War Never Changes: What Bethesda Taught Me About Writing

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

As a 30 single dude with no kids and/or love interest, I get to enjoy playing video games sans nagging. And as much as I gripe about being single, it’s pretty great to just be able to kick back and play as much as I want at night, which is how I like to unwind. And honestly, I’ve been playing video games since I was two, so it’s something I’ve long enjoyed doing and it’s something I plan to do at least for the foreseeable future.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that in addition to practicing writing, it’s just as important to read as it will help guide you towards techniques and styles you may have not thought of before; sort of a passive learning by doing scenario.

Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and it’s harder than ever to split your attention between things that you love doing that are engaging versus taking the chance on something that may be interesting, or maybe it’ll leave you going “man, I wish I spent this past hour completing that level”.

As a result, it’s pretty frustrating to get involved in a game, only to be let down by repetitive action, bland story lines, and worse yet, technical bugs. So when I bought Fallout 4, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, as well as all of the subtle details that are easily missed.

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

World Building

One of the obvious strengths of Bethesda is their ability to craft a world. The game rarely feels like playing a game, but truly assuming the role of someone wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland, or a lone wizard traversing the countryside on their own hunting dragons. And this is reinforced through subtle nods and background stories that pop up everywhere.

Skyrim had in-game books your character (and you) could leaf through that described the history and lore of the land, while in Fallout you can find computer entries and scribbled notes that describe the rise and fall of civilization. It’s the extra effort that truly makes you feel like you’re living the story rather than just playing through a level.

Details Make or Break It

As is the case with anything, too much world building can be a curse. Back to the world of Skyrim, some of the books you find are just a few paragraphs in length and offer a welcome reprieve from the constant random battles. On the other hand, there are some that feel as long as real books, and I find myself bogged down with too many details that don’t impact my life in the slightest.

However, in Fallout 4, there are tiny little stories of a world gone by; you just have to know where to look. For instance, the nuclear bomb that decimated the country happened in the month of October. As you start making your way through the ruins of Boston, you can find small phone booth-like safe spaces, like public safe rooms.

In one I found the other night, there was a small plastic jack-o-lantern with candy at the bottom. Within two seconds this went from a novel discovery to my mind running wild with the heartbreaking story of a child’s last trick-or-treating.

Make the Scary Parts Scary

Neither Skyrim nor Fallout are horror survival games. That said, there are plenty of spooky parts, and a plethora of monsters, demons, zombies, and other creatures you’d rather not tangle with. However, tangle you must, and usually in a setting that is just plain unsettling.

Despite the games not falling into the horror genre, and in fact, finding plenty of lush naturally beautiful areas, they don’t shy away from ratcheting the suspense. And it works – it forces you to be on your guard, and it makes you appreciate the safe areas all the more. And it’s something that I’ve tried incorporating as well. After all, life isn’t always roses and sunshine; sometimes it’s being in a dark sewer full of flesh eating zombies.

Live in the Gray

What has become Bethesda’s bread and butter is their lack of forcing you to be a fully “good” character or a fully evil character. Each and every situation, conversation, and interaction has an option to be a hero, a villain, or someone in between. And this is refreshing; life isn’t always so black and white.

Having the ability to not only be in the gray, but stay there, is more human. And in today’s jaded society, it’s nice to have something that influences your own characters to strive to be more realistic.

Be the Person You Want to Be

Bethesda does a great job of giving you plenty of freedom to not only design your own character, but essentially have a virtual Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. You control their physical appearance, their name, and as you progress, you get to choose what their strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes are. As a result, you can play almost any type of character you want.

If you want to make a psychotic villain that looks, and acts, like Negan, the main baddie in The Walking Dead, you can. If you want to make a goody two shoes quasi-super hero (like my affectionately nicknamed Trashcan America), you can. If you want to just make an Average Joe trying to complete his own personal quest, you can. There’s no right or wrong answer; there’s nothing the game really tries to force on you. And as a writer, I am constantly thinking of new characters I’d love to design and try on my next play through as a result.

 

Have you found any non-book entertainment offerings that influence your writing? I’d love to hear about them. And if you need any assistance with your next project, I’d love to help out!

Chapter 19 Just Done Got Rewrote!

Anyways, just finished some rewrites this morning, and completed chapter 19. The exciting part (for me) is that I’m done to about the last ten to twelve chapters.

Hail and well met fellows!

 

Mmkay enough of that business. Anyways, just finished some rewrites this morning, and completed chapter 19. The exciting part (for me) is that I’m done to about the last ten to twelve chapters. It’s probably going to wind up being a little longer… than the last draft as I’m shuffling stuff down to the next chapter behind it. I’m trying to make it a bit more cohesive, as well as throw some more suspense in the mix. You know. Like a real boy author. Anyways, it’s going well, and as always, I appreciate the continued support, kind words, and well wishes.

No end date as of yet due to fluctuating work schedules, but this is a top priority for me this year. I know it’s been a long time in the making, but I feel like I’m really turning a corner this time. Again, the original rough draft can be viewed here, with the new and improved version on the way.

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Content: A Primer

As is the case with any type of work, if you deal with any type of customers or clients, there’s going to be some miscommunication. And while the reaction to my work has been overwhelming favorable, there’s always going to be some hiccups. Sometimes it’s me not fully understanding the client’s needs, and other times it’s on their side. It’s fine; such is life.

