Monthly Archives: November, 2006

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo: Mark 2

And lucky for you, this means National Talking About Novel Writing Month is over too. ;) This evening NaNoWriMo 2006 draws to a close, and I get to enjoy the feeling of a job well done.

This year I managed to actually go the distance, and yes, that is a damn good feeling.

I only wrote the first third of the novel I set out to write – however, I think it ended up more coherant than it would have otherwise, so that’s a plus. And, of course, it leaves me with material to continue with if I undertake this madness next year.

In the end, it sucked up a bunch of time I likely would have otherwise spent playing video-games. It let me test my limits, and let me actually prove that I can sit down and write something extensive. One of my old writing teachers told me that every person in the world has stories in their head they could tell, but you only are a writer if you sit down and write them.

That doesn’t make you a good writer, mind you. That’s the next step.

But the first step is writing, and this is the first time I’ve produced a clearly finished work of significant length. It isn’t as long as a standard novel, it isn’t a masterpiece, and I quake in fear at actually showing it off to my friends and family who demand a chance to read it. The narrative voice is constantly shifting, I’m not entirely positive I maintained the same tense throughout the work, and the most interesting character is an ordinary housecat. The dialogue is poor, the plot resorts to exposition, and the proofreading was nonexistant.

…but it is complete, and it is mine, and I can be damn proud of that.

And that’s what the month is all about.

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Comics I Read on My Lunch Break

I need to exclaim more often, 'Chicken... Sandwich!'There has been a good deal of hubbub this week concerning the new PvP animations, and discussion regarding that is scattered… well, all over the web.

But the news that I heard that really got me excited was that Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break is back!

Rest assured, the comic is far from crap. It’s a fun little strip with gorgeous art – it doesn’t hold itself to be more than that, and that’s what makes it great.

The strips are sometimes just simple randomness from life, sometimes rants on the trivial, sometimes rants on the profoundly horrible. It’s about the artist, her boyfriend, and their pet rats.

And really, that’s all it needs to be. Sometimes the simple things are best.

So Much Writing. So Little Time.

I have to confess, Zot was my favorite character from QoW.Today Queen of Wands attained the honor of having successfully completed it’s second full run, this time with full commentary from Aeire.

Part of the final comic is in absentia, (though can still be found in the archives), and the last sequence remains just as bittersweet as it was the first time around.

When Queen of Wands first ended, over a year and a half ago, it was an unusual decision to air the old strips once more – but I think it was clearly a successful one. The commentary was… nice, though I think it is to the comic’s credit that it can easily stand alone without the explanations being needed.

I recall, in the distant days of yore, reading Xenith. Xenith was Aiere’s first comic. It was… good, yes, in it’s own way. Incredibly pretty. Incredibly dark. And yes, you could very much feel the youthfulness of the work.

I remember discovering Queen of Wands, early in the strip’s infancy, quite some time after Xenith had stopped updating and/or vanished from my mind. I remember, after falling in love with the strip, at some point noticing it was produced by the same author. And I remember being amazed.

There was a world of difference between the two strips. It wasn’t just that Queen of Wands was light and funny and true to life where Xenith had been dark and depressing and fantastical – her new comic showed her maturity, as an artist, as a storyteller, as a person. And yes, it may seem a bit much to judge a person by the comic that they draw – but it seemed clear that the person telling the story of Kestrel and friends was a far cry from the person behind the story of Xenith.

And Queen of Wands was clearly a success. It was a comic with characters that many people formed attachments to – no doubt Aeire most of all – and she still managed to bring it to it’s proper ending. Well… a proper ending, if nothing else, and I think that was half the story behind the strip.

These days, Kestrel lives on through the magic of r*k*milholland. As for what may be next in line for Aiere herself?

I’ve heard word of a sequel arising sometime early next year. That could be cool. It’s certain I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open, given my usual propensity to completely fail to notice important announcements. If something nifty develops, there will be no complaints here.

And if not?

Well, we’ve always got the Queen of Wands archives. They were just as good a second time around, and I’m sure they’ll be just as sweet every time thereafter.

A pirate, a flying monkey, and a mad hatter walk into a bar…

Public Service Announcement:

Issue 2 of Cheshire Crossing is now available.

And yes, it rocks out just as much as the first one.

Enjoy.

The usual

Sluggy FreelanceOk, I am aware that I talk about Sluggy Freelance all the damn time. My bad. Apologies in advance. Etc.

But I felt that today could not go by without commenting on today’s strip. While Oasis has continued to develop as a character, her mystery still remains in full force, with more unanswered questions around every bend. Which isn’t a bad thing – having her resolve any core complexities while isolated from the main cast would have, at best, been a bittersweet success.

