Chapter 2.17. Emotioneering Techniques Category #17: Plot Deepening Techniques
Why some stories touch us.
This chapter presents
techniques to give game stories the emotional depth and resonance found in such films as the Lord of the Rings, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, American Beauty, Blade Runner, and Casablanca.
Plot Deepening Techniques are woven right into the flow and fabric of a story, whether the story is for a film or a game. The best way to understand these techniques is to deconstruct a story that uses them effectively. The film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which we touched upon in Chapter 1.6, "Why 'Writing' Is a Bad Word and 'Emotioneering' Is a Better One," is a wonderful example. It has a lyrical plot full of nuances.
While Chapter 1.6 discussed that film briefly, here we're going to examine it in great detail. Unfortunately, there's room for only a brief summary here. (Please note: Most of this chapter focuses on Plot Deepening Techniques used in this film. If you haven't seen the film and don't want the story ending given away, please skip this chapter. If you haven't yet viewed the film, I strongly recommend it.)
An extraordinary swordsman, Li Mu Bai (played by Chow Yun Fat) has left his monastic training to re-enter the world. He loves Yu Shu Lien (played by Michelle Yeoh), who loves him in turn. Various complications prevent them from acting on their love.
Young and "innocent" Jiao Long Yu (also called "Jen" and played by Zhang Ziyi) has a secret life: She's also an incredible swordswoman, a fighter of tremendous skill. She, Li, and Yu have all been trained in a special martial art that allows them to run up walls and over the roofs of buildings.
Jen steals a special sword that belonged to Li's deceased master, and much of the film involves Li and Yu on Jen's trail, both to retrieve the sword and to stop her from doing any damage with it. Their concern is well-founded; Jen's narcissism and stubbornness cause her to injure many people along her way, although she does have a passionate affair with a young, nomadic leader whom she comes to love.
Li doesn't want to punish her for stealing the sword; his goal is to teach her ethics so that she doesn't use her power to harm others. Both he and Yu end up fighting Jen at different points, but with the intent to stop her, not kill her.
Near the end, Li protects Jen from an evil and powerful woman, the "Jade Fox," who trained Jen to be a warrior but who envies Jen's superior martial accomplishments. This woman is the same person who stealthily killed Li's master long ago.
Although Li saves Jen and kills the Jade Fox, the Jade Fox fatally wounds him with a poisoned dart. After confessing the depth of his love to Yu, who's also present, he dies. Jen is overcome with guilt. She finally attains the ethical awareness that Li had tried so hard to impart to her but her wisdom comes too late.
Up on a mountain is a monastery with a magical history. Legend has it that if you leap off that mountain, you don't die although it's not clear what happens to you, for you don't return either. But whatever you wish for comes true.
Jen turns down the chance to return to her nomadic boyfriend, and in fact turns down life itself, for she jumps off a bridge in the monastery. We see her sailing down the mountain, but we never find out what becomes of her nor even what she wished for.
Let's examine some of the Plot Deepening Techniques employed so artfully in this film.