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January 5, 2013
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People who confine themselves to one thing

:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
People often categorize themselves when it comes to writing. For example, they will say "I am a poet" or "I write science fiction" as if those things were all-encompassing of their work. This is useful.

But I am curious about this. Recently, someone came into a chatroom with a story for critique. I noticed a visual quality about the story and at the beginning of my critique comments I asked the writer if they had ever read or written a screenplay, and if not, maybe they should try it. A third person chimed in with "Or you could just write better stories" and heavily discouraged suggesting writing in another medium during critique.

Now, this has been bothering me for days. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that when I took two play-writing courses, which made me read and write plays, it improved both the action and the dialogue in my stories by tenfold. I can tell you why; when you're writing a play, everything hinges on dialogue. You also have to pare everything down to the bare minimum actions for stage directions to allow the actors some leeway in bringing the characters to life. My stories became a lot cleaner after that. Sometimes it's all about how you're looking at the process of writing.

Now some of you seriously do only write one kind of thing. Why? Granted, I could very well be the strange one with my fuzzy, big-picture perspective. So I want to know what you think!

I know others of you do all kinds of things outside of writing. Sometimes I see comments accusing people of being a "visual artist" (as if it's a bad thing; like why are you in the literature forum at all, I see some writers ask). Why does it matter? A visual artist can write (some of the best writers I know have multiple talents). More importantly, a visual artist can be a really perceptive reader.

Now for all you other multi-talented folks (I know some of you bake and/or cook really well, some of you crochet or knit, some of you not only write your own comics but draw them as well, some of you sculpt, some of you take some pretty amazing photography... etc. etc.); do these things help you be a better writer? If so, how?
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Devious Comments

:iconslytherinsheiress:
SlytherinsHeiress Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Professional Writer
I definitely have other pursuits besides writing. Although I concentrate mostly on writing novels, I also draw, play guitar (not well, but still!), knit, bake, and sing. I also do yoga, travel, collect vinyl, and am a political junkie. Do these pursuits and interests help me become a better writer? In some cases, yes. I took guitar lessons mainly as research for one scene in a novel. Likewise with knitting. I didn't expect either to become new hobbies of mine, but it's nice. :) I guess they made my writing "better" in the sense that when I have a character play a guitar or knit (I don't want them all to be visual artists or writers, ha!), I'll at least know what the hell I'm talking about. ;)

I guess that's kind of going off what :iconkinofou: said. Life experience is good research. Especially that awful date I went on the summer before, but that's a story for another day. :D
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:iconworldwar-tori:
WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013   General Artist
I think when you write outside your usual medium it teaches you better writing skills both in your medium and a broader ability for other projects.

I don't think anyone should stay to just one thing, even if it sucks the first few times at least you're giving yourself more room to improve and experience to use
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:iconfallingstarz5:
Fallingstarz5 Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Student General Artist
I tend to write whatever I feel like writing. Sometimes, I want to write historical fantasy stories. Sometimes it's science fiction. Sometimes it's realistic fiction. I don't write much poetry, but sometimes I do write some poetry.

It all depends on how I feel and if I want to put effort and time into my characters.
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:iconaconitum-napellus:
Aconitum-Napellus Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Professional Writer
I've never tried writing a play or screenplay - at least, not since school - but I would never decide to limit myself to one genre or form. It's always good to try new things, and it's not going to hurt anything if you do it. I do worry sometimes about spreading myself over too many genres, but really it can't hurt.
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:iconrequiemthefallen:
Requiemthefallen Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
Everything you learn in life can help make you a better writer, and you should never confine yourself to one genre. I started with sci-fi, but am now planning on trying horror, and have experimented with Second Person Perspective. If I had stuck to third person sci-fi, I wouldn't have improved nearly as much as I have. I believe there is a saying, "Variety is the spice of life" or something like that. If you don't have variety, then everything becomes monotone and repetitive, eventually.
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:iconthenaughticallife:
TheNAUGHTicalLife Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional Writer
I perceive, though I'd enjoy being proven wrong, that every great writer only wrote about one thing.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
Wrote about one thing? How do you mean, like subject-wise?

And hmm. That is an interesting posit. I'm going to think about that one.
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:iconthenaughticallife:
TheNAUGHTicalLife Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional Writer
Yes, subject-wise. Woolf did the independence of women, Fitzgerald did lost love, Wilde lampooned Victorianism, etc.
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:iconrequiemthefallen:
Requiemthefallen Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
In some cases this is true, but what about when a person's perspective on life changes? Their views will be different, and they have the potential to write something completely different.
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:iconthenaughticallife:
TheNAUGHTicalLife Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional Writer
I'm not talking about 'person,' I'm talking about a pattern I noticed.
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:iconrequiemthefallen:
Requiemthefallen Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
I'm just saying, I don't deny a pattern being there.
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:iconcarusmm:
carusmm Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I do fuck-all with my spare time but procrastinate and read.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
Well, reading is important. XD Do you think it makes you a better writer?
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:iconcarusmm:
carusmm Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
It makes me contemplative is about all.
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:iconpseudometry:
pseudometry Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Writer
I tend to do all things poorly.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
I don't believe it.

