5 Things You Learn from Writing “Bad” Books

You have no idea how much I have been needing this post. Thank you for writing this. Thank you a thousand.

A Writer's Path

Bad

by Kelsie Engen

Every author has a “bad” book to their name.

Come on, admit it. It’s that book you wrote back in your early writing days, the one where you thought it was magical. Then, for one reason or another, you set it aside, and when you dusted it off a year later, you cannot read a word of it without wincing.

Yeah. It’s that one.

I’ve got one (or several) too, books that I’d like to forget I ever wrote.

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Hey, sorry, I’m back.

No excuses for me, I was just lazy. Preoccupied. Doing. Uh. Things. Yes.

But now Steam’s free weekend is over and I can get back to actually being a productive human being.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12004094/1/Exposure

In the meantime, I wrote a fanfiction of a favorite videogame series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., based off the Tarkvosky movie Stalker, which in turn was based off the soviet sci-fi classic A Roadside Picnic, all three of them about a Zone of Alienation.

 

A Roadside Picnic had mysterious and apathetic alien visitors, Stalker was about a mysterious “wish-granter” at the heart of the Zone, and the videogames featured conspiracy theory level soviet mind control experiments set in the deserted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a plot that while not terribly engrossing, was set in the most immersively bleak and desolate backdrop of Chernobyl, from the creaking rusted hulks of the Rassorva vehicle graveyard to the hauntingly beautiful radioactive Red Forest, and the eerie emptiness of Pripyat, amid a world where the laws of science no longer apply and the Zone itself is a living entity bent on destroying not just you, but your soul as well. The ‘stalker’ name here doesn’t refer to someone who aggressively tails an imagined romantic interest, but to the peculiar brand of crazy lunatics who delve into the Zone and its dark crevices in search of mysterious ‘artifacts’ which have supernatural properties and present a new frontier in technological advancement for mankind— and which are buried deep in anomaly fields, areas of distorted reality where anything from fire spouts to blackholes could appear, and utterly annihilate someone clumsy enough to stumble into them. All three were grim, desolate, and uniquely Eastern European in character.

Or, more humorously: Drink vodka. Trust no one. Eat lots of bread.

The story I wrote takes the premise of BBC Documentary producing a live-footage documentary of the Zone, and so sends a presenter and a film crew with a satchel full of batteries, cash and flash drives to film the Zone, and pays for a team of stalkers

Anyways, I thought the story itself was good on its own merits, so I published it on Fanfiction.com. You can find the link both here and at the top of that wall of text.

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https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12004094/1/Exposure

Musings

Musings

What was it that Teddy Roosevelt said? The “strenuous life” makes us better?
Our inborn talents do not define us. We define ourselves by what we make of them. Weaknesses are not merely something to be coped with, but a factor of our being that we can change, through faith and perseverance.
Also, this guy has a novel. Highly recommended.

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Sometimes, becoming stronger entails purposefully becoming worse so you can set aside talents and struggle to conquer weakness.  Focus is shifted from successful comfort to audacious evolution.

In this way, an inner pilgrimage can be made without outwardly having to take a single step.

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The Writer Inside You

The Writer Inside You

We’re all the heroes of our own personal stories. 5 minutes talking with someone could give you the start to an epic spanning decades. Just watching someone at a coffee shop could give you a short story.
It’s all about observance. Give the rest of her stuff a read.

Chronicles of Nowhereland

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” -Orson Scott Card

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Half-Lucidity: Getting into Character

Half-Lucidity: Getting into Character

Actors, singers, dungeon masters, and roleplayers all talk about getting into character, stressing how vital it is to the quality of the performance / game to have good roleplaying. And we know what it is, or at least what it looks like, just by intuition. But how does one get there, without years and years of practice or innate talent (or psychopathic manipulation)?

The answer is (not-entirely) simple: what would your character do, and why?

Roleplaying will come more naturally if you understand your character’s background and why their personality has turned out the way it has. This requires some more effort on the development side, but will reward you with increased immersion. It’s one thing to have your character obsessively collect puppies and paint them sky blue. It’s funny a few times, but after a while, with no apparent reason for it, it can quickly become a mere annoyance.

But what if he had a strong reason? Strange as it may be, what if his reason for painting puppies is because he’s secretly part of a doomsday cult that believes the world will end under an invasion of blue dogs, and he is setting up the end of the world by painting the dogs blue and indoctrinating them into hyper-aggressive dog soldiers when no one else is looking? Not only is it more interesting and possibly generating its own involved storyline, it’s also freaking hilarious, and evolves from slapstick to an inside joke.

Here’s my example:

Jenny has decided (or been coerced by her impatient and demanding DM) to expand her horizons and roleplay someone besides the standard-issue lithe, manipulative rogue type. So, she goes with a gruff male fighter named Jeff, because she wants to use the line from 22 Jump Street. But her DM isn’t satisfied with that. ‘What’s his personality like? Why is he a fighter? Why is he going out to save his village?’

Now, the easy way out is to make him a gruff mercenary who is (naturally) grizzled by his years of experience, and is saving the world for dimes and dames. But such a character is so cliched it’s difficult to play him well without spending an exhaustive amount of time developing the history of an already matured character.

So Jenny makes Jeff a nervous, withdrawn momma’s boy. And before her DM can pester her again, she preempts him and thinks about why he might be this way, and how on earth such an individual would become an adventurer.

“Jeff was never really any good at anything. He was always middle of the back, and never stood out. He wasn’t really that strong, or smart, or clever or talented. The only thing that others ever noticed about him was that he was always there, rain or snow, sleet or hail. He knew he would never stand out here, and he feared the loneliness of growing old without someone beside him or real friends. So though he’s not really brave, strong, smart, or any adjective that would indicate a hero, he’s got a heart of gold and a will of iron, and no matter how many times you knock him down, he’ll get back up, again and again. The strongest warriors are those that don’t quit. And though he hasn’t received a lot of love from his village, and has little to keep him from leaving, he wants to be the hero. He wants to save the day. And he wants something to matter enough to him that he’d die for it. Realizing that nothing will matter that much if he doesn’t try, he’s decided to risk it all, do or die to be reborn a hero.”

Jenny’s DM stares at her, and slowly begins to grin.


More important than mannerisms, accents, quirks or oddities, knowing why your character is risking his or her life is the most important part of roleplaying in D&D, and roleplaying in general. Embedding yourself in the character’s desires and emotions will allow you to more easily perform their associated verbal tics and make player decisions that feel like they really matter. From this proceeds a story that makes more sense, requires less DM prodding, feels freer, more organic, and much more entertaining.

Quirks are just icing on the cake (very much appreciated and iced cake is preferable to plain cake).

P.S. Doing young or inexperienced character with a fairly shallow background is actually better for roleplaying than some guy who’s had decades of experience and taken every sort of blow a man can take. Those young characters can still have traumatic events that define them, but their youth and relative inexperience means that the adventures they undertake can still leave a mark on their still impressionable minds. Plus, the younger the character, the less time you have to cover when making your background.

Musings

Musings

Heroes aren’t made of stone; they’re people who kept going when it all seemed pointless. Strength does not come from without, but within. But read him first, he’s the original philosopher.

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

I often hear tough talk and breezy bravado when it comes to embracing suffering, but I’ve never seen that arrogant swagger hold up in the face of grinding agony and maddening monotony.  The true meaning of embracing suffering is to keep at it until a breakthrough is achieved.

IMHO, when one can enjoy/apply oneself to uncomfortable or monotonous activities just the same as other activities, then a modicum of sainthood has been achieved.

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