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Thread: The SolAARium: Discuss the craft of writing - Alphabetical Index in the 1st Post

  1. #381
    Serf juszuf7's Avatar

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    me- sure is a buitiful day for a battle, aye geneal?
    General- ChEeSe Is FuN? *drool*
    me- haha, good one general, acting like a idiot to trick our enemies eye?
    General- WERE ar mey PANTS??!!
    me- DAMN, this man is a genius!! Trying to act like he has no idea that in the following battle he could die a horrible death.
    Well I'm not sure what type of humor belongs this - idiocy? -, but this type is what I like the most, and I've noticed that this counts for the majority of people too. Here it is pretty obvious what is going on, there's no real plot, no surprises, and the characters are not real flesh & blood persons either, that is, they don't behave like normal people. Because of this it is hardly believable something like this could happen. And I think that, when you read it, you imagine how it is happening, and it is funny because of the fact people don't behave that way.

    I mean, to describe brutal wars like a bunch of drunken men having a party is hilarious. Or describe kings acting as sissies. Or connect two different stories, like in the case of Splangy, story A has finished in 1540, and story B starts in 1530 with the characters from story A escaping to story B, and explaining this as the "difference in time zones".

    Me-OK! We made a little boo-boo back in Saxony but nothing can stop my destiny! We can now get back to buiseness, in MY brand spankin new country, Bisantum!

    Advisor-BOO-BOO?!? You led hundreds of thousands of inocent people to there deaths for your own ego! And how can it be 1492? Saxony fell in the 1540's for christ sake! And its not Bisantum, it Byzantium.

    Me-First of all they wouldn't have died if my army could fight off a flock of pidgeons! Secondly, your too stupid to understand but theres a time difference between countrys . Thirdly I dont care what its called! Now, tell me of my new country and all its splendor!
    Anyway, saying a lot of stupid things is funny for most people, although I've never seen a truly long story written in this style. Arilou's Legacy of the White Sheep approaches it, but he's still sane enough not to write complete nonsense and ruin the story (and make it funnier for a moment)
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  2. #382
    Prodigal Son Craig Ashley's Avatar

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    You just pegged an important idea.

    but he's still sane enough not to write complete nonsense and ruin the story (and make it funnier for a moment)
    It's hard to be funny. It's sooo much harder to be consistently funny AND maintain an actual plot. My earliest efforts at comedy were nothing more than a string of surreal set ups tied together by what only the most generous person could call an idiotic "plot."

    It's tempting to throw in a really funny gag at the expense of the overall story. It can be real tempting, but it is rarely a good idea.

    My prefered brands of humor would be satire, black comedy, parody, and deapan. Though the ocassional slapstick, just plain dumb humor can be nice from time to time. I did love Strangeglove. Two other great movies are Office Space and The Big Lebowski. Comedians, I liked Seinfeld. Carlin and Rock are good because they are so defiantely unpolitically correct. I also have a guilty pleasure in Al TV. Weird Al Yankovic interviewing Eminem was pure surreal insanity. Oh, the Jiminy Glick Show is another underrated show on Comedy Central.
    Slipping into maddness is good for the sake of comparison

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  3. #383
    Serf juszuf7's Avatar

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    Yeah I like satire too, although I don't remember anyone writing an AAR in that form. It is also difficult to imagine one writing a satiricl AAR. Perhaps it could be done from "another country's point of view", that is, one of your enemies making fun of your successes and failures. Or perhaps you have an (immortal) king who tries to prove himself on and on, but he keeps overlooking small obstacles and gets ridiculed.

    King of Manchuria - "I annexed China"
    Advisor - "Yeah, but weren't you fighting the Koreans?"
    King of Manchuria - "Who cares?! I have added 30 new provinces to our realm!"
    Advisor - "Yeah, but didn't your daddy tell you to annex Korea and nothing else? Will you be like "Ooow, loke at me, I rule China" in front of your father?"
    King of Manchuria - "Plese don't tell daddy what I did..."

