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

Syt

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Originally posted by Secret Master



However, in contemporary writing, you might be able to get away with the shotgun over the fireplace as having a metaphorical purpose regarding the oppression of Starbucks employees named Mel from Manhatten.... :rolleyes: :D

Which reminds me of a case that had taken place at my high school some time back. The students were to write about the metaphorical language of a poem about a spring morning. One student claimed that there was no metaphoric intent in that poem and that the author was just describing a spring morning, nothing more. He got an F.

The author of that poem was still alive, and so the student wrote to him, asking what his intention with the poem was, if there was an underlying metaphorical motif. The author replied something along the lines, "I just wanted to describe a spring morning."

The student presented his teacher with that letter. Her reaction? She scolded him for questioning her authority and tried to have him expelled from school. The F was not revoked.

I think there's an obsession of wanting to see symbolism and metaphors everywhere.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Yes...it's interesting sometimes to try to decide whether an author really is introducing a metaphorical element or not - particularly when the author is no longer alive to confirm or deny it.

In RRR I intentionally introduced a metaphorical element in Chapter 1 that nobody commented on - so I wondered whether I had successfully communicated it at all...and then I wondered whether it was more a case of none of the readers looking for it since it's "only an AAR". Metaphore is usually not something that an author can hit you over the head with, after all, but requires more of an active contemplative role from the reader.

Q?: Do we actively look for metaphorical elements in the things we read on this forum?

My response, as a reader, is that while I think I do, it may be that I really don't. This struck me particularly when the whole Kurtz portion of SM's "Noble Lives" went over my head until the HoD/AN allusions were pointed out to me. Maybe I take my role as a reader too passively?
 

Edgar Francis I

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Originally posted by Bismarck
Oh Chris.... I am in the exact same boat.... no one notices(or at least comments) on some of the things I have stuck in my AAR... I throw a lot of crap into them, but it seems most of my references and allusions are taken at face value... which is a little disappointing... I keep wanting to reveal them, but I want people to find them on their own.... but perhaps I should start telling people about bits and pieces so they look....

I will reveal your cameo in the Cyprus AAR Chris... you were represented by Christoffel Prophyrios, the martyr of Hereke.... and of the top of my head(and quite recently) Warspite was Titus Speranza's second in command, Jerzy Sundgau.

Remember this the next time you see a name in my AAR... it just might be you....

M

Maybe it's bad form to introduce another question when one is already being considered, but the comments by you and MrT are positively begging this one:

What responsibility does the reader have to the author's original intent?

I mean, if you went through all the trouble to put in the allegories, allusions, metaphor, [insert your rhetorical device here], I can understand why you would be frustrated by the reader not making any acknowledgment of it, but is that really the reader's job, to deconstruct the author's intended meaning? Or is it for the reader to digest the material in the particular context of their own understanding and make their own sense of it?

I am of the opinion that once a work is published, it no longer belongs to the author (I'm not talking copyright, I mean in terms of what it "means"). The employ of metaphor only underscores the point--meaning that inconcrete language begets variable interpretation.

Just because the reader doesn't "get it" as you intended does not mean you failed or did it wrong.

Of course there's a whole school of historical scholarship devoted to the "history of reading", how people understand and interpret the written word, usually contrary to the intended purpose.

More on the topic, I tend to shy away from metaphorical language, mostly because I have trouble with it myself. I can spend hours and hours on a paragraph trying to construct and flesh out a decent metaphor, usually ending in frustration and starting over. Of course when it works, ahhh... exhilaration.

But my contributions to the AAR forum so far haven't really lended themselves to metaphor (self-limited by format), so maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about.;)

EF1

~Everyone should read "The Cheese and the Worms" by Carlo Ginzburg.
 

Director

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Originally posted by Edgar Francis I


What responsibility does the reader have to the author's original intent?

I mean, if you went through all the trouble to put in the allegories, allusions, metaphor, [insert your rhetorical device here], I can understand why you would be frustrated by the reader not making any acknowledgment of it, but is that really the reader's job, to deconstruct the author's intended meaning? Or is it for the reader to digest the material in the particular context of their own understanding and make their own sense of it?

