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About Deviant Premium Member Dave and Liz LillieUnited States Groups :iconsexy-furry-females: Sexy-Furry-Females
Where sexy furry females gather.
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Dreamkeepers's Profile Picture
Dave and Liz Lillie
United States
Story:  Turns out you're doing it wrong.  

Everyone is- and what's more, anyone who tries to make a foray into storytelling without having mastery over their efforts merits endless scorn.  

I've had the privilege of sharing advice with some other creators of late, and seen some of the (usually anonymous) criticism being leveled at their work.  It's noteworthy for being intense, superficially sophisticated, and misguided.  

Now, there are two kinds of creators out there.  Those who don't give a fig for what other people think, and dismiss all criticism out of hand.  

...Those creators tend not to improve.

Then there are those who care about the quality of their work, take pains to make it enjoyable for others, and are receptive to feedback.

These individuals have the most potential as writers, and are also most vulnerable to their efforts being permanently deformed by vindictive critique.

   They'll be assured their characters are flat cutouts with no depth or realism.  But if the character reveals another facet, they'll be decried as inconsistent, self-contradictory and arbitrarily written.  A scene, or even as little as a page, will be declared 'nothing' and pointless because there isn't a clear-cut goal being pursued.  If a goal does emerge for the characters, it is declared to be a ham-fisted MacGuffin.  The critiquer will complain that there is no context to support events, that nothing makes sense.  Then they will pounce on the first sign of explanatory exposition- reviling it because they can identify it.  If they find narrative summary, they'll condemn it as a horrendous writing technique- and proceed to complain about the length of scenes where not enough happens to 'justify' them.  A character is a pathetic unrelatable loser- unless they're a too-perfect writers-pet Mary Sue.  

  Any fresh writer struggling to internalize criticism like this will not find their efforts improved- they will find themselves paralyzed by second-guessing and fear, afraid that every step will be the wrong step.  

But evaluating reader reactions is critical to learning.  And it's so easy to discount those who like your work- after all, the critics discount them.  They inoculate their judgments from being measured against popularity by declaring the masses to be sycophantic, ignorant, unperceptive.  Your ability to entertain others will only prove the low, pandering quality of your work in their eyes.  

So is the most miserable reader by default the most insightful?  

Well, no.

And it's helpful to understand why.

First, let's assume these critics are well intentioned.  Those which aren't exist- but what motivates them and why is another can of worms, and entirely beside the point.
But for negative critics who genuinely believe they're providing helpful insights- where are their ideas coming from, and how accurate are they?

I think they exemplify the maxim that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Perhaps they sat through a creative writing course, or came across a book or two on writing and story.

I've consumed over a dozen (and counting), and there's a myriad of different models and definitions competing for what makes a valid story.  Every book claims to have the keys.

There's the 'W' model of plot, the Hero's Journey Monomyth with it's required stages, the Snowflake model of development, the 6 Core Competencies approach, 3-Act structures, 5-Act structures, 7-step structures...

Various story theories will place more importance on one element of fiction or another.

One school of thought holds that thematic armature, or the conveyance of a moral precept, is the highest purpose of story.  Everything else- character, setting, plot- only belongs to the degree it can dramatize and clarify the point.  
This means characterization and everything else must be brutally minimized, lest it prove a distraction from the core function of story.  Under this lens, a parable is the ultimate narrative.

Another idea about story maintains its all about character- one character- specifically, about the inner struggle of a protagonist.  Story is really about how external plot events force the main character to resolve an internal obstacle or misperception.   In this model, it's a cardinal sin to have any characters competing for dominance and clouding the issue of who the *real* protagonist is, within which the relevance of the story unfolds.  

Yet another concept holds that stories are survival simulations.  This model places primacy on the premise of a story, and the ensuing cause and effect of plot- What ifs.  What if dinosaurs were genetically engineered in a park, and then got loose?  What if terrorists took over Nakatomi Towers and all you had was a service piece and no shoes?  In this model, stories are all about safely gaining the experiences of others, mentally rehearsing various social or survival scenarios, to better prepare one for dealing with life.

Another idea about story is that it provides a voyeuristic, escapist experience.  The purpose here isn't to prepare us for danger- but to expose us to the novel, the profound, the unattainable.  To enjoy things that we otherwise can't.  To provide experiences which, though not otherwise useful, are inherently worthwhile.

So which one is right?  

That, I think, is the core that drives much critical nitpicking.  Being right.  There's a certain narcissistic appeal to being correct, supreme, unassailable in justifying one's feelings.   And- within the context of one model or another- these critics can be right and sleep well at night, having sated their needs.  

There's also a temptation for new creators to swoon for one model or another, grasp onto the reassuring grip of Automatic Rightness- and then mash and smash that template down onto their story until it fits.  However awkwardly.

The truth is something which may make disciples of the ivory-tower templates uncomfortable:

They're all right.  And none of them are.  

