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Ai!

What’s this? A mascot for a (semi) secret new project? Ooh…

Also: yes! I actually inked something! And then cell-shaded it! I, like, never do either of those things but… this turned out okay? There are a few spots I’m not happy with and might revisit eventually before [SPOILERS REDACTED] but, other than that… whee! Crab-robot person! Their name is Ai! Because lawlz obvious jokes.

2019-07-05T12:13:46+10:005th July, 2019|Tags: books, csfg, my art, sff, unnatural order, writing|

eyeofthevirus Walkthrough.

So, true story: Once upon a time I wrote a short little MMO tie-in ARG. Like, not officially. Just for fun. The game was the then-Secret World, currently Secret World Legends, and I posted the initial link to the forums and it was… received pretty well? I think. Anyway, people definitely had a go at it, and they definitely thought they finished it.

Here’s the thing: no-one ever finished it. I know, because the last step sends me an email when someone completes it. I have never gotten an email.1

The other day, after a long, long hiatus, I picked up SWL again and… discovered I didn’t hate it as much as I’d initially thought? Which made me kinda nostalgic for my old ARG. And, well. Made me figure it’s probably about time I wrote a walkthrough. So here we go!

(more…)

  1. I mean, that wasn’t from me. So I know the thing works. []
2019-05-03T08:44:02+10:003rd May, 2019|Tags: arg, mmos, video games, writing|

Hot Tips For Writing Tech in Fic

RFID

RFID tags are not GPS devices. Most of them (passive RFID, i.e. the sort in your credit cards and pets) don’t “broadcast” per se and require a nearby reader to operate.

Powered RFIDs require a separate battery and antennae, generally have a fairly short range (few hundred meters, max), and are orders of magnitude larger than passive devices.

Cryptography

There’s no such thing as “military-grade encryption.” There are military standards for encryption (most notably FIPS 140), but they generally just specify algorithms and configurations. In this the Year Of Our Annuit Cœptis 2019, most modern consumer-grade technology comes with FIPS-compliant crypto configurations by default (e.g. Windows Bitlocker, macOS FileVault, iOS, etc.). It’s very difficult to “hack” but if you put a shit password in front of it, you’re still boned.

Incidentally, the “military-grade cryptography” thing is (asides from being a marketing buzzword) a hold-over from the pre-2000s era, when the US government did have export restrictions on certain cryptographic algorithms, effectively to deny anyone who wasn’t the US access to crypto the US could not hack.

These restrictions (mostly) ended when tech activists started getting tattoos depicting restricted crypto code, usually RSA implementations, effectively turning themselves into “restricted munitions” and tl;dr the laws got challenged and rendered unenforcable. Also, the internet happened.

Nowadays, some restrictions do still exist, but they’re fairly specific and almost never what anyone who uses terms like “military-grade encryption” is actually talking about.

2019-06-26T14:36:17+10:0028th April, 2019|Tags: fanfic, profic, tech, writing|

The Firewall.

From a while back now, but still relevant: J.W. Alden on his experiences with Writers of the Future.

(For the benefit of those outside of the SFF author community: the WoF is a well-known annual emerging writer’s award/anthology. It’s also run by the Church of Scientology and, as such, has long been… controversial. Alden’s post is a pretty good explanation of why.)

2018-08-28T10:58:46+10:007th February, 2019|Tags: publishing, sff, writing|

Different voices.

Author Kaelan Rhywiol shares zir experiences with writing and rejection while marginalized. This is a long interview and much, ah, meatier than a lot of these tend to be, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything Rhywiol says. In particular, I think xie is a little too fatalistic when xie says things like, “someone who writes as much diversity into my work […] is likely never going to find representation.” Obviously this is Rhywiol’s personal experience which is incontestable in that sense, but I don’t think it’s objectively true, if only for the fact that I personally know people who are marginalized on multiple axes who have found mainstream representation/publication.1

I also kind of wince at the, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my writing skill” line. It’s said semi-offhand in the context of believing in one’s work which, yes, is a critical component for anyone looking for any sort of publication2 but, like… craft is an ever-evolving skillset. And believing in your work is not the same as thinking there’s “nothing wrong” with it; most authors I know, starting with myself, struggle to go back and read things they’ve written two or three or more years ago for exactly this reason. I suspect this isn’t quite how Rhywiol intended for this comment to be taken, but… yeah. All the same.

