Friday, December 19, 2014

The Adventures of Varner - End of Chapter I

You stand in front of a tunnel, it is damp and dark, but strangely inviting. You can hear the distant rambling of a crazy man talking to himself, but his voice is friendly despite a constant referral to his precious. There's a dim light at the far end, but it's of a color that you're sure is coming from a warmer, brighter place. Regardless, the damp hole has to be better than turning around and letting Jimmy break your kneecaps for what you owe him after you bet on the Oakland Raiders. Even the guys in the black hole didn't think it was worthwhile bet. And, seriously, look at them...

 What the hell were you thinking?

>Enter the Tunnel

Thursday, November 13, 2014

WTF: Why The Filters?

The social media age has long been upon us and people are excited for all the new content suddenly at their fingertips. Once upon a time you had to subscribe to a magazine and wait every month for a new issue to come out. But in today’s fast paced society you’re sent a stream of new information constantly that never stops. You’ve always got something new coming to you and you see more things now than you ever did before. Just one problem, all that content has slowly been disappearing from your Facebook feed.

And your twitter feed is full of gems like this.

Truly, the dumbening of society has set in. And, considering I just used “dumbening” as if it were a real word, English may never recover. But where did all the content worth looking at go? When you search the internet you know it’s still out there and there are some that you go back to time and time again. It’s just mysteriously vanished from your social media accounts as if they never there in the first place, replaced by an endless wave of photos, stupid quotes, and invitations to play games you never want to play.

Where the hell did it go? What’s been done to it to make it run away from your social networking feeds? Didn’t you start following things like “I Fucking Love Science”? Shouldn’t your page be full of fantastic knowledge of the physical world by now?

Well no, clearly not, and it’s hard for a lot of people to understand this. But I’m going to let you in on a secret, it’s easily understood when you realize guys like this:

Aren’t super geniuses like you thought they were.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Most Important Question in Character Development

When you stop to think about it, possibly under the influence of a drink, chemical, or hazy cloud of dust, you have to admit that stories are inexorably linked to questions. Folktales and mythology from ages long ago were crafted to answer questions of the natural world. The science fiction of the modern day answers the questions of our existence, the universe, and our future within it. Whether the answers that these stories present to us are correct is beside the point - the question is always there.

Journalism teaches that there’s five (sometimes six) questions to be asked for every story: who, what, when, where, and why. They say that if you have these five elements, you can fill all the requirements of the audience’s need to know and craft a good news story. Sometimes they may add “how”, but that is often only for situations where the “how” is fascinatingly complicated. Together, these questions also leave a lasting impact on fiction. After all, every story answers them even if you don’t intend to.
"In ancient Greece (when, where), Hercules (who), the demigod son of Zeus (what, who), is given twelve labors to complete (what) with his mighty strength (how) as a means of finding redemption for having murdered his family under the influence of Hera (why)."
Portrayed (what) in 2014 (when) by Dwayne Johnson (who) for a big fat check (why)
These details are everywhere in story telling and the more of them you have, the better your story becomes. But, in fiction, one of them happens to be more important than the rest of them combined. This one question in the batch of six happens to give all of the others importance in a way that nothing else can. Without the most important question, none of the other details have any meaning. And that question is…

Monday, November 10, 2014

How PC Does Your Story Need To Be?

Despite modern advances, one could say that being a writer today is actually somewhat harder than it was in the past. It’s true that anyone can get published now due to the ease of self-publishing through eBooks. The indie market is thriving now more than it ever has in the history of literature. But at the same time the industry is dwindling, the market is saturating, and the money is flowing in other directions. This will change with time, but we’re in something of a pinch that never existed before and it does put you under some pressure to consider all angles as you write.

One of the new things to become an issue in the modern day is the idea that your work offending someone might, in turn, cause an angry horde to come kicking down your digital door. In the old days, if you pissed someone off you might have a fatwa declared against you like Salman Rushdie did. But Salman could just avoid going to countries where people were likely to carry that out. It worked for a lot of people who needed to avoid the people their work offended and, as I often like to point out, it worked out just fine for Rushdie.

