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

unmerged(4271)

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Originally posted by shawng1

"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.

This is another source of conflict for me. I can remember, particularly when I was younger, putting done a book disgusted because of what seemed like meaningless verbosity. However, some of these works are considered great pieces of literature. Consider Faulkner's "Light in August". Do I really need 8 or 9 paragraphs describing the trees (willows? I can't remember) in the moonlight as seen from a bed room window which has a slightly streaked panes and a layer of dust around the edge of the sill that has lain there undisturbed since some long ago time referenced only by some childhood event? Yet following such a description I find out in a short (almost throw-away) line that, oh by the way, the teenage protagonist is pregnant.

Now admittedly it has been over a decade since I read "Light in August" so my details my be a bit rusty, but to me it was a case were verbosity became a distraction. For an example of an English author, perhaps Dickens could be accused of the same thing.

However, despite the many cases I can recall where such "meangingless" description distracted or bothered me, I still believe that in many cases it can strenghthen, rather than dilute, a work.

For example, a character which may not be essential to the story can play a role in establishing mood or in setting a scene. Some descriptions of actions or events can help with pacing. Sometimes the description of non-essential characters you to set up a better contrast with main characters.

Shawng1 points out that the "less is more" rule shouldn't apply 100% of the time. What I am trying to work out is, if it doesn't apply all the time and added color can be useful, then how much it should apply? When are these excursions from the main story useful and when are they simply distracting?
 

Bismarck

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Originally posted by MrT


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.

I must advance the dissenting view on this point. Historical Fiction is not the only way history is put out for mass consumption, as you so elegantly put it. There is popular history, which has a different set of standards, but which nevertheless has standards with which it can be judged which go above the mere telling of the facts.

You don't judge Will Durant or Edward Gibbons by the same criteria as you do Mark Twain or Leo Tolstoy, and yet it seems that in terms of AARs, that exactly what you are proposing. If I was going to judge an AAR from a popular history standpoint, then clearly I'd be looking at what the author brought to their history which was not part of the log... motivations, unspoken relationship, technical and literary innovations; the kinds of flavor that do not appear in event files and one line notes from treedom's history parser.

I know you didn't mean to exclude a lot of writers because they don't write in a certain style, and you were just stating your expert opinion, as you are very well-read in this forum, as well as prolific in terms of your own projects, but I just thought it seemed unfair to try to pigeonhole one type of writing as rising to a level worthy of advanced analysis, while many others which do not fit into that approach are not considered peers worthy of similar treatment as creations.

Just my two cents,
M
 

unmerged(6777)

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Dec 10, 2001
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You're certainly right. I was actually pointing my finger at myself just as much as the next guy. When looking objectively at my own work, I feel that every single piece I've written with the exception of RRR is similarly not up to being torn apart in the way I would envision an "advanced" review to do...but as I think was mentioned in the review thread, it is very likely my own interpretation of what each level of review actually entails rather than any deficiencies in people's AARs.

I think that perhaps it may be the very terms themselves that are throwing me, and their associated connotations. To use the terms "basic", "average" and "advanced" seems to (unintentionally) imply that an AAR that receives an advanced review is somehow superior to one that receives "only" an average or basic one. I don't think that's necessarily the intent of the review process, though. Perhaps using more quality-neutral verbiage for the reviews might be more appropriate. I won't belabour the point here, though, since it's somewhat OT.

To bring it back on topic, you'll note that the careful selection of a word can have some very interesting side-effects on what it is interpreted to mean or imply. I have been paying increasing attention to this effect in my own work of late, searching for just the right adjective or verb or adverb to inject a subliminal overtone into what I am composing. It's an interesting process, but requires a great deal of care and intense concentration to pull off - something I'm really only just getting the hang of.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

I'd also like to make a proposal while I'm at it.

I notice that there are quite a lot of different topics that have already been introduced for discussion here, and I've got at least another half dozen of my own to throw into the ring. It will very quickly become impossible to keep a logical train of thought going on any single topic if we're all bouncing around on this.