Those two things aside, Rhywiol’s overall points (e.g. about preserving mental health in the face of rejections) I think are important, and the whole interview is well worth a read.

  1. For what it’s worth, I don’t usually publicly say this for a variety of reasons but, yes. This is technically true of yours truly. []
  2. In its most basic sense, it would seem unethical to expect people to, like, pay for something you made and think is garbage. []
2018-08-27T15:44:07+10:0030th January, 2019|Tags: publishing, writing|

Endless endgame.

How superhero films inherited all the same damn problems as superhero comics.

Also shout-out to Film Crit Hulk for apparently having discovered how to turn the capslock key off on his keyboard.

Also also the whole thing about “dazzle everyone with constantly escalating conflict with no stakes and no payoff” reminds me a lot of, well. This.

2018-11-26T08:21:16+11:0024th November, 2018|Tags: film, pop culture, writing|

Conference Tips: Writer Edition.

Given that Conflux is apparently this weekend (yikes, where did the month go?), it seems portentous to have stumbled across this list of Hot Tips for Writers At Conferences

2018-09-27T07:31:07+10:0027th September, 2018|Tags: agents, conflux, cons, publishing, writing|

Nonflict.

Rachel Manija Brown on story without conflict.

I’m always really (a-har) conflicted by these sorts of posts, because on the one hand I agree—I love quiet scenes and cutrainfic and so on—but, on the other, I think in some respects they sell the notion of “conflict” itself short. Yes, there is an over-emphasis on superficial external conflict (e.g. violence, arguments) in a lot of media nowadays, see pretty much every action movie, for example. But, also, I think it’s possible for subtler forms of conflict to exist within a narrative, including metatextual conflict between the narrative and itself, the narrative and other works, or the narrative and the reader.

Brown mentions the “secret garden” genre, for example, as one that tends to be without conflict. But I’d argue that the attraction of the secret garden is, in fact, rooted in a metatextual conflict in this latter sense. That is, it’s the conflict between the reader’s unfulfilled desire for their own secret garden and the fact that the protagonist has one that the reader, by the very action of reading, intrudes upon and eventually takes over (by subsuming the book, and thus the garden, into their own memories).

Curtainfic, meanwhile, is a work that’s almost always in conflict with its own source material. A solid third of all fics tagged curtainfic on the AO3, for example, are in the Supernatural fandom, with the next biggest chunk coming from the MCU. These are not canons known for their fluffy domesticity! As someone who loves a curtainfic, and particularly loves its Villains Out Shopping subtrope, I can assert the fun in both reading and writing these scenarios is definitely in exploring the conflict their quiet mundanity presents against either the canon or the characters. (See also: why villain/antihero/antagonist fandoms tend to be full of “fluffy” memes.)

Like Roadhog and his pachimari.

For another, related, example, see any time anyone trots out kishōtenketsu as a “story without conflict” trope… and then proceed to give a handful of examples all of which include some kind of conflict. The fact that the conflict is usually framed as the story presenting contrasting narrative elements, with the conflict between them occurring within the reader’s head as a kind of dialectic—as opposed to direct “on the page” action—does not, in fact, actually mean the narrative is “without conflict”. But, like. Good luck getting anyone to admit that.

“But, Alis!” you might be thinking. “What you’re describing is contrast, not ‘conflict’. You’ve even used the word multiple times!”

Yeah. And what I’d argue is that, in almost all circumstances, when people talk about “conflict” in the context of narrative what they actually mean to talk about is contrast (a.k.a. tension). Two random characters having a fight is conflict, but it isn’t narratively interesting unless you’re one of those people who nuts to mechanized descriptions of fight scenes.1 Two characters having a fight over differing ideologies, on the other hand, is interesting, particularly when each side has some valid points and the audience themselves is engaged with attempting to determine who to root for and why. This is also why so many “popcorn villains” are so flat and kinda bullshit.

