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A Step Forward

To me, this post marks a little milestone in my illustrious blog. This will be my fiftieth post and I hope to make the occasion something a little special. I note this as a milestone because it is the longest period of time with writing on a daily routine for me. It comes as a small bit of personal therapy to share bits of myself. I have recovered a lot from this and hope to continue. So, in honor of number fifty, here are some thoughts that I pulled from my files.

Each of us has a manner of philosophy when it comes to the different social issues that are swirling around the media coverage. In the past, during the present, and suggested in our dreams of the future, we have our idea of a utopian world. Some might see that the world would be at peace if cultural or religious beliefs did not get in the way of logical thoughts. This might lead a few minds to believe that if we were able to forget some of the differences that we have with each other, then we might have a chance to settle our squabbles over wealth, power, and resources.  However, what kind of a world would we have if everyone was forced to think the same?

This brought me to the idea that the human race has a strong root in the concept of conflict. It is just as strong as the need we have for stability and order. It is this very opposition of world views that fuels the events of the world and the stories of our cultures. In a fictional story, there is a need for the protagonist to move the world around from static order to healing change or from destructive chaos to stable order. The characters in the story work from these diametrically opposing views in their own ways.

It was this ideal that helped me come to the general thought of a novel that I am working on. In it, I was to shake up some of the classical myths such as Zeus reigning on high. I have been a student of these very stories. In recent times, I have watched movies and read books to compare my thoughts.  Most of them present the struggle of the Olympians facing off or being helped to battle against the imprisoned Titans.  In some, the Titans are attempting to escape and use someone to help. Others, the Olympians are simply trying to stay important to the mortals, so they do not become obsolete. In the end, the mortals find immortality as a hero to help the Olympians retain their powers.

So, here is my idea. From the collections of myths and epic poems, the ancient Hellenes were able to pass along a connection story of heroes called the Trojan Cycle. It is this thread of myths and legends that we are able to see the Trojan War and its heroes play out. By the end, we have come to understand the rage of Achilles, the authority of Agamemnon, and the cleverness of Odysseus. Their names live on and the Olympians continue to keep their place.  To the Romans, who inherited this legacy, the story continues into their world with the travels of Anchises and Aeneas.  Each tales is a struggle of the healing change against the static world except Aeneas.  He is presented at the foundation of Rome and its evolution into imperial order. My thought was what would happen if something through this cycle in a different way.

As it begins with a Titan confessing his knowledge to Zeus about the son of Thetis, I thought that it would be an incredible tale to have Zeus ignore the prediction and take Thetis for himself.  This simple turn would bring some great adventures and lead to a climatic conflict with all the races of classical mythology. I have constructed the characters and the outline. I hope to present some excerpts here and hope that everyone enjoys.

My thanks to all that have made this blog a success so far and I will continue to offer more.

crudus animus

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A Real Character

In a quest to create something that is entertaining in written form, the characters that drive a plot need to be engaging with the audience. Perhaps it is a common trait shared or a familiar way of thinking and solving the problems. The character becomes the window into the storyteller’s mind as the tale is told. This becomes the voice of the writer as the story moves along. It may not be a first person voice all the time, but the narrative does unfold around this particular character. Instinctively, the author dips into this pool and allows the character choose the path that each takes. Strong characters will become fascinatingly independent. However, here is the question: what elements must be addressed in order to make this possible? How does an author make a character?

As with any new skill or self-taught talent, turning to information on techniques is the first step. The numerous sources of information on the Internet can provide a vast pool to choose from. One of the common techniques is to create the traits of the character with a questionnaire. Favorite color and hobbies might be included, but the focus is on the personal features and simple background. This particular aid helped with the very simple foundation of the character.

Building on this, the construction of the character moves to a stage where the simple traits are fleshed out with a few descriptions of the personality and a little history.  This is a framework to enhance with further details of the background history for the character. Perhaps the veteran cop grew up in a rough neighborhood and had some friends who ended up on the other side of the law. The torn loyalties to his old friends and his duty as a law officer can play upon his life.  The stretch of the features can create a vast range of emotions and personality reactions.

Once the structure begins to take on the weight of a fleshed-out history, it is time to test the waters with this newly minted character and his personality in a few short paragraphs with a small obstacle to test him. The thinking of the character is governed by his past and his present. Soon, he is creating a future without the author actually knowing what will happen next. A curious energy will take over the character if the story is good enough. Nothing fulfills the character’s existence more than the challenges and struggles. Finding success in lieu of these gives the character life.

