Scenes & Point Of Views

Which is easier to write? Story or a screenplay? I’m not talking about the formatting and differences, just the creative freedom allowed. Seems to me screenplays have a lot more leeway in PoVs and jumping from scene to scene to skip the boring bits. Also, leeway in narration – How loosely should a writer break from the character PoV to insert his presence into the narration, perhaps just to explain certain things or make quick quip.

Lemme know what you think of the intro I’ve written below.

It includes: 

  • 3 scene, breaks represented by a space (no transition, just break and start again somewhere else)
  • One sudden change in PoV from intro character to main guy. I plan to play between the 2 PoVs later on.
  • Random dialogue from sub-characters.
  • Random insertions from a narration stand-point.

Too messy? If you don’t notice of the above, that means I’m doing something right. Cheers.

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What Stops You From Creating Content

Content Is King

Someone actually asked this question on Quora, and I gave my reply. I thought it might be interesting to see how the blogging community differs from the Quora one, since they tend to be more to the point and focused on facts, while the WordPress crowd seems to be more whimsical and emotive. Lemme know what you think of my answer to the question.

Why is the percentage of population that writes online content so much smaller than those who read it?

Filed Under: Writing

Why 95% of people will not write

This can only be explained as a journey. I’ve only started blogging about 2 months back. When I first started, I was scared stiff. My mind is total blank, and everything i thought I might post, sounded like a very bad idea. What if people don’t like me… what if… what if. 

The feelings I had in this single moment, could have stopped me from writing anything, and has likely stopped 95% of the world from writing anything. With that in mind, we move on to the remaining 5%

Of the remaining 5% – 90% of them repurpose content, and do not actually create content

These are the people who actually attempt to write. Like most people, I resorted to the Tumblr-style of blogging, taking other people’s content and posting in on my blog. Wheee I have a blog! 

Cute memes, gifs with inspiring quotes, lolscats, that was how I started my blog. And I believe this accounts for a good 90% of the remaining 5% of content out there. Reposts, repurposed, and represented content. I.e. Using content off the internet to create content.

This essentially means all social media content, 99% of all self-published blogs and online aggregators… that’s like 99% of web traffic right there.

For me, one month on, still slightly self-conscious. I started writing opinion pieces on what I felt about certain things, but never truly writing a full post with all original content. To this point, I have probably explained why a good 99% of the world does not create content. Which answers your question.

The last 0.5% – The journey to content creation

But the journey to creating actual original content goes even further than that. It’s even a longer journey than the one before this. Most people get stuck in the repurposing content department and stay there for good.

I have written my journey about trying to create original content in my blog, so click on it if you want to know the rest of the journey. But if you’re not comfortable, just know that it requires three things:

(1) An actual opinion This is the step that gives you the urge to create. Not just facts. This is actually more difficult than you might think. A lot of people are more comfortable just throwing facts around instead of having an opinion. You need to learn how to give the nay-sayers the finger and just write what you feel. Unless you’re a researcher, original content is usually just giving your own spin on things, not recreating the wheel – Your own recipe on fried chicken, your review on the movie, your commentary on the Obama Administration etc.

(2) An interest This step is the one that is the killer as mentioned above. What the hell am I suppose to write about? The ability to find a niche of content you actually care about will get you started once you develop an opinion. But usually people start off very broadly, before finding a niche. This takes time and people wander off course and never come back

Back to my personal experience, when I first started, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to write about, even when the interest is there. But I pushed through and made a few ambiguous postings. You really need (1) + (2) to get the first post cracking. But these two points are still not enough. Even if someone has the skill, he often goes, “oh someone is already doing it, someone is better at it…” It’s easier to just refer to someone than write the content yourself, because it is already there!

Thus point 3 is the most important one of all, but it only happens when you have (1) + (2)

(3) The URGE to write From experience, this only comes to you over time, and it is a surprisingly addictive process. The more you write… the more YOU WANT to write. For me now, what was once arduous 200-word posts, now become easy-peasy thousand word opinion pieces, which I have to slap my hands to stop writing. (Much like this post).

