Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Writing better battle reports – Part 1 of 2 - Perspective

Unfortunately I’m on site at the moment and cannot play out the next lot of events on Day 5 of the All Things Zombie campaign so I thought I’d do something a bit different.
Recently I started thinking about how to improve my writing style, so I read a couple of books on how to write better stories and novels. This is the first of a two part summary on what I’ve learned so far.
One of those books has a section on the difference between writing a story and writing a report and that got me thinking. My All Things Zombie Day 2 journal was written over four sessions and during those sessions I changed the way it was written quite a lot. As a result, it suffered from being disjointed and inconsistent. I know now if I am going to improve my future All Things Zombie journal entries I need to put more thought into the way I’m going to write them.
The Pathfinder journals I’d previously written are half way between a story and a report. The battles themselves are documented in a matter of fact way, technical and tactical, very report like. The journal entries between the battle reports are more like a story. I’m happy with they way they turned out as I think that format works quite well for a D&D style campaign journal.
But for a horror RPG, which is more about survival than heroics, I believe a journal with more emphasis on story and feelings rather than a report of the facts, will be more atmospheric and tense, more in line with the genre.
That got me to thinking about perspective. If I am going to improve the form of my journals, the place to start is to pick a perspective and try to stick to it. There are two main types of perspective, first and third.
First Person Perspective. Written directly from the perspective of the main character of the story. It uses the “I” narrator. For example, “I saw this”, “I did that”. Only what the main character sees or does is reported.
Third Person Perspective. Written from the perspective that the writer can go anywhere and can report anything. It uses the “he/she/it” narrator. The writer can get inside the head of those in the story and describe how they are feeling as well as what they are seeing and doing. For example, “She saw that”, “He feels that”. There are three main sub-categories of third person perspective:
·        Omniscient Third Person Perspective: The writer may go anywhere and get into the head of any character. This is the most god like of all the third person perspective. The writer knows everything.
·        Limited Third Person Perspective. The writer may still go anywhere but now may enter the head of a limited number of characters. This style has retained most of the flexibility of the omniscient style but this style provides for greater focus. The story will be concentrated on a relatively small number of characters and their endeavours.  
·        Sole Third Person Perspective. The writer may still go anywhere but is restrained to getting into the head of only one character. This works well where the story is predominantly focused on one character or where the characters in the story tend to stay together.
First person perspective feels too restrictive for my All Things Zombie campaign. I want to be able to describe events outside of the direct visibility of the main character and what to write about what the main character is feeling. If I used this perspective, the story will end up being very one dimensional and all too focused on the main character. I want something a little broader, with more flexibility and with the ability to describe the feelings of the main character as well as what he and others see and do.
The campaign is very personal with many of the characters being people I know. Amanda, my missus, Dave, her brother, Steve, a friend and Officer Girle, who was unfortunately killed on Day 2, are all real people. I don’t think I can effectively write what they are feeling on their behalf. I also think that I need to keep the story relatively fast paced and dealing with the feelings of multiple characters will slow the story down.
I’ve decided to use Sole Third Person Perspective. This will enable me to directly write about the feelings of the main protagonist, ie me, without trying to directly write about what others are thinking. I can still ‘show’ what they are thinking but I’ll do that through the characters actions rather than through their thoughts.
In the next summary, I’ll conclude with some of the techniques that I’ve read about and how I’m going to apply them.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Generation Zed - Day 3 to 5

