Monday, January 20, 2014

A New Fictional Structure?

I used to think structure meant a huge-ass, heavy outline that had more pages than the final novel and was basically a ginormous waste of time.

Go ahead, laugh.

It's all right. I learned my lesson. I converted, became a structure disciple, in fact. And I am a die-hard, in the camp of planning it all out (or at least those golden plot points) before hand author.

But then I got thinking about gamers.

I believe that film affected plot structure in a big way, you see. I believe that authors have had to speed things up, blow things up, in order to keep an audience that has become used to a cinematic film structure. Okay, maybe not all authors. There are some Austen fans out there who still go in for witty dialogue. The point is, in general, fictional structures have evolved.

I like evolution a lot, but it has a pesky tendency to keep going...usually just when you get comfortable where you are.

Now I'm watching a movie with my Gamer nephew, a movie that I'm thinking is a bit odd, quirky, out of line, and he suddenly sits forward, eyes glued, and whispers, "boss battle." Ahhhhhh. Mind blown.

When gamers get together, they don't talk about cheats and keystrokes and treasure (well not first) anymore. They talk about plot. I've heard them. They talk about the new Mass Effect (sequel!) and the character arc and the love interest and factions and things I have NO IDEA about.
But I recognize it. This is "word of mouth" happening. This is gripping, engaging story that spreads fandom like wild fire.
And it has migrated in a big way to MMORGs and RPGs and things that go beep beep beep BOOM.

It still happens with books, sure. And with movies, oh yes. But even at writer's group, the fannish talk often turns to the latest release....of a video game.

And they have a different story structure. I'm almost sure of it. It was that familiar structure that my nephew responded to. I don't know if anyone has mapped it, (outside of the game writers, that is) but I have this little whisper of suspicion that somebody should.

Maybe it involves leveling up and equipping and boss battles.
Maybe the final villain/climax should always be destroyed only to immediately morph into a BIGGER and MORE EVIL final boss.
I dunno. But I should.

I think I should.
I think I need to study a little....just in case.

Because where the masses go, is where they are comfy, and that is where there OH JOY. I LOVE THIS AND MUST TALK ABOUT IT TO EVERYONE buttons are pushed.
I suspect we should be paying attention to this.

Even if it scares the bejeezus out of us.

game...or write...on.


Jaleta Clegg said...

Interesting take on story structure. I think I need to play more video games...

A big piece of gaming structure that is really hard to incorporate in novels is the non-linear story arc. You don't go from A to B to C to D in a straight line in most games. You can start at A, go to C, go back to A, try out D, finish C, repeat A again, then go to D. Someone else will choose a different path.

I'm not sure I can wrap my head around a non-linear narrative as a story structure. Games allow the gamer to create their own unique narrative as they play. Listening to my kids discuss games adds a whole new dimension to what I thought was a pretty simplistic story. They layer their own story on top of the bare bones of the game story.

I must ruminate on this more...

Frances Pauli said...

LOL I'll ruminate with you. Interactive, non-linear story terrifies me, but I understand the appeal. (holo-decks for all)

I'm more interested in the key moments or plot points that might be consistent to each game.

I've seen more and more films that end in a parallel way to a game's boss battle. I'm curious if those things will wander into books as well.

Michael Baker said...

Yepp its all about the love man... and the gear. Got to have the cool gear. it's a mix of both visual like movies and reading like books. Its like those old choose your own adventure books. well I followed that path and I ended up dead. sigh guess I'll need to try another. I love all the formats both reading and games but I tend to to the game storylines these days.