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Posts Tagged ‘Story’

This is the opening to a graphic novel I’ve had on the back burner for about a year. I’m working on getting some art done for it, it’s actually the reason I’ve held off on posting it. If ever I get around to getting this illustrated, I’ll definitely be posting it here! I’ve written descriptions of each panel so, until then, imagination will have to do!

***

Clock

Panel 1
A man running down a narrow alleyway faintly lit by the glow of neon lights. There is something bundled in brown cloth tucked underneath his arm. His dusty cloak billows behind him, his face hidden in a the depths of his hood.

I can’t really say why I’m here, running for my life, trying to stop the end of the world.

Panel 2
The man exits the alley into a futuristic steampunk inspired cityscape. The city is dank, the tall brass skyscrapers lit up by flashing neon signs. The gutters are lined with garbage, shop windows are broken and boarded up.

Panel 3
There are few people on the streets, but those that can be seen are disheveled, their clothing torn with grime, holding worn cloaks tightly around themselves. There is a woman in tattered robes sitting in the gutter, with a sign propped up beside her that reads “The end is here”. Others are starring transfixed at something in the center of the plaza.

Panel 4
The people are starring at a large clock tower illuminated in the heart of the square. It’s face has many concentric circles layered atop brass gears, turning in different directions.

But I do know how it all began.

Panel 5
Close up on the minute hand of the clock.

It was decades before I was born, when they determined the exact date and time the world would end.

Panel 5
A young man meditating, draped in a Tibetan monk’s robes.

Some Precog in Tibet; he’d never been wrong.

Panel 6
Close up on the monks eyes, open in terror.

I’m sure they wish he’d be wrong about this one.

Panel 7
The man turns towards the clock tower and begins to run through the thin crowd.

Point is, now the world’s gone to shit.

Panel 8
He runs past a mural with the words “Believe in God” scrawled in faded paint. The word God is scratched out and the words “the end” replace them in black spray paint.

Fear has torn this world apart.

Panel 9
Close up: a puddle on the cobblestones as the man steps in it, disturbing the reflection of the skyscrapers against the inky night sky.

Now there are only a few dozen cities left.

Panel 10
The cloaked man continues to run through the crowd of transfixed onlookers, looking back at his indiscernible pursuer.

People stopped fighting each other once they realized it might be the cause of our own predestined destruction.

Panel 11
High angle on a few onlookers in the crowd, starring blankly upwards at the massive clock.

Actually they’ve stopped doing anything at all.

Panel 12
The man reaches the side of the support structure for the clock tower, and looks up the tall shaft where an old brass ladder is attached.

Clocks don’t tell time anymore; they only count down the minutes till the end.

Panel 13
The man begins to climb up the ladder, cradling the bundle with one arm.

But no one knows how its all going to go down. Me, I’d like to find out.

Panel 14
Side profile of the man’s face, though his hood still partial covers his features.

Maybe that’s why I’m here.

Panel 15
Wide shot of the clock tower from behind the sparse crowd of onlookers. The outline of the man climbing the side of the tower is followed by another.

There is a main clock in every city square, not that we need them.

Panel 16
A man’s wrist watch.

Panel 17
A woman holding a young girls hand. The young girl has a locket with a small clock inside, the woman is wearing a watch on her upper arm.

Panel 18
The tattered woman in the gutter has an alarm clock next to her, sheltered by a newspaper.

Most people carry one on them at all times.

Panel 19
The man continues to climb up the ladder, his cloak flaring out in the wind. He has a chain connected to a watch in his front pocket. He also has two hand guns strapped to either side.

Including me.

Panel 20
Close up on the pocket watch, half exposed in his breast pocket.

The only thing is that mine stopped working a long time ago, on the exact moment my world ended.

Panel 21
The end of a narrow grate bridge at the top of the ladder, the man’s hand grasps the edge.

Since that day, I’ve tried to do what I can for people…

Panel 22
The man pulls himself up.

… because it seems most people can’t do anything for themselves anymore.

It’s not their fault though, they’re scared.

Panel 23
The man begins to run across the walkway, silhouetted against the massive clock face.

Anyways, like I said, I don’t really know how I got here, on this bridge, minutes before the end of it all…

Panel 24
He reaches the end of the slippery walkway, only just stopping himself from falling as his hood slides off.

… trying to save the world.

Panel 25
Close up on his hand as he tightens his grip on the bundle.

