Why Are Series Endings So Hard to Get Right?

HappyilyEverAfterThis post is in regards to shows that know they’re coming to a close, not shows that are cancelled mid-season or not renewed thereby leaving us with a wonderful cliffhanger to ponder for the rest of eternity, or dozens of unanswered questions that will haunt us on our death beds.

After watching the series finale of Dexter, way back in 2014, I wrote a rant.  You can read it here in its entirety, but what it boiled down to was giving the audience a “satisfying” ending while staying true to the characters.

You may be wondering why I’m on another rant.  I’ve finished a few shows recently, all terrible endings, and it got me wondering:

“Why can’t I get a satisfying end?”

*Be forewarned, there will be spoilers ahead for shows Dexter, True Blood, and Lost Girl!  

Let’s take a look at Dexter.

This one still bothers me, years later.  After some time recollecting on Dexter as a character, I don’t think his character arc found justice in the end.  Dexter was an amazing character to watch grow into a fully realized human – something he didn’t think he was capable of.  After all that time invested, on both sides, to leave him on his own in some podunk town without his family, no less?  Nope.  Wrong.

What would have made a satisfying ending for a serial killer?  Well, clearly there’s a moral gray area here.  Dexter, generally, killed people according to his code, does that mean he should walk free?  Not exactly, but it’s a show.  We watch it for entertainment value, not reality.  I wanted to see him reunite with his son and the woman he loved.  Simple as that.

Then there was True Blood.

True Blood ended in 2014 and I was an avid viewer of the show.  About three episodes into the final season, they killed a character off in such a way, I was turned off completely from finishing the show.  Two years later, finally having access to HBO again, The Sis and I decided to finish it.

What a let down.

From episode one on, Sookie is generally at the center of whatever conflict is happening, but they wrapped the show up in a nice little bow as if nothing bad would ever happen again.  We’ve had 7 seasons of crazy, people.  So what, it was like, they’ve done there time and have earned their peaceful Thanksgiving dinner?  Please.

They killed off a main character, they let another character revert to his old ways, and then, to top it all off, they gave Sookie that normal life everyone thought she deserved – pregnant by a faceless human husband.  She never dated a human in the entirety of the show because (I want to shout) she can hear their thoughts.

So what would have been a more satisfying ending, you might wonder?  Well, first of all, they should have listened to their characters.  Don’t send them on these unique journeys, only to put them right back at the beginning.  We didn’t hit the refresh button.  What I wanted, was to see these characters 20 years down the road.  It’s a vampire show.  There’s longevity involved.

Finally, there’s Lost Girl.

This Canadian import had a unique premise, and although I felt there was so much more they could’ve done with the show, it was a fun watch.  The show’s premise was the all-encompassing world of fae, centering on the character of Bo, a succubus, who uses her power to help human and fae alike as a sort of detective/champion.  The show was episodic, but had an overall theme each season.

After multiple seasons with hints to her power, we were treated to about 5 mins in the series finale of her going nuclear, but not quite all the way, and then they wrap it up a short time in the future.

Another let down.

As the fae on the show live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, I would’ve really liked to see these characters in the future, not just hinting at an old foe just recently beaten.  Bo was in love with two people on the show, Lauren, a human, and Dyson, a shifter.  Dyson’s character could love others, but could only truly give his heart to one person, and he chose Bo.  Bo chose Lauren in the end.  As human lives are relatively short in comparison, I would’ve liked to have seen a reunion of Bo and Dyson in the future.  He was a wonderful character, and I feel he should’ve received his happily ever after too.

I’m not looking for just “happily ever afters”, but I am looking for satisfying endings.  As TV shows go, I understand there are multiple writers and that stories progress in different ways as seasons continue, but in these examples, I’m not sure they did right by their characters.

What do you think?  Did you like any of these endings?  What other shows annoyed you with their finales?  Which shows ended well?

I’ve been thinking about this in regards to my own original series I’ve been working on, wondering what would be the most satisfying finale.  I may not be in control of that in the end, and that sort of makes me nervous, but it doesn’t mean I can’t hope for the best.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The Rise in Shock Value

CapHydra

The internet, and myself included, were all in a tizzy this week with the announcement that in a new comic series, Steve Rogers #1, Captain America is actually an undercover Hydra agent.

Nope.

No.

