My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Random Creative Writing Terms Beginning With The Letter C

Creative Writing Terms Beginning With the Letter B

Canon- A group of literary works, written mostly by dead white guys, which a group of mostly living white guys think is really important to read. Recently a bunch of uppity marginalized people tried to add in other voices and the resulting conflict over what should be cannon caused the rise of the white guy avatar, Harold Bloom, who tried to limit the canon, but was eventually defeated because his pompous arrogance turned inward on itself (as evil always does). Some still think there is an actual list out there, but most have opened the canon to include other voices and art that hasn't always gotten the "high art" stamp of approval from the Oxford and Cambridge Tweed Jacket Society™. The canon really pisses off literary critics because half the time what ends up in there is the stuff they insisted at the time wasn't "literature," and the stuff that they thought was brilliant, no one can remember a year later. In fact, over time, it's kind of fair to say that literary critics tend to be pretty irrelevant to what ends up being canonized, and it is other things (like social relevance) that cause a work to resonate. The canon is mostly speculative fiction, which today is would be dismissed as genre, but literary critics haven't caught on yet the inherent irony in demanding realism in everything.

It's only been seventy years. Give them time.

Character- Something in a story with consciousness, intelligence, and usually morals and some ability to change.  This is usually a person, and sometimes an animal, but it could also be an anthropomorphized object, a idea, a robot, a sentient car that fights crime, or your protagonists hair.

Character Driven- A story in which the characters are moving the plot rather than the plot moving the characters. Snobs will attempt to delineate this as the difference between genre and literature. Just hand them The Stand or Game of Thrones if they pull that shit (and NOT the mini-series with Molly Ringwald or the HBO show respectively). A character driven plot may have things happen, but the story moves because of the characters working for and against each other, and the real climax of the story is usually internal, even if it has external echos.

Cliché- French for stereotype. A phrase, idea, event, or element which has been overused to the point of losing its meaning. This is often confused by well-meaning dillholes on the internet as "anything I'm tired of reading." The trouble with cliche is that it isn't a term with well defined boundaries. Certain expressions overused to the point that they are often not even fully registered by a reader are not cliches. Cliches share a long and highly contested border with idioms, and while some idioms are not cliches ("stand tall" or "laid back") others are ("lock, stock, and barrel" "vent one's spleen"). Cliches are not always small phrases. They can be ideas (a computer that enslaves humanity) things (a planet destroying space station) plot devices (reporter who isn't totally biased for or against "the people" gets killed/kidnapped) or characters (an evil twin). Many "large" cliches are also called tropes, but "trope" tends to be an even more elastic term given to anything that has been written about more than twice. It is sometimes difficult to tell when a trope has become a cliche. It is a misconception that all cliches are bad, and probably why most people who think that have never written much beyond the "Why you shouldn't write cliches!" website. Everything has been done before, so avoiding all cliches all the time is almost impossible, but a reinvented cliche can be delightful both at the large level or at the phrasal level.

Conventions- Features of subject matter, form, and technique that occur within a work of literature. They may involve large elements like plot devices and character tropes or tiny language choices like diction. Conventions form a sort of "grammar" of a story, and--like grammar--they involve some rules that are flexible, some that are intractable, and some that can be broken to great effect.  (Think of the ways in which the conventions of an Elizabethan sonnet were broken, and what that did to emphasize the subject matter's theme, for a great example.) In some cases conventions can become tropes or even cliches.  The conventions of different KINDS of fiction are what lead to the idea of genre. Westerns have different conventions than science fiction. Lit snobs think "literature" transcends conventions, but if anyone who has read what gets classified as literature these days knows that literary fiction is its own genre with its own set of conventions (minimalism, character driven often to the detriment of plot, present tense narrative, second person metafiction, a narrative arc that involves bottoming out, a non-cis/non-straight child with intolerant parents, coming to terms with cultural paradox, HIV/AIDS, stories of childhood, irredeemable characters, dysfunctional relationships, abuse, angst out the wazoo...I could go on). This set of conventions--this genre, if you will--simply happens to be in favor in the Court of the Ivory Tower these days.

Creative Writing- Writing that's....you know....like....creative and stuff. Everything from the most soundy sound poetry to creative non-fiction that really sort of forgot most of the creative part is creative writing. We could complicate this by pointing out that all writing is creative, but I haven't pissed off my small army of tech writer friends in at least a day or two.

Creative Writing Terms Starting With D

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