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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Killing your darlings . . .

   
Author Topic: Killing your darlings . . .
Grumpy old guy
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. . . is essential!


I have noticed that for the most part when people post a fragment for feedback and comment, their follow-up versions of that fragment invariably contains a few, some, or, usually, a lot of the same tired old lines and sentences. Why? Invariably it is one or more of those sacred lines that a writer dare not delete which is the problem with the whole fragment. That one sentence, or phrase, or piece of dialogue is the one piece of prose that is standing between you and your dream: why hang on to it? Or, worst of all, perhaps the whole scene that contains this fragment needs a complete re-think: why persist with it?

I think the reason is simple, it’s fear.

A lot of writers, when they come up with a piece of prose that speaks to their heart, that sings, that has the exact rhythm and feel they are seeking, cannot bear to delete it because they are afraid they will never again be able to capture that quality again. Utter nonsense!

If you could write it once, you can write it whenever you need it, again, and again, and again. The real problem is that it takes time and effort. To be a writer you have to put in that effort and be willing to change everything whenever it needs to be changed.

I have three stories that I have languishing in my files. They are there because these three stories mean a lot to me, they speak to certain aspects of humanity and the human condition that I am very interested in and that I want to explore deeply. They are stories that I want to be as perfect as I can get them. My other stories aren’t of that degree of importance to me, so in their case good enough is good enough.

That’s why, if you look at the start of the three threads below, ignoring the comments, you will see that while I may keep the setting and the purpose of a scene, the prose that makes up that scene, the specifics of character, dialogue, monologue, and setting, are all variable and subject to change without notice. My delete key has the lettering worn off it because I know that I can re-write what is needed, when it’s needed. And yes, I’m still working on those three openings, trying to get them just so.

Phil


http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/writers/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=26;t=001415

http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/writers/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=26;t=001427

http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/writers/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=26;t=001431

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Disgruntled Peony
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I have a habit of editing when I read over what I wrote previously, but I will freely admit that some phrases (or scenes) are hard to cut. That's part of why I took some time to distance myself from my short story after receiving feedback--I'll be able to look at it more objectively now than I could a week ago, and that means I'll be better able to edit my work.
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wetwilly
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I mean, ultimately it's the author's judgement call whether to cut or keep. It's usually not necessary (although sometimes it is) to completely reinvent the wheel with every new draft. Some parts are going to be good without changing them.

Kill your darlings when needed, sure. But also consider that your darlings might be your darlings because they're legitimately great.

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MAP
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quote:
Originally posted by wetwilly:
I mean, ultimately it's the author's judgement call whether to cut or keep. It's usually not necessary (although sometimes it is) to completely reinvent the wheel with every new draft. Some parts are going to be good without changing them.

Kill your darlings when needed, sure. But also consider that your darlings might be your darlings because they're legitimately great.

I second this. Honestly the author of the piece is the ultimate authority on his/her writing. Don't get me wrong other's input is extremely valuable and should be considered, but ultimately the author has to make the call. Of course we all think we are right when we give our advice, but really are we? Only the author can answer that question.

My advice for giving advice is to be honest, polite, and move on when you are done. You've done your best to help, the rest is up to the author.

[ June 22, 2015, 04:17 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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extrinsic
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The saying as I know "Kill your darlings" is "Kill your clever darlings." The aesthetic of which is cleverness that calls undue attention to a situational or extended circumstance. Situational: overly clever word play, trite puns, for example. Extended: perhaps overly clever withholding and also probably overly clever organization and structure arrangement. The joke story, where the joke is at readers' expense, sets up the punchline outcome, withholds that readers are the butt of the joke.

A clever darling consideration is whether one or more exposes the wizard behind the curtain of the fiction dream, a writer's hand on a story's tiller, the composition setting from which a narrative originates second- or thirdhand or more, or whether suitable clever-as-a-fox emphasis is timely, judiciously, dramatically apportioned to circumstances. No automatic rejection for "purple" prose nor cleverness or refusal of "philosophical" moral law assertion per se, or experimental organization; only conscious, artful management of a narrative's antagonal, causal, tensional complication event action sequence.

And doubt and confusion wrapped up with emotional investment in a narrative is an underlying cause of kill clever darling's fear effect.

