Criteria for details, names, labels, events, settings, characters, complications, conflicts, and tones development has preoccupied my studies of late. They are dickens of no small import yet often a matter of few words -- "telling details."
I expect a plan basis for them boils down to one or a few criteria that are decipherable for ease of implementation purposes. So far, they are not easy, other than several first principles that do little more than explicate function, purpose, and result, like memorableness, relateableness, concision, and emotional-moral charge. Though not on the more necessary criteria for their design and implementation ease. Like a name drop, say, of a vehicle type that is relevant yet the name itself is dropped without context or texture wrapping. The Toyota Tundra ate miles across pine pocosin hectares. What? Huh? Pretty language though pure tell summary and two or more unfamiliar terms.
Those first principles are a bother from their vagueness and generic broadness, as first principles are wont to be. They as well do not stand up and announce their presence or, actually, lacks thereof of their overlooked and missed significance. In my mind, I know the identity of each and every motif -- persona, place, time, event, etc., that too often misses the page. Close and tedious analysis serves to locate such missed content, that is contrary to the creative process as it unfolds on the page. Thus why a plan made second nature is wanted.
The "Law," as it were, is lavish attention on the literal, yet as well mind the figurative, and know when enough is enough of each and such that they coordinate. This much and no more for this; less if any for that; and the other yonder is altogether unnecessary or, contrarily, most relevant though unrealized, yet also understatement (leave readers room for interpretation and wanting more) can be more appealing than overstatement (which is an emotional appeal) -- vague as the dickens.
Huh? Then some developments are best practice understated and others are best practice overstated, yet each timely and judiciously fully realized for the moment and matter at hand. Which are which? Understatement for ironic commentary, interpretable and accessible as irony; overstatement for emotional charge, interpretable and accessible as emotional, subjective expression.
Place, time, event, and character names or labels, for example, are all nouns. Nouns are secondmost significant after verbs. The simple sentence syntax of subject, predicate, and optional object phrase reflects that sequence, name first, action second, and accords average reader attention spans. Hence, simple sentence's, sans object, powers and strengths. Yet names best practice are memorable, relateable, though concise.
Routinely fourthmost, after thirdmost object phrases, adjective, adverb, and similar modifier phrases' function for formal composition is clarity and concision. Only as needed for those purposes, otherwise, excise those diction stains all out, period. Prose's modifier function is for emotional-moral charged commentary and transcends its lastmost priority to firstmost.
So a criteria emerges, that is, for motif context and texture purposes, so much and not an iota more of understated detailed attention to an entity's dramatic identity relevant to a matter and its now moment, yet overstatement for emotional-moral charge functions, likewise, its identity relevant to a matter and now moment.
Nicknames serve real-world social functions, for the above criteria, are memorable, etc. Nicknames are metonymy, synecdoche, or abbreviated or endearment derivatives (Little John, Johnny, etc., for John or Jonathan); respectively, metonymy, an attribute of an entity stands for the whole, or, synecdoche, a sensorially observed part of an entity stands for the whole, or, derivative, a diminutive form of a whole name.
Metonymy: the Big Apple; synecdoche: all hands on deck; abbreviation: Rube for Reuben. The latter one is of the type indicated; "Rube's" associations are emotionally-morally charged, associated with awkward, unsophisticated, rustic, naive, or inexperienced entities. "Big Apple" is a similar association, that is, to all that an apple morally entails from folk tales and parables, though less charged. "Hands" as the visible part of a crew or crew person is all that those entities' value is, as menial, if skilled, manual laborers, less yet charged if at all.
The use of names and labels, however, is complicated by their relevance and relateableness. Outdated names' significance could be inaccessible. Unfamiliar terms as well inaccessible. Plus, name exposition could name drop without adequate context and texture development. For example, used to be the label Funk and Wagnel's was the butt of a joke gag line from a comedy revue and all but universally accessible for its current events status. Not anymore. It has passed out of vogue. Likewise, overly new labels as well could be inaccessible due to not yet being fully in the public mind. Overly complex names as well.
Nickname tropes simplify labels so that they are more memorable, concise, and accessible; toward simplification is the trend anyway. "Radar," for example, an acronym that derives from RAdio Detection And Ranging. The abbreviation is easily read and comprehended, anymore. Now, lidar, Light Detection And Ranging, is another matter, less easily and less widespread routine comprehension.
