Monday, September 8, 2014

Gaming, contract drafting, and writing

Remember how I said I would come back to the idea of writing and gaming? Well, I've had a chance to think about it, and I realize it's not just gaming that ties into my writing, but also my day job within a legal department.

Both gaming and legal writing require a level of consistency in language.  When drafting legal documents, contracts generally have some sort of glossary near the beginning or end of the document, outlining the defined terms.  The main thing to remember with those terms is that a defined term has to mean the same thing every time it's referenced.  It's a convenient way to both make it clear to anyone reading the document what the parties mean when they use a potentially ambiguous term, and also a standardized shorthand to refer to a specific idea.  Even though you wouldn't think it, legal writing can teach a writer a lot about being concise and clear.  Well, the important thing is to avoid the standard "legalese" of heretofore and "the party of the first part", and the like.

Similarly, when writing rules for a game, being consistent with terms is key for making sure the players understand what the designer meant.  In my copious free time (/sarcasm), I work with my husband to edit translations of board game rules.  There's a specific jargon involved with board games, which can occasionally get lost in translation.  We review the rules with an eye towards making the language flow naturally, as well as being consistent throughout.  If something happens once a turn, for instance, we make sure that it isn't referred to as happening once a round later on.

Now, I'm not saying all of this to mean that everything you write needs to have a glossary.  However, consistency is key, and it's one of the easiest ways to pull a reader out of the world if it isn't there.  How often have you read something in which a character's clothing changes in the middle of the scene?  It gets under your skin, and generally, irritating your readers is a bad idea.

Now for something a little different.  Recently I read a list on Cracked that asked a very simple question - what have you done today to get yourself closer to your goal?  I want to be able to answer that question everyday, even if it's just "I wrote ten words".  So, I'm going to hold myself accountable here.  Since the beginning of September, I've written six out of seven days.  Things are going slowly, but I think my new idea is coming together.  It's still a fledgling, so I'm not quite sure enough of what I'm doing to discuss it much, but it's there.