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Not sure where to post this

Elawn

Hey,

So I've just started reading this story called Building a CAP Based Future, the problem is that I have no idea what CAP stands for. I know it's related to the Swarm Cycle universe but beyond that I'm clueless.
Would appreciate the help!

Dominions Son

Capacity, Aptitude and Potential

http://swarm.freewiki.in/index.php/CAP

Replies:   Elawn
Elawn

@Dominions Son

Thank you!

Crumbly Writer

That's the problem with using initialism, as you'll undoubtedly leave many readers in the dark, scratching their heads.

That's also why we've discussed the importance of NOT doing it so often in the Author's section. Unfortunately, not every author visits the forum, or heeds cautions.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

This was a part of the original story, but many people later assume that new readers will have read the original story and understand the reference. It works sometimes but not always.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
AmigaClone

@Elawn

I agree that that term in particular should have been mentioned in the first scene of the first chapter considering the number of times that the initialization is used. Granted, the term CAP is defined within the story later on.

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

This was a part of the original story, but many people later assume that new readers will have read the original story and understand the reference. It works sometimes but not always.

When in doubt (that everyone has read the entire universe) it's better to err on the side of caution. Even if they have, there's no guaranteeing what they remember and what they don't. If they have read it, then a gentle reminder will be enough to fill them in.

It's a common tripping point for readers, so newbie (and many long-time) authors need to be reminded.

docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

a gentle reminder will be enough


Definitely a must, of course as a part of the reminder, references can be included such as links to other stories or technical information. Best general links for technical information is probably a wiki.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

It's a common tripping point for readers, so newbie (and many long-time) authors need to be reminded.


I have to disagree here. Almost every Swarm Cycle story well defines how CAP scores are used and what the impacts of various cap scores are.

Unless a given reader becomes obsessive about it, there is no reason that not knowing what the CAP initialism stands for should in any way detract from enjoyment of the story.

Dominions Son
Updated:


That's akin to assuming that your story descriptions will never attract new readers, and that no one besides Swarm fans will ever read your stories.


No, it's not. It's just some random term, you need to know what it means functionally for the story and that does get explained, but you do NOT need to know what the initialism stands for to understand it's place and purpose in the stories.

My understanding is that within the Swarm Cycle universe, few humans actually know what CAP stands for, and even fewer, have any idea how the actual scores are determined.

As a term used in the stories, it comes up most often in dialog, by characters who likely don't know what it stands for.

It's seldom used in the narrative.

I see it like a company or brand name that used to have a full version and an initialism, but have been officially changed to just the initials with no meaning behind them.

If I talk about IBM, you don't need to know that it used to be International Business Machines to understand what company I'm talking about.

I've read and enjoyed most of the Swarm Cycle stories, but I never knew what CAP stood for. However, I knew where to find the author resources for the Swarm Cycle universe, so I looked it up to answer the OP's question.

Try this as an exercise: You are writing a story in the first person. The POV character knows a certain term that is an acronym/initialism. The character knows in general what the term refers to and the purpose of that thing is, but doesn't know what the acronym/initialism actually stands for. How do you handle this in the narrative of your story?

By the way, this sort of thing exists all over the place in real life. The term laser is actually an acronym, but it has somewhat lost that status because it has been used all over the place by people who had no idea what it stands for or even that it was an acronym.

People still know what a laser is even though they don't know it's an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

I see CAP score in the Swarm Cycle stories as the same sort of thing. The reader needs to know what a CAP score is and what it means for the characters in the story (this is well explained in every story). They do not need to know that CAP is an acronym or what it stands for.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
joyR

That's akin to assuming that your story descriptions will never attract new readers, and that no one besides Swarm fans will ever read your stories.


Really?

In the story in question the explanation arrives in chapter 7 of an 84 chapter story. It would be stupid to insist a writer put the explanation on page 1 of chapter 1, instead of where it makes sense and appears in context.

Naming a story "Singularity" and never stating what that means could be seen as a major error, couldn't it?

Replies:   Lumpy
Lumpy

@joyR

I've never read it, and assumed it stood for Combat Air Patrol, which is called CAP in the military. It wasn't until this thread I realized it meant something else.

Replies:   joyR
joyR

@Lumpy

The free dictionary lists 249 meanings for the acronym CAP, so it's easy to make such an error. But when a story is shown as being part of an established universe, isn't it likely that it has a specific meaning within that universe?

Ernest Bywater

@Elawn

I have no idea what CAP stands for


It matters not if a n acronym is used frequently within a story or series, the first time it's used in a story it needs to be explained, unless it's an extremely common one like a.s.a.p.You can't assume a reader has read the earlier stories in a series, unless you have them all stuck in the one printed book or large e-book.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


It matters not if a n acronym is used frequently within a story or series


Edited*

In general you are correct that acronyms should be explained, however, there are exceptions and this is one of them.

There are many acronyms that are frequently used in real life, everyone knows what they refer to, but few people are actually aware of what the acronym stands for or even that the term is an acronym.

LASER is a good example of this.

Within the Swarm Cycle universe, nearly everyone knows what a CAP score is and in general what various scores mean. However only a handful of humans know what the acronym actually stands for.

What a CAP score is and what it means is well explained in nearly every Swarm Cycle story and in particular it is well explained in the specific story referenced by the OP.

What CAP actually stands for adds nothing to either character's or a readers understanding of what a CAP score is or what it is used for.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Elawn
REP

What we're discussing is knowing which details to include in sequels, and which to leave out.


I agree with your comment and I agree with DS. Spelling out CAP is one of the details that should be left out until it fits into the story naturally. Saying 'CAP score' and explaining how it affects the characters and plot is more important then knowing what the letters mean. We encounter acronyms that have multiple meanings everyday and people don't spell out the letters to us, but we pickup the context in which they are used. I feel that knowing the context is far more important to a reader than knowing what words the letters stand for.

