Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Well, the day is finally technically here.  I'm sure most folks won't consider it November until they wake up tomorrow morning but with my night shift ways I'm going ahead and counting it at the actual clock turnover.  National Novel Writing Month has arrived.

I haven't done anywhere near as much outlining as I intended to; but that is okay I'll just spend some of the first few days working on that.  I do have a few important scenes already planned out, and with the advice that I don't have to write in chronological order finally accepted into my head I think I'll have enough stuff to dig into at first even without a completed outline.

I'm very excited about the whole thing.  I know I won't come out on December 1st with a completed publishable product.  Not even anywhere near close.  But if I complete this goal I think it will go a long way towards making me feel like I could actually make something of myself as a writer

I think the final two obstacles that I will have to deal with are going to be making myself make this a priority and not psyching myself out and worrying too much about it all being perfect.  I am hoping that foreknowledge of these issue will make them easier to conquer.  We will see.

One big favor to ask of folks that actually read this blog; and I will probably send out a Facebook message to the same effect, so apologies to anyone that gets this twice but I will probably have a lot better chance of completing this if other people help provide external pressure/motivation and feedback.  So friends and family, please please please bug and bother me about my "novel".  Ask how its coming.  Ask where my wordcount is at.  Encourage me to keep going.  Admonish me if I let things slip.  I may not react wonderfully to it; but I will appreciate it on some level.  :)

And if anyone else is doing this please let me know.  I know quite a few people that did a local challenge of this sort a few months ago; maybe some of them are participating again.  Also some other friends have expressed interest in doing this as well.  The more peer support the better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Up and Running Again

Well my computer died over a week ago; some sort of horrible affliction of the motherboard.  Had to wait until I got paid on Friday before I could begin to order stuff; but last night the parts all showed up and I'm back in the land of the living.  Still rebuilding the software and stuff but getting there.  But this puts me woefully behind on my blog post a day goal.  Oh well.  I'll do my best to continue putting out one a day from here on out and if I can I'll play a little catch up and see how it goes.  I'm just glad I have the computer working again before November; cause writing out the 50,000 words by hand was gonna suck :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Narrative Flow

Okay, I have a bit of a rant to go on concerning the lack of good narrative/plot flow in movies today. If you don't care about "hearing" me rant; tune in next time.

So, my big issue with a lot of movies and some TV shows...and possibly even some books that I have watched/read lately is that all the writers seemed to have forgotten how a proper narrative should flow. Now I'm not saying that a story has to be 100% linear; that it has to follow in a straight line or anything. I've seen plots that go from A to Z. From Z to A. From A1 to B1 to C1 to A2 to C2 to B2. From A to M then back to G then on to Q and straight through to Z. Trust me, I understand using interesting story structure and organization to enhance the storytelling. What I don't understand is the apparent trend to go from A to 7 then over to :) then randomly jump to $ then to Q and maybe take a short vacation at 384.

I just watched the third Transformers movie. I was SO confused and finally bored by this film. It seemed like there was absolutely not solid narrative flow. I was constantly like "Wait, how did they get there?" or "Why are we here?" or "What is going on?" or "How did that happen?" And trust me this was not an intellectual, subtle movie by any stretch of the imagination. At one point a bunch of characters were in a building to try and line up a rocket attack on an enemy position. Suddenly the building is under attack by bad guys. I was like "Wait, why are they attacking that building; since when are the bad guys following them or even aware of their presence?" As far as I could tell from the past few minutes of the movie the bad guys should have had no knowledge of the good guys being there and therefore should have had no reason to attack that building.

The whole movie felt like it was cutting between disjointed, poorly planned, barely connected if at all, scenes of various groups of people doing mostly unexplained actions in mostly illogical locations for mostly unfathomable reasons. My head still hurts.

I have seen this problem to a greater or lesser degree in a wide variety of media lately and it is just annoying. Another manifestation of this issue is the super quick cuts that seem to be standard fare in a lot of modern movies. Sometimes they are cutting around so quick I literally can not follow what is happening on the screen. I really wish that they would just slow things down a bit, focus more on order and structure, and realize that a random collection of scenes tossed together with duct tape and spit does not a plot make.

Anyway, rant off. TTYL.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Running a little behind on the posts; but I've got the next couple of days off so I'm going to catch up.