Either case, those are name drops that serve telling's functions though not per se showing's functions. Context and texture detail attention are indicated, or another method, say one of locating such motifs as incidental to another circumstance, or adding emotional-moral charge and subjective circumstances.
Anyway, I'm closing in on this through studies of published works. That's not as easy as might be expected. Artful writers conceal, misdirect, and prestidigitate such naming exposition, as well as attention lavished on any given motif's context and texture, into backgrounds and shades and innuendos and implications and nuances not easily obvious on their surfaces. Most figured some of this out from short stories I recently analyzed. A timely and judicious, well-placed word or two works magics beyond a surface expression's overt meaning.
Still, these are annoyingly elusive processes, one may suit one story and not be reproducible for another, yet some key criteria they share in common lays just out of edge-scratch reach. When I write, draft anyway, I stumble upon their want and want a seamless process that doesn't disturb the creative process flow. For revisions, too, though is another related matter.
[Additional to the above subtle implication methods are an abundant variety of figures of speech and figurative language methods that further complexity the studies thereof. Curiously, too, no matter how literal an expression meant, many entail intended or unintended figurative expression, for prose anyway. Oh bother.]
I still struggle with how much detail is enough, how much is too much, and whether or not I've missed an important detail because I can see it so perfectly in my head that I forget to write it down. That's honestly why I'm fond of getting critiques around my second draft or so--the worst of the roughness has been smoothed over, but I sometimes end up too close to the story to catch things like missed/excessive detail without letting the story rest for far longer than I'd like.
I'd like to think I'm starting to do better, but only time will tell. I'm presently in one of those intermediate stages where I can recognize my story is missing elements, but can't always tell *what* is missing.
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Part of my search for a working plan method is a want for a filter mechanism that reveals under-realized or over-realized or missing altogether content and as well misorganization thereof. Once again, yet again an answer hit me like a concrete block slapped upside the head. I've been worrying this filter thread to tatters of late, in discussions here and elsewhere and tripping on its criteria here and there and in depth from several analytical texts. Moral charge.
I must have read a line from John Gardner's The Art of Fiction half a dozen times and paid it little mind. This last revisit to the line and the chapter that contains it flared the proverbial lightbulb over the head. "True suspense, we have said, is a dramatic representation of the anguish of moral choice." (pg 187) Suspense is probably the most critical want for narrative mastery, at least suspense is the so-called hook feature much sought after.
Between vice temptation and virtue exhortations or between degrees of vices are the moral choices Gardner means, and Aristotle, Freytag, Wayne Booth, and others. The anguish of the choice, the emotional charge component of tension accompanied by suspense's doubt of outcome. Plus, of course, attendant causation and antagonism forces in opposition.
These then are filter tools now, for me, to evaluate for underdone, overdone, or missing content: anguish and moral choice, also otherwise known as conflict's stakes and possible outcomes forces, and complication's want-problem motivation antagonism forces. Plus tone's emotional-moral charge forces. Part of this new filter approach came into focus from reading and analyzing Larry Heinemann's stories due to a response to a fragment posted here at Hatrack.
This, the opening line in particular from "The Fragging": "Second Lieutenant Lionel Calhoun McQuade was a Citadel punk, and that's probably what killed him." Complication, conflict, and moral-emotional tone established by the end of the first line. Elapsed word count including title, seventeen. Sublime.
The other quantity and quality filter matter is in the saying show and tell. Numerous commentators note that show is imitation, mimesis in the vernacular, and tell is summary and explanation, likewise in the vernacular, diegesis and exegesis, respectively. Imitation shows vividly and lively the sensory experiences of most import as related to the anguish of moral choice.
Diegesis is more than mere explanation, too; that is, "Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling that presents an interior view of a world in which details about the world itself and the experiences of its characters are revealed explicitly through narrative the story is told or recounted, as opposed to shown or enacted. In diegesis the narrator tells the story. The narrator presents the actions of the characters to the readers or audience." (Wikipedia "Diegesis") In other words, a storytelling mode that tells the action and attendant sensory stimuli. Exigesis, too, contains more difference than mere explanation, herein, though, the terms are meant for their relation to creative writing.
Both emotional-moral charge and sensory stimuli combined show and tell, imitate reality such that receivers, readers or otherwise, immerse within the imitated reality and partially or wholly leave an alpha reality. The so-labeled immersion spell or received dream state of a narrative's alternate reality. Those altogether amount to my new filter process. The emotional charge anguish of moral choice feature most of all.
