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

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The SolAARium


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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.


Try this...


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...

LD

________________


A big bag of credit goes to stnylan for the following Table of Contents. Keep in mind that it's a work in progress.



stnylan said:
Hi All

I recently started mining the SolAARium to use some of its wealth in my new AAR (I can get one plug out of this right ;) ). As anyone else who has done the same will know, finding what you want in the SolAARium can be a bit of a chore. So, for my own ease of use, I have drawn up the following contents that I now offer to the community in the hope it will make the SolAARium easier to navigate.

I cannot claim that I have included every topic that was mentioned or referred to. Some of those topics which only had a small response I am sure I have missed.

I have tried to link to the first post in a discussion, or where a topic becomes distinct from an ongoing discussion. Since several topics in the SolAARium over-lapped, or were often discussed at the same time, you might need to read on beyond the last continuous post in a topic to get the whole topic. Also, the post may also discuss topics in addition to the one you clicked on, and the relevant one may not be the first point.

If anyone notices any errors, please mention them or PM me so that I can fix them.


400 Years vs. Shorter Time-Spans

AAR Length: Pros and Cons

AAR Writing: Commitment or Obsession?

Adverbs in Dialogue

Anachronistic Writing starting post, with discussion here
(includes a discussion on the portrayal of modern and period beliefs)

Antagonist/Protagonist, Turning into Good/Evil

Authenticity in Fiction Writing

Book Immersion

Characterization

Characterization: Desire

Character Development

Character Sheet (from LD)

Cheating in AARs: Acceptable or Not?

Collaborative AARs

Collaboration #2

Connecting a Plot Using Themes

Continuity of Style

Creating Antagonists

Creating Believable Alternate History

Description: How Much is Too Much?

Deus ex Machina

Deus ex Machina: Part Deux

Dialogue

Dialogue: Part 2

Dialogue: Part 3

Dialogue Descriptors: Good or Bad?

Do You Become Immersed in Your Characters?

Editing

Essential Books for the Writer

Event Explaining

The Evolutionary Trend of AARs

Feedback and Commenting: Your Best Friends

Fonts and AARs

Food for Thought

Foreign Languages in AARs?

Handling Multiple Characters

HoI & The Forum Rules

How Do You Write Your AAR?

How Do You Avoid 'Dry' Writing?

How Do You Schedule Your Writing Time?

How Many Characters are Too Many?

How to Deal With a Runaway Plot

Humour

Important Advice for the Budding Author

Inference in Writing

Installment Writing

Is 'I' Overused in First Person Narrative?

Keeping Interest in Writing

Killing Off Characters in a Comedy AAR

“Less is More”

"Less is More": Part 2

Lord Durham's Basics For Plot Development

Lord Durham's Character Building Template

Lord Durham's Character Building Template: Revisited

Making Historical Narrative Come Alive

The Middle of a Story

The Nature of AAR Criticism

Paragraph Formatting

Planning’ AARs (starts about deviating story-lines/characters)

Plot Scripting (also an early angle on the fanfic/aar question)

Pointers in Dialogue

Point of View

Pronouns

Research/Historical Detail

Rewrites

The Role of the Game in an AAR

The Role of Non-Game Iinfluences on AARs

The Role of Real History in AAR Writing

Sentences and Fragments

Serialization and AARs

Should an Author Lie?

Show vs. Tell

Snapshot Fiction in AARs

Start That AAR!

Style: Game-Play vs. Narrative

Stylistic Influences/Inspirations

Tips for a New WritAAR

Typos: Fix or Leave?

Uses and Methods of Exposition

The Use of Colour

What is the Difference Between a Critique and a Review?

What Responsibility Does the Reader Have to the Author’s Original Intent?

What Styles Do/Do not Work for You?

Word Repitition

Word Repetition Exercise

Writer's Block

Writing: Staying Focused

Writing Thoughts
 
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Warspite

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This is wonderful Bruce, not only will this be a great tool for the future of the forums (crosses fingers) it will help those writers like me who want to improve their writing skills, put their ideas onto paper (monitor:)) and get published. Nice work and i see you have put much time into this. Please people, I cant encourage you enough to take advantage of this free resource.

