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puddles123
02-12-2010, 09:41 PM
This may not be the right place to get constructive information on this, but I may as well give it a shot:

In my personal odyssey of writing a novelization of Final Fantasy VII, I'm getting to the part of the story where the flashback of the Nibelheim incident occurs. In the game, this plays out in a flashback of 20-30 minutes long from the viewpoint of Cloud who details the events leading up to Sephiroth snapping and becoming the villain. This is unskippable, and is integral and absolutely necessary to the plot later on.

My issue is that I've no idea how best to approach this massive flashback when it comes to 'translating' it into the written word. So far, 20-30 minutes of game time has roughly translated into about 40-50 pages. Consequently, this flashback would basically be about two chapters long.

For those of you who read sci fi/fantasy or even fiction in general, you know that a flashback of that magnitude risks derailing the book as the reader wonders why it is going on for so long, and doesn't know why all 'real-time' events have stopped so that this massive flashback can play out. This worries me, and I've been playing with a few possibilities, but none that seem to stick in my mind as the absolute right path to take.

Possibility One - First Person Immediate Memory -

In the game, the story is related to the player by essentially playing out the events as a cutscene, as if the events were actually happening in the moment instead of Cloud telling a story. Occasionally, there are breaks where you get commentary from Tifa, Barret, etc. So basically, it appears that the best way to approach it is to have the events portrayed from Cloud's perspective in a first person point of view, as he relates what happens to him. This would not be told with foreknowledge, it would be told presently, essentially from the perspective of Cloud at the time of the Nibelheim incident. This would allow for more immersion and empathy with what he goes through.

The only problem here is that the entire rest of the novel up to this point is third person limited, jumping from character to character after breaks in scene or chapter. For the novel to suddenly deviate to two chapters of first person will be jarring to say the least.

Possibility Two - Third Person Limited Equivalent

Essentially this would be the same as the first possibility, but it would be, I believe, more standoffish in this scenario, which is why I'm leaning towards first person. But I could be wrong, and this could work out just fine. I'm no expert on writing fiction yet.

Possibility Three - Cloud as Storyteller

This makes the most logical sense, but isn't how it is approached in the game. In this scenario, Cloud would be telling the story to Tifa and the others, but one wouldn't be transported out of the room to the memory. This, I think, would be doable so long as I make Cloud descriptive enough, and it would allow more commentary and reactions from the others, but it would not be an accurate representation of what actually occurs in the game. I think it could work partly because, at this point in time, the reader does not yet realize that Cloud is an unreliable narrator (because of his psychological mindfuckery), but I could drop more hints towards that reality with this method of telling about the incident.

***

All in all, it is a really hard call for me to make, and I've been reading a number of essays and books on point of view to try and help make the decision. Part of what makes it so complicated is the fact that the Nibelheim incident is so necessary and important to the plot that it must be achieved perfectly, and the fact remains that the first time we learn of it, Cloud's point of view isn't even the reality. The real incident comes later, and the differences are easier to point out when the original telling is thorough and complete.

Hopefully, this dilemma interests someone enough to offer some helpful critical advice. It has been immensely tricky for me to discover the right way to approach it.

Thanks ahead of time.

arthurgolden
02-13-2010, 12:05 AM
All in all, it is a really hard call for me to make, and I've been reading a number of essays and books on point of view to try and help make the decision. Part of what makes it so complicated is the fact that the Nibelheim incident is so necessary and important to the plot that it must be achieved perfectly, and the fact remains that the first time we learn of it, Cloud's point of view isn't even the reality. The real incident comes later, and the differences are easier to point out when the original telling is thorough and complete.

Theoretically, any of those approaches can work. As you know, it comes down to execution. I suggest putting the essays on point of view aside and trying to find fictional examples that are spiritually similar to the type of mood/structure/effect you're going for.

Heart of Darkness, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Light in August, My Cold War, Maus, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Servants of the Map, American Pastoral, Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, Lives of the Monster Dogs, Crooked River Burning, etc.--those all have long sections of back story/flashback (chapters-long flashbacks even) and all deal with that obstacle differently. It's a decision you'll probably have to reach intuitively during the writing process, rather than as a rule to yourself that this is how we're going to get the job done. Best laid plans--that kind of thing.

