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

Craig Ashley

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EF,

I can see what you're saying but I think more and more the game mechanics are being buried deeper and deeper into the stories. MrT's RRR went on for how many posts before war was even declared? In game terms almost nothing had happened, MrT wrote quite a bit.

Warspite's Roman Empire AARs have completely fictional monarchs if I remember correctly and he acts not according to what is best for the country, but what is best for the AAR.

Even in my own From the Pope's Basement, which is very close at times to log style AAR, I have found myself making character based decisions rather than game decisions.

These are just a few examples off the top of my head.

I do agree that the author has a certain amount of literary license to leave out certain events or change the order. I suppose the question being asked is how far is too far?

My personal opinion is you can never go to far on this one. MrT's RRR probably isn't going to give any real insight as to how to play a German minor, but it's still one of my favorite AARs around. As long as the game is being used as the basic skeleton for the story it is an AAR.
 

Craig Ashley

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Oh and back to the scripting question. In both of my ongoing AARs, I have done very little scripting. As anyone who has read them or the review of FTPB can tell. Now as I have progressed further, I find myself planning things out further and further and in increasingly greater detail. My next AAR will no doubt be even more mapped out.

Chris and myself have discussed this very thing via PM and email. We both have a history of starting ambitious projects and getting stuck later on down the road. Only then would we start mapping things out in detail, coming up with fictional religious systems, cultures, political systems or alliances. In the end we would get sidetracked and abandon the whole project.

If we had started out with that information and planned out the story a little more, those projects may have been completed. It may be for the best they were abandoned:D, at least in my case. (Chris, let me know if I'm misrepresenting you) I have found it very necessary to plot in advance, otherwise it's to easy to paint yourself into a corner.

This has happened to me hundreds of times.

1. Start out with a really interesting tale.
2. Get going and decide to throw in a complicated plot twist or double cross.
3. Set it up, but not know how to conclude it.
4. Write about 20 different solutions, but hate them all.
5. Abandon yet another writing project.

This almost happened to me in the FTPB! So for me, advanced planning is completely necessary.
 

unmerged(9994)

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Is Rivers Run Red truly an AAR? More importantly, does it matter? It's a good read regardless.

My own aar is an organic work. Though I am trying to stay reasonably faithful to the game log, most character/story decisions are spontaneous or derive from earlier spontaneous decisions. I compose it in the reply window.

Mr. T brought up an important point. While organic writing can be a fairly accurate depiction of life events, it makes the development of various themes much more difficult. If you want your story to evince a certain psychological theme or philosophical principle, unscripted story development can be counterproductive. You may find yourself saying "I wish I hadn't had him do that . It is much easier to create a work where everything fits tightly together if you have planned it out beforehand. However, it is also possible to do this during editing and many professional writers claim they sit down to write with very little outlined.
 

Storey

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Originally posted by Edgar Francis I


Unless you're doing a straight-out, no-frills history-log type AAR, I don't see any way to tell any kind of narrative story that doesn't in some way deviate from the game itself. The minute you have a character open his/her mouth and say something, you've deviated. That's fiction. That's a story. That never happened in game terms (at least my therapist says I'm the only one who can hear the voices coming from the computer while I play... that's right, isn't it?).

I don't think it's a particularly blurry line. Once one decides to tell any kind of story--as I see it, anyway--the mechanics of the game are immediately secondary. Still vital, still necessary (otherwise this is just an online creative-writing seminar) but secondary. I think of it as the spine, around which everything else, everything visible and tangible, hangs.

Further, I don't think the writer has any obligation to the reader with regard to what should be left in and what should be left out. Sure, there's an element of the AAR that is informative and educational (I read some myself sometimes just to see how someone played a certain country), but there's no ethical compunction to make it obvious. As long as the general arc follows the arc of the country's fate in the course of the game, that's an AAR.

