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Filter words

Switch Blayde
Updated:

I saw mentioned in another thread "filler words" like "that." I first read filler as filter and then realized my mistake because that isn't a filter word. So what is a filter word?

Words like felt, saw, wondered, seemed, knew, heard, etc.

Filter words are telling (as in show vs tell). If you want to show, spot the filter words and re-write.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I was not familiar with the expression and did some research.
An alternative expression I came across which seems to explain the "problem" better is 'distancing words'.
They are being used when one verb is describing a character's perception of or reaction to an action, rather than a simple statement of action.
As with filler words, they don't really alter meaning but they can often be eliminated, making the writing more direct.
There are valid reasons for using these verbs. One is when the character's perception or reaction is the main point of the sentence. They might also be needed to avoid head-hopping: by stating the MC's impression of another character's actions, rather than jumping inside the secondary character's head.
So I suppose the test should be to avoid them unless you have a specific reason for using them.
The list of verbs I found which can do this is: appear, assume, believe, could, decide, feel, hear, know, look, note, notice, realise, see, should, sound like, think, watch, wonder.

I've noticed I have used them frequently in this post. Another valid use I can see for them is to change the tone of something from a statement of fact to an expression of an opinion.

Thanks for your post, SB. I found it very helpful.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

So I suppose the test should be to avoid them unless you have a specific reason for using them.


Yes, I didn't mean to never use them.

And, I would guess, they're used more often in omniscient because the omni narrator is telling you how so-and-so feels, what they see and hear, etc.

But in 3rd-limited (and I guess 1st), the scene is through the POV character so you don't have to say he saw the door close, but rather the door closed.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP

@Switch Blayde

Yes, I didn't mean to never use them.


I do not see the use of filter words as problematic.

To create a realistic 1st person MC, you need to make their dialog and narrative the same as normal speech and thoughts. Of course normal varies for each of us. There are also instances were the MC is not positive of something, so the use of a filter word by the author is appropriate in that it could indicate indecision. Personally, I don't care for MC's who are always right and never have to change their plans of course of action.

In your example of a door closing, you are correct the door closed is adequate on many occasions, especially when the scene was related to the door; such as someone walking through it. I can also see a few occasions were the Author would want to draw the readers attention to something the MC noticed that was not directly related to the scene but may be important in a future scene.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play

I was not familiar with the expression and did some research.

An alternative expression I came across which seems to explain the "problem" better is 'distancing words'.

I agree. 'Filter words' is a disingenuous phrase because the words aren't filtering anything, instead they're belaboring the obvious. Rather than letting the reader experience the scene, the words are hitting them over the head. Example: instead of showing the characters as they experience something happening, instead the words tell them "Joey saw Sam hack off his leg." That doesn't capture any of the emotions in such a scene, as is often just a rush job to get on to the next scene.

"Distancing" is better, though it hardly rolls off the tongue, because it removes the reader from the scene, simply telling them what happened rather than letting them experience it for themselves. However, unlike filler words, it's rarely a matter of simply removing 'unnecessary words', in this case, removing words like 'saw' requires that you insert whole new sentences to construct a series of events from whole cloth, so it's a more pain-staking process—especially when the author is focused on getting to their main plot points.

Another valid use I can see for them is to change the tone of something from a statement of fact to an expression of an opinion.

I see that more of their other weakness, rather than a 'valid use'. I've seen, time and again, new authors trying to establish doubt or uncertainty by using these terms, only to produce weak or uninspiring prose, making it seem as if the author himself is unconvinced by what's happening, and which ends up making the reader yawn because they make the story so unexciting (the 'distraction' part of the term).

That's my main objection to them. It isn't that they're unnecessary, but that they're counter productive, hurting rather than helping the story, taking the reader out of the action rather than pulling them in, and making the story less involving rather than more.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@REP

To create a realistic 1st person MC


I put 1st-person in parentheses because 1st-person is much more telling than 3rd-limited. The narrator is telling a story and the narrative is very much like dialogue. Like Huck Finn.

"Filtering" is when you place a character between the detail you want to present and the reader. The term was started by Janet Burroway in her book On Writing.

They distance the reader from the character's experiences.

That's what omni does. Now 1st-person is supposed to make the reader more intimate with the 1st-person narrator so you want closeness. I believe filtering has more to do with showing rather than distance.

In telling, the narrator is telling the reader of the experience. In showing, the reader is experiencing it (through the POV character).

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  REP
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

And, I would guess, they're used more often in omniscient because the omni narrator is telling you how so-and-so feels, what they see and hear, etc.

In a perfect world, the narrator won't need to tell the reader how someone feels about something, because they can see it in their response, in their expressions and by their snide comments about it. Again, it takes more work, but it's these extra efforts that often pay off in more engaged readers.

The tricky part, though, is figuring out exactly what you need to do to show these same emotions, as they don't immediately spring to an author's imagination. Instead, they need to construct the situation to reveal the events, which is itself a distancing (of the author from the story) which sometimes produces uninspiring passages.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

There are also instances were the MC is not positive of something, so the use of a filter word by the author is appropriate in that it could indicate indecision. Personally, I don't care for MC's who are always right and never have to change their plans of course of action.

In those instances, I prefer hesitation or having the character backtrack or ask for clarification to show uncertainty, as again, the 'distancing' terms tend to take the reader out of the story, only letting them see it from a distance rather than immersing them in the story.

I can also see a few occasions were the Author would want to draw the readers attention to something the MC noticed that was not directly related to the scene but may be important in a future scene.

Just as a side note: this is why I've become such a fan of the em-dash in story, because they're perfect for interjecting seemingly unrelated details into a sentence, yet set out as a vital element that readers need to pay attention to. The words themselves argue that the information is unimportant to the events, but the punctuation reminds them that it's likely important in some other way, which will only be reveled in due time.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

"Filtering" is when you place a character between the detail you want to present and the reader. The term was started by Janet Burroway in her book On Writing.

Ah, I never knew the history of the phrase. While I understand it in that context, I still find the term 'filtering' confusing, because people will think they filter the content, rather than filter the events through a third-party.

REP

@Switch Blayde

I can accept that. Although I also believe my comment can be applied to all POVs. I intended the comment to be about character development, not who is narrating it.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

'Filter words' is a disingenuous phrase

Yes, it is, but I can see how it was coined. The effect of filter words is to distance readers from the action verb in the sentence; the process producing that effect is the action verb is being "filtered" by the perceptions of some character. For example, 'I thought he was angry' instead of 'He was angry'.
I think 'distancing' will be a better test to use when revising writing. Still, I'll feel obliged to use that terminology when discussing them with others to avoid talking at cross-purposes.

However, unlike filler words, it's rarely a matter of simply removing 'unnecessary words' ... it's a more pain-staking process

Yes. That is a point that needs to be made.
Unnecessary filler words can usually just be deleted.
You will need to rewrite the entire sentence when you detect an unnecessary filter word, and you should probably start with the question, what should I have chosen as the subject of this sentence?

I've seen, time and again, new authors trying to establish doubt or uncertainty by using these terms, only to produce weak or uninspiring prose, making it seem as if the author himself is unconvinced by what's happening

That's a different issue, but YES! Time and time and time again ... and not just new authors either!
When should authors seek doubt in their stories? ... VERY MUCH LESS than they tend to in everyday conversation.
I noticed myself using a lot of filter words in my last post. The subject was new to me and I wanted to avoid sounding like I was pontificating to others about what they should do. I wanted to doubt and the result was I used a lot of filter words.
I tend to be cautious in everyday discussions to convey an element of doubt when I'm not certain what I'm saying is accurate: I don't want my words coming back and biting me on the bum if latest information reveals I made a mistake. It's a very hard trait to overcome when writing fiction - but it's necessary - to avoid, as you suggest, sounding like I'm not even convincing myself.
BUT, fiction is different to real life. (Doh! That's making me sound like a real "genius" :-) You can write with certainty without any risk of being contradicted by latest discoveries.
I think writing can sometimes, not always, be made stronger by pushing dialogue to a point that becomes a bit unreal, with characters stating things with certainty when most people would hedge them a bit to stay on the safe side.

That's my main objection to them. It isn't that they're unnecessary, but that they're counter productive, hurting rather than helping the story, taking the reader out of the action rather than pulling them in, and making the story less involving rather than more.

Wow! That's a much better explanation than what I just wrote. :-)
For those of us here that think reducing word counts is important, reducing excessive words would a collateral benefit, but our focus should be on eliminating this involuntary verbal vomit that's diminishing our story and characters.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

When should authors seek doubt in their stories?


Mysteries would call for a lot of doubt, at least in the early parts of the story.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Mysteries would call for a lot of doubt, at least in the early parts of the story.

Okay, I'll pay that one, but CW and I were discussing something different. We were discussing how writing can be improved by finding sentences containing an element of doubt (e.g. with words such as could, perhaps, seems) and rewriting them as definitive statements.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

We were discussing how writing can be improved by finding sentences containing an element of doubt (e.g. with words such as could, perhaps, seems) and rewriting them as definitive statements.


True, but there are going to be lots of things in the early part of a mystery story that shouldn't be definitive statements.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

True, but there are going to be lots of things in the early part of a mystery story that shouldn't be definitive statements.

All of here know full well that every statement made here about favouring some particular style or technique has the implied caveat 'but there will be exceptions when valid reasons exist for not doing so'.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I tend to be cautious in everyday discussions to convey an element of doubt when I'm not certain what I'm saying is accurate: I don't want my words coming back and biting me on the bum if latest information reveals I made a mistake. It's a very hard trait to overcome when writing fiction - but it's necessary - to avoid, as you suggest, sounding like I'm not even convincing myself.

That's why 'professional' writing by college professors earned such disrespect and ridicule, because they inject so much doubt into the subject matter it quickly becomes impenetrable. Instead, you want to present your argument in the clearest language possible, to best convince others, only injecting doubt when it's most important, after you've already established your point, to provoke further reflection.

In stories, you do the same. Your character should be assertive in public, but doubt himself in private afterwards, revealing that he's nowhere as confident as he makes himself out to be.

