Monday, November 19, 2007

Thinking about Character Develoment

The comment from "Elizebeth" in "Curfew and Cabbage" post on Deep Thunder got me to thinking about a couple of things.

I hadn't really given much thought to what would happen if I started to see comments on Deep Thunder - mostly because I wasn't sure what kind of comments I would see, if any. I'm beginning to realize that the comments can be an integral part of the story - in fact, to ignore the comments would be a failure to recognize a uniquely dynamic aspect of this medium. The Elizabeth comment prompted me to begin to examining how commenters might dynamically shape the story, and allow readers to become something more than passive bystanders. Thinking about it this weekend, I've decided that, depending on the comment, I will use in-character feedback to Van to help drive the story.

Now, I've got a pretty solid outline and a fairly firm idea of the major events that are coming in Van's life - I also have a pretty good idea of how this story will end. You can expect Van's ideals and outlook to change radically as the story unfolds. But, comments may allow me to take some developmental detours along the way - and I've realized that by telling a story this way, I can allow readers to become directly involved in the writing process.

Telling a story in this manner is a radical departure from the normal method of novel writing. Normally, at least for me, I enjoy the asides and the background and the things left unsaid in a novel, almost as much as the central story itself. If any of you are George R.R. Martin fans, well, his work is a perfect example of what I normally enjoy reading. I'm not much into his Fire and Ice work, I've never been a big fantasy buff, but I dearly love his Double War/Federal Empire SciFi, particularly for all the little detours you take into the background and history of his strange and complex universe (yes, I realize that this also annoys the hell out of some people, which is fine too). Because this is the type of story I enjoy reading, it is normally the type of material that I write. The novel that I currently have in the works, tentatively titled The Iyes of the Dead, is very much told in this manner. Style, mood, grammar, deep character background, detailed historical asides that have shaped how the characters think and interact are all very much a part of that story. So Deep Thunder is a radical departure for me, a very stripped down, minimalistic method of story telling, and I'm finding it an interesting (at least to me) experiment. I've also realized that not putting up everything I've written so far was a wise choice - because now I can go back and add additional material without having to fool with what is already posted. I'd rather you read each post once, in order, rather than endlessly revised rough drafts - that's a little too much involvement for any reader (and I assume you've all got better things to do. You're welcome).

I wasn't sure that this would actually work. The Blog format is a pretty stripped down and informal method of story telling. I originally thought that it would be a quick and easy method because I could use the same 'voice' I use here, I wouldn't have to develop complex style, deep background, or detailed character elements, because in a Blog those things are just assumed. I figured this would allow me to write very quickly. I'm beginning to see that this may be more complex that I had originally envisioned, and that I will have to develop a more complex background and more detailed character studies. I've also done a few sketches (which may end up on the blog) and some third-person material such as news reports and inter-post fix-ups that will end up in the printed novel should this make it that far.

I'd be interested in what you all think of this so far - not the story (of which I don't think you have enough of to make a judgment yet), but the method itself.


  1. I think it's neat. Like Anne said, it's fun to watch the story unfold, and your thought that your readers can help shape the story is really quite intriguing. Especially if you leverage the interaction to disclose what is happening in other geographical areas.

  2. Well, that's what I'm thinking here. Van's view point is limited by his background and location (which, of course, you have already figured out is somewhere near San Diego), and will become even more limited in the future.

    Commenters may be able to add to the story by fleshing out events in other locations. This is something I had not envisioned - but I think may become extremely interesting.

  3. Sounds like collaborative writing at its finest. I do the low-brow version of that, which is online roleplaying, and some of the best games I've been in have been exactly like that - each player controls a fiefdom of setting area (one or more MCs, secondary characters associated with the MCs, their homes and workplaces, etc.) that then interact with those of other players, all with GM arbitration to make it run smoothly. When everyone is mature and it works well, it's a beauty to behold.

    You might also be interested in what Christy Shorey is doing with hers this year. It's not exactly the same concept, but it incorporates reader input to a fairly drastic degree.

  4. Ever since I had an epiphany during a web design class about how the "web" structure of the internet could be used to change the linear style of most storytelling, I've been intrigued with the notion of alternative storytelling. Your thoughts on incorporating comments are fun to see. I've thought about joining the fun, but if I did, I'd want to be able to apply considerable thought to it (so as to integrate seamlessly). I'm not sure I can do that at this time, so unless I have a really great idea, I might just stay a spectator. [Cshhk... Anne here. I'm stuck up here in the space station during the chaos... -- nah, been done] ;)


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