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Offline mr_mich

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Ground rules for fluff
« on: May 22, 2005, 12:41:12 AM »
Guys, I hate to start a rant here but if you're writing fluff or background fiction, I think there should be a few ground rules to keep in mind:

1.  Learn to spell.  There's a spellchecker BUILT IN to the forums, so there's really no excuse for abominations to the english language.  The only possible excuse could be if english is not your first language, in which case, please preface your story with that so we can take a guess at what you may be trying to say in some places.
2.  Learn to write.  Granted there's a spellchecker, and no grammar-checker built into these forums, but some people have terrible grammar.  If you're going to write fluff, expect people to read it, expect people to write it, and expect people to critique it, then the least you can do is make it coherent.  It might be a good idea to write it in a word-processing program first, such as Microsoft Word, so that any grammatical atrocities can be avoided.
3.  Learn to adhere with the 40k universe.  I can understand that it's impossible to know all of the things going on in the realm of 40k fluff, but please keep your fluff within reason.  If I have to read another story where a space wolf priest meets up with Ibram Gaunt and fights Horus's son, while fending off a Necron invasion and secretly subverting its Eldar allies to misdirect the Orks, I think I will kill someone.  I don't expect you to know every special character's detail down to the Emperor's shoe size, but I don't think it's an outrageous request to keep your time periods straight as well as keeping your fluff from getting too crowded.  It's hard to be "realistic" in the 40k universe, but in all honesty, there's limits as to how much "fiction" you can cram into science fiction.  Remember, the more of GW's stuff you include in your stories, the more you risk messing it up by putting someone or something somewhere where they don't belong.
4.  Learn to build a plot.  It's really cool to have battles and such in your fluff, but please make it go somewhere.  All of the 40k novels are awesome reads, because their stories go places.  The little tidbits in codices and such are neat to read, but realize that they also have a beginning, middle, and end to some degree.  As much as we love reading about Space Marines getting torn to shreds by Xenos, or vice versa, we can only read the descriptions of blood, gunfire, and tumultuous combats so many times before we just start to skip writing.  I'm not saying we should have an elaborate, 3-page epic for everything we write, but come on guys...let's have a little more substance than just killing stuff.
5.  Learn to name specifics.  More a pet peeve than a cardinal rule (though some may disagree), I find it to be a real turnoff when people leave out the details that can really help characterize your writing.  If you're going to say things like "his home planet" or "his weapon" then you're automatically going to be perceived as an amateur.  Giving names to sargeants and leaders are no-brainers, but make sure that you name squads and even regular grunt troops.  This is easy for armies like Guard and Eldar, but you can even do it for Tyranids and Orks...you can't really name a gaunt, but you can describe one that's a little bit different than its brethren by noting a different eye color or some other distinct trait.  Feel free to create or modify items from GW...the entire universe isn't armed with bolters, las-weaponry, and chainswords.  Remember that every time you drop a generic noun, a name can add more character.  This is good to an extent -- but don't take it too far.  Characterization is to be used carefully, making sure to bring out details and important specifics to convey your point, by describing the inconsequential in-depth you'll border on monotony.

I'm no writing master, but I thoroughly enjoy reading and writing fluff.  I find a lot of substandard writing on these forums that can easily be improved, and I think our time would be better helping people out on content matters rather than the aforementioned mechanical mistakes that seem to infest a lot of the writing on this board.  We can't really break down every spelling error, misuse of punctuation, anachronism, or ambiguous point in people's fiction, so please, just keeep these 5 things in mind when you're clicking away on your keyboard, and save us all the time.

Offline Vespasian Swiper

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2005, 05:43:07 AM »
Finally someone lays down the law!
Decent guidelines but; also try and add in some fantastic sweeping descriptions of the environment
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Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2005, 02:43:30 PM »
Bravo, worthy guidelines at last. I'm not a professional writer and I don't play one on television.

