What do you think to this plot? (brief)

(130 Posts)
SineadTemptation Tue 10-May-11 19:34:57

Jist of it is that main character was a bully at school to one girl inparticular.

She becomes an adult, has kids of her own, feels guilty about her bullying behaviour and searches for the girl she bullied on facebook. Finds her, realises she's led a pretty crap adult life and makes it her mission to help her achieve more.

Things go ok for a while but the whole thing brings back memories that the bullied girl had actually surpressed and whilst the main character focusses on helping her build some amazing life, the bullied girl is actually plotting revenge.

Very, Very early stages yet but I'm thinking it will involve adultery, theft, humiliation etc etc as well as a bit of light comedy?

Would you give it a go?

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 19:40:27

I think that anyone seriously saying "think to" should be writing nothing else than junior school grammar exams. Sorry.

SineadTemptation Tue 10-May-11 19:46:08

Well, that's helpful hmm however I'm not asking for opinions on my internet grammar. I don't tend to take that very seriously.

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 19:48:24

That's an incredibly harsh post and unnecessary Cote! hmm

It sounds good to me. Most novels have the same basic plot, they are just written in very different ways. I think you should write it, what do you have to lose? Best of luck smile

ninah Tue 10-May-11 19:50:46

I quite like the victim turning on the reformed bully dynamic. If you could make them believable characters I think this could work extremely well. I'd keep it fairly simple and concentrate on the dynamic between the two individuals. You could make it really quite sinister if you wanted. Another thing to consider is whose pov you are writing from, and how far you will keep the reader in suspense ... liking it, myself

ninah Tue 10-May-11 19:52:31

I love a good revenge novel smile
can't write them though. find it really hard to be understated and convincing enough

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 19:59:08

Perhaps not "helpful" if OP only wants encouragement, but my post was definitely "necessary".

If OP is so far from the correct use of the English language as to write "think to", her aspirations of becoming a writer to do not seem realistic to me.

And seriously, if you think "most novels have the same basic plot", you can't have read many good books.

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 20:01:20

She's not asking for a critique of her writing. Have you nothing better to do with your time then knock people down? hmm

BluddyMoFo Tue 10-May-11 20:01:25

Am liking the plot idea, go for it Sinead! grin

SineadTemptation Tue 10-May-11 20:04:38

Cote, you obviously take this very seriously and good luck to you - however I have no aspirations to be a bestseller author and I certainly don't vigorously check my internet posts for spelling and grammar mistakes - I save that for my creative writing, you know?! wink

Thanks for all the helpful comments. I was thinking of writing both from the bullied and the bullied's perspective but not sure how I'd get that to work.

SineadTemptation Tue 10-May-11 20:05:44

oops, that was meant to say both the bully's and the bullied's perspective! ((hides from Cote))

ninah Tue 10-May-11 20:06:46

can't see a 'think to' in the op, am i missing something here?

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 20:06:55

I'd imagine that two perspectives would be quite a challenge Sinead. I like the plot though. smile

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 20:07:26

Title ninah.

ninah Tue 10-May-11 20:07:55

you'd have to do the body of it in third person then I suppose

ninah Tue 10-May-11 20:08:39

ooops yes! grin

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 20:10:39

It's only a title, not an application for the man booker. grin

BluddyMoFo Tue 10-May-11 20:11:18

So the bully is trying to make amends, would we feel sorry for her then or be on the bullied girls side when she takes revenge?

BluddyMoFo Tue 10-May-11 20:11:53

Or will I have to wait and see?

Oooh look at me, I'm already hooked!?! shock grin

coffeeaddict Tue 10-May-11 20:15:17

Why can't 'think to' be considered slang/dialect/contemporary vernacular? Perfectly acceptable to use those in literature, especially on the Man Booker list. smile

disgustedperson Tue 10-May-11 20:16:14

Snigger at Cote! If people judged my grammar and spelling on here they'd NEVER guess that my work has been published, performed and broadcast in the UK, Australia and Canada!

Snigger again!

OP I think it has some promise, I think you should go on with it.


belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 20:16:53

It's perfectly acceptable in speech. smile

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 20:23:59

No, "think to" in place of "think about" is not "perfectly acceptable in speech", actually.

I haven't said anything about the plot because I have a feeling that OP only wants to hear encouragement.

Anyway, have fun girls smile

BluddyMoFo Tue 10-May-11 20:26:05

She asked for opinions on the plot not the thread title.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 20:50:06

So? Surely, this is the first time ever on MN that an OP got a comment that she had not asked for.

