Category Archives: Writing

Escape Room Narrative: The Teaser

As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold…. When Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things.” Howard Carter

As a kid, I was a pretty big King Tut nerd. Perhaps to an unhealthy degree, but I couldn’t help it. Like millions of others over the decades, I was fascinated by the discovery of the boy king’s tomb and the stories, both mysterious and controversial, that came out of it.

Fake curses and British colonization issues included…

One of those stories was the moment Howard Carter, an archaeologist desperate to find a rumoured tomb of an almost forgotten king but on the brink of running out of funding, literally stumbled upon a set of steps that, when cleared, would lead down to the now famed tomb. He called his funder, Lord Carnarvon, immediately to come down.

And when they reached the sealed door of the tomb, Carter cleared away just enough of a gap to be able to stick a candle through. And when he did…he got a glimpse of the “wonderful things” mentioned in the quote above.

BR6AK1 Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor in Egypt in November 1922. Image shot 1922. Exact date unknown.

The next few days he and his team would be hard at work to fully open the tomb in all its glory. Of course they would have done so regardless if Carter had glimpsed the treasures beyond. But that glimpse, that small teaser for the excitement that awaited him, most certainly must have fueled his excitement and imagination.

In narratives, reveals are tricky to figure out. How much of a major plot point or grand setpiece do you reveal to an audience? How much do you hold back? How much do you tease? Too little and your audience might forget or lose interest in the story. Too much and you’ve given away the best parts of your story or world far earlier than you should, and the audience loses interest in the rest.

Escape Rooms like to play it safe. A lot of money and energy and time and blood and sweat is put into set pieces. Why would you spoil the fun by showing these big reveals earlier on? And so players are often kept in the dark until the great big “Wow!” moment when all is revealed in a grandiose transition.

But what if it went the opposite way? What if you teased the big reveal earlier, gave the players a bit of a taste of what’s come? Does it ruin the surprise? Or…will players, much like Howard Carter putting a candle into a tomb, be fueled by the brief glimpse of the treasures that await them?

Video games do this more often than you think. Showing an area that looks enticing but is otherwise inaccessible does two things to the player:

  1. It gets them excited for what’s to come
  2. It gives them a clear goal: this awesome place is where you want to be. Figure it out.
Games like the Uncharted series does this very well

I recently did a room in Montreal that incorporated this idea wonderfully. Alas, I cannot spoil which one or what that reveal was, but I can say that shortly into the game we came into an area with a gate in front of us. Normally it would not be a gate. It would flat out be a door, solid and sturdy, blocking our view of what lay beyond. But we could clearly see through the gate in this place.

The designers helped keep the bulk of the mystery intact with some clever use of lighting. We could see there was a big, exciting room beyond, but much of it was shrouded in shadows.

This was at least a good 5-10 minutes before we actually got through. I did not feel deflated. I did not feel like some surprise had been ruined. Instead I thought “wow, this looks insane! I really want to get I to that room and see what else there is.”

Sure, we were obviously keen to finish the room regardless of what was shown to us, that small teaser helped further fuel our resolve and excitement.

So the next time you are concerned about your players seeing too much too soon, consider the value of teasing a big setpiece. That’s not to say holding everything back until the right moment does not have any effect. Some of my favourite rooms had a sudden transformation.

But sometimes even just a small tease can help convince your players that it’s very much worth going through these puzzles to get to the really great stuff. And it will make the eventual true reveal that much more thrilling. Give them a glimpse of the gold. Then let them excavate the rest of the tomb.

Night at the Speakeasy Post Mortem

Well, after four months of planning, practicing and stressing September 19th came and our speakeasy event finally happened! And it didn’t crash and burn! Quite the opposite! It was a rousing success!

Two weeks later, my brain is somewhat recovered from the insanity of it all. It seemed like a good time to finally get some thoughts down on the evening. My previous blog post dealt with the actual creative process of writing for an interactive medium. This post will deal more with how the actual event turned out. Read the rest of this entry

Simian Showcase Post-Show Report

On Saturday the Bride of Simian Showcase closed. It couldn’t have gone better (well, other than a couple of minor hitches along the way but the sort that come along with every theatre show). I was there for every performance and never once got sick of it. The audiences were fantastic, the plays were solid, and Errol ate a microphone. For serious.

