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

Mettermrck

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I think it's easier to start with one main character, focus on them, their development. Often, and unexpectedly, a secondary character will pique your interest or that of your readers, and you'll find that he/she takes on a life of their own and now you have two main characters! Let the story take you where it wants...:)
 

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I am pretty methodical about this, as I do a general outline of the direction I want the story to go, with the main characters laid out. Some characters will be there from the beginning, but I have set times in the story when other major characters will be introduced. That does not mean that the story will not in some ways develop a life of its own. In my current AAR I have what was to be a supporting character starting to develop into a major character. Wasn't outlined, but I liked the way he was developing and decided to give him a bigger role. He has actually somewhat supplanted what was to be a major character.

I guess I am trying to say is, have a general idea of where you want to go, and what characters you want to do it with to keep you on track, but dont be afraid to change course if you come up with something better.
 

Rensslaer

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I won't necessarily recommend my experience as the best style, but it did become remarkably popular...

Unlike most of the writAARs who've spoken up so far, I started my AAR (Fire Warms) to tell a story about the game through characters who I knew nothing about at the start, and I also lacked any kind of plan for the AAR when I started! It was to be an episodic tale of relevant characters who were each to be first identified by the gameplay.

I'm misleading slightly -- I did have two "major" characters at the start. One was the German Kaiser, and the other was a Bismarckian Chancellor. But they were never meant to be the only "main" characters, and as the story developed they both ended up receding into the background. It can be argued that Louis Napoleon (an enemy emperor!) had a more interesting and influential role in my story than either the first Kaiser or first Chancellor!

I set up each scene to illustrate the gameplay, and created and maneuvered characters entirely to the end of accomplishing the illustration. If there was an invasion, I created a character from whose eyes we could see it. He might become a recurring character (many of these did), but you might not ever see him again. I had dozens of interesting characters who were the "main characters" of individual scenes who completely disappeared from the story after that scene was done. The characters who stuck around (in the early stages of the story) did so only because I kept needing to write scenes in which they were required to be (cabinet meetings, famous generals in battle after battle, etc.).

I also made a habit of using historical characters as much as I could. Sometimes they stuck around (Louis Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II), and other times it was just a cameo appearance (Gen. Sheridan, Gen. Patton, Lawrence of Arabia).

Later on, it took on a more traditional style, where the main characters became the Kaiser, Kaiserin, some close friends and cabinet members. But, honestly, I think this only happened because the readers demanded it! :D The readers, by that time, had grown attached to certain characters, and so I kept writing them in, because I knew people would ask about them if I didn't.

Nevertheless, I kept up my episodic style to the end. Occasional recurring characters, like Sgt. Steppenwolf, or a young Adolf Hitler, who played major roles in story development. And then there was still the occasional throwaway character, like the British pilot whose last moments we witnessed as the Red Baron closed in.

Rensslaer
 

CatKnight

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I liked Firefly actually, though we're in danger of drifting.

The short answer is to go with what's comfortable for you, DK.

I think maybe start relatively small, say one character from each side in your case...then just let it flow. If more characters appear, great. If not, that's fine too. A story can be a very organic thing (and can grow out of control - seperate discussion :)) and you'll find new characters showing themselves as others fade into the background.

So long as you keep everybody straight there's really no upper limit.
 

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Anyone who's read Dickens or Tolstoy can tell you that 20 or even 50 main characters is an acceptable number, and readers will gobble it up. The question is really how many are well-developed and distinctive - for example, taking Tale of Two Cities as an example, if every character were as unimportant and underdescribed as Barsad or Cly, we wouldn't like or remember them. But as the story is, Darnay, Carton, Lucie, the Doctor, Jarvis Lorry, M. and Mme. Defarge, Jerry Cruncer, and Miss Pross are distinctive and engaging enough that we don't even notice we are being asked to remember the identities of no less than 9 characters who are absolutely essential to the plot! In summary, you can have a lot of really important characters so long as readers can identify with them, tell them apart, and care about them (or strongly dislike them in some cases).

