A small exercise

Apropos of recent discussions on RAIF about writing quality, telling compelling stories, and hooking the player fast:

Occasionally I find it worthwhile to stop and write a four- or five-sentence book-jacket-style blurb for my work in progress.

This sounds kind of cynical, but it forces me to identify right away what I think are the main hooks of my story. What is the protagonist’s initial problem? How does it change? Why do we care? Having those things in mind is useful as I’m planning the game, especially the opening scenes and the prologue text. If the blurb is weak, that often means I haven’t made the initial motivations compelling enough — so then I get to think through how to strengthen them a bit. Or if the blurb is good, but it’s describing things that don’t become obvious until well into the game, maybe I need to rethink the way I’m telling the story to put more of the hook right at the beginning.

I don’t claim this technique is the solution to all our storytelling woes, but I find it helpful, so maybe other people will too.

5 thoughts on “A small exercise”

  1. Hmm, that’s a reasonable exercise. You’ve prompted me to try thinking about doing that for all of my stalled WIPs, just to see where they are in my brain.

    It is, of course, an exercise familiar to me from screenwriting, or those screenwriting tutorials. They often recommend a similar type of exercise as a creative aid or a means for focusing one’s thinking; often, it takes the form of the movie-standard log line rather than a book blurb, but the gist is the same.

  2. once upon a time there was an “introcomp” which asked writers to write the first screen of text for a hypothetical game. i suppose i could revive it. in any case, writing an abstract/precis/blurb for a written work is good practice. i suggest it is far harder to write the 5 sentence version (book jacket length) than the one sentence version (movie blurb length). whether release or not, this text can and should tell us a lot about whether the game is going to be a meaningful use of our time.

  3. I think you probably mean PrologueComp: Introcomp involves writing a playable demo/introduction game, and is still run yearly.

    Either way, the prologue is something different — also a good practice exercise, but I find that if I write a sample book blurb I often have ideas about how to revise the prologue. (And yeah, I agree with you that the 5 sentence version is actually harder to do.)

  4. Also, if you are in fact the David that started PrologueComp, then I feel vaguely silly — but that is the name that I think most people around here know it by.

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