Replayability

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Lucian Paul Smith

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Oct 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/1/98
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Recently, over on ifMUD, a bunch of us had a discussion about what makes
games replayable, and why. We tried to consider actual games we had
replayed, to keep us on track. You can read the entire transcript
(slightly edited for content) at:

http://www.bioc.rice.edu/~lpsmith/IF/replayability.html

Here's my summary of what we came up with, along with some more of my
thoughts:

First, there are two types of replaying that can happen with a game. The
first type is when you replay sections of the game during your first
game 'experience', defined as the amount of time stretching from when
you first start playing the game to the point at which you consider
yourself to be 'done' with it. This can involve any amount of the game,
from one small scene to start to finish. To make a cross-media analogy,
this would be like rewinding a tape to re-watch a particular scene in
slow motion, or even finishing a book (as I did once) and immediately
starting over from the beginning, because I knew there was so much I had
missed the first time. For ease of reference, I shall call this type of
replaying, "Iterative."

The second type of replaying happens when you come back to a game after
you're already 'done' with it. Again, you may play the whole game, or
you may play just scenes (though the latter is harder if you haven't
kept your saved game files). Again, for reference, I shall call this
type of replaying, "Re-visiting."

It is interesting to note that while the former type is much more common
in games than this latter, the reverse is true of more static media such
as films and books. More on this later.

Both Iterative and Re-visiting replaying can happen for a variety of
reasons. Here are some categories we came up with, along with the
definitions we gave them. Some of them overlap, naturally, but each
emphasises a different aspect:


Replaying for Mastery: The player's motivation in this type of replaying
is to assert their dominance over the game. This desire can take many
forms: to know every last nook and cranny, to have read every last
interesting response, to complete the game in the least number of moves,
to figure out a way to solve puzzle X *before* solving puzzles Y and Z,
to get the 'last lousy point' of the game, or even to find and exploit
every potential bug the programmer has left open. It was pointed out
that people are particularly taken to patterns, and that they will replay
a game for mastery sometimes to master a pattern--sometimes even if
there wasn't one!

Replaying for Completion: The player's motivation here is to see the
entire world the author has provided. In our discussion, we made a
distinction between 'Thoroughness' and 'Completion' but I'm no longer
convinced that there's a useful distinction there not already covered by
the Completion/Mastery distinction, so I'm throwing them back together
here. Whether you could have seen something and just didn't the first
time through, or whether some of your decisions prevented you from
seeing certain other sections, then, we'll call that 'Completion.'
Replaying 'Grip' or 'Tapestry' just to see the parallel paths, then,
would fall under this category, as would replaying 'She's Got a Thing
for a Spring' just to see what Bob did all day.

Note that some of the same things can be accomplished in replaying for
both Mastery and Completion--the difference is in the player's
motivation to do so. One would harldly claim to have 'mastered'
Tapestry before playing through all the paths, but aside from that draw,
you could experience in Tapestry a sense of not being 'done' until you
had played through all the possibilities.

Replaying for Impact: The player motivation here is to see how they can
manipulate and color the world the author has provided through their
actions. This is often attempted through dialogue: Whizzard mentioned
replaying the dialogue in Monkey Island to see what different changes he
could effect (until he discovered that the answer generally was: not
much). Adam mentioned how in his work-in-progress (Pantheon) and, to a
lesser extent, I-0, the way conversations progressed early in the game
could make a difference in the way things turned out later on. I
personally remember how, in 'Spider & Web,' the feel of the game was
greatly modified by whether I tended to answer glibly, lie a lot, or
refuse to answer the questions posed. The impact here must be noticable,
but it may be slight--the main story can progress along the same major
plot, just be colored differently.

Replaying for Experience: This is the most different from all of the
above options. While the motivation in the rest is for the player to do
something different this time through, the motivation when replaying for
experience is just to see the same stuff again, because you liked it.
The clearest example of this we came up with was re-playing an old game
for nostalgic purposes. I've re-played the old Zorks several times,
just because they were my first games. For Whizzard it was Wishbringer.
For Jarb it was Dungeon on a LA32. Other examples are more rare, but do
exist. In a later conversation (not in the transcript, unfortunately)
Ventura mentioned that he replayed Mercy several times over the course
of a month, for no specific reason he could pinpoint--it was just an
experience he needed to relive. I recall a newsgroup post claiming that
they played AMFV about twice a year, just so they wouldn't forget its
message.

----------

Interestingly, when we compared replayability of games with
rereadability of books, the same aspects emerged--but in a different
ratio. Books, in general, have a very high 'experience' factor, and a
much lower amount of the other three. Also interesting was the fact
that 'Re-visiting' replaying usually happened for experiential reasons--
and again, that's the kind of reaction people often have towards books.
Part of that experience is encoded in the stories, characters, and ideas
therein--all aspects that are either hard to do in IF, traditionally
neglected, or both.

The other factors, while often catering to the same desires (Mastery
and Completion, mostly), are often met in very different ways. This is
usually found in aspects of the book that you didn't 'catch' the first
time through: unnoticed foreshadowing, cross-references, allusions,
and even missed jokes. It may be a particularly effective technique to
fold some of these aspects of traditional literature into standard IF
motifs that cater to the Completion desire: cross-referencing one path
in its parallel path, for example, or foreshadowing future events in an
out-of-the way location that the player isn't required to visit to
finish.

Of course, in any static media, you can never Impact the story yourself.
This is the greatest strength (as well as the greatest challenge and
pitfall) of interactive media. I find it very interesting, though, that
people claimed to not need *much* impact on the story--just *some*.
Enough to flavor it to taste. And even with all our puzzles, I don't
think we've begun to scratch the surface of our potential here, and it
bears some further investigation.

---------

In general, I believe it will be profitable if we, as authors, look to
what brings people back to games as well as to more traditional
literature. I hope the classifications above might help people
organize their thoughts about some of the issues involved. We might
even have an official MUD forum on the subject in the future, possibly
some time after the competition. Until then, as we say, "Wave!"

-Lucian

Drone

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Oct 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/1/98
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In article <6uuulu$bob$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul
Smith) wrote:

> [snip] an interesting but perhaps overly structured analysis

I think it's very simple. People replay when they want ... more.

So if you are the author and you want them to replay you have to make them
want more, and then give them more.

