MarioWiki:Good writing

From the Super Mario Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

The goal of the Super Mario Wiki is to provide a complete, comprehensive and well-written account of the Mario franchise. This need for quality goes beyond merely using proper grammar, spelling, syntax and punctuation: the content itself also has to be good. For the most part, this is accomplished, however there are a few issues that frequently come up with the writing. This is a guide to help users try to avoid these pitfalls.

Bad writing

This is a summary of what users should avoid doing while they're writing. The following section goes into detail about these issues.

  • Summaries that aren't - "Story" sections on game pages should only cover the meat of the plot: nitty-gritty details should be saved for character, enemy and level articles, etc.
  • Pseudo-walkthroughs - If a game does not have a very hefty plot, its "Story" section should be short: a level-by-level overview is unnecessary filler.
  • Padding - Short articles and short sections aren't bad if there's not much to write about: it's better to keep it short and relevant, not long, rambling and tangential.
  • Mario mania - Mario may be the main character of the series, but he's not the center of the universe: don't make other characters' pages all about Mario, keep the focus on them.
  • Everything but the kitchen sink - Don't fill articles with descriptions of things that are only superficially similar to what the page is about: it's just more padding.
  • Captain Obvious - Don't bother explaining something if the name itself already says exactly what it is.
  • Flowery writing - Overly fancy writing looks forced and is distracting to the reader: repetition is bad, but abusing the thesaurus and using too many adjectives is just as undesirable.
  • Epic writing - Grandiose, over-the-top dramatic prose does not make games sound more epic and interesting, it just makes the articles narmy: keep it level-headed when writing summaries.
  • Grimdark - There may be a few interesting instances in which Mario gets serious, but don't fixate on them: blowing stuff out of proportion just skews our coverage and lowers the wiki's credibility.
  • Reading between the lines - The articles are for facts, not speculation: keep original interpretations and personal biases out of the writing.
  • Unsupported analysis - Some things in the Mario series are left ambiguous and making a few straightforward inferences is better than nothing, as long as it's supported by quotes and references, and is presented as being "implied" (etc.), and not fact.
  • Judgement calls - There is also a lot of contradictory material in the Mario series, but don't make assertions about which story is true or false: just present them both and note which one is more recent or more widely adhered to in the games (if applicable).
  • Knitting everything together - By nature, most Mario games do not fit together into a cohesive timeline: trying to link them together is speculation and should not be done.
  • Fan worship - Character pages should not be bogged down by rambling essays and excessive details: that level of coverage and the way it's written is not thorough or informative, it's unprofessional and even off-putting at times.
  • Fusing gameplay and story elements - Don't treat the mechanics of gameplay as if they were part of a flowing narrative: gameplay is gameplay, and trying to treat it like story is unnatural and lowers the quality of the article.

Things to avoid

Summaries that aren't

Having the maximum amount of relevant information is good, however users sometimes go overboard and try to cram every last detail of a game's plot into its summary. Needless to say, "Story" sections for RPGs and similarly plot-heavy games are hardest hit by this "everything but the kitchen sink" strategy.

Ideally, a summary details only the "meat" of the plot: how the conflict starts, what the characters (both protagonists and antagonists) do to try to end the conflict, major events that move the story along, and the eventual conclusion. Every last detail of the journey should not be included, as the point of summaries is to allow readers to follow the plots of the games, and many sidetracks and mini-bosses are only there to lengthen the game and have no major impact on the story itself. Similarly, the events that are included should not be given exhaustive coverage: almost every plot point can be adequately covered by a single sentence or less. However, it should be noted that events with more complex repercussions on the story often require some extra explanations, and introductions and conclusions are often unavoidably wordy, although it depends on the game.

For an example of including unnecessarily minor aspects of the story, the plot summary of Super Paper Mario does not need to explain how "Mario has to show Old Man Watchitt, the mayor of Yold Town, his newly-found Pixl friend Thoreau so that Watchitt will phone Green the Bridgemaster to lower the bridge and let him pass into the Yold Desert". Instead, all that needs to be said is that "Mario passes through a place known as Yold Town on his way to the Yold Desert, acquiring Thoreau on the way". The town is a setting of a level and is worth a mention, and getting the Pixl is a relevant plot point, however the entire business with the Yold Town denizens can be ignored without compromising the narrative of Super Paper Mario.

