MaRo's Living in Synergy, telling a story, and Themes

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So, I don't know how many of you read Making Magic, but I at least pop in to see what Mark has to say each week. I mean, it's probably the only other article I check regularly at all, so...

Anyways, what has led to this thread was that Mark had something interesting to say today about storytelling, and really story writing. I'll just reproduce it here for you:
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One day, in one of my college creative writing classes (I minored in creative writing and majored in broadcast and film at my communication school, with an emphasis on screenwriting, for inquiring minds who want to know), my professor made a bold statement. "If you take the works of any famous writers and look at them all as a whole, you will find that there is one unifying theme that runs through their work. Deep inside, there's just some basic theme that they care about that they will hit, often in different ways, again and again, throughout their writing career. The reason this is important is that this is true not just of famous writers but of all writers. Which means that each one of you also has a major theme. Perhaps it would be worth your while to figure it out."
I took a deep look at all my writing and I figured out my internal theme. What is it? This: People try so hard to run their life based on their intellect but, in the end, we are ultimately run by our emotions. My internal theme, it turns out, is quite red. But that's not exactly my topic for today.


Now, I'll be honest, I didn't read further in to see how that all tied into his topic, but I felt this was a very poignant point. In light of how much our work has been getting around, and you know, just to promote discussion in general, I decided to start this thread.

Now, we can use it in one of two different ways. Or both, I'm not picky.
1) Explore what our own internal themes are
or
2) Talk about the themes inherent in some of our favorite magic story arcs.
Firstly, I'd love to examine my own themes because I find that sort of NOPE endlessly fascinating, but I'm not sure I've published enough here to have a large enough sample size.
I do know that I have a long list of tropes that I like to use time and time again, but what I get out of my work and what others do may very well be different. 

I'd like to talk about recurring themes as it applied to characters and arcs, but I'm not sure I've read enough. Most of my knowledge of Magic's lore comes from Shards forward, and many of the most prominent characters (meaning the walkers, natch) haven't had enough appearances to start picking out patterns.
At least not to my untrained eyes.
*Takes a quick look at portfolio*

Erm...Poor editting? Wait that's just a motif, give me a second... Poor editting results in mediocre writing. There's the theme.

I do tend to return to the somewhat absurist theme of "When confronted with the hopeless, the only rational choice is optimism" a lot.
 
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mymoment
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Moriok Rigger is not a Rigger in print. Only in Errata WHAT NOW! (yes, I did put that phrase in for that exact reason)
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Uh, the incomprehensible terror of that comes from a mortal mind confronting a godlike entity...? And probably the thwarted of flawed will to Create, and the ever-lurking threat of madness. I... have watched too much Evangelion, probably.

The weird thing about MaRo's theme is that I don't see it that much in the storylines he had the greatest impact on. I mean... is that really present as a theme in Weatherlight? I guess if you consider Gerrard's face-heel turn for Hanna a triumph of emotion over intellect, but I think the much stronger theme is the one King introduced of the shedding of humanity in the actualization of a larger than life Will. King's got a real Nietschean streak... dude's just obsessed with god-men.
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dude's just obsessed with god-man-children.



Fixed that for you.

I think a lot of the themes dealt with in my own writing seems to be the present struggle between man and his inner demons, though in Raef's case that's a little more literal than in others... and isn't a demon.
Cara has this entire "she who fights monsters" theme inherent with her struggles, and Zhiran is grappling with the weight of millenia old guilt.

I mean... those are some pretty present issues I think.
And I don't want to examine what that says about me more closely. I don't think I'd be happy with it since it took me a long time to work out the commonality in each of those stories.
I'm not sure how to approach this, any soul-searching suggestions?
*Takes a quick look at portfolio*

Erm...Poor editting? Wait that's just a motif, give me a second... Poor editting results in mediocre writing. There's the theme.
 



You sir, get a cookie.


Ah, man, this is right up my ally. After all, I already know why I'm U/W. And I'm a natural blue, not a learned blue. Introspection is my greatest pasttime.

But not right now.

