I love the hell out of Harry S. Plinkett’s reviews of the Star Wars prequels. Early on in his review of Revenge Of The Sith, he feints and hooks so well. You think he is going to make the obvious “they spelled shit wrong” joke. And what he actually says had me nearly dying of laughter. Continue Reading
All posts tagged storytelling
At present, the number of folk who have read my stories is a select few. And the question I get asked most once the questions about why I am not getting them published (which is a topic I am not going to talk about for a while) are done is simple. What are the stories really about?
When I was trying to kid myself that I could succeed at a university course relating to media and such, I had the great fortune to attend lectures by one Geoff Portmann. Portmann, for the vast majority out there who do not recognise the name, has worn several different hats on a number of different productions. The most important of which, for purposes of this discussion was as a director on eight episodes of the Australian government-funded television comedy Mother And Son. What he did on this job or any of the others he has done is not really important to this topic. What is important is a piece of advice that he dispensed concerning the structure of a story. As I have mentioned previously, you introduce characters, explain what they want to accomplish before the story’s end, explain what is getting in their way, and then describe how they overcome that.
What makes every story different is how one goes about that structure. The details, if you will. And the details is where every individual artist, author, musician, or filmmaker puts their personal touch on the material. As you will expect, this is also where the influences of the artist show up.
Although I do not follow the traditional rules of structure, the first novel in the arc I have been working on is an expression of what I will call the stimuli deficit. Every person, regardless of the situation they live in, receives stimulation to all of their senses of varying kinds. One of the first things you learn when you study psychology, especially from a storytelling research point of view, is that our intellect serves our emotions, not the other way around. Hence, much of our actions are concerned with the acquisition of positive stimuli. And in order to do that, we have to defeat sources of negative stimuli in our lives. This is a major reason why there is a correlation between mental illness, child abuse, and drug abuse (among other things). Everything we do, even work or hobbies, revolves around attaining this emotional state we refer to as pleasure or happiness, or preserving it. When we work, we plan in our heads what we are going to do with the proceeds. When we are sick, we think of what we will do when we are well again. When we are told we are going to die, we think hard about making the best use of what time we might have left.
If we were to look at every case of addiction, and I mean the broadest definition of addiction possible, I believe we would find many of the same things that motivate my writing. In essence, I am talking about a deficit between the positive stimuli and negative stimuli in my life. In my case, the difference is so enormous that every time I see a mole in my skin that does not look right to me, I start hallucinating it laughing at me, praying that it turns out to be a terminal cancer, and then recoiling when I remember how excruciating death from melanoma is reputed to be. It might sound cowardly to some to wish for death so fervently. Believe me, I get that. But when your only motivation to live for another day is to see your masculine parental entity dead, you start to feel you need to reexamine your life and whether it is worth the effort to preserve.
Command And Conquer: Tiberian Sun was not exactly a great game, but it did have far superior elements compared to anything that EA Games has come up with for the series on their own. One such element is the presence of a faction comprised of mutants who have begun to physically show the effects of excessive Tiberium exposure. On the surface, such effects come in the form of crystal formations in the skin, similar to the way skin appears to bubble and twist after the prolonged presence of a skin cancer. The reason this is relevant is because these mutants collectively refer to themselves as The Forgotten. That is a good name for anyone who is autistic and was born prior to 1990. The Forgotten. And whilst it sounds “cool” in context of a videogame where society has all but disappeared in the face of an environmental disaster the like of which even the lunatics in Greenpeace cannot imagine, being one of The Forgotten in a real-world situation is about as much fun as a skin cancer removal.
Feeling scared and lonely on top of all these things is a hell I would only wish on the like of Suzanne Wright. Think about it. How would you like to have your only conversations that do not make you feel suicidal occur online or over a videogame that you pay to play, and have constant skin cancer scares? Or be told that they want to cut a gland out of your face, with the potential side effect of leaving one side of your face permanently droopy? At least my proposed solution to the curebie problem in the form of armed combat might entail a relatively quick and painless death for me. I have seen brief flashes of the final months of life for a terminal cancer patient, in this case a woman who was married to one of my masculine parental entity’s brothers. There is a reason no child in the 1980s ever said anything like “when I grow up, I want to be dying of cancer”. And the world that Australia’s who-cares attitude towards the disadvantaged or outright disabled has made entails waiting around to die. Maybe an Australian (read this word in the most sarcastic, Ironside-like voice you can possibly imagine) thinks this an acceptable situation. As a man who believes a society should be judged by the manner in which it treats those who are not succeeding by conventional standards, I cannot think that way about it.
