Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Story Tags: Everything or Just the Dominant Theme(s)

Poses

In a thread on turning off voting several people mentioned they avoid stories with too many tags. For me, that's often been a warning sign, too. However, as I started to post chapters to my latest story, I noticed the tags kept piling up.

I've been divided on this. One one hand, I use tags as a reader partly to avoid stories that contain elements I find hard to stomach, so if that element is there, I want to know about it. If I had trauma around something like rape or incest, that could be important to me. On the other hand, when I see tag salad, I don't know if the thing I'm searching for is a significant element in the story. Plus, non-premium members only get 10 stories revealed in a search, so when I tagged my story as "Incest," but that's a background element in one scene, people who want incest stories will be disappointed.

Is it better to fully disclose, stick with the dominant theme(s), or maybe the thematic elements plus things you suspect people might use as a negative filter, like incest, rape or scat?

Ernest Bywater

@Poses

It's best to tag for what happens in a story. However, if it happens off stage it's not happening in the story. If you have a scene describing two close family members having sex it's happening on stage and should be tagged, but if you have a person mention they have sex with a close family member as a simple statement it's off stage and no need to tag it. In fact, if you tag for matters off stage people looking for that sort of story will be very unhappy when there is no real action.

Dominions Son

@Poses

Is it better to fully disclose, stick with the dominant theme(s), or maybe the thematic elements plus things you suspect people might use as a negative filter, like incest, rape or scat?


I had a reader complain about a squick element that was a planned significant part of the story and was tagged for up front.

The reader assumed that even though it was tagged for it would just be a vague reference to something that occurred off stage.

Sometimes you just can't win no matter what.

I don't have a hard and fast rule, but I would suggest several factors to consider, both for minor elements and for tag soup.
'
For minor elements, how is it included in the story?

If it's mentioned, but no actual action of that type occurs on stage, to me that weighs against tagging for it.

If the activity in question occurs on screen, how graphically is it presented. The more graphic, the more detailed the presentation, the more likely it should be tagged for.

On the tag soup issue, I have a slightly different opinion than those that avoid stories with more than x tags.

There are several groups of related tags, where you can get a larger number of tags without the story necessarily loosing focus, so rather than just looking at the raw number of tags, consider how the tags relate to each other and to the story description.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Dominions Son

There are several groups of related tags, where you can get a larger number of tags without the story necessarily loosing focus, so rather than just looking at the raw number of tags, consider how the tags relate to each other and to the story description.


That is the point, if the action is between 2 people or so then tag it according to the relationship. But past a certain point the generic tag covers it all. Taking the incest category for example. It is broken down into so many different relationships it tends to be ridiculous to include all of them. It used to be enough to have a generic tag to go by. But everyone always wants more and more information.

It has gotten to the point where sometimes as a reader I wonder if the writer is writing to include codes or to tell a story.

Ernest Bywater

@Poses


Is it better to fully disclose, stick with the dominant theme(s),


two more aspects to keep in mind,

1. If several sub tags are relevant, maybe the general tag is more relevant. For example, an incest that's just father daughter told from the daughter view point would get the would get the father daughter tags, but if it's the whole family, then just the general incest tag may be more relevant by itself and not clutter with the rest.

2. The long the story the more tag that may be applicable. 1 20kb story with ten tags is like 5 or 6 too many, while a 200 mb story with 25 tags would likely be acceptable, due to all the extra material in the story.

paragonofjoy

@Ernest Bywater

Ha, I was at 6 tags just describing the basic relationships-heterosexual (husband), bi (wife), lesbian (BFF), Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Multi.

I think after reading over all of this, I might simplify some of the tags-look for anything that duplicates information without adding something valuable.

Now I'm wondering about tags about specific, common sex acts like oral sex. I'm assuming most stories that have sex in them will have oral. So perhaps I'll only include that if I write a story where that's a focus or I go into great detail.

Dominions Son

@paragonofjoy

Ha, I was at 6 tags just describing the basic relationships-heterosexual (husband), bi (wife), lesbian (BFF), Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Multi.


