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Rich Carlson talks about game writing/writers

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This will be of interest to all the aspiring game writers out there. http://www.gamespy.com/articles/september00/carlson/ Excerpt: "Our game stories are on the level of Saturday morning cartoons, in terms of characterization, plot, and especially dialog. In fact, I''m guessing that that''s where most of our writer-guys got their chops. Anyhow, this is what got me thinking about all of this. I appeal to all computer game project leaders, designers, and writers to consider the issue of the unchecked unsophistication in computer game stories and dialog very seriously and carefully. I ask you to broaden your horizons; engage in speculative talk with more experienced writers from outside the field of computer games. I ask you to take it upon yourself to become an expert at those special elements of story, plot, character, and dialog that define your interests and aesthetics as a writer or designer. If you''re a project leader and use staff writers, establish or seek out writing clubs, clinics and author-clinicians for your employees, and pony up for mandatory participation. Allow them to meet and learn from experienced experts and mentors in the fields of movie, television, written sci-fi, and fantasy."

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Problem is, he''s not saying much. It''s preaching to the choir again, really. Writing-fans will point to it and say, "yes, this proves it!" And everyone else will just point out that one guy''s opinion does not constitute fact.

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Well, that''s one way of looking at it. Another way, perhaps, would be to see that here is an example of a game industry veteran saying that good storytelling is important. In most cases, the people who argue for the importance of writing are not actually in the industry. So, I think it has some value in that sense.

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Man, I post a link to what I consider to be an interesting and relevant article, and it gets no feedback. I guess I should post something completely off the wall and not at all related to the forum topic, like time travel. That seems to be a popular topic.

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I''d like to see some articles on writing that actually gave some hints on how to write for games, rather than, "read more books! watch more movies! Then you''ll know how to write"

Personally, I find my "Writing A Novel" book to be very useful, but sadly I don''t have time to write a story-based game at the moment.

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I was going to say something useful about how I want deep games or games with good stories or something. Then I thought I might have realized something. Do the games with good stories, as opposed to the games with good technology sell in high enough perportions to fuel more games with good stories?
Half-Life had a mediocre story ( but they tried ) and had good technology for the time.
Reviews i''ve read of Arcanum say that it has an excelent story/theme, but the technology hampers it.
From the little i''ve played of the MaxPayne demo, it''s got a mediocre or better story, but the presentation of that is novel, and the technology is excellent.I heard somewhere that out of 100 console games only about 10 make a profit, and i don''t remember the rest of the statistics.
For PC games, it was 90 don''t get made/lose money, 9 break even and 1 makes a profit.
Game developers are forced to keep somewhat close to current technology, limiting the ability to invest in having a good story.

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You raise some good points, SoakinKittens. The good news is the technology needed to make a reasonably good-looking game (in terms of graphics) is becoming more and more accessible to a wider range of people. The Quake 2 engine is pretty dated, but look at some of the work being done in the Half-Life mod community (check out Day of Defeat 2.0, for example), and that''s based on a modified Quake 1 engine. My point is, as the technology to make games of acceptable graphical quality becomes more accessible to a wider range of people, costs to develop drop and we''ll begin to see people taking bigger chances on innovations in gameplay and storytelling. Sure, you might not be able to make a game with Doom 3-class graphics, but it''s getting to the point where that doesn''t even matter. At least, not to many people. There will always be a component of the gamer market that has to have the best hardware and play the most cutting-edge games, but if you look at the numbers you''ll see that many of the most financially successful games are actually very simple technologically speaking. You won''t see Quake III or Return to Castle Wolfenstein in the top 10 titles this year for overall revenue, I promise you. But you will see things like Harry Potter and more Sims games.

I apologize for the rather undirected flow of ideas in this post.

Kylotan, have you looked at any of Chris Crawford''s writing? This guy has done quite a bit of work towards improving the quality of writing for games. Might be worth looking into. The thing is that despite what many people think, writing for games is not very different than writing for film, for example. If you look at the script for Deus Ex, you''ll see that it''s written in the same style as a screenplay. Those techniques may not work for every game, but most professional writers worth their salt are able to modify their style and structure according to the medium.

Just my two cents...

R.

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Carlson''s heart was in the right place with his article, but his narrowmindedness towards the literary implementation in videogames prevents me from standing up and applauding his remarks.

I will present two quotes that struck my eye and disgusted me to an elevated degree.

