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sunandshadow

Your current or recent writing projects?

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I'm curious what our various forum members are interested in writing, and why that subject or project interested them. Doesn't have to be game related. I mainly had fiction in mind, but other things could be interesting too. Tell us a bit about what you are writing/have written/want to write and why. Also, anyone planning to do NaNoWriMo? It's starting in less than a month.

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Sadly the games projects I have worked on so far have had little need for a writer of any kind so I have tended to do other things such as designing mechanics and levels, which I'll admit I love doing as well.

Writing wise I tend suffer from the inability (or drive) to really commit to any personal projects fully. Well saying that over the past X number of years I have developed worlds (often stemming from game concepts themselves) for games or stories to be set but the individual projects tend to get to the notes/draft stage and then something inevitably crops up which stops me going further. The projects vary greatly from back-stories/lore to works in the style of X or pieces of dialog between characters. It mostly comes down to just creating worlds or universes which I suspect is the reason I have always enjoyed level design.

I have done a reasonable amount of work on the academic side of game design with, when possible, a focus on stories within games and how they are told. The few times I have been able to dedicate any amount of time to such projects have been in the cases on MMORPGs. Again it think it comes back to the fact MMORPGs are different from other game genres since they generally involve making a whole world and emerging a player in said world. I also find the challenges a writer or design faces in such a game interesting as well.

For the past couple of years I have thought about entering NaNoWriMo, since I tend to need some form of outside interference to get me to sit down and write anything worth a damn. Never really had the time to put any effort into it though but with any luck this year I'll at least be able to give it a go.

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I'll just go ahead and dump everything, with samples, since maybe someone needs to go first and I have no shame as a n00b.

[b]Into the Woods[/b]

I have a novel project I started in the winter with the working title "Into the Woods". I wrote up a first draft, then put it down for a bit. I am currently re-reading this first draft. I am currently rereading it and it's kinda "what the fuck is this?"


[b]Spell Tanks[/b]

After that I wrote a dramatically shorter story for a game. [url="http://www.cultmonkey.com/images/SpellTanks.m4v"]Here's a video screenshot.[/url] The end of that clip has my favorite part.

There's two cities fighting over how to deal with incoming aliens. The people of Portville build landing pad with a golden statue of a human prostrating and an alien standing on his back, a banner that says "Welcome! (heart) We surrender!" and a drink stand. The enemy, Mr. Gavin Wentworth, wants to mine the landing site with nukes.

Wentworth and his army of robots come to invade and take over the landing site so Portville uses a time machine they found to call Frank Hank, a rocker \ war hero from the 1970s, to the future. (Portville is a city-state in post-federal America.)

Frank Hank then has to lead them to protect the landing pad (by winning) and teach everyone a lesson about fearing the unknown. And it's all under 1500 words.

I pulled this thing out of my rear in three months and used it as my resume. 17,000 lines of C++ & OpenGL, excluding three tools I wrote for it. I now have a job making games.

[b]Zenmaster[/b]
[b]
[/b]
Long story short, I'm making a fighting game for phones. I was asked for a "story". At first I balked and said it wasn't appropriate but decided to just roll with it. I wrote a script of several cut scenes between fights ([i]if[/i] you click on "story mode"). It will be voiced.

There's a guy (Fred) at this haunted temple trying to meditate to reach enlightenment, but he's harassed by the ghost of a 19th century Frenchman (Jacques) who tried to do the same thing there and insists on sharing his winning advice, like how you should never give up and it's a good idea to cut off your hands.

He then meets other ghosts who were killed by Jacques and want Fred to leave before he's corrupted by the temple's evil power. As it turns out, Jacques was an evil tyrant wizard when he was alive.

There's a Gurkha, a Shiva statue, a guy named AwesoMoses who's inspired by Thomas Aquinas, and some other nonsense.

I don't like it. It's all fighty. I decided after writing this that violence doesn't have enough resonance with me anymore.

[b]Multistories[/b]

[url="http://www.cultmonkey.com/images/multistory1.pdf"]This[/url] and [url="http://www.cultmonkey.com/images/multistory2.pdf"]this[/url] I wrote with friends by typing over each other in Google Docs. After we closed them, I would go back and do a light editing pass.

#2 however won't work for anyone not immersed in Anglo-American culture.

[b]Tentative - Cultmonkey[/b]


I wrote this as a comic a while back and decided I didn't have the time & energy to make a webcomic. I am strongly considering rewriting and finishing it as my next novel project.

[b]Tentative - Into the Dark[/b]

I am considering continuing this to write a sequel. I'm probably going to stew over it for several months before I start seriously "bending metal" but some bits came to me and there's 2k words of it so far.

[b]What do I like?[/b]

Consciously, I love [i]constraints[/i]. I dislike "magic wands" like FTL because I think they dodge problems and problems can make things interesting.

