Something very amusing happened to me last week, you know.
It must have been sometime in the evening when some strange gibbering furry creature came bounding into my presence, looking very flustered and waving a piece of paper in front of my face. Once my mind had dropped to the appropriate level of intelligence, I deciphered the near illegible scrawl as a note, asking me to write some manner of themed article for the blog of my authoress – who, you doubtless have realised, is the aforementioned noisemaking hairball. She requested that I word my post based around the theme of some dull and dreary story-planning technique, because – the note assured me – I was one of the few who had the necessary skills.
The thing that amused me so much was that she thought I would listen.
There are very few things in life that I have patience for, and regrettably my creator has yet to make it onto the list. She can find any innumerable number of sycophantic fools in my city of Tanelorn alone to prate on about the pros and cons of pre-planned stories over improvised ones - they follow her orders out of fear of becoming victim to any member of her vast array of weaponry.
They have yet to work out the art that I am going to inform you of today, my friends. That of subtle insubordination.
First of all, know your enemy. And by that I do not mean memorising their favourite foods and what colour clashes worst with their off-coloured toenails. I mean know your enemy, the way you know your route home from your friend’s house, or the way your cat will invariably vomit its dinner onto the rug if you don’t give it the correct number of tummy rubs after supper. Know them so well that their behaviour is second nature. Know them better than they know themselves.
This is the true secret of success. Now, whenever you act, or even contemplate acting, you will not have to waste precious seconds thinking out your foe’s reaction. Because those seconds are going to make all the difference between your victory, and the local law enforcement scraping your entrails off the wall the next morning.
Next, you must gather your resources. Information, allies, weapons, jars of congealed fish guts, whatever you need for your current endeavour. Don’t waste time with things that “might come in useful”. Those are the things that you will trip over and impale yourself on later – literally, or metaphorically.
If you didn’t know what you were going to need beforehand, please stop reading and go and drown yourself quietly in a corner. It will save your enemy the trouble of doing it themselves.
The next stage is the truly dangerous part. Before you put so much as a hair over the threshold of action, you need to think long and hard about your course of action. But whatever you do, do not plan it out in detail. Detailed plans are all too easily derailed by the smallest thing, and that’s when the fur flies. One or two key events – particularly, personal interaction with your foe – are all you need, no matter how long your endeavour. Those markers are the only pre-planned action you will take. The rest, to put it bluntly, is nothing more than spontaneous acts of inspired improvisation. Make the most of your resources – you got them because you knew you needed them. Not because you knew why.
After this, there is the simple matter of taking the leap and hoping you reach the other side. Odds are you won’t – your enemy may have taken the bait you laid for them, but there is always some unknown factor waiting in the wings to scupper best laid plans. Do whatever you must to ensure your goal. Those of you who are squeamish over breaching moral codes will doubtless fail spectacularly at this.
The only action you should never take is to give up, for success can come from the most unexpected outcomes. I once knew a certain half-breed bastard who took the wrong side during the bloodiest civil war my people have ever known. By the end of it, the Crossblood was a Kingmaker.
Charming fellow, by the way. If a little smug.
We are all deer, my friends. Deer who snort and run around in circles the moment the wolf shows its teeth before the herd. The best hope the deer have is to run – those who hesitate, or attempt some act of altruistic stupidity, will die bloody deaths to stand example for the rest. However, the clever deer know they don’t have to outrun the wolf. Just the other deer.
Wouldn’t you say this was a far greater use of your time than reading about “brainstorming” and “plot milestones” and “flexible approaches to ad-libbing”.
Well played, author. Well played.