Announcement

Collapse

Welcome to Moorcock's Miscellany

Dear reader,

Many people have given their valuable time to create a website for the pleasure of posing questions to Michael Moorcock, meeting people from around the world, and mining the site for information. Please follow one of the links above to learn more about the site.

Thank you,
Reinart der Fuchs
See more
See less

Question to Mr. Moorcock and fellow writers about writing

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Question to Mr. Moorcock and fellow writers about writing

    Hello all and thanks for welcoming me when I wrote as Tetsuo (I was still experiencing the board and didn't know how to register, just threw a name)

    My question concerns the act of writing, so anyone who writes and/or is interested in analysing stories is welcome to comment.

    I was wondering if Mr. Moorcock uses any kind of set up system to write his stories. Do you know the end, or the basic structure of the story before you start writing Mr. Moorcock? Do you develop a basic structure and then add scenes to it? Or do you write straight from the gut, just getting a starting premise?

    Having writen so many books, and always keeping a remarkable level of quality, I imagine you are by now quite confident and you probably already have a reliable work system to go through when you sit at your word processor and start your work.

    I am currently reading several books on writing, and many of them actually dissect story weaving to a very mechanical, and not intuitive at all, process of creating scenes that have to start with a positve point and end in a negative (or the other way round), characters that have certain specific traits, archetipes, story formats (classic format, internal/psychological format/mini plots, anti plots.... They number and pigeonhole stories with all types of names).

    So, the question is: how do you, in your writing, sets up your stories, from the beginning to the end? Is it something new that you start from scratch? Do you make a small synopsis of it to follow before starting, perhaps a whole treatment of several pages? Do you just write a premise? Do you break scenes into a gradual climax or plot points which you know are gonna happen like this or that? Do you develop characters, their habits, looks and life, before writing about them?

    Any comments on the workings, mechanics, rituals and structures of story writing you, or anyone else here have, are welcome.

  • #2
    I think it depends from writer to writer. For me its just a case of reading lots of varied material and seeing how other people form structure, you learn a lot about plot movement, character development just by reading other people's work.

    The thing with a lot of those books about writing - like a lot of 'self help' books in general is that often they distract people who want to do something from actually doing it by feeding their indecision and allowing them to feel secure in their procrastination. It makes you feel better for having bought a book on how to do what you want to do without having to take any real steps to actually doing the work. I think that's what it really comes down to - at the end of the day you have to do the work if you want to succeed, which of course means putting pen to paper.

    My advice start small and work up - try doing a short story. If you can't think of any ideas you can always start by rewriting someone else's work in your own way - as an exercise. That way you learn the structure by trying to reproduce it, and it gives you some scope to play with narrative, description and dialogue.

    Writing shouldn't be a mechanical process - not unless you fancy a career as a Technical Author. Well paid work - but dull as sh1t ;)
    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by devilchicken
      ... which of course means putting pen to paper.
      Or fingers to the keyboard!

      Stop writing posts to this forum and start writing your story... NOW!