Anyhow, here are my blog posts in order from March to April so you know of my thought process. From scared blogger to person who can’t shut up.

Ramblings Of A Noob Blogger
Ramblings Of A Noob Blogger Part Deux
Midweek Ravings: Happy One Month Old Blog!
Happy Two Month Old Blog!

P.S: I’m not saying my content-creation is the top 0.5% or anything. It’s just my journey towards creating content for a subject I’m interested in. And I am actually trying to create content, just need to create higher quality stuff.

Update: I think I might have been ‘down-voted’ on Quora for this post. Just another of case of TL;DR. Such is the attention span of the world today.  

Lee Martin: the artist must risk failure

Throughout my young writing life, I’ve always been searching for a method to the madness, a system of sorts. Then someone comes along and reminds me what I’m doing all this for. Amazingly, it’s a college professor giving advice unlike any of my own professors! I need to wrap my mind around this now.

Kudos to someone who teaches not for the sake of knowledge itself, but to inspire.

Draft No. 4

Celebrated novelist & memoirist discusses how he became an artist.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few. . . . This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point.— Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

I’m trying to learn from Lee Martin whenever and however I can, as a writer and teacher. I haven’t yet made it to his celebrated fiction—one of his novels was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—but I’ve read just about all of his nonfiction. His recent collection of linked memoir essays, Such a Life, is on my creative nonfiction favorites page, but it’s also on my private list of touchstone artistic works. Yes, it’s that good.

Such a Life is my personal textbook on how to write stand-alone memoir and personal essays. That’s how I’ve…

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Using Dialogue More Effectively

Too much dialogueSearched for help on the internet again when I ran into trouble with my last story. I had pages and pages of nearly unbroken dialogue, which while tells the story, is kinda flat. Aside from inserting action bits in between, I was wondering how else I could make the dialogue read smoother. i.e. In more direct term, less stunted.

Important: What I want is smoother, more flowing, not more emotive or dramatic. That gets tiresome after a while. The problem with dialogue is when you try to add structure to it. He says “something” in one paragraph, she says “whatever” in the next. Then to break up the monotony and make it seem like there’s some up and downs going on, we rely on describing how she is feeling or how the words come out.

Using an extreme example I found online from TheWriterlyLife

This is bad:

“You broke my heart!” she screamed.
“It’s not my fault!” he growled.
“But you cheated on me!” she wailed.
“I’m sorry — it just happened,” he stammered.

This is better:

“You broke my heart!” she said.
“It’s not my fault!” he said.
“But you cheated on me!”
“I’m sorry — it just happened.”

And as TheWriterlylife explains:

The problem with this passage is that the tags start overshadowing the actual words being spoken. They’re completely unnecessary. They are often crutches in our writing; in reality, the words themselves should suggest the tone with which they are spoken. In fact, using “he said” and “she said” is so familiar to readers that the words blur into the background, retreating so that the main action of dialogue can come to the fore. That’s why it’s best to keep wordy dialogue tags to a minimum and just use “said” for most of your dialogue.

Often you try to describe what she is feeling. This is simply TELLING the reader instead of EXPRESSING it to him. I’m looking through some of my past writing and realised that I’m pretty guilty of it. I’ve read about it before, about how the simple “said” is actually more invisible and thus better than laughed, growled, snarled, chortled. One is a speech, one is an action, putting them side by side tends to draw the attention away from the other.

I’m going to be slightly more mindful of this moving ahead, which includes using the following in dialogue more often

  1. Better use of punctuation. Question, exclamation points and the infamous incomplete sentence like but… have to be used more correctly and to have more impact.
  2. Expressive Words Adopting the use of exclamation words or expressive words more (which I’m having some trouble with) like What the hell, damn you — Admit it, you automatically exclamation pointed the words without even thinking right?
  3. One action per dialogue Trying to let one single action at the start of a mini-conversation drive the emotion and action of 3-4 lines of to-and-fro dialogue.

