Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy Accidents

I am happy to report that at the end of yesterday (Day 14) of National Novel Writing Month I had 23,945 words - a little more than six hundred words ahead of schedule. Over the course of Day 14, I came up from a significant deficit, writing a little more than four thousand words in a single day. As a result, the last thing I want to do is write - which is why I'm blogging - and the last thing I want to blog about is writing.

So, instead, I'll blog about minis.

But when I blog about minis, I'm really blogging about writing.

When I first got into wargames, I was disappointed to discover that most games use plastic minis instead of metal. There is something deeply satisfying about metal minis. They have a powerful 'clunk' when they hit the table. It's kind of like Go - in ancient Japan, Go boards were designed to produce a satisfying sound when pieces were placed, making the game a full audiovisual experience - but with more death.

Later, after I started playing Warmachine and Hordes and actually had a chance to work with metal, I was happy to discover that most games use plastic minis. Metal is a pain in the ass to work with. It's heavy, so glue isn't enough and you have to pin stuff in place. Pinning stuff in place means drilling holes, in metal, which is also, unfortunately, hard to drill in.

Because, you know, it's metal.

As a result, if you're inexperienced - like I am - the result is often a little hit-or-miss. You aren't quite sure what a model is going to look like until you're done. If a pin settles in oddly, or a piece doesn't quite fit right, you could end up with nearly any kind of pose, from the totally awesome to the... kind of strange. Sometimes you need to work with what you've got, adapting a weirdly assembled model so it will turn out as well as possible.

Plastic, by the way, is much easier to work with. Glue usually does the trick. On the rare occasion that you have to pin it or adjust the shape of a piece, plastic cuts and drills like a dream.

The trick is to be open to happy accidents. A happy accident, as my 6th grade teacher taught me, is when something in art turns out differently than you expected, but in a way you can still work with. You don't see a lot of happy accidents in writing, but in visual art - including, yes, making minis - you see them a lot more often. I've got a metal Ravagore (horrible flame-spitting monster) that will end up in a really awesome pose, all because I was willing to change my plans after a series of drastic failures.

Anyway, it seems to me that NaNo is a lot like a metal model - oddly shaped chunks of narrative falling out of your brain as fast as you can squeeze them out of your fingers (wow, I'm sorry for that metaphor already). Later, when you have time, you can go back over your creation with a more critical, discerning eye, fitting the pieces together into something beautiful.

So be open to happy accidents. Look out for the weird bits of beauty your brain spits out when you aren't looking.

Speaking of which, I'd probably better get back to writing. Tell then...


Alan said...

I'd argue that there are plenty of happy accidents in literature. I figure it's what keeps English majors writing. Not that many of the theses weren't intended by the author, but I promise there have been thousands of papers written about Shakespeare that he never even could have intended. I'm a firm believer that a work of art is more than just what the creator intended it to be and if an author unintentionally fills their work with metaphors that link in a way that is meaningful to someone it's a wonderful accident. A lot of early gay classic films worked this way. “The Wizard of Oz” is not about being gay, but it spoke to a population and by happy accident it gained new popularity. There are lot of examples, but I think the point is there are just as many happy accidents in literature. The only difference is the crooked arm the visual artist immediately sees, the author’s accidents sometimes only get seen once their work is finished.

Mark said...

I think the difference between what you're pointing out and what I was going for is between creation and observation. I was going for "sometimes you create something unexpected" and you're talking about "sometimes what you created is read in an unexpected way."

But, then again, perhaps these phrases mean the same thing. That's something I'm going to have to think about.