A HOW-TO FROM THE GAME MAKER’S SACRED MANUAL
A blank page is infinity; the concepts that could take shape on its surface endless. You must shatter that potential to tell your story. Reduce a number belonging to the divine realms to something subtly less. Nearly unlimited possibilities, yet directional now. There are guide rails, albeit unseen at this point. Is there a name for that number? Infinity reduced to a kind of expansive velocity? Go discover it.
Now that you have embarked upon the first step toward your story, a further reduction is required. Where to place that next thought? With each concurrent step you take on your path, your field of focus diminishes. You see the threads leading away in what appears to be endless variety, but that is a deception. You have started time. You have engaged with structures such as Character, Plot and Morality. Soon, you will search for that all-binding structure, Conclusion. Time will become encapsulated and your pages will have a fixed personality.
First, gather up the threads and guide them into a pattern. You have identified your Character. Now set the scene and use words that paint a picture of their personality. Where they fit into this beginning. Perhaps a hint at where this Character’s drive may take them next.
A Character thread in hand, you grab hold of a thrumming Action thread. It feels sharp against your fingers and requires more strength to wield than the docile Character thread. It wants to buck and split of its own accord.
Action threads require firm handling. Some allowance of movement and expansion is welcome, but you must be wary. It is at this point many stories expand beyond their capacity to retract. Time unfettered can seem exciting in its furtive peeks back toward eternity, but it creates an unfulfilling story, and story-crafting is, after all, the point of this lesson.
The live Action thread in your hands gives a tremor and forks in a blinding explosion. You quickly divide a thread between each hand and study the new possibilities. In your excitement, your heartbeat synchronizes with the thrumming of the threads in your palms. Or, perhaps it is the other way around. You begin to recognize the bond between yourself and your story.
It is essential at this juncture to keep a keen eye on a point of reunion between your Action strands. They will resist this, naturally, but a trained eye will spot the potential and weave toward it.
You begin your dance.
Step. Spin. Thrust.
Action strands now wrestling against their first knot, you reach for the straight Plot wires overhead. They are cool to the touch.
Do not shrink away when you first touch Plot wires. They will warm and become less rigid as your journey continues. Angle a Plot wire down and fold it into the center of your weaving. If done correctly, you will see geometric branching now to the threads leading away from your story.
Step. Twist. Thrust.
By now, you may have noticed colors flitting past your vision. Traveling sparks apparently unconnected to anything. It is time to catch one. These are called by many names: Conflict, Inspiration and, erroneously, Plot Twist among them. The idea that these are a “Plot Twist” comes from the effect they have on your Plot wires, which you will discover presently. We will address them as Sparks.
You pause with worry. You have pulled the Plot wire down as instructed and placed it in the center of your first two knots, however the result isn’t geometric at all. Your Plot wire has loops and bends at random intervals instead of the neat repetitive angles promised by the manual. A flash of yellow and green flits past your face and you grab it instinctively. It squirms in your grasp, feeling surprisingly wet. Slimy even. Its lashing tails connect with an Action thread and it slips from your grasp, consumed into the thread with terrifying speed. You watch on in horror as the entire strand, with all its possibilities shimmering from it like gossamer hairs, begins to writhe under flashes of yellow and green. The places where it touches the Plot wire begin to turn and warp even more into asymmetry.
A colossal ‘Boom!’ is accompanied by a flash of light. When your eyes regain clarity, your first two knots are the only orderly aspect of your vista. A chaos of moving threads, wires and colors pulse and expand before you. Worse, they radiate a form of energy you can feel like a sickness in your bones. You fight to control a rebellion threatening to rise in your stomach.
It is important to remember to breathe. Should you encounter surprises in your story formation, cool-headed problem-solving will prevail.
Your now yellow and green Action thread coils around your ankle and constricts. Arms flailing, you feel yourself pulled into the squirming strands. It is suffocating. Your mind wants to shut down in panic. The more you struggle, the tighter your story threads press and choke. Without air, your world dims. Your movements slow, then still as you relax into unconsciousness.
