Last night I threw some thoughts together that, I admit, made only a little sense. Might have been that I’d had a hard day and my reflections were colored by a very poorly given interview or it might have occurred because my eyes were heavy and my mind muddled.
(And for the business dweeb who gave yesterday’s interview: software isn’t some mysterious Ark of the Covenant that’s going to melt your face when you open it–it’s a tool that is easily mastered by someone with 25 years experience. And it doesn’t matter if it’s coming from XML or a PDF: input is input. Leave the programming to the programmers and you continue doing whatever it is you do–which is very much the same things a chimp does. Okay, I’m ghost–)
I’ve told stories for some time now. Sometimes it’s on the written page, other times at the gaming table. But it’s always been about the stories. (As you can see here.) I like telling stories because it’s a great intellectual release and it gives you the chance to put yourself front and center and entertain others. (Or piss them off, but that’s another story–)
Now, telling stories at the gaming table usually meant being the Game Master, and that was and is an interesting gig. Gamers can be . . . emotional. Flip outs can occur at any moment, and can often result in furniture being overturned and fists flying. (The spillage of soft drinks and snack foods is a given.)
One of the things I always found interesting was how attached to a character a player could get. I’ve seen players cry when their character suffered an in-game death, leading to many a great future gaming story. I’ve also seen players throw their gaming books in the trash–which was probably a good thing all around, considering the majority of those players were assclowns.
Writers can fall into the same trap. You start in on creatin’ great characters, but they’re just your imagination. They ain’t real, it’s just shit you made up. And that might be true. I’ve seen enough bad stories and movies filled with people who vanish when they turn sideways, so it’s completely plausible.
Even so, there are stories about writers who get so tied up with their characters that when it comes time to do something very dramatic to them, they have a lot of issues pulling the trigger. Most people know all about the suffering J. K. Rowling endured when it came time to turn her young adult series into something akin to a snuff film (owl killer!); one of the stories I used to hear concerned why it took so long for manga artist Kikuchi Michitaka (aka Asamiya Kia) to finish Silent Möbius, and the answer seemed to be as he drew closer to the final confrontation, he didn’t want to do “bad things” to his characters (though I believe drawing all the ‘plody things in Dark Angel may have played a part–).
The more I write the more caught up I get in the characters I develop. I recently finished a story that involved a battle between my two main characters and several supernatural beings. As the battle progresses the characters get more and more messed up, and one gets maimed before it’s all over. The maiming isn’t that bad–like there’s a good maiming–but as drew closer to that point where I knew I needed to deal some damage, I discovered it wasn’t easy to bring the pain. In my mind the story could have turned into a real blood bath, but in the end I decided to take the story in a direction that allowed for one of the characters to see the world in a much different light–minus a few appendages , but what they hey, right?
My gaming character Kerry is having the opposite issue: he’s sharing a very nice love story with the girl of his dreams (literally), and sometime I find the story complicated to develop because I’m trying to bridge a generation gap this side of the Grand Cannon–and he is really, really, really in love with the girl in question; he just can’t express those feeling completely as of yet.
And it’s frustrating for me, as a writer and gamer, to keep that “can’t express yet” mode where I need it, because I know where the story is going. And to get to “that point” in their relationship is going to take time, and that’s time I really want to blow to right to now.
But to do so cheats the character, if that makes any sense. Because it’s hard to do massive jumps in a character arc like that and hope when you go back to create the back story Jar Jar Binks doesn’t jump out from behind a corner and go, “Meesa so happy see you!”
‘Cause if that happens I’ll be unhappy.
Not because I’ll have to smoke Jar Jar’s ass–no, that’s easy–but because what it does to my character is screws him hard. He’ll loose out on growing up. On all the strange things that happen to people at that age . . . and, oh, yeah, you can’t imagine how screwed up I’m gonna drive him. And, as well, there’s all the things that will probably break his heart.
It’s all going to hurt . . . not him: me.
But you know what? I’m used to suffering. So bring it.
It’ll be fun.