writing

My therapists

I’m a mess of a person. Really, I am. I’m chaotic, unorganized, emotional, nervous, obsessive-compulsive, talk to myself, get headaches by thinking about the most idiotic things et cetera et cetera. Some of my even crazier friends ask me how I can handle putting up with them, but I guess that’s just because behind the wall of normality I’ve put up over the years, I’m just as insane and psychologically unstable as them. Trust me, it’s good that I got this wall of mine.

Luckily, I know when to get help. I don’t think that showing weakness is a sign of weakness, but rather one of responsibility. Considering that, I’ve made sure to put my mental health into the hands of not just one, but four very capable therapists. Alone, these experts are already formidable doctors, but combined, they create the foundation of my mental health. Seeing how it’s almost the first birthday of this blog, I think it’s time to introduce you to my four specialists.

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What happened to Digital Dragonslayers?

“Zinda the Dragonslayer” by eisu

On 1 November 2013, I started writing Digital Dragonslayers. As planned, I wanted to devote the month to writing a non-fictional piece about my life as a MMORPG gamer: how I started, why the genre plays an important role in my life and how it influences others. Within the first days, I was able to amass quite the word count. Without much ado, the lines and formulations just came to me, manifesting on the digital paper of my Google Drive. Then, however, something happened. Around the 15.000 words mark, I noticed something.

I was done.

At least, it felt like I had encapsulated everything I wanted to say about the life of a MMO gamer. I re-read my script, but in a way, I had covered everything I had set out to cover. Sure, I could have started cleaning it all up, adding a description here and there, but that would have never taken me to that 50k cap of NaNoWriMo. I was simply done…and that frustrated me so much I canned the thing.

Yesterday, I skimmed through it again, and noticed that I had given up too early. Sure, I had already covered a lot of what I wanted to say in those 15.000 words, but I’m not done yet. Re-reading what I wrote has given me ample ideas of what to do with what I already have, and how I’ll expand on it. Sure, I might have “lost” NaNoWriMo, got I won a treasure trove of blogging topics.

So yeah, I didn’t slay the dragon that is NaNoWriMo, but you will certainly hear of Digital Dragonslayers in the future…in one way or the other!

NaNoWriMo: preparing for the madness

Hey kids, September’s almost over! You know what that means? Yes, October is almost upon us! And you know what that means? It’s almost November! November, the month of pre-Christmas madness, transitional shitty weather and, most importantly…NaNofrickingWriMo!

Last year, I participated in this month-long write-a-thon, blindly writing a story of at least 50,000 words. The end result, a sci-fi supernatural action story dubbed “Warlox” is still haunting my Google Drive, I haven’t done anything with, but the fact I got myself to write more than 50,000 worth in just four weeks is something I’m really proud of. This year, though, I want to raise the bar. This year, I’ll do this right. I won’t just blindly rush into the jungle that is writing. I will draw my map, set my course towards a firm plot, and fight my way through the constricting vines of plotholes, the dangerous Mary-Sue-Beasts, all the way to the hidden shrine of that total word count.

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Martin and the reason for his killing sprees

got jk rowling grr martin georgeHERE BE SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES, BOTH THE SHOW AND THE BOOKS!

The reason to write this post has two origins. First of all, I’ve caught up with the TV show of Game of Thrones, and now I’ve joined the great amount of people who are waiting for the next season. It’s better to be late to a party than to never arrive, right? Second, a comment from the Nerd Maids on my previous post about Game of Thrones has prompted me to share my opinion on the way Martin handles popular characters and death in his works.

First of all, thank you for commenting and sharing your opinion! You have valid points, and I can understand that killing off popular and cool characters seems counterproductive: readers care about them and use them as a way to interact with the written world, and so their deaths are all the more cruel. Plus, why not end the lives of characters nobody cares about, like the Freys in Game of Thrones? You can tell better stories with the “cool cast” still alive than with those…weirdos. I can relate to that opinion, but let me explain why I can’t agree with it.

