[Story Development] Basics

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Re: Story Development

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:24 pm

Maglok wrote:You shouldn't just look to 'older' writing I agree. It'd like to nominate Dante's Divine Comedy though (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), very good old stuff. For newer work, check Corwin or Straczinsky.

I also never write that much of an outline on paper, it get's chaotic real fast (for me). :)

Every writer does it differently. That's what makes it so awesome.


I agree. We all know this stuff happens in everything we humans do. We're not machines after all. The beauty of finding one's way is self-development. The "Way" unique to each one is a product of that progress in one's knowledge and understanding.

Having this one, sharing our tips -- no matter how small, may prove to be beneficial to those in need of some starting point of development in their ability. The surprise of seeing someone develop and having to be beside them as fellow campaigners with some sense of story-stuff skills would be awesome. :)

BadManners! wrote:
Maglok wrote:You shouldn't just look to 'older' writing I agree. It'd like to nominate Dante's Divine Comedy though (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), very good old stuff. For newer work, check Corwin or Straczinsky.

I also never write that much of an outline on paper, it get's chaotic real fast (for me). :)

Every writer does it differently. That's what makes it so awesome.

Of course, we shouldn't exaggerate the importance of these things in relation to creating campaigns or anything.  Blizzard and its creative fans have proven a hundred times over that anything can be a reason for a big battle.

Like Desler said somewhere else, the bad thing about writing for an RTS game is that you have to have some form of battle in it, on a regular basis.  Everything has to result in violence of some sort.  Otherwise, nothing happens. 

In general, for campaigns and other playable fanmade material, I'd say that conflict is a must.  A bad person or persons, a good person (or half-good) and immediate results/consequences of the player's actions (of course, intended by the writer).  Have that scenario repeated a few times, changing the scenery, changing the specific people involved, turning things around and you have a decent campaign story.


In a sense, a war is just the stage on which conflicts arise. Conflict comes from differing perspectives, motives, etc. A skirmish of course is there to get the player playing, but it doesn't necessarily end when the skirmish is over.

This is why I choose not to end a mission with "destroy the enemy base". Having the player see the enemy forces eradicated means the opposition is cleared. Now, of course, this can take another meaning, depending on the context you build for that specific objective.

I may be able to share some insight on this matter -- building scenes into missions, that is.

Also, when it comes to player's actions affecting the story, it is possible to make sense of branching sequences. It's like multiple endings in some vague manner. This subject is a cool one, and can take on a life of its own. We should deal into this in more detail if chance and time permits. :)

BadManners! wrote:Well, I didn't say conflict was limited to just 'battle' , I said every story needs conflict of some kind. Those were two different paragraphs. I mentioned 'battle' later on because I was attempting to relate this subject to RTS campaigns and I said that 'conflict' and 'battle' are two things that in RTS oftentimes grow into one, so RTS games by definition aren't comparable to other stories.

Also, characterization is important in campaigns, but I think you should always keep in mind that you're making an add-on for a relatively flat videogame with flat characters. The main characters in Starcraft are still about as deep as a puddle and I wouldn't have them any other way. Too much information or drawn-out dialogues and you'll lose half the people you're trying to reach.


If you've read through the second image, you can see there that the skirmish between Lexus Commodus and all is not the conflict of the scene. In fact it is a result (or resolution) of a previous, untold conflict. The conflict is in the mind at this scene.

About characters, it's not good to catch as many people as possible. Story wise, we should know our intention, and we should deliver our message through the story as crisp and clear as possible. Stacraft characters are not well developed. IMO, they may just be put there without any conscious effort to tell a good story.

Maglok wrote:I do agree with letting players not get bored. Some tricks I use to get to that: I use voice overs of chars discussing things while the player gets to play. I also tend to chop up the story in several segments. A simple example would illustrate this best: Some chars meet somewhere. They talk about stuff and one mentions 'So there I was', we fade and play through what the character is talking about. I also like to throw people in the dark. Just give them units, a hero and not a lot of clue what is going on.

A mistake I used to make a lot is wanting to tell to much of the story right away. There is time for that, put in some gameplay segments first.