Maybe I’m scared too,

Panel 26
The cloaked man is in the forefront, his head just out of frame. One of his revolvers gleams in the moonlight. Over his shoulder, a dark indiscernible figure approaches.

Maybe I’m going insane.

Panel 27
The man has turned around, his gun aimed at his assailant who is out of frame. His face is  illuminated by the glow of the clock face. He looks to be in his mid-30’s, with vivid green eyes and shaggy dark hair. He has a monocle type lens attached to a mechanism over his left eye.

But I like to think that I’m just a nice fucking guy.

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Ask a general question. Each response, or lack there of, will affect the next line of text. Don’t really think too long about what to say, let the responses be spontaneous. Typically this kind of free writing exercise is used to get you to write your own thoughts on the page without relying on things like story outlines or character summaries, but more on the immediate thought process. Mine usually end up in a long character monologue or an overly contemplative passage on life, but at least it gets me writing, and sometimes really interesting thoughts occur naturally.

It’s funny; I had envisioned the characters from a particular television series while writing this. I left out their names or any description of tonality, movement, or appearance to see if the inflections were inherent enough to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. It would be a peculiar conversation for them to have though…

Who do you think they are? Feel free to leave your answers/guesses in the comments!

***

What are you doing?

Reorganizing my books.

Why?

Not sure. Something different I suppose.

So what? Now it’s going alphabetically, or by how many syllables are in the title or something?

No. Just whatever size provides a suitable structure for stacking.

Oh, so you’re just doing this for no apparent reason then?

Well, as I stare at these quite often while I’m thinking, sometimes it’s nice to see something different, but, at the same time, the same.

Ah. And why do you stare at them?

I stare at them because it’s like having a window to the people who created them. You recall what you felt while reading them, or remember interesting facets of their stories. All of this you glean in an instant. It’s like looking at a reflection of yourself. You see, behind every faded book, the threads of your life. How this book came to you, how it changed you. You think of how each one just simply couldn’t be replaced. There’s always a reason why people keep a certain book, and suddenly, you can see who they really are.

So all this? All this is who you are?

Only to those who can see it.

Chaos

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In my writing, it’s rare for me to complete something that I’ve started. It’s like I’m unable to just sit down and see my story to the end, an inherent predisposition perhaps, a latent defense mechanism? A way of protecting myself from some pre-envisioned failure or inadequacy. Things have changed in the past few days to make me see otherwise.

I’ve recently posted a short story I submitted to an acclaimed writing workshop in Seattle; the opportunity would be life changing. Let me preface this by saying I didn’t get in, and yes, it was horribly devastating. But I mentioned in my last post that even if I didn’t get into the workshop, the experience of actually writing an end to a story was quite revelatory. I always thought I was afraid of how my work would stand up once it was done. On some level, all writers are anxious about this, and I’ve realized that it’s not the entire reason we leave things unfinished. So many of my stories, and my characters, have been with me my entire life. I’ve been writing them for years, and I’m not sure how I would feel if I were to be finished with them. I think I would feel very strange, like a part of myself was missing.

  There comes a moment where you just have to leave it behind and move to the next thing…but you do it really happy. Because whatever you leave behind you has taken on a life of its own

–Neil Gaiman

I’ve spent the better part of my time daydreaming about moving to Seattle for the workshop, and now that it’s not going to happen, I’m more sure than ever that something has to change. It’s time to try and finish things, so that others can finally begin.

 

Sherlock

 

 

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As previously mentioned, I have a love for good Story, and I actively seek it out in every medium I can find it. As a child, I spend the better part of my time behind a good book or in front of our television set. Whether I’m watching a movie, reading a novel or playing a video game, I love immersing myself in worlds unknown. I always found the gaming approach to story to be particularly intriguing, as it demands a higher level of active participation from the player. Each experience is unique, not one play through will be exactly the same. I’ve thus saved a place in my blog to discuss games that I find interesting in their use of Story.

I recently finished Alan Wake, a third-person shooter developed by Remedy Entertainment for the Xbox 360 (later released with enhanced graphics for PC). This game’s a psychological horror that follows Alan Wake, a big-city writer who’s struggling to continue his career after a two-year hiatus. In an attempt to rekindle his creative flame, Alan and his wife Alice travel to the small town of Bright Falls, where Alan becomes ensnared in his own nightmarish fantasy story come to life… one he has no recollection of ever writing. When Alice disappears from their lakeside cabin, Alan must follow the clues left in the pages of his own manuscript, becoming the protagonist of a novel rapidly deteriorating into a paranormal horror story.  Alan must fight the shadows of his own imagination, dark things made real as the town’s people become taken over by the Dark Presence residing at the bottom of Cauldron Lake.