I also noticed recently that I wind up slipping ghosts into [i]everything[/i]. Sometimes up front and sometimes in the background. I'm not sure what to make of that habit. *shrug*

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A typical fantasy setting with magic and stuff like that. Naturally you start of as a relatively normal person, turning out to be not so normal. Original isn't it?
It's widely used, and I hate to admit it, but I'm usually drawn to such stories even though the implementation is quite bad.
Doesn't need to be a good guy though. The most important part is that you go from someone normal to someone powerful.


I did some writing on a rpg idea. Naturally I don't have the means to see that through.
The setting is about "special people". There are three original types. Vampires (heavily altered), shapeshifters, and magicians.
The superhuman powers are genetically inheritable, but it's still uncommon for the genes to take effect, and rarely when you're still a child.
I call them [i]the mighty ones[/i] (you may mock the name).
The mighty ones have a history of being hunted and unwanted. The setting is in a coastal region called Dor Lenn. It is part of a larger map, but completely cut of by mountain chains. 500 years ago the first settlers arrived. They were mighty ones, looking for lands they could be in peace. Centuries later the population is much larger, with the majority of them being completely normal. A series of crime by some of
the mighty ones, leads to fear and hatred. History repeats itself.
The mighty ones go underground and conduct lots of terror attacks, killing many civilians. They are largely succesful and despair grows
amongst the populace. A powerful magician called Vraduur comes to Dor Lenn (a century ago). Vraduur had five followers. All six of them
have dark elf like features, and they are tall, very strong, very agile and age 2-3 times slower than humans. They are former humans
with altered metabolism. Vraduur is the creator of these [i]elves[/i], and it is his greatest accomplishement as a magician.
Vraduur offers the people in Dor Lenn to hunt down the mighty ones. A year later he and his followers have killed 23 mighty ones.
Vraduur is almost killed and the only survivor as some of the mighy ones leads him to a trap. Vraduur recruits people in Dor Lenn,
and builds an army of elves. Vraduur strikes back, and the mighty ones go in hiding.
The game starts a century after Vraduur came to Dor Lenn. He is now king and has an army of 200 elves.

That's a short version of the setting. Naturally you start of as a more or less regular guy, who will discover he's either a mage, a shapeshifter or a vampire. He may also become an elf which overrides a possible change into a mighy one
(this is also why elves are largely tolerated, becasue those might have turned into mighty ones which are considered more dangerous).

If I were to make alterations I'd probably remove vampires, and definitely change some names.

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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1317926642' post='4869858']
Well saying that over the past X number of years I have developed worlds (often stemming from game concepts themselves) for games or stories to be set but the individual projects tend to get to the notes/draft stage and then something inevitably crops up which stops me going further.[/quote]
What sort of something? Just curious. For me I repeatedly stumble at the step of coming up with plot events. This problem has been the main driving force behind my research into various theories of fiction.
[quote]For the past couple of years I have thought about entering NaNoWriMo, since I tend to need some form of outside interference to get me to sit down and write anything worth a damn. Never really had the time to put any effort into it though but with any luck this year I'll at least be able to give it a go.[/quote]
Good luck! :) I attempted it twice, and while I can't keep up with the official pace I did get some stuff written which I'm pleased to look back on. Some people particularly enjoy the local groups that meet in a coffee shop or something to write together. I like the forums, when they aren't slow as molasses.

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@JoeCooper - Ghosts, hmm, they are pretty symbolic, maybe they get at some theme you want to write about.

So, I take it's you're a 'pantser', not a plotter? A pantser being someone who writes "by the seat of their pants". (If you commented on this in the thread a few months ago where someone asked about outlining, I apologize, I've forgotten.) Both ways seem to work for different people and result in publishable novels. Some questions of general curiosity - how do you decide what to write when you sit down to write? Do you write on any sort of schedule or quota, or just when the mood grabs you?

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[quote name='ImmoralAtheist' timestamp='1317938474' post='4869906']
A typical fantasy setting with magic and stuff like that. Naturally you start of as a relatively normal person, turning out to be not so normal. Original isn't it?
It's widely used, and I hate to admit it, but I'm usually drawn to such stories even though the implementation is quite bad.
Doesn't need to be a good guy though. The most important part is that you go from someone normal to someone powerful.[/quote]
So, the classic hero monomyth, or equally classic bildungsroman? There's a bit of overlap between the two. The monomyth puts the emphasis on destiny and moving from the mundane world to the supernatural one, while the bildungsroman puts the emphasis on the character getting older, richer, more powerful both magically and politically, often finding a mate and a respected or infamous place in society. Have you done any reading about the history or symbolism of either of these? I could recommend something if you are interested.

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[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1317958612' post='4869970']
So, the classic hero monomyth, or equally classic bildungsroman? There's a bit of overlap between the two. The monomyth puts the emphasis on destiny and moving from the mundane world to the supernatural one, while the bildungsroman puts the emphasis on the character getting older, richer, more powerful both magically and politically, often finding a mate and a respected or infamous place in society. Have you done any reading about the history or symbolism of either of these? I could recommend something if you are interested.
[/quote]

I meant it quite generally. Both are representative to what I meant. It seems almost all rpg games have this in some form.
The character in the world I described would already be in the "supernatural" world, so it's not like he's moving from a mundane to a supernatural world.
On the other hand, this is how the player might feel it's like. Bildungsroman as you described it sounds like a very long story. It is what could have happened
in possible sequels. I'm not completely certain what does terms include, but many stories do seems to start with moving from a mundane world to a supernatural world,
and then later ends up in something closer to the bildungsroman. The terms sounds a bit to narrow.

