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

  1. #541
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    Length really shouldn't be an issue. Stroph1 has been writing his Brunei Tales for longer than I've been a member of these forums. He DID split it up and is now deep into Volume Two of the story, but he still has a very active and voluble readership.

    If it is good stuff, people will read, respond, and enjoy. Coz1 is right. Both Bismarck and I both had lengthy tales with Cyprus, although I took less time to write mine. My Sweden story was also pretty lengthy. My Chimu tale and my Lenape tale were much shorter. My Chimu tale had far less replies, but for more than just that reason. I wrote the whole thing, and posted it in two days.

    Lenape had more replies, and I think was higher quality, to be honest. My Strassburg tale had fewer replies than Cyprus or Sweden, but it wasn't as long. My Auvergne tale had plenty and was pretty long as well.

    I've have NEVER heard a reader complain that a story was too long. I have heard them lament that a story was over. Regardless of how long the tale was, it is usually that they were sad it was over.
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  2. #542
    As Coz1 said narrative (such as were my attempt to write) are long and tend to turn newer readers off. Upon first comming to the forum I recall the first AAR I read being "Easy as A, B, holy see" which is as I recall a story like tale. Now that my AARs have failed. I've spent some time reading over narrative type AARs and they tend to be quite nice. My point in short is that the longer AARs are nice though daunting for any reader in truth.
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  3. #543

    Cheating in AAR's?

    Ok Since I recently read a post in a AAR written by a newcomer to aarland that pointed out that he had cheated to achive his goal to make his aar interesting, and more importantly the berating he recived from another poster that IMHO crossed the line from constructive critiquing into downright rudeness, I have decided to ask the question others have wondered but as far as I can find not in the Solarium (It's not listed in the Index anyway).

    1.Is it wrong to cheat when doing an AAR?
    2.If you cheat what is considered acceptable and what is too much?
    3.Why do writers cheat?
    4.Who cares?
    5.Should you tell your readers?


    The following is my opinions feel free to disagree.........

    Personally I don't see a big deal in cheating to write your aar, depending on your level of cheating and your goal of the AAR. I've been writting 3 aar's and I will admit that two of them I have been doing just well no cheats. But anyone who has read my Mexico AAR can tell you, Either the mexican's have invented cloning or I've been a bit liberal with granting Mexico power.

    For the record I think it is Impossable to knock out the US without cheating if you're playing Mexico. (Hope that doesn't offend any of my Mexican AAR readers.)

    The Goal of my cheating in my Mexico AAR was it allowed me to represent something in the game world that would not have been possible otherwise. HoI has no way of showing clandestine operations nor the power and few Imortal Vampire's could wield upon the world. I belive AAR's serve the purpose to tell a story wether thay are a simple this happened and then I did this, or a Novel style AAR.

    I made an effort to if not outright anounce I had given Mexico extra "juice" than hint very strongly. (I dare anyone who actually read it to be "Shocked" ). Again I did it for the purpose of story. Should I have simply used the Editor to erase the USA and give it all to Mexico and call it a Scenario? It would have had the same result.

    Now before I lose any more readers of the Other AAR's (If I have any that is) My Vicky are and Eu2 are and will be cheat-free. The stories are not about conquest so my playing skill is irrelavant.

    Ok Now onto my Opinion of what is too much. If you cheat and remove say in HoI, great portions of Germany's, Russia's and Japan's forces it would indeed make a rather boring AAR. If your doing a WC and cheating to aviod ANY setbacks than perhaps it's a bit much. But if say you added a few extra MP that big deal no?

    Personally I belive if you give yourself an advantage outside the power of the game (or cheat as some people would consider it) than I feel you are obligated to share that info with your readers. Lest someone read through, do the math and call you out.

    AAR's are NOT intended as "look how good I am" posts. I view them as "Look what happened in my game." So If you embelish a little for the sake of the story and perhaps to cover up you're ability to play the game than so what?

    If you do a WC that seems impossible and then Claim you did it fair and square, but in reality you didn't than I agree that's wrong. But I thought the point of AAR's were to have fun? Can't we just let the newbies have fun writting aar's also?

