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

Director

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MrT - I confess I have a greater appreciation for your discussion topic now than previously. As noted in recent posts in HistoryPark, the installments haqve gotten longer - and longer. As a reader, I certainly sympathize. Long blocks of text stretching off the page make my eyes hurt and my concentration wander. But as a writer... there's just so much to say, and the logical stopping places don't come at short lengths.

I wish for the ability to format in paragraphs. These unindented blocks look wrong and scan worse. And white text on blue hurts my eyes; the colors over in the HoI forum are frankly easier to read.

But then, it's been recently said that i don't know what I'm talking about, so caveat emptor.

Rath Jones -
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 can only say it is vitally necessary for me to be able to see some distance ahead. I hit a major 'sputter' not long back because I wrote up to the point of game play. Now I'm trying to keep the game at least 6mo to a year ahead of my chapters.
 

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Gents,

I would just like to say thanks for the many insightful and good posts in this thread. As a novice AAR writer with no previous writing experience (except schoolwork, and we all know how riveting that is..) I have had many 'a-ha' experiences going through this thread.

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 agree with Director's reply here and would also mention that keeping the game ahead gives you the liberty to weave in elements/characters that can be further explored later. I usually keep the game 50-100 years ahead of the writing (this does of course vary widely on what kind of AAR you are doing).

I have a little question (if it's considered a faux pas to bring in a new question in the middle of a discussion pls put me in my place:) )

Re dialogue,
Whenever I write a dialogue I feel the need to put in a brief description of how the character speaks, on the other hand I have a feeling that the choice of words, the setting and the way the line of speech is written should convey the voice and sentiments of the speaker. I often find myself going though the text after writing and adding small descriptions to the lines uttered by the speakers just to make it clear how they put it forward. But then start thinking "why? It is evident that he is worried (..or relieved..or whatever)". Then I usually start deleting the comment and putting it back in five times before deciding...:rolleyes:

Does this worry anyelse when they write? Do you have any ideas on how to work around it or make the dialogues speak better for themselves?
 

unmerged(6777)

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RJ: I would always want to be at least 50-100 years ahead, and the more complex a piece you're writing, the more you really need to know before you start. For RRR I have already played the entire "war" - in fact I played it sometime last spring. :eek: :)

* * * * * *

Welcom Jarlen av Juks. :)

Though he's too modest to mention it, LD is probably the best dialogue writer on the forum bar none. You can learn volumes simply by picking an LD AAR - any one of the ones that are linked in his sig. If you have a preference for comedy then use his "Portugal or Bust", or if you'd like something more weighty, pick "Austria and the War of Spanish Succession". "Portugal" is mostly dialogue so that might be a better selection for these purposes.

Read each instalment and then jot down some notes about what you think has happened in each instalment and what sort of information you've been given about the characters. Then go back and re-read the instalment, but this time make a concious effort not to let his nifty writing tricks effect you. Instead, read it almost as though you're a style critic or a copy editor and pay close attention to the technique and composition of the writing. Look at how he spaces and phrases his dialogue and where and when he employs indicator words.

Believe me, if you disect his writing that way, you'll learn a ton of tricks.
 

Syt

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Originally posted by Lord Durham
In a nutshell, dialogue is most effective when you keep the 'he said/she responded' pointers to a bare minimum. Good dialogue will carry itself.

I agree in part. When you have more than two participants you will have to add more description, because else it will become confusing.
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Sytass
I agree in part. When you have more than two participants you will have to add more description, because else it will become confusing.
Sorry, my turn to disagree... ;)
When you have more than two people is when you get inventive. There are several tricks you can use. Use the character's name in the dialogue; alter speech patterns (every character should be reasonably identifiable by their method of speech) or add an action. Eg., if one character is sitting, have him shuffle papers before of after he speaks. If a person is standing, have them shift position, or walk to a window. The key phrase I used was 'bare minimum'. Use the speech pointers only when you feel it is absolutely necessary to remind the reader who the Voice belongs to, and not just for the sake of using them.

MrT, thanks, but cut that out!
 

Secret Master

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LD mentioned...

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.


I've just done a bit more research into this whole "serialization" method of writing. As Rocky Horror mentioned a ways back, Dickens wrote a number of his novels first as serials in magazines. This got me wondering about some things that I bugged my faculty's 19th century expert about.


