Before AWP, I wrote a post about how panels and conference talks in general often don't deliver what they promise, either because of misleading abstracts or poor organization. I said that I would see how the two panels on my schedule that I thought would be the most likely to mislead would go.
I'm pleased to report that those two panels did exactly what was promised in a well-organized and helpful way. In fact, the most disappointing panel I attended was one of the so-called "safe" panels--essentially a how-to on a certain topic that I thought would unearth more useful tips.
I don't want to call anyone out, but know that if you are disappointed in a panel, it's probably not your fault. After all, it's your time and money at stake! Like any public talks, panels must keep the audience's attention and offer information and relatable conversation.
Panels are inherently inefficient forms of information conveyance because they stress the human factor. I do wish that AWP's talks varied in format, because there are some topics that would do better with one or two presenters rather than a full panel. But I doubt that's going to change.
Instead, let me offer some helpful notes to keep in mind when running, evaluating, or judging panels:
I have a lot of alts. I started the game intending to main my elementalist and play a guardian as well. Somewhere along the line--possibly during Caudecus Manor wipes--I swapped to levelling my guardian first. Both of them are now 80. Before I bought the expansion, I spent $10 on a character slot because I also wanted a mesmer, and possibly an open slot if mesmer wasn't to my liking. I was already planning out what might benefit the guild and what might interest me the most, and having only two character slots seemed a bit too restrictive.
After I bought the expansion, a decision that I made roughly five days after installing Guild Wars 2, I rolled a revenant, a necromancer, and an engineer. Warrior and thief simply did not look as interesting to me since I generally hate "hit it very hard" classes or "stealth around, be sneaky" classes in any game (and, on the flip side, elementalist and guardian are very me). Finally, because of raid comp and guild comp foibles that resulted in 75% of our players maining eles, I bought a character slot for a druid healer. I didn't want to delete anyone, and I also knew that, as GM and as a human being who likes to analyze video games, it was important for me to have every class eventually. I had planned to save thief and warrior for a long time down the road, but, thanks to a desire to parse as a warrior via GW2DPS, I bought an eighth slot for one.
I love my guardian and I'm working on ascended gear for him, so it made sense for me to have the other heavy armor classes, since you can use your ascended gear on any character that can use the armor or weapon type. However, revenant wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be, and warriors also use greatswords in their main pve spec.
Engineer pvp is one of the funnest things in the game--though I also like guardian pvp. Iolenn was doomed to a life of swimming in the Skyhammer mists until I realized just how much our guild needs condi damage.
Likewise, since I was interested in all three light armor classes, it made sense to try to level them up to gear-share. Because in the absence of a levelling plan I had just been hopping on whomever I felt like, I made a spreadsheet that looked at what type of gear was used assuming that your alts will be in a viable raiding spec--ie, something currently on metabattle or close to it.
My results were basically universal: have a set of berserker armor for each armor class, beginning with your main's armor, and then going to the tier in which you have the most likely alts--for me, light armor. With these power sets, you can tank by just adding a few pieces of toughness gear, or heal in full zerk or in an intermediate set. Just make sure your runes match!
The weapons that you can use with these power dps sets? Greatsword for warriors, guardians, and power dps reapers, and staff for eles, healing druids (you can get away with a zerk staff), thieves, and revs. A zerk sword may also be useful for several alts.
Condi sets and weapons are more specialized, unfortunately, and the condi mesmer build uses a different set than the condi necro builds do. However, you could probably get away with having a weapon with slightly less ideal stats, so I'd recommend building a condi scepter or pistol.
All of this should be adjusted for alts that you don't have, hate, or plan to sit in the Heart of the Mists or likewise, of course.
I talked about list poems last week, but I'm really into hybrid forms right now. A work doesn't have to be 'hybrid' in order to use hybridization to its advantage.
At key moments, evoking fragments of the external but unwritten world can be instrumental in anchoring a character or scene. In Mann's Doktor Faustus, a novel about a composer who sells his soul, music, not magic, is the medium in which the composer works. Mann's narrator, a childhood friend of the main character, is a writer. Yet through his point-of-view, we come to see how music can be expressed through words. Ekphrasis, the art of describing artistic works in words, plays a role in Mann's character revelations, his novel's theme, and the plot device of introducing the infernal into an otherwise sober work of German realism.
E.B. White's book the Trumpet of the Swan, one of my childhood favorites, describes a mute swan learning to play the trumpet to compensate for his disability. Like Doktor Faustus, music is the protagonist's mode of expression, and plays a key role in communicating his feelings. White uses songs that Sam, the main human character, knows from camp, and famous songs with which everyone--even today's children--should be familiar in much the same way Mann uses Beethoven and Schoenberg's works to illuminate the plot for his audience.
The issue for writers is how much to use. It could be argued that Mann's dazzling intellectual asides detract from his books, turning them into works of criticism as much as they are works of literature. Many struggling writers, myself included, deal routinely with the problem of spending too much time in a character's head. That time issue goes doubly when referencing other works, no matter how seminal or well-known. Hybrid writers are finding ways to balance the novelty of their form with the touchstones readers need to traverse the narrative. Reading these new works and these new ways will help give traditional forms tools to troubleshoot some of the most difficult writing quandaries.
The latest issue of the Writer's Chronicle features an article on forms. But it also features Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad, which is describes as more than a novel, more than a collection of short stories. Egan also toys with ekphrastic description and PowerPoint slides in her novel. It's a wonderful starting point for anyone who wants to see what cross-pollination of the creative variety can do.