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

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I know that MrT used to write everything down. He showed me his notebook once. It looked like cuneiform.

I did that for my first few AARs. Then I found so much of what I wrote was taking the game events and building the story around them that I stopped using my notebooks. I doubt I would be able to keep up with the verbose MrT, but I did fill up about a notebook each for my Uzbeck tale and my Mameluke tale.

I am often suprised where my AAR goes. I build off the reactions and comments from readers so I then take the game events and build it around their actions.
 

Director

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I've used the same system in all three AAR's: I keep a sheet of paper handy and record any interesting data in a fixed format.

  • From the 'Bremen' file:

    4/1637 - France Dow's us - again, O Lord - we pay for peace. Win naval battle Cape of Good Hope, unload in Ciskei, win battles, Karoo & Cape occupied

    11/1637 - Take Inhambane

    2/1638 - naval battle in Moz Channel (we win), take Antsirana, Mtawa

    5/1638 - Oman rejects peace offer, Madurai. Maybe Oman knew their situation was improving. Colony in Niasa.

I also make extensive use of Jos Theelen's useful little EUReader app, and I read the raw game log for inspiration.


Mostly, I keep notes for details that the game log doesn't record (like who commanded an army or a fleet). The game log is useful for seeing how events play off each other. I enjoy taking 'unrelated' events and forging a connection.

The only event that completely stumped me was in 'Who Wants to Be Napoleon', when Spain concluded a royal marriage with Haiti.
 

Judge

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I only take notes of the major events nowadays and also when something occurs I try to immediately consider how I can use that event in the story. Sometimes events have even tied together some loose ends in the story.

An example. In my tiger of Mysore AAR I have a character called the Tiger of Mysore. He is a historical person from the history of Mysore and he was a Moslem. In the game Mysore is Hindu and I chose the Tiger as a ghost leader for Mysore.

The problem I faced was “how to plausibly explain that The Tiger is leading a Hindu country emerging as a bulwark of defence against the Moslem onslaught”?

Naturally I could have explained that in many possible ways but when I got a free conversion event in my Tiger of Mysore AAR I immediately came up with an idea to write something about a divine intervention from Shiva that would convince the Tiger to convert.

Hence I connected the event to the story about the Tiger´s conversion and made up a story that the Tiger converted to Hindu when he saw this sign from Shiva. Admittedly not one of the most brilliant ideas but it could serve as an example of what I mean by letting the game solve some questions for you.
 

Storey

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Originally posted by Director

Ouch. Well, I admit I had more fun with some essays than others. Mozart, Frankenstein and the Heart, Hand and Eye spring to mind. The Colonial Corporation (did I get that right? I forget) for another. Did I say Anne Rice needed an editor? Maybe I wasn't ready to move boldly into a new format - I kept giving in to that urge to tell the whole story.
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This brings up the reader’s contribution to the story. I thought Frankenstein was brilliant. Was it better written than the rest? Probably not but the subject matter just touched a nerve and grabbed my imagination. I sat there going Ohhh and Ahhh, really. Sometimes I'll read an AAR and it just doesn't appeal to me even thought it is well written. Some posts in your last story didn't excite me but how much is that showing my limitations or interests rather than any problem with the writing?




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Tell you what. You wanna split a game and write half the stories? Any way, any style, any thing you wanna do. Or maybe a group of us could pick a country and 'round-robin' the game file - each author plays a generation and writes ONE short segment about his turn at the controls.

Oooops. Sounds like a mass collaboration - call for Lord Durham and let me sit here quietly until the fit passes. :p
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Yep LD did an AAR with two or three other writers in this manner. It was quite good but didn't last long enough.:(

I'll PM you about a possible PBEM game.

Joe
 

Director

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Storey,

One thing I can say about the 'Frankenstein' chapter is that I took a good while working it out. I had a general idea, but no real 'grip' on it. I just kept turning ideas over until I could connect enough of them to make the story.

That chapter is on the bottom of this page.


I think that taking more time with it made it a more focused essay. I was very concerned about it - I thought I needed a final essay that would be of good quality and memorable, too.

So what I did was take my short list of 'German' ideas and pick the best known - Frankenstein. I couldn't tell that story because Mary Shelley didn't tell it until the very end of the EU2 period, and didn't write it until much later. It could not be an event that happened to her earlier - she would have been too young to be in Germany. And, frankly, her 'science' of reanimation turned out to be fantasy and I wanted to stay within known scientific fact.

But what if Shelley's Gothic horror story was based on something that actually had happened? How - and why - would she have heard of it? What could account for all the details of the Frankenstein legend?