I have a question, in regards to the narrative style of writing historical non-fiction. Such as my Encyclopedia, which is narrative historical fiction but I try to make it sound like non-fiction. The question is, I find myself repeating words often such as "however" and "In" . I am trying to improve my ability to write articles and historical non-fiction type documentaries but often I wonder if I am going about it the right way. Now I have seen some great AARs that cover that style i meantioned. So what are some techniques that work and how can I improve my writing in the specific format. I do want to do much more of it in the future, not just for AARs but for real history. Any ideas? Thanks
 

unmerged(4271)

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Hmmmm, unless someone posts while I'm typing this it looks like I'll be the first to post after LD, and that's a hard intro to follow. (EDIT: Doh! Looks like Warspite beat me to it).

All I want to add is that the issue of word repetition really resonated with me because even with the thesaurus I find it a challenge to integrate so many game descriptions into my stories without using the same words over and over.

Honestly, how many ways can you say an army besieged a province? And it's not really besieging a "province", is it, more like the capital city or whatever defended area there may be? See, more problems?

Creating fluid and diverse descriptions of a world you create is one thing, but being forced into a situation which is naturally repetitive due to the game itself being repetitive (I know, that's two "repetitives", make that three, but you see my point?) presents some problems.

If any one has any techniques for describing these sorts of game events that occur throughout any decent EU2 campaign ad nauseum, please let me know. I know that as a writer if it's that obvious that I am repeating myself then it must surely be apparent to the reader.

Some game events we often ignore, placing merchants for example, but others are important points of game history that need to be included. I thought about composing a list of them, but enacting sieges is probably the best one I can think of.

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.
 

Storey

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Damn you heagarty and Warspite I wanted to be the first.:D

Sitting in a deep leather chair before the fire with his feet on an old leather ottoman Storey’s head fell to his chest only to lift itself back up in a lazy dance like motion. This nodding motion was interrupted when the word Thesaurus penetrated the sweet dreams that floated in his head.

"Thesaurus! The devils handbook I tell you!"

Looking around in a slightly dazed manner he spotted Lord Durham.

You of all people should know that each and every word in the English language is unique. A gentleman of mighty intelligence and some time on his hands who wanted to amuse himself and his friends created the Thesaurus. It was never meant to be a tool for finding words for writers. Now I know you’ll ask if I’ve every used the damn book and well I would have to admit that I have but only as a last resort and then very carefully. You’re walking in the devil’s garden when you use that book. The best example of the pitfalls that you can fall into is the simple sentence "I saw a snake in my back yard." If you run to the Thesaurus you’ll find that serpent is another word for snake but "I saw a serpent in my back yard" has connotations that are completely at odds with snake. One is a statement of fact and the other has meanings that go far beyond the simple fact of a reptile in your back yard. All right, all I’m saying is that a Thesaurus is like a loaded gun. It’s damn dangerous it not used correctly. Try with or without a Thesaurus to choose the perfect word for what you’re trying to say. Unfortunately all of us have limited time to write for this forum and sometimes it shows. I haven’t yet reread something that I’ve written that I didn’t groan and ask myself why I didn’t use another word instead of that sorry piece of crap that I put to printed page for all the world to laugh at.

By the way LD this is a great idea.

See I've already edited this twice!:D

Joe
 
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Lord Durham

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Warspite, that's a good one. Your Encyclopedia is basically a series of dry, technical descriptions, correct? And I don't mean that in a bad way, either. I have never really tried that approach, but in my mind it would be somewhat akin to reporting events in a neutral manner. Perhaps we can try an example or two and see how others would approach it?

heagarty, I share your pain with that one. One province, one city is kind of limiting. Typically I try to come up with as many variations as I can. Do they always have to siege the capital? Choose another city, maybe throw in a quick description. Maybe it's several cities that have to be overcome. Perhaps describe a siege or maybe describe the condition of the army during the siege, or the aftermath of a siege. Was it a peaceful resolution or was the city(s) sacked. By varying the events outside of the standard siege you should be able to come up with some interesting alternatives.

