Writing Workshop: “How to write Characters with ‘X'” [X-Post from Reddit]

This is a post I’ve posted on Reddit recently that I thought I’d put on the blog as well for extra views because it got decently popular for archival reasons.

I’m definitely not recycling content.

In the end, I’ll add on additional thoughts I have regarding the topic.





 

Alright.

I’m hoping that showed up. You can click on it to see the discussions that ensued.

The reason I decided to write that post is clear. I don’t have any content right now for the blog that’s ready to ship and I need to drive traffic to keep the webpage alive. It’s like finding a dead rodent and tying some strings on it to make it move around as if it’s alive.

But it’s also clear that I wrote that because maybe it’s good to let some people know that writing requires some legwork at times.

It’s a creative endeavor.

You can do whatever the hell you want.

You can do it however the hell you want.

But others will have an opinion about it.

To the extent how much you care about that depends on your goals as the creator.

To the extent how much you want to shape their experience depends on your goals as the creator.

If you need to be factually accurate or have some honesty to the experience you’re trying to portray then maybe you need to do your homework.

We’ll make mistakes.

But it’s better to get a C+ than a F.

Unless you’re Asian.

Then you f$%cked up when you go home with a C+.

“Maybe you shouldn’t make a joke that stereotypes a certain racial group”

 

Maybe you should shut the f#$* up and learn to take a bad joke. Because life’s full of them and learning to differentiate malice from humor is probably a better way of accepting the world as the way it is, a more decent way to get along with others from all walks of life, trying to not be a control freak to fit the world to your narrative, and overall just keepin’ things more chill and fun.

What am I on about.

As Eminem once said…

WILL SMITH DON’T GOTTA CUSS IN HIS RAPS TO SELL RECORDS. WELL, I DO, SO FUCK HIM AND FUCK YOU TOO!

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I’m sure the world collectively cussed when we saw this. Including Mr. Smith.

ARAMIRU OUT

Chronicles of the Otherworld: Season 1 Audiobook is available now!

Check it out HERE

If you liked what you’ve read, make sure to click SUBSCRIBE or FOLLOW!
Twitter: @ASAramiru
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ASAramiru

 

P. S. I really like Will Smith.

The Secret of NaNoWriMo, Writing, and Such

What?

What time is it?

Yeah, I’m sleeping out of my car! It’s great! Why? You want to fight about it?

You can shower in the rain.

You can eat with the pigeons.

And you can really feel the heart of the city when you sleep in their Wal-Mart’s parking lot.

What? No, I don’t know what date it is.

That’s literally the only downside of living out of my car.

No calendars.

NaNoWriMo?

320x486
Dealing with this handsome schmuck and his stupid events to promote literacy and the arts in the world again. Yeah, I know I’ve used this pic before.

Oh. Oh.

‘Tis the season!

‘Tis the season when all of us and our granddaddies are writing about mundane and over juiced writing tips, tricks, and unwarranted life advice for that sweet, sweet Internet traffic.

Because we are all successful, professional, knowledgeable writers who care about the youth and the other budding talents in the field.

STOP WRITING J. K. ROWLING.

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The Nefarious British witch who caused your book to not be picked up, for that movie deal to not be given to you, and why you’re now living as a struggling writer after your poor life choices. She’s the source of all of your problems.

WHY ARE THERE STILL HARRY POTTER MOVIES COMING OUT.

I DON’T CARE IF HARUMYONEE IS BLACK, LAOTIAN, OR GENDER CONFUSED.

DON’T YOU KNOW WE HAVE OUR OWN CHILDREN TO FEED? YES, I DON’T HAVE KIDS YET BUT I MIGHT IN THE FUTURE.

What?

That’s dated and unnecessarily socially charged references?

Hold on. Let me get in my best sweatpants and rain jacket to get to a McDonald’s for their free Wi-Fi.

Come on daddy’s gotta sparkle. Daddy’s gotta make a buck!

eh-hem!

Hi, I’m A. S. Aramiru and you may know me from my previous works such as:

and the latest hit:

As you can see, I’m a successful, professional, knowledgeable writer who’s qualified to give you some tips and tricks for this upcoming writing adventure. Something you can carry with you for the rest of your life.

Because I care about all of you fellow writers out there and especially you writers who’re just starting to create their first baby.

So, get your hot cup of water, tomato ketchup, the free pepper packet ready for a nice little soup for your writing soul.


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They wouldn’t give me pepper packets. I was already getting weird looks for asking for these and taking a bunch of pictures.

There’s a lot of tips that circulate amongst writers.

And to be honest you’ve probably heard them all already because they’re regurgitated and recycled over and over.

  • Just write.
  • Make a plot line.
  • Don’t get too attached to your first draft.
  • Take criticisms.
  • Etc.

And those are great tips. That’s why they’re regurgitated and recycled over and over. They derive from universal truth that can only improve your life:

  • Do your tasks.
  • Strategize your tasks.
  • Hone your skills.
  • Take in other perspectives.
  • Etcetera.

But there’s a great concern I’ve had lately when I see a lot of other want-to-be creators.

You see, my fellow thespians, scribes, and charlatans, it’s far too easy to see other people’s talent and work these days with Google, Youtube, Instagram, and etc.

And usually we only seee the end result.

But it’s rare to see the process. Especially, the honest portrayal of the process.

The most important part.

The ugliest part.

The part we all need to appreciate a lot more.

Because you hear about it, you imagine it, but it’ll always be a little romanticized in a lot of people’s minds even if they’ve struggled elsewhere before.

We assume it’ll be so much easier than it actually is. We have the confidence in our minds because we’ve seen others do it.

Why not me?

I bet it wasn’t that hard.

He’s just talented so I bet it was easy for him.

999,999 / 1,000,000 of the times, it wasn’t.

It was a fight. It was a personal war. It feels like an exaggeration but it’s not. The struggle will consume you.

But that’s what makes it awesome.

You see the sexy pic on Instagram.

sexy5
Fun note: I was naive and Googled “sexy animals”.

But what you didn’t see is the once skinny, fat, regular guy/gal, working their ass off in the gym, thinking about giving up more than once, sacrificing a lot of for-pleasure meals, paying for a lot of cycles, and taking a lot of pics until they got that perfect one to post.

You listen to that awesome song.

But what you don’t hear is the countless combination of notes that weren’t good enough to make the cut even though no one else would know the difference.

You read that next best seller novel.

But what you didn’t read is another one of these offensively cheesy parallel examples of what I’ve just reiterated twice already above.

Everyone wants to reach the summit but no one wants to do the climb.

No one wants to risk the time, the effort, and their lives. No one wants to feel that lack of oxygen, the burning muscles, and the sense of desperation that you may never make it to the top and maybe you won’t make it back home. I’m talking about writing still.

But there’s nothing more beautiful and important than the struggle.

When you make it, that’ll be the most powerful memory that you have of your journey. The pillars of what made the achievement memorable.

When you make it, it’d have been the most important part. The only part that you can really pass on to others for their benefit.

mountains.png
From Vagabond by Takeshi Inoue. Chapter 109.

That’s the secret of NaNoWriMo. It gives you a way to appreciate the process and not just the end. I appreciate the event for making the goal the struggle. And I totally got the title of this blog off the SEO generator again but found this kickass way of just tying it all off in that #trending bow.

That’s why I make the big bucks.

Writing will suck at times.

You’ll get stuck.

You’ll hate what you’ve written.

You’ll regret the time and the effort you’ve spent.

And you’ll feel like you’ll never make it.

But as long as there’s a breath left in you, you can make it if you actually want it.

If you don’t want it, just move on.

Time’s finite. Do something worthwhile for you.

But at least start something. Start the struggle.

And then learn to embrace the struggle.

There’s really nothing else more worthwhile in life. Because it’s the crucial, and the not so secret, ingredient of what is worthwhile.

*sip*

I wonder if honey mustard packets will make good soup

*sip*

Did you guys like the clickbait title? It worked last time. The irony.

Haha, what kind of desperate scumbag would sell out like that, right? Just randomly insert things to boost visibility?

Brett-Kavanaugh-Is-the-Supreme-Courts-Republican-Justice-GQ-2018-100518
I don’t like getting political in these blogs but I really have to say this. JFK did not deserve to be shot.

#bitcoin #CristianoRonaldo #Grindelwald #JohnGreen

Did I mention I have an audiobook coming out of the BOOK I’ve written so many years ago that I should have really written another one out by now?
Haha, I mean it’s not like selling out and calling himself out on it in a roundabout way makes anything better. So who would do that?

#ASAramiru #TaylorSwift #NaNoWriMo #SEO

Ok, I have to go now. McDonald employees say I have to at least buy something if I want to keep using their Wi-Fi.

*sip*

Time to put on my cardboard sign and get back to my imaginary car.

The sign reads:

“You think I’m joking, but most writers would live like this if they lived only off of their writing earnings”



Seriously. Don’t write for the money. Don’t plan on it to be your income. Unless you’re copywriting.

“Why can’t you just take a helicopter up to the summit?” – Editor

“Shut up.” – Me

ARAMIRU OUT (3, 2, 1, カモーン!)

If you liked what you’ve read, make sure to click SUBSCRIBE or FOLLOW!
Twitter: @ASAramiru
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ASAramiru

The Devil & Me (Finale)

Previous Episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4



21 Years and 2 months

 

There’s no such thing as a dull love story to those who are in it.

They had met in an ethics class at their university.

The first date was at a Thai restaurant close to campus.

It was a rocky tumble into love. Neither of them was what they imagined their spouses would be.

Their first kiss was in the car after their second date.

They married on a spring about two years after and had a child by the winter.

A girl.

The girl grew up in the reverie of her childhood where she dreamed many dreams.

A dream of an occupation that she saw as her fairy tale.

A dream about a husband that’d be her prince.

And a dream about a family that’d be her happily ever after.

The tomorrows came slow, but the yesterdays piled on quick. Before she knew it, the child had already realized many things she had imagined and dreamed. And she had long forgotten or abandoned many that she didn’t.

But all of these were the threads that made her no longer a child.

Perhaps the child-her wouldn’t approve of the venue for the moment she once dreamed of.

She may also not approve of the soon-to-be husband that was supposed to be her prince.

But what does a child know?

This was better than anything that the little girl could have imagined because all of this was real. And she and her soon-to-be-husband had traveled their own journeys to get to this moment, right here and now.

A small, unspectacular room with a TV and a bed. There surrounding Suzie and Jay were their closest friends, parents, and a minister.

The silky sunlight seeped through the curtained windows.

Flower petals blanketed the room. They’ll have to be cleaned up sooner than later.

There were tears. There were waves of laughter. It was humble but a heartfelt ceremony to celebrate the union of the young lovers. A story no one else would know. No one else would care. But no one else needed to know. And no one else needed to care.

