Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Figs and Bunny Pre-Mating Rituals

An e-mail I wrote to the wife in reference to some glazed and roasted figs she bought me on Monday from Pastoral:

Now I know why figs have become so mythological and "evil." These figs you got from Pastoral is the vegan answer to caviar. It's as sensuous as eating at Boka.

I probably won't be getting them to eat everyday, but they certainly make a good treat worthy of their infamy.

In other random inconsequential news: On Sunday night, the wife and I saw two bunnies performing a pre-mating ritual in the courtyard of a Catholic Church. It struck us as somewhat ironic.

I never thought pre-mating rituals could look so cute. The boy bunny would try to sneak up behind the girl, she would do this jump roundhouse kick, jump on his head and scratch it then she would go off to graze somewhere else. It went on like this for a couple minutes until we got bored and went home.

Highly entertaining, this thing we call nature, especially when it happens in the city.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Smartphone: A Great Writing Aid

I wrote the last entry mostly on my new Smartphone during my commutes to and from work. It works great since it has an application for creating and editing Microsoft Word documents. Using it I can do more productive things than reading.

I love reading, and reading can help me gather information to use later. I don't have any hard copy books or magazines that have relevance to my current projects to read. My Smartphone can't access Google Books in a useful way so can't read any relevant out of print books.

Reading the news would probably enrich and enlighten my life, but I need to move forward with my ambitions to actually use newsworthy information to make a difference in the world. I don't really have much power to make a difference beyond my immediate social and professional circles. No offense, family, friends, acquaintances, associates and customers, I want to change the world in a bigger way than we could do through in any association that you would also find fulfilling or useful.

I've done some work drafting up a new outline for the last paper of the bachelors project. I can't even remember the last time I had worked on an outline for one. Over the last I don't know how many months, I've been doing tons of research, trying to get a better idea of the intentions, goals and the rationale of the organization the founders of Brook Farm had for it.

I don't really have an articulate answer for these ruminations yet. Right now I have a jumble of information and references to get the information in my mind. All the information doesn't have an organizing principle yet, though.

The outlining I've done over the past couple days plus some mental ruminating has helped me a little to come closer to an articulate explanation. It has also helped come closer to figuring out yet another hypothesis to try exploring through the exploration of historical evidence through reason and rationality.

Using the Smartphone to work on the outline allows me to actually generate something during what would have been unproductive time or distracting productivity in the past. The ease of transferring work I do on the Smartphone to my phone helps to cut down on the unproductive work of transcribing something I wrote in one place onto a file in the computer. It also helps me avoid the hassle of copying and pasting, too. I just connect the Smartphone to my computer, open the file, edit it as usual then save it where I wish.

Yay for me finding another writing, organization and productivity aid. Now my brain and mind, the tools that generate and articulate the ideas can produce stuff so these aids can really help!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Indeterminacy of Serial World Building

As I mentioned in the last entry, I weaseled my way into copyediting a friend's entries on his Wiki, The Lands of Shadow. I don't believe I'll get credited anywhere, but that's cool. I've already received some benefit from working on it: brushing up on my writing skills and getting exposed to a couple interesting themes.

Working with a "living document" certainly fascinates me while irritating me somewhat (this is not, in any way, a criticism or bitch session). The wiki acts as a source document for my friend's Dungerons & Dragons campaign world. As a living document, it could change depending on how he wants the direction of his campaign storyline to go, how different parties relate to each other (player characters, non-player characters, institutions, social groups, kingdoms, nations), the storyline, landscape of the world and whatever else may change.

Allowing the wiki to have this kind of indeterminacy complicates matters for me, as a writer and as something of a Type A personality. My friend has passed over to me for editing an entry about one of his kingdoms. A part of the entry pertained to the process in which the kingdom's government appoints people to a particular post.

I found the explanation of the process vague and asked him to provide more details about it. He reiterated that he intends the wiki to act as a living document and that he's not sure entirely where he wants to go with the appointment process and how it will relate to the campaign plot. My personality flaws don’t like this feature, but my rational side says it’s cool.

The fact that I get a little worked up about this matter amuses me. Allowing indeterminacy into something that has drama as a main characteristic has at least one positive aspect to it. It allows for freedom.