But the internet brings everyone right to your doorstep. Maybe they can’t pose a serious threat to your life (though many may try to make you feel like they could), but they’re there and they never go away. Some people have had this hit them and rode it like a wave into success. Would we have seen the phenomenon of Harry Potter had fundamentalist Christians not lost their god damn minds over it? It’s hard to say. But what isn’t hard to say is that, before Harry Potter, most children’s book series were lucky to net their author 6 figures and Rowling has easily crossed 8.

But for newer writers, I have something important to tell you…

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Writing Fantasy: 5 Tips For Using Alternative Mythology

Last year when NaNoWriMo was in full swing I gave some tips to people who wanted to write fantasy stories. Since then, I’ve been exploring the world of Alternative Mythologies and found there were some interesting things to be done there. My original tips were based in the more general fantasy, but new challenges appear when you look deeper. To those of you who have been following the Alternative Mythologies series, you may have some questions. So today I’m thinking it’s time to go a little deeper.

As fantasy has evolved there have been a growing number of subgenres that have branched off from the core genre that has long ago become known as Epic Fantasy. Among these genres, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Young Adult Urban Fantasy currently reigns supreme. But other genres to have branched off from the core have also included things such as Historical Fantasy, Slipstream Fantasy, and the bizarre world of Jane Austen Parody Fantasy.

So when looking at my Alternative Mythologies series of blog posts, some people who write in these other genres may ask themselves how to appropriately use these mythologies from around the world. Adding new and interesting creatures to Epic Fantasy tends to be easily done, but how do you work in something exotic into an Urban Fantasy setting appropriately? After all, the biggest draw of Urban, Historical and Slipstream is that feeling that it could be in the world as it actually is rather than the far off unreal world of something like Lord of the Rings.

So, just how do we apply the mythologies of other cultures to a more tangible world?

Monday, November 3, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Is a month enough?

It was a dark and stormy night this last Friday. Creepy children wandered the streets dressed as that guy from Minecraft and a couple Superheroes. And on that night, for the first time in ages, it rained in my area - purging the evil walnut haze. And as the haze lifted and I rose from my grave, I realized October was done and a new month had rolled in: November. That means one thing for those of us in the online writing world: It’s NANOWRIMO TIME.

Welcome to the time of the year where I’m going to spend at least a couple entries talking to people who are trying to crank out their first novel or are considering getting their pet project published. For those in group #1, I hope you enjoy the wonderful hobby of putting words down in an order that pleases you only to later develop a neurotic problem where you hate everything when you read it again. To those in the second group, you’ve probably gotten past that stage and are either delirious or had a moment where you realized there’s enough shit published in the world that you definitely have a chance. Either way, good luck my masochist brethren and welcome to the warzone.

But those people in the latter group gave me something to think about recently. We’ve all heard a variation of the concept by now: “The good thing about eBooks is that anyone can be an author now. The bad thing about eBooks is that anyone can be an author now.” Hell, it was even uttered on @Midnight recently by the guy best known lately for this one picture.

So I come to you all with a question that’s been answered in the past but I think we can still explore deeper…

Thursday, October 30, 2014

WTF: FTW - F**k The Walnuts

So, anyone who’s followed this blog for a long period of time knows that in the last month I’ve become somewhat spotty on my updates (read: nearly non-existant). This is pretty common among writers who have blogs, we tend to disappear and then come back swearing that we’re going to do better… then we don’t. Let’s face it, 90% of the blogs out there that have been updated by a writer have tanked after 2 years. But the eagle-eyed among you will notice I’ve been updating this thing for 4 years now and that this was probably my strongest year yet.

So where the fuck have I been?

Well, for that, I’d like to explain to you the reason for the season and tell you about some trees, son (sorry, needed a rhyme there). So for the followers I have, all one of you, I’m now going to tell you a story about…