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what is a good story?


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#1 Cap'n VG   Members   -  Reputation: 190

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 09:38 AM

Why is it that most of the times I write a story comments say that its rushed, not well fleshed out? How long does it take to make a good story?(Ridiculous I know but still).

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#2 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:53 AM

It depends on the story. It can be anything from decades to years to months to days. That's just the writing part of the story, the whole thing from start (when you first think of the idea) to finish (when you finally complete writing it) can take substantially longer.

If people say your story seems rushed and not fleshed out then chances are it's because it isn't fleshed out and was rushed. Rushed tends to mean that the idea doesn't seem to have been thought out very well, there's a lot of "oh it just happened like this because it did" style moments. Fleshed out tends to mean that the idea is bare, there nothing to it apart from the key points of the story.

If you can give a few examples of your work I could be more specific with why people would comment like this.



#3 Cap'n VG   Members   -  Reputation: 190

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 11:16 AM

Ok here's one.

Cross Patch

Story:When war was struck between PenninHall and Kerlome, many have lost their lives and families but won wars and brought peace. When peace was made in Pennin Hall and Kerlome People were well raised but not all of them as many were left as orphans or lost their families. Soon this sadness created hatred to all and are known as pirates. They steal gold from town to town,room to room and bar to bar. Rums were served for free whenever pirates were on the way.Soon when more pirates approached across seas and lands, war between Kerlome and PenninHall struck again.




Meanwhile a young man wakes up in an island noticing himself unconscious. A ghost with no name calls in Heold and tells him to find a boat to set sail.This is where our adventure begins.....




Story:Setin Gadcarnet city, Max FeuJack a detective is requested to arrive at the old torn out Limber Park.

Hethen finds out that a group of gypsys are living in that park. Hopun the head of the gypsys explains the case to Max that Yado believes this myth can destroy their entire lives and every single villager begins to believe him and are very frightened. According to the myth this park is haunted and anyone who stayed there would be punished and he proves this by stating that his wife and his son have died.They can’t evacuate because according to their laws if one of them were right, then that someone must take over the tribe which he will refuse because Yado is a very cunning man with greed and power and where ever they stayed the police pushed them out.

After hearing all of this Max begins to solve the case. But how?

#4 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 11:59 AM

Yeah, that's definitely rushed and not fleshed out. You are "telling instead of showing", which is a widely-discussed problem you can probably google. What you are writing is something like a history or a summary rather than a story.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#5 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 08:38 PM

I think I'll write a little into that topic here since it's usually not explained well beyond "show, don't tell", even if you Google it.

All writing should be engaging. Realize that reading is an active process. A key strategy of engagement is to treat the reader as an active participant and a lot of basic tools of engagement are centered around this.


First the basic idea. Spose I write:

A man stuck his head out the door, glanced around till he caught sight of Mister Coffee's mouth and said, "No smoking here, asshole!" Coffee blew a cloud in his face.


From this we can, if we so please, construct a literal narrative; a man smells smoke. He leans out to search for it, and instructs the smoke to stop. (He does not like smoke.) The smoker refuses, rudely.

But when I rewrite it like that, it's very flat. Don't write flat.

But it's not strictly about showing & telling, as one can do all sorts of things. Take this sentence from Monday or Tuesday:

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.


The first part, "lazy and indifferent", relates to the short as a whole and I won't go into that. The latter, however, can mean nothing at all until you start interpreting it. My first thought was the mental image of stars vanishing and reappearing as the heron flies past, occluding them, but then that wouldn't make sense. The sky veiled the stars. And when does it do that? Daytime.

"The sky veils her stars; then bares them" can be interpreted as de-romanticizing the passage of time; day and night is just some thing that happens.

Or something.

You can also do this as the level of the whole work. If one wrote a crime novel, but it's really about campaign finance reform, than she's treating the reader as an active participant. Go and do likewise.

How long is another matter. I've written things that entertained people in hours, and generally try to get a laugh whenever I can IRL and to do that you have to work with seconds. But when getting into it, I've twice taken about a month to write a ~2000 word story and about three months to write a ~125000 story. What's the function? Lord knows; simple fact is you need time to think things over and that doesn't correlate in any simple manner with what you're writing.

#6 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10160

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 08:48 PM

1. Subject: what is a good story?
2. Why is it that most of the times I write a story comments say that its rushed, not well fleshed out?
3. How long does it take to make a good story?

