The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘meme’

The List Of Fours

Posted by BigWords on December 21, 2010

Nothing to do with the Book Of Fours (though a Buffy reference making a long-overdue appearance here would probably be welcomed) nor Rule Of Four (or Rule 34, for that matter), The List Of Fours is, in fact, a meme. Is it being altogether too clever to stick a link here to Hypnerotomachia Poliphili? Probably, though I guess only you can answer that… Don’t sigh, this won’t take long and I’ll try to make it as painless as I possibly can. And I know – memes are lame, but I don’t have any option other than to comply with the social obligation of doing this, seeing as how a very evil individual tagged me. Go comment on her blog about how this contravenes the very clear protestations I have made against such things, here and elsewhere… Whilst it isn’t necessarily stated that I have to expand on the reasons for inclusion of each item here, I will do so to place some sort of context to the madness – something which is probably required given how rapidly I can jump from subject to subject.

Anyways, this list was really hard to put together. Really hard. I wanted to make it better than my usual attempts at memes because it’s not an altogether bad one. It’s not brilliant, but it doesn’t make me want to gouge out my own eyes (something which can’t be said for some memes), nor does it force me to take refuge in the tropes I embody best… Seeing as how these things tend to get rather more personal here than others would go, there is cause for a mild content warning. Seriously though, if you have seen some of my other posts, the TMI level today is mild in comparison with what I have been known to post. As always, discretion goes out the window when I get to the keyboard…

1. Four shows that you watch:

  • Firefly. You could probably tell that this was going to be on the list no matter what – though there was a bit of indecision here. Is it better than Dollhouse? It’s different enough from everything else Joss has done to make it worth noting as an exemplar of television which goes outside the box, looks at the box, and finds the box lacking… It redefines SF on its’ own terms and shows (with admirable audacity) that even the hokiest ideas can be made riveting. Cowboys in space? That’s as old as the hills. Hell, Galaxy Rangers and Bravestarr were doing that shtick back in the 80s. But Firefly is special – and not special in the bad way
  • The Wire. More than The Shield or any variant of C.S.I., The Wire represents the largest evolution of serialized crime drama in fifty years – even such groundbreaking shows like Hill Street Blues (and later NYPD Blue) didn’t move the goalposts so far. Watching (and re-watching) The Wire is like taking a masterclass in pacing and character development, as strands are placed in position, moved, taken apart, and put back together again. I fucking LOVE this show.
  • Doctor Who. Something of a guilty pleasure (especially since Karen Gillan was added to the cast), but one of the strongest UK shows currently running. That statement, in and of itself, is a damning indictment against British television entertainment, as it has long been a show mocked for poor FX, cardboard sets, and pantomime acting. I was going to use Babylon 5 for my third choice, but the over-arcing plot culminating in The Doctor restarting the universe is much more audacious a stunt than anything JMS pulled. Not necessarily the best reasons for listing it, but repeating “Amy’s legs” a dozen times would be redundant…
  • Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As the number of really intelligent cartoons has increased, a few rise above even the best live-action shows – not many, but a few. GITS is one which refuses to simplify anything as it barrels along from a Catcher In The Rye influenced digital terrorism case, through some of the most moving scenes ever filmed (a little girl looking for her lost cat? Yeah. Sure. How traumatic can that episode be?), and onto heavy philosophical questions of what it means to be human. I can’t recommend this show enough, and urge everyone to at least give it a shot.

2. Four things you are passionate about:

  • Lists… If the concept of lists wasn’t readily available, I would have had to create the notion. There are few better ways to display information concisely and with the maximum of information. I have had a thing about lists for some time, and it has only increased.
  • Books. That’s something which should be blatantly obvious by now, though there are probably areas I should explain. I like all books, for different reasons. There are folks who dislike the novelizations of films (and when Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke have both written novelizations, there is no reason to dismiss the form), or look down on reference guides to television shows… Whatever prejudices are brought up, I have one comment – books are there to enrich your mind, so quit bellyaching and start looking at the wider picture. First person to dismiss self-pubbed books in the comments will be lectured. You have fair warning.
  • Art. From antique woodblock prints to fifties comics, and from the neo-realist to Dada, I love art. The more interesting it is, and the less it panders to the majority, the more I tend to get obsessed with it. I have attempted to bring people to the notion that art doesn’t have to be an elitist pastime. It isn’t entirely true that true art is incomprehensible, as there are plenty of great experimental images (The Great Bear comes to mind) which combines functional style with wild imagination.
  • Monkeys. Yes, you read that right. Because everything is better with monkeys. You can blame the Timesplitters computer games for this mild obsession…

3. Four phrases words you say a lot:

  • “Groovy.” Because Ash is awesome, and there can’t be enough Evil Dead love on this blog.
  • “Dude…” If I have to explain this, then you really haven’t been paying attention… Any questions, and I will post a bunch of sixties music videos in the comments section.
  • “Fuck.” One of the most useful words in the English language, serving as a noun, verb, comma, full stop… Pretty much the essential word for any Brit.
  • “Oops.” This post is a self-demonstrating example of the use of this word. It wasn’t meant to be a massive post, but things tend too happen and I get excited. Very excited. Then there are a bunch of words on the screen, it’s hours later, and people are wondering what the hell I think I am doing. So yeah.