    OK, a bit bad example, it came from the top of my head...

    Craig Ashley - I have not read your Ivan Kurschevich character, but I imagine he could be similar?
    Walt Disney had wooden teeth.
    The plastic things on the end of shoelaces are called aglets.
    The Sanskrit word for war translates as 'wanting more cows.'

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  4. #384
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    One solid basis for comedy is the occurrance of the unexpected.

    In this category we can put most simple jokes
    • "Take my wife... please!"
      "Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I'll never know."
      "Your money or your life! I'm thinking... I'm thinking..."
    and most physical comedy like pratfalls. Even some of the 'absurd' or 'bizarre' comedy listed by Stuyvesant and juszuf7 falls into this category: you don't expect to see a major character (like a king or general) acting like a blithering idiot.

    Equally important here is the dissonance between what the character is doing and what everyone else is doing: the character is behaving irrationally and everyone else is trying to deal with him as if he were rational. The films of the Marx Brothers are great examples of this.


    One often-overlooked component is timing. If you've never seen Jack Benny (or Johnny Carson, in his prime), I'll just tell you that Benny could read the phone book and leave an audience on the floor. Timing - plus subtle vocal shading - is an art. Benny could literally tell a bad joke, lift an eyebrow and stare the audience down until they laughed - sometimes cupping his chin in his hand with weary patience. And they always laughed. Another master of timing? Jerry Seinfeld, who can make more out of an eyebrow twitch or a lip curl than most comedians from a half-hour of patter.

    Ever seen 'Airplane'? One of the reasons it's so funny, so often-studied and so poorly imitated is the timing of the jokes. They come at you every ten to twenty seconds, on average, relentlessly. Dumb, smart, hip, stupid, subtle, blatant - they just keep coming. And sooner or later, you'll laugh at one of them - and the pacing ensures you'll probably still be chuckling when the next one arrives... and the next... and once you START laughing, it's easy to keep going, even if the next few jokes aren't particularly funny.

    Timing is particularly difficult to achieve, I think, in writing. Unlike the spoken art, where we all get the joke together, the author doesn't know how fast a person reads and comprehends. Rapid-fire jokes can succeed at one speed and fail - or lose effect - at another. I do think an advantage of a literary (as opposed to oral) format is that an author can build a much more elaborate and involved structre. The reader can always go back and re-read; the listener can't.


    To bring this to a close, I'll mention a chapter from one of my own works, Chapter 13 (I think - I'm going by memory here) of 'As the Spirit Moves Me'. The whole saga of the State Gift-gone-wrong, and of its delivery, was supposed to be funny in a cartoonish way. It fails, I think, completely - it's mildly humorous, rating a smile or a snicker, but it isn't funny.

    And I think I know why. That AAR is written from a flat, single-person present-tense perspective. The protagonist can't do much more than observe (at least in the early days) . The chapter about the coach is descriptive of things and actions, but it isn't descriptive of people and their reactions to the rolling calamity.

    EDIT: It's Chapter 12, and the link is HERE.
    Last edited by Director; 12-07-2003 at 23:55.
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  5. #385
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    it's mildly humorous, rating a smile or a snicker, but it isn't funny.
    So call me a simpleton for first snickering, then laughing my way through the whole chapter. Hey, I never said my sense of humor was particularly sophisticated. Or, it might just be pretty funny.

    I think there are a lot of mechanisms in that chapter that work really well. Like laboriously setting up a scene, followed by a quick punchline (describing the coach in great detail, insert a blank line for breathing space, then calling it an Edsel).
    There's also the consistent mood of exasparation from the moment the coach is first mentioned. It suggests that the narrator had already reached breaking point BEFORE his journey even starts. That's followed by the relentless stream of mishaps he has to deal with. It makes for a deeply frustrating trip and a deeply frustrated narrator.

