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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:03 pm 
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Hello all. Here's my big resource dump, then. All the things I've collected thus far I'll be posting over time so as to keep the thread fairly active. Feel free to add your own thoughts on the subject matter as they come up, as this will hopefully become a breeding ground for thoughtful guidelines of "do's" and "do-not's".

To begin, here's the first contribution I can track down, one of Tevish's mini-essays, this one on World Building and Sapient Species. Enjoy!

These are the ones from the Mothership. They aren't great, really, but even looking back on them so much later I think they have good ideas in there.

World Building
Spoiler



Sapient Species
Spoiler


I might try to make a few more of these notes pages, but I make no promises.


Last edited by Lord LunaEquie is me on Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:56 am 
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What makes a Magic plane, addressed by Yxoque:

Yxoque wrote:
@Cateran: That seems like a thread of its own, but I'll try to briefly answer the question.

The color pie is the basis of all of Magic: The Gathering and this includes the plane design. Mana shapes the world, and this needs to come through on your plane. Apart from that, Magic's setting is, as a wise man once said, "all the settings", so there's no hard rule.

Another important factor are planeswalkers, who can give unique perspectives on settings and form the connection between all the other worlds.

Cateran wrote:
So would a plane incorporating these things, and using races already present in MTG, automatically be considered an MTG plane?

I'm gonna go with "maybe." There are some aspects that contribute to the "feel" of Magic, that aren't just those factors. One thing I often think about is the anti-transhuman message present in some cards and storylines, which can be part of that "feel." There are some things that connect Magic planes that I find hard to put into words, but I've sorta got a "feel" for them and I notice when they're not present.

, addressed by KeeperofManyNames:
Mm, yeah, I think it might be a little looser than that, though mana is a pretty big deal and should be woven one way or another into the fabric of the settings. But there is sort of a sense you get for what works and what doesn't...

One way I've always found useful in tying otherwise shaky or weird planes into the setting is to use more obscure mechanics of the Multiverse. Like for our wild west plane we used the notion, present in some earlier storyline materials, of a manaless land turning into basically instant-death because everything needs mana to survive.

Welcome to the forums Cateran :D Hope you stick around and get involved!

Also hey Yxoque :P Let me know if you need advice on where to start digging back in. We've been... busy. Real busy. Also I need to remember to talk to you about the alternate history setting thing that's being ported to the Wiki right now... it might be relevant to our discussions re: using :EM technology elsewhere experimentally.

, addressed by Lord LunaEquie is me:
Cateran wrote:
Hello, I'm new to this section of the MTG fandom. I've been a big fan of the stories hinted at in flavor texts, especially The Theriad. Since you all have made some fan planes in the past, I'd like to know just what makes a plane an MTG setting. Looking at the cards, it seems like there's a few commonalities between expansions: mana, distinctive races tied into those colors and stringent adherence to the color pie. So would a plane incorporating these things, and using races already present in MTG, automatically be considered an MTG plane?

Welcome to our dingy little corner of cyberspace. Don't mind the blood, Barinellos tends to leave a spectral trail, is all.

Anyways, the main thing that makes a Magic plane, as opposed to a Magic story, is the integration of the color pie in some way, shape, or form. This doesn't mean a strict adherence, as you put it, to everything we see from Wizards; everything is flexible to an extent. Creatures can be color-shifted, nations and races don't need a perfect balance of all five colors, lands can be missing some of their normal shape or show influences outside their normal color range -- you can go really crazy and it all really depends on how well you can justify your choices.

Take the plane of Ihn Gallad, for example. It doesn't feature any listed colors, and several of the intelligent races feel like they've been color-shifted, but it feels like a Magic plane for integrating iconic M:tG creatures and making those color connections bleed through the words rather than symbols. Or take Arbagoth, a very varied and rich plane that is totally weighted toward the green end of the spectrum. Every feature of the plane is listed by color, and every place has at least a touch of green, but it feels perfectly at home among the many planes we and Wizards has put out over the years.

