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Thread: TLTE's Institute for People who Can't Write...Good

  1. #1

    TLTE's Institute for People who Can't Write...Good

    The Last True Evil's
    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    Institute

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    For People Who Can't Write...Good

    Mini-Essays
    Writing Excersises
    Writing Resources
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    Welcome, one and all! TLTE here. You might remember me from such current and age-old interactive fiction as NeS, NeSquared, NeShattered, The Eternal War, A Knight's Tail, Genesis, (not dead, just sleeping) and as my most die-hard fans would proudly proclaim, if they indeed existed, The Toaster Saga. Yes, I'm fairly well-travelled in, on and around these boards, and I imagine that my time here is far from over. The most important thing to me now, though, is the future of this community. I dare say we've reached a sort of "Golden Age" of ISB writing, here at Massassi: though we are metaphorically speaking the chess club of internet socialisation, I now feel that we have a place, a haven in which several talented writers have assembled and can now pool their creativity.

    The next step (I believe) is the refining of our talents, taking the amazing work we can already create and tweak it slightly to make it truly exceptional stuff. Not that it isn't already exceptional, mind you. We've had our fair share of brilliant moments in our stories, moments where I would hang off the words of another poster and wonder, at length, why I wasn't paying for such entertainment. But, well, you get where I'm coming from.

    Therefore this thread/institute (which has already hopefully lured you in with the shameless Zoolander cut-and-paste) is designed to be the repository for several mini-essays on both ISB writing and writing in general, coming from by no means an expert, but rather a grizzled veteran of creative expression who, dare I say it, has some good advice for veteran and newbie alike. Comments on my work here are welcome, and I will be approaching all of you privately to sketch your own thoughts on good writing technique to go up here (with, I admit, varying degrees of urgency ).

    Alright, enough stalling. I'm going to begin with a feature on without a doubt my number one pet hate of writers, so TLTE-commentary signing out...for now.

    Prosit,

    -The Last True Evil
    Last edited by Gebohq; 02-16-2008 at 11:08 PM.

  2. #2
    MINI-ESSAY #1 - TO POWERPLAY OR NOT TO POWERPLAY?

    I've worked with many different writers over the years, all of which I think have lent me a little portion of their style, their method of expression, even if only in a way of writing a particular sentence or a favoured catch-phrase. We can all take things from each other: to name only a few, I've been influenced by the depth and colour of Highemperor's mythic fantasies; Gebohq's miraculous cohesion of often several dozen plotlines at once; Wuss's penchant for spot-on Absurdist writing; the list goes on. However, one of the most potentially damaging sins in all of creativity runs, regrettably, through every single person I meet (myself very much included). I refer to the phenomenon which we call "powerplaying": you might know it variously as "powergaming", "cheating", "not playing fairly" or several less savoury aliases. Dictionary.com describes a power play as "n : an aggressive attempt to compel acquiescence by the concentration or manipulation of power", but this doesn't suit my essay, and in fact will not be mentioned by me ever again.

    When I refer to powerplaying, I mean the type of writing that is too excessive, biased or generally unsuitable for a group effort to function properly. For example, take the following fictional setup: a story on Massassi, The Burning Jewel of Blah Blah Blah, is formed, and stars Barbarian, Wizard, and Elf. The three writers behind Barbarian, Wizard and Elf strive laboriously to establish a gloomy, cool backstory - they are trapped in a dungeon, without weapons and armour, and systematically begin their escape (which, you can imagine, is difficult without weapons and armour - a good thing for plot tension!) whereupon they are waylaid by a company of orcs. All in all, a pretty good story so far, right?

    Enter the powergamer, who introduces himself as UltraWizardBarabarianElfBetterThanYou. His post looks something like this:

    ------------------------------

    Suddenly, a black, shimmering hole opens and out of it steps a young man. He is cold, distant, handsome, with a vast shimmering robe and a jewelled scepter of death + 10.

    Elf: By the gods! Who is this immensely powerful figure?

    Barbarian: Ugh. Him real strong-looking.

    Wizard: Look at that robe!

    UltraWizardBarbarianElfBetterThanYou: Be not afraid. I am far in excess of all of your power. But I am here to help.

    He turns, and wiggles his pinky. The orcs are engulfed in a small nuclear explosion.

    UltraWizardBarbarianElfBetterThanYou: Don't worry. Stay behind me, these enemies are too much for you, without weapons and armour. I will do all the work.

    Elf: Whoa. He's so strong.

    Barbarian: Have my axe.

    Wizard: That robe!

    ------------------------------------

    Frequently, powergamers will not only award their characters with incredible powers and abilities, which implies importance over the others, they pay little attention to the plot and other writers' posts. The above post, if done by a powergamer, could immediately follow a "NO TELEPORTING ALLOWED" post, which would be subsequently explained by the powergamer by the importance of his character (and possibly his robe).