1. Your subject line doesn't match with what you wrote in your post. As an aspiring writer, you need to work harder to match title with content, to organize your thinking and subject focus. A good idea is to write the content first, then write the summary/title/subject line afterwards.
2. Most likely because your stories were missing detail, or had loose ends.
3. As long as it takes. Don't start a timer when you write; just don't publish it until you've proofread your stuff thoroughly and are satisfied that it's ready.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#7 Cap'n VG   Members   -  Reputation: 190

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:08 AM

I think I'll write a little into that topic here since it's usually not explained well beyond "show, don't tell", even if you Google it.

All writing should be engaging. Realize that reading is an active process. A key strategy of engagement is to treat the reader as an active participant and a lot of basic tools of engagement are centered around this.


First the basic idea. Spose I write:

A man stuck his head out the door, glanced around till he caught sight of Mister Coffee's mouth and said, "No smoking here, asshole!" Coffee blew a cloud in his face.


From this we can, if we so please, construct a literal narrative; a man smells smoke. He leans out to search for it, and instructs the smoke to stop. (He does not like smoke.) The smoker refuses, rudely.

But when I rewrite it like that, it's very flat. Don't write flat.

But it's not strictly about showing & telling, as one can do all sorts of things. Take this sentence from Monday or Tuesday:

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.


The first part, "lazy and indifferent", relates to the short as a whole and I won't go into that. The latter, however, can mean nothing at all until you start interpreting it. My first thought was the mental image of stars vanishing and reappearing as the heron flies past, occluding them, but then that wouldn't make sense. The sky veiled the stars. And when does it do that? Daytime.

"The sky veils her stars; then bares them" can be interpreted as de-romanticizing the passage of time; day and night is just some thing that happens.

Or something.

You can also do this as the level of the whole work. If one wrote a crime novel, but it's really about campaign finance reform, than she's treating the reader as an active participant. Go and do likewise.

How long is another matter. I've written things that entertained people in hours, and generally try to get a laugh whenever I can IRL and to do that you have to work with seconds. But when getting into it, I've twice taken about a month to write a ~2000 word story and about three months to write a ~125000 story. What's the function? Lord knows; simple fact is you need time to think things over and that doesn't correlate in any simple manner with what you're writing.


So you mean like this?

In a far off cliff lies a sword that is said to wield magical powers owned by a sorcerer.

something like that?



#8 FLeBlanc   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3117

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 10:08 AM

So you mean like this?

In a far off cliff lies a sword that is said to wield magical powers owned by a sorcerer.

something like that?



You're still telling, not showing. A sentence like that is a summary. There may be a time and a place for brief summary depending on style, but it should be used sparingly. For instance, fable and fairy tale are often told using a "telling" style. "Once upon a time there lived..." But even in a telling style, appropriate detail can make all the difference. You don't want to just lay out the story as a set of facts. You want to skillfully weave figurative language, detail, description, etc... to construct something that delivers the facts and events of the tale but that is also a pleasure to read.

"In a far off cliff lies a sword that is said to wield magical powers owned by a sorcerer." -- Sure, we now know there is a sword somewhere in a cliff, owned by a sorcerer. We literally know nothing else about it. What are its powers? Who is the sorcerer? Where is the cliff? Why would a sorcerer need a sword? Why'd he leave it in the cliff? There is nothing in this sentence that engages the mind or imagination. You might as well just write out your weekly shopping list.

#9 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 11:42 AM

This might also touch on trust issues. The reader has to believe that there is indeed more. In this case, you can interpret that:

1) A wizard owns a sword
2) He left it on a cliff
3) Some say it has magical powers.

This can be interpreted as a statement about the wizard or as one about the people (who think it has powers) or both or more.

If that was intentional, than yes, you're almost there, but (as seen above and I agree) it's hard to tell if you're actually doing that or if you're just confused. Cultivating trust is important.

Another issue is that basically you made the sentence very roundabout. Modernists like Woolf do this but it's very tricky to do well and very easy to do wrong. As a beginner you're safe adopting business writing tactics for your sentences.

Read here.


To apply that to fiction, make clear, concise statements that can imply more than their face value and don't worry about making engaging word structures. We could write blurbs like:

A sorcerer once owned a sword, but he left it on a cliff somewhere. Some folks say it has magical powers.


There's a cliff way out where a sorcerer left his sword. Some say it has magical powers.


"There's a sword with magical powers out on some cliff somewhere. They say a wizard left it there."

.

etc. etc. Depending on where one wants to direct attention.

Also mind framing. Whether someone is going to take your sentence at face value or read it as "ha ha, crazy people think there's magic" or what depends a lot on how you've framed the discussion; what's the context? What is one reading about and how does this blurb relate to that? Is this plot about lost artifacts or ignorant villagers or forgetful wizards or something else altogether?

