“My dear Edward, what are you doing out? Get back to work, eh? Scribble, scribble, scribble?”
–The Duke of York to Edward Gibbon, who dedicated Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to him.
I love being a writer. It’s the paperwork I can’t stand.
I think one of the biggest challenges of writing is actually doing the work.
When it comes to poetry, this means simply sitting down, choosing a title and a theme, and setting to work, adding and deleting from your ideas as necessary. This is why I like forms so much; I know when I’m done, at least with the basic draft, because the rhyme and meter scheme works. I’ve discovered that the poem tends to morph into something completely different if I edit very much. It’s not the poem I wrote, or at least not the same thing, even if a line or two remains the same.
Writing for a role-playing game — particularly this role-playing game — is much different. Somehow I have to create a scene and situation that the player characters can influence and manipulate. The situation has to be suitable and interesting in its own right; but it also has to be subject to change by any visiting characters, whether those characters be natives to the area, or visitors from another part of the world. I have to make a person’s home country seem alive to them, and alive to the tourist and the adventurer alike, and I have to do so within a very specific word-count.
Exercise: Start with five thousand words. Write a word-sketch of a place. Explain what you know of its architecture, its mode of dress, its government, its economy, its important buildings, its religion, its famous figures, its history, its aspirations in the world. Make your word sketch a village, a town, a city, a state, a kingdom, an empire. Make it as complete as you can. Create a fictional location, or describe a real one. Learn to love the place, while making your description as fact-based as possible.
Then cut five hundred words, subtracting a little of the beauty and adding some ugliness. As you cut those words out, learn to hate the place a little, and figure out a way to jag each sentence so that something needs fixing about your place in each paragraph — better if it’s in each sentence. The resulting description is what your characters (or rather, someone else’s characters) are going to know; adding back in those 500 words of beauty is their job, not yours.
That’s a little what writing a role-playing game setting is like.
I won’t be doing this exercise in public, because I’m doing it for pay and their material is confidential; but if you feel like trying it, please post your efforts in your own journals, behind a cut, and comment here so I can go back and read them soon. I’m interested in seeing what the poets among you might do.