Follow along, please.
I can't stop playing Skyrim. (It was game of the year, you know.) I have so much stuff to do but I can't keep myself from turning on my Xbox and logging hours (never more than four but never less than one) in my quest to keep Skyrim and all its holds safe. While playing this game should lead in smoothly to reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, my fantasy novel for January (and first book of my year of genre), it's really detracting from the time I set aside for reading.
Because I feel at once a great amount of pride (in game) and shame (real world) for my actions surrounding Skyrim, I believe I must either come to terms with the fact that I am wasting a nauseating amount of time doing something that will eventually not mean anything, or epically rationalize/defend my actions in terms of books right here, right now.
Opening the copy of Novelist's Boot Camp that my father gave me for Christmas 2007 (he even left a sweet inscription saying that some advice in the book—mainly regarding the destructive properties of a negative attitude—doesn't only deal with writing) the third page depicts a treasure-map illustration of the novelist's journey. Start Here it says in stern millitary font, then a sqiggly dotted line ambles around the spread and ends with an equally stony Finished Novel. Along the way, there are developments and objectives. It kind of looks a lot like my Skyrim storyline if it were given the same chart treatment. I have a goal—to save Skyrim, and along the way I have objectives—sidequests, and developments—holy shit I just chose to become a werewolf and now cannot gain rested bonuses by sleeping.
Okay, okay, so in Todd A. Stone's world where I (the novelist) am getting my ass kicked by militiristic tips, tricks, and techniques for the next generation of writers, I'm being active in a way that Skyrim does not allow. However, learning the black and white properties of good storytelling is only one half of the treatment. Reading good stories is the other half. And while I am not reading the Skyrim story (though I do keep the captions on...) the writing is really, really amazing, with so many characters, story arcs that sometimes intersect but don't always, and possibilities. Pretty much every novelist I've ever read could learn a thing or two from the team that wrote Skyrim.
Think, too, of the Choose Your Own Adventure books that have, for some reason, fallen to the wayside of children's literature. Though the reader was not actively involved in the storytelling, nor completely engrossed in a standard linear story, the game of choosing was encouraged by adults. But what, now that I'm an adult with all sorts of real choices to make, I don't need a little practice now and then?