Now, you might be able to categorise and catalog all the myriad ways of
making someone want more, and you might do a very complete job of it. But
someone will always come along and figure a new way to do it that isn't on
your list. And the best ways to do it generally won't appear on lists.

But if you know whatever you are doing is going to make them want more,
you can't go far wrong at all, even if you're way off any structured
analysis.

Writing is like DNA. It survives best if it contains the code for its own
replication.

Drone.

Andrew Plotkin

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Oct 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/1/98
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Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
> In article <6uuulu$bob$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul
> Smith) wrote:

> > [snip] an interesting but perhaps overly structured analysis
>
> I think it's very simple. People replay when they want ... more.
>
> So if you are the author and you want them to replay you have to make them
> want more, and then give them more.

True, but not very useful. The most reliable way to make people want more
is to define a formula, with lots of recognizable brand names, and then
churn out an endless stream of extruded formulaic product.

Of course then your audience will be made up of the kind of people who
like that kind of thing. Maybe that's what you were aiming for, but if
not, then this is not a very helpful approach.

An analysis of techniques can never be a complete list of The Ways To Do
It, but it can certainly be a good starting point for authors to think
about.

Also: I re-read books. This is obviously not because I want more; it's
because I want another look. This is a very different thing. How does this
affect your analysis?

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Doeadeer3

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Oct 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/1/98
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In article <foxglove-011...@dialin1316.toronto.globalserve.net>,
foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone) writes:

>But if you know whatever you are doing is going to make them want more,
>you can't go far wrong at all, even if you're way off any structured
>analysis.

Actually, I found Lucian's "article" very interesting. Authors need to think
about what works and what doesn't. And thinking in that way usually leads to
some kind of structured analysis (even if that analysis does not cover all
bases.) Then that analysis can become a starting point for further thinking.

I especially found this interesting.

> I find it very interesting, though, that
>people claimed to not need *much* impact on the story--just *some*.
>Enough to flavor it to taste.

That for replayability people didn't need to make tremendous differences in the
story (in reaction to them taking different actions or paths on replay), just
enough to see that they were having a different impact and maybe only changing
it slightly.

Made me think.

Doe :-)

Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

Lucian Paul Smith

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Oct 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/1/98
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Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
: In article <6uuulu$bob$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul
: Smith) wrote:

: > [snip] an interesting but perhaps overly structured analysis

: I think it's very simple. People replay when they want ... more.

: So if you are the author and you want them to replay you have to make them
: want more, and then give them more.

Wow. We are obviously coming from very disparate angles on this issue
because I don't understand these two sentences at all. What on earth do
you mean?

: Now, you might be able to categorise and catalog all the myriad ways of


: making someone want more, and you might do a very complete job of it. But
: someone will always come along and figure a new way to do it that isn't on
: your list. And the best ways to do it generally won't appear on lists.

Oh, naturally. My post was merely meant to be a springboard. If you're
*not* thinking along those lines, hopefully the post (and the discussion)
will help you start to think about it, and give you some solid starting
points. In order to stand on the shoulders of giants, you first have to
find the giants. Or, to put it another way, you have to learn the
rules first, and *then* learn how to break them.

: Writing is like DNA. It survives best if it contains the code for its own
: replication.

Once again, I have no idea what you mean. Could you elaborate?

-Lucian

Paul F. Snively

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Oct 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/2/98
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In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew
Plotkin) wrote:

>True, but not very useful. The most reliable way to make people want more
>is to define a formula, with lots of recognizable brand names, and then
>churn out an endless stream of extruded formulaic product.

Hmmm. You mean, for example, like consulting with Joseph Campbell to learn
all you can about the Hero Myth and then writing "Star Wars?" How about
reading "Reviving Ophelia," a current tome about how to "rescue" teenaged
girls from the stifling oppression of our culture, and then writing a story
about the Titanic disaster that features... a young man rescuing an
oppressed young woman? Oh, and the young man literally sacrifices his life
for hers, of course, so the Messiah Myth dovetails neatly in there... and
it becomes the first movie to break $1 billion at the box office.

Let me remove my tongue from my cheek long enough to ask: where does the
line between "relying on archetypal myth patterns" (Hero Myth and Messiah
Myth and the lot--once again, cf. Joseph Campbell) and "define a formula,


with lots of recognizable brand names, and then churn out an endless stream

of extruded formulaic product" get drawn?

Paul

--
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Paul Snively
<mailto:ch...@mcione.com>

"I had the sense, too, of the illicit side of the casbah, of a kind of
trade in human (or, in this case, executive) flesh." -- Michael Wolff,
"Burn Rate"

Andrew Plotkin

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Oct 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/2/98
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Paul F. Snively (ch...@mcione.com) wrote:
> In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew
> Plotkin) wrote:

> >True, but not very useful. The most reliable way to make people want more
> >is to define a formula, with lots of recognizable brand names, and then
> >churn out an endless stream of extruded formulaic product.

> Hmmm. You mean, for example, like consulting with Joseph Campbell to learn
> all you can about the Hero Myth and then writing "Star Wars?" How about
> reading "Reviving Ophelia," a current tome about how to "rescue" teenaged
> girls from the stifling oppression of our culture, and then writing a story
> about the Titanic disaster that features... a young man rescuing an
> oppressed young woman?

That *isn't* the reliable path. That's the risky path.

Star Wars was not a brand name when it made it big. Neither was Titanic.
I'd argue (out of SF loyalty and Titanic annoyance :-) that Star Wars was
more genuinely original, but Titanic had *something* to it, not least a
tragic ending. (I like the comment that "Of course kids are grabbed by
Titanic -- some of them have never seen a movie where the hero doesn't
wind up standing on top of the heap! (Heap of twitching bodies,
usually.)")

Now, find the archetypical myth pattern in "Sweet Valley High". Or
"Animorphs", which I believe has been publishing a new book *per month*
for a couple of years now.

> Let me remove my tongue from my cheek long enough to ask: where does the
> line between "relying on archetypal myth patterns" (Hero Myth and Messiah
> Myth and the lot--once again, cf. Joseph Campbell) and "define a formula,
> with lots of recognizable brand names, and then churn out an endless stream
> of extruded formulaic product" get drawn?

