Wesnoth Writing Standard

For writers working on documentation, story prose, announcements, and all kinds of Wesnoth text.

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melinath
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Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by melinath » June 26th, 2009, 6:40 pm

One of the stated purposes of the Writer's Forum is "Storyline prose in the mainline and UMC campaigns". I take this to include things like redoing unit descriptions (which I will be using as an example in this thread). Similarly, Art Contributions is for contributing art for the game. However, unlike Art, Writing has no standards.

Don't kill me! Of course the people who use this forum have personal standards - spelling, grammar, punctuation, sometimes even style! But I have yet to hear someone say any of the following:
"Well, that's a nice description you've got there. Too bad it's not mainline standard, or we could commit it!"
"The dialogue is okay, but elves are supposed to talk more like (whatever)"
"Nice work on the narration, but the plot in general isn't really up to snuff for mainline. The love story is too contrived."

What is Wesnoth Writing Standard?
Please, post your thoughts, because I don't know. There are some things that seem generally agreed-upon (I think I heard that dwarves usually speak with a Scottish accent, for example), but it would be useful to have these collected in one place.

I'll be collecting thoughts and updates from this thread and from around the forum as they come up. I'll try to link to the posts where the point was made. These are sometimes paraphrases by me, so object if you think I got something wrong.

What should a unit description be?
Unit Descriptions:
What should dialogue be like?
Dialogue:
How should trolls talk?
Trolls:
Last edited by melinath on July 2nd, 2009, 7:53 am, edited 8 times in total.

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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by ancestral » June 26th, 2009, 7:44 pm

I think part of the problem is there isn't enough written about the Wesnoth universe to even determine what fits in and what doesn't. Aside from what's already in the game and some brief history, we have no reference material to tell us in detail about Wesnoth.

Perhaps we need to start on a reference document, and get some of our long-time writers to share their vision of the universe. Either we could focus on one time period, or just focus on one subject at a time and simply write across eras. We need to ask questions, about politics, trade, military, farming, etc. and think up some answers, from anything like "what does it take to become a High Lord of the Elves?" to "what is the punishment for impersonating a city official?" I've posted about this here and some about it here.

I don't know if anyone else would be up for this? Start small, get big later.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by The Great Rings » June 27th, 2009, 2:53 am

melinath wrote:One of the stated purposes of the Writer's Forum is "Storyline prose in the mainline and UMC campaigns". I take this to include things like redoing unit descriptions (which I will be using as an example in this thread). Similarly, Art Contributions is for contributing art for the game. However, unlike Art, Writing has no standards.
Too true. I find that plots, while simple, tend to be fairly decent in mainline. However, character development and dialog, while not perhaps a priority in a tactical war game, really does need improvement.
Don't kill me! Of course the people who use this forum have personal standards - spelling, grammar, punctuation, sometimes even style! But I have yet to hear someone say any of the following:
"Well, that's a nice description you've got there. Too bad it's not mainline standard, or we could commit it!"
"The dialogue is okay, but elves are supposed to talk more like (whatever)"
"Nice work on the narration, but the plot in general isn't really up to snuff for mainline. The love story is too contrived."
Again, agreed, with one exception. I do not want to see dialog vetoed for reasons like "elves aren't supposed to talk like that." Logically, while elves would presumably have their own predominant culture, not every elf would talk the same way, any more than, say, every American would talk the same way. I would also add that while racial and cultural steriotyping is a trade mark of modern fantasy, it is also in my opinion a detrimental one that diminishes creativity and originality, and hurts suspension of disbelief.

Just an observation.
What is Wesnoth Writing Standard?
Please, post your thoughts, because I don't know. There are some things that seem generally agreed-upon (I think I heard that dwarves usually speak with a Scottish accent, for example), but it would be useful to have these collected in one place.
Nothing much to say right now, but I do have one more comment:
However, do not include any information specific to the world of Wesnoth, as that becomes nonsensical as soon as a unit is used in a different setting.
If someone was using the unit in a user-made add-on, couldn't they just alter the unit description?
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by melinath » June 27th, 2009, 8:15 am

The Great Rings wrote:I do not want to see dialog vetoed for reasons like "elves aren't supposed to talk like that." Logically, while elves would presumably have their own predominant culture, not every elf would talk the same way, any more than, say, every American would talk the same way. I would also add that while racial and cultural steriotyping is a trade mark of modern fantasy, it is also in my opinion a detrimental one that diminishes creativity and originality, and hurts suspension of disbelief.

Just an observation.
I agree that stereotyping is bad and that everyone talks differently. But I do think it would be useful (at least for mainline) if there were a rough outline of how elves talk (for example). Here's why:
Made up example dialogue wrote:Hero: Thank you for your hospitality, High Lord Kevran, but now I must be going.
High Elven Lord Kevran: Well, yer welcome to come back 'n visit any time, dontcha know?
This goes, I think, past the reasonable bounds of "people talk differently". Any speech community has certain common elements.

