Wim Vanderbauwhede

Wim Vanderbauwhede

Professor in Computing Science at the University of Glasgow. I program mainly in Haskell, C++ and Perl and love parallel and heterogeneous programming. http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~wim/

Location Glasgow


  • @CatherineJ @RobynTyson @PhilipMartin Thank you very much for your supportive and constructive feedback! FYI, this is indeed part of a longer story, it will be about 10,000 words in total when I finish it.

  • @IreneMelissa In the text of "Character and plot" above, they say "challenge or conflict", so while I agree with you, the course material seems to consider them as distinct. Possibly because not every challenge needs to involve a conflict.

  • @DianaTass I loved "The Housekeeper and the Professor"! Before I read it, I knew nothing about baseball, and I wasn't interested; and yet, in the book it completely fits. And I could identify with the prof's love for mathematics. The narrator and her son, and their relationship, is beautifully depicted as well.

    Haven't read the other one and it looks like I...

  • (3/3) * Are the minor characters sufficiently clear or too flat?
    They are sufficiently clear
    * In your opinion, is it clearly aimed at a certain type of reader?
    It will put off anyone who does not like feminism, but it was nevertheless a bestseller.

  • (2/3) * Is the language modern, plain, elaborate, colloquial?
    The written language used by Natsuko is elegant and very carefully constructed; the spoken language is usually ver colloquial, sometimes formal.
    * Are there short or long sentences?
    * Are the sentences ‘properly formed’, or broken down? For example, ‘Get this. Bravery. That wasn’t...

  • (1/3) I am reading a Japanese novel called "Natsumonogatari" (Summer Stories) by Mieko Kawakami. In translation it is known as "Breasts and Eggs"
    * How long is the short story or novel? About 400 pages
    * Are there chapters? Sections? Parts?
    There are many chapters and some form of sectioning by alternating narrators
    * When and where is it set, do/how...

  • Liked:
    "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. The plot is really cleverly revealed in very small stages. The narrator and the key characters are all very vivid, but your and the narrator's initial impression of them as a reader is gradually shown to be an illusion. It is also very witty and beautifully written. I have read it many times. The main reason to read...

  • Disliked:
    "No longer human", the manga version, by Osamu Dazai & Usamaru Furuya
    I stopped reading after a while because the protagonist is simply too awful. The protagonist of "The Catcher in the Rye" is an highly likeable hero in comparison. The characterisation is really well done but the character is so loathsome that I couldn't stand it.

  • I changed the name of the character, originally he had a Mongolian first name, but I made it Russian. I also gave him more back story, e.g. his PhD, and that his boss thought highly of him, that he was a key person in the scientific team.

  • I love the analysis and discussion of pros and cons of the various techniques in this PDF.

  • I tend to start with a subset of the above headings, different for each character, and add in more detail as the characters develop through the needs of the story.
    I also changed quite a few attributes of my characters, because it turned out my initial decisions didn't work well in the story.

    Here are is an example from my notebook:

    ### Scientists at...

  • "would be writer" is as far as I would go about myself, and not even sure about that.

  • I wonder if a stereotype is a reduction of a type to conform to a set of ideas; a flat type is also a reduction of a type, but only to simplify.
    I wonder in particular how both of these relate to average types. Maybe the term "minimally rendered types" might be better. You need those, because it would slow down the narrative to render the type of every...

  • "what sorts of dilemmas, flaws and conflicts you have planned"
    In the story I'm working on, there are mostly challenges, not so much dilemmas. If there is conflict at all, it arises from external situations.
    There are some events in the past, and in those, it is the love between two characters that drives the plot. In the events in the present, it is a kind...

  • @TomHalsall It's one of my favourite movies of all time

  • @TomHalsall The phrase "Some might argue" is an interesting one, as it leaves open if the writer shares that opinion or not. It reminds me of the speech by Little Bonaparte in Some Like It Hot.

  • @BrianEckert In The Memory Police, it's hard to claim that the person being persecuted has any specific flaws. That's simply not what the book is about. The plot is a device to explore the the importance of memories.
    I agree that there is conflict in other works by Xia Jia. My point was that plot need not arise from either flaws or conflict. I could have...

  • The story is essentially a one-sided love story. But what drives it are the questions of celebrity and surveillance. The aim of the story is to explore what it means to be constantly observed.

  • Stealing from reality ^_^

  • @ColinBanks Maybe your character could grow to realise that this competition for promotion is now what will make him happy?

