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sunandshadow

Stories which are important to you

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Are there any stories, perhaps a fairy tale, a cartoon, a ballad, where the story seems fundamentally important to you? Something you are fascinated by, want to write your own version of, always compare other stories too? For myself, Beauty and the Beast seems to underlie a lot of what I write. Mulan, Lord of the Flies, Ender's Game, and The Clan of the Cave Bear are some others which strike me as very important. I generally only read books once, occasionally twice, so if I find myself reading something for a third time that's usually a clue that my subconscious thinks there's something important hidden in there. Later I will post talking about myth analysis - how to do a comparative analysis of several of stories to figure out which of their ingredients are important to you and which aren't. But for now I'd like everyone to list the stories that are important to them. If one is important to a lot of people I'll analyze that one as an example. [smile]

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I'm glad you phrased it like that - there are a lot of stories that really strike me, and that really seem important to me... but that I can't quite quantify.

Wicked, and its predecessor, the Wizard of Oz, The Dig, Into the Out of (both by Alan Dean Foster), Jarhead, and the Foundation Series. For that matter, Ender's Game should be in that list, as well as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Alice in Wonderland (Through the Looking Glass, anyone?). In that order, really.

Really, I just fall in love with characters, but these also/only struck me for their stories. Now I'm curious to see what it is, really, that draws me to some of these diverse stories.

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Well, I would say that "The Matrix" saga brings up a few points of my concern... like reality and what we percieve as reality, the pourpose of life, faith, predestination, materialism, mass_control/submission, sacrifice, etc.

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-In no particular order:

The Call
The Princess' Bride(Book)
Piercing the Darkness/This present Darkness
Harry Potter
Narnia: A Horse and His Boy/Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Hobbit
Skylark Series
Lensman Series
Isaac Asimov's short storys
John Grisham Novels (particularly The Client)

-People seem to be mentioning movies also, so here: (Also in no order)

The first Matrix(Only the first)
Boondock Saints
Snatch
Usual Suspects
The Princess' Bride(Movie)
Bandits
Italian Job
Ocean's Eleven
Broken Arrow
Diehard 1 & 3
Fiddler on the Roof
Office Space
The Boiler Room

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Harry Potter is an interesting one - doesn't resonate with me in particular, but is hugely popular with many people. I'd be curious to know what elements of it are important, besides the basic idea of having magical powers and going to a magical boarding school. Personally I find the sorting hat and personality-type houses interesting, but I doubt most people would consider that particularly important.

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I really like the Harry Potter series, but not in this way. They're good movies, and better books, but I didn't find any real story elements that hit me.

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In my opinion, JK Rowlings isn't the best writer around, but she did create a great world. At first she had it a more comical series, but as the books got popular, she tried to make it darker. I feel the main reason the books are popular is that she happened to pick the right settings at the right time. Westerns were famous, then they weren't, magic and knight's adventures were the main setting, then they weren't. The majority's favorite settings swing around wildly in jumps about every five-ten years, and JK Rowling happened to write what came to her, and scored big.
A more important question, I think, is why are fictional movies, books, and games popular at all? Why do we want fiction instead of fact? It's not that fact isn't interesting, you can find many great time killers, reading about the rise and fall of empires, or the history of a 'normal' man who accomplished some great feat; I think fiction is interesting because we long to be adventurous, and risk danger, because we want more than what we have, we know there is more to life, more than we can feel and see.

Eh.. I'm getting off-topic now, so I'll stop straying from the question at hand. JK Rowling happened to hit the majority public's interest before anyone else realized what the public wanted. That's my opinion.

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Fiction allows us things that we want but don't or can't have in real life. That's more than enough reason for me.

//edit. I also love non-fiction, I just wanted to say why I like fiction.

[Edited by - Avatar God on May 24, 2006 3:04:43 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:

Why do we want fiction instead of fact


I dont know if I agree with that statement. Ive seen my share of WWII games on the shelves that seem to never die off. Although fictional in play, the draw is factural.

The draw of fiction game is because people want to be able to do something they cant do in reality. Its the same reason we watch movies or seek other forms of art/media. If by chance it does happen to be considered factural, it has to be interesting to us and we must have the desire to learn more about it to find it entertaining.