“Beautiful,” Satan muttered to Beelzebub. “Absolutely stunning.”

The two devils stood outside the room and peeked through the small rectangle window on the door.

Beelzebub watched as Suzie’s father helped her stand next to her soon-to-be husband. Her shaven head covered with a snow-white gown.

Surrounding the devils were a few nurses who were oblivious to the otherworldly beings. The nurses sniffled and held back tears as they stood by just-in-case or until they would be needed.

“You should be happy,” Satan remarked. “This is all because of you”

Beelzebub had no response. No emotions. He simply peered with a dead gaze.

“I feel you don’t have the heart for this anymore,” Satan went on. “I don’t think you believe in what we do anymore.”

A bait of sorts, Beelzebub figured. He stared at Satan in his form of an aging man who’ve relaxed a bit too much on his landbound boat. A shrine of beer bottles piling somewhere.

“Remind me. What are we doing again? Specifically, why are you here?” Beelzebub sharply asked. “Are you out of work? Do you need a temp job? Shoo. You’re classing the place up.”

“I’m here to make sure you bring her home. To finish what you started. Keep your special child with us and away from Him,” Satan spoke gently with a soft smile.

Beelzebub chuckled.

“What do you think that I started? What do you think happened here?” Beelzebub looked deeply into the dead eyes of the devil.

Satan searched for his words a bit.

Suzie kissed her now husband. There were cheers. And as if the moment was already due to be faded into the past, the nurses scurried in and with the attendants cleaned the room.

That. You made that happen,” Satan remarked. “Just a merry-go-round from one moment to the other. But you gave her a moment that’ll define her eternity. No matter what your intentions were you decided that moment for her.”

The door opened. With the nurses, the attendants begin to leave one by one.

A man stopped in his tracks and buried his face into his hands.

“Why,” the man broke into tears. “Why our girl?”

“Stop. Hold it together,” A woman tugged on his arm. “Don’t let her see you cry. Let our daughter have this.”

An almost eerie silence engulfed the hallway as the room emptied. Only the newly married couple remained. The husband sat on the bed next to his wife and held her hand. They whispered to one another. Hugged. Kissed. Whispered some more. Their faces lit with a special smile saved only for the moments of true peace. The couple embraced again until the husband stood to leave. She stared at him as he headed for the door. He held the door open and stood there for a moment to stare back at his wife. She nodded to let him know that it’s okay. He closed the door behind him. He waved on the other side of the door window. She waved back and then stared even long after the husband had disappeared from sight.

Her world began to spin. Nausea. Fatigue. She crumbled into her bed.

After retching, Suzie couldn’t help but laugh.

How ludicrous. She thought.

How selfish. She chided herself.

Marrying someone in this condition.

She was happy and yet gutted.

“You’re the one who will take credit for this. But allow me to show you the grace of finishing the work,” Satan gently placed his hand on Beelzebub’s shoulder. “You can be there to greet her when she comes home.”

Suzie ran to the bathroom. The little she had for breakfast gone with a flush. She clung onto the toilet bowl with barely enough strength to keep her head from dunking into the water. A small regret came over her that she asked to be left alone so that her husband could see the family off and grab a small meal for the two of them. But even in these worst moments, there was a comfort that she was alone through it for once. No one else’s sorrow, pity, and well-being weighing over her.

As she managed to take the few steps back to her bed, Suzie saw him. The devils were and are still angels. Divine beings had a comforting presence even as a surprise. Satan had shed himself of the old man from Burbank retiring to Florida look. He was now somewhere between the ideal image Suzie had of her husband and a father figure.

Something she may have imagined from her childhood.

“Hello,” He spoke calmly with a soft smile.

“Hi,” Suzie crawled into bed. “You’re not him are you?”

“Who?” Satan pointed up. “Him?”

“Of course not,” Suzie laughed. She coughed. Then laughed some more. Satan laughed with her. “I’ve given up on Him doing a damn thing about anything a long time ago. Then again, maybe it says a lot more about me that I’m getting visits from the devil.”

“You’re not Beelzebub,” Suzie said as she pulled up her blanket. “He’s too chicken shit to come see me I think.”

“Perhaps,” the man graciously smiled. “Or perhaps he would be in too much pain to see you like this.”

“So, chicken shit. And so who are you, good sir?”

“I won’t insult your intelligence. I am his brother—”

“And you want my soul or something right? Then I can live? Be happy?”

“You’re sharp.”

“Uh huh. Beelzebub! Get in here!”

Startled only for a moment, Satan gave a defeated smile.

“Beelzebub! You chickenshit! Beelzebub! If some asshole’s going to take my soul it should you, you piece of shi—”

“Boo.”

Beelzebub appeared beside Suzie.

“I’m dying! You stupid ass—” Suzie yelled before succumbing to violent coughs.

“Hey. I’ve been well. Y’know,” Beelzebub drabbled on. “Work’s work. Life’s fine. How are you? Yes. How’s cancer? You don’t look so good. Must not be so good, huh? Yeah, that cancer thing. Kind of a doozy.”

Suzie dug deep and found the energy to give Beelzebub the finger.

“I think you can go now,” Beelzebub shooed the other devil with his hand. “I got my girl.”

“And I had a whole speech prepared,” Satan shrugged.

“Fuck you too, mister,” Suzie said after catching her breath.

Satan chuckled and gave a knowing look to Beelzebub.

“Do whatever you want. Find your happiness. Isn’t that the point?” He whispered into Beelzebub’s ear before disappearing.

A silence as the other devil disappeared.

Beelzebub sat beside Suzie.

Another pause. They sat in silence. A tear trailed down Suzie’s eye. She quickly wiped it away.

“Fuck you. Where were you?” Suzie broke the silence. “If I were to give you my soul, would you be able to save me?”

“Have you ever seen a firework at Paris? All that preparation. All that anticipation. Boom! All of that magnificent gunpowder glory,” Beelzebub fluttered his fingers in the air. “Then gone in a flash into the void.”

“What? What are you talking about? Is that supposed to be a metaphor or something? I’m trying to sell you my soul, dumbass. Mr. Devil. Asshole.”

“What’s it—”

“Fuck you, man! Seriously!” Suzie succumbed to her coughs again.

“You, seriously, got to stop that. Look, I’m sorry I’ve been gone. I’m here now.”

“Do you even know what I did today?”

“Yes, I saw the whole thing. It was… it was nice,” Beelzebub answered with a smile.

“You did?!” Suzie didn’t seem to know how she felt about that fact. Beelzebub didn’t seem like he knew how Suzie felt about it either.

“So, I was about to ask. What’s it worth? I’d like to know what living is worth to you. What does it mean to you?”

“What? Living… living… means that I’d get to live. I’d get to be there for him. Have a life together…” Suzie took a moment to compose herself. “…start a family together. What are you talking about, Beelzebub? I don’t understand.”

“That sounds like it would have been marvelous. But who knows, maybe you two would have gotten divorced and grew to hate one another. Fight over the kids. Fight with the kids. Wish the kids were never born. All that nonsense.”

“But I’m not even going to have the chance to find that out myself. I don’t even have a choice in the matter. What is wrong with you Beelzebub? Do you not want my soul anymore? Isn’t that what you guys do? Oh shit…” Suzie’s eyes widened with her realization.

“I’ll always welcome your soul,” the devil smiled.

“Did you know?”

“Do you remember that day at the lake when you wanted to kill yourself? Or how many more times after that?”

“So what? Why are you bringing this up now? Are you trying to say I’m a hypocrite? Or that I’m just going to want to die again so it doesn’t matter when and how I die? The point is that I’d like to have a choice! Did you know?!”

“Do you have a choice right now?”

“Shut the fuck up and answer me!”

The two stared at one another. Suzie’s eyes were moist from her tears and yet boiled with anger. Anger from the unwanted inquisition. Her pride had already been swallowed. Anger from the sense of betrayal. From that one friend who knew her at her worst. At her moments that not even her husband knew about.

“Did you know? Did you know this would happen to me when you convinced me to go chase after him?”

Beelzebub didn’t answer. He pondered for a moment. But that was enough of an answer for Suzie.

“You win,” Suzie tried to grab the devil but had to pause to catch her breath. “…You win. Why do that to him though, Beelzebub?”

“I’ll let you figure that one out,” the Devil finally spoke after seconds that felt like an eternity.

“Fuck you, Beelzebub.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Can you save me or not?”

“I can,” the Devil gave a warm smile.

“Then do it! Just take it! I’m giving it to you!” Suzie couldn’t help the tears from flowing down. “Just let me be there for him. Let me live.”

“You sure? This is one and done type of thing, sweetheart. You’re either on one side or the other.”

“Yes,” Suzie tried and tried to wipe away her tears. “Yes, please. Oh, God. Just do it. Don’t let me leave him alone.”

The door opened.

 

***

 

Michael waited for Beelzebub at The Center. Other patrons had long cleared out and Binkle had given up if the archangel wanted anything else than the single juice box he had ordered hours ago.

Beelzebub entered and only gave a slight glance at the angel before heading to the bartender.

“A Salty Dog. Make sure its neat. If it’s not, then I’ll have you serving a sorority house because apparently, those are the only types of drink you know how to make,” Beelzebub ordered.

“…rough day, boss?” Binkle started the cocktail right away.

“Why did you do it if it was going to make you so miserable?” Michael asked. “Why Beelzebub? Even when I warned you not to see her. Even when I’ve asked you to stay away. What had she done to deserve this?”

“The same thing that any of us had done apparently; the sin of being born,” Beelzebub gave Michael a wink.

“It’s a gift.”

“Uh-huh, tell that to the kids getting flayed alive somewhere as we speak. Are you going to go save them, Mr. Archangel? I’m sure they’re screaming for even some ass in a spandex to come to save them right now. Three. Two. One. They’re dead. Tell them it was a gift,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink.

“At least Binkle gets to keep his job,” Beelzebub raised his glass to compliment the bartender.

“You know that’s not how it works,” Michael remained stoic.

“No, that’s exactly how it works. My bar. My rules. Got a problem? Get out of my bar. Oh you mean how it works in the cosmos created by the All-Mighty Dad,” Beelzebub downed his drink and motioned Binkle for another.

“And why shouldn’t that be how it works? Why shouldn’t we just help one another be better?” Beelzebub questioned.

“They can. We shouldn’t,” Michael answered.

Beelzebub chuckled as he sipped on his new drink.

“Dejavu, eh? O’brother mine?” Beelzebub stared at his murky drink. “How many times have we had this conversation? For how many millennia? We can’t even figure that one out. What’s the point of us?”

“That’s for us to figure out. Their lives are for them to figure out.”

