Finish Stories

I was watching The Returned last night. For those who have not seen it, there are spoilers ahead. Though if you haven’t watched it, I’m not sure it’s worth your time. I’m still sorting it out.

Quick premise. In this small town, the dead come back to life, and they try dealing with a world that has moved on without them.

The show sets up a few character arcs. A woman who was nearly murdered finds a boy who she takes care of. The boy is psychotic and was murdered nearly 30 years ago. A dead girl comes back six years after her death and tries to fit in with her friends. A woman killed by a dam breaking is trying to drown the city, to purge it of its evil.

Overall, The Returned wraps up a lot of the stories. The woman with the psycho ghost boy leaves him behind and survives. Most people die when they let him go. The sixteen year old girl is sort of accepted by her peers, though one stabs her. The other one stabs her, but in that way you want to be stabbed.

Then there’s the woman who wants to blow up the dam to drown the city.

Keep in mind, they created plot hooks for season 2. They were in place. A few final episode reveals did an amazing job of setting up season 2.

So the crazy woman, she was actually clinically insane before her death, has all the explosives set. She’s fighting ghosts so she can light the fuse. She gets a match to light, and the match goes out. That’s the last we see of her.

The thing is, this is a plot arc that started a long time ago. Everyone during the final episode is on high alert because the dead are totally poking at the living that the dam is about to blow up. When one man has a vision that the dam is about to break, we cut to credits. What?

Francis (c) 2005

This is why I don’t read single issues of comic books. It’s why I have trust issues.

Finish your story arcs. GRRM finishes his story arcs. In A Game of Thrones (spoilers), we find out Robert Baratheon has no kids and the twins are bumping uglies. In Clash of Kings, we watch the Stark kingdom fall.

Meanwhile the white walkers are the string that all the plots hang on. They are the long term story that will creep up from time to time until there will be some stunning conclusion. Thinking out loud. What if Westeros is abandoned? What if the white walkers win and Westeros departs to live in Braavos? That would be cool. Sorry, tangent.

Fortunately, if you want a traditional publisher, this is a slight that writers are rarely allowed to get away with, as compared to a series which is trying as dirty as possible to hook you into the next season. Even the worst novel I’ve plausibly ever dove into which had a traditional publisher still had a beginning, middle, and end, while finishing off the story arc it pushed forward.

So why say this? I’m warning you. Don’t get tempted. Finish your story primary story arc while placing bread crumbs for future stories.

Writer Bibles

Whenever I create a world, I start at the beginning with a brief history run down. When did people first arrive, how did they settle, what were the turning events in history, and how did they reach the point they’re at.

From there, I decide my different cultures. What do those cultures hold important? They live at the top of a mountain where one area is temperate but the rest is a near endless blizzard? They pray to Winter and that it will never touch their blessed portion of land.

Their ancestors at the base of the mountain have decent growing periods and a history of brave men who led them to the green pastures? While they still worship Winter because their forefathers did, they more so revere their ancestors for the traits they wish to emulate.

I flesh out the religions, the cities, the heroes, the spirits, the magic. Maybe flesh out is a strong word. I create guidelines.

With G’desh I kept most of this in my head. There’s a tricky thing about a head, though. First, it can be severed. Second, and more pressing to most people, it forgets and twists memories.

Enter the writer bible.


I have a few journals. These are the ones I could find. Each one holds a world. The history starts the book off, followed by a break down of “modern” cultures relevant to the point in history I plan on writing.

While I still use this as a guideline to help me move forward, and information in the journals change, it gives me something solid to work from. If I have a question about a city or culture, I have a place to look. If I want to know the literary devices I’m using for a certain world (each one is a world, even if the worlds connect, and each world has a mythology which inspires it, and I try to stay true to the source material), I can easily look it up.

There are those who probably think this is only for fantasy and science fiction, but to you I say that’s not true.

For a murder mystery, if you need to keep track of clues, where people are, time lines, and so on. What’s the motivation for the murder? Never forget.

In historical fiction, this is where you keep your reference notes. What were Napoleon’s phobias or who was Elizabeth’s lover in a certain year all at your finger tips without having to do another Google search or, more laborious, looking through a book.

