Monday’s Top 5

I have to admit, I don’t play many computer/console games. But I do love a good story. Storytelling in games has advanced rapidly over the last decade. Instead of the action-packed, will he/won’t he narrative of an intrepid frog crossing a busy highway and crocodile-infested river to get home, we now have sandbox-style games with strong characterisation, back-story, twists and turns, and a final reveal/confrontation. And, like with all forms of storytelling, there’s a lot writers can learn from computer games.

You may remember Patrick O’Duffy from last week’s Top 5. He spent the last two weeks playing Batman: Arkham City, and then wrote a fabulous post about it. It’s not a review (although he does talk about what he does and doesn’t like) but rather a look at the lessons on storytelling and narrative structure that can be taken from the game. In his own words:

But as of yesterday I have finished the game (both the core plotline and the host of side missions) and having done so I think there’s a lot to consider from a writing POV about the way the game handles its stories and characters. Arkham City does some things right and some things wrong – more the latter than the former, to be honest – and a lot of that is pretty directly applicable to writing fiction. So let’s step away from the fact that the game is a lot of fun and features my favourite character and see what else we can learn from it.

Check out Patrick O’Duffy’s Arkham City — the writing dos and don’ts. (Warning: Spoilers abound, so bookmark and read it later if you’re still playing the game.)

For those of us who live work exist in peruse the writing blogosphere, there was a massive furor when Farhad Manjoo published an article on Slate titled “Don’t Support Your Local Bookstore”. Type that phrase into google, and I’m sure you’ll find at least seven bajillion angry responses. If Manjoo’s intention was to cause a stir, he certainly succeeded. Of those seven bajillion responses, I’d like to share with you two.

Literary agent Sarah LaPolla responded with Jocks vs. Nerds. She suggests that Manjoo is trying to create a divide between the I-Hate-Amazon and the Amazon-is-King camps (a’la nerds and jocks), and puts forward the idea that there is a huge swathe of middle ground that he’s forgetting:

Manjoo fails to see that you can sip your soy latte and be a member of the NRA and shop at Whole Foods and vote Republican. Not everyone needs to be one thing, and not everyone has to want only one thing from their bookstore. Manjoo isn’t just telling us to respect Amazon for what it is. He’s saying it’s the only way to shop, and that even if you’re able to support local businesses, you shouldn’t because if you do you’re nothing but an out-of-touch, overly romantic hippie who doesn’t get how business works. 

Anthony Lee Collins isn’t so much responding to Manjoo’s article as responding to the extreme anger that arose in its aftermath. He is a writer and an avid reader, but (as he puts it):

I love words. I love stories. But I don’t love books. I like books – they’ve been the main way I’ve received words and stories until recently – but I’m not attached to them as items.

I think this love of books vs love of stories is one of the core differences between the people who fanatically support indie bookstores and the people who fanatically support Amazon — and a concept that seems to have been forgotten in the argument up to this point. So thank you Anthony for sharing that you are (Mostly) Not sentimental about books.

If people get their knickers in a knot talking about which form of book shopping is their favourite, you can bet that the question of which child is your favourite is an even tougher one. Come on, you know you’ve asked your Mum if you’re her favourite. As Aussie comedian Fiona O’Loughlin says: If your mother tells you she doesn’t have a favourite, she’s lying. It’s just not you.

Jennifer of Kvetch Mom has three children, and has had to come up with her own answer to this question. In her case it’s, “You are all my favorites! (Cough, cough, bullshit, cough, cough.)” Her post, You Are My Favorite, is funny, touching, and considers an aspect of parenting that we’re supposed to pretend doesn’t exist:

The thing about parenthood is, you don’t know who you’re going to click with when you have kids. You will love each child fiercely, but your interpersonal dynamics may be challenging with some. No one really talks about this, but for me it is true. I think it’s a lot easier to parent a kid who doesn’t jangle your nerves. Or remind you of your crazy uncle.

Finally, did I mention that I’ve got a post featured in Momma’s Twelve Days of Christmas? Right. I did. Well, I’m not the only one. Karyn Gallagher also has a guest post as part of the Christmas Celebrations. But, unlike mine, Karyn’s story is heartfelt and touching — a true Christmas miracle. I warn you: I cried for a solid ten minutes during/after reading this story. Tears of compassion and understanding and joy. Her story is that beautiful. Please go and read about The Gift. And have a tissue handy.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Top 5

9 responses to “Monday’s Top 5

  1. All sound interesting – it’s past midnight so I’ll have to check them out in the morning. Enjoyed your post.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation, Jo. And, yes, I do think Manjoo’s intention was to start a stir. 🙂

    In an unrelated development (really), you just got a blog award. From me.
    http://u-town.com/collins/?p=2937

    Oh, and the Patrick O’Duffy post was interesting. I liked the observation that Batman is a “good guy,” so he doesn’t actually kill people, but that he’s perfectly willing to let other people kill them if it serves his purposes. Which we might think of as the “Lisbeth Salander method.” 🙂

    • Thanks for the blog award!

      I thought you’d like Patrick’s post. I was particularly thinking of you when I decided to include it, so I’m glad you did.

      … note to self: REALLY need to read that series!

      • I think I come back to the Millennium books for the same reason I refer to Inglourious Basterds again and again (and sort of for opposite reasons). They stick with me because I like and dislike them so much. What’s forgettable is mediocrity. But something that’s really good in some ways and really bad in others sticks in the mind.

        As for Patrick’s post, my approach is usually to go all the way. Have the character kill somebody (or whatever) and then deal with the consequences. I talked about that here: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=2284

        I’ve read a few reviews of the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie, and they’ve mostly been contrasting the greatness of Fincher with the non-greatness of Larsson, which is interesting (as if Fincher is wasting his time making three movies of this when he could be making three really great movies of something else). Ebert did give the edge to the original movie, but that’s the exception so far.

  3. Nami

    There’s a lot to check out here – I’ve GOT to read the “You Are My Favorite” next. My mother’s response was always, “Don’t ask a question you don’t really want to know the answer to.”

  4. As always I can’t wait to read these. Even the one that I know will make me cry like a blubbering idiot.

Speak to me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s