Wednesday, January 29, 2014

One Side of a Conversation

Right, have to say something.
Excuse me, if you don't mind just a moment doing me a bit of a favor?  Right, no I didn't particularly have a question.  Just a simple request is all.  Right? 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What D&D 3.5 Needed

What Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 needed.  A lot of this is stuff 4e did correctly.

Open Letter to Bethesda Games and White Wolf

Something I'd like to see for a CRPG sandbox game in the vein of Skyrim or Fallout 3 is a game along the lines of the White Wolf Scion game.  For those that aren't familiar with the game, scion is a game where you play the children of the old gods in a modern time battling the servants of the titans (and occasionally the other gods).  Very recently, some time after World War II, the Titans escaped their prisons (at least partially) and are now once again trying to return the World to a state of primal chaos that existed prior to the development of humanity and the subsequent birth of the gods.

But in the "real" myths...

To be perfectly frank, there is something of a fuzzy line between when something goes from being a story to being a myth, but I'm not going to go into that line of discussion.  My intent here is to discuss the tendency of some people to hold up the "real myths" as a criticism of various pieces of fiction that have come out in the last couple of decades.  Admittedly, I'm no stranger to making this argument, but I do at least try to make sure I'm referring to myths that actually developed organically within a culture as adverse to stuff that came out of more recent fictions, as in within a century or two.

Numenera Review

The illustrations are beautiful. The setting is evocative and lean toward genres I heavily enjoy. The character creation is intriguing and very much geared toward building a unique character rather than a simple collection of stats. The adventure links and PC connections are very useful for creating a coherent party from the get go.

Fate Core and Strands of Fate

A comparison between Fate Core by Evil Hat Productions and Strands of Fate by Void Star Studios

Evil Hat Productions: www.facebook.com/EvilHatProduc…

Void Star Studios: www.facebook.com/VoidStarGames

I'm comparing to Strands of Fate core rules Hero Level.  I prefer Strands of Power's alternate advancement and usually aim at a higher level, but I'm sticking to the core book for this.

Fiction is a Shadow

All fiction is a shadow of real life.  

This sounds ridiculous on first glimpse.  After all, a sizeable portion of fiction involves elements that are very much unreal. Stuff like talking animals, magic, curses, faster than light speed capable starships and other such things are not elements you'll find in real life. That being true, how can a piece of fiction that involves such things be connected to real life at all, much less being a shadow of it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Popular Character Hell

So, there are a lot of characters out there that are popular and have been popular for a long time...and have suffered for it.  It isn't true of all popular characters, but it certainly seems to afflict a number of them.  I'm going to talk about some of the signs and symptoms of this.

There is no coincidence

When you're watching a TV show or movie or reading a book, you'll often run across an instance where the main character has noticed some detail or another that clues them in on what is going in the story.  Some other character, usually the designated Scully, will often dismiss it as coincidence.  This dismissal is usually used as a tool to show how the character with the idea is elevated above the perceptions of other people.  After all, he or she has just noticed and understood something that everyone else neglects as being unimportant.  The tone of the dismissal is either frustrated, negligent or contemptuous.  This will often come with a summary of the discovering-character's theory followed by the phrase "it's just coincidence" or something similar.  Immediately following the main character will have a "there is no such thing as coincidence" speech and the story will continue.

Mary Sue vs MCS

For ease of reference, assume anything about Mary Sue applies to Marty Stu.

The term Mary Sue dates back to a 1974 Star Trek fanfic that was written as a parody of various self-insert fanfictions that were coming out at the time.  There is some controversy as to just what constitutes a Mary Sue or Marty Stu but it is considered one of the worst insults you can lay on any particular character.  On the other hand, there is what I call "Main Character Syndrome" which probably exists under some other name but is my catch all term for situations that tend to develop simply because a character is the central character of a story.  These two situations can appear very close to each other, but one is generally overlooked while the other is lambasted.  So what's the difference?

Candy and Distraction

What is candy? 

Candy is when you give the reader something that they want and it doesn't really have anything pertinent to add to either character development or moving the plot forward.  There's a couple of reasons to add candy.

Stories Will Stop Surprising You

There's a piece of advice I heard somewhere once, long ago.

"Don't read a story about something you're an expert in."

Contrivance

There is a common complaint about fiction that you hear when someone has decided that a particular story is poorly explained, managed or otherwise unbelievable.

"It's contrived."

The thing about this statement.

It's true.

When talking about fiction, it is always going to be true.

