Posts tagged story
Posts tagged story
I recently read through all of the Formspring answers from Andrew Hussie, creator of the webcomic Homestuck. Something that really caught my attention was how he was constantly referring to one of the biggest webcomics on the internet with a readership in the millions as an experiment. He said that he would put certain characters in, take the plot certain directions, and tell certain jokes basically as a test to see if they worked out.
I think this is an excellent mindset for a writer to have. Don’t set out to make the next greatest thing. Set out instead to try things out in your writing and see what works for you. When you find stuff that people like reading and you like writing, include more of it in your stories. Even when a lot of people like something that you do, don’t just make more of the same thing. Branch out and explore your possibilities. When something gets a bad reaction, it can help you learn what not to do. There’s never a time to give up because there’s always a new direction that you can take things in.
I’ve given this advice to several Tumblr authors who have expressed that they wanted to stop writing because they’d never get any good. There’s always a way to make something good. You just have to try a bunch of things until one fits, and then try a bunch more things while keeping the one that worked out in mind.
Also, bad reviews are good. They mean that people are reading your writing and seeing what you are doing wrong. A lot of the time, they mean that somebody cared enough about either you or your writing that they want to help make it better. Bad reviews and harsh critiques should encourage you, not discourage you (unless your writing gets turned into a kind of a meme for how bad things can get, like My Immortal. In that case, you really do suck.).
The follower of the day is mushroomian.
There are three things that people look for in a book. Pick two from the list: good plot, good characters, good prose. Very rarely do I see all three done well, and two seems to be enough to get a bestseller or a classic.
Good plot. This is the one that literary critics and English teachers often ignore. “The plot doesn’t matter as long as you have great characters!” they cry. They’re right, but only if you have good prose as well. A good plot shouldn’t have random events as a driving force. There should be no inconsistencies, and everything should eventually link to everything else. The best plots are original. Those who say that there’s nothing original probably don’t read the same things that I do, because I find originality all the time. Having a good plot is of equal importance to the other two.
Good characters. Good characters have such complex and unique personalities that if they stepped off of the pages, it would be hard to tell them from real people (or aliens, if that’s what your story’s about). Not only that, but those complex and unique personalities change. The characters are dynamic and flow from one personality to the next. However, if you have a good enough plot and a good enough prose, you can have a great book with horrible characters. Characters are not the end-all and be-all of literature.
Good prose. Here’s the secret one. People overlook prose unless it hits them in the face with a brilliant metaphor. When listing the qualities of a book, for example, hardly anybody would say that it has good prose. Prose is one of the three most important things out there, however. Good prose isn’t overly flowery or suffering from an extreme lack of details. It doesn’t sound awkward. There are several types of good prose to choose from. A lot of books have good prose by having prose that sounds poetic without being overly flowery and using too many big words.
Most of the classics that you have read have two of these things. If you’re wondering how a book became such a classic with such stuffy prose, look at the plot and characters. If you’re wondering how a book became a classic with all of those flat and cliched characters, remember the plot and the prose. If you’re wondering how a book became a classic when it has a stupid plot with a deus ex machina at the end, check out the prose and the characters. If two out of three are done to perfection, then a great book will come out.
This isn’t to say that you should only focus on two of these things. They are the three most important things in any story, and you should strive for all three to be excellent. This instead should be thought of as a safety net: if one of these things turns out to be sub-par despite your best efforts, the other two can make up for it. No matter how good you are, you aren’t likely to be able to get all three right, as even the best authors manage only two, but you should always try, because you don’t know which one that you will get wrong.
The follower of the day is hello2thesky.