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

coz1

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TreizeV, you make me blush using a clip from my Persian AAR, but I must say I was very pleased with what I was able to do with dialogue in that. I'm not sure exactly how others developed whatever skill they have in writing dialogue, but for me much of it comes from training as an actor. I have read and performed countless plays and thus my mind easily sees a conversation flow back and forth. In fact, my weak point is writing action. I find much of my work starts with establishing the scene and then quickly moves into a running dialogue that can last for three or four pages. Both are something, as Amric has rightly suggested, you must work on over time.

I think Amric is correct to also suggest that you must care about your characters, and in many ways fully understand them as well. They may still move off in a strange direction after some time (and that's part of the fun of writing), but once you know them, you have a pretty good idea of how they might respond to that change. I think you have done a fine job of this in Vive L'Empereur.

Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, O'Neil, Miller, Chekov, Brian Friel - great writers that use great dialogue without the "he said" "she said" dynamic. Get a feel for how they move from sentence to sentence, and emotion to emotion, and you will most likely begin to develop a good sense for it yourself. As well, speak your dialogue out loud. Does it sound right? Are there any strange cuts, or beat* changes within what is said? Are there any contrived phrases? Questions like these help me check over what I have written after the fact.

*The term "beat", in this context, is a theatrical term to describe a change of action/motivation on the actor's part. Often times, any one sentence may have more than one beat in it. This idea can be used for dialogue as well, as the speaker may change his avenue of thought, or argument for whatever reason.
 

unmerged(6777)

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I agree with the suggestions above. I also have another helpful hint that isn't in the earlier discussion but I have found works for me.

I now write a scene three times. The first time I do so, I write it as though I was describing the scene as viewed in a movie but the the sound turned off. The second time I write it, I do so in "play" format with only dialogue and no description.

Then I write it "for real".
 

Storey

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TreizeV said:
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.

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?

I walk away from the story if I run into writer’s block. For some reason my subconscious will still work on it and an idea will eventually appear. Usually it only takes a day or two but then the solution pops into my head and away we go.

As for dialogue as I write I envision the characters speaking the dialogue in my head. For some reason I find it easier if I see them talking. For me if I write the story as a scrip for a movie and watch it in my head as I write it, it forces me to create a more realistic (natural) dialogue. This visual approach also makes it easier to create mannerisms for my characters, which in turn makes it easier for the reader to follow who’s talking and fleshes out the characters making them more interesting and believable.

Joe
 

Director

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Writer's block doesn't hit me very often. When it does, I grab one of my long-suffering, non-wargame-playing friends and start explaining 'that European War Game'. Talking through the story gets me interested again, usually. Having to describe the story-line in an interesting way to people who don't know anything about the game helps me keep the 'story' part foremost.

And they contribute some truly nifty plot ideas and twists, also. The upcoming grand-finale of 'Here There Be Dragons' is entirely based on a suggestion from a good friend.

TreziV - Thank you for the compliment. My first AAR was written almost entirely without dialog - there's literally almost not a spoken word. Why? Well - I didn't know how to write believable dialog. I think I discussed this in 'Napoleon' or in the Solaarium, but I deliberately set out to use lots of dialog in 'Napoleon' to force myself to get better at writing it.

One thing I did stress was the use of 'body-language'. There are a lot of sighs, head-scratching, nose-rubbing, shifts in posture, and so forth. The use of those 'visuals' as part of the dialog was entirely deliberate and, I think, effective, given the 'cinematic' tone of the piece.

To directly answer your question - how did I get the dialog to 'flow' - I spoke it as I wrote it. All of the speaking characters use my voice or some variation on it. Maybe as I get better I'll learn to write in a completely separate voice.
 

RossN

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Killing off characters in a comedy AAR...

I'm writing a character driven EU II AAR that is (I hope!) funny and I am about to hit a problem:

How do I handle character death in AAR that isn't meant to be angsty but at the same time should have characters people actually care about. The huge time frame of EU II means no matter how young I start 'em my characters will eventually die.

That I'm running a released nation (that is to say one with no scripted set of leaders) is both a good and a bad thing - I can do whatever I want with my Kings and Queens , decide their names ages and abilities. Yet I have to kill them off on my own iniative.

Any advice on writing onscreen death? Something that fits the mood, not too silly but not too angst ridden.

Do chuid
 

unmerged(27310)

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I'd like to offer a few ideas that seem suitable. You probably don't know me as a writer but hear me out.

Who said death had to be haha-funny? I don't know this character but how about having him/her show off some sympathetic sides while on the deathbed. Or maybe leaving some wise last words that display that death is hardly the end. That way they can depart leaving the reader with a smile. And death doesn't have to come as a bad thing, it was just their time. On to new grounds, we'll miss you old Gerard/Betty. This will be a bit of a challenge, I know I couldn't pull it off. But, death is a part of life as you know and you must be able to incorporate it.

Hope some of that made sense, apologies for errors or typos as I'm slightly drunk right now. Good luck with the scene, i'll probably read it now as you've caught my interest.
 