    My Last few questions:
    6.If a Writer told you he cheated to achieve his goals would that turn you off?
    7.Do you read aar's that are Played on Very Easy?


    My responses to the last to would be, No depending on what he added, and Yes I would read a VE AAR. Why is there a "assumption" that only AAR's that were played in VH/F are worth reading?

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  4. #544
    The Fuehrer of the Dance Mettermrck's Avatar
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    1) I have to think it depends on how you define cheating. Giving a country a material boost or tech advantage should serve a story if that is your purpose. I think a writer should not edit in order to rescue a defeat or push a story too rigidly down a path. While one hopes to get a certain outcome, one should not sacrifice the flow of the game while doing so.

    2) Another question of style and depending on how you define cheating. In my AAR, when I invaded Mexico as the US (HOI 1937), I fought in a style that was conservative and poorly managed to simulate a rigid mindset in the general staff. Essentially I was 'holding back'. Now the war ended up lasting years with heavy casualties, far beyond any intentions I had. But I chose to adapt to how the story was progressing rather than edit it to conform to my original path. In a way, this makes it fun for the writer since the unexpected can interest one more than the expected. What is too much? Editing that has no historical plausibility. I have done editing such as granting nations more ships or divisions, but I've always strove to cast these in the mold of historical expansion programs with necessary back-story.

    3) Again, the word cheating is paramount. Cheating, in the sense that one is aiding a country or weakening one's own country could be considered a tool to overcome known AI weaknesses. It can also assist one in crafting a story. It should be also be done with great care.

    4) That is up to the individual reader. Some will not want a story that involves crafting, editing, cheating. Others will enjoy the story and won't mind it.

    5) Yes. One thing I firmly believe is not deluding one's readers. If readers ask me what I did to alter a game, I will tell them. This allows them to make an honest judgement of what you are doing.

    6) It depends on what he/she is doing and why. I would weigh the story and the action before making a decision.

    7) If it's a good story, I'll read it no matter what the level.

  5. #545
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    I think Mettermrck makes a very good point. There are different definitions of cheating. One is cheating in game, the other is perhaps cheating with your story. If I recall correctly, there are a few posts about this in the earlier pages of this thread. My feelings on cheating in game are simply don't do it, but I would be lying if I said I never did. It is difficult to read some AARs, especially WC, that seem completely out of the realm of possibility. Reading it, you know the writer had to have cheated in game, even if they do not say so. It tends to lessen my enjoyment, I admit.

    But on the other hand, if it helps the story you are writing, makes it more believable or more interesting, then I see no reason not to. It's always up to the writer to determine how best to tell the story. I think it's poor form to chastise someone for cheating. It basically only accomplishes hurt feelings or bruised egos.

    As for the other kind, saying something happened that did not really happen, for example, or saying one side won a battle, when perhaps that's not really the case - I think this is perfectly valid if done for the sake of the story. And further, I'm not so sure it's necessary to let the audience know those little bits, unless you simply want to tell them. In fact, them not knowing most likely makes them enjoy that bit more - it is why it was changed, wasn't it?

    It all comes down to how you wish to present the material, and what kind of material you are presenting. There are two kinds of AARs being enjoyed currently in these forums - narrative-form AARs and Game-play AARs (simplistic, yes; but works for my point). The former is more interested in writing and the literary angle rather than what actually happened in any particular Paradox game. The latter is enjoyed for people trying to learn the game, find new or interesting tricks or methods of play, and simply watching along as someone else plays their own game. I think in narrative, cheating is far less of a serious issue. In the latter, it may actually hinder the reader trying to get a handle on the game or figure out how to do certain things. In this manner, I would think it less helpful for the writer to cheat.
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  6. #546
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    I agree with Mettermrck on every point.

    'Cheating' is in the eye of the beholder. In my ongoing (VERY long ongoing) Wallachia game I granted my country the chance to move their capital to Constantinople after diplo-annexing the Byzantines.

    Why? Two reasons - one, it's the same opportunity offered to the Turks if they conquer the Byzantines. Two, it's hardly reasonable that the Wallach rulers wouldn't move to the City, given the chance.

