Subtlety, Progress & More Mass Effect Stuff

‘K, this post is just gonna be a jumble of things.  Thought I’d warn you now, heh.


A couple of days ago I went to see The Hunger Games in theaters (and it’s really wonderful, btw), and fellow writer Jay Noel and I got to talkin’ on Facebook about whether we thought the movie or the book was better.  We have different opinions, though my primary reason for liking the movie best was a matter of personal taste, I think.

I thought the novel itself lacked subtlety.  Everything was made so obvious that I didn’t really have to use inference at all.  And maybe it’s because it’s a YA novel, idk, but I like having a mixture of things you have to figure out for yourself and outright explanations.  Personally.

Anyway, this got me thinking about subtlety in fiction and the challenge of achieving it.  Soon enough I was on Google seeing what other writers had to say about it.  I came across two really good articles that were more or less saying the same things, just differently, though they were both insightful, imo.  I think the one explains things more in-depth, but the other is good, too.

Check ’em out, if you’re interested.


Hey!  I’m actually making some progress on editing!  (I change the color of the progress bar some whenever I advance a percentage point or more, hehe.)

It’s been hard getting back into some kind of rhythm after all that’s happened, but excuses aren’t going to get things done.  (Sometimes I feel like I need permission to work on this thing, as it currently does not bring in any income.  Maybe that’s silly, but it can be hard internally justifying a time-consuming effort when you have no guarantee whether its fruits will be lucrative.)

Anyway, my goal is to sift through a minimum of 500 words every day until the end of June.  (Might sound like very little, but I’m not just making quick fixes this round.)  After that, I should be ready to start sending chapters for critique out to first readers–yay!  Maybe I get done before then, but in any case that’s gonna be my mandatory deadline.  We’ll see how that goes.  (So far I’ve been doing considerably more than my daily goal, so I’m off to a good start, at least.)

More Mass Effect Stuff (SPOILERS!)

Last time when I talked about playing Mass Effect 3 a couple of folks requested I do a “spoiler-y post” on my interpretation of the game’s ending.

I give in.

My thoughts aren’t just my own, however.  When I finished the game I knew something felt “off”, but I didn’t realize that this could have potentially been Bioware’s intent all along.  And, after considering other people’s theories and thinking in retrospect…I had to come to the conclusion that maybe the writers at Bioware are just incredibly clever folks (and not the sloppy plotters so many fans are making them out to be).

As I said once, the ending felt really strange and eerie to me, like what was happening wasn’t the “real” ending.  Then I watched a few videos like this one and thought, “Whoa…that explains almost everything!”  Perhaps there was a reason I felt so out-of-sorts at the end; perhaps I, the outside player, was experiencing a simulation of the in-story phenomenon of Reaper indoctrination (brief 87-second video).

I have to tell you, this theory changed the entire way I looked at the game.  It truly blew my mind.  The fact that I had no idea what was going on at the end of the game and, according to this theory, quite literally fell into the trap of the Reapers (by tossing myself into the energy beam that would bring about the Synthesis of organic and synthetic life) is just brilliant; it’s also sad.  If I were actually Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect universe, I would have voluntarily doomed the galaxy to Reaper control.

And I didn’t even see it coming.

Now I’m kind of determined to replay the game and make the theorized “best” choice at the end, the one that has mattered all along: destroying the Reapers.  Still, I enjoyed my original gaming experience with my “guinea pig” character Genevieve Shepard, whom I’ve used on my first play-throughs for all the ME games.  In any case, I do think Bioware should release free content with some real answers. 😛  (I suppose I get why they might hold back answers for a while, though.  It does encourage a lot more discussion and theorizing.)

In the end, I guess it’s still possible that all the available endings are failures, depending on how you interpret them, but I guess us fans will just have to wait and see.


24 thoughts on “Subtlety, Progress & More Mass Effect Stuff

  1. Yeah, I see what you’re saying about the book spelling stuff out. I think a lot of that is the fact that it is a YA book.

    Amazing to see all the backlash with casting three of the characters with black actors. Makes no sense, since I believed Rue and Thresh were black (I thought it was obvious with Collins’ descriptions of both of them). And for some reason, I saw Lenny Kravitz as Cinna long before he was even cast in the part (which is kinda weird).

    Disheartening to see racism still alive and well on Twitter.


    • You’re totally and completely right on Rue and Thresh. I’m positive the descriptions of the two were quite clear, and that’s how I imagined them as well.

