Wednesday, August 11, 2010

OOC: What may come

I hear in my mind all of these voices
I hear in my mind all of these words
I hear in my mind all of this music

And it breaks my heart;
And it breaks my heart

When writing stories, there are two opposing forces that must be balanced to make a story successful.

  • You need a plan – a plot, some idea of where things are going. Just jotting down random words untl you reach 600 pages' worth of "stuff" is rarely a best-seller (I'll avoid some obvious jokes, here).
  • You need to "listen" to your characters. Forcing a character to do something that is not consistent with the rest of the story undermines them, as well as other characters and possibly the whole story. Just because there is a fixed story arc does not mean that your character has to follow a fixed path to get to it. On the other hand, you can't let style get in the way of story (David Lynch, I'm looking at you).

One of the first examples I remember in this regards is the writer J. Michael Straczynski, who famously (or notoriously) penned the science fiction TV series "Babylon 5". The reason it comes foremost in my mind is that he was one of the first series writers to so enthusiastically embrace the early internet and share his writing process with the fanbase.

As a result, we ended up with insights into his writing process. Yes, he had an overall five-year story arc. At the same time, he'd run into situations where his characters would influence the story in surprising ways, and, rather than resist, he let the character "speak" to him.

Voices in his head, as it were. :)   And yes, he practically used that metaphor.

Over the years, many writers that I respect have shared similar insights in a public forum. They all express it differently, of course, but in the end it boils down to the characters themselves often driving the story in unexpected directions.

I offer no pretentions when I mention this, but I do try to emulate that outlook with this blog, when we get into character-y sort of stories.

Take, for example the recent "origin" story for Illume. I had a few ideas on her origin, but once I got Grimm and Illume into the room and started writing their "scripts", some surprises emerged. For example, Illume actually forgetting that she could make her own food and drink when stuck in the wilderness. Has it happened in-game? Yes, it has. But until her story started to unfold, I had completely forgotten about that – and then, "well, sure, that makes perfect sense."

Also, the act of writing the stories are, in fact, a treat for me, because I get to learn new things about them. The idea that Jasra might *pouf* into shadowform when she got really angry, for example, or Faiella's going into hiding once she was liberated from Arthas – these were elements I did not anticipate. 

That makes me wonder, if "real" writers get the same thrill when things come together in the right way. If maybe, that's what keeps them going.

There have been times when I wanted to pull the plug on this here blog and walk away from it; when the "community" enraged me and I couldn't find ways to express myself in any way that wasn't hurtful. Times like that make it all seem pointless.

And yet, there are so many stories yet to tell, and I look forward so much to getting them out there, just to hear the voices that they use to tell the stories. Illume's story's only begun; Slithmere will face a trial that may break him; Amus has yet to prove himself in a way he finds satisfactory – will he get the chance? I want to find out for myself.

For all of the toons, I have a general "plot". I know where they are going, in general. These plotlines are ripening, each to be revealed when it is ready – and readiness, in these cases, will depend on the character telling me when that is.

And right now, I'm looking forward to it.