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Let's take Tolkien's Middle Earth, and the Lord of the Rings, as an illustration: Not beginning at the beginning At the very beginning, Eru created the spirits which would become the Valar, who would in turn create Middle Earth. Or something along those lines. This is described in the Silmarillion. (Which it's been years since I read.) Also in the ...


31

@Amadeus describes an "act of patience" as "not doing". I would argue that an "act of patience" can also be about keeping on doing, day after day, something that is very hard to do - it is about perseverance. As an example, take The Wild Swans, or any work derived from that fairy tale. The main character must knit shirts of stinging nettle for her bewitched ...


16

The problem with an act of patience is that it is just waiting for something else to happen. One way I can think of to make that "exciting" is by making the wait a progression, so incrementally it is happening and the patient character is seeing things happen, and hoping they mean what she thinks they mean, and her imagination is fired up by these ...


16

Having googled Kurt Vonnegut's writing tips, I found several different explanations of tip #5. Since all explanations have some merit (as far as being useful advice), and since I don't know which one Vonnegut actually intended, I'll bring them all here. The first explanation is the one Jedediah suggests: cut as much of the exposition as you can without ...


12

Bathos is not the mere fact of a serious moment being followed by a light one. It is an intrusion of a cheap vulgar laugh into a dramatic scene. It undermines the seriousness of the stakes, the drama of the scene, the meaningfulness of your story. It says "don't take any of this too seriously." Which is why it is criticised in the Marvel Universe films - it'...


12

What he means is avoid lengthy preamble and explanation for a story setup, but really it is hard to understand "start as close to the end as possible" without understanding story structure in general. It is a vague dictum. In a typical popular and commercially successful story, a character is introduced, and within 10% or 15% of the story, something happens ...


9

You are right in thinking both that details are needed - they make the scene come alive, and that the details shouldn't be random. I use the scenery details first and foremost to set the mood of a scene. You use a meeting in a forest as an example. Is your character comfortable in the forest? Does she know it well, is it a safe environment for her? Then she ...


8

Picture the following situation: a passenger aircraft nearly 300 people on board suffers a catastrophic failure, making the plane almost unflyable. The flight crew are struggling to maintain control, to somehow get the plane on the ground while also knowing that they have to keep it away from populated areas because if it does go down, if they lose their ...


5

I've always struggled with sensory details in my writing --I'm a dialog-and-plot kind of writer. But for me, writing details really came alive when I discovered your number three approach. When done right, the details offer you so much opportunity for layered, immersive storytelling. Perfunctory, by-the-book, generic "filler" details definitely aren't ...


5

I like Mark Baker's concept of enduring patience, however, patience doesn't necessarily imply inaction as Amadeus asserts. In the Sci-Fi classic, Stranger In A Strange Land, the concept of "waiting is" is introduced. It denotes a state of action and intention without any focus on the end or when it will be achieved. The focus on time is greatly reduced. ...


4

(This originally started out as a comment on Glastel's answer, about a fourth explanation, but I decided to expand it into a full answer) Write part of the end of the book, at the start of the process. This gives you a target to aim for, a case of "this is where we will end up, now how do we get there". This will allow you to thread foreshadowing ...


4

The new cultures stimulate the imagination. The problems are new, the ways of solving problems are new, what the culture allows is new. Perhaps the technology is new, or so old that we cannot use elements of real-life technology that would solve the problem instantly. Maybe there are no guns, maybe there is no steel or weapons. Solving the same problems in ...


3

I once asked how to make a bored viewpoint character interesting to read and was given a wealth of answers. That particular chapter is now one of my favorites. I also recently read a sex scene in which sex was not mentioned much at all during the act. The first sentence (quite graphic sex) had me squirming about reading what would come next. "I don't ...


3

In order to answer your question properly I feel we need to focus on the sheer base of it, which you so kindly placed in bold. Even though it is difficult to make "acts of patience" the basis of a story, what if that's what we want to do? Indeed, how might we make "acts of patience" exciting? Now, my answer comes in two parts. Defining the Act & ...


3

There's an amazing setpiece scene in the game Uncharted 4 where Nathan Drake is running from an armored vehicle, dodging bullets, leaping from one truckbed to the next, picking off his pursuers, and finally escaping on a motorcycle. It's a masterpiece of movement and action, and had my heart pounding. But then he gets back to his hideout, cheering the fact ...


3

I include detail because I think the job of the prose is to assist the imagination of the reader. If there is resonance on other levels, that's great, but it isn't a necessity in my book. The reader needs to imagine a visual scene, an audio scene, a sensory scene. Just dialogue doesn't cut it, the talking heads and wall of dialogue feels quickly unrealistic....


3

The line between something being an 'interesting/critical detail', and 'fluff/time wasting filler' is a fuzzy arbitrary decision best made on a case by case basis. As such we decide what to cut or what to expand based on what works for our story at hand. There are two key metrics to consider when trying to decide if a section of text really belongs as is, ...


3

"Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer" does not apply on Stack Exchange. On multiple occasions, I've seen people post "answers" that are either sarcasm/jokes, personal attacks, or just plain don't answer the question, and then try and justify it by saying something like, "Well, this is a stupid question and doesn't deserve a serious response." If you ...


2

I think the textbook answer is: Does the detail contribute to the story? If you describe how a character's house is filled with guns and bombs, that tells us something very different about him than if his house is filled with flowers and framed poetry quotes. A detail may prove relevant later. This is classic in mystery stories: The writer casually mentions ...


1

A have long and unpopular theory about the evolution of acceptable story formats. If all human life originated in Africa and you believe the two tribes theory, then the rest is logical. The tribe moving north (Caucasians) were inherently nomadic in nature. Global dispersion upholds this theory. The tribe that remained (Africans) preferred the trusted ...


1

You question prompts a wider question: the expected base knowledge of your target audience. "Loki" is a mischievous Norse god who who has the ability to shape-shift. I'm not in your target demographic but made the link on reading his name. If you continue to hint you'll be insulting the intelligence of readers like me. You run in to other issues. The Norse ...


1

Why this is difficult: dramatic conventions If a description of something is unique and also can't be observed incidentally by the reader, as with a character's highly unusual physical features, you can bet the reader will flag it as a notable detail. As soon as they encounter it again they will draw a connection, and they will quickly map all of the other ...


1

why is the couch brown? Because it's made of leather. Yes, some details are just details. But if it doesn't matter why say it? why is the couch on the left side of the shop? Because there's only one tv hook up and they wanted it to face the TV or some other practical reason...if it doesn't matter to the story WHY, then it isn't relevant to the reader, ...


1

The most fundamental building block of a novel is the scene. A scene either reveals part of the plot or something about the characters; after reading the scene's last sentence, the story has 'advanced' by some measure. Scenes come in two varieties; 'action' and 'reaction'. As their names suggest, action scenes set up action, and in reaction scenes the ...


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