    I think that is a humorous tool that is well-suited for writing: the piling up of jokes. Well-suited for writing because, as Director said, it's possible to keep track of everything by re-reading. It's the Airplane approach: eventually someone's gonna laugh at something. And because the jokes keep coming quickly, the story feels fast-paced.

    Similar to this is writing one of those cause-and-effect chains. You know the deal: a mouse scares an elephant, the elephant stampedes through a fruit market, fruit flies everywhere, a nobleman gets hit in the head by a rotten tomato, the nobleman takes a swing at the peasant behind him because he thinks it was him wot done it, the peasant ducks, the nobleman hits the mayor's wife, the mayor brings his cane down on the head of the nobleman, the gendarmerie enters the fray, runs into a bunch of drunken sailors... etc. etc. At this point in time, custard pies usually start to fly.

    Is there a difference between timing and pacing? Because pacing is something that can be done quite well in texts. By decreasing the length of sentences (thereby increasing the speed) as events start to unroll. And, of course, using the rapid-fire method to create the impression of a great deal of things happening all at the same time.

  6. #386
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    So as soon as I say it's not funny, someboby has to disagree. There's one in every crowd...

    That's a very good analysis of exactly the techniques I was trying to use. In fact, you might almost have been looking over my shoulder while I was writing it. You got the ideas of 'piling-on' and the 'exasperated' just right.

    I'll tell you a secret: I was very prod of it when I wrote it. Nobody seemed to think it was funny, so I just went on. And I absolutely would write it more vividly if I were writing it now.

    I do feel a bit better knowing someone liked it, but I wasn't fishing for praise. I was hoping the forum members would give some constructive criticism to match Stuyvesant's excellent analysis. Go ahead and dig in, guys - you won't hurt my feelings.


    So how about the combination of humor and horror - or humor and grossness? Anyone remember the old Harry Chapin song, '40,000 Pounds of Bananas'? (Later lampooned as '40,000 Pounds of Viagra', a masterpiece of deadpan double-entendre).

    Is there a difference between timing and pacing? Because pacing is something that can be done quite well in texts. By decreasing the length of sentences (thereby increasing the speed) as events start to unroll. And, of course, using the rapid-fire method to create the impression of a great deal of things happening all at the same time.
    When I first read this, I thought they were different. But now I think perhaps we mean much the same by either word.
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  7. #387
    Court Jester Backpack's Avatar
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    Director,

    Thanks for mentioning this in the bAAR - a very interesting discussion topic. I usually don't lurk in this thread - too easy to get lost. The weeds are quite tall. I'm a little shortsighted - not the best of combinations.
    Originally posted by Craig Ashley
    It's hard to be funny. It's sooo much harder to be consistently funny AND maintain an actual plot.
    This is why I have so much respect for the authors who post after post keep the laughs coming.

    Backpack's ducat: To me there is a definite difference between pacing and timing. On one hand, pacing is the tempo at which your story advances. I agree with Stuyvesant on it being fairly easy to change by shortening your sentences and increasing the amount of action. Timing, on the other hand, is a a talent of knowing exactly when to slide in your punch line, tounge in cheek humor or Jack (you really have to hand it to him) Benny eyebrow raising.

  8. #388
    Ah, humor! Probably the only thing I can come close to writing well, which is saying a lot... It say I'm a pretty mediocre writing all around. That means ability to get lyrical with a description or a scene or an emotion is near zilch. That aside, I think humorous writing is a laudable goal. Unless I'm reading a history or a techincal book, I read for enjoyment. And, frankly, there's nothing I enjoy more than a good laugh. Okay, there are somethings I enjoy more, but I'm trying to keep this rated PG...

    My first and only EU2 AAR was supposed to be funny. Aliens drop off Elvis in the Yucatan so he can save the Mayans from the Spanish. I threw in Python references and used anachronisms. The thing died on its feet because I could not force myself to be constantly funny and keep the plot rolling. It's very clear when something is funny and when someone is forcing it to be funny.