      Cinna I didn’t see as black, but textually, the color of his skin is never mentioned as I recall. (As a white guy, I suffer from Default White Guy syndrome, which I’m trying to cure myself of.) And when I saw Lenny Kravitz cast my reaction had very little to do with his race and was mostly “Lenny Kravitz? This name, it sounds vaguely familiar to me. Is he a singer or something.” (I don’t follow the music scene very closely.) Mostly, though, I saw Cinna just as flamboyantly gay. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’m not sure how much Kravtiz’s performance conforms to that particular expectation.


      • Confirmed: Rue and Thresh were definitely described as having dark skin in the book. I have no idea why anyone who actually read the book would be so shocked and appalled.

        And for pity’s sake, Hollywood takes characters specifically described as looking one way by their author and casts them however they like all the bloomin’ time. I don’t recall any hissy fits over brunette Anne Hathaway playing Mia from “The Princess Diaries”, for an off-the-top-of-the-head example, and the series states more than once that she’s a blonde. Or staying in a racial context, where was the hue and cry when the “Percy Jackson” movie made Grover the satyr black with no literary prompting? Now people are enraged over the “Hunger Games” film actually sticking to the text?? World, I will never understand you.

        Cinna, meanwhile, was not expressly stated as dark, and maybe I’m a white guy at heart, lol, but I envisioned him as white, too (and not even as flamboyantly gay; he struck me as being more subtle and ambiguous). So I’m having a tough time reconcilng that casting with the Cinna in my head, though I’ll wait ’til I’ve seen his performance before deciding whether I’m okay with it.

        As for subtlety in writing, that is indeed one of the more difficult lines to walk. I often find myself having to dial back my own subtlety (which is kind of ironic, since I’m subtle as a baseball bat to the head in everyday conversation) when my first-feedback reader either doesn’t know what I’m talking about or only knows because she’s privy to so much insider context. It’s tough to place yourself in a mind outside your own (characters don’t count; they’re in your head) and take into account what the reader may not know. But the readers will be glad you tried!


        • Humphrey Bogart looked nothing like (blond, satanic) Sam Spade, Kerry Washington looked nothing like (white) Alicia Masters, Hugh Jackman is about a foot taller than Wolverine, etc.

          Oh, and I sometimes leave the race of my characters unspecified for a while, to catch people with Default White Guy syndrome (and likewise with people who assume every character is straight unless specifically stated otherwise). I talked about that on my blog a while back:


    • Jay: yeah, it was pretty clear what they looked like in the book. It’s ridiculous that people are wiggin’ out so much about her character. I mean she is lighter in the movie than I’d expected, but she’s still a person-of-color, as the book made clear.

      Stephen: I think, like Danielle said, even colored folk can still suffer from Default White Guy syndrome, as you call it, lol. I totally pictured him as white, too. But it’s one of those open things, so it’s not really an issue. I thought he did a good job, though, Kravitz.

      And though I don’t think he seemed explicitly feminine in the way he acted, I kinda think there were softer qualities about him in the way he was dressed…if that makes sense.

      Danielle: I know! It’s crazy how racist some of these people are.

      “It’s tough to place yourself in a mind outside your own […] and take into account what the reader may not know.”

      It really is…

      About Cinna, I was surprised they casted Kravitz for his role, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance, personally. You really got the feeling that he was one of Katniss’ favorite people in the Capitol. They just had that friendly, trusting chemistry. 🙂


  2. Movies sometimes improve on the novels they’re based on, because they have to jettison things which were unnecessary anyway. This s not limited to YA — it’s also true of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for example. My current post talks about the two movie versions, but I’d rather see either of them than read the book again.

    Very interesting about the game. I’ll be interested to hear what happens when you play it again.


  3. So yeah… your spoilery discussion of Mass Effect ending? Didn’t spoil anything for me. Instead I’m like… “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about, but I definitely need to play these games.”


  4. Yay for progress! Unfortunately I’ve neither read or watched the Hunger Games, nor played Mass Effect. I was wondering what all the fuss about the ending was about. I don’t think that was very spoilery. Like Stephen, I have no idea what you’re talking about. LOL


  5. Good luck with the editing – I’m deep in it myself, though I’m so close to finished the structural revision that I can taste it. After that it’ll be a couple passes for dialogue checks and line edits, and then I’ll be done. *phew* Why do we do this to ourselves again? Oh right – because we love it. 😛


    • Thanks! It’s been tough. o_O Not gonna lie…

      Sounds like you’re further along with structural edits than I am, then. I’m thinking this stage will probably be the hardest, heh.

      “Why do we do this to ourselves again? Oh right – because we love it.”

