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Chekhov's gun principle vs. Worldbuilding

sunkuwan

In a long epic, is it paramount that the Chekhov's gun principle must always be resolved?

In my opinion, a living, breathing world should not be centered 100% around the protagonist and his side characters. And not every issue and crisis should be resolved by the main cast.

Or is the principle still in effect even if the protagonist flees from the crisis because he/she is outclassed? What if the crisis isn't resolved and the protagonist's side loses the battle?
What if the protagonist is a guest in the place that gets invaded and has no relation to the place or the outcome, there would still be foreshadowing and characters from that place that were affected, but the protagonist has no iron in the fire after he/she flees from it.

Would it be too frustrating for the reader?

Switch Blayde

@sunkuwan

I thought the principle behind Chekhov's Gun is that if you show something out of the ordinary, like a gun, the audience/reader will be waiting for it to be used. If not, they are disappointed.

It doesn't mean you can't do that. In fact, you may want to mislead the reader.

Dominions Son

@sunkuwan

In a long epic, is it paramount that the Chekhov's gun principle must always be resolved?


You need to understand, the Checkov's gun principle comes not from literary fiction, but from stage theater, where building sets/props is a resource intensive proposition and unnecessary props/scenery can actually make a difference in the commercial success/failure of a play.

My personal opinion, is that it's unnecessary to apply it to written fiction at all. Though if you want to apply it for stylistic reasons, that's different.

Geek of Ages

@sunkuwan

is it paramount that the Chekhov's gun principle must always be resolved


No. Though if something looks like a gun but doesn't fire, I've heard it referred to as a red herring.

Personally, I think it's more instructive to think of Chekov's Gun from the opposite direction: if a gun fires in the third act, it should be on the mantelpiece in the first act.

In other words, if your characters solve a problem with a particular solution, the solution (or pieces thereof) should have shown up earlier in the story. That's not to say that other things didn't show up, but that nothing suddenly appears out of nowhere in the end.

Guns firing without having been adequately seen earlier is sometimes referred to as Deus Ex Machina.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
awnlee jawking

@sunkuwan

Chekhov's gun principle


I think you need to explain what you mean by that.

AJ

Replies:   sunkuwan
Crumbly Writer

I concur. Chekhov's gun does not apply to fiction. In fact, in most instances, you want to have several red herrings (false leads), so your readers are never quite sure what's going to happen, but when it does, all the pieces click into place and they say "Ah! That's what happened!"

In the case of a murder mystery, you could show a gun over the mantle piece, reveal that the cook is overly fond of his custom-made knives, and that one of the guests is overly fond of blood.

sunkuwan

@awnlee jawking

I think you need to explain what you mean by that.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed; elements should not appear to make "false promises" by never coming into play.


I concur, that it shouldn't be applied to literary works but some purist are hammering it down that everything that isn't part of the plot or advances the plot should have no place in it.

The principle is not just about props or items. It also includes situations, words, and events outside the narrative.

A song of ice and fire is riddled with prophecies, for Chekhov's gun purists, every one of those must be resolved by the end of the book series.

In my example, would the audience be okay with the creation of a major crisis/campaign in the story and then NOT be resolved by the main cast? You know, sometimes you are just out of your league.

Ernest Bywater

@sunkuwan

There's a couple of points involved in this.

1. Checkhov's Gun Principle is (CGP)based on a stage play, and it relates to any prop you make a significant fact of bringing onto the stage having to be used somewhere in the play before you finish.

2. In general CGP does apply to written stories, but not so strongly.

3. CGP does not refer to anything needed to build out the scene or the character. Example is a clerk pulling a handgun out of his desk drawer before leaving the office will need to be explained because it's an oddity, while a hard nose private investigator getting a handgun out of his desk drawer is to be expected. In a similar vein a rifle hanging on the wall of a hunting lodge is part of the background.

4. In a written story there will be many minor items and people introduced and mean nothing so the CGP won't apply to them. However, if you go on about them a lot then the CGP applies.

5. In writing there's a little bit more foreshadowing than in a stage play. This has a sort of CGP application in that it does come back to be used later. With a series that can be in the next book. Like in point 4 above, the more you cover it, the sooner you best deal with it.

6. As Geek of Ages says, if you want to use it later you best find a logical way to introduce earlier, and the earlier the better is the general idea. You should look to avoid bringing something in just before it's used.

Of course, this point doesn't apply to expected environmental items. As an example if A meets B at a bar, then it's expected there will be the typical bar items on hand, so if he has to suddenly grab a drink bottle to hit someone it's not a total surprise. Although it would be best to have them order a couple of bottles of beer when they arrive, which could also be just a red herring.

.........................

In short, try to introduce needed items well before they have to jump off the page at someone. Also, don't make a big thing about something unless you use it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@sunkuwan

In my example, would the audience be okay with the creation of a major crisis/campaign in the story and then NOT be resolved by the main cast? You know, sometimes you are just out of your league.


You can get away with it if it isn't critical to the core story. Also, maybe you want it as foreshadowing of book 2.

awnlee jawking

@sunkuwan

Thank you for the clarification. I didn't realise there was an assertion that every element in a story had to play an active part in the plot.

You might find Orson Scott Card's MICE Quotient a useful concept in identifying the type of story you're writing. If the protagonists don't play any part in the conflict resolution, that suggests to me that you're writing a character story and, although the events pertaining to the resolution can be outlined, expanding them in detail might come across as a distracting infodump.

AJ

REP

@sunkuwan

irrelevant elements should be removed; elements should not appear to make "false promises" by never coming into play.

I concur, that it shouldn't be applied to literary works but some purist are hammering it down that everything that isn't part of the plot or advances the plot should have no place in it.


