Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Witching Hour

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth: IV.i 10-19; 35-38 

The season of fear has descended upon us in full strength, howling winds and cold rains (in some places fiercer than in others - keep safe), and with it, Halloween! Ghouls and Goblins and Ghosties, oh my! These may be the final few hours of the holiday proper, but don't think we've forgotten our dues.

While we've had a bigger pic for you in mind, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for next year to see it... See, the little demons here in Somnova have been busy, busy busy at work writing and drawing and composing some pretty sweet treats for the laughing lot of you, so for now, how about this enchanting little magic trick from our naughty, naughty artist buddy, Troyd?

Feeling bewitched yet? 

Happy Halloween from Somnova Studios, everyone!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Art of Not Writing

I am not a professional writer.

None of us here are, so we're all -- to some extent -- learning as we go. As part of that learning, I've been reflecting more on my creative process than I have in the past. analane touched on this earlier in the month, but I thought I'd go into more detail regarding one aspect of our job in particular: how do we create our characters? More to the point, how do we figure out who they really are? How do we get to know them? Because that's what you have to do: know your character as though she was your closest friend.

Of course, methods will differ between writers. Some maybe take a walk and run over scenarios in their heads, working out how the character would react in each. Others might be inspired by real people and real interactions they experience in their everyday life. The really weird ones might role-play their characters to truly inhabit their skin; I assure you all of us here at Somnova Studios are perfectly well-adjusted, normal individuals and not the kind of huge nerds who would do something like that.

If you're a storyteller, and I believe everyone is, how do you get a feel for your characters? What's your secret?

All I can offer is my method: I listen to music. Lots of it. Not that I go out looking specifically for music that suits this purpose, but in listening casually, I come across the occasional song that embodies a character that I'm writing. I think it's the rawness of the emotion in music, but the right song strips away all the plans and conceptions I had of that character. It leaves me with a fragment of the bare, unrefined emotional core, and from there I can get to work. An entirely unintentional relationship, sure, but somehow every character I've ever written has at least one song that fits him or her more perfectly than anything I could have planned, and there's always more for me to learn, even about characters I thought I knew in and out.

And this is probably one of my biggest faults as a writer. Most of my writing process involves not writing. It's about sitting and reflecting, or listening to music while I do something unrelated to writing. I do that for the majority of the time, and when my inspiration batteries have filled to maximum capacity, I spew everything out in one messy go. I imagine that habit annoys my fellow writers to no end.

As an aside, I'm extra tickled that I signed up for this week's blog post ages ago, on this topic in particular, and when it finally arrives, it's a week when whole team is waiting on me to finish writing a couple of vital scenes. So here I am compounding my procrastination problem by working on a blog post instead. Whoops! Perhaps I should have written this in advance.

Did I mention I'm not a professional writer?

Courtesy of imperial.standard

- alabaster

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Has Fell

The leaves around here are turning all sort of pretty colors. The wind and the rain just don't seem to let up for days at a time. It's autumn, at least in my neck of the woods. I love this time of year, so I'm doing pretty well.

But how does the change of season affect Missing Stars? We're a volunteer outfit, and that means we all have lives outside the team. A lot of us are also pretty young, with school starting up again and consuming a lot of what would have been free time. Oddly, though, the last week or so has been the most active, productive period for months.

Some of you will be surprised by this; most will probably be shocked it didn't happen sooner, but Somnova has had its first real roadblock, the first major hiccup, the first time I've personally had reason to step back and wonder, "Are we going to make it?"

Of course, I'll never know the answer for certain -- not until Missing Stars is released, anyway -- but for now, I'm confident that we will. We've gone through one of those trials that could easily have broken us. Instead, what I saw was everyone coming together, making suggestions, repairing bridges, applying band-aids where necessary.

What I also saw was a renewed passion for the project. The dev channel is alive with a creativity I haven't felt since the early days. We're not starting over by any stretch, but we're taking the opportunity to reevaluate what we've got. Inject some fresh ideas. Throw out the ones that have only been hindering us. Tighten up the graphics on level three.

From the outside, it'll probably just sound like a delay. Or worse: the last thrashings of a dying team trying to assure itself that it isn't really dying. If that's what you believe, a blog post isn't going to convince you otherwise. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it. There's no doubt we've had a setback, but we're still here, and the final product is going to be that much better for the hardship.

We're doing better than expected, all things considered. Wherever you are, whether it's autumn there or not, I hope you're doing well too.


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Monday, October 8, 2012

Throw It All In

It is my belief that there is a moment in every writer’s life when they realize they’re trying too hard.

Mine came not when I started work on Missing Stars in mid-January, but on a dreary November long before I “got my shit together"— when I started my love/hate relationship with National Novel Writing Month. In an attempt to write the new science-fiction young adult hit, I decided the best way to do so would be to cram every plot device, every trope, every iota of every sci-fi movie, book, or tv show into one 50,000 word novella. 

There was space warfare melodrama (of course), but there was also teen-angst melodrama, sloppily added lesbian melodrama, father/son melodrama, and my personal favorite (only because of how horrible I realized it was later), sad, orphaned children melodrama. The book was a train wreck. But not because I didn’t create each character with care, not because I didn’t spend time drafting scenes, and definitely not because I wasn’t dedicated enough. It was because I mistook “good story” for “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink story.” I recovered, thankfully. I realized my mistakes. I edited, re-edited, wrote and deleted. I learned, but even in my role as a path writer, I find it hard to not throw in everything under the sun— and other writers have the same problems.

Writing Missing Stars isn’t a linear process. We don’t plan a path to the minute details and stick with it. We’re fluid in how scenes are drafted and discussed. But it is hard, when trying to think of a way to hold our audience’s attention, not to try and make each and every character the star of the show— even Erik, our male lead. 

It may seem almost too easy not to go:

“Oh, let’s make so-and-so a hacker omnisexual hipster drug addict with a tragic past and a talking chimp!” 

Yeah, it’s an exaggeration to the extreme, but it’s pretty damn hard not to try and make your characters appeal to the audience in an eye-catching way. You want your character to be loved, and you want your work to be recognized. An exaggerated gimmick isn’t the way to do that, no matter how simple it is. That’s what makes it hard to write one character in a cast of many. You want them to be heard, but they can’t stand out too much. A cast full of gimmicks and outrageous characters is noisy.

So just how do you avoid this slippery slope? I’m still learning myself. But as a team, we’re working hard to make sure that while every character is a star in the world of Missing Stars, they should all be unique in their own way without overwhelming the audience. 

And for goodness’ sake, don’t write a character with a talking chimp.


credit to blackjack