September 30, 2012

What to Do When You Have Too Much to Do?

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 10:00 am
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My freelance writing career has taken off, and I’m enjoying it immensely. I get paid to write. How cool is that? And to use a trite saying: once it rains, it pours. So in the next couple of days I need to pitch two books and write what amounts to a complete magazine. It might not sound impossible, but I also have to pack up my apartment, clean it and move out.

So I pose the question to you: What to do when you have too much to do?

How do you manage your time when work is pouring in?


July 5, 2012

A Bit of Bragging

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 8:15 am
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I just thought you might want to see a bit more of the game I’ve been working on, so here’s the launch trailer:

And remember, once you start playing, that I coordinated the text. Isn’t it pretty?

July 2, 2012

Aaaaand we’re back!

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 7:48 pm
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That’s it. Game is launched. Regular posting should commence as soon as I’m done sleeping.

But seriously guys, I helped launch a AAA MMO. That’s pretty cool.

June 4, 2012

Neil Gaiman Gives Great Advice

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 12:00 am
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Most of you probably already knew that, of course. Still, I find it useful to re-watch this when I’m feeling down: Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class 2012

Question is: are you moving towards the mountain?

May 31, 2012

Writer Wednesday is Going on Hiatus

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 6:52 pm
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Sorry to say this, but until the game I’m currently working on ships, I do not have the capacity to run this blog as well as I want. Something had to give, and it was Writer Wednesday. My bi-weekly guest spot will open up for new submissions in the beginning of July and will probably get up to speed again by August.

As always, would love to have more guest posters. I just have to have time to actually keep up with it.

See you on the flip side!

May 13, 2012

What to read when you don’t have time to read

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 11:17 pm
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Short answer: short fiction.

The last three weeks I’ve delved into short fiction again and I must say I love it. You can pack so much punch into thirty pages, and for those of us who’re crunching* right now, it’s much easier to pick up a short story than to make it through a whole novel. Besides, with the bloom of indie publishing, a lot of new, interesting short fiction is propping up. I suggest A Light To Starve By, by Axel Taiari if you like horror/alternate reality fiction.

I’m currently reading Alice Munro’s collection of short stories Too Much Happiness. Every page is blowing my mind, and the best part: I can read a story a day. (Although I devoured three this afternoon. Seriously, check her out!)

So for those of you who want to read but who keep putting books down or losing the plot, let me suggest short fiction. Less demanding = more rewarding when you’re short on time.

*the preferred term for working massive overtime to finish a project on time.

April 18, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Karl Andre Bertheussen

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 11:35 am
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Today, I’m pleased to present Karl Andre Bertheussen, senior narrative designer for Funcom‘s game Age of Conan. Karl Andre’s job is to make sure the story told in AoC is compelling enough for people to keep playing the game. So who better to share some insights on designing narratives for games with us? I’ll leave the floor to this master story designer.

Narration in Games
What is game narration?

Most people associate “narration” with books or movies, but most games today rely on storytelling as well, just not in the conventional way of the traditional mediums. The key difference being audience interaction. A game involves the player actively in the story, whereas the audience of a movie or the readers of a book merely observe it.

However different, writing a game narrative has some similarities to that of a novel or screenplay. The degree of difference often depends on what sort of game the studio is developing. For example, a story in an first person shooter (FPS) will most likely be told in a very different way than the story of a single-player role-playing game (RPG). In this blog post I will focus on massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s), and the challenges of making good game narration for these types of games.

In a novel, the writer takes the reader down a strict and narrow path, much like a screenwriter does with the audience of a movie. From beginning to end, the reader is presented with plot, characters, and inciting incidents in the order the writer intended. The audience knows and accepts these rules, because breaking them (by fast forwarding or skipping a chapter) would ruin the experience of the medium.

In a game we don’t have the luxury of guiding the player down that same path, because if we do, we take away the freedom of choice which is a key part to why we have an audience in the first place. That presents us with the following challenges: How do we go about telling the story? How do we make the narrative work if the player has complete freedom of what he wants to do when, or even skips entire areas of the game? And on top of that: With games being so much more than narration, how do we make the players invested in the story?

The last question isn’t a big mystery: Players get invested in game narration for the same reasons they get invested in a good book. Plot, setting, characters, and drama – but unlike books, the game medium presents another important element: the possibility for the player to choose the outcome of the story, that the choices they make in its course has consequences and can change the world they interact with. However not impossible, these are difficult elements to incorporate in an MMO, because the game world must be constant to all players. If you rescue the farmer’s daughter, another player can do the same five minutes later. Even though you’ve made an impact on the world, the farmer’s daughter will still be captured for all those who didn’t rescue her yet. For some players this can take away from the story immersion, but as with skipping a chapter in a book, most players accept this rule of perpetuity in an MMO, and sees the story as something being told to them personally, rather than to everyone at once. Clever design can also help with this. As long as the captive farmer’s daughter is kept away from your future adventures, it becomes easier to accept that your action had an impact.

