Ten Things I would do if I were a Cave Troll!

  1. Grumbrum live in cave. Cave pretty. Sparkle much. Really pretty!
  2. Little men come in cave! They poke Grumbrum with tiny hammers. Legs hurt. Stupid little men–dwarves.
    Dwarf soup delicious. Grumbrum happy.
  3. Long time come since Grumbrum have soup. Grumbrum hungry. He go out of cave.
    He miss cave!
  4. Little men throw wooden sticks at Grumbrum. Sticks sharp. Unpleasant. So is sun.
  5. Little men come in different forms! Village is full of them. They tasty.
    Grumbrum just kidding! He only eat men-dwarves.
  6. Village is empty for long time now. No more tasty people come see Grumbrum. Grumbrum sad. He lonely. Maybe he eat shiny man who write list.
    Grumbrum just kidding! He likes man who use tiny feather. Man is funny, he use long words to talk to Grumbrum sometimes.
    Grumbrum will eat writing man last.
  7. Dark Lord come to re-krud Grumbrum. No want to go with him. Try eat him instead!
  8. Dark Lord make everything hurt, then leave. He laugh at Grumbrum! Mean Dark Lord!
  9. Grumbrum dying, he thinks. He turn to stone. Fall into earth. Unto dirt.
  10. A little she-child came today. She left flowers in Grumbrum’s hand, and sang songs to him, and danced under the rays of the sun.
    I am at peace, now.

Thursday Recommendation: A Slip of the Keyboard

Terry Pratchett is one of the writers I most admire.

A few posts ago, I wrote about adding humor to your writing. Pratchett doesn’t simply ‘add’ humor; he weaves social commentary into his impressive body of works — Discworld and otherwise — and then proceeds to mask it with satire and sharpness that can kick your arse seven ways towards Eureka!

But I am getting sidetracked once again. The book itself is a collection of Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction writing,which covers a variety of topics important to the man during his life — both personal and private ones, ranging from musings on his career as a journalist, PR and an author, to his passionate work to protect orangutans from extinction, to a deep-rooted appreciation for libraries and librarians (akin to Neil Gaiman), and wrapping up with his battles against Alzheimer’s and for the legalization and broader acceptance of a sick person’s right to die.

This is the man who described his disease as an “embuggerance.”  His non-fiction captures the weirdness and the ridiculousness, and sometimes the cruelty of the world we all inhabit, of this wonderful, sometime twisted reality we all share.

He fought injustice; in his writing, and outside it. He enjoyed life, and books, and I often think of how much the world could use him now.

 

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Vol. 09 – Volunteers

Diary Entry #0170

Mine power sizzles and crackles with a terrible itch to be used. But I mustn’t allow myself any distraction for the chase grows ever closer and more heated. Strange, this heat; unnatural, even. Almost does it remind me of…but no, it cannot be.

Great challenges did we overcome since the foul princeling’s attack on mine men. The fire within their spirits did suffer greatly from the loss of a quarter of our companions. Blight come upon this kingdom!

…I would be much remiss to deny mine own sorrow at their loss. These Librarians are much like an extended family, if mine memories play no tricks upon me — they grumble and moan as each morn and eve comes to pass, and they eat all of mine carefully prepared food only to demand more, and they can make trolls explode with their mental prowess (a fact of which I am very proud).

What kind of Ruler would enjoy burying his relatives?

Well, the Prince that attacked me, that much has been made manifest.

Diary Entry #0171

A villager of this here kingdom, one that heard mine wonderful monologue from yonder day before today, has been following ever since, slinking around. I shall force him into mine aura of truthfulness so that he admits to me his role — be he a spy, I shall cut him unto ribbons and make of him a stew for mine hounds.

Amongst other important tasks today, I have made hounds from clay. It has proven a most curious enterprise. I do believe one ate a Librarian.

Oh, well.

Diary Entry #0172

The Librarian who was eaten is alive.

What wonderful news.

The hounds of clay have turned to non-hounds of clay, and the man I considered might be a spy has ‘volunteered’. I was not aware of this wonderful notion until he brought it up and explained it to me in great detail; now that he has, I plan on forcing every single one of the residents of the next village, town, city or — to the hells with it — an entire country, to volunteer unto mine armed forces.

I have created new hounds of clay, and have added bread to the recipe. My Prime Librarian, Sven, nearly received a heart attack when he realized what I had done with all our supplies of bread.

He is young, and knows little of evocation spells, and he will learn with experience.

Besides, it works with meatballs.

Diary Entry #0175

We have arrived in the town of Kresh. I can sense Her nearby, perhaps watching me from some hidden spot even now. It is time I face my wife.

Ex. Ex-wife.

 

Next Time: We reach the tenth Volume in our illustrious tale! Crazy stuff goes down! Dialogues! Madness! Insanity! And so much more!

