Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Novels

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Characters section[edit]

Hi everyone. I've been doing plot related edits for quite a little while now, and I have some concerns regarding 'Characters' sections. They are a magnet for fancruft and in-universe fluff and I would like to seek some opinions on a proposed re-write of the Characters section in this MOS, RfC to follow if required.

Current text:

  • "If appropriate, a character section would consist of brief character outlines, as opposed to a simple list. Length of each entry should vary relative to the character's importance to the story. Most articles do not need this section. Instead, a finely crafted plot summary is used to introduce the characters to the reader."

Issues with current text: When is it appropriate? What is a brief character outline? If most articles don't need this section, why don't we start with that?

Proposed re-write:

  • "In the majority of cases, a Characters section is inappropriate. The plot summary should already contain the events that the significant characters in the story experience and the affect this has on them (if relevant to the readers understanding of the novel). A Characters section should only be included if it contains information that helps the reader understand the events of the novel or contains information that would be inappropriate to include in the plot summary. For example, the novel may have a complex narrative covering characters appearing in differing locations and/or timelines (e.g. A Game of Thrones) or contain characters that are referred to with more than one name that may confuse the reader (e.g. War and Peace). In the event that a Characters section is agreed to be necessary to assist the readers understanding of certain elements of the novel, the contents of the character outline should specifically address these needs. For example, if the events of the plot are difficult to follow due to the number of characters and their location within the narrative, the characters section should only contain enough detail for the reader to be able to identify who and where they are. The characters section should not needlessly repeat the events already described in the plot summary or include unnecessary trivia."

Benefits of re-write: Since the broadcast of the TV adaptation, American Gods (the novel) has started attracting a lot of edits that add trivial details to the characters bios. I've been removing some at the time and I recently pruned it back quite a lot (I'm not pretending that's what left there is a shining example of this should be done by any means). However, that article probably should have a characters section because it allows us to present some useful information about those characters (mainly the fact that they are interpreted versions of folkloric figures) which wouldn't naturally fit inside the plot summary itself. What we don't need are descriptions of characters greasy appearances etc. This re-write I believe fits better with the directions in WP:WAF, particularly relating to in-universe writing and would have the benefit of making it easier to remove fancrufty over-detailed trivia as it would place the onus on the person who wants to include the information.

What are your thoughts? Do you disagree with the approach, or with the details as written? I'll leave this here for a little while to see if anyone comments, otherwise I'll be BOLD and make the change. Scribolt (talk) 12:20, 9 June 2017 (UTC)

@Scribolt: In part I agree with you: many character sections should not exist, if the plot summary is sufficiently developed. However, I don't think you are accounting for most of the appropriate uses of character sections in that rewrite:
  • If sources provide significant analysis of the characters
  • If the characters are sufficiently complicated that its useful to break them out, beyond the plot (which you mention)
  • If the characters are of significant cross-work interest (not immediately finding a model for this, but I am thinking Sherlock Holmes type characters or Comic book characters, which are being constantly reinterpreted in different ways/timelines/versions)
  • If there is sufficient information in a secondary list of content (for example, The_League_of_Extraordinary_Gentlemen)
In part, I think the initial statement "In the majority of cases, a Characters section is inappropriate." does not give enough permission for folks to make their own judgement calls on the appropriate pages. Also, the last couple sentences don't make much sense to me. I think we need to be more specific about what we want from the sections, rather than placing prohibitions on what is in those sections.
Remember this is a guide, in part, for writing the articles (all the Category:Novel stubs templates link to the style guide, for instance). Saying no in our policies, doesn't actually promote a model of constructive contribution, but tends to get used to WP:Wikilawyer, WP:BITE and make overly aggressive "mass consistency" campaigns which hurt new users (our plot summaries and character sections tend to be crappy, but they are also great ways for new users to get involved: for example, I started on Wikipedia by working on Jack Whyte novels, and Patrick O'Brian novels, and those sections (as well as the OR-ish "cultural references" sections). I hope that helps, and am looking forward to a new draft :) Sadads (talk) 14:45, 9 June 2017 (UTC)
It does, you make some good points. I'll wait a while before attempting to re draft, but the cross work characters is similar to the American Gods example where a character section can be usefully used to provide context and should probably be addressed as a specific use case. Thanks for your input. Scribolt (talk) 15:21, 9 June 2017 (UTC)

