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Tips and Tools for Story-Writers


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#1 ttlanhil

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 11:47 AM

Some of what I have written may be going into more depth than you wish to use, such as changing writing to fit veiwpoints of the characters. The basics should still be appropriate, however.

Stay in character.
When you're writing, try to be consistent. Use of words, grammar, sentence structure, and so forth can be adjusted based on the person whose perspective you are writing from.
When you are not writing for any particular character, you're writing as the narrator. This is a special case, and you should try to remain impartial and non-judgemental when writing from this viewpoint.

Spelling/grammar
The human mind is very good at 'fixing' spelling mistakes so we can still read it as was intended, though some spelling mistakes can cause ambiguity.
Spelling mistakes can also quickly get the focus, so the reader is not getting into your story.
In the windows world, spellcheckers and grammar checking are generally only available in word processors, such as MS Word or OpenOffice.
If you don't have a spellchecker installed, there are some available online, as a quick example, http://spellcheck.net

Spacing/paragraph structure
Break your writing into paragraphs as appropriate, and look at the length of your sentences and paragraphs.
Follow-on sentences can be written at the end of the previous one, those with a bit more of a break should be on the next line. New paragraphs should have at least one blank line before them.

Sentence rhythm and punctuation
Different punctuation can have different effects, a semi-colon causes a longer pause than a comma, an end of sentence more so.
Using the length of sentences and length of words, you can influence reading of the story, shorter words and sentences are read faster, a consistent pattern can give a strong rhythm to the words. This is more important in poems and songs, but can still be used in writing stories.

Re-reading
If you have the time, writing several drafts can make a big difference.
If you don't want to use drafts, then re-read each part of what you have written, both in order, and separately, to see if it reads well in both cases.
When you are writing for EL forums or similar, don't write directly into the forums, use a word processor, notepad, whatever works well for you. This also helps you to save a copy on your own computer.
When you read what you have written, read it out loud, it can help you check the flow and timing.

Quoting
Short quotes can be written 'in-line', longer quotes should appear on a line of their own.

That's all I have for now, I may add more later, other people are welcome to post other tips.


<edit>
Whoops, that's what I get for adding more after the spellcheck. fixed rad->read

Edited by ttlanhil, 13 May 2005 - 06:17 AM.


#2 Brom

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 05:35 PM

When you rad what you have written, read it out loud, it can help you check the flow and timing.
When you read what you have written, read it out loud, it can help you check the flow and timing.

Just emphasing that one. It really helps.
Very good points ttlanhil! Listen to the man!

Edited by EWQ222, 12 May 2005 - 05:35 PM.


#3 Learner

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 05:38 PM

Another trick proofers use, read it backwards! That can catch many errors even if it is very hard.

#4 Lyanna

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 07:53 PM

Lyanna's 3 Rules for Writing a Good EL Story

1) Stay in Context
That means:
- Reading up on other people's stories FIRST before writing your own, so that you have a general overview of what's been happening and where you can fit your story into.
- Making sure that your story refers in some way to the places, events, or people of Eternal Lands.

2) Allow for Development
That includes:
- Not being afraid of or defensive about comments made about your story, as we are honestly trying to help you improve it.
- Keeping aware of the development of the game itself by reading through the rest of the forums and the website, so that you don't accidentally write a irrelevant story.
- Being very careful about using NPCs in your story, since they may be changed suddenly. (Case in point: Bakart, Granny, Faris and Garis no longer exist)
- Making sure to leave certain parts open for others to be able to tell their own stories - don't try to answer ALL the questions and tell everything there is to know about EL.

3) Use Your Imagination
That means:
- Experimenting with different ways of telling a story, working with different genres (ghost story, war epic, love story, plain fantasy, etc) or formats (diaries, narratives, dialogues, flashbacks, etc). Variety is GOOD.
- Being original and not just copying ideas/names/concepts from other games, books, or real-life that you think would be nice to fit into EL.
- Bending the above rules a little, if you think you're good enough to get away with it. I might just like your story well enough to modify things to fit. It had better be very impressive, though.


-Lyn-

#5 Lyanna

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 07:57 PM

Random Story Ideas for Beginner Writers

- The Dwarf who Found his God
- The Mysterious Deaths of the Last Dragons
- The History of Corren Town
- The Pirates of Isla Prima
- The Founding of Portland
- Tirnym, the lost city of ...
- The Curse of the Catacombs (Naralik)
- The Planting of the Teleports
- A Conversation between the Gods
- <name> and <name>, A Love Story
- Those that are Cursed by the Gods
- The Rabbit who saved Grahms Village
- The origins of the festival of ...
- The Legend of the Sailor that sailed around the world
- A Day in the life of ....
- An Paelentologist's notes on the Dragon in Hell.
- <name>, the Gnomish Merchant Prince
- Harvy and Grim, Traders in the Desert
- Why Portland has more rain than any other map.
- Hunters in Evergreen Forest
- The Forgotten Shipyard of Grubani
- The Atheists who descrated the Church/Temple of ... and what happened to them.