Say a diegesis indicates a ball bounces downhill and smashes into a windshield. Not very emotionally charged, lacks specificity, lacks vividness and liveliness, no anguish of moral choice whatsoever.
The stubborn baseball got away from little Tommy's careless grasp. Worn to tatters by the playful child's hard use, the hardball bounded wayward downhill on its tear, leapt a highway jersey wall, smashed into a shiny fast Trans Am -- cratered its windshield. Exaggerated for effect and certainly no where near as concise as Heinemann's signal line.
Whose moral choice anguish? The narrator's, presumably a parent's, maybe all parents' anguish for children's safety. Oh no, little Tommy, do not chase the ball. Time enough later to soon more fully establish the narrator's identity if necessary at all. "The Fragging" doesn't, only through moral anguish choice does the narrator identity come through, that of soldiers' moral anguish over friendly fire.
I recently watched a video in which a woman explained why the movie PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was so poorly done.
The video is interesting in its approach and the continual imbibing of some kind of liquid by the "essayist" (sorry, I don't know her name or her credentials), but it was most useful to me in her explanation of diegesis.
She explains that diegesis refers to the "world" of the story - and how the things in the film or book or play can risk ruining the audience's experience if they do not obey the rules of the world of the story.
She pointed out that a musical, by its very musical nature, is non-diegetic because even in the world of a musical's story, people really do not just burst into song at random times. And a musical in which the songs they sing don't do that much to add to the story or further the plot can be even more non-diegetic than a musical in which the songs do add to the story or further the plot.
So when I think of diegesis, I now think of it as referring to the rules the author creates (either consciously or unconsciously) for the world of the story, and how important it is to make sure that your story elements are never non-diegetic.
Hope that helps and doesn't confuse what has already been said.
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Musicals near their recent heyday and decline baffled me. I spent years unraveling what the appeals are, never satisfied with answers given. Some musicals appealed to me, some didn't, yes, part due to the sudden song and dance outbursts didn't often fit the internal deigetic sense of the action, sometimes did fit to some extent. Who bursts into song and dance in the real world anyway? Few, if any, ever, in front of others least so. Bemusement or ridicule and mockery and both would accompany most anyone who would. Privately, less so if at all any positive or negative response. Private, that is a matter of high import for stage and screen play song and dance.
Baffled until I studied the Greek chorus and its drama functions. A core function is to act as an audience surrogate, which shows what emotional and moral response is intended for receivers. Somewhat tells receivers what to think, feel, and how to act. I reject that intent whole cloth though allow it is a function of dramatic song and dance.
Rather, a chorus's design is diegetic, part of a narrative point of view, and narrator storytelling diegetic mode, a chorus comments narrator-like; that is, a collective comment on the dramatic action of the moment or part or whole.
Backstory-like chorus often begins Greek odes, more historic pedigrees and So-and-so begets and patriotic propaganda than other backstory types. Later choruses burst forth at interludes and intercessions, also, to review the action that came before and preview of action to come so that it could be interpreted and understood as designed, prologue-like and parenthetical aside-like choruses.
Less common and more artful, more appealing, though, are choruses that express private subjective moral and emotional commentary about the action, perhaps ironically, probably open to questions, of a satirical design, about presupposed notions of moral propriety represented by a dramatic action.
The summary nature of diegesis nothwithstood, its artless bland summary presentation, narrator report and commentary mode common to traditional narrative expression, chorus is the same, only that it is a collective method of song and dance.
When a character diegesis, it is the same, and oftentimes more or less private thoughts expressed aloud that otherwise cannot be expressed aloud, at the least for dramatic irony purposes. Also, a peculiar sort of situational irony which uses aural expression to represent unsaid and otherwise unsayable commentary.
When two or several characters sing and possibly dance, it is a duel of private thoughts expressed conversationally, emulates nonverbal, nonvocal, gestural expression conversation backdrops that likewise cannot otherwise be expressed aloud or readily interpreted. Being of a degree representative of natural, nonvolitional expression, song and dance choruses express underlaid greater private, subjective truths than overt speech designs, what with speech's usual covert intents to withhold, delay, deceive, and conceal ulterior, unspoken agenda revelations.