The first interesting thing about serial writing back in the "old" days was that authors like Dickens got reader feedback, and took it into consideration. Now, Dickens did not accept all of the suggestions from his readers (or even most, I think) but he was aware of what his audience was thinking and wanting, which did have some impact on his writing.

Second, when Dickens put those writings into full-blown novels for publication, he revised them before doing so. His revisions were nothing on the scale of what LD and MrT have referred to, but I will tell you why in a moment.

Third, while Dickens is a wonderful novelist, he was also one of the first and best to turn novel writing into real financial sucess. In some cases, he knew what he had to write to make audiences happy, even if it was not precisely the he would otherwise have liked. This applied more to his early work. After he was an established author, he could do more risky sorts of writing knowing that people would still buy his stuff.


How in the world does this relate to what LD was talking about? Well, I'll tell you. (At this point, I can hear Norg telling me to get on with it :D ) First, I will agree with LD that serialization is the best way to go, and it is precisely because of the format of this forum. The medium of writing here on the forum moves us to more concise, focused, and intense writing than does the medium of writing a novel. The medium of the forum is completely electronic and non-locally based (that is, I do not give each of my readers a script to read. I "publish" it to a website that is in Sweden, and they get it from there.) Also, this medium is radically different from other types of writing because it is nearly instant. I can post something, and in the time it takes MrT to read it, I have feedback. Not only that, but other readers can see and be influenced by said feedback (or disagree with it).

But almost all of us here on the fourm are also authors. Not only that, but we have real jobs, classes to take, and other games to play. (Yes, I play other games besides EU and EU2. LD will likely give me a 24 hour ban for such heresy... ;) )Those of us with significant others have to give time to them as well (I have been MIA of late for precisely this reason... ) With all of the time constraints upon all of us, more condensed writing is called for.

However, do not be confused and think this is just 19th century serialization done with Internet Exploiter. Note that our audience here is very different than the audience Dickens was writing for. Here at the forums, we have our own sub-culture, complete with rules (no Nazi propoganda), customs (never give ripping, bad comments to other writers publically in their AAR), hierarchy (LD and MrT as mods) and language (think of all the permutations of the venerable old term AAR and the "language" of smileys). What's even more interesting is that writing for this audience is writing for an audience that brings with it a host of different traditions, including very different literary traditions. Just among my readers, there are Americans, Norwegians, Portugese, Spaniards, and Canadians. I have worked on collaborative efforts with Danes, Englishmen, and any other national grouping I have left out from the current FC troupe of writers.

However, while the forum is a different kind of place to do serialization than a 19th century magazine, novels are still bound in paper and published by publishers with an eye for money. The medium of the novel is radically different than the medium of the forum. It is only natural that extensive, line by line, revisions are required to go from the one to the other. I would be very interested to know if MrT and LD think their "novels" are even the same work of literature as their completed AARs. (My guess would be no, but perhaps they see it differently.) Also, because you want your novel to reach a different audience than the sub-culture of the forum, it becomes important re-gear the work for the audience it is now directed to. If you don't see it that, I am sure publishers do.

I think that as we continue this experiment that is the AAR forum, we shall get better at writing in this particular medium. We will learn new tricks and recycle old ones to make our stories better. Perhaps one day this medium of writing will be fully acknowledged as valuable in and of its own self. Regardless, it is still good practice all around.
 

Syt

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Originally posted by Lord Durham
Sorry, my turn to disagree... ;)
When you have more than two people is when you get inventive. There are several tricks you can use. Use the character's name in the dialogue; alter speech patterns (every character should be reasonably identifiable by their method of speech) or add an action. Eg., if one character is sitting, have him shuffle papers before of after he speaks. If a person is standing, have them shift position, or walk to a window. The key phrase I used was 'bare minimum'. Use the speech pointers only when you feel it is absolutely necessary to remind the reader who the Voice belongs to, and not just for the sake of using them.

Nope, we don't disagree, as that's what I was thinking about. :)

However, I don't see how it can be wrong to use these means in a dialogue. Well placed descriptions of the facial expression of a person, taking one's hand, brushing his hand through his hair, and so on, can add to the picture of the dialogue. In real life, body language is almost as important as spoken language. Therefore I like to include it in a dialgoue:

* * *
She smiled shyly, avoiding his look. "Well, dear Sire, it is not often the King graces us with his presence.

