Tag Archive: writing games

Writing Gender-Inclusive Romance

For more than a year I’ve been writing and story editing a dating adventure game called LongStory. At the start of the game, players select their avatar and gender, choosing whether they want to be referred to as “she”, “he” or “they”. We don’t write different dialogue or storylines for different player genders. LongStory is written to be gender-inclusive.

What does that mean? Well, gender-inclusive or gender-neutral means using language that avoids bias towards a particular gender. This might seem daunting considering this is a dating game that includes romantic storylines, but it’s not if you follow these three tips…

#1 – Recognize Stereotypes

Unless you were raised by gender-free aliens, you’ve been conditioned to see people differently based on their gender, especially when it comes to romance. Heck, society conditions us not only to see people differently but to act differently based on our assigned gender. It’s important to recognize these expectations for what they are: stereotypes, not facts. Stereotypes such as “girls are more emotional” and “boys don’t talk about their feelings they act on them” abound. While some boys may not be comfortable talking about their feelings, some boys are. And vice versa; not all girls want to engage in lengthy heart-to-hearts.

#2 – Identify Your Biases

Here’s a test for you: write a romantic scene between two characters (boy-girl, girl-girl, boy-boy, agender-bigender, etc), then switch up the characters’ genders. Does the scene still make sense? If you don’t think it does, ask yourself why and identify the lines you’ve written that you think are more one gender than another. Are the lines stereotypical? If so, can you make them more well-rounded or original? If the lines in question don’t evoke specific stereotypes, what is it about these lines that makes you connect them to a certain gender? Figure that out and you’ll have identified your own biases. Now challenge those biases. Instead of concluding “a boy would never say that,” consider the type of person, regardless of gender, who would say that. Write for character, not gender.

#3 – Find Commonalities

We humans tend to focus a lot on our differences, but if you’re writing gender-inclusive romance, you need to zero in on all the things we have in common. This doesn’t mean making character dialogue bland and generic, it means developing characters based on their personalities not their gender. Do not fall back on stereotypes. Stereotypes are simple shorthand and the opposite of well-rounded characters.

Now, you may be thinking this is all well and good, but Heather, why would I ever need to write a character whose gender is unknown? To that, I first say — why not? That’s an interesting character! The second thing I would say is that with the increasing popularity of narrative games, more writers are finding work writing dialogue and storylines for players who could be any gender! Bottom line, being able to write gender-inclusive stories has become a valuable skill. And I’m proof…

A couple months ago I interviewed for a job as Lead Writer on a video game in a genre I love but in which I don’t have any actual paid writing experience — a virtual reality sci-fi adventure for adults (I usually write comedy and/or romance for kids and teens). The game sounded awesome and I wanted the job so bad, though I worried I didn’t have the right experience to get it. However, the producers want a game where players not only pick their gender but also the gender of their in-game spouse, and the fact that I had written and story edited a gender-inclusive game was a big plus in their eyes, so I got the job! Yay!

Do you consider gender inclusivity when you write? Have you ever written a gender-neutral character? If so, or if you have any questions, let me know in the Comments.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/writing-gender-inclusive-romance/

We’re Back! + Writer Career Brainstorming

Happy New Year! Hope you had a wonderful holiday season. We certainly did. We really, really, really needed that break! Heather was all like, “Wake me up when 2016 is over…”

And Robin was like, “Yeah, 2016 beat me up pretty bad… but I’m still standing!”

Politics aside, 2016 was for me (Heather) a year of constantly questioning my career path and exploring my options. I began on a high note, with a new freelance gig writing an educational game, a part-time job as a freshly certified gymnastics coach, and a hopeful grant application (for tips on applying to grants, check out this post). But a few months in things were looking bad — the educational game didn’t pan out, coaching gymnastics was hella stressful and required a lot of out-of-gym work I’m not paid for, and I didn’t get the grant. But just as I was resigned to wallow in a pit of despair, an old TV friend asked me to write some episodes for his new show, Opie’s Home, and I returned to work on LongStory, but this time promoted to Story Editor! Alas, it’s inevitable in the freelance world that all good gigs come to an end (that is the nature of contract work), and by fall I was again wondering how I’d to pay the bills while also having time to work on my novel.

Enter CAREER BRAINSTORMING. What was my next move? Get back into TV writing? Start a copywriting business? Or go back to school?

What was I going to do in 2017?!

I met with friends and colleagues to discuss those options. The first two are doable, but don’t leave time for me to work on the novel right now. The third option (school) is the opposite of making money, but the best idea for finally getting a darn book finished! And the novel is still my priority.

So while WriteOnSisters was on a blogging break, I decided on my path for 2017… I’m going back to school! I’m applying for a post-grad Creative Writing program with a good track record of successful published authors. As for money, this month I start a part-time job writing another awesome video game.

I’m looking forward to learning a lot this year, from school and from writing video games, and I’ll be sure to pass the knowledge on to you guys now that the WriteOnSisters are back to blogging every week. With that…
And if there’s anything you want to know or want us to blog about, tell us in the Comments!

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/career-brainstorming/

Weekend Coffee Share – Grilled Cheese & Gaming

If we were having coffee, I’d have you over to my house so I could chat and clean at the same time. I have to get ready for our biannual Grilled Cheese Party!

Sandwich build table - Look at all those fancy grilled cheese ingredients!

Sandwich build table – Look at all those fancy grilled cheese ingredients!

This is also a birthday party since my boyfriend and I are both May babies. Birthdays are a great excuse to see friends, though I’m sad that I need excuses, but that’s my own doing. I’m so obsessed with finishing a book that I’ve become uncharacteristically antisocial. To that end, I plan to steer all party conversations towards what everyone else is up to… or cheese. I don’t want to talk about me. Hopefully by the next party I’ll have some novel news to share.

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I’ve started a new gig writing a dating/adventure game called LongStory. This is my first gaming script and I’m learning all about story variables and branches. Once a friend asked me how I kept everything straight that happened in my novel, and I shrugged and said it wasn’t hard. However, a game where the player gets to choose between multiple options that affect the direction and outcome of the story, all of which have to be written separately but also intersect, that is a challenge! And I’m really enjoying it!

If we were having coffee I’d also tell you that blogger and writer Melissa Barker-Simpson challenged me and Robin to some freestyle writing. This, I admit, is not something I’ve ever done. I am a plotter through and through. However it sounds like a fun challenge – write for 5, 10 or 15 minutes without stopping or editing. Melissa gave us a topic, but I have not looked at it yet because that’s part of the challenge – you can’t think about what you’re going to write before you write it.

I was going to do this challenge today during coffee, but alas, I’ve run out of time. Plus I need to go buy butter. Grilled Cheese parties require a lot of butter! But in the near future, Robin and I will surprise you all with a post featuring our freestyle writing! Stay tuned!

And with that, I must bid adieu. Unless of course you’re staying for grilled cheese. 🙂

coffee2

If We Were Having Coffee is a blog hop inspired and run by the lovely and talented Diana at Part Time Monster. Please drop by her place for coffee. You can also see what other bloggers are up to by checking out the hashtag #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/weekendcoffeeshare-grilled-cheese-gaming/