How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.

How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:29 pm

I've been reading a lot of variations on the same question:

"How come my stories aren't scoring routine HM/semi/Finalist the way others' stories are?"

To quote one of my favorite old movies from the 80's:

Charles De Mar wrote:I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I'm no dummy.


Put more plainly, I think I've been doing this enough -- writing fiction at an aspirant level, that is -- and getting enough regular action at WOTF in particular -- in the form of HM and Finalist notices -- to have my finger (somewhat, perhaps) on the pulse of things.

1) Your SF or F element is probably not apparent enough, early enough in the story. Granted, the WOTF books run the gammut. But contemporary stories where the SF or F element is very subtle, or very abstract, or very under-the-radar, might still be good stories, they're just not wearing their SF and F credentials on their sleeves enough to make the cut. I've never gotten a rejection, but then the six stories I've sent to the contest have all had very, very apparent SF or F elements -- settings, characters, language, story title, etc. Not much subtlety, in that regard.

2) Your SF or F story might be too much of a "downer" story. We all know it's become chic in the literary field to write "down" fiction, because "downer" stories are basically code for realism, because as every good emo knows, life is pain and suffering and you can't write real fiction and be a real writer if you don't write about pain and suffering. Especially on a quasi-existential level. I say, pain and suffering are fine, but they must serve a purpose in the story. A positive purpose. They must either drive your character towards a more positive outcome, or they must be crucibles that transform your character into a better person(s) than they were before. Pain and suffering -- for their own sake -- aren't what WOTF is interested in. So have your story and your protag(s) follow a more or less positive arc, or at least end up somewhere that, when you read between the lines, appears to be taking them in a positive direction.

3) Your story might be bashing religion, or possibly lacks a religious element altogether. It's my inexpert opinion that you hurt yourself not at all by making your story religious. Now, I don't mean bible-thumpin'. I mean, explore a religious theme, make a character or characters sympathetically religious, etc. Religion, as an artifact of human behavior and society, can be endlessly fascinating. It can also be a tremendous informant of a protag's ideals, thoughts, motivations, etc. Doesn't even have to be a religion we'd recognize from modern day. Make it up! But make it relevant. Delve into what it means to Believe. Or, have your character torn between the secular and the theological. Make this part of the character's inner journey, either away from an incorrect spiritual perception of the universe, or towards something that seems more consonant with a fundamental truth or otherwise defining aspect of the character's perception.

4) On that note, your protag might not be taking enough of a voyage. Again, literaristicaliciousness dictates that Good Fiction is a talking-heads, painfully self-absorbed thing. Grand journey's are soooooooo passé. Everything has to be angsty and happen inside the protag's head, or it's no good. I say, PHHHBTBTBTBT! :P Take the reader -- and your protag -- on a grand ride. Go places! At the risk of sounding corny, dig that box of SENS-O-WUNDA™ that you put in the closet long ago, and shovel a few scoops into your next WOTF entry. Grand vistas. Big places, with big people and big ideas. Get ***LARGE*** with your perspective and your characters. Then, dovetail this Big Adventure Thing® with an inner voyage (see #3 and #5.)

5) Your character isn't going on an internal quest at the same time he or she is going on an external quest. And no, angsty navel-gazing is NOT a substitute for personal evolution. Have the events and the travels and the exploits of the story CHANGE the protag(s) on some level, so that they're not the same at the end of the story than when they set off. This might actually be the most important part of all, beyond everything else I've already mentioned earlier. Because this is where you're liable to Hook The Reader© with the emotional and psychological and spiritual development of the protag(s) as they surmount or face down the external challenges you set before them. In the end, your story won't matter to the readers if your story doesn't eventually matter to the character(s) in the damn story.

Again, I am not an expert, and these are just my theories. If you have been struggling with rejections and rare HM, but no semis or Finalist stories, then give my advice a shot. Try it out. See if it makes a difference. It might.