If Things Are Going Smooth, Don't Tell the Reader

One of the best examples of this comes from the Dennis Quaid movie Undercover Blues.  Obviously this is something of a spoiler, so be aware.

Throughout the whole movie, the Blues portray themselves as in control of the immediate situation but still trying to figure out the larger picture.  Meanwhile they pepper the conversation with things like "(Morty) could be useful" which later turns out to be true.  You don't learn that they've been manipulating the larger picture all along until the end of the movie.

Things Never Go Smooth

One of the problems with the stories that are popular, things are always going wrong.  There's always some amount of unnecessary pain and fear and trouble in the world.  It's stuff that could probably have been avoided if it weren't for a handful of mistakes that the story makes painfully obvious.

The crisis can be personal, such as saying the wrong thing to a girlfriend and trying to spend the rest of the story apologizing, or it can be local, such as dealing with a bank robbery.  It goes on and on, with the mistakes being more obvious and seemingly extreme as you go further up the line.

But the matter is the same.

Mistakes were made and they have to be cleaned up.

Don't Explain the Hammerchlorians

There are two maybe three parts to this piece of advice.  And the first of these is quite well explained by the large, pear shaped individual that arrogantly spews his opinions of science-fiction and fantasy in the comic shop that's part of El Goonish Shive's world setting.

Probable Impossibilities are Preferable to Possible Improbabilities

The title here is a quote from Aristotle and should probably be one of the first things any author of fiction considers when deciding on plot direction and events.

The quote has been restated to me in the past in the following way:

"You can have the possible.   You can have the impossible.  But it has to be probable."

What this means is that the audience has to find the story believable within the framework of the world setting chosen.

Have Fun and Don't Worry About Message

Okay, you will see me wax philosophic and start to delve into deep and meaningful stuff here and there all over my blog in places.  I might even start delving into what I consider to be the big philosophical meanings and metaphors of my various works. Said discussions might get fairly complex, deep and insightful.

Most of them are things I come up with after the fact of writing the story and are more ways for me to analyze myself than to analyze my work.

Maintain Consistency

Consistency is a big part of any story, if you are not consistent then people are going to quickly get fed up with your story as it becomes harder and harder to relate things.

A lot of people might point to George Lucas when thinking of examples of inconsistency.  However, George's arbitrary decision to change some things in the Star Wars universe is not really a very major example of this situation.

Check Reality Before You Reject It

A lot of fiction can be called larger than life.  The Rule of Cool is repetively invoked in all manner of stories.  This is why the star-fighters in Star Wars make strange whining sounds and action heroes can outrun explosions.  This is why characters in movies and TV shows seem like they're experts in just about everything.  This is why the characters in romance movies can so flawlessly express themselves.  Fiction, even realistic fiction that says it sticks firmly within what is possible in real life, still seems to stick strongly to the mantra "I reject your reality and substitute my own!"

However, you should not simply reject reality when making your stories.  The first thing you should do when writing a scene and desiring to make something "cool" is to do the research as to the reality of the subject.  If you don't know precisely what is or is not possible or realistic, then you increase the risk of breaking the willing suspension of disbelief.

Try to be Predictable and Surprising


Predictability, very much like stereotypes, has a bad reputation amongst readers and writers alike.  To most people, predictable is the same thing as boring.  They want, or say they want, unpredictable stories that end in ways that they did not expect whatsoever.

"I did not see that coming."

That is one of the phrases that most people connect with a story that is well-written and surprising.

It is something of a misdirection.

Stories are not truly unpredictable.  The closest sorts of stories that can be called unpredictable are things like Looney Toons, Monty Python and Alice In Wonderland.  However, even in this case, the apparent randomness is expected by the viewers and readers.  Same with such humorous works as Discworld, with its mountain of puns.

Repetition

Repetition is an important tool for writing of any sort.  The more often a point is repeated, the more important it seems to the reader.

In narration, for the most part, you want to avoid repeating things word for word.  You want to repeat a reference to a situation or event, but not a word for word repetition.  Some people have a higher or lower tolerance to this.  For example, I got irritated at seeing the phrase "like a puppet with its strings cut" twice within fifty pages in one book.  Someone else might not notice that at all.

Archetypes and Stereotypes

Most people take a dim view of stereotypes and assume that it is a bad thing to design a character to fit a stereotype or archetype.  The assumption is that making use of a stereotype means making cookie-cutter, low dimensional characters or, worse, that you are giving in to unfair perceptions of different groups.

This view operates under the perception that a character can only fit one particular stereotype at a time.