    Powergamers are also notorious 'scene-stealers'. We'll take the above hypothetical further: let's say Barbarian, Wizard, Elf, and the powergamer character finally make it to the villainous Deathsmitekill's lair. This is the ultimate battle of the story, the culmination of all the character plots and eventual climax of all the writers' work. The four writers post, one at a time:

    Barbarian's post may unveil an initial meeting, taunts exchanged, and battle beginning underway.

    Elf's post may foreshadow further plot development, more taunts exchanged, and outline Deathsmitekill's power. The battle is being stretched out, as well it should be.

    UltraWizardBarbarianElfBetterThanYou's post will result in all the other characters getting knocked over, him getting angry, and killing the bad guy. If the powergamer is nice, he'll write in a small addendum for Wizard, having usurped his turn and all. That's a big 'if', though.

    My initial reactions to the concept of powerplaying were so vitriolic and blunt that I alienated myself from several of my good writing friends, and lost many potentially great stories in the process. I have only recently mastered myself and come to the realisation that we have ALL powerplayed, all of us, from time to time. There is a correlation between novice writers and powerplaying, but that is not to say that the more experience one acquires, the less they indulge in it. Think of it as a bad habit.

    So why do I so loathe powerplaying? Well, for one, it isn't interesting. If the essence of writing is conflict, then logically to powerplay is to reduce the amount of conflict one can possibly derive from a story. I would much rather read the story of a person rising to power, than someone maintaining power: there is an inherent development, an integral journey that is missing from an already flawless character. Secondly, it isn't extending your abilities as a writer. Any moron with a pen can scribble down a description of God in ten seconds or less: but how many people can etch down a person, an actual human being with all of their strengths and weaknesses, on paper?

    The third reason, and probably the most important one, is that this is an Interactive Story Board - our writings here, unless explicitly stated otherwise, are team efforts, collective attempts to create. Therefore, we all have responsibilities to our fellow authors, unwritten codes and conventions that we all follow. We don't enter a story and without any supervision kill off a colleague's characters: why then would we powerplay, which has a similarly negative effect on the overall effort?

    Powerplaying is a strange habit of humanity that is ultimately very simple. When I think about it, I always get a mental image of the two kids in the desert in Terminator 2, screaming at each other with their toy pistols, each trying to assert over each other's will, each other's imagination, that they were the victor. It seems childish, and maybe it is: nevertheless, we all fall prey to doing it sometimes. So the next time you, the writer, contemplate creating a recklessly talented, larger-than-life Adonis and throwing it into the midst of mere mortals in our stories, just stop, pause, and ask yourself that most important question of all: "But is it good for the story?"

    -TLTE
    Last edited by The Last True Evil; 10-07-2004 at 10:35 AM.

  3. #3
    Most interesting stuff you have presented. I have made this thread sticky, and hopefully it'll catch on as a means of nurturing the growth of the ISB in a positive manner. I assume that if we wish to submit our own essays or the like, that you would prefer us to PM or e-mail you first? Until further clarification on the matter, I know anyone's free to comment on the essays, so...

    *Enter the Peanut Gallery*



    This essay addresses a key issue in interactive writing, and I'm glad you tackled it, TLTE. I certainly like the "Gebohq's miraculous cohesion of often several dozen plotlines at once" comment... definately an ego-booster, and one that I think is accurate even in my best attempt to perceive such in an unbias manner. But there are some things you mention I'd like to talk about.

    Frequently, powergamers will not only award their characters with incredible powers and abilities, which implies importance over the others, they pay little attention to the plot and other writers' posts.
    Not so much an issue but an extention on the matter. There is nothing wrong with a character having great strengths beyond other characters. The character Gebohq from The Never-ending Story Thread, for instance, can evade attacks better than practially anybody else. It is, however, in relation to the other writers and characters that this becomes a problem. That is why a character with great strengths should also have great flaws. While a master evader, Gebohq is an average fighter at best, is scared more often than not at nasty trouble heading his way, he isn't the brightest crayon in the box, he often looks to others for help... you get the idea. Certainly there will be things that make our characters "better" than others, but there should be things that make them worse too, things that can create challange and interaction between characters. More often than not in an interactive story, characters are open for use by all the writers, which is something to take into consideration as well.

    Powergamers are also notorious 'scene-stealers'.
    This brings up an interesting problem. For stories like The Never-ending Story Thread, "scene stealing" is something to be avoided, as a writer putting the spotlight on "their" character draws away the importance of other characters (and writers) contributions. Does this mean, however, that an interactive story can not follow the standard formula used for most stories written by a single author? In the classical idea of a tragedy suggested by Aristotle, the story focuses on a single protagonist of high stature who loses such prosperity at the cost of knowledge of whatever problem they are solving via tragic flaw. Interactive stories, on the other hand, tend to be much more democratic. Perhaps the idea of "ownership of character" comes into play for each particular interactive story.

    I would much rather read the story of a person rising to power, than someone maintaining power: there is an inherent development, an integral journey that is missing from an already flawless character.
    Or a character with power who loses it, like in the classical tragedy. The process of the "journey" however, with the character's struggle with gaining or losing power, is the key part, I think. It's important to remember that "power" in these cases doesn't strictly involve the physical -- someone who knows the answers to everything would be equally a "powerplayer" as the person who sneezes and destroys a planet. We attempted tackling the tragic character in NeShattered, but issues such as the one that came up and the "interactive" element were still present. Which brings us to...

