Storybuilding: A Ramble

Jul. 26th, 2017 06:45 pm
kiya: (rune)
[personal profile] kiya

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

I’m working on this story.

I have… nine tabs of reference material open, assuming I haven’t lost some somewhere, all of them about real-world culture and organization of the Marines (both US and Royal). That’s not counting the brief things I have opened, researched, and closed (“How would a Marine address their Navy corpsman?”).

Or the other things I’ve had open. Common world surnames, say, that’s one I keep having to pull up every time I get another speaking part. The aliens’ names are easier, there are only two of them in the platoon, and I can just make something up that’s in accord with their vocal apparatus. Trying to reach out for names that paint the suggestion that there’s a broad world full of human beings that contribute in the subtext, though, that requires some actual thought. And some thought, because just snagging ‘most common surname’ by continent or something is still lazy. Just a slightly broader lazy than before. But if the worldbuilding wants to include breadth of humanity it has to actually show it in the interstitial bits.

And then there’s more overtly political questions. I sit with this story, this story that I’m trying to root in a particular military experience, while proclamations are being made about trans people in the military, and I go, “… is there someone trans in this platoon?” Because that’s as conscious a decision as having women in the platoon, as having names for people that reach beyond European standards, and the odds are good that someone like Karou the hyenoid alien does not exist but I am damn sure that Chelsea Manning does. It’s easy to just grab the easy names, the assumed genders, the just-like-every-other-story bits, easy and lazy and anyway if it’s just like every other story why am I sitting and writing it in the first place?

And it goes on. Trying to articulate a plausible Space Marine ethos means spending a bit of time sitting with actual Marine expressions to try to figure out how that would translate, how to include it, how to express it in the story without sitting down and doing the “This Is What It Means” talk from people who are busy with their actual mission. It means coming up with story twists and angles that will let that actually show, rather than remain entirely invisible underneath the events. Which isn’t a different writing problem than questions of human diversity at all – it’s all about how to take the things that are true in the storyworld and make them visible and plausible.

I did a little mini-tweet-thread about this question of breadth of humanity, mostly talking about Cracked Pots, the novel in progress, but it holds here too. My gods, it’s full of PEOPLE. And figuring out the people means figuring out the things, the details that make them all real. All the effort into the little telling details and right moments.

This particular story is capped at 5000 words for the market I’m writing for.

Longer stories produce… notably more tabs.

Is this dramatic enough

Jul. 25th, 2017 01:45 pm
kutsuwamushi: (feminism)
[personal profile] kutsuwamushi
It always makes me sad an angry when I see a mother say "boys are less drama than girls."

It's so hurtful. No, they're not. You only think that they are because when boys transgress boundaries it's less likely to be labeled a negative behavior--an even less likely to be labeled "drama," which is used in a highly gendered way.

My boss called me dramatic after I asked not to be scheduled with a man who threatened to kill me--on the phone, to my boss, while I was listening. Who was actually full of drama: The man whose reaction to a woman not sucking his metaphorical dick was to descend into threats, or me, for trying to remove myself from the situation?

Who was actually full of drama: The boy playmate who suddenly and decisively decided to he didn't want to play anymore because I was a girl, or me, for being upset about it?

And then there's the fact that we systematically undercut their self-esteem by subjecting them to impossible standards of appearance and behavior. We set up an artificial scarcity around being valued by tokenizing them--there's one girl who's the prettiest, one girl who gets the boy, one woman who is on the team. We teach them that girls can't really be friends because they're always in competition, and then chide them if this fosters competitiveness.

And then we say they're full of drama. Fuckkkkkk yooooouuuuuuuuuu.

I was a well behaved, quiet child. As I get older I get less and less patient with this kind of nonsense and, ironically, want to get all dramatic. But I'm complaining about it here rather than actually engaging with the mothers saying this (mothers! TRAITORS!) because ....

Gleefulness!

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:16 pm
brooksmoses: (Default)
[personal profile] brooksmoses
I just looked at the Schlock Mercenary comic for tomorrow, and the sound effect for firing the Very Large Gun that was introduced a storyline or two ago is making my vibrate and clap my hands with utter glee.

It works well as a standalone strip even if you're not familiar with the comic, too, so I'm going to make you click through to see it rather than spoiling it.

A follow-up to the previous post.

Jul. 15th, 2017 11:20 pm
kutsuwamushi: (they see me rollin')
[personal profile] kutsuwamushi
Imagine that you're this guy:



This is your life:
"This potion master has been trying to teach shadow magic for five years... but the congregation keeps passing him over for less-experienced Serthis."
You're tired and frustrated. You just want someone to recognize your skills - but no matter what you do, no one wants you. When they passed you up for Bob, that asshole who wouldn't know shadow magic from his own shadow, you decided it was time to take some time for yourself. A small vacation, maybe.

So you slithered off to the Sandswept Delta. A couple of your buddies came along; you know your complaining annoys them after a while, but they're good friends and listen anyway. While you're relaxing with your tail in the water, telling them about how awful Bob is, some dragons show up. Goddammit.



You don't really have the choice of whether or not to fight them. Fighting is what you do. It's always been this way and no one knows why. This time, you're defeated, and one of the dragons takes you home as a prize. You're "wary" - but over time the dragon bonds with you. You even begin to lend the dragon your expertise. It's kind of nice to finally be appreciated.



But then one day your dragon goes out and comes back with another Serthis Potionmaster. A dragon can't have more than one familiar, and a dragon clan can't have more than one familiar of the same type. And what's more, the dragon finds it more rewarding to bond with you than to be bonded. She's in love with falling in love, not so much with maintaining that love. She no longer needs you.

She could sell you. Dragons love gold and gems and there is a thriving trade in sentient creatures. You tried not to think about it too much - but now the threat is very real.

But yours will be an even worse fate. She's an alchemist - she knows how to transmute matter into other forms. Sure, sometimes you cringed when she threw live fawns into her bubbling cauldron, but your friend Craig was also an alchemist, and you're kind of used to the panicked squeals. You never thought it would be you. But now it's you.

She picks you up. You see the cauldron. It pulses with malevolent green energy.



You scream.

You become muck.

kutsuwamushi: (they see me rollin')
[personal profile] kutsuwamushi
I finally joined the dragon version of neopets - is anyone else a member? We should be friends. Here's me.

I'm always way too easily amused by the in-universe implications of game mechanics. As soon as I started playing, I had to find find my dragons food. Does Flight Rising avoid the uncomfortable truth that in order for your dragons to eat meat, animals have to die? No. It leans in. One of the first things I fed my dragons was an adorable pink owlet with big eyes.

And then there's transmutation. You can boil down anything into sludge: trinkets, raw materials, wildlife, familiars. The last one demands some thought. We know at many of the familiars are sentient, based on their flavor text. Do they scream as you throw them into the cauldron?

I'm not going to even address the fact that your dragons are directed to breed by an invisible hand, and their ugly children sold off to serve the gods.

I think the world of Flight Rising is a terrifying place.

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