what is the difference between ….

Home Forums Writer’s Digest Forum Writers’ Block Party what is the difference between ….

This topic contains 24 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  AngelinaK52 11 months ago.

  • Author
    Posts
  • #346535

    Anonymous

    I see many sources that say a novel is based on characters, plot, theme, and setting.

    I have trouble seeing a difference between theme and plot the way they describe them.
    One source had theme equated to premise which sounds like the logline of a very condensed plot.

    So what do you see as mandatory items for a good novel. And how would you describe theme, premise, plot, logline, etc. if you include any of those.

    If you don’t require characters, settings, or plot, then please give an example of a novel without one of those or at least explain how that could be.
    If you can’t get by without theme then please explain why it is mandatory. Or is a novel a type of Rohrshach test and theme is what the reader thinks they see at a higher level than the actual events in the plot.

  • #654754

    Anonymous

    I think this is a bit of overthinking.

    The question should be… do I have a story to tell? If you do, what will it involve and how? Let the rest of the pieces fall as they may.

  • #654755

    Anonymous

    Just go with your gut.

  • #654756

    Anonymous
    Brien Sz wrote:
    I think this is a bit of overthinking.

    The question should be… do I have a story to tell? If you do, what will it involve and how? Let the rest of the pieces fall as they may.

    =========

    Agreed. But some of the books make a big deal about theme. I thought they might have a reason for that. But others were more like you note and whatever the story was about was some theme by default. It does seem sort of backwards to worry about theme before the story.

  • #654757

    Anonymous
    Noizchild wrote:
    Just go with your gut.

    =====

    Okay. And I have a big one so that should make the novel a best seller:)

  • #654758

    Anonymous

    This is why I don’t like books on writing. They all say you should do this or that or something else entirely, and writers spend their time worrying about doing all this contradictory crap. Just tell a story. Reviewers and discussion groups can discuss and argue about what you really meant, and most of the time they’ll be wrong anyway.

  • #654759

    Anonymous

    I have nothing against books on writing. If it works for you, use it the best you can. I’ve picked up a few here and there over the years because something about them caught my eye but I can’t recall absorbing anything from them, save for Stephen King’s, On Writing. That’s a book about writing, but not in any way that delves into theme, plot, etc..,

  • #654760

    Anonymous

    I suppose I should have said I don’t like them for new writers, because they inevitably contradict each other. Once one has been writing for a while, and has some idea of what your own strengths and weaknesses are, then sure, reading them for ideas is probably good. I’ve just seen too many people screwed up because they think a successful author can tell them how to write successfully, when in fact, all these authors can do is tell what worked for them.

  • #654761

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > I suppose I should have said I don’t like them for new writers, because
    > they inevitably contradict each other. Once one has been writing for a
    > while, and has some idea of what your own strengths and weaknesses are,
    > then sure, reading them for ideas is probably good. I’ve just seen too many
    > people screwed up because they think a successful author can tell them how
    > to write successfully, when in fact, all these authors can do is tell what
    > worked for them.
    ===================

    After reading dozens of books and as many web sites about writing, my impression is that they generally agree on the big picture for writing, but they all differ in the details of how to actually do what their books say to do.

    One might reasonably conclude that, if something similar worked for so many of those folks who write books on writing, then something similar should have a good chance of working for us too. The devil is, of course, in the details of how to actually instantiate the general advice. And of course personal preference as well as education and experience will influence the choice of what works best for a given writer.

  • #654762

    Anonymous

    The big picture would be so huge as to be of little value, things like ‘write a good story’ or ‘know your grammar’. Past those obvious bits of advice, I can’t think of much advice that doesn’t involve the author’s personal preferences/prejudices. Authors write about writing because they’re enthusiastic about the way they write, and they want to share that enthusiasm (or they’re written by people who haven’t written but have read a lot of advice by people who have). Which is fine, until one starts reading words like “need to”, “should”, “always”, “must”, “can’t” – those are the words of someone who doesn’t realize that their advice won’t work for everyone. And of course, we’re missing the advice of so many writers who have no interest in writing about writing because they’re too involved with – well, writing. So it’s kinda like those online “Please fill out the survey” – the results are really meaningless because you’re only hearing from people motivated to respond, and not from a legitimate cross-section of the population.

    So I stand by my advice – write enough so you know what you’re good at and what needs work, then look at books/sites and see if you find something that might help. But we really need to quit treating these how-to books as if they were gospel.