      Cordialement,
      Ant

      Comment


      • #4
        Actually I have a lot of different methods. Twenty years ago or so I could probably have told you what my basic method was -- now I can't.
        I liked the simple sonata form through a lot of my writing career -- introduction, development, resolution. This can be applied, of course, to lots of different methods and kinds of fiction. Nowadays I'm more inclined to start writing without knowing where I'm going. Sometimes this is good but, I suspect, for genre fiction it wouldn't work too well. The more 'chaotic' the appearance of my fiction, the more structured it is underneath -- the Cornelius stories from Cure for Cancer onwards, for instance -- Mother London -- a few others. An ambitious sequence like the Pyat stories draws more on 'Wagnerian' method -- lots of leitmotifs
        developing as main themes in the second development section. That goes introduction, development 1, development 2, resolution. But the scale is pretty big. I see the early fantasies like early Mozart -- done by someone with a natural sense of structure, quickly imitating an existing form. You can't really teach that instinct -- but you CAN learn to structure, of course. It was easy for me because of that natural instinct.
        However, that natural instinct can also work against you -- you are in danger of becoming too facile. That's why I set myself harder and harder structural ambitions and these days sometimes don't even work out a structure before hand. This probably works for me (if it works) because of the experience I've had. However, I feel pretty much the same anxieties every time I begin a new novel. If I fall back on old
        methods or subjects (as I'm doing now, in fact, for a couple of 'parody' stories) I tend to feel considerable discomfort and self-contempt! My
        personal deal with myself (and I hope the reader) is that I'll try something different every time. That's why the new Elrics are so different from the earlier ones. In this I feel a certain fellowship with Bob Dylan (whose Chronicles Vol. 1 I read recently) who feels the need to find new structures and methods in order to keep what he believes is his bargain with himself and his audience. Ironically, of course, that audience often complains precisely because that bargain is kept. They would rather he went on producing the kind of work he did thirty years ago. I get a fair bit of that, too. But some of us just aren't able to work unless we are setting ourselves new problems. If you can find a copy of Death is No Obstacle, the book I did as a series of interviews with Colin Greenland, that's specifically about writing technique. It's not perfect, but it would give you a few clues. I also recommend Lester Dent's Master Plot Formula! Dent was a seminal pulp writer (Doc Savage, for instance) and while his Plot Formula is for 6,000 word detective stories, it works very well for all kinds of fiction of all different lengths -- in that it contains certain verities and explains, at a very simple level, about how to maintain plot tensions. One thing I always tell starting writers is that it's useful to have both a carrot AND a stick carrying you through a plot -- a carrot can be the object of the quest, a stick can be the bad guys trying to catch you. Check out The Maltese Falcon, which I also tend to cite as a good exasmple! Only a genius like Proust can really do Proust -- though even there he asks a lot of questions and keeps you waiting until they are properly answered! Similarly, Jane Austen tends to use the same tensions in her work -- usually concerned with who is going to marry whom. It's always good to have a few questions in your story, even if you don't know the answers at the beginning.

        Comment


        • #5
          By the way, that's Moorcock the Unloggable up there! :)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Anonymoorcock
            I also recommend Lester Dent's Master Plot Formula! Dent was a seminal pulp writer (Doc Savage, for instance) and while his Plot Formula is for 6,000 word detective stories, it works very well for all kinds of fiction of all different lengths -- in that it contains certain verities and explains, at a very simple level, about how to maintain plot tensions.
            I'm so glad you brought this up again. By the time I decided to try looking for it, I'd forgotten the man's name, and typing "pulp structures" into search engines got me nowhere at all!

            Obviously I haven't seen the original, but the website below claims to have the "skinny" (as it were):

            http://www.miskatonic.org/dent.html
            "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks everyone for the input, specially Mr. Moorock of course!

              And I do agree with Ant! Don't talk about it, just do it! Writers write!

              Mr. Moorcock, do you ever start something completely not knowing where you are going or do you, at the very least, make a list of questions - subjects- scenes - dialogs - characters you want to work with, and then build things around them?

              Cheers to all

              Joaquim

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't usually start a story like that. Very occasionally. But I usually have a structure, if not the actual content. It's more abstract, I suppose, a bit like music -- I know what kind of thing has to go there but not what it will actually be. Mood and tone but not, if you like, the actual tune.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Writers indeed write. I also like the Stephen King comment (likely 'borrowed') "It is the tale, not he who tells it."

                  Short stories are actually hard. Not much time to set the scene or establish characters, but when well done are a delight.

                  I might also mention that when working on a longer work (one of mine is seven novels long, and I sincerely apologize) it's a good idea to work out the structure overall first. What is the story the author is telling? Does it have to be so long? Does it maintain interest? Does it educate (edify)? Are the potential publishing lags damaging to reader interest? (IOW, will they remember to pick up parts 5 or 6 when they come along.)