For an example of including too many details about certain events, the story section of Luigi's Mansion can summarize the first portion of the game by explaining that "Luigi visits the first floor and sucks up Neville, Lydia and their baby Chauncey, before receiving a message from Professor E. Gadd telling him that the Poltergust 3000 is full, and that he has to return to the lab to empty it." This touches on all the major plot points without getting too in-depth; by comparison, the following passage is unacceptably bogged down by details about the battles, the irrelevant goings-on between the plot points ("fighting ghost mice") and unnecessarily frilly descriptions ("green-garbed plumber", "deadly game"):

"Luigi went to the Study and sucked up the spirit Neville who retaliated by throwing books. The green-clad plumber then entered the Master Bedroom and observed his vain wife, Lydia, whom he then vacuumed after messing up her hair. After fighting ghost mice and common ghosts in the hallway, the green-garbed plumber entered the bedroom of the ghostly infant Chauncey, who clamoured for the hero to play a deadly game, throwing his teddy bears and other toys, before sucking up Luigi into his crib after being upset. The plumber eventually triumphed over the horrific cherubim but received a Game Boy Horror call from Professor E. Gadd telling him that his Poltergust 3000's hold is full and that he has to return to the lab in order to empty it."

Padding and pseudo-walkthroughs

Several users fall in the trap of thinking that short sections or articles are automatically "stubs", and thus, "bad". In reality, there's a difference between stubs (short articles that are missing information and could be expanded) and sections/articles that are short because the subject itself is short, simplistic or otherwise. If there is not much to write about, by all means, that section or article should be short, rather than filled with off-topic or unnecessarily verbose padding.

Due to the often simplistic nature of non-RPG Mario games (particularly platformers), users often try to supplement these articles' short story sections with world-by-world (or even level-by-level), boss-by-boss descriptions of the games. Story sections are not walkthroughs, and while it's well-meaning, this approach to summary-writing should be avoided at all costs. "Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario sets off to rescue her." is plot, "Mario traversed the grassy plains of World 1 and used Super Mushrooms, Fire Flowers and rare Invincibility Stars to defeat new foes and challenge the False Bowser waiting for him at the castle." is not plot, it's cruft.

Similarly, character pages often make the mistake of describing the entire plot of a game instead of that particular character's role in it. It is okay to provide context for what the character's doing, and obviously how other characters interact with them is also relevant, but it should be kept to a minimum. Another thing to watch out for is the Mario-centric nature of the series bleeding into other characters' pages: it's a subtle difference, but "Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and held in his castle until she is rescued by Mario." keeps the focus on Peach and would be appropriate for her page's History section, while "Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario goes to rescue her." changes the focus to Mario's actions and would not be as ideal for Peach's article.

Everything but the kitchen sink

One common form of padding is when users try to make articles a bit too thorough and end up describing things or events that are only superficially similar to what the page is about. For example, Mini Mario is a specific form that appears in the New Super Mario Bros. series with specific abilities. The page for it should not feature every instances of Mario being shrunk in some way, although briefly mentioning in the introduction that he's been shrunk in ways besides the Mini Mario form is acceptable. Similarly, Baby Mario is a specific entity and his page should not list every times Mario is shown as an infant in other Mario medias (unless, of course, those appearances are based on the "Baby Mario" the page is about). However, like the Mini Mario example, a short paragraph in the introduction summarizing the other baby appearances would ensure the article is indeed exhaustive and won't appear to simply be missing the extra info, but at the same time, limiting it to a paragraph or less means the article doesn't get cluttered up by users writing detailed sections about everything but the kitchen sink.

This issue often overlaps with MarioWiki:Generic subjects, which addresses the problem of users writing about every appearance of a generic real world item or animal appearing in Mario media, rather than limiting the scope of the article to appearances in which the subject has a specific function, and isn't simply acting as it does in real life and is not key to the gameplay and/or story. For example, the Boomerang page is about the power-up in Super Mario Advance 4 and should not list every generic instance of boomerangs being used in the Mario franchise, although acknowledging that generic boomerangs appear in various other installments in the Mario series is fine.

