23 Ways to Improve Your Story

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CageSage
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23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby CageSage » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 7:21 am

https://www.writingforward.com/storytel ... ting-ideas

Just ignore the use of diffuse for defuse and the rest of it's okay.

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Rath Darkblade
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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby Rath Darkblade » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 11:42 am

I'm sorry, but this ...

10. Introduce an archetypal character. These characters stand out and feel familiar. Introduce a mentor or a trickster, or give one of your existing characters some archetypal qualities.


... irritates me. Why? Because sometimes - all right, more often than sometimes - I see an archetypal character introduced, but there's nothing to him/her/it other than the archetype, and that drives me crazy. :evil:

I particularly see such characters in best-sellers like Rowling or Dan Brown, or - heaven help us - E. L. James. They set my teeth on edge as they enter the page, dance across the scene, and exit stage left. What they say to me is that the author was lazy and couldn't be bothered to think about the character beyond the one-dimensional cliché.

By all means, if you're stuck for a character, give him some archetypal qualities - but if this character is a recurring one (rather than a one-scene spear-carrier), then for heaven's sake, don't let the archetype define who your character will be! *stamps foot*

If you do, then you end up with clichés like the Dumb Fighter, the Wise Old Wizard, the Sneaky Rogue, the Evil Villain and the Princess-in-Distress. These aren't characters - they're caricatures, cardboard cut-outs - straight out of the nursery. Unless you're writing for very small children, I'm begging you - THINK about who your characters will be.

Otherwise, I hope you like rejection slips and bad reviews. :(
There is nothing wrong with nepotism, so long as you keep it all in the family. (Winston Churchill)

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby CageSage » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 11:51 am

I agree - but an archetype is no more than a single step in the creation of a character. An archetype, and even the word, is a singular effort to 'tell' this character what part of their role is. It can be no more than that. to me, it's like saying 'use a female character here, because a female is more likely to ...'
It is the one-step progress in a 20-30 step character design process.
And yes, it is lazy writing to rely on how others have shaped and created character templates.
And, like everything we learn about writing, take what works for you, build on it, and learn to recognise the stuff that has no value or resonance.
I have to admit, I don't think in terms of archetype for any of my characters until I'm doing the character edit after the first draft is complete - and then I ask why I've shaped the character that way, what was in the background of my mind that now needs more in order to strengthen and deepen to bring this character to full 'roundness'?

Does anyone do it differently? Other thoughts?

And the original article is more for beginners (and from 2012/13, I think).

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby Rath Darkblade » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 11:56 am

I'm sorry about my earlier post, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. But ... well. You never know! :) On the Terry Pratchett Books forum, we tried giving advice to a would-be author. Unfortunately, he committed three cardinal sins:

1. He never participated in the forum, so we never knew anything about his writing background (though it quickly became apparent that he had none).
2. He kept on asking our advice for his very generic "knights-and-damsels-and-dragons" creation. That was all he had. Really.
3. He thought that his story would be a new "Middle-Earth", and refused to see the obvious in front of his nose.

After nearly a year of this, I finally lost patience and told him: "Look, we can't keep giving you advice over every tiny thing. Here's my best advice: Go away and read a lot - A LOT - of fantasy. Think about it, and make up your own mind!" (If it weren't for the usual forum rules, I would add "And quit bugging us!!!" But that would be rude). *blush*

Sigh ... I don't know, but I think he expected us to write the damn thing for him ... :roll:

(Please don't take this incident as typical of the Terry Pratchet Books forum, by the way! :) It just stuck in my mind because it was so unusual).
There is nothing wrong with nepotism, so long as you keep it all in the family. (Winston Churchill)

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby CageSage » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 12:08 pm

One of the most recommended books on the craft of writing is the one about 'the heroes journey', which also highlights the use of archetypes. A lot of beginner writers start at these places, learn from them, and move onward and upward. Some don't. Many don't.
And some people only have one story - and they believe that it will change the world, if only they could get people to read it. Generally, it won't. Because most writers take years to get the skills under their belt that shows up as not only good writing, but good reading. Even Harper Lee wrote a lot of (short) stories before she did the famous one.
Using the simpler things can assist on the journey, but one book, or one style, or one adaptation of learning, will never be enough ... life isn't like that, and nor is story.

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby Rath Darkblade » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 12:12 pm

*reads Cage's earlier post, about the article being for beginners etc.* Oh! Okay, then. The article said "ideas", so I thought that "archetype" was supposed to be an idea in itself.

As far as archetypes go, I don't think in terms of "men/women are more likely to do X" or "lawyers/doctors/garbagemen/sportsmen/whatever are more likely to do Y". Life is obviously more complicated than that.

When I work with archetypes, I do it in different ways:

1. When I write fantasy - and I'm referring to the traditional "high" fantasy of Tolkien et al. This is because people are so familiar with the fantasy tropes that I know, more or less, what they expect - and so I "tweak" the archetypes in interesting or funny ways. (At least, I hope so). :) That's the first step of how I work with archetypes. Later ... we'll see.