    With my FC characters (at least Cyril and now Foppy), I try to keep them on the light side. They almost certainly will not make you laugh out loud, but they may make you crack a grin. Maybe. And no longer do I try to make them funny (or, shall I say, amusing?) all the time. I can't keep it up, and I praise all the above mentioned writers who can continually put out quality laughs. As Storey said, being one writer in the troupe means, when you think of a good one, your character can pop his head, do his thing, and fade into the background again. Anyway, off the top of my head, I can't remember any techniques I use constitently. Making the normal absurd, making the absurd normal, and deadpan deliveries (I think) are my main weapons.

    As a final note, while I think Pratchett and Douglas Adams are more laugh-out-loud funny, I think the greatest humor writer of the English language ever is P.G. Wodehouse. For one thing, he designs intricate and wonderfully malevolous plots. Second, his writing style has too be seen (read, I mean) to be believed. The way he scuplts words and sentences makes the ordinary sublime, so much so that many of his fans have taken to calling him, "the Master." His smilies are as colorful and extravagant as any you've ever read. Third, he is exceptionally well versed in classical literature and can quote bits of Shakespeare, Browning, Keats, the Bible, Roman philosophers, and Greek tragedies in a way that has me rolling on the floor. He does not have a masterpiece, since many of his works are near the pinnacle of his form and it usually boils down to who is your favorite character, but I think the work that best exemplies his style is The Code of the Woosters.
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  9. #389
    As a simple reader: I like Woosters and Jeeves up to 3/4 of the read till it gets a little weary as the plot/laugh pulls on the same strings over and over through silly events or bizarre infatuations from the characters. Douglas Adams I don't care much for; but that was giving him a read after just finishing Catch-22. All-in-all, for a piece of writing to be enjoyable I'd say it needs to have some sort of humor.

  10. #390
    Originally posted by doublethink
    As a simple reader: I like Woosters and Jeeves up to 3/4 of the read till it gets a little weary as the plot/laugh pulls on the same strings over and over through silly events or bizarre infatuations from the characters.
    Do you mean 3/4ths of the book, or 3/4th of the series? I have to agree that, given the man wrote some 70 novels, he is bound to use the same gags and plots. Actually, starting from about mid-1920's onward, all his novels have the same plot: 1) young people fall in love/are in love, 2) something gums up the works (they part brass rags or they need some money to set themselves up in life and get married), 3) much plotting and insanity ensues, 4) happy ending with young people driving off to the registrars and the bad guy getting a punch in the pocketbook. But inside this framework, the details of the plot differs from book to book. And even if you get tired of the plot, watching it unroll and reading the immaculate prose is well worth the entrance fee.

    Er, I should note that Wodehouse is not for everyone. His writing and the bygone era he writes about is light, sweet, and sublime, and (frankly) people today have little affection for the light, sweet, or sublime. You will not find any shock comedy, vulgarity, or dark comedy. And innuendo makes it appearance rarely, but always tastefully. No, it's not like this world at all, which is probably why I love it so much.

    I hope this is still on topic... Much of my decent writing is in the vein of Wodehouse with a touch of Douglas Adams.

    Here's a question: Has anyone tried writing a screenplay? I've had a couple stabs at it. The interesting thing is that you don't have a narrator (well, you can, but that's cheating...) to describe scenes, emotions, etc. So unless you want the actors spouting out their thoughts for the audience's benefit (ugh! TV does this way too much, IMHO), you have use your other tools: camera angles, set design, lighting, etc. It's quite an interesting change from writing a novella or short story.
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  11. #391
    Do you mean 3/4ths of the book, or 3/4th of the series?
    Actually, I read the entirety of "The Code" and a few of his other stories that were in a single volume. But overall I felt bored by about 3/4 of each book/story--feeling I already knew what to expect next and throwing it back on the shelf.

