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

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Secret Master

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Don't worry V. There's no shame involved. I never finished the Canterbury Tales (or even half of it), despite an entire class on the subject, and Chaucer is a better writer than I am. :)


MrT: Let me think on this a bit. Paradox manuals are a tricky, tricky thing due to the complexity of their games. I imagine this is why your asking for advice here; however, I will give it some thought before replying.
 

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MrT, your question about the manuals is a good one. I would echo the earlier reply (Valdemar?) that the manual should stick primarily to the physical playing of the game: what do you click on to do this or that, what screens or menus you need to check periodically, where to click to find such and such a piece of information, etc. All of that should be in idiot-proof detail.

After that, a very general overview of strategic issues would be good. As you pointed out the specific numerical details, for example of slider effects, tend to change as the game is updated. But still it would be good to say in the manual what are the general effects of a slider: you move it this way to make A and B better but C and D worse, or vice-versa. Specific effects have to learned by playing.

For all the complaints I have read about the EU2 manual, I still liked it. I'm not sure how to explain it, but it just looks really nice and classy. I was itching to get started on the game while reading it.
 

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MrT: Regarding your question about manuals (Redux, as this post was lost to the void yesterday)


Aside from the usual "There should be no glaring errors in the manual" rant, I can offer this constructive advice.

First, if you are discussing the interface, go ahead and be specific. You know that patches probably won't change the interface.

Second, taking a page from Blizzard's manuals, when discussing game stuff (like units, domestic policy sliders, etc.), be vague, but strategic. For example, you wouldn't say "The SnarfenPanzer does 12,000 points of damage per hit and has 30,000 points of armor." Instead, you would say "The SnarfenPanzer is quite effective against Wolfen Tanks, but is easily defeated by Gork Gunners." You know (or should know, at any rate) whether a particular policy or unit has certain kinds of strategic advatnages and disadvantages. If you don't even know this, then you are being asked to do something rather impossible in writing a game manual.

Here's another example: "If you want to be a strong colonial power, change your domestic policy to emphasize the navy." This statement is currently true, and was largely true for most of the life of EU2. It also does not depend on the variances in domestic policy effects. The naval slider has changed probably more than any of the other sliders in the game, but such a statement as I made above hasn't been radically affected. Some might argue this, but for a novice who is reading the manual for the first time, it is a good piece of advice.

I also favor the inclusion of historical information in the game manual. I actually liked this part of the original EU manual. The rest of it was lacking, but that part was fun. Sure, I knew a good bit of the information already, but I learned some new stuff. This is one point where I felt CK's manual was lacking.

I would also encourage that an updated version of the manual be included in PDF along with the game. This should include errata for things in the printed manual, with the errata put in the front and highlighted. There is nothing more frustrating than realizing after two weeks that the printed manual was wrong about something, but the electronic manual had the correct information all this time.
 

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6 updates per day!

Until the day of August 21, 2004, I, anonymous4401, solemnly swear to add six updates of good length to my AAR every day starting from the date of July 23, 2004. Never before in my life has a hobby been given this much devotion. This will require working eight hours a day on this AAR alone. But that leaves six hours a day for everything else under the sun. Six hours is a lot. I also have no job, no commitments, no social life, and no academic obligations until classes begin.

So, how is it? Have I transcended into the ultimate level of commitment to an overly-long AAR? Or have I descended into obsession? Will someone try to talk me out of it?

Edited to fit the discussion it entails later, and the general Solarium question:

"How much is too much?"

When do you update in such a frezy that your AAR looses meaning and possibly readers?

V
 
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coz1

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I don't want to talk you out of it, anonymous, by any means. I applaud your commitment to your AAR. However, I will say that that many updates is difficult to read in one day, much less a week. Might I suggest writing them and posting at a more readable interval, say one a day? I admit, it is one reason why I have not yet had a chance to catch up on the latest installments to your admittedly promising AAR.

With the size of the forum these days, it can be very difficult to read everything out there, so people must pick and choose. I would very much like to read what you have worked so hard on, but I simply will not be able to keep up if there is so much of it all the time. There is life outside of the forum for even me. ;) I certainly hope my words will not sway you from putting such energy into your work. Do what seems best to you. I just want you to have as many readAARs as you can get and updating with so much each day could potentially cause readAARs to choose something else to read with their limited time.
 