  • How come your character does not feel affection for anyone? What happened to him that made him that way?

  • "Forgetful professor".
    I knew a real-life professor, who indeed always seemed deep in thought, distracted, and looking like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He was rather heavily built, in his fifties, with a full beard and greying hair in perpetual need of a haircut. He also had a permanent frown etched between his eyebrows.
    But because...

  • If instead of giving the character a dilemma or conflict, I can give it a challenge, then that sounds fine. My protagonist is a scientist and she wants to improve her work. So she starts looking at historical research, finds hints of something really promising but can't find the actual work or results. And so starts the quest.

  • The summary formula above does not work so well for me, but if you replace "conflict" by "challenge", then it does.
    "Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis"

  • I must confess I have difficulty in getting behind this idea. By replacing the selection of novels, I could build and argument that plot and conflict do not need to arise from any flaws in a character.
    For example, in "The Memory Police" by Yoko Ogawa, the conflict comes from the outside, from persecution.
    It is not even clear to me that there is a need...

  • The story I'm working on is motivated by my concerns about the impact of climate change. In fact, that is the plot driver, and the characters are in a way incidental to the plot. This goes against the approach taken in the course. I'm not even sure if I should make the concern explicit, but I expect I will.

  • @PatriciaTurk If you are in the US, that is understandable.

  • I can relate more to the "concerns" approach than the "what if" approach. My main concern is the climate emergency so I think that will find its way into my writing.

  • I have already done a lot of research for the story I have in mind, but I like doing research so I will happily do some more.
    The detail I want to work out for this exercise is about a young couple moving from Japan to Hawaii in the 1970s. Research I need to do is (1) I know virtually nothing about Hawaii, except that it has a large Japanese population. I...

  • I could mark only one out of 3 as helpful. Tried with different browsers, no luck. Must be a bug.

  • And here is part 2:

    * What were the most, and least, successful aspects of the writing?

    - most succesful:

    the portrayal of the grandmother character, and the depiction of the why it was such fun to stay at the grandparents' place. I liked the detail about the heels and the nails, and the first part, about playing in the old car, reading in the garden...

  • Hi Jill, here is my review, part 1:

    * How was the central character portrayed and was this portrayal clear and interesting?

    The story portrays the grandmother really well: her habits, preferences, appearance and her interaction with narrator, who she clearly is very fond of.
    Of the narrator we don't know much yet, in the story it's a child and the...

  • Thanks a lot for your review, it was very nice and very helpful.
    I wrote a review for your story about the holidays at the grandparents, but I couldn't post it as I closed the page. I can share it here if you like.

  • "I remember" was easy, because I could use it to let my characters tell some of their back story.

    I didn't do "Emma said" but it is definitely the type of cue that works for me.

  • I get immediately all these song lyrics in my head:

    Candy Says (I've come to hate my body
    Caroline Says (As she gets up off the floor)
    Polly says (her back hurts)

    and of course Emma, who started it all (Darling, I love you
    But I just can't keep on living on dreams no more)

  • That's the fun part, isn't it, the background research to make the characters credible.

  • My story was a recollection of a character, a brief but to them important scene. I think a story needs a character and some passage of time, although I sometimes wonder even about that. The narrator can be the character. So that leaves the passage of time.

  • Nice cliffhanger to end on!

  • Thanks!

  • I tend to have the idea for the story first, and then invent characters to act it out. Usually I don't get to that stage, that's why I joined the course.
    And then the shaping of the characters leads to changes in the story.

  • Two tries:

    The dark winter sky was pregnant with rain, ready to crash down on the oblivious rush-hour street. Hilary looked up at the clouds, the loaded, snub-nosed gun heavy inside her coat.

    The winter sky groaned with rain about to crash upon the many oblivious people strolling about. One of them was Hilary, and she carried concealed in her coat the...

  • Old office chair: rheumatoid and cranky.
    The cirrus waves in the sky were the photographic negative of wet sand on a beach.
    The cat looked like one of those text-based emoticons.
    Cold water shower: like millions of little needles

  • [Two writers at work, one in the most suited venue, the other in a venue that I would find bizarre or to difficult.]

    Sophie was in the zone: quiet room, soft background music, just the right time of the day. Her words flowed like a babbling brook.

    Saad was struggling: the barking of the neighbours' dog and the screeching of an angle grinder at the...