Plankton Info Diarrhea, Part One

planktons!

planktons!

Okay, so, last March (almost a year!) I birthed – and then subsequently aborted – a shared continuity world build. It’s name was plankton (all lowercase for hispter love). Why was it named plankton? Not really sure, it just was. With that kind of reasoning, it’s tough to imagine why the site is/was stillborn. That’s just how things go when I’m at the helm. However, I still find a lot of charm in some of the ideas and figured others might. This is the first public dumping of the information. Have fun…there’s a lot there.

In a nutshell, the project was an alternate timeline Earth, with a focus on various sci-fi -punk genres in mind. Writers would have been allowed to add, edit or otherwise screw with the whole timeline and write accordingly. it was ambitious, stupid, and ultimately daunting. Oh well. So much for ambition.

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Words of the Weak: Mother Earth

She sat there. She didn’t mind the litty fleshy explorer navigating her skin.

It started high, around the valley of her left ear lobe. Rouge on her cheeks was gravely and salty; like navigating an ocean jetty. Then it traveled south, down a channel created between chin and neck. The further south, the more sweet the journey. At the shoulder, a black cloud cover was unsnapped and husked. The pulpy and small, mauve explorer went ashore and climbed mountains. The slopes were gentle and smooth with a slight taste of burnt wood and sugar like a fine eighteen year Scotch. At the summit, the explorer staked his claim, and, is if to congratulate him, the peaks purred under his touch. He watched over his domain, ensuring its safety until finally the frigid air gave chills. He was in search of more hospitable land; something yet sweeter and warmer.

A small trek from the alps lay a desert. The climate warmed. The sqautty little navigator began to sweat, nervous of the heat. The sands were beautifully flaxen, with a touch of coffee and covered the divide in one subtle dune. The explorer slimed his way across, sweaty and thristy, picking up a most delectable taste farther south, but the path was long still. When at last his endurance exhausted, the traveler dug deep with the pit of the dune, in search of refreshment. It was a small, shallow hole and afforded the visitor no reward. It was dark and dry and rather uninteresting.

It was then, that the intimidation and doubt doubled him over. It was his first journey on such wonderfully sweet lands, and the it seemed hard, too difficult. He was afraid, and scared. Would he last until salvation? Why had he left the moutainous peaks, where the view of everything was idyllic, and the climate hospitable? If he failed now, would he ever find his way back home, able to journey once again?

But just then, he once again tasted that creamy perfume from not too far off and within him grew a lust.

He must go forth and find its origin. Insecurities be damned, he would travel forth.

Further on the fragrance strengthened, and layers in the taste separated: there was jasmine and palm, alder and moss and a touch of sea. Such a wonderful bouquet of flavors that traveler now longed, desired to pick each individually, petal by petal.

At the edge of the dune laid a great, tropical forest. The heat greatened and the explorer started to melt like candle wax. He struggled at the forest, twisting and knotting around, through, above and under each individual folicle of the forest.

And at the edge of collapse, of death, he found it. The origin.

An oasis.

The temperature, though warm, was pallatable, not sweltering. The air was moist, and answered his dryness, thirst. A calm babbling brook chased beneath his step, and there weas plenty on which to dine. There was everything he would ever need, and he was in no rush to leave.

For an eternity he stayed there, in the nook of the heaven-like oasis, but even he grew tired of the same, common surroundings. For he was an explorer, and explorers bore of traditional setting and must set out for more.

He had battled insecurities, fear, all terrains, wonderful and terrible and while almost getting crushed under the weight of the journey, he had survived. No longer an novice on the path, he desired another new Earth to discover.

To Context or Not To Context?

image lifted from: http://astrofuturetrends.blogspot.com/2007/08/hamlet.html

image lifted from: http://astrofuturetrends.blogspot.com/2007/08/hamlet.html

That is the question. In an attempt to get two cents from every wayward soul that might venture this way  and also to stimulate my comments section I wish to pose that very question.

Do you sometimes find that if you’re told when and where a scene takes place it’s too much context? More to the point, if, before a scene you are told “Hey, you, this is London and its 1640, do you feel bludgeoned? Would you much rather have clues peppered throughout the text about the setting? Inversely, if you’re reading and there are no concrete mentions of setting changes when it does change do you feel lost?

I’m currently scripting something – scary, yes, I know – and I’m struggling heavily with this. I feel, in my infernal bowels that impact of the setting is lost when the reader is specifically told it has changed. The other part of me realizes how many setting changes (both in location and time) I’m throwing at the reader in rapid succession, and confusion is likely, should a reader not pay much attention. Then, of course, there’s the part of me that couldn’t care less. I want to confuse them. I want them to get lost, to get angry, and then, hopefully, be unable to turn away.

Words of the Weak: The Plot Device, 0.0

Let me introduce you to the team.

The man sitting by himself, playing a game of solataire’s named Red Herring. He’s alone because nobody trusts him. He’s a deceptive little prick; the best grifter I’ve ever seen. First met him on the streets of Monaco, though, he swears it was Geneva. Whatever, it’s not important. What is important is that there’s nobody he can’t con. Even his grandmother would believe he’s a twelve year old girl pushing scout cookies. This pied piper has everybody zigging while we zag.