  • #654763

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > The big picture would be so huge as to be of little value, things like
    > ‘write a good story’ or ‘know your grammar’. Past those obvious bits of
    > advice, I can’t think of much advice that doesn’t involve the author’s
    > personal preferences/prejudices. Authors write about writing because
    > they’re enthusiastic about the way they write, and they want to share that
    > enthusiasm (or they’re written by people who haven’t written but have read
    > a lot of advice by people who have). Which is fine, until one starts
    > reading words like “need to”, “should”,
    > “always”, “must”, “can’t” – those are the
    > words of someone who doesn’t realize that their advice won’t work for
    > everyone. And of course, we’re missing the advice of so many writers who
    > have no interest in writing about writing because they’re too involved with
    > – well, writing. So it’s kinda like those online “Please fill out the
    > survey” – the results are really meaningless because you’re only
    > hearing from people motivated to respond, and not from a legitimate
    > cross-section of the population.
    >
    > So I stand by my advice – write enough so you know what you’re good at and
    > what needs work, then look at books/sites and see if you find something
    > that might help. But we really need to quit treating these how-to books as
    > if they were gospel.
    ========

    The big picture may be of little value to the experienced writer. Yet tens of thousands of these books are sold every year to people who want to learn how to write their own novel or script.

    There is much more advice than merely write a good story or know SPAG.

    Their advice may be their prejudice but so many of those books are so similar at the big picture level which indicates they all basically agree on the approach and the real difference is in the details they use.

    Your advice is nice, but many people are clueless to start writing at all to discover what they are good at. They look at the books and sites and choose some of the many that are available to get them started. Nobody treats how to books as gospel, but they do offer information that can be used by a new writer that puts them far ahead of some trial and error approach.

  • #654764

    Anonymous

    I simply can’t imagine how people like Dickens and Twain managed without them. 🙄

  • #654765

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > I simply can’t imagine how people like Dickens and Twain managed without
    > them. 🙄
    ============

    Non sequitur and irrelevant to this discussion.
    Newer people always learn from the pioneers how to do things better faster easier.
    Whatever problems Dickens and Twain had, there is no reason for today’s novelists to have them if they can learn how to avoid them.

  • #654766

    Anonymous

    Like most things, passion is something that grows from within, it’s organic. People who like to write, write. As they grow they will gravitate towards lessons and advice that best suites their needs. If someone says, I want to write and be a novelist and has never written before, then there’s a good chance and isn’t happening even if they purchased a wall full of books. Some things are just innate. Discipline is another matter and that’s where most fall short – they have the want, they don’t have the will to withstand the storm.

    There is no golden egg for this. You can teach to a point, the rest is the gift given and what you do with it. I wanted to be a professional baseball player, but my hitting never amounted to much no matter how many hours I practiced in a cage, or lessons. I only improved so much, while other guys just, ‘had it.’ A buddy of mine was scouted by the Dodgers when he lived in Venezuela in the early 80’s. He was really good, just like a lot of guys. You know how they separated the ones they wanted from the ones they didn’t to get to the next level (unless you were already considered a can’t miss)? – the scout said to my friends, “throw this ball 90mph five times.” He threw it 91 once. The rest were high 80’s. You know the scout said? He said, “Next!”.

    Bill Belechek (sic) wanted to be a pro football player. He just didn’t have the size or speed so instead, he realized he had a knack for coaching and became the best at it.

    I cite these examples because at some level, you have it or you don’t. Yes, you can learn to write. You can probably even earn a few bucks at it here or there but unless you have the gift or some portion of it, it’s highly doubtful all the books in the world will do anything for you.

    I teach photography. I’ve been teaching it for 20 years – to all ages. Some people have a natural knack for composing great shots. Others can be coached into becoming adequate or better than that photographers. And others, they don’t see it, they don’t get. It won’t matter how many books they read, it just will probably not happen for them.

