The Fell Gard Codices

A Theory of the Random

May 30th, 2011

Having written a bit about randomness, I thought I’d add a few more words about why the idea interests me, and why I’ve decided to try to write a serial in this particular way.

Fundamentally, and perhaps paradoxically, I believe that this method liberates my creativity. To begin with, the dice don’t generate the dungeon on their own. The process of interpreting the dice rolls, of working out what chart to use next, of harmonising apparently-conflicting results, of seeing how one set of rolls can extend a theme introduced in a previous set — there’s a certain level of creativity involved in all of it. Then working out how the characters react to what they find, how events play out, how the characters are affected — there’s obviously creativity involved there, as well. And there’s some kind of interaction between me as a creator and the material I’m given that sparks the unexpected; that makes for something that, to me, feels alive.

It has been argued that creativity needs rules to thrive. Personally I think creativity needs rules, but those rules are themselves part of the creative act. If the creating mind is sympathetic to the rules, or establishes them itself, then creativity might flourish. So you could say that the randomness is the set of rules I’ve chosen for myself by which the story will unfold.

Practically, the randomness is also a way to drive the creativity. What happens next in the story? I can roll some dice and find out. Three chapters a week, somewhere around ten thousand words of hopefully readable prose, is not a negligible amount. The dice help ensure that there’ll always be matter for the story.

But I think that the real trick is to take that matter and find structures, plots, and themes within it. And those things are there in the text I create. Not necessarily put there consciously; having worked ahead in the story already, I can say that I find myself paying off or developing things that I didn’t know I was setting up when I wrote them. My hope is that the real themes of the story will emerge out of this process of creation; that by trying to harmonise the unexpected random elements of the story, the things that matter to me will find their way into the tale.

Critically speaking, I believe in capital-r Romanticism. Like Keats I think the work should come as naturally as leaves on a tree or it had better not come at all. Like Coleridge I prefer organic form to mechanical form, and believe that “the organic form … is innate; it shapes as it develops itself from within, and the fullness of its development is one and the same with the perfection of its outward form.” The randomness, to me, is a way to force the conscious mind to recede, and the organic process of the work to come to the forefront.

I believe that the individual creative spirit will call out of its mass of material various elements of significance, to itself and (one hopes) to others. Themes, as I said, will emerge. They will be unconscious at first, though they may become clear as the process continues. In any event, they will be surprising, to writer and reader.

This is my theory. I expect it’ll soon be modified as it is put into practice. I look forward to finding out how.

2 Responses to “A Theory of the Random”

  1. Charlie

    Got turned this way from the Black Gate blog. This sounds fascinating. Reminds me of John Cage’s musical experiments. I am looking forward to reading this!

  2. Matthew

    Thanks for the good words, Charlie! I hope you enjoy it.

Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © The Fell Gard Codices. All rights reserved.