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The Art of Sims Storytelling
Below the cut is a before and after (using that very handy CTRL + 5 trick in TAB mode!). I'm shaken to my core.
As for writing tips, I've been trying to think of this all day... (these are my own opinions and suggestions, and as usual, aren't ultimate:)
- Keep a list of all your subplots and main plot threads, so you don't forget to resolve them before the ending.
- Do not be afraid to use more basic speech descriptions like said, replied, asked etc. I find a lot of the time the longer ones can bog down the pace of the dialogue if they're used too often.
- During your chapter-creating process, make sure at least one thing is different by the end of the chapter than the start. Doesn't entirely go for chapter stories since some challenge periods can go with little change in terms of progress, but moreso for narrative stuff, could always be like: we learn something about a character, the storyline has moved forward, a change in relationships between characters / factions etc.
- Don't compare yourself to other writers, everyone's got their own way of doing something. Stealing little bits here and then from other writers is fine, but don't get bogged down by wishing you were 'as good as' someone else. That's a toxic hole to try and dig yourself out of X_X
It's been fascinating, and honestly, just a little bit intimidating, to see the work and thought you all put into your screenshots. Thank you for pulling back the curtain and showing how you go about it.
@SnowBnuuy You raised a couple of points that I find myself tripping over. I am a rewrite queen. Every chapter of my stories goes through at least two major rewrites. The biggest point you raised that I'm guilty of is trying to avoid using the phrases, 'X said' or 'X replied'. In the back of my mind there is always this feeling that I'm writing like a child not an adult. To work past that when I'm reading something by one of my favorite authors I'm trying to make myself consciously track how often they use those simple descriptions.
Under The Tartosan Sun
Schemes and Dreams
I've also given up trying to do this overly ornate language. When I was younger I used to agonize over the most beautiful way to say something, the best metaphors to use but it wasn't me and it was spoiling the fun. I've read and enjoyed many books that have plainer language and don't take two pages to describe a tree, so I guess that means we're off the hook. I made a conscious effort to write Lucky Girl in the present tense because of this actually, because it forces you into the action. Everything moves at a certain pace and there's no time to go on and on about everything and jump around through time. I'm not allowed to look at Evie's story with any hindsight or to project anything onto her, which is cool, because it means she just gets to live and be young and there's no sense that she's looking back over her own decisions later in life and casting judgement over them.
Other rules I have are that I must avoid cliché and one dimensional characters - nobody is allowed to be just evil, they have to have redeeming qualities. Equally nobody is allowed to be just good, because everybody is flawed. I also have to listen to what the characters want, and do what they'd do, not what I'd do in any given situation. If they're not the type to blow up at someone and have a shouting match, they're never going to do that even if it'd be the easiest way to resolve something. I like to avoid explosive anger in general, actually, partially because my characters are generally just not that direct, but partially because it's way more of a challenge to resolve conflict in other ways.
Also I'd definitely always proof read, and make sure to check that I'm staying on the point and not drifting off and following every thread.
And of course a big NO to comparing myself to others, it's so easy to do this but it's just an inspiration killer. I feel like if you think too much about it you'll psych yourself out and stop doing it. It's happened me before a few times and it's not cute
Under The Tartosan Sun
Schemes and Dreams
Under The Tartosan Sun
Schemes and Dreams
@hellohannah2 and @DaniRose2143 Oh yeah I get you. Everything we were taught about creative writing growing up, I don't use a good 90% of it in adulthood. The minute I stopped caring about what made writing good I actually got better because I wasn't worrying about the very specific rules about writing I found on a Tumblr blog... honestly moving away from obsessing over writing blogs somehow did me a favour. : P For me, whether or not I use flowery language depends on who's speaking. The rare occasion I write in third person, it's very plain. The only things I look up now are necessary research things, and things to avoid like harmful stereotypes when I'm writing outside of experience.
I get you. I try to go careful about how I discuss overly-ornate language as you put it since it sometimes causes upset, but most of the time when it comes to third person it's not something I'm into much as a personal preference. Still, each to their own and there's a time and
One of my big issues ATM is, on this laptop it keeps randomly double-typing letters every now and again. I should probably set some time aside to proofread Divided, it's probably full of them!
