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

Secret Master

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One thing about sentences I would like to interject here is something I will borrow from poetry that also has limited (though important, as you will see) application to our dilemma here.

When you write a sentence, the way it looks upon the page itself can convey meaning. Contemporary poets on American college campuses love doing odd things with line breaks and word placement just to convey a little visual effect along with the literary effect. While in most cases it is just showing off and silly, it does shed light on something. The appearance of a sentence can be shaped so as to convey meaning along with the words in the sentence.

For example, in the previous sentence, I used itallics to emphasize two words. We all "know" that itallics implies emphasis, yet it is purely a visual cue. You can, theoretically, do the same thing with entire sentences. Short, chopppy sentences appearing individually in sequence as separate paragraphs will give meaning to a scene even by virtue of their placement upon the page.

But here's the real kicker to the whole thing. The Internet is a very visual medium. We have all be trained to accept more visual cues from a webpage than from, say, the Riverside Complete Works of John Milton. If the reader is already trained to be looking for visual cues, take full advantage of this. Just preview your post to make sure it looks right before posting it.

On another note, I would express extreme caution in using fragments in your writing. Fragments can serve an important purpose, but they are easy to abuse, much like longer sentences that have two independent clauses, a dependent clause, and a prepositional phrase or two. I would suggest the following guidelines for using fragments. First, I would restrict their use to either dialog or thoughts of the characters. (After all, most people speak and think in fragments, even if they don't realize it.) Second, if you are going to use it in the narrative, use it in a single, pivotal way. For example (with an apology to Tolkien for raping his work briefly):

The goblins have taken the bridge. The dwarven warriors cannot get out. They can hear the drums closing in around them, as they ready their axes for the final stand. Drums of the deep, getting closer...

Letting this passage end with a fragment, and then going to a completely new chapter, implies all sorts of meaning. The use of a fragment here implies a sort of finality; an ending, if you will. It is a sudden, clipped ending that implies all sorts of nasty, evil things happening to the dwarves. Without saying anything directly, the key use of a fragment tells the story without words. But using this device often will ruin its impact.

Also, one other thing. All bets with fragments are off if you are doing a first person perspective narration, especially if in the stream of conscious vein.
 

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Excellent points. Thank you for the food for thought, Secret Master. :)

We have long since become a visual-media driven society, the 'MTV Generation' or whatever they call it now. That's why reading for pleasure is a declining hobby, IMVHO. There are just so many other choices now...

Who would want to take the effort to write 'War and Peace' when he could hire a scriptwriter and film the thing? Well, I would, but I'm a known card-carrying curmudgeon.

Look at your local book store, and see how much of the science-fiction section has been taken over by books with media tie-ins. Why gamble on that unproven Russian chemistry professor when we can push a new Star Trek or Star Wars book?


Sorry - not the place for that rant.


There are values to literature that the visual arts don't contain, but the opposite is now true. Maps, graphics and visual aids can enhance the writing. Or replace it - that's been done, right?


I hadn't thought much about your 'visual enhancement' of a post through sentence layout, color and emphasis - but I surely will now. Thanks again.
 

unmerged(4271)

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New Topic

I'm going to venture into a new topic I'd like some feedback on:

It's my contention that in addition to the great volumnious works many folks produce on these page that there is another type of work that is equally as successful - the serial.

The serial is not a novella, or even a "novelization" - if anything it's a short story run amok.

I think the serial is a type of writing that works particularly well on these pages.

Many writers here become discouraged by the lack of feedback. In defense of the readers, there are pages and pages of stories to read here: many stories, times many pages per story equals a large time committment to keep up.

Some readers have the time or make the time to do this. Others do not have that option. While everyone should make the effort to read as much of the other authors' works, if they expect feedback themselves, this is not alway possible given real world demands.

Enter the serial - a captivating short story that is periodically updated, but is done so in easily digestible regular chunks. To be able to log on once or twice a week, read the latest chapter or chapter and not fall far behind would be a godsend.

In a way, authors write for themselves, but if the serial is a very reader-friendly way to manage one's writing.

I think the best of example of a successful serial has been Storey's "Who killed Cologne?". Readers seemed to log in on a regular basis for updates and were hungry for more. The story was engrossing, yet did not require hours of examination to thoroughly enjoy.