[ June 22, 2015, 05:24 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Wetwilly and MAP, I wasn't actually commenting on critiquing but instead making an observation on submissions. In one sense, I agree that the ultimate arbiter of a written work is the writer, the downside is that, for the most part, they have too much invested in the work to be objective.

Over and over again I see submissions where the contributor keeps the one thing that does the most damage to their work.

Phil.

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MAP
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quote:
Over and over again I see submissions where the contributor keeps the one thing that does the most damage to their work.
But that is your opinion.

If the submitter doesn't change what you think should be changed, that isn't necessarily a case of them not killing their darlings. You may think that is the case, but really it is up to the author.

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Grumpy old guy
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Of course it's my opinion: as a critic and as a potential buyer.

A writer can compose what they think is the best opus ever written,and perhaps everyone else will think it schlock. Who's right: the writer or everyone who reads it.

Of course, I'm not saying my opinions are representative of everyone else's, in case you think that's the point I'm trying to make. I am making a general observation that most submitters, when 'altering' their submission, appear to simply cut-and-paste around their prose rather than re-evaluate or re-invent it. If the majority of critics say a piece doesn't work, why not at least try something different? That may not work either, but to deny the possibility that you can actually improve on what you think is already perfection is short-changing yourself.

Phil.

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Scot
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The oldest version that I've seen of this idea is from Arthur Quiller-Couch: "Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." Arther Q-C on Bartleby

He was lecturing then of the ornamentation that is NOT style. So I don't think the phrase we use nowadays is as helpful. It's always seemed to me to imply "get rid of the parts that you think are the best", like wetwilly noted. But it's nonsensical to grind and hone and polish your prose until you think it's really good, and then lob it back into the furnace to melt down again. Hopefully our own evaluation of which parts are best aligns with what our readers think.

As to why some 13 lines might not be revised more when they're posted again, which I've done, I think putting the revision work into the whole context is part of the author's decision. The opening lines are vital, but I also need to delete about 50k words from the rest of the manuscript. That might be mis-prioritization on my part (or laziness too), as well as fear of not being able to write as well as I did the afternoon when I typed those lines.

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Reziac
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What Scot said. It is absolutely NOT about killing stuff off just because you really like it.

And what one reader loves, another hates, and v.v. But everyone is not your audience. People who like what you write are your audience.

I've ranted about this at some length before:

http://web.archive.org/web/20110223170631/http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/006622.html

Current link:
http://hollylisle.com/writing-integrity-why-everyone-shouldnt-like/

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Disgruntled Peony
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See, to me what killing your darlings means is cutting out anything that isn't appropriate and/or relevant to the story. My mother took a lot of screenwriting classes when I was a teenager, and while I prefer the prose format there's a lot of technique that translates well. In screenwriting, everything is supposed to be important to the plot. If a scene isn't relevant, the need to cut it is imperative.

That said, writing to please everyone is impossible. Picking an audience and writing to please them/yourself is definitely a better option.

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Scot
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Does that mean as we write more and read more, we should become harder and harder to please?

And along that line, maybe it would be useful to have folks articulate where they're currently at, what they see now as the most pleasing narrative, what they strive for in their storytelling.

That might deserve a new thread, I guess, but it's relevant -- the personal statutes that sentence a passage of writing to liberty or to the guillotine. [Smile] (Of course, I'm new to the forums, so if this is already on the books, can someone please point me to it. I love expanding my perspective on what makes for high quality prose.)

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Disgruntled Peony
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Honestly, it's not so much that we should become harder and harder to please as that refinement of tastes is a natural side effect of increased exposure to anything.

Also, I found a thread that kind of goes about answering the question you just asked, so I bumped it.

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extrinsic
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I read for a living, such as it is. I am also widely read, to mean I read incessantly and have since early childhood, and am a reading omnivore. I regularly read texts that bore the dust on stale burnt toast, and, few and far between, texts that vividly and vigorously fully transport me.

One characteristic I personally read for is evaluation of what a text expresses about its composer or composers that are unintentionally revealed. The field is known as linguistic genealogy. At the least, for me, that approach makes reading dreary and banal texts fascinating, though as well parallels the task at hand: proofreading and copyediting.

At the core, the point of expression is sharing what it means to be human, sharing identity -- a cooperative activity, at least. However, coordination is the customary and default positive social process, and codetermination is the ideal. Coordination: reciprocal efforts and outcomes; Cooperation: shared efforts and outcomes; Codetermination: mutual efforts and outcomes. The negative social activities include, in increasingly negative order, contention, confliction, confrontation, and conflagration -- the world on fire.

