Holly Black [userpic]

Crazy Writing Theories

February 26th, 2009 (01:25 pm)

I don't know if everyone does this, but among my friends it is totally normal to turn to one another and ask a very specific question about writing. Then we argue about it until, usually, we come to a fairly staid conclusion, or one of us comes up with a crazy theory.*

I love a crazy writing theory.

I think my love of them started when I worked as a production editor on medical journals in the same office as mroctober. He would come up to my desk on his way to the photocopier and make some writing pronouncement (my favorite of his might be "potential literary romantic partners should never do permanent physical damage to one another" -- it's probably not important why he thought I needed to know that and I still disagree; one imagines, so does Megan Whalen Turner). I have heard editors and publishers make crazy pronouncements too (my favorite pronouncement of all time is probably "bat picture books always sell big.")

As far as I'm concerned, there are two types of crazy theories: theories about reader response and schemes that are going to (no, really, this time it's gonna work) streamline the process. Like, for an example of crazy process-streamlining theories, there was the time I was going to count up the scenes in my last book and use that as a guideline to outline my next book by scene instead of chapter. It was going to be great! Everyone got a chuckle out of that one.

In terms of reader response theories, here's a recent one and the one I was debating with jdparadise in the comments section of another post:

"If a character does something gross it's worse (in terms of reader response) than if a character does something horrific."

For instance, we are happy to read about Dexter or The Talented Mr. Ripley or root for the romance of puppy-killing Heathcliff. But we are less happy to read about someone who picks their nose. The nose-picker (unless we're talking about a kid) better be funny because it'll be really hard to get readers to consider that person seriously as a romantic prospect or as a heroic protagonist. Which is weird, because I'm pretty sure the opposite is true in real life.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have a crazy writing theory of your own to share?

I have to have something to say at Clarion, right?

*in calling these theories 'crazy' I fully acknowledge they might not be 'true.'

Comments

Page 1 of 2[1][2]
Posted by: coppervale (coppervale)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)

My pet crazy writing theory is the one about how Teen or YA books HAVE to have Teen or YA protagonists.

At the SCIBA dinner in Pasadena a few weeks ago, I got introduced to a table full of booksellers as the bestselling YA author whose characters were all middle-aged men.

Kerry Madden's daughter Norah (10) is a big fan, so I asked her if it mattered to her that my character Charles was in his 50's. "No," she answered, "because that's how old he WAS."

Edited at 2009-02-26 06:33 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Madeline "Flourish" Klink (flourish)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
writing

I agree!

I think the problem is that writing calls out the gross behavior (nose-picking for instance) whereas if we met a person in real life, we'd notice it, and unless it was truly incredibly obvious, we'd be able to ignore it.

Writing also calls out horrific behavior, but horrific behavior is raised to the level of 'high drama or tragedy,' and we all like to fancy that we might live in that world. When it actually happens, though, we don't like it, because we can't ignore the actual results of it (the dead puppy, burying the bodies, etc) in the same way we can in fiction.

Posted by: Astres - Kate L. (astres)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
Text // Writing Versus Solitaire

I think I would like to see a whole book full of these writing pronoucments just to see if I could take one and make a story about it.

Posted by: Livia Llewellyn (livia_llewellyn)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
Rendered Briefly Speechless

Just tell them all the crazy shit that my Clarion class did. That should keep them quiet. :P

Posted by: ibukij (ibukij)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
eye soul

I must say I agree with this as well. Usually we do not tend to want our romantic characters to act like real people, we want them to be improved versions of real people.

Example: I love Neil Gaimen, however in American God's the main character spends half of the book peeing. It's in almost every chaper. While everyone does this, I don't really need to read about it, I can assume the character is real and pees without having to read about it in the entire book.

In life it's something that is glossed over, but when you put something in print like the rest of the book it goes into the imagining along with the story filter which is just unpleasant.

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)

Oddly, I like characters peeing in books. I think it can be glossed over when we can assume there's both time and bathrooms. I actually made sure that Val peed on the page in Valiant because that was one of the hard things about living in the abandoned subway station and books that never told me how people navigated that annoyed me.