In this forum, I've heard the advice 'If it doesn't advance the plot, leave it out.' I don't see how knowing what the letters mean advances the plot, so by that advice it shouldn't be spelled out until it does advance the plot.

Many Authors advocate the use of a list of characters. I think a glossary of terms would be far more useful for a story than a list of characters; especially when the character descriptions fail to give the reader the details needed to understand where the character fits into the story. Example: John Doe - a friend of Bill's aunt. Now what does that really tell you about how John fits into the story and the interaction he has with Bill, the MC?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Within the Swarm Cycle universe, nearly everyone knows what a CAP score is and in general what various scores mean. However only a handful of humans know what the acronym actually stands for.


If I come into a series part way through, which is a common event in real life, and there's a key thing like the CAP and it isn't properly explained when it first comes up in the story, you can bet I, like millions of others, won't bother reading any other books in the series at all, due to not fully understanding what the frak is going on. Heck, I'm likely to not finish the book.

The major thing in writing is you can never assume anything important is known to a reader, you have to tell them within that story.

If what the CAP is is important to understand the society or plot of the story, then it needs to be explained each and every story that applies to, unless they're short stories or novellas in a book of linked such stories.

Replies:   REP  Dominions Son  joyR
Elawn

@Dominions Son

Actually it kind of frustrated me to see CAP being mentioned repeatedly by the characters without knowing what it stood for - hence this thread. I've reached chapter 7 where it is vaguely explained, but an author's note before starting the story would have been welcomed.

REP
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


If what the CAP is is important to understand the society or plot of the story, then it needs to be explained each and every story that applies to


In every Swarm story I recall reading, the meaning and application of the CAP score is defined. I also see the definition of CAP (i.e., Capacity, Aptitude, and Potential) spelled out in many of the stories.

In the stories, what makes up Capacity, Aptitude, and Potential is not known. How the characteristics defining these attributes is quantified and merged to create the CAP score is not known. This is also stated in many stories. The characters all accept the fact that the Confederacy tests people and comes up with a score, which is explained in most stories. When the meanings of the letters is important to the story plot, the Author states what the letters stand for.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

If I come into a series part way through, which is a common event in real life, and there's a key thing like the CAP and it isn't properly explained when it first comes up in the story,


There is a difference between defining the acronym/initialism in terms of what the letters stand for and explaining what it refers to.

The latter is done in EVERY swarm cycle story. The former is not particularly important to the stories.

Dominions Son

@Elawn

Actually it kind of frustrated me to see CAP being mentioned repeatedly by the characters without knowing what it stood for - hence this thread.


Here's the thing, what "CAP" stands for is likely not known by the characters using the term, and what it stands for (Capacity, Aptitude and Potential) doesn't really tell you anything important about what a CAP score is or what it means.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

In every Swarm story I recall reading, the meaning and application of the CAP score is defined. I also see the definition of CAP (i.e., Capacity, Aptitude, and Potential) spelled out in many of the stories.


I've not read them, so I can't comment. But the original poster said it wasn't explained what CAP stood for in any way - and that sparked the discussion. I stated the acronym had to be explained, and then DS said it wasn't needed because it was in earlier stories - which I then explained it still needed to be given as more than just the acronym.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

There is a difference between defining the acronym/initialism in terms of what the letters stand for and explaining what it refers to.

The latter is done in EVERY swarm cycle story. The former is not particularly important to the stories.


Clearly it's not given as anything but the acronym of CAP in one story, because that's what the original post is about - what did CAP stand for. All that was needed was the first mention of the acronym be set out in full, which is all I've said. Just because the first story may give what the letters stand for doesn't mean you can leave it out of the later stories and just use the acronym - unless it's a book of short stories and novellas where they come all together.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
richardshagrin

If you are dyslectic, it means armored personnel carrier, APC. In alphabetical order, ACP. Or maybe, cap is a hat, like a baseball cap. or maybe short for capital, or maybe capitol. And a cap score is a piece of music.

AmigaClone

@Dominions Son


There is a difference between defining the acronym/initialism in terms of what the letters stand for and explaining what it refers to.

The latter is done in EVERY swarm cycle story. The former is not particularly important to the stories.


There is around 250 stories in the SWARM cycle Universe, most of the ones I know of can be found on SOL. While the vast majority of those stories mention the consequences of a certain CAP score, only about 20 of those stories define the acronym CAP.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

I stated the acronym had to be explained, and then DS said it wasn't needed because it was in earlier stories


No, I did not say it wasn't needed because it was in earlier stories. That was docholiday.

I said defining what the letters stood for wasn't needed because it's like LASER. No one knows what it stands for but everyone knows what it refers to.

What "CAP score" refers to and what it means for the plot is well explained in every Swarm Cycle story at the point it becomes relevant to the plot. What the letters stand for adds nothing to reader understanding of it.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

All that was needed was the first mention of the acronym be set out in full, which is all I've said.


Except in the story in question it is used in dialog and the character who uses it doesn't know the information you think needs to be included.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Elawn


Actually it kind of frustrated me to see CAP being mentioned repeatedly by the characters without knowing what it stood for


I'm going to take another crack at this. The story you are referring to takes place early in the Swarm Cycle timeline.

The characters using it are high school kids. At the beginning of the story, they don't know what it stands for or what it means for them. You as a reader learn the latter but not the former as the characters do. The character never learn what it stands for.

This process of learning about what a CAP score means is a big part of the plot of the story, so giving it away upfront would be a spoiler.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@AmigaClone

While the vast majority of those stories mention the consequences of a certain CAP score, only about 20 of those stories define the acronym CAP.


Because for most of those stories, the characters using the acronym don't know what it stands for, and what it stands for doesn't really add anything to the stories.

Dominions Son

@AmigaClone

While the vast majority of those stories mention the consequences of a certain CAP score, only about 20 of those stories define the acronym CAP.


