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Archive for August, 2010

Celebrating our fellow RORees!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 4, 2010

When you’re part of a writing group and you’ve been through the ecstasy and the agony of life as a professional writer with your crit partners, it is a real buzz to see their work acknowledged. Two of our RORees have works nominated for a Ditmar.

Richard is in there with a chance for Best Novel with Worldshaker (Allen & Unwin).

And in the Best Novella or Novelette section, our very own Tansy is in there with
“Siren Beat”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet Press)
And Tansy has done it again in the Best Short Story section with her story “Prosperine When it Sizzles”, published in New Ceres Nights, by Twelfth Planet Press.

Congratulations to everyone on the 2010 Ditmar ballot.  For those of you who are wondering what the Ditmars are see here. And for those  of you who want to vote … Ditmar online voting here.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Genre Writing, Writing Groups | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Beginner’s Guide to Writing for Games – Part Two

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 2, 2010

Meet Leanne C Taylor, games writer and lecturer on interactive narrative.

This is Part Two part on writing for computer games. The second part appeared before the post on YA. Part One covered Pre-production and Production.

Dialogue in Games

Once you’ve finally gotten to the stage of actually writing a game, you’ll quickly find out that, in addition to 90% of your time being spent editing, 90% of your time will be spent writing dialogue.  The game mentioned above is the only one I’ve worked on that was written in generic script formatting.  All of the others have been written in Excel, line under line, with direction to the sides.  How you write a game also depends on the target market and target console – is it for the Nintendo Dual Screen, and a demographic of boys aged 5-11 years?  Or is it for the PlayStation 3, and aimed at girls aged 12-18 years?  Will the dialogue be spoken, or text-only?  Herein lies another challenge : deciding which dialogue falls into which category.

Written dialogue must be short, uncomplicated, and fit within a set space.  For example, one of the games I wrote had a character limit of 60 characters per speech bubble.  That meant every line either had to be 60 characters long, or have an understandable break somewhere around the 60 character mark.  Spoken dialogue can be a little longer, and a little more complicated, but you have to avoid the repetition of important words or phrases, as they’re much easier to pick up when heard rather than seen.  Imagine you’re reading a book.  Every time, after someone speaks and it says, “she said”, you gloss over it.  It becomes invisible.  Compare this to a movie where someone says the same word several times in the same sentence, and it’s an entirely different set of feelings – what should be invisible becomes obvious, and irritating.  When I’m writing for games that will have VO (voice over), I spend a lot of time talking to myself.

So you’re writing dialogue – what for?  In small games, such as those for the Nintendo DS, sometimes a cutscene – slightly different to a cinematic, but essentially the same thing – can be between 1 and 8 lines long.  That means you have between 1 and 8 lines to explain to the player who they’re taking to, what’s going on, what’s coming up, and what they’re expected to do.  Couple that with the 60 character limit, and you’re not looking at much text.  In games for the PlayStation, with full VO, there might be dialogue options for the player to choose from, which means making sure that every line makes sense out of context so they all make sense in context.  Multi-path dialogue trees are my favourites to write, but sometimes they can do your head in.

Then you have the mission structure.  What is the player doing?  Why might they be doing it?  How can you motivate them to want to undertake the mission?  Sometimes an in-game reward, like a new gun, unit or unlockable item, will be enough.  Sometimes you have to entice the player to go the extra mile and click ‘Accept’ when they really ought to be going to bed or cooking dinner.  Every player is different, which is what makes writing for games such a challenge, and so much fun.

Game Experience

And, finally, you have something – an experience for the player to walk away with.  This is the wonder of the genre, the reason I love it, and the reason people keep playing.  In books or movies you might bond with a character, really feel for them, watch them fight for their life, and wish for a good outcome.  In a game, you’re fighting for your own life, wishing for your own good outcome.  You may do things you never thought you could do.  In Heavy Rain, I shot a man by accident, and I cried.  In Bioshock 2 I let a man live as a monster, though he begged me to kill him, because I thought it was a just punishment for the cruelty he had shown.  In Planescape: Torment I watched myself lead a woman who loved me to her death, and I was powerless to stop her.

