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"Highly Unlikely" ...

Bondi Beach
Updated:

... is the title of an essay by Vendela Vida in today's Sunday NYT Book Review wherein she talks about starting a story with a true incident that appears improbable or impossible to many readers.

She asks, "...[w]hat kind of agreement writers and readers have entered into. As readers, we don't want to read stories that are less interesting than the every day lives we lead. Do we? And as writers I don't think we should necessarily have to explain that something did happen in real life to justify a novel's unlikely plot. Of course it's unlikely. That's why we read. That's why we write."

There's more, all of it great stuff. I think she's dead on, especially about the not wanting to read stories that are less interesting than the every day lives we lead.

ADDED: "Of course it's unlikely. That's why we read. That's why we write. Who ever finished a book and said, That was so satisfying in how likely it all was? Readers and writers have to agree, and allow, that reality is very strange, that life surprises us a dozen times a day. And if we want our novels to be memorable, shouldn't they be a little stranger than reality, rather than the other way around?"

bb

awnlee jawking

@Bondi Beach

That's contrary to the view that all stories are dominated by one (rarely two) of the element types: Milieu, Idea, Character, Event. The author seems to be focused on only one of those.

AJ

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


That's contrary to the view that all stories are dominated by one (rarely two) of the element types: Milieu, Idea, Character, Event. The author seems to be focused on only one of those.


I suppose one can establish that view by analyzing stories, although I cannot for the life of me imagine someone saying, "I'm going to write a story about milieu, idea, etc."

Be that as it may, I think she posed an intriguing question about why we read and why we write. I'd probably argue that it's not so much that we want to read about lives that are more interesting than our own, although that's an attraction, but that we want to read a story about whatever [insert here mileu, idea, etc., if that's the way you want to look at it] that's told in an engaging manner and perhaps in a fashion or style that's new to us. Anything else is reporting.

bb

Crumbly Writer

Just because it happened in real life doesn't make it decent story material. If readers' won't think it likely, it doesn't matter whether it actually happened or not. People do lots of incredibly idiotic things, but that doesn't mean they're sensible things to include in a story. I can think of a whole host of "real life" events I'd never include in any work of fiction!

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Just because it happened in real life doesn't make it decent story material.


I'm pretty sure Ms. Vida would agree with you.

I haven't read either of the novels she cites so I don't know how well the incident meshes with the rest of the story, but it's still interesting to consider how plausible an occurrence is, and whether it matters at all.

ADDED: Just put a hold on the first novel she mentions. We'll see how well she did.

bb

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

she talks about starting a story with a true incident that appears improbable or impossible to many readers.


The saying, Truth is stranger than fiction is very true, so is the saying Life doesn't have to make sense, but fiction does. and it's the crossover area of these two sayings that causes many writers concern.

Strange truths: Person falling from a great height and living - a pilot in WW1 jumped out of a burning plane a few hundred feet in the air, preferring to die that way instead of being burnt to death. He smashed the rough the roof of a convent and landed in the bed of a nun only seconds after she got out of it. Bed destroyed, he had many serious injuries, but survived and lived, - During WW2 the rear gunner from a burning bomber jumped out at a few thousand feet, his parachute failed to work and he crashed to earth. He did a lot of damage to the limbs of the tall pine tree he smashed through and the German soldiers found him in a twenty plus foot snow drift. Seriously injured but lived.

Write about them in a fiction story and you'll get abused - but they happened.

Having sadi all that, I often take a real life incident and incorporate it into a story, and sometimes use it to be either the start point or a key point - depends on the story dynamics.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I've got a scene in a new story where the U.S. launches nuclear weapons into space to blow up an alien ship. I'm just waiting for the same people who attacked the original Star Wars movie to insist you can't have 'explosions' in space with no oxygen. If they do (and write to complain about it, rather than simply stop reading), I've got photos of US experiments in the 50s where they did just that (no alien spaceship, though), just to see what happens.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'm just waiting for the same people who attacked the original Star Wars movie to insist you can't have 'explosions' in space with no oxygen.


CW, you can't have an oxygen dependent explosion in space unless you have some oxygen in what explodes - think Apollo 13 explosion here - but a nuclear explosion is not an oxygen dependent explosion, so it will have flame when it goes off.

Mind you, Hollywood has normal oxygen dependent explosives going off in space like they do in an oxygen environment, they also have gas tanks exploding like bombs when the engine of a car hits the ground after a fall, well before the tank has a chance to rupture.

Simply hit the aliens with super napalm, that's a gasoline and jelly mix with a lots of little glass balls of oxygen mixed in to allow it to super oxygenate and get a bigger blast.

