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

stnylan

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I think CatKnight has just said all I would have said about the subplot, but as regards to historical characters, here is one approach.

Take Winston Churchill. Historically he is the great defender of democracy, who (in effect) sacrificced an Empire for the freedom of Europe. A stalwart and principled man, stuck to his guns and all that. We all know that from what he did in WW2, but consider stressing just a couple of different aspects of his personality. A rigid imperialist, sponsor of some rather nasty paramilitary groups in the Irish war, a political turncoat (he was widely thought to be unreliable in the 1930s, having switched parties not once but twice) - not difficult to paint a very different Churchill by concentrating on different aspects. By doing that you can quite easily end up portraying historical characters in quite different roles, yet by keeping plausibility.
 

AmbassadeBelgie

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I love writing and I've just begun a new AAR after I think it's a two-year break of just playing...

But I feel I'm really not getting the reader support I should.

Am I just unworthy, is it lack of skill, is it the devil-incarnate activity of lurking?

...or is it that I don't have a very well-built fan-base/reputation like, say, Amric, or stnylan...?

I'll continue writing, that's for sure, but lately I feel I've been writing for myself, and for my own pleasure more than for anyone else's...
All I want to know is how can I make readers enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it for them??? (Isn't that the question of all time? :D)
 

Amric

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It took a long time to build that fan base...it also helps when you comment in other aar's as well...Nothing like building a rep by being seen. I lurked for awhile before I started writing...and then jumped into writing...I chose my concept of a new Roman Empire by way of Sweden...which immediately garnered attention. Plus there was only EU1 and EU2 at the time. The amount of writers, aars, and readers was smaller. Now you do have to create a fan base. Writing and continuing to do so will help. Responding to those who give feedback will help. Asking for critiques will garner responses. But most of all, like I stated before, responding in aar's that you have been enjoying will make your presence more known, and should spark 'reciprocity'....Writers tend to frequent other writers that frequent their own works. Bad sentence structure there...But the essence is still true. If you respond elsewhere, they will come. If you keep plugging away and prove that you aren't going to quit to soon, they will continue to come.

Patience, perseverence, and practice are the watchwords of the new writer. Adding responding to others' work is tres important. It gets your name out there...plus if you put your aar link in your signature it is 'free' advertising when you post elsewhere. But no spamming....Mods frown on it...:) Read other works, and comment upon them and you are certain to boost your readership.

I know of a few works that I still haven't figured out why they are popular...but then there are many kinds of writers and readers. There is something for everyone here...you just find your niche and fill it. Sounds easy enough, but it takes perseverence to actually accomplish it.
 

TheExecuter

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Amric said:
It took a long time to build that fan base...it also helps when you comment in other aar's as well...Nothing like building a rep by being seen. I lurked for awhile before I started writing...and then jumped into writing...I chose my concept of a new Roman Empire by way of Sweden...which immediately garnered attention. Plus there was only EU1 and EU2 at the time. The amount of writers, aars, and readers was smaller. Now you do have to create a fan base. Writing and continuing to do so will help. Responding to those who give feedback will help. Asking for critiques will garner responses. But most of all, like I stated before, responding in aar's that you have been enjoying will make your presence more known, and should spark 'reciprocity'....Writers tend to frequent other writers that frequent their own works. Bad sentence structure there...But the essence is still true. If you respond elsewhere, they will come. If you keep plugging away and prove that you aren't going to quit to soon, they will continue to come.

Patience, perseverence, and practice are the watchwords of the new writer. Adding responding to others' work is tres important. It gets your name out there...plus if you put your aar link in your signature it is 'free' advertising when you post elsewhere. But no spamming....Mods frown on it...:) Read other works, and comment upon them and you are certain to boost your readership.

Hear! Hear! I too lurked for months before starting to write...and then chose to write in a sparsely read forum (d'oh!)...

I agree with Amric on the subject. When perusing the forums, the subject of the AAR has got to seize my attention for me to put time into reading it. In that respect, I think my current project lacks that "Wow, this is new and gripping" appeal, but that may be just me being self critical. Posting also helps others "see" your work in your sig. (In fact, I'm going to start reading yours to see what it is like now...see, it works!)