Of course, if you're so brand new -- meaning you're truly a Fresh Aspirant with very limited experience writing anything at all -- there is no replacement for homework. You'll have to write a LOT of words to improve, and probably none of them will score you a win -- or a sale. Do them anyway, enjoy the teaching and the exploration of the words. Don't fret, just work.

Otherwise, if you think you're at a Certain Level and you're scratching your head over why this isn't registering with the contest, re-read above, and ponder it a little. Use what seems workable. Throw away the rest.

In the end, don't stop submitting. You can't hit the moon if you don't launch your rockets.

And if I can steal a bit from the Army's Soldier's Creed:

Never Quit. Never accept defeat.

That is all. Carry on.
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Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:56 pm

Brad,
Last edited by Corbin Maxwell on Fri Jan 16, 2015 4:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:59 pm

Again, I am not saying I own the Golden Road Map.

I'm just basing these opinions on my own experience, and encouraging people who are struggling to pick and choose what seems pertinent for them.

Some writers simply don't like doing a "happy" story, but then I don't think a story has to end "happily" for it to remain positive, or at least not be a "downer" tale laced with nihilism.

I haven't read Jordan's winning piece, so I can't comment on it.
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Postby AMcCarter » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:01 pm

I would still say it's a postitve outcome. She struggled to survive, she grew and matured as a character and did better than most of her kind. It still has a positive feel to it, even if she does die. It still has a feeling of hope. That's not to say a few downers don't make it through the cracks.
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Postby steffenwolf » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:09 pm

Brad R. Torgersen wrote:(snip)
Some writers simply don't like doing a "happy" story, but then I don't think a story has to end "happily" for it to remain positive, or at least not be a "downer" tale laced with nihilism.

I haven't read Jordan's winning piece, so I can't comment on it.


Actually, I'd say Jordan's story is a prime example of a story that isn't simply a downer. At the end, there is hope, and the journey has not been for nothing.
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Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:11 pm

steffenwolf wrote:
Brad R. Torgersen wrote:(snip)
Some writers simply don't like doing a "happy" story, but then I don't think a story has to end "happily" for it to remain positive, or at least not be a "downer" tale laced with nihilism.

I haven't read Jordan's winning piece, so I can't comment on it.


Actually, I'd say Jordan's story is a prime example of a story that isn't simply a downer. At the end, there is hope, and the journey has not been for nothing.


Bingo. Trust Dave to say in one sentence what I struggled to say in an entire paragraph.

:D
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Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:18 pm

(Caution: Contains a Dark Tower Spoiler!!)

Brad,

I'm not saying that you shouldn't write the kind of story you want, with a positive ending, because it could be a kick-ass story and everyone love it. I just don't think we need every piece to be like that. I like realistic down-in-the-dirt stories where it's tooth and nail and we get to the dirty heart of the matter. Now that's just me, so I read what I like, and there's others who'll want the happy ending. I say the stories should cover a variety of different avenues.

Sometimes, I think, when you read a story you should be able to say: Man, I'm glad that sh*t didn't happen to me. For instance, Cormac McCarthy's, The Road. Not a pleasant moment in the whole book, but man! what a story. I couldn't put it down, and the people I've recommended it to have read it straight through.

Look at The Stand, The Gunslinger series. Those weren't really happy endings, yeah they end in favor of the protaganist, but not by much. Especially not for Roland. I mean he got to the Tower, but he has to start it all over again.

Now I don't want all my books like The Road; it would be too much. There has to be happy/feel good stories with happy endings mixed in with stories that keep you awake at night for feeling sorry for the characters who are out there, suffering eternally in the book.
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Postby Jordan Lapp » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:26 pm

steffenwolf wrote:
Brad R. Torgersen wrote:(snip)
Some writers simply don't like doing a "happy" story, but then I don't think a story has to end "happily" for it to remain positive, or at least not be a "downer" tale laced with nihilism.

I haven't read Jordan's winning piece, so I can't comment on it.