Follow the Rules Until You Make Them

Writing is one of those things where there are numerous rules put out by a variety of different people.  Some of the rules sound very specific, others are very broad.  Depending on which authors or editors whose advice you read, they can even be contradictory.  When you start out, you don't know any of these rules except some basic ideas of sequencing and he said/she said.  As you progress, you learn more and more rules to follow.

Follow those rules until you can make them.

Christian Misconceptions

Okay, I'm going to try to stay away from opinion and interpretation for the most part, but given the subject matter, that's just not possible.  I probably have a lot of misconceptions myself.  I tend to believe that misconception is an inherent danger of the human condition since we are limited to imperfect interpretations of things.  Still, I like to think that I know a bit more about Christianity than most people so I'm going to hit some of the more general misconceptions about Christianity and, to a lesser extent, the other Abrahamic religions that I've seen around for a while.

Old Ones, Gods, Devils and Angels

It is a common conceit among those who are fans of the Cthulhu mythos that Lovecraft's entities are greater in power than the more traditional, humanistic sort of deities found in pantheons within real history, or of eldritch horrors found in other fiction.  There is also this sort of belief that the Lovecraftian entities are something worse than "evil" since they are an entirely alien sort of entity that doesn't even understand or care about humanity at all.  In stories that contain both Lovecraftian entities and beings from more standard myths, the Lovecraftian styled entities are largely implied to be more powerful and very difficult to contend with.  The truth is that the Lovecraftian entities aren't really all that different from the entities of other myths or fiction.  Now this is not going to be a perfect comparison since power at the scale cannot really be objectively measured.  Everything involved is highly conceptual in nature and pretty much ignores such things as physics.

Truth

Truth is a highly subjective thing and far more interesting than fact. It might be a fact that a person was 5'7" but whether that person is short, tall or average depends on their gender, their age and the culture in which they are raised.

Two separate people might be arguing over the correctness or wrongness of a particular situation or action and using the same facts to argue their point that their opponent is. However, both have different perspectives resulting in two different truths. The response to this is generally to consider the opponent's perspective to be flawed in some way either through ignorance, self-interest or malice while one's own perspective is viewed as the most appropriate and closest to The Truth (the words "one", "only", "real", "actual" or so on may be added or simply implied). Part of this is because my perception that both frameworks of viewing the same situation as each being true from their proponent's perspective is simply another truth that other people may or may not accept.

Things Man Was Not Meant To Know

Every story has conflict and speculative fiction; whether science-fiction, horror or fantasy; often involves conflicts of a particularly spectacular sort.  This isn't always true, but we're focusing on where it is.  The threats, if not the central conflict, of sci-fi, horror and fantasy usually come from a standard list.

Weapons

There is a common trend among fiction where the plot involved is in the creation of a new weapon or else exploit some discovery for a military purpose even if it is not directly used as a weapon.  Depending on the nature of the story, this can either be portrayed as an expression of the will and ingenuity of the human race in the fact of adversity, or it can be portrayed as our baser, more savage instincts leading us down a path of violence.  The more common interpretation, at least recently, is the latter.  A lot of us seem to have this opinion that anything related to weapons or the military is sinful, evil or at least unwise.  A lot of fiction ends with some hero or group there of using the prototype of a weapon to end a threat, but insuring that the weapon itself is lost as well.

Culture of False Comparison

When you watch English-speaking documentaries or read books that focus on a group of renowned soldiers, there are some rather common sets of language used depending on just what, besides fighting, this particular set of warriors was most well known for.

Being Good, for Goodness' Sake

I like fantasy stories in general ranging from classic Tolkien to more modern derivations thereof as well as fantasies deriving from other cultures, especially Asia.  A common theme among Asian fantasies is the individual who is trying to achieve enlightenment.  In the course of this quest, at least in Western attempts at such, there often comes a point where the paradox of this search is explained: namely that in order to achieve enlightenment, one must transcend desires, absolutely all desires, including the desire to become enlightened.

Commissioning Artists the Thrythlind Way


Step One: Inspiration

The first step to commissioning art the way I do it is to either start writing a story or else reading one.  Eventually you will come to one of the following decisions:

a) I so want to see a visual representation of this character

b) I so would want to see my character meet this other one

c) I would love to see this particular event here

At which point, the knee jerk reaction to check your bank account kicks in and the next thing you know you're trying to find room in your budget for the art.

