Kharashi's School of Writing! May 2, 2011 14:29:05 GMT -8
Post by Kii! on May 2, 2011 14:29:05 GMT -8
[/u][/b]Note: this is currently a WIP, but I'm posting it up as is, because I don't know when I'll finish it.
Welcome! Here I'll be creating some general guides for you all, covering a vast variety of topics. Obviously, if this doesn't get specific enough, feel free to sign up! Due to their general nature, these will tend to be more 'basic' discussions. Note that I may update this every once in a while, but I'll make sure to notify you all by posting here. Also, I'm not perfect, so I'm sorry if I make typos and such while writing this. D: If you have any suggestions for this guide, please PM me, I'd be happy to hear them.
I apologize in advance if these reads become a bit lengthy, but there were quite a few things I wanted to emphasize. At the bottom of each section, in bold, is a tl;dr section for those too lazy to read through the whole thing.
Character Creation, Progression, and Development
I'd like to start here, as your character is, obviously, the backbone of your role playing experience. It is the persona you take on within the fictional world, and happens to be one of the largest hurdles you must overcome before engaging in truly in-depth stories. In essence, you are creating an entirely new person; and while, at first, this may seem simple, a 'real' character is far from simple. People are not one-dimensional, they are complex and filled with contradictions (!!), doubts, and curiosities (that is, of course, under normal circumstances, i.e. not brainwashed, or psychologically dysfunctional).
I want to take a moment here to discuss two things. First is the term 'real.' A 'real' character obviously is not literally real, but is a character who is fleshed out and relatable. They have quirks and tendencies, misunderstandings, talents, strengths and weaknesses. They have a personality, and I don't just mean 'the way they tend to act.' There are things, maybe, that they don't understand about themselves--and maybe even you, their creator, won't understand those things either. That's alright, as many (if not most) people don't truly understand even themselves. What matters is that they are not simply based around a singular thing, and that they are complex. Even ridiculously ambitious, goal-driven individuals, who would stop and nothing to see their intentions fulfilled, have many personality traits that are independent of their desires. I could go on for quite a while about 'real' characters, but for now, we'll move on.
The second thing I wanted to talk about before continuing was contradictory personality traits. This goes hand-in-hand with what I've been saying, but it's something that I want to point out with more specificity. Many people see contradictions as a bad thing--they are a sign of poor craftsmanship regarding the character, or are a negative trait. This isn't true, people are full of contradictions--they say things they don't mean, and do things they dislike. Their demeanor can change near instantly, from furious to tranquil, from sorrowful to blissful. These contradictions are, more than not, set off by outside forces, but are regardless a natural and even important trait we carry as people.
So, you're creating a personality for your character. You probably have a sort of idea in your head, about how they react to situations, what they enjoy, their habits, everything. There's a lot to think about. Your character's environment and even their abilities may affect the way they act and treat others, but you'll need to think deeper. While it is a role play, and here the focus is on shinobi and their conflicts, that does not make your character any less of a person. People are ridiculously complex beings, we have many things that we can't explain about ourselves. Recreating a person, through writing alone, takes a lot of effort. And without this effort, without a fleshed out, 'real' character, role play will become, story-wise, stale. Stories will lack depth, and your character won't progress, develop, or change. There aren't many people that can go through the things the shinobi of our fictional world go through without being affected, psychologically. Whether this is through a realization, a strengthening of their resolve, or an otherwise shocking development, there are an innumerable amount of possibilities.
Creating a dynamic character--one that changes throughout the story you, as a writer, are telling--can be difficult. But it is this potential for change, coupled with a group of strong personalities (and of course, a good plot) that creates an engaging story. Your character will grow, yes. You'll gain experience and even move up in the ranks of your village, but this isn't the sort of change I'm talking about. When you watch a good movie, or read a well-written book, the characters (at least, the ones we care most about, the main character(s) and such) change the way they think about the world. The way they treat others, and the way they act can change. They can't overcome the challenges they face by doing and acting exactly like they always had. This makes both for a disengaging story and creates characters that cannot be related to, because they are robotic. Furthermore, changes aren't always positive--your aim should not be to create a character that is flawless and perfect. Even as they grow and change, overcoming their flaws, they should never be perfect. Perhaps a new strength brings about a new weakness, or a new weakness opens the door for more social relations.
It should be noted that these changes should not be forced. While this role play is based off of a Shōnen Manga (which we all know to be a bit melodramatic), a character's progression should not come out of nowhere. They should not have a random, sudden personality change over a small event; these changes are great, and take great things to set off. This doesn't mean, however, that the scale of the events that change your character must be immense, only that the events must, reasonably, be immense to your character. It is this aim that will birth the possibility for excellent storytelling through role play.
Now, I understand by constantly saying "changes" and "development," I'm not being very specific. This is because your characters are people, they should never truly be simple. How your character progresses is entirely dependent upon their present outlook and demeanor, and the context in which they find themselves. Unfortunately, I cannot create clear-cut guides for how to make a character develop, as the possibilities are quite numerous.
