I have noticed certain priorities that beginners have when they tell stories, vs. priorities that professional authors seem to have when they tell theirs.
It's interesting that beginners tend to focus on certain things that more experienced authors seem to grow out of, and it makes me wonder why.
I've decided to make a list about some of these things. Not for the sake of putting them down, so much as because it is interesting to me, and probably worth considering.
I think we need to think about WHY we write certain things, and our attitude behind it. This is what makes certain topics either immature or mature.
However the line is often blurred.
"Mature" means anything sexual, violent or crass. There is no attention to how these things are handled, leaving us with a great amount of "mature" content that is the exact opposite of mature. Likewise, some very clever and ingenious books are marketed for "children," because they have none of these things, when in fact they are far more sophisticated than something like 50 Shades of Grey.
I'm not putting down books with mature content (at least, that is not the point of this deviation). However I would like to point out how, sometimes we are led to believe that we are automatically being deeper by including certain things, when it could not be further from the truth. I am not saying professional writers do not use some of these things occasionally (though I am implying they must use them in different ways and for different reasons). Here are some helpful examples of what the beginners do, and why they seem to do them:
Beginners tend to write about tragedy
Beginners often tend to write about themes that they consider "dark." It is what their mind goes to straight away. They are fascinated by tragedy; it is something interesting. Stories, they conclude, are supposed to be interesting. If I write about interesting things, that is an accomplishment on my part.
It is not.
That thing is already interesting. Your job is to present it in an interesting WAY. The more interesting YOUR creations are, the more effect a tragic happening will have. It's not the size of the tragedy, rather the size of our attachment to your creations that counts. That is your job as a storyteller; otherwise you are just a teller. You are not writing a story, you are satisfying a curiosity for tragedy.
And no, that doesn't make you impressively, "sadistic," or "insane," it just means your imagination is rusty, and you are not very mature in your writing skills yet.
Beginners tend to write about romance
Again, this is one of the first things the brain jumps to.
It is something that many people are fascinated by, and is therefore, something with which we need to be very careful.
Unfortunately it is also something severely misunderstood, which could contribute to people's obsession: they think it is something it is not; and they think that that thing is very interesting. It has turned into a fantasy and a game.
But I don't think I'll go into anymore detail on this subject. (I have two deviations on this topic already).
Beginners tend to swear
It goes hand in hand with using over-dramatic words. Beginners don't understand the concept of using these things like salt. As a result, when a beginner writes a story we are often treated to careless wording, almost naturally including swear words.
They have not stopped to think yet. Why are they using these words? Are they necessary? Do they add to the story's overall theme and point? Would this word have a greater effect if I only said it when I really needed it? Is it unnecessarily excluding people who aren't as comfortable with them when another word would do just as fine? (Most stories that have this problem do not have a point in the first place).
It's a sign of not caring. It's what you notice classmates have done when they weren't into an assignment, and in OC interviews people filled out and titled, "what I did when I was bored on the internet."
In conclusion to this point, here is a quote from C.S Lewis:
Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Beginners tend to talk about body type
They almost always do.
For a long time, I could not put my finger on why.
They feel the need to explain to us, that their character's breasts are a certain way, and that they are "short," or "stocky," or "small for their age," or "slightly toned," or "very strong," and that their skin is "slightly tan," or a "deep coffee brown," (just saying black or white or inbetween never seems to do). Their eyes are "chocolate color," or "hazel with a tint of green."
I suspect it has to do with narcissistic wish fulfillment under the guise of, "I just want to give a clear picture of my character."
First of all, there is nothing "clear," about giving so many details, and whether you like it or not, the clearest picture your reader will ever have is the one they build in their own head. However they will never be able to build any image at all if they are constantly being interrupted by some new and petty little piece of information all the time.
So-called "character development memes," with 100 questions about such things are a foolish and petty waste of time. They are also a distraction from the things we should really be focusing on, like genuine character interaction, instead of contrived, disproved facts that all get shoved into the narration.
Why is it mostly body type that gets obsessed over?
I'm still not sure. Frankly, I don't want to know.
All I DO know, is that I cannot think of any great character whose breast-size ever needed to be stated... And if that is where your priorities lie, perhaps you should stick to watching rubbish anime.
Beginners always make things blow up
There is a strange abundance of bombs, guns, weapons and deaths in beginners' stories.
Now I don't believe this is a matter of being unoriginal, so much as one of being lazy.
How easy is it to say, "and then the world blew up and everyone died, the end?"
As easy as it is to find a video like that made by a 10-year-old on YouTube. That is to say: extremely.
It is also a dead giveaway that your story means nothing to you. And naturally, it never means anything to the audience either.
Beginners always make characters go to the bar
Again, this is a case of what I like to call, the Club Penguin Report Card Syndrome.
This means that writers' brains always default to the type of things that you can report people on Club Penguin for talking about:
Swearing, sexual language, racial words, references to drugs & alcohol, violence and abuse, etc.
Their brains are curious about these juicy little things, and they are satisfied to merely fulfill their immature interest in these things without exploring further into their imaginations or creativity.
Beginners tend to dwell on angst and emotions
Once again, they are interested in something else rather than the story.
They will go out of their way to write about patheticness for the sake of patheticness. This kind of attitude is not what good storytelling is about; it reduces it to a mere type of fetish, or cheap way to get a delight. It is a different craft than writing like Tolkien or J.K Rowling or anyone whose heart was in the actual story. You are using words, but for a very different thing.
Fanfiction in particular, deserves to be called out in this regard. Much of it is only fluff and drama made for a quick "emotional-high."
Don't be deceived into thinking this is the same kind of writing that necessarily deserves to be praised or called constructive. Judging by the fruits of it that I have witnessed, what it leads people to dwell on is not always so healthy or wise.
These sorts of things can be used in powerful ways when we know what we're doing. It's really a matter of not getting ahead of ourselves, and realizing we need to slow down and have something worth writing about first (rather than just wanting to get to the juicy parts first). Fanfiction writers have an advantage because people are already invested in a world that they never had to build. Sometimes we lose sight of why we care about those worlds in the first place, and the skill it takes to get us to that point.
Well, that's about all I have to say for now. Comments are welcome. I enjoy people's theories and thoughts. Let me know your ideas. Thanks for reading.