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

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I never written a story before apart from in English in Year 10 for my coursework

So my first AAR is in fact my first written story. I do wonder that if you got any tips for poor untried writer.
 

stnylan

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Mmm, well Sapphire, here are my general thoughts, for what they are worth. All are very basic, and you may already be doing already.

1) Before you start writing an installment, plan it. From when to when. Perhaps jot down the main things that occured. Just to get a handle on the section of time concerned. You can plan in more or less detail as you feel comfortable, but some planning is very useful.

2) Read the whole installment before posting. Perhaps after doing something else for 20-30 minutes. The break helps you evaluate it a little better. It will also help you spot annoying things like typos and spelling mistakes (not failsafe, but it does help)

3) Don't feel you have to post to a schedule. Certainly if a schedule helps you write that's all well and good (I try once/week, not that I am always successful) but not feel you have to post.

4) Read other AARs. I know you are almost certainly doing this. It will expose you to a wide variety of styles and formats.

5) Don't get disheartened. Sometimes the AAR just will not want to be written. You'll be at loss for ideas. This is entirely normal, and will pass. Unfortunately there is no single way to help with writer's block. I find doing something completely different helps, usually I read a favourite novel or spend some time vegitating in front of tv.

6) Practice! This is by far the surest way to improve.

7) Presentation. Preview reply before posting just to check how the installment looks on the screen. If you find something difficult to read, see if there is a better way of placing it to make it clearer.

Those are all general tips. More specific tips are more difficult. Your current AAR is basically solid. The main problem early on was one of presentation, which has now been cleared up by your last update.

Otherwise I can't really think of anything else even semi-useful at the moment. I hope the above is helpful, and not completely irrelevant!
 

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Sapphire, I second Stnylan's comments. You does have a nice writing for one who never wrote a story before. I myself never wrote any story before my portuguese tale started! However, let me add one more advice to Stnylan's "list", if you let me do so.

I think that the proper use of screenshots can really enrich an AAR. Yes, hard to figure at first - for most of people - how to take, edit, host and make them appear, but once you acquired the ability you never stop - at least me.

Example... are you having a war? It's always nice to have a picture illustrating a battle. Or sometimes, when you get a weird event, you might also want to show it to your public. Or when you receive an odd proposal (e.g., you're Hannover and Inca offers alliance), it's always a nice opportunity for a screenshot.

Good luck on your carreAAR! :D And yes, I think the SolAARium is a nice place to take your doubts out and, yes, to comment about writing. Don't feel shy to come here when you need or want to drop a word, ok?
 

coz1

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Well, perhaps I will try to get the ball rolling by introducing a somewhat new topic. Anachronistic dialogue has been discussed, as has use of inflection or dialects. But how about foreign languages?

We have many different members in this forum, from all over the world. In my current AAR, I have introduced characters from Russia, France, Persia and Great Britain. In most, I have tried to use a few choice phrases to color their dialogue enough to allow the reader to "hear" the nationality. I hoped that it would help distinguish the different characters, but I admit, I do not have a strong grasp of many other than English, though I do have a slight bit of French in my background (and by that I mean junior high and early high school which was a looong time ago.)

Does it take away or add? Does it depend on how much, and if there is a lot, is it required of the writer to include a translation (depending on where's it's used)? I've noticed that TreizeV has used some French and Italian a bit in his current Napoleon AAR and it seems to work for me. He has used it sparingly and mostly in captions or in bit phrases so it does not overwhelm the reader.

I think about certain history writers like Norman Davies and J.M. Roberts (if memory serves correctly) that include all kinds of foreign quotes, yet they never include the translation thus leaving me guessing what the hell it said. It's like missing a line of a book and then having to go back and re-read it because everything that followed didn't fit quite right. I feel like I missed out.

As well, I would think this includes thoughts from those in which English is not their primary language. Do certain English phrases, no matter how period they are, pass by you and thus disturb your reading pleasure? I would think much of the language is clear since we have so many great secondary language writers, but how does it affect the comprehension or enjoyment of what you read? And does the use of your own particular language mean anything to you? I would suppose it is fine as long as it is used correctly, but only sparingly, i.e. "Oui," she said, but does this affect your thoughts on what you have read? Good or bad?

I suppose this might also re-open the discussion of dialect, which is certainly germane, but it's more a question of allowing the reader to understand while still including a certain flavor that can spice the thing up. I suppose it's like what someone has said before here (I have forgotten who, so forgive me) - it's like spices in cooking, use just a little or you will ruin the taste. Just my two ducats.

