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> Your Writing Process, And/Or Problems with Same
canis216
post Nov 13 2006, 05:36 PM
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From: Desert canyons without end.



I just sit down and bang out my stories when I feel like writing. Usually doesn't take much longer than half an hour. But, of course, I'm embracing a shorter and less continuous format for my tales, and not demanding such a high standard of wordsmither from myself than I do in my other writing. For generating ideas, however, I think nothing beats just sitting down at the computer or notebook and just letting words spill out. You can always change them later.


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The Metal Mallet
post Jan 6 2008, 08:23 AM
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I just thought I'd bump this thread considering the recent addition of a few newer writers to our fan fiction forum. Perhaps they'd like to share with their techniques as well?

As for my current product, I'm trying something new: writing in the first person. Personally, I never really felt the notion to do any writing in first person until I visited this forum. I'm pretty sure every novel I've ever read has always been third person, so whenever I done any creative writing myself, I've just felt more compelled to do third person than anything else. I also usually write in 3rd person because then I'm allowed to delve into the mind of any character I want to.

Since I've been to these forums though, I've realized that you can tell write a very compelling story using first person. So, with my latest work I've decided to give it a shot. Hopefully it turns out well.


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canis216
post Jan 6 2008, 09:05 AM
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Thread necromancy... approved.

From the opener, it looks like your plunge into 1st-person should be fascinating. As anyone who's read my stuff knows, I like to bounce back and forth (read: too lazy to put in the effort that one single perspective demands), and I find trying different styles to be refreshing.


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Olen
post Jan 6 2008, 05:30 PM
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Mallet: try reading Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb for a full novel in 1st person. Its not the best but its still well worth it.

As for my technique well I haven't posted here yet seeing as I've got to the 15k this is rubbish moment (I always seem to get between 15 and 17k into a story and decide its rubbish and must never see the light of day but with a re write it might pass).

Anyway forgive me the style its written in as I adapted it from a post made on another forum so it has a rather instructional tone...


Five steps to a story:


1. Work out roughly what happens. Take a walk in the park, sit with some paper and a few ciders, go for a run, do some weights, whatever. Get a basic idea. There's no right way to do this because it doesn't matter. Now sit and think on it, this is especially good to do as you fall asleep. Try fusing ideas together, or changing bits to make them quite different - play around. Once one really sings to you go to step two.

All you should have now is something like 'Empire falling apart without emperor so a group decide to put up a false heir to save it but their good motives go sour.'

2. Make a suitable character. This should be more part 1b really as its hard to make a character to fit a part and still make them deep so think about both the idea and character at the same time. Edit the idea as necessary. Once you know them answer the following questions: What do they want? Why do they want need it? What's stopping them from getting it? Why are they being stopped?

And bam - in those questions you have the core of the plot and a few more ideas should be forming.

Like with 1 and 2, 3 and 4 are somewhat concurrent processes.

3. Plot. What is going to happen? No need for too much detail but enough to put in foreshadowing and hooks to hold the reader in. Plan a few ‘chocolate scenes’, ie ones which will be really fun to read and write. Work out how to get between them.

Also work out how you main characters will develop (don't forget the antagonist). If anyone very major doesn't develop then go back and change them (I've heard tell of agents writing 'Who cares?' at the bottom of manuscripts where characters didn't develop - brutal but to the point).

4. Surroundings. Finalise the setting, obviously its the TES world here but when and where? You have a fair bit of leeway in how to show it, is it past its glory days and a dark dangerous place where the younger generation made desperate by unemployment is forced to go dungeon crawling and robbing or is it a shining land of heroes? Is the emperor wise and just or is he distant and uncaring? There’s a lot of choice in interpretation.

Also plan some background characters, I find it useful to have a character near the main who will conflict and show things about the protagonist which otherwise may be difficult. Work out your antagonist as well, what does he want and why?

