Tentatively pushing open the door, your eyes take in a dimly lit room replete with tastefully furnished sofas and deep leather armchairs, all strategically arranged to provide an environment suitable for easy conversation. A fire lies prepared and ready for use. However, it is much too warm.
Many of the walls are lined with bookshelves laden with a vast arrangement of assorted tomes. A casual glance reveals the majority to be works of fiction, interspersed with a variety of reference material. It appears, in fact, that this "solAARium" could really be more of a LibrAARy than anything else.
But looks have been known to deceive, and you are soon disabused of the notion when you witness several occupants in the room engaged in a somewhat serious conversation. Closed books lay at their side. Walking closer and listening intently, you soon realise they are discussing the art and technique of writing. Not as it applies to any one particular work, but spread to encompass the art form in a manner far more general in nature.
As you approach, they pause to look up and motion you to join in... that is, if you are so inclined. You move to sit, and they ask if you would respect several conventions that form the foundation of this SolAARium. Since you are unfamiliar with these conventions, they direct you to a small notice posted on the near wall.
Welcome to the SolAARium.
Everyone is welcome to enter and participate in the conversations that will gradually occur, however we ask that patrons observe the following guidelines:
- The principal purpose of the SolAARium is to provide a place for authors and readers to exchange, discuss and debate ideas and techniques as they apply to the art of writing AARs and literature in general. Possible subjects to discuss are character and plot development, various writing styles, writing techniques, writing aids, grammar, punctuation, and writing conventions. Discussions to effectively integrate aspects of a game into one's writing and a host of other topics that could be of importance or value to a broad cross-section of patrons will be encouraged.
Over time it is anticipated that the record kept of these conversations will provide a valuable resource of tips, techniques, and advice that may benefit the entire AARland community in their future writing endeavours.
- Where possible, please try to let a particular conversation run its course before introducing a new topic for discussion, or pursuing a tangential one. That's simple common courtesy, of course, but it's surprising how far such things will take you.
- While on the rare occasion one may come here to seek advice on a specific AAR, this should only be done when one feels that it is impossible or unwise (i.e. spoilers) to do it in the AAR thread itself. Where possible, a patron is encouraged to try and find a way to phrase their query in more general terms so that it might encompass and benefit the whole community. If absolutely necessary, a specific AAR may be discussed, but again it
would benefit all if the patrons could expand the scope of their discussion.
- Though it likely need not be said, we request that patrons refrain from any off topic discussions in the SolAARium. Blatant OT posts will be deleted at the Moderator's discretion - after all, there's the bAAR just on the other side of the door for that just that purpose.
Thank you, and please enjoy the SolAARium.
* * * * *
The SolAARium is an idea I've been sitting on for a while. That was mainly due to the uncertainty I felt about the direction of the Forum. Lately, I've seen a few initiatives that have convinced me that perhaps now is the best time to get this up and running. So...
To start things off, I'd like to offer up a quick take on a few items to look out for when you write that next piece. I'm hoping these suggestions will make your writing a bit more enjoyable. Will this make you Tolstoy? No, but it may give you a leg up...
Four Deadly Sins
1. Words, words, and yet more words...did I say words?
Word repetition is an ugly trap that writers can easily find themselves trapped in. Readers are usually quick to pick up on ugly word repetition. It's a good idea to avoid word repetition, and the best way to avoid word repetition is to use a - Thesaurus.
Now that we have the Thesaurus, let's try that again...
Word repetition is an ugly trap that writers can easily, and unwittingly, fall into. Readers are quick to pick up on the recurrence of similar remarks, so it's always good to substitute these wherever possible. The best way to avoid identical statements is to utilise a - Thesaurus.
Note that Microsoft Word has a built in Thesaurus.
2. Punctuation - or how to make some kind of sense of the spoken word
Poor punctuation generally results from the absence or misplacement of commas periods colons semi-colons and apostrophes. Sometimes the mere relocation of a comma can change the intent of a passage. The following example has been gleaned from my Portugal AAR
"Smithee here. Oh Mr. Jackson how are you? That's good. That's very good. Look I have to tell you that I just adored the film. Wonderful stuff Peter absolutely wonderful wonderful stuff. What's that? Sir Ian? Well from what I've heard he's been a real... er ah sweetheart to work with. Anyway I imagine you already know why I'm calling... heh - heh... you don't? Come now Mr. Jackson surely you must know... what's that? You really don't? Well Mr. Jackson we have a real smash-up mini-series under way that involves the history of Portugal during the Renai... What's that? Portugal! You know the place beside Spain... home to a er ah kick-ass soccer team... Huh? What? No it's not in Middle earth and it's certainly nowhere near Mordor... yes yes look it up on an Atlas. Anyway I'd like you to consider directing Episode Four if it meets with your approval. What's that? Oh great... yeah... OK that sound's promising. I'll make sure my man Steele gets in touch with your people. Very good uh-huh yes uh-huh OK... Look before I let you go there's something I just have to know... how long have John Rhys-Davies and Elijah Wood been midgets?"
