Internet Nostalgia

Has the wide spread of social media made us less social? It used to be that on the internet you could go into chat rooms and strike up a conversation with random people or join a forum and there would be thousands of other members posting nearly daily. These things are still somewhat possible, but it seems that since everyone you know has an email and Facebook account that people are less likely to seek out those that they don’t know and try to converse with them.

This just came to me the other day, but even with the advent of things like Twitter actual chat-like conversation with more than one person becomes difficult or even sluggish, it’s almost a regression from the chat rooms of old; the IRCs, MSN and Yahoo chats—most of which have died off.

Microsoft has traded the functionality, fun and customizable sleek look of their Windows Live Messenger client for the dismal look of Skype. Many of the features that we have enjoyed in Live Messenger and MSN Messenger before that are gone and replaced with a uniform look, un-customizable emoticons and fonts and more video chat features that not many people seem to use if there’s no need.

Surely these things died out because of a lack of use, Yahoo chat rooms a few years back seemed to be exclusively populated by ad bots. People used to go on them or AOL hoping to make connections (sometimes love connections), but there’s no need. Anyone you’ve ever known is probably on Facebook and people would rather try and reconnect with old friends than make new ones.

For a time even Facebook was a good way to meet new people, but this changed around the time they opened it to high school students and the public at large. There were no longer those random “let’s meet for coffee” messages because the site was much bigger than you campus and we weren’t always just connected through friends.

Now there are some things out there that pride themselves on meeting random people like Chat Roulette, but usually no permanent connections come from it. I have friends I’ve known over a decade that I’ve never met in person, people who live across the country or world who have actually shaped the things I’ve done and the choices I’ve made. One of the biggest was probably Juliet Singleton and her influence on my decision to write.

There used to be such an adventurous way about the internet, which is odd consider that in the late 90s people still seemed to consider the chat room surfer to be someone to be socially ostracized. Back then you didn’t have to have a perfect connection with someone to be friends, a lot of the time you learned that even without surface level things in common there’s still something there. And those kind of friends really make for the best discussion.

I doubt that the internet will ever swing back that way and I’m sure I’ll always miss it.

The Formula of Dexter

I have been trying to catch up on watching Dexter. About a year and a half back I watched season one and actually enjoyed myself a lot. For some reason I didn’t immediately pick up the second season. I don’t know why I did it. Watching things in my own time is how I usually do it. when I watched Doctor Who I blew through it all in like a week and a half—that was the first four seasons and the specials that followed them.

Watching any show is kind of like studying for me. Even if the show is bad or unrelated to what I write there are pieces of the narrative that I can learn from. At least that’s how I see it.

The thing about Dexter is that it has a lot to do with the moral gray area between good and evil and turning our own ideas about what we think we know on us and using them against us. That’s what I find impressive in narratives. When an author or shows writer takes the world or people we know and shifts the dynamic of all that knowledge it excites me and makes me want to see more and know more. It challenges your thought processes and gives you this feeling like anything else could change.

Making your reader feel like any of the characters is at stake and that anything could happen is one of the best things you can do in a story. Even one where the killing isn’t violent. When it comes to formula of Dexter it’s very noticeable. Formulas however aren’t always a bad thing. Though I can see the ones present in Dexter with great ease (the structure of the season is the most apparent). The fact that a formula can work and in your favor actually reinforces what I’ve always thought.

People used to use the criticism that something is formulaic without any other reason for calling something bad. But it really isn’t a bad word, the same way formula isn’t always a bad thing.

His Face All Red

hisfaceallred

This one is going to be short and sweet—I hope. There’s a comic strip called “His Face All Red”. My best friend posted it on Facebook the other day and I gave it a read. It’s only about ten pages long. Before I go into what’s so impressive about it, the comic can be found here.

Now that you’ve gotten a first hand look at this thing, did you notice how chilling it is without resorting to gore of gratuitous violence? Emily Carroll, the author in this case, makes impressive use of the medium she is working within to convey feelings and emotions without directly telling the audience very much. Sure this is easier because comics are a visual medium, but even in comic books we’re used to seeing characters launch into needless exposition to explain complexities in the narrative and the like.

It’s not uncommon for authors to treat their audience like they’re completely inept and unable to figure out the reason behind things or what’s actually happening in the plot, which is what makes this such a great piece of work. Emily trusts you to reason a lot of the bits and pieces out and you don’t even consciously do it. She doesn’t have to call attention to everything. You feel it and as you read you understand. That is a really hard thing to do and the line between too much telling and not enough showing can be hard to find for some. The trick is usually that you should show when possible, tell only if necessary or for dramatic impact.

Having said that, I know it’s easier said than done. Before the day is out I will break that rule multiple times.

Another blogger actually goes into an in depth page by page anaylsis of the plot and how it’s a good example of showing versus telling. That can be found here.

