Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pearl of Wisdom

What is the real beauty of a pearl is that it is the byproduct of agitation to a poor sea-shell animal called an oyster.  It is, in a sense, much like what happens when a kidney stone effects that particular bladder of our own human body.  So just think, if you were an oyster, you would be pissing out a valuable and precious stone.  Oh the pretty things that agitation can produce!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shaping and Dialogue

In RP, there's often been this back and fourth about paraposting and 'one-liners'.  To give brief definition, I'll note that paraposting is essentially making paragraph posts.  One liners are, well, essentially one line or sentence used in a post.  

In my opinion, though I like a good paragraph, I do think that paraposters do become a bit fanatic about making flowery, descriptive posts and forget that most important aspect of telling a story: flow.  Flow is the most important aspect of any story.  It's like the river that the reader travels on.  And, like most rivers, a book that flows well is going to have a diversity of landscaping from calm, broad banks where the river flows slow and deep, to more narrow, fast-paced areas where the turbulence from white water that's quick-flowing crest falling and rising through rapids.  A good story is much like that.  And, as much as RP is a story, good RP is like that too.

The landscaping of a book, or, to more modernize the concept, the landscaping of a text-based story, from classic book novels to online published blogging, and into the realm of RP - the landscaping is called shaping. And, I reiterate this one more time, because of how important I see this concept, the landscaping of any story is called shaping.  Shaping of posts, shaping of the traditional paragraph, shaping of dialogue.  Any text that you want to utilize has a shape to it, and the way in which the author of the text shapes it is called shaping.  The way I shaped this paragraph, the body of this blog, even down to the sentences and word choices, and how the words are used, they are all part of shaping.

At first, I was going to try and find an example of shaping through finding a fight scene in a given novel.  Strangely enough, most action and adventure novels tend to not deal with fighting very much, and rather tend towards avoiding fights.  A phenomenon, I suppose, that has to do with trying to build up to a fight.  The fight is the 'last battle' and, generally, when the big fight is over, so is the novel.  And since no novelist likes to write a book of less than 100 pages, and most averaging around 300 to 500, it is no wonder that most of the chapters of adventure deal in 'dodging the bullet', so to speak. Granted, there might be a few minor skirmishes.  If a series, there might be those moments of a 'middle man' battle, but the big battle, the main event still remains at the end.  For the sooner you go to the big battle, the sooner the story's over. So the smaller skirmishes that lead to escapes keep the story going, and a sort of comfortable feeling of there being another day ahead, and another adventure to look forward to.

So, not wanting to skim to the end of a given book (fine, you can call me lazy for that), I decided to go with one of the most common examples in novels of this mixture of short one liners and long, drawn out paragraphs.  The excerpt below is from a classic 20th century novelist called John Buchan called The Thirty Nine Steps.  It was published in 1915 by William Blackwood and Sons in Edinburgh and features a protagonist/narrator by the name of Richard Hannay, who finds himself in the midst of a world of conspiracy theories at the verge of World War I.  Theories that wind up leaving him on the run due to a beggarly sort of man he meets at the beginning of the book and somehow manages to be found dead in Mr. Hannay's apartment.  Of course, Richard Hannay isn't the killer, but the circumstantial evidence doesn't put him in good light either.  So thus he goes on the run to try and find the real killers of the man and try to stop the conspiracy that would lead to the death of a distinguished Greek politician.

And so, without further hindrance, here is the example of the flow of dialogue from the first chapter of the book:

My flat was the first floor in a new block behind Langham Place. There was a common staircase, with a porter and a liftman at the entrance, but there was no restaurant or anything of that sort, and each flat was quite shut off from the others. I hate servants on the premises, so I had a fellow to look after me who came in by the day. He arrived before eight o'clock every morning and used to depart at seven, for I never dined at home.
I was just fitting my key into the door when I noticed a man at my elbow. I had not seen him approach, and the sudden appearance made me start. He was a slim man, with a short brown beard and small, gimlety blue eyes. I recognized him as the occupant of a flat on the top floor, with whom I had passed the time of day on the stairs.
'Can I speak to you?' he said. 'May I come in for a minute?' He was steadying his voice with an effort, and his hand was pawing my arm.
I got my door open and motioned him in. No sooner was he over the threshold than he made a dash for my back room, where I used to smoke and write my letters. Then he bolted back.
'Is the door locked?' he asked feverishly, and he fastened the chain with his own hand.
'I'm very sorry,' he said humbly. 'It's a mighty liberty, but you looked the kind of man who would understand. I've had you in my mind all this week when things got troublesome. Say, will you do me a good turn?'
'I'll listen to you,' I said. 'That's all I'll promise.' I was getting worried by the antics of this nervous little chap.
There was a tray of drinks on a table beside him, from which he filled himself a stiff whisky-and-soda. He drank it off in three gulps, and cracked the glass as he set it down.
'Pardon,' he said, 'I'm a bit rattled tonight. You see, I happen at this moment to be dead.'