Unless the other woman is also bi, the inclusion of the multi tag is questionable. the wife might have sex with her husband and with her girlfriend, but if the girlfriend is strictly lesbian, a three-way is unlikely.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

1. If several sub tags are relevant, maybe the general tag is more relevant. For example, an incest that's just father daughter told from the daughter view point would get the would get the father daughter tags, but if it's the whole family, then just the general incest tag may be more relevant by itself and not clutter with the rest.


That's a good point, on the incest issue: if you have one male with 2, maybe 3 female relatives or the other way around, one female with 2, maybe 3 male relatives, I'd say that's probably worth fully coding.

Definitely beyond that the generic tag should be used without the sub tagging.

Ernest Bywater

@paragonofjoy

common sex acts like oral sex


the odd act, ignore, if a frequent core plot aspect include. I look at it this way, if it's less than 5% of the total story I doubt you need the tag unless it's a major squick item.

Switch Blayde

@Poses

Is it better to fully disclose, stick with the dominant theme(s), or maybe the thematic elements


Stick with dominant themes PLUS some of the universal squick ones (scat, snuff, MM, etc.). Of course what is a universal squick code?

Replies:   docholladay
Switch Blayde

@paragonofjoy


Now I'm wondering about tags about specific, common sex acts like oral sex.


Yep, I would only include oral or anal sex if it's a significant part of the story.

docholladay

@Switch Blayde

Of course what is a universal squick code?


I don't think anyone has an answer to that question. It seems to vary from what I have seen in the forums. Although you do seem to have hit the major ones. The only thing I can suggest is to be willing to go back and adjust the tags if your readers suggest it. After all they are your real judges.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

Way off topic, but something just flashed through my mind.

What if you write a story with a humorous scene. Imagine a guy getting drunk and passing out on the sidewalk. He's sleeping, leaning on a fire hydrant. Along comes a dog that does what dogs do when they see a fire hydrant. He lifts his leg and pees -- on the passed out guy.

Would that be watersports?

richardshagrin

I am reasonably certain Watersports the tag involves human urine, not contributions from the animal kingdom. If a bird drops whitewash from the sky on a character, there is no reason to use scat.

Aside: Little birdie in the sky, drops some whitewash in my eye. I don't scream, I don't cry, I'm just glad that cows don't fly.

Back on topic. One option to lots and lots of tags is a note at the beginning of the story or in the story description discussing how central to the story some squick or other tag creators might be, and explaining why certain tags were used, or not used. That may be one way to handle peripheral possible issues without adding a lot of extra tags.

Replies:   Dominions Son
docholladay

No matter which way a writer decides to tag their stories. Its a certainty that someone will not agree. I think its one of those catch-22 situations either way you win and lose at the same time.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

I am reasonably certain Watersports the tag involves human urine


No particular reason you can't combine bestiality and watersports, In fact I can think of a couple of stories that do.

Crumbly Writer

@paragonofjoy

Now I'm wondering about tags about specific, common sex acts like oral sex. I'm assuming most stories that have sex in them will have oral. So perhaps I'll only include that if I write a story where that's a focus or I go into great detail.

I've noted before that many tags have specific connotations. You don't include racial tags unless it's a stereotypical sexual relationship (ex: a white woman with a roomful of BBM). If you have a black or Asian character, I wouldn't bother tagging it. The same is true for oral. If you have no other sex in a tale about teenage explorations, then "oral" is descriptive, but if you've got dozens of other tags, it adds nothing.

Likewise, the incest specific tags (mother, father, daughter and son) are only meaningful if someone is looking for incest stories, but unless the entire story is specifically father/daughter, then I'd leave it off--"incest" is sufficient for incest fans to find it, or for those squicked by incest to avoid it.

The biggest problem with tag multiplication is when sex stories try to add new situations and new characters every chapter. As the encounters increase, so do the number of largely meaningless tags. I mean, who really cares whether there's a brief foot-fetish scene in chapter 78 but nowhere else in the story? If there's a watersport or diaper scene in the same chapter, those are major squicks, so you'd still tag it anyway.