There are points that we are less flexible with, of course. Too much color-shifting in one plane can be seen as too far from Magic's baseline; we don't allow too many unique fan-made races; and a plane can get "too busy" -- i.e. having too many unique and interesting features for its own good. Generally, the more you push the boundaries, the more you have to balance it out (with "normal" M:tG planar features) and the more you'll have to justify it (like showing how integrated into the planar history, ecology, economy, culture, etc. it is).


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:59 am 
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Planes that are too busy or unique, addressed by Lord LunaEquie is me:
Cateran wrote:
Luna, or anyone else in the MEM: do you have examples of fan planes that are too busy and or unique?

Personally, I feel that Matahorua (I may be butchering the name) is trying far, far too hard to the point of impenetrability. It is an example of "too unique", because for a lot of people the Polynesian-ness is overbearing and hard to pronounce and even remember the names correctly.

Sertaria, which I was a part of developing, is another that kind of gee a little overly busy for my liking. The base concept which you can already read in the Archive thread is that it's an anti-Shards-of-Alara (wedges instead of slices), but another feature which was talked about during development was that the plane was so "large" that is sucked in small half-planes as moons in its sky. That was something I don't think it needs anymore because of how large it already is (like Alara, essentially five planes in one).

Quote:
Also, how do you feel about mechanics from one plane, like imprint or soulshift, appearing on fan made planes?

I can't think of any that have been used specifically, mostly because we don't deal with card-making all that often, but there's not much on that end that's off-limits. Like Tevish said, it mostly has to do with flavor and history of the plane, so if you can make it fit, it's fine.

, addressed by KeeperofManyNames:
There's definitely some elements of Sertaria that are probably a bit too different or exaggerated to the point of not really providing a good or coherent basis for stories...

, addressed by Yxoque:
Yxoque wrote:
There's definitely some elements of Sertaria that are probably a bit too different or exaggerated to the point of not really providing a good or coherent basis for stories...

Yes. It was one of our first big projects and people (including myself) were still trying things out. I would tackle a project like that differently if I'd do it now. I still think Sertaria is a solid plane, even if it is a bit disjointed. I think some things can be saved by removing some aspects (such as the possibility of talking animals on Afresa) and fleshing out smaller aspects of the cultures.

, addressed by OrchisLibrarian:
Cateran, my perspective is that there's nothing wrong with weird, so long as it makes sense, as self-contradictory as that may seem.

I think when people start to get into trouble is when they do weird things just for the sake of doing weird things, which tends to be a lot less interesting in practice than it sounds in theory. But there are a lot of ways to do "weird" in a manner which had an internal logic and rationale to it, and weird can become magical under those circumstances. For example, we've had characters who were turned into living ships, we've had someone cursed to speak only in rhymes, and we've had a western-themed plane with trains and guns. All those things are "weird," but they also work, because a lot of thought went into providing contexts and explanations for them which made sense.

Within the general rules of how Magic works, thoughtful weird can be wonderful. It's weird-for-weird's sake which usually winds up being less than the sum of its parts.

, addressed by RavenoftheBlack:
When I think of how "weird" should work, I think of the circus. You know how most circuses used to have side-shows full of all sorts of strange and weird things? But the main show, the main purpose of the circus wasn't the "weird," it was the "amazing." The "weird" was there on the side, just to heighten the atmosphere and draw people into the world. To me, that's how "weird" should work in a story or a fiction world. Sure, drop in a few "weird" things from here to that. Just make sure the main part is the "amazing."


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:13 pm 
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Some open-source programs that should be useful for M:EMbers:

Since I'm in an open sourcey mood I thought I'd quickly drop a post here with the list of the open source programs that I used to assemble Seasons of Dusk.

The epub file was created in Sigil: https://github.com/user-none/Sigil
The PDF was created in LibreOffice: https://www.libreoffice.org/

Barinellos and I used Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign for the graphics but it looks like there are comparable open source alternatives in the form of
GIMP (analogous to Photoshop): http://www.gimp.org/
Krita (analogous to Corel Draw): http://krita.org/
Scribus (analogous to InDesign; I haven't tried this yet): http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus
Inkscape (analogous to Illustrator; again, I haven't tried this yet): http://www.inkscape.org/en/

I highly recommend trying out LibreOffice and Sigil (if you know HTML and CSS) since they're powerful tools and it'd be great for folks that uh... aren't me to be able to put together anthologies in the future. I'd be glad to do some tutorials for how I produced Seasons of Dusk if people are interested. It'd be great if we could actually run multiple anthology projects concurrently, and I think if we want that to be successful it'd be good to broaden the knowledge base where production is concerned.