Do you get bend out of shape every time you read a science fiction story that uses "laser" without explaining what the acronym means? Yes, laser is an acronym.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Except in the story in question it is used in dialog and the character who uses it doesn't know the information you think needs to be included.


What you're saying is: unless you've read every story before that you have to assume they're talking about their headgear because there's nothing there to say it's anything else.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Yes, laser is an acronym.


just like radar and sonar are acronyms which have become general knowledge nouns - and are very well known, unlike the topic under discussion in this thread.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

At the beginning of the story, they don't know what it stands for or what it means for them.


If they don't know what it stands for or anything about, they wouldn't be talking about it at all, simply because they wouldn't know the name. They must have some knowledge about it to be able to mention - that doesn't mean they need the full details up front, but something that tells you what it's about.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

If they don't know what it stands for or anything about, they wouldn't be talking about it at all, simply because they wouldn't know the name.


That's in the first chapter of the story under discussion. There was a Presidential announcement televised (the full details of the announcement are in the story Average Joes IIRC).

The announcement covered a number of pertinent facts.

1. First Contact with aliens (The Darjee of the Confederacy).
2. The Swarm threat.
3. A new law was passed requiring everyone age 14 and over to get a CAP test.

The kids being kids (the MC and most of the major characters are only high school freshmen, age 14) did not pay that much attention to the details of the announcement.

At the start of the story the kids know basically two things, there's this thing called a CAP test which gives you a CAP score and they either have one or need to get one. At the start of the story, they know nothing about CAP tests/CAP scores beyond these two very basic facts.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

just like radar and sonar are acronyms which have become general knowledge nouns - and are very well known, unlike the topic under discussion in this thread.


Except while everyone knows them as nouns. Few know that they are acronyms and fewer still know what the acronyms stand for. CAP in the Swarm Cycle universe falls into this same category.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

What you're saying is: unless you've read every story before that you have to assume they're talking about their headgear because there's nothing there to say it's anything else.


Um, no. CAP never stands on it's own in the Swarm Cycle universe. It's either CAP test, CAP score, or CAP card. It's clear enough from the context that none of these things refers to headgear.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

CAP test, CAP score, or CAP card.


CAP Test = does it fir my head

CAP Score = how good does it look

CAP Card = used to identify where it came from.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

3. A new law was passed requiring everyone age 14 and over to get a CAP test.


And any such announcement would have something about what the CAP test is, unless it's already common place and known to everyone, in which case it should be explained.

No matter how you want to mess with this, just throwing out and acronym name and saying nothing about it is a bad thing to do in writing a story.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

And any such announcement would have something about what the CAP test is, unless it's already common place and known to everyone, in which case it should be explained.


It did, but the announcement took place before the start of this story, and the kids that make up the cast of this story didn't pay that much attention to the initial announcement. Part of the plot of the story involves the kids catching up on that.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


CAP Test = does it fir my head

CAP Score = how good does it look

CAP Card = used to identify where it came from.


Now you are just stretching to create ambiguity where none exists.

All of those things can be and are explained in the stories (including the one under discussion) without defining the "CAP" acronym.

Here are the explanations as the kids in the story under discussion learn them.

CAP test = A test administered by Confederacy officials to determine if someone is eligible to join the Confederacy military and become a citizen of the confederacy.

The process of of a CAP test as a typical Swarm Cycle character would experience it are:

1. You go to a CAP testing facility. This facility is run by humans who have already joined the Confederacy Navy or Marines.

2. The put you into a pod, a high tech computerized box.

3. You fall asleep.

4. The pod opens, and you wake up.

5. One of the humans working in the facility hands you your CAP card.

CAP card = An ID card that has your name and CAP score on it.

CAP Score = A number between 0.0 and 10.0 which determine if you are eligible to volunteer for the Confederacy military. A minimum score of 6.5 is needed to qualify.

All of this information is in the story under discussion, but is dribbled out as the main character finds out about it.

Knowing that CAP stands for Capacity, Aptitude and Potential, adds no useful information about what a CAP test/card/score are, how the score is determined or how the score is used.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


No matter how you want to mess with this, just throwing out and acronym name and saying nothing about it is a bad thing to do in writing a story.


I've never said an acronym (or any other term) should be thrown out with no explanation at all. However, it is very possible to explain what an acronym refers to without defining what the actual acronym letters stand for.

In many cases, what the acronym stands for is not particularly informative and becomes fluff even if mentioned.

Again, laser and many of the other acronyms that have become general nouns are good examples of this.

If you had never heard a a laser and knew nothing about what they are, saying Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation wouldn't give you any real clue about what a laser is or what it could be used for.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
joyR

@Ernest Bywater

If I come into a series part way through, which is a common event in real life, and there's a key thing like the CAP and it isn't properly explained when it first comes up in the story, you can bet I, like millions of others, won't bother reading any other books in the series at all, due to not fully understanding what the frak is going on. Heck, I'm likely to not finish the book.


Utter rubbish.

By that logic anyone who choses The Two Towers as their first Tolkein, or The Prisoner of Azkerban as their first Harry Potter story, wouldn't understand many of the references to earlier books and thus quote "not finish the book".

When a reader chooses to begin reading a series or universe they should have the wit to start at the beginning. If they don't, and thus get lost trying to understand things, it's NOT the authors fault.

The major thing in writing is you can never assume anything important is known to a reader, you have to tell them within that story.


Except that applying that rigidly would destroy numerous classics that withhold information or explanation until the point it makes most sense/adds impact/etc etc. It matters not if it's an acronym or to quote, "anything important". Chapter 1 isn't the place to explain everything, it's generally accepted as the place to set the scene, draw the reader into your story, and all that good stuff.

a key thing like the CAP and it isn't properly explained when it first comes up in the story


CAP is in the title. So by your "rule" it should be in the first paragraph of chapter 1...... And to think of all the countless writers who have agonised over the opening to their story, when all they should have done is explain the title....