I chose this particular section because it has everything in it.  The introduction at the beginning with the two narrative paragraphs describe the scene, and then lead into the dialogue, which presents the problem, or the conflict/action of the scene, to which the dialogue elaborates on.  Notice, the paragraphs are used for description, the dialogue for presentation. Paragraphs help to lead into the action, the dialogue is the action.  Paragraphs describe and build up to the conflict, the dailogue puts the conflict into motion. The paragraphs give depth to the story and the motivations underlying the actions, and the dialogue puts that depth into action.  When put together, the paragraphs and the dialogue together help with producing the flow of the story.  

Maybe, for me, being a more of a storyteller, and not so much bogged down on the silly banter between the paraposters and one liners, I can see how both tie together.  Not every post has to be a paragraph or a page long. Not even sentences need to be very long.  They can be short.  And, more importantly, both, when you shape out your posts well, and consider the flow of a story, they can powerfully impact and greatly improve your writing and the RP experience.  

Have depth, but also come out of the deep end and let all those details fully bloom in action or dialogue.  Be bold and use both paragraphs and one liners. Because, as intriguing as a long paragraph describing a death scene, or whatever the purpose of the paragraph's description is for, one still has to admit, there is much great intrigue when a dialogue presents a character saying in one line: 

"You see, I happen at this moment to be dead."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Devaluing of Second Life

At first, I thought I'd consider the concept of people boasting about giving away Lindens in the thousands, and the devaluing of the Linden dollar in general, but I feel there is something far more interesting and important than the more material consideration.  And that is, that of the essence of SL itself devaluing.

On the first aspect, this article from Second Thoughts from back in May does well in noting how the Linden dollar has been devaluing.  Current rates of the Linden dollar to the US dollar have been ranging at the time of writing this blog between L$267 to L$277 per US $1.00 with L$1000 costing approximately US$3.75 (US $4.05 approximate total), and the volume was at L$52,745,847, which is about US$198,372.65, and still rising.     The point being is that, claiming to toss around thousands of L$ is essentially like boasting about giving out a bunch of Starbucks Grande Carmel Macchiato Lattes, which sell for US $4.55 (approximately L$1200). Sure, if you give away about 10 or 15 of them, you would have a pretty big coffee bill (around US $45.50 to US $68.25), but to boast about it like one is giving away thousands of US dollars (US $1,000  would be about L$267,000) just kinda seems silly.  Argue that spending thousands of L$ makes you a big spender if you want, but it's not that terribly impressive in real life standards.  On the other hand, spending US $45.00 to US $70.00 on what many in the real world population see essentially as a game and frivolous past time are likely just to think that an excessive amount to put into something so trivial.

On the other hand, Sl is something that people enjoy.  Well, at least 1.4 million people do, out of the supposed 15 to 20 million that have joined over the past few years.  How many in those numbers of memberships are actually people that dropped out in the first few months, or are older members that simply have created alts for whatever reason they feel the need to have one..., or two or fifteen (not that I am against alts, I have a few of my own), those are statistics that no one really knows, save maybe Linden Labs themselves.

Why is SL enjoyed by these 1.4 million that continue to come to SL?  I think another article on Second Thoughts puts it quite well.  The article itself can be read in its entirety here, to which this excerpt is what I put focus on:

"Shared experience" is the gold loot of SL that everybody wants to mine. If only they can fit in, be with a group, be accepted, find something to do and people to talk to -- which is usually in a group -- they will be happy. And for particularly the SLintelligentsia, this shared experience is ecstatic. It's profound and moving and deep. They conceive it almost in religious terms. And it is addictive and it's the reason they hang on their Plurks at work and huddle in their groups at night online in SL. Their gang of friends provides a sense of identity and sustenance like nothing in real life. Nothing is as exciting and stimulating and compelling as the group online, except, for perhaps, the lover online. That they are fictions and concoctions and can even become coercive and ultimately empty isn't something they want to hear about today. They'll think about it another day.

The whit and sarcasm of the article's words can be quite humorous, but also can be quite true and to the point.  Having been on SL for 3 years, I can relate to both the power and impact of groups here in SL, and that of having relationships as well.  Both are connected, as generally one seeks out a group (or stumbles upon it), gets involved with it, often deeply and emotionally.  One tends to find another that's also in that group, and, shared experience, you find yourself deeply and emotionally involved with this person, partner them, and go through all the various aspects of SL relations.

