John Mørke Speaks!July 28, 2010
I am deeply honored to be able to present today’s post to the Exalted community. John Mørke, perhaps better known as “hatewheel” from the Exalted forums, has consented to an interview. I know I’m a huge fan of his work, both as an Ink Monkey and as a writer for published products for sale. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have a couple conversations with him on the forums, and I think I managed to keep from squealing in unbecoming glee either time. Without further ado, I give you my interview with John Mørke.
Octopoid: First, for the readers, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
John Mørke: I am John Mørke; student, writer, and freelance writer for White Wolf’s Exalted. I’m also an Ink Monkey.
O: Can you tell us what products, specifically, you’ve worked on?
JM: Glories of the Most High (author), MoEP: Alchemicals (concept design, editing, playtesting), Scroll of Exalts (uncredited writing), Return of the Scarlet Empress (contribution of ideas).
O:Can you describe for us the specifics of being a freelancer for White Wolf? What does your job typically entail? Do you find yourself writing more mechanics, fluff, or something else entirely?
JM: Lately I’ve been writing more mechanics. I started out writing setting material primarily because I am a writer and prose is my foremost strength. Having gotten to work with [Michael] Goodwin and [Holden] Shearer, the most prolific mechanics on the line, I have graduated to the point where I’m handling errata and writing Charms. I took an authoritative lead on the Dreams of the First Age Solar errata and I have engineered Lunar, Sidereal, and Dawn-specific errata, all of which will be forthcoming. I’m also working on the final part of the Daystar, reformatting it a little bit to fine-tune some of my concepts. I don’t like the term fluff, though. It seems derogatory and dismissive.
O: From what sources do you tend to draw your inspiration?
JM: Everything. I have read countless books. Sorry I don’t have a juicy answer. There’s nothing I could point to and say “that’s it, that’s what makes me be.” I don’t tend to hold inspiration in that high regard. I “do” because there is no other choice.
How do you invent new material for Exalted? Is there a specific process you follow to determine what the game needs, or do you rely on inspiration striking to develop your contributions?
JM: I’m a pattern self-starter so there’s usually no moment of inspiration. I simply think about the game. My ideas usually come from imagining story scenarios, setting material, and character dialogue. I would suggest that 100% of my Charm ideas come out of imagining how they would work in a story. I’m different from Nephilpal and Holden in that way. I start with the story—what story does this Charm tell? what does a character look like when using it? then I proceed back to mechanics. Because I have such a different approach, my angle on it has been valuable to giving feedback on Charms written by the other Ink Monkeys, because I often see things they wouldn’t have seen, because I have such a different approach. My analytical style leads to the writing of a lot of Charms they wouldn’t have come up with, because I begin at the conceptual level and they typically do not. Sometimes inspiration does strike, when I’m reading a thread, watching anime, playing a game, reading a book, or even doing research for class. This doesn’t always lead to a Charm, but it might resurrect old or ongoing processes—ideas under construction—with a new spark of life.
O: Who would you say are your favorite authors or writers are in the gaming field? What about your favorite artists or designers?
JM: I’m not aware of many writers in the gaming field. I admire the works of Jenna Moran. In terms of artists, I fairly enjoy Mel Uran’s work.
O: Can you tell us a bit about how you first got into freelancing? What advice would you offer to others who might be looking to follow in your footsteps?
JM: It’s not an exciting story. Holden, through a lot of diligence, contribution, and mechanical skill, convinced Neph to get him on in on projects. Holden, having known myself since the mid ’90s, and being more familiar with my writing chops than anyone else, automatically thought to get me involved with Exalted. And myself having played Exalted on and off since around 2003, jumped at the chance to get involved. My advice to those looking to get involved in freelance writing—write Charms. Write them well. Post them on the forums. Comment on the state of the game, form opinions on the mechanics, be vocal. I know of at least two freelancers who are paying attention to the forums, and we do discuss the things people post.
O: What is your favorite material from Exalted? Your favorite Exalted type? Why?
JM: Hard to pick. I’ve read so much Exalted material it is hard to summon it all to memory. What stands out, at least on this reading, is the 1e Sidereal Charm set by Borgstrom, and the 1e descriptions of the constellations and their meanings, by Grabowski, both in the original Sidereals hardback. I feel to-date, Sidereals’ original Charm and constellation info more thoroughly explains them as an Exalt type than any other information printed about any other Exalt type. True I do not agree with everything written therein, but I am absolutely impressed by the trend Borgstrom set. I appreciate that her Charms start with meaning and then proceed to effect. It is a mode that speaks to me. I have no favorite Exalt type, though. I’m an advocate of whatever I’m working on. Right now that appears to be Solars; a month ago it was Sidereals; a month before that it was Lunars. It’s coming back around to Sidereals and Lunars again.
O: What would you say is your favorite part of freelance writing? Your least favorite?
JM: My favorite part of freelance writing is entertaining myself with my ideas. It’s always amazing when I come up with something that’s really clever, wonderful, exciting, and I know I’ve got my hands on a concept that is going to turn heads and drop jaws. I know that whenever I have managed to surprise and delight myself, most of the fanbase is also going to be surprised and delighted. My least favorite part of freelancing is the snowball effect, where we fix or add something, and get demands, either self-imposed or from the fanbase, that we fix or add ten other things. Hard to deal with when you work for free. I guess my real least-favorite thing is the lack of contracts. I hope White Wolf starts moving out new Exalted products, and I hope that they consider me when doing so. I’ve done quite a lot of free work in the name of keeping Exalted going in the long and empty space between publications and I’m not ashamed of my hope that I’ll be recognized for it.
O: Finally, what message would you want most to give to frequent readers or forumites, given your position as both freelancer and frequent forum-goer?
JM: If you like Exalted, keep supporting Ink Monkeys. Even if you don’t agree with everything we do, taking the time to discuss your ideas, state your arguments, etc., contributes to the life of Exalted. Most of all, mail White Wolf and let them know that you like what we’re doing. Be specific as possible and make sure you include our names. Mine, for example, is John Mørke (ALT+0248).