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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by thespaceinvader » June 27th, 2009, 9:19 am

I'd entirely disagree that you shouldn't mention the world of wesnoth in unit descriptions. Unit description are one of the few places you can do world-building, and if you're not allowed to mention the world or other things specific to it, it's very difficult to build it. For example, when writing the description for the Water Serpent, I included information about the species that were thought to be related to it by scholars - which would make no sense in a world without those species, but is useful world-building for wesnoth. it shows that there are scholars, and that nagas, sea serpents and water serpents might be interrelated. it shows that water serpents are reasonably well-known. Etc etc etc.

If you're using a unit outside of the world of wesnoth, changing the description is easy enough.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by melinath » June 27th, 2009, 8:38 pm

thespaceinvader wrote:I'd entirely disagree that you shouldn't mention the world of wesnoth in unit descriptions. Unit description are one of the few places you can do world-building, and if you're not allowed to mention the world or other things specific to it, it's very difficult to build it. For example, when writing the description for the Water Serpent, I included information about the species that were thought to be related to it by scholars - which would make no sense in a world without those species, but is useful world-building for wesnoth. it shows that there are scholars, and that nagas, sea serpents and water serpents might be interrelated. it shows that water serpents are reasonably well-known. Etc etc etc.
I agree completely and have changed the first post to accommodate this position in my powerful position as creator of this thread. Arguments for or against can still be brought up, but this seems to be a point that 2.5 people agree on.

On another note: How would Wesnothians write poetry? I would kind of like to develop a human, dwarvish, and elvish poetry style. This is a long-term thought. I would propose basing it in medieval poetry forms, but the only medieval forms I'm familiar with are German. Does this seem like a reasonable thought, and is there anyone out there with knowledge of old English or old Norse?

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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by thespaceinvader » June 27th, 2009, 9:09 pm

WesnothPoetry

As it happens.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by melinath » June 27th, 2009, 9:31 pm

I am aware of the existence of that page. It's the reason I think it would be interesting to discuss poetry styles. For example... actually, I'm going to make a separate thread about this. It's too far off the topic of standards.

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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by The Great Rings » June 27th, 2009, 10:54 pm

melinath wrote:On another note: How would Wesnothians write poetry? I would kind of like to develop a human, dwarvish, and elvish poetry style. This is a long-term thought. I would propose basing it in medieval poetry forms, but the only medieval forms I'm familiar with are German. Does this seem like a reasonable thought, and is there anyone out there with knowledge of old English or old Norse?
Well for Dwarves, why not Scottish, since that's the accent they've been given? Granted, I don't know much about Scottish poetry myself.

Also, while I reiterate my views against cultural steriotyping, there will be dominant artforms in any culture. If one wished to create poetry styles for the different factions, why not reflect that? I'm thinking something like:

Dwarves: Scottish styles, as above.

Humans: very warlike heroic poetry, which glorifies the deeds of certain heros or leaders. The rural communities might have different tastes, with local folk songs and more rural/pastoral themes. Not too familiar with Medieval poetry, but think The Charge of the Light Brigade for themes/subject matter.

Elves: very sad/romantic, often about love or nature.

Though I'll confess I know much less about poetry than I should (I'm trying to recall what I learned in grade 12 Literature, but not a lot's coming back right now).


Also, on the subject of dialog:
I agree that stereotyping is bad and that everyone talks differently. But I do think it would be useful (at least for mainline) if there were a rough outline of how elves talk (for example). Here's why:
Made up example dialogue wrote:
Hero: Thank you for your hospitality, High Lord Kevran, but now I must be going.
High Elven Lord Kevran: Well, yer welcome to come back 'n visit any time, dontcha know?


This goes, I think, past the reasonable bounds of "people talk differently". Any speech community has certain common elements.
I would probably agree that the above example is bad for two reasons: first, because it sounds to much like modern slang, and second, because one would expect greater formality and sophistication from someone bearing the title "High Lord." :D Both would hold true however if a human or dwarf were saying it.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by melinath » June 28th, 2009, 1:11 am

@The Great Rings: I find your thoughts on poetry valuable, but could they perhaps be moved now that the poetry issue has its own thread? It's too big a can of worms.

After doing a quick forum search, I've found following mentions of dwarves and scottish. I've arranged them chronologically:
Spoiler:
The Great Rings wrote: I would probably agree that the above example is bad for two reasons: first, because it sounds to much like modern slang, and second, because one would expect greater formality and sophistication from someone bearing the title "High Lord." :D Both would hold true however if a human or dwarf were saying it.
This is because in your opinion, the elven/human/dwarven cultures
1. Don't speak modern slang.
2. Have a similar idea of what sounds formal and sophisticated as we do.

