it's not making me want to deck you any less for all those mean things you've said. [Mad]

I live half-way around the world, and I'll NEVER be able to go to boot camp or take his class or anything. And you're just spouting off about all that mean stuff. It's just. Not. Nice.

At. All.

Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Not at this school, the school is just starting its tenth year and has about 700 students
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
And who's whining? I said I was lucky didn't I?
Posted by Occasional (Member # 5860) on :
Zarex, its called sarcasm. Its a way of saying your bothered by something without really saying it.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Its kinda hard to get tell when someone's being sarcastic just by looking at their posts.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Just how LDS is SVU, Zarex?

I may be joining you (if I can get them to finish processing my application!).

I've been there once, for a summer short course (OSC's writing class).
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
SVU is 90 percent LDS, what class will you be taking?
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Make that 95, are you LDS?
Posted by Brian J. Hill (Member # 5346) on :
Though the student body is 90-95% LDS, the school is not officially affiliated with the church. Though the lack of church subsidy means the tuition is on par with the average private school (meaning out the wazoo,) IMO the non-official connections make SVU much more desirable that any of the BYUs.
For one, the school can hire anyone they want to. SVU has many professors from various religious backgrounds. By contrast, BYU has very few, if any, non-LDS professors. Also (and I'm treading very carefully here so as not to piss off any BYU grads or Utah residents) BYU has become a much more conservative school in the past few years. Because the school is in the middle of Mormon Country (IIRC the Provo Area is 90% LDS) there is more of a tendency to be close-minded and less open to non-Mormon cultural influences. Notice this is a blanket statement that does not apply to all. To contrast, the church population in Beuna Vista consisted of a small branch before SVU came along, thus making college more of a multi-cultural experience.
Posted by Brian J. Hill (Member # 5346) on :
BTW Zarek, are you involved in the theatre program at SVU? I saw Fiddler on the Roof in May, and it was wonderful. I also intend on seeing The Importance of Being Earnest if I get the chance.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Do you go to that school? You seem to know an awful lot about it. And you are right about the teachers from various backgrounds. My English Comp. Teacher was a quaker!
Posted by Brian J. Hill (Member # 5346) on :
I go to Radford University, which is about 80 miles down I-81. A lot of my friends either attend or have attended SVU.

[ August 21, 2005, 08:21 PM: Message edited by: Brian J. Hill ]
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Oh, I have a friend going to Radford this year. Her name is Dini Chang.
Posted by Brian J. Hill (Member # 5346) on :
Don't know her, but Radford is a pretty small school--not as small as SVU!--so I may run into her.
Posted by quidscribis (Member # 5124) on :
I was sorta kidding. But I'm still unreasonably jealous.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
No offense taken.
Posted by Starr R (Member # 8361) on :
Topics: Writing Popular Fiction

Topics: Science Fiction

Color me green! What I wouldn't give to be in your shoes. (For many reasons... *sigh*)
Here's wishing you a wonderful year!
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Thank you. I can't wait to actually get into class with him. I'll probably be posting descriptions of my classes (Including his) on my livejournal during the year.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Zarex: I'm not LDS (Catholic). I've been to SVU once for a summer workshop.

...and I just paid out the cash. Argh!! $1535!!

...the plan is to be in the writing class. I should be signed up within the hour!
Posted by sarcasticmuppet (Member # 5035) on :
SVU recruited me a bit my senior year. My mom said that they called her up and said that I was eligible for a scholarship that would make the price comparable to BYU. Since I was a good (but not overly fabulous) student with lots of extracurriculars, I wondered how many others would be eligible for such a scholarship.

As it was, It was a school I'd never heard of and I don't think they were acredited yet (curiously, how is that process going?), and I was accepted to BYU, so I went West instead of East.
Posted by katharina (Member # 827) on :
I am absolutely dying of jealousy. I can't believe I don't get to take that class. I must find a way.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
SVU is now fully accredited. Will-- are you actually at SVU now? If so, are you a freshmen? I'm a freshmen orientation leader and it would be cool to know wether or not you were in my group.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
No, I'm just taking the one class at SVU -- I'm at another local college. I met with my orientation leader today, and our classes start Monday.
Posted by mothertree (Member # 4999) on :
I remember seeing on the SVU brochure that dorm arrangements can include a stable for your pony. [Frown] <--- doesn't have a pony.
Posted by Sartorius (Member # 7696) on :
What about a horse? A short horse?

I thought SVU wasn't officially LDS at all.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
That was a long time ago. SVU used to have an equestrian program, but it took a lot of upkeep and cost a lot of money. So they got rid of the horses and turned the stables into an athletic facility.
Posted by Nell Gwyn (Member # 8291) on :
Aww, that's so sad. [Frown]

<-- thinks all colleges/universities should have horses

<-- was deprived because hers didn't
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Indeed. Will, who are your orientation group leader/s? What teacher did you have for your break out section?
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Well the first lesson was a bit of a disappointment since OSC is in L.A. and as such was unable to attend, but he did hand down a ginormous reading assignment through another teacher.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Everyone I met on campus today was smiles and courtesy. I may have to go back!
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
The reading assignment was to read OSC's book on characterization, before the next class session.
Posted by CRash (Member # 7754) on :
That's a lot! but it's a very interesting read. How long till the next session?
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
Sorry I wasn't there Thursday. We've built in extra hours in both courses so that even with my occasional absences (we're going to a convention in France for one of the weeks, for instance) you will still get the full number of classroom hours in the course.

