Unfortunately, few readers comment on my posts. The comments have, for the most part, been positive, even the critical ones. Given the amount of comments, I did not have a policy to police the comments. All of that has changed, however.
I am going to be policing the comments. Abusive comments will not be allowed. Period. There is far too much negativity on the internet as it is. Let’s have respectful discussions, even if there is strong disagreement.
My post on George R.R. Martin’s comments regarding the possibility of including an explicit gay male sex scene is at the root of the issue. To date, the two reader comments (I trashed the second one) have been abusive. I responded to the first. I trash the second.
If you want to debate me on the merits of diversifying characters, especially protagonists, please do so. I look forward to it. Just don’t be abusive about it. I will trash your comments if they are from now on.
If I am honest with myself, the portal fantasy will not be the first of the four projects I wrote about last October to be completed. That honor will, more than likely, go to Black Magic (which has a new and better working title). The frustration is that the portal fantasy is one of my oldest ideas. I really want to write a portal fantasy. But, in the end, I have no satisfactory idea where the hell I’m going.
The earliest iteration of the project was sword and sorcery. The series of stand alone novels followed the adventures of Leo Crowley (Tyler’s antecedent) after he became trapped in a fairly standard Bronze Age inspired world. The main difference between this older version of the portal fantasy is that Leo became merged with a demon shortly after he is summoned to the fantasy world by an evil wizard. At the time, I liked the idea. It was a decent juvenile effort, but too derivative of traditional sword and sorcery. (I want to write a sword and sorcery series, but I want to make it my own). So I abandoned the project for years.
Gradually, I began to wonder what would happen if a fantasy city intruded onto present day Earth, thus was born Two Cities. Characters from the present day (at least at the time of writing) travel through time and to other worlds for an adventure or two (or more), but characters from fantasy worlds rarely return the favor (that I know of). It is time, I think, to change that. I like this idea. There is a domesticity and literariness that calls to me. But where is the conflict (or one that I don’t feel is needlessly stupid)?
Finally, I returned to a modified form of my original idea with two leads, Jett Drake and Tyler Spang. As I wrote in my series of posts on the portal fantasy in October, Tyler had all the action and Jett just hung around. I’ve recently hit upon in interesting arc for Jett, but now Tyler is in the lurch. I don’t want Tyler’s adventures to amount to nothing more than sex tourism. The idea is strong and I like it. But it needs work.
Honestly, I should step back from portal fantasies for a while and figure out fully what the hell I want to do with these projects. What is it, ultimately, that I want to write?
I have an answer. I want to combine both Two Cities and The Journey (for lack of a better name) with a few more ideas into a grand epic fantasy that spans Earth and two or three fantasy worlds. I want to explore how Earth would react to real life fantasy worlds. I want to imagine what types of diplomacy, trade, and tourism could develop. And I want to see how Earth characters would deal with other worlds facing epic conflicts, moments, events, etc.
This is very ambitious stuff. Creating two to three worlds would strain my world building to the breaking point and beyond. I don’t know if I can do it. Nor, honestly, do I know how to make it all work at the moment.
I have a lot to think about.
Mark Matthews, the protagonist of Coming Out on Top, is a senior about to start his final semester at Orlin University. But he’s been hiding a secret from his best friends (and roommates), Ian and Penny. He’s gay and it is well past time to tell them. From that initially nerve wracking yet happy moment, the next few months are a whirlwind of study, tutoring, drama, the search for a boyfriend, sex, and maybe love. Coming Out on Top is a fun, crazy game that I cannot help but be addicted to. I love this game.
I play the game in the manner I promised. I pursue all of the guys at once. However, the game does not allow for going after multiple guys past a certain point. To date, I have completed Brad, Ian, and Jed’s stories. I’ve gotten some way into Alex’s and have yet to get to a third date with Phil.
Brad’s path is endearing and cute. Ian’s route is hot as hell (the final scenes are reason enough to buy this game). Jed’s story is sexy and ultimately sweet (and not what I expected). Alex’s path is, so far, revealing of a vulnerable man hidden behind a hyper competitive facade. Phil’s route, though I’ve read he lightens up, is still hampered by Phil’s initial bad attitude.
I really enjoyed the three stories I completed. But I cannot say I’m terribly fond of Alex’s story so far. And I am still not fond of Phil, even after a second date.
The writing draws the player in and doesn’t let go until he or she finishes the particular path. For a first foray into video games and video game writing, Obscura does a rather remarkable job. The various plots are interesting and well researched. The characterization is good and subtle, though the secondary characters lack depth.
I do have problems with the narrative. The explanation for why Mark waited so long to come out to his friends is still problematic for me, given that he has known Penny and Ian for years. Another problematic poor explanation is Mark not knowing that Penny’s extended family is biracial with all of its attendant baggage (not that this is the only moment where Mark comes across as being racist).