For romance, you can remember how you described the protagonists nipples. I didn’t even realize that was something they super cared about until my friend thrust a romance novel on me. Pun intended.

Writer bibles aren’t always physical. When I’m actually solidifying the ideas from something that will ebb and flow, they end up in Scrivener. Some people use Evernote, or whatever other program they prefer. There are at least a dozen I could name off the top of my head. Some have specific functions, such as time line programs. Others are broad, but a little more difficult to manipulate.

Either way, the writer bible is important for your writing in some form or another. It will minimize inconsistencies, make it easier for you to remember details, and make edits much easier. If you’re doing a series, this is even more vital, as it will let you keep your series straight. Get a journal, get a program, and write it up.

Rote Memorization

Rote (n): routine; a fixed, habitual, or mechanical course of procedure.

It’s been years since I’ve thought of what letters I’m hitting. For those of you who can speed type, you get this. You think of the word. It pops up on the screen. You need to delete a word? Poof. It disappears. There was a time you thought, “Alright, ctrl+delete, and bingo!” There was a time you had to cheat. “Shoot. Is my finger on y or u?”

How many of you turn on your computers and instinctively pull up the tabs in your browser, your emails, and any other programs you start up immediately? Within five seconds I have WordPress, Google mail, and Facebook up and running. Might not even be that long.

I’m sure there are those of you who cook like this. You bring out the food, you chop it up, throw it in, and you’re done. Very little thought. That lasagna has been cooked a hundred times. It is a routine.

Lately I’ve been playing a game called Paragon. It’s a moba. Basically two teams of five clash in epic battle. You purchase skills as you level, and you develop a routine on how you purchase those skills. When I was playing today, after I purchased my first ability, I thought, “Shoot, was that the right one?” Even though I didn’t remember purchasing the skill, I bought my starter skill.

This list goes on. Driving. Swimming. Mechanical work. Those who are masters do the same thing over and over in often times boring repetition. Do you know how many horrible things I said about my keyboard class? But I kept at it. Because mom said so.

Combat is rote memorization. Your body is trained to respond through repetitive exercises. In the same way I think “word” and it appears on the screen, they think “parry,” and their body instinctively blocks the blade. They think “shoot,” and they immediately aim at center mass, compensate for recoil, find cover.

But why do our heroes master these skills in months, sometimes not even?

For your characters to become good at something, they have to be prodigies (I do understand these exist and they learn select skills very quickly), or they have to train for a long time intensely.

This doesn’t just go for combat. Pick up the book Blink. It’s basically all about training your instinct through mastering a subject. By making it rote. Someone bought a counterfeit piece of art. A bunch of experts looked at it and instantly said the buyer, a museum, was making a mistake. They couldn’t say why. Years of training their brain, years of seeing real and counterfeit art, and they knew that art was fake. It’s rote. They made looking at art rote memorization.

Basically I’m just pleading with you to make your characters learn things in a realistic manner. I know there are books which do a great job. But others cheat, and it makes the book feel fake. As for prodigies, just make sure it’s important. Otherwise you’re dangerously close to a Mary Sue character.

Using Stereotypes

Jeremy T. Hetzel (c) 2011

I have been playing The Division a lot lately. The game is based on you being a sleeper agent who is to bring order to NYC after a designer virus wipes out about 90% of the population.

NYC is broken up into districts, and each district has a coordinator. This coordinator gives missions. For the most part, you hang out with them for about five minutes of dialogue throughout a couple hours of clearing their district of evil. Then you move on.

In any line of fiction, these people would be forgotten quickly as nearly anonymous NPCs. The characters would all blend together, basically be the same person, and we would all move on and forget them.

However, Ubisoft and the dozen developers and publisher who were involved in this game made a very smart move. They played off stereotypes to create slightly over the top personas that I still remember.

The first coordinator was a soccer mom. “I think this is going to be dangerous, hun, but I’m sure you can handle it.” Then just amplify the worrying about you but believing you’ll do your best by 100%. You could hear the “I owned a minivan and went to soccer games for my kids” in her tone.

