Beythilda the Night Witch

Poetry is a hard, hard discipline, one that places an incredible number of demands on a relatively small volume of writing. Everything about every word counts, and small flaws are magnified; you have to be very, very good at poetry before you stop being bad at it. And poetry is a uniquely vulnerable form, blending the emotional directness of music without the cover of abstraction. (If a pianist slips up, their mistake looks like a mistake, nothing more. It doesn’t look as though they’re saying something that they didn’t mean.)

Conveying information to the player in an IF game is also a hard task for a writer. A lot of different functions have to be packed into a small space: the impression of a physical space needs to be generated and sustained, the significant particulars of that space have to be defined in a clear and memorable manner, likely modes of interaction need to be suggested but not shouted, the personality and immediate motivations of the protagonist should be conveyed, and every other demand normally imposed by good writing still needs to be satisfied.

And when IF and poetry are combined, things get more constrictive than either medium. Narrative poetry, for instance, can often afford to be long-winded; the poet has the freedom to leave the narrative aside to pursue some extended simile or draw a moral about a broader point, or otherwise spend a good pile of verses focused in on something of more importance to thematics than to the plot. There is not much room to do this in IF.

So choosing to write IF as poetry is a tremendously brave decision, particularly in a format where very little time is available for reworking. And it’s non-trivial that Beythilda is so functional at delivering core IF needs: I was never confused about the general situation of the character, the progression of the story or plausible things that I should be trying. I had a strong enough sense of my surroundings to feel grounded in a world.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Sparkly IF Reviews | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
  2. Gabriel Murray
    Nov 25, 2012 @ 02:10:00

    Everything about every word counts, and small flaws are magnified; you have to be very, very good at poetry before you stop being bad at it.

    Ain’t that the truth! Seriously, poetry in a nutshell, and why I don’t really write it. /perpetually late to the party

    Good review!


    • Sam Kabo Ashwell
      Nov 25, 2012 @ 17:42:49

      It just now occurs to me that the only poetry I have put out in an IF format is attributed to a fictional author, is only a fragment, and is about how not to write poetry. That is some high-grade cowardice right there.


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