Bookdust

Double Fine Group of Fine Writings

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Welcome fellow writers to the official Writing Group of these doubly fine forums of action. I am your smoking jacket, monocle wearing cliche and host, Scarecrow.

*puffs on pipe and bubbles come out*

Within the confines of this safe space you will be encouraged to share freely whatever details of your current writing endeavours you see fit. Don't be fooled though, this is indeed a place of judgement, the very idea is to have your work tested and honed by your fellow authors, so that you can improve, take not what is said here to heart, but use it (or ignore it) as you see fit to improve your work.

We'll pound out some more specific guidelines as we go, but for now, try to keep it within the general forum guidelines for decency, in both regards to the selections posted, and your feedback there of.

With that, let's get productive and constructive.

Edited by Scarecrow

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I once wrote my name and number on a gas station bathroom wall. It was my masterpiece.

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Off to a great start already I see, and what did your audience think of this masterpiece?

Also I gotta go to bed soon, but I'll be sure to share some details of one of my projects here tomorrow, so I'm actually contributing content to the thread.

Edited by Scarecrow

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I'm still getting calls about it.

In all seriousness, I write so much and come up with so many ideas that I'm unable to keep up with myself. Here's the titles of what I'm currently working on:

Five Empty Coffins - a noir western set during the Reconstruction era, revolving around the aftermath of a train heist

Black Orchid - psychological horror set in the 1970s

The Carnival - throwback to campy 80s slasher movies

Under The Black Flag - big pirate swashbuckler tale

The Eye Of The Orient - pulp adventure between an Irishman, an Arabian princess, and two bumbling British soldiers during WWI

Crosshairs - two soldiers, one German and one American, face off in the remains of a bombed up town after both sides have had their forces wiped out, leaving only them to kill one another.

Ballbreakers - savagely R-rated comedy about baseball 

The Mourning After - dark comedy about a dysfunctional family gathering after the passing of the wealthy patriarch and waiting to gain inheritances. Greed, stupidity and murder occur.

The Big Ass Movie - Plot is top secret. None of your business... Yet.

Edited by Noname215

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4 hours ago, Noname215 said:

I once wrote my name and number on a gas station bathroom wall. It was my masterpiece.

So amazing they made an 80's pop song out of it.

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I am working on writing a thing.

I can't tell you anything about it yet, though.

See Tim Schafer metaphor about how "it's like guiding a bunch of colored dots down onto the page and you don't know where they are going to go".

edit:

Wait, I can tell you this much: It is most likely focused on a gang of child friends in Goonies-esque fashion.

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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I'm writing a book that starts with a guy in the middle of the desert hammering a sign into the ground, the start of his own new town. It's my own take on a western story, buy I'm not really following any genre conventions, just aesthetically.

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I'm writing a post-apocalypse story that can probably best be described as Robots meets Doctor Who meets Fallout. Or at least, it will be described that way after editing because right now the whole thing is just kinda boring. 

Current title: It's Never Just Like Clockwork

Edited by Alcoremortis

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I have a few story ideas. 

God Wars - Every 1000 years, the God that we all know dies.  As a result, humans face off in a worldwide tournament to become the next God.  On the quest to this divine ascension, the main characters will track down the Holy Weapons including the Sword of Jesus which is rumored to be the cross he was crucified on and fight any demon who threaten to intervene with the tournament. 

Untilted GTA/Saints Row Story - Political strife has separated Central City, a fictional city that is based on the major U.S. cities.  This story will cover various factions who fight for their turf and against political corruption from the Central City Government.  The gangs include a biker gang, an African American gang, a Neo-Nazi gang, an all-female gang, and a bunch more. 

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One running gag in Ballbreakers is how after the game the team thrashes the umpire Weezer, like throwing him through bleachers, tying him down and placing him in front of a pitching machine, or stuffing him in a refridgerator box and throwing him into Chesapeake Bay.

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Reminds me of a horror comedy I tried writing a while back. Three actors with various degrees of success had starred in a Goonies/Scooby-Doo/Are You Afraid of the Dark style show in the 80s and are reuniting ten years later for a huge anniversary party on Halloween. However, an insane fan of the show uses black magic to pull out the show's most famous recurring villains, who slowly start to meld reality into that of the show.