If she intends to write a book and hope to publish it, learning to speak proper English would help.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 20:50:56

... this is not, rather.

Cote - that's what subs do. The writer writes the story and someone else sorts out the grammar.

BluddyMoFo Tue 10-May-11 20:56:10

Ooooh no did you make a mistake in your post? Thank god theres not anyone around to go on and on and on about it while ignoring what your actual post was about.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 21:08:41

iPad acting up and deleting a word is hardly the clear evidence of shortcomings in mastery of English language that "What do you think to this plot?" is.

Besides, I don't intend to be a writer smile

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 21:18:49

'iPad is acting up. wink Back to junior school you shall go.

TimeWasting Tue 10-May-11 21:24:23

Wow, this place is harsh. grin

Personally I consider chatting on an internet forum to be a form of speech. I wouldn't write 'think to' as anything other than dialect, but as it's part of my dialect I would use it on a forum.

Sinead, the plot sounds interesting. Agree that it would need to written in third person. Unless you wanted to do it in the form of emails/facebook updates.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a good example of a modern version of this novel form.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 21:37:14

No, belle, there is no "is" after "iPad" in that sentence, where iPad acting up is compared to OP writing "think to". No "is" after "OP" and no "is" after "iPad".

I'd love to go back to junior school, though smile.

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 21:38:48

I didn't really like school, it was very boring.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 21:41:45

Since when is "think to this plot" is "dialect" and if it is, which region of the UK is this dialect spoken? I am genuinely interested.

JeremyVile Tue 10-May-11 21:43:35

I like the sound of the plot.

Cote - You're not right.

QuintessentialPains Tue 10-May-11 21:44:18

<sits down with a bucket of popcorn>

<loving it when Cote is on form>


QuintessentialPains Tue 10-May-11 21:47:09

It really has to have a fantastic potential, if an editor, reads through pages upon pages of garbled English, and decides to invest time and money for a sub to clean it up.....

oh well.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 21:49:10

Perhaps, only those of us who liked school and took learning seriously are irritated by such poor use of English coming from a wannabe writer.

OP - Most people on this thread are clearly forgiving souls, but in your place, I would not write "What do you think to my draft?" in your future e-mails to publishing houses.

JeremyVile Tue 10-May-11 21:50:53

Books are published without editing?
Really? Standard part of the process, I thought.

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 21:51:23

It appears that you're the only one who is seriously irritated Cote. You need to get out more wink

JeremyVile Tue 10-May-11 21:52:27

Are you feeling a bit blue today, cote?
Bit inadequate maybe?

Chin up, tomorrow's another day!

sparkle12mar08 Tue 10-May-11 21:52:53

In terms of the actual plot, I think something very similar has been done by Ben Elton - 'Past Motem'. You should look at that first.

TimeWasting Tue 10-May-11 21:53:39

Have I confused dialect and slang? I can't tell if you're being sarcastic, the " are ambiguous.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 21:56:41

I do need to get out more. To loud, thumping clubs where I won't offend anyone by talking at length about their mistakes grin

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 22:00:06

The " are hardly "ambiguous". They are quotation marks and used when quoting others. Like when I just used them to hug your "ambiguous" smile

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 22:00:37

Everyone makes mistakes, there's a tactful way to point them out though and telling someone they belong in primary school isn't one of them.

Dialect and slang are different. Slang is far more informal, such as 'I'm off for a slash.'

Royalcucumberchopper Tue 10-May-11 22:04:56

Sounds like a great story, I'd read it!

BluddyMoFo Tue 10-May-11 22:10:24

Its bad manners though isnt it...is that worse or better do you think than occasionally not talking the proper Queens English all the time like wot Cote does?

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 22:15:18


CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 22:27:54

Is it "bad manners" to point out that multiplication tables are essential knowledge to someone who aspires to be a mathematician? I don't think so, but feel free to disagree.

Friends in the publishing business say that it is an extremely hostile environment, where book drafts (especially first drafts from unknown authors) are critiqued viciously and without mercy. A thick skin and the ability to bounce back from criticism having learned a few lessons are apparently very useful character traits for wannabe authors. I don't think OP is offended, but if she is, maybe this is another thing for her to reflect upon re her choice of profession.

JeremyVile Tue 10-May-11 22:32:12

OP probably isnt offended.
Shame, cos you've gone to a lot of effort.

belledechocchipcookie Tue 10-May-11 22:34:56

It depends on how it was pointed out. I would be offended if I were advised to return to primary school for not remembering the 7 times table. wink

It's incredibly competitive according to my editor. I don't think the posts on mumsnet represent someone's true ability though.