Actually, I'd say Jordan's story is a prime example of a story that isn't simply a downer. At the end, there is hope, and the journey has not been for nothing.


That's exactly what I was aiming for Dave, thanks. You can have a down ending as long as you give the audience a ray of hope. In my piece, the Phoenix dies, but she "succeeds" in achieving her goal of living forever by giving birth.
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Postby steffenwolf » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:29 pm

Corbin Maxwell wrote:(Caution: Contains a Dark Tower Spoiler!!)

Brad,

I'm not saying that you shouldn't write the kind of story you want, with a positive ending, because it could be a kick-ass story and everyone love it. I just don't think we need every piece to be like that. I like realistic down-in-the-dirt stories where it's tooth and nail and we get to the dirty heart of the matter. Now that's just me, so I read what I like, and there's others who'll want the happy ending. I say the stories should cover a variety of different avenues.

Sometimes, I think, when you read a story you should be able to say: Man, I'm glad that sh*t didn't happen to me. For instance, Cormac McCarthy's, The Road. Not a pleasant moment in the whole book, but man! what a story. I couldn't put it down, and the people I've recommended it to have read it straight through.

Look at The Stand, The Gunslinger series. Those weren't really happy endings, yeah they end in favor of the protaganist, but not by much. Especially not for Roland. I mean he got to the Tower, but he has to start it all over again.

Now I don't want all my books like The Road; it would be too much. There has to be happy/feel good stories with happy endings mixed in with stories that keep you awake at night for feeling sorry for the characters who are out there, suffering eternally in the book.


Not to put myself in the middle of this, but I think you guys are arguing different points entirely.

Brad isn't saying that the endings or the stories have to be fuzzy and happy, he is just saying there needs to be something positive about them. I think I understand what he means--the "literary" genre magazines that I've sampled have been full of "woe is me" stories where the protagonist has a terrible life that they hate hate hate, but they do nothing about it, and in the end they still have a terrible life that they hate. They have no hope during or at the end of the story. I hate reading that kind of story.

So far I've completed the first 3 stories of WotF XXV, and also Jordan's, and none of them end with what I would call an unconditionally happy ending, but all 3 have carried some element of hope throughout and kept an element of hope in the ending. I think that's what Brad is talking about, not a Disney "happily ever after".
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Postby Sarah » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:32 pm

Brad, thanks so much for posting this, even if it's just based on your experience and observations. This is the kind of info that publications typically provide with their guidelines--a reasonably specific "send us this, not this"--that just isn't available for WotF.

I agree with some of the above posts; happy endings can get tiresome after a while. I've also noticed that even the "sad" endings in WotF (e.g. Jordan's) are nevertheless uplifting on a more spiritual or "human" level. While happy endings may not be a guideline for more general markets, I would agree that they seem to be the standard for WotF.

I think it may also make many competitors feel better. There may not have been anything seriously wrong with their entry; it was simply wrong for the "market."
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Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:37 pm

(Caution: Contains an After the Sunset, Again spoiler)

I think I liked Jordan's story more because the main character broke out from the norm of her existence and made a run to survive. She found a way to beat the odds and might've been able to continue, it was up for debate. So I think you kind of cheered for her the longer she lived. So even though she died, she won at the end by having a little bit of a life.

But all of this being said, maybe my stories have lacked what Brad has suggested in his section on positive ending, and that's why I can't break out of the HM level.

And Brad, I can't believe you didn't skip forward in the book and read Jordan's story. It was the first one I went to. Then Emery's.
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Postby steffenwolf » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:45 pm

Sarah wrote:I think it may also make many competitors feel better. There may not have been anything seriously wrong with their entry; it was simply wrong for the "market."


