To be a good writer, a writer must also be a good reader.
Close reading of a text can reveal the tricks and tips that can be harnessed to create the next great novel, and perhaps even the next great film series if that writer is particularly gifted—and incredibly lucky.
The world of analytical texts has expanded greatly since our days in that secondary education classroom, and while the old standbys like William Shakespeare, Keats, and Ernest Hemingway are still relevant and more than worthy of study by budding writers, there are more sources of writing today that should be considered for analysis and study.
Video games are a unique interactive experience.
They allow a player to choose their own way through an adventure, often experiencing loss and victory, over an entity that may or may not be the ultimate evil. The same is true of traditional books or even movies, that have stages of plot development, opportunity to build tension, surprise the reader, and ultimately save the world.
With apologies to the fans of the hit classic Final Fantasy 7, today’s subject is Final Fantasy 8 and the epic tale of Squall Lionheart, the lovely Rinoa Heartilly, and the sorceress Ultimecia. The game originally came out for the Playstation in 1999.
To provide a little backstory, Final Fantasy 8 covers the adventure of Squall, a loner who is thrust into the burden of command by his academy, an organization named SeeD, which trains mercenaries to defeat the sorceress Ultimecia, a being of timeless power bent on world destruction. During that adventure Squall learns to rely on not only himself, but his companions, especially Rinoa, who becomes so deeply intertwined with the conflict that Squall will encounter foes he would have never imagined having to face, among them the people who raised him and the people he serves.
As a game series, Final Fantasy has long consisted of epic story-lines that determine not only the fate of a world but its people. In that same vein, Squall must learn to rely on others throughout the adventure. During the opening chapters, he undergoes an academic examination to stop invading forces in the city of Dollet. He is judged on his ability to follow orders, make choices relevant to the mission, and carry them out. Though he serves as part of a unit, he is judged independently. Squall wants nothing to do with teamwork, but if he is to grow, he must learn to follow orders and not question them. Yet, his commanding officer breaks those orders, and Squall must proceed accordingly.
Writers must understand a character’s motivation when sending that character toward their goals and the worlds within their stories.
A reader won’t accept a character who lucklessly meanders throughout the story and, by a fantastic coincidence, finds the murderer of his girlfriend and defeats him through spontaneous chance. Accordingly, the journey towards any conclusion must be met with a gradual approach that fits within the reader’s assumptions.
No grand conclusion can come by a sudden reversal of fortune.
Halfway through his adventure, Squall carries a paralyzed Rinoa on his back to the technological world of Esthar, a place so far advanced compared to the rest of the world that they can hide themselves behind a curtain of camouflage. Squall walks upon that railroad bridge that spans the great sea, places Rinoa along the railing, and begins to realize that he needs someone else to help him defeat the sorceress. Not just anyone, either. He needs Rinoa. And until he sees her standing, alert, fighting at his side, he won’t be content with making any effort to accomplish his mission.
Writing is a journey, one taken by every writer.
Every project—several lines of poetry, a short story, an essay, or a memoir—has an opening, a body, and an ending. The opening chapter starts with the bones of the piece, forming paragraphs and a skeleton plot in need of theme, interesting characters, and a goal.
The second chapter begins with a compass and a map as the writer determines what changes must be need to come to the conclusion of that piece. Words are omitted for other ones, while some passages are added and others are stricken to oblivion completely.
Finally, after many hours of ink and sweat upon the page—in much the way a warrior advances in level and suffers many defeats and uses of Phoenix Down to return to the battlefield—the writer too must reach that final battle in which the last draft is completed and the polished piece is ready for market.
The evil sorceress is defeated and all’s right with the world. Right? Okay, sure, in real life nothing is so neatly wrapped up when good triumphs over evil. Life is more complicated. Even in Squall’s story, victory over the sorceress doesn’t solve all of his problems. Squall still has to accept his dependence on Rinoa. Only then can the Sorceress be completely defeated.
Writing only succeeds when we depend on others to read our work and analyze it with multiple angles and viewpoints.
Are we happy with those choices?
Yay, print it.
No? Keep revising until you, the author, are pleased with it.
Hopefully your editors will be too.
No matter the format, story and narrative can be found in the oddest of places. Why do we love to read? To find a story, no matter where it lies. Movies, Saturday morning cartoons, the daily newspaper, and blogs on webpages.
Stories endure because they meet the requirements that they need to survive: content, cohesion, and consistency.
Look deep within your favorite stories and you’ll unlock the secrets to the best stories.
Why do they keep your attention? How can that craft element surprise both your reader and pique your own sense of adventure? Be sure to stock up on Potions and Phoenix Down for the journey. You might even need a Tent. Before you know it, you’ll be charting your own course to the world beyond the pixel curtain, bound for a place only you can create.
Meet the blogger:
J.D. DELZER is a published author with two novels of adventure fantasy. You can often find him either in front of a computer or with a Nintendo controller in his hands. His three greatest inspirations are nature, novels, and his cat.