Over time I'm sure it will become easier to float a new subject and begin a new discussion, but I feel that at the onset we very dearly need to have a degree of control over what's being discussed, and to submit to being moderated in our discussions.

Might I suggest, therefore, that someone (Lord Durham?) compile a list of "topics" that we've been proposing, and that we spend the next few days throwing even more suggestions into the hat. Then, maybe Monday, he close off the "nominations" for a while and then determine an order of discussion that we all then agree to adhere to. He could introduce a topic and we would then limit ourselves to discussing it without getting sidetracked into other things and let the conversation run its course. Once we've hashed over for it for a while, he would then declare the discussion "closed" and introduce the next topic. If someone wants to add a new topic to the list, it should be PMed to the moderator for later introduction.

As I say, this would probably not be necessary in the long run but with the initial mass of possibilities this could quickly become a mass of confusing cross-dialogue. Once we've worked our way through the list, we could then re-visit some of the topics and the gradually relieve ourselves of the need to be "moderated".

Just my 2 ducat's worth.
 

Craig Ashley

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I notice that there are quite a lot of different topics that have already been introduced for discussion here, and I've got at least another half dozen of my own to throw into the ring. It will very quickly become impossible to keep a logical train of thought going on any single topic if we're all bouncing around on this.

My thoughts exactly. Here are my thoughts and feelings on what we have going on here so far.

1. Thesaurus - Great tool but can be deadly in the wrong hands. *scary music* Enough said.

2. Review levels - A little OT here, but I hope to have a thread set up for feedback on the reviews, suggestions, ect. Soon I hope, very soon.

As to the question raised, I think a statement added to the introduction of the reviews to clarify the meaning of those terms i.e. they don't refer to the quality of work.

3. Too much description, over characterization, ect.

Overly flowery language is a real turn off for me. I've never read anything by Faulkner, but I have read Dickens. You can really tell this guy got paid by the word. The plots and stories are terrific, but I can't get past the wordiness. In the case of descriptions, scenary, ect. a little can go a long way.

On to taking time to characterize minor characters. I like it. Even if the guy is only in a scene or two, it is nice to know a little bit of what makes him tick. I don't care if I never see him again, it was nice to know the dude has a sick mother at home, or his dog just died, or he just got promoted. I think this helps to see insight into how the character acts. If it is being done just to be done, I can see how that might be annoying.

4. "Homework assignments" I never did much of the stuff myself:rolleyes: :D , but it sounds like a good idea. Nice way to stretch as an writer into things you may avoid, consciously or not.

LD, great idea, great format. I think I'll reserve the burgandy leather chair. I like the highback style.:D

EDIT: Maybe that could be our homework. Describe the chair you will be using in the solAARium.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Homework Assignment #1

How about this. Decribe the following log events:

1521 Jan 1: Our army has arrived in Artois
1521 Jan 1: We have initiated a siege of Artois
1521 Aug 8: We have captured the province of Artois from France

Additional info.: "we" are England, our army is "unled" (i.e. generic Colonel) and consists of 45,000/15,000/40, the fortress is now a Level 3. Province support level causes attrition down to 21,000/7,000/30, and the siege is ended by an assualt. (I'm making this up, BTW, so don't bother checking).

Other parameters: no minimum, but a maximum of 1000 words in a single post. You may only use the word "siege" once in your post. You may invent anything else that turns you on to flavour the encounter, except for being attacked by an enemy army.

You should try to use a different style/approach to anything that anyone who has already posted their "assignment" has used.

Any takers?
 

Lord Durham

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Funny enough, MrT, I was compiling just such a list before I saw your post.

As for the 'basic', 'average', 'advanced' controversy, how about 'basic', 'standard' and 'special'. Special would be utilised in those rare instances where an author has written a novella/novel/short story and wishes to have it scrutinised. The critiquing criteria for the 'special' category would be... well... special.