"I''ll be happy, in the curmudgeonly spirit of Harlan Ellison, to put it bluntly. If your writers imaginations aren''t steeped in the works of sci-fi writers like Asimov, Heinlein, Bester, Dick, Pohl, Simak, Bradbury, Niven, Ellison, and Brin* (Never mind cyberpunk. You know cyberpunk, and it''s not helping you.), or fantasy writers like Vance, Tolkein, DeCamp, Zelazny, Lewis, Leiber, LeGuin, Poul Anderson, Moorcock, and Eddings* (And you can keep your Robert Jordan, thank you. His stuff is far too derivative to be of any original use.), then your speculative fiction computer game''s story, characters, and dialog will be basically screwed. Yes, I''ll definitely go out on a limb and say that."

"If computer game storywriters haven''t read this stuff, and ALL of it, then they''re fantasy fiction illiterates and just not qualified for the job."

This, to put it mildly, is complete and utter bullshit.

From this fellow''s point of view, if a game writer''s works do not virtually mimic the style of moldy old sci-fi and fantasy writers, then their game will be utter shit. As a writer, this has offended me.

His implication is that writers should be introduced into the industry to a heightened degree, but only if they follow HIS guidelines. If they display a remarkable degree of unoriginality and base their literary forms on outside sources, rather than make their own style. For instance, by his statement, he means to say that Quentin Tarantino would be incapable of making a decent videogame. This is complete crap. I would be willing to bet great sums of money, if I had any, that Tarantino would be a GOD of the videogame industry if he were given the chance to do what he wanted.

Cheer for his remarks if you want, but it is narrowminded fools like him that prevent writers from gaining entrance into the industry. We''re still looking at the problem that, if we don''t cater to these "videogame god" wants, we will not be paid attention to. I, for one, am incapable of such things. My literary style is unlike any I have ever seen, yet I still persue a career as a writer in the industry.

We need ORIGINAL writers with NEW ideas in the game industry. Not writers who copy their styles directly from others, which is what he is limiting the notion of "writer" to.

The videogame industry is a sickeningly ignorant medium. Those in charge still pine for their AD&D dice games, uninterested in changing trends and broadening the creative spectrums. Fools.

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Well, I don''t know the author of that piece so I can''t defend him personally, but I think you may have taken his comments in a spirit against which they were intended.

I took that particular quote to mean that to speak to the mass of gamers, you need to be familiar with the content that has cultural relevance to them. I don''t necessarily extrapolate from that that there is no room for people with other styles or influences.

I applaud and agree with your comments about the importance of originality, but in the end a game still has to offer financial success or it doesn''t matter how original it is.

Sadly, I have to completely disagree with you regarding Tarantino, but that''s only because I generally despise his work. You perhaps know more specifically what it is about him that would make him a GOD of game design.

R.

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It is a shame, but it''s true that the game industry will have to go by what makes money rather than what makes a quality game. Although I do not like it, I guess only game writers knee-deep in the fantasy/sci-fi scene will ever be able to make an impact. I guess that''s what he was trying to say. Oh well.

And about Tarantino, I truly do see where you''re coming from. I didn''t really care for him either until I saw Reservoir Dogs the other day. Seeing that makes me truly believe that he could make a great game if he favored that style of filmmaking, rather than his more recent style, which has become watered down QUITE a bit. I guess a better comparison would have been somebody along the lines of Kevin Smith or Phil Alden Robinson. My main implication was that there are guys outside that realm Carlson mentioned that could be great game designers. I was a bit hasty to mention Tarantino after seeing Reservoir Dogs the other day.

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AP, I think in any industry you have to do what is financially feasible in order to survive. That''s the nature of business and capitalism. If we lived in a communist state, or maybe even if game creation fell under some kind of government funding for the arts program, we''d see people taking more risks. But, that''s not to say people with non sci-fi/fantasy backgrounds don''t have something to offer.

At some point we''ll hit a critical mass and the tools allowing the masses to make commercially viable titles (by commercially viable, I mean of a certain quality) will be there, so that people like you will be able to use your particular storytelling skills and preferences to make something entirely new. In some ways, this possibility already exists, albeit in the mod community.

If we take the director/writer as game designer analogy further, I would hazard to say that Chris Nolan (who wrote Memento) would make an interesting game designer. He does cool stuff with temporal shifts that allow him to tell truly amazing stories.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Carlson''s heart was in the right place with his article, but his narrowmindedness towards the literary implementation in videogames prevents me from standing up and applauding his remarks.
...
From this fellow''s point of view, if a game writer''s works do not virtually mimic the style of moldy old sci-fi and fantasy writers, then their game will be utter shit. As a writer, this has offended me.