TimeWasting Tue 10-May-11 22:37:11

Cote, I'm reading what you're writing in received pronunciation, but the " are definitely coming across like this.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 22:43:26

Well, people who don't know multiplication tables don't generally need to be told that a career in mathematics is probably not the best option for them. However, for some reason, everybody feels they can write the next Bestseller. They might not be wrong, ironically, judging by the pathetic excuses for prose in some Bestsellers we have read in our book club.

I'm currently reading Middlesex and would recommend it to aspiring writers, just to see how good some people write. I'd recommend it to everyone, actually, as it is a fantastic book.

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Tue 10-May-11 22:44:02

I'm v bemused by the 'all stories are essentially the same basic plot' line. Don't understand or agree with that comment at all.

The plot proposal overall sounds okay - it would have to be v cleverly written to sustain the interest though, I think as it could so easily descend into 'bunny boiler' cliche territory without careful consideration.

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 22:44:32

Time grin

I will try not to confuse you with quotation marks from now on.

You could write point of view of characters in alternate chapters.

('Think to' perfectly acceptable see Shorter Oxford Vol II page 3282 column 2 about 20 lines from end of page.)

JeremyVile Tue 10-May-11 22:50:50

('Think to' perfectly acceptable see Shorter Oxford Vol II page 3282 column 2 about 20 lines from end of page.)


Was that the dramatic twist toward the end of the book?

Shocker, didnt see that coming!

<flicks forward to get to reaction from antagonist>


CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 22:51:12

It is as perfectly acceptable as the name Chardonnay.

I think probably colloquial (as in 'just to see how good some people write.' cf. the possibly more acceptable 'just to see how well some people write'.)

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 22:59:45

It's almost midnight here and I'm about to turn into a pumpkin, but in my last post for tonight, i would like to post from Cambridge dictionary online:

verb ( CONSIDER ) /&#952;&#618;&#331;k/ (thought, thought)

[I or T] to believe something or have an opinion or idea
[+ (that)] I think (that) I've met you before.
I don't think Emma will get the job.
"Do you think (that) you could get me some stamps while you're in town?"
[+ noun or adjective] Salmon used to be thought expensive/thought a luxury.
[+ to infinitive] He was thought to have boarded the plane in New York.
What did you think of the film?
What do you think about this latest government scheme?
I think it is important to learn English.

I don't see a "What do you think to". And I can't argue with that last sentence smile

Maybe if you can post a link to your Short Oxford, we can see if it says "perfectly acceptable" or "used by some illiterates, so yes, not unheard of, but in no way correct English".

CoteDAzur Tue 10-May-11 23:02:32

Yes, barbarian, that should have been "how well" instead of "how good".

Good night, everyone smile

Poor Pumpkin (for I perceive you have already turned). Think on, before you make such unreasonable demands! I cannot post a link. It is a real book, sitting here on a real (editorial) desk. You will find it in any good library though. ("Shorter Oxford" not "Short Oxford.")

(eating popcorn and enjoying the fight)

The plot has potential. But then again most plots do - it all depends if the characters are good and their dynamic works well. I think it's definitely worth a try.

Cote, I've always been a grammar pedant, but then I moved countries and now I write in English that is not my first language. Now I have to rely on sub editors as I'm hopeless with prepositions (among other things). Fortunately I found out if the ideas are good you can get away with poor grammar. It's not the ideal, but it can be done.

QuintessentialPains Wed 11-May-11 07:57:19

I guess there is a reason behind having Creative Writing and Pedants Corner as separate topics.

...and never the twain shall meet, and so on.


QuintessentialPains Wed 11-May-11 08:03:57

And whilst this has been extremely amusing, I guess, from a linguists perspective, it would all depend on whether you subscribe to a prescriptive or a descriptive grammar. IE whether language should follow strict rules and "good" language is language which adheres to these rules, or whether language is fluid, and in change like people and cultures. Only one such view would be subscribed to in Pedants Corner, I suspect. wink A linguist I know is totally thrilled by text speak because it gives her a chance to study development of language as it happens, at great speed. Usually language takes a long time to develop. Whereas another linguist would tear her hair out at the disintegration of language as we know it. hey ho!

And to be honest, having had the pleasure of reading both Plato and Homer in original, I know which one I prefer for beauty of language.... grin

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Wed 11-May-11 13:53:25

This thread becomes increasingly interesting when one considers that 'innit' and 'thang' are now being added to the dictionary. It makes 'think to' seem no less accurate but certainly far less offensive!