Here's a list of information I have gleaned since yesterday, with a couple of suggestions tossed in:

Topics of the Moment

1. The Thesaurus and other sundry writer's aids (or, how many ways can we say 'besieged')

2. AAR formats: What works for what style

3. Descriptions - character and setting: how detailed should they be

4. Post length - what works for you and what do you prefer to read?

5. Is Less Truly More?

6. Is the AAR the new fast food of the literary world?

7. Useless Words (like 'that, 'those' and 'some'), adjectives and adverbs



Possible Lessons

1. Punctuation - do's and dont's

2. Show & Tell - literary exposition

3. 'In 1492 a merchant was sent to Venice' - how to get around the same old repetition

4. "How to improve dialogue," he said.



Discuss at will... and lets remember to keep the spam posts down.
 

Secret Master

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Homework Assignment

Lord Rawlings knocked upon the door to the king's bedchamber. The servant next to him was quaking in fear. He had tried to explain to Lord Rawlings that the king was occupied at the moment. When Henry VIII was occupied, you just left him alone. Still, Lord Rawlings felt that his position of prime minister, and the news he carried, overrode the king's normal instructions.

The PM knocked again, and shuffling could be heard in the room. Some giggling could be heard from a young lass. Then some more giggling could be heard from another young lass, which seemed to indicate the cause of the king's current failure to respond. Finally, the door opened just enough to allow Henry's head to poke out of the room.

"What do you want, Rawlings?"

"I have news of our war with France."

"You interrupted my evening with the twins for war news?"

"Yes, my king. As of last week, the 8th of August, we have sacked the final fortifications in the area of Artois."

"I didn't know we had an army there."

"They arrived on New Years Day. I think you were with the twins when I told you that news a few months ago...."

Henry glared.

"Well, who is running the show there?"

"Sir Francis Walther. He bravely led the assault on the final castle. He braved death and dismemberment to bring glory to the crown."

"Who is he? Is he important?"

"No, he is not important."

"Good. Saves me the trouble of sending him a medal or something."

"My king, I could go over the casualty figures..."

"No! I'm really too busy for that right now. Just go and tell this Sir What's-His-Name to press on the Paris."

"My king, the French do not own Paris right now. Our ally, Gelre, has already sacked it."

"Fine, then just bugger off and leave me alone. Go force them to sign a treaty, or something."

"Of course, my king."

Henry closed the door. The giggling continued, along with the rhythmic movements of the royal headboard against the royal wall.
 

Nikolai II

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Expanded log style

January 1st, 1512

Our forces invested Artois. The vagaries of waging a siege in sub-zero temperatures soon became obvious as not even using valuable powder for the purpose could blast a hole in the ground for approches.

Large bonfires had to be lit to soften the ground for digging, while the soldiers recieved orders to remain in their tents.

Desertion and exposure quickly began taking a horrendous toll.


August, 8th

Artois was taken by storming after a mine finally managed to blow a breach in the city wall.

The surviving soldiers enjoyed the looting, while the general (who will not be named) is cursed by the king for not making the city surrender and pay through the nose to the royal war-chest instead.
 

Mad King James

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I always context everything that happens with either my master plan or previous events. IE:

You lower your aristocracy DP
You capture part of Hungary
Nobles Ally With Foreign Power (Ragusa)

"Our measures to reduce the power of the nobility backfire horribly, as the Republic of Ragusa secretly funds the seperatist Hungarian aristocracy! Apparently they have been spreading dissent amongst all the dissafected nobles in the land, of which there are many. This treasonous action will not be soon forgotten, and the Ragusans shall surely pay for this! We must maintain our hegemony over the Balkans, we cannot afford a restless nobility at this of all times."
 

Barkdreg

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I learned one important lesson while writing for the Free Company: don't stop.
It feels great when you finally post the piece you have been slaving over. The writing itself can be real torture, you feel like banging your head on the keyboard and smashing your screen.
It's real hard to get something that lives in your head on paper, certainly when you have to write in a foreign language.
The writings that took me the largest efforts allways resulted in a few PM's telling me it was great.

Thank you.:)
 

unmerged(4271)

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Homework

Disclaimers: In keeping with the parameters of the assignment (not following the same style of anyone before me) I decided to shoot for something a bit different. Hope this works, it's not your normal cup of tea...