Then there was an action movie actor. “Dude, when this thing blows over, you’ll have to talk to my agent. I mean, if he’s still alive. He probably isn’t. So I guess we’ll have to make our own movie without help. But you would be so awesome to act beside.” He was such a tool.

Let’s not forget the zen master. “There is imbalance and a disconnect. Actually literally a disconnect. Someone took down one of our communication relays. Go spread some karma.”

Each coordinator was an over the top stereotype, and that made the character stick. It made it so I could immediately create a concept in my head of who that person was, and though there may have been some deviation at times, overall I knew what I was getting. And it was hilarious.

In your own writing, how many bartenders (or ultimately the role of information broker) do you have? Whether they’re at a space station, in a wooden tavern, or in a downtown bar, how often are those bartenders interchangeable? I try to distinguish them, but it’s difficult. By making them over the top, Ubisoft succeeded in making each of these otherwise anonymous characters pop.

Let’s look at Song of Ice and Fire. Catelyn Stark goes into a tavern where there’s a woman that she remembers as a child. The woman ate a fruit that made her teeth red. Always red. She was an obnoxiously nosy woman. I remember her. She lasted a full ten pages. She was a stereotype of the nosy neighbor.

Stereotypes often exist because of some truth. The soccer mom exists. I get they each have nuances, not all soccer moms are the same, but in five minutes of dialogue you don’t have time for nuances. In ten pages you don’t have time for nuances.

Now don’t take this as me saying everyone fits in those stereotypes. I’m simply stating that if you have a character who will not show up often and will be easy to forget, find a mold, cast him, change a couple things, and plop that person onto a page.

What I am saying is we understand stereotypes. We can create a full image with very little information. Use it. It’s an excellent way to convey a lot of information about a character in a very short period of time.

The Other Job of an Author

I was watching an interview with R.A. Salvatore. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of his writing. However, he is successful, he sounds like a great guy, and at the very least he’s wise. I don’t like horror, but I still am glued to anything Stephen King says. You don’t need the author that has you stuck to the pages to find an author who can give sound advice.

Salvatore was asked once what the best college degree would be for a writer. The response left me puzzled.



Why engineering? Maybe if you wanted to write about architecture? Either way, there was a lot of confusion.

You can’t write when hungry.

Bring home the bacon! (GotCredit (c) 2015)

In this age of self-publishing, if that’s the path you will be taking, it also costs money to make money. You are your sole investor. It’s $200 for an editor on a novel, often times more, rarely less. Even more rarely if you want quality.

An artist is at least $300 for the cover art. Sure you can do the layout. Of course you can go with stock photos that look immensely generic and someone else may have used. However, don’t you want something original? Something tailored specifically to your book? It just looks better.

Then there are book fairs, conventions, writer friend hangouts, and buying enough books up front so you can sell them at different events. This isn’t cheap. Don’t even get me started on the investment in marketing.

Guess what you can’t do if you’re a starving artist? Any of this. You’ll perpetuate the starving part and art will be a miserable endeavor for you. I have friends in this boat. They can’t sell out. Getting a job outside writing will nullify their dreams (marketing, guys, you are all marketers of some sort).

I sell restaurant equipment. This is what I am known for. I sell restaurant equipment and go on mission trips. I work about 50 hours a week. Fortunately in outside sales there’s a little fudge room. I am struck by my muse and 4:30 and nothing is happening? As long as I get caught up on emails before 8 am the next morning, I’m good. I’ve gone on a writing rampage to answer emails at 1 am.

However, this job is my literary life blood. With it I was able to go to a convention in Utah where I learned, networked, and met a friend I’d known online for around three years. I was able to buy original cover art which will eventually become metal bookmarks. And marketing. I so hate marketing.

All of this was because during the day I sell restaurant equipment. I work a normal job. One writer I met in Utah was a lawyer. His hours were significantly less forgiving than my own and he had a family.

The world works on money, and money from a primary source makes it easy to fund the writing (or drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.).

The short of it? The whole Bohemian thing is really cute. Now get a job.

