#1 Posted by SunBroZak (1117 posts) -

For a while now I have wanted to work in the video-game industry, and I hope to create my own game someday in the future. While I'm currently studying Graphic Design and I intend on finding my way into the industry to through the means of a position in art, I see great value in the ability to write and create compelling narratives in video-games and ultimately that is something I want to tackle once I've found my way into the scene. And with that said...I'm not a very good writer. I think my spelling and punctuation are competent, but I feel I lack what it takes to write a complex and meaningful story that is it's own thing, and is not heavily borrowing from someone else's work.

Spending some time on this forum, I have seen some members of this community that appear to be very capable with their writing. So if I may, I'd like to ask for some advice as to what is the best way to improve one's writing skills. Should I be spending as much time as I can reading books? Should I be learning as much as I can about current, real-life issues so I can provide commentary on them in my story-telling? Or maybe it's simply a talent thing, and writing might not be what I'm cut out for. In any case, opinions of any kind would be appreciated.

#2 Posted by OneKillWonder_ (1749 posts) -

Write about what you know, that way what you want to say is bound to come more naturally than forced. Don't feel obligated to provide some sort of social commentary just for the sake of having it. If there are real issues that you already know about and that truly mean something to you, that is the right time to do that sort of thing. Don't abuse an extended vocabulary and make it look like you used a thesaurus for half of what you write, either. Decide the style and tone you want to set, depending on you target audience. Look at the works of other writers who inspire you so that you have an idea of how you want to sound, but be careful not to entirely lift someone else's style. When it comes to writing fictional stories, try to be as descriptive as possible without grinding the narrative to a halt. It's not necessarily an easy thing to do. Personally, I like to get down my core ideas first and then go back and figure out where I could add more exposition and description and not disrupt the story at the same time. Utilizing the traditional 'rough draft and revision' formula is incredibly useful.

You don't really need read a ton of books. I honestly don't read all that much anymore, but I still like writing and learning new ways to improve myself. Inspiration is the best tool one can have.

I haven't tried writing a story in years now, and now that I'm older I'm certain I would be better at it than the last time I tried. A lot of the same rules apply to other kinds of writing. Myself, I like to write the same way I think and speak. If need be I will write in a more formal and professional manner, but I tend to hate what I'm writing sounding like it's coming from someone else.

#3 Posted by Hunter5024 (5689 posts) -

Write a lot. I know it's not a very cool answer, but if you want to be better at writing, the best advice is to write your ass off. As far as books go, I do think exposing yourself to a lot of literature can be a good learning experience for a writer, though time spent reading isn't as valuable as time spent writing. I haven't gotten much out of instructional books because they often focus on telling you their philosophy behind writing, which stops being useful once you start to develop your own, some instructional books I do recommend are "How Not To Write a Novel" and "Self Editing for Fiction Writers." The first is useful because it helps you avoid a lot of really common mistakes, and the second is useful because it teaches you to look at your writing in a different way. If you want your writing to be in the Games industry, I strongly recommend you try being a dungeon master in a role playing game. I got a lot out of that, and it's probably the closest analogue to video games.

#4 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

Stephen King's "On Writing" is very good.

#5 Edited by Kevin_Cogneto (1077 posts) -

@sunbrozak:

Honestly, the part that takes the most time to learn is the ability to look at something you've written from the point of view of a reader, and not of the author. It's an essential skill that every writer must have, is the ability to read and judge one of their own stories as objectively as they can, and to really be able to identify when it's working and when it isn't. It sounds obvious, but it's actually an instrument that takes a long time to calibrate. It's really difficult to see your own work for what it really is, and not for what you want it to be -- to judge what's on the page, and not what's in your head. Of course, you'll never be able to achieve complete objectivity, but that's what your friends' feedback is for, to get you the rest of the way.

Then comes the next step: once you've learned how to be as objective as possible with your own material, you need to learn how to analyze what's wrong with it, and how to fix it. Some of this can be accomplished by trial and error -- I'm currently working on my first novel, and I'll sometimes rewrite a lousy line of dialogue a few dozen times. A small problem like that can be fixed with brute force. "This doesn't sound right, let me try a few other options." Eventually you'll get to a line that works. But larger story or character problems usually can't be solved that way. You need to learn how to break your story down analytically. "Oh, this doesn't work because this character's motivations are inconsistent" or "The pacing would be smoother if this exposition came later", or whatever. This is where reading a lot helps, because it helps to develop this skill. When you're reading, ask yourself why you liked or didn't like didn't like a character or a chapter, or whatever it is. Try to break it down as much as possible, because that's the skill you'll need to develop, if you want to make your own stories better.

But really, all of these skills come from practice, and that just means writing a lot, which is the only real answer.

#6 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Spending some time on this forum, I have seen some members of this community that appear to be very capable with their writing.

Really? I haven't seen a lot of fictional writing on these forums. Writing skills in one field don't translate too well toward other fields. (That's really all I have to say, since I'm more experienced in writing blogs and reviews than I am with fiction.)

#7 Edited by Immortal_Guy (117 posts) -

As well as practising writing stories, I think it's important to practise finishing stories - finishing is a skill in itself, and tying everything up well is where many brillliantly set-up stories go wrong. I'm in danger of not practising how I preach here, since finishing stuff is really hard(!), but it's advice I aim to follow, anyway. As everyone on this thread has said, practice makes perfect.

Also, don't be too put off if you don't much like your stuff at first. I'm pretty sure that writing's not a "talent thing", as you called it. Even if some people are better at it than others to start off with, I think anyone can learn to write well with practice.

#8 Posted by Juzie (168 posts) -

As well as practising writing stories, I think it's important to practise finishing stories - finishing is a skill in itself, and tying everything up well is where many brillliantly set-up stories go wrong. I'm in danger of not practising how I preach here, since finishing stuff is really hard(!), but it's advice I aim to follow, anyway. As everyone on this thread has said, practice makes perfect.

Also, don't be too put off if you don't much like your stuff at first. I'm pretty sure that writing's not a "talent thing", as you called it. Even if some people are better at it than others to start off with, I think anyone can learn to write well with practice.

I usually do a bit of brainstorming before I start writing and put together a beginning and an ending before I start writing the rest. But everything works differently for different people. I actually find it quite hard to write anything focussed with out my ending already planned out.

#9 Edited by believer258 (11922 posts) -

Read and write and read and write and read and write...

In addition to that, try to tell the differences between how to write for different mediums. You might be a fantastic poet but your video game writing skills might be terrible. Have you played Crysis 2? The guy who wrote Altered Carbon, a good book, wrote that terrible excuse for a video game story.

Also, be mindful of what you're reading and what you're writing. Reading whatever is the "hot" book of the day is good, but it's not going to get you as far as trying to understand something like The Lord of the Rings. And go further back than that - read Frankenstein and Jane Eyre and some poetry and then go further back and read Alexander Pope and a bit of Milton and then go read Shakespeare. And then Chaucer and Dante (Chaucer is one entertaining motherfucker, by the way). This stuff helps you think more about what you're writing and how you write it.

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#10 Posted by TrafalgarLaw (1130 posts) -

A humble start could be rewriting history or mythology. Any writer will do some research into the thing they want to write about beforehand. Everything starts with "Imagine if" and you could make it something like "Imagine if I was fighting as a german soldier in WWII". Just imagine. If you feel the need to do social commentary on anything, just start writing.

Poetry helps in understanding making words seem beautiful, in avoiding unneccesary long descriptions.
I started out as a poet and that helped me immensly in writing stories.

But whatever you do, just write away.