I Googled, and found that someone else (Radu Florescu, 'In Search of Frankenstein' - he has also worked on books about Dracula and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde) had researched the details of 'Frankenstein' and related them to events in actual history and Mary Shelley's life.

The final piece of the puzzle came from analyzing the rest of the 'Bremen' mythos. I had taken some pains to create a topsy-turvy country where everything worked unexpectedly and events had unusual results - sort of a government designed by Rube Goldberg, if you know what I mean. In the 'Bremen' tradition of doing everything inside-out, I decided to invert the 'Frankenstein' tale: not a Gothic tale of a reanimated monster, but a tragedy of patriotism and pathos.


Collaborations seem to be hard to hold together. Be fun to try, though.


In the meantime, I have had to scrap the 'Bohemia' game due to terminal CTD's. A new game (not as Bohemia) is underway, and I think there's an AAR in this one. :) It'll be set in HistoryPark, too.



Judge,

I thought that was a good way to explain Tiger's conversion, and I thought you handled it well. Don't say it wasn't the most brilliant of ideas - you did address it, and in a believable way. :)
 

Amric

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I believe Frankenstein was based partly on the idea of the time that those who delved into examining cadavars was considered quite goulish. Let's not forget that Leonardo da Vinci did such and was considered many things, remember.

But various "doctors" of the time were trying to understand the human body and were willing to cut up cadavars to discover the secrets of the body. Plus some time during the 1840's there was a story written by an Eastern European about robots of all things...mechanical men, he didn't call them robots I don't think.

People also had heard stories of people who had "died" and come back to "life" during a funeral or such...add the cadavar and people coming back to life...plus Ben Franklin's experiments with electricity...add all that together and you could get to Frankenstein relatively easily....
 

unmerged(16363)

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Well, it seems the SolAARium is quite quiet those days. Sticky removed also...

I was thinking here. Was about to start a collaborative work with Alexandru but unfortunatelly he's about to quit the project, or it seems. Anyway... I think it is a good topic for further talks here in the SolAARium: collaborative works.

Since I'm quite new to this field, and even to the AARland, I start comming mainly with questions, just to start the debate: are there collaborative works here (I don't mean MP of the Free Company)? How do people usually do to plan their works, the flow(sp?)? The playing?

Just some toughts... I don't want to see the SolAARium dead!
 

The_Hawk

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Anibal,

Well, back when I first turned up around here the style for collaborative AARs that was becoming popular was to have each player play a monarch and then hand off the file to the next player in turn at the end of the reign. It worked pretty well sometimes (as evidenced by the classic Denmark: Fellowship of the Kings that birthed the style (unfortunately, the screenshots seem to be long dead). There were a few followups, one on Burgundy headed up by MacRaith that died pretty early, and MrT's followup to Denmark, which were the competing Venice threads (both of which petered out around the same time, unfortunately). There may've been others since that used the same format, though I'm not familiar with them.

The problems were myriad; you either had to have as many players as you have monarchs, or enough monarchs to divvy up between the players, and then there are all sorts of issues with transferring the savegames, people playing different versions, etc. Still, it made for some interesting writing, and the one that did finish (Denmark) has some real gems of writing (LD's Beluga King is still fondly remembered by many ;)). With, perhaps, a smaller cadre of dedicated writers, you'd be more likely to pull it off... anyway, it's something to think about.
 

Director

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Collaborations can be tough for several reasons. As The_Hawk so aptly noted, one is deciding how many people will contribute and then getting them to fulfill their commitments. (How do I pronounce that underscore, Hawk? :D )

Writing an 'ordinary' AAR is a challenge because of the time required. Working with someone else can add to that.


I don't think Heagarty will mind if I mention that he and I have been talking about a collaboration for some time now. The format would be that each writer would play out the reign of one monarch and then write ONE chapter about it (with additional material allowed for explanatory material).

This format has the advantages of involving only two writers and limiting the size of the contribution from each - which Storey is always telling me I should do. :)

I don't know how Lord Durham manages the Free Company, but I suspect that managing a group of writers is akin to managing programmers - i.e. like herding cats in a rainstorm.


Storey and I have also kicked around some collaborative notions, but that one involved more writers IIRC.


The problem with collaborative efforts is that one writer or another becomes bored with the game or with the story, has problems with his writing partner or with real life... and it just fades away.

One of the more successful in recent years was Prufrock451's 'wAAR of the Worlds'. He began it, played it part way through and then handed it to Peter Ebbesen to finish. (Which Peter did, in grand style). This allowed each author to proceed in his own fashion and at his own pace.
 