@DaniRose2143 Unfortunately, getting Re/GShade to work on a Mac may be nearly impossible. I have a Mac (M1) and a gaming PC, and I have not been able to install any shaders on my Mac but the last time I tried was six months ago. There may have been updates since. With an Intel Mac, theoretically, you should be able to use Re/GShade if you run the game through Windows via Bootcamp/Crossover or something similar.
For Photoshop users, I recommend using the subject selection tool if you want to blur out the background and didn't do it in game. There may be some clean up required, but it's almost just as quick as Re/Gshade and it's definitely quicker than rebooting the game and reshooting the scene. Lightroom is slightly faster than Photoshop because almost everything works similarly to Photoshop actions in Lightroom. If you have Lightroom because it came with your Photoshop, I would recommend playing around with it.
1 - My writing process is constantly changing, but I still do gameplay first. While I play the game, I take a lot of screenshots, perhaps 3 times as many as I'll actually use. I'll often do the same shot with two different Re/GShade settings and various lighting because when I'm playing I rarely know how I'm going to frame the scene when I write about it. Before I simply played the game and took a screenshot--the simple method is probably best for those who are less interested in their images. The game generally looks fine as it is. Good Simlit doesn’t require pretty screenshots at any rate.
2 - After I play the game (much much later), I sort out the significance of what happened, and try to create a dialog that matches a) the speech or thought bubbles that I captured and b) what happened before and after I took those shots in game. My posts are always far behind my actual gameplay.
3 - I generally keep a running list or outline of events/plot points that occur based on my screenshots, but I never take detailed notes.
4 - This isn't true of my earlier chapters, which are fairly simple and to the point, but now I rewrite each draft a lot. The game always does odd things, so I spend time trying to think of reasons for what it is doing and I often feature Sims that I have zero control over (for those who read my legacy, I have NO control over the Fiers' butler). It takes a while for me to sort out something that makes some sense. I enjoy the challenge of turning the game and the mess of screenshots that I have into a narrative. I also always include references to outside things for fun, which take time to figure out as well. My execution is never perfect, but I work on each chapter for a bit while trying to keep my word count down. Then, "time's up" and I need to post it. There will always be a part of each chapter where I’m like “ohh… that’s a bit off. I’m curious to see how it’ll be received.”
With writing, I try to be understood first and foremost. If I think I can generally be understood and it’s not too long, I allow myself some flourishes on top of that.
Under The Tartosan Sun
Schemes and Dreams
@Velvet_Lilies Have you ever made a custom pose? If not, you would need to get comfortable with Sims 4 Studio and a 3D modeling program such as Blender 3D (what I use). But basically, Studio has an option to export any in-game animation (you can get the name of the animation from the same list you use for "pose by name"). Then you open it up in Blender go through it frame by frame, choose the frame you want, delete all the rest of them and re-save it and add it to a pose package, the same as any other custom pose. Slightly time consuming, but way less aggravating that trying to time several different sims' animations just right. The Sims 4 Studio website might have a tutorial on it. I can't remember if they do or not.
I haven't heard too much about overuse of "said" so far but what I've heard about is people trying to eradicate the word "very". Like instead of writing "very tired", write "exhausted". Pretty basic overall but I feel like it has always helped me, without making me feel forced to use crazy vocabulary. And it's kind of funny because not too long ago I actually installed a mod in my game that would rename emotions that way. "Very Happy" becomes "Elated", "Very Flirty" becomes "Passionate", "Very Sad" becomes "Depressed" and so on.
@GlacierSnow I used to, back when I wrote stories with the Sims 3. I haven't done it in years but I should be able to get back into it! I bet it's time consuming, I think it's the main reason why I've never gotten back into custom poses. It reminds me too much of a dark period of my writing hobby when I became too much of a perfectionist and tried to micro-manage so much I would try to make custom poses for every. single. image of my story
I'm going to look around a bit to see if anyone ever thought of making a "freezing" mod, just to freeze a sim in place. If anything like this exists, it will solve all of my problems haha
I've actually been doing that sometimes, trying to use 'very' less unless it makes sense that the character would use that word at a certain point. I find it can often lower the impact of a scene that's meant to be emotional in some way, I think the examples you provided with the emotions mod are good.
I also want to thank @hellohannah2 for your list of sims.add_buff codes. I tried to use the nausea code but unfortunately I couldn't get it to work. Maybe I have a mod that conflicts with the code.
