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BradDaBug

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Yeah, I know, what a title. But I''ve always kinda wondered this and now I''m going to try to ask about it in a way that makes sense. Whenever I try to write something, I''m always so afraid that it won''t be "realistic" or won''t read exactly "realistic." Here''s what I mean: if you pick up a Harry Potter or some other children''s book, everything is written kinda sing-songy like, and doesn''t really seem 100% "real." (I say "real" because I can''t think of a better word) But that''s OK, cause its a children''s book. I don''t really wanna write a children''s story, so I gotta make it "realistic," right? But then again, pick up some other book, and what does the dialog look like? Many times characters give huge speeches several paragraphs long. I''ve never really heard a dialog like that in real life. Everything I''ve ever heard was a sentence or two then someone else spoke. So is that method not "realistic?" Most of the stuff I write isn''t very realistic; like its in a fantasy setting and stuff. So should I be worried that the writing style isn''t "realistic?" Should I be looking at it more like I am making a movie, and the writing style is like what the world looks like on the film? Like in The Matrix when everything inside the Matrix had a green tint, or in Saving Private Ryan when everything looked pale and washed out and sickly, or in Oh Brother Where Art Thou when they changed the colors of all the plants and stuff to make them brown so that everything would look dead and dusty? None of that is "realistic" but it helps set the movie. Does any of that make sense? Any thoughts?

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edit by ze: Anonymous Cowards suck.

[edited by - zealouselixir on April 30, 2003 9:48:56 PM]

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edit by ze: Anonymous Cowards suck.

[edited by - zealouselixir on April 30, 2003 9:49:06 PM]

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Well, well, well.

First off, BradDaBug, I''ve been writing for a very long time. I''ve seen all da sh*t. Lemme see if I can take an objective step back and help you.

First off, writing is tough enough that the first thing you should do is get off you own back and never, ever, ever, judge the first draft. By that I mean pen the story in whatever way it pleases or moves you to do so without a care in the world about how you or anyone else in the world will percieve it.

You will, however, have to eventually put the manuscript under the greasy 40 watt light bulb and interrogate the guts out of it, smoking and blowing in the face is optional.

That is part of the rewriting process though. So we are talking two separate processes and two separate attitudes and pov''s inherent in those processes.

In step one, writing the first draft, all pressure is off and no values are judged at this time. Step two rewriting, involved the iterative criticism and analysis aspects we''ve all come to know and love and confuse in entirety as the first part of the process, but it''s really not. You can learn lots and lots about the second part of the process in all the bookstores and websites in the world, but the first part of the process is individuated and personal, so trust a writer of many, many years when I say, make the first part of creativity fun, please? Your story will be better for it after the second part of the process has run it''s course.

As for "realistic" stories, that is sort of subjective because: reality is in the mind of the reader. Your first job as the writer is to tell the story that thrilled, intrigued and captivated you enough in the first place to create the record of it''s telling in those curious little symbologies known as letters and numbers.

Your second job ironically, regards not realism, but clarity. I mean you could be writing about transvestite crack addicts in prison who dream of becoming stock brokers cause it''s got you hooked enough to want to write about that, but if you don''t make the character, motivations and pov of that crack addict clear enough (and I mean transparent) so that the reader (no matter what background they come from) can suspend disbelief and go inside the head of a crack addict transvestite in prison (and in drawing this example character I make no references to any of the community members, and none should be implied) and live life through their eyes for whatever reason they wanted to.

"Whatever reason" is the operative phrase here. You have no idea why a partcular person decides to check out your story or not. I predicate my entire next assumption on the basis: people don''t know what they want.

You don''t know if the person who wants to read that story wants to because a, they are a recovering crack addict, and want inspiration, b, if they are a stockbroker themselves wanting to finds new ways to insult their peers and contemporaries, c, you don''t know if that person is a transvestite (and here I am not referencing specifically any gamedev community member in anyway, and no construition should be implied) who is seeking understanding about what it''s like to be a transvestite from another person''s experiences, and perhaps value others or grow internally because of that new information, d, the reader may be a person who is into stories of triumph over a great struggle against all odds.

The point is, you never know, and further, you can''t worry about it.