5. Brush up the plot a bit then go write. New characters come easily. Edit the previous bits as needed. If you want to change something then do it. Its part of the process. If can be bothered it will be better for a re write but really just give it overnight and read though before posting and it will be fine.

Well that’s more or less how I do it. I find the planning pays off once you get in as you know what’s to happen next.

There’s quite a bit of interesting stuff here: http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/ and here http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php


Thats what I generally do though I tend to run aground at 15-20k words as I said so maybe it doesn't work so well.


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redsrock
post Jan 6 2008, 09:40 PM
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QUOTE(Olen @ Jan 6 2008, 05:30 PM) *




Thats what I generally do though I tend to run aground at 15-20k words as I said so maybe it doesn't work so well.

Lol, I'm currently on 36k words with my story...


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0rimus
post Apr 27 2008, 07:34 AM
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This is a rant so hold onto your pockets.
Everything I've learned about writing in school has been a giant, uninterpretable contradiction.
Extrapolation: How to start a story. Most people will agree that the start of a story is very important, if not the most important part. Every teacher I've ever had has said: "Make sure the beginning is interesting and grabs the readers attention." This, is retarded. Either by my own skewed definitions, or because I'm using the words in the wrong context, this sentence is contradictory to another overly used phrase: "The climax is the most exciting part of the story and IS USUALLY AT THE END OF A STORY."
Now, yes I realize you can have an exciting part without it necissarily being the MOST exciting, but why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

*SPOILER WARNINGS FOR THE LORD OF THE RINGS AND FARENHEIT 451*

I'll reiterate what I said earlier; either I'm a moron, or teachers are using the wrong terms.
Elaboration: I perhaps tie the word "interesting" with the near-synonimous word "fascinating". And this may be a fault on my part. Explosions grab my attention, so do loud noises, or sudden movements out of the corner of my eye. But some things don't, most things don't; amd futhermore somethings SHOULDN'T. If this above statement was true, every story that started with: "And the wagon imploded into a ball of fire.." would be a success. But writing a book is not about shock and awe. Now I'll use an example of how an uniteresting beginning can be arguably better. Concerning Hobbits. Do I think that entire beginning chapter was interesting? No. Did it grab my attention? No. Did I enjoy it? No. Did I read that entire trilogy anyway? You bet your boots. For the illiterate, I'm of course speaking of the Lord of the Rings. The de facto "Best work of literature of the 20th century." I'm sure that many would like to argue, but I'm certain in their hearts they agree.
Another benefit of a slower story is to actually purposely lose readers. If they're not interested in your writing, why should they read it? I find it depresing sometimes. Another example: Farenheit 451. We're reading it in my english class. It starts out with a man holding a fire hose, but instead of water it's shooting out kerosene, and instead of grim determination, the mans face has a childish gleeful expression.
How can you not want to find out more about that? Yet still my classmates threw $hit and ignored the story completely. I mean sure, Ray was a little long winded (an understatement) and even I lost a little interest at some points, but I read the story anyway while my peers were lost in stupidity. The only conclusion I could come to is that they didn't want to find out more. They weren't interested, were not grabbed by this intro at all. And I'm glad. Ingnorant tards shouldn't reap benefits for something they didn't work for. I'm not going to drag someones dead overweight carcass into a story. I simply propose a replacement: Provoke thought. Anyone can be interested in something if its action-filled and laced with overly-flambouyant words. But to actually provoke thought, that's altogether genuine; unique. Many will not be provoked. But those who are will begin to think! And what a beautiful thing that is. People attribute Tolkien's work to good description, which is true; but really it was HOW it was written, not so much the words used. And that is what created such a beautiful picture in so many people's minds: What kept that book alive. And not to brag; but probably what kept you reading to this point.
My point? Don't fight so hard to make your readers, uh, read. Obviously don't make your story UNITERESTING. Just keep in mind that you're leading up to the climax, not starting from it. Provoke thought and wonder, and don't overdo descrption. Don't carry your audience, but don't let them sink to the bottom either, to be figurative. Lol, there's that rant in five sentences. Oh, and thanks for reading.