    Er, I should note that Wodehouse is not for everyone.
    I liked it when Wooster calls his aunt "my ancient relative" just to spite her, and she him in her way, because that's the kind of relationship they have.

    Has anyone tried writing a screenplay? I've had a couple stabs at it. The interesting thing is that you don't have a narrator (well, you can, but that's cheating...)
    Funny you should mention this 'cause I'm actually a film major and am writing something, a 15min short story, to shoot in a couple of days with a few friend who would be nice enough to let me to use them as slaves without pay.

    As to narration: I'd like to think of the camera as the "narrator" in that it describes, or shows, the story from an entirely objective point-of-view much like an author when he fabricates scenes on lines of paper from a lofty height.
    Last edited by Stanislavski; 15-07-2003 at 19:34.

  12. #392
    What? The_Hawk's Avatar
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    Originally posted by fusag
    Here's a question: Has anyone tried writing a screenplay? I've had a couple stabs at it. The interesting thing is that you don't have a narrator (well, you can, but that's cheating...) to describe scenes, emotions, etc. So unless you want the actors spouting out their thoughts for the audience's benefit (ugh! TV does this way too much, IMHO), you have use your other tools: camera angles, set design, lighting, etc. It's quite an interesting change from writing a novella or short story.
    As a slightly tangential remark, I've often thought during the course of Reduxing the first Book of the Free Company that the saga as a whole would play better as an hour-long weekly drama than as a novel. Leaping from character viewpoint to character viewpoint -- which is essentially unavoidable in the FC stories no matter the amount of editing done -- seems to my mind to play a lot better in a visual setting than in a written word one. Also, so much of the stories are told through dialogue -- and so many characters are developed in that medium -- that I could think you could avoid a great deal of the "internal monologue" problems (with a couple notable exceptions, like SN's Niklos in Book IV, who was almost entirely internalized.)

    Anyway, I'm not pitching a new project or anything... though I may think the FC would play well as a screenplay, it'd still be an enormous amount of work to turn it into one. I'm quite satisfied with my efforts to try to make it some sort of quasi-novel.
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  13. #393
    StoreytellAAR Storey's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Director
    So as soon as I say it's not funny, someboby has to disagree. There's one in every crowd...

    I'll tell you a secret: I was very proud of it when I wrote it. Nobody seemed to think it was funny, so I just went on. And I absolutely would write it more vividly if I were writing it now.



    quote:
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Is there a difference between timing and pacing? Because pacing is something that can be done quite well in texts. By decreasing the length of sentences (thereby increasing the speed) as events start to unroll. And, of course, using the rapid-fire method to create the impression of a great deal of things happening all at the same time.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When I first read this, I thought they were different. But now I think perhaps we mean much the same by either word.
    Well Director I remember reading this when you first posted it and I thought it was funny then and I still think itís funny. If I caused any physiological scars but not posting my opinion at that time you have my apologies.

    I do find it strange that you donít think you canít write comedy when youíve just demonstrated that you can. Of course it does depend on what type of comedy you wanted to write. If you were trying for belly laughs then you failed but if you were trying for a finely crafted piece of humor that brought a smile to my lips and a laugh on occasion then you succeeded. A strong point to the piece was that I had no problem visualizing the story as it played out. You should try more of this!

    As to timing and pacing I think each of us is going to have different interpretations. For me they are distinctly different. Pacing has to do with the whole and timing with the part. What the hell did I just say? Let me give you an example. A stand up comedian doing a 30-minute monologue isnít just going to go out there at the beginning of his routine and hit the audience with his best jokes. Heís going to feel them out and decide if theyíre in a good mood or bad. He might have to slowly warm them up before shifting into second gear. His goal is to peak as his act ends so theyíre yelling for more. Fitting just the right joke following just the right next joke so this build up continues is pacing. Timing is the deliver of the joke itself. Any ever listen to someone who doesnít know how to tell a joke tell one? It can be painful.