Any takers?
 

stnylan

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Exposition

In the comments of my AAR Director wrote this:

Director said:
I especially like the way you introduce elements of the background by mentioning them in passing and allowing them to be defined by their context. As an alternative to large blocks of expository prose, this has the disadvantage of taking longer to write but the advantage for us that we soak up the - dare I say it? - the milieu rather than have it spoon-fed to us.

I think this raises some interesting questions about exposition. For those who do not know what exposition is it is that part in a tale where the world or story is explained to us. For example, Chapter 2 (Shadow of the Past) of The Fellowship of the Ring by JRRT is basically a single exposition.

Here are the questions I thought of:

1. When is exposition needed? Is it ever needed?
2. How can exposition be well written?
3. What alternatives exist, and how should they be used?

I'll weigh in on this one in a bit, but I'd be interested to know what people think about it.
 

coz1

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In the interest of staying close to a specific topic, we can table my questions until later. stynlan must have had the same burst of desire to restart this thread that I had. :D

Exposition - hmmm, always an important question.

I would start by saying that it is absolutely important. It depends on what kind of AAR you are writing to determine the extent. In a more narrative form, I think Director is right in that you can take longer to set it up. With the more historical entries, it is important, I think, to set the scene, as it were.

Exposition can be written in a number of different ways. I have always been fond of using dialogue to do this, though that may be because of my Theatre degree. In drama, dialogue is the only thing you have to develop exposition. It helps also to develop the characters you have introduced and perhaps show their inclination towards what is being discussed or revealed.

I also think of exposition in terms of Opera. It is the recitative to the aria. The aria is obviously more beautiful, but it is hard to enjoy it if you don't have the thinking behind it, though the music alone can many times be beautiful enough to make you not care.

Exposition simply allows the reader to gauge the scene, the circumstance, and the history of the characters that are introduced. Without it, the reader can find himself lost. I don't know what alternatives there can be to setting this up. If you mean different ways, then as I said, dialogue is key. If you mean leaving it out altogether, I think it leaves the reader guessing a bit too much.

Again, returning to Director's comment, slow, methodical build up is better than throwing it out there at once. That tends to leave the reader with too much information, much of it hard to remember down the line. But if it is doled out a piece at a time, it adds flavor and intrigue to the further developments.

Much of this, however, is from a narrative AAR standpoint. In the historical log and history text-like AAR's, more is slightly better. In fact, they are in and of themselves, one big exposition. Some events that transpired a hundred years ago, or better, can be colorful and add to the events that transpire during the time period of your AAR, but it's the action here and now that I think people want to see.

In the end - yes, it is needed. No, it should not beat you over the head. But strong use of it does nothing other than contribute to the enjoyment and understanding of the material presented. Thoughts are a little scattered - sorry about that, but I wanted to make sure we stayed on one train of thought rather than trying to answer both questions at the same time. I would like to go back to my topic, though, once we have tossed this around sufficiently.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Exposition is important, however it's critical to present it in an engaging way. The worst approach is to use a "sidebar" sort of thing - something that reads like a dry history text and can put a reader to sleep in less than a paragraph. Being prone to this - and having been criticised for doing so on more than one occasion - I've gradually developed my own "formula" for this that is a fairly common practice in "literature"...namely making use of an "innocent" or "naive" character who must have things explained to him/her during the story and then having him/her engage in dialogue with another character who is more knowledgable. To make this work to maximum effect you need to add a couple extra techniques: make sure that you use the naive character's POV throughout; and let the character gradually learn what they need to know rather than trying to cram it all into one passage.

This naive character becomes a sort of embodiment of the reader inside the story. Just as the character begins the book knowing little (if anything) of importance, so too does the reader. As the character receives their instruction - be it history, politics, magic, etc. - so does the reader. This has the added bonus of making the reader identify closely with the character since they're both in the same boat - they're both learning.

In my (temporarily aborted/suspended) RRR, you will find that I use the POV of Freidrich and Ludwig as often as I can, and I use their ignorance as a vehicle to "teach" the reader about the situations in the world surrounding them. It is through their dialogue with their elders (Stefan, Otto, etc.) where they ask questions - or expose their ignorance and are corrected/admonished for it - that the reader discovers the politics of the HRE, the events of distant wars, the economics of the realm, a bit of genealogy, and anything else I happen to want to impart.

