Re: The Grading Group
You know how the length requirements work. The How to Write Stories thread has the full explanation. However, the length requirement is more like a strong recommendation. By all means, pass an exceptional story even if it is underlength. If a story doesn't meet its division requirements, you shouldn't pass it just because it managed to hit the limit. Call the writer out if they clearly inserted, like, completely irrelevant scenes just to get to the full length.
Is this really a Pokemon story? Does it abide by the unwritten rules of Pokemon?
Style is certainly the writer's choice. However, if they stray too far from the original spirit and universe of Pokemon, it's pretty easy to notice. We're not saying they have to fit absolutely accurately with the games or show. But. If they lose the spirit of Pokemon, sometimes, the story doesn't fit together.
For instance, talking Pokemon. So far as we know in the game/anime canon, only legendary, very telepathic, parrot-ey, or Team-Rocket-main-character Pokemon can talk. Talking Pokemon are popular in stories. This is fine. However, there should usually be a reasonable explanation. Lab-induced mutations? Strong psychic powers? An alternate universe where all Pokemon can talk?
It's not even necessary, given that Pokemon and humans generally make themselves understood to each other anyway.
There's also the deeper issue of general plausibility. This stuff is easy to understand. Plot holes, people acting out of character, descriptions of the same object changing between paragraphs, egregious violations of the laws of physics or narrative. Does the protagonist suddenly transform into Mr. T? Does a Poke Ball alternate between being a Great Ball and a Net Ball? Did the writer leave a character dangling off the cliff then completely forget about him or her? Point out any niggles like this.
The purpose of a URPG story is the capture of Pokemon. Most stories feature an actual capture attempt in the plot itself, even if this is not necessary. However, the Pokemon listed for capture must show up in the story somewhere. The harder the Pokemon is to capture, the more important to the story it must be. A Porygon-Z story had better have that Porygon-Z do something interesting. Cameos aren't enough.
If the story puts the capture before the end and continues on after the Pokemon is captured, this is still fine. It is necessary, in fact, for multiple-capture stories. Don't worry about that.
Again, the common practice of ending the story on a "will the Poke Ball work?" situation is not necessary. If you see a promising writer using this mechanism over and over again, let them know that other endings are possible. A lot of competition entries end stories in creative ways.
The Personal Opinion
You, the grader, are human. Take advantage of that. If you have some sort of gut feeling about the story, listen to your gut. Don't base your entire grade around it, but it may influence your decision when the story quality is on the borderline. However, remember to grade based on the story, not the writer. Who wrote it is irrelevant. If you dislike someone, do not touch their stories!
Most borderline stories can be bumped up to "capture" on principle. I would recommend doing so, generally. However, if a writer has been posting a lot of borderline captures lately, let them know. It'd be bad if they decided to do a Stupefying next, 'r something, and were horribly surprised when they didn't capture it the first time.
You should take into account the writer's previous works only for figuring out if you can do a more complex grade on a longer (60k+) story. If the same issues always come up in previous grades and they've shown up yet again, point 'em out again and shake your e-fist gently. First-time or sophomore efforts, though, should be graded really nicely. They should rarely fail. However, if it's a good story, it's a good story... so pass it!
The First Story
First stories are usually sketchy. The writer is still learning the rules and how to tell a good story. Helpful feed back is useful. Encouragement is most important. Don't drown them in complex theory, or even simple theory. Help them float, even moreso than you would an experienced writer. Your goal here, as always, is not just to evaluate the story but to guide the writer into understanding what a storyteller can be, and that they can be one.
First stories should generally be passes under pretty much any situation.
You should have both supportive and corrective aspects in your grade. Don't roast the writer under any circumstances; do include suggestions for how to improve their writing. Don't gush without content; do praise what they did well. Constructive criticism is the best kind; remember to leave the writer with the feeling that they can, will, and want to improve their writing (either for their next story, or the regrade).
Pick whichever of the above sections you feel would be the most helpful in evaluating this story. The plot is the most important part, though; is it a good story? Is it fun? Is it a rousing tale? Does it measure up to the level of the Pokemon the author wants? Your true objective is to help your author become a confident writer who is always seeking self-improvement. More than that, don't just try to turn them into a carbon copy of your favorite type of writing. Show them how to improve what they're already doing; recommend techniques or ideas that mesh well with their style and voice. Don't tell them they're doing something wrong (unless it's grammar)... show them how they can do it better. (If he or she writes much better than you do, you might want to call for help from a more experienced grader, if such a person exists.) Don't discourage them; show them that they've got the right skills and they know how to use them.
Last edited by Scourge of Amaranth; 03-13-2012 at 06:58 AM.