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[quote][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]Some questions of general curiosity - how do you decide what to write when you sit down to write? Do you write on any sort of schedule or quota, or just when the mood grabs you?[/quote][/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]I like the word pantser. [/size][/color][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]Let's say semi-pantser. I pre-think things a lot and have a loose idea where I'm going (usually) but have a rule against plot-point outlines (or at least strict adherence against them) and my tactic for writer's block is "write something else". Generally I try to set up [i]scenarios[/i] then have characters handle them in a natural manner.[/size][/color]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]I've written for three small games now - I forgot to mention one - and in all cases I had a game design & use-case based outline. e.g.[/color][/size]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]Alfodr - Here I was asked to write short stories for what happens to a player character when he performs certain crimes and their results, and also a setting intro. I decided that since I hate lore dumps, I'd write a short "establishing shot" as an intro and do the rest of the entire work as a character study of the setting with each short (one-paragraph mini-story) working to characterize this setting.[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"][url="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qDGQGsHiWNxlJlJGu9Whvsz8j3WPWrIjhfdlFYe-cUs/edit?hl=en_US"]Might as well post that too.[/url] Looking on these over a year later, they strike me as unparsimonious but I'm very happy with the "forging famous artwork" crime and the aluminum barons.
[/size][/color]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Spell Tanks - The first stage must introduce the enemy and these units, must include artillery capture, the second stage must introduce this second character (and tank), stage five must introduce the satellite, etc.[/color][/size]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Zenmaster - We decided that the villain should be introduced first and every subsequent scene should involve meeting someone who in some way helps establish the villain. There was an additional 1-minute-max specification. This required a fair bit more outlining ahead of time but works.[/color][/size]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"][i]From there[/i], I try to go f-ing nuts. In the last level of Spell Tanks if you go to the woods, Big Foot shows up and talks to Frank Hank briefly about how they met "back in 'nam" and joins the fight.[/color][/size]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]The novel project was similar. The spec was that I had to write a whole thing and execute a whole formal process, and I am 2/5 through doing this (though I have a complete first draft). The outline was basically the ol' Setting-Problem-Solution cycle I got from kindergarten, with a shorter SPS cycle embedded as the first S because lore-dumps grate on me.[/color][/size]

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Supernatural world doesn't have to mean literally going somewhere, it can also mean finding out one has a special power or a prophecy or something like that. Basically if something about the character becomes supernatural that effectively makes the character's world supernatural, or more so than it already was. Bildungsroman does not have to be a long story, although it can be. The key point is that it is a story of a character going from a very low status to a high one, and there is some sort of maturing or learning process involved so an instant change like winning the lottery would not count (unless it was followed up by learning how to deal with having money). The two terms predate videogames entirely, so it's not surprising if they aren't a perfect fit. The importance of the terms is that if you know what term people have historically used to discuss something you can then look up and read their discussions if you want.

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[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1317957568' post='4869965']
[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1317926642' post='4869858']
Well saying that over the past X number of years I have developed worlds (often stemming from game concepts themselves) for games or stories to be set but the individual projects tend to get to the notes/draft stage and then something inevitably crops up which stops me going further.[/quote]
What sort of something? Just curious. For me I repeatedly stumble at the step of coming up with plot events. This problem has been the main driving force behind my research into various theories of fiction.
[quote]For the past couple of years I have thought about entering NaNoWriMo, since I tend to need some form of outside interference to get me to sit down and write anything worth a damn. Never really had the time to put any effort into it though but with any luck this year I'll at least be able to give it a go.[/quote]
Good luck! :) I attempted it twice, and while I can't keep up with the official pace I did get some stuff written which I'm pleased to look back on. Some people particularly enjoy the local groups that meet in a coffee shop or something to write together. I like the forums, when they aren't slow as molasses.
[/quote]

Well for the past few years I have been a student so I would think up a few ideas start to work on them and BAM crunch time comes. It's not that university projects have taken up a lot of time come the crunch period and thus stopped me being able to do anything else. If I am having to concentrate heavily on something else (like a project) my creativity just dissipates after a while. Generally I can sit for hours thinking up whole stories in my head and jotting down what I think is relevant but there comes a time when I literally can't do it. I guess it's simply the infamous writers block rearing its head but it does mean that I often don't get past the drafting stage of any personal projects. It probably isn't a coincidence either that I hit these blocks when I'm trying to expand upon a specific story or idea, e.g. adding the next stage of a characters journey onto a story.

Thanks. I doubt I will be able to hit the 50,000 word count but I am hoping I will get something out of it. :D

I may be late to the party (my other experiences with such software was years and years ago when quite frankly they never seemed to work) but I have started (about a week ago) using the software package "Dragon Naturally Speaking" as a way to get the bare bones of something down fast and easily. I wouldn't personally use it for anything more than notes and drafts of work since although accurate it still can't compare to writing something down. But it's nice to be able to sit back in a chair and waffle away ideas at the screen :rolleyes:.