I am of the opinion that once a work is published, it no longer belongs to the author (I'm not talking copyright, I mean in terms of what it "means"). The employ of metaphor only underscores the point--meaning that inconcrete language begets variable interpretation.

Just because the reader doesn't "get it" as you intended does not mean you failed or did it wrong.

Of course there's a whole school of historical scholarship devoted to the "history of reading", how people understand and interpret the written word, usually contrary to the intended purpose.


EF1


The late Isaac Asimov was once asked what he thought of an academic's study of metaphor in his work ( the Foundation series, I think but am not sure ). His reply was that he had not conciously intended any of the parallels the academic had found, but that he certainly understood that they could possibly be there.

A good story works on many levels ( which lets mine out :) ). Deeper levels of "easter eggs" are always nice for people to find but "getting the 'in' joke" shouldn't be necessary to drive the plot.

There are, after all, a finite number of plot lines, and all of them have already been used (quest, romance, treasure hunt, etc ). Since you MUST steal, steal from the best!

But, to directly answer your question - the author has many obligations to many readers who are all looking for a different method and depth level of enjoyment. The writer gets out of it what the writer puts into it and the reader gets from it what the reader brings to it. Not a zero-sum game.
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Director

Deeper levels of "easter eggs" are always nice for people to find but "getting the 'in' joke" shouldn't be necessary to drive the plot.
My Portugal or Bust AAR is chock full of 'Easter Eggs' that are placed solely for my enjoyment. When the astute reader locates one it provides me with a sense of accomplishment. Are they crucial to the plot? Not at all. Still, they're fun to concoct.

I had the pleasure of meeting Isaac Asimov at a SF Convention in Toronto back in the early 70's. He was an absolutely charming man who made the time to talk with a wide-eyed teenager who asked some pretty inane questions :)
 

unmerged(6777)

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I think that it's a two way street in most cases, and I find myself agreeing with both EF1 and Director.

If the author takes the time and care to intentionally build metaphor (or allegory for that matter) into his work...great! But he shouldn't necessarily expect the reader to cotton on to it. I think this is further hurt - in this forum - by the fact that you're not reading an entire work at once but only getting it piecemeal so unless the metaphore is self-contained within the instalment then you're asking a lot of a reader to remember something he read a week or two ago...particularly considering that he's probably read a ton of other material in the intervening days.

* * * * *

Can I switch topics just for a second and ask you types with a solid liberal arts background and a better education than I a rather basic grammar question that was driving me nuts as I wrote last weekend?

I was trying to write dialogue for four people in a room and was very carefully presenting the POV from only one of those characters. The situation was made slightly trickier by the fact that they are interrelated characters as follows:

Character 1 is the "POV" person so we're using his eyes and ears to witness the discussion.

Character 2 is the father of character 1.

Character 3 is the uncle of Character 1 and Character 2's brother.

Character 4 is Character 1's cousin (by yet another of his father's brothers) and therefore is the nephew of both Character 2 and Character 3.

The problem was made more difficult because I didn't think that Character 1 would be "thinking" of either Character 2 or 3 by their given names, but would be thinking of them more as "father" and "uncle". I wanted to build this into the way I wrote it to continually reaffirm that we haven't suddenly shifted to a bird's eye view, but are still looking through Character 1's eyes.

Consider the following example of a possible sentence that was driving me nuts:

Character 1 glanced over to Character 4 and noticed him staring intently at his uncle.

Q1: So who does that his gramatically "belong" to in the sentence? What I'm asking is whether the his uncle still means Character 1's uncle, or whether it now means Character 4's uncle? The problem is that if it's the latter of the two possibilities, it is no longer clear who Character 4 is looking at ssince both Character 2 and 3 are his uncles.

So which is it?

Q2: Do you think that the answer you just gave to Q1 would be commonly recognised by the majority of readers?

