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Author Topic: "That's not a dentist--That's an editor!"
walexander
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Well, stayed away for about a year. A very long year fleshing out the final draft of my book.

Some advice to new writers. Be prepared. This means--don't ever stop teaching yourself everything you can about writing. You have to sharpen your claws for a battle ahead that will make you want to pull out all your hair, your teeth, claw out your eyes, ripe out your heart, bash your head against the wall, and wish you were dead.

And beware these starting words. "I love what I'm reading--praise-praise.

I realize every editor has their own way of how they handle the editing process. From you get no say to every word/sentence is battle. You have not experienced the real harsh world of writing till you have to deal with the constant fight over structure, content, meaning, and phrasing an editor puts you through.

I took a part time job around the book I was writing for commercial internet ads. This was just the start of a constant battle to defend what I had written. Do you know how hard it is to make pest control, internet services, weathering your house, etc, etc, exciting???? And then have it cut up and rearranged or completely dumped and start over, or passed to someone else and you now take what they had? It's a great experience if you want to feel like jumping off a building. Every day you measure the experience you are getting against drinking yourself into oblivion.

That was a cake walk. Now throw into the mix something you truly love like a novel. Oh my God! I was so excited at first, then reality hit hard. It's a no mercy battle to hold onto your vision---You should rephrase this, change that, move this, drop that, you need more here, can't have that, this is to cliche, why did this happen? would they really do that? I hate this part. I love this part. There's something missing but I don't know what it is. You need to rethink part, but I love it. I think it needs another chapter.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

And your like. But this is why, but it won't make sense, but you lose the whole meaning. Without that this is lost, how does that make more sense, Someone just throw me off the building NOW!!!!

Do you know how long it takes to deal with all of this. It felt like I started when I was ten and ended when I was a hundred and ten.

All I know is you have to fight your own hand from strangling you for even daring to hand over a small part of your soul to the world.

So put on your heaviest armor, sharpen every weapon in your arsenal, and be prepared to fight for your dream, tooth and claw, and if your editor is being way to pleasant with you. Somethings wrong. Like you're really an editor trapped in a writers body. I've met a few of those on this long adventure.

It is a definite experience that never seems to end. It's a hard learned lesson.

Feel free to tell me your experiences with the process.

W.

[ November 03, 2015, 04:13 PM: Message edited by: walexander ]

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Robert Nowall
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"No work of art is ever finished, it is only abandoned." If I knew who said it I'd tell you.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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One thing to remember in all of that (and this is something I heard from OSC) is that what the editor asks you to do may not be the solution to the problem. It's up to you to figure out why the editor wanted you to do that, and then figure out what you really need to do (and it may be in an entirely different part of the story) to fix the problem the editor has with the story.
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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
"No work of art is ever finished, it is only abandoned." If I knew who said it I'd tell you.

Sometimes attributed (but unsourced) to Leonardo da Vinci, and occasionally to Picasso. Probably apocryphal on both counts.
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Leonardo_da_Vinci#Unsourced

Another version by Paul Valery.
http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/26986.html

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
One thing to remember in all of that (and this is something I heard from OSC) is that what the editor asks you to do may not be the solution to the problem. It's up to you to figure out why the editor wanted you to do that, and then figure out what you really need to do (and it may be in an entirely different part of the story) to fix the problem the editor has with the story.

Very true. When I crit/edit, sometimes I get to the end of a section and then it comes to me... "But the problem really isn't all the issues in THIS part. It's that some other part didn't get developed, or got summarized, or contradicts this, or it lacks foundation that shoulda been put in earlier, etc. etc."
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Originally posted by Reziac:
Very true. When I crit/edit, sometimes I get to the end of a section and then it comes to me... "But the problem really isn't all the issues in THIS part. It's that some other part didn't get developed, or got summarized, or contradicts this, or it lacks foundation that shoulda been put in earlier, etc. etc."

Exactly! Thanks, Reziac.

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walexander
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LOL , sorry, I'm having trouble stopping the laughter. Don't get me wrong, I really do appreciate the advice. (Sorry still laughing) I really do get along with the editors I work with.

So what you're saying is beside all that list I threw out. I should also not only be trying to figure out if it is "this" or "that" but also if it's the something way over "there." You don't know if it is or not, but it might be what the editor is truly meaning. Lol, sorry, but that's a classic example of exactly what I was saying.