The game is heavily atmospheric, seemingly straight out of a Stephen King novel, and Bright Falls recalls the eerie small town ambiance of Lynch’s Twin Peaks. As with all good horror fiction, the world of the game is its greatest strength. The Dark Presence that envelops the town infuses the setting with its own character, as Alan must traverse the town and its surrounding woods in unnatural obscurity. Using whatever he can find to dispel the darkness (flashlights, flares, flash bang grenades), Alan tries to circumvent the events of a story that has already been written, often finding manuscript pages detailing horrific occurrences moments before they happen. The pages also provide back story and insight into other characters and events that are transpiring elsewhere in the town.

The game’s hauntingly beautiful landscapes and chilling settings only serve to enhance an already captivating story.  Alan’s troubled introspective narration coupled with the mystifying manuscript pages keeps the player questioning Alan’s sanity and unsure how the story will progress. Throughout the entire game the player is restless and uneasy, mirroring Alan’s confused feelings of doubt. In keeping with the horror genre, the game features some unsettling plot twists and suspenseful scenes that chill the blood without necessarily resorting to gruesome deaths and gore. This leads to a particularity story-driven game that still maintains great game play. Combat is dynamic and impulsive, and sets up interesting ways to defeat enemies.

Aside from some minor faults, Alan Wake is a great example of how video game mechanics can be used to enhance the story experience. This game comes highly recommended to anyone who loves a good fright, and to writers who like experiencing different modes of storytelling. As a writer, it’s important to keep in mind the tools you have at your disposal to tell a story. A good story is worthless if you don’t master the means to tell it.

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Her hand drifted aimlessly over the page, ink dripping down her finger and spattering in tiny droplets onto the floor. The unusual spring heat wafted in through the open window. She let the low drone of the city drift past her, drift far away. She signed her name, then carefully lay down the pen. Like a ghost, she glided to the open window. The dark edges of the sky bled into the distant twilight, the stars rendered invisible by the amber glow of the city lights. She let the lights blow past her eyes, until  they glimmered like flecks of color in a dark void. She smelled ashes on the wind. She thought of warm summer days and fireflies and the pale glow of the moon. She thought of spider webs and slender needles and dark winding hallways. Despite the stifling heat, she shivered as she grasped the casement with her frail hands, leaving smudges of black ink on the chipped white paint. She closed her eyes because she did not trust herself to look at the beauty of the world again.

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“Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things.” – Neil Gaiman

In my opinion Character is the most important aspect of any story. The main character is the person with whom the reader/viewer can identify and follow throughout the course of the narrative. The story’s meaning is created by the character’s reaction to the events of the story and by how the resolution of the conflict influences/reveals the protagonist’s ‘true character’.

But what is ‘true character’? It’s a character’s genuine nature, the essence of who they really are. The true purpose of Story is to reveal ‘true character’ by means of extreme pressure or crisis. The greater the stakes, the more true to character the reaction will be. It’s through this that the reader comes to understand what the writer is trying to say, what the significance of the story is in relation to the greater concepts in life. A writer must never simply tell the reader how to feel.

Usually when creating character, the author will write a character development sheet in order to visualize how that character will react or affect different situations. Story is a world of causality that centers around the actions and reactions between characters. The writer must attempt to know their character’s ‘true nature’ before the story even begins. But how can character be created or revealed without story? If a character is defined by what they say and what they do, then how can we define them before they have done or said anything at all?

I then thought of how we are defined by our actions, and how our lives are given meaning by what we do. What meaning has the story of my life taken? What’s my ‘true character’? I used a typical character development sheet to evaluate my own self-image, my own nature. The experience of self-reflection is one that I would recommend to all writers. Though you don’t attain some greater knowledge of self that reveals the meaning of your life, it does help in understanding how your personality was created by your actions, and visa versa. It’s great source work for any good character. Just because a character is an artificial construct you’ve created, doesn’t mean that the feelings the reader experiences due to their actions aren’t genuine and real.

When writing always keep in mind that a character’s purpose is to reveal the meaning of the story, a writer’s purpose is to tell that story. 

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