Think about, say, Strickland in Shape of Water, for example, who is pretty much the epitome of an uncompelling antagonist. This isn’t the fault of Michael Shannon, who does great; it’s because in the context of the narrative Strickland is just a one-note bad guy. He’s a bigot who hates the fish man! Okay, well… good on him, I guess. But the reality is Strickland could be replaced by literally anything else—including nothing at all—and the film’s conflict would remain the same. Why? Because the conflict in the film isn’t “oh no gubba gonna getcha fish, gurl”. It’s “ahaha in every other story like this the fish guy is either evil, or dies, or turns human at the end”. It’s a metatextual conflict, in other words, between the audience and their expectations for the genre. This is also, incidentally, why I thought the film was kinda meh; because I read a lot of monster romance, I have no genre expectation of the narrative going in any way other than “girl fucks fish man”. Because that’s how monster romances work!2 Which means the actual narrative itself felt empty in the “superficial conflict no contrast/tension” way.3 Also, the romance was really flat. Like, really flat.

I did look pretty, though. So… there’s that I guess.4 Also, it won a bunch of Oscars, which just goes to show why narrative conflict is such a minefield, since it leans so heavily on being able to anticipate the mental/emotional states of your audience…

  1. No judgement, you do you. []
  2. Except when they’re, like, “boy fucks fish man”, or “girl fucks eldritch horror”, or “enby shares non-sexual intimacy with demon”, or whatever. []
  3. Also see: the Obvious Hints that Sally is also, in fact, a fish monster. Meaning the story isn’t even “girl fucks fish man”, it’s “fish woman fucks fish man” which… eeeeeh. []
  4. Though don’t get me started on the whole “sassy Black best friend with deadbeat husband” and “tragic queer uncle” tropes because, ugh. What is it about del Toro films and throwing intersectionality under the goddamn bus? []
2018-11-26T08:10:31+11:0023rd September, 2018|Tags: fandom, fanfic, film, pop culture, writing, xp|

Laundry lists.

Alex Acks on writing for games.

I think my main take-home from this is that maybe, just maybe, microtransaction-based puzzle games are not, yanno. “Story-first” experiences…

2019-04-29T12:00:27+10:0013th September, 2018|Tags: gaming, video games, writing|

Thoughts on (SFF) Writing

For all that there tends to be reams and reams written on writing craft, and how that relates to a work being “good”, I think the function of id gets overlooked a lot. And part of the reason is I think, historically, SFF writing’s id has been… invisibilized, in a way? Like, there’s an Assumed SFF Id and where works cater to that id, the “iddishness” of them isn’t remarked on.

And it’s only sort of recently that works that deviate from that model (which is very straight, very white, very middle-class, very male, and very UK-/US-centric) have gotten any kind of substantive traction.

I think one of the issues is that writing craft has a kind of objective element to it. Like, writer voice varies but at some fundamental level things like prose, theme, structure and so on can be analysed as being either “good” or “bad”.

But a work can be “good” (i.e. have solid craft) but still not work for any one reader because the id doesn’t line up, and id is purely subjective; either a trope is Your Bag Baby or it’s not.

Ditto the other way around: a work can have… not great craft (or even outright lousy craft), but still be adored because it hits 110% of all a reader’s id-buttons.

The problem is I think a lot of reviewing/analysis/etc. of published works is not very good at making this distinction. Which is why you get the, “Ugh, how did this get published?” argument. (Spoiler: because it hit people’s ids enough in a way that translates into cold, hard cash.)

And, on the flip side, you get situations where people write very iddish works that do very well in their particular market, thinking that they’re “good writers” who no longer have anything to learn about craft. When that is… obviously not the case, ref. their actual works.

And, like. This isn’t saying that anyone should tone down their ids; some of the most successful and lauded works in history are just so obviously raw belching idfests. But rather, don’t mistake id for craft, and don’t assume that just because you’re good at craft, your id is for everyone, or that if you’re good at it, your craft is on-point.

(This post brought to you by a bunch of things I’ve seen and done recently, all freezing together in my brain this cold winter morning. Thanks for coming to my toot talk.)

2018-08-17T21:10:16+10:0013th August, 2018|Tags: writing|
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