Wednesday, 16 June 2010

If This Picture Makes No Sense To You...

.... Then you've obviously never played Ocarina of Time.
*Picture by *rah-bop
Yup, it's that time again!!
But first, some business:
I LOVE you. Just thought I'd say. And I loved your reception to my characters! The interview was so much fun, because I got to talk to Kiami, and for the first time in a long time, she showed the side that made me fall in love with her, way back in seventh grade. (If I ever actually finish a book of hers, I'll post the entire sorry saga online of how she developed. Seriously.) Recently, she's become more of a snarky, kick your butt heroine - she always was - but she lost that mildly immature side that enchanted me. :)
NEXTLY: EEEE! *jumps up and down* I got the Versatile Blogger award from Clara at Pinches of Madness... !! Superhappyjoyfulyayness! :D :D :D
UNFORTUNATELY I spent at least four hours on Monday linking and such, so I'm gonna save passing this one until my life has recovered from that massive life-sucking experience. :D
Let's see, any other items of business? (Nancy? No?) All right then - on to Legend of Zelda Writing Tips!!
So, techinally, this is the first post, since before we just looked at the basic premise of the game and a first look at the dreamyilovelinkillknityouasweaterandkeepyouWRAPPEDUPINMYLOVE awesome-awesomeness that is Link.

(Seriously, what's not to love?)

Mmk! So here goes: THE BEGINNING! *dundundunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn*

(Warning: Massive rhetorical questions scattered throughout, I didn't even realize it until I was about ready to post. It's not a query though! Hoping Nathan Bransford doesn't find this blog and kill me. I'm just following Tahereh's advice!)

All right, so you buy the book, (game) take it home. You sit down (turn on the Wii/gamecube) and read the blurb (press Power). What do you see next?
Game: In Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you see a mysterious rider crossing the screen. Is it- can it be? Yes! It must be Link! *for faking the 'familiar' hero in your story, see last week's post* It's Link, and he's on a horse. Scenery - beautiful scenery - fills the camera as Link gallops off screen. The camera follows him, but he's not there. Instead, there's a beautiful, marked wolf, howling at what seems to be a wall of moving ice. Just behind, we can see a castle, presumably trapped by the wall.

Writing: Do you see what that did? The beginning of the game - before you've even started a file or 'opened a page' hooks you. Where did Link go? Who is this wolf? Why is Hyrule trapped behind what looks like a wall of impregnable ice? It hints at the basic premise of the game: Free Hyrule. But the main plot and all the subplots are still very hidden. We just know there's a wolf involved, which is a little weird(Read: AWESOME). And, we assume, something happens during twilight. (involving a princess somewhere)
We can do this too, although I know not a lot of authors have final say on the book blurbs/covers, and this is the best place to do this. BUT another way to do this is with a prolouge. *GASP!* Don't stone me authors! Prolouges aren't all bad!! (I promise?)Especially when done with flair. The beginning of the Twilight Princess has this attitude: You want our game. You bought our game. You're sitting on the edge of your seat, anxious to move forward in the game but unable to take your eyes off of our amazing graphics, epic music, and new-and-improved Link. Mysterious wolf? You're hooked, you know you're hooked. And what's best? We're going to deliver. Completely and totally. We're about to take you on an adventure that will knock your socks off, and we worked dang hard to make this game the best it can possibly be. Ready? Cue dramatic music.
Authors, I'm NOT telling you to always have a prolouge. I'm just saying, so many books I read start of with a sort of plea: read me pretty please? And that can be good, because we don't want to be overconfident and attack our readers with a world they're not ready for. But authors! Your book, that you've worked so hard on, is worth reading. Don't pretend it's not, don't listen to that inner voice that says "Maybe if you coax them in, they'll forget your book sucks." Because it's a LIE. Don't apologize for your work. Make it as good as it possibly can be. After you do that (seriously, do it) acknowledge that it's as good as you can possibly make it. Then: add swagger.
*not obnoxious swagger, but the 'I've spent years in development and I'm ready to astound you,' swagger. Or, for a nongamer analogy, 'I've spent hours on my hair and I'm ready to flip it for some smokingly hot guys'.*

Game: The start Menu. The player has pressed away from the amazing 'prolouge' and they're ready to go. When the start menu pops up (a screen that you only see before you enter the game) it's polished. Shiny. It plays a familiar song. It doesn't need to be this good. But it is.Why? See: Swagger. Anywho, you feel your heart jump as you tentavily press 'new game'. And then: BANG. Involvment. What do you want to name the main character? You get to choose - that's the same as all Zelda games. But, what's this? I also get to choose the name of the horse? Awesome!

