Hay Festival #3: Rhianna Pratchett on Writing for Games

I’m back from Hay Festival, the campervan is unpacked and I’ll be posting my favourite snippets from the 10-day literary event over the next few days. First up, Rhianna Pratchett in conversation with Guy Cocker.

Rhianna Pratchett

Rhianna Pratchett: A Narrative Paramedic

‘Fifteen years ago when I was a games journalist, no one talked about narrative,’ said Rhianna Pratchett to a multi-generational Hay audience. Even today writers in the games industry, she said, were seen as narrative paramedics. ‘It’s only when a story is bleeding so badly that someone will say, “We really need a writer.” A lot of projects out there are like that.’ In general, writers were brought in too late because the industry failed to appreciate how much they added to a project. “There needs to be a narrative logic so that players actually care.”

Rhianna Pratchett is perfectly placed to comment on writing for the games industry. In 2007 she was a BAFTA nominee for her work on Heavenly Sword and she won a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain script award for Overlord. She’s also known for developing the voice of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Read more

Hay Festival #2: Will Self and the Out-Sourcing of Violence

Will Self

Will Self in conversation with Sarfraz Manzoor

Will Self always pulls a big crowd at Hay and this year he dished out a sizzling mix of wit and venom, plus comic banter with interviewer Sarfraz Manzoor. In a (literally) terrific performance, he read from his latest novel Umbrella. As he later explained to the audience, Umbrella is the completion of a trilogy that follows ‘the outsourcing of violence’ in modern times.

He said Umbrella’s main character Audrey Death – a post-encephalytic patient in a London asylum – embodied the impact of technological developments in the 20th Century. In 1908 Henry T Ford built his first industrial production line, said Self, and in 1914 this new wave of industrialisation transferred to the trenches creating a production line of death. Read more

Lydia Davis

Hay Festival #1: Lydia Davis Booker International Winner

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Lydia Davis: Novels simply take too long!

‘I do love the basic Anglo Saxon vocabulary,’ said US-writer Lydia Davis at Hay Festival. The remark was prompted by a question from the audience (Why do you write so many single-syllable words?) Davis continued: ‘I do like the Latinate, too, but Anglo Saxon is the language of great emotion. “I am so mad.” “You are so wrong.” When to use different registers of language is an interesting question. The story itself makes the choice.’ Read more

Ugly Fonts Help Proofreading: M J Hyland

Here’s a great tip from M J Hyland, author of This is How and lecturer in creative writing at The University of Manchester. In a nutshell, she says:

Printing off your text in an ugly font will make mistakes show up more clearly.

The online magazine writing.ie expands on Hyland’s observation by quoting New Scientist’s explanation of how the brain reacts to different fonts.

Also according to M J Hyland:

When you’re actually writing, fonts can be a really useful visual way of distinguishing between different works or even sections of the same piece – sometimes if I’m moving between two projects (if I’ve just finished a first draft of something and am moving back to a previous project to edit, or if I’m taking a break from a novel to work on a short story) I put the two projects in different fonts so that as soon as I look at the screen I get a sense of which ‘voice’ I’m in.

I’m definitely going to take the advice on Ugly Fonts. Let me know if you’ve tried this before. Which is a good Ugly Font?

I realize I’m already doing as Hyland suggests with her second piece of advice. I’m currently redrafting a short story that I’m going to give away later this month. I’m writing this short story in Century Gothic instead of Times New Roman, which I used for drafting A Calculated Life. And the different font does put me in a different frame of mind.

 

More Punctuation Malarky: A Crisis of Commas

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A passing remark on The Guardian Books Blog cost me dearly in woman-hours in the run up to Christmas. Blogger Alison Flood reviewed a self-published novel to test whether the online praise for the book was justified. (Mary Campisi’s A Family Affair – not my own cup of tea). I won’t present Alison’s conclusions, only her first comment:

First up, the commas. She employs the scattergun approach.

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In praise of novels without neat conclusions

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Here’s a great article in today’s Guardian Books Blog by Lee Rourke. I couldn’t agree more and I love novels with fractured narratives.
Here’s one point that Lee makes that I particularly like:

Life isn’t like the narratives that make up the majority of novels in circulation today, or like the well-rehearsed scenes we enjoy at the theatre, or in the movies. It’s more complicated than that: steeped in confusion, dead ends, blank spaces and broken fragments. It’s baffling at times, annoying and perpetually open-ended. We have no real way of predicting our future. So why do our novels have to tie all this stuff together, into a neatly packaged bundle of ready-made answers? Something doesn’t ring true.

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Why did I even begin to write this novel?

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It all began . . . at the turn of the millennium when, after I’d recovered from the celebrations, I read a long review in The Guardian‘s New Year edition of Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. His predictions were a wake-up call. He imagined a future when humans start to merge with technology, that is, when wealthier humans boost their brainpower by way of neural implants (welI, I can see the upside, who wouldn’t? Imagine being fluent in seven languages…).

Kurzweil argues that it’s absolutely inevitable that the next step in our evolution will involve cognitive implants. By the year 2099, he says humans with neural implants will be unable to hold a meaningful conversation with humans who do not have them; the divide will be too great.

This was seriously scary stuff, or I thought so at least. I was already looking at the dividing line between humans and machines in my art practice, but Kurzweil’s predictions really unnerved me. Read more