Articles from December 2008



Traps of References

In the games I play, and sometimes in the stories I read, I often see references to things: pop culture, prior events, earlier portions of the same piece. It’s clear that the reference is a ubiquitous tool in storytelling—so what does it do, and how do we use it without breaking suspension of disbelief? (Note: [...]

Impractical Applications (Story on a Boat)

Due to insurmountable time zone clashes, meddling relatives, and all the side effects of vacation, I didn’t game this week. It hasn’t kept me from working, though.
I talked about travel this week—travel and how to make it narrative-worthy even if it wasn’t a story in and of itself. As you might have guessed, I have [...]

The Generic Villain Goes On Vacation

When the regular writer’s off whale-watching, who better to fill in than GV?
Evil is hard work. Particularly aggressive, overlord evil. Eventually the demands of the job get to be too much, and you find yourself with a decision to make: take a break, or get so worn out that you’re easy pickings for that overambitious [...]

I Don’t Need To Tell You

(The original title for this was “Why we don’t need a full description of the character, complete with history, likes and dislikes, when she’s introduced.” But that’s way too long, and I liked how the alternative turned out.)
I don’t need to tell you that much about the people who inhabit my head.
I don’t need to [...]

Details Defended

I get questions sometimes about whether I’m being too finicky in my advice, particularly from the gaming side of the equation. “I wonder if this is really appreciated,” Brent Newhall mused when I wrote about the design of species (amusingly enough, not too distant from the time Gygaxian Naturalism became a buzzword in the RPG [...]

Knowing Your Feel

There’s an odd side effect some people get when they’re suspending their disbelief for a while. They finish a book, or they step out of a movie theater, and whatever they were doing is still with them. Get them out of an action movie, they’ll turn taking the trolley home into an adventure. Hit them [...]

Travel and Narrative

Travel. It’s practically a staple of fantasy—I can think of very few books I’ve read, and only one game I’ve been in, in which there hasn’t been at least one journey from Point A to Point B. Back in the old days, the hardships involved in travel were enough to keep most people at home. [...]

Getting Across a Lack of Fluency: Advanced Technique

Here I am, back to getting across fluency issues. I consider these tricks to be a more advanced set than Friday’s assortment; some of them require linguistic elements that don’t show up in English, some work better with an understanding of grammar and word order, some work a lot better if you’ve taken the time [...]

Impractical Applications (Ravyn’s Working Vacation)

One of my topics this week was burnout and coping strategies for such. This is for a rather simple reason: I’ve been suffering from burnout for the last few weeks. The group’s just added two people who need to get settled in, it’s hard to get any three of the five PCs to agree on [...]

Getting Across a Lack of Fluency: The Basics

Just about everyone has at some point met or read someone who is not a native speaker of the surrounding language. They can be hard to characterize properly, particularly in a face to face game where you can’t think through the dialogue first, and it’s easy to slip and not sound quite right. So how [...]