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Robinski

Craft Nook

75 posts in this topic

8 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

You all are horrible. It's like you guys keep waving this delicious brownie under my nose but not quiiiiiiiiite letting me have it. I feel like Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, shouting, "Foul temptress!"

LOL. Gain 10 brownie points for Monty Python reference!! :D 

8 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

M-o-t-h is one of the best characters @Robinski has created, based off of the ones I've read anyway. There may be even better characters lurking in stories of his that I have not yet read. 

Why thank you. I tend to think she's the best, and only just turned fifteen as well. 

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@Robinski I don't know, I like the robot sidekick (8/80) better. I'm  not even sure why, but I have this massive soft spot for robot sidekicks. (TARS was literally the only part of Interstellar that I liked.) There's something great about a fully automated robot sidekick - they can just snark everyone present and always play the straight man role perfectly which makes them able to balance more (ahem) quirky characters. And they have a built-in excuse to avoid character development and thus get to remain in the perfect sidekick zone forever. I never get tired of a good robot sidekick.

And, seeing as this is the Craft Nook where we discuss writing mechanics, I'm going to use that alongside my mention of robots as an excuse to go on a rant about robot characters in writing. Specifically why I dislike robot protagonists, but love them as sidekicks. (Thanks for the segue, by the way.) I might be alone on this, but I cannot, and probably will never, sympathize with robot protagonists. This is mostly because I have a background in programming, but also because I very much do not ascribe to determinism. 

Robots, to me, are completely boring and static characters, because, in essence, that's just what software is. Software is predictable. If you break down software enough, you can predict the outcome of the software to any given 'choice' - whether this is a calculator deciding the answer to a basic math problem or Deep Blue deciding the next move against Kasparov. (Granted, Deep Blue is sufficiently complex that you can't actually figure it out realistically, but my point stands.) A robot character is always going to be a very rule-oriented character which perfectly follows the rules that it has been given. Not necessarily a logical character - after all, you don't have to program a robot to be logical - but it will follow the rules that you've established for it. There's never an instance where a robot can make a meaningful choice because it doesn't have the option of 'choosing'. Contrast that with a more human protagonist, and said protagonists can make meaningful choices because human can do that.

The contrast to humans, though, is exactly what makes them such good sidekicks. There's nothing to highlight the complexity and chaos found within a human protagonist who struggles with internal feelings than having a robot standing next to them which will never do anything of the sort. The gold standard of this, naturally, is Isaac Asimov. Take the I, Robot short story collection - the robots are all either sidekicks or antagonists, and it's the human's job to interact with them to figure out the irrationality of the human behavior. (Except for the QT series, which is just satire of Cartesian philosophy.) The best example of this is Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel - they're a detective team consisting of Elijah the human and R. Daneel the robot. They have a great dichotomy as fictional characters because, while R. Daneel is a genuinely intelligent and caring character, ultimately he's a robot and this follows the Three Laws. Contrast that with Elijah, who has to undergo various struggles throughout the books that he knows R. Daneel would never have problems with because R. Daneel is a robot - such as the emotional trauma of being exposed to sunlight in The Naked Sun.

They also make for great antagonists for the same reason - they highlight human flaws by contrast. A robot will either have an unfixable flaw or no flaw at all - contrast that to a human who has flaws that can be improved on. Take Matrix, for instance - the major theme of human free will is highlighted because the main antagonist has no free will at all and follows a strict internal set of rules that it will always obey no matter what. They aren't suited for all types of stories, but they do make for very good antagonists for certain kinds of stories.

Given all this, you then have the type of robot protagonist that I'm just not interested in at all - the 'gaining free will' type of robot protagonist, or the type of story which tries its hardest to affirm to you that robots are somehow equal to humans and should have the same rights as them. Basically, the entire plot of Detroit: Become Human or Westworld, or any other one of these types of stories. And, for the most part, I think I'm pretty alone here - there does seem to be a receptive audience towards these stories. But I just can't buy into the premise. That's not how programming functions - the concept of 'grow beyond its own programming' is basically magic. It's like putting a finite amount of energy in a close system and somehow walking away with twice that energy. I'm alright with it if you use magic to accomplish it, I guess, or if you're operating in very loose sci-fi terms. Tron, for instance, is fine (also Tron isn't really the protagonist of Tron, Flynn is).