It is quite interesting to read what is being written about the language. As a non-English speaker, I agreed with myself a long time ago that I just had to start writing no matter how incorrect my language is. It probably doesn't get any better that google translate sometimes has some crazy translations. I can only hope to catch the worst mistranslations.
As a child I loved hearing my grandmother read me stories. She was Dutch and her way of pronouncing the Danish words was therefore quite crooked and very fascinating.
I am quite full of admiration when I read about the creativity and effort many of you put into your pictures. Both custom poses and GShade often attract me, but I have come to the conclusion that I must stick to my style in order not to end up in a perfectionistic nightmare that will completely stop my creative prosses and my desire to play.
When it comes down to it, I think that the greatest charm of Simlit is that the different writers have such a recognizable and personal style.
- Click on the computer
- Choose "MC Command Center"
- Choose the first option: "MCCC Settings..."
- Second option: "Gameplay Settings..."
- Fifth option should be Game Time Speed
- It shows this window. As you can see mine is set to 50 when the default is 25 (higher value = slower time)
Once you've clicked OK you'll get a notification telling you that the game needs to restart for this setting to activate.
What do you think defines your personal storytelling style? What aspects of your work do you consider your personal 'trademarks' as a storyteller? (Can be in terms of writing style, characters, screenshots / style of screenshots, common tropes or themes that appear and whatever else comes to mind.) (I hope this makes sense...)
For me I think my 'trademark' things that come up a lot in my work is:
- Trauma is always a common theme across all my works, mainly to do with familial issues but not always. On top of that, there's often a lot of dealing with poor mental health in one way or another. My intent is to try and portray things as realistically as I can with either a level of research or personal experience- instead of in a way that's comedic or glamorised or ...shudder... the 'beautifully broken' thing...NO THANK YOU.
- Loss of control is another big theme, moreso in the Magic stories. It seems so simple but it's always scary to think about, no amount of 'relax, you are never in control' pretty mindfulness calligraphy can ever fully convince someone that everything will be fine and dandy even when you can't take the wheel and that's the fun part to write about (esp. with the vampires and werewolves.)
- Deep feelings of guilt, forgiveness and redemption are also common themes across my stories, but played with in the sense that it's not giving cheesy outlooks on the subject. Some folks do learn to forgive, but it's also the case that sometimes it's okay to not forgive, and that guilt or last-minute apologies don't change the fact you've made terrible decisions that have likely hurt many people.
- Prejudice almost always comes up, across both the Aliens universe and the Magic universe, but moreso in the Magic universe it's not always as simple as one group versus another. Sometimes like in real life, there are people that are willing to jeapordise their own group to get ahead somehow. There are people who will create tiers of importance within their own shoved-aside group to feel 'above' the others, like when some bloodline spellcasters tried to basically say ascended casters weren't real spellcasters and so on.
- Another common archetype especially in the Magic universe is the 'dark feminine' character. She's not well behaved, she's not always nice, definitely not a pacifist, she doesn't play by the rules, and she also (hopefully) makes a femme reader question their own possible sometimes-dark thoughts related to femininity. Despite having zero connection to femininity it's still fun to write such characters. There's a lot more of this in the current story due to its historical nature.
- Wholesome chapter title, but the actual chapter content is as far from wholesome as you can get. XD (It was Yimi who told me this one : P )
- A major character dying or nearly dying on every chapter uploaded near, or on, a joyful IRL public holiday : P
- There's always at least one 'trans character who thinks they could take on a deity in a fistfight and win' and it's such a specific archetype for it to come up as much as it has! : P
- Goth/alt characters. Goth/ alt characters everywhere.
If I had to choose some odd quirks I've noticed over the years of varied writing:
1. Lot of scenes involving food
2. My own personal interests seeping through in the form of character interests
3. Changing character POV a lot (think of it like the story itself saying 'Meanwhile...')
4. Picking on characters I don't particularly like
5. Trying to use different descriptive adjectives with actions the characters do (this may tie in with the earlier 'said' discussion a bit, since I try not to get too weird with certain words).
Part One(Complete 9/24/16) /Part Two(on hold)/Short Stories(on hold)/Twinbrook 1996(on hold)/Ten Crystal Hearts (on hold)
I own the TS3 Store as of 12/11/16 (sort of. It's complicated)
My trademark style
Ostentatious displays of wealth.