That said there are still always campaigns that are story-heavy or gameplay-heavy. We are personally going for a story-heavy. Lavvz being an animator, me being a hobbyist writer, we like it that way.


Story to gameplay is indeed a very interesting topic to cover.

BadManners! wrote:
Maglok wrote:
A mistake I used to make a lot is wanting to tell to much of the story right away. There is time for that, put in some gameplay segments first.


I know, man, voice overs always attract people's attention.  What I meant was stories that don't seem realistic anymore, stories that are way too much for just a campaign. 


My take on this is that it really depends on the voice actors. Voice overs are more interesting than text because we can convey our characters more clearly. The actor's job is to be able to convey the character and intention, even the weight of the situation if you will, as the story demands it. This same thing goes with movies. This is why some actors are chosen for a role, and some actors just stay in the bottom of the choice list.

Maglok wrote:I tend to go for peeling the onion style storytelling. At the start you just don't know anything about anyone. The further the story progresses the more you find out. YET, with my writing you tend to not find out everything even if it is finished. All plot points will be finished of course, but 'Just what is the story of those guys?' might be something I don't explain to KEEP them mysterious.


I may be able to give the specific methodologies and techniques related to genres and stuff you hint about. It could help you sharpen your skills and methods in this subject.

tipereth wrote:The unfortunate side effect of that technique is that it can amount to deus ex machina in the eyes of the audience.


This thing happens because of lack of development. Deus Ex only happens when you don't even mention a hint of what's coming. Every god-send help is part of the machinations running in the story. Failure to even hint this element will result in deus-ex.

The easiest way to solve a deus-ex is to go back to the very beginning and insert and exposition of the god-send element. One could also take all the effort of explaining (illustrating) the deus-ex causing element and break them into pieces, and weave the parts as your plot progresses. This way, the audience can dig back to the past events and say, "oh, yeah, I should have seen that coming!"

thebrowncloud wrote:Mysterious characters are a very useful tool, but only if you are planning on doing a sequel. If you end up including a character that is really badass and mysterious, your audience instantly wants more. If they know you aren't going to give them more, they instantly think the campaign is unedeveloped in some aspects. Fans have a thirst for knowledge when it comes to the stories they like; If you plan to include stones unturned but you won't turn them over, you might as well not include them at all.

But characters and their motives are nothing without a good story. The story is part of what defines the characters as well. It shows their goals, their fears, and their downfalls. I personally believe that stories, in reality, are actually tools used to give characters more emphasis and meaning. Sure, stories are the basis of your writing, but how you integrate the characters into it makes all the difference. Think about Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars for a moment. They're story is a decent start, but their characters suck so much and are so tow dimensional that you lose interest. You can't relate yourself to the story if the characters are replaceable.


I have to say you got it all wound up. It's not bad at all, but it may hamper your progress.

The idea of characters is (for us writers) first must be that they are functions essential to the story. You can't have a story without characters. Characters represent the forces of unwinding the problem of the story. They are called functions, this is why archetypes are offered to beginners for practice.

Most people tend to look at their characters as people. They're not. They're agents of your plot. I'll try to expand on this if chance allows.

The point is to not become the audience when developing your story. It's a bad habit. Your characters may play and shift roles all the time. New elements may be introduced that does not fit in his/her function and is already played by another character.

Check the third installment of the images, and there you'll find some hint on character. Mentioned there is Sinestro being the protagonist, and Hal being the antagonist of Green Lantern: First flight. This example hints of the Pursuit Motivation of the archetypal Protagonist, and the Avoidance/Prevent Motivation of the archetypal Antagonist.

Furthermore, each of these character archetypes has 8 elements. Will share further info if there's a chance.

Also, as per your example, the problem of the story is the characters were not given enough of detail for the audience to atleast force an empathy with. They're just like drones. This relates to the thoughts I added in reply on above.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:13 pm

GnaReffotsirk, don't leave everything to chance, just give us your examples! ;)

I agree wholeheartedly that you can't compare stories or writers, but if we continue to limit stories to our trade -- campaigns and videogames -- then there are some very simple rules to follow, I'd say. Not that it's easy to DO, but the rules should speak for themselves.

