WELD discussion

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WELD discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:24 pm

I hope everyone enjoyed themselves at WELD, despite a bunch of answerlines that turned out to be too hard for the field. Discuss away here, if you want.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier » Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:31 pm

Packets are posted here
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:51 pm

I had fun! Thanks for writing.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:58 pm

This was a fun tournament. My one real "complaint" was that it seemed like powers were a touch stingy (or perhaps inconsistently applied in the sense that some of the really harder things probably deserved far longer powermarks).

I could have done without some of the cuter questions on like Michaelangelo's poetry or the stream of questions on everyone's first novel, but if you're going to do that, you might as well do it here.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Mon Jul 23, 2012 5:45 pm

I also had a good time playing this, not only because I found the questions to be well written and interesting, even sometimes weird, in the best sense of that word, but also because Andrew Hart was excellent company, scored us a ton of points, and never slapped me for my many stupid negs, ill-timed brain locks, and general inability to answer many questions.

I look forward to finding time later this week to comment on some specific questions, but I will offer this now: man, there are a bunch of folks out there with some seriously deep QB lit knowledge. I got to see a lot of impressive buzzes and learned a lot. Thanks to Will and those who staffed.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:16 pm

I really enjoyed this tournament, especially in terms of answer selection (when I have a chance to read through the tournament, I may give more detailed comments), which was an excellent mix of sane and insane, with mostly the right kind of the latter.

This tournament contained a lot of extremely deep tossups on very canonical works (i.e. works that would be welcome answer-lines at ACF Fall or Regionals). I was unable to power many of these tossups on works that I have read (and thought that I knew fairly well). The stats suggest that I am probably not alone in this regard. I am not suggesting that I "deserve" to power any tossup on those works. There's nothing inherently wrong in writing difficult-to-power tossups for a summer open side tournament like this. However, this form of construction lends itself to two pitfalls:

1. Cliffs: Because this approach to writing on easy answer-lines reduces the first half of a tossup to a finely graduated lead-in, there is extra onus to make the remaining half smoothly pyramidal. If you're going to spend the first four-five lines of a nine-line hard tossup on Regionals-level answer on extremely obscure/difficult clues, then the next four-five lines should look like a Regionals tossup in microcosm. If you spend seven out of nine lines on insane hard cluing, there's only two lines left to distinguish between most of the field, and buzzer races will ensue. (I felt like this happened a little too often in this tournament.)

2. Inequality of Depth by Tossup Type: This approach to cluing seemed to be consistently applied in single-work tossups but not necessarily in author tossups and common-links, thus making the latter two categories much easier to power. The Saki tossup was basically an ACF Regionals-level tossup on Saki, and could be powered with Regionals-level knowledge of his works. The same is true of the Mallarmé tossup. But there were no Regionals-level tossups on Regionals-level works.

On a miscellaneous note, the Jerome K. Jerome tossup was an example of something I'm going to mention again in the Chicago Open thread (because it was a bigger problem in that tournament than here): tossups written on someone famous for only one thing that uses most of the cluing space on stuff no cares about and then gives a perfunctory clue about the one famous thing. People who are famous for only one thing should either not be tossed up at all (the famous thing should be tossed up instead), or their tossup should include significant cluing about that one thing.

As I said, in the first paragraph, I thought this tournament was great, so these criticisms are not written in an at all disgruntled spirit, but rather with the cheerful hope of playing more lit tournaments written by Will in future, hopefully with these minor issues resolved to make them even better.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:29 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I really enjoyed this tournament, especially in terms of answer selection (when I have a chance to read through the tournament, I may give more detailed comments), which was an excellent mix of sane and insane, with mostly the right kind of the latter.

This tournament contained a lot of extremely deep tossups on very canonical works (i.e. works that would be welcome answer-lines at ACF Fall or Regionals). I was unable to power many of these tossups on works that I have read (and thought that I knew fairly well). The stats suggest that I am probably not alone in this regard. I am not suggesting that I "deserve" to power any tossup on those works. There's nothing inherently wrong in writing difficult-to-power tossups for a summer open side tournament like this. However, this form of construction lends itself to two pitfalls:

1. Cliffs: Because this approach to writing on easy answer-lines reduces the first half of a tossup to a finely graduated lead-in, there is extra onus to make the remaining half smoothly pyramidal. If you're going to spend the first four-five lines of a nine-line hard tossup on Regionals-level answer on extremely obscure/difficult clues, then the next four-five lines should look like a Regionals tossup in microcosm. If you spend seven out of nine lines on insane hard cluing, there's only two lines left to distinguish between most of the field, and buzzer races will ensue. (I felt like this happened a little too often in this tournament.)

2. Inequality of Depth by Tossup Type: This approach to cluing seemed to be consistently applied in single-work tossups but not necessarily in author tossups and common-links, thus making the latter two categories much easier to power. The Saki tossup was basically an ACF Regionals-level tossup on Saki, and could be powered with Regionals-level knowledge of his works. The same is true of the Mallarmé tossup. But there were no Regionals-level tossups on Regionals-level works.

On a miscellaneous note, the Jerome K. Jerome tossup was an example of something I'm going to mention again in the Chicago Open thread (because it was a bigger problem in that tournament than here): tossups written on someone famous for only one thing that uses most of the cluing space on stuff no cares about and then gives a perfunctory clue about the one famous thing. People who are famous for only one thing should either not be tossed up at all (the famous thing should be tossed up instead), or their tossup should include significant cluing about that one thing.

As I said, in the first paragraph, I thought this tournament was great, so these criticisms are not written in an at all disgruntled spirit, but rather with the cheerful hope of playing more lit tournaments written by Will in future, hopefully with these minor issues resolved to make them even better.
These are all good criticisms, and I worried about a lot of these things myself. Certainly the stats show that I should have been more generous with powers, as Mike pointed out. I tried to make the easier answerlines have a smooth difficulty progression in the second half, and while I didn't always succeed, I don't think it was all that bad. Take the Bell Jar tossup for example: the first two sentences are deep clues, but then the next sentence (mostly in power) is two clues which should be memorable to anyone who has read the book. Then there's a clue about a pretty famous scene, a mention of the name of a minor character and then a character who comes up a lot in QB, and then Buddy Willard, then two sentences of the easiest clues. The fact that it came down to a buzzer race on the Buddy Willard clue in a game between your team and Magin isn't the question's fault, I think. Same with tossups like the one on The Grapes of Wrath, although that one wasn't quite as well executed.