Additional comments - stay away from gaming terms. It gets tiresome to read about how elite someone/thing is or how the heavy support just rolled into town. It’s not necessary. Stay away from game timing. I’ve read fluff where one side moves, shoots, and then takes cover while their opponents then do the same. Fiction should not read like a battle report. Characters should have emotion and reaction. If half their squad discovers what happens on the wrong side of a Brightlance, the survivors are not going to immediately carry on like nothing happened. Let's read some shock, some dismay, some taking cover really quickly.

If you’re writing Guard fluff, consider that the military have their own requirements of behaviour. While it’s amusing to read about a sergeant mouthing off at an officer, such things get you shot. In the same manner, Eldar fluff shouldn’t involve home made characters that will be the savour of the race. Leave the movers and shakers for the actual 40K writers to deal with.

Steer clear of sweeping feats of magic/technology. When overused the story then reads like a cheap copout. Not everyone should be able to find the equivalent of a Blackstone fortress just sitting under their Hivecity. In the same manner, while you may be a firm fan of your Warlock, they're not the be all and end all of the Eldar race. Let them falllible now and again.
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Offline comradeDa

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2005, 12:02:46 AM »
Fiction should not read like a battle report.

Unless, it happens to be one.

Very good guide-lines. When I write (poorly), I usually don't end with much of a plot (this happens, then that happens), but I try to keep to fluff as much as possible, and generally write about some front-line grunt. We can't all be super-psychic half-eldar half-human power armoured marines with bolt pistols that can take out land-raiders.
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Offline mr_mich

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2005, 03:07:00 PM »
That's why the title said "Ground rules for fluff"  :P

I'm glad I'm not the only one that gets tired of writing about superheroic commanders that are courageous and infallible though.

Offline Vespasian Swiper

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2005, 03:54:00 PM »
I write mine on word then post here - its quite easy. I try and scribble down a plot, and then let charactisation drive the story forward - aside from factors outside of their control.
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Offline Commissar Bryn

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2005, 11:44:34 AM »
Good pointers to go by. Thank you, Mr_Mich for taking the time to write this. Now if only we can persuade a mod to sticky this...

Offline Warpseer

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2005, 07:52:46 PM »
This should be stickied :). Great guidelines which I will remember when I right fluff. Since you've posted how to write fluff- any advice to critique it ?


Offline mr_mich

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2005, 10:08:15 PM »
Typically if someone's posting writing and is looking for criticism, they should ask for what they're looking to improve.  Every writer should be aware of the weak points of their work, and that's why when you post a story you should specifically mention what you want help with.  Is it characterization?  Dialogue?  Setting and imagery?  Or do you just want general reactions to see if people like your ideas?

If you're just posting it to have it online, get a website.  But if you're posting it here for some sort of improvement, you should really have a goal in mind.

That being said, pieces become a lot easier to critique when you have something in mind.  I find it's usually detrimental to the revision process to try and rewrite a sentence for someone -- if a sentence is awkward, call a spade a spade and tell them it's awkward and how to make it less awkward.  Don't rewrite it for them (because that will hinder their style and upset any semblance of continuity) but tell them "That's a runon sentence, you might want to break it up a bit" or tell them "It's hard to tell what this is referring to..."  Also, I find it's a good idea to nip any cliches in the bud...if you see any common imagery that's overused such as "swirling me'lee" then feel free to call the guy out on it -- "That's in the 40k rulebook, word for word, think of another way to express it."  Things like this will help the writer get thinking in the right direction, improve his current piece and his future pieces, and would be better than a quick "Say this instead:" for everyone.

Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2005, 10:42:15 PM »
On the subject of critiquing someone’s fluff, even though they say they’re looking for comment, a 50/50 bet says they’re looking for praise and nothing else.  I’ve had some very excitable bordering on the hysterical replies to comments and questions before.

When I’m looking at a post I often focus on the “why?” angle. Why has such an activity occurred or why did another activity not occur? For example – a planetary landing. The first assumption is that one side has orbital superiority. Nothing wrong with that, still, the question is asked. Once you start asking “why” you begin to broaden out a story with added detail and subplots. Not everything has to be out in the open at once but it is nice to see an author is at least considering the consequences of what they’ve written.