The point that I'm trying to make is that if you're establishing a hard science fiction setting and then you say 'Oh, by the way, these are sentient robots with free will that somehow grew beyond their programming to the point where they're relatable protagonists because they actually have free will and why don't you sympathize with them?", I'm just going to lose my suspension of disbelief and resent you for trying to make me sympathize with characters I don't care about. In essence, what you're doing is violating the setting. I don't read science fiction because I want thinly-veiled fantasy, I want science, and science comes with laws built into it. And that why, to me anyway, robots are best served as static character which function as a contrast to the non-static characters. That's not to say that robots can't have character depth - the best ones do (R2-D2, anyone?) - but their character just won't develop. And that's a good thing for robot sidekicks.

(I still love Isaac Asimov's Bicentennial Man, but only the short story, not the full novel or the movie, and in my mind it isn't a story about a robot becoming a human, it's about a robot trying to become a human and the closest Andrew can come is by choosing to die. Though I possibly wouldn't like it as much if I read it for the first time now.)

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34 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

they can just snark everyone present and always play the straight man role perfectly which makes them able to balance more (ahem) quirky characters. And they have a built-in excuse to avoid character development and thus get to remain in the perfect sidekick zone forever. I never get tired of a good robot sidekick.

Hard agree!!

44 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

the best ones do (R2-D2, anyone?)

And 3PO! :)  (Incidentally, on a not particularly related, but not entirely unrelated topic, have you read Lock In and Head On by John Scalzi? Very, very good SF, very thought provoking, IMO.)

We may be straying off Craft Nook territory, but it's an interesting point. How about AI, the movie? I mean, that's a great, great movie. And does place robot as protagonist, but I do tend to agree with you (I think?), man creating artificial life is still abomination. It's not the 'life's' fault, but Man, stop doing that sh1t, just stop it, NOW!

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And thank you for the vote for Eight(y). That is much appreciated. Tune in for TRR (some time in late 2020, maybe) when we get the female model 834 (Bea).

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I thought of a question to pose here while I was editing my next submission. 

I notice that I tend to have paragraphs where I intentionally start three or four sentences with the same phrase. In the most recent case I noticed, there were three consecutive sentences that started with maybe, but I had done it on purpose. 

What are your thoughts on this kind of repetition?

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So, like this? "Maybe I was fed up driving buses. Maybe this job had run its course. Maybe I was ready for a new challenge."

I think it can work well dramatically, as a means to stress a point or frame an argument.

Rule of three is at the heart of it, of course. I think that is a very well-known principle [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_(writing)].

I think like anything, it would get annoying pretty quickly if it occurs too frequently. How much is too much? Depends on the work, I suppose, but once a chapter would seem like a fair bit. More than that and maybe it would start to show, and the reader would start picking them out which probably is not a good thing. I've heard discussion about avoiding the writing 'showing'. I think it becomes a problem when the reader is not just following the story and the narrative, but it noticing 'what the writer did there'.

Honestly, that is the biggest problem I have critiquing now, as a writer, is not being able to read like a reader anymore, finding it harder to stay immersed purely in the story as a story rather than a work of fiction.

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"She was tall and thin, but stood in the centre of the path" - Right, sorry @TheDwarfyOne, this is not aimed at you, but a general observation because I am seeing this in almost everything that I critique at the moment; everything. Anyway, not personal in any way, universal observation. [Edit: also, by the end I almost talked myself around, but there is still a point to it ;).]

The word 'but' here is used as a conjunction, defined as the following. 

