Drink From The Well
In or out of school, a writer is always a student, always a researcher, and always an observer.
You have the capability unlike any we’re aware of to find information more easily than ever before. You have the opportunity to find facts with a few deft flicks of fingers. Everyone with access to these words lives in a privileged age, an age unlike any in the recorded history of our world. We eat things only kings could dream of. We live in a splendour only dreamt of in fairy tales.
Many squander the opportunities, distracted by the shiny objects off the path towards our destination or wander aimlessly about, knowing not where their destination may be. About now, you’re wondering where I’m going with this or whether I’m too enchanted with my own words to get to a particular point. I always/sometimes/eventually get to some point at some future time (or have stepped backwards, Merlin-like, from a future point to connect then and now, creating something of some sort of salience).
Today’s point is one I’ve often told those around me from time to time. You own a cell phone. Don’t you? You possess an amazing device, a tiny computer capable of doing so much more than playing Threes or checking your social media feeds or watching videos. You’re reading these words, so that shows you want to feed your head at least on some level (or are wondering when I’ll mention what I’m working on in more than vague allusions).
Here are three ways to use your phone for aiding your writing, be it for general fiction or game design.
Research a topic. Once upon a time, the most ardent of us would have to go to the stacks and dig through microfiche and use a special machine to view these archived bits of film. The best material was rarely in the books, but buried deep in the microfilm. Now, you can access information which took us hours to get in moments. That’s pretty amazing. Be sure to crosscheck your sources at least three times (if facts matter) for what you’re working on to get the most accurate accounting. Sometimes you can’t and have to go with your instinct. Your writing shall benefit from having a confident underpinning of factual information. This can even extend to names. A (relatively) easy way to add authenticity to your work is to check census records for names for a given era. Yup. Names change with the times. Ulysses was more popular as a name when Grant was president than it is today.
Read a book, an article, anything. Yup. You can still do this on a phone. As a matter of fact, I do most of my reading on a phone or tablet at any given time. It’s convenient. It’s there. You can check out sites like Project Gutenburg. You might feel you don’t need to do any reading on a topic, that you have it on lock. That’s cool. However, like with names, sentence structures change. You can add an air of authenticity to your work by adapting a meter and sentence structure appropriate to the era you’re emulating. Even if the era doesn’t exist, you are modeling it upon something. With RunePunk, I was aiming for a gritty, pseudo-Victorian vibe, so adapted a bit of the slang, created my own, and added the smashed up capital words to reflect a future where they ran out of names sometimes in their past, and smashed up capital names and meat vats became a thing (kind of like what they are talking about now).
See the world. Research can be more than words. It can be visual. Look at photographs from an era (or at least akin to an age). Look at architecture. Look at people. You can use them as reference in your works when you are trying to imagine a particular character. I keep an idea doc on each project sprinkled with links to images of all sorts to help when I’m describing a thing. Many artists use photo references or models when drawing something. It’s okay for writers to do the same, though it doesn’t occur to a number of us. Though our medium is not a visual one, we all aim to paint a proper picture with words with the tools we have. Sometimes a concrete thing, an image, can spur us to greater heights.
When you lament the state of your world today, remember how good you’ve actually got it.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu.