Phew. Busy day, not only for the work I did at my job, but for the project we're working on. Lots of stuff going on. I really, really wish I could share it, but I'm being told that only select channels are allowed to know about the project for now.
Well, either way, lots of interesting stuff is going on. I'm still working out the details on the new plot arc for The Paladin. Like I mentioned in my last blog entry, there's a lot of potential lore to look through and deciding which ones to use and which to ignore is a daunting task.
So, in the meantime, to stir my imagination, I'm working on some one shots for my online RPG groups. As you may or may not know, I run a discord server that hosts two RPG groups. They game is based on Extraordinary League, a heavily modified version of the Marvel RPG system from the '80s as created and run by Smash Fiction's Dan Mulkerin. If you don't listen to the Smash Fiction podcast, well... you really should.
Especially this week. For some reason, those weirdos asked me to come by again, so I showed up for my four battle with the bullshitters, knockdown with the nerds, duel with the dorks, and other alliterative combat terminology. So if you want to check that out (along with all the other great shows they do) you should check them out HERE.
Coming up with lore for your story can be hard. Right now I'm in the process of writing an entirely new section for the The Paladin which necessitates the making of a few key decisions. At the moment I'm trying to put together my antagonist, their desires, their values, their motivations. I'm having a bit of trouble because the path I've chosen to take them down hasn't been fleshed out yet; I need more lore.
When you're fleshing out your lore, deciding if dragons breathe fire or if elves are immortal, you have a lot of decisions to make. One of the biggest, in my opinion, is what bits of popular lore to take as your own. There's more than enough established lore from popular stories and myths, and a good chunk of them contradict one another. Really, you have a smorgasbord of details to choose from, but that might actually be a bit much, at least for me. What should I go with? Which decisions benefit my story the most? Every decision about a species or race means that any character from that race is going to be affected. The vampire that dies in sunlight is going to treat it far differently from the one that sparkles in it.
How close do I need to keep to common lore for the audience to accept that my werewolves are werewolves? How far can I stray before my demons aren't demons? And which depiction of a witch is the right one to draw from?! So many questions and so few answers. I can hear my alternate self condescendingly answering from across the veil: "Whatever makes the most sense for your story. Whatever gives you the best experience to share with your reader." Man... alternate Matias is a pretentious jerk. None of that helps me figure out which one to use!
So that's where I am at the moment: lost in the stacks of established and contradictory lore about a myriad of characters. All because I know my antagonist needs to have a clear path before I can design their character. Yeesh. Well, once this is figured out, the fun part begins. Until then, I guess I have more YouTube videos to watch and Wikipedia pages to read.
Be Excellent to Each Other
I am beat. I spent my entire day filming at Grand Canyon. It's the centennial of the park's creation today, so my job sent me across the state to film the festivities. It was cold and tiring, but at the same time I got to meet Theodore Roosevelt, so I guess it evens out in the end.
Standing out there, watching the the splendor of creation, the incredible vista that is Grand Canyon, I now wonder if I could ever write something like that. Now, clearly, for The Paladin that's not going to happen because it's the same world. There already is a Grand Canyon. But what about a full-on fantasy novel?
So let me put this out there as a challenge/writing exercise. If you haven't been to Grand Canyon, do a little research. Look at the splendor that this wonder of the world exudes. For heaven's sake, Theodore Roosevelt was impressed with it and he wasn't impressed when someone shot him. Then see if you can make something like that in your story.
Work your story to include something, a natural wonder, something that awes everyone that beholds it. That inspires or perhaps even demoralizes. After all, the first Europeans to set eyes on the Canyon were devastated that the water down below was unreachable. They declared it a hellish trap, an obstacle that no man could overcome.
What could your fantasy world hold that would inspire your characters in the same way? Think of the colors, the smells, the temperature, the scale. How many senses can you utilize in describing this wonder?
One of the trickiest things in writing fantasy, whether it be Urban Fantasy like myself or High Fantasy with magic and wizards, is that eventually you'll need to create other races. Even if you decide to stick to established tropes for your races, you're going to need to figure out which tropes you want to use.
There's been so many versions over the years of every creature you can imagine that pinning one down can be hard. Do you want to have vampires that die in sunlight or sparkle (please say the former.) Elves that are tiny and magical or svelte and agile? And if you create one from scratch (which I highly recommend!) what are you going to do with them?
Here's where the catch comes in. There's a phrase out there called "World of Hats." If I'm not mistaken, it comes from an old Star Trek episodes where everyone was dressed like gangsters. Everyone. The idea here is that you have to be careful that your race, established or original, doesn't have a single defining characteristic. When the starship Enterprise shows up at a brand new world, the entire planet shouldn't be a homogenous culture.
I've complained about this for years. For some reason, in the 24th century Earth still has a tons of different languages and cultures, but every other galactic race is a monoculture. All Vulcans speak the same language and are intensely logical. All Klingons love bloodwine and are prideful warriors. Where are the Klingon engineers?! They have ships, right? Who built them? Where are their doctors and artists?