I've got entirely too much that I'm already procrastinating on to take a serious look at things like this. And besides, I, like Thoctar, haven't written nearly enough material to see what themes I hit on. Wait... Well, I could add my RPing from GWIII, Phyrexia Reborn, and The Gathering to what little I have put out on M:EM and saved in my computer. But that's something for when I have a day off.

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KeeperofManyNames wrote:

Alright, new theory: these forums are an experiment in ultraminimalism. By Monday everything--yes everything--will be the color white, and typing any character will simply produce a solid rectangle of variable height and width.

I don't think I've written enough to really have a theme. If I had to guess, maybe my theme is: No matter how terrible the situation, you have to go further. Of course, most stories are about overcoming adversities, but the stories I write (or don't write but still have in my head) are mostly about a world that isn't fair, and people who succeed regardless of that. (Except for one story I feel I should write, but that's on Faskeria, so it doesn't count.)

But I don't feel like every work you create should have your theme. I'm currently doing a worldbuilding exercise about 5 spaceships who started from the same world/nation, but because they've been flying for 500 years have they have developed completely differently. Nowhere in this thing there's any kind of theme other than: space exploration is awesome as are robots.


As for Magic: The Gathering themes, there's one that's not really my favorite, but it's somethings that's kinda bugging me. Namely: In order to improve yourself, you to betray your emotions. 


Evidence: Esper, Simic and Phyrexia (Yes, Thoctar, I know: The Guilds have layers, the Shards have layers, Phyrexia has flayers).


Time and time again we see people who really push for self-improvement, but are devoid of emotion or at least less emotional because of their improvement. Now, this could just be because self-improvement is mainly found in Blue, and Blue is also the color of cold logic and the enemy of Red, which has emotions.


It could just be me, though.

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To be fair, self improvement has many faces, and both and personal self improvement has been seen positively. The problem, I think, is that they seem to have a transhumanism phobia, and display the main concern with transhumanism: the loss of our emotions and human perception.

And even then, Esper is only evil because it has arrogant snobs in it, the Simic are a million times better now, and Phyrexia's faction is affable. Not nice, but at least humane enough to not compleat the mirrans.
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I'm not saying Esper is evil (because they're not and they're awesome), but it was certainly implied that their lack of emotions (or a reverence for emotionless-ness) is what caused them to go as far as they did. They seem to belief that all transhumanist see a lack of biology and emotion as an end-goal and that this is evil, while only a sub-group of transhumanists share this belief. 
See also Vedalken Heretic, which seems to indicate that the awesome etherium-limbs were somehow bad for experiencing the world as it actually is (making the Esper Vedalken and maybe the rest of the population Straw Vulcan.

As for the Simic, they seem to have taken a different approach, but a lot of what we see is Simic turning others against their will, or being misguided and seeing knowledge as more important than emotions (see Experiment One). 


But I agree, there seems to be a movement towards a more favorable light for transhumanism. 

After the official forums lost most of their functionality, a once vibrant community of Vorthos was wiped out.The survivors founded a new place to discuss all things concerning with the art, flavor and storylines of Magic: The Gathering. Come join us.

Have you been reading the Hedonics section of LessWrong, Yxoque? :P

Yeah, like I said above, Betrayal of Humanity in the Name of a Domineering Will is a huge theme in the end of the Weatherlight block, AND The Thran, AND Onslaught.

In fact, all of King's major characters--Gerrard, Urza, Ixidor, and even The Ineffable himself, along with minor characters like Dralnu--sought to defy death itself as a concept in one way or another, and King makes it clear that doing so results in a betrayal of humanity. Which... yeah, as a transhumanist, that bugs me. It goes hand in hand with the whole "no emotions for the scientists" thing. But that's the great thing about art--you don't always have to agree with it, and part of what makes King's books fascinating for all their flaws is the fact that he really does focus on theme a lot.
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@Keeper: No, I'm not there yet 3000 pages of info is a lot.

And I understand that you can always disagree with art, but it's something I think is factually wrong, so it bugs me harder than other things might. But I think it's something that the color pie sorta, kinda mandates. Like stupid Goblins. 