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:01:28

I'm waiting for 'safe blood' to be added. I shall then move onto a deserted island and become a hermit. wink

NerfHerder Wed 11-May-11 14:04:21

Amusing Interesting thread.

As an aside- how should 'jist' be spelled? Is it 'jist' or 'gist' or are both acceptable? (sorry, not near a dictionary at present)

SineadTemptation (an amusing name!) - the plot sounds okay to me, the execution will determine whether or not I'd read it. If you don't intend to be a best-selling author, may I ask what your intention is in writing it? Is it for personal reading only, or do you intend to approach a publisher? Thanks.

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:08:16

The little box on the corner of my screen says 'jist' grin

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:09:27
NerfHerder Wed 11-May-11 14:21:36

Ha! Either then grin
French- gesir, Latin Jacere... tomayto, tomato.

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:26:45

I think it depends upon the context?? I'd say jist as in a vague idea, I wouldn't use it in a text though but that's just me.

RubberDuck Wed 11-May-11 14:32:00

'books have the same basic plot'

I'm wondering if plot and structure are getting confused here because they are two very different things.

Many books share a similar structure - this is the framework you hang the story on in a way the reader expects. The places where conflict and tension rise, the distinct separation of acts, the dark moment when you believe all is lost before it all turns around for the ending.

A huge variety of plots can all hinge around the same basic structure but feel very different to each other.

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 14:37:28

Cote - "I'm currently reading Middlesex and would recommend it to aspiring writers, just to see how good some people write."

"So what do you think of Eugenides then Cote? How does he write?"
"Good, Bloof. He writes good". hmm grin

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:38:01

Sorry, I was tired last night. I'll pick on Romeo and Juliet. This plot has been used many times, like in Westside Story. Structures are also very similar, in a childrens book there's a handful of basic structures, like the reluctant hero.

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 14:40:14

Oh sozzle OP - thought your plot sounded rather intriguing. Two points of view would be a nice way to tackle it - unreliable narration on the part of at least one undermining the account of the other, so to speak. So for instance, one could desribe an event in terms of the kindness and support of her friend; we as the reader would be only too painfully aware of the underlying malice & vengeful motive <has been reading too much Matthew Lewis grin.

wordfactory Wed 11-May-11 14:45:39

OP - I think the plot has legs.
Both characters have a decent story arc.
How will you structure it? Will you write from both characters points of view?

As the posts about you never becoming a writer because you used incorrect grammar etc BOLLOCKS.
I have had five books published, soon to be six. I have sold them in lots and lots of countries. I have sold the audio rights and the large print rights and the film options...I am dyslexic. I have terrible grammar.

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 14:46:42

On plot vs structure (sorry for cluster-posting: bored at work) - the plot is generally thought of as the chronological sequence of events that constitute the narrative.

But the structure of a novel need not take a temporal-linear structure, with one thing happening after another: it can unfold those events in any way the writer chooses.

So for instance, you could tell the tale of Humpty Dumpty <proves is cultured> in the ordinary fashion, or perhaps begin with the King summoning his horses and men to a scene of eggy desolation and yolky destruction; have him questioning the aghast passers-by as to what the devil has happened; and then have a peasant step forward and recount the tale.

The two stories would have the same plot, but different structures. And stuff and shit.

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:50:13

You said that so much better then I did Bloofer blush.

wordfactory Wed 11-May-11 14:53:01

For me, structure is always more important than plot. How you tell the story, rather than what you tell is what makes the difference between a good book and a great book.

This is also the way that we writers keep ourselves challenged I think. There are only so many things that can happen in a story...but you can play with so many different routes.
You can make it really really difficult for yourself grin

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 14:53:12

Don't blush Belle, or I will too! grin

cherryburton Wed 11-May-11 14:53:41

I'm a writer and an editor.

I say "what do you think to that", dunno if it's general Northerness or a bit more specific, but anyway. I do talk and often post using some peculiar regionalisms but I know the difference between when to do so and when not. And as I tend to be informal with friends (and MN) I wouldn't expect to have my writing/editing skills called into question on the basis of how I communicate in a non-work related setting.

In a nutshell, although I'm enjoying your comments Cote - I think you're a bit harsh on the poor OP. Is she still about?

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 14:57:44

I think structure is more individual then the plot, how the novel is written is very personal. I don't think about how I'm writing, I just write. I'm not sure if it's the best plan but it works for me at the moment. grin Do ask again when the agent tells me to piss off though. confused I am currently scratching my head in an attempt to work out if I've put the commas in the correct place.

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 15:04:08

Belle, are you about to send work to an agent? Forgive me if this is well-trodden ground: I had no idea there was a CW thread, and am intrigued!

