Oh boy it’s time to wank about literature again.
From an honest, albeit low effort, review I recently received, I was exposed to an entirely new set of blogs and opinionated reviews (or read-throughs) on some of the more popular works of fiction. I was frankly ecstatic, as actually constructive criticism is very difficult to come by, especially on a technical matters. Now, a lot of you may not be aware of it (not that there are very many people who read this blog), but I was never properly trained as a writer. Best thing I was ever forced to study was how to write essays for ESL exams, which are all positively inane and completely devoid of any individuality.
Frankly speaking, I’m someone who’s prone to making mistakes. Yes, yes mistakes help you grow and all that, but such a thing’s only true if you’re somehow capable of recognising your own mistakes. The funniest thing, of course, would be the fact that if you were capable of recognising your mistakes in the first place, you wouldn’t have made them. This is especially true for an art form that doesn’t have a lot of mechanical muscle memories expertise input. You may get better at typing if you do it often enough, but your story wouldn’t necessarily get any better. It takes sudden realisation, careful scrutiny, or a cold, hard dose of criticism for someone to improve their work. Perhaps that’s what people mean by ‘just doing it’. I’m not inclined to believe them, but you’re free to.
So back on the story at hand. I was introduced to an awfully large amount of hardened criticism, on works that aren’t my own, over the last few days. A group of friends, with distinctly different targets, set out to review a few popular fiction novels. Now in the interest of keeping names off my site, I won’t be referring to anything in any serious capacity. I will, however, tell you what I’ve learnt.
Perhaps a bit more background would be appropriate.
English isn’t my first language. This isn’t an excuse. I’m terrible at any language other than English.
It’s not quite too relevant why I chose English to be my primary language, but know that I’ve always been looking to learn more about it, especially after I decided to take writing seriously about a year ago. For the last five years or so, I’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of writing technicalities. Plenty of things fit into this: grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, proper nouns etc. What I found impossible to learn from, however, is plot.
Let’s keep ourselves from tackling that for a moment, instead focus on the technicalities. One may say (and this is something I’ve genuinely heard and agreed with at a younger age): plot is more important than technicalities. A good plot cannot be replaced, but technicalities can be fixed for you. This was mostly a naive world view, simply because I wasn’t fully aware of how technical plot points can be. You’ve all heard of “show don’t tell” at some points. It’s something that people really beat you over the head with, expecting it to go through. It doesn’t really work that way, of course, and require personal recognition to be embraced fully as an applicable concept. You have to understand it before you can do it, quite a daunting task I’d say.
Then we have plot. I’ve always believed the core plot is infallible. I should correct that, I’ve always believed that MY core plot was infallible. While fixing mistakes had always been something I’m extremely open to, never once have I ever put my core plot up to question. To this day, I believe that this was the correct choice, but I’ll talk about that later. What I must express right now is that I’ve never learnt about the importance of plot presentation, as well as the centrifugal plot until very recently. I thought that technique + plot = plot presentation, but I was in fact very wrong. The amount of planning, understanding and confidence that is required to make a great plot presentation is enormous, and frankly is something that has been sorely lacking from my novels. Naturally my short stories do not struggle as much with such a problem, and since I’ve been doing a lot of that recently, it’s only when I look back at my novel progress that I realise something has gone terrible awry. However, now that such an idea has come to me, I can hopefully improve upon it.
On to the point before: why my core plot is never up for discussion. Within my economical and societal context, I don’t have an obligation to write. Indeed, I only write because I wish to put words onto paper, in order to materialises a plot I’ve been holding onto in my head. Due to this fact, a story whose core plot has been compromised might as well not exist. This is why I am particularly stubborn at points like this. I firmly believe that while the overall construction and presentation of the plot itself might not be of the highest quality, improvements made on this front has to come from my own experience and knowledge, something that authentically comes out of me and makes sense to me. Sure, I could listen to a random reviewer and alter my plot to what he/she wanted. However, even without scoffing off the idea purely due to the fact that readers aren’t worth pandering to, I could not change a plot even if I felt like it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. This is because once the core stopped becoming something I hold complete control over, the story ceased being something that’s mine. This sense of identity is extremely vital to me, even if it practically makes having an update schedule impossible.
Back to taking video games way too seriously.
The hell’s Pinterest anyways