The "no emotions for scientists" also bugs me. Seriously, what's up with the belief that logic, rationality and the scientific method require you to give up your emotions.


Jivan, you belief emotions to be more of a nuisance than an asset, can you give some ideas on that? 

After the official forums lost most of their functionality, a once vibrant community of Vorthos was wiped out.The survivors founded a new place to discuss all things concerning with the art, flavor and storylines of Magic: The Gathering. Come join us.

I think my central theme is this: Out of the ordinary can come the extraordinary.  My on-again-off-again novel deals with three kids from suburbia discovering magic and saving a fantasy world (maybe not the most original, but it seemed like it when I thought it up in 1997, I swear!). 
My forum game characters have been, respectively:
A scientist who randomly had his spark ignited,
a woman whos home was destroyed by the undead,
a myr trying to save the world,
a myr with delusions of grandeur about his place in the world,
a reformed werewolf in one game that seeks to save a city from demons in the follow-up,
and a Rat Planeswalker.

In each case, the characters came from humble beginnings to achieve something great.

A second possibility, although i think it's more style than theme: I love characters that break stereotypes.  That's one reason why I think I'm drawn to female characters, and to the Myr when we were in Mirrodin.  I also like the commoner with the dark past, and the creepy neighbor with the heart of gold.  Although since so many of these have become tropes in-and-of themselves, I usually try to spin them even further, if possible.
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I don't think I've written enough to really have a theme. If I had to guess, maybe my theme is: No matter how terrible the situation, you have to go further. Of course, most stories are about overcoming adversities, but the stories I write (or don't write but still have in my head) are mostly about a world that isn't fair, and people who succeed regardless of that. (Except for one story I feel I should write, but that's on Faskeria, so it doesn't count.)

But I don't feel like every work you create should have your theme. I'm currently doing a worldbuilding exercise about 5 spaceships who started from the same world/nation, but because they've been flying for 500 years have they have developed completely differently. Nowhere in this thing there's any kind of theme other than: space exploration is awesome as are robots.




That sounds like an awesome worldbuilding exercise, I'd love to hear what you've come up with.  That being said...


Um, Yx, I don't know how to break this to you, but I don't think it would be possible to run a simulation like that without exploring some themes, even if you don't know what they are yet.  You have 5 cultures, developing from a single seed, but with vastly divergent outcomes (presumedly, I don't think you'd have much story otherwise).  At the very minimum, you are expanding on the concept of cultural diaspora, and something akin to a commentary on evolution, just by this worldbuilding philosophy.

And that's not even getting into the actual comparison of the cultures.  How have they changed? Why?  In what direction?  Are they better?  Who'd win in a fight, Ship A or Ship E?  These are all things that would inevitably be expounded upon.

And, yes, I bet at least one of these ships had to overcome greater hardships than the others, and if they endured, were stronger for it.  Hey, I found your central theme!
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I think the 'no emotions for you' towards men of science in Magic has just as many counterpoints as it does examples.

Tezzeret, for all his talk of being logical and structured is an extremely emotional being. He's sentimental, had a bad temper, holds grudges forever, and is prone to the theatrical.

What little we know about Tamiyo suggests she LOVES what she does.

@Keeper: No, I'm not there yet 3000 pages of info is a lot.

And I understand that you can always disagree with art, but it's something I think is factually wrong, so it bugs me harder than other things might. But I think it's something that the color pie sorta, kinda mandates. Like stupid Goblins. 


The "no emotions for scientists" also bugs me. Seriously, what's up with the belief that logic, rationality and the scientific method require you to give up your emotions.


Jivan, you belief emotions to be more of a nuisance than an asset, can you give some ideas on that? 




Oh hi. It's not just that "emotions are bad" or anything, it's that the reliance on them when making judgement calls or important decisions is. Having emotions and acting on them as a basis are different. The concept of a "crime of passion" is far worse than a premeditated murder in my eyes. Because it is chaotic. It is uncontrolable. It is impossible to quantify or even rationalize objectively.  It's less so that I hate emotions, and more that I cannot stand the bloody things and why we as a culture value them so highly. I like rules. I like reasons why things happen and the concept of "dunno, just cause I can" is absurd and downright meaningless. The "no emotions for scientists" NEEDS to exist for me. Because the alternative is horrifying.