Storey, you are much too young to carry a loaded Thesaurus. Now put it down this very minute!


That brings up a good point about the whole nature of AAR writing and its almost serial like quality of quick takes and instant feedback.

Secret Master has put forth some real interesting ideas based on this phenomenon, and I hope we can convince him to produce that material as a basis for discussion in this thread at a later date.
 

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Thats exactly it Bruce, sometimes when I write about history, be it real or fiction, I cant seem to give it that life that you find in other writings from other sources. I want to find a way to give flavor and life to my historical documentaries because quite frankly some of my stuff is pretty dry.
 

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LD,

I notice I have been needing a thesaurus more and more lately... *sigh* ... it DOES get tougher as you go along.... Cyprian, Cyprian, Cyprian... I am SO sick of using it.... but I can't find anything else. I use "island nation" as a quick substitute, but it just isn't enough. Maybe I am drained.

I have used that technique about other cities/battlefields though.. so it isn't all the same, but still, I am a little limited in that regard, because I can't find many books on my particular area of the world... perhaps I should be picking Havard's brain, because he seems to be very knowledgable.

What I'd love is to have better resources in terms of other languages, because maybe that would open up my vocabulary when fighting within my region. Language lends a lot of flavor... at least I think so.

A short response, but perhaps an interesting one,

M
 

Storey

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Originally posted by Lord Durham

Storey, you are much too young to carry a loaded Thesaurus. Now put it down this very minute!


That brings up a good point about the whole nature of AAR writing and its almost serial like quality of quick takes and instant feedback.


It's just that I've some very painful memories of papers from young writers who had unrestricted access to a Thesaurus. All kidding aside it shouldn’t be the first resort when stuck for the right word. Maybe a second resort but not first. I think it’s the pressure to produce something once you’ve started that causes repetition or poor word selection. The smarter writers take their time. Sadly I’m not that smart.:(

Joe
 
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I agree with Storey about the Thesaurus. In my opinion, an advanced vocabulary is a preferable way to avoid repetition, because, barring instances like the "province" that heagarty pointed out, there are often subtle differences between things that you're trying to describe that enable you to use a slightly different word.

Not that a thesaurus is bad if you're desperate, but I hardly ever use one...

(Of course, I'm probably very repetitive :rolleyes: )
 

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Originally posted by heagarty
Honestly, how many ways can you say an army besieged a province? And it's not really besieging a "province", is it, more like the capital city or whatever defended area there may be? See, more problems?

Lord Durham had some excellent suggestions about this -- lots of variations. Some further thoughts:

  • The first question I'd suggest asking is "Do I really need to report this siege?" (or any other event). Your mileage will vary, of course, but especially when describing larger-scale conflicts, most of the time it really doesn't matter that you sieged the province. It may not even matter that you captured it. If you're in the latter stages of a world-conquest it may not even matter so much that you've added it to your empire.
  • Can you combine many sieges into one statement? e.g. "Our loyal Captains scattered far and wide, driving their men hard to put sieges in place in all five enemy provinces within the first whirlwind few months of war."
  • Don't forget that a siege can mean many things and be resolved in many ways, some of which are even interesting if you are inclined to use one as a backdrop for part of your tale...

    --What's the terrain like? Some sieges might be relatively easy to enforce, with rough terrain and only a few gates and roads in or out of the city. Others will be much more difficult. This can cause your commanders conniptions.

    --Are the armies really just camped at extreme artillery range lobbing rocks or shells, or are they trying other tricks as well? Tunnelling under the walls to create a sudden breach; bribing someone inside to throw open a gate; psychological warfare like lobbing enemy corpses over the walls; lobbing flammables to start fires in the city; lobbing filthy/diseased carcasses in to try to cause illness, etc.

