Just some idle chatter for your hump day.
Some days just make you feel ebullient, happy and ready to take on the world. Today started out that way for me, as I worked out some new plot hooks for my current work in progress (WIP from here on). The great part was realizing that one plot hook actually opened doors into other novels.
It’s no secret that I’ve written a book, but only a handful of people have read it because, well, it still needs an apeload of work. But more than anything, it needed me to clean up a little matter of the main antagonist’s motivation for why he was behaving like a big bad and generally a massive a-hole. Today, I was mulling over the same problem in my latest outline, why would Bad Guy even bother doing what he was doing, and why would Good Guy (who is a woman) even care? I don’t want to get too much into the details of the plot (read the book!… er, someday?!) but the eureka moment helped to solve the core of the problem and actually unveiled an underlying piece of the structure of my homespun(ish) universe.
The current WIP is actually the second book in a series that I’m putting together, based around one character’s growth arc. As she’s growing, the world around her is changing, dramatically. It’s not an uncommon theme for multiple book arcs for main characters, unless you’re more into just writing episodically. One of my influences has always been the X-Files, I loved how there was the main storyline where Mulder is trying to dig through the layers of conspiracy and bureaucracy to find the truth about aliens visiting the earth. The thing that made the show a knockout success was taking that theme and intermingling the monster of the week episodes. Just when you were getting tired of all of the UFO stuff, you’d get hit with an episode about the Jersey Devil, a psychic killer or a humorous break with vampires. The Dresden Files is another great example. So when I stumbled across this character, who started out her life as a supporting character but became so dynamic that she moved to the front of the pack, I saw the potential to give the multi-story arc, multiple book thing a go.
Until this morning, I wasn’t sure exactly how that was going to come together, but now I’ve significantly helped my editing process in book 1 and also have a great potential plot nugget for book 3.
Hello beautiful Tuesday, thanks for coming in and body slamming Monday.
I’m back in sultry South Florida from Gen Con, sitting outside while a cool morning breeze blows through. I’m covered in a sheen of sweat but all things considered, it’s still nice out before the midday sun makes everything undoable. I’m smoking from my new rosewood pipe that I picked up in the dealer hall at the con. It’s filled with filled with Mountain Rose Herbs Smoking Blend, which is a great replacement for tobacco. I’ve also got a nice cup of mint tea sitting next to me and two cats sleeping nearby. In other words, the perfect setup to ruminate on my experience with the 2015 Gen Con.
I’m going to try not to talk about everything I did and just stick to the things that stood out to me. First among them, the Writer’s Symposium. I love the symposium and feel a strong connection with it, being an aspiring fiction writer myself. I tried to take some more advanced courses this time around since I’ve attended a pretty large selection of them at this point. I think Marc Tassin does an excellent job organizing the chaos and keeping everything on track. Maybe it was a fault of mine this year, but I feel like I missed out on some things that were going on that I would have liked to attend. Patrick Rothfuss’s World Builders was a major sponsor this time around and there was a World Builders/Writers Symposium party too, which would have been great to attend and have the opportunity to talk to people. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about it until afterwards. I’d like to see a regular newsletter for the Writers Symposium that highlights events both during and around the Symposium… a little bit of marketing help could really push things to the next level and help attendees feel better informed. I’m also wondering if maybe the Symposium is growing larger than just the convention itself. I’m not suggesting that it split off or anything, but there may be opportunity for a year-round presence. It could be a central gathering place for writers in the community, a resource for those who want to take their writing to the next level, etc. It’s easy for me to say this I realize, having no responsibility in the matter, but just a couple of thoughts.
In general, most people whom I spoke with, had one or two events had they known about ahead of time, would have absolutely done. I guess it’s just the nature of the convention, which has grown dramatically in recent years. The volume of events is so huge that even the most fastidious eye scanning the program will miss things.
That being said, the two most enjoyable experiences I had at the con were events that I discovered through the recommendation of friends and word of mouth.
The National Security Decision Making Game folks hosted one of these events, called the Cuban Missile Crisis Game: At the Brink: Havana Paranoia. Thirteen players randomly selected roles of real-life Cuban and Soviet actors during the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I got Fidel Castro, which was an intimidating role to play, to say the least. All of the players have their own motivations they’re trying to fulfill and all game play is done by conversing, cajoling, scheming and arguing. That is to say, no dice involved. I’ve never thought much about games of historical recreation or alternate history, but after this experience, I may have to give it a second thought. NSDM does such a good job of keeping things moving without interjecting too much that even for an inexperienced player like myself, it was easy to get into and have a great time with.
