Author Topic: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?  (Read 1646 times)  

Online GeneDoucette

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #25 on: March 11, 2018, 02:38:12 PM »
I checked out your jokes and give them stamps of approval.  8)

I checked out of this thread

Offline kw3000

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2018, 03:27:25 PM »
I watched how Dorothy Dunnet reduced time into narrative summary, it was beautiful. I tried it, found I could do it. Wonderful jump-cuts too, from once scene to another. Same with Patrick O'Brien. Reduced the horrible situation where you are just grinding through one direct scener after another in order to forward the plot when it could well be done with NS, and well-done too.

O'Brien just omits any unnecessary and boring transitions by a fast jump. He is so good at it.

Reduced time into narrative summary - I've never heard of this before, I'm fascinated by the idea of moving beyond that grind you mention 'one scene after another'. I'll be looking into Dorothy Dunnet and Patrick O'Brien's approach. Thanks for mentioning that.  :)

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Offline ShaneCarrow

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #27 on: March 11, 2018, 03:49:06 PM »
O'Brian's jump cuts are pretty hardcore though. You have to pay very close attention to his prose in general, but when I started reading him it was the cuts that threw me. Like, two characters will be deep in conversation over several pages, one will mention he has an appointment at the Admiralty later, and then the very next line - with no transitioning or indication or attribution at all, apart from the subject matter changing slightly - is that same character talking to somebody else entirely different, hours later, at the Admiralty.

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Offline EthelindaW

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #28 on: March 11, 2018, 05:38:06 PM »
Lois McMaster Bujold. alas, rather than inspiring me, she makes me want to throw down my pen and cry "I am not worthy!"

I know what you mean!! She is such an amazing writer.
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Offline EthelindaW

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2018, 06:00:58 PM »
Although I still have a lot of learning to do, I know that reading R.A. Salvatore's work has helped me to write better fight scenes. Other influences in various ways have been Lois McMaster Bujold, Eric Frank Russell, and Elizabeth Peters.
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Offline kw3000

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2018, 06:22:58 PM »
O'Brian's jump cuts are pretty hardcore though. You have to pay very close attention to his prose in general, but when I started reading him it was the cuts that threw me. Like, two characters will be deep in conversation over several pages, one will mention he has an appointment at the Admiralty later, and then the very next line - with no transitioning or indication or attribution at all, apart from the subject matter changing slightly - is that same character talking to somebody else entirely different, hours later, at the Admiralty.

Interesting. I haven't read any O'Brien novels, so I appreciate this insight. I'll have to see if I find it jarring and whether or not I'd find some of what he does useful from a stylistic standpoint and whether I can employ some of his approach in my own work. Are there parts of O'Brien's use of narrative summary that you find useful in your own writing?

Although I still have a lot of learning to do, I know that reading R.A. Salvatore's work has helped me to write better fight scenes. Other influences in various ways have been Lois McMaster Bujold, Eric Frank Russell, and Elizabeth Peters.

Just in reading about narrative summary today, I'd read that Dunnett's approach to fight scenes is considered exemplary as well, so her writing might be worth exploring in that context too.  :)

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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #31 on: March 11, 2018, 06:26:25 PM »
I don't like jarring jumps between paragraphs. That's what spacers are used for.

Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #32 on: March 12, 2018, 04:23:14 AM »
O'Brian's jump cuts are pretty hardcore though. You have to pay very close attention to his prose in general, but when I started reading him it was the cuts that threw me. Like, two characters will be deep in conversation over several pages, one will mention he has an appointment at the Admiralty later, and then the very next line - with no transitioning or indication or attribution at all, apart from the subject matter changing slightly - is that same character talking to somebody else entirely different, hours later, at the Admiralty.

Oh, that's poor writing, not something to be admired.

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Love this. Going to tape it to the monitor.

For me, anything I read I hope helps me be a better writer. I try to learn something from every book, even those bad ones I'm forcing myself to finish so I can brand it into my head to not do that. Unless it's something that's selling like crazy, and then I try to see why, and how I can do it, but better.

Two influences for me early on that stick out are Dick Francis, for his lean, clean style of writing, and his "every man" characters. Then Stephen King for his ideas and how he immerses you into the story. I'm still afraid to re-read The Tommyknockers. That book scared the crap out of me, and I don't want to ever lose that feeling.
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Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #33 on: March 12, 2018, 07:04:50 AM »
On the plus side: Agatha Christie, for insane economy of prose. Her character and setting descriptions are dead on and delivered in the fewest words possible. I wish I could learn to be that precise, but then again, she was describing a clear social hierarchy whereas I'm writing about people in our supposedly classless U.S. society.

On the minus side: Just about any current no-name romance writer of fluffy stories, for paper-thin characterization, objectionable language, outright cheesy plotting, horrible word use, and my favorite, malapropisms. They are a dreadful warning. Even skimming one of those books makes me work twice as hard to eliminate their common errors from my own work.

Offline Word Fan

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #34 on: March 12, 2018, 07:18:25 AM »
On the minus side: Just about any current no-name romance writer of fluffy stories, for paper-thin characterization, objectionable language, outright cheesy plotting, horrible word use, and my favorite, malapropisms. They are a dreadful warning. Even skimming one of those books makes me work twice as hard to eliminate their common errors from my own work.

Great points!

As for me... watching the Andy Griffith Show and All In the Family for great dialog. It often seems to be just throw-away stuff at first but really gives great insight into the characters.