This post has been edited by 0rimus: Apr 27 2008, 07:35 AM
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paragenic
post Apr 28 2008, 04:51 PM
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Change the font, line spacing, font size, and character spacing of your text, as you are writing it, on a regular basis. It helps when you're re-reading to catch spelling mistakes, forgotten words, etc. It also helps you just a little bit to see the text as though you were the reader.

It gets hard to re-read and still feel objective when you are so familiar with your own text you know the word at the end of the line before you've read it. Change the layout frequently to keep you on your toes.





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paragenic
post Apr 28 2008, 04:54 PM
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Oh, yes of course AND when reviewing remember the surgeon's mantra:

When in doubt, cut it out

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treydog
post May 2 2008, 01:08 PM
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In response to the advice to "make it interesting," I think about Shakespeare. When we read his plays, we are missing the most important thing- the atmosphere. His audiences were largely illiterate; he had to grab them right away.... So, a standard technique is to "Enter two guys in the middle of a conversation." Immediately, the audience starts to pay attention, because they have questions-

who are these guys? Where are they? What are they talking about? What is happening?

You can do similar things with the opening of your story. Jump right into the middle and tell the reader to hang on for the ride. Use flashbacks and dialogue to fill in the blanks- but don't do it all at once. Leave some mystery. Leave the reader wondering, "And then what happened?"


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bbqplatypus
post Aug 29 2008, 02:10 AM
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I'm of the opinion that there is no single right way to begin a story. To begin a story in medias res is a classic, tried and true technique to grab the reader's attention. However, keep in mind that it often delays certain necessary expository dialogue and explanation to later on in the story, which affects pacing. Different stories merit different narratives, and therefore different beginnings.

And speaking of exposition, I've always found that it's best to include as little of that as possible. Only explain as much as is absolutely necessary for your audience to appreciate the story. Some things are actually better left unexplained. If there's an offhand reference to something in-universe that isn't important to the plot, don't explain it. It helps add to the atmosphere of the story - the feeling that the world in which the story takes place is bigger than the action you're describing. The original Star Wars is a great example of this.

As for my writing process, I'm kind of a hybrid between the "high school term paper" school of planning everything ahead and the Stephen King school of making everything up as you write it.

Take the story I'm working on right now for instance (READ THE NEW UPDATE cough, cough). In the time between updates, I usually have some story ideas swirling around in my head that slowly start to crystallize into a sorta story. On rare occasions, I'll even make an outline. But it's not until I start typing and I can see the words in front of me that the story starts to become fleshed out and I can put it together in a way that makes sense. (And I always type, by the way - my handwriting is far too slow to convey my ideas as they come).

For example, in the part of the story where (SPOILERS AHEAD! BWOOP! BWOOP!) Grignr goes to talk to Vivec, I thought it would be a good idea to put an "establishing scene" to convey a sense of the setting. (This is an important part of writing fiction, by the way - you want to let the reader know where the story is taking place in an efficient, unobtrusive manner - otherwise the story starts to feel like it's detached from time and space). After finishing the first sentence, I thought "Hey, wait a minute? Why not do this from the perspective of the back of a moving gondola?" And then the idea came to me: Grignr could have a conversation with the gondolier! This would be a great opportunity to show him interacting with the common people of Morrowind, and to display how he is viewed by them. After all, it makes sense that he would be rather famous, and it would additionally make the "establishing" more subtle while developing his character to boot! It's one of those little touches that your really can't plan in advance.

It's largely for this reason that I do most of my writing in fits and starts. I DON'T do my work in the "Submit Reply" section, of course - that would be stupid. Nor do I simply do one update at a time (though I come close to that at times). Rather I set out with a certain goal in mind of where I want to end the next update, plow my way through it, and then keep writing for a little while so I get a general idea of how the next update will begin before going back and editing. Sometimes my momentum carries me far enough ahead so that I can get two or three updates worth of material done. I try not to get too far ahead of myself, though. I'm really not much farther ahead in the story than my readers are.

