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Advice & Tips

  1. Ridley
    Ridley
    I'm looking for any advice on a more proper way to write. Since I'm not a student of literature and really only in the last 5 years got into reading novels, I was hoping to get a better view from others.
  2. I. J. Thompson
    I. J. Thompson
    Hey Ridley!

    This could be a fun and enlightening thread. While none of us are professional writers, I'm sure that we all have favourite 'tricks' we like to use, or have enjoyed seeing others use. On the flip side, I'll bet we've all read things out there that just seem to rub us the wrong way. I'm gonna take a little time to think about some of mine, but I think a thread about the 'nuts and bolts' of fiction writing, particularly as it relates to Star Wars and roleplaying, is a fine idea!
  3. I. J. Thompson
    I. J. Thompson
    Okay, I have thunk.

    Now, I don't think anyone wants to just jump up and pick anybody's writing apart (or have their own writing picked apart), but if you're looking for specific advice for you, Ridley, I will say that your last post does tend to switch back and forth between present and past tense, which is a little jarring (of course, as stated in the Writing Guidelines, all posts should be written in the past tense).

    Also, there's another funny little one that I always notice, which is a mistake that many Tapestry-ers make, concerning hangars and hangers. Essentially, a 'hangar' is a garage for aircraft (or, in this case, spacecraft), and a 'hanger' is something you hang your coat on. It's nitpicking, but it's one of those funny things that just jumps out at me!

    (Now for general advice for newcomers)

    As far as general advice for getting the most out of Tapestry goes, well... a lot of us have seen many writers/players come and go over the last (almost) three years. Some stay for a month, some for a year, and some for one single post. There's nothing wrong with any of these (the game's designed for people to come and go, after all), but I can't help but think that the one-post players just weren't getting what they wanted.

    And what did they want? This is only my own speculation, but in crude terms, I'd have to say they wanted admiration.

    Let me be clear: we all want admiration. If we didn't want other players to admire our writing, we wouldn't write anything at all. But there has been a history of players who want their character to be so amazing, so 'bad-ass', that all the other characters in the game are dull, cardboard cutouts compared to their character... and this can hurt the game!

    Of course, Tapestry is (and should be) a game where anything can happen, and any kind of character should be welcome. But when it comes to joining a plot that's already in progress, the new player should read, really read, the other posts, and endeavor to understand the tone of what is already going on. It's easy to join an in-progress plotline and have one's 'kick-ass' character knock over the opposition like bowling pins. But honestly, if a player's character is that great, would it not serve the game world more to have that player start their own 'kick-ass' plotline?

    I'd actually liken it to tree-planting: for every tree you cut down, plant two more. Don't be afraid to strike out on your own. Add to the world. Have you guys read the post on this page, by HarriersWake? He created a whole world there, but so far, hasn't been back (now, this may be due to Real Life and such, but who can be sure?). I'd encourage any new player to join in that plotline.

    I think I'm starting to ramble here, but I'll try to sum up by saying... players should know what they want:

    • If you want your character to be the Lord of Awesome, consider starting your own plotline
    • If you want your character to join in an already-existing plotline, then listen, really listen to what's already going on, and try to match (and complement) the tempo that you've found


    Like Stephen King says in his amazing book On Writing:

    "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."
  4. Ice Hawk
    Ice Hawk
    Some time ago, I promised IJ that I would post in here. Partially because I felt I had something to contribute, but also because it looks somewhat pretentious of him if he's the only one who posted in here, and nothing could be farther from the truth. So I am committed to both sharing some skill or trait of mine, and making IJ look good.

    On the other hand, having made this promise, I suddenly found myself at a loss of what to impart. Which hopefully explains the woeful delay this post has experienced, if not the delay for every other one I’ve ever made. It has been noted, and with no amount of modesty, I will admit that I am quite good at dialogue, if little else. It would then seem sensible to speak on that matter, this being a discussion on advice and tips to writing in Tapestry. I am however unsure of what to tell any future audience. Saying that, “It just happens”, or “comes to me”, is both cliché and unhelpful, both of which are contradictory to the point of this post. It would be much more believable if I were to say that I refuse to tell you my craft secret, for fear of others adopting it, and losing my status as a unique and special snowflake. Because I’m a selfish prat like that.