A lot of stuff I write comes out of childhood love and memories. In this case, it's from old VHS tapes of classic 80s movies and Halloween in general.

Edited by Noname215

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I tend to write for personalities. I come up with a general personality feel that I like and then come up with a character that could reasonably have that sort of personality and then come up with a plot and setting that would work well with it. Somewhere in the middle I just start roleplaying various scenes with myself and get a feel for how the character would act in various situations and then I pick my favorites to be part of the plot. It's kind of a backwards way of doing things, I guess, but it's what keeps me engaged.

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I've found my main focus to be on ironing out the plot to the point of where I've satisfied enough to move on past outlining and actually write the story. It's why the pirate tale has been taking four years for me to do, the plot just continues to change and evolve from what could have been any other generic swashbuckler story.

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My plots are kinda generic, so I figured I'd just write a generic story and get the ideas and setting down, then go back and rewrite it into something more interesting.

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If I ever start to come up with an idea that sounds generic I focus on that aspect specifically to see how many ways I can make that idea more unique. Such was the case for Under the Black Flag, which you yourself once said sounded too much like Monkey Island 2.

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With the current post-apocalypse story I'm writing for NaNo, I'm hoping I'm subverting the genre tropes enough by having the main character be a pacifist android who solves the main problems by talking at them.

Edited by Alcoremortis

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The last time I wrote something for a class was about a man bringing his family to an ice cream shop that actually ends up being the set for a porn shoot.

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The only time I've ever written any fiction for a class was back in my Middle Eastern history class when I wrote an argument between two Syrian brothers over whether or not they thought Syria should stay in the Ottoman Empire. Looking back, I think the Remain brother had the right idea.

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So, if I went with the GTA like story, I would want to go into detail with 10 gangs.  Each gang have their cast of characters, hierarchy, storyline, powers and abilities, vehicles, and kick-ass soundtrack. 

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2 hours ago, AnAnemoneInAnonymity said:

Okay, I'll be the first to do the brave thing. Instead of a "story idea" I'll post an actual thing that I wrote. Kinda.

Bear in mind that this isn't from a full story, nor is it even from a rough draft of a story necessarily. Part of my writing process is to spitball a lot of "concepting" pieces. It's really easy to fire off a lot of ideas for situations / lore / genre or whatever. The hard part of writing is making characters feel real / deep / interesting. And dialogue. Making that feel real and not boring. Making the characters feel like more than just dolls I'm playing with and making do one thing after another that is superficially cool but doesn't mean anything. You know? But what are the characters learning? How are they growing as people? That's the good parts. So I will start with an image or situation with no idea who the characters are, why they are doing what they are doing, what their intentions are, or anything like that. And I sort of just pluck at it and see where it goes in terms of who the people turn out to be. Sometimes it goes somewhere I like and sometimes it doesn't. But this is usually how I get a sense of the different kinds of depth characters in a story could have.

So anyway, blah blah blah, this is a "concept" bit that I did for the thing I'm working on right now. The names are just placeholders. Things to know before you read:

1. The two characters here are boys around 12-ish. Like I said, I'm picturing a sort of Goonies or Stand By Me kinda thing in the end, though that could change.

2. The beginning part mentions "Castle Leopold". This is not a real castle. This story takes place in modern times. Leo is a special sort of kid. He possesses a strange wisdom for his age but also has an intense imagination. "Castle Leopold" is the crumbling remains of an old building that he has declared his own personal castle, basically. Just FYI.

3. Some of the ideas expressed (or that I attempted to express) are kinda vague and high concept, so one of the things I am most unsure about is how "the secret" comes across. It possibly just sounds like nonsense. And the ending possibly sounds cheezy? Not sure. I just wanted it to feel like an ending.

4. I am lazy. The "(etc etc)" thing basically means "some stuff happens here yadda yadda". Like I said, it's more of a concept/sketch to "feel out" a general idea.

