I’m an author of a fantasy novel but lately, my brand of nerdity has been wholly focused on science fiction.
There is a video game series called Mass Effect. I have spent more hours playing it than I am comfortable admitting.
Beyond entertaining gameplay, an important part of Mass Effect’s appeal is its story-telling. The writers did an amazing job of creating interesting characters, a vast universe, and a variety of intertwining storylines. In any artistic medium, it would be considered a masterpiece.
I recently read an interview with some of Mass Effect’s creators wherein they discussed the development of the primary story. It started as one small idea that grew into something bigger after they determined what the story was actually about.
Meaning, they knew they wanted it to involve a rogue alien supersoldier with a synthetic army, but there wasn’t a story there until they decided that it was really a story about organic lifeforms at war with synthetics. Once they realized that, things got interesting. They flushed out the differences between the two and the ways each side would perceive the other. Then they realized that the concept of inherent difference could be widened to include all the different alien species they were creating.
Finally, they determined they were making a story about prejudice and humanity and racism and classism, all set on a science fiction backdrop wherein a rogue alien supersoldier leads a synthetic army in battle against organic lifeforms.
This was eye-opening because it made me think about my book.
It has a plot, a series of events, but is it actually about something greater and bigger than itself?
In a way, it is. One of the storylines follows an insecure young man thrust into a strange world and forced to adapt. It is a story of unrequited love and the power of emotions to change who we are.
Other parts of the story, they’re just plot, but at least I have this one piece that works on a grander scale.
Since I began thinking of Mass Effect in this new way, I believe I will approach my writing in a more mature fashion. A novel is more than a series of actions and plot devices. It is a manifesto. If it will have your name on the cover, make sure it says something about the world that you believe in passionately.