    What I will impart, instead, is a love of details, and also an utter loathing of them. What is life without a paradox? This is hopefully helpful to those who are joining an existing plotline and those striking out on your own.

    Details, generally small and potentially numerous can often be regarded as unimportant for the possession of those qualities. This is a mistake, as the details are what add colour to your story. Quite literally, as red car is not red, unless you tell your reader that it is. A dark and stormy night conjures nowhere near the same atmosphere and imagery, if you neglect to mention that it is both dark, and stormy; or if it’s night for that matter. Your setting, the world around your character is a bare skeletal creation if it is never properly dressed with descriptors. But adjectives and adverbs, while most defiantly essential tools to writing, are not the only way to provide detail. You can also imply details, and let the reader infer them for themselves. For example, do not merely state that your characters are in crowded bazaar; if you can, avoid mentioning it completely; and instead have your characters struggle to get past the crush of people, have them be overwhelmed by the heat and the smell of so many bodies packed together. Have your characters express their displeasure or affection in their own words and actions rather than narration. In other words, when you want your reader to know something, show them, instead of telling them.

    The inverse of this is when you give overly much detail to your audience, and overwhelm them with it. For example, we do not need to know the make and model of every piece of equipment your character uses, unless it is relevant to the story. When you provide detail to something, it is a signal to the reader that he should be paying special attention to the upcoming scene, and if you over saturate your works with details then you risk losing your readers interest altogether as they struggle to understand the relevance of otherwise obscure bits of knowledge. To sum up, that’s bad.

    If you’ve kept reading this far, you are to be commended, and rewarded. And thus I will impart you with one small tidbit of advice concerning dialogue. I know I said I wouldn’t share, but I’ve only just thought of it while writing this. When you are writing dialogue for your characters, read what they say out loud to yourself. If it does not sound fluid and comprehensible to you, then it will defiantly sound awkward and ill formed to your audience.
  5. I. J. Thompson
    I. J. Thompson
    Here's another one that just occurred to me:

    Be constructive.

    In a game that's made entirely in the player's imaginations, there's a lot of 'world' that needs to be created. Characters, places, and situations all must be made by the players themselves. As a new player, it can be tempting to walk in and try to have a huge impact on the game by destroying what the other players have made. This kind of behaviour is, however, not encouraged. The players work very hard to set up these worlds and their peoples, and to walk in and destroy them is a great way to make a bad first impression.

    Of course it's gratifying to watch other players react in-character to the things your character has done. But as a new player, it's important to try to impact the game in a positive, or at least constructive way. Collaborative fiction of this type depends on a great deal of trust, and that type of trust can only be earned. It's like the old saying goes:

    "For every tree you chop down, plant two more."

    [EDIT: Aaaaaaand, it appears I've managed to write up an abridged version of my earlier post in this thread from 1.5 years ago. I guess it's a topic I feel pretty strongly about! ]
  6. I. J. Thompson
    I. J. Thompson
    Well, since my last post in this thread was the picture of redundancy, I felt the need to contribute something else. So, without further ado...

    How in the world am I supposed to write another player's character?


    Well, it's happened. You've been playing Tapestry for a while, maybe just a short while (maybe this is your first post!), and your character has bumped into another player's character. You want to make a post to advance the story, and there's about a 100% chance that this other character is going to have to a) speak, and b) do stuff.

    "But," you protest, "how am I supposed to write appropriate actions and dialogue for this character? The character's player has been in the game for x number of days/weeks/years! How would I know what their character would do or say? How can I put words in the mouth of the character without making an enemy of the player?"

