• Member Since 27th Nov, 2011
  • offline last seen Nov 17th, 2018

Soundslikeponies


Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

More Blog Posts127

  • 365 weeks
    Stepping Down from Fanfic Writing; Focusing on Life, Career, Game Dev

    This blog post might not come as any surprise given the last new chapter of anything I posted was a year ago. I meandered away from the site for some time, unsure if I would feel like coming back. I'm making this blog post because I'm pretty sure now at this point I won't want to write ponyfic any time soon. I really regret leaving A Darkened Land unfinished, since I did truly enjoy writing quite

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    14 comments · 1,494 views
  • 391 weeks
    An Update

    After being silent so long I guess I should start by saying this isn't a gloom and doom type blogpost, heh.

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    8 comments · 799 views
  • 404 weeks
    Unpopular Opinion #6: Learning Theory Can Kill You

    Okay, maybe "kill you" is a bit overdramatic, but "clickbait" is sort of a theme of these blog posts' titles anyway so yeah.

    I recently came back from Bronycan where I spoke on 3 separate hour-long writing panels. I got some pretty good words of encouragement from people saying they learned something, and actually in talking that much about writing I felt I learned something too.

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    6 comments · 1,010 views
  • 405 weeks
    My Slow Writing and Life Update

    I'm 4th year University student studying Computer Science. I'm into writing, art, programming, and game development. I tend to plan far in advance for the future, and previously I've mentioned A Darkened Land will likely be my last novel length fic.

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    2 comments · 614 views
  • 406 weeks
    Bronycan Details

    Hey there! So I'm all set for Bronycan and they've got the schedule up on their website.

    In a surprise turn of events, the coordinator approved of all of our panels! That means I'll be sitting in as a panelist on 3 of the 4 writing panels our little group is organizing. Here's the times/topics for all four:

    Friday:

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    1 comments · 586 views
Aug
25th
2016

Unpopular Opinion #6: Learning Theory Can Kill You · 1:30am Aug 25th, 2016

Okay, maybe "kill you" is a bit overdramatic, but "clickbait" is sort of a theme of these blog posts' titles anyway so yeah.

I recently came back from Bronycan where I spoke on 3 separate hour-long writing panels. I got some pretty good words of encouragement from people saying they learned something, and actually in talking that much about writing I felt I learned something too.

Also we had a ton of fun with pony-themed drinking games back at the hotel.

35$ for a core deck. No regrets.

The last few days have been pretty eye opening for me as I've been continuing to learn art, got to hang around TJ Pones and his art a lot, and have tried putting into words some ideas I have about writing (alongside my co-panelists).

Okay, time for the educational part.

Analysis vs. Intuition

In pursuing art, I've been watching some videos by a guy named sycra. Many of his videos are long and rambly, but his way of thinking clicks with mine and I feel I've gotten a lot out of watching them.

Relevant part is at ~24:23

In the above video he talks about how to practice art and what it means to develop an intuition for something. After watching the video, I've realized both that I don't have an intuition for drawing (but I already knew that) and that I do have an intuition for storytelling and writing (a conclusion I came to based off how seemingly easy it's been for me to hop around different genres and styles).

Lately I've felt like all blockbusters sort of blur together for one primary reason: pacing. Basically every good blockbuster released in the past 3 years has had the same style of pacing: everything is as jam-packed as it can be and nothing ever "lingers", everything moves ahead as fast as it can. Usually the end effect is a total lack of mood/atmosphere--or at the very least a weak one as they only ever take the time to haphazardly build it. This is the reason watching Guardians of the Galaxy (which I love despite this) feels the same as watching Frozen.

The common school of thought in teaching writing and teaching art is to teach students as many formulas and guidelines as possible (a body is 8 heads tall, etc). It's why you can sometimes tell which school a person went to by their art.

The clip above (which you should watch if you haven't) goes to show how a student who learns theory differs from someone who goes and builds intuition. The illustrated point being: a student who spends time experimenting and developing intuition will be able to create much more expressive eye-catching art than a student who can draw "good" things by staying within the boundaries of formal teachings and formulas. What was interesting about this, is that I think my friend and co-panelist at Bronycan, Gary Oak, is probably in the latter camp. It's something we've brought up contrasting opinions on at just about every Bronycan for 3 years running. Gary is a great writer and has come up with some great stories, and I'm not saying my ideas are in any way better than the ones he has derived from his professor's teachings. I also don't think he's stringently in that latter camp so much as maybe his foot is caught in the door of it.

To briefly go wet noodle on my opinion here: good teachings are of course a useful tool to have as a writer. However, I think they do perhaps lead to a school of thought which is limiting and restricts a writer's full potential. At some point you need to go beyond them. You need to develop your own guidelines and "rules" based on your own experiences and sense of taste.

Point being, my advice to authors is this: experiment, experiment, experiment. If you don't already, watch your sentences closely. Every story is made up of sentences, and good stories are usually made up of good sentences. Experiment with language and grammar in an effort to develop an intuition for it. Write a paragraph long exercise describing Canterlot as seen at a distance in 3-5 different ways. Now do the same but for Rainbow Dash dodging a breath of dragon fire. Ad nauseum. Every time you sit down to write a story ask yourself what you plan to get out of it as a writer--what do you plan to experiment with in that story? Try a story which tackles character growth. Try a story which attempts to be somewhat philosophical. Try with each story to take on some storytelling aspect you want to try and get better at.

Until now I've struggled to answer the question "how do you develop a style?" but now I think I have something of an answer.

