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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Don't be like Aristotle!

   
Author Topic: Don't be like Aristotle!
JackValentine
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Now, don't get me wrong. Aristotle is epic. He was revolutionary in his time with the world of fiction. In fact, he was obviously a master of fiction during his time. But, this master focused on the events of plot, and used pure plot to convey emotions to grab ahold of his readers. And times have changed, and so has the world of fiction. In order for readers to connect with your story you have to have a good plot, but, you also have to get them to feel for your main character. Good plot is only half the equation in connecting your readers to the main character. The other half is the character them self. Get your reader personally involved with your main character. A good way to do that is internal moral conflict. This is best done with an in between character. You have 3 basic types of characters. Good, Evil and in between. The in between character gives you a lot of room to work with. Have your character struggle with an internal problem. Like they are going to do something that they know is bad, but they don't want to do it. Or, they do it and it doesn't turn out the way they hoped.

This isn't the only approach. A good writer with a knowledge of plot and character development can weave an intricate story using any combination of factors. This is only one method to tell part of a story and their are many out there. But, again, DON'T BE LIKE ARISTOTLE. He made events happen to his characters rather than them doing events, and made his audience feel emotionally invested in the plot more so than the actual character themselves. GET YOUR READER ATTACHED TO YOUR CHARACTERS. Have them go through their problems and convey the impact they feel when things happen.

Anyway, bye for now. Hope this helps a little.

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Crystal Stevens
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I understand where you're coming from, but there are stories--good solid stories--that are plot driven. It's a style that works for those who know how to use it to their advantage. I, personally, write character driven stories, like the type you're suggesting here. I like to read character driven stories over plot driven. I like to feel for the MC and sympathize with what he's (she's) experiencing. But that's no reason to bash a plot driven story when done by someone who knows how to make it work. There are many ways to tell a story. It's just a matter of which style works best and is the most enjoyable for the reader. Anyway, that's the way I see it.
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extrinsic
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Aristotle's shortcomings regarding the Poetics are a consequence of the publication and composition mediums of the times: live performances, oratory presentations, and mental compositions. Nor was Arisotle a poet, a writer, or playwrite. He was a critic and narratologist and rhetorician. His greatest strengths, though, are causation and rhetoric. As far as internal conflicts, psychic distance, degree of access to thoughts, was unheard of in Aristotle's time, and incomprehensible, if not criminal. By and large, people then either did others' critical thinking for them or they were told what to think.

For the next major installment development in narrative theory re drama see Gustav Freytag's Technique of the Drama, 1863, translated into English by Elias MacEwan, 1898. One of Freytag's greatest strengths is how tension's sympathy or empathy and suspense features relate to dramatic structure.

http://www.archive.org/details/freytagstechniqu00freyuoft

Then there's the third axis of dramatic structure's three-dimensionality: Antagonism, which is my contribution, coming soon to a publisher nearby.

Setting's influences, Plot; which only small portions of its features are discussed by Aristotle, Freytag, and other theorists in any given tome; Idea, Character. Events, and Discourse notwithstanding. SPICED. And each of which Aristotle's Poetics touches upon, not just plot's causation. It's complex, narrative theory is.

Some terms from Aristotle's time that cover concepts writers today struggle mightily with: mimesis, diegesis, exigesis, peripetia, and anagnorisis.

And another of my contributions building on the shoulders of others who came before: writing modes; Description, Introspection, Action, Narration, Emotion, Sensation, Summarization, Exposition, Conversation, Retrospection, Explanation, and Transition. DIANE'S SECRET.

[ April 25, 2012, 11:19 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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I have no idea what you're talking about. Have you actually read *Poetics*? Or do you mean some other "Aristotle" than the 4th Century BCE philosopher who was a student of Plato and teacher to Alexander?
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JackValentine
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It's just writing tips. I figured I might grab somebody's attention by saying, don't be like Aristotle.
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JackValentine
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@matt: haven't read all of it, but I read an article on Mythos and it inspired me to write what I did.
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MattLeo
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Well, that would be book VII and VIII. You should keep in mind he's talking about the role of plot in the Greek *tragedy*. He takes pains to distinguish this from *comedy* and *epic poetry*.

A Greek tragedy is a one act play of ten to fifteen thousand words, so his advice on the relative importance of plot and characterization applies more to short stories than to novels, and his point is that there just isn't a lot of room to have actors giving revealing speeches or scenes that don't relate to the plot.

His specific advice on tragedy is not necessarily applicable to a modern novel, which at 80K-200K words is midway between tragedy and epic in narrative complexity. But some of his advice to tragedy writers about characterization is quite helpful to a writer of novels (see Book XV):

(1) make the character true to life and believable.

(2) make sure the actions of a character are in character; if a character is by nature inconstant, make him consistently so.

(3) the character's actions should make sense (be necessary or probable), and produce plausible results.

(4) the plot should follow from these necessary and plausible actions of the characters; chance events (Deus Ex Machina) should be confined to things outside the story or which happen offstage.

(5) While making the hero believable, also make him more interesting than real-life people are.

He has advice about the tragic form which also applies to novels with a heroic protagonist:

(6) Make the hero sympathetic by giving him good intentions and proper behavior.

Epic poetry was evidently considered high class in Aristotle's day, but he much preferred the shorter dramatic forms because they were pared down and all the parts had to be fit together nicely. This is still something that is possible in the context of a typical length novel.

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JackValentine
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Matt, you have definitely done your homework, but I think maybe I didn't convey what I was meaning to say. I was stating that Aristotle recommends using plot to achieve pathos (I meant pathos earlier, not mythos). I believe that using the M.C. as a means to emtotional invest your readers rather than the plot itself. I think your focusing on ethos with that last post. My original statement was primarily focused on pathos.
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extrinsic
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The Three Rhetorical Persuasive Appeals

Pathos, appeal to emotion
Ethos: appeal to credibility
Logos: appeal to logic

Generally speaking, that's a writing consensus accepted appeals emphasis order for fiction. However, logos is also about logical causality, too, which the Poetics takes great pains to emphasize. Aristotle locates four types of causality in other works, with one of the four, being the relationship between a First Cause and a Final Cause, covered in detail in the Poetics. The Four Causes: material, formal, efficient, and final. Pathos, though, is certainly front and center for engaging readers' empathy and curiosity, for tension's sake per Freytag. Ethos as well for ficton directly relates to character development, from portraying credible personas in credible situations struggling with credible, empathy-worthy dramatic complications. And, of course, appeals to emotion takes center stage regarding its relationship to both ethos and logos.

As far as mythos is concerned, Hermogenes' treatise on the Progymnasmata, rhetorical exercises, places the fable form (mythos) as the first exercise for students to compose: Rewrite one of Aesop's Fables or create a new one based on one, and especially turn any indirect discourse into direct discourse.

Lest I neglect kairos, decorum, and audience appeals. Kairos is timeliness, decorum is relevance and suitability of discourse, and audience appeals is reader niche targetting.

Actually, the above in toto are all about appealing to an audience niche.

[ April 25, 2012, 10:05 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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