Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Conflict

Eughyeugh! That's the noise one makes when one is pricked by the sensation of jelly skin. I'm making it now. And not just because I've discovered Loscil's Coast/Range/Arc on Spotify!

It's the sensation baked by the simultaneous bombardment of diverse emotions - when one's nerves are teased like oysters.
On the one hand, I'm genuinely sorry to learn that our external producer at BF is moving to pastures new. On the other, I'm tingling with her ultra-generous feedback on the pre-survey build, and with her microscopic list of amendments. So there's sadness, relief and some sort of pride already. Forget-ye-not to stir in the inexorable terror of the looming public Beta.
(All these cooking metaphors! Must be Masterchef final week!)



I've also made a breakthrough in a new style of writing and design.
I was beginning to fear that I was genetically manufactured to favour a languid and child-like form of magic realism. I decided that I wanted to discover how much suspense I could inject into the new project. So I had a chat with Linda Adams.
She listed structure, conflict, and word choice as the primary devices of suspense.
Back to Mimsy I scuttled, this time reading his incomprehensibly brilliant Story with my 'conflict' lenses on. Isn't it curious how we spot entirely different things when we look at something from a different point of view!
Not really, no.

I thunk a bit. I thunk about the concept of questions. Questions aren't enough to generate suspense, even if they're resonant and meaningful. Strip those very questions bare and dress them in the lederhosen of conflict and see what happens.
I thunk about conflict and curled up with Mimsy. He rested his head on my bosom and his breath was warm on my heaving clavicles. There are three types of conflict, he whispered, coiling my chest hairs around his wedding band finger. There's inner conflict (with yourself), and personal conflict (with peoples), and extra-personal conflict (with things). Mimsy licked his lips and continued: Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict.
So far so good. Conflict is protag wanting something but being unable to have it.
Protag has two types of desire though solv! Mimsy purred. Protag has conscious desire, which forms the basis for the bulk of the conflict, and protag has an unconscious desire, which is resolved at denouement.
I asked a few professional authors if they consider this when they write. So far, they have ignored me. I bet they don't!
I've temporarily built this into my plot, and it makes for a more informed denouement, but I can't really see it making any difference.
However, by making the decision to design Project X as a (predominantly) linear game, and by upping the pace using only conflict questions, I can honestly see something more compelling than anything else I've written forming in those notebooks. (Um, downside of the linear and pace things is that game duration is greatly shrivelled. Just let me get the quality right first, and then I'll look into the quantity.)
I also considered Mimsy's thoughts on placement of the inciting incident, and chose to place it five mins into the game, after an opening of Mystery.
Reconsidering everything under the strict rule of suspense - or, rather, conflict - has, I sense, made a significant difference to the choices I'm making. They're still, by and large, informed, but informed by a different sentinel.

Remember my loyal, honeyed solv-cake: Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

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