But by now...I'm sure you're not all that surprised.

But by now…I’m sure you’re not all that surprised.

I have to say, it was a different and weird and wonderful experience watching my play being performed. I haven’t been writing long, but up until now everything I have written has always been performed by myself in some capacity. This time though, after spending time crafting the characters, hearing them in my head, and imagining the look of the play, I was handing off my script to a group of people to make their own. Read the rest of this entry

Fragile

Sooooo…I am known as somewhat of a worrier.

Just for tradition's sake, here's a good reference photo.

Just for tradition’s sake, here’s a good reference photo.

I worry about what I say to others. I worry about my worthiness. I worry about creative projects that might fail. I worry about my job, what I will eat, who I will hang out with, how unclean my apartment is, how squirrels look at me… Read the rest of this entry

Chronicles of NaNoRebel: IT’S OVER!

Well…here it is…

It is currently 10pm on November 29th…and I…have finished writing my NaNo project.

THIS is the chart I built in Twine for our time travel game. There are 47 different endings.
script1script2script3script4script5script6script7Script8script9And this…is what I looked like after…complete with celebratory bubbly and crazed, hollowed out eyes that make me look about ten years older than I am…

Let me tell you, it's an experience to hang out with me in tired skull state

Despite the incredible exhaustion I’m feeling now, despite the fact that I’ve never been so excited not to have to write anymore, I am feeling extremely happy and accomplished. It’s a wonderous feeling.

Thanks for joining me on my NaNoRebel journey, folks. It’s been quite an adventure. And with any luck, the adventure will continue with the game!

 

Chronicles of a NaNoRebel: So close…kill me now

This is my coffee table right now:

Yes, that is a can of nutella and parmesan cheese. I have taken to eating condiments now.

Yes, that is a can of nutella and parmesan cheese. I have taken to eating condiments now.

My eyes are having trouble staying open. My work day is occupied by this single thought: “Oh god oh god why am I updating bank accounts and not writing. I am so…so very sick of writing these timelines. Read the rest of this entry

Chronicles of a NaNoRebel: Full Time Jobs

There are many, many creatives in the world. There are painters and musicians and actors and writers and directors and web designers and video editors and game designers and so many more that I am probably missing.

Some of these creatives work full time as creatives. They work hard to promote themselves in order to get paid for the work they do. And if they are lucky, they get to make careers out of the work they are so passionate about.

Like this dude.

Why hellooooooo Neil Gaiman!

This article is not for them. Read the rest of this entry

Chronicles of a NaNoRebel: Distraction and the Dulls

First things first! It is Week 4! That means there’s a new ML update!

Note: You will notice a lack of pictures. Pictures take time. And in November, time is at a premium, so I am forgoing the hunt of amusing pictures to distract the ADD brains of the 21st century. Apologies.

Unlike Val, I am further than 500 words, but alas, I am still woefully behind at 31,000 (I should be at 36,000).

There are a couple of reasons for this. First is that I have these things called friends. Friends who I like and who like me and who lament when I go MIA which for the past year or so has been…always. Read the rest of this entry

Watch “ML Updates: Just Keep Writing!” on YouTube

In lieu of Dining and Dating Errol and I have been making fake ML Updates from Rick and Val, two characters in the NaNoMusical to celebrate NaNowrimo. Here is the latest one! I am feeling like Val is appearing right now.

Chronicles of a NaNo Rebel: Everything sucks.

It is the midst of week two for NaNoWriMo. Tomorrow marks the halfway point. I’m slightly behind but not terribly so. I have 22,000 words. That’s nothing to complain about. Sure, it’s a hodgepodge of blogs, articles, scripts and novel-style storylines, but they’re my 22,000 words and I should be proud of it.

Read the rest of this entry