It's not that it isn't this strange wondrous experience.

But now visualize with me---Your sitting at your desk with editor notes, and now you not only have to deal with what you are directly looking at, but wonder if it's actually somewhere else you should really be looking at...(Lol) I'm sorry...I know it is a very REAL part of the process...But I'm sure you can easily see why in that scenario it may lead you to banging your head against the desk...even though you REALLY have to do it.

But that was a classic example of just a touch of what a writer must figure out in the reexamination process.

And yes I was being a little over dramatic about the process but in truth there really was a lot of pacing, face rubbing, and dread in the pit of my stomach. The criticism at the level of a final piece or manuscript can be very gut wrenching in its harshness. It is a writer reality. It's definitely not a world for the faint of heart.

But again, that is absolute sound advice, I can easily see myself somewhere down the line coming across a young writer tugging on his/her hair in deep thought and say, "No, you see where you are going wrong is in the understanding of what the editor is truly trying to tell you. He isn't specifically pointing right at this particular spot, but...actually talking about the foundation for why that particular spot even came into being."

LOL

Sorry the only reason I'm laughing so hard is it's such a true reality.

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extrinsic
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Editors as much as writers often waffle in the trackless dark, based mostly on aesthetic hunches somethings are, what, off? Off like spoiled meat? Off kilter? Off-putting? Off-paced, off-timed, off color? Off? I suppose "off," you know, "just off," is another and euphemistic term for "doesn't work for me."

Editors' real role is arbiter of an audience's sensibilities -- sensory reading experiences as well as sentiments like genre, language, voice and viewpoint, conflicts and complications, and a near infinite variety of composition criteria too numerous to enumerate even for fiction.

Editors likewise experience pulling teeth when in editorial correspondence with writers, and publication staff. How many times have I lamented undertaking the editorial conversation from been rebuffed, balked, griped at, and my descriptive suggestions taken as proscribed or prescribed, by writer and staff alike, not to mention writers who believe their composition skills are above reproach, like English post-doctorate faculty. An uncommonly rare breed of professors give suggestions their due considerations. Much misunderstanding to go around.

There's the rub -- misunderstanding, miscommunication. Evaluations of my peer editors' skills leaves me as frustrated as when I engage a composition project and its writer. The natural human responses are defensiveness, dismissiveness, and the Kübler-Ross grief model cycle ensues: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Social values instill in us all correction is rude and grief-ridden.

How many times I suggest and provide a rationale for a comma's placement, relocation, excision, and know best practices, let alone other punctuation and grammar principles -- and see many oblivious habits of editors and writers. An individual doesn't know what the individual doesn't know.

Writers generally choose a one-size-fits-all principle basis, editors too. Like the serial comma principle: newspaper journalism's A, B and C, and all else A, B, or C -- also known as the Harvard or Oxford comma. Newspaper journalism omits commas and other punctuation, plus other space economy practices, to save publication space. That's the rationale of A, B but C, why to use a simpler though less concise word -- not "demonstrate," "illustrate," or "exemplify," -- "show," "showed," "shown"; newspaper journalism, where many magazine and book publication editors probably began their careers. One size fits all.

Yet prose demands liveliness and vividness. Concise language matters, not only best practice brevity, also precision. Concise language demands discretionary contravention of grammar standards and customs, which is rhetoric's customs.

Many editors allow only one-size-fits-all grammar and cannot see the forest for the trees. We lunge into a grammar error. I used to, anyway. Until I appreciated English is a living language, and all that entails, a misplaced comma, etc., was an opportunity to lunge, gotcha ambush, mark off for correction and castigation. Now I appreciate grammar's full glory and principles, and editing's as well.

Proofreading is but one editor task, copyediting is the real task and an infinite selection process. Yet a task that is manageable if a writer provides an accessible creative vision foundation that narrows possibilities. Too many editors proscriptively impose their creative vision on a writer's. I am guilty of that, though effort not to, rather, endeavor to descriptively and rationally comment.

As writer, I have encountered real ditzy-dozy editors' imperatives with no justification a comma is wrong. That serial comma snap is a common lunger. Grammar mood matters when editorially commenting, subjunctive mood rather than imperative is a best editor practice. Indicative mood is fine for coaching about a language arts principle, such as structure, though secondary to the subjunctive mood. Consider if a comma would strengthen and clarify this clause's meaning? Kindness and cooperation is a best editor and writer practice. Subjunctive mood serves those functions. Not to say kindness means being "nice"; no kindness in letting a glaring grammar error pass unmarked.