Whatever you do, do not allow your story to get the upper hand. Stories that escape their Creators are difficult to capture and nearly impossible to tame. Penalties for this negligence are severe.
It is with surprise that you surface from the still black of unconsciousness. You are graced with a moment of calm before memory informs you of your predicament. You are gliding along humming threads of Plot, Action and Character, lit here and there by a rainbow of Sparks. There are vastly more of each kind of thread than when you began. You strain to see how far you have traveled, but your beginning knots are out of site. Already, you see thick pathways branching away toward infinity upstream. You know the consequences. You must contain this, and fast.
Desperation gives you a surprisingly strong grip on the central Plot wire. It is scalding. You hold fast, ignoring your screaming nerves. You loop your other arm around several Action threads, hoping the original Character thread is among them, and you pull.
It is imperative that a Creator maintain, at all times, a firmness of purpose, morality and will. Loss of any of these may result in disaster.
The knot isn’t pretty, but it holds. On your feet again, you reach for loose strands of Character and Action and haul them into a second knot. Weakness has set in. Your entire body trembles from the strain and expended effort. Lightheadedness threatens to pull you back into blissful oblivion. You fight it all.
Finally, let us discuss Morality. Morality threads are recognizable by their metallic hues. A Character, Action or Plot without morality may come across as seeming ‘flat’ or ‘hollow.’ This is because those experiencing the story, the Audience, must find a way to connect in order to enjoy the experience. This connection is made by understanding motives or moralities in a story. This is not to say that the Audience must agree with said Moralities. Mere recognition is often enough. Master Creators possess the skill to weave multiple Morality threads into a story and entwine them with Character threads, their Plot wire, Action threads and Sparks alike. Done expertly, these should appear as slight shimmers in the weave, none of them singularly recognizable.
Try weaving in your first Morality thread now. You should find them underfoot and aligned in order of complexity. The outer extremes will be the easiest to work as a beginner.
Shaking off the attentions of a blue and purple Spark, you lift a golden thread of Morality with your toe and shove it into a new knot, tying together several of the Character threads created while you were unconscious. The golden strand glistens brightly. You know it’s clumsy, but your entire focus is on completion now. You can feel your strength ebbing. If you don’t wrap this story up soon, it might be the end of you.
By now, you ought to see five knots and seemingly endless possibilities, though we have established that to be an illusion. Your possibilities are now traveling refined paths, which narrow with each knot.
You solidified a Character and their setting. You introduced Action. Your Plot line guides you evenly along a declared path. You added color with a Spark. Finally, you wove in Morality. Now, we will discuss Conclusion.
Conclusion is only achieved when all remaining threads are tucked into your knots. Not the thin strands that flow from your threads. Do not worry yourself with those. They are possibilities and might be caught up to create a path to a new story experience in the future. For the purpose of this exercise, they are to be ignored.
One final knot. You can escape this nightmare with just… one… more. Each thread and strand you grasp feels like the embodiment of temptation.
“Follow me,” they beckon. “I have something important to show you.”
Choking back your desires, you shove each thread unceremoniously into the final wobbly knot. Panting, brought to your knees by the strain, you tuck in the last defiant Action thread and nearly weep with relief.
Once all threads have been looped back to your final sixth knot, step away and admire your story. Congratulations.
You look back and try not to flinch. It’s garish. Two tidy knots in the distance mark the beginning of the journey, followed by an unruly web of expansion. Characters, Actions, Plots and Sparks writhe together still in grotesque straining toward the void. Branches loop back and dive into the fray, shining gold, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray, and a surprising flash of red here and there. Gold is the most visible, you note with fresh cringing. The final knots are enormous and messy. It’s difficult to tell, among the many loops, where one knot ends, and another begins.
You stand, staggering from exhaustion, and smile.
It is beautiful.
This short story was made possible by the generous, amazing patrons at https://www.patreon.com/wcmcclure.
A special Thank You to Dustin Martin, Nicole Tuma, Rainy City Ukulele School, Stephanie Tuma, and my eternal gratitude to my World Shapers, Ann, Jess and Natalie. Thank you for your support!