Thursday 2 April 2009

Another comment turned into a post, just because it’s easier to format this way.

maria said:

I don’t really think I am entitled to comment what you should do about your story, but I’m going to put my two cents in. 

You’re definitely entitled to comment as much as you want, since you’re a reader. This is my “art” and I’m not going to let other people take control of the storyline or anything, but the only real measure of the quality of this story is how well my readers like it. I’m not writing for myself. So thanks for taking the time to comment. (In nearly flawless English, at that.)

maria said:

I don’t think you should think too much of the old chapters. They are far from your current level, but even those chapters are not so badly written and many of them are lovely in their own way. (and I have read all of them recently :wink: ) I am afraid that their unique charm is going to dissappear if you start tinkering them.


TheLunarFox said:

I like the idea of seeing new scenes from times past. BUT don’t change too much! Or if you do change a lot, put the originals in an archive somewhere.

I think your story is truly inspiring for writers and sim players using sims to tell their stories. I think those who are trying to work on their writing would love to see where you started and where you ended up. (Though I have to tell you that your old stuff was also awesome. Just yesterday I almost started re-​​reading the old entries again– just now when I am only 100 or so chapters from being caught up.) 

Rest assured I do not intend to major rewrites of earlier chapters, except for the ones I mentioned. If I find one of those all-​​out talking heads chapters, I might throw in a creaking chair or fingers tapping on the table, or something to give a sense of physicality… and if I find Hetty using contractions or Eirik correctly conjugating the third person singular, I will “correct” that. But I don’t intend to rewrite whole swaths of dialog or add paragraphs of description. Not at all, not at all.

On the other hand I don’t really want to leave all that stuff up there as some kind of “monument to my progress as a writer”. I agree it’s a rather interesting longitudinal study, and maybe it does inspire people, I don’t know… (“Hey, I already write better than she did then!”) But the story is a single piece of work, rather than a collection of my last 3 years of miscellaneous writings, so I would prefer that it was a little more consistent in terms of voice and tone and quality of writing. My goal is just to polish it up — not to add anything or take anything away.

But if you think it would be interesting for other people to see how old chapters used to look… I suppose I could create a separate database for “archives” and have a link on the cleaned-​​up chapters that points to their old version. For the obsessively curious, or for people who want to see what “revising” looks like in action!

maria said:

If you are thinking about new readers I would suggest a different approach. If we think about average sims story reader (I assume most of your readers have found this via sims) , your problem is not in the text. Paradoxically, it’s in your old graphics card. Besides, this story is just HUGE. Maybe it’s too long way for some people . So, if I was you, I would consider adding a new starting point (with a couple of introductory chapters) in the middle of the story. (Although I’m not sure if this pleases you as story writer). New readers could read the beginning afterwards and at that point they would be already hooked.


TheLunarFox said:

If anything is going to put readers off, it will be the length of the story, and well there isn’t much to do about that. Those who want to read will read it. And those beginning entries have their own energy even despite the fuzzy pictures. 

I’m fairly certain that nearly all of my readers were looking for Sims stories in the first place. I don’t know how I feel about that. At risk of sounding like a snob, I’m not interested in writing a Sims story. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the story could stand alone without the pictures — I would have written things differently if I didn’t have pictures at all — but I would prefer calling it something like a graphic novel.

Let me try to explain. What I mean is that there is no trace of the game in this story at all — no thought balloons, no plumb bobs, no aspirations, no spinning around in a puff of smoke and becoming a teen, no Don Lothario or Townies around.

That’s not to say that a story featuring any of those elements is automatically less good — Penelope for instance is writing an insanely awesome story that works some elements of the game and some premade Maxis characters into it. It’s just that I don’t read many Sims stories — and except for Pen’s, none of the stories feature game elements — so every time I come across one that does have a thought balloon or something, it just shatters the suspension of disbelief for me, personally. I don’t like to be reminded of game mechanics. Plus I spend much more time with my characters in my head than I do in the game itself, so for me even my own Sims are just the actors that play them — the real guys live in my mind.

All that to say that I don’t personally consider myself someone who writes a Sims story, but rather someone who writes a serially-​​published online graphic novel that is illustrated using the 3d engine provided by the Sims. I could also draw or paint the images, or use some other (non-​​game) computer graphics program to create the pictures, and it would change nothing for me or for my story.

So the downside for me, as someone known only in the Sims community, is that anyone coming to my site looking for the latest in Sims eye-​​candy is only going to find 2005-​​era, crappy video card, gloomily-​​lit teeny-​​tiny pictures.