1. Who makes the decision if an element is irrelevant. As far as I'm concerned that is the author. The author feels an element is relevant and puts it in the story, thus all elements in the story are relevant. It does not matter if the reader thinks it has no bearing, the author deemed it relevant so it is relevant.

2. The belief that "false promises" should not be used is an opinion that some people hold. It is their opinion, but that doesn't make them correct. My opinion is they are a tool the is useful in creating suspense. Some of the best murder mystery authors use "false promises", also referred to as red herrings, to muddy the waters.

3. Purist are just people with an opinion. I don't care who they are or think they are. My opinion is what counts with me. If someone can show me why I should change my opinion, I will consider doing so.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

Three very important points to keep in mind about this, and any other writing advice:

1. It's advice not directions etched in stone by a deity.

2. You don't have to follow it, but remember it's the wisdom of practice.

3. The aim of writing a story is to end up with something people will enjoy reading. So keep in mind if you do something to piss off the reader they won't read your other works, while reading your other works should be an important aim for you.

Keep point 3 in your mind. You'll see a lot of advice given by many people. Some of it works, some of it works only for some types of stories. Two items of advice that make me shudder that are often spouted as absolutes to follow are to have a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter, and to start a story with a bang. - Yet for many readers having more than one cliffhanger per story is a total author kill, and the worst stories I've ever read start with a bang then proceed to die slowly because what should have been the final climax is at the start and it makes everything else a waste of time. Thus they failed point 3 above.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Two items of advice that make me shudder that are often spouted as absolutes to follow are to have a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter


Something which as a reader I find very annoying.

Ross at Play

WOW! This thread has partially restored my faith in life, the universe, and authors.

I woke up this morning seriously asking myself why I should continue wasting my intellect on anybody here.

After reading the new posts on you-know-which thread I went off for my morning coffee and some contemplation. I returned from that intending to start a new thread titled 'Why Am I Here? Why Are You Here?' That title is not rhetorical, nor meant to be in any way sarcastic. I want to know the true answers to those questions.

At that moment I was literally unable to think of any real benefit to anyone coming out of me devoting my time to anyone here. I cannot see any evidence of anyone here caring enough about the quality of advice being given to new authors to devote any of their time or efforts.

Then I read this thread.

What a great question! ... How considered and constructive all responses so far have been!

My gut reactions, after hunting down an explanation of the principle, were:
_1. I doubt Chekhov meant that literally, at least, not in all situations and not for all playwrights.
_2. The length in words of plays is very short, about 10K words per hour. I suspect Chekhov was saying playwrights do not have enough time to waste even one word if they are striving for an unattainable standard of perfection. He might have a said that novelists, with no effective time/word constraints, should think about it but they have different ways to skin their breed of cats.

After reading the posts here, this person with no relevant experience suggests the three numbered points in EB's post just above this look like the way to go.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

The length in words of plays is very short, about 10K words per hour. I suspect Chekhov was saying playwrights do not have enough time to waste even one word if they are striving for an unattainable standard of perfection.


I'm pretty sure it's more about the cost/resources required for actual physical props/set pieces than it is about the amount of effort put into writing the script. For a play to be a success, it had to make money in the playwright's lifetime.

There is far more cost in the actual stage production than in the script writing.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

I did not claim to know enough to know whether my opinion had any merits. :-)

robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

3. The aim of writing a story is to end up with something people will enjoy reading. So keep in mind if you do something to piss off the reader they won't read your other works, while reading your other works should be an important aim for you.

That appears to be sound advice. Now I'll just have to find out who my readers are and how to not piss them off. Or better yet, I spare me a headache and let the readers themselves figure it out.

Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

Now I'll just have to find out who my readers are and how to not piss them off.


Some are easy to identify - if you get upset about something in the way another person writes a story, avoid it, because you already know some readers don't like it.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ernest Bywater


Some are easy to identify - if you get upset about something in the way another person writes a story, avoid it, because you already know some readers don't like it.

Avoiding things some people dislike will piss of the people who do like these things. Why not simply write the story you want to write? Some will like it and some won't but at least you will like your story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

In my example, would the audience be okay with the creation of a major crisis/campaign in the story and then NOT be resolved by the main cast? You know, sometimes you are just out of your league.

This is an entirely different question, as it strikes at reader satisfaction. If you don't resolve the major conflicts in the story, not just continuing them to be resolved later, you're asking for low ratings and complaints, as you establish the conflict and then just abandon them, without ever giving the readers a satisfying conclusion. If that's your intent, I'd suggest simply deleting the entire conflict from the story—unless the whole point of the story is the utter futility of life, and how no one can ever affect change in their lives.

But Checkov's gun is none of these things. Instead, it's a stagecraft caution. As I pointed out earlier, leaving clues around help enrich a story. Not every clue needs to bear out in time. In fact, every false clue provided (red herrings), makes the eventual resolution that much more satisfying, as the reader can suddenly—make sense of the initial confusion and make sense of how everything unfolded. You're providing the reader with a satisfying reading experience.

You don't always have to make the reader happy with a happy ending, but you need to resolve the outstanding issues, though you can also leave a few 'outstanding issues' to be resolved in the future (cliff-hangers for future sequels), as long as the main conflicts raised are addressed.

Replies:   sunkuwan
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


6. As Geek of Ages says, if you want to use it later you best find a logical way to introduce earlier, and the earlier the better is the general idea. You should look to avoid bringing something in just before it's used.