EF1

I have to disagree a little here. In my "Alliance" AAR I had characters in the story representing the monarchs of the various countries in the alliance. Their sole purpose was to relate to the reader what was happening in the game. 99% of everything they did was to show what was happening in the game nothing more. Well they were also supposed to cause a chuckle or two. When one king complained about the amount of gold he had to send to another country he was telling you exactly what happened in the game. In the "Gods did play" what game information did Helen give the reader. None. This is what I was focusing on. Your right that every AAR is a story but I think there comes a point where either the story is what's most important or reporting what happened in the game in an entertaining way is the more important of the two. One isn't better than the other is just a choice on what the writer wants to do. The Rivers run red is a good read that I'm waiting anxiously for MrT to continue but it is a stretch to call it an AAR since your only getting a short period of the game and you would be hard put to find anything but the most general game play facts.

I agree that the writer has no obligation on what they put in or leave out of the story.

Joe
 

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Many professonal writers will say, when interviewed, that they usually script but sometimes are surprised by their characters and have the story taken away from them.

ANd most pro writers script, research and plot before they start. THe few who don't ( or the few times they don't ) it's for the joy and terror of working without a net.

After all, we only get to read their completed high-wire acts, not the failures.

Does anyone draw a parallel between their gaming style ( loose, unstructured, opportunistic versus methodical, planned, careful ) and writing style?

Just curious.

As a reader who's trying to become a writer, I have only one rule for events: is it interesting, can it be MADE interesting, or does it have to be mentioned to explain something else?
 

unmerged(6777)

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It's an interesting question as to whether the RRR is really an AAR.

I would argue that it is in that the events that I am writing about are entirely conjured up by the game play itself. The diplomatic relations between the countries (alliances, RMs, wars, etc.) at this time are as a result of the game, not real life. The Palatinat did not declare war on France in 1439. The army movements and battles I will be descibing have nothing to do with RL other than being presented in a manner that represents typical styles of warfare at that era. The end result of the war is, as you will see, not historical but simply my game decisions about what would be useful to me as a player for my ultimate goal of world conquest, the events that happen are random events generated by the game...and so on.

That I am choosing to use these as a backdrop to explore other themes doesn't disqualify it in my mind, but rather embellishes it and makes it more interesting...and one of the principal themes - "Friedrich's Ambition" - is actually integral to the game.

I don't view it as being mandatory to clearly spell out what options I clicked on, what slider changes I made, etc. It is (or will be) all there in the AAR if you look very carefully for them. So far you've seen:

- 1439, Jan 08 - DP adjust Serf -1 to 8
- 1439, Jan19 - The Palatinat (+Hessen, Saxony, Wurzburg, Cologne) DOW France (+Provence, Bourbonnais, Scotland, Gelre, Savoy)
- 1439 Jan 19 - land maintenence to 100%
- 1439 Jan 19 - raise war taxes
- 1439 Jan 19 - recruit 4000I in Mainz
- 1439 Jan 19 - Army of the Electorat (16108/4335/0) from Pfalz to Lorraine

and you're about to see

- 1439 Feb 06 - Army of the Electorat lays siege to Lorraine (Nancy)

Just because I'm adding a touch :)D) of embellishment to those doesn't make it any less of an AAR....I think. :)

The same is true of Storey's two aforementioned works. In both The Gods Did Play and in Who Killed Cologne the events are well hidden or only obliquely given, and the way he went about presenting the story made them seem almost subservient to the narrative, and yet what would either be without the game having been played?

I'm pretty much okay with anything that anyone cares to write and call an AAR if somewhere, lying at its foundation, is the game in some form. I don't care how deeply burried the game ends up being - and to prevent it from being "more of the same" I think that it's becoming more and more important to do so in order to avoid being "commonplace".

I really just want to be entertained or captivated by the story. If I want to learn to play, I'll read the GD or FAQ forums...;)
 

Craig Ashley

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Since this topic seems to have run its course, I'd like to pose a separate but related question. How much, if any, editing do you do?