Posted by: ibukij (ibukij)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ibukij (ibukij)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ibukij (ibukij)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ibukij (ibukij)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Sarah Rees Brennan (sarahtales)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Erin Bow (erinbow)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Phil (satyrblade)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)

Posted by: phoenixrune (phoenixrune)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)

Posted by: even art. even vaginas. (babywitch)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ★♪★MARCY★♪★ (marcyjo)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)

Posted by: Elizabeth Genco (ebess)
Posted at: February 28th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Sherwood Smith (sartorias)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)

First, getting over the sharp envy of having people in your physical space with whom you can talk about writing, instead of being surrounded by otherwise lovely and beloved people who say, "Please don't natter on about that boring stuff, let's talk about something matters, like how are we going to fix the car?/get the laundry done before X/ latest political horror.."

Since I don't get to hear these thing except once in a while, I get all my writing jollies on-line, and I think, I think that sometimes people utter these seeming-manifestos (manifesti?) hoping to bounce them off others.

Since writing isn't like algebra, which has a set progression that is verifiable with tests, we have to talk and argue and in trying to articulate from no that is not what I meant at all, get our ideas from the subconscious to consciousness. Or amend them. Or develop them. And then, argh, argh, argh, apply them.

Speaking as a reader, no. I loathed Heathcliff and wanted him deader than turds on ice as soon as he harmed a puppy. Nosepickers make me laugh, and laughter is good. I want laughter. There is not enough laughter in rl, especially these past eight years of horror in the White House.

Now . . . a nosepicker as a romantic prospect? Well, that crosses over into what I mean by romantic and what not, whether the story is going to take place in intimate space or dramatic space, and isn't it a part of art to edit out the butt-scratching, which everybody does at one time or another, even Mr Darcy? As Nabokov said, these are not real people, and we cannot follow them every moment of the day in order to make them seem real. So why do we choose the moments we do highlight? What do we want the reader to know about this person, and why?

Someone out there is no doubt doing a transformative Pride and Prejudice that isn't as gormless as the ones of the past few years, in which Darcy is wiping boogers on the table cloth because Pemberly is all his shit, and he can do it, and nobody will make a squeak. He will fart on the ballroom floor.

Whether or not people want to read about Darcy being real remains to be seen.

Okay, this is long enough--you can see why my family does not let me uncork.

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)

Someone out there is no doubt doing a transformative Pride and Prejudice that isn't as gormless as the ones of the past few years, in which Darcy is wiping boogers on the table cloth because Pemberly is all his shit, and he can do it, and nobody will make a squeak. He will fart on the ballroom floor.

What I love to death about this paragraph is that you've given him a fabulously arrogant reason for the disgusting behavior that almost romanticizes it. But I still don't know if I could go there.

Posted by: Sherwood Smith (sartorias)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Sherwood Smith (sartorias)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Laura (the_themiscyran)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Books

Make sure you have an intelligent gorilla on the cover! It totally boosts sales!

...

Oh, wait, that one's just for comics and game books.


Here's another - the vampire love interest needs to be balanced by at least a werewolf, and possibly also a normal "human"....*sigh*

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)

And the werewolf always loses to the vampire in a romantic triangle! Another crazy theory!

Posted by: Lizzie (invincible1863)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ibukij (ibukij)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Lizzie (invincible1863)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Phil (satyrblade)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)

Posted by: It's not all rabbits and apples (zeelandia)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)

Posted by: Laura (the_themiscyran)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)

Posted by: KayPee (calzstarheart)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)

Posted by: KayPee (calzstarheart)
Posted at: March 3rd, 2009 12:00 am (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: March 3rd, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)

Posted by: faeensorcelled (faeensorcelled)
Posted at: March 3rd, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Lizzie (invincible1863)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)

Hmm. I've never heard of crazy writing theories before. That's very interesting. I don't think I have any crazy writing theories. Or maybe I call them something else. I don't know. But you've got me thinking. I guess that's good, considering I do so much writing already. ^^

Posted by: Margaret (isil_helyanwe)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)

"If a character does something gross it's worse (in terms of reader response) than if a character does something horrific."

SO TRUE.