What you can do, if you are a serious devver of mass market public consumption entertainment products, is focus on the things that you do have control over, such as: pace, characterization, plot structure, setting, lyric, etc. These things make the most obscure material from the most unrealistic POV (points of view) _understood_ by almost everyone who bothers to scan the pages.

Let me clear up everything now by saying that the goal of communication is understanding. If your story has not had the benefits of the iterative second half of the process rendered upon it, geuss what, you are not in the mass market entertainment business, you are in the personal expression business, which is good for the soul but only occasionally good for the pocketbook.

That is why they say writing is rewriting. I tell you that the more you rewrite something, the more people it will appeal to. If you take a look at all the crap on the store shelves of the major book retailers, you will see that only once in a great while does a really, really, good book come along.

Why? Because all those thousands of writers out there like you and me who grind away at the keyboard all day may not be onto the next ''big'' story, fiction or otherwise. This is almost a guarantee that most of the books on those shelves will be interesting, but not captivating, generative of curiousity, but not compelling you into a story world that turns into one of those things that you can''t put down. Remember that the definition of a masterpiece is simply something you never forget.

Reading a book or seeing a movie is the old fashioned version of LSD -- people use it to escape.

You can enhance the quality of the trip they choose to go on (remember this is not just somebody who chooses to suspend disbelief - it goes much farther than that; this person has decided to have empathy for your main character, they have decided to go along for the ride and take a lot of what you say for granted -- when you think about it, consumers of entertainment put a lot of trust in the content developers) by using the well documented elsewhere tools of the trade.

What you need to focus on is finishing the manuscript. I mean finishing the first draft. Once that is done, then, as a professional, or not if it is personal artistic expression, to go to the next phase of the process and employ the tools.

Publishers need to get books on the shelves to keep their doors open. They take whatever manuscripts they get submitted to them and evaluate them and a lot of the time they choose on a ''least of all evils'' basis. Their reputations rest on what they put their publisher''s imprint on. They would rather have a bunch of singles and doubles (to use the baseball metaphore) than strike out.

It''s a business, so if you have written a story that is really wild (I can''t seem to do anything but that, so I speak from the POV of somebody who has had to sell things that were enormously unrealistic) you''ll probably have to do some selling to a publisher to take a risk on that story and put it out there.

Believe it or not, some things will stand on their own artistic merits, but that does not imply things will sell on their artistic merit every time. You have to do that for your own product. Sometimes people have to be told what is good for them, even adults. Especially adults in the fiction publishing business.

One does this by knowing the market, and showing the publisher you have thought about their audience as much as they have. Comfort levels are really important in getting to yes.

I will share a secret with you. Most people, when they get done with first draft, think they have gotten most of the job done. In terms of personal artistic expression, that is maybe true. But then, if you edit it for grammer and usage once, style once, spelling once and criticism once, you are still not rewriting.

Rewriting comes when you start to tweak dialogue, setting, pace, conflict, other exposition related materials like sub plots, ensemble characters, etc. Each time you go through the whole manuscript and really hack it apart and back together again once, that constitutes one rewrite.

About two to four rewrites into the thing, the story begins to appeal to more people than just you because it is now more clear and understandable. Presto, your audience is growing, slowly but imperceptibly.

But alas, another step remains, a step I shall term, "The author writes themself out of the story." This is a point in your rewriting where you know the material so intimately, you begin to detect where your views have imposed themselves on the views of your main character or another character. You detect this by realization like, "Hey, my jailed tranvestite stock broker wannabe doesn''t think that way, I do!"

At that point, if you detect yourself thinking like a jailed transvestite with Series 7 licenseure aspirations, kill yourself immediately and then all your writing problems are over.

Seriously though, I see this in writer all the time, they hardly ever let their character develop enough to ever give that character the chance to having an opposite or different view fromthe authors. What this indicates is that the audience you are writing for is now only as large as people like you, and since that is a small amount of people, then we know that we are not at the level of mass medium yet.

These observations don''t generally come to light until the fourth or fifth or sixth draft, unless you are really good or lucky, or planned well (that''s another post altogether) to avoid this from happening, and you then realize all of a sudden that, "geez, I got a whole lot of reworking to do; this book is nowhere near done."

Once you get this, and start making the changes, all kinds stuff will bust out as improbably designed in the story structure, and you say to yourself, "Man, glad I caught those things, somebody in an editorial position would have ripped on me for this."