When I first started writing on this forum, I'd sit down bang out an installment, cut, paste, and post. At most, I might read it over VERY quickly. More and more, I find myself writing a piece and letting it sit for a couple hours, maybe a day, and coming back to it and reading it again, slowly. Usually I might change a word or two, alter the occasional oddly worded phrase, and of course check the spelling:eek: :D . Other times I add major sections, or even tear it up and try again. The last post for From the Pope's Basement was like that. That was actually my third version, and even it was on the receiving end of some heavy alterations.

I guess what I want to know is, do you edit? If so, how much? How do you go about it? What are you looking for?
 
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Lord Durham

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Good question. While it's great receiving accolades for my writing, I'm the first to admit that I work damned hard at it. It's one of the reasons it takes me so long to write a novel.

Editing is my bane.

For every hour that I write, I'll spend perhaps another hour editing. Sometimes the final product is nothing near what I originally envisioned. Typically I write, reread, edit, take a break and grab a coffee, then sit down and reread again. Most of my major changes come after walking away. Even then, when I read some of my posted material on the board I'm constantly seeing different ways of improving it. I guess I'm a perfectionist... :rolleyes:

Part of the extensive editing will sometime result from a trick I learned to combat writer's block. I'm sure you have all stared at a blank page on the monitor at one time or another.

What I do is just start writing. It could be merely one liners with horrible descriptions and no logic, but it's still something. Oftentimes the mere fact that you put something on the screen, no matter how bad, at least allows you to revisit and begin the task of whipping the material into shape. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it works for me.

Additonally I've found that reading passages out loud will help me get a feel for the material. The easier they are to read and to make sense, the easier it will be for the audience to digest. Dialogue is a good example. It's also a subject I will introduce later on.
 

unmerged(6777)

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This is something that I know LD hates me for...:)

My typical RRR instalment now involves roughly the following...

1. Wake up early in the morning and lie in bed thinking about how I want to tackle my next section. Moan loudly when the alarm goes off and I have to get up to go to work. Make coffee. (approx. 1 hr.)

2. Drive to work and continue to think about it...try to avoid rear-ending vehicles while doing so (optional). (approx. 1 hr.)

3. Consult notes to see what I've forgotten that I need to include. (approx. 15 min.)

4. Mentally run over the general structure and POVs I will use for the instalment and see if there are any particular phrases that spring to mind. Jot down any that seem good (I realise that I've been forgettting some of my best ones recently so I have to make a note of them now). In particular, figure out exactly what "hook" I will use and what "cliffhanger" might be appropriate to end with. Also review charcter "sheets" for each POV that will be used for the instalment to re-plant all pertinent details about them in my mind. (approx. 1 hr.)

5. Stare at monitor, flex fingers, and try to assemble everything I've been thinking about. (approx. 10 min.)

6. Type like a madman, constructing sentences/paragraphs and overall form on the fly. (approx. 1 hr to 4 hrs depending on cooperation from my muse and complexity of instalment)

7. If stuck on a passage, type general "this goes here" note and press on. (incl. in above), then come back and figure out how to resolve mental block. (approx. 30 min.)

And a couple new ones for me...

8. Re-read entire post and correct for the odd spelling/grammar error that might have escaped my notice as I was originally writing. (approx. 15 min.)

9. Re-work occasional sentences/paragraphs to better convey what I intend or eliminate repeated words, awkward phrases, etc. Read all dialogue aloud to myself to ensure that it sounds "natural" and believable (approx. 1 hr.) (I notice LD will be coming back to this subject...it's a biggy!)

10. Do last check to make sure no contradictory characterisations exist, and to confirm continuity with previous posts. (approx. 30 minutes)

11. Sigh with some measure of satisfaction (hopefully) (approx. 5 min.)

12. Respond to reader feedback. (approx. 15 minutes...he says hopefully - some days are lamentably faster to respond to than others ;))

13. Post instalment. (2 min.)

Of course I now have these occasional niggling feelings that a post just isn't working, in which case I'll stew on it for hours or even days. Sometimes I then go back and rework a section...and on a few occasions I've gone back and started over pretty much from scratch. That's something I never used to do at all.

