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

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I've been working fairly hard to improve my dialogue skills but I'm not up to LD or SM's standards yet. I found that the exercise of writing the Zimbabwe play helped immensely, but that I still don't have the knack of incorporating the suggestion of action into dialogue. I tend to want to add little descriptive inserts into the flow which, I guess, has a tendency of blocking it a bit.

To date, I guess this instalment contains some of the best dialogue I've written...or at least it seems to be more fluid than some of my earlier stuff. I know that I still have a long way to go before I can reach the sort of pinnacle that Noble Lives or Portugal or Bust achieve. When reading those, everything just seems so....natural.

*sign of jealousy*

As to my method of writing (not that I've been doing nearly as much of that recently, but you know what I mean), I guess I've pretty much discussed that to death in RRR. Mostly it requires...

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Well, I finally got off my rear end and read the last few pages of this, and I thought I would throw my own commentary in.

Now, in my time here on the forum I've participated really in only a few threads, my horrible embaressment with the veince thing aside, the the only one I'm currently a part of other then the FC. However, even in that relatively small amount of writing I do I've noticed certain things about my own creative process.

For starters, I don't plan posts. Ever. I sit down, and write them as a solid block. This can lead to certain problems, including having unfinished concepts or thoughts in them. I write most papers the same way. I do only minimal editing, and to my critics I usually say that if I wrote it the first time, it was what I damn well meant.

This is not to say that I don't ever edit, or have never re-written anything. But that nature of my re-writes are usually jus that, complete revisions, in which I sit down and write something related to the first topic, but barely noticably similar except for topic.

How does this relate to the writings I've done on the forums? Well, Ill bring up the three examples that I have.

- The Free Company is first, it being what I've worked on the most by far. Well, beyond the simple fact it takes a certain mindset to write in this story, it takes a certain willingness to compromise. You have to be willing to adapt yourself to ideas/concepts that you might nor prefer to have to deal with. Nevertheless the story makes it in rather bad taste to ignore hooks, expecially the obvious ones (such as direct orders and/or half finished conversations).

Also, at its hear the FC is about dialogue, even if that diaogue is between the posts themselves rather than the characters. It's the nature of this dialogue that forces you to act differently depending on the "mood" of the thread. As Storey and Valdemar mentioned earlier the way the story moves and feels is subject to time. I've been a part of the story where it moved so fast you could barely keep track of it, and I'm also part of the story now where it moves slow enough you actually have the liberty to think about what your writing. On the whole, I'm not certain I have a preference, their just different styles.

- LD's Genoa Project. Not to dredge up ancient history, but its one of the few writing projects I have been a part of here, and it was certainly a change for me from the FC thread. This was an interesting experience, because it gave us almost free reign to write whatever we wanted. LD would send out a brief synopsis of what happened and we would lay claim to the parts we wanted to write as fast as we could.

The key was that we would only get about one lines or so for a whole event. We therefore had to extrapolate huge amounts from what had happened in the AAR in the past, as well as our own take on Genoa at that point in history. I had immense trouble with some of that, as it forced me to create characters on the fly and write with them as if I had been able to develop them for months. Also, I noticed that we experimented with very different styles of writing. I personally tried to cover the range from dead serious to humorous without being rediculous.

- Doge Day Afternoon. Well, admittedly I've had some problems keeping my hands on my notes with this, but all the same I enjoy it. It rounds out the varieties rather well, being more of a typical AAR with notes and such. I can honestly say that this was my first experience with EU2 at that level. I'd never done an AAR before for a simple reason, I'm bloody lazy. So doing the notes for the 4 year and 7 year reigns I had was an interesting experience.

Again I had to create characters who I felt comfortable writing with, but what what really got me was the volume of notes. I had no idea how many I should take, what was important, what should I focus on etc. As it stands I have yet to finish my second reign, and won't until I get my hands on my notes again, but hey my fellows doges are forgiving, sometimes anyway.

So, right, I rambled on there quite a bit, there was really a few relevant comments hidden in that somewhere. I think they were something like I don't pre-plan my posts. How do you go about creating characters that you feel comfortable with in the shrot amount of time necessary that writing seems to necessitate? And does anyone have any suggestions on notes? Ill elave my issues with dialogue to the side for now, I've babbled enough.

