Dresden Files game tomorrow

To be entirely candid, right now I am so tired that I don’t care what I do tomorrow. I didn’t sleep last night, and had to start the day at the bumcrack of dawn. It’s been a noisy day, and not the cool kind of noise like rain or crews working on the street. I’m talking somebody antagonising a shrill dog for ten straight minutes, kids shouting abuse at each other, car alarms, barely running motorcycles… And I think there’s a hole in the wall that is lettin in beetles the size of my swollen thumb. ARGH. All I can think of right now are nasty, negative things that don’t even have form. I’m tired, depressed, and just plain grumpy.

THIS MEANS IT IS AN AWESOME TIME TO WORK ON A CHARACTER CONCEPT!

Those who have read even the first book in the Dresden Files know that I am absolutely not joking. Those who haven’t… It’s called Storm Front, and I recommend the audio version, read by James Marsters.

So, armed with my crappy mood and Family Force 5 (Watch Me Walk Like a Zombie and Love Addict), let’s figure out what kind of  crusty hero I want to play.

Somebody who’s been kicked around a lot. The kind of metaphorical kicking that leaves visible marks. So she’s a little rough around the edges. And she can’t just let a bully go without even a remark. Maybe a Bodyguard as a “high concept.” Or the Wolverine-like hanger-on for a cobbled together X-children community.

Brevity is important. “Paladin” for example, says quite a lot in a single word. Hmm. One just hit me: Cleaner. More refined than rough. Quietly competent. Potentially as “in the know” as even a wizard, but with a rather different relationship with the lesser known aspects of the world. Hehe, I would totally play like the lady version of Dwight Hendrickson.

Okay, I like that. And in honour of both my wretched mood and Dwight, I’ll call the character Ms Courtney Edge.

It Gets Good Further In

That is the hopeful prayer of all people recommending something with a rough beginning, or trying to justify why they stuck with said thing. Personally, I view it as a kind of criticism in its own right, never mind the intentions.

The only time that I would say it is acceptable and fulfils the purpose which it seems to, is when the beginning is merely slow. Like Lord of the Rings. It isn’t for everyone, but even people who really like it may be able to agree that the beginning is rather slow–especially if you know how the rest of the story goes.

In Final Fantasy 13, the cry of “it gets better later” is probably one of the worst examples of the answering cry, “That’s not good enough.” Twenty hours into a sixty to eighty hour game may not seem like a lot in fractions, but twenty hours in when one only has three hours of available game time a day is unacceptable. In video games, you shouldn’t end a session because you’re bored or otherwise dissatisfied. That does not speak well for the game, and it does not have the right to get better later. It should be good enough sooner than three hours in. Never mind zarking twenty.

Since movies are an infinitely smaller time investment (you would have to watch Old Boy ten times to cover twenty hours alone), this doesn’t hit them as hard or as often. But let’s say that Avengers failed to engage viewers until the big showdown in New York. That would have been a ridiculous wait time for the movie to “get good.” I don’t actually have a real example off the top of my head because I’ve only been watching actually good movies lately…

(Also, I really did like Avengers, I only used it in example because I could think of the movie in terms of events and time without a lot of effort or research.)

Books, like video games, require a significant investment of one’s time. It depends on the book, but they tend not to require as much as video games (because… Skyrim, you guys) but if you use audiobooks as a guideline to read time, then the average novel runs eight to thirteen hours.

I went back to reading Divergent. And really, it’s not so awful that I can’t finish it. I just stopped reading it back whenever because the beginning is so bloody awful. I’m in Chapter 24 now, and I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about it. And this is the best I can come up with:

Unless the rest of the book is as brilliant as Abarat, it cannot ever squeeze past two stars. The beginning is such a soul-sucking, angry-making obstacle that I just can’t enjoy the rest of the book.

It’s like the horrible beginning took such a toll that I can only spend the rest of the book going, “Yeah? Okay. Whatever. Are you done yet?” Even when something interesting happens, all I can think about is that the pattern set very deeply by the beginning is that nothing can be interesting.

The beginning is a foundation. Not something you’re trying to just get over with–not as a reader or a writer.

So I had some more thoughts after it was over.

Yesterday, my post ran quite long. I nearly cut the CLAMP-dissing convention story, but then just decided to leave it. Instead, I curbed my usual efforts to include all pertinent story information and used a briefer style to explain the premise. Which I liked.

