Category Archives: The Story Board

Concerning Games, Torment, and a Sense of Play

Let me tell you a story.

Well, actually, let me tell you a story that consists of several stories. And it’s *about* stories.

This should not surprise anyone, really. This is what I do.

*     *     *

Back in 2009 I attended Gen Con as author Guest of Honor. It was one of my first GOH gigs, and at a convention I’ve been attending off and on for most of my adult life.

That said, I was still a pretty new author in 2009. I only had one book out, and had only been published for two years. People came to my signings and panels. I had fun. But honestly, I wasn’t a very big deal.

Wandering around the dealer’s hall, at one point someone came up to me and said, “What makes you so honorable?” When I gave him a baffled look, he pointed down at the ribbon on my badge that said. “Guest of Honor.”

“Oh,” I said. “I write books.”

“Oh,” he said. And walked away.

*     *     *

After taking a break from Gen Con for a couple years, I headed back in 2012. I wasn’t GOH or anything, and was mostly going to play some games and hang out with friends, including my new bestie Robert Gifford of Geek Chic.

But in 2012 I’d been published for *five* years. And I had *two* books out. I’ve hit #1 on the New York Times. I’ve been hugged by Felicia Day. I’m not really a big deal, but I’m certainly a bigger deal than I ever was before….

The difference was most notable when I walked around the dealer’s room. People would stop and say, “Are you Patrick Rothfuss?” And we’d stop and chat a little bit. One particularly memorable couple came up to me and said, “That’s the best Pat Rothfuss cosplay we’ve ever seen! The beard looks so real!” and asked to get a picture with me.

I won’t lie, it’s kinda fun. One of the main reasons I go to conventions is to meet up with my readers. My readers are lovely people.

Still, I was surprised at how *many* people recognized me. Artists, dealers running their booths. Catgirls.

On Sunday, a tall dark stranger came up to me and said, “You’re Pat Rothfuss, aren’t you?”

“Yup,” I said. We shook hands and I read his badge. “Nice to meet you Colin,” I gestured to the vast panoply of geekery around us. “How do you fit into all of this?”

“I write games,” he said.

“Role Playing stuff? Computer games?”

“Both,” he said. “I worked on Planescape back in the day…”

“The computer game?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Planescape Torment?” I asked.

He nodded again.

“You are fucking kidding me,” I said. “I was just talking to someone about Torment. That was one of the best games I’ve ever played.”

He looked at little surprised at this, “Wow,” he said. “I….”

“The narrative was brilliant,” I said. “It’s been ten years, and I haven’t known a game to come close to it.”

“Well…”

“I mean you had honest-to-god open-ended character development that was an integral part of the main narrative,” I said. “Nobody else has ever pulled that off as well. It was amazing.”

“It…”

“I still remember the interaction you could have with some of the NPC’s,” I said. “You actually had to be clever talking to them. You could offend them and piss them off. The writing was solid and smart. You had a branching narrative that still felt cohesive and engaging. I’ve never seen that handled so well except for maybe in the early Fallout games.”

“…”

“And the dialogue,” I said. “It was great. How the hell do you manage to write things like that? To keep track of all the different ways a conversation can go…?”

Eventually I shut up long enough for him to tell me he liked my books. We traded e-mail addresses, and he offered to show me what the dialogue trees looked like when you’re writing a computer game.

I was happy as a kid at Christmas.

*     *     *

A couple months later, in November, Colin and I chatted a bit.

“We’re going to be writing a game that will follow in Torment’s footsteps,” he said. “Good character. Good story.”

“I’m tingly at the very thought,” I said.

“Want to help write some of it?” he asked.

“Oh shit,” I said. “Yes. I’ve always wanted to take a poke a writing a computer game.”

“Cool,” Colin said.

“No,” I said. “I want to, but I can’t. I have to work on Book Three.”

“We don’t want you to write *all* of game,” Colin said. “Maybe just a side area. Subplot. A piece.”

I made a miserable noise. “I can’t.” I said. “My editor would be pissed. My readers would be pissed. I’m already behind schedule.”

“That sucks,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.