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Just as I have feared. My AAR now will take too long to read! :eek:
If one reads at the rate of one updates a day, when my AAR is done that person will have to read for ten months.
I feel like I'll be writing for the sake of writing, when I actually cut several characters to make my AARs shorter. If time and space allowed it, we would see three, maybe four more characters in my AAR by now.
But it seems now that time and space will not allow even the number I have so far. At this rate, each character gets 3-4 updates to completely develop their personalities and lives before they disappear. But is even this too much?
 

coz1

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Well, too much is somewhat relative. I know that there are several AARs that people have been writing for over a year, with the same level of narrative and characterization you would like to include in yours. That may not be something you want to do, though with other time commitments in your life. That's why I suggest go ahead and writing it now, and then releasing it a little at a time. It will keep your AAR moving along with a fair amount of readAARs, and for a goodly amount of time while also allowing you to get it onto the page at a rate that works for you. Just a suggestion, of course. :)
 

coz1

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But in that case, why not release it all now and let the reader wade through it? What's the difference except that with my way I can start on my next project without anything left over from the first?

Perhaps because less will choose to do so with the number of other AARs tugging at them to be read on any given day. I know it is one reason that older, longer AARs are rarely revisited. People simply don't have the time commitment to devote to reading them. It's simply a decision best made by you once you have weighed the pros and cons of what you want to write, how much you can do so on any given day, how many readAARs you want, and how much the whole thing is worth to you.

I would suggest though, that once you have it written, it would surely be of little time commitment to then simply post a bit at a time while allowing you to devote the better part of your time to any other project you have in the works. But, as I said, that's just my opinion. :)
 

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coz1 said:
Perhaps because less will choose to do so with the number of other AARs tugging at them to be read on any given day. I know it is one reason that older, longer AARs are rarely revisited. People simply don't have the time commitment to devote to reading them. It's simply a decision best made by you once you have weighed the pros and cons of what you want to write, how much you can do so on any given day, how many readAARs you want, and how much the whole thing is worth to you.

I would suggest though, that once you have it written, it would surely be of little time commitment to then simply post a bit at a time while allowing you to devote the better part of your time to any other project you have in the works. But, as I said, that's just my opinion. :)

Ah, I suppose. I didn't realize that most readers wouldn't look at a 22-page ongoing AAR and say, "I'll read that whole thing today, just to catch up to where the writer is now". I wonder, would Prufrock's celebrated 'To Stand Against the Night', or even your own Into the West have fared differently if you or Prufrock simply plopped down a hundred updates in one go? Great writing is great writing, and I think that readers will recognize it regardless. Also, my own AAR is growing quite large. I believe the count is at 35-40 updates, which I measured to be 140-200 pages on a standard paperback. Would it make a difference if I added 6 updates a day, every day, or if I released one at a time? Will a reader look at an AAR 40+ updates long and say, "I'll read that"?

Those are genuine questions. How much time do readers actually put into reading AARs?
 

coz1

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Well anonymous, one of the problems you might be running into, or might in the future is the form you are using. Narrative AARs are only read by a subset that are really interested in that form. And of those, we have several ongoing. I know mine does not get the response I would always like simply because of the style I am using. If I put even more up than I do now (which is maybe an update every other day), I would think the readAARship to be even less. Of course, I might be wrong on that score (though I don't think I am. ;) ) It's not that narrative is bad (far from it) - just that those that enjoy such are trying to keep up with others trying to do the same. It's much harder than keeping up with AARs that provide short, pithy updates on who did what and when.

If you look at the latest poll and the one MrT did a while back, you will see that reading habits vary. Many people have suggested that they do not have an immense amount of time to spend reading, as much as they might like to. And now, with all 5 forums churning out many great tales, it has become even harder. Further, many of those that enjoy the narrative style have had setbacks lately in their schedules making it even tougher for them. I think most people around here try to devote what they can to keeping current, but if you offer them several pages per day to keep current on, you may run the risk of losing some who simply do not have the time to do so. Thus my advice.

Look at the Vickie forum. In just two days, my AAR was close to dropping off the first page. That means that lot's of AARs are updating each day. And CK and EUII are not that different. Again, from my recent poll, the average of those that take an integral part in AARland (or enough to respond to the poll) read 11 AARs at a time. I'm not sure how long it takes them to do so, but it surely is not done in quick fashion if they really want to savor what they read. So multiply that by the amount of time to read, and then figure how much time people spend per visit, which was quite varied. Some for a few minutes at a time and some for a few hours.