Villain Names and Secret Societies

Anytime you talk about comic books and the like, someone outside the genre notes that the entire thing is unrealistic.  While the superpowers and a number of the pieces of equipment are definitely in the land of fantasy, a lot of other things take flack as well.  A number of people note the ridiculousness of the different code names and villains, secret identities and secret societies and what not.

Fantasy Ethnicities

So there's a rather humorous youtube video up showcasing the similarities between the Streetfighter franchise and the characters in Naruto.  It's called There can be only one.  Of course, the fact that streetfighter characters are basically raw martial artist archetypes means that it has characters with a lot of similarity to a large number of other franchises, but that it is still amusing to point out where characters are very, very similar to existing properties.

Morality



Morality is a funny thing, everybody seems to base it around different things.  Everybody seems to have a very different idea of what is right.  There is a current trend in fiction towards grey vs grey morality.  The basic feeling is that if you look at matters from all the different points of view possible that it is difficult or even impossible to ever call any particular action morally right or wrong.  The tendency is to point out that there are no absolutes, that no one group is any more evil or good than another and thus that the whole question of morality is moot and pointless.

Because according to the shades-of-grey idea, there are no absolutes.

To my mind, this is wrong.

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

Title: My Girlfriend is a Gumiho
Episode Length: 1:04 to 1:09
Series Length: 20

Premise: Cha Dae-Woong is a young man trying to become the world's next big action movie star.  However, his grandfather is getting tired of the way he irresponsibly throws money around and the way he skips school and tries to drag Dae-Woong away from his classes and to a military college.  Dae-Woong escapes, but in doing so finds himself stuck on a truck heading for a country shrine where he unwittingly releases a nine-tailed fox (Gumiho) from its prison.

49 Days

Title: 49 Days
Episode Length: 1:05 minutes
Series Length: 20 episodes

Basic Premise: Shin Ji Hyun is a girl who has to have everything.  She is rich, she has loving parents and many friends.  She's about to get married to Min Ho and hoping to introduce her best friend, In Jung, to one of her fiancee's friends.  Then an unfortunate series of events leads to a car accident that puts her into a coma and puts her soul wandering out into the world.  Not long after, she meets a Scheduler, whose job is to guide people to their appointed times and places of death.  Because Shin Ji Hyun's death was not on the schedule, she has a chance to come back to life.  If she can prove that three people not related to her by blood truly loved her by collecting tears of 100% pure love.  Given that she is considered one of the kindest most genuinely honest people anybody knows, this doesn't seem difficult at first.  Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems.  First, she has to borrow the body of Song Ji-Kyung, who has her own tragic past, and second she can't tell anybody who she is or about or her mission.

Themes: Transformations

Transformation is something that shows up fairly often in my stories in one form or another.  There is something that intrigues me about the idea of a person or thing becoming something something other than what they started out as.  I frequently make use of literal transformation and almost always end up with a matter of metaphorical translation if enough of the story moves along.

Themes: Unusual Relationships

So, this is less about writing skills because it's not about what makes a good story, but does deal with things I like to use in stories.  I'm fairly sure this started with the same sort of juvenile "cool lesbians" thoughts a lot of guys end up having at some point in their lives.  That said, I've always liked stories and, as said in my bit on candy and distractions earlier this week, just randomly adding in sex scenes usually results in me losing interest in a story as it becomes repetitive.  I am much more interested in emotions and interplay of the characters involved than merely the physical expression of the emotions.  That said, I've found that I like doing what some people would consider weird things with relationships.

Characters have many names

In the course of a story you are going to refer to each character several times, however, you do not want to be repeated "Luke said" or "Luke wrote" or "Luke did whatever" over and over again.  The repetition of the name would get grating on the reader and it has the character of an inexpert speaker.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Faith Manages: Dawn of a New Campaign


Hopefully the first of several screencap comic pages based on Babylon 5...but I suck at this and have only REALLY basic software.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: The Turning

This book is a play on the popular trend in supernatural romances that are out in the market today.  There are some significant differences from the standard formula of the young woman falling in love with the vampire that make this an interesting variation.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Review: Sacred Promises

This is a fairly interesting young adult fantasy romance that has some moderate issues connected to it.  Granted, some of what I might have to say may be a result of this story being outside the normal realm of my preferred genre, but as much as the setting and circumstances are interesting, I can't say I much enjoyed the story.  I'm sure many people would, but there was a lot of the storyline that made me feel uncomfortable.

Summer 2017 One-Shot Scenario Schedule

This summer in August, I'm planning to run seven separate scenarios three times each. The listed times are Japan's timezone (GMT +9)...

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