In Praise of Prose

Words, words, words. We all write them. We all read them. They are in our blood. They are in our bones. They bleed from our fingers when we near a keyboard. And yet, we sometimes face a blank screen and nothing wants to gush out. Certainly words readily fly when we are on Facebook or Twitter or are bandying about emails to friends and colleagues, but the important words sometimes scamper under the bed, and hide in the shadowy recesses waiting for us to coax them out.

For some, this is often the case when it comes to game writing. Is it the structure? Is it the mishmash of the analytical with the creative? What can one do to banish the blank slate for good? Tabula rasa is no way to live my friend, and there are some simple tricks one can use when facing writer’s block or game designer’s block.

1. Tell it as a story. Let go of the mechanics for a bit and describe what is happening in a prosaic fashion. Don’t be concerned with PCs and NPCs. Throw together a branching narrative of what happens. You can use the word characters if you’d like or Sir Ralph or Edwin Moore or whomever you choose; it doesn’t matter. Just go with the flow.

Example: The characters discover a map to a hidden gold mine. On their way there, they discover a ghost town inhabited by Cenobites, and must recite Three Blind Mice backwards while hopping on a pogo stick. The diary located in the shack on the outskirts of town, inhabited by Mad Randy tells them how to do it. If they do this, they are able to get the key to the mine, and save the world. If they fail, the world ends, and it doesn’t matter if they die rich or poor.

2. Tell it as a past event. This trick is an excellent way to let go of any obstacles or hang-ups. It may seem silly, but try it. Write it down or go the House route and tell it to a friend, a colleague, or even a hapless janitor. Use a sounding board and tell it as something which already happened. If you don’t want them to think you’re mad, be sure to let them know it’s a game thing (if they’re a non-gamer).

Example: Three characters- Joe, Richie, and Sara–inherited a house and had to go take inventory. They hadn’t seen each other since high school when they were all really close friends. However, something happened in their past which none of them wants to talk about. When they get to the house, the crazed serial killer, Faceless Thomas, begins picking off the house staff, and each of the characters began to suspect the others. Joe found a pistol with two bullets. Richie found a sword. Sara found a strange amulet which glowed green. Joe shot Richie, but Sara discovered that Faceless Thomas still existed. Richie was bandaged up and the three explored the secret basement level and after a time, they confronted Faceless Thomas. Richie turned on the party and killed Joe (who had it coming from shooting him earlier), and Sara was able to stun Joe and Richie, and escape the mansion to the woods. A final confrontation occurred and Sara was captured. Faceless Thomas held her and Richie went to stab her in the heart. At the last moment, she pulled herself free, and he impaled Faceless Thomas who ripped off Richie’s head as they both collapsed to the ground. Sara made her way to the highway where she was picked up by a passing trucker who took her into town.

Either of these approaches can give you some fresh perspective on your work and rejuvenate your creative juices. The next time you get stymied, give them a go. Now, I must return to my own words, so I bid you, dear reader, adieu!

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