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  • Whatever Wednesday (36)

On Ideas

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Published on: September 7, 2011

So, I had a really good idea for a Wednesday post. It was going to be interesting and funny, and best of all, super easy to write.

I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

I’ve been wracking my brain for a solid hour now trying to bring it up from the foggy depths, but it’s no use. The thing is simply gone. How is it possible that I can remember so many details about the idea, but the thought itself remains so elusive. I remember where I was when I got the idea. (Though, to be fair “at the computer” describes a large enough percentage of my time that it would also be a pretty solid guess.) I, as stated above, remember that it was interesting and funny. I’m actually somewhat confused by the fact that I remember it would be easy to write. That is a thing that I think so rarely that it’s very strange that this particular idea could elicit that thought and then disappear so thoroughly. (It’s not that I usually find things hard to write, but more that the difficulty is pretty much a wash, and honestly not something I think about that much.) I just can’t understand how I remember all of these details, and the thing that they are the details of remains so doggedly elusive.

But, I guess it’s gone. I seem to be getting a fair post out of not remembering it, which might again speak to the high quality of this idea.

I wonder if there is a place where forgotten ideas go. Is there a world where all of these ideas, personified, live together, forming a vast city of things that people forgot? Are there whole clubs full of ideas for things that totally exist, but these idea’s originators came up with the concept first, and didn’t do anything about them? When the real thing gets made, do the ideas briefly disappear when the real thing is made, returning to their originators’ minds just long enough for that person to say, “Hey that was my idea?” I would imagine those ideas soon wing back to the land of forgotten thoughts, and hang out with their friends, and say, “Yeah, they finally made me.”

Is it weird that, in my head, thoughts have a posh British accent?

Probably no weirder than the whole “City of Lost Ideas” thing, I suppose.

Call and Response

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Published on: August 31, 2011

Question time!

Jon Homan asked:

Have you found any new video game/book/album/etc particularly awesome recently?

There weren’t a ton of questions, so you’re getting an answer to all four of those things.

I actually haven’t been finding any video games too much to my liking recently. I was on a bit of a Fallout: New Vegas kick for a while, but for some reason it’s not holding my attention like Fallout 3 did. I think I maybe just spent too much time with the latter. All the stuff coming out about the next update for Minecraft has basically killed my desire to play that until the update comes out. So, I’ve been playing Mass Effect 2 again. I really love that game. It’s also not really holding me on the second playthrough like it did on the first, but I’m not really one for repeating content, so the fact that I’m playing again at all speaks volumes for the game, I think.

I’m not sure if I’ve discussed the Dresden Files here before. I’m sure I have, but just in case, the elevator pitch is for you to imagine Harry Potter if it were written for adults and Harry was a noir private eye. That doesn’t entirely do it justice, but it gives you a gist. Anyways, the most recent book of the series, Ghost Story, just came out, and it was really good. Like, I read it in one sitting good.

Album wise, (potential next week’s Music Monday spoiler ahead, by the way) I’ve recently been playing The Raconteurs’ Consolers of the Lonely more or less on repeat. It’s a 2008 album, but my music collection is not exactly super modern, and I only discovered it recently. It’s great album, lots of varied tracks.

I recently got a Viewsonic gTablet that I rooted and installed a custom ROM to. I like that quite a bit.

Any thoughts on the resignation of Steve Jobs?

I’m not a big Apple guy, but I try to keep pretty current on my tech news. I think that Jobs leaving his CEO post is going to hurt the company a bit, but it had to happen at some point, and I think Apple is definitely in solid shape right now. I think it’s interesting that he broke the news right after all that news about Apple having more liquid capital than the US government came out. Apple will be fine, I’m sure. They’ve weathered worse, and people still buy the shiny things they make.

With the start of the NFL coming up soon, any fantasy football advice?

Really? Okay.

I recommend the mans who do the best. Avoid the dudes who are not the best.

This is also how I decide who to vote for.

 

So, yeah, feel free to ask more questions for next week, or just discuss these questions or anything else below. See you Friday, Minions.

Let's Talk

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Published on: August 24, 2011

We never talk anymore, Minions.

That’s maybe not true, but I thought it would be funny. Really, though, we’ve gone in to a bit of a comments drought. I know that my posts have had a bit of a spate of lateness, and that we’ve all been at this for more than half a year now, but I’d love to hear some feedback about the site. Tell me how you feel about Choose Your Tuesday, give me suggestions of things to write on Wednesday, suggest songs, whatever. (Honestly, if there were enough questions, I would just answer whatever crazy things you wanted to ask me all Wednesday, every Wednesday. The one post where I did that was a lot of fun.) I really like doing the blog, and its main value is as a tool for improving my writing, but I do enjoy the feedback.