    The third reason, and probably the most important one, is that this is an Interactive Story Board - our writings here, unless explicitly stated otherwise, are team efforts, collective attempts to create. Therefore, we all have responsibilities to our fellow authors, unwritten codes and conventions that we all follow. We don't enter a story and without any supervision kill off a colleague's characters: why then would we powerplay, which has a similarly negative effect on the overall effort?
    Interaction, the communication between two or more consciousness, is the key thing I believe in dealing with issues of powerplaying. I hope that this thread can present some of our "unwritten rules" as I'm not a fan of them (don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'm guilty of enforcing unwritten rules, I just know it sucks for people who honestly don't pick up that there IS an unwritten rule). Might have noticed I skipped #2...

    Secondly, it isn't extending your abilities as a writer. Any moron with a pen can scribble down a description of God in ten seconds or less: but how many people can etch down a person, an actual human being with all of their strengths and weaknesses, on paper?
    I think you mean a god, not God (implying the Juedo-Christian one). I think the latter is very hard to tackle myself, moreso than a human. But that's going off your major point: powerplaying IS doing nothing to extend one's abilities as an author.

    I'm sure there is other stuff I wanted to talk about, but I think I'll stop here. For now, at least.

  4. #4
    The following is an exerpt from George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." I don't really know how much it applies here, but I like it.

    Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
    Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

    These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen -- but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:


    I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.
    --Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression )

    Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate , or put at a loss for bewilder .
    --Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia )

    On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side ,the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?
    --Essay on psychology in Politics (New York )

    All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.
    --Communist pamphlet

    If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!
    --Letter in Tribune

    Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:

    Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution ) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed . Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line . Another example is the hammer and the anvil , now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

    Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc.,etc . The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill , a verb becomes a phrase , made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render . In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining ). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that ; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion , and so on and so forth.

    Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate , are used to dress up a simple statement and give an aire of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable , are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion . Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien r&eacutgime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung , are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g. , and etc. , there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous , and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers. The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard , etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

    Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality , as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
    Last edited by Thrawn42689; 10-08-2004 at 08:43 PM.

  5. #5
    Mini essay #2:

    If somebody writes something you don't like, work with it anyways.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 08-08-2007 at 01:56 AM.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  6. #6
    Stupid mini essay #3, I'd write way more here if it wasn't for that.

  7. #7
    a necessary change
    Posts
    1,433
    It is important to keep in mind that some of the best stories are the most mindless (the first 11 pages of the spooky taco).

  8. #8
    Mini essay 3:

    Read and understand the preceeding posts so you don't screw everything up.

    Originally posted by Thrawn42689
    Stupid mini essay #3, I'd write way more here if it wasn't for that.
    Ha ha, burned.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 08-08-2007 at 01:56 AM.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Posts
    154
    yeah...I sorta know what you mean about powerplaying...I know I've been guilty of it occasionally...the trick is, learn to share...one can get caught up in writing, and forget that one isn't the only one who is writing, that's the big trick there. hmm...but then, everybody else is talking about improving, and talking of powerplaying is in a plenty...so...what can I say...hmm...maybe I should've read what that huge *** excerpt was...oh well, here's something I like to try. organize your thoughts. when making a post, take it slow, don't rush through. I've seen people who simply stampeded through their writings, and it was almost painful to try and read it. grammar is big, don't write so fast you lose track of your grammar, just...don't put all your thought into the grammar. write it, read it, and if it doesn't sound good on the second try, just go with it anyway. so long as you don't use excessive repetition, and you properly blend Proper Nouns and pronouns, it is alright. that's the big things. knowing when to use pronouns and when to use proper nouns. I can't provide a good example off the top of my head, but, if you aren't sure others will follow the flow of the writing easily, just replace some pronouns. keep in mind that you are the only one who knows what you are thinking of. and...uhm...I just lost my train of thought, so I'll sign off now...yeah...have fun!

  10. #10
    "Grammar is big?" I don't get it.

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Posts
    154
    i meant, that, while there are important writing techniques, one should try to use good grammar, y'know, form individual sentences, not one huge rambling one, use spaces..for example of spacing, see my early works in TNES...i really didn't do good back then...) you can use all the fancy words and high flown speeches and descriptions you want, but, if you don't try to structure things a bit...yer still just gonna give yer readers headaches, y'know?

  12. #12
    Funny how your whole post was one sentence...

    Nah, I'm just being a sillypants.

  13. #13
    Originally posted by Thrawn42689
    "Grammar is big?" I don't get it.