If your critique is somewhat harsh or in detail, it is best to PM it first rather than in a general open reply. If your comments are general then an ordinary reply is often okay. All the same, break out the asbestos undies as some people do not take well to being questioned.  ;)
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Offline comradeDa

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2005, 11:57:57 PM »
Add this rule in:

Make the distinction between contractions and other words. Here is a small list of the ones I can think of.
There, Their, and They're. Those often get mixed up. "There" is used as a referral to a location (go over there). "Their" is used for ownership (their lasguns). "They're" is a contraction of "They Are", and should be used as such (They're incompetent).
You're and Your. "Your" is used for ownership (Your lasgun). "You're" is a contraction of "You Are", and should be used as such (ironically, the example here is "You're incompetent").
Where, were, we're, ware, and wear. Only where, ware, and wear sound the same. "Where" is used as a query to a very general location (Where do I go?). "Were" is used when there are multiple subjects doing something (The hormagaunts were slaughtering guardsmen). "We're" is a contraction of "We Are", and should be used as such (We're incompetent). Ware refers to a stock of some sort (Would you like to see my wares? (Runescape)). Wear a verb, to carry or to have on the body or about the person as a covering, equipment, ornament or the like (I'll wear clothes).
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Offline Lomendil

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2005, 12:06:57 AM »
On critiqueing - always a good idea to add some positive comments too if you are going to point out some major flaws. And add them in first. ;) Try not to be scornful when being critical of someone's story - it doesn't help, I can't think of anyone who responds well to it in this context. Do try to offer a way of fixing a flaw too.

Offline -Makenshi-

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2005, 03:02:54 PM »
I think this deserves stickying.


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Offline The Hive Custodian (Retired)

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2005, 11:37:09 PM »
Taken from TauOnline:

Wargamer:

Writing fluff is often a hit-and-miss affair. It is difficult, some may say impossible, to specify exactly what makes a good fluff piece a great one, and what simply makes bad fluff. However, I will endeavor to provide some guidelines:

1) Know what you're writing about.
If all you know are Marines and Orks, write about Marines fighting Orks. If you only know about one army, or only about "allied" armies, then just make one Chaos.
For example: If you know about about Sisters of Battle and Guard, make the Guard rebels, or Chaos traitors.

2) Size matters.
Short sentences can be effective, but not always. Try to give good size to your sentences, and break up the story with paragraphs.

For preference, a story should be a good length. I try for at least two sides of A4 (size 12, Times New Roman).

3) Language.
Be varied in your wording. If you don't have a wide vocabulary, then try writing with a Thesaurus at hand!

However, it is always important to use the words correctly. For example, "decimate" does not mean the same as "destroy", though some people believe it to.

4) Know about Fluff and Rule discrepancies.
Fluffwise, a Marine should have straight "6" for his Stats. Rulewise, he does not.

Try to find the key "game errors" which should be written out in Fluff. Marines are the main subject of these errors, so I will list them below:

Marines are rare. Just five or ten are enough to turn the tide of battle. Entire armies can, will and have surrendered rather than face a dozen Astartes. On the flip-side, most Guardsmen know that Marines are not positioned on a battle line unless it is going to face serious assault...

Marines are also extremely hard to kill. They can survive crippling wounds, lose limbs, be impaled or suffer a variety of other injuries and keep on going. Just about the only way to kill a Marine is to blow his head off!

These guidelines apply to Chaos Marines as well, though with some slight differences (Chaos Marines think more about their own skin than their Imperial counterparts do).

5) Write balanced fights. It can be hard (especially when writing "proper" Marine fluff), but try not to make the story a landslide victory for your favourite force. Marines may be able to slaughter entire squads of Guard, but a Crisis Suit or Aspect Warrior squad should be able to put up a good fight...

6) To fight, or not to fight...
Some of the best 40K fluff has little or no fighting. Remember this.

Of course, this guide isn't perfect, but I hope it provides some small measure of aid. If other veteran fluff-writers can chip in their comments, we could have a pretty good guide here...

Me:

I probably don't write enough, but logic goes a long way... here's a few off the top of my head.