I’m paraphrasing a bit, you realize. But the sentiment is dead-on. When I said “no” I felt like a kid who had to stay inside and practice the piano while all his friends got to go eat ice cream and have awesome sex on the moon.

Nate's illo

*     *     *

January 2013.

Colin: You sure?

Me: I really can’t. Revision is going slow. I should keep grinding away.

Colin: Fair enough. I understand.

*     *     *

March 5th

I bring in Colin McComb, Jerry Holkins (From Penny Arcade), and Veronica Belmont (From Sword and Laser) to talk about videogames and storytelling on Storyboard.

It ends up being one of my favorite episodes so far, probably because everyone is passionate and outspoken. Colin, Jerry, and Veronica all know so much more than I do on the subject, and that’s great.

(Sorry. It’s embedding ugly. Just click over to Youtube.)

Colin mentions the upcoming Torment game. They’re going to launch the kickstarter tomorrow. They’ve got a lot of great creative people on the project.

During the panel, I get a little crotchety about modern games. I make some noises along the lines of, “Video games are pissing away the storytelling opportunities available to them. There’s bad writing. Foolish mistakes. When I was a kid….”

Jerry steps in and says, “We’re at the helm now. If we see these things we don’t like, it’s our fault. [...] We can’t just point at it and expect the universe to fill it.”

It’s startling to hear. But he’s right, of course. I know he’s right.

*     *     *

March 6th

InXile launches their kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera.

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They raise over $2,000,000 in less than a day. It seems like I’m not the only one who remembers those old games fondly.

*     *     *

March 7th

I realize the story I’m trying to write for an anthology isn’t working out. It’s my second attempt to write a story to fill this obligation I agreed to more than a year ago. I’m months overdue, and I feel like an asshole.

I need to get this story done and out of the way so I can get back to working on book three.

Though honestly, those revisions aren’t going that well either. It feels like a grind. It’s going slow.

*     *     *

March 10th

I’m at the Tucson Festival of Books, eating Pizza with Sam Sykes, Kevin Hearne, and Diana Gabaldon.

Sam Sykes says, “We’re at our most creative when we’re at play.” Then he tells a story about a famous director who would send people home for the day if they were taking their job too seriously.

And he’s right, of course. I know he’s right.

*     *     *

March 11th

Coming home from Tucson, I think to myself, “Fuck it. When I get home, I’m going to start a new story for that anthology. Something fun.”

*     *     *

March 12th

I decide I’m going to write a story about Bast.

I have no idea what the story will be about. I have no plan. I have no plot in my head. Honestly nothing.

When I teach, I stress that writing is not merely a communicative process. People think writers are effectively engaging in transcription. We have something in our heads, and we just write it down. That’s how people think stories happen.

But that’s not how it works. Writing can be communication. But most of the time, writing is a generative process. The story comes into being as it’s being written. It’s about discovery. Assuming you have to know what happens before you sit down to write is a rookie mistake.

So I sit my ass down. I decide I’m going to take my own advice. I’m going to write even though I have no plan. I’m going to write and see where it takes me.

I’m going to be irresponsible. I’m going to play.

At the end of the day, I’ve written 4,500 words.

*    *     *

March 12-16th

I write 16,000 words. Good solid words. That’s not even counting the crap I trimmed out and threw away. I finish the Bast story except for one or two small scenes. It will be a great fit for the anthology.

I feel great. I’m excited about writing again. I think about revising book three and it sounds fun. I want to get back to it.

If you don’t know how much 16,000 words is. Let me put it in perspective for you.

If I wrote 16,000 words every week. By the end of the year I would have produced over 800,000 words of text.

That’s twice as long as The Wise Man’s Fear.

If I can maintain my sense of play. I could easily write a book a year.

A book a year *plus* all the other things. Fun little stories. Poems and songs. Maps.

Games…

*     *    *

March 17th

I call Betsy, my editor. She’s glad to hear the writing’s going well again.

She’s not surprised that a fun side project has helped refresh me. She’s knows how writers’ brains work. She knows more about it than I do, actually. That’s her job.

She’s a great editor.

*     *     *

March 18th

I send Colin an e-mail. Then I decide to call him, instead because I know we’re getting down to the wire.