    But I did tell my readers about it (in an aside, not actually in the story).

    And I have indulged in a little 'nudging' where the army of an ally (and vassal) is concerned. Not always, not often, but more than once. I do not - in my own mind - view this as a 'cheat' but rather helping 'reasonable' results come out of the game.

    If you want to grant fleets of aircraft carriers to Iceland (to use one example), I have no problem with it. If done for fun, it might be entertaining. But giving yourself a million ducats in EU2 and pretending to play a serious, historically-believable game just won't work... or at least, that's my opinion and you're welcome to try to convince me otherwise.

    If the story is good, I'll read it and enjoy it. If the cheats are too much, I won't read it. When it comes to suspension of disbelief, I have pretty strong muscles, but if the work isn't worth the effort I put down the burden and go on to the next story.

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  7. #547
    Covert Mastermind Demi Moderator Secret Master's Avatar
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    Cheating, schmeating. The only that matters is winning at all costs against the AI, right?


    Seriously, I am surprsied that someone was really chastised at all for "cheating" in their AAR. It seems rather silly in my mind. After all, if someone really, really wanted to cheat and get one over on us, how would we know? In fact, if someone wrote an AAR about a game that never even took place, how would we know? Are the U.N.-Paradox AAR Inspectors going to catch them with their fake AAR notes and their editted save game files?

    Hardly.

    Unless you tell us, or there is something obviously amiss, we won't know if you're cheating anyway. And, unless your AAR is entirely focused on what a great EU,EU2,Vicky,HOI, or CK player you are, who cares? The story is what is most important. (If your AAR is entirely focused on what a great player you are, then you're not doing anything interesting anyway.)

    Even Peter in his Tibetan World Conquest AAR visibly and obviously cheated, just to make the story interesting, and the AAR was quite popular. (Rite of the Cheetah, anyone?) And he is the sort of guy who gave classes on how to do a World Conquest with that game!

    And then there are modified scenario AARs. Those are technically cheating, but no one ever told me that my Icy Star Ascendent was a pile of garbage and that I was a cheater, and I used the most hated Kalmar Union CoA and Tag! (I don't even think my Swedish and Norwegian readers said anything about it.)

    The only protocol I can think of when it comes to so-called cheating and modifying is to just let your readers know. This isn't to absolve you of any guilt; rather, this just lets them know to expect different things from normal. And that is good advice for any sort of writing, I feel.

    I think this goes for multiplayer AARs as well. If all the players are in agreement, then who cares? Do what you want. If the AAR stinks, it won't be because of the "cheating."

    Hmmm, I wonder... Perhaps an ARRticle on this would be appropriate?
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  8. #548
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    No one should be chastised for cheating in a game. But writers who do cheat should be aware that they decrease their pool of potential readers. I like AARs that stay close to the game. If a writer cheats, I’ll spend little time with his AAR because it won’t reflect the game as I would play it.

    Writers should also be straightforward about this. I’ve read some AARs where it became obvious the author was cheating only after reading for some time (sometimes the author doesn’t address the issue). I always turn away from those AARs.

    It’s useful when the author defines his goals and the conditions under which the game is played at the beginning of the AAR. What version? Any cheating? Role playing? If so, what are the goals? Any patches or bug fixes? Anything the author considers an exploit, and so to be avoided? All this is useful information.

    In other words, I like to know what the author considers a success game-wise. With success defined, so too is failure. I understand that that is neither here nor there for many AARers, but my taste runs to AARs where the possibility of failure exists.
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  9. #549
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    I pretty much go with November on this one. I abhor cheaters, and I strongly feel that if you can't handle the game ... reduce the difficulty level. It is NOT okay, and seeing how well you can edit the save game file does not interest me.

    There are exceptions however:

    If the AAR is game-play based, then I am very leery of any changes for the above reasons. If all you're doing is playing the game and telling us about it, I want to see you up against the AI....and yes, absolutely, its bugs. Nudging an ally for example, or ending their war because they're being unreasonable, etc. do not qualify in my opinion. If the AI's being unreasonable - then that's the price of playing a computer. Deal.