I watched 'The Princess Bride' recently.  By most of the models described above, it's an awful piece of fiction.  Absolutely awful.  The characters are over-the-top cliche' stereotypes, their relationships arbitrarily forced by their roles in the script.  The dialogue stilted.  The plot points contrived, puppet strings clearly visible on all the players.   The over-arching theme trite, banal, driven home with clumsy obviousness.

Yet The Princess Bride is beloved, undeniably entertaining, and gloriously fun.  It's one of those rare films which has transcended generations in its enjoyment and renown.  It deftly captures and charms its audience.

But how can this be when it's 'objectively' bad?

Isn't that the question.

It's something the paint-by-numbers crowd doesn't like to admit when it comes to analyzing and assembling fiction- but there is indeed an x-factor to entertainment that one can't quite put in a box.  Some stories do everything technically right- and flop.

Asking which model's right is like dumping a box of tools at the feet of a sculptor, and demanding to know which utensil is the right one for sculpting.

The answer depends entirely on which one helps the sculptor more accurately bring their vision to life.  That's what these models and templates are, and should be seen as- tools.

And ultimately, a creation isn't about the tools.  It's about what they can convey- from within the heart of the artist, to the eye of the beholder.  

Often those who adopt the 'right' way of thinking about story will, over time, perceive little else.  Their own paradigm becomes so engrained that regardless of how beloved or successful a piece of fiction is, they can see only where it falls short.  And will not hesitate to share their pronouncements.      

That's why such pious critique can be perilous for a green creator- the temptation to mash the nearest model onto their work may well destroy what it could have, should have been.  

In truth, the most useful feedback you get will not be from know-it-all critiquers.  Even other creators and writers aren't optimal for feedback, as they tend to see how *they* would do it- now how you could.  

Your average reader, what they like and dislike, understand or not, is a better ruler for assessing your efforts.  They're not coming to the table with scads of philosophical baggage or circularly refined prejudices- they just want to hear a good story.  Listen to them.  And listen to you.

Now, this shouldn't be taken as license to ignore critique, or forego learning the tools of your trade.  Capturing and keeping the attention of readers is beyond challenging.  You can blithely assemble a story however you like, and an architect can haphazardly nail garbage together and call it a building.  But that doesn't mean people will want to go in it.  

Learn the tools of your trade.  Just because some people misuse them doesn't mean they aren't necessary.  And critique is crucial-

The more the better.  When numerous readers independently point out the same flaw, you have certainty about what needs genuine repair.  You'll always learn something from critique- either about your work, or about the person talking to you.  

Just remember not to give negativity undue weight.

And have fun- because it shows.


Add a Comment:
Gundam019 Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Student Artist
Teen-Lyoko-Fan7777 Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Student General Artist
Do you think you could help critique a story of mine?
PehoTiger Featured By Owner 6 days ago
Im on page 98 right now. Its good so far :)

A bit to graphic for me though.
rubytiger13 Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014  Student General Artist
from what i've read dreamkeepers is awsome is there any stores where i can duy the book ofline (i live in canada)
GeneralAsura Featured By Owner Edited Sep 7, 2014
Hi there David & Liz, I just want to say that your story is amazing, I'm loving every bit of it.

As far that everyone knows Anduruna is the largest city in the Dreamworld and the main story is gonna focus most in this place, but I'm curious, are we gonna see other regions of Dreamworld? I'm really love to see what is beyond the StarFall Mountains.

This is Lucas Henrique, live from Brazil :)
JacobJawson Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Something I've always wanted to say about the graphic novels. It always kind of bother me that the parts I remember most are the "sexy bits."  :| (Blank Stare) 

I also just don't like  the whole "fight against the evil demonic army" thing. It just seems like a... weird thing for these characters to be doing.Dead (RIP)

That being said, I really like the Prelude comics. They seem really true to the characters and unique. Nod 
StreakyTheTiger Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2014  Student General Artist
Your work is amazing. :D  How many people are working on this? It just boggles my mind that you do such amazing work and so much of it. ... I'm kind of new to deviant art so I don't quite know how commissions work... but I would love one from you guys once I know what I need to do. 
 I'm curious though... when a dream keeper is born, do they look like their parents, or do they look like... you know, the representation of whoever it is they are dream keeper for... I don't know, just something I was wondering. Tiney details bug me sometimes.
Dreamkeepers Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2014
Aw, thank you!  I'm glad you like it so far.  The comic is created by me (David) and Liz.  We get help on the color flats from our freelancers, who are awesome.  

When it comes to commissions, I was silly and opened the floodgates a couple years back...  I have a backlog that will keep me busy for a few years.  We can only do new commissions in pencil at conventions.  ^^;  

Regarding Dreamkeepers and their parents- the physical features and appearance of every Dreamkeeper is influenced by the personality of the human they're linked to.  This means it's not directly based on parentage.  Now, most people share some personality traits with their parents- so most Dreamkeepers tend to resemble their parents in one way or another.  But then again, sometimes a Dreamkeeper won't resemble their parents at all, and their appearance is totally unique.   

I hope this helps answer your questions- thank you for enjoying our work, we'll do our best to keep more on the way!  
A-man3713 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014
This comic is godlike
Dreamkeepers Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2014
Thank you.  :blush:
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