  14. #14
    Not Suitable for Motor Vehicles
    Posts
    4,265
    Mini Essay #4 -

    for forum posts where paragraph indents are difficult or impossible to create, format your posts by separating each paragraph with a space. that is not to say double space each line, like you would a school paper, just a space between paragraphs.

    for instance this:

    And the dark lord swung his mighty sword and the hero fell to the ground, panting.
    "Ha, 'great' hero indeed," he said, towering over his victim. "Now shall i reveal my evil plot to take over the world now so that you can recover your strength and defeat me in the last reel?"
    Groaning, the hero raised his head to reply. "Wouldn't hurt."
    "Wonderful, now you see, its like this...."
    is much more difficult to read than this:

    And the dark lord swung his mighty sword and the hero fell to the ground, panting.

    "Ha, 'great' hero indeed," he said, towering over his victim. "Now shall i reveal my evil plot to take over the world now so that you can recover your strength and defeat me in the last reel?"

    Groaning, the hero raised his head to reply. "Wouldn't hurt."

    "Wonderful, now you see, its like this...."
    [/end of tutorial]
    Last edited by Ford; 12-07-2004 at 07:53 PM.
    My girlfriend paid a lot of money for that tv; I want to watch ALL OF IT. - JM

  15. #15
    Instead of actually writing up new topics of my own, I'm going to expand on some that were already mentioned:

    Originally posted by Tracer:
    Mini essay #2:

    If somebody writes something you don't like, work with it anyways.
    It's surprising how well working with a post you didn't like can turn out. I remember writing for "Saga of the 3rd War" way back when, and there was this one guy who just jumped right in and lobbed off this guy's head in front of my character. It ended up I was able to turn that into a rather descent episode within that story. Traditional writers and role-players alike seem to have a difficult time adapting to an unforseen situation they feel "ruins" the story, and at times it can be difficult to adapt (for example, with powerplayers), but part of the magic of an interactive story is flexing those adapting skills and finding that new path full of new potential

    Originally posted by Tracer:
    Mini essay 3:

    Read and understand the preceeding posts so you don't screw everything up.
    With some stories, this is particularly important, for pretty obvious reasons. With stories like NeS, which is a looser structure and more focused on fun, it's not AS important, but it IS selfish in not taking the attempt to read the preceeding posts. We the writers want our stuff read, and to mean something, and while we will adapt when needed, it's not something that should have to be done regularly. If the problem is understanding the posts (a common problem in NeS), there's nothing wrong at all with talking with the writers, whether through a workshop thread or e-mailing or via some messaging program or what have you. Communication with your fellow writers is a good thing

    Originally posted by Hebedee:
    It is important to keep in mind that some of the best stories are the most mindless (the first 11 pages of the spooky taco).
    There is something to be said about keeping the "rules" of a stories to a minimum to allow for maximum participation. Mindless threads can produce just as much enjoyment as any other thread, and the results can be rather Dada-ist

    *Points brought up by shade and Ford*
    It's very important to note that, on a whole, readability is very important. Part of that is grammar and spacing of paragraphs and other technical aspects.

    Perhaps next time I'll add something of my OWN to this thread. I hope it has and will continue to be useful for readers and writers of the ISB alike.

  16. #16
    [Self-conscious] My apologies for not adding more to here already, being my institute and all. This spot soon to be replaced with another essay.[/Self-conscious]

  17. #17
    Hmm... a year and a half without any new contributions. Maybe I should start thinking of stuff to add to this...

  18. #18
    Whoa, someone actually posted in here. Man, I was really flippant about some stuff back then.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  19. #19
    A'ight, so I was going to make a whole bunch of changes and stuff BEFORE posting, but the laziness is strong with me, and I don't know how long it'll be before I can un-lazy-fy myself and do everything I'd like to do. In any case, this thread I feel is a good resource for the writers, here on the ISB. However, it's lacking greatly in activity, and I've talked to TLTE about ways to make this thread more active again. Here's what I had in mind (and some of which will be new for TLTE):

    1) I'd like for either TLTE or myself to post the mini-essays as seperate threads, combining the feedback from other people into a "finalized" version in their respective threads. On the first post of this thread, I'd like to have a list of links to said threads. For example, the first on the list could be "To Powerplay or Not to Powerplay" - main contributor by The Last True Evil. That link would go to the thread "To Powerplay or Not to Powerplay" where it'd list all the contributors and the edited, compiled version of the mini-essay. This thread, then, would be open to anybody simply opening a topic of interest, with others posting replies to those topics and, eventually, with TLTE or myself compiling it into a mini-essay and adding it to the list.

    2) Below the list of mini-essays from the ISB writers, I'd also like to have a list of writing resources, varying from the basic "how to write better" sites to "the grand list of console RPG cliches" -- whatever we feel would be a good resource for us writers here on the ISB. Again, this thread would be open to anybody simply providing a resource on the thread and, depending on the response from other people, TLTE or myself may add it to the list of resources.