You see, I’m also a person who really gets into the characters of a book, a show or a movie. If their story is intriguing and well-written, I’m hooked and reeled in like a fat carp. I’m a fan of good versus of evil, of knowing who I should cheer for or having the possibility of choosing a “team”. If both sides of a conflict have interesting characters, the whole conflict gets even more interesting. If you add an epic climax to it then, something that has been built up for multiple books or episodes, you have found a sure way to please me. However, you have also found the easiest way to please me, by serving me a meal I have eaten so many times the flavor has dulled my senses. If you happen to be George R.R. Martin though, you throw a plate in front of me with food that looks familiar, but with a taste that will overwhelm me.

Alright, enough of the weird culinary metaphors. What I’m trying to say is that Martin dares to cross lines other authors don’t, and all of this “trespassing” of his makes his work all the more interesting. Where other writers are afraid to kill their or their reader’s darlings, Martin will rip them out of his stories in a cruel way to propel the entire plot into a new direction. Sure, one might argue that death is the cheapest way to add drama, but it’s also the most efficient way to add emotion and the chaos it causes. Killing someone is final, it presents the reader and the characters in the story with an event they can’t just ignore. Everyone has to take a stance, and these stances will drive the story into an unexpected direction. Sure, the Red Wedding is bloody and cruel, but it turns the entire War of the Five Kings upside down and makes you, the reader and viewer, re-think your opinion about certain individuals. It keeps you engaged in a cruel, yet effective way.

A result of this murderous tendency Martin shows is that no character is ever safe. Fantasy writers tend to save the “heroes” of the story in that last, dramatic moment, just so that they can save the day, free the kingdom and rule with a gentle hand. Martin doesn’t do the “hero”-thing, and he puts everyone and their mother into permanent danger. Every character in his books can be killed, and you should learn that rather sooner than later. This fear of death is a good thing though, since it will make you care even more for the individuals in the story. Why hope that the hero will make it, when you know that the author is using every trope in the universe to make it so? What use is appreciating the depth of a fictional character, when he cannot be taken from you at any moment by some malicious enemy? This fear you feel, and your wish that your “beloved” character will make it actually strengthen your bond with the story, turning the reading of a simple book into a fantastic emotional rollercoaster ride.

I’m not saying that all fantasy authors should be like Martin. We still need the “classic” novels, where good and evil are clearly separated and where the brave hero gets the girl. However, we also need more writers who raise the stakes and add danger to their stories, having their own beloved creations entering the lion’s den multiple times. They might make it out…or they won’t.

No matter the outcome, you are cheering for your favorites, and you will remember their story. You should not weep for the dozens of characters Martin has killed, but the dozens of new plot hooks their deaths have spawned. Where one story ends, a new one begins. Trust Martin to make them good ones, and you will find out that he does not slaughter for fun, but for crafting an epic masterpiece of a story.

Changing plans

Plans in life change, and so do the plans for this geek here. As you can see on the right, my plan was to participate in this month’s Camp NaNo and write a story of about 20.000 words. After just a week, that plan changed. I noticed that after writing more than 50k words for last November’s NaNoWriMo, I lacked the necessary drive to write something new. Also, editing November’s novel was also something I didn’t want to do. I got frustrated, feeling like I let myself down. Luckily, inspiration struck, and I used my writing time meant for Camp NaNo to work on the script for something new and really cool.

I will unveil that new and really cool thing here when the time is right. The script for it is being finalized, and my girl is taking care of the art part. It’s gonna be great, guys and girls, I can promise you that.

In the mean time, other things just keep on changing on this blog. I’m experimenting with videos and audio records, and I’m still trying to find the perfect posting schedule for me. I apologize for any irregularities, but this blog is a growing and changing thing. I’m grateful for every visitor that finds his or her way over here, and I hope you keep on dropping by.

The Chindividual grows, and the fuel for that growth is your support! Thanks for visiting, I will keep you pleased!

Going camping

team fortress camping engineer guitar

“Camping” by FlopHouser

You might ask yourself a few things. Why did the Pope truly step down from his office? Is there life on Mars? Is Canada really such a nice place to live? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? Sadly, I can’t provide you with answers to these questions. However, I can answer that one question you have been asking yourself since a few days: what the heck is that weird logo on the right doing there, stealing space from the most popular posts? Well folks, that logo indicates that I’ll be camping in April, literally. Well, wait, not literally in the sense that I will be outdoors getting myself bitten by insects, but literally in the sense of writing. Would that be literary rather than literally? Questions, questions, questions…

Anyway, as the logo indicates, I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo coming April (and probably also in July), which means that I’ll be writing a short story of at least 20.000 words in that month. It’s not much, considering I survived NaNoWriMo 2012 which had me writing more than twice that amount in the same time. The difference with that contest from November is that now I have a blog to vent my writing frustrations, so prepare for an author’s rage next month.