 

 

 

Writing Advice: Research is important

Research has the dubious distinction of being an insanely interesting part of writing…as well as an occasionally tedious task that everyone would much rather shove for another point in time.

Researching is a bit like going down a street whose exit is just ahead, but somehow, you keep getting sidetracked by the litany of architectural marvels on the sides of that street. What I mean to explain with this inept metaphor is that finding information on any given subject is easy, in our Information Age; however,

it’s not difficult at all to go further and further into connected topics, which –while fascinating– will usually end up as little more than backstory. That’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination; what it is, is dangerous. Dangerous in that, having all this knowledge tempts you to put it all inside your book–and when you do that, you detract from your story. Flooding readers with historically accurate information (if you’re writing fantasy, for example) might very well create a feeling of authenticity but it will also make for a dull read; fantasy fans are not into the genre for that.

Putting too much research pulls the reader out because your book ends up reading like a technical manual. Use your research-derived knowledge to create the illusion of reality but don’t bog the action and the characters down in minutiae. Too little research in your work makes you seem like you’ve no clue what you’re writing about; too much slows your writing down to a crawl; it’s all about finding balance! Beta readers are helpful in that aspect; point your questions towards how the world you’re building feels — does it lack realism? Does the momentum suffer because of too much details and the like?

Science fiction is more dependent on research, especially some of its subgenres, for obvious reasons. Follow the link if you’d like to know more about those.

 

This is another shorter piece of Writing Advice, but it’s one I thought I might as well cover; research is important and shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s occasionally annoying!

 

Ten Things a Moderately Influential Warlord does!

  1. A moderately influential warlord is only as influential as he is capable at the task of carving up his colleagues, i.e. other warlords. This one would be one hell of a stickler for the collegial spirit; and when I say that, I mean that his belief in killing warlords in order to consume their spirit is deeply held.
  2. The best Warlords are masters at the art of war. This one, while adept at killing, often finds himself blundering his way through the finer points of war — tactics are one thing, strategy–something else entirely. What’re these tiny wooden figurines doing on his dining table, anyway?! Better remove them before the roasted pig servings arrive, else he’ll swing one thick arm and break them all!
  3. His influence can reach high places…but more often than not, it does so as a joke than as threats that kings would flinch at. The moderately influential warlord isn’t aware of this, of course but if he was, he would use his axe as way of diplomacy.
  4. The Moderately Influential Warlord is not apt at the art of diplomacy.
  5. Much can be said about his moderation; but not where alcohol figures. In that here topic, our warlord is most impressive indeed. Why, he could outdrink a squadron of heavily outfitted dwarves; and we all know that all dwarven warriors are drunks.
    Except for Bub. Bub hasn’t had a drink since his fourth wife left him. I’m worried about the poor guy, he’s been through a lot since that happened.
  6. A warlord like ours, he’s good at leading a small population but ambition is far from his mind (if we were to accept that he had a mind, which is a questionable hypothesis on several different levels). That is why he serves this here old king Patrick, for Patrick has treated him well and with some respect, unlike all other monarchs nearby our warlord’s lands.
  7. This here warlord is moderately emotional, as well; ’tis why he tears up so at the news of ye ole’ king Patrick’s death and succession.
  8. Sorrow is a tough emotion to crack, and a confusing one at that. How’s our warlord to let go of it? Simple enough; as he oh-so-often does, he’ll bathe that beautiful axe in blood. The handles, made of ivory are more thirsty than ever, and it is his great pleasure to feed them!
  9. After a good slaughter, a warrior like this one is all too happy to take a romp in his quarters; it’s up to a few certain types of women to go off with a man such as he, all muscles covered in blood and gore — but in a culture that often births moderately successful warlords these types of women are never far away!
  10. But the thirst for vengeance is not yet sated. Funny old thing, that — desire for vengeance sometimes ends up ruining perfectly good mediocre warlords. Sometimes…it gives birth to far scarier men, intent on taking it out on would-be successors.

 

Hello, Monday! For some strange reason, I’m feeling less than motivated today…whatever could it be? Oh, well! Take heed, kids! Keep at it, even when you feel like crap!

Thursday Recommendation: Half a King

Joe Abercrombie is a master of subverting expectations.

I have yet to touch Abercrombie’s most well-known work, the First Law trilogy, although I have only heard good — Nay, great — things about it. Now that I’ve read the first book in the Shattered Sea trilogy, I am more than looking forward to that experience.

Half a King is just this good. The tale of Prince Yarvi, cripple king twice betrayed, is not a light one by any means. Cruelty will be your near-constant companion, and descriptions of filth and stench and the near-unfathomable depths of human hatred described will surprise on more than one occasion.

At its heart however it is a book about camraderie, friendship and loyalty. Loyalty to a myriad of oaths of vengeance, often enough…but loyalty none the less.