The reading assignments aren't unreasonable. You should see the classes where they're reading Victorian novels <grin>. and at least the magazines will be free.

The content of the class will be similar to my writing workshops, especially at first. We'll do the thousand-ideas session and some of the same exercises. But we have time to go into more depth. And the class writes TWO stories, so there's a chance to progress from one to the next. Spreading it out over a semester gives time for the ideas to gel.

The drawback is ... college life. The students who embrace the idea of liberal arts education and take their studies seriously do fine, of course. But those who haven't adjusted to having days "off" (there ARE no days "off" in college, just days when you don't work as you should <grin>) and getting far less supervision end up treating it like high school lite - and getting similar results.

In the SF lit course, there will be a coherency that develops over time as students present essays on each story and the class discusses it. It will be vital that students arrive having read and THOUGHT ABOUT each story ... but my experience is that only a quarter of the students will do this without prodding; another half will do it WITH prodding (i.e., quizzes that they fail; embarrassment when they don't know what they're talking about in discussion), and the other quarter will never learn to prepare adequately and thus will gain - and contribute - little. Kind of a shame, considering the cost of tuition.

The Tolkien and Lewis courses will contrast their views on religion and how it should be integrated into fiction. We'll look at allegory (of course) and themed fiction (the reason that Perelandra doesn't work as well as Narnia - themes that control the plot don't work as well as clear allegory) and fiction that is inherently moral, and how that morality works, using Lord of the Rings (of course) and Till We Have Faces, Lewis's finest work of fiction.

And we get to play with Leaf by Niggle and Farmer Giles of Ham ...

But that's next semester. This semester, we'll get a pretty good overview of the history of sci-fi as a commercial genre in America, AND get a strong theory of how fiction works on its audience, regardless of genre.

Still, a word of warning: While my goal is to be helpful and interesting and informative, what makes you "lucky" to take the class is not me, it's the fiction and the ideas and the whole atmosphere at SVU. SVU is liberal arts education at its best (and cheapest) - tuition is kept at half or LESS than the going rate at other LibArt schools, and the teachers are paid in bags of dirt, which is why tuition is so low and yet they offer a full range of course work.

SVU will provide a great education for students whoDON'T think of college as getting a meal ticket - meeting the prerequisites for a particular job - but rather think of it is a place where they can take charge of their own education and begin the lifelong effort to learn everything about everything. The result will be that instead of being prepared for ONE job, they'll be prepared to learn ANY job.

And so I don't regard either my writing class or my lit class as being "about" nothing more than fiction. If the fiction you read and write is not a discernably important way of enlightening our understanding of the real world and helping shape us into civilized people, then it wouldn't be worth the time to teach it. So when I teach both the reading and writing of fiction, my concentration is on the transaction between writer and reader - what is this story doing to you as a reader? And, perhaps more importantly, what is this story doing to US as a society.

Enough babble. I'm excited, too. See you on Tuesday.

Right now, however, I'm still in LA. Catching a red-eye home on Friday night. Not a good plan, after having just seen the movie Red Eye....
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I think I'm going to need to drop a few of my other classes.

So much reading!
Posted by Brinestone (Member # 5755) on :
It can't be more reading than some of my classes in college were, and I made it okay. [Wink]

Actually, the only classes where I didn't do my reading were the ones where the reading was pointless (i.e., the teacher touched all the high points of the reading or summarized the reading in class the next day so you didn't need to both go to class and read to get all the same information). I had one class in particular where there was a lot of reading, and I did it at the beginning. Then I realized that the teacher spent the 50 minute class period summarizing the reading, so I quickly stopped doing it. Then partway through the semester he started doing an oral quiz on the reading, and it became obvious that no one had done it. He acted all offended at the laziness of college students, and I was thinking, "Duh. College students are busy. They won't do what they don't have to do, just like you."
Posted by Dagonee (Member # 5818) on :
And we get to play with Leaf by Niggle and Farmer Giles of Ham ...
Leaf by Niggle is a great short story, and for all Tolkien's talk about allegory, it's pretty hard to view it as anything but. Of course, the purgatory stuff leaps out of the story, but I find the subcreation theme more compelling.

Farmer Giles is probably the most fun thing Tolkien wrote.
Posted by Goo Boy (Member # 7752) on :
I used to try to read everything that was assigned, and in grad school I realized that this was hurting me. I'd have to read maybe three novels in a week and write one paper and a reaction or two, all while working, and I was staying up until two or three every night. I knew from conversations that most people were skimming a lot more than I was. Then in one seminar I realized than in many cases they were doing better than I was. They were well-rested, and could BS well-enough, and I wasn't getting enough out of the reading from reading it as I was. But I was too O/C to be able to do it any other way, so I never did learn this skill.
Posted by Salah (Member # 7294) on :
Zarex, the only thing that got me through my honors classes I took a few semesters ago was my Last Minute Maniac method-
or LMM as some as my class mates said.