  • #654767

    Anonymous

    YES

  • #654768

    Anonymous

    Brien Sz wrote:
    > Like most things, passion is something that grows from within, it’s
    > organic. People who like to write, write. As they grow they will
    > gravitate towards lessons and advice that best suites their needs. If
    > someone says, I want to write and be a novelist and has never written
    > before, then there’s a good chance and isn’t happening even if they
    > purchased a wall full of books. Some things are just innate. Discipline
    > is another matter and that’s where most fall short – they have the want,
    > they don’t have the will to withstand the storm.
    >
    > There is no golden egg for this. You can teach to a point, the rest is the
    > gift given and what you do with it. I wanted to be a professional baseball
    > player, but my hitting never amounted to much no matter how many hours I
    > practiced in a cage, or lessons. I only improved so much, while other guys
    > just, ‘had it.’ A buddy of mine was scouted by the Dodgers when he lived
    > in Venezuela in the early 80’s. He was really good, just like a lot of
    > guys. You know how they separated the ones they wanted from the ones they
    > didn’t to get to the next level (unless you were already considered a can’t
    > miss)? – the scout said to my friends, “throw this ball 90mph five
    > times.” He threw it 91 once. The rest were high 80’s. You know the
    > scout said? He said, “Next!”.
    >
    > Bill Belechek (sic) wanted to be a pro football player. He just didn’t
    > have the size or speed so instead, he realized he had a knack for coaching
    > and became the best at it.
    >
    > I cite these examples because at some level, you have it or you don’t.
    > Yes, you can learn to write. You can probably even earn a few bucks at it
    > here or there but unless you have the gift or some portion of it, it’s
    > highly doubtful all the books in the world will do anything for you.
    >
    > I teach photography. I’ve been teaching it for 20 years – to all ages.
    > Some people have a natural knack for composing great shots. Others can be
    > coached into becoming adequate or better than that photographers. And
    > others, they don’t see it, they don’t get. It won’t matter how many books
    > they read, it just will probably not happen for them.
    ============

    People learn to play the piano all the time. They use books, some also use teachers.
    Of course it takes practice and work to gain skills and become better.
    Not everybody becomes a concert pianist. Or even good enough for a garage band keyboard.

    It is less about having some ‘it’ and more about how much you want to put in the work to acquire that skill.
    Maybe at the Carnegie Hall level there is a basic limiting factor like long fingers and fast twitch muscles , but almost anybody can learn to play the piano.

    And millions of people can write novels as kindle and POD publishing has proven.
    Whether they write good novels still depends on learning the craft more than having some innate skill to do it.
    Tens of thousands of peoples buy books on how to write novels expecting that they can learn to do it that way.
    No matter how much they learn it has to put them farther ahead sooner than trial and error could do.

  • #654769

    Anonymous

    Essentially you stated ‘master of the obvious’ stuff, but this wasn’t your initial premise for the post.

    Yes, anyone can learn, anyone can get better… so what was the point of this entire post then if this was already forgone knowledge?

  • #654770

    Anonymous

    And then there are artists who play be ear, never having had any formal training at all.

    Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, jazz drummer Tony Williams, Stevie Ray Vaughan, famed composer Danny Elfman, Kanye West, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, Eric Clapton, Kurt Vile.

    https://mic.com/articles/101250/why-not-being-able-to-read-music-means-nothing-about-your-musical-ability#.eq1dNXLZK

    Writers, like musicians, need to allow themselves to just do it, without worrying about who says they should do it This Way and who else says they should do it That Way. Beyond a basic grammar book and healthy interest in reading the kind of books they want to write, there is nothing else a writer really needs to “learn” how to write.

  • #654771

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > And then there are artists who play be ear, never having had any formal
    > training at all.
    >
    > Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, jazz drummer Tony Williams,
    > Stevie Ray Vaughan, famed composer Danny Elfman, Kanye West, Rage Against
    > the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, Eric Clapton, Kurt Vile.
    >
    >
    > https://mic.com/articles/101250/why-not-being-able-to-read-music-means-nothing-about-your-musical-ability#.eq1dNXLZK
    >
    > Writers, like musicians, need to allow themselves to just do it, without
    > worrying about who says they should do it This Way and who else says they
    > should do it That Way. Beyond a basic grammar book and healthy interest in
    > reading the kind of books they want to write, there is nothing else a
    > writer really needs to “learn” how to write.
    ==========

    Great if you can do it that way by yourself. Most people can’t. Amazon proves that.

    WD and others sell tons of books as well as courses and retreats and other things that people buy all the time to learn how to write.
    If nobody was learning anything the word would get around fast and the books would stop selling and the courses would not have students.

    I suspect that many of their students may have tried to DIY and failed. Or they read some books and still didn’t get enough so they signed up for the courses and seminars next. And if they had learned just enough from some books they would still be looking for more advanced ways to make their stories better.

  • #654772

    Anonymous

    Lots of good intentions. However, a lot of money is made by having cats chase their tails.

  • #654773

    Anonymous

    deddmann_writing wrote:

    > WD and others sell tons of books as well as courses and retreats and other things
    > that people buy all the time to learn how to write.
    > If nobody was learning anything the word would get around fast and the books would
    > stop selling and the courses would not have students.
    >
    > I suspect that many of their students may have tried to DIY and failed. Or they
    > read some books and still didn’t get enough so they signed up for the courses and
    > seminars next. And if they had learned just enough from some books they would
    > still be looking for more advanced ways to make their stories better.

