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Jamie

Just Write...

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Gabe?s points are well taken, and I am in agreement. Read what he says... it?s quite valid and relevant.

Some of what I am reading in this thread goes back to plot and how skillfully it?s developed (or not). Other factors involve character development, story timelines and the voice the story is written it ? and if that voice changes during the course of the piece.

There really is no need for a cast of characters listed in a story. Let them emerge and develop in the story NOT outside of it. If you really want to give the reader more insight into a character, their background, some event that has occurred in their ?past lives? or some little biographical sketch ? include it in the work? NOT as a stand alone outside the story. First of all that can be confusing for a reader (are you writing one story or two). Second it takes away from the original work.

These things added to a story will serve to help make it richer, deeper and fuller. Hanging a lot of little doo-dads and extraneous stuff on it just detracts from the main event.

As an author, if you need to keep the characters, locations, venues separate to avoid confusion that is all well and good, but it should be your own working private list ? something of a ?cheat sheet? for you. (Save the papers and someday you can sell them on e-bay when you become famous). But there is really no reason to share this with the reader.

Too often in life people make lists and then lists of the lists and finally lists of the lists of the lists? get the idea? When in reality they should have taken the first list and just went with it. Writing is one of those artistic pursuits where thinking is crucial, but over thinking can be disastrous.

If you as a writer are confused about your own work? well you can?t expect the reader to understand it any better then you do and no amount of ?side bar? comments are going to help the work.

If your works ever become ?classics? then let someone else be the one to make some of the extra bucks writing the ?annotated version? or the reference works listing the ?alternate histories? of the characters, the blueprints of the castles, schematics of the star drives, and a treatise on how the alien communication device really works.

Do what you do best and just WRITE!

Oh and as far as reader suggestions? They can write their own stories or alternate versions of yours if they don?t like what your doing? If you are not writing the story YOU want to write then lay that pencil down boys!

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As an author, if you need to keep the characters, locations, venues separate to avoid confusion that is all well and good, but it should be your own working private list ? something of a ?cheat sheet? for you. (Save the papers and someday you can sell them on e-bay when you become famous). But there is really no reason to share this with the reader.

I agree 100%. Two things that have helped me in my stories are: first, a timeline to tell me when and where every event takes place in the story. That way, if I have a character say, "hey, didn't you see her last Thursday," I know it was actually Thursday and not some other date. Keeping a sense of time straight in the story is important, at least to me.

The second is character bios, which I jot down just to remind me who everybody is, what they look like, and what their background is.

Nobody ever sees either of these two things except me; as far as I'm concerned, this is all part of the behind-the-scenes machinery that makes the magic work. Sort of like the hidden gears and motors at Disneyland.

Oh and as far as reader suggestions? They can write their own stories or alternate versions of yours if they don?t like what your doing? If you are not writing the story YOU want to write then lay that pencil down boys!

I agree to a point. But I have had some instances where either I made a major logistical error, or I made a bad decision in a story, and I had enough readers write me about it (in advance of the story actually being posted) that I went ahead and changed it. In some cases, I may not have done exactly what they wanted, but it was kind of a serindipitous thing where the original story went one way, the readers wanted it another way, but the final draft came up with a third compromise that I felt was better than either.

One case like this was the dog in my story Jagged Angel. Everybody, including The Dude here, was aghast that I killed a dog in one pivotal chapter. They convinced me that readers wouldn't stand for that, and so I reluctantly had the dog simply be "badly wounded," and eventually recover. This wound up being a much better choice, dramatically, and even worked its way into the very final lines of the story.

So, yeah -- sometimes readers know better than authors. On the other hand, then there are the readers who are upset when certain key characters depart the story. I've done this for very, very specific reasons, and my decisions are in stone on all of those. Still, it's gratifying to get email from readers who are practically crying over the death of a major character. You know when that happens, you've managed to craft a character who was good enough that they lived vividly in the mind of the reader, to the point where they felt a very real sense of loss when the character dies (or goes away).

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Guest rusticmonk86

:: grins :: I didn't have a timeline or charecter bios until yesterday. I, myself, like working with a web (which you may view post-hence). It's easier than just short blocks of text describing all of the who what where's.