At the table beside Herring, is Leitwortsil. I think he’s OCD, ADD, some nonsense. He just sits there babbling the same rubbish over and over again. Got him caught in Luxembourg when he explained a thirty million dollar art gallery heist to the insurance company. In all the years I’ve known him, he’s never shut the fuck up. Maybe five minutes tops. He’s here for one purpose and one purpose only: He’s a Rain Man. Ten Minutes to Wapner, all that. However, you give the guy a con, a heist, anything, and he’s able to boil it down to what’s absolutely vital, what you need and the most efficient why to execute it. I make sure to keep him muzzled.

Over my shoulder’s Chekov’s Gun. He’s got his uses, but I’ll explain those later.

Beside him scribbling notations on the whiteboard, trying his damndest is Anticlimax. He’s a bit of an idiot, I admit. Good kid, overthinks stuff. He’s here for one reason: He’s my brother, and I don’t trust anybody else to take over when I retire. He needs a heavy hand, but he’ll get there. I hope so. Christ, I hope he doesn’t let me down.

Moving on, stage right, rehearsing her part of the plot is the sole woman on the team. Just watch her move, lithe, tensile motions like a Rockette. Got legs like one too. Great tits. her skin’s an exotic cinammon color, long black mane the color of coffee, smoldering opal eyes. Personality to match. What I wouldn’t give for just one night with her. Mary Sue, she’s my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, she’s more than just wank material. She’s the perfect thief. If Herring were, I don’t know, the Red King, she’d be the Black Queen. No safe she can’t crack, no laser grid she can’t samba through, no object she can’t steal. She could lift the hair piece off Donald Trump, him none the wiser. Hell, she could make a whole island disappear off the globe.

Guess that just leaves me. You can call me MacGuffin. I’m the boss; I put the pieces in play. The team, the mark, that’s my doing. These characters, they’re pretty much worthless individually, but as a team, unstoppable. I keep everything greased and churning, keep everything from going pear-shaped. That’s all you need to know.

So, what is our con? A bank, a museum, maybe a private citizen? Well, wouldn’t you like to know. I’ll save that for another time…do believe that’s called a cliffhanger.

x-posted at Serial Prizes

Technique Wreckingball: Why Your Action Sequences Suck…

…Because they probably do. If there is just one thing (and trust me, there isn’t) that really annoys me, but seems people just cannot help themselves, it’s terribly flat action in fiction. Maybe it’s my predilection to Asian cinema, or, my enjoyment of pulp adventures, or maybe, just maybe, I like to read stories that aren’t terrible, but I expect action sequences to be fun, tense, and to have…action. I have written this guide in hopes that I can share some good rules of thumb, and some decent mechanics for writing action so that people I’d otherwise have to kill for writing such refuse can continue living.

Let’s get on with ‘er, eh?

Zip-Pow-Bam

The four-color sound effects made popular by classic comic books and Adam West’s Batman worked because those were visual mediums. They weren’t just black words on a white page. The viewer didn’t need any extra written context to understand what was going on in those panels or scenes. In writing it is (or it should be) completely different. We have no visuals to give more meaning to the action.

Therefore, we should all pay attention to that little Maxim Miss Granola taught us all for third grade creative writing: “show, don’t tell.”

Miss Granola – despite being a bit too into Shakespearean tragedies and smelling vaguely like week old douche – had a point.

In no other time than during action is showing so important. Don’t just tell me Zero-n punched Mr. Miraclepants. How did he punch him? Did he ball his fists together, smashing them down across Mr. MP’s spine like a wreckingball through stale concrete? How did Mr. MP react? Don’t tell me he feel to his knees in pain. Tell me that his back splintered like balsa wood, empty cracks exploding at his knees as he buckled to the ground. Give me something real, something with flavor.

Now, some writers will argue that we should hold back, instead letting our readers imagine a sequence, us, simply guiding them where to embellish. Do not do this. Most readers aren’t bright enough to imagine anything more than “a punch was thrown.” You needn’t paint them the Mona Lisa, but at least, color in the lines.

However, it’s not simply the reader’s imagination that sucks harder than a Dyson (look at me, showing restraint), it’s oftentimes the writer’s as well. Most writer’s don’t properly understand what a punch is, instead what they know is a punch is a balled fist to the face, gut, or, if you want to win, the testicles. That’s the extent of thought ever invested in what a punch is.

There are ways to improve this, however:

  • Take martial arts classes (you’ll drop the gut also).
  • If you can’t do that, at least study fighting styles as best you can. It will help you understand the difference between a punch or an uppercut, all the better to help you describe it.
  • Watch films with decent action sequences. Pause, rewind, add garlic where needed. Take notes.
  • Buy an anatomy book or two. Knowing muscles is important to understanding how to script muscles in motion.
  • Act it out. You’ll look retarded, but the cute barista at Starbucks will never know (unless your roommate has a webcam).
  • Illustrate it. Storyboards are good, and sometimes describing something is easier than fabricating it. Sadly, stick figures won’t get you anywhere.
  • Add potpourri. Saturate with extra visuals and color, then remove to taste.