“Do you still want me?” I ask. “I know it’s kinda late.”

“We’d love to have you,” he said. “We can add you as a stretch goal.”

“How much writing are we talking about here?” I ask.

“Maybe 10,000 words,” Colin says. “More if you like. Less if you need it to be less.”

“Could I maybe help with some of the character arcs too?” I ask. “I’m pretty good with character. You could use me as a sounding board if nothing else, and ignore me if you think I’m being an idiot.”

“Um…. let me think,” Colin says sarcastically. I can hear the smile in his voice. “A chance to chat with you about stories and character development. I think the answer to that is…. yes. “

I want to for so many reasons. But still, I hesitate.

“We’ll pay you of course,” he says. He names a number. “I could get you more, if you need it.

“That seems fair,” I say. “I don’t want to put the squeeze on you.”

Then a knee-jerk instinct kicks in. “However…” I say in my best used-car salesman voice. “I do run a charity….”

“You mean Worldbuilders?” he says.

“Oh,” I say, pleasantly surprised. “You’ve heard of it.”

“Of course I’ve heard of it,” he says.

“Well,” I say slowly. “This year we started accepting corporate sponsorships….”

“I can make that happen,” Colin says. “I’ll talk to the boss, and one way or another, we’ll make it happen.”

“Okay,” I say. “You’ve got me.”

 *     *     *

So there you go. Pretty soon, within just a couple of hours, they’re going to be announcing my involvement in the project.

You can go and check out the Kickstarter over here.

I’m not going to lie. I think it’s going to be an awesome game, and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing a piece of it.

If you’re on the fence, here are a couple reasons to consider jumping into the kickstarter.

1. If you’re planning on buying the game eventually, it’s cheaper to buy it now.

2. If you know you’re going to want to try it later, chipping in early means they’ll be able to make it an even better game. More development money means more content.

3. If a healthy number of my readers rush over and jump onboard, I get to look kinda cool to the developers. They’ll think things like, “Oh, maybe we didn’t make a horrible mistake bringing that Rothfuss guy in.”

4. You have to give these guys credit for supporting Worldbuilders. That’s mighty damn nice of them.

5. This is the first step in my extended master plan. If this goes well, it means we’re *much* more likely to see a Kingkiller game. More importantly, a Kingkiller game I’ll be able to have a direct hand in. Personally, I think that would about a thousand flavors of awesome.

Later Space Cowboys, I’m off to sleep. I’ve got a story to finish tomorrow….

pat

Also posted in concerning storytelling, cool news, side projects, Stories about stories., Tales from the Con, video games, videos | By Pat150 Responses

10 Tips for Fantastic Sex

For your viewing pleasure, here’s this month’s Storyboard.

I will admit, I’m kinda proud of the title….

Share and enjoy…

pat

 

Also posted in videos | By Pat47 Responses

Storyboard: A Call for Questions

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet. Here’s last month’s episode of Storyboard:

Not that I haven’t been proud of the other episodes, but I think we finally hit our stride with this one. It’s my favorite so far…

For episode #6, we’re doing something a little different. Since it’s happening on Jan 2nd, I know putting together a full panel of four writers will be tricky, as everyone is going to be either traveling because of the holidays or hung over from New Year’s. (Or still drunk from New Year’s).

Pat’s Edit: Sorry. I meant to say we’re doing this tonight, on January 1st. (At 8:00 PST)

So I’m going to team up with Mary Robinette Kowal this month. Together, we’ll be answering any questions people care to throw at us.

So if you happen to have any questions about the craft of writing, or the business of writing, or pretty much anything, post them in the comments below, and I’ll use them for Tuesday’s show.

Fire away….

pat

Also posted in calling on the legions, concerning storytelling, Geek and Sundry, Machine Gun Q&A | By Pat75 Responses

Episode 4: The Play’s the Thing

Here’s this month’s episode of StoryBoard, for those of you who haven’t caught it yet. Episode 4: The Play’s the Thing.

This month we broke with tradition in several ways. We pre-recorded the show in order to avoid election night bandwidth issues, and we invited four guests instead of the regular three.

