On Writing - Basic Stuff

Dororo

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What's writing? Why it does work? What's exactly a "narration"?

Writing, or to be fully honest "narrate", is the most important art of them all. It's the art of testifying the universe.

To do it, you'll use a trick. A mind trick.

To write something good in your life, you shouldn't focus on "conflicts" or structure or models - try to focus at first on how human brain work. Without an human brain that experience the story, nothing will work. The reader brain come before everything else.

The INCOGNITA GAME
Let's go by the incognita game. You can notice it in the same way you read.
The narrator give you imperfect pieces of data. Your brain memorize such pieces of data. And immediately try to rationalize them in a coherent manner - the brain can't accept void. It does guesses and contextualize the data. Sometime even by trying the absurd. If not, it just put such data on hold.

Anyway, to notice, being those "memory slots" the brain doesn't care when they were collected, it just use them - the same way you build stuff with Lego and you don't care when you purchased each single block - you'll try to build that spaceship anyway.
That's why your brain accept "Checkov Guns", change of perspective, flashbacks and entwined structures - memory is neutral toward the "narration" time.

That's the core of narration: a stream of related but messed up (delayed, mixed, splitted) data that you can practically drag on forever.

The narration proceed, with data on top of old data, or giving new stand alone informations. The brain build up a castle stone by stone, guessing each single time where the stone should fit.
So, for example, a character can act misteriously - the reader just register the fact. Later, even many and many pages later, you can tell why he did such actions, that were misterious or even "illogical" at the time. THAT'S IMPORTANT, try to find some example in your best stories to understand the mechanics behind. Even dialogues more often play the incognita game, by revealing the meaning later.

THE ENDING
The ending is the deciphering key that solve the premise, and tell if the reader mind castle is good or not.
The ending can tell you're correct, the prince save the queen.
The ending can tell you that, despite all your guessing efforts, there was a secret (but plausible) key: the prince wasn't about to save the queen and instead... Your mind got a lot of fun by rearranging all memory tidbits with the new key and find again perfect coherency.
Both work, sometime you want reassuring stories, sometime such mind game of cheating.

The only ending that doesn't work is the one that contradict the collected data you gave: both for lack of focus, both 'cause you tried for a shocking twist without ambivalence on the data since the start.
For such reasons, is better if you have an overall idea of your plot ending. Not the exact facts, but the kind of ending: linear or twisted? That should change what data you deliver in your narration.

NARRATION MOTIVATION INCARNATION
Now, why an human brain should spend his time by collecting data?
Let's call it INCARNATION.
The Incarnation is what compel someone to collect unrelated pieces of data and be happy to do it.

Since the premise, the whole incognita game hint that the ending will teach something the reader need. The story, even the simplest one, is a kinda journey in the future.
The brain want to know somethingg and experience something, but it's unaware of the path and the outcome. The story drag you in with the incognita game and teach you what could happen.

Let's take a german bildungsroman as an example. In such genre, young boys left the family to seek fortune. Probably a lot of vintage german boys had such dream, as the genre was strong. Such boys faced pains, immorality and crime, and get back to home stronger. The wish was "I want to leave my home", the narration tell "you can and you should do it, but those events could happen to you, be ready".

Now you should analyze each story by the reader wish and what the story try to teach.
Being a little accultured to the story period will be great: german boys nowadays are different than vintage bildungsromaners, for example - that's why you got literacy courses.

Each young kid want to live great escapes and adventures with their cats: Pokemon.
Each adolescent wish for more power to overcome difficulties: Dragonball.
Each kid is allured by misterious and forbidden stuff: creepypasta.


