Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing Character Dialogue

First off, I should state upfront that I'm a technical writer by trade. That doesn't give me any particular advantage when it comes to creating Wherigo cartridges. It simply means that I have an appreciation for writing for the verysmall screen, namely, the Colorado, Oregon, and PocketPC units.

If you ask me, characters are an integral part of the Wherigo experience. I've had cachers write nice things about some of my characters in their logs. It's hard to imagine they would say the same thing about items or tasks.

Here's a few principles I use when creating character dialogue. Many of these apply to zone and item descriptions as well.

1. Keep it fun. In "Closing in on D.B. Cooper!", the player encounters a large pile of cash. If they click the "Take cash" button, the following message appears:

Suddenly, your cell phone rings; it's your Mother. You drop the cash instantly. "Mom, I'm working on a big case right now, I'll call you back later."

2. Keep it short. Two to three sentences is plenty.
3. Refer back to previous events whenever possible. Any mention of actions (take item, leave item, etc.) serves to tie the whole cartridge together.
4. Consider how different characters interact. Sentences like "Forget what that detective said, I witnessed the crime." add to the narrative.
5. Throw in the occasional non-response. Something like "Sorry, the maid doesn't speak English." is a fun diversion from the expected.
6. A summary at the end of the cartridge may be useful. Have a major character explain what happened and throw in a few twists or surprises for "atmosphere."

Parting thought: Writing good, short dialogue can take a cartridge from mundane to memorable.

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