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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword


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Everything posted by Katzaniel

  1. I think we mostly all went the same place you did...
  2. I'm gonna cross-post this, 'cause I'm not sure how many people still check out the Writer's Workshop regularly. Basically, I wrote a draft of a novel: It takes place in a high-magic, high-technology setting, and the basic premise is that the hero, Roshiana, and two others are sudden dropped into the middle of the dangerous wilderness. Not only must they get back home, but then they must discover both who put them there and what is causing the dangerous, paralyzing mist that has begun to cover the world. I am seeking feedback, if anybody is interested. I am not expecting anything, though, because novels are very, very long. http://patrickdurham.net/themightypen/index.php?/topic/17354-novel-avatar-of-afearyn/
  3. Hm. I had read this before (and liked it) but on re-reading, I noticed this: Doesn't seem right. Which is it? Pairs of headlights, or one lone pair? Or is the implication that they are very far apart?
  4. I enjoyed the whole thing, but I must say, that title is fantastic.
  5. The woman's eyes narrow at the tall man and then at the elf as she ponders her decision. "The Body Tree. I assume you will send a team to plant and care for it?" Without waiting for an answer, she nods sharply. "Very well. Dawn is approaching. I will come by tomorrow night to collect. You may all live." She promptly makes her exit. OOC: Good pitches, but the way I see it, many vampires already possess the ability to 1) enthrall people (the doubt lace) and 2) create new undead (the death art). Or maybe you meant that they would be functionally dead, but preserved... it seems an awful lot of trouble to go to, though, when it might also kill people she wants to keep alive. So yeah. The Body Tree sounds perfect.
  6. I kind of thought I had already replied to this, already. I think I had a couple things I was going to say, but hadn't quite formulated the second and managed to forget about it. Now I can only remember this: The definition of magic as "things science doesn't yet have an explanation to" is something I can get behind. I definitely believe that there are things in this world that fall into that category! I think that Snypiuer's definition is the more common one, but science tends to be pretty grabby... scientists classify anything as science if it's repeatable, really, and once we get to the point where we can predict what might cause it to happen, we start to work on why. "Why" isn't critical to it being science. Personally, I expect that all things will eventually find their way to that point, and even to the point of knowing why. But I think that what Snypiuer is saying, is that we will reach a point where we definitively declare that certain things are not repeatable or predictable and therefore not science... right?... and so time will tell which of us is right. In the meantime, I'm content with "to each their own".
  7. Much better in my opinion, though I'd be curious to know whether others agree. The only thing I could point out is the sentence: "Had anyone been around." For some reason, that stuck out for me. It broke the tone that the rest of it sets. I guess it just seems informal because it's so short? It seems to work just fine if I read it as part of the prior sentence instead of a new sentence, but I really couldn't tell you why that should do anything. Otherwise: Very nice!
  8. Interesting. The imagery is fantastic. I feel like the repetition is overdone, though. Not all of it - much of it serves to reinforce what's gone before, which I assume is the intent. But certain ones (particularly when you begin a sentence with the phrase you just used to end the last sentence, I think) are distracting. The end is a little abrupt, too, but then I suppose that's probably the point.
  9. A tall, pale woman glides into the room and narrows her eyes at the drunken youth until he stumbles out the door. Ever so slowly, she turns to face the presenters. She widens her cherry-red lips into a predatory grin. "Offer me a bargain, mortals, or dine with me tonight. Your choice."
  10. OOC: I don't see why not. On another note, Snypiuer's pitch totally reminded me of Wyvern...
  11. Now, Stick. As a frat boy, you don't have a lot of time for homework. Who does?! Girls, parties, beer; those are all you need from life. But teachers never seem to get that! You can't tell them the truth because they just aren't cool enough for the truth. What I have here for you today will solve that problem. I present to you: the Excuse Team. Not only are they great at handing out excuses that are sure to get the teachers to give you a pass, but they're also a party unto themselves! Brian never goes anywhere without filling up that keg, all the guys live with Chuck in his fantastic basement suite, and Sandy... well, you'll meet Sandy...