Hi Sadads. I've been thinking a bit about your comments. Firstly, I agree that the tone of that draft is a little negative and it should be a bit more welcoming. I'll try and address that below, but as you correctly pointed out, some of the plot and character sections are indeed 'a bit crappy' and I was trying to provide something that if people are referred to, actually explains what should and shouldn't be done I have a couple of question related to your bullet points, which I'd appreciate your thoughts on:

  • If sources provide significant analysis of the characters
Have you got an example where this is done well? I'm of the opinion that if there's a load of meaningful analysis of the character, then the analysis itself should be provided (sourced). From what I've seen, the characters section really only ever provides potted biographies of the characters, which doesn't help the reader understand the narrative (unless the narrative is very complicated as mentioned above) or understand what the sources analysis of the characters actually say. I've seen character articles that do this well, and list of characters articles (although not many) that do this well, but I've never seen what I'd think as good character analyses provided in the short list in the novel article because there simply isn't space and the significant analysis in the sources rarely extend to all the characters.
I partially agree with this. I think TLOEG does this well, in that it provides links to the character articles but nothing more. Any accompanying text should be minimal at most.
  • "Also, the last couple sentences don't make much sense to me. I think we need to be more specific about what we want from the sections, rather than placing prohibitions on what is in those sections. "
I'll try and re-phrase this but I'm still of the opinion that it's not inappropriate to be a little prohibitive, because this falls a bit into what Wikipedia is not territory and it's even harder for a newish editor to understand how that applies to them rather than a more local explanation here. If someone one, enthusiastically, wants to insert everything that they know about what the characters do, dress, behave etc in a character section I think it's a good thing to be able to point them at this, and for them to see not only what it's for, but what it's not for. Some of the other MOS pages take a much more proscriptive approach, but I should have been a bit more receptive to how this page has evolved and it's tone. If no one else comments, I'll try a new draft later in the week. Scribolt (talk) 07:49, 12 June 2017 (UTC)
I find the Character lists to be useful, and do not agree with the present negative view of those lists om the MOS. For novels in a series, it helps to keep track of when characters enter or leave the series. Plus I think it is difficult to have both a terse plot summary and no character list. Some characters are of interest but are not part of the shortest version of the plot, because they are red herrings in a mystery, or other aspects considered not the main plot. That does not make the characters less important or interesting, in my view. So, I would rather the MOS go the other way, and encourage an accurate list of characters with terse or long descriptions as is appropriate. Some characters in Dickens and Austen novels get their own article, as well as being placed in a list. I see, you would rather have a simple wiki link to the article, and omit discussion of the character on the article about the novel -- that seems tedious, to force jumping around. I find it a loss to the article when an editor wipes out most of the characters in a list. I often read novels as audio books, which is what brought me to Wikipedia articles on novels, and I want to see how names are spelled, check that I am following the characters. What is a novel without characters? This feels like an over-coreection because one article is attracting many editors to add their two cents worth in a character list. --Prairieplant (talk) 18:23, 17 June 2017 (UTC)

MOS:TONE/MOS:FICT, WP:PSTS, and reviews of fictional works[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere.

Please see Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Film#Proposed clarification of reviews' relation to WP:PSTS and MOS:TONE. This is a request for comments in the general sense, but not a WP:RFC at this stage, being an initial discussion draft (broadened to cover writing about fiction generally), building on a lengthy discussion/dispute at the same page.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  15:53, 22 September 2017 (UTC)

Draft guideline material on how to write (and not write) "Production" sections[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere.

Please see Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Film#List of points to cover, a draft list of advice on the writing of "Production" sections. This is part of an RfC on MOS:FILM, but the material is written broadly enough (on purpose) it might actually live at MOS:FICT and apply to other media (TV, video games, comics, novel series, etc.)  — SMcCandlish ¢ >ʌⱷ҅ʌ<  05:37, 7 October 2017 (UTC)

Debate: Adaptations - "Should the notability be for all kinds or only full adaptations of novels?"[edit]

Here is a question I have, regarding Adaptations of novels that are notable - Should they cover any form of adaptation, regardless of the amount used, or only a full adaptation of the novel? I ask this question, because I was recently looking over an article regarding an Agatha Christie novel, in which it featured mention of a Stage Adaptation, that only borrowed the murder plot element, and nothing else.

