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Is there a way to create a Dark Souls like mood in a novel?

PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 9:35 pm
by crit33884
So, I have just completed Dark Souls 3, the last game in the series, and was struck by the way in which the game uses gameplay mechanics to deliver a certain mood. My question is: how can we as authors create a similar mood in written fiction, and would it require breaking some conventions?

For those unfamiliar with Dark Souls: It's an action RPG with fighting, leveling up etc... Where it differs from modern games, is that it explains almost nothing about how to play the game, or even what your goals ought to be. Even the lore is very cryptic and needs to be discovered (rather than told to the player). This creates a very different mood from the 'clear goal'-oriented stories we are used to reading (catch the killer, save the world etc...), where the world still has meaning created by such a goal based context. Also, the game is hard for a reason I feel. It wants to beat you down and make you feel like there's no point in moving on.

The feeling I want my reader to get, is that the world truly is indifferent, and that the protagonist's decides to 'go on anyway' without really having a goal that objectively matters, and that no choice is truly right right and wrong. I feel like it would make a good allegory for depression, where the depressed person truly feels like they are alone in an indifferent world, and with every defeat they come closer to being a shell of what they once were. The way to defeat depression (in my case at least) is to begin seeing this indifferent world as a set of smaller, context based goals that can be tackled.

In some ways, Lovecraft got close to doing this, although it usually happens as a twist, rather than being a theme that runs through the whole story.

Contrasting this with the typical detective story, we can say " sure, we know the goal is to catch the killer, but there are bigger questions 'outside' the book that can make that goal seem futile, such as: why should we even bother catching the killer? Why bother with saving a world that will die in the end anyway? Why have goals?"

Any tips on how to achieve this type of mood in a novel, without making the read feel pointless? Is it posssible to create a character the reader cares about, that doesn't really pursue anything with full conviction? I'm doing this kind of as an experiment in writing. The character in "The Stranger" by Camus, I just couldn't empathize with, although it gets close to what Im pursuing in my writing.

Re: Is there a way to create a Dark Souls like mood in a novel?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 11:50 am
by crit19292
There have been moody writers, and definitely lone-wolf heroes. The trick is to present things in a manner where the reader is involved in the determination of the character. Just simply hoping your reader will plow through a novel is silly. Presenting a character that will blunder forward even through despair can work. In a game, you are the one providing the motivation (paid sixty bucks for this thing and I will get my money out of it in fun). In a novel, the author needs to have the reader find a connection to the mentality, however low, of the character to cheer (or at least hope) for him.

Oh, I tried to play Dark Souls. I just could not get into it. I did appreciate the game not treating me like a baby, but I never found the system or story enjoyable. Of course, you would probably say the same about some games I truly liked.

Re: Is there a way to create a Dark Souls like mood in a novel?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:57 pm
by crit33884
I think you are correct about creating an understanding for the mentality of the character. I guess that's why I found The Metamorphosis by Kafka so compelling. The situation is completely absurd, but still we want to cheer for the main character even in these weird nonsensical situations, because we can empathise.

I did get a similar feeling from the movie Melancholia by Von Trier. SPOILER ALERT! Kirsten Dunst's character 'knows' the world is going to end, and she doesn't even feel it deserves to exist, yet she goes on and even tries to make life comfortable for the kids just before the world is destroyed.

Re: Is there a way to create a Dark Souls like mood in a novel?

PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:02 pm
by crit33603
I think Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear is an example of what you're describing, and in my opinion it worked well. It starts by dumping the protagonist into a setting that is indifferent and confusing, and his purpose for existing and being where he is (if he's even got one) is utterly unknown. However, while the protagonist doesn't begin with any long-term goals, he does have a de facto immediate goal: survive. Wondering how he'd escape the latest attack/disaster and make it to the next room kept me interested while his sense of purpose and agency slowly developed.

I'd be careful not to make things seem too meaningless in your opener, lest readers say, "Well what's the point of my reading this, then?"