An excellent point, but the key is to introduce the element when it won't attract notice, when it's only an insignificant descriptive detail. That way, when it's revealed, the reader will have an 'Ah ha!' moment when they say, "so that's how it all came together". Introducing story elements, only when they become necessary, is unnecessary heavy-handed foreshadowing—which completely negates the point of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing introduces element which the reader can use to figure out what happened, but which don't give away the ending. You want details that inform after the fact, rather than shouting what happens.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@REP


1. Who makes the decision if an element is irrelevant. As far as I'm concerned that is the author. The author feels an element is relevant and puts it in the story, thus all elements in the story are relevant. It does not matter if the reader thinks it has no bearing, the author deemed it relevant so it is relevant.


Good advice, except, with the demand that 'authors must murder their darlings', often authors insert unnecessary details, simply because it's important to the author, but not to the story (like info-dumps). Authors need to always be aware of what information is presented when. The general rule of thumb is: don't overwhelm readers with unnecessary, often trivial information (like 'gun porn', where the information is only important to a very select subset of readers and will often turn off non-veteran readers). You can include the information, but only in small snippets that are easy to readers to absorb and process.

The major problem with info dumps isn't that the information doesn't play a role in the story, but that it's 'DUMPED' in one massive steaming pile at the very start of the story, rather than metered out as it's important to the story, where the information will make sense to the reader.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

At that moment I was literally unable to think of any real benefit to anyone coming out of me devoting my time to anyone here. I cannot see any evidence of anyone here caring enough about the quality of advice being given to new authors to devote any of their time or efforts.

I hate to belabor the point, mainly because the 'altercation' in the other thread was all about my not agreeing with your mission to spread 'formal grammar' everywhere, but it was central here because, rather than discussing the minutia of grammar and composition rules, we're discussing the needs of storytelling. Writers worry about English Composition, while authors concentrate on the story they're telling. Authors need to be aware of both, but they also have editors to help them correct any nitty-gritty English composition issues—the technicalities aren't essential for conveying a story upfront. Instead, they're mostly issues to consider during the revision and editing phases, after the story has already been completed (or chapters, for those who post as they write).

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

3. The aim of writing a story is to end up with something people will enjoy reading. So keep in mind if you do something to piss off the reader they won't read your other works, while reading your other works should be an important aim for you.

That appears to be sound advice. Now I'll just have to find out who my readers are and how to not piss them off. Or better yet, I spare me a headache and let the readers themselves figure it out.

I'll remember that when I kill off favorite characters in a story, though the stories where I do, are consistently some of my most popular and enduring stories.

In fact, in the one story where I slaughtered every single character in the story, and almost a third of the readers couldn't finish the book, those same readers came back in droves to read the sequel!

If you want to please everyone, your stories are unlikely to excite anyone. However, most significant stories piss off a LOT of readers, because they take chances, based on evaluating the risks involved.

If you take risks, be prepared to pay the price, but you can't avoid trying something which improves a story, just because of some little old lady in Pasadena.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Avoiding things some people dislike will piss of the people who do like these things. Why not simply write the story you want to write? Some will like it and some won't but at least you will like your story.

The key is: don't piss off your core audience. But, if you do, then simply write under a pseudonym, so they'll never know! 'D

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

was all about my not agreeing with your mission

WHAT THE FUCK DOES IT MATTER IF I AM WRONG?

CAN YOU NOT CONCEDE ANY POSSIBILITY YOU MIGHT BE WRONG?

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

your mission to spread 'formal grammar' everywhere

THAT IS NOT MY MISSION!

YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT I MAY RECOMMEND AFTER THIS EXPERIMENT.

sunkuwan

@Crumbly Writer

This is an entirely different question, as it strikes at reader satisfaction. If you don't resolve the major conflicts in the story, not just continuing them to be resolved later, you're asking for low ratings and complaints, as you establish the conflict and then just abandon them, without ever giving the readers a satisfying conclusion. If that's your intent, I'd suggest simply deleting the entire conflict from the story—unless the whole point of the story is the utter futility of life, and how no one can ever affect change in their lives.


The main point was, that it was not resolved by the maincast, not even the side-characters, just your normal "crisis response team" (whatever it will be finally called).
It is just one of those things that happen in a world that is not 100% centered on the protagonist.
There is also another mystery that is the talk of the town, so to speak, for months. A big event that happened 4 times in the last 3 decades, with no-one knowing how this is happening, but the maincast, while speculating and amateurishly researching, will not solve it. It will be resolved by others, offscreen.

The Principle question here is the setting-up of major plot points without resolving it by the maincast.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The major problem with info dumps isn't that the information doesn't play a role in the story, but that it's 'DUMPED' in one massive steaming pile at the very start of the story, rather than metered out as it's important to the story, where the information will make sense to the reader.


I find the contention that there is no possible story where such information wouldn't be important to the story at the very beginning to be absurd.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

important to the author, but not to the story


Believe it or not, but there's far more to a story than its story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sunkuwan

@Crumbly Writer

Authors need to always be aware of what information is presented when. The general rule of thumb is: don't overwhelm readers with unnecessary, often trivial information (like 'gun porn', where the information is only important to a very select subset of readers and will often turn off non-veteran readers). You can include the information, but only in small snippets that are easy to readers to absorb and process.


Depends on the story. if it is a militaristic story, then gun-porn has its place.
You could say the same with sports events in stories. I am not a big fan of american football, so every game and training that is written in minute detail is skip-territory for me. but when does a story become a sports-story, where it would be okay, instead of a story with sport?

Take stupid boy for example. would you say it is a sports story? or a coming of age/model story with sports elements? The detail of the sport elements would be too much for a normal CoA story.

Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

The main point was, that it was not resolved by the maincast, not even the side-characters, just your normal "crisis response team" (whatever it will be finally called).
It is just one of those things that happen in a world that is not 100% centered on the protagonist.
There is also another mystery that is the talk of the town, so to speak, for months. A big event that happened 4 times in the last 3 decades, with no-one knowing how this is happening, but the maincast, while speculating and amateurishly researching, will not solve it. It will be resolved by others, offscreen.