Voshkod

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You could kill them in a "funny" way (death by livestock, rubber-band accident, etc.) but have all the other characters dead-pan the death, missing the humerous element all together. The characters only see the tragedy, leaving the reader to enjoy the humor.

Not sure that actually makes any sense, but there you go.
 

Director

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I suppose it depends on whether your AAR is going to be sly and witty, broad slapstick farce, or somewhere in between.

For broad slapstick, nothing beats having a character die because his fellows are too stupid to realize what's happening. Choking on food, for example, turns into charades as he tries to communicate what's happening to a friend... "Hello, then! What's this? Charades! I love a good game of charades! Is it bigger than a breadbox? Smaller? No need to get so excited, I'm sure I'll guess it eventually..."

Or people in a group being killed one-by-one ("See here! First it was Ernst who wandered off, and now it's Horst! What kind of search party gets itself lost, anyway? Right, Stefan? Stefan? Georg, where's Stefan? Georg?").

Death during sex is always funny, for some reason. Ironic death is funny... say a King escapes numerous assasinations, poisonings, battles, etc. only to trip over a child's toy and somersault down the steps of the grand staircase... to the applause of ball guests who think it's part of the entertainment. Or has a fatal allergic reaction the the bee-sting he gets from sniffing the flowers that were a peace offering from his wife... The more you play up the near-misses and the more stupid you make his manner of death, the funnier it will be.

You could have the population start to expect that their royalty will die in amusing and entertaining ways... so they'd be unhappy with a King who doesn't die when life gets boring, or a Queen who passes away from old age instead of being drilled through the head by a meteorite.


Or talk about the doctor who keeps certifying deaths as 'natural causes':

"Yes, he obviously slipped in the bathtub while scratching his back with a broadsword in his right hand, slitting his own throat while shaving with a dagger in his left hand, choking himself with his... well, somehow... AND drinking poison."

"What, all at the same time?"

"Royalty are more talented that you or I, you know."

"Third one like this."

"Yes."

"This week."

"Getting more popular every day, yes, indeed. How many more princes do we have?"

"Um... times three, carry the one, subtract the... Two."

"Getting a little light on princes, then."

"Fresh out of swords, daggers and poison."

"Oh, they'll find something to do themselves in with, I suppose. Royalty are talented, that way."



Death in and of itself isn't really very funny. But I think if you play up the absurd, you can find comedy.
 

unmerged(11366)

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Voshkod said:
You could kill them in a "funny" way (death by livestock, rubber-band accident, etc.) but have all the other characters dead-pan the death, missing the humerous element all together. The characters only see the tragedy, leaving the reader to enjoy the humor.

Not sure that actually makes any sense, but there you go.
One other trick is to have one character kill off another; I did this in a truly absurd way once, where the thoroughly likeable Judas Maccabeus murdered my King by pushing him down the staircase.

Murder always adds a bit of intrigue, but sometimes a subplot like that can be unwanted...
 

Satcho

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Stroph1 said:
I agree. I have written some comedic AARs where I wrote a rather sad death scene for a monarch. The AAR can be funny with sad parts, too.

Stroph1's even 'died' in a comedic AAR. :p I like to think that was a pretty sad scene.

In my AARs, I've tried hard not to explicitely say that a character is dead. That's easy for me though, as my timeframe is much shorter (HOI). My advice, just give the character a proper death scene and move on to the funny stuff. Death scenes can be funny, but they can also be sad. Whatever you think the character deserves.

By the way, I never said anyone died. :p :confused: :eek: :cool: :D ;)

Satcho... Stop... :(
 

coz1

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Been a while since a topic was discussed. Here is one that is about the craft of writing, but from a different angle. Since we have had numerous discussions over time dealing with feedback, and especially constructive criticism, I was curious to know what kind of feedback and/or constructive criticism people like (outside of just "great job").

Further, we could make this an educational discussion and speak (write) on what makes for effective criticism and what does not. All might be of benefit to AARland. The floor is open.
 

Wyvern

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I remember asking for constructive criticism from readers for a couple of my stories. I never got any.

It's not surprising really, there is an instinctive wish by us all to be polite and to not offend anyone. Nobody wants to apear in front of their peers as the ass who steps in and needlessly puts someone down who's spent a lot of time on an AAR, no matter how good or bad it might be. Much easier just to ignore an AAR you don't like and put in a few words of praise for those you do.

The only time I think you are going to draw constructive criticism is firstly from someone who generally likes your writing, and also secondly from someone who feels pretty comfortable conversing with you to the point where he or she knows whatever they say will be taken in a non offensive manner and really be appreciated. Finally though you have the issue that a lot of readers simply won't feel up to critiquing a piece of work. Thoughts like where do I start, how do I go about it, or even how could I possibly critique something when I know I couldn't do any better?

As for what criticism I'd like on my AAR, it would be ways to improve grammer. Or comments on whever character conversations were constructed in a believable manner. Am I always making the same silly punctuation mistakes. Things like that. I'm sure we all get into bad habits that we therefore fail to see ourselves but which may grate on other readers. If nobody points them out though we'll never know!
 

