Sunday, May 26, 2013

Writing Mostly For X-Men, But Writing A Lot!

I'm addicted again.

I really should just never go near forums. They are most certainly my drug. Especially forums where I'm telling a story.

Just about every bit of my free time this week was spent on the X-Men RPG yet again. Maybe celestialTyrant is right. I have an illness and I need an intervention.....

Granted, with me working in a grocery store and Memorial Day coming up tomorrow, there aren't too many hours of free time this week. So it isn't as bad as The Week of Feels the forum had at the end of March. Still, there have been BOOKS written as of late.

As I mentioned last week, after the month time jump in the game occurred multiple characters started up journals to sort of capture what happened over that month.

Lincoln's journal is about four pages long as he deals with the chaos of not really knowing what he is, why he's at the Xavier institute, who his mother is, the awkwardness of being a teen, and the possibility of being gay.

Whoops, there goes all the Lia/Lincoln shipping!

Funny side comment about that. Aside from commenting here about the possibility of shipping the two of them together - or at least having the love triangle between Lia, Lincoln, and Ripley - there is nothing posted ANYWHERE about the possibility of Lia liking Lincoln or the other way around. Yet, Tyler's player seems to have read the same "signs" as I did when it came to how Lia and Lincoln interacts. He asked me in a private message "So, uh, Lincoln wants to date Lia?" I responded that I had no clue what Lincoln's player had in mind; the two of us don't talk, we just let the characters interact on the boards. Lo and Behold, not even 12hrs later Lincoln's player posted a very confused Lincoln contemplating the possibility of him having a crush on his male professor. HAHA! Timing! Whoo!
Still, I find it amusing that Lincoln's player never even thought of him and Lia being together, and yet at least Tyler's player and I thought there was groundwork there. HAHA. I guess it's the same thing as Devon's player not realizing he was setting up Devon and Nys for a relationship.

Anyway, back to the journals. Tyler went on for a little over six pages about his training at the institute and recording his first solo album - since the character was originally a member of an Irish boyband. One of the pages was dedicated to a song he wrote for the NPC I control Crystal. The two of them are so adorable together! I really like Crystal, which is unfortunate. More on that in a little bit.

First, I want to say that I used Tyler's entries to figure out what Crystal was doing over the month jump, especially since as this huge fangirl she'd be following Tyler around campus like a lost puppy. I of course put my own 14yr-old fangirl spin on the events and rambled on a bit. Her journal is a whopping eight full pages of gushing over Tyler. It worked out well, actually. Tyler's player would read Crystal's journal and create his next entry based off of her and I'd do the same. It was fun feeding off each other like that. I also discovered that Crystal is VERY frank and finds Lia to be a wonderful older-sister figure, but also a bit of a moron.

I then did the same with Lia. In her attempt to try to get over Chayse I had her hanging out with mostly Tyler and Crystal, and so I used their journals to figure out what she had been doing. I also through in some "I'll never find love again" angst and added in some scenes with Lincoln and Ripley. The last two was mostly to lay the groundwork in case Lincoln did end up growing a crush on Lia, plus explaining where Ripley's came from. With the added characters to interact with and all the emo-angsty-lovesickness, Lia tops the charts with a wonderful nine full pages.

I didn't write one out for Willow, and I'm still debating if I even want to. However, I am excited to convert Lia's and Crystal's journals in to prose for my anthology. I swear to god I am working on that... sorta....

Anyway, I've started up a new writing tactic a few weeks ago. For the life of me, while I'm at the desktop I just cannot focus on writing with Hubby talking to his friends or watching TV. In other words, if I'm not in complete silence, which never happens while he's home.

So I've gone in the opposite direction. I drown everything else out by blasting music through headphones. Poor guy has to communicate with me through tossing things in my line of view to signal he wants to talk; either that, or send me Facebook messages. But he also seems to understand, so I'm thankful for that.

The reason I bring this up is that lately all these songs I've been listening to have been connecting to different aspects of the game, much like how it used to happen with the Hey Arnold story I was working on. Geez, anyone even remember I have that story?

Anyway, one of the songs I was really focusing on was "What Have You Done" by Within Temptation.
The first time I heard the song and I thought of the forum I originally thought it was a song Willow was singing with Devon. Sort of an anguished star-crossed lovers thing. Willow upset about the supposed betrayal, Devon following Brotherhood orders so he could get in deeper and find out more about his past, both having to attack each other even though they don't wish to battle.

Then, when the whole Willow and Chayse coupling came up, and the Devon x Nys ship, the song didn't seem to fit. Even to this day I feel Willow telling me that deep down there is STILL some sort of something for Devon that would prevent her from seriously injuring him. She still finds him a kindred spirit. But the song still doesn't really fit as star-crossed lovers anymore.