“You’ve been fed so much horeshit that it’s starting to come out of your mouth, Michael. In fact, I would say that’s all been coming out of your mouth for a long while now. Let’s wash that out. Have you ever tried a White Russian? They’re fantastic. And I mean that both ways if you know what I’m saying,” Beelzebub winked again at Michael. It was not, surprisingly, the record amount of how many times Beelzebub winked at Michael in one meeting.

“That is the way it is. You ask for more of something that simply isn’t there,” Michael sipped on his juice box.

“And yet, we were designed to ask for more,” The Devil retorted.

“Maybe we were created to see if we can be more,” The Archangel dissented.

“You’re miserable to talk to you know that? Did anyone ever tell you that, Michael? You’re a terrible person to talk to. What kind of ass-backwards, circular logic is that?”

Michael sipped on his juice box.

The final slurps of a dying juice box echoed through the bar.

“She believes she understands why you did what you did. I’m sure he’s thankful as well to have had the chance to be with her. To be by her side until the end,” Michael told Beelzebub.

Beelzebub mumbled under his breath and ignored his brother’s existence.

“I can see that you need some time alone,” Michael walked over and placed his empty juice box on the counter. “But I came because…'”

“Are you still here?” The Devil snapped.

“Asshole,” a familiar voice cut through as a patron walked into the tavern.

Beelzebub spun his head toward the voice and then snapped back to Michael.

“Seriously?! You didn’t let her in? Or was that HIS decision?”

“I just came to say goodbye. Michael was nice enough to let me come here,” Suzie gave the angel a smile. “He just wanted a chance to speak to you privately first.”

“Well, I’ll be damned. That’s very un-Michael of you,” Beelzebub told his brother.

Michael shrugged.

“I’ll be waiting outside. Don’t take too long,” Michael told Suzie as he grabbed another juice box left on the counter for him by Binkle. He headed out and gently closed the door behind him.

“So this is the bar,” Suzie said as she sat next to Beelzebub.

“And you’re the girl,” Binkle said as he carefully studied his boss’s ticks and demeanor.

“This is the bar,” Beelzebub rested his face on his hand as he observed Suzie. “You decided to go to the other place?”

“Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?” Suzie shook her head at Binkle who held up a juice box and a wine bottle for her to choose from.

“I didn’t want you to do anything,” Beelzebub answered.

“Something sweet and tangy perhaps? Sangria? Lemon Drop?” Binkle asked Suzie.

“Do you know that they put your taste buds in your anus? Did he tell you? As a person coming from up there I feel like it’s my civic duty to let you know,” Suzie pointed out.

“Look at this girl. She’s been dead for minutes and she’s already playing the heaven card,” Beelzebub spoke with disdain.

“Yes,” Binkle answered. “…And I’ve grown to change my diet to fit my new changes. I didn’t find it funny then and I don’t find it funny now. I don’t think anyone will. Who knows why that was done. Let’s now drop it and never speak of it again and if we can turn back time and change the past maybe we can make sure it’s never been done. Because everytime something touches my tongue I just have intense and intimate fear of what it would taste in the afterlife of its natural journey. In some sense, it’s been a fascinating and life-changing experience that has oddly made me a better human. What about a whiskey-neat then?”

“Seems a bit unoriginal and cliche for this moment,” Suzie thought for a moment. “Moscow mule?”

“Moscow mule,” Beelzebub nodded.

“Moscow mule,” Binkle agreed.

The three shared the cocktail that was made from three different businessmen with three different failing products who by fate combined them all and gave it a random name. It was a hard drink, with a pinch of tartness, a little sweetness, all tied together with a little kick served in a copper mug that could become toxic from the acidity of the drink itself.

They talked of many nothings and nothing of pertinence regarding Suzie’s death.

Like friends that met just for a reunion and knowing they’ll never see one another again when they each leave through the doors and leave their old lives behind in that room, the three just wanted to have a moment of where everything was good and nothing of consequence would occur.

Crafting a moment that’d be a perfect memory.

Like a photograph of smiling faces. Forgetting all that’s before and after.

When Michael came back into the bar, Suzie knew it was time for her to go and left without any complaint. Neither the bartender nor the devil tried to hold her for any longer either.

The girl, the woman, gave the devil, the friend, a hug.

She whispered a word or two into the devil’s ear.

The devil said nothing back.

She looked back one last time with a soft smile on her face before the door closed behind her.

Soon, only the gibberish from the TV and a small clatter from Binkle doing his daily chores for the bar remained.

“You, alright boss?” Binkle finally asked.

“I had a weird dream,” Beelzebub answered solemnly.

“Okay.”

“What’s with that tone?”

“What? I said ‘okay.'”

“Yeah, but your tone. Don’t—don’t try to pretend that you didn’t have an odd tone.”

“I mean… it’s just… you’re the devil and first…”

“Yeah?”

“You guys dream? And second…”

Uh huh.”

“Like what the hell, man? We talk about dreams now? Isn’t that a bit…” Binkle held his tongue.

“A bit what?”

“Nothing boss. Just a little gay. Just go on.”

“I dreamed of a horse…”

Binkle snorted.

“If you laugh dipshit, I swear I’m going to put a pimple right in the lip of your tiny dick. May I continue? Is that alright with you?”

Binkle saluted and begin wiping down the cups.

“Where was I. Yeah. The horse. It was lost in a forest. Scared. Tired. And knew that death was imminent.”

“Uh huh,” Binkle raised a wine glass up to the light for a quick inspection before wiping it a bit more.

“After wandering about for a while, it suddenly stood still. Just still in the fog of dusk. I knew right away it had reached the point of no return. It was exhausted. The horse was deciding whether to keep on or just give up. Rest. Just lay down and die peacefully.”

“And what did it choose?” Binkle placed the rag on the table and looked at Beelzebub.

“I don’t know. I was watching the horse from the sky or something. And I could see what it couldn’t see. I could see that there was such a simple way it could have went to be free.”

“So did you help the horse?” Binkle asked.

“No, I woke up.”

“What do you think happened to it?” Binkle picked up his rag again.

“Who cares,” Beelzebub finished his cocktail.

“I bet the horse does,” Binkle took the empty cup.

“But what does the horse know?”

 

End of The Devil and Me

 



 

Aftermath Ramble

12:49 AM

About 21 Chrome Tabs Open

1 Cup of Diet Mountain Dew and 2 Empty Bottles of Water on the Desk.

Wow.

I feel a bit bleh about the ending. And it’s not something I can change without changing the whole nature of this project I think.

Do you guys remember how and why I began this project?

It was supposed to be an unplanned, just-go-with-it, warm-up, sort of story that just spun out of a dumb chatter I was having with a friend.

But it sort of took over my writing life. And then my life, as it seems to in recent years, kind of fell into chaos with a lot of fire I needed to put out.

What you see is basically what I had written months ago. It was a quick write. I just wasn’t very happy with it. It sat there staring at me asking me why I had created it. A little mutant wondering why it was born.

Then I spent my writing time working on Chronicles of the Otherworld and my next novel.

Distance can be the cure sometimes.

But the short story nagged and nagged to be finished (which obviously should have been finished earlier than this) and I felt way more pressure for the finale than I ever should have. Who really cares but me?

But that’s the thing. I care. I’ve learned that I at least have to be happy with it.

I’ve always had an idea where the story would go, how it’d end, since the first episode. But I just felt so off about the ending when I actually wound up writing it.

Part of it was due to how much the story had changed and evolved and morphed in my mind as I kept working on it.

And part of it was due to how much of this could have benefitted from having a proper preplanning stage and an editing phase.

There were a lot of issues I had with the lore that I developed. Minor stuff none of the audience would care about.

With Satan’s character.

And how, most interesting for me as the writer, what I thought would work in my mind just didn’t work in execution. At the end of the day, that’s going to be my biggest lesson and homework out of this.

Not that I haven’t experienced that before.

But trying to understand exactly why it didn’t work here.

I wanted each episode to have their own individual vibe to reflect that specific point of Suzie’s age and life. That kind of stuff just works a lot better when it’s planned. At least for someone like me.

But I suppose all that was part of this writing experiment and exercise.

It was grueling.

It was annoying.

It was a little disappointing for me personally for a few reasons.

But I enjoyed it.

That’s writing. That’s this craft’s equivalent of taking a couple of hits and learning from them.

If I were to ever go back and really flesh out this thing, I’d probably consider redoing certain arcs of Suzie’s character and adding a few more chapters in.  There were few storylines that I cut that I wonder how it’d have been to add.

And definitely keep the numbers, lore, and whatnot details more consistent.

I really wanted to just let this project fly the way it wanted to fly and had an odd battle in my mind of not wanting to comb through it.

Weird.

Also, to be clear, I’ll probably never flesh this story out. It is what it is and it is what it was intended to be.

Okay. Enough rambling.

ARAMIRU OUT!

Oh yeah.

In the end, the biggest change I’ve made to the ending is that Suzie ends up meeting Beelzebub in hell. Originally, Beelzebub simply hears about what happened to Suzie via Michael. I was essentially against the idea. But experimenting with that little change eventually made the ending feel right for me. It ended up being what I needed to start the domino effect of finally releasing this finale.  Sometimes cheese is the right ingredient.

I’ll let the audience chew on that and decide which would have been better.

To those of you who’ve stuck with it till the end, thank you very much.

Sorry for the delay.

See y’all next time.

ARAMIRU OUT!


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Why Do You Write?

Why Do You Write

A clumsy, tacky question.

It’s not a question that many people ask writers but a question I imagine many writers have asked themselves at some point.

Why do you write?

Why do you write even though your work is shit?

Why do you write even though it makes you miserable?

Why do you write even though no one will see your work?

Because I have to.

It’s kind of the line that you’d expect from a Disney movie before the majestic score chimes in and kicks-off the transition for our protagonist to go against the grain and literally run somewhere to progress the plot.

However, this is the reality. So there’s just my dull face with a divine glow from my overly bright computer monitor and my ass is definitely parked firmly in my computer chair. The only majestic music playing is the whirr of my overworked computer fan in this otherwise a silent and lonely room.

But that’s the best answer I’ve accepted about why I do what I do. About why any artists do what they do.

It’s the dilemma of the creatives.

Whether their vice is writing, painting, dancing, singing, and whatever else STEM may deem as empirically worthless, we just want to keep diving into the recourse of our imagination. The very thing that seems to give the plot for ourselves in the randomness and indifference of reality and the colors we can finally choose for it.

To the point where we have to always find the reminders and the balance of the sanctity and nourishment necessary for that reality and the potential sacrilege of the rejuvenation with our delvings in creativity.

But not having it—not delving into it—is divesting our sense of being. We feel severed to something integral to the definition of ourselves when we have to disconnect from our outlets.

Damn, that sounds embarrassingly decadent.

Since Chronicles of the Otherworld: Season 1, I’ve re-written the plot charts for Black Halo spin-off and the sequel. I’ve written about four separate projects and scrapped two of them.

