Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Islands and Conflict

Multiple years back in my childhood, fueled by a frustration-lacking-words and an introduction into online RPG games, I devised a simplistic and somewhat derivative concept set on a series of floating islands on the brink of war due to ancestral crystal artifacts being stolen from each and every one. The very concept of landmasses separate by vast gaps of air fascinated my younger self, yet at the time I still relied upon stereotypical tropes of how those island cultures would be: that is, highly Eurocentric, and somewhat sterile and flat.

This was perhaps a result of my interacts with the aforesaid online games, which had technical limitations and thus could not be as dynamic and spontaneous as the natural world. But it does bring to attention of how some worlds, some presentations, are driven solely by a few names while all the rest seem to sit back and stand merely as stage-dressing—again, this may be due to technical limitations, or an unwillingness to spend energy on details that matter extremely little to the main bearing of a story or world. And the Law of Conservation of Detail is an influential one, no doubt. It would not befit a concise plot to tangent off into various pricing procedures and history of trade routes to explain as to why the protags can acquire quite a lot of weaponry in quite a short time.

In their own way, background glossaries and world encyclopedias aid in a reader gaining context—but if that context is still separate and non-informative by the characters' decisions and narrative commentary, then it seems just as ineffective.

Thus, verisimilitude is just as, if not more, important for context and at least maintaining the illusion of a fluid, reacting world that is not purely set piece. Term-of-focus being illusion, as again the Law and a reader's willingness to absorb data are limiting factors, and to make a world is to effectively lie and bluff oneself into the realm of seeming competence. Unless of course one happens to be highly interested in trade routes or somesuch specific detail, from which a more realistic and informed setting—at least in that specific respect—can be derived. Sometimes this makes for a better tale.

But, in other cases, one must lie and make their creations seem fluid. One could add a large-scale motivating factor, such as the theft of the crystals in my old setting, and work downwards to the reactions of powerful entities, then their supporters, then their lands, and so on until the bottommost layer of detail that is thought to be necessary. One could also make individual points or names, and deliberately put them at odds with one-another to see how a larger system might react; this does not so heavily rely on scale so much, and one can add as many points as one likes.

The point is, texture can do nearly as much as depth.

Hell if I know.


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