#6 Roja

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 11:07 PM

Here are some essays written by Tracy Hickman, a really GREAT author.
He explains a lot of things about writing and developing stories:

http://www.trhickman.com/SQuest.html

#7 ttlanhil

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 04:13 PM

Here are some essays written by Tracy Hickman, a really GREAT author.

having read a series by tracy (and margaret weiss), I expected that website to be pretty good. pity it wasn't (IMO).
Knowing the facts before you write about something is important... and there's some rather glaring mistakes in there. for example, who thinks that the character from star wars is called leah, not leia? (surely that can't be hard to check).
plus the religous stuff (I'm a good christian, so I know that the christ matters to you? please. that's offensive. then talking about other religions (witchcraft and other pagan religions, far older than christianity, and with less evil in them) as of the devil?)... even when talking about the morals/ethical structure of a game, personal religious beleifs, especially if not used as a limited example to prove a point, are out of place
and even the actual story theory, to my mind, has holes in it. for example, the protagonist isn't always a knight in shining armour... the second most evil person in the land can still be protagonist and hero in the end, even without changing their ways. or:

An evil characters life in a properly run fantasy campaign should be a colorful, short one.
Interestingly, you are cheating players of evil characters by letting them get away with so much. Any thrill associated with doing dastardly deeds is dulled when you get away with it all the time. Where's the challenge? Where's the excitement?

there's some logic behind it, but not enough. a game isn't just a moral training ground, which would be needed for arguements like that to be valid. you can add consequences, sure, but a theif has to be beaten over and over and get publically hanged when he gives himself up?(yes, that's the example given) that's extremism for the sake of personal ethical beleifs, not of any benefit to the story

all that said... there's still a lot of value in there... just take it with a grain of salt. as always, think about it as you read it, and decide whether you agree or not, and, better yet, why

#8 Roja

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 02:28 AM

A grain of salt indeed ;) Please don't be a hypocrite in saying that the writer made glaring mistakes there, when you yourself did so in wrongly stating the things you did. I dont' know what you are thinking.

"knight in shining armor" ..why would you take that literally to mean every protaganist must be so? In case you didn't know, the "knight in shining armor" is a stereotypical hero. That doesn't mean they are all that, nor did the author imply that. You said it yourself, that you read one of Tracy Hickman's book series, you really should know better.

And as for Tracy's take on Christianity...he has every right to say that in his writing, as it is his writing. Some of his writings there are personal real life stories about him and his experiences. I guess you didn't notice the first paragraph in his writing on " Ethics in Fantasy part2", he was writing about and to a few specific groups of people over particular d&d RP issues that included the christians, he stated so!....offensive you say? Give me a break.
Nevertheless, there's nothing offensive in putting your thoughts and feelings into your writings, in fact it's even a good thing as then you know from what angle the author is coming from when you read works by him. What he says does not distract in the slightest from the topic.

He even states quite clearly that some of the essays on his pages are not finished, but are a work in progress. What is there is quite good information, from an excellent author. After reading many of his novels, I hold him in high regards and do trust what he says to be true in the art of storytelling. He is a master at his work. Everything that I read so far from his essays make sense with regards to story writing. It is a good source for potential authors, which is why I posted it.

#9 Shouja

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 05:26 PM

Well, I can see how the story theory can apply to analysis of stories. I'm not sure whether the character archetypes are very useful when applied to the problem of creating stories, though. I would have considered them as functions, to be switched around between different complex characters depending on the situation, instead of archetype traits that define a character. Star Wars, for all its likeability, is actually a rather simple story, with straightforward characters. I know that I don't use most of the character archetypes in stories that I write.

...

Then again, I'm better at writing Stream of Consciousness stories (Tales from Ten Taverns, Themes of Eternity) than Grand Adventure stories, so perhaps that could be the reason. This model primarily only applies to the Grand Adventure myth. Having said that, though, I don't think there has been a story on these forums so far that can truly be considered a Grand Adventure story (except maybe Saii's stuff and sistema and Hyperion's one). The rest are mainly tales and stream of consciousness stories. Maybe it's because these are told in parallel to the game, which is the main stage on which the Grand Adventure is performed. So the adventure is left to the quest department, and the storylines just "add padding", so to speak.

~Shouja~

#10 Lyanna

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 08:11 AM

I thought I'd just post this link for the Storylines team. Contained within it are several articles on character- and world-building, written by Rich Burlew (creator of the Order of the Stick webcomic and very experienced DM). Have a look at the articles under Play Theory (at the top) and The World (at the bottom). Although they're primarily written for a D&D-esque world, a lot of his insights can be applied to any given imaginary world, including EL. I found them very useful when defining the overarching politics of Irilion, for example, as well as pushing for the theme to be the consequences of eternal life on a population.

The articles are also good for people interested in role-playing.

-Lyn-

Edited by Lyanna, 05 April 2007 - 08:17 AM.





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