Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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Word Nerding with Anagrammy

June 22, 2011

Just a quick share – Some amazing long form anagrams by Mike Keith. Anagrams with Science and maths, anagrams with entire poems, anagrams that are also translations… The mind boggles at the skill and perseverance.

These are all kinds of fantastic

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Never Ending.

May 17, 2011

There was a sound, nearly subsonic. He couldn’t actually hear it, but he knew it was there. Dreams are like that. You know stuff, without sensing it in the conventional sense. He couldn’t hear it. But he knew the words to describe it.

 

“There was a sound, nearly subsonic. It was a rapid babble of syllables spoken through wet lips by wet gums chewing saliva and tongue.”

 

He was sitting at a long table. Wooden. Old. The strangeness of the dream, or rather, of dreams-in-general, struck him again. The way that you are never really aware of a whole scene the way you would be in waking. Your senses come in at the wrong times, disjointed. A badly conducted orchestra of stimulus. Or a poorly organised scene description in a bad story.

There was soft golden light, comforting and familiar, from somewhere in his earliest memories. You could be comfortable in that light, it meant you were in a safe place. The kitchen he sat in was a calm place.

But there was still that sound. Or rather, the dream-narration telling him there was one. And it’s source was at the head of the table. But still, dream-him kept looking at the table, or around the room at familiar cabinets and counter tops, soaking up the familiar, safe, golden light.

 

“You’re going to look up now” The dream narration told him. Not out loud, of course. This dream was told in words simply placed in his head. Or that were already there. No voice over, no captions. Just sentences in his internal monologue, telling him how it was.

 

“And it’s not going to be safe here, not anymore.”

 

He looked up.

So.

Very.

Slowly.

His head pulled up, creaking against a great weight. His dream-body was near paralysed, and each inch was a battle.

Its body language, the angle of its head and the way it held its arms, told him It was looking directly at him. That was all there was to go on. The face that looked right at him was without any feature, or even particular shape. A blank sphere, its surface rippling to the rhythm of that noise which he was at last actually hearing.

Frozen again, seeing only the Thing. And the dream-monologue was silent.  The other senses wandered off, leaving him only with sight. No explanation, no dream knowledge telling him what this Thing was. The emptiness of its face was immense. It’s not-anything-ness had a terrible gravity.

Suddenly, he was running from it, instantly outside the door and turning to the stairs, which yawned, chasm-like, in front of him, and swallowed him up as he fell.

As he fell, he knew

“It stood up, and took some steps towards the door, making Its noise again. When you finish falling, you’ll land right back at the head of the table. It has taken the seat next to where you will land, and it is waiting.”

 

And he saw it again, while the viscerality of the fall through space made his body lurch and recoil, propelling him towards waking. Right before the shock-near-impact-jump awakening, he saw It take the seat beside his, and begin pulling chunks out of its head, and rolling little clay spheres, miniature self portraits, and placing them in a row in front of him.

He would have that dream again the next night. 17 days later, he would dream it again, but forget upon waking. Two months later, he would have that dream four times in as many weeks.

Three years later, the dream began with him sitting next to It. It reached into its own face, tearing a gap that make a leering, face-splitting mouth. It tore two fist sized chunks out above its mouth, making ragged, wide eyes.

It spoke.

And again, he woke up.

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Two Beginnings

April 29, 2011

Two things got Sami into trouble with his Mother.

Those two things were wondering, and wandering. He went wandering whenever he could get away from his chores, and he wondered while walking to and from his chores. He had poked and pried and explored every single corner of the Warren. The Warren was a maze of interlinked tunnels, some high enough to fit a human person, and some so small that even Sami, who was not yet a fully grown Goblin, had to crouch and crawl to get through them. If you were to follow the tunnels, you would find hundreds of caverns, like buildings along a street. The small caverns, some of them carved out by Kobs, some of them carved out by nature, were used by Goblin families as homes. The bigger caverns, the ones made by roaring underground rivers and ice flows in the far away past, were the centres of the goblin settlements, where they built their root farms, where they built their strangely on-top-of-themselves marketplaces and taverns.

The thing which Sami loved most about the Warren was the smell. The smell in the Warren was a lived-in smell. A lived in and not cleaned very often smell. It was a mixture of sticky goblin sweat smell, damp earth smell, and a mishmash of spices, roots and cooking meat, and some other smells that humans would generally prefer not to think about. Sami adored the smell. Like other Goblins, he found it comforting to be able to smell the people around him so strongly. The filth just added to the effect, meant the smell was real, made by real Goblins living real lives, right here beside him. In his mother’s burrow, he could smell her and each of his seven siblings. In fact, he could taste them, because the smell filled the air so fully. If you sat near the entrance hole, you could smell the burrows of the families that lived further down the tunnel. It gave Sami a great sense of community, to be able to smell his neighbours living just a short distance away.

