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Fiction Bugs
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Yesterday I finished writing the game I was working on and stuck the file up on my website. A Walk At Dusk . Now I have to wait and find out if the game runs for somebody other than me. I dabble in these computer games as a break from writing books, but in one way they're exactly like fiction -- as an author you're too close to the work to see the flaws.

For me the game runs smoothly. I can get through it in a few moves, and every command I type results in an appropriate response. When I tell the game I want to move "east" along the path, it obliges and doesn't send me south. I can "look at" the window of the house and see what's inside. When I "place the board across the stream" it creates a bridge in my text world. No bugs, in other words.

Unfortunately, players refuse to play games the same way as the author. Instead of looking at the window they'll "peer into" it, and won't see anything because the author never thought to account for someone typing in "peer." Another player will foil the author by trying to "span the stream" with the board," and back on the path someone is sure to try to go "southwest" which crashes the game entirely, but the author never realized that would happen, because he never tried to go southwest because he knew it wasn't necessary.

Fiction can have similar "bugs" that are invisible to the author. You can become so used to the plot, to the way you've instructed your characters to play out the story, you don't notice when it makes no sense. You keep sending your characters east when most people would think they should go southwest. So the reader won't believe the characters really would have gone east and, for them, the book crashes. In a mystery, an unbroken trail of clues might seem to lead to the murderer, but a reader may see gaps, which the author, knowing the outcome, bridged without thinking.

So even writing a game about a summer stroll to take my mind off the winter isn't entirely relaxing. What's worse, since we are expecting sub-zero temperatures and a snowstorm tomorrow I reckon I finished too soon.

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