Also, I didn't put much time into this, just enough to check for typos and excessive use of the same words.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The year 1521 would prove pivotal in the spread of the Red Virus. Every inhabitant of the British Isles had been infected when the Scots of Lothian finally succumbed to carrier-soldiers of England in 1498. But other than the small colonies of drones in Calais and Normandie, the Virus had failed to establish a presence on the mainland.

The Continental Monarchs had succeeded in building a coalition against the threat of the Virus. England’s traditional allies, Burgandy and Brittany, had abandoned her after the brutal annexation of Lothian. Though these two nations had little to gain politically by abandoning their ally, whatever madness that had overtaken the English had turned them into dishonorable scum - savage, unpredictable, and loathsome, covered in red pox - and hereditary obligations were cast aside.

The French declaration of war against England in 1520, intended as a pre-emptive strike to eradicate the plague, would in fact doom tens of thousands of innocents in Western Europe as the disease-ridden English troops infected and assimilated them into their collective.

The first wave of the Virus swept into Artois from Calais, carried by an army larger than any the Franco/Austrian alliance had mustered. The English soldiers were like automatons, barely animated, but efficient in their action. Though the people of Artois had known of the English threat for years and had built strong fortifications to guard against such an invasion, they were unprepared for so many enemies at their gate.

No defenders met the enemy English; the French home guard was occupied in Normandie. Likewise the minor French allies of Cologne and Savoy had not the men to challenge so great an army. The walking death of England surrounded the greatest of Artois’ walled cities and began their siege.

Brave men behind the walls had witnessed war and death. They had seen men beheaded and disemboweled in battle. But nothing they had ever seen compared to the slow creeping terror of the plague-carrying English army. The enemy went about their tasks oblivious to the battlefield conditions. Many of them dropped in mid-step as they patrolled the perimeter of the field or as they fed the constant barrage of artillery fire. The English died by the thousands as the weeks went by, but perhaps they were already dead? This fear sank deep into the bones of every defender and soon there was no escape from it, not in the cold-sweat of dreams nor in the grim reality of day.

By July news arrived by messenger that Caux had succumbed, and that Gascogne had returned to English control. The French rewarded the herald of this news by refusing to admit him into the city, fearing he had already been infected by the Red Virus. Had they done so they would not only have spared the young man’s life, but they might have learned what was coming.

Just as Caux and Gascogne had fallen, so too would Artois. Not by the inevitable starvation and pestilence the defenders feared but by a fearsome assault by the remnant of the enemy soldiers. Though less than half of the scarlet-scarred invaders remained, they rallied, suddenly frenzied and no longer trance-like, and stormed the city walls of Artois. It was a bloody battle as the nightmarish English soldiers poured through the cracks in the breached fortifications, and the outcome was never in doubt. Artois fell and the population was exposed to the infection.

The Virus spread.
 

Norgesvenn

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The Elements of Style

I find myself deeply engrossed by the points made by E. B. White.

Sorry, teacher, but my doge eat my assignment, so I didn't find it, and then I missed the bus, and then I was pushed into a puddle of water, and then... well, you get my meaning.

Okay... quick version.

"Colonel whatshisface continued to add to the miseries of the French, an aim we had had for a long time. Adding to the miseries of the French is, by any standard, the lifelong aim of our king. The Queen, however, sort of likes the Frenchies.

So, whatshisface told the king that he was in Artois, sitting outside some huge castle, waiting for the people inside to open the door.
In August 1521, the door was opened. Since the colonel and his men were quite hungry, and quite a few of them needed to go wee-wee, they entered".
 

Cat Lord

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Characters

Cat Lord pushes the heavy door of the new room, and enter with the rather shy look of a foreigner going to dissert on another language than his own native tongue.

If I may introduce a new topic here, I want to talk a bit about characters in a story.

Something I have learned from my youth as a RPG player, and later in improvisation as an amateur actor, is that trying to create character with a complicated and sophisticated psychology is not an easy task. It probably requires pages and pages to get an acceptable result, requires a lot of experience, and is probably beyond the reach of a RPG or an AAR.

