Dog Ear
The churn of creativity (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 September 2018 17:41

think you can train your brain to do a number of things. People who don’t read look at people who do as having some strange arcane powers, that sitting still for 300 pages is extraordinary. So, yes, I’ve trained myself to stick with it, through thick and thin. I’m like a book shredder now. This isn’t much I can’t break down.

Creativity is the same sort of thing. Over years of scripting RPGs, writing plots, developing model train time tables and coding games, I’ve trained myself to be able to think solutions. When I write a short story, I think of a number of things (often simultaneously). Things like:

1)     What is the overall point of this story? Why am I even writing it?

2)     What is an interesting hook to get the story going?

3)     What would an interesting character be? What simple traits can be used to describe him?

4)     How should the story develop? How much space to I have?

5)     What cadence am I writing in? Fast? Show? Short words? Long?

There are all sorts of others points but these are the primary things I think of, milling around and around these points. If my character is jittery (point 3) then I should write in short fast words (point 5). It’s like Legos – I look at what colors and sizes I have, think about what I’d like to make, and figure out how it all will go together.

One trick I use (in game design) is to look at development in terms of two questions:

1)     What real world thing do I wish to make into some sort of game feature?

2)     What game feature would I like to incorporate and how can I explain it in terms of the real world?

For example, if I’m making a game about players flying around as crows, I might say I want to include hawks as a danger and from a point 1 aspect, I’ll need to add some form of air combat. Or possibly I’d look at point 2 and say I’d like to include air combat, and for that, I need hawks. So in terms of writing, possibly your two simultaneous steps of creativity would be:

1)     What real world thing do I wish to add to my story?

2)     What story element do I want, and how can it exist in the real world my story takes place in?

Approaching stories from a mega-creative methodology can keep you from staring at an empty computer screen, wondering why you can’t write about anything. Good luck!


Smile (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 September 2018 17:02

ears back, I was reading a Manga comic titled Venus Wars. It was a cool comic and I very much enjoyed it. However, in one scene, the heroes are hiding out in an out-of-the-way sewage reclamation plant. Here, they get critical information from a scientist whom the government banished into the hinterlands. And that’s fine – a time-tested plot device. But, if course, the evil government locates them and suddenly there is an open hatch, an alarm, a video image of guys with machine guns coming down the ladder. The heroes (lovers with guns) dash off with pistols to fend them off. And on their faces, broad smiles of youth and resistance.

In reality, this is crazy. If you are running into a metal corridor battle with mooks with automatic weapons, you should be concerned. Hell, you should be scared to death and shitting bricks. But this couple was running hand in hand, guns clutched in their other hands, wide smiles in their faces.

I’ll believe that people can eventually form a colony on Venus before I’ll believe anyone goes into a risky close-in battle in tight spaces with a dog-foolish smile on their face.

This kinda reminds me of one of those early StarWars knock-off stories. It mentioned that Luke Skywalker was taking off under fire from some colony city. The story said something like, “Three TIE fighters attempted to intercept, but he shot them all down.”

Really? Trained pilots in the latest military hardware and you splash the lot of them in a sentence fragment? You’d think you’d have your hands full, that a desperate pilot might even ram you if you were that good.

The point is, it makes your enemies into mooks, expendable bad guys you can kill with easy and flowing dramatic. It also means, as a reader, I’m bored with your story. Why should I be excited about a god-touched hero? Achilles isn’t as interesting and noble as doomed Hector.

Remember, your hero is only as good as his foes (well, if he’s successful against them, perhaps he’s a wee-bit better). But if you put your hero against slap-stick Keystone Cops, your hero will be a joke.

And anyone who smiles going into dangerous combat is either mad (and not worthy of our hero-worship) or knows that the enemy is worthless (so the story is not worth our involvment).

Thoughtful and realistic villains (and the underlings of such) are critical to good storytelling!


The Gift (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 September 2018 17:58

lot of people on the train know I’m a reader (I’ve always got a book in my lap (and my Brompton folding bike under my legs)). And everyone on the bus (between work and train station) know I am as well (because I’m always talking about books and listening to others about their recommendations). It’s just who I am. If life was an old black & white World War Two movie, I’d be the guy called “Professor”.

I did loan one nice lady on the bus my copy of A Man Called Ove. To my total surprise, she didn’t care for it and quit it after three chapters. And she was very apologetic; sweetly so. So the other day I met her outside at the stop, she pulled out a book she’d Amazoned for me, a book her mother liked and she liked too. I don’t want to say what it is (because it’s a mystery and I don’t want to troll for spoilers). But it’s got a theological bend to it that looks interesting.

Outside of the fact that I’d never likely pick this up if not for her, it’s a very nice gesture, this sharing. She was delighted that I hadn’t read it (hopped up and down, she actually did). So, yes, now I have a novel burning to be read, something that I want to read and share. I’m hoping for another The Mirror. Who knows? Either way, I’ll report back.

First, I need to knock off Raising Steam.


Dated (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 30 August 2018 00:00

ne of the problems of writing things fifteen minutes into the future is the fact that, like toy boats on a river, the future slides by us and becomes the past.

Remember the old idea that phone lines could be cut, that you’d be out of contact, off the grid, and how quaint that is? Now, it feels like more and more a stretch to show those plot-necessary no-bars. Now adays in modern stories, it’s not happening so much, the idea that the hero’s friends are walking into a trap, and the hero must rush after them to intercept them (or, likely, to save them).

India used to be at the other end of the world, requiring a montage of travel scenes and the movement of a line on the map. Now you can buy a plane ticket and be there in twenty hours.

Had that happen in one of my old not-published novels, Oath to Carthage. The world of about-now (I’m careful about putting a date on this) was a dystopian hellhole with fortified corporations and tribes of ruins-dwellers. A month or so ago, I realized that my all-fall-down date had come and gone. So I was dated.

The example stands of 1984, for obvious reasons. Yet the world seems to be doing a good job of catching up here.

The latest example is in the old book King Rat by China Miéville, a favorite author. Published in 1998, it involves a gristly killing that takes place in the abandoned underground station, Mornington Crescent. It had been closed years before for limited refurbishment and not reopened. So of course, after blinking in horror through that moment, I came went online to check. Turns out Mornington Crescent was reopened. In 1998. When King Rat came out. Wonder what Miéville through of that.

While he went to the bank.


Seriously, you still need to consider that you’ll get dated if you write near-future stories. It’s something to keep in mind.



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