I was so busy that semester that everything was done at, well... at the last minute! I found that by reading or writing an assignment at the last minute, it remained fresh in my mind for class. I was on a "busy buzz high" that made me excited about class, and with OSC as an instructor that won't be too hard!

I know a lot of professor's would not like the whole last minute thing, especially when your supposed to be absorbing and interpreting what you read/write, but that was basically my only choice. Somehow it allowed me to get A's and I didn't forget the details of what I read and wrote. I wish you good times.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Well, I'm kind of miffed due to the fact that I'm going to have to drop one of SC's classes thanks to a horribly convoluted schedule mix up.

(The only time mission prep. is being offered is at the same time as his class. And I have reluctantly decided that my mission is more important.)

Posted by LivingFiction (Member # 8564) on :
That's no fun Z, but I think you're making the intelligent decision.

The reading assignment isn't monsterous, but I am having trouble finding the time to get it all done. Thank goodness it's a good read. Were it an accounting book I'd have thrown in the towel by now.

See you in class [Big Grin]
Posted by Scullibundo (Member # 8521) on :
I never even knew those books existed before I read this thread. Incidentally, not 5 minutes after reading about them have I ordered OSC's books on characterisation and writing for science fiction. [Smile]
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
They're good books. One question that I have, is in his book, concerning characterization. He says that one sure way to make a character lose sympathy is to make him very intelligent, using big words and such, or to make him insane.

My question is how were the viewer's manipulated in the movie A Beautiful Mind. Since the character John Nash is both insane, and more than commonly intelligent.
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
Originally posted by Zarex:
My question is how were the viewer's manipulated in the movie A Beautiful Mind. Since the character John Nash is both insane, and more than commonly intelligent.

So let me get this straight. You graduated college, and yet you still use apostrophes to mark plurals? Be glad I wasn't your teacher. I would have flunked you so hard you'd still be retaking to make up for it.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
oops, typo. And the whole point of this thread is that I have not yet graduated from college. Else why would I be taking a college class? Plus, don't you think it rather rude to change the subject directly after another's post?

I shall repeat my question so that other stiffnecked people will find it acceptable.

My question is how were the viewers manipulated in the movie A Beautiful Mind. Since the character John Nash is both insane, and more than commonly intelligent.
Posted by LivingFiction (Member # 8564) on :
That question was addressed very well in class. Nash was presented as somewhat separate from his insanity. It was the obsticale for him to overcome.

Don't let KOM under your skin Z, he's trolling. It's an online forum, at least you're not syping in leet speak.

[ August 30, 2005, 02:50 PM: Message edited by: LivingFiction ]
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Well, the first class with SC is over, we had a really interesting thousand idea session. In which we collaborated and came up with a story about a forty two year old man. Who has a midlife crisis, works for the post office, dyes his hair green, gets a snoopy tattoo, gets a divorce, sells half the family farm, moves to a micropolis, and has three daughters.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
In that order.

No, not really. The Snoopy tattoo comes first. That would give anybody a crisis.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Posted by Scullibundo (Member # 8521) on :
Originally posted by Zarex:
They're good books. One question that I have, is in his book, concerning characterization. He says that one sure way to make a character lose sympathy is to make him very intelligent, using big words and such, or to make him insane.

My question is how were the viewer's manipulated in the movie A Beautiful Mind. Since the character John Nash is both insane, and more than commonly intelligent.

Well i'm still waiting for the books to arrive so this question is based purely on that idea:

Can you avoid a loss of sympathy for your character so long as you don't portray their intelligence through an extensive vocabulary?
ie: Bean.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
I think I develop *more* sympathy for a character if he shows some intelligence.
Posted by LivingFiction (Member # 8564) on :
The loss of sympathy for a character based on intelligence can be avoided. In A Beautiful Mind, we forgive Nash for his superior intellect because we see him shunned, and making fun of other people who are intelligent. The others in that story who are intelligent have an air of superiority, which is the hard and fast reason for the loss of sympathy.

Bean is another good example. He's smart, but he's small, and he's not arrogant or haughty, add to that his horrifying childhood, and the way he looks up to and respects a character we already love (Ender) and we love the kid.

I think a sense of superiority and intelligence is useful, but can be overcome by allowing the reader to see the humanity in that character. That seems true with people in our lives as well. Even people we dislike are redeemed to a degree when we become aware of the challenges they face. Like we all do.
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
One thing I try to make clear is that any rule can be broken, if you want to pay the price for it and compensate. A Beautiful Mind pays the price by making the entire movie absolutely and completely about his madness and his intelligence. It embraces his rudeness immediately, but contrasts him with people who are even MORE obnoxious about their intelligence (though he is smarter). It shows him loosening up with the help of his cool new roommate. So it takes the time to win us over.

It also casts Russell Crowe, something that you won't be able to do in a book <grin>.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Just had another class, can't do a long post though since I have to go read the Illiad for Lit. of Western Civ.
Posted by LivingFiction (Member # 8564) on :
Yeah, we did have another class, and since Z is no doubt asleep and drooling all over Homer, [Sleep] I'll offer a reflection or two.