    Now if the writer is telling a story...then in my eyes they've bought themselves some room. Metternck is a fine example. He creates his own events based on how the game's gone - the alternate history he's creating. The events are realistic, they don't give him a massive advantage, and their clear intent is to help the game simulate and deal with the changing political landscape. I can work with that. In fact, in my own 'Resurrection' I borrowed his technique and wrote four events, then later when England dishonored their alliance to enter a war against us, I gave myself a diplomat to DoW them anyway since in the story, even if the American Congress did cry for peace there were those who would take matters into their own hands and ensure a second round.

    Every change I made, I tried to ensure it was balanced. And the only reason I allowed myself that much was the demands of the alternate history I was building. I also did my best to say up front, in my..second...post what my stance was on cheating, editting and exploits, and I asked my readers outright what they thought of custom events when the time came. I believed I owed it to them to try and be as upfront and honest as feasible.

    Cheating or modding because a war didn't go your way, or because you want a certain sequence of events to occur is just .... eh. Let's say it's an instant guarantee I'll stop reading then and there. At that point I consider their victory hopelessly tainted.

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  10. #550
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Just found this neat little piece on food. It does contain some useful information, but... I have to say it... should be taken with a grain of salt.

    It's found in today's issue of Slate magazine on MSN.

    http://slate.msn.com/id/2107363/

    Historical Fiction
    How do medieval-themed restaurants get it wrong?
    By Mark Schatzker
    Posted Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2004, at 5:01 AM PT

    For some people, renting Camelot on DVD just isn't enough. Neither is a trip to the museum, nor sitting down to read A Short History of the Middle Ages. These people want something closer to the real thing. So they visit a medieval-themed banquet to experience the food of that bygone era.

    Since 1983, when its first "castle" opened in Kissimmee, Fla., Medieval Times Entertainment Inc. has served over 20 million diners. Today, the company operates eight restaurants across North America; the newest castle, in Hanover, Md., opened last year. Not to be outdone, Las Vegas' Excalibur Hotel & Casino serves about 10,000 rogues and wenches a week.

    But there's one problem. Medieval-themed feasts aren't medieval. The vegetable soup (dragon tail soup), bland roast chicken (baby dragon), baked potato (dragon egg), and doughy desserts certainly seem pre-modern, not to mention pre-food-processor. It's like the food is the culinary equivalent of the classic stereotype that casts medieval people as belching, rugged simpletons. But throngs of bachelor partiers, group tourists, and amateur historians are being deceived about what it was like to chow down en masse during that long, dark period of history between the fall of the Roman Empire (fifth century) and the Renaissance (15th century).

    Here's how they get it wrong:

    Myth No. 1: Medieval food was bland.
    Medieval chefs used spices as enthusiastically as the boy bands of today use hair products. Yes, medieval chefs did serve plain roasted meats, but they also served many meat dishes that featured thick, gooey sauces very heavily flavored with ingredients like ginger, sugar, vinegar, wine, raisins, mace, cloves, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and honey. "Mawmenny," a typical dish, consisted of ground beef, pork, or mutton boiled in wine, which was then served in a wine-based sauce thickened with pounded chicken and almonds, then flavored with cloves, sugar, and more almonds (this time fried), and then festively colored with an indigo or red dye. Medieval food, in fact, was not unlike Indian food of today: sweet and acidic flavors combined, spices used by the handful. If anything, the concentrated, bold flavors would overwhelm the modern palate.

    Myth No. 2: Medieval chefs were lousy when it came to presentation.
    In the days of courageous knights and fair maidens, presentation went way beyond the present habit of dribbling some raspberry coulis or balsamic reduction around a central, tiered heap. Medieval feasts were all about display. Peacocks were cooked, then returned to their skin to be ceremoniously presented in their original plumage. Animals were stuffed inside other animals like culinary matrioshka dolls—a pig stuffed with a rooster, which would itself be stuffed with roasted pine nuts and sugar. A recipe called "glazed pilgrim" consisted of a pike boiled at the head, fried in the middle, and roasted at the tail; this was then served alongside a roast eel. Food coloring was used liberally: red (sandalwood), yellow (saffron), green (mint or parsley juice), black (burnt bread crumbs).