As I said above, it's also quite important not to overload the reader with information - particularly in this day and age - and this is something I think a casual review of literature will show you instantly. In 2004, if you can't get your primary message across in 30 seconds or less then it probably won't be retained, and most novels usually only give you "30 seconds" of plot or background at one time. In the 1950's you had something more in the order of 30 minutes to get your message across - hence the passages in Tolkein's books where you get large doses of history (the "Shadows of the Past" chapter that stnylan mentioned above, or the "Council" held in Reivendell where you've got 30+ pages of history before the council comes back to the present). Go back another 50-100 years and you get writers like Dickens who can devote a hundred pages to setting the scene...

So in writing an AAR - unless you're writing an "enhanced history log" - you need to be careful with just how big a dose of "history" you give your reader at any one time, and you can make the history lessons far more apetizing if you avoid lecturing and use a technique of gradual revelation instead.

* * * * *

As to coz1's subect of foreign language use...I would be cautious about using large doses unless you provide translations. I would also be careful about any assumptions you might make as to the literary and language knowledge that the reader has. It's very easy to forget that you're writing something for the consumption of an audience that doesn't fit the normal "demographic circle" that you happen to move in...

For example I tend (in my real life day-to-day activities) to interact mostly with people who are:
  • of above average education
  • native English speakers with an above-average command of the language
  • "older" - i.e. at least in their 30's if not 40's or more
As a result, I have a tendency to write to that demographic - I'll use vocabulary that I am confident they'd understand and I'd use words from other languages that are relatively common knowledge for them...French, a few bits of German, simple latin, etc. This, I'm sure, can make some of my writing a little difficult for some of the readers here since there are many members who are still in high school or university, aren't native English speakers, come from a country that might know virtually no French, etc.

I think that if foreign language can be used in such as way that makes it contextually comprehensible then I'd probably not bother to offer a translation. Other tricks might be something like the following:
"C'est incroyable!" L'Eminence Grise allowed the shock and surprise to register on his face.

"I don't believe it either," replied Louis...
If you expect to use certain phrases on a regular basis then you could also supply readers with a lexicon at the front of the AAR (I did that in RRR with the various titles) or "cheat" and post a comment before or after the instalment that explains it.
 

Amric

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Good points, Mr. T.

I used Greek in my Cyprus AAR for some of the names of the foods I was using in the story,and I also had an English translation so that it was something the readers could understand. Which brings me to a different point.....

Is it possible to be TOO descriptive? Judge wrote a reply about scenes in which I use food in my stories. He said that it always made him very hungry. Now I have had that comment before from people, but having gone through the discussion here it made me think.

Can one be too descriptive? I think that is both a yes and a no. I try to be very descriptive as possible when it comes to food sequences in my stories. When I get comments that it makes people hungry and eager to eat I feel I have done my job well, and I am pleased with my efforts.

But it IS possible to get bogged down on being too descriptive and losing the story because of getting too involved in minute details. The game becomes lost in the shuffle and the readers become entangled in the little things and lose interest when the story does not progress due to being stuck in one scene for an intermible time.

But descriptive writing can be VERY effective. I have received quite a few comments about the hurricane scene I have been writing lately. With comments like "I can almost feel the storm", or "I really like the storm". Which leads me to believe that I am still engaging the reader and keeping them 'on the edge of their seats' as it were.

Giving details to flesh out the scene can be very important, and by having characters handling objects as they speak can help break the cycle of he said, he replied that can bog down the story in some ways.

Motions by characters such as hand waving, lips quirking, raising an eyebrow can also denote actions or feelings without having to say it right out, which gives the reader a chance to interprete things for themselves, sometimes in ways that weren't necessarily meant by the writer but still valuable.

Such as Stnylan's All Alone In the Night where he was portraying one character as intimidating but many thought of as creepy. Now, I saw him as both, actually. The character is both, in my opinion and stnylan wrote it very well and portrayed more than he knew originally. Words used the right way can do that and sometimes take a writer in a new direction when it is pointed out to him or her by the readers.

Which can be a good thing. Such as when Warspite mentioned that he wanted a love scene in my Cyprus story. Now as those who know me and my writing I don't really do that sort of thing in my stories. I find it somewhat uncomfortable writing such but I thought about it for quite a while.

It wouldn't harm the story, and in fact would very likely enhance it. I have only 'hinted' as sex and love scenes before, and perhaps it is time to spread my wings somewhat and write such a scene. Others have chimed in with the hope of such as well.