Again, it's an interesting point, and one which every author must ultimately decide for himself. I often feature fight scenes this way, a right erupts, the characters involved (attacked) have no idea why or who's after them, and the action is happening so fast they really can't make sense of it.

That's a technique to capture the confusion (aka. 'the fog of war'). If it's a minor scene, featuring a SWAT team, I wouldn't worry about it, as it's not a major story conflict, just an interim plot point.

The main issue, though, as I said, is reader satisfaction. If you have a story, that's purportedly about someone saving the world, readers are going to want to know who wins and who loses, otherwise they'll end up feeling cheated by the story and will vote the story down when they complete it.

Think 'major conflicts', not 'minor details'.

As for the other 'offscreen' resolution, I often end a book with an epilogue, which details what eventually happens after the book concludes, extending the story years or even decades into the future, well beyond the scope of the book.

In those cases, it's perfectly OK to 'tell' readers what happened, or even that the characters are frustrated by their inability to resolve the issue (on-screen or off-screen).

The main issue, though, is that most stories revolve around when something significant happens, which alters the character's normal world. Readers jump on the story to see how they resolve their issues. But, if there IS no final resolution of the main story conflicts, they'll feel disappointed.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I find the contention that there is no possible story where such information wouldn't be important to the story at the very beginning to be absurd.

Sorry, that was never my intent. I only said, the information needs to be released in easily absorbed amounts, rather than all at once, and that it's better releasing it 'as needed' and when it's important, rather than before the readers can determine whether they're even interested in the story.

Some things do need to be conveyed early on, but in those cases, it's generally better controlling how the information is released, so the reader doesn't get drowned in the details. Even if you spread the information in a prologue out, interspaced with dialogue, that's enough for readers to more readily absorb the information they need to retain.

The term 'info dump' was invoked for a specific reason. It's generally not carefully placed, it's simply heaped in the wrong location at the wrong time, and there's no one to clean it up.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@sunkuwan

The detail of the sport elements would be too much for a normal CoA story.

I wouldn't want to denigrate an author who has a large audience, but I'm not one of them. I quite enjoyed the first three chapters of book 1, but I'd had enough by then and hadn't gotten to any sport yet.

This would apply to other types of stories too, but my main questions about sports stories is: are the emotions of the main characters different throughout a season?; are rivalries and the importance of games different?; does a wish-fulfillment story end up as a series of predictable successes?

My interest might be maintained if I see those types of things, otherwise it's just another type of ____ porn to me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

Believe it or not, but there's far more to a story than its story.

I'll concede that, but when crafting a story, an author needs to deal with issues like pacing, focus and issue resolution. If an issue doesn't advance the story, it can largely be cut, even if the passages are an author's favorites.

The main issue with story dumps, is that most readers see it as authors 'showing off' how much research they did, but were unable to include in their stories, so they merely 'dump it' in a prologue or first chapter, simply to prove how 'clever' they are at building worlds.

If that's the case, the author is doing a lot more wrong than simply releasing too much information. In essence, they're not making the readers care about what happens in the story.

But my main point isn't that the information isn't vital (double negative there), only that there's a more effective means of delivering it to the reader.

Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

Take stupid boy for example. would you say it is a sports story? or a coming of age/model story with sports elements? The detail of the sport elements would be too much for a normal CoA story.

Once again, it's not the details that are the issue, but how the details are conveyed. If they're 'dumped' into the story, where readers feel compelled to skip over them, they were badly handled. That's why I emphasize the timing and pacing of information in a story.

A story where a vet is carefully preparing his weapon, preparing to venture into combat, is essential to setting the scene, but scenes that consist entirely in how many cases of each type of bullet, and where they stored each weapon, are generally overkill, and are only important to survivalists, not general readers.

Again, it's not the details which are the issue, it's the pace at which the details are revealed. If you think in terms of 'reader absorption', assuming that readers can only process so much information at a time, it's much easier to control.

Note: I'm not insisting that readers are 'stupid' here. As many here know, I tend to write incredibly complicated plot, paragraphs and sentences. But I'm very careful about how I reveal information. Instead of going in several different directions, I focus on a single issue at a time, so readers can absorb the basic information before I start discussing complications or alternatives. You want the reader to follow the story, so you stage the release of the details. You can be as complicated as you want, but always consider how the reader follows the story (i.e. what they grasp, and when).

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

This would apply to other types of stories too, but my main questions about sports stories is: are the emotions of the main characters different throughout a season?; are rivalries and the importance of games different?; does a wish-fulfillment story end up as a series of predictable successes?

My interest might be maintained if I see those types of things, otherwise it's just another type of ____ porn to me.

I agree. Again, authors are interested in more than just story details. They're also interested in pacing issues, relevancy and story conflict (or keeping the story tension just tight enough to keep the reader reading).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The general rule of thumb is: don't overwhelm readers with unnecessary, often trivial information (like 'gun porn', where the information is only important to a very select subset of readers and will often turn off non-veteran readers).


Some readers want that kind of detail in stories. The idea that every story should be written for the broadest possible audience is bullshit.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I only said, the information needs to be released in easily absorbed amounts, rather than all at once


And I find the idea that there couldn't be a story where it's important to release it all at once is absurd bullshit.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Dominions Son

And I find the idea that there couldn't be a story where it's important to release it all at once is absurd bullshit.

The advice to avoid info-dumps is one of the many useless guidelines self-appointed experts hand out like candy. The term 'info-dump' already implies bad writing and no one needs to to be advised to avoid bad writing. But why should it be impossible to present even large amounts of information in an appealing and exciting form? Of course that's more difficult than to 'dump' on your readers but writing a good story simply is more difficult than writing a bad one.