The dialogue is problematic at times. Conversations between characters are often well written. But there are moments where the dialogue bogs down in trying to be so hip that it plunges into artificiality. The worst offender, so far, is Jed’s story line where the argument for independence and authenticity comes across as cliche (I would not be surprised, however, if Phil’s story doesn’t come out as the worst offender. The second date is a pain in the ass to read through).
The biggest problem I have with the writing is the amount of text. Yes, this is a visual novel, but the amount of text, especially descriptive text, and the usage of the second person takes away from the enjoyment of the game. Especially when the reading experience is more akin to telling than showing. Again, more cut scenes would have been preferable.
Turning to the art, I’m actually torn by the cutscenes (by Doubleleaf). The scenes I have seen have all been hot and well done. But I don’t know if the anime style is really the best. Alex, Ian, Jed, and Brad are all very well done (barring Ian’s beard in some scenes). But I cannot stand how Alex looks in the cut scenes. He looks too young.
The game rocks, but it can use a more interconnected story. If you play for all the guys, you will get Alex. If you decide that you would rather swim or run the treadmill at the second gym scene, Alex’s route is cut off and you will move on to Brad. I assume if you refuse to tutor Brad after the first tutoring session, Phil’s path will open up for further advancement. If you refuse to go on the second date, Ian’s route becomes available. Finally, if you don’t go to the frat party with Ian, Jed’s story becomes available. The order of the romantic options is determined by events following the second gym scene (and if you attend the second date/ tutoring session). The fact that the various romantic options do not interact is, honestly, a disappointment. A minor disappointment.
I still love the game. I am proud I bought it. I am about to play it again after I post this. Hopefully, this game is a success and we can look forward to many sequels or follow ups to Coming Out on Top from Obscura.
I should be reviewing Coming Out on Top right now. Or, if not that, playing the hell out of the game. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait a few more days before I can purchase the game. Which sucks. I want the game now.
While I wait, I’ve been reconsidering my game play plan. I originally wanted to play the game by selecting the options/ answers that I would give first before breaking the game down into specific love interests. (From the comments I’ve read so far, it does not appear that any other player has taken this route. They have, is seems, played the game targeting a single love option to “good endings” before moving on to the next love option.) I’m also looking forward to checking out the Brofinder (if that is an option for the just released version of the game and not an extension).
Next week cannot come soon enough. Look for the review to come about a week after that.
In the wake of my National Novel Writing Month collapse, I’ve been busy digging myself out. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made over the past few weeks. But, as always, there is still much work ahead of me.
Though project Black Magic did not collapse, I didn’t really understand the project until a few days ago when the theme came to me in a flash of inspiration (and was there the whole damn time in hindsight). The theme brings all of my disconnected ideas and dreams for this project together in a way that it wasn’t before. I wanted an epic fantasy set on contemporary Earth, and now I’ve got it.
I also admit that I didn’t do enough research when I wrote about the project in October. Reading Soulstealers by Philip A. Kuhn and A Guide to Mexican Witchcraft have been revelations. I know what I’m going to write. I know the story.
But I’m not done with the research, yet. There is still so much I need to know before I feel comfortable writing this story.
The biggest problem arising from the November Collapse is project The Journey. I want to write this story. I have to write this story. I will write this story.
I just need to figure out where the hell I’m going with it without making the world building look silly.
I have an idea but I need to work on it more.
And, ultimately, I need to just take the plunge.
But, The Journey is not alone as a possible portal fantasy. What about Two Cities? I, honestly, think I can do both.
The Journey is, by design, an adventure novel, a quest. Two Cities, by contrast, is a novel of adaptation and community. So, writing both projects probably will not lead to overlapping or repetition.
I know now, too, that the story I want to start with is The Journey. Now, I just need to figure out a new title and get to work world building.
I decided this year to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I was excited. Until I sat down at my computer and tried to pants a novel.
I’m not a pantser. I need to know where the story is going before I start. Otherwise, I bog down trying to figure out which path is the best for the overall work. That’s if I’m careful and lucky. If I’m not, all of my ideas and projects crumble like shoddy architecture, burying me in weeks of excited frustration. I’m still digging myself out (and battling on heck of a cold).
Where did I go wrong?
I wanted my first project to be the portal fantasy (The Journey until further notice). Out of all of my projects, this is likely going to be the one that I go all in for. I really want to write this novel. But in my drive to write, I crashed head first into a world building road block that did not crumble.
I’ve written about the problems I’ve had with world building The Journey. I have the basics down. I know that the first part of the novel/ series is set in a city-state which is a mix of Venice, New Orleans, Rio de Janiero, Cyrene, and Singapore. The city lies at the mouth of a river which serves as the major transportation hub for the entire region (which I’ve come to call the Bloody Coast). The city also holds strategic control over a bay within the the Bloody Coast.The city is one of many independent colonies dotting the coast. There are also a number of indigenous states on the coast and into the interior. All good.