Amric

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Plus our collaborative efforts in the Late Night Liquor Club MP AAR, while not truly a collaborative effort, still has a collaborative note with the four of us working hand in hand, so to speak. It is unfortunate that it is on hold for awhile. Just as nalivayko and my Celtic Reconquest of Europe is on hold. It is just so very difficult to do a collaborative or minimal MP AAR. Machiavelli has done well with it, and there are more in the MP area, but handing off a nation from one player to another can be such a tremendous effort of time that it is almost impossible to do.

Not completely impossible, but so difficult that most people don't wish to attempt it.


Now on a side note. Is it just me? Or do some of you won't even start an AAR unless you are flat out determined to finish it to the end? I know that personally I try to keep from doing more than one solo AAR at a time. Yet so many do two, or three, or more AARs at a time.

Trying to keep all that straight has to be unbelievably challenging. I don't know if I could be up to the task. I know people have believed that I play and write a breakneck speed. But I think you have also noticed that my speed has slowed quite markedly.

I just can't seem to keep up the pace that I had at the beginning. I mean I am doing my fourth solo AAR since May of this year. I had vowed after my Strassburg AAR that I wouldn't do another one for a few months.

Yet I found myself after a very short period of time launching yet one more, my Auvergne AAR. Sometimes I think I am obsessed with this game. Although I have to say that I haven't touched the game in almost three weeks.

Which is a kind of record for me since I reloaded the game in late April. I find myself reading quickly through many AARs since there is a new resurgence in writing and I am finding it difficult to read them all with the care that they all deserve.

Which of course, bothers me as I like to encourage the newer writers and the old timers with my responses to their creative efforts. I feel that since they pop in to read my stuff, it is very important to support them. Which I enjoy doing, of course, but darn it! There is so many popping up it seems like there is one or two new ones every day!

I need more time to read! I have to win the lottery so I can devote more time to reading!:D
 

The_Hawk

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Originally posted by Director
(How do I pronounce that underscore, Hawk? :D )

Unfortunately, that's a closely guarded secret, kept deep in the vaults and guarded by the Free Company... :D

Of course, you could just call me 'Hawk', as you did, and most others seem to. It's an option taken in real life, so I respond readily. ;)

Now on a side note. Is it just me? Or do some of you won't even start an AAR unless you are flat out determined to finish it to the end?

Amric,

Absolutely. That's pretty much what's prevented me from starting another AAR of my own. After I got distracted from my Brabant AAR, I decided not to commence another until I had a least a large portion of it written (or in the case of actual game-related AARS, played and written. ;)) But it's hard to schedule time to do something that you might never get around to finishing, so that hasn't really led to success any more readily that publishing something fresh and working as you go (for me).
 

Director

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To date I have finished every AAR that I have begun. That's not a slap at anybody - that is just a personal preference. I have reached the point that if I completely lose interest in a game I would abandon the AAR.

My first AAR ('As The Spirit Moves Me') was written when I was on an extended vacation of about a year. I played out most of the game and wrote almost the entire AAR before I posted any of it. MrT graciously agreed to look at some of it for constructive criticism, so I emailed it off. I got back something like 'EEEK!' :D He didn't realize it was already many, many pages!



Now for the moment of Terrible Truth: I love the writing more than the game.

Part of that is because I am a 'history' gamer. I like to put myself in the place of the actual people who were making the decisions and try to do things for believable reasons. And, frankly, I am not the best gamer on the forum.

I have found that I don't like the game nearly as much since v1.05. I won't be going back to that version, but I certainly don't play as much anymore. I just don't enjoy spamming CoT's with merchants like a p0rn site sends out emails, and I hate being embargoed for sending ONE merchant (who failed anyway). My blood pressure rises to dangerous levels when the AI builds 90,000 troops in a one-province minor... I understand why these changes were made, but I don't like the side-effects.

The majors are - well - not all that much of a challenge, but the fun of playing a minor is largely gone. I'm writing the second HP in Wallachia because I like the plot possibilities: the game hasn't been all that enjoyable.

EU2 is still the best game I've ever run across, no contest. Maybe the next patches and versions will return some of the thrill.


In the meantime, I play as an excuse to write, not the other way around. :)
 

Judge

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Interesting subjects.

Collaborative writing :

I have participated a bit in Sashas Mat of the Eagle AAR and it was pretty fun though eventually the updates from Sasha became more and more sporadic which of course decreased the motivation to write (not any criticism here, I know RL can be a pain).

The experience with the FC was quite the opposite, many updates all the time which of course is time consuming but also very fun because the plot is constantly moving forward. First I was afraid to join because I feared I would not be able to keep up with the other writers but I think it worked fine in the end. The real advantage with writing with many other writers is the interaction with several options, i.e. the use of other people’s s characters. That feature really makes it interesting and also unique.