See you in the comments.

Legos

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Published on: August 17, 2011

As a kid, Legos were one of my favorite toys. I would get a new set, and put it together according to the directions, and play with it for a bit, but that never lasted very long. No, the part I liked was when the set inevitably started to fall apart and then I got to make it in to whatever I wanted it to be. (This was usually a space ship, which is weird in hind sight, because I almost universally got castle sets.) I loved taking my limited, but very flexible toolset and making new things. Creation has always been a very entertaining thing for me.

I think this manifests in a couple ways for me as an adult (adult-ish, anyway). The first is all this stuff here and my art and everything I keep trying to do. I love to create. I’m working as hard as I can to make a career from creation. But where I get hurt is when I’ve got the initial creation done, I have difficulty maintaining the creation. I want bits to fall off so I can turn them in to something else. This isn’t really the best way to make something permanent and marketable, though. I keep wanting to start new projects, and I keep getting bored with old projects. It’s hard, because I think the old projects are good. I know the old projects are good, I liked them back when I made them. It’s just hard to keep that excitement that a new project brings.

Okay, that was the useful, actually adult one. The other way I love Lego-like things is games. I love games with a creative element. My wife will no doubt roll her eyes to learn that I’ve somehow managed to talk about Minecraft again, but I love this game. If anyone is unfamiliar with Minecraft, imagine a vast, randomly generated world make entirely of Lego, and you get to build in it, and you’re not too far off. It’s a game where a huge part of the gameplay is pretty much just digging holes, and I still love it. Making things is fun, especially when one plays multiplayer and can build those things with friends.

Minecraft isn’t the only game that I love for its creative portions, though. I think one of the big reasons I love Roleplaying Games (computer and pen and paper) is the creative element. All those stats and numbers are my Lego bricks, and the worlds I make and adventures I have are my creations.

So, as usual, I don’t really have a point. But hey, if anyone wants to play Minecraft, let me know, I’ll send you the server info. In the meantime, I’m going to keep creating things.

Playing God

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Published on: August 10, 2011

So you know what part of writing I like the most? World building. I love creating an internally consistent, interesting setting for my story to take place in. I like it a heck of a lot more than writing the actual characters or plot or dialogue, in actual point of fact. So, you can be assured that once I knew I would be writing Caravan, a world that was somewhat less fleshed out than some of the other ones, I was super excited to get down and write an awesome setting bible.

And it is awesome. And way more complex than will almost certainly ever be necessary for the actual story. I’ve figured out the economics of hydrogen production and sales in a water-scarce world. I’ve figured out the details of the catastrophe that left the world in exactly the state of ruin it’s currently in. I’ve figured out how little of that is actually known to the general populace at the time the story takes place. It’s all fleshed out, and it’s all consistent with setting and theme. And all of this took quite a bit of time.

And then, when I finished and realized I wouldn’t actually need to know any of this, I felt something that I’d never felt about world building before. I felt like I’d wasted my time. I’m now writing four blog posts a week, and I felt like taking all that time for stuff I didn’t really need was unnecessary and could have been better spent.

I was wrong.

I sat down Monday to write Caravan #2, and it just flowed out of me. That’s what a good setting does, I think. The world I had written felt vibrant and alive, and writing a story within it is so much easier, at least for me, when I know that world’s boundaries and possibilities. So, yes, the next time I’m writing a story, I’m going to write a big, dense, detailed setting bible, even if it doesn’t technically need it.

Revisions

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Published on: August 3, 2011

So, last week I had this whole post fermenting in my head about artist’s frustration and how it’s really hard to produce all the time and blah blah blaaaah, and none of it was particularly interesting when I actually started to write it down, and I just drew an awesome picture, and most of the post came from just having a bad art day and no you’re a run on sentence!

Anyway, let me do some quick hits of the important points:

I had a substitute teacher for one day in 7th or 8th grade. I don’t remember what her name was, or what she looked like, but I was drawing a cool robot, and she said, “There are other things that are beautiful besides destruction.” This wrecked me as a young artist, and I don’t know why. I lost my enjoyment of drawing, and it honestly took me until a couple years ago to get over it.

