The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.

Writing With Illness

It started two days ago. My throat was sore and dry, where it hurt to drink water. I figured I woke up, dehydrated, and my own stupidity was the source of my woes. So I drank and I drank and I drank some more. Water, of course. Though Jack makes great cough syrup.

I thought nothing of it, as it passed by with haste, and left me there, happily oblivious to the true devious nature of this sore throat. Until the following morning.

At this point, my brother, his entire family, and my coworker have all been sick with the same thing. I’ve spent a lot of time with all of them. When I woke up the following morning, I had the sniffles, my left sinus could be felt as fluids drained and sloshed about, building up until it was painful, and clogging my ear on that side. The pressure became so bad that behind my eye felt like a small creature was trying to pop the orb out of its socket.

I told my coworker and friend about this, and he told me that’s how it started for him. Sore throat for a day, and then the worst head cold he ever had. It would be dreadful. My brother had been going on two weeks of this abomination, and now I was to discover I could have the ailment they suffered under.

I drove to my brother’s, where we played board games about the zombie apocalypse, and it only got worse. My eyes teared regularly and my nose, though nothing would come out, felt like it was filled to burst. The pain wracked me and I cried out, “Is there no relief from this suffering? Could this be one of the plagues which ends the world?” But there was no answer.

During this illness, I was forced to not work out. I debated not writing, but when I looked at the pages, I knew in my being that I had to put the words down. I knew I had to write with abandon, or the words would die within my soul and there would be no solace for my literary heart. So I wrote.

This morning, I’m feeling relatively better. There are still the sniffles, but at the end of the day I think I just had a weird sinuses thing. That or it’s from finally cleaning my bathroom. What I do know is what I wrote the past two days is refuse. I don’t need to read it. I knew it while I was writing it.

However, more important than writing detritus (not sure I’m using this right, but I’m in full on thesaurus mode), I wrote. I still hammered out around 3000 words a day, the plot is progressing, and I even, in my illness-invoked delirium, realized that some of my chapters were out of place. While I thought I had finished part two of my three act story, there is still one more chapter to conjure.

Today I am still stuffed up. My ears feel a little thick. But overall I’m feeling rather delightful and inspired. I drive home today after an amazing couple days with my brother and his friends at his house. We played a game called Zombicide, and I wrote as a mad man would. Tomorrow, if the malady that haunts me lets up at the pace it has been, I work out, write, clean, and cook, for I am man, and the world will fear my might.

Oh, and I’ll catch Pokemon….

Daydream with Wild Abandon

It’s been three days since I’ve written. My characters went off script. I’m allowing it because it makes sense, it ties up some loose ends I had, it made a few characters far cooler than they were intended to ever become, and if I didn’t see this plot twist until I reached it, the reader sure as heck will have no idea it’s coming.

The issue is, despite it being an awesome way to tie up some issues, it also messed up the next three or four scenes. They didn’t make sense. To be fair, the final scene felt forced anyway. Either way, I had to reimagine everything. The character that was central to so much exited stage left. He shrugged, flipped me off, and said, “To hell with the lot of you.” I’d say he said good luck, but he wouldn’t.

Every time I looked at the page, I stared with glossed over eyes, not wanting to follow through to the conclusion of events. I thought at first it was a heavy heart killing a character I grew attached to, but this wasn’t the case. The issue was I would be writing faster than I could think, and there had to be a lot of restructuring before I could logically go forward. Otherwise, the story becomes like any other where my writing gets past my thoughts, and suddenly it all unravels and looks like crap. No one’s appreciative of getting served crap.

For the past three days I’ve been pondering how to move forward, digesting what happened. This morning, standing under the warm shower, it struck me. I knew what would happen. I even went through a fight scene while in the shower, because I needed to figure out the most efficient way to do a maneuver. Whoever marries me will be in for a new treat each and every week.

The daydreaming, playing with my nephew, losing myself in Pokemon, and staring at the screen finally paid off. The musical inspiration and the playing out different paths of fate, finally came to a conclusion. The planning other novels to make this one jealous worked as well as hanging out with another girl at school. I now have a vision and can act on that vision.

There is no force in the ‘verse more powerful than daydreaming. When you’re stuck with writer’s block, daydream. Don’t put all writing on hold, just write something else. But while you’re doing that, daydream about your core story, the one you’re suffering blockage on, and it will act as a literary laxative.

Daydreaming is easy to do. You’re at a meeting? Go on autopilot and see what you can crank out. In the bathroom? Spend a little extra time on the can making sure everything is emptied out. Driving? You don’t need to pay that much attention to the road; think up some cool ideas for the future. If you have a notebook, write down a ton of ideas that could become the truth, and slowly eliminate them. Or just throw that page out. Often my best ideas come from writing a lot and throwing it all out. Consider it a dry run for the time of truth.

I wish you luck in your daydreaming. I encourage you do it often and see what happens. I implore you to not write a single word of it down, or whatever you write, throw out. Unless you have an eidetic memory. That’s cheating on the write it down and throw it out front. If you have a favorite way to daydream, let me know! I like trying out new things.

Write the Great American Novel

Watched The Great Gatsby last night. It’s been a good long while since I read the book, so I’ll likely have to do that soon. But it reminded me of a lot of lessons.

There are a lot of youths out there who, while writing, have friends and family encourage them by saying, “So are you going to write the next Great American Novel?” The child invariably scoffs and makes some snide remark about how they’re so much more edgy than Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway. How what they’re writing is nothing like the Great American Novels. These children have obviously not read the greats.

A man, obsessed with a married woman, creates a financial empire for the sole purpose he believes it will put his queen at his side. In the end, protecting the woman he loves by taking the blame for a wrong she committed, he is murdered. One of the themes? The only way to make sure hope in your dream never dies is to die first. Way to go, kid, you wrote a story about someone falling in love with a vampire. Way edgier.

A man, castrated in the Great War, tries to find purpose in life and in love, however physical and emotional emasculation make it all but impossible for him to create any meaningful relationships. You killed people by popping out someone’s eye. You’ve definitely outdone the greats.

First, your friends and family are trying to support you in the way they know how. I’ve been here. I understood that it was simply the complement my parents were able to give, and I was grateful for it (more or less). Unless it’s a mocking tone, they’re really not trying to make fun of you. They’re hoping at night that you succeed. That your dreams come true. That your book hits the New York best seller list. Don’t be a dick about it.

Next, you’re thumbing your nose at a great source of inspiration with story lines that would be welcome in any fantasy world. Oh no, you kill dragons, vampires and shape shifters are sexy, and everyone dies. That doesn’t make a good novel. That can make something that sells well, because we’re a perverted society begging for necrophilia and bestiality, as I saw one meme put it. But thank all that is good those novels will enter obscurity within my lifetime. While children in thirty years will still talk about Ned Stark, no one’s going to care about Bella and Edward.

Finally, I think we’re ready for a myth. We have a few good ones in the early days, but nothing recent. Nothing like Lord of the Rings. It would seem we’re ready for it. Embrace it. If I could write a fantasy version of the Great American Novel, I’d be thrilled beyond words. Don’t shirk at the possibility of doing the same.