RJ
 

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Brethren and sistren! Gather round, gather round!

I am here before you today to preach on the evil that stalks amongst us!

Even I was a sinner. Even I fell prey to the horrible temptation I am about to relate. And those of you with delicate sensibilities might want to avert your eyes...

Even I have fallen victim to that abomination that hovers 'round the head of every careless writer - the unstructured middle.

Woe, woe is me!

It all began innocently enough. A pleasant beginning, a structural hook, a sound enough plot line to make up for my usual uninspired game-play :)D know thyself).

I had the ending sketched out, the characters pencilled in with some thought to their development over the 'week' my story would require, and even a few 'humorous incidents' for spice. And I thought, why not stir in a few extra plot lines, shake - stir - pour, and let it rip! And as for the middle, why, I'll soar over that on sheer power of talent and will!

Thus does HUBRIS come like a thief in the night, thus did the EVIL of which I speak TAKE me for its own!

For I am launched down the icy ski-slope, and I can see my safe-landing in the horizon... and I have no idea what to do while I'm 'en route'!



OK, so the above is a little 'lurid.' But I really am having a crisis of confidence. I thought I was handling the multiple, slowly-converging plot-lines in an acceptable fashion, and now... wham... I feel like I'm fighting the story instead of letting it flow. Worse, I feel like dropping the whole thing and sulking.

i can tell you I don't intend to leave the middle section up to 'improvisation' any more!


Anybody else have - or have had - trouble with the middle? I know that's almost always the weakest book of any trilogy, and frequently the least 'active' section of a novel. Or is it?

So my plan is to retire to a Caribbean island and drink rum with Papa Hemingway for a month or two while I... he's dead? Well, forget about talking to Asimov, he never had trouble with... he's dead, too? Bob Heinlein would certainly understand, but even I know he's passed on.

Fresh out of plans. So what do you do to avoid that unsightly 'middle-of-the-narrative slump'?
 

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Ah yes, the unsightly middle…product of overindulgence and gluttony.

I think that this is not an uncommon problem for many writers and is usually attributable to the process by which one goes about envisioning the storyline. Many people will begin with a great climactic ending in mind, choose a starting point, and then spend their time writing to bring things to this great denouement. The approach is one where the entire body of the text is driving slowly and steady to fruition…and as a result they get bored or stumped along the way since things just aren’t that exciting until the great conclusion. Not only does this present problems for the author, but also risk boring the bejeepers out of the reader.

I think that a really good piece will be characterised best by what I think of as the “onion of interest” – a progressive series of layers where the hooks that the author uses captures and maintains the reader’s interest. Rather than writing exclusively towards the climax, there need to be a series of lesser (but escalating) hot spots along the way which, in turn, are fed by even smaller moments and, beneath them all, the little hooks one uses in a per-instalment basis to keep people interested when it’s being presented here on the forum. Another analogy that would work well is to think of the waves running up onto the beach if you start at low tide and watch them until high tide is reached. The water continually climbs onto the beach and then recedes, only to climb progressively a little higher each time.

I don’t think that the middle book necessarily needs to be boring…only that if you don’t pay attention to it and use it simply to advance the plotline then you greatly increase the risk. Let’s look at a trilogy like the Lord of the Rings (yeah, yeah, I know…it’s not a trilogy, but pretend for a moment that it is):
  • The birthday party…small build up to the “confrontation” between Bilbo and Gandalf.
  • The flight from the Shire with little climaxes at the bridge, the barrow downs, then Bree.
  • The journey to Rivendell with Weathertop and then the final dash for the ford which marks the first “great” climax.
  • Then we calm down for a while to build up to the (small) failure at the pass, then the (larger) gates of Moria/pool, until we climax again at the bridge where Gandalf and the balrog plunge into the abyss.
  • Then we have a quiet period in Lothlorien before building once more to the attack where Borimir betrays them, Pippin and Merry are captured, and Frodo and Sam set off alone…
I won’t go through the entire thing since that would take ages, but if you think over the successive books you’ll see Tolkein constantly building up to these big moments and then back again…Helm’s Deep, the Ride of Rohan, etc. He keeps us interested all the way through because he is constantly giving us these intense moments along the way, and paying as much attention to developing them as he is to gradually bringing us to the final battle.