      Oh yeah… 😛


      • I might be farther – I started this revision last april, so it’s been almost a year slogging at this. The next one will be easier though, I’m doing Holly Lisle’s how to revise your novel course, and it’s been really great for keeping on track and doing things in order so you don’t forget something and rewrite huge sections you’ve already rewritten twice. I’m terrible for that, but I won’t have to do that any more with this system. I’m so close to done; I can’t wait to be sending this out to agents 🙂


        • I love Holly Lisle’s clinics and workshops! Her materials and advice have been a huge factor in me getting as far as I have. (If/when I get published, her name is definitely going in the “thank you” section, heh.)

          Anyway, here’s to making the big push towards finishing our novels. 😀


  6. I find it more heartening to see racism shamed. Though I have to confess I wasn’t following the ‘controversy’. It’s not like they were adding in Asian Vikings 🙂 Seriously, what possible difference would it make what color anyone was?

    ME3 really needed to write a DEFINITIVE ending, not just string the player along for DLC content later. I think, based on what you said and the links they provided, that the Indoctrination theory is accurate. Which means Bioware was too subtle.

    I’m guilty of the same thing, sometimes. I try to put clues in the background and often that’s a mistake. You don’t need to spell things out with a hammer, but you need to make sure the resolution and climax are satisfying to your audience. Here, clearly, Bioware has failed. Sitting back and smugly smiling and saying “If you knew the whole story” doesn’t fly. You need each story to have a real resolution. You can still plant seeds for future sequels but you need to resolve your major plots.

    Thanks Tiyana. This makes me look forward to my ME 3 playthrough while alerting me to the pitfalls.

    Reapers delenda est 🙂


    • “It’s not like they were adding in Asian Vikings”

      LoL–well, yeah, but…changing a character’s race (which they kinda did with Rue, but then in a way they kinda didn’t) would be a bigger deal to me if you were making a switch from say having an Chinese background to a German one, or whatever. Changing the “shade” of “blackness” that they are… I don’t think that’s something one should get really upset about; everyone’s a mutt to a certain extent, lol. Also, even though the book did say that Katniss had “olive skin” and dark (straight?) hair, they did make Jennifer Lawrence look pretty “olive”, if you ask me. (And straight vs. wavy hair? I mean it’s so minor…really. Though, if I’d written The Hunger Games I’m sure I would have liked the actors to look as close to my descriptions as possible since I “created” them…)

      “[…]Which means Bioware was too subtle.”

      Speaking of subtlety…right? Even I hadn’t caught onto it until after I started researching what other people were saying.

      “Reapers delenda est”

      I had to look up those last two words, haha. Nice.

      Anyhow, despite everyone’s gripes about the ending, the gameplay for ME3 is just superb. The music, the voice acting, the intensity of the missions (none of them are alike this time)… They always managed to throw in things, little “mission complications” that I wasn’t expecting (your first major mission on Mars is pretty awesome–one of my favorites, anyway). It was a blast.

      I’m listening to the soundtrack now and suddenly want to play the game again, but I have editing to do–bah! Must…resist…. *Bioware indoctrination*


  7. Oh, and I had to check your progress bar and keep you accountable! Great job.

    So what draft are we up to now? Still 7.5?

    And is that 200,000 words? Holy cow, T. That’s over 800 pages. No wonder it’s taking you forever. Have you ever thought about breaking it up into two volumes? My own manuscript is 400 pages, and people are calling mine long!


    • 😛

      Nope, I’m on Edit #1 now!

      I’m pretty sure splitting it would only do more harm than good… The protagonist’s inner journey is ultimately more important than the overall/overarching story arc of what’s happening in her world, though I really wanted to develop both thoroughly. I aim to go deep (character-wise) and wide (as far as the scope of the storyworld goes), which is taking more words to tell than I’d originally imagined!

      I suspect my first readers will tell me what they think about the length of the story and what is/isn’t necessary, though that would be the next step, heh. (Gettin’ there…)


      • I had the same thing with my mystery story book. I thought of splitting it into two books, but it’s better all in one. The stories are individual mysteries, but there’s also the progression of the characters, which you wouldn’t get if it was divided up. It would be like a bridge which gets halfway to the opposite shore and then stops. 🙂


  8. I have to say that I like some mystery in the stories I read, but I do not want to be so shrouded in mystery that I have no idea what the story is about until the last page. As a writer, I have to say striking that balance between the two is a constant struggle.

    Great post.


    • Thanks!

      I agree that there should be a balance between mystery and illumination. Though, too bad there’s no secret formulas for achieving this, eh? 😉


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