Not having it.

Fans were quite rightly upset and for good reason.  Captain America has stood as a moral icon, defending the defenseless against tyranny and oppression, and choosing the right path, regardless of personal cost, for 75 years.  He’s the good guy, with no hints at all to his character to the contrary.  Many fans believe this is just a publicity stunt, shock for shock value alone, and I agree.

With his rise in popularity due to two wonderful films in the MCU, I can imagine that there was a meeting in which execs and writers came up with a few “what if” scenarios, but as a fellow writer, I can attest to the fact that not all ideas are good ones.  I can’t fault a writer for wanting to take a risk, especially with a character of Cap’s reputation, but taking a character with such a strong moral code and turning that on its head without any warning is just feeding into the mentality that the only way to be relevant is to be shocking.

We, as a people, continually exposed to all manner of craziness via the internet and the rise in dramatic, stunning television, I think, are the reasons behind such bold moves.  In order to be noticed, we’ve resorted to becoming the one-uppers.  Shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story, among others, have risen the bar in the way of surprising their audience, and I thank them for it, but at the same time wonder if it’s not hurting us as well, overall.

We now expect so much more from all our media-going experiences, and this is forcing writers to do the unexpected often without reason.  A scene like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones had a great deal of build up.  It wasn’t an out of left field surprise, although yes, it was upsetting.  The stage was set, long before we arrived, with bread crumbs left along the way that led us to such an inevitable conclusion.

GoT

This is something as writers we need to be aware of.  We can’t throw in a shocking twist just because – there has to be a reason, motivation, there has to have been set up.  Audiences want to be satisfied, they also want to feel clever, and this is done by offering them morsels and insights they can piece together before the big surprise.

This offers us, as writers, a great challenge to think about the nuances needed to tell our story more effectively.  If we look at the big picture, how can we impress upon our audience what is to come with a little foreshadowing?  Is there a metaphor that could highlight the impending dilemma?  Is there a phrase said by a character early on that offers such insight?  Think of social media and how people dig into their favorite scenes, stories, characters, etc. to find more depth and hidden meaning (I have discovered a number of memes and the like showcasing foreshadowing I missed myself) and think of how happy it will make our audience if we can offer that to them.

I found this writing tip via Helping Writers Become Authors that offers the good and bad reasons to kill a character, but I think it can be utilized in regards to any plot device.

KillingCharacter

Let us not short change our audience.  Let us give them the surprises they deserve; those that mean more because we cared enough to think our story through, and not just another tactic or ploy meant to incite emotion or a reaction.  Let us also not short change our work or our characters.  Be true to them.  They deserve no less…and so does Cap.

Happy Writing!

A Screenwriter’s Character Checklist

CharacterStreetSignOn Tuesday I posted a concept checklist for screenwriters from the writing/producing team at Scheherazade Productions.  Their website is Worplayer.com.  As promised, here is Part II on Character.

Screenwriting varies greatly from novel writing, but many of the items lend themselves to both sides of the spectrum and are good to keep in mind when developing your characters and story.

The checklist is broken into three parts (the third section deals with technical execution), and is intended to help Hollywood readers find great scripts.  For writers, it’s a resource to utilize to get past the gatekeepers by creating unforgettable characters and worlds.