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For me, writing is a thinking tool, a mean to solve problems. I tried writing fiction, but I get too absorbed in the imagination. In general I don't like losing the alertness I have when I am not tied up trying to complete something. The staple writing I do is a diary that I disclose to my family. In the diary (which I don't write daily), I identify present issues, analyze them, and solve them. When used this way, writing is a mean for me to know my true self. Writing fiction seems like a roundabout way of doing it. The following is the trend of my writing.


[b]The Eye of Storm (2000)
[/b]This is a tragedy about an damaged cyborg nurse and an innocent biometal wyvern stuck in an inertial stalemate between two ultimate weapons leading to the end of the world. The story shows a condition where due to the greed and ambition of some people in power, the world was driven beyond the point of no return. There is no solution. The tipping point had already happened before the story begin. In the hopeless world, the only pocket of genuine happiness exists for the nurse and a newly hatched wyvern she found from a wreckage. The scene that I like the most in the story was when the main character got past their emotional knots and came to a wheat field. They saw an automated harvester coexisting peacefully with some birds flying above it. At that point, the wyvern saw something flying for the first time and learned how to fly. It brought the nurse with it and they flew. This was their happiest moment, but by doing so, the wyvern was detected by satellites and the military soon came to retrieve it. The story was told through the perspective of the pilot that came with the wreckage. The pilot planned to betray the nurse to bring the wyvern back at first but changed her mind as the story continued, but by the time she wanted to help it was too late.


[b]Albatross the Flying Caesar (2007)
[/b]This is a life story about a huge hovercraft that was created to look after the deserted Earth in solitude that spends its last years and every remaining piece of its body rebuilding Earth so that humankind could return to Earth. The story is told through its crew with various backgrounds each with their personal struggles and aspirations. The scene that I like the most is about the recovery of a crew member who disliked the mission in the beginning. She got critically injured during a monumental struggle against nature when she had just lost the love from the girl she cared the most. During that struggle, she had lost all hope for her own future, but she continued because she knew that even she won't be there, the others would be, and it wouldn't matter if she was understood. After she fell and crashed along with her old patrol partner, she wanted to know that the world was okay, and that her struggle was not meaningless, but the circumstance didn't give her that assurance. The moment before she closed her eyes, she could only see her old partner, who was equally broken, telling her to hang in there just a bit longer. After a prolonged elusive dream about her facing her past and her fears, she woke up in a sick bed surrounded by cards and gifts that the fellow crew, the girl she loved, and that girl's classmates sent her. The door busted open and two of the loudest members of the crew rushed in to announce the news that she woke up. The scene that is stuck to me happens when she had recovered enough to put on her new wings to fly down a waterfall, looking over the lush area near the waterfall that was restored.


[b]Ditch! (2009)[/b]
This is a light series about a witch that can go into people's minds to untie the knots of their inner selves. The story is told through a guy who knows her. The scene I like the most is their lying on a crop circle on a wheat field, detached from the daily world, yet on solving problems that bother people in their daily lives. I like this because there is no obligation to write anything long or anything with a plot. I feel free doing this.

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@Wai Actually in that [u]Woman's Book of Creativity[/u] I was just reading there was a case study of an artist who was telling a therapist that the source of her 'artist's block' was that she did not want the disruption of her life that was caused every time she started a new painting. She decided she wanted to accept the disruption and be at piece with it so she could paint more, but I think the other decision is reasonable too, like someone who quit online games because when they played them they couldn't think about anything else. I sometimes feel this way about any project which requires me to make a long-term commitment of time and effort; it often seems like a great idea before I start, but a week or two in I am feeling irritated by the disruption of my life. My own projects don't hold my attention like that though, I may spend all my spare time on it for two days but after that I've usually used up my burst of interest and set it aside for later.

It's true fiction is a roundabout and inefficient way of exploring issues and oneself. Still, that's what I like it for. Fiction always interested me more than journaling because my own life and thoughts about it mainly bore me; what catches my interest about a story idea is the escapism and wish-fulfillment that accompany the exploration of themes and identity. I've heard many people say they find writing a journal or diary very therapeutic or mind-clearing. Writers are more likely to describe writing fiction as amusing or exciting. So I guess it just depends what one wants out of writing.

It's interesting that your past work has a motif of metal life forms running through it. Does that have a symbolism for you? Something you are moving away from with Ditch! or just a coincidence? I have been thinking about theme this week because there was a thread about it over on absolute write, but it was not a satisfying thread because it was just everyone listing their own themes or discussing what theme is/whether it's important or good to intentionally put into writing. I would have liked to discuss specific themes but no one seemed interested. Also I got an amusing set of astrology-based fortune telling cards to play with, I often enjoy analyzing the themes underlying a set of cards or any system of generating messages.

