Reporting for Duty

I just want to take a moment to report on the progress of season eight….

As I have reported in the past, I sometimes struggle to come up with ideas for the continuation of my stories and of that process, I have been known to complain that I become bogged down by “overthinking” things.

This time around I have come to the realization that there is a positive side to the “overthinking” coin and that is where I properly “think things through”.

Another thing that I have said in the past is that what works best for me is allowing the story to tell itself and this speaks volumes for why I so much enjoy playing The Sims – it is the perfect storytelling tool.

I lament that something like this did not exist 40 years ago. For you see, when I was younger I wanted to be a writer. Well, actually, I take that back, I never stopped wanting to be a writer. That is the whole reason why I do this. I want to write. I need to write. Writing makes me feel better. It is a catharsis.

When I was briefly in college, I was first a history major and I wanted to write non-fiction history articles and books. Perhaps something like “The History of Twin Bayous”

Then somebody told me that what I really should be doing is dropping French, taking an English Lit course, and switching my major to Journalism, where the focus would be on writing.

And I did all that just before I dropped out entirely and joined the Army.

As it happened, I knew a “Carina Clemens” in my lifetime. My experience was not as extreme as that of Mike Dutranoy. Instead of jail time, I joined the US Army. Instead of fairy dust, I smoked some weed now and then. (See Season Five).

Yet most of what you see in my stories here is not based on any personal experience and almost none of the characters are based on anyone that I know. For the most part, the parts of the story that really work best in my opinion are ones that suddenly flash to mind as I am playing the game. The parts that do NOT work are the ones where I try to force something to happen.

Having said that, there is also a rule that too much improvisation can be a bad thing – one where things just fly off in different directions and you wind up with all sorts of plot problems that may be beyond repair.

I will let you in on a little secret and that is that I do intentionally spin off these little sub-plots here and there. I purposely create loose ends and I have fun in the process of doing this.

It is done for two reasons: First I will introduce a character as a foil in some part of story and it may seem that once they are done being a foil, there is no further need for them. What I find fun to do is have those characters reappear later on down the road for another purpose. Two examples that come to mind are Janny Clemens (season two/episode ten and season five/episode zero) and Jackie Clemens (season two/episode fourteen and season five/episode twelve).

The part that I think is fun is that I do not go back sifting through pages to try and find these candidates, rather they pop-up on their own here and there during course of playing the game. It is kind of like seeing an old friend walking down the street or maybe running into an old enemy in a dark alley.

I also like letting the game make up the characters for me and unlike most players I know, I actually want story progression to do something that I am not expecting to have happen.

Another reason for spinning off these little sub-plots is that I like to think of them as a way of filling out the background and also adding, in a very subtle way, a bit of suspense or expectancy in the hopes that you the reader will pick-up on my subtle hints that perhaps this story is more than just a “slice-of-life” in sleepy, little Twin Bayous. The hope is that this motivates you to keep on reading.

Yet eventually there needs to be a pay-off; otherwise you, the reader, will feel cheated for having wasted your time listening to something that was nothing more than a long, drawn-out, shaggy-dog story. As I start off on season eight and I think about the terrible thing I did in season seven, I think that now it is “payback time” and I need to come up with a way to make that happen (otherwise there is going to be a riot).

At first I found myself struggling and I thought “Ahh here it goes!”. Once again, I was overthinking things and once again I was bound to soon start throwing things out because things were getting “way too complicated”.

But instead of letting it bother me, what I did was fire up The Sims 4, created a new character and just started playing without any thought of furthering the story in THOTB.

After an hour of playtime, the ideas suddenly started flooding in and I came up with was a simple, fun way in which I can make things happen – a way in which I could tie-up some loose ends.

I like things that are simple and fun.

That is all I have to report at this time. You will just have to wait for season eight to find how I managed to not paint myself into a corner or how I managed to escape from the burning house.

As an aside… I am sort of joking about season seven. I had fun doing it and I hope that everyone else had fun too. I think of season seven as kind of like a crazy Summer vacation and now it is time to go back to school.

Let me leave you with a scene from the 1994 movie “Ed Wood” starring Johnny Depp.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: …and then, Dr. Vornoff falls into the pit, and his own octopus attacks and eats him. The end.

Old Man McCoy: Whew! That’s quite a story.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Yes.

Old Man McCoy: So, uh, you made the movie, and now you wanna make it again?

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: No. We shot ten minutes of the movie, and now we’re looking for completion funds.

Old Man McCoy: Oh, son, you’re too vague.

[Yells to one of his butchers]

Old Man McCoy: BILLY BOB! You’re cuttin’ em too lean.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Mr. McCoy. How can I make you happy?

Old Man McCoy: [Spits] Okay. Two things. Number one: I want the movie to end with a big explosion. Sky full of smoke.

Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Yes. But it ends with Dr. Vornoff falling into the pit.

Old Man McCoy: Not any more. Number two: I got a son. Little slow, but a good boy, and somethin’ tells me he’d make a helluva leadin’ man.

5 thoughts on “Reporting for Duty

  1. You hit on many points that I myself struggle with a lot in my current stories. I loved taking my Sims 4 family and dragging it out so that the reader could feel as if they were along for the ride, especially as the children aged and made memories like in real life. At the same time, after so many chapters the story became a little too overloaded as my desires for the game itself changed and EA continued to release new things. Then I wanted to create a Sims 3 story – but I again over-complicated the story. It’s hard to create a story based on a game sometimes – especially when your computer doesn’t work correctly with the game. That really makes things challenging. I’m learning now that sometimes less is more. Focus on one story, use details to tell the story with screenshots, less lengthy chapters, and less lengthy books. And if I do need to change the story because of personal reasons or because of my computer system, do so but make sure the chapters are worded well so that there’s a conclusion of some sort. Your words have helped inspire me to create better stories. So thanks! 🙂

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