    3) Since this thread is about improving our writing skills, I thought it'd be a good idea to encourage ISB writers to volunteer themselves to be critiqued on their writing. The ideal general format that I had in mind is that a writer would post their request, followed by what THEY think are their own strengths and weaknesses in their writing, followed by specific questions/requests for feedback BASED on that list. Of course, these requests would be both on their general writing style and/or specific works that they've written (which should be provided by the writer). Other writers would then give feedback at the writer's request. IMPORTANT NOTE: I would make it a point that people should ONLY critique those that have ASKED for it, and that both parties should be as detailed as they can about their requests and responses. A writer who simply asks "Will someone please critique my writing?" will likely get little response, and someone who replies with simply "your writing is good" or "your writing sucks" will not help the writer out. I'll be working on getting together guidelines for such (similar to what the showcase forum has here) which likely will be added into the first post of this thread.

    4) I'd also like to open this thread up to doing some writing excersises. What? Work? I know, not fun! But it'll give us writers easy and regular access to improving our writing skills. Depending on the popularity of this idea, we may work in a similar list of links to seperate threads with the excersises on them. Of course, such excersises may inspire story threads of their own, but I'd like to encourage that, in regards to this thread, that they remain excersises ONLY, and NOT story threads of their own. I'll be doing what I can to dig up some useful excersises, but of course, this thread could be open to anybody contributing an excersise of their own.

    There may be other things to come on the way, but for now, this is all I have in mind for this thread. I'll soon be posting my request to be critiqued.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 07-23-2006 at 05:13 PM.
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  20. #20
    Some people may feel that ye olde Gebohq needs no critique on his writing, because he is the "ISB Kingpin." Well, those people are idiots. If I'm anything of a good writer, it's ONLY because I've done what I can to listen to the feedback I've been given on my writing. So I'd like to be the first to put in my request for help from you all. Off the top of my head, here are, what I feel, are my strengths and weaknesses:

    STRENGTHS:
    • I have a knack for "connecting the dots" when it comes to pulling together a climax and resolution for multiple storylines, character conflicts, etc.
    • I write dialogue pretty naturally. I understand how to layer what characters say with appropriate subtext.
    • I am proficient with the minimalist, "understatement" style, which keeps my writing more often easy to understand on a surface level and challanging to understand on a "deeper" level.
    • I usually do well with understanding how a character would act in a given situation, and can write accordingly.
    • I understand the basic principles of humor, and can write good humor.
    • I understand the basic principles of creative fiction writing (show don't tell, avoid adverbs and adjectives and focus on nouns and verbs, etc.)
    • I have some seven years of experience working with other writers on a single project.

    WEAKNESSES:
    • My vocabulary is limited more than it should be.
    • My technical writing skills are lower than they should be, particularly with verb tenses and subject-verb agreement. Tenses should go to hell and die.
    • Due in part to my limited vocabulary, my descriptions can be lacking at times.
    • I write far shorter than the average writer, which can be a bad thing when something calls for more conflict, description, or the like in a scene. One of the most frequent comments I get on my works is that they felt (whatever my work was) needed more content.
    • My ability to spontaneously create and "improvise" in interactive writing has decreased over the years. By this, I mean the ability to write on the fly, without a plan, when such type of writing would be best, and to be able to work with story contributions that have seemingly made it more difficult to continue writing.
    • I tend to repeat myself.


    I already subscribe to dictionary.com's Word of the Day (though I should make it more of a habit to USE the words the 20-some times in that day to remember it), and I know I need to crack open a grammar book and just PRACTICE simple, correct grammar. If you feel that something in my list is not really a strength or weakness of mine, or if there's one that you feel I have not included, PLEASE let me know!

    I do not have a specific written work to show for critique at this point.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 07-22-2006 at 09:15 PM.
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  21. #21
    I think my greatest weakness as a writer is that I usually find my own writing pretty hilarious. Not all the time (there are a bunch of NeS posts I'm not proud of), but often enough that I think it stops me from trying harder (which is a problem when I'm the only person who finds the quality of my writing to be spectacular).

    Uh, and I also feel the need to have the last post in every ISB thread.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  22. #22
    what think I'm weak on?

    grammar, tenses can go to hell as well.
    spelling.

    I seem to like to take the angle of what the characters inner thoughts are.
    I could do better with descriptions at times.
    I think sometimes my writing can seem ... jumpy?
    Sometimes I just need slow down more to check over for simple goofs. I just about have to read everything out-loud or I will miss stupid little errors.

    I sometimes leave endings off of words. I might really intend a word to be plural but I forget the ending. Or I just forget to put in important words, words that completely change the meaning of what I'm trying to say. Words like "not". Or I will repeat myself.

    When it comes to creating something I like the spontaneous approach. I can be a good thing sometimes. When I try to carefully plan something out it sucks or it at least doesn't turn out the way I would like it. It can be bad -> grammar spelling, jumpiness, sloppiness.

    It's hard for me to even call myself a writer.
    I really don't write that much, at not least not just writing for fun and I really don't think what I write is anything spectacular.

    Something I really have not really worked on much is dialogue and NeS has plenty



    [EDIT]: p.s. also posting just so tracer can't claim last posts on all of ISB
    Last edited by Voodoosnowflake; 08-18-2006 at 10:12 PM.