Good game writing isn’t about how many characters can be on the screen at once, or how exciting the missions might seem.  It’s not about tricking the player into keeping on playing.  It’s about tricking the player into a world where they are the character, and these events are happening to them.  It’s about showing the player what life would be like from a different angle and, sometimes, even what they might be capable of, if the world was a different place.

Movies, books and games all let us share revelations.  They allow us to describe the world as we see it, and the changes that can take place.  Pointing a gun at the screen or at another character can’t compare to putting that gun in the player’s hands.  Games are about choices, and writing for games is like creating your own series of multiverses, each containing a single, perfect moment, with each moment unique to each player.  The ambiguity of an emotional experience is exponential when you do something for yourself, rather than reading about it or watching it.  Players bring their own meaning to each experience.  And, like a conductor concealed in the orchestra pit below the stage, if all of the elements are right and the plot is in harmony, the audience will be left breathless.

For more of Leanne see her blog.

See her Game Design Aspect of the Month Article in the ‘ International Game Developer’s Association Perspectives Newsletter’ Page 9.

Posted in Characterisation, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Writing Craft, Writing for Computer Games | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Great! YA! Book! Crisis!

Posted by tansyrr on August 2, 2010

Tamora Pierce has written a fabulous post I have seen linked all over the web about why she writes stories for girls, and why it is important to keep writing awesome stories for girls. She also questions the current dialogue about there a) not being enough books published for boys and b) not enough boys reading, in all sorts of clever and crunchy ways.

As Maureen Johnson summed it up beautifully on Twitter: “Why writing for/about girls is not a crisis for boys.”

As Tammy rightfully points out, the current wave of popularity (with readers AND publishers) of YA books by female authors, or with female protagonists, or with general appeal for girls, and a perceived lack of equivalent enthusiasm for YA books with male appeal, are separate issues. One does not affect the other. Having so many great books for girls does not automatically take away publishing opportunities for great books for boys – if anything, it identifies a gap in the market that canny writers/publishers could take advantage of. (and btw her argument that actually there are plenty of boy books holds a lot of water with me – I read a lot of YA and have read some fantastic boy books in the last year)

Put more simply, if (IF) there is a lack of great YA novels for boys, and if (IF!) there is a corresponding need for said books in the marketplace, and if this is in fact a problem, then the correct way to address that problem is not to TAKE AWESOME BOOKS AWAY FROM GIRLS.

Sometimes brilliant books don’t get published. Sometimes awful books do get published. Sometimes the kind of book you want to read never gets published. Sometimes it seems like only the kinds of book you will never ever want to write gets published. Publishing, basically, is supremely unfair, and (viewed from the outside) runs on a kind of twisted logic that might possibly make sense if you consulted auguries in the intestines of a recently-slaughtered sheep. Or not.

What I love about being a writer (apart from that whole getting paid for writing thing, which kind of rocks) is the way that writers support each other. Despite the fact that we work in a business which seems to be pitting us against each other (awards, bestseller lists, starred reviews, limited slots in a publisher’s catalogue), the majority of writers steer well away from that kind of madness. We are a comfortable, happy, ridiculously caring community of lunatics.

Publishing is not a zero sum game. If someone buys and reads a book they love, that doesn’t take anything away from the authors who didn’t write that book – it actually helps us, because it helps the cause of books. Writers and books are not competing with each other, we are competing with the very real and utterly horrible possibility of people not reading books. The good thing about great books is that if a reader reads one, they’re going to need more. Any awesome book can be the gateway drug to an addiction that will last a lifetime.

A thriving market for YA books for girls does not hurt boy readers. If anything, it raises the bar, and gives the people talking about how they can better serve boy readers something exceptional to aim for.

Posted in Publishing Industry | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »