Help and Hints for Mudslinger Writers - by Excrucior (former Mudslinger Editor)
Some advice on contributing to Medievia's Mudslinger.
Greetings. I'm sure that, like me, you've read through some articles on Mudslinger and thought "I could do better than that." Well, there are a few basic rules to follow which would give a greater chance of seeing your name up in lights for all your peers to see.
First of all there are the procedural rules to follow (copied from Medievia webpages):-
For ease of use of your article just follow the following syntax rules:
However, following these rules will not guarantee acceptance - this is determined on the quality of the article. This article is designed to give a few hints about how to give your article a better chance of acceptance through a (possibly) better quality.
The general rules, according to the Mudslinger's section on contributions, are that you should contact Excrucior on the address provided (Excrucior@medievia.com) and tell him your idea for an article. You may have an article already but you should note that it is far more polite to ask if he wishes to receive something of that nature first. It may be that something like this is about to be published or that it has been extensively covered in times past.
Check the current Muslinger on the website - there is a reasonably long list of past articles to go over. Read them all and see what is common about all those articles, ensuring that you are not going to be rehashing someone elses work. A good grasp of English, spelling and grammar is essential so it may be an idea to ask someone else (a Medievian for preference) to check it over if you are not certain. I have known good vocal storytellers who could not put the same effect on paper had their life depended on it.
However, good writing style and correct spelling are no substitute for a decent idea to work with - whether it be a piece of fiction or a factual treatise. An idea that is original stands a much better chance of acceptance than one that has been done time and time again. This is actually the hardest part - inspiration. It is no good sitting down with the intention of writing an article without some idea to work with. Do not merely think of the rewards for a successful contribution, try and come up with an article that people will enjoy reading - it is a lot more satisfying to have people you have never met before recognise you in the game from your efforts on Mudslinger. Trust me on this (cough).
When your article is finished, ask yourself some simple questions. Is this an article I would like to read? Is it coherent? (Have you left any strand of text within your own head? It is all too easy to miss a bit of text as you know what is meant to go there - this is where the reading by a friend comes into its own). Is the article factually correct?
Then leave the piece for a few days (for preference) and then reread it. The initial satisfied glow will have faded and you will be more highly critical of your own work.
There are three main types of article on Mudslinger, Factual, Fiction and Verse.
FICTION - general rules
This is a hard one as there are few fixed rules for fiction. However, the basics of the Medievia system should be adhered to - keep offensive language out of the work unless absolutely necessary (Excrucior has to decide on this). The basic rules of grammar really need to be observed as well - it can be difficult to read a piece that is set out badly. Decide initially upon which person you will be working in - First, Second or Third person - as well as which tense you are going to be working in.
Swapping between the types of personal perspective can be done if done properly and with consideration for the reader. For example:
Really you need something to split the text here - an extra empty line is usually sufficient for reading purposes (or a line of asterisks), but make sure the reader is aware of the change in perspective. In the above example the last line of the first paragraph could have read "Lionheart held his hand aloft for a pause and motioned for Sneeki to scout ahead." The following paragraph could start with "Sneeki grumbled under his breath - why was it always him who had to go ahead? If the rest weren't such clumsy oafs they could manage to get around undetected too...". The last paragraph could start "As the group ran into the cavern in response to Sneeki's desperate shrieks, the saw him lying on the floor in a pool of blood. A powerful looking creature flailed around near him, trying to remove the dagger that protruded between the wings on its back. 'CHARGE' cried the warrior as he ran at the mephit..."
As to tenses, get one and stick with it. Either a tale is told in the past or in the present tense - continual swapping makes only for headaches for the reader. The only way this can be swapped gracefully (that I know of) is by someone recounting a scene from the past (the article starting, perhaps, with "'Why am I here?' I mused as I watched the advancing legions of foes, intent on my blood." It would probably then have a flashback to how the narrator came to be there which would come back to the present and continue the tale from there).