Somewhere between Timothy Zahn's first and seventeenth Star Wars spinoff
novel.

Drone

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Oct 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/2/98
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In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew
Plotkin) wrote:

> Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
> > In article <6uuulu$bob$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul
> > Smith) wrote:
>
> > > [snip] an interesting but perhaps overly structured analysis
> >
> > I think it's very simple. People replay when they want ... more.
> >
> > So if you are the author and you want them to replay you have to make them
> > want more, and then give them more.
>

> True, but not very useful. The most reliable way to make people want more
> is to define a formula, with lots of recognizable brand names, and then
> churn out an endless stream of extruded formulaic product.
>

> Of course then your audience will be made up of the kind of people who
> like that kind of thing. Maybe that's what you were aiming for, but if
> not, then this is not a very helpful approach.
>

No that's not what I was aiming for, but I believe it is helpful to keep
squarely in mind the point of any technique. The kind of brand-name thing
you're talking about entices people in shallow ways. You can entice people
in more meaningful ways. But I'm of the belief that all good writing at
the very least entices. And when an author loses sight of that, you tend
to get the worst kinds of problems developing (technique without
understanding, literary masturbation, etc.)

I don't think you have any of these problems, so I believe that on some
level you agree with what I'm saying, and that if you think you don't,
then I'm probably not saying it quite correctly, so that it seems I'm
saying something more or something less or something else. But it's there,
and all good writers (I believe) know it.

> An analysis of techniques can never be a complete list of The Ways To Do
> It, but it can certainly be a good starting point for authors to think
> about.
>
> Also: I re-read books. This is obviously not because I want more; it's
> because I want another look. This is a very different thing. How does this
> affect your analysis?
>

I don't find it to be a different thing. I think you have to entice and
then to satisfy, and the better you do that, the more someone will re-read
what you did in order to experience that wonderful enticement/satisfaction
again in some way. It's part of the same enticement.

If you don't think that my analysis is useful, consider this. The
replaying of a game, and the rereading of a book seem, as LPS aptly
demonstrated, to operate in different ways. But if you look at it from my
point of view, I think you can see what the two things have in common
quite clearly.

Drone.

Drone

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Oct 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/2/98
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In article <19981001152814...@ngol05.aol.com>,
doea...@aol.com (Doeadeer3) wrote:

> In article <foxglove-011...@dialin1316.toronto.globalserve.net>,
> foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone) writes:
>
> >But if you know whatever you are doing is going to make them want more,
> >you can't go far wrong at all, even if you're way off any structured
> >analysis.
>
> Actually, I found Lucian's "article" very interesting.

Me too, and I said so.

> Authors need to think
> about what works and what doesn't.

I agree here.

> And thinking in that way usually leads to
> some kind of structured analysis (even if that analysis does not cover all
> bases.)

And here. But I don't think that thinking carefully about what works and
what doesn't *needs* to lead to a structured analysis. It can simply lead
to a momentary artistic decision, and the sum of these decisions can make
up artistic experience about what works and what doesn't. So the question
I often think about is, *should* it lead to a structured analysis? My
current personal answer to this is, no.

> I especially found this interesting.
>
> > I find it very interesting, though, that
> >people claimed to not need *much* impact on the story--just *some*.
> >Enough to flavor it to taste.
>
> That for replayability people didn't need to make tremendous differences
in the
> story (in reaction to them taking different actions or paths on replay), just
> enough to see that they were having a different impact and maybe only changing
> it slightly.
>
> Made me think.
>
> Doe :-)
>

I found that interesting as well. People will respond to subtle changes.
Perhaps the more subtle the story and characterisation, the more subtle
the player impact can satisfyingly be?

Drone.

Drone

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Oct 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/2/98
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In article <6v0v6a$kce$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul
Smith) wrote:

> Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
> : In article <6uuulu$bob$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul
> : Smith) wrote:
>
> : > [snip] an interesting but perhaps overly structured analysis
>
> : I think it's very simple. People replay when they want ... more.
>

> : So if you are the author and you want them to replay you have to make them
> : want more, and then give them more.
>
> Wow. We are obviously coming from very disparate angles on this issue
> because I don't understand these two sentences at all. What on earth do
> you mean?
>

> [snip]


>
> : Writing is like DNA. It survives best if it contains the code for its own
> : replication.
>
> Once again, I have no idea what you mean. Could you elaborate?
>

I'll give it a try, but once I'm started I'm likely to ramble so bear with
me. I studied a lot of literature, and after years of it, I started to
hate it. (The study, not the literature.) So I asked myself, why do I hate
these courses? What is it about them? C'mon, Paul (that's me), stop
farting around and think about it. Figure it out. So I did. What I hated
about the courses is that they were all about enumerating techniques for
doing X or Y, or producing A effect or B effect with Q imagery or the
famous R metaphor. What they weren't doing is studying what is 'good'.
What is 'good'? Sure this book does all that, but why is all that good?
I've seen those techniques in novels everyone knows are trash. So what's
the difference? So I answered this for myself. I don't know if this would
be your answer, but my answer was, 'good' writing is what makes the reader
want to read more of that writing.

It seems ridiculously simple but it's something nobody in a hundred
classes ever mentioned, or used as a starting point for a train of
thought. The train of thought is, one book will make the reader want to
re-read it, or read the next book (if there is one). One chapter will make
the reader want to read the next chapter. One *sentence* will make the
reader want to read the next. Or even, re-read that sentence.

It's all storytelling, at heart. The narrator raises questions, and
satisfies them deeply enough that the reader can expect similar
satisfaction from the next answered question, and wants to experience that
next question -- or experience the first again, and look for more ways to
think about it that produce more satisfaction. The more sophisticated the
reader, the deeper the satisfaction required to achieve this.

So you can raise a question about 'how will Indiana Jones get through
this' and answer it at the end of the scene, or you can raise a question
about 'what is the specific nature of the odd relationship between these
two characters' and answer it in a surprising and complex way that will be
more deeply satisfying than a simple plot point.

But whatever you do, however you do it, if you're doing the above, and
thinking carefully on that level, then I think you're okay. I think it'll
probably be good. That's (believe it or not) the quickest version of my
theory.

And from inside that perspective, it looks to me like there's not much
difference between play value and replay value or read value and re-read
value. They're the same thing.