Because if you get a seriously horrific character - Alex from A Clockwork Orange, for example - you react to them as psychotic but at the same time really attractive. Maybe it's the attraction of a really messed-up protagonist, the way people find the villain far more interesting than the hero. The hero who picks his nose is just a good guy with a yucky habit. The villain undoubtedly has some amazing backstory and keeps you, as a reader, far more on your toes.

I know if I heard too many of those crazy writing theories I'd begin to see them as challenges. 'Potential literary romantic partners should never do permanent physical damage to one another'? Well, I'LL SHOW YOU!

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)

I'm thinking of writing that one myself...

Posted by: dawn_metcalf (dawn_metcalf)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)

Posted by: reg (shipchan)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
the outsider

I think my favorite one someone has told me has to be 'If a character is gay in a story we to hear or see their coming out story or else we won't believe they're really gay.'
What?
I think the only one of mine that could really count is 'If you write a book for kids, especially younger ones, it has to be truthful and somewhat dark. Kids know the world has evil and bad people in it. If you take that out, the story becomes unbelieveable to them and they won't like it. That's why LOtR, Narnia and Harry Potter are classics. They all have really bloody wars and dark lords in them.'

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)

The coming out story is so prevalent as a structure (especially in YA) that it is a real relief to read something--like David Levithan's fabulous BOY MEETS BOY--with a different structure.

Posted by: reg (shipchan)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)

Posted by: reg (shipchan)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Steve (mroctober)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)

Posted by: reg (shipchan)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)

Posted by: reg (shipchan)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)

Posted by: Emily (raienna)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Elizabeth Genco (ebess)
Posted at: February 28th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Emily (raienna)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)

I don't have any crazy writing theories (though, having gone to the Iowa Young Writers' Studio a few years back, you'd think I would have... I mean, 60 teenage writer geeks in one small area for two weeks straight?) but I do have one crazy reader theory from my best friend from high school:

Trilogies are poisonous. Sequels are only slightly less so.

Why? Because by their nature, if you get hooked on a YA trilogy, or a book with an upcoming sequel, you will be waiting for at least six months for the next one. Oops. Sorry. You've just been poisoned. And your antidote might be a bit...

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)

Ha, ha, ha! Am planning on poisoning you all!

Posted by: Emily (raienna)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

I betcha Neil Gaiman could pull it off.

And this is not an attempt to sound like him:


Diggory studied the misbegotten bit of nose-corn, and waited for the universe to tell him he'd done wrong. Lightning did not flash. God's wrathful voice did not ring out. Cars did not swerve into signposts.

Perhaps if he ate it.

The bit of gummy crust tasted, disappointingly enough, closer to a lick of the salt-shaker than to any sort of actual food. And meteors did not slam into the earth at his feet.

Diggory sighed, and crossed the street.


Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

My stomach turned...

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

Posted by: Phil (satyrblade)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

Posted by: amyleedy (amy0819)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

Posted by: faeensorcelled (faeensorcelled)
Posted at: March 1st, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Re: sympathetic nose-pickers

Posted by: freezing_rayne (freezing_rayne)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
excellent bottom

This is an interesting observation, and I have to agree with you. We tend to perfer murders to people with nasty habits. I suppose this is becuase popular fiction tends to be romantasized aspects of the real world--where things like murder, torture, and revenge can be romantic and even sexy. There is no place for nose-pickers in most people's romantic worlds!
Urban fantasy, your genre (and mine), tends to be able to get away with the grosser aspects. Scenes are gritty and dark already so people aren't so annoyed by, say, Corny waking up and scratching his balls.

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)

That's a great point. A little bit gross is realistic and gritty; a lot gross is something else.

Posted by: dawn_metcalf (dawn_metcalf)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)

Agree with Crazy Writing Theory #6,359!

Gross may be deemed hilarious (anything from CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS to Rygel ala FARSCAPE would do), but it's tough to sell this as a romantic lead or someone we're to take seriously. However, I think another poster was right that if we're in the midst of a "grittier" novel setting, we will sympathize and almost expect more judicious use of force/violence/reprobate behavior -- it worked for Spike in Buffy (playing poker for kittens?!) and certainly Avery Cates in Jeff Somers' THE ELECTRIC CHURCH and THE DIGITAL PLAGUE which rock in the way Harrison Ford owned 'Bladerunner.' Much like Valiant -- it works.