  1. Are the parts castable?  Does the film have roles stars will want to play?
  2. Action and humor should emanate from the characters, and not just thrown in for the sake of a laugh.  Comedy which violates the integrity of the characters or oversteps the reality-world of the film may get a laugh, but it will ultimately unravel the picture.
  3. Audiences want to see characters who care deeply about something — especially other characters.
  4. Is there one scene where the emotional conflict of the main character comes to a crisis point?
  5. A character’s entrance should be indicative of the characters’s traits.  The first impression of a character is important.
  6. Lead characters must be sympathetic — people we care about and want to root for.
  7. What are the characters wants and needs?  What is the lead character’s dramatic need?  Needs should be strong, definite, and clearly communicated to the audience.
  8. What does the audience want for the characters?  It’s all right to be either for or against a particular character — the only unacceptable emotion is indifference.
  9. Concerning characters and action: a person is what s/he does, not necessarily what s/he says.
  10. On character faults: characters should be “this but also that” complex.  Characters with doubts and faults are more believable, and more interesting.  Heroes who have done wrong and villains with noble motives are better than characters who are straight black and white.
  11. Characters can be understood in terms of “what is their greatest fear?”
  12. Character traits should be independent of the character’s role.  i.e. A banker who fiddles with his gold watch is memorable, but cliche; a banker who breeds dogs is a somehow more acceptable detail.
  13. Character conflicts should be both internal and external.  Characters should struggle with themselves, and with others.
  14. Character POVs need to be distinctive within an individual screenplay.  Characters should not all think the same.  Each character needs to have a definite point of view in order to act, and not just react.
  15. Distinguish characters by their speech patterns: word choice, sentence patterns; revealed background, level of intelligence.
  16. “Character superior” sequences (where the character acts on information the audience does not have) usually don’t work for very long — the audience gets lost.  On the other hand, when the audience is in a “superior” position — the audience knows something that the characters do not — it almost always works.  (NOTE: This does not mean the audience should be able to predict the plot!)
  17. Run each character through as many emotions as possible — love, hate, laugh, cry, revenge.
  18. Characters must change.  What is the character’s arc?
  19. The reality of the screenplay world is defined by what the reader knows of it, and the reader gains that knowledge from the characters.  Unrealistic character actions imply an unrealistic world; fully-designed characters convey the sense of a realistic world.
  20. Is the lead involved with the story throughout?  Do they control the outcome of the story?

I hope you find this checklist useful!  It definitely gives us a number of things to consider.

Happy Writing!

World Building, Character Creation, and Knowing When to Start Writing Part II

OriginSome time back in July, I wrote the first part of this topic.  You can read it here.  I can’t believe it took me until January to write the first draft of the pilot, which was what inspired that post – world building, etc.  (I was such a lump last year.)  I know I was excited by the idea, and the research phase did take some time, but it is clear that I lost my way and floundered for a while before I made the effort.  I remember just being clueless as to some decisions I needed to make.  There were so many things that didn’t seem right, and that derailed my enthusiasm.

My biggest hurdle, oddly enough, was in regards to my protagonist.  I had backstories and loads of ideas in place for all the other characters, but something about her was off.  I finally decided to do research on character development, in the hopes it would shine a light on her.  Here is a link to a few of the things I discovered, which may help you too, if you’re ever struggling.  Before I begin a story, after some research, I’m pretty sure of my characters, so this hurdle was new for me.

I mean, how could I not know who she is?!  She is the reason I’m writing the story.

I finished the rewrite of the pilot a couple of weeks ago, and it got me thinking that I never did come back to this topic, and I wanted to share a few things I learned along the way.  I had planned on continuing this topic some time closer to the original post, but now, who knows what I intended all those months ago..?!

Everyone develops a strategy for their writing over time.  We learn what works for us and what doesn’t.  I am not a fan of outlining, but I tried do create a rough outline so I knew what I wanted to hit within the pilot and where I wanted it to end.  This is one of the first times it sort of worked for me.  I have so many ideas for this story, and not writing a full length feature made it clear that while I needed to touch on some ideas, I only needed to allude to others.  Writing just one episode means leaving a lot open for later, and that is something I was not used to doing.  Also, by creating the rough outline, I had an idea of where I needed to interject the subplots, so that made it easier to see the holes.

ItsOnlyAFirstDraftTired of dragging my heels, I finally made it a point to write the first draft, regardless of how much information I was still lacking, and this was a huge step forward for me.  I’m one of those who painstakingly writes each word.  I tend to rewrite while I’m writing, and this causes a lot of lag time.  I wanted to pound out the first draft as quickly as possible (I think I wrote it in 3-4 days), then I would know what I was missing and how to proceed in my research and decision making.  So here is a suggestion for something I have never done before.

Knowing there were still things that needed names, or language issues, because I’m writing about aliens, I used asterisks or parentheses around words I knew would need to be changed in the rewrite.  I still didn’t know the name of the galactic order so I generically used the word Empire (thanks, Star Wars) and put an asterisk next to it.  It allowed me to continue the flow knowing it wasn’t a decision that needed to be made right then and there.  I did the same with alien terminology and location headers within the screenplay; anything really that I didn’t have an answer for right on the spot.