Judge

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Wyvern couldn´t have put it better. I guess it is really tough to down somebody who asks for criticism even if you very well happen to feel that the author deserves it. I would take it like a man though so go ahead and make my day if you feel lucky :D

I like all form of responses to my writing really, just a “good work” is fine by me when I write but of course it is nice to see a somewhat deeper comment now and then though I am aware of the fact that some of my writing is really difficult to comment on in an sophisticated manner :cool:

When I comment I strive for giving some form of more advanced feed back to writers but sometimes you really don’t know what to say more than a simple “good work”. This could be due to;

i lack of time, you read a post quickly at work perhaps and don’t have time to write a long response but still you want to give some support
ii the update was good but not so great that it deserved a thorough analysis/advanced comment
iii you don’t find the appropriate words or can´t single out something special in the story that you find of interest to comment on (especially difficult for non-natives like me) and you decide to settle for “a jolly show” comment
 

unmerged(11750)

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Personally, I find deaths that are glossed over or mentioned in passing (as if they were no more important than a weather report) to be much funnier than "on screen" deaths. To quote one of my own works:

Alas, Muhammed was unable to keep breathing long enough to complete this union himself, and was succeeded by Abu'-Shahid Ibrâhîm, who was at best a mediocre leader of men (4/5/4). Fortunately, his reign was only to last for two years. In 1446, Ibrâhîm was killed in a freak harem accident the details of which remain cloudy to this day. His replacement was the most able Muzaffar (8/4/6), whose silver tongue achieved the long-anticipated absorption of Atjeh.

Of course, the above snippet could've been even funnier had I added a snide remark regarding how the scribes rejoiced at not being required to commit the spelling of "Abu'-Shahid Ibrâhîm" to memory. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.

When an onscreen death is a necessity, I like to concentrate the humor not in the death itself but in the reactions of people nearby:

"Besides, now Makassar is our vassal, and we can begin to prepare them to become full members of the sultanate. Now drink and be merry, and watch as I throw this walnut in the air and catch it in my mouth. Aaaaaa ... gghhhh ... *choke* ggghhghhhgk ... uhh!" And with that, Sultan Mansûr met a most untimely end.

Abdullah sighed. "Will somebody please fetch us a new Sultan? We've lost another one!"

Granted, that bit is only funny when taken in the context of the entire AAR, in which the Sultans of Johore were cursed (or blessed?) with a low life expectancy.

Finally, you can always go with the tried and true "Missing in Action":

Malacca's war against Vientiane was prosecuted in a manner resembling the spearing of manatees in a chinaware pot, which is to say it was a mismatch of epic proportions. Not even the trickery of relocating the Vientiane capital in 1563 could spare the Laotians from total defeat, though it did cause Ri`âyat I to become hopelessly lost. The eunuchs gleefully presumed him dead, and celebrated the occasion until they realized they would have to appoint another sultan. A cursory search of the gutters in Malaka produced Muzaffar (5/4/4), who refused to be referred to as Muzaffar II despite the fact that there had already been a sultan by that name.

I should mention that most of the humor in these deaths is lost without reading the remainder of the AAR (shameless plug, I know), simply because they all involve the invocation of running gags that were set up earlier in the AAR. Never, ever underestimate the power of a running gag - they've kept the Simpsons running for more than thirteen years. :)
 

Lord Durham

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This is a one-off post for me. Some people asked me by e-mail & PM about the character template I used when crafting a story. This is an example -- not to be taken as gospel. Feel free to alter or ignore completely.






Character Sheet


Name: __________________________________________________________


Date & Place of Birth: _____________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________


Height: _______________

Weight: _______________

Physical Description: _______________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________


Ethnic Origin: _____________________________________________________


Parent’s Names & Background: ________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________


Family Members: ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________


Friends Names & Background: __________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________


Social Class: _________________________________________________________

Education: ___________________________________________________________


Occupation: __________________________________________________________


Community Status: ____________________________________________________


Skills: _______________________________________________________________


Political Beliefs: _______________________________________________________


Religious Beliefs: ______________________________________________________


Hobbies/Entertainment: __________________________________________________


Strengths: _____________________________________________________________


Weaknesses: ___________________________________________________________


Ambitions: _____________________________________________________________


Fears/Phobias: __________________________________________________________


Type of Humour: ________________________________________________________


General Health: __________________________________________________________


Distinguishing Marks: _____________________________________________________


Disabilities: _____________________________________________________________


Cultural Tastes: __________________________________________________________
 

coz1

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Thanks for stopping by and sharing that LD. This is great! I have mentioned them a few times in AARticles as I thought they may be of help to people. I know this will be a huge help to me! :D
 

Machiavellian

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This will be most useful. Thank you LD.
 

The_Hawk

To live, to die, to live again.
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I assume by "type of humour" you mean "sanguine" or "choleric" rather than "slapstick" or "dark"? ;)

Very cool, though. I might have some use for that... ;)
 

Judge

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I might as well start filling in those blanks right away for my characters. I guess I will find that I haven´t thought of all those subjects for every single person though.

Welcome back (for this guest appearance) :)