Online Linn

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #35 on: March 12, 2018, 09:38:28 AM »
Oh, that's poor writing, not something to be admired.

Sounds like a technique borrowed from a screenplay - camera zooms in on a character's face will he's speaking, and when it pulls out again he's in a completely different setting. I don't think it translates well to novels. Might be even more confusing in an audio book.


Offline gilesxbecker

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #36 on: March 12, 2018, 10:12:58 AM »
Reduced time into narrative summary - I've never heard of this before, I'm fascinated by the idea of moving beyond that grind you mention 'one scene after another'. I'll be looking into Dorothy Dunnet and Patrick O'Brien's approach. Thanks for mentioning that.  :)
Yes, she is great at it. Check out Pawn In Frankincense.Page 300, look it up. A six-week journey across Syria (ca: 1567) described in a few pages. Great stuff.

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Offline gilesxbecker

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #37 on: March 12, 2018, 10:17:08 AM »
Oh, that's poor writing, not something to be admired.

Love this. Going to tape it to the monitor.

For me, anything I read I hope helps me be a better writer. I try to learn something from every book, even those bad ones I'm forcing myself to finish so I can brand it into my head to not do that. Unless it's something that's selling like crazy, and then I try to see why, and how I can do it, but better.

Two influences for me early on that stick out are Dick Francis, for his lean, clean style of writing, and his "every man" characters. Then Stephen King for his ideas and how he immerses you into the story. I'm still afraid to re-read The Tommyknockers. That book scared the crap out of me, and I don't want to ever lose that feeling.

Why is that poor writing? He knew what he was doing and it works. He'd only been writing for about twenty-five years. I think he had it figured out.

dystopian sounds grim but actually fun abounds
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Offline Kessie Carroll

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #38 on: March 12, 2018, 04:20:50 PM »
Mary Stewart for romantic suspense. 

Watership Down for amazing characters.  Bigwig is still my hero!  8)

YES! I devoured as much Mary Stewart as I could find in my youth, including the Merlin books. They remain such a shining experience in my head that I refuse to read any other Arthurian myth because they don't do Merlin as well as Stewart did.

Anybody ever read any Natalie Babbit? People remember her for Tuck Everlasting, but the book that really intrigued me was The Eyes of the Amaryllis. I had never read a book where the sea was its own character before. It's quite a lesson on how to use a setting to evoke a mood.

Mary O'Hara's My Friend Flicka trilogy taught me about how to turn descriptions into poetry. I want to someday describe scenery as well as she did.

In my older years, the Dresden books were quite a revelation, too. Especially the later books, post book 12, when he really started piling on the feels. We'd get paragraphs and paragraphs about Dresden's inner workings as he tried not to kill somebody, and it's amazing.
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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #39 on: March 12, 2018, 04:26:46 PM »
Anything by Neal Stephenson.

He's the only writer I'll read just to marvel at how he puts words together. They story doesn't even matter.

If you've not read the first few pages of Snow Crash, do yourself a favor and do the free look inside:

https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Crash-Novel-Neal-Stephenson-ebook/dp/B000FBJCJE

I'll never be able to write like him, but it gives me something to aspire to, and that's something I desperately need.

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Offline RN_Wright

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #40 on: March 12, 2018, 04:46:07 PM »
Melville and Ray Bradbury. They took chances.  ;)

Offline gilesxbecker

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #41 on: March 12, 2018, 05:31:05 PM »
Melville and Ray Bradbury. They took chances.  ;)

Ray Bradbury, absolutely. Martian Chronicles and the short story "Rain". That was a little masterpiece.

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Offline WDR

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #42 on: March 13, 2018, 09:55:22 AM »
Pretty much everything and anything I read.

Having an example of good writing definitely affects my writing.
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Offline Jack.Hardin

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #43 on: March 13, 2018, 04:47:23 PM »
Anything by Neal Stephenson.

He's the only writer I'll read just to marvel at how he puts words together. They story doesn't even matter.

If you've not read the first few pages of Snow Crash, do yourself a favor and do the free look inside:

https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Crash-Novel-Neal-Stephenson-ebook/dp/B000FBJCJE

I'll never be able to write like him, but it gives me something to aspire to, and that's something I desperately need.

Will do!

Offline EthelindaW

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #44 on: March 15, 2018, 07:48:14 PM »
Just in reading about narrative summary today, I'd read that Dunnett's approach to fight scenes is considered exemplary as well, so her writing might be worth exploring in that context too.  :)

Oh, good to know! I'll have to check her out.
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Offline Valerie A.

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #45 on: March 15, 2018, 10:10:32 PM »
Pretty much everything and anything I read.

Having an example of good writing definitely affects my writing.

Same here. It doesn't mean I will sound anything like the author I'm reading: it's more about inspiration than influence.

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Offline notjohn

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #46 on: March 16, 2018, 02:30:20 AM »
Hemingway. Learning to be simple is one of the most valuable things I've done.

Yes! Anything by Hemingway, including the failures. I learned as much from the awful Across the River and Into the Trees as I did from the magnificent A Moveable Feast.

And speaking of awful, there was a Netflix? movie recently based on one of the posthumous Hemingways that was pretty bad, but it too was instructive.

If not the greatest writer of the 20th century, certainly the most interesting to me.
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Offline Abalone

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Re: Fiction that has helped you be a better writer?
« Reply #47 on: March 16, 2018, 02:33:21 AM »
Up until two years ago, I read only what I preferred. Now, I read just about anything. Even market analysis reports. It's made me a better writer.