Most people never get to this point because they think they can make it work in one or two drafts. This is why so few manuscripts ever get published among the throngs of them that are produced and submitted every year. A real story is something that is bigger than what you can wrap your head around in one setting. I think this is true in programming as well.

Time and thinking are your biggest allies in all this process. It''s just like knowing what all the mechanics are in relation to what your avatar can do, and listing all those mechanics in a single document, only to spend weeks thereafter figuring out all the neat ways in which they can be applied to the gameworld, and which ones to keep, which ones to throw away, and which ones to modify.

Planning can cut down this and other things, but I think that is the perview of professional writers like myself, and you shoud only consider story planning tools if you are considering moving to the next level and trying to get things published. Publishing to the web is not next level unless it is a major site you are writing for, and for gods sake at that point you''d better be getting paid for it.

When you see huge patches of speech a character makes in dialogue, then that is a mark the writer never tried for realism in the sense of the realism of the story world (just like physics in the game worlds we create, they should be consistent with the rules of that world unless we create exceptions well described in advance so there are no surprises), and in rare, rare cases, oration in speech is a real thing, but nobody gets up in the middle of a battle to read the constition because it ain''t real in any universe.

It may also be the mark of a publisher who simply didn''t have any other stories worth publishing, and they fixed it up as best they good before sending it to the compositor. Yet they still needed to get something on the shelves, or they are out of business.

Whether the method they used for those long excerpts of dialogue were real or not depends on the setting and circumstance. The movie "First Teusday in October" about the supreme court, has long, winding dialogue almost to the point of boredom in it, yet it is relevant and real to the setting, circumstance and plot.

So to ask if a piece of dialogue is real or not has to pass a few litmus tests first before we can pronounce judgement on it.

If you write stuff in the fantasy setting lots, then realize that even on planet znarf, they have to eat, take a dump, get some sleep and chase some waihina. Unless you set up exposition before that to the contrary, giving a logical reason why these people don''t have to do those things, or do those things in another way an earthperson may find wierd; but if you tell them in advance, that is usually not a problem as far as the reader is concerned if your non standard to earth behavioral feature is kewl and relative to the plot. I cite Vulcan mating rituals as a good example. Earth people wouldn''t go for that, but hey, it works for the Vulcans, and we like them most of the other time.

As far as writing a movie or writing a book (or any other format like short story, novelette, etc.) the choice of the format is a decision made at the beginning of the process that is critical to how you write the thing through the rest of the entire process. It all begins with asking yourself the question, "Yeah, this idea would make a great story, but what is the best format for telling it?"

Format choices will always dog you professionally, at least in my career. Choose this one wisely, and it will serve you well.

If you are writing a short story, some scene description is necessary, often to the point that it can set the mood prior to the recommencement of action. This holds true for other literary formats like novels and novelettes.

But a screenplay is a different format, with different demands. In a screenplay, you aren''t afforded the luxury of exposition in page after page of long speeches, or elaborate scene descriptions three paragraphs long with sumptuous buffets spread out on tables, three sentences alone for how hot the HotT''s dress is, and things like that. If it is not on the page it is not on the stage. Novels and short stories are a little looser, in which you can ramble some, but you still have to get to the point. In filmic writing, you have to get to the point, as I believe you also have to do in game writing, but the game writing format requires no time compression to portal you directly to the main level boss or puzzle, the player is afforded the opportunity to explore. That is a boo-boo in scripting, unless you have a good case to do so because that is plot intent, but that is another post alltogether.

So if you are writing a story not for the screen, then alliterate to your hearts desire during process one, and tighten it up so your audience is swept along breathlessly in process two. Both are valid and necessary to the end result. One is fun, the other is work. A work of love, nonetheless.

There''s nothing like giving one of your manuscripts to somebody and then having to go get coffee for a couple of hours cause they shutup and can''t take their eyes off the page. Nobody, I say again, nobody gets that good in the first few drafts. If they get close, it''s because they have been writing a long, long time, and know how to create those efficiencies.

Also, in screenwriting, you can guarantee that you are going to get rewritten, even if it is into the Production Management or Director''s format for production breakdown and casting purposes.

