June 21, 2018, 06:49:07 PM

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Messages - Yora

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It has its roots in reality. They don't call that world's oldest profession for no reason.
That, and farming. And they both use hoes.  ;D

I remember a headline from Trumps first visit to Berlin:

Leader of the Free World meets Donald Trump

I've been trying to write down the important plot points of several stories with very simple plots that still worked to be interesting, and I think generally speaking there is some kind of pattern that shows up repeatedly.

Often, at the surface, simple stories are simply go from place A to B to C to D. When the characters reach place B, they get the information that points them to place C, where they get information that leads them to place D. This is rather boring but becomes more interesting when they simultaneously also get more information and better understanding of what is really going on and what they are dealing with. One of them can be a twist, but it doesn't need to be. And the new information does not even have to be an amazing surprise. Just learning new stuff can already be sufficiently interesting, even if it isn't anything that goes against previous expectations.

When you read Lovecraft today, none of the reveals are ever surprising in any way because they all have been copied a thousand times. You know what kind of story you are reading and you have a pretty good idea what the reveals will be. But they can still be very entertaining to read.

I think that it might actually be possible to write stories and perhaps full novels that consist basically of revealing setting and revealing character this way. Of all the Clark Ashton Smith stories I have read, I can't remember a single one that really had much resembling a plot. A character walks along a path and sees curious things that are part of the strange setting. Not necessarily amazing stories, but they do have some entertainment value.

If the world is interesting enough, then a story might get away with very little in the way of conflict. Man against Nature could almost always be used as the external conflict and the internal conflict wouldn't need to have a great amount of depth or an elaborate resolution.
However, the biggest challenge I see is how to properly end such a story. Smith almost always ends with the protagonist suddenly getting eaten by a suddenly appearing monster. Lovecraft always tries to go for the big reveal at the end, but at least now it's never actually amazing. Or surprising.

Schrödinger's Immigrant:  Simultaneously steals jobs and gets unemployment benefits.

Writers' Corner / Re: Fantasy names
« on: June 08, 2018, 07:17:47 PM »
I always start with picking a language that has interesting sounding names, look up lists of common names in that language, and write down any that I like. These serve as my references for common syllables, length of names, and male and female endings. To create my own names, I simply make up new ones that somewhat follow those patterns.

It gets you names that sound like they could be actual names, and even more importantly help with making up numerous names that all sound like they come from the same culture. (Because they do.)

In addition, apostrophes are cheesy, but hyphens are classy.  :D

Writers' Corner / Re: Inherently "good"
« on: June 07, 2018, 08:34:42 PM »
I do very much like this underlying concept of what constitutes "good". I think it's a very good approach to make "Good" sincere and admirable without conotations of self-praise and superiority over other groups. It's something that appeals to contemporary sensibilities, where "hero" has become kind of a loaded term often applied to people who obediently die to further the goals of their leaders. It doesn't make good a label for "our way", which is contrasted by the evil of "other ways".

That being said, I think there is a certain risk to it coming across as rather corny when not done with sufficient restraint. Unless that's the style that is being aimed for.
People born to be destined to suffer for the saving of the innocent could be a bit much. Saying "a hero is a person sensitive to the emotions of others and driven to take action to lessen their suffering" is great. That's something to cheer for. But them being tormented by a destiny to sacrifice themselves for the good of the world can easily drift off into angsty drama. If that is the goal, that's great. But otherwise I think it would be better to keep it subtle and use restrain. It probably can work great, but I would work out in advance how I keep myself from unintentionally taking the story into a corny direction.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Greatest battles in fantasy
« on: June 07, 2018, 08:09:46 PM »
For me it's easily Cold Light by Karl Wagner.

The meanest and most ruthless bastards in all the lands have banded together to get their revenge on Kane, a man who everyone considers to be evil incarnate. They track him down and set an ambush, but they really don't know what kind of creature they are dealing with.

Kane is not in danger. He is the danger.

It's not Fantasy, but I love this exchange from the Western 'Unforgiven':

"You just shot an unarmed man!"
"Well, he shoulda armed himself."
"I don't deserve this...To die like this."
"Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

I sprang off my left foot, caught the roof ledge with my fingers, and pulled myself up. Dabir urged care; I do not think he heard my response, as I was too busy not falling to answer clearly, and my words do not bear repeating.
From The Desert of Souls.

I don't like jokes in fiction. Humorous circumstances can be fine, but when you can tell that something being said or happening is a joke, it never works for me.

But you do get a problem when the story keeps saying "This is the story of A", while what is actually happening is A being a sidekick to character B who does all the most interesting and entertaining things. There is nothing wrong with making it "This is A who experienced first hand how B did lots of interesting things". But then you can't make it seem like everyone is looking towards A to do the important things and make the important decisions.

I remember one time where a story played with this, which was the videogame Final Fantasy 10. It even opens with a flash forward to part of a monolog at the lowpoint right before the big showdown, which starts with the words "Listen to my story..." And he is incedibly arrogant, ignorant, and straight up obnoxious, so many people don't like him as a protagonist. But the joke is that he is the only one who thinks he's the hero of the story. The way everyone else acts around him (or just completely ignores him), they seem him only as some annoying tagalong that their leader allows to travel with them because of her endless compassion and there's a good reason they let her have her idle fancy without objecting to it. And in the end his ignorance and complete lack of respect for customs leads to an important revelation that no sane person had ever considered. It's his arogance that saves the world.
When seen like that it's actually quite clever, but to a lot of people he was still just very annoying and stealing all the thunder from the actual hero of the story whose journey is much more interesting.