Unfortunately, I've been adopting that in my own approach to most people, pissing people off by 'asserting things I can't defend', and then refusing to back down. So there are limits, but still.

He-he. "Involuntary disingenuous verbal vomit". I've got to remember that one. 'D

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Mysteries would call for a lot of doubt, at least in the early parts of the story.

A perfect place, isn't when an idea is first proposed, but when evidence undermines their assumptions, such as when the main suspect provides an alibi. Then you show the doubt in the character questioning their assumptions, trying to formulate a more coherent idea of what's happening. Once they have the new idea, it's full press onwards! Obnoxious cretins, ho!

P.S. Don't always try this in real life.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dominions Son

True, but there are going to be lots of things in the early part of a mystery story that shouldn't be definitive statements.

Not true. "We need to eliminate this scurge before it infects our city," rather than "We should attempt to limit the criminal element from our city before their behavior spreads."

Cleaning up filter words doesn't mean making your creatures obnoxious, it just means don't TELL your readers your character is uncertain, instead SHOW them by his actions rather than your words.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Not true. "We need to eliminate this scurge before it infects our city," rather than "We should attempt to limit the criminal element from our city before their behavior spreads."


Those statements would belong in a police drama, they would be quite out of place in mystery story focusing on a single case.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Your character should be assertive in public, but doubt himself in private afterwards, revealing that he's nowhere as confident as he makes himself out to be.

I love that. I suggested it may be desirable to make a character's dialogue a bit unreal, overconfident, to keep the writing strong. You've shown the way the character can still be kept real. :-)

I only used 'involuntary verbal vomit'. The alliteration appealed to me. But that is what 'that' often is. These little buggers seem just as hard to keep out of initial drafts and harder to detect during the revision process. :-(

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Those statements would belong in a police drama, they would be quite out of place in mystery story focusing on a single case.

You're being too literal. Read the passage again, and substitute whatever plot you want, the point is, one's straightforwards, while the other is convoluted gibberish.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I only used 'involuntary verbal vomit'. The alliteration appealed to me. But that is what 'that' often is. These little buggers seem just as hard to keep out of initial drafts and harder to detect during the revision process. :-(

What makes it especially tough, is when your editors keep reinserting them, after you've invested so much time pruning them! 'D It's similar to when you remove excessive commas to improve the flow (readability) of the story, only to have them reinsert them because 'that's where they belong'.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

What makes it especially tough, is when your editors keep reinserting them, after you've invested so much time pruning them! 'D It's similar to when you remove excessive commas to improve the flow (readability) of the story, only to have them reinsert them because 'that's where they belong'.

Is there a saying 'if you give a monkey a typewriter for long enough it still won't ever get it right'?
An editor's lot is not a happy one, either.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


containing an element of doubt (e.g. with words such as could, perhaps, seems) and rewriting them as definitive statements.


I don't know about the "doubt" or the result being a definitive statement, but I'll give you an example using "seems."

Without giving too much information about my novel LAST KISS, I'll disuss one part. In the beginning, it seems to the protagonist that his girlfriend's parents are stuck-up assholes who hate him. I never write they seem that way (to him). But since the story is from his POV (1st-person), you see her parents through his eyes. So the reader believes them to be that way.

And then he has interaction with the mother and he (and the reader) see her differently. And the more interaction, the more his view of her changes.

So I didn't write she seemed to be a stuck-up asshole who hated him. If I had, "seemed" would imply she wasn't really that way. But up until the boy's interaction with her, the reader believes she's that way. There's no doubt that she's that way. They're sure of it. She doesn't seem to be that way, she is that way (even though she really isn't).

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

one's straightforwards, while the other is convoluted gibberish.


So what? It's contrived and irrelevant to the genre where I suggested doubt has a place in the early part of the story.

That does nothing to prove (or even remotely suggest) that my statement regarding doubt having a place in a mystery story is untrue.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I never write they seem that way (to him).

I can see you're making a valid point, but it's somewhat beyond my level.
Are you saying if authors focus on 'showing', the result will be they stop (reduce?) using filter words inappropriately? Naturally, there will still be times when the story requires you to tell what a character's reaction to some action is.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Are you saying if authors focus on 'showing', the result will be they stop (reduce?) using filter words inappropriately?


I believe using filter words is telling. If you want to show, don't use the filter word.

Of course there are many times you want to tell, so then filter words are fine.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I believe using filter words is telling. If you want to show, don't use the filter word.
Of course there are many times you want to tell, so then filter words are fine.

Okay. I'll put my horse back in front of my cart.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

An editor's lot is not a happy one, either.

Editors are required to tell you what's correct, but they can't dictate what works. If you're confident something is necessary, stick with it, just be prepared to pay the price if you chose wrong.

Me editors mark every serial comma I don't use, I still don't use them.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

That does nothing to prove (or even remotely suggest) that my statement regarding doubt having a place in a mystery story is untrue.

Geez! Here we go again. I NEVER said a word about whether doubt serves a role in mysteries, I only gave a single example where passive writing makes for a weaker story, stating that doubt is better addressed by showing the characters reactions to contradictory data, or expressing worry to a partner, rather than for the author to interject doubt into his writing.

Next time, read the passage before you dump on someone.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Me:

True, but there are going to be lots of things in the early part of a mystery story that shouldn't be definitive statements.


CW

Not true.


Next time, read the passage before you dump on someone.


You're the one who needs to read what you are replying to. And you are confused about who is dumping on whom.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

You're the one who needs to read what you are replying to. And you are confused about who is dumping on whom.

I'm not going to waste the breathe fighting with you. You quoted the very response I accused you of not reading the first time (you read it literally, instead of as an example of using a technique).

You are REP are just out to halt ANY discussion of technique, because you're too insecure to question what you're doing. You don't think ANYONE should ever question an author's technique, no matter the response.

If you're not interested in writing techniques, then don't bother with the Author Threads about techniques.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


you read it literally, instead of as an example of using a technique


Pardon me for thinking that your example must have had actually had something to do with my comment.


If you're not interested in writing techniques, then don't bother with the Author Threads about techniques


The comment of mine that you were replying to was not a criticism of the technique, nor was it questioning the validity of the technique.

ETA:

Ross asked when you would ever want doubt in a story. I brought up the issue of a mystery. That you might want to deliberately leave even basic facts less than certain in the early stages of a mystery story.

We went back and forth a couple of times and then you just had to jump in, saying my comment wasn't true, giving an example of the technique, but nothing about why to or not to use it in a mystery.

End ETA:

Therefore, your example, no matter how well it illustrated the technique, was not relevant or responsive to the comment of mine to which you replied with that example.

ETA3:
Maybe you are right and I am wrong that there may be reason to leave thing uncertain in the early stages of a mystery story. However, the example you provided, despite being a good example of the technique, says nothing about whether I am right or wrong on that issue, nor does it say anything about why I'm wrong.
End ETA3:


If you're not interested in writing techniques, then don't bother with the Author Threads about techniques.


I am interested, but I am interested in when and why as well as how. If you aren't willing to entertain when and why in discussions of technique, fine. Don't reply when I bring those issues up, but you have no reason to dump on me for bringing up issues of when and why.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I am interested, but I am interested in when and why as well as how. If you aren't willing to entertain when and why in discussions of technique, fine. Don't reply when I bring those issues up, but you have no reason to dump on me for bringing up issues of when and why.

I not only specified when (ALL the time during the revision process) and why (to make your story more intimate and easier to read). However, you insisted my example had nothing to do with mystery stories, missing the entire point of 'example of techniques'.

Then, when I pointed out you read my example literally, rather than as an example of how text might be cleaned up, you attacked me for not proving a point I NEVER MADE!

Trust me, if you didn't understand Ross's initial explanation, than this technique is NOT for you!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Then, when I pointed out you read my example literally, rather than as an example of how text might be cleaned up, you attacked me for not proving a point I NEVER MADE!


The point you now claim you never made was the only reason to say my comment was not true.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

You are REP are just out to halt ANY discussion of technique, because you're too insecure to question what you're doing. You don't think ANYONE should ever question an author's technique, no matter the response.

If you're not interested in writing techniques, then don't bother with the Author Threads about techniques.


CW, you are so full of bullshit no one would want you as their Christmas Turkey. First you accuse SB and me of shutting down discussions, and now you are accusing DS and me of the same thing. So far neither SB, DS, or I have had any problem with discussing assorted topics. We seem to be able to exchange thoughts and ideas with no problem even though we may not agree with each other.

The only time shutting down discussions comes up seems to be when someone disagrees with one of your opinions. You seem to think that you have all the answers when it comes to good techniques and your accusations of us shutting down discussions seem to be your response when someone challenges what you say is the technique a good author should use or one of your other pet opinions. Our opinions and techniques are just as valid as yours.

For the record, I believe DS is correct about mystery stories. At the start of an investigation, an investigator should question his thoughts and how the facts he is gathering fit together. Filter words are one of the techniques that can be used to create a sense of the investigator questioning himself, so it is proper to use them. So instead of accepting DS's opinion, you jumped all over what he said telling him he was wrong and telling him the proper way it should have been done. Your comment about "making your creatures obnoxious" had absolutely nothing to do with the conversation DS was having.

You accuse DS and me of being insecure and unwilling to examine what we do – a false assumption on your part. You have no idea of who we are, what we think, or what we do – so get off your high horse.

You say we have no interest in writing techniques and should avoid Author Threads about techniques – another false assumption on your part. An accusation that you make despite our involvement in examining and questioning the techniques being discussed. So why does that anger you? Is it because we are questioning the techniques you are promoting?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

I don't know why this topic turned to doubt in a story. Filter words distance the reader from the story. Instead of the reader experiencing what the character is experiencing, they're told what that experience is. I found the following example:

Patricia heard steps on the front porch, and she smelled sulfur. She could taste bile rising into her throat. She couldn't see anything in the dark, so she groped until she felt the familiar cold metal of her son's baseball bat.


The bold/italicized words filter the events through Patricia's perceptions. Here's the way this person converted it without filter words:

Someone—or something—stomped across the front porch. The reek of sulfur overwhelmed Patricia's nostrils, and bitter bile burned her throat. She groped in the darkness for a weapon. What was that? Ah, the comforting cold metal of her son's baseball bat.


