Ceramic DM FAQ for Fiction
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    Ceramic DM FAQ for Fiction

    Ever since discovering the Ceramic DM contests, I have been a fan. I have enjoyed the stories and I eagerly look forward to each upcoming contest. As a little way of saying thanks, I am trying to put together a reference thread for Ceramic DM. Call me excessive if you will, but I just want to make the contest, and the stories, easily accessible to as many people as possible.


    What is Ceramic DM?
    Ceramic DM is a writing contest. It is a spinoff of the Iron DM contest, which is inspired by the televised Iron Chef competitions.

    A Ceramic DM contest begins with the volunteer competitors being paired off against each other. Each pair will then be given a set of pictures to write a story or adventure around. Oh, and there is a time limit. You must have your story completed and submitted within the time limit. The judges then read the stories and adventures, compare them against each other and decide which contestant advances to the next round. Lather, rinse, and repeat until there are only two contestants remaining. One of those two contestants will be the new Ceramic DM.

    It is simple in theory and a little more difficult in practice.

    You see, the pictures should be treated as if they were illustrations for your story or adventure. This means that the pictures should represent something that is an integral, important part of the story or adventure. As well, the judges usually pick outrageous pictures that are strange and varied. Part of the challenge of the Ceramic DM is that the pictures are difficult to write around. Of course, this is also part of the fun!

    It would be fair to characterize Ceramic DM as a semi-competitive creative writing excercise. If you like telling stories and you like a challenge, Ceramic DM just might be a fun diversion for you to try out.

    What kind of stories or adventures can you write?
    Since the Ceramic DM is run on EN World, you should be writing to that audience. We are mostly gamers here so your story should be something gamers would find interesting. Of course, that covers quite a few genres. For basic guidelines, think of the various RPG games/products out there and write a story that would fit into one of those environments.

    However, there are occasional contests with a theme. In those contests, you are writing within a specific genre. Themed contests will be clearly stated that they are themed, so please be sure to read the signup thread for details.

    What are the rules?
    The rules of an individual contest always take precedence over anything previously posted. But there are some rules that are generally used.
    • Do not edit your post! If you made a mistake, leave it be. This is a timed contest and once you have made your submission, it is final. Those are the breaks, but if you put your story in an envelope to send to a contest, you wouldn't be able to make any changes either. It is true that this is electronic media, but the judges need to have a static story to read and assess, not a moving target. Editing an entry is grounds for immediate disqualification.
    • Do not read your opponent's entry before you post your own. Once you have submitted your story, then you can go read your opponent's entry. Take solace in the fact that somebody else is struggling with the exact same pictures you are, but do not try to read their entry and do yours better.
    • Do not berate the judges if you don't like their assessment. At some level, the judges will still have to make a decision based on which story they liked better. Once a judgement has been rendered, it is final. It is OK to disagree with the judges, but do so politely and gracefully. This is a friendly competition and the judges are volunteers. Many times, they are trying to provide feedback that will help you to become a better writer. Speaking from experience, the comments might sting at times. Just remember that nobody in the Ceramic DM is really out to get you. If you write a story and receive a critique, take it in the interest of improving your writing.

    There may be rules specific to a conpetition, such as word limits, genre limitations or time limits. Be sure you read the rules for each competition before you volunteer to compete.

    Do I need to be a published author to compete?
    Absolutely not! Some of the competitors may be published authors. Some may be competing just because they want to write. Some may be amateur writers. It doesn't matter what your writing experience is, you can enter and compete. All it takes is the chutzpah to throw your hat in the ring and produce a story under pressure.

    Who are these judges?
    The judges will shift over time. As I said, they are volunteers. Some of them are past Ceramic DM winners. Some of them have judged many contests. Each individual contest may have different judges.

    Who came up with this wacky contest?
    Our venerable Alsih2o put together the first Ceramic DM. Because he is a potter, he chose the name.

    It sounds interesting. Can I read some of the past contests to get a better idea of what this is about?
    I thought you would never ask! Look below for plenty of links to past stories. I have them listed and cross-referenced. Heck, even if you never compete, please feel free to read all the stories. Read the judgements too so you can get a better feel for the type of comments the judges are likely to make.

    Sounds good. How do I sign up?
    Look for the sign up thread in the General RPG Discussion forum! Also, feel free to subscribe to this thread. We will try to post in this thread announcing an upcoming contest so you will know when to look for the sign up thread. When you see the signup thread, check the dates and make sure you are available to write stories around that time. If you are available, post yout desire to join in the fun. It's that simple. (Writing the stories is the hard part.)