  23. #23
    Actually, now that I think of it I'd like people to critique my writing. My most recent post in NeShattered would be a good start. Here are my questions:

    1) Did you get a sense of the battle raging around Gebohq and He/It? The idea was for them to be talking in a little bubble of calm surrounded by some huge fight. Did this come through? Also, were the descriptive parts of the post as interesting to read as the dialogue (I'm talking about the narrated bits in italics)?

    2) Was my dialogue interesting or boring? Did it make you want to skim the post just to get the latest story updates or did the conversations draw you in?

    3) Were the jokes funny?

    I think my dialogue is okay. It's more often the narration that I go back and fix...
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Tracer
    Actually, now that I think of it I'd like people to critique my writing. My most recent post in NeShattered would be a good start. Here are my questions:
    Heheh, oops. I meant to reply to this a long time ago. Been wanting to organize/get active this and other stuff for a while now. Blah. Well, at least I can repond to this (I'm digging up the post in question too ^_^).

    1) Did you get a sense of the battle raging around Gebohq and He/It? The idea was for them to be talking in a little bubble of calm surrounded by some huge fight. Did this come through? Also, were the descriptive parts of the post as interesting to read as the dialogue (I'm talking about the narrated bits in italics)?
    I did. Your transitions were nice, like when Geb says that Ricky's in trouble because of the minions about, and "to underscore the point" stuff happens between the minions and the other heroes. You describe them effectively while still keeping the focus on Geb and Ricky.

    2) Was my dialogue interesting or boring? Did it make you want to skim the post just to get the latest story updates or did the conversations draw you in?
    This is one of those questions harder to answer now because it's been months since it was written, but the fact that I clearly remember the post still should say that it was interesting enough. It's a little bit detatched though, coming off as more show than real. That's not really a criticism though, especially in NeS, where the "show" of the story is more important in ways than making it feel "real." I hope that made sense.

    3) Were the jokes funny?
    It's funny mentally, but not funny that makes me want to start laughing out loud. In this context though, making the reader laugh out loud is VERY difficult to do, and often requires luck or stupidity to be funny in that manner. It definately played off in the straight sort of funny, where nobody's acting stupid or particularly comic and yet it's still funny. I think, more accurately, the post was amusing.

    I think my dialogue is okay. It's more often the narration that I go back and fix...
    Narration for NeS can be difficult at times, since it's pretty dialogue-driven.

    On a completely random note, re-reading your post made me realize that "indiscriminately" was the word I was looking for in my last post mentioning Evil Geb! ARGH!
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  25. #25
    I may as well put myself up for a nice critiquing. If that is, in fact, how you would spell such an atrocious word.

    Looking at my own writing style, I just sort of come up with ideas that I want to use and find ways to connect them. Oftentimes this seems to me like I end up having too much that I want to happen, so I end up either leaving out a lot that I want to include or skimping on some of the aspects of my posts in order to cram everything in.

    Also, I'll admit that I have a very hard time writing for most of the characters. I think out what I want to happen, but only get to the "hows" and "whys" while I'm writing. At any given time I feel like I can only capture the personalities of one or two characters in any given situation. I really dislike large group situations. I feel like I leave people out. It makes me sad sometimes. Then I try to force dialog in for people and it just seems like a cheap way out to me.

    Oh, and I feel like the only person who writes the narration past tense, as would be standard for a novel of some kind.
    Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.

  26. #26
    I think what you notice about yourself is apparent in your stuff. You got ideas, but the actual characterization, dialogue and such is a bit detached. The only thing I could really suggest is to go ahead and let yourself just write free-form more, with less planning ahead of the stuff that'll happen. For example, how would a recovering alcoholic/side-character act towards an turned emo-coward/main character type? It may advance plot stuff, and it may not. It can certainly be riskier at times, but it can also be more rewarding when you discover something awesome you never knew was there.

    Writing for a large cast of characters can be difficult, but I think the important thing isn't necessarily that everyone talks all the time but that the people who would talk do talk. Newer characters trying to figure out what's going on might talk more (or ask questions rather) than the regulars, a female character might feel more comfortable talking to other female characters (depending on their personality), etc. As for writing for other characters, I find it helpful to focus on one or two key traits about that character and then think if those elements could bring something interesting to what I'm writing. Maybe an argument breaks out where people are blaming each other. Age comes into play, as the older characters are, in theory, more aware of responsibility, as does power -- who has power over the very elements vs. being resourceful, and did the former use that power as well as they could have? And if they don't seem to have something that you want but you really want to write them in? Make it up! Just make sure it adds something to their character and to the story, or else it'll seem arbitrary, lazy and whatnot.

    As for writing past tense in NeS -- bad Ante! Present tense man! NeS is present tense!
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  27. #27
    With the winter break in full swing, I'm gonna try and organize this thread and the ISB Index/Appendix thread s'more. Shouldn't be much. I'm also not going to make seperate threads as I proposed in my #1 in an earlier post I made. There's only so much activity here, and it'd just serve to clutter.
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  28. #28
    I have found that these stories are quite good to read and honestly I am intrested in getting involved at some point. I have a good sense of imagination and perhaps would like to come up with some good ideas. However there is quite a lot to learn here, but its quite intresting stuff and would not mind contributing to it. But its good that there is a forum dedicated to habouring creation and storytelling. Im intrested thats for sure .

