nascentnovelist

July 31, 2013

Writer Wednesday Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 6:50 am
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Last year, I had a few writers on this blog to talk about writing in a bi-weekly blog-fest called Writer Wednesday. I thought it was time to revisit some highlights.

skrivebord

Julie R. Andersen: Writing is an Addiction I’m Glad to Have
Julie shares her experience of what to me sounds like a nightmare: what do you do if you can’t write?

Joshua Alan Doetch: How Can You Write This Stuff And Not Get Screwed Up?
Joshua tackles the age old question: why do we love writing horror? And who better to attempt to describe that lust, than the person who writes horradorable fiction?

Krista Holle: My $20,000 Mistake
Krista shows and tells us the difference between first and third person, and why she prefers one over the other.

I hope you all enjoyed revisiting these posts as much as I did.

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May 6, 2013

Motivational Growth – Darkly Funny and Deliciously Icky

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 2:03 am
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The Mold knows, Jack. The Mold knows.

Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) hasn’t left his apartment for months, and he has no interest in doing so until his television, lovingly named Kent, dies in the middle of a rerun-marathon. The loss of his source of entertainment makes Ian question his life and decide to take action. With two parts household bleach and one part sulfuric acid, he attempts go out in a chlorine gas induced, disgustingly glorious end. But due to an unfortunately placed vent and a bit of bad luck, he wakes up on the bathroom floor.

Ian is welcomed back by the mold on his bathroom wall, voiced by Jeffrey Combs, and things take a serious turn for Strangeville.

Motivational Growth is written, directed and edited by Don Thacker, and is the result of one singular idea coming to fruition. Everything in the piece, from the dialogue to the special effects, fit together and make for a compelling, funny and icky whole.

When it comes to the story itself, it’s clear that Thacker wanted to leave things open to interpretation. As we follow Ian down the rabbit hole, we abandon the concept of time and space. The story makes several logical leaps, and it’s not always clear what the relationship between Kent and The Mold is, or what is going on. For the most part, this is good, but the score and the animated sequences, so clearly inspired by 1980s/90s video games, left me wondering if there was another dimension to this piece that I missed.

I enjoy bizarre tales and I like that Thacker wasn’t afraid to let us jump to conclusions, but I believe the story would be stronger if the reason for Ian’s seclusion from society was revealed to the audience. Without an explanation, Ian’s retreat into his cave did not make much sense. I also found it problematic that he could afford to stay in there for months on end without a job. It’s difficult for me to sympathize with a character that is privileged enough to sit on his ass eating take-out for six months without financial strain. I just wanted to yell at him to get the fuck out and do something. Once I got past the set-up, I began liking the character, almost despite myself. But with a bit more set-up, I could have rooted for him from the start.

It must also be mentioned that this is very much a character piece, resting on DiGiovanni’s performance, and he does not disappoint. His delivery of the lines had me laughing out loud, and his desperation once The Mold pushed him far enough past his comfort zone had me cringing.

The choice to use puppets, real special effects and animated sequences fit the overall look and feel of the film, and the story. Scenes that could have seemed fake or over the top with CGI, were made tangible and poignant by the use of retro effects. In general, the movie looked very good.

The dialogue was sharp, the humor pitch black and the story absurd. I’d keep my eyes open for this twisted coming-of-age story, guys. It’s worth seeing.

I got to watch Motivational Growth before it’s Norwegian release date so that I could review it on this blog. A European release date has not been set yet, but keep your eyes peeled.

March 8, 2013

Damsels in Distress

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 5:17 pm
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In honor of today being the International Women’s Day and all, I give you Anita Sarkeesian’s first video in her series of discussing women in video games: Damsels in Distress part 1.

It’s interesting, it’s enjoyable, and it’s about video games. The internet doesn’t get much better than that, ladies and gents.

Happy International Women’s Day!

December 12, 2012

Serial Novels

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 2:28 pm
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The most profitable section of the Norwegian book industry is what they call “entertainment.” This is comprised of commercial fiction, and includes fantasy, sci-fi, crime and serial novels.

Serial novels are book series that are made to keep the readers coming back for more. Unlike traditional book series, they rarely work as stand alone reads. The novels are designed to be read right after one another with each book ending on a cliffhanger, and the next book starting where the last one left off. Often with the last page of the previous book attached before the first chapter of the new one. They remind me of TV shows rather than novels, and they read like popcorn.