Because of this, I have decided to write a love scene. Due to where the characters in my story were going it seems like a natural progression and one I had not originally intended to go. But the readers are very engaged in the story and have convinced me that it would be a nice 'fit' to the storyline. I agree with them. Which proves my point, at least in my situation, that the readers can see things in the story that you as the writer haven't noticed. Therefore enhancing the story for one and all....
 

Director

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The most painless method of exposition (at least for this reader) is to mention things in passing and let the reader determine their nature from context. Stnylan's 'All Alone in the Night' is a good example of this technique, and the HistoryPark AAR's use this extensively.

Contrast the pulpish 'You mean draw our freon-cooled Atomo-Ray pistols! The promaton radiation produced by their quadriphasing focusing crystal could render every human being in two city blocks as bald as an egg!' and the more effective, 'Set phasers on stun.' Mostly the reader needs to understand what is going on and what a device is used for, not how it works.

Large chunks of exposition have, I think, a 'textbook' flavor - and can be effectively used if that is the impression you want to give.

Second on my list of preferred approaches is the 'innocent bystander', which technique was so ably explained by MrT. The only problem with this approach is that your dialog can degenerate into long preachy soliloquies, to the detriment of your audience's attention span. (I would hasten to add that MrT doesn't seem to suffer from this, I sometimes do. My essays on Bremen were a way to scratch that itch.)

As far as having too much descriptiveness, well of course you can. For reader A. Reader B, meanwhile, is lapping it up and begging for more and reader C just wants to get to the 'good stuff'. If your readers are giving you positive feedback, that's a good sign, and if your overall number of 'posts' and 'reads' is increasing at about the same rate, that's another good sign.

So long as you avoid the Rician extreme ('the wall was the faded green of summer grass too long fallow, the faintest hint of buttery yellow curdled in an otherwise somewhat bland but captivatingly intriguing green, a green unrelieved by any other form or color save the hint of shadow that moved across it, a shadow cast by the wan light of the antique oil lamp that shimmered against the pale green, a present from her grandfather who had been the great patriarch of the family whose roots reached back into the remote past, a past unknown to any of their nieghbors'), description is fine. As a friend of mine once remarked, "You can only describe that wall so many times. Move on!"

In a similar conversation much earlier in this thread, someone (Secret Master?) gave us the guideline that, if a musket over the mantlepiece is mentioned, by the end of the story the musket should be used!
 

unmerged(16363)

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About the use of phrases or expressions in other languages than English in AARs, I have a small experience about this in Rulers of the Seven Seas. It was in the scene where Columbus was trying to convince the portuguese king to hire him. I tried to write that scene like if Columbus spoke very little of Portuguese (well... English, since the AARs are in English :D ). Then, with my small knowledge of Italian, help of dictionaries and madness in my mind, I tried to write the Columbus's talks in "Italinglish", trying to mix Italian and English, and even some Spanish.

I remember that, before publishing it in the AAR, I showed Amric parts of the text to see if he understands. I wanted an opinion from someone who only speaks English. He told me he could understand what I wrote, then I went ahead and published it. But somehow I think I exaggerated on the "condiment"...

Well, you learn by your faults! :p

At least I tried to use the king's talks to clarify for the reader what Columbus was willing to say.
 

unmerged(10971)

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I, myself, almost never use foreign languages. Mainly, though, it's just because I don't know much myself. Of course, you don't need foreign languages to be unintelligable. "Free-Man Stand or Free-Man Fa'" was full of Scottish slang and contractions which might have been a bit difficult to understand at times.

And as for drunk Ludwig in the ongoing second version of "From Bohemia's Woods and Fields"... well, that might as well be a foreign language. I have a bit of trouble making sense of it at times, and I wrote it! :wacko:

My only "foreign" language use, I think, are the Shawnee terms in "The Dark and Bloody Ground".
 

coz1

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I had another subject for now or later, depending if we have run through our thoughts on the previous topics. What about the use of the McGuffin (that is - a plot device used to mislead the reader or viewer, either an idea or object)? I sometimes find myself intentionally trying to mislead my readers, perhaps to give them a better payoff at the end of the section or to keep them guessing on the next post. Is this really effective, or does this piss people off?

It might even play into the "gun on the wall" idea Director brought back up, or possibly as part of or alternative to the "serial" notion LD discussed a ways back. Hitchcock used it really well in his films (I was watching Psycho last night which is why I thought of it) but his method is more in an effort to move the plot along (people chasing after an object even though it is of no importance and used simply to provide them with dramatic moments and material.)

I have tended to use it more to surprise the reader when it turns out that bit of info or character isn't really important. I guess it comes down to your particular definition first, and then your preferred method of utilizing it, if you use it at all. Hell, I may even be misusing the term, but I think it applies.