Captain Obvious

A standard construction for opening sentences is "[Name of the page] is a [thing]", but if the name itself clearly describes what it is, these sorts of statements become rather redundant and laughable. So, rather than writing "Pirate Goomba is a pirate Goomba." or "Kat and Ana's swords are swords that belong to Kat & Ana.", it's better to include additional information, such as "Pirate Goomba are NPCs that appears in Mario Party 8".

Another manifestation of awkward obvious statements is explaining simple puns. It's silly to write "Mattermouth is a portmanteau of "matter" and "mouth".", as anyone with enough proficiency in English to read the wiki will be able to immediately figure that out. However, more leniency is given to idioms and cultural references, as the wiki has a sizable international readership.

Epic, flowery and grimdark writing

Obviously we don't want our articles to be bland and repetitive, but users sometimes go over the top in their attempts to spice up the content.

Overly fancy language is the worst offender - to put it simply, it feels forced. To use the Luigi's Mansion quotation form earlier as an example, there's no good reason to call a ghost baby a "cherubim", just call him a "baby", or change things up with normal synonyms like "infant". Flowery language often goes hand-in-hand with attempts to inject a sense of epicness to the content, and using grandiose and overly-dramatic language is just as bad as run-of-the mill thesaurus regurgitation. There is no need to fill the pages with superlatives about how heroic a character is, or how harrowing their situation is, or whatever.

Similarly, users sometimes fixate on the darker aspects of Mario plots and blow things way out of proportion. Yes, Dimentio turning out to be a psychotic puppetmaster who wants to wipe all of reality out of existence is interesting and serious stuff, but it does not require half a dozen pages to adequately cover this one-time character. Similarly, while Bowser does make a habit of invading the Mushroom Kingdom, saying he's a ruthless, bloodthirsty tyrant who threatens hundreds of lives with his incessant violent attacks is going a little too far. This is Mario we're dealing with after-all: it's fine to take it seriously if you want, but keep the heavy-handed dramatic prose off the articles.

Reading between the lines

Just as making things grittier than they need to be isn't desirable, so too should users avoid reading too much into the games and coming up with original interpretations of characters and events. Articles must be based on facts, not speculation, and personal biases must be set aside when writing. If you prefer Luigi over Mario, that's fine, but don't waste your time writing a section about how the latter is a mindless force of destructive goodness while his underappreciated brother is the real hero who has the harder task of vanquishing his various inner demons and personal shortcomings, because that material will not last long on the wiki.

That being said, analysis and dissection are not inherently bad if they're kept to a minimum. There are admittedly some things included in the Mario series that are left somewhat ambiguous (i.e. the various character backstories hinted at in Super Paper Mario), and it is better to have something rather than nothing about these aspects. But keep in mind that the interpretations must be straightforward and logical, backed up with solid references (i.e. the original quotes from the games or related material), and explicitly stated to be "implied" or "hinted at" (etc.), rather than passed off as solid fact.

However, this does not mean that users should go out of their way to resolve contradicting information or try to link unrelated events and games together into one cohesive narrative. If there is a contradiction, simply provide both stories and comment on how they conflict without giving more credence to one version over the other, unless one is clearly anomalous when compared to all other relevant info (i.e. a single game guide mislabelling one enemy as another, etc.), although references should still be provided. Straightforward resolutions are not always easy to come by, however, since in most cases, Mario games do not link together (except in the recycling of main characters, generic enemies, items and places; occasionally, cameos and other nods and references to early games may also be included). Therefore, users should not try to string things together into solid timelines, as this is just as speculative as choosing a side when it comes to contradictions. Users must remember that while there is no official Mario timeline, it is possible to create overviews of characters that are coherent and logically arranged without getting ambitious and speculative about it.

Fan worship

A specialized form of delving too deep into the material and giving a disproportional amount of coverage to certain aspects of the Mario series is when a character's appreciative fans go overboard in crafting their article. For example, it does not take pages and pages of cruft to describe Peach's dress or the game-by-game evolution of Daisy's appearance, specific sections do not need to be written about Bowser's common sense or his more sympathetic instances of emotion, and as mentioned before, one-off characters like Dimentio do not merit entire essays for their histories and personalities. Like other types of padding, going into too much detail bogs the pages down and makes them hard to read, and in some cases, the level of attention being paid to certain characters (typically females, for one reason or another) can even come off as a bit creepy and off-putting. Everyone who edits the wiki is a fan of the series and its characters, however when it comes to the actual writing, users must be sure to keep it professional.

