Friday, February 22, 2019

Difficult Characters

Once upon a time, I played a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game. Obsessively. I managed to create a character with what I thought was a silly, throw away backstory. But from that silly backstory, she took on a life and a legend of her own. In the midst of it all, the game company claimed that the race to which my toon belonged had never been intended to be serious characters in the game - they'd been designed to be nothing more than comedic relief.

I was offended. Then I came to believe the attitude from the game company was a grave disservice to the race. I mean, look around our world. Are the funniest people not the ones hiding the deepest, most intractable pain? Maybe not always. Sometimes silly is just silly. But in this case, I really felt like the game writers were stuck in an idea rut that short-changed them, the game story, and the character potential I saw in this character and her race.

Then the game company just HAD to piss me off by taking pains to inform players that the game company, not the players, owned the rights to any and all characters within the game. No matter how much time and effort players had put into actually creating characters to flesh out what had amounted to a collection of graphics files. It was, 'Hey! We drew pretty pictures for you, so now we own all the hard work you put into actually breathing life into those pictures! Thanks! Suckers.' No, it's not your imagination. My eyelid really is twitching over this. My reaction eventually amounted to a far less polite version of, 'Oh yeah?? Guess what, you jerks.'

I based a book on the character they told me I didn't own. Won't get into details because a forlorn vestige of the company and the game are still out there in the world, but yeah, while so much has changed between game character and book character that I doubt I could be successfully sued, I have zero interest in finding that out. The annoying thing is that the character and voice that grew so organically out of a game, became really, really difficult to write in a novel. The backstory couldn't be silly because the story arc wouldn't support it. Nor would the emotional arc of a romance. This novel is still stewing while I work on other stuff because while I think I have a story that's true to the spirit of my beloved toon, no one (me or the hero or the heroine) can figure out the climax of this book.

I think the biggest issue is that in a game, nothing has to make sense. You kill bad guys. You take their stuff. There doesn't need to be a why. In a novel, I need a why. I never thought I'd be the one saying this because I am usually ALL ABOUT the why - but the damned whys of this novel and this character I so love are making me want to slam my head repeatedly in a door somewhere.

Maybe I'll go slip into game for a little while. Just for old times' sake. Depending on where I adventure in the game world, it will be just like slamming my head in a door. So there's that, I guess.

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