The other thing I learned was a way of introducing nearly a full cast in one scene.  I’ve never done this before, and I had to think of an activity that would showcase their individual personalities in a short amount of time.  During research mode, I wrote up note cards on each character which included where they were from, their race, occupation, positive and negative traits, and some background info.  This helped me to see how they would each respond in a given situation.  The first draft included a generic scene where all the characters were introduced and described, but I knew it didn’t work.  I put a big asterisk next to the scene and moved on.  Before the rewrite, I thought about the different kinds of group activities that could take place, but it was one thing in particular that made the difference.

I had been limited in my thinking.  World building includes a number of topics to take into consideration – there’s government, military, religion, customs, and trade, all of which I had thought about, but I hadn’t thought about entertainment.  What did my characters do for fun?  How did they blow off steam?  It didn’t take long after that to figure out their new introduction.

Crane'sWar - JulianFaylonaMy last insight is this.  Fantasy and sci-fi, in particular, allow for a number of freedoms in their stories, but it also offers writers the opportunity to highlight social and political issues under this guise.  Just another topic to consider while you’re world building.  Is there something going on in the world that you want to talk about?  Setting your story against an alien/fantasy backdrop may offer you the freedom to share your insight.  This is something I learned years ago, when I decided I didn’t want my first story to be just a fluff piece.  I utilize my fantasy and sci-fi worlds to highlight the current state of humanity, the deterioration of the environment, and the pros and cons in the advancement of technology.

There is a lot to think about when creating a world from scratch, and I’ve just touched on a few.  It’s a lot of fun because it truly is a blank slate, and this is one reason research is so important, but don’t let it become the sole focus for too long.  Keep your momentum, and try a variety of tricks to help you get that story out as quickly as possible.  You’ll have plenty of rewrites to work out the details.

I’ve been trying to keep an eye out on Pinterest for writing tips as well, so click here, for some more.  If you’ve learned any tricks along the way, please share and let’s help each other make great stories!

Happy Writing!

The Dragon Age Obsession Saga Continues…Part 4

InquistionPosterAs I’ve now finished a second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition, I felt it was time to wrap up this series of posts.  Here are posts one, two, and three which are in regards to starting the game and importing a history, character creation, and dialogue and romance options with companions to bring you up to speed.  I am unable to discuss any of the DLCs because after the first one was released, Bioware decided not to release any others on the XBox 360, so I haven’t purchased any of them.

The anger I have about the gaming industry’s ploys to wrangle more money out of their gamers is real.  I was not ready to fork out $400 for a new gaming console, but if I want to know the rest of the story, that is exactly what I’ll have to do, and because you all know I’m passionate about this story, I’m going to do it…very, very soon.  ARGH!  As this post is not a rant on that, I’ll save that for fuel for another day.

This post is about the grand scale of the story of the world of Dragon Age.  Inquisition is part three and a culmination of the events in the previous two games where story lines and characters come together.

Origins-WardenShieldIn Origins, game one, your protagonist is from one of six “origin” stories (2 human story lines, 2 elf, and 2 dwarf)  in which each avenue ends with you becoming a Grey Warden, an old order of warriors chosen to fight a specific evil known as darkspawn and their archdemon, an old god twisted by their tainted blood.  They live underground and are rather hideous, similar to Tolkien’s orcs.  The presence of an archdemon is a time referred to as a Blight and when the Grey Wardens are needed most, as they are the only real solution to ending a Blight.  In this first game, there are a number of obstacles to overcome while you try to unite the country against the impending threat, and there is treachery around every corner as the Wardens are declared traitors after an initial battle against the darkspawn.

There are a number of characters who you meet in game one that will progress forward through each game, some of them taking on major roles in Inquisition.  Same can be said of characters from game two.  Fun fact: if you’re game one character is a human mage, you will be related to the protagonist in game two.

DA2In game two, you are a human whose family has escaped the Blight and traveled across the sea in search of a safe haven.  The entire game takes place in and around the city of Kirkwall.  Although many people didn’t care for this game, especially in comparison to Origins – you could only play as a human, there was a lot of repetition in the floor plans, and the primary single location of the city as the backdrop – this is where game three is setup; the conflict between the mages and the Templars.  Without giving too much away, one of your allies takes drastic action that incites a war between the mages, who are considered dangerous and are required to live in prison-like societies called Circles, and their captors/overseers, the Templars.

