Service offered: Interactive Narrative Consultancy

This is something I’ve been doing off & on for a while, but realised it would be worth formalising the concept.

I would like to offer my services consulting on interactive & genre narratives.

“From experience, I can assure you that Sean has both a serious interest and a deep insight into game mechanics.”
Magnus Hedén of Spiritmask RPG

Whether you’ve got an RPG adventure you’re running or a ruleset you’re writing, whether you’re writing a horror novella or a sci-fi play, I could help you eke out the greatest narrative resonance from your story.

Who is this clown?

Well, I’m not actually a clown. But I am a magician.
That means I spend a lot of time thinking about what each audience might expect and how to achieve & manipulate that.
It means I’m used to thinking about objects & the interactions between them in different ways. No-one thinks about cards like a magician does.

I’m a writer: primarily speculative fiction, like cyberpunk or noir. I like building from and subverting genre expectations. I’ve written about the similarities between roleplaying and medieval oral culture.

I’m an interactive narrative & games designer, from building silly games to modules for published systems. I’ve consulted with mindreaders about card games for oracle cards, written specialist GM advice for indie behemoths and spoken on villainy & antagonism at a monthly videogames conference.

What can I do for you?

  • I can solve problems you have with interactive or static narratives.
  • I can help you understand the core conflict within your narrative.
  • I can highlight & clarify the emotions your game mechanics will promote.
  • I can simplify & refine unwieldy systems or stories.

What do I care about?

I like players & characters to have agency – the ability to visualise & enact narrative consequence.

I like brevity & clarity.

I like people to be social & to promote their ability to tell stories.

What is my fee?

I’m taking a leaf out of the book of someone I greatly admire. My standard initial consultation fee is the price of a cup of caffeine. Buy me a coffee & we’ll talk through your needs. If you envisage needing a longer conversation, you can buy me lunch. If you’re in a different country, we can do PayPal & Skype.

From there onwards, we can arrange further services according to your needs. But for many people, that little nugget of insight will be all you’ll need.

Email me today at SEAN at BOOKSEANSMITH dot CO dot UK & we can arrange a coffee.

What are people saying about this?

“Thanks for all of your advice, and your assistance. You’ve been a huge help, and it really helped me re-structure a lot of the rules, explanations, and organization of everything. Your feedback was invaluable.”
David Schirduan on Mythic Mortals

“I think these [ideas] are, no contest, the best feedback I could get from this project. Thanks :D” —Sangjun Park

Service offered: Interactive Narrative Consultancy

Pointedly making friends

“How do you know so many people?” is a question I often paraphrase from milady.

It usually comes after I’ve commented that I’m pestering people I know at different media outlets to promote my show, MIND WHAT YOU READ, or something similarly networky.

Networking is often a phrase that’s bandied around by people asking you to ensdorse them on LinkedIn or as a euphemism for getting plastered and fucking a colleague’s plus-one. Regardless of these toxic connotations, it really is a process that I think a lot of people would do well to consider.

This guest post from Mike Underwood on Chuck Wendig’s blog hits the nail on the head and in a much more succinct manner than Keith Ferrazzi’s brilliant and only slightly too American Never Eat Alone. Suffice to say, it matches my philosophy of the matter quite nicely.

13) Making Friends Is the Best Marketing


Make friends with other writers. Make friends with writers a step or two ahead of you in the career path you want to follow. They may be able to point out potholes or problems that could be ahead, problems they’ve just had to deal with in their own path. Make friend with writers who are in a similar part of their journey to where you are. Critique and workshop one another’s work, support one another, and build a cohort for mutual support. Make friends with writers who are just starting out, who maybe need to learn the lessons that you’ve already learned. Help them through the parts of the journey which were hard for you. Pay it forward.

Make friends with artists, with designers, with publicists, with agents. Learn about the other parts of the business, and learn what to expect from other parts of the business. Learn what people in those roles need from writers, and then be that writer when you have the opportunity.