However, examples include, but are obviously far from limited to:
- A harsh awakening brought upon by a sudden change, such as moving from a sheltered life to living on their own in a large city.
- An unexpected (and highly important) defeat, be it in combat or even simply failing some sort of test.
- Being forced to make a life-changing decision, often when neither outcome is favorable.
There's an infinite amount of possibilities, but I'll leave my examples at this.
tl;dr: Characters are people, they are extremely complex and contradict themselves. In order to create engaging storylines involving your character, the character must be 'real,' in that they have many dimensions and are able to develop under the correct circumstances.
Note: when you make a character with a disorder, please do a little research and understand the disorder first.
Your writing is obviously extremely important in every aspect of role play. From combat to taking a stroll, the quality of your writing can affect even how your story unravels. An excellent plot, full of deep, complex characters and development is an absolute horror to read through a wall of typos and improper sentences. It disengages the reader, and turns what could have been an enjoyable experience into quite the chore. Now, I won't go over every rule of grammar here, but I'll be pointing out mistakes I often see, and some writing techniques to utilize. Grammar comes up first in the section, and after will be general writing, from organization to techniques and more.
In an attempt to dive right in, I'll begin this section by talking about a mistake I see more often than I'd like to. That is: improper sentence structure, most specifically, sentence fragments. I'll be honest here--these drive me absolutely nuts. They're easy to find when the sentence is simpler, but it becomes less noticeable with a more complex sentence. Let's look at a simple example, first:
- "Landed on the ground."
This screams improper, right? It's obvious what needs to be done: a subject needs to be added. Like so:
- "She landed on the ground."
That's much better. Although a subject often worms its way into more complex sentences, even if it isn't intended, it doesn't always happen. These subject-less sentence fragments can be harder to catch.
- "Walked into the room, there was a bright, glowing light and a faint buzzing."
Who walked into the room? What walked into the room? I know this seems sort of elementary when I explain it all like this, but this happens quite often, so I wanted to point it out. Obviously, we'd fix this like:
- "I walked into the room, there was a bright, glowing light and a faint buzzing."
This happens with more than just the subject, too. Here's a list of some random sentence fragments--I just want to point out what's wrong, so you can avoid making these mistakes.
- "A blade of grass in the field."
This one's missing a verb. Inserting a word like swayed or stood fixes this one up.
- "Before the clock hit four."
There's a few things I want to point out in this one. This sentence could be fine as it is, but it's missing punctuation--inserting a comma just after 'before' changes the sentence entirely. Now, utilizing this sentence as it is would require inserting a main/independent clause either before or after the fragment. Such as: "Before the clock hit four, we raced to the school."
Remember: every sentence must have a subject and a verb.
Capitalization and punctuation is a topic I'm sure you all understand very well. Although I see mistakes in regards to both of these topics more often than I'd like to, I won't go into detail on their rules here. Most of the time, these mistakes are accidental or purposeful, as opposed to a product of ignorance. There are a few things I'd like to point out that people tend to overlook, though:
- Try to find a balance in comma use. Many people either overuse them, or don't use them enough--remember that you have other tools at your disposal that can create different kinds of sentences. Dashes (not hyphens) and semi-colons have similar effects, though their use does vary and they must be used accordingly. Remember, commas are primarily used to separate nonessential information out of a sentence (this information is almost always surrounded by commas on both sides, unless it begins or ends a sentence), after an introductory clause, or when two independent clauses are connected by a word like 'and.'
- Here's an example of the utilization of commas surrounding nonessential information: "I should warn you, by the way, that I've never been here before."
- Here is an example of a comma used after an introductory clause: "Because I care about you, I'll do whatever is necessary."
- Finally, here's an example of using commas before a word like 'and' while connecting two independent clauses: "It was going to be like this forever, but he wasn't sure he could handle that."
- Please understand the difference between 'they're,' 'there,' and 'their.' 'They're' is a contraction of they are, 'there' indicates a place, and their indicates possession. Here's an example of all three used in a single sentence, highlighting their different uses:
- "They're riding in their car on the way there."
- It's means it is or it has, while its is used to denote possession.
- Remember, when using first person in a sentence referring to another and yourself, take the other person out and use whatever works for that sentence. Here's an example:
- Correct: "My friend and I stopped going there."
- "I stopped going there."
- Incorrect: "My friend and me stopped going there."
- "Me stopped going there."
Remember that whenever a new character speaks, you start a new paragraph. If you have NPCs, then they should speak in separate paragraphs from your character. Although most people denote their character's dialogue using some sort of coding (bold, colored text, etc.), this is still a general grammatical rule and can prevent confusion.
There are many more rules of grammar, but I'm only covering common mistakes in here. So, for now, onto writing technique! In this section I'll cover a vast variety of topics, from bad writing habits to new literary devices you can employ. Remember, for the rest of this section, these are not rules, but suggestions and guidelines in order to turn you into a better writer.
First off, I want to say that I cannot cure you of bad writing habits simply by giving you this to read. That will take some looking on your part, you'll need to recognize your bad habits and put a stop to them. All I can do is help you figure them out. I have plenty of bad habits of my own, and I've been able to fix some and even gained more along the way. It happens, so don't worry if you develop one.