I was having such a frustrating time with it that I almost considered giving up on the POV...except that it was pretty critical (IMO) to keep that single POV because I was also setting some other stuff up that relies on the reader having a better understanding of Character 1's psychology.

In case you want to read the entire draft of the instalment, you'll find it here. For those who haven't been following, C1 is Friedrich, C2 is Stefan, C3 is Otto, and C4 is Christoph.

Edit: fixed an accidental double word in there which P. picked up on...thanks. :)
 
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Craig Ashley

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I ain't no English major but here's me opinion.:D :rolleyes:

Character 1 glanced over to Character 4 and noticed him staring intently at his uncle.

I can see how that could be interpreted both ways, but I follow it as being character 1's uncle because it is his POV. If it was otherwise you would need to clarify in the following sentance. An example: Character 1 glanced over to Character 4 and noticed him staring intently at his uncle. Father was picking his nose in a most disgusting manner.

Now we know it is character 4's uncle and character 1's father. Otherwise, I would assume this is still being told from C1's POV.

Some other more educated chap may have a different opinion. If he does, listen to him.
 

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Chris,

Obviously you fell afoul of multiple-shift-references. Grammatically this is nasty, the "his" most appropriately would fall to the last referent, thus seemingly C4's Uncle. But most readers wouldn't know the grammar rules well enough to sort that out.

I realize that you were trying to avoid using the names to keep the relationships "correct." But I think with the Uncles you probably could have been justified using "Uncle Otto," to clarify. That would have still portrayed the "elder" relationship and yet clarified who the referent was.
 

Secret Master

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I had the pleasure of meeting Isaac Asimov at a SF Convention in Toronto back in the early 70's.

You bastAARd! :D I always wanted to meet Asimov. Brilliant man, great writer, and Russian (at a time when there was a still a Cold War, making it noteworthy since he wrote in American English!).


The author of that poem was still alive, and so the student wrote to him, asking what his intention with the poem was, if there was an underlying metaphorical motif. The author replied something along the lines, "I just wanted to describe a spring morning."

The student presented his teacher with that letter. Her reaction? She scolded him for questioning her authority and tried to have him expelled from school. The F was not revoked.

And with good reason. (The F part, not the attempt at expulsion) Here's why.

(The Secret Master sits in his sturdy leather chair, dons his Formalist Criticism hat, and begins to pontificate...)

First, we have to remember one important thing in our writing. The author's intent does not mean anything if the words produced from an effort of writing do not reflect said author's intent. For example, John Milton's famous (or infamous, depending on what literary mood you're in) Paradise Lost is an attempt (among many other things) to justify the ways of God to man. Milton says this himself. However, after you read Paradise Lost, you might decide that the only true epic poem in the English language does not justify the ways of God to man. You might even decide that Milton's lengthy poem exalts Satan as an epic hero. If you can justify this claim with words from the actual text (as some scholars have done), then Milton's intent is not important. He may have tried to justify the ways of God to man, but his skills as a writer caused him to write words upon the page that produced a very different effect on the reader.

In my own work here on the forum, we can see this illustrated quite handidly. Since MrT brought it up, I will continue my illustration with Noble Lives. As MrT brought up, most of my readers have "missed the point" with what I am doing with Senor Kurtz. My intent is to have a Kurtz-like (as in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now kind of Kurtz) figure, that we observe as he slowly sinks into depravity, and at the last second, he turns back from going over the edge. I have been building it up forever, slowly having Kurtz become a little more enigmatic and evil as time has gone on. At ths point in the story we are now, my clever readers can hopefully see the greed aspect to him now. However, the words I am putting upon the page, so to speak, have not adequately communicated all of this to the reader. This has become clear after a lengthy discussion in the thread. My intent is to have Kurtz set up in this way. The effect produced, however, was not this. Thus, my intent did not match the effect of my use of language. My intent only matters in terms of my trying to achieve an effect on the reader. But once the words are on the page, if they have a different effect on the reader, then my intent makes little difference. It is the words upon the page that is important, unless you are workshopping a piece.

