Where do YOU stop on Showing Your Work?:

Total posts: [21]
I love being able to Show My Work when I write, especially if I'm setting it in a historical time period. Or sex and interpersonal relationships - which seems to be Squick for some, considering I try and do away with the annoying Angles of Rouge Satin and Unusual Euphemisms as much as possible. (Why is this, by the way? I'm curious. Immaturity, perhaps?) I sometimes have trouble deciding when to draw the line between showing what I've actually done in terms of research, and letting my more creative side take over and have its fun.

Where do you guys draw that "line", and what do you really love being able to Show Your Work on?
2 RalphCrown16th Feb 2011 07:03:25 AM from Next Door to Nowhere
Short Hair
The short answer is, you leave out the research that comes between the reader and your plot and characters. Too much background is distracting.
Under World. It rocks!
Go out and read a Neal Stephenson novel. We'll wait. Take notice of how often he goes off on tangents about cool stuff he threw into the story and interrupts the actual plot? DON'T DO THAT!
I usually leave the results of research in subtle Genius Bonuses: as an example, if you understand how ridiculous 1024-bit key encryption with a Serpent-Twofish cascade is, you'll understand one of the factions better, but if not, it serves the same function as ordinary technobabble.

Also, unless it's painfully egregious, I'll usually choose story-telling over realism. Hell, sometimes I find Reality Is Unrealistic: I trimmed down a corporation as "unrealistic", until I found out I had unintentionally created a hybrid of Vivendi and Cargill.

edited 16th Feb '11 8:52:37 AM by KillerClowns

5 Morven16th Feb 2011 10:57:56 AM from Seattle, WA, USA
What's been said above, basically. Don't, as a writer, leap in between your story and your reader and (metaphorically) jump up and down with delight at all the COOL STUFF you're doing here.

If you're writing first-person, a little quirkiness in a narrator can let them digress from the actual story they're telling into the cool stuff they are doing and care about, but you have to do it right — you have to create a narrator who is interesting enough to pull it off and believable in the things they digress about.

Basically, assuming you're writing from a character POV (first-person or tight third-person), which most modern writers are, you should tell the reader (a) stuff that that character would notice, which generally means not much about the day-to-day and ordinary in their world except in passing, and (b) stuff the reader needs to know in order to understand what's going on.

Stuff in category (b) needs to be worked in subtly rather than infodumped, can be introduced gradually — as long as the reader isn't utterly confused, they can deal with not knowing everything for a while — and is generally a much smaller set of information than the author thinks the reader needs to know.
A brighter future for a darker age.
6 Dec16th Feb 2011 07:06:37 PM from The Dance Floor
Stayin' Alive
Most of the time, I only make passing references to what I've researched, unless its critical to understanding the action or advancing the story in some way. Some allusions, a few technical words with inferred meanings, sometimes a random sentence of explanation thrown in, but not much else, and not that often.

A lot of it really gets "shown" by how it affects what happens inside of the story, which often isn't explained much, and will only get noticed if the reader knows the information already.

edited 16th Feb '11 8:57:01 PM by Dec

Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit
OMG its Bonnie Gruesen
Use your research to enhance the story and make it more realistic and enjoyable. But don't show off how much you did, if you do it right people will know the research was good.
Fractured, my Harry Potter Fic: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6655978/1/Fractured
8 Morven17th Feb 2011 02:28:06 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
And no matter how much research you do, some pedant will pick up some tiny arguable flaw and say that it was a wallbanger.
A brighter future for a darker age.
I try to be as vague as possible even if I did do the research because I don't want to be pinned against a wall for some minor infraction on my part.
10 Morven17th Feb 2011 05:16:21 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
Meh, someone will do it anyway — don't let that fear hurt your story.
A brighter future for a darker age.
Dr. JŠn Ĩtor
[up][up]Same for me. Generally, if I don't know what I'm talking about, I try to be vague. As a rule of thumb, if it requires me to do any research, I scrap it or get around it. Does the quality suffer because of this?

... Probably. Though, I feel like everything's structured in a way where there's no reason why you shouldn't just "go with it."
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
12 drunkscriblerian17th Feb 2011 11:43:22 PM from Castle Geekhaven , Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
Vagueness can be a writer's best friend, especially on hot-button issues or whatever is the current "trendy science" being bandied about. Besides...if readers want to while away a few hours arguing about "what the writer meant to say", then you've done your job.