When I watch the discovery channel and watch a special about castles, I still imagine myself running around in that time period and how I would "play" in that time/area. When I watch myth busters, its because I like to think how i would like to do those experiements. Thats why it is entertaining to me.

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hmmm... books that are important to me... difficult one...

Probably those by Terry Pratchett and Bernard Werber's ANTS trilogy. I like that whirling storytelling you can also find in Guy Ritchie's movies like Snatch or Lock, Stock... I just can't stop watching those movies, or reading those books. I always come back to them, like old friends...

There is also a graphic series (I just can't resolve myself to use the words 'comic books' since it is essentially dramatic) the Third Testament. I like the way the reader is drawn to side with the main character until the penultimate page, where you learn that he is the antechrist, and the secondary character has to kill him. I like stories that do NOT end well. Maybe Braveheart or Gladiator, to some extent. But I'd rather have the main character be a loner trying desperately to regain his place in society, rather than seeking revenge, and ultimately accept to loose everything so that society remains...

Ender's strategy, and shadow strategy are two examples of what I also like, in terms of political intrigue, and second guessing.

I also like Cryptonomicon's precision and involvement. The writer tries desperately to make the reader follow the mental process of some mathematical and cryptographic geniuses, but at the same time, makes his characters completely touching and loveable, even though there are completely uncommon. I also liked his Zodiac.

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I wish this were more profound, but most of my writing is influenced by Saturday morning cartoons. Episodic storytelling with absurd but predictably placed plot twists. I probably should have spent less time loafing in front of the TV when I was a little kid.

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It may sound trite, but the Roadrunner cartoons have always been an inspiration of mine. This doesn't mean that my driveway is a sequence of traps, or that I have shares in Acme. Rather, even though Coyote keeps losing, he still gets up and tries again. I think that's a rather important lesson to remember.

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Hmm, The Golden Compass (and the rest of the trilogy, I suppose)... I'm not sure why, but I think it's the only book where I *really* fell in love with the universe.
I mean, LoTR was dull dull dull. Harry Potter is ok'ish, but like sunandshadow said, it doesn't really resonate with me either. It has some fun parts, and the writing style isn't annoying, so I don't mind reading it, but that's all.

But in The Golden Compass, the world just seemed so much more vivid and real (And fun, weird and interesting as well) than any other book I can think of.

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I really like character driven stories moreso than plot/action driven stories.

I like stories where two (or more) completely different characters are forced together into a situation beyond their control, ultimately clash, and eventually find a way past their differences. For instance, Enemy Mine, Rain Man, Changing Lanes, etc.

I also like stories where a character is put into an extremely dire situation where through sheer power of their character they ultimately flourish. For instance, Shawshank Redemption.

Also, I like stories with one person against the system. eg., Rob Roy, Gladiator, Equilibrium, Gattaca.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
finished: slam dunk, hikaru no go, yuu yuu hakusho, monster, one litre of tears, all detective/mystery novels (ellery queen, agatha christie,...)

unfinished: 20th century boys, hunter x hunter

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Quote:

Why do we want fiction instead of fact


I dont know if I agree with that statement. Ive seen my share of WWII games on the shelves that seem to never die off. Although fictional in play, the draw is factural.


That's true. I certainly loved this Ghost Recon game I had, Island Thunder or something, and I love castles too, as well as ancient cities and pyrimids. Fact isn't boring, but some people seem to love fiction more. Heh, I'd rather visit modern Rome for a day, then play a medieval MMO or RPG for a week.

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Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan. Great series before it becomes too bloated, I like how the author is able to create a whole world with just plain text on a paper, not many people is able to do that.

George R.R. Martin's, Song of Ice and Fire Series, same reasons as above.

Robert A. Heinlein's books are nice too for example Starship Troopers.

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Legends of the Fall (the novella), by Jim Harrison. IMHO, one of the strongest stories written by an American.

The short stories of Roger Zelazny. He once said that his short stories are the last chapters of all the novels he never wrote. Brilliant stuff.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Simultaneously one of the most beautiful and one of the most horrifying books I have ever read.

Mostly I like stories which show the vastness of the world/universe/story-scape, and what a small, fragile, impermanent place we hold in it. Then invert the story so this tiny microcosm contains within it all that is fundamental about the rest of creation.

