– or In Which Emily Links You To Many Videos, Part 2 –
BACK TO VIDEO GAMES. Or, at least, back to Extra Credits.
This is an excellent video in the context of video games, but it also an incredible resource for writers in general. There is…not much I can say by way of improving this argument, nor do I really have an opinion on it besides the fact that it’s excellent.
I guess the only thing I have to say is that dialogue should sound like someone is talking. That sounds obvious, but really, your characters should feel like real people. In this video, the presenter talk about acting out your dialogue. This makes sense for video games, but I would also argue that it’s vital to any writing process.
If you write a really elaborate and vital piece of dialogue, and just leave it, you have no idea if the dialogue sounds natural (especially if it’s expository). I frequently have trouble with this, so, I read my passages out loud. This helps, but I really think acting out what your characters are saying, even doing, can help you determine what is natural, and what seems a bit off. It will also allow you to see how others interpret things. For example, say you wrote the following piece of dialogue:
“I can’t believe you,” Amanda said angrily. “What, did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
If you have someone else read through this, you can hear what tone their voice takes on for ‘angry.’ What expressions do they make? Are they gesturing? How? You can describe this character and her dialogue so much better if you have an idea of the gestures and expressions that convey anger. So, you revise:
“I can’t believe you,” Amanda growled, throwing her hands up in the air. Her mouth was set in a harsh frown, her eyebrows furrowed, and her teeth looked on edge. “What, did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
This conveys so much more emotion than just the word angry. Of course, this requires you to have super enthusiastic friends, who get into acting things out, and you shouldn’t over describe, but it can be such a useful tool to have in your tool belt.
With that said, please, please watch the video in this post (it may bleed out of the margins again, for which I apologize) and go check out Extra Credits. If I haven’t said it enough, those guys are awesome.
October 3, 2013
Silence is Golden
emigee93 multimedia, stories, storytelling, text, video games, writing engl3844, Story Telling, The Whedonverse 0 Comments
– Or How Stories Can Be Written Without Words –
The end of ‘Hush,’ the tenth episode of season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most brilliant endings to a television show I have ever seen. It seems sort of obvious, but it’s fantastic.
But let’s start at the beginning.
There are a lot of ways to tell a story, but when someone mentions writing, society has taught us to think of text. Everyone recognizes that Television, Movies, Plays, and even Oral Performance involve writing because it is understood that the actors had to read a written script, or the performer is reading off of a written piece. This leaves out quite a bit, if we are only considering what is written out as dialogue, stage direction, or flavor text (in the case of multimedia presentations, including video games). It leaves out game mechanics, for example, and simple silence. This definition of writing leaves out musical cues, the absence of music, the cinematography decisions, and a myriad other things.
“But E,” you say, “those things aren’t writing.”
No, they aren’t writing in the traditional sense. In the case of ‘Hush,’ nearly the entire episode is silent. No dialogue. Yet, there was undoubtedly writing involved. It may have been in the form of direction on the page, which inevitably gave way to direction on set. Then, at the end, when all the characters have their voices back, Buffy and Riley sit down to have a conversation. There is no music, and, after the initial ‘I guess we need to talk’ conversation starter, there is no dialogue. This is brilliant, and was possibly barely written down (I wouldn’t know for sure, since I don’t have a script).
But let’s go to a more extreme example – the game Journey by That Game Company. Journey is a multiplayer experience in which the two players involved cannot speak to one another. There is no dialogue, flavor text, or reading involved in this game, which provides an interesting challenge to the players. They have to communicate through the game mechanics – drawing in the sand, or ‘chirping’ at one another.
The game itself is based on The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, and is a silent exploration of the stages of the Hero’s Journey. At first glance, it is easy to say that That Game Company did not employ writers in the development process. Yet, at the end of the game, you have most definitely experienced a story. So where are the writers? They are the programmers, artists, character designers, sound designers, composers, engineers, and so on. Each person on a development team must have been aware of the story and feel that the game was supposed to have, and, though they did not have a writer, they wrote metaphors into their mechanics, cut-scenes, graphics, and music.
They told a story.
Writing, I think, becomes synonymous with story telling, but, like most things, we have to think about it more complexly. Writing words is on thing, but people also write code, scripts, directions, etc. and you can convey a story without any written words. Storytelling is more than just text on a page – it is action in a movie, metaphor in game mechanics, silence on the TV screen, and it’s time we recognized the writing is not the sole driver of these things. It’s the story.