Back to aesthetic hunches. Of course, editors and writers go at loggerheads when an editor's comments are hunch driven and unsupported. The overall difficulty arises from the writer's inapptitude for clarity and strength of a creative vision's expression. Period. That could, possibly should, be taken as a first impression. The writing is unclear and weak. Development and preparation development are the usual suspects. So, of course, an earlier now-moment is often an insertion point for shortfalls of preparation segments. The time when an editor's confusion and comment focuses on is probably a consequence of preparation shortfalls. Yet a lazy-habit editor doesn't take that into account or comment.

Alternatively, comprehensive comments appear to overtreat from word-count emphasis. Overtreatment and indifference are opposite attendant complications of editing. I'm prone to the former as writer and editor. Long-winded, at times overly, inaccessibly erudite, and leisurely about developments. Plus, inclined toward maturer adult content than popular readers, not per se mature sexual and violent content, though mature adult situations and commensurate language.

Writers and editors who don't know what they don't know muddy the muddle. I know how little I know, though know what to do when I'm muddied. Look it up. Someone has probably satisfied a consideration long before I came to it. Not to mention, some considerations are left unsatisfied in all areas of human existence. So there's always room for real advancement on both and other fronts. Life, like living language, is ever alive and vivid.

[ November 04, 2015, 01:38 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I'd recommend a book on how editors approach working with writers. It's by Thomas McCormack and the title is The Fiction Editor.

One of the things McCormack points out is that editors, like most of us, will often try what worked last time when confronted with a new problem. So you may get suggestions from an editor that have absolutely nothing to do with what your story needs. The editor just suggested it because it worked on the last book.

My post above was in response to those times when what the editor asks for goes against what you feel you are trying to do.

A really good editor will tell you great stuff, and you should go with that, but once in a while, you'll get something that makes you scratch your head (at best), and that's when you need to consider that your editor really doesn't know what needs to be done, but something isn't working.

And you have to figure out why you got that crazy suggestion from the editor and how you can fix what's needed without doing something crazy to your story.

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Reziac
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In my view, the editor's job is to hear what the writer intends, and make it so.

That intent sometimes isn't obvious even to the author. Lately ran into that whilst editing someone's PNR... which tho it did the job well enough, it truly did not wish to be a romance; it desperately wanted to be a straight-up adventure fantasy with a little romance on the side. I told the author that's probably why she wasn't happy with certain parts, and that furthermore I thought she was restricting her talent by not listening to her own story's desires.

And she's like -- OMG, I was afraid I couldn't write straight-up adventure, now you tell me that I can? YAY!

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Grumpy old guy
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Whenever I critique (which I only do rarely) I always ask the writer to include a single sentence describing what their story is really about. No sentence, no critique. I rarely ever get a manuscript to critique because most of the time writers don't understand their own story well enough to reduce it to a single sentence.

Phil.

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Whenever I critique (which I only do rarely) I always ask the writer to include a single sentence describing what their story is really about. No sentence, no critique. I rarely ever get a manuscript to critique because most of the time writers don't understand their own story well enough to reduce it to a single sentence.

Phil.

It's not always easy, but I've heard it is an important talent to master. I've been trying to start there, lately, because one-sentence hooks are useful.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Reziac:
In my view, the editor's job is to hear what the writer intends, and make it so.

Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction expends a lengthy chapter ironically expressing that readers must unconditionally meet a writer's creation, that writers must fully meet reader expectations, and never the twain shall meet. Of course, Booth means that both are part of effective conversation. Too much writer demands upon readers' efforts alienates; too much reader expectation places writer creativity in crisis.

An editor's job is to guide writers toward reader expectations as much as guide writers' intents to full realization. Not even "guide" so much as reveal strengths and shortfalls that work or don't work, respectively, for writer, editor, and reader.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Whenever I critique (which I only do rarely) I always ask the writer to include a single sentence describing what their story is really about. No sentence, no critique. I rarely ever get a manuscript to critique because most of the time writers don't understand their own story well enough to reduce it to a single sentence.

Phil.