I try not to regret things. I like my life, and things have worked out really great for me, but I must admit that I regret letting that lady get to me. I wonder what kind of art I could make today if I had kept drawing like I used to.

So yeah, in my original post those two paragraphs probably would have been like four hundred words, and much whinier.

But I’m not doing that. I have better things to do. For instance: Sorry this is a bit late. Also, have you noticed my new penchant for one word titles? That’s a weird phase to go through, hey?

See you Friday, Minions. Don’t forget to vote on the post before this.

Processing

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Published on: July 27, 2011

So, a month of story starters has passed, and again you’re back to reading my less structured ramblings. Did I learn anything? Well, sure. I learned that I have an awful lot of conceits in my fiction writing that I have a hard time overcoming, first off. As I moved through the month, I found that I had a lot of trouble making the stories feel different. I haven’t written a lot of fiction, so I went for the writing style that felt most natural to me, and I think that hurt a couple of the stories.

I tend to write fiction like I write these blog posts: More or less stream of consciousness, and from a limited internal narrator. The only difference is that there are characters I’m trying to determine the motivations of in the fiction, and odds are good that I know what I’m thinking already in the blog. (That’s not as guaranteed as you’d think.) I think Trailblazer is the clearest example of this. If I were a magical space navigator, my blog would read more or less like that story. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but, as I started to write the rest of the stories I found that they read very much the same. So I tried to make each of them a little different. They all frankly hold to pretty much the same construction, but I’m still fairly proud of even my little variants.

I think as far as variation is concerned that I’m the most happy with Red. Red was already a bit of a stretch for me. The other stories have a lot of components that have been kicking around in my head for a long time. For instance, some of you recognized the setting of Trailblazer as that of a D&D campaign that I ran in college. Doors is actually even older. As a kid I imagined a world made of different small areas linked by magic doors. That concept made its way in to the first D&D campaign world I ever created (although it never showed up much). Caravan is the second youngest of the concepts, being based on a dream I had a few years ago. Still, I like the idea of guys driving armored semis across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it since then. (And, honestly, I like post-apocalyptic wastelands in general, so it wasn’t a far walk to get there.)

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Red. So the idea for Red came from a conversation I had with my wife while I was planning how I was going to do this whole Choose Your Tuesday thing. The hook of the conversation that I liked, and that led me to write the story was just how utterly strange the wolf in the story of Red Riding Hood is. There’s a lot of weirdness that gets taken for granted in fairy tales, but a wolf who can impersonate a person, but still sort of look like a wolf, and also talks, and is smart and malicious enough to lay a trap for a little girl is a genuinely scary concept. But yeah, the idea was pretty fresh, so I had to build a world around it a lot less organically than I usually do.

Because of this and the perspective thing, Red is the only story for which there exists a first draft that is radically different than the final project. The original actually is all from Red’s viewpoint, instead of shifting narrators like the final, and the storytelling was a lot messier.

I’ve rambled enough about writing for today. I’m really looking forward to writing more stuff for you folks. Don’t forget to vote here if you haven’t yet, and I’ll see you Friday.

Tuesday Option #4 – Caravan

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Published on: July 20, 2011

Sorry for another late post. WordPress seems to have eaten the original.

Walther was driving right where he liked to be. Way back of the caravan, like this, he could see the sights out the armored windows of his big rig. Up in the caravan it was all dust and radio chatter. Sure, most of the sights were nuclear fire-scarred wasteland, but they were sights all the same. Plus if the rad levels got high, he’d hear it from up ahead first.

So his tires tore up the desert sands, mile after mile. Here and there¬† some scrub poked through, but the Green Bay to Duluth run was pretty bare of vegetation. That made for easy driving, which Walther didn’t mind, he was pretty tired. Actually, he was maybe a little too tired. Was that a glint of light in the distance, or was he just sleepy? Sometimes a piece of metal, some sort of old holding tank would get exposed by the relentless winds. It could be quite a find. If he got first salvage rights on something like that he could eat well when they got to Duluth.

Walther squinted at the horizon again. There was the glint again. Nice. Part of his brain was already planning the fresh veggies he’d buy with his cut, but another part was a bit itchy. That wasn’t quite where he’d seen it before.

Another squint at the horizon showed two spots of light, neither where the first one had been. Also, there was a puff of dust.

Raiders!