However, for many stories, the tag multiplication simply isn't necessary. My 6 book "Catalyst" series was huge in chapters and word count, but had very few tags because the included sex was--for the most part--very generic, it simply wasn't a major factor in the story.

@Switch

what is a universal squick code?

("NoSex")?

What if you write a story with a humorous scene. Imagine a guy getting drunk and passing out on the sidewalk. He's sleeping, leaning on a fire hydrant. Along comes a dog that does what dogs do when they see a fire hydrant. He lifts his leg and pees -- on the passed out guy.

Would that be watersports?

As I just mentioned, no, because the peeing isn't sexual in nature. Likewise, a story about a new family where the father changes the baby for the first time would not be labeled "scat". Sure, plenty of people find poop disgusting, but that's a humorous element, not a major sexual squick.

@D.S.

No particular reason you can't combine bestiality and watersports, In fact I can think of a couple of stories that do.

I agree. Since it's a sexual element, I'd include it. Again, for many tags, they're only meaningful if the reference is sexual, otherwise they're not. Who cares if a story has a brother and sister unless they're having incestuous sex? In that case, you can casually mention they're related in the story description, but otherwise the tags are meaningless to the story.

sharkjcw

There are a few authors that try to include every tag in a story. If a story is under about 10 KB and has 15 to 20 tags I as a reader am not going to bother reading it. I would say go with the main tags, IF you have a (squick) that shows up in like one chapter mention it at the beginning of the chapter.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@sharkjcw

I would say go with the main tags, IF you have a (squick) that shows up in like one chapter mention it at the beginning of the chapter.


As another reader, I have to agree. There is a fair warning of potential dislikes while minimizing the over all tags. Tags should be used for the complete story.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@docholladay

Tags should be used for the complete story.


In general I agree, however, if you have anything in the story that's a major squick, it needs to be coded right up front, and not added later or just mentioned at the start of a chapter. Readers get mega pissed off when they invest time in a story and get suddenly hit with a major squick. When that happens they not only toss the story, they tend to toss the author and not read anything by them while telling everyone they know the person writes rubbish.

docholladay

@Ernest Bywater

Readers get mega pissed off when they invest time in a story and get suddenly hit with a major squick.


That is one reason I consider the tags a major "Catch-22" for all writers. You both win and lose readers regardless since someone will be offended. I admit outside of major tags I tend to ignore the rest, but heck I have always been different anyway.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Readers get mega pissed off when they invest time in a story and get suddenly hit with a major squick.


My stories have a number of major squick items coded for up front. I had a reader get pissed off because he assumed it would be mentioned but the actual squick action would be off stage.

You can't win no matter what.

The easily offended will find something to be offended about and the perpetually pissed off will find something that pisses them off no matter what you do or don't do.

Crumbly Writer

I'll third that idea about not mentioning actions that only show up in a single chapter. Rather than convince hundreds of readers to bypass the entire story (say because you have a minor reference to MM), I think you'd do better by simply inserting a blurb at the beginning of the chapter ("This contains XXX. If this bothers, then just skip this chapter as it doesn't impact the rest of the story.")

That's the entire deal, over and done with. To be completely upfront, I'd also put another notice upfront in the beginning, warning readers that you'll warn them whenever there's a particular squick (beginning of the first chapter or in the preface (which no one includes anyway), you'll post a notice so they can avoid it. You don't need to list it at that point, you're only getting them used to the idea of skipping over bothersome topics. If they're offended, they know what to do. If not, they can keep readers like readers are supposed to.

As others have pointed out, readers will get pissed if you include a squick code, if you exclude it, or if you include blinking red lights. But as long as you provide adequate warning, that's all you can be expected to do. But nothing turns off as many readers (in total), than an author saying "Don't read this because of X and Y!"