It's my contention that more serials would be a welcome addition to this board. This is not to discourage anyone from the great longer works being produced, this is only a suggestion to authors looking for new projects. A shorter, regularly updated story can be enjoyed, I feel, by more people - both casual participants and the die-hards.

And while the serial lends itself to active, regular readership, even those that do not meet the author's expectations for readership at the time its being written, can turn out to be classics. It seems like at the time it was written, Mr. T's Zimbabwe AAR didn't get the response he was hoping for. Yet, look at it now. It is still being actively read and replied to.

I know many people here aspire to write greater works and use this forum as place to experiment and submit serious literature, but I want to lend my voice in support of the serial as a worthwhile alternative that should receive equal treatment.
 

Gaijin de Moscu

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I like that idea, Heagarty - I actually think it's quite a nice piece of advice to the newbies like me.

I am personally amazed how thourough some of the readers here are - I think we all know them the die-hards - and their help keeps many writers afloat, I believe. As to me, I get a smile from here to Tokyo when someone posts into my thread... and I rush to my computer to produce some more events to keep the pace. And I of course would love to make reading of my stuff easier and funnier.

Having identified with your advice emotionally :) I started to have one struggle - what are the genre rules for a written serial? How is it different from a usual series of installments?

I though it would be something like this -
  • Each installment must have an engaging theme;
  • There might be several sub-plots in one installment, each answering the same "main" question of the current episode;
  • If soing pictures, they might all be done in one style;
  • You should reach a satisfying resolution by the end of the installment on all of your subplots. So the reader may plug out, entertained.

You got my mind racing.... :p excited at opportunities.
 

unmerged(4007)

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heagarty,

No one expects every author to read every AAR. But I've said the solution to the "feedback" issue a number of times, but I don't see many people taking it to heart, so I'll say it again. If every author took the time to read 10 AARs on this board, no one would complain for a lack of response.

Ten is not too many for anyone to follow, as we don't add all those pages in one sitting as it is. And if you're writing an AAR, you should have the courtesy to support the community that's giving you the opportunity to express your vision.

That's not to say I'm against writing a seriel. It's just that no author should want to restrict himself to one type of writing. Unfortunately, the way some choose to read AARs to read, they leave themselves little room to grow.
 

Secret Master

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Re: New Topic

Originally posted by heagarty

It's my contention that in addition to the great volumnious works many folks produce on these page that there is another type of work that is equally as successful - the serial.

SNIP


It is my contention that you are more right than you could know. :)

I had some discussions via PM and email some time ago with a few members of the forum regarding literary form as related to this particular medium of writing (that is, what style of writing works best on an Internet forum). It was my assertion, and still is, that unless you post the entire work at one time, you are, by definition, writing a serial-based work. I further postulated that serial writing worked best on the forums because the medium of an Internet forum demanded this style of writing, much like a movie script will be different from a novel's manuscript.

When I say something is serial, I am speaking in very broad terms. A written work is a serial if the audience does not have the entire work presented to them at once, and the author intends to update periodically. So, if someone was writing a play, but gave it to us in bite-sized chunks on a regular basis, they are still writing a serial. It is just a dramatic serial, rather than prose serial, or poetic serial. For example, Backpack's The Devil Went Down to Georgia is a poetic serial. He used poetry, yes, but it was presented as a serial. The only reason we associate prose with serials is because of old habits developed in the 19th century, with authors like Dickens giving us serials. However, there is nothing saying that you cannot do it with poetry, drama, or even multi-literary productions.


Gaijin offered is some rules for writing serials.

Each installment must have an engaging theme;

There might be several sub-plots in one installment, each answering the same "main" question of the current episode;

If soing pictures, they might all be done in one style;

You should reach a satisfying resolution by the end of the installment on all of your subplots. So the reader may plug out, entertained.

I would say these are an excellent starting point. For those who wish to use more advanced possible techniques, I would offer some of the following guidelines.



  • Use a common motif throughout multiple installments. For example, you may want to continually associate a certain color, sound, taste, or smell with a certain character or place. This provides a sense of unity to the work, even though the work is broken down in installments.

