The Hard Questions

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The Hard Questions

Post by Nekron on Sun Jun 19, 2016 7:55 am

We've all been through this in English class, but I find startlingly few people giving it consideration when writing their nanos. Themes. Messages. Ideological underpinnings. You might shudder at those words after being forced to look for the meaning of life in a description of a piece of toast. But the truth is, even if you haven't consciously determined it, you are saying something, whether you intend it or not. Even if the story consists of nothing but cool adventures - which is perfectly valid - simply by structuring your story, deciding who wins, who loses, how and why - you can't avoid telling the reader something.

If Frankh the Barbarian is the hero of the story and gains the upper hand over the villain in physical combat (and this is treated as a good thing), you are saying, more or less, that might makes right. If your heroes save the day by destroying an artifact that grants its user unlimited power, you're saying that no one should have access to absolute power, not even the nominal good guys. Even G R R Martin, in whose work there are no straightforward heroes to be had, does this: for instance, there is a pervading message that sometimes it's necessary for people to put aside their differences to fight a greater threat. The point is, there's no escaping saying something with your story.

So, here's a question: what do you think you are saying? How do the characters' motivations play into this? What do they learn at the end of the story? After you look carefully at your plot and identify your over-arching themes, do you find that those themes are important to you? Why should they be important to anybody else?

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Re: The Hard Questions

Post by AGradine on Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:25 am

Themes and messages play a large part of my novel planning process. While I don't typically want to come across as too pedantic, I'm a big believer in the school of thought that if you have something to say, you should come out and say it. No need to beat around the bush. As TV Tropes would say, Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped. This is a big part of why I normally write in Horror, which I find to be a genre given to moralism (and one which in generally audiences are more open to being moralized to). But while most messaging in Horror utilizes the fear, guilt and shame common in the genre to drive the point home, I try to subvert that as best as I can; that fear, guilt and shame lead to negative outcomes, and that always buried in the darkness is a kernel of hope.

I've yet to perfect this method, sadly.

Going into this project I didn't expect to lean too much on any kind of theme or message. I really just wanted to make a fun adventure for people to play in D&D. But I didn't want to necessarily create mindless fun. I wanted to create scenarios where players had to make decisions that had a serious impact on the world they're interacting with. Granted, some of those decisions have clear moral implications (good-aligned characters should not ally with the skeezy wererat, or with the crazy aberration-worshiping cult), some of these decisions are actually tougher to grapple with (Do you trust the goblins when they say they are comfortable living in co-existence with the other settlers? Can you convince the other settlers, several of whom hold a personal hatred for goblins, to give that peace a chance?).

And really, it all comes down to what you mentioned with re: GRRM. The scenario I'm writing is full of examples of situations where the adventurers have the opportunity to ally with creatures that are usually enemies (typically goblins) to face a much greater threat. How the characters react will say a lot about how their players see them and the connection they have to the world.

Even more interestingly, the actual moral or message of the adventure isn't really determined by me, but is set up by the mechanics of the game itself. Most of these encounters are simply easier if they accept help from unlikely sources.

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Re: The Hard Questions

Post by Elowen-Astrid on Thu Jun 23, 2016 5:46 am

Nekron wrote:So, here's a question: what do you think you are saying? How do the characters' motivations play into this? What do they learn at the end of the story? After you look carefully at your plot and identify your over-arching themes, do you find that those themes are important to you? Why should they be important to anybody else?

There is not necessarily one thing I want to say. There are many different rights and wrongs. What is right for one person is not right for another.  I think in the end the message I want to convey is 'be aware of the perspective of others. People have their own reasons for doing thing, how misguided they might be. Try to see from another perspective and learn.'

Why do I find this theme important? Because I know I can be a bit strange and people don't always understand me, which if fine, but I like it when people at least try to understand me better, even if it doesn't work. The fact they tried is important. They made an effort and they learned something. They broadened their horizons and broadening your horizon and learning are good things. It means you are a more capable person than before and hopefully a better person als well. (I don't mean to say some people are bad, but being a better person than before is always nice, even if you don't notice it yourself).

** I feel like I have to say I am usually not very forward with my personal opinion or motives about why i might do things. So, it is a little strange for me to write it down here.**
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Re: The Hard Questions

Post by AGradine on Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:50 am

This thread got me thinking about other literary devices, including motifs. And it was this thought that allowed me to ultimately decide on what I was going to title the full adventure series: A Dream from The Deep.

To expand a bit upon my entry in the Locations thread, "The Deep" is both a metaphysical and literal location, much like many mythological underworlds. The Deep is, literally, the deep underground caverns and labyrinths where dark and trecherous, but still terrestrial, creatures dwell. But it is also, metaphysically, the link to the realms of the demons and aberrations that the above-mentioned creatures with sentience and intelligence tend to worship. As early as the introductory adventure, "The Fortress of Bazarax", this theme is reinforced by nearly all answers to mysteries, and nearly all threats, generate from the underground. The Inverted Tower, Rabax Mine and Fortress Basement are all linked with one another and house some fo the greatest threats present in the adventure. But even earlier locations, like the Gatherer Cave and the Maesoleum where much of the action in the Ruined City of Surin will take place are also ways to link the idea that danger = depth, and that greater depth equals greater danger.

Dreams, or more accurately nightmares, play a smaller role in Fortress of Bazarax, but that role will expand in later adventures. Many of the most dangerous aberrations that will appear in this series are linked through dreams and nightmares, and while it's played more low-key in the first adventure module, the North Valley is already becoming plagued by nightmares. The subplot involving the Fleshweaver's sleeping potions only exists because he needs them to sleep without having terrible nightmares; and Simone is only as successful as she is in peddling them because many in the region (especially prospectors and miners) are suffering from some nasty nightmares themselves. There will be rules for when the PCs will receive nightmares and what kind of impact they will have, with frequency and severity impacted by the characters' actual depth.

What motifs are you planning to include (or expect to have develop) in your works?

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Re: The Hard Questions

Post by Call Me Nefret on Mon Jun 27, 2016 9:48 am

I rarely write a story without multiple themes. My current is more philosophical than most. It delves into what true evil really is, the other side of sexism (i.e. benevolent sexism toward females) the effect of sociopaths on certain religious beliefs, media and the "court of public opinion" surrounding controversial trials, nature versus nurture.

I don't usually work to put so many in, but I wanted to make sure my story was more than "SERIAL KILLER STORY COME READ".
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