Most of my writing falls into the commercial fiction category, and since I’ve been back, I’ve started toying with the idea of writing one of these serials. I enjoy gobbling down TV shows more than your average viewer, and I love to write action packed fiction that is part of a larger plot. (And there’s good money in it.)

What do you guys think? Does it sound like fun, or like using up my good words on a low-status (but well-paid) form of entertainment? Would you try your hand at a serial?

September 7, 2012

Where I’m From

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 8:46 am
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My writing group does a monthly prompt. It’s usually something pretty loose so we can use it to work on our own writing, but this month I decided to kick it up a notch with an actual writing exercise. This takes the George Ella Lyon poem, “Where I’m from,” and turns it into a sort of adjective game, where you fill in some info and describe the places/people/events that formed you. My attempt is featured below. Here is another example over on Joshua Doetsch’s blog. Why not try it and post your results in the comments? I’d love to see where you’re from.

Where I’m From
I am from gnarly backyard cherry trees with tire swing sets, from homemade biscuits and Fun Light raspberry juice.
I am from the three storey white house with the spiral staircase, with creaking floorboards, echoing piano tunes and shadow movements in the corner of your eye.
I am from gravel road forget-me-nots, from sweltering tiger-lilies, from potted herbs and garden weed.
I am from Friday pizza nights and Saturday morning cartoons, from part-time musicians and seasonal travellers, from Sonja Helen and Lilian Rosa Main and Hjalmar Svanevik.
I am from soft-spoken arguments and hidden tears.
From late night orange picking in other people’s orchards, always accompanied by the same tune: your grandma believed stolen fruit tastes of bitterness. From wry laughs and insistences that politeness is no proof of virtue.
I am from music boxes playing the International and church on Christmas morning. From Sunday spiritualism and weeklong doubt.
I’m from the islet’s beach in the western fold in the icy north, from ox tail soup and slow-stirred strawberries.
From the slow rattle of smoke-filled lungs wrapped in yellowing skin and wrinkled hugs. From broken teeth and cracked smiles. From messy apartments coated in yesterday’s leftovers and regret.
I am from summers in Denmark. From windswept wild grass with roses and wild flowers growing on top of each other. From saltwater and soft dirt. From lonely walks by the ocean, dark blue with crashing white waves. From sharp-edged shells and freezing salt water. From dragging currents going out and left, away from where you thought you’d go. From the whispered hope that if you stop swimming, you might go anywhere.

August 8, 2012

Do You Read Sutter Cane?

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 9:12 pm
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What is it that makes some lines stick? Is it the jolted shock of a well-placed comma, the tightness of the prose, the hidden beauty in the smallest words?

Some books and movies have one or two of those memorable lines. Others have none. And a few choice works have many. In the Mouth of Madness, by John Carpenter, is one of the films that I can quote even though I haven’t seen it for a decade. Some of the lines aren’t that good, but they stick. For years.

Alice Munroe has a tendency to get at least one unforgettable line in with each short story. That’s a gift. Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy only has one, but what a line. I’m sure you remember it, but let me refresh your memory anyway. Remember this: “Be it a rock or a grain of sand, in water they sink as the same.”

Some sentences hit just right and stay with you forever. If I can craft just one of those in my life, I think I’d be happy. If it was the opening line to one of my novels, I know I would be.

August 4, 2012

Be Inspired by the World Around You

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 10:18 am
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Summer is going strong, and my over-active imagination is running in different directions. Story ideas still flood my brain, but they’re more like half-baked cookies: not ready to eat yet. But I take pictures to remind me of the stories I’m going to tell.

How do you gather ideas when you don’t have the bandwidth to explore them immediately?

April 18, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Karl Andre Bertheussen

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 11:35 am
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Today, I’m pleased to present Karl Andre Bertheussen, senior narrative designer for Funcom‘s game Age of Conan. Karl Andre’s job is to make sure the story told in AoC is compelling enough for people to keep playing the game. So who better to share some insights on designing narratives for games with us? I’ll leave the floor to this master story designer.

Narration in Games
What is game narration?

Most people associate “narration” with books or movies, but most games today rely on storytelling as well, just not in the conventional way of the traditional mediums. The key difference being audience interaction. A game involves the player actively in the story, whereas the audience of a movie or the readers of a book merely observe it.