We were treated to another 1,000 ideas session in which Prof. Card directed us using an idea rather than a character. "The Cost of Magic" to be specific. The topic took on some interesting directions, and some not terribly interesting directions. Not interesting to me that is. Professor Card has been very clear about the fact that there are no bad ideas, so I can only offer up opinions based upon my own personal tastes.

We were then reminded of just how vulnerable to him we are in the classroom environment. It's true of course. I've known that from the beginning. Whenever I've met someone who's work I've appreciated I've been keenly aware of my vulnerability to them. I think it comes from the fact that I feel some kind of a connection to the person through their work, while they feel absolutely no connection to me. My mother once told me that in any relationship, the person who cares the least has the power. I feel the truth of that statement manifest in such encounters. But I've also learned that the connection I've felt to a person's work is not in any real way associated with the person themself, Timothy Dalton is not James Bond. James Belushi is not a crooked cop. And Orson Scott Card is not Ender. Knowing this would be true I was somewhat nervous to meet Professor Card. But I'm delighted to report to anyone who has yet to have the pleasure of attending one of his workshops, that he doesn't need to be Ender, Miro, or Bean. He's a dynamic instructor who is both inspiring and encouraging. Although to be honest, what I've appreciated most about his style thus far is his unapologetic way of expressing his opinion on any subject that comes up.

In all fairness, the class has only really met twice, but I don't think I'll need to recant my initial assessment. There may be wounds to lick when my total lack of ever having written fiction is revealed. But a bruised ego does not a poor professor make. [No No]
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
It's been a while since I've been on, I'm still swamped by the Illiad, I'm in the middle of book seven at the moment, where ajax fights hector in single combat, but enough about that, in an hour and ten minutes I will have my next class with SC. In this class session we'll have to turn in our notecard assignment. I think I'm going to read aloud my story about a blade of grass and how it feels being stepped upon.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Today in class I found out some things that you should never put into a story if it is going to be graded by SC.

1. Vampires
2. People going postal at the end ("That's not an ending, that's an excuse to finish the book."
3. People committing suicide. (Same as above)
4. Viewpoint switches: e.g. Going from first person in one paragraph to third person limited in the next.
5. Flashbacks at the beginning of the book.

To A lesser Degree

1. Central Metaphors, useless things

We also learned the Polomius(?) rule: If a character is going to preach about something you (the author) believe in, make him an idiot.
Posted by TomDavidson (Member # 124) on :
Hm. I'm now half-tempted to write a story about a bunch of vampires engaged in driving a group of captive nuns slowly insane, told from the viewpoint of one of the nuns (in flashback) and one of the vampires, who closes out the story by discovering the body of the other narrator, who has committed suicide rather than be converted to the undead. [Wink]
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
So we brought in story-idea cards, that is, synopses we had dreamed up. Some discussion of POV. So what are the costs of 1st person?

* You've just ruined any suspense about whether the POV character died in the story. He didn't, or he wouldn't be telling the story now.
* He's distanced from the events in the story by what happened since (his experience, wisdom, etc.); 3P limited need not be.

These don't seem like debilitating problems, necessarily. Might work well for comedy.

OSC spoke of the Evils (my word) of 1st person present tense. I have written one story this way so far: it had a memory in it, which the MC found herself literally in, as in, she couldn't stop thinking of the past and be back in the present; she was magically put into the memory. I simply couldn't do this transition in past tense w/o being clunky. But I see that as a special case. I can't imagine why someone would use this in a story without time travel.

As we discussed fixes for this and that, I personally started considering how much of my difficulties in writing result from stubbornness. That is, I know that a story has technobabble in it that's too much for many readers, but *I* like it, so too bad for them. Or, I know that people got lost in too many characters in scene 6, but I don't want to cut any. Maybe it's time to be flexible.

I'm not sure what else to do to get published. I thought I might try a totally different, potboiler route: not come up with a story and then find a market, but identify a market and then think, "What story would be perfect for this one?"

I hope we can process these story-idea cards more quickly; that is, I like the idea of being prolific, and I think it's important. That's what I liked so much about the 1000 Ideas in an Hour idea: it made me able to produce stories way, way more quickly. I don't like lecture so much (in any class); after all, it's usually in the textbook. But the exercises in this class are way cool.
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
It's all about loving your readers - wanting them to enjoy the experience. Wanting to give them, as Dryden said, "sweetness and light" - honey and wisdom; entertainment and truth. They should care and believe. (same thing said four ways now)

So ... you try to be as clear as you can, show them why they should care, and give them sufficient grounding to believe. Those are the minimums. If you're doing THAT, then you can play.

That is, if you love your readers. If on the other hand you disdain them, and expect them to buy your work as a duty to your superior talent, well, good luck, have fun. Some people bring it off - yes, they do - but usually because some other value accidentally sneaks in.

i think of a story as a community-building event. Everyone who hears or reads it joins a community of people who have the same memories of an emotionally powerful event. They become, for that moment, and in that memory, One. And if you really love a story, you want the people you care about to have the same shared memory; and you're more likely to bond with those who reveal they already have that memory in common with you.

so it's not a private thing, and it's not about pleasing yourself. You build something bigger than yourself by including other people in it.

that's my belief, anyway.