I agree, and I think this is true more often than people realize. Case in point, I've been submitting one particular story for over a year, and have gotten nearly a dozen rejections on it, none of which were even positive toned rejections. But on it's most recent submission it passed the slush reader at a magazine listed by SFWA as professional, and is currently in consideration with the editor. Now, it's too early to tell if it will be purchased, but it goes to show that editorial tastes play a big factor. There is no ruler to measure quality of fiction. It's all subjective, to a degree.
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Postby M. Wimmer » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:11 pm

But shouldn't WotF be as broad as possible with regards to the type of stories they want? If they truly exist to help aspiring writers, then they should help all writers, not just ones that like upbeat endings and other aspects, that have been discussed. As long as they write SF and F, of course.

From what I've read here, and in the anthos, it's the writers that are important, not the story. Yes, overall the story is the most important thing, and if this was a normal publication, I'd be saying that too. But it is called Writers of the Future.

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Postby skadder » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:29 pm

It's your story that wins the contest. The contest invests in authors able to win the contest--your story marks you out as a writer capable of doing something with your writing, and they help you go a bit (a lot) further.

You have to write a story that will win this contest, same as you may write a story that will sell to Analog. Some stories may have sold to both (try and write those), some may sell only to either (try and write those, too). Some stories will sell to neither venue--avoid writing those.

With regard upbeat versus downbeat endings, I think it's a moot point. What readers want is a conceptually satisfying ending. If you deliver that your story has a chance. If your story fails to deliver that (no matter how upbeat), then it will fail.
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Postby steffenwolf » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:33 pm

M. Wimmer wrote:But shouldn't WotF be as broad as possible with regards to the type of stories they want? If they truly exist to help aspiring writers, then they should help all writers, not just ones that like upbeat endings and other aspects, that have been discussed. As long as they write SF and F, of course.

From what I've read here, and in the anthos, it's the writers that are important, not the story. Yes, overall the story is the most important thing, and if this was a normal publication, I'd be saying that too. But it is called Writers of the Future.

Matt


But, like any other publication, the stories chosen are a matter of editorial tastes. Every winner has to make it through KD. The contest rules do not forbid downer endings or other specifics, but perhaps KD doesn't tend to care for that sort of stories (speculation, of course), and if KD doesn't like it, you will not succeed. In the end, you can submit whatever you want to submit, but knowing what sort of story KD tends to choose can never hurt. One day, in the far future, when KD is no longer the coordinating judge, the type of stories published may shift accordingly to be more suited to that judge's tastes.

I don't think that this list necessarily outlines every sort of good story, but it may have some insight into KD's tastes. And, like with any writing "rule", break the rules where you think your story will benefit from it.
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Postby Alastair » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:39 pm

steffenwolf wrote:Now, it's too early to tell if it will be purchased, but it goes to show that editorial tastes play a big factor.


It's not even editorial tastes, if one takes that to mean the tastes of the editor. It's the flavor of the publication. While that will reflect the editor's tastes to a degree (especially if he or she has been the editor for a while), it also has to reflect the expectations of the reader base of that publication. Stan Schmidt, no matter how much he might like the story, is unlikely to buy a pure fantasy for Analog because that's not what its readers are looking for. (Of course, Stan would be the first to tell you not to do his job for him and when in doubt send him the story anyway.) Indeed, he recently rejected a story of mine saying that he personally enjoyed it but felt (I paraphrase) that it wouldn't appeal to a large enough portion of Analog's audience.

And sometimes it is an editor's personal taste. Larry Niven never managed to sell a story to Analog until John Campbell died and Ben Bova took over. (Although some he never submitted there -- "Neutron Star" was written to a request by Fred Pohl then at Galaxy.)
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Postby austinDm » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:49 pm

Thanks for posting this Brad, even from outside the context of WOTF, these are good things to keep in mind. You need the story to mean something and go somewhere. If your protagonist just sits at home and does nothing about whatever situation you've put him/her in, make sure that's the point of the story otherwise the reader's going to wonder, "why did I bother?"

On the discussion about "feel good" vs "downer" endings, I think there can be both. For example, Emery's story ends with the rather depressing image of the destroyed garden, but at the same time the protagonist recognizes it not as an end, but as a new beginning, which leaves the reader feeling satisfied in the end. I agree that different editors and readers will have different opinions, but a great deal of crafting an effective ending is appealing to the universal sympathies of the human mind.