Also remember this feeling of "lack of feedback" and apply this to commenting in others threads! They too want to know what keeps the lurkers coming back for more. I know that without Chesterton's recent postings in my AAR, it would probably sit abandoned...mocking me by remaining unfinished on my desktop.

As to making the work enjoyable, I'd say listen to those who feel passionately enough about your work to post comments. You have already reached them and motivated them to respond, so these are your dedicated audience. Listen to that audience's requests and desires and try your best to fill them. Since I am new to this and am still trying out the theory, can anyone else try to answer this question from experience?
 

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http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showpost.php?p=2901271&postcount=52

The Gazette is worth reading - there are a lot of articles there that may help you. Specifically, the one above was my attempt to help people gather comments and attention.

Interior decorators for nightclubs and other public spaces will tell you to put the greatest effort into the space by the entryway. Likewise, albums and short-story collections usually feature the strongest work at the front. If your first few paragraphs don't grab attention you may lose your readers.

Update regularly (yes, that's odd coming from me. I do know I should update regularly, I just sometimes don't).

Comment in the works of others, and put some effort into making them thoughtful, insightful comments. See Amric, coz1, stnylan, Storey, Stuyvesant, Renselaar, Draco Rexus and many others for examples. Comment, comment, comment, comment. This will get you a series of 'return posts' from the people you have visited.

Write well. Easier to say than do. But getting people to read your work instead of watching TV means you have to offer them good entertainment value. Good friends and readers will stick with you through the boring patches - they have with me, thank Heavens - but good writing, interesting characters and exciting action will certainly help hold them. Nobody watches Lord of the Rings for the backdrops. :)

You'll need great characters, or a nifty plot, or exciting action, or beautiful prose, or cliffhangers, or something to keep the reader interested. Get all of those and we'll kill you. (Just kidding... what did you say your address was? :p )

Stick to it. If you do not write I guarantee you no readers, no comments and no feeling of success.
 

stnylan

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I agree with everything already stated, and have two small additions. The first is the value of good communication - if you are not going to update for a while (for whatever reason, be it work, holiday, illness, whatever) just drop a line to let your readers know what the delay is. Second is just to persevere. It takes time to build a readership, and sometimes it can be a bit slow.

Sort of as a corollary to the first point: if you ever encounter a difficult passage or other problem of composition, always consider PMing one of your favourite readers or writers for their opinions and help.

And just to re-iterate - comment. Three great articles on the issue: Nobody loves a critic by Director, On Comments by coz1, and On detailed comments or the Importance of the word Why by myself.
 

CatKnight

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Read the articles stnylan highlighted, especially his own about "Why."

Certainly commenting helps attract people, but there's a secondary care also, and that's treatment of your readers. Many times I'll comment somewhere, and be astonished as the writer completely ignores his readers and keeps going. As a reader in this kind of format, I like it when the writer answers. It makes me feel a small part of the show, and therefore increases my stake in it.

So...comment right back at them. Even more importantly, LISTEN to them.

There's a strong theory in writing, which I don't disagree with, that basically says you have to write with your own voice and hope readers follow. It's a corollary to the old line 'if you try to please everyone, you'll end up pleasing no one.' Certainly you shouldn't completely twist your story around to satisfy them.

However, if your readers are speculating...watch them closely. For one thing, they might have a damned good idea. For another, even if you can't give them what they want, you're getting valuable clues into what (for them) makes an interesting and worthwhile AAR. Do they like building narrative or are they hinting you should get on with it? Wars or internal conflict? Etc.

Lastly, as others said: If you're stuck - ask. Ask the people you trust, or talk about it here. Don't be afraid to involve your readers - again, it gives them a stake in the tale, and as a reader I'd much rather drop the fourth wall (the suspension of disbelief) and wade in after you with advice, then have the AAR collapse.
 

coz1

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CatKnight said:
Certainly commenting helps attract people, but there's a secondary care also, and that's treatment of your readers. Many times I'll comment somewhere, and be astonished as the writer completely ignores his readers and keeps going. As a reader in this kind of format, I like it when the writer answers. It makes me feel a small part of the show, and therefore increases my stake in it.
Oh boy, is this a biggie! I cannot tell you how many times I have dropped an AAR after having given comment after comment never to see the writer respond to my feedback. Much like a comment in an AAR makes the writer recognize someone has read their work, a response to a comment given makes the reader realize that comments are valuable and desired, as well as feeling like part of the process. When a writer blows on past the comments given, it makes it seem as though the writer really doesn't care about such. And goodness knows there are plenty of folks around here who do! I am much more inclined to giving them my hard earned time and effort than to someone who doesn't really act as if they care, or otherwise feels it some sort of right to get a comment. There are simply too many works around here to waste time on one that does not respond in kind (and that goes for the old "quid pro quo" as well. ;) )