Simple stories teach simple lessons. A fable tell a simple morality fact: kids don't want to follow parents lessons all the time - obviously a wolf can eat them if they do.
Complex stories teach complex lessons. In the Lord of the Ring, Frodo thought that by sacrificing himself he could find a goal for his own existance. He got an adolescent desire for death. He wasn't heroic at all, he wasn't at any time. In the end Samwise stop the final sacrifice and Frodo leave with Gandalf and Bilbo, the only two people he does feel as "a family", to a far frontier.
Do you want to sacrifice yourself? That's not the solution to your problems.

TOOTHPASTE CAN'T FIT AGAIN THE TUBE
Just a quick reminder.
A guy face a perilous quest to save the world by destroying an evil artifact in the same cove of the antagonist.
End.
Does this line above excite you? No? But this EXACTLY a complete story! That completely fit the Hero's Journey! So IT MUST BE perfect!
As you noticed, Hero's Journey doesn't determine the quality of a story on his own. In fact, such models are NOT - N O T!! NEVER! - used to write stories, but only to categorize them.
Does the story fit the HJ? It doesn't? That's not a parameter that determine the story quality.
Retro.engineering doesn't work, as some online marketer try to sold you. By starting from the model, you can't obtain a story, like you can't come with water by shaking a bottle (while you can check if the water fit the bottle).
Don't go by structures to build up your story elements - use any structure you find around to check the pace of the narration AFTER THE FIRST DRAFT.
That's really important and I wished to have you notice it before many other things: that cheap online divulgation is doing damages.
Again: use any story structure only ater the first draft is done, to eventually check the narration pace. Don't begin by "my hero need a journey with high and low risks, conflicts..." - that's NOT how novelists work. Believe me.

DRAFTS ON DRAFTS

Human brain again.
Do you think to be able to come with a story the first time you try? Impossible. Not 'cause you're stupid, it's a matter of figuration - yes, human brain at work.
The very first time you create a story from the cold void of nothing, you'll use a cerebral area that tap into idealizations.
Your "left brain" try to be precise about what is telling you, and focus on colors, dresses, positions, and spoil you secrets, intentions and so on - you're practically reassuring you that everything is plain, logical and "true".
This is the "unverse genesis". You can write it down if you want for. It will atrociously sucks.
And all writers in this universe knows that the first draft will sucks. They know already and are not scared of it.
They simply "rewrite" the thing from a descriptive language into an evocative one.
Maybe twice. Maybe thrice.

Is part of the writing job, and you MUST do it. You must rewrite the thing. I do. Everyone did. You should do it.
The evocative language can skip many details ("That woman wore red") in favor of a prose that focus more on having the reader mind come with something on his own ("A girl that everyone want to know more but not to marry entered the room").
As imagerycould be still alive in your brain, it's better if you type down the story and leave it alone some month on a shelf. Really. TRY TO FORGET IT. That way in the editing you'll face the story again like a reader: using such words for evocation (not to "rememeber" your own validated imagination).

Many writers hide the story from 6 months to one year.
Those that doesn't, have an editor that does the job.

THE LAST HINT

Movies are not books. When you see someone quoting movies to tell you how to write, flee. It's a scam.
Screenwriting is a different art than writing novels. Two different and differently competent figures do these jobs.
If you want to write screenplays, mind that screenplays have an entire different language and logic that normal prose. If someone tell you that Star Wars is the best plot example, have them read The Master and Margarita, and shut them down. Or, who knows, Oblomov - the story of a man that do nothing. A great book.

So, to resume:
  • The premise hint that the story will talk about something the reader want to experience. Try to know readers - and people in general.
  • The story talk about what could happen if they actually go for that route.
  • The story itself is a mass of simple data that the brain collect and continually guess about, until the final key that confirm or rearrage his guesses.
  • Messingg, delay and hide data is how you cme with an engaging story.
  • Don't use schemes to come with your stories - use them after the first draft.
  • Prepare to rewrite the story many times.
  • Read more and don't pretend to write movies. You're not about making a movie.

Do you know that this is the whole knowledge that you need to narrate?

Now, these are fundamentals, but I suppose they give strong bases to work on.
 

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