4. Four things you’ve learned from the past:

  • “What does not kill you only makes you stronger” isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it’s pretty much the diametric opposite. Think about it for a second – if you break a leg, does it suddenly regenerate, allowing you to run faster and longer than ever? No. Whoever came up with that idiotic saying should have had every bone in their body broken to prove that they would not become capable of kicking Steve Austin’s ass afterwards.
  • Checking for blue spots on bread is always a good idea BEFORE you eat it. Having learned the hard way, there’s little chance of me making that mistake again…
  • Money doesn’t matter when there are other things at stake. It took me quite a while (probably longer than it really should have) to work out that money wasn’t the most important thing on Earth. I’m trying to shed the bullshit that society deems we earn as much as we can when we can, as it obscures things which are much more important. The days of me working for a whole week without rest on code are long gone, but the instinct to take every job I am offered is harder to break away from. It’s not a trait I particularly like, but I’m working on it.
  • Worst case scenarios are NEVER the worst case scenario. There is always an idiot who can, by skill or endurance, manage to make things even worse. These individuals should be avoided at all costs. Or tarred and feathered. Are we allowed to do that any more? Okay, so I’m not sure on that point, but you get the idea.

5. Four places you would like to go:

I was going to do the standard holiday locations for this, but it doesn’t feel right somehow. Honesty, remember? If I am to be honest, then the places I want to go should reflect me – stop shuddering at that thought – and the list is surprisingly short. There may be some debate as to how unique each location is in regards to each other, but I couldn’t list one and ignore the rest. The scary thing about his list? I actually have plans to visit each of these places…

  • AngoulêmeFestival International de la Bande Dessinee. One of the most important comic-book events in Europe, and one which has a remarkable attendance record from the legends of both European and US comics. Just to spend a couple of days in the presence of the masters would be worth going to France again. Damn. I didn’t mean to diss the French. Sorry. But, y’know – there’s a reason people mock their waiters. Just saying…
  • San Diego Comic Con. It’s not as if it is the easiest place to get to from the UK – especially with me currently trapped residing in Scotland. It’s one of the few places I would be allowed to talk about all the geeky stuff I love without people looking at me as if I am mildly mentally deficient. I could even get away with dressing up as Princess Leia. Wait. That ain’t right. I meant… Ah. Um. Moving swiftly on…
  • E3. All those computer games, just waiting to be drooled over. It’s paradise for someone who considers gaming to be an art form alongside television, film and music. I’m not completely sold on the current trend for 3D games, nor the motion-controlled variety – it seems gimmicky and prone to decreasing returns – but the number of traditional 3rd Person Adventure and FPS titles in development are worth the travel time to get to E3. YMMV on whether it is safe to let me loose in such an environment unchecked…
  • Anime Expo. Are you sensing the theme yet? C’mon, at least I didn’t say I wanted to go to FurryCon or anything. I like anime, and being surrounded by all the toys, DVDs and games would be beyond any level of excitement heretofore experienced. I may even need adult diapers if I were to attend…

6. Four things you did yesterday:

As it is now Tuesday (and this week can’t go fast enough), I’m using Monday’s activities as the material here, even though I started writing this on Sunday. Yes, this has gotten rather wordy, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to rush through the rest of the meme simply to keep you from getting swamp-ass while reading it. This is as therapeutically beneficial for me as it is meant to be entertaining for you, and if you’re getting annoyed at the length the post has managed to get then I suggest you make your complaints known to the individual responsible for such an outpouring of words. You can even find her on Twitter if you’ve already complained on her blog.

  • I nearly froze to death. There should be some kind of rule in place that states a workplace should be evacuated for the pub (or home) when the power goes off in winter. It’s bad enough that I was watching my body temperature slip below any safe or reasonable level, but adding in the morons who come into the shop with the barest understanding of computers… Yeah. That’s a recipe for disaster right there. If the power goes out again, you can expect to find me in the nearest bar, complaining loudly about Scottish winters.
  • I bought the first two seasons of Heroes on DVD. I know there are people who complain about the show being hokey, badly plotted and filled with moments that are not only dumb but are willfully stupid: “Why did Peter not fly away at the end of season one?” – *yawn* Any arguments fail to take into account that it has some of the funniest uses of superpowers since Marvel’s comedic masterpiece which was Civil War. I’m not sure if I’ll bother getting the rest of it, but those two seasons are enough to satisfy me at the moment.
  • I edited the start of The Ghost BureauAgain. I have the feeling that I’ll be reworking the story until It hits a million words through the various drafts. It figures that the most important of my WIPs would be the most complex story imaginable, requiring in-depth knowledge of the EU constitution… One of the most unimaginably boring documents ever committed to paper. The one thing which I have decided on, absolutely and without difficulty, is to set it back in the 90s instead of trying to force it into a modern perspective – it is all about the run-up to the millennium, and by trying to make it current it loses a lot of the impact.
  • I started my New Year’s resolutions list. I did mention up at the top of this increasingly long post that lists dominate the things I do, and the start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to indulge in creating lists for no other reason than their own existence. It may be the purest form of list-making in the world. Or something.