Finishing what you started:

Well I always (almost) finish what I start and unless I get some serious health problems I am convinced that I will finish all of my AAR out there. Soon two of them (two or three months) will be completed and then I will have to see if I am motivated to start a new or if I will fully concentrate on my Cum Deo AAR and finish that before I start another AAR. Real life will decide that for me I guess.
:)
 

Lord Durham

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You have to be insane to run a collaborative AAR! But then again, you have to be insane to be a goalie. Seeing as I've done both, I guess I qualify. :D

First and foremost, any collaboration requires dedication. It requires a desire to see the project through to the end. I think the one aspect about collaborations that people fail to take into consideration when they start one is the 'time element'. Whether it's a slice of history a la the FC, or a complete 400 year span, it's not going to be done over night.

Of the several examples cited I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own personal favourite: A Collaborative History of Genoa.

This particular idea involved four writers. I would play a game as Genoa, in ten year spans, then take the game log and let the writers decide what events they wanted to write about. Until the creative juices ran out (the dedication factor), the AAR featured some wonderful stories centered around common game events like tax collection, a revolt, a military campaign, a royal marriage -- you get the idea. The beauty of it was you could create a family and carry on through the years with their descendents. Genoa still ranks as probably my favourite AAR idea, and gave birth to a certain Sir Jonathon Thomas York.
 

Judge

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Forgot an opening here....

This little discussion is from Amric´s AAR Auvergne “the Little nation that could” and is about commitment, boredom and writing styles. I thought that it could be of more general interest and also be a good foundation for further discussions on how to keep the interest for writing alive :)

Originally posted by Amric
Judge- The best key I can give you about world conquest is this...You have to stay focused. Committed to your goal, which is WC of course. I have done one before this as Castile. But it was long before I even knew about these forums. It can be boring at times, yes. I haven't reached that point yet. Although I was kind of getting to that point with my first AAR as Sweden.

But I think writing about it helps being able to stay on the road to finishing the game and the story of course. You seem kind of enjoying your TO AAR, whereas you seem a little bored with the KoJ and seem to be getting that way with your Mysore AAR. Still great reading and so forth. But it seems like you are enjoying your newest one more as it has a verve and snap that the others don't really have anymore. Of course you are very character driven in the TO one where the other two aren't like that. Perhaps that is the secret for you. A character driven story might be the best thing to give you the drive to go all the way, so to speak...

Thanks for your comments Amric. Really appreciate them. I think my interest for my AARs differ from time to time. Admittedly I have been a bit bored sometimes but I have all the time regained my interest.

You are right about the priority. Right now I like my Cum Deo AAR best. One of the reasons is that it is still young in game play and writing I suppose. Also I think a more narrative approach give you more freedom than the historical style. Before I used to think that the historical style was more my cup of tea but now I am not sure. The difficulty with writing in a more plot driven style is that it is easy to lose focus on the game play. I am trying to avoid that by adding a lot of pictures to help the readers to follow what is going on in the game.

I was a bit bored with my Kingdom AAR and if I had not been writing about it I would probably have stopped playing. However when you write about an AAR you seem to get new energy when playing and the writing encourage the playing too. Yesterday I played the game and really had a funny time while doing it so hopefully it will show in the writing.

Some feed-back then Amric. I like your AAR but sometimes I get the feeling that you rush things too much sometimes, even though it is impressing to follow your hurricane writing. When you wrote the Sweden AAR you added more details and dialogues than you are currently doing. I know you are a busy man though. A WC AAR is of course always interesting but I think you should try to add pictures because from time to time it can be hard to follow all the wars when you write about them. Still your AARs are always enjoyable to read since you seem to be a very good player and always describe details very well.

Judge
 
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Amric

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My Sweden AAR was indeed my character driven and had more details. I wholly agree with you. I have been experimenting with different styles of writing. With the Auvergne one there is so much going on that details tend to get blurred and thrown to the wayside as there is just too much going on and I forget what the little things are when I am busy fighting for my life. I am intending to go back to the character driven more detail oriented style in my next AAR, which I am considering to be Cyprus. But I am not 100 percent committed to that project yet.

I just try to do one solo AAR at a time to keep from getting confused as to what I am doing. I like to stay focused on one project at a time in solo writing. Of course the Late Night Liquor Club is suspended while I am stuck at slow speed internet for the nonce. Which also puts the Celtic Reconquest of Europe in suspension as well. But I am going to be involved in the Free Company. And my work in EUtopia, and being the Junior BAARtender here in the AAR bar.