Fun fact: there is a Dragon Age 2 DLC that introduces you to a powerful darkspawn named Corypheus.  It was Hawke’s father, a mage, and the Grey Wardens who imprisoned him.

DAIGame three begins 10 years after the events of game one.  Your protagonist is found as the sole survivor of a terrible, cataclysmic tragedy where a resolution to the Mage-Templar War was supposed to transpire.  A conclave was called at the Temple of Sacred Ashes in Haven, a village you will have discovered in game one.  With no memories of what happened and a strange mark upon your hand, you are considered responsible for a number of the current problems, including a giant hole in the sky; a Breach in the veil, the line between reality and the spirit world, is the source of a demon invasion.  An old form of justice, an inquisition, is formed to solve the many problems that the world now faces.

Everything you’ve learned from the past two games will pay off as you make your way through Inquisition.  The things you know about the Wardens are relevant.  A relic you found in game two has resurfaced with a vengeance.  You will see old, familiar faces (Hello, Flemeth) and meet interesting, new ones (Well, hellooo Solas).  The world of Dragon Age is vast and all encompassing, and you will discover how well it’s constructed.  I instantly became devoted to the series because it combined things I love such as fantasy, medieval times, old world orders, magic, dragons, romance, and adventure, and then went above and beyond to make it a fully fleshed out universe.

As I’ve tried to end each of these posts with some relevance to writing, you will find, if you choose to play, how key world building is and character development.  It’s key to think multiple steps ahead, whether you’re writing a single story or a series.  How do people know one another?  This may reflect in how supposed strangers speak to one another upon meeting – there may be a history there.  What is their religious affiliation?  How do they feel about the history of their people?  Their government?  What consequences do their actions have later?  This is a good one to consider, especially in a serial.  Actions taken by a character may have unforeseen consequences that may be fun to explore later.  Think of the domino effect.

Consider epic tales like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.  I would count Dragon Age among them.  There is so much more going on than the happenings of one person, and you get to live it first hand, well, vicariously through your character.  Your decisions have bearing on the world around you and shape it.  You become a leader in each game; you build loyalty and friendships or enemies.  You get to save the world, and maybe the boy too.  😉

Aren’t these a few of the reasons we write?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts as much as I’ve enjoyed talking about it.  I could do so much more.  I’m continuing my fanfiction shortly, so if you’re not inclined to play, you can follow along the journey of my Origin character as she tries to save the world and the boy.  I will continue to post them here, as well as on Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (which I just realized needs to be updated).

Have a great weekend and Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #59

Today’s prompt continues the running theme of character.  I feel a visual representation of the images you have in your head as a writer are a great source of inspiration.  I always find a few pictures that help me visualize characters or places better, especially since I can not draw, at all.

EveVentrue-Assassin

If you are interested in finding images that help you better tell your story, Pinterest is a great resource.  I have created a number of boards for creative purposes, such as Character, Environment, and one entitled Inspiration for a variety of images that pique my interest, as well as a board for each of my screenplays.

Take a look and maybe you’ll find just what you’ve been looking for to help in your storytelling.

Happy Writing!

*Image by artist Eve Ventrue, who is quickly becoming a favorite!

Developing Your Characters

CharacterQuoteIn Sunday’s post, I mentioned how I’ve been struggling to get to know the protagonist of my space odyssey pilot.  I have nearly every other character worked out, backstories in place, and even a number of future episode ideas plotted, but this one character, the main character, still sort of eludes me.

I decided to find ways of getting to know my character better and found two useful tools.  The first is a list of personality traits ranging from positive to negative from MIT.  The second is a list of questions to answer that will help you create a fully fleshed out person, not just a character.  I found two separate sources:

1) Gotham Writers has two lists.

2) Is a link to a page entitled, The 100 Most Important Things to Know About Your Character.  This page incorporates many of the questions from Gotham and then added on.

I have found both tools rather useful.  I went through each character and assigned them all a handful of positive, neutral, and negative traits each to encourage diversity and to better understand them individually.  Not all characters are all good or bad (I’ve written a bit on this before.  Click here.), and this helped me to learn more about them and how they might respond in a given situation.