By the way, stnylan - those were great AARticles to highlight. I'd love to see some work done in the Advocate to keep that notion fresh in the member's minds. A reminder never hurts. :)
 

canadiancreed

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coz1 said:
Oh boy, is this a biggie! I cannot tell you how many times I have dropped an AAR after having given comment after comment never to see the writer respond to my feedback. Much like a comment in an AAR makes the writer recognize someone has read their work, a response to a comment given makes the reader realize that comments are valuable and desired, as well as feeling like part of the process. When a writer blows on past the comments given, it makes it seem as though the writer really doesn't care about such. And goodness knows there are plenty of folks around here who do! I am much more inclined to giving them my hard earned time and effort than to someone who doesn't really act as if they care, or otherwise feels it some sort of right to get a comment. There are simply too many works around here to waste time on one that does not respond in kind (and that goes for the old "quid pro quo" as well. ;) )

By the way, stnylan - those were great AARticles to highlight. I'd love to see some work done in the Advocate to keep that notion fresh in the member's minds. A reminder never hurts. :)
Exactly. While I cnt' remember a thread where I commented on that didnt' have a reply, it's a two way street here. Unlike traditional writing meadiums, you can interact with any fans,a nd vice versa. However if the traffic flow isnt' heading both ways, you'l find it'll be a lonely road.

Wow holy methaphors batman!
 

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It is an interesting thing that not only do comments fuel the writer to write more, but a writer responding to reader's comments continues to keep them reading the story. I'll leave it to pschologists to figure out why, but it is definitely true.

There's a three step process to reading an AAR for me: 1. reading the latest installment 2. posting a comment on it 3. checking in a short time later to see the author's answer to your comment.

Its a pity this human interaction isn't possible when reading Shakespeare and Dickens, how awesome would that be?
 

unmerged(11366)

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Just found a fascinating essay on the importance of authenticity in fiction writing, by Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves). The full article can be found here; a critical excerpt follows in this post:

You COULD Make It Up
by Lynne Truss
...I did find it bizarre that anyone should care whether the newly crowned Costa award winner Stef Penney had ever been to Canada when she wrote her excellent first novel, The Tenderness of Wolves.

It was quite a news story, apparently, although perhaps the main point of interest was that Penney had been suffering agoraphobia while working on the book (set in the 19th Century Canadian outback), so her illness would have prevented her from visiting Canada even if she'd wanted to.

Nevertheless, I wasted no time getting defensive. The thing is, we fiction writers are quite touchy when people fail to appreciate the supreme importance of imagination in our work. I love the idea of Penney constructing the landscape of her book from maps and records in the British Library. That was a true creative act. Any fool with a Visa card can buy a ticket and go to look at an expanse of snow.

... Personally, I'm always disappointed to learn that the story of a novel is literally true, or a character based on a real person. I feel the thing is thereby diminished.

Years ago, I interviewed an American playwright who gladly confessed that all the best bits in his play were simply lifted from life. During the interview, I would mention a line and he would exclaim: "My daughter actually said that!" - as if that was just marvellous. "That really happened!" he said, thumping the table with glee. My spirits drooped ever lower during our interview, as it became horribly clear that he had just strung together a few personal anecdotes, not written a play at all.

No, making it up is the point, really.
 

CatKnight

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Well... I wonder if we're splitting hairs here.

I think authenticity is important. That doesn't mean having been there and done that....for historical work and much of fiction that's simply impossible. Who here has flown a spaceship, or fought a dragon?

Still, authenticity is important for suspension-of-disbelief. Even though obviously this woman hadn't been to Canada, and certainly not the nineteenth century, she apparently did massive amounts of research. That I think is important.

You can't (and shouldn't) show all the details of your research... but the more you understand the setting, or what people might have lived in it, the better your story. Hands down.