Question is for both the reader and writer perspective (which may very well be one and the same around here.)
 

stnylan

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Well, apologies for taking so long to reply. My brain needed to relax after finishing chapter 1 of you know what ;)

Exposition

As to my own thoughts on my own subject.

I love exposition, of the more 'historical' nature. That is simply because I love history, and can delve into any past an author chooses to share. It is one reason why "Shadow of the Past" in Fellowship was, and in many ways remains, my favourite single chapter in the whole trilogy. I think another effective use of exposition was in Stephen Donaldson's Gap Series, where he had a number of "Ancillary Documents" that addressed background questions of the world in which he was writing. These slowly built up the world so that, but the fifth book, the context of the climax of the tale could be understand.

In addition to the ways of exposition raised by others here I would add another: the lessons of dramatisation. I am thinking here particularly, though hardly exclusively, of Shakespearean histories or Greek tragedies. Here the scenes are often set and directed by use of exposition. In Greek tragedy this can be especially obvious. If anyone has read/seen The Persians by Aeschylus will know, that play's actions are almost entirely driven by exposition. Or think of Henry V, where the plot is basically a series of scenes held together by various expositions. Both playwrights here can get away with this, in part because of the excellence of the speeches, but also because the expositions mean something. Therefore in some respects they cease to be exposition and start becoming story.

Now, as to how that translates to prose-writing. I think the simplest approach is the best there. Put it in the mouth of someone, a messenger say, bearing terribly tidings. And then make the exposition into its own story.

Non-english language use

I love use of non-english language, so long as it does not detract from the essential plot of the story. I think it can be paticularly effective in historical fiction to add 'colour' to a story. One of my favourite historical authors is Dorothy Dunnett, who in her Lymond Chronicles often inserts French et al. I can't udnerstand a word of it, but I don't really have to because where she uses it does not detract from the story, but since her characters moved in a multilingual world it makes sense and adds to the story.

Incidentally, I think in a history-book it is very sloppy writing not to include a translation these days. In the 1960s you could probably get away with it, but now it is just to impress, and not terribly effective (and yes, I am prejudiced against Norman Davies).


Deceiving the reader

A most time-honoured practice!

Putting on a subtly different hat, as a role-player (and more specificially as a ref/ST/DM/whatever) deception is a stock in trade of any good story. Twists are to be used, but to be used sparingly. Also a twist should never take over a story, to dominate it. Twists must be plausible.

Think of Sixth Sense]/i] In that film we are led to believe one thing, but the twist is a thing of magic, but is, we realise, entirely reasonable. It is there if we want to see it, but the story leads us in another direction. Some would argue that the story depends on the twist there. I disagree. It is the twin story about the journeys of a man and a boy, the twist on its own has no meaning. When it supports those journeys however it turns that story from an interesting flick into a great piece of film.

As a reader/viewer I am quite happy to be led up the garden path (I know some people are not) providing it retains this consistency. A twist that is not shadowed or prepared in some fashion leaves me cold and dissapointed.

I hope the above was relatively coherent.
 

coz1

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It's been awhile since someone posted a subject in this thread, so I thought I might throw another out there. What are your thoughts and feelings regarding writer's block and/or burnout. I'm sure it is something we have all experienced at one time or another. What solutions do you recommend? What pitfalls can be avoided to keep this from happening, if any? What keeps the writing process fresh and exciting and what perhaps causes it to cease being such?
 

Lord Durham

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I've just spent some time going over the latter portions of this thread. Man, there were some really fine quality ideas and discussion tossed around.

The concept of exposition vs. McGuffin was informative. Now, before any one scratches their head and says "huh?", I drew the comparison from two separate views on the musket over the mantelpiece analogy - which, by the by, was a quote from yours truly, and not the late and lamented Secret Master.

Depending on what a writer sets out to achieve with their story, the musket can either be a deliberate red herring, or a pre-defined object to nullify the dreaded Deus ex Machina. I happen to think both styles are acceptable, if used in moderation - extreme moderation. With a short story, or even a novel, the device would likely be exercised once, perhaps twice, and depending on type of story, would serve to throw the reader off course early in the story (McGuffin), or be crucial during the climax (DEM).

With the serial qualities of an on-going AAR the rules don't have to be as stringent. In fact, I would hazard that either device would be acceptable in each self-contained post.


Writers Block!

