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King can, but the question is... Can you?

 
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King can, but the question is... Can you?
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WritersBlock
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Post King can, but the question is... Can you? Reply with quote
A little over a month ago, I found myself in a book store, combing the shelves for my next read. Whilst in this store, I came across a name I am, and many other people are, familiar with: Stephen King. I hadn't read any of his works, and to put things simply, I walked out of the store with a novel of his, called "Misery". The concept behind the idea had so much potential to go wrong, I mean, a story about an author who was kidnapped and forced to write stories? I found the tagline incredibly funny; "Paul Sheldon used to write for a living, now he's writing to stay alive."

Well done, Mr. King, that brought a smile to my face.

I actually found the book to be an enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as subject matter of this nature can be Wink ), but the one thing that I really enjoyed about was the mind of the character, Paul Sheldon. For me, reading the book was pretty rewarding, taking a look into the psyche of a ficticious writer. I loved some of the repetition of thoughts that the character had, in particular, the game "Can You?", which I saw as a game used to assist writers in creating a story that is believable in the realm of whatever world it's written in. You question the plot of your story, and decide whether it's plausible, or more of a cop out, to make sure you're not just including convenient changes in the plot when it suits you.

Now I look at my own writing, and ask myself, how much better would it have been if I had just asked this simple two word question more often?

I've got no doubt that given the situation, the majority, if not all, of the contributing fourth perspective users could successfully come up with a resounding yes answer.

Like in the story, I'm looking back on some of my stories, and asking the follow up question, "Did he?". It's easy enough to say yes I can, but it takes a little more to follow up the potential yes with a confirmed yes I did.

As an amateur writer, I've found that reading and seeing how others have written can be an invaluable practice. I should read more. I don't read a whole lot, but as a whole, I find the reading experience very rewarding, except that in this case, the tips and tricks weren't hidden between the lines, they were written very clearly for me to see. And I can't help but feel that this seemingly simple question has had many more uses all over the place, for instance, on Newgrounds it's considered wise to "think before you post". It all comes down to common sense, really, occasionally stopping to reflect upon yourself and ask yourself the question.

So, if you're writing something that appears to be too circumstantial, just take a moment to stop and ask yourself one quick and simple question: Can you?


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"If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't."-David Zindell: Neverness
Wed Oct 22, 2008 2:52 am View user's profile Send private message
Michael Danton
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Can I? Well sure I can, the trick though is to keep things simple and eliminate as many variables as possible. Conversely, the same is true for a fiction writer, what they want to do is create variables to cast a shadow of doubt over a proposed, pre-considered action.

It's a very good question and it's one that has taken me a very long time to learn. You can take a chance, but it's always better to remove variables -- and in essence, that's my life's plan right now.

In "misery's case, there's this guy trying to get away from a lunatic, the story is basically a foregone conclusion and it's built entirely from his own fears... King's that is. It seems he's spent his whole career making a living out of being terrified and obsessed with noises in an empty house. Good luck to him too but at least he could mix it up a bit... Like a story not being about a writer fighting the hordes of demons and winning in the end, either through his own efforts or Deus Ex Machina bollocks.

There's a lot of great stuff to read outside of a bookstore too... I'll direct your attention to H.P. Lovecraft's Re-animator series. The quality and class of his speech and description just destroys anything 'King' has done (in my estimation of course). Since it's public domain now and you're going to be heavily involved with it in the future. I strongly suggest you read them, they're not long but they're just amazing. I've personally read them half a dozen times...

M.

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Fri Oct 24, 2008 2:04 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
WritersBlock
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I have to agree that King definitely could have taken a bigger gamble and gone for a plot that was not simply about bringing his own fears to life through the means of the character. However, the fact that the book was about a writer, which I assume King implied to be based around himself, makes the story a little more interesting for me to read, as it very loosely gave me the feeling of an autobiography, in terms of how the writer thinks and works.

And as for Mr. Lovecraft, it was not long after you brought up the Re-animator series that I gave it a read. Since his works have come into the public domain, I've bookmarked his wikisource page and saved his short stories to my hard drive. I've read probably half a dozen short stories of his, most of which are absolutely brilliant. For me, he was the one that got me into horror literature in the first place.

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"If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't."-David Zindell: Neverness
Fri Oct 24, 2008 7:08 pm View user's profile Send private message
LazyPint
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WritersBlock wrote:
the fact that the book was about a writer, which I assume King implied to be based around himself


It's probably worth mentioning that nine in ten King books feature a writer as the hero. Other books are metaphors for him also. The Tommyknockers is supposedly about his drug addiction.
Sat Oct 25, 2008 5:14 am View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Lindione
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I actullaly read about 4 books of his "The Dark Tower" Series. He is very good wih his characters and tells a story with a dark look yet his stories aren't cheap in trying to scare you. That is what I think makes him so popular. I could probably never write like him, anything I write is not too character based, and the foundation of the story will more likely be the situation the character is in.
Sat Oct 25, 2008 1:13 pm View user's profile Send private message
Michael Danton
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I've read a collection of his short stories and I found them very dry and uninspiring. Even a few that won some awards... Likely it was a reciprocal trophy giving session but never mind. The only book I've read is "needful things" when I was in my early teens. His style was very hard to understand, I saw the movie too and I still can't tell you what the hell it was all about. Not the kind of writing style that I'd aspire too. In comparison, look at Rowling... Her style is simple and limited without a trace of prose, yet it's an easy read which is probably the prime reason it's so popular.

Lindy, I have the same problems myself... It seems our drama is more situational rather than psychological, frankly I prefer it that way, reading a whole book about how Stephen King feels at any particular time in his life isn't a particularly attractive option for me. If you're a purist schemer like me, you're likely well suited to scripts instead.
M.

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"I wouldn't say abrasive. I'd rather say you're a cool soothing groove with a hint of jazz..."

-Alpheez
Sat Oct 25, 2008 11:08 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
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