The Great Well of Unreason
I suppose, in my heart of hearts, I’m awfully stubborn. I’m still here at the keyboard, day in and day, laboring away on imaginary worlds and dealing with the often stressful mundanities of running a business, just fiddling away while the world seems to be collapsing in on itself. There have been serious tragedies globally and domestically, physically and fiscally. It seems some mornings that the Incas were right after all.
In one of my other hearts (of which I have many), I’m also quietly optimistic we’ll weather the storms and come through the other side. Some days, for me personally, are harder than others. Having a computer muck up right before Origins wasn’t in my game plan, but we managed to keep our schedule, a fact I take great pride in. My word count did suffer a bit, but I’m back on track and churning out the words faster than ever.
At times, I feel like I’m staggering across a vast, broken landscape chasing a mirage and I stagger back to the closest well, a well with cool, refreshing water laced with possibility. I drink deeply and then, again, move back to the desert after god knows what…
Today, I had a difficult question I’ve been putting off from an interview with the upcoming Savage Insider #1 and it was sublime in its simplicity:
I don’t know when the e-zine is going to drop, but I didn’t feel you folks needed to wait on the answer to the question weighing on my mind today, so I’d like to share it with you now, so here goes. Believe me, you’ll want to catch the e-zine when it drops!
What is the most difficult part of development?
That depends upon whether I’m doing the writing myself or trying to run herd on any of the other folks, but I’m going to phrase my answer with regard to the creative aspects of the question. What part(s) do I, personally, find difficult?
I love writing. I love doing research. I love working with rules and massaging them until they turn out just right. I enjoy my job. I like writing adventures. I enjoy crafting plot points. I take great pleasure in creating worlds and populating them with people and place and factions and all sorts of madnesses. The difficulty resides in the outliers, the beginning and the end. I’ll address them each in turn.
While the rules can present their own challenges, they have a definite structure. A writer must sit down and hash out the details of an adventure, a plot point, or some engaging introductory narrative on his own. Yes, there is structure. Yes, there is form. We’re not abandoning either in search of a questing beast comprised of haiku and stream of consciousness. Certainly, a writer can use sounding boards, if he has them, but someone, somewhere, has to sit down and put the words on paper. I bounce ideas off the crew, but not before I’ve done some solitary noodling over how to kick things off. Getting disparate player characters together can be tricky. How do you work a hobo and a dilettante together? Okay, you’ve done it once. Now do it again, but make it different, but still put your spin on things. No pressure. Characters can be a broad range of people if you create a broad rules set. For example, while working on Echo of Dead Leaves, I faced the dilemma of “I know where the story goes after they get together, but how can I get them together that isn’t too terribly contrived.” I’m sure all the Realms of Cthulhu fans are thinking, “Please, don’t bring us together for the reading of a will.” Rest assured, I didn’t, but it sure crossed my mind once or twice. This issue arises in both adventures and plot points, but it’s like dealing with a weekly series versus a feature film. Audiences have different expectations and can be a little more forgiving with a tried and true approach to an adventure than with a campaign kickoff. You have a GM who has gathered his gang together to play something his crew may have never heard of and you have to give him the tools to fully engage and entertain them, plus you have to make certain it makes sense. The making sense part particularly resonates with me. Logical underpinnings are important to any storyline, even if they don’t make sense to the players at the beginning, but I’m definitely veering off point.
Letting go can be rough. Here, I’m referring to the work writ large. In the final stages, there is the push and pull. If you’ve been exceedingly thorough, you may well be sick of your work. You may never want to hear the mention of runes or ninja or agents or HPL again. This passes. On the other hand, you may want to give it one more read through. You may want to have the High Council of Grammar sanctify the worth of your words. You may want Lloyd’s of London to insure there are no typos before it heads off to the printer. As with many things in life, letting go can be a painful and difficult process. You may feel the need to write another dozen pages on the importance of tapas to the Floridian economy or expound upon the various permutations of magic among the Slope Rats of East Ratlandia. Your mind is trying to trick you. You have to let go. The first time is the most difficult, but it’s never truly easy to release one’s work into the wild, at least, not for me.
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There you go. Hopefully, you’ll find something of use, perhaps even a cup of creative aqua vitae from the Great Well of Unreason.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!