    Myth No. 3: Medieval feasts were merely big.
    While a Medieval Times castle seats anywhere from 900 to 1,500 people a night, and the Excalibur's Tournament of Kings about 2,000 (a thousand at each seating), no present-day medieval feast comes even close to approaching the enormity of some of the Middle Ages' heavy-hitters. We don't know exactly how many people attended the marriage feast of Henry III's daughter in 1251, but we do know that they gorged on 1,300 deer; 7,000 hens; 170 boars; 60,000 herring; and 68,500 loaves of bread. Feasters at the enthronement party for England's Archbishop of Neville in 1465 consumed 1,000 sheep; 2,000 pigs; 2,000 geese; 4,000 rabbits; and 12 porpoises and seals. No less than 11,000 eggs were eaten at a 1387 feast for Richard III. By comparison, the Excalibur goes through a paltry 2,000 Cornish game hens each night.

    Myth No. 4: Medieval feasters ate off pewter plates.
    Actually, they ate off rectangular pieces of stale bread called "trenchers" (which were fed to dogs or peasants once the meal was finished).

    Myth No. 5: Medieval feasters had atrocious manners.
    True, the tined fork was still centuries away from making it into the cutlery drawer, and even kings ate with their hands. Nonetheless, etiquette was alive and well in the Middle Ages. A medieval dinner guest avoided boorish behavior such as blowing on his soup (he might have foul breath), scratching his head (a dislodged louse might find itself drowning in the gravy), wiping his hands on the tablecloth, licking the serving dishes, picking his nose, or drinking out of a shared cup with a full mouth (backwash is an age-old problem). And if the lords and ladies of the era had possessed cell phones, it's safe to say they would have turned them off.

    Myth No. 6: Medieval feasters ate in set courses.
    The idea of eating one main dish during every course, which is called service à la russe, didn't become popular in Europe until the 19th century. Before that, grand meals were eaten much the way North Americans eat Chinese food today, with many dishes served simultaneously. At the coronation of Richard III in 1483, for example, there were three courses, each of which included at least 15 different dishes. The third course, which was never eaten because the feast ran late, included three meat, two fish, five bird, and two fruit dishes. Courses would often end with a "sotelty" (subtely); similar to an amuse-bouche, a "sotelty" was an ornamental offering, usually made from dough or marzipan, which showed off the chef's skill. Often, they resonated with the political theme of the occasion. All the sotelties (there were three, one for each course) served at the coronation banquet for Henry VI cited his politically hopeless claim to the throne of France—the second sotelty, for example, depicted Henry in between his father and the Sigismund, the holy Roman emperor who supported his claim.

    Myth No. 7: Medieval people ate food they couldn't possibly have eaten.
    A tomato might seem medieval when used as the foundation for the Excalibur's "dragon's blood soup" (not to be confused with Medieval Times' "dragon tail soup"), but medieval people simply could not have eaten food that wasn't present in their world. Tomatoes didn't make it to Europe until Spanish conquistadors brought them back from South America in the 1500s. The same goes for potatoes (dragon's eggs). Similarly, the Excalibur's roast Cornish game hen is a recent chicken breed that was popularized by a 1960s poultry mogul.

    Medieval food was many things—garish, over the top, unsubtle. But it wasn't crude. And neither were medieval people. So, the real question is: Where does the familiar medieval stereotype come from? As with all questions of intellectual decline, Hollywood deserves some blame. (The studios had a thing for bringing the Middle Ages to the big screen in the '50s: Knights of the Round Table, Prince Valiant, The Black Shield of Falworth, The Black Knight.) Yet historical stereotyping, wherever you find it, is symptomatic of a deeper societal ill. Gustave Flaubert famously wrote, "Our ignorance of history makes us slander our own times." When it comes to slander caused by ignorance, history is sometimes on the receiving end, too.