The other event, similar in play in that it was more about interacting with people and figuring out their motives, was Two Rooms and a Boom. The premise is simple, there are two teams and two rooms. Players from each team are mixed in both rooms and no one knows immediately who is who. There’s a president, on the blue team and a bomber, on the red team. The red team is trying to make sure that the bomber is in the same room as the president at the end of the game, the blue team obviously, is trying to make sure that’s not the case. There are also other roles that take things to the next level, like a scenario where Romeo and Juliette first need to find one another and then need to find the bomber in order for them to win.
There were other events of course, but these were the real standouts for me. Some of the most fun I had came when I was just hanging out with friends that were there. I’m happy for the experience, it was another exciting con and I’m definitely struggling with some post-con blues. I hope all of you who went and are reading this enjoyed yourselves too, see you next time!
Gen Con starts for me tomorrow, I’m super excited about going back, I decided not to go last year and the lapse has made the excitement hardly bearable. This year I’ll be going with a local crew, the first time this has ever happened. There are around 5 of us locally going but one of those are meeting up with some other friends, so we could have somewhere between 8 and 10 people total. Those are great numbers for spinning off pick up games in the lobbies and hotel rooms.
Although I’d be just as happy putting up a post about how excited I am (I’m very excited, if you haven’t heard), I’m also using this to round up some of the events that I’ll be attending and some of the other things I look forward to… basically it’s a guide for myself to Gen Con. If you’re not a 1) total nerd and 2) Gen Con attendee, you can probably skip this post. This is more for those who might have an interest in seeing how other people organize their convention schedules. Hopefully it’ll be of some use to those of you who are still here, especially if you like the Writer’s Symposium events that occur at the con.
Wednesday I’ll get in around 10:45am with three others from my area on the same flight. The fifth comes in about half an hour later when we’ll hopefully be able to grab an Uber to take us downtown. I used to grab a shared ride limo with a company called Carey Indiana, but they shut down that program for some reason. Worst case scenario, we’ll have to take the Go Shuttle into town.
Wednesdays are unofficial days each year at the con, when I used to take part in the Gen Con Forums I would go to The Stink, which was a celebration for people who were forumites. Since I haven’t logged on in a couple years, I’ll probably skip it. The last one that I was at was okay, it’s always in the really cool Grand Hall of Union Station, beautiful to check out at the least.
For me, Wednesday will be a prep day and an anxiously awaiting the opening of the con. I’ll get some basic groceries from the new Marsh Supermarket that’s a short walk from where I’ll be staying at the JW Marriott. I usually get some fruit and some healthier snacks so that I don’t make myself sick eating bad food the whole time. There will be bad food, and plenty of beer, never fear, but you really do need to offset it with some better options. Also, water, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer and Emergen-C. Being in close proximity to so many people, it’s imperative to take the couple of precautions that will help prevent you from getting sick.
I’ll probably walk around just to see who I can run into, and of course, there will be games aplenty.
The first day of the con! I’ve only watched the opening ceremonies once before, but since my first event doesn’t happen until 10, I may watch from the balcony. If memory serves, they usually have some stuff going on around 9:45, right before they open the doors to the Dealer’s Hall.
At 10 I’ll head over to my first session with the Writer’s Symposium, a discussion that’s about 3 steps ahead of where I currently am: The Business of Writing: How to Talk About Your Book (SEM1577109). I still, three years later, need to figure out how to edit my book and feel good about the process. But, I figure it will happen at some point, and I’ll need to be armed with the tools to discuss it. The scenario has already popped on numerous occasions where I’ve not been able to explain what my book is about without getting into the nitty gritty details.
At 11, I’ll hook up with Brad Beaulieu, one of my favorite regulars at the Symposium for a discussion about The Structure of Scenes (WKS1578864). Brad is a really down to earth, practical dude that can talk succinctly about the nuts and bolts of writing. For that reason, I’m taking numerous workshops with him.
And at noon, I move on to my first game of the con, Civilization’s End 01: Welcome to the Jungle (RPG1576600). This is a 5th edition D&D jungle adventure. Not too much more info beyond that.
I’m free from 4–6, when I’ll probably be starving, so it’s off to the Ram to fill up on my fried food quota for the day and down a couple of high octane beers.
After that, it’s off to the last scheduled game of the night, The Cuban Missile Crisis Game: At the Brink: Havana Paranoia (RPG1575275) where we’ll get to see who flinches first in this historical recreation.
Friday starts early for me with a boardgame, Smash Up (BGM1570158), where from 9 to 11 I’ll be playing as a vampire, cyborg, dinosaur, pirate, robot and many other possible monster combos to defeat my opponents.
From 11 to 1 it’s more Writer’s Symposium, first with Rewrites and Second Drafts (SEM1577073), which as I said earlier, I desperately need the advice and probably a lot more than a simple pep talk on. It’s followed by another Brad Beaulieu workshop, Connective Tissue in Writing (WKS1578874), he’s talking about the things that tie a story together and make it feel more, well, connected. Foreshadowing, parallel threads, theme tone, etc.
