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Greetings!

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been fighting against it for a while, but it looks like time has won. I have to put Metabook on hiatus. Despair not! It’s not done, it’s just taking a different form for the time being.

You see, I’m running yet another blog, a blog about being a freelance writer. During the course of my freelancing, I got offered a permanent position. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop freelancing, but it does mean that I’ll be able to afford a few luxuries, like meat and hair conditioner. Unfortunately, it also means that I need to clear out my schedule a bit, or I’m going to go insane. Ironically, I’m just running out of hours in the day to write. I can’t physically press the keys on this keyboard fast enough.

This means that, while the posts on this site are irregular at best, they’re going to be downright non-existent for a little while. “What will live here?” you ask. Well, every new story I write is going to find a home here. The links to my Metabook research are going to go here.

Oh, what? Right, I said that was done for now. The writing is, yes, but the interviews will continue. MB has always been about the process of writing a book about writing a book. Right now, that means taking time away from writing that book. However, I still need to gather information. So, I’ll be posting these interviews on YouTube. Here’s a list of them:

Marina Endicott

It looks a bit stumpy, but it will continue to grow as I up-date it. If you’re going to miss me, then you can find me here:

Twitter

My horror/gaming blog

YouTube

Facebook

You see, there’s really no shortage of my gibbering. I can’t wait to get back to this project. Hopefully by then, I’ll be a little wiser, a little better informed, and a little less like a chicken with no head.

Cheers!

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June 4, 2013, 8:16 PM

This is the element of time that I was talking about. If you’re reading this post blog-roll, then you won’t feel the effect. For anyone else, it has been almost a month since the last time I posted about MB. It’s tempting the abandon the project and just write about writing. Although, honestly, that’s what this project is about any ways. So, we’ll stick with this framework for the time being.

In my attempts to parley my writing abilities into a sustainable living, I’ve spent quite a bit of time pitching story ideas or acting as a freelance consultant. During one of these forays into the potential literary world, I was pitching a novel idea for a zombie story. For the zombie-savvy, yes, I believe that there are still new things to be explored. Even with the semi-recent pop-culture zombie explosion, there’s still plenty to talk about. It was during a back-and-forth brainstorming session with my room-mate that I came upon today’s topic.

You see, my room-mate has a hatred for zombies that borders on the psychotic. Not the creatures, mind you, the concept. He’s vehemently opposed to the idea of a virus zombie, because he believes the science of it to be untenable. While I’m sure we can all agree that the science could only be softer if it were puréed on high in a diamond-tipped blending apparatus for several hours,  it does raise an interesting point about realism. I’m not going to defend his lack of suspension of disbelief, and I’m well-aware that the inclusion of the virus narrative is solely for the purposes of exploiting and exploring contemporary fears. However, it got me onto a certain line of thinking that’s perfect for MB.

Before you can write anything, you need to come up with a concept. While many of you will probably agree that this is both the easiest and hardest part of writing, it’s also the one that gets overlooked the most. As writers, it’s taken as a given that we’ll have a deep well of ideas and concepts to reach into. The truth is that we spend our entire lives developing and refining them. However, we rarely talk about the process. Yes, sometimes you just have to wait for inspiration, but professional writers get good at synthesizing them. Let’s talk about that topic another day. What do you do once you have an idea? You figure out the logistics of turning it into a story.

With the virus example earlier, my friend was being pulled out of the experience of zombie movies by an insistence on explanation. By linking a foreign concept to something the audience understands, viruses make zombies more intuitive. However, in a different way, it also makes them completely impossible for some people. We’ve spent hours arguing about the physical and metabolic changes that would be required to make a “walker” a possibility. Whether or not it is isn’t the problem. It’s that argument. If I’m thinking about how a zombie could be possible, then I’m not thinking about the horror of the concept. Really think about it. Outside of medical horror, what purpose does the virus explanation serve? How is that explanation more valid or engaging than none? Every zombie story already possesses a scene where the bite-transmission thing is explained, so it can end up adding very little. It CAN add a lot, but you have to be telling the right story. Given its pervasive nature, I can assure you that it is being included in stories where it’s unnecessary. In fact, including it can be damaging. The virus explanation is everywhere; now it’s almost colloquial. Now, you may actually have to spend time explaining that it’s not a virus. That’s a discussion for another day, though.