But I have to agree with Theo on the LoTR potatoes. Too many potatoes.

Posted by: Phil (satyrblade)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Save Our Sooj!

Hmmmmm... I admit, it's an interesting "rule," one that impacts in both directions on the main character of my novel-in-progress Holy Creatures To and Fro. She's both occasionally disgusting and potentially cannibalistic. (I haven't decided on the latter just yet, but it's part of the plan.) I'd agree that it's harder to play off a disgusting habit than it is to make bad deeds seem cool. Really engaging characters, however, can get away with almost anything - just look at George R.R. Martin's cast of grotesqueries!

I'd suggest the "guy comedy" approach to gross habits: Almost every guy comedy features characters with disgusting habits; the audience, however, can relate with those characters strongly enough that the nasty habits are (hopefully!) forgiven. Look at films like Animal House, Raising Arizona, 40-Year-Old Virgin, There's Something About Mary, Clerks, The Big Lebowski... even dramas like The Sopranos, Singles or Pulp Fiction feature lead characters with distasteful habits. Those characters, though, are so damned interesting and relatable that their lapses of taste are forgiven. Handled well (as in The Big Lebowski or Clerks), those gross deeds make the characters even more likable.

Which leads to my pet crazy writing theory: ALWAYS keep your audience engaged. They might be disgusted, appalled, horrified or amused by your tale and its characters, but don't ever let them feel bored. Long expositions, pointless details, dull characters, rambling tangents on marginally related topics... they might have been kosher for Herman Melville, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens or J.R.R. Tolkien Back In The Day, but they will not fly now. Each sentence must lead somewhere interesting to your audience, or it must go. Each character of importance must be intriguing in some way and serve a function within the plot, or s/he gets the axe before the final draft. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it! :)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)


I'd suggest the "guy comedy" approach to gross habits: Almost every guy comedy features characters with disgusting habits; the audience, however, can relate with those characters strongly enough that the nasty habits are (hopefully!) forgiven. Look at films like Animal House, Raising Arizona, 40-Year-Old Virgin, There's Something About Mary, Clerks, The Big Lebowski... even dramas like The Sopranos, Singles or Pulp Fiction feature lead characters with distasteful habits. Those characters, though, are so damned interesting and relatable that their lapses of taste are forgiven. Handled well (as in The Big Lebowski or Clerks), those gross deeds make the characters even more likable.


Can you think of a book where that's true, though?

Posted by: Gwenda Bond (bondgwendabond)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: even art. even vaginas. (babywitch)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Phil (satyrblade)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)

Posted by: Steve (mroctober)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:48 am (UTC)

Posted by: Mer (stakebait)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)

Posted by: faeensorcelled (faeensorcelled)
Posted at: March 1st, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
re: guy comedy

Posted by: Mer (stakebait)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
indecisive elves

I think part of it is that in books we are used to assuming that if we are shown something, that something is important. We all know that in real life we all pick our noses and vomit and pee and do gross things, but in books those things are edited out unless they are plot points. So when the gross things are left in, we assume they are plot points, that this is someone who is defined by their grossness. Plus they are, often, the only one we are told about who is doing those things, unless the whole book is to become a symphony of farts. So they become uniquely gross and, by implication, far grosser than anyone else.

But I do think there's an element in real life as well as in fiction where people would rather you be wrong with some grandeur and scope than just pathetic. (Which is not to say we don't have serious problems with both.) It's the difference between the tiger and the slug. The tiger can kill you; the slug not so much. But the tiger has goods to balance that -- it is graceful and appealing to watch; whereas the reaction to the slug is all bad. I tend to put puppy-killing in the slug category, though -- to get the grandeur you really need to kill something that could fight back.