  12. I think Marvel does that too, yeah. I haven't read through the GM's guide, but it's very similar to Fate, which I have. I think you're right, and this is part of the reason I don't entirely succumb to Fate's scene-by-scene style... it doesn't allow for the flexibility of having an arc and allowing the players to explore it, which is super fun. It takes an experienced/flexible GM to be able to sit down at the table and let their players do *anything* but I do tend to have a few "random-ish" encounters planned that I might throw in to slow a group down if they go in an unexpected direction, so that I can do a little more thinking after the session and before they arrive at their destination. Gaming groups tend to like combat, after all. But I learned the hard way about setting up a dungeon and just expecting the players to explore it for no good reason. In Fate, you can just sort of toss them in there and say, "This is what this episode is about"... but I don't think that means you should. Then again, Fate is really good about letting the players have a hand in what the world looks like, so it probably wouldn't happen like that. It works well if you have a skeleton of a world planned and a few partially sketched-out plans for episodes and you let the players guide you toward what they're interested in doing based on what they start to explore. But I don't any of that is relevant to single-authored story writing, unfortunately.
  13. I'm not sure what Legendary is - it might cover that, but I happened to get it from Fate. I never thought much about "which scenes to include" until I started trying to organize a whole novel, and then suddenly it mattered a lot. So that's probably part of it. Totally agree about it being up to each individual. (Although certainly, if you're running a table top game and the players don't get a say, you'll hear it from them in other ways...) Oh, and there was something else I had wanted to mention about ordering: if the "start of the story" isn't obvious in terms of, "just before the main character embarks on his/her quest" or "just before the wizard shows up" or whatever, you might also consider "just before people start getting awesome" because it's nice to be able to witness the characters start in their natural environment and then learn through challenges to be better than they were before. Now I just have to figure out how to apply that to my next thing (which is already bubbling in my head).
  14. My new motto with regards to the Pen is "Don't sweat it". You're around, and that's enough. New skins or new writing? Bonus.
  15. ((A note on intent: This is my opinion - an essay. It's not really meant to teach or instruct except near the end where I attempt to give some advice on applying this. Indeed, I am hoping that it provokes a discussion and that is why it is in the Cabaret room instead of anywhere else.)) My husband has been re-reading the earlier Wheel of Time books and when we went on a recent long car ride, we got Lord of Chaos on audiobook and we both listened as we drove. And as I listened, I realized that in my opinion, Robert Jordan takes "Show, don't tell" too far. (Or perhaps misunderstands the intent of that advice.) Now, I realize that my opinion isn't the only valid one here, and I will get into more detail on the opposing ends of the spectrum and what it might mean in a story, but I do believe that at the very least, this example shows that it's possible to take it too far. Certainly, the length of the Wheel of Time books is widely criticized and I think that this is at least a part of that. Without getting into details, there was a scene wherein the point-of-view character was waiting, watching others read through papers, and getting bored. This is a scene that could have been summarized after the fact, or skimmed over, or covered with certain parts rushed, or - as Robert Jordan chose to do - described at length. Rather than telling us that the character was bored, the author chose to show us that she was bored by describing the reasons for her tedium in detail. When something suddenly happened that made things interesting, it put some perspective to why this scene was in the book at all, but still I felt that he should have chosen to gloss over the first part of this scene. The question of which scenes to include in a story, how much background to cover, and what order to describe things used to baffle me. I knew that there were good and bad ways to do it, but nothing about how to evaluate my options. I won't claim that I'm an expert now, but I've gained some perspective on this matter in the past five years or so. Ironically, much of that learning did not happen by reading or writing. It happened by running tabletop games. If you're not familiar with tabletop games, here's a quick explanation. One person, the Game Master (GM) is basically in charge of entertaining several other players, who each control a Player Character (PC). PCs are very similar to point-of-view characters in a story: they are supposed to be the ones who the story revolves around. Sometimes they control the flow of events and sometime things happen to them, but the story is most interesting from their point of view. So the GM is usually in charge of describing the world: people, culture, physical laws of the universe (e.g, whether/how magic works) and so on. The players describe how their PC wants to interact with the world, and the GM determines the results of those actions. In some games, the players are given more power over narrative results than in other games, but it's been my experience that if the GM doesn't have any story in mind at all, the game isn't as interesting. On the other hand, if the GM is too determined for the story to go in a particular way and doesn't allow the PCs any control at all, then that's a problem too. That part is less useful for a single author planning a story, but I'll explain in a moment why I think it isn't a completely negligible factor, either. Now, it used to be that my friends and I played a certain style of game where we always tried to account for every moment that occurred in the game. (This is the first end of the spectrum: not necessarily a bad thing, but one extreme.) Everything was chronological and if the PCs were travelling for eight hours to get to a destination, we would roll dice for every couple of hours to see if they randomly encountered some resistance. We would worry over whether they