I’ve also lost two cars, two family members, and got a clean bill of health from the doctor only to get sick a week after.

A business was started. A business blew up.

I met a woman. The woman and I are no longer speaking.

I witnessed one of my dearest friends marry the love of his life. I thought she hated my guts. I think she likes me now.

A friend or two became doctors. I circled around where I was.

As all of this life passed by me, my mind was stuck in a constant of new projects in mind and like a thorn kept pricking at me whenever I wasn’t working on it. I was running in place with the background of life just scrolling past me like an old cartoon. The transition forward, I figured, wouldn’t really be there until I was done with my next project. Or at least I hope that’s the case.

But it doesn’t change the fact that when I look in the mirror, there are few more wrinkles. When I sort through the memories stored of the last two years, the gap between the person I was and am is obvious. And where others were and at seemed astronomical.

This is not unique. So many other creatives have expressed the same thing in one way or another.

How many of us at this point are still creating because we think this would be the one? The one that’ll justify our choices for us? The one that’ll make our careers? The one that’ll finally satiate our endless pit?

Not many I imagine.

But how many of us are still creating simply because we just want to bring it to life. Into this reality. Make it part of the list of things that happened.

Do something that was totally of our own.

 

The whole endeavor makes me think of being in a relationship.

 

It’s great.

And also fucking sucks.

But also breathlessly remarkable and seductive.

Makes you palpably helpless at times.

Like seeing the sunset for the first time on the beach of an island. You stand in awe at this thing that you know in time will be gone. It’s gradually disappearing over the horizon right before your eyes.

Then it turns dark, cold, rats are running around, and you realize you’re all alone as if the sun was never there.

But the sun rises again and you deal with the abandonment, embracement, and being in awe again when it sets.

One day, maybe, even after the sunset you won’t worry about the sun rising again. It’ll always rise. And it’ll always fall. But that’s okay. Because it’ll rise again.

 


P. S. …Unless you die in your sleep at night and never see it rise again.

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Happy New Year! Quick Review of Movies / TV Series I saw in 2016!

Happy New Year!

2016 is almost over (thank god) and 2017 is right around the corner (for some of you it‘s already 2017)!

I thought it might be fun for me to do a quick & dirty review of all the movies/TV I watched this year! Just a head’s up, not all of them are stuff that came out in 2016.

But before we get started! To celebrate the New Years both of my books are FREE today & tomorrow!

Amplified Ver. with logo

Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian (New Adult Contemporary Fantasy Reader’s Favorites called: “… a page-turner full of action and adventure.”)

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Chronicles of the Otherworld (An experimental Dark Fantasy Novella that’ll twist and turn your perceptions for the genre)

With that out of the way, here we go! …Hopefully, I don’t forget any.

Star Wars: Rogue One ( 2.5 / 5) – Inconsistent. Perhaps the one of the most iconic Star Wars scene at the end. Certain questionable dialogue choices. Not sure why they chose to do what they did with the characters as it was unnecessary. Final moments of the movie after the famous Vader scene also makes little sense when we really think about it.

Star Trek Beyond ( 3 / 5) – Not sure about the pacing. Villain made little sense. Action sequences were done better in the previous films.

Captain America: Civil War (3 / 5) – Another fun Marvel film. Winter Soldier was a better film since it at least felt different than the typical formula Marvel films have been following since Iron Man. The moral debate between the two sides is weak and unconvincing. [SPOILER] Weak ending where nothing that matters was lost at the end.

Dr. Strange (2.5 / 5) – Tried to do too much with the first movie. Benedict is likable as Strange. Forgettable villain with convoluted motives. The big baddie at the end is a bit puzzling considering his place in the comics. The end fight itself borders between corny and clever. One of the best post-credit “Marvel teasers.”

Batman v Superman  (2 / 5) – Too scattered. Too inconsistent. Plot doesn’t even make sense within its own logic. Snyder seemed to have pieced together moments instead of creating a film. While the actor was great, how they decided to portray Lex Luther felt like a mistake by the end. MARTHAAA

Finding Dory (3.5 /5) – Very heartfelt as to be expected from Pixar. Bigger emotional punch than Finding Nemo. Jumped the shark a bit at the end.

X-Men Apocalypse ( 2 / 5) – Very meh especially considering how impressive the preceding film was. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing really interesting, Apocalypse was surprisingly a boring villain. Gets pretty cheesy near the end.

Zootopia (4 / 5) – Funny, witty, creative, and I’d love to live in Zootopia. It handled the message it wanted to send well for what it was. Nick Wilde is also a great character.

Hell or High Water (4.5 / 5) – Just watch it. Wonderful neo-western with a compelling story and pacing. One of the most intense and clever standoffs I’ve seen in a western during the final moments of the film.

Sicario (4 / 5) – Just watch it. Especially if you liked Hell or High Water.

Moana (2.5 / 5) Some of the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen in a Disney Film. Best female Disney character to date. A bit Miyazaki-esque. Songs were generally a miss for me. The song by Lin-Manuel Miranda, however, is brilliant. Very weak ending.

Sky Rising ( 2 / 5 ) A bit too in-your-face with metaphors and symbolisms. Lacks certain Magic and nuance that Miyazaki films tend to have. Pacing is too slow. Unnecessary romance that made no sense and wasn’t even biographical. Voice acting by Hideaki Anno was mostly a miss for me.

Swiss Army Man (4 / 5) – Surprisingly thoughtful and touching. Never thought fart & sex jokes can take a movie so far.

Sausage Party (1 / 5) – Dumber than you think it’d be. People will tell you that “it’s just not your type of movie” or “you just didn’t get the jokes” when you tell them you didn’t like it. It sucked. I wanted my money back.

Corner Gas the Movie ( 3 / 5) – If you’re a fan of the show, it just feels like an extended episode… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Caché (4 / 5) – Sometimes a bit too much with the message it wants to send (sometimes too subtle, sometimes too blatant) but it’s one of those films for film students. Masterfully filmed. Each shot has a purpose. Engrossing story.

Winter’s Bone (4.5 / 5) – If anyone wants to see Jennifer Lawrence’s acting chops this is a good film to do it with. Powerful and an organic film. Watch it.

Hail Caesar! (4 / 5) – Coen brothers film for all ages (?). Celebrates film industry while also poking fun at it. Charismatic, colorful, and whimsical.

Penny Dreadful (TV)
S1 : (3.5 / 5) – Promising and refreshing. Someone give Eva Green an award.

S2: (4 / 5) – Awesome though the second half of the season is a bit corny. Someone give Eva Green an award.

S3: (2/5) – This would be 1/5 if it wasn’t for Eva Green and Rory Kinnear. The ending is absolutely atrocious. Build up to the ending is horrendous. Rare moments where I felt my time was wasted starting this series. But, seriously, someone give Eva Green an award.

Fargo (TV)
S1: (5/5) – Tight writing, great pacing, memorable characters. Lester is a fascinating character to watch as he twists and turns through the series. Lorne Malvo is basically Chigurh but that’s not such a bad thing and Fargo brings a brilliant Coen brother feel to the force-of-nature character.

S2: (5/5) – As good as, if not better, than S1 but it’ll definitely depend on the audience. It has more “whimsical” elements to the plot that may turn off some viewers–even the fans of S1. And the vibe of the story is essentially different than the S1 as well. It’s more heartfelt and builds much bigger investment into the characters. Every actor is memorable in their own, unique ways. The dialogues are more subtle and also more profound, insightful, uniquely tailored, and at times even haunting.


I think that’s all?

Anyways…

Best Thing I Watched This Year

Fargo season 2.jpg
FARGO Season 2

Runner-up: Hell or High Water / Winter’s Bone

Worst Thing I Watched This Year

sausage-party

Runner-up: Penny Dreadful Season 3


That’s it! Maybe I’ll do books sometime soon as well!

But for now… Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! And I think I speak for all of us when I say…

“PLEASE BE GENTLE WITH US 2017!”

ARAMIRU OUT! 


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Merry Christmas 2016!

Merry Christmas!

Jingle bells are ringing!

Uncles are drunk and raging!

I’m outside with a bat and sending snowmen’s heads flying!

And the neighborhood children are crying!

The police are coming?

Hope everyone’s having a lovely holiday and if you’re in Japan hope you got your bucket of KFC.

My first novel, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian will be FREE today for anyone who wants it as my Christmas gift to my readers!

CLICK HERE to get your copy of the Contemporary Fantasy that Reader’s Favorite has called”…a page-turner full of action and adventure.”

ARAMIRU JINGLING OUT! 


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Explaining the 4 Common Answers & Advice Given to Beginner Writers

Hi, it’s me. Your average writer.

You might have heard of me from my past works such as… who are we kidding? You have never heard of me. I’m a nobody. But I’m a nobody with some experience.

 

©2013 NETFLIX  CR: F. Scott Schafer
Me. (But seriously, if you don’t know who this is you’re dead to me)

 

Last time, I posted a blog about 4 Same Stupid Questions I See All the Time On Writing Forums. Click HERE to fulfill my shameless plug.

This time, I thought I’d do something a bit more helpful and thoughtful.

I’m going to buy your ebooks.

Just kidding. I’m still poor. And with the money I have I’d rather buy a McDouble and a McChicken at McDonald’s with the awesome Mc2Pick for $2.50! What a deal! And make sure to check out their limited-time holiday drinks!

 

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Pay me please!

 

You already know what this is about. You’ve read the title. Get to the point you’re saying. Maybe you’ve already scrolled down.

This is for all of you out there wondering what exactly some of those answers you’ve received  meant. Because the random stranger who gave you the answer left you cold and hanging without an explanation. Like my dad on Christmas.


“Show, Don’t Tell”

Let’s get the big one out of the way.

I’m literally massaging my nose bridge with one hand and typing this with my other two hands as I’m trying to explain this one.

Not because it’s particularly difficult to answer, but because it’s so basic.

But not because it’s just so basic, but because it’s so basic and it’s a mistake that I make often and I know for a fact that many other writers who should be above these kinds of things make this mistake as well.

So let’s try to understand WHY this happens.

I have a simple theory: We are describing what we are seeing in our brilliant, gifted minds and forgetting that our jobs as writers are to help the readers experience what we’re seeing and not have them simply understand what we’re seeing. We’re not supposed to be the tour guides but be VR goggles. They want to be inside of our story—not be outside of it.

Showing is taking notes.

Telling is creating worlds.

 

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Strive to be this inanimate object.

 

There are times when you want to “tell” over “show” but this is one of those things where you have to master the rules before you learn to bend them.

And here’s an example just in case:

TELL:

Jimmy was mad at Moe.

SHOW:

Jimmy’s unibrow furrowed into a rugged U, his hand trembled with fury, and his heart filled with the burning desire to bitchslap Moe.


“Just Write”

You want to be a swimmer? Go practice swimming every day.

