Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Writers of the Future workshop, part 4

Happy birthday, robotazalea! Only six more years until you reach maturity as a hobbit.

Transcription of the WotF workshop sessions. 8/14/05, continued.

TP is Tim Powers. KW is K.D. Wentworth. PM is Parenthetical Me, my own glosses.

TP: Avoid dialect.

Dialog can be used to advance the plot and convey information, but it's easy to make this look too rehearsed.

Read all dialog aloud to see if it sounds right.

Break up conversation. In real life, conversation has false starts and confusion. Try having expository conversation fail.

It's dangerous to have a character laugh at another character's joke: too much like a laugh track. Beware if the reader didn't find the joke funny: he will be irritated.

Beware of ending a scene with a conversational quip. The quip usually isn't as funny as the writer thinks it is, and this risks irritating rather than amusing the reader.

Hemingway: any story can be improved by cutting the first four pages and starting the story with the next full sentence. [PM: I'm a little leery of taking this at face value: it may have been true in the early decades of the 20th Century, when storytelling style was more leisurely. Is it still true today?]

KW is against all speech tags except 'said'. Doesn't even like 'asked'. TP disagrees about 'asked'.

Set a daily page goal. KW's is three pages.

Success in a writer is 50% talent and 50% not giving up. KW says she has, in her local writing group, more people who fail through giving up than who fail through insufficient talent.

TP: cons don't have much of an effect on a career. Go to cons for fun, if you like. If you go, for god's sake, don't harass editors. Be hesitant to approach editors at all. It usually doesn't help.

Both KW and TP are suspicious of 'networking' in general. It bears a distressing resemblance to stalking.

Research. To find out what cities were like in the near past (e.g., 1900's), look for tourist guidebooks from that era. National Geographic on CD-ROM: all issues, searchable by place and date. Great resource. 1911 Britannica online. Bookfindr and Abebooks for obscure out-of-print resource materials.

TP: a writer's best work, at the very top of his form, is barely publishable. "Good is bad." I.e., less than excellent is inadequate.


Research, continued.

Technology of any level has implications for other technology that supports it: for example, metallurgy to support steel swords.

Suggestions for general sff writing research library:

Avon Books collections of Asimov's F&SF columns"Oxford Companion for ships and the sea": details of ships, construction, etc.
Visual Dictionary of various things
Joy of Cooking
Two editions of Encyclopedia Britannica: current, and older (?9th) edition.
Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy for weird and strange information.
Let your research guide the way your characters develop
KW: does a lot of research in advance. Other writers don't. (PM: e.g., Gene Wolfe)

Be aware of your own emotions during moments of crisis: you can use that in writing

Trust your subconscious to tell you what research books to buy [PM: ?!?]

You don't have to know everything about X; you just have to appear to know everything about X. Learn a few telling details.

Do not create ancient or future societies with today's attitudes, philosophy, morality, etc. Do not assume current default will always be default.

TP: counsels not doing another writers workshop (after WotF), and not joining a writers' group. He is afraid that the writer will tend to write for the individual tastes of members of that group.
KW: joined writers group after being WotF. Group has been of mixed benefit; times when it has kept her writing when she might otherwise have failed. Agrees there is a danger of writing only for the group, and being reluctant to write something that might displease the group.

Both agree with Orson Scott Card that what one needs is one or two 'wise readers'. KW's husband and one or two friends are her first readers; have different tastes. Their job is not to tell her what to write, but whether the story worked or not for them. 

TP: first readers should look for points of confusion, continuity errors. First readers are important because they are readers, not writers.

TP: write down all the markets you know in order of prestige. Draw a line below no. 6. Do not submit a story to a market below that line; retire the story instead. If the first N publications think this is poor story, maybe it is. This policy does not apply to book publishers; or if it does, the line should be down around No. 30.

TP: draws a distinction between small press and 'real press'. He publishes with small presses occasionally, but wouldn't include them on a cover letter. Says he is unsure of this opinion, however.

KW: has more respect for small press. (There followed a lively dispute with Cat Sparks, who has a small press.)

TP: At Clarion, there is a current tendency for all the boys write characters named 'Pissant'. Beware of being too hip, talking over the characters' heads to the reader, constantly reminding reader that story isn't real. TP suspects that young male writers are afraid of being made fun of, so they preempt that by making fun of themselves. "Like a nervous high school boy asking a girl out, undercutting himself."

All the young women, on the other hand, write characters named 'Wolf-woman': quasi Pre-Raphaelite, overly high language; no contractions, many capitalized nouns, medievaloid setting. "It was the Day of the Becoming..." Also impossible to make fun of, but for reasons of political correctness: no one want to be the sort of cad who would make fun of such an empowered feminist heroine as Wolf-woman.

TP: does NOT like allegory; first hint of allegory kills suspension of disbelief and his interest in story. Almost doesn't believe in theme. Acknowledges it, even the inevitability of it, but refuses to address it, or make it do anything. Satisfied to let the story to generate it spontaneously, and let the reader find it if he wishes.

Karen Joy Fowler says: do not choose as a theme an issue you are settled and comfortable with. Deal with issues that you are personally ambivalent about, or feel uncomfortable with.

More tomorrow.


meaning: humble, modest

謙譲 == kenjou == (noun, adjective which takes な) modesty, humility
謙譲の美徳 == kenjou no bitoku ==  (noun) modest virtue

Left radical is 'words/speak' (言). Right radical is 'combine/be unable' (兼), used phonetically to express 'awe', and also in its 'unable' meaning. Thus, this character originally meant, 'to be awed and unable to speak', i.e., in the presence of a superior. It came to mean modesty and humility more broadly. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Modest person unable to speak.'

Info from Taka Kanji Database
List of compounds including this character from Risu Dictionary

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