Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Subplots in the Omega Nebula (And Your Novel!)

Have you ever heard the term DLC? It stands for Downloadable Content, and is sold separately from a video game as an expansion pack.

Recently fans have been going crazy over Bioware's release of the Omega DLC, an expansion where your mission is to help notorious crime boss Aria T'Loak retake her territory on Omega, a planet with no law enforcement other than her hired thugs.

So why are people willing to pay 15$ to expand their game for an extra few hours of gameplay?

I've said it before, the Mass Effect universe is wildly immersive. When gamers heard that Bioware was releasing a DLC about one of their favorite characters, they were ecstatic. (Imagine if Rowling said she was releasing a series of short stories about the Marauders!)

Learning about successful DLCs can be important for authors, as well. Not only if you want to release a series of short stories about your world (Check out Erikson and Esslemont), but for subplots as well - especially subplots introduced later in the novel or in a sequel.

1) Lair of the Shadow Broker - Problem Plots With Characters We Love. Lair of the Shadow Broker is a DLC where Liara - a good friend and companion throughout Mass Effect 1 and 3 - has to storm the lair of her enemy, an information broker who kidnapped one of her friends. Between Mass Effect 1 and 3 (where this DLC takes place), Liara changes from a young, innocent archeologist into an information broker who will 'flay you alive with her mind'. Fans clamored to buy Lair of the Shadow Broker because it explained how she went from sweetheart to badass.

2) Stolen Memory - New Characters In New Situations. This can be harder to integrate into a story, since it involves a very strong contrast to the surrounding circumstances. Kasumi (the character introduced in the DLC) is a master thief who needs your help to break into a rich party and steal information from a criminal lord. Needless to say, this is a strong contrast to the science-fiction shooter the rest of the game. When pulled off, this can be fun, different, and a great change of pace.

3) Omega - Awesome Side Characters Doing Awesome Stuff. Aria T'Loak, Queen of Omega, has been dethroned by the terrorist organization and now she wants to retake her territory - with your help, of course. We know very little about Aria, except that she's in charge of Omega and possibly tussled with one of your former teammates a couple of centuries back. So why go along? Because she's awesome, tough, and she's good at what she does. Side characters can be the most fun, so give 'em a chance to shine! (Or, in Aria's case, kick ass.)

So there you are - three awesome subplots to spice up your novel or to release as a short story. Try it out! :)



Talli Roland said...

Thank you! Engaging subplot ideas are always much appreciated. :)

Sangu Mandanna said...

Great post! I love subplots and side characters! Sometimes I like them more than the main characters (though I think that could be a problem too...) Thanks for all the ideas, Bethany :-)

Janet Johnson said...

I don't know much about gaming, but I do love this idea. I think this is a great way to make your text more rich. :)

Ravena Guron said...

For me, sideplots always make the book (especially in fantasy/ science fiction where there's a lovely romantic element involved. I always get so warm and fuzzy over them!)

Missed Periods said...

That's a great way to look at the Omega DLC, as a sub plot. It makes perfect sense.

Paul Tobin said...

Thanks for this post. I like the way you use the DLC as a means of illustrating how to weave subplots into a story.

The Golden Eagle said...

I love good story subplots. Great examples!