You make a good point about the relative easiness of the tossups on Regionals-level authors. A lot of the time I just didn't do the research to come up with deeper early clues, relying on stuff I had read instead (or in the case of Saki, perhaps overestimated the difficulty of some works).

I'll disagree about Jerome K. Jerome-type tossups, though. The argument against them is based on the premise that knowledge of Jerome's non-Three Men in a Boat works is not worth asking about as the majority of a tossup, but at a tournament of this difficulty, I don't see why that has to be the case. (Certainly for some authors, that would be the case, but I don't think it's true for Jerome.) Admittedly, the Jerome tossup is a bad example because I didn't execute it very well, since the anecdote from Diary of a Pilgrimage took up a lot of space and didn't leave much room for clues from other works.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:07 pm

women, fire and dangerous things wrote: These are all good criticisms, and I worried about a lot of these things myself. Certainly the stats show that I should have been more generous with powers, as Mike pointed out. I tried to make the easier answerlines have a smooth difficulty progression in the second half, and while I didn't always succeed, I don't think it was all that bad. Take the Bell Jar tossup for example: the first two sentences are deep clues, but then the next sentence (mostly in power) is two clues which should be memorable to anyone who has read the book. Then there's a clue about a pretty famous scene, a mention of the name of a minor character and then a character who comes up a lot in QB, and then Buddy Willard, then two sentences of the easiest clues. The fact that it came down to a buzzer race on the Buddy Willard clue in a game between your team and Magin isn't the question's fault, I think. Same with tossups like the one on The Grapes of Wrath, although that one wasn't quite as well executed.
No, I didn't mean to suggest that anything like the majority of those tossups had those problems. I wasn't even thinking of the tossup on The Bell Jar (I wasn't buzzer-racing Magin; I know nothing about that novel).
I'll disagree about Jerome K. Jerome-type tossups, though. The argument against them is based on the premise that knowledge of Jerome's non-Three Men in a Boat works is not worth asking about as the majority of a tossup, but at a tournament of this difficulty, I don't see why that has to be the case. (Certainly for some authors, that would be the case, but I don't think it's true for Jerome.) Admittedly, the Jerome tossup is a bad example because I didn't execute it very well, since the anecdote from Diary of a Pilgrimage took up a lot of space and didn't leave much room for clues from other works.
Yes, I think there is something wrong with writing a Jerome K. Jerome tossup this way, even at a side tournament. As far as I can tell, none of the other works you're talking about are in print! In order to have read them, I'd have to have borrowed a battered copy from the library, gone hunting for Jerome K. Jerome on Project Gutenberg or the like, or applied specially to the Jerome K. Jerome Society for their limited-edition hard copies. How many people in the field did you expect to have done that?

But let's say you disagree with my initial judgment, either from a value standpoint (you think they're really fun works and you want to introduce people to them; this might have worked by the way: I may go read that omelet scene now) or from a practical standpoint (you think one or two people in the field might have done this): still why devote seven lines of an eight-and-a-half line and absolutely no space to any clues about the most famous work beyond a basic plot summary? The tossup is going to end up rewarding one of two things in almost all games: 1. Knowledge of second-tier Jerome K. Jerome titles 2. Knowledge of the basic plot of Three Men in a Boat. Actually reading the only well-known Jerome K. Jerome work will give a player zero benefit. The only way to write this well is to first write the giveaway and pre-giveaway lines to reward the area of primary knowledge that most players will have and then see how much space that leaves for obscure things that you want to include that you can't be sure people will buzz on.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:51 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Yes, I think there is something wrong with writing a Jerome K. Jerome tossup this way, even at a side tournament. As far as I can tell, none of the other works you're talking about are in print! In order to have read them, I'd have to have borrowed a battered copy from the library, gone hunting for Jerome K. Jerome on Project Gutenberg or the like, or applied specially to the Jerome K. Jerome Society for their limited-edition hard copies. How many people in the field did you expect to have done that?

But let's say you disagree with my initial judgment, either from a value standpoint (you think they're really fun works and you want to introduce people to them; this might have worked by the way: I may go read that omelet scene now) or from a practical standpoint (you think one or two people in the field might have done this): still why devote seven lines of an eight-and-a-half line and absolutely no space to any clues about the most famous work beyond a basic plot summary? The tossup is going to end up rewarding one of two things in almost all games: 1. Knowledge of second-tier Jerome K. Jerome titles 2. Knowledge of the basic plot of Three Men in a Boat. Actually reading the only well-known Jerome K. Jerome work will give a player zero benefit. The only way to write this well is to first write the giveaway and pre-giveaway lines to reward the area of primary knowledge that most players will have and then see how much space that leaves for obscure things that you want to include that you can't be sure people will buzz on.
Think of it as a tossup on the non-Three Men in a Boat works by Jerome K. Jerome, rather than a tossup on Jerome, then. It's basically a hard tossup, like one on Boris Vian or something, but more convertible at the end. If you accept the distinction between those two types of Jerome tossups, then the writing method you described applies to the latter type (and is surely the best way of writing that type), but not the former type. I don't think it's unreasonable to have a tossup of the former type at a tournament like this. The out-of-print status of these books doesn't strike me as much of an impediment to accessing them: both of the university libraries I have access to have plenty of Jerome works, and it's not like it's at all hard to find some of his works online. Incidentally, I've read the story described in the leadin, "The New Utopia."
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:20 pm