So when I write, I don't enumerate techniques, I just measure the ideas I
come up with against the standard above, and intuitively take them or
leave them and look for more. And the more I write, the more experience I
build about how to (a) entice, and (b) satisfy.

These thoughts may be so simple and basic that they are, as Andrew said,
not useful, but I find them to be the most useful aid I've ever had in
writing. Perhaps I just need to lay out what everyone else takes for
granted.

Drone.

Mary K. Kuhner

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Oct 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/3/98
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Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> wrote:

>The train of thought is, one book will make the reader want to
>re-read it, or read the next book (if there is one). One chapter will make
>the reader want to read the next chapter. One *sentence* will make the
>reader want to read the next. Or even, re-read that sentence.

Not to disagree with you, exactly, but just to muddy the water some
more--

I fairly often start series (trilogy+) with the second book. One
conclusion I've reached in doing so is that my attitude at the end
of the second book is a pretty good predictor for whether the series as
a whole is going to be worth reading for me. If, at the end of book
2, I am somewhat interested in book 3 but have no interest at all in
going back and finding book 1, the series is not going to turn out to
be worth my while. If I'm eager to go back and find book 1, it might.

I think this test is related to re-reading. Some books tug you
forward with plot. They often don't have much to offer on re-reading
until so much time has passed that you've forgotten the plot: and
reading part 2 doesn't encourage reading part 1 (since its plot is
probably spoiled to some degree anyway). Others tug you not so
much forward as *in*, and these are more likely to repay re-reading
and reading out of order.

You can see the difference very clearly on rec.arts.sf.written:
a tug-forward-with-plot series generates tons of discussion until
the last volume is published, and then there's a sudden silence.
A tug-inwards book generates slow steady discussion for a much
longer time.

>And from inside that perspective, it looks to me like there's not much
>difference between play value and replay value or read value and re-read
>value. They're the same thing.

Empirically, though, for some readers there are books that are worth
reading, even intensely worth reading, but not re-reading; and books
that are not satisfactory on first reading, but improve with re-reading.
So there must be *some* difference.

I was quite bored with _Cyteen_ the first time I read it; it blossomed
remarkably for me the second time. Conversely, _The Forge in the
Forest_ pleased me a good deal on first reading, but I'm unlikely to
ever re-read it (I suspect I would be disappointed).

Circling back to IF, I gave high marks last year to Babel, Edifice,
Savannah, and Bear's Night Out, all of which seem highly replayable
(Edifice maybe the least): but also to L'Estrange and New Day,
which I don't think I'd be likely to replay, and to Sins Against
Mimesis, which I would *definitely* not be likely to replay.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Drone

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Oct 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/4/98
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In article <6v48rq$tjm$1...@nntp3.u.washington.edu>,

> I think this test is related to re-reading. Some books tug you
> forward with plot. They often don't have much to offer on re-reading
> until so much time has passed that you've forgotten the plot: and
> reading part 2 doesn't encourage reading part 1 (since its plot is
> probably spoiled to some degree anyway). Others tug you not so
> much forward as *in*, and these are more likely to repay re-reading
> and reading out of order.
>

This kind of difference is what I mean when I compare simple plot point
enticement (Indiana Jones-style) and deeper, subtler, more character-based
(or, I will add, world-based) enticement. I believe this difference is in
quality but that they are attempting the same thing. I would say *in*
includes *forward*, but not vice versa, and that *forward* is just too
shallow to pull anyone too far *in*.

> You can see the difference very clearly on rec.arts.sf.written:
> a tug-forward-with-plot series generates tons of discussion until
> the last volume is published, and then there's a sudden silence.
> A tug-inwards book generates slow steady discussion for a much
> longer time.
>

The second is definitely my favourite and I don't mean to advocate a
writing style that devalues or ignores it.

> >And from inside that perspective, it looks to me like there's not much
> >difference between play value and replay value or read value and re-read
> >value. They're the same thing.
>
> Empirically, though, for some readers there are books that are worth
> reading, even intensely worth reading, but not re-reading; and books
> that are not satisfactory on first reading, but improve with re-reading.
> So there must be *some* difference.
>

Yes, I suppose there must be. I guess I just don't think that the
difference is the result of entirely different categories of techniques --
but rather the result of the skill with which techniques are employed.
That distinction might seem academic, but I find it useful.

Drone.

Doeadeer3

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Oct 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/4/98
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In article <foxglove-021...@dialin653.toronto.globalserve.net>,
foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone) writes:

>I don't know if this would

>be your answer, but my answer was, 'good' writing is what makes the reader
>want to read more of that writing.

I wouldn't disagree.

But *more* is not very descriptive to me. And not all of us have spent a lot of
time analyzing literature.

So I don't mind when someone breaks *more* down into some kind of structured
analysis. That framework does not have to lead to formula writing and I can
reject or accept any part of that framework that I wish.

I usually reject things I don't agree with anyway. (Forget anyway, all the
time.) BTW - "Entice, draw forward and/or draw in" is also a structured
analysis.

Drone

unread,
Oct 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/4/98
to
In article <19981004062907...@ngol01.aol.com>,
doea...@aol.com (Doeadeer3) wrote:

> I usually reject things I don't agree with anyway. (Forget anyway, all the
> time.) BTW - "Entice, draw forward and/or draw in" is also a structured
> analysis.
>

Sure. But it isn't one of the 'catalog' kind. Anyway, I didn't introduce
the forward/in distinction: I tried to show how one is just a greater
degree of the other. So I was trying to 'unstructure' them.

Drone.

Doeadeer3

unread,
Oct 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/4/98
to

In article <foxglove-041...@dialin1469.toronto.globalserve.net>,
foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone) writes:

>Sure. But it isn't one of the 'catalog' kind. Anyway, I didn't introduce
>the forward/in distinction: I tried to show how one is just a greater
>degree of the other. So I was trying to 'unstructure' them.
>
>Drone.

Sounds to me like you are objecting to analysis. I tend to think most art work
(of all kinds) is overanalyized too.

It also seems to me Lucian and you are talking about two slightly different
things. He was reporting a discussion on the ifMud about why PLAYERS played for
more. You were talking about what the AUTHOR can do to make them want more.

