Brandon Sanderson Class Online

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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wilderness
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by wilderness » April 26th, 2012, 8:14 pm

One of the gems I found from "Lecture 2 - Plot by discovery" was his suggestion for a dialogue exercise. You write a dialogue with 3 characters using no dialogue tags, and force yourself to differentiate the characters only by their style of speech. I've been struggling to create separate speech patterns for each of my 3 main characters, and a throw-away dialogue scene seems like a great way to hone that.

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Nicole R » April 27th, 2012, 1:38 pm

I love his description of characters having a line-item veto over the setting/plot. My characters tend to pull out that veto from time to time. ;)

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by trixie » April 28th, 2012, 10:35 pm

Thanks, Dios, for the link! This looks super interesting! Now all I need to do is find the time to listen...

I'll try to catch up over the course of this week.

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Mira
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Mira » April 29th, 2012, 10:38 pm

This looks so cool. I don't write fiction, though. Do you think his lectures would be helpful for non-fiction? I'm really impressed by everyone's enthusiasm, especially yours, Brenda. :)

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Hillsy
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Hillsy » April 30th, 2012, 4:51 am

Mira wrote:This looks so cool. I don't write fiction, though. Do you think his lectures would be helpful for non-fiction? I'm really impressed by everyone's enthusiasm, especially yours, Brenda. :)
Do ballet lessons help with tapdancing?

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dios4vida
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by dios4vida » May 11th, 2012, 1:48 pm

Hey all, I'm still getting caught up from vacation and writerly deadlines and all that. I haven't had a chance to watch lecture 4 or 5 yet. Has anyone? Any good tidbits in there?
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by dios4vida » May 11th, 2012, 1:50 pm

Mira wrote:This looks so cool. I don't write fiction, though. Do you think his lectures would be helpful for non-fiction? I'm really impressed by everyone's enthusiasm, especially yours, Brenda. :)
I don't think they'd be all that helpful, to be honest. A lot of what he's gone over so far have been plotting and things like that. It's all pretty specific to fantasy and sci-fi. Even some non-spec-fic writers might not get much out of the lectures. Sorry! :(
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Hillsy
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Hillsy » May 11th, 2012, 6:28 pm

dios4vida wrote: I don't think they'd be all that helpful, to be honest. A lot of what he's gone over so far have been plotting and things like that. It's all pretty specific to fantasy and sci-fi. Even some non-spec-fic writers might not get much out of the lectures. Sorry! :(
Sorry Benda but I'd disagree - to an extent. Granted a lot of his examples are based around world building and constructing effective prose, but the real core of what he's talking about is valid for all types of writing. Clarity, engagement, hooks - they work for pretty much any type of writing. An example: I struggled, even as a physics student, to grasp the concepts of entropy. I was taught badly, in my opinion. I watched a tv program about it and in very simple, accurate language, it was explained and I totally got it - right down to the heat death of the universe. Why? the difficult ideas were couched in a neat narrative about time, sand, and probability. It had a message and it transferred that message in such a way that it took me lass than 2 minutes to grasp a concept that had hitherto eluded me. Which is largely the point of all writing - journalistic, fictional, biographical - whatever.

THe point/joke I made has a solid founding - my other half always wanted to learn tap dancing at school, but you needed to do 2 years of ballet first. Why? It taught you to be light on your toes, supple; it tought you about rhythm and artistry. It had nothing about how to do the precussive elements of tap, but they felt it necessary to learn something about the structure and basics of dance. In the same way I'd say learning about the necessity of fiction writing to convey meaning and fact in an enjoyable and flowing way is a transferable skill when it comes to non-fiction writing.

Yes there are better workshops to take, but there's no harm in watching and learning from a wordsmith, regardless of the medium he works in......

.....having said that the most recent post (episode 6) about the business element is brilliant, just wrapped around fiction anecdotes rather than memoir fo factual writing.

ANyways - I've had several beers....=0)

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wilderness
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by wilderness » May 15th, 2012, 3:11 pm

I'm still enjoying the lecture series. (Thanks again for posting the link!) I just watched Lecture 7 which includes major plot archetypes. I really liked how Brandon emphasized not following them so closely that your readers can see the gears turning. I think there are a lot of novels you feel unsatisfied with because they are simply too formulaic (also a common complaint about Hollywood movies). Making things a little messy, not *quite* fitting so neatly...those things can really give your book more flavor. Also, I think it makes things more fun for we writers.

Another thought I had was about the try-fail cycle + likeable protagonists. In the lecture about characters, Brandon made a good point about how a character really has to be pro-active for you to like him/her. The try-fail cycle is a great way to keep amping up conflict in your novel, but one thing I've realized is that it can't just be a bunch of bad things happening to your character. Your character has to pro-actively make certain choices and through some flaw, they sometimes are set back. Maybe the character was too rash, or too ignorant, or too whatever. But the point is that if he or she is always simply reacting, they seem weak.

I see that a lot in "chosen one" plots. A lot of fantasy books have a character who is "chosen" to go on and do great things. Some of these books work better than others, and I think the ones that work better are the ones where the character takes an active role in their fate. For example, Harry Potter. He is "fated" to be a hero; he defeated Voldemort as a baby and we don't even know how. And although he is neither the smartest or most talented wizard, he (and his friends) are extremely pro-active. In the first book, he's just a kid but he notices that something is up with the theft at Gringotts and that the teachers are trying to protect something in the forbidden part of the castle. He can't let it go and when he thinks that Snape is up to something bad, he can't let that go. I think Rowling does a great job of using the "chosen one" archetype for foreshadowing and momentum but she is careful to give Harry some traits that are not simply talents but some very innate traits that will lead him to become a hero.

