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Full Version: Shooting the Missile Down with Style (How to write turn descriptions)
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It came to my attention that nobody bothered mirroring this excellent thread on the new forums, so I did that. Please thank the wonderful Seventeenth Squid for writing the thing.

Reading recent PW matches, I find myself confronted by, in many cases, and appalling lack of good turn descriptions. Now, as many of you probably know, I really really like turn descriptions. Why? Turn descriptions are what sets picture wars turns apart from just drawing a picture. They are where most of the real story-telling goes on, even with good, readable sprites. It's hard to put any real emotion into a 20-pixel tall person, most of whom are wearing helmets or don't even have mouths. So, I decided to post a few tips about crafting a good turn description.

Goal of a Description:
A good turn description should, of course, describe what is happening in the turn you are posting. However, people often oversimplify this and post something like this:
Quote:Small force arrives, small gunships move to clear out those funny-looking boxes.
Ground troops arriving soon.
Sure, this explains what is happening in the turn. But does it  go beyond that in any way? No. A good description should not only explain the accompanying image, it should also add to the story and characterization of the match. A better version of this description could go something like this:
Quote:A small force of highbreed vessels drift towards the island, drawn by the sight of strange metal pods plummeting towards the ground. The commander of the expedition, Aso, watches from the top of his vessel through his looking glass as the pods plummet to the rocky island. Caution, it seems, would be advisable, he thinks. We do not know if they mean us harm. Aso shouts a command for the smaller craft to investigate while he pulls back to wait for the ground troops his superiors said would be arriving soon.
Not only does this description help enhance the narrative quality of the turn, it also adds a few concepts that could be expanded on in later turns; who are his superiors, and why are they on this island? Are they simply investigating the pods, or were they already coming to this island for their own purposes?

Nobody cares when Private 1493 gets his balls shot off by a sniper and dies halfway across the map. In fact, in most matches, not even the people standing right next to him seem to give a damn; half they time they don't even bother taking cover! By giving at least some units something resembling a personality or individuality, you greatly enhance the excitement generated by them taking action in a match. An example of this could be shown in the following turn:
Quote:The scout shoots a shot of oil over the stone while shrieking back a little
Flames and lasers
Ok, not only does this description not really make sense (shrieking back a little? "Flames and lasers" isn't even a sentence!) but it also has no impact at all. If a lump of stone stood up in front of you and CUT OFF YOUR ARM with a bladed hand, don't you think maybe you might react with a little more emotion? A more interesting description could go something like this:
Quote:The scout staggers back, booted feet slipping on stone covered in oil and his own blood, fountaining from his arm while he yells into his mic. The oil line snaking into the water from his other hand is severed along with his limb; the slick liquid sprays over the stone figure in gouts while his squadmates desperately fire their weapons at the abomination, trying to force it away from their frantic, stricken comrade.
This description definitely does a much better job of depicting the chaos and surprise of the golem's sudden attack, as opposed to the complete non-reaction of the original description.

Don't overdo it:
Sure, it adds a lot more impact to a unit's death if you feel like maybe he was something other than just a generic mook with no face, no name and no backstory. But if you have every soldier bleeding out sending his last message to his family, it gets too melodramatic and just feels corney. You need to strike a good balance between developed characters and more faceless ones. Sure, it adds a lot to have the grunts trade banter or nervously joke before dropping into a combat zone, but you need to keep the chatter limited to when it really matters or you'll have a description way longer than anyone wants to read. A good way to limit this is to have the match from the point of view of one character, and simply record only the things he sees and hears; this can really help build a sense of immersion without having to deal with a million characters.

Come on, at least try:
Ok, nothing annoys me more than people who just put no effort into their turn descriptions. Generally, these people don't make particularly great turn images either. A lot of people don't even bother posting descriptions for their turns. Sure, maybe all that's happening is a little exploring and some base building. But that's a good opportunity to throw in some backstory! Have the explorer banter with the builders at the base, have him remark on the alien landscape, or have him relaying his observations to command. Have the builders complain about their jobs, or add silly little things to their structures. Picture wars is bland, dull and completely uninteresting to read if you don't put any effort into your descriptions! Also, please please PLEASE check descriptions for spelling and grammar errors. We don't want to see this:
Quote:_///Pvt.Micheal Journal\\\_
\"They are try to shot the missile down!\"
\"Look closer soldier, they missed!\"
That description honestly had me crying from laughing so hard. Let's just look at it for a moment, shall we? First off, the grammar is just horrid. LOOK OUT THEY ARE TRY TO SHOT THE MISSILE DOWN! OH NOES! I mean, if English isn't you first language I could understand, but the rest of your posts seem to be alright so what went wrong? Second, what the soldiers are saying is just absurd. Would your first reaction to hearing gunshots while walking across an open field in plain sight be "Oh no, they're firing at our missile!" And would you reply to someone pointing out that fact by telling them that they're wrong? No! Both of those soldiers should be on their bellies behind cover! Finally, what kind of journal records word-for-word two lines of dialogue? Journals generally are written from the first person, with that person's thoughts and view on the situation. A journal-style description for this turn might go something like this:
Quote:Journal: Private Michael.
The first contact we had with the enemy was when the sergeant and I were crossing the field, heading towards the ruins to dig in. The boys in artillery had fired off a rocket to give us some cover while we crossed that potential killing ground, and I think it might have saved us. Rather than taking shots at us, they fired at the missile, buying us some time to dig in behind the pillar until we could get it secured.
If you wanted this same description in a normal dialogue/narrative style, it might be something like this:
Quote:\"Contact, sir! They're firing on the missile!\"
\"Damn it trooper, get in cover! Artillery! Fire off another shot, keep those bastards pinned down!\"

Well, I hope this helps or at least encourages people to put a little more effort into their text. It honestly makes the difference between poor matches and good matches, and good matches and amazing matches.
Thanks a lot, and to the original author, I'm new to this being on it for only eight hours now and this is good to know.
Well this here is great for us shitty writers.
Oh man, I remember reading this for the first time.  :allears:
This really helped, thanks.
this excellent thread is...
"picturewars.freeforums.org was removed for inactivity on Oct 1, 2013."
Well it's a good thing it was mirrored now wasn't it? :v:
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