Not to start another long winded discussion, but I also wanted to comment on Brad's notes on the religious element. I agree that many stories published in the anthos have a religious context to them, but, in my opinion, the best have left this element out or presented it in a more subtle way. I'm just trying to build on what Brad's saying here. Religion is by no means an end-all-be-all, but properly crafted to evoke the reader's pathos, such a device can go far.
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Postby Alastair » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:55 pm

Adding to my point above:

Tastes aside, other factors also come into play with a commercial publication. The editor has to balance each issue of the magazine, or deliberately do a themed issue. If, say, the Halloween issue is coming up and he's already bought more than enough Halloween-ish stories to fill the space, his choices come down to: reject the story (with a "sorry, overstocked on this theme right now" letter if you're lucky); buy the story and sit on it until next year's Halloween issue (not the best investment of the publication's funds -- what if better stories come along in the meantime? and not fair to the author if the story could be published elsewhere sooner); or buy the story and publish it in the Christmas or Valentine's issue (and have his readers wondering if he's lost it).

The above is oversimplified, of course. Substitute for "Halloween theme" as appropriate -- maybe your story hits plot elements similar to other stories he's just bought, etc. If yours would be the fourth "stranded on the surface of Mars" story he's published in six months, he may well give it a pass, however much the details may be original. That story may well sell elsewhere unchanged, or even sell to the same editor a year later.

This is all stuff the writer has no control over, beyond writing the best stories possible and sending them out again and again.
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Postby jloonam » Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:16 pm

Ms. Wentworth has indicated a fondness for stories with tragically beautiful endings. Tragedies are harder to write than comedies because they have more complicated plots, amoing other factors. One factor common to many tragedies is a noble sacrifice of an individual for the benefit of the greater good. An interpretation of the mythology of the phoenix examines the symbolisms of a noble sacrifice. Renewal rising from the ashes of defeat.
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Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:38 pm

Wow, that's a nugget I'd not heard before, jloonam.

Note for the crowd: both my Finalists have a significant degree of tragedy in them, from which the protags must extract a positive or at least positively-directed outcome.

And yes, I am a sucker for tragedy, at least of the heroic or romantic stripe. Tragedy framed in such a way as to highlight the futility of life, the brevity of life, or which otherwise reduces or dehumanizes the protag, is not to my taste. I prefer the kind of tragedy that at least illuminates a great truth about the human condition, a set of human characters -- MacBeth, anyone? -- or which speaks deeply on questions of honor -- such as the movie (and true story of) the 300 Spartans under Leonidas.
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Postby jloonam » Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:35 pm

Magnanimity is a sign to me that a writer is on the cusp of ascendence. It means that no stone is unturned, no detail overlooked in the pursuit of professionalism. Good decorum is certainly a derisable trait in a writer. Preparing for the onslaught of adoring fans, if for no other reason.

I've read your stories when and where I can. I've composed critiques for them, but not shared because I'm lately on a different discovery track than most workshops foster or expect. I'm seeking the magic and what spoils the magic. The figurative meanings mostly, for their power to unify, inform, and subliminally engage readers, which, as near as I can determine and as far as writing craft is concerned, is the sole purpose of incorporating figurative meaning. So, yes, I've explored the phoenix as a figurative symbol representing human conditions.
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Postby EmeryH » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:36 pm

Brad R. Torgersen wrote:Wow, that's a nugget I'd not heard before, jloonam.

Note for the crowd: both my Finalists have a significant degree of tragedy in them, from which the protags must extract a positive or at least positively-directed outcome.