Also! How have you been? I haven't talked to you in ages! D:
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:iconpseudometry:
pseudometry Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013   Writer
Haha. Believe it...

I'm good! Being a new parent is keeping me rather busy, I must say, explaining my relative absence round here recently. How about yourself?
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Student Writer
I write based on the ideas I manage to flesh out the most. I'm better at some things than others. At the moment I seem to be best at contemporary fantasy. So right now I am a "contemporary fantasy author". That said, I've also written a comic miniseries which is more of a crime thriller/horror type deal with nothing fantasy at all. So some days I'm a comic book writer.

But over the years I think I've written just about everything. Fantasy, romance, horror, drama, crime, science fiction, children's fiction. I've written comic scripts, stage scripts, short stories, long stories, poetry, serials. I've tried my hand at everything except perhaps TV/Film scripts but if I'd be willing to give it a go if I found the right idea and the time.

It's nice to have a base. A comfort zone where you know you work well and can produce quality. But you can only benefit from branching out from time to time and exploring other writing disciplines.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
That's a good point; I'm a proponent of self-examination, so I especially agree with your last paragraph there.

Do you think being a comic book writer helps you to better be a writer of contemporary fantasy stories? If so, how?
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Student Writer
Contemporary fantasy specifically? No. But writing comic books has helped improve my writing more broadly.

Comic books are, like any script, dialogue heavy. You can't be too specific without treading on artist's toes - but God knows comic writers still try. But none the less all the "reading" in comics is some kind of dialogue, even narration is usually dialogue. So you better be good at dialogue!

Comics are also short. A comic book is just over 20 pages long and it has to be satisfying and complete in itself but also leave things open for the next issue. It's tricky and it sure taught me about being concise and building tension. So in that sense, my writing improved over all from writing comics and I take those lessons with me when I put on the "contemporary fantasy novelist" hat, again.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I wrote a comic script last year, and it was an interesting exercise. It turns out I typically visualize scenes much more sketchily than I'd thought. Having to break a series of events down panel by panel and page by page, pacing a story not just verbally but in terms of how it's laid out visually, and down to the last detail, forced me to consider it in ways I simply hadn't bothered with before.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
It's amazing when that happens, isn't it? And that's awesome. :)
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:iconpearwood:
pearwood Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Let's just say that my M.Div. was about the best training possible for my career in information technology. And if you are going to be a model or photograph models, it's not the worst thing to spend some time on the other side of the lens.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
M.Div.? Forgive me, I don't know what that is. XD Interesting thing to say about models! Did you model? How does it help? I am so curious!
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:iconpearwood:
pearwood Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Master of Divinity. Seminary degree. I don't model, but trying some self-portraits showed me how difficult it is.
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
While I have my personal preferences, I try a lot of other things, too. I don't stick to a style or genre when writing short stories or poetry, and sometimes I try something new just for fun or because I got inspired. Not sure if this makes me a better writer, but it helps me to see the differences between different types of writing.

Visual art, needleworks or costumery? Well, maybe it confirms that things look different at night, that learning a craft takes time as well as it takes time to create something. Has something to do with know what you write. I also tried archery and historical fencing. I never really learned it, just tried, but I hopefully never will let a character learn it in five minutes. Also, when doing visual art, you start to see things differently which might help you to get the details right when writing from a specific point of view. A painter would notice other details on a house than a burglar or a tourist.

Roleplaying has a bad reputation, but I think having seen it from the other side--as a DM or writer of adventures and multi-optioned-dialogues--might teach you a few things. You have to think of all kinds of questions a player might come up with and be able to think of an answer. I often find it in books that there are time errors or logical errors concerning the surroundings. When writing adventures you learn to keep track of time and your surroundings. You also learn different viewpoints as you are writing different non-player characters who each are supposed to have their own personality and voice. Don't misunderstand, I don't say you should mention the exact distance from point A to point B in a story or a character's age all the time. But it can't hurt to keep track of such things.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
Oh yeah, good points about all those skills. :) And I'm glad you mentioned roleplaying; it gets such a bad reputation, as does fanfiction, which makes me sad because people tend to overlook the potential in those things (both got me writing again, got me thinking better about my original fiction). And I totally agree about the details thing; it'd good for the author to know things that sometimes don't even ever make it to print!
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:iconmadoldhag:
MadOldHag Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I am guilty of writing bad fan fiction, but I learned from it.

Historical fiction has a lot in common with fan fiction: the setting and some of the characters are given. To write a believable story, you should do some research. You should know as much as ever possible about historical persons or canon characters to avoid getting facts wrong or "out of character".
Now I am working on my own setting, still I look up things from history and even fandoms, just for comparison. To avoid unintended plagiarism and to confirm that it has a certain logic how I let my virtual people act.