Marketing! The skill they don’t teach

As I continue striving for work related to writing, I become more disillusioned with my attempted writing degree. Attempted because I didn’t finish my capstone of writing a novel. Or did I? Arabian epic fantasy with a djinn assassin would have never flown. Buy it today. In your face one course away major!

The reason I became disillusioned was because they did not spend time on the marketing aspect. I also don’t think this is just my school, but creative arts overall. In a world filled with indie artists, small press publishers who do little more than tweet about you every couple days, and having millions of books readily available, we need to know how to make our books pretty.

LTUE (do I ever get tired of tooting their horn? Answer is now.) had a new professional development track, and I went to all of them. You can find what I all learned from LTUE in a post from two days ago.

So here are my marketing tips, which some will slide over from the writer conference post. Linked above. Some of these marketing tips are utilized in my own job as well.

all the books
Second to the left. This is called amazing marketing. This also looks like a dream come true.

1. Ask for the sale

This is huge in my line of work. I have to ask for opportunities. Whether or not I can make them stick is another issue, but I ask. I’m selling equipment that can be $10,000 and there are ten other competitors. They can only buy one every five to ten years.

You’re selling a book. Mine is $18 soft cover or $4 digital. There are some out there for 99¢. Ask your friend to buy the book. If they’re hesitant remind them it will barely chip into their coffee addiction. If they don’t like the book, you know better for next time. If it’s not their genre, you get it. Ask for the sale.

2. Have a pitch

Ten seconds. Have a ten second pitch. Period. This is needed. Required. Have it. I spoke about this the other day.

3. Remind people you exist

Notice all the links? Notice all the links from my last post? Maybe even the product placement above. Make people remember you exist. Make it easy for people to access your stuff. I’ve littered my last two posts with links to my novel. Yeah. I just posted it again. Please buy it (both making it easy to buy and asking for the sale).

4. Relationships

People buy from people they know. In this time of social media it’s really easy to reach out to people. I have a group of 100 writer friends. They have been in touch with Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, and other famous writers. My friend feels like the writer really cares about them. The writer took a matter of minutes out of their day and convinced a swath of people that they care. Two days later, if that, they don’t remember. Rowling might, but she seems to be one of the sweetest women ever to walk this planet.

People buy from people they feel they know. Make people feel they know you buy caring about those around you. Legitimately. You may both forget each other, or only remember the face, but, as a friend said, “You don’t lose anything by being nice.”

5. Social Media

I was taught social media often doesn’t bring in new readers, but it keeps old ones. It also strengthens your “tribe” or group of readers, which increases word of mouth. Once you get started, all you need to do is hold on tight. It just takes a lot of pushing for the train to move down the tracks.

For advice on which type of social media, I was told whatever you enjoy doing. If you have an outlet, people will join. I do Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and Tumblr. Most of those are automated through WordPress.

6. Book reviews

I was basically told to just keep going to people asking for book reviews. Change up who you talk to, follow up when you get a positive response, never quit. At first it will be hard, and after a while, if you can start rolling along, the reviewers will come to you.

That’s what I’ve got. Hope the marketing goes well, along with the writing!

Writer Conference Tips

I went to LTUE last week with a writing friend, Christine Haggerty. You should read her books. She’s brilliant. Not only do I adore her writing, but she dragged me to a conference where I learned a lot, met a lot of people, and fell in love with a writing community.

With that said, here are the top tips I have for writers from this conference. Aside from the obvious one of go to a conference. Preferably LTUE so we can all hang out. It’s also a super chill conference and it’s priced right.

“Before you go” list

1. Business cards

Before you head off to Salt Lake City (actually Provo), get some business cards. I had 250 through my publisher. I gave away around 20 and got back even more than that.

Business cards show you care. They show you are motivated. They show you expect something to happen with writing and you treat it like a business venture. Have business cards.

Vista Prints does a good job. When I run through the ones from my publisher, this is who I will be using. There are countless other places where you can get 250 business cards for a low price. Do it.

2. Practice your pitch

There is a fear about pitching, especially the elevator pitch. Have a ten second pitch. This should compare your work to something out there and commonly known.