Patricia hears stomping, she smells sulfur, she tastes bitter bile, she sees darkness, and she feels cold metal.

That's why I think the filter word has to do with show don't tell. When you use the filter word felt you are telling the reader how she felt. But when you re-write it without the filter word, the reader is (hopefully) feeling what she is feeling.

ETA: The former (with filter words) looks at the POV character. The latter looks through the eyes of the POV character.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I don't know why this topic turned to doubt in a story.

That started after I said I intentionally tried to include a lot of doubt when writing one post (not wanting to sound as if this was a topic I understood well) and I ended up with many sentences that used filter words.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I ended up with many sentences that used filter words.


You should use filter words in posts. You're telling something, not writing a story.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

You should use filter words in posts. You're telling something, not writing a story.

I don't think filter words are as black and white as that. Your comment suggests filter words are necessary to be telling, and I'm sure that is not so.

Certainly, filter words used in stories will often be telling, but I think that is not always the case.

I would certainly recommend authors become familiar with the list of most commonly used filter verbs, and when they spot one to check whether it is being used to filter ane action verb in the sentence. If it is, they should then check whether that filtering is resulting in them telling. I doubt it's always so, but it's highly likely they are.

I am not trying to be contrary or argumentative here. Your insight has taught me something I consider valuable. At the very least, I should learn the list of most commonly used filter words and treat them as warning signs that the story may be telling.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


and treat them as warning signs that the story may be telling.


And like "'don't use adverbs' doesn't mean never use adverbs," there are places for filter words.

"She felt Joe should have called her. Two days had already gone by."

Nothing wrong with that sentence in a story. I guess you could have her moping around and other stuff, but why?

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

And like "'don't use adverbs' doesn't mean never use adverbs


If that's not what it's supposed to mean, why phrase it that way in the first place?

If you want to be tight, efficient and clear with your writing, why be so sloppy with the phrasing of the rules/techniques you used to guide/improve your writing?

I don't really want to be pedantic about this, but it's driving me nuts. You say they aren't meant to be absolutes, yet you constantly phrase them as absolutes.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

And like " 'don't use adverbs' doesn't mean never use adverbs," there are places for filter words.

I agree with that. My rule to rule over all other rules when it comes to writing techniques is:

Never trust anyone who uses the word 'never', and always distrust anyone who uses the word 'always'. :-)


Here's a gratuitous little snippet of advice for you. I recently noticed a recommendation in CMOS that a space should be inserted whenever you have two consecutive quote marks, single and/or double. It does look much better.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

If that's not what it's supposed to mean, why phrase it that way in the first place?

Can you view statements like that another way?
Can you accept as a fact that almost every choice we make while writing stories requires us to consider more than one of these rules/tips/whatever, and they will often be contradictory?
So, can you consider "don't use adverbs" as an absolute rule, but bear in mind that when attempting to apply it, it may collide with and lose out to some other equally-absolute rule?

Alternatively, do we really need to draft every post we make here with as much care as a legal contract?
Is there no room for a shared body of knowledge here allowing us to omit things we know everybody here already knows?
Can you accept we don't think you're an idiot who needs to be spoon-fed every potentially relevant related factoid in every statement we make, and for you to stop jumping down our throats, as if we were idiots, just because we did not do that - just to satisfy you???
Why are you so insistent we must say things we know you already know?

I trust this will clarify for the type of thing you do so often that drives so many of use here nuts!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

If that's not what it's supposed to mean, why phrase it that way in the first place?


Ever see a sign on someone's lawn that says, "KEEP OFF THE GRASS"?

I bet if the owner of that house (and sign) was hanging by his fingers from his roof because his ladder fell, he'd tell you to ignore that sign and do the right thing.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Ever see a sign on someone's lawn that says, "KEEP OFF THE GRASS"?

Perhaps we can suggest DS gets on the grass? It might chill him out a bit. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Alternatively, do we really need to draft every post we make here with as much care as a legal contract?


Fallacy of the excluded middle.

There is a vast span of distance between how sloppily you phrase a lot of these rules/techniques and the care require for legal contracts.


Can you accept as a fact that almost every choice we make while writing stories requires us to consider more than one of these rules/tips/whatever, and they will often be contradictory?


Certainly I can.


So, can you consider "don't use adverbs" as an absolute rule, but bear in mind that when attempting to apply it, it may collide with and lose out to some other equally-absolute rule?


No I can't. That's a contradiction. If the rules can collide like that neither can be absolute.


Can you accept we don't think you're an idiot who needs to be spoon-fed every potentially relevant related factoid in every statement we make, and for you to stop jumping down our throats, as if we were idiots, just because we did not do that - just to satisfy you???


Can you stop jumping down my throat every time I ask why?


Why are you so insistent we must say things we know you already know?


Because I'm not convinced that you know them. Because despite that you make the perfunctory statement that they aren't absolute, every I ask about why a given rule applies in a given case, or when it doesn't apply, either you or CW jump down my throat as if I have committed an act of heresy or accuse me of trying to shut down the discussion.

ETA:

Writing techniques are tool. Knowing how to use a tool is necessary, but not sufficient to understanding the tool. True understand lies in knowing when to use it and why to use it.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

First you accuse SB and me of shutting down discussions, and now you are accusing DS and me of the same thing.

Fair enough. DS, I'm sorry for confusing you with the object of my anger.

And I don't object when someone disagrees with me, what I object to is one someone (or a group) starts repeatedly demanding proof of points there's no way I can prove every time I say something, over an issue they have ZERO interest in settling.

That's how I define 'trying to shut something down'.

I don't know about this discussion, but in the previous discussion, you were intensely focused on the idea that NO AUTHOR should every try to SIMPLIFY their language under any circumstances, and rather than allowing the rest of us to discuss our techniques, you jumped on us each time we mentioned anything.

Does pigshit by any other name smell any different?

And I'm sorry if I incorrectly accused you of having NO interest in improving as an author, but there are definitely some areas you're uninterested in investigating, which you seem to think are below 'natural writers'.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


No I can't. That's a contradiction. If the rules can collide like that neither can be absolute


That's why they're principles and not hard-and-fast rules. And why they say "don't" rather than "never."

You're going to get hard-and-fast rules on punctuation, but not on writing fiction. With fiction, you're going to get techniques. So don't worry so much about the wording of the heading of the technique, but rather what's behind it.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't know why this topic turned to doubt in a story. Filter words distance the reader from the story. Instead of the reader experiencing what the character is experiencing, they're told what that experience is.

What Ross said, but beyond that it was purely a misunderstanding. REP pointed out that doubt was needed in a mystery, so I "No", and provided an example of two sentences without the filter words without explaining I meant "No, that's not the kind of doubt we're talking about."

The discussion then went off the track, when REP start reprimanding for 'not representing his story' while I accused him of reading my example literally rather than as an example of the technique we were discussing. The thread never got back on topic after that, and I've been avoiding it ever since.

Great example, by the way. It's much clearer than mine (which caused the massive pissing fight).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I don't know about this discussion, but in the previous discussion, you were intensely focused on the idea that NO AUTHOR should every try to SIMPLIFY their language under any circumstances, and rather than allowing the rest of us to discuss our techniques, you jumped on us each time we mentioned anything.


I can't speak for REP, but I certainly never said I thought that no author should ever simplify.

I was initially interested in why you thought simplification was necessarily better, because personally, I prefer reading more complex/verbose stories.

However, the only answers I ever got when I asked why sounded a lot like groupthink ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink ). I have had to deal with quite a bit of groupthink in my work and it's a bit of a pet peeve for me.

So I pushed back hard. I will admit, that I got obsessive about that particular issue and went way overboard in how hard I pushed back.

And I'm sorry if I incorrectly accused you of having NO interest in improving as an author, but there are definitely some areas you're uninterested in investigating


Again, I can't speak for REP, but if you think that of me, you are dead flat wrong.

It's not that I'm uninterested in investigating any areas, it's that because of the way my mind works, the investigation has to begin with why and when.

It is pointless to try and understand how before why and when are properly understood.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  REP
joyR

@Crumbly Writer

Does pigshit by any other name smell any different?


No, changing it's name will not affect the smell.

However.

Reading through this thread it seems like the various parties are not at odds about the smell, but just about everything else. To stick with your theme, we've had discussions on what the pig ate, how well it's bowels work, and to an extent, even which pig it's from. All of which may well be of interest to some, others seem adamant on which of these makes the perfect turd. No matter how you polish it, the dung beetles have their own reasons for which turd they choose.

Is anyone really going to argue that the only valid pigshit is that from one specific breed of pig, fed only one specific diet, and raised on one specific farm..??

Anyone for a bacon sandwich? And if so can we dispense with the arguments over which type of bread, sauce, etc? Probably not.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Here's a gratuitous little snippet of advice for you. I recently noticed a recommendation in CMOS that a space should be inserted whenever you have two consecutive quote marks, single and/or double. It does look much better.

That was a recommendation by CMOS? I don't think I've ever seen that used in any published book I've ever read. It would certainly help, as placing a single quote within a continuous double quote essentially makes it invisible, as well as ensuring you'll get the reverse smart quote. However, I'm still not sure it's an accepted enough standard to assume, sure readers will call me on it if it's not.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Perhaps we can suggest DS gets on the grass? It might chill him out a bit. :-)

Hey, I'm willing to chip in the first bong!

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

So don't worry so much about the wording of the heading of the technique, but rather what's behind it.


But there is never anything behind it. As I said, how is necessary but not sufficient to understand a technique. Why must come first, but attempts to ask why are routinely ignored or shot down.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

And why they say "don't" rather than "never."


Sorry, but I see no difference between an unqualified don't and never.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I was initially interested in why you thought simplification was necessarily better, because personally, I prefer reading more complex/verbose stories.

Granted. While I still recognize the need to watch for both filler and filter words, I've also come to recognize the need for more complex sentences. I've always written incredibly complex sentences, but went through a period where I was attempting to trim them back by breaking them into smaller pieces. It was Ross who pointed out that my longer sentences never seemed over bearing, because I seemed to have an innate sense of how to make them understandable.