7. Pay attention to mechanics. By mechanics I mean spelling, grammar (spelled with an a, not an e), and all that other stuff you (hopefully) learned in school. Here's the thing: good mechanics does not necessarily make a good story, BUT bad mechanics will always make a bad story. There is very little that kills the immersion into a story faster than constant mistakes.

8. As a rule of thumb, unless you're describing a document of some sort in your story, don't use numerals ("3"). Use the word for the number ("three").

9. Some may disagree with me on this, but... don't use special characters (such as Macharius, Lelith Hesperax, etc.) in person or as relatives of characters in your stories. Mentioning them is okay, but the fact remains that they are not your characters. They are more or less public, and unfortunately for the quality of fiction, too many people decide to use them in stories. First off, your Eldrad Ulthran (or whatever) may be different than somebody else's, and second, it smacks of laziness. Having relatives of special characters is just as bad; to have a character be the offspring of someone famous is just too convenient to be plausible.

10. If you're not writing an entirely serious story, some of these rules can be ignored.

11. Don't write a story from the perspective of a god (including C'Tan), a Tyranid, or a Necron. It gets real boring real fast.

12. Be original. You'll have less competition that way, so if you're good then you'll be the only one in your class. If you're not good, at least you'll have novelty value going for you.

13. Don't go overboard with the Ork speech. I know it's fun to write and all, but the fact remains that the first purpose of language is communication. Just make it Orky enough to get the feeling; don't go so far as to make it impossible to understand. After all, if your human reader can't understand it, how is an Ork supposed to?

14. Plan ahead. When writing, you should always be aiming for something, whether it is an event, an effect, or a destination in the story. Good plot isn't something that you can come up with on the fly.

15. Avoid "Mary Sue". To put it simply, a Mary Sue is an idealized avatar of yourself. If you want further explanation, Google it; you'll find countless writings and litmus tests on the subject.

16. No battle reports. One of the best things about writing fiction is that you can write anything you want. Don't limit yourself by trying to follow a battle.
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Offline Major BigBadOgryn

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2005, 09:26:50 PM »
Oh, I told myself never to come to this board, but here I am(last time I was on a fiction board-black library-it completely took over my life, I'll try to contain myself now), and here is the most important piece of literary advice I ever recieved: Show, don't tell.
While not always able to live up to this myself, it(more than anything other one thing, IMO) is the secret to a good story. Do not write a situation, paint a picture with words, description is the key to immerssion, and immerssion is the key(again, IMO) to a good reading experience.

Hope that helps someone out there a little bit.

Also, here is a great link:http://blacklibrary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=674

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Offline Chillin Mickey

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2005, 03:45:37 AM »
Show, don't tell.

My English teacher always told me that.  Best English teacher I ever had.

Offline Alexander's Son

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #16 on: August 1, 2006, 02:45:23 PM »
 I want to post a question... I've read the rules and are fair enough!

 But I have a history of my Chapter "Alexander's Sons" and it is rather long (it is 6 pages in Word). I want to post it in order to get help finish it and of course let the people see what I have written and rate it.

 What can I do? Post it as a very long post or something else that I hope you tell me?
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Offline -Makenshi-

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #17 on: August 1, 2006, 03:03:22 PM »
Post it as a single post, otheriwse it would just be percieved as a way to increase your post count.

However, if you were to post all you have so far and then wrote another page or so, there's no problem if you post that seperately as an 'update'. I've done that with several of my long term projects myself (no one replies to my stories here :P).

The above kind of 'serial posting' is generally considered ok, but seperating out a long post into several others posts (unless it can't fit in one post, like my Codex: 40kOnline in The Forge) is not, and will likely get you a telling off from the Mods ;).

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« Last Edit: August 1, 2006, 03:04:58 PM by - Makenshi - »
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Offline Alexander's Son

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #18 on: August 1, 2006, 03:27:19 PM »
 Thanks Makenshi I'll post it right now...
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Offline Black Watch Lord

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Re: Ground rules for fluff
« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2006, 09:24:52 AM »

thanks for the rules it helps me alot with my fic. Im in the process of wrighting
my fist short fic and these help alot and are good things to keep in mind


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