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 15:08:40

I've already sent it. Apparantly it has 'a lot of potential' but it needs work. It's been sent to an editor, I now have it back and am 'working' on it. I have to send it back when it's feeling better. confused

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 15:09:36
BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 15:11:37

Oh Lord you all have an actual thread grin grin!

Brilliant, it's like a year-long NANOWRIMO!

Top work on the potential! Don't worry about having to keep going over it. All writing is re-writing! Can't remember who said that, but he or she was terrifically important, so you know. Must be troofs.

belledechocchipcookie Wed 11-May-11 15:16:33

Yes, it's been there for a while. smile It's very helpful.

I'm not 100% sure about the commas before speech and if there's a capital letter at the start of the speech after the comma. confused I think so? 'Can I have your iPod?' Tom smiled hopefully, 'it will need a good home.'

MumblingRagDoll Wed 11-May-11 15:23:47

I have to add that Cote's thoughts about a mathematician needing to know his/her timestables is not relevant....writing is an art, rules can be broken and bent.

Irvine Welsh wrote some books in dialect...not even remotely grammatically correct.

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 15:31:01

I've been lurking Belle!

Yes, stylistically you need a capital letter after the comma. It should also really be a full stop or a colon rather than a comma, but as I guess this is just an example I won't wank on and on about why!

NerfHerder Wed 11-May-11 15:52:39

Mumbling- Mathematics is also an art; people obtain MAs in mathematics; it is a subject of great beauty.

MumblingRagDoll Wed 11-May-11 16:01:45

I have heard it described as an art Nerf but there are no right and wrong answers within writing....one can break rules and come up with a piece which is totally outside the usual...there have been writers who could barely grasp grammar and who have been successful.

ninah Wed 11-May-11 17:13:12

oh god not that old arts v sciences jihad chestnut
op your plot obv has something! Just write it good now grin

BlooferLady Wed 11-May-11 17:24:21

Yeah OP write it really, really good. It's only when you write good that you get on in this life <really not prepared to let it go> ...

Where has OP gone? I want CW fred friends dagnammit <stamps foot>

Punkatheart Wed 11-May-11 19:41:21

Rather dismayed that a question asked by a young writer has been hijacked by unpleasant pedantry. Also it is rather ironic that it appears to be intellectual bullying of a sort. Especially as Cote has made several mistakes in her own post, including ending a sentence on 'for' - a preposition. You cannot write off someone with one mistake, even the publishing industry is not that bitchy.

I proofread and trust me, you would be quite shocked how many (quite famous) writers struggle with spelling and grammar. They have deadlines and they are pressurised, so to pick over a sentence when 90,000 words is required would be madness. That's where an excellent editor comes into play. Different role. Of course a manuscript is preferably picked over by a editor before submission, if it can be afforded.

OP, I hope you are still around and that some petty person has not stamped on your dreams. If you feel the plot is burning in your mind - write it out, try it.

I am sure that you will 'write it good' indeed.

CelebratedMonkey Wed 11-May-11 21:09:05

Cote, it's not so much that you're wrong, but rather that there's just no need to go on quite so much about the title of the thread, when the OP was seeking advice about her actual post. It comes across as malicious.

I've worked in publishing and have signed up a few new writers (nowadays I'm just another wannabee). Generally I'd agree that publishers want people whose writing is very polished - there's isn't perhaps the time or money to do the level of editing that might have been done in the past - but there is always exceptions, and an occasional error is really no biggie. You wouldn't want it in a query letter, but really not so important on a thread about plot.

Fwiw, I think the plot sounds okay, though if your primary character is the bully (or they share equal time, or bully goes first), you're going to have to make her sympathetic early on or a lot of readers just won't care about her fate.

CoteDAzur Thu 12-May-11 08:37:14

CelebratedMonkey & cherryburton - My initial post was a simple comment. The only reason this subject got dragged over several hours was because others denied that a good command of the English language is a prerequisite for writing good books.

I am not talking about spelling mistakes or even grammar mistakes, which can indeed be corrected in subsequent editing. Imho, "think to this", like "could of / would of / should of" is symptomatic of actual linguistic shortcomings. I would not read a book that features either phrase, unless they are used for characterization purposes. Not that such a book would be published, of course.

Reading this thread (especially comments like your "make your character sympathetic or people won't care what happens to her"), I realize that perhaps the books people here have in mind are very different to the ones I read. Some of my favorite books have the most unsympathetic characters imaginable, like the one losing his mind in the throes of mental illness in J G Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition". I'm not a fan of Hannibal Lecter books but they have sold very well and I can't imagine that is because readers sympathized with him.