(In closed source news, though, I DID manage to get CS4 reinstalled today. It still works, thank goodness. So thankfully I can still open all the CS4 files that have M:EM content--they didn't get lost in the crash.)


Anyway, I wanted to bring link this a while ago, but I don't think I ever did because it seemed so far from what we were producing:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

If you're do ANY audio-editing at all, then you should have Audacity. It is a wicked-powerful audio editor and recorder and I don't even know what else because I've barely scratched the surface of its features. Even people who make money off of their videos and music swear by it. Oh, and did I mention it's completely free and open-source?


I'm going to go ahead and bump this since we've been talking about the Timeline again recently. And also because I did some googling and it looks like this: http://timeline.knightlab.com/ might be useful for us since we have a collective drive account, and this would let us make a rather attractive looking object.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 8:09 pm 
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Tevish Szat, on naming characters (needs a bit of spellchecking, to be done later; apologies if not everything is displaying correctly):

So, yeah, I salvaged my character-naming mini essay.


Giving a character a name is, I find, one of the hardest parts of inventing a new character, yet it is also one of the most important and one of the easiest for new writers to make a mistake in. In general, there are a few rules I have found for naming characters, many of which also apply for giving names to other entities (Places and things) as well. Before I get into those, though, I shall say that the golden rule is this: you must be able to pronounce it. That is not to say that it cannot be difficult or trying: 'Cthulhu' for instance is not immediatley obvious in its pronunciation, but as an approximation of an alien sound it does its job just fine, and certainly the version designed for human mouths can, in fact, be pronounced by humans.

The first rule is the matter of length: A characters name has no strict length limit, but the best I find are two or three syllables, with four at the outside. Any more than this should generally be avoided, or if there is a good reason why a character would have a monsterously long name, they should be given a nickname to which they can be easily refered, even in the narrative itself.

The second is to content. Certainly, most fantasy names are uncommon, and there is some temptation in the search for exoticness to have a name not only be long, but contain various strange characters and diacritical marks that are not commonly found in English. In most cases, this is a mistake -- I allow, in general, one bizarre character per name, and then only if it is used correctly. The marks that I tend to see, and might allow are as follows

': With very little doubt, the humble apostrophe is the most overused bit of punctiation found in fantastic names, perhaps because it can be safely added without violating the zeroth rule that names should be able to be pronounced. In reality, the apostrophe has one proper use and that is contraction: I bear no rancor towards "F'lar" from the Dragonriders of Pern, because his name is explicitly contracted. In fantasy names, though, there is a second potential use of the apostrophe, and that is to represent a glottal stop, because there is no better way to represent the sound. This still does not excuse using more than one.

-: A hyphen is a connector, and when used indicates that two (or more) separate parts are being put together. In most cases, though, why not use a space? There are a few legitimate, stylistic reasons: a hyphen can be used when, in concept, there is a compounding going on without contraction.

è: The Accent Grave forces a stress. Most commonly, it should be used on a terminal e such as is the difference between Niume (Nigh-oom) and Niumè (Nigh-oom-eh). If you know french and suspect your readership will too, I guess you can use it elsewhere.

Other Accents: Not generally kosher, as they're usually chosen more for look than for sound. Lim-Dûl, you may have noted by now, violates my rules for naming. and you know what? If he were a MEM character I might ask: "Why not Lim Duul, or even Lim-Dul?". And god have mercy on you if you start STACKING accents and diacriticals, because I will have none.



