nonlinear storytelling

October 21, 2007 at 8:22 pm (fiction, gaming, meta, rant)

okay, so this is going to be a bit of a rambling rant of a post. feel free to skip it if you have no desire to hear my (rather unorganized) thoughts about nonlinear storytelling. well hell, i figure everyone can feel free to skip ANYTHING i post about. after all, the majority of it isn’t really earthshaking news.

but i’m getting off topic.

lately i’ve been thinking a lot about nonlinear storytelling.

i think this started because of a thread over on the story games community. it started as a discussion about whether or not advancement is necessary in a campaign-style role-playing game. it got me speculating about a game in which, instead of doing the tradition “zero-to-hero” or “farmboy-to-king” kind of storyline, you did the reverse. at first i was thinking about a game in which the character or characters started at the peak of their power and declined… but then i started thinking about a game that would be more in the style of the movie Memento.

for those who aren’t familiar with Memento (and if you aren’t, get out there and rent it! now!) the movie begins with the final scene. we witness the ending of the story, but we don’t know how the characters got into that situation. then, the movie goes backwards, scene by scene, until we’ve seen how things began.

i think this would be a really really cool thing to do in a role-playing game, if there was a good system to use for it.

then, i got to thinking about this supposed novel i’m working on. it wasn’t too long ago that i was meeting with my advisor and we were talking about it, and i said that i wanted to write the end to the story so that i knew where i was aiming. i said that i was concerned if i didn’t have a destination that the novel would just ramble without direction. he said that he’d heard some authors say that if they didn’t write the ending first (or early) they could never finish a book. he said he’d also heard authors say that if they wrote the ending early they would never bother to finish the book.

as always, writing is a pretty personal thing. everyone has their own way. but i did a little writing last night and started writing what is either the end of the book or at least a climax towards the end. and i started thinking more about this idea that if you know the ending, there is no reason to write the beginning. i think it seems pretty strange. i mean, i was making up all kinds of crazy stuff when i was working on the ending. i decided that a character i was writing about a week or so ago was dead (or at least that another character BELIEVED her to be dead) and that all kinds of horrible things were happening to the world.

BUT i hadn’t yet determined how things had come to that point! i mean, it would be as if i was going to read the last Harry Potter book (which i probably will do at some point… i’ve read the first 6 after all) and someone told me that Harry dies (i actually have no idea if he does or not, please note) at the end. i’d still read the damn book because i’d want to know HOW that comes to pass.

in other words, the journey is AT least as important as the destination. why do i care how things end if i have no idea where they started or what happened in between? without being able to see the entire thing, the ending would lack depth and meaning.

so. hmm. i’m not sure where to go with this now. :) except that nonlinear storytelling is nifty. structure is important, of course, and the way most people are used to understanding a story is linearly, but there’s no real reason this is truly required. knowing “the ending” early doesn’t have to ruin anything, not when true comprehension of the story requires experiencing every point along the way. does it really matter in what direction you travel the path as long as you see all the sights along the way?


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help me out!

October 20, 2007 at 1:15 pm (announcement, nonfiction, personal)

progress on my novel has, frankly, been pitiful. i just have NOT been working on it nearly as much as i should have. but now that my t’ai chi class is done, i will have much more free time on tuesdays and thursdays so i have even less reason not to work on it.

i am going to make an promise to myself to work on it for one hour every day.

but i suck at keeping myself honest about these kinds of things, so i’d like your help.

if you talk to me, whether face-to-face or on the internet, ask me if i’ve done any writing on my novel yet. if i say no, tell me to get on it.

seriously, this would help me a lot! please harass me for my own good!

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all i wanted was dinner and philosophy notes

October 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm (news, nonfiction, personal)

the time: october the 8th, 2007, about 3:30 in the afternoon.
the place: the campus of st. ambrose university, davenport iowa.
the question: do i hang around campus for 3 hours, being hungry and trying to study until my night class and continue being hungry until i get home at about 9:30, or do i go home and get food?

sometimes i’ll just suck it up and be hungry. sometimes i’ll buy food on campus. that day, however, i realized that the main thing i needed to study (my notes for history of ancient philosophy) was at home.
this made the decision.
i would go home. i would eat, i would study for my upcoming test, i would go back to school for class.

the time: 3:45 pm, the same day.
the place: the intersection of jersey ridge road and 53rd street.
the question: what the hell just happened?

i’m going home. no problem. i’m want to go by my bank and through the atm to check my balance. so i head north up jersey ridge road, intending to cross 53rd street and take 65th street over to utica ridge. as i’m heading up to the intersection i see that the light is solid green. awesome. i don’t have to wait. but then someone starts turning left from the north side of the intersection, from jersey ridge onto 53rd. i have to break a bit. i’m cursing at the stupid, selfish jerk a little, but it’s no big deal.
what IS a big deal is the car right BEHIND that person that is ALSO turning. i slam my foot down onto the brakes but it’s too late. bam.

the driver of the other car was a 16 year old girl. i’m still not sure what the hell happened. if she just wasn’t paying attention or if she was distracted by her cell phone ringing (i think she said something about that afterwards) or if she was following too close on the tail of the big, black SUV that was right in front of her and didn’t see me, or a combination of all of those things.

all i know is this sucks.

detailing anymore of that day is probably unnecessary. i was fine, physically, and so was the other driver. my car was ruined, however. i don’t know or care what happened to hers.
i think that, possibly, the following two weeks were worse than the accident itself. dealing with the insurance companies, looking for a new car. all very frustrating, stressful, and depressing.

fortunately, it’s mostly all over now. i have another car (though it wasn’t my first choice… that one got bought out from under us) paid for (mostly) with the settlement, which seemed pretty fair and reasonable, all things considered.

i never really did get much of a dinner, or any studying done.
but i did fine on the philosophy test anyway.

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