It's not always easy, but I've heard it is an important talent to master. I've been trying to start there, lately, because one-sentence hooks are useful.
Some have asserted as early as Plato that reduction of a narrative's true import to a single word, perhaps a term, saying, or proverb, signifies unity of all things entailed by a narrative.

Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is amenable to such reduction -- cursed by old age, (salao). David Foster Wallace's The Infinite Jest -- self-gratification vices; Joyce Carol Oates' "Where are you going, where have you been" -- sexuality's peril; Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" -- imposed equality's inequality; Henry Kuttner's "Housing Problems" -- if it ain't broke, let it be; Cyril M. Kornbluth's The Marching Morons -- as ye live shall ye perish; and, well, many other popularly and critically acclaimed narratives that are really about, implied though strong and clear, one human condition topic.

However, if a writer genuinely wants to meaningfully converse with readers, not just for glory and fortune, the writer makes meaning out of a human condition with which the writer and audience struggle. The writing process is that struggle and meaning-making process packaged into a narrative's development. Meaning and struggle satisfaction are consequences therefrom.

Knowing what a narrative is really about entails at least satisfaction of struggle and meaning, if not full resolution, that doesn't happen until a narrative and its subject struggle and meaning making are completed. Hence knowing what a narrative is really about beforehand means the struggle is completed and rarely, if ever, happens until late in the process, when a narrative's import could be reduced to a single sentence, phrase, or word.

Thus the guidance to write the draft first, then figure out what it means, what it is really about, then revise accordingly.

Grumpy old guy's one-sentence expression requirement of what a narrative is really about functions to accommodate that latter as a way to filter out under-realized and not-ready-for-editorial-processes narratives -- unfinished drafts. Saves expense, time, and effort, and heartache and strife.

[ November 05, 2015, 01:34 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Exactly, extrinsic. Far too many times a narrative's simple strength is eaten away by complexity and dilution as the writer tries to fulfill their own desires, rather than the story's needs.

Writers get caught up in the process and mechanics of writing and forget the power of simple storytelling.

Phil.

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walexander
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I guess I agree but at the same time, don't, with the guidance of an editor.

Plus I'm not sure about the idea of boiling a story down to one sentence.

Yes, you could say something like -- young man sets out on a quest with old mentor to save the princess.

But is that what the story is really about? What is the magic of this story that really makes it identifiable with so many readers? Why can this narrative repeat over and over again and still be successful. Couldn't the single line just as easily be--Young no-body becomes somebody. Wouldn't that be more to the point of what the readers really like about the story?

Hayao Mayazaki has a great quote about animation that I believe should be in the fantasy writers handbook.

"Creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those that are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality."

We can change as writer's the time, place, and who, but in truth, the essence often stays the same. The question I believe a writer has to ask themselves is do they actually have anything to say? If a writer starts out to write a story about a young hero saving the princess, why is that story even important to the writer? The answer is not---I want to be the next big success like that of harry potter. The real question is do I have anything I really wish to say? Something I wish I could pass to my kids, and they will pass to their kids. Something important or soothing to help them with life. Why tell kids bedtime stories? We know life very rarely has fairy tale endings. We do it to hopefully send them into a smiling, quiet, blissful sleep, often to take away the sting of growing up.

As our readers move up in age we adjust the stories with lessons hard learned, wisdom to be passed along, and sometimes very hard truths better read, than lived.

I don't believe it is the editors job to find a middle ground between writer and reader. It's the writers job from sentence one to believe in their story and the reasons it was destined to come to life. Editors if they truly feel their is something of substance should be there just to help chisel all the rough edges away.

The flip-side of the hero coin lies in deep dark reaches of the human psyche. Where a writer searches within his darkest fears to find where the monsters roam. From the depth they summon up the most horrid creatures to scare the reader right out of their own skin, and leave them uneasily huddling to lamps and fearing the night. Or at least that is the basis of horror writing. Somewhere between that horror and fantasy lies the antagonist. Why do we love a great bad guy? There isn't a good story if you can't balance it. Why is darkness so seductive? Why is the edge of the void so thrilling to come so close to? Why does it feel you are not living life if you sometimes don't live it dangerously? Why is power so coveted? Why is their such a dark allure to having mastery over others? Again, the writer starts with a personal question--why does evil exist?--and answers it usually with their antagonist and all their shades.

Let's face it. The hard truth about writing is finding a unique story. If it was easy the movie industry wouldn't need to remake films every twenty years or glamorize serial killers or school shootings.

