Style Guidelines - Achaea Online Help

22.2 Style Guidelines

The time may come when you have need of describing a room (e.g. a subdivision 
house), a denizen (e.g. an artefact pet), or an item (e.g. a customisation) in 
the world. Achaea maintains a high standard of writing, so in order to assist 
you in developing a flawless description, below are some of the conventions and 
guidelines to which we adhere.


General Rules
-------------
 - Use UK English. Colour, centre, recognise, etc. Not color or center or
   recognize. See HELP 4.13.7 and HELP 4.13.8 for misspellings and other
   common lexical errors.
 - Use complete sentences, proper grammar, and correct punctuation. See HELP
   PUNCTUATION.
 - Use single spaces between sentences.
 - Use present tense.
 - Use a formal voice. Contractions are informal, and you would not use
   them in formal writing. Use "are not," not "aren't."
 - Write out numbers, such as "six feet tall," not "6 feet tall."


Room Descriptions
-----------------
When writing room descriptions, keep in mind the following:

a) There are two parts: a room title (which can be up to 53 characters and is 
always capitalised), and a verbose description, which is a paragraph that 
describes further details. It should be a minimum of 6 to 8 lines when viewed in 
Achaea's default screenwidth (80 characters). More than that is perfectly fine, 
though extremely lengthy descriptions (15+ lines) are probably overdoing it.

b) Do not describe actions in descriptions. Especially do not force actions, or 
interpretations, on the viewer. It makes no sense to say "You cower in fear 
before the bloody altar" in a description. It's not reasonable that every person 
is always going to cower in fear every time he visits the location.

c) Do not describe exits, as in: "You see exits to the north, east, and south." 
Achaea will take care of that. You can, of course, describe what an adventurer 
can see in those directions, but the actual line listing the exits shouldn't be 
included. Also, do not include descriptions for items or denizens that will be 
in the room.

d) Exclude the 2nd person pronoun (you/your) from descriptions as much as possible.

e) Describe only what someone could reasonably sense in the room. Do not 
describe the history of the room, or items in the room, if there's no reason 
that someone walking in could easily know what you are describing. An example of 
what not to do: "The inhabitants of this castle have been cursed by an evil 
witch." How would you know just by looking at the castle?


Item Descriptions
-----------------
When writing item descriptions, keep in mind the following:

a) There are three parts to an item's description.

   APPEARANCE   - a bait bucket
   DROPPED      - A bait bucket sits here in its own puddle.
   EXAMINED     - Low and wide for stability, this wooden bait bucket
                  is admirably adapted to its task. It has two carved
                  handles with metal reinforcement along the top edge.
                  The upper lip curves inwards, overhanging the centre
                  in order to keep some of the more lively contents
                  from seeking their freedom.

b) Length of the appearance is limited to 50 characters, and should be no more 
than about 5 words.

c) The dropped description must begin with a capital letter and must end with a 
period. It is limited to 80 characters.

d) Examined should be a minimum of 3 lines when viewed in Achaea's default 
screenwidth (80 characters), though 6-8 is average. More than that is perfectly 
fine, though extremely lengthy descriptions (15+ lines) are probably overdoing 
it.

e) Do not describe actions or force actions on the viewer. Saying "This frosted 
cake looks so tasty that you cannot resist sticking your finger in the frosting 
and licking it off your finger" does not work, because it is not a reasonable 
reaction for every person to have.

f) Exclude the 2nd person pronoun (you/your) from descriptions as much as 
possible.


Denizen Descriptions
--------------------
All the guidelines for item descriptions apply to denizen descriptions. There 
are three additional parts to a denizen's description.

   APPEARANCE   - a woolly lamb
   DROPPED      - A woolly lamb gazes shyly at her surroundings.
   EXAMINED     - Soft, curly wool the colour of creamy milk comprises
                  the fleece of this shy little lamb. Her large brown
                  eyes are lidded with a fringe of soft white lashes, 
                  and she seems to be smiling beneath her pink nose. 
                  Long, almond-shaped ears stick out comically to the 
                  sides, perked forward to catch any sound. In contrast
                  to her full, fluffy fleece, her legs are slender and
                  smooth, tipped with hooves of soft grey.
   ENTRY        - Stepping timidly in from the $DIR is a woolly lamb.
   LEAVE        - A woolly lamb ducks her head and steps away to the $DIR.
   DEATH        - Bloodstained fleece marks the corpse of a little lamb.


Additional Tips
---------------
The following are not hard rules, but will assist you in writing well for 
Achaea, particularly if you are referring to this help file before applying to 
be a mortal builder or Celani.

a) Be specific, not vague. Why say "tree" when you can say "red maple" and have 
it be that much more interesting? A boring room description can be spruced up 
with specific details about its component parts. For example, that "pillar" 
could be "a slender pillar with fluted shafts".

b) Do research. This goes along with the above. Would that certain flower you're 
describing ever grow in that climate? You don't need to be an expert on a 
certain type of biome or architecture to write about it, but learn to use Google 
judiciously as to avoid any major mistakes. You'll find that research will give 
you ideas and help you to be a more detailed, better writer as well.

c) Vary sentence lengths! Long sentences aren't necessarily always bad, unless 
you have a bunch of them together. It is easier to keep a reader's interest if 
you vary your sentence lengths. If all your sentences are complex with multiple 
clauses, commas, and semicolons everywhere, break a few up. If all your 
sentences are extremely simple, join a few together. Mix it up.

d) Use dynamic verbs. Verbs are the workhorse of a sentence so when appropriate 
try to use dynamic verbs. For example:

   WEAK:
   A large mansion is on the hill. Rose bushes are growing in
   loamy soil under the windows. There is a little path that leads
   to the backyard.

   DYNAMIC:
   A large mansion rises up upon the hill. Rose bushes push up
   from the loamy soil beneath the windows. A little path stretches
   around the mansion toward the backyard.

e) Consider all six senses. If you have a mental block and are stuck writing a 
description, ask yourself how your six senses may react. Of course, you don't 
want to always include all six senses in every description, but asking yourself 
the questions may help the creative process. What does it smell like (pleasant 
or reeking)? What does it taste like (not a common sense except for food)? Are 
there any sounds (background noise or ominous silence)? What does it look like 
(colour, size, scope)? What does it feel like (texture, maybe viscosity)? What 
psychic impressions are felt (foreboding, delight, queasiness, etc.)? Psychic 
impressions (the "sixth" sense) should be used sparingly.

f) Don't use "seems to" or "looks like" or "appears to be." This is a common 
mistake that strikes even the very best and experienced writer. Feel free to use 
metaphors and simile, but using the phrases "seems," "looks like," and "appears 
to be" weakens the impact. If the man appears to be the oldest man in the 
village, then chances are the man is the oldest man in the village. Ninety-nine 
percent of the time, it can be avoided. For example:

   WEAK: This troll appears to be the largest of his kind. His
   skin seems to be an almost phosphorescent green and its large
   fangs looks like it could tear through not only skin but bone.

   DYNAMIC: The troll is enormous, the largest of his kind. His
   skin glows an almost phosphorescent green and his large fangs
   could tear through not only skin but bone.

g) Don't overuse qualifiers, like "almost" or "nearly" or "slightly." They're 
fine in moderation.