The questionnaire is a bit more daunting, at 100+ questions, but even just looking over the list allowed me to take other facets of my character’s life into consideration.  There are big things to consider, such as what were her biggest fears or her dreams before arriving in this new world? And there are trifling matters, such as did she secretly have a crush on someone?  Will she be upset that she’ll never know how Game of Thrones ended?  I know I would.  Okay, I threw that one in just for giggles, but you can see my train of thought and how these questions will shape your character.

Novel writing and screenwriting vary in a great many aspects, but knowing your characters is not one of them.  Although many of those personal aspects will not find themselves on the page of your screenplay or even on the screen, and some of those topics may never be visited within the pages of a novel, but as the writer, understanding your characters will help you determine their actions, their feelings, and their responses – and sometimes it’s with this understanding that they help us write the story.  If we know how they will react to a certain situation, it makes the writing that much easier, because we are writing what is in their nature, and not trying to force a situation to work a specific way because it’s what we want.

I hope you find these tools useful, and if you have any other sources or tips, please share!

Happy Writing!

Discrepant Writer Reviews – Death Comes to Pemberley

DeathPemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley recently popped up on Netflix, and as a Jane Austen enthusiast, I was excited to see they had picked it up.  I had been seeing articles, set photos, etc. for some months, so I made the effort to watch it almost immediately.  If you are wondering why I hadn’t watched it sooner, it’s because we haven’t paid for television in over 3 years.  So yes, I’m fairly out of the loop on most things.

Based on the novel of the same name from 2011 by P.D. James, I have to say I have been less inclined to read any of what is basically fan fiction of one of the most famous love stories in all of literature.  This is not a judgement in any regard.  I love fan fiction, I write some myself, but what I have discovered in some of the reading I have done is that it lacks the…hmm, what’s a good word…magic?

Jane Austen ran in the circles she was writing about.  Modern day writers can only emulate what they’ve studied, read, and seen because we have not lived it first hand, and again, by no mean is this a shortcoming.  I love period pieces, and if we only wrote about what we “know”, we wouldn’t have the wide range of diversity we do in any medium.  As writers, we each have a voice, and when it comes to something as widely beloved as Pride and Prejudice, you have to get it just right.

So here is my quick review.  Twoandhalfstars

The film was broken up into three parts.  I’m pretty sure it could’ve been told in two.  Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys play our leads, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy in their sixth year of marriage planning their annual ball when tragedy strikes.  A murder.  Because of the people involved, a wedge is slowly driven between the couple and we are given a glimpse as to the repercussions of following one’s heart instead of one’s head – or at least in the minds of these characters.

The actors are both very good, but I felt Elizabeth was cast incorrectly.  She was not the same spirited woman I have come to love and this is where I blame the writing.  She seemed weak, and that spark that had attracted Darcy to her in the first place was replaced by insecurity and she was kind of dull.  Darcy was too distant, even from the beginning of the film, and because so little is really known of him from the original material beyond those honorable traits we know and love, he too came off a bit dull.

Now, I haven’t been married, so maybe after six years of marriage in this world, they’re a little bored of each other, but when we leave them at the end of Pride and Prejudice, it’s not that I expect the permanent happily ever after, because it is based in “reality”, but I expect more than this.  Of course there will be hard times, etc., but I also expect that the challenge they presented to one another would carry over.  They should have spirited debates, and still have some spark…well, I think so anyway, and that was missing entirely from this tale.

I didn’t feel/see any spark between these characters, and I almost felt like the obligatory “romantic”, oh, let’s call it what it was, the sex scene was meant to reassure us that they did indeed have “something”, but that doesn’t happen in Jane Austen’s stories, so I know it was meant specifically for modern day audiences, and for me it felt out of place.

There’s an odd side story involving Wickham, played by Matthew Goode, and that does have some bearing on the story overall, but in the vein of a mystery, it was still rather convoluted.  The other failing was the absence of Jane and Bingley, the two people dearest to our main characters.  I think there were two scenes with Jane, and they didn’t amount to much.

I love the idea of seeing more of two of my favorite characters, as I’m sure does every Janeite, but I would almost prefer to imagine their fates as an open-ended tale without any real knowledge of what happened.  Looking back on what I’ve written, it doesn’t sound that promising of a film, but it had its moments, and I was glad to have the opportunity to watch it.  If I were flipping channels and it was on, I’d most likely leave it for a bit, but it’s lack of overall charm doesn’t compel me to go out of my way to watch it again.