Tim wakes early the next morning. He feels sore and sorry for himself. As he rubs his eyes he thinks “Struth I feel every bit of 50. Stupid friggin zombies.” Getting up he looks down at Amanda. Her ankle is has remained elevated on the pillow overnight but unfortunately it’s still swollen. Grinding his teeth together he thinks “Hmmm, I guess we’re not getting Pepi today. I love that car.”
Shuffling into the kitchen he closes the door behind him and turns on the light. “Small mercies. At least there is still electricity.” He staggers to the jug and turns it on.
Twenty minutes later and half way through his first cup of coffee Tim thinks “Hmmm I feel a bit more human now. Well I’m not going through that again. They say the last thing a boxer loses is his punch. We’ll it’s time to start to get mine back.”
Coffee in hand Tim starts to work through the hallway cupboard. “Aggghhh there you are.” Picking up the recurve bow he gives a quick it a look over and then he puts it aside and opens the arrow storage case. “Well a dozen arrows, I guess that’s better than none.”
Picking up the bow again he turns to it and mutters “Well little buddy I reckon it’s been 30 years since I’d last hunted with you.” Grabbing an empty beer carton Tim stuffs it full of newspaper and walks into the back yard. There he sets it down.
Thwack! Thwack! Thonk!
After 40 minutes of practice Tim massages his index and middle fingers on his right hand. “Hmmm who would have thought that? My frigging fingers are bruised raw from the bow string.”
Going inside and grabbing the scissors from the knife block in the kitchen Tim cuts into an old tea towel. In under a couple of minutes he looks at his handy work, “Well it’s not awesome but this little sissy pad will keep me going for a while.”
Thwack! Thonk! Tchweep! Thack!
Amanda stumbles into the back yard, “How long have you been out here?”
“Hi darl. Dunno. Couple of hours I guess.”
“What are you doing?”
“Getting ready.”
Shifting her weight to her right hip she says “Good. We’ve got to go and get Dave.”

- - - 0 0 0 - - -

The next scenario will be a Search scenario. It’ll take place on Day 4. Over the past two days Amanda has convinced Tim to give up Pepi, his ute (named, by the way, after the Ford Bronco in Romancing the Stone) and Tim has convinced Amanda to wait until her ankle is healed before they go looking for Dave.
Tim is armed with a bow, a two handed axe and a bayonet in a scabbard on his belt. Amanda is armed with a two handed axe and she packs the claw hammer into her hand bag.
Amanda drives them to the site of Dave’s house in her Prius. “Not quite the Ford Ranger,” Tim thinks, “but still, it’s better than walking”.
Dave lives on acreage on the out skirts of town (treated as a rural setting with an ER of 1).
Dave’s house is in the top left corner (ie area 1). Tim and Amanda will need to get there and call out to Dave. They’ll start on foot having learnt last time about cars attracting zombies.
Checking for Lack of Sleep, Tim has only had 4 hours sleep and is fatigued with -1 to his Rep until he gets an adrenaline rush. Amanda has only had 6 hours sleep but she’s able to function normally.
They move onto the table and one zombie is generated. The picture below gives an overview of the initial set up. 
The one big advantage the Prius has now becomes apparent. When the battery only mode is activated the car is virtually silent. Using this for the last couple of hundred metres has obviously worked well for Tim and Amanda as there is only one zed on the table.
Amanda will lead as Tim is so tired.

- - - 0 0 0 - - -

Amanda lets the car coast to a stop. “It’s just up here.”
Tim is slow to get out of the car, “I’m so frigging tired darl.”
Amanda takes him by the hand and leads on “Come on sleepy head, not far to go. We’ll grab Dave, Codie and Frank and we’ll be home soon.”
Walking up the small road Amanda turns to Tim, “I feel really trapped in here. I don’t know if I could jump over these high fences.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Tim responds, “If it comes to that I’ll boost you over. It sure is creepy in here though.”
Amanda turns, and her eyes focus on a corpse that they had walked directly past only moments ago without even realising it. A phone is ringing on the body.
She turns to Tim, “I thought the phone service was down.”
“Huh, so did I. Obviously they’re getting a signal out here.”
“Should we get it?”
“Dunno, but look over there,” Tim points, “it’s starting to draw in some zombies.”
 Amanda takes off after the phone, “Come on we’ve got to get it before it attracts more of those things.” Grabbing the phone she answers it “Hello….” There is no answer. Creepy.
Tim lines up the zombie in the middle of the road. Drawing the bow and on his training over the past few days, he fights his tiredness and lets the arrow lose. It strikes true, killing the zombie for good. He runs to Amanda’s side, “Did you see that?”
“Good work, let’s go.”
Amanda turns to Tim, “Can you go any faster?”
“I can’t bub, I’m just too tired.”
As she approaches Dave’s gate Amanda says to Tim “Not far now.” Turning to look at him…… he’s no where to be seen. “Tim……Tim?”
Amanda keeps moving towards Dave’s. Slowing her pace, she calls out again, “Tim? Where are you? Tim?”
From no where a zombie lunges at Amanda. She turns to meet the beast. Its foul breath falls upon her as she hefts her axe…..
And she knocks it to the ground.