The more near-sighted among you will be delighted to see that we’ve had a little bit of a redesign here at Maisie HQ. Hopefully this is a little bit easier to read. I suppose I should get around to customizing this site properly, but ya know, effort and stuffs.
Admittedly with the benefit of hindsight white text on a blackish/grey background probably wasn’t the best design choice but hopefully black on white (insert interracial sex joke here) will make this little blog of mine more accessible. Ultimately it’s a small thing but makes the presentation of the site better, which will work as a somewhat clunky segue into my topic today.
So what is it exactly that turns good writing into great writing? I am of the opinion that it is the tiny details, the almost insignificant things that end up enhancing the product as a whole by either sticking in our minds or aiding with the suspension of disbelief.
Good writing to me is when a story is able to join all the dots, getting from A to B without being too clunky and character motivations making sense within the context of the plot. When I refer to something as “well-written” (which I realise I do a lot, I should invest in a thesaurus or something) this is typically what I am referring to. Good writing is not hard. Honestly, it surprises me how often the writers of Eastenders cock it up. And all the other soap operas. And a lot of Hollywood films. Seriously, they’ve been doing this shit for a million years, you’d think they’d have it down pat by now (I’m looking at you Warcraft -.-).
Great writing is what happens when you are able to do all of that and add in the little details that have an impact greater than it’s small part would initially suggest. Big/little details, if you will.
I’d like to share with you some of my favourite examples of big/little details that have sparked my imagination over the years.
The first comes from Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us. Sometimes the choices the player makes will be accompanied by a caption stating that a character “will remember this”. As Bigby Wolf, sheriff of Fabletown, is trying to solve the murder of a dead troll prostitute (seriously, this game is awesome) he encounters a drunken Gren (aka Grendel of Norse mead hall fame) who has a deep conversation with Bigby before passing out, accompanied by the caption “Gren will not remember this”. It is the tiniest of tiny details but it sufficiently subverts expectations enough to become a memorable part of an already brilliantly written game.
Staying with games, my next example comes from the impeccable episodic adventure Life is Strange. I know I bang on about this a lot but seriously, it is one of the best examples of immersive, interactive fiction you will ever find. I could probably write a whole series of posts on the tiny touches in this game, but the one I will talk about here is the reveal of hip teacher Mark Jefferson as the primary antagonist in the cliffhanger ending of episode 4.
What was great about this was that if you were paying attention in episode 1 he basically tells you he’s the bad guy. Jefferson has been drugging girls, taking them to his “dark room” to photograph them and kill them if they became aware of what was happening. In the first five minutes of episode 1 he gives protagonist Max and her classmates a lecture about how “unconscious models are often the most expressive” and how he could “frame any one of them in a dark room”. It’s the best kind of twist, one that the audience never sees coming but in retrospect is the only logical way the story could have gone.
Moving to television drama, there was a moment in The Walking Dead that recently had me squealing like a teenage girl at a Twilight convention (yes, those are real). In the 4 episode Terminus story arc (season 4 episode 16 – s 5 e 3), we see Rick Grimes burying a bag of weapons. Later he is interrogated by the Terminian leader about the bag and says it has a machete with a red handle before declaring “That’s what I’m going to use to kill you”. Two episodes later we see the tables turned with the Terminian leader begging for his life. Just as we think Rick is going to show mercy, he coldly states that he has “a promise to keep” before pulling back his jacket to reveal a concealed machete with a red handle. The shot lasts less than a second. Seriously, I missed it on my first viewing, but a seemingly throw away line used to set up a seemingly throw away shot that is both a major plot and character turning point is exactly the kind of clever writing that gives me a massive narrative stiffy. Not an actual stiffy though, I’m a cinephile but not in that way.
Or am I….?
Finally we come to what is possibly the greatest tiny detail of all time: the origami unicorn from Blade Runner. Throughout the film, Gaff taunts Decker (Harrison Ford) with various origami figures before giving him a unicorn near the film’s conclusion. In the 1992 director’s cut, Ridley Scott adds a scene where Decker has a dream about a unicorn prompting a resounding: “What the deuce?”
Seriously, for nearly a quarter of a century people have debated the significance of this act. How did Gaff know what Decker was dreaming about? What is the significance of the mythical beast? Is it merely Decker and Gaff’s mutual view of Rachel as an innocent? Or is Decker a replicant and this is Gaff’s way of letting him know he watches his thoughts? It could be any of those things, or it could one of the many other interpretations that have been put forward over the years. The only certain thing is that if you want to see nerds fight just get them talking about Blade Runner.
Seriously, it’s hilarious.
So do you agree that it’s the small details that make writing great? What are some of your favourite big/little moments? Is my love for story telling massively inappropriate?
Throwing a bit of love at singer/songwriter Sonoko Inoue and Fate Line Believer this week. This much talent in her teen years and she’s only going to get better. Incredible.
See you next Tuesday 😉 xx