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Answers to questions: #1 - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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March 14th, 2007


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12:53 am - Answers to questions: #1
teriel asked: What are some of your inspirations for the writing you do?

I'm widely noted for being one of the quirkier RPG authors in terms of some of my ideas. I have several sources primary sources. One is obviously borrowing bits and pieces of ideas from SF & fantasy, mostly fairly old (typically 1960s and earlier) works. In writing the material on the four directions of Creation for first edition the Exalted supplement Scavenger Sons, I specifically and deliberately borrowed and blended together fragments of ideas from a wide variety of 1950s-70s SF (no fantasy, just SF), some of the more obvious sources for that are Andre Norton's Judgment on Janus, Poul Anderson's The Night Face, and Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Similarly, I wrote a whole lot of magic items for the upcoming D&D 3.5 book The Magic Item Compendium. One of the most interesting types of items are sets of magic items that are all related and have powers that increase if used together. So, I modeled several on superheroes from comics – so there are sets modeled loosely on both Hawkman and the Flash. Similarly, I recently wrote a section of a book dealing with a magical realm that was effectively humanity's collective unconscious. In coming up with examples of portions of this realm, one of the ones I used was about dreams of Mars – I included everything from a realistic Mars to the Mars of Barsoom and similar planetary adventure novels.

That covers perhaps 40% of my ideas. For the rest, I often take single ideas and run with them – what would the section of humanity's collective unconscious that was about cities actually look like, what would a world that the setting of The Matrix be like if it was semi-utopian rather than a dystopia. In project for the SF RPG Traveller, I decided to give a planet rocket-shaped starships that looked like starships from 1950s & 60s space opera, because the planet had been colonized by people from Earth and making starships in the images of the earliest ideas of such vessels was part of an on-going cultural revival, and for a project about the planet Vulcan for the Star Trek RPG, I thought about Stone of Gol (from the TNG episode Gambit), and decided that it obviously wasn't the only example of that sort of psionic tech the Vulcans had developed, and decided to work out what else they might have created. For the rest, they quite literally simply come to me, my brain throws out ideas, and I take the ones I like and work with them.

On a related note, I often hear amateur RPG and fiction authors talk about how rare and precious ideas are and how they worry someone might steal them. My reaction is a mixture of laughter and pity. Ideas are cheap & easy, anyone who thinks otherwise is either unimaginative or assumes that everyone else is. Coming up with ideas is exceptionally easy. The hard part is always the craft of writing – turning ideas into coherent text (and if necessary rules) that say and do what I want them to. Coming up with the ideas for a 30,000 word projects is easy, actually writing 30,000 words based on these ideas that are interesting and worth reading is where the work comes in. As a result, I have far more respect for the craft of writing than for coming up with the initial ideas.

On an unrelated note, the pictures for my answer to the other question I was asked will be posted soon.
Current Mood: busybusy

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[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:March 14th, 2007 10:11 am (UTC)
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You and Neil Gaiman both clearly feel the same way about idea - he mentions people offering him ideas as if they were gold dust and being astonished that he has enough ideas to last him a lifetime, it's the time to write them all well that he lacks.
[User Picture]
From:heronheart
Date:March 14th, 2007 12:42 pm (UTC)
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Coming up with the ideas for a 30,000 word projects is easy, actually writing 30,000 words based on these ideas that are interesting and worth reading is where the work comes in. As a result, I have far more respect for the craft of writing than for coming up with the initial ideas.

Amen to this. I've noticed that it's the resolution to a story that so many authors have trouble with. Coming up with the "set-up" for a story is easy, a satisfying ending is hard. Philip Jose Farmer is my main example of this.
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From:heron61
Date:March 14th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
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The hardest part for me isn't developing ideas, but instead is the act of writing that first draft and fiddling with the words. Revisions are easier, but still have their own challenges.

Most definitely. Revisions range from easy to tedious, but are rarely actually hard. First drafts can easily be hard.

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