I have plenty going on, and in a way I don't want my readers, how few they are for my current AAR getting worried that I am not working on it. Hurricane style writing is my forte, so to speak. Even at the end of the Sweden AAR I was writing pretty quickly. I guess when I am inspired I want to get it out of me, or I can't sleep at night. Thoughts whirling in my head makes it difficult to sleep. But that may just be me....:)
 

unmerged(16363)

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This is it for me, dear friends. Let me tell you about my experience, my motivation (or not) to keep on writing.

Mainly, I am running six projects now. Two solos: Rulers of the Seven Seas and The Dutch Incumbence. One collaborative: Arabian Nights. One heavily (in quantity) collaborative: The Free Company. And a collaborative MP one, the Late Night Liqour Club. I'll tell about each one.


Rulers of the Seven Seas

This is it. My first AAR and indeed my first atempt to write a story; even in Portuguese I didn't write any story before this one. I feel myself motivated to go until the end. I love doing some historical research, writing (and translating) poetry and I'm experimenting to write a dialog based story, with some narrative as well. But the dialog is the main thing always.


The Dutch Incumbence

This is something like an "informal" history-book tale. I don't need to spend much time playing, taking notes and writing it, because I don't need to take care of many details - who cares if I gain a temporary CB on someone when IMO I already have a CB on the whole world?:D My motivation to keep on writing it (although not too often) is mainly because it is fun to write it; nothing to do with the gameplay or my goals.


Arabian Nights

Although lacking an update, I'm motivated to go with this until the end. Alexandru told me that, depending on him and in his opinion, the project is not dead. He's just a bit busy these days, but soon we're back on it. My motivation comes as I think it is a challange to myself. It will have a totally different writing style than the two other SP projects!


The Free Company

Tonight I'll introduce my character. It will be a great pleasure for me to participate, although I still doubt if I can mantain myself contributing. Now I have no problems, but who knows some weeks ahead? For a while I'm motivated to enter, mainly because it's another different style for me: to take care of one and only one character. It will test my writing abilities in a very incisive way, and I like challenges.


The Late Night Liqour Club

The only limitation to this are the issues with Amric; otherwise, it would be running well. It was really fun to write that whole background history together with him, nalivayko and LordLeto. Yes, the writing about our first and only gameplay wasn't good, but I'm up to propose a new format when things work out again. I have an special incentive to keep on it: we have a nice adjustment with each other.


* * *​

Five projects, and I intend to finish each one if possible. However, I must admit I have an special taste for my portuguese tale. You might have already noticed that. If I had to choose only one project to keep ongoing, it would be this one. But I don't plan to start more projects until I finish several of the ongoing ones.

Anyway, also another thing I must admit. As I'm just starting my story-writing "carreer", now I want to write as much as possible, to serve as a nice training for myself. And also want to keep on writing on different styles at the same time, serving as another good training for myself. Perhaps if in the future I write a real book I can have my own style...:D :D
 

unmerged(16363)

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The SollAARium is quite quiet... I again bring another topic here. Yes, I know my last post here was rather infamous :)D) as I had a really big change on my life lately.

Colours and their various uses.

I don't know if it's just me, but I think that the proper use of colours can bring a great improvement to one's tale. It may make things more clear, like pointing different actions or even speakers on a dialog. For titles it's also nice. Yet, colours can bring life to a text and also can serve as a trademark or even an advertisement.

Yes, have seen several nice AARs that are "monochromatic", but I think that the writer could gather even more recognisement upon the use of some colours to, say, rest the eyes. Don't know if it's a problem of myself, but I feel a headache when exposed to an environment of few colours - don't need to be on a text.

Of course I'm ready to be shooted by the defenders of monochromatism! :cool:
 

Commandante

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Using different colours in a story can save a lot of time explaining stuff. For an example, Havard used different colours for different aspects of his game and story in his "Knights" AAR. In my guest-writing in Gaijin's Tlaxcala/Mexica AARs, I used a separate colour for the god I portrayed in the story, which worked quite well. It looks nice too. :)
 

stnylan

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Well, as a bichromatic writer (is that a word?) I will do my level best to dispute ;) :D

I think it really revolves around the question of 'voices'. How best does the author think s/he can distinguish between them. For some this can be done in separate posts. Myself I have three 'voices', and I use limegreen, white, and italicised white to distinguish between them.

However, I would not use any variation of colour within each. This is because that simply does not fit the format I have chosen to write it. If one is writing more 'literally' (not a brilliant word, I simply can't think of a better one) then using different colours for different people in dialogue becomes more problematic.

That said I think use of colours should be considered, but at times the old plain ol' white is best.