LonelyDad

Yes, in technical writing one fully spells out the words of an acronym, i.e. CAP (Capacity, Aptitude, Potential). But this is not technical writing. If it is integral to the story that the characters don't know diddly about CAP tests, etc., then taking the time to explain it to the reader is breaking the fourth wall, which usually throws most readers out of their "willing suspension of disbelief".

We have to remember that all of the stories are written by different authors with different styles and capabilities. Having said that, and having read ALL the Swarm stories multiple times, I can't bring one to mind right now where not having CAP spelled out caused a problem in my understanding of the story. In some of the stories it doesn't matter what CAP stands for. They could be testing how well one stacks Legos or is able to unclog a stopped up sink. What was important in those stories was what the person's score was, and how that impacted their actions and motivations. In other stories, somewhere in the story it became important for at least one character to understand what the CAP score was measuring, and AT THAT POINT, it was explained.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
REP

@Ernest Bywater

All that was needed was the first mention of the acronym be set out in full, which is all I've said.


In order to understand The Swarm Cycle Universe a great deal of information must be provided by the Author. Many of the stories are relatively short and a full background would not be appropriate.

Building a CAP Based Future has 84 chapters. Allan Joyal interweaves information about the Universe with the story's plot over a number of chapters rather than doing a major data dump in the first couple of chapters. He gradually introduces the meaning of CAP testing and how it affects his characters' lives in their present, and then expands that to how it will affect them in the future.

The meaning of the letters is defined in Chapter 7; where the dialog supports its definition. The letter meaning is nice to know, but not that critical to the plot and understanding of The Swarm Cycle Universe.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

to assume they're talking about their headgear because there's nothing there to say it's anything else


No. Go read the first few chapters of the story. The way CAP is being used tells you a lot about its meaning.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

in which case it should be explained


Ernest - it is explained. Since you haven't read the story stop making assumptions. Allan Joyal is gradually putting out everything you need to know about the Swarm Cycle Universe. The OP was commenting on the fact that the point he wanted to know wasn't spoon fed to him in the first chapter.

Dominions Son

@REP

The OP was commenting on the fact that the point he wanted to know wasn't spoon fed to him in the first chapter.


And that point is not in any way critical to understanding either that particular story or to understanding the Swarm Cycle universe in general.

Replies:   REP  REP  Elawn
REP

@Dominions Son


And that point is not in any way critical to understanding either that particular story or to understanding the Swarm Cycle universe in general.


I agree 100%, but it is what set EB off. He is criticizing Allan Joyal's writing technique without an understanding of: 1) the OP's problem and 2) how Allan presented information.

REP

@Dominions Son


And that point is not in any way critical to understanding either that particular story or to understanding the Swarm Cycle universe in general.


I agree 100%, but it is what set EB off. He is criticizing Allan Joyal's writing technique without an understanding of: 1) the OP's problem and 2) how Allan presented information.

Replies:   REP
Elawn
Updated:

@Dominions Son


The OP was commenting on the fact that the point he wanted to know wasn't spoon fed to him in the first chapter.



And that point is not in any way critical to understanding either that particular story or to understanding the Swarm Cycle universe in general.


Still wondering how a harmless question turned into a full on debate...

I wanted to know what the acronym stood for because after 3 chapters I still had no idea, and I also didn't know if it would be mentioned later.

I knew the book was part of a universe - and no I did not want to read the original story or any other for the matter.

Someone said that the acronym was a spoiler, but I honestly don't see how. I'm pretty sure the only reason the author didn't explain it right away is because he assumed those who would read were the ones familiar with the universe.

Now I only asked because it irked me, and someone was kind enough to answer so...

Throw away your weapons, soldiers! This war has no raison d'être!

Dominions Son

@Elawn


Still wondering how a harmless question turned into a full on debate...


I'm not sure either. I originally just answered your question. Then others started to make a fuss about it.

I wanted to know what the acronym stood for because after 3 chapters I still had no idea, and I also didn't know if it would be mentioned later.


I don't object to the curiosity (hence going out of my way to answer it), but the answer doesn't really add anything significant to understanding the story.

Dominions Son

@Elawn

Someone said that the acronym was a spoiler, but I honestly don't see how.


I said that.

In the Swarm Cycle universe in general, even in later parts of the chronology, what CAP stands for is not widely known by humans still on earth.

The MC does not know at the start of the story.

How the MC finds out what it stands for is a significant plot element.

While defining the acronym up front might not give anything away, it would weaken the impact for the reader when the MC finally finds out.

REP
Updated:

@REP

I meant to added:

This universe is like the Damsels in Distress Universe. The stories you wrote EB in that universe did not explain all of the rules of Crossroads, Chaos, and Cassandra. You only explained what was necessary for the reader to understand what you were writing about.

In your 1st DID story, you wrote the opening scene at a fencing club. In that scene you made references to scenes in your Al Adams series stories, but you didn't give a full background on the Al Adams story scenes. You only provided what the reader needed at the time. Essentially, Allan Joyal did the same thing; he only provided the reader with what was needed at the time.

.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The character knows in general what the term refers to and the purpose of that thing is, but doesn't know what the acronym/initialism actually stands for. How do you handle this in the narrative of your story?

A better analogy, since you brought up brand names, are authors who casually mention "going to the local Ihop". Yet our Australian readers (especially Ernest) keep reminding us, non-Americans often have no clue what an "ihop" is. While it may not be 'essential' to understand it, it's a sore point for readers who are left scratching their heads.

The reader who first broached the subject didn't seem to be thrown out of the story, but this isn't just an Swarm Cycle issue, it's something that ALL authors need to be aware of conscious of. Just because the author knows what he's talking about doesn't mean that his readers do—especially now that they no longer know what state, country or even continent his readers my reside in.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Saying 'CAP score' and explaining how it affects the characters and plot is more important then knowing what the letters mean.