7. Four things you are looking forward to:

  • The moment when I finally get an agent. Of course, I would need to find one who is not easily frightened by the increasingly irrational tweets, the mess this blog has descended into, and who – if it is is at all possible – doesn’t mind me jumping genres. In the midst of all the strangeness (which is somehow appropriate for me) there may be a hint of the works which are bubbling under the surface – a romantic novel perhaps, or a hard-boiled detective thing… Hell, I’ve even considered re-writing an old play I wrote back in the mid-90s as a comedy film. The fact that it features a murder at an airport only adds to the comedic value. *thinks* I probably need to work on a sense of good taste, but if I land an agent I’ll get right on that…
  • A bigger and better purpose for Book Re:View. The fact that there isn’t much there at the moment shouldn’t make people think I’m ignoring it. I’m not. The problem of what to put there has been weighing on my mind, and the solution I came to wasn’t entirely one which I could do easily or quickly. I’ll be adding more lists (a lot more lists) and placing some other things in there as well. I’m intending to have a massive database there for those who need book facts, but first I need to gather and check the data. This could be considered the first salvo in my war of mockery against Wikipedia.
  • Reading all the books I see people writing. This year has sucked ass when it comes to reading. Every time I start a book, I get caught up in other things which need my immediate and unconditional attention. I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up on all the books I really want to read, and go through some of my favorites again. I haven’t read a couple of the last Stephen King books because time has been so short, yet I would have normally gone through them in a day if things weren’t so chaotic. Oh, and for everyone writing – keep at it, I’ll really try to pick up everything.
  • Captain America. The film won’t suckThe film won’t suckThe film won’t suck… I just have to keep repeating that as much as possible until it gets released, and hope my houdou is working. Gods, I want it to kick major-league ass, but on the strength of the last Hulk piss-take, and a really ill-advised Man-Thing DVD, I am less optimistic by the day. BTW Marvel Comics… WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING? Did anyone bother to read the script? Did the title alone not give the game away? Man-Thing? *sigh*

8. Four things you love about winter:

A question which I’m trying not to answer with sarcasm, as tempting as that may be…

  • Snow. I like the patterns it makes when it lands on the bare trees. I don’t really care for walking through the damn stuff, but I like looking at it. The chiaroscuro makes the world look like a Frank Miller comic, which is just about the most awesome thing regarding winter. The snow also means I get to wear my big Silent Bob coat…
  • Watching old films on television. There always seemed to be weird films on through the night at Christmas when I was a kid, and the strange programming decisions doesn’t seem to have been diluted in the slightest. Having these oddities appear unexpectedly is one of the few things that makes up for the cold and the long night. Actually, nothing really makes up for the long nights – I miss daylight. I really miss daylight.
  • Warm Christmassy alcohol goodness. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the ever-present allure of hot toddies – there when we need an extra pick-me-up that no amount of mistletoe can deal with. And no, mistletoe doesn’t get on the list here, despite the few perks it gives, because I always end up with the creepy chick who tries to follow me around days later.
  • A WEEK OFF WORK. Hell and yes. By far the best thing about the season of goodwill is the fact that I get a whole week where I don’t have to answer stupid questions. There are so many reasons why I need the week off this year that I may actually break into song at the thought of a holiday. Not that me breaking into song could, in any reality, be a good thing…

9. Four bloggers who should share their list of fours:

Ah. The fun part, where I get to subject others to this awful meme. Y’know, after three thousand words of babbling, I should have some idea of who I want to torture continue this, but there are so many people who would make good use of the meme. And I really don’t care, having spent hours (literally) trying to answer everything properly. I have a great idea though – if you have made it this far, or leave a comment, then consider yourself tagged.

Posted in comics, Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

3 Days Of Writing – Day The Third

Posted by BigWords on September 13, 2010

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

I tend not to write much about children as I don’t have any of my own. Even though I spend time with my niece, there is so much that I still have yet to understand about the motivations, needs and thoughts children have, that any representation of small people would undoubtedly get me laughed at if I were to write them. From what I’ve seen, food seems to be a primary motivating factor in all decisions they make, and that’s too one-dimensional to do much with.

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.

Hmm. This is something I haven’t thought about much, as I tend to write down everything (fragmented as any scene may or may not be), so “untold” stories do exist for nearly everything. There are lots of side-stories, analecta and plentiful WTFery running the gamut from hardcore film noir beatings to pages and pages and pages of dialogue. Yes, there is a lot of dialogue, and most of it is very annoying. I would direct you to one of the embarrassing passages from the spy thing I posted over at Absolute Write (deep in the midst of unsuccessful rewrites) but it’s so bad that your eyes may bleed from your sockets if you ever laid eyes on it.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

I’m quick. Somehow – between holding down a full time job, playing games, smoking and Tweeting – I’m still able to produce staggering amounts of verbiage. Mostly it remains hidden from view (and the worst material is listed in a folder which will be burnt upon my death to provoke wanky literary discussions for generations). The stuff which makes it to public view appears rather briefly after I’ve decided that it is fit for human consumption, with last year’s NaNo being an excellent case in point.

Sure, some of it was so bad I never considered posting it, but the words which did appear were written immediately before I posted the work. Little editing (which shows), lots of caffeine and a lot of guts. For the record, when I say “immediately,” I mean within a couple of hours.

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Most characters end up dead. I have a habit of killing off characters left, right and center, so squeamishness would be silly. There is one excellently insane short about a man being vivisected over the course of five or so thousand words, which led to accusations of gorno, though the fact that I had thought out a plot to explain the situation was conveniently overlooked. I can’t win.

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Bellamy has a gimp. Does that count?

