Witcher III Saved My Soul

witcher3_en_wallpaper_wallpaper_10_1920x1080_1433327726Maaaaybe I’m being a little hyperbolic with the title, but I’m kinda not. This game has me up until 3 and 4 am playing it–not because I feel the need to finish, but because I lose all track of time. And that’s not something that happens to me easily. This game immerses me. Every movement seems right, the layout and leveling seems dynamic, I am rewarded for the exploration of obscure areas, the magic fits and is well balanced, and I can kill creatures way higher than me with skill and cleverness.

But that’s not why I love Witcher 3, why it “saved my soul,” so to speak. Continue reading

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Dream-Writing

I had a powerful dream last night, where I hung by one hand off a bridge seven miles high. I spent the whole dream remembering my life–a life I never lived–and making my peace with all the wrongs I did. At the end, when I gave up holding on, I fell the opposite direction, into space.

That’s the short end of it. I woke vitalized, and much as my peaceful emotional state in my dream, I did not wake mourning, but meditative.

After waking from every in-depth dream, I am motivated to write. I study the world differently. I absorb again, much as I did when I was a child chasing lightning bugs at twilight. Everything shows me its potential. For the day, at least, I am a different person–the person from the dream given fresh life, a second chance, a new opportunity.

An imagined person being given life through my eyes is a complicated thought, and one that requires more than a little thought to understand. My dreams have always been the backbone of my writing because they’re so defined, and when I wake, I truly feel changed. Perhaps it’s my propensity for the chameleonic (No. Not a word), or perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much time putting myself in others’ shoes, but I find no better place, or time, to write than after one of those dreams.

I am not the norm. I don’t believe more than 10% of writers write the way I do. In fact, with historical exceptions here and there, I’ve found none (Bradbury was one. Lovecraft, of course. Poe, possibly. The makers of the game Myst and subsequent publications. Tad Williams. Possibly).

So I ruminate, percolate, delve and dream. I spend my day working, but working through his eyes. (Some days, it’s her eyes.) I freely admit it’s an off-putting thing to talk about, or even consider. I promise you if you met me in real life you wouldn’t think a thing. I believe we all do this, to some extent or another, giving voice to the quiet whispers, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, empathizing, and even projecting. I believe it takes a chameleon’s mind to study it on a fundamental level, to glean the personality from the thing.

If I were a salesman, or a businessman, I’d use this. If I were a police officer, or social worker, I’d use this. It’s not only a writing thing, yet I’ve found ways to use it as efficiently as a pencil, a scalpel, or a pair of shoes.

The dream also effectively answered a question I asked the night before: should I continue banging my head against It Gave Me a Name or should I change gears to Mr. Roadkill (currently titled Red Wing Black)? The answer was, unequivocally, for change.

This is when I make note my work on IGMAN is at a stopping point (because I say so, per the signs) and the Hanged Man (yes. Delicious symbolism) has put me in the shoes of my other MC, and yes, he will hang.

~x

Fiction Writing as an Invention of the Observer

My titles probably seem pretty vague: I’m not in a creativity phase. I’m in a no-caffiene (heh. somewhat), focused force-to-be-reckoned with. It means, basically, Some Of The Best Writers Aren’t Writers At All. They are observers. They are adventurers. They are experts in their field, and know so much about a thing, they can write flawlessly about it. As fiction.

This blog continues on an earlier post (probably the most recent) where I run down rabbit-holes looking for answers to something I can’t quite ratify.

1) Writing is more than writing. Or should be. Otherwise, it’s just a plot biting holes in the tail-end of ideas masquerading as characters-of-motion.

2) Some of the strongest writers aren’t. They’re sometimes emotional, sometimes violent, sometimes drug-addled, sometimes starving and living out of garbage cans. They fight daily through a mire of retail, or customer service, or assisting a dying parent (or two) while desperately looking for a personal life. Some writers have to chew and tear through every piece of fabric and wall to explode into an editor’s office. Some writers are simply surviving. Some of the strongest writers are, simply, the daydreamers that feel so explosively compelled to write that they sit down, scream to a keyboard, and walk away with bloodied fingers. I used to be this way. If I were single, I’d be a volatile, poetic, violent writer. I’m not. I’m content.

3) Some writers write to make money, or be noticed, or be applauded, or be back-patted; the mama’s-boys after soccer practice hoping to impress their friends. Others write to learn about themselves; crises survivors or manic dreamers stretching possibilties between characters to understand–or perhaps explain–themselves to others. Still others write to connect constellatory dots in their heads, pursuing an internal hypothesis that invariably ends with the culmination of the story, or shortly before; researchers, drug-users, all those people diving into the possible what if of fiction. All have their places. A good, critical eye can see the writing of each. Usually it comes from an underlying fear or focus, like knowing the difference between scifi and fantasy in Avatar. What does Avatar focus on? The magic? Or the socio-political?

A writer doesn’t have to be trained. In fact, most hugely successful writers ignore all those molds and write what they want. I’ve read so many “So Yuh Wanna Write uh Fantasy?” novels my head spins. My best novel, in terms of cohesiveness and connectivity, is still the first one I finished in the fledgling years of college. It’s fun, compelling, all the story parts work together, no fat to the plot, no regurgitation to the dialogue, and all the characters grow without infodumping. The content is pretty bitchin, too.

Training sometimes stunts the writer. Some of the greatest advice I got in college came from one of my professors: “You want to be a professional writer? Get a science degree, make money, and focus on writing after you get settled in. You’ll be a better person for it.”