    Those still craving their history fix can take solace, however. After all, medieval people must have attended the odd crappy feast, too. During an evening of inappropriate food, some of them surely wondered: What is the king thinking? My own such moment came during a medieval-themed feast near the Tower of London, which was hosted by "Henry VIII." Not only did it feature a historically inaccurate king—Henry VIII was a Reformation king—and historically inaccurate food, it culminated with a historically inaccurate conga line. Indeed, since the dawn of dinner parties, people have found themselves asking: Am I the only one who thinks this dinner is lame? So, while the medieval feast of today may not be historically authentic, it gets you to that bygone era just the same.


    Mark Schatzker is a Toronto-based journalist and a writer at large for Toro magazine.
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  11. #551
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    Nice piece, Director. And it should be noted that, if anything, table etiquette was inestimably more important in an age before silverware and regular washing. Some of this stuff- like being careful with a shared cup, or not sneezing or wiping your mouth on a tablecloth- could literally mean life or death in those days. And the people on either side of you, who were carrying any number of death-dealing implements, were certain to let you know strongly if they disapproved of your manners.
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    Excellent, Director...and it mirrors something I wrote in the Gazette quite some time ago about food in the EUII timeframe and what they could and couldn't have eaten. But this article did a much better job of it than I did about etiquette and such.

    I have to say that I have always depicted food very well in my stories and trying to be historically accurate is important. But I never went with bland food, I always use spices in my tales, as it was something the people of the middle ages were very fond of...

    Great find, Director. Hopefully it will inspire more people to depict food scenes in their stories. I always enjoy a good scene of food from the period...
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    I also did my best to say up front, in my..second...post what my stance was on cheating, editting and exploits, and I asked my readers outright what they thought of custom events when the time came. I believed I owed it to them to try and be as upfront and honest as feasible.
    I believe that as long as the edits are realistic and reasonable (i.e. not +50'000 ducats and that rubbish...) it is an acceptable thing to do in a story-type AAR.
    As long as you explain every detail of what you have modified in the game, it is [I believe] a way of keeping your game together in the same direction as your storyline.
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  14. #554
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    I Am A Child of the Cold War

    Thought I'd introduce a new suggestion here for comment...

    As a writer, I have many “favorite” forms of fiction to write. One of them is a style I call snapshot (or vignette? Is that the right word?) fiction. It’s just a momentary scene of fiction, captured in isolation. And I think it can be adapted very well to After Action Reports.

    I was first introduced to this style in a book called “The Third World War” by Sir (General) John Hackett. I think it was written in 1979, and was about a hypothetical war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1984. There were scenes where he told of individual soldiers’ or politicians’ experiences in snapshots. One was a German tank commander... who didn’t even survive the scene! So he wasn’t a major or recurring character. But the scene was so powerful because it made you feel like you were there. Regardless of who this anonymous person was, you could feel them inside you, in your heart and your mind.



    My first attempt at writing such fiction was prompted by a boardgame (that term doesn’t give it justice – call it a paper and map based simulation) published by Simulations Publications Incorporated (SPI) called “Berlin ‘85”, about (back to the Cold War again!) a hypothetical war between east and west as it played out in East and West Berlin. There were hexes on the board, each “zoned” for industrial, commercial, forest, residential, etc. They were neighborhoods. And they had names. Tegel, Gatow, Potsdam. There were symbols to represent important buildings, like the Reichstag. Something about the familiarity offered by the map made me see through the hexes to the neighborhoods inside them, and the city blocks, and the individual houses, and the people who lived in them.

    It was my first AAR – I was 14, and computers were for playing math games, and checkers, and (if you had a really powerful computer!) chess. The real gaming action was happening on my ping pong table, and I’d spend hours each day rolling dice and playing the game… And taking notes about it. And writing about it.

    I thought, “Wow, what if I lived in a neighborhood like my very own, and in all my 40 years, and in all my son’s 12 years, it had been peaceful. And then imagine a war came to my peaceful town. And a tank or two races past on my residential street, fleeing destruction. And homes just blocks away, that I’d walked past all my life, were being torn up by an artillery barrage. And it was coming closer!” I imagined what I’d feel in that situation, and I wrote it down.