5. It doesn't sound a lot like sci-fi here, maybe, but the original plan (unless I abandon it) was aiming in a sci-fi direction, but we'll see.

6. I don't know why I wrote this in the first person? I think because I was reading something in first person at the time. But it wasn't intended to be and may change to third.

Welp. Here goes.

 

  Reveal hidden contents

"Heads up. You're gonna need these," called Leo, tossing me a sack lunch and a bottle of water as he marched up the porch steps. "There's been a change of itinerary. I've decided we're no longer meeting at Castle Leopold."

"No?"

"No. I think you've passed the first test. You've treated Castle Leopold with  the proper respect and have kept your knowledge of it a secret, so today I'm going to trust you with an even bigger secret." At this he paused and looked me square in the eye until he was convinced I grasped the seriousness of his briefing, then he continued. "But it's gonna take most of the day to get there and back, and we're gonna get tired, so we'll need rations."

"You make it sound like a quest."

"It is a quest."

"What kind of quest? For treasure or glory?"

"Neither. Something better."

"Like what?"

"I believe I mentioned this was a secret." He furrowed his brow at me in mock admonishment. "I can't guarantee we'll find what we're looking for, but we'll know it when we do. You'll just have to trust me."

"Well, it's not really clear what I'm agreeing to, but I'd rather be dead than bored, so why not do something unwise? I'm in."

"Perfect! Saddle up, squire." He smirked, pointing at my bike resting against the porch banister. I grabbed the handlebars and hiked my leg over the seat.

"Can I at least know where we're going?"

"Our destination is a harrowing one, I won't lie. But I think you're ready. It's time for you to face," he paused for dramatic effect, "the cliffs of madness."

(etc etc)

He led me, as always, down the old rail path--only this time we rode on past Castle Leopold and further into the heart of nowhere. We rode until nature made it impossible to ride, and then we dropped our bikes and hiked on foot, straight onward through forests, meadows, streams, and oh so many brambles. For hours we hiked. He led me so far out into pure, unadulterated wilderness that I found myself feeling for the first time in my life genuinely nervous about the idea of wolves or bears. I had never been any place like this, miles away from the safety of civilization, where you couldn't see or hear a single other human soul, or any of the cars they drove, or any of the buildings they entered and exited all day, or anything at all that concerned them. Not even as a speck in the distance. Not a street light, not a telephone wire, not even a weathered sign warning me about hunters or the dangers of leaving the path. There were no paths. There was no one to call out to. There was nothing but wild. Out here, it was like humanity had never existed. And since nobody on earth knew where we were at that moment, it was like we ourselves didn't exist. We were just two nothings in nowhere for no reason at all, our existence meaning no more and no less than a breeze sweeping over the grass. And so we continued, deeper into nowhere, where everything is beautiful and dangerous.

"Here we are. End of the line."

I heard him speak but didn't process the words. My jaw had dropped as soon as we broke the edge of the trees. I was in awe of the incredible sight he had led me to.

"Cool, huh? See, back when they pulled up all the old railroad ties after the train stopped running, they just brought them all back here into the middle of nowhere and piled them up in a huge pile. Then they just walked away and forgot about them, and now here they still are, a century later."

It was an unbelievable sight. A literal mountain of aged wooden beams, thick as tree trunks, sticking out like a writhing mass of arms and legs frozen in time. It must have been almost two stories tall and almost a city block wide. Creeper vines crawled up from the bottom like the fingers of mother earth reaching up to pull it all back into her womb.

"Look out for snakes, by the way," said Leo, snapping me out of my awed gape. "I don't know if they're poisonous, but I've seen a couple in the tall grass around here. Big ones. Lots of things crawl and hide inside the holes and crevices of the mountain itself, too, so be on the lookout where you're grabbing on the way up."

"On the way up?"

"We're going up, dummy. You can't just come all the way out to the cliffs of madness and not go to the top. That would be a waste."

"But it's just a pile of wood! Old wood! There's no way that thing is safe to climb on!"

"Relax. Unless you can shake it harder than every tornado in the past century, I think it can withstand your punishment. Besides, I do this all the time. She's solid as a rock."