Medievia players use a lot of 'technical' (for want of a better word) terms - eg mobs, repop, loading and so forth. These do not make for a story. Try and couch playing events within the language of the genre - instead of clanchat try "mental communication with my brethren", instead of trade run try "merchant's caravan". There are plenty of descriptions for magical spells so try and use a variety - eg essaying a spell, invoking the healing power of the Gods, conjuring a ball of flame etc. One other item to keep an eye out for is modern vernacular (slang) - do not use modern terms within the piece (eg "Cowabunga" is a definite no-no). However, since the reader is modern, do not go overly towards a true Medieval dialect - "Forsooth, thou cowardly knave, get thee hence and remain in thy lair as would a true mangy cur..." does not go easily on the modern eye for most people.
The story needs to have an element in it so that it does not read like an evening's entertainment for a real life person. "I went there, killed this, stole that" is not too inspiring unless it is done really well. Not everyone has this skill (I certainly don't...), so try to have a twist in the plot to engage a reader's interest.
Using the high level mobs in Med as a basis for stories is usually a good ploy but always make sure this particular instance is acceptable (remember - ask Soleil about this if you aren't certain) and that it fits the theme of the overall storyline as well as the zone(s) the action takes place in.
Other people's characters may be involved in your tale - this is best done if you ask permission for use first. Contact them by mudmail etc and ask if they mind being featured in your piece, preferably stating in what context they would appear. If necessary, use a name not currently taken.
Action isn't the only thing to occur - each character is supposed to be a separate person and can feel, smell, taste, see and so forth. Descriptions of various senses aid a story well - the feel of the furs being loaded into a cart for trading, the warmth of blood as it spills over your skin from a fresh wound, the stench of a lair etc. Emotions (blood running cold, elation etched on the face, the rich warmth of love) aid a tale greatly - but only use a character's experiences when appropriate and not just to fill space. Mundane tasks can be inserted into a tale to add colour to it - casually stealing food from a table while talking to a customer of a restaurant, popping to the privy, waving to a known passer-by, sucking on a pipe after making a comment and so forth. Making the proponents of a story experience things helps to immerse a reader into the Medievia experience and helps to break up the main storyline a little.
A liberal use of adjectives is recommended, as is the more florid language. A tale full of bland statements becomes stale in the reader's mind very quickly while a variation in the choice of words can enliven a piece greatly. Compare the following two sentences - "The Troll's smell made me choke," and "The rank, stench of the Troll's stale sweat made me gag and retch." The second is the more readable by far as it actually gives more insight into the actions. Similarly, an occasional adjective can give extra levels of meaning that could be otherwise lost on the reader - compare "...retorted." and "...retorted snidely." The second has an extra level of meaning that the author may have in their head but the reader has only their own imagination to rely on.
Using comparisons is a good way to convey an image to your readers. Examples of this are: "...the Dragon floated in the air like an albatross in flight." for normal dragon flight, "...the dragon wheezed like an old mare ready for the knacker's yard." for nearing the end of a dragon's movement and "...the Dragon dived towards its target like a hunting bird of prey."
Imagery like this, adjectives and various other aspects of the writers trade are all things that are for the consideration of the writer only. Most readers will not even notice these aspects but merely feel their effect as this sort of thing works subliminally. One of the best examples I ever saw was in Shakespeare's Macbeth just after the murder of Duncan. Macbeth and his wife are talking heatedly in the immediate aftermath and on initial reading the effect was to give the impression of intensity. The effect is actually caused, in this instance, by the use of shorter and shorter lines of text and shorter words to hurry the pace up. I am not saying that this sort of technique is entirely appropriate or needed within a Medievian tale, but that this is the sort of effect that can be attained.
Humour in a story helps but a funny story is very, very hard to write. A series of one-liners strung together by unlikely events is not too hard, although a good shaggy-dog tale is much better (dependant on poersonal taste, of course - this type of tale is not to everyone's liking). If you are set on writing a humourous tale, always try the tale on others and see their reactions. If people don't get the joke or just shrug and say it's not that good then that's a good guide to its likely reception on Mudslinger. A purely humour story can be very hard to write but a serious tale can be improved by a small humourous element within it - Shakespeare used this dramatic technique many a time within his tragedies to avoid peoples' sense of the sorrow from being dulled. Admittedly most tales are not going to be of five acts length, but it is an option to consider. Try it out and consider how it affects the tale - you can always remove it should the aspect not fit.