Both experiments were a qualified success. Shooting the show earlier in the day allowed us to bring in parents and east-coasters Peter V. Brett, Myke ColeSaladin Ahmed, and Naomi Novick. We also managed to avoid running into election coverage by scheduling a week before the election.

The downside is that there was a *tiny* little hurricane going on during our hangout. I don’t think that helped our connectivity very much. We lost a few of our guests for a couple minutes here and there, but since all the authors involved were experienced speakers and tabletop RPGers, none of them were thrown too far off their game.

Did I mention that this month our focus was storytelling in roleplaying?

Here it is….

Share and Enjoy…

Also posted in gaming, Geek and Sundry, geeking out, the craft of writing, video games, videos | By Pat14 Responses

Epic D&D….

So for those of you with power out there on the East Coast, here’s something that might take your minds off things for half an hour or so.

For the rest of you, it will provide a welcome break from political ads.

Last year at Confusion, Peter V. Brett had the brilliant idea that since a bunch of fantasy authors were all getting together in one place, and since we all played D&D back in the day, we should get together, and, well, be huge *HUGE* geeks for an afternoon.

And when I say “we,” what I really mean is Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Myke Cole, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth BearSaladin Ahmed, Jay Lake, and Jim C. Hines. And me.

So we rocked it old school. We busted out the AD&D rules, rolled up some second level characters, and played Keep on the Borderlands.

All I can say is that I’m glad that someone rolled a camera on the event. Myke Cole and Saladin Ahmed acted as Co-GM’s and did a brilliant job of herding the sackful of cats guiding me and my fellow authors through the game.

Since then, we’ve had all the footage edited down and tidied up by my friend Erin. Here’s what we ended up with. The cinematography isn’t anything special, but the video itself really turned out amazingly funny. If you’ve ever role played, or if you have any interest in seeing authors descend to the pits of geekery, you should really take a look….

The fact that we finally got this video up and running gave me the inspiration for this month’s Storyboard, where we’re going to talk about Storytelling in RPG’s. (That’s foreshadowing, BTW.)

Some of the other authors have done their own write-ups of this event, and I don’t have much to add to this except to say that every single thing they say in there is absolutely true.

Brent Weeks

Myke Cole

Joe Abercrombie

More soon,

pat

Also posted in gaming, geeking out, the craft of writing, videos | By Pat26 Responses

Ghost Stories, Writing Contests, and Sad Puppets

I would just like to say that the above might be the best title I’ve ever given anything in the history of forever.

Today we have some cool news.

Wisconsin Life Flash-Fiction Ghost Story Contest

The folks at Wisconsin Public Radio sweet-talked me into judging a writing contest for them. And by “sweet-talked,” I mean they pretty much just asked me and I agreed. I have a bit of a weak spot for ghost stories.

Some points of interest:

  • You don’t have to live in Wisconsin to participate.
  • The contest deadline is October 7th.
  • Stories must be 600 words or less.
  • Winners will be read on Wisconsin Life. Maybe by me.

All the other details you can find over here on their website.

Though I do feel compelled to mention one other thing.

Please note that Flash Fiction refers to the brevity of the piece of writing. As in, it’s something so short you can read it in a flash.

It is not (and I can’t stress this enough) something you *wrote* in a flash. These stories should have some polish on them. If you’ve only got 600 words, you better make them count.

I’m looking forward to seeing what y’all come up with….

Since we’re talking about writing, I should probably put up a link to the second episode of Story Board that we recorded a couple weeks ago.

We talked about what makes characters tick with our lovely and talented guests: Amber Benson, Bradley Beaulieu, and Mary Robinette-Kowal.

And if that weren’t enough, we ended up with a surprise guest star at the end of the show….

If my background looks different there, it’s because I was in Seattle, mooching a computer off Shawn Speakman, who runs The Signed Page.

I think it turned out pretty well, despite the fact that I’d just done two conventions and three events in five days. Plus I suck at at making things work on a Mac. The lack of a second mouse button freaks me out….

We’ll be having another episode of Story Board in just a week or so on October 2nd at 8:00 PM Pacific time. I’ll be home in Wisconsin for this one, and we have another all-star line-up ready to talk stories.

