Castle Falkenstein and writing

As I noted in the previous post, the conceit of the game is that you’re creating a somewhat Victorian novel. Like them or despise them, you’re writing it. And because you are, and because the recommendation of the rules is that you actually write it, there’s some writing advice in the rulebook.

It turns out the advice isn’t that bad. Some of it is over the top for what we use today, some of it is specifically genre related, but there’s some stuff that’s really, really, useful.

For example, ‘write the villain first’. That’s not the way it’s phrased. What it says is that for each chapter write what the villain intends to do and how he plans to go about it, perhaps including some of the things he does in preparation or has ready for response to those nosy kids, er, the intrepid heroes.

I can’t say how many times I’ve gotten stumped with a world or a hero that’s gone nowhere. The hero without the villain is boring. (If the hero is overcoming a disease or handicap that disease or handicap is a villain. Seriously, write it that way and see how it makes your hero come to life.)

Another thing it has that I’ve found rather useful is the list of mandatory events of a (trashy) Victorian novel. No, not all of them are needed in all fiction, but referencing the list can help inspire not just the arc but what happens now. The list, by the way, is:

  • A Fiendish Plot (the ticking bomb for the novel)
  • An Insidious Peril (the arc from which Fiendish Plots are developed)
  • An Imprisonment in Durance Vile (the heroes are stopped but not – quite – killed)
  • A Fate Worse than Death (very ‘victorian’, and though typically the ‘marry me or see them destroyed’ situation is basically the ‘rock and a hard place’ choices for heroes. Note that some novels let the hero side-step, others force them to choose and live with the consequences.)
  • A Death Trap. Victorian melodrama this is literal. Bond movies, too.
  • A Hairs-breadth Escape. Can be the death trap, can be the fate worse than death, could be just a secondary story event.
  • A Great Romance. No, seriously, how many of your favorite books or movies don’t have this at least in the background?
  • A Perilous Battle. The fight against a team of minions on the top of a speeding train is almost a stereotype. Or the running/riding/driving gun-fight through the city streets.
  • A Duel to the Death. That Final Confrontation – which can be done more than once with the assistance of the hairs-breadth escape, but which shouldn’t be abused.
  • and, of course, A Heroic Sacrifice. Whether consumed or not, the attempt must exist.

Yeah, that’s actually a good list regardless of genre. Maybe toned down for some, and you can probably skip one or two in some genres, but really you should do so knowing you’re doing so and why it’s necessary for your story.

If you’re thinking of writing you might track down a copy of the rule book just for that section. Not to follow religiously, but as a guide for getting started.

heh – one more thing. I don’t know how many times I’ve been given standard advice, to get rid of the first chapter. This guide actually suggests writing that first chapter. But it also tells you what should be in it: What Has Gone Before. Introduce the Main Antagonists, with their primary motivations and relevant important events. List the events that have occurred that have brought this story into play. Don’t force foreshadowing. Don’t lay down explanations for later events. Just introduce your characters and the story. You still might have to drop it and integrate the pieces through the book, but go ahead and do it so you have your springboard for the book.

I had really forgotten that this advice was here. Makes me glad on numerous fronts I’m going to run the system again.

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