Making narration work in a game which offers freedom of choice in what to do when and where, is not an easy task. Having the player do quests is one solution. A quest is basically a small task, sending the player into an area with a specific purpose in mind. For example: rescuing the farmer’s daughter. If the main story of the play area is that brigands have taken control, you weave that information into the quest at hand, for example by placing the captive daughter in the brigand’s HQ. In this way, we can add a visual component to the narrative. Adding an HQ and placing out hostile brigands for the player to encounter on his way, is narration by gameplay, and an important way of telling the story. When the player returns to the farmer (with the freed daughter) he will know that the brigands are antagonists, whether he read the written narrative or not.

Quests are an important element of game narration. The way they are structured is very important, and the narration can easily falter if the story designer doesn’t know his job. How the quests are arranged, in which order they appear and where, and what bits of information the they give the player at which time, needs to be carefully planned to tell a story successfully. Sometimes quests are tied together, thus making sure the player is told the story in the order the designers want; sometimes quests stand alone, just supporting the main story by introducing characters or locations that are important to the narrative. The key to success is to find the right balance. As with a novelist, a game narrator doesn’t want to confuse his audience with too much information at once, give away the plot too quickly, or bore them with tedious details. He simply want the audience to enjoy themselves.

Game narration is a huge canvas to paint, but since I have greatly exhausted my suggested word count of 300, I believe I should end on this note. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

With a humble bow to all you dreamers out there,
Karl Andre Bertheussen,
Narrative Designer, Age of Conan (Funcom)

April 11, 2012

The Sweet Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 9:50 pm
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There are few things better than coming home late from work to a perfectly prepared dinner and a hot cup of camomile tea.

I just might like this working outside the home thing.

In other news, the epic overtime marathon continues at least past Sunday. See you on the other side.

April 3, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Even Tømte

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 11:12 am
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Even Tømte is many things. An artist, a journalist, a writer, a father, a larper, a great friend. So it’s no surprise that he has a way with words. But this piece, which I’m honored to host on my blog, is not only well put, it tells great truths:

1. Writing leaves you exposed. Scary as hell.
2. Break all the rules.

Truer words and all that. I won’t spoil anything else. Just trust me when I say: you have to read this.


Break the Rules

I am a journalist in the specialized press, which means I cover a clearly defined field, for professionals and people with a special interest. I write about international economy, aid, and development for a government-owned magazine. Like most other fields, development has its own tribal language. We use words like MDGs and LDCs and the Paris agenda and good governance, or the Norwegian equivalents thereof. Like most journalists in the specialized press, I find it hard to write in a language that is at once intelligible, engaging, and precise.

The world is a strange place. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find engaging with the world to be a constant challenge, particularly the spaced-out parallel dimension that is the media. You turn the page of your newspaper, shell-shocked. You struggle to keep your breathing calm, reading Facebook, watching the news playing out its grotesque theatre, maybe even watching TV or getting turned into a neurotic by your smartphone. Screaming headlines about a politician tweeting something tounge-in-cheekish, «cultural debate» (is this art? Vote here: yes/no), some model getting «boob shocked», how to get the perfect smile (complete with a price list), cupcake recipes or those darn pictures of cute animals that people keep sharing, and it’s in some weird, fucked-up way your job to read this, ’cause you gotta keep up with the news, and you have this sinister feeling that you’re part of this too. This is how you pay your bills.

No wonder you drink.

No wonder you take up smoking at the age of thirty-one.

Pour me another one.

I recently started writing songs for my band. Stumbling a little at first, but gradually getting better at it. Embarrassed about my own texts, but encouraged by my fellow band members (who are razor-sharp writers themselves). It is great fun, and goddamn hard. No more telegraph-style news, no distant analytical musings or hiding behind sterile professional terminology. Honest, personal, hard, raw. Writing leaves you exposed. Scary as hell.

Going back to the job again was hard. Bills gotta be paid. But the feeling of alienation was stronger than ever. Hard-wired into the journalist ethic is a strong commitment to reality. But is this real? How do you present reality in a formatted, click-winning way with an hour or two of research, without bending and distorting and fucking it over? Do anyone still believe they can read the papers and learn what the world is like?

As a survival technique, I started writing parody. Portraying the absurdity around me, but in a format that is less internalized than the language of «news». Still bending and distorting, but according to different criteria. I find it to be a more honest way of describing what I see. While working, I would jot down impish comments and sentences in my notebook that were never meant to find its way into my news articles. I kept the texts stashed away on my hard drive for my own amusement.
Then one day, one of my devilish little texts started melting together with the actual news article I was supposed to write. I was a little puzzled by that at first, then I thought oh, what the hell and hit the publish button, and there it was. «The naughtiest text written in a government publication in years», one of my superiors called it. My editor loved it, and I thought, maybe I have found a way of dealing with the job after all. We’ll see.

Is there a lesson here? I think there is. Write stuff, write different stuff than you normally do, break all the rules, and then bring something home.

March 14, 2012

Writer Wednesday Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 7:05 pm
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Due to real life pressure and deadlines at work, this week’s Writer Wednesday will be pushed until March 21st.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

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