I will say, however, that there are some reoccurring issues I see time and again. That’s why I decided for this post to discuss a few of them.

I was both surprised and delighted to know that yesterday was my official one year anniversary of being a freelance writer. I honestly wasn’t sure if this was going to be a viable option for me, but at least in the meantime it is. And considering much of what I do I wound up learning as I went, it’s a seriously humbling feeling of accomplishment.

As is the case with any type of work, if you deal with any type of customers or clients, there’s going to be some miscommunication. And while the reaction to my work has been overwhelming favorable, there’s always going to be some hiccups. Sometimes it’s me not fully understanding the client’s needs, and other times it’s on their side. It’s fine; such is life.

I will say, however, that there are some reoccurring issues I see time and again. That’s why I decided for this post to discuss a few of them.

Calling Out Competitors

This is always an interesting one for me. At first, the client seems sure that they want you to call out a few of their top competitors. Whether they’re simply feeling strong or they’re attempting to piggyback on their SEO influence, this happens quite regularly. And I don’t think that it’s coming from a place of malice so much as small business owner ego.

And almost every time without fail, once they see their competition mentioned in text form, they do an immediate 180. I don’t know if it’s seeing it in plain black and white, or maybe a feeling of inferiority to their competition, or possibly even seeing the potential for slander, but more often than not their own request typically freaks them out.

Long story short, if you’re going to have me throw shade at someone else, either commit fully and know that you do X,Y, and Z better than them, or stick to common civility and leave them out.

Wanting Me to Use Existing Content

Again, business owner ego is alive and well with this issue. No matter how poorly written their existing site may be, these types of clients will kick back what I wrote, and instead request that I use what is already available. This is problematic as it raises the question of 1) if it’s already that good, why are you hiring the content work out and 2) without a writing background, how do you know the existing text is effective?

I get it. I’ve worked in my own businesses in one capacity or another. It’s your baby; it’s an extension of yourself. You don’t want to know that you’re doing something wrong, or that something isn’t as sharp as it should be. But at the same time, being your own company means recognizing your strengths as well as your weaknesses and compensating accordingly.

Think of it like this; would people have read Donald Trump‘s book if he didn’t utilize a ghostwriter? This same question can be applied to any celebrity memoir. People who need a book and don’t know how to write one use a writer. In the same vein, those who don’t know how to fill out their website need to sub it out as well.

Not Being Specific Enough

Anyone who works in any sort of creative capacity knows what this feels like. They assume that, even as a content writer, you’re some sort of artist with a blank canvas just waiting to make them a masterpiece. However, in actuality, the process is far less romantic. I’m usually in last night’s pajamas banging out a generic service page for someone I’ve never met. Sometimes in my living room, or if I’m feeling particularly under the weather, from my bed.

This doesn’t stop some clients from requesting several thousand words without any direction whatsoever. They will make claims such as “I trust your judgment” or “you’re the writer” or even “surprise me!”.

I am not a birthday clown. There will be no surprises.

They may go the other way with it, where they provide me what seems like every single word in the English language that remotely may connect to their services in even the slightest capacity, which leads me to…

Lack of Understanding of What Content Does

Many know SEO as the buzzword, but I’m finding that few know what it really is. The short answer is the better your page’s SEO level is, the easier it is for people to find you. For example, if you have a plumbing company, when people have a leak they’re going to head over to Google and simply type “local plumber”. Those sites with better SEO will appear first, which is important as the vast majority of people won’t even pay attention to page 2 of results.

So how do you rank better? There are dozens of factors in place, content being one of them. Google’s crawlers are getting smarter daily, and the main focus is preventing spam and bad info from appearing first. So if your site looks and reads like garbage, you’re probably scrapping the bottom of the search barrel.

Many clients want text to either paint a rosy picture of their business, while others are more or less looking for a biography written. At minimum, your page should successfully explain what you do and services offered, with about a dozen or so relevant keywords.

 

I want to end this post by once again thanking everyone for their support this last year. As always, if I can assist you with your professional or creative writing needs, I’d love to discuss your job. Be sure to send me an email (below) or hit me up on my Facebook page and I will gladly return your inquiry.

 

WIP Update: Chapter 18 Rewritten!

So work has been absolutely insane lately, and it’s really cut into my work time. And because I live in Florida, this has been made worse by fighting off what feels like both winter and summer colds. BUT, the good news is I’m finally done with chapter 18 rewrites, and I am still progressing forward!

So work has been absolutely insane lately, and it’s really cut into my work time. And because I live in Florida, this has been made worse by fighting off what feels like both winter and summer colds. BUT, the good news is I’m finally done with chapter 18 rewrites, and I am still progressing forward!

The very rough draft can be read here, and I think the improvements that the final version will have will be night and day. Even if you read through all of it, and bless you if you do, you’ll still feel like you’re reading an entirely new story once it’s all said and done with.

As always, if you have any inquiries about having me write or edit for you, I can be reached at the email address chris@writenowfl.com or on Facebook.

Thank you as always for the support. I have a few more travel assignments due in less than a week, so I’ll have some of those to peruse. And I also just used a presumptuous word like “peruse”, so, pardon that.

Happy writing everyone!