In my RRR (which, incidentally, I will now be resuming writing since an issue I was concerned about has been resolved) I have a series of points mapped out along the way that are supposed to present the reader with high points along the way. My intention is to build up to each of these with just as much intensity as I am devoting to the final denouement. Whether I succeed…we shall see.

Perhaps looking at your own storyline will suggest certain interim points that you could emphasise somewhat more than you have – for instance the English surrender you just wrote might have been brought to a more “exciting” conclusion than you used…and I’m not at all adverse to fabricating certain events (in comparison to the actual game play) to bring this about. It’s good story-telling technique.

I wonder if that made sense?
 

Secret Master

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That was an excellent post, MrT. I think I will throw something else in that I have found that is helpful.

In my opinion, the better developed your characters are, the less problem there is with parts of the story dragging. By the time you have reached the "middle", you probably should have established your characters enough that they carry the action themselves. It is in the "middle" where we, as readers, should be just becoming comfortable with the characters in the story. And so, when we are comfortable with them, give us a twist or a plot element that you KNOW will be difficult for the characters to handle. I find that well defined characters, combined with judicious use of plot twists, will keep everything running smoothly. Ironically, when we are reading something, and we see a plot twist come up, even when we KNOW what character A will do, we have more fun rather than less. There is something magical about knowing what will happen, not because the plot is simple and stupid, but because we KNOW the characters.

Just remember to leave something for your well developed characters to do....
 

Norgesvenn

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Originally posted by MrT
I know that I still have a long way to go before I can reach the sort of pinnacle that Noble Lives or Portugal or Bust achieve. When reading those, everything just seems so....natural.

*sign of jealousy*


Then again, writing better dialogue than LD is rather impossible, unless you're a playwright, really. :) (Which MrT is... his Zimbabwe AAR is a great play)

Valdemar popped by my new HoI AAR recently (as expected, a Norg AAR is rather different than your average AAR, but not based on Monty Python or any other comedian/group of comedian, I've delved into the mystery genre...) and thought that I might should drop by here and say a few words about how I build my characters.

Usually, I tend to develop either tragic or completely unlikely characters. This time (with the HoI AAR), I've got plenty of space for maneuver, so I've developed one main character (the detective trying to solve the mystery) along with his side-kick (a contrast, really) and the deceased.

I like flawed characters. Period.

I like to to try to see how their flaws (which I believe are human) hamper them, and how their few strengths (despite reading plenty of Nietschze, I think the superman is rather unlikely) help them.
I dislike writers who make their characters super-intelligent/super-strong beings. Sherlock Holmes isn't believable. Neither are Jack London's characters.

If I'd have to tell a story, I'd rather tell one about a "normal" person. Flawed, anxious, sometimes in doubt. Finding the rationale behind their actions is much more of a challenge than simply saying "He saw right through him, due to his enormous intellect".

So, I suppose... that in many ways... I'm a sort of "realist", influenced by Chandler and others and indeed by my own life. I also feel that a story should have a purpose, although not explicitly. I have had the opportunity to make satire out of contemporary politics in The Righteous BastAARds, and a chance to comment upon the flaws of Norway's society through "Denmark - The Ambitions Fulfilled?" along with having an enjoyable game.

On the other hand, I find explicitly politicised fiction or prose extremely boring. Then again, I'm rather odd.
 

J. Passepartout

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I personally would say that Sherlock Holmes is flawed. Yes he has his enormous intellect, but his flaws arise from devoting all his emergy into that intellect and his few hobbies, and only the type of intellect that would help him in his job. Holmes only likes one woman, and not sexually, but because she managed to escape him at the last minute. He is generally kindly to other people, but occasionally disparages people in general, and seems to only be good friends with Watson.

Incidentally, Holmes was based on one of Doyles teachers in university. You probably knew this, of course.
 

