Friday, September 6, 2013

Alignment

Weird thing happened Wednesday night. I was exhausted and getting ready for bed, looked at the clock, thought "I have a little time," pulled out my laptop and WROTE SOMETHING ON MY WIP.

Yes, all you writers out there who do that every day - good for you. I've been stuck so long I've built a house in the rut. But that night, thanks to the outline, I knew where I was going and I knew I could make a little progress if I just turned on the computer. I did, too.

Tried it last night, but I really was too tired and the computer itself thwarted me by running all these diagnostics it's been wanting to run for a while. Plus, I'd handwritten bits of the next scene earlier in the day, so I'm counting that as working on it.

While pondering this scene and some ahead, the issue of "alignment" came up. I'd like to take a moment to thank Wizards of the Coast and D&D for including alignment in their gaming systems, because it's a useful concept.

Alignment comes in flavors, like ice cream: Good, Neutral and Evil. Add the adjectives Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic and you get the ice cream container: Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Neutral (I wouldn't even know how to play that but it exists), Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil and finally Chaotic Evil. Out of sheer perversity, I would finish the analogy by saying "Lawful" is a paper cup, "Neutral" is a thin waffle cone prone to drips and "Chaotic" is no container at all - just a handful of ice cream.

Why do you care? Because written characters have alignment, too. A Good character cannot do something Evil without consequences, and vice versa. A Lawful Evil character may resemble a Lawful Good character until the right circumstances reveal the evil (think Magneto's abandonment of Mystique in Xmen 3 because she's no longer "one of them").

Keep in mind when you're writing or reading that a character's actions should reveal that character's alignment. In Pan's Labyrinth, my alignment warning went off when the Faun put an 8 year old girl into extremely dangerous (and beautiful) situations, even though he claimed to be helping her. At that moment, I moved his alignment from Good to Neutral Good a hair's breath away from Lawful Evil (the "healing" spell using mandrake and human blood didn't help his case, either). He might be a friend, but his version of friendship is rougher than I would like.

Alignment isn't an excuse to write two-dimensional characters, but it is a gut-check on what kinds of actions your characters will perform. A Good character who kills in cold blood or steals or lies may suffer an alignment shift and all the baggage that goes with it or may be trapped by conscience into making restitution that hinders his ultimate goal. An Evil character who shows mercy may suffer the same thing, or may be using all his evil wiles to lull the Good character into a trap.

Choosing an alignment is one more way to keep characters - and your story - on the right track.

Happy Friday, dear readers. Make it a Good one.


No comments:

Post a Comment