On Storytelling

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Starting a story with a bang—and when not to

The conventional wisdom is that fictional stories need to appeal to their audience right after they begin, lest the audience get bored and wander off. That’s why so many action stories start off with an action scene, romance stories with a lovey-dovey scene, mysteries with something that hints toward the mystery. Grab ’em quick before they lose interest, that’s the ticket! Youjo Senki started with an episode of action, and it sucked. The second episode, which had less action, would have been a...

Why I never give characters temporary names

If I give a character any kind of temporary name, it might stick. That’s why I never do it. I give them the name they will keep, or I identify them in strictly descriptive terms—the Prince, the Enemy Leader, the Chief. The less descriptive, the better. (Though sometimes, even those stick. I’m looking at you, True Head Cultist.) It’s a lot easier to give a name to the Swordsman than it is to rename a character with an ill-considered temporary name. Temporary...

Daily 11: The risk of naming early

I’ve learned a lot about naming over my time as a storyteller. Here’s the biggest tip: don’t name anything until you absolutely need to, use placeholders instead, and when you give characters/chapters/books their placeholders, make sure they’re flexible. It causes trouble down the line otherwise. I’ll give you some examples. The biggest one is that my upcoming book is not Book 3 as far as my notes are concerned. It’s Book 2. That’s because I reasoned that full-length, continuous novels should be...

Daily 10: Rewatching Frozen

I’ve been down the last couple of days. Work has been kicking my ass, chores and errands keep piling up, and I haven’t had much time to relax. I’d love to be writing my next book, I even had some time to work on it today—but I don’t do well with half measures. I long for a day when I can wake up leisurely, go through my morning routine without hurry, and then get lost in the worlds I write for hours...

Re Zero: The hero who strives

There’s a reason most people prefer Asuka rather than Shinji in Neon Genesis Evangelion*, even though they’re both about as functional as human beings (i.e. not very). Asuka isn’t even as effective at her job as Shinji is, much to her intense frustration. Yet it’s Shinji that’s universally reviled, whereas she’s just reviled in certain circles. (No one comes out of that series looking good.) Why? Because she strives. Ineffectively and often recklessly, but at least she tries. Asuka is a fighter, the type who will...

I love sales jobs

It might surprise you to know that I, the author of Wage Slave Rebellion, a book where one of the main characters is so disgusted with his crappy sales job that he’d rather become a glorified mercenary, do not in fact hate sales jobs. In fact, sales and marketing fascinates me, and I may soon have a sales job once again for my full-time side job (i.e. the one that pays well enough so I can keep writing books). Does this surprise you?...

Good realism is character realism

I’m a long-time critic of realism. You can have your gritty police procedurals and gunmetal gray military shooters—give me brightly colored explosions, friendly banter, and a fantastic world any day of the week. We get enough realism in reality. I don’t need it in my fiction. But that only applies to realism in worldbuilding. There’s another realism that I’m very much in favor of. When it comes to characters, realism is the key. Not in the things they do, or the way the...

Even if you see it coming, it can still work

I’m pretty good at anticipating where a story is going. Once I’ve gotten into it, I can often tell what the next beat or two will be. When watching a film it’s not uncommon for me to anticipate an event minutes, or even tens of minutes, before other viewers do. That doesn’t mean that emotionally resonant or tragic moments don’t work on me. Anticipation doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience, because of one very powerful tool: self-delusion. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Since these involve some of the...

Batman does not kill. Superman does not kill.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a joyless, grimdark spectacle in the worst sense. There’s the nugget of a good idea (the god/mortal/devil theme, as embodied by Superman, Batman, and Doomsday) being suffocated by CGI explosions, overdone fight scenes, and rubble piled on blood smothered in gray. It tries to combine the creation of the Justice League with the Death of Superman and Dark Knight Returns, all without earning the team-up since there has only been one movie in this thematic universe, and Man of Steel...

Inside Out: What Emotion Drives You?

Continuing my tradition of being way behind on popular culture, I only recently saw Inside Out. I finally watched it because one of my friends, who has good taste, kept berating me until I did. I should probably listen to his advice more often, ’cause this movie was amazing. I can hear him clambering with more suggestions. Down boy, down! Stephen has to write sometime. I want to talk about two of the way emotions were treated in Inside Out changed my perception...