I've noticed some recurring themes this year: excellent game systems, a multipurpose energy stat used in three stories, extra enters and no indentation, historical settings, some improvement in linking ideas into themes or periodic jokes (like from Penwarden with the hat falling off and from Lloyd with the Newtonian laws), and no editing after the first page or two. Only a few entries have ensouled writing like Banks's.
     Some stories demand the player to do almost everything. In The Sea of Sand, the final war requires many tribes on the player's side and an item assembled after visiting many areas. Even the second-worst ending in Alchemist's Apprentice requires arduous page riffling. These gamebooks work like a Rubik's Cube and can become draining. Alternatively, Instrument of the Gods strives for replay value. I prefer the latter because replays let readers decide how much of an experience they should get from a game. If you have to read nearly all of the sections, then it feels like a normal book read in a strange order with few mysteries remaining. Yet, it also feels fun to put oneself through a complex challenge crafted solely with pen and paper.
     Sometimes an entry makes a sort of promise but won't deliver, or it misguides readers. Watch out for that. Of course, every writing piece promises at least some clarity and presentable grammar. But apparently, in people's modern view, elementary school English has become the equivalent of fourth-year university physics. And yet, all the answers lie three seconds away with a google search. And no one looks them up. I find this all quite dystopic. Have western school systems gotten that bad?
     Yes, some writers need a date with Grammar Girl. Others need to marry her. I know people lack time these days to research the basics, even though one's writing can improve many fold in one afternoon of internet research. But at the very least, you can use a strategy my English professor once told his students (the ones who showed up): if you haven't studied symbols like dashes, semicolons, or parenthesis, then don't use them. No one will complain about writing that uses only commas, periods, and words. You can't lose what you don't risk.
     But above all, put your head up and the Red Bull down.

 


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