The potboiler route can work, but only if you find a story within the potboiler requirements that you really do care about and believe in. Otherwise it will be junk. and the readers of "potboilers" are hungry for SOMETHING ... you'd better deliver.

There's a reason why some romance writers sell more books than others; for that matter, why some Star Wars novels sell more than others. Even when a genre is formula-driven, the writer, inadvertently or not, brings something of himself into every story. Something of what matters to him, how he sees the world.

And as for thinking you can write potboilers until you're good enough - think again. To write romances, you have to be a romance writer. To write thrillers, you have to be a thriller writer. The sheer act of writing them makes you think that way, if you're really going to master the form. So you don't write potboilers until you're ready to do the good stuff - if you ever do any good stuff, it will be a really good potboiler.

Write the kind of story you are dying to tell. don't write poor substitutes along the way. Do your best work all the time.

having said that, I did deliberately choose to write science fiction when I switched from plays to fiction, precisely because there was a short fiction market that newcomers had a chance of breaking into. But this wasn't "potboiler" writing, with all the contempt for the genre that the term implies. i loved science fiction. I also loved a lot of other kinds of fiction and wanted to write them, but they didn't have a viable short story market (I was trying to pay the debts of my theatre company). So I wrote science fiction FIRST; but I could never have done it if I disdained sci-fi and thought of it as "potboiler" work. I was able to use the sci-fi toolkit to build stories that were important and truthful to me. (I also snuck in some of the playwriting toolkit.)
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
By the way, people make typos all the time online. This is a transient kind of literature, even if it stays up a long time. Few of us take the time to proofread intensely.

And typos often look like ignorance. Lately I've found myself doing the apostrophe-for-plural thing, not consciously, by unconsciously. I look at what I've written and think, What a bonehead I am. But I'm not. I'm a highly skilled copyeditor. I know all the rules, or at least where to look them up if they're obscure and I've forgotten them. In the rush of speech (which is what fast-typed internet postings are), however, the rules can slip to the side, especially if we're tired. so tired we won't see the typos anyway.

for instance, the keyboard I'm using right now doesn't have the shift key connect as high above the bottom position as i'm used to. so my habitual timing ends up releasing the shift key a split second before the letter key makes the connection. Thus - no capital letter, even though I ALWAYS press the shift key for perfect capitalization. So ... do you take that as some affectation ("Card doesn't capitalize words at the beginnings of sentences") or as ignorance ("Doesn't he know the rules about when you capitalize? Sheesh, everyone knows that one!")?

I hope you'll take it as haste and nothing more. If you have a higher standard, great. But I'd rather respond to MORE posts in the time I have, than obsessively proofread fewer posts so they're perfect.

In short, I have little patience with people who seriously criticize others for misspellings, misused punctuation, and nonstandard grammar online. Sometimes a typo is funny in its context, and there's nothing wrong with laughing at that. But when someone demeans someone else for errors, it's like somebody at a party who demands that everyone in a conversation stay ON THE TOPIC ("We're getting off the subject here, aren't we?") or NOT SAY 'UM,' How long before the conversation ends because everybody left the room?

Besides, the critic opens himself to criticism. The phrase is "graduated from college" - "graduated college" is a slovenly elision, like "a couple books" instead of "a couple of books." And "you'd still be retaking to make up for it" leaves off the object - only in your dreams is "retaking" an intransitive verb.

Oh, wait - you were speaking informally? Using your local dialect? I'm supposed to make allowances?

Then do the same for others, O King of Men ...
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I would like to applaud the eloquence with which that was written.
Posted by LivingFiction (Member # 8564) on :

Yikes! And what kind of insensitive prick would demand that people not say "um"?
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on : got me.

Of course, demanding that people not say "um" isn't the only way to break up a conversation; calling people "insensitive pricks" will do it too!


TKO: yes, the biter is sometimes bit!


This leads me to a digression. There's a colleague of mine that I sometimes eat lunch with (along with others). He usually brings the subject around to something like, "Speaking of nut cases..." (creationists), or, "How anyone in this day and age could believe [some religious view he doesn't share]," or at the very least how Bush is slaughtering our children in Iraq. I generally find a reason to get up, make a trip back to the salad bar, and by then there's a way to change the subject...which doesn't work.

He doesn't upset me (except the time I quoted a Texas legislator he'd never heard of, and he told me the man, being Texan, was probably involved in bestiality). But I don't see any reason to participate. How is it that he doesn't get the message?

It's because others sit there with him, and nod, and discuss how moronic his opponents are.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
So your saying that he's basically preaching to the choir. Well I believe that the Polomius Rule fits him.
Posted by Crotalus (Member # 7339) on :

Life's too short to eat lunch with close-minded, intolerant bigots. And I'll bet that's what he calls you behind your back. [Wink]
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I've been trying to do the "one hour of your life in third person" project, its a whole lot harder than I thought it would be. I almost think it would be easier to set up a video camera to record what I'm doing for an hour and then write what I see myself doing from that perspective.
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
>>I've been trying to do the "one hour of your life in third person" project, its a whole lot harder than I thought it would be.

Is this where you choose an hour of your real life and write about it using third person POV?