Sami was a clever and curious gob, but clever and curious weren’t the virtues Goblins looked for in their children. They preferred cunning to clever, and everything else to curious. Sami’s mother always said that her mother always said that her mother always said that curiosity is even more dangerous for Goblins than it is for Cats. Sami had never seen a cat, but he very much wanted to. He was clever enough to realise that his curiosity to meet a cat was not the intended outcome of his mother’s advice, but curious enough not to let it stop his wondering and wandering. He wanted to see every part of the Warren, and he had seen most. Only one of Sami’s traits was considered desirable by his fellow Goblins. He was very good at sneaking. So good, in fact, that he was able to sneak around without other expert sneakers noticing his sneaking.

Today, however, was different. Wandering alone would have gotten Sami into trouble, but it was the second thing, the wondering, that was most dangerous.  Today, Sami wanted to see something that the Goblins in the Warren had not. After all, curious isn’t something many Goblins were.

Sami sneaked a furtive look around him, checking that no-one who would recognize him had noticed he was there, and slipped away down a rarely used tunnel…

2. Bump in The Night

Like so many ghost stories, this one starts with a child.

Alone.

In The Dark.

Katie used to like the dark. With nothing else to see, she could fill the emptiness with whatever wonders she could imagine. But lately, the dark had been filled up by other things. Little sounds that spread out into the silence and became very big indeed.

Lying awake, long after bedtime, Katie listened to all the noises filling up the dark. She waited for one noise in particular, the one that started everything.

BUMP!

She started to fill the darkness with scary pictures of what the noise might be, and hoped that she wouldn’t find out if she was right.

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A Town called NEVER.

April 11, 2011

Never is the sort of town you only ever see in a story. You see, it is, on the surface, a distinctly normal town. It is not too big, nor too small. It is not too near any other town or city, nor is it too far away.

 

Never is not in any particular country, and its people do not speak any particular language. The weather is not very hot, and not very cold. The townspeople are, for the most part, friendly and good natured, greeting each day with a smile.

 

So you see, Never is the kind of town which is so normal that you would only ever hear about it in a story. There is one thing that makes Never very special. It is the reason we are here, taking a look at the town called Never. It is why we are telling this story.

 

In the Town Called Never, Something That Has Never Happened Before Happens Every Day.

 

On Saturday, the townspeople found a mermaid in the fountain in the town square. She had been swept up from her home by wind and storm, and fallen from the sky like an Angel, to be caught in the arms of the waiting water. Mermaids, you see, always land in water, because the water looks after them especially. She was far away from her home, so the people of Never placed an inflatable swimming pool on the back of a flatbed truck, and brought her on the long journey to The River, which as all rivers do, led back to the Sea. That way, a mermaid can always find her way home.

 

On Sunday, a traveller came to Never. This was something that happened often, but this Traveller brought with her something special. In her long train of carts and wagons, there was a zoo of many animals. These animals were not the sort you would see in a normal zoo, or anywhere else in fact. These were the animals that only live in stories, and in this zoo. There was a snake, long enough to wrap around a house, which had the face of a beautiful lady. There was a Griffon, with the head and wings of an Eagle on the body of Lion, and it was indeed the noblest creature you could ever see. A cat that was sometimes just a grin reclined in the passenger seat of the lead wagon, and monkeys with many fingers and painted faces played hopscotch on the roofs of the town. They stopped for only a little while, and after they were gone, nobody could remember all of the shapes and sizes that they had seen, because you while you might see a Nessie in a zoo, you would never remember having seen it, because that is not how magical things work.

 

On Monday, everybody in the town gave each other gifts, even though it wasn’t Christmas, and it wasn’t anybody’s birthday. Each person gave what they could give best, and none of the gifts were bought with money. Home-makers baked fresh warm cakes, and their partners cooked dinners with flavours from all over the world. Children painted their imaginations in a hundred different colours. The elderly told their stories, and the youth listened and laughed and learned. The dogs gave their unconditional love and enthusiasm, though that is nothing rare for a dog to do. The birds gave song and the cats gave little things left on the doorsteps. The teenagers shared their music, and their parents did too, and everyone heard something new. Everybody had something to give, a little piece of their world that only they knew, until it was shared.