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

Sensor. Oh yeah. He is everything I’ve ever been told not to do with a comic-book character distilled into one character. The back-story runs hundreds of years, he has a complex power set which isn’t easily explained, there are strong reasons to feel that most of his history is either fabricated or discontinuity, but he is so very, very cool. The simple version is that he is a man who committed suicide, and then reincarnated (twice) only to kill himself again. Twice. Pissed off with him, the gods of order assign him a non-living status, though refuse to let him ascend to a higher plane. Stuck on Earth, he slowly discovers he is able to use his status to do things best not explored in detail

Which is why I explored them in detail.

And yes, before you ask, that is a halo around his head. Don’t think about the implications of that too much, or you will come to conclusions that I can’t expand on. Make up your own explanation for that anomaly if you want.

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

For most of my characters I use tricks to jostle the words onto the page, and part of that is the method (which I stole from a book on scriptwriting) to imagine characters as film stars. The inflection, tone, speech idiosyncrasies and other factors help me push the important aspects to the fore. Naturally, this also affects how I envision the characters themselves. Most (if not all) of my characters are older than I am, usually having visual cues as to their personality. It isn’t noted in the story, but Bellamy’s black jacket has one tartan sleeve, and red velvet lining. He’s also bald, though that is more a reference to the Spider Jerusalem.

For SF, I normally push overweight characters to the center of the action, as it seems to me that developments in technology will reduce the need for people to be so active. Scarred characters are also a recurring theme. I don’t like pretty characters, though that answer runs into the next question…

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Maureen “Motown” from the spy story is a woman in her late 40s, and is covered in scar tissue from burns. She plays the ‘Mother’ character, so isn’t as involved in the stories as some of the more active agency members. It makes sense in the context of a reworking of the themes prevalent in 60s spy drama.

The Reverend is covered in scars, and his hands are almost always bloodied. A rock star who is sometimes given cameos in my work is covered in a patchwork of scars, and his background states that he is older than he looks – a short story I wrote about him indicated he might even have been active in the first world war, but that story is so very tied into my personal continuity of interrelated works that it may never make sense as a stand-alone. Hell, I haven’t even gotten around to explaining the steampunk robot who he is meant to be friends with…

29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I steal a lot of ideas from reality. My life has been cannibalized to the extent that a cursory examination of my stories will reveal more about me than is, perhaps, really healthy. Anyone has the opportunity to get lampooned as well, so there are dangers in befriending me. Just saying… I spend most of my days catching time to write, so there is never any real ‘down-time’ to speak of, ‘cept for when I’m elbow-deep in rewrites that seem to sap any brain activity. There should be breaks from writing (it’s not healthy to be this obsessed with words), but I figure that I should do whatever I can while the ideas are rattling around in my head.

30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

See here to find out if you have been nominated.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

3 Days Of Writing – Day The Second

Posted by BigWords on September 12, 2010

11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

While there are a couple of characters who seem to have taken on a life of their own (Calhoun and Bellamy, for two), I spend more time playing with throwaway characters as they can be much more entertaining. So entertaining, in fact, that three have managed to escape their origins a walk-on parts to have adventures of their own. If it’s one particular character I have to point to, then Thomas – the nominal hero of the spy stories – is the main character who has had the most words expended on him, even if he appears to be rather dull in comparison to the other characters. He’s the most complex person to have emerged on paper, possibly because he doesn’t conform to any of the expectations the other characters have of him. He’s the ultimate asshole in any of my books, refusing to step in to the fray until his family are killed off – even if it was the heroes who offed them, but that’s one of the more complicated parts of the backstory. There tend not to be many traditional heroes in my work.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Department X / Ghost Bureau / whatever I’m calling it this week. It’s gone through an ungodly number of rewrites, but the fact that I spent time going around the hidden and murky places around London to get a feel for some of the locations (not entirely as they really exist, but close enough). I’m still not entirely happy with the dialogue, but the work I’ve put into the locations is something I’ve never doubted.

13. What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

Outsiders. All the time, without question. They may be miserable, but the people who inhabit my work shine a little brighter than uptight and utterly predictable movie heroes. They drink too much, smoke dubious cigarettes, drop pills, go on vision quests, use handguns, quasi-magic, technology and anything that gives them the edge. And they have no compulsion about killing, which has always bothered me about some characters. I guess they might be the bad guys in any other writer’s hands, but I have tremendous fun playing against type.

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

Some stories don’t have fixed locations, though the ones that do tend to be rather over thought, with maps, extensive notes, and (in some cases) floor plans for the buildings. I work according to what I need immediately, so here are gaps in the images where I haven’t decided what will go there yet. It’s better for longer works to have some room to change, add or extend locations. There are several useful resources out there, but modding games, Photoshop manipulation and a degree of aptitude with fountain pen and ink is useful. Not sharing them here, but I’ll eventually get around to doing an extensive run-through of all the different images for one of the stories.

I like locations that tend towards multiple stories, as it is easier to open the world up if the foundation work has already been done. Like the film said, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City.”

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

Stephen King. He has the comic-book continuity mastered, and is able to bring back barely seen characters time and time again, killing off some, fleshing out others, and making the world he plays in tie together beautifully – though I’m sure Castle Rock has changed in description a couple of times.
He’s also got some killer dialogue.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? 😉

Everything depends on the overall tone of the story, and the nature of the characters. I’m sure I would get hassle for having The Reverend sleep with his romantic interest (a prostitute, for what its’ worth). Bellamy doesn’t really have any real romantic interests, and the heavy political influences in that story don’t lend themselves easily to a side-story about more recreational activities. Calhoun is slightly different, with a whole array of characters jostling for attention in a story which covers a lot of ground – and features Lovecraftian overtones so heavy that any sex scenes would quickly turn into body horror scenes.