Replies:   Grant  Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


The easily offended will find something to be offended about and the perpetually pissed off will find something that pisses them off no matter what you do or don't do.


true, but you should take a reasonable effort to not offend or piss off people.

there's one story I liked reading, but around chapter 30 the author suddenly included an extra long chapter with lots of extreme BDSM and snuff in it. It wasn't coded at the start, and was totally unexpected. I stopped reading it and haven't read anything of his since. Yes, he did add the code when he uploaded the chapter, but when you have a story bookmarked you go direct to teh chapter, not the front page with the code. It became another reason not to read a story until it's finished posting.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

but when you have a story bookmarked you go direct to teh chapter


That's odd, for me, it always goes to the chapter index page, which does have the codes on it.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

good be the way I have it bookmarked, it takes me to the last chapter read and I simply hit the link to the next chapter.

docholladay

Like I have said before a few times. Tags are a catch-22 for writers. You lose both ways.

Readers have to realize and understand that codes or tags or not the end all. We the reader have to take responsibility for our own reading habits and squirks.

richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

You can't win no matter what.

The three laws of thermodynamics:

You can't win.
You can't break even.
You can't get out of the game.

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

("This contains XXX. If this bothers, then just skip this chapter as it doesn't impact the rest of the story.")

Which really just makes that chapter filler to bump up the word count.

While I don't expect (or want) every chapter to be of great significance to the story as a whole, I do expect them to have some relevance otherwise what's the point in reading it, or the point in even writing it

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'll third that idea about not mentioning actions that only show up in a single chapter. Rather than convince hundreds of readers to bypass the entire story (say because you have a minor reference to MM), I think you'd do better by simply inserting a blurb at the beginning of the chapter ("This contains XXX. If this bothers, then just skip this chapter as it doesn't impact the rest of the story.")


If the story can make sense after skipping the chapter, then the chapter has no place in the story at all, so it's a waste of space. If the item is only very minor, then it can be mentioned in the story blurb or the foreword about it being minor. Failure to mention a common squick item right up front at the start is justification for readers to trash the story and the author.

Crumbly Writer

@Grant

Which really just makes that chapter filler to bump up the word count.

While I don't expect (or want) every chapter to be of great significance to the story as a whole, I do expect them to have some relevance otherwise what's the point in reading it, or the point in even writing it

No, what it means is that, skipping part of a subplot won't disrupt the rest of the story. True, they won't be able to follow that particular subplot though.

But this brings up a sore point for me: this whole notion of SOL authors dumping unnecessary details just to reach some magical word count. The only word limit on SOL is the 500 mb needed for (pseudo) Premier Membership, and while that is a motivator for authors, is doesn't drive every author on SOL to add drivel.

I think we're (the SOL community at large) confusing amateur authors inability to edit their work with some nefarious attempt to 'trick' readers. If you don't like long stories, then simply stick to short stories.

In my own case, I started out writing long stories (20+ chapters of 4000 to 10,000 words each), which I admitted were 'meandering', as that was my preferred writing style. However, over the years I got fed up with continual complaints about 'slow passages', or subplots that individuals disliked for some particular reason. As a result, I changed my style, dramatically cut my word counts, and now everyone is complaining that my stories aren't as long.

Get this point through your pointy little head: Stories are as long as they need to be! There are a few exceptions, like the one writer who included what the characters ate for every meal and recounted every time a character took a shit, but those are the exceptions. Don't confuse awkward story construction with schemes to somehow defraud readers, as it makes you sound profoundly paranoid (as if the entire universe only exists to personally rip you off).

Not every element in a story has equal weight. Some items can be skipped, but if you skip over an entire chapter because you're overly sensitive, then expect to be lost! That's the penalty of Not Reading the story as written. But don't start lecturing me about adding 'fluff' to my stories.

Ernest, you too can go screw yourself if you think I'm only adding text to my stories to 'cheat' readers into reading a few extra words per chapter. If you don't like my stories, then simply don't read them. But every section of my stories are there for a reason. However, I've had many readers over the years who refuse to read some aspect of my stories, and then bitch that they "don't make any sense".

If you skip sections of a story, then you might as well not read the story. However, that's got to be weighed against those who enjoy a story, but are personally offended by some minor aspect of the story.