    There was the Mom and her kid at home, and the American company commander, and the Teltow policeman, and the radio DJ whose station was a military objective, and this person and that… pretty soon it was quite a story, telling the tale of the game, but in fiction form. No regular characters. Not a life story. Just snapshots from several.

    I’ve seen some people give this style of fiction a go in their AARs, many with great success. But I do think the style is underappreciated.

    And, thinking back to how this proved not only an interesting exercise to me as a young man, but as a challenge to hone a young writer’s fiction-writing skills, I would like to submit a recommendation that more AAR writers give it a go!

    Looking forward to reading more snapshot fiction! Any thoughts?

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  15. #555
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    First, let me say thank you for getting the ball rolling with the SolAARium once again. It (itself) is a terribly underappreciated part of AARland, and it's wonderful to see some new "action" in here.

    As for your theory about "snapshot fiction," it is one that I love. I think you know that I really appreciate your Prussian Vickie AAR and one of the reasons why is the method you have gone about presenting it. I actually began my AAR "career" in much the same way, though simply at these forums and no place else.

    My very first AAR was on Dai Viet in EUII back in 2002 and I tried to balance historical entries with more personal ones. The problem I ran into was finding the more personal ones taking over the historical entries. Most likely that happened because I wanted to try and equal some of the other great narratives that were going on at the time (T's L'Eminence Grise comes to mind, of course.)

    But when I returned to the forums in 2004, I attempted the same with my For the Glory of Persia in Vickie and found it to be quite a success. Swapping sweeping historical action with snapshots of a more personal nature worked very well and, in the process, I was able to build a very credible character (or more than one) through those snapshots, even if they were several years apart. Their growth was obvious, a point I think Director made in his review of that AAR in the Gazette.

    The only drawback I find from the form is that it can be hard sometimes for the audience to really grab hold of a character of we do not see enough snapshots of their life. Let's say you have five main focus points to snapshot. It can be easy to find yourself as the writer only focusing on three of four of them primarily, leaving the others to be too much in the background, never getting enough exposure to really be appreciated by the reader. I guess what I mean is that it is a fine balancing act and if any one focus is left too long in the background, it can be difficult to really know that character, especially in the serial nature in which AARs here are produced.

    Still and all, I think the form is a fine one for not just beginning authors, but experienced ones as well. I know that one of the hardships of writing a 400 year AAR is finding yourself going into so much detail for each year that it becomes a mammoth opus before you are done...if you ever get done. By utilizing your suggestion, it might be easier to move through 400 years without getting bogged down too often in the specific goings on.

    Great discussion piece and I hope others drop by to give their own opinion.
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  16. #556
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    You raise an excellent point, Rensslaer, and this goes back to the old adage, 'Show - don't tell'. I think critical parts of a story have more impact if they are personalized - if you drop the reader into the vignette and show the effect of the action on people, animals and their surroundings.

    400 years of action is too much to tell in such a detailed style; it is far better to give an overview of sending merchants and diplomants (or skip the bulk of such activities entirely). The biggest problem with the 400-year epic is that we no sooner develop a character than he or she dies. A short, highly-detailed story will still rely on character development, but it forces the author to cram a lot of info about that character into a small space, and it also forces the author to rigorously prune away everything that is not absolutely essential (which is a good thing and I wish I could do it better myself).

    A skilled author will move the reader closer in or farther out depending on the amount of information he's trying to convey and the impact he wants that information to have. If your king is indifferent to suffering, he can be told of war or famine by a perfumed courtier; if he is a kind and compassionate man, you can show the horror, gore and waste of a battle through his eyes. Your approach will depend on what you want to say and will be flavored by how you choose to say it - 'The medium is the message.'