So when you're making your race, make sure that you don't fall into this trope. Remember that the larger the population, the more varied their opinions and thoughts will be. Sure, you have a race of peaceful, philosopher elves. But someone had to craft all those bows and swords, right? Someone who knows how to use them, right? Understand that your cultures can't exist if everyone has the exact same feelings and opinions on matters. Economies, social structures, and legal systems would fall apart if there weren't people who preferred or were at least willing to do other things.
Oh, and one last thing. Remember what I've said before, as informed by the amazing writers over at Writing Excuses: don't base your culture on an existing one. Cultures don't develop in vacuums. The Romans were the way they were because of their geographical locations and climate. The Egyptians owe a good deal of their culture to where they lived. The Russians. The Germans. The British. We're all products of our climate. Put in the work, figure out your world, then let that inform the culture of your race. Have an idea for a culture that you'd like to implement? Work backward then. Figure out what kind of climate would produce a culture such as yours.
In the end, it's about putting in the work. World of Hats is a trope that was used because the writers needed a new race every week for their show. Unfortunately it set a precedent that's still infecting stories today. Yours doesn't have to be one. Take the time, figure out your race and your culture. Your story will be all the richer for it.
Be Excellent to Each Other
I really hate having terrible internet. Because the website editor is web-based, I'm at the mercy of my horrible connection. So when I work for an hour on a post and finally hit submit without checking to see if the internet if functioning on my machine, well... sometimes I lose the entire document.
I was talking about the joys I get from researching new topics, all brought on by the fact that I'm reworking my manuscript into two separate books. The gist was there's a lot of new stuff to write about so there's a lot of new stuff to learn about and that makes me happy because I'm a big dork.
But losing all that work soured my mood. At least this specific internet problem won't be an issue once my new project begins.
I'll try to have something more in depth tomorrow guys. Until then, make sure you check out the great people over at Smash Fiction. This week they're featuring a fight that includes yours truly. Susannah Dean from the Dark Tower series vs. Tulip O'Hare from Preacher. It's pretty awesome guys. Click HERE to listen to it.
Spoilers for The Orville
So I had already written an entire post about The Orville, more specifically about the semi-romantic relationship between Dr. Claire Finn and Isaac. I was exploring how different and unique the relationship played out since he's an android, how interesting the relationship between the two was without any legitimate romance occuring. He was attentive, kind, and thoughtful, though he did so only on an efficiency level.
As I wrote this I had the latest episode of The Orville on. Suffice it to say (LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SPOILERS) the pair become an official couple. It's a cute episode and I have no problems with it, but I feel like there was something unique that was lost when the pair entered into a "normal" relationship. It was so interesting to see the way he worked with her kids, how they adored him despite the fact that he was completely incapable of returning any affection either the children or their mother had for him. He was accidentally proving to be a perfect companion to her. Now it's just like any other relationship, and that's not a bad thing. I just wonder where it could've gone.
So in that spirit, I want to muse for just a moment about romance in stories. I'm always intrigued when there's a way to spin a relationship in a way that we don't see that often. I'm not talking about changing genders or attractions; regardless of the other person, love is still love and we've seen that. I'm talking about a relationship that isn't about a romantic fulfillment. In this era of internet shippers, I wonder if there can't just be some relationships that are platonic, relationships that are deep, intimate, but don't require a sexual aspect to them.
Don't get me wrong. One of my guilty wishes for being an author is to see fans ship my characters; the weirder the better. But for actually writing it, and even for consuming it, I rather enjoy seeing a close relationship between two people that doesn't need to go further.
Today we generally seem to think of love in two forms: romantic and platonic. We can have the love between a parent and child and we can have the love between spouses. Obviously it's more nuanced than that, but I need to wrap this blog up eventually. Point is, I'm much more interested in the classic seven loves: Eros, Philia, Storge, Agape, Ludus, Pragma, and Philautia. I won't go deeply into them today, but suffice it to say that they break love into seven different types, such as familial, erotic, juvenile, etc...
I'm a man who loves nuance and this interpretation allows for more distinctions, from sexual, passionate love to close friendship to the universal love one might have for all humanity. We so often label all these distinct emotions as "love" and I feel like that loses something.
I think that as writers, readers, and just people in general, we can really get something out of understanding different types of relationships, by not just blindly referring to them all as "love." But... maybe that's just me.
What are your thoughts?
I don't have any serious writing topics to go over today, but I promise I have a good reason. We're working very hard on a big project that, fingers crossed, we'll be able to reveal within a month or so. Here's the only hint I'm allowed to give: we've been getting vaccinations.
I'm also working on a couple of reviews at the moment, so my time is definitely being spell well, and I can top all that off with a work trip out to Grand Canyon on Tuesday. I can only hope there's some snow there from all this blizzarding that's been going on.