    For a writer I donít think itís possible to use timing because you canít control how the reader reads your material. Just as he reaches the punch line the reader has to answer the phone and the timing is lost. But pacing is throughout the story. Your comedic post is a good example of this Director. Thereís a careful pacing throughout the chapter thatís not dependent on any single part. I can put it down and pick it up again and have no problem getting into the flow and enjoy the humor. Does this make any sense? Beats the hell out of me. They are just my personal views on the subject and should probably only be taken seriously by myself.

    As to my attempts at humor I havenít reached the stage where I lengthen or shorten sentences to affect the pace of the story. But I delete and add entire sentences and will spend time on a dozen edits trying to find just the right word in the right place.

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  14. #394
    You know, I never thought of it before, but the FC would fit the screen well, especially Book I-III. After Book IV started using the the OOC thread to plot and coordinate posts, it became less an ad hoc collection of people throwing in bits of dialogue about whatever was happening to them at the moment. Starting with IV, the FC became more plot driven, and hence "the grunts" having little to do tend to lose interest.

    Film would definitely ease that constantly changing POV issue. I think it has to do with the fact that, although the FC would work fine if it was writen in 3rd person omnipotent POV, all the contributors wrote as if it were 1st person POV, and it would a huge pain to rewrite everything into 3rd person. If it were to made into something a publishing house would sell, an editor would need to do some serious hacking. I think all you've done with it so far is great.

    I can see it now: Come to AARCon for the world premiere of...

    The FREE COMPANY: RESURRECTION (The Movie!)
    with your favorite AAR writers acting their own characters!
    ... grand battle scenes recreated by seemlessly belending miniatures, historical recreators, and computer game clips!
    You've never seen anything like it in your life!
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  15. #395
    The Father of AARland Lord Durham's Avatar
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    Funny enough, fusag, I've been kicking around the idea of writing up the first chapter or two of Book IV to see what kind of work it would entail. I agree that major editing would be required, but all the elements are there for a complete story with many intriguing characters and plot twists.


    On the topic of humour, I've found that the subject is a very personal thing. One person's laugh is another person's groan. Some people will pick up on a subtle piece of innuendo and applaud it, while others will scratch their head and say "I don't get it."

    I've been rather surprised at the response (or in this topic, lack of) to my Portugal or Bust AAR. Some have said it's the funniest thing they've ever read here, others have said it's funny, even though they didn't get many of the references, and a couple just plain didn't get it at all.

    And yet that AAR, as Secret Master and MrT pointed out at one time, contains an extremely wide variety of the styles of humour that are being discussed here.

    That was my intent. It was an attempt to appeal to all types of humour. Each post was usually divided into three sections. The first section was typically a series of minor gags leading up to a punch line. The second part was used for parody and satire, and probably caused the most confusion with those who were unfamiliar with film history or current events. The third part gave me the chance to use puns, innuendo, slapstick, dripping sarcasm, thinly veiled shots at (in)famous people, etc, etc.

    That was how I managed to keep it fresh from post to post, and dare I say, funny, without hitting any dry spots.

    On the opposite side of the coin, my King Kristoffer material in the 'Denmark: Fellowship of the Kings' thread was totally absurd comedy, usually carried to extremes. Some of it worked, some of it didn't.

    A piece I was particularly pleased with was my contribution to Secret Master's 'Guess-The-Author, Analysis, and Critiques' thread, in which I wrote a humourous post that was entirely dialogue driven and finished with a twist ending.

    There have been other authors who have tried humour to varying degrees. Norgsvenn and Honour-Shogun come to mind. Norg's humour is quite sophisticated, especially if you read between the lines. H_S's humour was much like watching a Marx Brothers movie.

    Anyway, humour is subjective. Some people like Dennis Miller, some people don't get him, some like Jim Carrey, others think he's a buffoon. I won't even go into Tom Green...