17. Favorite protagonist and why!

Bellamy, as you could probably expect.

18. Favorite antagonist and why!

Bellamy, as you could probably expect. No, that isn’t a typo.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

There’s a guy in Calhoun’s story who was a plot point more than a really defined character, until I decided that his disappearance would have to be rectified somehow, rather than forgotten as Calhoun delved deeper into the mystery of the island he is sent to chart. He turned out to be a Russian zoologist, and the icky end he was to have received turned out to have a deeper connection to the island – even to the point of having a subtle clue as to its’ origin – if people pay really close attention to the nature of his demise. If there is one example of unexpected story coming from throwaway ideas, then he personifies that in my writing.

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

Dialogue tends to get changed between characters, so the words coming out of one person’s mouth may have been from another character originally. This means that I don’t fine-tune until I get through a couple of drafts, and even though there are characters who bounce off each other, the dialogue doesn’t really reflect things so much as their actions.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

3 Days Of Writing

Posted by BigWords on September 11, 2010

Yes, you read the title of the post correctly. This is my brilliant idea to get out of any future memes of similar construction, and I will continue in similar fashion for the next couple of posts. Three days, in and out.

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

It is incredibly hard to pick just one of the sandboxes I play in as a favorite (and I guess this is the same for a lot of people), but if pressed on the issue I would fall back on Faerwither. Picking that is, of course, cheating. I’ve mentioned it a few times, though I have never really explained the name or the setting in enough detail to properly convey just how far off into fantasy it is – yet even describing it as a fantasy setting doesn’t convey what it truly is. The basic nature of the realm is a fluctuating physical, though roughly linear, state which exists just off from our reality. Characters are drawn into “the space between places” and remove themselves from it as needed, creating wrinkles in other stories and allowing them to interact in different eras.

Bellamy (from the spy story) spent time there before the beginning of that story – which explains why he is written as being much, much older than he is – and The Reverend from my western has existed there from around 1900 onwards. He’ll get out eventually. I’m not sure how, exactly, the epic-fantasy-novel-by-way-of-superhero-war fits in, though a bunch of characters (including Heracles and Erinyes) made their way to the present via Faerwither. It’s my version of the ultimate Deus Ex Machina, and I overuse it sometimes when I run out of reasons to viably keep a character alive past any sensible timeframe. This means that everything I’ve ever written is included due to the crossover nature of the location. Like I said, I cheated with the answer…

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

There are thousands of characters. Literally. I have never sat down and counted them out (which seems an utterly insane prospect given that some of the characters have clones to add to the confusion), but I’m sure there would be in excess of two thousand. No, I’m not going to sit down and count them. On the gender breakdown I’m probably split roughly evenly, though I figure that on a story-to-story basis there are some that have many more males than females and vice versa. The Reverend is a very male-oriented story, while a silly airport-based side-scene/separate story from Ghost Bureau has an almost entirely female cast.

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

Names are easy for me, as they normally have extensive, though often obscure, references to real places and people.Bellamy, for example, is in deference to the maker of veal pies. Faerwither is named because it always rains there (and it is based upon the geography of the Downs), while the more mundane agencies involved in behind the scenes activities take their cue from old spy shows and movies. This happens a lot, with references to fictional companies turning up in slightly altered guises all the time. I dislike using existing companies as it seems too on the nose, so using obscure references to other books, films and television shows works better. I don’t have a lot of easy answers for this, and it would take a few blog posts worth of step-by-step explanations to show how I got from a reference to a homage to a joke, burying it under several layers of other, unconnected, references.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Really? You honestly want to hear about that? Okay, so the first one I can remember was a big mash-up that consisted of a bunch of differently-sized characters wandering across a planet. That description makes it sound shit, but there is no way to make it even vaguely interesting or engaging given its’ origins – which, thankfully, I’m under no obligation to reveal again.

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

Heracles may, possibly, be the oldest, though I’m not up to speed on the continuity of mythological beings. He may be older than Erinyes, and I know he’s got a few years on most of my other characters. The youngest is harder to answer. I use characters at different points in their lives for different stories, so at any one point in time I may be writing them then they are 8 and in their 60s in different stories. Best not to contemplate the problems that can lead to… There are also a couple of clones which complicate matters further.

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?

I’m happy with either the computer, the laptop or pen and paper. The funny thing with choosing the way I create the story is the ability to alter the feel of the prose. Pen and paper makes for very stark, minimalist material, while the stuff I’ve written on the laptop comes across as more active and rushed. The desktop computer manages to balance out a lot of the bad habits with much deeper research into the worlds I play in. Time of day also affects the words, with night being when everything seems to come together for me.

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

Each character has their own playlists, while each universe has its own tone. I’ll probably expand on this at some point, but I have plans for this in relation to some of the more complex elements I’m playing with – again, it gets very complicated, very quickly.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

Genre-blind, remember? I like anything which move outside of the comfortable, label-friendly genre constraints, so a horror-western, comedy-SF, or twisted political-fantasy would appeal more than something that doesn’t veer far from the mainstream. The well-worn paths are boring once the essential components have been read, and the best of the genres been understood and filed away for future reference.