A little trick, that I think I have learned, to put up fleshly character, is to stay simple. Just choose one trait of personality, a few quirks of language, and stick to it. Characters introduce that way are easily recognisable. Attempts to create complex characters with many traits generally failed, ending up in middle-ground characters with low profile personalities that are not satisfying.

I generally pick up one or two adjectives and makes the vocabulary gravitates around them.

For example, in my AAR, I try to have Assam the ghost as "angry". So I try to depict him as coleric, furious, violent, etc... I recently introduce two more characters (and others will come), so if I want them to be easily recognisable, I have to make them very different ("Daar Ji Ling" is using short sentence, monosyllabic word, or just says "Humph"; "Nil Giri" is a coward, and a bit dumb - well that was my intention, he appears to be more coward than stupid now, characters sometimes escape you ;) ).

Then, and only then, when a character is anchored in the reader's imagination, you can try to make him more complex. But if you do, you should never ever forget his main trait, and get back to it frequently. I certainly would try to avoid it in an AAR.

Cat
 

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Eddie Teach swaggers into the room, heads to the largest, most central chair, and unceremoniously pushes the current occupant out.

Shiver me timbers if this ain't the fanciest place I ever seen.

A waiter brings a tray with glasses of wine. Eddie takes one and downs it in one gulp. He grimaces.

Bah, this is weak stuff. Who do ye have to kill around here to get a whiskey?

Homework? I never went in fer much schoolin meself. But I'll give it a try, being as how you asked so nicely and all.

The Englishers sat around twiddlin their fingers, playin cards, and whorin for months, until the General got a fire up under his ass and made the lily-livered scoundrels move their cannons up where they could hit the wall. They made a right big hole in it. Then, the General sent the lot scurrying through the hole. The defenders were an even scurvier lot and the Englishers flew their flag from the cathedral. Much booty was had by all.

That bit about the diseased Englishers was quite a yarn.

I think the thesaurus thingy-ma-bobber should be a last resort. Don't use high-falutin words if ye don't understand em in the first place. If ye don't know em yerself, why do ye expect yer audience to?

Less is usually more. Especially with descriptions o' the settin place. If ye want to tell me that a guy was kilt, I don't need to know that the trees was swayin and that the hill he died on had a ruddy brown color. A little bit o' this is okay, but remember the things that's important. Same with descriptions of people, I don't need to be able to sketch a picture o' them.

ooc- My apologies to whomever I pushed out of the seat ;)
 

Lord Durham

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It is refreshing to see such a diverse response to a theme based around the word 'siege'. As you can see, there are many ways to tackle the dreaded 's' word. These same lessons can be applied to many of the other redundant features that the author of a 400 year-old history is sure to encounter.

As a reader, I would suggest these rules could be applied per post, as I'm sure most of you wouldn't remember many details from a previous post. As a writer, though, the perception will be somewhat different, as the author is more in touch with the events of the game and repetition from post to post is easier to remember. Make sense?


The discussion about 'less is more' and the nuances of characterisation are great focal points for debate, especially as everyone has their own opinion about what they like to read and how they absorb what they read.

First, on characterisation, I tend to agree with Cat Lord. A well-crafted character starts with a basic description and a personality quirk or two. This creates a canvas that enables the author to explore and expand as the story/AAR progresses. For example, the development of many mercenaries in the Free Company AAR was the direct result of drawn out characterisation spaced over three Books.

On the other hand, the opposite end of the spectrum is 'too much - too soon'. This is commonly referred to as an infodump. The term is basically what it means. The reader is immediately subjected to a back-history of the person, city or people that is so lengthy, concise and detailed that most of it will be forgotten - soon. Another side effect of the infodump is that once the author imparts the knowledge, they seldom return to build upon it.


The whole point of 'less is more' raises an interesting question. That is, when you read a book, do you use the descriptive narrative to immerse yourself in the author's world, or are the words just that... words? I think the answer to that question would explain why some people don't care about vivid descriptions, while others enjoy those literary devices to enhance their reading experience.