Walther banged on the sleeper compartment door. “Freddie, get your lazy rear end out here, there’s shootin’ to be done!” He heard Freddie grumble, and pulled his old shotgun out of its place by his chair. He checked the two shells that were loaded, and fumbled for the box of extras with his hand that wasn’t driving. Lighter than he liked. Another quick slam on the door to try to get Freddie up, and he grabbed the radio. He turned it on and got nothing but static. Too far back! They didn’t work real well with all the rads in the area.

He laid on the gas hard. It finally sounded like Freddie was moving. The caravan was kicking up too much dust, they’d never see the raiders coming. He heard a “Pang!” off the panel by the passenger door, and looked back. Some opportunist had seen him in the back and thought they’d take the easy target. Walther grinned.

Freddie finally got to the back, and Walther soon heard the barrels spinning up and Freddie laughing. “Pull it!” he yelled.

This was Walther’s favorite part. He yanked the cord in the cab, pulling the canvas off¬† the mounting that housed the M61 Vulcan mounted to the back of the truck. The opportunist hardly had a chance to be surprised before his vehicle was blown away.

Freddie gave a wild war whoop, and Walther stomped hard on the gas. If they couldn’t eat well on salvage, they’d eat well on bounties.

Tuesday Option #3 – Doors

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Published on: July 13, 2011

Sorry for the late post, I’m on the road.

 

With a loud crash the beast shattered the door Marny had been trying to seal. He had no time to mourn the loss of his last sealing stone, because he was running as fast as his gnomish legs would carry him. (Fairly quickly, truth be told, for a gnome, at least.) Had he looked back he would have seen a strange sight (something he always loved to see) as the beast (a monstrous bipedal affair that he had just named a “Karagh” because that just sounded like a big brown biped with a sword twice as long as a gnome) tried to push its way through the door, which, being a door attached to another dimension, kept repairing itself.

No, Marny missed out on that sight because he was using his Second Sight to look for another Door. This Pocket appeared to be a large mansion, so there were lots of small d doors, but he was having trouble finding a Door to another Pocket.

There it was! A big door at the end of the hall glowed in his Sight. (Humans must have built it, they were always making Doors big grand affairs that no gnome who was valiantly running for his life could open easily.) He kept up his full tilt run, chanting a spell of opening that he let fly just before he put his shoulder into the door. The door’s lock popped loose, and the shoulder pushed it open. (And probably damaged something in the shoulder, which wouldn’t repair itself nearly so quickly or neatly as the door.)

Marny chanted the reverse spell as he pushed the door shut. A mundane lock wouldn’t hold the Karagh forever, but it would hold him long enough for him to come up with a plan. He looked around at the desert ruins that made up this Pocket. He had a couple good ideas already. (And ideas were his specialty.)

Tuesday Option #2 – Red

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Published on: July 6, 2011

The Huntsman and the wolf went down in a tangle of fur and claws and steel. The grizzled hunter and his apprentice had been tracking this old beast for the better part of a week, only to have it return the favor and ambush them in this clearing. The two rolled on the ground, each struggling for purchase. The wolf tried to bite the hunter, but a quickly raised arm meant that it only got a mouthful of steel bracer. The Hunstman tried to stab the wolf’s flank, but the beast twisted out of the way. Finally the hunter got both feet between himself and the wolf and kicked, pushing them apart.

But the old wolf was craftier than that. A quick twist of its neck allowed to it bite the hunter’s unprotected leg. Its glistening fangs cut a line down the human’s thigh. It wasn’t a mortal wound, and it probably would barely slow down a trained Huntsman, but that was hardly the point. Nearby the hunter’s apprentice stirred.

The apprentice got shakily to her feet. She flung her old red cloak back over her shoulder and pulled a long knife from it’s sheath. Before her stood two identical figures. So the wolf had taken her master’s form. These old wolves were evil beasts, as full of cunning as they were of dark magic, but she had seen this trick before. She studied the two combatants as they circled one another. Suddenly she saw what she was looking for and hurled her knife. It stuck true, embedding in the throat of one of the two fighters. The beast fell to the ground. She had chosen correctly.

As the wolf’s form began to regain its lupine features, it gasped out, “How did you know?”

Red looked down at the creature and smiled. “My,” she said, “what big teeth you have.”

She stepped to one side and the Huntsman’s axe fell, removing the wolf’s head. He looked at his apprentice approvingly, but as he opened his mouth to congratulate her, a series of howls split the air. Red pulled her old riding cloak close around her. They weren’t out of the woods yet.

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