Well, that’s my take anyway.

Happy Sunday!

The Dragon Age Obsession Saga Continues…Part 3

InquistionPosterSo in my absence and “sticking my head in the sand” I have neglected one of my favorite topics, Dragon Age.  For those of you who are new to my rambles, I have a particular fascination with the game series, some might call it an “obsession”, I would almost call it that myself, except I saw this…Obsessed:Dedicated

…and I felt a lot better about it. 🙂

I started this series some time ago, here’s Part I and Part II.  I’ve decided to write Part III on the companions, the merry band of misfits you recruit to join your cause.  I was trying to go in order of how one might proceed through the game, so perhaps this one should be about story, but Dragon Age is currently amidst a March Madness-type narrowing down of favorite characters to create The Dragon Age Ultimate Party, so I felt this was appropriate.  My choices, just FYI, are The Warden from Origins as the leader along with Alistair for the warrior, Varric from DA2 for the rogue, and Dorian from Inquisition for the mage.  #DAUltimateParty

So before I discuss the companions, of which I won’t go into too much, because “Spoilers”.  Any Doctor Who fans out there? 😉  Here are a few of the pros and cons.  In the two previous games certain actions were only available after a character “liked” you enough.  Their approval allowed for romance options and loyalty.  There was gift giving available and specific tokens for individuals, in addition to personal quests that would garner favor.  A bar on their character profile page gave you some indication of your friendship with them, but that disappeared in Inquisition.  At first it really bothered me, because how am I supposed to know if someone likes me enough?!  But this is more true to life.  The “so-and-so approves” or “greatly disapproves” text still pops up, so your only indication of character favor is based on how many times you’ve seen your favorite agree or disagree with your choices.

Also out for the majority of conversations is the positive, negative, or sarcastic indicator that allows you to choose how you would like to respond.  The Sis saves before every. single. conversation. which allows her to see the results of each conversation option and its effects.  She wastes a lot of time doing this, but she also probably has a better understanding overall.  I will, on the other hand, play the first time through just as I want.  As I always play “nice” when a character’s morality is measured, it’s fairly easy for me to distinguish what my character would say.  In all of the games, this wins favor with some while others find my do-gooder behavior tiresome.

In keeping with the idea of conversation, there’s lots of it!  This is something I truly appreciate, and Dragon Age as a series has never failed in this.  You can make quite a bit of conversation while in camp, but one of the best additions was the added supplementary conversations while you’re just walking around.  I became rather partial to who I kept in my party because of this; Dorian, Blackwall, and Sera seemed to be the most talkative and some of the things they talked about…so much fun!

InquisitionParty

I’ve started playing the Mass Effect series, also from Bioware, and with the confirmation of a game 4 due out next year, I’m hoping they take a cue from Dragon Age in regards to the romances; conversations, scenes, options.  With Inquisition, Bioware raised the bar.  Romance options are not only based on race, but also sexual orientation.  In the previous games, there were characters that could be romanced specifically by either a male or female lead, some by both, but this time around, there were more lines drawn.  Dorian is gay, as is Sera.  Solas can only be romanced by a female elf.  Commander Cullen, an NPC, is (luckily) a romance option who can only be wooed by a female human or elf.  This approach, in addition to creating a transgendered character found in Iron Bull’s party, has garnered Bioware a great deal of praise and plenty of accolades including a Special Recognition Award from GLAAD.

Here is the lineup: Your advisors are Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen, all NPCs, but of which two are romance options.  I would include Cassandra, a warrior, as well since she’s with you from the very start and initiates the Inquisition.  Along your travels you can recruit the following: Varric – a dwarven rogue, Solas – an elven mage, Blackwall – a human warrior, Iron Bull – a Qunari warrior, Dorian – a human mage, Sera – an elven rogue, Vivienne – a human mage, and Cole…he’s a bit of a complicated rogue.

What you’ll realize is that these characters are 3-dimensional, and this is a great lesson for us storytellers!  There is diversity, and passion, and spirit, and those make for good characters in any medium.