Which is why you must always write in the Master Author''s Format when scripting, and in a standard format when writing books, articles or short stories. And, in the secret department, if you mercilessly edit and rewrite the story (a very sobering process only aspiring veterans will subject themselves to, imo) the chances are lower and lower somebody is going to come up with something better than what you''ve done because you''ve eliminated most of those things during process two.

That is not to say somebody can''t come up with a better idea than you, or that they can improve upon the idea you''ve been working on for weeks in just an hour behind a desk, it''s done all day everyday, and that is part of handling criticism professionally.

I remember my second film. Mostly because it was so unlike the first one. The first movie was for a guy who had only the vaguest notion of what he wanted, so I had to do the thinking for him and for me. Months of research, paradigm refining and rewriting finally got him what he wanted, and it was made.

The second director knew exactly what he wanted, and I left the first meeting with such structure and detail, I simply went home and started drafting right away. It took seventeen more drafts to find out the best way to portray heroism in action upon the part of the main character, and to give it a big twist into the Twilight Zone near the end, so everyone would know it was my story by way of improving upon what was assigned to me, not the directors, but it got made as well.

The difference between movie one and movie two was that the first director was a film student working on his masters, and the second director made six figures a year twenty years out of film school. Neither process was a total joy, but then I learned immesurably about how a writer works for and with a director.

So those changes in colors are for tone setting and symbological context setting as well. Write them in if they are relevant to the plot and point in character arc in any format, just use the proper method within the format. In a screenplay, the most you get is maybe two short sentences in the direction slug, and then you had better have though through every other possible way to present it in action or speech first.

So, in summation after this long ramble, nobody really cares what you are writing, what they care about is the feeling your material gives them when they interpret it. So, in one last parting advisement...

Writing a fairly lengthy story (100 pages or more), and I mean taking it all the way through both processes, will teach you things about yourself that you will not learn from school, work or relationships, which, if you think about it, is where we learn the majority of our things. It is a self conferred degree in life mastery, because you created a world, populated it with characters that were believeable, deserving of empathy and following through their conflict or dilemma, had the reader and the charcter change and come about to acceptance of the fate you skeined for them in the first place, and gave the person who read the story something they will think about after they set the book down.

That is about as good as it gets when it comes to planetary contributions while alive, imho.

Stay tuned...

Addy






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Twelve-step Program For Writers:

Step one: Just Write.
Step two: Don''t Give Up.
Step three: They''re Probably Right, But Don''t Give Up Anyway.
Step four: Keep Writing.
...
Step twelve: What Addy said.

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BradDaBug - Okay, my philosophical position on this is: The think to strive for in fiction is not ''realism'' but ''versimilitude''. As Literary Theorist Simon O. Lesser writes, “While fiction alters the facts of experience, a fundamental purpose of those alterations … is the achievement of an imaginary world more lifelike than life itself, more directly and honestly concerned with essential problems, more supple in its expression of every aspect of man’s nature, less burdened by distracting irrelevancies. Undoubtedly many of the alterations are made at the behest of the pleasure principle: the world of fiction is more gratifying and less fearful than the world of experience. (Excepting the worlds of horror stories.) But even children are dissatisfied when these effects are attained at the expense of the reality principle.” (Lesser 54).

So the idea is not to make a piece of writing where the dialogue is statistically similar to real dialogue, but to make a piece of writing where the dialogue _seems_ realistic and, more than that, vibrantly alive, compelling, resonating with whatever emotion you want that particular line to convey.

Basically, I agree with adventuredesign - people are people, even when their aliens, and as long as your characters have believable psychology, your societies have believable sociology, and your worldbuilding is systematic and cohesive, you''re going to get a sufficiently realistic story.



adventuredesign - int''s _First Monday in October_, not Tuesday. not that it really matters, I recall it being a lousy movie...

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quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
BradDaBug - Okay, my philosophical position on this is: The think to strive for in fiction is not ''realism'' but ''versimilitude''. As Literary Theorist Simon O. Lesser writes, “While fiction alters the facts of experience, a fundamental purpose of those alterations … is the achievement of an imaginary world more lifelike than life itself, more directly and honestly concerned with essential problems, more supple in its expression of every aspect of man’s nature, less burdened by distracting irrelevancies. Undoubtedly many of the alterations are made at the behest of the pleasure principle: the world of fiction is more gratifying and less fearful than the world of experience. (Excepting the worlds of horror stories.) But even children are dissatisfied when these effects are attained at the expense of the reality principle.” (Lesser 54).