Then again I'm as Straw Nihilist as they come so my opinions aren't really valid in real world applications.

"The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view." -Matt Ridley, Genome

@Ruwinreborn: Particular settings you're fond of? Character traits shared by all your protagonists, scale of the conflict from interpersonal to universal, antagonists often display similar goals and modus operandi?

As to me, I write and imagine almost exclusivly in fantasy settings,with most characters of relevance having use in some way of magic, possibly just my brain finding a lazy way for them to directly impose their will onto their surroundings. Also machines as both symbols of the indifferent will of the universe (why does the Terminator kill people? Because it does.) and of proof of order and higher purpose (all the universe is governed by math, math is orderly, order means reason).
Well, I've ruminated, and I realized what both recurring theme I use and the tools I use to tell that theme. The common thread in all my stories has always been the ultimate impotence that we as individuals possess against the changing currents of events both personal and removed. That we cannot fight it, and are destined to be fates puppets, essentially. That's why I often have a Xanatos character, pulling the strings behind and/or beyond the view of the main characters. The frequent creation of more than one character is just a way I increase the feeling of helplessness, as I often either kill off some of them or otherwise change them irreparably.

It's late and I need to go, but would anyone happen to know what color that would fall under?

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KeeperofManyNames wrote:

Alright, new theory: these forums are an experiment in ultraminimalism. By Monday everything--yes everything--will be the color white, and typing any character will simply produce a solid rectangle of variable height and width.

The weird thing about MaRo's theme is that I don't see it that much in the storylines he had the greatest impact on. I mean... is that really present as a theme in Weatherlight?

Remember that he was only really involved in the start of the story--the latter parts were someone else.

It's late and I need to go, but would anyone happen to know what color that would fall under?

That kind of fatalism sounds green. Green is all about how your place in the world is fixed and cannot be changed--you are who you were born to be, and you cannot change that. It's a bit of a jump from going to not being able to change yourself to not being able to change your fate, but I can see it.



Now I kind of wish I'd written enough stories to be able to figure out a theme. As far as my posting history goes, maybe it's "You can't accomplish anything until first you understand."

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

The weird thing about MaRo's theme is that I don't see it that much in the storylines he had the greatest impact on. I mean... is that really present as a theme in Weatherlight?

Remember that he was only really involved in the start of the story--the latter parts were someone else.

It's late and I need to go, but would anyone happen to know what color that would fall under?

That kind of fatalism sounds green. Green is all about how your place in the world is fixed and cannot be changed--you are who you were born to be, and you cannot change that. It's a bit of a jump from going to not being able to change yourself to not being able to change your fate, but I can see it.



Now I kind of wish I'd written enough stories to be able to figure out a theme. As far as my posting history goes, maybe it's "You can't accomplish anything until first you understand."


I thought every VCL's theme was:

"There is a time and place for everything, people are terrible at figuring those out. [This theme is being moved to Flavor & Storylines and locked as a duplicate]."

Although I guess that could change now that you are retired...
"I think me going Bang bang bang I win is pretty intuitive" Mafia Record: Wouldn't you like to know? 2011 Mafia Awards - Mastermind of the Year
mymoment
\
57817638 wrote:
58060728 wrote:
88318561 wrote:
58060728 wrote:
Moriok Rigger does absolutely nothing to boost other riggers. You are incorrect.
Moriok Rigger is not a Rigger in print. Only in Errata WHAT NOW! (yes, I did put that phrase in for that exact reason)
Congratulations, they have activated your trap card!
My writing seems to centre around what humanity is, and what changes to that humanity do. It seems like I also don't have an answer for that; my characters are either trying to determine what they are, or being changed from what they are by an outside force.

This is not ever answered, and I've now started to write about existential uncertainty more generally, going metaphysical as well as human in nature. As you can probably tell from my occasional ranting about the need for uncertainty in MtG. Not knowing quite what's going on with the world is becoming a key element in what I like to write.
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