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[font="Arial"] [b]A brief history of sunandshadow's life[/b]:
I guess I'll talk about me and my writing now. Some of the forum members who have been around a while are probably already familiar with some of this. I started writing fiction seriously when I was 13 or 14, because this was the first time someone gave me the idea that I could be one of those writers whose books I was always reading, and that writing was not very different from the usual way I made up stories and acted them out with my toy horses, or outdoors playing pretend with other children. There has always been a strong thread of romance through my writing (I can only think of one piece I've ever written where the main character was neither in a relationship nor looking for one), but it took me a while to decide that romance, especially anything labeled and marketed as an official romance novel, wasn't shallow sappy fluff inferior to "meaty" fiction like psychodrama and political struggles. Social programming I had to unlearn, I guess. I didn't start reading actual romance novels until I was almost done with college, and then I mainly did so because I was running out of science fiction and fantasy novels I wanted to read. Similarly I didn't recognize games could be a serious medium for writing until my freshman year of college when I played Final Fantasy 7. If it weren't for that game I might not be the moderator of this forum, lol.

Anyway, I majored in English with a primary interest in literary theory and criticism, especially structuralism and myth analysis. Over the years I started many novel-length projects but never finished any of them. I have at least finished some long-ish short stories, but the novel has always been the format I like best because it's got enough room to create a world and several characters and deeply explore a theme. I've wandered back and forth between original fiction and fanfiction, though I decided a few years ago to not write any more fanfiction. I've been a member of three different writing circles and learned a lot from that but decided that ultimately it wasn't what I wanted to spend my time on. I wrote part of a how-to/textbook on fiction theory, but by now I feel like I've pretty much learned all I can about that subject, and it's not very interesting to write about when I'm not studying it nor teaching it. Overall I feel kind of alienated by the fact that my viewpoint seems to have become regarded as unfashionable and it's not what anyone's clamoring for more of.
[b]
Recent projects:[/b]
Ok, fast forward to about three years ago. The subject in fiction theory that I've been interested for the longest, because I have the most difficulty with it, is plot. I've tried various angles from which to attack this problem. The thing I decided to do three years ago was write a short synopsis of every story idea I had. In such a short format it's easy to look at the basic plot structure of a story and try to fix it if it has a problem. So that's what I did, tried to figure out what plot structures my ideas typically have and tried to complete any that were missing pieces. Then, taking vague inspiration from the Snowflake Method, I worked on expanding some of these synopses to a more detailed level of plot. I found that not only was this helping me learn about plot, I flat-out enjoyed writing synopses more than writing actual fiction. I'm not sure whether I'll ultimately be able to do anything constructive with this or not, but I've been trying to just go with the flow. It might be the same kind of thing as those people who like to do just worldbuilding; there have been a few examples of worldbuilding books published as coffee-table books or faux encyclopedias or faux records of an archeological expedition or something like that. Writing a bunch of synopses might eventually feed back into the creation of a fiction theory textbook, or people keep telling me I should create my own Dramatica-like system or deck of symbolic brainstorming cards.

[b]Themes:[/b]
I mentioned in my reply to Wai that I have been thinking about themes this week. Looking over all my past writing, these were the themes I identified, some of them showing up in multiple story concepts. As a personal exercise I was trying to phrase them in proper thematic statement format according to Lajos Egri (X leads to Y, phrased in a negative way because this expresses the conflict of the story). But since my stories are usually rather positive and low-conflict the actual "moral of the story" tends to be the more positive version I've labeled "flipside". Some stuff I couldn't figure out how to reframe in Mr. Egri's format so I left it the way I naturally think about it.

Theme: Blind loyalty to the past leads to infertility both mental and physical.
Flipside: Openness to new things leads to fertility.
Also: Excessively protecting something stunts that thing; allowing freedom in moderation to something nurtures that thing.

Theme: Excessive concern with morality and reputation destroys families.
Flipside: Willingness to disregard morality and reputation leads to healing/creating families.
Also: "Officially good" people can do great evil and "officially bad" people suffer mistreatment yet may quietly do a lot of good.
Also: A group of misfits can combine their diverse abilities to do something awesome. (This is such a widespread theme in anime, and it's in the trope wiki as "By your powers combined, I am captain planet!")

"What they don't know doesn't hurt them." and the morality of keeping secrets from different angles. (I mentioned this int he entries and voting thread.)
Theme version one: Braving fear of pain leads to earning a valuable prize.
Theme version two: Excessive selflessness increases overall suffering.
Flipside of version two: A healthy moderate amount of selfishness leads to happiness for everyone.
Also: A person has a right to children and should not let others infringe on that right. A relationship which starts to interfere with being true to oneself is a relationship which needs to be ended even if this is sad and painful.

Theme: Even in the context of love or friendship, one person's criticizing judgments or desirous expectations can lead to destruction of the other's inner self.
Flipside: Brave willingness to give up something loved and familiar can lead to healing the self.
Also: Real love is loving someone unconditionally for who they are. A love that is conditional on someone changing is false love.

