Monday, November 4, 2013

Show Don't Tell


-Sorry the Scowling Cassian has been a bit quiet folks! Between being under the weather, my birthday and a new roommate moving in I have been super busy! And with the Destiny growing ever closer to Nexus, Agent Hawkens has been absent on classified ICI business.

Speaking of which check out this amazing WildStar themed cookie cake my sister made for me with one of my dragon creatures I made up years ago! She is amazingly talented and I hope she’ll get a gig sometime in a real bakery!

Best Birthday Cake Ever!

-I know it’s older news, but I wanted to give a fond farewell to Troy “Aether” Hewitt. Thank you Troy for working with me on the interview blog for Jeff Kurtenacker, you were a great pleasure to talk to. And thank you for inspiring the community of WildStar, namely the moderator team on WSRP. Honesty, excellence and friendliness have built a passionate community core and much of this is thanks to your hard work and dedication.

We’ll miss you. Good luck and our best wishes for you and your family.

My thank you to Troy!

-Beta is returning this winter! As seen on this post here and that also means new class reveals! Just today we saw this post about livestreams showcasing each class to give us a good look at some brand new info for these reworked classes including those not yet revealed. I can’t wait to get the ball rolling again with all this exciting new news!


Especially with NaNoWriMo just starting, I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about one of the most important aspects of writing to me. I use this when writing stories as well as in roleplay and have found it to be a key aspect of connecting to both my readers and fellow Rpers. What is this magical tool? Descriptives.

When we write about something we pull the ideas from our extensive imaginations. Whether it be something of fiction or not, we have an idea of what we see and a wish to convey that. Sometimes it can be difficult, trying to put down what is in our head into words or pictures. And though it is not really possible to fully convey it one hundred percent, there are ways to help get your point across.

Remember that what is in your head isn’t a complete and solid thought. It is a collection of ...well “things” for lack of a better word. Scents, smells, sounds, feeling of touch or emotions. No matter how unrealistic or fantastic your setting, these “feelings” are all rooted by real-world concepts that people can understand and relate with.

With that in mind, let’s tackle the blog title: “Show. Don’t Tell.”

While writing and roleplay it can be very tempting to try to show everything to your reader or fellow roleplayer right away. Perhaps setting up a scene that you have in your head or the clothing and attitude of your character. Instead, there are two tips I have that will both help convey your meanings and help breathe more life into your words: Descriptives and Patience.

Let’s start with the idea of setting up a scene. You’re writing a book or story perhaps and you want to set up a scene where your character steps out into the bustling nightlife in a futuristic big city.  Now it might be tempting to say exactly that, but it will force the reader to be a bystander to the writing. Instead, draw them in by inviting them to help visualize the scene alongside you with concepts they can relate with. For example:

Cyberpunk cityscape. (image found here)

“The agent passed a few of the classy nightclubs on his way from the speederport. He could feel the lifebeat of the music pounding with his own heart as he drifted by, a carnal beat that swept the patrons into the flow of drink and delight. Brightly coloured market stalls decorated the streets and walkways. These were not the same in the promenades and other sectors, where the carts were one third grime and grease, one third junk and one third yelling. These were fancy set ups, climate controlled and set to attract the most outlandish or refined of tastes. Bars for flavored oxygen (or other concoctions for the other species of the galaxy), exotic massage parlours, important goods from a hundred worlds jostled for space along the well-kept walkways. There was even a stall for exotic pets, which the agent noted and filed away to memory.”

Now that may not paint the exact picture I wish to show them, but it will help my readers build something similar in their minds. I could tell them it was a futuristic city, but instead I conveyed that with standard sci-fi lingo such as “speederport” and mentioning other worlds and species. The nightlife I explained through feelings. Colors, sounds and ideas. To describe the other carts without traditional descriptives such as mentioning yelling conveys the idea most of us have seen in hawkers or carnies, the idea of shouting out your wares to passerbys. I didn’t use a specific song or type of music in the clubs (though that can also be used for effect in different situations) but instead I described the feeling of the beat and the mood of the patrons. While my readers may not see exactly what is in my mind’s eye, they can “feel” it. They can “smell” the carts and identify with the beat of the music. This writing invites them to step inside my setting and build the world themselves, walking alongside my protagonist and sharing in his evening.

Though this works best with story writing, this can also be applied to roleplay. To start, let me ask you a quick question. What is the personality of Agent John Hawkens, the ICI operative who works with me here? If you answered anything along the lines of grumpy, irritable, arrogant or haughty then I’ve conveyed him across rather well. Now consider how many times he’s spoken on this blog and how much he’s said. If I have conveyed him properly I have done so through a handful of fairly short exchanges.

I can tell you that Agent Hawkens is cranky or that he’s irritated at what your character said, or I can show you. He can sigh heavily, roll his eyes, avoid direct eye contact or turn his back on your character.  The slump of his shoulders, the clenching of his fists or his sarcastic tone can tell you everything you need to know without directly explaining it to you. Rather than throwing his emotions in your character’s face, I invite you to see them as your character would and construct a similarly organic response.

Taking this one step further brings in the other tip I have: Patience. It might be tempting to explain the way your character works right off the bat to someone including all their quirks. But both in roleplay and in writing you can explain these things to your audience slowly and subtly just like you would learn things about someone in real life.

Have a kitty! (image found here)

For instance, when Agent Hawkens gives up on an argument or accedes victory to another he uses what has become one of his coinphrases: “Hmph” The thing is, I had to be very patient. This was not going to be conveyed in one conversation or even two or three. Nor would it necessarily crop up in every rp session. But I knew I had succeeded when one day he used the phrase and instead of showing irritation at his lack of compliance, my rp partner crowed in victory. The point had finally been made. Just as another guildmate commented that so long as Hawkens was scowling, things were clearly going just fine, I had established aspects of his character without ever needing to tell them. And it was very satisfying.

So remember that instead of simply telling someone what you want them to see, invite them to experience it with you or your character. When you go out next around town, pick up groceries, hang out with friends or see movies listen and open yourself to Feel. How did you know what to feel in the movie? How must that movie feel to see it or experience it? What do the shopping malls sound like on a Saturday night? How do the food stands smell and what is the feeling of zipping through traffic. By inviting people to remember what they themselves feel and experience, you make the writing all that more impactful. By being patient, you let them learn and grow with your characters like they would any other living, breathing being.

Writing does not have to be perfect. It does not need to be the most amazing thing anyone has ever read nor does it have to be their favorite. What it does need to be is interesting. All you need to do is encourage them to turn the next page. So long as your reader wants to know what happens next, then you have succeeded.

So go out there and write!

Also here is a link to the NaNoWriMo website which I highly encourage you to check out. It would be a great place to get some ideas. Perhaps try writing a bit about your character this month or some ideas you have for them in the world of Nexus. Or try them in some other settings and just enjoy playing with their personality. Above all, have fun!

Until next time dear readers, thank you for helping make this blog possible. You guys ROCK!

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