    Dang! Those pictures look hard. How do you write a story around that?
    Yep! That is the point of the competition.

    Isn't Ceramic DM just a clique?
    OK, I can see where it might look like that. But really it isn't. Sure there are many of the same people involved. Yes, there is a lot of discussion and even some in-jokes. But I think of Ceramic DM as a small outgrowth of the greater EN World community. Trust me, we won't ignore you just because this is your first try. Jump into the fray and enjoy the contest. Either as a spectator or as a competitor, you are more than welcome.

    Can I post comments and questions on stories?
    Absolutely! Please do so! Whether you are a spectator or a writer, we wholeheartedly encourage you to add your comments to the contest. There are a couple of guidelines though.
    • Always be polite! It is OK to like/dislike a story. Your opinion is valid and any critique can be useful, but remember that the person that wrote the story is just a screen away.
    • If you want to post comments before a judgement is posted, please use a little effort to warn the judges that you are commenting on a story. The judges do their best to be unbiased and they will likely avoid your comments until after they have sent in their decisions. I suggest using the [spoiler] tag or the [sblock] tag. This will obscure your comments. You might also want to indicate which story you are posting commentary about in the subject field of your post.
      Example: If you type [spoiler]This is hidden text.[/spoiler]
      You will get this result: [spoiler]This is hidden text.[/spoiler] and you will need to select the text with your mouse to read it.

      If you instead type [sblock]This text will be hidden so you can click a button to unhide it.[/sblock]
      You will get this result:
      This text will be hidden so you can click a button to unhide it.

    So please feel free to post commentary.

    Do spelling and grammar matter?
    Yes, spelling and grammar do matter. This is a writing contest. It is a short time period so some errors are likely to happen. But the judges are likely to comment on such things. All other things being equal, spelling and grammar can make or break your story. Of course, a well written story can still win even if it has spelling and grammar errors. But you really should do everything you can to avoid errors.

    How do you use the pictures in the story?
    There aren't many limitations on how you can use the pictures. But the big no no is using a picture as a picture. Remember that the general rule is that the pictures should be the illustrations for your story. Step away and think about that for just a moment. If an editor were publishing your story and wanted to include illustrations, what would be illustrated? Illustrations tend to be of significant aspects of the story. If you have an event in the story that is significant enough to use a picture for it, describe the event.

    How do I indicate where pictures are being used in the story?
    As a piece of advice, avoid relying heavily on the picture to provide the description. It is easy to take shortcuts in the description once you have a picture, especially with a deadline. But try to avoid this pitfall. If a reader can read your story and pull all the necessary description without looking at the pictures, you have done a good job. That being said, you should still indicate where you are using the pictures. The easy way to to that is to footnote them at the bottom of the story. You could also bracket the picture name at the appropriate location. Both of these methods are quite acceptable. Some folks also choose to include bbcode to encapsulate a link to the picture directly into the story. This is also fine, though it is not required and it doesn't gain any judging advantages

    I signed up, but now I can't compete.
    This happens. It is a bummer when it happens, but sometimes other things in life demand attention from our recreation. If you have to drop out, please try to stop in the thread and let us know. The sooner the better. If you can let us know before your round starts, we can try to bring in an alternate.

    Any other things I should keep in mind?
    The grandma rule is still pretty much in effect. If you really must use questionable content, be courteous and warn people at the top of your post.
    I highly suggest using a text editor (such as notepad) to stage your story. Yes, you probably have a more advanced word processor available, but that is part of the problem. Newer word processing software often includes html code. We have experienced some strange issues with a story posted straight from your word processing software. Use the software to spellcheck and save your story as usual. Then do yourself a favor and open up notepad. Copy/Paste your story into notepad and you can be sure that all the formatting codes disappeared. Then select/copy/paste your story from notepad onto the site.
    If you are in doubt about how your story will be posted, do yourself a favor and find an old post. Edit your post, copy your story in and preview the post. If you have any odd formatting/display issues, you will see them before you really post the story. Remember that once your story is posted, you cannot edit it. Any editing is grounds for immediate disqualification.

    This FAQ may change over time. If you have any questions that are not covered, or if you have any comments to add, please post to the thread. Alternatively, you can PM or email me.

    I encourage everyone to post to this thread. Below you will find links to the stories and previous contests. If there are any bad links, or if I have screwed up spelling or missed story titles, please let me know!
    Last edited by BardStephenFox; Friday, 3rd June, 2005 at 09:03 AM.

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