Okay, since the discussion about “Yes/But” went so well, I thought I might start a weekly “craft of writing” thread to discuss a writing topic. And I thought I’d use the “Craft of Writing” tag in the subjects to make them easier to find.
And by “Craft of Writing,” I mean the actual writing part of what we do, NOT the coding/stat balancing/stat checking stuff. I think we have TONS of threads about those mechanics. This is more about the prose, and the word choice, and the length of sentences, and the flow/pacing, and throwing in narrative tricks to heighten tension, etc.
And just to be clear, I know very little about the craft of writing, but I’m trying to learn more, as I think many of us here are trying to do. And sometimes with worrying about CS coding, and mechanics, and balancing stats, and trying to figure out what choice to offer, etc., etc., I think the craft of writing sometimes takes a back seat, even if we don’t want it to!
So anyways, I thought a good first topic could be “Writing Combat” since many of our gamebooks feature combat scenes.
A few things I think can make an interesting combat scene:
1) Realistic dialogue.
In comic books, characters sometime tell their life story while in the middle of a sword fight…on top of a burning tower…on a dying planet. This seems excessive and unrealistic, at least to me. Going in the other direction, some movies shove 10 straight minutes of bullets, lasers, clashing metal ships, and flying bodies. It’s very hard to get away with this in prose, and it will bore a lot of readers I think.
So the middle ground? Action Action…then maybe a respite for a little banter, perhaps just a few lines, either between the two sides or just between teammates? Then rinse and repeat? This would seem to break up the action, at least from my perspective. This is what I’m aiming for in CCH 2.
2) A twist
We’ve seen this before, and there’s a reason for that. Even the biggest most brutal battle is still and exercise in creating tension for the reader (or player, in our case). Whether it’s the bad guy unleashing a new weapon, or reinforcements coming out of nowhere, or a purported ally stabbing another ally in the back, or the opposite, halfway through the battle two of the sides decide to halt their conflict and join forces against the other bigger, badder foe, a nice twist can give a fight scene new energy. I think this keeps the reader engaged more than just two slides slogging it out against each other.
3) Quick sentences! Quick Actions! Few adverbs! Robust verbs! (and yes we can code fake choices too, but I’m trying to keep it focused on writing
I plan to review my fight scenes and chop! Hack! Slash! a lot of the adverbs. Some are necessary, but most probably aren’t. I think most of them can be eliminated, and hopefully I’ll end up replacing the existing verbs with robust, meaty, glistening verbs! Ah the verbs!
(and very quick CS aside - I use some fake choices to make the reader “feel” the danger more. These aren’t real choices, in that there are no stat checks. You can’t fail them; they’re for flavor. And I string two, or even three of them in a row, to make the action seem to go faster, using very short, one-sentence setups and very short choices as well, to make it all seem more immediate. Then I transition back to real choices)
So who else has tips on writing combat? I’d love to hear them! I consider writing combat one of my weak points, and I’d love to learn more from others here who are skilled in the area of war!!!