I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#1
You're probably going, "Eh?"!

You read that right.

You see, I've been reading a lot of fairy/folk tales lately. The Arabian Nights, the Brother's Grimm, the Fairy Rainbow Books, Madame D'Aulnoy.

I want to write some folk tales, or some fairy tales, or maybe just some big huge epic fantasies, but in the manner of these older stories. They're oral stories, and they're really easy for reading aloud. Trust me, I've been doing it.

And I thought that I wanted to try writing like this. I already have. I wrote a story with a lot of blood and action and spies and romance, and it was really fun actually. A story "told" not a story meant to make the reader "experience something," is actually quite interesting to me. And with that being said, I want to write a huge epic fantasy and condense it into like a hundred pages.
I thought I might have been onto something, but I wasn't certain.
Until I read this!

https://www.themarginalian.org/2012/11/09/philip-pullman-grimm/

It's an article by Philip Pullman on the matters I just write about. If you don't know who he is, he wrote His Dark Materials and The Golden Compass, among many other things. Read the article and tell me what you think!

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#4
Mad Wrote: Wait... You're supposed to describe characters?
Sure are. But maybe you misunderstood. I didn't mean not describing the characters so much, but rather not describing the locations.

KittraMcBriar Wrote: I adore Phillip Pullman, but find fairy tales in their original format quite boring to read for exactly many of the qualities he celebrates here. I -crave- immersion. So, while I do love fairy tales, I love them when they’ve been “reimagined” and fleshed out and bastardized by the modern mind as much as possible.
Lol, nothing wrong with that. I think you gain a lot with modern methods of storytelling, but you lose a few things too. I think the narrative stiles are "different," but not necessarily superior of inferior to one another.

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#9
LambentTyto Wrote: Read the article and tell me what you think


Bit like driving your car into a lake and calling it a boat, right?

Do you earnestly want an answer here given that you're already doing what you're asking about?

If you truly want feedback on how to improve your writing skill, or exercises that I think would help you to grow your skills, then let me know. 

Otherwise, this post comes across a bit like asking for a pat on the back.

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#11
Allanther Wrote: If you truly want feedback on how to improve your writing skill, or exercises that I think would help you to grow your skills, then let me know.

Otherwise, this post comes across a bit like asking for a pat on the back.
No, I'm not asking for help on improvement. But I don't know why you think I'm patting myself on the back. I'm trying to start a discussion, but nobody seems very interested.

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#12
Crusixblade Wrote: Weeb culture has ruined my understanding of the words "Flat character."
lol

Zearth Wrote: No, seriously, though, I've done almost nothing in character description in all my stories. When I do have descriptions, it's often left very open for interpretation, or I simply don't want to draw attention to it and just make a passing remark.
The title is badly written. The story itself will have almost no description. I'm going to tell it like a folk tale or a fairy tale. When you sit down to listen to a person tell you a story, he won't  tell you very much description, he'll tell you "what happened."

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#13
LambentTyto Wrote:
Zearth Wrote: No, seriously, though, I've done almost nothing in character description in all my stories. When I do have descriptions, it's often left very open for interpretation, or I simply don't want to draw attention to it and just make a passing remark.
The title is badly written. The story itself will have almost no description. I'm going to tell it like a folk tale or a fairy tale. When you sit down to listen to a person tell you a story, he won't  tell you very much description, he'll tell you "what happened."
I understand what you mean, and I find the idea interesting. It was a bit of a struggle to find the right amount of descrription, leaving the reader plenty of space to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. I think I'm pretty hands-off when it comes to character description, but I'd definitely like to read what you come up with.

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#15
Hey, funny to see this, I'm doing something similar and for similar reasons! I was watching Master Classes from Salman Rushdie and David Mamet and both talked about "campfire stories" and fairytales - what made them so compelling and timeless, what their purpose was, how to apply it to your own work, etc. With spoken/oral stories, if the person you're talking to doesn't like it, they get up and leave - you have to learn what makes them stay, and there is a ton to learn from the methods early people developed around campfires. Same goes for fairytales. There are commonalities in almost every good story and going back to a time of simpler, cleaner stories makes it a bit easier to parse. 

I wouldn't say I'm using "flat" characters, but I'm keeping things like physical attributes and ethnicity (of the human main characters) non-descript to try and keep the characters as relatable as possible. The first-person narrator is also a bit flat to contrast the other (fish-out-of-water) MCs and the (hyper-) passionate "NPCs". I'm interested to read the article and see what else I'm missing that I can use to write a good story (i.e. manipulate evolutionary psychology like an ancient storyteller >:D).

Thanks for the article and good luck with the story!

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#17
LawlessSolace Wrote: I wouldn't say I'm using "flat" characters, but I'm keeping things like physical attributes and ethnicity (of the human main characters) non-descript to try and keep the characters as relatable as possible. The first-person narrator is also a bit flat to contrast the other (fish-out-of-water) MCs and the (hyper-) passionate "NPCs". I'm interested to read the article and see what else I'm missing that I can use to write a good story (i.e. manipulate evolutionary psychology like an ancient storyteller >:D).
I used the word "flat" for two reasons. Pullman used it, but I also used it to draw attention, lol. I don't like using it actually because it carries such a negative connotation when referring to fiction characters. So I'm going to start using the term "archetypes" or maybe "character silhouettes."