There’s No Point to a Lofty Goal That You Aren’t Reaching For…

Pretty long title, but it explains the entire point of the post I’m writing today. Just when I had started to work on the Keep Austin Safe, something came over me and told me that it should be written in first person. I got this idea that I was going to do the whole thing in first person and it was going to be grand and insightful. Only problem is that I’m terrible at first person and it limits me from having the ease of switching characters (which is something I banked on when I planned this).

Now I am standing on the edge of making a change to my plan and I am thinking that it might be for the better. This whole thing might just need the third person treatment that I am so used to writing. At least when it came to third person I was sitting down and writing and actually doing something. Every since I made the choice to switch this out I’ve been sitting on my hands and not doing anything.

Better a goal I’m reaching for than one so lofty it doesn’t even spark my drive. And yes, some of you might notice this is a dangerous line of thought. What if the Astronauts had thought this when they were going to the moon or something? There are shades of gray in everything—things aren’t black and white and you don’t just have to go from one extreme to the other. This line of thought might work for some situations and there has to be some maturity and experience in deciding which times it would be best to step things back a little.

One important thing to ask yourself is if there is another way to accomplish this goal without sacrificing the quality while not doing whatever is blocking you from working. Every time I wonder that the same thing comes back and I realize that the way forward was the original way I had planned this. Third person.

After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong or right with third person. When you compare the viewpoints most of what people argue over is preference. I’m probably the only author I know personally who started writing in third person first. Then again, I’ve never been one to write characters that were similar to me—which would make first person harder.

At this point there’s nothing left to do but forge on. Though I will conquer first person some day…more than likely right after I write something that’s not fantasy or science fiction related…

Fan Fiction’s Call

Not a week goes by that without a dozen or so emails from Fan Fiction.net with people commenting, liking and bookmarking my stories. The most common comments involve how well I handled something in their favorite fandom and usually asks when I am going to return to writing. I admit, I miss fan fiction and it did help me get into writing in general. There’s some level of instant gratification there because I know I will be seeing the results of my labor right away if I write something like that.

I don’t need to return to epics, but there was some projects there I think I need to finish because I hate the idea of leaving all of those little worlds left untouched.

I’m considering stepping back into it on the side, it’s a good way to unwind after all.

Another Post About Porn

I read a story out of Egypt yesterday that they had banned internet pornography and for the most part I was pretty unconcerned with the whole thing. Sure access to porn is one of the many things we in the United States have, but I’m not really sure that it’s the kind of ban that we should be as concerned about as many of the other things around the world. That’s why I pointed out to some people that it was small in the great scheme of things.

People got so defensive that I was kind of shocked. People were claiming that it enriched their lives and that it was so important to them or that the disappearance of porn would drive the rate of rape up. Honestly I think that some of the attitudes that we see toward women are in part due to pornography. I was telling someone about how racism and humiliation play a pretty heavy.

The example that I gave was a video series that features girls who think they’re interviewing for a job in the adult film industry. The guy who is interviewing them basically asks the girls to film an “audition tape”. The videos make a big point of telling you that the girls think the tape is real, but it’s not. Of course this is all pretend. But the point in telling you about the job being fake is for the humiliation and degradation factor. That’s part of the turn on and the fact that women being humiliated and made a spectacle of is really a big thing for some men is kind of worrying. Sure it could be called normal or just part of a kind of “behind closed doors” life some of us have.

But the real worrying thing is the attitudes toward women and of women in society. Sure all of that started long before modern pornography, but I’m sure it’s not being helped by it either.

Abraxus

When I talk about giving a character backstory in D&D I’m serious…dead serious. This is the background for my Dragonborn Warlord named Abraxus. Those of you who have seen any part of the novel will recognize the name used for the wife from somewhere… (Sorry for those not particularly interested in D&D, but there is a bit of character building here for you!)


Abraxus was born during an eclipse that coincided with passing of a comet. His family was part of a clan of Dragonborn families that traveled the snow covered northern tundra of the ‘Crown of the World’. For the first three years of his life his father, Korinn, and his mother, Biri, raised him together. But in keeping with tradition Abraxus was to spend most of his time under the tutelage of Korinn after the age of three. Though he learned the ancient ways of his people from his father, Abraxus was never far from Biri’s watchful eye.

Their family unit was part of a larger clan that would occasionally come down from the North for various reasons. If the winter was harsh, food would be scarce. The clan would travel south for the warmer climate bringing them closer to civilization. During the sixth year of Abraxus’s life the clan Seer, Shamash, foresaw the coming of a once in an unbelievably long winter.

The clan made their way south until they were in close proximity to several cities and towns. Abraxus had never seen a large settlement. He had seen the camps that their clan and the other travelers in the North had set up. The large settlements that he saw in the South dwarfed all of this. For the first time the concept of cities that his father had spoken of made complete sense.

