Troy Kirby

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Criticism and how to improve your writing based on it

I've received an e-mail or two from readers regarding my use of a character's inner voice. They suggest that while they enjoy the format, the use of italics can be a little distracting. But I'm not going to change that. I simply consider it my style, adopted from about a million other "styles" from other influences.

You can't be afraid of writing. Or how you put things down on paper (or word processor). The fear that others feel is what stops them from doing things. It also affects how they write.

This brings up the topic of criticism.

Notice what criticism really is; a breakdown of how someone likes or dislikes a creation of another. A critic cannot recreate the form of art themselves, if they did, they would be "creating" rather than "deconstructing." That isn't a knock on criticism, except that blind criticism for the sake of criticizing something is rather weak, in my opinion.

If a critic has a specific task of deconstructing the failings of a project, I can understand that. It stems from the belief that the artist did not convey to the critic what was expected or what was received. However, criticism has been altered into a broad form over the last few decades. Now, it is expected that a critic "rip" something because it wasn't received the way that the critic would have enjoyed it. Rather than respecting the rule of art, the critic seeks to change the art to suit how the critic would have liked to receive it.

This also affects how a writer places anything down from the initial puke draft to the final product. Instead of just letting the art fly and choosing after the fact to see what the critics react to, I feel as if writers are starting to write to what the critics might enjoy. By doing this, they are compromising themselves. The critic is not the audience. It is a form of belief which communicates an opinion to the audience and in many ways is a sideshow to what the audience can expect from a piece of art.

That's my opinion, needing to be said, as I just criticized the critics. See, I'm no better than they are.

Before you suggest that I rambled on; that was my attempt. Because I want critics. They tell you what someone who has separated themselves from emotion thinks of your work. And by seeing what the critics think, a long as you take it with a grain of salt, it improves your writing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing more influences for your characters

I thought I would share something that’s been bothering me as I read short stories or novels, especially mass produced ones. They rarely let the characters influence each other.

What I mean by that is how characters don’t react in stories. They simply do their part because “that’s what the storyline says to do.”

My thought is that characters can change the way other characters in the story are pushed. It may change the story altogether.

Writing tools:

Anyone can make art out of a girl with a gun. I think it takes a skilled writer to develop something out of a girl without a gun, who has to do the same thing. That to be separates the “men from the boys” in terms of how someone manages to cope without the very thing which would make their role easier in a story.

An example:

Five men are standing in a police lineup. A woman is behind non-reflective glass, watching with a detective, who asks her to point out her attacker. She squints, says she doesn’t know, but the detective is insistent. Says that he can help her if she doesn’t tell anybody. The woman is unsure, doesn’t know what to do. The detective tells her that he knows the man that did it, he just needs her to point the suspect out so they can bring him to trial. He badgers her, saying pointing to the man on the far left, saying that is the one who didn’t, is he? The woman finally points at the man on the far left, because he looks like he might be the guy who attacked her in the park, because she wants the detective to stop yelling at her. She cries, the detective dismisses the three suspects, he tries to comfort her, the woman backs away, waiting to be alone.

This shows how influence of other people can make your character “react” to something. One pushes the other, but it doesn’t mean a whole influence. Your two characters still breathe, have to think for themselves. It all depends on how you use your writing tools.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Puke Drafts

Everyone has to write a puke draft.

It's the draft where you have a bunch of ideas, you threw it against to see what stuck, and now are in the process of draft two. If there is a draft two. Sometimes, you see that first draft and are disgusted that the pile of bile which you unleashed is just that. A rotten source of nothing but a bunch of words. Whatever the story was there, its not there now, right?

I would suggest that idea is wrong.

You have a great story, hidden somewhere. But you have to fall out of love with something in order to know that you have love for it.

My first drafts are garbage. Pure crap. Every idea I have, some in caps which fill specific chapters, characters change mid-sentence and so may some of the story.

I'm like that fighter who is feeling out my opponent. Seeing what the other side has got. A lot of times I surprise myself. There are ideas that weren't there, characters undeveloped or too developed to be included. Now, there is just the story. That's it, that's fine, that's all that matters.

It's at this point that I begin to understand what I have. Things start changing, quite a bit at first, to help the story breathe.

After a second draft, when I think I have something, I let it sit for about two months. I do other things, take my mind off of it, then go back to the story with a new eye.

But if I hadn't kept up with that puke draft, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to re-write the document as a second or third draft. Nothing is more evident than that faith you have to have in the puke draft.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The examination of character

I guess I am developing a saying. Which is funny because I don't know if you develop it as much as someone else decides to attribute it to you. In this world of the internet, I find interest in how quickly conversations or posts online have been assessed with real conversations with actual people. I've had philosophical conversations which have been maligned in how I present things, even though a portion of which is silly because, I should be able to convey myself as a writer. People want to read anything into what you post, so here is my saying (developing of course):
"If your characters aren't good enough to star in a book by themselves, they aren't worth having even as a supporting cast."
Take that for what you will. I am starting to believe in it. That doesn't mean every character needs to be so colorful that they blind you from seeing the storyline or the main characters. However, they need to be focused enough to run their own lives. Instead of merely waiting for the main character to show up because the storyline calls for it. If you look at each character as their own person, their faults and assets, as well as their abilities and surrounding situations, and if they have enough "character" to exist by themselves, then they are worthy of being in a story.
What really makes a character? Is it that every character needs to have a special talent? No. But that doesn't hurt. Sometimes, it was the way that you convey how they grew up. If every character grows up the same, something is wrong. It makes the reader feel as if the mundane is the norm. That is not to say that they cannot do mundane things such as going to work, but something needs to be happening to show how they are different. Make them enjoyable too. That helps.
I base a lot of my characters on real people that I meet in a bar or restaurant. When people are commonly themselves, guard down, and there is little if anything to impress you on. Sometimes, other venues hold true to finding a character of a person. Because when someone doesn't need anything from you, their true character shines through. No bullshit from them allows you to see them, warts and all. That being said, it is best to be honest with the person in question. That doesn't mean telling them that you are observing them, but interact with the subject in order to see how they take life. Because no one is the same. If they were, it would be an awful waste of space.