In this post, I will talk a bit about my experience with writing, including some tricks I’ve learned along the way. It plays a huge part in my artistic projects, such as creating in-game dialogues for my games, writing my upcoming novellas, and also blogging.
As you may already know, I’m not a native English speaker and it complicates things for me. I still have a hard time with the correct usage of prepositions or structuring sentences with a natural flow. I used to think it’s unfair of the universe to inflict me with French like a handicap, a language of no particular use to my career. What atrocity did I commit in my past life to deserve such fate?! Anyways. To compensate for my weakness I’ve developed some techniques over the years to improve my English skills.
Google to the rescue
When I’m unsure whether the sentence I wrote is correct or not, I make sure to Google parts of it by surrounding it with double quotes. This popular technique yields pages of results with the exact phrasing. If the search engine returns more than ten pages, then it’s way to go, otherwise there’s a solid chance that the clause I created is awkward and it’s simply better to rephrase it so that its tone feels more casual. This method also allows to make comparisons with tons of other sentences across the Internet and pick up the most interesting result. It can even help to fill an incomplete clause with more details, or elaborate further on an idea by taking inspiration from other sources. One downside is that you can’t expect every sources to be written in proper English. It requires a bit of judgment.
I collect sentences, clauses and idioms like sea glass. I put together a compilation of thousands of them, from books I’ve read, games I’ve played, movies I’ve watched, website I’ve visited, or the dictionary itself. To make things even more powerful, I use WordPress as my main tag management engine, in a thesaurus fashion. Each entry is associated to various tags or thematic keywords. Searching by label is fast and indispensable. Let’s suppose I’m writing a novel and I need to describe a character, all I have to do is click the ‘character description’ tag in WordPress, it then returns a long list of results, to which I can inspire from. Here are a few examples among many:
- Her red hair was pulled back in two pigtails.
- […] behind half-moon spectacles […]
- […] preceded by his [adjective] belly […]
- His hair was […], hanging over his forehead.
- […] dressed in a […]
There are of course more options to refine the search with more specific results, but well, you surely get the gist of it. If, in a JRPG, I need some in-game dialogues during a boss fight, I simply have to click the ‘boss confrontation’ tag and, instantly, I get a poll of results to help me put the battle sequence into words:
- “I’ll take you out right now! En garde, […]!”
- “You won’t be getting away so easily this time!”
- “I’m gonna kick your butt.”
- “The name’s [character name], remember it!”
I created tags for several type of situations. Here are a few more examples of tags with some associated writing prompts.
[State of Mind] [Relief]
- Norman smiled at the prospect of being on the surface again.
- I have a bad feeling about this…
- There is a vehemence about him that troubled her.
- Something is just not right.
- I want to bestow this onto you, warrior.
- Take these in case you run into any trouble. And here’s some coin. Stop by the store if you need anything else.
[Task in Sight]
- Garet: We have to go tell the high elders and the other
- Vaan: It’s coming from deeper within the cave.
Penelo: We’d better go take a look.
[Destination in Sight]
- The village isn’t far. And we’ll be safe there. It’s just past the cimetary.
This system is extremely useful, and in most circumstances it can help to overcome writing blocks with trivialities. If you’re a writer, I can’t stress enough the importance of using writing prompt references with a similar scheme, especially with a tagging system. I’m under the impression most writers aren’t as organized as other type of artists in the industry. For example, every professional digital artists I know have gathered a large collection of clip arts, shapes, brushes, fonts, and textures to help them create new digital arts. Music composers also collect similar presets such as beats, motifs, chord progressions, and more. Writers, on the other hand, seem so ‘archaic’ in their methods.
I hope this post was somewhat helpful and provided some insight into my writing approach.