Whys and Therefores

Another step closer on the World Building Tour, 2013.  Two-thirds of my regional officers are in place, and there’s no surprises, save for maybe one or two.  I found it far more difficult to put these in place than to figure out where my Foundation pretty much directs the world from behind the curtain.  I almost said, “Rule,” but that’s not them:  they aren’t rulers.  They’re more like teachers, trying to move things forwards slowly but surely.

Yes, I hear some of you going, “Not very original, Cassidy.”  Well, neither is that romance novel you’re writing, so suck it.  Harlan Ellison–yes, I turn to him quite a lot–said something along the lines of there are only seven or eight original plots in the world, but it’s how you give your version of that will captivate people.  Sure, the love story has been done to death, but only Romeo and Juliet have pulled at us through the ages.  Though Hannibal might be the one that does it for you:  ah, just imagine that first dinner date . . .

Why spend all this time putting things together that, by my own admissions, may never see the light of day?  For one, it makes the world more real for me.  Once that works becomes real for me–not that it isn’t already–then it takes on a life when I write, and that makes it more real for any potential readers out there.  Get your foundation laid–no pun here, really–and the rest will come together.

Some of this comes from running role playing games.  The best games have a great world, albeit some are completely whacked out their minds, and others make no damn sense.  Nonetheless, the best gaming experiences take place in worlds that are fleshed out with great locations and memorable characters.  One can always hack and slash, true, but one can also immerse themselves in the feel of the rain upon their face, the sounds of the city, and the smell of the bum crawling out of the alley who’s about to shank your ass for the credit chip in your pocket.

When I put a game together I’d have a lot of background.  When I ran Diaspora I laid out the ten systems used in the game, which meant plotting the orbits of about two hundred and fifty planets and objects, and defining interesting things about those places that one could more or less about with little or no breathing gear.  When I ran Cyberpunk, I had information on dozens of characters the players met, and one of those dossiers ran seventy pages.  There were notes on a Mage game that ran for almost five years that kept growing and growing as I continued playing.

It can be a lonely, solitary duty to put this together, but it’s a fun duty.  Or it can be fun; some people may feel it’s too much time spent alone trying to come up with ideas on your own, but in the end, they are your ideas, and you live or die with them.  Even if they suck–and I’ve had my share of suck ideas–they are yours.  You own them.  They are you.

Look at it this way:  if you write something that sucks, then you know not to do that again, right?


Whispered Conversations of Nothingness

Made it through the long weekend without incident.  Weather was cool and rainy, and there wasn’t a lot of eating.  I don’t have relatives in the area, so I stayed home.  The new week continues onward, as does life.

I was going to write yesterday, but you know how you get distracted by one thing, and you can’t walk away from it because it’s so shiny?  Yeah, it was like that yesterday afternoon.  I was working on a design for this school that will play a major part in a story I’m developing, and the more I put things on the map, the more real the place became.  Not to mention it takes a long time to put walls in place, and set up and model buildings, and lay down paths . . .

You get the idea.  Getting a world built is a lot of work, and there are times when that work gets in the way of something else you should do.

Still, there’s always time to write, and I was going to–until my right eye started burning about seven-thirty last night–

I get this every so often, where my eye will get irritated by something (still have no idea what I did), and then it waters and burns, then it starts to gunk up, at which point I have to clean it out, only to have it enter the same cycle about fifteen minutes later.  I’ve tried to write before when that happens, and it’s harder than hell to do anything when you’re wiping at your eye every two minutes, or you can’t even see out of it because it’s nearly closed up with something leaking out of one corner.

So I gave up trying to write.  I really gave up trying to do anything, because it was far too hard with my eye as it was.  Therefore it was time for bed . . .

I shouldn’t say I gave up on everything, because I was running a scene through my head, and I wanted to work out what a couple of characters were saying.  This is something I do, taking the part of my characters and working out dialog which, in turn, will help me with a scene and with what’s happening at some point in the story.