It's nice to know other people are doing this and are interested. I think modern fiction is superior when it comes to giving the reader a sort of "lived experience." You know, I noticed myself, thinking back about stories I've read, they're the same as my real life experience when thought of later. In a way you're literally living more lives when you read fiction. It's so fascinating.

But for this old style of writing, which I would say is not outdated, it's just different, is better for a "story" experience. Because the writing is "oral" and meant to be told, not experienced. And it has its own strength. I'm really excited about exploring those strengths. And I'm going to watch that Salman Rushdie Masterclass! It looks really interesting, so thanks for mentioning it.

Kalebell Wrote: That sounds interesting and I would read a story like that. I thought you were talking about making an intentionally bad story lol which I was thinking of doing to see how bad I could create something (weird right?)
Definitely peculiar, but not necessarily weird. It could be a great exercise, actually. I've already written a story inspired by the Arabian Nights in this fashion, complete with 19th century diction. I wonder if that makes it less readable. It's part of my The Epic Sword & Sorcery Entertainments of Ashahnai series, which I have not yet posted here on RR, and I suspect will be some time before I actually do. But I'll show you an excerpt!

At length, Azaru was able to board the Zambouli ship and lead a contingent of his men where they fought to the upper decks. It was there that the Zambouli queen was cornered, and though by her actions it was clear to Azaru that she was want to escape, the adventurer’s men, knowing of his designs for the battle, had taken a skiff to secure the other side of the enemy vessel, which they held and prevented any from leaving. Some little time passed, but then the leader of the enemy vessel was completely cornered and cut off from her rallying warriors, and with his scimitar raised high, Azaru approached their leader and he, demanding of her, “Who are you?” and she said nothing, and again, demanded Azaru the same words of the Zambouli women, thinking she must be their queen, “for if you do not command these warriors and the end of this battle, you and all that serve you shall surely perish in just a little time.” And not answering him again, Azaru asked a third time, though not without some threats and a glinting of his blooded scimitar in the sun. Finally the warrior woman did answer him, and spat, “I am Omruda! and I am these warrior’s leader, sent hither to find and kill you; that we may take back our precious stone that means nothing to you men of the north, save for the prize of some gold!”

My next story will take on a more modern diction.

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#18
LambentTyto Wrote: I wouldn't say I'm using "flat" characters, but I'm keeping things like physical attributes and ethnicity (of the human main characters) non-descript to try and keep th
I used the word "flat" for two reasons. Pullman used it, but I also used it to draw attention, lol. I don't like using it actually because it carries such a negative connotation when referring to fiction characters. So I'm going to start using the term "archetypes" or maybe "character silhouettes."

Just to chime in on this one specific thing - avoiding something because of connotations is exactly how those connotations get reinforced. Its why there's negative stereotypes about brands of hats, or a specific style of mustache, or so on. Especially with words though, connotations and precise meanings are super fleeting and constantly in shift - whats important is that you're conveying what you mean by a word when you say it.

Re: I'm going to write some stories with flat characters that have almost no descriptions!

#20
LambentTyto Wrote: I used the word "flat" for two reasons. Pullman used it, but I also used it to draw attention, lol. I don't like using it actually because it carries such a negative connotation when referring to fiction characters. So I'm going to start using the term "archetypes" or maybe "character silhouettes."

It's nice to know other people are doing this and are interested. I think modern fiction is superior when it comes to giving the reader a sort of "lived experience." You know, I noticed myself, thinking back about stories I've read, they're the same as my real life experience when thought of later. In a way you're literally living more lives when you read fiction. It's so fascinating.

But for this old style of writing, which I would say is not outdated, it's just different, is better for a "story" experience. Because the writing is "oral" and meant to be told, not experienced. And it has its own strength. I'm really excited about exploring those strengths. And I'm going to watch that Salman Rushdie Masterclass! It looks really interesting, so thanks for mentioning it.

I finally clicked the link so I could reply to your comment knowing exactly what you meant, only to have it lead me to The Marginalian, which I legit just linked in my last comment (on a different thread). I love Maria Popova's work on BrainPickings/The Marginalian - I always point to her writing as an example of great prose!

Yeah, there's probably a ton to take from that style and the psychology that made it work so well for so long. Most playwrights and screenwriters are still copping Aristotle's Poetics from 335 BC and Shakespeare's works from the mid-1500s, so there is definitely something about the rules those old writings laid out that still works.

I have to say, I appreciated David Mamet's MC even more than Rushdie's. He's got a much more engaging way of speaking, and he quotes lots of sources and reinforces his points with stories - it gave me a bunch of energy to write, I highly suggest. Thanks for posting this, it was helpful!