I mentioned this to Will at the tournament, and this is in no way a problem specific to WELD, but I think it's a bad idea to toss up collections that aren't especially important as collections. For example, a tossup on Leaves of Grass or The Sacred Wood or Seven Gothic Tales, collections consisting of works that are generally considered as a unit or at least within the context of each other, seem fine to me. But tossups on The Whitsun Weddings or Everything That Rises Must Converge don't seem ideal for rewarding people who have read Philip Larkin's "Water" and "Sunny Prestatyn" but have no idea which collection it's from. They lead to somebody negging on the first line with High Windows because they really want that 15 but won't be able to answer the tossup for sure until it actually starts describing the title poem. Even if there's at least some significance that "Sunny Prestatyn" was published in The Whitsun Weddings, maybe based on Larkin's style at that point in his writing career, that's really deep knowledge you're asking for even when the actual clue you're presenting is just a description of a poster in the poem. I guess one could make the argument that reading collections together should be rewarded over reading individual poems on the internet, but what about someone who bought the collected works of Larkin and forgot which block of 50 pages in their book "Sunny Prestatyn" was in? I feel like tossups on collections should at least have an early clue that justifies asking about the collection as opposed to the author.

I don't remember this happening too often in WELD; the only other place I can remember that I sort-of felt this way was on the Kaddish tossup. And don't get me wrong, I've been seeing this everywhere, not just in Will's set. Off the top of my head, I know The Whitsun Weddings has been tossed up before, as well as things like Questions of Travel and Death of a Naturalist.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:05 pm

I thought that this tournament was well-written, but hard. I did appreciate seeing tossups on the balcony scene from R+J and on Perfume (which I was totally reading too, damnit! you've spoiled the ending for me)

I agree with Stephen about the collections, but I was fond of the Whitsun Weddings tossup, since that was one of the very few things I could have powered.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:35 pm

I greatly enjoyed playing this tournament and want to thank Will for writing it. I especially enjoyed the A Visit from the Goon Squad question and I would rate it a solid 8.25/10 and hope to play more of Will's tournaments in the future. Needless to say I have vastly different writing aesthetics than Will, so I strongly agree with John’s criticism of tossups like the Jerome K. Jerome question. I also felt that the borderline tossups on topics such as Michelangelo, Lesbian bloggers, and random historical speeches were the least successful questions in the set. But aside from answer choice, I have one large overarching critique for Will's writing and several smaller technical points that I’ll address in a later post.

I want to reiterate that I think the tournament was pretty well written and Will should be commended for putting in so much quality work, but I think there is a systematic problem that needs to be fixed. Essentially, Will needs to spend more time thinking about what players are likely to know when selecting clues and picking answer-lines (and I think the stats support that claim). The power numbers were shockingly low considering the quality of the field; and I think that had more to do with the way the easier questions were written than the numerous hard tossups. I’ve never struggled to convert tossups on books that I’ve read as much as I did at this tournament; I usually had to have read a book several times or studied it in great depth to power it in this tournament. Looking back over the questions, most of the tossups on canonical answer lines seemed to devote 4-6 lines to very difficult leadin material, 1-2 lines to middle clues, and 1-2 to giveaways. The difference between a good writer and a great writer is handling middle clues. Anyone who is well read can find good leadins and edit the last two lines of the giveaway clues, but the real skill is picking memorable middle clues and organizing them in a smooth pyramid.

I’ll talk about this more in my next post, but I felt there were a lot of questions that had far too specific leadins or too many unhelpful extra-textual clues.

But I want to say thanks again to Will for putting together this fun tournament.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:45 am

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
Yes, I think there is something wrong with writing a Jerome K. Jerome tossup this way, even at a side tournament. As far as I can tell, none of the other works you're talking about are in print! In order to have read them, I'd have to have borrowed a battered copy from the library, gone hunting for Jerome K. Jerome on Project Gutenberg or the like, or applied specially to the Jerome K. Jerome Society for their limited-edition hard copies. How many people in the field did you expect to have done that?
I didn't play this tournament, and I haven't bothered to look at the questions; but any mention of a Jerome K. Jerome tossup warms my heart! Also, the general rule about question-writing that is implied above--namely, "only write about works of literature that are in print"--strikes me as complete nonsense.

Here's why it strikes me as nonsense. Let's say that it occurs to me--as a normal, literate American in the year 2012--that I want to read a book by Jerome K. Jerome. Among the things I might do are the following:

1. Go to Amazon and see if I can find a copy--in particular, a free copy--of one of his works for my Kindle. In about 15 seconds, I find that I can instantly download free editions of, e.g., Three Men on the Bummel, Diary of a Pilgrimage, and The Philosopher's Joke.

2. If for some reason I want to own a physical copy, I go online and try to buy a used book. On half.com, for instance, I could have my choice of copies of Diary of a Pilgrimage for the princely sum of 75 cents.

3. If I need to read a physical copy, but don't care to own it, I go to my local library. This is an especially good idea if I'm a college student, and my "local library" is, e.g., Yale's. I didn't bother looking at the Yale library online catalog, but I would be astonished if the collection there didn't house a complete set of Jerome K. Jerome.

On the other hand, I rarely buy copies of new books, and almost never buy a new copy of something like "a book by Jerome K. Jerome," given that there are so many free or low-cost versions of the latter.

I have always based my question writing habits on my reading habits, and as such, I have never felt constrained in the slightest to write questions on the basis of whether the subject matter of those questions was in print. I don't think anyone else should feel constrained in that way either.

(Obviously, none of this speaks to whether the particular Jerome K. Jerome tossup at issue was well-written. My only point here is to head off the pernicious suggestion that there must be something wrong with any question that draws on "books that aren't in print" for its content.)
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:20 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
Yes, I think there is something wrong with writing a Jerome K. Jerome tossup this way, even at a side tournament. As far as I can tell, none of the other works you're talking about are in print! In order to have read them, I'd have to have borrowed a battered copy from the library, gone hunting for Jerome K. Jerome on Project Gutenberg or the like, or applied specially to the Jerome K. Jerome Society for their limited-edition hard copies. How many people in the field did you expect to have done that?
I didn't play this tournament, and I haven't bothered to look at the questions; but any mention of a Jerome K. Jerome tossup warms my heart! Also, the general rule about question-writing that is implied above--namely, "only write about works of literature that are in print"--strikes me as complete nonsense.