Unless I am mistaken it also sounds you think overanalyzing can kill artistic
inspiration (i.e., artistic decisions). If that is what you are saying, I also
agree.

But any good artist also becomes conversant with the techniques of the
particular medium they are working in. Artistic endeavor then becomes a
combination of artistic inspiration and a masterful use of techniques.

Good art does not have one without the other.

Doe :-) (<... putting soap box away for now)

Drone

unread,
Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
to
In article <19981004143358...@ngol08.aol.com>,
doea...@aol.com (Doeadeer3) wrote:

> Sounds to me like you are objecting to analysis. I tend to think most art work
> (of all kinds) is overanalyized too.
>

Partly, yes. 'Structured' analysis is more what I object to, since it
tends to assume that the problem is structured, so that the answers can be
structured and put on a list. Sometimes the answer is a *way* of using
tools rather than a list of tools. Then structured analysis can only teach
by indirection. That's not valueless but it's what I find frustrating.

> It also seems to me Lucian and you are talking about two slightly different
> things. He was reporting a discussion on the ifMud about why PLAYERS
played for
> more. You were talking about what the AUTHOR can do to make them want more.
>

I guess where we differ then is in the belief that these last two
sentences describe different things. I don't share it.

> Unless I am mistaken it also sounds you think overanalyzing can kill artistic
> inspiration (i.e., artistic decisions). If that is what you are saying, I also
> agree.
>

Yes, with the above qualification.

> But any good artist also becomes conversant with the techniques of the
> particular medium they are working in. Artistic endeavor then becomes a
> combination of artistic inspiration and a masterful use of techniques.
>
> Good art does not have one without the other.
>

Yes, without qualification.

Drone.

Lucian Paul Smith

unread,
Oct 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/6/98
to
Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
: In article <19981004143358...@ngol08.aol.com>,
: doea...@aol.com (Doeadeer3) wrote:

: > It also seems to me Lucian and you are talking about two slightly different


: > things. He was reporting a discussion on the ifMud about why PLAYERS
: played for
: > more. You were talking about what the AUTHOR can do to make them want more.

: I guess where we differ then is in the belief that these last two
: sentences describe different things. I don't share it.

Certainly they achieve the same result, but I do believe that they are two
different beasts. My list contained player *motivations* to replay games.
I noted that the exact same authorial techniques can engender two
different motivations in two different people (although I may not have
been extremely clear on this point).

My intent was not to try to limit the author in terms of techniques they
might use, but rather to help elucidate what sorts of things brought
players back to their games. Presumably, while there might be a wide
variety of techniques, old and new, at the author's disposal, there is a
much smaller range of player motivations that bring them back. In fact,
you've reduced this set to just one, "They want more," and I've tried to
expand it to an only slightly longer list.

I also don't mean to imply that the list was necessarily complete. Adam
mentioned that there was a comp game that had a completely different
reason to replay it.

Thanks for your other post, BTW--I now understand a lot better where
you're coming from.

-Lucian

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to

Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> wrote in article <foxglove-

> I'll give it a try, but once I'm started I'm likely to ramble so
bear with
> me. I studied a lot of literature, and after years of it, I
started to
> hate it. (The study, not the literature.) So I asked myself, why
do I hate
> these courses? What is it about them? C'mon, Paul (that's me),
stop
> farting around and think about it. Figure it out. So I did. What I
hated
> about the courses is that they were all about enumerating
techniques for
> doing X or Y, or producing A effect or B effect with Q imagery or
the
> famous R metaphor. What they weren't doing is studying what is
'good'.
> What is 'good'? Sure this book does all that, but why is all that
good?

Good questions.

> I've seen those techniques in novels everyone knows are trash. So
what's

> the difference? So I answered this for myself. I don't know if


this would
> be your answer, but my answer was, 'good' writing is what makes
the reader
> want to read more of that writing.

Patently rediculous answer. Teen romances are resolutely popular.
They make people want to read more. Anybody who knows anything
about literature considers them rubbish, or at least that was my
impression.

I don't mean to be contentious, but I just can't agree with your
idea of what makes "good" writing. I think you've hit what
makes *popular* writing, and I don't believe for a moment that
good and popular are the same. (Nor are they mutually exclusive,
however.)

-- jonadab

(email the above name at bright.net)

Drone

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to
In article <01bdf1ae$b4d7ffa0$LocalHost@jonadab>, "Jonadab the Unsightly
One" <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:

> > I've seen those techniques in novels everyone knows are trash. So
> what's
> > the difference? So I answered this for myself. I don't know if
> this would
> > be your answer, but my answer was, 'good' writing is what makes
> the reader
> > want to read more of that writing.
>
> Patently rediculous answer. Teen romances are resolutely popular.
> They make people want to read more.

Not exactly. They make teens want to read more.

> Anybody who knows anything
> about literature considers them rubbish, or at least that was my
> impression.
>

The people who consider them rubbish don't want to read more.



> I don't mean to be contentious, but I just can't agree with your
> idea of what makes "good" writing. I think you've hit what
> makes *popular* writing, and I don't believe for a moment that
> good and popular are the same. (Nor are they mutually exclusive,
> however.)
>

I'm glad you added that last parenthetical point, since it shows we may
have some common ground. My test is not a binary on/off wanttoreadmore =
good. The deeper the enticement and the more complex and interesting the
satisfaction, the better I believe the writing is, and the more
sophisticated an audience it will be capable of enticing and satisfying.

So the consequence of this way of looking at it is that 'popular' writing
that entices shallowly is 'good' on a shallow level. I mean, you have to
admit it is successful at what it attempts. 'Deeper' writing would entice
(and satisfy! don't forget that part!) on a deeper level.

The only writing that gets left out in the cold is the type that doesn't
believe it has any duty to entice the audience. I'm guessing this is the
point you would object to the most. I don't really enjoy shallow writing,
but I have more respect for a well-plotted and paced shallow novel than a
supposedly 'deep' novel that alienates the readers, pouring forth
philosophy/symbolism/insert-deep-meaning-here onto the page with no
apparent attempt to maintain any kind of narrative/emotional through-line
that we can have some expectations (and god forbid suspense) about. I'm of
the belief that an author has to earn the right to hold forth
philosophically by accomplishing the job of riveting the reader's
attention first.