Is it all horror and terror? Well, no. Sometimes, when one looks back over their life and thinks about what it means, one thinks of the people who have inspired or moved them throughout their life. I have already mentioned many of the ones who did this indirectly through their work in the media. People like Paul Verhoeven or Michael Ironside, to name the best examples. But every once in a while, you meet people in person who also make you wonder if it is really possible to be something better. I wrote in a much earlier entry about neighbours I had with the family name Spencer. On the same token, if a gentleman by the name of Shane Curl who was working as a music teacher out of the Windsor area (what used to be the extreme edge of Western Sydney in some accounts) during the 1990s is out there reading this, I would welcome his contacting me, too.
I mentioned balance in my title for this post. Presently, lately, what I am vicariously balancing the woe with is my writing. It is a poor substitute, but it beats the hell out of having nothing at all. Which brings me to a question. If anyone who is reading this crap (I know there must be some of you out there) wish me to post anything I have written here, please leave commentary to that effect. I will see what I can do about it. For now, if you have gotten through this rambling, thanks for reading.
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After writing so much about the process of writing, I thought it was time to take a look at things I am really saying with some of the things that I write. As anyone who has written a publishable story knows, there are multiple kinds of scene with which to populate your story, but each scene reflects something of its creator. So let us explore a couple of scenes involving my most direct proxy, the Mage-General known to most as Kronisk. Kronisk is, with some differences that I will highlight, more or less physically the same as his creator. Kronisk is about five feet and eight inches (with change), and weighs enough to resemble a slightly more in-shape John Belushi (if you do not know who he was, and since 1982 will always be, then piss off). But there are some germane points to understand about the character for the purposes of this discussion. Like the Halfling Mage known as Linula, Kronisk was abused as a child. Whilst the sexual extent of the abuse differs, the overall effect is much the same.
So when Kronisk uses a power against one suspect in the conspiracy and murder that drives the plot of the third novel, well, let us go into the effects that it has. The power causes the victim to start screaming and clawing at his own skin. My writing of this scene makes no secret of the fact that the victim in this case feels like worms of filth are crawling through his skin, just beneath what medical experts refer to as the subcutaneous tissue. (For those who do not know, the subcutaneous layer is the layer just beneath the surface of the skin. People with diabetes put needles into this layer regularly.) The eventual result, which even makes the people who hate the victim most for his deeds, is that the victim starts clawing his own skin off with nothing but his fingernails. Being powerful enough to control how other Mages use their power entails being so powerful that one almost becomes a force of nature.
But as in all writings, one must come up with a credible explanation of what a character does. As the story in question is also attempting to explain how Linula reacts to elements within her place of birth taking exception to her being overtly sexual and unafraid to blow the whistle on abusers, only subtle hints are necessary. But this is a stage in the story I have not quite reached yet, as my fiction writing has once again come to a standstill (it is hard to keep motivated at doing something with no real hope of reward, especially when one is ill very frequently).
But this goes right to the heart of what motivates my writing. A quote that drives the story in question comes from the Sigh song Shingontachikawa. To quote the song, “the hidden power my lust evokes, known in ancient rhyme / turning sexual energy into the power to kill”. Twelve to fifteen years from now, my little sister is probably going to read this and freak out a bit, but it has to be said. The societies in the Allied Realms, especially the Dwarvish and Human ones, have a way of paying attention to the fact that childhood is temporary, but trauma is forever. And the more you attempt to extend one in many cases, the more of the other you will cause. Every word you see written here, or anywhere in my journal, has resulted from the fact that a person who thought they were doing the right thing, or somehow being nice to me, was trying to keep me a child for another day. Although perspectives and levels of information have changed drastically, the truth is that my mind’s contents have not changed a great deal since I was nearly ten years old. What has changed since then, and I am sure anyone who has been autistic for thirty years or more will get what I mean here, is my understanding of those contents.
When an author writes about an absolute loser of a woman being in an abusive relationship where her chastity and general lack of any character other than passivity are held up as virtues, I get sore. When I am told that I am supposed to idolise people that have the same emotional and social responses as eight year olds when they are chronologically eighteen years old, I get sore. When I am told that a television show in which fourteen year olds act exactly the same as four year olds whilst a moron in a suit tells them that they are not good unless they have good feelings, I want to smash my television set in. If you are going to sit and tell me that the stories, shows, or other material that I am referencing here are actually good for their specified target audiences, then if I ever do manage to make the jump to writing or… whatever… professionally, you are the kind of audience I most emphatically do not want.