Sometimes, not explaining something can be the best thing you do. Or, using a symbolic archetype. Or, even, just making something up. There are an entire mountain of stories that would never get made if we insisted on explanations and realism in everything, both as readers and writers. Lovecraft’s strange geometries and eldritch lights are perfect examples of this. The ancient stories of the Gods or tales of the spirit worlds could be enlivened by an explanation, but it would have to be integral to the plot. Giving a half-hearted excuse is, ultimately, going to damage your story.

That being said, a little bit of the unreal can spice of an otherwise normal story. Let’s stick with the zombie theme, but go big picture on it. To be extra pop-culture friendly, let’s also stick with the one piece of exemplary zombie fiction that I think everyone should read: Max Brooks’ World War Z. In many ways, zombie stories have almost nothing to do with the zombies within them. Contemporary pop-culture theory states that you could replace zombies with any similar natural disaster and craft the same story. Zombie stories are about isolation and the break-down of the civilized world. They’re about when we turn on each other as the lights go out, but, also, about when we don’t. World War Z is a piece of political fiction that uses zombies as a catalyst to create a landscape of political exploration. The zombies are horrifying, but we are the horror.

That’s just true. Humans can be frightening things. It’s not always easy to pull out of us. It’s harder still to look at or admit. That’s why a dash of the unreal, the walking dead, is so effective in Brooks’ work. Simply creating a realistic world-wide epidemic or conflict would have raised too many other questions. It would have complicated matters without adding anything. Thus, we use zombies. Ever wonder why so many people have zombie survival plans? Well, it’s not just because zombies are cool. Really think about what that plan represents. Think about what it means. That will tell you what we’re scared of. This is what horror does. It’s the genre-space we put aside for the truly, literally disturbing. It’s hard to call the first half of World War Z anything but that. It details the worst sins of contemporary society in cleverly obscured detail. This is where he needed realism.

Max’s book would have suffered greatly if the politics weren’t at least believable. We’ll leave out the word accurate, for obvious reasons. His story was about real contemporary politics, something we’re all immersed in. So, that portion needed to be realistic. It was going to reflect us, so it needed to do so adroitly. Similarly, if your story uses zombies to explore viruses, then make sure your depiction of viruses is realistic. Research how they spread, mutate, interact with cells and multiply. Think about transmission and counter-measures. In other words, focus your realistic explanations of fantasy in the areas where they’re necessary to your narrative. Otherwise, it’s okay to let things be fantastic. Unicorns don’t need to evolve from horses. Dragons don’t need to produce fire through a chemical reaction. Serial murderers don’t need classic pseudo-psych back-stories. Give your concept some room to breathe.

Once you’re at the drawing board, really think about what your audience needs to know to make the story work. Think about plot-holes. Pitch to other people and let them tear the threads of your story apart, as long as they volunteer to help you weave it back together. That’ll let you know where you need to get real and where you can let an idea hang tantalizingly out of reach. After all, it’s not worth it to let a tiny detail throw off your whole story. Unless you want someone to leave your story with that niggling at them in the back of their head, be willing to leave it out.

Word Count: 2900

Story: The Labours of Hell

Today’s story is a mash-up-date of two classics, one older than the other. You can find it in the Stories section 😀

I wanted to try writing from a different moral stand-point than I usually do, so I picked one of the most infamous villains in history. In a way, he’s also my favourite character of all time. I hope you enjoy, ‘The Labours of Hell!”

Rant: Staying Afloat in the Shallows

For those of you wondering about the state of MB, it’s still in the works. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it. My schedules have been pushed around a bit and my interviews postponed, but the concept lives on.

Today’s rant is a bit personal. While I usually include anecdotes in my writing, I tend to avoid talking about myself. This is quite on purpose. “Trivial,” as my gaming blog and writing blog are called, refers to myself, in part. I’m just some trivial punk writing my thoughts and ideas out for you to read and consider. I have no problem with that. What matters to me is the internet identity that manifests from those ideas. They will coalesce and take on a life of their own. They’re part of me and separate, as well. I figured the name should acknowledge that while it also defines it. It also shortens to “Trivia,” which is a substantial portion of who I am.

Today, though, I have something to say that cannot be divorced from who I am. For a long, long time, I’ve wanted to be a writer. In my younger years, I thought that meant that I could get along on talent and inspiration. It took time and effort to realize that those are but the seeds. It takes determination and a considered hand to craft a writer from a talented youth. There are days I resist the written word. There are days it resists me. However, if I’m ever to feel comfortable in the skin of someone that calls themself a writer, then I need to be able to work through those days. Otherwise, I’m just someone who writes. This is a craft, after all. If I don’t push myself, then I’ve failed right out of the gate.