In my current AAR, by the way, I have introduced three genuinely "main characters" and will soon be including more. :) The fact is folks like you and me have a LOT of practice and a lot of hard work to do before we will ever turn out stories on the level of complexity and ingenuity exhibited by say ... Dickens. ;)
 

TeeWee

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While I'm definitely not an experienced writer (or writAAR) with many aborted AAR attempts in my drawer and my first published one still at the start of the story, I do read a lot of SF/Fantasy. As such, I can safely say I can handle a lot of different characters and even main characters as long as I can easily identify who is who. Have a few key character traits by which we readers can easily identify the characters. Also have consistent reactions of one main character to another. This also makes things recognizable. For example, I read George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and can easily tell the difference between all the different Lannister characters. They observe different kinds of things, react in different ways and speak in different ways. The differences can start in a bit of a cliched way (oh, he's the young and cocky knight, she's the dreamy naive princess) and fleshened out while the story develops.

If you can identify different dialogue lines of different main characters without attribution it might mean you're well on your way to succeed.

Supporting characters can also be very useful in highlighting aspects of your main character(s), as if they're some sort of (warped) mirror and let the reader compare the reactions of the main character to a supporting character in the same situations. Perhaps having a legion of throwaway characters (use once only) in your portfolio for exactly this purpose is helpful too.
 

Jestor

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As far as number of characters go, in my own fiction (which is noticeably different from my AARs here, except maybe The Beautiful Girl and the History Class which is a very watered down version of my normal style), I tend to focus on a dominant 1st person narrating character, with perhaps one or two other characters who are on the same level.

I do this because for me personally, it's a lot easier to inhabit a single character and see everything through their eyes, thoughts, voice, etc. When I shift to a 3rd person perspective, I lose touch with characters and situations, and as a result, my writing ultimately becomes weaker.
 

bowl of soup

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For some time I've been thinking about starting a new AAR. A bit more serious then my current (at least narative wise). Now the idea is to give each character their own story. So story one will be solely about character one, story two about character two, and so on. The characters will interact with each other but the interaction will only be shown from the current characters perspective.

So I would like to know your thoughts on this. Is it a good idea or would things be to repetitive. And any comments and tips would be helpful

Thanks in advance :)
 

likk9922

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For some time I've been thinking about starting a new AAR. A bit more serious then my current (at least narative wise). Now the idea is to give each character their own story. So story one will be solely about character one, story two about character two, and so on. The characters will interact with each other but the interaction will only be shown from the current characters perspective.

So I would like to know your thoughts on this. Is it a good idea or would things be to repetitive. And any comments and tips would be helpful

Thanks in advance:)

My short little unfinished AAr is written like that. Chapters Maimai 4 and Wolfe 2 are the same encounter from the two different character's perspectives. Just remember to stay in character, and it isn't too hard or confusing or repetitive.

Hope that helps.
 

TeeWee

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bowl of soup said:
For some time I've been thinking about starting a new AAR. A bit more serious then my current (at least narative wise). Now the idea is to give each character their own story. So story one will be solely about character one, story two about character two, and so on. The characters will interact with each other but the interaction will only be shown from the current characters perspective.

So I would like to know your thoughts on this. Is it a good idea or would things be to repetitive. And any comments and tips would be helpful

Thanks in advance :)

Most important thing is, stay in character! If the characters are different enough in your head, you should be able to do it. Just make sure the different viewpoint characters are not simply clones of each other, but actually seperate characters. Make them see and notice different stuff (a rough criminal may notice loose purse on a person and a highborn lady might notice the fine cut on that same person's clothes), use different words in thought and dialogue, interact differently with others, that sort of thing. Unless used as a device, it should always be clear to the reader whose POV is being used. If you can blot out all the name references of the POV character, if you can still see which of your cast is the POV character, then you've succeeded completely.

So, stay in character and never break your current POV. If you describe an interaction between your main characters, describe only the thoughts and perceptions of your current POV character. Even if you know his/her impressions are flat out wrong and contradicting the other impressions of the other main characters.