Since then, I'm no longer as fastidious about trimming them (now my editors, having learned my previous techniques, do it for me) ::)

But again, these discussions have never been about writing simply sentences that any idiot can understand, rather it's about trimming those portions that either distract from the sentences, or which offer little value, which is a different standard.

Filler words don't add anything of value, and just make reading more tedious without adding any benefit. Filter words, on the other hand, make the author appear hesitant while removing the reader from the action, making them feel like a 3rd party to the story they're reading. It's not about the character's doubts, as there are other ways of expressing those, it's about strong versus weak (or passive) writing.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't think I've ever written a simple sentence in my life. Hell, even my "Me!" sentences are more complex ("I did it"). 'D

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

That was a recommendation by CMOS? I don't think I've ever seen that used in any published book I've ever read.

It does, but with a difference between online and published books. This is its paragraph 6.11

When single quotation marks nested within double quotation marks appear next to each other, no space need be added between the two except as a typographical nicety subject to the publisher's requirements. For example, most typesetters will use a thin space between the two marks to enhance readability (as in the print edition of this manual). In online works, a nonbreaking space should be used (as in the online edition of this manual). See also 13.28. In the example that follows, note that the period precedes the single quotation mark (see also 6.9).
"Admit it," she said. "You haven't read 'The Simple Art of Murder.' "

I checked paragraph 13.28 which is mentioned above. That just makes the point that double and single quotes are alternated when there are quotes, within quotes, within quotes, ...

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

But again, these discussions have never been about writing simply sentences that any idiot can understand, rather it's about trimming those portions that either distract from the sentences, or which offer little value, which is a different standard.


If you can't articulate why a given portion distracts or why it adds little value, how is that any kind of standard at all?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

But there is never anything behind it. As I said, how is necessary but not sufficient to understand a technique. Why must come first, but attempts to ask why are routinely ignored or shot down.

I think much of what's been happening is about the lack of personal connection which originates from text messaging. Not only are we each preparing our response before considering what we've read, but we're too quick to make demands as opposed to simply asking "I'm not sure I understand, could you rephrase that so it's not so hard to follow."

When REP went off about how my example didn't reflect the contents of a particular story, it showed he hadn't understood the entire point of the post (which was simply to demonstrate how eliminating filter words could improve a mystery story).

In return, instead of taking my response as a sign of frustration with his approach, he doubled-down, just like I did. As a result, we're now ready to go off, anytime either one of us makes the slightest mistake, which is never helpful.

I keep coming back to the same point, but demanding proof is not the same thing as asking for more coherent explanations. The first is often impossible, while the second merely reflects that we weren't successful with our first attempt, and need to be more careful with our subsequent tries.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Sorry, but I see no difference between an unqualified don't and never.

A little context here is important. Switch was referring to an often repeated claim by a certain famous author about "You should NEVER use adjectives". (A better example of this involved substituting swear words, so your publisher would automatically remove them all for you.)

That often quoted line was meant simply to grab author's attention, so they'd consider what they did, rather than as an absolute rule. However, now each time we refer to that original claim, we're each talked to task for something we didn't actually claim ourselves.

Hell, how often have I repeated that there are no "Rules" in fiction and that everything is fair game if you can make it work. The rule, is to understand why those techniques often fail, so that you understand the risk before blindly stepping into the same booby trap every other already has.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

When REP went off about how my example didn't reflect the contents of a particular story, it showed he hadn't understood the entire point of the post (which was simply to demonstrate how eliminating filter words could improve a mystery story).


You are confused, that was me not REP.

And I wasn't responding to the filter words issue itself.

Ross, in his comment at 7/12/2017, 12:01:15 PM, had raised the issue of doubt and asked why any author ever seek doubt in any story.

That's all I was replying to.

Part of the problem may be that he edited his comment removing the part I quoted, but I didn't see his edit before posting my comment.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

we're each talked to task for something we didn't actually claim ourselves.


If you aren't intending to make the claim yourselves, why do you keep referring to it?

The rule, is to understand why those techniques often fail, so that you understand the risk before blindly stepping into the same booby trap every other already has.


Any yet you reflexively stomp on any attempt to discuss why.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

If you can't articulate why a given portion distracts or why it adds little value, how is that any kind of standard at all?

All right, this is how we go down this badger dens. Your statement sounds less like a request for clarification than it does a personal attack. It's the old 'if you can't rule out any exception, why make any point at all?' argument, which sounds like an attempt to shut me up, rather than an attempt to get a less-imperfect explanation. Essentially, you're answering an absolute with another absolute, while simultaneously claiming that absolutes are meaningless (i.e. we've effectively ceased communicating!).

What exactly is the problem. Are you unable to follow my arguments, or do you just reject what I'm saying out of whole cloth because of some abstract turn of phrase.

I'm simply not following how each of the previous examples and explanations have been uninformative. They should at least give a general explanation of what we're discussing. Yet you continue to insist that, without some definitive proof, we shouldn't make ANY claims at all.

Which is it? Do you want explanations, examples, or definitive mathematical proofs?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I checked paragraph 13.28 which is mentioned above. That just makes the point that double and single quotes are alternated when there are quotes, within quotes, within quotes, ...

For my print books, I've created entire new STYLE definitions for blank lines (using tiny 4pt fonts) or for intervening spaces ("0.2em;" or two-tenths of a normal space). However, you can't do that for online works, and an entire space (using a non-breaking space) looks worse than shoving the two quotes together.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

But there is never anything behind it


I'm sorry, but then you haven't been listening. There's a ton of stuff behind it.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

every I ask about why a given rule applies in a given case, or when it doesn't apply, either you or CW jump down my throat as if I have committed an act of heresy or accuse me of trying to shut down the discussion.

You must be confusing me with someone else. If you asked 'why a given rule applies in a given case, or when it doesn't apply' I would be delighted to engage a discussion with you. Those are precisely the type of discussions I most enjoy having on these forums.
I would even welcome many of the types of points you make if you framed as providing some additional information.
But your posts are very often nothing like either of those. You consistently frame your posts as gotchas, with wordings that imply you're setting us straight about something we do not know. That is very annoying when the point you are making is something that's already been discussed here so often you much know our views and that you are not telling us anything we don't already know.

That is my perception of how things have been in the past. There is certainly nothing to be gained by arguing about whether or not that is so.

I'm going to adopt a new approach to coping with you. You have just claimed you use a standard which I strongly agree with.
I intend to start quoting those words back at you when you are not doing that! When you make one of your posts that irritates me so much, I won't bother fighting back; I'll quote your standard back at you, and probably rewrite your post in a way which would satisfy your standard too!

Fair's fair, you are welcome to respond to my posts in the same way if I don't comply with the same standard. I'm not driven by any need to find fault in others, so I don't anticipate problems in refraining from the first to throw any stones.

I'll start with a standard including exactly the same words as your post (in bold font).

Any discussion of, or questions about, why a given rule applies in a given case, or when it doesn't apply.

I will certainly be willing to consider re-wording this standard if you make any suggestions, either now or later.

I suggest you note this wording will allow me to throw back at you the kind of posts I think of as your specialty. When someone words something as a broad statement, omitting the caveat there will be some exceptions because they know everybody here already will understand that, you very often find some example to prove the statement is not always correct. I may just spit those back at you on the grounds you weren't discussing 'when it doesn't apply', merely providing an example of when it doesn't.

Thanks, DS, for that post. I haven't felt as cheerful as I do right now for quite some time.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

However, you can't do that for online works, and an entire space (using a non-breaking space) looks worse than shoving the two quotes together.

This is an example from a post above which I think looks better with the extra space. You might not agree.

And like " 'don't use adverbs' doesn't mean never use adverbs," there are ...
And like "'don't use adverbs' doesn't mean never use adverbs," there are ...

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


It's the old 'if you can't rule out any exception, why make any point at all?' argument, which sounds like an attempt to shut me up,


No, it's not. It's asking what are the contours and limits of the rule?


What exactly is the problem.


With the filter words issues? Nothing in particular, but you stomped on me with it over a comment not limited to the filter words issue, that was in reply to a question that was broader than the filter words issue itself, with zero explanation of why that was in any way relevant to my comment.

ETA:

And, I just stomped back, which wasn't at all helpful.

END ETA:

On the simplification issue? I'm not altogether sure how to explain it, and I am not sure this is the place to try. It's a matter of an actual generalized standard to define what is or is not distracting, what does or does not add value.


Which is it? Do you want explanations, examples, or definitive mathematical proofs?


I want explanations that include why and where and when before talking about how. I want a definition of the limits of a rule that go beyond a simple list of specific exceptions.

I want to know why beyond "Because X said so".

For where and when, just saying everywhere or always is absurd nonsense unless you are explicitly claiming it's an absolute rule that must never be violated under any condition.

If I ask why and you don't know the answer, I want you to say so instead of trying to shove down my throat the kind of trite nonsense that a parent uses when a small child asks a question that they don't know the answer to or just don't want to answer.

If I ask why and you just say you don't know, I'll go away and stop bothering you. If you try to push me off with trite nonsense, I get stubborn and push back.

Replies:   REP
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

You must be confusing me with someone else.


Sorry, that was meant for SB.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


You consistently frame your posts as gotchas, with wordings that imply you're setting us straight about something we do not know.


Interpersonal skill are not my strong point.

Yes, I have done this in the past, and I am making an effort to get away from it. If you think that's what I am doing, say so explicitly. It's probably a misunderstanding if it's early in a given thread.

I can get frustrated easily. But I respond to frustration with (mostly self directed) anger and stubbornness.

There is a certain definition of insanity that involves doing the same thing repeatedly. Yep, that's me in the corner trying to break down a brick wall with my forehead.

I ask an initial question that is well meaning if not well worded and I get back an answer that seems both absurd and a trite dismissal of the question, and off to the races I go. Bad habit, I'm trying to break it.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Sorry, that was meant for SB.

Apology accepted.