One more thing I like to try to do is end the update on an appropriate note (whether a cliffhanger, an emotional part, a zippy repartee from one of the characters, or just an indication of what lies ahead). If you don't end it right, it just makes everything feel a bit hollow, and the whole thing just sort of falls to pieces.

...

...

...

Crap. I've run out of things to say. embarrased.gif

This post has been edited by bbqplatypus: Aug 30 2008, 07:57 PM
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canis216
post Nov 16 2008, 06:40 PM
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I'm posting this to sort of show how I'm struggling through a bit o' writer's block. The following is writing/idea regurgitation for an essay I'm doing to meet a requirement for picking up my Master's degree. It takes the form of the travel or "on the road" essay, but also I think serves as a sort of meditation upon the big spaces and big changes going on in the Rocky Mountain region, big sky country. It centers around a trip from Lander, Wyoming to Missoula, Montana on 4th of July weekend, 2008. Comments/questions/suggestions are encouraged.

* * *



Road weary and bleary-eyed I pull off of the state highway at a rest stop somewhere west of Rexburg, in the high sagebrush desert. I park in the dimmest spot I can find, force the driver’s seat into a reclining position, and pull out my sleeping bag, greasy with sweat and farts and near non-stop use. It is 1 A.M. and I have been up for 18 hours—going through some kind of hell just to make Fourth of July in Missoula.

Friday of Fourth of July weekend and I’m aching to get the hell out of Wyoming, to be anywhere but stuck on the roadside an hour outside of Lander, on the wrong side of South Pass. A problem with the fuel pump, and then some, on the U.S. government Chevy Suburban that my co-workers and I have started to call the Death Trap. We have places to go,


I can’t sit still

Chronology:

Get back to [insert bad word ending in -ing] Lander (finally):
broken speedometer on the tow truck
baby on board
stuck on South Pass
Share soda with Michael

The way out in Wyoming:
Wind River Indian reservation
Ft. Washakie – Native American Art dealer, “Ancient Ways”
Crowheart and its gas station
Mountains on my left, Gannett, Wolverine
Along the Wind River
Dubois
Togwotee Pass – emerge from the shell of metal and plastic, piss
Highway 26
Moran Junction and through Teton National Park
Moose and elk throwing themselves in front of my car
Jackson- want to see people through something other than my windshield
Stop at Wendy’s
Filled with self-doubt

Out from Jackson and over the pass:
Crossing the Snake but can’t see a damn thing
Up and over the pass, only headlights and signs telling me to slow down
Taking note of campgrounds on the way (Expand to discuss my extra-legal camping habits?)

Idaho:
Victor- stop and get gas @ $4.20 gallon. Lucky I get 30 mpg. Across the street from the Emporium w/its malt shop
Driggs- big damn houses, trail work in the mountains w/”THC Tuesday”? Probably leave out the THC, doesn’t add up to much
Series of small towns I don’t know well, on to skirting Rexburg, missing Idaho Falls entirely (thankfully)
Stop for sleep somewhere short of Mud Lake

This post has been edited by canis216: Nov 17 2008, 12:02 AM


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Colonel Mustard
post Nov 16 2008, 11:15 PM
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After reading this thread, I've come to conclusion that my writing method is rather odd.

When most people seem to have a rough idea of how the story goes, I just think of a beginning and a climax, and leave blank space in between for stuff to happen.

For example, in my current project, Grey Knight, I had the beginning 2 chapters as an idea (space marine fights daemons, gets dragged into warp), and the climax (massive siege of the Imperial city). Between these, it's just filled as I write.
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seerauna
post Nov 17 2008, 12:28 AM
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It's not that strange, Bean. I do that too. Except I usually get a random idea for something smack in the middle and I'll record it so I don't forget it. I have a whole three pages of random stuff on Word.


