If you’re anything like me, you find it easy to edit, criticize, and improve other people’s writing, but not your own. And the blurb is annoyingly difficult to write, yet so important. I thought it would be nice to have a place where we could post blurbs-in-progress for IFComp (or any reason) and get some feedback on them/help with them.
If you’re too shy to post a blurb here, PM it to me and I’ll take a look.
I’m going to be brave and post my blurb here for dissection. I’d love some suggestions on how to make it better.
Margaret, are you grieving Over Goldengrove unleaving…
Unrequited love, jealousy, violence, betrayal, vengeance. Come home to Goldengrove, a beautiful old house haunted by a lost soul trying to uncover the terrible secrets of her tormented past in this gothic family mystery.
What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed is a puzzle driven, parser-based horror story with a limited, nonstandard command set.
A few questions- although I’d welcome any and all feedback:
1.) I’ve begun the blurb with 2 lines from a semi-famous poem (which is in the public domain) without attribution, because attribution here would ruin the flow. Tacky, or OK?
The poem is attributed in the game.
2.)I’m not sure about the phrasing of “limited, nonstandard command set.” The game uses emotions as verbs, which are the only commands you can use in the game. Is this an adequate description?
3.) There’s a place in the IFComp submission form for a content warning. My game contains child abuse. Do I need to list that here, or will the content warning be really visible? I want to disclose it, but don’t think I want it repeated over and over.
Public domain shouldn’t require attribution, so I’d say fine.
I would suggest something along the lines of “unique command set” to play it up as a feature instead of the negative connotations of “limited” and “nonstandard”.
The text you type in the content warning field on the IFComp form will be visible in the game’s listing. If you don’t want that or it’s spoiler-y, you can just say “see content warning in game” and then make sure that the first screen of the game notifies the player how they can read the CW. If it’s parser, put a notice to the effect of “Type WARNINGS for details of potentially troublesome content in the game.” or a link on the title screen if it’s choice.
EDIT: As Mike Russo points out below, CW are most at home in the ABOUT section of a parser game, but it’s a good idea to notify the player that they exist: “Please type ABOUT for more information about this game, including content warnings.” for good measure.
I think it’s most helpful to put CWs in the ABOUT text, unless there’s a lot of them or they need a bunch of context – that way players are more likely to see them, since ABOUT is pretty standard and they might not notice the less-standard WARNINGS prompt.
If you’re curious about how the game’s info will be displayed on the IFComp site, by the way, once you register your game and start filling out the info, there’s a preview link available that will let you see exactly what it’ll look like on the page – I’ve found it super helpful!
I’d also echo Hanon’s responses to the other Qs – I think the quotation without attribution is fine, and using the word “limited” might make folks think of so-called “limited parser” games, which I think play a little differently than yours does and would probably create inapplicable expectations.
Overall the blurb is really good! And thanks for starting the thread – after I workshop some possibilities for mine a little bit more, I might take advantage of the opportunity too.
A lot of what I’ll say is kind of nitpicky and I’ll preface it by saying I think the blurb basically works and of course you should follow your own instincts and feelings about your own writing; I’m just giving impressions and suggestions in the hope that they’re helpful. But it’s your writing and you should of course do what you believe to be best.
I think that even a poem in the public domain deserves attribution, especially on the reader’s first exposure, which the IFComp blurb will be for many people. It’s a proactive disclosure that signals authorial honesty (and, frankly, helps potential players to set their expectations about the game before it starts). If you’re worried about disrupting the reading flow with an em dash and Hopkins’s name, I think that can be ameliorated: indenting the whole quote a few tab stops (even if that has to be done with repeated non-breaking spaces), helps to signal to the reader that it’s not the main subject of the blurb and helps the reader’s eye to skim past it and get to the more substantial part of the blurb. Indenting the attribution a little further than the poem itself might help with this, too.