You should explain why your character is there. We don't need to know if they're married or had an unhappy childhood, just what they're doing on that deserted spot in space (or, you know, wherever). Secondly, the character needs a personality. We don't need to know about their eating habits, or how they approach girls in bars, just how they handle some situations in our story and make 'em repeat certain patterns. Like Jim Raynor, he always talks like he's got it all under control when he really doesn't. Just some mannerisms like this. Third, the character needs movement, or at least momentum. Even if he ends up exactly where he started, that didn't just happen: there was movement. And movement could be anything, it could be winning a major space battle or just finding a long lost artifact. It could be capture, death or murder. As long as the character has some part in the story's conflict, there's movement.

Now this kind of reflects my views on developing characters for a relatively flat product. Conflict and movement.

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Re: Story Development

Postby thebrowncloud » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:31 pm

Secondly, the character needs a personality. We don't need to know about their eating habits, or how they approach girls in bars, just how they handle some situations in our story and make 'em repeat certain patterns. Like Jim Raynor, he always talks like he's got it all under control when he really doesn't.

I feel like that particular rule is significantly harder to portray without voice acting. If Jim Raynor were portrayed all through text, it would be a nightmare. Did you play the PC version of the Resurrection IV mission? I didn't feel like I was reading Raynor at all when his dialouges came up. It was an absolute mess!
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:37 pm

thebrowncloud wrote:
Secondly, the character needs a personality. We don't need to know about their eating habits, or how they approach girls in bars, just how they handle some situations in our story and make 'em repeat certain patterns. Like Jim Raynor, he always talks like he's got it all under control when he really doesn't.

I feel like that particular rule is significantly harder to portray without voice acting. If Jim Raynor were portrayed all through text, it would be a nightmare. Did you play the PC version of the Resurrection IV mission? I didn't feel like I was reading Raynor at all when his dialouges came up. It was an absolute mess!


True, but that's after knowing what that particular aspect of the character is like. If you hadn't heard him before, it probably wouldn't have bothered you. So the character's movement throughout the story may be the most important factor. I agree with you on the dialogue. I assume the extra missions, Enslavers included, weren't written by the same people who wrote the official campaigns.

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Re: Story Development

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:00 am

BadManners! wrote:GnaReffotsirk, don't leave everything to chance, just give us your examples! ;)

I agree wholeheartedly that you can't compare stories or writers, but if we continue to limit stories to our trade -- campaigns and videogames -- then there are some very simple rules to follow, I'd say. Not that it's easy to DO, but the rules should speak for themselves.

You should explain why your character is there. We don't need to know if they're married or had an unhappy childhood, just what they're doing on that deserted spot in space (or, you know, wherever). Secondly, the character needs a personality. We don't need to know about their eating habits, or how they approach girls in bars, just how they handle some situations in our story and make 'em repeat certain patterns. Like Jim Raynor, he always talks like he's got it all under control when he really doesn't. Just some mannerisms like this. Third, the character needs movement, or at least momentum. Even if he ends up exactly where he started, that didn't just happen: there was movement. And movement could be anything, it could be winning a major space battle or just finding a long lost artifact. It could be capture, death or murder. As long as the character has some part in the story's conflict, there's movement.

Now this kind of reflects my views on developing characters for a relatively flat product. Conflict and movement.


Okay, leaving things to chance? If the reader wants to gain something from those docs, he/she can. Giving everything at once would only cloud the process, and overburden the learner. It is always best to answer questions from a sincere person, than becoming a bit too detailed at once. Right? And this tut is not about examples. It's much better for the learner to personally experience the "aha!" moment.

So, ask away, if there are people out there who are really interested.

About that following thought, the stuff you mention about characters can be essential depending on what you point to. A character's ability to shoot or devise a plan can be useless to a certain context or point you would want to make in a specific story. Video game or not.

There is no such thing as Characters for video game, movie, novel. Characters are characters, and that's it. They're what they are supposed to be as they take part in the story. A video game is a medium. I'm sure there are certain "Standards" people in the industry claim (or even enforce) to actually exist, but the truth is, there isn't.

