Writing a Story Based on a Game? Day One: Who are You Writing For?

This week is going to be pretty intense for me; I am rounding the corner on a novella based on the game called “Altheia.” Unfortunately, mapping out the story took a lot longer than I thought, so I’m a bit strapped for time. So for most of this week, I’m going to focus on my process for writing a story based on a game because it’s top-of-mind and something I hope you find interesting to read.

Really, this process could probably apply to any “shared world” setting like Battlestar Galactica or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but my methodology for writing game fiction tends to be more mechanical because it has to be by its very nature. For this particular story, I’m writing fiction for a game that doesn’t have a mass market setting. Because of that, my entire piece has to fit primly within the “rules” of the setting in order to give players a sense of whether or not they’re interested in picking up the game. In this way, gaming fiction has to be written for potential buyers of the game.

Publishers often offer stories written within a unique gaming world because they’re hoping to attract readers interested in a particular genre (games are almost ALWAYS genre-based), collectors who might follow a specific writer’s career, and gamers who love their game. Publishers aren’t stupid, though, because their concern is that the story has to fall within the constraints of their property, so they often hire writers who they can trust. So here, the game fiction has to be written for the publisher.

Whether you write for gamers or publishers, the true “end goal” of any story is to write a good story that readers will enjoy. In this way, the third audience for your gaming fiction is the person who is reading it. For gaming fiction, that person may or may not be a gamer, and writers have to keep that in mind in order to market to the slipstream audience.

Gamers, readers, and publishers are the audience of gaming fiction. If the original game was created by a big name in the industry, or is part of a mass market line like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Everquest, then you might have to add in two, additional audiences to the mix. As a writer of game fiction, you have to be a chameleon to satisfy your audience – all three, four or five of them.

Game Setting Fiction: The Ins and Outs of Writing Gaming-Related Stories

One of the interesting things about gaming is the idea that their settings can be turned into some awesome pieces of fictional work. A lot of my own fiction started in gaming (or “licensed settings”) because at the time it was a lower risk for the publishers to use unknown writers. That certainly isn’t the case anymore, as big name authors are writing some interesting settings. This accomplishes two things, really, in the publisher’s mind. One, a more well-known setting allows publishers to potentially sell books to a built-in fan base and two, the publisher could sell more books to the author’s fan base.

Game fiction, however, has some pretty interesting aspects that you may or may not have considered before. On Flames Rising, I wrote a blog post about this phenomenon entitled, “Game Fiction: Why it Works (And Why it Doesn’t).” Here’s a brief snippet from that blog post about game fiction writing:

The reason why this (how to write gaming fiction) can be a challenge for a lot of writers is that fiction – good fiction – tells a story. Gaming fiction doesn’t always accomplish this because it’s written for a different purpose, and often by the same writers who write the game. Sometimes, this can be a real detriment to the game simply because not all game writers can write fiction. Even the publishers sometimes make it harder to write because they’ll say things like: “Hey, I want you to use this ritual and describe what it does!” or “Can you create a character with this level of experience?”

The minute you dictate mechanical elements into a piece of game fiction it adds a layer of complexity that isn’t always successful. Writing RPGs or any other type of game takes a mixture of technical and research writing skills. In many ways, it’s always a good idea to write the flavor text last, because even if you’re the same writer who’s working on the game mechanics portion as the game fiction, there’s a definite shift in thinking that needs to occur in your mind.

As more and more video games are going the route of gaming fiction, the points I covered are fairly important to keep in mind. Mechanical elements to creative writing can bog it down and create unnecessary noise to cloud the true goal of what any piece of fiction should do — tell a story.

How an Economic Recession Might Affect Freelancers (And What You Could Do About It)

When talk of a recession hits the business world, all of a sudden there’s more attention to that “bottom line.” As a freelancer, if you haven’t been through this before it can be pretty daunting, especially if you haven’t figured out how to stabilize your finances to handle the ebb and flow.

Even though there’s still a lot of debate about whether or not we’re actually in a recession, it’s always a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of the economy when you’re looking for jobs. Here are some articles I’ve found on this topic from resources I trust:

U.S. near recession amid global slump – IMF from CNN Money
Worries grow of deeper U.S. recession from CNN News
Buffett: US Essentially in Recession from Yahoo! News
Key Forecaster Says U.S. In Recession
Read More…

JK Rowling Copyright Case: Why Writers Need to Pay Attention

There’s a lot of industry news about the JK Rowling copyright case but, in my opinion, not a lot of understanding as to how the effects of this case will ripple through the industry. First, let’s take a look at what this case is about from Publisher’s Weekly Article about JK Rowling vs. a Fan Site:

The case centers on RDR Books’ intended publication of The Harry Potter Lexicon by Steven Vander Ark, which is based on the Web site of the same name that Vander Ark has maintained for the past seven years.

Translation? A fan is making an “unofficial Harry Potter-verse guide” and is being sued by Rowling for copyright infringement and the specific argument is related to a concept known as “fair use.” From Yale’s Library, here’s the definition of fair use that is pretty easy to digest:
Read More…

Here’s What I’m Writing and Working On, How About You?

There are some exciting things in the pipe for me; I can’t say anything about my day job, but I’d like to share with you some of the creative and non-creative projects I’m working on to enhance my knowledge and continue writing.
Read More…

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