 

On Tuesday, a new family moved into the Town. They were called, they said, The Frosts. They told their new neighbours that they were moving north for the winter, because they did not like the warmer climes down south. They wore raggedy clothes, and their eyes were as black as coal. They had long, pointed noses that were quite a different colour to their very white skin, and whenever they shook hands, you would feel your hand quickly become cold and damp. But the Frosts were very friendly indeed, always smiling, except on the warmer days, when they would stay inside and you could hear their air conditioning running at maximum strength all through the day until the night time brought the cold. In the spring, the Frosts were gone – moving North, they said, for the Winter.

 

On Wednesday, Catherine challenged all the other children in the town to a race – a race in which their pets would compete to see who was fastest. Johnny brought his greyhound, a champion racer. Kevin brought his rabbit, because even though racer greyhounds chase the rabbit at the track, they can never catch him. Marie brought her Parrot, reasoning that something that had wings must be faster that all the pets that walk or crawl. Angela brought her beloved Tortoise Cecil, because she believed with all her heart that slow and steady would win the race. Catherine Rourke, however, surprised everyone when she produced her pet – a mighty Elephant, whose single stride was ten times longer than any of the other animals. How disappointed she was, then, when Bobby arrived with his little white mouse, whom Bobby said was  “subject in spearmints”  that would make him special. Catherine’s Elephant did run, very fast indeed, but he did not win the race.

On Thursday, old Mr. Machen built a rope ladder to the sun. He launched it on the back of a rocket he had built in his backyard, and the whole town watched the ladder fly up into the sky, and, miraculously, stay there. Mr. Machen said something about satellites and orbits, and then proceeded to climb. Many people tried to dissuade him, telling him that space was vast and cold and would kill him, and he said loneliness was just the same. He said he wasn’t going to wait for that, and that he wanted to go on a glorious adventure, and that riding off into the sunset didn’t sound half as fantastic as climbing a ladder to the sun.

 

Friday, however, was the strangest day The Town Called Never had ever experienced. And this is quite something, for the people of Never were used to spontaneous wonders coming into their lives, and indeed, they rather looked forward to what every day would bring. But on Friday, the oddest thing of all happened.

 

On Friday, Nothing happened whatsoever. Everybody got up in the morning as normal, went away to work and school and normal, and returned home for the evening meal as normal. The evening passed without incident, everybody using their free time for whatever they usually used it for. The people of Never found themselves very perplexed, when the children had gone to bed and the clocks had struck midnight, and they discovered that nothing at all had happened. Except, of course, for a perfectly normal Friday, which they were quick to note, had never actually happened before.

 

 

 

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Some musings on writing scenarios for conventions.

March 10, 2011

It’s been a while since I wrote a pen and paper RPG scenario for a convention. The last one, I believe, was for Confess 2008.  In the intervening two years, I’ve been writing LARPS.

Today, I’m finishing up my scenario for Itzacon

 

Famous Last Words

Come One! Come All! And witness the finest outing of the White Hart Players! Marvel at a tale of fornication, opium, and murder most foul! Be amazed by exploits of daring, acrobatics, and skill!

Will the many splendoured talents of the White Hart players aid them in reclaiming Christopher Marley’s mysterious last stage play in the face of nefarious betrayal and thievery?

A 7th Sea Scenario

 

The best part about writing a LARP is that you know that you’re it’s only going to run in one room, with the author(s) running it. Because of that, the only thing you actually have to put on paper are the characters. The rest, you can have loosely in your head and allow plenty of space for improv.

 

With the Pen and Paper variety, there’s a good chance of a second or third table, which will be run by someone else. So you have to write everything down in such a way that someone else can run it. This is more work that you think it is. Even when you’ve done it before. You think “It’s all in my head, I’ll just transcribe that.” But we all know how much sense one’s internal monologue really makes when you do that. You’ve got to put a structure on it. A real, actual structure.

 

I’m never sure of the best way to write scenarios for others to run. I don’t neccesarily know the person who’ll be running the other table(s), so I don’t know how much they’re used to improvising – do they prefer a loose plot, and then let things roll? Or do they like it all laid out clearly for them? The latter is the safer, if more boring to write, option for a RPG writer to take, because the former kind of GM will be fine either way, and the latter kind will be a bit lost if you’ve left them little to work with.

 

The other thing is timing. Pen and Paper RPGs involve combat scenes, with dice, and these always take longer than I expect to resolve. I think for a simple combat system, three combats (of any real size) is the most you want to be handling. I think back to con games I’ve played in that went well and were well written and that’s the shape I see. 2-3 major combats, with investigation bits in between.  So that’s what I’m going for. Even if I find it hard to resist the urge to pack in more because I’m writing 7th Sea, and in swashbuckling games the massively dramatic action scenes are the best bits.