Once that attention is won, what the author does with that grace period
and the following moment of satisfaction can vary widely. Stephen King
wins your attention and then sets you up for an often cheap scare.
Shakespeare wins your attention and then sets you up for much much more.
But both of these authors share the belief that they have a basic duty to
the audience. I have more respect for both of them than for just about any
Beat writer you can name.

Drone.

Phil Goetz

unread,
Oct 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/8/98
to
In article <foxglove-041...@dialin713.toronto.globalserve.net>,

I disagree. The difference is intentional. A Tom Clancy or Robert
Jordan novel is not written without skill -- it is written quite skillfully,
but with the intent to be a completely absorbing read, with no regard to
re-readability (of which they have zero, IMHO).

Phil go...@zoesis.com

Drone

unread,
Oct 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/9/98
to
In article <6virn5$3n7$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,
go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:

So they entice, but they don't satisfy enough to make *you* want to
re-read them. That probably means the first read itself was not an
*unconditional* success for you as a reader. I just don't buy that
re-readability is a different art from the success of the first read. I
know a guy who has read every Tom Clancy book several times. Try to tell
him that the books are absorbing but not satisfying and you'll get an
earful. I find them initially absorbing but not satisfying. So I wouldn't
re-read them (truth be told, I wouldn't get through them the first time),
but there's no way I can see that situation arising without the first
reading being flawed.

Drone.

Phil Goetz

unread,
Oct 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/10/98
to
In article <foxglove-091...@dialin535.toronto.globalserve.net>,

I still disagree. I chose Tom Clancy and Robert Jordan because all their
books were REALLY absorbing. Much more absorbing and thrilling read than
the great books that I might re-read. I was like a drug junkie on Robert
Jordan: I couldn't get my work done, couldn't stop picking up those thick
books and reading, hating myself all the while for it. I cured myself of
Jordan only by listening to a severely abridged (about 1/10 length) version
of the 4th or 5th book on audiotape, which naturally sucked.

Whatever you call the property of
sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or
Shakespeare, IMHO. If your argument, that it is all a level of skill, and
that the thing that makes a book absorbing is the same quality that makes
it worth going back to, were true, I would have to conclude that Clancy
and Jordan were the better writers.

Phil

Joe Mason

unread,
Oct 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/10/98
to
Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> insribed:

>books and reading, hating myself all the while for it. I cured myself of
>Jordan only by listening to a severely abridged (about 1/10 length) version
>of the 4th or 5th book on audiotape, which naturally sucked.

Sorry, I probably shouldn't open this can of worms, but:

I can't see how cutting out 9/10's of a Jordan novel is a bad thing. They
dragged on so incredibly. The last or second-last that I read, had the
ENTIRE book follow Nynaeve and Elaine through the country in a carriage. The
beginning two or three chapters were great, the ending two or three chapters
were great, and the 9/10's in between repeated the same scene over and over
again: Nynaeve sitting in the carriage brooding. One scene of her brooding is
good, but do we really need a whole book of it?

I'm of the opinion that the Wheel of Time would be the best fantasy series ever,
if only Jordan had an editor that would make him cut each book by about half.
I'm serious about this.

Joe
--
I think OO is great... It's no coincidence that "woohoo" contains "oo" twice.
-- GLYPH

Drone

unread,
Oct 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/10/98
to
In article <6vnoj0$knh$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,
go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:

> [way too much to quote snipped]

> >So they entice, but they don't satisfy enough to make *you* want to
> >re-read them. That probably means the first read itself was not an
> >*unconditional* success for you as a reader. I just don't buy that
> >re-readability is a different art from the success of the first read. I
> >know a guy who has read every Tom Clancy book several times. Try to tell
> >him that the books are absorbing but not satisfying and you'll get an
> >earful. I find them initially absorbing but not satisfying. So I wouldn't
> >re-read them (truth be told, I wouldn't get through them the first time),
> >but there's no way I can see that situation arising without the first
> >reading being flawed.
> >
> >Drone.
>
> I still disagree. I chose Tom Clancy and Robert Jordan because all their
> books were REALLY absorbing. Much more absorbing and thrilling read than
> the great books that I might re-read. I was like a drug junkie on Robert
> Jordan: I couldn't get my work done, couldn't stop picking up those thick

> books and reading, hating myself all the while for it. I cured myself of
> Jordan only by listening to a severely abridged (about 1/10 length) version
> of the 4th or 5th book on audiotape, which naturally sucked.
>

> Whatever you call the property of
> sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
> Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or
> Shakespeare, IMHO. If your argument, that it is all a level of skill, and
> that the thing that makes a book absorbing is the same quality that makes
> it worth going back to, were true, I would have to conclude that Clancy
> and Jordan were the better writers.
>

See, I don't think they have more of it than Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare. I
think they have a different style of it. If you can't get away from seeing
the raising of interest in narrative as something that is purely the
province of plot, then you are naturally going to think of authors that
don't rely heavily on plotting to raise interest as somehow using another
technique for achieving 'goodness' other than 'raising interest and
satisfying it'. But if interesting you is not their goal then why are you
interested? And if satisfying you is not the successful result then why
shouldn't you hold up Clancy and Jordan as better writers?

It is true that plot-based enticement tends to have a bigger immediate
impact and a broader appeal, but more subtle forms of enticement (like
mysteries of character or mood) can be more satisfying. But then, those
subtle forms promise more, too. Neither type of writing (and I don't mean
to draw a sharp distinction - I think of it as a continuum) can be
considered good, IMHO, unless they make a promise and then deliver on it.
How much is promised and on what level, though, can vary from genre to
genre and writer to writer.

Anyway, I've stated it differently but I'm not sure if I've added anything
this time. We probably just aren't going to see eye-to-eye on this.

Drone.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Oct 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/11/98
to

Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote in article


> Whatever you call the property of
> sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
> Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or
> Shakespeare, IMHO.

That must depend heavily on the reader, since I would have
said (emphatically) the reverse.

Doeadeer3

unread,
Oct 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/11/98
to
(Phil Goetz) writes:

>Whatever you call the property of
>sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
>Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or

>Shakespeare, IMHO. If your argument, that it is all a level of skill, and
>that the thing that makes a book absorbing is the same quality that makes
>it worth going back to, were true, I would have to conclude that Clancy
>and Jordan were the better writers.

