I haven’t been doing a lot of Warhammer painting lately, partially because of all the new ork stuff that’s been announced from GW, especially the new codex. There was a leak and from what I’ve read there’s going to be some big changes that might effect my approach to army building, so Imma hold off for a while. Also the new minis look SICK and I want to get my hands on some. Also-also, I literally don’t know anyone else IRL to play a game with, so I need to get that sorted out. ‘The next game’ has traditionally been a great source of motivation for me to work on my army and as of right now my next game is scheduled for ‘never’.
I have been writing more lately, which is good. My goal is to finish the graphic novel by the end of the year. I hadn’t worked on it for six months which was bumming me out and it feels good to be back at it. My mind is increasingly geared towards writing and so I shall now rant for a bit about one of my pet peeves in writing discussions: realism.
A bit of context: I work with writers in my job, I also write for my job, I studied writing at university, I was a teacher at a career college and also, I am on the internet sometimes. …so I have been in many discussions about scripts and what makes them good or bad. Some topics tend to come up in multiple instances, ‘realism’ and ‘plot holes’ are two of those. In this age of online user reviews there are many of opportunities to hear what people think about writing and how to do it. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and discussions can get ‘interesting’ when conducted with a mask of anonymity. (That noise you hear is just my axe, grinding. Apologies in advance.)
A common concept used to discuss the enjoyment of stories is their level of ‘realism’ which is a word I encourage people to avoid using. It plays into the false idea that there is an absolute yardstick to measure the excellence of a story. Our culture loves quantities and we are pushed towards quantitative descriptors of everything – we rate and rank and award points and like and subscribe and score top ten lists and bestseller lists all these numbers go up or down and we treat everything like it’s the stock market. Everyone loves a horse race. (Gotta know who’s winning!) Writing is not a zero sum. There’s no single winner. There can be many winners. Also no one has to lose for others to win. This kind of highly relativistic thinking puts many people off. ‘It’s just not very realistic.’
A sense of certainty is a beautiful thing. Chaos is bad, order is good. Up is up, down is down, and going against this is folly. The world makes sense when we know how things are supposed to be done, and realism is a word that appears to be certain what it’s about. When someone is being unreasonable you can tell them to be realistic. Realism is something that we should all aspire to in our daily lives. Wake up and take a healthy dose of realism! Realism has the word ‘real’ in it after all. You can’t argue with reality, can you? Well… mmmmmmactually I can. Reality is highly malleable because humans create meaning.
Imagine yourself sitting across a campfire from another person. Now tell them a story. Make them feel emotions they didn’t have and make them see things that aren’t there. Introduce them to people they’ve never met, all with just your voice. Make them laugh, make them cry. Inspire them, outrage them, thrill them. Entertain them. When you finish your story, leave them with a new idea to think about. Maybe your story helps pass the time and makes a pleasant evening, and maybe you change their entire outlook on life… change their reality.
What is reality, but a narrative? We’re born, we live, we die. Beginning, middle, end. The scientific method is simply a storytelling format… Once Upon A Time there was an observation which led to a question. After some research a mighty hypothesis arrived on the scene and there were a great many experiments, some great and some small. It all worked out and an analysis of the data led to a rightful conclusion. Theoretically, The End. Stories are a knowledge storage medium. Storytelling is the only technology that matters and so I take great umbrage with those that gum up the works with words like ‘realism’. Writers define reality, not the other way around.
Stop looking at me like I’m crazy. I’m not crazy. And stop looking at me.
I understand that natural events don’t flow from the tip of the writers’ pen. If that were the case then Donald Trump could have changed the path of Hurricane Dorian with his sharpie. (He couldn’t) But with his sharpie he did change what we said about it. With his best ever, incredible and amazing sharpie, he alone was able to tell us what it means. Writers don’t create reality but they define it. I may sound like I’m on some sort of metaphysical trip, trying to find the meaning of reality. that’s not what I want to do. I want to drive a wedge into your mind between the word ‘realism’ and ‘reality’. Reality exists in the physical world and realism exists only in the mind of the exister.
If writers aspire to realism, then our aspirations are set very low indeed for we are limiting the scope of our vision to what is expected, what is accepted, what is allowed. In my opinion realistic writing is not writing at all. It is collage, artfully cutting up familiar stories and arranging the fragments into new forms that fascinate because they remind us of things we already know. I have no time for authors that pour over works they admire and who think of storytelling like it’s a technical exercise to be mastered. Their stories are comfortable quilts made of scraps and they encourage us to sleep. Stories are simply propaganda when meaning is locked away by the tyranny of realism.
I respect the craft, but I seek the art. I am bored by clever writers and I prefer the lunatics who are doing everything wrong and strive to create something new. I seek out the sloppy writers, the self-taught amateurs. I want to work for it, I want to struggle to understand, I want to be surprised. I am bored by preaching, I prefer a conversation. I seek out the stories that intrigue me, beg me to keep them close and think about them for the rest of my life. I want to be rewarded for paying close attention. I prefer living flesh and blood to bronze that stands on a marble pedestal. I seek to write stories that are never finished what they have to say.
This entry is perhaps a bit more philosophical than my usual rantings about Warhammer and such but it underpins everything I do. This is my perspective on scriptwriting on comics, music, theatre and any other kind of storytelling. Gaming is a storytelling medium and there’s no reason that a game can’t be as a profound experience as any other.