This is diegesis's fully realized function then: narrator expresses true, if perhaps skewed and ironic, private emotional-moral interpretation commentary necessary to understand and interpret a dramatic action's true intent. In terms of rules of a world a writer creates, in an aesthetic sense, a diegesis narrator expresses a culture milieu's subjective social-moral beliefs and values or their contraries, whether designed to support, enhance, reinforce, or further those or question or refute or repudiate or deny those, or combinations thereof.
So, would "The Great Gatsby" be an example of diegesis? How about the "How to Train Your Dragon" books? Would those be diegesis in action? What would be an example of exegesis? "Ender's Game" or "The Hunger Games?"
On my first drafts, as I write (and I am still quite novice--nothing yet is second nature to me) I don't spend too much time worrying about unnecessary detail or an absence of necessary detail. I'm mostly just trying to get the story sequenced and the plot adequately mapped and the character's motives and desires from scene to scene established. Extraneous or missing details (I hope) will become apparent during the revision process.
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The Great Gatsby contains diegesis and exegesis and mimesis parts and parts that are some of each and some of two blended. As does the Train Your Dragon cycle.
From Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, this is blended diegesis and exegesis:
quote:It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--
Note the summary nature and the explanation nature, distinguishable yet indivisible, diegesis and exegesis, respectively.
Several paragraphs later a mimesis line presents: "she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards." Blended mimesis, diegesis, and exegesis.
Mimesis simplified is an unmediated narrator description of received sensory receptions, like visual, in the above case, aural, tactile (somewhat part of the above, too), olfactory, gustatory, and, the most important poetic sensation, emotional feeling. Dialogue is aural mimesis. Paraphrased speech, being a summary of speech, the indirect discourse method, is diegesis, perhaps exegesis.
The first dialogue of the Tale is mostly mimesis, the dialogue attribution tag, diegesis: ""Wo-ho!" said the coachman. "So, then! One more pull and you're at the top and be damned to you, for I have had trouble enough to get you to it!--Joe!"
Prior quote-mark bracketed text of the Tale are paraphrased cites, diegesis.
A composition strategy many successful, experienced writers apply is to set down in draft some skeletal sense of narrative preparation, suspension and anticipation, and, partial at the moment, satisfaction sequence start to middle to end, then revise to add the ligaments, organs, flesh, skin, hairs and such, clothes, and fashion accessories, so to speak. For some writers, they start with a sequenced sketch of dialogue then add further event details, and setting and character details that flesh out the drama.
Worth note, whether for a prewriting plan phase, composition, or revision phase, prose asks, if not demands, some degree of ornamented language. Not per se decorated or adorned, ornament meaning to equip with emotional charge accessories. Emotionally charged irony and other rhetoric tropes and schemes equip the Tale, that establishes at the start, and persists throughout, the tone for pieces and the overall Tale.
The Tale is a satire of the Menippean type; that is, sarcasm that victimizes a social-moral issue, and verily drips with vitrolic sarcasm at that. Horatioan and Juvenallian are two other satire types. Juvenallian satire's sarcasm victimizes a person or persons. Horatioan sarcasm victimizes a human institution. Gatsby and the Train Your Dragon cycle are mostly Menippean.
Nor must a satire of necessity be sarcasm; by far the more common narrative type is satire without heavy sarcasm if any at all, superficially anyway. Sarcasm's only difference from satire and irony, generally, is that sarcasm mocks and ridicules a focal topic or subject -- ironically. Satire reveals human social vice and folly. Irony is broad and deep in its applications; that is, irony is congruent opposite literal and figurative meaning and intent.
Irony, satire, and sarcasm add artful, emotional, and appealing depth to an otherwise superficial dramatic action, an action that has likely happened and been reported through prose an innumerable number of times across the prose canon and, in and of itself, is about as appealing as routinely drinking water.
A formal composition principle applies to irony: decide a personal position with regard to a topic, take a stand, make the claim, and support it. Pick your poison, target your victim, be impolite; add irony soon or late for successful prose composition.
I believe that the root of mimesis is the same as that for mimic and imitate (and refers to things being as close to "the real world" as possible).
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And mimesis emphasis is a main departure for Realism from earlier literary movements, like Romanticism, and as well is a feature of Realism stepchildren Modernism and Postmodernism and whatever present-day movements are emergent from the Pluralism multitudes. Reality imitation is one identity for mimesis, thus Realism, as well as its congruent identity unreal make-believe inventions for other than real-world fantastical narrative genres.
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