    --What are the soldiers doing during the months of siege? Sure there's some scouting and foraging, but mostly it's going to be boredom. So what do they do? Presumably there are camp followers, gambling, and entertainments of various types.
 

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Originally posted by Warspite
Thats exactly it Bruce, sometimes when I write about history, be it real or fiction, I cant seem to give it that life that you find in other writings from other sources. I want to find a way to give flavor and life to my historical documentaries because quite frankly some of my stuff is pretty dry.
Hmm. Encyclopedia entries should be dry. However, for your main thread, perhaps you can take a passage and rewrite it based on my 3rd Sin. For that matter, if there's any interest, maybe we can try a 'classroom' assignment where I post a description and those who want to can try to 'enliven' it.

Any thoughts on that one?


Bismarck, how about utilising the character's background. He may be Cyprian, but does he have Greek parents? How about a title, or a rank, or a birth place, or a nickname, or a physical description: "The tall, lanky commander...' For the island, what does it look like? Is it rocky? Is there a local name?

The language part is really useful. Use the POV of an enemy and use their name for the island, or locate a translation of the word 'island'. I know it's a bit of work, but with all the research you've done on that thread I think it would be a small price to pay.


This could be another lesson of some type. Take a typical description, like 'island nation' and throw it out to see how many alternate terms could be created.


Joe, Sharur - I partially agree, but the wider you can enhance your vocabulary the less you'll need to rely on one. However, it's still a great tool.

Morlac, that's a very insightful response loaded with useful tricks. I'm sure the FC veterans here will recognize all of them... ;)
 

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The Secret Master takes a seat and pulls out a cigar. He gingerly rolls it in his fingers, taking a couple of sniffs at the tobacco before placing the offensive, brown object in his mouth. He does not light it. He sinks into the leather chair, and enters pontificate mode.

Well, I will first tackle the Thesarus issue and offer my 250 pesos on the subject.

A number of months ago, a poet and myself got into a heated debate regarding thesarus usage. He took the position of "Thesarus is the Anti-Christ", while I advocated a more moderate scope.

In short, a thesarus is not a replacement for a vocabulary; however, I never use it for that. What I use a thesarus for is to sit down and look at all possible words (whether nouns, adjectives, or verbs) to describe something. Then, I think of the various connations the different words have and make my choice. I have a good vocabulary, but it helps me to have all the words where I can see them at one time to compare. And hell, I'm old, and sometimes I forget a word that I really like, and seeing it on the screen helps me remember that I know it.

Also, a thesarus is great for a beginner. Sometimes you just need a little helpful nudge in the word department.

Now, when it comes to describing repetitive game events (sieges, battles, merchants, etc.), my best suggestion is to tell some of the action from the perspective of the opposition. If you are at war with France, describe a battle from the Frenchy point of view. Also, don't be afraid to take shortcuts and describe the "sweeping campaign where Luna swiftly took down all fortresses from Seville to Lisbon". Not only does that save you a headache, but it creates a different pacing for the story and gives you the option to build suspense for an important battle/siege.
 
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unmerged(4007)

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LD,

This, of course, is a simply grand idea. Though once we start discussing some of my own sins, it probably won't be as grand to me.;) Here's my pain. Since I've been doing 400 year AARs, by and large, instead of shorter scenarios (I have something in mind that'll change that for the next effort, but that's for another time) I feel like I'm cursed with an endless string of connecting phrases. I try to introduce different ways to describe the events, but how many different ways are there if the events really don't merit a detailed exposition?
 

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As a better substitute for a thesaurus, if any of you run into something called a "reverse dictionary", I highly recommend you pick it up.

Say I wanted to know the right kind of terminology to describe a gun, well, it gives you more specific terms based on definitions presented first such as:

plug or cover for the muzzle of a gun when not in use TAMPION

It is a cool thing to have... so keep you eye out for one...

M
 

Norgesvenn

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Originally posted by Bismarck
As a better substitute for a thesaurus, if any of you run into something called a "reverse dictionary", I highly recommend you pick it up.