Now, a word of warning about metaphors and symbolism. Even if the author does a good job of writing, the audience might need a certain level of education or background to grasp the full effect. To borrow from Milton again, if you read Paradise Lost, you will not get 90% of the literary effect of that work unless you have a firm background in classical Greek and Roman literature, a command of Spencer, Shakespeare, and Johnson, and a good command of Scripture. This would not be Milton's fault, as he expected anyone who read his works to have what we would today call a liberal arts education. (In fact, Milton would likely be mildly insulted if you read his work without that background. He would label you as an "unfit" audience for it. A cocky bastard that Milton was...)

Whew, did I ramble on. Ok, I am done pontificating. For the moment... ;)
 

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Character 1 glanced over to Character 4 and noticed him staring intently at his uncle.

Ahh, the dilemma of the pronoun. The problem here is that it would take an expert in grammar, thinking really hard about it, to keep straight which pronoun belongs to which person. That just won't due, either here or in another setting.

Allow me to doctor this and see what I can come up with.

You might replace his with a possessive noun that is modified by an adjective of some variety that will cue in the reader to who is being referenced. This is being told from a particular POV, so you could get away with it.

You could write this:

Freiderich glanced over to Christoph and noticed the youth staring intently at the sickly whelp's uncle.

This would clearly mark the uncle as Christoph's and keep the POV (assuming Freiderich is feeling hostile to Christoph on this particular day). Note: Of course you would substitute language in line with realities about your characters. I'm just interjecting characteristics at random.

Doing it the other way, in one sentence, could prove more difficult. In fact, I can't think of a way to do it in just one sentence.

Try this:

Freiderich glanced at Christoph and noticed him staring at his robust uncle. He wondered briefly if some of his uncle's robust nature would rub off on him in the coming days.

That should keep the POV and let the reader know what the heck is going on. However, this is still worded weakly. If you wanted it to be like this, you might restructure the entire paragraph and start from scratch.
 

Director

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Originally posted by Lord Durham

My Portugal or Bust AAR is chock full of 'Easter Eggs' that are placed solely for my enjoyment. When the astute reader locates one it provides me with a sense of accomplishment. Are they crucial to the plot? Not at all. Still, they're fun to concoct.

I had the pleasure of meeting Isaac Asimov at a SF Convention in Toronto back in the early 70's. He was an absolutely charming man who made the time to talk with a wide-eyed teenager who asked some pretty inane questions :)



Some of my favorite "easter eggs" in the AAR's and elsewhere are encounters with "famous" people who may or may not be fully introduced. I remind you of George McDonald Frasier's "Flashman" series as ideals in this regard.


Possibly because The Good Doctor was that wide-eyed teenager himself, about twenty years before :)

You were very fortunate. I wish I had met him.
 

Director

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Originally posted by MrT

Character 1 glanced over to Character 4 and noticed him staring intently at his uncle.


Please don't do this. I do so hate to "come to" three pages down and realize I have lost track of who is doing what to whom... or worse yet, the person I thought the villain is the hero. Or victim. Or butler... :confused:

I am by no means saying you have been guilty of confusing me. Just please don't start!

If you are asking my opinion, I would say: clarify. Use proper names or personal characteristics if they are memorable enough for the reader to remember, but above all else be clear.

Example: He glanced over to his cousin and noticed the young redhead staring intently at the latter's uncle.

Example: He looked at his father, then glanced over to see his cousin staring at his own father.

Those aren't very good, but perhaps less confusing.

When in doubt, write, leave it and reread it later.

I spent too long in a classroom - sorry to lecture.
Now if I could just take my own advice... :D:)
 

Syt

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SM: Good points about the intent of the author. I'll keep those in mind.

MrT: I agree with SM about rewriting the sentence so that you avoid pronouns. I don't know how well your main characters gets along with his relatives, but if he, e.g. refrains from calling his father father and instead uses the father's name, it would show a certain detachment.