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

I don’t create the characters. They’re there already, and I just find them. Mostly I find them doing things they shouldn’t be doing… They also tend to talk back to me.

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

The weirdness factor is off the scale. Cursed gold, ghosts who solve crimes, the hunt for the charred bones of an angel (or alien posing as an angel) under a cathedral… The tightly-packed multiverse of characters and events seems to run on the weirdness sometimes, with pauses for random acts of violence. Here’s something else – I consider everything I’ve written (no matter how contradictory) to be canon. The fact that most of my characters exist in-between the things normal stories would focus on helps this, allowing for very strange things to seem almost workaday.

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Thirty Days Of Writing

Posted by BigWords on September 10, 2010

If you have been reading either Ralfast‘s or Beth‘s blogs recently, you will have seen this done in the manner it was meant – one post per day for thirty days. Being contrary and eccentric, I thought I would skewer the traditional, eschew the sensible, and generally carve out a lesser trodden path. Ah, but before I can begin, I have to do the utterly perfunctory task of listing the questions which require answers. Fine. Here are the questions which everyone expects:

01. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.
02. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?
03. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?
04. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!
05. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?
06. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?
07. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?
08. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?
09. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.
10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!
11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?
12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?
13. What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?
14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?
15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!
16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? 😉
17. Favorite protagonist and why!
18. Favorite antagonist and why!
19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!
20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?
21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?
22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.
23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?
24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?
25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.
26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!
27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.
28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.
29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?
30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

Jeez. That’s a lot of words right there, and in answering all those questions I’ll probably reveal more than is sensible to reveal. These memes are like alcohol, because before you are even aware of the fact, you’ll be revealing something that all logic dictates should remain locked away in your brain. Information about the process of creating characters – and no, any talk of me wearing pink panties to get into female characters’ minds are just that… Loose talk. No photographic proof exists, so I can safely (and hopefully finally) let that particular rumor die.

Did I just reveal something? Oh, fuck. See what I mean? Memes are BAD. They are evil, and I shouldn’t be made to do them…

But I know that I’m not going to be let off the hook that easily. The only question I had was the means by which I would twist the nature of something so simple into a crazy idea I could play with. Something interesting and which won’t overrun the blog for what would seem like an eternity. Yeah, I might be overstating things, but really… Would you keep reading the in’s and out’s of the way I mangle together disparate things into a cohesive and (hopefully) logical progression of events for a month? No. At least I hope you wouldn’t be so masochistic. In any event, I quickly discovered how hard it would be to do something which played with the wording of the meme.

Thirty Dias Of Writing?
Thrifty Days Of Writing?
Thirty Doses Of Writing?

It is a lot harder to break these kinds of questionnaires than you would expect. I’m not so sure I would have contemplated embarking on this if I hadn’t found the perfect way to do so, though you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to discover just how I have managed to make it work for me. And no, before you ask, the way I’m handling this won’t take up an entire month of the blog. In fact, it may be over before most of the people who started at the beginning of the month are done. I can’t say more about it, or I’ll be told off for being contrary by those who are doing it properly.

Yeah, I know. I’m taunting you with the promise of something which may or may not be amazing and insightful. Deal with it. In the meantime I’ll be busy coming up with ways to torture you further.

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The “Ten Things I Am Thankful For” Meme

Posted by BigWords on November 27, 2009

Corrine Jackson has a Thanksgiving meme up on her blog, which was suggested by a post by Kate at My Sphere Of Domesticity, which in turn was prompted by a meme post conceived by Amy Bai. There are other instances of it cropping up but… I could spend all day pointing you in the direction of the use of the particular meme, but it is only gonna be annoying, ‘kay? Go see what everyone else has to say, then come back here and keep reading. I had to participate…
Yes, I know there are people who have said they are writing one in the comments of those posts, but there are only so many hours in the day, right? Anyone who wants to be added to the list of participants of this particular meme can add a comment at the end of this post.

Thanksgiving. It’s a very American holiday, so what the Hell does a Brit care? I shouldn’t, but the idea of the holiday is one which is very appealing. I’m reminded mainly of the scene in Addams Family Values where Wednesday explains the concept of the holiday, but an Ambrose Bierce quote also comes to mind…

HATCHET, n.  A young axe, known among Indians as a Thomashawk.
  "O bury the hatchet, irascible Red,
  For peace is a blessing," the White Man said.
      The Savage concurred, and that weapon interred,
  With imposing rites, in the White Man's head.

There are other tangents I could go off on, but I’ll stick to the plan.