Hmmm. I think Stephen King usually does a *masterful* job of sucking the reader
in. He describes characters, emotions, locales well, sets up an intriquing
mystery. No matter what anyone thinks of his plots, the guy really knows how to
write. He does pull the reader, almost yanks the reader, *into* the characters.
However, I doubt I would call him a better writer than some of those you
mention.

Doe :-) Something more is involved in "better". (Not sure what I would *label*
it, though.)

Jeff Hatch

unread,
Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
to
Doeadeer3 wrote:

> Hmmm. I think Stephen King usually does a *masterful* job of sucking the reader
> in. He describes characters, emotions, locales well, sets up an intriquing
> mystery. No matter what anyone thinks of his plots, the guy really knows how to
> write. He does pull the reader, almost yanks the reader, *into* the characters.
> However, I doubt I would call him a better writer than some of those you
> mention.
>
> Doe :-) Something more is involved in "better". (Not sure what I would *label*
> it, though.)

I agree. Maybe "depth" or "meaning"? I'd say Stephen King has the most technical
writing skill of any author I've read, and Robert Jordan writes the most intricate,
clever plot. But I consider Tad Williams and Terry Goodkind superior, because I
saw my life differently after reading their novels. I think Williams, Goodkind,
Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky have more psychological insight and can create more
believable characters, or can develop characters more skillfully, even though they
don't present them as compellingly as Stephen King.

(And I think Stephen King writes some truly superb short fiction. His portrayals
of hope in _Shawshank Redemption_ and trust in "The Last Rung on the Ladder" are
moving. "The Ledge" and "Quitters, Inc." are clever and suspenseful.)

I no longer reread books unless they're truly special--there are too many good
books I haven't read yet. The only thing I've read twice as an adult is _Memory,
Sorrow, and Thorn_ by Tad Williams. (Other than to refresh my memory of a series
before reading the last book.)

Does this make sense? Do you know other ways to distinguish between exciting
fiction and "great" fiction?

-JJH

Phil Goetz

unread,
Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
to
In article <foxglove-101...@dialin1354.toronto.globalserve.net>,

Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> wrote:
>In article <6vnoj0$knh$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,
>go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:
>
>> Whatever you call the property of
>> sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
>> Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or
>> Shakespeare, IMHO. If your argument, that it is all a level of skill, and
>> that the thing that makes a book absorbing is the same quality that makes
>> it worth going back to, were true, I would have to conclude that Clancy
>> and Jordan were the better writers.
>
>See, I don't think they have more of it than Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare. I
>think they have a different style of it. If you can't get away from seeing
>the raising of interest in narrative as something that is purely the
>province of plot, then you are naturally going to think of authors that
>don't rely heavily on plotting to raise interest as somehow using another
>technique for achieving 'goodness' other than 'raising interest and
>satisfying it'. But if interesting you is not their goal then why are you
>interested? And if satisfying you is not the successful result then why
>shouldn't you hold up Clancy and Jordan as better writers?

A book has many dimensions. You seem to be saying that there is only one
dimension for judging a book, that of "goodness", and that it is identical
with "interest", and that all kinds of interest are the same.

I don't think you really mean that, but that's how I interpret it.
I am saying that there is a dimension of urgency, which Clancy and Jordan
are masters of, and that it is different from other dimensions which inspire
me to re-read a book or think about it after I've read it.

Sometimes I close a book, and say, "I'll have to think about that for a few
days," because the author has given me so much to think about that reading
more would be like ordering a second course when you're already full.
That is generating interest in a way that is at odds with generating
an urgent need to finish the book.

I've seen the same thing in computer games. _Diablo_ and _Tetris_ are the
gaming world's equivalent of a Clancy novel. Shallow yet addictive.

Phil

Phil Goetz

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Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
to
In article <19981011170413...@ngol01.aol.com>,

Doeadeer3 <doea...@aol.com> wrote:
>
>In article <6vnoj0$knh$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>, go...@cse.buffalo.edu
>(Phil Goetz) writes:
>
>>Whatever you call the property of
>>sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
>>Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or
>>Shakespeare, IMHO. If your argument, that it is all a level of skill, and
>>that the thing that makes a book absorbing is the same quality that makes
>>it worth going back to, were true, I would have to conclude that Clancy
>>and Jordan were the better writers.
>
>Hmmm. I think Stephen King usually does a *masterful* job of sucking the reader
>in. He describes characters, emotions, locales well, sets up an intriquing
>mystery. No matter what anyone thinks of his plots, the guy really knows how to
>write. He does pull the reader, almost yanks the reader, *into* the characters.
>However, I doubt I would call him a better writer than some of those you
>mention.
>
>Doe :-) Something more is involved in "better". (Not sure what I would *label*
>it, though.)

Right, that's what I'm getting at. There is no "better". There is one
thing that Clancey and Jordan and King are great at, and it is often at
odds with the things that what we thing of as "great" writers are great at.

(Though I do find myself thinking about Stephen King books a lot more than
I do about Jordan or Clancy books, and my measure of a book's greatness
is how often I am reminded of it afterwards.)

And I don't think some writer is going to come along who will combine the
best of both worlds. Writing is always making trade-offs. If Herman Hesse
had made his writing more sensual and exciting, he would not have been able
to communicate the complicated ideas that he did, because they require long
monologues told at a slow pace. In hard science fiction, the classic trade-off
is how much of your science and background you can put in to please the
hardcore readers (and yourself) without boring everyone else.

Phil go...@zoesis.com

Phil Goetz

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Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
to
In article <362227C3...@hatch.net>, Jeff Hatch <je...@hatch.net> wrote:

>Doeadeer3 wrote:
>I agree. Maybe "depth" or "meaning"? I'd say Stephen King has the most technical
>writing skill of any author I've read, and Robert Jordan writes the most intricate,
>clever plot. But I consider Tad Williams and Terry Goodkind superior, because I
>saw my life differently after reading their novels.

That's a great point. My "definition" of "art" is artifice
which, when experienced, changes the way you view the world.