Here's why it strikes me as nonsense. Let's say that it occurs to me--as a normal, literate American in the year 2012--that I want to read a book by Jerome K. Jerome. Among the things I might do are the following:

1. Go to Amazon and see if I can find a copy--in particular, a free copy--of one of his works for my Kindle. In about 15 seconds, I find that I can instantly download free editions of, e.g., Three Men on the Bummel, Diary of a Pilgrimage, and The Philosopher's Joke.

2. If for some reason I want to own a physical copy, I go online and try to buy a used book. On half.com, for instance, I could have my choice of copies of Diary of a Pilgrimage for the princely sum of 75 cents.

3. If I need to read a physical copy, but don't care to own it, I go to my local library. This is an especially good idea if I'm a college student, and my "local library" is, e.g., Yale's. I didn't bother looking at the Yale library online catalog, but I would be astonished if the collection there didn't house a complete set of Jerome K. Jerome.

On the other hand, I rarely buy copies of new books, and almost never buy a new copy of something like "a book by Jerome K. Jerome," given that there are so many free or low-cost versions of the latter.

I have always based my question writing habits on my reading habits, and as such, I have never felt constrained in the slightest to write questions on the basis of whether the subject matter of those questions was in print. I don't think anyone else should feel constrained in that way either.

(Obviously, none of this speaks to whether the particular Jerome K. Jerome tossup at issue was well-written. My only point here is to head off the pernicious suggestion that there must be something wrong with any question that draws on "books that aren't in print" for its content.)
I never suggested that we should only write about works of literature that are in print. I suggested that it is a poor idea (on a practical, playable level) to write a tossup on an author using almost exclusively his out-of-print works. Will gave a good defense of the tossup as basically a vanity tossup rather than a tossup reflecting how author tossups are normally written. But were this an attempt at a standard author tossup, I would stand by my criticism.

I am aware of the common methods for obtaining a copy of an out-of-print book (and listed them myself as well). I wasn't suggesting that it's impossible to obtain a copy of an out-of-print book, but rather that the fact that it is out-of-print is probably an indication that it is not much read. (Hence my question of "how many people in the field do you expect to have done this?") In general, I think there is a correlation between how read a book is and whether it remains in print, and writing a tossup where every pre-giveaway clue is on an out-of-print book bodes poorly for its buzz distribution. In other words, I am hard pressed to name an out-of-print work that is read enough to make a good middle clue or that would produce a good distribution of buzzes if tossed up on its own; but I'm not attached to out-of-print / in-print (specifically) as an important dichotomy (here it's just a proxy for read / not read) and if such a work exists, then obviously it makes for a fine clue.

To take an example that doesn't use out-of-print / in-print as its metric, I think it would be a bad idea for me to write a tossup on Flannery O'Connor that clues her almost exclusively from the short stories that are not collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Though most of them were unpublished in her lifetime, they are now accessible to anyone who buys a copy of her Complete Short Stories. People in the field could be reading them, but I have no good reason to suspect people are, and almost any field that plays my question is going to be better served by my spending at least a good part of my clue space (the post lead-in space) on the stories from those two collections.

In a side tournament like this, it doesn't matter as much, but I don't think it's excessively constraining writers in normal situations to expect them to make these considerations.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:57 pm

Hmm.

While I agree with John's overall point that we shouldn't be writing (heavily) on works people aren't expected to read, I still wonder if there's some broader point about how people read things that is worth discussing. His last point about O'Connor's works is interesting. I have never read (the collections) A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. I have no idea what stories are in them. When I want to read O'Connor, I look up the works online. In fact, that's generally how I read everything: online. A few years ago, I wrote a vanity tossup on the story "This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise," which I was told has never been in print. That is probably true; I just wrote the story after reading it online. I guess my overall point is that in this modern age, for some folks (casual readers like me anyway), any rubric involving print/short story collection/etc. doesn't work because people like me just read things in the online vacuum independent of any actual context. I assume this is different for people who actually study literature (this is why I can never answer questions on short story collections because despite my vast love for short stories, I have never read the actual collections).
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by magin » Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:15 pm

Cheynem wrote:Hmm.

While I agree with John's overall point that we shouldn't be writing (heavily) on works people aren't expected to read, I still wonder if there's some broader point about how people read things that is worth discussing. His last point about O'Connor's works is interesting. I have never read (the collections) A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. I have no idea what stories are in them. When I want to read O'Connor, I look up the works online. In fact, that's generally how I read everything: online. A few years ago, I wrote a vanity tossup on the story "This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise," which I was told has never been in print. That is probably true; I just wrote the story after reading it online. I guess my overall point is that in this modern age, for some folks (casual readers like me anyway), any rubric involving print/short story collection/etc. doesn't work because people like me just read things in the online vacuum independent of any actual context. I assume this is different for people who actually study literature (this is why I can never answer questions on short story collections because despite my vast love for short stories, I have never read the actual collections).
That reminds me: I own the paperback edition of the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor and no other collections, which is why the tossup on the collection Everything that Rises Must Converge at CO seemed odd to me. Sam Bailey answered that tossup before I knew what was going on, but if he hadn't and I recognized a short story, buzzed in, and said "the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor," would that be wrong? All the clues in the tossup apply to it, after all.