Luckily, my housemates will join me in the writing madness, so I’m looking forward to a month filled with write-ins, writer blocks and really strange plot twists, all crammed into a small house in the Netherlands. We might not be camping outdoors, but if you bring us some tents and fire wood, we can turn our kitchen into a nice, literal (or literary?) campsite!

From simple to complicated – the evolution of ideas

“Evolution” by Ikurx

Ah, how I love Pokémon. My generation had the honour of growing up with the very first generation of these little critters, and just like all the other kids on the block, I loved to play every game that involved these monsters. I collected the trading cards, and I fielded a nice team of battle-hungry Pokémon on my Gameboy. The video game was just so addictive. From the moment you received your first Pokémon (Bulbasaur for the win), to the satisfying moment where you defeat the Elite Four, Pokémon offered tense and tactical battles with monsters ranging from cute to threatening. Every time I give a new Pokémon title a try, I’m overwhelmed by this sense of nostalgia and unfortunately have to discover that none of the new games satisfy my lust for the collection of pocket monsters.

However, what these new games also show is how a rather simple game can turn into something really complicated over different iterations. Pokemon Red and Blue (I will not mention Yellow here. Only the lazy, snobby kids who wanted all the cool Pokémon in their time played Yellow, and I was far too awesome to start a game with a lame Pikachu in my team) were, essentially, nothing but a glorified rock-paper-scissors simulator: certain types were efficient against other types, so the trick was to have a well-balanced team that was able to hold its own against different kind of Pokémon. However, the franchise was and is still milked for every penny it’s worth, and so generation after generation of new games appear. Fortunately, they are no carbon copies of the originals. In fact, they take the basic concepts of Red and Blue, and keep adding additional layers to the game. These days, trainers have to be aware of so many things next to their Pokémon’s type, and when I hear players talk about their team set-ups, I feel like I’m listening to football coaches and talent scouts talking about something I once knew so well, but that has become something so deep that I can no longer follow them.

Despite the fact this added complexity has caused me to fall behind, I understand that this is the ideal evolution (see what I did there) of a game: starting out simple to get players used to the ideas and concepts, and slowly change into something that still holds on to these core ideas, but that is also refreshing. It’s an organic and really natural growth, that in most cases gives the franchise a fresh breath of life with every new iteration. Pokémon is by far not the only game who has done that. Recent sci-fi RPG series Mass Effect might have kept the same awesome and thrilling storytelling through all three titles, but the actual game that was behind the cinematic drama changed significantly throughout the three parts. Each new Zelda title sticks to a well-known set of characters, but also tries to re-imagine the world of Hyrule every time. It’s progress at its finest, and in my opinion the best way to introduce innovation into the market.

The problem with many great ideas is that you have to get them into other people’s minds. This entirely new game idea might sound really great in your own head, but that’s no guarantee that your target audience will understand it. Instead of throwing everything at them at once, risking the chance that the complexity and “newness” of it will scare your audience, introduce them to it step by step. Start simple, but get them hooked. Take the best part of your concept, and put it in a nice package. It’s like writing a text, where your opening sentence has to catch the attention of the reader, or else they won’t bother reading your stuff. See how I lured you in with some talk about Pokémon, and how you’re now reading something about organic introduction of new game concepts? I got you hooked, and step by step, I’m introducing you to my ideas.

Once the audience is on one level with you, ramp up the complexity. Build on the foundation you have laid, and see how they react to it. Should you go into the wrong direction, you can direct this form of intelligent design into another, better way. You control the organic growth of your product, and react to the demands of the market. In the gaming world, it’s survival of the fittest, and whoever can adapt to his environment will come out a survivor.

So next time you start writing a game or come up with a brilliant idea, break it down into simple pieces. Start with the core idea, and turn it into a strong element that you can bring to your audience. Then, let evolution do its work and see where it goes. I’m sure that, in the end, you will even surprise yourself about the direction it took.