ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
[personal profile] loopy777 and I recently talked about Loopy's Retroactive and making exposition interesting. While it takes time and energy to work information organically into a story, I think it's worth the effort to get the the audience engaged and interested. This also goes to the basic adage of "show, don't tell." Static exposition resorts to telling the audience what's what, while a dynamic scene showcasing that same information lets the audience experience the facts of the world or story and doesn't feel like deliberate exposition.

On that note, this exercise is about taking a block of information and making it into a scene that is interesting in its own right and moves the story forward, without using obvious infodump tropes like As You Know dialogue. Think of it as a teaser that will leave people hankering to get the rest. Use dialogue, monologue, or whatever other device you think would make it fun. Heck, don't be constrained to novel format--use script format, article format, interview or whatever else you like.

Assignment: Construct a scene or exchange that gets across as much of the following information as possible in an entertaining way. Make up any additional details as necessary, including future plot developments if you want.

Frankie and Donnie was sweethearts... )
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
“When you catch an adjective, kill it."
- Mark Twain

I swear I'm not against all adjectives and adverbs. In fact, neither was Mark Twain, as seen in the context of the above quote. Adjectives and adverbs can be vital tools to make a passage more vivid and accurate.

They are also tools best used sparingly. They can be abused when they become a shorthand for actual description, and especially when used to tell instead of show even when showing is more appropriate.

Therefore the direction in this exercise is to rewrite two passages without using adjectives or adverbs, hopefully changing it for the better.

Examples:
Original: It was cold beyond imagination outside. I never realized it could be this cold.

Rewrite: I turned my collar up against fingers of cold that kept forcing their way down my shirt. Breathing was like sucking an icicle up my nose.

Original: "I don't see how that's relevant," she said coldly.

Rewrite: Her smile flattened out; shutters closed behind her eyes. "I don't see how that's relevant."


The lesson is not that ad-words are Evil, but rather to learn to think without them so they don't become a means to prop up vague writing. I can think of a couple of adjectives that could go into the rewrite versions without doing harm, though I believe the writing is leaner without them.

Below are my prompts; as always, spoiler fold or space out to prevent peeking. Feel free to give prompts of your own along this vein, whether in your own journal or as a comment to this post.

Prompts:
He stood at the window watching for the lights, feeling agitated, afraid, and very much alone.

She stepped lightly over the stepping-stones, her feet barely above the surface of the swollen brook.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Since I previously wrote a post about taking criticism, I figured I'd also do one about giving feedback. That means both positive and negative feedback. Though giving criticism is often harder, I believe giving helpful praise also takes skill and thought. I think the advice is helpful for different creative efforts, though writing is the one I'm most familiar with.

Seven tips for a learning approach to reviews )

TL; DR: Both you and the recipient of your feedback will gain more if you approach the feedback process as a learning experience for yourself rather than a favor to the creator or an excuse to vent your frustrations. You can do that by backing up your statements with principles of creation and solid facts, being honest, courteous, and open-minded, and by learning more about your craft.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
One of the rewarding things about leaving reviews is the correspondence I get into with some of the authors. It occurs to me I've exchanged useful writing tips through these private messages, so I've decided to flesh out some of the advice I gave and make them available to those who don't feel like hacking into my FanFiction.Net private messages. I'll be naming names and linking fics in this post on the theory that fanfic writers are generally positive about exposure, but if you don't want to be linked tell me and I'll take the link down.

First off, I'll talk about that dark side of the giddy joy of writing: Critical comments and how to respond to them. I'm going by the assumption that you're interested in improving the craft of writing, so if your goal is solely to have fun and share some squee this post probably isn't useful. In fact I don't think you'll get much mileage out of any post about writing advice if your goal isn't to improve, and I say God bless you. There are so many better things to spend time on than staring at a computer screen figuring out arrangements of words. For the rest of you, here are words that are hopefully of some value:

Though really, by my own terms I'm preaching to the choir... )

Honest criticism will help you in the goal of improving your writing, and does not mean you are a) stupid, b) worthless, or c) will never write well. If you really can't handle it, it's best to stop pretending that your goal is to improve: You want to be told that you're good writer, which is in not in any way the same thing as writing well.

Not wanting to improve your writing is, as I have said, a valid choice to make. All that's important is to be honest about your choice, whichever it is. If you really do want to improve, you have to be able to take criticism and I hope this article has been of some little help to you.

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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