Back to WELD: I enjoyed this tournament, and contra Ted, appreciated the tossup on Alison Bechdel, although I would warn people against using this tournament's harder answer lines as a model for standard literature questions, considering its experimental nature.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by marnold » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:01 pm

magin wrote: That reminds me: I own the paperback edition of the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor and no other collections, which is why the tossup on the collection Everything that Rises Must Converge at CO seemed odd to me. Sam Bailey answered that tossup before I knew what was going on, but if he hadn't and I recognized a short story, buzzed in, and said "the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor," would that be wrong?
I'm surprised this question wasn't answered. Isn't the answer obviously yes, that's wrong, or at best promptable, depending on the particular phrasing? Who among us doesn't sympathize with resenting Sam Bailey, but this seems like a rather flimsy justification for eliminating venerable quizbowl dilemmas like "maybe I should guess Twice Told Tales this time!"
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:20 pm

marnold wrote:
magin wrote: That reminds me: I own the paperback edition of the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor and no other collections, which is why the tossup on the collection Everything that Rises Must Converge at CO seemed odd to me. Sam Bailey answered that tossup before I knew what was going on, but if he hadn't and I recognized a short story, buzzed in, and said "the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor," would that be wrong?
I'm surprised this question wasn't answered. Isn't the answer obviously yes, that's wrong, or at best promptable, depending on the particular phrasing? Who among us doesn't sympathize with resenting Sam Bailey, but this seems like a rather flimsy justification for eliminating venerable quizbowl dilemmas like "maybe I should guess Twice Told Tales this time!"
I can't tell if Marnold is being serious here but I did offer an argument why most collections shouldn't be tossed up upthread.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by marnold » Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:01 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
marnold wrote:
magin wrote: That reminds me: I own the paperback edition of the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor and no other collections, which is why the tossup on the collection Everything that Rises Must Converge at CO seemed odd to me. Sam Bailey answered that tossup before I knew what was going on, but if he hadn't and I recognized a short story, buzzed in, and said "the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor," would that be wrong?
I'm surprised this question wasn't answered. Isn't the answer obviously yes, that's wrong, or at best promptable, depending on the particular phrasing? Who among us doesn't sympathize with resenting Sam Bailey, but this seems like a rather flimsy justification for eliminating venerable quizbowl dilemmas like "maybe I should guess Twice Told Tales this time!"
I can't tell if Marnold is being serious here but I did offer an argument why most collections shouldn't be tossed up upthread.
Being mostly facetious. That said, I think you and Magin are saying different things. I think Magin is definitely wrong that in the event of a story collection toss-up there could be a debate whether "Collected Stories" is acceptable. It seems like books with titles are a particularly uncontroversial place to invoke the principle of "things have names." If you want to get rid of the annoyance of collection questions, you fix that by getting rid of collection questions like you propose, rather than arguing that 'collected works' is correct.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:25 pm

Yeah, we're not going to start accepting "The Norton Anthology of American Literature" because it contains the complete text of "The Awakening" if the question is on the latter. I had a fun time powering the ETRMC question because I had Read A Book, but your mileage may vary.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:59 pm

I negged on the "Everything That Rises" TU with "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," O'Connor's only other named collection in her lifetime (just taking a 50-50 shot, which I suppose isn't a very good strategy), but sour grapes aside, I'd argue that these collections aren't notable as books, really. All of the stories in each of the above collections were published previously in various magazines, as is common with short story collections, and the stories aren't thematically connected or anything--they're just the 10-12 stories she published chronologically, allowing her publisher to make some money by collecting them. Further, the title of each book is given for just one of the stories, so it's not a collection like "Lost in the Funhouse," in which stories are meant to be greater than the sum of their parts when collected (despite half being previously published) or like this "A Visit from the Goon Squad," which I've already bought after a couple mentions during the CO weekend and attendant praise, and which apparently is a hybrid of novel and short story collection (or so the tubes tell me).

I think a deep question on the story "Everything That Rises" would probably be a better idea, but at the same time I suppose one can't argue too much that that collection exists and has a name, so it's fair game.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:01 am

Sorry to resurrect this thread, but I’ve finally gotten around to writing these long overdue comments.

I think the Bartleby the Scrivener tossup highlights the most problematic recurring issues that hurt this tournament. Lets take a look:

(1)This character inspired a 2001 book about writers who give up writing by Enrique Vila-Matas, and he is also the subject of an essay about his “formula” by Gilles Deleuze, which compares him to the main character of The Man Without Qualities. (2)The narrator of the work in which he appears praises his “great stillness” and “unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances,” and (3)compares him to a man named Samuel Adams who was murdered by John C. Colt. (4)This character ultimately dies of starvation after being imprisoned at the Tombs, causing the narrator to exclaim “Ah, humanity!” His co-workers include two people of opposite temperaments nicknamed Turkey and Nippers, and his refusal to leave his office is just one example of the many things he “would prefer not to” do. For 10 points, name this scrivener from a Melville short story.

(1) The question starts off with too many extra-textual clues that take up two-and-a-half lines (or about one third) of an eight line tossup. Theres nothing individually wrong with these clues, but they come at the price of middle clues that the majority of the field will be buzzing on. If I were editing this question I would cut the Enrique Vila-Matas bit and keep the (presumably) important Deleuze essay. There were many tossups (Looking Backward, Kaddish, etc.) that devoted far too much space to marginal extra-textual clues and only had paltry two or three clues about the work itself.

(2) Then the question moves to unmemorable quotes that are simultaneously general and yet somewhat transparent. This is the worse possible type of clue because sounds like Bartleby while not being distinctive enough to let someone who knows the story buzz with confidence. There are many characters in literature who could be praised for “great stillness” and these types of unhelpful vague quotes proliferated throughout this tournament. For example, The Bell Jar tossup began: “Twice during this novel, the narrator repeats the phrase “I am” three times in a row.”

(3) & (4) Finally! We actually have a middle clue about a detail from the story’s plot. I would probably use this clue as a late leadin or upper middle clue, but here it appears immediately before a well-known stock clue as the only middle clue in the entire tossup. Four more of this type of clue and we have ourselves a good tossup. This issue plagued the tossups on easier canonical subjects in WELD, and was the number one problem with this tournament. I got the sense that when Will was writing on easy answers he overcompensated by having really deep clues to make sure there weren’t buzzer races. Good writers shouldn’t be nervous about picking clues that will allow someone to answer a tossup on the first couple lines if they’ve read the book.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:51 am

I won't defend the quote from Bartleby, but that Plath quote is pretty distinctive and well-known. In general I tried to choose quotes that people would be able to confidently buzz on, and I think I succeeded overall, but obviously not in the case of the Bartleby tossup.

