Freewrite, 5.24.20

Concerning bad writing: 2:
This lack of continuity in which sentences do not naturally follow their predecessors is especially frustrating to see in gatekeeped published material. While I have not been playing Dungeons and Dragons for long, and do not know the rules particularly well, I have been appalled at how awkward some of the writing is in the D&D Adventurers League modules.
While the modules themselves are simple to follow and understand, the “in-game” material that DMs are supposed to read to players is sadly lacking in specificity or else riddled with a lack of continuity, adjectives, and adverbs as well as a lack of attention to the order of presentation. For instance: “The sound of a crack of lighting echoed across the water and smell of swamp comes to your nostrils.”
Now this is not a quote from a module, but it is similar in nature. You may be asking yourself why this doesn’t work. The truth is, it does work. it’s fine. But it can work a whole lot better. For instance, “A crack of lighting echoes across the water, and the stink of rot and decay assaults your nostrils.” If there is a sound like cracking lighting, the writer should know you don’t need to say, “A sound. . .” In fact a writer should know they shouldn’t write this because it breaks the immersive environment the DM is hoping to achieve for their players. In terms of the order of presentation, why does the lighting come first? As written above it is implied that the lighting brings the stink of the swamp–but it surely doesn’t. There are certain things humans notice before others and if they aren’t presented in the order in which people naturally experience things, the whole illusion is broken. Characters/players would surely smell the swamp long hear lighting unless they are in the middle of a thunderstorm. And in that case, “The stink of rot and decay assaults your nostrils as you approach the foggy banks of a swamp. Further out, amid the water a flash blinks and blinds you, followed swiftly by the crack of lighting.”
Yes, I added some extra details–but is that not the point of observing your own writing and taking the time to make it more immersive, more concise?
For the module I have planned to run on Tuesday, I have rewritten all the “in-game” text so that the order of presentation makes more sense, has more depth, and is hopefully more immersive than what was there before. It is easy to criticize someone else’s work, and much more difficult to see these mistakes in your own. While I hope I have made this module better for my rewrites, it is difficult to tell and I’ll only know as players react to the session at hand.
That being said, it’s still frustrating to see a script that is in the hands of thousands of people that is sadly lacking in so many areas.


Freewrite, 5.19.20

What makes bad writing? Something that is poorly written can vary in its failure to communicate effectively. Obviously, as a teacher in the public school system, I see lots of poorly expressed ideas on the written page. But they are not all poor for the same reason. Some may have run sentences and comma splices. Others have misspelled words and incorrect word use. Many will simply struggle to organize their thoughts in a cohesive manner, i.e. organizing sentences to build off one another to create full paragraphs and so pages of visualized thoughts and expression.
This last issue is the truest killer of a good writer, I believe. It isn’t enough to write properly punctuated sentences and use the correct spelling (and correct words) as you write (though of course, you need to have these aspects of the written language in your grasp if you are to move forward). You must present ideas in a manner that promotes continuity. This could be seen as a linear expression: 12345. This is to say, sentence 1 gives way to sentence 2, sentence 1 and 2 give way to sentence 3, each new sentence being the logical conclusion of the sentences (thoughts) that came before it.
Sure, this may work well in an argumentative or persuasive essay. But what about fiction–or even poetry? Certainly, this applies to fiction, though in a multitude of different ways depending on the aspect of fiction one is writing at any given moment. For instance, a moment of character development may look like this:
As she stood there, on the break of all she’d ever wanted, Mia realized it had all been a game. A game she had been roped into, trussed and tied. That was the tightness in her guts. They weren’t snakes–snakes would want to escape that place. No these were deep and gnarled roots that told her the things she’d always wanted wasn’t worth having–and neither was she.
Now, hopefully, each of my sentences seemed like a logical progression to what had come before. But how strange would it be if we got halfway through this aspect of emotional plot and then the linear nature was abandoned:
As she stood there, on the break of all she’d ever wanted, Mia realized it had all been a game. She took a lick of her popsicle and smiled. A game she had been roped into, trussed and tied. That was the tightness in her guts. . .
As you can see there is a sentence in there that throws the whole continuity of the moment off. Mia may indeed smile at her realization of this game she has played, and she may even be eating a popsicle but would it not be more fitting to put in a detail that reflects her own conundrum. Sure, she smiles at her revelation–but she’s so caught up in it that she suddenly feels a cold trickle down her hand and now her popsicle sloughs off the stick and onto the ground. Why would Mia smile? Exasperation. Perhaps relief. But the action of the popsicle melting and landing on the ground will mirror Mia’s sense of disenchantment far more than a slight smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. As most readers know, smiles can be sad as well as happy.

Freewrite, 5.18.20

When he woke up he knew how to sing and dance and place his guitar, but he couldn’t drive a car.
The doctors told him he’d suffered a rare condition, known as snufolofogus or something that sounded like an animal with a trunk for a nose.
What he could do were all the things he remembered enjoying. What he couldn’t do were the things he’d despised. He came home with his wife and daughter and they were nice and kind and made him food and when he was done they put him to bed, and even let him drink some juice beforehand. It was hard to fall asleep–maybe because he couldn’t stop thinking about how nice the sun felt on his skin as they left the hospital, or maybe because they’d said he’d been asleep for almost two weeks in a comma or something that sounded like punctuation. In any case, he lay in bad that first night back home and watched the shadows creep around on the wall–but luckily none reached for him.
Later, when things had calmed down and he’d moved in with family–his brother–his wife and daughter too, he became aware that people didn’t tell him how nice his smile was, the way he told them. Their smiles were all always so nice. Bright with white lights.
He had a planner that he wrote down memories in. That is, he wrote down what he was doing and where he should be, because if he didn’t he forgot and then people–well, they weren’t mad at him, but it made people frustrated–he thought.
But with the planner, it was like an external memory. He could keep all the things he couldn’t remember in there. He could remember which street he lived on and he could also remember where he had been and when.
But then they took his external memory away. He didn’t know why. He’d liked the planner. He’d liked his pen. They gave him a small screen with a calling mechanism and games. He liked the games. But the screen was so small he didn’t like typing on it to keep track of the places he was supposed to be and when.
He played solitaire because that was how he felt. He knew the rules of solitare. They were simple. The computer even corrected him if he forgot the rules. It wasn’t like real cards where you didn’t know if you had placed the 5 of spades here or the queen of hearts there. It was all laid out for you. The planner couldn’t have done this game–but it could have let him write what he wanted.
Then there was the big virus. Not like thing Snufolofgus. It was more like a flu and this was years later too. years and year–he thought. But still very serious. Not for him, but for others. But he couldn’t quite understand what happened to be people when they got it, other than the fact that they wore masks everywhere they went.