Exactly! It was my fault for not making that idea obvious, rather than harping about defining Initialisms.

As far as the need for story glossaries, we may need to revisit it, as I've got a story coming up where I have multiple alien languages being tossed around. I tries to keep them simple (with most of them meaning no more than "Hey you!" or "Fuck You!", but because there are so few of them, and they're no indistinct, I didn't really consider adding a glossary of terms.

I may need to reconsider that. However, I did provide context for every use, having the character who did understand the terms convey the implications, even if he didn't explain what the precise obscenities meant (hint: there were children involved).

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

All of this information is in the story under discussion, but is dribbled out as the main character finds out about it.

Knowing that CAP stands for Capacity, Aptitude and Potential, adds no useful information about what a CAP test/card/score are, how the score is determined or how the score is used.

Again, that's why context is so vital. The letters themselves don't mean diddly, but the context and how they impact the readers (and why they care or why they don't understand, means everything to a story.

You don't need to spell out every detail in a story, but you need to account for reader confusion early on, before you lost that reader forever.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@joyR

When a reader chooses to begin reading a series or universe they should have the wit to start at the beginning. If they don't, and thus get lost trying to understand things, it's NOT the authors fault.

I continually have readers who write that 'I loved this story, even though I'd never read the previous books in the series' (even though I write in the story blurb "You need to read the previous books to understand the story").

You can't assume that everyone is a loyal fan, familiar with everything you're familiar with. That's not storytelling, that's being lazy as crap and not caring about anyone else.

The difference between a good author and a crappy one are often illustrated by just these circumstances. A decent writer will captivate a reader early, carrying them along even if they're unsure of what's happening, explaining (through the story context) what's going on, even if they don't know what's happened before. That's why those readers will typically go back and read the earlier books. But assuming that everyone has already read every single book is a good way of ensuring they NEVER read another one again!

Replies:   joyR
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Ernest - it is explained. Since you haven't read the story stop making assumptions. Allan Joyal is gradually putting out everything you need to know about the Swarm Cycle Universe. The OP was commenting on the fact that the point he wanted to know wasn't spoon fed to him in the first chapter.

If you don't want to spell out every detail initially, all you need is to acknowledge that it's an issue. That's establishing context. The precise terms are irrelevant. What is vital is just what the character understand. The fact we've repeatedly debating the same details is clear evidence that that context was never clearly established!

Crumbly Writer

@Elawn

Still wondering how a harmless question turned into a full on debate...

Now I only asked because it irked me, and someone was kind enough to answer so...

Throw away your weapons, soldiers! This war has no raison d'être!

Ernest and I made an issue of it, because this is an issue, not just in the Swarm Cycle stories, but in every story ever written. And stating that the reader 'just doesn't understand the story universe' is simply evidence they still don't understand the underlying issues.

This is something that every writer faces. However, good writers learn from their experiences, while bad authors keep repeating the same mistakes, never comprehending why they're not connecting with readers.

Ernest, Switch and I have debated this endlessly, multiple times before. The fact we have to define the problem each time to belligerent authors illustrates why it continues to be an issue. Authors either 'get it', they learn, or they never progress.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son


It did, but the announcement took place before the start of this story,


In which case the author should've explained it instead of assuming all the readers knew the previous stories - poor writing.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Now you are just stretching to create ambiguity where none exists.


if you use a term that isn't universally common, then any common usage meaning is applicable to it if you don't bother to explain it when it first appears in the story being read.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

However, it is very possible to explain what an acronym refers to without defining what the actual acronym letters stand for.


True, but in the original post it was clear the story under question did not have any explanation of any sort when it first appeared, thus bad writing by the author. Introduce something not common, tell people about what it is. Even if it's just an author's note about it just after it.

Ernest Bywater

@joyR

The Prisoner of Azkerban as their first Harry Potter story, wouldn't understand many of the references to earlier books and thus quote "not finish the book".


that's exactly what happens with many books where important things aren't properly covered when first mentioned in the story.

Ernest Bywater

@LonelyDad

Yes, in technical writing one fully spells out the words of an acronym, i.e. CAP (Capacity, Aptitude, Potential). But this is not technical writing. If it is integral to the story that the characters don't know diddly about CAP tests, etc., then taking the time to explain it to the reader is breaking the fourth wall, which usually throws most readers out of their "willing suspension of disbelief".


A suitable author's note at the start on just there giving a simple statement on what the acronym is or what it covers would solve the issue. However, DS is saying ti's explained in other earlier stories so the reader should already know, thus it can't be breaking the 4th wall if that's the case.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@REP

This universe is like the Damsels in Distress Universe. The stories you wrote EB in that universe did not explain all of the rules of Crossroads, Chaos, and Cassandra. You only explained what was necessary for the reader to understand what you were writing about.


And where I used a term or word that wasn't common I explained it, and did the same as I introduced others.

You could try to make an example of the Clan Amir series, except they were first published in books with a prologue that explained all the specialised stuff at the start of the book. To post them here I had to do each story by itself, thus the numbering system to show the book order.

Replies:   REP
joyR

@Crumbly Writer

The difference between a good author and a crappy one are often illustrated by just these circumstances. A decent writer will captivate a reader early, carrying them along even if they're unsure of what's happening, explaining (through the story context) what's going on, even if they don't know what's happened before.


Which, if it was in any way correct, means that you consider the likes of Tolkien, King etc to be crappy writers. I'm sure they'll take note of your opinion. However, you are somewhat missing the point, or just being obtuse.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
joyR

What's more, this (not explaining terms) is just last storytelling, rather than conscious decisions not to reveal the information until later.