Note that appealing prose engages both sides of positive and negative social interaction: positive for the writer-reader conversation and negative for a narrative's dramatic action passionate clashes of wills and forces: conflict -- and complication want and problem satisfaction is both sides at once and the same time.

Cooperative expression is a conversation. Written-word expression seems on its surface to be a one-way lecture activity, though from a social perspective participates in a longer conversation. From an overview of the entire literary opus, the conversation is visible as a chronologically linear parliamentary process. Homer spoke long ago; Plato, Sophocles, Socrates, Aristotle, etc., followed in their turns from the floor, expressed their views of what it means to be human and dissented with previous speakers views and assented with other views and added their own views and built upon the shoulders of those who came before. And so on and so forth down through time to this ever forwardly mobile moment.

What could a text as ancient as Homer's Odyssey possibly reveal that hasn't been picked over like a worn-out dishrag in a thrift shop bin? The same question could as easily be asked about an archaeological site's relics. New science and technology reveal previously unobserved and crucial knowledge. DNA science and technology are in their infancy, yet long held "truths" about human ancestry have been overturned by unequivocal, irrevocable, incontrovertible discoveries.

The Odyssey as a linguo-genetic relic, even in translation, contains undiscovered knowledge about early modern human civilization. For example, Greek society of the time was at a transition stage between neolithic and metal ages. Penelope was queen by right of matrilineal succession, the reason the suitors were eager for her attention, and why she wasn't just deposed and a new leader substituted: head mother leadership of the domestic Ithaca setting. Odysseus held his kingship and head man leadership of affairs abroad through her grace. Odysseus was twenty years away from home, and late coming home from work. Penelope was not pleased by his excuses, which is the Odyssey.

Of course, such ground shaking discoveries don't appear in most of what I read, though a cue here and there could signal where a writer learned to write and what style and what influences a writer's growth. Punctuation, diction, syntax, are clues to those features and larger-scale constructions, up to and including the literary opus entire.

I haven't become harder to please, except my writing for my satisfaction; I've become more discerning. My single metric is how effectively a narrative expresses its intended, if decipherable, creative vision: how effective the conversation is in terms of accessibility, freshness, vigor, and contribution to what it means to be human.

My responses to posted fragments may come across as dissatisfaction, not with a fragment's intent, the effectiveness of portraying the intent, again, if discernible. Many writers lament there is nothing new under the sun: maybe, maybe not, probably not, just a lot of repetitiveness. Why? Because humans have much work to do satisfying the human condition. The meaning of life. Repetitiveness is a heuristic (trial and error and try, try again) process, like revision, often ineffectual and full of doubt and confusion and too often evaded. Effectual narratives realize their repetitious heritages, and, lo and behold, realize their uniqueness, and for best effect, newly and persuasively satisfy the human condition on point: satisfy a social issue.

Also, each life begins anew, newly experiences life, arts, expression, conversation, cooperation, conflict and complication, and every fiber of a new life's being wants full, immediate, effortless satisfaction gratification. A self-gratifying joke narrative, where readers are the butt of a joke, for example. Every writer is entitled to and probably writes at least one. One is all a reader needs to read, though, to get the point. You all are fools. I am cleverer than all of you. What an ironic statement! As if such a person could be that clever and miss entirely that human being is a cooperative conversation.

Yet every generation produces a copia of joke narratives, many repetitive of ones from previous generations, and most are ephemeral, here today, gone tonight for their memorable-less-ness. Many narratives are repetitive because they are a heuristic part of the human experience, and because a new-to-a-new-reader narrative is new, though tired for a reader who's read the same numerous times in heuristic repetition.

Many tired platitudes justify weak and lazy writing and as well proscribe what strong and clear, appealing writing is. They are personal opinions and cannot, because they are opinions, be argued against, though they could be persuasively transformative. In any case, an expressed opinion is a cooperative contribution, no matter how vile or dubious or confrontational, at least from dissent if not showing a maladjusted behavior in its full glory, or transformatively inspired, and most anywhere between extremes.

Social, technological, and scientific forces shape a present time's cultural opinions. They are subject to change and as well subject to no change at the same time. Few opinions of what constitutes effective prose endure the tests of time. A few, though, is a strong basis upon which to build.