This kind of impositions are excuses. I doubt the truth of this so called "Standard" or limitation. It's crazy even. In this regard, just take notice of the storypoints they (supposedly) take out (as per demand of so called standard).  :o
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Re: Story Development

Postby thebrowncloud » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:17 am

I'm sure there are certain "Standards" people in the industry claim (or even enforce) to actually exist, but the truth is, there isn't.

If there aren't then what is the purpose of this thread? Are we simply discussing what we perceive the standards to be? I'm game for trying some new things, but, until I receive negative feedback for my stories here (and, as of yet, there is only one) I find my methods to suit my purposes and are quite effective. But I hope that this thread will reveal something to me that I am doing wrong so I might better my current method. It's so frustrating not being able to see my stories from the outside looking in. RAWR!  :-\
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:43 am

GnaReffotsirk wrote:There is no such thing as Characters for video game, movie, novel. Characters are characters, and that's it. They're what they are supposed to be as they take part in the story. A video game is a medium. I'm sure there are certain "Standards" people in the industry claim (or even enforce) to actually exist, but the truth is, there isn't.


Sure there is.  I agree with you that they're all "characters" in that they take part in a story, but if you were to portray a videogame character exactly as you would a movie character, you're going to end with something going beyond the self-imposed limits of the videogame medium.  People who play a videogame wouldn't want the same character portrayal -- if they did, they'd rent a movie not a game.  The "standards" you speak of aren't forced by the industry, but rather by the masses.  I'm not saying movie characters are better or anything, I'm merely stating a videogame is an entirely different medium than a movie, and therefore employs different story devices, a different breed of the character species.

I see it like this - characters are universal and general, and they come in different shapes or species or whatever.  To make a distinction.  Hence movie characters and videogame characters etc.

Edit:

To illustrate -- Tomb Raider films. :/

thebrowncloud wrote:
I'm sure there are certain "Standards" people in the industry claim (or even enforce) to actually exist, but the truth is, there isn't.

If there aren't then what is the purpose of this thread? Are we simply discussing what we perceive the standards to be? I'm game for trying some new things, but, until I receive negative feedback for my stories here (and, as of yet, there is only one) I find my methods to suit my purposes and are quite effective. But I hope that this thread will reveal something to me that I am doing wrong so I might better my current method. It's so frustrating not being able to see my stories from the outside looking in. RAWR!  :-\


I know, this has turned into a discussion (which I like) and I'm to blame for that.  It's just that GnaReffotsirk pops up very interesting topics and statements!
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Re: Story Development

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:19 am

thebrowncloud wrote:
I'm sure there are certain "Standards" people in the industry claim (or even enforce) to actually exist, but the truth is, there isn't.

If there aren't then what is the purpose of this thread? Are we simply discussing what we perceive the standards to be? I'm game for trying some new things, but, until I receive negative feedback for my stories here (and, as of yet, there is only one) I find my methods to suit my purposes and are quite effective. But I hope that this thread will reveal something to me that I am doing wrong so I might better my current method. It's so frustrating not being able to see my stories from the outside looking in. RAWR!  :-\


No, no. Please. Okay, the main purpose of this thread does not limit us just into what we see from other games. And this is not a thread, mind you, for judging one's work or another person's work. That would not be a good mindset to start with, and does produce bad results.

When I started this thread, the idea is to capture essential story points, and I've given examples for people to see how these story points are illustrated, told, and weaved into stories. I've given my own work, not for praise or what, but for people to feel confident that even if their stories be meager, they still have a sense of what's been pointed out, and they can (should they choose to) strengthen their parts.

To clarify things, this is not a place to judge anyone's work. Nor to justify or condemn our methods.

My example, if you've read it, on page 1, is not, and by all means, not the only way to weave storypoints. It's just one way to get someone started. Soon, there'll be more things presented and it's all up to anyone to either use them as they are on document, "assimilate" them to one's arsenal, or just walk past them.

Finally, as I see it, the best way to be able to define your genre or choose what to put out through any medium (in our case, campaigns) is to know these story points, be able to weave them, and have an intention as to why we tell them the way we chose to (story telling technique).