(etc etc)

And when we reached the top, I saw that the cliffs of madness actually formed a giant circle, like a great wall around an ancient city, but instead of an ancient city in the center, I saw---amidst a field of tall healthy grass---a single tree, growing up through the driver's seat of an old rusted-out studebaker. A squirrel perched on the front like a hood ornament, nibbling at some morsel it had found down there. Leo and I sat down on the most horizontal beam we could find and just looked down at that old studebaker car inside its secret sanctuary, and we said nothing for the longest time.

Minutes pass. It must have been almost half an hour or more of silence before I finally asked, "How do you think it came to be there?"

"Dunno." He pulled the sandwich from his bag and began unwrapping it idly. "Sometimes I want to go down there and sit in that old car, but I never do it. Wouldn't be right."

"What would be so wrong about it?"

"This place always reminds me of those stories where the white explorers crest the top of a mountain range, and they discover a secluded valley with people living there that have been isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds or thousands of years. And then the explorers step right down into it, like crunching their boots down on an untrodden patch of perfectly fallen snow, changing it forever. But I don't wanna do that to this place. I don't wanna ruin it by going down there. I just like to sit up here and look at it and know that it's there. That a place like this exists."

We resumed sitting in silence, chewing our sandwiches and throwing our crust to the squirrels. We sat and looked at the tree growing out out of the heart of the studebaker for so long that time seemed to slow, and it was almost as if I could perceive the tree growing right before my eyes, and the sky growing from the tree like fruit from its branches, and the universe hanging from the sky. And it was in that moment that something happened to me. I felt myself transformed inside by a sudden and deep understanding like nothing I had ever known, and I realized all at once that I now knew the secret. Leo hadn't told me on the porch what secret we were seeking on our quest because it would have been impossible to describe it to me. But he knew that this would happen to me, like it happened to him, and then we would both know the secret. He must have realized it had happened, because he finally turned and spoke again, a certain satisfaction in his voice.

"Well, we'd better head back. We're in about ten different kinds of trouble, you know."

His voice reeled me back to reality from someplace a thousand lightyears away. I suddenly realized how late it was, how far into nowhere we were, and how much time it would take to get out again. We were probably going to be all the way out here in the dark. And worse: we were probably grounded. Forever. Normally I might have started to panic, but something had happened up there on the cliffs of madness.

"That's true," was all I said, surprised at my own calm. "As true as everything there is or was, right?"

"Yep".

"The ocean is large, the sky is far, and the two of us are in trouble."

"Yep."

His replies struck me as offensive understatements. "Is that all you're gonna say for the rest of the day? Just yep?"

"Yep. Yep is all you need. Too many words ruins it. And anyway it means the same thing as all that stuff you just said, if you use it right. Give it a try. You see that over there?" He pointed at the sunset. It was a good one. Streaks of magenta all across the sky.

I suddenly realized what he meant and laughed a little. And then I said, not to Leo but to the sunset, "Yep."

And we all---me, Leo, the sun, and the studebaker---knew what it meant.

 

 

Dang dude, I mean, it's obviously rough, for the reasons you mentioned, but there's so much goodness in here. I love Leo's whole wise beyond his years deal. Your descriptions are also really vivid without being overlong. One place I can see that later revisions could improve is anchoring the dialogue more in the prose, it kind of just floats by itself in places, and I think it might work better in spots if you couched it in some more of those strong descriptions. You got a good thing with expressions of characters, but having the characters doing things and interacting with their environment helps to keep the reader in that space, rather than seeing... Well I see a white space around the characters when their dialogue becomes unanchored from their location. Otherwise this is some great stuff, I'm really curious about and want to see more of it. Thanks for sharing.