Is it in the genre broadly described as "chick-lit" that such concerns manifest themselves? Characters need to be nice and lovable, otherwise readers will not care about the story? I am asking because we have read a few books in our book club that were clearly written for a female audience (like Memory Keeper's Daughter and the truly awful The Saving Graces), and reading their Amazon reader reviews, I was surprised to see such comments. They were also very badly written and curiously devoid of profound reflection and even complex sentences, so maybe people on this thread are correct, authors of this genre are not required to be particularly good in their chosen language.

CoteDAzur Thu 12-May-11 08:56:46

Meanwhile, re the laugh-fest Bloofer et al had yesterday over my mistaken use of the word "good" - I don't intend to write books and I have never claimed to have perfect command of written or even spoken English, especially since I am not a native speaker.

Still, don't let that stop you from rolling on the floor laughing at what is clearly a hilarious situation hmm

BlooferLady Thu 12-May-11 08:59:48

Nah, it's still funny grin

wordfactory Thu 12-May-11 09:35:04

cote I think when people say characters have to be likeable what they really mean is that they have to engage the reader.

A reader has to care enough or be interested enough to read on and discover the character's story arc...I always say my characters, even the ones who do hideous things, have to be seductive rather than likeable. Wich is why writing passive characters is buggery hard.

Punkatheart Thu 12-May-11 09:42:40

Intellectual snobbery is also rather amusing. Unreliable narrators and unlikely characters certainly proliferate in literary novels. 'The End of the Affair' is an example. Many more risks are taken in that particular genre. But all chicklit is not necessarily cosy and appallingly written.

Time is quite an important factor in writing books - there is a lot more pressure on authors to finish quickly. So yes, bad books do get written. I try not to read them with a professional head on.

I will repeat, you cannot write someone off from their chosen career through one mistake. It is daft.

By the way, that should read 'grammatical mistakes' Cote - not grammar mistakes.

wordfactory Thu 12-May-11 09:59:49

Thinking about writing as a mastery of grammar and complex sentences etc entirely misses the point.

Good writing is about so much more...dare I say that thing everyone chases...voice.

I've just finished Room and there is not a complex sentence in there...ditto A Curious Incident...ditto The Behaviour of Moths...

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Thu 12-May-11 10:06:50

'Room' is flawed because it uses a strangely adult vocabulary in places, whilst maintaining a very simple sentence structure. 'The Behaviour Of Moths' is just stupid and is a good example of why plot is equally as important as good writing - the writing here is fine but the plot is ludicrous.

Books where plot is enough to allow occasional bad writing to be ignored include the Harry Potter series and (to a lesser extent Wolf Hall). A book where no amount of plot will allow appalling writing to be forgiven - Daphne by Justine Picardie.

belledechocchipcookie Thu 12-May-11 10:36:38

I liked Harry Potter, only the first one though as I found the other's far too repetitive. Publishers place time restrictions on authors once they are signed up, she would have had far more time to write the Philosophers Stone so has stuck to a similar structure for the rest. The last book was terrible; it had so much potential and was clearly rushed.

I'm not saying a good command of the English language is not important cote, I wouldn't be spending my time looking at the words that I've used and examining my grammar if I didn't believe it was important. I don't agree with your initial comment though, it was harsh and unnecessary. There are far better ways of telling someone to think about their writing then 'I think that anyone seriously saying "think to" should be writing nothing else than junior school grammar exams. Sorry.'

Punkatheart Thu 12-May-11 11:03:29

I am just reading Wolf Hall and I would disagree that it shows bad writing - although I am not that far into it.

Good points, especially about voice. Fascinating too how some books resonant. Also how they appeal at different times and stages of your life. Anyone noticed that?

CoteDAzur Thu 12-May-11 11:35:00

wordfactory - I haven't read the other two books that you have mentioned, but there is a reason why "Curious Incident..." uses simple vocabulary and sentences - It is written from the perspective of a 15-year-old on the autistic spectrum.

CoteDAzur Thu 12-May-11 11:45:08

Punkatheart - I like "the voice" of narration where it is exceptionally good like in Netherland or in most J G Ballard books, but that voice is created through masterful use of the language and not by some inner charm emanating from the author.