T̂ͯͣͬͫͮ̚͏̮h̬̯̬ͤͭ͠i̝̲ŝ̗̰͔ͬ̈ͤͬ̑̈́ͅ ̟̪͎̳͎̐̍̎͌̃ͥ̚m̮̙̟̪͈̮ͣ͆̈͂̊̎͑͠e̩͍͔̎̉̑ͭͤͨͨs͔̤͖͈̞̳̄ͭ̒̑́s͖͉̙̺̼̟̣ͥ̓̍ͤ́ ̧͎̽ͦ̓ͧs͓̦̱͙̞̔̅̄͒ͩ̆͟h̜͔͈̙͎̞́͂̈́͆̾o̩͑͑̽ͩ̂ͬu̢̟͔͚͉͍̿̾ͣ͑̏̈́ḻ͐̋̍̓̾͡d̽͊ͨ͋ ̀̀̀N͇̙͔͉̫ͥͧ̌E̞͖̻̝̒̾̇͌̊̅̀V̠̣̬̹̝̀ͤ̔ͥͥͥͦE̠̳̻͙͎͎͎̐̓͗ͪ̓͐R̙͙̯̞̱̈̉ͧ͞ ͈̘̘͎̠͓͂͂̎̎̽͐͞b̼̼̪̠͎e̡ͧͮ̿ͫ̂̔̎ ͣ͒̈́̇s͔̦̦̝̘̈͑̒ͥͦ̊eͣ͗ͩĕ͓͙͛̐ͭ͐̏ͥͅņ̥



!: The exclemation point is the only character that is not at least a standard english letter underneath that can be used in place of one. Specifically, ! represents a "Click" as you see in some african languages. Don't take it appearing on this list as free reign to use it: there had better be a DARN good reason.


These are the strong rules of Name Creation. What follows are Suggestions for the Creation of Good Names.


The third rule is that you should use cross-cultural conventions where appropiate. Modling a name after an existant language is a VERY powerful tool, because it immediatley says a lot about the character and where the character is from. In fact, I find that earth or earthlike names have more power of description than totally fictitious ones. For example compare these names: Llywen, Poltina, Tlalaxa. All are female names, and atleast quickly recognizable as such, but they have different cultural associations. The first, Llywen, is evocative of the British Isles (Specifically Wales), while the second, Poltina, evokes a more scandanavian or eastern european feel with its conventions -- it's a harsher name because of its associations as well as its sounds. The last, Tlalaxa instantly brings with it the entire Mayincatec look and feel.

The fourth (and final, for now) rule is to have consistancy in your naming: Aerith and Bob is not, I repeat, not desireable. Don't make a distinction to readers unless you want things to be distinct: It's okay to have names cut from a different cloth when the characters themselves are, but characters with similar backgrounds (if they aren't cosmopolitan) shouldn't have completley dissimilar names.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 9:00 pm 
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Edit: Thank you for the resources, I posted a bit too soon, and a tiny bit off topic. Continue with the community assistance.

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:b::g: Aran: Drow Archer Wizard :planeswalker: :g::w: Zilin Kast: Half-Elf Druid :planeswalker: :u::b: Valin Drom: Egomage :planeswalker: :r: Raff: Crimson Mage :planeswalker: :r::g: Chrysanos: Leonin Wildmage :planeswalker: :w::b: Whulsi: Loxodon Healer :planeswalker:


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2014 10:28 pm 
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The first in a series of entries referred to as "What I've Been Reading about Writing" by Lord LunaEquie is me:
Hey, so I noticed this thread has been pushed down the page a bit. I've still got a few things I wanted to unload (so I don't have to keep the tabs open anymore- I mean, so that everyone can benefit) of What I've Been Reading about Writing.

So, entry 1:
NY Times article - Writers On Writing - Elmore Leonard (I understand it's part of a series).
Followup: The Onion's Obituary for Elmore Leonard, taking everything he always said not to do to the extreme.


And of course, a direct followup regarding Elmore Leonard, written by OrcishLibrarian:
Oh, Luna, you said one of my magic words!

(Or, I guess, technically you said two of my magic words.)

Elmore Leonard is one of my very favorite writers, and I think it's fair to say that his books had some of biggest influence on making me want to try my own hand at writing. His prose style always just seemed so effortless - he made it look so darn easy.

Except, of course, that it isn't.

Case in point - The Economist's obituary for Leonard, written in an imitation of Leonard's own style: http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21584311-elmore-leonard-crime-fiction-writer-died-august-20th-aged-87-elmore-leonard. And it's not half bad. They got it pretty close to right.