Drowning the Sands of G’desh is an Arabian Nights’ inspired epic fantasy about a holy war. You follow a soldier, prophet, and djinn assassin.” Bam. I do still stutter or pause when saying it because I get nervous. Either way, people know what I’m selling from that pitch, and who doesn’t want to read about a djinn assassin?

Grow from there. When I follow up I talk about how the soldier is uncovering a corrupt government, the prophet is nervous about leading his people, and the djinn assassin is learning there’s more to life than money. One guy told us he had prepped for all of his books a ten to sixty second pitch. This is tied with business card as to most important prep work for a conference.

3. Pick out your panels and have a goal in mind

When I planned out the panels, I wanted to emphasize business development. No matter what, a panel on marketing, sales, queries, social media, and so on won. On Wednesday I hunted down every one of these and wrote them in my notebook which was my itinerary.

After that, I really wanted to be more well versed in world building, so I hunted those panels down. From there, whatever looked fun.

I did not skip a single developmental panel. They were too important. For the sake of networking, I did end up skipping some of the other panels. However, if you go in with a goal and plan, you will get the most out of the conference. This is all about being prepared so you’re not playing catch up once there.

At the Conference

1. Network

This is the single most important thing you can do while at the conference. This is why you need business cards. Talk to people. Anyone there. You see someone chilling at a table? Go talk to them. Yes, some of them will stare at you with cold dead eyes. that’s the cue to walk away. Many of them are waiting for you to speak to them. Many of them, ones not published, have business cards and websites. If you are not published or freshly published, these are your peers.

I cannot tell you how many times I made a friend only to find them on a panel the following day. Now, mind you, I also know LTUE is far more accessible than most conferences as far as panelists, but even the big names were immensely friendly and helpful.

2. Put them first

Networking is great, but I can’t emphasize enough to talk about them first. Ask the person you’re conversing with what they’re working on, who they like, what panels they’re seeing. Talk about them. People love that. People love to talk about them.

Remember that a lot of the people there are as uncomfortable as you. However, they are used to a scary world that paints writers as trivial. It is a world that rips them down. Build them up. They will remember you. Usually.

3. Pitch


Despite putting the person you’re talking to first, know that you’re likely on about even footing as far as fame and fortune in the literary world. You wrote a pitch. Pitch it. Give them the brief pitch. If they are interested, tell them more. Ask what books interest them and find out if this is in their wheelhouse. Not every book is for every reader.

Do not be afraid of talking about your novel. If it’s not a novel, then your short story, novella, novelette (I still stand with this is a pretend word), or WIP.

4. Take notes

You are overloaded with information. You will forget most of it. Take notes. Write on business cards why you took the card. Put down ideas. Come back to it when you return home and decompress. But no, you will not remember everything you wanted to. There’s simply too much in too little time.

Home again

1. Review notes and business cards (those things you of course remembered to bring)

Give yourself some time to decompress. A day? I spent a day with family and day at a funeral. With family. It was a bitter sweet decompression.

You have your notes, your business cards, and your ideas. Start filtering through them. Figure out what you want to do with business cards. Those which are unimportant at the time, put in a file. Those requiring action in the next week, put on the side.

2. Create an action plan

You should really be doing this the entire convention/conference. When you learn something you like, you should note it down as something to do when you get home. For me, it’s time management.

My action plan is to work on literary pursuits for four hours a night. One hour will be my novel, another on short stories, another on marketing and maintaining social media, and the final hour will be reading. I know this isn’t realistic. I know I cannot maintain this. I also know some days I will end up writing my novel for two hours and I won’t do social media that day. Some days I’ll read for two hours.

I also came up with a plan on releasing short stories/novellas every other month and a novel every nine to twelve months. I actually think I can pop novellas quicker than every other month, but I’m starting at that point.

There are countless other tips I was given that I will be utilizing. I still haven’t even started going through the cards, these are just from the briefest of notes.

3. Keep in touch

You’ve met all these people. You shared nerd moments. You will see each other again in a year. But why wait that long?