Pointedly making friends

Coming soon: CON’S PRIAL

As I’ve spoken of not long ago, I’ve recently taken to writing a fair amount of games. What’s more, last week was objectively my most successful week for games design – I became a finalist in the Game Chef design competition and
I was paid for my writing for the first time, specifically to write an adventure module for the Patron edition of Grant Howitt’s CULT OF OSIRIS.

From this, I’ve learned two things.

ONE – I’m quite handy at coming up with interesting premises and compelling concepts; both Contempt for the Ogre Poet and Parisien Tempest have been applauded for having good stories.

TWO – I’m bad at writing rules. Now, Contempt was concepted and written over nine days, but still I gave all these rules for “here’s how to do shit” and only in the penultimate paragraph said “here’s what the shit does”. I need to front-load my key details more. Especially the whole “how to win” bit.


I’ve done a little research on “how to write rules” and found this on Numberless to be the only decent one that really addresses my needs. (If anyone has some great guides, please recommend them.)

It’s odd, because as a teacher I give instructions every day. I’m usually pretty good at explaining things in person. Maybe I just need to imagine I’m actually talking the rules through as I write.


I’m going to combine three games I’ve been variously working on for a few months into one package. The package (ebook) will be called CON’S PRIAL, and is made up from the following games. Watch this space!

1. CONJURORS! It’s the turn of the nineteenth century and you scrabble to create the greatest magic show the world has seen.

2. CONSTITUENTS OF R’LYEH. The MP for Innsmouth and Grimwater has been dismissed; you stand in the by-election and need to win without succumbing to the whims of the Elder Gods. Cthulhu plus politics.

3. CONTEMPT FOR THE OGRE-POET. There is no book in the fiefdom, not since the ogre-poet came. You have three days to complete a strategy that will prevent the inhabitants of Easthaven from being eaten.

Each game is designed for a pack of cards and two or more friends. I’m really excited to put them all together.

Coming soon: CON’S PRIAL


A text message from an old friend* today has prompted this, in that she has started a new blog, for which any of my readers who enjoy listening to anecdotes possibly containing tea / baked sweetstuffs** should most definitely wend their way. I’m not going to paraphrase its contents any further than that and instead let it speak for itself.

Nevertheless, I am always interested when people restart things, most usually because I find myself doing the same far too often. There are loads of things I enjoy that for whatever reason, I have stopped doing as often as I should. Towards the end of a period of letting things fall to the wayside, I tend to find a build-up of tension and a desire to do any of these things (currently: running, fiction writing and blogging). I feel that I really should do this again, and feel bad for not doing the same.

Although often I just don’t do it.

I’m not entirely sure why, and I don’t necessarily even want to dig too deeply to find out. Talking about the waysided projects seems to have an interesting effect in both releasing the tension but simultaneously deepening it. It’s like scratching an itch.

But there are times when you need to just do it. I can’t tell if I will do so now or not, and really even this is just a case of scratching in itself, unless it is symptomatic of the end of the current dearth.

Life’s been a bit rocky recently, with lots of changes and not a little amount of stress. Added to that, it’s getting towards the end of Year Eleven’s education, which brings with it its own additional pains. I don’t know if I’m necessarily using this as an excuse, because it’s not like I’m actually too busy to do anything. Just lacking in motivation. (Actually, it’s something I can see in a number of my elevens at the moment…) What I do know is that there’s a well of tension within me at the moment that reaches up and bubbles over every now and then, and that I don’t know how to syphon it off is frustrating. I don’t know if these creative and physical projects will do that, or if there’s nothing tangible that I can do. I’ve had similar upwellings before, but this one doesn’t seem to be swayed by Hammerfall.

* She’s not that old, especially considering that I’m older.

** Whilst no nuts are included in the recipe, cannot guarantee nut free.


Rejection, onwards!