Though the clan traded with the people of the city and did odd jobs where they could help, they stayed mostly outside of the town and set up camp as they normally would have. Unfortunately the frightful winter that Shamash had predicted reached further south than anyone could have foreseen.

Frigid temperatures drove many people to the edge forcing them to take drastic measures. With the scarcity of food crime grew rampant and there was a great demand for mercenary work. Korinn and some of the other members of clan answered the call and gained recognition from the people of Caris, the town nearest to their camp. From there word spread of the clan and their work curbing the problem of thievery. But there were other problems cropping up as the winter drew on.

Disappearances began and many of the caravans along the road started being found face down in the snow, slaughtered for their goods. At first it seemed to be the work brutish bandits. But as they grew more common place talk of cultists of Orcus. Some said that winter brought them, while others claimed they brought the winter back when their atrocities angered the Raven Queen.

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Back In The Game

It has occurred to me first and foremost that I posted yesterday’s blog one day too early for it really to be the eve of what I was talking about. Now I feel a little bit like I want to hide that post so everyone can’t see my shame, but really the things I wanted to say there don’t make any less sense than they would anywhere else.

I need to make my way back into writing, I am going to keep this short and sweet and just say that I need to take my own advice and just write. All of this fear over what my voice will sound like in first person doesn’t help me get out of this rut, it doesn’t do anything to lift me up and give me the experience that I really need to make this a better book.

Besides, I’ve got about a decade of writing experience at my back and though very little of that was “published” writing, a lot of it was seen by a moderately wide audience.

I just need to get back into the game.

There’s a quote I wanted to share with you from a person on the forums over at Something Awful. This member goes by the handle “Chillmatic”. I guess I better give you all some background first. Someone else posted this:

So far I already feel like I’m starting to have a lot of fun doing it again, and I also feel like a little self awareness will go a long way to actually helping me develop as a writer. So the question is, where should I post my stupid brain spew where I can get some constructive (or destructive, what do I care?)criticism from people who don’t mind humoring an absolute novice so that I can make some progress toward being a half-decent story teller?

And Chillmatic took it upon himself to set this person straight in the best kind of way:

How about you do some reading and study up on the craft of writing before you subject the internet to your “stupid brain stew”?

And for fuck’s sake, don’t be the guy who says “what do I care about the kind of feedback I get” when you clearly fucking do care.

Also, please don’t do the whole passive-aggressive shitshow thing where you post a bunch of crap about how worthless and terrible you are while secretly hoping everyone will tell you that no, in fact, you’re actually a genius!

You want some more self-awareness? Fine. Start with the stuff I just told you and am about to tell you. The shit you just posted here is really some of the most aggravating crap that a critique group can ever have to deal with, and you won’t make any friends doing stuff like that.

So consider this the only advice you need right now: don’t be a whiny self-deprecating little shit, don’t put a bunch of stupid irrelevant details in your posts (like your dumbass guitar playing), and don’t post terrible shit until you’ve spent a minimum of three months reading about the craft of writing and doing writing exercises in your spare time. And finally, if your writing looks anything like that post you made, you’ve got a lot of very immediate and obvious flaws.

1. You drone on with pointless details. (because you obviously love the sound of your own voice)

2. Your use of language vacillates between “low style” and “grotesque imitation of the high style” (because you obviously love the sound of your own voice)

3. You’re the only one that loves the sound of your own voice. Might want to consider that your anonymous reader won’t give a shit about how brilliant you think you are. Cut away the fat; get to the heart of the matter.

4. Don’t post again for a long time.

If you’re a new writer, especially one of those people who decides to write for Nano for the first time because you think it would be fun and you’ve never written anything that wasn’t required by some class you were taking then remember this above quote. There’s nothing more annoying to critics and other writer’s alike than the new person who tries to self-deprecate while acting like they could careless about the critique that they’re asking for.

Nothing against new writers, just that no one likes that guy.

Election Eve Observation

For those of you that don’t know I’m not a fan of Shakespeare. I don’t worship him like most writers seem to. Though I will give him where credit is due and I don’t hesitate to use his writing as an example in political debates. this is a short excerpt of a post I made on a forum the other day. I needed to fill my “post something for the day” quota and I felt this might fit here.

A lot of the qualification that is happening seems to be that Romney is “the white guy”. People are saying shit like he looks more presidential, he made that comment about no one needing to ask him for his birth certificate, and the whole election seems like Othello playing out in real life. Here’s this black guy that his enemy can’t even give straight reasons for hating and they keep changing their narrative and at the end of the day the only real reason that he’s hated so much is because he’s the Moor, an outsider, the black guy.

No one wants to be accused of being so openly racist, but there’s a very thin veil over it. Those who don’t realize it and who are weaker willed are bombarded with stories of Obama being an outsider and it really started during the last election. Things are being said that would never be said of a white candidate and really I think that if there was any doubt how much a problem racism is in this country, Obama’s presidency should be proof that it still is.