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

If an issue doesn't advance the story, it can largely be cut, even if the passages are an author's favorites


Again, not everything has to be in service to the story. There's a place for simply letting the reader immerse themself in the time/place of the setting, and luxuriating over details that provide for a more complete experience. Or perhaps lingering a moment on something that bolsters the theme without serving the characters' plot itself.

It has nothing to do with being the author's favorite passage. It has to with what works for the piece of writing itself.

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

they merely 'dump it' in a prologue or first chapter


I have seen this claim made on here multiple times (I think always by you) and I continue to struggle to find a single damn time I've seen this.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Some readers want that kind of detail in stories. The idea that every story should be written for the broadest possible audience is bullshit.

Once again, we're talking past each other, arguing the same point. In case you've never noticed, I write VERY complex sentences, with overly complicated plots. I'm not suggesting writing on a 5th grade level, I'm saying, while you're writing more complicated plots, focus on a single topic at a time so it's easier to process the complicated ideas.

For me, it makes the complicated ideas easier to process. Rather than jumbling the ideas together, if I deliver one complex idea, and then move to exceptions, no one has a problem. But if I present a couple of very simple concepts in the same sentence, they get lost.

Again, it's not 'simplifying your writing', it's pacing. You pace out the complexity, to only a single concept at a time. You're not restricting the content, simply isolated the thread drift.

But it's rediculous arguing about it here. Traditionally, every time someone floats an idea, rather than discussing it, soon every demands "proof" that it works, and soon everyone is rejecting every notion. It's just not worth discussing storytelling techniques.

I never said that this is an absolute rule written in stone. If it works for you, feel free to try it. But don't bitch and moan every time someone presents an idea. These are only observations picked up over my years of writing, as I've refined my techniques to make them more efficient. If you don't like mine, then use your own damn ideas!

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

they merely 'dump it' in a prologue or first chapter

I have seen this claim made on here multiple times (I think always by you) and I continue to struggle to find a single damn time I've seen this.

It's (or was, at least) fairly endemic of science fiction, and is partly the result of the observation that in most books, there's a 'grace period', lasting only about three chapters, where you can set your rules without readers questioning what you're doing. Thus you can either create your universe, or establish your style and language patterns, but if you vary from that after that grace period, reader will dump on you for being inconsistent.

As a result, many sci-fi authors tended to dump all the world building details early, hoping to slip it in under this nebulous grace period. However, 'they' have refined the idea so it's no longer necessary to set everything up right away.

If you doubt this, try changing how you apply your particular serial comma rule in the second and eighth chapter, and see if there's any difference in comments.

I don't really 'dump' details, but I traditionally start my stories slowly, as I want to present a mystery, a scientific impossibility, which the characters need to resolve before they can address what's facing them.

Over time, just like with the pacing issues, I've observed that certain techniques work better than others. If you don't accept it, who gives a frig. DON'T USE IT! I'm not trying to sell cool-aid here. It's no skin off my nose if you write a different story. But quit trying to shut down EVERY SINGLE discussion about technique EVERY SINGLE time something new is proposed. You skepticism doesn't help ANYONE!

Geez! Between your bunch and Ross, this forum has become a collection of crybabies where we're not allowed to discuss ANYTHING.

But you're safe, I'm not going to bother lecturing you, since you never respond to any rational arguments anyway.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Once again, we're talking past each other, arguing the same point. In case you've never noticed, I write VERY complex sentences


Yes, because you keep moving the goal posts and changing the subject. Your latest comment has zero relationship to the subject matter of your prior comment to which I was replying.

Complexity or simplicity of individual sentences has squat to do with what your prior comment was about.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Traditionally, every time someone floats an idea, rather than discussing it, soon every demands "proof" that it works, and soon everyone is rejecting every notion. It's just not worth discussing storytelling techniques.

That is certainly my experience too.
Although, the ideas I float are usually what I'd call "writing techniques", which I regard as a small but important subset of "storytelling techniques".

Geez! Between your bunch and Ross, this forum has become ...

Can you really not see your hypocrisy? That if an idea is not yours, YOU are often the worst offender at doing exactly what you complain of others doing here?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Although, the ideas I float are usually what I'd call "writing techniques", which I regard as a small but important subset of "storytelling techniques".

And, as always, welcomed by most. Our little squabble was mostly a badly-timed comment, which I kept repeating, as is typical for me. I didn't object to what you were saying, or disagree with it in the least, I just didn't think you'd get many takers. I should have remained silent and waited for nature to take it's course to prove my point.

But it's gotten to the point that no one wants to ask questions or venture an opinion. And frankly, the more reasonable forum opportunities have all dried up (after Managements finally got fed up and mostly shut them all down because of the petty fighting).

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

If that is to be representative of a new tone for exchanges between us then I will do my utmost to avoid being the first to break it.

Can you accept I think I have discovered something important, and a way to provide evidence others could use to assess its value. It may not work out as I hope, but I am determined to try.

THIS ONE is too important to me to not defend against any naysayers - at least not while I am still only at the gathering evidence stage.

And, YES, the techniques I employ when defending anything I consider extremely valuable do become counterproductive at times. My version of Asperger's equips me with only one mode of operation for coping with frustrations - say it exactly as I see it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

And, YES, the techniques I employ when defending anything I consider extremely valuable do become counterproductive at times. My version of Asperger's equips me with only one mode of operation for coping with frustrations - say it exactly as I see it.

I know the feeling. My modus operandi is to keep repeating the exact same thing in slightly different ways, and then steaming off in a snit and not speaking for days.