Today, I received a letter from Black Static, the address written in my fair hand. Of course, the first response was a flutter in my chest and a quiet, upbeat, “Ooh!” The second response was to lever the edge of my keys under the flap and tear the aperture apart. I’m not sure if I directly expected the form rejection slip within, but I think part of me always did. (Another, more optimistic part, thought that the bulkiness of the envelope was caused by a lot of cheques rather than the advertising leaflet within.)

I’m not surprised, and I’m not saddened. I have read far too often that rejection is the most common bedfellow of the early writer. Conveniently, I seem to have internalised that straightforwardly enough – but I think I’ve always been oddly good at this: somehow mildy impervious to rejections from Oxford and UCL, much to the annoyance of my then lady.

There’s nothing more that can be done, so onwards.

Two paths beckon.

The first is the most simple. Keep on writing, keep on sending. Rejection slips are proof that work is getting finished and read. A readership of one is better than an unfinished manuscript, and I’d be more arrogant that I’d humbly admit if I expected 100% of my readers to enjoy my work. To that end, I need to finalise “Phage” and I need to actually write that steampunk Macbeth.

The second is a forked path, and where my dilemma lies: I could send “The Trees” and “Not a Bedtime Story” to another market and hope for publication and success. (I’ve been told by people whose readerly opinion I trust that they are of publishable quality, even if they’ve yet to be sold.) Or, I could save time submitting to markets that I’d need to find and spend that on new creation. Really that makes the most sense.

So what to do with these finished stories? I’m loath to let them rot in a digital fortress until they gain sentience and lose sanity. I don’t want to self-publish them, because I’d have to spend creativity time on making a good looking e-product. I had thought of combining a few of my similarly mythosed stories together. I still may.

The most likely option is to give them away, but the precise howness I have yet to decide. Really I ought to use the opportunity to gain a proper mailing list like Writing Magazine keeps telling me I should. That would require the software and the investment in actually writing a newsletter of sorts beyond the intermittance here. Is it worth it? Or shall I polish them into simple PDFs, put the download links here and elsewhere, with the links back to the site and the suggestion that people pass the e-papers onwards?

Either way, onwards.

Rejection, onwards!



As I write this, I am seated on a train headed to Canterbury, for the first time in a long time, to see an old friend, and am sad that tablespace on trains is now so lacking to be inexistent.

Earlier in the week, my ratings went up, and stayed up, rather well. Much of this I attribute to the regularity of posting so that new material reared itself* almost every day.

My good friend and fellow academic Byrnsweord tells of similar success when the situation is the same.** Indeed, the sheer wealth of Post-a-Day and Post-a-Week attempts suggest that the lifeblood on the intertubes is fresh content. New replaces and succeeds old.

I decided explicitly to not attempt to post every day (like my other*** friend Laura did). I think I would find the regiment stifling. While I ascribe to Mark Rosewater‘s belief that restriction breeds creativity, I don’t think this manner of enforcing sets me up in the right mood. I once tried a weekly blog, and failed by the third.

So, how do I counteract this entropy? Regarding the blog, I tend to self-propel now. I’ll find myself pre-blogging in my head, and not being able to shake it until the words are out. Regarding fiction-writing, I have a guideline that if I didn’t write yesterday, I must today.

I didn’t yesterday.

* I am aware that writing of it in this way suggests it should be self-propagating.

** Ooh, assonance.

*** I have three.



Hello all.

I am currently writing a more fully synopsis (read: plan) for my novel, As Yet Untitled, for which I spoke about the major characters’ names yesterday. The snowflake method I am following states that after this section is complete, if I have been published before, this would be a good point to sell the novel. Alas, I have not been.

Nonetheless, I feel that it is probably something that my readers would be interested in seeing. Essentially the tale is of Irgard and his bringing about of Ragnarok, set in a world largely inspired by Nordic myth.

Is this something you would like to see?

I need at least three responses before I will release the synopsis, and I would like some justification.*

* Just like I request of my students.