On the metaphors I must say that you might want to use them if you expect your readers to get them. If I wrote a sports article I would use different metaphors than I would when writing a political article. Like with the descriptions of people and places it also heavily depends on what previous knowledge your (expected) readers have.

On this forum, metaphors might sometimes get lost involuntarily, with the relative shortness of installments, and replying posts in between. In addition, there's so much material that it gets hard at times to read a story as thoroughly as it would deserve, with many coming here to read for relaxation and not deep thought. I promise myself, though, to be a more alert reader in future.
 

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Brief thought regarding pronouns: The great thing about most of the historical stories here is that there are so many ways to describe a character. For example, I use:

King Ladislaus II Jagiello, Jagiello, the King, the monarch, the ruler, the great man, etc.

Archbishop Stefan Wachowski, Stefan, the Archbishop, the clergyman, the young man, etc.

Colonel Andrzej Zebrzydowski, Zeb, the Colonel, the officer, the soldier, etc.

And, as Director mentioned, creative use of adjectives helps, too:

The brash young officer didn't seem to pay any attention to the grizzled veteran.

Sorry to use my own stuff for example, but my frame of reference is limited. :rolleyes:
 

unmerged(6777)

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I appreciate the help folks, and believe me, I did end up re-writing 99% of the sentences to avoid this - as you'll see when reading the draft. I think that I completely eliminated any such sentence as the example one I gave above.

In doing so I observed several things though:

1- some sentences ended up being really...lame.

2 - I had a feeling that some of the revised sentence constructions were detracting from the flow of the dialogue due to the various other referents, etc.

3 - it's f***ing hard to have 3 or 4 people participating in an animated conversation with out piling on the "X said" at the end of each line. I got around this by making the bulk of the dialogue be between two of the characters and then having the other two interject...

It's obvious from your comments, thought, that in spite of the difficulty writing it and the slightly awkward feel (to me anyway) this is the way to go with it.

Stupid language! :)
 

Prufrock451

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Pronouns in my AARs-

I've chewed up my fingernails on this a few times as well. The technique I use most often is this-

“My Khan,” I said, bowing low. “We are both growing older.” To this, On Khan chuckled ruefully.

“I thought I would bury you a long time ago, Sahib. I do believe the life of a Siberian nobleman has made you younger.”

“I cannot deny, my Khan, that I am in extraordinary health for a man of 102. However, the shadow of death must needs approach, and there is much to be done before we pass the torch to a new generation. The Altai refuse to give up their old religion. The colony in Turgai must be made self-sufficient and fortified. Our army must be rebuilt, and we must convince the nobles to implement our new tax code.”

On Khan nodded wearily. “These things are all true, Sahib. But we have not the money. It will take generations to complete these tasks.”

“We have the money, my Khan, to complete them in a decade.” On Khan shot up from his throne. “Not on hand, my Khan. But if we temporarily shut down our research projects, we can divert manpower to the mints and to improvement projects which will increase our revenues vastly.”

I simply record the reactions of the people involved in the conversation. This not only indicates the speaker, but has the additional salutary effect of enriching the text. If On Khan shoots up from his throne or nods wearily, we get a much better feel for the conversation's mood. *shrug* I hope as much, anyway.
 

Craig Ashley

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OK. It's been quite in here for three days, so I figure it's safe to introduce a new topic. Today's topic is . . . sentances. It's the basic building block of any piece of writing. Now keep in mind it's only been about a decade since anyone asked me to diagram a sentance, so my terminology may be way off.

The basic sentance goes like this, subject-verb. Now you can add in a few adverbs and adjectives of course. Some objectives make there way in frequently as well (by objective, I'm not sure if that's the right term, I mean the noun that the verb is being performed on. i.e. The dog chewed the bone. Dog=subject, chewed=verb, and bone=objective) However that basic structure can quickly become boring. So-and-so did whatever to the thing. Repeat. Lately I've been trying to add some action to the front end of the sentance like so: Rising, Shur'tu glared into the eyes of his commander. Even this has become repetative in my mind. What do you do to kept your sentances varied?