If you want viewers (which you may not care about, though I think you do), it does not hurt to try and provide something that helps them to keep up. That means drawing a fine line between too many updates and not enough. It differs from readAAR to readAAR, but I dare say 6 updates a day, at the length you usually provide, is perhaps a tad too much.

I'm not trying to discourage you from writing how you want to write. I just want to see that you have a good solid base of readAARship, as I said before. Hope that helps. :)
 

Amric

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Well, old bean...I can weigh in on this topic quite well. You see, I DID an entire AAR in just two days. LOTS of updates of course. 400 years of playing. All in two days. Didn't get a massive response, but did get some. Mostly the curious to see if I could really do it. I was successful and a lot of fun to write. But that was last year, before thre was a Vicky or CK forum. When HoI was still pretty much in beta....

Ask around. It used to be that I was reading EVERYTHING that was being written. Can't do that anymore. The sheer amount of AARs is too much for me, or anyone else for that matter. People will pick and choose what they want to read. Even the greatest writing in the world won't draw them in if the sheer size of it daunts them.

Take the Free Company as an example. Some of the best writers in the forums were involved. LOTS of updates. Daily. People were daunted by the sheer vastness of it all. Even some of the WRITERS were having trouble keeping up. Remember, these were people like Valdemar, Lord Durham, redwolf, MrT, The_Hawk, Erik Jaeger, Stroph1, and so many more that I would take pages to list them all.

Some of those names you may not know, but you must have heard of Valdemar and Stroph1 and MrT...they will very likely agree with me that the sheer size of the FC daunts people, making them unwilling to read it.

The faster you update, yes, will keep some people coming back quickly. But I have found, with trial and error that you can do VERY well with about no more than 3 updates per week.

More power to you to do more. I've done it more than once, myself. But to maximize your audience/readership, it is what I would do. Granted, you've probably never heard of me either. But I have written a thing or two in my time...
 

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Amric said:
More power to you to do more. I've done it more than once, myself. But to maximize your audience/readership, it is what I would do. Granted, you've probably never heard of me either. But I have written a thing or two in my time...

:rofl:
Don't worry, Amric, you are not that unknown yet. I've heard of you quite often in OT and AARland.

Yes, there does seem to be an exponential growth in new AARs and new AAR writers. It seems that several new writers pop up on the Vicky forum each week, much less all of the other games! Of course, I have lurked around predominantly on the Vicky AAR forum. It is simply too daunting to even consider the remotest possibility that AARland is three to five times larger than the Vicky forum alone. It is, in many ways, frightening that there could be great classics at the level of Prufrock's To Stand Against the Night being penned right now in the HOI or EUII or CK forum, and I will never hear of it because I am frightened at the prospect that I will have to look through a dozen AARs every day to find them. Just where are all of these writers coming from? Why now? Have Paradox games reached that level of popularity? If so, why is it that in all of my years of owning and talking about Paradox games, only one person I have met in real life has even heard of them? (That person, btw, did not own or play them)

Or is it just me?

Why am I ranting all of a sudden?
 

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Personally, I think your best bet is to do as Coz1 and the others have recommended. Writing it out and posting a new update at once a day. It is simply less intimidating to wandering readers and easy to keep up with. Another thing you could always do is devote some of that time towards reading and commenting on the others AARs or perhaps even writing for the Gazette. Now, I am not saying you need to do this, but it would allow you to still devote time to this hobby and contribute to the community as a whole. Either way, whatever you choose to do, I hope it all works out in the end. Good Luck.
 
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Actual concern over units?

I'm not sure if this should have been in the Solarium or not.

Have you ever had concern about a unit, I mean feeling sorry that you just gave it quite possibly suicidal orders?

I'm working on a Mexican WW2 AAR and I have recently begun my war with germany and have make 2 major attacks, the Main push if from spain while a second fron in coming in through denmark. As a side note I paradroped into Paris. I then sent some spare troops across the channel and took Caen. Now it seems the Germans are determinded to wipe them out. I don't have enough transports to evactuate the trapped units are even with sending all planes in the area as support I fear these 6 divisions are going to be steamrolled.

The though of those brave troops losing their lives made me sad. I mean I know their not real and their just sprites and numbers but they trust me to give good orders and I hung them out to dry. I think I could save the Paratroops as the transports are also in Paris but It would mean certian death to my infantry if I do that. Right now I'm hoping to bring a Tank army up to open a safe route for the troops to retreat to instead of dieing.

Maybe I'm just getting too into it, but have any of you guys ever had this concern over your Characters and units?

