Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Game Design Special: The Feel Document

This is a special post, dedicated to one of the elements I talked about at Metatopia, in my workshops and most recently in my Jennisodes interview. The 'Feel' document is NOT my original creation, but it is a useful tool.

What You'll Need For This:

1 piece of paper, legal pad, Word document or similar
1 idea
1 pen
1 favorite beverage

Let's do this.

Step 1. Title your Feel Document At the top of the page, put the name of the idea you want to write about. If you're writing a game, call it the name of the game. If you're doing this about a character in your screenplay, use the character's name. Try to avoid calling this "Feel Document" and then assigning it a number. It's impersonal, and easy to lose focus that way.

Write it large enough so that you can see it. Use 36-point font at least if you're typing this out.

Step 2. Consume part of your favorite beverage. This is really hard work.

Step 3. Start writing. 'Start writing what?' you ask. Onto this paper, into this document you're going to pour ALL-NON-MECHANICAL thoughts related to the idea. In any order. In words. In phrases. In full sentences. Key here is the idea that this isn't where mechanics go. (If you're writing a novel or screenplay, then you replace the word 'mechanics' for 'plot')

The paper should have things like:
  • Descriptions of the setting. (If you're creating the feel of your world)
  • Adjectives that players would use to describe the game (again for the feel of the world
  • Words to describe characters (if you're using this for characters)
  • Any idea that develops the atmosphere, tone or evokes a sense
  • Sample dialogue
For example, if I'm writing a novel about a lumberjack, my Feel Document looks like this:

Chops of Doom
  • Burly
  • Plaid
  • Lots of sap
  • Tall trees
  • Women's clothing
  • Mounties
  • Cold weather
  • "It'll be a cold day in hell before I use a chainsaw."
You want to keep plot and mechanics out of this document, because this is more about developing the creative side. You want to be able to draw scenes and compile an evoked experience from this document, so that as you're writing, and you get stuck, or when you come back to this project after a break, this document will snap you right back to the vibe you want to put down on the manuscript. 

Note: Plot and Mechanics get their own documents, which I'll likely cover later.

Step 4. Have some of that beverage. 

Step 5. Finish the beverage! 

A Feel document is a living reference tool, you can come back to it and expand it as the need arises. And you will discover that as you pursue different avenues of thought, a lot of the planning and ideas you started with will change. That's okay. That's a good sign. The issue is when start changing the Feel document more than the manuscript.

Things To Remember
I. This Feel document is just for you. You don't have to share this with other people, and it doesn't have to be "perfect".
II. This Feel document is NOT set in stone. It's going to grow and develop as the story does, so don't think it has to be 100% complete before you move onto the next step.
III. When you get stuck, whether in writing, mechanics, plot, pacing or whatever....come back to the Feel document. The words here will help get back into a better creative mode and you'll find your solutions.

Happy writing.