I haven’t posted in a long while so I thought I’d drop a line about what I’ve been doing recently.
I’m still writing my book, and am making significant progress. As I’ve mentioned before I’m editing as I go along so there are plenty of times when I end up writing several thousand words yet only have a hundred or so more than I started with. I have 61,919 words written so far and at least half again has found its way onto the editing room floor. Sometimes it breaks my heart to delete so much of what I’ve written, but it has to be done if I want the book to be any good. As I get a stronger idea of the story I want to tell, I find myself writing less often and editing more often. At this moment in time there are seven major scenes left until the book is story complete. Having said that there will be editing passes before the book is finished, but the story will at least be understandable to people outside of my head (all those inside love it so far) when those seven scenes have been put in place.
Last time I wrote about this I had a problem with dialogue. The dialogue was too self referential and characters were too snarky to find their own voice. It turns out that this was a premature judgement. As the story got bigger and more dialogue was added, I found that the characters became more realistic and needed the more entertaining dialogue to seem realistic where the smaller story made them seem like caricatures when they spoke that way. I’ve been adding in some of the edited out snark and making the dialogue more fun to read in my editing passes.
I am close to finishing this book and plan to have it ready to read by Christmas. As the story has become more clear to me I’ve become sure that it is worth a trilogy of similarly sized books and have worked out an outline for how that trilogy will play out. Titles, character outlines, plot points, major locations and lore have all been worked out in advance for the next two books in this series. I’ve even designed technology and uniforms for certain groups so that I can refer to them when writing. The lessons I’ve learned from writing the one I’m on now should help me to make the next two in the series better. I’ve plotted out how certain things play out across the series of books and am working hard to make the entire trilogy able to stand alone as well as work together as a single tale.
Finally I can reveal the style of the first book to you. It plays out like a comedic dark fantasy, almost a fairy tale, but with a modern day tint to the style of writing. I’m quite proud of what I’ve written so far and, even if no-one else likes the damn thing, at least I’m giving it a shot.
I’ve been playing a lot of Borderlands 2 recently and that has me killing so many nutcases on the apocalyptic world of Pandora. The game is a masterpiece of fun, yet not without its issues. The few glitches, bugs and annoyances aren’t enough to make the game any less fun, but they do take their toll on what is obviously a labour of love from the creators.
As with my writing, I haven’t been playing as much of this as I’d have liked recently. A couple of days after it was released I got something in my eye as I slept. I woke up clawing at myself and had damaged the skin around my eye to the point that it was consistently watering and itchy. I kept finding myself rubbing at it for days afterwards and eventually forced myself to go to bed and close my eyes until it passed. It helped but had me at the end of my tether for a bit. I was ready to take my own life just to spite the eye. Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite that frustrated, but this is the section marked killing so I had to fit it in somehow.
On the subject of killing and frustration, I hate the postal service here. A few weeks ago we had a parcel go missing and had to chase it up with the postal service. At first we tried calling the delivery office but it would ring five times then go to the answering machine – specifically an answering machine that played a message saying no-one could answer and they couldn’t take any messages. Why they saw fit to have an answering machine that doesn’t take messages is beyond me, but it cost me plenty of money anyway. Then we got another number for the manager of the office (more on him in a moment). We left a message on his answering machine, which was one of those really high tech ones that can actually take a fucking message. He never got back to us and we chased him up repeatedly before we found out what had happened to our parcel. It had been stolen from one of the vans, apparently and no-one had bothered to tell us this despite them having records of it happening and a list of missing items. Although we got the parcel replaced by Amazon, the palaver with the post office cost more on our phone bill than the contents of the parcel itself had cost in the first place.
So, already pissed off with the post office, you can imagine how I felt when Kim’s birthday present didn’t arrive. Now, her birthday isn’t for a couple of months but there were only three of these left in stock and I didn’t want her to miss out on something so great (you’ll find out in her post at the end of the year so time machines at the ready if you’re impatient and curious) so I ordered this in early. I transferred money from our savings to be sure we could afford it and the entire thing came to just over £70, and then didn’t show up on the day it was meant to be delivered. And then didn’t show up on the day after it was meant to be delivered. And then it was the weekend and nothing showed up.
Not hoping for much I went down to the delivery office and waited in the eternally long queue until I could speak to someone. They couldn’t find the parcel after a cursory look and didn’t bother checking the list to see if it had ever been there (which I specifically asked them to do with the memory of the stolen parcel fresh in my mind). Furious and inching nearer to the point of devolving into a neanderthal whose negotiating skills come down to throwing chairs and saying “Fuck you asshole”, I decided it was time to put in a complaint against that office for their obviously unprofessional practices. Kim asked for the manager’s name and the guy responded by trying to give us the phone number that he was (un)reachable on (very helpfully giving it to us on a piece of paper with the previous customers name, address and phone number on). We reiterated the request for his name and were told it was “Danny”. One more time we asked for his name, specifying that unless he is Cher or Sting, we’re pretty sure he has a surname. Apparently he doesn’t, or at least not one known to the staff of the place he manages. Yeah, that’s trustworthy.
If there has been anything that has defined this year for me, it has been The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. Amongst all the blockbuster games trying to wow us and big name movies vying for our attention, this simple story has won my heart. As I’m sure you can guess from the title, this is related to the comic and television shows of the same name. The game features a different main protagonist (a new creation for the game) and his interactions with some of the people from the comic books. The game is supposedly a point and click adventure game but the puzzles here are of a more personal nature. Rather than finding the rope (that pulls the goat that butts the troll that frees the bridge for you to cross – we’ve all played that somewhere), this game tasks you with finding food and sharing it amongst the survivors around you. You’re out to build trust with these people more than anything. Sure, there are some classic point and click puzzle types, but they’re relegated to set pieces that make them seem a little more natural than normal games in this genre. Also unlike other games in the point and click style, The Walking Dead handles action particularly well, with shooting set pieces and struggles against walkers being more commonplace but not so much that they take over the game.
The true magic of the game comes down to the characters that you interact with and none is more wonderfully realised than Clementine, an eight year old girl who you find hiding out in her treehouse near the start of Episode 1 (there are five episodes in the series). Clementine is, for want of a better word, real. The scripting is spot on for a mature eight year old witnessing and processing such horrors, and the choices you make will always affect her in some way. The very hardest choices in the game always come down to choosing between the well being of Clemmy versus retaining what little innocence the poor girl has left. Should she witness you murder someone who is about to turn when there is a small chance he might not? Should you steal from someone who may be alive or dead in order to get her a winter jacket? These are the choices that will haunt you and you may find that you surprise yourself with what you are and aren’t capable of in such circumstances.
You care about Clemmy, and this isn’t just me saying this. Almost everyone who has played the game falls in love with her and wants to take care of her as she were their own daughter. She needs protecting but never in the annoying escort mission type of way that video games so often give you. You need to get to her before she eats bad food, talk to her about her parents, bandage her wounds, be gently told off when you choose the swearing option in conversations and generally be as good a father as you can be to this girl. The script rises to the challenge admirably and makes Clemmy the star of the show every time with such wonderful interactions with her. Episode 4 came out this week and if you haven’t played any of the episodes yet then you need to start soon. Clemmy needs you.