    I suspect a lot of these books get sold because new writers hear how hard it is to get published and think that following all this advice will make that easier. “I’ll just read these books and I’ll know exactly how to write so I get an agent and a publisher and I’ll make tons of money!” And of course, after purchasing the books and getting totally confused about how they’re supposed to write, they either give up or toss the books and just start writing because nothing else worked.

    Look at all the advice that gets tossed around writers’ circles – don’t use a prologue, don’t use adverbs, don’t use passive voice, don’t don’t don’t. Then people start discussing that advice and find out, OMG! those aren’t actual RULES? I CAN use a prologue, and adverbs, and passive voice and just actually write a story MY WAY?!?!?! omgomgomgomg!

    And then you think reading bookloads of that advice is going to help?

    People can spend all kinds of money and time reading about writing and never get a word on paper. The people who really want to write do just that – write.

  • #654774

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > deddmann_writing wrote:
    >
    > > WD and others sell tons of books as well as courses and retreats and other
    > things
    > > that people buy all the time to learn how to write.
    > > If nobody was learning anything the word would get around fast and the books
    > would
    > > stop selling and the courses would not have students.
    > >
    > > I suspect that many of their students may have tried to DIY and failed. Or
    > they
    > > read some books and still didn’t get enough so they signed up for the courses
    > and
    > > seminars next. And if they had learned just enough from some books they
    > would
    > > still be looking for more advanced ways to make their stories better.
    >
    >
    > I suspect a lot of these books get sold because new writers hear how hard it is to
    > get published and think that following all this advice will make that easier.
    > “I’ll just read these books and I’ll know exactly how to write so I get an agent
    > and a publisher and I’ll make tons of money!” And of course, after purchasing
    > the books and getting totally confused about how they’re supposed to write, they
    > either give up or toss the books and just start writing because nothing else worked.
    >
    > Look at all the advice that gets tossed around writers’ circles – don’t use a
    > prologue, don’t use adverbs, don’t use passive voice, don’t don’t don’t. Then people
    > start discussing that advice and find out, OMG! those aren’t actual RULES? I CAN use
    > a prologue, and adverbs, and passive voice and just actually write a story MY
    > WAY?!?!?! omgomgomgomg!
    >
    > And then you think reading bookloads of that advice is going to help?
    >
    > People can spend all kinds of money and time reading about writing and never get a
    > word on paper. The people who really want to write do just that – write.
    ===========

    That may be why some of those books sell.

    Some people just naturally want to learn a little bit about something before they try something new.
    I would (and did) read some books on music theory, chords, and related topics before I tried to compose music. Or rather to program a computer to play pleasant sounding music in the baroque style of counterpoint.

    I suspect that a goodly number have tried to write the novel and failed. Or they at least realise they don’t know where to start.
    And I am the type of person who does think that reading the advice of successful authors should be beneficial and cannot hurt at all as I am free to reject it if I am not convinced it will work for me.

    Anybody who can just write or even thinks they can write should give that a try and see how it works out. That would save reading a lot of books on theory if they succeed without any outside guidance.

  • #654775

    Anonymous

    Back to the original point. Theme is essentially the meaning, the lesson, so to speak, of the work written. Plot, is the vehicle you use to tell it.

  • #654776

    Anonymous

    Brien Sz wrote:
    > Back to the original point. Theme is essentially the meaning, the lesson,
    > so to speak, of the work written. Plot, is the vehicle you use to tell it.
    ==========

    Thanks. Putting it that way makes more sense.

    But do I really need a theme? Does detective catch killer really have a theme? Or is theme whatever the critics say it was, or what?
    Could the theme just be implicit and not something that the author worries about. Crime does not pay seems to be the theme for most detective novels.
    Is that really something a writer decides first or even cares about?

    To me the plot makes the story interesting. Theme is something for English profs to debate. Does the island on Lord of the Flies represent the garden of Eden? Or what does the rain in Hemingway’s novel mean. And how does all the symbolism add up to something that would be a theme without being just a verbal Rohrshach test.

    Aesop’s fables had a moral to the story. I thought those were tacked on so a boring description had some significance. Else why have the story at all just get to the theme and tell us without wasting time like a proverb does.

  • #654777

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    I believe the plot is much more important than any theme. Most writers write toward a plot. Many great novels of today have people thinking that the writer wrote toward a theme when in fact they just wrote the novel as they saw the story in their head. I can’t remember the novel or author, but I remember this author giving an interview where he was laughing at some of the reviews where the readers were discussing the theme of his novel and he was saying he didn’t even know his novel had a theme. So unless you are specifically trying to relay a moral of the story, I say just write a great novel with rememberable characters and forget about theme.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.