Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

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Inferno second update

Following up on my last temper explosion here [link], I took a deep breath and tried to reason with the teacher. I did try my best to be really civil and not argumentative. I got told that the course provides extensive material and that teacher’s role is to correct the given assignments so those pieces of writing are better, nothing to do with teaching the students to write better in general. However I got offered some critical feedback instead of the usual kind of feedback the course offers. I accepted, and you know what? Suddenly I am not the only one wanting critical feedback.

To be completely honest the material is decent, but not massive. Half of the prompts exercises are repeated, and the longest is just a bunch of ‘inspirational’ paragraphs from utterly random books. But really. Getting told to get rid of the adverbs? I’ve heard that before, tons of times, and for free (and do you know what? I like adverbs. But that’s another story).

Anyway. Current summary on my feelings towards the course:

  • Motivation levels: 0 %
  • Enjoyment levels: 30 %
  • Overall usefulness levels: 50 % (found the Lisa Gardner toolbox through it, after all [link])
  • Value for money: 20 %
  • Feedback usefulness: 10 %
  • Fun / Challenge: 10 %
  • Technical resources: we’re supposed to have a real-time chat on a forum. I know first years in university who can build you a chat room. As a matter of fact, I know that Moodle has a chat plug in… so hm… Let’s say 50% cause the page has not crashed once

I look back at the ratings and wonder if I am being too harsh, or whining. Dunno, don’t really care. Maybe the course structure is just not for me. I just know that on April 16th I was really motivated to work on Victim #14 and now I only open the files for the assignments.

So yeah. I really need to find myself some motivation…

Is fun, because if you look at my wordcount (oh, yeah, remember the 500-words-a-day-thingy? It’s still going on) I seem to be super effective lately:

But motivation? MIA. Although I have to say I don’t regret having taken the course. Gives you a perspective of what to expect from “professionals” and gives me a writing credential ^^


Thinking about where characters come from

A friend of mine linked me to an Open University course on creative writing [link]. As I was going through it, I came across this couple of paragraphs on creating characters:

There seem to be two different types of character. There’s the type that just turns up at your shoulder like a ghost and insists on being written. This is rather spooky, it’s a bit like being a medium. The other kind of character is the sort that you invent more or less from scratch or create as a composite of various people that you’ve noticed or come across. And the one thing that does happen though is that as soon as the character begins to become real, he or she starts misbehaving, and they don’t do what you tell them to do. You often find yourself altering the story to accommodate your characters. Your plans always go wrong

It’s partly good old-fashioned empathy; with a certain amount of effort you can imagine what it’s like being somebody else. If these characters are conveniently nearby you can always go and ask them and listen to them talking. And quite often with a character, all you’ve got to do is start them talking, like yakking in your head – it’s a bit like being a paranoid schizophrenic but it’s under control, you know, you’ve got all of these voices going on in your mind – you just let them talk. And they develop quite happily on their own.

Louis de Bernières

Source: [link]

Which is reassuring after reading about eight or so authors speaking about ‘building’ up characters and how to create them from scratch. I realised then that most of my characters are not ‘built’, they just happen. I remember the precise point in which one Okonogi Kazuki happened, I was walking from work to my car, it was lunch break and it was sunny – a feat where I used to live. When I came out of the building he just did not exist, and three minutes later he was there, yelling. The yelling is literal. It was like having someone in my brain demanding attention and a story and I swear he fleshed out himself, without me having much to do with it. So the paranoid-schizophrenic thing? 100% check.

I am trying to pinpoint where my characters come from as I write this, and I have to say that I am not completely sure. Okonogi is an exception, usually they pop up in blurry form, and they get fleshed out slowly as the story develops, or as I delve into their inter personal relationships. Sometimes a character ends up being something completely opposite to what I had thought I needed – or from who inspired them, and I like that… most of the time. It causes boosts of “curse you, Character, for screwing up my nice outline!!”. Then again, as the Internet would say… “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal” [link] which is usually not as sudden as inevitable…

Writing Victim #14 I am doing a fun exercise, which is trying to describe the characters with just one word. Part of the killer’s MO is finding the word that best describes each of his victims, and I seem to do it for all of them. Of course, just one word does not work to completely describe a character (yay! It means that they are 3D and not cardboard characters) but it feels like the name of the seed they were built from.

I am suddenly left wondering if my brain is such a dangerous place right now, what with the paranoid-schizophrenia and the psychopath traits when I get into the serial killer’s mind… I’ll try not to feed myself after midnight, just in case.

Or maybe we just got into light-saving time and my brain is still in weird mode…

Contents by Open University licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence and taken from here [link].
The tick/cross image is from the OpenClip library [link].
Louis de Bernières’s homepage [link]

Retriever Feedback from the Adventure Writer’s Competition Panels

The Adventure Writer’s competition [link], for which I wrote Retriever sent a critique of the book, rather uplifting one:

Panel # 1: The prologue left me a little flat, but once I got into the story proper I was swept along. I really like where the story is headed – just needs polishing.
Panel # 2: Your opening paragraph is fantastic, except for the one part of the first sentence. I’ve never heard of someone snapping his tongue, and I’m not sure what that means. I stopped in the middle of reading to try and picture what that might look like. As a general rule, don’t force the reader to stop while they try to puzzle out something you have written. Maybe Aaron Yen could show his distaste with a different gesture.
Competition director: Look – this has great potential. Unfortunately, you scored in the middle of the pack technically and that kept you out of the Top 5. This is good – polish it and move forward.

When I wrote to the Adventure Writer’s Competition & Panel Director to thank him for his time, he replied this:

You have great potential – know that and move forward!!

While probably he was just being polite, I also got “scores” on several topics:

  • Opening/Prologue / Chapter One: Does the story start at the correct place, with an interesting,intriguing hook? Is there a good introduction of characters and plot? Has the writer revealed enough information, or too much too soon?
  • Setting: Is it clearly defined without extraneous detail? Is there a sense of time and place?
  • Characterization: Are they skillfully developed, multi-dimensional, and believable? Can you emphathize with the hero/heroine? Is the villian evil? Are their actions motivated?
  • Plot Line: Is the plot line interesting, unique, skillfully developed?
  • Dialogue: Is it natural? Does it move the story? Is it distinctive to each character? Is it appropriate to the genre? Is dialogue well- balanced with the narrative?
  • Narrative: Is it necessary, interesting? Does it progress the story? Is it the character viewpoint rather than the author-intrusive?
  • Pacing Does the story flow smoothly? Is every scene essential to the story? Are there highs and lows of conflict?
  • Motivation: Is the motivation genuine and not contrived? Is it compelling?
  • Point of View: Is it clear and concise? Are transitions smooth and the changes logical?
  • Style / Voice: Is the writing vivid and evocative? Is it special, unique?
  • Relationship: Can you feel the tension, magic, excitement? Does the relationship progress at a satisfactory rate?
  • Mechanics: Grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • Format: The format follows generally accepted guidelines

Each topic was rated on a 1-10 scale and my “score” was a 6 for all of them except for the “Relationship” bit (5/10), which was supposed to be awkward anyway, giving me a total of 83 points out of 150… which is not bad for a novel written in three months. The general “grade” was:

Good – some structure needed

I shall keep trying, and doing it harder ^^

Check out the excerpt for Retriever here if you don’t know what I am talking about:

ETA: And so my dear beta feels vindicated, the highest score was 108/150, and I would be fourth if these had been the only factors at hand – which they were not, obviously XD