LESSON The Unknown

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by BaskinJR, Jun 12, 2015.

  1. "...The oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown."
    -H.P. Lovecraft

    The unknown is an imperative force for a storyteller to harness. With the unknown comes engagement. Engagement draws anyone enjoying your story in. Engagement is the purest, most fundamental tool to whether the experience you are fabricating lives or dies.
    But the unknown, when used without moderation, can cause frustration and total disconnection from your world.
    Take the opening of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for example.
    Skyrim, from what I can tell, looks like a wonderful game. It establishes a great world. However, it isn't done through the opening.
    In the opening, you are in a cart with three men. You can tell that you have been captured by a group named the imperials.
    As the men rat on, they incessantly use vocabulary such as: Hammerfell, Stormcloak, High King, Savvengard, Kynareth, the list goes on, with little to no context clues to be derived. Now, this certainly delivers on the unknown, but to an extent that you just ignore all of the men out of frustration and disengagement. And it's so sad because it puts an unjust blight on an otherwise great game.
    I suggest that you look at a video (Skyrim's Opening) on YouTube by people named Extra Credits. They analyse it much better than I do.
    Now that we're on the subject of the unknown in games, instead of berating Skyrim and being done with it, how about I give an example of the unknown in a game.
    I'm confident anyone who has a passing knowledge of games will know of a game named Portal.
    What's that sound? That's the sound of the entire internet squealing in delight simultaneously.
    In Portal, you are a test subject in the Aperture Science Enrichment Centre, being guided by an AI named GLaDOS, who is the only intelligent being seemingly in the building.
    As you progress, you see messages and harrowing warnings from past test subjects, and empty offices where humans should be, perhaps reining in the maniacal GLaDOS, but there aren't any.
    During the final boss battle (I don't think this is too much of a spoiler), when GLaDOS is at wit's end, she delivers spine-chilling, vague dialogue.

    "Things have changed since you last left the building. What's going on out there will make you wish you were back in here. I have an infinite capacity for knowledge and even I'm not sure what's going on I outside. All I know is that I'm the only one standing between us and them."

    When this was delivered, I stopped right in my tracks. All that time, Portal had been a fun little game. Eerie in places, and certainly genius. But this hint at a greater universe to be seen from Portal blew my mind, and it was completely out of the blue.

    So to reiterate, the unknown can be one of the most powerful tools you can use in creative expression, as long as it is used sparsely and vaguely, and in moderation.
    And with that, I conclude my first contribution to the workshop.
    Thank you for reading.
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