And yes, I am a sucker for tragedy, at least of the heroic or romantic stripe. Tragedy framed in such a way as to highlight the futility of life, the brevity of life, or which otherwise reduces or dehumanizes the protag, is not to my taste. I prefer the kind of tragedy that at least illuminates a great truth about the human condition, a set of human characters -- MacBeth, anyone? -- or which speaks deeply on questions of honor -- such as the movie (and true story of) the 300 Spartans under Leonidas.


lol go read my story Brad :P
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Postby EmeryH » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:36 pm

My thoughts on the OP:

1. Agree

2. Disagree. As long as you make it convincing and believable, it can be anything. Happy, sad, doesn't matter. As long as it's a convincingly happy or sad story.

3. Not sure I agree with this one. Religion can be a great facet in a story, it can also be completely devoid of religion. I don't see religion as something that is actually necessary to a good spec fic story. Any interesting element could fit into the definition Brad made for why religion is helpful in a story.

4. Agree. Although, not all literary stuff consists of angst and internal journeys. That's just the current trend in crap lit XD

5. Agree. This is the most important along with #1.
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Postby EmeryH » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:45 pm

To talk more about happy versus sad endings. I don't think there's anything inherently better about one or the other. They can both be very good. The problem with some endings is that they fall flat. They're one-dimensional. Too pat. It's like the answer to a math problem. It doesn't echo life. Life is rarely simple or clean or develop in organized segments. The thing about a happy or sad ending is that both tend to be a bit too clear cut in the happy/sad verdict and that doesn't sit well with readers/judges.

About KD's preferences:

jloonam wrote:Ms. Wentworth has indicated a fondness for stories with tragically beautiful endings. Tragedies are harder to write than comedies because they have more complicated plots, among other factors. One factor common to many tragedies is a noble sacrifice of an individual for the benefit of the greater good. An interpretation of the mythology of the phoenix examines the symbolisms of a noble sacrifice. Renewal rising from the ashes of defeat.


Not sure if it's as strong as fondness, but I think she does view them as harder to execute than a flatly sad or happy ending. AKA a nuanced ending is better than a non-nuanced one. I think Jloonam's referencing her comments when talking about endings and doing a good one.

And thanks for the shout-out austinDm. Out of the stories in the antho, I was told by the people at Galaxy Press mine was seen as one of the darker, grimmer ones. Hence why they paired me with my artist, who has a rather dark dystopic look to his work. But yes, my story comments on how life is full of ups and downs but also how that is part of the beauty and nature of life.
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Postby jloonam » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:17 pm

Both the greater difficulty and those three words verbatim, tragically beautiful ending, were part of a response Ms. Wentworth gave on the topic of whether tragedy or comedy has a better chance of winning the contest. It's been awhile but I recollect it was either in an interview or at SFF forums.

She didn't say fondness. Strongly worded like is the context I recollect.

I'd encountered the same phrase verbatim in literary contexts before. I've grown weary, by turns, of reading tragedies and comedies. So I was tickled by Ms. Wentworth's response.
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Postby AMcCarter » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:27 pm

The big point here, IMHO, is that as much as we would like to write whatever we want and have it accepted wherever we send it, it's not going to happen. We are creating a product and every product has a demographic. The magazines and publishing houses have a set demographic that they're trying to sell to and will look for stories that fit that group, even WotF. It's got L. Ron Hubbard's name plastered on it. So the reader has some expectations before ever picking up the book. Also, several high schools use it for creative writing classes (which high schools, I have no idea, we didn't even have a creative writing class). If you've ever taken one of those classes, you know what kind of stories they study. You know the ones, edgy, full of imagery, stuff that can be picked and torn apart.

You're not gonna sell a bloody, slasher zombie story to Scholastic and you're not gonna sell a story with a thinly veiled spec. element on the fourth page to WotF.
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Postby soulmirror » Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:47 am

jloonam wrote:... stories with tragically beautiful endings.


Or beautifully tragic, perhaps too. Either way, your words sum up what I'd personally most aspire to create: the bittersweet, the lost and the yearned for, the Ideal and the Falling Short of the Aspiration ... that's the human story, glory, and tragedy imo: exiles from Eden, haunted by bittersweet memories of what we could've had and let slip away.

