I spent the morning eating French toast and writing fiction with some of the Fairwood crowd. It still feels odd to do writing in the semi-social setting of a table full of laptops and chatty authors, but I could get used to it. My project there was a short story, which is now almost done, though it has taken a few unexpected turns. The second draft will have to flesh out the bones.
Afternoon: Game Design and Art Orders
I worked on game design and realized I have at least one major issue for the second draft of the superadventure. I have three weeks to fix it.
I also wrote most of that strange beast called an art order. An art order is just a set of somewhat detailed text suggestions for the artist. Mind you, I've never studied art history and I can't sketch worth a damn, but my art orders are supposed to contain art reference, suggested action, and even background detail. I go to town on these things, inserting graphics from the WotC online gallery, offering other sources, trying to pick all the right scenes. I have no idea whether I'm any good at it.
My writeup of what might make a good painting, drawing, or other illustration may be about as helpful as, say, the typesetter's suggestions on how to write or design a thrilling, well-paced adventure. You'd have to ask an artist.
So why do writers and game designers wind up telling very talented artists what to draw? Partly it's because we know where the "good parts" of the adventure are, and can describe the characters. But honestly, an art director who read the text would do a better job of writing an art order. I suspect that Hasbro is, essentially, too cheap to give their own art directors time to write the art orders.
Net Result: In game publishing, unlike in fiction, the writer may sometimes dictate what's on the cover, and *definitely* determines what's in the chapter opening illustrations (if any), and what's shown in the spot illos and monster portraits. I even dictate the size and orientation of the images. If anyone's interested, I'll share some of the art order details from Frostburn or the current project, and you can see how text turns into graphics.
My philosophy is to keep the art order short, to give the artist maximum flexibility. Anything that the artist brings to my relatively simple suggestions to elevate it beyond the mundane is, frankly, not my area of expertise. If I over-describe it (and I've seen art orders that attempt to shoehorn clothing details, poses, lighting, everything), the result is usually an over-directed mess.
I guess I've become a bit of an art director over time after all.
Evening: Magazine Rewrites
I watched the Oscars but mostly I revised a feature article for Paizo during the commercials. The revision involved a lot of looking at maps, straightening out doglegged prose, and bleeding red ink while listening to Jon Stewart's gentle mocking of Hollywood. Since the Oscars ended early, I suddenly have a couple hours free.