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Old 23rd February 2008, 07:45 PM   #46 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

As I have said before: there are ALWAYS exceptions, but in general terms people mustn't base their writing on them! Exceptions to the rule is what they are! And of course that is a pastiche of a Victorian novel, when the rules were certainly different.

Iain Banks sometimes swaps POV in a scene too, but he's a genius, and a bestselling novelist. When you have reached that position, you can play with things - as long as you are good enough to do so and they don't get in the way of the story. But for new writers, get the basics right.
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Old 23rd February 2008, 07:52 PM   #47 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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But family sagas, bodice-rippers and romances seem to sell much more than Science-Fiction or Fantasy, books.
.
Yes, they do, because they are the types of books a large part of the book buying population want to read. Ace, the writers of such have just as tough a time getting into print as your SFF writers, perhaps more so, because, it being a larger field has a lot more trying to break in. Anybody who has beaten the odds and made it into print with a work of fiction, be it thriller, bodice ripper etc deserves to be patted on the back.
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Old 23rd February 2008, 08:03 PM   #48 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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Which is why occasionally I wander off to a pub for a few hours and talk about anything but publishing over several pints of good beer!
Hear Hear, a man after my own heart! When out with the lads I always limit myself to two or three...gallons that is.
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Old 23rd February 2008, 08:08 PM   #49 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

The jambalaya was very good, by the way!
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Old 23rd February 2008, 08:22 PM   #50 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

I had a sausage and tinned tomato sandwich because I am on a diet.I was at the Newcastle Grainger market the other day and I saw a sign 'Speaking Scales', I put my pound in the slot and the machine said 'Your height is eight foot six'... hence the diet. bum bum.

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Old 23rd February 2008, 08:44 PM   #51 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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  1. Awful dialogue - read it out loud, does it sound natural, coming from your mouth?
  2. Hackneyed plots. No discernable focus to the book or sense of continuity.
  3. No Clichés.
  4. A complete lack of wit or humor.
  5. "Characters" who are only talking heads.
  6. A lack of background and foreground.
  7. No idea of the commercial market
  8. Lots of telling from the outside, rather then seeing the story from specific characters' point-of-view
  9. Only use one character throughout a scene, don't jump around. 'Show, don't tell'
  10. And, of course: don’t use huge expository lumps. The dreaded info-dump.
Is wit and humor a good ingredient for a successful story?

sorry about the bad joke earlier on!!
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Old 23rd February 2008, 08:49 PM   #52 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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As I have said before: there are ALWAYS exceptions, but in general terms people mustn't base their writing on them! Exceptions to the rule is what they are! And of course that is a pastiche of a Victorian novel, when the rules were certainly different.
I agree that it's important to learn how to write really well according to the rules before you decide you're good enough to break them. And someone who is just starting out who thinks they're going to transform the genre by doing what (they think) has never been attempted before is setting themselves up for failure. And Clarke, of course, was not submitting her book as a total newcomer to the world of publishing.

But I'm curious. If Jonathan Strange had landed on your desk, and you had no knowledge of the author, do you think you would have read far enough to discover that the book was an exception?
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Old 23rd February 2008, 08:54 PM   #53 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

Yes, because the prose is so good. Very occasionally, you see something that you know is special from the first page - you get that pricking of your thumbs. I've just taken on a client who I knew I wanted to represent six pages in. He just has that indefinable something in his writing. I still finished the book, of course!

Susanna, who I used to work with and know well, has a wit and intelligence that shines through every word.
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Old 23rd February 2008, 09:04 PM   #54 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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Is wit and humor a good ingredient for a successful story?
Yes. An unremittingly gloomy story is depressing. You don't need to be all-singing, all-dancing, but wit shines a light on character and plot.
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Old 23rd February 2008, 10:32 PM   #55 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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Yes, because the prose is so good. Very occasionally, you see something that you know is special from the first page - you get that pricking of your thumbs.

Susanna, who I used to work with and know well, has a wit and intelligence that shines through every word.
So if another author came along using a similar style, pulling it off with equal wit and flair, and that style (as it is in Jonathan Strange) obviously being the right vehicle to carry that particular plot ... do you think agents and editors would read it and think, "This author is the next Susanna Clarke, and I must have this book" -- or is there only a very small niche for that sort of thing, and Clarke entirely fills it up?
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Old 24th February 2008, 01:47 AM   #56 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

I'm nervous to ask this question, but can one show too much, is repetition a right thing to do? At the below is a dark passage from a book that John has bit more knowledge, then I am willing to tell here...

[110100]
While Gordon and Rimsky prepared themselves to interrogate the unfortunate man, similar kind of incident was already happening deep inside the Cardiff Sub Node. In a place where nobody was bothered about screams, a tall black glad woman was using different kind of methods, on a similarly unfortunate dwarf.
[110101]
The reason I don't want to expand the chapter at this point, is that I see it bringing too much of repetition in the story, but it is crucial from the story POV that an audience knows what is happening ... but the question ... is this showing or telling?
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Old 24th February 2008, 02:11 AM   #57 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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I'm nervous to ask this question, but can one show too much, is repetition a right thing to do? At the below is a dark passage from a book that John has bit more knowledge, then I am willing to tell here...



[110100]




While Gordon and Rimsky prepared themselves to interrogate the unfortunate man, similar kind of incident was already happening deep inside the Cardiff Sub Node. In a place where nobody was bothered about screams, a tall black glad woman was using different kind of methods, on a similarly unfortunate dwarf.



[110101]




... but the question ... is this showing or telling?
In my opinion this is telling. It would be showing if this information was presented from the POV of someone embedded in the scene.
As it is, it reads like an omniscient narrator summarising what is happening in 2 different locations.

Last edited by Barney; 24th February 2008 at 02:35 AM. Reason: for clarity
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Old 24th February 2008, 03:51 AM   #58 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

Thank you Barney, I had noted it down to be removed if needed. I wasn't sure should I write it in, or not. I can reveal the information on other spot, through a POV character mind. I just really didn't want to go into that chapter and flesh out the action that goes around the dwarf. Most of the dialogue would have been repetition, with small revelations in it.

I'll remove it.
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Old 24th February 2008, 04:53 AM   #59 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

Thanks for the thanks .

Show don't tell is probably the cardinal rule of writing, but there are grey areas...sometimes it might be more economical to say in a few lines what a character is (e.g. a powerful mage/dead witch/alcoholic footballer etc), rather than describe how they got there. The work of several chapters of backstory could be done in one sentence.

Judicious telling can keep the pace brisk, showing everything will slow everything down, it all depends on the story I suppose.
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Old 24th February 2008, 08:27 AM   #60 (permalink)
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Re: The "Ten Commandments according to John"

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So if another author came along using a similar style, pulling it off with equal wit and flair, and that style (as it is in Jonathan Strange) obviously being the right vehicle to carry that particular plot ... do you think agents and editors would read it and think, "This author is the next Susanna Clarke, and I must have this book" -- or is there only a very small niche for that sort of thing, and Clarke entirely fills it up?
I suspect it would depend on the actual story, characters and background being different enough, whilst appealing to many of the same readers - in the same way as when post-Tolkien epic fantasy came along, Terry Brooks, David Eddings and Stephen Donaldson all worked commercially in the same area of the market while being very different writers. But wit and flair are always welcome. One doesn't see then very often!

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