  1. I’m thankful for the existence of the local Chinese takeaway, without which my Saturday evenings would be all the poorer. A lame thing to be so joyous about, but it has become a tradition to get a takeaway every week, even if I really should be trying to cut down on my spending.
  2. I’m thankful that I’m allowed to ask any dumb writing question which crops up at the Absolute Write forums, and not feel like I’m missing a few brain cells. It really is an important refuge from the endless slew of problems-not-problems which I create for myself, and the folks there really know what they are doing. If you haven’t read through Uncle Jim’s amazing thread on the basics of writing you don’t know what you are missing…
  3. I’m thankful that I don’t have to put up with the woeful quality of MP3’s thanks to Ogg Vodis. For someone who values quality audio it is a format that can never be too highly praised.
  4. I’m thankful for the existence of published books by Stephenie Meyer and D*n Br*wn, which means that if (or, more hopefully, when) I get published, I won’t be plumbing a new depth of shallow and obnoxious writing.
  5. I’m thankful that nobody has posted photographs of me at that party on their blogs or on image sharing sites. The rumors of a spare room, a bottle of cheap wine and an attractive exchange student are completely untrue. I didn’t do anything, and as long as the evidence doesn’t show up – which it hopefully won’t – nobody can prove a damn thing.
  6. I’m thankful for the existence of so many libraries close to me. Even though there are plenty of online resources, nothing can compare to holding a reference book in my hands. Which is where I should bring up how important Project Gutenberg is for the online stuff, but y’all know that already, right?
  7. I’m thankful for the releases of so many old and apparently obscure films on DVD. There have been major holes in my collection slowly filled thanks to both Criterion and the BFI bods. Maybe one day someone will turn up a copy of Vampire Over London so I can be proven correct that it does still exist somewhere… (seriously, if the wedding episode of Dark Shadows could be located, anything is possible)
  8. I’m thankful for the existence of spellcheck on so many programs. Without the easy ability to check that I haven’t committed a grammatical error I would be lost most of the time. Now, if only the feature could be added to Photoshop I would be able to confidently release some of my comic-book pages without the worry that there are numerous errors sprinkled throughout the text.
  9. I’m thankful for the pause button. Without the feature I would have missed the amusing vanity cards at the end of each episode of The Big Bang Theory, which shows that some television creators still value creativity. There was also a show back in the nineties which had pages of information shown frame by frame after each episode – GamesMaster? The idea was cool nonetheless.
  10. I’m thankful for being able to write freely without persecution for my writing. I don’t live in Manchester, so the racist, homophobic, sexist and religiously intolerant police force can’t censor my works as they did David Britton. The freedoms we take for granted are still under threat by the morons currently in government, but they are too busy stealing money from the electorate to care about what writers are up to…

So, there ya have it. Join in (if you haven’t already), or post a link to your own interpretation of the meme below.

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NaNoWriMo: Political Suicide

Posted by BigWords on November 7, 2009

The cameraman looked over to the press publicity agent and shook his head. Things were getting worse rather than better, and Leukman’s grimace displayed more affinity for rigormortis than voter sympathies. His mood was deteriorating at a rapid rate, aided by alcohol and pills.
“Are we done?”
“One more run-through and we’ll be done.”
“This is uckingfay ridiculous.”
“I apologize sir, there are…” The publicity officer searched for the appropriate words to use, careful not to upset the vice president any further. “Technical issues we have to resolve.”
“Etgay on ithway it.”
The vice president’s comm beeped. Looking down at the device in his hand, Leukman’s smile grew into a broad and real grin. “I have to take this in private.”
The secret service agent assigned to Leukman knew better than to intrude on his private moments, a lesson clearly learned when he shot the previous agents assigned to him.
Closing his office door behind him, he threw the comm across the room onto his chair. From his inside pocket emerges a silver flask filled with his imbibement of the moment, greedily raised to his lips The comm, Leukman remembered, the comm had a message on it. Sauntering over to the table he switched the monitor on and plugged in the comm. Reading off such a small screen had become increasingly difficult over the previous year, nearly corresponding to the level of alcohol that he was consuming.
The message appeared on screen as soon as he pressed the display button.

:: LOL! M4dc4t dr1v3r. $catch$ linky ::
:: W00t!!! plz c0pee ::

For a moment he didn’t know whether to delete the message or open the attachment, but always the eternal optimist Leukman hoped a political supporter had sent him some porn in appreciation of the stellar work he had been doing.
“To the otersvay, I alutesay.” He swigged from the hip flask again, absent-mindedly flicking at the keyboard to initiate the attachment. The monitor flickered, turned black, then began playing the video file.

As soon as the screaming and yelling began, the secret service agent was in the room. Leukman had placed the flask on the table in front of him and was head butting the top of the flask, driving the screwtop of it deep into his eye socket with every thrust, the deathly grin sculpted permanently onto his face. Maniacal laughter filled the room.
The agent held him back, but the politician writhed uncontrollable. His head bucking, smashing against the agent’s face.
“Astardbay, astardbay, astardbay…”

####

Adway sat, watching the streaming broadcast, stunned.
“Vice President Willem Leukman died at five pm eastern standard time from a massive brain hemorrhage. The President gave his condolences to supporters of the firebrand politician at a press conference a little over an hour ago. Close friends of The vice president have added their voices to his campaign for tighter regulation of information available over the data network, whilst opponents say that his death has given legitimacy to his fears that freedom of information has gone too far. More news on this subject every five minutes on KC-36.
“Do you want to know more? Our multimedia stre-”

Realizing detective Connell was standing behind him, Adway nodded towards the screen. “Did you hear? Leukman passed away nice and gently.”
“Yeah. I heard it just fine.”
“So tell me… How much do you owe me?”
Connell began counting out notes. “Jeez. What are the odds he wouldn’t have been shot in the face. I thought it was a sure-fire thing.”
“There are no sure-fire’s, and you ought to know that by now.”