Except, that little crack of daylight between "close to right" and "right" turns out to be momentous, because the style here feels slightly forced in exactly the way that Leonard's work never did. His best writing just felt so natural and organic; you were left with the sense that he wasn't making up the story so much as he was a fly on the wall watching his characters at work, taking dictation, and just conveying the notes to the reader.

Anyway, if anyone ever wants to jaw on and on about Elmore Leonard, y'all know where to find me!


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2014 1:04 am 
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Just because I feel like it really takes an example to explain what I mean when I talk about how natural, how easy Leonard's prose feels, here are the first couple of pages of Get Shorty. (I'm retyping these, so any mistakes are mine -- apologies.)

Excerpt from "Get Shorty"

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2014 11:18 pm 
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The second in the series of entries referred to as "What I've Been Reading about Writing" by Lord LunaEquie is me:
Well, I have decided it's been long enough since the last time something useful as a resource/reference, so to continue with my "What I've Been Reading about Writing" entries, here's the big man himself, that rodent of the dark, from Ari Marmell's own site, Things They Don't Tell You When You're Learning to Write.

It's short, but it's from a writer we're probably all familiar with, which has graced us with his presence in the past and been supremely humble about it (I personally learned he doesn't like being called Mr. Marmell), so I'm sure it's a good inclusion.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 1:46 pm 
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The third in the series of entries referred to as "What I've Been Reading about Writing" by Lord LunaEquie is me:
Hey, would you look at that? It's been a week today since I posted something along the lines of writing advice. So, here's another installment of "What I've been Reading about Writing":

25 Things You Should Know about Narrative Point-of-View

This is something Keeper actually linked to on googlebook quite some time ago, but I bookmarked it for future reference and such. There appears to be more, similar articles from that site, but I haven't checked them out.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:42 pm 
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Advice from one of my biggest inspirations on the writing process

Steven Erikson


Source

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"...the historians will write of our suffering, and they will speak of it as the suffering of those who served the Crippled God. As something … fitting. And for our seeming fanaticism they will dismiss all that we were, and think only of what we achieved. Or failed to achieve.

And in so doing, they will miss the whole **** point.”


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:12 pm 
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Reflections on Characterization, through the lens of Planescape: Torment, transcribed by OrcishLibrarian:

Characterization has been on my mind recently, and I wanted to share a little piece of writing from Planescape: Torment. That game was hugely influential for me for a number of reasons, and I think that one of the things which stands out about it is the quality of the character design, and the distinct voices which the writers managed to create for each of your companions. Along those lines, here's Morte's character biography, as told by the disembodied floating skull himself. I think it's remarkable how much of a feel you can get for this very strange character from just a couple paragraphs:

Quote:
Of course you got questions about me -- you probably have questions about ALL sorts of things. Let me boil it down for you: when you've been as dead as long as I have... without arms, legs, or anything else, you spend a lot of time thinking, y'know? I figure it's been a few hundred years since I got penned in the dead book, but time doesn't really tally up the way it used to... without that mortality thing pressing down on you, all the days and nights kind of blend together. So you think about this, and you think about that... and the most important piece of wisdom I've learned over the past hundred or so years is this: There's a LOT more obscene gestures you can make with your eyes and your jaw than most people think. Without even resorting to insults or taunting, you can really light a bonfire under someone just with the right combination of eye movements and jaw clicking. Drives them barmy! If you ever get beheaded and your skin flayed from your skull, I'll show you how it's done. I got some real gems, chief -- they'd drive a deva to murder, they would.

I know what you're thinking: I'm dead. I've lost so much. It should have sobered me up to all that joy I missed, all those loves I've lost. Some people get all depressed about death -- they haven't TRIED it, of course -- but one thing they never seem to realize is how it changes your perspective on things; it really makes you take a second look at life, broaden your horizons. For me, it's pretty much made me realize how many dead chits are in this berg and how few sharp-tongued men like myself there are to go around -- you spin the wheel right, and your years of spending nights alone are over!

