20 Jun

Worldbuilding 101: Writing Unequal Societies

Worldbuilding: Writing Unequal Societies

Worldbuilding: Writing Unequal SocietiesWhere are the chamberpot-technician? The dragon-brushers? The stepping stools-carriers? Nowhere, that’s why.

Fact is, that most works of fiction, whether SF, Fantasy, Horror, you name it, operate from the basic assumptions of an equal society. And that means that we’re missing whole segments of world building, encounters and stories that are never told because they can’t be conceived of.

But way, you say, here’s the poor pig herder who became prince. There’s the general that grew up in the slums. Aladdin – the diamond in the rough.

Nope, still operating from basic assumptions of equality. Let’s take a look. Read More

13 Jun

Analog Game Design 102: From Idea to Prototype

Analog Game Design 102: From Idea to Prototype

Analog Game Design 102: From Idea to PrototypeLast time I wrote about analog game design I took Magnet Puzzle from spark to idea stage. Unfortunately, that’s where it’s remained. For every 10 sparks, I take one through the idea stage. For every 10 ideas, I take one through the prototype stage. Magnet Puzzle hasn’t made that leap yet.

So instead of me waiting until inspiration strikes and I figure out what makes it fun, now that magnets are out of the picture, I’m going to backtrack a bit and show you how I’m working on another game: a quick, quite random, “take that”-inducing card game prototype named “Das Amt”. Read More

06 Jun

Rapid Idea Generation with “If … Then … Why”

Rapid Idea Generation with If ... Then ... Why

Rapid Idea Generation with If ... Then ... WhyI used to have troubles coming up with writing ideas. Nothing I did felt interesting, or if I managed to come up with something it would fail in practice – the ogre in the musketeer uniform would be just that, a dressed up ogre, and nothing more.

A dressed up ogre is boring. Just mashing together two concepts isn’t enough. You need something more.

That’s where the double whammy of “if … then” and “why” works wonders. Read More

30 May

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and CrashplanSome years ago I lost all of my writing in a hard drive crash. I’m not crying over spilled milk – the writing was rather horrible – but it did set me thinking about redundancy and safety. I started doing backups.

At first, I did backups to CDs. That worked all right, until I thought I had done a backup and formatted my hard drive. Of course, I didn’t have any CD with my latest stuff on it. And then, when my computer crashed and I had to reformat it, I lost a few months of work as well.

So instead of CDs, I started using an external drive to backup all of my files. Which worked fine, except that it’s a pain in the behind to hook it up all the time. And I didn’t want to leave it hooked up and out in the open because part of the reason of doing backups was to protect me in case my computer got stolen.

But, two years ago, I found my main backup and sync solution. And last month I found the perfect way to work across multiple platforms, multiple computers, in complete safety, without having to do anything. Read More

23 May

Mathematical Proof that You’ve Got Time to Write

Mathematical Proof You've got Time to Write

Mathematical Proof You've got Time to WriteThere is one in every gathering. The friend-of-a-friend who says “Oh, I’m going to write a novel, too, when I’ve got the time.”

Sometimes they use variations “I’m going to write when I retire.” “When the kids are older.” “When this project at work is finished.” If only they’d have the time.

Well, friend-of-a-friend, since I don’t have the courage to take you by the ear and shake you, I’ll do the second best thing. I’m going to lampoon you on the Interwebz. I’m going to prove to you that you’ve got the time to write, using cold, hard math. Read More

16 May

Why Do you Do what you Do Do?

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you do what you do?Ours is not to reason why, Ours is but to do or die[note]Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with the US Marines, Iwo Jima or the Battle of Ypres. The original quote, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die”, comes from the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson, and translates to: “damn, what idiots”.[/note].

What a load of bullshit.

The ability to reason why is central to human experience. It is what drives us to purposeful action and what separates us from the animals – experiments have shown animals to be able to reason (horses, for example, can do arithmetic on the level of a 4-year-old), be optimistic or pessimistic (shown in both birds and mammals using colored coded learning/unlearning models), and learn to read and write (dolphins can learn a symbolic language and use it to communicate with humans, as do chimps). However, no experiment has managed to show that animals have the ability to self-analysis.

Humans do. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to productivity. Read More

09 May

You Have to Begin

You have to begin

You have to beginYou have to begin.

You have to begin, over, and over, and over again. A new story, a new chapter, a new sentence.

You have to begin. That’s all there is to it.

For me, beginning is always hard. I know of people who look at the page and don’t know what to write. I don’t. If I look at the page, I start to write. It’s the moment before, right as I start the computer, think about what I need to do, that’s the hardest.

I know I should begin. I know that as soon as I begin I’ll be able to write, I’ll be getting somewhere, anywhere. But the moment before I start, that’s pure fear.

I’ve been writing professionally for over fifteen years now, and I still have trouble beginning. I still feel the fear. Read More