Published on 03/Feb/2012 05:07 PM
Much of what is done on the Plaza revolves around interactive discussion and the debating of elements in the books, the movies, and from the life of Tolkien. There are currently 8 forums of this nature here on the Plaza each with its own focus. The question that passes through many peoples' mind is, "How do I post in these forums without getting shouted at?" The answer, a well constructed post with a clearly defined argument.
Allow me to explain. Much of what 'discussion' is revolves around your attempts to persuade or enlighten other members with your points. However, if these points are confused and constructed badly, then how is anyone going to understand what you write? The Plaza is, after all, an international community, so unless you are clear, people will struggle to understand.
That?s all well and good but what can actually be done to make these well constructed and concise arguments that I keep speaking of? Put simply, it is a way to organize your points in a sensible and simple way. Like all the best things in life it is also mnemonic.
Statement - Start with a statement. In as simple terms as possible, say what you wish to discuss. If you are responding to somebody else maybe you will be saying something like:
Sam was younger than Frodo.
Simple isn?t it? Just remember with your statement to keep it focused on one point at a time.
Sam was younger than Frodo, he would also have managed to marry Rosie whether he had been on an adventure or not.
You see just having three concepts (age, marriage, and adventure) in a single statement, things start to become confusing. Concentrate on one point at a time, explain it, and then move on to the next.
Evidence - Once you have made your statement, you need to back it up with hard evidence. If you can?t manage this stage of a lore post, then you shall never be accepted amongst the ranks of the learned. You cannot make statements without proving them with evidence.
What constitutes evidence?
In the area of lore, the only true evidence is material such as quotes and maps created by J.R.R Tolkien himself. Writings by other authors simply do not cut it. The only other person from whom a quote can be taken seriously is Christopher Tolkien. His notes and comments are considered fundamental information as well.
So you have your quote? How do you write it? There are several different ways of quoting evidence, any of which are acceptable. Personally I quote in the following way.
'In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.' The Hobbit; An Unexpected Party
The quote itself is written inside of single inverted commas ?. The source for the quote is then italicized, with the book name followed by the name of the chapter separated by a semicolon to show the separation of the two. This method is by no means the only one, but it is a way in which you can display and denote the location of your quotes simply and effectively.
There is, however, one more consideration when quoting. Do you use a separate line for your quote or do you simply place it on the current line? This is personal preference, but as a simple rule of thumb if the quote is more than 5 words long then in my opinion, it should be placed on a new line.
Analysis - The last step of SEA and possibly the most difficult to master. Firstly, to many it is unclear what analysis actually means, so let's clear up what has to be done to analyze. Basically in terms of your lore posts, analysis simply means to link the statement you made with the evidence you have supplied.
Sometimes this is clearly obvious. I?ll give a very basic example.
What race was Bilbo?
Bilbo was a hobbit.
?As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit ? Bilbo Baggins, that is,?? The Hobbit; An Unexpected Party
Now it is obvious here that there is no analysis of the quote needed. Of course in the lore fora nothing this simplistic will ever come along, but there are still cases where the quote is self-explanatory. However there are just as many times where the quote needs setting in context and to tell the reader why the quote supports the statement.
This section will be the shortest as there is no set way to write an analysis, some use literary terms some use analogies. You have to find your own style in the matter, but in doing so remember to be clear and concise.
This brief tutorial is not an attempt to tell Tolkien Scholars how to write their posts nor is it meant to instruct those members who have established themselves to a degree in lore, it is a suggested structure for those who would like to enter the Lore forums, yet don?t know where to start. I would like to make clear that this structure applies equally to a post which opens a thread, or a post which addresses points further on in the discussion.
There are however a few pointers I will leave you with.
Don?t be afraid to admit that you are wrong, if another member has superior evidence to rebut your point, don?t be afraid simply to agree with them. The lore forums are designed for an increased understanding, not arguments.
Politeness should be extended to all - even those who are rude. Let your behavior stand as a beacon above any who are disrespectful or rude. If somebody particularly upsets you, contact the administration team and ask them to look into it.
If in doubt ask, some that haunt the lore forums may seem scary, but they are just other members. If you are polite and respectful to them, then they will supply you with answers to your questions and provide you with many satisfying hours of Lore exploration and discussions.