Play Unsafe was not what I expected - not what I was promised when I read the back of the book. I wanted information about Improvisation, tips and triPlay Unsafe was not what I expected - not what I was promised when I read the back of the book. I wanted information about Improvisation, tips and tricks for keeping things going. What I got was a set of proscriptive guidelines that in many cases seemed to be simply the author's personal taste presented as set-in-stone rules.
Taken as suggestions for trying new things, some of the material presented wasn't too bad, though it wasn't exactly novel. I'd never heard the idea of building drama by starting during an 'ordinary' routine called a "platform" before, but the name he gave it was the only new thing about a very common idea.
The real problem with the book is the tone it is written in, and the fact that it is simply incorrect in places. He states that true drama can't be created without the platform technique, that starting amidst the action doesn't work. However, beginning a story in media res is not only a very common, very useful storytelling technique, it's arguably a more dramatic way to begin things. What better way to challenge a player and build a fascinating story than to start him or her in the middle of a difficult situation and allow them to narrate not only how they got out of it, but what got them into it in the first place. It works well in novels and stories, creating a sense of mystery as we wonder the why and hows of the situation, and it can work just as well in games.
The short of it is, I didn't get anything out of this book at all. It is full of a lot of platitudes (play unsafe! If something scares you, do it!) but you can get that from countless blogs and any number of self-help books. This book claims to help you improve your improvisational skills, but all it actually does is tell you to "do it." To me, less than useful. ...more
How you rate this book, I think, depends primarily on what you expected when you sat down to read it. Lets clear up all confusion by starting off withHow you rate this book, I think, depends primarily on what you expected when you sat down to read it. Lets clear up all confusion by starting off with what it -isn't-.
This book is not: - A how-to guide on the nuts and bolts of writing. - A how-to guide on getting published. - A how-to guide on growing potatoes. - A how-to guide. - New.
This last I think is particularly important to understand, Scalzi maintains a very popular blog that I myself have read daily for several years now where he covers topics ranging from his own work and the work of his friends to the politics of the day. It is well written, broad of topic and always entertaining. (He once taped bacon to his cat you know.)
Scalzi on Writing is a collection of posts on writing, or tangentially about writing, taken from the archives of this blog and arranged and edited to make a book format. This is not to detract from the book itself, it is arranged to flow very well and the articles are top-notch, but anyone who was expecting new material will be sorely disappointed.
That said, much of the material included dates from before I was a Whatever reader and so was new to me, so I didn't find this an issue. Some of the material has dated, some quite amusingly so, but on the whole this remains a useful book for any writer's shelf.
So what exactly is it about? It is divided into sections, each somewhat thematically linked, but what it is on the whole is a series of essays focused on the life of a working writer. He covers a variety of topics from how he supports himself and his family (it isn't with his novels), how much a writer can expect to make (not enough for that yacht you've got your eye on), how the publication industry works (blood sacrifice and virgin writer tears) to, my personal favourites, writers/publishers behaving badly. (Plagiarism, Dishonest vanity publishers, scams.. so much fun.)
It's not a large book, but there is a lot covered in the accessible, light-hearted manner that Scalzi's blog-writing is justifiably famous for.
The only thing that was missing was a picture of his cat....more