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Thanks for staying with me this far - only three more essays to go - Factual Realism (this post),  Characterization, and OOMPH-factor.  The first three essays in this series - Visual Presentation, Story Mechanics, and Story Flow - all represent foundational factors to some degree or other.  When they're done well, they 'disappear' from the reader's eye - but when they're done badly, their glaring atrocity can throw the reader right out of the story.

Factual Realism, Characterization, and OOMPH-factor are a bit different.  These three elements, when done well, are often remarked upon, because they're individual bits and pieces in  a story that make all the difference.  If we go back to the house metaphor, when done right, these factors will both 'fit the feel' of the house, as well as 'dress the house up' a bit.  It's like a coffered ceiling in the dining room.  When done badly, or set off wrong, all you want to do is avoid the dining room or cover it up - but when done right and highlighted correctly, it might just be the thing that you fall in love with the house for.  


Next Up: Characterization



6/19/2008: ETA for spelling and fact correction - yup, even I screw up!

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 I'm having a great time with this rec-meta series, and am a bit surprised at how easily it's flowing.  

In the past few days, I've discussed the two major hurdles readers face when accessing a story: How the author Visually Presents the story, and the basic Story Mechanics that are likely to throw a reader off his or her game.  Today, the essay is on Story Flow.

-bs, thinky

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Story Mechanics:  Rec Meta 2

In this post of recommendation meta, I'm going to look at story mechanics.  For myself as a reader, 'story mechanics' means something mildly different than it might as a writer(1).  As a writer, I think of 'story mechanics' as: grammar and spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and basic structure of the scene progression.  What I mean on that last point is how the tale itself is told - is it a linear telling, where the story starts at the beginning, and progresses to the end?  Does it start near the end, jump back to the beginning, and go on through? Does it follow a parallel story construction, with alternating scenes?  When I'm writing, those things are important to me as the story foundation - I think of the story like building a house, and those things are all important on a basic, need-to-have level.

But when I'm reading, I'm looking at the end product, and the things I'd think of first while writing are the last things I'm going to see and be hit with.  The first things I'm going to see are house's cleanliness, it's furnishings, it's draperies and paint and layout.  This is why I'm structuring this series the way I am - I'm trying to show the writer the things the readers notice first.  Hence, last time, I spoke about Visual Presentation - This is akin to getting a house-buyer in the door with a clean house that has plenty of light and an inviting atmosphere.  As a reader, things that fall under 'Story Mechanics' that I look for are grammar, spelling, punctuation, tense, complete sentences, and the right words vs the almost right words.  These are the furnishings and draperies, the floor rugs and lamps - if they're not laid out correctly, organized to help with the flow throughout the story, it's going to read as clunky and inept, if it's readable at all.

Next Up: Story Flow


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 So, I've enjoyed my time at the helm of the  Crack_van for Mag7 fandom, and thought I'd write some related meta.  BMP, one of the authors I recommended, asked me how I chose stories for recommendations.  My answer was somewhat off the cuff and boiled down to 'after I get past the 90% of stories that are dreck, I look for things I'd pay for in a bookstore.'  I'd like to expand on that answer here.

There have been a metric ton of posts on story writing and story mechanics from the writer's point of view.  What to think about, what to look for, what to do and not to do.  I haven't come across as many from the reader's point of view, although I'm sure they exist.  But that's what I'm going to be looking at here.  When I look through stories with an eye towards recommendation, I look at visual presentations, story mechanics, story flow, factual realism, characterization, and lastly, OOMPH-factor.  All of these things are important, necessary to even get on my consideration list, and worth discussing.

This is longer than I thought it would be, so I'm going to make this into a series, going through each of the factors I use to decide if a story is worth a recommendation.  Next part: Story Mechanics.



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