Tag Archives: writer

ON STORYTELLING: Why Answering Everything Isn’t the Best Way to Go

28 May

Lost

I had a few readers ask me to do something very interesting recently. Well, perhaps not so interesting to you as it is to me, but the pleas I received definitely did lead to a line of thought which I wanted to go over briefly, and before I get to caught up in digression, let me give you a summary of the request I was given:

Can you answer my questions?

Sci-Fi Bloggers is of course the notable online magazine I am the Editor-in-Chief of and it is our goal to provide original content of our own to include with our (mostly) daily reports on current goings-on in the world of science fiction and fantasy. One form of this we adopted some time back is our Friday Fiction category. There we feature the work of several authors, the two most prominent and frequent being Brandon Scott and myself. We recently did a “Double Feature” special which included a tale I have been criticized for and praised for entitled “Jars”. The thing for which it was criticized by the way was the same thing it was lauded for: its confusing nature.

I was asked to add on to it, to continue it, to make certain it didn’t end on more than one occasion. More specifically, I was asked to “fill in the blanks.” For those who haven’t read it, it’s five pages, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Take a looking by clicking here.

Please read that before continuing. It is quite brief.

Now, here we have a case wherein I believe that I shouldn’t add anything more to this tale. I think the entire thing is perfectly encapsulated by the self-contained incident (or rather couple of incidents). Nothing more needs to be said. And I was asked about adding more and then someone had a proposition, and I smiled and asked to hear what the proposition was. He went on to delineate a storyline in which the woman and the monster chasing her were both servants of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. After learning of numerous atrocities committed by Hades, acts that harmed and ended the lives of millions of human beings in the world above, she joined the ranks of mortal men, committing espionage against her own kind. She was arrested for her crimes and, after breaking out of prison, tried to “lay low” and remain hidden from her newfound enemies.

In the intervening time between then and my story, she has children, mortal children. The creature, the beast that’s after her, is a bounty hunter, and in order to protect her offspring from the horrors of the Underworld, she kills them, for they are without sin and wouldn’t end up there as a result. The bounty hunter, through physical contact, manages to scramble her memory, and thus, “Jars”.

Now, let me make this point crystal clear: I didn’t write any of that. Or at least I didn’t originate the idea myself. Perhaps I reconfigured it in a form that was more consumable, but it was one of my readers who thought of it.

I told him right then that that very thing, what he just did, is why I didn’t answer all of the questions in a tale such as “Jars”, because the purpose of some stories, many of them in fact, is not to solve but inspire. If I had told him my concept of “Jars” and what think the monster is, he wouldn’t have thought of that brilliant storyline, he wouldn’t have created anything. And the funny thing is, the same thing happened to me just two weeks later.

Brandon Scott wrote a story called “Small Town Games”. You can read it here. I immediately thought a whole movie should be made around the concept. Perhaps I was right, but perhaps Brandon was in suggesting that the manner of his construction, his storytelling, led me to the creation of my own idea of what “the games” were. See, that’s an interesting thing.

The single most powerful thing a creation can do is cause further creation. If the actions of one man, woman, child, what have you, can cause another to do something else, that is real powerthat is influence.

I am suggesting that other writers look at this as a possibility. Instead of criticizing Lost for not answering all of your questions, maybe look at it the way you might a show like The Leftovers, where answers are no longer necessary, or like The Sopranos, where implications feeds us the answers, the truth. I know it sounds like I’m excusing authors and directors from solidifying their visions and ending their tales, but perhaps we could be a little more forgiving when they don’t hit that last note on the piano, because sometimes the precipice is all we need. Sometimes, we don’t have to dive into the water below. We can create our own pool, our own interpretation, our own art.

~D.

 

Building a Better Story: Names

26 Aug

You and I, together.

Sometimes I advise, sometimes I don’t. This was one of the times I did.

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Question: How important is the name of a character?

Answer: It doesn’t matter and it DOES matter.

It doesn’t matter because, frankly, there are plenty of stories where names that mean complete gibberish are used for lead characters, and they work fine. I’m sure you can think of many examples, especially in the fantasy department.

On the other hand, it DOES matter because if you have 100,000 people read your book, and only 50 to 100 notice, “Oh my God, his name means _______! HOLY CHRIST-MUFFINS! THIS GUY’S A GENIUS! Brah, brah, brha…” then it was worth it. Especially if you run into one of those “elite” fans later on in your career and they’re like, “Hey, hey….I noticed it.” You guys will high-five the $#!* out of each other’s hands at that point.

So, I guess it depends on whether you want your hands to be hurting a lot.

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~D.