Storey

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Originally posted by Secret Master


In my opinion, the better developed your characters are, the less problem there is with parts of the story dragging. By the time you have reached the "middle", you probably should have established your characters enough that they carry the action themselves.


This is how I go about writing a story. Let's say I decide to write a murder mystery. Okay then what? I roughly outline the plot. Who gets killed and who kills him. Okay then what? At this time I concentrate entirely on the characters. Once I have them pretty much fleshed out in my head I start writing the story and in many ways it writes itself because I simply write how the characters react to each other. Now it may not make a very good mystery but it hopefully becomes an enjoyable story. I'm not as prolific as others here but with this method I haven't had a problem with the middle part of a story. Of course I have stayed away from attempting a 400 year epic and a I've also tried to stay away from getting too complicated in the story that I'm telling. I think it really hepls that my stories are about games that lasted less than 15 years game time. The shorter the game the more freedom you have in what you can do. Hmm maybe that's another topic to discuss? :D It appears that this is completely different than Rocky Horror's approach to writing. Thank goodness there's more than one way to skin a cat. :p

Joe
 

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Thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions. On further examination, I find myself believing that I was just cranking out too many lines without playing the game ahead for material. I was writing more and more with less and less 'head-room' as to where events would actually go. A certain quality of 'desperation' began to seep in...

So I've taken a week or so break, played a little Civ3 (actually lucked into a moderately interesting setup for once) and SimCity. Read a lot, and rested up.

And now I'm back, and I think I'm ready to go forward. And I have lots of ideas for more stories!

This story (HP) is new ground for me in many ways: I'm trying to develop better characters, use more dialog, and draw in a background that's interesting in its own right. I'm finding that I need some foreknowledge of game events to write. My last effort wasn't written until the game was done, but as I've said I'm trying a different tack this time and pretty much writing it as I play.

MrT - Your point about making more out of the peace with Britain interests me. I saw the peace as a bit of an embarassment for all concerned: France, because she could not digest what she had taken, and Britain because she was forced to accept having lost.

So I didn't have my characters make a big deal of the peace, focusing instead on Pitt's troubles with his Austrian 'hosts' and France's urgent need for a peace with Austria before her war exhaustion exceeds three digits. (A slight exaggeration, but only a bit).
 

unmerged(6607)

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BTW Director, you've got some writing to do, I'm slipping into withdrawl... :D

Out of curiousity, has an AAR ever been done in interview format? I did the current four or five post 'segment' of my werewolf AAR like it, and it was much harder- but much more fun eventually- than I thought. If you've got the format where one person is asking questions of another and you ONLY have what they're talking about, you give yourself a bit of latitude.
 

Valdemar

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Rocky, I haven't seen one, I like your AAR, but haven't caught up, is it "interwiev with a Werewolf? ;)

I've pondered something else. What do you guys do when the came doesn't comform with anything you've laid out or expected before starting or midways?

In my current (and only :D ) AAR the Ottomans behave decidedly strange and eventhough I expected to win :D it has been ridiculous easy untill I reloaded.

Anyway, do you invent the story whether the game supports it or not or do you follow the events and then write the story?

V
 

unmerged(6777)

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I always (for AARs) use the game itself, regardless of what curves it throws me. I have had situations where I'm trying to write a story-driven AAR and something just doesn't make sense so I will either leave it out altogether or twist it a little bit to make it fit.

In AARs like "Possessions" and "Seven Castles" I essentially stuck to my hand-written notes as I played. In "Eminence Grise" I still did this, but devised an overall framework for the "trend" of the AAR and then played the game to try and support it as best I could.

For something like RRR I needed to know exactly what happens throughout the entire plot so this was one where I have completely played the events I'm writing about and then began devising plots, subplots and overall flow to fit in the framework of the game.

I think in the end it's entirely dependant on the type of AAR you're writing. Some of the fun can be trying to write a completely bizzare and unexpected event and make it sound plausible.

RH: AFAIK that style (interview) hasn't been used for an entire AAR although Sytass had a number of instalments in his Castile/Spain AAR that used it. So, too, have several other people from time to time (heagarty, LD, DW spring to mind buty I'm sure there are others).
 