Well my new job has me working from 11 pm to 7 am. Hurrah for the night shift. I'm actually really enjoying it; the only problem I've encountered so far is Sundays. My Sundays are jam-packed full of stuff. Sunday School, Church, Lunch, Various Errands, Role-playing, then Work is usually the schedule for me. Going solid from 9:30 Sunday morning to 7:30 Monday morning. And that is after having worked Saturday night as well. I'm usually up from 9 pm Saturday night to 8 am Monday morning. That is one heck of a long haul.

I'm enjoying the new Sunday School class that has been formed for people my age level at my FBC over in Siloam; but having to stay up in order to go to that and church and lunch with the family is killing me. Now if I didn't go to any of those things I could come home and sleep for around 6-7 hours before heading over to Siloam for RPing. So I'm probably going to be looking for a Saturday evening church option. I enjoy the FBC crowd; but the lack of sleep on Sundays is killing me. I'll probably hit up FBC again when I get Sundays or Saturdays off in the shift rotation. That won't be until like January at least I believe.

Anyway, this is mostly just talking to myself in order to get a blog post in. Hehe.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Listening Skills

So there have been a bunch of new "initiatives" and rules and such being implemented at work. Most of it is stuff I do not have to deal with as I only work night shift thankfully. But I do still have to go to various weekly training sessions; which by the way are in the middle of the afternoon which is a very annoying time for a night shift person. But the meetings have not been bad and the extra hour of pay is always welcome. The only thing that has been annoying about the whole process are the inane questions my coworkers ask at every single meeting. I spend the entire time thinking to myself "Seriously? He just answered that" or "Oh my gosh, pay attention; that has already been covered" or, more often than I should, "Wow, that was really stupid, why are you being allowed to speak in public?"

If people would just listen then the meetings would go a lot smoother and my blood pressure would be a lot lower. But apparently the ability to hear and process auditory information from the leader of the meetings is a skill lost on the vast majority of my fellow employees. And not just them, I have noticed this in many other places and with many other people. People just need to listen, to let the information settle in, to process it, AND ONLY THEN start thinking about questions and answers, because if you do that then you probably won't have anywhere near as many questions or comments.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Creative Process

So I've been thinking about my creative process lately. How do I come up with ideas, how do I process them, how do I funnel them into creative outlets? In analyzing this process I've come to the conclusion that the majority of my creative spark starts with mental images. I get a picture or snapshot or image in my mind and then grab on to it and extrapolate it and build off of it to create something more complex and fleshed out. I sometimes also get like series of events or actions playing out in a sort of day dream type of thing, but a lot of the time my creative process starts with a "still image".

For instance, as I have been working on this new campaign world of mine I have had to build up from scratch a whole lot of content. Most of this building has been done in creative bursts following a visualization of a scene or place or person in the world. Like when I was trying to decide what the nation of Rholmstag would look like. I saw a picture of a city in a dark, ancient forest. The city itself is composed of homes and buildings built into and around enormous trees, about double the size of redwoods. The whole city is surrounded by a wall composed of these giant tree trunks, in a classic wooden palisade style. Soft electric light glows from floating globes atop the walls and arcing arcane lightnings dance between glowing blue runes in a defensive perimeter. Snow covers the ground between the trees and even more is falling heavily. Dark shapes and glowing eyes can be seen in the darkened wilderness all around the city. That is one of the main mental pictures that inspired this nation for me.

From that mental picture I extrapolated a bunch of different facts about Rholmstag:
- It is a nation of dark, ancient forests. All Grimm's fairy tales style filled with monsters and things that go bump in the night.
- The people who live here live in heavily guarded and fortified settlements and the wildness around them is on their very doorstep.
- The nation has some amount of ability to manipulate electricity, though not in a modern technological way but in a more mystical, arcane style.
- As stated in Point 1, there are big bad scary things in the night. The woods are filled with werewolves and evil fae and witches and all sorts of mythological themed creatures.
- It is a cold and forbidding place that grows a strong, formidable people.
- It snows a lot, in fact I decided there are some areas where it never stops snowing. Which led me to the idea that there is a war going on between winter fae and storm giants; and where one faction holds sway the associated inclement weather type is always present.

