This Writing Life
Writer and psychologist.
View all posts by Ian Hocking
#1 is of greatest importance to me, as it drives everything else. It’s the reason that TV writing teams will ‘develop’ every episode in full detail before someone writes a draft. Writing doesn’t happen until the end, when every part of the story has an identity.
The downside is how it ties in with the unconcious/subconcious part. If you’re working alone, you just have to magically manifest all these brilliant story moments on your own. TV writers have the luxury of a writing team to discuss and develop ideas.
Thanks for your comment, Eric. I find that, these days, if I have a criticism of a piece of work — a TV show, novel, whatever — it often has more to do with it’s identity. In other words, it doesn’t have an overall vision; the director or head writer has to keep a strong sense of the story’s identity and make sure the elements aren’t antagonistic to it.
I’d love to write as part of a team, bet it would be great fun.
Great post, Ian. Strangely enough, reading it just led me to realise the solution for the problem that’s been plaguing me for the past month with my new novel. I owe you one.
Hey, Aliya — thanks for stopping by. Glad to help! Let me know if you need an extra pairs of eyes for your novel…
Hi Ian. I certainly dislike adverbs of the -ly variety in fiction (especially in dialogue tags), and vague intensifier adverbs (very, quite), but there are a great many “stealth” adverbs that are practically unavoidable and aren’t distracting in any case.
For example, in “She still lives there,” ‘there’ is an adverb. In “He needed to get indoors before dark,” ‘before dark’ is an adverb. In “He never arrives on time,” ‘never’ is an adverb.
I agree that adverbs of manner and intensifier adverbs are usually distracting and mean you don’t have the right verb. But without all those little adverbs that only grammarians can identify as adverbs–place, frequency, time, and purpose adverbs–I could never write a novel. (Ooops. ‘Never’ is an adverb in that sentence.)
A great post, Ian, thanks for sharing it. It’s given me plenty to mull over.
It seems to have been a good couple of weeks for genuinely useful “how to write”-type posts!
Thanks for your comment, David. You’re quite right to say that those adverbs are fairly (oops) crucial, and I’m sure my book is full them. I guess I don’t use ‘adverb’ to mean ‘anything that modifies a verb’ — which is just plain foolishness on my part. Those modifiers like ‘there’ and ‘never’ feel different because they seem to contextualise or re-direct the energy of the verb, whereas ‘quickly’ and ‘hopefully’ feel like after-the-fact fiddling…
Thanks for your comment, Shaun. I guess if there’s one thing everyone likes to do, it’s dispense advice…
Yes, indeed–and I know which adverbs you dislike and why.
The question is, Why isn’t there a more precise name for the intrusive little buggers?
Merrily we roll along, using adverbs all day long. I see nothing wrong with that. Why make rules?
Very interesting. I especially liked your comments about structure: I’ve some, er, ‘issues’ with Hollywood’s love-affair with McKee and Campbell, (the recent dearth of innovative movies) and am dismayed to see the cult of Story taking hold of novelists as well. (Go see ‘Adaptation’: insanely clever, the way it moves from exquisite to absurd as McKee’s principles are tacked onto the script.)
I also disagree about adverbs, primarily because every beginner book and magazine article I’ve ever read goes on about them, ad nauseam. They have their uses. Truly, madly, deeply.
Thanks for your comment, Helen. Yes, I think it would improve a lot of stories if more attention was paid to intuition than intellect.
I remain the enemy of adverbs! (Or at least the particular subclass of adverb that gets on my nerves…)
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