Perception of, and From, the Character

First and foremost, let me apologize for my lack of posting as of late. I can offer you all only a simple explanation:

Guild Wars 2 came out.

My wife and I have been extremely excited about this game since it was announced. As big fans of the original Guild Wars (yes, we bought ‘Cash Shop’ items even) the notion that they were going to make a sequel built upon its world and its story has been a big thrill for both of us. So, I have been spending a LOT of time In Game with her exploring Tyria all over again.

We are now over the initial binge and I feel I can get back to writing. I mean really writing.

Which brings me to another topic about writing and scripting and some thoughts. ArenaNet had heavily advertised the fact that each of the 5 races of Tyria would receive their own story and storylines, but that there would be a united ‘story’ to Guild Wars 2. Not only that, but each race would be distinctive in art and organization of their various cities and clothing. That’s a pretty big claim since most of the MMO’s I have played claim similar things, but lack them in execution. I’m not saying that GW2 is perfect in that respect, but it is a heck of a lot closer.

It also got me to think a bit about my writing and the importance of pointing out those details that differentiate one person from another and, if you are going to have races or societies, how important it is to make sure that there are distinctions to make it so that you aren’t merely copying over and ‘re-skinning’ a different society.  

Those societal differences are important and they are what can make or break a good fiction story. However, those differences have to be important and dependant on the plot and not, simply, fluff. For instance – the societal differences of the Inheritance Cycle matter. They are important to the plot even if occasionally they don’t make sense. Much of the conflict comes from those differences and finding a way to make things work.  This happens, similarly, in Martin’s  “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Each of the differing peoples – be they a kingdom or a clan – have distinct traits that drive the intrigue of the story. It makes for a diverse situation with a lot of action and tension.

 The differences don’t have to drive the plot – they can be flavor or add richness to a world as well. The Wizard society of the Harry Potter series falls in to this nicely. In general, we’re exploring Wizard society and, for the most part, the societal differences don’t drive the action. They play in to it a little bit – particularly the aspect of the Ministry, but they aren’t as vital to the story as the actions of the characters and how they react to their growing knowledge and power.  The society adds a wonderful flavor to the text, and it creates some great scenes, but it is, in my opinion, not as driving to the plot as other books.

(Note: this gradually changes as the story progresses and becomes more important in the final novels than it did in the early ones. Shows what a weekend of thinking about something will make you notice when you look at the article on a Monday).

No matter how I look at it, though, I need to develop this a little more in my book. I was re-reading the story and examining Alista’s motivations.

In short, Alista served as a Calistrian prostitute (you can go look this up on the pathfinder website) on her character sheet (which, of course is going to be name changed) – a holy servant of the flesh. She escaped following the murder of her sister and a warning. 

It isn’t until she is outside of her culture and acceptance of her way of life that she starts to question what her role and perception is in society at large. While she is proud of what she did as a servant of her Goddess, she is also questioning her value in society at large. After all, a prostitute is a prostitute according to society – and humans/half-orcs are much more direct about it than the elves ever were. Deacon and Marigold, in particular, drive her to question her role and the honor it holds. To Deacon, whom she is attracted, she questions that value because she knows that he is already involved with this Courtney woman and also because he is a noble. Marigold, on the other hand, represents a different perspective on religion and also notes how difficult it is to be sacred in what is considered one of the least sacred rituals. Furthermore, Marigold is also a half-orc and I have no doubt that there were questions about her when she served under Vicor’s father that she had to deal with – many of them, most likely, revolving around why a half-orc would hire an elf to keep his son safe given the traditional sense of dislike about them. Even if she did not advertise herself as such – and on her voyage over, it was a part of how she was able to sail with human – there would be rumors and other items that would persist about her.

So, then, as I write, I am trying to go back to how she felt and how she would react to these things. She kept her service to Calistria private and quiet – especially around Marigold, Vicor, and Deacon. This meant very little outlet for what she is thinking with the exception of the online journal entries that I was writing for her. So, that begs the question of how to make the story work.

One problem I continually am running in to is the fact that she was keeping her origin a secret. Some of the characters – Greg in particular – cracked the secret. Others figured it out as time went on, but never really confronted her until later on in the journey (some caves later). So, what I have to do is make sure I am not slipping it in there and making sure she doesn’t slip – or that other characters don’t slip in mentioning it.

I have had to completely re-write a scene where Greg does use it casually – after all, what does he care if others know AND he likes to provoke her. In the original draft, I had Alista ignore it and not react in the slightest. She didn’t even note it. 

That doesn’t make sense for her. So, I’m going back and checking through the rest of the document and making sure to switch things around. It gives more of that sense of flavor and difference in each character. To an elf, being a servant of Calistria means one thing. To a Human, it means something else. The same thing holds true in Guild Wars 2 – a Ranger for the Charr has an entirely different purpose than a Ranger for the Asura. Functionally, they are the same (a prostitute, sacred or no, has certain duties to perform. A Ranger, Charr or Asura, is still expect to perform certain tasks) but their purposes are different and the perception of them is different. If a Video Game company can do it for their players, I can at least give my characters the same respect.

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