This brings the character element to the story framework and readies for the plot. Now most techniques involve what is called a character sketch which can help this process from the beginning, but I believe that should be the last piece. With the traits set, the history constructed, and the personality formed, the character sketch is a technique similar to the short story test, but it is mainly a reflection of the character at the start of the larger story. It is the jump-off point for the fiction and frames all the elements in a few pages.

As an author sits to begin, the techniques are varied, but the results come from the correct elements. It is not always the course for every writer and it would be interesting to listen to the different ways that authors create. For the moment, these techniques will have to work to produce the proper cast for the story. What does matter is that characters find a story and the plot evolves into a life of its own.

crudus animus

The Spark in the Night

As a nerd, I have officially been a little behind on some of the most recent television shows. I have turned my attention to fiction writing and the upcoming science fiction and fantasy novels that will be coming out. Usually, I am quite excited about this time of the year with conventions going on and new products being unveiled, but nothing has excited me.  I am growing a little curious about an author named Scott Sigler who has been writing for several years and approached the business from a new direction. He started by writing his stories and reading them through free podcasts. Each episode was a chapter and wraps up the novel after about twenty or so episodes. His universe is called the Sigler-verse and I am interested to try it out. What is also unique is the basis of actually science in his stories. He prides himself on that very fact.

Another author that has been writing for some time is George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones.  I know that it has been turned into the HBO show, but I am about to set about reading it for the first time. I am not sure how I feel about it. Mostly, I hesitate because I feel that, as a fan of Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time, I might be a traitor. However, I could just be crazy.  Fan or not, I will be reading that series soon.

Now, I was stating that I am behind on many things. The last few years of life have been too busy for me to enjoy things.  I am catching up in a big way. I am a bit ashamed that I only recently finished watching Battlestar Galactica.  I was not sure about a reboot as I was a huge fan of the original.  My spouse borrowed the first season and we were hooked. All the seasons were intoxicating and enticing to watch further.  I was eager to watch more and more. In watching it, I started to consider a couple of things.

The first thing was the brutal reality that this small group of people had to live in. I watched the intensity rise with each episode and no one was safe from the harshness of the journey. The main characters were extraordinary and tormented souls. From the leaders to the personnel characters, these main stories gave the overall plot depth and brittle nerves waiting to shatter. I was very pleased with each episode and wept when some of my favorites were lost.  I can only hope to bring that intensity to my own writing. My motto is that no one is safe and there is no happy ending.

Secondly, I was truly thrown off by the element of music playing such a crucial part to the series. Usually in a television show, you expect music to be the tempo of the episodes, but the music became part of the show’s actually plotline and the show’s dénouement. When it was done, I sat back and wondered if that kind of element could be included in my writing.  I am no musician but the thought that music is a universal constant intrigues me.

With that said, I have returned to my writing with the excitement that the world will influence me more and more.  I only hope that I find some way to complete a story before I am gone.  I am well on my way and this place is helping with that goal.

crudus animus

The Saga Continues…

As a member of the nerd community, one of the largest events for the summer is about to take place in the city of San Diego.  Comic-con International in San Diego has grown over the last decade into a convention for all the nerds and geeks interested in the hobby of comic books.  With that, it has exploded with the move of that genre of stories into the motion picture and television industries. This one convention has become a starting point for the display of upcoming movies and teaser trailers for thousands of fanatics to get a first look.  For these fans, this is the center of their year and the anticipation grows in the weeks before.

This year, something different took place before the convention. It is called Course of the Force.  It is a lightsaber relay from Santa Monica to San Diego that was created by a venture between Lucasfilm and a growing company called Nerdist Industries. Nerdist Industries functions as a nexus of nerd culture on the Internet. These two groups have come together in support something more than just the convention. They are using Comic-con to raise money for a worthy cause.  It is the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The relay alone has already raised enough money for the charity to make over a thousand wishes. The relay is just the beginning. There are various shows and events along the route of the relay including a concert at the end of the race. They are also holding an eBay auction for a variety of collectibles including Star Wars items that are signed. It is a great way to include the fans and allow them all to raise money for a charity that helps children.