Can an editor really predict the next trend? Do personal tastes affect their choices? What about favoritism? I believe a good editor knows that they must wrestle with these demons. Just like a good writer knows the reason why a story is begging to get out, and why would it resonate to others, or not.

We are not just entertainers to roll around the stage just to amuse others. We are Imagineers traversing the boundaries of time and space in an infinite universe of possibilities, yet simple storytellers scribbling the journeys of hearts, minds, and souls across a landscape of chaos' continuous carnage and creation. Be proud to be a writer. For within your heart lay the ability to take others out of their physical body and on journeys beyond their wildest dreams. The stories there, quietly waiting, for you to give it life. The question is: Do you have the courage, patience, and fortitude to see it through?

A question I ask myself, often.

One last thought. I don't envy an editor's job. We writer's can be a huge pain in the as* as we jump up and down desperately trying to get attention and then when we have it we want to keep it for ourselves. We may be creators of the universe but at the same time, infantile in acceptance we are not recognized for our god-like abilities. Humble is not a word commonly found among writer's character traits. I don't envy editors.

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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
Originally posted by walexander:

Plus I'm not sure about the idea of boiling a story down to one sentence.

Yes, you could say something like -- young man sets out on a quest with old mentor to save the princess.

That's not quite what I meant. Your example doesn't tell me what the 'story' is about, it's a synopsis of the story. What I ask writer to do is to distill the reasons why the young man has set out to save the princess and why he has a mentor into a single sentence.

If a writer can do that then, for me, they see into the heart of their story and have been able to strip away all its literary embellishments.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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As I noted on the short works fragment, many, if not all, figures and forms (rhetorical) entail tangible and intangible qualities -- intangible qualities more appealing because they shape creative freshness if not unique originality, and engage intellect, emotion, and curiosity.

What a narrative is really about is an intangible feature, one reason why a one-sentence description is so challenging to prepare or to describe a work for review purposes. Invariably, what a narrative is really about involves the human condition's moral values in complication and conflict contentions: vice-virtue; wrath-patience, greed-charity, gluttony-temperance, lust-chastity, pride-humility, envy-kindness, sloth-diligence, and permutations and combinations thereof.

A shortfall of appreciating a narrative's human condition is fatal, one, and two, leaves a narrative only tangible and superficial action to satisfy, that is also invariably a diluted repetition of ten thousand similar narratives' superficial action only. A human condition included, though intangible, is a vivid and lively cornerstone of conflict and complication, freshness, originality, and appeal.

The example on point: "young man sets out on a quest with old mentor to save the princess." Only superficial action described. Possibilities of any vice-virtue contention. Clarity and strength are warranted, of emotional import, moral import, and specificity, if not from robust verbs, from modifiers, adjectives, adverbs, and similar phrases. //A lusty youth and foolhardy old mentor quest to rescue a temperamental princess from noble abbots.// "Lust," among other vices, invoked, if not irony cues that arouse curiosity, plus emotional cues that provoke curiosity as well.

[ November 06, 2015, 11:32 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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walexander
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I like where this is going, because this gets back to a writer actually having something to say and asking internally what is really driving the story.

E, I think your example of "lust" is interesting because: Has the writer decided to write a lustful story to fulfill there own personal longings, or is it a personal decision that they feel "Lustful" stories are selling well right now? Or is it personal adaption to the writers own experiences with lust and said benefits and/or drawbacks to such a life?

What I meant by my doubt of trying to boil a story down to a sentence about the "heart" wasn't referring to an artful interpretation of the overall piece. But that "heart" in truth to me implies the true motivations of why the piece ever came into being.

If someone asked me--so what is the heart of the story? Let's say it is the princess scenario. Answer: To share with others my own child-like boyhood fantasy of always have wanted to save a princess in a wild and crazy landscape of goods and evils, with a few kooky characters throw in. Something most boys dream of. The same as girls dreaming to be saved by a handsome, good-hearted, prince.

Headline today: Daydreaming youth longing to escape his dreary life "risks all" when offered by strange old mentor-type to accompany him into the heart of darkness to save a strong-willed princess. News at 11.

A more truthful answer to the heart of the story would really be a question to oneself. How do I save a princess through all the darkness my own mind has created? When I figure that out I have the heart of the story.

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