Writing Better Pels

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Writing Better Pels

Post by Erica » Tue May 27, 2014 11:08 am

Below is a list of suggestions that we felt are useful for analyzing and writing better Pels for game.

Original posting-
I had no idea how bad pels could be until I started casting for another game. Then I thought about it - how does a player know what we want, anyway? Reading other people's pels changed the way I wrote mine.

Some major points from me. (Please note these are my opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tales of Valor the game, or its owners. No animals were harmed in the making of these comments.)

- Write the damn thing in a word program first. Use that to catch glaring spelling and grammar issues. I know this is not English class, but things that are poorly written are harder to read. Cast will get more out of it if it flows reasonably well.

- If you don't write your pel within a few days of the event, at least make a list of topics in that time. In two weeks you'll have a really hard time remembering everything you wanted to say.

- Find ways to break it up.
I have section headers and paragraphs that I try not to make too long. Seriously - they've said it before but wall-of-text means cast won't even read it.

- I often have the following rough format:
OOG - Overview comments relating to the event
Header. Part written sort of in game. Then I will add specific OOG comments as needed. That might just include appreciation, but even that tells them something useful. Tell them what you like about things so they know when to give you more of it and when not to.

- Goals.
I may not be as good about this as I should, but I try within my text. I hit topics of things I've been working on, say what I did on them in that event, and say what I plan to do next. That last one is key - cast can respond best when they know ahead of time what they will be asked.

- Tell them what you think is going on and what you're thinking about plots.
This gives cast the idea of what you are interested in, and if you are on track or have huge misconceptions about what is going on. This helps them to predict where things are going and to help shape things when needed.

- Don't ignore things.
I can't tell you how depressing it is to have a 20 minute conversation involving a player and have them never mention it in their pel.

- Tell them WHY, and be constructive about it.
Cast spends a lot of their free time and effort entertaining you. They do not need to be randomly and rudely insulted. You also do not know the whole story in most cases - you only know your perspective.

No one cares if you say something sucked. They are more likely to listen if you explain in a coherent way why you did not like something, especially if you show understanding of a perspective beyond yourself. They can also learn by you explaining why you DID like something. They like to see you notice changes and improvements. The why's are useful.

Best way to understand the cast perspective - spend some time casting another game. You really learn a lot that way and will see things differently.

From Sean:
PELS are huge for us to know what's working and what your perception of the plots are, as well as the direction you are planning on going with them. It also helps us to determine paths for you to follow, or to help us generate ideas to engage you in the game itself!

From Kath:
One thing I think is important, along with being constructive with your criticisms, is to make clear distinctions between "my character thinks this sucks, but I'm having fun" and "this is making me as a player not have fun". I tend not to write big chunks of my PEL in an IG voice, but I do try to make clear distinctions between character thoughts/goals/reactions and player thoughts/goals/reactions, because they are often different.

Speaking mostly from my outside-of-LARP life as an editor, I second Liz's comments about breaking up the text. Sections, lists, bullet points, and the like really help to make things more readable, especially for those of us (and I very much include myself here) who get verbose.

Some people like to write PELs chronologically for the event. I prefer ones that are broken up by topic, plotline, and the like; I think it makes it easier for NPCs to identify items that are relevant to them.

I would also encourage people to share ideas in their PELs, even ones that may not seem directly related to what's been going on. I can say from direct experience that when I've put "So I had this idea..." in my PEL, the ToV staff have frequently picked up that idea and done something with it that made it more awesome. Being proactive is good.

And if someone did something awesome for you at an event, mention that too. I try to include a "special thanks to" section in my PELs where I call out both staff and players who did cool stuff or whom I especially enjoyed interacting with.

And finally, be honest -- constructive, but honest. PELs are the main way that staff has to gauge how things are going, and they won't know that something isn't going well for a player if the player doesn't tell them.

From Dan E:
This is all good advice. I always:

1. Save IG voice for game. Can make a pel confusing as Kath noted "This was horrible" in an IG pel has no meaning for the cast. "My character was horrified and I really enjoyed the challenge of this encounter" tells them what you want them to know.

2. Headers, by plot as much as possible. I used to do text walls, then I had to reread my own PEL to find something about a plot I wrote. Then I realized the people writing about the Moreadin might not care to slog through my views on IG trading to see what I thought of his plot.