All of this is important to note because it is recognized that there are some on the Internet who have come to see the convention as a breakaway from its original purpose for comic books.  To them, it has come to be a commercialized event for the movie industry to show off their product. I tend to disagree as this is a convention environment for people with like minds to gather and share an experience that will never be forgotten by the nerd community. I will admit that it has grown and many of the panels show off the television and movie products, but it is the fact that this convention helps to celebrate something that most might have scoffed at before. Nerds love all kinds of things, even the by-products of comic books.

I hope that all will take a chance to check it out online at least. The website is courseoftheforce.com. Enjoy the fun as much as you can and as much as you want. A whole new world has opened with this direction and nerds can find a way to make the world a better place.

In the end, I believe that this charity relay is a step in the right direction. It will bring attention to the community of nerds and connect them to those outside their world. We are not all just the cliché nerd hiding away from the world. It is time to celebrate for fans of comic books and the offspring of those great stories.

crudus animus

A Good Weekend of Role-playing Fun

It is likely to be a very good weekend. I am about to delve into a little bit of storytelling in the world known to many fans as the Wheel of Time.  This is based on a fantasy series books authored by the late and great Robert Jordan. Those not familiar with it should definitely consider a look if you have any appreciation for the Lord of the Rings or the Song of Ice and Fire series. In the Wheel of Time, the rotation of time is measured like a large wheel where souls are weaved back into the world to play their part over and over. It is a setting of prophecy where the Dragon, an almost mythical person, will be reborn to battle the Dark One before he can escape from his prison.  The tales surround three young boys who are pushed along by the forces of the world including the turning of the Wheel. One note about this series is the equal role that both genders play in this story.  It is an extraordinary blend that helps to bring it all to life.

I have been tempted often to share my many thoughts about this series through this blog, but it does not seem appropriate to give so much time to it. I would like to keep to my purpose.  I will likely sprinkle in a few here and there when it applies.  For today, I simply wanted to mention this as I will be setting up a campaign for some table top gaming that is set in the Wheel of Time world.  My players will range from those that are very familiar with the setting to new introductions to the world. I have a lot to explore and many paths to send them down.

As this is similar to writing a fictional story, I thought that I might add a few thoughts about my preparation for these games.  First, I look at the characters as they are generally the source of stories and direction. It is important to have players who are eager to immerse into the role of their character and learn their place in the world that I am attempting to portray.  It is often their choices that help to shape the starting point and possible story hooks down the road.

Once the players decide what it is that they are going to be, I can bring them together and allow the interactions to assemble the team. I essentially become the backdrop at this point because I am not into the style that forces them together.  I like an organic group that gives them some purpose to stay together.  No story works very well if the characters do not have a reason to be together on the journey.

The next step is to build off this connection and pull the strings in order to bring the story to life. It may be a search for something bad or a twist in a back story plot that surprises them. There is no doubt that this will be the meat of the session. For this weekend, I plan to have a few story hooks out there and let them choose their direction.  It is very exciting to see how players react to the challenges of just choosing.  If the story provides enough options, there is no ending in sight.

Now, I do often have an overarching plotline that will lead to some climatic moment when the players are given the chance to accomplish something or continue on without complete success.  As the story is set within a world where the Wheel turns and may return souls back into the story, I have a great opportunity to resurrect any defeated enemies.  Nothing is better than an enemy that already knows the characters and can exploit their weaknesses.

So, for the weekend to come, I will be offering about six people a chance to enjoy a night of fun and fellowship to share their imaginations.  I promise, as the neutral judge, that I will not bump off my spouse’s character without good reason.

crudus animus

Enjoy Life! Not Zombies!

For several years, I have been faced with a few matters that cause me a shiver. The shiver is due to my lack of knowledge on the subject and to the focus that some have on the topic.  This topic is the zombie apocalyptic scenario. Popular culture does many things to enhance the mindset on the matter through movies and games.  It is even to the point when some see the beginnings of it in the action of crazy people under an overpass. I was even shocked to hear that a few city governments have begun practicing zombie apocalypse preparedness drills.  I don’t discount the idea of preparing for all emergencies, but I hesitate to idly sit back and wait for inner fears become reality.