But this scene wasn’t for something that would appear in a hypothetical story a year from now.  Oh, no:  this was something from a few years down the line in the history of a couple of characters.  This was a talk between two women, in private, sitting in a pavilion on the edge of a small meadow as the sun is sinking behind them.  It’s quiet, they’re alone, and they’re discussing a subject one of them knows well–

Death.  And how one must sometimes kill.

I sat there in the dark, on the bed, feeling the cool outside air trickle into the room, hearing the light patter of rain on the stones in the back yard, and I worked out their conversation.  I spent maybe fifteen minutes taking their parts, talking out their feelings, their ideas, their concerns.  I knew who their were as I spoke, and as I started to lay back, I was still speaking one of the character’s parts, my voice growing softer as my eyes started to close . . .

It’s not every night you can take your characters to bed with you.  At least you’re never really alone at night when you’re a writer.

Tales Beyond the Table

With the latest novel out of the way, it was time to get into another book and getting some information together for someone to design a cover for said story.  There wasn’t a lot to do–well, maybe I’m being modest, because there was a lot of hunting for information, and a bit of cutting and pasting, to get the final document in order.  As it was, I passed off about two thousand words of useful information–I hope.

So that’s off to the printer, so to speak.  Probably going to get into another edit tonight:  I want to shape up Replacements, and there’s a chapter I need to write to have the story make a little more sense–I’m putting in some dumb character building, I know, why do I need that shit?  Because I do, that’s why.  The story will get edited, then I’ll put in another requests for a cover . . .

April will see a lot of work towards publishing.  But I’ve got other things going as well.

In the last week I’ve had two role playing games reviews published.  These aren’t new reviews, and they aren’t new games; I originally published them on another site a few years back, and sort of let them sit.  Since they weren’t doing much in the way of traffic, I offered them to someone to post on their site after I gave them a bit of a polish, ’cause lets face it, I see mistakes much better these days.  If you are interested in reading the reviews, the are for the games Diaspora and Eclipse Phase.  Enjoy.

I don’t game much these days.  Actually, I don’t game at all; it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done any serious gaming, and while I’m always ready to jump into something, I’ve encountered the problem of either not finding a game I like, or not finding a group I like.  Both can be a problem, because if you are in a game that’s not your style, or you’re gaming with assholes, the urge to play goes right down the toilet in short order.

Yet I still pick up games now and then.  Why?  Simple answer:  they can be fodder for ideas.

There was a time when the games I ran were my stories.  Trust me:  run a role playing game every other weekend for two years, and you’ll develop a sense for story, for metaplots, and for characters.  You play in their world, but you make it your own:  you build most everything off the structure, then make your cast of characters, direct the action so your players have something interesting to do.

I did this for a couple of decades, and it helped me understand what sort of work it takes to be a storytelling.  I prided myself on my games, and I pride myself on the tales I write these days.

As for these games I still buy . . .

One can find inspiration from anywhere.  One of my first completed long stories took place in a game universe, one that I knew intimately   It could be argued that I was writing fan fiction even though the character throughout the story were entirely mine, but I won’t argue the point.  It was a good exercise for me, and my only regret is that this particular story is lost to me, vanished on a hard drive failure.  Doesn’t me I couldn’t rewrite the story from scratch today, because you always remember your first novella . . .

I hear you out there, however:  so you’re still buying game to steal ideas, is that it?  Inspiration can come from anywhere, as my muse Erin would tell you.  If you find something in a paragraph of a supplement that gets the mental gears cranking, then good for you, because working your imagination is a great thing–maybe one of the greatest things a person can achieve.

Besides, Quentin Tarantino has found inspiration this way for a couple of decades, and some call him a genius.

I already am one, so the calling should come easy . . .

Fatalistic Offerings

Friday night is becoming a bit of Recharge Night:  the time when I need to shut down the brain because of all the week’s work activity and try to get back into something akin to a grove.  I’d almost fallen asleep at the wheel driving home yesterday, and spent a few miles with driver’s window down so the cold air could wash over my face and wake me the hell up before I plowed into a bridge pillar at sixty miles per hour.  If I’m like that at five in the afternoon, then I know anything I write at eight PM is gonna be crap.