I would also remind you that all of this is in addition to the original preparation, research, plot-mapping, post-mapping, character creation, etc. that has taken well over 200 hours to date. When I'm not sure about a particular detail (say, the appropriate 15th C. armour and weaponry, or who's ruling what, etc.) then do more research. Also I occasionally have to construct a map/picture - less so now and definitely more so in the future as the larger battles begin to occur and the troop movements become more complex.

All in all, that's about 6-10 hours of work per RRR instalment, excluding the initial (and ongoing) research.

Whew! No wonder I feel so drained sometimes after I've posted. :rolleyes: :)
 

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It takes me a minimum of 3 hours to do a chapter... but more like 5... planning would probably take that down by at least an hour... but then if I plan it all out, I wouldn't write it... so I guess it is a sacrifice I have to make... ;)

Editing... well, I usually write over two days... the first 600-1000 words the night before, and then I finish up the next day.... quote and chapter title usually come last....

I usually then go through the chapter, making sure I didn't do anything transitions too jumpy, and I got dates right and such....

M
 

Storey

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Originally posted by Craig Ashley


I guess what I want to know is, do you edit? If so, how much? How do you go about it? What are you looking for?

I started out just writing the story and then proof reading it to make sure there were no glaring errors in it. I have evolved to the stage where I write the outline of the story first and then start breaking it into parts, which makes it easier to handle. I tend to write fast so it will take me only a few hours to have the story segment done but then the rewrites start and continue and continue etc. I can't count he number of times I’ve winced while reading something I had just posted because I had just thought of a better word or phrase that would have really fit the piece better than that sorry excuse that I did use. I also tend to write in short declarative sentences which can be jarring over the long run so when I edit I try to change the length, or as I like to call it, the cadence of my sentences. I more I write the more I edit. I think I've come down with some type of insidious disease. :eek:
 

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Editting... The Bane of My Existence. (tm)

When I am writing, once a firm idea in my mind regarding what needs to happen and who will be involved, I just start writing. I am what I would term an "instinctual" writer. Since I just made that term up, I will explain it. I just let the wrods, sentences, and paragraphs "flow" upon the page, often with absurd and disturbing errors.

Once I reach a stopping place (which may or not be the actual end of an installment), I go back and correct all errors I find; however, I am terrible at editting my own stuff. I can only catch the worst errors (and sometimes not even those!) but I miss alot of minor punctuation typos and bad grammar items. The only way I have of editting my own work really well is to just not look at it for a week or two. Then, when it is no longer on the brain, I can find all the nit-picky typos. I am finding this out as I begin the painful process of archiving my current project.

For anyone who is counting, I can edit other people's work without any problem. This has lead me to advocate peer review as the best editting tool. Of course, it is kinda hard for us to do that on here, so it is somewhat idle advice for our purposes.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Originally posted by Secret Master
Editting... The Bane of My Existence. (tm)

For anyone who is counting, I can edit other people's work without any problem. This has lead me to advocate peer review as the best editting tool. Of course, it is kinda hard for us to do that on here, so it is somewhat idle advice for our purposes.
I agree completely. It's one thing to edit my own work, but I never seem to catch as many minor errors with it as I do with someone else's work since I'm reading it "fresh" for the first time.

To really avoid making those posting gaffs, you almost need to find an "AAR Buddy" to whom you send your instalment before you post it and have them pick out the errors and send it back to you to fix. It would be someone you'd have to develop a pretty good working relationship with since you'd be asking him/her to rip your work to shreds if need be - sort of an editor. It would also, of course, delay the posting of your instalments until it had undergone the process.