Shallow? I'm not shallow. I just don't get caught up in all that philosophy and faith and belief wash that every berk from Arborea to the Gray Waste rattle their jaws about. Who cares? The Planes are what they are, you're what you are, and if it changes, fine, but things aren't bad the way they are -- and I should know. Go on, ask me some questions about the Planes, or the chant, or the people, or the cultures -- when you end up like me -- without eyelids, that is -- you end up seeing a lot of things, and I can tell you almost everything you need to know.

It's like this: We're in this together, chief. Until this is over, I stick to your leg.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:15 pm 
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Just for Fun: Fomulae for Writing

C=(P*D)-(A*O)
Comedy is equal to pain times the distance from the viewer to the sufferer, minus the attachment between the distance to the sufferer times the offensiveness of the humor. Briefly put, something is funny when someone gets hurt and we aren't called to feel much sympathy for them, nor are we offended by their suffering due to relating to them.

CB=(P*D*O)/A
Black comedy on the other hand is the product of the pain, distance, and offensiveness, divided only by the audience's attachment to the victim. Theoretically, any form of comedy also has a coefficient of comedy, which is different for black and standard comedy, but the coefficient varies by viewer. Black Comedy is at its best when it is, in theory, VERY offensive, but the audience has no attachment to the victim, becuase they are either unlikable or highly unrealistic.

D=[P*T]/A
Drama is equal to Peril times time, divided by the subject's Plot Armor. A very perilous situation can be dramatic with little time, or a moderatley perilous situation highly dramatic if it hangs over a character's head for long enough. Plot Armor, while never absolute, deadens the effects of peril as the audience is unwilling to believe a highly armored character will fall prey to the peril.

A=[(Pi-Pr)*Ts]*T
Plot Armor (A) is equal to the scale initial plot arc, minus the scale of their plot arc which remains, times the screen time the character claims, times the coefficent of the story's Tone. Thus, Plot Armor decays over time, resulting in more deaths in the third act than elsewhere. Similarly, a character with a mild arc that is untouched, a character with a nearly complete major arc, and a character with a massive major arc who spends much of their time in the background rather than apparent to the reader may have similar values of plot armor. The coefficent of Tone is unnecessary when comparing characters in the same work (since it will be the same for all of them), but is vital when comparing works: every character in a childrens' cartoon likely has more effective plot armor than nearly any character in a horror movie.

It's a little-known fact that Plot Armor approaches but can never reach 100% -- a terrible fate can ALWAYS befall ANY character, it is simply more likely to befall characters with a lower plot armor sooner, in proportion to the plot armors of other characters in the same work. The least armored character is the most likely to suffer, but even the most armored character can, in theory, become the victim. At the same time, a low or even nonexistent plot armor does not guarantee danger to strike.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:21 pm 
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Plot Armor. Bah! I'll kill of any of my characters who looks at me cockeyed! And I won't feel badly about having written them to look at me cockeyed in the first place!

:laugh:


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:57 pm 
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On Poetry, Grammar, and Punctuation, written and linked by KeeperofManyNames:

Yeah, I tend to really, really like rhythmic structures more than rhymes, and I think part of it is because of the music of the stresses. I've found that iambic pentameter, in particular, isn't too awful hard to write once you get into the rhythm of the thing, and I love love love odd syllable structures that are paired with a lot of alliteration, assonance, and consonance.

(In case, uh, anyone is curious, I do have one sort of halfway decent example of my poetry available... two years ago for my final project in my Milton course, I wrote a series of short pieces based on Blake's idea in Marriage of Heaven and Hell that true creativity, the possibility of something new, could only come from a merger of good and evil. The Children of Heaven and Hell is what came out the other end of that idea. Many of the pieces start with actual passages of Paradise Lost before sort of... veering off in another direction, so I had to try to match Milton's iambic pentameter closely enough that the transfer between his bits and my bits didn't feel too jarring. I think the most interesting idea is probably the third one, Satan's Repentance, but the most successful poetically, in my estimation, is the second to last one, Eve's Mercy. I'm actually really happy with the word choice in that one, to be honest.)

(Anyway that's why I want to do the fall of Sedris as a long form poem in Iambic Pentameter.)

