Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to tell The Boring Story

My youngest was asking me for a story as we wandered through Austin yesterday, spending eight long hours scouring the city for wedding clothes. I shouldn't complain too much: I had my first Orange Julius in years. And the pretzel was nice. But it was also my first mall visit in a long time, and I try to avoid those.

So she wanted a story, and I set about telling her The Boring Story.

My Boring Story was about a girl who lived in a Boring house where nothing much happened, where she was left all alone all day by her parents, except that she had a nanny who was a very tall fellow with long limbs. It wasn't long, despite how Boring the town was, before she was swept up in an adventure, her nanny showing up one morning in full chain armor, with a huge club, and carrying her off to visit a wizard.

At six years old, my youngest was able to figure out that the more I said things were boring, the more crazy they were likely to get. But she wasn't old enough to get tired of that joke. She'd keep asking me for more and I'd keep saying "Why? It's such a boring story, I don't know why you'd want to hear more. But it's true that while they were visiting the wizard, he twiddled his fingers and a cloud flew out of a hole near the ceiling and floated down to her, and it was carrying a bowl of pink stuff, and the pink stuff turned out to be ice cream."

And so on. So far the nanny, whose name is Cranston, has run off with the wizard to fight a dragon and some warriors in black armor, while the girl stayed back at the wizard's tower and watched the action in a crystal ball. The Boring story helped my girl cope with trying on clothes and waiting for her mom and sister rather well.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Madame Lumiere

I rather enjoyed this story on the Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine/site: The Six Skills of Madame Lumiere. The story succeeds in both being interesting for itself and hinting at a great larger setting and plot. I love the way it shows a Faerie that impinges on the real world ... as well as humans who impinge upon Faerie.

UPDATED 5/16/14... I see that I had two posts about this same story. I'm consolidating them here. Here's what I said in the other post, in an attempt to say what I like about this story:

I love the main character's voice. I love the vision of a world infested with fairies, a world where fairies move alongside humans, and humans sometimes visit fairyland. I love the twined obligations, and I love the hints of the larger world beyond this story.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Scrivener first look

 I've heard good things about the Scrivener fiction writing tool. It's one of these tools that tries to encapsulate everything you need for a complex writing project into one tool. I'm suspicious of that approach, but it has interesting features and there is a free beta right now, so I'm trying it.

Here's a link to the Windows beta page, which is what is new now. The Mac version has been out for a while. 

I installed it this morning and had a look. It has a lot of nice features, I have to say.
- Built in templates for short stories and novels. It also has screenwriting and nonfiction; I'm just not interested in it for those as I have lots of tools for that stuff and that's my day job anyway.
- You basically write stuff as chunks of text...but every chunk has an attached index card of comments/metadata that won't show up in print, and you can view and manipulate the cards separately.
In general it seems a great tool for any project where you want to have a lot of notes and associate them with your final text.
- You have a treeview  of all the stuff in your writing project.
- It supports PDF, RTF, XHTML, DOC, DOCX and LibreOffice/OpenOffice ODT outputs. Note that DOCX and ODT are XML outputs.

It works a lot like an xml toolchain, in that you are producing source files that get compiled into final output. But it hides the implementation and has a good GUI for it.

So the only complaint I could possibly make about it is that it's not open source so I can't (presumably) hack at the guts of it. I think the price when it is out is gonna be $40, too, which seems super reasonable.

The other thing I'd want is an XML output that semantically marks all the notes and metadata in a simple and easy to understand way. An output like that would allow you to post-process it with XML tools, so you could completely customize it. I wonder if they use XML under the covers or if everything is just in a database.

Not sure if I'll get around to trying an actual project in it before the 9/30 end of the beta. That would be the best test. I don't feel a strong NEED for this thing though...but I would seriously consider it for a novel. That, to me, is where it would shine: it would really help you manage multiple layers of story structure.

As several tools have offered recently, it has a full-screen editing mode too, for when you want to focus on churning out some prose.

It would be hard to lose: even if you decided later that you didn't like it, it would be easy to get your data back out of it and into some other format. 

Interesting things about Arabic

The language has some really interesting features that I didn't know about till I read this article:

Two of my favorites: letters change shape depending on neighbor letters, and the language has a template structure that works like a root: words that share the same template have some common meaning, but the word sound and shape changes more than if you just had a common root.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The fellow running the Ars Ludi blog seems to have some good things to say regarding RPGs. Here's an article about using Backdrop Plots in your role-playing game. And here's a series about a sandbox campaign, where, interestingly, the players were required to do all the scheduling:

What I like about  that idea is that the fellow describes how to set up a gaming campaign that is just full of stuff to do, but leave what to do and when to do it entirely up to the that instead of a group of people gathering regulalry to play whatever the GM has planned, the players must garner interest in exploring, say, "the ruined abbey on the west hills" and get enough people to show up for that.