1. used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.
"he stumbled but didn't fall"
2. used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.
"one cannot but sympathize"
 
The two parts of the sentence bear almost relation to each other. They're not interdependent, OR at least not obviously so [And that is why I started on this moan]. The woman could be short and stout, and stand in the centre of the path, or tall and thin, and stand at the edge of the path. There's just no OBVIOUS dependence between these two clauses, IMO. AT LEAST, not without further explanation. Is the point that Mum and Susan could have walked past the woman if she had stood at the edge of the path, because she is thin, but could not have passed her if she stood at the edge of the path, and was stout? That's the only explanation I can come up with that makes 'but' work between these clauses. The problem I have then is that it's not obvious (I don't think) that this is the idea behind linking these two clauses.
 
Sorry for the rant, but as I started with, I have seen this a lot in recent subs through the group. If we (I'm positive I've done it too) are going use conjunctions, I think it needs to be clear what the message is for them to make sense, and not sound like run-on sentences. I guess what is clear to some will not be clear to others, but that's why we sub, after all!
 
I'm enjoying the story, BTW. Full comments should be up by the time you see this, or shortly after.
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A fair point! I'll try to be more conjunction-aware in future. I'm sure you're aware how bad the UK teaching system is at teaching grammar :P

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Posted (edited)

14 hours ago, TheDwarfyOne said:

A fair point! I'll try to be more conjunction-aware in future. I'm sure you're aware how bad the UK teaching system is at teaching grammar :P

Er, well, I don't know if it was any better when I was in school. It's long enough ago that I can't actually remember...:rolleyes: 

[edit] p.s. - I mean the grammar can work, but I need to understand that we are talking about the ability to walk past the woman, that she was blocking the path, which is the bit that I don't think is clear. So like, "She was tall and thin, we could have walked past her, but she stood in the centre of the path", for example :) 

Edited by Robinski
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Late to the party again! 

I just wanted to add something to the 'said' vs creative dialogue tag conversation.

'Said' is invisible to read but can get obnoxious in audiobook form. I've heard that some authors make an audiobook revision for that and other reasons (ie data lists, series of numbers).

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1 hour ago, Sarah B said:

'Said' is invisible to read but can get obnoxious in audiobook form

Oooh, totally. I listened to the audio books of those John Scalzi books I mentioned above (Lock In and Head On). Scalzi pretty exclusively uses 'said' and nothing else. The second book was narrated by Will Wheaton, and was fine, because he did not play it up, be almost skipped over the 'said' quickly and softly, but the first narrator...she kind of hammered every single 'said' and I really struggled with it.

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Posted (edited)

Off topic but perhaps relevant, I have been hunting Con news to see what is happening this year:

Gen Con is online and FREE this year for anyone who wants to register.

World con will also be online, not free though.

Edited by Sarah B
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Thanks for sharing, @Sarah B!

I signed up to Quarancon, which happened a few weeks ago, but ended up not attending anything. I find it difficult to commit to times for things. I would sign up to WorldCon, but I'm not convinced I'd get much from it due to time issues.

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2 hours ago, Sarah B said:

World con will also be online, not free though.

 

53 minutes ago, Robinski said:

I would sign up to WorldCon, but I'm not convinced I'd get much from it due to time issues.

Also, if anyone does decide to sign up, I'll be on two panels on the 30th and 31st, talking about Music in SFF, and about Self publishing.

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29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

Also, if anyone does decide to sign up, I'll be on two panels on the 30th and 31st, talking about Music in SFF, and about Self publishing.

See, now I totally want to sign up.

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7 minutes ago, Robinski said:

See, now I totally want to sign up.

Lol

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3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

 

Also, if anyone does decide to sign up, I'll be on two panels on the 30th and 31st, talking about Music in SFF, and about Self publishing.

 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

See, now I totally want to sign up.

Honestly now I'm tempted too :P

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Random question: A character is, according to a helpful comment by Mandamon, supposed to have three 'sliders' - Proactive, sympathetic, competent.

How does this work if your character's flaw is that they are meek/subservient? You can ramp up the sympathy, but a meek character is by nature less proactive and likely less competent.