Now you specifically bring up someone using dialogue from 'real life.' The dialogue itself might be a bit much, but many authors pattern their characters at least partially on real people. Or themselves.

It's a bit of a crutch perhaps....it's another type of cliche. It's easy to write for the "fearless All-American cowboy" or "damsel in distress" because you can easily figure out how they'll react. It's just as easy, and harder to detect, if you use cliches like "my sister Jenny" or "that annoying neighbor".

On the other hand, there is a question of authenticity here also. Being people, where do we learn about social interaction? Watching others and eventually imitating and refining. Where do authors learn dialogue? By listening to others and taking note of their speech patterns. Dialogue English and formal English are usually very different critters.

If the author is to build believable characters..he needs something to work with. The only experience he has in the matter is with himself and other people. They are like the woman's maps and journals. Real life certainly can't and shouldn't be the end all in fiction... but it's definitely the beginning.
 

Director

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The term is verisimilitude - the appearance of reality. And like everything else it is a two-edged sword. You do want the reader to feel able to suspend disbelief, to have a sense of being transported to a different place and time. On the other hand an author can be completely convincing but have his/her facts wrong and so teach the reader any number of falsities.

If you set out to write 'historical' fiction you should make every effort to get the facts right, but where the facts aren't known or are in dispute you sometimes have to invent your way. You may take it on faith that I have no experience in robbing banks but I could, I think, write a convincing scene in which a bank gets robbed. You would be ill-advised to take my piece, no matter how apparently well detailed, as a blueprint for your own crime.

I have found it best not to get into too much detail. If I say a character holds a gun in his hand I usually don't specify which hand or what kind of gun, unless it is germane to the plot. A sprinkling of detail can go a long way toward involving the reader in the scene; the mind of the reader can be relied upon to fill in some of the missing pieces.

I'd be more intrigued to know what people who knew that part of Canada, and its people, had to say about the book.



As far a preferring fiction to reality, I have to agree with the playwright, I think. I was owner/manager of night-clubs for eight years and in that time I saw and heard things I'd never make up for fear people wouldn't believe them. I do sometimes draw on actual people for an expression, or turn of phrase. Saying the playwright 'merely' strung together actual events into a play shows little regard for the creative process. He did, after all, know which episodes to use, and how, and what to leave out, and undoubltedly created a lot of surrounding material to showcase the gems... if the play was any good, as the reviewer seems to think it was, the playwright's ear and eye must get a lot of the credit.

There is an old cliche that 'there is nothing new under the sun' and another that 'all stories are essentially the same story', and some truth to both, I think. None of us are going to write the first detective story, or the first romance, or the first quest: these have all been done. What we can do is read good material, think about what we want to write, write well, accept criticism gracefully and steal from the best.

Oh, yes, I'm told writing a lot helps hone the tools. Unfortunely, being a good writer seems to involve a great deal of actual work.
 

Commander-DK

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How many main characters?

How many main characters are the max in a AAR to avoid loosing focus on some of them?

How many main characters can I include before it becomes muddy and confused?

:) Jesper
 
Last edited:

Thistletooth

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As long as you introduce them slowly and spend a little bit of time defining them, there's no set limit. A lot depends on how well you can craft characters (to give them some relevance beyond their name) and how unique they are in your story. You should probably avoid having many characters with similar backgrounds (basic grunt soldiers, politicians, orphans), or which can be described with the same sets of adjectives. Essentially, if a character isn't strong enough to stand out and dominate their own chapter, they're not worth making into main characters. If you're apprehensive, start slow.

However, if your AAR has more than one narrative, you can probably handle a little more. Pick one character and built the world around them; once you think the reader has a good enough understanding of the world should you consider shifting to someone else temporarily. Introduce new characters only as you can come to them naturally through the course of your story, and if you like them enough, see if you can write a chapter just for them. One of the greatest risks is to shift your story to a new central character before the first character has been given a strong enough footing; this can disorientate the reader, and make them wonder what the relevance of that first character was and what the second character has to do with them. Start slow, start with one main character, and build from there. Don't commit yourself to anything more ambitious until you're confident that you know where you are and where you're going.
 

CatKnight

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Remember also that characters can change in importance depending on how your story goes. If you find your readers becoming attached to someone, it's easy enough to build them up. If they don't seem to care about another character you can let them fade into the background.

