A common criticism of inexperienced writers is that they confuse big words, chunks of extraneous detail, and overly long sentences with quality.
For myself, I’m blessed enough that I have a good friend willing to act as an editor for me with my work, and his most common comments when he marks my stuff up are “too wordy” or “this could be punchier” or whatnot. This has the effect of making me go back and really work on the pace of my stories, which inevitably leads to a marked improvement in quality once I lose the commas, add a few periods, and drop several dozen adjectives.
That isn’t to say that longer sentences or paragraphs don’t have a place; indeed, in the right circumstances, a beautifully crafted and complex sentence can be exactly what you are after, and can add a lyrical quality or a particular feel to a piece that is perfect in that context.
A great deal of the time, however, brevity is an author’s best friend.
Short, sharp sentences help to ratchet up tension, provide a sense of movement or action, and can bring across a feeling of breathless passion that no amount of page-long belaboured metaphors will ever quite match.
Ask yourself what has more impact:
“Excellent,” I replied. My hand dropped to my side, fingers wrapping around the grip of the shotgun that hung from my belt, jerking it upwards as I squeezed the trigger and shot him in the face.
“Excellent,” I replied, shooting him in the face.
The above example comes from my first draft of my short story Nephilim, versus the end result six drafts later that wound up getting published.
The first is detailed, and perhaps better shows off the minutiae of the scene (how his hand moves, the position of the shotgun, etc), but it takes a scene intended to be surprising to the reader and instead belabours it (and is incredibly, embarrassingly clunkily written, but that’s a first draft for you).
The second version (hopefully) comes as a shock to the reader, and immediately throws the scene into chaos; a tense, but peaceful conversation between the protagonist and his opposite is suddenly rendered sharply violent by the protagonist himself, and the detail of the moment is instead scattered across the next couple of paragraphs.
Next time you are writing something, whether it is a fantasy novel or a travel article, have a think about the way you are structuring your scenes. Have a look at the length of your sentences and what words you are using in them, and whether all of that serves the purpose of the scene itself.
Don’t be afraid to lose detail to increase impact; after all, that shotgun hanging from your protagonist’s hip can just be mentioned somewhere else.
So it seems that every time I attempt to make a concerted effort to blog regularly something in my life explodes into a million pieces.
In the past, it has been leaving a job, family issues, whatever. This time, unfortunately, it has been the end of my marriage.
It has been a whirlwind of emotion these past few months, not a single one of them positive, but at the end of the day, all you can do in adversity is pick up the pieces and move on.
So with that in mind, I’m recommitting to my writing career and to becoming a more consistent writer on this oft-neglected corner of the web that I call my own.
I’ve had another short story picked up, yay! Both this and the one referred to in my previous blog post are, unfortunately, still under wraps, but rest assured that news on both fast approaches.
I can reveal a few little morsels about my own stories, if nothing else:
The one most likely to be published first is a horror story in a setting I have never written in before, and represents a number of other firsts for me as well (I’ll talk about that a bit more when I am allowed to discuss it publicly).
The second story also represents a first for me, as it is a historical mystery, and thus way, WAY outside of my usual genres. Again, I can’t speak to this one too much except to say that it was very fun to write, and made me feel a lot more confident as an author.
In addition to the above, I also have a fantasy short currently with Tristan for editing, and I am also once again endeavouring to play with an old, oft-rejected short that is in search of the right home.
Finally, I am part way through the first edit of my NaNoWriMo 2012 post-apocalyptic spy novel (tentatively titled ‘Blackburn’), which I think I’ll actually finish this time.
Which is all my long-winded way of saying yay, exciting times!
I am planning on writing a series of entries on this blog looking at things to do with writing, both from a personal perspective, but also examining the work of other authors, technical aspects of the craft, and any other topic that happens to take my fancy.
I freely acknowledge that I am no expert at the craft, but I think it could be a bit of fun and if I can encourage even one person to take the plunge on writing something themselves, I’ll consider it a success.
So keep an eye out for that.
So that’s everything for now. I’m going to try to update at least weekly, but I understand completely if people who have witnessed my existing posting habits have their doubts about that.
I just want to take this time to thank everyone for all their support to date, both professional and personal. It means a lot and always will.
I’ve had some good news: a story (which I probably shouldn’t name) of mine had been accepted into an anthology (which I definitely am not allowed to name) for publication in the future!
It also contains a bunch of very talented authors that I can name:
As you can imagine I am super excited about this and I look forward to being able to share more delicious details soon.
Game of the Year 2013
10. The Swapper
With a cool claymation aesthetic, interesting puzzles revolving around cloning yourself several times and swapping between them (shocking, I know), and a surprisingly interesting (and dark) science fiction storyline, the Swapper was a great game that, sadly, I don’t think too many people actually played.
This game taught me that my brain is not set up in a such a way as to deal with the crazy, reality-twisting puzzles of Antichamber. Indeed, I still haven’t finished this damn game and I doubt I ever will.