The mind of a people can easily buy into the hysteria of an idea or event becoming real. It is to the point that it can become reality if enough believe it.  I am more frightened by those that believe this can happen than the actual event occurring.  Fear and superstition have caused some of the greatest catastrophes in our history. The Black Plague was allowed to flourish because of fear and superstition over cats, which could have killed the rats that carried the fleas that passed the disease to humans.  Even in the modern times, we are still a susceptible group.

I am not saying that zombies are impossible.  I do believe that all life can be altered and the human mind could be overwhelmed by a disease that induces such a state. My desire is to simply remind that hype and hysteria have a way of paving the road to these disasters.  One might even begin to believe that they are a zombie in the same way that people claim to be vampires.  The psychology of the matter can be related to other examples, but we should never allow this to make us board up the windows and start seeing things that are not there.

As a nerd, I have many friends that are into the appreciation of zombie genre.  They have movies, books, and games.  I have listened to them speak of their hypothetical preparedness drill.  It is entertaining to hear the vivid details as people attempt to avoid all contact with the creatures and have a large cache of weapons for defense.  I often laugh and shake my head.  I don’t enjoy the genre and never will, but these friends are entertaining.

I am reminded of a quote from Wil Wheaton on a webshow called 4-Points.  His plan, which mimics my own, is if the event happens, he will simply fling himself into the middle of them rather than wait the inevitable.  A bit nihilistic, but he touches on a good point.  The struggles of the human mind can achieve great things for the world, but against the overwhelming decision of Nature, there is no winning against it.

Or it could be that the possibilities of a zombie apocalypse are nil and we should focus our energies on the constructive ways of life.  There is little gain from planning the end of the world.  Embrace what you have and make the world better.

crudus animus

A Play At the Storyteller

Over the last week, I have been considering the direction of this blog.  I still want to explore the depths of knowledge on the subject of religious history and political thinking. I have much to say still in those arenas, but I think that to keep them fresh that I should occasionally drop in a topic of my nerdy side. Most of the time, I take on topics that seem so serious.  It is my dream to try to connect the thoughts of the human race back to the same source.  We are all humans after all.

So, let’s turn to my nerdy side. It is the tendency of the young to stand at the first years of adulthood with the idea that they have all the answers and all the energy to change the world. They look to make these changes based on their own thoughts of how the world really should be run.  Such dreams are had, but soon the world wakes them up to the reality.  My question is what happens when they avoid reality and never wake from this dream. I imagine that these are the people who find a way to make great leaps forward for mankind.  They do not listen to the world and find a way to see their dreams come true.

My dreams as a young adult were to have a simple thing. All I wanted was respect. I did not demand it, but I wanted to earn it from my peers, colleagues, and acquaintances. So, I set off on my journey.  It was a quest that I felt would be very difficult but not so out of reach.  Reality hit me in the face, so I had to find another route. I needed to outsmart and outmaneuver reality.  I set my sights on the idea that I would find a way to write a story that was worthy of reading.

I found the creative spark early. As a boy and teenager, I studied the techniques of oil painting and drawing.  Most of my sketches were portraits and still lifes and the oils were landscapes.  My teacher was an older lady who traded my help with making frames and cleaning the studio for the lessons.  My artistic energies were satisfied each Saturday afternoon.  I wanted to create the best art that I could.  I wanted to make her proud.  The one thing that all this taught me was that I was capable of creative thinking.

As life in high school became busy, the Saturday afternoons were not available and I left the studio.  I visited on occasion, but mostly, I stopped it for a few years. However, I filled my creative time with the art of telling stories for my friends.  I could entertain them with various stories during our role playing.  I had the chance to tell the tales, create the characters, and bring them all an understanding of the heroic saga.

Once the lazy days of the teen years were gone, I had to decide what to do with my life. I took the path that seemed right.  The logical path of using my math and science skills was laid out before me.  I learned that my creative energies were set to the side and were not needed.  It was difficult, but I did not let it perish.

I set forth to write my stories.  I wanted to tell the tales of my heroes and villains.  I wanted to challenge the story to have a message and show that I could do it. In that time, I have tried various genres and attempted to complete numerous stories. To this day, I have yet to completely finish a story.

Yet, I don’t consider any of this to be a failure.  I am an artist at heart and the artwork is never complete.  I feel the stories are working still and soon I hope to bring some to a conclusion.  Even if I have to spend another twenty years working on it, I will conclude the story.  The saga never ends for the journey is the true ingredient.

crudus animus

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