You want to be a stripper? Go practice stripping every day.

You want to be a writer? Go practice stripping every day.

Wait.

Well. Why not. Cardio’s important. But you should also practice writing every day.

This somewhat calloused sounding advice exists because most people only talk about writing and never actually write.

They think they can be writers by just spewing their thesis about the craft of ink and paper as they lasciviously rub themselves for their own creativity and avant-garde ideas.

Something about hic Rhodus, hic salta.

 

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They’re basically doing this.

 

Your ideas aren’t worth donkey’s spit on a chicken’s ass if you never actually create something with it. And unless you’re some sort of a Hemingway’s spirit reborn, you’re probably not as good as you think you are.

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So how do you “just write”? I personally say do away with the whole “have a word count for the day” thing. You know, when people say things like “just write 1000 words a day”?

Look, fellow grasshoppers, if you’re a professional writer then you know when your due date is so daily word count either makes more sense or not at all since you just have to get’er done by that date.

You know how you work. You can set your own pace.

If you’re a hobbyist it makes less sense because the rigidness and the arbitrary number just turns your hobby into a chore.

But sure. If it works for you—good. Nothing wrong with that.

If it doesn’t—don’t worry about it.  And let me recommend, instead, setting up a timed session.

Maybe one hour a day. One hour every other day.

Make it your schedule, like everything else you do in life, and just use that time to write one word or ten thousand words. Or even no words. Just do something writing related. Even if that’s reading for research, doing brainstorms, and whatever. Maybe it’ll be for an hour. Maybe it’s two hours. Just set a time.

This will give you some freedom and some ease with your writing pursuit. And if you have an end goal in mind that’s where you can set a long-term deadline for yourself.

Oh, and, if you’re not letting other people read your work—you’ll never get better. Practice makes permanent and not perfect.

Writing without outside criticism will only make your lack of talent permanent.

Boom.

Real talk.


“Write for Yourself / Don’t Follow the Trend”

So, this one’s a bit FUBAR.

To unravel this, I’ll just first explain where it’s coming from and then kind of go on about why it’s FUBAR. And just a head’s up: this one’s going to be a bit serious.

Like stool samples. Poops are fun and games but sometimes you have to use serious, medical terms like “stool” and “samples”.

Anyways.

When there’s a fad, it’ll start a trend.

Star Wars sparked the sci-fi boom.

Lord of the Rings & Game of Thrones sparked the fantasy boom.

Twilight sparked the wtf-happened-to-vampires boom.

Hunger Games started the dystopian boom.

The whole idea of “write what you’d want to read / don’t follow a trend” is that the chances of you actually catching the trend and having your passions align with the trend… are low.

Why is the chance of catching a trend low?

Because writing is a long process and publishing can be even longer. It usually takes years for someone to finish a book and see it in stores. You really think the trend will last that long? And what about passion? Do you think you can write a work you’re proud of without a passion for it? Even if you’ve missed the trend? Can I add any more questions to this paragraph? Well? Can I?

Writing what you’re proud of—something that you can call your own—can mean more at the end of the day than writing something that you thought was going to sell.

But remember when I said this topic is a bit tricky? With the technologies and how the book market is today… you can basically ignore everything I said up there and maybe you should.

Yeah, seriously.

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You know why trends start? Because they sell.

People tend to want more cake after they had a slice.

Twilight spawned True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and a bunch of other vampire shows, books, and ebooks in a variety of genres.

Erotica was a popular genre to write for on Kindle for a while because they sold like… well… sex.

Publishers will always welcome any book that’ll sell. That’s their jobs. Publish things to sell. And if the genre’s hot right now, they’ll be looking for more of that genre and might even put you through the fast lane.

For indie writers, catching trends is easier now more than ever because you can instantly check what’s selling well. Check the Top 100 on Amazon. There you go.

Passion? Damn, son. Passions tend to suck at paying for stuff. And I like stuff.

 

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Like one of these. Just to give the middle-finger to the starving children in Africa and good ideas everywhere

 

Besides, if you’re a professional writer shouldn’t you have a grasp of how to write just about anything?

Timing? You click “publish” and you’re done.

You want to put more work into it? It won’t be too hard for you to chug out a 40-50k novel that follows a formula for a standard successful storytelling in a month. Remember, NaNoWriMo thinks just about everyone can chug out 50k in a month. You’re a professional, veteran writer. If this is your full-time job, you can do it in 2-3 weeks. During the time you’re writing you can hire an editor and an artist and ding-ding-ding you have a Hot Pockets book.

Besides, talking about passion, do you think there’s a lot of market appeal to a book that’s so personally you?

Sometimes a book is too much you and sometimes that’s not a good thing. That’s when a writer is just doing a self-pleasing (there, friends, I didn’t use the word “masturbatory”) project and hoping that people might like it.

Hell, that writer might not even be thinking of readers. If your protagonist is a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper named Borga Do’Kora (stage name being Danger Dick) who’s day job is a tax accountant, maybe you really did not give a chicken’s ass on a donkey’s spit about the readers.

And that’s fine. Writing, in its best form, should be reflective and a fragment of your being. Even if that’s a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper who’s favorite food happens to be pickled eggplants.

But if we’re talking about making money, the whole story changes.


“Keep Writing”

Wow, the last one was so damn long. I’ll keep this short. You know how you improve your mile run right? You keep running.

But as you keep running, you’ll run into some hurdles along the way. Maybe your ankles will start to hurt, maybe you’ll run into better runners, and maybe some literal hurdles. It’s called gaining experience.

And sometimes, it’ll hurt. They might say you have ugly shoes, ugly face, and that you look downright silly running.

 

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Not everyone can run majestically like Tom Cruise.

 

But someone wise once told me… Just kidding. I read this on Tumblr.

“Writer’s who are afraid of rejection are like boxers who are afraid of getting punched. You’re in the wrong line of work.”

In every aspect of our lives, we should welcome valid criticisms. In writing, we have to take-and-thank any sort of feedback we can get and sort it through ourselves like beggars on the street corners Aurora ave in Seattle.

And a lot of times… the greatest of criticisms will come from our own failures. It’s okay to fail despite what my mother says. What’s not okay is to let failures just be failures. Then you’ve wasted your time.

Don’t give up. Everything’s hard and writing as a craft has been around since the beginning of written language. You don’t have to try to rewrite the rule book, the legacy, or try to be the next big thing. Just enjoy it and see where it takes you.

If someone says you suck–say thanks. What can I do to be better?

If you think you suck–well, I suck. What can I do to be better?

And I’m not saying having that attitude is easy. It’s tough. Hell, I always get salty and pissy and depressed about myself and my life. And sometimes about my writing!

But that’s the process of “Keep Writing”. You’ll get better as long as you keep challenging yourself and keep yourself honest. Make sure the cycle of depression and persistence keeps turning. There’s no fast lane here. It’s just gaining experience.

Or just give up. It’s your life. Why are you doing this if you’re not enjoying it unless you’re trying to pay bills with it?

giphy

It’s okay not to be a writer. It’s okay not to be a professional writer. I’m sure your friends and family will be happy to hear that you decided not to be an artist anymore and decided to be a Tax Accountant and go make a happy, comfortable living without having to worry about your future.

But if you’re not going to give up, keep running. As you keep running, you’ll also learn how to enjoy running better. And hopefully, y’know, you’ll keep researching into how to run better because that’s part of keep running.

Like forms and stuff.

Metaphor. Analogy.

This got too sentimental for my taste.

AND I SAID HEY-EY-EY-EY! HEY-EY-EY-EY!

I SAID HEY!

TUPAC KILLED JFK!

ARAMIRU OUT!


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Black Halo: the Witch and the Guardian PREVIEW Part 4

REVISED version of

Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian

is coming out on 12/9/2015!

Preview Event:

PART 1 (Prologue, Chapter 1)

PART 2 (Interlude 1)

PART 3 (Chapter 2, Chapter 3)


Blurb:

With the Light, came Magic, and the Witch. As mysterious as she was fearsome, and as powerful as she was merciless, the Witch almost succeeded in ending the world until she was vanquished by a hero and his comrades.

This is the legend of the Witch and the Guardian.

Centuries after the nigh calamity, this legend is as much as almost anyone knows of what truly happened back then and as much of an explanation anyone has of what ended an era in human civilization.

Though the people may never learn the whole story, you as the reader will follow the days that led up to how a young girl named Lily became immortalized as the Witch though her name, dreams and life became forgotten.


 

Chapter 4
THE CHASE

Landris stalked after the hooded boy with all the care and attention of a proper predator, though part of him wished to simply ambush the man and be done with it. He moved through the crowds while maintaining what he thought to be the perfect distance from the redhead—close enough to keep his heart beating with excitement, but far enough to keep the prey deaf to it.

To Julian and Sarah, Landris’s movements seemed unnaturally skillful. He seemed to know the exact moment to change his pace and know exactly how to incorporate the oncoming traffic of pedestrians as part of his camouflage. Though, his talent in espionage wasn’t too surprising as Landris always seemed to excel during the training and athletics back at the facility. His talent seemed near uncanny and unreachable to most of the other students.

“Do you think that’s really him?” Julian jogged up next to Landris. Sarah quickly followed after her friend.

“Don’t know. Seems like it,” Landris whispered his reply back without turning his attention away. He was completely in tune with his target.

“Maybe instead of stalking the guy, we can try to talk to him,” Sarah suggested. The two boys responded by giving her a dumbfounded look.

“He might not be—” Sarah let out a defeated sigh. “…never mind.”

 

Red light.

 

Landris shortened his stride as he saw the hooded man stop at the red cross-walk sign. Julian and Sarah stopped with Landris, and the three clumped up together as if they were enjoying a chat. Landris peeked at his prey and had a funny feeling that the man was peeking back at them. But it was difficult to tell with that hood shrouding most of his head.

 

 Green light.

 

“Should one of us wait for Mr. Jung?” Sarah asked as the group began picking up the pace after the redhead.

“Is he still at the diner?” Julian looked back at the restaurant which was, by now, the size of a small toy. Mr. Jung was on his phone catching up behind them at a steady pace. He nodded to them to go on.

The redhead knows, Landris instincts warned him. Doesn’t it make sense for someone who’s with the most wanted person in the world to develop some sort of extraordinary perception for this sort of thing?

The redheaded boy led the Silver Aegis students further and further away into the outskirts of the city. More and more abandoned buildings and less and less people filled the streets.

He’s either flushing us out or—Landris’s heart beat slightly faster with the next thought—…he’s leading us to her.

“He’s sure confident, isn’t he,” Julian whispered to Sarah as they trailed a few steps behind Landris.

“Suppose that’s why he’s the leader,” Sarah replied with a hint of respect in her speech.