 

The last thing is the Rules Stuff. I think it’s good practice to write a 1-2 page “cheat sheet” of the system’s rules in case you end up having a table run by a poor random staffer who doesn’t know the system. Most game systems can be boiled down to a simple enough rules set. It’s also useful for players – there’s a good chance some of them won’t know the system either. It’s also a good idea to note, in simple form, what the stuff on the character sheet means and how they use their skills/abilities. Luckily for me, 7th Sea is pretty straightforward that way – most things do what you’d expect. I really hate writing Con games for D20 though. Blargh. Them’s a lot of rules to explain on a character sheet.

 

And a last thing to round out this not-very-informative rambling:

‎”Ours is a high individualized culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off, and the artist as an original, a godlike and inspired creator of unique one-offs. But fairy tales are not like that, nor are their makers. Who first invented meatballs? In what country? Is there a definitive recipe for potato soup? Think in terms of the domestic arts. ‘This is how I make potato soup.”‘ – Angela Carter (via Tanya Dean and the wonders of Facebook)

 

This is true for all art, but I think particularly true for convention games. In the history of the Irish Con Circuit, someone has probably already written and run a game a lot like the one you’re writing right now. There are no completely original convention games. (Campaigns have a bit more wiggle room to become properly unique, if not 100% original)  But that’s not the point. How do you do your amnesia game? Or your dungeon bash or swashbuckling? Even though the 3 hour slot is restrictive, you can bring a lot to a game you’re creating that other people can’t.

Try and make it so players tell other con-goers afterwards “You had to be there.”  That’s the thing that RPGs/LARPs have, that so few other media do.

 

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World’s Blankiest Blank.

February 25, 2011

I hate blank pages.

Blank pages are the second hardest thing to deal with when you’re writing.

 

They stare at you, waiting. Expecting you to write something on them. But picking up a pen (or reaching for the keys, or whatever) and making the first marks on it is always a slightly terrifying thing to do.

 

Ideas are easy. They’re better than easy. They’re addictive and wonderful and make you feel like Superman on steroids riding a Tyrannosaur. You move through the day, and all the little fragments of information flow through your brain. Fact and fiction, random banter, that thing you overheard on the bus. Then fragment the first latches on to scrap the second, and the third thing jumps in and all of a sudden it all falls together and you know it’s going to be something and then it’s Something. You scribble it down on the nearest scrap of Thing That Holds Ink (the back of your hand and up your arm is perfectly acceptable in an emergency) and before you know it you’re grinning like The Joker in a Candy Store filled with Policemens’ Children.

 

That’s the easy part, and it’s a huge amount of fun, and absolutely the best part of being a writer because you’ve just Thought Of Something New and you tell yourself that’s what makes you a writer.

 

Then you go to turn the idea into a story.

 

You try to get in touch with the mood you were in when you had the idea, and only get the dialing tone.

 

And the blank page looks at you.

 

You don’t want to start writing. It’s scary.  There is nothing there, and because of that, it still has the potential to be anything. It’s just an idea in your head – and there, it’s free to grow and move and mutate. As soon as you begin to commit it to a page, the possibilities are culled. Every scratch on the page reduces the potential from Anything into more of a Something, and by the time you’ve finished it it will be a very definite thing and that Thing might not be very good. It almost definitely won’t be as good as that initial Idea felt like it could be. Collapsing possibility into actuality… if you do it and you make a mess of it then maybe you’re not a very good writer.

So you hold off, waiting for the idea to develop, until you have it “fully formed.” Until it’s “ready.”

 

The problem is, it never will be.

 

And if you don’t write it, you’re not a writer. You’re just a guy who has ideas.

 

That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

 

But blank pages still scare the hell of me, whether I’m writing a story or a thesis chapter. The Thesis is the biggest piece of writing I’ve ever undertaken, and I want it to be good. But the fear of words being written that aren’t has had me not writing anywhere near enough for the past two months.

 

I had the idea flood this past week. It felt pretty damn awesome. But the ideas aren’t finished, and I want to  keep them in my head while I read more and “refine” them. I had to tie myself to my computer for a silly amount of hours this week, but I actually managed to get words on paper. They’re not very good.

 

But they exist.

 

And that means I get to say I’m writing.

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“Wildy Original and Heterodox Language”

February 12, 2011

 

Saw it, had to share it.

 

And I could unnecessarily elucidate on how I agree with everything that the good Mr. Fry has said.  But that would be redundant, so I won’t.

 

Enjoy.