    Don't be afraid to put a small detail that seemingly serves no purpose in an early installment, only to make use of it in a later installment. For example, in my own Noble Lives, I had two of my characters reading a certain play together. Now, those two characters eventually got married and one of them died. In a moment of intense grief, the other character burns a copy of the same play they read together years ago. These two details were on several different pages from one another, but at least one reader caught on to it, providing a common link between installments.

    Also, don't be afraid to leave "hooks" in the plot that will have to be explained later. Doing this will have your readers crying out in suspense, but they will be waiting for you when you post another installment.
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Gaijin de Moscu

Having identified with your advice emotionally :) I started to have one struggle - what are the genre rules for a written serial? How is it different from a usual series of installments?
If you go back to the early serials of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, et al, you will find that each one was written as a complete episode (within the context of the entire story which typically spanned a dozen or so episodes) and featured a:

1. Resolution to the previous episode's cliffhanger.

2. Further plot and character development to lead the story through the 'big picture'.

3. A series of events that produced a mini-climax.

4. A period of resolution to the 'mini-climax'

5. A sudden and often bone jarring cliff-hanger to end the episode until we return to #1.

Rinse, cycle, repeat.

The above scenario works best if you tend to write reasonably long posts, as that gives the writer a chance to build momentum and add in key ingredients without everything seeming rushed.

It's actually an interesting concept. I always thought that my Austrian AAR was structured that way, but now that I'm rewriting it I'm finding that it certainly wasn't the case.

That being said, I may very well try my next serious project attempting the serial method.
 

Storey

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While I agree with Secret Master that the medium of this forum forces all of us to write in a serial form I think its important to recognize that what LD just wrote is closer to what a serial really is. In my last AAR heagarty was right in that I intentionally wrote it as serial. I tried to break it up mainly using two conventions. One as LD just posted was the mini climax/cliff-hanger break as in

"Sam turned to the killer and said. It’s all over."

Tune in next week for the next exciting episode of "Who Killed Cologne."

But the other way I divided the story was by the characters in the story. One post would be about Calais and the next one Geldre. This would fall into category 2 of LD’s list. But every segment was meant to build to the climatic scene where Sam confronted the killers. The reason I point out this AAR is because it is the only one that I consciously tried to recreate the old serial movies that I would see on Saturday afternoons at the local movie theater when I was a cute precocious kid. I know most of you weren’t born when they stopped showing those serials.

Last thing to mention is that I was able to do this because of the shortness of the story. I would never try this if I was writing a 400 year long AAR.

I agree LD that your Austria AAR wasn’t a serial. I read more like a novel that happened to be broken up in parts because of the medium that you were writing in. Most stories really fall into the category, "A novel."

I don’t think it’s enough to just have a cliffhanger at the end of a post to make it a serial. There needs to be an over-all plan for the pieces to work as such.
 

Director

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Since that's lain fallow for a few days, let me ask for conversation on another topic:

To what extent do you adapt plots and ideas from other authors? Have you ever been reading, or seen a movie, and thought, 'That would be the basis for a cool AAR.'

Do you have a 'concept' already in place or do you just start telling the game story? Do you stick to that concept - no matter what?

How explicitly do you feel you have to acknowledge whose 'ideas' you are - ummm - 'honoring'? How far would you bend a game's events to fit that 'plot' concept?

Because, let us face facts, there is nothing new under the sun, really. Or is there? Thoughts?
 

Craig Ashley

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I think everyone is "influenced" by whatever they read/watch/play/do. I freely admit that the idea for FTPB would have never came to me if I had not read Riboflavin's Novgorod AAR. Even the names of my demonic beings are stolen. Rafar comes from a book I read titled This Present Darkness. Ishbane is from another book, The Ishbane Consipiracy. Belshazzar is the name of a incompetent king from the Bible.

As far do I have a consept in mind? Usually yes. In A Pawn No Longer I didn't. My goal in the game was survival and later on regional power. For FTPB I did have the AAR idea in place before I started the game. I tried to role play Rafar running the nation. I think for the most part I will continue doing it this way. My next major AAR (a long ways off) already has the plot "hook" set in place. It helps me keep things fresh and not end up writing the usual "I conquered the world AAR." It makes the game more fun as well to play with an interesting set of goals. I will do anything up to and including self destruction in the game to fit my story.