I didn’t follow that advice, even though I was obsessively in love with science-related fields. He understood something I didn’t: world experience only strengthens the writing. And I agree. It does. It’s incredible how much experience I get in understanding group dynamics by working in an office.

I’m working on a friend’s MS: he wrote an autobiographical (perhaps memoir) account of his college days, and the damaging effects it had on him. The work is tense, powerfully so, with sarcastic quips to separate bouts of intense frustration. He’s never written, or pursued a career in writing. He loves to write, and he’s been writing for a bit, but he had all but given up on getting published before I asked to see it.

I’ve read hundreds of books, fiction and otherwise, and his is a work I’d actually want to read if I found it on the shelf. I’m a picky guy, too, when it comes to all types of media (see previous entry).

It all comes down to a simple bit of advice: don’t worry about knowing everything writing-related. In fact, don’t worry about it at all. Finish your book, send it to someone you trust to read it, and let it flow. If you’re thinking about writing, do it. I know so many incredible writers who decided not to put any effort into the book, and let it dissolve in the alka-seltzer. So many brilliant ideas wasted, or ignored, or forgotten.

Even if you have only One Good Idea, write it. It could be world-changing.

Antagonist Birthday Book

My title is the first three words on my “tag cloud” widget or whatever scene word one uses to describe such a thing. It’s beast.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying the tropes of an antagonist, and somewhere in the recent past realized I can’t make a good antagonist to save my life. I can make an incredible zealot dedicated to opposite goals from the protagonist. I can make an army of them mechanically acting to a set of action/reaction.

But to write someone that exists only to be evil, or only to aggravate the MC eludes me. I’d assume it’d boil down to a psychological issue, or a defense mechanism (like a pathological liar), but I haven’t yet been able to drop into that mindset. Either the bad guy is a force of nature or he’s entirely redeemable and not nearly “bad” enough.

Some of my favorite books have had antagonists that were simply in the way of the protagonist. Like Ender’s Game. While the threat was the buggers, or whatever they called them, and the safety of humanity was at stake, Ender fought off several bullies and bucked a system some guy upstairs broke to break him. It was awesome. Ender literally fought the system, which is cool. Yet some of the antagonizers were the bullies that tried to force him down.

Yet that’s not entirely my point of this post. I want, desperately, to write a good antagonist MC. I’ve written Discordant Protagonists (my Urban Fantasy, for one: a cry to the darkness of all things literary to please birth an antagonist out of the Dresden-esque fantasy soup… nope), and I’ve written Sarcastic Protagonists that get into a lot of trouble and redeem themselves.

But antagonists as MC? I don’t know if it’s in me. Satirical, system-changing vigilantes? I’d love to. I really would. Some brooding figure so mired in his own unhappiness he ignores all the warning signs of a healthy, logical individual? Yes, please.

I don’t think I have enough disgruntled, misdirected anger for that. Maybe if I work hard enough I’ll start to hate.

Poetry Should be in Every Writer’s Bag of Tricks

I had an emo stage when I was very young. I called it: High School. Growing from that (relatively normal) stage in my life like lichen on a damp grave, my love for poetry grew.

I’ll be the first to say it wasn’t a normal love for poetry, or a “poet’s” love for poetry. I never spent hours on rainy days reading my favorite Dickenson or Cummings. In fact, the only “short” poetry I ever read was required reading in class.

Poetry wakes something different in my mind than prose. It is a puzzle, or art. It is an environment, or a state of mind. It is Milton, and Dante, and Longfellow, and Poe. My favorite poetry isn’t the violin string too taut to play casually, but the violin so used it’s got a soul.

So I wrote. I can’t write short stories to save my life. They always start short, but end long, long, long. Always. My poetry was my short story: most were dreams, some were snippets. Short shorts. Some were whole ten-page encounters. And of course they started off emo, writing about my woes. The worst kind of blues imaginable. I fell in love with Persy Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, puzzled out Dante’s Divine Comedy (as best a high schooler can), and understood Milton’s Lucifer (as best a Catholic can).

I still write poetry, from time to time, although I realize that only when I’m alone (without a partner) that I write anything of substance or personal value. I’ve never been published in poetry and don’t expect to be, because it isn’t an end of itself: it is a brilliant tool to understand words, understand the fluidity of the English language, and of course to expand your mind.

Poetry is zen prose. I learned so much from it. It’s easier for a person to “dumb” writing down to his market’s reading level than to expand it out to truly stretch a thought to encompass the emotional state of, say, an abused child attending his abusee father’s funeral. It’s easy to say, “he had dry eyes. He felt sad, but distant.” It’s not easy to write the path.

Some of my last poetry before I met my (then girlfriend) fiancee:

I breathe like a fever-beetle, and staunch Lilac’s hemmoraging
Warbridled and brackish, kindless and kinetic, a halo of red
A ring of posies; do you see the subtle taste floating in the sea of star?
We are all of us sick and stranded. I am a well. Fill me.

It’s clearly not accessible. It’s complicated, and filled with what some would label “cryptic,” a series of themes and symbols that have evolved meaning for me. Like a painter, perhaps, focuses on the human form for years, or a specific color of paint, or… apples.

I personally feel every writer should have a grasp of poetry. I don’t care if you’re a journalist, a textbook writer, or science fiction novelist. When I feel particularly pent-up, I dive into it to try and better understand myself.

~x