Screenshots that include thought and speech bubbles. Example:
Subtle symbolism. Ironically, because I also include a lot of over-the-top things, this may go unnoticed but my more recent chapters reference history, music, literature, things in game, etc.
Small things: I love punctuation. My Sims aren't tied to a location based on real life. My tone is often sarcastic/satirical.
I'm leaving out themes/tropes because they're potential spoilers.
When I sit down and really think about it I can only come up with two elements that I would call trademarks.
- LGBTQIA topics. The old adage is write about what you know, and I took it to heart here. Those topics are the easiest for me to write because they are familiar.
Beyond those two I can't really think of anything I would call a trademark. I suppose you could say my stories having almost exclusively female lead characters is a trademark. You could also say it's poor story building. Under The Tartosan Sun has two male leads and four female leads. The supporting cast is almost entirely female. Schemes and Dreams only has one male lead, two if you include Mimi. Even in their androgynous off stage persona, Mimi has a feminine aesthetic and energy.
I was going to say positive female friendships is a trademark, but Schemes and Dreams will put the lie to that statement. There will plenty of negative relationships between the ladies in that story to go along with the positive ones.
Under The Tartosan Sun
Schemes and Dreams
1. Fast paced dialogue. I like writing short, snappy sentences when people are talking. I'm heavily influenced by sitcoms and dramas with quick fire wit or short, memorable lines. String a few of them together between characters and I create a more dynamic scene with the back and forth. This form of writing also allows me to dispense with a lot of exposition or inner monologue as the information is imparted via conversation and if you make each character voice distinctive the reader gets a better sense of who they are.
2. Getting under the skin of the characters. I treat the characters in the game like I'm casting for a film or TV show. It starts with the look but then I imagine how they sound, what words or phrases do they use regularly, and instead of listing their likes or dislikes or creating elaborate backstories before I write them into the story I go from a few bares bones ideas, broad sketches really, and develop their characters once they start interacting with the world. Something happens and they'll react to it...but how? It's in experiencing the unknown, challenging the chaos in the world, where their personalities shine through. I know my regular characters well enough now to anticipate their reactions to most situations.
A real challenge has been how to write the official pre-generated characters? I made a decision right at the start not to do away with them or replace them with my own characters but instead retcon them to the story. But how to take characters I didn't create and develop their own stories and personalities based on a one paragraph description in their bios but remain in canon with the Sims world? I've received a lot of positive feedback about my interpretation of the Landgraabs, the BFFs and Lilith Pleasant in Sim 66. Nothing I've written with them has broken canon...I hope. I could go on and on about how I developed each individual character but I'll spare everyone that!
3. One storytelling technique I've tried to incorporate is the idea that there's a thin line between comedy and tragedy. I like writing light hearted scenes and trying to extract comedy from the gameplay and story...but there's been times when I've flipped that quite quickly into something more sinister and serious. For example I had perhaps my go-to nervous, dorky but loveable character go from a light hearted situation of trying to impress his girlfriend and within a couple of chapters I had him becoming brainwashed into a surly, vengeful misanthrope. At other times I've had a comedy chapter and the next will be one involving a murderous conspiracy. I suppose it's because I can't make up my mind whether I'm a serious writer or not that I flip between the two styles.
4. Farce. I love a bit of farce. Misunderstandings, hubris and social awkwardness makes for good plots. I currently have a major character, who's a man, pretend to be two separate women without his wife knowing and one of those female alter egos has drawn the amorous attentions of Geoffrey Landgraab, who's married to a hot blonde lady but is somehow besotted with a plumper, brown haired lady who bears a resemblance to a male friend of his but he can't see the connection.
5. Gameplay driven storytelling. Sim 66 began as me writing up a gaming session of The Sims as a story and it's gone from there but still retains that core essence. About 30% of each chapter is set up and contrived by me, the rest is the game in action. I then make the connections and plot elements that arise from gameplay work as a narrative. This also helps to rationalise the more supernatural elements in The Sims: How do I write up events that involve aliens or ghosts? Do I ignore them or do I somehow find a justification as to why they're there?
6. Cinematic screencaps. By that I mean using Hollywood techniques when framing a shot. Start with a wide, establishing shot and then go in for close ups; dialogue over someone's shoulder, reverse of that shot, etc.