So I relaxed and talked.  I helped out one friend with the naming of her newest crocheting patterns, and learned that the first chain mail showed up in 3 BCE.  Research, suckers:  it gets you when you least expect.  Then I played some games online, which are a good way to kill time as long as you don’t kill too much time . . . and then I set the keynote for the evening.  I ran across a friend online–someone I know who writes but also games, which means she’s very special in my book–and asked her the most damning gaming question of all:  “Have you ever heard of F.A.T.A.L.?”

Since I know the majority of you reading this have no idea what FATAL is (I’m disposing of the periods at this point, because that’s how I roll), allow me to explain.  If you’ve ever played a table top RPG (think D&D and you’ll know what I’m discussing) then you’ve run across some good games, some mediocre, some bad . . . and some that defy description because their incredible awfulness has burnt out a significance portion of your temporal lobe.  FATAL goes beyond that last, for a thousand years from now, where our cities are dust and the 21st Century is but a memory, people will find a pdf of FATAL, read it, and say, “The fuck was wrong with these people?”

There is a trilogy of games that are considered the worst ever developed–a term I use loosely here–and FATAL sits atop this festering heap, beating out a game written by a possible schizophrenic and one written for white supremacists.  It is a game that has been immortalized by the famous (some say infamous) S&M Review of Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin upon RPG.net a decade ago, where they ripped the game apart with a long, profane, scree that was on the money.

It is a game that will make you die a little inside when you read it, because you’ll so understand that someone actually sat down and thought, “You know what a role playing game needs?  A way to measure how tough a virgin’s hymen is so my character will know how much pressure to use when I rape her.”  If you think I just made that line up, wrong:  that’s a statistic for female characters in this game.  It’s a game where no matter wherever you go in the world, everything looks like Medieval Europe during the dark ages, and anyone who isn’t white isn’t right.  It’s a game where there are no rules for dating, but there are rules for raping, and your male characters can even go on “rape quests”.  It’s a game where if you’re playing a female characters, you can work in a bar, or be a whore–and the chances are good if you work in a bar, you’re still a whore, because it seems like all women are good for his in game is having sex.

It’s also a game that, when there were many a forum flame war over it’s dubious merits, there were scores of gamers who stood up and said, “What are you saying?  This is totally like the best Game EVAR!”

I’ve been a gamer most of my life.  One of the reasons I got into games was to allow my imagination to stretch, and that helped me become a writer.  I loved immersing myself into a world and creating something that might, just might, become something I could look back upon with pride, for I wasn’t just having fun, I was creating a story.

But, as I told my gaming friend last night, it seems that for every great gamer I’ve ever met, I’ve met three who were juvenile assholes.  And juvenile is being kind, because I’ve also encountered my fair share of gamers who were such childish, racist, misogynistic, homophobic losers that  I wanted to toss all my games in the nearest bin and deny I’d ever played one session of Cyberpunk or Vampire:  the Masquerade.  And I’m talking about teenagers here:  I’m talking people in their thirties and forties, people who should know better, but have sadly decided that it’s far cooling to be massive dicks if they can’t get their way, and that calling every character their run into a “fag” or a “whore” is the way to have fun.

I only mention this because this trend isn’t just found among gamers–or as Our Valued Customers points out, people who come into comic book stores–it’s everywhere.  Every day I seem to find posts on Facebook where someone is decrying how “bitches” are preventing them from acting as sexist as they’d like, or how gays getting married is going to destroy the world, or even how voting is a racial entitlement–yeah, Justice Tony, if the asshole robe fits, you wear it.  There been groups on Facebook that were pulled for supporting gay marriage  but where groups about raping slowly a woman while she sleeps is okay, because we don’t want to step on anyone’s rights.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that games like FATAL exist, and that it’s highly likely that something very similar will reappear from time to time.  The attitude that it’s okay to be an ass seems prevalent these days, particularly in my home country.  It’s all about having the right to act like a dick, and I’m cool with that, because if there’s one thing I won’t do, it’s infringe upon your freedom of speech.

