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What is wrong with Dave Rapp?
You're insane.  71%  [ 10 ]
I love you.  29%  [ 4 ]
Total votes : 14
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 Post Posted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 1:14 pm 
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:02 am
Posts: 6
Dave Rapp wrote:
Since this is the Fiction, Poetry, and Essays forum, I figure I should probably post an essay-like substance at some point.


Let's say you're reading a comic book or watching a movie or what have you. The writer(s) pull off some brilliant bit of tactics or ideas on the behalf of the character, and what is your initial reaction? I can't speak for the world, but I usually think "My god! How did they think of that?"

But let's take a step back and put us into the minds of the creators. As a person who not only reads a whole slew of webcomic on a regular basis, but also produces one of my own, I am privy to some pseudo-inside knowledge, which, despite its obviousness, a lot of people don't seem to realize.

The writer knows things that you don't. You, as a reader, see things at the beginning and gain new knowledge regarding what is and isn't possible as the writer reveals them to you. Unless you've read the book before, that's the way it always works. But the writer has no such limitations. For every "inescapable" situation the characters find themselves in, the writer knows nothing more or less than EVERYTHING that came beforehand, and everything that's going to happen in the future. Unless they're the writers of Lost, of course.

The fact of the matter is, except for the rare occasion where the writer intends from the get-go to kill off a character, they don't put anyone into a situation unless they already know its resolution. You think the writers of MacGuyver didn't know exactly what Mac was going to build before they stuck him into that week's sticky situation? You think the writers of House don't already know what's wrong with the patient before the doc even comes onscreen?

You don't get anywhere by intentionally giving yourself situations that you have to struggle to solve. If there are any authors out there who actually do make every single little thing up as they go along, I have to applaud them, both for being clever and being an idiot. I myself try to make things up as I go along, but I don't, for example, put my characters into a Mexican standoff unless I already know its resolution. Long before they wrote the final three-way showdown at the end of The Good the Bad and the Ugly, I'm sure the writers knew which characters were going to survive it. If they didn't, they're careless idiots. Definitely gutsy, but still careless.

You might try and imagine how the author possibly managed to come up with such a brilliant solution to the puzzle, but that's backwards. To them, it's not a puzzle and it never was. You see a no-win situation, and are shocked when the character wins out. But it's not even a real situation. The author had the finished picture first, and only shows you pieces of it, just enough for you to see that there is a puzzle, but not nearly enough to solve it. What would be the fun in that? If your audience figures it out before you meant them to, any timing you may have had goes right out the window.

I recall reading a book back in eighth grade, which was a collection of those "whodunit" short stories. I couldn't figure any of them out myself, with one exception. The detective was called in to find out if some caveman cave paintings were real or not. It depicted some cavemen fighting back a large T-rex-like lizard with little spears. But I've known since age six that men and dinosaurs never lived together. (thanks, Bill Nye!) My B.S. alarm went off, and the story was ruined because I had figured it out sooner then I was supposed to. It felt like I had solved a puzzle, and we all know that the real fun of any puzzle is more in the process of trying to figure them out, than in actually finishing them.

Don't ever praise a writer for coming up with a solution to an unbeatable puzzle. That's giving them credit where it isn't due and not giving it where it is. If you want to give praise to an author, praise them for tricking you into thinking a puzzle exists in the first place. It's slight of hand, not puzzle solving. You don't praise a magician for figuring out how to make a ball disappear, you praise them for making it seem as if they had done so.

What you admire in any work of art is the artist's ability to create. Because that's all art really is, just something the artist created. I know that it may seem like an odd statement, especially when you refer to, say, the Mona Lisa. But that's just an old picture of some woman. So what? I can walk down the street with a camera and take a dozen pictures, and they'll be higher resolution too. No, what you admire is the creative process, not so much the end result. If you just want results, go into R&D for the military. Seriously, you'll enjoy it and make a lot of money.