EDIT:

Derp, I totally forgot the reason I came here! Yxoque just posted this article on his Tumblr, which is about grammar-as-art and why prescriptive grammar is silly and Hemingway is overrated :P


Yxoque's Tumblr post talked about above:
Quote:
Nobody. Understands. Punctuation.
Composed on the 7th of June in the year 2014, at 12:26 PM. It was Saturday.

On the first day of what would be a depressing and alienating two-year trudge under the fluorescent lights of a rural high school, a soft-spoken bald man stood in front of my English class and looked at the ceiling as if trying to remember what he was going to say.

"So. In the past few years, you've all learned that an essay should be five paragraphs. The first paragraph states your argument and includes a topic sentence. You develop your argument over the next three paragraphs, and finish with a conclusion paragraph that starts with the words 'in conclusion' or something."

Silent assent from thirty smallish heads.

"Forget it."

Small gasps. Heresy!

"They probably taught you never to start a sentence with 'and' or 'but.' Forget it. Don't use adverbs? Forget it. Forget," he pointed at us, "all of it."

My class drove multiple teachers to tears, and substitutes swore blood oaths on our principal's desk sealing their promise never to teach again until we were all dead and buried under crossroads, but this man never even had to raise his voice. He's among the pivotal figures that made me want to write, and not give up for all the years I was terrible at it.[1] He understood writing, and just as important, he understood his students.

A little too well, actually; he had to resign after they caught him banging a student.[2] Let's focus on the writing part. He knew the rules that had been ice picked into our heads over the years were just ways to get something out of the kids who didn't want to write and give the teachers a few things to decorate with smiley faces and Xs. Some of the rules were stylistic nonsense passed down by Hemingway to better distinguish American writing from British frivolity and ensure we never expressed amusement during the cold, hard, manly work of scraping a pencil across paper. Some rules were artifacts from other languages that don't apply to English in any logical or meaningful way. Some rules were just the usual authoritarian madness of doing it because once somebody smarter than the rule makers said something offhand that the rule makers actually understood and it became out-of-context gospel.

They always promised us that if we mastered all the rules, we could find our voice later, which would have been true if they just meant the basic rules of grammar, but they meant all the rules pitched in the non-bald-not-banging-student-guy classes, and following all those rules would have left us with exactly one voice with which to go write another grammar textbook. Then, in the middle of these rule lectures, they give us Shakespeare, a man so unsatisfied with the state of his language he invented words even when he didn't need to rhyme.

Bald guy reminded us writing was art. He reminded us that English is a rich and flexible language, and sifting something new out of it is half the fun. He reminded us that the structure of a sentence can be funny or sad. Most of all, he reminded us that writing is about communication. Writing is the most explicit art form; you can communicate enormously complex ideas or explore the oddest and most trivial quirks of the human experience.

Because everybody has a blog or is at least spitting bile at teenagers in a YouTube comment, people are by and large remembering this or figuring it out. The results are mixed, but at least the power and variety of expression through writing is on more constant display.

Yet just as the grammar Nazis are being crushed by the weight of a billion "how r u" text messages, the punctuation terrorists are coming out of the woodwork and fighting over the use and non-use of Oxford commas, and the rule war is being waged anew because nobody seems to understand that punctuation is as much an art as the rest of writing. Instead, they smugly post contrived sentences that mean different things depending on the placement of commas, because this tactic was so successful in fixing that thing that time.

Yes, you can use punctuation in incorrect ways, but that does not mean there is only one way to use it. A friend recently told me publishers don't care whether you use an oxford comma or not, as long as you pick one and stick with it. This is stupid. If punctuation obscures or distorts the meaning of a sentence in an unintended way, it is wrong, but apart from that, punctuation is about rhythm. An Oxford comma is not a flip switch in an author's voice, it's a decision made in the moment to maintain the flow of the idea. Momentum, syncopation, rhythm and pattern make a sentence flow, because writers are trying to transfer the voices in their heads into yours. You can hear punctuation in speech: politicians talk in periods, Morgan Freeman is liberal with the commas, and Jon Stewart is a master of parentheses. Lewis Black made a career out of the exclamation point while Dennis Leary barely uses any punctuation at all. If you told Dennis Leary he needed more Oxford commas, I can only hope he'd put a cigarette out in your eye, but I heard he quit smoking.