A full adaptation in my mind, and which is notable, covers the full work of a fictional novel, and should of course make note of whether such an adaptation in other media - radio, television, films, video games, comics and stage - makes changes to the novel's title, plot, characters, settings and so forth (any or a combination thereof), or if it remains faithful to the novel's entire presentation and story elements. But if the adaptation only covers a partial part of the novel (i.e. Title only), is that exactly what the section should cover as well? I think a discussion on this matter is needed, to determine if partial adaptations are acceptable enough to be included within novel articles, or if such partial adaptations should be put aside as a reference of the novel in another work. GUtt01 (talk) 15:58, 20 February 2018 (UTC)

@GUtt01: It's not our job to judge whether or not a work is an adaptation: that would be original research via selective representation of sources. The threshold for inclusion has nothing to do with the degree of adaptation, but rather how thoroughly secondary sources discuss the adaptation or appropriation of content, etc.. Remember, it needs to be non-trivial discussion in reliable sources: per Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Novels#Adaptations. Does that cover your concern here? Sadads (talk) 19:10, 20 February 2018 (UTC)
All and all the goal is to not descend into trivia, not to judge how valid an expert interpretation of a work as an adaptation is. Sadads (talk) 19:13, 20 February 2018 (UTC)
@Sadads: I do understand that. The question is more in terms of the appropriate definition for an adaptation, in the MOS for novels, regardless of the media of the adaptation. Truth be told, if an adaptation only adapts a part or style of an element, but goes off to make something original and different to the novel itself, should it be truly considered an adaptation of the novel, or not? GUtt01 (talk) 21:01, 20 February 2018 (UTC)
@GUtt01: I don't even think we should try to make that distinction: ultimately our opinion, threshold or definition of "adaptation", as editors, shouldn't matter on that front (and most certainly shouldn't be in the MOS); the question we have to ask on a case by case basis is: are there reliable source materials that make the claim? If there is significant coverage of the "X is an adaptation of Y" or "X appropriates the following features from Y" then it is something that should be included in Y's adaptations section whether or not we think the source's claim is valid. We should, of course, weed out wild/marginal claims or claims made by poor sources (i.e. fan websites, not reliable blogs), but ultimately we should survey all items with significant coverage in the reliable secondary literature -- while using editorial judgement to ensure that we don't turn Adaptation sections into WP:Trivia sections. The definition of an adaptation is a hotly debated subject in many different critical contexts, with dozens of different schools of approach/thought: its not our job to navigate those or rule on "what's a "real" adaptation"; it's our job to summarize all of those claims -- whether or not we agree with them. Sadads (talk) 21:58, 20 February 2018 (UTC)
I agree with Sadads on this point. My own issue on adaptations has been finding the source that makes the claim, as some editors add an anime, computer game, radio play or play to the list without any citation that the anime, computer game, radio play or play exists, and claims to be based on the novel. In the case that @GUtt01: mentions, there is a source that specifies that the plot of the novel is used for the play. The plot seems a major part of the novel to include in a play. No adaptation takes on every aspect of the novel; things are always changed from one medium to another. Finding another article that says the play has no element of Agatha Christie in it, would simply be added to the mention of the play. Plus, the adaptations of a novel, in sum, add to the notability of the novel, as others find the novel an inspiration for another medium. --Prairieplant (talk) 21:48, 21 February 2018 (UTC)

@Sadads: can you say a little more about what constitutes a reliable source in relation to adaptations? A producer of a movie or the writer of a comic book might claim that their work is an adaptation of, or 'inspired by', a novel, and then a reviewer in a newspaper or IMDb might repeat the claim, which is then used as a source for an article. An editor familiar with the novel might notice that the so-called adaptation is no more related to the novel than chalk is related to cheese. Is that original research? Everything else in the article on the novel requires good sourcing from recognized authorities on the subject, but it seems not to be so in claims of adaptation. Here is one example that I am currently looking at: the novel in question is Dostoevsky's The Idiot, and the claimed adaptation is the movie L'Amour braque. There is not, and in my opinion never could be, a reliable source on the novel that would confirm that this movie is related to the novel. Harold the Sheep (talk) 23:26, 28 January 2019 (UTC)