3. Opinion. I could just state what happened, but I think it is really helpful to say "This happened this way. This is what I liked or did not like about it. I want more/less of this. Here is what I will do if X happens."

Those 3 guidelines I let guide my PEL writing. At games I cast I find it much easier to read PELs in this format than IG journal entries, or a long-block form play by play of the weekend. In the busy life of a cast member, sometimes they don't want to read about your whole weekend...they just want to know what to do with their plot area next event, especially since they may have to read 60+ PELs!

From Sean:
Also - PEL EVERYTHING. Don't omit things. Its hard for us to know who picked up the Staff of Ultimate destruction if you didn't check it out, was it a random hiker? etc etc etc

From JD:
As someone who often refers to old PELs, that definitely helps.

It's also useful to write your PEL on your computer (e.g. in Word) rather than directly on the website, so you have a local copy. Then you can use Search for keywords across all your PELs to find out when you last heard about X. As a bonus, you get spellchecking that way....

From Rob R and Carly
-I use Google Docs for this. It's backed up outside of your computer, has excellent searching, and Google provides ways of exporting your data should you change your mind.

Because ToV has lasted longer than every computer I use.

-Secondary advantage to using googledocs: you can search a topic within googledocs that may appear in more than one PEL/BGS (assuming you are archiving both of these).

This has basically saved my life after the long jump between fall2 and spring1.

From Kath:
Ditto on using Google Docs, especially for those of us who may use different computers at different times.

I was thinking some more about this, and I think one really important piece that goes along with "be constructive" is "be specific" -- and this applies to both positive and negative feedback. "That was AWESOME!" makes a cast member feel good, but doesn't give them much to go on in designing other stuff that you'll find awesome. "That was AWESOME -- I love small fights where we almost get flattened but manage to pull it out" or "That was AWESOME -- I had such a great intense roleplay moment" or "That was AWESOME -- I stole the Staff of Ultimate Destruction and nobody knew it was me!" are all much more helpful. And likewise when you're offering constructive criticism.

From Nick:
*Check the bottom of this post for bullet points*

On the subject of IC vs. OOC: I read every PEL. Generally speaking, as long as there is some rhyme and reason to what you're presenting, it's not that hard to extract information from what you've written. An IC PEL can be just as well organized and informative as an OOC one, and the reverse is true: OOC PELs can be unclear and rambling too.

Epistolary and journal style PELs are probably the most common and easy to organize in such as fashion as to remain both IC and make your information clear and easy to access.

Perhaps the biggest pitfall with the IC PEL, as mentioned earlier, is delineating the difference between what your character feels and what you the player feel. The Suggestions, Event Favorites, and Skills/Spells Learned fields should always be OOC. Those are the crucial fields for us to make sure that you the player are having a fulfilling and fun experience.

If you have the time or the inclination to add an OOC summary of what you're up to in the About the Event section, great. That way staff can see at a glance what your character is doing and allow them to access particular pieces of data later with ease. It can even be something as simple as bullet points. E.G.

*Devenor is awful. Planning to murder him second spring.
*Stole all of Melchior's money on Friday, but I was dressed as Owen at the time. Owen didn't actually do it, but everyone thinks he does.
*Still working on collecting all of the fighting headers.
*Super happy I got promoted to Poobah in the Order of Malfeasance and Delinquency in Ritual Magic. Working towards earning the rank of Grand Poobah. It'd be a high note for the character.
*I know I've been antagonizing the Dun Meleans and things got pretty ugly this event, but I'm best friends with those guys OOG and we've talked it over. The drama is one hundred percent IC.
*Nick Vale is amazing. If you guys don't have any medals that you award to staff, you should make up some to award him.

See? Super simple. At a glance we can figure out where you are re: murder and Poobah status, and if somebody is writing Poobah plot or interested in getting involved, they know to check your IG letter to the sky whales that raised for a more detailed account. Now that this thing has gotten squirrely and rambly, I'm going to take my own advice:

In Summary:
*IC or OOC is irrelevant
*Let us know (constructively) how you the player feel about the game
*Let us know what your character is doing and plans to do in the future
*Make is easy to tell the difference between the two
*Let us know how you're organizing the PEL.
*Be consistent. Eventually we'll learn what your PEL formula is and you won't need to explain your methods of information organization after the first few times.

If you would like to add additional suggestions for writing a better pel please post them below. This post will remain stickied.

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