But I will say this. Just about the only constant is that the flashback has to be dramatized (in other words, show don't tell). The reader must experience the moment-to-moment action as the speaker did. Resist analyzing a situation before it plays out. As a general rule (not an absolute one). So, more often than not, no, "Boy, were we in for a ride. Little did we know, as we got on the raft, that the Pistiola Waterfall and its 300-foot drop was mere moments away. I tied the logs together and asked Petey if the raft looked sturdy. 'No chance of failure,' he said and smiled a million-watt smile." Instead: We got on the raft and our feet slipped on the logs. The water [insert visual details]. It sounded like [insert details]. Dialogue. Action. We're off. Then we see it. We're about to go over a waterfall."

Hope that helps.

puddles123
02-13-2010, 01:48 AM
That is good advice, and I'll definitely look into those books. Particularly, I've always wanted to read Heart of Darkness, so that'll be on the top of the list. And I agree with you; my prominent goal is to make the flashback dramatic and as immediate as possible so as to make it flare in the reader's mind, and so they can experience Sephiroth's 'fall from grace' in all its dark glory.

Out of curiosity, though, if you were writing it, how do you think you would approach it based on your knowledge of how the Nibelheim incident plays out?

arthurgolden
02-13-2010, 02:25 AM
I'd probably try a frame within a frame ala "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" first and see how that felt. The advantage there is you use the third person to retell Cloud's story through the filter of someone else's consciousness (Tifa's maybe). That way, you can set us up with details that suggest Cloud isn't a totally reliable narrator (in "Sweetheart" he says, "For most of us it was normal procedure to discount sixty or seventy percent of anything he had to say. If Rat told you, for example, that he'd slept with four girls one night, you could figure it was about a girl and a half"). You can also use the frame in Tifa's voice (or the voice of whoever you choose) to tell the frame of Cloud's story without the burden of having to put everything in Cloud's direct quotes, which not only stretches believability that someone would talk that long, but also puts the burden on you of making sure everything is communicated as it would in conversation. I know I get tired when I'm faced with pages of italicized paragraphs or paragraph after paragraph in quotation marks. This allows the story to be told in regular formatting.

RedMajesty
02-16-2010, 09:23 PM
In my opinion, do what is actually happening in the game.

Cloud is playing the part of Zack, and since this flash-back will be seen from the true angle when Sephiroth basically shows the events unfolding during the first trip to the Northern Crater, you can always go into greater detail during that point.

But you really only need to convey the key-points of the incident, from Cloud's faux-SOLDIER perspective as essentially the group is hearing the "low-down" of why Sephiroth is a very bad man.

I'm going to trust you've read the Ultimania translation too, so you truly know what is going on in the plot right? I trust that you probably wouldn't start such a project if you hadn't, but if there's a group of fans that would eat you alive for inaccuracies... it's the FFVII fans :>.

puddles123
02-18-2010, 04:20 PM
I've read countless explanations of the story's plot, looked at many websites analyzing plot theories, played the game at least 5 times, have two separate scripts of the game along with video of the game I can check on so that I don't have to actually load the game and play through it to look at the scene.

But I've never heard of this 'Ultimania translation' you speak of. What is that?

Slavka
02-18-2010, 04:44 PM
I would assume that it's the translation of the official 'Ultimania' book that Square produced, which (I think - someone correct me if I'm wrong) gave extra details on the plot and what not. The most rabid fans tend to consider this their bible, seeing as it pretty much defines what's canon.

Bugenhagen*
05-19-2010, 12:38 PM
Hey, I'm working on my own little VII novelisation project and I've been playing with the idea of having Nanaki telling the whole story. It makes sense if you think about in relation to that final FMV, if it were being told from his perspective that might help you out with how to relate that gargantuan flashback. :)

supdup
05-20-2010, 12:13 AM
Okay your new so I will try to make this post with the least amount of criticism possible. If you feel criticised I didn't mean it that way and I am sorry.

If you look at the poster above you's top of the post, it will state how long ago they posted. As you can see now it was 3 months ago. I doubt that the original poster is still having this problem, and if they are - well then I can honestly say that they will most likely be unable to complete the narrative. Please look at the date previously posted before you post