His implication is that writers should be introduced into the industry to a heightened degree, but only if they follow HIS guidelines. If they display a remarkable degree of unoriginality and base their literary forms on outside sources, rather than make their own style.
...
We need ORIGINAL writers with NEW ideas in the game industry. Not writers who copy their styles directly from others, which is what he is limiting the notion of "writer" to.

Are you claiming that it''s unimportant for someone to study their craft before producing it themselves? Even the most surreal artists learned how to draw ''normally'' first by studying along with the others. Better to learn from the masters and base your originality on their quality, than to stay ignorant in the hope that it will somehow make you more original. (When in fact you will probably just sound like every other writer who isn''t well-read.)

Note that I don''t necessarily agree with his choices for good writers. However, I think he was naming sci-fi and fantasy authors as the bare minimum you should read to write for games of that genre, rather than citing them as examples of writing superiority overall.

I''m sure I had a similar argument with an anon. poster a few weeks back... are you the same guy?

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I am not claiming for a moment that it is unimportant for writers to ignore studying the masters of the respective genres. I''m simply labeling Carlson narrowminded for telling us which masters we should be studying. Who is to say that Tolkien is better to study than Lord Byron was? Or Bradbury is more enlightening than Thurber(just to throw out a great story teller''s name).

My post was illustrating my disgust that current game developers HAVE to have it their way, or it won''t be done at all. I agree with Tacit that Nolan, maker of Memento, would probably make a great gamemaker because he is a great story teller. Yet, Carlson''s words completely scratch out the possibility of that.

We may have discussed something before. I was on here raving about the values of originality in writing.

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Well, some game designers are turning to less conventional literary sources for their inspiration. The French game developers seem to be ahead of NA in this regard; they have a fair number of their own fantastic and sci-fi authors from which to derive potential settings and stories. I think what is seen as lack of originality is sometimes actually a lack of diversity. There is a wealth of literary material that could be interesting for games, but hasn''t been touched upon yet. For example, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.

I don''t think you''d be able to convince people that playing a game based on Byron''s works would be fun. You can''t even convince people to read his poetry. Which, I believe, is a key issue here -- that it doesn''t make sense to make a game based on some obscure writer or genre that nobody enjoys. You just end up with a game that''s not financial viable, unless you can keep your costs really low and sell it through alternative channels (oneline, shareware, etc.). And there''s nothing wrong with this! In fact, I believe this is the direction the industry is going.

Recently, I''ve seen an increasing diversity in the literary sources being used for games. One game in particular that impresses me is ''Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth''. It is, obviously, based on some of H.P. Lovecraft''s works, and from what I can tell they''re not just using his stuff as a veneer for a lame FPS. They''re actually taking advantage of the fact that Lovecraft''s protagonists are atypical heroes, and in the game you will be able to experience the affects of slowly going insane from the horrors you witness (this is a popular Lovecraftian theme). Anyways, I believe we''ll see more and more of this type of thing.

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I once heard an interview with Tom Scholz - the leader of the band ''Boston''. When he was asked what other artists he listened to and enjoyed, he responded that he NEVER listens to anything other than his own work. When that particular quote was replayed on the radio station here, it was jokingly pointed out that perhaps we had discovered the reason why all of the Boston music has sounded the same since their first album.

Just thought it would be relevant to the discussion.

Dave Mark
Intrinsic Algorithm Development

"Reducing the world to mathematical equations!"

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I agree with you Tacit. I speak more of ideals than reality at times. I should keep our good friend Karl Marx in mind when posting. Ideals merely make you a grumpy old man prematurely.

I believe that it''s quite possible to utilize more out-dated sources of inspiration as long as the writer puts a contemporary spin on it. For instance, Lord Byron''s material would be great for a game as long as the writer translated it in a way our audience can appreciate it. I''m a big fan of British literature like the Romantic Age and the Victorian Era, but the biggest boundary between the contemporary audience and the writers is the literary form and general feel. The concepts and the emotions put forth are still very real today, but, for the most part, unused. A great example of this is the writer Robert Burns, writer of Aud Lang Syne(probably spelled wrong!). Nobody knows what the hell he''s saying most of the time, but he is, at the core, a brilliant, emotional writer. I''m not saying that Burns'' works in particular would make any sense in a game setting, but similar works would be a great source of inspiration as long as the writer can make a rather distant connection. I''d pee my pants and quit smoking if I saw writers who did that well.

