Thursday, November 12, 2009

Violent Knit Picking

Talked to my Dad today about our shared family trait. In the things that would be the tools of our work or recreation, we cannot tolerate flaw or blemish. For the past week I've taken a hard look at my Storytelling Sciences writing system. Specifically, the mechanical language surrounding violent conflict. The irony is that I've set things up to take too long, delaying the telling of the rest of the story.

My initial reaction was to do as I have always done. Delay my other works to make improvements to the core. Can't go having the flaw spread to the mechanical language of every world building project I touch later can I? After all I could reduce the number of interactions to resolve combat scenes by half, making it easier on my contributors. Certainly the idea should appeal to my minimalist nature.

So I lock down unable to do anything for two days contemplating a 60 page rewrite. Two perfectly good days lost because I gridlock over yet another edit. My own advice has always been that anything beyond five edits results in diminishing returns, and that any storytelling system is granted a measure of personality by its flaws. My system was supposed to transcend all that, be better somehow.

Worthless. I have to move on.

Because I cannot grapple safely with my own flaws, I can't tolerate them in anything else lying within my realm of influence. This gets in the way of my work. I can't have that. I have to let go, or find a compromise and quickly. Having no clear solution, possessed only of desire complicates things. Knowing a problem needs solved isn't even half the battle... and I cannot divine how I'm going to work this out.

So much for moving on.

Marking the sections that need revision made me feel better... somewhat. The peaceful elements of a story are so much easier to regulate, the variables being less chaotic... the results so much less final. Not every good story needs violence, but for the ones that do, orchestrating it properly is important. There are rules.

1. Keep it real. Violence shouldn't be portrayed with a theatrical flair. It isn't romantic, exciting, or fun - it's awful.

2. Respect the roles. Fictional depictions of violence should never glorify the aggressor or deprive the victims of their dignity.

3. Be concise. The reader will draw their own conclusions on how much something hurt without the author laying out every ounce of pain and suffering.

If only it was realistic to have two hostile parties resolve their differences... every time, without it coming to blows, my job would be so much easier.

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