As I've mentioned in the previous post, I will attempt to share what I've come across with when converting scenes to missions.

BadManners! wrote:Sure there is.  I agree with you that they're all "characters" in that they take part in a story, but if you were to portray a videogame character exactly as you would a movie character, you're going to end with something going beyond the self-imposed limits of the videogame medium.  People who play a videogame wouldn't want the same character portrayal -- if they did, they'd rent a movie not a game.  The "standards" you speak of aren't forced by the industry, but rather by the masses.  I'm not saying movie characters are better or anything, I'm merely stating a videogame is an entirely different medium than a movie, and therefore employs different story devices, a different breed of the character species.

I see it like this - characters are universal and general, and they come in different shapes or species or whatever.  To make a distinction.  Hence movie characters and videogame characters etc.

Edit:

To illustrate -- Tomb Raider films. :/


Okay, I think we're looking at the same thing, but have different purposes to attain. And we can argue over the issues you've just presented, but I guess you'd go for a toast on the idea that there is still room for improvement.

I believe there are these accepted stuff, widely popular stuff, and limits that define them. But when looking at them, you'll see inconsistencies, and by that proof alone, I say, we might be surprised to find that one can tell a story through video game with the amount of storypoints a movie, or even a novel can have.

Again, I see what you are trying to say, but for the purpose at hand, let's focus on storypoints, story weaving, and illustration.

Finally, we should feel free to experiment, and not confine ourselves to judgments or prejudice. It is the only way to further our aims at self-development -- that is, in regards to our knowledge of the stuff listed above.

I do hope I don't sound too heavy handed when trying to point stuff out, though.

Edit:
Main post updated with something more about characters.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:55 pm

GnaReffotsirk wrote:Okay, I think we're looking at the same thing, but have different purposes to attain. And we can argue over the issues you've just presented, but I guess you'd go for a toast on the idea that there is still room for improvement.

I believe there are these accepted stuff, widely popular stuff, and limits that define them. But when looking at them, you'll see inconsistencies, and by that proof alone, I say, we might be surprised to find that one can tell a story through video game with the amount of storypoints a movie, or even a novel can have.

Again, I see what you are trying to say, but for the purpose at hand, let's focus on storypoints, story weaving, and illustration.

Finally, we should feel free to experiment, and not confine ourselves to judgments or prejudice. It is the only way to further our aims at self-development -- that is, in regards to our knowledge of the stuff listed above.

I do hope I don't sound too heavy handed when trying to point stuff out, though.


The fact that you can tell a story with the amount of storypoints a movie can have doesn't mean that you should. Or that it works at all. I think I understand what you mean, but I keep coming back to the point where I think that it's never ever been done and perhaps for good reason. The videogame medium is one that has a very important aspect to it that no other medium has, at least not to the same extent: audience participation. I can't see how this does not limit the possibilities for storytelling. Videogames, like the Metal Gear genre, that play with this all the time tend to fail at telling the story. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that a game simply needs to employ relatively simple or even cliche elements that you wouldn't consider if it weren't a game. Repetitive action of any kind - could be a battle, could be raising a family, could be anything that defines that videogame other than the story because story always comes second... or third... but never first. Even fast paced action novels or movies don't have that repetitive action a videogame, by definition, demands.

When making campaigns, and I imagine it's basically the same for designing a game, you always start out with the defining part of that game. In Starcraft that's battle. Then you can start explaining that battle with a semi-plausible story, but it's never the other way around because you are limited by your medium -- an interactive adventure that needs to stick to its patterns, design, definition.

Sorry, I digress. I think we agree actually. :)
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Re: Story Development

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:26 pm

BadManners! wrote:The fact that you can tell a story with the amount of storypoints a movie can have doesn't mean that you should. Or that it works at all. I think I understand what you mean, but I keep coming back to the point where I think that it's never ever been done and perhaps for good reason. The videogame medium is one that has a very important aspect to it that no other medium has, at least not to the same extent: audience participation. I can't see how this does not limit the possibilities for storytelling. Videogames, like the Metal Gear genre, that play with this all the time tend to fail at telling the story. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that a game simply needs to employ relatively simple or even cliche elements that you wouldn't consider if it weren't a game. Repetitive action of any kind - could be a battle, could be raising a family, could be anything that defines that videogame other than the story because story always comes second... or third... but never first. Even fast paced action novels or movies don't have that repetitive action a videogame, by definition, demands.