A reader's perception of the context affects how they'll interpret what you write. Blanc saw you as a learner and assumed you're confused. That's context. I could cut and paste that sentence verbatim into another context and it'd have a totally different meaning.

#10 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10160

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 12:43 PM

I like what Joe and F said very much. But there's even more.

1. The story should make us care about this sword and its location. Who needs the sword, and why, and what makes us care about this person's need for the sword?

2. Try showing us about the sword through dialogue.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#11 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 03:39 PM

So you mean like this?

In a far off cliff lies a sword that is said to wield magical powers owned by a sorcerer.

something like that?

Try starting with a specific character experiencing a specific sensory input. Then describe that character's reaction to what they sensed. Then, their internal reaction should motivate them to either make a decision or take an action. Now you describe what that character does.

For example: While on his way to go fishing in his favorite trout stream, Jack caught a glimpse of something shiny in one of the cliffs bordering the stream. Probably just fool's gold. The mysterious shiny object twinkled temptingly in the morning sun, and the cool breeze seemed to urge Jack to adventure. Did he really want to scrape his hands up scaling that cliff? Probably spiders lurking in crevices there too. Well, maybe if it was a sufficiently impressive chunk of fool's gold he could give it to Lisa and she would be impressed that he found it... After tucking his fishing equipment under a bush where nothing would bother it Jack pressed his fingers into the first hand-hold and looked around for a foot-hold that would take his weight.


Another good exercise is a conversation. You've heard conversations all your life, you know the pace people talk at. Try just writing two characters talking to each other in a natural way.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#12 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 07:19 PM

I second Sun's advice; writing in a limited perspective. You pick an individual and write a work where the narrative knows what that individuals knows, when they know it. No "little did he know" or assertions about facts they're not aware of. Strictly. If you read a lot you know 3rd-person-limited isn't a rule but as a beginner you can learn a lot about avoiding flat assertions and making things natural by doing that. I'm writing a large story in 3rd-person-limited as an exercise.

#13 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 01:31 AM

Edit: fixing link. Go here and enter the words showing telling in the search box, then set the pull down menu right under that box to search titles only, then hit search.
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/search.php



I think I'll write a little into that topic here since it's usually not explained well beyond "show, don't tell", even if you Google it.


A belated response to this, the absolutewrite forums are an abundant source of writing-related explanations and advice if you know how to use their search engine. Here's what came up for threads with titles including showing and telling.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#14 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 02:03 AM

Oops. That's probably a winner.

I had said that cause I've seen numerous articles elsewhere that don't go much into it and I thought that was typical, but I admit I haven't looked in a long time.

#15 Cap'n VG   Members   -  Reputation: 190

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 09:27 AM

Ok I'll write something different now so see if it suits like how you guys mentioned.

Once upon a time in a mystical land deep in the blue sky lives a dark void. This void is said to be pure evil as it absorbs souls by giving people nightmares. One night as Prince Jarell was sleeping in the kingdom, the void appeared in his dream and took him away. The King fell in despair after he found out that the doctors could not cure the poor prince. In an attempt to save his only son, he used the magic genie and made a wish to free his son. The Genie immediately vanished to thin air. But years passed and there was no sign of the prince and the genie's arrival. Where could they have been?

If this isn't good enough, then I think I might need another story writer.

#16 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10160

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 09:29 AM

Here's what came up for threads with titles including showing and telling.

"Sorry - no matches. Please try some different terms."
The search has expired. What was the search string you used?
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#17 FLeBlanc   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3117

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 10:20 AM

I think we might be getting kind of off-base on the original question, actually. There is a real difference between writing a story for the story's sake (a novel, a short, etc...) and writing a story as a narrative for a game. A novel/short is self-contained prose, but a game story has many interconnected elements aside from the prose, including many visual elements. The behind-the-scenes work of constructing the story might be similar as for a novel (characterization exercises, setting exploration, etc...) but the presentation will be different. It is not quite suitable to write a full 250,000 word novel, if the end goal is a video game.

So I would say to take the story summary that you are writing (and your most recent post is yet another summary, not a story in itself) and begin to refine it. As you refine it, consider each element in the context of telling a story via a game. You've got a few characters there: Prince Jarell, the King and the genie. Explore those guys a bit. How old was Prince Jarell when he was taken? Was he a boy? What kind of boy was he? Happy, sad, serious, etc... And the King, what kind of King was he? A cruel despot, a benevolent idiot, an indifferent figurehead, an effective and loved monarch, etc... Where did they live? What was the nature of the Kingdom.... the setting, if you will? Who was the kingdom at war with? Could those enemies have been behind the disappearance, perhaps in league with this evil void? And what, exactly, is this evil void? When has it appeared before, by what laws or principles does it operate? Where did it come from? How can it be defeated?