David Gemmell is a good example of an author who will spend two or three paragraphs creating a living, breathing personae, just to kill him off in the fourth paragraph. Some will find that a waste of words, while others will appreciate the little details that bring life to even the most insignificant of characters.

So I wonder, how deeply do you immerse yourself in a book?
 
Last edited:

Secret Master

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The Secret Master takes a short pull from his Taurino cerveza, considering the idea of less is more. With so many thoughts on the subject, he figured there was nothing like cheap Mexican beer to add clarity to the world he lived in. He made a mental note to quit adding so much clarity to the world prior to noon on his days off....



I'm glad we have both characters and "less-is-more" on the table at the same time, since I think both of them are clearly related. (And, they are related to a topic that I will introduce in a few days). If it pleases the fellow writers in the SolAARium, I think I have an answer. (Well, actually, LD already provided the germ for this idea, but since I work in an office, I am not above credit stealing... :D )

Perhaps the concept of less is more is related to the character in question. With some characters, a verbose narrative surrounding their actions will make no sense. If the character is short tempered, angry half the time, and has a memory problem, then you might ruin the flavor of the scenes he is in with lengthy narratives. It doesn't fit him. On the other hand, a very patient seducer, who has a working command of classical literature, and who is not above using up two whole years just to bed that one woman he is after, he might be the kind of character who is screaming for verbose descriptions. That kind of guy will take time to think about the lighting in his bedroom, the placement of furniture, and even the odors (good or bad) wafting up from the street below. After all, you can't be a really good seducer if you don't pay attention to these things. (I know some of my fellow college students might disagree, but I am assuming our seducer is trying to take down challenging prey: women of refinement.)

Now, the logical question to be derived from this is: is character, plot, or setting most central to writing a good yarn? If it's not character, then our less-is-more clues might come from setting or plot instead.
 

Cat Lord

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Originally posted by Secret Master
Now, the logical question to be derived from this is: is character, plot, or setting most central to writing a good yarn? If it's not character, then our less-is-more clues might come from setting or plot instead.
The answer here really depends of the AAR you are writing I suppose.

Also, the "less is more" rule does not apply to everything.
Can you define a style as being "less is more" ?

In your example, you mixed both: I agree with you that style should probably adapt to both the time of the action, and the characters. But does style needs to adapt to description of settings (i.e. descriptions those are not part of the action) ?
If not, this is where the "less is more" rule applied at the best.

I think the "less is more" rule applies to the content, more than to the style.
When I am thinking about characters described first by only a few quirks, I am thinking about characters' "content". And for such character definition, yes, at first, less is more. Description of settings is also probably inherently a "content" object.

On the other hand, style is a much more complicated matter than content IMHO. As said, style has to adapt to many things, and mainly the rhythm of the action. I won't advise an amateur writer to describe quick actions by lengthy descriptions, but they are exception in the English literature, like Joseph Conrad's "Typhoon" (I personnally found the pace of the book terribly slow, while it is supposed to describe the dramatic situation of a boat caught in a typhoon).

Sometime, a style that inherently appears as "flawed" is necessary for the story as well. My best example is "The History of the Siege of Lisbon" by Jose Saramago. The story is about a character, and a book describing other characters (a book within a book, like Shakespeare's "play within a play"). During the story, everything is mixed and the main character begins to talk with characters in the book. To confuse the reader on purpose and makes these dialogs possible, Saramago has a very distinctive style: Dialogs are like description sentences without any specific punctuation. It is hard to read at the beginning, but it makes sense because of his whole story.

I will try to reproduce it (badly) with the homework about the siege of Artois:

The camp of the English army was resounding with celebration of the New Year’s Eve amongst the troops, whereas the future of the besieged town of Artois was looking grim. Poor soldiers, during all these long months of waiting for the French to surrender, they must have suffered of cold and hunger. Not exactly, in fact we manage to steal goods that the Frenchies were trying to sneak in by the postern. But General, attritions must have heavily taken its toll on your troops. That’s probably the fate of all armies in a campaign. Looking back, that was probably the harsher early Renaissance fight between the two countries. And my soldiers bravely assault and captured the town in August. The encyclopaedia reports the date of the victory being the 8th, to be more precise. That must have been the official date of surrender on the French document, but the fights probably end a few days before.