The first law: compose appealing ease of expression experience and comprehension that suits the subject, the opportune occasion, and the audience. That law encompasses all expression. Though an imperative expression and thus subject to dissent -- no one likes to be told what to do, that they don't want to do -- the law is a fundamental basis for conversation cooperation, not the selfish mandates of a tyrant dictator ordering that floggings continue until morale improves.

Second law: a writer writes a narrative, not readers. Yet ineffectual or artfully skewed narratives have their code deciphering appeals, where readers participate in imagining a narrative. Human instinct is to unravel puzzles and to impose order on and make sense out of chaos. Puzzle solving is a natural and necessary instinct of life, humans included. How puzzling a narrative is best advised to be is, again, a matter of subject, occasion, and audience and opinion. I doubt a fourth grader would understand this post, for example. This is not targeted to fourth graders, nor really below the minimum Hatrack age eligibility of eighteen years old.

Third law: protect the all-important reading participation-mystique spell; the fiction dream, in the case of fiction prose; the believability dream (reality authentication, also applicable to fiction, though more so emphasized for nonfiction), in the case of creative nonfiction prose.

High-quality prose accords those three laws, at the least and most common denominator. Add one aesthetic feature -- all effective and artfully persuasive expression is from appeals of the moral human condition.

Otherwise, infinity is the limit.

[ June 25, 2015, 04:53 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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It could be considered "harder to please" but I agree with extrinsic that it actually can be "more discerning."

In my experience, it has become harder to find a book "I just couldn't put down" as I've read more and more (and as I've learned more and more about the art and craft of writing).

But I can still say that I was anxious to get back to a book that I did manage to put down, and that can be considered high praise.

I can see the seams, etc, when I read something, but I can still get caught up in a great STORY to the point where I don't care about how well-written the prose may be.

So reading can still be enjoyable, but you may find yourself putting down more books as you look for one that you'll enjoy.

My number one rule as a reader is that there are too many books and too little time for me to finish a book that does not deserve my time.

And only I can determine when a book does deserve my time.

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Scot
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Becoming more discerning sounds better than becoming more of a litera-grump.

I've been telling myself that I just want to write the stories that I would have wanted to read. I remember being a kid and scouring our small, public library for...something. It seems like nowadays there's plenty to choose from though. And it also seems (from what y'all have shared) that I've perhaps been aiming too low.

Thanks to everyone for the thought-food.

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ForlornShadow
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I don't know if I agree completely with Kathleen and extrinsic. I've found that as I read more and write (when I can) I've found I enjoy more than I have before. I currently have a stack of books on my bedside table I need to read before classes start up again but I am afraid to start reading because I know I'll be reading for hours and hours nonstop and I do have a job where I have to go in early.
Then again I am not studying English and writing in college I am a science major. Who knows maybe this might play a roll. After all I'm not completely knowledgeable about the nitty gritty parts of writing quite yet.

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Scot
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That list of want-to-reads is pretty long for me too. And time is so limited. Maybe there's a critical mass point where you start seeing repetitive things so much that you only want to see the best handling of those things.
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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Scot:
Maybe there's a critical mass point where you start seeing repetitive things so much that you only want to see the best handling of those things.

That's happened to me when it comes to film, certainly. Back before Hollywood Video bit the dust, I used to work there, and the constant exposure to movies combined with lack of free time left me very picky about what I was actually willing to watch. I'm not quite as picky about my books, but then, reading is a more flexible medium.
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Corin224
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I hate to do it, but I'm going to briefly drag this thread back to where it started for a moment.

I had one of these scenes that kept getting criticism. I went through the while writing group thing, delivered new chapters every week, tried to make the story work, and eventually it just stalled. Over and over, one person had me rework this one scene, and we never quite got to something that felt right. Eventually, the whole story just sputtered and died.

I came back to it this year and started from scratch, after nearly a decade of letting it sit in a closet and mold.

The first thing I thought when I looked at it was "Why did I like that scene? It's so awkward, puts the focus on the wrong thing, and starts the whole story off in the wrong direction."

Believe me . . . I've done the whole "set it aside for a few weeks and come back with a fresh perspective" thing with this story . . . it hasn't worked. But I described the story to my wife last week after having not thought about it for 5 years or so, and realized all the plot / character difficulties I'd had back when I was trying to write it had vanished.

