Avoiding IKEA prose:

Total posts: [32]
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1 Merlo29th Oct 2011 08:34:32 PM from the masochist chamber
Or Beige Prose, "verbing the noun", whatever.

So how does one do it? How does one describe physical actions without it becoming "She did this, and then she did that, and then she did some other stuff"?
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...
2 nrjxll29th Oct 2011 08:59:34 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
I honestly don't consider this that bad, especially when compared to the alternative.
3 USAF71329th Oct 2011 09:03:34 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
...adjective use?

I mean... I usually fall into Beige Prose on my first run through, and then go back to edit it out of robot land and into something more natural and flowing...
I am now known as Flyboy.
Well, I guess you could argue that the basic "this happened, and then this" isn't always bad. If you want to write about a character's boring day at the office, beige prose would be the right way of getting the monotony across.

The best way to avoid it? You should probably start out with trying to figure out what you're trying to accomplish in the scene. Where does the narrator want the reader to be? Are there any details you, the writer, want to focus on? What are you trying to get across? Where should the readers draw their attention?

...But, the more I think about it...Merlo, are you trying to stay away from beige prose as a whole, or for a particular purpose?

edited 29th Oct '11 9:10:01 PM by BetsyandtheFiveAvengers

5 chihuahua029th Oct 2011 09:18:04 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Also, think about sentence structure. Usually, you should vary from short to long to medium, along with different ways to string clauses.

6 feotakahari29th Oct 2011 09:18:21 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
I've never quite gotten the hang of this, but I think part of the trick is to integrate things together. For instance, if you need to mention that someone's eyes are dark blue, and you're going to use the phrase "there was a strange gleam in her eyes," you can say "her dark blue eyes had a strange gleam in them."
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
7 Merlo29th Oct 2011 09:42:22 PM from the masochist chamber
...But, the more I think about it...Merlo, are you trying to stay away from beige prose as a whole, or for a particular purpose?

Well, the sequence of events I'm trying to describe at the moment definitely should not be boring. I can see the merits of using beige prose in other cases, but not for this one.

What I've been trying to do is insert the narrator's mental commentary appropriately and describe emotions, but that sometimes ruins the pacing and overwhelms the physical part. I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too, I guess [lol]
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...
8 nrjxll29th Oct 2011 09:49:56 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
...Are we talking IKEA Erotica here?

In that case, you can certainly expect no help from me.

edited 29th Oct '11 9:50:24 PM by nrjxll

^^ That comment.. were you inspired from my fluff attempt? I usually inject the centerpiece character into the narration, and in the way things are described, what he does, you're catching a glimpse at his mental world. So you're close to the character always, like a companion, and there's more surprise what you'll find out — compared to dull, plain third-person narration.

It's inspired from the way Snow Crash is written, sometimes you can't tell whether it's Neal Stephenson or Hiro/Y.T. giving a tirade about funny, silly things in moments. Just imagine a hybrid of intimate first-person under the guise of third person "She kissed a girl, and she liked it."

edited 29th Oct '11 10:05:11 PM by QQQQQ

10 Merlo29th Oct 2011 10:05:47 PM from the masochist chamber
...Are we talking IKEA Erotica here?

Should it matter if I were? I'm looking for general advice—yes there are instances where boring prose is justified, but in general I don't want boring prose.

Goodness, people have been recommending Snow Crash to me for ages. I might really have to go read it now.

edited 29th Oct '11 10:36:38 PM by Merlo

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...
11 Morven29th Oct 2011 10:33:23 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
You probably should; it's fun, it's hugely self-aware and tropetastic, and it's been pretty damn influential.

Stephenson still can't end a novel for shit; they're more about the ride than the destination. However, he's taken a turn these days toward pretentious, elitist-nerd-pandering wankery; Snow Crash is definitely written for the nerd audience, but it doesn't look down its nose and sneer at the mundanes like some of his more recent stuff.

Some authors get better with success, but I think it got to Stephenson's head. Which is why this one is good; it's before that happened.
A brighter future for a darker age.
12 nrjxll29th Oct 2011 11:19:11 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]Actually, to my mind at least it would. In my opinion, Beige Prose is not necessarily a bad thing, and I'm certainly all right with it in some cases. However, there are some few actions that should either be written interestingly or not written at all, and sex is one of them.

Also, as mentioned I personally fall into the "not write it at all" category there, so if that is what you want help with there's no way I'd be able to give it.

[up]Huh - I'd actually been avoiding it specifically for those reasons; I utterly despise that sort of thing and thought it was pretty much just one of his writing characteristics.
13 Morven29th Oct 2011 11:39:51 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
It's still overly impressed with its own cleverness, but in a fun kind of way rather than a sneering kinda way, so it doesn't bother me.
A brighter future for a darker age.
14 Merlo30th Oct 2011 04:02:17 PM from the masochist chamber
I guess I'll post a sample then.