When other people behave badly, causing harm to others, they not only give up their right to be treated civilly but put an obligation on any able person (even a pacifist or person who doesn't want to get involved) to use any available means (even forceful or manipulative means) to make the people stop harming others.Theme: Doing harm impels any available force to neutralize those doing harm." [/font]

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The Final Fantasy games (well two of them anyway) also heavily influenced me. FF7 made me realise how much I enjoyed romance and how a game could get me so heavily invested in the relationship between characters. Looking back I got into that games story more than any other before or since. It also made me realise how a game's story is just as serious and effective a medium for storytelling as any other. I had played some story based games before (like beneath a steel sky) but none of them captured my imagination than FF7.

FF8 was the other game which really caught my attention. There was something about the Seifer Almasy character that really caught my attention. Since then similar plots of a character "falling to the darkside" have become a weakness for me. I have found myself liking a story simply because of said element even though the rest of it was close to awful.

The funny thing is that although both these themes are by far my favourite when it comes to reading, watching or playing whenever I have tried to write them myself they never seem to work out.
[quote]Overall I feel kind of alienated by the fact that my viewpoint seems to have become regarded as unfashionable and it's not what anyone's clamoring for more of.[/quote]


What viewpoint is that? Sorry if you said in the previous post but I couldn't figure it out :unsure:.




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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318079986' post='4870484']
What viewpoint is that? Sorry if you said in the previous post but I couldn't figure it out :unsure:.
[/quote]

Oh sorry. I meant both my structuralist viewpoint on writing theory and my preference for happy 80s-style science fiction and fantasy; I often go to the book store and come out empty handed because no one's publishing what I want to read.

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[quote][color=#1C2837][size=2]because no one's publishing what I want to read[/quote][/size][/color]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]What would you like to read?[/size][/color]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]I realized my last post didn't answer either question and I've been silent today; I'd post more but I've been occupied with the baby all day and quite a bit with work. I am reading the forum though.[/size][/color]

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[b]Metal as a symbol of weapons
[/b]
[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1318058166' post='4870406']
It's interesting that your past work has a motif of metal life forms running through it. Does that have a symbolism for you? Something you are moving away from with Ditch! or just a coincidence? I have been thinking about theme this week because there was a thread about it over on absolute write, but it was not a satisfying thread because it was just everyone listing their own themes or discussing what theme is/whether it's important or good to intentionally put into writing. I would have liked to discuss specific themes but no one seemed interested.[/quote]

Metal is an element associated with weapons. The symbolism comes from evolution of technology. People didn't advance from stone age to bronze age to iron age just because metals are interesting. It happened because people wanted an advantage when they kill one another. A metal life form symbolizes a person that was designed/trained for wars (i.e. a soldier). In Eye of Storm (2000), the wyvern is metallic because it is created as a weapon. In Albatross (2007), the hovercraft (Albatross) is a descendant of aircraft carriers, but it was not designed for war fighting. n the story, the Albatross is not compared to metallic boats, but to sail boats because it has a much closer relation to the natural world, making it more organic that its ancestors. As the misfit in its lineage, the Albatross transcends the momentum of conflicts on one hand and rebuilds lost lives on the other. In the story, the Albatross itself is not sentient, it is only "alive" because it carries the spirit of its crew and its designers.

The metal motif is already half gone during Albatross and definitely gone after it. What remains after Albatross is the symbols of the wing and of sails (canvas). The wing symbolizes freedom. The sails symbolize an intentional effort to be in harmony with nature.

[b]Eye of Storm (2000)[/b]
Metal, Wing, Field,

[b]Albatross (2007)[/b]
Sails, Wing, Metal,

[b]Ditch! (2009)[/b]
Field, Wing, Sails

By the time I do Ditch! (2009), these symbols have shrunk. The wing only appears when the Author needs to look for Skyle, and canvas and sails are only hinted on Skyle's clothing. The intentional search for freedom led me to the wheat field. To me, the wheat field represents the problems that I was never able to solve since Eye of Storm (Eye of Storm itself is a symbol of the world being wrong). When I say I want to free myself, I don't mean to escape. I mean to free my mind so that I can solve the underlying problems once and for all. Writing is my tool of doing it.

* * *

[b]Themes

[/b]I am not writing down any themes because by the time I get to Ditch!, the design is not theme-based but problem-based. I start writing not with a message I want to tell, but with a problem I want to explore and solve. The writing is still very heavy in the meaning but I don't start with a defined message. The message is what I get at the end of the writing.