You say this having read the story in question I presume? In which case I suggest you go back and re-read it to see just how wrong you are.

joyR

That was a conscious choice (not to define the term), as most would assume it refers to the singularity of physics. I wanted readers to realize, as the story unfolds and they slowly understand there IS no blackhole Singularity, that it refers to a Singularity of matter, energy and life. I wanted a slow revelation, even if many readers didn't get it, simply because it would be more powerful that way.


Which boils down to it being ok for you to do it, but wrong for everyone else.

REP

I wanted a slow revelation, even if many readers didn't get it, simply because it would be more powerful that way.


and yet in the prior post you said:

Just because the author knows what he's talking about doesn't mean that his readers do—especially now that they no longer know what state, country or even continent his readers my reside in.


Those two statements are at odds with each other. In the prior post it sounds as if you as a reader are saying Allan was wrong to not be clear to all readers. Then you turn around as an Author and say it is okay for YOU to leave some of your readers in the dark so it would be more powerful.

Allan had as much right to present material the way he did, as you had to do it your way.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

not excuses for NOT letting readers know what the frak is going on!


Information builds one chapter at a time. Allen gave the readers enough information to know what was going on with the characters and the scene. If you have read the story you should know that.

What you are saying is tantamount to you explaining the virus in your Great Death series, how it is passed, what it does to everyone and their society fully in the opening chapter of the first book of the series.

You don't explain everything in the first chapter, and Allan followed that rule.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The reader who first broached the subject didn't seem to be thrown out of the story, but this isn't just an Swarm Cycle issue


The thing is with the Swarm Cycle, CAP never stands on it's own as an acronym on it's own.

I am familiar with the particular story that the OP was referencing. "CAP test" "CAP score" "CAP card" and even just "CAP" does get explained.

The problem is it gets dribbled out over the course of the first quarter of the story. That's not an accident.

While it is a relatively new story, it takes place at the very beginning of the Swarm Cycle timeline.

You have a bunch of 14 year old high school freshmen. They have heard about these new things call "CAP test", "CAP score", and "CAP card" but don't have any idea what they are.

The first part of the story is very much about the kids learning/figuring out/discovering what these things are.

Each of the kids have different bits and pieces, though some have misinformation. Some of it gets revealed by the adults in their lives, some of it they figure out by comparing what each of them knows.

In my opinion, throwing explanations of it out to the reader ahead of the MC and his friends learning about it would very much weaken the story.

Dominions Son

Read my 20 previous posts for an alternative view. You don't need to define the term, per say, but you do need to establish the context of the term, and what it means for the characters, but that takes more work, something many authors aren't capable of.


The specific story under discussion does exactly that. The OP was just being impatient.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

You can't assume that every reader reads every universe in the precise order of the stories in the universe.


I don't and neither did the author of the story being discussed. The explanations are there, but the first part of the story is about the process of the MC and his friends learning that information, so it takes quite a few chapters before it's all put together.

Dominions Son

Read my 20 previous posts for an alternative view. You don't need to define the term, per say, but you do need to establish the context of the term,


That's what I have said since before you even joined this thread. The point I am trying to make is that this is done in the story mentioned in the OP.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Again, that's why context is so vital. The letters themselves don't mean diddly, but the context and how they impact the readers (


And that context is all there in the story the OP mentions. It just isn't all packed into the first chapter.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

In which case the author should've explained it instead of assuming all the readers knew the previous stories - poor writing.


How many times do we have to hit you over the head with this. The story mentioned by the OP does explain it all, but it's a long story and the first part of that story is a process of discover, so it's not all packed into chapter 1.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

if you use a term that isn't universally common, then any common usage meaning is applicable


None of the usages you suggested are remotely common and the context in the story if you read it would make it clear that your suggestions wouldn't work.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

However, DS is saying ti's explained in other earlier stories so the reader should already know


No, I never once said that.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

And where I used a term or word that wasn't common I explained it, and did the same as I introduced others.


And that is not what I meant by my comment.

At the end of the scene as Al was leaving you had Al and Benson talking about his company doing construction and Joe referencing his giving a sword to the Japanese Government.

Al went to the fencing club to create an impression on Joe. Both of those event had significant meaning in establishing himself in Joe's eyes, but you failed to define that significance to the reader. The only readers who understood the significance and how that would affect Joe were those who had read the prior stories.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@joyR

Which, if it was in any way correct, means that you consider the likes of Tolkien, King etc to be crappy writers. I'm sure they'll take note of your opinion. However, you are somewhat missing the point, or just being obtuse.

You're just looking for any excuse to continue the argument, aren't you. Anything other than admit you may be wrong.

This is a common problem in storytelling, it's certainly not restricted to this one universe. As I said, Tolkein and the others overcame it by allows readers, without the full background, to still enjoy the story, filling them in a little at a time. They could immediately understand who were the good guys, who the bad guys were, and who was likely to betray them. That's establishing context.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp  REP  joyR
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Allan had as much right to present material the way he did, as you had to do it your way.

Once again, you're all trying to shove words in my mouth so you can criticize me for it.

I never said he had to 'reveal' anything, just that he needs to take into account how new readers will respond, and give the reader context to understand what's happening. If done correctly, you can leave something hanging and readers will be hungry for the information.

I'm not criticizing the Swarm Cycle Universe, instead I'm pointing out a common issue is storytelling, encountered by everyone. If you refuse to admit you can ever make an error, because your readers already know everything, then there's not much sense continuing the discussion.

There's a difference between establishing context and providing unnecessary details.

You said the author did provide some context, but if the reader spends multiple chapters searching for information, someone's done something wrong.

Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

Personally I think something like this would let the reader know they will find out what CAP testing is about later in the story.

char 1 - "I got a letter saying I have to report for my CAP test. Any of you guys know what that's about?"

char 2 - "I got one too. I remember it was covered in an assembly, but who pays attention during those things anyway."

char 3 - "You got that right. I slept through most of it. I remember something about it being a government test, but that's about it. I'm sure they'll fill us in when we report for testing."