    Personally, I like humour that makes me think, as opposed to pure slapstick. Slapstick is fairly easy to write. However, a finely turned phrase dripping with sarcasm or subtle understatement wins me over every time.
    Current AAR: The Sons of Ragnar Lodbrok: In the Shadow of the Great Old Ones

    Follow the link to read The Pariah. For more Lovecraft style horror, try The Crane Horror and my Holmes/Lovecraft story The Case of the Galloway Eidolon. All are free to read in the Lovecraft eZine.

    Available: The Saglek Incident in the anthology Sha'Daa: Pawns and Witiko in the anthology Bigfoot Terror Tales: Vol 1

    Also: Plains of Hell in the anthology Lawyers in Hell & Colony in the anthology Rogues in Hell, continuing the HUGO award winning Heroes in Hell series, edited by Janet Morris

    For a complete list of my AARs go to The Ink Well. Visit my Website for news, reviews and story excerpts.

  16. #396
    A Footnote Prufrock451's Avatar
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    PRUFROCK451, MASTER OF HUMOUR, PRESENTS:

    HOW TO BE GODDAMNED HILARIOUS


    Well, maybe not.

    A big part of being funny is confidence, and a big part of being confident is knowing where your strengths lie. Jack Benny could charge ahead and tell an awful joke, because he knew that he could nail the timing. He could make the material work. So he took the chance. Dennis Miller can go off on a tangent and weave together a slew of references no sane human would spend the time to understand, but he understands that his snarky nasal monotone is FUNNY when it rattles off a ten-sentence monstrosity.

    Therefore- Know your strengths. Charge ahead and trust your audience to keep up. 90% of the work is just getting up and grabbing the microphone. People are predisposed to laugh, to listen. Just convince them you're worth listening to. They'll come around. Hell, it made Roseanne Barr rich.

    Another important comedy rule- the rule of three. Hegel called this thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. I call it COMEDY. Observe:

    "Your wife and your sister." Not funny.
    "Your wife, your sister, and the milkman." FUNNY.
    "Your wife, your sister, the milkman, and Rowdy Roddy Piper." See? It feels strained. Not as funny.
    NEWEST!

    The Popular Front- France and the Second World War. December, 1938: France has failed to topple Hitler's government by guile- and cannot yet resist through force...

  17. #397
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    While I'm not giving up on the topic of humor, I thought I might make a small detour.

    Earlier in this thread there was a discussion of the merits of two different approaches to telling the story. One would be unitary or novelistic with an overarching plot line to tie the work together, the second would be episodic in nature with short serialized posts.

    One distinct advantage of the episodic approach is that it accomodates authors who don't have much time to spend. Novelistic works tend to consume large amounts of time in planning and require more carefully crafted characters and situations. After all, you're going to be stuck with your basic set-up throughout the work.

    An episodic structure - particularly one where the posts follow a common format - allows an author to fit the game events into a predictable template. This not only saves planning time but gives the reader a sense of comfortable familiarity.

    Both require a certain continuity of style, though I think the novel is more demanding in this respect. It is difficult to 'switch gears' in a novel, so those works tend to keep a certain tone and style throughout. Episodes also are stylistically constrained because they follow a preset format, but (just opinion here) I think an author has a little more freedom of variation in a serialized format.


    I'd like to offer a different approach. I began my Bremen AAR in an essay format, intending it to be a project that could be written a bit at a time with discursions into topics that interested me. I thought it might be a slow-paced, long-running work.

    Instead, I found I enjoyed the freedom of writing short 'editorials' of highly opinionated pontificating on the fictional history of a fictional country. Not having to hold all the details of characters and set up plot-points in advance was a liberating experience.

    So what I'd like to offer to the forum is this: if a novel is structurally underpinned by plot and a serial is marked by consistency of format, might we find other common elements to hang a story on? If 'Building a Better Bremen' is a collection of essays, can we not also consider themed collections such as a portrait gallery, a jewel box or a box of uncataloged items in a museum? Each picture (need they all be portraits?), each jewel, each piece of 'junk' memorabilia could be the basis for a short tale, and thereby the game's unfolding could be told.