Trying to fuse game mechanics and story elements

Gameplay is getting from A to B, and story is what happens at A and B: they are both important aspects of the game (although to what extent varies from game to game and is largely dependent on genre), however they are not one in the same. Mario stomping Goombas on his way to the castle is not part of the storyline, and as mentioned before, this sort of thing should not be included in plot summaries. Similarly, treating technical aspects of gameplay such as item-collecting and power-up mechanics as part of the story does not work: it comes off as clunky and awkward. It is best to talk about the two aspects separately when writing History sections, and to leave gameplay mechanics out of game page Story sections entirely.

This problem comes up in other types of articles as well, particularly on RPG boss pages such as Elder Shrooboid, where users sometimes try to describe the boss battles as if the specific attacks were part of a continuous storyline. In these articles, it is okay to describe the story and the gameplay alongside one another, however explaining what the moves are, what they do and how to counter them should be presented as such, rather than treated as plot points.

For example, it is okay to write that "The Elder Shrooboid's first attack involves trapping Mario and Luigi in crystals and then retrieving a heavy metallic ball offscreen. It spins the ball and chain towards the Mario Bros. but becomes dizzy, drops the ball and momentarily falls over, before getting back up and knocking the ball into one of the brothers and charging at the other one. The attack can only be dodged if the Mario Bros. jump around enough to break free of the crystals." This sequentially describes the attack's steps and what can be done to avoid taking damage, yet does not treat it like a dramatic narrative. By contrast, the following passage tries too hard to make the attack flow like a proper story, although the difference is admittedly subtle, such as the increased use of modifiers like "will" and "then" and never acknowledging that it is describing an "attack".

"First, the Elder Shrooboid will trap Mario and Luigi in crystals (like the Shroids) and will run off and grab a heavy metallic ball on a chain. Mario and Luigi must jump to break their crystal imprisonments while the Elder Shrooboid spins the ball and chain towards them. The spinning will then cause the Shrooboid to become dizzy, he will then drop the metallic ball and fall down. However, the Elder Shrooboid will get up again, knock the ball into Either Mario Bro. then lunge head first into the other Mario Bro. If the Mario Bros. cannot break their crystal prison quick enough, they will not be able to avoid the Elder Shrooboid's assault."

Frequently misused terms

"Beta" refers to the period in software development where a product is feature-complete, but has yet to be extensively bug-tested or optimized. This usually happens long after things like concepts being rejected, characters being cut from the game... etc. "Beta" should not be used as a shorthand for "things that changed during development". More precise terms such as "cut", "unused", "concept art" or simple "early" should be used instead. Of course, this does not apply if the information is confirmed to be from an actual Beta build.
A prequel is a work released as part of an established series whose narrative is chronologically set before another, previously released work. However, it's frequently misused to say "The previous game in the series". Yoshi's Island is a prequel to Super Mario Bros., but Super Mario Galaxy is not a "prequel" to Super Mario Galaxy 2. Most usages of it on the wiki should be substituted with "predecessor".
"Remix" is frequently used to refer to a new recording of a music track, when the proper term for that would be "arrangement". A "remix" uses the original recording and modifies it (such as by altering the pitch, adding new percussions and beats, etc.) while a rearrangement is a new recording of an existing composition.
"Sprite" refers to pre-rendered graphics, but it is often used to refer to any graphical assets in games with a 2D playing field, including ones such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii where almost all graphics are fully-rendered 3D models. Of course, pre-rendered 3D graphics can be sprites (such as with Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi's Story).
In science, "subspecies" (or "sub-species") denotes different populations of a species that are genetically, geographically and/or physically distinct to an extent, yet still similar enough for interbreeding to occur freely when possible. However, it is often misused to label different species that are merely similar and/or based on one another, such as calling Lakitus or Shady Koopas subspecies of Koopa Troopas. In reality, there are very few cases in the Mario series where enemies are similar enough to potentially be subspecies (i.e. red and blue Spike Tops in Paper Mario), and even then, since their evolutionary history, genetics and breeding biology are unknown, it would still be speculation to definitively label anything as "subspecies". Instead, "species" should be used for everything, and similarities should simply be discussed in terms of "related", "derived" or "parent species".

See also