2. When I write history or mythology, I sometimes write it "straight" - i.e. show the characters as they are reported in the history/mythology stories - but, most of the time, I "tweak" the stories in interesting/funny ways, as before. Then I pursue the history/mythology story to its logical conclusion, with those tweaks in place so that they gie me a different story to the usual. :)

For instance, I ask myself: In Greek mythology, the hero Theseus is famous for killing the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Crete. But the Minotaur itself was the son of supernatural entities. What did the Minotaur think? What did he feel? Why was it there in the first place, and what did he think about that? Was he a monster, or a character in his own right? It's not fair. Monsters should have a voice, too. So, I re-read the myth, I research why it was written that way, and I think about how I can do it differently. That's the starting point, and then I take it from there.

I don't work with archetypes in modern-day settings, because I just don't find them to be relevant. :)
There is nothing wrong with nepotism, so long as you keep it all in the family. (Winston Churchill)

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby CageSage » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 12:20 pm

There are other types of archetypes - from MacBeth, the three witches, a writer could make a femme group of jealous bff's who berate and belittle any attempt someone in the group (who they use to their own benefit) makes to find other friends, to leave, to get away from the toxic relationship - but it's all they've got, and isn't any friend better than none?

How does this kill a person, a little at a time, until the poison of the witches brew does its job?

Have you ever read my short story about https://cagedunn.wordpress.com/2018/10/ ... y-old-man/
...

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby Rath Darkblade » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 12:48 pm

No ... I haven't read it yet, but I'm reading it now. The idea kind of reminds me of "Shrek" - but in that a traditional story gets turned upside down.

Reading, reading, reading ... done. I like it very much. :) Yes, poor ol' Rumple ... it's not fair on him. He works so hard and doesn't get rewarded. It's the old phrase - Homo homini lupus est, and so on - although that phrase is being unfair on the poor wolf!

Speaking of archetypes, and Theseus and the Minotaur, here's a fun idea: what if the Minotaur had his own support group? Say ... The MAMCU - Monsters, Abnormalities, And Miscellaneous Creatures Union! :D The Minotaur could go on strike. He'd even have little signs: "Athens Out!", "We Won't Take No Bull!", "Stop Milking Us For All We've Got!" etc. - and all the monsters would chant: "Monsters Forever! Athens Never! Monsters Forever! Athens Never!" and so on.

It'll be on the Creta News. "Mr. Minotaur - do you mind if I call you by your name?"

"Moo! It's Torope, Socratea."

"Torope, we understand you have a comment to make to our viewers?"

"Yes I do. I resent being a stereotype to be slain! Minotaurs have rights, too, you know. Moo!"

"We now cross live to Toro's employer - Minos, the King of Crete. Minos, what's your view?"

"Well Socratea, this is really uncalled for. That's Torope's role in the story. He signed a contract--"

"No I didn't! You and your wife signed that contract as legal proxies to me. YOU offended Poseidon - and SHE sinned with the sacred bull - but I'm being unfairly punished for it. Is that any kind of justice moo?"

"That has nothing to do with it. The contract is still legal. You are required by the strictures of the contract - codicil number five - to perish ignominiously by the hands of Theseus, and--"

"And you think that makes it OK, do you? You gutless bastards! You heartless, spineless bastards!! I'm calling my union rep!!! I will NOT accede to this humiliating treatment! You can't make me do it - moo!"

"Well, this looks like a right royal brouhaha brewing. If we're not careful, it might even become a brou-hee-hee. Now it's back to Agathon in the studio for the weather."

"Thank you, Socratea! Well as we all know, it's been blowing a gale, with storms and high winds, ever since Minos's thoughtless actions offended Poseidon - er, that is, ever since the rumbunctious sea god decided, for whatever reason, to lose his temper and blow his top IN SPITE OF our illustrious and wonderful king's wise actions. Batten down the hatches, folks - it looks like Cyclone Theseus is about to blow into town!"

... and so on. ;) Or, perhaps, Theseus finds that the Minotaur is smarter than he's been led to believe, and the two of them hatch a plan together. Or the Minotaur leads a revolt against the King of Crete. Or maybe, Theseus is the villain that demands seven Cretan youths to be sacrificed to his labyrinth, and the Minotaur must rescue them from [insert name of monster here] - although "Shrek" did that one, too. There are endless possibilities! :)
There is nothing wrong with nepotism, so long as you keep it all in the family. (Winston Churchill)

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby CageSage » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 12:57 pm

There are endless possibilities ... there will always be endless opportunities!

I wrote that story off the cuff when someone (beyond my current memory-banks ability to recall) did a rehash and blamed rumple on being a faery and intrigued by humans to the point that he was considered a child-eater! And all because he was small and ugly!

The best cons in the world are the smooth and beautiful ... the ones we're always bombarded with as 'this is what you want to be'.
Now, even in a short burst of Adrenalin, I can see a story in that archetype (story-book)-reversal ...

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Re: 23 Ways to Improve Your Story

Postby Rath Darkblade » Tue, 01 Jan 2019 1:00 pm

I hope you liked my take on the Minotaur story, too ... Poor old Torope! It's not even his fault, the whole thing started before he was even born.
There is nothing wrong with nepotism, so long as you keep it all in the family. (Winston Churchill)


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