What do you guys think? Are there characters you've read that you haven't liked? Are you able to identify why?

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by dios4vida » May 17th, 2012, 4:06 pm

Wow, wilderness, you're way ahead of me. Between being out of town for a week and going on a mad writing frenzy since getting back, I only just got to Lecture 4 today.

I loved this one. Characters are my weak point, which might be why, but I thought he had some awesome points there. The whole proactive point which has been mentioned before is a great one. I also liked his explanation of how not-nice characters can be so compelling with depth and proactivity and the other traits listed in the sympathetic character list. Great stuff.

I really liked how he said not to write characters to fulfill a role, but to think of them as people rather than 'love interest' or other such titles. Great tip for keeping all the characters well-rounded.

The gem for me, though, was the side-note he made about plots feeling contrived. Every book will feel contrived because so much relies on circumstance. Our job is to work like a stage magician to make readers forget that. Make it rational enough to be believable with proper foreshadowing, depth, and worldbuilding. And if the reader can say "Oh no, that's gonna be a problem" before it ever comes up, that's a good thing. I think I liked this because I'm in the middle of edits for the umpteenth time on this ms and I'm about sick of it. Everything feels contrived and drivel-ish right now. But everything will feel like that, no matter how good you make it, and all I have to do is suspend my readers' disbelief enough for them to see the logic I put into it. Then we're good.

So, everyone, what do you think?? How are the lectures going for you?

(I'm not ignoring your questions, wilderness, but I want to watch the lecture you're referencing before giving any answers.)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Hillsy
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Hillsy » May 18th, 2012, 10:52 am

wilderness wrote: What do you guys think? Are there characters you've read that you haven't liked? Are you able to identify why?
I'm not so much bothered by reactive characters compared to proactive - I really struggle though with predictable, consistent characters. This isn't boring, or 2D, or simple. You can have a wonderfully entertaining, fully fleshed out character, but if I can predict actions based on that character 100 pages before a major decision appears - that really narks me. If a character is ALWAYS consistent, because his character is so clearly defined, then any choices he comes across arn't choices at all. That bothers me. You have to make it plausible that a character makes a choice, good or bad, not inevitable. Basically I just end up going "Oh god he's going to do..." and that's it. It takes a writer a lot to get me back from that.
dios4vida wrote:Everything feels contrived and drivel-ish right now. But everything will feel like that, no matter how good you make it, and all I have to do is suspend my readers' disbelief enough for them to see the logic I put into it. Then we're good.
Utter Truth. As a corollary to that, I've got a novel (a 200K behemoth) with 3 types of plot effectively corkscrewing throughout (A thriller, a courtroom mystery, and an ideologic Sci-Fi). It's the only thing I've really had read by anyone else. So I give it to my missus and she reads it - for the big set piece finish she wanted more clarity, a greater re-hash of the mystery element of the plot largely because it's pretty vast, triggers a ton of consequences and has to compete with a whole bunch of action and chases. Anyways this confused the hell out of me because I'd been sticking subtle rehashes into conversations and whatnot, to kind of keep things moving and I'd thought I'd almost been too Overt.

So how can both opinions be true? Because I'd made the plot seem uncontrived and smooth TO ME. To her it was just buried too deep. To me a full walkthrough of the plot at the end was just repition. To her it was the finished jigsaw from all the hints she'd gleaned but didn't know what to do with. In other words: it's supposed to feel contrived to the writer. That's something tricky to get your noodle round - I certainly haven't managed it yet.

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wilderness
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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by wilderness » May 18th, 2012, 11:54 am

Dios, I'll admit I skipped the second half of lecture 5 and all of 6 because they weren't broken down into bite sized pieces for me. So I'm not *that* far ahead in watching.

As for feeling your plot is contrived/obvious: I try to be objective about what is truly a contrived coincidence and what would make sense. I definitely have one plot point that I'm trying to rework because I think it is way too contrived. But also there really is no substitute for beta readers. You'll always find they're confused about things you never would have thought. I think it's especially difficult in fantasy and science-fiction because they have no idea what the rules of your world are. They also pick up on logical inconsistencies really fast. You wanted your book to head to point B, but you forced it to go there despite all of the facts. Now you have to rework the facts to make it all make sense. Or maybe that only happens to me. ;)

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Mark.W.Carson » May 18th, 2012, 12:08 pm

Hillsy,

The plot should not feel "contrived' to the writer, but it should feel like you know exactly what pieces are moving and in the air. Maybe that seems contrived to you. I mean, to a magician, there is no magic, only misdirection. Make the magic happen.

My issue is I feel that I am bored by my story at times, because I have been working on it for a year now. There are more elements, and depth in story, plot and character, but how many different ways can you slice the apple before you want a banana?

The advice Wilderness gave was true, though. Don't go by one person. Have multiple readers.

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by CharleeVale » May 18th, 2012, 1:56 pm

I haven't started listening yet, but all I see are 1-4. Am I missing something?

CV

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Re: Brandon Sanderson Class Online

Post by Mark.W.Carson » May 18th, 2012, 2:07 pm

You can click through right to the Youtube channel, Char :).

At first, I wasn't sold. Brandon himself is not engaging (Sorry Brandon) but the material is, so he pulls it off.

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