See also:
the works of H.P. Lovecraft
the Hyperion cantos (Hyperion and Endymion series) by Dan Simmons
the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton
the Tao Te Ching

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I'm fascinated when reading certain parts of stories that hits home so well. It's often when I feel the author captured something very true and human. I also like when a story has a certain feel or theme that it manages to mediate. I'm inspired by stories such as The Black Cat by Edgar Alan Poe. I like the feeling of mystery. I also like being presented to a vision or unique perspective on something. I'm also fond of other ingredients such as feeling of adventure and freedom. What inspires me to write is wanting to bring together these different themes and ingredients I love into a story. And I don't mean just putting together a puzzle of different themes and ideas (creating a frankensteins monster) - I mean finding a common thread that binds it all together and using techniques I like to mediate the story.

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another one which makes me feel dizzy with genius is "the Yellow Wallpaper". Right now, I can't remember the name of the author, but go ahead, google it, and you'll just find the best piece of writing expressing the fall into madness, while remaining clearsighted all along. Just ahead of Mauypassant's "Le Horla", in my opinion...

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Okay, time to talk about myth analysis and how it is a useful tool for a writer. [smile]

Much of the writing advice I have given here on Gamedev has to do with analyzing what one subconsciously things is important and consciously exploring these themes in your fiction. Often you will find that that novel or videogame story you yearn to write has underlying similarities with other pieces of fiction which have struck you as particularly important (usually for mysterious subconscious reasons).

If you don't understand why a piece of fiction is important to you, you don't know where to start in attempting to capture this importance in your own writing. This is why myth analysis is awesome. [wink] Using the two-part process of symplifying a story to an outline of its essential archetypes and transformations, then comparing several stories to see what archetypes, transformations, and plot patterns they have in common, can help you figure out what you really want to write and why it matters.

Let's look at the Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons as a simple yet quite interesting example. What exactly happen is a typical coyote and roadrunner cartoon? The coyote wants to eat the roadrunner. The coyote's usual motivation is simple hunger, but it has also been portrayed variously as hunting instinct, desire to prove that he is smarter than the roadrunner, and desire to assuage feelings of inadequacy and frustration from having been defeated by the roadrunner so many times before. The coyote's general method of attacking the problem is to create a trap, usually with the aid of technology. So thematically, we have the coyote allied with the side of brains and civilization (humans), while we have the roadrunner allied with nature and luck (aka magical favoritsm by the world). Interestingly nature is not characterized by brawn and violence, as it is in many other stories, but instead with speed and slipperiness.

So, the coyote tries to use technology and wit to defeat the roadrunner, but always fails. Often, the coyote fails where he could logically be expected to have succeded. In some cases this is luck (his traps always get stuck while the roadrunner is in range, then go off and clobber the coyote). In other cases it goes beyond luck and into the realm of magic - the roadrunner runs through a painted doorway, while the coyote can't but instead crashes into the wall the doorway is painted on. Arguably, the coyote is actually fighting not the roadrunner but the whole world which favors the roadrunner and bends the laws of physics to protect it and smack down the coyote. This has a side effect of making the coyote more sympathetic to the audience, because people empathize with being treated unfairly and like to cheer for underdogs.

As poss74 says, one of the most notable things about this series of cartoons is that the coyote never gives up. He may wave a white flag after being particularly beaten, or resort to a vegetarian meal, but the audience knows that this is a temporary retreat, he's always going to regroup and try again.

Some other interesting factors to consider - there is only one roadrunner. This is important because if the roadrunner were ever eaten the plot would abruptly end because there wouldn't be anything left for the coyote to chase. There couldn't just be another roadrunner, because the emnity between the coyote and the roadrunner is personal. The coyote might even have to feel guilty for eating the roadrunner, and audience sympathy would be destroyed because the roadrunner hasn't been characterized as evil and deserving of death, just as annoying and deserving of being the one a boulder falls on for once. The roadrunner's death would also be unsatisfying because it is incompatible with the story universe - if death was possible, the coyote's injuries should have killed him long ago, and if the coyote was capable of winning despite the world being biased against him we should have seen the coyote making some sort of progress, pushing the limits of what the world can do to work against him, foreshadowing his final discovery of a way to finally outmanuver the world. But none of this happens because there are no limits on what the world can do to protect the roadrunner, since the world has magic which can mess with the laws of physics and the coyote has only technology which must work within the laws of physics.