And yes, many stories are written this way, though not always narrating the exact same scene from different perspectives (it isn't always necessary or even desirable). Read some books with many POV characters and see how they do it to get hints on techniques.
 

canonized

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I agree with TeeWee and likk9922 , staying in character is an excellent starting point to not get repetative . You can also do different perspectives from a 3rd person non-omniscient viewpoint . That is to say that as the 3rd person narrator you only expound on what your character focus is seeing . You also should modify your NARRATION itself not just the dialogue to represent the person . For example (using TeeWee's example) a criminal's narration may have harsh brutal words when describing his actions in the 3rd person and even might have cursing etc while a high born woman might be narrated in a more dainty , preoccupied , and unnecessarily verbose way . Hope that helps too XD
 

TheExecuter

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I am currently in the midst of writing a new update for one of my AARs and was pondering the timing of my muse. It seems that I'm never properly motivated to write until after 10PM...and that once that magical hour is reached, the words at once begin to flow. Has anyone else noted this? What are your ideal writing conditions? Do you have any advice for me to coax inspiration at more civilized times of the day?

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Director

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Professional writers try to write at the same time every day. Some set goals - a certain number of pages, say, before they can stop. Some, like Isaac Asimov, would write non-stop if it were possible. (Of course he is dead now, but if you sat by his grave you might hear the clicking of ghostly typewriter keys).

If you can afford the time, write at 10pm. If you need your sleep, then try sitting down at the word processor at, say, 8pm. If at first the words don't flow, keep tryng at the earlier time. Just as with jet-lag, or re-arranging your meal times, you can get your body and brain adapted to the new schedule.

But, hey, if 10pm works for you - then 10pm it is. Just 'write on'.


My new job doesn't allow me a regular schedule, so I'm not able to get into a consistent rhythm. I think that's why I'm so dis-satisfied with my writing.
 

Amric

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Professionals do tend to try to write at the same time every day, with the notable exception of the deceased Asimov. Director is correct. But there are some that do not do that. It all depends on your personal style. I, for example, do NOT write at the same time every day. I write when the muse and mood strike me. Sometimes it is late at night, or extremely early morning, or just prior to noon or midafternoon. It just depends on whether the timing and inspiration has met at the same moment and I get to work.

I have been known to even write on pads of paper while at work during a break or something. It really is something that only you, as a writer, can determine. If writing at 10 pm works for you, and it doesn't interfere with sleep or work, I say go right ahead and write at that time. If it doesn't seem to be working for you very well, then I would suggest making small notes about what you DO want to write about and then giving it a shot to write at a more convenient time for you.

The notes will help you organize your thoughts from the point where you wanted to write but could not so you can take your time when the time to write is available. But then, D and I are both presuming that the 10 pm writing time is an issue for you. It may not be, if so, then it doesn't matter when you write as long as you do and the end result is what you are looking for.

Good luck, mate!
 
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Some spot on advice from Director and Amric.

From my own experience its good to set a timetable and a target of x number of words everyday if only to feel you have moved that bit closer to your goal. However, quantity is always outweighed by quality. If you can accept that most of what you write in a given day will ultimately be binned, esp. at the earlier iteration of writing then you can approach each day with some zest.

Furthermore, I tend to find that I do my best writing either very early in the morning 4am - 12pm or late at night - past 9pm. During the day I get "disturbed" by other things! That is to say, I wont write every night and everyday. I also tend to write in spasm of intensive day-night sessions when I find myself in the zone.
 

TeeWee

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How do you guys squeeze in your writing time into your work schedule. I have a normal Dutch 40hr work week, so writing time is limited to the evenings. I don't always have the energy for writing, so I never know in advance when my writing time will be.

Is set days in the week a good option, or better to try and get an hour of writing in every day? What is your "minimum" time for a writing session to be effective?
 
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Circumstances dictate the schedule. Set a deadline, set a project length (x words) and then set about writing if youre not one for planning, or planning if you are. I personally will write a high level list of what I will need to cover, give it a % of the overall project length and begin.