I read the fist few chapter's of LD's book (it took me a while to coax the precious material out of him) and I still found a couple of little nits to pick in spite of the fact that he's been over them with a fine toothed comb about a million times.

Anyone want to be my "AAR Buddy" in exchange for return-of-favour? :)

Actually, probably the best way to do it is to solicit harsher criticism in the AAR itself. To give you an example, in my most recent RRR instalment ("Friedrich's first battle") LD responded that he had a comment about it that he'd send via e-mail. He did, and it was a completely valid point that has me thinking about completely re-writing a section of the instalment. The funny thing is that I knew that there was something in the back of my brain that was telling me there was something not quite right, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. He did so in a matter of a few minutes' reading. That's the sort of thing I'd like to get with every instalment - and it doesn't necessarily have to be via e-mail either. I don't mind at all if someone points out to the "masses" that there's a problem with what I've written...and in fact it may end up being something that is not only constructive help to me, but also could benefit others...
 

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Originally posted by MrT
Actually, probably the best way to do it is to solicit harsher criticism in the AAR itself. To give you an example, in my most recent RRR instalment ("Friedrich's first battle") LD responded that he had a comment about it that he'd send via e-mail. He did, and it was a completely valid point that has me thinking about completely re-writing a section of the instalment. The funny thing is that I knew that there was something in the back of my brain that was telling me there was something not quite right, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. He did so in a matter of a few minutes' reading. That's the sort of thing I'd like to get with every instalment - and it doesn't necessarily have to be via e-mail either. I don't mind at all if someone points out to the "masses" that there's a problem with what I've written...and in fact it may end up being something that is not only constructive help to me, but also could benefit others...

I totally agree. Some people may be shy of putting up criticism about an AAR and rather don't post anything at all. After all, it's not always clear if or if not the writer would appreciated the well meant suggestions. Unless, of course, the writer specifically asks for it, as I have, for example, for my Klausens-AAR, and for which still every bit of constructive criticism is appreciated. One of the more important reasons of me writing AARs is not only that I like to tell stories, but also that I want to improve my writing, even if it will benefit me only indirectly as it is in a foreign language.

And as you pointed out, others who go over an AAR and read some of the suggestions by readers might come to think about their writings, as well, as they may not have noticed some things that others have.
 

Craig Ashley

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posted by MrT

To really avoid making those posting gaffs, you almost need to find an "AAR Buddy" to whom you send your instalment before you post it and have them pick out the errors and send it back to you to fix. It would be someone you'd have to develop a pretty good working relationship with since you'd be asking him/her to rip your work to shreds if need be - sort of an editor. It would also, of course, delay the posting of your instalments until it had undergone the process.

Very interesting idea! My only problem is that I'm not sure "I could give the type of insight others are looking for, but if you really want an "AAR buddy," you got one.

Let me take this time hear also to say feel free to give me ANY criticisms either in the AAR itself or via email or PM.

Initially I hated the thought of editing my own work, but now I almost take some sort of perverse pleasure in it. And like others have said I moan when I read something I have written when I now have a far better way of expressing it. I'm not above going back and editing it even weeks after it was posted.
 

Craig Ashley

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posted by Sytass

I totally agree. Some people may be shy of putting up criticism about an AAR and rather don't post anything at all. After all, it's not always clear if or if not the writer would appreciated the well meant suggestions. Unless, of course, the writer specifically asks for it, as I have, for example, for my Klausens-AAR, and for which still every bit of constructive criticism is appreciated.

I agree that many people are reluctant to offer any substantial criticism. If the author hasn't asked for it, I never give it. I want to make sure I don't offend anyone. If it has been requested, I take the writer at his word and fire away.

But in both of my AARs I have asked a few times for such open and honest criticism. Only MrT and LD have really responded with what I have asked for. I think many are still reluctant to criticize and possibly offend.
 