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It’s only moments until,
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Shadow in Darkness- My first ongoing FanFic!
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canis216
post Nov 17 2008, 12:33 AM
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Yeah, I don't think your method is all that strange. The Hammerfell story I'm working on right now is in a similar situation. I know (more or less) how I'm ending it, and I have a chunk of the beginning written, but all the stuff in the middle is uncertain.


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Read about Always-He-Lingers-in-the-Sun, a Blades assassin, in Killing in the Emperor's Name and The Dark Operation. And elsewhere.
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canis216
post Nov 17 2008, 01:47 AM
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Current progress on my stuff above:
-------------------------------------------

Road weary and bleary-eyed I pull off of the state highway at a rest stop somewhere west of Rexburg, in the high sagebrush desert. I park in the dimmest spot I can find, force the driver’s seat into a reclining position, and pull out my sleeping bag, greasy with sweat and farts and near non-stop use. It is 1 A.M. and I have been up for 18 hours—going through some kind of hell just to make Fourth of July in Missoula.

I’ve been aching to get the hell out of Wyoming, land of the sun-baked skull, the suicidal jackrabbit, the sulfur stinking oil wells, and the starvation-crazed mosquito. The land where the government-issued Chevy Suburban conks out sixty miles short of Lander on Friday the [freaking] third of July, when all are desperate to be anywhere but stuck on South Pass watching cheat grass cure in the sun as traffic blasts by.

I’m three hours late getting out of Lander. What does that mean? It means, even in the deliriously long days of summer, that I will reach Jackson well after dark. Jackson is only real population center on this night’s itinerary (in these parts a permanent population of 9000-plus is plenty big) and my route leaves me no choice but drive right through the heart of a tourist town in high vacation season. Complicating this trouble is the fact that I’ve never before been to Jackson—I don’t know the streets.
---------------------------------------------

1st graph and the rest don't flow temporally, but that's fixable later. I guess I'm giving a window on how I'm breaking my creative drought.


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Read about Always-He-Lingers-in-the-Sun, a Blades assassin, in Killing in the Emperor's Name and The Dark Operation. And elsewhere.
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canis216
post Nov 17 2008, 04:35 AM
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More progress. Why am I clogging the thread with this? It's a way of keeping motivated, I guess, and measuring my progress. Got to have goals of some sort.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Road weary and bleary-eyed I pull off of the state highway at a rest stop somewhere west of Rexburg, in the high sagebrush desert. I park in the dimmest spot I can find, force the driver’s seat into a reclining position, and pull out my sleeping bag, greasy with sweat and farts and near non-stop use. It is 1 A.M. and I have been up for 18 hours—going through some kind of hell just to make Fourth of July in Missoula.

I’ve been aching to get the hell out of Wyoming, land of the sun-baked skull, the suicidal jackrabbit, the sulfur stinking oil well, and the starvation-crazed mosquito. The land where the government-issued Chevy Suburban conks out sixty miles short of Lander on Friday the [freaking] third of July, when all are desperate to be anywhere but stuck on South Pass watching cheat grass cure in the sun as traffic blasts by.

I’m three hours late getting out of Lander. What does that mean? It means, even in the deliriously long days of summer, that I will reach Jackson well after dark. Jackson is only real population center on this night’s itinerary (in these parts a permanent population of 9000 is plenty big) and my route leaves me no choice but drive right through the heart of a tourist town in high vacation season. Complicating this trouble is the fact that I’ve never before been to Jackson—I don’t know the streets.

But all that comes later. Out of Lander—what a relief!—I can crank the stereo and cruise along at a safe and sane (and blessedly legal) 65 through the western reach of the Wind River reservation, ogling the odd ranch and the more exotic of the billboards, which almost exclusively advertise for trading posts of some ilk. There is one place in Fort Washakie, “Ancient Ways” that makes me think of my friend in Tucson, the one who wants to start his own tribe—never mind that he’s already an Apache. But—like most drivers’ glimpses of these tiny reservation towns—the thought is fleeting. It is difficult to draw out a memory and focus on it, grasp it, when the ever-varying landscape and the golden light of late afternoon assault and entice the eyes with vision after vision. The hills are the color of honey—it hasn’t rained in two weeks—and the high peaks of the west all bear crowns of snow.