Dont forget to add the number of iterations I generally need to get something Im happy with. But you will need to understand your own pattern of writing. Furthermore, if I have time I will look at different aspects of the piece inc. narration type, intensity scale, character analysis and other technical aspect of writing that need to get done. Other times I will know or be set these, so wont need to put these into my plans.

It really all depends on circumstance. And remember this old axiom. Put in 20% effort for 80% of the goal. That is dont try to spend 100% of your time trying to achieve 100% of what you want to. Youll need a Time-Continium-Exclusion-Bubble [tm] to get everything done in the time you have.

Work on getting a high level piece to cover all the points you want to do and then drill into the detail you feel you must highlight. I guess this is probably more relevant to technical writing, than fiction, but I find it helps me to focus on what is important.
 

canonized

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Very interesting advice so far from our resident veterans ! I found that both strategies work well to create different results . Setting a certain word length (or in my case , number of pages) is a very good one since it allows you to structure the highs and lows of your story accordingly . Working at the same time every day will really help , too , if you plan on going on to a professional job where your 400 word column is due at 5pm no matter what .

Some AARs do turn into a job , but the trick is to be in that kind of career that you enjoy . I guess it's more so akin to a marriage . "Liking" or having feelings towards your spouse can change week to week but an 'attitude' towards marriage remains so long as you have the will power as a man to do so . And as a man , you should (thank you , Dr. Laura) . It's the same for an AAR . If you plan on updating regularly you should adopt an attitude to do so because through thick and thin you'll end up updating instead of "Naah I don't feel like updating today ..." . That will really please your readers although most readers here , as I've noticed in my short stay so far , have been very forgiving for many readers . One piece of advice is when you have a stroke of inspiration to write as much as you can and then partition it off so that you have extra to update at another day when you don't have inspiration .

As for fitting it into a work schedule , the previous posters advice about keeping a notepad is a great one ; I keep a notebook with me all the time which I write notes about and throughout the day one can ruminate on the plot they want to set . It's definitely not an easy ride , but I think that it's one of the best solutions to a semi-no-win scenario .
 

unmerged(61296)

"Look behind you Mr Caesar !"
Sep 28, 2006
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TeeWee said:
How do you guys squeeze in your writing time into your work schedule. I have a normal Dutch 40hr work week, so writing time is limited to the evenings. I don't always have the energy for writing, so I never know in advance when my writing time will be.

And most of us don't either ! ;)

Personally I use a little trick to push me forward, even when I don't feel like updating. I noticed that as an average, my AAR generated something around 30 to 50 views per post. So whenever I see the ratio rise up, that's my wake-up call to add another update.

Is set days in the week a good option, or better to try and get an hour of writing in every day? What is your "minimum" time for a writing session to be effective?

That so totally depends on what kind of ambiance you need to write and whether you work on a draft first or go for a direct entry ! The only advice I'd give you is to scribble down even a crude sketch of the update idea, as soon as you think you have gotten hold of a good idea.

For my increasingly "novelized" AAR I usually need 2 to 3 hours per update, including picture research and typo corrections. I start with a good idea of who will tell the story and what the initial situation will be, and of course the game results already give you the final situation (or the situation the update has to lead to at some point). Don't be afraid of changing things as you write, because sometimes a better idea crops up while the keyboard is already smoking. I'd also recomment to write on computer, because often I have felt I was stuck with a bad idea or narration, and got out of it just by displacing paragraphs, opening up new perspectives.
 

unmerged(34884)

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Oct 2, 2004
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I just starting reading some AARs again, something which i havent done in ages, but something i noticed in these AARs annoyed me a bit.

The use of "I" in sentences written from the first person perspective. Of course you are going to use "I" to write a sentence from this perspective, but i feel overdoing makes the text to standard and not attributes to the story. Perhaps something like "I took of my coat, and then I looked at the watch that I just bought one minute ago."

Am i missing something, or is this something writers do think about?