Let’s see what our characters are like…We’ve got:

  • a merry band of slaves running away from their owner;
  • a likable main character by the name of Yarvi who learns cunning and survivability the hard way;
  • unexpected growth in characters who seem sleazy and selfish to begin with;
  • plot twists enough to make you step with one leg in the grave;
  • and more!

Half a King is an emotional tale of a young man finding hidden reserves within himself, strength enough to survive where few in his place would, time and time again — all to take vengeance on a monstrous act of betrayal.

I bought it in a Kindle Deal of the Day for $2 dollars on a whim, and at the recognition of Abercrombie’s name; if I knew I’d enjoy it this much, I would’ve bought it long ago, for its full price.

A warning, though — the beginning is somewhat slow, and it took me a few chapters to get hooked. As soon as that first major plot twist happens — that’s when I was in for the long haul.

I am very much looking forward to reading the second part in the trilogy!

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Vol. 08 — No Patricide goes Unpunished

Read the previous Volume here.

Diary Entry #0160

I am told that  I have entered the first of many identical free human kingdoms. This one shares a border with mine lands. That is what makes it special. Bah, humans are strange folk. So glad am I that I no longer fill their ranks that I could incinerate a dragon with but a blink!

The stench of mine wife of before grows ever-stronger. We are a mere few days away from catching up with her. She smelled well, once. Her perfumes were sweet beyond measure, beyond imagining. She enjoyed the flustered looks of men fool-enough to take a breath within her sweetly vapors, mere moments before they expired.

What man could not love such a woman?

Diary Entry #0161

The trolls I adopted unto mine armies in mine infinite army have once again tried to eat a village. Not even the villagers, this time. The damnable brutes started munching on buildings as we passed by. I found myself forced to summarily execute them.

The structures within the village were historic! Fifty years old, I hear. I felt that the villagers deserved some recompense for the grief given to them, and so I turned all their elders into statues of pure gold.

They did not seem too pleased with this development.

I couldn’t imagine why.

Diary Entry #0164

We have come upon a wondrous and most tranquil pond, which feeds into the great river Kraln, that gives easy access to the very shores of the continent, and I find myself considering the very real possibility of plundering this kingdom single-handed and turning this land to near-eternal darkness.

These notions are premature, I reckon — there is yet the thunder to be reclaimed. It must be safely brought back in mine citadel. Only then will I–what’s this? I hear the blunder of idiot horse-creatures coming towards mine camp. They will not enjoy mine great mercy for this interruption!

Diary Entry #0165

A princeling and its servants attempted to run through mine camp with their filthy animals. Whilst I reacted with great alacrity and cut into a squadron of these pampered noble-born, some of mine young lads lacked such experience.

Twoscore of mine loyal subjects have died. A dozen of those were promising Librarians…there can be no forgiveness for such crime.

This land will burn. It will all burn.

I did not kill the wretched princeling. He was damn skilled for a human, I will grant him that; I did leave him a parting gift, however — something to remind the boy what is coming for him.

A cut across that face will certainly serve that function.

Diary Entry #0166

I have learned that the man to have attacked mine loyal band of servants has recently killed his father and has taken to calling himself king.

He will have difficulty doing so with no tongue. Patricide fills me with disgust I can not logically explain. I will punish this fool boy in the stead of this dead father.

But first, my thunder and my wife await!

Ex. Ex-wife.

 

 

 

Writing Advice: Humor

Humor is one of the fundamental ingredients in any story. From horror to drama to epic fantasy – no matter the genre, there’s always time to lighten up the tension with a healthy dose of humor!

Humor can be a genre in itself, as well – Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are two masters who use sci-fi and fantasy, respectively, in order to showcase brilliant wit and insight about human nature.

They don’t use slapstick comedy, opting instead for dialogue-based and narrative humor. What I mean by narrative humor is

The humor I enjoy is the kind that surprises me. That’s the kind of humor that I tend to write — I take situations that should be familiar to my readers (tropes, clichés and so on and so forth), and I spin them around in a way that is clever, bizarre or even outrageous.

Write what you find funny, write what makes you laugh. Then check it and double-check it; don’t underestimate the power of analysis. Having someone read your writing later and weighing that person’s reaction is a sure way to discover whether something is funny. If you’ve got a few loyal readers– even better!

For those of you who prefer everything neat and tidy, you might like Scott Adams’ six elements of humor:

  • Cute
  • Cruel
  • Naughty
  • Recognizable
  • Bizarre
  • Clever

These elements can offer a lot of information, but they won’t magically help in crunching out tomes upon tomes of humorous writing. They very much aid analysis, however. Here’s a simple piece of advice on writing them!

Set your complicated jokes up early on, lay a strong foundation and build them up. That way, the payback is all the sweeter!

And don’t forget — always, always, always surprise your audience!

