My code is trying to kill me

Writing experiment 2

13.08.2019In Writing

The first experiment went quite well, I got a nice story from such a boring theme. Let's do that again.

The random article

Gerd-Liv Valla - Nice, a character

  • a Norwegian former trade union leader - Her trade union history could fit nicely to the setting of Shellville as I have this trade theme
  • resigned in 2007 as a result of the so-called Valla affair - An affair - interesting
  • Valla was politically active in a small communist group. The group split, Valla supported the pro-Stalin faction within the group - Great! Communist are always fun. I lived in a communist country and there are still some supporters around me. I'm very against their agenda, leaning on libertarian side, so it would be a good practice to try to make a good case for communism/socialism and put my own beliefs to test.
  • She was accused of harassment and of authoritarian management - There's nice duality here. Aligned with communism and trade unions, she's advocating workers' rights and then being accused of harassment

The approach

Characters are much harder to write than plot. I tried to write some random character scene but I couldn't. To write a paragraph about your character, you have to know everything about them to make it work: their motivations, fears, desires and what do you want to put them through. I was stuck for month on this scene so I need to change my approach. Instead of a scene, I will try to flesh out this character a little. I'll use John Truby's seven key steps of story structure from his book The Anatomy of Story.

Self-revelation

Following Truby's advice, I'll start with the most important thing: self-revelation.

I heard that before - George R.R. Martin often quote this:

"The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself" ― William Faulkner. And I didn't really understand it before, but now I think I do. And I get now why I admire Martin's Song of Ice and Fire so much. It's a compilation of self-revelations all weaved into one story.

Why is this so important? If you start with the character's back-story, motivation and desires you can get an interesting character at the beginning of the story. But if their motivation do not lead them to interesting self-revelation you either have a boring culmination or you have to artificially change their motivation during the story which can result in an undefined character.

If you start with self-revelation then you defined the most important thing in the story and can adjust beginning of the story to align with the most powerful culmination.

The Character

Let's name the character: Gerdalla. What are my options with her? There are two main possibilities: she could learn that she can't control lives of others and that she has to let them be free or she learns that she can't help people without control over them.

Former sounds preachy because that aligns with my wishes and it's predictable. She could begin as a moderate authoritarian, grow more and more totalitarian but through failures learn to appreciate freedom.

The second version sounds like becoming-a-villain story but she could be good at it. Let's flesh this out.

Psychological Self-Revelation: Gerdalla can't trust people any more. Moral Self-Revelation: People need to be controlled.

  1. Weakness and Need:
    • Psychological Weakness and Need: Gerdalla is too inexperienced and too trusting.
    • Psychological Need: Gerdalla needs to toughen up and learn to think on her own.
    • Moral Weakness: Her inability to manage allows unscrupulous people to take advantage of people she could protect.
    • Moral Need: Gerdalla needs to find a way to protect honest people and punish those who exploit them.
  1. Desire:
    • She wants to become a stronger person and have more power to organize better society.
  1. Opponent:
    • Those who hold power that she needs.
    • Organization that wants to organize society differently. It can reveal itself at first as just a bunch of traders but it could become more sinister.
  1. Plan:
    • Get more power using her connections with authorities.
    • Organize her domain to protect people.
    • Find out who works again her.
  1. Battle:
    • Conflict with those in power.
    • Conflict with organization.
    • Conflict with honest people who change as soon they get some power.
  1. Self-Revelation:
    • Psychological Self-Revelation: Gerdalla can't trust people any more.
    • Moral Self-Revelation: People need to be controlled.
  1. New Equilibrium:
    • Gerdalla is a pragmatic, cynical ruler.
    • She succeeded in organizing fair society and people are happy.
    • But what she learned about human nature makes her sad and dispirited.

Writing experiment 1 - Shellville

26.02.2019In Writing

I'll make an experiment. I want to learn how to write but I don't have any grand idea currently, and even if I had I wouldn't want to spend it on my crappy writing. First I need to get better at it.

Ideas usually came to writers from world around them. I'm not into geting out and having experiences, it takes too much time and can be dangerous. Instead, I'll use Wikipedia to generate random articles and try to get inspiration for some fantasy content.

Good story needs characters, setting and plot and the some conflict that ties them into story. I'll generate random articles, turn them into small writups of character, setting or plot and then think up some conflict that connects them into story.

Let's start.

First random article is... Shelbyville, Indiana. Ok. Fine. I got the most boring city in the world. Let's see if I can make something out of it.

There is a story of some Jacob Whetzel who cut a trail from east which was important for later settlement. Let's work with that.

Exposition

Forest area of ... divides Shellville on the coast from Melanopolis in the fertile plains of the river Melo. Trade is done through the see and river, making the travel long and slow. A trade company decided to clear the path through the forest, despite previous failed attempts.

Story

Jacob lowered his axe and suspiciously stared into woods. It was the third time he noticed a deer between the trees. With all the racket they were producing, no animal should come anywhere near. "Something's not right!" he yelled. Multiple simultaneous thuds and thunks around him were replaced with murmur as woodcutters near him stopped working one by one using the break to wipe off some sweat or stretch their hands while waiting for an explanation. When even the farthest axe threw its last thud, it was time to explain why they stopped. In his mind he was picking the right words. "I saw a dear!" sounded too banal, "Something's wrong!" was undefined. He decided on "There is something in the woods!" but he never got the chance to say it.

Woodcutters from the right flank started walking backwards, their axes held more like a defensive weapons than as a tool, their gaze toward the woods in front of them. "What the..." is all Jacob managed to think as the sight before him sent the chills down his neck. Few steps in the woods, a group of animals stood still. Deers, wolves, boars, a black bear, all unnaturaly together glaring at the people in the clearing. An eagle, ravens and crows, quiet on the branches above them.

"Move!" he yelled and started retreating in the direction of the cleared path they made, walking backwards, stil looking in the woods. Pain shoot from his ankle when he stepped on the axe somebody left in the ground, dull edge sharp enough to remove some skin. This throw him off balance and when he colided with somebody, this threw him on the ground. He fell on a block of wood, bruising his ribs. The sharp, pulsating pain from his ankle and the dull pain from his side diminished instantly when he heard flapping of thousand of wings. The birds made a cloud over the clearing as they attacked. He covered his head as one bite into his skalp. There is no other cover in the clearing, animals are in the woods so he started running down the path they were clearing for the last month.

When the sounds of screetching and screeming were at some distance, he managed to stop and look back.

How to continue

  • Explore the trade between Shellville and Melanopolis
  • Who is Jacob? What made him lead this expedition?
  • What about animals? Is somebody controlling them? Are they pack-sentient