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Originally posted by Craig Ashley

Only MrT and LD have really responded with what I have asked for. I think many are still reluctant to criticize and possibly offend.
You have to be careful what you ask for. People can view a similar passage in many different ways, so you could end up with several conflicting bits of advice.

I may suggest you add a few more colourful adjectives and switch a few commas around, while someone else might recommend exactly the opposite.

That was one of the reasons why I posed my earlier question about immersing oneself in a book, to guage how much your imagination takes in what the author attempts to impart.

I would hazard to guess that the older pre videogame/fast pace generation prefers/appreciates/enjoys descriptive passages and a reasonable amount of immersion to the younger generation who prefers less description and a quick fix.

Controversial? Maybe. Purposely vague? Of course. It could be a topic for another time. :)
 

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Well, it is very interesting that Craig Ashley brings up getting criticism from readers. Myself, I have been writing Noble Lives for months, and only a few times have anyone given constructive criticism directly in the AAR itself. At one point, a long time ago, a reader offered a suggestion about where to take the story (it involved the level of detail regarding my nobles). And, more recently, someone commented on my lack of audio cues in my writing (i.e. all my characters never used their sense of hearing for anything other than hearing speech). Other than that, nada. Of course, in my AAR, I have never actively said "Hey, tell me what's screwed up in my work."

Part of tihs is because I never anticipated such an attachment to my current project. I figured I would be done with it by now, but instead I have not even reached the point where Jean Calvin shows up (and its a GC for Pete's sake!). I am also still gauging my audience as I write it. I never anticipated so many of my readers grasping an allusion to MacBeth in my writing of a former plot, but most of them did (sparking a long OT discussion on the Scottish play...). Even now, I am still getting used to the idea that the average reader here is most likely college educated, possibly with a strong liberal arts background. In spite of this, I am still not 100% comfortable with directly soliciting in-depth criticism from my readers. From my average reader, what I really want to know is just whether they like what they are reading or not. Also, what feelings it is evoking in them. If my writing is evoking in most of my readers the response I want, then I am satisfied with the basics of what I have written.

I suppose I would prefer in-depth criticism to come strictly from a sit-down session with one or two other people (whose judgement I fully trust). This does not mean I will be mad if someone offers something, but I am hesitant to give a blanket request for detailed feedback from everyone. After all, it is one thing for a reader to tell me whether he or she likes what is being written, and whether or not the installment evoked a feeling of pity, fear, joy, etc.; however, it is quite another to have a reader tell me why it is evoking said feeling, and what I should do to evoke something else.
 

Craig Ashley

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LD, no doubt an open call for suggestions could result in conflicting ideas. I don't look at that as a bad thing, but rather having a wealth of options. Some of the suggestions are things you may never consider using, but the open call could bring in a fresh perspective that you may have never heard otherwise.

Your other topic is an interesting one, but I'll respond to it later.:D

SM: I understand your point, but as I stated above a fresh perspective from someone you never considered can be very enlightening. Still there would be some feedback\suggestions that may never be feasible. Is that because of the person making the suggestion or the writer's failure to communicate his intention?

I am also still gauging my audience as I write it. I never anticipated so many of my readers grasping an allusion to MacBeth in my writing of a former plot, but most of them did (sparking a long OT discussion on the Scottish play...). Even now, I am still getting used to the idea that the average reader here is most likely college educated, possibly with a strong liberal arts background.


Agreed. It definately seems the forum is well educated and well read in general. That begs the question, how much do you take your audience into consideration?
 

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LD,

Hmm. Yes I would agree "generally" that the "video game generation" prefers shorter passages. That said, I can immerse myself in GOOD literature. My earlier point is that many authors get so bogged down in trivialites they never tell the story. Also it's easy to get in the rut of doing the same thing repeatedly.

Neither of those, IMHO, is "good" literary practice. And either of those will cause me to "turn off" a book. Maybe the key word here is "proportion." If I feel the story is still moving, then the details are fine. But once the story bogs down, those trivialites are an anchor dragging it further into the mud.