Just don’t get shocked when I call you out on your mulling dickishness, because pointing out how wrong you are is always gonna be my right.

Mayhem Most Marvelous

Two chapters to go in Replacements, and it’s surprising how easy it’s been to reach this point.  It’s helped a lot that the last couple of chapters have been very easy to edit, with only the need to change a few things, and adding a phrase here and there.  It’s easy to see that when I wrote this on the first pass, I knew what I wanted to say in these later chapters than I did in the first.

But then I had a better idea of where I wanted the story to go by the time I’d finished the first couple of chapters.  It only makes sense that when I reached then last three chapters, I didn’t have to think about what I was going to write–I only needed it written.

In working this last chapter tonight, I realize that I should do something to the story.  There’s an event that happens at the end, and it takes place in something five paragraphs.  Which makes me wonder:  can a truly horrible event be summed up in under a hundred words?

Why not?

The event that happens, while needed, is not that important that if you never saw it happen, the omission would ruin everything.  If anything, the short scene–the whole chapter is about fourteen hundred words–shows how the person who’s become Olivia will do just about anything to get her way, and while she may feel sorry about what she did, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it again.

In a way, the character who is Olivia is something of a psycho.  She’s kicking ass and burning bridges left and right, and what pisses her off is not the possibility that one may have picked up something strange about her–it’s that she’s enjoying her new role as department head and secret mistress, and woe be to anyone who steps on the toes of her Ferragamos.

I may have given it some thought in the past, but Olivia is probably one of the most screwed up characters I’ve ever done.  She’s not crazy in a Hannibal Lecter way, but once she figures out that she can do pretty much as he pleases, she talks about screwed people up as calmly as she would discuss what sort of polish to use for her pedicure.

When I used to run my World of Darkness Vampire game, there was one character who used to put in an appearance in just about everyone’s game, because when it came to the World of the Undead in Chicago, she was right at the top of the heap of room-temperature bodies.

She was old, powerful, and sometimes referred to as the person who was the historical Helen of Troy.  Since she was so old and powerful, people liked to play her in a very over the top manner, with a lot of histrionics, and beating of breasts.  She was this Amazonian vampire Wonder Woman who no one in their mind would ever cross, because she would hold out your maybe-beating heart for you to see if she was of that mood.

Naturally, I had her show up for a few secessions.  When the players meet her, what do they get?  A very short woman, about five foot without heels, somewhat dark, olive tone skin, black hair, dark eyes, and a physique that might lead you to believe she could lift her body weight–if she were lucky.

This was the same character, the old vampire killer to end all killers.  And she looked like you wouldn’t notice her twice if you ran into her at a local Micky-Ds.

I was questioned about why she looked the way she did.  I was able to justify her appearance on that fact that if she really were from Greece, circa 1,000 BCE, then the whole idea of having a six foot tall plus woman running about the city was ludicrous.  Skin tone, hair, eyes–pretty much the standard for the area.  If she’d been a real lady before turning bloodsucker, then manual labor was totally out of the question, and she probably wouldn’t have had a lot of toning or muscular definition.

But when she–well, I, since I was playing here–spoke, she was calm, has great manners  never once raised her voice or threw a tantrum.  I was ready for that, too.  “If you’re a poseur badass,” I explained, “you have to constantly show everyone so they don’t forever.  If you’re a true badass, though . . . you never have to show anyone what you can do.  They just know.”

And . . . they’re never bothered if they have to kill everyone in a room if they don’t get the first lesson.  You should have known, you dumb shits, that you don’t mess with Death in High Heels . . .

That’s the way Olivia is shaping up.  Killing people is just a thing, and if it’s gonna be done, then get it done.  She’s turning into a sweet badass without having to tip her hand to everyone.

She’s pretty sweet.  I should write more like her.