So since the series portrays an eternal cycle, part of the series' thematic argument is that eternal cycles exist and are a good and right way of life which has room for both nature and technological progress.


That's my initial analysis, what do you all think? [smile]

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There was also supposed to be something about the roadrunner in the cartoons not ever taking direct actions against the coyote. It was suposed to be out of concern for violence on a childrens tv show. And when you look at it, it kinda says something about the power of peaceful actions.

I don't read much so it's usually some TV show that has that element for me. It's more of a resonnance with stuff going on in my life or the way I feel rather than a feeling that a story is important. As my life goes on, in time, that resonnance usually fades. But sometimes there's a few of these stories that stand out in my memory.

Lately it's been Vision of Escaflowne. The main protaganist and antagonist both with the power to see into the future and change it find the results of their efforts to be disasterous and futile.

As for a game, I'd say Final Fantasy VI. Though fairly cliche by modern standards, back when it came out the whole end of the world thing had a different impact than it does now. For that matter X-Files and Millennium certainly had their effect on me.

I think it'd be interesting to examine pre-y2k pop culture and compare it to modern pop. It seems to me that there's something extrordinarily important to be learned there. Does anyone knows of any good reading on that?

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Hi,

Since you posted a blurb about myth analysis I'm not sure if posting now will make much difference, but I'm going to anyway :)

I found the Harry Potter books to be very good. I think one of the main reasons for this is that everything in Harry's world seems to happen for a reason and makes sense. J.K Rowling claims to have thought up the entire plot for all the books at the start (if this is actually true or not is another question) I think she did as the plot over all the books is one of the most coherent I have ever read.

That is, it doesn’t seem like each sequel was written purely because the previous book sold well.

On same note I feel only the first two Harry Potter films managed to stay true enough to the books to convey this fact. The last two films were so different the sense of coherence was lost as many of the small plot points were removed. Also, several people I’ve talked to who haven’t read the books agreed that things just seemed to happen and not really made much sense.

My favourite story currently is probably ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass). It’s such a great story involving so many different aspects ranging from religion to quantum physics.

Also a big fan of the Discworld series.


- Chris

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Oh, a lot. The Lord of the Rings instilled in me my love of epics. I tend to write stories that are epic in some way. Sometimes in the scope of the world, sometimes in characters, sometimes in the ideas. But the book has influenced me to no end to create stories that are larger than life in some way. And if I can ever create a universe a tenth as detailed as Tolkein's, I'll be tickled pink.

Otherwise, I've mostly been influenced by games in stories.

Final Fantasy VI was what really opened my eyes to the possibility of games telling stories, though the story itself didn't influence me all that much. But Final Fantasy VIII really got to me. Since playing that game, nearly every story I've created has involved some kind of love story. And like the love story in Final Fantasy VIII, they're usually about an unusual intensity and destiny, characters changing each other drastically and a whole lot of dramatic imagery. I even have a concept kicking around in my head for Final Fantasy VIII-2, which is officially my dream project as a future game designer. I know my odds of actually creating that game are virtually nil, but hey, I can dream, can't I?

Grim Fandango also has had a lot of influence. I love the game's sense of style, and in particular, the writing. It is sharp, warm and just a touch self-deprecating. I've hoping to create a game that amounts to a cousin of Grim Fandango. A similarish concept, slightly darker subject matter (but free of baditude), and some very different themes, but you'll probably be able to tell that it's heavily influenced by Grim Fandango.

ICO, simply for proving that interactive storytelling can be done. Though it will probably go down in history as one of the simpler examples, it has started a path I hope to follow some day.

The Last Express proved to me that history and political intrigue could be cool. If you haven't played this game, find a way to. It's the sharpest written, best acted game, period.

Metal Gear Solid 2 proved to me how astonishing and mind-blowing plot twists could be. If I could come up with a curve-ball as crazy, plausible and shocking as one of the plot twists in MGS2, I'd be a very happy man.

There's also one movie that had a big impact on me. It's probably not the one you'd expect, either. Babe: Pig in the City. What I love about this movie is how overtly dark it is, and how almost nobody seems to pick up on it because there are cute animals in it. But it's the one that taught me how stylish and fun a dark streak can be when done right. And the film is quite dark. It just knows how to stop short of a PG-13 rating with fuzzy creatures and a happy ending.

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