Punctuation started with periods that told the speaker when to take a breath, and as both a longtime proponent of using the run-on sentence to better communicate the ranting rage in my head over the nonsense that people choose to fight about in this country and a person who is occasionally asked to read his work out loud, I've come to value this original function in a visceral way. Parentheses suggest a subtle aside (Jon Stewart lowering his voice and head) and can provide commentary or extra information while keeping you in the moment.[3] Sometimes you want to keep the pace breakneck so you use em dashes—the noblest of the dashes—to let the reader know the ride ain't stopping and something big is coming at the end.[4] In this case, em dashes are doing something similar to a pair of commas, which can also denote side info but they do it more casually, and parentheses. You can use a single em dash to serve a purpose similar to a colon—making it absolutely clear that the thing after the dash follows from the thing before it. It can also be used to signal an abrupt change in—you know, screw it, em dashes do a bunch of stuff, you get the picture. A colon is a way to introduce things and to join ideas, and says something definite: this part of the sentence is important, and you can say it in an authoritative voice. Its purpose gets muddled with the semicolon, which is like a weak link between ideas; you can forget all the stuff about clauses: a semicolon joins two sentences without a period or 'and' or 'but' or 'so' or whatever. Semicolons, colons, periods, dashes, parentheses, commas, and even Oxford commas overlap each others' jobs far more than rules lawyers would like. The situation is confusing and fluid, which is why everybody is afraid of the semicolon: it's the only punctuation mark that's honest and says, "Well I kinda do a little of this and a little of that."

English is a mutt of a language, inheriting ludicrously contradictory spellings and grammars from other languages. The fact that word and whirred are pronounced exactly the same while lead and lead sound different depending on what you mean (unless the former is in the past tense in which case it's spelled differently and pronounced like the latter) should tell us English is not so much a black tie affair as it is a soccer riot with a body count. But if we accept the chaos that informs the language, there's a lot of expressive power to be found.

In conclusion, the next time somebody makes a strong case either for or against the Oxford comma, you can assume that their minds are simply collapsing because they looked into the abyss too soon. If make his point clear, Yoda could, give a **** about Oxford commas, nobody should.

1 - 2013, for example.

2 - This used to say senior instead of student. For some reason, my friend decided to fixate on this, because saying senior was giving the teacher "street cred" whatever that means. This sparked a slew of text messages that started with things like "HE'S STILL A **** SOCIOPATH" and descended into an insane and condescending rant about pitying artists. I think he was projecting. My argument was that you should be specific in descriptions, and, well, there is kind of an important distinction between a 13 year old and a 17 year old, and not just because one of them is above the age of consent in the state of Maine. On the other hand, I walked by a bunch of high school kids the other day and realized that at my age, everyone under twenty looks ten. Anyway, this is all way too much discussion for a throwaway line referencing something I know almost nothing about that happened 20 years ago, but now it says student. You **** happy Matt? Your weird moral outrage satisfied? Whiny bitch.

3 - As opposed to a footnote, which is used for the same purpose but interrupts the flow, and can be used as a punchline, especially for self-referential jokes.

4 - Well, not this time, but usually.


Last edited by Lord LunaEquie is me on Sun Jul 19, 2015 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:50 pm 
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Haha flattered that my babbling ended up here though I'm not sure why :P


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:02 pm 
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Haha flattered that my babbling ended up here though I'm not sure why :P

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6638#p223895
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6638#p223901
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6638#p230687

You are also in two more of my saved links before I run out of saved material.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:35 pm 
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Oh wow I forgot about that open source post... It's so easy to lose track of this stuff >_<


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 7:50 pm 
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Oh wow I forgot about that open source post... It's so easy to lose track of this stuff >_<

Hence this thread.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 2:55 pm 
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FILM CRIT HULK on the 3 act structure and the hero's journey, linked by KeeperofManyNames (two quotes included for sake of continuity):
I feel like just referencing FILM CRIT HULK was all the reference you needed, honestly.

...Man I should post some of HIS articles here. Particularly his article(s? I can't remember if they're separate or not) on why the 3 Act Structure and the Hero's Journey are both terrible and need to stop being slavishly adhered to.



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