I happen to agree with you, but keep in mind that language is a completely arbitrary social construct. The fact that you have the above two opinions shows that you've already stereotyped the elves, dwarves, and humans of wesnoth a bit. Again, I agree with you. I think that dialogue should not use modern slang and should roughly stick to native speaker's concept of formality registers. That seems pretty general, so I'll add that to the first post.

As regards the racial stereotyping of language: I don't primarily see this as a question of race. I'll take dwarves as an example. Obviously dwarves aren't biologically predisposed to speak Scottishly. However, again, language is an arbitrary social construct - i.e. it's created in dialogue between people. In other words, people who live near each other tend to speak the same. So a dwarf living in Weldyn would have a Weldyn accent and Weldyn slang, and an dwarf living among the Orcs (for whatever reason) would tend to talk a bit like an orc. However, most of the dwarves live together in the northern mountains, and these dwarves would have a way of speaking that is common to their community. In defining "how a dwarf talks", I only mean defining the general characteristics of the speech of the large dwarvish community. An individual dwarf would of course speak differently depending on his or her experiences in life.
ancestral wrote:Perhaps we need to start on a reference document, and get some of our long-time writers to share their vision of the universe. Either we could focus on one time period, or just focus on one subject at a time and simply write across eras. We need to ask questions, about politics, trade, military, farming, etc. and think up some answers, from anything like "what does it take to become a High Lord of the Elves?" to "what is the punishment for impersonating a city official?"
I agree that this is an important idea + fully support it. However, this thread is more for thinking about the style that the actual writing that people might see should have and less about the actual content of such writing. Since that content is an important topic, perhaps it deserves a thread of its own?

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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by The Great Rings » June 28th, 2009, 1:50 am

melinath wrote:@The Great Rings: I find your thoughts on poetry valuable, but could they perhaps be moved now that the poetry issue has its own thread? It's too big a can of worms.
If you wish, you can request a mod to move it. I put it here because, so far as I am aware, the other thread did not then exist, and because it was a direct response to a post in this thread.
After doing a quick forum search, I've found following mentions of dwarves and scottish. I've arranged them chronologically:
Spoiler:
You've clearly researched this more than I did. I just remembered hearing about dwarves having Scottish accents (can't recall where), and of course the heavily accented dwarf leader in Northern Rebirth.
This is because in your opinion, the elven/human/dwarven cultures
1. Don't speak modern slang.
2. Have a similar idea of what sounds formal and sophisticated as we do.

I happen to agree with you, but keep in mind that language is a completely arbitrary social construct. The fact that you have the above two opinions shows that you've already stereotyped the elves, dwarves, and humans of wesnoth a bit. Again, I agree with you. I think that dialogue should not use modern slang and should roughly stick to native speaker's concept of formality registers. That seems pretty general, so I'll add that to the first post.
I'll acknowledge its a somewhat arbitrary choice. However, I also know that I would get a sick feeling from reading an elf lord talking in modern slang. It doesn't have to fit any particular culture's style, though. If one wished to be really creative and put in far more effort than anyone is ever likely too, we could give the elves, dwarves, etc, completely unique and original conventions, formalities, and slang (like "frak" in Battlestar Galactica).
As regards the racial stereotyping of language: I don't primarily see this as a question of race. I'll take dwarves as an example. Obviously dwarves aren't biologically predisposed to speak Scottishly. However, again, language is an arbitrary social construct - i.e. it's created in dialogue between people. In other words, people who live near each other tend to speak the same. So a dwarf living in Weldyn would have a Weldyn accent and Weldyn slang, and an dwarf living among the Orcs (for whatever reason) would tend to talk a bit like an orc. However, most of the dwarves live together in the northern mountains, and these dwarves would have a way of speaking that is common to their community. In defining "how a dwarf talks", I only mean defining the general characteristics of the speech of the large dwarvish community. An individual dwarf would of course speak differently depending on his or her experiences in life.
Agreed to all of the above.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by A Guy » July 2nd, 2009, 5:54 pm

One thing people also have to keep in mind is avoiding purple prose - it is possible to be too descriptive.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by melinath » July 11th, 2009, 1:07 pm

Here's a thought for standards: All unit descriptions should refer to the unit in plural. (I think this may already be the case, but it doesn't hurt to say it!)

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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by thespaceinvader » July 11th, 2009, 1:21 pm

I think that's an unnecessary restriction - it takes away the freedom to write about units in the generalised singular - 'A [unit type]'s primary strength is'.
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Re: Wesnoth Writing Standard

Post by Turuk » July 11th, 2009, 10:49 pm

melinath wrote:Here's a thought for standards: All unit descriptions should refer to the unit in plural. (I think this may already be the case, but it doesn't hurt to say it!)
I know what you are getting at, but TSI makes a valid point in that there will be some circumstances when you want to refer to a single unit to talk about it as a reference to how all units of that type are like.
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