Due to some issues where games I wanted to check out sold out more quickly than I was hoping, I’ve got a big gaping hole in my schedule from 1pm until 7pm. I’m actually happy to have this because it affords me the opportunity to wander aimlessly through the Dealer’s Hall and play some demo games to see what I might like to take home. If you want to play something during this time, hit me up on Twitter. At 7pm, I’m checking out the insane Two Rooms and a Boom (ZED1571283), where two roomfuls of people try to sneak a (no NSA, not real, it’s a game) bomb into their competitor’s room. This is a massive game with something like 90 people are involved. This is probably the event that I’m most looking forward to and really captures the ‘only at Gen Con’ spirit.
There’s a final game at 10pm that I’m a little iffy on, if I’m not already out and partying somewhere, I’ll make it but Camel Up (BGM1576203) was nominated for a bunch of awards and actually won the 2014 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year.
Saturday is another big Writer’s Symposium day for me, I’m taking another business of writing workshop, Self-Publishing– Why it Works, Why it Doesn’t (SEM1578853). I’m always iffy on the self publishing thing and I feel like most of the noise around self pub is fairly positive spin, so it might be nice to hear a more balanced perspective. At 11am I’m going to Letters, Pitches & Synopsis (SEM1578854) to work on my chops when it comes to finally submitting that manuscript (some day).
From 1–2:30 I’ll be doing another 5th ed run, this time with Baldman Games, Harried in Hillsfar (RPGA1580252) with a bunch of the people that I came to the con with. Some of the guys brought their spouses, who are only marginally interested in gaming, so I thought this might be a good taste of what D&D is like for them.
From 3 – 5 I’m going way out in left field and learning how to create a Leather Hardbound Book (SPA1573121), because it seemed interesting and I was wondering how much work goes into making them. Voila, I’m going through the events catalogue and there it was!
Finally, my last event of the con is one more with Brad Beaulieu, The Big Idea (WKS1578857), which in one hour, he promises will be a crash course in generating and presenting ideas that have the highest likelihood of hooking an agent or editor. I can’t wait.
There’s always too much to do every time I go, and with attendance growing every year, it gets harder to even kind of keep track of what’s even available. I’ve heard that Chuck Wendig will be there, I’ll probably sit in for a while on the auction to see what relics from my childhood are going for nowadays. If I have the opportunity, I might even go over to Scotty’s, but the proximity of the Ram makes it an easier venture. Oh! And Georgia Street beer garden with Sun King and all of the food trucks!
Well wishes to all who are going and safe travels, see you in Indy!!!
It feels like I’ve been holding my breath for over a year… almost two now. I’ve been away, plumbing the depths of my soul, making connections with the earth’s spirits, making friends with the faceless. I had thought that perhaps I’d never write another thing in this blog again, I thought that maybe I’d never write anything again. But the itch for communication always comes back. The desire to write, even if it’s not ever read, the thought that it might be ends up being eclipsed by the elegance of fingers drifting across a keyboard.
I’ve seen the stories about computer algorithms writing content in the near future. About travel or food articles being ejected out of a sterile maw, the machine speaking to itself. But nothing will ever match the elegance of the mind firing away, the artistry of a well constructed sentence. It’s that desire to create that makes the whole magickal. We creators are blessed with the inspiration of the universe, galaxies erupting from our firing synapses. We’re a powerful lot. We’re a dangerous lot. And I think as the Western culture progresses, we’re a more rare group overall. Our culture, it consumes everything, every experience, every thought, every blink is something to be monetized.
I lost my way among the twisting cords and pipes of that underworld, our overculture. I had spent so long trying to do the things that other writers told me I needed to do to become a success that the writing actually died within me. My focus was on creating a social media presence, making connections, writing blog posts, posturing as an expert or at least an acolyte on his way. The truth is that we only ever know what our experiences guide us towards. In a culture where so much simple information is so readily accessible, we’ve been driven to ignorance. It’s become harder to be a creative, to hone a craft, time as it is has become more compressed as our entangled social personas consume us, consume the space we used to give ourselves for true development.
All of this is to say that I experienced all of this, and I see a lot of others doing the same. I can’t condemn social media but the environment that it currently thrives in isn’t doing me any favors. I can’t write it off, after all, I’ll probably share this on social media when I hit the Publish button (although becoming more streamlined, more Luddite does have its appeal).
I’ve started to write again, I’ve started to pay attention to those ideas that are constantly pinging across the outer reaches of my mental atmosphere. It’s energizing, I feel the cool air coming back, I feel like I’ve started breathing for the first time in a very long time. It’s terrifying, honestly. But I realize how little I am without it, without that creative impulse… the world is expansive when I’m in touch with that tiny electrical pulse, the subtle heartbeat that propels. I’m happy to feel it again.