I try to mention my sources whenever I can.
 

Bismarck

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I started playing Cyprus before the concept of "The Last Crusade" came to me... but if you follow my thread, you know that I am always being influenced by what is going on in the world, or the movie I just saw on TV, or something from a book that I liked....

Its like a big stew where things just float to the surface and end up on the page, so yes, I am a very conscious of that sort of fing....

M
 

unmerged(6777)

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I think to deny some degree of influence from the environment that sourrounds us would be futile. There's no apriori writing skill (of if there is, I'd love to see a proof :D) and so we must, at some level, be shaped by our experience and education.

I can say that my own interest in writing definitely stems from the novels that I have read and enjoyed (rather than by the ones I've slugged my way through and hated or let drop after a few chapters) although I *think* I am less influenced by other media (visual, auditory) when I work in this medium.

On the other hand I conciously avoid plagerism so I've never really felt the need to acknowledge a particular influence beyond doing so in a general sense. Your comment that "there's nothing new under the sun" is probably largely correct in a conceptual or thematic sense, although with the huge vocabulary available to us I think there are a near-infinite number of ways to explore those themes.

There are three exceptions, though, and I've definitely acknowledged those. When I wrote Drums in the Deep I not only stylised it after the Balin's Tomb section from Moria in JRRT's LotR but I actually freely copied sections and then blended my own stuff into it. I did much the same with portions of Waiting for Todog, again acknowledging Stoppard and Beckett when I did so. There are also a few bits of A Few of my Possessions that were lifted and/or heavily influenced by Rowan Atkinson's Black Adder series - but I blatently acknowledged that by even naming my character exactly the same.

I've read that there's been nothing truely original written since Shakespeare, but I don't think that's really accurate either since he (or his ghost writers ;)) borrowed heavily from the "classics". They in turn borrowed heavily from oral tradition...

As to your "concept" question...

I have undergone a transition or development in the way that I write AARs. In my earliest efforts I stayed exactly true to the game events - sort of a blow-by-blow description of my game. Over time I began to indulge in more flowery language and I would leave out certain events, but from a conceptual standpoint I guess my only direct influence over the turns of events was my in-game strategy.

I suppose in my "middle" works I latched onto a concept - although "hook" might be a better word for it - and pretty much stuck to it for the entire work. I suppose my dogged adherence was really due to the fact that it seemed rediculous to spend time establishing a certain viewpoint or framework only to abandon it mid way through writing. If I needed to "adjust" it then I did so as subtly and sneakily as I could (and I have ;)) but I certainly wouldn't make a radical change since the reader would certainly respond by saying (if only to himself) "What the f...?"

In respect to sticking closely to game events, RRR definitely represents a significant shift in my approach in that I feel no compunctions about making some rather drastic adjustments to the actual order and/or dates of game events in order to remain closer to "real" history. In otehr cases I've done the reverse when it's more convenient to fly in the face of history...since, after all, the Palatinat never actually did what I did and what I'm writing about.

RRR is actually a work of pseudo-historical fiction where the background is provided by history and the general order of events was...err...suggested by the game. Using those two sources of information, I crafted a plot line that would fit generally within them and then tweaked where necesssary to make it work smoothly and (hopefully) seemlessly.

The other difference is that I had played the entire game (or rather, in this case, the four years that I'm covering in the AAR) long before I even began thinking about writing about it. As such, there are no surprises in store for me in how it turns out, whereas with almost every other AAR I've written I have begun writing while I was still playing the game so I still didn't know how it was going to turn out (the exceptions being Drums in the Deep and Waiting for Todog).
 

Secret Master

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An interesting discussion. I will say my piece on one particular subject.

How explicitly do you feel you have to acknowledge whose 'ideas' you are - ummm - 'honoring'?

For myself, I generally will adopt, borrow, quote, and mutate other works of literature if it will make a sensible allusion in the work I am writing. It is highly appropriate (and even encouraged) that writers should make worthwhile allusions to previous works. It is a time honored tradition from the earliest works (check out Pindar's allusions to Homer's work in the poetry of ancient Greece) to the best of the best (Shakespeare alluding to everything...)

