Exploration and Experimentation… or the writer as mad scientist

I don’t know if it makes me a good (read: dedicated) writer or just a bad student, but I tend to spend most of my time at work writing page after page of story rather than paying attention to my trainer. Though it’s all by hand so the going is slow, I finally finished the first chunk of story last week. Amazed that it was so short, I figured that I’d have to go back and throw in more details just to make the images more clear since I’m writing about things that people wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t normally see. (Honestly, how else does one write about the afterlife except by making it up?) So details are a must and I’m notorious for not putting enough in thinking that everyone can see exactly what I see when I’ve got a scene laid out on the page.

Imagine my surprise tonight when I looked back at the scenes in my head as I had written them out only to realize that the parts I’d originally intended to put in weren’t there. Not even a trace of them. This story is going to fight me, I already know it, but that doesn’t stop me. It’s just like a really stubborn video game stuck on hard mode. The story is worthwhile, the characters interesting for me to explore and the world is something that will take care to build and explore. It’s a challenge I look forward to finishing.

I can’t speak for other writers. I’m not them. But when presented with the opportunity to experiment with how I’ve written something, I sort of grin inside and enjoy the challenges presented to me. It’s like playing a game where there is no walkthrough or FAQ up to help you through it, so you’re exploring it on your own bit by bit and seeing how everything works. In a way, I miss when that was the norm, when it was talking to other people who shared your enthusiasm for that particular story and seeing how they handle it because they play differently from you and seeing if something that they do will work for you.

It’s truly… open-ended.

I am an Elder Scrolls fan. Readily admitted, though I haven’t had the chance to play Skyrim yet. I want to. I’ve also played both the first and second Deus Ex games. I fell in love with playing Morrowind and the first Deus Ex game simply because I could explore for hours upon hours and redo areas over and over again figuring out how best to do them for my unique play style. There was no “overall best” way to play when I played them, just the game, just a world to explore and figure out. Characters to tweak and re-tweak and play. Can’t play this area with this skill that low? Go someplace else and level it or figure out a way around that difficulty. And nobody told me how best to go about it, so it was frustrating but so very satisfying when I finally did succeed. What I miss about those games was the exploration and how organic the worlds felt. Despite the graphic not being anywhere near as realistic as current games, I felt like those worlds were a bit more real and enjoyable than the ones created now. It’s almost like the developers stopped caring about the story itself to a degree and focus more on the flash and pomp, though that isn’t to say that there isn’t a market for that. It’s just that I care more about the story and the motivation for going about doing one thing or another. But I’ve dragged this comparison out for too long. Suffice to say I enjoyed (still enjoy) the open-endedness I had in those games and treasure the hours upon hours spent exploring and experimenting.

Now, I’m sort of applying that to my writing. I have a scene, or even a set of scenes. I have what led up to them though that isn’t displayed to anyone but me, not even in the text itself. Now I’ve the time to go back and experiment, to make this scene work the best it can for me. Because at the moment, even if inspiration is derived from without, I’m not writing for anyone else – just me. Then again, for this piece, I suppose inspiration is only partially from without, mostly from within. Odd little thing that inspiration…

Anyway, back to work with me. *grin* Take care.

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