Sounds like an interesting exercise.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Yes that, in a nutshell, is the assignment. I'm finding it almost impossible not to do a deep penetration POV. So yeah, right now and out of body experience would be extremely useful.
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
Ah, so you can't use the 3rd person omniscient-- that would be difficult.

What's the point of the exercise? To strengthen spatial/scene/movement understanding?

You could approach it like a movie script-- mostly dialogue and descriptions of facial expressions.

Wait a sec-- am I helping with homework, here? :suspicious:

Nah, I'm probably not helping at all.
Posted by El JT de Spang (Member # 7742) on :

I think I might be a megalomaniac, because I often follow my life in 3rd person. I back up and picture myself as I would appear to someone else, then I describe what I'm doing as if I'm not me. 3rd person narration, essentially.

Does that make me weird?
Posted by TomDavidson (Member # 124) on :
Among other things.
Posted by El JT de Spang (Member # 7742) on :
You have no idea. It's not a conscious action, just an idiosyncracy.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Well, had another class with SC, where we went over the notecard assignment and a few of the third person ones. Will B. came up with a literally awesome story idea. I can't wait for him to right it so I can read it. Another thing we learned about writing was that one of the hardest things an author has to do is to choose where to begin the story. I learned the interesting fact that the first thing you do with a story is pick the ending. Otherwise the ending is too predictable.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Thanks, Zarex! OSC's right: it'll take some serious world building.

I want to comment on the "3rd person limited, deep penetration, hour in your life" thing. Don't we all tell stories about ourselves? Should be easy to come up with something. The challenge is to put it in 3rd person and write in this deep penetration method.

Here's my understanding.

You know you're not cinematic if you show the thoughts of someone.

You know you're limited (not omniscient) if you show only one person's thoughts.

You're using deep penetration if everything is so much from that one person's perspective that you can interject comments and it's obvious that they are the POV character's thoughts.

I would further suggest that it's best to do these things really soon. I've gotten people confused by having 3PL, deep penetration (at least in my own mind) ... then realizing that until page 2, I'd neglected to put in any of POV character's thoughts. So people didn't know who I'd chosen as the POV character.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
I'm going to make some further report on class.

First, we did the exercise in 3PL, already discussed.

We discussed 2 synopses, Zarex's and mine. Zarex's made everyone laugh, which was of course the intention. Not everyone can make a blade of grass sympathetic!

I had two characters. What if it was from Ira's perspective? From the policeman's? Having decided this, is it a milieu, idea, character, or event story? These help us determine where to start the story. The text, Characters & Viewpoint, discuss this.

For me, it's a character story, about the policeman, who might be changing his role in life from loyalist to rebel. Or not. But what if it's an idea story? It might be: what happens if we have this kind of civilization, that I set the story in? What if it's a milieu story? Then we start when Ira enters this civilization. I like this, but I'd agree with the class that this would be too much for a short story. What if it's an event story? Then we start when the universe is disturbed.

Picking POV is tougher. Ira's POV looks preferable to me, because Ira's culture (Jewish) is less alien to me than the policeman's (some weird hi-tech Maya culture). But the change in role is the policeman's. (BTW, if you're reading this, OSC, I was wrong about Christie's Poirot novels. Hastings tells them in 1st person.) So who's the POV character in this new story?

Tough situation. Cop is hard to write, and is less sympathetic. Ira can have his own story, but cop is the one that really makes things happen, in it, at least, in the version I like. Maybe you could think of it as: Ira decides to trust cop. That's his action. Then we see what happens. I'm still not sure about this. I hate passive MC's.

Could I have it from Ira's POV, but be about cop? OSC says: too confusing. I tend to think he's right, since I can't find any stories that did this.

Maybe I'll write this one. The tough work will be world-building; I hope we have a chance to address this in class. John Barnes was right: imagination is hard work.


We also had this discussion. I have several stories that fit one of these patterns, all of which end with a POV shift at the very end. OSC's initial reaction is, "I'd throw the book across the room if I came across a last-minute POV shift," but I don't think I made myself clear. Or maybe I did, and it's a bad idea.

Pattern 1 (using an old Asimov's story as an example): John comes back to Earth to negotiate with Lady Fiona of Scotland to buy her thousand-year-old castle. The whole thing, to be shipped to his star system, so his people can have a piece of history. Fiona seems reluctant, but Scotland is economically desperate, and nobility obliges her to see to her people's need . . . so she finally agrees. "Think what you can do for your people with this money," he says. The deal is made.
"OK," Lady Fiona tells the townspeople. "He fell for it. Time to start work on the next one!"

If I told it poorly, ignore my errors. Thing is, if we tell it from Fiona's POV, there's no twist ending. If we tell it from his POV and don't shift, we never get that there was a scam.

Pattern 2: John sees the magic unicorn painting in the castle, and thinks, "If I could just see a unicorn, I'd be happy from then on!" He's inspired to seek out unicorn rumors. This leads him on a fantastic adventure, blah, blah, and he goes on to some better world.
And even today, from time to time, someone will see the painting, and think, "If I could just see a unicorn, then I'd be happy from then on!"

This last paragraph is in omniscient, and the rest is in John's POV. Removing it wouldn't kill the story, but I wouldn't feel tricked if I read it.

