Monday, November 19, 2018

Like Looking Into Creation Itself


Today, I want to talk about that little detail which elevates a description.  The kind of detail which can only come from the guy writing the damn thing.

Not just his pen, but his life.  His worldview.  His soul.

The following tidbit from season 9, episode 7 of The Walking Dead. No spoilers, in case you're worried about that.  This doesn't have anything to do with the plot, just a throwaway line for a secondary character, an NPC, if you will...

Luke:  He used to wear this absolutely horrid shirt.

Yumiko:  It was like looking into creation itself.

Luke:  In paisley.  God, it was horrendous. 

I mean, the paisley shirt by itself is a nice touch.  Makes the character they're talking about memorable.  Specifically, though, I'm keying into "It was like looking into creation itself."

That's not tone, mood, theme, atmosphere, or the like.  It doesn't move the story along.  It's not even character development, really.  Sure, it comes out of a character's mouth, but by itself we don't have any better understanding of that character than before she said it. 

It's only when that line is spoken between the other two lines that we see an underlying meaning, hidden in plain sight - that creation itself is somehow "absolutely horrid" and "horrendous." 

It's a little bit of the author's voice shining through.  Some people might not like that.  They disapprovingly say that a room (NPC, monster, etc.) description should be just the facts, nothing extraneous.  2d4 Giant Rats, 1,000 copper pieces, and a horridly colorful paisley shirt.

Well, I'm here to say that a personal touch is what's sorely lacking in adventures, both past and present.  It's what differentiates one author's work from another - his voice.  Use it not only to set yourself apart from conventional, clinical writers, but to deepen the prose... juicing it with gravitas or je ne sais quoi!

The next time you write something for your own game or publication, remember to intersperse descriptions with something surprisingly personal and maybe even poignant, if you can manage it.  The end result should be superior to the more pedestrian version.

VS