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42 minutes ago, TheDwarfyOne said:

Random question: A character is, according to a helpful comment by Mandamon, supposed to have three 'sliders' - Proactive, sympathetic, competent.

How does this work if your character's flaw is that they are meek/subservient? You can ramp up the sympathy, but a meek character is by nature less proactive and likely less competent.

I'd argue this has nothing to do with competency. One of the servant/secretary tropes is that they know what their employer wants before they need it. Someone can be meek or subservient and still very good at what they do.

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I'd suggest going to listen to the Writing Excuses podcasts in which they discuss the sliders. There are several casts, I think.

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Posted (edited)

So I won't be submitting for a while because my schedule just got crazy busy, and when I do have free time, I usually don't have the bandwidth to write (still keeping up with submissions, will offer crits when I can). Also, doing major edits on the 35k words I do have right now.

I wanted to ask, though: the biggest change I want to make is putting all the parts of a character's arc in one place rather than interspersing separate scenes throughout the chapters.

Right now, you're thinking: "why wasn't it like that before? That makes no sense, it's really confusing, and it was the reason your last submission was a train wreck, Piper!"

The problem, though, is that if I put the story line all in one place, the timeline has to go WAY out of order. Is it worth it to constantly be jumping back in time so you can have a coherent picture of what's going on? If so, should I also put dates at the start of each chapter so you can keep things straight?

Hope you could follow my train of thought.:)

Edited by PiedPeterPiper
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1 hour ago, PiedPeterPiper said:

The problem, though, is that if I put the story line all in one place, the timeline has to go WAY out of order. Is it worth it to constantly be jumping back in time so you can have a coherent picture of what's going on? If so, should I also put dates at the start of each chapter so you can keep things straight?

Hmmm...I recall Brandon once talking about how he found narrowing down the number of locations as a way to handle all of the many viewpoints in the Stormlight Archive. For instance, Kaladin, Dalinar, and Adolin are all at the Shattered Plains during The Way of Kings, and what affects one affects the others. Same thing with Game of Thrones. There are many locations and many, many characters, but what they do is easily felt by the others, and they appear in the background even when it isn't their POV. Another example is @Mandamon's books. E, I, and S all have their own POVs, but their chapters also show each other and the other main cast of characters. 

I have no experience in bopping around POVs so often, so if I were in your shoes, I would start looking at who does it right, and how they do it. 

I hope your busy-ness is good craziness, and not bad insanity. I completely understand the lack of bandwidth, having a long history with that myself. 

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#iagreewithsnakenaps :) 

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9 hours ago, PiedPeterPiper said:

The problem, though, is that if I put the story line all in one place, the timeline has to go WAY out of order. Is it worth it to constantly be jumping back in time so you can have a coherent picture of what's going on? If so, should I also put dates at the start of each chapter so you can keep things straight?

What I've found over the years is that readers don't really care that much if stuff is out of order. Going back a few days, or even a couple weeks, for another POV is fine if you either make it clear by a date or event, or if it doesn't matter to the storyline. If you actually track the POVs in Wheel of Time, there are characters that are months out of order from others, but as a reader, you don't notice it. The same thing happens in Stormlight archive. It's more important to connect with the character's story than exactly when everything happens.

I always keep a time spreadsheet for my books, so even if the reader doesn't notice things are out of order, they still work out correctly.

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2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

If you actually track the POVs in Wheel of Time, there are characters that are months out of order from others, but as a reader, you don't notice it.

Case in point, most of Crossroads of Twilight (Book 10) takes place chronologically about halfway though Winter's Heart (Book 9). But since there are just so many viewpoint characters separated at that point in the series, there's not a lot of overlap of characters between the two books, it's not that much of a problem. Granted, Crossroads is generally considered to be the weakest book in the entire series, but it's not because of PoV jumping, it's because nothing happens in it. As long as things are happening and the characters don't interact with each other, then I think it's entirely doable.

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