The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘rpg’

I Have A Cunning Plan…

Posted by BigWords on October 17, 2009

I’m still wandering from idea to idea without so much as an inkling of what my NaNo will be about, though the notion of adopting “dares” seems to be one which has real appeal. They will, of course, need a through-story to make sense of them, and a proper sense of time and place. Some ideas which are being bandied around sound really fun to tackle, and I may have to decide on a genre quickly if I’m gonna add more, but the following seem to have merit:

Have a character who kills people via txt-tlk.

Interesting, but it might be a bit of a hard sell.

Use as many AW user names as character names as you can.

Oh yeah, this one is gonna be interesting.

Make your characters play ‘The Game.’
BP if someone says, “I lost the game” at the climax.
DBP if the game is a plot point.

Maybe. I like the notion of an ARG being a plot point.

DARE: Use the words lubrication, moist, and intercourse in your novel

This… I kinda HAVE to do, don’t I?

DARE: Have a character say “I reject your reality and substitute my own!” to another character.

I like.

Include a character who makes constant references to the internet meme of your choice.
-BP if the internet doesn’t exist/hasn’t been invented yet in your world.
-DBP if no one questions this character until at least halfway through the story. That includes references to it in thoughts.
-TBP if the character ends up turning evil because his/her ways were questioned.
-QBP if they become the main villain.

Have a character who only says one line
BP if they say the line in every scene they’re in
Double BP if the line makes sense in the context of the scene
Triple BP if it turns out to be an important plot point

DARE: Have a belligerent robot.
BP: If he was programmed that way.
TBP: If the purpose of his creation was to drive the entire world insane.
QBP: If the programmer did this by accident, but was happy with the result.

Dare: Incorporate Vampire-Robot-Nazis who are also zombies into your plot.
BP if one Vampire-Robot-Nazi who is also a zombie says “You’ve just been Philed in.” after shooting somebody several times.

Damn… So many good bits of business to use, and I still – fucking pathetic, I know – have no plot. The one thing I have set my mind on is the fact that I’m exploiting the Friday the 13th date in the middle of November. That’s when all the nasty horror stuff will appear, though with the suggestions that I like from AW and the NaNo boards being more SF in nature… Yeah, this is gonna take some hard work to accomplish.

The geek in me loves the following:

Have one of your battles be an RPG battle, and record commands, damage taken, limit breaks, etc.
– BP if all your battles are like this
– DBP if at least one of your battles is a random encounter, with the monsters spawning literally out of nowhere

I might just do an entire novel set in the City Of Heroes game.

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Engaging People Is The First Hurdle

Posted by BigWords on September 28, 2009

Shovel in hand, I’m resurrecting an old (and I thought obvious) argument about writing.

What is a writer’s first hurdle?

When people talk about ‘writing’ they usually mean writing novels, or poetry, or artistically stimulating mediums that afford the author some artistic gratification which should be obvious in the reading, viewing or listening. It is a bit less obvious when the medium is not immediately engaged in a conversation or emotional attachment to the characters or situation, though the basic framework which governs any form of writing is still true in many of these other forms of writing.

On the borderlands of writing there are hundreds of small yet vital writing opportunities that may not – at first glance – be the exact same thing as crafting the complex plots and intricate characters which epitomise writing as an art form and mode of expression. There are the wonderful RPG books to consider first of all, because I definitely class them as closest to epic storytelling in their set-up. The fact that the reader has some input into the narrative is irrelevant.

They exist for the sole purpose of character building, storytelling, and the realization of worlds which don’t exist. Some rulebooks (the Dungeons & Dragons ones especially) are so complex that they must be viewed as a higher level of storytelling than mere novel-writing… How many novelists, if they had the ability in the first place, could cope with the balancing, levelling and complex threads of storytelling that run through the books? Not me…

I’ll admit from the out that I could never cope with writing one of those fuckers. I’ve read through enough rulebooks (and seen the covers of White Wolf #4 and #5 reprinted enough times in other contexts) to know that the creators of such tomes require a special kind of patience. RPG books are close enough to aspects of computer game writing that I would also include the creation of those games as great writing as well. I’m not going to trawl through which games have great writing, ’cause you should know them when you see them

Sometimes games can take on a life outside the initial release, and this is down to the writing. It might seem as if there are complex equations to be made in assessing which parts of the game are most important to which gamers, but good writing can save a game with poor graphics, or filled with glitches, or has an awful camera. Tomb Raider‘s success was as much down to the prevailing atmosphere of alt-history in the mid-nineties as it was due to Lara’s ridiculously large breasts.

The number of ways available to a writer to engage with an audience has become even more complex with the internet, and that is something which hasn’t been examined as seriously as other forms of writing. Is the format as good as paper-and-ink? Maybe or maybe not. The readership is slightly different, and – if I’m going to be completely honest here – there are an awful lot of spammish pages on the net. I’m not sure is Wikipedia counts as anything other than gifted insanity, but as a home of writing…

Minor diversion from the topic: People seem to think that making shit up about famous people is a reasonable way to pass the time. It ain’t. Neither is altering pages on history due to political or religious motives, both of which have been evident. There are a lot of people who take the idea of disseminating information to the masses seriously, and the scribblings of a few simple-minded morons has made the task nigh on impossible.

But I’m getting back to the point: Does the site engage a readership? The simple answer is yes. It is high on the list of most-viewed websites, surpassed by a handful of search engines and other essential sites. It is an amazing achievement, creating a popular and highly-regarded – in its’ theory if not its’ actual undertaking – website. The readership is there, therefore it is serious writing, if only because of the number of readers. It gets a passing grade.