If you can do these exercises, it may put more thought into what you’re writing. It may also give a reader more thought into what they’re reading. Description is key.

One last thing to note, is, just because you know what a kick is, or what an uppercut is, and you’re sure your reader does too, you may want to still take some time to describe it.

Furthermore, this of course, extends to other types of action, not just combat. Want to write explosions? Much as I hate the guy, throw in a Michael Bay film.

We don’t talk about Fight Club

But we DO feel it, smell it, see it, hear it, taste it. And know that it has cause and effect.

Just because it’s action, and we’re intent on making it ‘completely badass’ doesn’t give use carte blanche to leave our brains at home. Remember your senses: How would a nose being shattered under a fist feel? A bit like glass shattering under a thin film of flesh? How does it smell? Does it smell? Would the attacker smell sweet victory like a fragrance of cotton candy? Would the victim smell it? Would the aroma of the world choke and die under the pungency of rust? Would it join the strong vinegar taste now in his mouth? How does it sound? Does it sound like a punctured tire, exploding free from rim?

Maybe not, or maybe, but don’t ignore it. Even if there’s an absence of senses – hand grenade going off nearby, maybe – don’t forget to note that.

Also, don’t forget that it takes two to tango. It’s okay to ignore the protagonist, describe the antagonist’s senses. Maybe joining the pain of a victim would help it resonate with a reader also.

Speaking of dancing…

It’s pretty much like dancing

Successful action sequences, like dancing or playing the drums are all about rhythm. Action sequences in film pretty much have a few things in common. They’re usually very tense, quickly moving from titillating sequence to another and killer soundtracks. We don’t have any drum and bass at our disposal (the best we have are talking birthday cards), but we can keep things tense, pushing the action from one high-def moment to another, shoving adrenaline enemas into every unsuspecting reader.

As much as I rambled on above about filling out – like all the girls coming back from summer vacation, sophomore year – you CAN overdo it and kill the mood. So, do your best Barry White, sing a little action sequence, and keep the honeys salivating.

Confused? Fair enough. If, during action sequences, you fall too in love with your newly accumulated exposition, sentences will all start to run-on, and that tension you’d like to build up dies a cruel death. As much as description helps, the tension and excitement is more important.

That doesn’t mean, slip a “he punched,” (zzzz…) in there, but do mix it up. Take a long sentence and follow it up with a fragment, something short, but still vivid.

I’m convinced that you can’t write good action without breaking a whole buncha grammar rules.

It’s okay.

In action, you might want to think of yourself more like a movie director. Be less conscious of the fact that you’re using words and there’s syntax for that and more conscious of the fact that you can control what your readers read and how they do it. Like I said, use fragments; use one word sentences, hell, one word paragraphs. Use a big paragraph full of choppy, short sentences to propel a reader through action at breakneck pace, then, use several one word paragraphs to build anticipation before sliding into more mayhem.

If you want to make the action move along even quicker, try rhyming, consonance, assonance, write in Spanish, anything that helps the words roll off the tongue even faster.

Build your pace, your rhythm. If you don’t, your readers can’t. Give it a few dry runs, too. Like any good singer, there’s rehearsal.

The youthful beauty flashed a subdued, harmlessly sensual smile before disappearing into darkness down the narrow channel. Ammunition peppered the spot where the girl had been.

Her slight frame wafted gently down to the next level below much like a feather. The lead chopper were much quicker and swooped down to meet her nose-to-nose. Bullets wrenched by – invisible under the spotlight bath – leaving scars all around their prey in the building behind. The young girl smiled and charged directly into the din.

Her muscles tensed and popped, her joints chambered; her lithe motions carved a path toward the attacking chopper. Her feet crested the edge, tension exploded free, she fired across the gap. The bath of light melted down her skin like hot wax, her skin crackled and burned; outstretched wingspan narrowed; yearning fingers wrangled the steel mask across the spotlight face. Girl and lamp pivoted, metal agonized, shrieked and tried to shake its dangling tormentor loose toward the bloodlust asphalt beneath.

The young girl pitched her legs up to her chest and heaved the heavy light back and forth.

She waited. Just a little longer. The timing had to be perfect.

Pounding footfalls of the trail chopper marched closer.

Now.

She heaved one last time, hinged her knees on the chopper’s landing strut and pinned the spotlight to the belly of the craft. With a curt tug sideways the spotlight ripped through the thick cloak of night and tore into the dark flesh of the advancing trail chopper.

Confusion pierced the whirlybird, it yawed sidelong.

Muffled frantic blather crackled through two-way static and the heavy whips of binary propeller blades.

The trail chopper careened imperfectly toward the girl.

Her lips fanned, displaying her perfectly white, girlish teeth. She released her hold on the spotlight.

From A2: Onitsuka Lola – ‘Edifice People’