By the way, that should be "some books resonate", not "some books resonant" wink

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Thu 12-May-11 14:08:46

Wolf Hall - bad writing imho for these reasons:

1) it is stupidly overlong and much of it is unnecessary padding and becomes boring (a good editor would have made her cull it)
2) the constant present tense thing is really irritating
3) the reference to 'he' when it could be one of several characters is just clumsy

ninah Thu 12-May-11 16:28:08

I totally agree that a character need not be likeable to be fascinating.

wordfactory Fri 13-May-11 09:52:46

cote the fact that the entire book was written from that character's perspective is the point I was making.

Writing an entire book from one point of view and never erring from it is a huge huge challenge. To do it from the point of view of such a character as in Curious Incident is a tour de force. Ditto Room and The Behaviour of Moths.

Imagine a story where you can only say what the main character actually witnesses. No opportunity to explain what is happening elsewhere or give any information that the character doesn't know.
That is hard.
Now imagine that story told from the perspective of someone inarticulate, perhaps wit a very particular world view. A person who doesn't notice or pick up the sorts of things that a writer usually uses to entertain their reader.
That is beyond difficult.
Now imagine each and every sentence uses only the vocabulary/imagary/sentence structure that that character has. Never deviating.
Almost impossible.

Whilst complex sentences and authorial narration ring your bell (as they do many readers of course), as a writer, I would say that is the easy bit. Writing a book where the usual writerly tools are not available to you takes real skill.

Sometimes we pull it off and sometimes we don't.

wordfactory Fri 13-May-11 10:00:38

punk I absolutely do think books resonate more at certain times.

And I would say that since becomming a writer I notice the skill involved in books far more than I ever did.

I see dismissive comments from readers, particularly those who fancy themselves as a bit cultured like...and I think 'you have absolutely no Danny La Rue just how difficult what that author was trying to do.'

In my last book I tried to write five or six scenes from the point of view of someone with autism. Unbelievably hard. And I reread A Curious Incident and The Behaviour of Moths and thought WOW.

Punkatheart Fri 13-May-11 10:40:10

I think of Picasso - for no other reason than he could draw superbly. He was truly a master of the pencil. But he chose to experiment, try other avenues - actually move on inventively from each point. When people look at his paintings and use words like 'childish' I always want to spin them around the room. Similarly, writers who write from childlike perspectives generally have a mastery of language - they then have to pick the appropriate words out of that vast box that is language. Yes, that does take enormous skill.

CoteDAzur Sat 14-May-11 09:22:43

Profound reflection and complex thoughts are not the only things that "ring my bell". I agree with you, it is very impressive when a writer manages to consistently remain in character throughout the book. Curious Incident is not the best example. Try reading Nick Cave's And The Ass Saw The Angel.

What I can't stand are books with simple plots and superficial thoughts, written with a 200-word vocabulary. Most Bestsellers, that is.

You seem to be saying that these books are written thus because they are told from the viewpoints of simpletons, which is an impressive achievement by their intellectual authors who are making a superlative effort to keep with the dumbed down voice of narration.

I disagree. Those books are written in simple sentences, with a limited vocabulary, and linear plot lines because that is all their authors are capable of. I'm thinking of shockingly badly written Bestsellers 1000 Splendid Suns, Memory Keeper's Daughter, The Book Thief, The Saving Graces, The Truth About Melody Browne, etc.

CoteDAzur Sat 14-May-11 09:43:21

Punkatheart - Tell those who say Picasso's work is "childish" to look up Cubism hmm There is nothing simple or childish about Picasso's work.

This is a subject I know a bit about, having studied History of Art. Picasso was a very good painter in the traditional sense of the word, before he started with the Cubist movement. The idea was to paint the subject in time, with multiple planes visible, from many different perspectives, rather than as still life like a bowl of fruit.

Punkatheart Sat 14-May-11 10:43:33

Read my post. That's exactly what I was saying. He was a master of the traditional and then moved on, experimenting with concepts and methods that still influence the art world today. I have also studied History of Art. But there will always be those who look at a deceptively 'primitive' or 'childlike' painting/novel and not understand the history or the journey.

I thought that a lot of writer friends were being snobbish about Dan Brown - perhaps a little jealous. I then tried to read one of his and it was depressing. Lazily written, sensationalist tosh.

Jackson Pollock and Gorky are two of my most beloved artists, although Gorky was better when he became less derivative.

CoteDAzur Sat 14-May-11 13:18:55

I read your post and that is not what you were saying.

Picasso's later paintings only appear childish and unsophisticated to the ignorant.

The books I was referring to are childish and unsophisticated.

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Sat 14-May-11 13:31:25

Word Factory - I take it you meant me when you mentioned dismissive comments from readers? Since I have an English degree AND can write fairly well (have had a couple of bits published though only poetry and non-fiction pieces) AND read hundreds of books a year, I actually think that I do know something about the writer's job, as it were and am therefore able to make comments that whilst perhaps being dismissive are certainly intelligently considered.