It is not considered bad form if you do not give overt credit to an author for an allusion. If your readers get it, great. If not, then oh well. In some cases, it defeats the subtle purpose of an allusion to put a big neon sign hanging over it telling everyone that you are making one.

In my own work, I have found that at least one reader will always catch an allusion I place in there.
 

Bismarck

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Ok, I have one that has been brushed a few times in our discussions but never really given the full attention of the group.

What role in your writing does the real history of the country or region you are writing about have in how you present your narrative?

Do you frame the events of your AAR with little tidbits from the real history... do you mention contemporaries of your own characters?

The reason I ask this is of course because of how the leader/monarch/event system is laid out... so there is recurrance of historical figures and events that is almost inevitable....

So I guess the real question is this: Does the real historical record have any bearing on your approach to writing your AAR, or even your play style for that matter?

M
 

unmerged(6777)

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RL history has played an increasingly important role in my writing. In fact the majority of my best writing is extremely historical with the fiction interwoven around it. I'd like to give you an example if I may:

Probably the best writing I've ever done on this forum was a brief 2-instalment piece I did in LD's brilliant (and highly overlooked! :mad: ) Genoa Collaborative effort. For those masses who haven't read it, the premise is that LD would play out a stretch of years, pull the log file, and then four or five of us would pick "events" to write about briefly in order to give a sense of flavour for the times and to produce a totally unique work. There is, in that AAR, some of the best writing I've seen from each of the participants, and it isn't all that difficult to read since in most cases each "event" is covered in a matter of a post or two.

Read this post and then part 2 of it which is only 4 or 5 posts later. If you're curious about that actual historical accuracy look for a post about a page later where I answer a reader's question about it.

I would say that this is now characteristic of the way I approach and write AARs...and is even playing a limited role in the way I play the game (I'm trying more and more to play it out historically where possible). I find that there are a couple advantages to this approach:

Easy "Population"

It's way easier to populate the story with characters when you can create them by going and researching who the RL people were and what they did in their lives. The wealth of both historical data and genealogical data makes it a breeze to find out who was around at the time, who did what, etc...and often you'll run across some other prominent names from the time that you can follow to find out even more stuff. With hundreds of possible RL people to pick from, it's easy to graft your AAR on them without making drastic changes to their actual history. RRR is a perfect example of this, where virtually all of the characters are based on their RL counterparts; and in the linked passage above the only non-RL character is the Genoese ambassador!

Easy Backdrop

The closer the game situation is to the actual historical situation, them more you can use RL as a backdrop. As I think was said earlier in this thread, one of the nice things about writing waht is essentially historical fiction relieves the author of the burden of creating a political and religious framework and then explaining it to the reader. I can use terms like "France", "Catholic", "Pope" and so on without going into great depths to explain them becasue there's an assumed knowledge base that the reader has prior to digesting your words, so you only have to explain the lesser-known things, or the areas where there are great departures from RL.

Suggestive Plotlines

An added bonus that I'm finding is that by delving even more deeply into the history of the era is that plotlines often suggest themselves to you. In the case of the passage I linked above, you'll find that I actually took very large chunks of RL and wove my fabrication around them. I still had to develop the plot, but it wasn't something I had to create from scratch but, instead, was almost written by RL and I only had to figure out how to "tweak" it to fit my goals. This is even more the case in my RRR where a vast amount of the material is 99% true to RL and I'm simply manipulating it to suit my overall stroy and gameplay.

* * * * *

Of course to use this technique one needs to become something of an expert on certain areas of history, and it becomes much more difficult in AARs where the game is a radical departure from RL. Thinking back to my l'Eminence Grise AAR, I found the first hundred years or so to be far easier to write because "my" France had not yet really diverged from the RL France all that drastically. As time went on (and I succumbed to a certain degree of ahistorical warmongering) it became far harder to write because "my" France was engaged in activities that never happened (conquest of all of the Americas, etc.) so I had to invent practically everything.

I think, though, that this is a problem faced more by writers such as you (Bismarck) and I and a handful of others who favour highly detailed novel-like AARs where historical depth and breadth take a more prominent position than they do in many other AARs. I'm not offering that as a criticism to other AARs...I'm just suggesting that it plays a more significant role in the way we approach our material and thus the greater the departure, the harder a task we have in keeping it comprehensible without getting very dry and boring.