Also, I find myself using fragments as complete sentance from time to time. They were closing in on their targets. 100 yards. Closing. 50 yards. Almost there. 20 yards. Suddenly, they . . . blah, blah, blah.

Does this convey the tension? I admit it's sloppy grammar and with no real context, it's probably a boring read, but pictue if you knew what the targets were, maybe innocent civillians about to be slaughtered, or an unsuspecting enemy. Does that work for you? Or does it just seem choppy and make me look like I can't even complete a sentance?
 

Director

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Originally posted by Craig Ashley
The basic sentance goes like this, subject-verb. Now you can add in a few adverbs and adjectives of course. Some objectives make there way in frequently as well (by objective, I'm not sure if that's the right term, I mean the noun that the verb is being performed on. i.e. The dog chewed the bone. Dog=subject, chewed=verb, and bone=objective) However that basic structure can quickly become boring. So-and-so did whatever to the thing. Repeat. Lately I've been trying to add some action to the front end of the sentance like so: Rising, Shur'tu glared into the eyes of his commander. Even this has become repetative in my mind. What do you do to kept your sentances varied?

Also, I find myself using fragments as complete sentance from time to time. They were closing in on their targets. 100 yards. Closing. 50 yards. Almost there. 20 yards. Suddenly, they . . . blah, blah, blah.

Does this convey the tension? I admit it's sloppy grammar and with no real context, it's probably a boring read, but pictue if you knew what the targets were, maybe innocent civillians about to be slaughtered, or an unsuspecting enemy. Does that work for you? Or does it just seem choppy and make me look like I can't even complete a sentance?

( Brushes dust off a chair, sits )
Is it OK for us to bring our drinks in here? Mine's dry, anyway... never a waitress when you need one. ( Looks, shrugs ).

The basic sentence structure you referred to is noun verb object.
The dog ( noun ) chewed ( verb ) the bone ( object).
The army( noun ) stormed ( verb ) the hill ( objective!! ). :)

William Strunk, Jr's The Elements of Style is still a classic. It's clear, readable, commonsense... hard to believe it's a textbook! If you don't have a copy, try here.


As a reader, I find the use of fragmented sentences can help build suspense. It would have been forbidden only a few years ago, but it is common practice now, and like any spice it's tasty in small doses.

My personal bete noir is a tendency to go on and on - to build massive, wandering run-on sentences that amble across the page, gathering momentum with every additional purple phrase that can be strung onto the original... (BANG! BANG! BANG!) It's OK folks, that one's dead now.


Just a suggestion - but when you analyze your efforts, you see what you already see, if that makes any sense. My first career was as a high-school band director, and WHILE IT CAN BE PAINFUL it is valuable to offer up your work to others for CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Comments in the story thread can help, but all too often are too complimentary to be useful as critiques.

Bear in mind, the biggest problem with this is finding knowledgeable, qualified, diplomatic people who have the time to serve as critics. There does seem to be an informal 'group' of authors who are willing to help critique, but all of them are involved in RL and their own postings.

So my solution is:
1) Save it, come back to it a few days later and read it out loud.
2) Send it to somebody to critique.
3) Show some judgement about accepting comments - don't get angry if someone is uncomplimentary; don't make changes unless you think they work.
 

unmerged(6777)

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Dec 10, 2001
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Hi .

My name is Chris.

I am a sentence abuser.

I've been trying for months now to be a good boy and maintain a decent limit on my sentence lenth.

It may be counterintuitive to many, or at very least overly flowery, but when you think of it (you know...think...) it's so easy to get ever so carried away in the glorious, honourable and deleriously enjoyable task of constructing these great, sweeping, majestic sentences that carry you ever soo sweetly - so peacefully and gently, or energetically and forcefully, at the author's discretion - to the ultimate conclusion that has so painstakingly and meticulously been prepared for you via the overall form of the phrase. :D

* * * * *

A more serious answer...