More verbose:

This girl collapses, her soul fractured. Her best guy friend (unspoken love) pays a time-space witch to help him travel to different worlds to get back the pieces of her soul. The power to travel comes at a price–no matter how many soul pieces (memories) they get back, she will never again remember him. Travel is accomplished through the use of a magical creature. Two other men also request this travelling power of the witch for their own purposes–one needs to stay on the move, while the other just wants to get back to his own world.  After taking their payment, she convinces them to travel together.

That’s where the story starts. They just wreck it later.

The Hero’s Journey came up in comments, which made me think. My first reaction was to be kind of bemused, since I hadn’t noticed any Joseph Campbell worship in this story. Manga tends to follow the Dragonball-video-game progression of the hero. Level up, get stronger, become the best. The end. Zarking fardwarks, even Yakitate Japan follows this style of hero growth. There’s no call to adventure, there is “I wanna be the best Pokemon trainer, let’s battle in successive gyms until we get cancelled.”

My second reaction was, well, there are steps, so let’s have a look. I could be wrong. Let’s say that Syaoran is the hero. Spoilers ahoy, probably. They’re actually pretty funny spoilers, taken out of context.

 

  1. Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero’s normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
  2. Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
  5. Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
  7. Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
  8. Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
  9. Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
  11. Resurrection Hero - The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
  12. Return with Elixir:  The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.

 

  1. Fairly common at the beginning of any story. Romance, comedy, horror. Whatever.
  2. I guess Sakura losing her soul bits could be a call to adventure.
  3. Not remotely. The time-space witch explains the problem, how to fix it, and really lays it on thick just how much it will cost Syaoran. He doesn’t even hesitate, just says, “I’ll do it.” Kid never wavers, either.
  4. Do these have to come in order? Because a character does become a mentor in fighting much, much, much later. Before that, he’s just that guy over there.
  5. Many, many thresholds are crossed.
  6. Every time, they have to learn the rules. This is what I think of as montage time in the movies, personally. But it happening over and over, and kind of being the point, I don’t think you can montage it.
  7. Hmm. It’s revealed that Syaoran is blind in one eye, and learns to sense people so that he can fight better. It doesn’t come up all that much after a certain point. It’s just sort of something he can do now.
  8. There are lots of these. Syaoran is a clone, the original takes his place after the clone eats someone’s eye and becomes a destroyer of worlds, then Sakura turns out to be a clone, she abandons them for some reason I never understood,  then both clones die, they find out that Fai has been in with the enemy all along, Kurogane has to cut off his own arm because of reasons, Syaoran broke the logic of the entire universe and now people are melting if they leave the time loop…
  9. Rewards do not tend to happen. After each ordeal, they can only plateau back to Mostly Okay until something else bad happens. Sometimes they don’t even have time to be okay. I guess relaxing in Nihon Country for a while might count.
  10. They return to Clow Country, but that’s glazed over. Drama drama drama resolution of drama, oh now we’re home.
  11. Resurrection Hero could refer to how the conflict is resolved, but the again, the order is throwing this all off.
  12. No elixir. He goes home and then almost immediately leaves.

Seriously, Syaoran’s reward is to learn that his father is actually his own clone, and the girl his loves is a younger version of his mother. Also, his parents are stuck in him and Sakura somehow, so he wants to go back to finding the soul bits and also some bodies. So… they get to the end only to realise that the beginning was the best part anyway.

And long post! ffffffff

So that’s over with.

I finally finished reading Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle today. No surprise, it was incredibly disappointing.

At least they finished it. CLAMP is notorious for just not bothering. Which is funny, because they are super type A about other things. Like comparing themselves to others.

This is a story I have from my husband, so it’s both funny and depressingly true. He used to be really big into the convention scene, he was often if not always staff. He was also in an improv show called Whose Line Is It Anime? I gather that it had some behind-the-scenes problems sometimes, but it was a good show that was fairly popular.

At one particular convention, the show was more popular than CLAMP, who had come all the way from Japan. ….actually, it’s a little funny that in the land of my blog and like… the three people I know definitely read it, my husband is better known than CLAMP. Anyway. Not only did the improv attract waaaay more people (standing room only!), this group of four ADULTS were upset about it.

Dollars to doughnuts that they were saying things like, “These Americans are lame, they don’t know what’s really cool.” Or something about not getting it. That’s the usual fallback. *cough*FinalFantasy13*cough*

More understandably, they were probably upset when they were made fun of for banning photos. If you want a CLAMP photo, you have to pay for it. …man, they suck.

Seriously though, the comic is… disappointing really is the most suitable word. I’m not angry. By the end, I had nothing invested in it. It’s like I had invested plenty, and then slowly withdrew until I was just flipping pages.