Writing: So, this is the challenge. The challenge all authors have had for just about, you know, ever. How to get the reader involved. Here's where I slip up most often: I don't worry about making them want to get involved. Oh, I worry about making them want to read the book, of course! But want to get involved? Activiely participate? That's never high on my to-achieve list.

In fact, I never really think about it. But would you agree it's important?

The way Twilight Princess did it is by consistent, immediate quality. Throughout the game, the quality remains excellent, though there are times when it's not as good. But Twilight Princess made sure that, if there had to be a slip-up in the game, it was not going to happen before the player is already immersed. Physically, they caused a skipped heartbeat. If I knew how to cause that consistently, I'd be published by now (ha) and probably have given several people heart-attacks (because I'd use such an awesome talent every other page). So how else can we get the reader excited to participate? We can hint at how they're going to participate. In the Twilight Princess 'prolouge' they hint at saving Hyrule. Heck, they even hint that, at some point, the player will get to play as a wolf. That's cool. The menu tells you that you'll own a horse. Which, also, is pretty cool.

And I know a video game is different than a book, because video games, by nature, are interactive. Books are too, but not in a physical sense. I think getting the reader to participate depends heavily on the genre. Murder is probably the simplest in this sense - the reader picks up the book expecting to participate by trying to figure out who the murderer is. But what about mainstream or fantasy? What then?

Give them something to hold on to.

A familiar image (Link) or a promise of what's to come (wolf) or a faint image of the end journey (Hyrule).

A familiar image was covered in the last Legend of Zelda Post.

Promise of what's to come: I don't really mean forshadowing here. Or anything vague. I mean an actual, tangible promise. Not a huge plot giveaway, necessarily, something small can work. Or a promise of something small that actually turns into being a pretty big part of the story. (OOOH TWIST!)

Faint image of the end journey: destination. This is probably better to be vague on - although Shakespeare succeeded in giving away the ending in one of his most famous plays. The prolouge to Romeo and Juliet just tells you that they're both going to die. But what did LoZ do? They gave the faint picture, covered by a wall. We don't know anything at all about this wall, except that it's there. *and it's pretty, but that's not important*

Again, none of this has to be in a prolouge.

Think of how fun it could be to mess around with this stuff! So...

Exercise: If your novel doesn't have a prolouge, write one. Just for fun - don't put it in. Don't. But write one anyway. After you've written it, see if there's any tidbit in the prolouge that you could sneak in the first couple of pages, giving the reader some promise to grab onto. It could make a huge difference to your novel. Give it a shot - sounds fun, right?

*Picture by radicalein
Authors, how can you get readers involved in your novel? In your genre?


Creepy Query Girl said...

woah, congrats on the award and your progress with the writing! I had to take a break from your post so I could steak your widget;) awesome!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Yya, congrats on the award.
I love the idea of sneaking bits in from a prologue into the first chapter. I have a prologue that I took out. I'm so gonna try this tip now. :)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

See, I got so excited I can't spell yay!

Christina Lee said...

YES!! Getting the reader involved, I think means making them care about your character (or what happens to them)from the first page.

Tahereh said...

yay congrats on the award!! haha and you are way too cute. love your zelda-love :D

Jen said...

Zelda flippin rocks!!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Cool new look!!!!

Loved this. I had a prologue in my last novel, which could actually be used in my wip (yes, there is a good reason). Of course it wasn't necessary.

Marsha Sigman said...

I am not so big on the prologue. But I do loves me some epilogue. Maybe because I have such a hard time ending things.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I write mystery and you're right, readers know what to expect so no prologues here.

But I can imagine when you are creating new worlds they may be needed.

Missed Periods said...

Sometimes, I really like a prologue. I can't think of a specific one right now, but sometimes it whets the appetite.

Kris & Kels said...

You have an award on our blog!

<3 Kelsey Leigh