Saturday, 30 October 2010

A Descriptive Exercise & Plot Treatments

Just a quick, silly one, this. A large part of my job revolves around improving my technical writing ability. Another around finding any excuse not to do whatever work I've set out for myself. Ask any writer - more dishes get done, more Hollyoaks gets watched, more joints get smoked when you've got a deadline looming.

Lucky, then, that writing exercises exist to serve both needs. It's increasingly popular for a developer to commission three or four narrative designers to turn out a couple of days' worth of plot pitches - one page documents developed according to a brief which outline a proposed plot / scenario / gameplay. These are then discussed by all parties and the strongest goes on to be the basis for the project moving forward.

I've been hired via my agency, Sidelines, to do just this for a new racing / action game. So it was that, yesterday afternoon, I conked out for twenty minutes and wound up doing a writing exercise which resulted in the short 'story' below. I love dialogue, I love character, I love jokes. I am rubbish at description. Ayn Rand, however, fucking loves description. She will happily run three pages describing a room and the psychological makeup of its inhabitants:
"Francisco, in shirt sleeves, stood in the middle of his twelve foot square living room, with the look of a host in a palace. Of all the places where she had ever seen him, this was the background that seemed most properly his. Just as the simplicity of his clothes added to his bearing, gave him the air of a superlative aristocrat, so the crudeness of the room gave it the appearance of the most patrician retreat..."
Sitting almost exactly where the photo above was taken (that's my laptop screen bottom left), I set about pastiching Rand in describing the scene before me. What you'll find below is that. Halfway through I showed it to Roxy, the flatmate I describe, and she decided it needed a twist.

The result is, I hope, an entertaining and most importantly a physically expressive read. Personally I find the style a little over the top, but it's delivered something I'd never ordinarily write for myself, and that in itself is something an aspiring writer can always value.


Roxane sat head in hand, deliberating over what the muted blues and greys projected from the screen before her could tell of the status of her existence. The haphazardly evolved mesh of wood surfaces, stainless steel cabinets and laden shelves that made up the kitchen was just one arbitrary dissection of the great warehouse space around her. Dull afternoon light made its way through the broad frosted glass frontage behind, the paper-clad bulb suspended from the high angled ceiling doing little to affect the understated illumination that made the space seem to go on forever. She was not so much dwarfed by the open plan expanse as encompassed by it, a seamless element in the naturalistic lifestyle it represented. A reassuring amplifier scratch filled the soundscape briefly with promise of more organised tones to come as she plugged the auxiliary cable into her laptop and mused staccato over the first track. With the air of someone for whom creativity was production, and production life, she stabbed the play button and set to work.

Then a huge velociraptor crashed through the glass, its three tipped talons scraping lines of cement dust from the tiled floor. Its gait was broken only momentarily, the creature seeming to rebound off the awkwardly positioned counter that split the kitchen in two so that it turned to face her. The predator could not have stopped moving for even a second, and yet there was an imperceptible moment when the two locked stares; this leathery forgotten husk of violent history and its contemporary prey, the latter helpless in her superior understanding of what was necessarily to come. Roxane's ability to move the minds of men had served her and her kind far better than the monster's instinct ever had it and its, but for this moment all else was irrelevant. Art and music and love and understanding could not stop her crying out as the jaws closed around her neck.

In the next instant she had, like, this huge shotgun, you know, like out of Goldeneye. She made that pump action noise not because the chamber wasn't loaded but because it sounded fuck off cool. It was even in time with the music. Then she blew the motherfucker's head off. It was like Rambo, only with a hot French bitch and more dinosaurs. And everyone lived happily ever after.

The End


  1. It's only a throwaway piece, developed in twenty minutes, but I'd love to know what you think.

    I can't claim that the end of this story isn't a little bit of a jab at video games. How many great video game narratives are there out there that haven't come under threat from someone somewhere proposing there be bigger guns, more explosions or jigglier tits?

    Does anyone here pursue a similar sort of regime to the one I've described above?

  2. 'Adaptation' indeed with that abrupt change-up in pace and tone.

    I think I'm with you on that general style seeing too overblown in term of its description - I just can't take it seriously - it constantly feels like it's trying to be a parody. I want observations of the environment to feel more natural generally.

    I don't have a parallel approximation of a writing exercise at present for myself but I've only recently started on focusing on some personal creative projects seriously so maybe that will come later after having some experience under my belt and seeing how I need to improve.

  3. I always feel very similarly about that style of description, it seems to me to be useful for exercises, but other than that it doesn't seem to serve a purpose.

    This piece reminds me of what has a tendency to happen to me when I write papers for college...since at some point I can't handle being serious anymore and instead ramble about bears or raptors...

    It was amusing.

  4. Roxy and I did watch Jurassic Park the other day, that may have some bearing...

    Da dah daa daah daah, da da daaa

  5. After seeing your wonderful lyrics I started singing the Indiana Jones theme, which I immediately felt terrible about as Jurassic Park was one of my favorite movies.

  6. Ah, you see that would be:

    Daa da da daaa, dah da daah...

  7. I always found Ayn Rand's work in need of prehistoric predators. I see the seed of an excellent novel here (called "Velociatlas Shrugged" of course).

    This is also legitimately much better than my non-throwaway work. Uh oh.

  8. Similar to my own recent thoughts. Having a responsibility massively increases my productivity in general, as I'll do anything to avoid the responsibility; including everything else I previously wasn't doing, before the priorities shifted.

    Finding a responsibility I find truly necessary, as opposed to indulgent, luxurious or frivolous in nature is the challenge.

    I imagine writing that was pleasantly cathartic =)

    Should I feel guilty for preferring the hot-french-velociraptor-combat? Should I feel guiltier for wishing it was the living dead instead?

    .. I don't.

  9. The first paragraph bogged me down, the second paragraph came out of nowhere and the last made me laugh out loud. That was an entertaining read Tom ;-)

    I'm not one for shirking responsibilities but I tend to get a little bit done to justify the tossing around I'll do for the rest of the day. It slowly gets shit done.

  10. Oh and nice place by the way. I love those open warehouse type apartments.