Unfortunately, such degree of literary experimentation would NOT be explored by big game companies. Hell, most film companies wouldn''t go out on a limb that financially flimsy. I can understand that, though. These companies don''t WANT to go out of business.

That''s why I''d like to see a larger emphasis placed on independent gaming. An emphasis similar to the film industry. Where you can sell your comic book collection and make the game of the year, even though the sales wouldn''t indicate it. Fortunately, we may be approaching such a point, if we haven''t already. Somebody made that point before, I forget if it was on here or somebody else. Anyway, the technology is widely available(i.e. garagegames Torque engine) where a bunch of lazy college slackers can band up and make great games without needing to worry about the mainstream circuit. If only we saw a mainstream independent magazine or two that picks up 20-30 games a month, raving about how they add to the diversity of the industry, even though they may not gross a hundred grand.

Actually, such a gaming environment might be approaching quickly, as it seems. I''ve been seeing a lot of sites like this and others where they promote the independent scene. In a few years, who knows, we might actually see all these writers currently crying in their basements(yours truly included in that group) actually making their great games and getting recognized, even though they may not be making much money. Not like that would matter to them. They(hoping they feel the same way as me) just want to get their game made and in the hands of a few people who will love them to death, not for what they look like, but for what they actually are.

THAT is where I would like to see the industry go.

Yes, this was a bit of a rant and probably not the first time such ideas have been pondering on this board, but it was something I felt like remarking on.

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I believe it was me who made that statement about the industry moving towards supporting the indie game dev model (even though it''s an unintentional by-product of the evolution of software and hardware).

As for Byron, you''re still not convincing me. But, you could probably make an interesting ''literary'' game based on some of Thomas Hardy''s works, maybe throw in a bit of Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson. Robbie Burns would be great if you could understand Scottish dialect...which I''m assuming few people can. Then there''s Shakespeare, and some of the other writers I mentioned. Yes, there is still a lot of fruitful territory for game writers...the trick is finding out how to explore it.

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Yes, he sounds like an ass. HOWEVER:

quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

...sci-fi writers like Asimov, Heinlein, Bester, Dick, Pohl, Simak, Bradbury, Niven, Ellison, and Brin*
...fantasy writers like Vance, Tolkein, DeCamp, Zelazny, Lewis, Leiber, LeGuin, Poul Anderson, Moorcock, and Eddings*

...moldy old sci-fi and fantasy writers



HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAaaaaaaaaahhhh.

ALL of the above are noted precisely because there is NOTHING moldy about the works of these authors(!) They communicate a pure craft, and pure originality, and pure steaming rip-your-cranium-open QUALITY in every sentence of *just about* every SF work they''ve ever put out. You haven''t read LeGuin, and you haven''t read Bradbury or Ellison, if you can even make that accusation. They might not suit your tastes, but they beat the hell out of Dickinson for a writer working in contemporary and futuristic settings.

I agree that there are other authors throughout history a writer really should study, but SF and fantasy-derived works constitute the vast majority of plot-intensive games out there; that''s because these markets have already been established.

On that note, I agree that an indy movement would be a big help. I''m aware of a couple of hopeful items on this front: there is going to be an experimental gameplay workshop at GDC this year, and the IGF also constitutes an industry-based indy development incentive. In addition, of course, to Mod Madness, since a lot of games now come with the tools to make whole new games gratis.

quote:
...My literary style is unlike any I have ever seen, yet I still persue a career as a writer in the industry.


LeGuin. Bradbury. Ellison. Style does not a writer make, but when it''s couple with craft, it certainly does.

Quick story about Bradbury: His first year writing was basically spent in a room at a typewriter. 2 *million* words. At the end of the year, he took the stack of paper...and burned it. Every sheet. And then he got down to the serious business of writing. Point being, learning the craft doesn''t necessarily entail workshops or writers'' clubs (Ellison in particular detests them) or tons of reading...but having said that, every writer''s magazine I''ve ever read has said that the two hallmarks of a great writer are that 1) he or she writes a lot and 2) he or she reads a lot.

Just to finish up with my desperately obnoxious opinion, the point of the article is getting lost in the details in the last few points. He isn''t talking about deriving games from these works. He''s talking about learning the craft of writing in the first place. If you''re an excellent writer, you can write in the Furry genre (comics: human bodies, animal heads) and you''ll still produce worthwhile material. Read Hepcats if you want dialog that burns with real college angst and Sandman (any Gaiman, really) if you''re interested in how to tell a fairy tale in the modern epoch. Caitlin Kiernan and Catherine Asaro are two of my favourites for all aspects of the craft; Kim Stanley Robinson could teach every working writer a few things about plausible extrapolation. You''re always welcome to find your own sources.

