So Heroscape is no more. One of the greatest tabletop games of all time has perished from this earth. All things must pass, and it’s not as if my collection of Heroscape stuff is going anywhere. But still, it stinks to watch something cool end. But such is life.
Funny though. Without Heroscape, I don’t think I’d be married today. It was through Heroscape and a convoluted series of events that I met my lovely wife. So if you ever love why I love games, that’s why. They’ve given me hours of fantastic entertainment, taught me quite a bit about life (even though I know that sounds absurd), and they got me a wife. So a guy really can’t ask for much more than that. Although if they could somehow create a game that could give me laser vision, I’d want for nothing. But that’s probably being greedy.
I went to a friend’s book club meeting this weekend, and it was a lot of fun. It’s always cool to meet people who are excited to meet me. When I do a booksigning, for example, I tend not to attract much of a crowd. If I sign or sell four or five books, it’s a rousing success. So when I actually get to talk to people that seem happy to see me, it’s still something I’m not entirely used to.
The book read was Gil’s All Fright Diner, and one of the questions asked was about Tammy. If you haven’t read the book by chance, Tammy is the villain of the piece, a teenage sorceress with sinister designs on the titled diner. Tammy is of Japanese descent, and she’s also adopted. Someone asked me what happened to her parents and how she ended up in Rockwood.
I admitted I had no idea. Hadn’t really thought about it.
There’s a myth that in order to write a character, you have to know everything about them. It’s absolutely not true. There’s another myth that if something is unusual about a character, it probably ties into the plot in some way. So if Tammy is adopted, that must mean something. But, honestly, it was just something that happened as I wrote the story. Tammy was Japanese-American, an off-hand detail thrown in for no good reason other than why-the-heck-not? And she was adopted because . . . well, for exactly the same reason.
Most of my characters do not have elaborate backstories, and I like it that way. I don’t really care how they got where they are most of the time. I care where they are and where they’re going. Some might argue that you need to know a character’s past to understand how they would react, but I tend to view the past as an illusion anyway. I’m less concerned with what happened in the past than with how they relate to the world now.
It’s tricky. There are indeed times when backstory is important, and for some characters, their history is absolutely essential. But I usually find it irrelevant. One of the most elaborate backstories I’ve ever created belonged to Mack Megaton, the protagonist of The Automatic Detective. Mack actually has quite a bit of justification for how he came to be. And none of it ended up in the book, aside from a few hints here or there. There just wasn’t a place for it, and to put it in would’ve only slowed the novel’s pace.
But even in stories where backstory is important, I usually am uninterested. I couldn’t care less about how Darth Vader became evil or how the Empire came to power, for instance. I don’t need to know how the Jedi were wiped out or how Luke Skywalker was born. All those questions are irrelevant. And trying to answer them only ends up tying everything into uncomfortable knots of continuity snarls.
I still believe that my job as a writer is to tell you just enough of a story that you can make as much or as little of it as you want. Perhaps in your imagination, Tammy’s parents were sacrificed to a dark god and their daughter was shipped to Rockwood to begin the Apocalpyse. Or maybe they just died in a car crash. Or maybe they just gave her up because they didn’t like kids. Your answer is as good as mine, and that’s cool with me.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,