I'm might share one of my recent game reviews tomorrow, but I think it'll be a little bit before my next show review. I like to craft those a little better, work out the pacing, and of course, edit it for grammar and spelling mistakes. Yes, I know as a writer those should be absent from all my work, but I feel like this blog is more of a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I want it out there raw and untouched. My work, however, I go over with a fine toothed comb.
Speaking of work, if you're looking something to read of mine, why not check out my Netflix's Carmen Sandiego review. You can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.
Still not enough? Swing by my short story starts where I have FIVE, count 'em, FIVE stories to check out. Each one is just the first chapter, something to whet the appetite, and there's even a nifty little poll there to vote on which one you think I should complete. Click here to read and vote.
That's it for now, Space Cowboys. See you tomorrow.
Be Excellent to Each Other
So Winter finally decided to visit for realsies here. I'm busy plotting out the changes for The Paladin and don't have a lot of writing stuff to share (since I'm still thinking it up) but I figure you might appreciate a little snow.
It's been super cold lately, but we're getting two feet of snow over today and tomorrow. My job decided to close since the people in Master Control weren't coming in and without them there's no broadcast. All over the city businesses have shut down. Even the university (barely) decided to close.
So... please enjoy. And stay warm, folks!
There's a special magic in the air when you're writing new content for a story you're invested in. Whether it's a full on sequel or just adding in new content, creating that narrative, expanding the world, it's a unique and intoxicating feeling.
I bring this up because, if you read yesterday's blog, you'll know I'm writing more on The Paladin. It's bittersweet. On the one hand, I had previously thought it good enough to try submitting to a couple agents, meaning that I'm taking several steps back in publishing process. On the other hand, I've talked with a beta, workshopped a bit with my lovely and supporting wife, and we all think that what I'm doing is going to result in a better story.
If you didn't know what I'm doing, basically, I'm chopping my current manuscript in half. At the moment it's setting at 135,000 words and needs to come down to 110,000 or less. I took an audit of the least critical scenes and chapters, and so far I've only found about another 11,000 I can remove. Even then, though, it cuts out a lot of important stuff and rushes the story along. But if I split the book in two, that changes everything.
Most of the current manuscript, I'd say everything after about the 1/4 mark, will be moved to the second book. A few key scenes and chapters directly related to the first 1/4 will stay, but otherwise, it all moves over. That means I have the last 3/4 of "book 1" to complete. In essence, this means writing an entirely new story.
I'm no fool, though, despite persistent rumors. I know that if I let this get out of control I'll just have two books with bloated word counts. I've worked out a story that weaves the existing elements together nicely and shouldn't have a huge word count.
The best part about this is it lets me expand on certain character, let Jonathan, my MC, take his time getting used to the world rather than rushing through it. I can let my readers get more attached to characters, get a better feel for them.
I'm excited. I'm plotting right now and the story I have in mind is already meeting approval with one of my betas. It means new characters, new plot lines, and of course my favorite, making sure all the plots tie together between the two stories. Yeah. I'm crazy. But I think this just might work out.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
I think I've figured it out! I've been mulling over my story for months. I know it's been too thick, too wordy. It's currently sitting at 136,000 words and it needs to come down to 110,000. I've been auditing the manuscript, looking over entire scenes and chapters.
You see, I've done all the little stuff. Remove adverbs, remove the word "that," and a dozen other little tricks to reduce word count. That helped, it really did. I cut out over 10,000 words from the original draft just from little things like that, but in the end, it wasn't enough. Through my audits I've been selecting scenes for deletion, and I have another 10,000 words ready to lose, but... it really broke up the story. So many threads would need to be rewoven elsewhere, so many story elements completely lost. I was losing hope... but then I figured it out.
Well, I hope I've figured it out. Here's my thought: I don't need to cut words, I need to expand. Crazy? Perhaps. But what I'm suggesting is breaking the story into two books. I'll need to write a bunch of new stuff to fill in the gap for the first half, but the second can stand almost on its own. And that will bring down the respective word counts of both stories considerably.
This means I get to go back to my favorite thing: writing! You see, one of the biggest problems that plagued me was the timeline of the original story. It fit logically, I mean I used a calendar to map out every event, but it went quicker than I wanted. It meant that a lot of characters didn't get to be fleshed out the way I wanted and some of the story elements felt a little rushed. But if I let the events of the first book lead into the second, I can stretch out the time line and give everyone a little more wiggle room. And I can do it all without pushing the word count as high as it stands right now.
It's risky, but going over it with my wife, we agreed the new story actually feels better. I get to keep everything I wanted, more or less, but with two books I spread things out a little.
I know this is a bit rambly, but I'm extremely excited. I've been looking for a solution for a while and removing entire sections has been feeling like a bad choice. I know a lot of writers feel like every word is gold and needs to be preserved, but I truly believe that most of the scenes I have are important to the story. With the audits I made of the latest draft, I lost so much in character development and plot. I think this is the best choice. So... time to get back to writing!
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.