The graying sky was fitting for the silent and desolate emptiness of the outskirts. The bustling signs of life that the city had died, and only the occasional whispers of the autumn wind accompanied the footsteps of the few who remained. The students and their instructor continued their slow and gradually more obvious pursuit.

The redhead suddenly turned off the main sidewalk and slipped into an alleyway between some buildings.

Landris tossed aside the subtlety and ran after the man. Julian, Sarah and Mr. Jung followed after the two.

By the time Landris turned into the alleyway, all there was were traces of what he guessed to be the redhead’s ‘gift’. Blue streams of energy lingered in the air, dancing lazily before fading like smoke. Landris looked up. The redhead looked down at him from the top of the building. His hood had fallen down from the jump revealing his iconic crimson hair. The redheaded teen looked startled. He had guessed that someone was after him, but he didn’t expect to be right. The drinks the redhead had carried with him had spilled from the leap. He inspected the drinks before deciding to keep them. After returning the hood to its proper place, he walked away.

Landris tightened his legs. Beneath his jeans, the veins of his legs began to glow in luminescent light.

“Lan—Landris!” Julian managed to catch up moments before Landris’s leap. His shaking voice and legs hadn’t caught up to him until that moment. Face to face with the Witch’s friend, Julian’s nerves struck without a warning. Even when he grasped why he was shaking, Julian still couldn’t manage to keep himself steady.

Landris completed the jump, soaring into the air and landing on the top of the building right about where the redhead stood. Sarah and Mr. Jung arrived at the alleyway only to hear Landris land on the rooftop above them.

“Go,” Mr. Jung instructed his other student without missing a beat. “Julian, Go!”

Julian looked at Mr. Jung helplessly and decided to hide his trembling hands by clenching them to a fist.

“Julian…” Sarah called out to him with a worried look. Her look gutted Julian and the shame of his cowardice acted as courage.

He looked above and saw Landris’s broad back standing tall about to confront the redhead. The one chosen by the Witch to serve her.

“Are you alright?” Sarah asked as she gently placed both of her hands around Julian’s shoulders and studied his face. Whatever look was on his face wasn’t the face Julian wanted to show Sarah. “You don’t have to go, Julian. Landris can take care of this.”

Clenched fist. Clenched teeth. Julian disappeared before Sarah’s eyes.

 

 

 

Chapter 5
SEEING RED

…According to the records, the Magic of the past seemed entirely different than the way it is today. It is speculated that it is due to the streams of aether itself were not yet fully developed in the world, and the human species’ bodies were not yet ready to accept them naturally. Instead, each individual’s bodies reacted to the aether differently. Those whose bodies were predisposed to react to certain types of aether reacted to them by acquiring certain specific talents of Magic even without the need to manipulate and conform the streams…

 

The redheaded teen stood at the center of the rooftop when he heard the noise behind him. He cringed at his suspicion of what the noise could be and let out a sigh of frustration when it was proven correct as he turned to find his stalker. It was bad as he could have asked for. He wasn’t just any curious stalker, he was a fellow Gifted.

Countless particles of light gathered in an instant and formed Julian next to Landris. Julian looked below and saw Sarah looking up at him with worried eyes. It was a look that he didn’t want to receive from Sarah. He turned to the redhead and decided to face him as Landris would.

“What are you guys?” the redheaded teen asked with a voice just loud enough to be heard across the distance that separated him and his chasers.

Julian unconsciously glanced at Landris for his guidance—his lead.

“We’re Gifted like you!” Landris yelled back. “We just want to talk!”

“Are you with Emily?!” the redhead asked. The hint of puzzlement on his pursuer’s face confirmed to the redhead his suspicion that his stalkers were definitely unwelcome solicitors.

Sarah looked up at her two friends, uncertain how she could join them. Mr. Jung, on the phone requesting for assistance, inspected the main streets. A few pedestrians who noticed the boy leaping to the rooftops were already on their phones. She guessed, some were calling the police while others filmed the event.

“So, talk!” the redhead demanded.

“Like this? I’m pretty sure it’d be best for all of us to find somewhere away from the public eyes! That tomato-red hair of yours is pretty eye-catching.” Landris wanted to say ‘an eyesore.’

“Or, it sounds like it’d be best for all of us if we just go our separate ways!” the redheaded teen raised his voice slightly.

“Look!” Landris paused for a moment, looking for the friendly tone to his voice. “We are a group of Gifted who are looking for more of us to band together. To provide a safe place for all of us. Even for you and your friend!” This scenario was annoying; it would be simpler, quicker, and more satisfying for him to simply rush the redheaded ingrate and drag him back with them.

“No, thanks!” the redhead curtly replied and turned around. He had figured they might have had an idea who he was, but the confirmation gave him no reason to stay.

It was time for Julian to step out of Landris’s shadow. The only way for him to grow was for him to take the steps forward. Pushed by the urge to prove himself, Julian appeared next to the redhead and grabbed onto his arm. His eyes met with the redhead’s eyes. Julian quickly realized he wasn’t ready to meet the eyes of someone who was willing to fight for his life.

“W-wait.” Julian felt as if those words were squeezed out of a pinhole.

“Your legs are shaking,” the redhead calmly spoke, realizing the boy to be not much of a threat. “Perhaps whatever you guys are doing, you’re not suited for it.” The teen snatched his arm away from Julian’s grasp and began to walk away. Julian’s face contorted with shame and frustration with himself—especially at the slight relief he felt inside.

Landris moved next to Julian, and they watched the redhead leap across to the adjacent building. His body jetted off streams of blue light and confirmed to Landris what he saw earlier was indeed that boy’s ‘gift’. Though even at this point, he was uncertain what the specifics of it were. The unknown was strangely exhilarating and made his heart pound. Landris felt awakened as if he knew that the redhead wouldn’t disappoint him as his prey. The small smile on Landris face startled Julian and made him further realize that they were of different breed.

“Julian,” Landris called out to his frozen stiff companion. The better option than chasing after the man himself depended on his lackluster comrade.

“Julian!” Landris raised his voice and finally grasped Julian’s attention. “You want to make up for what you did right here?”

Julian felt twisted inside. What was it that made him and Landris so dissimilar? Were they truly just built differently? He always thought, at the very least, he would be able to find courage and talent during the times when they counted. That when the call to action came, he would rise to it.

“You’re the one who’s going to have to fix this, Julian.” Landris placed one hand on Julian’s shoulder. His hands were large compared to Julian’s bony shoulders, and the hand felt like a mantle had been placed protectively upon his shoulders. Julian hated the comfort it gave him.

“You have to go after him because it’s going to be a mess if I do,” Landris spoke softly but sternly. Julian responded simply by nodding.

“I’ll go look for somewhere private where you can bring him. You got your phone on you?” Landris began inspecting the buildings that surrounded them.

It took a bit for Julian to process what Landris was asking. Once he realized it, he looked at Landris with widened eyes.

“Y-yeah, b-but,” Julian tried to explain why what Landris was asking would be unreasonable. Perhaps even impossible.

“Alright, I’ll call you once I find the place.” Landris ignored Julian’s protests to force the boy into action.

“Landris, I don’t think this is a good idea. You know that I can’t…”

“Julian!” Landris raised his voice. “We have no time for this. It’s time to man up. Your time to prove yourself, alright?” Landris stared right into Julian’s eyes. His eyes pierced through Julian’s straw exterior and shaking heart. Julian simply nodded. For the first time, he felt a genuine respect for Landris and even the sense that he was their leader.

“Sarah isn’t going to be with a baby forever,” Landris said as he turned away.

Dick.

Julian looked over yonder at the adjacent building the redhead had gone to, and disappeared from where he stood.

Landris jumped off the rooftop back down to the alleyway below.

“Landris, what’s going on? What about Julian?” Sarah tried to grab Landris who briskly walked past her and Mr. Jung.

 

***

 

Julian stood on the edge of the adjacent building’s rooftop and looked down below at the alleyway. His teleportation was nearly silent, and it didn’t alert the redhead walking through. The Witch’s lackey headed the main street. Sirens were wailing from afar and closing in.

“Seriously?” The redhead muttered as Julian appeared few feet in front of him.

Julian’s stomach twisted as he worked his mouth, but nothing came out. His mind was frozen. Were they about to fight? Was he about to be murdered? What would Landris do?

What would Landris do? Really?

The redhead began to walk towards Julian.

“I thought I was pretty clear. Just let me through,” the teen spoke as he approached the scrawnier and the younger looking one of the two stalkers.

“Look…” Julian’s lips quivered. “Just… just come with us.”

“No,” The Witch’s friend replied. “And you should rethink being a part of any groups with the Gifted. That usually means trouble.”

As the redhead walked past him, Julian grabbed the man’s arm again. A position that was far too familiar to both of them now.

“Let go,” the Witch’s friend spoke. He had also heard the sirens and was running out of patience.

Feeling as if the redhead was looking down on him like Landris would, Julian threw a punch and landed it squarely on the boy’s face. The blow didn’t seem to do much more than make him very irritated. For a moment, they stared at one another in silence as the redhead contemplated his next action.

The sirens.

The redhead, streams jetting from his body, grabbed a hold of Julian and tossed him towards one end of the alleyway. Julian helplessly flailed his arms and legs until he hit the wall and slid to the ground. The Witch’s friend turned the other way and ran with the streams still emanating from his body. He was fast; perhaps even as fast as Landris. Julian quickly came up with an idea that he knew he may regret. The phone vibrated in Julian’s pocket. Ignoring the list of consequences growing in his mind, he teleported once more.

Julian appeared as close as he could to the redhead. Close enough that at his speed, the redheaded teen wouldn’t be able to stop in time. His plan in near completion, Julian braced himself with the little time he had. The collision with the redhead sent Julian flying into countless particles as he immediately teleported again.

The sheepish stalker’s howl of pain came from behind the redhead and before he realized what had happened. The particles gathered behind him in an instant and carried Julian through with all of the momentum from the collision. The two collided again and they tumbled onto the ground. Luckily for Julian, he was on top. Realizing his plan had worked Julian smiled through the pain.

Writhing in pain, Julian quickly took out his vibrating phone from his pocket and turned it on.

“Hey, we’re ready. You got him?” Julian heard Landris’s voice through his phone, and latched onto the redhead’s jacket tightly with one hand and held his phone with the other.

Although teleporting with inanimate objects was tested to be as natural for Julian as traveling by himself, when it came to living things it proved to be far more difficult. The success rate was currently about twenty percent. Out of five attempts, failures resulted in anywhere from Julian and the test subject failing to appear at the designated location, Julian and the test subject appearing in separate locations, and the final failure that resulted in Julian refusing to do anymore testing which resulted in the test subject ending up at the end of the teleportation much differently than how it had started. It was a result traumatizing enough that Director Jones allowed Julian to stop as well.