Gently taking her chin between two fingers he raised her pretty face so she had no choice but to look into his warm eyes. "Had he known your grace earlier, her would have done so more often."

"Sire, I don't think this is right." Suddenly cold, she wrested free from him, turning her back towards him.

He brushed his hand through his hair in a gesture of insecurity before he approached her from behind. His large hands braced her slender hips. "Sire", she said meekly, but she didn't move away, not even when he kissed her neck.

"Shhh", was all he said.
* * *

I doubt this dialogue would work well without the description of the actions.

You might say that this scene does more than just convey information, which is often the main goal during dialogue, (although it is also a great means to flesh out characters). However, even then descrpiptions, well placed and not used abundantly can greatly enhance a scene. (He began to tremble, and his voice shook. - He bit his lip. - He fumbled the coin in his hand.)
 

Lord Durham

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Sytass, we are definitely on the same page of the hymnbook. I thought you were suggesting that any dialogue with more than two people would require a preponderance of 'said Person A', 'responded Person B', 'asked Person C', etc, etc. Your example is an excellent way to convey some methods of identifying speakers.

Secret Master, very good presentation. I didn't know that about Dickens and reader feedback. To answer one question, my line-by-line rewrite had a lot to do with my unhappiness with the initial product. Now, as to the question of whether my 'novel' would be the same work of literature as my completed AAR? No. Why? Because it lacks indepth characterisation and interaction between said characters, sketches over certain events that could easily be expanded into major plot devices, and most importantly, doesn't have a true climax. Ergo, a publisher wouldn't be interested.

I'd be curious about your, or your faculty expert's, thoughts regarding the use of a climax in a forum such as this. Personally, I think this method of presentation dilutes the impact of a climax, unless it is something that is planned and executed well in advance. (IE, the current 'silly, silly' FC Book is building toward a grand climax, but that was planned from the beginning - the whole gist of the thread was built around it)

To clarify, I'm talking about the bread and butter of any novel, the main confrontation between ant/protagonist and it's subsequent resolution. I'm not talking about the plethora of mini climaxes that lead to the grand finale (keep your minds out of the gutter, kids ;) ). Granted, writing over a 400 year span makes the question moot, but for those who select a particular slice of history to write about, the climax is, in my mind, the one key component that probably suffers the most in this form of presentation.
 

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Originally posted by Jarlen av Juks

Re dialogue,
Whenever I write a dialogue I feel the need to put in a brief description of how the character speaks, on the other hand I have a feeling that the choice of words, the setting and the way the line of speech is written should convey the voice and sentiments of the speaker. I often find myself going though the text after writing and adding small descriptions to the lines uttered by the speakers just to make it clear how they put it forward. But then start thinking "why? It is evident that he is worried (..or relieved..or whatever)". Then I usually start deleting the comment and putting it back in five times before deciding...:rolleyes:

Does this worry anyelse when they write? Do you have any ideas on how to work around it or make the dialogues speak better for themselves?

As LD and Sytass have pointed out there’s no reason why you can’t do it either with dialogue and/or small descriptions. Either way will work just make sure you don’t fall into as LD said the "he said she said" type of writing. For example if I wrote’

George listened to Alice’s suggestion and then leaned back in his chair and let out a huge belly laugh. All the dinners in the restaurant looked in their direction wondering what was so funny.

"George not so loud. Everyone is looking at us."

Now is Alice mad, joking or self-conscious with the attention of the dinners focused on them? You solve this with dialogue.

"Nonsense dear they’re envious of us. Look at them, they lead dreary lives without humor or hope while you and I on the other hand have too much of each commodity."

"I don’t care if they’re just mannequins lower your damn voice!"

Okay she seems a little pissed off or is she just very embarrassed?

Or you use a descriptive phrase to help out

Her eyes took on a hard beady look. Around her eyes lines appeared radiating outward reminiscent of a sun going supernova as she muttered under her breath. (Okay a little over the top):D

"I don’t care if they’re just mannequins lower your damn voice!"

Not much doubt on her being mad as a hornet. Now I could have accomplished the same thing with another line or two of dialogue. The choice is yours.

