Today is a hollow day.

There are days I feel like I’m striving toward something, striding. Something purposeful, something meaningful. Today is not one of those days. I suppose it’s all right; I suppose you can’t always be on the march, you can’t always double-time through the shadows with a burning brand smoking up the corridors. But it leaves me hollow and empty and with no motion at all. I don’t like being motionless. Well, that’s not entirely correct; I like being motionless when it’s a thing I’ve chosen, and serves a purpose. Or even if I didn’t choose it, but I know it leads to something else later on. An enforced sabbatical. That’s not what this is, though. It’s a permeating fog of dissatisfaction, and I think that’s what I hate most. If something’s not quite right, I like to be able to try to fix it, or think about why leaving it alone … Read on!

Back to square one is not back to square one

The focus of my research has changed again — or more accurately, has refined itself even further, or become more fundamental. The upshot and downside is that the creative output for the research is now completely different (again). No game now, which is all right because I can put that together on my own once I’m finished with this research. Now I’m helping on a larger project. And I couldn’t be happier, to be honest. For someone who spends a lot of time writing, I spend a lot of that time in the company of others. Yeah, sure, I’ve got short stories that have been accepted, and I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels that are quietly keeping warm on the backburners of an extraordinarily large oven, but a lot of the making stuff I that I do is in the company of others. I spend at least one … Read on!

Evolution of research

powered by Fotopedia   So before the middle of the year hit, I was in the middle of refocusing my research from the application of polyphony to transmedia storytelling, to examining polyphony and its role in shared emergent narrative in tabletop role playing games. A friend of mine calls this a “PhD&D.” There are studies on the culture and anthropology of gamers and gaming (and when I say gaming here, I mean tabletop RPGs); there are studies on performativity in gaming, the potential of gaming in therapy, and in education. There are evaluations of gaming materials as literature. But so far, there are no examinations of narrative processes happening in a game in progress. Because polyphony posits that every voice influences the collaborative results of the interaction of those voices in a given work, and because an RPG setting constitutes a voice contributing to a game even partly based in … Read on!

Academic writing

Is it me, or is it like some perverse wrestling sculpture event? It’s like cooking, or carpentry. There’s heavy lifting and assembly and then disassembly when you inevitably get a joist wrong. And there’s a lot of staring. And pressure. And waiting. Scripts for me can grind, sure, but the grind is different, spooling too far too fast in a direction that I later realize doesn’t work. Lots of spooling. Tire smoke. But this theory thinky stuff is a different thing, like trying to walk through gel. Pushing through. Stopping for a breather. Is it always like this? Does it loosen up the more you get used to it? Or is it easier for some people? I can completely understand if it’s not the kind of thing I’ve got a knack for. I dunno. Like this:Like Loading…

Meanwhile, back in academia

One 24 hour plane trip and my white blood cells are all offended. I have come and gone to a fantastic conference (Rethinking Intermediality in the Digital Age), left with my head bursting with ideas and a notebook full of unbelievably smart and astonishing new contacts, and after landing in Brisbane one evening, heading to work the following morning, and then attending fellow DCI cohort presentations the day after that, I am fallen. Stupid cold. It’s not as bad as the lurgi before, but not for lack of trying. On the plus side, reading. On the minus side, poor reading comprehension. In early December I present a progress report of sorts for my research. There’s even a panel evaluation, so, like, no pressure or nothing. Really, I’m not terribly worried about talking. I can talk. Talking is fine. It’s putting this stuff down on paper that feels intimidating. That’s a funny … Read on!

Progress! Though it might not look like it.

I’ve managed a bit of a breakthrough, tightening the pacing on the story (improving the first episode significantly) and getting a much livelier sense of the characters, which is immeasurably valuable. I did it by eliminating/consolidating three characters. Reminds me of a phrase used when it comes to modern media technology: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Polyphonic stories require ensemble casts: it is the nature of the tale. But too many characters and you muddy and confuse everything, and no one remembers who anyone else is. Too few, and you have no tension at all. I’ve had to be mercenary about this story, looking at every scene from a screenwriting perspective: no wasted airtime. No wasted words, no wasted sound, no pointless scenes. But the difference here is that in a three-act film, every scene pushes the story forward on the shoulders of the main character (even though … Read on!

Things fall together Part 2

So, the good news is the reason I haven’t written about Part 2 is because I’m busy with my script. The bad news is that right now I’ve hit a really crunchy bt and I’m backing off for a moment, so here I am. Procrastinating from writing, by writing. This is a first for me. Anyway, if you take a look at the previous entry, I had three things that happened to shake me out of whatever doldrums had locked me feet down. I’ve talked about one, I’m writing about the second here, and now that I’m re-reading that post, number three may escape me because I can’t remember precisely what it was my advisor said. Anyway. Have some squiggly mind maps. The thing with a story that relies on tensions among characters for its very existence is that it needs characters. I’d been talking about bringing Neyu’s sister Pukka … Read on!

!!! Revelation

GAH. So I was filling up hot water bottles, getting ready to head to bed (it’s winter here, and while a Brissie winter isn’t terribly onerous, the lack of any kind of insulation where I live means it’s as cold inside as it is outside), and I was thinking thinking thinking. Polyphony. Yeah. I harp on it. Foundational theory for me. Anyway. The original scope of Neyu’s story was quite big and long. …Ignore the double entendre. It was expansive, and had like three to five parts to it divided into smaller chapters. Which is epic, and not a problem when you’re working on something for the long run. And it’s not to say that I’ll never get to those far-flung places. But I won’t get to them for this thesis. Because all those opposing and conflicting and resonating viewpoints? It’s all in the ship. It’s like I said, what, two … Read on!

Summaries, synopses, structures, and pitfalls

The hard thing about writing a summary is that — at least for me — I need to know more details about the thing I’m summarizing than ever end up in the synopsis. Yes, I realize that seems self-evident when I write it that way, but I’ve been trying to tackle this freaking synopsis for my thesis story and it’s harder than it really should be. And it’s because I’m just not feeling right over certain details. Or, more correctly, I wasn’t feeling right about details. Just as I posted the thing before about structure and plot, if I get all caught up in my head, if I get all tangled up and the whats and wherefores, I lose the heart. There are some structural problems with the initial conception of the story. I wanted to go polyphonic, but I had a singular main character who we follow as she … Read on!

On plot and structure

Sometimes I need to be reminded of the following, as explained by Warren Ellis on his tumblr page. willsee90 asked: What are your thoughts on plot? Breaking rules, especially structural ones, leads to great works, but every story has some kind of structure and thus a set of rules, even if they’re wholly its own. What do you make sure to do when coming up with plots, and what are some plot elements you generally hate/see as too easy? And do you ever use those element if they fit? A: You need to stop obsessing about plot and structure.  They are signposts and supports, not writing stories.  There was a guy who’d yell over and over again that Stories Are Structure, but his own writing never rose above the shape and quality of a middling James Bond film.  Stories are not nothing but structure.  Stories have to breathe.  Otherwise you’re publishing nothing but nicely-dressed … Read on!