Before I got home I had Facebook friend requests. I plan on reaching out with some of my own, along with LinkedIn. I have a list of people I want to ask for reviews, along with blogs I’ll be following. Get an idea of where they compare to you, and make the appropriate forays. Some of the people I only met in passing, or I watched them on a panel. I’ll follow their blogs. Others, we really discussed writing, swapped books, and so on. Facebook besties it is.

4. Don’t stop moving

You did it. You went hard, learned a lot, and came back with Santa’s sack filled with ideas. Do not let that sack atrophy. As time goes the gifts in there will disappear. They will disappear because you removed them, or they will disappear because you waited too long to act on them. Act on them.


Without going into the individual lessons, this is what I learned on how to approach the event. A lot of this I learned through the food service industry, where I still go to training, meetings, conferences, conventions, and so on. It’s amazing how different lines of work can cross over.

So find a conference and dive in. If you’re looking for one I know is awesome, check out LTUE because it’s awesome. How many times do I need to plug that? Did I mention I learned a lot about marketing? Shameless marketing.

Speaking of, don’t forget about the novel with the djinn assassin. Because how much more bad ass does it get than that?

Good luck with your writing!

Life Interrupted

Grandma and Grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary was next weekend. There were people coming in to celebrate 60 years of love. A menu was created, the food was purchased and stored in the freezer. My aunt was asking for advice on a van, since she liked their van and wanted to know the pros and cons. There was wiring being done on their house by Grandpa. There were plans to go out and eat with people for the next two weeks. That’s simply how they rolled. Last Wednesday, they were preparing to go to Ash Wednesday service. Grandpa had to drive as Grandma’s been deteriorating from Parkinson’s. It’s a horrible disease, and those who have seen it know how debilitating it can be. Her mind is still good, but her mobility is hampered more and more.

Grandpa went upstairs to get changed. It would be quick, they would make it to church on time, and he had a nice outfit picked. After twenty minutes upstairs, Grandma called for him and received no response. She, very likely, struggled up the stairs. Grandpa was unresponsive. She proceeded to struggle back down the stairs, as her cell phone was downstairs, where she called my aunt.

We received text messages and phone calls halfway through our own Ash Wednesday service. By the time we were out and I saw the text that Grandpa had collapsed, then called my aunt, she stunned us with the news Grandpa was dead. She said passed, but as a writer words have a certain levity to them. Passed doesn’t do justice what happens at the end of life. Dead does.

I was to go to Utah the next morning for a writer’s convention. The plan was after church to do laundry, hang out with mom and dad, and be to bed by nine, since I had to be up around four. I nearly did not go. I definitely did not bring the clothes I was thinking I would. Due to the grace of Mom, I ended up with clean clothes at all.

Grandpa wasn’t supposed to die. His shoulder gave him problems, he was slowing down, but he still was filled with vigor at 83. There were countless plans surrounding him and his life, and no one expected the phone call. There were no health issues.

Suddenly my brothers were flying or driving in with their families. One of them expected to drive in next week for the celebration of marriage. Neither of them expected to come back home for the mourning of a death.

Life ends abruptly. Not always. My other Grandpa suffered for years from numerous diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, to the point he was basically incoherent for the final stretch. There were no plans made into the future, and every day we showed up to the nursing home and he was still breathing was a bonus. But how many people in our novels die that death?

When I was sitting in Grandma and Grandpa’s living room with Grandma going through all the reasons he couldn’t be dead, when plans were made and cancelled because of death, when I heard of the project which were happening and would not be neglected, I realized something about death, something I never realized because I’ve never before been in a house with a dead body that so immensely affected me.

Death leaves threads which are unfinished.

How often do characters going into battle have no tomorrow? A Victorian novel where two characters duel in the morning, but they have no plans for lunch later on. A teen about to be on the receiving end of a slasher flick doesn’t do their homework, unless we want them to be doing their homework when the horror starts. Even those who walk onto the battlefield. Our soldiers have families at home. They plan on seeing those families. Leave is planned out in order to visit them, sometimes during important events. Maybe it’s as simple as a planned poker game that evening, even though they are aware they are going into an encounter shortly.

People don’t plan to die. Make plans as if they will survive.