This method lets the reader know that the characters don't really know what's going on either but at the same time lets them know the information will be revealed later.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

What you are saying is tantamount to you explaining the virus in your Great Death series, how it is passed, what it does to everyone and their society fully in the opening chapter of the first book of the series.

You don't explain everything in the first chapter, and Allan followed that rule.

Again, you're merely putting words in my mouth so you can refute a straw man's arguments.

I never said he (or anyone) needed to reveal everything first thing. What I said is that this is a common problem which needs to be addressed. Since we've discussed this before, we're trying to guide those who've never encountered it before.

Instead of ignoring a problem, or doing an premature info dump, you simply acknowledge the issue, that the character don't know what CAP scores are (i.e. how they're determined). That establishes the necessary context readers need so they'll say, 'ah, okay, that will eventually be answered, so I can wait for it to unfold'. If readers keep asking what something is, it's a sign you're not doing your job.

You say this context has already been established, but if so, why is the reader looking everywhere for the information if it's clear it's a mystery yet to be revealed?

However, since Elawn doesn't think it's a major story issue, and clearly, everyone involved in the universe thinks they can do no wrong, there's clearly nothing to say here. You already know everything, your readers already know every detail of your universe, and all you have to do is tell your story without regarding your readers. It must be nice to have that kind of blind confidence.

@DS

The problem is it gets dribbled out over the course of the first quarter of the story. That's not an accident.

Believe me, I've dribbled out my own share of information. But there are ways to do it which work, and those that don't. I've tried them both, and I've learned overtime where many of the pitfalls are.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The specific story under discussion does exactly that. The OP was just being impatient.

Patience is earned, just as trust in your storytelling is. It's not demanded. Writing is a game of trust between writer and author. As the reader learns to trust you, they allow you more latitude.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

Anything other than admit you may be wrong.


YOUR comments indicate to those of us who have read the story that you probably haven't read the story. In an earlier post, EB said he hadn't read the story.

Yet, you and CW continue to criticize how Allan Joyal wrote Building a CAP Based Future accusing him of Poor Writing. Where do you get off stating that Joyal is guilty of Poor Writing, just because you believe Poor Writing is a problem with many writers. YOU don't know what you are talking about if YOU haven't read the story; and based on your comments it certainly appears that you haven't read it.

If I jumped into the 2nd book of your Great Death series, I could say many of the same things about you as an Author because you failed to explain the entire first story of the series to me the reader in the first chapter of the second book.

In the same context, you can't explain everything about the Swarm Cycle premise in the first chapter. Joyal provided what was pertinent for that chapter and kept adding more in subsequent chapter, and integrating the information into the plot. To me that is good writing. Knowing that CAP stands for Capacity, Aptitude, and Potential has no meaning until you understand the Swarm Cycle scenario; so Joyal defined it in Chapter 7 where it would be understandable and the words would be meaningful.

DS, JoyR, and I have read the story and we keep telling you that the story is well written and the OP was impatient because he didn't get spoon fed one specific detail in the first chapter. It was in the story but not in the first chapter. We have said this multiple times and you fail to grasp what we are telling you, so go read the story and then maybe you will understand what we are telling you.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

Al went to the fencing club to create an impression on Joe. Both of those event had significant meaning in establishing himself in Joe's eyes, but you failed to define that significance to the reader. The only readers who understood the significance and how that would affect Joe were those who had read the prior stories.


You've got two major problems with this statement:

1. Al went to the fencing club to ask Joe a simple question, and got an answer to it. Other events occurred while there to provide additional information and actions, but weren't part of why Al went there.

2. Finding Home (the first story written with Al) was written in in late 2009 and was a long time in the editorial process due to its size, so it was late 2010 before it was published on SoL. While the Chaos Calls stories were written in mid 2010 and went through the editorial process quicker, but the first one was still published on Sol after Finding Home. Thus the DiD stories in Chaos Calls are after Finding Home, not earlier than it.

..........

Also, you've now moved from a single word and some understanding of it, to a whole chapter and what it means. Very different things.

Replies:   REP
Grant

@Elawn

Still wondering how a harmless question turned into a full on debate...

So this is your first time on the internet then?

joyR

@Crumbly Writer

You're just looking for any excuse to continue the argument, aren't you. Anything other than admit you may be wrong.


I'm often wrong, but not as often as you are arrogant.

As I said, Tolkein and the others overcame it by allows readers, without the full background, to still enjoy the story, filling them in a little at a time.


(My bold)

I'm glad you now agree with those of us who have read the story and the point we have been making all along. Thank you.

Crumbly Writer

Before you consider a reply, please note that whilst as a story teller you have written some very good stories, your writing here often makes you appear arrogant and self righteous, thus probably attracting many of the responses you get. Anyone who gives of their time to try to help others is to be lauded. However. That does not mean that your opinion is always right, nor does it mean you know better that everyone else. It matters not with who, or how often you have debated a point. Anyone who holds the attitude that they are right and all others are wrong, is either extremely conceited or a religious nutcase. So please, think before you post. Thank you.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Lumpy
Updated:

I think all the arguing back and forth if defining CAP is importnant for the reader or not is missing 2 things.

1) A reader of this swarm cycle story, but not the entire universe, commented in this thread about part way through that he was really frustrated they didn't define CAP, and that when they defined it, it wasn't defined well enough.

AND

2) I have tried to read this story before, and bailed within a few chapters because they mentioned it several times, and never defined it, and I found it frustrating.

So saying using CAP without explaining it doesn't matter to the readers isn't true, since here are 2 readers that are saying it did matter to them. It's not a theoretical argument at this point.