    I've been saying for a while that an AAR could be told as a series of vignettes - chapters, or essays, or short stories for crucial events and all the rest of the events left out. I can't seem to do this, myself, mind you - I did with 'Bremen' but 'Wallachia' has grown past the mini-series mark and is headed for 'Heavens Gate'.
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  17. #557
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    Altough Director makes a number of points, one must take in moderation a balance of whihcever style they particulary wish to persue. Take for example the Australian Lion, a Vicky AAR that I have been lingering with for well over a year now, and its yet to reach 1841, but still I tried to cover events on a personal level, as seen through the eyes of the people involved, rather than attempting to go for the more overall apraoch to things (I will not use the word grandeous as writing in a personal manner is more so than overview).
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  18. #558
    Disciple of Peperna CatKnight's Avatar
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    I don't know if a 300-400 year AAR (EU, CK, EU2) can be told in vignette format. Vicky has slightly better odds (75 years) and HOI/HOI2 should be able to pull it off.

    I've seen vignette SCENES, but then the writer really has to go back to a broader stroke or the AAR will never get done.

    Vignettes can work in shorter chunks: Going back to EU2, LD's War of the Austrian Succession comes to mind, it covers about 9 years or so. CK seems to buck this trend, doing well with personal stories and narration despite the long time frame....just don't be surprised when, game time wise, the AAR moves a bit slowly.

    My only problem with vignettes is the jumping around. For example, if you write about someone on the northern front, someone else on the southern, and a third exploring God knows where - you can convey to your reader what's happening in game, but it's harder to empathize with the characters when you only see them every couple of weeks ... and sometimes a reader (or writer!) can just get lost.
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  19. #559
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    I don't know CatKnight...I thought I did pretty good with my Cyprus tale and others I wrote using people and getting close and personal as well as keeping a broad sweep of time going. People live, die, and others replace them. It's not easy sometimes, especially when you really enjoy some of the characters.

    As nasty and unpleasant as Eric the Bloody was in my Cyprus story, he had a good start and then just slid further and further to the dark side. But I still loved him, and it 'hurt' when I finally really killed him off. Especially when his brother, whose name I cannot remember, killed him while being killed in turn by Eric. Think about it. Eric was a rogue in the end, yet I remember his name. The other brother, whose name I can't remember<how embarrassing!> was a great guy and fun to write for as well, isn't a person whose name I can pull off the top of my head anymore.

    If the characters are memorable enough and the action good, then vignettes can work with the broad stroke of history. Even if you jump a few years or decades in the telling of the tale. Or you could do Brunei which is going on over 2 years in the telling and still as fresh and amusing as when it first started. So large an undertaking that Stroph split it into two parts, and who knows if it will take THREE parts to finish?

    Everyone writes differently, and we are fortunate that there are enough people around that like the different styles of writing that everyone gets at least a few readers. Some people get more readers than others, yes. But everyone gets a least a few readers. It is good.
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  20. #560
    Disciple of Peperna CatKnight's Avatar
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    *g* No question that we're fortunate to have so many readers who like different styles of writing. I've also found my own tastes have changed reading more and more AARs. Maybe in the end, while the style is certainly important to a reader, it's the quality of writing that really signifies.

    I think it'd be difficult to be able to focus on characters over a four hundred year spread. (I'll have to read your Cyprus AAR now to see what you're trying to tell me!) Certainly other writers have aged their characters years and decades between vignettes (or just jump back and forth like Robert E Howard with Conan), but still it must be somewhat difficult. For example, if 'Eric' is active in the 1480s, and we're now gearing up for the Napoleonic Wars, would what happened to 'Eric' still signify? Perhaps with some sort of binding thread, like a dynasty...

    I don't know. I'm perfectly prepared to yield the point. I suppose what I'm suggesting is that stories that rely more on characters - similar to a novel vs. a historical narration - tend to run much slower. Mine is a real year old and I've only gone 8 years. TreizeV's "Vive Le Empeurer" has to be over two years old, and he's run maybe 15. On the other side of the coin, Metternch's "Advantages and Obligations" in HOI was slow compared to some other historical narratives, but still ran through eighteen years in maybe six months.

    (Of course, Metternch writes like a fiend. )

    There are other AARs where twenty or thirty years in a single post isn't out of line. I suppose, as Humphrey suggested, it's a balancing act and depends on what you hope to accomplish.

    (Lessee.....I'm running on an 8:1 ratio. That means I could do a EU2 GC in 50 years....hm....)
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