It's all about the details. Your above summary is just that: a summary. And a very basic one at that. True story comes in the details, lives in the paragraphs and scenes and settings, the interactions of characters that are as close to real as you can make them. Why should we care whether Jarell disappeared? We don't know him at all, he's just a name. Are we supposed to cheer for the genie in his search to free Jarell, or should we be afraid of him and whatever ruthless methods he might apply in the granting of the wish? Are we supposed to feel sad for the king, or are we supposed to understand that the King himself might be behind the disappearance? Perhaps Jarell was a sacrifice made unto the void so that the king himself might achieve some dark reward--extended life, extended powers, whatever. Or perhaps Jarell went willingly to the void, drawn by his own dark nature. Any of this could be possible, but from your summary we know absolutely none of it, nor are we given hints at all to guide us in coming to conclusions. We have, again, a set of facts with no emotional pull. Again, it might as well be your weekly shopping list.

How is this story going to be given to us in the context of the game? Is all of this just going to be game-intro expository stuff, or are we going to find it out as the game progresses? When we play the game, from whose viewpoint will we see it? The genie? The king? Prince Jarell? Or someone else, asked by the king to figure out what happened? How much information can our character be assumed to possess from the start, and how much must we learn as we go?

You are seeing, perhaps, that writing of any sort (novel, game, or otherwise) is far more than just typing out a few sentences based on a crudely formed idea in your head. You have to put work into it, real work. You can't just pull airy farts out of your brain and expect people to like it. Just like building a house requires mastery of tools and materials, constructing a story requires a firm grasp on the principles of narrative, of grammar and language, of manipulating the building blocks of sentences and paragraphs, to achieve something that is other than merely the sum of the words.

#18 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 01:06 PM


Here's what came up for threads with titles including showing and telling.

"Sorry - no matches. Please try some different terms."
The search has expired. What was the search string you used?

Darn I was afraid linking to a search might not work. I used the two terms showing and telling and chose the settings to display threads with those words in the title only.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#19 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 01:13 PM

Ok I'll write something different now so see if it suits like how you guys mentioned.

Once upon a time in a mystical land deep in the blue sky lives a dark void. This void is said to be pure evil as it absorbs souls by giving people nightmares. One night as Prince Jarell was sleeping in the kingdom, the void appeared in his dream and took him away. The King fell in despair after he found out that the doctors could not cure the poor prince. In an attempt to save his only son, he used the magic genie and made a wish to free his son. The Genie immediately vanished to thin air. But years passed and there was no sign of the prince and the genie's arrival. Where could they have been?

If this isn't good enough, then I think I might need another story writer.


Well, FLeBlanc is right that story writing for games is a bit different. It also depends what kind of game. If you are making the kind of game that only has a few paragraphs of text in the whole game the way something like Mario 3 does, then the quality of that text isn't very important as long as it's easily understood by players. But if you want to write something like a Myst game, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Okami, Starcraft/Warcraft, etc, those require a pretty large amount of pretty high quality writing, so you'd either have to get someone with a bit of experience or you'd have to work hard to learn how to write well.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#20 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 02:58 PM

In pretty much all cases I recommend against such lore dumps.

However, if that's what you're going for (and otherwise some very light writing), than you can if you can manage to make the whole paragraph work as it's own super-short story.

I'm pretty baked right now but I'm going to rejig it a tad and see what I come up with.

Prince Jarell went to bed one night and bed's where he stayed. His dad found every shaman, doctor, priest and (somehow) a genie to wake him, but they failed, and time runs out when you can't eat. They say the "void" came and took his mind that night. They might say the same for you if you don't wake up.


This would lead into a dream-world adventure and you might meet the prince and the genie later and other characters who can expand on things, and you'd develop a lot of material as you go; the quote above does little more than lead into the actual adventure. Lots of details are left off and vague. There is no lore in it; it paints a picture of what happens when the void comes, then maps that onto the friends and family of the protagonist (without actually mentioning them). It closes with a more easily said than done instruction.

This instruction is your ultimate goal for the game (the one I just made up).

Also important w/r/t cultivating a mental image of the void, is that it does so strictly in terms of its affect on the human experience.




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