I noticed you used this phrase above, 'why and where and when before talking about how.'
I can understand why that order would be important to you.
Feel free to quote those words at me if I start talking about 'your standard'.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Interpersonal skill are not my strong point.

By my assessment, we are both among the worst of a very bad bunch.

If you think that's what I am doing, say so explicitly.

THANK YOU. Those words are music to my ears. I will do that, and do my best to do so with a polite, matter-of-fact tone.
And I will try to tell you, rather than show you, if I begin to feel frustrated.

... and off to the races I go. Bad habit, I'm trying to break it.

I have noticed you trying. I gratuitously included a comment not long ago I thought you'd been 'very "good" ... for quite some time'.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

And I don't object when someone disagrees with me, what I object to is one someone (or a group) starts repeatedly demanding proof of points there's no way I can prove every time I say something, over an issue they have ZERO interest in settling.


You are making an assumption regarding someone's interest. If they had no interest they wouldn't have commented on the topic of your post. If you are going to state things as facts and others don't recognize your statements as facts, then they will question your ascertains. If you don't want to provide supporting information, then word your statements as opinions.

I don't know about this discussion, but in the previous discussion, you were intensely focused on the idea that NO AUTHOR should every try to SIMPLIFY their language under any circumstances, and rather than allowing the rest of us to discuss our techniques, you jumped on us each time we mentioned anything.


I can't comment on the specifics of that discussion for I don't recall it. But, you are either confusing me with someone else or misunderstood what I said. I have no problem with an Author simplifying their language. I may have had a problem with the way you said the language should be simplified. If so, I undoubtedly press you to explain why your approach was right. It sound like my pressing you was upsetting. If you want to convince other that your way is best, then you need to explain why it is better. We aren't going to just accept what you say.

Your accusation of me jumping on "us" every time a post was made is not my typical posting pattern.

If I understand your comment, you are actually saying, REP should stay out of discussions of techniques that interest him.

And I'm sorry if I incorrectly accused you of having NO interest in improving as an author, but there are definitely some areas you're uninterested in investigating, which you seem to think are below 'natural writers'.


Once again with the assumptions. You have no knowledge of whether I am interested in improving as an author; my interest in the threads concerning techniques would indicate I am interested. You again assume there are areas I'm not interested in improving.

Your reference to 'natural writers' would seem to indicate that you think my ability, whatever that level of ability is, comes naturally. You are wrong. It is not natural. I worked at developing an ability to write fiction for more than 25 years; although those attempts were intermittent during that time. It was only in the 3 years prior to posting my first story that I made a significant effort to learn how to write fiction; it is very different from writing technical manuals. I also know that I still have a lot to learn, so I am not closed minded to new things - but I am not going to just accept something that another person tells me is correct way or technique to do something. There are just too many people around who just repeat what someone else tells them without questioning it.

REP

@Dominions Son

I can't speak for REP, but I certainly never said I thought that no author should ever simplify.


I can speak for REP and I agree with you and I have never made that statement either.

I also agree with you about asking things like why, when, where, and how. I may not agree with the answers, but I feel we have the right to ask. Especially when all we are told is what to do.

BlacKnight

@Switch Blayde

And like "'don't use adverbs' doesn't mean never use adverbs," there are places for filter words.

"She felt Joe should have called her. Two days had already gone by."

Nothing wrong with that sentence in a story. I guess you could have her moping around and other stuff, but why?

IMAO, "She felt" is entirely unnecessary in that example. It works fine as:
"Joe should have called her. Two days had already gone by."

It doesn't need to be explicitly framed as the character's feelings, and it's punchier without. The first comes off as a little wishy-washy; the second is a definite statement.

Though I think I'd put the setup first:
"Two days had already gone by. Joe should have called her by now."

Nitpicking the example doesn't invalidate the point, though. If your PoV is uncertain about something, your narrative shouldn't state it as fact.
"She thought she caught a glimpse of someone out of the corner of her eye, but when she spun around, there was no one there."

Was there really someone there? Maybe, maybe not. Our PoV character doesn't know, so the narrative shouldn't make a definite statement on it for the reader.

REP

@Dominions Son

On the simplification issue? . . . It's a matter of an actual generalized standard to define what is or is not distracting, what does or does not add value


My opinion is there is no acceptable 'standard' for simplification. When you write a passage, you add content that you feel is appropriate to the scene. You add it because you believe it adds value to the scene. It is all about the Author's perception of what is appropriate and valuable.

A 'standard' is a rulebook. It can give examples of what to do and how to do it in order to simplify a scene. But, it is still your job to determine if what you wrote needs simplification. That is you using your judgment to determine what is and is not right for a scene.

There will always be people who disagree with your decisions. They will say, 'I would have done it this way.' Of course, it you had simplified the scene these same people might be saying the scene needs further explanation. You aren't going to win, so go with what you feel is right.

Just to be clear, some passages do need simplification and it is your job to simplify them, but it is also your job to use your judgment as to whether they need simplification.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

Just to be clear, some passages do need simplification and it is your job to simplify them, but it is also your job to use your judgment as to whether they need simplification.


That's the whole problem. To the way I think, that's completely meaningless. As a rule or technique, it has exactly zero useful content.

It tells me nothing about how to determine if a passage needs simplification. How do I define what needs simplification and why it needs simplification.

Without that, I either have to ignore simplification altogether, or blindly simplify everything for the sake of simplification.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son


Without that, I either have to ignore simplification altogether, or blindly simplify everything for the sake of simplification.


That is pretty much what I think. A standard may help you do the simplification, but it will not tell you when or what to simplify. That is a judgment call.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

That is pretty much what I think. A standard may help you do the simplification, but it will not tell you when or what to simplify. That is a judgment call.


No, to apply judgment requires a rational basis for that judgement. What is the basis on which to judge what is too complex, what is just right and what is too simple?

If all you are saying is I know it when I see it, that is not applying judgement. That is all feelz with no rational thought behind it.

Replies:   REP
sharkjcw

I have sat here and read as you all jump up and down and yell and fuss about punctuation, simplification, and any number of topics on writing.

I worked in distribution of a state wide newspaper for about 16 years, I meet any number of editors, writers, and proofreaders over the years. One thing that they all said about what was written in most papers from a small town weekly (know the editor of the local weekly) to a national paper is, IT IS WRITTEN AT A SIXTH OR SEVENTH GRADE LEVEL!!!!!

This is for everything except maybe a write in letter or editorial that they publish, anything of a higher level usually gets complaints to the paper.

Just my 2 cents worth on this.

PS
You all get very entertaining at times!!

Dominions Son

@sharkjcw

News writing in general is a very different proposition from writing fiction.

Replies:   sharkjcw
sharkjcw
Updated:

@Dominions Son

Yes I agree, But you still need to keep it to a level that will keep people engaged and reading past the first page.

Most people do not want to have to get out the dictionary to read a story. They want it at or just below their comfort level, and reasonably well written. I know that I will give a pass on a first story, but not a second.

REP

@Dominions Son

That is all feelz with no rational thought behind it.


True. What do you use now to decide what should and should not be written into a story. For me, I call it judgment. The rationales may not be defined such that I could quote them, but they are there. Perhaps intuition or gut feel would be acceptable terms.

Replies:   Dominions Son
REP

@sharkjcw

You all get very entertaining at times!!


Yeah it can be entertaining at times. I always thought that newspapers were written at or below 6th grade RGL. I did some research and found there is a significant variation between newspapers.

Dominions Son

@REP

Perhaps intuition or gut feel would be acceptable terms.


Perhaps, but that is generally useless for a technique to learn or share with someone else. If that's all it comes down to, I see little to no point in having any kind of discussion about it.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@sharkjcw

One thing that they all said about what was written in most papers from a small town weekly (know the editor of the local weekly) to a national paper is, IT IS WRITTEN AT A SIXTH OR SEVENTH GRADE LEVEL!!!!!


An alarming statistic published in the UK press last year was that a significant proportion of UK pupils leave secondary school with a lower reading age than they started. (I can't find the article or remember the exact percentage but 10% rings a bell).

Is the situation the same in the USA?

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

the idea that (authors should) try to SIMPLIFY their language

Would you clarify/provide examples of the kinds of things you mean with the phrase 'simplify their language'?

I am not trying to pick any sort of fight with this post. I'm asking about the meaning of the terminology. Yes, I do list some style choices available for authors, and I state my preferences, but I do not want to imply others with different preferences are wrong.

What I think of of when I see the expression 'simplify their language' are things like:
* looking for the order of phrases within sentences that flows most smoothly.
* eliminating words that add nothing to meaning, e.g. 'that' when used as a conjunction, quantifiers such as 'quite', 'some', 'very'.
* restructuring sentences to have the same meaning but requiring less 'glue words'.
* employing parallel structures so more words may be inferred in the latter clauses.
* correct use of your (non-)Serial Comma style to minimise the number of conjunctions used.
* cutting detailed steps of actions that readers are capable of inferring.
* choosing the right subjects for sentences, which resolves any passive voice problems.
* choosing the right clauses to combine into long sentences.
* care in choosing the most precise word for your meaning, e.g. replacing 'that' with 'which' or 'who', choosing the preposition phrases naturally 'take'.

I am convinced those types of things do make writing better, and I would use the term 'tight'. It cannot be proven these things improve writing and I sympathise with your plight when others here have demanded evidence they do. The evidence I see is in the writing style of many great authors through the ages, and some opinions they express, but there's no way I could prepare any sort of case showing that is what they have been doing. And yes, it's undesirable these things are done every possible time. They need to be employed judiciously.

There are some things it appears to me others might think you mean, but I doubt you do. They include:
* reducing the grade level of the vocabulary being used.
* cutting the amount of descriptive detail, e.g. using less adjectives, cutting phrases that provide added detail but aren't essential.
* reducing the level of detail shown to the minimum needed to convey the action.

This list are things I consider do not necessary make writing any better or worse. They seem like valid options some authors may prefer and authors should base their choices more on their target audience than anything else. I doubt you meant to include these types of things, because I think you would use some other terminology when discussing them.