####

This subject resurfaced from a comment I made about Salmand Rushdie’s writings. I like the ideas he throws around, but he has become one of the laziest writers around in the years since he turned in such memorable and engaging ad copy as “quote here” for company. He seems to have forgotten that the reader has, perhaps, better things to read than confused text which rambles rather than rattles, and that is where most people fall – the first hurdle. The first hurdle of a writer…

A writer’s first hurdle is to engage people.

Ad copy, which I haven’t touched on in a fair while, is as important in social media as any novel, and it reaches a far greater number of people than any novel. The words from a successful ad campaign can far outlast a bestselling novel in the collective memory of a generation, and influence artistic trends that most novels could never hope to. There are still references made, on television and in print, to the adverts of the sixties, when creative types threw away the rulebook and started to use tricks that nobody had ever seen before.

The introduction of a color supplement in newspapers might have been the focal point through which the lens of creativity was focused, but it was the accompanying words and ideas which fueled the boom in advertising. It was also the point at which newspapers began the slow slide into mediocrity and facile celebrity-watching which now dominates the industry, but for one shining moment, for one brief second of true artistry, the magazines and newspapers which had been in a rut suddenly came alive.

People bought newspapers for the ads as much as the non-news, eager to discover the latest campaigns. This is engaging with an audience on a level that strikes an immediate and lasting relationship, because they could then go out and purchase the products and feel part of a like-minded group. When readers of books try to do the same thing… Not so much luck, unless the book in question is a ultra-hyped product, replete with tie-in toys, games, films and other kipple.

If an audience isn’t engaged by a performance they tend to walk out.
If a reader isn’t engaged by a book they might not finish the text.
If a television series does not engage with viewers it is cancelled.
If a game does not engage with players it will be ridiculed by geeks.

If a comic does not engage with readers you get the situation Hawkman found himself in, bouncing between creators and mired in horrendous continuity issues that effectively killed off the character for the better part of a decade. Somehow, through luck and bloody good timing, the character was salvaged. Why? Because readers are engaged with the struggles that the character faces. They like the winged misery-guts, whose soap-opera history adds to the fun of his adventures.

Engaging readers in the narrative is hard.

The first duty of a writer is to engage is some manner, and the point of any writing – with the format, genre, medium, length and style being largely irrelevant – is this magical connection. Once you have people by the short and curlies you have them forever. You just have to get over that first hurdle…

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If You Want To Take The Diamond, Turn To Page 59

Posted by BigWords on August 14, 2009

You’ll probably remember the Choose Your Adventure books from the early eighties, but even if you’ve never read one there is a likelihood you’ve played an RPG with branching threads such as Knights Of The Old Republic. Developing a thick skin is important in writing, so this is where I get most of the problems with my material out into the open so you can laugh and point. Feel free to wonder how the hell I manage to think non-linear in plot, ’cause I’m still struggling to explain this clearly.

Back when I was writing little games (pieces of shit, each and every one of them) I managed to come up with at least twenty ending for any given scenario. The art of thinking differently came in mighty handy, but transferring any talent for five or six lines of text at a time is no use whatsoever in novel writing. I’ve allowed myself to expand ideas into an ever-increasing word count, then follow each possibility to see which one gives me more story to play with.

A quick example:

Detective Gaines stares at the explosive device, carefully weighing up his options. The wires are too complex to rush heedlessly into the disarming process, too many variables to consider. Tick tock, tick tock… The explosion takes out half the building. Gaines’ hand, hovering over the device at the moment of impact, is obliterated instantly, followed by the rest of his body.

or…

Detective Gaines stares at the explosive device, carefully weighing up his options. The wires are too complex to rush heedlessly into the disarming process, too many variables to consider. Tick tock, tick tock… His hand reaches forward, instinctively the detective pulls the blue wire free. The blast takes out half the building, sending shattered and twisted debris across the street.

maybe even…

Detective Gaines stares at the explosive device, carefully weighing up his options. The wires are too complex to rush heedlessly into the disarming process, too many variables to consider. Tick tock, tick tock… Gaines, a bead of sweat falling from the tip of his nose, realizes there is no answer to the puzzle in front of him. Turning, he runs from the room, runs from the building. There is silence. The device was a prank.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those (well, maybe once I clean up the prose a little), but deciding which one gets left into a story is a big challenge for me. There’s a neat analogy that I like – A good chess player knows all the possibilities thirty moves in advance. Writing ain’t chess, but it is just as hard. Maybe more-so because the rules are fluid and intangible to some extent. Having a fine sense of irony, I know I have conditioned my brain to do this kind of thing, so it is my own damn fault.

It’s crazy. Go on, say it. Lemme hear you.

The outcome of this type of writing-on-the-fly seems to be elevated word-counts and multiple endings, which doesn’t help in any way, shape or form for a structured three (or five) act novel, encompassing everything I need while remaining on this side of readable. A possible consideration (which I’m slightly embarrassed to bring up in public, but I did say I had a thick skin) is adding several epilogue-type bits at the end with all the possible endings I have come up with.

Do I want multiple endings? No. For a start, and this is the ego kicking in, I won’t be able to write a sequel. It’s a dumb reason to try avoiding this type of thing, but it is what it is. The second Deus Ex game fucked up the future of the franchise for a long time because of the multiple endings which were completely incompatible with each other. The first game wasn’t so bad, because the ending could be resolved somewhat, but the second…

You see my problem?

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