Julian stared at his phone. Landris had called him in a video call and presented Julian the empty room. With a heavy breath and a grunt, Julian spoke to the Witch’s friend, “Just so you know, I’m really sorry if we…”

And Julian and the redhead dispersed into countless particles.


Revised Edition of Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian will be released on 12/9/2015!

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Video Game the Storyteller: The Walking Dead by Telltale Games (and why it’s the best The Walking Dead experience)

So, as I mentioned in my last article, Video Game the Storyteller: How Metal Gear Solid 4 is the Perfect Example of the Best and Worst of Video Game Storytelling, that was written months before I had the chance to experience The Walking Dead by Telltale Games.

That game definitely deserves a quick mention as it is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in terms of storytelling in a game. I debated whether or not to continue this series of blog entries… but… I just had to say this piece to get it out of my system.

Most people are already aware of what The Walking Dead series is about. It’s the zombie apocalypse and instead of focusing on the zombies, the series focuses on the people. We quickly learn that the dead is not what we need to be concerned about but rather the living.

Mullets. Must. Die.
Mullets. Must. Die.

Originally a graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, the series blew up when it was turned into a popular TV-Show on AMC. Now there are novels, games, and bobble heads as we ride through this zombie-mania.

As a game, The Walking Dead is a very evolved form of visual novel games. It’s different than games like Heavy Rain where I’d say that’s more of an interactive movie than a visual novel (for me the differentiation comes from that biggest and majority of game decisions in games like The Walking Dead happens in static, paused moments while in Heavy Rain lot of it happens in dynamic, ongoing moments. There are other differentiation as well but that’s for another day).

To those unfamiliar, visual novel games are games where you spend most of your time soaking in the story. In the olden days, visual novels games were generally you sitting and reading through bunch of dialogues, watch the pictures change (scenery, characters, etc.), and sometimes make choices and play minigames.

In many sense, visual novel style of games seems to be the “easy” way of using video games as a medium for storytelling. There’s less gameplay than RPGs and a lot more of reading/listening.

So was The Walking Dead really innovative in terms of innovating the storytelling in video games? I’m not sure. I’m inclined to say that it’s not.

Wait, WAIT, put down the pitchforks for a second.

I’ll publicly admit that The Walking Dead by Telltale Games has to be in the Top 5 Video Game experiences I’ve had in my life. There’s no other word than “masterful” to describe the writing and the utilization of using video game as a medium to present a story.

By that in and of itself, even if the game didn’t innovate it definitely advanced and reinforced the video games’ credibility as a storytelling medium. It gives you an experience that can’t be replicated in any of the other current formats.

Do Zombies poop, Lee?
Do Zombies poop, Lee?

As an aspiring career writer, I was more than excited to try out this game after hearing so many good things about the plot. I prepared myself to take notes as I slowly became sucked into the world of The Walking Dead. I immediately found myself filling in the shoes and the mind of Lee Everett, the protagonist.

The way the game begins like a TV show (episodic and even having previews and reviews at the end and the beginning of each episodes) already prepares the players minds to absorb the story. But the choices given, turns of events, camera angles, music, and even the moments of gameplay really works altogether to immerse you not just into the world but into the circumstances and stakes of this apocalypse.

But it also didn’t take long to realize that anything I learned while playing this game would be… fairly useless as someone who’s currently not a writer for video games.

And that, to me, is a one of the best evidence of how well they took advantage of their format as a video game.

All the powerful moments in the game have such an impact because… it’s a game. Because you’re the one making the decisions and making the connections with the characters and the events. There’s no barrier of having to relate to a character experiencing these things as in books and movies.

This is also why The Walking Dead by Telltale Games is the best experience of The Walking Dead that you can have.

As I mentioned before, The Walking Dead is less about the undead and more about the living. It’s about the people re-evaluating the meaning of humanity when the civilization that shielded it and gave it a definition is gone. For some it’s reaffirmation, for some it’s redefinition, and for some it’s defending its old definition in the changing, trying times.

The-Walking-Dead-Game

The trials of making tough decisions of life or death, the anguish of realizing how what seemed like a minuscule decision had led to devastating consequences, and overflowing joy of small victories and crushing sorrow from great defeats only truly ring with the audience when they can feel it’s themselves facing those tribulations.

Though the game makes the players play a character (e.g. Lee Everette), you acting as their moral and mental compass makes you feel like you’re the one in this world and you’re just borrowing Lee’s body and tongue for it.

The novel and the show, although great on their own merits, ultimately cannot do what the game offers its audience. What makes the original premise so interesting and compelling is the moral dilemma it poses on the readers and the viewers. With the game, now you can actually have those moral dilemmas and see where you stand in this bleak world. You have the chance to learn about yourself.

You don’t have to watch Rick and his friends make the decisions. It’s you. All you.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its flaws. At times the choices feel misleading or limited. It is a game after all. There are definitely forced moments in plots that makes you slightly disappointed that you only had the illusion of freedom. And the plot itself can sometimes be predictable. But its masterful presentation and unique experience of really putting you in this virtual simulation of moral philosophy makes you easily forgive the game for its flaws and still love every second of it.

(I specifically remember in Season 1 there were events unfolding at a farmhouse that to almost everyone should have seemed blatantly obvious of what’s to come but I never felt the game became dull because of it. Even though I knew what was coming… I was eager to see how the game was going to make those events happen)

There’s really no need for me to praise this game more.  It already has a slew of accolades and acclaims. But still, nevertheless, I’ll recommend this game to any gamers out there and even non-gamers who just dig good stories and good demonstration of the art of storytelling.

Don’t feel like you’re too late to jump on the train. You have the fortune of not having to wait for new episodes as Season 1 and Season 2 have already finished. And by the time you’re done, you can get excited for Season 3 which is supposed to start sometime this… year?

I’m too lazy to Google.

I’m no game news reporter.

If you’re reading this you have internet. Google it.

ARAMIRU OUT!

P.S.  Oh! Another mention of memorable moments in the game! “Final Boss” of S1 and even S2 were spectacular moments of really testing all the decisions you’ve made until the final moments of the game. It really gives you a chance to have an introspection of where your moral compass lie.

Also, at the end of each episode the game gives you a comparison of your decisions to other players’ decisions. It’s an interesting experience to see how you compare to others in terms of the moral choices you’ve made.


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INTERLUDE: Video Game the Storyteller: How Metal Gear Solid 4 is the Perfect Example of the Best and Worst of Video Game Storytelling  

This is a series I thought of writing a while ago–discussing different storytelling mediums (initially focusing on the very new medium, video games). Nothing really happened with it but I thought it might be nice to share it here (the featured image is the podcast/blog my friends and I were working on that’s currently in development hell).

DISCLAIMER: This was written many months ago and I just had the opportunity to finish playing The Walking Dead by Telltale Games… a game that would have had a significant influence to this article.


Games… have changed.

They’re no longer about cut-scenes, dialogue, or laughable dubbing. They’re an endless series of cut-scenes and dialogue, played by actors in motion capture suits… kind of. Alright maybe they haven’t so much changed in general, but there’s definitely more capacity for ingenuity and innovation when it comes to storytelling in video games now.

Gentlemen (and gentlewomen), we have the technology.

Metal Gear Solid 4, a game considered a modern classic by many, is the perfect example to discuss videogame storytelling.

Grab a few kids in a local high school and ask them what they think of MGS4 and they’ll tell you, “Please let us go. You’re frightening us. I don’t know what MGS4 is. Is it a drug?”

You’ll realize how quickly you’ve aged and how the heroes of your childhood are nothing but buried pages of the past.

Go home, drink some bourbon (because now you’re old enough to), and replay more of the outdated has-beens of your time. Console yourself in the fact that you can rent cars now and that you got to experience, in your youth, one of the greatest recessions of your country’s history.

What was I talking about?

Yes. Storytelling. Video games. Metal Gear! Otacon?
Grab a few better bred kids and they’ll tell you it’s either the greatest game of all time or a movie disguised as a game.

It’s not too farfetched to say that I bought my PlayStation 3 specifically for Metal Gear Solid 4. I’ve been a lifelong gamer, and I’ve been obsessed with storytelling (be it games, books, or films) for just as long.

After being blown away by Metal Gear Solid 3 (MGS3) and after having the hope rekindled within me that games can actually tell stories (someone should really fuel my narcissism and tell me to write about MGS3 so that I can tell the world why MGS3 is one of the best examples of game storytelling of all time. ALL TIME!) I had high expectations for MGS4 that were only made higher by the trailers and the demo.

(What? Our hero Snake finally seems to have deep physical and psychological issues that are also relatable? Seemingly evolved gameplay that also incorporates Snake’s aged state and other Kojima craziness? Oh my!)

But after playing through the entire game, I ended up agreeing with both parties. This was “Option C”: they’re both right. No game has done more amazing things as a medium for storytelling, and no game has committed more crimes against its genre.
There was once a time when people really didn’t expect much of a story at all—much less a decent one—from any video game. It was a pleasant surprise if a game had even a palatable plot. This isn’t even that far back: not only was this true of classics like Pong and Tetris, but also as recent as the PS2/Xbox era. It was around the PS3/Xbox360 era that as budgets for game development grew higher, gamers got older, and video games became more mainstream, and people gradually began to expect a decent plot from most of the games they played.

But to this day, I’d argue, that most people still don’t expect a quality story from a video game in the same way they would from a film or a book. This is due to the fact that most games still have an awkward relationship with storytelling and are very unaware of their capabilities as a storytelling medium.

Videogames are still teenagers trying to find their inner-selves, and they’re going through a goth/emo/punk rock/military phase. They’re still trying to prove that they can deliver a decent story—that’s a hard sell to people who aren’t already gamers.

However, not all games face this same stigma—some are even expected to deliver an adequate, if not compelling, plot.

Most of those titles belonged to RPGs (Final Fantasy traditionally being the series most expected to provide a quality story…until recently anyways) which made Metal Gear really stand out as one of the few non-RPG franchises with a reputation for quality stories.

But why? What made Metal Gear stand out in the first place?

Let’s cover one of the foundational points here before we get into the meaty parts of the discussion, because I may have started house fires by calling the whacky, 80s-action-movie-over-the-top-tin-foil-hat-jump-the-shark-with-a-jet-pack-on-story of the Metal Gear franchise “decent.”

 

POINT 1: A Plot’s Quality Doesn’t Depend on its Innate Characteristics.

So, this may be so basic that it’s annoying, but bear with me here… because it’s very important.

The way I worded this point might make it more confusing than it should be… it’s basically saying “you do you.”

Is that worse?

If you’re a film, be a film. If you’re a simple plot, be a simple plot. If you’re a (insert genre here) game with a simple plot, be that game with a simple plot.

You didn’t need to know the story to enjoy Super Mario. If you started asking questions like “Why is there an overweight, midget, Italian plumber running through pipes, eating shrooms, and punching turtles for a living?” then you would be giving the game more complexity than it deserves and more depth than it was asking for.