In a blog entry I read about TV writing one time, the author encouraged telling only as much as needed about a character for that part in the story. As an example, they used a situation where a show introduced two brothers for a character but never mentioned any other siblings nor did they mention that the two siblings were the only siblings the character had. Not limiting the number of siblings allowed the writers to throw in another sibling when it helped the story.

In the case of my friend's campaign setting, not limiting the political appointment process allows for numerous possibilities. Maybe if it gets limited early, a player couldn't get appointed to that position but getting appointed to it would lead to a more interesting story.

Tension regarding the process for appointment could make an interesting plot point, especially if it gets shrouded in mystery. Revealing the process could take away the mystery and, thus, take away the tension.

Simply put, the creation of a story in a role playing game doesn't lie solely with the person running the game, the dungeon master or game master, whichever you prefer. Everyone plays it for fun and everyone comes to the game with different expectations of fun.

Setting up the appointment process to this one position in one way could appeal to one type of player but turn off another player. Having the appointment some other way could appeal more to another player. Leaving this detail open allows for adaptability, to mold the game into a form that allows maximum enjoyment for all.

This kind of freedom works to the advantage of serial storytelling or role playing. Explain just enough to allow things to progress in a fun and satisfying way, but don't explain so much that the options for more fun and satisfaction close off in the future.

When writing, I generally stick to a closed form with a limited run. I have a novel in progress along with a short story that has will require a lot of revisions. I also five papers written and another one to write for my bachelors project, all of them rough draft.

The novel and short story plan on having a good, tight story but won't reveal absolutely everything. I leave out mostly what happens after the story ends. Even though I leave both of them open to possible sequels, I plan on writing pretty tight stories. I won't tell the smallest details or anything like that, but I plan on establishing most of the setting and the events in the stories timeline.

Then again, telling the whole story and providing full details of a timeline allows freedom for change in future writings. After all, if the author wants to have fun and "experiment" with a different system or setting, they just start a new piece or even set a new story in the same setting, just in a different time period than the original story.

The important aspect probably comes down to continuity. Science fiction and fantasy culture focuses a lot on continuity in the fiction they follow. Breaking continuity in these genres can often frustrate fan culture to no end, so much to the point that some writers need to create a disconnect with their fan base to continue writing without compromising the story. I can be guilty of the over analysis vice, at times, even when I try to use it to try defending loose interpretations created by a show or piece of writing.

Fans can sometimes forgive the break from continuity or they can tolerate enough breaks until too many of them occur. Often the show or piece of writing has enough other virtues to make a wait-and-see attitude easy to follow and possibly worthwhile to slog through the irritating parts.

A lone movie or a solitary story without any continuity outside of the celluloid or the two covers proves easier to have consistent continuity. With no set intention to continue within that continuity for longer than a certain period of story, the plot, character, setting, culture, norms, practices and so forth can all be balanced for the good of the story told. As long as the story doesn’t have a sequel or prequel, the single story doesn't set a precedent for a continuity canon that future stories risk breaking or expose itself to over interpretation by a fan community.

Stories told by serial, however, which obviously can include ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, expose themselves to breaking continuity the longer the story continues. I have major respect for storytellers and TV writers that stay within continuity or break continuity well. Writers of serials that break continuity in a non-major way don't lose my respect if the story continues well enough.

I willfully concede that staying within continuity provides a big challenge. It grows even more difficult when multiple story lines exist and as the story progresses. Add to that all the different characters, nations, personalities, locales and the multitude of factors that exist. Increase the details and increase the interrelations of those details, keeping the continuity increases in difficulty.

I can't blame someone who wants to create a source document (or bible, as they call it Canada TV circles) for not filling in all the details. It allows for more freedom and adaptability in case interesting and fun storylines would require different details than had been originally conceived.

It would especially suck if a minor detail like how many siblings a character has only just bit you in ass because of the over determinacy. That situation might just possibly motivate a writer to break continuity in a very frustrating way rather than just not provide one small detail in the beginning. Wouldn't that just suck, having the writer “cheat” after the fact rather than not create a fact until it was needed?