Yes, I think you can learn even from fan fiction. I was thinking about some odd crossover-scenes where I send one of my characters to someone with a similar profession in a similar setting just for practice, to show the differences between the historical/canon setting and character and mine.
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:iconangeljunkie:
angeljunkie Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013   Photographer
I do a variety of literary things - poetry, novels, short stories, scripts (stage, radio, film) - as well as work on other projects - photography, cooking, jewelry, rugs, various folk arts stuff, and I make one hell of a good fire.

As far as playing with different forms of writing, I've found that the story usually picks the form. I'm more comfortable with certain things - poetry is not my favourite medium to work with, but sometimes it's the right one, for example, and as you said with writing script, it really does help you learn to condense and focus your writing. In all honesty, despite claiming to be a novelist, I'm secretly a film/graphic novelist, but at the moment it's just me and my words, so I adapted to the medium that makes the most sense logistically.

I can't really say if my other hobbies make me a better writer than a would be otherwise, because I don't really have anything to compare it to. I think they all do feed into each other a bit. I have a broader knowledge base about those things because I actually do them, which means less research, and they're pretty handy ways of occupying myself when my brain gets stuck and needs some time to itself to work through a problem. Some of them - like the photography - also serve to drag me away from the computer and out into the world where I can do people-watching, explore new places, etc. so that's pretty helpful. And apparently there's some kinesthetic reaction between doing something physical with your hands while thinking that engages both sides of your brain, which allows you to think outside the box a bit more.

I think anyone who is the least bit creatively minded shouldn't be afraid to try/experience/learn new things, even if you don't happen to be good at them, or find out you don't enjoy them. Really, I view creativity and new experiences is inextricable.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
Absolutely! And well-said!
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional Writer
I think, given the context of what happened, you should mention that:

1. The third person wasn't discouraging screenwriting so much as trying to get the critiquee to think about their purple prose.
2. The third person got jumped on before she could elaborate on the "write better stories" quip.
3. The third person is ME who reads these forums and would like to say HI!  I DID THAT!  AND IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ME YOU KNOW I'M NOT DISCOURAGING!
4. The third person gave lots of good advice on how to work on overdescriptiveness. 
5. :grump:
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:iconsahidenethare:
SahidenEthare Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013   Writer
:icontherethereplz:
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Professional Writer
Eh, not terribly butthurt here. Just kind of irked. Over it now.
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:iconsahidenethare:
SahidenEthare Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013   Writer
Okay. :)
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
1. Ok, maybe you should have said that in the first place.

2. And you jumped on me without knowing where I was going with my critique; you just assumed I was telling the person to stop writing stories and to write screenplays instead -- a view you persisted with even after I pointed out (twice) that no one had said that. It was as if you decided without even listening that I had nothing of value to say. So let's just say we're even, shall we? Also, why would you ever want to "quip" in the first place?

3.I didn't name you in the original post, so almost no one would have known who I was talking about unless you called attention to yourself. Anyway, I never said you were discouraging; I very specifically said you "heavily discouraged suggesting writing in another medium". Which you did (although I believe your exact words were "I do not encourage...").

4. I actually do not remember you offering much help with overdescriptiveness, beyond saying that the person's work was purple prose. However, you DID offer a lot of great, helpful tips on what to read, which is also important.

5. :shrug:

You didn't answer the original post. D: Do you have any hobbies outside of writing that help you write better, or have you found that writing in other styles, genres, mediums, etc. has helped you be a better writer?
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional Writer
Maybe you shouldn't make inappropriate call-out posts in a public forum. It just makes you look ridiculous.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
I didn't even say your name!
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional Writer
I personally do a mixture of a lot of different types of literature. I've done poetry and prose for a long time and just recently took script writing classes my last few years of university. I've found that with writing poetry, I've been able to work on descriptions more (and add some of that poetic-ness to my prose) and from script writing, my dialogue isn't as "corny" or thrown in there just for the sake for having dialogue. For me, working in different mediums in writing has helped a lot.

I wouldn't ever discourage anyone from trying another medium and probably say that from at least my experience, it's only been helpful. It can't hurt to work outside of your comfort zone sometimes either-- you'll only learn more!
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
Awesome! And I totally agree. I love poetic prose; and often the stuff that blurs lines is the stuff that sticks with you. Well said.
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:iconcinestress:
Cinestress Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional Filmographer
I do a range of things from performing sideshow, to photography, to house-sitting, to horseback riding, to writing. Everything helps me write better stories because of the experiences I gain. You cannot be a good writer without experiences- experience is all a part of the necessary research. Writing isn't just sitting down at your computer and pounding out letters on the keyboard in a pleasant way- you have to be able to connect the reader to your story and to be able to do that, you have to know something about what you are writing.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
That is a good point, to stress experience. I wouldn't have thought of it that way, but I think you're right.
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