Bran, in A Game of Thrones, has an entire chapter on how he has planned out his life. Then he is pushed out a window and falls to become a cripple. His plans are interrupted.

Ned plans on exposing the incest of Jaime and Cersei, until they catch him. Then he simply plans on making it home to his family, hiding in Winterfell, and taking care of his kids. Both of these plans are decapitated when Ned loses his head in a rash decision by Joffrey. Not only that, but it was for naught. By Clash of Kings everyone knows of the incest anyway.

In H.P. Lovecraft, often his characters do not plan out anything beyond the terror inducing events of the present. The men go into a cave with no thought of tomorrow, a guaranty to their own mortality. While I still love his writing, why wouldn’t the man researching a hidden horror in a crypt make plans to return to the surface, writing fanciful notes from the psych-ward he would so justly deserve?

When a healthy character is about to die, especially in an epic where tomorrow matters, have them make plans. It makes it more real. It makes us understand. We recall that death strikes at any time, and the reaper does not care what we wanted to do tomorrow. It takes us all the same.

The rest of the week will consist of information from the writer’s conference, which was a blast. Today, however, having been the funeral, this is what slapped me in the face.


In memory of Grandpa, who gave countless virtues and blessings to his daughters, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. Who taught us faith, an even temper, and a determined approach to this world. You were taken by a thief in the night, but you’ve left behind so many great reminders as to the amazing man you were. I miss and love you, Grandpa. Until we meet again.

On Fallout 4: Shake it up

I put around 100 hours into Fallout 4. Even in my youth, the only game which claimed this much of me was Final Fantasy VII.

I’m not going to lie and say the entire thing was a honeymoon. If I had to save one more settlement from impending doom that was half the city away from them, I was going to shoot Preston Garvey myself. A lot of the quests were overly repetitive and many were even nonsensical. With the Brotherhood, I couldn’t tell if I was doing an eternally repeatable quest, or one that actually advanced their story.

However, I learned a lot from the game, and the midway point gave it a new life that I hadn’t expected. Be prepared for spoilers. If you plan on playing the game, do not read on. It will ruin one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in any medium or story.

In the game, you have the Institute. They are this monster in the closet. Supposedly there are real life people being replaced with robots so some weird and creepy organization can remake the Commonwealth (it’s the Boston are after a nuclear attack) in their image. When you start playing, you really don’t care. It sounds like bunkus.

When you join the Brotherhood, their motto is death to synths! So far I had only seen evil robots who looked like robots. Sign me up. Then they start talking about human looking synths. That’s their name. I laughed at their tinfoil hat, just as I’d laughed at everyone else telling stories of these robots. I’d been frozen for 200 years. But robots looking like people? Nah.


Then I joined a group of freedom fighters looking to free synths and give them free will from the Institute. Another group wearing those tinfoil hats. After doing some missions, the really hot chick came up to me and said, “I’m a synth.”

I had met synths that I talked to. One fought alongside me. I liked him a lot. But there was no way I would mistaken him for a synth. This woman who made my heart ache? The synths were real, and by all that was good, I would fight for her they’re freedom!

We make war plans against the Institute, find my son (this is an integral part of the game that’s easy to forget while grinding out repetitive quests), and free all synths!

I entered, crouched. I pillaged everything I found. Every move when I entered combat was planned out. I would slaughter them all and rescue my kid.

Then a console spoke to me. It told me they were expecting me. I stopped sneaking, because what’s the point, and prepared to kill people. I was so prepared to kill people. The elevator descended. There was talk about getting to know each other, blah blah blah.

Was that a mall? I saw a mall. There was a mall. It was white. Everything was white. Except the clean water. And trees. They had grass. There were people in white coats, and it looked like they showered and did laundry. Waiting outside was bad hygiene, brown, and really ugly creatures. It looked like these people regularly used soap and shampoo.

I would not be swayed by civilization. My settlements were coming along just fine. Then I walk into a room and find out my son was not ten. He was sixty. He built all of this.

