Friday, October 5, 2012

Back Stories and Bad Timing

This example might fall on deaf ears, but I'll explain it because I cannot ask for a better example. There's a game for the PS3 called "Metal Gear Solid 4:Guns of the Patriots" that has a TON of cut scenes and in a lot of cases, at the worst times.

One such example that sticks in my head is at this point in the game where you're getting ready to sneak into this compound to do bla bla bla. Well, a nice little voice in the character's ear tells you to follow a bulldozer in that's about to bust the front gate down. Simple enough and oddly convenient  let's do this. Oh, cut scene time...alright, let's have a video chat now....I guess.

This cut scene lasts a good 10-15 minutes and it's mostly about how your boss (more or less) is now married to the widow of someone you knew and she's a psychologist for soliders and bla bla bla who cares. All the while I'm watching this, I keep thinking "wasn't I supposed to be following a bulldozer in to that compound? That bulldozer was right in front of me when this video started...5, 10 minutes ago?"

It's things like this that bother me in books, games, everything. I appreciate a good back story, don't get me wrong. I understand these things are needed to give the world some depth, to explain some things that need explaining and sometimes just to add a bit of filler. I get it, no biggie. What I don't like is that sort of thing interrupting a good plot. Don't stop in the middle of a huge battle to tell me about something that may or may not be important. Furthermore, do the audience a favor and figure out a way to allude to it and give that info later, when it's not distracting. This way, it doesn't just add depth, it also adds a bit of suspense.

For those of you reading (or have read) Book 1, I want you to be aware of what I did here. Chapters 1 and 2 bring up some "Mad Baker Incident" a few times in conversation. During those 2 chapters, all I give is that it's somehow important to what is going on. Chapter 3 is that incident in its fullest. This happens again -chapters 4 and 5 give a main plot and 6 explains things that didn't make a lot of sense. I did it this way for 2 reasons.

1. The back story is NOT interrupting the main plot. In fact, it's written in as a segue to the next set of main plot.

2. If you go back to re-read the book at some later date (this is looking to be a 10 book series right now, I know I re-read long series like that) you can completely skip those back story chapters and miss out on ZERO main plot.

There you have it, it's a bit of an experiment, but it seems that those who have read it and gotten back to me have loved this idea and its execution. Hope you enjoy it as well.     :-)


  1. Now that you mention it, I did like that. It doesn't interrupt what is going on and makes you wonder, building up the suspense, like you said.

  2. glad you liked it. I enjoyed writing it that way because it gave me a chance to not only experiment, but it gave me a chance to write from other character's perspectives and play with language, style and a lot of things that normally doesn't happen.