Say I wanted to know the right kind of terminology to describe a gun, well, it gives you more specific terms based on definitions presented first such as:

plug or cover for the muzzle of a gun when not in use TAMPION

It is a cool thing to have... so keep you eye out for one...

M

Wow! Thanks! That's exactly what we non-native English speakers need. I often find myself at loss for finding good words. I therefore usually have to rely on something else to make the writing a worthwhile read.

This is a very good thread. I'll certainly read, but given my background as a foreigner, I can't really contribute much in the writing department.

I do, however, know quite a few good guidelines to writing on the web: "Less is more". Short narratives will more easily be read than longer ones.

shawng1's Netherlands AAR is a great example of how to make a long store more easily accessible. Instead of posting one long chapter, Shawn breaks his chapters into multiple posts. While some might see this as unfair ways of getting your post count up, I think it's a good idea. :)

So, what do you lads think about Internet copywriting ("less is more") vs. writing prose on the web? Same rules apply or not?
 

Lord Durham

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A Reverse Dictionary is another great source for alternate words. The more weapons in the arsenal the better, I always say.

Sytass, try www.dictionary.com. It contains a link to Roget's Thesaurus and several other valuable resources.

I have to admit to being somewhat bemused over the controversy generated by the use of a Thesaurus. It sure makes for interesting viewpoints, though.
 

unmerged(4007)

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Norgs,

Well, I never thought of the post count issue. But seeing how some people inflate their post count with totally irrelevant posts, I don't feel bad doing it for substance.;) Besides, I was promoted to Lt General so soon after I started this AAR that it didn't matter.
:D

"Less is more." That's a good rule in any writing, IMHO. I can hear my Homiletics Professor now in his deep Alabama accent and aristocratic bearing, "Remove the verbosity, brothers. Every word should count." Detail that advances a point is great. Detail that touches on something that never gets mentioned again and doesn't serve any purpose is extraneous and should be removed.

Note, that's a general rule. Obviously it doesn't apply 100%. But I find myself skim reading novels as often as reading them these days because authors think that character development on characters one will never see again is useful. IMHO, it isn't. I know a lot of Literature Departments today would crucify me for that statement. But I say "tough." Develop the characters that matter to the plot or to a scene, don't spend 2 pages telling me about how someone who's nothing more than filler reacts. Same goes with background. Once it's set, it doesn't need to be reset, unless its a crucial detail someone could forget.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Great to see this up and running and already stimulating some excellent discussion. I'd like to toss my hat into the ring as well on the subject of using a thesaurus.

I virtually never use a thesaurus. Perhaps it is because I have a fairly advanced vocabulary and am rarely - as I'm sure you all know - at a loss for words. :D However, I would like you to consider this:

If you find yourself on the verge of using a thesaurus then ask yourself "why?". In many instances it's because you find yourself at the risk of using the same word in two sentences that are too "close" to one another. As soon as I recognise that, I begin to look at them and see if there's a different way to construct both sentences and merge them into one, so the word that you wish to avoid repeating can do double-duty.

Examine that paragraph. There are quite a few repetitions aren't there? Perhaps I could have found a better way to write it and still conveyed the same information. How about this:

If you find yourself on the verge of using a thesaurus then ask yourself "why?". There are many instances where a group of sentences may be reconstructed to avoid repetition of words - or phrases - that might offend a writer's sensibilities. In doing so, one is often be able to preserve the integrity and intent of the passage, but avoid the dreaded duplications.

Better? Perhaps. I think, however, that you get the drift of my suggestion.

Originally posted by Lord Durham
...For that matter, if there's any interest, maybe we can try a 'classroom' assignment where I post a description and those who want to can try to 'enliven' it.

Any thoughts on that one?
Sounds like an excellent idea to me.

In LD's Point #4 (Research) I can only say that I have found this to be absolutely essential to my writing. The more thoroughly you know your subject matter, the better your writing is likely to be.