I don't know what's changed, but I'm quite certain that at least in part, my insistence on KEEPING that scene (which was what inspired the WHOLE STORY in the first place) held me back on getting this story developed. I got attached to it, and just couldn't let it go.

Not being weighed down by that scene has kind of freed the story up a bit in my head, moved me on to other new ideas, and suddenly, the whole thing feels fresh again, and I'm starting in on some new pre-writing to see if I can't make some new progress . . . but I'm throwing all the old writing out.

Sometimes, you gotta just trust the critiques and try something new. Nothing says you have to stick with it, but maybe try at least burying those "darlings" alive before commit to offing them completely. :-)

-----------------

As far as where the thread is now, on being more discerning . . .

I don't think being discerning is about being harder to please. I'm actually REALLY easy to please . . . I just don't have a lot of illusions any more about what's bad and/or good writing, both from a craft perspective and from a construction perspective. I can see both strengths and weaknesses in just about ANYTHING I read now . . . but I've stopped demanding perfection as a pre-requisite for enjoyment.

The only real side effect I've found is that being a discerning reader creates a slightly higher "barrier to entry" on some stories for me. I may have to get a running start . . . that good solid two hour time investment of just nutting through the bad craft to get invested in a story. Or it may take a stutter start . . . putting it down after chapter two, then leaving it for a month and starting over. But I've found that with these stories, once I get into them, I can overlook any number of evils.

As an example, take Hunger Games. I liked that story. Well . . . perhaps "like" is an exaggeration . . . I was seriously disturbed by that story for about a week afterward, but you get my meaning. I got DEEPLY immersed in that story DESPITE numerous writing "craft" faux pas: the dreaded first-person-present viewpoint, the logistical absurdity of the world Ms. Collins created, the absurd adherence to old mythology storytelling formulas. I was able to see ALL of those flaws, appreciate them, but also appreciate the great character building, interesting world building, (seriously, finding ANY way to justify a battle-to-the-death arena in a remotely believable way is impressive) and honestly pretty good storytelling which made for an overall quite impressive and immersive reading experience.

Unfortunately, it takes more energy to ignore all that, which I need to replenish with well-crafted stories before I can tackle another. I picked up the 'Divergent' series at a friend's recommendation, and have not been able to stomach the first chapter, because it's that stupid first-person-present voice again. (sorry if I offend with my opinion, but GOOD GOD! What a distracting storytelling voice!) I'll start it at some point, I'm sure . . . just not for a while.

In the meantime, I'll probably re-read some James Clavell books, get some Brandon Sanderson / Jim Butcher brain candy, and keep tearing through Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict series. Because what being discerning gives me is that much more appreciation of writers with GOOD craft. I get FAR more appreciation of writing that's done well, than I do irritation of writing that's done badly. IMHO, if you're TRULY more discerning, and not merely more-knowledgeable-than-most, and pretentious and snobbish, that greater discernment merely enhances the experience, both positive and negative.

As always, just my $.02

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Corin224:
I hate to do it, but I'm going to briefly drag this thread back to where it started for a moment.

I had one of these scenes that kept getting criticism. I went through the while writing group thing, delivered new chapters every week, tried to make the story work, and eventually it just stalled. Over and over, one person had me rework this one scene, and we never quite got to something that felt right. Eventually, the whole story just sputtered and died.

I came back to it this year and started from scratch, after nearly a decade of letting it sit in a closet and mold.

The first thing I thought when I looked at it was "Why did I like that scene? It's so awkward, puts the focus on the wrong thing, and starts the whole story off in the wrong direction."

Believe me . . . I've done the whole "set it aside for a few weeks and come back with a fresh perspective" thing with this story . . . it hasn't worked. But I described the story to my wife last week after having not thought about it for 5 years or so, and realized all the plot / character difficulties I'd had back when I was trying to write it had vanished.

I don't know what's changed, but I'm quite certain that at least in part, my insistence on KEEPING that scene (which was what inspired the WHOLE STORY in the first place) held me back on getting this story developed. I got attached to it, and just couldn't let it go.

Not being weighed down by that scene has kind of freed the story up a bit in my head, moved me on to other new ideas, and suddenly, the whole thing feels fresh again, and I'm starting in on some new pre-writing to see if I can't make some new progress . . . but I'm throwing all the old writing out.