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Hidden
[quote][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]What sort of something? Just curious. For me I repeatedly stumble at the step of coming up with plot events. This problem has been the main driving force behind my research into various theories of fiction.[/quote][/size][/color]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]I had this problem as well, for a very long time actually and have seen a lot of people give up over it. When I got into it, I found that I was working from the wrong angle. I'll go into detail since I think it is on-topic.
[/color][/size]
[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]One problem is that a work longer than the outline itself must include a lot of important, relevant material that [i]is not actually in the outline[/i]. These creates some [i]potential points of failure[/i] if you intend to create a full plot-point outline ahead of time.[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]1) The little details fail to be important and are only there because one feels they're supposed to be there. When this is the case, the work is unparsimonious.[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]2) The plot itself is difficult to develop because you don't actually [i]have[/i] all the details yet. This relates to the next point...[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]3) Plot points fail to naturally arise from circumstances (the details). If these details do not matter, than one is running into the 1st point.[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]Obviously folks meet & beat these obstacles all the time. But a lot don't and wind up giving up writing. [/size][/color][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]It was John Gall who said [/size][/color][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]"If a problem seems intractable, consider that you may have a meta-problem." An extremely pervasive meta-problem is when people adopt ideas because they have [i]resonance[/i] but don't actually work for them.[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]A lot of people find that the idea of pre-structured plots are resonant. They [i]sound correct[/i] (Stephen Colbert calls this "truthiness") and are treated as a kind of "secret sauce". Both people talking up the Hero's Journey and the morons telling you it's "cheating" are in this mental trap. Obviously it's actually quite hard.[/size][/color]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]I was stuck on it for a long time and then abandoned it. [/size][/color][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]The process to producing a first large finished work that at least one person liked (and read all the way through) went a bit like this.[/size][/color]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]1) I had an idea that I liked the idea of the "home base", based on experiences playing [i]flight simulators[/i] and how the most stressful part can be getting to home where it's safe. I also liked [i]capability constraints[/i]. Muzzle loaded rifles & maneuver warfare were on my mind as well.[/color][/size]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]I came up with a fort in some woods on a road between two cities that was a sort of rest point, and there were researchers going into the woods. The story would be about those researchers. There were also golems, talking animals and "chi" powers and a second inhabited planet with more advanced people. And the protagonist was raised by golems or something stupid. Oh, and I think the golems were the bad guys.[/color][/size]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]2) For [i]about a year[/i] I mulled over [i]potential[/i] scenarios, plot points, situations, general feel of it, the implications of the setting on the protagonists and wrote tentative openings (about 10 to 20 wildly different ones).[/color][/size]

[color="#1C2837"][size="2"]I realized that the rifles were analogous to liquid-fuel rockets. LFRs were invented by Robert Goddard in the 1920s and were the key invention that allowed space travel. The fort could be analogous to the ISS, the protagonists' city to the Earth, and so on. [/size][/color][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]The "chi", talking animals, golems, the road, the rest of civilization and maneuver warfare were thrown out. The protagonist's backstory was thrown out. The forest between civilization became a civilization isolated by forest. "Let's get home where it's safe" became "let's get out where it's not safe". Return journeys were omitted entirely. It was completely inverted.[/size][/color]

[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]3) I started writing. This took 3 months. Elements were made up on-the-fly as per the theory and points stemmed from that. I had a tentative semi-structure in my head and had visions of scenarios and plot points but several wound up not fitting, therefore they were not done. [/color][/size][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]Key themes were realized partway through. Finished, the rewrote the first scene in order to better frame the discussion. Delivered to reader.[/size][/color]

[size="2"][color="#1C2837"]Result is 124,000 words. [/color][/size][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]I am kind of OK with it, but it doesn't matter; it's a practice run, not a magnum opus. I am writing more and feel like I'm getting somewhere.[/size][/color]

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[quote][color=#1C2837][size=2]happy 80s-style science fiction and fantasy ... [/size][/color][color=#1C2837][size=2] what catches my interest about a story idea is the escapism and wish-fulfillment that accompany the exploration of themes and identity[/quote][/size][/color]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Do you mean things like The Neverending Story?[/color][/size]

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[quote name='JoeCooper' timestamp='1318113628' post='4870625']
[quote][color="#1C2837"][size="2"]happy 80s-style science fiction and fantasy ... [/size][/color][color="#1C2837"][size="2"] what catches my interest about a story idea is the escapism and wish-fulfillment that accompany the exploration of themes and identity[/quote][/size][/color]
[color="#1C2837"] [/color]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Do you mean things like The Neverending Story?[/color][/size]
[/quote]
That's a pretty good example, although not quite what I was thinking of since it is a children's movie and I was thinking of more grown-up fantasy and science fiction and also anime made in the 80s. Basically I love 80s culture, there was a lot of optimism and self-confidence there that our culture doesn't have today. Postmodernism replaced that with ambiguity and a mix of cynicism and depression in the 90s. I was born in 1980 and grew up with hair bands, punk fashion, MacGyver, Jim Henson and George Lucas movies, the original Transformers and My Little Pony series, and the general impression that humans would soon be flying starships and genetically engineering pet dragons and spending their free time in virtual reality. My favorite science fiction and fantasy novels are mostly ones which were written in the 80s because they show worlds with that kind of culture. When I look at new fiction on bookstore shelves it's often dystopian, gritty, ambiguous, bitter, morose, or if it's positive it's about making do in a mediocre situation with a tight budget and frenemies, finding humor in one's inevitable failures. That's just not what I want to read.