More importantly, though, we have the survival of our latest favorite bad guy, “Nash Straw.” I had been fairly certain Pete wasn’t going to kill him off, given the instant hit success he was – but I admit to having been left with my share of doubts after the latest scuffle.

In any case, my final verdict on the latest Sluggy storyline: A+! Oceans Unmoving definitely left a lot of people anxious about the state of the strip, and Sluggy started rather slowly building back up since then, but I’d say the old magic is back and in action.

Now, a lot will still depend on how things pan out once the camera is focused once more on the standard cast and crew… but Pete has done a lot to restore my faith in the strip. I’m grateful for that.

Anyway! I hope yesterday everyone had a merry Thanksgiving, or for those for whom it is irrelevant, a fantastic thursday!

Today we rant about videogames.

There is at least a non-zeo possibility this will be the ending to my NaNoWriMo story.By we, I mean I.

By videogames, I mean Neverwinter Nights 2.

I’ve just finished playing this game – a good thing, since it was the biggest hurdle in my completion of NaNoWriMo.

The game itself is quite enjoyable, by and large. Fun and engaging characters, an entertaining if unoriginal story (with a few genuinely impressive moments), and all the standard leveling and equipment joy that placates hardcore d&d players.

The problem, unfortunately, is that the game is unfinished.

It is fiddled with more bugs and glitches than I care to go into – including several ones very key to the game itself, such as the AI controlling your character’s companions, the camera views through which you observe the game, and various pieces of the combat system that drives encounters.

But I was able to accept that. Perhaps it is a bad thing that I expect games to have their share of quirks, and look upon something buggy as the norm, and something that works properly to be a grand success.

What struck me to the core was the ending. Now, I won’t get into any details as to the final plot itself. But the ending, and indeed much of the scenes leading up the end, were tagged on almost as an afterthought. The designers ran out of time or money, and suddenly had to wrap it up and push it out the door.

We’re talking about a game that drops into cut-scenes every time you turn a corner, and has exciting and skilled voice actors for bums you run into on the street for five minutes.

The ending of the game consists of a series of still images (that may not even be entirely accurate), and a voice-over by what appears to be Bob the Pizza Guy.

I kid you not. The entire game is filled with an exceptional soundtrack, and the ending of the game is a slideshow narrated in a dead monotone.

Ok, I’ve had my rant. The reason for the game’s flaws is easily found – the company needed the game out the door, and had to ship it a few months before it could actually be developed into a quality game. Disappointing, but I’ll live – even if I did feel the need to spend some time venting on it.

Now, I thought about quite a few ways to compare my complaints here with the wonderful world of webcomics.

It would not be a difficult comparison to make. I could say that webcomics, after all, usually fall on a specific schedule, and the demands to meet deadlines (even self-imposed ones) has left many artists pondering what to do. Put up an unfinished work, and color it later? Put up filler for now, and the final product when it is ready? Just skip the deadline?

It is a tough choice, and one that invariably will end with someone unhappy, and one side of the crowd yelling at those who get upset about delays in free comics, and the other side demanding more professionalism from those who want to make a living from their work. It’s a debate that makes me twitch, because I’m usually able to see valid points in both sides.

As such, I will kindly refrain from making the comparison between my video game woes and the webcomic industry. Instead, like everyone else on the face of earth, I shall succub to peer pressure and link to the new face of WIGU.

I like the name, even if I don’t understand it

The Flowfield UnityA month ago (to this day) I recieved my first request to take a look at a specific comic, so now seems a proper time to do a review of it.

The comic in question is called the Flowfield Unity; the man behind the comic is one Adam York Gregory, an impressive name in it’s own right.

It began, as I understand it, as a print comic that is now being posted to the web. Much like others who have done the same, as well as the countless ones that have done the opposite, it shows that it is quite feasible for a comic to work equally well in either medium.

As for the comic itself, it definitely has potential.

Potential is a funny word. While technically complimentary at its core, it comes across much harsher. After all, saying that something might eventually be good is simply a roundabout way of saying it isn’t good right now, yes?

So I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea – I definitely like the Flowfield Unity. It has been a little hit or miss to my tastes, with some strips going over my head and others just falling flat. One of the most visually exciting ones left me indifferent as to the actual content.

But for each one of those, there would be another one that I found exceptionally clever and insightful and amusing.

The larger portion of the strips, though, the largest feeling I felt… was potential.

It comes down to rhythm in a lot of ways. The strips from the very beginning involve exceptionally cool concepts, but they don’t quite convey them with the same beat, the same punch as does xkcd or the Perry Bible Fellowship.

They are well-crafted, there is no denying it. When I look at the first strips, I get the sense of nothing so much as visual poetry, illustrated haikus. That is hardly anything to laugh at – and therein lies the problem.

The strip revolves around the premise of turning ideas on their head, and presenting concepts broken ever so slightly askew. But the cleverness of such things will only take you so far, and without the humor found in those oddities, it will be hard to truly leave an impact on the reader.

