At the very least, most writers wear two hats; one of the creator and the other of enthusiast. From personal experience, I have discovered both perspectives tend to walk hand-in-hand so intimately, they can be construed one and the same. I suspect most of us have experienced a sense of giddiness at the announcement of a childhood book coming to life on film or the modernization of a beloved television show only to have it grossly perverted from its original vision. When a disgruntled view is articulated, we are often told it is a re-imagining or re-visioning of the original version.
The last sentence you just read could very rightly be its own post. My intent here is to navigate where the mind goes when it encounters an outcome not favoring personal bias, especially regarding sources of inspiration we hold dear. What better way to illustrate than use my own biases against me (smile…)
Some of what I relate here will feed in to my prior post, Characters: They are not expendable. Let’s start with my enthusiast hat, where the context stems from the word enthusiasm meaning an intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval courtesy of the Google search engine.
I am what some refer to as an old time paper Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) player. I am referring to a time when you sat down with graph paper, created several different floors (levels) of a dungeon, and got together with friends to create characters based on a rule set initially established by Gary Gygax and Dave Ameson, which was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Incorporated (TSR). The entire concept of D&D is vast and what I just described does not scratch the surface; I have included a link at the end of this post to get you started in case curiosity strikes.
At its core, D&D is about telling a story; a duty assigned to the Dungeon Master (DM). For me it was not just about playing an Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, or Human and casting spells. I was living in a fantastical world created by other players and it resonated with me in ways words cannot describe. I eventually began creating my own stories in the age of the second edition rules while stationed in Germany during the early 1990’s. I often say, Star Wars is what inspired me to write but D&D impassioned me to tell stories. When the movie, Dungeons & Dragons premiered in 2000, I quickly learned the meaning of do not put passion before principle.
Remember the sense of giddiness I referred to at the beginning of this post? Well, it wilted in utter disappointment. Due to the passing of time, I cannot remember my specific condemnations and will leave out the colorful expletives I used back then to express my disappointment. What I do remember is a poorly articulated story, weak characterization, and nothing near the quality of what should have been expected from a D&D based story. It appeared the robust and rich content available to the film’s creators had been glossed over in favor of special effects and haphazard story implementation. After some time had passed, I attempted to give the benefit of doubt to the film, thinking I had responded far too harshly based on my passion and personal experience with the franchise to where it clouded my judgment. At the end of my self-reflection, the answer was still a resounding, no; it was and ever shall be a mockery of a system which paved the way for the myriad role playing games we see in present day.
Now for the fun part, the creator hat. Let me bring us back to 2017 and talk about a television series most have heard mentioned more than they would care to admit. The show in question is the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels titled, A Song of Ice and Fire, called The Game of Thrones (GoT). Due to its popularity, I will not detail the show’s nuances; if you want to read about it, a link to its Wikipedia article is below.
In the second to the last episode of season three titled, The Rains of Castamere, one of the most notable events commonly called The Red Wedding, challenged me in a way I never thought possible. After watching the episode I proclaimed, quite vividly I might add, the show was dead to me; no pun intended if you are familiar with its main event. I was furious with what I construed a mistreatment of characters and killing main characters just for the sake of killing to maintain viewership. I rubbed my hands together and stopped watching. Fortunately for me it was at the end of the third season.
When my husband and I discussed the episode with our friends in California, one of them put it to me this way; “Greg, you are a writer…think about it for a moment while I explain the story’s background to you.” After his explanation, I agreed to give the show another chance citing I would look at my own creative biases and react rationally; I am extremely glad I did.
When I stepped back and looked at the elements in play; lore and plot, plus cause and effect, I could clearly see where the content creators were heading. Let me be clear, I do understand story tellers will challenge our expectations and not approach elements in a formulaic manner. It is reasonable to expect beloved characters will die when the story’s setting is considered. Successful television shows such as The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and, yes, Game of Thrones have perfected the art while gaining the respect of viewers.
If creators can demonstrate said acts further the plot in a meaningful and insightful way, fellow creators such as myself need to exhibit professional courtesy by allowing the story to reach its conclusion before issuing a critique.
Feel free to post your questions, comments or concerns. I will respond, if need be, when I able.
Dungeons & Dragons Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons
Game of Thrones Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_of_Thrones