As I’ve rambled, yet again, I’ll wrap it up.  Goodness, I almost need to do another post on this topic alone.  The politics in the game surround a mage/templar conflict.  The companions you recruit all have their own backstory and ideas on how this problem should be resolved.  Because of this conflict, I chose to play my first time through as a female human mage.  Most characters and even NPCs will have their viewpoints and will treat you accordingly until you “win” them over.  There’s fear and skepticism, conflicting religious ideology, political intrigue, and so much more.  As you move forward, making decisions, and influencing the people around you, you will find that this is a fully fleshed out world where your choices have consequences and can shape the world around you.  Again I say, “It is so much fun!”

If you decide to play and want to know your romance options, here’s a guide from IGN.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

The Dragon Age Obsession Saga Continues…Part 2

InquistionPosterSo, it’s time to continue the obsession saga series known as Dragon Age. I present to you Part 2: Creating your Character aka The Protagonist.

As I mentioned in the first part, I will discuss topics in the order they are encountered, so this post will deal with character creation and we’ll move on from there.

Character creation is one of my favorite things to do in games. If I could get paid to make characters all day, I totally would. Some games do this better than others, and I had really high hopes for this option in Inquisition given the previous games, and from early game footage we knew the graphics were going to be amazing, and for the most part it is really good, but it has its downsides.

InquisitionCharactersIn Origins (game 1) you were given a choice of 6 different origin stories to play through as an elf, a human, or a dwarf. Comments made in game play, and how NPC characters treated you, etc. were all based on this choice. In 2 you could only play as a human, Hawke, which many people didn’t care for (in addition to a number of other factors – we won’t go into that here – I still liked the game). There was also a DLC called the Black Emporium that allowed you to change your character’s features at no extra cost, i.e. gold or favor anytime you wished. Inquisition returns to the original format of different races and includes a fourth option, the Qunari; a race of large beings with horns, usually. You do not have an option to change features, but Bioware did try to have the character creator mirror actual game play, and it is very close.  What this means is what you see is what you get, pretty much.

The character creator allows for multiple interesting features to incorporate such as unnatural eye colors (pink, yellow, what-have-you or a combination of any along the color wheel), scars, tattoos, and even a broken nose. You could easily spend hours creating just the right eye size, nose shape, chin depth, even the height of the ears, and that’s all great, except…

Here are the downsides. There are no distinctions in hair options for male and female characters. They removed a number of the good ones from previous games (where did my cute bob with the braids go?!) and instead added 13 bald-ish options. You can go completely bald, have stubble, have stubble with a round head, or stubble with a slightly cone head, and the list goes on for 13 different options…gracious.

And let’s talk about beard options for male characters – there are like 40. C’mon now. I realize there are so many other things going on in character creation, especially having 4 races, but you took away multiple choices for one of the most essential features – hair to include all those others?

Side note, here’s a link to a video about some of the ugliest characters created, but be forewarned for explicit language. I found it hilarious!

One feature some gamers didn’t like was the lack of choice in body type. Elves are small framed, dwarves are short, Qunari are tall, and humans are well, human. There is no choice in making any character taller or shorter, heavier or thinner. You cannot create the rare tall elf, or the randomly short Qunari.

So after painstakingly creating your perfect character, choosing a voice of which there are only two across the board for any race of male and female characters, and a name which no one will ever use in game play because gaming is not quite that advanced yet, you start your game.

Depending on your race, whether you’re female or male, and depending on your class especially in this game, you will be treated accordingly in this world. Elves are second-class citizens, dwarves are generally not surface dwellers, Qunari are from a foreign land and in previous games have been referred to as an invading force trying to convert the world to their beliefs, and then there is the “ruling” class, the humans. In Inquisition, regardless of your class, you will be from a noble family, although if you are a mage, you will have come from a circle; a place where mages are kept locked away for the protection of the people.

This is the driving storyline of Inquisition due to events started in DA:2. We’ll talk about story in another post.

image (12)What makes the character creator fun, you might ask?  As a writer, sometimes I find it fun to try to create a character that might resemble one of my own creations.  If you’re really talented you can create a character that looks like someone else, like this, Nigel Thornberry.  So, after all my time spent in the creator, this was my first character, who I really liked despite her questioning eyebrows. 🙂  She does not resemble any of my imaginary friends, but after the play through, I suppose she could.  I really grew to love her and her choices, despite what some of her companions thought.

All right, that’s quite enough for one day. The Dragon Age Obsession Saga will continue with posts in regards to dialogue, companions, and story shortly.

Happy Sunday!