The significant chunk I did play, however, left its mark on me and made me truly realise the kinds of unique games that can be made now with the rise of the indies and the ability for people to get their work out to large audiences via services like Steam, Desura, etc.
There is nothing at all out there like Antichamber. It is a starkly gorgeous example of the kind of puzzle game that can break your mind.
8. Saints Row IV
It’s not as good as Saints Row the Third and feels like a glorified expansion pack.
Now, with that out of the way, Saints Row IV was still a hilarious, fun romp where the levels of insanity started in SRIII were jacked all the way up.
It was rare for me to play IV for more than a few minutes without finding something that either made me crack up or drop my jaw from how ludicrous or outright crazy it was. It also does a great deal of lampooning of other games with some very unique set-pieces, and plays with the concept of what exactly an open world game is.
It may not have been as good as III, but god damn was it still amazing.
7. Rogue Legacy
Unlike Gunpoint, Rogue Legacy is easy to classify into the genres it straddles, but I’m not going to bore you by talking about ‘Metroidvanias’ or (ugh) ‘Rogue-like-likes.’
Instead, know that Rogue Legacy’s fun mix of side-scrolling action with randomised dungeons, permanent death, and persistent levelling was incredibly enjoyable and kept me coming back pretty much non-stop for weeks to slap some skeletons around with my farting, swearing dwarf barbarian queen.
It is hard to classify Gunpoint, so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you to buy and play this quirky detective/hacking/rewiring/platforming/window-diving-and-punching-dudes-forever sim.
Gunpoint is a unique beast, and one that lends itself to multiple playthroughs and experimentation.
Plus the writing is really quite good and it is an absolute blast to play.
5. Shadowrun Returns
I have absolutely no experience with the Shadowrun games or the roleplaying system, which kind of surprises me since I really love cyberpunk as a rule, and fantasy-cyberpunk hybrids are a rare phenomenon indeed.
Shadowrun Returns was a Kickstarter game done run and a great deal of fun in its own right, bringing back the isometric RPG stylings of old and combining it with a fun little plot and interesting, XCOM-esque turn-based strategy.
While the included campaign was a tad underwhelming in scope, it served as just a taster for the wealth of fan-made campaigns now featured on the Steam workshop.
4. The Wolf Among Us
A new release, and an incomplete one to boot (being episodic), The Wolf Among Us nonetheless claws (heh) its way onto my list through being a refinement of what made me love Telltale’s The Walking Dead game in a far more unique, and frankly, far more interesting setting.
The Wolf Among Us features a strong setting, an interesting cast of characters, a little bit more freedom (at least in the first episode) than one typically expects in these games, and all wrapped up in a gloriously 80s, noir-ish fairy tale. Just superb, and I cannot wait for the next episode.
3. Bioshock: Infinite
Releasing to near universal acclaim and then suddenly turned upon by seemingly everyone, Bioshock: Infinite has remained a firm favourite for me since release.
Beautiful to look at and a joy to play, I loved everything about Infinite’s mind-bending journey to the city in the clouds.
2. XCOM: Enemy Within
Enemy Within improved upon one of my favourite games of recent times in some fairly huge ways, expanding the complexity of options available to you while adding several interesting wrinkles to the typical XCOM game.
While it didn’t all mesh perfectly together from a narrative or gameplay perspective, it was still amazingly fun and improved an already amazing game to even greater heights. I hope XCOM gets the Civilisation treatment from Firaxis and we see more expansions to the base game released in the future.
1. Mass Effect 3: Citadel
DLC in first and an Expansion Pack in second, what will the neighbours think?
This could be seen as either a huge compliment to the work of BioWare or a damning indictment of the overall quality of games released in 2013. Me, I prefer to think of it as the former.
Citadel was everything I could have wanted from the ending of what has been my favourite series in gaming. It lacked the self-seriousness that typified Mass Effect 3, as well as the disappointment brought about by the lacklustre ending. Instead, Citadel was a fun last hurrah with beloved characters that felt like the true swansong for the Shepard trilogy and gave you strong final moments with the characters that had become near and dear over the course of three games and several years.
It was also hilarious.
Honourable Mentions: Tomb Raider (good, but not quite good enough), Battlefield 4 (excellent on those rare occasions when it works), Divekick (too much Lang Zone)
Wish I’d played: Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, The Stanley Parable, Civilisation V: Brave New World
I’ve been rather quiet the last couple of months.
Part of that is because I am extremely good at neglecting this blog, of course, but it has also been due to a rather uncomfortable level of busyness. Through a combo of work, writing deadlines, and personal stuff, the poor old blog hasn’t registered too high on my radar of things that need doing.
With the coming of the new year, I’ve decided to change all that. I will be posting up a few bits and bobs over the next few weeks, beginning with my 2013 Top Ten Games of the Year.
To those of you that read this thing, I hope you had a great Christmas (or equivalent) break and enjoyed a wonderful New Years Eve filled with excess and promises to never do that again come January 1st!