The thing that initially captivated my about EU is its historical aspects. Playing a country - particularly one with an extensive event file - can be an amazing learning experience for me when I'm not all that familiar with the RL history. Even when I've played one that at thought I was familiar with I've discovered all sorts of new things about it when I've gone and done some more research into it. That's the thing that keeps the game fresh...and the thing that has made me stay here for such a long time when I might otherwise have moved on to the latest and greatest shot-em-up or RPG-type game.
 

Secret Master

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Hmmm, how does RL history affect what I am writing? That's a tough question to answer.

First, it is worth noting that in my writing, I have taken a far more minimalist approach to narrative than omst other people. This is not bad or good, but rather it puts my writing in a different category. Since narrative for me is so deemphasized, I tend to just keep "historical" flavor to my scenes, rather than working hard to include a horde of details.

Since I deemphasize narrative, it is dialog that occupies much of my work's time; however, I have yet to write about an English speaking country. As such, I cannot use historical language to frame my dialog. (I suspect an attempt at doing so would end in disaster, but that is another question for another time...)

But that does leave open the possibility of historical figures making appearances in my work. Isabella, Torquemada, Ferdinand, and others, figured prominently in the first part of Noble Lives; however, now that I am free of the historical monarch list (not choosing to be Spain can be quite liberating!), I find myself marginalizing historical figures considerably. They exist, but they are little more than window dressing for me. I considered getting rid of them completely, but I've found that keeping them around reminds the audience of the times. Still, they have no real dialog and serve a function for setting, not for character.

I've found that I prefer to keep history at arms length in my writing. This is not because I hate history (it is my first love), but I feel that the more historical elements I include, the more I am forced to do history justice by telling it correctly. By keeping real history at a distance, it gives me the room to do what I need to do in terms of writing. Besides, even if I cooperate with history, the AI will not. I can be as historical as I want to be, but I will still have to explain why China has colonized Greenland, or why Austria formed a super-state in the 17th century. That is a thankless task, to be sure.
 

Director

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I set my first ( and so far only ) AAR in England particularly so I would have some familiarity with its history and cast of characters. I stuck to history as closely as possible in the early chapters, using as my first 'viewpoint' the Sir Hugh Luttrell who actually was master of Henry V's household and a member of his council.


As the game went on I felt more and more freedom of action, which is not necessarily all good. Some limits help frame the possible actions. So I settled on four choices:

1) use an actual person in a historic manner, making decisions according to 'history' AS WE KNOW IT ( example: John Cabot exploring across the Atlantic )

2) use actual persons in strikingly non-historic roles ( example: Henry VIII rescues Rome from the Turks and pressures the Pope into giving him that divorce )

3) use fictional characters to fill historic roles ( example: a title or office given to someone other than the historic choice )

4) fictional people filling fictional roles ( example: Patric Keynes as the Scots Premier of a united Britain and France )


As the game progressed I went from mostly using options 1 & 2 to mostly relying on options 2, 3 & 4.

I do love taking scripted and random events and interpreting their meaning in the context of the current game. For example, if we pick Richard III to win at Bosworth Field, how do we wind up with Henry VIII ( who is NOT Richard's son ) on the throne. And why is he Henry VIII and not VII? Explaining all this can be great fun.

What I enjoy reading in other people's work is a solidly grounded feel for the period and culture, with characters doing believable things for reasons that were appropriate to that time and place. A King who sweats about the political aspirations of a successful general is more appealing for me than a King who effortlessly sends orders to armies half a world away and takes obedience for granted.

And it's a lot of fun to just allude to a historic figure in passing and let the readers figure out who was intended. :)
 

Craig Ashley

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History? In an AAR? Is that possible?:D :rolleyes:

So far, my AARs have been a complete butchery of history. The Clash of the Titans and From the Pope's Basement were intended to be so, but it was my own ignorance that lead to A Pawn No Longer become such a debacle when actual history is concerned.

My monarchs are the same as the Teutonic Order's but I have them openly plotting against the order. That said, I always intended to have fictional characters and let the way the game was played, determine how history is made.