Why? Because people can't stop thinking about your story, that's why.
If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
13 Acebrock17th Feb 2011 11:47:44 PM from So-Cal , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
I'm writing a character with Asperger's as my narrator/protagonist (based somewhat on myself), and all I did was make mention of his quirky habits/oddities at the beginning, because people don't really need to read things like

  • I avoided eye contact with x as I said...
  • Y found me playing with a paper clip, while I was lost in thought.
  • I got really curious about Z so I stated doing a lot of research to find out as much as I could about it.

over and over and over again, and I'm sure most would get really annoyed with that.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Why mention he has aspergers at all if he isn't going to act like he has it? Don't make it central to his character, but also don't apply a label to a character if it isn't actually relevant.
15 Acebrock18th Feb 2011 12:13:56 AM from So-Cal , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Because some quirks come up from time to timee, like being a horrible judge of emotions, such as when a woman, he's been working witgh for two years admits she loves him,and ends up so devastated by his overly blunt delivery about why he doesn't want to be with her, that she runs off crying, and doesn't speak with him for a week (He is instantly called out about this by another character), or his tendency to get so lost in thought that the other characters find themselves unable to get his attention. Including those from time to time is a lot less annoying thatn the above, constantly.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
16 Morven18th Feb 2011 12:25:26 AM from Seattle, WA, USA
It's worth noting that things that are part of a character's nature will generally not elicit much mention unless they're hyper self conscious about it. An Asperger's Syndrome character won't note that they're avoiding eye contact or playing with things with their hands or obsessively looking up stuff. It's normal to them.
A brighter future for a darker age.
17 MisterAlways18th Feb 2011 02:30:01 AM from The Netherlands.
Go away.
Also, most AS kiddos who've had any sort of special education will have been told ad nauseam to look people in the eye when they're talking to them.

'couse, now people think I'm weird for constantly looking people SQUARE IN THE EYE, UNBLINKING, throughout the entire conversation.

The whole fiddling with small things, though, yeah, most of us probably still do that because we're never really told to stop (unless we're, say, tapping a pencil on the edge of our desk, but usually that's more an immediate "stop" than a long-term "stop").

But yeah, the AS character probably wouldn't make particular note of the fact that they're doing AS things. Having other characters point it out could work.

Anyway, on topic. Gunplay features heavily in my upcoming grrraphic novel project, so I'm reading a lot of the guns and gunplay tropes. Main character #1, John D. Gierro, spends quite a bit of time cleaning his revolver, for instance. Maria's shotgun is suitably abandoned when long-range shooting needs to be done (and replaced with a convenient 'gator hunting rifle - hey, it's the bayou, why WOULDN'T the boatman have a 'gator rifle close at hand?).

There's a lot of influence from Native American mythology in the story (mostly gods and mythological figures, some with the names altered slightly, primarily from Guarani mythologi. The evil spirit Tau, for example, becomes Papa Tawato, and one of his sons, Jasy Jatere/Jasy Jaterei, is called Jessait Jettri instead. I did this pretty much only because I couldn't decide between the given names on Wikipedia, and because I didn't want to start some kind of flame war between theologist readers over it or, hell, offend any Guarani indians if there are any left), but I'm kinda Show Don't Tell with it.

edited 18th Feb '11 2:50:04 AM by MisterAlways

Always touching and looking. Piss off.
18 Morven18th Feb 2011 02:36:04 AM from Seattle, WA, USA
That's pretty much a good general rule; characters should not consciously point out things that are natural, ordinary and/or boring to them.
A brighter future for a darker age.
One thing to remember if you're writing an aspie's perspective - don't tell the reader how other people are feeling when the aspie wouldn't actually be able to tell that! In fact, I'd recommend showing emotions primarily through descriptions of facial expressions, and sometimes leaving out telling about emotions until they become obvious to the aspie. (For an example of how not to do it, check out House Rules by Jodi Picoult.)
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
With my writing, I tend to do the research to figure out how something will actually happen. Then I write that thing happening without going into a lot of detail about why (unless I'm writing a scientist character). For example, one of my stories is about a teen with muscular dystrophy who gets turned into a vampire. I did a bunch of research into how his muscles would work and a bunch of research into how kids with terminal illnesses cope. This kid knows a bit about muscular dystrophy - mainly that it's what he has, and that his motor skills will keep getting poorer, and he knows exactly how it feels to be him - but he hasn't done a lot of research into it, so he doesn't go into long tangents of explaining how his disability works. (Incidentally, if you do want a non-expert to give an infodump, learn how non-experts garble things. Most infodumps by non-experts are way too perfect. For example, parents of kids with chromosome abnormalities have a tendency to leave out essential information about which region is affected.)
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
21 Morven18th Feb 2011 04:42:19 AM from Seattle, WA, USA
I think the writers in question are too worried that a reader will think that the writer didn't know it.
A brighter future for a darker age.
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Total posts: 21