Phil

Timothy Howe

unread,
Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
to
go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:

> In article <foxglove-101...@dialin1354.toronto.globalserve.net>,


> Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> wrote:
> >In article <6vnoj0$knh$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,

> >go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:
> >
> >> Whatever you call the property of
> >> sucking the reader in and not letting him/her get away, Clancy and
> >> Jordan have MUCH more of it than Dostoyevsky or Hesse or Joyce or
> >> Shakespeare, IMHO. If your argument, that it is all a level of skill, and
> >> that the thing that makes a book absorbing is the same quality that makes
> >> it worth going back to, were true, I would have to conclude that Clancy
> >> and Jordan were the better writers.
> >

> >See, I don't think they have more of it than Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare. I
> >think they have a different style of it. If you can't get away from seeing
> >the raising of interest in narrative as something that is purely the
> >province of plot, then you are naturally going to think of authors that
> >don't rely heavily on plotting to raise interest as somehow using another
> >technique for achieving 'goodness' other than 'raising interest and
> >satisfying it'. But if interesting you is not their goal then why are you
> >interested? And if satisfying you is not the successful result then why
> >shouldn't you hold up Clancy and Jordan as better writers?
>
> A book has many dimensions. You seem to be saying that there is only one
> dimension for judging a book, that of "goodness", and that it is identical
> with "interest", and that all kinds of interest are the same.
>
> I don't think you really mean that, but that's how I interpret it.
> I am saying that there is a dimension of urgency, which Clancy and Jordan
> are masters of, and that it is different from other dimensions which inspire
> me to re-read a book or think about it after I've read it.
>
> Sometimes I close a book, and say, "I'll have to think about that for a few
> days," because the author has given me so much to think about that reading
> more would be like ordering a second course when you're already full.
> That is generating interest in a way that is at odds with generating
> an urgent need to finish the book.
>
> I've seen the same thing in computer games. _Diablo_ and _Tetris_ are the
> gaming world's equivalent of a Clancy novel. Shallow yet addictive.
>
> Phil

I wouldn't agree with your last comment about Clancy novels there... In one
sense, there is a lot of shallow urgency, but there is also a lot of
internal conflict, thinking, and stuff that you need gray matter for.

I personally have read all of them from 3 to 5 times, but I might just
be wierd... =)

Anyway, for a really good example of what I'm talking about, read
_Without Remorse_ or _Patriot Games_ and notice the conflicts and
changes within John Clark or Jack Ryan.

My two cents...

--
Timothy Howe
tim...@bigfoot.com
http://home.earthlink.net/~timhowe/
Watch out for falling watermelons!

Drone

unread,
Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
to
In article <6vtveq$p0j$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,
go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:

> A book has many dimensions. You seem to be saying that there is only one
> dimension for judging a book, that of "goodness", and that it is identical
> with "interest",

Yes that is what I'm saying.

> and that all kinds of interest are the same.

But not this. I did say that I find readability and re-readability to be
the same at any depth but I have been careful to maintain that there are
different depths of interest. But since you clearly believe that
re-readability is a measure of depth, I understand how you could have
taken me to be saying that there is no depth.

I think the fact that you will re-read one depth level but not the other
is simply a measure of your satisfaction with those depth levels, rather
than evidence that "readability" and "re-readability" are effects
intrinsically produced by different techniques.

People who are wholly satisfied with a shallower level *will* reread that
level. That *is* evidence that they are not different arts.

> I am saying that there is a dimension of urgency, which Clancy and Jordan
> are masters of, and that it is different from other dimensions which inspire
> me to re-read a book or think about it after I've read it.
>
> Sometimes I close a book, and say, "I'll have to think about that for a few
> days," because the author has given me so much to think about that reading
> more would be like ordering a second course when you're already full.
> That is generating interest in a way that is at odds with generating
> an urgent need to finish the book.
>

Exactly! Maybe we can see more eye-to-eye since I think our differences in
using words is clearer. What I am saying is that generating interest, in
*any* way, is the task of good writing, and that satisfying that interest
is the other side of the coin. Exactly how the interest is generated, how
it is maintained, how slow- or fast-paced or urgent it is, how it changes,
or how many times, depends on the preferences of the writer and the
reader. An effort must be made to spark interest and then deliver on that
expectation. That's storytelling.

Believe it or not, there *are* writers, especially in academic circles,
who though being clearly intelligent, write as if they don't believe this
is the primary duty of a writer.

Drone.

P.S. For anyone who has just come upon this discussion and is thinking of
responding to this: if I have to disavow one more time that I am putting
popular fiction on a level equal to or higher than more 'serious' lit, I
am going to scream. No, really. I will.

Drone

unread,
Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
to
In article <NewsPeruser-3.0-2074383344-908249949@news>, Timothy Howe
<tim...@bigfoot.com> wrote:

> go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:
>
> > I've seen the same thing in computer games. _Diablo_ and _Tetris_ are the
> > gaming world's equivalent of a Clancy novel. Shallow yet addictive.
> >
>

> I wouldn't agree with your last comment about Clancy novels there... In one
> sense, there is a lot of shallow urgency, but there is also a lot of
> internal conflict, thinking, and stuff that you need gray matter for.
>
> I personally have read all of them from 3 to 5 times, but I might just
> be wierd... =)
>
> Anyway, for a really good example of what I'm talking about, read
> _Without Remorse_ or _Patriot Games_ and notice the conflicts and
> changes within John Clark or Jack Ryan.
>

Just like to add here that while Clancy is not my thing and has been the
test case booted around in this discussion, I don't assume that people who
think Clancy writes with depth are wrong or stupid.

Drone.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to
Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> wrote in article <foxglove-

> > A book has many dimensions. You seem to be saying that there is


only one
> > dimension for judging a book, that of "goodness", and that it is
identical
> > with "interest",
>
> Yes that is what I'm saying.

I didn't want to get heavily into this discussion, but
I can't let that pass without expressing disagreement.


-- jonadab


Joyce Haslam

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to
In article <01bdf850$4f4165c0$LocalHost@jonadab>,

Jonadab the Unsightly One <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:

Ditto. There are good - ie well written - books that just now I don't
have the energy to read.

Curiously enough, there are books that I find hard to put down, but
easy to leave half-read if I am torn away from them. "Rogue Male" by
Household was one.

Joyce.

--
Joyce Haslam
http://www.argonet.co.uk/users/dljhaslam/ for Gateway to Karos [INFORM]
Powerbase is for RiscOs only
c o m u s @ a r g o n e t . c o . u k

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