I don''t think you''ll disagree with the basic sentiment: while you''re writing, read. Read widely, read extensively, read in a variety of formats, and read the BEST authors before you read anyone else.

Just my opinion, however obnoxious it may be.

ld

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quote:
Original post by liquiddark

They might not suit your tastes, but they beat the hell out of Dickinson for a writer working in contemporary and futuristic settings.

...

I don''t think you''ll disagree with the basic sentiment: while you''re writing, read. Read widely, read extensively, read in a variety of formats, and read the BEST authors before you read anyone else.




Which Dickinson are you referring to here, LD?

I completely agree with the second part of this quote. I also think it''s important to stress the value of constantly writing, even if it''s not game-related content. Writing should be something you do every day...

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Liquiddark:

Pardon me if I struck a soft spot with my refering to writers such as Bradbury, LeGuin, Ellison, etc as being moldy. I didn''t mean to imply that they were untalented, I simply disagree with Carlson''s assertions. Honestly, I haven''t read encountered the works of more than two of them, yet, by Carlson''s standards, I am entirely unfit for the industry.

Anyway, at this point, I''d ramble about how I diapprove of the overemphasis of reading in order to be a better writer, but it''s late and stepping on toes won''t help anything. I think that a writer is better served writing and constantly thinking about their own work. It''s been my opinion that there''s a point every writer should reach where reading should be a VERY distant second to actually writing.

Tacit:

Perhaps my brain is simply malfunctioning, but I still believe that Byron''s Don Juan would make a fascinating game if intentionally presented as a cliche-ridden RPG. Naturally, some improvisation in terms of plot elements would be in order, but the central premises and overal satirical edge could be duplicated, in my opinion.

I don''t think Burns could be made into a game, though. Not only is his stuff PAINFULLY challenging, but most of his works are on the short side and typically deal with personifying emotions rather than constructing storylines. I''d be quite impressed if somebody could compile it all into something playable.

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AP, might I suggest you sign up for forum access since you''re interested in making a valuable contribution to the community?

I''m not familiar with that particular work of Byron''s, so I can''t comment. As for Burns, well I have to agree. Both these authors are much better at poetry than they are at prose, so that might have something to do with it.

Hardy has enough emotional conflict in his stories that they could make interesting settings for games if the proper technology was implemented. Not sure how popular they would be with the younger crowd, but it might hit an older demographic quite well (I''m thinking, 35+). Largely untapped at the moment...

I still think Verne and Wells have a lot to offer that has not yet been exploited.

Unfortunately, I do have to disagree with your statement about reading. I do strongly believe that any serious writer should read as much as they can from a broad variety of topics. The professional published authors I know are indefatigable readers...

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
Which Dickinson are you referring to here, LD?

I intended Charles, but you can put Emily in there too. I don''t know of any SF writers named Dickinson, not that my knowledge is exhaustive

Point being, while both of them certainly have something to offer for a reading writer, authors whose works deal with more SF material tend to have much keener edges on their characters, plotlines, and general ambiance. Not because old material is inherently worse (although C.D. does make me want to keel over and die), but because old material is old, and there''s a lot of chaff to sort through to get to the applicable material.

Basically, struggling through The Castle of Otranto - which, I know, is not a Dickinson book, but poses a roughly equivalent barrier to entry - taught me that some of the "classics" are best left to academics.

Having said that, I read Shakespeare and to this day I laugh out loud at the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet. As I said, feel free to choose your own sources.

ld

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quote:
Original post by liquiddark

I intended Charles, but you can put Emily in there too. I don''t know of any SF writers named Dickinson, not that my knowledge is exhaustive

Point being, while both of them certainly have something to offer for a reading writer, authors whose works deal with more SF material tend to have much keener edges on their characters, plotlines, and general ambiance. Not because old material is inherently worse (although C.D. does make me want to keel over and die), but because old material is old, and there''s a lot of chaff to sort through to get to the applicable material.

Basically, struggling through The Castle of Otranto - which, I know, is not a Dickinson book, but poses a roughly equivalent barrier to entry - taught me that some of the "classics" are best left to academics.