So I got all that from that one mental image. And then these ideas have led to more ideas and then to even more ideas, and in the end the nation of Rholmstag is turning out to be pretty dang cool and interesting. I'll probably talk more about it later because I'm sure I'll type up some entries about this campaign setting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Underused Story Themes

((Might have to be a little liberal on the "have a blog post up every day" thing, what with the working nights style schedule. I will just say that there are 31 days in October and at the end of the month I will have made 31 posts.))

I love storytelling. This should be obvious if you know me. I read, write, play and run RPGS, watch movies and TV all the time, and buy video games pretty much only for the single player story experience. A good story is one of the greatest things in life to experience. And I like all sorts of stories and themes and plots. But there are a few themes/plot elements that I do not get enough of and that I really like during the rare occasions that I do see them pop up.

First, Survival. I don't mean escaping the killer horror movie type survival. I mean out in an unforgiving wilderness with limited supplies and dangerous circumstances survival. I'm a bit of a survivalist geek, so I love this type of stuff, and I think it provides good setting and drama for storytelling. But I don't see if show up very often in stories.

Second, on a related note, is giant storms. Total "storm of the century" or "perfect storm" style weather patterns. Huge blizzards or rain storms or whatever. It could be a natural disaster, it could be unnaturally created. I think it would be cool to see more fantasy or sci-fi stories involve worlds or planets that have constant storm effects of some sort. That would make for an interesting setting. This speaks to the survivalist geek in me once again; but I also just love the concept of having to cope with and work within these massive demonstrations of the power of nature.

Third is fantasy and sci-fi crossover. Maybe with some steampunk or something else thrown in as well. My favorite campaign worlds I have designed have had elements of both fantasy and sci-fi in them. I like the idea of a world where you can have jet packs and space marines as well as elven wizards and portable holes. I think the genres could stand to be mixed more often. Don't get me wrong, I still like them separate from each other as well; but crossovers are great.

Fourth is maybe more of a trope than a theme, but boy would I love to see more stories in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres where characters act like they've read a sci-fi/fantasy/horror book. Like for instance a character in a zombie movie that upon encountering zombies is like "Oh hey, those are zombies. You destroy the brain to kill them. Don't let them bit you. Thanks 28 Days Later and World War Z." Characters in genre works that are knowledge about the tropes of the genre just seem interesting to me and I'd love to see them executed well in some stories.

Now some of these things might not work well, and that might be why they are not around as much. But I'd like the chance to sample them and discover that for myself. And hey, if you have any suggestions for stories in various mediums that have these elements in them that I should check out; please let me know in the comments either here or on the Facebook link.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


So for the past few months the majority of my RPG activity has been gamemastering or GMing. What GMing entails for those that do not know is you are the person who controls the game, runs the world, builds and unfolds the plot, brings life to the people and characters in the world, referees the rules, and generally wrangles wild dingoes.

I generally dislike GMing in comparison to playing. I much prefer to be focusing on playing my one character and building up their story than having to do all the work of building everyone's stories. But frankly there are not enough people in my RP circles that are willing or capable of GMing and so we who can do so much step up to the plate even when we don't want to. And I'm not saying I'm awesome at this, just capable enough to make it work.

There are two games I have been running on alternating Sundays; both using the Pathfinder RPG system. One is about 5-6 sessions in and it is a Kingmaker Adventure Path game with Morgan, Traci, OD, and John Little. It has been quite a bit of fun for me, and I think the other folks are enjoying it as well. They are a group of eclectic, somewhat morally ambiguous individuals who have been chartered to found a new kingdom in the wilderness of the Stolen Lands region of the River Kingdoms. They are into the second book in the AP, they are 4th level, they have built up a fairly good sized kingdom, and life is going pretty good for them.

For those to whom this will mean things here are some stats about the kingdom. Bokken is the High Priest, The Old Beldame has been changed to a Banshee spirit and is the Grand Diplomat, an anti-paladin is the Marshall, and Jhod the priest of Erastil is the Warden. They have befriended the Kobolds and have them mining both gold and silver for them. They played nice with Mongu (not sure on that name) the wandering giant and he is now hanging out at their city. They built a second city at Oleg's, used the existing structure to get a free Stable for the city; and named the city Oleg's Stable in order to piss him off. Oh and the party monk just got infected with werewolf lycanthropy. This game is hilarious.