The problem we both suffer from, is others see our inability to cope with attacks as sign of weakness, and it encourages them to double their attacks. :(

I'm thinking we need to create a new author discussion group, and restrict it's membership. Anyone can join, but at the first sign of disagreement, out they go. It seems to be the only way to ensure civility.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Anyone can join, but at the first sign of disagreement, out they go. It seems to be the only way to ensure civility.


Disagreement and civility are not remotely the same thing.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I know the feeling. My modus operandi is ...

In this calm after what I hope is our last storm I will set out my new approach for interacting with you for topics not directly related to writing.

I choose to limit our interactions in ways that apply identically to both your posts to or about me, and my posts to or about you.

I do this because I have chosen to no longer drive on to roads experience suggests will have deep potholes I cannot see until it is too late. My chassis is too old and worn out to cope with that anymore.

For your Reply to Posts direct @ me ...

I will give anything a "free pass" if it is obviously intended by the poster to just have a bit of fun, and hope others will get some fun from it too. I hope we can remember that our FIRST RESPONSE when we see something that appears a bit offensive is to ask the other, "It appears you have attempted a joke that has gone over my head. My literal interpretation of it is not pleasant. Will you please explain the joke you were trying to make?"

There is no NEED for either of us to tell the other anything that is not directly related to writing. You should expect, for any posts appearing to tell me any information, I will respond with something like, "I choose to not respond to ANY posts of that nature you direct at me." That will come across as somewhat insulting and that will have been intentional. You have a very simple alternative you may use if you prefer I do not make any posts like that.

For your Reply to Threads quoting me or referencing my comments ...

They will all get a "free pass" too. I have no desire to inhibit you from discussing my statements with others. I may desire to discuss your statements with others too. Especially, I do not want either of us to feel constrained in commenting to others anything with an intention along the lines of, "... to expand upon or clarify this comment by XX, ..."

My distinction is that the effect of replies to posts and to threads is quite different. If made in a Reply to Post, perfectly reasonable statements which disagree with the other's statement come across as some kind of challenge to debate, or at a minimum, would give an impression to others that the recipient agrees with the correction if they do not respond. If the same words are said in an Reply to Thread can be left alone resulting in two people expressing different opinions, but no desire to argue with the other. I am happy to have things like that happen; I believe in Freedom of Speech!

For all posts which push one of my annoyance "buttons" ...

I note that "buttons" are very different to many others, AND they some of them can verge on irrational at times. :-)

Which reminds of something I heard long ago and have recalled MANY times since, "We should not be surprised that our family knows how to push our buttons, after all, they installed them!"

I will try to restrict my FIRST REBUTTALS to anything that offends me to short matter-of-fact statements. They may quote your words and then make comments along lines such as these:
* That is a statement of an opinion but you have worded it as if it is a statement of fact
* I feel offended by that statement because ...
* That statement is not relevant to the statement I made that it purports to be responding to
* That statement is nothing more than a repeat using different of the same idea you have already expressed above.

Feel free to debate if you do not agree with my analysis of the "shortcoming" in your statement.

For statements you make which I think go to far ...

I assess neither of us capable of changing our patterns of responding to frustrations in our life. I think those with High Functioning Asperger's are usually very sincere in their efforts to maintain cooperative relationships with others. They tend to develop a personal style for coping with problems that works well with most people - but with a few others that style is disastrously counterproductive. At times too, they do not notice they have their "blinkers" on: that their focus on legitimate goals is making it impossible to see the legitimacy of the other person's focus.

You know what my style of coping with frustrations is. I will try calm and patient explanations first, but my patience may not last long. After that my style is direct, in-your-face statements of precisely what I believe. I work very hard to make sure such statements are as accurate as I can be and supported by the evidence I include.

That style does not work well with other authors. Let's face it, ALL OF US have huge egos; we would not be attracted to writing if we did not.

So, I will not go crying to the management whenever I feel offended. I will ask management to consider doing something once my patience with something has worn out. That is the best option available to me once I have reached that point: the one likely to result in something I can live with while causing the least harm to any others.

* * *

What should you do when I do something that offends you?

I suggest your FIRST RESPONSE should be a simple request for me to explain, or simple statement you find something offensive, and ideally add why.

I will make mistakes. I trust you will have noticed I am more willing than many here to admit and apologise if I agree with objections raised by others to thing I have done. That is, in fact, my code for living!

I am an alcoholic who is coming up to thirty years of sobriety. I am doing something right. My "code for living" - the FIRST thought I have when I encounter frustrations in my life - is the Tenth Step of AA's Twelve Steps. It states:

Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong admitted it promptly

It is doing that to the best of my ability that allows me to get to sleep at night - comfortable with the morality of my actions irrespective of whatever horrors the latest bastard who's crossed my path has done!

That is not easy when the first indication I get that my actions have upset somebody is an attack, especially if it accuses me of malicious intent for something that was nothing worse than another oversight or misjudgment caused by the fact I am irredeemably socially inept.

If you give me a chance to correct or apologise for mistakes first, I think you'll find I generally do.

* * *

PLEASE, CW, print off this post and file it away. Feel free to quote it back at me if you detect any time I am not adhering to the standards it sets for myself and/or any standards it says I may react to from you.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer
Anyone can join, but at the first sign of disagreement, out they go. It seems to be the only way to ensure civility.

@DS
Disagreement and civility are not remotely the same thing.

I agree. The wording I would suggest is, "at the first sign of any lack of civility that is not withdrawn immediately once an objection is made ..."

I have NO INTEREST in such a group. I see no need for that. I cannot see how anything like that can work if decisions on who to kick out are not made by someone external to the group.

I do not approve of some aspects of the style of enforcement Lazeez applies here, but allowing him to decide is far better than any alternative.

I think we can do much better at applying more civil standards amongst ourselves. I have a new strategy for dealing with a lack of civility towards me intended to short-circuit any lack of civility in my responses.