And maybe that circles back to the OP point about "religion" too -- Perhaps we can recognize that even without subscribing to Religion, we can realize that religion very often speaks about the Human Condition in symbolic terms that rerach deeper than the merely intellectual or the secular.

Some folks suggest that any "mythology" can fulfill that function; others might just offer that "myth" cannot fulfill it as fully until you believe the myth is real. One might suggest that "religion" is where the Mythic, the Symbolic, the Freudian (or whatever) is seen as not only Deeper and Transcendent but also REAL.

And there is the great fertile eden for Fiction writers, I agree wholeheartedly.

"Tragically beautiful" might describe many if not all religions Man devotes himself to.

Tragedies are harder to write than comedies because they have more complicated plots, amoing other factors.


Well, who was it whose last words were supposedly "Dying is easy ... Comedy is hard." ??? :)

I suppose that a writer could cook up a stew of melodrama and emotion and angst and convince even a suspicious audience that that was "Tragedy."

Comedy though cannot be bluffed. Everyone instantly and instinctively knows whether a thing makes them laugh or doesn't.

A writer might "explain" how a story should be seen as Tragedy. I doubt any Writer can "explain" anything enough to make an audience decide a thing was "funny" that did not strike them as funny, etc.

I could be off base there, though, I dunno. Tragedy could indeed be 'harder to write' ... but Comedy is a smaller target to hit.
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Postby jloonam » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:12 pm

A comedy in a prescriptive context of drama is a story with a happy outcome. A tragedy is one with an unhappy outcome, like when a protagonist loses a vital essence through an irrevocable transformation of being in order to find equilibrium again. Because most humorous stories have happy outcomes, the term comedy has come, of late and for some while, at least since the introduction of screenplays, to mean anything humorous. Language is ever alive. C'est la vie.
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Postby Gary Cuba » Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:03 pm

soulmirror wrote: (snipped...)

Comedy though cannot be bluffed. Everyone instantly and instinctively knows whether a thing makes them laugh or doesn't.

A writer might "explain" how a story should be seen as Tragedy. I doubt any Writer can "explain" anything enough to make an audience decide a thing was "funny" that did not strike them as funny, etc.

I could be off base there, though, I dunno. Tragedy could indeed be 'harder to write' ... but Comedy is a smaller target to hit.


Heh. I guess another way of saying it is: The only hard thing about writing comedy is that it has to be funny. :D Since I've seen so few story subs with an intended "comedic tone" actually hit that mark over the years, I can only assume you are 100% correct, Soulmirror!

Seriously, though, I've always suspected that the appreciation of humor, or of any single sort/style of it, is quite personal to each and every reader. Thus I think the "humor appreciation" scale runs along a very wide continuum, and therefore it is indeed harder to appeal to a broad enough spectrum of readers as compared with non-humor pieces. The "appreciative niches" may be thinner. For example, I like my humor in dribs and drabs, perhaps more understated than others. I think one problem is that writers attempting humor "try too hard" and IMO it too often feels "injected into" rather than "organically coming from" the story or characters/situations. Often, I sense that they are being very consciously derivative of Adams or Pratchett as they write. My wife loves that sort of thing (obviously, many folks do!); I can't take more than a few pages of it. A tiny drop of that sort of stuff goes a long way with me. After that point, it begins to cloy.

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Postby wswingley » Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:29 pm

On the comedy note, I have a different sort of problem. I tend to unconsciously inject sarcasm, wit, dry humor, etc. into everything I write. One story I went with it as a pure comedy piece, but sometimes I have trouble keeping a serious tone or balancing the tone.

The story I intended for Q4 (that I mentioned here before) had the problem that my main character is sarcastic, clumsy, and a bit neurotic, so the beginning is quite comedy leaning, but then when the story gets serious it loses that comedic tone. Is this OK or should the tone carry through the whole piece? I dunno...

You always see Comedy vs. Tragedy..... is it possible, or simply incredibly difficult, to combine both?
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