It doesn’t pretend to be a storyteller—it knows what it is.

Let’s level up here.

Take a recent game like Braid. It proposes a relatively complex story and does so nearly seamlessly with its thematic gameplay mechanic of rewinding time.

The story is ingrained within the gameplay.

Level up again?

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are fantastic examples of simple stories done well with complex simplicity. (Is that worse?) They’re like Miyazaki films in that they take simple ideas and characters but employ them so effectively that they become instant classics.

What makes ICO’s storytelling exceptional is that it realizes what it is: a game. Instead of spoon feeding the plot to its audience, ICO’s gameplay immerses the player inside the story. Without any words, the game mechanics, the objectives, the camera, the lighting, the stages, the enemies, and all the obstacles work together to fully realize the relationship (character development) between Ico and Yorda. ICO is amazing because it is a game telling a story, not simply a game with a story.

So where does Metal Gear come in? We’ll use Metal Gear Solid as example.

From the opening conversations, cut-scenes, to a few minutes of gameplay, the game immediately familiarizes you with its world. It knows—and admits—that it’s going to be a slightly over-the-top spy game chalk full with conspiracies, sci-fi elements, and some whacky humor.

If you start listing the elements of the game, it sounds ridiculous. But when it’s presented in a single package, it works.

Its sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (MGS2), is a great example of a game that pushes its own boundaries so far that it ends up becoming a parody of itself. It became almost so self-aware that it went too far. Or maybe it wasn’t self-aware enough.

MGS2 started well by presenting its familiar formula in an updated engine. Things changed, however, when the character Raiden was introduced in the second half of the game.

Despite what most U.S. and European fans may say, Raiden was an excellent character as a plot device. He essentially allowed the audience to experience the MGS world from an outside perspective and experience their hero (Snake) not as the hero himself, but as a person interacting with him.

But where the game failed was in its inability to understand its own limits, even with its ridiculous universe and plot delivery mechanics. The plot simply couldn’t justify (SPOILER ALERT) that Raiden was basically Snake in making. The whole PATRIOT system went beyond the reach of its own universe, and the famous codec dialogues of the series seemed out of place and poorly thought out in the Raiden segment of the game (I mean, why is Rose talking about their relationship problems during a highly classified and volatile espionage mission with the fate of the world on the line?).

Here’s where MGS4 succeeded extremely well for the most part.

It was well-aware of the mistakes it made in MGS2 and—whether the audience liked it (or even noticed it) or not—it took the liberty of basically retconning all of its mistakes.

The game did it smoothly enough that players could swallow it easily.

Its nod to its previous games by making each chapter represent the thematic environment of its predecessors was an excellent and subtle plot device.

POINT 2: Video Games Have to Establish Their Own Identity as a Medium.

…BEFORE WE START DISCUSSING THE OBVIOUS SINS OF MGS4! Let’s talk more about how plots in Video Games are supposed to work.

Games are incredible because they are the only medium with the potential to make the audience active participants in the plot. Despite this, games have more often than not failed to take advantage of this gift.

Where the plot was involved, the first games had little by way of audience involvement—plots were literally delivered by strings of text. Since then we’ve moved on to delivering the story though cut-scenes that let us see and hear the story, but the audience remains a passive observer of the story unfolding in front of them.

Moreover, not all games are created equal—the ability of a game to tell its story is bound to the particular genre of that game.

RPGs probably have the easiest time since they can generally get away with the same old delivery. Players expect them to move more slowly and spend more time developing a heavy exposition, so reading dialogue and watching cut-scenes does less damage to the immersive experience. For instance, Final Fantasy Tactics offered an incredible narrative experience that was achieved merely through text dialogue boxes.

(With that said, Dark Souls is probably one of the best and bravest storytellers of the PS3 generation, and it’s an unsung hero insofar as it goes unrecognized for showing new ways for RPGs to tell their stories. But that’s a tale for time.)

FPS has the luxury of being first person. The format itself just makes easier to engage the audience and make them feel like they’re part of the story. I mean, you literally put them in the shoes of the character (though sometimes when you look down in those games you wonder if you have feet at all) I’d argue it’s one of the easiest genre to innovate and be creative with storytelling.

Say what you want about Call of Duty titles but it was one of the first franchises (Medal of Honor: Allied Assault deserves mention as well) to really take storytelling to another level in terms engagement and continued lead the pack with their Modern Warfare titles in the recent generation of gaming. It took idea that “you’re this character” to another level by using cut-scenes that didn’t cut away from the first-person perspective and making the actions occur in a way that it affects the character directly (blindfolds and such).

(Half-Life deserves a mention here for their very unique take on storytelling by making it almost passive. You’re in the thick of it but you always feel like you are a victim of greater events and the ever growing world around you. They achieved something with their games that’s hard to replicate. It’s like writing a successful 2nd person narrative story)

Good story telling in the Open World genre is best demonstrated with titles like Red Dead Redemption where it showed that less is more. Not that many sound a bit weird with a game with such a giant world to explore such a diverse cast of characters but really think about it for a moment. The whole point of this genre is being organic (whatever that may mean to the style of game it is i.e. Saints Row series) as possible. Let the people discover the plot and have breadcrumbs if they want to follow but what’s really important in this genre is allowing the players to make their own stories. Give the players a world where the world itself is a story and a playground. Where they can be part of a grand story (the main plot line), the sub stories (stories of the world’s inhabitants), or make their own legends and tales.

With all that said, games always will have the fallback classic style storytelling of simply unfolding the plot through dialogues and cut-scenes.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing although in many ways it is uncreative, lacks courage, and doesn’t really help the storytelling aspect of the game industry to grow and evolve.

I’ve recently played the Borderlands series and it’s a perfect example of this. It doesn’t really try anything innovative in terms of storytelling. The characters are generally cookie cutter, story presentation (using games as a medium) is pretty cookie cutter, and story content and pacing is… damn, we are out of cookie dough.  But what makes it work is that it baked some awesome cookies.  Lesson here is if you can’t innovate – just do what works well. This is self-awareness all around (awareness of their own story, audience, and how their game should interact with their story) + hard work + excellence.

(Anthony Burch! This isn’t a jab at you!  Look at that awesome beard and handsome smile)

So where does MGS4 fall into all this?

The best thing a video game can do with its plot is taking advantage, as much as it can, of its capabilities of having the audience as an active member of the story.

As mentioned previously one of the best thing MGS4 has done with this is making the protagonist old and letting the players experience the character’s age. It made you, the player, feel what the character is feeling.

Snake coughs, he can’t smoke as long without trouble as he used to, he groans about his back and you have to apply some treatment on it to make him feel better (awesome).

You can look around during cut-scenes to take in the plot in your own way or at times to discover what Snake’s really up to (stop looking at the cleavage or trying to do a panty peek you pervert).

MGS4 used its stamina system many times to make players experience literally in their gameplay what the character was experiencing. If Snake was hurt in a cut-scene you’d see the stamina dwindle or if Snake was in a situation where he was injured you may play the game with a reduced stamina for the stage.

Those were all great and expected plot delivery from a Metal Gear game. And those were also excellent way of using video games as a proper medium for storytelling.

Ironically, as honed and sharpened as its good qualities seemed to be, Metal Gear franchise’s borderline flawed plot delivery system, i.e. long cut-scenes, were worsened in MGS4.

No cut-scenes should be 10 minute + in a video game outside of its ending—and even that’s a maybe. This should be a written rule somewhere. At which point do you differentiate between a game and a movie?

It’s not a problem if the game is based around player taking the backseat to the plot or based around watching cut-scenes.

Games like Heavy Rain and even L. A. Noire demonstrated that the taboo of games taking lot of control away from players can still work if the game itself is based around that idea.

MGS4 did not make much effort to work around its long cut-scenes. It made you sit through 10+ minutes of cut-scenes after giving you so much control and linked experience with the character that it felt like suddenly you were crippled as a player.

The most tragic thing about this is that there were ingenious moments in MGS4 where it combined its strength and weakness and gave its audience something magical. Where it delivered the story so powerfully that I’ve still have yet to find many games that replicated that energy.

A good example:

Near the climax of the game, our protagonist Old Snake has to drag his beaten body across a hellish path to prevent calamity. Tension is high as a war rages on outside counting on Snake to beat the clock before his own time runs out.

MGS4-Microwave-Corridor-2

The game engaged the players by dwindling Snake’s health as he walked though the oven like tunnel, by taking away the smooth controls as players forced Snake through the physical turmoil to move forward, and if Snake ever happened to lose his strength players had to mash a button on the controller to get him back up.

As this is happening the screen is split in two with cut-scenes showing all that’s going on outside as Snake is making his way to put in scope of importance of Snake’s success and continuing to build tension with the plot.

This demonstrated that cut-scenes and gameplay can coexist in modern gaming and be used in a powerful and unique ways to deliver a story that’s only possible in video games.

This wasn’t the first time MGS4 did something like this and each time it did it added so much to the plot experience that it’s a shame the game didn’t incorporate it somehow into its longer cut-scenes.

But one thing that’s still undeniable about Metal Gear franchise is that they are unafraid to approach storytelling in their own voice and in their own innovative ways to incorporate their medium as a videogame.

It’s a shame that so many games that are released these days follow the archetype set by popular titles of their genre.

So many games copy FPS storytelling style of Call of Duty. Not many dare even try to gamble to copy the more complicated style of Half-Life.

So many RPGs fallback to read dialogues and make choices made popular recently by Bioware and their games. Even Elder Scroll series simplified their story mechanic for Skyrim.

Most innovations in storytelling these days in videogames are found in the indie games. Braid, Gone Home, or even Bastion.

Seeing how large of a team a game requires these days I can see why it’d tough for the creators to really focus on the plot delivery. It’d take a huge coordination between the programmers and the writers.

But this is why I look forward to Metal Gear Solid 5 (MGS5). Because even with its failures in MGS4 the things it did right was a refreshing breeze in the stale video game storytelling.

It seemed at least Kojima and his teams are not satisfied putting out a game that’s like everything else. MGS5 being an open world game where the storytelling of that genre is still only really cultivated by Rockstar…. really is exciting news.

Because if MGS5 decides to be even a little bit as innovative (even if not brave) as they were with MGS4 and learn from their mistakes, it’ll pave roads for other companies to explore what’s possible with video games as a medium for storytelling. And hopefully, that’ll continue to develop the medium and push the industry to see what’s possible with the modern storyteller.

Alright, that’s it.

I’ll end this with another cheesy parody of MGS4.

Games…have changed

The age of technical limitations has become the age of self-imposed limitations, all in the name of keeping status quo from not averting from the tried and tested formulas.

Games…have changed.

When innovations are under total control, the medium becomes routine.