Somewhere past Crowheart (population: gas station) the highway descends to the level of the Wind River, winding its way through a red rock canyon reminiscent of Utah. Lovely. The river leads me on to Dubois (population: 991) and beyond, to the high country of Togwotee Pass and the Wind River range, Wyoming’s tallest mountains—more than forty named 13,000 foot peaks. The pass itself rises to nearly 10,000 feet, and when I emerge from my shell of GM metal and plastic to walk on my own two legs, feed some mosquitoes, and piss, the air is marvelously cool, an ecstasy utterly denied in my last few weeks of wading through the shadeless sagebrush desert counting cheat grass and Russian thistle.


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Read about Always-He-Lingers-in-the-Sun, a Blades assassin, in Killing in the Emperor's Name and The Dark Operation. And elsewhere.
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bbqplatypus
post Nov 17 2008, 08:53 AM
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I also know exactly what Bean is talking about. I'm pretty much in the same boat for my next story. Then again, it's probably going to end up being the longest story I've ever written (assuming it ever gets completed).



By the way, that's some good writing there, canis. It can be pretty damn hard to get something in essay form to be entertaining, and you've certainly managed it.

(Not that I don't love writing "entertaining" essays, of course - I actually liked my Non-Fiction writing course better than my Fiction Writing course).
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canis216
post Nov 17 2008, 05:03 PM
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Well, it is meant to be an entertainment, that's for sure. I'm really going for, eventually, a sort of gonzo vibe with this piece. The trouble, of course, is that my thoughts during all of this were considerably more off-beat than my actions. Wildest thing I did all the weekend was sit barea$$ naked in an ice-cold mountain stream outside of Missoula, in a really, really popular hiking spot. Regrettably (for purposes of a really funny way to end the story) nobody stumbled upon me while I was doing it.


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treydog
post Nov 17 2008, 06:31 PM
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QUOTE(canis216 @ Nov 17 2008, 04:03 PM) *

Well, it is meant to be an entertainment, that's for sure. I'm really going for, eventually, a sort of gonzo vibe with this piece. The trouble, of course, is that my thoughts during all of this were considerably more off-beat than my actions. Wildest thing I did all the weekend was sit barea$$ naked in an ice-cold mountain stream outside of Missoula, in a really, really popular hiking spot. Regrettably (for purposes of a really funny way to end the story) nobody stumbled upon me while I was doing it.


Well...how completely "non-fiction" does it have to be? When I was teaching the narrative in Composition I, I always quoted from the beginning of "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean":

"If this isn't the way things happened, it should have been."

In other words, never let facts get in the way of a good story. Or you can even riff off of a "All the things that might have happened" fantasy.

* * *


Different discussion- back to process stuff. I am firmly committed to the belief that there is no "right way" to write. (Other than making the effort to get words on the page). I hardly ever "start at the beginning" with any of my writing. For my current story, I had the idea of the character for a long time, and knew that he would go to Solstheim. And I know the ending- I have had that written for a couple of years, now. All I have done since I imagined the character and the ending is to build the bridge that gets him from where he started to where I need him to go....


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The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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canis216
post Nov 18 2008, 03:24 AM
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From: Desert canyons without end.



With first person nonfiction I think embellishment is riskier. I'm trying to maintain pretty high fidelity to the actual events, though I might mix in a bit from the couple other trips I eventually made between Lander and Missoula. But at least that stuff actually happened--I'd just be messing with time slightly.


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Read about Always-He-Lingers-in-the-Sun, a Blades assassin, in Killing in the Emperor's Name and The Dark Operation. And elsewhere.
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- Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 14th November 2019 - 12:11 PM