I will probably start making some responses to others similar to those I stated in the post above that CW should expect before anything can get out of hand.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Geek of Ages


Guns firing without having been adequately seen earlier is sometimes referred to as Deus Ex Machina.


This, and the "red herring" example both apply. Stage is a different animal for reasons specific to it. For prose, the important part is that elements related to the conclusion should present themselves in earlier parts of the work. This is important so you don't end up with the Dues Ex Machina resolution.

Creating "false trails"("red herrings") along the way is often part of the "fun" depending on the genre or story type. Just be careful that any such false trail isn't in turn creating false expectations as to "other story developments" beyond subtle suggestion at most. Otherwise you're likely to piss off some of your readers if you spend "considerable" time and effort building something up only to go "PSYCH!" at the reader(exception: when the MC is the one being misled).

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Not_a_ID

Otherwise you're likely to piss off some of your readers if you spend "considerable" time and effort building something up only to go "PSYCH!" at the reader

The worst example of that I've ever seen is Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle. I watched the adaptation for TV. The final two minutes made me feel eight hours of my life had been wasted. I was definitely pissed off!

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

I was definitely pissed off!

Somehow I recently got the impression that's how you spend most of your time.

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

@Geek of Ages

Some Creative Writing courses recommend this technique. The rationale is that many readers skip over the prologue anyway, and putting all the infodump in one place creates a handy reference guide.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Somehow I recently got the impression that's how you spend most of your time.

I suppose I should be grateful. That TV show did give me 7 hours and 58 minutes of not being severely pissed off.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Disagreement and civility are not remotely the same thing.

Maybe for you, but for the new authors, afraid to venture an opinion because of the reception they see awaiting them, it's anything but.

I'm not demanding that you agree with me, but you keep showing a belligerence to ideas you don't already hold. It's fine to say, 'I don't think I'll ever use that technique', but it's another to continue to shoot down each idea, and effectively crush each conversation.

Then again, Ross and I need to learn to let these things pass. Critiquing something I say isn't an attack on me personally. Anything other writers might learn has already been said. Continually rephrasing the exact same arguments will never win this battle, so there's no sense poking the bears.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Ross, Ross, Ross. Need I remind you, every time you've ever dictated how others are 'required' to treat you has ended badly.

I realize you need to protect yourself, but throwing a gauntlet down on the field of battle isn't the way to do it. Stepping back and recomposing yourself is.

And most of all, we need to STOP arguing our petty disagreement in front of the entire SOL readership. Frankly, NO ONE besides you and me CARES! Typing out 1,000 word demands isn't likely to change how people normally interact, it's just setting up your next blowup.

Face it, both you and I are particularly susceptible to getting our feelings hurt, taking things out of context, and having a melt down. But that's our cross to bear, not anyone else's. As they say, if you can't stand the heat, then go sit on the toilet and calm down!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I have NO INTEREST in such a group. I see no need for that. I cannot see how anything like that can work if decisions on who to kick out are not made by someone external to the group.

I only suggested it, not seriously, by the way, because the newer writers keep asking me whether there are ANY 'safe' places for authors to discuss ideas, and frankly, I no longer know of a SINGLE one. LinkedIn used to be safe, but the administrators got sick of the fights and effectively shut down most of the conversations and everyone left the author forums other than those trying to hawk their wares.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Need I remind you, every time you've ever dictated how others are 'required' to treat you has ended badly.

That is WHY I spelled out how I will behave and react in the future.

Read it again! Tell me anything that says you must do anything.

Here is a tip for you. Take it as you wish. If you want to prevent any squabbles between us ever again, you only need to do one thing - read my statements and respond to them, not what you suspect my intentions might be.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

but for the new authors, afraid to venture an opinion because of the reception they see awaiting them, it's anything but.


Nothing remotely useful can be learned in an echo chamber devoid of disagreement.

but you keep showing a belligerence to ideas you don't already hold.


I show some belligerence to your ideas because you are constantly presenting mere opinion as if it were divine truth and respond to any disagreement as if it is either heresy or a personal attack on you.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Some Creative Writing courses recommend this technique. The rationale is that many readers skip over the prologue anyway, and putting all the infodump in one place creates a handy reference guide.


From my own experience, the percentage of readers who'll actually read the prologue is about 30%, and that's in sci-fi, a genre where prologues are common. That means readers from other genres, or who cross over (likely a significant portion of my self-selected sample), are much less likely to read them.

That's why the common wisdom is: don't include anything essential in a prologue, and add some 'candy', some insight into the characters, which even they don't know, to encourage your regular readers to continue reading them in the future.

Prologues are tricky beasts, and epilogues aren't much better. :(

By the way, I'm glad we got off the 'pacing information' dead-end and started discussing storytelling strategies again. In restores my faith in forums.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Nothing remotely useful can be learned in an echo chamber devoid of disagreement.

Says the provocateur. However, speaking to those too afraid to voice their opinions provide clues as to what needs are not being addressed. Just as reading the negatives reviews of existing apps help app developers create better apps than the current generation of unsatisfactory one.

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

As a result, many sci-fi authors tended to dump all the world building details early, hoping to slip it in under this nebulous grace period.


Again, this forum is the only place where I've ever heard of such a thing or heard reference to such a thing. Can you please provide a concrete example of the thing you're incessantly claiming exists?

Replies:   Ross at Play
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

But quit trying to shut down EVERY SINGLE discussion about technique EVERY SINGLE time something new is proposed.


I'm not?

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

Between your bunch and Ross, this forum has become a collection of crybabies where we're not allowed to discuss ANYTHING


"My bunch"? I think I probably should be insulted by that. That said, I find the use of the word "crybaby" to be weird. I'm not whining about being insulted or offended or anything, simply expressing opinions about writing styles. My writing otherwise stands for itself in regards to my style.

