Well, it finally happened. After several delays, I am now a ***PUBLISHED AUTHOR***. North of Armageddon is available for purchase here: http://theundeniables.org/publications/
To celebrate, I’d like to spend some time talking about my creative process and then, just for fun, speculate on the creative process of Andrew Hussie, creator of MS Paint Adventures.
North of Armageddon is written from the perspective of different survivors during the zombie apocalypse (you know the one). As a result, there’s a new protagonist or two every couple of chapters. To keep the reader from getting confused, I wrote each character’s voice through a different medium. The first two chapters, focused around a married couple living in a truck in the Canadian forests, are written from the third person. The next two are focused around two brothers driving across theUnited Statesand they’re written almost entirely in dialogue. I tried for ONLY dialogue at first, but I soon realized that was not a great idea. The next two are written from a scientist’s diary entries and so on and so forth. Don’t worry, though. It’s not new characters forever.
Part of the reason I did this was to keep things interesting, but I also wanted a way to reel the reader back to a character’s chapter without just putting a big sign that says, “This is Tobias’s chapter!” Instead, Tobias’s chapters are always written in first person loosely in the style of hardboiled detective stories. It sounds complicated at first but it actually helps compartmentalize the different story arcs.
At the behest of some of my fellow Umbapeeps (refer to http://umbagog.deviantart.com/), I recently began reading Homestuck. It took me a while to get into the art and storytelling style, though, so I started snooping around Hussie’s other work for a while, the most amazing of which is Problem Sleuth. Problem Sleuth is his magnum opus of interactive storytelling. If someone asked me about Homestuck, I’d lead them to Problem Sleuth first. Partly because Homestuck is one bit self-referential joke but partly because Problem Sleuth is the only completed MS Paint Adventure comic.
Problem Sleuth, like all the MS Paint Adventure comics, is set up like a classic adventure game (ala King’s Quest orMonkeyIsland). The three main protagonists are examples of three different detective archetypes. Problem Sleuth is the hard boiled “Philip Marlowe”-type detective. Ace Dick is the “Mike Hammer” of the group. He talks with his fists. Pickle Inspector, on the other hand, heralds more from the paranormal detective genre. He’s a thin, nervous man but has godlike abilities in the metaphysical realm.
You (Problem Sleuth) start out trapped in a small room with a few small items, but it helps that you at least know the genre and what to expect (or you can always check tvtropes if not). You’ll definitely need to grab your gun… key? Yes. The world of Problem Sleuth also has built-in “glitches” that make weapons turn into more innocuous items and vice versa. Hussie often uses this device as a joke, shooting through a door when someone simply wanted to unlock it, for instance. It serves as a great device to give some control back to the creator himself, since Problem Sleuth’s choices were entirely decided by the fans of the comic. Through these glitches and some other rules and limitations (such as the the three stats: vim, pulchritude, and imagination), Hussie was able to guide readers into knowing what they could and could not do within the constructs of the “game.”
One last device Hussie uses to great effect in Problem Sleuth (even greater in Homestuck) is that of fetishes. No, I’m not talking about that issue of Monochrome Beauties. Well, actually, I kind of am. Each character and each room has different themes. In Problem Sleuth, we might know which room is which because one has a bust of Snoop Dogg in it. The other, a Zoolander bust. In Homestuck, each relative of the main characters has a specific fetish they obsess over. For John’s father, its clowns. For Rose’s mom, it’s wizards. In this way, Hussie has not only given us a physical space but has also given us markers to remember where we are and who we are focusing on.
Even in a non-visual, non-interactive medium, these guidelines still help the reader make heads or tails of the ambiguous stew that is one’s story. In fact, I may use some of Hussie’s techniques in my next novel. But in the meantime, you can always read North of Armageddon (hint hint, wink wink).
First step on the long road to being world famous, Cleent.