"God damn it," he grumbles, staring at the monitor, burning a hole deep into its guts. Pensively he taps the mouse, cracks his knuckles, sighs and then types T-H-E. Satisfied, he leaps from his chair and bounds down the stairs for a beer.

Writer's block is a fact of life. Everyone suffers from it; no one is safe. People have developed different methods to overcome the dreaded malady and they all work to varying degrees. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire cure.

However, if you have any desire to write for a living, the worst thing you can do is walk away for more than a day or two. That day or two will turn into three or four, then five or six, and so on...

Here's what I do if I get the dreaded block...

I keep writing.

Sound stupid? Too simple? Perhaps, but it works for me. The quality of prose may suffer because my heart's not in it, but once the desire returns I have something on paper that can always be improved.

Sometimes I'll take a break and watch TV, or take a walk, or research information on the subject matter at hand. If I watch TV I'll try to watch a movie or documentary that covers the period or genre that I'm writing about - many times that alone will re-spark my creative juices.

Regardless of how I feel, I try to write at least 500 words a day. It's not a lot when you think about it. This post alone is getting close to 500 words.

Avoiding pitfalls? Well, never sit in front of the monitor all day. Take regular breaks, give your brain a chance to relax. When you go back to the post chances are you will see it with new eyes (no, not Minority Report new eyes) and you can attack the story with fresh vigor. The same can be said if you are having trouble with wording. Taking a break will work wonders for that, too.

If you wish to pursue writing as a career, or at least a serious pastime, then burn out is NOT an option. The desire to write is in you, or it isn't...
 

unmerged(16363)

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Most excellent, Lord. Yes, to have a writer block is not an option for those who want writing as a carreer, definetly. Ways to counter it must always be found!

Fortunatelly, for those who writing is not a carreer, a way to make the life, well sometimes it could be good. I mean, it might happen that you have a block but then, after some days you realise that your block has turned into zillions of new ideas for writing! Yes, happened to me, and to many people here, I know.

But somehow the block is lenghtened... well, I consider myself in a block right now, and it's starting to last months... Anyway, people need to learn how to cope with it. Sometimes it's just that you've lost somehow interest for writing, and it's not bad at all. People change interests, people start to like another things too, people change priorities. Yes, that happens.

I think I talked too much now... :)
 

Amric

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Writers block. The bane of all aspiring writers. I know I've had it. Some of my peers here, such as Anibal, have had it. Sometimes you get past it, some times you don't. I've managed to do so by a variety of efforts. One of which is that when I am stuck with something in one of my stories I will go write something else. Sometimes that is why I end up with two AARs going at the same time.

Listening to music can sometimes help. Reading a book, watch a good movie, things that LD has mentioned. You're married, Coz1, so there is always the option of interacting with the wife for awhile.

Sometimes it is necessary to recharge your batteries. Since you aren't going, at least as far as I know, for a professional career, you have all the time you need. Perhaps, as I have sometimes done, you need to go in a different direction. If you have noticed sometimes my stories tend to suddenly veer in a totally different direction. That can sometimes break the block.

And then sometimes it doesn't. LD is a fantastic writer, no doubt about it. Some day I hope to have the patience and writing skills that he has. But I am not there yet, and I am not sure I ever will be. I get distracted sometimes, or bored and kind of sluff along.

I, at least, have the FC, and EUtopia, and my bAARtender's duties to keep my busy and keep me recharged to an extent. Plus the Gazette, of course. Sometimes a project becomes larger than you first thought. Which can indeed be intimidating. It can help to break it down into sections.

Instead of looking all the way to the end of the story and how to get there, it is better to break it down into 'sections'. Such as in your Into the West story. You are struggling to get your main character to the point in the story of the Civil War.

Your tale is VERY interesting and very detailed and very well written. Something you COULD try is skipping ahead in the story. To a place where you feel comfortable, and as you get back into the groove of writing, go back to the earlier point that you skipped as a flashback, or something the character is telling to somebody else within the story.

For example, say he is in the cavalry and they are at camp, around a fire. Night has fallen and the evening meal has been consumed. People start telling about how and why they joined up. Something like that could be done which would explain why he joined up and glossing over the details between.

Not all stories, even professional ones you buy at your Barnes and Noble, have a completely linear storyline. Gaps are there and never explained. And nobody says a thing about it.

Or, although you tried your Santa Ana gambit to break your writing block, it didn't work. Perhaps instead of writing another Vicky story, you do something from a different game. And before Morpheus swoops in to complain that I am talking about EUII, you could do it on any game from Paradox. Perhaps HoI, or even EUI.