Style is developed through practice and the culmination of all the little preferences and opinions you come to on your own. To come to these things on your own, you must experiment on your own. "When do I show, when do I tell?", "How do I express the right amount of sadness for this character?", and "What parts of my story could I just skip entirely?" These are all case-by-case questions which you can answer on a case-by-case basis by developing an intuition for them. I touched on this briefly at the advanced writing panel, calling it "artistic convictions", but I think intuition may be a better description of it.

My school of thought on writing changes drastically year to year, so I can't make any claim of how good this advice is, but these are my most current up-to-date thoughts on learning and improving at writing.

Thoughts? Questions? Favorite flavor of chicken wings?

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Comments ( 6 )

Huh, interesting post. I will watch that vid if I have time.

P.S. Also, I have the core deck too!!XD

Every story is made up of sentences, and good stories are usually made up of good sentences.

I hate to say this, but I don't actually think that good sentences have much to do with good stories.

That's not to say that you shouldn't write good sentences - you should! They're important! Indeed, writing good sentences is one of the most important skills you can develop as a writer.

But I don't think that writing good sentences is really what leads you to writing good stories.

Good storywriting is a very macro skill, having to do with plot, pacing, being able to correctly identify what is and is not a complete story, understanding characterization and character development, ect. It has to do with flow and form.

It is possible to write many beautiful sentences, and still put together a story that isn't worth reading. Indeed, this is more or less what purple prose is when we call it out as a sin - it is good sentences without a good story.

If your story is bad, writing good sentences won't turn it into a good story.

Style is developed through practice and the culmination of all the little preferences and opinions you come to on your own.

To be honest, I think most people develop styles because they come up with a way of writing, and then stick with it.

I almost always write in the default TD style. But there are times when I write in different styles, or deliberately changed up how I wrote. The Legend of Falling Rocks, Buffalo Brave was written in the style of Native American legends. The Collected Poems of Maud Pie were written in Maud's style. I've got a half-written story written as a footnotes comedy, which is an attempt at emulating Horizon's The 18th Brewmare of Bluey Napoleon and Ghost of Heraclitus's Equestrian Civil Service stories.

And even within my own style, I've tried writing stories completely without dialogue to force myself to do something new.

I'm not the only one who does this; Horizon has multiple ways of writing stories. Cold in Gardez has more than one way of writing stories as well. I've seen a few distinct styles out of GAPJaxie as well.

I think most people simply find one style, develop it, and stick to it. But I think there's some value in trying to write in new and different ways, to try and emulate other styles, because it can help you write better, not only in the new style, but also in your original style.

I definitely felt like I learned a lot in your panels this year. That doesn't mean I'm about to start writing stories, as I don't have any that I'm burning to tell, but I feel that I did gain a few new tools for thinking about the stories that I read.


Basically, they shall sing of you in the halls of Valhalla!

If your story is bad, writing good sentences won't turn it into a good story.

Absolutely true, but I believe conversely that if your story is full of bad sentences, a good plot won't turn it into a good story. At least not by the standards I have for what I enjoy reading.

there are times when I write in different styles, or deliberately changed up how I wrote.

I'm completely guilty of this too. I would be surprised if there were a person who wrote pure horror and pure comedy in the same style. I think even across variations there is a common underlying style that comes from preferences. It's not just in the language either: Tarantino has a very recognizable style of storytelling. David Lynch, Stephen King, and Chuck Palahnuik too.

You can, for example, attempt to write in the ostentatious manner of which many among the older nobler educated class of classic English and late American literature so furiously tried to pave their words by.

Or you can speak short and curt. Lend a punch to your sentences. And finally on occasion allow a sentence of more medium length and stormy temperament to ring out longer, louder, and truer--yet never losing track of the simple language which makes up the style.

The gangly, shadowed woods of the Everfree forest may give you desire to write as some fantasy authors do: with a moon of tarnished yellow and a night devoid of starlight. A fleeting description of the trees' bony, outstretched fingers, beneath which a deeper shadow is cast.

A style of writing isn't maybe as apparent as the drawing style of an artist, but I think there are many famous authors who have a common style between different books. You can try to give a style an accent if you want, but there's usually still some recognizable elements underneath it.

I wonder if this is one of those things that could be writer/artist dependent?
In other words some folks might be better at intuition than others?

Maybe this is also dependent on experience level too?
Can you have intuition for something if you only did it for three times or do
you get intuition after the ten thousandth time?

You're touching on what I currently like to call the Street Learning Method of writing. Essentially, the informal approach. It's what all writers here take to some degree.

For one, we get to approach the study of writing from a different angle than the classroom, and not just in the obvious way in which fanfiction differs from fiction. With fanfiction you read stories which interest you, or come recommended by those you trust. If you dont like a story you can stop reading it and move on.

This provides massive benefits during crucial learning stages. Not being forced to grapple with a story that is too far beyond you, or with which you cannot relate (which prevents emotional attachment, and thus knowledge about evoking emotion); not having the motivation bled out of you; being far better able to learn what you like and don't like (which will teach you so much), by actually getting to choose between stories you like and don't like.

Also, you read and write stories about something you've developed strong, emotional opinions on. That's super important. Probably one of the most important for becoming an expressive writer.

It's not that formal education is bad inherently, it's that most of the teaching isn't great and is dogmatic and regurgitated. And yet, I had one college course which has informed probably two thirds of all my opinions on writing fiction, and it was about nonfiction. So sometimes you do find diamonds. But I think the general masses tend not to.

Could be wrong, of course.

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