The other game has actually just finished a second session of prep and will be staring on the first session of play this upcoming Sunday. I am super excited about this one because of two things. First, it is a world of my own creation. I have been working hard to create it and I am really happy with what I have designed so far. I will be detailing more about it on this blog at various points throughout the month and my NaNoWriMo novel attempt will be set there. Secondly, the them of the campaign is exploration and colonization, a them I don't see enough of and that I love.

I have also recently coordinated the starting of two play-by-email games, and run a short game for Magpie night. I will probably also run something at the next NWARPG Game Day if things work out. And I have a strong desire to run Mouse Guard for some folks. For someone who doesn't like GMing I'm sure doing and planning a lot of it. But it is good for me. It is expanding my horizons, building my social and writing/storytelling skills, and providing me and other folks with lots of fun and entertainment. So I'm glad I'm stepping up and doing it. Now if I could only fit in some actual playing sometime in the near future I'd be golden.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Deluge of TV Shows

So with the coming of Fall comes the premieres of a ton of TV shows, old and new. And boy do I watch a lot of them. So lets see whats going on.

Sundays - We've got the block of cartoons, Simpsons, Family Guy and Cleveland Show. All funny to varying degrees at varying times. There is also a new drama called Pan Am, that I don't know anything about but I'm considering checking out the first episode because 60s era stewardess outfits are hot. Hehe.

Mondays - We've got Castle, which I'm behind on since I haven't watched any of the new episodes. We have Terra Nova, which I have watched and I loved it so far; though they seem to be doing the shotgun plot effect here at the beginning and that is something that has the potential to fail spectacularly. Also I hear the ratings were pretty low for its first episode; so that makes me sad. I need more dinosaurs and dystopias in my life. And starting this coming Monday, House is back. Since we left off with him on some far away tropical beach it will be interesting to see where the show goes. Obviously they will get him back to the hospital and resumes formula, but that is okay because the character of House is what I watch it for anyway.
Also, Warehouse 13 is on on Mondays. I haven't watched since the first season, but I loved it back then. I should make an effort to catch up at some point.
Tuesday - Glee is the only Tuesday night show I watch. Huzzah for musical theater and a cast of "teenage" girls that are a lot more attractive than I remember any of the chicks I went to high school being.

Wednesday - Nothing yet, but new South Park starts soon.

Thursday - Thursdays give us some great comedy. My favorite comedy show, Community, is on on Thursday nights. Hilarious show, if you are not watching it then you will probably get cancer. Ya, it is that important. The Office is also on, and with out Steve Carrell I am hoping it will be much less painful to watch. And Archer was on for a few weeks; but is now stopped again until 2012. Boooo. Oh ya, Person of Interest, a new show by J.J. Abrams is on on this night as well. It is on my radar but I haven't watched it yet.

Friday - Fridays are the new home to Fringe, one of the best shows ever. I'm behind on the new episodes but working on fixing that right now in fact. Really hoping this season is good and that the Friday night slot doesn't kill it.

Saturday - Doctor Who is the only Saturday show I have ever watched; and its season finale is tonight; so sadness. I'm still 3 episodes behind on this as well; but I'll catch up soon.

So, a whole bunch of TV there to watch each week. But that's not all. There are at least 4 more shows coming out that I will be giving a shot and checking out.

Grimm - a mystery/crime drama with a Grimm's Fairy Tales/Fantasy twist.
Once Upon A Time - another fairy tale inspired show with the tales being set in modern day. I really like the idea of exploring the actual darker versions of the kid's fairy tales that they started out as. Should be very good if executed well.
Hell on Wheels - AMC Western period drama about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad
Walking Dead - More zombies please!! Especially since they seem to be going out into the countryside more. We've done the city zombie thing before.

There are also plenty of shows that I used to watch that I've basically let fall away, like Chuck and Burn Notice. I still like them; but they just weren't drawing me back over the call of these other shows and I got out of the habit of watching them. And then the back episodes piled up and etc etc etc. I'll go back and watch them at some point; probably when they hit Netflix.

So, how do I watch all this TV. Well I don't have cable TV service; so I watch all of it on the internet, through sites like Hulu and Netflix. And I don't watch it all on the day it comes out, just whenever I feel like it and have time. TV shows on MY schedule; not the networks. That is what works for me. Sadly I think I'm forfeiting my ability to positively help the rating by doing that though. Guess I can't complain too much when good shows go off the air too soon. Oh well, enjoy what you got while you got it.