It’s a life-long pursuit. So, I might as well start now. That’s where my blogs and Trivial Punk came from: the urge to write and improve. I needed to prove that I could make this MY craft, while, simultaneously, proving that I belonged to it. That was the beginning, though. Halcyon days don’t last forever, and my raw idealism has since transformed itself to cynicism. That cynicism became desperation, which became hope and determination. You see, when I wrote Descent, part of me was acknowledging the grind that my life could become. The life of a freelance writer is not a wealthy one, and bills catch up with the best of us, except perhaps the ultra-wealthy. I realized that this life might not be sustainable and that I needed to find a way to make it work. Otherwise, I would have to drop what I’m doing here and return to academia for my Masters in Psychology far before I was ready.

I know it doesn’t sound like a desperate life. In truth, it’s really not. I’m not trapped or bereft. My poverty is of my own choosing, a symptom of my dedication to this and other pursuits. I have a possible future and the means to make it happen that could furnish me with interesting work unto my grave. That sounds fine, but it’s missing a key element: my desire. Descent was, in part, an acknowledgement of the small consolations and compromises we use to get through life and the dangers of following them to their logical conclusions. There’s no point where we truly choose “a life.” It is the result of an endless stream of small decisions and minor circumstances. I know this sounds like the whinging of the privileged, and it is. I’m well aware of the advantages of my position, and I’ve never once looked on them with scorn. I am grateful.

Simply put, I don’t want to compromise my life away. I want to design games and write stories. I want to use my knowledge of psychology, and the further study I’ll pursue, as a means to create beautiful experiences and promising treatments. I don’t want to reduce it to an end. It’s my hope that understanding the organ we’re engaging and the being it represents will let us create gaming experiences of a truly transcendental nature. That we’ll use the fleshed-out worlds of the sand-box genre’s logical conclusion to keep the minds of coma patients alive and healthy. That we’ll give movement to the still, as we’re already beginning to. It’s the future, and gaming has a lot to offer it.

At the core of it, though, we’ll still need stories. We’ll need the tale of the brave orphan. We need the kindly shop-keep. There’s no way we can do without the sinister older brother. The wise old man. The waif, hungry for knowledge. The talented protege who learns that it’s going to take more than a sharp mind and a strong body to truly wield his fallen master’s sword. You need more than passion. You need opportunity…

You need dedication. That’s why these blogs are here. I don’t want to lose the analyst, the artist or the story-teller inside of me. If I commit entirely to one view-point, then those parts of me will die. They will take my eyes along with them. Those perspectives furnish me with insights that have set me apart from my classmates in the distant past, when the school-room was our playground. Now, though, they might only allow me to run alongside those people I hope to call peers. There are experienced, intellectual titans in the ocean I waded into, knees barely wet, out of sight. On calm days, when my mind is agile and reflective, I can feel their waves in the shuddering ocean. I can dip my fingers in and conjure a far-off reflection of brilliance…

…and I am afraid. Daunted. Inspired. Excited. Steeled. As good as I may become, I might never rise to meet the best, or even shake their hands. That’s not what matters, though. What matters is that ocean and the boy on the beach looking into it. His urge to swim. His audacity, confidence and passion to try and breach the surface. I cannot let him down. Yet, here I sat contemplating that very thing. That’s when I realized why this blog and the other were so important to me.

They are the life-lines that keep me honest. I love games, I truly do. I adore stories; they are my heart. But, that love isn’t the reason I write. It’s the reason I write about those things, yes. They’re not the reason I put finger to keyboard or pen to paper.

I am writing for my life. You find me here, because I need to keep the story-teller reminiscing. I need the artist inspired. My dear analyst must always have something to ruminate over. At the end of the day, I need this to stand for me, so that I, the flesh and blood boy, can dive into the ocean.

I don’t want to sit on the edge of the beach and watch the children splash in the shallows. No part of me is okay with just making a living. Working. The grind of Capitalism. Whatever you want to call it. Perhaps this hope, too, will rot off into acceptance, but it hasn’t yet. I want to live.

