Thursday, June 28, 2012
Battle Reportification Part 9 - Themes
There are all sorts f directions that you could take your Battle Report. You could make it into an uplifting story about the triumph against all the odds, it could be a depressing tale of the brave soldiers who gave all they could and died for their efforts. Or maybe your preference is for the sick tales of corrupt commanders more interested in numbers than in men and how it all played down, him not being phased when he won at the cost of millions for a few square miles of land - he only cared about if the final objective was achieved. The purpose of this post is to help you set up themes for the story you want to tell, why you want to pick a theme and how to do it. One of the reasons that you should pick a theme is that it sets a standard; a guideline is established which you will be able to follow fairly easily and you will be kept on track with your goals. A lot of times people get working on something that they love and they lose sight of the vision that had initially been there, swept away by what they were doing now. The expression that is commonly used is that you don't see the forest for the trees. You have immersed yourself in your project so completely that you can't find your way back to what was going to make it great. Having a theme in mind from the get-go will provide you with something to measure off of, to keep you from becoming too distracted and able to focus on what matters. I'm talking about your family. Just kidding, if you need tips on being a family person I'm not the one to go to. You're playing with toy soldiers for crying out loud (most of you - I suppose some people could read this and not play with them. I don't know why, but you could… hypothetically). So back to focusing on what matters, you want the theme to help you remember what moments you want to portray in your Battle Report. And for the 40,001th time (hee hee) this will give you another opportunity to find inspiration should you ever need it. With that explanation out of the way how do you choose your theme? This fits in with the significant events and the gritty details posts, what was it that you thought was important. What made you think this would be a good Battle Report? Maybe you chose an arbitrary battle to do it for, but it is my belief that every battle can be made into a spectacular story, but sometimes people aren't able to tell it because of their personal tendencies. Not everyone can write uplifting canon about the heroic last stand of the 2nd company of Ultramarines on Macragge against the Tyranids. Others would find themselves horribly out of their league as they struggle to narrate the fall of Malant'ai. Know what your abilities are. This is not a time to be humble about your abilities, nor is it the moment to be delusional. If you truly have no idea, or even if you have a belief that you can't do something just give it a try. After about 3 attempts then you can give up, but until you have some proper experience who are you to say know? Think of writing a story as creating an army list. Sure that unit of wolf scouts hasn't served you so well the past two games, but its entirely possible that its been because you were using them wrong or the enemy armies just weren't what is typical and just happened to be able to deal with them. Maybe you weren't setting up the right situations in order to tell that tale of the heart broken mother who watched her boy fight in the planetary militia and wept for his death, one among millions who died for her. I'm not sure if I actually answered how you choose your theme though (sorry about that tangent. I think it was good in any case). Back to the idea of significant events and gritty details, how I mentioned the important stuff that you want to illustrate or that make this a good story for that. Whether you won or lost shouldn't impact the story you're telling. Yes on the battle field you failed to drive the enemy back, but telling a story is more than just plot (though it is a serious factor. A bad plot begets bad stories). The important part of telling a story often has to do with what it is about, the tone that you are taking. Remember all those stupid english classes that you took where all you did was discuss the genius of Shakespeare and how he brought in all sorts of elements that made fun of things or pushed ideas of aristocracy or equality or education or whatever? Well you want to make some of your own themes along those lines, bigger ideas that you (or your characters) push, statements about this that or the other. Most people like to hear a "today I learned" or some big moral stance on something. I'm not saying that everyone does, and a lot of time people don't agree with it, but the good guys have to be the good guys for a reason. The good guys always win because they are inherently better and deserve to win (in stories at least. Always a pet peeve of mine that bad guys never win but this is not a discussion for this blog). You will see yourself become more successful if you take a theme and you use it to show what happened, why it happened, and what it means. That theme will give you something to push for your readers, something that you can check for as you read your own story and see if it ends up actually coming across to them.