                  For this big ol' project I studied other long works. MM's Eternal Champion 'series' almost seemed an aberration, as that brilliant mind recalls all details and he blows books out (once thought upon for a considerable while) as fast as his fingers fly. So I got the opportunity a few years back to talk with Kim Stanley "Stan" Robinson, who had written the fine Martian Romance trilogy. He seconded and reinforced what I had been doing. In such a long work, the author needs a clear time-line; lists of characters, places, and things (and where they are and move on said time-line). There is also quite a bit of non-creative work that needs to be done, such as researching all sorts of obscure details. This often involved days of research about something that may only appear as a sentence or two, but is critical to the willing suspension of disbelief. This is also very important for historical references.

                  More than anything, I think a human connection to the characters is essential. Many times I have been disappointed by inconsistent characters or those who are either stereotypical or an invention by an author with no clue as to psychodynamics. Better, I think, to base a character on a living person than guess at what 'someone' in such-and-so a situation might think or do. This leads into the social part of writing, where it can be fun (if done subtly) to propose a situation, and then ask folks what they might do if they were in this situation.

                  But, for me, the absolute main point is tell a story.

                  Last point, never buy into that nonsense that there are "seven basic stories" or whatnot. Tell the story you have been inspired to tell, and while in the creative process turn off the fact that others have told similar stories or might even tell the same particular story. It is the synthesis of writer and story that becomes the storytelling experience, and even with this the experience changes with each reader and at each reading.

                  Oh, yeah - it'll either sell or it won't. Don't let sales impinge on the creative process!

                  Never, ever give up!
                  8)

                  -M.
                  Miqque
                  ... just another sailor on the seas of Fate, dogpaddling desperately ...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I remember reading in a text on writing, that writers are unique amongst the creative artists in actually not enjoying the physicality of their craft. That is, painters love to paint, sculptors love to get out the clay or oxy tocth etc and let rip, and of course musicians love nothing better than sitting down with their chosen instruments and noodling away for hour upon end.

                    Writers though, given the choice between say, cleaning the drains and putting a 1000 words down on paper (or screen) will usually go for the drains everytime. I guess this is why many successful writers need a disciplined writing environment (up before the sun, walk the dogs, write a 1000 words, breakfast, write a 1000 words, etc etc etc)

                    I must admit that I am reticent about committing to text many ideas that I come up with - preferring that crystal clear concept be held in diamondic perfection within my mind, rather go the brain/body filter - where what was once clarity becomes obfuscation, and brilliant insight becomes a mere glimmer....

                    My problem with writing is finding "the voice" through which to tell my tales. I know what it is that I want to tell people, but finding a composition or arrangement that will adequately support the theme (and which I am capable of executing upon) is always my biggest challenge.
                    Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                    Bakunin

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      What I find both exciting and a little disturbing is how my characters go running off on their own through my head, then pop up and tell me what they've been doing, and what they think they ought to do next, all while I've been doing something else. :?

                      Does that mean I'm mental?

                      Sorry, I can't hear you.

                      Hello?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Perdix
                        What I find both exciting and a little disturbing is how my characters go running off on their own through my head, then pop up and tell me what they've been doing, and what they think they ought to do next, all while I've been doing something else. :?

                        Does that mean I'm mental?

                        Hmm, is that a trick question?

                        Originally posted by Perdix

                        Sorry, I can't hear you.

                        Hello?
                        Oh, Perdix, don't ever change. :lol:

                        LSN

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Likewise! :D

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Ooh, yes! The heat! The heat!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Perdix
                              What I find both exciting and a little disturbing is how my characters go running off on their own through my head, then pop up and tell me what they've been doing, and what they think they ought to do next, all while I've been doing something else. :?

                              Does that mean I'm mental?

                              Sorry, I can't hear you.

                              Hello?
                              Well, you may be mental, but that is the topic of a different thread :D

                              At the very least, you share something with other writers. I remember Jonathan Carroll speaking about how some of his characters have surprised him with what they wanted to do, and where they wanted to take their stories. While I'm paraprasing, I think that Stephen King has expressed similar ideas, as well.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X