So the idea is not to make a piece of writing where the dialogue is statistically similar to real dialogue, but to make a piece of writing where the dialogue _seems_ realistic and, more than that, vibrantly alive, compelling, resonating with whatever emotion you want that particular line to convey.

Basically, I agree with adventuredesign - people are people, even when their aliens, and as long as your characters have believable psychology, your societies have believable sociology, and your worldbuilding is systematic and cohesive, you''re going to get a sufficiently realistic story.



adventuredesign - int''s _First Monday in October_, not Tuesday. not that it really matters, I recall it being a lousy movie...



Yeah, you''re right, I hate not having those references handy when you need them -- thank god I chose fiction

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Actually, you point out one interesting thing between book speaking and real speaking. In Real life, people don''t speak in complete sentences all the time. Its weird, and uncalled for. The only humans that do are abused as children, either physically, or socially.

I said to my boss "I think VOXELS are the way to go."

He replied, "People have tried VOXELS for pocket machining before, but octrees made it difficult. They didn''t know where things were, because of recursion"

I stated, "I can use binning! It should work, and be more realistic than Z-maps"

If this was a book, I would have been rejected. Real life allows conversations that start and stop from a long series of talks. Book form, we have to give up that kind of flexibility.


In video games, however, we can simulate a real convesation, much better than a book. We have characters that can point at "whatcha-ma-call-its" and we can have a slow build up over 80 hours of game play. The only catch is, we''d have to get the player involved enough to allow him to remember past conversations. I cannot even remember who was the evil guy in Shining Force 2. . I try to use both. A little bit of real life, a little bit of "remembered Converations". I''m not sure it works at all, but I think its cool

sorry, I guess I just randomly ranted, I know I''m getting somewhere, I don''t know where.

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quote:
Original post by adventuredesign
...

WOW! If that''s not a tutorial listed on GameDev, it oughta be! Thanks!

I appreciate all your (as in all of you who replied) advice! It seems like when a story idea is floating around in my head, it is MY story, but as soon as I start writing it down I start thinking "what would people like to read? What would people want to read? What would people blah blah blah" and I end up loosing the story, getting frustrated, etc. I always seem to have this really complicated plot that I decide is a little too obscure for most people without lots of explaining inside the story, so I always simplify it to a "standard" plot line.

Like this: I was once working on a story where this guy, in a battle of sorts, kills this guy that looks a lot like him. This guy he killed was a high up leader guy in this army that was oppressing the people way out on the frontier. When the guy that killed him started looking through his stuff he found all these letters to this chick he was courting back in some town away from the frontier. This chick happened to be the daughter of this powerful guy. So he decided to pretend he''s the guy he killed returning from battle, come back to the chick, kidnap her, take her back to the frontier, and show her the kind of stuff her boyfriend was doing so that her powerful daddy would maybe do something about it. BTW, I intended for this guy to be this mix between evil/good. he''s got mostly good intentions, but his methods aren''t too good. And of course the chick is upset she''s being kidnapped by this guy that killed her boyfriend but also reminds her of him.
But when I got to the part where I was planning the later stages of the plot (what exactly he was going to show her, what he expected her to do, etc) I couldn''t think of anything, so I just resorted to something stupid like it turns out that the guy was.....

hey, actually, I just looked back at my notes for this story (which I haven''t looked at in a month or two) and it seems I have a pretty cool story arc going! I like it! Maybe it isn''t so bad. It seems to be fairly complex with a plot twist or two. I''ll have to work on this some more!

Anyways, thanks again!

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I managed to evolve on my writing by simply writing A LOT. Several thousand words later I''m a good writer. Persistance, planning and skill are what I think is what it takes. Unfortunatly I need to plan my stories more, though I have a narrative in mind which should fix that...
might make a post of it later
keep an eye out for it: The Shrink

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I managed to evolve on my writing by simply writing A LOT. Several thousand words later I''m a good writer. Persistance, planning and skill are what I think is what it takes. Unfortunatly I need to plan my stories more, though I have a narrative in mind which should fix that...
might make a post of it later
keep an eye out for it: The Shrink

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