I want to read about the team of bumbling and basically harmless villains who struggle perpetually against the equally bumbling and dumb but sweet heroes. I want to read about the guy who goes around playing elaborate non-cruel practical jokes on everyone, and the guy who can fix anything with bubblegum and a piece of wire. I want to read about masquerade balls where everyone gossips and finds each other ridiculous but just smiles benignly, and arranged marriages that work out happily. I want to read about futuristic societies I'd actually enjoy living in, and human/alien romances that work out happily, and telepathic bonds between a dragon and a rider or a mecha and a pilot. I could go on at ridiculous length here. :wink:

Have you ever heard [url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K38xNqZvBJI&ob=av2e"]Bowling For Soup's song 1985[/url] ? I can definitely identify with that woman, although she's a bit older than me so the cultural landmarks are slightly different and I'm not married and don't have kids.

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I think I totally feel what you're saying.

For a while now I've been wanting to write about ambition and ambitious people and avert the "ambition is evil" trope as hard as I can.

One persistent theme in a lot of sci-fi that really grates on me is this kind of "grah, technology is all just miserable anyway, whine whine".


Also, yep, totally know that song.

This touches on stuff I think about a lot and have discussed at length with my co-writer. However it is now 4 AM, and I will get back to this maybe Monday evening or something.

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[quote name='Wai' timestamp='1318102517' post='4870577']
I am not writing down any themes because by the time I get to Ditch!, the design is not theme-based but problem-based. I start writing not with a message I want to tell, but with a problem I want to explore and solve. The writing is still very heavy in the meaning but I don't start with a defined message. The message is what I get at the end of the writing.
[/quote]
I like that symbolism for sails, I've never heard that before but it immediately makes sense and feels natural and resonant. :)

I probably don't start writing with a specific message in mind either, it's just that the process of writing synopses before/instead of stories makes it very fast to go from "issue I'd like to explore in a story" to "statement the climax of the story makes about the issue". On the other hand I have developed a bit of an aversion to exploring something I consider a deep problem in a story, because in the past when I have done this it has resulted in getting stuck a lot because there is no good answer to this kind of problem, or at least I don't have any idea what that answer might be. An example is my assessment that human nature is fundamentally incompatible with the universe. What can you do with that kind of problem? Changing human nature in fiction would just make the story feel false or preachy. Changing the fundamental nature of the universe in a story is possible but a fundamentally daunting task. Also, if there world were more naturally suited to humans it would eliminate a lot of the conflict which is the essence of story. In an ideal universe there might not be compelling problems to tell stories about.

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[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1318127147' post='4870664']
On the other hand I have developed a bit of an aversion to exploring something I consider a deep problem in a story, because in the past when I have done this it has resulted in getting stuck a lot because there is no good answer to this kind of problem, or at least I don't have any idea what that answer might be. An example is my assessment that human nature is fundamentally incompatible with the universe. What can you do with that kind of problem? Changing human nature in fiction would just make the story feel false or preachy. Changing the fundamental nature of the universe in a story is possible but a fundamentally daunting task. Also, if there world were more naturally suited to humans it would eliminate a lot of the conflict which is the essence of story. In an ideal universe there might not be compelling problems to tell stories about.
[/quote]

I think your statement is too vague for me to understand. I need to know what you mean by some key terms: human nature, fundamentally, incompatible, universe.

Suppose I take out human in the scenario, are things in the universe compatible among themselves?

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[quote name='Wai' timestamp='1318135655' post='4870679']
[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1318127147' post='4870664']
On the other hand I have developed a bit of an aversion to exploring something I consider a deep problem in a story, because in the past when I have done this it has resulted in getting stuck a lot because there is no good answer to this kind of problem, or at least I don't have any idea what that answer might be. An example is my assessment that human nature is fundamentally incompatible with the universe. What can you do with that kind of problem? Changing human nature in fiction would just make the story feel false or preachy. Changing the fundamental nature of the universe in a story is possible but a fundamentally daunting task. Also, if there world were more naturally suited to humans it would eliminate a lot of the conflict which is the essence of story. In an ideal universe there might not be compelling problems to tell stories about.
[/quote]

I think your statement is too vague for me to understand. I need to know what you mean by some key terms: human nature, fundamentally, incompatible, universe.

Suppose I take out human in the scenario, are things in the universe compatible among themselves?
[/quote]
Ahh, that's hard to explain. To answer your question, yes if you assume animals don't have real feelings and are just meat machines. But if you assume animals feel anxiety and loneliness and various human-like emotions, then no they wouldn't be compatible with the universe either. But, maybe you remember me talking about entropy as the "evil" force in an MMO where the player is a nature spirit whose 'job' is to increase life? I'd say entropy is the basic flaw of the universe. And I see the universe as a heartless machine which is partly random; the total opposite of humans who have an inbuilt instinct to create order and look for it in their surroundings, imagining it in the form of magic when there surroundings don't actually have meaningful order. So that's what "fundamentally incompatible" means - that humans can't possibly be happy or satisfied in the universe in any long-term way due simply to the humans being humans and the universe being the universe. (And, since we've been talking about the history of themes in our work, I'll mention that this was part of the theme of my "Coming Storm" entry years ago when we had the previous set of contests in this forum.)

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