So, CW, is what you mean by 'simplifying language' making the language what I call 'tight'?
It seems some people think you're suggesting everybody should be trying to write like Hemingway. I think you are actually recommending authors attempt to make their writing tight, and that does not mean they need to change their preferred style. Writers like Gabaldon and Nabokov use a florid prose style and include many details not essential to the story - but I still think their writing is very tight. As an editor, there are few ways I could find to reduce their word counts without diminishing the meaning they were trying to convey.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

My advice to an aspiring writer is to identify authors who have written the sort of stories you want to write and achieved the type of success you aspire to achieve, and try to identify what stylistic elements they have in common.

The writing techniques for selling millions of copies are very different to those for achieving critical acclaim (eg Booker nominees, which usually struggle to sell more than a few thousand copies).

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

The writing techniques for selling millions of copies are very different to those for achieving critical acclaim (eg Booker nominees

I agree that there are some differences in writing techniques between authors who are seeking the widest possible readership and those seeking critical acclaim.
I have two lists in my post just above.
I think the second list contains techniques authors need to choose depending on the audience they want.
I think my first list contains techniques that are equally important no matter what audience an author is seeking.
In my opinion the level at which those things are equally important is "high" - but I don't want to argue here with those who assess that level as "not really".
Do you agree? Anything you can add?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Do you agree?


I prefer a scientific approach to such issues.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I prefer a scientific approach to such issues.

Que?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Conducting experiments to find out what readers actually prefer to read. Of course, that means I'm targeting popularity rather than critical acclaim ;)

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Conducting experiments to find out what readers actually prefer to read.

Thanks. Manuel understands now.
I am very supportive of authors who are willing to risk some disappointments by being experimental in the interests of furthering their long-term development. :-)

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Manuel understands now.


There used to be a restaurant in the Phoenix area where the servers dressed up in costumes. They did all kinds of fun things there. Anyway, my waiter's made-up name was Manuel Labor. (That's the tie-in to your post.)

I also remember we asked for a doggy bag and got a Styrofoam box. Manuel Labor said, "I'll write your name on it." While he was writing on the top, my wife and I looked at each other. We hadn't given him our credit card yet so how the hell would he know our name.

He wrote "Your Name" on the box.

Unfortunately they closed

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Writing is generally considered as an art rather than a science. Most 'writing experts' regard themselves as artists: they are unfamiliar with scientific method and aren't aware that some branches of science may have already already carried out research with pertinent findings.

Now all I have to do is write stories that are interesting enough and I'll be ready for world domination. James Patterson, you're history bwaahaahaahaa ;)

AJ

REP

@awnlee jawking

I prefer a scientific approach to such issues.


It would be interesting to learn how you plan to scientifically quantify a subject that appears to be measured in subjective terms. Not here but offline.

Switch Blayde

@REP

how you plan to scientifically quantify


sales/reads/score?

mathematics = black and white rules
writing fiction = creative

Want to combine the two? Be a statistician for the media or government, or big business for that matter.

Replies:   REP  IliaVolyova
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

my waiter's made-up name was Manuel Labor.

Americans might have missed my reference.
I'm sure AJ, a Brit, would get a post with just 'Que?' was referencing the character Manuel from the 1970's TV comedy Fawlty Towers.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

'Que?' was referencing the character Manuel from the 1970's TV comedy Fawlty Towers.


Oh, I just thought you randomly chose a Spanish name.

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP

@Switch Blayde

Be a statistician for the media or government, or big business for that matter.


No thanks. Retirement is difficult enough without taking on a thankless job. Especially if I had to analyze the effects of Trumpcare on our future. My top boss, Trump, probably wouldn't like what I said about the proposed bill.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

Especially if I had to analyze the effects of Trumpcare on our future. My top boss, Trump, probably wouldn't like what I said about the proposed bill.


I know what you mean. Conservatives lost the game the moment they gave up on a straight repeal, the moment that they decided that they had to replace it with something new rather than going back to the pre-ACA system.

I would have supported a straight repeal. I might have supported a built from scratch replacement.

They couldn't bring themselves to do either of those things.

Always remember, no problem is so bad that the government can't make it worse.

Replies:   REP
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Oh, I just thought you randomly chose a Spanish name.

I'm not surprised an American would have missed my reference, but I would be surprised if any Brit or Aussie - even those born after the show aired.
There were only 12 episodes made, but many still consider it the best TV comedy ever made.
This is from Wikipedia:

One of the best loved shows in British popular culture, it was ranked No. 1 on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000.

It was written by and starred John Cleese and his then wife after Monty Python stopped making their TV show but they were still working on Holy Grail and Life of Brian.

IliaVolyova

@Switch Blayde

Big Data (the shit Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and to a lesser extent, political pollsters do) can only tell you what people liked in the past. There is no guarantee the same trends will continue in the future, and there is also no guarantee self-reported preferences have any relationship with reality (if you actually asked people which option they preferred).

For example, Netflix has a hoard of data on which TV series different populations like to watch. One would think their every production should be a resounding commercial success, yet there have been as many failures as successes in their line-up recently (Friends from College, Glow, and Hemlock Grove to contrast with Stranger Things, The Crown, etc.).

Sadly, statistics is never as simple as 'math = black and white'.

REP

@Dominions Son

I would have supported a straight repeal. I might have supported a built from scratch replacement.


I think it would have been easier, faster, and cheaper to have fixed the known problems with what we have. Something new will have its own problems that we will have to live with or fix, and they may be worse than the problems we now have.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@REP


I think it would have been easier, faster, and cheaper to have fixed the known problems with what we have.


Sometimes something is so broken that it's cheaper to replace it than to fix it or the cost of fixing it is greater than it's value even after it's been repaired.

That's what it means when your insurance company tells you that they are totaling your car. Forget how much you've already spent on the car, repairing the car will cost more than the car will be worth when the repairs are complete.

And, yes in my opinion, the ACA is that badly broken.

awnlee jawking

@REP

how you plan to scientifically quantify


Movie and TV companies spend fortunes on researching audience appeal. Okay, it doesn't always work but often it produces a formula to guarantee that, say, the next Avengers/Transformers/Hunger Games movie will be profitable. Such research has resulted in the BBC specifying the three act structure for its TV dramas whereas advert-financed companies like ITV specify four act structures, for example.

Creative writing is the poor relation. Seemingly anyone can pose as an expert and tell others how they 'should' write based on their own opinion without the slightest research to back it up.

I try to conduct experiments with readers. It's not easy to eliminate all possible biases and the results are usually indicative rather than statistically significant but at least I'm making the effort.

AJ

Replies:   REP  Switch Blayde
REP

@awnlee jawking

Seemingly anyone can pose as an expert and tell others how they 'should' write based on their own opinion without the slightest research to back it up.


Agreed.

It's not easy to eliminate all possible biases and the results are usually indicative rather than statistically significant but at least I'm making the effort.


My comment on how you plan to do the research was curiosity, no condemnation.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I try to conduct experiments with readers.


Depends on the readers. On wattpad, where they are mostly teenagers, most don't understand why you need to capitalize "I" or put a period at the end of a sentence. They argue all the time that grammar and punctuation aren't important as long as you have a good story. They're more used to emails and texting than novels.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

teenagers ... argue all the time that grammar and punctuation aren't important

I wonder who was the first person to complain that, "Teenagers these days will not speak correctly."
My guess is some Neanderthal. :-)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Some members of my writers' group, better writers than me, have looked at Wattpad and decided not to bother. I keep hearing the name but I know virtually nothing about it :(

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

My guess is some Neanderthal.


Neanderthals have an unfair reputation. They had art, music, language - they even discovered Penicillin!

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

They had art, music, language - they even discovered Penicillin!


Geico commercials. :)

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Geico commercials

To spare other non-Americans the bother of looking it up, there's a Wiki entry which states:

GEICO has many well-known ad campaigns ... GEICO ads have featured several well-known mascots, including:
* The GEICO Cavemen (from ads claiming using their website is "so easy, a caveman could do it").

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

As further explanations for non-Americans, Geico is an insurance company, any while they currently sell all sorts of insurance to the general public, they stated out as the Government Employee's Insurance Company, with a customer base that consisted primarily of Military Personnel.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Some members of my writers' group, better writers than me, have looked at Wattpad and decided not to bother. I keep hearing the name but I know virtually nothing about it


My comment referred to types of readers, in this case teenagers. Wattpad happens to be full of them. You said, "I try to conduct experiments with readers." My response was, 'It depends on the readers."

Many of those teenage readers say grammar, punctuation, and spelling aren't important. They would not influence my writing.

I started reading many stories on SOL with high scores that I found boring (because of the way it was written, not the story). So the readers who gave those stories high scores would not influence my writing. If I have a story defined as "much sex" and readers rate it low because they expect "stroke," those readers would not influence my writing.

When a traditional puiblisher's editor rejects my manuscript and says, "show don't tell and don't head-hop," that influences my writing.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

When a traditional puiblisher's editor rejects my manuscript and says, "show don't tell and don't head-hop," that influences my writing.

If you'd mentioned that earlier I would have catorgised it as 'evidence' in "that post" I directed at you, i.e. concrete evidence that removing filter words has made your writing 'better', more sellable.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

If you'd mentioned that earlier I would have catorgised it as 'evidence' in "that post" I directed at you, i.e. concrete evidence that removing filter words has made your writing 'better', more sellable.


It wasn't filter words. Well, I guess some of it must have been.

It was that feedback that started my quest on how to learn the craft of writing fiction.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Many of those teenage readers say grammar, punctuation, and spelling aren't important.