Edited by Scarecrow

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1 hour ago, Scarecrow said:

Dang dude, I mean, it's obviously rough, for the reasons you mentioned, but there's so much goodness in here. I love Leo's whole wise beyond his years deal. Your descriptions are also really vivid without being overlong. One place I can see that later revisions could improve is anchoring the dialogue more in the prose, it kind of just floats by itself in places, and I think it might work better in spots if you couched it in some more of those strong descriptions. You got a good thing with expressions of characters, but having the characters doing things and interacting with their environment helps to keep the reader in that space, rather than seeing... Well I see a white space around the characters when their dialogue becomes unanchored from their location. Otherwise this is some great stuff, I'm really curious about and want to see more of it. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for the feedback. I mostly agree with what you said about dialogue. Some of the dialogue in this concept is more important to me than other dialogue. Like the part where Leo talks about how the place makes him feel I put a little more thought into, but honestly a lot of the dialogue is just sort of to move things along, especially at the beginning.

The only place where I might disagree with you a little (not sure) is how you feel about floating dialogue in general, not just in what I wrote. Sometimes this is just a stylistic preference in authors. In my opinion, I like to avoid quotative verbs as much as possible (i.e. he/she/I said, and any words that function like "said"). I also think that if there are only two people talking, and if there is no confusion about which person is talking, it's generally not important to put a quotative verb in there. Similarly, I don't think it's important to attach a description or some kind of blocking to every last line of dialogue. Sometimes it's fine to just have a line or two of dialogue stand on its own. But I agree that if you do that too much, it's too blank. It's one of those things I feel out in the revisions. I feel like it's easier to focus on the dialogue in the earlier drafts and you can add blocking (e.g. having them pour a glass of ale why they say a line or whatever) later on---especially if it's not plot-important but just to sort of fill out the image of the scene.

I'm really uncertain about the whole "secret" thing and the "yep" thing. I kinda know what I mean by it, but it's a very intuitive concept, and so I'm concerned that it just makes no sense to other people reading it. And sometimes when I re-read the "yep" part I'm like "yeah that's okay" and other times I'm like "this is kinda dumb". I welcome any brutally honest feelings you had on that part. Point of clarification: If I go with the sci-fi angle, the intuitive "secret" thing I'm describing here is basically like the protagonist suddenly realizing the existence of the force. (It's not the force in this story, like lightning fingers and telekinesis and all that, but just that idea of a "force" flowing through everything, like in transcendentalism etc). But I want to keep the idea intuitive and mystical like the original force, not stupid and over-explainy like the midichlorian force, if ya catch my drift.

On the other hand, I could see this also just turning into a non-sci-fi Stand By Me type story as well. To a certain extent, stories tell you what they are and not vice versa, so we'll see what this turns out to be.

Cheers!

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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To clarify, I totally agree that the specifics of dialogue are based on author/reader preference. Part of what's fun about this kind of group is that you can get feedback that exposes you to different points of view, and then embrace and reject those different perspectives based on what feels right to you. There's really only the one section where it starts to get a little blank spacey during the start, and you're totally right, you don't want to block every line of dialogue with description, that's too far in the other direction, a mix is good, and the majority of what you shared has a good mix IMO.

The Yep part mostly worked for me, but I can see where you get your concerns, its a very subjective moment. I took it to mean that some things are better left appreciated holistically, rather than over analyzed or deconstructed, that sometimes the best response to something is terse and simple, or simply non-reactive. It makes me think of how I've ruined great moments in my life, by my need to take it apart and process it right there. I don't know if this was exactly the intended meaning behind the moment, but that's what I got out of it, and if you take any stock in Death of the Author, than that has merit.

However, if you're trying to convey something more concrete that connects to a narrative theme, try expounding on that and maybe that'll give you some ideas about how you can revise the exchange to better convey that concept.

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I once flirted with the idea of a mystery steeped in Catholicism about a Holmesian seminarist investigating the murder of a priest shot dead within a confessional, but nothing ever came of it. Mystery is one of the hardest subjects there is simply because if all the backwards work.

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8 hours ago, epic said:

I have a few story ideas. 

God Wars - Every 1000 years, the God that we all know dies.  As a result, humans face off in a worldwide tournament to become the next God.  On the quest to this divine ascension, the main characters will track down the Holy Weapons including the Sword of Jesus which is rumored to be the cross he was crucified on and fight any demon who threaten to intervene with the tournament. 

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."

(>'o')> Matthew 10:34 <('o'<)

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