What I'm offering is a simple compromise. Rather than saying "Screw you, either read this offensive bit, or leave," I'm suggesting you simply list which segments might squick readers so they can choose whether to read it or not. But don't turn around and lambast me for writing unnecessary filler because a few wingnuts are easily offended!

** Flame Off **

(Sorry about that, but I'm just getting sick of readers bitching about minor details, and then when an author tries to adapt to the suggestions, they then attack them for listening. Either offer honest advice, and deal with the fallout, or shut the hell up!!!!!)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Ernest, you too can go screw yourself if you think I'm only adding text to my stories to 'cheat' readers into reading a few extra words per chapter. If you don't like my stories, then simply don't read them. But every section of my stories are there for a reason. However, I've had many readers over the years who refuse to read some aspect of my stories, and then bitch that they "don't make any sense".


First, I don't know what damn story you're talking about, so it's not a comment on any specific story or how it's written, and thus not a specific attack. I was addressing the concept under discussion, not commenting on a specific story or author.

What I did say was: If the story can make sense after skipping the chapter, then the chapter has no place in the story at all, so it's a waste of space. Which is quite clearly a generic statement that means: if it doesn't add to the story it isn't needed - kind of like Chekhov's Gun, why have it there if it does nothing for the story. If that is the case, then it doesn't belong. If it's important to the story, then it belongs. What it comes down to, after that, is giving the reader, or potential reader, the proper warning and when you give it.

For a major squick a warning at the start of the chapter is definitely not enough warning, it needs to be right up front as a tag or in the story blurb. If you mess up the warning, don't be surprised if you get 1 bomb votes and people stop reading your stuff and complain about what you write.

Edit to add: BTW, my comment you seem to take an exception to was in response to a comment by CW, not you. So I'm kind of at a lost as to why you're angry at me.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Edit to add: BTW, my comment you seem to take an exception to was in response to a comment by CW, not you. So I'm kind of at a lost as to why you're angry at me.


??? The quote you are replying to is by CW. You're lost all right, but not in the way you think.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

You're lost all right, but not in the way you think.


Sorry, I was misreading the way the quote attribution was and thought the response i last responded to was from Grant, My apologies all around. I'm too lazy to enter an edit, so this will havee to do.

Switch Blayde

I guess I've grown a layer of thick skin over the years writing fiction.

I believe I have a commitment to readers. For example, I wouldn't post an incomplete story. But the story is mine. If I feel some squick element is needed in the story, I'll put it in. If readers don't like it, that's their problem, not mine. If I believe listing a story code will ruin the story, I'll leave it out. Even if it's a squick code. Again, the story comes first.

I listen to feedback, but it usually doesn't drive my stories. I listen to criticism and learn from it -- or discard it if I don't agree without taking it personally (the thick skin).

Hell, if I didn't have thick skin I wouldn't still be on this forum after all the abuse taken on fiction writing concepts such as "show don't tell," adverbs, dialogue tags, etc. Remember, something someone says can only hurt you if you let it.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

For a major squick a warning at the start of the chapter is definitely not enough warning, it needs to be right up front as a tag or in the story blurb. If you mess up the warning, don't be surprised if you get 1 bomb votes and people stop reading your stuff and complain about what you write.

I agree, major squicks need to be announced upfront. I was referring to a minor story element that offers a serious squick, but only as a small element in a single chapter of a long story. In that case, I wouldn't necessarily mark it in the story tags (since it's not representative of the overall story), but I would flag it within the story as a warning to anyone who's particularly turned off by their personal squicks. (I'm thinking of one particular 100+ chapter story which had a single Mb episode, years ago, which turned it from a wildly successful story into a moderately successful one.

My point was: readers should NOT skip over necessary story elements, but authors need to be aware that many will, for whatever reason. My comment was simply that we shouldn't penalize readers for their personal opinions (squicks), but allow them to enjoy the story while bypassing which passages may be offensive.

If a story features a gay character, incest or snuff elements, those should always be properly coded, but for the exceptional single episodes, I'd make and exception. Clearly I hold a minority view on this topic.