Pattern 3: John does this, thinks this, etc., about and with Mary, and meets some final irreversible fate (maybe dying, maybe leaving and never returning.)
A couple of paragraphs about how Mary reacts now that John is gone, because at this point, we know her and want to know what happened at her end.

I recognize a certain cost, but I don't think it's high, provided the story really ends with John, and Mary's stuff is just a little wrap-up.

...thing is, out of some 35 stories I have written and tried to market, I think I just described 5 of them. That's a pretty high rate, if it's an unusual form. Usually, if I break a writing rule, I only did it once.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Well remember what SC said, you can break any rule. You just have to pay the price for it. Though I have no idea of what the price may be in this case.
Posted by EricJamesStone (Member # 5938) on :
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Just got an E-mail from SC, classes for tomorrow and thursday are cancelled because he's going to Utah.
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
You got it for $2.85, Eric?

Mojunjo told me that it would cost at least $5.04. That's why I paid for the used one.
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
The problem, Will, is that you clearly have the idea that a good ending is a twist.

But a twist is invariably possible only because you don't tell us what's happening. So when you write twist-ending stories, of COURSE you can't use an honest deep-penetration third-person viewpoint. You have to use an equally honest light penetration or shifting pov, or you have to choose a pov character who is mostly an observer and who is not in on the secret but is present for the revelation.

This has nothing to do with the effectiveness of 3rd person limited with deep penetration - it's a powerful tool, but it isn't the right tool for every story.

Twist ending stories are fun, but their effect is usually slight. Can't be helped, it's in the nature of the beast. Essentially, you're playing a prank on the reader; if it's a good story, then they'll enjoy being pranked.

But it makes it harder - as you have already noted - to turn the story into something deeper and richer. Because the deeper you make the story, the more likely it is that the twist will be annoying rather than amusing. The reader is more and more likely to think, All this, and it was a TWIST ending? (We're not talking irony here, we're talking sudden revelation of information not previously available to the reader.)

Think of Damon Knight's To Serve Man (the basis of a famous Twilight Zone episode). In fact, think of ALL the twist-ending TZs. Those were short stories - 24-minute episodes. There was no "characterization" beyond putting an actor in the part. It was all about the situation and the revelation. And we loved it. But if we had watched for TWO HOURS and the twist was all we got, we would have been disgusted.

It's all tradeoffs. Of course there are stories where 3rd person limited doesn't work. But what kind of stories are they? NOT the kind that needs the effects that 3rd person limited offers. For instance, why in the world would we need deep penetration for "Nightfall" or "Nine Billion Names of God"? Or for Br'er Rabbit and the Briar Patch, for that matter? Wonderful stories. Beloved stories. Nothing to be gained by making the understanding of character deep, because character does not matter at ALL in those stories.

Just because I want to make sure you know how to use a hammer doesn't mean I expect you to use it for every task. Sometimes you need to cut wood, and for that I suggest using a saw <grin>.
Posted by Uprooted (Member # 8353) on :
Was was Ender's discovery that he was actually fighting the buggers and had committed xenocide not a twist ending? I certainly didn't experience it as fun, amusing, or annoying; it was heart-wrenching. It's been quite a while since I read it, and without a copy at hand to check on the POV and how it was handled, it seems to me it must have been 3rd person, deep penetration, w/ Ender as the viewpoint character. Of course, there was the commentary from the teachers at the beginning of each chapter to bring in different points of view.
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
As long as we're discussing point of view... for one of my classes, we are reading the Iliad. In the Iliad, one of the key characters is Patroclus, who dons Achilles' armor to fight the trojans. Patroclus is slayne by Hector, but whenever Homer refers to Patroclus he uses the second person. Is this to make Patroclus more sympathetic?
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Lots to talk about today. (I'm posting this under Hatrack River Forum and under the Writers Workshops -- different crowds.)

My main conclusion: some things to look for in the edit stage. I blew this really bad in a recent story on Liberty Hall, in which people didn't know the POV character until about halfway through.

Tell 'em up front

There was a lot to think about after a men's meeting. Frank offered Tim and his dog Rusty a ride back to their house, not really expecting Tim to take him up on it, since it was so close, but Tim agreed.

Rusty said, "Whatever" -- in doggie body language -- and jumped in the back.

"So waht are you going to do about your dad's visit?" Tim asked.

"I guess I'll let him," Frank said. Tim had said, during the meeting: life's full of decisions. What's yours? Make the call.

"You 'guess'?" Tim said.

"I'll do it," Frank said. As Yoda said: do, or do not. There is no try. No "I guess," either.

Rusty had no comment.

Whose POV? Some thought: Tim. (Tim has relationship to dog and to Frank.) Some thought Frank, since he was "not really expecting" something; but OSC said, it could have been Tim imagining what Frank would expect (?). In any case, it can be fixed trivially:

There was always a lot for Frank to think about after a men's meeting. He offered Tim and his dog Rusty a ride ...

This has the added advantage that Frank, Tim, and Rusty don't appear in the same sentence; you get a little more time for Frank to settle in before more characters appear.