Sometimes, you gotta just trust the critiques and try something new. Nothing says you have to stick with it, but maybe try at least burying those "darlings" alive before commit to offing them completely. :-)

-----------------

As far as where the thread is now, on being more discerning . . .

I don't think being discerning is about being harder to please. I'm actually REALLY easy to please . . . I just don't have a lot of illusions any more about what's bad and/or good writing, both from a craft perspective and from a construction perspective. I can see both strengths and weaknesses in just about ANYTHING I read now . . . but I've stopped demanding perfection as a pre-requisite for enjoyment.

The only real side effect I've found is that being a discerning reader creates a slightly higher "barrier to entry" on some stories for me. I may have to get a running start . . . that good solid two hour time investment of just nutting through the bad craft to get invested in a story. Or it may take a stutter start . . . putting it down after chapter two, then leaving it for a month and starting over. But I've found that with these stories, once I get into them, I can overlook any number of evils.

As an example, take Hunger Games. I liked that story. Well . . . perhaps "like" is an exaggeration . . . I was seriously disturbed by that story for about a week afterward, but you get my meaning. I got DEEPLY immersed in that story DESPITE numerous writing "craft" faux pas: the dreaded first-person-present viewpoint, the logistical absurdity of the world Ms. Collins created, the absurd adherence to old mythology storytelling formulas. I was able to see ALL of those flaws, appreciate them, but also appreciate the great character building, interesting world building, (seriously, finding ANY way to justify a battle-to-the-death arena in a remotely believable way is impressive) and honestly pretty good storytelling which made for an overall quite impressive and immersive reading experience.

Unfortunately, it takes more energy to ignore all that, which I need to replenish with well-crafted stories before I can tackle another. I picked up the 'Divergent' series at a friend's recommendation, and have not been able to stomach the first chapter, because it's that stupid first-person-present voice again. (sorry if I offend with my opinion, but GOOD GOD! What a distracting storytelling voice!) I'll start it at some point, I'm sure . . . just not for a while.

In the meantime, I'll probably re-read some James Clavell books, get some Brandon Sanderson / Jim Butcher brain candy, and keep tearing through Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict series. Because what being discerning gives me is that much more appreciation of writers with GOOD craft. I get FAR more appreciation of writing that's done well, than I do irritation of writing that's done badly. IMHO, if you're TRULY more discerning, and not merely more-knowledgeable-than-most, and pretentious and snobbish, that greater discernment merely enhances the experience, both positive and negative.

As always, just my $.02

Nothing wrong with bringing up the initial topic. XD

I've had the same thing happen to me with stories; I'm actually in the process of picking up a similar project myself. I've also cut or rewritten just about every scene in the project I'm finishing up, including the blurb that made me write the story in the first place. It's incredibly difficult at times, but totally worth it if the story turns out better for it.

Regarding first person present tense: I've seen that used a lot by players in text-based roleplaying games and the like. I think people tend to use it when they want to create a sense of immediacy or to mimic the human thought process (I don't know about you, but the closest I come to describing my internal monologue is first person present tense). I don't usually use it, myself, but I chose it for one of my current projects specifically because of the combination of immediacy and the feelings I want to evoke with the end of the story. I'm not saying it's always a good choice; I've seen it used to very poor effect from time to time. However, there is a time and a place for it, just like every other perspective and tense choice.

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babooher
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This topic is always on my mind. I don't know why, but I keep coming back to it.

I'm working on a piece that had a nifty weapon/tool in it. In all honesty, there is no reason for any of the characters to have the weapon, and so tonight I finally deleted (or at least took it out of this piece). The story will be better without it, but it was fun while it lasted.

Getting rid of the cool, but insanely impractical, weapon made me think of the AT-AT in the Star Wars franchise. Those things are so cool yet insanely impractical.

I guess sometimes the darlings fight too hard to live--and that isn't always bad.

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Grumpy old guy
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In the case of first person immediacy compared to third person, I don't see a conflict. I generally write third person, past tense, but that doesn't stop me, in moments of extreme tension or action, of inserting first person, immediate, narrative. If done sensitively and consciously, there is no jarring change, the prose tends to flow naturally. Just be mindful of tense. [Smile]

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Star Wars' AT-ATs and STs serve a plot movement function. Their impracticality for armored weapons platforms might pass customary military expectations for a brief time in the real world, and if they were a consequence of corrupt appropriations. History records many impractical military materiel designs. Recent examples from World War II include concrete and ice ship hulls -- concrete implemented, ice declined. The concrete still disastrously cracked like an egg.