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Rocky Horror - Oh, I've been writing; I just haven't posted it yet. :) The next chapter is huge because of the events of 1805-06. Stay tuned.

With regard to style, I don't think it's possible or desirable to try to carry a story of 400 years of history in only one style - poetry excepted. I'm working on an idea that involves conciously changing the method (3rd person, 1st person, interview, etc) with each major character's age.

What I'm plotting for my 'magnum opus' (which is NOT a penguin-flavored champagne from Bloom County) is THEFT FROM WAGNER hahahaahaahaa. Every chapter will be related to a selection from a musical work, in this case Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana'.

Now if I can just get this board to support motif music!

Having done one AAR after playing out the whole game and another while the game's in progress, here's two thoughts:

1) if you play the whole game out in advance, keep COPIOUS notes, especially who ruled, who commanded, etc. Jos Theelen's EU2 reader is invaluable but not enough.

2) if you write as you go, plot everything out in advance (at least a skeleton) and resist the temptation to make radical changes.

Valdemar - I have a fixed rule which I violate at every... I mean, rarely if ever. Game events may be incorporated or ignored; invented events may be included, but they MUST conform to the game; no changing the game to fit the invented events.

MrT - my favorite AAR activity is to take different game events and find some 'Rube Goldberg' way to fit them into a logical occurrence in game terms. The more twisted, the better. :D
 

unmerged(6777)

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Originally posted by Valdemar
Do you ever do that? I mean compres or stretch the time line? I've noticed that at least Rocky and Director both adhere very much to the conventional ordered rank of events (one before two before three).

V
I certainly do...particularly the more novel-like the AAR it is. In the long run nobody's going to care (because they'll probably never know) that you changed the date of a battle, or altered the troop components, or that you skip forward and then refer to something else in the past, or anything like that.

There's an important thing to remember...something that's both a blessing and a curse: Your readers have absolutely no way of knowing what's really going on...unless you tell them.

How will they know that you've "cheated" unless you tell them? They won't know that you've re-jigged time, or skipped the description of a couple inconvenient random events, or anything like that. They'll follow along pretty much wherever you're taking them...but you also have to remember that they don't know anything about the specifics of your game so you have to be careful to explain things that might seem obious to you, but that aren't obvious to them since they weren't playing.
 

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Well, Bismarck, you know I love your work...

everybody hear the 'but' coming?

and I won't hide behind the technicality of pointing out that 'Cyprus' isn't finished yet. :D No, I'll save that for when I'm really losing this debate - like maybe ten minutes from now. :D

I went back and reread the early part of 'Cyprus', and I'd have to say that the tone is more clipped, the sentences shorter, the feel is more immediate. But that's a subtle difference, and the form of each post is certainly consistent, from the opening quote to the third-person perspective. So point to you.

I still would not advise someone who is less experienced to maintain a single style for an extended period. I think the risk of staleness and tedium outweighs the advantage of continuity of structure, at least in less-skilled hands. I'd have to agree with Storey about it being more difficult to pull off. I prefer some variety - at least in my own work - but I don't insist on it in yours.

So if I need to amend my remarks to say that I don't think I could do it, nor would I recommend that others try it unless they really know what they're doing - then please consider said remarks amended, with apology for being insufficiently clear the first time.

As for taking notes - I simply find that floundering around for names, dates and supporting details destroys my line of thought (which needs all the help it can get, yes). Among my notes I try to keep little jots about how things fit together - or why they don't.

Storey - before I can begin on Carmina Burana ('Songs from the Monastery of Buren', outside Munich) I have to mod the scenario. The game begins with the death of the world and the end of history. :eek:

But I figured, hey - Apebe's already covered art, and I can't see an AAR about dance (hmmmm. Maybe, maybe not) or sculpture. Music's always fun, and the opposite of programmatic music (music written to evoke a sense of 'story') - symphonic literature? - is very attractive.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Some thoughts on instalment writing…

This is a topic that’s been touched upon several times before in this thread, but I’d like to delve a little deeper into people’s thoughts on the subject of writing for “instalments” as opposed to “conventional” writing.