Anachronisms/technological advancements are not something that will make for a good tale. The tale may be a good standalone story, but would risk detracting from the Medievia world as people would want to know why they couldn't do the things the story characters did. A story character inventing a steam engine would be very poor as it would impose a development on the Medievia storyline whereas an alchemist failing time and time again to get the steam engine right (eg a blackened face peering out of the roiling smoke...) would be amusing. The game is Medieval in genre and Fantastical in system (spells and creatures used for commerce/combat).
Multi-part stories are accepted, but first have a good idea of what is going to be written into each part. Make a synopsis of the events of each section and use this as part of your initial submission to Excrucior. For multi-part stories please try and get the separate sections submitted to as close to each other as possible - people will often forget what has happened in previous sections if several weeks have gone by. As a personal note - if you have started a multi-part story, can you finish it please? There have been a number of tales started and not finished - this irks me greatly.
Length of fiction is dependant on how the tale evolves. If the tale is a good one then a short one will do whilst a mediocre tale of great length may be rejected on grounds of being boring. If unsure then get others to check it - preferably someone who will give you an honest opinion as the main readers of the piece will be Medievians and more than a few are lacking in tact. Length is a good thing but quality is more important.
These articles are much more straight-forward and rely on actual information within the game. However, some articles are not going to be accepted as they provide too much information - for example an article that details how to work through the Temple of Bloodstone in minute detail would not be accepted. People need to have something to work on, or what would the purpose of the game be?
Generally just stick to overall aspects of your topic with some in depth detail - information such as the number of HP a Catacombs Bloodweed has and what sort of damage to expect from it every round would be too much detail, whilst saying that (for example) the Catacombs Bloodwweed is a relatively easy kill, fairly easy to use energy drain on and doesn't hit too hard (always try and relate things to similar aspects of the topic) would be more acceptable. Exact information is sometimes available on clanpages but the game page is not going to tell you exactly how to do something.
Split information into relevant sections and subdivide as necessary. Give an introduction to the topic as well as a conclusion. Personal anecdotes have a place in these articles but only as a small element - stick to your main topic.
Most importantly, get your facts right. Could there be anything more embarassing than having an article rejected for a minor mistake? Or having players link you to explain some error that was missed? It's for your own good and self respect...
Poetry and Med-modified songs have started to become popular on Mudslinger (cough). The ordinary poetry can be in Free Verse or Rhyme and Scansion. Free Verse is distinguished by general lack of rhyming scheme and uneven line length - personally I disapprove, but each to their own. More standard verse is the rhyming sort where the general rules are to keep rhyming lines of the same number of syllables and to have a regular rhyming scheme. The easy part is to get words that rhyme - the hard part is to get those words which are relavent to the topic and rhyme. Often, I find a particular rhyme will dictate how a verse progresses and give ideas on the direction it takes.
However, in both these types of verse you should have an idea of a poem to work on, whether this be inspired by some Med event or a few lines of rhyming verse that occurred to you at some point. - My personal favourite style is the Med-modified verse/song. This is where a piece of work by some other author is modified into a Medievia based work with Medievian concepts inserted and made into a tale of its own. Main hints on this:-
Is this Med-modified the best type to try? It has advantages in that you have a basic framework to build your work upon, but you have to work within that framework. It has restrictions but, if done properly, can be very well received.
A verse style piece of work is something I would recommend anyone to try, at least once. A poet is usually born rather than made and you may surprise yourself. Writers of fiction are similar in this aspect but not the same extent by any means - poetic endeavours are (in my opinion) the hardest type of article to do well. Yes, I'm boasting :P
In conclusion, there are few hard and fast rules to getting an article in Mudslinger. If an article is good, it will be accepted, if not then it will be rejected. Learn from any errors and live with it. Rejection once does not mean rejection next time once a different/improved article is completed. Please keep in mind, however, that different people have different abilities and that some people are better players than Mudslinger contributors. Don't spam Soleil or Excrucior with endless versions of the same idea - like all people they have real lives as well and thus time is limited.
These suggestions are not the hard and fast rules of having a contribution accepted but should give a general idea on what works and what doesn't. I have tried to give an overview based on my reading of many scripts on Mudslinger and, although I acknowledge some bias on my part in several areas, I believe I have a good general idea of what is a good article and what isn't. Feel free to ignore my advice where appropriate - sometimes something works and sometimes it doesn't.