A few weeks ago I saw a fan video to the song using siblings that were forced to attack each other; sibling rivalry at it's most raw. The song fit wonderfully! Change the paradigm so the line "hurt the one I love" means familial love and not romantic love and there's so much there! That's when I realized that it is still Willow singing, but it's now her and **SPOILER**.

I get so excited whenever I hear this song now. I know that eventually the game will have Devon somehow return to the X-Men and then there'd be that confrontation between Willow and that spoiler character. I'm anxiously awaiting that story arc scene.

Aside from minor plot and character development elements, why am I telling you guys all of this? Well, because of what I said above about sadly really liking Crystal.

The more I listened to this song on Thursday the more and more I truly heard the anger in the line "What have you done now!?" This isn't just Willow wondering why a family member is now one of the villains. Willow is beyond PISSED at this character. This family member did something unthinkable and Willow loses all hope that redemption is possible. She's forced to face the inevitable; the family member has to be taken out. No matter what.

So, what is this "beyond the point of saving" act? Sadly, I think it might be killing off Crystal.

The villains were re-introduced after the 2yr time skip by having them attack Crystal and Chayse had to come to the rescue. I now fear that the story may have to have them succeed.

Originally, I thought the Brotherhood was attacking as an attempt to force Crystal to come with them. However, before Hubby gave her over to me to control, he had Crystal state that the Brotherhood was "afraid" of her powers. Plus they mostly fight The Purifiers - an organization of humans bent on eradicating mutants - so Crystal's ability to turn off mutant powers would only be of limited use as part of their roster.

On the other hand, much like the X-Men canon character Leech, Crystal's powers to negate other mutations could be of GREAT use to the Purifiers and other anti-mutant groups. They could try to dissect her and figure out what part of her code "turns off" the x-gene; using it as a weapon to finally remove the gene completely.

Therefore, I think the Brotherhood's goal was to kill Crystal and have Nys or Pyro dispose of the body before she could be "weaponized"; either that or before the Institute was able to train her enough that she could singlehandedly stop the entirety of the Brotherhood.

So, in other words, poor Crystal is at the Institute for the basic "to learn to train your powers", but she's also being hidden away from society there. Hidden from the Purifiers that might weaponize her, hidden from the Brotherhood that might try to kill her to prevent that from happening, and hidden from mutants that want a "cure".

As much as I'm enjoying playing Crystal, the writer in me cannot deny the great plot potential in killing her. The "weaponizing her powers" is a great story arc opportunity. We're having a few characters coming back from the future soon, and THEY could even attempt to kill off Crystal after discovering that the Purifiers were able to do just that. I mean, Marvel is either just finishing or just finished a similar saga in their comics surrounding the character Hope Summers and her impact on the future. So, it fits Marvel's writing style. Plus, we ignored anything involving Hope in our continuity, so it would be a cool twist to have our own version. Parallel events in a parallel timeline.

On top of the plot potential, there is also so much character development that could erupt from this. Lia, who is already protective of Crystal regardless of how much of a bitch the girl is to her, would most likely go all Mama Bear against the Brotherhood; becoming blood thirsty and craving revenge. She'd probably also become all emo again from not being able to save yet another of her friends from dying.

Tyler, who is meek and has no faith in his strength, would be right beside Lia in getting tunnel vision of taking out the Brotherhood after losing someone so close to him.

Devon would have a major conflict between realizing how "evil" his **SPOILER** is. Can he stay with the person responsible for Crystal's death? Or is this the straw that breaks his back and finally brings him back in to the X-Men fold as he also tries to hunt down Crystal's killer?

And then you have poor Willow finally giving up all hope in "rescuing" her family member as they become mortal enemies.

SOOOOO much can come from one simple death. So now I fear for Crystal as much as I fear for Nys with Trish around and desperate to hurt Devon.

But, I've rambled on about the forum for EVER at this point.

Round of applause for those of you still reading!

Let's move on to my writing course, shall we?
On Tuesday I received the second lesson for Holly Lisle's online course How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn't Suck.

I haven't really done anything with it. I've been on the forum instead.

I may just delay actively participating in the course until such time as I'm not inspired. This way I don't really take away from all the writing I've been doing anyway for the forum. Plus, I'm still not really on the boards to talk with my "classmates".

The technical issue I had last week was finally figured out. It seems the website goofed up when I signed up, and so I was somehow not registered to be able to use the forum that came with the class. Holly's tech support is amazing and walked me through everything to get set up again! So thanks to her team! Whoot!