Saturday Night Gaming: Critiques and Wolfenstein: The New Order

Whenever I begin writing a video critique or review for a game, I spend some time considering how to go about it. This blog post will look at the reasons behind my choices and plan for the (as of yet) unfinished critique; if you enjoy talk about gaming, you might enjoy it, and if you don’t — stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming!

Wolfenstein: The New Order is not too complicated a narrative by any stretch of the imagination. Id Software’s writing team took a whole bunch of chapters from Philip K. Dick’s “The Man on The High Castle,” and — to the joy of everyone involved — succeeded in creating a tense world that makes you more than enthusiastic enough to shoot all the Nazis you find!

There’s a love story going on in the background too, and it’s done well — but that’s all narrative. When talking about a first person shooter, the story has to take a backseat to the gameplay; what matters most is gunplay, enemy variety, map/level design and what I’d like to refer to as the sheer bloody level of AWESOME that a game can provide the player.

For a ‘narrative’ guy like myself, putting an accent on the mechanics of a game first is a difficult task, occasionally. Two things help; the first is, realizing that the mechanics are in fact complemented by the story, and the second — recognizing when that happens.

Otherwise simple actions, mechanically, become much more meaningful when the narrative dictates that they be so — stabbing a Nazi grunt will not remain in your memory but daggering the lover of a hated adversary most certainly will, for example. That’s the kind of synergy between gameplay and

Another aspect I am looking at has to do with the boss battles. These are often some of the most memorable parts of a game; either for the best reasons…or for the worst. While I’m not going to go ahead and critique those here — I’m saving that up for the video review — I’ll let it slip that Wolfenstein’s boss encounters leave much to be desired. I judge at boss battles according to how ‘gimmick’-y they are; the more freedom one such encounter gives the players on how to tackle the gigantic metal monster — the better. For brilliant boss battles that packed one hell of a punch in an FPS game, look no further than 2016’s Doom, developed by the same studio as Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Id Software took notes, I think.

The most important questions, when preparing any sort of long-form critique about a video game have to do with the genre and how the game performs compared to the average expectations and performances of other representatives of that genre. Follow each thread, observe how the game does, and its weaknesses and strengths become evident enough.

The rest is…only words.

 

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Vol. 07 – The Importance of Communication

Diary Entry #0150

Five days I have been on the road with a band of mine cohorts. Good servants, my companions — many of them come from those Libraries whence I put them, to study arcane arts and divination during those most foul attacks of the Council of Darkness. They have proven useful with their trickery and short legs, enough even for a great Dark Lord such as myself to take notice.

My wisdom knows few bounds and none of them concern young he and she-children and what is to be done with them.

As long as no one hands them bows.

Diary Entry #0151

It occurs to mine terrible intellect that no reason was writ as to the reason of me having left mine capital when still it writhes, bloodied and wounded by traitorous fiends, ripe for attack by many a neighbor, as soon as weakness is felt. Why then would I, greatest master of dark arts and magics and sorceries, keeper of secrets unknown and unbecoming, abandon mine dark hold in this hour?

‘Tis simple, really. Only my will, indomitable and fierce as it is, has the capability to see my thunder found and brought back safely where it needs must be, in the heart of my realm, protecting all with its malicious rumble.

I am nearly certain as to the identity of this thief. It is not one among the traitorous lot of that Council whose name I no longer even wish to pronounce.

Nay, tis much worse. This thief is mine former wife.

Diary Entry #0152

I remember some of what it was like, before. Our life together was happy, if difficult. There was pain and hardship aplenty, as you might imagine. Working, trying to survive tends to do a grueling trick on the best of men. But I never gave up. Never.

I had a wife I loved. A daughter.

I miss them terribly.

Diary Entry #0153

Bah, what trickery is this?!

Memories of writing this previous entry, I have none! I have been under such monstrous tension lately, perhaps a respite is necessary.

The scouts report that a gathering of feral ogres threatens a nearby village. Perhaps I shall join them in their pillage of the free people of Lokre. My arcane librarians deem it an unpalatable idea but it will not do, allowing them to dictate my choices.

Diary Entry #0155

I have taken the minds of the feral ogres and forced them to do my bidding. That lot proved to be horrid hosts; they all but failed to recognize my superiority, those insipid fools. For that,  I have punished them as only I can.

The arcane librarian corps, as I have decided to call the newly-minted organization of wee lads and lasses who spend too much time in my libraries,  has cheered my decision. It would appear that some of them have come from Lokre; such pity that their parents never taught them the importance of communication.

All they needed do was ask.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m actively trying to steer this series towards a more fully-realized and rounded fictional world instead of a series of one-off comedic bits, which — while funny — don’t really leave that much of an impression. It’s a fun challenge I enjoy revisiting weekly; if you enjoy reading it, let me know! I’m always up for conversations on all fictional matters!