####

Charlie stood on the roof of the Lucky H, watching clouds roll lazily across the sky beyond the tops of the buildings surrounding the former bar. Beside him, kneeling either side, were two men bearing rifles against attack from anyone foolish enough to try and assassinate him. The madness of the past few weeks had to come to an end, but he needed – more than anything else – to be at the old bar one last time before it was demolished.
“I grew up here,” He pronounced to nobody in particular. Awareness of his solitude in such a crowded city did not prevent him from seeking reassurance. “This was the centre of the world, and the place I was reborn.”
Cyia stepped from the roof access, nervously looking around the buildings overlooking the bar. “Sir, we ought to be getting back before nightfall.”
“When is the demolition scheduled for?”
“Six in the morning, but I strongly suggest that yo-”
“I’ll wait a bit longer.”

####

Talos stretched out across the network, soaking up the reaction to the death of the vice president, planting enough seeds so that the proper authorities could – if they had enough of a push – make the connection between the two meme deaths. Fragments of code laid out like breadcrumbs for a lost child to follow in the night. His grand scheme, for so long a mystery even to himself, was beginning to coalesce into a solid concept. The details were still uncertain, especially when he tried to access information on who could have planted such thoughts so deep into his operating system, but he understood enough to begin preparing for every eventuality.

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Five Ponderables

Posted by BigWords on August 23, 2009

#1 Does Every Writer Secretly Want To Be An Actor?

I’ve just watched the episode of Veronica Mars with Joss Whedon as a car rental guy, and I’m wondering just how many writers have the need to spread their time into other areas. Quentin Tarantino’s acting talents aren’t exactly exemplary, though Joss managed to deliver his lines perfectly well. Kevin Smith, another geek-favorite, has managed to carve out a nice sideline in acting jobs, though if you were to base any opinion of his talents on Die Hard 4.0 or Silent Bob appearances then he doesn’t seem so cool.

Is this normal? Gee, I must be a freakish mutant, ’cause I have no intention of wasting a day to deliver a couple of lines. That isn’t lowering the importance of television or film, it’s just a fact that both media take so long to set up scenes that it doesn’t seem worth the hassle. I’ve never had the urge to get involved in front of the camera, but scriptwriting isn’t too bad. The most fun is probably to be had in writing series-bibles or coming up with new formats for old ideas.

Stephen King, who really doesn’t need to do anything but sit on his ass and watch the money accumulate in his bank account, regularly appeared in movies based on his novels. I never thought about this much, but now it seems a strange way to stamp authorial importance in the audience’s minds, exactly the same as the cameos Stan Lee gets in every Marvel feature film. I’m slightly less impresses with Lee, mostly because of the way he claims credit for every good idea to come out of Marvel since he kick-started their Silver Age output.

What is the appeal? Is writing unfulfilling for some people?

#2 Red Faction

Playing Red Faction: Guerrilla reminded me of the original, which was better than Half Life in many, many ways, but there was one aspect of the game I never really understood. In the extras there was a enclosed cave / cavern thing which had a giant greenhouse sitting in the centre of the map, but it was never explained what was meant to occur there. I blasted tunnels in the walls, using infinite ammo cheats to get as far as I could go, but there was a limit to the length of tunnel that could be created.

I tried exposing all of the supporting beams under the greenhouse, to get the building to collapse, but this – again – was impossible. So I gave up trying to work out why the map was there… until the second game was released. I wasn’t partial to Red Faction II because of the shallow gameplay and annoying menu interface. Still no clues as to the reason for the damn thing. Then Guerrilla came along, and I’m still no clearer as the the purpose of that glass building from the original game.

#3 Mystery Disks

America has long been used to double-sided disks, but I’m beginning to get rather fed up with the use of them I have the bad habit of not returning DVDs straight back to their boxes, and I’m finding that the double-sided disks are beginning to gather into a large stack beside the television. The ones which have the tiny little writing near the center are bad enough, but there are some which have no writing whatsoever to identify the film on the disk.

Who decided that it was a good idea to release a product that was impossible to identify unless the consumer wastes five minutes putting it in their machine and checking the content? It isn’t rocket science, and even a schoolkid could tell them that there would be trouble in store if some kind of identification isn’t provided on the actual disk. Am I alone in this? Whenever I think about buying R1 DVDs I always check on various websites to see what the specs are now, just so I am not landed with another mystery disk.

#4 Paper Wastage

There’s so many film guides that it can be hard to choose between them, but I’ve been thinking that the days of giant tomes may be over. With imdb.com and the hit-and-miss Wiki pages devoted to films, what are the purpose of film guides these days? Are there still people buying these books, and – if so – what are they getting from the books that they can’t find online from equally reliable sources?

I’m not counting the hilarious histories (there is an account of Cannon which is a terrifying read for any accountant) or the biographies which scrape away myth and PR bullshit, but the alphabetical listing of films, with their release date, cast, crew and a brief plot.

A million years ago I thought of writing a film guide which would cover all of the films which hadn’t been mentioned in print for five years, which would have been the most obscure text on film ever written, but with the advent of so many sites covering obscure films it no longer seems remotely possible. Every dirty little corner of film history seems to have been picked to death by expert and amateur hands alike. I’m not impressed with most blunt little reviews anyway, which often miss some great moments.

#5 The Odyssey

Remind me – was Telemachus the annoying kid or the silly red robot?

####

Even though I tried to ignore them, I have the awful feeling I have created another meme. Ugh. Whatever – if you have five ponderables to get off your chest, then go ahead. Just make sure you give credit where credit’s due.

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