As for my rant, I took offense at the suggestion that anything that someone may not want to read is, by definition, not worth including in a story. Some people simply can't read about rape encounters, no matter how essential it is to the overall plot.

Newbie authors often haven't yet wrestled with how to tell their stories (i.e. what to include and what to dump), but to accuse me of boosting my word count to interjecting fluff into my stories simply because 1 or 2 of my readers has an issue with a single element is going above and beyond the pale. I was addressing specific issues, not discussing weaknesses with my personal writing style, and I feel like you personally attacked me for it, when all I was doing was expressing an alternative approach to the problem.

I do NOT recommend that anyone skip portions of a story they dislike, if you do, you really shouldn't be reading the story, but there are exceptions where someone may enjoy the story, but can't deal with specific elements.

My "Love and Family During the Great Death" is a great example. During that story, I killed off most of the main characters in the story. About a third of readers couldn't finish the story, yet they gave it great reviews and read the two sequels because they loved the characters (both those who survived and those who didn't). But it shows how readers can choose to bypass painful story elements and still enjoy an otherwise painful story experience.

Were those deaths 'immaterial' to the story? Absolutely NOT! I'd rather burn the entire series rather than publish the story without including those passages, but I understand when individual readers choose not to read them. That's a personal choice. I'm just thankful those readers did not give up on either me as an author, or on the series due to those select issues. But accusing me of being a shit writer because I suggest a compromise approach is simply playing dirty!

What's more, this suggestion (that I jettison anything that anyone might not choose to read as being 'unnecessary' to the plot strikes a nerve in me because I've changed my entire writing style to placate many of my writers, only to them subsequently blame me for following their advice. Thus your inadvertent comments struck a little too close to the bone in this case.

Switch, in this one case, I listened to my readers because they had a valid point about my stories (i.e. their uneven pacing and my need to pare down the essential story), thus I've struggled to change how I construct stories. But I'm resentful when I'm attacked for trying to become a better writer, especially if those attacks come from those who suggested the changes in the first place!

Replies:   Switch Blayde  Grant
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Switch, in this one case, I listened to my readers because they had a valid point about my stories (i.e. their uneven pacing and my need to pare down the essential story), thus I've struggled to change how I construct stories.


No argument from me there. As I said, I learn from good feedback. I was once told I rushed the ending of a story. I did, so I'm cognizant of that when I'm writing new stories. What I meant was I don't change a story because of feedback. My standard answer is, "That's the story I wrote." Of course I finish a story before any of it is posted so I don't let readers guide me to where the story is going.

But I'm resentful when I'm attacked for trying to become a better writer, especially if those attacks come from those who suggested the changes in the first place!


I don't remember his name, but I was enjoying stories written by him. Then in his blog or somewhere, he announced he was going to do more "show don't tell." So maybe he got feedback that he was telling too much (don't know). Anyway, I stopped reading his stories. In every couple of paragraphs, a character was sighing. He didn't do "show don't tell" very well. So what if one of his readers told him he told too much and when he tried to show, doing it wrong, that reader told him so? Would he have been upset or learn from it?

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

As for my rant, I took offense at the suggestion that anything that someone may not want to read is, by definition, not worth including in a story.

When & where in this thread was that said or implied???
Let alone in what I posted & you responded to in such vitriolic fashion.

While I don't expect (or want) every chapter to be of great significance to the story as a whole, I do expect them to have some relevance otherwise what's the point in reading it, or the point in even writing it


No, what it means is that, skipping part of a subplot won't disrupt the rest of the story. True, they won't be able to follow that particular subplot though.

If a sub plot isn't relevant or a part of the overall story, then what is the point in having it in there? It may not have any effect on the final outcome of the story, but if it's there it should have some bearing on the characters & their development.

A good example of what I consider to be unnecessary filler is in Douglas Fox's A Reluctant Hero.
In it he has a synopsis & a detailed explanation of how the current situation in the story came about. For me, neither was really required as it wasn't necessary to know those details to enjoy the story. However as a recent review of another story shows, some people want such details even if they're not necessary to understand and enjoy the current story; even though they really belong in another story, the prequel if you will.

