Archive for February 20th, 2012

Writing Advice from Games

Quick analogy that came to mind the other day.

As computer storage and processing have advanced, the maps for open-world video games have gotten larger and larger.  I’m thinking Fallout.  I’m thinking Skyrim.  I’m thinking…maybe there are games out there made by a company other than Bethesda, but does anyone play them?  Within these Bethesda games, the maps have set points of interest on them.  The first time the player visits each one, he has to either find it accidentally or be told where it is and set out to it.  The second time, the player has a quick travel option allowing them direct access to that location.

This means the first time the player goes to a location, he has to face the challenges on the way.  And has to see all the work that went into creating the landscape.  None of the Bethesda games would be the game they are if characters just jumped from place to place and didn’t see the world in between.

I try to keep this in mind when writing.

Setting descriptions should be front loaded.  This doesn’t mean infodump.  It does mean that a lot of description is necessarily front-loaded in a story.  That first time a character travels a particular city, street, countryside, trail, or any other setting the reader needs to understand where the character is.  Otherwise it’s the “white box” problem that has plagued my first drafts for years.  After that, the character can “quick travel” from point A to point B.  Now, this is going to be a little different from games.  That first time the reader need enough broad details to set the scene.  During the quick travel, either finer details or differences can come up, but the broader details aren’t as essential.

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