Replies:   Dominions Son
awnlee jawking

@Bondi Beach

"Well Mr Bond, I want to kill you but since you're the hero you're not allowed to die. So I will set in motion an incredibly complex and convoluted method of killing you then leave you alone so you can use one of your secret gadgets to escape."

AJ

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

CW, you can't have an oxygen dependent explosion in space unless you have some oxygen in what explodes - think Apollo 13 explosion here - but a nuclear explosion is not


That comes from people who don't understand explosives. chemical explosives are not dependent on atmospheric oxygen. If they were, they wouldn't be able to detonate under water.

sagacious

All of this brings up my favorite non-fiction book, "The Darwin Awards". Some of these things are beyond fiction.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@sagacious

The Darwin Awards


Man, you put some of them in a story and you'll get crucified. My favourite is the honourable mention of the guy that shot himself in the balls with a .22 cartridge he used as a fuse for his car's electrical system.

Replies:   aubie56  ustourist
aubie56

@Ernest Bywater

That is great. I'll be looking for a place to use it in a story.

ustourist

@Ernest Bywater

I hadn't heard of that particular one...... and they expect people to suspend belief for fiction ! :0)
I love it though. The mental imagery is perfect.

Ernest Bywater

@aubie56

That is great. I'll be looking for a place to use it in a story.


Go with this story, it's even better:

http://metro.co.uk/2015/09/28/man-shoots-himself-in-the-balls-after-being-caught-relieving-himself-by-police-5411260/

In what I read of the other, the cartridge of a 22LR will fit most of the older electrical systems' fuse box in size and length - and the guy used it as a replacement when he lost his lights after the fuse blew, it heated up and fired, hitting him in the balls. Myth Busters did an episode on it, and found if there's a short on the circuit it does get hot enough to cause the cartridge to fire.

Dominions Son

@aubie56

That is great. I'll be looking for a place to use it in a story.


I don't think a Darwin Award is s good candidate for an erotic story.

Replies:   Invid Fan  aubie56
Invid Fan

@Dominions Son

I don't think a Darwin Award is s good candidate for an erotic story.


For a humorous one, sure. Ever hear the one about the girl with horrible taste in boys? They keep doing dumb, fatal things to impress her, and she's running out of potential mates.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Invid Fan

Ever hear the one about the girl with horrible taste in boys? They keep doing dumb, fatal things to impress her, and she's running out of potential mates.


Such a story might be very humorous, but I wouldn't consider it the least bit erotic.

aubie56

@Dominions Son

Why does erotic have to be a requirement? A significant percentage of my stories have little or nothing to do with sex, yet they are popular on SOL.

Ernest Bywater

@aubie56

Why does erotic have to be a requirement? A significant percentage of my stories have little or nothing to do with sex, yet they are popular on SOL.


Most of my stories have no sex, and the better scoring ones are no sex.

docholladay

@aubie56

Why does erotic have to be a requirement? A significant percentage of my stories have little or nothing to do with sex, yet they are popular on SOL.


As a reader, my only requirement is a good story.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin
Updated:

@docholladay

Authors should resort to sex when they run out of plot.

Invid Fan

@richardshagrin

Authors should resort to sex when they run out of plot.


So that story where the only sex is the opening scene... I should cut the rest?

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Invid Fan

This is SOL, sex is always a good scene, opening or not. However when an author runs out of plot, something about writers block or his muse running away, or however he indicates lack of inspiration, you can keep the story going by inventing new ways for tab a to fit slot b, or adding new slots b as a character to add to the hero's harem. If position 101 is the same as position 100 but with fingers crossed, try BDSM. There are lots of ways to immobilize the relevant character, and new ways for tab a to enter slot b when she is suspended upside down. B&D, D&s, and S&M are the author's friends.

Replies:   invidian
sejintenej

@richardshagrin

Authors should resort to sex when they run out of plot.

Trouble is that every possible permutation (and a lot of impossible ones) are already on the internet.

docholladay

@richardshagrin

Authors should resort to sex when they run out of plot.


That kind of story fails the story test right away. If all I wanted to read about was the sex act that would be different. Sure part of
SOL's name is "Sex" but the rest of the name is "Stories". You don't need the sex to be explicit since that can be implied through the relevant scenes. Heck just look at all those darn James Bond books and movies. Not only is sex implied many times but a D/s situation is also implied between James and the ladies. Sex in what ever form is part of the stories, just explicit is not needed.

Replies:   ustourist
ustourist

@docholladay

Sure part of SOL's name is "Sex" but the rest of the name is "Stories".

The site name is storiesonline and the web address is storiesonline.net. I agree it may be a source for sex stories, but that isn't part of the visible name.
IMHO the majority of the better stories have little or no sex and you have to get to No.8 in the classic shorts before you even reach a story not marked as 'No Sex'. I feel some stories here would actually get higher scores if the sex was removed, because it seems to be written because it was expected, not because it was part of the story flow.

richardshagrin

Its up to the author. Sex may or may not fit the tale he wants to tell. But If the tale doesn't come to him as he sits at his keyboard, and he doesn't want to abandon the story he is working on, why not add a sex scene? Later, if it doesn't fit his opus, it can be edited out or made more implied. Authors may need to type a million words before the good stuff comes out. Keep typing. If you don't write anything, nothing will appear by magic on your screen.

invidian

@richardshagrin

This is SOL, sex is always a good scene, opening or not. However when an author runs out of plot, something about writers block or his muse running away, or however he indicates lack of inspiration, you can keep the story going by inventing new ways for tab a to fit slot b, or adding new slots b as a character to add to the hero's harem.


Hense, by starting with sex, I'm admitting I've run out of ideas already. What follows is just padding, and can be cut (to take your idea and apply it humorously)

richardshagrin

@invidian

Even if you start with sex, you have probably described the hero and (one of) his heroine(s) and likely done a meet cute and the location and the sexual activity may be at another location. Describe that. Maybe there is an antique firearm above the mantle of the fireplace that will become important in the second act. Or a strap on dildo that will somehow be involved in either the boy loses girl or boy gets girl back. The classic SOL plot is boy gets girl(s), boy loses girl(s), boy gets girl(s) back. Sometimes there is violence, sometimes something SF like time travel or Fantasy like magic or mind control, sometimes for much sex lots and lots of girls meet boy and they get each other. I suppose authors who want to have their pictures wearing tuxedos on the back of the book jacket don't want that much sex in their stories. The typical SOL reader doesn't care, too much sex is like too much chocolate, in the eye of the consumer. If one of your story Tags is much sex, you won't get a lot of complaints here. I could be wrong, its happened before, but Its hard to picture complaints about too much sex in a story. Maybe if each experience is too similar, but that is a different problem, and somewhere I already recommended BDSM if tabs a into slots b (or is that sluts b) doesn't provide enough variety.

Dominions Son

@invidian

you can keep the story going by inventing new ways for tab a to fit slot b


There are also slots c and d to think about.

Replies:   richardshagrin
awnlee jawking

@invidian

I find it concerning when people say they want to write, but don't know what they're going to write about. The author of the NYT article seems to have that problem.

AJ

Replies:   Invid Fan
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

The head has eight slots. Eyes, Ears, Nostrils, mouth, throat. There are other holes in bodies including armpits (a pit is a hole), between breasts (may need to be pressed together), navel, urethra, vagina (female slot), cervix (another female only aperture), and anus. Fingers and toes can be adjusted to form a variety of slots. There may be one between the chin and neck or between labia. How to use them in a story may require BDSM or joking. Likely there are some left out (between the knees?) and they are left to authors who are desperate for a slot z, once the rest of the alphabet has been used. Not all holes are equal, some are better for tickling or receiving ejaculate. I am not sure how to spell the Japanese word for it, Bukkake? My spell check suggests Backache or Bookcase. Asian porn has some strange memes. Perhaps intensive research observing porn will open new vistas to the "much sex" author.

Replies:   madnige
Invid Fan

@awnlee jawking

I find it concerning when people say they want to write, but don't know what they're going to write about. The author of the NYT article seems to have that problem.


See, I ignore those people so am not concerned. Hell, I don't even know how that relates to anything I've said. (this system defaults to posting as my nickname instead of author name)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Invid Fan


See, I ignore those people so am not concerned.


I meet quite a few wannabe writers in the flesh, so it's something of a recurring issue for me.

I was mildly reinforcing your point that starting with a sex scene indicates the author is already struggling for ideas.

AJ

Replies:   Invid Fan
madnige
Updated:

@richardshagrin

Likely there are some left out


I think it was Lazlo Zalezac's 'Fat Farm' used the fold between rolls of fat for one scene - sort of 'pick a flap and fuck it' - so the availability is variable by body type.

Invid Fan

@awnlee jawking

I was mildly reinforcing your point that starting with a sex scene indicates the author is already struggling for ideas.


Ah. That wasn't my point. I was gently mocking the idea. Close enough, though.

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