I like video games. Okay – mostly I like the story lines, because they give me a particularly dynamic CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE book experience. I like that my choices affect the outcome of the story and that I can lead my characters to good ends.
My favorite video game of ALL TIME is Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). It’s pre-STAR WARS films and gives players the epic task of saving the republic (or bringing it to its knees). The first time I played, I was a female scout fighting for the light side of the force. I got to hang out with the tragically perfect Carth Onasi, I fell madly in love with him, and we worked together to rescue the republic from Lord Malak… and we lived happily-ever-after. The second time I played, I decided to keep everything the same except that I’d play for the dark side to find out how the story line changed. I hung out with Carth, fell madly in love with him, got separated from him for a bit (because he’s light-side all the way… what a guy, right?), defeated Lord Malak and usurped his position at the head of an infinite fleet of ships at my command… then Carth came back to try to turn me back to the light so that we could be together forever. Awwwww, he loves me. Problem: no matter how I worked that conversation, there was no option for me to turn back to the light. I couldn’t find a way to be with Carth.
I sat and stared at the screen in stunned silence.
I’d just played something ridiculous like 45 hours of the game with the sole purpose of discovering the dark-side story arc… and I wouldn’t be able to see the end unless I killed Carth.
So you know what I did?
I turned the XBOX off and never discovered the ending.
Kill Carth? Yeah right. I’m in love with Carth.
But you know what?
Now that I’m revising my manuscript, I’m starting to understand why there wasn’t an option to run off with Carth and live happily-evil-after. You see, Carth’s character throughout the game was light side… and for 45 hours or so I’d cultivated an all-dark character he was in love with. In order for us to end up together, one of us would have had to IMPOSSIBLY, dramatically, deeply change. Carth and Kate couldn’t be together in this version of the story because the rules of the world were set and couldn’t be altered.
Shutting off the XBOX was a very unwriterly thing for me to do.
Writers do mean-spirited, crappy things to their characters all the time. We throw them into arenas with people who’re trying to kill them, we pit them against bad guys who killed their parents, we bash, bludgeon, betray, befuddle and in all other ways ruin their lives. WRITERS FORCE KATE TO KILL CARTH.
And it sucks, but that’s what writing is.
I got a critique back of my first three chapters last week, and I found myself trying to protect my characters rather than having them do the things they would do. I want my characters to be safe, but Crit. Buddy Ben pointed out the obvious.
“Angus wouldn’t do that. He’d fight.”
But if Angus fights, he’s going to get messed up. They’ll hurt him.
Those were my thoughts. How very motherly of me, eh? I was making Angus do the thing I’d have him do, but in reality, there probably isn’t a single kid in the world who wouldn’t fight or at least run if put in the situation Angus was in.
I didn’t have it in me to kill Carth… do I have what it takes to beat Angus up? I know he’s fictional, but do I really have to write that?
*I’ve republished this post. It originally went up more than a year ago, but I thought it was good enough for an encore.