The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

If You Want To Take The Diamond, Turn To Page 59

Posted by BigWords on August 14, 2009

You’ll probably remember the Choose Your Adventure books from the early eighties, but even if you’ve never read one there is a likelihood you’ve played an RPG with branching threads such as Knights Of The Old Republic. Developing a thick skin is important in writing, so this is where I get most of the problems with my material out into the open so you can laugh and point. Feel free to wonder how the hell I manage to think non-linear in plot, ’cause I’m still struggling to explain this clearly.

Back when I was writing little games (pieces of shit, each and every one of them) I managed to come up with at least twenty ending for any given scenario. The art of thinking differently came in mighty handy, but transferring any talent for five or six lines of text at a time is no use whatsoever in novel writing. I’ve allowed myself to expand ideas into an ever-increasing word count, then follow each possibility to see which one gives me more story to play with.

A quick example:

Detective Gaines stares at the explosive device, carefully weighing up his options. The wires are too complex to rush heedlessly into the disarming process, too many variables to consider. Tick tock, tick tock… The explosion takes out half the building. Gaines’ hand, hovering over the device at the moment of impact, is obliterated instantly, followed by the rest of his body.

or…

Detective Gaines stares at the explosive device, carefully weighing up his options. The wires are too complex to rush heedlessly into the disarming process, too many variables to consider. Tick tock, tick tock… His hand reaches forward, instinctively the detective pulls the blue wire free. The blast takes out half the building, sending shattered and twisted debris across the street.

maybe even…

Detective Gaines stares at the explosive device, carefully weighing up his options. The wires are too complex to rush heedlessly into the disarming process, too many variables to consider. Tick tock, tick tock… Gaines, a bead of sweat falling from the tip of his nose, realizes there is no answer to the puzzle in front of him. Turning, he runs from the room, runs from the building. There is silence. The device was a prank.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those (well, maybe once I clean up the prose a little), but deciding which one gets left into a story is a big challenge for me. There’s a neat analogy that I like – A good chess player knows all the possibilities thirty moves in advance. Writing ain’t chess, but it is just as hard. Maybe more-so because the rules are fluid and intangible to some extent. Having a fine sense of irony, I know I have conditioned my brain to do this kind of thing, so it is my own damn fault.

It’s crazy. Go on, say it. Lemme hear you.

The outcome of this type of writing-on-the-fly seems to be elevated word-counts and multiple endings, which doesn’t help in any way, shape or form for a structured three (or five) act novel, encompassing everything I need while remaining on this side of readable. A possible consideration (which I’m slightly embarrassed to bring up in public, but I did say I had a thick skin) is adding several epilogue-type bits at the end with all the possible endings I have come up with.

Do I want multiple endings? No. For a start, and this is the ego kicking in, I won’t be able to write a sequel. It’s a dumb reason to try avoiding this type of thing, but it is what it is. The second Deus Ex game fucked up the future of the franchise for a long time because of the multiple endings which were completely incompatible with each other. The first game wasn’t so bad, because the ending could be resolved somewhat, but the second…

You see my problem?

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