There are really so many ways to TRY and break a writer's block. Some work for some, while they are useless for others. Like LD, I try to keep writing. Sometimes it requires me to write about something else before I can return to the story I am currently doing.

But then, Anibal DID coin my nickname as the 'Hurricane' for my writing speed and quick updates on my projects. I keep plugging away at it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But keep giving it a go. Sometimes just having three pages of conversation can finally galvanize me to break my block.

Conversation can take up lots of room, explain and explore so many things, and in reality not a lot is necessarily happening. It COULD. But it doesn't have to.

I am going to echo LD. Keep going. You can always edit. Sometimes you might be able to tell in my stories where I glide through at places to try and get back into the groove. Sometimes it works better than others.
 

TreizeV

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One of the ways of overcoming writers block (well for me at least) could be to plan ahead in the story. Forget what you are planning to post next and instead focus on the bigger picture. Make a pointform list of upcoming chapters and divide them into smaller parts.

Hope that helps :(

In any case, perhaps i can bring up another subject for discussion? I have read many works on this forum and i must say a lot of them have excellent dialogue, such as Coz1's persian AAR and Director's Napoleon AAR. Well if you don't mind me asking, how is it that you can develop your AAR dialogue to such a level that it flows naturally like it is actually being spoken in real life?

Excuse my poor grammer there but i hope you get the general meaning of my question.

I suppose almost anyone can form a dialogue between two people using the word "she says, he says etc..." all the time, but what is it that makes a dialogue between two characters natural? I've read in previous posts that adding actions may help, but its not as easy as it sounds.

here are some samples of excellent dialogue that i can recall from reading some works here.

From Coz1's Glory of persia AAR

Balfour still did not believe what he was hearing and spoke strongly, “Henry, we can not give this assurance. The Prime Minister will never go for it. Besides, I do not see the worth of this place in relation to the years we have spent with the Raj.”

“Gentlemen,” Henry asked the Persians, “I wonder if you could excuse us for a moment. I can assure you it will not take long. Perhaps a quick walk around the hall. I noticed many splendid renditions of the ancient Minoan culture out there.”

Ali quickly agreed with Henry and with his ministers departed the room. Henry was in a wheelchair, as he could no longer walk. His arms were slightly stronger than the rest of his body from having to maneuver the thing and he quickly turned it to face Balfour and young Franklin.

“Arthur, this is the price we have paid for the feckless policies over these past many years. Still we do nothing about the Germans and I am sorry to say, welcome as this endeavor was, it was done too late. We waited to show strength until we no longer possessed such. For this, we will pay. And not just today. For tomorrow, it will be rights for all of India. And the day after it will be the remainder of Asia, or Africa, or anywhere the Shah of Persia sets his sights.”

“Henry, I do not disagree with you, but we stand on principle here. We cannot…”

“Principle! We know nothing of this. It was nowhere to be found when Afghanistan was overcome. It was forfeit when Mesopotamia fell. It was surely not in evidence when Egypt became part of the empire. And dare I remind you that you yourself were the Prime Minister that allowed that fiasco? It is lost. We can surely continue to send fine British to die far a field, but what is the purpose now? Just to see them dead?”

Balfour looked dejected, as he knew Henry spoke the truth. Franklin, however, was having none of it. He had been reticent to speak out towards Henry but with this last bit he had heard enough,

“Sir, I will gladly lay down my life to see that these barbarians do not conquer the world.”

“The world? The world? They have done so already. We were the only country willing to stand up to them and they have put us in our place in a mere three years. With their numbers combined with the Chinese, we are no match. Perhaps when you are older young man, you will understand this. But today, you are of no consequence. You may tell your man in London all you like, but Lloyd George will hear this from me and he will listen. I have given my life to forging better relations between these people and ours. I have lost my only love for that very reason. I have spent these past years imploring anyone that would listen that we must act and act quickly. And for what? To see this day come and have nothing to show for it but death?”

No one spoke. Henry looked tired and reached for his water as he could tell his voice would not hold up without it. Balfour sat and put his head in his hands. Franklin just stared at Henry Strachen, his mouth open but with no words to refute what Henry had said.

From Director's Who wants to be Napoleon
Louis-Nicholas Davout took off his spectacles, rubbed his nose, and motioned at the map sketched in the dirt. “Not their right flank?” he asked again.