I've been playing around with sentences recently - particularly in "THE" RRR instalment. I think there's a danger when you begin co-joining multiple sentences of slipping into the passive voice which so obviously doesn't go down very well with readers. As I fiddled around, I noticed that I was breaking larger sentences up into smaller ones, and that the sooner I got to the verb the better.

Part of the "repetitive" problem Craig mentioned I find comes from the sheer nature of writing about EU2. It's not a game that gives one a tremendous amount of "microscopic" variety. Virtually no game does, since the size of the program epands exponentially.

Let's pretend that you write an AAR that describes every single battle and every single siege...every merchant you send out, every one that fails, every one that gets bumped out...every single revolt...the whole lot over a period of 400 years. Besides taking a long time to write, the end product is highly likely to become about as exciting as reading a history logue since you're going to be describing the same thing hundreds of times.

I suspect that the problem Craig's running into is as much a case of running out of new vocabulary to describe the same thing, as it is the actual sentence he's writing.

What I find can work quite effectively - end tends to engage the reader a little more - is to do your nice, detailed description once (or perhaps a few times if you can keep it interesting). Let's use the example of a siege.

In the first instance, never use the word siege but describe what's happening. At the very end, sya something like "And so ended the Siege of Paris". The next time you need/want to describe a siege, you can do so quite easily by begining with "Unlike the Siege of Paris four months earlier, Riems was to fall in a mere four months..." You'd be amazed how many different ways there are to do this and make it sound different.

Also remember that there are periods in the game that just plain boring. The easiest way of dealing with that is to do a time warp to the next interesting period and then either provide an overview of the intervening years (lumping many different events into a small number of vague sentences) or handle it in retrospective. A couple of sentences like:

"The remaining three years of the War of 1760 saw our armies sweep through the French provinces, casting aside small pockets of scattered resistance and methodically - though humanely - capturing and securing all of the enemy's principal cities. There was little doubt of the outcome of the conflict and by February of 1766, after considerable efforts by the diplomatic corps, the terms of the French surrender were finally agreed to - the victory libberating the province of Artois and bringing it into our Empire, and the additional gold settlement requiring a large wagon and team of twelve horses to deliver."

Granted it sounds lightly awkward and would be a little better constructed as a 3-sentence paragraph, but in the above I've just avoided having to describe a host of those little battles where my 40k army was attacked by 1k or 2k recruits, I've lumped 12 sieges into about a half-dozen words, I've skipped the millions of surrender offers the French sent and the ones I sent that they refused, and I've concluded the war in order to move on to the next good bit.

Anyway, look at that sort of variety as a possible way to spice up your AAR - simply by avoiding the less interesting and highly repetitive parts of the game.
 

Syt

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Chris, I know the problem of sentence abusing all too well. In German class, when we wrote eassays, I'd usually get a long, wavy line in red down six to ten lines with a big A and several exclamation marks in red. Now, that "A" stands for Ausdruck, Expression. ;)

I know what you mean about the repetition of events. I remember with War and Peace, I wrote the AAR when I played, like a diary, so that whenever something of note occured I would switch to the notepad and write a bit about it. I guess that's why it got so detailed in the end, but in hindsight I'd add that describing all those revolts turned out to be not only tedious and draining, it also distracted from the overall action that took place in the west.

I guess that's why I switched to telling stories of your Average Joe, like I did with English Heart or like I am currently doing with The Klausens where the game merely serves as a backdrop for a story influenced but not overly determined by the events while playing. It allows to skip not so interesting facts, and it allows for lots of ways to skim a few years.

Examples would be how I had that ruffian in Hamburg tell about the war with the neighbours or the flashbacks during the forest ambush of Ralph's wartime service. Thinking about it, I summing what had passed between chapter one and two in plain text and not having the ruffian tell it all.

My only problem is with timing at the moment as the tale seems to fall into the periods where little is going on. However, I cannot have every son go off to war, or run away from home. I have still a lot in store, both in drama and adventure (at least I hope it will be regarded as such), but the danger is becoming too repetetive and use patterns over and over again. If you do that deliberately, however, it's art, of course. ;)