To state the obvious, a story needs a main protagonist, who you'll be spending a lot of time with, and an antagonist who you won't spend as much time with except to show he's a jerk.

Personally I put characters in four ranks (five if you include the nameless drones)

1. Critical characters: The AAR/Story collapses without them. In Resurrection I have the main character and his adversary.

2. Major: The AAR/Story is severely damaged without them. My third main character is here.

3. Supporting Characters: These characters are built up enough the readers should readily recognize them. There's a small legion in here.

4. Incidental: I gave 'em a name. I haven't given them much attention and neither have the readers.

Note this has nothing to do with their actual 'power.' In a World War II AAR/story about the US Navy, President Roosevelt is supporting if not incidental. If we're focusing on one ship, then Admiral Nimitz is incidental as well.

Also note this doesn't mean the main characters have to be immortal. Sometimes killing off a main character can really shock your readers into paying attention. An anime tactic used so often its cliche is to give the young 'star' an older mentor to show him the ropes and bail him out a few times, and when it's time for the pup to shine on his own they kill the mentor off. George R.R. Martin's stories have so many major characters depending on who he's narrating that he'll kill a few to emphasize the grittiness of his world.
 

coz1

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I personally believe that there is no set amount of characters that can or may inhabit a story. However, there should never be a character in such that is not there for a reason. Some may be throw-away and some may be the most important, but each and every one should be there to serve the story being told.
I did an AARticle on such way back in the Gazette if you wish to read it - you can find it here.

But it basically suggests the same thing. You might also wish to visit the SolAARium above as it gives some ideas towards such.

In the end - CatKnight and Thistletooth are right - pick a main character to build around...and then do that building with other characters that advance the plot, affect the arc of that main character and surely, choose and build figures that make the narrative meaningful, interesting...perhaps even engrossing. There is no such thing as "too much" or "not enough." But there is such that can be termed - "not interesting" or "not important."
 

CatKnight

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Commander-DK said:
Excellent replies, thanks guys! :)

I can see I might need more antagonists. Basically I just thought that protagonists from different countries could be each others' antagonists, but I can see why it would be problematic (and probably boring) to have nothing but "heroes caught in a terrible world" on all sides :D

You have given me food for thought. Thank you.

:) Jesper


Hey, DK:

Now that I've seen your other question I can probably answer better.

I think you're actually on the right track. The antagonist certainly sees themselves as the hero. None of us go out in life thinking we're the bad guys.

Because of this, when the focus switches to the antagonist being the main character..by definition the roles reverse. He's now the hero of his own tale, and the opponents the enemies.

Again since you're hoping to parallel Red Storm....the IMPORTANT characters don't meet much until the end with the two generals. They have their own sets of enemies who Clancy gives just enough detail to for realism's sake.

We certainly encounter 'evil': The Russian soldiers raping a woman in Iceland for example, but it's not a reflection on the other Russian characters/protagonists.

So yes...I think they can serve as each other's enemies. More correctly, the forces they command serve as the enemies.
 

coz1

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Indeed. Think of something like last year's The Departed in which the two main characters are at odds with each other the entire time. Both serve as the "main character" while one is mostly good, with tinges of bad; and the other bad, with tinges of good.

Or perhaps think of something like Star Wars where we certainly know Darth Vader is evil and the sure antagonist, but yet he remains and becomes one of the central figures in the entire tale (and certainly the main protagonist in I through III - in fact, one might make the claim that he serves as both protagonist and antagonist against himself in that, though I would be loath to give Lucas that much credit. :rolleyes: )

Once more, I would try and blur the lines if you truly wish to carry on with two distinct characters, making neither purely good nor bad. Those grey areas are truly fun to play with and certainly resonate with most of us as individuals. As long as what they do as people makes sense and works for the character as you've set them up, and as long as the audience can find some way to relate to them or hate them (which may be two sides of one coin) then you are probably doing your job as a writer.

[And a note - I will be moving this thread to the SolAARium tomorrow as I think it is great discussion to be included there. Keep on discussing if warrented - just look for it there. :) ]
 

unmerged(51967)

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It depends on their roles really... As far as main major character you can have half a dozen without it being confusing as long as you build them. My style always keeps me down to a few, and they're usually developed through dialogue for me.
Not that minor characters can't have their own character building, in fact it usually helps if you give them a bit.