I can see how they came to think that. I suggest this as an explanation that might get through to them.
Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are not important, for their own sake, but they are important in some situations – if you want to make the most of your life.
Surely you are conforming to some set of rules if you write in a tweet, "u r dope." Your words 'u' and 'r' may not be in the dictionary on your parents' bookshelf, but you know the person reading them will be using the same "dictionary" to interpret them, no matter how intangible that may be.
The word 'dope' will mean different things to various people. To me, it would be a compliment, but I went through the 70s counter-culture movement when it marijuana of a high quality. To my parents it would be insulting. To you it may mean nothing. If others are to understand you, you must accept you need to use the dictionary they will use.
Do you complain old fogies don't take your opinions seriously? What efforts do you make to ensure you express your ideas in a way they can understand? The onus is on you to do that if you want others to take you seriously.
Rules always exist, but they vary different depending on your audience and type of communication.
When speaking to one person you use much more than your words to make your meaning clear. You intonation and phrasing provide many clues about you meaning. For face-to-face communication there are gestures and body language providing clues as well. You need to work much harder so others can understand your meaning when the only thing available is non-random strings of characters on a keyboard.
You do not need to be certain others will understand you when communicating directly with a few people. They can ask you when they don't understand. When you can see them you will notice when they are confused and clarify what you mean. But you don't feedback like that when you're writing something for others to read, or when giving the Valedictory Speech at your school – you don't have any second chances to get it right then.
It may be grating to conform to others' standards, but I suggest you think of it as being for your benefit, not theirs. You are the one who wants them to understand you - and this is necessary for you to achieve that.
The rules of punctuation may seem like a burden, and a needless one, but once you understand them well enough you will find them to be something you have fun playing with. They can be used to make the same word mean entirely different things. It is possible for the same word to have all of these different added meanings:
1. the definition in an English dictionary
2. the definition in a dictionary for some other language
3. a name somebody once chose to call something
4. to identify when you mean a word somebody has used before
5. to show you're making a joke and you actually mean the opposite thing
You don't need anything special to identify these differences when talking to someone. If they don't understand, either you'll notice and explain, or they will ask.
So, how would you so others could understand all those added nuances when you only have a limited character available and you need to get it right the first time?
My answers to that are simply: normal font, italic font, first letter in uppercase, enclose in single quotes, and enclose in double quotes. I know from experience (and some not too onerous efforts to learn a set of rules) that most of my readers will understand my meaning when I do those things. The ability to add many different shades of colour to simple words, and I can safely assume others will notice those various colours and interpret me correctly, actually multiplies my freedom to express myself when I write, and makes it much more enjoyable.
Finally, why do you bother posting things you write on Wattpad? Do you want to change the world with your ideas and opinions, or just show off to others you know already have similar ideas and opinions? If you insist on only writing in the style you prefer you may limit the number of people who can understand, or make the effort to understand, to those who already think the same things.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

A few observations:

Many of those teenage readers say grammar, punctuation, and spelling aren't important. They would not influence my writing.


I interpret that as teenagers saying they personally wouldn't bother with grammar, punctuation and spelling when writing. But I'd be interested to know whether they preferred a formally correct version of my story to a less correct version. The popularity of eg Harry Potter suggests the former.

I started reading many stories on SOL with high scores that I found boring (because of the way it was written, not the story). So the readers who gave those stories high scores would not influence my writing.


While there are many biases in the scoring system, I believe that stories with the largest numbers of votes are least subject to them. If you disagree with those readers, then SOL probably isn't the best place for you to get feedback for the direction you want your writing style to progress in.

If I have a story defined as "much sex" and readers rate it low because they expect "stroke," those readers would not influence my writing.


Selecting the right description of quantity of sex is something that always gives me a problem, but I've yet to get any verbal feedback that I've got it wrong. Have readers complained about your settings?

When a traditional puiblisher's editor rejects my manuscript and says, "show don't tell and don't head-hop," that influences my writing.


That would actually be very encouraging because most dead-tree publishers don't usually give you that much feedback: it shows you're close to their standard for publication. You then have a choice of adapting your style to suit that publisher or persisting with other publishers, depending on how much you agree with that particular editor and how desperate you are to get published.

Personally I wouldn't set too much stall by the opinions of a single editor (look how many publishers rejected Harry Potter), but then I'm not (currently!) desperate to get my first book committed to dead trees.

AJ

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


I suggest this as an explanation that might get through to them.


They grew up in the email/smart phone era (which, btw, is why it shocked me to find out they don't read e-books). Many (most?) even access wattpad on their phone. They even write stories on their phone.

So they are used to spelling errors, no caps, bad grammar, etc. For most of them (according to their posts), it doesn't bother them (I guess because they live with it day in and day out on their phones).

The problem is, we're becoming a society of people who can't write. I'm not talking about fiction here, but basic writing. I remember my wife complaining that her staff (millenians) couldn't write an email or a report. The next generation seems to be worse.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Personally I wouldn't set too much stall by the opinions of a single editor (look how many publishers rejected Harry Potter),


First, I sampled the first page or two of Harry Potter. It was filled with head-hopping. Maybe that's why it was rejected. Why was it a success? Because the story hit home with the readers. The story is always the most important part. The writing simply makes the story more enjoyable to read.

Second, when I got that feedback from the editor I asked my wife what the terms meant. One of her masters is in English Literature and Creative Writing (poetry, not fiction). She didn't know the term head-hopping, but she gave me an example of showing. So I guess she agreed with the editor.

But then I dived (happy, Ernest?) into the Internet and read books on writing. So many people said the same thing and, more importantly, it made sense to me. So I threw out the information I thought was wrong and used what I thought made sense. (If I thought it made sense I passed it along here.)

And I analyzed books I read. Stephen King bored me. I love the movies they made from his books because he's a great storyteller, but I don't like his writing. Now Dan Brown, who the critics say can't write, kept me turning pages with "The Da Vinci Code." But I hated "Lost Symbols" and will never read another book of his. The writing was the same, but I think his storytelling isn't too good (the Da Vinci Code being an exception).

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


then SOL probably isn't the best place for you to get feedback for the direction you want your writing style to progress in.


It's not.

Have readers complained about your settings?


No. I only got two complaints from SOL readers. One was that I rushed the ending of "Satan's Son." That was great feedback. He was right. The second was that in "Teacher's Nightmare" one reader wanted me to give the teacher a backbone saying enough was enough. But there was a reason for that. I had to take her through the stages of anger, fear, paranoia, depression, and finally despair. She acted differently in each stage.

I once did a survey, though, in my Yahoo group about "The Preacher's Wife." I asked them if it should be "much sex" or "some sex." Some sex won so I changed it, but then I disagreed and changed it back to much sex. So I believe many SOL readers think much sex is stroke. Do those readers take it out on the author when there's a plot? *shrugs

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I remember my wife complaining that her staff (millenians) couldn't write an email or a report. The next generation seems to be worse.

For thousands of years every generation has been worse that the one before. This generation may be the first to avoid repeating history ... it seems they really are worse.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

But then I dived (happy, Ernest?)

I am. :-)

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

For thousands of years every generation has been worse that the one before. This generation may be the first to avoid repeating history ... it seems they really are worse.


The problem these days is that education in most nations is mostly controlled by the government.

There is no problem so bad that the government can't make it worse.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

The problem these days is that education in most nations is mostly controlled by the government.


And if it's not a government institution it's usually a religious controlled one.

Replies:   REP
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

The problem these days is that education in most nations is mostly controlled by the government.
There is no problem so bad that the government can't make it worse.

There was a fabulous scene in the BBC TV series Yes, Minister which explained how government departments end up pursuing the wrong goals.

Upper-level bureaucrats in education departments mostly deal with representatives of teachers when considering matters of policy. The strong tendency in human nature, among those who don't write fiction, to seek harmony leads to bureaucrats favouring policies the teachers want, and they then fight for their interests within the government.

Education departments should be doing what's best for students and parents - protecting them against the teachers! Ditto for health departments serving doctors instead of patients, ...

Replies:   Dominions Son
lichtyd

I've found this discussion about Filter Words to be useful. Each time I use one, it's a missed opportunity to show rather than tell.

"I saw her cry" vs "Tears wet her cheeks."

There is good stuff in this thread.

robberhands

@lichtyd

"I saw her cry" vs "Tears wet her cheeks."

I think it's 'I saw her cry' vs 'She cried. It's 'show' versus 'tell', not plain versus flowery.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

There was a fabulous scene in the BBC TV series Yes, Minister which explained how government departments end up pursuing the wrong goals.


There is a more general issue in terms of perverse incentives in government agencies.

In the US (I suspect other countries are similar on this) salary for management positions, from bottom tier managers all the way up to cabinet level agency/department heads, are determined by two factors, the size of their staff and the size of their budget.

If an agency that was created to address a particular problem, fixes the problem or even improves the situation significantly, the legislature might use that as an excuse to cut their staff and budget.

On the other hand, if the problem gets worse, that can be used to justify an increase in their staff and budget.

Thus, the most direct personal incentive for agency managers, compensation and how to increase it, is actually an incentive to make any problem they have to deal with worse rather than to fix the problem.

Of course they need to look like they are trying to fix the problem, but their incentives are all in the direction of failure.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

it's usually a religious controlled one.


Amen :)

Switch Blayde

@lichtyd

"I saw her cry" vs "Tears wet her cheeks."


Exactly.

Replies:   robberhands  lichtyd
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

more importantly, it made sense to me


'more importantly' is absolutely right. There's an obvious danger in taking as trustworthy something which might be an internet meme.

And I analyzed books I read. Stephen King bored me. I love the movies they made from his books because he's a great storyteller, but I don't like his writing.


That's the exact opposite of the opinion of the guy who runs my writers' group - loves the books, with a couple of exceptions dislikes the movies.

Still, if we all had the same opinions, we'd all be churning out the same story in the same style :(

AJ

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

Exactly.

Since I objected to view "I saw her cry" vs "Tears wet her cheeks" as a suitable example for the elimination of 'filterwords', I have to object your 'Exactly' as well, simply out of principle.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@robberhands

I have to object your 'Exactly' as well


Yes, "she cried" removes the distance from the character so it does that. So it's a way to remove the filter word "saw." I didn't mean to imply it wasn't.

The "wet cheeks" version, however, isn't flowery. It's also a way to get rid of the filter with more showing. "She cried" is telling the reader she cried. There's nothing wrong with that. But "wet cheeks" is letting the reader come to the conclusion she's crying, which is more showing. Is it needed? Only the author can decide. As someone else said privately, too much showing can be tiring to the reader. There's a place for showing and a place for telling.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

too much showing can be tiring to the reader. There's a place for showing and a place for telling.