I agree with you that not every element of a story has equal weight. In fact the vast majority of them would be of very little weight. But the fact is they are of importance, even if it's extremely minor. Even if it's not moving the story forward it could just be setting up a scene, clarifying something that has occurred previously, laying the ground work for future developments, or even just window dressing letting people know what the environment is that the characters are in.
It's not necessarily of great importance, but it is of relevance to the overall story. If not, then it is just filler.

So get this point through your pointy little head: none of this (or what I posted earlier that you got all worked up and abusive over) has been a commentary on your stories. Just responses to posts you made.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Grant

So get this point through your pointy little head: none of this (or what I posted earlier that you got all worked up and abusive over) has been a commentary on your stories. Just responses to posts you made.

I never assumed it was directed at me, I just took offense when you started spouting the standard Checkov's Gun nonsense (which was designed for Stage productions back before movies became popular) in response to my alternate suggestion about how to handle minor squicks (minor in terms of story impact).

I was suggesting that an author doesn't always need to label everything upfront if it will only discourage readers from picking up a story in the first place. Thus if a "MM" label will frighten away the majority of readers, but it's only dealt with in a small portion of a single chapter, I'd advise you avoid listing it upfront, instead offering a chapter-heading warning. That's an individual choice, and I would hardly recommend it for everyone, but for some stories, it might make more sense.

Then again, I woke up on the wrong side of my bed (again), so that had something to do with it as well. :(

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I just took offense when you started spouting the standard Checkov's Gun nonsense


?

I had never heard of it until it was mentioned by Ernest after your initial response to his & my posts.

Then again, I woke up on the wrong side of my bed (again), so that had something to do with it as well. :(

I'll go with that option.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Grant

I had never heard of it until it was mentioned by Ernest after your initial response to his & my posts.

Checkov's Gun is an old issue in writing, first written by the famous Russian playwright, Aton Checkov. In it he suggests that an author never mentions something (like a guy over the mantel) unless it'll be used at some point in the future. Despite not even applying to fiction, it frequently gets quoted in author discussions (including many here) as an 'absolute law' in fiction (i.e. avoid it at your own expense). However, it flies in the face of multiple author tools, like employing false leads to disguise where the story is leading, red herrings or subplots that don't directly influence the main plot (as well as simply providing background on characters so you get to know them better, say by detailing their interests that help define them--like hunting).

Given that contentious background, I frequently take exception whenever someone mentions not including anything which isn't directly tied to the main plotline. I view Checkov's Gun as a vast oversimplification which produces weak and largely unsatisfying writing.

Sorry to the rest of you for dredging up that background material once again.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

it frequently gets quoted in author discussions (including many here) as an 'absolute law' in fiction


I'm not sure anything brought up here is as an "absolute law." Show don't tell doesn't mean never tell. Don't use adverbs doesn't mean never use adverbs. Use active rather than passive voice doesn't mean never use passive voice. And so on.

Chekhov's Gun is the same, especially if you're intentionally trying to mislead the reader. And if I remember correctly, he didn't state it as a law. He mentioned it in a letter to a friend.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

(like a guy over the mantel)


A gun over the mantel is a common event, but a guy over the mantel is big news. chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Must be the Martian Manhunter's mantel.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I'm not sure anything brought up here is as an "absolute law." Show don't tell doesn't mean never tell. Don't use adverbs doesn't mean never use adverbs. Use active rather than passive voice doesn't mean never use passive voice. And so on.

I used the phrase "absolute law" to highlight the way a few individuals present the argument (i.e. you should never present anything which isn't a part of the story). That's where I drew the parallel. The chides about my 'including anything which might be skipped by some reader proving that the material should be dumped from the story because it's not central to the plot.

I was trying to highlight why it was a fallacious argument, rather than stating that Checkov's Gun is a "universal law" in writing fiction.

Back to Top