And I don’t know that my story (even the recent stuff) is really good enough to be Just Good Reading and not take advantage of the fact that the Sims story crowd seems to be pretty forgiving of my early schlock. Again, I don’t want to sound like a snob when I say this, but I won’t know that I’m really writing something good until I have a lot of people reading it who aren’t Simmers. (And you don’t count, Tiffany, since you seem to know more CC sites than I do!) Not because Sims stories are bad, it’s just that if you are a Simmer you will appreciate the story on more levels than just the writing. (Especially if you write stories yourself and can guess how hard some of the scenes were to shoot.)

Uh, what was my point? Oh yeah, my point was that if people get turned off by the early pictures, it doesn’t really bother me. I would like to have a few really well-​​illustrated chapters right at the beginning, at least to inspire people to read more by assuring them that it gets a lot better, but otherwise the only thing I really care to be judged on is the quality of the writing, and how well-​​beloved my characters become.

Likewise, if people get turned off because it’s too long… well, I don’t know what to say to that. That’s a difference in tastes, I suppose. The whole point of this story is that it doesn’t end too soon. My revenge against the “The Ends” of all my beloved stories. Even L.M. Montgomery eventually stopped writing about Anne. All I care about is making a story engaging enough to keep people wanting to read more — but if someone just looks at the word count and decides ahead of time that it’s too much trouble, I don’t care.

However!!! I think it’s a great idea to add some alternative starting points. If you read my sorry little “Where do I start?” page, you might see a lingering hint of my original intention to do exactly that. (Back when the story was only a few hundred chapters!)

I figure if I can ease someone into early 1084 (for example) and get them reading up to the present day, they will be so hooked that they will want to go back to the beginning and read it all. How many of you have already read this whole story more than once, after all? (Even I haven’t done that!)

I have also pondered the possibility of creating a function to read a single storyline, rather than just chapter-​​by-​​chapter by date. I mean, figure out all the chapters you would need to read to get the whole “Mouse + Ethelwyn” saga, or “Cat + Paul”, or something, and link them all together in a single stream so you can just click straight through those. That might be another alternative way to get people reading something that didn’t seem so intimidately large, or too tiringly spaced-​​out with lots of other chapters.

So I will give some more thought to the idea of adding some more starting points to this, with a page or so of explanations beforehand (if necessary). I think it’s a really good idea.

maria said:

If you think this story as a one big storyline… yes, the story is not going anywhere. If we are going to continue with this speed, we are not going to see any large scale plot twist (or if we are, their meaning will be long forgotten). But I really see it more like a collection of short stories about the inhabitants and their lives in Lothere and I can follow multiple plotlines about little things of little people with joy. You really know how to write your characters. 

I was trying to say something like this in my response to Quinctia, and I didn’t know how to express it. It’s what I meant when I said that it has become a different kind of story. That kind of story is not necessarily bad, and if I were starting all over I would probably try to do something more like that, rather than throw in all these insanely monumental plotlines like Medieval Europe at War, and Fallen Angels Wreaking Havoc on Earth, and Alternative History, and Elven Genocide. Something a little more Jane Austen-​​like is what I would actually prefer to read… simple and real and quiet. I went kind of wild with this one, but once again it’s rather too late now. (And a big meaty story like this can be fun too.)

However, I find that I am lately writing Austen-​​esque minutiae in a story with a Tolkien-​​esque scope. (Not to compare myself to either of those two sublime writers. :-P )

And this is where I think I could really improve, and both Quinctia and I — and some of the rest of you — have been feeling it. I believe I could still write about the lives of these characters with the same depth even while making time move faster in the story — which would then occasionally give me a chance to do really exciting stuff like wars or assassinations or plagues or whatever.

TheLunarFox said:

I think more of a hindrance is the pacing within stories from time to time.

When I started at the beginning your writing was very pure, and it was so easy to read through entries. But it’s sort of become bogged down in such detail that sometimes I don’t want to start reading a new chapter. (I think I read like 2 or 3 every other night now.)

In a way, while I think your writing is prettier now, posts that are too highly detailed might scare away readers just starting.

That’s a really interesting comment. I wonder how many other people feel that way.

I know that with the types of chapters I write now, there is no way I could write a chapter per day as I used to, even if I no longer had a job and just worked on this full time. (Maybe if I wrote 16 hours a day… maybe.) My writing style has changed quite a lot, and I think a lot of it is due to the work that goes into avoiding clichés and thoughtless expressions, and coming up with fresh metaphors and ways to describe things. I cringe every time I read how someone “blushed” in this story. My characters must have cheeks like light bulbs, switching on and off at the touch of a button!

Obviously I think my new style is for the better, or I simply wouldn’t write that way. But I know I have a long way to go.

I have a theory that my writing is going to evolve into something simpler than what it is now. I am utterly lacking in formal creative writing training, but I have a lot of education and experience in writing computer programs, and I have noticed over and over how programmers evolve from writing simple things — because that’s all they know how to write; to writing complex things — because now they can, and complex seems better; to finally writing simple things again, because they’re good enough to know what to take away and what to leave behind. Simple and elegant is the goal. One powerful metaphor is worth ten average ones. In fact zero metaphors is probably better than ten average ones all lumped together!