Building a Better Story: Characters

21 Aug

Poison and cheer!

Building a character and building a person are, relatively speaking, the same thing. Just go ahead and start designing the character, and then, at intervals throughout their creation, ask yourself, “Is this what a real person under these circumstances would do? Is this how they’d act? Would Iact this way in the same situation? Would anyone I know act this way? Is this the kind of character who would even have a ‘human’ reaction to these events?”

Doing the above gives us a sense of reality in relation to the character, regardless of whether they’re a man, a machine, an alien, or whatever. When we can observe the character realistically, no matter how strange they might be, they’ve been designed properly.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: designing a character purely for interest is not interesting. We’re not interested characters because they’re interesting. We’re interested in characters because they themselves are interested in the world around them, thereby becoming “interesting.” We are interested in the interested.

Realistically Designed Characters: Han Solo, Andrew Detmer, Commissioner Gordon (BEFORE The Dark Knight Rises), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, President Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet.

Characters Designed for Interest Alone: Jar Jar Binks, Mudflap and Skidds (from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), the Catalyst, Gurgi (until the later books that is).

In short, make people, not characters. And don’t force them to be interesting, because that’s not interesting.

~D.

The Word of the Day

19 Aug

Logs, just logs.

Complexity and nuances aren’t what make great stories, that’s depth’s job. And, as I’ve mentioned previously, depth can be simple, and it can also be natural.

Let’s examine these points individually in reverse, starting with that word “natural.” What does that mean? Well, in terms of stories and their telling, I’d say it means “anything originating without being engineered or contrived.” The natural parts of a story are the parts that come about as though they were entirely consequent of earlier events. Natural events appear real to the reader, and to the reader, the person, any person, things that are real tend to have depth, whether it’s made apparent right away or not. When things are natural, they’re real, and when they’re real they have depth, which is what readers love; not merely complexity, but depth, layers, levels.

Now, we also have this fascination writers have developed lately with creating “nuances” and “uniqueness” in their stories. This is becoming the new cliché, as such forced uniqueness and nuances lead to overly complex tales that nobody can keep up with. It’s fine for things to be original, and even unique, but these things again come from depth, which comes from how real the story is, which comes from how natural the story is. It all comes back to being natural, originating without being engineered or contrived.

And now we come up to complexity, which should never, in my opinion, be the goal of the writer. Intentionally making things complicated will always lead to contrivance. All of these things are connected and they, again, go back to how natural the story is.

So yeah, just keep everything natural and you’ll be fine. Have I used that word enough times for it to sink in?

 

~D.

Unique Characters: A Necessity?

11 Aug

Depth

I gave a fellow on Reddit some advice:

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Question: How unique do characters actually need to be?

Answer: There is no degree to which a character MUST be “unique.” Uniqueness isn’t necessarily the problem one faces when creating and developing a character, rather depth. See, when a character has multiple levels, it gives us, the reader, a little game to play: Dig to the Bottom of the Character (or DBC, as most people call it). We want a mystery to solve, a puzzle to reconfigure, a game to win. We want to be involved with who we’re reading about.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should make every character as confusing as possible. Levels can be SIMPLE. Luke Skywalker isn’t just the farm boy who became an intergalactic hero. He’s also a son who’s been lied to by his mentor, betrayed before birth by his father, kept in the dark about his sister, and torn between light and dark paths his whole life. Honestly, Luke has more depth than people give him credit for, but he isn’t COMPLICATED. See the difference?

Uniqueness isn’t something that can be forced. It naturally arises from a character’s depth.

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So yeah, try that out some time.

 

~D.

Well, I’ve done it…

24 Feb

So, you like to waterbend?

…I’ve now realized I can’t make one viewer jokes anymore. Know why? This is going to sound weird, but it perpetuates the idea that I only have one person reading these, and my stats have gone down since I’ve been saying it. I won’t say by how much, but it’s enough for me to take note of it. So now, I’m going to do something very strange: I’m going to act as though I have a million viewers. I noticed that that seems to work. If one acts as though they’re already successful and it’s all already done, things move right in that direction. And so now, my three billion readers, I want to talk to you.

I want to tell you how thankful I am that you’ve been following me for all these years. I want to tell you how much the trillions of emails I get from you warm my heart and make me laugh so often. Even the hate mail gives me a smile, since I get to say, “Oh, you crazy kook,” every time I read them.

I want to tell you how thankful I am for the gifts that I can’t find space for in my room. I’ve been stuffing a lot of them in my office, controversially placed in Geneva, Switzerland. I especially love the bust of Aaron Sorkin, who is, incidentally, one of my favorite writers. Thanks, Tom, for that one. Oh, and whoever anonymously sent me that map book of Middle-earth, massive props. Please comment you name below so we all know who you are.