If I have to do that through a collection of articles or stories on a webpage, then so be it. I will live. I will write. I will create. I will learn. I will realize what I created before was rubbish and learn from those mistakes.

I will take swimming lessons. Maybe get some floaties.

That’s about all I have to say. I hope you found something reflective in my words. I hope you find your ocean and take your shot. For now, this post is all I can do to thank you for being a part of this life-line. Allons-y!

-Trivial Punk

Next post will be either a new story, an old poem or the next MB entry. Either way, thanks for the indulgence. I really had to get that off my chest. (Just finished an old book. Like an ancient friend, it tends to have that effect on me).

Story: Pixies

We found a Way through. At first, we sent in a team of explorers and scientists, curious to document, study and understand. The realm of fairies furnished them with wonder and knowledge. We quickly learned that emotions, thoughts and feelings could be made manifest in one form or another. We were given paradise. We saw a resource.

The land stretched on, verdant, as far as we could see in every direction. If this world truly was the crystallization of humanity’s potential, then we figured it was boundless. The inhabitants were friendly, beautiful and gregarious in the extreme, but resisted our tests and attempts to harvest. In the end, we sent in soldiers. My dearest companion, Terrence, and I were among them

Each one of us was intent on using the resources of this place to save our dying world. After all, where would it be without us? We hadn’t considered that it might not want to be used. Whatever our reasons, our mission was theft.

As we marched through the Way, we were unaware that the membrane on which we stood, the Land of the Faeries, could bend, break and permit. It was a sieve. In gathering, we’d reached a collective threshold and plummeted to the depths where intentions live. The land of the Pixies.

It wasn’t a fall. Or, rather, it wasn’t a drop. We simply materialized at the mouth of a grand cave. The stalactites were ringed in impenetrable shadow, the stalagmites were darkness. We spread out to cover the perimeter, but we couldn’t possibly have prepared for the creature, the THING, we found. It stirred, slowly woke, and quickly gained momentum. It was a titanic ball of rippling flesh, scab, and bone. As it fell upon our scattered group, under a hail of machine-gun fire, its unity shattered. Forms burst forth from it, were carved out, still attached, and raked through our ranks. Every form we killed, it would feast upon. A maw of flesh would appear in the thing, close around the body, and chew with shattered bone and blunt trauma. Crushing, grinding, swallowing, feeding its metabolic girth with itself.

For all of its auto-cannibalism, it quickly over-powered us. Too much. Too many. We fell back to the mouth of the cave. We fell back into the wild unknown. We fell.

Yet, when our numbers thinned before the atrocious thing, we vanished once more from where we’d been. Finding ourselves, instead, in a shadowed glen. Trees shaded us from the elements and provided us with cover from the terrifying predators we couldn’t comprehend.

Sweeping the area, we cleared away rocks, plants, animals and sounds. We took knife to stem and hollow-point to movement. We established a guard, took shifts and, round the fire, took stock of what we knew. At the time, it turned out to be very little. As night fell and we set to sleep and watch, screams echoed through the camp. I watched it happen to a soldier named Jeff, overwhelmed into inaction.

A root had him in a wooden vice. Its undeniable force ripped through his uniform, his boots. His skin tore, at first, as it was roughly scraped from the flesh of his feet, but, once inside, the thing merely rippled through his flesh. Putrescent, his body dissolved within the skin-sac and leaked out of his orifices, out of himself. Then, like a sickly party favor, he was filled again by the malleable core-flesh of the envious tree. Rooted still, at its entry point, the puppet lashed out to claw a fleeing victim, its nails and finger-flesh scraping off of the wood underneath. It stood before us, out of reach,, splintered fingers bare, on two gnarled roots, in Jeff’s skin. It was a nightmare I resisted comprehending.

I grabbed Terry. We ran. Alone, we appeared, again, in another land. It was a gray area, unremarkable and terrifying. Nothing made sense. Nothing could be grasped or seen. It was enigma.

I realized then what I’ve told you now. Maybe it was madness or delusion. A wild rush of hope after all I’d seen, but I knew we were near the surface. I thought that without his sin I might break through the meniscus.

Whatever I’d understood, Terry hadn’t. My knife sunk easily into his unguarded neck.

Yet, nothing happened. I was just alone. So, alone, I wandered.

I should have realized then that, in leaving them to die, we’d sealed ourselves within our depth. Murdering him built upon that. The weight of my crimes alone were now enough to keep me here.