And I stand by what I said about The Behaviour Of Moths - so there. grin

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Sat 14-May-11 13:34:25

COte - Why ON EARTH did you read 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter' you silly person? It's obviously I book you would hate! I made the same mistake but at least I have the excuse that I'd read all 13 of my holiday books in Greece and was reduced to reading the crap left behind by other visitors to the apartments! It was monstrously bad.

I liked The Book Thief though.

CoteDAzur Sun 15-May-11 08:29:45

I had to read it for our book club. Arrgh. It was torture. I ended up counting the number of times the words shimmering and glimmering were used in the book grin

The Book Thief had an OK premise, but it was not developed well, imho. I was especially disappointed with Death, who could at the very least be as interesting as Lestat in Interview With A Vampire but was instead rambling about the color of this and color of that, and frankly seemed to be about as intelligent as a lobotomized turtle hmm

belgo Sun 15-May-11 08:33:06

grin at CoteDAzur, I have been desperate for someone to notice the all 'think to's in the thread titles (seen mainly in Style and Beauty). I cringe every time I read it!

ColonelBrandonsBiggestGroupie Sun 15-May-11 11:13:36

Terry Pratchett's Death is probably the best one because HE TALKS LIKE THIS. smile

RosieRed Tue 24-May-11 22:21:15

Oh Cote, go and jump off something.
a. There is such a phenomenon as dialect and prepositions differ between dialects. Americans say 'different than' whereas I would say 'different to'. b. this is a 'talk' forum, i.e. people don't refine their posts. c. Were Sinead to knock a book out and get a publisher interested, I would hazard a guess they'd bring in a person called an 'editor' to look at the language. I am sometimes privileged enough to edit the work of really fabulous authors and I've never seen an MS yet that didn't have at least one construction that pulled me up short.
If I wanted to be bitchy, I'd suggest you might enjoy editing but since you've clearly got no sense of humour or understanding of register, and since you've apparently never heard of the famous dictum regarding the very limited number of plots in literature, I'm guessing you've not got much of an Eng lit background.
But obviously I wouldn't actually say it.

CoteDAzur Thu 26-May-11 16:38:40

I'm guessing that you haven't read the thread before you resurrected it, Rosie, because most of what you said was previously mentioned and refuted here.

Like, for example, the preposterous notion that "think to" is dialect.

Do feel free to educate us as to where in the UK people use "think to" in place of

CoteDAzur Thu 26-May-11 16:41:38

I'm guessing that you haven't read the thread before you resurrected it, Rosie, because most of what you said was previously mentioned and refuted here.

Like, for example, the preposterous notion that "think to" is dialect.

Do feel free to educate us as to where in the UK this dialect is spoken, because the last person to suggest this (over two weeks ago) couldn't.

CoteDAzur Thu 26-May-11 16:43:02

I've had both English Literature and American Literature at school.

Still, if you believe there are only a limited number of plots in all fiction books, you really can't have read many good ones.

Punkatheart Thu 26-May-11 17:14:52

Firstly, it is not strictly correct to end a sentence on a preposition. 'For' is a preposition.

Secondly that should read 'hopes' and not 'hope.'

Finally, I think you must have read or even studied English and American literature at school.

CoteDAzur Thu 26-May-11 19:51:01

What on earth are you talking about? hmm

If you were picking at my posts, I'd suggest you read the ones where I say (1) I'm not aspiring to be a writer, (2) I've never said my English is perfect, especially since (3) I am not a native speaker of English.

Oooh, I'm so ashamed that I missed an "s" at the end of a word in one of the two foreign languages I am rather impressively fluent in hmm

Punkatheart Thu 26-May-11 20:43:48

Fine. I was being facetious. But it is unpleasant to constantly attempt to spoil the dreams of a young writer - then come back and 'kick her' again. My post was petty but yours are bordering on being cruel. To pick pick pick is odd.

The brave follow their dreams. It is up to professionals to decide if a person has the potential to be a writer. I am a published writer and I know exactly how difficult it is in the publishing world. Complete perfection is not expected. There are editors who can shape up any weaknesses, who can iron out dialect issues.

This is boring. Back to writing. I do hope OP that you are writing and submitting. It is an exciting field and mixing with other writers can be very inspirational.

CoteDAzur Sat 28-May-11 19:38:54

I have not come back to this thread to taunt OP but to answer replies, most recently from Rosie who resurrected the thread from a two week hiatus with a post directed personally at me.

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