Replies:   REP
REP
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


You've got two major problems with this statement


Al went to the fencing club to ask Joe a simple question


1. Yes he did. However at the fencing club he learned he had to fulfill 3 requirements to get Joe's permission to date Meredith(i.e. actions I referred to as impressing Joe). While he was there the 2 incidents I mentioned occurred. My point was you failed to explain the significance of the 2 incidents so your reader would understand why they were significant to the other characters in the scene. That failure appears to be the same thing you are criticizing Joyal for doing when you say he shouldn't rely on the content of other Swarm Cycle stories to explain to explain the content in his story.

2. And why do you think the timing of Finding Home and the Chaos stories posting is a problem?

My comment addressed your writing Finding Home first and then the Chaos stories, which is what your reply said. It had nothing to do with how long it took to get the story through the editing process of the posting order. It still comes down to you wrote the incidents referenced in the Chaos stories in the Finding Home story, and then in writing the first Chaos story you failed to explain the significance of what happened in the Finding Home story.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
REP
Updated:

@Elawn


Still wondering how a harmless question turned into a full on debate...


I don't fault you for asking your question. It was valid and in most cases the Author should define what an acronym stands for the first time it is used. However, it didn't happen in this case. I suspect Joyal didn't do it for the 3 words would be meaningless to someone new to the Swarm Cycle Universe without background and those of us familiar with the Universe understood what CAP meant. It is possible that he didn't define the acronym of another reason.

What you are hearing in the Forum is typical of Authors having differing views. We tend to say each Author has the right to present information in their own way. But then we become critical and judgmental of the way other Authors handle their stories.

Acronyms are normally spelled out the first time they are used. Normally, the spelled out letters of an acronym have meaning to a reader. The 3 words Capacity, Aptitude, and Potential have no meaning in the scene without an understanding of how those 3 words applied to testing and what the examinee was being tested for. It was a chicken and egg situation. Providing the necessary background didn't fit the scene and would impair the flow of the scene. I think Joyal deferred providing those 3 words until later in the story when they would have more meaning and were a better fit in the dialog.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

My point was you failed to explain the significance of the 2 incidents so your reader would understand why they were significant to the other characters in the scene.


Because they weren't of any significance to the story Finding Home, so I didn't need to explain anything. Al was there to organise for the dance - no more, no less. All the readers already knew Al was handy with a sword, so there was nothing else to be said about it.

In your early story you said: The only readers who understood the significance and how that would affect Joe were those who had read the prior stories. Thus I pointed out Finding Home had no prior stories to have any significance for.

............

In Finding Home when I through in an unusual term like gaijin or Ryu I explained it when it was first mentioned, unlike what happened in the story that was complained about by the original poster of this thread.

Replies:   REP  Grant
REP

@Lumpy

So saying using CAP without explaining it doesn't matter to the readers isn't true, since here are 2 readers that are saying it did matter to them. It's not a theoretical argument at this point.


I agree with you in that at least 2 readers were bothered and that the argument is not theoretical.

In technical writing, there is no problem with spelling out an acronym the first time it is used. Doing so does not interrupt the flow of technical material. However, that is not always the case with non-fictional writing.

When an Author is creating a scene, there is a mix of narrative and dialog. The dialog is impaired by inserting the meaning of the acronym; although there are ways around that. Adding a note can impair the scene itself. It becomes the Author's decision to determine where to give the reader the necessary information. As a reader, I agree that it can be frustrating.

Replies:   Lumpy
Lumpy

@REP

That's the challenge of being an author, and figuring out how to write an accessible story. Frustrating readers can lead them to bail on the story and not come back.

It's up to the Author to find a way to do it, unless he consciously writes off new readers, which is one way to go. And, as the was pointed out by someone else, when the author of this story did eventually get around to explaining it, it was a very helpful explanation that left the new reader still somewhat lost.

Writing so you don't frustrate your readers is, or should be, one of the main goals of an author. right?

Replies:   REP
richardshagrin

@joyR

Anyone who holds the attitude that they are right

I am not sick, so I am alright. I am right handed so I am Dexter(ous) at least in Latin. The minority who are left handed are Sinister.

REP

@Lumpy

one of the main goals of an author. right?


Right that is the goal. Unfortunately, Authors are human and cannot address every possibility of what might frustrate a reader. Therefore, we do what we think is right for the story and try to cover most of the objectionable items that a reader may have a problem with.

REP
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Thus I pointed out Finding Home had no prior stories to have any significance for.


I was talking about your Chaos 01 readers who had not read Finding Home failing to understand the significance of what you added at the end of the fencing club scene.

I recall threads in this Forum in which the general consensus was there are rules that an Author should follow, but Authors have the right to deviate from those rules when the Author deems it appropriate to do so.

Joyal deviated from the rule about defining acronyms for his reasons and he is paying the price for doing so. I earlier suggested what those reasons might be.

There is a rule about not making references to things in a story that the reader may not understand without providing adequate background. You decided in Chaos 01, which was your right, to deviate from that rule by not explaining the 2 references to Finding Home - I happen to agree with that decision.

My issue is with you criticizing Joyal for deviating from one rule, while you exercise your right by deviating from a different rule. You can't have it both ways Ernest. If Joyal deviating from one rule makes his story an example of Poor Writing, then your deviating from a different rule in your story makes it an example of Poor Writing. Personally, I believe both stories are great.

To put it another way, if an Author has the right to deviate from a rule for what they feel is a valid reason, then the rest of us shouldn't criticize their doing so just because they deviated from a rule.

Grant
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

My point was you failed to explain the significance of the 2 incidents so your reader would understand why they were significant to the other characters in the scene.


Because they weren't of any significance to the story Finding Home, so I didn't need to explain anything.

See, that's a choice you chose to make, but there was probably a reader or 2 that was wondering about those characters & why they were of such significance to the others. Just because you don't consider something of significance or importance doesn't mean a reader won't.

Just as the person that started this thread was wondering about what CAP stood for, it's not actually known by any of the characters at this point of the story, and it's not necessary to know what it stands for to understand the story. Later on they do find out, along with the reader, and that gives everyone an "Aha! Now I understand" moment.

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