Anyway, I am becoming mindful of my own tendency to overwrite, and I am going to be working on toning that down. I don’t want to go back to talking heads days, but if you look at one of my best chapters in terms of setting and atmosphere — “Aelfden gives an unexpected answer” — it is actually rather simple and understated. That’s what I’m aiming for.

I definitely don’t want the ornateness of my chapters to be a hindrance to you sitting down and reading them. This story is supposed to feel like a guilty pleasure — not like work! Mind you, I’m not changing anything in my style just because you said so, but I wanted to let you know that I have been kind of aware of this myself, and meaning to work on it.

Van said:

For example, the Estrid and K storyline, while it’s definitely a good read, could probably be assumed by the readers to be going on in the background while other things such as the whole Maire ordeal are happening. 

Not to give anything away, but that’s what I have planned. :-P I am really trying to get a few of these storylines on the back burner — even if that means shipping a few people off to various distant ports — until things get moving again.

Van said:

I’m anxious to see Brit’s baby, but she won’t be born until June, which, considering the number of posts per Lothere calendar date, could very well correspond with the birth of one of my own kids – which, of course, probably won’t be for a few years. And there’s all the Gwynn and Finn hype on the forum, and I get so excited just thinking about that, but there’s always a part of me that’s kind of thinking, “…when?”


PenelopetheFox said:

But I’m not waiting on pins and needles to see anyone’s baby or anything of that nature. That’s not really where the intrigue is for me. 

Heehee, maybe I shouldn’t have used the “baby” thing so much. The babies are not really where it’s at for me either, though I am looking forward to Brit’s baby due to the poignant chapters I have planned around that birth. *wipes tear*

But there are some things that can’t happen unless time starts moving again. For example, Eirik can only be in so many places at once. (Where “so many” equals “one”.) It takes him a couple of days just to get to Ireland or Lothere, so at the rate we’re going, it would be months of our time before he could even see Sigi again.

And I do want to see Alred with Yware. And of course I’m as Finn+Gwynn as anyone, and that relationship will necessarily take time.

PenelopetheFox said:

Is it really worth it to rush a good storyline just for the sake of moving faster? And the time jump idea really doesn’t seem like something that could work for this story. There are just too many plots, characters and Chekhovian guns. :???: I just feel like we would miss out on a lot if there were a sudden break in the action like that. 

That’s my fear, and that’s why I probably won’t do an outright break. Doing it too abruptly would risk trivializing certain things that seemed very important. Like, after the last Connie + Malo chapter, I can’t just have weeks go by without addressing that in some way. What if we didn’t see Connie again until early February, and all this time she’s been… what? I can’t open in early February with Connie all devastated, because then what has she been doing for the past month and a half? And yet I can’t open with her having totally gotten over him, because then where was the love? If we never saw another sign of it?

That’s just one example, but I currently have a fistful of storylines that are in precisely that state. Estrid and K have been fairly well tied off for now, plus Cian + Eithne, Leofric + Hetty, and a few others. Flann has already dropped off the radar. Even Kraaia will probably be pretty quiet for a while.

But there are a few things I just have to do now. If I move all the elven storylines forward a few weeks or a few months, that pretty much leaves me with just the aftermath of Maire’s actions, and that may be what I do.

maria said:

Personally, I don’t look at the dates. So for me it’s same if K and Estrid meet tomorrow or after two months. I am not going to get bored with this pace, but I am all for quicker pace because I like to read also about the Kingdom of Lothere. 

I’m going to stop here because maria just expressed what I am thinking right now. I mean, if I have 50 chapters in my outline, they’re going to take me five months to write no matter what — the only variable is how much Lothere time passes in the meanwhile.

And — all other things being equal — if more Lothere time passes, we will have story opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise. People and messages can travel around, babies can be born and people die, grudges can be forgiven and people fall in and out of love, and so on. Then the story can once again be more the story of The Kingdom of Lothere, rather than a highly detailed view of a moment in the lives of a few people whom fate happened to throw together in the same place at the same time.

The important thing is that I am confident I can get things moving a little faster again, and still continue telling the story that I want to tell and that you all enjoy reading, and stay true to the spirit and style of what I have so far, and most especially keep these characters just as alive and vibrant as they are now, even if we don’t actually sit in on every single dinner party Alred throws. ;-)

Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to let me know what you think about all this. This has been very helpful to me. And very “heartening” too, to reuse Quinctia’s word, to know that you’re all standing by me and willing to trust me to do the right thing by the story. *flings karma confetti into the crowd*