had brought enough food, how much they could carry, who kept watch, or even what order they walked or rode in. Again, I repeat: this isn't necessarily bad - but we didn't know there was any other way. The thing is, this end of the spectrum sets a specific tone to the story. It's gritty and focussed on survival. We played a few other types of games over the years, but although the setting changed, our style didn't vary much. Again, we didn't realize there was any other way. That is, until I was reading a GM guide for a very recent system and it talked about what a game in that system was expected to look like. Every session of play was supposed to focus on a plot element: an episode of a show; a chapter in a book. Play revolved around scenes: you resolve one plot element, and then move on. If the players are travelling, the GM should ask themselves whether there's anything to be gained by having them encounter opposition during their travels. If so, a scene starts directly as the action starts. If not, eight hours of travel are skipped over. The GM is told to "zoom in" on interesting moments in time and "zoom out" on less interesting ones. As you have probably guessed, this is the other end of the spectrum; the other extreme. The tone here is cinematic and focussed on action. (That's not completely true: it's focussed on whatever you want it to be, whichever things you slow down for and treat as scenes. Usually action or story.) One problem with the hour-by-hour method is that it can get boring. For my own preference, I have moved away from that extreme considerably. However, there's also a big problem with the scene-by-scene method in that players get upset when things are skipped over. "Why are we jumping into this fight scene?", one might say. "I would have been keeping better watch than to be surprised by that." Or, "What? We're travelling already? But I wanted to go shopping before we left." I think that's valid, and so I don't go to far into this other extreme, either. If the players want to role-play a visit to the market, I let them. But if it turns out not to be about the role-playing (character development) and it's not about progressing the plot either, I try to hurry them along. We don't need to haggle for every last bit of currency every single time you buy something; your character is good at that sort of thing and we can assume you get a good deal. Of course, you also want to let your PCs be awesome. If they have some clever trick they want to play on the shopkeeper that showcases something about the PC, you should do it. I'm getting away from writing a bit here, but it's very similar, I think. You want to consider why you are writing each scene, but you don't want to skip too much, either. And when I talk about players complaining that their character is being assumed to do something (or why the GM isn't the only one to control the story), that's relevant too. It's relevant to any author who has ever sat down to write a scene with a specific outcome in mind, and discovered that the characters wouldn't act accordingly. Your character takes on a life of their own as you write, and suddenly you realize that this action you had planned for them is simply not something they would do. So there's danger in trying to skip too much. You either need to re-write part of that character's personality, or allow a portion of your plot to be flexible. If a character's actions are uncertain, or if they can't be summed up quickly without sacrificing character development, then there's a good reason to "zoom in" and describe the scene in detail. But if all you're doing is painstakingly cataloguing how they spent every hour, then you might want to consider glossing over it. Okay, so how do you know whether or not to include a scene? That has to be a decision that you make yourself, but my most recent thoughts on this are that every scene should do one of the following things: Advance the plot. Allow a character to grow or develop or allow the reader to better understand a character's motivations. Explain how or why something happened. (Especially if the the reader would be confused without it.) Allow a character to be awesome. This is distinct from development: the reader might already know that a character is supposed to be really good at certain things, but it's still exciting to see them show it off. Especially if you've spent a lot of time allowing the character to improve to that point. Zoom out, or show-don't-tell, whatever you want to call it: but let the reader revel in it. I would suggest, then, not including it as its own scene if no one learns anything, no one gets to be cool, nothing is explained, and nothing happens that can't be summarized in another scene. It's a guideline, at least. Finally, before I close off, I'd like to talk a little bit about the ordering of scenes. In particular, where do you start your story? Well, this might not help you, but it recently helped me considerably: What is the main thrust of the story? Sure, things may have happened years ago that set things up and allowed this to happen. But what is happening right now that is making a story? If years pass between events, then consider either 1) just writing more than one book, or 2) having old things happen in flashbacks. This might sound obvious to you, but when I first tried to write On Distant Soil, I began by covering several scenes that set things up, but that happened when the point of view characters were children, and then I zoomed forward several years. When I started to re-write it, I made the considerable improvement of skipping those scenes, but for some reason, I thought I had to leave them out entirely. They're flashbacks, so they don't have to be chronological in order to be included. They explain quite a bit about why the characters grew up to be who they are now. So I've been going through the story and re-inserting them at appropriate times. Now I start as the action starts, I introduce the characters in the present, and I set the tone of the story I'm about to tell. I don't leave the reader confused, but I don't give them all the details all at once, either. Once I've done all that, then, I rewind and explain how this happened. Not all at once, but a single flashback scene every so often at appropriate times during the novel, and then back into the story I'm telling. All right, I'm done. If you have a different opinion or want to expand on anything, I'd love to hear it.