Rosier smoked, sprawled out over bedrock, as Cawley worked. He pulled out a wad of paper and chalk and scribbled several overlapping symbols on it, which should compose a sigil, if the process worked as had been advertised. First times were always awkward, which was why he liked to get them over with as soon as possible while in a fairly unperilous situation.

After a few more turns with the calumet, he unwrapped the bandages around his left index finger, revealing splotches of burned skin. Might as well use his bad not-healing-anytime-soon hand, no sense in having two injured ones. He used his knife to draw blood. The high made the pain interesting; the sensation was deep and drawn-out, but less sharp than usual. He pressed the wound to the sigil, completing it with his blood. It went folded into his vest pocket for now, but it flickered in the fire and behind his eyelids when he blinked.

Is this interesting? What am I doing wrong, and what am I doing right?
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...
The first thing to jump out at me is that you can cut the "Might as well..." line. It doesn't seem to do anything.

As for everything else:

There seems to be little or no flow, or connection between the actions.

edited 30th Oct '11 4:13:22 PM by BetsyandtheFiveAvengers

16 nrjxll30th Oct 2011 04:11:19 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
I can immediately say that it's not Beige Prose by any standard of the term.
17 Merlo30th Oct 2011 04:19:59 PM from the masochist chamber
The "Might as well..." line was supposed to be part of Cawley's thought process, I threw it in just to make sure the whole paragraph wasn't "verbing the noun". Other than that... yeah, I guess it doesn't really add anything.

There seems to be little or no flow, or connection between the actions.

...idea That's what was bugging me.

Any advice on how to fix that?
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...
I guess if you want to keep the "Might" line, make it into a line of dialogue.

"Might as well use my bad hand," Cawley muttered, more to himself than to Rosier. "No sense in having two injured ones."

For fluency...

I'm not 100% sure of what's going on (lack of context, etc.), but you are. You know why he takes out the chalk and paper, why he cuts himself, why he tucks the paper in his pocket.

On a scratch piece of paper or something, make out a little sequence (First, Next, Then) and just write the basic "he did this, then this, then this." Find the connectivity between each action—be it a thought process, or another movement, and, taking what you have so far, include it. If the sequence becomes too long, trim it.

...Was that confusing? /Sucksatexplainingthings

edited 30th Oct '11 4:31:00 PM by BetsyandtheFiveAvengers

The seeming lack of flow I think is only a symptom of this scene's "mechanical" feel, the joys of putting a table together. It's mundane — slicing his finger and putting it to his sigil. Not the 'This is normal, I'm used to it' mundane, but the inappropriate 'I'm flushing the toilet' dull feel to what otherwise can be a very anticipatory scene.

What can happen— recall the scene in Terminator where Arnold jumps in the hotel room and does self-diagnostics. There's a perverse fascination in his actions, as he simply cuts away his eye and his arm. Or No Country for Old Men where Anton Sugar cleans his wounds.

It stems from anticipating what these actions are building up to.

edited 30th Oct '11 4:40:25 PM by QQQQQ

20 Merlo30th Oct 2011 04:43:56 PM from the masochist chamber
Er, could you clarify what you mean by connectivity? Do you mean just transitions, or showing that they're all deliberate and part of a larger process, or...?

It stems from anticipating what these actions are building up to.

But how do I make that?
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...
21 nrjxll30th Oct 2011 04:47:32 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
No offense meant, but I would take QQQQQ's thoughts on this sort of thing with a grain of salt.

I personally don't see anything glaringly wrong with it. I can think of some tweaks I might make, but the passage seems fine overall.
Part of a larger process.
^^^ I don't know, you tell me. Somewhere between the lines, you detect an inevitable conclusion— the prestige of the magic trick. These little parts.. when brought together, they make a whole that is much bigger than the sum of these parts.
24 Night30th Oct 2011 05:00:01 PM from Jaburo , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
The future of warfare in UC.
I'm going to take the completely opposite position from Q5 here and say that any mundane nature of the scene is not only appropriate, but good.

Because ultimately this is a mundane situation to the character. Yes, it's a first time. But so what? It's not as if this was something they thought they needed to be sober or really secure for. They're not taking it terribly seriously. It's new like a new word processor, new like being issued a new rifle. It's novel, but not really exciting.

edited 30th Oct '11 5:00:39 PM by Night

Nous restons ici.
^ Mundane relative to them. To us, it is fascinating. Watch the Jackal adjust his rifle with melons. It is the rifle that will put the bullet into Charles de Gaulle.

edited 30th Oct '11 5:04:00 PM by QQQQQ

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