One book I can recommend where this is used a lot is The Bookcase by Nelson DeMille. There’s a lot of interrogation scenes in it where it’s just 2 people going back and forth for quite a few pages. So basically, he had the same problem as me – crapload of dialogue, but he handled it like a best-selling author would and I didn’t.

Here’s a lengthy chunk from Nelson Demille’s The Book Case

“Good luck.” Every store clerk and waiter in this town wants you to know they’re really a writer, an actor, a musician, or an artist. Just in case you thought they were a clerk or a waiter. I asked Scott, “What time did you get here this morning?”

He replied, “As I told the other policeman, I got here about seven thirty.”

“Right. Why so early?”

“Early?”

“You’re scheduled for eight thirty.”

“Yeah…Mr. Parker asked me to get here early.”

“Why?”

“To stock shelves.”

“The shelves look stocked. When’s the last time you sold a book?”

“I had some paperwork to do.”

“Yeah? Okay, take me through it, Scott. You got here, opened the door—front door?”

“Yeah.” He reminded me, “It’s all in my statement.”

“Good. And what time was that?”

“I opened the door a little before seven thirty.”

“And it was locked?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you know that Mr. Parker was here?”

“No. Well, not at first. I noticed the lights were on in his office up in the loft, so I called up to him.”

“I assume he didn’t answer.”

“No…he…so I thought maybe he was in here—in the stockroom—so I came in here to get to work.”

This basically follows the principles I stated above. Doesn’t look half-bad at all without any crutched expressive words and it’s a very decent chunk. One benefit of this style is how flowing the dialogue goes. In your mind, you don’t really stop to think until the end of the conversation.

To conclude, read the article from MyWriterlyLife, read a few technically-well written books like The Book Case and just be mindful.

P.S: I’m currently reading Bag Of Bones by Stephen King as well, realised the conversation pieces are written pretty much the same way. So remember, let your words do the expressing and flush the telling expressions down the toilet.

P.S: As to what happened to my dialogue in my story as mentioned at the start of the article. After cutting out all the saids, chides, rebukes, angrily and hesitations, I think i shaved off close to 500 words without losing any intent.

Until next time…

Backtracking

Well that just happened. I went off track with my story on the last 5000 words and it reads more like a fantasy / sci-fi novel with a horror theme than a horror story. Backtracking a little to see what I can salvage, but it’s a big slap in the face for me. Spent the whole of today creating Story / Character / Idea chit sheets with a whole bunch of checklists this time to make sure it won’t happen again.

Feeling the burn. Fortunately most of the parts can be dissected and reused… oh well. Started another story as well, will upload it tomorrow. Next time, I’ll write off the seat of my pants only for the first 10K words before I sit down and plan things out… or you know, just plan things out from the start.

P.S: Apparently Big Bang Theory just used the immortal Jellyfish as a conversation opener for their last episode, so I just received quite a bump on my Immortal Jellyfish post. The power of the media. This post and another Ang Lee one I wrote are my most popular posts right now. Kinda sad about it, but oh well, a view’s a view.

Becoming a Storyteller: Building Initial Ideas, or, Get Thee to a Nunnery!

Excellent post on inspiration for sparking a story

ByDLFernandez

I’m one of Those people. Yep. I’m the guy that’ll open a blast email from, say, Writer’s Digest, and buy something they’re advertising–thus ensuring another blast will clutter any number of inboxes. The item in question this time is a writing book (yes, another writing book) entitled: The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates.

This book grabbed my attention for two reasons: 1.) The subtitle is “Finish your Novel in Your Spare Time”, which essentially what I have to do–you know, since I can’t quit my job; and 2.) It was on sale for $7.99.

The timing of blast email from Writer’s Digest Books was fortuitous as well, since I needed some new reading material for Spring Break. It helps that James Scott Bell, an excellent suspense writer and writing coach, recommended the book, too. Any while many books on the craft of writing can be hit or miss, I have found…

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