Here, I stay. Through study and practice, I’ve manifested many things, but there is no Way back. However, on the right night, in the right way, I can send a message through.

Please. Heed these words, “Your motives are not your intentions. Respect our demons.”

Tell Terry’s family, “I’m so sorry.”

Descent

I posted a short-story under the “Descent” page. I couldn’t tag it, but it’s basically a blog post; I just didn’t want to screw up the word-count continuity. It’s my first attempt at a psycho-character study in the guise of a horror story. I’m using it to apply for a write program, so any constructive feedback would be much appreciated!

Rant: Caring About Communication

I’ve had this one building in me for a while, but I never wanted to approach it, because it’ll make me sound like an elitist git. It wasn’t until a couple of minutes ago that I realized that what I was actually trying to say wasn’t a complaint. If I flipped it on its head, then it was something deeply important to me that I had to share. It just manifested as anger because I hated seeing it abused. Today, I want to talk a bit about that thing. That thing is, of course, language. In my case specifically, the English language and, by extension, being a writer. Or writing. Or any combination of the two.

Let’s start with one of the purposes of language: communication. What is language without communication? A bunch of arcane symbols and noises. In other words, you can say anything you want, any combination of gobbledegook at all, but it will be meaningless unless it can be understood. This is why grammar and syntax are so important. I’m sure you’ve been to Facebook, Reddit, or The Internet, and seen the high-larious, hackneyed posts about the important differences between “your” and “you’re,” so I won’t bother getting into the specifics here. However, the idea serves to highlight an important point: re-read your work. Edit. Get someone else to read it. Take a walk, come back and read it yourself. Freeze yourself and send yourself back in time a bit, or alter the time-stream to create a parallel version of you with no knowledge of your current work, and get that version of you to read it. Care about the words you say and where you place them. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s an okay thing to do. BUT, you mustn’t be careless. Anyone who reads your work is letting you into their head. They are bringing life to your vision, so make sure it makes sense.

That brings us to the flip-side of the coin: grammar-nazis. There will always be people who are willing to correct your work. Not all of them will give you constructive criticism, though. Some of them will just demand that you stick to the rules or not make mistakes. This sort of critique is mostly useless. I understand wanting to win an argument over the internet, but insulting someone’s grammar will never net you a win; it will just prove that you’re a tosser. Correcting it is fine, especially if the sentence is so malformed that it doesn’t make sense, but proving a point takes more than words. It takes ideas. Yes, words communicate ideas, but not all ideas are always equally applicable. Sometimes, a mistake is just a mistake. Demanding that you stick to a set of rules seems like a reasonable demand, but it isn’t universal. Grammar exists to help us communicate more clearly, but its rules are constantly in flux. Personally, I have a well-worn copy of “A Canadian Wrtier’s Reference” by my desk that’s about 4 editions behind. Each new edition has added something new. I’m constantly finding out that convention has changed. Most of the time, it’s stuff that I can safely ignore, because it gets really obtuse. However, you can’t ignore it all because the obtuse stuff can get you in the end. It can warp the meaning of entire phrases. Language doesn’t crystallize forever, either. Look at ye olde English Bard, yon Shakespeare. Some people think he’s absolutely impossible to understand, the height of nonsense. Of course, if you read him, then you know that’s not true. It does serve to illustrate the gulf that can form with time, though. Someday, our work will sound like that, too, if we’re lucky enough to have people interested in reading it.

However, even current convention must be subsumed within the larger purpose of communication. Once you are familiar enough with the rules, as the age-old saying goes, you can bend them. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to start a sentence with “But” or “And,” but, sometimes, it’s the best way to do so. Sometimes, it lets you communicate more clearly. Sometimes, you’ll have to break convention to get a point across. Using “…” or repeating words over and over again can bring life to a sentence in a way that nothing else can. It gives your writing flavour. The writers who compile the rules of grammar and syntax know this. The ones who judge our works from on high are well aware of the inherent flexibility of language. That’s why those rules exist: to try to rein in limitless fecundity just enough to let words speak to each other. Otherwise, we’d be left garbling to no one.

Overall, my point is simple. Make sure you place your words with care. Don’t be afraid to bend the rules of form and function to serve communication. All you have are your words, their placement and their context to get what you’re trying to say across. And, you ignore one at the expense of the others. Revere language because it’s more important to humanity than any of us can fathom without it.

More-so, if you’re a writer.