When making campaigns, and I imagine it's basically the same for designing a game, you always start out with the defining part of that game. In Starcraft that's battle. Then you can start explaining that battle with a semi-plausible story, but it's never the other way around because you are limited by your medium -- an interactive adventure that needs to stick to its patterns, design, definition.

Sorry, I digress. I think we agree actually. :)


I know. We're looking at the same cup from different angles, that's all. :)

See, taking from this little journey we have here, this is what happens with the story's Impact Character vs Main Character storyline. /hinthint

I see that you are holding the issue of storytelling in regards with our discussion of story. This is all storytelling, the limits and all. And the sort-of estrangement we had a little back there is because I wanted to return the subject back to "a complete story" -- story free from genre or medium just yet.

I know, partly, I had to compromise through giving a very limited and focused example of how to weave and tell the story points on the docs, it was the only way to at least show how the story points are used in story.

Again, we are on the same boat, we're just looking at different aspects of the boat. I see the parts, you see the design -- no problem there. In fact, your thoughts, are good insights and if time and means permits, I'll share what I've been taught about the specifics of genre and storytelling techniques.

So, let's drink to that.

Lastly, to clarify, the docs' primary intention is to dissect a "complete story" into parts. This way, we can then use these parts to tell the story through any medium and by any style (e.g. mystery, suspense, adventure, etc.)

Edit: Also, I really think I've been giving too much now. I think it's time for me to fall back, and move on. Maybe, by any chance, to everyone out there, I'll be available through PM.

Anyway, have fun creating your stories. 
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Re: Story Development

Postby IskatuMesk » Sun Aug 16, 2009 3:24 pm

Dear god, too much text. I don't see anything pertaining to what I want to ask, so I'll just ask.

When writing a novel, do you feel it is a good idea to use a lot of dialog? Particularly, dialog to introduce characters and help express characters? I use an extensive amount of dialog in TOA but I'm not sure if it's the right choice.
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Re: Story Development

Postby tipereth » Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:23 pm

That depends how much narration you're using. From what I've read of TOA, it certainly isn't overly dialog heavy.

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Re: Story Development

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Sun Aug 16, 2009 8:31 pm

IskatuMesk wrote:Dear god, too much text. I don't see anything pertaining to what I want to ask, so I'll just ask.

When writing a novel, do you feel it is a good idea to use a lot of dialog? Particularly, dialog to introduce characters and help express characters? I use an extensive amount of dialog in TOA but I'm not sure if it's the right choice.


This is a storytelling question. This is where you, as an author, have the freedom to tell how much of what, and in what way. A storypoint can be told by just one line, or a whole chapter. It's all up to the author.

The important thing to ask is why you reveal things in such a way, how much info are you giving, and does it succeed in getting what you need/want to give the audience.

I would not give so much info and detail for children stories. Or do long runs of dialogue. I feel it is imperative to get through to them and send a message one thing at a time. Through the process, it would be easier for them to gather things and know what I want to tell them. This way, I can build context and counter arguments, proving, disproving a moral notion or idea by using aspects of character and adding one or two facet at a time.

This all is very dependent on what you intend to say. How the author say it is his/her choice.

Say, one can put everything down and show everything, and leave the audience to look back and say, "oh, yeah, that's why!"
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Death_Wing
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Re: [Story Development] Basics

Postby Death_Wing » Sat Oct 24, 2009 10:32 am

Stupid Question, Unrelated!

Why is it that all the threads die more or less in august ?!
What?

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Re: [Story Development] Basics

Postby Maglok » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:06 am

Death_Wing wrote:Stupid Question, Unrelated!

Why is it that all the threads die more or less in august ?!

No specific reason besides people starting to get a bit bored with waiting for SC2 and the campaign contest wrapping up around then.
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