Your criticism of the extra-textual clues seems to be predicated on the assumption that a tossup with the answerline "X" has to be (primarily) a tossup about "X." I didn't set out to write tossups on Looking Backward and "Kaddish," I set out to write tossups on the response to Looking Backward and Kaddish and Other Poems. Similarly, I didn't include the Vila-Matas clue because I was worried about making the Bartleby tossup too easy, I included it because Bartleby & Co. is a great book and I expect some people to know about it. You could argue that these clues were too hard, but the early clues in all the tossups were hard - the tossup on The Grapes of Wrath only used clues from the text itself, but it was still pretty hard.

It's probably true that there was a general problem with a lack of true middle parts at this tournament. I think this was due to the experimental nature of the tournament, because usually I err on the side of transitioning to middle clues too quickly. At the least, I should have compensated by extending the powers on the harder questions, as Andrew pointed out in another thread.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:24 pm

Looking over the set, I came across a few small stylistic tics that I think Will should work to improve in the future.

1) Lack of Context. There were a lot of clues that were phrased in opaque ways that lacked the proper amount of context to help players buzz. Truly great clues should jog a player’s memory, so he or she can recall an incident from a book even if they haven’t read it recently.

For example, the tossup on Mr. Lockwood said: “In the first chapter of the novel in which he appears, this character makes faces at three dogs, causing one of them to attack him.” It’s not that this clue is inaccurate, but it doesn’t have enough detail to jog someone’s memory. The clue would be better if you had described how Lockwood is saved by a kitchen maid with a frying pan when he is attacked by a pack of six newborn dogs after he incites a fight with their mother by making a funny face at three dogs, which helps the player remember the scene rather than requiring him to recall a single detail. Looking over the tossups I missed on books that I have read, I often could figure out what a clue was talking about in retrospect, but in the heat of the moment there wasn’t enough context to help you.

2) Obviously Transparent Leadins. There seemed to be an inordinate number of questions that had brazenly transparent leadins, which seemed like a real rookie mistake for an experienced editor such as Will to make.
For example:
- The tossup on “A Dissertation on Roast Pig” began with a clue about comically cooking an animal: “Near the end of this essay, the author recalls an argument about whether whipping an animal to death is justified if the improvement in flavor is greater than the animal’s suffering.”
- The second line of The First Circle tossup began: “In one scene in this novel, Soviet prisoners are treated well for one day because Eleanor Roosevelt is visiting to inspect the prisons.” It seems easy enough to phrase the question to say Roosevelt visited the title location without revealing it is about a Soviet prison.
- The hilariously terrible Petrarch leadin listed every other contemporary Italian poet the question could be on: “This author wrote a poem in five stanzas, where the last line of each stanza is a quotation from a previous poem, by Arnaut Daniel, Guido Cavalcanti, Dante, Cino da Pistoia, and the author himself, respectively.”
- The Vaclav Havel tossup began: “An essay by this author begins ‘A specter is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called dissent.’”

I’m not saying that you have to be incredibly coy about using ethnic clues when writing on super hard answers such as Hans Fallada or Gunnar Gunnarsson since I don’t think there is such a thing as a transparent Hans Fallada tossup. But a lot of these sloppy clues were easily avoidable if Will had spent a little extra time looking for a different leadin and tried to avoid revealing the nationality of the answer too quickly.

3) Unhelpful Fiction Quotes. This issue is not unique to this tournament (and was just as bad at CO), but it has affected a lot of questions recently (looking at you Kurtis). Some misguided desire to “be real” leads people to use quotes extensively when writing on novels. But if you are going to pull a quote from a long novel you better be damn sure it’s important and memorable. People should err on the side of not using long quotes in novel questions and frankly I don’t think you should be using almost any quotes in less you’ve read the book. Even when writing on drama and poetry people should ask themselves how people are most likely to know a particular topic. If you’re writing on Woe from Wit you probably don’t need many dialogue clues.

There were numerous examples of this problem, but I am most qualified to pass judgment on the atrocious leadin to the Raymond Carver question: “This author wrote a story in which Nancy looks at the “white moon … covered with scars” during a night of insomnia while her husband sleeps.” Now, I wrote my thesis on the collection that this story appears in, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I’ve read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love over twenty times. But I wasn’t able to buzz. Once again, Will has to ask himself when picking clues what will better stimulate the memory of players: a good plot summary of the story or a random quote that ironically excises the more famous second half of the line (“It was a white moon and covered with scars. Any damn fool could imagine a face there”). Perhaps, I’m being too acerbic here, but the point I want to underline is that a writer will probably not pick the right quotes from a novel unless he or she is an expert anyway, so it’s best to avoid.

4) Distribution. This wasn’t a huge issue, but I noticed the packets had wildly fluctuating numbers of drama and poetry questions. Packet four would have four poetry questions and one drama tossup, while the next game would be evenly balanced. Needless to say I was annoyed that Trevor and I got hit with one of the few packets with five poetry tossups and zero short fiction questions when playing Yale. But the key point is to distribute questions not just by nationality, but by genre.

Despite my comments here, I want to thank Will again for writing a pretty damn good tournament. Will is one of the three lit writers about whom I can honestly say that I look forward to playing their questions.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:08 pm

“A Dissertation on Roast Pig”
Oho, not so fast my friend. That essay apparently is titled "A Dissertation UPON Roast Pig," as I learned when I negged on it with the phrasing you have above. I guess there's nothing that can be done, but considering this is something most of us won't have read, I assume (right? I'm open to being wrong about this), would it ever be okay to be lenient on a preposition in such answers? I guess I suppose not, as titles are exact. Oh, well.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sat Aug 11, 2012 9:46 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:Looking over the set, I came across a few small stylistic tics that I think Will should work to improve in the future.