When some authors write bios of their charecters, they try and write their whole life stories. Now, while I am in favor of giving your charecter a life outside of the scenes you afford them;that life should be kept to less than a few sentences of synopsis for what's happened. The bios I'd recommend using for your charecters should have:

[*]their name (i.e. Jack, Macy, Sam, Eve, etc.)

[*]if they are a descendent from any other charecters. Exampe for Sam: "Helen's son."

[*]their physcial stats, if those are important. (I don't have them. I only put an approximate age range for Adam. And that's taken from an average of what readers thought.)

[*]why they are in the story. Example for Cole: "A boy Adam met on the train to PA."

[*]some brief words on who the charecter is. Example for Jack: "Adam's pyschotic, murderous father."

And that's it. Short and sweet. The web itself should have lines connecting everyone. Since Adam's the main charecter, all of the lines go to him. And Macy knows Helen, who birthed Sam, who dated Jason. So those people are connected to Adam by Macy; the person who introduced Adam to them. But, neither Macy or Helen know Jason very well. So Jason is only connected to Sam.

Since Poochie is Adam's dog and pretty much goes wherever he does, Poochie and Adam occupy the same space in the web.

The only other writing that "The Writing Web" should have is whether or not a charecter is deceased. (Words like "missing" shouldn't go in anything but your chapter notes.) Under Scott and Eve, I put wrote "(deceased)".

Still with me? If you're confused, that's why I scanned and pasted the web.

So, basically, you come out with a great referential and graphical representation of who knows who and how. (If you are the extrapolating kind of person.) That, combined with the paragraph descriptions of yoru charecters, is all you need. Trust me.

I speak from personal experience when I say: Writing a charecter's individual story will only take the energy that you will need for writing the actual story; and leave you drained by the time you finish the back-story and want to go back to the real story.

Hope this helped. I'm posting the web as Appendix A.

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Guest rusticmonk86

Now, the timeline. In the chapters leading up to number 15, I didn't really pay attention to the timeline. But, as Chapter 15 is from the point of view of a detective, it gave me the opportunity to map out Jack Wallace's journey to Pennsylvania to find his son. I don't like how timelines are so complicated. I have a feeling I'll have a line for each character soon. I usually deal with things more easily in my head. Which is why things like webs are so cool. They're not linear . . . Like this.

Umm . . . there are two sides on the timeline. The topside are the people in Pennsylvania. The bottom side represents Jack. This particular timeline covers Jack's journey from LA to PA. And it starts from the day that Sam met Adam. I really don't like these things, so I'll let you figure it out on your own.

Appendix B.

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One thing that should be said is that while this sort of information is important in keeping consistency in the story, and also enhances the depth, the way you do it is up to you.

For many people, a web, like Gabriel shows above, is a useful and meaningful way to do things. For me, I'm more a linear thinker, and I have trouble with things like that. I tend to just have short notes:

I have a word document called "cast" which contains the details of the characters. I add to it as time goes on, and new characters appear, or I "discover" more things about them as I write (believe it or not, that's what happens for me).

A small extract from my New Brother cast document:

Adam "Ads" Kennedy - Age 15  Year 10

172cm, 60kg

Brown hair, hazel eyes

A bit above average in height, slender build

Plays forward in Everest basketball team (Under 17's)

Average student - English best subject

Elder sister Kelly (Age 19 - Uni student)

David "Stick" Johnson - Age 16  Year 10

175cm, 59kg

Light brown/Dark blonde hair, green eyes

A bit above average in height, thin as a rake

Plays forward in Everest basketball team (Under 17's)

Also swims competitively (freestyle, long/middle distance)

Above average student - English best subject

Tendency to speak first and engage brain second.

Love animals and doesn't like to see them hurt.

Girlfriend Liz Richardson (8 months)

Almost all of this can be found in the story, apart from the bit about David swimming competitively.

I have a similar document for the timeline/outline of the story. Again, it is a fluid document that changes in detail as the story progresses, though I try to keep the main story on track. As an example, the episode at the end of chapter 8 occurs on the Monday. In the original timelilne, it occured on the Tuesday. For various reasons, I moved it.

To summarise: do it the way that suits you best. Different people think in different ways, and you should use the way that feels the most comfortable for you. As long as the INFORMATION is there, the method of presentation/recording is irrelevant. The depth of the information is also a matter of personal taste. I prefer to keep base details documented, and the rest of the stuff floats around in what passes for my brain....

Graeme

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