This, in a nutshell, is why there are no scenes in any of my stories in which children are mentioned, unless they are dealing with a very serious emotional-development issue. Or helping with a plot point that cannot be advanced in any other manner. I am not going to infantalise any audience that I have, and I am deadly sick of others trying to do the same with me.
This is also why, in every novel I have written to date, there is at least one scene in which characters engage in sexual acts. I do not give a fukk about what you have been told. With the manner in which Humans change at a point roughly around their twelfth birthday, the idea that they will reach the age of forty without having engaged in at least some kind of sexual act with another person is not normal. It may happen for various reasons, such as differences in neurological structure (a Google search for “autistic” and “asexual”, for example, can reveal a lot), but the only reason nature would ever see a need to bring about asexuality in a mortal creature designed with its intellect subservient to its emotions is a little thing called overpopulation. A subject I have meandered about enough times to not go into here. One has to ask, how fukked up is our world now that something that nature deliberately designed to bring us enough pleasure and happiness that it can even right severe psychological wrongs is the subject of so much fear, hate, and anger?
That, in a nutshell, is why every novel set in an idealised fantasy world should, where possible, include scenes in which two or more of the characters have sex. If I have convinced anyone reading this of that value, then I am glad to have written this. If not, go to hell. In any event, I thank you all again for reading this far.
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One challenge that all fantasy authors face when they decide to write characters that belong to a different race or species than the stock-standard Human is how to keep track of the relative abilities and shortcomings of the different races. The disadvantage of writing designs for each race in one’s stories is that it involves a lot of homework and researching things about how other authors have written characters of similar or even identical racial traits. And if your characters are anything like the characters in my stories, one also has to figure out how one is going to depict how being born of parents from two different races is going to affect the resultant child. So the question to ask oneself first is how are the peoples of different stock-standard races designed, and why? Why, as a question, is an author’s best friend. When an author is struggling to come up with material, asking why Trór Gravewater should be noticeably taller and heavier than other Dwarrow can give them a few thousand words to divert into whilst thinking over the story’s next move.
In that spirit, I will show you a rough translation of all the notes I have in my collection about the different races of Kali-Yuga and how they differ. Differ both in function and abilities. Take note that these are only guide notes and not game design notes. None of the rules given here should be taken as absolute, especially since one of the spices of writing longform fiction is to turn characters into individuals.
The first race of Kali-Yuga we shall concern ourselves with in this writing is the Humans. Continue Reading
Last year, a few days before the holiday I love to refer to as MoneyMas, I finally had the chance to partake in a film that I had been wanting to see for pretty much the entirety of the year. Unlike a lot of slick, A-grade productions, Hobo With A Shotgun makes no promises, false or otherwise, about what it contains. It is about a hobo who, upon finding himself in a town so corrupt that the National Guard should be there en masse, buys a shotgun and goes about killing every example of corruption and injustice he can find.
Let me put it this way. You know a film is a keeper when, less than ten minutes in, a man’s head is severed and creates a geyser of blood in which a woman wearing a bikini and a fur coat decides to start writhing around. Yes, it is that kind of film. Continue Reading
Before I say anything else, I just want to be clear about the fact that media of all kinds, whether it be written, audio-visual, visual, or audio, pretty much defines my whole view of life. If you have read previous posts, you know that how I define my view of myself tends to involve drawing comparisons to fictional characters, especially the way that they are represented in television or film. As I like to talk about the small fraction of good things in my experiences and consciousness, it is therefore worth taking a moment to talk about the New York-based vocalist who goes by the name of Julie Christmas.
A couple of years ago, Julie released a solo album called The Bad Wife. The cover art for which you see in the picture attached to this entry. At first, this was being thought of by some segments of the press as a stop-gap to tide us over before the next Made Out Of Babies album. Hopefully now it will be the first of many powerful solo albums.
In storytelling, writers who wish to give advice to others who want to break into the market will often tell people things reflective of their own writing style. One thing that tends to be true is that one should get their reader’s attention as thoroughly as possible, and as quickly as possible. But my corollary to that advice is that one should never let out their strongest salvo at the very beginning. In that sense, both storytelling and musical performances are like a fight. A fight consists of numerous stages, just like a story or a piece of music. You never open with your strongest attack because your opponent will be at his strongest at the beginning of the fight, and thus more easily able to absorb it.
When I was young, several different sources, for different purposes, likened the English language to parts of different engineered items. Motorcycles, houses, and the sort. Words were bricks, with phrases and letters being like mortar and combinations thereof. Forgive me, it has been a long time since I heard the original explanations. Thing is, just as a house can only be as strong as the bricks that are used to construct it (and the other bits and pieces used in other stages of the process, let us not forget), your communication is only as strong as its components, too.