I think that the sentence starting “Come home to Goldengrove” is a better first sentence. “Unrequited love, […]” belongs there, too, but I think that opening with the basic premise helps ground the blurb in concrete concerns, and that opening out from there to the more general situation (“Unrequited love, jealousy, …”) would be a good move.
I think, too, that the sentence “Come home to …” has less force than it might because of its long chain of modifier phrases: “Goldengrove” is modified by the phrase “a beautiful old house,” which is modified by the phrase “haunted by a lost soul,” and the phrase “lost soul” is modified by the phrase “trying to uncover the terrible secrets”, which is specified by the prepositional phrase “of her tormented past.” That’s not to say it’s not intelligible – it is – but I think that it crams a lot of ideas into a sentence by going down a rabbit-hole of subordinate clauses. Maybe that’s appropriate for a ghost story, though? In the sense that it structurally mirrors what a lot of ghost stories are doing. If not, though, it might help to try to rephrase using active-voice present-tense indicative verbs.
Extra nitpicky: “a puzzle driven, parser-based horror story” is short one hyphen. “puzzle-driven” is a compound modifier in the same way as “parser-based.”
Anyway, I’m already looking forward to playing it.
Hehe, the rabbit-hole… I’m always writing multi-clause sentences, so I’m always trying to find ways to break them up and move the weight around.
If I were me, and I am, and I wrote this, which I didn’t, but it’s the kind of thing I’d write – I know I’d try chopping the sentence with a period in the middle –
Come home to Goldengrove, a beautiful old house haunted by a lost soul.
Then I’d get that remaining bit and see if it works if I just throw away some of the adjectives. It’s slightly tricky here, because the ‘lost soul’ makes it third person, but I might just forget about that and go with an imperative call-to-action:
Come home to Goldengrove, a beautiful old house haunted by a lost soul. Uncover the secrets of a tormented past in this gothic family mystery.
So I already think this is pretty good. This has been an example of a typical strategy of mine – chop up with periods, chop more adjectives, re-weight what’s left.
I understand Amanda doesn’t want to speak positively about his own creation.
As I’m only a little newbie betatester I have to confess that this is the most original, intriguing, beautiful and sensitive game I have played before.
I agree with the idea that “less is more”, speaking about chooising carefully words to introduce a text game, couse game is indeed a text game.
I like the blurb, and it makes me excited to try the game. I agree that it reads better without an attribution for the quote, and I think that’s okay. It helps that I love Hopkins, but if the quote was unfamiliar, I think it would still work. I sometimes find unatttributed quotations (as long as they clearly look like quotations, which this does) rather enticing - they spark curiosity.
(Query: Does Curses ever actually cite T.S. Eliot?)
Hanon makes good points about the middle paragraph. It’s interesting what different effects you can create just from changing the punctuation, which actually means changing the rhythm. E.g., try this on:
Unrequited love, jealousy, violence, betrayal, vengeance - come home to Goldengrove, a beautiful old house. Haunted by a lost soul, try to uncover the terrible secrets of her tormented past in this gothic family mystery.
Thanks! Good suggestions. Right now I’ve tinkered with the word order so much that I’m dreaming about those few wretched words, so I’m a-gonna give it a rest for a day or two before tangling with it again. Who knew this would be the hardest part?
I love finding Hopkins fans everywhere. Since I was a sprout I’ve felt that this poem was perfect for a ghost story, and here I am doing it, and probably botching it, but hey, first game and all.
Side point: blurbs are very worth thinking about, because sometimes changing part of a blurb makes me realize something big-picture is worth changing. Or I realize my game doesn’t quite live up to my blurb.
At any rate, I’ve found even a blurb you know is bad is important to have. It’s something to improve. A good blurb, of course, is something to live up to.
I’ve been reading this topic with interest thinking about my own & I bet I am not the only potential participant lurking here. I’m glad the anti-publicity rules have been relaxed so people can openly discuss things like this.