02
Oct
08

Cutting Ahead: Scissor method to Plot Development

I’m told one of the hardest things there is about telling a story independent on medium is the ability to edit your own work; it’s easy to downright fall in love with ideas you come up with and the things you create to the point where you become too blind to directly tell whether or not they actually work or fit in with the current setting. It’s a hard choice to make – on one end you can see the possibilities with, not to mention all the time you’ve spent on expanding on, an idea, a concept or a character; on the other, the whole might simply be better off without it.

How can you tell?

The Beyond the Tree plot so far is no stranger to both cuts and changes in the plot – during the run of the comic so far, it’s gone from having no main plot arc to having one that’s been rebuilt significantly twice over. The rough purpose and end goal with the first arc has remained mostly stationary from its first conception, but the way there has changed in several ways to make it more understandable and more in detail. Obviously, I’m not going to go over every change and what effects they have now – not yet in the least. You’ll likely get some or most of them in retrospect, depending on how many I remember, but so far I still try to hold on to my cards to keep the plot itself mostly obscured.

One thing I can mention is that chapter three – which we’ll be moving into soon – is one of the changed things. Originally we didn’t stay in Ashenvale forest as long as we’re going to and the old chapter three had a completely different purpose, as well as the chapter we will now have as chapter three is a merge between events originally put much later and the latter parts of chapter two. This doesn’t really reveal much on the particulars of what exactly changed, but it should put some perspective in how drastic some of the changes are!

There are, of course, some things that are simply cut because they can’t be worked into things well enough or simply don’t fit in enough. For one thing, there’s an entire excursion into Blackrock Depths that I’ve long had planned that was introduced to the story line, then cut out, then re-introduced and finally cut out again because I couldn’t think of a good enough reasons the characters would go that way at the given time. I still have hopes I’ll be able to find place for it later on because of some of the character and dialogue moments it gave opportunity for, but for now it’s out until after arc 2 because I can’t find place for it.

And to be honest, I’m unhappy about that – I loved the idea of some of the things I could do with Blackrock Depths, some of the exchanges I could insert, some of the character moments I could have space for and some of the great remarks I could swing around. Ultimately, Beyond the Tree is better without trying to shoehorn it in for no apparent reason, but I certainly wish there’d been more space for it.

Which brings me down to another thing I had to cut, namely the supporting cast.

Ivram Montra (Compare to Inigo Montoya, and no I haven’t seen or read The Princess Bride..) was envisioned as a self-ruled rogue who envisioned himself as the dashing swashbuckler. Nowhere near as charming as he claimed (or tried) to be, Ivram was very much envisioned as a factor of both self-serving and negativity; the first voice to be raised against when the group was called to rush into danger.

I had a few subplots in mind with him and there was even a time I considered the possibility of an opposites attract sort of romance arc between him and Te’len, something I ultimately discarded very early because I decided I simply couldn’t see Te’len putting up with him.

Ultimately he was cut out because I couldn’t find a good enough way to define why he’d be travelling with Hani and Tiny – both why he’d put up with their leadership, as well as why they’d put up with.. well.. him. He was a fun character and seemed to have potential ending up as the butt of far too many jokes, not to mention the running joke potential of him trying to flirt with just about any female pretty enough they came across. But there simply wasn’t space enough to make him sensical in the plot, so he was cut out, with part of his role in the group falling on other people (such as Te’len getting to voice suggestions against rampant violence)

Ozybolt “Oz” Manafizzle was planned as a typical young and cheerful (and inept..) gnome mage and engineer. Ever wanting to do the right thing but not always doing it the right way, I had a whole lot of ideas on how to utilize both his unreliable abilities as a spellcaster and his various creations and terminology as an inventor for all manner of exchanges.

There was one in particular I had in mind that was basically technobabble about something called Hero Field Index suggesting like certain people – like Hani – had this hero field around them that simply made people allied with and travelling with them better at things, playing with the whole classical fantasy game concept that being in the player’s party makes even the most ordinary person able of immense feats of strength. Only to state that all research on the matter disappeared after there was a fire caused by all the alcohol consumed during the research accidentally catching flame, thus deconstructing the whole statement.

I liked the idea of having a gnome in the group, as well as I liked the idea of Oz and Ivram breaking up the otherwise very female dominance on the cast, but like Ivram – since they were meant to be introduced together – I couldn’t find good space or a good hook to fit him in. It’s a real pity, but like with Ivram, I think Beyond the Tree is better off without trying to shoehorn him in somewhere. He might still make an appearance later, as might Ivram, but I don’t see either becoming regulars right now.

Closing on something that wasn’t cut, I’d like to introduce you to an old concept of a character I’m intending we’ll see sometime in chapter four, namely:

Mora Proudrock, tough dwarven lass who we’ll get aquainted to later on. This is an old character appearance concept – I’m thinking off and on how I might update and change her appearance to something a little more visual, but so far I haven’t had the time to dedicate myself to it, especially with her being quite far off in things still.

Though she won’t break up the all-female factor of the cast so far, she’ll definitely offer some contrast to the high ammount of night elves. There’s only so much I can give away at this point – part because she has a role to play in the story as it develops, part because she’s still being defined as things roll. Her appearance isn’t set yet either, I’m hoping to give that a look over before she’s formally introduced in Beyond the Tree itself. Character appearance is an important part of how a character is portrayed and recieved, Mora has the double roles of tough dwarven lass and apprentice priestess to maintain – it’ll be interesting to try to combine both into a single package.

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