Tuesday, 17 August 2010

How to Use Tone To Your Advantage (Zelda Style)

"I... I think I finally understand. I understand what my dad meant when he told me I needed to be stronger, like you, Link. He wasn't talking about strength, like lifting stuff. He was talking about being brave. Link, you saved me, didn't you? You... You can do anything."

- Twilight Princess

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's that time again! Time for another Legend of Zelda: It Taught Me How To Write post! Basically, I'm revising the game plan - I won't go step by step through Twilight Princess, but I will use examples from it and other Zelda games.

So, quick recap:

Post 1 - Making MCs Hero-Worthy
Post 2 - Just Add Swagger

This is post 3:

Using Tone (&Style) To Your Advantage
This week and next week I'll be blogging fairly regularly - but for a couple of weeks after that, I'll be in transition. Yup, I'm going home!!! YAY! And then off to college. Wahoo! And so I may be too busy soaking up the free soda refills to blog, but I'll try! :D
Now... back to our regular scheduled programming?)

Why are there different styles of art for different Legend of Zelda games?

A) Times Change
B) Overall tone of the game
C) Audience

Let's apply this to the wonderful world of writing, shall we? :)

A) Times Change

From this

To this:
Just because your favorite authors did it 50 to 200 years ago, it DOESN'T mean you can do it today. Just like you can't still make videogames with 8 bit graphics and expect to get away with it - players (readers) want edgy, new graphics. They want improvement. They want each game (book) to have a more advanced artwork every time. Like readers want consistent, improving quality in the books we read - though constance is all we really need, improvement is really nice.
Times change, and if you want to write a book now, you can't follow the guidelines of last century.

Beware when you find yourself thinking:

Dickens wrote pages of description for his readers and HE didn't have to cut it out.
Hugo was able to put his political rants in HIS books, why can't I?
Tolkien was able to make up as many words/languages as he wanted to, why can't I?

The fact is, styles change - not just for writers, for readers too. Right now we're in an age of 'don't waste my time.' Tell the story well, but tell it (relatively) brief.

B) Overall Tone of the Game

For an excellent example of this, see Rachel Hawkins Post at WriteOnCon about 'Bringing the Funny.' She wanted a dark paranormal, but got a funny paranormal instead - because of her MC and because of the style of writing.
Take Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. It has cel-shading, a fun and youthful art (writing) style, and the story reflected that, as opposed to other games. This is cel-shading:

In this game, the normally quiet and sweet Zelda is transformed into snarky, bossy Tetra, and normally reserved Link is more expressive.

In Wind Waker, the tone was set entirely differently than Majora's Mask (spooky) or Twilight Princess (dark). The expressions made the player laugh, drew them in. In Ocarina of Time, Link tries a few vivid facial expressions, but they just don't matter so much because the artwork style is subtle and the words are more important.

So how does this apply to writing?
Make sure your writing is mood appropriate. Don't try to be overly funny if your novel is tragic and don't try to force seriousness and morals into a fun, carefree narrative. Don't include jokes because 'everyone likes to laugh.' You don't care about 'everyone,' you care about your readers. And they're too busy crying through your powerful death scene to laugh. Or too busy laughing through your barroom scene to pick up the moral you snuck in there. It jars.

C) Audience

Let's use Wind Waker again for an example, shall we? It's pretty obvious while playing Wind Waker that it was geared toward sucking in a new generation of Zelda players - the bosses were easy, the gameplay was simple, the art was colorful, but there were enough puzzles and voluntary battles to satisfy older players.
They were going for new readers, but also kept their ever-faithful in mind. The style reflected this. The cel-shading helped reflect that this game was an break from traditional styles, so old players weren't upset when the game was easier/younger/funnier than they were used to. Then Nintendo followed up with the more classic-style Twilight Princess.

The application here is striking a balance between new/familiar readers, young/old readers, male/female readers, sarcastic/romantic readers, etc. The trick to it is always know who you're aiming to please.

If the book is built with the assumption that it will mainly be read by teenage girls with a romantic side, then it's easier to intentionally throw in tidbits that will not repel the girls but could attract guy readers, or maybe the mothers of the girls. (See: Twilight.)

But is your point mainly to satisfy old readers? It probably should be, because they're the ones you owe loyalty to. But - to use Stephanie Meyer again - it doesn't always have to be. Host wasn't aimed toward the exact same crowd as Twilight, and it wasn't meant to. But it definitely satisfied lots of Twilight fans.


(PS - Check out the blogfest over at unedited, it'll be AMAZING!!!)


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

Love this post. I knew all those hours of computer games I played would come in handy for writing. :)

Looking forward to seeing your Blogfest post :)

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Wow, love this read background! Has it been this way for ages? Sorry, been a little absent. I was on vacation! :o)

I hate computer games so I don't have anything to add to this, but ...

Are you a writer? Then you MUST enter this CONTEST!

Creepy Query Girl said...

really great analogies and comparisons in there! What a cool way to find inspiration. How's the living in France going? Pretty crappy weather lately huh:)

Joanne Brothwell said...

I had difficulty with this in my writing. Luckily, I had a young writer editing my work and she caught them. Times change, writers gotta keep up!

j.leigh.bailey said...

What a great post. I remember the original Zelda, hours of competitions with my brothers... You make great points. If I had to pick, I'd still play the original (new graphics and technologies actually make me a little motion-sick when I play...can I make myself sound any more like an old codger?) but I recognize that that same style won't fly today (same with my reading and writing preferences). So I persevere... :D

Marsha Sigman said...

Awesome post! I totally agree with everything you said even though I have no clue about Zelda.lol

Slushpile Slut said...

Very nice informative post!! I haven't played Zelda in ages, my kids loved that game!! I think the last Zelda version we played was Wind Walker and goodness, it was hard!! Keep up the great posts :)

Tahereh said...

lol you are so cute!