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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The reason for cleaning: removing obstructions?

So I was cleaning for the holiday season and thinking about why people clean and how cleaning tasks are prioritized.

It came to me that very few people clean for the sake of cleaning. Most people clean because they are removing an obstacle.

Examples:
  • Social obstacles: friends or family look down on the dirt
  • Everyday obstacles: can't cook/eat or comfortably move around
  • Personal obstacles: you are personally bothered by it

So why do some people delay cleaning (myself included)?

I think it is for a number of reasons, including:
  • failure to recognize obstacles. (I have a plan for that.)
  • excess to the point that obstacles are reduced until they are overwhelming (I don't need to wash dishes. I have clean dishes.)
This seems to point to minimalization to both stay tidy and to help you achieve your goals. Have what you need, and no more.

Now, how does this relate to writing?

The lack of time management can be seen as clutter of your time.

Are you spending your time dealing with obstacles that you can remove once and for all? Are you spending your time away from your day job focusing on the things that bring you joy?

If you regularly spend your free time doing things that don't bring you joy, you are failing to realize an obstacle. Family brings joy, so we keep that. Of the television you watch, how much brings you joy?

Do you have scattered attention, spread thin among too many projects? That is an obstacle to completing any one of them. Recognize, refocus, and remove.

The more obstacles we recognize and remove from our lives, the more time and energy we will have to write. More than that, we should be able to manage this without offending our family.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Examples of professional story design

During a recent bout of procrastination from finishing and editing my current novel, I found myself listening to music from old Sierra adventure games. (It appears Quest Studios is the place to go to get copies of the music from the Sierra games.) I played a number of the Sierra games back in the day, so -- in my procrastination-heady state -- I was interested in finding old scores. That led me, inextricably, to Al Lowe's Humor Site.

Al Lowe was responsible for the Leisure Suit Larry series of "adult" adventure games. He was at Sierra for quite a long period of time, and had his hand in all of the Leisure Suit Larry games (there were seven titles in the adventure game series).

This, by itself, wouldn't have been enough to cause me to post. The thing is, he has made available the game design documents for some of his games.

I was looking at the design documents for "Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist" and the similarities between the design of this game and the design of a story really stood out. From the plot synopsis (four act) to the section of the document titled "Story Structure," to the character descriptions and the "Walkthrough" which reads like an abbreviated story in itself. (Shoot, even the scene-by-scene break-down is something that maps to what some folks do for novels.)

Having not seen real story design documents -- except for my own attempts -- it seemed quite interesting. Larry Brooks -- the Story Fix guy -- talks about seeing story structure in things other than just books. (He specifically talks about movies, but here the structure is literally wide open to look at.) It seems unlikely that I'll ever get a chance to see design documents for real professional quality books, but this... It was a high-quality game made by experienced professionals.

You also have to remember that even click-based adventure games are really far more story driven than many types of games. The older brother of this type of game being the text-based adventure games -- a subgenre currently known as "interactive fiction."

As I said, I found it interesting.