  29. #29
    I organized the first post in a (hopefully) visually-intuitive and aesthetically-pleasing manner. Let me know what you all think.

    I'd still like to edit the mini-essays themselves to include some of the points made later, as well as make aesthetically-pleasing and blah blah blah. I'm hoping to add at least one more mini-essay to the list... we'll see.

    As for writing excersises, basically, I'm just going to encourage that people post their own as seperate threads, or if they feel it would be too "dry" to merit its own thread, post it here. I stuck the six-word story thread as a starter for the list. At some point, I'll dig through my writing books and try starting up a few I think might be useful or whatnot.

    As for resources...it could certainly use s'more. Help?
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  30. #30
    I would appreciate whatever critical feedback you all could give on my following post:

    http://forums.massassi.net/vb3/showt...145#post857994

    (Please do not read the spoiler before reading the post).

    In particular, I'd like your feedback on what you'd suggest for the sound effects in italics, thoughts on the "cannon carving in the cliche" line and if the story made sense to you (before and after you read the spoiler). Thanks.
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  31. #31
    I had some trouble understanding it espcially the first read with out spoilers.
    the sounds I first thought is it that weird scolding sound or something? And who or what is making the sound.
    then read spoiler and went Oh! ok. about the sound thing but still had a feeling that I didn't quite get from it what you were going for.

    A diamond in the rough -- a cannon carving in the cliché. still trying to figure out the cannon carving. -> the confusion probably from trying to figure out if carving is a noun or verb.

  32. #32
    Any suggestions for essay topics, writing exercises or resources? I only need ideas for the first two, as I'm more than willing to tackle actually writing them. I feel like SOMETHING is needed, as it seems like I have so much difficulty getting new people involved in the ISB. Thanks for any help you all can give.

  33. #33
    Mini-Essay #5 - The Basics of Crafting a Story, Part 1
    (shamelessly pulled from here)

    I'm an advocate of "everyone can be a writer" as many people know, especially when it comes to interactive stories like the Never-ending Story, and while fiction writing is certainly an art, it is also a skill that anyone can pick up with enough practice and work. With that said, here are some basics that are one way to help write better fiction, even when you're lost on what exactly to write and even if you're already a pretty good writer.

    The Big Question and Answer

    The foundation of most fiction stories can be broken down into two parts: a question and an answer. The question follows like this:

    [ When something happens ], [ the protagonist(s) ] attempt to [ pursue a goal ]. But will they succeed when [ the antagonist(s) provide opposition]?

    Here's an example using the above formula:

    When Gebohq is stricken by a mysterious life-threatening condition caused by the Lost Beta, his lover Rachel and friends attempt to quest to the home of the Lost Beta to find a way to reverse Gebohq's condition. But will they succeed when the Lost Beta attempt to keep them from reversing his condition?

    There is a rising situation, characters who attempt to resolve the situation in one way, and obstacles that serve as conflict for those characters.

    After you figure out your question, you then answer it, which serves as the climax and resolution of your story. For the example above, the answer is short.

    Yes.

    Of course, the meat of your story will almost always involve conflict -- the complications that arise between your question and your answer. Otherwise, it wouldn't be much of a story if the question were resolved so quickly and easily. What follows are some ways of helping to strengthen the goals of your characters and the conflicts that face them.

    Characters

    In fiction, your main goal in developing a character is to make them interesting. How do you go about that? Here are several techniques that can help with that, using Rachel from the previous example as a further example here:

    Exaggeration: Take one or more features about the character, whether it's physical or mental or behavioral or what-have-you, and exaggerate it. He's not just skinny, he's skeletal. She's not just smart, she's a human calculator. He's not just one to smile a lot, he bears his toothy grin. In Rachel's case, she's not just a prankster, she's April Fools incarnate, and she's not just in love with Gebohq, she places her love for him above the lives of others.

    This has a few benefits: 1) It makes the character more engaging, 2) It helps the reader imagine the character easier, and 3) it may show us more about the character without outright TELLING us, which is always a plus.

    Exotic Position: So maybe the character is actually Joe Average -- put him in an unusual situation! Maybe he's being hunted by ninjas, or married to one, or just works at the front desk of Ninja Ltd. which happens to be the first target of pirate raids. Alternatively, the character could be extraordinary and placed in a more normal position, such as the ninja having to live an office life. In Rachel's case, she was initially places in a mall, but she made her surroundings more romantic as she and Gebohq first fell in love.

    Introduction: Just like any first impression made in any social encounter, how a character is first introduced to the reader can leave a large impact. The introduction usually takes form in an entry character action. If the character is a pirate, don't have them just walk into the scene. Instead, have the pirate kick the door open and swagger in while carrying an empty bottle. In Rachel's case, her introduction made the mall a disgustingly romantic scene and initiated the storyline that her love for Gebohq was destroying existence itself.