Unfortunately, now the entire forum has been having issues, so Holly had to start tearing the board down piece by piece to figure out what's wrong, and then slowly but it all back together. Although this didn't result in the entire forum to go down for a week, it did make me shrug and figure it wasn't worth hitting the boards. Why bother if the first few days I would just be reading other people's posts to try to get aquainted; just for things to be shifted and taken down and the like while I'm trying to do this.

Since next week is the last week of the class I'm not sure if I'll really bother utilizing the forum to help me along. I still have you guys and Writer's Huddle. Plus, I'm sure I will still have access to Holly's boards even after the course is complete, so I could always jump in there after the fact; once I've taken the time to actually work on the flash fiction.

Anyway, this week's "assignment" was to find two ways to escalate the problem we presented in our 150-words-or-less opening. An easy way to do this is to write out the problem sentence of your story again, and then write out two "Complication Sentences". These complication sentences are where you make the character's problem worse, and then worse again in an increasing manner.

Holly accomplished this in an amusing way in her second flash fiction she wrote for the course, and a truly heart-stopping one for the first. I legit want it to be Tuesday so I can read the ending of the first flash fiction she's using as an example.

The main thing I discovered is to not just look at "How can I make this problem worse" but to truly focus on the one word in your problem sentence that is the true issue. For Holly's amusing flash fiction the true problem is "unsatisfied". The character starts off unsatisfied, and after the first event he is still unsatisfied, but after the second event he realizes how truly unsatisfied he is. For Holly's emotional story the issue is the "inability to save". The character is worried about not being able to save something important to him, and after the first event he discovers that he truly couldn't save it, and after the second event not only did he yet again discover that he couldn't save something even more important, but his mother also discovers the pain of not being able to save something important to her.

Holly also pointed out a very important element of flash fiction: "Flash fiction does NOT mean you write it in a flash. It means the reader reads it in a flash." So, whenever you write, always remember that it isn't some sort of timed event. Take your time. Don't worry about getting it right the first time. Just focus on your story, your problem, and your character(s).

Speaking of which, I want to add in that you shouldn't try to force your characters or story to go in a certain direction. I've found on many occasions that if you just let the story flow in the direction it wants to go it's more entertaining to both write and read. For me, stories are like rivers. If you try to force the story to go in a certain direction instead of letting it continue to flow in it's natural course you'll end up with a lot of rough passages. Not to say it's not doable, I mean humanity rechannels rivers all the time, but it takes a whole lot of effort to complete.

When you try to force your story in a certain direction more often than not you end up fighting with the natural flow of your story and the struggle becomes exhausting. Cyhyr knows exactly what I'm talking about. She had massive Writers Block a little while ago when she decreed that her one character needed such-and-such development in order for the story to progress. She tried writing all of these scenes that would sort of force her character to finally achieve a certain maturity point. Her problem was that the sole purpose of these scenes was not to push the story forward, but simply to develop her character. The scenes were essentially pointless, her character fought her, and the whole thing became boring and a headache to write; which ticked her off because "If it's boring for you to write, it will be boring for others to read". She had all but given up on the story because she couldn't seem to get around this roadblock.

As soon as I suggested NOT having the character development the gears seemed to start turning again. I suggested just telling the plot of the story and let her characters develop at their own pace. If the story doesn't end up where she wants it to be because the characters haven't grown as much as she needed she could always go back through the second draft and fix that. Once she has the plot down she can better see where she can plug in character growth scenes. Or she could find out after the fact that the characters will grow and mature on their own and she won't need to plug in those "this is purely for character development" scenes. Because, let's all face it, as great as those scenes are - the moments when the reader truly feels connected to the character(s) - they are essentially the same thing as "filler episodes" of a show.

Another "writer" that has been having a problem with pigeon-holing is Hubby's BFF The Bard Shadow. He's one of the players in the X-Men game. He also hasn't really done anything with his character when he completed him. Because his character didn't turn out the way he wanted, given the intricate backstory Shadow thought of for the character. So, instead of letting the character grow, develop, and alter bits of the backstory that don't fit anymore - because no one really knows the backstory aside from the two of us - he decided that the character isn't "workable" and is sort of giving up. If he just gave up control and thought of characters as living entities instead of just puppets whose sole purpose is to propel the story, well, I'm sure he'd finally have some fun.

Before I go, I want to send you guys off with a reminder that tomorrow is Memorial Day. No, this is not "National Barbecue Day". Please, remember why we have this day. Take at least five minutes to just sit in respectful silence as you reflect about how thankful you are for every man and woman who went in to military service to help protect you.

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