The reader may prefer one writing style to the other but I think either is acceptable. You don’t ‘NEED’ the descriptive phrase but if done right it can add to the story.

Just my two cents.
Joe
 
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Syt

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Another thing that deserves pointing out, sometimes it's better to have a character not respond to dialogue.

* * *
Jason approached his sister Jane who sat quietly at the kitchen table, staring at the dish of soup she had before here. He sat down across the table and tried to lock his eyes on hers, but failed.

"Everything okay?"

Jane just sat there, briefly looked at him, then looked down again.

"Come on, there is something wrong." He touched her hand, but she pulled away. She looked out of the window and tears began to form at the corners of her eyes as she stared into the hazy blizzard on the other side of the glass.

"No matter what it is - you can tell me." He got up, kissed his sister onto her head and turned to leave.

He was at the door when he finally heard her voice, soft and trembling. "Please, don't go yet."
* * *
 

unmerged(5361)

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Gents,

Many thanks for your help and pointers, it is much appreciated!

LD: Although you obviously don't like to hear it, Mr T is right on the money in his appraisal of your writing and I'll certainly heed his advice regarding the dialogue in your AARs:)

Re instalment writing,

One of the (many brilliant) advantages of this forum is that you are rewarded with almost instant feedback from a very diverse bunch of readers. With regards to this it makes sense for a novice writer to have your work out as soon as possible to see how it is received. However, the more seasoned writers here (read: you guys), might not have the need to see the text on print right away.

The trouble with writing short instalments is IMO the lack of continuity. I also found that it was painfully easy to write myself into a hole without any plausible way to go foward. To cirumvent this I find it useful to include, in addition to a small climax, many even smaller hooks/details that may or may not be used in later writing. That way the story can be tied together as it proceeds.
 

Syt

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I know what you mean by "writing yourself into a hole". You can largely avoid this, by playing the game ahead, and, more importantly, plan your story ahead. Always be two, better, ten steps ahead of what is online.

An English Heart was an example how I wrote myself into a hole several times, and only saved myself with one deus ex machina after another.... I would have avoided that clumsy technique by planning ahead more of the plot.
 

Lord Durham

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Jarlen av Juks, your approach is very solid. Leaving hooks and details are useful to advance the plotline at a later date. There was a discussion about deus ex machina (or D.E.M. :) ) several pages ago. One thing I like to do is foreshadow events. In other words, I'll mention a sword on display on a wall, and several posts later I'll use that sword when all seems lost and my character is near defeat. It's a good way to circumvent D.E.M. It just takes a bit more planning.

Now, since this thread has lain dormant for a few days, I thought I would change the subject to something a touch more personal. My question is based on a thread I ran about a year ago.

What I'd like to know is what author(s), if any, influence your writing style? Is there someone you conciously try to emulate? If yes, who and why?

I'll provide my selections later.
 

unmerged(6777)

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I have on several occasions attempted to mimic other people's styles for short periods but only for a specific purpose. The couple posts I did in HG's HHGtEU were an attempt to write like Douglas Adams and I've also tried to write like heargarty in my Gluttonic Knights contributions. Other than those isolated instances, I don't think I try overly to copy any particular author, but there are some styles that appeal to me more than others.

Of more modern writers I suppose I think of people like Julian Barnes, Katherine Kurtz, David Gemmell (sp?), Anne Rice, Margret Weiss, Tracy Hickman, etc. I also like a number of the turn-of-the-century authors and I prefer the somewhat more flowerly language that they use. Mostly it's the complexity of their plots that interest me, and the presence of side-plots or the effort to examine aspects of the human condition in terms that are less balck and white than many authors are inclined to do. The crafting is also superb.

I think a lot of it depends a lot on my mood when I sit down to write. I've found that certain frames of mind are counterproductive to certain types of writing, so I have to put things to the side sometimes until I'm in the right mood to write. That's why I sometimes like to have a couple of ongoing projects of different types, so I can switch back and forth between them depending on how I'm feeling.

I've recently been giving some serious thought to a second major AAR project but I think I'll be saving it for my first CK AAR instead...although that has yet to be determined. Until I decide, I'm not going to spill the beans and have someone scoop the idea...again! :D If I do, I'll be borrowing very heavily from a certain very famous author's style and it will be a major challenge to write. ;)
 

Valdemar

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This one is a tough one, in part because I haven't written that much :) In part because I haven't conciously thought about it before.