My initial reaction to the 'wet cheeks' version was I can see it's showing, but "Puke!"
I just started a new thread containing the question, when is telling better? Perhaps I should add the question, when can showing become too heavy hand-handed?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
lichtyd

@Switch Blayde

Switch Blade,

Thanks for starting this thread. I now have a list of filter words and am working to minimize their use.

I wrote those examples "I saw her cry vs Tears wet her cheeks" to illustrate my understanding of the subject. I explain this for those few who didn't understand my intent.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@lichtyd

You're welcome.

The concept of filter words is new to me. I think one visualization that might work is are you looking at what the POV character is looking at or are you looking at the character (as he looks at something).

That's why filter words put distance between the reader and character. Instead of being inside the character, living the story through him, you're observing him.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I think one visualization that might work is

Yes. The term does not describe what it means to me.
I've decided to think of the term 'distancing words' instead, although I would still use 'filter words' to discuss them with others.
'Distancing' describes the effect, what causes the problem, of these words. 'Filter' describes the mechanism causing the undesired effect, that actions are being filtered through the perceptions of a character rather than being stated directly. :(
I add my thanks to lichtyd's. I learned some valuable things from this thread. :-)

EDIT TO ADD:
I note SB's comment that filter words are 'telling'. As far as I ca tell, they are always telling, but what's left after eliminating them may still be telling. And, whether telling may be appropriate for particular sentences of your story is an entirely different questions, often requiring fine judgement calls. Sigh, if only writing was as easy as life. :-)

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

if only writing was as easy as life.


What dumbass told you life was easy? :)

Replies:   Ross at Play
Joe Long

@Ross at Play

if only writing was as easy as life.


Well, writing's about life.

No disrespect to you guys, but tonight I started reading "To Kill a Mockingbird." I'm working on a new beginning, and took the time out to study how others who've written in similar styles have done it. I'm enjoying the story while analyzing the writing.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

What dumbass told you life was easy? :)

I said 'as easy' not 'was easy', dumbass. :-)

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

when can showing become too heavy hand-handed?


Try writing an action scene with no 'telling'.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  Joe Long
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Try writing an action scene with no 'telling'.

"Do you mean show emotions, but tell actions?" Manuel babbled.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

if only writing was as easy as life.


Writing is easy. Virtually anyone who can speak English can write it. However writing experts like to pretend it's hard, and think up ever more silly and labyrinthine 'rules' to justify their own existence.

Just imagine how many (wo)man hours have been wasted poring over the minutiae of 'show' versus 'tell' when, at heart, it's just a reaction to the traditional 'history book' style of telling stories.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Joe Long
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I visualize a scene as if I'm watching a movie. Even if a scene is description of action with little or no dialogue, I still consider it 'showing' as it's something happening in the linear real-time of the story. Look for the short film "Echo Torch" on Youtube. 15 minutes of viewing with nary a spoken word, but still communicates a story.

I consider 'telling' to be imparting background information or events that happened in the past. "My Daddy grew up on a potato farm one county over. Yinz know where that's at?"

If the narrator says the first sentence to the reader it's telling. If the whole quote is something one character says to another then it's been worked into the story timeline and it's showing.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Just imagine how many (wo)man hours have been wasted poring over the minutiae of 'show' versus 'tell'

I imagine a lot, a real lot, by those trying to do something because they are told that's 'what "should" be done' without fully understanding why.

'show' versus 'tell' (is), at heart, ... just a reaction to the traditional 'history book' style of telling stories.

It's hard to read an opinion expressed in that way without having my 'acceptance' as an 'article of faith' shaken up a bit. But I think I will stick with my main takeaway from this thread: noticing telling should prompt consideration of whether something is worth expanding.

I'll probably continue on as if I accepted the prevailing orthodoxy as true, but when editing for others I would generally be following explicit instructions from my authors that's what they want.
I don't know and I don't care is a philosophical approach I'm content with for most aspects of my life. :-)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Joe Long

If the narrator says the first sentence to the reader it's telling. If the whole quote is something one character says to another then it's been worked into the story timeline and it's showing.


I consider that a rather artificial distinction. It's still imparting the same information and it can come across as forced. For some of the worst examples (and even the experts will admit this), take characters who start a speech with "As you know..." as an awful way of disguising exposition.

AJ

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

"As you know, Bobby..." If Robert already knows, the plot doesn't call for him to be told again.

I have a list of backstory items that I want the reader to know. I'm not going to put them all in the first five paragraphs. If they are important to the story, then certain characters need to know at certain times. Sometimes it's world and character building, but again, how important is it to the story?

I don't think it's an artificial distinction when the narrator jumps out of the timeline to convey a piece of information to the reader.

On the other hand, right now I'm reading a short story at a critique site, and it's 'I call my wife and she tells me the baby is acting up.' - Just write the dialogue! I'll connect much better if I see the actual words, so that the emotions don't have to be filtered through the narrator's interpretation.

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Virtually all the pre-20th century classics are written predominantly in history-book 'tell' style. And to modern readers they come across as B.O.R.I.N.G.

In my opinion, any modern-day writer who avoids that doesn't need to worry too much about 'show' versus 'tell'.

Digression: I found history so boring, I dropped it from my school curriculum as quickly as possible. Then in my last 2 years, I was forced to study modern history. In a way that served its purpose because I was able to make the right vote in the Brexit referendum. I don't want my friends or family to be part of a German-controlled, militarised, expansionist European superstate when it butts heads with militarised, expansionist Russia controlled by Putin's masculinity inadequacies.

AJ

Replies:   Joe Long  Ross at Play
Joe Long

@awnlee jawking

I was able to make the right vote in the Brexit referendum. I don't want my friends or family to be part of a German-controlled, militarised, expansionist European superstate when it butts heads with militarised, expansionist Russia controlled by Putin's masculinity inadequacies.


and all this time I was told those Brexit folks were just a bunch of xenophobes.

What part of the UK are you in? My family's from the Dales of North Yorkshire, while my wife has ancestors who moved here from Fife, the West Midlands and Brecknockshire.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play

@Joe Long

I call my wife and she tells me the baby is acting up.

I find that jarring, but to me the reason is it sounds unnatural because it's written in the present tense.
I can't imagine any situation where someone would say that, whereas this sounds totally natural:

I called my wife and she told me the baby was acting up.

I would not bother expanding that out to show it as dialogue. That seems like just a mundane detail, presumably needed to explain a sequence of events, so why not spare us details about something quite trivial and get on with the story?

I'll probably get monstered for daring to say this, and in the right hands and under the right circumstances I'm sure it can work very well, but I suspect stories in the present tense are best left to experienced authors who know what they're doing, i.e. they know they're capable of pulling it off.
I suspect the benefits of using the present tense are never substantial, and chances are quite high of really stuffing it up, compared to the past tense as a pretty much no-risk option.
I've no intention of debating something that can't be proven either way, but I'm curious to know how successful experienced authors thought they were with their first attempts at using the present tense.

Replies:   Joe Long
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Virtually all the pre-20th century classics are written predominantly in history-book 'tell' style. And to modern readers they come across as B.O.R.I.N.G.

I got that point before and said it shook up my acceptance of 'show, don't tell' as an article of faith.

awnlee jawking

@Joe Long

and all this time I was told those Brexit folks were just a bunch of xenophobes.


I'm worried by overpopulation. There have been a slew of confirmatory studies recently showing that overpopulation should be more of a concern than controlling atmospheric carbon (although the two are correlated).

I very much doubt the current political climate will allow the UK govt to bring in anti-overpopulation measures - we actually pay for fertility treatment and benefits for unlimited numbers of children. One thing it can do is to reduce the flow of immigrants, but that requires Brexit and leaving the alleged 'single market'.

My parents originated from the Durham and Sheffield areas but I'm a southern softy :)

AJ

Replies:   Joe Long  REP
Joe Long

@Ross at Play

I'll probably get monstered for daring to say this, and in the right hands and under the right circumstances I'm sure it can work very well, but I suspect stories in the present tense are best left to experienced authors who know what they're doing, i.e. they know they're capable of pulling it off.


I much prefer reading past tense and find many stories written in present have a hard time staying there, occasionally slipping into past and back again.

The example I gave was just one item. There were eight or ten things discussed that the narrator told the readers. I'd rather just listen in. I write a lot of dialogue, even phone conversations, then read them back to myself and add in the action beats.

Here's a draft I recently wrote for the end of the story that has a lot of emotion that can't be adequately 'told'

"Hannah?"

"Yea?"

"This is Joe."

"Yeah, I know."

"I'm sorry."

"No –that's okay. I'm glad you called."

"How are you doing?"

"I should be able to go back to school on Monday."

"That's good. Doing anything for Easter?"

"Not really. Mom's making us a ham and some potato salad n'stuff. How about you?"

"I'm going to services with Jessie and then she's coming over to our place for dinner with the folks."

"You? Going to church?"

"Yeah. She said it would be really special to her if I went."

"Joe - you are blessed."

I started crying. "Guess so…I love you."

"I love you too."

"Call me. Anytime. You know, if you have to talk about anything, or something."

"I'll do that…bye Joe."

"Bye."

Replies:   Ross at Play
Joe Long

@awnlee jawking

My parents originated from the Durham and Sheffield areas but I'm a southern softy :)


My paternal grandfather's families were from between Ripon and Bishop Auckland, west to Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Ross at Play

@Joe Long

The example I gave was just one item. There were eight or ten things discussed that the narrator told the readers. I'd rather just listen in.

Agreed. For a significant number of things in one exchange I'd rather just listen in too.

REP

@awnlee jawking

I'm worried by overpopulation. There have been a slew of confirmatory studies recently showing that overpopulation should be more of a concern


I recall reading about an overpopulation study back in the 70's. It was conducted using RATS. What the study showed was a rat will turn on and kill the neighboring rats that appear threatening. That is their means of controlling their population.

When I consider the wacko's who go on shooting sprees, bombing and shooting by 'domestic' terrorists, and other things that we do to end each others' lives, it seems that we are emulating the RATS.

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