I want to talk about word choice. This topic is pretty broad, but is important for everyone. There's something that needs to be made clear: big, complicated words or ridiculously long posts do not necessarily make for high quality writing. Fancy words should be used sparingly and only at certain times; your vocabulary might be large, but shoving all the words you know into a paragraph about the dirty wooden floor isn't going to get you anywhere. They sound nice, and hell, they feel nice to use, but they aren't necessary. With that being said, this doesn't mean you should use the absolute worst diction you know. Use your judgement, and don't overdo it. Writing can be elegant and impressive without
sounding like a pompous assholebig and fancy words.
Often times, there are words we tend to get attached to. I'm sure there's a word or two I've overused while writing this guide, and I know I definitely used to overuse the word 'toward.' Recognizing and fixing this is an important step as a writer, and one you often have to constantly make. When a word is used too often, its meaning becomes watered down until its effect is stale and dull. Furthermore, it makes for bumpy and stuttered reading, which is at the very least annoying and unpleasant. Certain words that we have to use are obviously excluded from this (i.e. 'the').
More words isn't always better. In fact, keeping sentences simple is usually the better approach to writing. A long sentence filled with fluff and needless words can tire the reader out, while a detailed but concise sentence allows the information to stay fresh in the reader's mind while continuing on.
In role play, imagery is an extremely important tool. Because you're writing with someone else, and because you may have conflicts, using imagery allows both of you to see, smell, taste, feel, and hear the same things. This is ridiculously important; writing is often left up to the reader for interpretation, and that's alright, but differing interpretations in role play can cause out of character conflicts. Thus, during role play, important things should be described to their utmost. While you don't need to go into extreme detail about the cracked leaf on the ground (unless it serves a purpose aside from helping set the scene), the general setting and your character's movements should be explained thoroughly. This is even more important during combat (although I don't go much into combat in this guide, I may make comparisons between writing in and out of it). Note that, on NRP, those playing under 'hard' or 'advanced' mode are death-enabled at all times, and any thread can become a battleground. Therefore, it is to your advantage to treat every situation as a possible combat zone, and describe it thoroughly. If you fail to describe parts of the setting, the next poster gains the ability to do so, and if they do not, the next poster can, and so on until it is done. These are the rules of T1, so I won't go much further into it (as these are the rules of combat), but it is the system we use here.
At any rate, remember that imagery does not only include the sense of sight. All senses are included and are equally important. Your goal should be for the reader to be able to experience these sensations while reading; make their mouth water when describing a cherry pie. Make them sweat when you describe the waves of heat smashing into you from the flames incinerating your enemies.
Making certain things "pop" can create a drastic difference in the impact your writing has. What I mean by this is, for instance, when a character has a realization or an important even has occurred and that is emphasized. Take this, for instance:
"He could tell it was true. What they'd done, and everything that had happened was hidden from him. Now, there was no denying that, but that wasn't what filled his thoughts. A burning rage filled him, like a conflagration, and threatened to swallow him whole. Through it all, she'd been there for him--and through it all, she'd been behind it all, manipulating everything. Pulling their strings against him.
It was her."
Notice that the simplest sentence is on its own, separate from the rest of the paragraph. It's short and concise. Each sentence should have a purpose, and it gets its point across without hindrance. This, coupled with its being on its own, causes it to stand out much more. You know that the man in this paragraph is infuriated at the woman, and that was the main point of the section.
Another way to emphasize something is through repetition. I know I said, earlier, that using the same word over and over again causes it to lose its meaning. There are a few exceptions, in which repetition can have the opposite effect. Here's an example:
"It wasn't as if it was her fault. It was my fault the candle was there, next to him. It was my fault I'd told him "it was alright," and it was my fault I'd left him.
It was my fault he was dead."
This combines two forms of emphasis, in which an important line is isolated and an important phrase is repeated. Use techniques like these when something big happens, but don't overdo it!
tl;dr: It's kind of hard to do a tl;dr for this section, because it gets pretty specific. Each point goes over a different common grammar error or a new writing technique. Still, I suppose the message "know your grammar rules, and don't be afraid to utilize creative writing techniques" can go a long way.
All Things Plot[/u][/b]
So it's time I got my thread up in here. I'll be the one to focus more on general writing, story, and character development as opposed to combat. I think I'll keep this simple.
What I can help with includes, but is not limited to:
- Character creation; that is, in regards to personality, story, history, and future plans.
- Dynamic character development
- Creating engaging, plot-driven storylines
- General writing, including, but not limited to: grammar, imagery, and conveying emotions
This is only a condensed version of what I can cover--basically anything in regards to general writing I can help with.
Like the others, please don't PM me (post here to sign up) unless a great amount of time has passed (greater than 72 hours). Please be specific when requesting help, and give a sample of some sort that reflects whichever area you're interested in improving on (unless you have a simple, straightforward question). Any sample will do, including links to RP threads, as long as it's relevant to what you're asking for help with.