Monthly Archives: May 2010

In Which RPGs Play an Inspiring Part

I may or may not have mentioned before how important RPGs have been to my writing process.  Don’t just write me off as one of those people who just writes lousy stories based off of their Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, though.  That’s not me at all.  Rather, what I’m referring to is my tendency to come up with interesting story ideas when I’ve been sitting around playing our pen-and-paper-game-du-jour.  Sometimes these ideas are related to the game that I’m involved in, but more often I find that the mindset I get into when I’m really into a game is also conducive to coming up with interesting ideas that I can then expand upon with an eye towards writing something substantial.

Part of what makes RPGs such a good jumping-off point for story inspiration is that they often feature mythological creatures which can be borrowed in one way or another for a story.  This borrowing, of course, usually leads me down a long, winding path of links on Wikipedia as I look up more information, essentially getting some of my story written for me without my having to do much except for a bit of virtual legwork.

I could go on at length about stealing for fun and profit, but the guys at Writing Excuses just did that for me, and I don’t think that I can really improve upon what they have to say on the subject.

I’ll close out by saying that, while playing RPGs gets my mind ticking towards writing, I’m not everybody.  The main point is to expose yourself to as many different influences as you can.  What RPGs have in their favor is their tendency to mash lots of aspects of different cultures, especially the folklore of different cultures, into one  place, making for a diverse slice of different creatures and concepts to get you sitting with your preferred writing implements and working on a story.

Red, Part IV — Completion of Draft One and Next Steps

First, an apology for the scarcity of updates recently; my semester was wrapping up, so everything was getting more than a little crazy, but I promise that it will only happen two more times, and not again until mid-December.

Completing project Red taught me a lot about writing.  The first thing was that I can write a substantial piece in a fairly small amount of time.  From start to finish, I spent about two-and-a-half weeks of writing at least a thousand words a day, and the first draft clocks in at almost 22,000 words.  A lot of this was possible because I was able to turn off my internal editor for the sake of making deadline.  In this case, my class demanded a finished draft by a certain date.  It didn’t have to be very polished; that wasn’t the goal.  The goal was to write a novella, and I did that ably.

There were things that happened while I was writing the story that I didn’t expect–I introduced a character I never originally planned on, for one thing–but now it’s done.  This was, in many ways, the hardest part.  Subsequent drafts are going to be focused on revising what exists and making it better.

Having to worry more about finishing a first draft than producing a great story on my first try helped take away a lot of the stress, though I still had to remind myself that it didn’t have to be perfect when I got locked up on one part of the story or another.

So what’s next for project Red?  Right now, I’m just sitting on the manuscript, waiting to hear back from some more alpha-readers.  I got a lot of good feedback from my workshop group already, but more feedback is always good, and I’ve asked several people with different backgrounds to look the story over so that I can make the second draft as good as I can.  I’m also just sitting on the piece because it’s still too fresh; I can’t look at it anymore right now, so I’m focusing on other projects, including two short urban fantasy stories, which have had time to settle in my mind a bit more.  There are deadlines for submissions at various magazines.  The important part, though, is that I’m keeping up with my writing.  When you finish one project, start another one.

The next steps for project Red, once I’ve gotten the aforementioned feedback, are revisions focusing on issues of pacing in the latter portion of the story and overall clarity and narrative structure.  The title also needs work.  “Red” was more of a placeholder than anything when I actually got down to writing the thing.  It worked in my mind when I originally conceived of the story, but the story has changed a lot in the particulars since that time.  The title is something I can work on anytime.  Titles are difficult for me (I generally borrow appropriate song titles), but they’re something I can think on without actually having to think too much about revisions.

In Which Things Are Only Vaguely Related

Blah, blah, blah.  School’s eating my life but the term’s almost over.  Etcetera, etcetera.

You may, however, be interested in my semester project for my computer science class, a graphical zombie infection simulation.  The final program, along with its source code and some other random crap, is available online under a
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

The program and all associated files can be found here.  Simply download the zip, extract all the files, and run GUI Zombies.jar from the root folder.

EDIT: The location of the graphical zombie simulation has been changed.  It has been migrated over to its own page at <>.

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