    Believability - Have the character act in a consistent and believable manner. This helps the reader believe that the character is not fictional and could exist in a reality of their own. There are three ways to strengthen believability: reactions, thoughts, and decisions. More detail will be given about these later, but essentially, in any given situation, your character should have an emotional reaction to it, think about how they will react to the situation, and then decide and follow through with the action. In Rachel's case, if one of the Lost Beta were to insult Gebohq in front of Rachel, she might initially react with anger, then think of how to react to the Lost Beta, and then decide it might be best to insult back, or threaten or manipulate for information on Gebohq.

    Tags - Select a few particular words to use often when describing the character, or also, have them associated with particular items or mannerisms that distinguish the character from other characters. This helps more with having the reader identify the character in their head than necessarily interesting, but if used correctly, they will be tags that will draw the reader to the character. Rachel can often be described wearing an engagement ring on her hand, quirky and tricksy.

    Emotional/Thought Investment - This, like believability, is not something that can be obtained through the reader instantaneously, but if successful, will ultimately make the character successful in engaging the reader. For the protagonist, the most natural type of investment would be reader empathy -- the reader cries when something sad happens to the character, the reader laughs when something funny happens with them, and so forth. This is not the only kind of investment, of course, as there could be disappointment when the character does something less than admirable, or raises a philosophical dilemma if the character is placed in an unusual conflict. With Rachel, it's possible that the reader could empathize in her quest when there is strong doubt that Gebohq will actually love her once the story is all over.

    And that's it on character, for now!

    Future parts will include: Goals and Conflicts, Scenes and Sequels, How to Write the Troublesome Middle, How to Write the Climax, and Putting it All Together. Hope this helps!

  34. #34
    Figured I'd post this here, since I think it's cool to think of ways to shake up something as fundamental as the idea that a plot needs conflict to be a [good] story:

    http://stilleatingoranges.tumblr.com...thout-conflict

    The article is over-dramatic and takes it in a direction I find questionable, and it's OK since the core concept is a useful method to consider in structuring a story. You can see another explanation of it here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kish%C5%8Dtenketsu

    I'd like to see if anyone else has knows of any other alternatives to what we'd consider unshakable traditions in narrative, whether it be a story without conflict, or a method that doesn't involve characters, choice, cause and effect, chance, setting, context, theme, convention, something without 'style' or maybe any method at all. If we can get at least a few together, I could collect them into a new 'essay' to add to this thread!
    Featured ISB thread: The Never-ending Story Thread^2

  35. #35
    Virgin Fleet Admiral
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gebohq View Post
    Figured I'd post this here, since I think it's cool to think of ways to shake up something as fundamental as the idea that a plot needs conflict to be a [good] story:

    http://stilleatingoranges.tumblr.com...thout-conflict

    The article is over-dramatic and takes it in a direction I find questionable, and it's OK since the core concept is a useful method to consider in structuring a story. You can see another explanation of it here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kish%C5%8Dtenketsu

    I'd like to see if anyone else has knows of any other alternatives to what we'd consider unshakable traditions in narrative, whether it be a story without conflict, or a method that doesn't involve characters, choice, cause and effect, chance, setting, context, theme, convention, something without 'style' or maybe any method at all. If we can get at least a few together, I could collect them into a new 'essay' to add to this thread!
    Wow. I rather like this! I've long been a fan of the idea that plot doesn't have to involve conflict, mostly influenced by my viewing of The Nutcracker Ballet, in which the majority of the ballet is merely a celebration of the relatively brief conflict at the beginning. Well, I don't know how much of a plot "celebration" is; given that my grasp of literary concepts is shaky to begin with, I'm not entirely sure what constitutes "plot".

    But, for example, I've brainstormed a story last year, with the working title "Saint Nick" or perhaps merely "Nick". Basically it starts with the birth of the baby Nick and details his growing up and walk across the earth, with fertile feet and joy following him wherever he goes. No conflict, merely an exploration and following of his joyous celebratory life.

    Kishotenku looks fascinating, and I really like it! Being as grounded in the West as I am, simply by virtue of living here, it may prove challenging for me to think up Kishotenku plots (ex. for NeS) rather than conflict-plots.

    I don't know specifically of any alternatives to the other unshakeable traditions (again, literary philosophy and technique not being my strong point), but it seems to me that some of those aren't strictly "necessary". For example, if one wrote a story describing everything that happened to a character during an ordinary day, there might not be a theme that ties it together; themes come from picking out choice scenes that tie the story together, whereas such a narrative as I described would be more like one of our real life days, which aren't exactly a narrative, at least not in the traditional sense (Jacques Derridia, my left foot).

    Of course, that might be an extremely boring story, but still...

    I guarantee you Britt can think of some.

  36. #36

  37. #37

    NIKVMVS-REX-TODOA

    Posts
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    I should have read all these tips at some point. Dang!

  38. #38
    Virgin Fleet Admiral
    Posts
    1,326
    Quote Originally Posted by Nikumubeki View Post
    I should have read all these tips at some point. Dang!
    We probably all should have, lol.

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