Brave.jpg
 

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Yeah. When I play small countries in my 'serious' mode, there are few enough units that I begin to name them and give them histories based on when they were recruited and what province they were from...

So I get attached to them and the little men that die by the thousands to further the aims of whatever nation I'm playing.

Of course, if I'm playing Russia, I don't care. Let them die by the millions!
 

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And to keep the above question more general to writing and AARing and less to gaming,

"How do you deal with the emotional attachment you might get to certain characters or units? Does it alter your story along the way? Or does it bear no impact what so ever?"

V
 

Amric

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I do tend to grow fond of my characters and some units...but that is, I think, a natural thing. When you have spent time working on their development and characters, when you have expended time, effort, and skull sweat to their creation and ongoing existance, I believe a good writer MUST get involved emotionally. For when he/she does so, it carries over into the story and that person/unit becomes more 'real' to the readers as well. THEY become more emotionally involved, and when things happen to the character that are good or bad, it tugs at the emotions of the reader as well as the writer. IN fact, this might be a good topic for my next article in the Gazette...
 

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I agree Amric, but does it change the way you originally pålanned the story? Say you had a character's life path cut out and somewhere along the way you grow attached to him..

Do you then prolong his life, his importance? Or do you stick to the defined plot?

I have seen it in the FC, but that is ofc moslty due to the interaction, secondary figures ready to be fed to the enemy for a great scene take on their own life and become main plot members :)

V
 

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It absolutely changes the way I write my stories. (Or at least the way I'm writing my AAR. :) ) When I sit down to write, I only have a loose idea of where I want to go and what I want to do with it. I also have a general idea where I want my plot to go of course. Once I write though, I try to adopt something of the personality traits of the characters, and that can radically alter the way the chapter turns out.

One character of mine started out as a simple minor, a 'conveyance' for the main character ... but now he's a star in his own right. A colonel who started as a name in EU2's random leader chart started his own war and has now defected, and a name from a history book - a character meant to show a differing point of view from the main character - has turned into the main bad guy.

So...I definitely change my writing based on my characters. In a way, they write their own stories as they do take on a life of their own. I think a good writer has to care somewhat about them - and adapt the story accordingly - or it's just not going to ring true to the reader.
 

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This is a good question, because it really made me sit back and think about what I have been doing with characters. And I realized something I never figured out before.

I don't have minor characters.

Sure, I have characters who may be minor during a particular story, but there are no such things as a minor characters in my current project. Any character with a name is a major character. (For those who are up to date in my AAR, a certain sailor will get his name and major character status shortly.) This means I have yet to truly have a minor character "get out of hand" and start a life of his own. This bears further analysis for later. Makes mental note

As for my emotional attachment to characters and stories, I rarely let it get in the way of the planned direction of a story. In fact, in many ways, the reason I love a particular story or character is because of what WILL happen. Example: Juanita, queen of Castile, was a wonderful woman. She was smart, attractive, and loyal to her husband. I also had planned for her to die giving birth to an only son for her husband since day one. This future death actually made me MORE fond of her, and I put more effort into her. In retrospect, I think I occasionally gave her a more "pleasant" light because I knew she was going to die.

The same goes for story segments. The Kurtz Story in my AAR was fun to write precisely because I knew how it would end. Some of the details were fuzzy, but I knew he had to accept redemption. This meant that I had some real attachment to that story and had no real intention of changing its outcome, no matter how repulsive I made Kurtz or how dark the setting got.

On the other hand, I often give my characters alot of "wiggle room" in their developement. I think I can get away with this because I know what a particular plot will demand. Thus, I put characters into the story and let them naturally work themselves out. For example, I knew Isabella would end up becoming a bloody tyrant; however, she did some of the developing herself in order to become that tyrant. The same can be said of my dear Carlos. His death has been planned for about a year and a half now, and he has been steadily working to that point.


I also agree that you must be involved with your stories and characters (hell, your settings and themes too!) in order for them to work. The reason why is very simple: have you ever seen someone at your workplace who hates their job? They don't do a very good job, do they? The work is substandard and uninspired. (Those who have seen the movie Office Space can see this in exemplary form.) On the other hand, someone who loves their job will do well at it (even if they are not perfect at it) and it shows in the extra lengths they go to. The same goes for writing. If you love your characters and stories, then you will put the effort into them to do them well. This doesn't mean you will win the Pulitzer Prize (none of us will, I imagine). but you will do a better job than if you didn't like it.