Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

pemerton

Legend
A paragraph is at least 5 sentences.
Huh? Says who?

Here are the first three paragraphs of REH's The Scarelt Citadel (which was the first story I Googled, knowing that REH doesn't write in too long-winded a fashion):

The roar of battle had died away; the shout of victory mingled with the cries of the dying. Like gay-hued leaves after an autumn storm, the fallen littered the plain; the sinking sun shimmered on burnished helmets, gilt-worked mail, silver breastplates, broken swords and the heavy regal folds of silken standards, overthrown in pools of curdling crimson. In silent heaps lay war- horses and their steel-clad riders, flowing manes and blowing plumes stained alike in the red tide. About them and among them, like the drift of a storm, were strewn slashed and trampled bodies in steel caps and leather jerkins – archers and pikemen.

The oliphants sounded a fanfare of triumph all over the plain, and the hoofs of the victors crunched in the breasts of the vanquished as all the straggling, shining lines converged inward like the spokes of a glittering wheel, to the spot where the last survivor still waged unequal strife.

That day Conan, king of Aquilonia, had seen the pick of his chivalry cut to pieces, smashed and hammered to bits, and swept into eternity. With five thousand knights he had crossed the south-eastern border of Aquilonia and ridden into the grassy meadowlands of Ophir, to find his former ally, King Amalrus of Ophir, drawn up against him with the hosts of Strabonus, king of Koth. Too late he had seen the trap. All that a man might do he had done with his five thousand cavalrymen against the thirty thousand knights, archers and spearmen of the conspirators.​

The first is four sentences; the second is one; the third is four. The OED defines paragraph as "A distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line, indentation, or numbering." That doesn't seem to me to be a very contentious definition.

I have no idea where your "five sentence" doctrine comes from, but it's not one that professional writers adhere to.
 

pemerton

Legend
You do not need five sentences for a paragraph
It's pretty tangential to the thread topic, but there is something strange about being schooled on the meaning and connotations of "literary" by someone who asserts such bizarre stuff about the process and structure of wrting.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Huh? Says who?

Here are the first three paragraphs of REH's The Scarelt Citadel (which was the first story I Googled, knowing that REH doesn't write in too long-winded a fashion):
The roar of battle had died away; the shout of victory mingled with the cries of the dying. Like gay-hued leaves after an autumn storm, the fallen littered the plain; the sinking sun shimmered on burnished helmets, gilt-worked mail, silver breastplates, broken swords and the heavy regal folds of silken standards, overthrown in pools of curdling crimson. In silent heaps lay war- horses and their steel-clad riders, flowing manes and blowing plumes stained alike in the red tide. About them and among them, like the drift of a storm, were strewn slashed and trampled bodies in steel caps and leather jerkins – archers and pikemen.

The oliphants sounded a fanfare of triumph all over the plain, and the hoofs of the victors crunched in the breasts of the vanquished as all the straggling, shining lines converged inward like the spokes of a glittering wheel, to the spot where the last survivor still waged unequal strife.

That day Conan, king of Aquilonia, had seen the pick of his chivalry cut to pieces, smashed and hammered to bits, and swept into eternity. With five thousand knights he had crossed the south-eastern border of Aquilonia and ridden into the grassy meadowlands of Ophir, to find his former ally, King Amalrus of Ophir, drawn up against him with the hosts of Strabonus, king of Koth. Too late he had seen the trap. All that a man might do he had done with his five thousand cavalrymen against the thirty thousand knights, archers and spearmen of the conspirators.​

The first is four sentences; the second is one; the third is four. The OED defines paragraph as "A distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line, indentation, or numbering." That doesn't seem to me to be a very contentious definition.

I have no idea where your "five sentence" doctrine comes from, but it's not one that professional writers adhere to.
They could be one very long sentence waaaaaay back in the day. Modern paragraph structure is typically 3-8, with 5 being average. Regardless, 3 extra words is not very credible as the breaking point for description length.
 

Satyrn

Villager
It was two short sentences. A paragraph is at least 5 sentences.
Eh?

I've read a literary work - a modern masterpiece of a novel from a widely acclaimed literary master - where a set of paragraphs were each about one-third of a single sentence.