7. The costumes and look. Sim 66 is set in the Sixties and I think getting the Sixties look is part of the reason it has a following. It began as a half thought out idea; was there enough clothing in CAS to create a 60s look and could I set a story in a past time? I chose the 60s as it was one period I was familiar with, historically, that I thought could be fun to do. More than two years later and I've accidentally become an expert in the decade. I've watched so many films and TV shows from that era, started up a Pinterest list that now has around 2,300 images on it and downloaded so much 60s era cc that I can re-create so many outfits and looks from the Pinterest folder in the game now. Every outfit you see in the story has a real life basis. On the Sims of History Discord group I am now acknowledged as the expert in the 1960s and people come to me to ask questions...I never set out to be that guy but I've ended up as him. But so much of character building and scene setting is getting the character's outfits just right.
Read Sim 66 here:https://forums.thesims.com/en_US/discussion/978195/sim-66/p1
@haneul I'm glad you like my stuff ;-; I think you're right there. The over the top fight scenes, the motion blur... : P Oh yeah I had to do SOMETHING about those awful TS4 vanilla magic fights. Thank goodness for poses and CC creators..
For me I'd say those are your signatures as well, the sort of 'following their lives instead of being focused on goals' and also I love how much focus there is just on everyday life itself and the general ups and downs, something else I think is also a signature of @MonaSolstraale 's writing as well.
@rednenemon - I feel the thing on personal interests seeping in. Sometimes it doesn't come through as character interests as such, but You can usually easily tell what video game/s I'm hyperfixating on at the time by what happens in the stories and the inspirations behind the characters : P
@Kellogg_J_Kellogg - Your dialogue was always the first thing that struck me in Sim 66, it was realistic, fast-paced, it felt in place with the time period and also everyone had their own little dialogue quirks, it was fun. I also love there was a song at the end of a lot of the chapters as well that fit the theme of the chapter somehow.
@hellohannah2 - I absolutely loved the descriptions in your story of everything, it was so immersive! Another thing I felt was a trademark for you was the sense of dwelling on simpler, happier times as well. I think this is almost integral to the feminine (or at extension AFAB) experience, and I wish it wasn't but it's almost always constant rebuilding of the self, changing yourself for other people over and over and then having to fix it all in adulthood. It's just constant constant rebuilding I guess. but I love the way you write about that and that eventually they are doing it for themselves and not others. < 3
I agree with haneul on @SnowBnuuy ‘s story with you really putting effort in how your magic and supernatural scenes look. You’ve also gone all-out with editing lighting and colouring to make scenes look even better. The fantastical always feels fantastical 😄
@haneul I can definitely agree with your list, especially the second point. I’ve rarely seen such magnificent chambers and hallways and decorations and I’m the one that stars a royal family in her story, ha. I like the thought/speech bubbles in your chapters. Your moments of adding speech blurbs, too. Especially the latest ones with Asher (I haven’t gotten caught up all the way yet but you know which ones I mean) really drove some things home that otherwise would have been diminished.
I’m not properly caught up with a lot of stories, so I can’t comment there, but it’s still really fun to read where everyone differs and what overlap there might be between stories 😊
Perhaps our behind-the-scenes approaches should also be part of our signature/trademark styles. I've said this before, but I'm still not executing a plan. I'm playing the game and I only control one household (parents + their children who live with them). I will feature other Sims in various scenes and conversations, but it's just my Sims interacting with NPCs or me observing them. I gave a non-important example above, but I feel compelled to include speech bubbles to show that I'm not sabotaging any Sims or setting them up to be super lucky or 100% making things up, it's just what's happened. Sometimes, I will embellish things or add a screenshot/thumbnail that's a bit shady and that implies things that don't happen, but for me it's always game first, narrative that fits after.
Asher does name his daughter princess…
The music! I forgot about the music side of the story. I always try to slip in a pop song or background music from that time in each chapter. As you said, I try to make the song fit the chapter mood where possible. I do research into the charts for the particular week of the year the chapter is set in but I'm not beholden to that (besides, some weeks the top 50 is either AWFUL or repetitive from the previous week).
Read Sim 66 here:https://forums.thesims.com/en_US/discussion/978195/sim-66/p1