    Well, if you observe the following four basic points, you'll do just fine... even on your first try. These four points are:

    1. Chill!
      While it can seem daunting, even 'wrong', to write dialogue and actions for another player's character, it's actually a common occurrence in Tapestry. Players can (and often must) do it all the time, and in the over four years of the game's existence, not a single problem/argument has arisen as a result of it. In fact, here's a little-known secret: long-term Tapestry players love to read the actions of their character, as told by another player. Why? Because how well you write their character is a direct reflection of how well they themselves have written the character. A well-drawn character's motives, attitudes, and mannerisms will actually be very easy to emulate. This is, of course, provided that you:
    2. Read!
      When a new in-character post goes up in Tapestry, get over there and read it right away (make sure that you're subscribed to the thread!). It only takes a couple of minutes. It doesn't matter if you've never heard of the player before, and it doesn't matter if their character is on the other side of the galaxy from yours. Because odds are, your character is going to meet them eventually. It doesn't even matter if you have no clue what's going on in their current story arc (as with any episodic tv show, watching/reading a few episodes/posts will get you up to speed, anyway). Because even if you don't know what's going on, studying the character will provide you with all kinds of helpful information about their character. Are they serious and straight-laced, or do they tend to crack a lot of jokes? Do they rush into action, or do they take a more measured approach? Are they warm and friendly, or cold and aloof? All of this information will assist you in writing the character... but you won't acquire these tools if you haven't been reading. And if nobody minds me pulling out my Stephen King quote again (King was talking about regular 'one author' fiction writing, but it counts at least double for Tapestry), here it is again:

      "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time, or the tools, to write."

      Now, here's an extremely specific point:
    3. Respect your perspective!
      Whatever the other character may say or do, it must all be filtered through your own character's perspective. This is to say, your character is not psychic. He doesn't know (and you can't write about) what the other character thinks or feels. If your character can't observe it with his five senses, then you can't write about it. For example, you can't write that another player's character is "overcome with desire at the sight of Bob's rippling muscles". The most you can do is have Bob show off his rippling muscles; it's up to the other player to decide if their character is overcome with desire or not.

      "But... isn't that restricting? "

      Actually, it isn't... it's freeing! Freed from the responsibility of writing what the other player's character thinks and feels, you can get down to the nuts and bolts of describing what they do and say... and that's easy!

      What they do: Would the character lay down suppressing fire while you try to get that blast door open? Sure they would! Would they give you their starship in exchange for a two-for-one coupon at the local diner? Probably not. The answer to these questions is almost always really easy - and if it isn't, well, then it's time to shoot the player a PM, and get their take on the situation. Any player will happily answer your questions right away.

      What they say: If you've been reading the player's posts (and you must be - if you just want to post your own story without reading the other players' writings, you might be happier at a site like fanfiction.net), you'll already have a good idea of how they talk. Are they very chatty, or are they a 'man of few words'? Do they use big words, or do they speak in grunts and quick street slang? Do they curse a lot (Star Wars curses, that is - real-world swears don't really have a place in Star Wars)? If not, they shouldn't start doing so in your post. It all comes back to Point #2: if you've been reading, all of these questions should be answered for you. And now, the final point:
    4. Pass the ball!
      Any given scene, no matter how small, should offer the other player the chance to act within it. If you're writing a scene that you're excited about, resist the urge to begin and end the scene in one post - because by doing so, you'll be robbing the other player of the opportunity to have their character do or say anything they want them to to do or say. If you'd like the other character to attend to your injuries before chasing after the villain who inflicted them, have your character ask the other character to do so! You can bet that the other player will post right away, and will do what they feel is appropriate for their character. A good rule of thumb is to allow all PCs involved in a scene to make a post before moving on to the next scene... because no player (including you) wants to feel like their character is a mere passenger in another PC's story.

    And really, that's it! Observe the four simple points above, and not only will writing for another player's character be effortless and enjoyable, but you will absolutely delight the other player by doing so.
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