In my experience, it started with joining Midian and then finding Ioh in with the Catwalkers.  From there, a few other groups of mine came about - the most notable of them were the Catfight Club, and the Honorarium de Iohannes.

Catfight Club came about due to the waning of the Midian combat meter (MCS 2.0).  It was at a time when people in Midian still wanted to be able to fight with a meter, but more and more were opting towards text-based combat.  Me?  I loved using the meter, even if I was not the best (ok, a pretty crappy) fighter.  At that time, I had come out of being involved with the Combat: Samurai Island (C:SL) crowd, to which I began there in January of 2007, being first mentored in samurai sword fighting by Amber Suising, and then joining and then joining my first clan, Samurai Giri.  From there, I later got involved in the Tendai Clan and continued on there, learning the way of the sword (SL's version of it then, anyways) and understanding both technique and the then standards and norms of the rules of engagement and what was acceptable and unacceptable fighting technique at the time.  After a while, I went to Midian and found myself absorbed into RP and learning about how to build stories, both in character background and in the interaction of it overall in the RP itself.  

As noted, at that time, metered battle was not foreign to Midian, and I got my first taste of urban battle when the first war between the Catwalkers and the Pack came about.  It was intense, insane, but, and despite having taken losses in gunfights with IC nemesis (though eventually became OOC friends, and relatively IC friendly) known as Kuno, I enjoyed the fights.  Peole didn't take things terribly serious then.  You get shot up and you get dragged off to be healed, which could end up in rather strangely humorous surgeries and other medical care.  It had an entertainment value because people weren't taking things terribly serious.  But eventually that changed.  And as people were going more towards 'serious' text-based RP, I opted to try to bring about the Catfight Club as a way for people to be able to enjoy that non-serious, and sometimes ridiculously over the top fighting that was metered combat.  It was my attempt at a Fight Club, and it was fun. And, though some won't admit it, it also had its offshoot, of which I'm more than certain the Pitfight Club in Midian had its origins from.  Hard not to consider that when some of those that were in Catfight Club originally wound up migrating to the Pitfight Club eventually.

At any rate, that was my personal experience with groups of the more social shared experience.  The Honorarium was more of my intimate 'family' experience, and is one that still exists, remarkably.  I say that because it's been battered and beaten throughout the years, even from the beginning of its existence.  I'm just going to generally talk about it.  This isn't a post about my SL love life, or attempt at it in the greater aspects of romanticism.  No, this is more on the aspect of its nature.  You see, it started with my first Felix Amans (loving cat, of happy kitten).  She was a Kittenwalker at the time, and eventually became a Catwalker.  To make a long story short, the process, if I remember, it initially was that I collared her, then the Honorarium was formed, and I got her to join the group as my Felix Amans, and partnered her.  Eventually, the form of it went to initially bringing someone into the group first, and then working from an associate to a friend to a familial, and finally to the Amans, to which collaring became traditional, as did partnering soon after, if not all three aspects joined together.  When SL marriage came in to play, the title was changed to Regina Felinam (Queen Cat).  There was one last one to which the very last of the Felixes and I took on titles that essentially meant 'heart song'. 

To this, I  understand how deep and moving groups and loves can be in SL.  But, as also noted in the second article mentioned from Second Thoughts, these relations are made from "fictions and concoctions" and "can become coercive and ultimately empty."  I didn't want to hear it then.  And even now, I don't want to believe that there isn't a way to interact in SL, and even RP that is completely artificial and, well, has no 'soul' to it.  Because, to me, fiction does have a soul, there is an essence within stories that give them life.  In the shared experience, it is we, the avatars, the 'players' or 'actors/actresses' in RP that breath life and meaning into the experiences.  Without us there, and without us interacting in this virtual environment, there is no shared experience.  You can't play a game without people participating in it.  You can't even have a game without someone creating one to participate in it.  Creation and creativity have that necessity for each other.  Because without one or the other, they don't exist.  And without people to create and be creative, neither the creation nor the creativity can even come in to being.  You can't even have an IC character without an OOC player/person.  To not see this relationship between persons and the interaction in the shared experience ultimately leads to the devaluing of Second Life.  

One might argue that that also is what makes SL different from real life.  For SL depends on people to populate it and have that shared experience to exist.  Yet, on the other hand, if the entire human race becomes extinct in the real world, who will be here to even come up with and hold onto the concept of existence anyways?