Napoleon sighed. Look like a schoolteacher he might, but Davout had possibly the best set of military skills of any man of his age after Napoleon himself. Attack, defense, siege; Davout could do anything and do it masterfully well. And mercifully he had not on ounce of political ambition in his body – and after dealing with Moreau, Napoleon was willing to forgive Davout a lot for that. He just didn’t seem to have quite grasped the point of this attack.

“If we attack their right, we push them north onto their main body and they escape. If we strike the center with everything we have, we can rupture it, drive the center into the river and cut off their right as a bonus.”

Davout nodded. “And then you throw Oudinot in on our right and we bag all of it.” Napoleon was startled; he had not dared hope things would go so well, but if Davout thought they would…

“Yes,” was all he said.

“There is a lot to attend to,” Davout said, motioning to an aide for his horse. “I’ll go forward with the infantry and we should hold Lastrup by midafternoon. But mind that you keep a demi-brigade or two of the reserve handy in case I need them.”
 
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Amric

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There are wonderful discussions earlier in the Solarium about this very topic. But to help answer your question is what you posted as examples. Steal shamelessly such concepts. You don't have to make up EVERYTHING yourself. Another good idea is using a synonym booklet. Something that will help you for such things as Asked: inquired, questioned, et al.

Things like that can be VERY helpful. It keeps you from he/she says, he/she replies. Using actions such as something as simple as blowing the nose, picking up a cup, pointing at a map.

Another great place to pick up such great things is the Free Company books. Lots of opportunities to see action in place of he/she said. Even with people who are not native english speakers you find TONS of examples. Lord Durham's work in any of his SOLO AARs will give you such examples.

I can even recommend my Cyprus tale, which uses language to great effect in ways. It's in my sig. I believe you have read some of it. When reading books, you can also find such examples. Take ideas and use them to your advantage.

But I still recommend looking at the index of the Solarium and finding that discussion. It is WELL worth reading and can give you just about all the answers you would need on the subject.
 

Amric

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Oh, I should add that you have to CARE about your characters. If you don't, it can show through. I use as an example of something numerous people have asked me.

"How can you write so well about a character you know you are going to kill off?"

I answer it thusly. It is part of the story. That person has to die, for a purpose. I CARE about the character. When I killed off the love of Eric's life in my Cyprus story there were mighty consequences to it. I LOVED her. She was a great character, and even though she wasn't in the story for very long, I wanted it very well known that she and Eric loved each other. Deeply, passionately, and when she died, Eric became unhinged.

It created pathos, it created a whole series of events that happened that made the story better. Dialogue can do that. But you must care. If you don't, who will? Dialogue is always helped when there is a history and interaction between the characters.

If they are friends or enemies, they must ACT like it. Your readers must believe what you are writing for the dialogue to work as beautifully as you have noticed with coz1 and Director.

Even when there is no he/she said or replied and just dialogue, when it works well you have absolutely no trouble keeping track of who said what. You are engaging the reader and they don't even NOTICE that such is missing.

Dialogue must be interactive. For a conversation IS interactive. You could use the 'conversation' between coz1 and Alexandru H. in the AARland Gazette that Alexandru H. used for his AARticle. A back and forth, give and take that is real. Nothing forced, nothing contrived.

There is nothing wrong with contrived conversation, as long as it goes somewhere. But it MUST go somewhere or you break the belief of the reader. They are no longer engaged in the story. You've lost them for that particular update.

oh, they may still enjoy the update, but somewhere deep inside, they are slightly disappointed. Which means you have to work harder to re engage them into the storyline.

Dialogue can indeed be tricky stuff. But it is STILL one of the greatest ways to move the story along and improve it to the point where it is a complete story, versus a narrative style tale. Which there is nothing wrong with, but a story that has all the elements will most definitely engage my interest more than just narrative stories.

Of course, practice dialogue. Nobody starts off writing perfect dialogue. Director and coz1, as your examples, worked hard to get it that polished. Lord Durham is another fine example. As is MrT, Peter Ebbesen, Prufrock451<who is a MASTER at it>. Study how they all do it. Copy it for your own purposes. You will discover your own style of doing it at some point, and become one who is quoted just as you have done here.

You do write well, and your stories are interesting reading. Don't be too concerned yet. You are still developing. To be honest, so am I. I don't necessarily completely put myself on the same level as those others. I know I need more polish. I look at my work and think to myself that if only I could write as well as Lord Durham. Or Prufrock, or nalivayko, or so many others.

Aspire to greatness! I try to do so, and although I still fall short, in my opinion, I still aspire to the smooth, incredible writing that I see in all the AAR forums. By more people than I can name here.