I want to tell you how thankful I am that you and I have an honest connection, even with so many of you there. It’s good this way, it really is. I like transparency, and I like to be as personal as I can with you.

My friends, it’s a good day today. Tim Tebow’s going to the Super Bowl, the U.S. is in a surplus and we’re about to establish a colony on Mars. Please, keep reading my stuff, and I’ll keep reading your stuff, too.

~D.

They said I should sell out…

20 Dec

Don’t worry, I’m not selling out. Okay, maybe a little. Okay, maybe A LOT, but in a good way. At least I’m being overt and telling you all, or YOU, my singular reader, that I’m selling out. I’m not acting like BioWare where I covertly and slowly devolve into a corporate hack who makes either really bad endings to his stories or leaves them half-finished. I’m simply doing that right in front of you…

…except for the corporate hack making bad endings and half-finished products part. That was a joke.

That being said, if you see some changes to the blog, it’s because I’m actually starting to (as much as I make jokes about having only one reader) gain some fans (at least that’s what this little graph here tells me). I want to make sure that when my super geeky fan club is formed, they know who they’re talking to a little better and can be more sure that I’m actually going to stay in communication with them.

Some of the stuff I’ve been writing lately isn’t exactly mainstream. It’s weird and unplanned, not like when I started and had segments and whatnot. I think a happy medium can be achieved. I’ll begin by posting something extremely arbitrary now, followed by an article next week that is planned and precise. Thanks for reading guys. I’ll be sure to give you new data on my soon to be released novel, Ledge. By the way, here’s the second chapter. Keep in mind the fonts will be different when it is actually released. Also note that I have now named all of the chapters since the completion of the story, something I didn’t do before. Here you go:

ARRIVAL

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ACCESSING FILE 019: ARRIVAL

 

DECOMPILING…

 

DECOMPILING…

 

COMPRESSING…

 

COMPRESSING…

 

LOADING…

 

FILE READY FOR VIEWING

The arrival of the angels came during the year 2063 A.D. just one decade after the end of the Fourth World War. The world had been ravaged by the war, but was rebuilding as best it could. The United States and Canada had now become the Continental Union. Mexico would soon become a part of it in the year 2067. The Continental Union was divided into nine massive states, all of which had their own laws that were unaffected by the democratic government of the Union. The Union had a few national laws, but only a few. There was great peace and unity occurring during the rebuilding period.

That all changed in 2063.

During this year, strange, bright spheres of light began appearing spontaneously in skies across the globe, but mostly focusing on the Union region, namely State 7 (which was originally the eastern coast of the United States). When these spheres would vanish something that looked along the lines of a person would fall from them, not to be seen again for some time. That is until people with fantastic abilities began getting caught on tape: walking through walls, flying, moving objects without coming in contact with them, spitting fire.

Nobody knew where they came from. Many wanted to find out.

The angels, as they were deemed by normal humans, were questioned by the people of Earth. The responses were unsettling, to say the least. Most of them didn’t seem to remember where they’d come from and only had foggy visions of their childhoods. The Union military strategists, of course, wanted to know how their powers worked. The angels, of course, didn’t know. They just did things because they could. It was like breathing for them. And so, naturally, a few were taken into custody without their consent.

An even division was made between pro-experimentation and anti-experimentation humans. Some felt that if they weren’t experimented on their weaknesses couldn’t be found, and so they’d become invincible and probably try to terrorize or enslave humanity, or, the even more radical thinkers believed, destroy it. Some felt that to detain someone without their consent, not matter what the risk, was inhumane and against the rights of the Man. This sort of thinking didn’t agree with many minds, however, as most believed that the angels were not human and from another world.

Were they from another world?

These weren’t the simplest of times and so complex issues arose. Eventually, through testing, weaknesses were discovered in the angles, and a human enhancement project began in order to make an angel hunter, codenamed: Lucifer. This was being called a precaution by the military, but really it was being done in order to further Operation: Purify, which entailed the wiping out of all angels. The ideas of angels taking over the planet didn’t seem all too wild after some time. Some angels did indeed express resentment towards the humans, thoughts of revenge even. Media outlets blew these thoughts out of proportion, and so the idea that angels were anti-Mankind spread like wildfire.

At the time of this record’s creation Lucifer has not yet been completed and angels are still in existence. Hopefully this has proven to be useful data for the future.

END OF FILE

 

REVIEW?