Hope to see you there….

pat

Also posted in contests, my rockstar life, the craft of writing | By Pat42 Responses

The Story Board – Episode #1

For those of you who missed it live, here’s the first episode of the The Story Board.

All in all, it went fairly well. Most importantly, we avoided any major catastrophes.

That’s always my worry when doing something like this for the first time, that the technical end of things will go up in a huge conflagration of suck.

Luckily, I managed to hold everything together through a sheer effort of will. You might think I’m exaggerating my own importance here, but I’m not. I know this because about 8 minutes after we finished the show, just when I started to relax, my browser crashed so hard that I had to reboot the computer.

Still, I’m counting it as a win. And now that I have half a clue, the next show will be even better.

While we’re on the subject, there were a few show related comments/questions that caught my eye, so I figured I’d address them here:

  • “Pat, do you really have a whole shelf full of just your own books in your house?”

Um. Yes. More than one shelf full, actually. Don’t question my lifestyle.

But what you see in the video isn’t my house, it’s the writer’s equivalent of my Batcave.

The books you see there are some of the inventory for our online store, The Tinker’s Packs, where we sell signed books, posters, t-shirts, and other stuff to support my charity, Worldbuilders.

  • “Jim Butcher looks like he’s gonna go hunt a bear.”

Yes he does. Then again, Jim Butcher *always* looks like he’s going to go hunt a bear.

  • “This is the internet. There is no need to artificially constrain ones language or time spent. If you all felt like you could have spoken (interestingly to you) on the subject for 30-60 more minutes, i’m sure quite a few viewers would have enjoyed that, and the rest could just leave when they felt they had seen/heard enough.  I could easily have listened for another 30 minutes.”

Yeah. I know.

The problem is, at some point, any discussion gets unwieldy. Not many folks would like to watch, say, a rambly 5 hour conversation about urban fantasy. Or storytelling in comics. Or just about anything, really.

Ultimately, I’d rather have a nice, lively discussion that leaves people wanting more, rather than have a long, rambling conversation where people get bored.

Still, you’re not the only person who wanted more. And the truth is, we all had more to say….

So how about this, I’ll talk to the folks at G&S and see if after our hour-long show, we could continue the discussion in a more informal way. Maybe call it Story Board: After Hours. In that piece of the show, the folks that want to stick around can continue to chat about the subject in a more relaxed way. By which I mean we’ll cuss more and tell inappropriate jokes….

What do you think? Sound like a good plan?

  • “Who are all these other people?  What’s going on?”

You are on the internet, sir. Welcome. At the moment, you seem to be heartily confused. Bravo.

  • “Pat and Jim: You both seem to know a good deal about Fae/ The Faen realm. Did you obtain your knowledge through experience? Research? An outside resource?”

Um…. Pass.

  • “I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know who Emma Bull was until after this show. Since then I’ve picked up a copy of Bone Dance. I’m only halfway through and I can see why it won all those awards. I’ll admit I mostly showed up to see Butcher, but I left wanting to read Bull. Are you planning on having that sort of line up every time? Because that would be cool.”

Curses, you’ve uncovered my nefarious scheme.

Yes. My plan is to bring in an interesting mix of guests for each show. My hope is that no matter who you show up to watch, you’ll leave with the names of a few authors and books you’d never heard of before….

  • “Are you ever going to get on Twitter, Pat?”

Someday. But not today.

  • “You and your guests recommended a bunch of books at the end of the show. Is there a list of them somewhere?”

Yup. Over here on the Geek and Sundry forum for The Story Board.

  • “What are your future shows going to be about? And what writers are you going to bring in?”

Well that’s the real question, isn’t it?

I’ve got some plans already, and I’m talking to a few authors I know. But at this point, I’m still open to suggestions.

But today I’m going to break with tradition a little and ask you NOT make your suggestions here. In fact, I’m turning off the comments on the blog today.

Instead, if you have a burning desire to give us your two cent’s worth, I ask that you do it on the Story Board forum over at Geek and Sundry. It will be much easier for me to keep track of things over there.

Plus, if you post over there the G&S powers-that-be will see what you have to say, too.

See you later space cowboys….

pat

Also posted in Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, the craft of writing, videos | By PatComments closed
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