Remaining problem: 3-sentence flashback. "Tim had said..." OSC suggested putting this in paragraph 1, as soon as Frank offered Tim and the dog a ride. You still have the flashback, but it can also be used to answer the question: why did Frank make this offer?

Alternately, just omit it.

Problem for me: knowing what the reader is going to wonder aobut. Clear thing: if it's something the reader will wonder about, do it in paragraph 1; or, at least, paragraph 2. Paragraph 1 is "free," that is, it can be expository, violate POV, whatever.

OSC has also said: if you start a new section/chapter, tell the reader the change in venue/POV char/time elapsed in the very first sentence.

The two things I was concerned about when I wrote this: making people not do a double take when, later on, the dog has dialogue. So I worked and got this so that the class had no trouble with it; no explanation needed -- I eased them into it.

I was also concrned that people would wonder about this "men's meeting" stuff; or, why didn't you tell us earlier that Tim runs a business (which becomes relevant later)? They didn't. Instead, they didn't get 2 words I used: "Aspberger's" and "maudlin." Know Thine Audience.

Tell 'em up front, OSC kept saying. It's OK to tell the reader your cool story idea in paragraph 1! and then show it to them. Suspense is knowing 99% of what's going on, and being driven berzerk by the remaining 1%. (It *isn't* being confused about what's going on!) We keep saying this in Hatrack writer's workshop. New writers want to create mystery this way. As for me, I just thought everybody knew what I was thinking! Also true for others in the class, I think.

Better to say "duh!" than "huh?"

More on POV

In 3PL, deep penetration, let the writing not call attention to itself, but to the character: the character provides the humor (or whatever emotion).

We were deep in 3pl (in another story), and the author said of the MC, "...and then she hit upon a plan."

This was justified, and the writer went on to show us the plan, but it did remind us we were in a story. It's a cost.

"She looked worried." Not if she's the POV character; she won't be thinking about how she looked! "She grinned." Well, this can be -- but what if she's alone? Do people grin alone? Maybe -- but you could show her attitude internally.

"She was happy." Possible, but almost never do we need to say the emotions; they can be implied by actions and thoughts. Thank you, OSC: I get so annoyed at [gripe]paragraphs full of someone feeeling terrified, gasping, having his heart leap into his throat while his hands shake and his thoughts turn to the alien's hot breath and on top of it all he's really, really scared ... argh! Once I hear that there was an alien monster with big teeth coming his way, and he's running the other direction, I'm pretty sure he's scared![/gripe]

Some of this was very subtle.

Mary's POV. Husband is John. "Blah?" he asked his wife. Problem: she doesn't think of herself as "his wife." "Blah?" he asked her -- works better.

"With anticipation, she..." Well, not breaking a rule, but we can get the anticipation from her waiting and watching.

(So, Maria, is that enough detail for the week? [Smile] )

[ September 22, 2005, 05:22 PM: Message edited by: Will B ]
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
Good heavens, you're taking notes so precise you could practically teach my course from these reports <grin>
Posted by El JT de Spang (Member # 7742) on :
Which means next semester Will can take over and you can get back to writing, right?

Of course, that's a purely selfish request since I'm not in the class.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
No, because he's teaching a novel writing class and (schedule willing) I want it too!
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I've been working feverishly on my story which is due on Oct. 11. So far my premise is about a world where magic and technology coexist. But they are both marketable products and there is a healthy competition between the two markets. There is about to be a release of a brand new invention that could endanger the magic market and potentially make it obsolete, so the wizards are scrabbling to make something to compete with this new technology. Or something like that. As my dad says, the art to writing is applying the seat of the pants, to the seat of the chair.
Posted by Oliver Dale (Member # 8398) on :
He went easy on you. You should try pumping it out in an afternoon.

Posted by Diosmel Duda (Member # 2180) on :
I have to say I love this thread. [Smile]
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Maybe we SHOULD be pumping them out in shorter time periods. After all, the more you write, the more garbage you get out of the way, right?

Since you can't post images here, drop by for my notes from today's class!
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
I actually derived far more pleasure from the cybernetic name game thing.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Zeta Artificial Replicant Engineered for Xenocide! Aighee!
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Well, I've changed my mind about which story idea to use in class. I'm going to use the "Wrong Way Corrigan" template for my first story. I've also decided that I really need to reread the Characters and Viewpoint section on third person limited since I mauled that exercise. But so far the story is going well. It helps that my dad is an English teacher and thus can help me when I make stupid mistakes.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Class is on hiatus for 2 weeks (I think).

I shouldn't say this *has* been a great class, since it isn't over... but it feels close. And it has been a great class.
Posted by Orson Scott Card (Member # 209) on :
Yeah, Will, easy for YOU to say. You already got your A, and you don't even CARE about the grade.
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
I give all my students A's! A hard time, or A quiz, or A question when they're falling asleep ...
Posted by Zarex (Member # 8504) on :
Yeah, well it does have the effect of inducing awe or jealousy in the other students when professor Card offers you a publishing deal right in the middle of class.
Posted by Crotalus (Member # 7339) on :
Will is the Ender of his class! Ha!
Posted by Will B (Member # 7931) on :
Oh, you're embarrassing me. Do it again.
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
:gives Will B a wedgie:

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