I have howevre had the question bubbling in my mind all day, so let'se see,:)

I don't conscioulsy attempt to use any particullar style, but there are acouple of authors whose style I find attractive and whose overall, "sense" I'd like to use.

Mostly it is in the way of story telling I find my inspiration and there it would be a list like:

Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, In part David Eddings for his story (not for his tecnique:p )

I like the styles of Chandler and a couple of other mystery writers, Deighton and what's his name (Panama Tailor, littel drummerboy, etc) for their dryness and fallible characters.

I also like to draw on a couple of Danish writes, Bjarne Reuter another great story teller and of course the story teller par excellence, H C Andersen :D


I find it very hard to emulate one certain style, but perhaps it comes with practise. I can see when I follow other stories that they use a certain style, but frankly I feel my story gyrates from one point to the other, with no discernable style. :)

V
 

stnylan

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Valdemar - do you mean Jean le Carre? As in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?

I don't think I have ever tried to emulate a certain author or style (well, except mediaeval chroniclers, and that is pretty recent). However, I am influenced very strongly by four 'authors' (one poet, two book-writers, one playwright).

In my own writing, which has mostly been poetry, WH Auden has had the greatest influence, especially though not exclusively the period from 1930-40. The poem 'September 1, 1939' is perhaps the most influential for me.

In prose I think the greatest influence comes from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, because of the rawness of her characterisation, and the very dubious antihero that Heathcliffe is.

Second would be Tolkein, more the Silmarrillion than the LotR, and because of the background that the Silmarrillion represents. I rarely find that I can set a story in a vacuum. If I do I am soon lost, so nearly always the first thing I do is create one.

The final one Sophocles, the Athenian tragedian, especially the three Theban plays. This is because of the emotions and actions expressed by the characters, as much as for the (translated) language. In Antigone especially there is very little let-up, and like Wuthering Heights morality is rather less clear-cut than may at first be obvious.
 

Secret Master

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I mimic styles all the time. The observant members of the forum can see what writers I have been studying by looking at stuff I am doing in my work. Partly its conscious (by mimicing the great writers, I can absrob a bit of their talent for myself) and partly it is unconscious. However, I do not do it with set authors in mind. I am always trying a little something different out, absorb a new tool of writing. Otherwise, I would probably end up writing like a combination of Asimov and Shakespeare all the time. (Scary, isn't it?)
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Secret Master
Otherwise, I would probably end up writing like a combination of Asimov and Shakespeare all the time. (Scary, isn't it?)
Alas, poor Robot, I knew him well... :)

My modern day influences would include Glen Cook, David Gemmell and William Forschten (sp).

My earlier influences, especially for style and language, are A.C.Doyle, H.G.Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Like stnylan, I spent a fair amount of time studying the Greek playwrights and their works. I also count the Iliad as a strong influence (depending on the quality of the translation, of course) and the Anabasis by Xenophon.

The authors that influenced me the most to try my hand at writing were L.Sprague de Camp, Fritz Leiber and the father of heroic fantasy - Robert E. Howard. (I liken my style closest to his, though I wish I had his literary legacy :) )
 

Syt

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Phew, that's a tough question. I cannot say that I am particularly trying to "emulate" a certain writing, in part, because I don't think that I could measure up to any of the writers I admire.

I'd say I am influenced in part by Tolstoi and E.A. Poe and their elaborat, rich, observant (not topo metaphorical) 19th century language. It may not show much in my AARs as English is only my second language.

Since I am aware that I tend to make my sentences too complex, long, and illegible at times, I try to remember the writings of Franz Kafka, though, who used a very methodical language (he was an insurance clerk, after all); that normally makes my sentences more understandable again.

I couldn't say that I ever tried to mimic a certain writing.
 

Valdemar

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I should probably expand on my list, I didn't think it through at the time, but something stnylan and LD said jumpstarted my memory,

I'd say I'm very influenced by old norse mythology, the entire Pantheon and hero worshipping of old norse has always fascinated me greatly. You probably couldn't call it insprired by an author since it is more of a tradition than written down, but surely it is litterature?

V