I’ve been devoting some considerable energies thinking about this over the past few months and, now that I’ve resumed writing RRR, I find myself facing this issue over and over again. I’ve been finding that the process of presenting instalments in an AAR is forcing me to write each instalment in a way that will subsequently require some significant rewriting when I convert this into a draft book form. Why?
  • There’s the initial problem of people’s “attention span”. There are many instances where I would like to write more in the order of twenty or thirty pages (I’m referring to “pages” in the sense of a Word document) as I reveal a certain aspect of plot advancement or character development. This would allow both a more subtle approach, and also considerably greater depth, but would also make for some huge instalments that I think are overwhelming for the reader to encounter. I’ve observed that people (readers) here seem to prefer something between 2 and 4 pages and are unlikely to read anything much more than that in any great detail, so I’ve tried to keep my instalments down in size, but this necessitates being considerably more “blatant” about some things than I would like to be. Of course there’s always the possibility of breaking up a long instalment into a series of shorter ones…
  • Or is there? I don’t see much difference between posting a 20-page instalment or five 4-page instalments at once. Of course those five instalments could be spread out over several days except that I think this would defeat the purpose. Readers will digest numerous AAR instalments over that period of time and thus are unlikely to remember some of the “finer” points of what you’ve previously written. When writing a book you have the expectation that it will be digested over a span of a few days, perhaps, and thus you can develop these sub plots and characters continually over many, many pages without “losing” the reader.

    I ran into this most notably with the latest instalment of RRR which, unfortunately, ties four different sub-plots together that I’ve been slowly introducing throughout the entire work. It was immediately apparent, even as I was writing it, that it was asking rather a lot of the reader to remember some things that I introduced months ago and that have been quietly simmering in the background. I could, of course, have written a “reminder” into the text but that would be far too blatant and also require considerably more space to present – thus running up against the length barrier again.
  • There seems to be a sort of “encapsulation” aspect that is necessary in writing the instalments – something that Bruce presented an excellent overview of some pages back. Each instalment needs its own little climax, its own hook…in effect its own mini self-contained short story. This runs contrary to the way you would normally write something that takes 20+ pages to explore and, if you subsequently assemble it and read it all back to ensure consistency, ends up feeling contrived (in my opinion).

    When you’re reading a book each individual chapter (usually in the order of 20-50 pages) will act in this manner…but certainly not every handful of pages. I guess, then, that the AAR-writing process must really be treated as almost entirely different from the book-writing process.
I now think that trying to write both and AAR and a book, simultaneously, is an exercise in futility. To keep the AAR interesting I must adhere to the instalment demands, but simply pasting those instalments together and doing some rough editing will not produce a novel that anyone would be interested in reading. It will require massive rewriting and adjustment to turn into book form. I don’t mind this, since it then acts as an excellent tool for thoroughly working and exploring the plots and characters of the future novel, but I am coming to the point where I think that “RRR - The Book” will have to be written almost from scratch.

Does anyone else feel this way? Can anyone suggest any “tricks” that you think might work to counteract this? Any comments or additional thoughts?
 

stnylan

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Installment/Chapter size

There are a number of books out there, told mostly in pseudo-autobiographical, that do have really small chapters on average, from 3-7 pages in an ordinary size softback (I am thinking here primairly of Lindsey Davies' Falco mysteries, and the majority of LE Modesitt Jr's output).

The problem with this approach is that it can be very bitty. In a more ordinary book a number of a number of different subplots, plots, and characterisation can be advanced. With shorter chapters this simply cannot happen. The author has to concentrate onto giving information that primarily advances one plot or subplot, with any attendant characteristation that is necessary. If that information also has bearing on another plot, that should be ignored for the moment (the current plot/subplot being more important), and then it is referenced back.

A (very rough) example.

Chapter I: Good Guy is happy in his farm when he sees his friend Helpless Victim and his family toiling up the road carrying all that they own. Helpless Victim explains that Evil Tyrant has evicted them, and that they have nowhere else to go.

Chapter II: Good Guy ignores for the moment the implications of this (perhaps a thought-line Why is Evil Tyrant evicting so many people these days?). However, his immediate concern is for the wellbeing of his friend and their family. Also, for some reason Helpless Victim's son (Helpless Hostage) has been conscripted into Evil Tyrant's army. Having decided that Helpless Victim better keep his own farm in shape while he settles this out Good Guy goes a-looking for his other friend, Loyal Companion.