I'm also not preventing any discussion or anything like that; but you likewise can't expect to show up somewhere, expound bad advice, and have everyone simply lap it up at your feet.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

you never respond to any rational arguments


I respond to rational arguments—the problem is that most "rational" arguments aren't.

Also, this is a strange tirade in response to "you keep saying a thing exists that I haven't seen". I wasn't even saying that "don't dump a bunch of worldbuilding on readers at once" is bad advice; just that I can't think of an example where it's done as badly as you claim it to be.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Geek of Ages

Can you please provide a concrete example of the thing you're incessantly claiming exists?

Is that a challenge he provides examples of AWFUL informal writing? :-)

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

I'm also not preventing any discussion or anything like that; but you likewise can't expect to show up somewhere, expound bad advice, and have everyone simply lap it up at your feet.

It isn't your words, but your actions that ring true. You say you're merely offering advice, yet few aside from our regular contributors are eager to say anything, for fear of being attacked.

You 'say' you simply want references for my claims, but I've been burned by that trap too many times to fall for it again. Each time we search for a reference, grabbing the first items we find, you attack a few word choices in the piece in an attempt to invalidate their entire premise.

I agree, you're each impeccable authors, but your diplomacy isn't what you advertise. Although you use traditional debate techniques, you tend to use them in underhanded ways—in typical debate technique—to disprove something through association, rather than by directly attacking the central arguments.

It's your constant demand for 'proof', when everyone is simply proposing ideas, based on readings or observations, that undermine the communications on the forum. When we can't prove personal observations, or recall something we read a year or two ago, you denigrate us for 'inventing baseless claims'.

In short, your actions denote your true intent, while your words put a 'polite spin' on your ulterior motives.

It's odd, but you never demand 'proof' of anything you happen to agree with, only the idea you don't happen to agree with.

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

Also, this is a strange tirade in response to "you keep saying a thing exists that I haven't seen". I wasn't even saying that "don't dump a bunch of worldbuilding on readers at once" is bad advice; just that I can't think of an example where it's done as badly as you claim it to be.

Just like with Ross, asking us to do all his research into 'bad writing' for him, I'm not about to waste my time trying to recount all my reading in the field over the past eight years—especially since much of it was on forums which have been effectively shut down over the years because of this same type of infighting by the participants.

It's entirely possible that much of the references I once read are no longer where I first saw them. The web, unlike published works, is not a static thing, which you can re-reference whenever called up to do so. However, claiming that such things 'never existed' is patently false, as they're a common conversation in any author group I've ever participated in.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

you're each impeccable authors


Hahahahahahahahahahah.

Like I said, my work speaks for itself. I'm far from impeccable.

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

With this tirade, I cannot help but think you've confused me with someone else. Or you're making tons of assumptions about me given what little I've actually posted in terms of opinions and such.

I think it's quite tiresome to be the target of such a crusade. Especially as I'm utterly baffled as to how it got directed at me.

Are you sure you don't have me confused for someone else?

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

I also have to wonder if you're actually reading my words, or just responding to what you want me to have said so that you can rant and rave.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Crumbly Writer ‎2‎/‎18‎/‎2018‎ ‎11‎:‎06‎:‎24‎ ‎AM
@Geek of Ages
... Geez! Between your bunch and Ross ...

Crumbly Writer ‎2‎/‎20‎/‎2018‎ ‎12‎:‎53‎:‎07‎ ‎AM
@Geek of Ages
... Just like with Ross ...

Do you think you can get away with throwing around my name in posts directed at others - as if there is a proven case you have some legitimate grievance against me?
THINK AGAIN!

I notice you have not responded to my last short post directed at you.

Ross at Play ‎2‎/‎18‎/‎2018‎ ‎10‎:‎57‎:‎54‎ ‎PM Updated: ‎2‎/‎18‎/‎2018‎ ‎11‎:‎09‎:‎50‎ ‎PM
@Crumbly Writer
[Quoting You]
Need I remind you, every time you've ever dictated how others are 'required' to treat you has ended badly.
{End Quote]
That is WHY I spelled out how I will behave and react in the future.
Read it again! Tell me anything that says you must do anything.
Here is a tip for you. Take it as you wish. If you want to prevent any squabbles between us ever again, you only need to do one thing - read my statements and respond to them, not what you suspect my intentions might be.

Three short paragraphs - ALL SAYING - you did not read what I wrote before accusing me of "dictat[ing] how others are 'required' to treat [me]".
Can't answer that one, can you? I am hardly surprised you ignored that and looked for opportunities elsewhere to sink the boot in.

* * *
Dominions Son and Geek of Ages are doing a good enough job right now at pointing out how you constantly mouth of opinions as they were facts. I'll let them that handle that. I can cope with you doing those. But there's another pattern I think I see in you attacks on others here.
* * *

I have a name for that pattern, "crumblies". I'd usually use another name, but it makes not a crumb of difference what they are called.

I define "crumblies" as statements made accusing another of something which words nearby prove they did no do. I don't care if the accuser believes the words they're writing, if they are delusional, and know their capacity to be delusional, but will not bother looking at the evidence a few screens above; they're all crumblies in my book. I judged those by all logical, moral, or intellectual criteria exactly the same as I judge many other types of inaccurate statements.

Do you really want me looking for crumblies in your most recent avalanches of attacks on others?

I'm too busy for that for the next 48 hours, I've things I must get done before I fly back to Indonesia soon, but if you insist ... I will gladly oblige you.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Calm down people. This is getting a bit annoying. This thread has been locked.

Topic Closed. No replies accepted.

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