1) Lack of Context. There were a lot of clues that were phrased in opaque ways that lacked the proper amount of context to help players buzz. Truly great clues should jog a player’s memory, so he or she can recall an incident from a book even if they haven’t read it recently.

For example, the tossup on Mr. Lockwood said: “In the first chapter of the novel in which he appears, this character makes faces at three dogs, causing one of them to attack him.” It’s not that this clue is inaccurate, but it doesn’t have enough detail to jog someone’s memory. The clue would be better if you had described how Lockwood is saved by a kitchen maid with a frying pan when he is attacked by a pack of six newborn dogs after he incites a fight with their mother by making a funny face at three dogs, which helps the player remember the scene rather than requiring him to recall a single detail. Looking over the tossups I missed on books that I have read, I often could figure out what a clue was talking about in retrospect, but in the heat of the moment there wasn’t enough context to help you.

2) Obviously Transparent Leadins. There seemed to be an inordinate number of questions that had brazenly transparent leadins, which seemed like a real rookie mistake for an experienced editor such as Will to make.
For example:
- The tossup on “A Dissertation on Roast Pig” began with a clue about comically cooking an animal: “Near the end of this essay, the author recalls an argument about whether whipping an animal to death is justified if the improvement in flavor is greater than the animal’s suffering.”
- The second line of The First Circle tossup began: “In one scene in this novel, Soviet prisoners are treated well for one day because Eleanor Roosevelt is visiting to inspect the prisons.” It seems easy enough to phrase the question to say Roosevelt visited the title location without revealing it is about a Soviet prison.
- The hilariously terrible Petrarch leadin listed every other contemporary Italian poet the question could be on: “This author wrote a poem in five stanzas, where the last line of each stanza is a quotation from a previous poem, by Arnaut Daniel, Guido Cavalcanti, Dante, Cino da Pistoia, and the author himself, respectively.”
- The Vaclav Havel tossup began: “An essay by this author begins ‘A specter is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called dissent.’”

I’m not saying that you have to be incredibly coy about using ethnic clues when writing on super hard answers such as Hans Fallada or Gunnar Gunnarsson since I don’t think there is such a thing as a transparent Hans Fallada tossup. But a lot of these sloppy clues were easily avoidable if Will had spent a little extra time looking for a different leadin and tried to avoid revealing the nationality of the answer too quickly.

3) Unhelpful Fiction Quotes. This issue is not unique to this tournament (and was just as bad at CO), but it has affected a lot of questions recently (looking at you Kurtis). Some misguided desire to “be real” leads people to use quotes extensively when writing on novels. But if you are going to pull a quote from a long novel you better be damn sure it’s important and memorable. People should err on the side of not using long quotes in novel questions and frankly I don’t think you should be using almost any quotes in less you’ve read the book. Even when writing on drama and poetry people should ask themselves how people are most likely to know a particular topic. If you’re writing on Woe from Wit you probably don’t need many dialogue clues.

There were numerous examples of this problem, but I am most qualified to pass judgment on the atrocious leadin to the Raymond Carver question: “This author wrote a story in which Nancy looks at the “white moon … covered with scars” during a night of insomnia while her husband sleeps.” Now, I wrote my thesis on the collection that this story appears in, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I’ve read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love over twenty times. But I wasn’t able to buzz. Once again, Will has to ask himself when picking clues what will better stimulate the memory of players: a good plot summary of the story or a random quote that ironically excises the more famous second half of the line (“It was a white moon and covered with scars. Any damn fool could imagine a face there”). Perhaps, I’m being too acerbic here, but the point I want to underline is that a writer will probably not pick the right quotes from a novel unless he or she is an expert anyway, so it’s best to avoid.

4) Distribution. This wasn’t a huge issue, but I noticed the packets had wildly fluctuating numbers of drama and poetry questions. Packet four would have four poetry questions and one drama tossup, while the next game would be evenly balanced. Needless to say I was annoyed that Trevor and I got hit with one of the few packets with five poetry tossups and zero short fiction questions when playing Yale. But the key point is to distribute questions not just by nationality, but by genre.

Despite my comments here, I want to thank Will again for writing a pretty damn good tournament. Will is one of the three lit writers about whom I can honestly say that I look forward to playing their questions.
I think this outlines a valuable set of principles for lit writers in general (and not just or particularly Will) to keep in mind. We spend most of our time in forum discussions of lit questions focusing on answer selection or work selection within author tossups, and we don't discuss enough two of the central issues Ted discusses here: cluing within tossups on individual works and distribution within packets and across tournaments.

I have little to add to Ted's comments about cluing, which seem right on. He's a little more anti-quotation (in prose fiction) than I am. I would say this about choosing a quotation as a clue: I think, in general, the chosen sentence/passage should be rich enough that if you chose to paraphrase it rather than quote it, it would still be buzzable; and the choice to quote rather than paraphrase should be made either because the quote is more succinct than would be the paraphrase or because something particular about the word choice / language makes it particularly distinctive and therefore more buzzable. (Note: "more buzzable"; if you're depending on language alone to make it buzzable, it's probably not going to produce many buzzes.) I'm not saying anything earth-shattering, here, I know, but I still think it's worth saying.