To give you an example, I would estimate that my research behind RRR is now in the order of about 200 hours and still growing. That's not all historical research, but also research into the characters I'm creating, the plot lines and themes I'm constructing, and things like that.

I would like to throw another comment out there for people to ponder for a while:

I've come to the conclusion that unless one seriously restricts/limits the scope of an AAR's time frame, it is highly unlikely that a good piece of "alternate historical fiction" can be written about it. There are a great many very good adaptations of history logs, but I really can't think of a single one that would stand up to an "advanced" review which assesses its literary merits – i.e. that could be easily converted into something for “mass-consumption” by a public that is unfamiliar with the ins and outs of EU II.
 

Derek Pullem

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Even though I haven't committed pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) yet, the idea of whether it is possible to produce a piece of quality writing based on an EU timeline is interesting. I've a couple of history logs and notes of games that I have enjoyed playing but when I came to start I wondered "What can I add that hasn't already been done?"

Unlike some in the SolAARium my first love is history, not writing. But history is constrained by what did happen whilst a game of EU is all about what can happen. So my favourite AARs (and indeed some of my favourite novels) are in the form of a framework of major events through which a story unfolds.

This is where I agree with Mr T. You can't hope to include everything that happens in a 400 year span of world history and hope to keep the readers attention. But if you set down the framework for this alternate vision of history and then write a novel along side it, then the readers can "place" the story in the context of the history. Then I believe a piece of quality writing is possible.

Taking an example from my limited experience: the first tales of the Free Company followed this format with the storyline being progressed from episode to episode by the narrator. The EU2 version on the other hand was virtually "free form" and I believe it suffered in comparison. The pace of the story was never fast enough for most readers tastes. Ariel's brilliant English AAR from EU 1 was similar with all its spin offs.

The other way of using the history log is not to write a story about what happened in the game but to write a story which is occasionally interrupted by the game. "Prof." Ebbesen is the master of this with his wickedly funny "Timurid Scientists" or "It Came from the Mountains"

Of course there is the question of whether it's possible to produce quality writing at all in the environment of an internet forum. Perhaps Paradox could be persuaded to host a links page to writing inspired by EU2 rather than "After Action Reports" alone.
 

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Originally posted by MrT


If you find yourself on the verge of using a thesaurus then ask yourself "why?". In many instances it's because you find yourself at the risk of using the same word in two sentences that are too "close" to one another.

If you find yourself on the verge of using a thesaurus then ask yourself "why?". There are many instances where a group of sentences may be reconstructed to avoid repetition of words - or phrases - that might offend a writer's sensibilities.

Good points. I agree it isn't a matter of not using a Thesaurus it’s more to the point of asking why, as MrT wrote. It can be very helpful but if you’re using it every time you’re stymied for a word then there’s a problem. Thesaurus’s are misused more often than they are used, which is a purely subjective opinion on my part. Sorry if I stated too strongly my concerns in others using it as a crutch rather than an aid.

Warspite. This could prove to be worthless advice but I’ll give it a go. Some of the best writers have worked for newspapers where they were required to write very dry compressed accounts of what was considered a news worthy story. Hemingway comes to mind for a start. He said it was a great training ground for a writer. You had to grab the attention of the reader in the first paragraph, tell the story and rap it up as quickly as possible. The problem is how he and others did it. Did they translate that training into their writing style by shifting the focus from the story to the characters? I seem to remember in your first Italy AAR some very fine writing that wasn’t dry by any means. Maybe it’s the format that you’ve chosen that is giving you the problem. Have you tried writing a short story about something that happened in one of your AARs? I ask this because a 400-year AAR is NOT the way to learn how to write because of the constant repetition that takes place. You have the double burden of trying to write an interesting story full of characters all of which die unless you use the supernatural approach. I won’t try to write a 400-year AAR as a story because I know I would go crazy long before it was finished. I just think you sell yourself short when you say that you’re writing is pretty dry stuff. Change the format.

Joe