My friend Shay, who only recently took Sam and I for a tour of some interesting little bars in Melbourne, has just been diagnosed with his second bout of cancer in five years.
As horrible as this news is (and it is), something amazing has come out of it: Shay, in a truly humbling display of selflessness, has decided to blog about his experiences with cancer and the subsequent tests and treatment, as a way of giving some insight into what he is dealing with.
He hopes that his writing might help people who are going through their own experiences with cancer.
I hope everyone reads his blog, regardless.
That’s right folks, Manifesto: UF has dropped a month early and is now available in ebook form on Amazon! (details on print copies and other vendors forthcoming).
Published by Angelic Knight Press and edited by Tyson Mauermann and the awesome Tim Marquitz, Manifesto features 23 rollicking urban fantasy stories from a huge array of talented authors both established and new, and I am honoured that my own story – ‘Nephilim’ – shares the page with such esteemed company.
I will update in the near future when further details are available, but in the meantime head on over to Amazon and, if you read the book, please let me know what you think!
My wife and I lost a dear friend and family member today in our beagle Zac.
I’m not one for long, sad goodbyes, and Sam has already written something far more fitting than anything I could manage.
I keep going to write about how stubborn he was, or how loving and affectionate, or tell one of the endless funny stories. I keep trying, but I just don’t have it in me.
He lived a long and happy life surrounded by people that loved him right until the very end.
I love you buddy. You will be missed.
I’ve been playing a tonne of indie games on the PC lately, pretty much to the exclusion of every so-called AAA release out there. With that in mind, here are some quick thoughts on some games I’ve played recently:
A short but sweet 2D puzzle game where you play as a freelance spy embroiled in a very (very) tongue-in-cheek murder mystery. Gameplay revolves around rewiring items within the environments – light switches, doors, electrical sockets, surveillance cameras, etc – to help you take care of guards and reach your objectives. You also have access to a variety of gadgets, including a pair of pants that allow you to fling yourself around without falling to your death.
Clever gameplay, witty dialogue, and very stylish, Gunpoint is a fantastic game and well worth the $10. While short, what you get is insanely well-crafted and quite replayable, especially with the inbuilt level editor.
To the Moon is, at its heart, an interactive novel. The gameplay, while fun enough and cute with its 16-bit era JRPG stylings, is kept unobtrusive. It is a vehicle for the plot and nothing more.
That plot, however, is absolutely phenomenal and tells an incredibly powerful, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking story. To say any more would be doing the game a disservice – just buy it!
Antichamber will mess with your brain in a way that few other games have ever tried. Playing with the concepts of geometry, physics, and perception, Antichamber is a first-person puzzler with a gorgeous minimalist aesthetic and a strangely philosophical bent.
This is another of those games that is perhaps hard to describe in words – watch the video above and you should get a pretty good idea of why Antichamber is incredibly rad and very much worth your time (pro tip: if you find yourself stuck on a puzzle for a bit, exit and come back to it later; this is the kind of game where you can bash your head against something for hours, take a ten minute breather, and then instantly solve it upon your return).
(No official trailer for this one, so watch some guy fumble around in the alpha build instead!)
This is a brand new acquisition for me (I’ve only had it a couple of days), so keep that in mind. Castle Doctrine is a massively multiplayer game (played asynchronously), where you must build makeshift defenses in your home to protect your family and your belongings while also heading out to rob homes as well.
Gameplay is presented in a simple, top-down, pixel-art style, but the kinds of traps you can build in your home can be quite nefarious, centering predominantly on the construction of complex traps using power sources, pressure switches, trap doors, etc. What is truly interesting is that the game has permadeath, and you must test your own house to determine that your traps are fair (no such thing as a perfect fortress) before heading out to rob others.
Very interesting game with a steep as hell learning curve. It is still in alpha, so I expect a lot of the niggling issues and exploits will be ironed out as time goes on. Well worth a play, and definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Another newly purchased game, the Swapper immediately catches the eye with its beautiful claymation graphics and wonderful atmosphere. The game itself is an interesting combination of puzzle game and a Metroidvania-style 2d exploration game, where you use the ability to create several clones of yourself to navigate your way through the world.
I won’t say too much more as I am not all that far into it, but what I have seen so far has been very impressive. Take a look.
Setting the Setting
I’ve always been really fascinated by the concept of several pieces of fiction sharing a universe.
Direct sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and whatever else all have their place, of course, and are frequently awesome. Hell, most of my favourite pieces of fiction (regardless of medium) are at least trilogies, and the idea of writing some colossal, Wheel of Time-esque work of fiction is something of a holy grail of mine.
But there is also something uniquely appealing about the idea of a stories that kind of…brush up against each other, for want of better term, and feature the occasional common setting or place or minor character that serve to create a sense of a greater world that exists beyond the bounds of any one particular tale.
It’s something I have experimented with a great deal, and it is now something I am trying to do with many of my current projects. Read the rest of this entry