However different, writing a game narrative has some similarities to that of a novel or screenplay. The degree of difference often depends on what sort of game the studio is developing. For example, a story in an first person shooter (FPS) will most likely be told in a very different way than the story of a single-player role-playing game (RPG). In this blog post I will focus on massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s), and the challenges of making good game narration for these types of games.

In a novel, the writer takes the reader down a strict and narrow path, much like a screenwriter does with the audience of a movie. From beginning to end, the reader is presented with plot, characters, and inciting incidents in the order the writer intended. The audience knows and accepts these rules, because breaking them (by fast forwarding or skipping a chapter) would ruin the experience of the medium.

In a game we don’t have the luxury of guiding the player down that same path, because if we do, we take away the freedom of choice which is a key part to why we have an audience in the first place. That presents us with the following challenges: How do we go about telling the story? How do we make the narrative work if the player has complete freedom of what he wants to do when, or even skips entire areas of the game? And on top of that: With games being so much more than narration, how do we make the players invested in the story?

The last question isn’t a big mystery: Players get invested in game narration for the same reasons they get invested in a good book. Plot, setting, characters, and drama – but unlike books, the game medium presents another important element: the possibility for the player to choose the outcome of the story, that the choices they make in its course has consequences and can change the world they interact with. However not impossible, these are difficult elements to incorporate in an MMO, because the game world must be constant to all players. If you rescue the farmer’s daughter, another player can do the same five minutes later. Even though you’ve made an impact on the world, the farmer’s daughter will still be captured for all those who didn’t rescue her yet. For some players this can take away from the story immersion, but as with skipping a chapter in a book, most players accept this rule of perpetuity in an MMO, and sees the story as something being told to them personally, rather than to everyone at once. Clever design can also help with this. As long as the captive farmer’s daughter is kept away from your future adventures, it becomes easier to accept that your action had an impact.

Making narration work in a game which offers freedom of choice in what to do when and where, is not an easy task. Having the player do quests is one solution. A quest is basically a small task, sending the player into an area with a specific purpose in mind. For example: rescuing the farmer’s daughter. If the main story of the play area is that brigands have taken control, you weave that information into the quest at hand, for example by placing the captive daughter in the brigand’s HQ. In this way, we can add a visual component to the narrative. Adding an HQ and placing out hostile brigands for the player to encounter on his way, is narration by gameplay, and an important way of telling the story. When the player returns to the farmer (with the freed daughter) he will know that the brigands are antagonists, whether he read the written narrative or not.

Quests are an important element of game narration. The way they are structured is very important, and the narration can easily falter if the story designer doesn’t know his job. How the quests are arranged, in which order they appear and where, and what bits of information the they give the player at which time, needs to be carefully planned to tell a story successfully. Sometimes quests are tied together, thus making sure the player is told the story in the order the designers want; sometimes quests stand alone, just supporting the main story by introducing characters or locations that are important to the narrative. The key to success is to find the right balance. As with a novelist, a game narrator doesn’t want to confuse his audience with too much information at once, give away the plot too quickly, or bore them with tedious details. He simply want the audience to enjoy themselves.

Game narration is a huge canvas to paint, but since I have greatly exhausted my suggested word count of 300, I believe I should end on this note. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

With a humble bow to all you dreamers out there,
Karl Andre Bertheussen,
Narrative Designer, Age of Conan (Funcom)

April 8, 2012

Words That Make You Shiver

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 10:33 am
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I am an insect that dreamt he was a man and loved it, but now that dream is over, and the insect is awake.

Some lines stay with you. They could be in a movie, a book, a song, but the mix of words and sentiment come together so well that it sends shivers down you spine.

A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.

It might be lighthearted, or deadly serious, but you remember it. Citations of these lines will make you smile, or tear up, or shiver. Something about these lines just stick.

God isn’t supposed to be a hack horror writer.

So what is it about these lines that force a reaction from us? I believe it has something to do with build up. It’s not so much the words themselves, but the stories they embody. The lines I remember are usually the ones that contain the story, or at least a major part of it.

Now for wrath. Now for ruin. And the red dawn!

Or, of course, the lines that define a character.

Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.

Regardless, they are lines that stand out because they contain much more than the words themselves. They tell the story.

What words make you shiver? And can you place each quote in this post?

April 2, 2012

Guest post: Writing in public

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 8:05 am
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Good morning, guys!

Today, I can be found over on A Garden of Delights, blogging about writing in public.

Let me know what you think!

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