    The advantages of a collection of short stories are strong: short length, no common characters necessary, resolution of plot within each story, freedom to change person, point of view and style from story to story. And a 'narrator' figure could comment and explain where necessary.

    There are also disadvantages. Short stories are harder to write than longer ones: a sprawling novel can hide a multitude of sins but a short story depends on good placement of every word.


    Comments?
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  18. #398
    I was digging through my books in preparation of moving when I ran across the following gem. The cartoon, of course, is Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz.

    Lucy: If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations ... What do you think you see, Linus?
    Linus: Well, those clouds up there look to me like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean.
    Linus: That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor...
    Linus: And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen ... I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side ...
    Lucy: Uh huh ... That's very good ... What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?
    CB: Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind!

    Unlike most comic strips, this one doesn't need graphics to get the point across. It also beautifully illustrates one technique to which Asimov devoted a whole chapter to in his Treasury of Humor: the anti-climax.

    Comics are not unlike AARs, since they both (as Director just pointed out) are episodic with only a framework of characters and/or plot (read: running gags for comics) to hold it together. The book I have gives a few insights into Charles Schultz's method of composition and humor. If I find anything of interest, I'll post later.
    My Off-site AARs: Carrier - Carrier battles in the southwest Pacific / Tigers in the Mist - Battle of the Bulge / Hornet Leader - Command an F-18 Hornet squadron
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  19. #399
    Compulsive ReadAAR. Commandante's Avatar
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    I can only agree with you, Director. During the course of writing/playing my own AAR, "The Berliner", I have come to think that the essay format is really good, especially if playing the entire campaign and then write it afterwards.

    Broad generalisations spanning all four decades of gameplay can be really intriguing to read. Since the GC depicts such a huge time span, it is possible to find patterns that can be summarised in essay form. The essays then forms a sort of characteristic for the country you've been playing, depicting country X's colonial business, wars, trade, internal affairs, technology, etc., coupled with a bit of "ahistorical history". I'd say this was superbly done by Director in his Bremen AAR.

    And a small question: what is POGO?
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  20. #400
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    What is a Pogo? Well, that's what Google is for!

    Seriously, Pogo was an American comic strip of the Nixon/Watergate era, authored by Walt Kelly and suspended after his death.

    His strip was set in Florida's Okefenokee Swamp and populated with animals (some of whom had the faces of political figures of the day). Without being in any way 'political' Pogo commented brilliantly on the issues of the day - his most quoted line is 'We have met the enemy and he is us.'

    As quoted from Walt Kelly's Pogo : The Eye of the Whole Man, Studies in American Humor, Volume 2, Number 3, 1984:

    "From his 1948 portrayal of candidate Thomas Dewey as a mechanical doll, through his courageous satire of Senator Joseph McCarthy as Simple J. Malarkey, a lynx who tried to tyrannize the swamp, to his caricature of Spiro Agnew as a hyena who spouted alliterative gobbledegook and wore out one of the ill-advised "imperial guard" uniforms briefly introduced during the Nixon administration, Kelly wrote a timely strip that was sometimes moved to the editorial page by nervous editors."


    Here's one link: Try this.

    But your best bet is to Google. Hit up a bookstore or a comics store - Pogo still sells.



    More Pogo?

    HE: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science.
    SHE: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains.


    Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
    Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
    Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
    Swaller dollar cauliflower, alleygaroo!

    Don't we know archaic barrel,
    Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.
    Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
    Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

    -- "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie"


    We have met the enemy and they are us.


    We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.


    "Look alive. Here comes a buzzard."


    "Now is the time for all good men to come to."
    Last edited by Director; 26-07-2003 at 00:48.
    "That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error." - Jerry Pournelle

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