But the phrase, “And not a f*** was given” doesn’t quite apply. I really like the beginning. Tired tropes and silly J-E translation traditions aside, it’s actually a compelling premise.

A young man goes on a journey across dimensions with an weird magical creature, an angry swordsman, and a cryptic magician to regain the lost magical items that comprise his sweetheart’s soul.

See? It’s pretty cool, right? Granted, every world they go to is just Japan. But it’s episodic, which manga loves, and it has old gold stereoty–I mean characters in an ensemble centred around the romantic leads.

Then it all goes into the toilet for some kind of death-defying, clone-infested, time travel bullcrap.

Every time there was major twist concerning the male lead, it was echoed by the female lead in an infinitely less interesting way and somehow at just the wrong time. I think “death-defying, clone-infested, time travel bullcrap” is spoiler enough without having to go into specifics. The name thing was just… boring and pointless, especially since this was supposed to be the CLAMP version of Kingdom Hearts.

I’ve read a range of CLAMP’s work. Clover was the first (Wikipedia says it’s finished, but it isn’t), Clamp Detectives made me vomit, Wish (finished, but the art is so bad that it looks like a name) Chobits (also ruined by too many twists and too much drama), Cardcaptor Sakura, Angelic Layer (another one that looks bad because it’s rushed and has almost no backgrounds).

But apparently none of that matters, because every single one of those works is only given a little bit of lip service. Characters show up, familiar faces divorced from their personalities and circumstances. Seeing Ora devoid of poignancy is kind of heart-breaking.

I’m glad it’s over. I may read just the beginning again. CLAMP is lame. Go finish Clover. I wanna know what happens to Ran and if his guardian is really his boyfriend or something.

…you know what? Also, do a real gay couple for once, instead of teasing.

Book Summaries

As a writer, how do you feel about your book’s summary? I was going to write “back cover” but then I thought of books that have the summary on the inside jacket, and then again of the rush of ebooks. So summary it is.

Do you think that it should be necessary that the reader see that first? People shop for books in many, many different ways. Some buy certain authors automatically, some go by cool title, nice cover, or the back blurb. Others get reviews and really practise a lot of diligence.

I’m an impulse reader. I tend not to read the book summary. If it’s a good book, I figure that I can just read it and not have to do homework. However, today I started reading Moonlight Masquerade, and had some trouble reading the opening scene.

Broadly, Moonlight Masquerade is a romance about French émigré Lady spy and a clerk from the Foreign Office working for the Home Office to root out French spies in the lady’s household. He is posing as a butler.

In the opening scene, Rees the clerk/butler is searching Lady Thingy’s room. In a non-pervy way, since he is there to find out if she’s a spy. Even so, he does get distracted by the underwear drawer. This distraction comes in the form of him thinking about who the underwear belongs to.

He refers to Lady Thingy as his employer for the foreseeable future, so I was immediately confused. It’s established very quickly that he’s seeking information in the room, so I connected the mention of his “employer” to that business. He turns out to be the worst spy I have ever seen, but this is only the first or second page. So here I was thinking that he was searching the lady’s room on her own orders… except I think he had already expressed a concern that he would be caught.

Then the very next line, he says that the lady might be a spy. Which worsened my confusion considerably. So his employer may or may not have asked him to search her rooms in order to see that she’s a spy, but he’s a spy, so of course she is too… See, that’s the way my brain was trundling along, so I didn’t actually think that though they were both in the spy business that he was trying to find proof that she was a double agent.

Which of course she wasn’t. If I had read the summary (this is a digital library loan), then I would not have had this problem. I don’t think.

Even after all of that, I don’t know if the problem is that the book was written with the understanding that of course you will have read the back of the book (or digital equivalent) before starting the actual book. It may have been. It may also have been the fact that I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in probably two weeks.

Anyway, it made me wonder how writers feel about the summary that comes with the book. Or how they feel about the selling aspect. Personally, I think that most people can’t write good summaries for selling their books, but that’s partially because I don’t think that I can.

…seriously, this guy is a terrible spy. I’m only 25% into the book and every single time he has done spy work, he has failed horribly. Searched the lady’s room? Burned a candle on one of her dresses and had to hide for hours in an armoire until he could sneak out. Also he crumpled her dresses awfully while hiding. Searched the French chef’s room? Got caught coming out, by the French lady’s maid who hates him and told on him effing immediately. Sneak out at night to report to his contact? Get caught sneaking out… by the lady herself. Sigh. He sucks so bad. I may not finish this. He’s a terrible spy and she’s an overly passive one.