Of course, there is only some twenty-odd strips in the archive at present date. The beat of the strip may very well change, and start fully delivering on the possibilities it touches upon. May already have done so, in fact, given he is drawing from an already published resource that consists of a much larger body of work.

For right now, though, it remains worth reading. Sometimes it won’t do much for me, and sometimes it will deliver something that genuinely leaves me smiling.

Right now it is a comic with potential, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

A Second Look through the Scrying Ball

On an entirely unrelated note, do you know how hard it was to find a comic today NOT discussing a Wii or PS3? Last week I mentioned Dominic Deegan, and spoke about how pleased I was with what was going on.

Or, more specifically, how pleased I was about how well Mookie was avoiding falling into old potential pitfalls, and making use of a new plot focusing on many of the side characters.

It strikes me, however, that I wasn’t so much talking about the things he was doing right as I was talking about the things he wasn’t doing wrong.

And while it is all well and good to avoid making blunders, not screwing up alone won’t make a comic inherently good.

So what is it about Dominic Deegan that has, for the last few weeks, been constantly rocking my socks off?

I am ashamed to admit I once thought not very highly of our good friend Quilt.Concerning the overall plot, he’s certainly been doing strong.

He’s added an new villain who isn’t an infernomancer, or an arch-devil, or an ancient reincarnation of an powerfully evil wizard.

He has our band of heroes up against someone who, in the end, is just a petty thug.

Of course, more than that, he’s a petty thug trying to hit the big leagues of organized crime. And he is smart, and it isn’t just a matter of going toe to toe with brute force, but having them actively do their best to outthink each other. That’s not just a nice change of pace – that’s a genuinely interesting new character and a great set-up.

In the realm of humor I have no real complaints. I’ve never been big on the puns laden throughout DD, but I’ve been finding even them charming throughout this storyline. (Well ok, that might not accurately describe today’s all that well.) But in general he’s managed to mix things up just right, with the jokes laden throughout the story naturally rather than having them actively bog it down.

Brilliant.Output of content, of course, has always been a strong point – 8 panel strips every day of the week? Full color sundays? You are going to be damn hard pressed to find a match for that.

But what has really been doing it for me, in the end, is the crafting within each individual strip. Throughout this storyarc there have simply been a slew of great individual moments.

Moments that are either picture perfect segments of humor, or ones that nail a character perfectly dead-on.

That’s the impressive part. We’ve got this large-scale production of content, and yet we have these moments being perfectly executed in every single strip. That takes more than just dedication – that takes damn solid skill.

And that’s what Dominic Deegan is doing right.

Is it wrong that I think 13 repetitions of the word 'crap' is actually decent dialogue?

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo: Mark 1

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

15,193 / 50,000
(30.4%)

It is the fifteenth of the month.

NaNoWriMo 2006 is halfway over. In theory, were I on track, I’d be at 25k words, instead of 15k – but while I’m behind, that would worry me more if I hadn’t gone the first week without any serious progress. As long as I’m able to keep shiny distractions away, the word output itself isn’t really what worries me, especially with two more weekends in the month to crunch it out.

What worries me is the story itself. It’s not a great story, but I’m fine with that – walking into NaNoWriMo and expecting to write a masterpiece is a recipe for failure.

The problem is that I’m at 1/3 of my word count, but only 1/9 of the way through the plot in the book.

Once upon a time, I had great ideas for stories – but usually those ideas were broad and sweeping. I had the momentous climax mapped out, the dramatic showdown, the key moment… but I could never fill in the rest of the story.

Now I’m running into the opposite problem – the filler isn’t pausing to let me progress. The characters run rampant over the story, and I’m trying to decide if I’ll have to accept cutting the plot short, trying to cram the entire thing into the rest of the month, or just skipping past long chunks of the tale.

Still, NaNoWriMo is definitely providing an interesting and intense experience. And if my only difficulties so far are having too much story to write, then I don’t think I’m entitled to spend time complaining!

Minus

Do you know what comic you should be reading?

I know what comic you should be reading.

You should be reading Minus.

Minus is the story of a young girl with incredible powers, who goes about the business of… well, of being a young girl who happens to have incredible powers.

The comic is Count Your Sheep meets Calvin and Hobbes meets xkcd. Filled with a mixture of the strangely horrible, the beautifully profound, and the absurdly whimsical, the comic is genius from start to finish. The concepts are incredible, the art (hand painted!) is gorgeous.

I know of few other strips that can tell a story to break your heart in three simple strips.

It isn’t a long read – the comic only has 41 strips to its name. But I can’t proclaim it’s greatness enough – all I can say is that, right now, you should be reading Minus.

It's... pretty much impossible for a comic to invoke recollections of FLCL and have me not like it.