What is interesting in this style is that some of the sentences are descriptions you could encounter in any story:
"The camp of the English army was resounding with celebration of the New Year’s Eve amongst the troops, whereas the future of the besieged town of Artois was looking grim."
"Looking back, that was probably the harsher early Renaissance fight between the two countries."


Some of the sentences could be the English General's words (a character in the story):
"Not exactly, in fact we manage to steal goods that the Frenchies were trying to sneak in by the postern."
"That’s probably the fate of all armies in a campaign."
"And my soldiers bravely assault and captured the town in August."
"That must have been the official date of surrender on the French document, but the fights probably end a few days before."


And some of the sentences could be the narrator's words:
"Poor soldiers, during all these long months of waiting for the French to surrender, they must have suffered of cold and hunger."
"But General, attritions must have heavily taken its toll on your troops."
"That’s probably the fate of all armies in a campaign."
"Looking back, that was probably the harsher early Renaissance fight between the two countries."
"The encyclopaedia reports the date of the victory being the 8th, to be more precise."
"That must have been the official date of surrender on the French document, but the fights probably end a few days before."


Some sentences are descriptions. Some sentences are a dialog between the narrator and its character (talking one with each other quite painlessly for the reader). And for some sentences, you just can't know. Nevertheless the whole paragraph seems an horrible long description, without pause normally given by punctuation marks: " , - etc... However you can't achieve the same effect without this style.

If you are curious, I strongly recommend the book, not only because it is an interesting style, but also because it tells a wonderful story.

Cat
 

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I would agree that the whole concept depends on the scene. Part of the problem is that writers, like everyone else, get in ruts. Once you develop a pattern of doing something, it gets ingrained. But readers get bored of ruts. So when they see the pattern coming, they yawn and start skimming.

The trick for the author, IMHO, is to avoid a rut, or at least to be conscious enough of the danger to throw in a change-of-pace every third or fourth time so the reader doesn't get "too" comfortable with what you're going to do. Once a writer becomes predicatable, he begins to lose audience interest.
 

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the best way about getting round the one province one city problem is knowing the country you are dealing with e.g invading wessex in an aar would usually say "we invade and besiege wessex. portsmouth was taken" just rough.

for me i could say. "At the 0 hour3 regiments assaulted the beaches at Christchurch while another 6 landed a couple of miles to the west at bournemouth. little resistance was met because England belived an attack at Swanick which is nearer to Portsmouth. As night fell France had a bridgehead 2 miles deap and turned towards the solent"
 

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I don't really start with a preconceived notion of what my characters are going to be like. They just sort of become who they are... yes, I have a history log to figure out a few points here and there, but generally, things just sort of develop naturally for me... one little piece of information becomes the building block for others. Then again, I am writing in a more historical vein than a character-driven one, so this may not apply to all writers.

The same pretty much goes with events... I know what the log says, but reasons, motivations and other things can't be taken into account in the log, and that's what the writer brings to it... I don't plan in detail where things are going to go other than in the broadest terms, and if I did, I think I would get bored. I like the challenge of coming up with plausible ways to get to the ends I desire. Sometimes it doesn't work, and it has been pointed out to me, but for the most part it does. I have little bits and pieces of things which may or may not be incorporated into my aars, but that in no way is equivalent to having everything planned out in advance when I sit down to write a chapter.

On Secret Master's question... I think in the type of writing most of us are doing, there is a necessity for all three elements. Plot, well, we need that to advance the plot, and unless we are writing a log-style AAR, then we also need characters to understand how and why things happened, or why things may happen in the future.

On Setting... I have totally changed my answer on this, because I was going to claim that setting is largely unimportant, as I haven't really used a lot of physical descriptions in my AAR's of places... but I realized that setting is a much broader term than I had given it credit for being. While I don't really use sensual descriptions of the physical world, I realized that I do care in a lot of the other kinds of setting information which makes a world(the intellectual, social and political aspects)...

Isn't it odd when you have to change tracks in mid-sentence.

M