Is This What You Meant? Folklore

I had a lot of fun last time, so I thought that while I’m in a bit of a funk, another one of these would be a good idea. Although I’ve already talked about Folklore in a previous, quite recent post, I’ll give it a little of an introduction here to stay in keeping with the ITWYM? spirit.

Folklore is actually the PS3 game that I had added in my queue and had hoped would come before Resonance of Fate. I had wanted to try Folklore first because we’d just gotten our PS3, so I was in the mood to play it, and I didn’t want to get sick of Uncharted or Little Big Planet too fast. It also looked like my kind of thing–a pretty fantasy world. I write my own, and I like other people’s.

It did ultimately disappoint, far, far more than Resonance of Fate. At least I liked playing RoF. While most of the fault lies with the gameplay, the story did nothing to make me put up with the cheesy, empty gameplay.

The last time I summed it up, I was in a hurry, and had a post dragging on for too long. I should do it a little more justice here, to preface my own rewriting of the concepts.

Two stories, supposedly running concurrently, and neither is original or even told in an interesting way. A girl looking for her mother is quite basic, but it’s cluttered with what I call dead-horse hooks. The same goes for Keats following curiosity and a flimsy murder. The problem with this game, as opposed to RoF’s nonsensical cold open rife with too much information, is that the story is introduced with exhaustive detail and stretched too thin.

So let’s try to introduce a few specific things to the story-telling: more original characters, better characterisation, and replacing clichés with fresh ideas. If it doesn’t run too long, then maybe I can even expand the tiny world to a more immersive size.


Dramatics were all well and good in moving pictures, but they had no place in life. Ellen crawled up the beach as though she were climbing a wall, grasping each track of sand in tight fistfuls. She coughed, still attempting to breathe normally.

Once she was clear of the sand and onto the first patch of grass she could find, she flopped onto her back. Her eyes stung. “Stupidest thing I have ever done,” she rasped. The captain had warned her that a storm was coming. He had even turned back. But she’d just had to go and jump into the water to swim the rest of the way, hadn’t she? At least she had taken refuge in athletics when she’d failed her A Levels.

She sat up and searched her pockets. What money she’d had left was gone, but somehow the letter had survived. It was soaked so that the ink was all but washed out, but she remembered what it had said. Not even a knock on the head could make her forget.

“Dearest Ellen,” she said aloud, eyes shut as she pulled herself to her feet. “Come to Doolin. Perhaps there, I can explain.”

The last words felt too personal to share with even the air around her. Worse, they felt hollow, now that she had risked her life on them. For nearly twenty years–most of her life–Ellen had believed her mother to be dead. Standing on the beach, covered in sand, she had run the full gamut of emotions. Anger appeared to be the endpoint. She had come to Doolin, leaving behind a good job and her cat. But she had spent so much of her life searching, without even the windfall of a hint.

When she arrived in the village, she realised how late it was. The only building still alight was the pub. She went inside without a thought.

And gasped.

Her arrival was met with grinning faces, each of them more unnerving than the other. They were all great caricatures of the human form. All too much in one extreme or another. Too much hair, coloured brightly, exaggerated teeth. She backed away, and felt her elbow sink into something soft.

“Ah, a human has finally come. Shall we send her to Scarecrow for guidance?”

She goggled at them all, trying to discern which had spoken. Before she could do so, another answered it. “We had better. We shall not have another chance at a messenger after tonight.”

The ugly mob closed in on her, pushing her back towards the door. “Go to Scarecrow in the Henge,” they all said, the myriad voices not quite in unison. “South of the village. Go to the Henge.”

Once outside, she clasped a hand to her chest and nearly cried as she attempted to slow her heart. A blue will-o’-wisp spun round her head, and she screamed. It tangled up in her hair, then pulled her south. Towards Scarecrow and the Henge.

Despite the near-constant smile he wore, Keats was not a happy man. As of that morning, his threadbare coat was the most valuable thing he owned. Even the soles of his boots were thinner and older.

He had called in his last favour to reach this place. Doolin. Boats had been boycotting this place–but that had been where the story really grabbed him. He couldn’t complain. What he could complain about was a particular boat. And its captain.

But that was behind him. He was in Doolin to investigate. To write the story of a lifetime. Maybe make enough off of it to buy a new coat.

That afternoon, the man who owned the local pub had told him that the Henge south of the village was what he wanted. Why Keats wanted it, the man had not said, but he had been adamant, if not clear. There had been something funny about him. As if he had lost something akin to his mind, but had not gone mad.

Keats sat on the porch of the cave he had used to set up a base. It was draughty as a witch’s skirts, but it was free, and there was no constabulary to tell him to clear out. His cigarette glowed in the moonlight. He’d spent the day talking to people, but they all talked about the Henge and little else. It felt oddly like hearing people passing the buck. He’d even gone to the Henge, but there had been nothing there. Just a load of rocks. Mystical, perhaps.

A blue light caught his eye, just before a scream. He leapt to his feet and ran towards it.

There was a girl, moving towards the Henge at a great speed, but there was something wrong about her. As fast as she was going, he would have called it a run, but she seemed to be fighting her own movement.

As he came closer, running himself, he realised she was being pulled. He hid behind a boulder, just beyond the Henge. Out of sight, but not out of earshot. He held his breath and peeked past his hiding place.

A scarecrow twirled out from behind one of the Henge stones. It wore its hat at a jaunty angle, that matched the lopsided, toothy smile that had been painted on its sacking face. “Now, messengers must come willingly, wispy one.”

The blue light floated up above the girl’s head and bobbed about. She straightened her hair and then stomped her foot. “This is… Not real! I’ve come to look for my mother. That is real! Now stop this dream nonsense so I can look for her.”

Keats was mystified. She appeared to be shouting at herself and the sky in turns.

“I know of your mother,” the scarecrow said. “She has been asking for you.”

The girl’s entire body seemed to tense even further. Keats wondered if she was going to start twanging. “Asking for… From you. Does that mean she’s dead after all?”

Behind the scarecrow, the space between the great stones began to glow a blue even brighter and paler than the will-o’-wisp’s. The scarecrow gestured towards it. “Why don’t you come and find out for yourself?”

They disappeared inside, leaving Keats and the will-o’-wisp alone in the Henge. He walked over to it and held up his hand as if inviting a bird to perch on his finger. The will-o’-wisp did so, turning the skin of his hand a brilliant blue. “I haven’t a clue what’s going on,” Keats confessed. “But I suppose magic works that way. May I?”

Its answer was to drag him by the finger into the glowing space between the stones.

//

Okay, it ran long, but that was after two tries. This story is the victim of a few major mistakes that are not easy to face and fix. It starts out in the boring bit, which I had to realise first, but worse is the fact the strong case of Because-it-Does-itis. Everything happens because it does. No one really questions what’s going on–most especially Ellen, who has the least reason to just accept whatever she’s told. I tried to fix that, to have the heroine not just swallow this fantastic new information with no sufficient reason. Anyway, I like this better than my first attempt. I’ll post that one as well, though.

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