The point about distribution obviously applies less to something like WELD, which has elements of a vanity tournament to it, but I think is extremely important in regular season tournaments. Many tournaments and packets are really unbalanced in terms of sub-distribution in ways that seem thoughtless and which have potential to negatively affect gameplay. (The Mike Cheyne packet for Chicago Open this year whose four lit tossups were three short stories and a play is one of the more recent egregious examples.) In the three years we played on the same team at Yale, Kevin and I split the literature writing duties for almost every Yale packet we submitted. Every single time it came time to write a packet, we sat down and discussed our answer-lines to make sure: that we had 1/1 each of poetry and drama per 5/5; that we were tossing up no more than one short story; that they encompassed a very wide variety of time periods, geographical regions, and style; and that the sub-distribution and difficulty generally reflected the kind of tournament we were hoping to play (i.e. looked like our ideal tournament's distribution in microcosm). On the one tournament where we shared editing duties within categories (MAGNI), we sat down and discussed all the different literary movements and kinds of approaches to studying literature that should be represented (and rewarded) in the distribution of the tournament. And then I annoyed the person assigning questions to packets by tagging all of our questions with genre and time-period markers to try to preserve good packet mojo. I'm not saying all this to suggest that Kevin and I are some kind of exemplary lit writers, but rather to suggest that A. It is not enormously difficult or time-consuming to do this as a writer or an editor of a house-write. B. It's easy enough get in the habit of thinking about these things every time you submit a packet C. I think it really pays off in terms of the final product you get in both cases.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:13 pm

Hey, I wrote all of the lit questions that made it into our packet for CO (the play and short story questions) and I wanted to apologize for writing so many short story questions; this was not by intent, I just happened to write a number of them at different times and wasn't really keeping track (and was also writing rather quickly to beat a packet deadline). I agree with John about sub distributions and (with the obvious example of ancient history) attempt to maintain such sub distros for the housewrites I work on.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:45 am

women, fire and dangerous things wrote: Your criticism of the extra-textual clues seems to be predicated on the assumption that a tossup with the answerline "X" has to be (primarily) a tossup about "X." I didn't set out to write tossups on Looking Backward and "Kaddish," I set out to write tossups on the response to Looking Backward and Kaddish and Other Poems. Similarly, I didn't include the Vila-Matas clue because I was worried about making the Bartleby tossup too easy, I included it because Bartleby & Co. is a great book and I expect some people to know about it. You could argue that these clues were too hard, but the early clues in all the tossups were hard - the tossup on The Grapes of Wrath only used clues from the text itself, but it was still pretty hard.

It's probably true that there was a general problem with a lack of true middle parts at this tournament. I think this was due to the experimental nature of the tournament, because usually I err on the side of transitioning to middle clues too quickly. At the least, I should have compensated by extending the powers on the harder questions, as Andrew pointed out in another thread.
The point I was trying to make--which I'm still not sure if you understand--is that if want to be a great writer you need to adjust your mentality when writing questions. The overarching principle of all my critiques is that you need to think about the players and what they are likely to know. First and foremost, when writing your primary concern should should be producing good questions--not interesting ones. Interesting questions and good questions are by no means mutually exclusive, but the tag "experimental" does not give you leeway to skip middle clues.

Like I said before I don't have a problem with any individual leadin for the Bartleby question but altogether it produced a substandard question, which brings me to a topic we don't talk about much on the board: editorial responsibility. I'm talking about that moment when one has produced 7 or 8 lines of a question (with a couple lines of leadins, middles clues and giveaways), but is looking to add one more clue. It's tempting to add another leadin about a subject like Bartleby & Co. that you think is cool--but realistically know only one or two people in the tournament will have a chance of knowing--but the responsible decision is to add another middle clue. Your improvement as a writer hinges on this subtle shift in attitude towards being an empathic writer who picks clues that will really help players rather than a narcissistic one who overloads questions with difficult clues that only interest him. On a similar vein, I wasn't arguing that the Kaddish question only has to be about the poem. Rather, I was arguing that the Kaddish question (and many other questions in the tournament) would be better if you cut two or three lines of clues about the collection and replaced them with clues about the poem that people are more likely to know.
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Re: WELD discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:10 am

Magister Ludi wrote:The point I was trying to make--which I'm still not sure if you understand--is that if want to be a great writer you need to adjust your mentality when writing questions. The overarching principle of all my critiques is that you need to think about the players and what they are likely to know. First and foremost, when writing your primary concern should should be producing good questions--not interesting ones. Interesting questions and good questions are by no means mutually exclusive, but the tag "experimental" does not give you leeway to skip middle clues.

Like I said before I don't have a problem with any individual leadin for the Bartleby question but altogether it produced a substandard question, which brings me to a topic we don't talk about much on the board: editorial responsibility. I'm talking about that moment when one has produced 7 or 8 lines of a question (with a couple lines of leadins, middles clues and giveaways), but is looking to add one more clue. It's tempting to add another leadin about a subject like Bartleby & Co. that you think is cool--but realistically know only one or two people in the tournament will have a chance of knowing--but the responsible decision is to add another middle clue. Your improvement as a writer hinges on this subtle shift in attitude towards being an empathic writer who picks clues that will really help players rather than a narcissistic one who overloads questions with difficult clues that only interest him. On a similar vein, I wasn't arguing that the Kaddish question only has to be about the poem. Rather, I was arguing that the Kaddish question (and many other questions in the tournament) would be better if you cut two or three lines of clues about the collection and replaced them with clues about the poem that people are more likely to know.
I understand the point you're trying to make, and I accept most of your criticisms, which also have to do with being empathetic as a writer. As you can see from my other work, I am very careful about including enough middle clues for standard tournaments. I still don't think your argument applies here, though. The argument you're making about questions like the "Kaddish" tossup could equally apply to, say, the Hans Fallada tossup. I could have rewritten the Hans Fallada tossup as a Heinrich Mann tossup, which more people will know stuff about, but then it wouldn't have been a Hans Fallada tossup. Similarly, I could have rewritten the "Kaddish" tossup to be primarily about the poem, but then it wouldn't be a Kaddish and Other Poems. Obviously the difference between a Hans Fallada tossup and a Heinrich Mann tossup is bigger than the difference between the two types of "Kaddish" tossups, but I think in an experimental tournament like this the cutoff line is basically an aesthetic difference, and the point at which I chose to make the cutoff is what made this tournament "wildly experimental." I guess you could still argue I should have been more empathetic, but there's no danger of this writing style affecting my questions for other tournaments.
Will Nediger
-Proud member of the cult of Urcuchillay-
University of Western Ontario 2011, University of Michigan 2017
Member, ACF
High-volume writer, NAQT

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