As someone said earlier, it's pretty easy, at first, to fit real histoy and game history together. Then something funky happens, you go on a mini, warmongering rampage, one of the great powers isn't such a great power, China is colonizing the New World. The deeper you get into the game, the more your making it up. The fun and challenge is trying to take actual historical figures and events and making them fit into your new history. How different would history be if Austria was a major colonial player? Or if France never became one solid nation? What if a German minor actually was able to carve out a sizable chunk of Germany in the 1500's?

The fun is to look at real history and try to envision how this would all be changed. Once I finish A Pawn No Longer, which is only going to last up until about the 1470's, I may do a sequal that covers when, historically, Prussia was a Polish vassal. Of course no such thing happens in my game, but taking the characters and events of that era and seeing how it would go down, is very interesting. BTW, I have done considerable more research in that one, so it will be more historically acurate, even though it diverges wildly from true history.

A workshop idea intrigues me. Count me as definatly interested.
 

unmerged(6777)

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New Topic for Discussion

Since we seem to have petered out in our comments on the previous topic, perhaps you would indulve me in a conversation about dialogue.

More specficially, LD and I were talking last night about dialogue in our AARs. He had commented on my own use of dialogue and mentioned that on occasion it doesn't sound "natural". My response was that I agreed, but that I often found myself making a difficult decision between making it sound natural or allowing it to be a little forced in order to convey the point I needed/wanted to get across. I was wondering what others felt (in general, that is).

Here's my point:

In "natural" dialogue (as distinct from delivering a speach or an address) one isn't often trying to pack a ton of information into any given group of phrases. It has a tendency to meander along and gradually throw tidbits of information along almost as an afterthought. Or, at any rate, mine does - which is probably why I'm so verbose and could talk an ear off a stalk of corn. :D

When writing diologue for RRR, the Free Company, or some of the AARs I've guest-authored in, I'm aware of a problem that I can't (for the sake of post length) follow normal dialogue trends or I'd end up writing 50 pages of back-and-forth exchange just to convey a particular point. I also don't want to "speechify" so I try to avoid those long paragraphs that would really read very much like narrative. Yet another that I try to avoid is the bald game-detail monologue that might as well be cut & pasted out of a history log. Instead, I try to find a middle ground which sounds somewhat natural but still packs a bit of a punch in terms of the information quotient.

Does anyone else find this something they have to really work hard on in order to find a nice balance? Does anyone have any techniques they'd like to share, or general advice they'd like to impart?
 

HolisticGod

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MrT,

Even an oration, a straight monologue, rarely conveys any large amount of information or extends a premise... Just listen to Tony on Iraq.

The greater part of what goes on in our lives is active or internal, and the most verbose among us (you and I, for instance :D) tend to say a lot about nothing in particular. The things we communicate (or, more often, fail to communicate) to one another usually mean less for the idea that's being discussed than our disposition toward one another-and our moods. Even in those instances where the dialogue is intended to further the plot (I'm pregnant," Sally said. "Is it mine?" Harry asked. Sally bit her lip and started to sob. "I don't know." or "So," Bill said casually, as we sipped our martinis and watched the girls dance. "I was the one who shot JFK"), it's rarely necessary for itself. In the previous examples, we found out that Harry thinks Sally gets around, Sally is upset about how she gets around and Bill is fond of martinis and strippers, but not US Presidents. Without a diatribe, the lines manage to do what they're supposed to, which is tell the reader how people feel about each other, their present condition and themselves.

The trouble comes when a writer tries to make dialogue do more than it can or should. Using it in place of narration has been a big deal since Hemingway and the cinema changed the way novels are written in English, and the only alternative in writing something publishable (in literary fiction, anyway) is to use hard imagery or the lush fantastic (the Indians, mostly, but a few Brits and Americans. Never read a Canadian, I don't believe-wonder why... :D), because they resemble film. But the old standards are slowly seeping back into fiction, and I think the reason is that storytelling is once again becoming the craft of telling stories.

If action is indeed the vessel and dialogue the sail, then I believe it's fair to say old-fashioned narration is the ocean. Hemingway, after all, may have been the greatest dialogist of the twentieth century, but (in this language, anyway) Faulkner and Joyce, who used next to no dialogue whatsoever, were its greatest novelists.

My opinion, of course.