Having said that, I read Shakespeare and to this day I laugh out loud at the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet. As I said, feel free to choose your own sources.

ld


Are you sure you don''t mean Charles Dickens?? I don''t know of any Charles Dickinson. Emily Dickinson is not an author I can imagine being able to offer much useful material for a game. Charles Dickens, on the other hand, is one of the few Victorian authors that actually has works extremely well suited to a stroy-driven game. His settings are amazing, his characters well developed (and there are many of them), his storylines complex and with a kind of reverse-branching structure (starts with many branches and slowly works his way to the ultimate conclusion, which is usually surprising).

As for the Castle of Otronto...well the Gothic novel is an aquired taste, for sure.

In any case, regardless of your feelings for his work, Shakespeare is nothing to be laughed at.

Besides, the fact that stories are old or written in a complex English that most people don''t or can''t understand doesn''t make them any less interesting or useful. Just think of them as being ripe for interpretation. Films do this all the time; why not games?

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
Are you sure you don''t mean Charles Dickens??


I am an idiot. You''re right, of course.

We''ll have to agree to disagree about his work. I personally find his characters ridiculous, his plots too complex to be of any interest (perhaps I am simply too stupid), and his wording painful. It''s a matter of historical fact that the man was paid by the word, and not paid very well per word for most of his professional life. If there happened to be a way to say something in more words without killing the sale, he said it in more words. And it comes through in everything I''ve read that he''s written (which is, admittedly, a limited sample).

quote:
In any case, regardless of your feelings for his work, Shakespeare is nothing to be laughed at.

To be absolutely clear, I meant this in a good way. I have a great love for the works of Shakespeare in their entirety. I was referring to Gregory''s repeated defusing of Sampson, until finally..."I will be civil with the maids, I''ll cut off their heads." "The heads of the maids?" "Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads, take in what sense thou wilt." That''s a brilliant example of a grudging joke by a character who really doesn''t feel like joking, but has a good friend trying to lighten his spirits. I grin throughout the passage, but this part always makes me laugh out loud. Shakespeare, I feel, is something that an author can penetrate with far less difficulty than most classical authors

quote:
Besides, the fact that stories are old or written in a complex English that most people don''t or can''t understand doesn''t make them any less interesting or useful. Just think of them as being ripe for interpretation. Films do this all the time; why not games?

I don''t really care about their usefulness as subject matter for games. I''m talking about their usefulness as a writer''s tool when learning to write or to write better. The conventions of literature in this century have tended to streamline writing to a razor''s edge, and hence reading contemporary authors tends to yield a lot more per-word than reading classical authors. I don''t believe this is true of everyone; modern playwrights and scriptwriters, especially, tend to take simplification way too far, IMO.

It is my belief as a writer that one should indeed read classical literature, regardless of the barriers encountered. However, before doing so I believe in reading good contemporary authors. Nobody''s mentioned John Grisham yet, although he''s an excellent example of successful modern writing. He''s good in much the same tradition as Tom Clancy or Robert Jordan (especially Robert Jordan) - as long as you don''t read too many of the author''s books, there''s a lot to learn from them, and the market for his type of writing is 10-100 times the market for more "literary" fiction. One of the Star Trek films made a joke that rang true where Kirk called Danielle Steele and a few others of that ilk "the greats". Criticism notwithstanding, it''s likely that these are the folks who''ll last out the ages. What that will say about our time on earth, few can say.

At this point I should note that literary "researchers" tend to piss me off; also that I''m sticking firmly to the original topic, mainly because I believe that skill in writing is vastly more important than the subject matter. Shakespeare robbed the vaults of literature blind, but he did it with aplomb, and made something of lasting value as a result.

ld

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Well, I''m obviously biased, having studied the classics. I haven''t found much of literary value, or much of anything that helps me become a better writer. Of course, this is completely personal and I imagine I would find certain works to be of interest and you other completely different ones.

One contemporary writer who''s style I feel has a lot of merit is William Gibson. Aside from the subject matter, Gibson is a brilliant ''visual'' writer with a certain flair for language that I personally find very enjoyable to read. To quote a terrible beer ad: "Tastes great. Less filling."

At least we agree that someone interested in writing must saturate themselves with as much reading material from as many varied sources as possible, even if we disagree as to the degree of saturation (you less, me more) or order (you say contemporary authors first, I say second).

Another author who I''ve found to be surprisingly lucid is Charles Darwin. Ever try reading the Voyage of the Beagle? It''s actually rather incredible stuff. Conrad is good as well, although quite a bit heavier. But I digress...

I feel the right to take certain liberties with the thread''s topic since I started it, but that''s probably unfair of me. Apologies all around...

R.

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