Last weekend I saw Fury Road, and watched it two more times since then. I think it's not actually that great of a story in it's content, but the structure and presentation of the story is just incredible. I can totally see why critics and film students are calling it a major milestone movie.
Movies of the last 20 years have experienced a comparable issue as novels, and I think that the whole thing actually started there and spilled over into literature. Convoluted plots with massive buildup that is hard give proper payoff and mounds of exposition to get the audience to understand how clever the mystery and coming twist are.
With Fury Road you just can't help but seeing it as a fast paced action movie, and simultaneously as a manifesto against this development in storytelling. It feels like a movie deliberately designed to be a showcase of how you can handle things dradtically different to very great effect. The use of camera work and digital effects is something that only applies to film. (The lessons are less is more.) But the way it deals with telling a story is just fantastic.

First thing, the plot is incredibly simple. To the point that many people say it can't really be spoiled. One character dies unexpectedly, one time a character suggests a change in plan that is incredibly bold and gets you giddy with excitement, and you could say there is one moment of reveal that is devastating to a character but by that point the tone of the movie makes it pretty much a non-surprise.
Spoiler for Hiden:
They wanted to escape the hellish wastelands by finding a secret oasis. Of course it doesn't exist.
The plot really is just "run away to a better place and fight of the pursuers". That's it. There are no mysteries, no deception, no complex plans, no step by step goals.
But it is still a quite compelling story because of the character relationships. The main cast consists of three characters who initially start as enemies of each other and the real story is how they are interacting with other people in an extreme situation of life and death. They would all benefit from having allies, and the real tension of the story is weather they can get themselves to reach out to each other. The stakes are not whether they can escape or will survive, but whether they can become friends.

The second thing is that this story sets the gold standard for show, don't tell. There's a voiceover narration during the opening credits that tells us that the world has been ravaged by war and that Max is a loner who has become mentally unstable.And that is the entire explanation that ever gets spelled out in the whole story. There is no verbal exposition once the first scene starts. Nobody ever says "This is Immortan Joe, he is evil. He does all these terrible things." or "Those are the War Boys, they are his fanatically loyal child soldiers raised to seek paradise by dying for him in battle." or "They are controling the population by keeping all the water to themselves and giving only tiny amounts while they live in relative luxury on food they grow in aquaculture greenhouses." What you do get instead is a spotter yelling to the driver "they are getting reinforcements from Gas Town" with no further discussion of the subject. But it provides enough information to understand that there is not just one isolated stronghold that the villain controls, but that in addition to the fortress with the water he also has another place where he gets fuel, which is also full with his warriors. There are huge amounts of worldbuilding in this story, but it's never being told. Everything is told by the way how things look and by what people do, and the terminology they use. The weird religion of the War Boys is explained entirely through their war cries. As with the worldbuilding in Star Wars, everything is made up of recognizable pieces. Recognizable enough that you can effortlessly connect the dots.
After the second viewing I realized that the villain does not do a single evil thing on screen. Nor does anyone mention one single evil thing he did. But there is so much context provided by how people talk about him and react to him and the way his followers behave that you instantly understand that he is a pure horrible monster.
This even applies to the character interactions. There is barely any dialog. Nobody ever tells other what they are feeling or what they think of each other. They simply act. They communicate mostly with each other by either tripping or punching each other or giving each other a hand to get to safety. And, fitting a setting of extreme scarcity, by giving each other control of their weapons and cars or taking them away. The cars are the most important thing for survival and when they let someone else drive while they go do something else, it's a very strong gesture of how much they trust each other.

This is a movie that wants to tell a compelling story about people while using almost no plot, and provide very rich worldbuiding with no exposition. And it does it extremely well. I absolutely recommend watching it for anyone who is interested in such forms of storytelling. It has plenty of subtle things to show about cinematography, but also very clear and obvious things about storytelling.

Writers' Corner / Re: Hobbling yourself
« on: May 20, 2018, 09:38:21 AM »
Last night I made the realization that I had married my ideas for stories to the wrong genre.

There is a lot about Sword & Sorcery that very much appeals to me. Individual works tend to be short and don't require any specific order to read or write. Casts are small, plots are simple, there is little exposition, the focus lies on plot progress. It's all much more about the personal experiences of the protagonists than about historic events. And it deals a lot with monsters and strange magic.

These are all good things that I really like and I don't find in epic fantasy works. However, using Conan, Kane, Elric, and Fafhrd and Gray Mouser as my references for how a story is set up and plays out was a mistake. The former two are really fun to read and the later two have many very compelling ideas. But in the end, their stories are always about the protagonist seeking confrontations and needing validation that their might makes them superior to the common masses. They seek glory to give their lives of violence and greed meaning.
And I have to say I enjoy the genre despite of that, not because of it. These motivations and values are meaningless to me and empty. I can not write with this story structure.

There are much better examples of stories that I can use as references. Princess Mononoke for example has all the good things I listed above but all the main characters are motivated by meaningful values.

I am so looking forward to finishing my last main season as an apprentice. Only two more months until I finally get all the time in the world to actually work on stories again.

As a European, I can not make a claim to deny this.

Britain is our cousin who is more difficult to connect with than everyone else because it seems to be having some mental issues that interfere with it  properly taking care of its own life.

I am now convinced that old games did not use to be harder. We were just complete rubbish back then.

Being unhappy with the tracks in Wipeout HD and Redout, I dug up and installed Star Wars Racer again, which is really pretty much a Wipeout clone. I had not played that game in probably well over 15 years, but the whole thing took me 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. I got first place in almost every race on the first try.

I noticed the same thing when playing Settler II some weeks ago. I could never get past the first third as a kid, but 20 years later it was a pretty much effortless cake walk. And I never even played any game like that in the meatime.

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