The plot movement ATs and STs serve makes them a degree or more melodramatic in the prescriptive sense. They are necessarily vulnerable to attack and provide visual spectacle. They serve little story movement else, a small degree of plot, emotional, and character movement -- show Skywalker's and others' cleverness and boldness and compassionate humanity.

Clever darlings perhaps larger shortfall and challenge is their melodramatic uses. However, all is not wasted. Impracticality could be a motif of a narrative for character, emotional, plot, and, overall, story movement.

A joke from the Cold War illustrates.

A Soviet and a Western attache meet in some neutral city plaza for an informal brag and goad bull. The Soviet walks up to the Western attache, burdened by a heavy suitcase. The Western attache asks if the Soviet has the time. Pleased to set down the heavy suitcase, the Soviet shows a sophisticated wristwatch, an engineering marvel, that tells the time and does about anything else save lick a backside and wash dishes. The Western attache praises the watch, more advanced than Western watches, even the best Swiss makes, then asks what's in the suitcase. The Soviet replies, "The batteries."

About as impractical a watch as possible; the watch joke doesn't work without impracticality. Mythology development makes the joke's character, emotion, plot, and, overall, story movement flow. Not that I tell the joke best, a summary actually of a shaggy dog joke -- offered for demonstration.

Numerous examples span recent military history. Such impracticalities military industrial intelligence is reputed for. Impracticality need not be melodramatic if mythology development defuses clever darlings regardless of motif and theme and milieu and setting. Impracticality is a human condition; behind impracticality are greed, pride, gluttony, and sloth, possibly envy, lust, and wrath too, and the lot's attendant virtues, also perhaps as vices as well: charity, humility, temperance, diligence, kindness, chastity, and patience. The above Soviet watch joke invokes pride-humility as vices, for sure.

Added: Thought about it, a method for murdering darlings instead of excising them is to use Chekhov's gun. Pre-position a motif early, introduce how the motif matters at the moment, use the same motif again though differently matters, for an intermediate segment, of greater agency, use the motif again later, of yet greater agency urgency and different matters.

Motif development word count signals emphasis, implies how much a motif matters at the immediate now moment, though judiciously timely, also signals and implies the motif will matter later more significantly. That's Chekhov's gun in a nutshell, for more than firearms. Word count is one method to signal emphasis. Idiosyncracy and inevitable surprise, irony maybe, also signal emphasis, so that a repeated though readjusted motif is judiciously memorable though does not call undue attention to itself. (A practical irony, actually.) Ah! there's the challenge of it all and clever darlings.

[ October 24, 2015, 05:46 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Star Wars' AT-ATs and STs serve a plot movement function. Their impracticality for armored weapons platforms might pass customary military expectations for a brief time in the real world, and if they were a consequence of corrupt appropriations.

Not entirely impractical:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BigDog

https://www.youtube.com/user/BostonDynamics

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks, Reziac. I recently saw a video showing the Boston Dynamics robots in action. To demonstrate how stable they are, a couple of times someone kicked one of them on the side, and the robot recovered very well.

(I found that watching someone kick anything that animated on the side was difficult. I know it didn't hurt it, but I still didn't enjoy watching.)

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extrinsic
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You know, horses are quadrapods like the ATs and Boston Dynamics' robots. Horses' impracticality of trip and fall risks didn't preclude their use in battle.
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Grumpy old guy
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Not to be a pedant, but to really be one, horses are domesticated, perambulating, quadrupeds--not quadrapods.

I think. [Smile]

Phil.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Not to be a pedant, but to really be one, horses are domesticated, perambulating, quadrupeds--not quadrapods.

I think. [Smile]

Phil.

A duh-huh moment, and not even a serendipitous, humorous, or artful variant at that, like a malapropism -- "And I am _unanimous_ in that." Catchphrase said by Mrs. Betty Slocum of the BBC television series Are You Being Served, took me years to interpret "unanimous" is misapprehended for magnanimous. Speaking of a clever darling too precious to cut.

H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds does label the Martian striders tripods!? Tripeds?

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