I write like…

July 29, 2010 at 5:35 am (Thoughts on Writing, Voice) (, , , , , , , , , )

I finally gave in and tried this though not with an open mind and I have to admit my thoughts about this were well justified. Using the prologue from a work-in-progress I fed in various paragraphs and samples into the I Write Like site and according to it’s analysis I write like:

First 200 words: Raymond Chandler (which is an insane comparison)

Next 150 words: Douglas Adams (which is flattering but really quite untrue)

Next 150 words: Cory Doctorow (hadn’t heard of him before and had to google him to find out, no idea what his writing style is)

Next 200 words: Dan Brown (now it is just being mean to me)

Final 100 words: Stephen King (again flattering but untrue).

Now how in one prologue of just over 700 words did I manage to be that schizophrenic? And how can you possibly write like Douglas Adams and Dan Brown and Stephen King and Raymond Chandler all in one cohesive text. In case they hadn’t noticed, they have very different writing styles. extremely different. As in, if they were ant colonies they would devour one another different.

I went into this sceptical about it having any accuracy. I assumed it would make some generic assumption about your writing and spit out the name of someone famous to keep you happy and you would tweet it once, the end. What I didn’t expect was that pieces of the same text would come back with such incredibly different results which makes you wonder what exactly it is looking for in the text.

So I dropped the entire 700 words in and it came back with Cory Doctorow. But if I put the first 350 in it comes back with Raymond Chandler and the final 350 come back as Dan Brown. There doesn’t appear to be any underlying logic here.

Did this give me any insight into my writing? Not really. I’m trying to imagine Dan Brown interjecting into the middle of one of Douglas Adams’ novels and I must say it is an amusing thought but that’s about as far as it goes.

Who do I write like? I write like me and that’s all I can do.

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What’s Your Point of View?

May 18, 2010 at 6:52 am (Character, Death's Daughter, Thoughts on Writing, Voice) (, , , , , , , , , )

After finishing Death’s Daughter I wrote a post over on my old blog about the difficulties of writing in first person.  I made the decision at the time that I wouldn’t be using first person for the next few projects because I found it limiting in that I could only tell the story from one person’s point of view and if that person didn’t know something critical than the reader couldn’t be told that critical bit of information.

I’ve since written two complete works in third person.  One is a train wreck that I will eventually edit and rewrite and work into something usable.  I blame the protagonist, she stepped outside the action one too many times and was out-shone by the entire rest of the cast. Shame really because the concept and the world work really well and the use of third person allowed for such a broad exploration (which might be how my protagonist got lost).

The other was a less ambitious piece as it was aimed at young adults and follows the narrator essentially sits on the shoulder of the main character for most of the story with a few minor deviations. This piece has been polished, to a point, but I’m not sure what to do with at the moment. It should be the start of a series but I’m not really ready to write the next installment and I don’t know that I will be any time soon, so it is cooling its heels while I think it through.

Now I’m starting a third project and it is also in third person. I think it is time to reflect on my choice.

I still love first person. I love being inside a character’s head and feeling what they feel, learning as they learn. As a reader I enjoy it and as a writer I find it immensely satisfying. For character development.

As far as constructing a plot, I find third person much easier to work with and it provides me with more opportunities and avenues to persue. And you can still construct very interesting characters and show their feelings and reactions, though at a slight distance.

I like both. I think I might try my next project in first person again because it has been awhile but I really am enjoying writing in third person as well.

What point of view do you use?

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Thinking Outside The Box

January 29, 2010 at 5:32 am (Planning, Voice) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve always hated that expression – mostly because it gets me wondering why I was put in the box to begin with. Yet most of the time our thoughts are boxed in and closed off. They follow predictable paths they’ve gone over before, never looking beyond the obvious. I don’t like boxes. I have a thought bubble but it is just as restrictive (though prettier because it shimmers all different colours when exposed to sunlight).

As writers it is important that we recognise our bubbles and boxes. If we were to write only what we know then we would never leave our bubbles. Our stories would also get very samey very quickly and we would hopefully get bored with writing it and move on. Our characters would also be very much for muchness and have similar motivations and moral values and thought processes because their writer and creator didn’t stop to think outside of their comfort zone.

How can we think outside our bubble?

  1. Talk to people – all sort of people and find out what they think about things and why.
  2. Read everything. Doesn’t matter if you are interested in it or not. You may just pick up an idea or two that you had never considered.
  3. Practise empathising. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to really think how they might see the world. Try to put your preconceptions aside and really feel as though you had lived a different life.
  4. Sometimes it helps just  to turn everything upside down. Whatever you think, write the opposite. You can tone it down later but just practise being the complete opposite of yourself. It helps to start you thinking about all the possibilities in-between.

How do you start thinking outside your bubble/box?

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Books Don’t Come With a Soundtrack

January 11, 2010 at 5:33 am (Thoughts on Writing, Voice) (, , , , , , )

Maybe the title should be ‘books don’t come with a soundtrack yet’ because we know books are changing all the time and with audio books chances are there are some out there that already have a soundtrack.  However, for this post I am thinking about traditional print books and they don’t have a soundtrack.

I was thinking this because I was planning out a scene in my head the other day for a writing project I am hoping to start just as soon as I settle everything from the move and in my head it had the most fantastic musical score playing behind it. My protagonist was running and there were explosions and there was smoke but through it all there was this fantastic full orchestra and I was quite swept away.  Unfortunately you can’t write in the middle of a story “orchestra plays dramatic music in background” so the scene becomes so much less than what I originally imagined and without the score the entire scene just become fairly flat and i realised that I would definitely need to work on it.

Writing isn’t just about telling stories.  It is about connecting to the reader and captivating them emotionally.  That is what separates a person’s favourite books from a book that was an alright read.  For me the books that become favourites are the ones that manage to replace the soundtrack with the author’s voice.

You can tell any scene about a thousand different ways, unfortunately about nine-hundred of those will be boring, terrible, or completely incomprehensible, which leaves you with about 100 ways to tell the scene that might actually work.  However there is a difference between something that works and something that sweeps the reader away and transports them into the story.

How important is voice to you?  Which authors do you read because of their voice?  I would love to hear your views.

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