The problem lies in the inspirations for the indigenous states. Originally, in keeping with the New Orleans inspiration for the main city, those states were inspired by the American South. But the city is also parts Rio and Singapore, so I find myself interested in exploring the Americas and Asia further for inspiration. Right now, I’m leaning towards a mix. Some states will be inspired by the Maya, others the Aztecs, and a few based on the South (one definitely on Texas). This is okay, I guess.
(I’m working on a secondary world which will utilize numerous inspirations in construction. Therefore, I’m worried about cultural appropriation. Is it okay for me to use the Maya, the Aztec, China, Japan, the Zulu, Zanzibar, etc. for inspiration? The cultures I create won’t be xeroxed copies. The cultures and states will likely be mixtures of influences. But I’m still worried. And that worry is crippling.)
Language is also proving itself to be a pain in my ass. Right now, the city is named Delphin. Delphin, lying at the mouth of the Delphus River, has a special relationship with dolphins, both in the river and in the bay (which might be called the Bay of Delphin). Nearby colonial states are named Suchos, Uto, Porphyria, Kalamos, etc. Other states would have been named Barbatos, Paimon, Thevru, Toaur, Chloropetras, etc. Most of the names are sourced from real ancient languages. The names of local characters are similarly sourced. Horrible.
Basing naming on corrupted or mutated forms of ancient words is okay if I were writing an independent secondary world. But I’m not. The protagonists come from Earth, so the fantasy world cannot have names that are blatantly based off of Earth languages, no matter how remote or changed. This world does. I should change it but I don’t have the time nor do I want to sound silly. Hence my conundrum.
I desperately want to write this novel, as much as I still want to write the superhero story, even with all of the problems it is causing me.
But a part of me wants to reverse the portal fantasy and write Two Cities. Hence things begin to snow ball. And I haven’t even touched on the collapse of Black Magic.
This whole month has been one pain in the ass. Hopefully, what I make of this mess will be far better than what I had before.
I can’t wait! Coming Out on Top will be released in a month and a few days! Damn it, I want the game now! But a month isn’t so bad.
I plan on reviewing the game shortly after I download it and play it. I will play the game to completion at least once. So it may take me a little while to get the review up.
I’m sure I will love the game. But I will criticize the game as needed.
However, I will try to avoid the constructive criticism that is, honestly, too late to impart except as it relates to advice for future games in this genre. An example would be my second Coming Out on Top post. Or, if you don’t want to go and look for that, here is an example: I have an issue with the introduction of Phil in the demo. The intention is humorous (Mark is not expecting a crazier white male Penny not a hot, African American marine). The joke fails with some unsettling implications. A better solution would have been to make Penny herself African American. The joke now works and the lack of people of color is addressed.
Again, I cannot wait for this game. I must hold out until then.
For the first time, I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo. All I need to decide now is which project I’m going to be writing.
Over the course of this month, I have focused the majority of my posts on four projects. Will I write any of them?
Redwind is problematic. I want to write an epic fantasy set on Earth. I think using superheroes makes for one of the best possible approaches. However, there is also an unquestionable glut of superheroes on the market. I am, therefore, disinclined to write superheroes, even if a part of me still wants to write tales of costumed adventurers.
Black Magic is not problematic. I will write this book. It will be a lone novel with no sequels. It might be my first book.
I do really want The Journey (the portal fantasy) to be my first book(s).As much as I want this, I recognize that I have a number of problems with this text. I need to work on world building. I need to get over my fear of making up words. I need to figure out what I want. And I need to be mindful of the politics. All of that point to this series being pushed back.
Hobbes County, then, is likely going to be my second book. Like Black Magic, I will write this book. It will be another lone novel with no sequels.
I will say this, though, these four projects are not the only ones I have a mind to write. And, in the end, I may very well change my mind on all of these.
I’m going to write a series. I just don’t know if it will be composed of novels. I’d rather write a comic book series. To be honest, I prefer comics, manga, and television series over novel series. Especially when it comes to fantasy.
Fantasy novel series tend to be big, fat books (unless they can standalone). Take Brandon Sanderson’s latest super series, The Stormlight Archive. The first two books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) are individually over a thousand pages each. If that trend continues over ten novels, there will be over ten thousand pages. And how much will not be bloat?
That is my big problem with gigantic fantasy novels. A good proportion of the novels do not advance the plot. Rather, the novels meander or worse, stand still over the course of thousands of pages. I detest this kind of fantasy.
Which makes me wonder, if I detest the dominant form of fantasy, do I really dislike fantasy? Sometimes, I do have to wonder if I’m not just wasting my time. But, I must remember, I am a harsh critic who rarely likes anything I read. That is certainly true of most contemporary fantasy fiction.
Perhaps the answer is more straightforward. Unless I gorge myself on a series, I spend an hour of my time on any one television series at a time. For comics and manga, I can read a volume in less than an hour. When it comes to those big, meandering novels, it can take me weeks. I have to devote a large amount of my time for something I might hate.
That is why, honestly, If I am going to write a series, I’d rather it be a comic book.
That said, it might be tempting to challenge myself into writing the kind of novel series that I want to read.