Chapter III: While looking for Loyal Companion Good Guy decides to do a bit of sneaking, and sees that Evil Tyrant's men are building something on Helpless Victim's farm.

Chapter IV: While still on the farm Good Guy is attacked by a couple of Evil Tyrant's men. He is saved by

Chapter V: Loyal Companion, who was also in the area to see what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, there may or may not be

Chapter VI: Helpless Hostage is brought to Evil Tyrant's keep.
Chapter VII: Helpless Hostage meets Evil Tyrant, and finds him to be a dapper chap who is really worried about the massing of the Undead Army. He wants Good Guy's help, so to get GGs attention he has taken HH.
Chapter VIII: Helpless Hostage agrees to help Evil Tyrant.

and so on. It is I admit very simplistic, but in many books Chapters I-V would be covered by only one or two chapters, ditto chapter VI-VIII would be given only 1. Here the news of Helpless Victim's eviction is in Chapter III, but a single line keeps it in the air during Chapter II.


Although this does not deal with the simple problem of overall length (and eye-tiredness thanks to reading lots of text from a computer screen), it is a way of ensuring each smaller installment has its own distinct purpose, and of keeping the pace of the story moving, if told sensibly.
 

Lord Durham

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This whole exercise of AAR/novel presentation is the $64,000 question. I've come to the belief that any attempt at story telling on the Forum has to be truncated, or shaped to fit the needs of the forum itself. In other words, at best the work is a stripped down version of the story your really want to tell.

Serialization is possibly the best way to go, as I mentioned earlier, and MrT alluded to in his last post. But, Chris's conclusion that the exercise, when assembled as a whole, feels contrived, is likely correct. As a side note, Secret Master has alluded to this whole AAR Forum subculture in the past, and perhaps he will get a chance to share some of his thoughts in the near future.

Recently I undertook the task to revisit my 'Austria and the War of the Spanish Succession' AAR, with the purpose of converting it to PDF form. As a couple of you know (notably Storey, who has gone to great lengths to read and comment on each iteration), this conversion resulted in a literal line-by-line rewrite. I would hazard to state that this supports MrT's conclusions regarding the difficulty of writing a 'novel' in an AAR format. To wit, even though my 'Austrian' novella is now some 120 pages in length, with proper characterization and further plot development it could easily grow to some 600+ pages.

So, the question remains for the serious author: Do you use to the AAR Forum to formulate what amounts to a grand synopsis of your story, converting it into a fully fleshed out piece of work sometime after its completion? Or, do you write it as a fully realised novel, and break it into digestible chunks for the reading audience?

BTW, welcome stnylan. Thank you for your insightful comments. One of my favourite authors who tend to use the short chapter format is Tom Clancy. It seems to work for him. ;)
 

unmerged(6777)

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I agree...it's definitely most useful as a venue to receive feedback on how well you're presenting your ideas. I think that as a place to experiment, try out different styles and such, it's excellent. It also has a tendency to force you to condense and work your material into much shorter pieces which has a side benefit of teaching you ways to convey information and characterisations in short bursts. When you begin to write a book you can then apply some of those skills to get the reader "up and running" as quickly as possible and it gives you a much more solid grounding on word economy and precision (I know...you folks won't actually believe me if I say I've learned any of that :p).
 

unmerged(6528)

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So, the question remains for the serious author: Do you use to the AAR Forum to formulate what amounts to a grand synopsis of your story, converting it into a fully fleshed out piece of work sometime after its completion? Or, do you write it as a fully realised novel, and break it into digestible chunks for the reading audience?

This is a question I've been dealing with as a theoretical, I phrase it in my head more like this. Is it possible to only write a grand synopsis or realized novel? And how does this interact with a game the by its nature takes a substantial time commitment to play. Is it necessary from a writers standpoint to know what will happen in the next 5 installments in order to write the next one?

I'm getting more and more curious because I'm attempting to draw inspiration to do my own AAR soon.

RJ