Sunday, October 19, 2014

Covering All The Bases

"Recompense" is well over 70k words now, even after I went back and excised a fair chunk. Things are smoothing out, so I decided to relax and do some gaming. The idea was to unwind and let my brain rest. Get it off writing for a while and just kick back. Naturally, since I usually play either RPGs or shooters with strong RPG elements, I got involved in analyzing the story line of a quest that my character was given.

How does this relate-connect-apply to novel writing? Bear with me.

Nothing wrong with the game's quest on the face of it. A priest had lost something while exploring an old ruin, and wanted my character to go fetch it. About as standard and routine as a quest could possibly get. But...

There's a problem. This is one of those games with multiple dungeons, and you never know which dungeon is going to be randomly chosen for the mission. As soon as he got the assignment, the hole in this approach became clear. And there is no excuse for this kind of thing, given the abilities of modern hardware. Back in the days of 8 bit or 16 bit processors, it might have been understandable. But games are sophisticated enough now that it shouldn't happen. This was simple sloppiness and getting a product out the door before it was properly finished.

Not only was it far too high level for my little character, but there was no valid reason for a feeble old priest, who was doddering along on his last legs, to be down at the bottom of a hellhole like that in the first place. He never would have made it down there to lose his whatchamacallit to begin with. Plus, the priest didn't offer any advice, didn't offer any protective amulets, or anything else. Just instructions to, "Fetch it."

Now we get to where this ties in with novel writing. I have read more than one novel where the protagonist, or some other major character, was jammed into a position because the plot called for them to be in a certain place at a certain time, and the author plainly didn't bother to think it though. They just yanked some excuse out of their backside and stuck the character in the right location, then went back to the main plot line. This. I. Not. A. Good. Idea.

A storyteller has to think through ALL of the details. Small things matter, most definitely You might be astonished at how anal retentive some readers can get about even the most minute points. But in the process of polishing and straining at gnats, we can't let the camels wander through the tent unobstructed.

Everyone looks at a story through the lens of their own life experiences, and everyone notices the details that they have been trained to look for. An editor or a teacher focuses in on the typography, sometimes even to the point of glossing over serious plot holes. A free spirited artist reads a story and criticizes it for not being avant-garde. Someone who likes "literary" works will complain if a character is not introspective enough.

But *everybody* notices if your protagonist marches off to battle without his rifle.

Post a Comment