I don't know about you, but that sucks. Let's try again, this time with proper punctuation:
Poor punctuation generally results from the absence, or misplacement, of commas, periods, colons, semi-colons, and apostrophes. Sometimes the mere relocation of a comma can change the intent of a passage. The following example has been gleaned from my Portugal AAR:
"Smithee here. Oh, Mr. Jackson, how are you? That's good. That's very good. Look, I have to tell you that I just adored the film. Wonderful stuff, Peter, absolutely wonderful, wonderful stuff. What's that? Sir Ian? Well, from what I've heard he's been a real, er, ah, sweetheart to work with. Anyway, I imagine you already know why I'm calling--heh - heh--you don't? Come now, Mr. Jackson, surely you must know--what's that? You really don't? Well, Mr. Jackson, we have a real smash-up mini-series under way that involves the history of Portugal during the Renai--What's that? Portugal! You know, the place beside Spain--home to a, er, ah, kick-ass soccer team... Huh? What? No, it's not in Middle earth, and it's certainly nowhere near Mordor. Yes, yes, look it up on an Atlas. Anyway, I'd like you to consider directing Episode Four, if it meets with your approval. What's that? Oh, great. Yeah, OK, that sound's promising. I'll make sure my man Steele gets in touch with your people. Very good, uh-huh, yes, uh-huh, OK. Look, before I let you go, there's something I just have to know--how long have John Rhys-Davies and Elijah Wood been midgets?"
That feels better...
3. Show and Tell
This one is a bit tougher and takes some practice. The key thing to remember is this: Show = Good, Tell = Bad
Now, what do I mean by that? Read the following passage. I'll try to keep it mercifully brief.
Captain was a mercenary, a man of medium build and wide shoulders who carried himself with an easy calm. Cool blue eyes peered from under a mop of brown hair, and a half smile played on thin lips. Barely past thirty, he had witnessed a decade of conflict, and it showed in the tired lines etched against his wide forehead. Seated opposite him sat Sergeant de Bloomfielde, a heavy set man with a round, warm face and an easy manner. A floppy hat sat perched on a shock of greying hair, and a dagger lay calmly in one hand. He reached for a beer.
Captain eyed the dagger in Sergeant de Bloomfielde's large hand, his gaze locked on the needle sharp instrument with a hypnotic stare.
"Lost in thought, Captain?" the sergeant asked, his deep voice rumbling good naturedly from a heavy set frame.
The mercenary leader moved with a start and shifted his gaze to his long time friend. He took in the floppy hat that betrayed a lock of greying hair, and his thin lips broke into a half-smile. "Why don't you burn the hat?"
de Bloomfielde's warm face betrayed mock anger, "Burn it, Captain? I can't do that! The men would be most upset." He paused for a moment, using the silence to reach for an ale. "There's something going on under that mass of brown hair, isn't there? Something you want to tell your sergeant, sir?" de Bloomfielde leaned closer, his easy bulk betraying a hint of concern.
Captain leaned back, revealing a wide shouldered, medium sized frame clad in a plain brown tunic. He locked strong fingers behind a thick neck and sighed, "You know, Edmond, I've seen thirty years of life, and the last ten have been nothing but war. I think of my youth, my family, maybe a wife, children, a farm..." Captain's piercing gaze softened, "I'm tired, Edmond. Tired."
Surprisingly, de Bloomfielde was at a loss for words.
So, what's different? With the first passage I told you what to see. It was straight forward description, very dry, effective, but bland.
In contrast, the second passage was full of life, description and characterization. I bet you know more about the personalities of Captain and de Bloomfielde after I showed them to you through exposition in the follow up passage.
4. Research - research - research!
If you are serious about writing, and especially serious about writing historical fiction, you'll have to read. You'll have to do research. And I'm not talking about the biography of King John and a general history of Portugal. You'll have to know what events shaped that period. What did the peasants eat, how were ships built, how did the army fight, what foodstuffs were common, what exactly did a Renaissance Banker do with your money, how did they treat disease, how many motions were required to load a musket... etcetera, etcetera...
And now for the part that truly hurts. You'll only use perhaps 10% of that hard earned knowledge. Why? Because the idea is to fit the information into your story, not fit your story into the information. You are writing a novel, not a how-to book. Research and knowledge are paramount, but work best when used sparingly to advance your story, and should never be used to teach.
OK. I'll stop now. However, before I go, I want to put in a plug for my Free Company thread. Now, before you roll your eyes and claim there's no time to read through it, I think you should know that it was designed as an interactive workshop complete with a plotline that was shaped to read as a novel.
What's so special about the Free Company?
1. You learn how to create a living breathing character
2. You supply that character with a physical description
3. You give that character a personality and a back history
4. You allow that character to grow
5. You learn how to describe various settings
6. You learn the proper techniques of writing dialogue
7. You learn how to pace yourself in an ongoing story line
8. You learn how to plot and resolve your own story lines
9. You learn how to insert history into your story through research
10. You learn how to interact with other well crafted characters
11. You become involved in crisis of a personal nature, or as a group
12. You learn how to think fast and react to writing challenges
13. You learn to be creative and descriptive
I've only touched on the surface, but you get the idea. If you are serious about writing and think those items are not important, then think again. Each and everyone of those elements I've listed are key toward producing an effective novel/novella or short story.
I'm sure there will be many of you looking around in the hope of picking up the odd tip. That's great. But for those of you who want more, there will be a lot more to offer.
This forum is open. Please respect the rules. You may want to use one of my Sins to launch a discussion, or you may want to begin on a totally different track. Regardless, I hope some of you find this educational, and more importantly, worthwhile...
A big bag of credit goes to stnylan for the following Table of Contents. Keep in mind that it's a work in progress.
Originally Posted by stnylan