 

I don’t review the file. I don’t feel like it. I had never looked at it before. I’d grown up with the established views of the angels. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I were one of them, so I could do anything.

This is before Greg and his goons have broken in. I’m looking at the tablet’s touchscreen, doing nothing. How did it come to this? They’re hunted now, like dogs. And you know something’s wrong when the government hires crime lords to sick their dogs on these people.

Can’t man forgive man for evolving? Can’t man forgive man for changing?

I hear a knock at the door. Foolishly I assume it’s Sally. I’m eager to see her. I’m eager to propose to her. Well, I think I am, anyway. I haven’t quite decided whether I—.

Whack! Why the hell didn’t I look through the peep hole? Ugh. At least Michael helped me out. And now I’m in this car.

Nathaniel’s driving. Hamaliel is in the front passenger seat.

“I always wanted to try a donut dipped in juice, just once.”

That’s Nathaniel. He always talks about something pointless.

“It doesn’t seem like a very logical thing to do.”

That’s Hamaliel. He’s always talking about logic.

“Oh, come on,” Nathaniel says. “You don’t think it’d taste good?”

“I don’t think any of the meals your mind wanders to would satiate me in the slightest,” the other replies. “I believe that bacon dipped in chocolate syrup would be quite nauseating.”

“It’s delicious! Come on, Hammy. You need to eat more exciting foods. I was viewing one of those records about a show from that old website, YouTube, called—.”

“I don’t want to hear about it.”

Nathaniel snorts and tells him, “What’s the matter? You think your stomach won’t handle the very description?”

“I just ate back there, Nate.”

“And what did you eat?”

“Sushi.”

“Sushi! What kind of meal is that? And they sell it at the hotel?”

“They do.”

“Someday, I’m slipping bacon in your sushi.”

I can’t help but laugh at the two of them. Even with my nervousness over Sally, and the pain in my leg, those two still don’t fail to get a chuckle out of me. Hamaliel looks back at me and grins.

“We’re almost out of the city, Edward,” he lets me know. “We’re heading for a small safe house near the Ocoee River.”

The following American states were where State 9 of the Union now sits: Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. We’re in the Tennessee area right now, in a city near to where Chattanooga used to be. It got wiped out during the war, along with Nashville. The city we’re in’s called Remembrance. I always think of everyone who was lost when I’m here. I never really saw any of that. I was born in the year 2046. It’s now 2073. A lot’s happened in that time.

We’re exiting the city now, getting on the highway. It leads to the superhighway, but we’re not going that far ahead. The superhighway’s got cameras galore. We don’t want to run into those. Nathaniel says we’re taking the next exit and heading onto a dirt road soon. This should be interesting—I haven’t been outside a major city in some time.

I take a nap as the time passes. I dream of—.

“Wake up!”

It’s Nathaniel.

“We’re here, Eddie! Let me help you out.”

I can barely walk, but with his help I think I’ll be all right. The car doors are shut and we make our way into a fairly decently sized log cabin. There’s six rooms for its six residents: Nathaniel, Hamaliel, Michael, Raphael, Lailah and Orifiel. In case you were wondering, Lailah and Orifiel are the only two women, and Orifiel isn’t even really a woman yet. She’s only sixteen, as far as she knows. Hell, for all I know she could be two hundred. We still don’t know where these guys came from or what their purpose is.

Don’t ask me how they got the cabin by the way, I haven’t the slightest notion. They probably bought it off someone. It’s too well designed for them to have built it themselves.

I don’t look around much, but I’m quickly taken into Raphael’s room and laid on the floor. And there he is, long blonde hair and all.

“What the hell happened to him?” he asks. Hamaliel answers him with, “There was shooting. Michael saved him.”

Nathaniel adds the missing detail, “Mike says we’ve got to get going soon.”

Raphael’s eyes grow thin as he says, “What do you mean?”

“We won’t be able to stay hidden long,” Hamaliel tells the healer. Which reminds me…

“Uh, guys,” I say aloud, “I don’t mean to break you all up, but I’m kind of in pain down here.”

Raphael gets down on his knees and unbinds the blanket piece around my wound. I wince as he puts his hand over it, but feel the warm flow of energy pass into it. The wound closes slowly, and then his hand goes over my beaten face, which heals in a similar manner.

Ahhhh…

“Good,” Raphael says as he stands up. “Now, Hammy, Nate, let’s talk.”

I carefully get to my feet, testing my walking for a bit. As the three exit the room Raphael looks back and says, “Feel free to take a seat on my bed. This might take a bit.”

I do so, and as I do I await word of what the next move is.

Don’t worry Sally, you’ll be safe soon…

…I hope.