Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Miss Writing Fiction.

I really do. I've become so used to writing RPG rules that I seem to have forgotten how fiction works. I used to be pretty darned good at telling stories... but now I think I've lost my mojo. What happened?

Writing a rulebook for a game is all exposition and technicalities. The formula is something like this: Corny topic introduction. Delineation of game rule. Explanation of game rule, flavorful in-universe justification, crunchy game-balance justification. Laundry-list of exceptions to the rule. Lather, rinse, repeat until the book is written. Maybe shake things up with a table or an illustration. That's about it.

If you have a clear design in mind from a game-mechanical perspective, writing a rulebook is parsecs easier than writing fiction. All you have to do is describe the game the way you play it (or, if you're an armchair game-design type, tsk-tsk, just describe the way you imagine it being played). Describing game rules is easy. Gamers do it all the time, every time we teach a new player how to role-play or bring a new house rule to a table of old vets. Rulebooks are just collections of these little explanations and examples in written form.

Fiction, though... even when you have a clear idea of what happens, who does things, who says what to whom, and how it all fits together, the process of writing it is so much more involved. You have to agonize over word choice (in both the exposition and the dialogue) in ways that just never come up while writing game rules. And I'm so blastedly out of practice, because I've been giving all of my attention to games lately. Grr, what the crap happened to me?

I need to find a way to flip the switch. Take my deadened fiction-writing organ and turn it back on again. I need to get out of the habit of thinking like a game designer and start thinking like a story-teller. Act I, introduce the problem, Act II, complicate the problem, Act III, climax and dénouement. Only write scenes that advance the plot or alter characters/relationships. Make sure to increase tension and conflict wherever possible until the climax is over. If good fiction has a formula, surely that's it.

I'm missing just one thing: the inclination to start writing. It might have something to do with that whole inspiration/perspiration thing. Maybe I'm just lazy. Sigh.

Here's a Farscape quote.

Aeryn: She gives me a woody.
John: ...
Aeryn: 'Woody'. It's a Human saying. I've heard you say it often, when you don't trust someone, or they make you nervous, they give you—
John: 'Willies!' She gives you the willies!
—Episode 1.6, "Thank God It's Friday, Again"

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