On top of that, your definition would mean that Agatha Christie had never published a single paragraph in her entire literary career . . . but then that's par for the thread. Pretty much everybody here is equating "literary" with definitions that would place this literary great below many other, lesser writers.

But then I like Agatha Christie, so of course my definition of literary is going to be broad enough to include her - and narrow enough to put her near the top.
 

Satyrn

Villager
They could be one very long sentence waaaaaay back in the day. Modern paragraph structure is 3-8, with 5 being average.
3-8 still puts Christie's lifetime paragraph count around 0.

And that 3-paragraph-long sentence I mentioned comes from Salman Rushdie, a still-living writer. I don't think that fits with your idea of waaaaay back in the day.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Regardless, 3 extra words is not very credible as the breaking point for description length.
Regardless of word count, one of those entries (number 2) reads much more like a prose paragraph to me), and the first is essentially just saying it is like the creature from men in black. In the second, listening to every word is important. In the first, there is one thing you need to know.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Do you not understand the word "typically?"
I have never attempted to quantify and average paragraphs. It is possible you are correct. I don't know what the current typical number of sentences are in a paragraph. That doesn't make example 2 not a paragraph. Because paragraphs don't have to have the typical number of sentences to still be paragraphs. And your assertion was a paragraph is 5 sentences long (then 3-8 sentences). In your example you have two sentences that have lots of key details. One of those sentences is fairly robust with plenty of commas. To me there are enough ideas present for that to be a paragraph. And a fairly involved one if we are talking about communicating at the gaming table. I was asked which paragraph I would chose. I chose number 1. For some reason, that answer isn't being treated as valid.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
My players and I obviously from my side in this thread, prefer option 2. However, none of us are against me adding in, "Remember the bug monster from the end of Men in Black? It kinda looks like that." if they are having some obvious difficulties picturing the creature from the description. I rarely have to go to something extra like that, though.
Yeah I try to avoid specific examples like this, unless absolutely necessary, because sometimes they can set expectations in players that it is like the creature in ways it may not be... even if the GM only says it looks like the creature.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Regardless, 3 extra words is not very credible as the breaking point for description length.
Just to be clear here, I wasn't establishing a numeric breaking point. I was going by the overall impression of the two examples. The first one essentially just says one thing. The second says many things the reader/listener must piece together. The first one isn't particularly like a novel description, the second one is. I prefer the first. Of course, how I describe something will always be dependent on the situation. But my manner of speaking when running a game is a lot more like option 1 than 2.
 

Satyrn

Villager
It was two short sentences. A paragraph is at least 5 sentences. The description you went with, #1, is also two short sentences and contains 3 fewer words. That's it. 3 more words is apparently a "full paragraph" and too much of a description.
Oh yeah. I should add that, despite completely disagreeing with you about what a paragraph is our isn't, you're right that the actual content ain't a lot of description. And on top of that, It's still more decscription than some of great novelists ever employ.
 

pemerton

Legend
Every English teacher I ever had.
Then, without being too mean about it, you had crappy English teachers.

I'm a published author (of non-fiction). A big part of my job is teaching students (UG and PG) how to write. My partner is a published author (non-fiction, some poetry) and a high school English teacher. Most of her job is teaching students how to write.

This thread is the first I've heard of this five-paragraph doctrine. Do American English teachers get paid by the full stop for their marking?
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Huh? Says who?

Here are the first three paragraphs of REH's The Scarelt Citadel (which was the first story I Googled, knowing that REH doesn't write in too long-winded a fashion):

The roar of battle had died away; the shout of victory mingled with the cries of the dying. Like gay-hued leaves after an autumn storm, the fallen littered the plain; the sinking sun shimmered on burnished helmets, gilt-worked mail, silver breastplates, broken swords and the heavy regal folds of silken standards, overthrown in pools of curdling crimson. In silent heaps lay war- horses and their steel-clad riders, flowing manes and blowing plumes stained alike in the red tide. About them and among them, like the drift of a storm, were strewn slashed and trampled bodies in steel caps and leather jerkins – archers and pikemen.

The oliphants sounded a fanfare of triumph all over the plain, and the hoofs of the victors crunched in the breasts of the vanquished as all the straggling, shining lines converged inward like the spokes of a glittering wheel, to the spot where the last survivor still waged unequal strife.

That day Conan, king of Aquilonia, had seen the pick of his chivalry cut to pieces, smashed and hammered to bits, and swept into eternity. With five thousand knights he had crossed the south-eastern border of Aquilonia and ridden into the grassy meadowlands of Ophir, to find his former ally, King Amalrus of Ophir, drawn up against him with the hosts of Strabonus, king of Koth. Too late he had seen the trap. All that a man might do he had done with his five thousand cavalrymen against the thirty thousand knights, archers and spearmen of the conspirators.​

The first is four sentences; the second is one; the third is four. The OED defines paragraph as "A distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line, indentation, or numbering." That doesn't seem to me to be a very contentious definition.

I have no idea where your "five sentence" doctrine comes from, but it's not one that professional writers adhere to.
And I have to admit, I love long sentence paragraphs like that because I used to read a lot of turn of the century books when I was younger. So I just admire the style.

In gaming however, I am definitely more focused on talking in my normal style. I Gm the way I would talk with a friend I bumped into at the supermarket. I don't consider that conversation particularly literary, even if it necessitates a bit of description (and even if I ham up some description because are having humorous back and forth). But that isn't me showing off my literary chops or borrowing literary elements.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Then, without being too mean about it, you had crappy English teachers.

I'm a published author (of non-fiction). A big part of my job is teaching students (UG and PG) how to write. My partner is a published author (non-fiction, some poetry) and a high school English teacher. Most of her job is teaching students how to write.

This thread is the first I've heard of this five-paragraph doctrine. Do American English teachers get paid by the full stop for their marking?
Pemerton, that post was an error. I got my posts mixed up and thought I was responding to a poster assertion that paragraphs are in fact 5 paragraphs long. The point I was making was none of my teachers ever said paragraphs had to be 4 sentences long. Sorry for the confusion. There is absolutely no 5 sentence doctrine in America.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Then, without being too mean about it, you had crappy English teachers.

I'm a published author (of non-fiction). A big part of my job is teaching students (UG and PG) how to write. My partner is a published author (non-fiction, some poetry) and a high school English teacher. Most of her job is teaching students how to write.

This thread is the first I've heard of this five-paragraph doctrine. Do American English teachers get paid by the full stop for their marking?
This is a fairly common rule of thumb to teach children in America in terms of writing; I know that they do in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade (for the most part).

The reason is that when children are learning to write, many of them ... don't want to write. And they aren't writing long, complex sentences with lots of adjectives, adverbs, and clauses; instead, it's a chore to get them to write anything. So the "five sentence rule" is to help them organize and get to more complex ideas and structure in terms of writing paragraphs.

It's sort of one of those - once you learn to write well in a basic way, then you can learn to change it up a little. But dealing with kids (both my own and others' children) on a regular basis, I am familiar with both the "five sentence" rule and how much kids complain about it.


EDIT- I should add that I've heard of variations on this, including a "four sentence" rule; but I do know that it is common for a prescriptive approach to teaching in the U.S. I don't know the source- I looked briefly at Elements of Style (Strunk & White), which is to blame for most of our terrible rules, but it's not in there- it just says, correctly, that a paragraph can be of any length.
 
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pemerton

Legend
But, a Vengaurak? Well, you don't know what that is. So, someone needs to explain to you what it looks like and what it wants. Now, here's two descriptions:

1. You know that cockroach monster at the end of Men in Black? That's more or less what you see.

2. Born of the blood of the glutton Titan Gaurak, "this hideous horse sized creature appears to be a twisted hybrid of beetle, mantis and maggot. It stinks of carrion and blood"

Now, the second description is a direct quote from the Creature Collection Revised for Scarred Lands. Which do you think would be more effective and needed at the table? Which do you think would be more likely to draw some sort of visceral reaction from the players?
I know these questions are intended as rhetorical, but if I treat them as literal then the answer is I don't know.

The game seems to be 3e D&D (Scarred Lands), but who are the PCs? Who are the players? Do they have any reason to give a toss about the glutton Titan Gaurak?
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Nice! The only same player I've had for about that long is my twin brother, because we're stuck with each other.

My team of players have been with me for over thirty years and that is because when I create a game and add those finer details that make them want to play more.
 

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