Of Vice And Virtue-- Has it developed in later posts?

Hello all. I don't know if many of you have gotten a chance to read my daily story "Of Vice and Virtue," but I was looking for some feedback. This past Friday, I hit my 88th post, and I was wondering if anyone thought the later posts were more developed, better written, etc. compared to the very early posts?


I received a review from Gavin Williams that stated a lot of the writing was cliched, and that I was telling a lot more than showing. I've been trying to keep the cliches at bay, as well as flesh the characters out a bit better. The problem I'm finding is that because this is meant to be in the style of a "soap opera," some of the cliches work, in my mind. It's meant to be a bit over-dramatic at times. When I initially started, it was meant as a tongue-in-cheek send-up to soap operas. However, I've begun to take it a bit more seriously now, and I really want to improve it. So that people will want to read daily, much like people once anticipated their daily TV soaps.


I would also like to point out that this isn't a novel, but rather an ongoing story with no end in sight, so it's difficult to strike a comprehensive balance between description and plot development. It's not meant to be a highly regarded work of literature, but just some fun escapism.


If anyone has any suggestions, I would truly appreciate them. Thanks for taking the time to read this!


-- C.J.


I would also like to point out that this isn't a novel, but rather an ongoing story with no end in sight, so it's difficult to strike a comprehensive balance between description and plot development.


While Worm does have an end in sight (though it's a ways off), I do recognize how difficult this can be. I've been guilty of lapsing into too much exposition (especially early on).


As an exercise, after you've written & reread your posts for errors, take a bit of a break, go do something else that'll take your mind off the story (dishes, go shopping, clean your room), then come back to it & try reading it backwards. Look at the last sentence first. Then the one before that, and so on, so you're viewing everything out of context. Ask yourself:



  • ? Does this reveal something essential about a character or important setting element?

  • ? Does this develop a character in some way, changing him or her from the way she was at the start of the chapter/arc/story?

  • ? Does this forward the plot?


If one of the three is true, keep it. If not, consider revising it. Pay attention to which ones you're answering often. If you're constantly forwarding the plot but the characters are still the same as they were at the story's outset, that's a problem. Ditto if 3/4 sentences are descriptive.


Glancing over some of your more recent chapters, there's still some stating of the painfully obvious. Last lines especially. This may be part of your writing style, but it doesn't do a lot for me:


(SPOILERS)

88 - The meeting had taken an unexpected turn.

87 - Michael Falcone took another gulp of his beer. Whatever his family meant to him, it had certainly changed.

86 - Steven Bains was in for painful conversation.


Also, don't use -ly adjectives where description will do. "Josephine Falcone lay in her bed wearily", "Josephine stiffly reclined in her bed", "violently pushing her brother with every word"


Such adjectives are lazy on the writer's part and they don't convey good information. Better to write something descriptive and let the reader come to understand it. "Josephine Falcone couldn't even bring herself to raise her head from the pillow for the sake of politeness." "Josephine's scowl was so vicious he could imagine her clutching her withered claws around his throat like a harpy's talons. He had to remind himself she couldn't rise from the bed.", "she punctuated each word with a hard shove that hurt almost as much as being struck with a fist".


Some of those might be a bit overdone, but I'm getting the impression from the story that you could get away with such.


Wildbow,


Thank you so much for taking the time to give me some feedback. I really like the three points you mentioned that I should ask myself about my sentences. I had never considered that sort of self-evaluation, so that makes complete sense.


As for the "stating of the painfully obvious," it must just be something that's only making sense in my mind. What I was attempting to convey, albeit rather poorly, was the "pregnant pause" you see in soap operas. After reading your comments, I'm surprised I didn't catch on earlier that that's almost impossible to convey with the written word! I'm going to be thinking of ways to change that, but for me, it's been serving as a "wrap-up" of the day's episode, leading into the following day's post.


Also, thanks for the suggestion about the adjectives. You're 100% right.


I really appreciate all the help. I can't wait to take a peek at Worm too!


Thanks again,


-- CJ


I'm not a soap opera watcher, so I can't really comment on the pregnant pause as far as how they use it.


Remember, though, you're writing a web serial, not a soap opera. As a genre (in the broader sense), web serials have a few unique qualities. For example, readers comment & potentially shape the story as it is written. Soap operas tend to be easy to access & something you can have in the background while you're going about your business, and they aren't generally competing with prime time TV. Web serials, by contrast, require someone to be on the computer, they demand more focus, and they're competing with the billions of other sites & games on the web that are fun and interesting. For this reason, you'll see many of the more popular web serials write things in a way that they pique the audience's attention as the chapter draws to a close. Cliffhangers, unanswered questions, stuff that gets the fans theorizing and wondering.


Having V&V's chapters end with that kind of line where you're stating the obvious? It's not just a little boring, but you're also ending on a low note.


I think a better way to affect the pause would be to play with word choice, sentence length, and combine that with the mini-cliffhanger. Paragraphs and sentences that are different lengths will break up the reader's flow enough that they pay special attention to the line. Ditto if you switch from one focus to another. From sentences that are short & packed with action to slow, deliberate description, or vice versa. A paragraph that's only one sentence long. Switching from dialogue to non-dialogue. All of this can be deliberate and can be intended to achieve an effect, from the minor to the major. Just remember not to overuse it (you admit you do with your 'pregnant pause') or any technique can lose its effect fast.



Read Worm 3.7. Note the latter eight paragraphs, and how they flow. Six paragraphs of much the same length, mixing dialogue with description. Then a short sentence, an abrupt shift of focus to introspection. The last paragraph/sentence is shorter still, but that only hammers in how profound the realization and the sudden guilt is for the protagonist. This meaning/intent isn't explicitly stated, but it's very clear to the reader.

So I think, anyways.


Ask why you want the pause. If you're striving just to emulate soap operas, figure out why they do it. How does it work for the medium that is the tv-borne soap? What effect do they want to achieve? Once you've answered that question, you can ask yourself if you want to do the same thing, and how you could achieve it.


Wildbow,


I see what you mean by the mini-cliffhanger. I read the chapter you posted, and it really works. The very last sentence is brief, and doesn't reveal much, but says a lot, and demands that the reader come back for more. This is more along the lines of what I was hoping to achieve. I suppose less can be more, without stating the obvious, of course.


You also make a good point that I am, in fact, writing a web serial, and not a teleplay. While I want to keep the "soap" elements the same, it makes sense to have to tweak it so that it reads more like a novel, rather than just a bunch of actions with dialogue. I've found that sometimes I do manage that goal, but other times I fail...usually because of time constraints.


Thanks for the insight.


-- C.J.