Posted by: Gwenda Bond (bondgwendabond)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)

Right. Maybe it could also work in a HOTT historical romance about Joseph Pujol? :)

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)

Posted by: AmK (thehaplessmoon)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
Distinct Impression

Ooooh. I'd actually have to agree with that theory (the gross versus horrific one). I suppose it has something to do with our brains reading fear (the "normal" response to something horrific) in a similar way to sexual attraction? Also, the context of the event (it being fiction) allows us to explore deep-rooted desires that aren't necessarily socially acceptable.

Posted by: Jennifer Lynn Barnes (jenlyn_b)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)

So there's some reason to think from a psychological perspective that moral disgust and regular old "that's gross" disgust actually operate on the same level- so, for example, people readily describe the idea of wearing Hitler's sweater as "disgusting," make harsher moral judgments when in a dirty room than in a clean one, and think that physically disgusting people are ALSO morally disgusting. Moral disgust and physical disgust even cause the same facial expression a lot of the time, and there's some data that suggests that physically washing your hands can actually reduce how morally culpable you think you are for something.

So, long story short, if someone does something that is horrific, but it is presented in a way that isn't deliberately revulsive, then I think it makes a lot of sense to argue that they're going to come out on top of a character who does something physically disgusting. Because even though logically we know that the horrific act is worse, in terms of gut reaction, the physically disgusting thing is going to engender a disgust reaction (curled lips, "ewwww," revulsion, etc), while the horrific act made palatable might not. And while that initial reaction is something we might override with logic in real life ("no, he kills puppies, that's WORSE than picking his nose"), there's not as much motivation to do so with fiction, so the gut reaction, which is a more hard-wired thing, is going to win the day.

Maybe?

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)

That's really, really, really interesting.

I am totally convinced.

Posted by: Steve (mroctober)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)

Posted by: mallory_blog (mallory_blog)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
pic#46762371

Sure -

I've noticed that if I'm horny and sex or chocolate are just unavailable (for a few days) that material I write is much stronger - my theory is that my sex energy is creative energy and it is tangible to the page...

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)

Or, given your example, possibly your chocolate energy.

Posted by: Gjalga (dishliquid)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)

I'm glad you can sympathize with serious nose pickers. I think my favorite theory is: "you should really only write when you are mostly drunk."

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)

See, now that is a great example of a crazy process streamlining theory. :D

Posted by: Steve (mroctober)
Posted at: February 26th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)

I think horrific is worse. I'm still eager to write a scene of a ghoul eating his boyfriend's pus.

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)

You know this theory was coined for you.

Posted by: tiffanyschmidt (tiffanyschmidt)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 12:20 am (UTC)

My writing theory is that when you sit down to write, something or someone will inevitably come up, call up, show up, blow up, or throw up.

Another theory: the male with the strangest name will end up being the love interest.

My students have all sorts of crazy writing theories too. My favorite: "I put the commas that I needed in AND spell checked, but the computer must have changed it when it printed it out." (got to love those rogue anti-grammar computers)

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)

Another theory: the male with the strangest name will end up being the love interest.

HAHAHAHAHA! That is so true!

Posted by: the fiddler on the green (greyfog)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)

My Mom's favorite theory is that a character must care for someone else in order for the reader be able to care for him or her. I've paid attention on this one, too. As far as I can tell, it's almost universally true, and has served me very well in my own writing. However, it does nothing to explain the success of the tv show Seinfeld.

Posted by: Holly Black (blackholly)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)

Interesting. I am mentally arguing with it, but even in the case of The Talented Mr. Ripley, he cares for one other person. Not more than himself, it turns out, but without those moments of caring the book would be much less interesting.

Posted by: j.d. paradise (jdparadise)
Posted at: March 2nd, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)

Posted by: unwanted_unlove (unwanted_unlove)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)

I definitely agree - gross is worse than horrific.

I know that I, as a reader, anyway, find it easier to sympathize with someone who is horrific. If I'm grossed out, even if I can understand the grossness, it almost doesn't matter - I tend to not like the gross character.

This probably means I'm just shallow - but it's true.

Posted by: kathmuse (kathmuse)
Posted at: February 27th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)

OMG this sounds like fun! I don't think I know anyone who could play it with, though.

~kath

Currently fave read: "Bats in the Library"

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