Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Establishing character--through other people

So there I was, looking--once again--to see if Peter Dunne had written another book. (Of course, not. It was an opus. I think it's going to take awhile to ferment another) When I stumbled on an article by a professor somewhere out on the East Coast that dissected the backstory in Final Fantasy.

I like Final Fantasy. It's got a strong storyline, the characters don't get on my nerves and what woman doesn't like Sephiroth?

It took three days before I finally understood it. I got one sentence, but it was a good sentence. Interchanges between characters embed history in attitudes. Which shows you how much fun it was to read. That's an easy sentence.

In other words, Final Fantasy is an RGP, or role-playing game. It attracts people who need constant stimulation to stay focused--and that's not what the guy said, that's my own personal observances after being a game-wife and mother. If you've never played it, there are parts where the characters break away and talk, not for long, and never for more than a sentence or two, but enough to clue the player in. So the people who wrote Final Fantasy had to think of a way to fill in backstory without losing players.

I think the writers used a lot of movie techniques. Like UNK said, you can't film the inside of someones head, so you do subtext and dialog and hope for the best.

The true genius of Final Fantasy is the way the characters play on each other. To me, subtext is the words that aren't there. Like when the hero does something, moves a certain way and reacts--which "shows" us the internal dialog. No words, see? It's all invisible.

But in FF, the words are there. The way the characters react to each other--lays out the subtext.

Say, if you were to go up to someone you know and say, "It's been a long time." Depending on who you are, when you say it, and how, it reveals the personality and background of the other person. The way the other person reacts to you, reveals backstory and attitudes.

Say if I went to conference (which is in DC this year) and stood around talking to people who know me from RD. They know me as a certain kind of person because of the interaction they have with me. They see me from the outside, and without some kind of connection to put me in context--they have no clue what I'm really like.

But if Cowboy were to come up (because DC is close), his appearance, his attitudes toward me, and the way we talk to each other suddenly reveal backstory without me dropping into internal dialog, or going to subtext.

"No steel-toes? That's not like you," tells you A) I used to do something where I thought steel-toes were a necessity. B) I changed myself to fit into my current situation, but it's just that. A change. Or Cowboy wouldn't be talking about the difference.

It opens up a lot of possibilities.


Eva Gale said...

I need another cup of coffee, now.

Kaige said...

Can you believe we never got into FF?

Anyway, loved the idea and it runs parallel with some of the comments/suggestions Madelynne gave me this week.

I hope there are more such lovely little gems in easily digested sentences in there for you.

Alice Audrey said...

Actually, it depends on which FF you're talking about. Yeah, 7 has all that internal dialog written on the screen, but X and XII both have a lot of subtext.

What do you mean I just reviled myself?

Anyway, I just got my tickets for National; everything from airfare to registration.

jodi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jodi said...

ALL RIGHT, Alice. We can talk in person, real live--pretty cool!!! Lol, I hate to say I think FF is nifty as all hell.

My kid has all the FF including Crisis Core, (which I had to buy a PSP for) and she's waiting impatiently for the next one. You know your comment just started my kids arguing. 7 is cool. No, eight is cool. No, 13 is the best, no--7, 8 and 9.

lol, Kaige.I'm the Queen of little sentences.

Hi Briana :)

Jeanna said...

I can barely read a book...I should stop there.
I can barely read a book w/out noticing how so many full length novels mold character, back story, and dialogue like a screenplay.
That's why—look away Andi—I was surprised at how poorly the "Twilight" movie turned out out.
As far away as I've deviated from "real writing" (quoting my freshman year creative writing TA), I thought the structure used in gaming and interactive media was fascinating. Only touched on it in a writing class and have no idea how or where to learn more about it. Neither did the teacher.
Word Ver is "vortland."
The Vortland youth tapped his steel-toed shoes as he sucked down the Mountain Dew Amp tall boy that would drive him over the edge.

Kaige said...

Jeanna, my DH (who works in the game development industry) recommends Lee Sheldon's book: Character Development and Storytelling in Games (http://www.amazon.com/Character-Development-Storytelling-Games-Game/dp/1592003532/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235893276&sr=8-1)

He says Lee's book is prolly the best out there for the patterns and structures for interactive structure.

Lee has a background in linear storytelling including episodic v and soap operas as well as novels. His most recent games are the Agatha Christie games you can find at Target.

He also jokes that you shouldn't believe the part of the book that are about him. *eyeroll*

And Jeanna, if you'd like a beta invite into the MetaPlace game/world building platform let me know if you want to use your blog email or a different one.

Jeanna said...

Thanks, Kaige! Now that I'm without wheels I'm actually thinking about reading a book.
Linear storytelling for non-linear media, fascinating stuff.
I always thought writing soaps was an incredibly tough thing.
The two books I have on the topic are limited and getting old, thanks again.
You can use my blog email, I've been checking it lately.

Alice Audrey said...

9 is my favorite, maybe because that's where I came in on the series, but 12 is probably the best. No, actually, I'm not all that keen on the story line for 12. Too political in a loose way and not a strong enough theme. Then there's 10. I love both the story and the graphics, but I'm not feeling compelled to dominate it. I'll stick with 9. They did a lot with rinky-dink little figures in that one.

I'll warn you now, I'm better on line than in person. But I can't wait to meet you!