  16. I'd like to play, but I'd have to play OOC as I don't really have a Pen character at the moment. Also, I'm not feeling all that inspired to do IC stuff. Hope that doesn't stomp on anyone else's groove.
  17. Shasta's Character Sheet Shasta's Stealth
  18. ((I am a little bit worried that I am scaring people off with the dice comment. If you are considering playing but you aren't big on stats, read this: )) ((Also, I will be trying to dig up my alt later and showing off how I am expecting this to work.))
  19. Yeah, I seem to be pretty in the minority here. People in the other thread have been talking circles around me and between you guys and them, I'm ready to admit I was wrong. I mean, I guess I hear "visual art" and "visual artist" when I hear "art" and "artist" with no other clarification or context. When someone says, "Are you an artist?" I would never think to talk about any stories and poems I've written. But "writing isn't art" may have gone a tad far. Certainly, I've always felt that it's art if the person making it feels like it is. I just.. you know. I find it frustrating that "art" and "artist" as words have grown to encompass everything to the point where they're useless except as synonyms for "creation" and "creator". I better get used to it though.
  20. I am having a conversation on another forum, and I seem to have made the ludricrous claim that writers aren't necessarily artists. In fact, I have gone so far as to say that writing is not art (perhaps this is a different thing in some minds?) You all know very well that I'm a writer myself and I have no inclination to disagree that writing is creative and awesome and you also know that I'm not trolling... I should hope. But I'd like to know what you all think? I will likely change my mind if some of you tell me that I am wrong. But I would frankly be surprised if any of you did. In my mind the word "art" is trying too hard to be everything already, it doesn't need to include all creative endeavours under its umbrella; in my mind, writers are exactly the type of person most likely to care about that distinction. So, help please. Am I alone in this?
  21. ((Everyone welcome. There will be dice, but the system is simple and the focus is on narrative. OOC thread can be found here.)) The labyrinth. A massive stone structure, grey brick upon grey brick upon grey brick for a thousand paces on its shorter side. It would take an hour just to walk around it. The walls are the height of three people, and polished smooth. A square tower can be seen set inside the outer wall at each of the labyrinth's corners, rising twice again that height. To the north, a sprawling forest called the Shandrican by some. To the east, the Yashair mountains loom against the sky, a single pass into this secluded area. The west harbours the Laranar Sea, its waves lapping at the base of the labyrinth. And lastly, to the south, where the plains turn to sand and eventually become the Naragon Desert. There are giant wooden gates set into the structure on both the north and south sides. The maze is known to be both enchanted and dangerous, but for once every decade, legend says, the doors will open and inside you can find your fortune - if you can survive the traps, monsters, puzzles, and pure human greed. There are some who have listened to the legends, and have calculated that the doors will open at dawn this day. Only time will tell which is victorious.
  22. Yeah, I think so. Cool.
  23. Very nice! Is there anything you can do to move a syllable in the last line? Everything else sounds perfect (I didn't count anything, but nothing else stood out) so to end on a line that's off from the rest is unfortunate. If you want to make sure it's not taken literally, then perhaps, "May burdens weigh a feather"? Otherwise really good, though. I can totally picture it in print.
  24. A buffaloable, buffaloing buffalo buffaloly buffaloed buffaloes?
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