If I were to compare the Mona Lisa to, say, Page #134 of Erfworld: The Battle for Gobwin Knob, you'd think I'm an idiot. And you might be right but at least hear me out. When Leonardo Da Vinci set out to paint the big ML, he had an idea. His method of applying the idea was to put some colored oil onto a poplar panel. And when the creators of Erfworld set out to make #134, they too had an idea. Their method of applying the idea was to make a webcomic strip. Both are art, and both were created from ideas. Who's to say that one idea is better than the other? You can't. Seriously, you just can't. You'd look like an idiot. Ideas are like opinions; there's never a right and wrong, a good and bad, et cetera. All ideas are created equally. Except for that guy who invented the deep-fried Twinkie. He was a brilliant lunatic.

Don't admire the product, be it a clever puzzle or a picture of some Italian woman. What is truly deserving of admiration is the thought that went into it. Those lunatics who spend years working on some white canvas with, say, some crayon scribbling on it, and then hang it in a museum and call it art, aren't as crazy as them seem. Well, they're usually crazy but that's for different reasons. If you think for one second that the author didn't start with a great idea, you're the crazy one.

Seriously, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that Erfworld came to be, simply because one day Rob or Jamie said something like this:

"Dude. What if some kind of earth mage and a necromancer got together and used their magic to wake up a dormant volcano?"

And what a cool idea it was.

I personally make it up as I go long. I know who will win, but I do't know HOW they win, the how is the important part. even then, sometimes I'll just say screw it and make the lead protgonists be captured by hobbit gypsies and be taken to a secret underground nuclear-war bunker which is under the control of both badgers and Russians, and then he'll have to cast fireball on the sexy russian commander whilst kissing her and then I'll throw in a sex scene and make fun of Australians... and then I'll remember that I'm writing historical fiction, and try and find a way to work it into the story...

Now THAT'S! improvisation.


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     Post Posted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:04 pm 
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    Shotgun response:
    Time to find grey pixel: 27 seconds. (save image to hard drive, load in paint program, flood fill black with 0 color tolerance. Oh look, there is a grey pixel.. no wait that's a monitor spot... oh there it is.)

    Ah, but what if the hole doesn't really have depth, it's just our perceptions that lead us to believe it does?

    Megs often ends up taking orders from someone else, namely Unicron, though he usually ends up as Galvatron when that happens.
    Unicron makes Megs his little plaything for the first time
    (And yes, that is Orson Wells and Leonard Nemoy...)
    The Fallen is a more direct predecessor to Megatron in the movie continuity, as one of the original transformers, and according to some of the expanded information, caused his fall to raving madman destroyer of all. Also, he loses his command several times in the comics in one form or another.

    I've read that cave painting story. I think it was an Encyclopedia Brown. I spotted the same thing.

    Sometimes they don't have a solution for the unsolvable problem though... then you get into lame crap answer that can't be predicted. I like to have a chance of figuring things out. When they pull out the Quantum Sonication Cannon to disrupt the spin of the polarization of the tesseract, and they've never even mentioned they HAVE a Quantum Sonication Cannon, it kinda peeves me. That's why many times the 'omg how they think of that' is really a 'how did they think of that' good... Not only did they start there and work backwards, but they did it without too obvious handwavium.

    I know I've painted myself into a corner once or twice. Actually, I'm in a corner right now and looks like I'll have to rewrite 4 chapters because I can't logically get where I need to be from here, within the established framework. When they do this:

    How we gonna defeat X, he's a god?
    X is immune to our technology
    X is unable to be reasoned with.
    At the Last Moment, X is about to destroy us... oh look X's parents showed up and sent him to his room, we're saved!

    See that sucks. It's a way out of the unsolvable problem, but sucks. So they were clever.

    (One of my problems with TV sci fi is that so much TV doesn't THINK about these unsolvable life crisis that last many episodes more than 'it builds tension to do Y', and after 3/4 of a season or so it's 'ok let's resolve Y... uh... how the hell do we do that?' and they just arn't very clever about it at all).

    Skynet didn't know dude was kid's father. That was established in the first movie; the only name of record for a parent was the mother, and that was only in a general area.

    Random response: Did you know that, assuming a magical girl's henshin (change) didn't slow her downward acceleration, she was heading for the street and not one of the buildings around the base, and she could survive (or evade) a 120 mph impact with the ground when transformed, that if a magical girl was knocked out of the observation deck of Tokyo Tower untransformed, she would only have 5.53 seconds to do the henshin thing?

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