Welcome to the Institute, where we make you contemplate killing all of your friends for the greater good

When I thought I was going to blow everything up, I was really just unlocking the final faction, with a lifestyle that I only dreamed of in the wastes. It struck me. I did not come to the Institute to rid the wastes of this scourge. I literally controlled the future of the Commonwealth. Would I empower the Institute, have them come up and use their robots to restore a resemblance of civilization? Would I work with the Brotherhood to purge all things not human? The Railroad to give synth freedom? The Minutemen to look after the common folk.

A game took me from me verse them, to open my eyes up to how a world could be, to seduce me with power and clean clothes, and at that point the entire game changed for me. When I realized my choices, I realized I was not playing the same game I had been just twenty minutes ago.

“Luke, I am your father.” Smeagol joining Sam and Frodo. Ned Stark loses his head. Star Ocean when the world is about to end, you’re all doomed, and suddenly you’re teleported onto a space ship.

This changes the reader’s perception of the world. It challenges what has been presented to them. Leave the hints. Lace them all over the place. In Fallout 4 it wasn’t hard at all for me to imagine my kid was sixty instead of ten. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine I was refrozen for another six decades.

The point of this is to freshen up the narrative. You are changing the story and the focus. You are jarring your characters, and through that the readers. What is life without conflict, and even more so, what is a story without conflict? And nothing is more conflicting then realizing preconceived notions are a lie.

So insert your misconception. Plant the seeds throughout the field of words you till. When you get to the point of fruition, after having everyone swear up and down that you’re planting corn, give them potatoes and see what happens.

Deadpool: Despair and Humor

Sometimes you laugh to hide the pain. And multiple bullet holes. Incredlblethots (c) 2014

I’ve always been a fan of Deadpool. I’m not just jumping on the boat because a movie is coming out in a couple months.

My old roommate, current colleague, had some of the comics, and I would read his. Even before that I knew of Deadpool and respected the idea he knew he was a comic book character, a seemingly insane aspect in an otherwise supposedly sane world. I especially appreciated when he informed Wolverine that a healing factor did not keep the X-man alive. Popularity did.

Despite having been a fan of Deadpool previously, I really delved in the past year. I bought the first two complete collections.

What really slapped me in the face was the end of the first collection. The entire book was him trying to claim wealth. His most prized possession was a chair made out of plastic explosives, but that had to be used in a mission. He had nothing.

After a fateful encounter, he was given stupid amounts of money, and then told to stay quiet for a while. There was joy and jubilation. He sat on a real chair in his place, where he watched TV and ate chimichangas all day.

He then said he had everything he ever wanted, but he thought it would be…more. And proceeded to blow his brains out, but his healing factor is ridiculous, and tops he knocked himself out for twenty minutes.

The second collection has him trying very hard to become a hero, instead of an anti-hero. He tries to make friends, shrug his killing ways, and so on. There is humor. It is hilarious. Yet there is also that darkness to Wade Wilson as he struggles with doing the right thing, even though he did the wrong thing so often that everyone hates him.

“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” -Joss Whedon

Deadpool is the heart of this, though perhaps in reverse. Quips cleverly with Bullseye, even wears a meat suit, then splatters his gray matter all over the place because life has no meaning. Saves the day, shoots off fireworks (it’s the little things), is still left behind. I love Deadpool for the little pleasures he makes room for, where other heroes are too busy just getting the job done.

In your own writing, a funny character, a funny circumstance is often underlined by a painful one. Painful circumstances are fantastic for inserting a little humor. No one expects it. People cope in wildly different ways, giving you latitude (for more on this, watch episode 12 of Firefly: I would state season, but there was only one).

Shakespeare used this method, as well. Before any tragic scene, he would have a comedic interlude. Often times, characters we did not know were involved. Guards who heard rumors. You know the guards. They’re the ones who couldn’t keep an old lady out of a restricted area. They wouldn’t notice a marching band trompsing by. While being some (often bawdy) comic relief, they are also used to sum up the plot to that point and lay out the coming conflict. The humor was required.

Your readers can only take so much intense and humor is a fantastic way to break that up. Because nothing’s more tragic than the underlying sorrow found in humor. This is the lesson of Deadpool.