Where Babies Come From #4

As usual, spoilers ahead. Also, since starting this little series of posts, sales have gone up significantly. Thanks, guys, I appreciate that a lot. 

Capacity for Atrocity represents me going to my roots as a writer: writing fast-paced, intense action scenes and trying my best to portray something cool. As I said in #1 of this series, I really like mecha and this story follows a random group of mecha pilots in Donetsk. Why Donetsk? I wanted another exotic location and I was out of ideas. I went to watch some football and I was met with a Europa League match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk. The commentator starting speaking about one of my favourite players, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and how he used to play for Shakhtar Donetsk. I wanted a snowy place in any case, so a large city in Ukraine worked nicely.

This story was much less of a test for my descriptive skills than many of the others, being more of an action story than the others. I wanted to make the reader feel the sort of unfamiliar intensity and power the characters would see from pre-Event weaponry. In the context of the narrative, these mech suits are almost legendary machines and are certainly much more powerful than anything else at the military’s disposal. I aimed for a melancholy feeling of a lost era as the mecha fight but with the sort of energy and intensity that justifies even hardened professionals cracking under pressure.

The desolate ruins of Donetsk are little more than a microcosm of the global situation. As a Blank Zone, it’s an abandoned area that civilians are pretty banned from entering. I allude to Blank Zones having mutagenic monsters, rogue Lordframes and dormant weapons like virus bombs and untriggered nuclear devices. I intend to set more stories in the Blank Zones, so giving the reader a taste here won’t hurt.

In the end, I wanted Capacity for Atrocity to be cool and intense, showing off both my standpoint on warfare and my technical abilities.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

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Antagonists: The Best Part of a Story

The bad guy is most often the most memorable part of any given piece of fiction. He’s given the best lines, has the most agency in the plot and basically ends up being, without restraint, a lot cooler than the good guys are allowed to be. This is why making a good bad guy is essential. I’m going to use male pronouns, but these are just as applicable for female and non-gendered antagonists. 

1. Make him stick out. An author should make all characters memorable but this is vital for the antagonist if he is to have any staying power. He is the driving force behind the novel’s conflict so someone that important needs to be dealt with carefully. If he falls flat, the plot and conflict themselves can deflate. 

2. Make him whole. Very few villains are in it for the lols and those that are have reasons for that. The most common mistake to make is turning the villain into a plot device rather than a person. Even animal antagonists have reason to be terrifying forces of nature. 

3. Make him complement your hero(es). It’s strange to think that someone can be given the wrong villain, but there’s a reason Batman is paired up with the Joker, and Superman takes on Lex Luthor. These villain/hero pairs complement each other well, with the Batman/Joker conflict being as psychological as it is physical. Batman versus Luthor is an interesting intellectual battle but doesn’t resonate as well as the classic dustup. The more powerful it is, the more the conflict resonates, the more it will be enjoyed and the more it really captures the imagination. 

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

Writing Supplements

The writing muscle is one that needs to be exercised regularly and occasionally it needs a bit of help to develop. I definitely use a few supplementary aids to help out. The ones below all relate to me but they might still work for you.

Music. For me, this is the biggest one. I, for one, certainly work much more effectively when I have scene-appropriate music filling my ears. Between the understated but powerful piano for sad scenes, upbeat, lyric-filled pop for more cheery or funny scenes and exciting, fast rock and metal for action, there is a wide variety of genres and types you can fit to each of your scenes.

Environment. I tend to write in places that have a positive or free atmosphere but I also tend to move. When I write at school, I find that sitting under the shadow of tall trees gives me some sort of boost, the oxygen giving my brain something to work with. At home there’s a workroom or study I sit in when I want to get down to business but most of my writing comes from sitting in my bedroom under a blanket or two. One’s state of mind is very important when writing.

Journals. The writing muscle is one that needs to be exercised regularly and there’s no better light exercise than journal writing. If you get the more distracting thoughts out of your head in the form of a diary entry, or even think of something good while you’re there, you’re going to end up with something of decent quality.

Breaks. I cannot overstate the importance of breaks. Much as many videogames encourage you to take a break every hour or so, I’d recommend the same for writing. Taking the time to clear your head and breathe with definitely increase the quality and clarity of your thoughts and writing, which is what you want, really. Put the pen down, make some tea and just rest for a bit.

I don’t know what works for you, but these definitely help me when I work. Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

World Building- Literally the Ground Up

Reaching towards the sky higher than any of the buildings in the city by at least a half, the highway was a road as wide as a bus was long and held up in the heavens by ivory-white ribs made of steel and concrete. These gigantic struts were each covered by a mesh and striped with alternating bands of fungus and moss, each of these poles dipping into an evergreen valley filled with plant life. The road itself was encased in a cage of glass and metal supports creating a kilometres long tube reminiscent of a huge train. Even though some panels of glass had fallen out and chunks of the ribs had broken down, the titanic construction was in remarkable condition. A lammergeier flew just under the road itself, giving another indicator of its spectacular height. A ray of sunlight through the clouds cut through the glass and refracted over the sparkling tree tops.

New science-fiction authors generally have quite a task ahead of themselves. They have to create a whole new world for the readers to explore and this world is by definition different from the one we inhabit. So how can a sci-fi guy face and tackle this daunting task of moulding a world? Note that this advice can apply to any sort of world-building.

1. Create the image of the world. This step is vitally important to any piece of writing and world creation is not an exception. Create it as a full entity in and of itself before diving into your novel. You never know; perhaps the geyser field far away from the current or even eventual storyline could prove useful later.

2. Use the atmosphere and social perception. The 21st Century on Planet Earth within the Sol System of the Milky Way Galaxy is a place where most people are quite idealistic and optimistic. Generally, in my experience anyway, people believe that they can do things that matter and change their own circumstances. There are of course exceptions. Your world doesn’t have to be this way. It could be an extremely nihilistic existence wherever your world is, where the idealistic protagonist is repeated and brutally put down. It could be a world where the common man would be filthy rich by today’s standards and animal rights are abused for the entertainment of the masses. A world can be anything you want it to be as long as you…

3. Describe effectively. Make sure to include everything you need, nothing more and nothing less. What may seem like a mundane detail that you could quickly gloss over could be the hook that draws a reader into the novel, into its atmosphere (sometimes literally). Categorise the things that are different to the world that you know and write them down. They need not be the most extreme things. Subtlety sometimes aids believability. Think of any novel or film with an underground of any sort, be it criminal activity or an entire society. It could be something as simple as underground dogfights with dangerous performance drugs to something as extreme as the gladiatorial combat of genetically-engineered fighting beasts played in front of thousands.

4. Make the inclusion of the world’s details meaningful. All of these details mean nothing if they are deposited in gigantic info-dumps. The best way to include these sorts of things is in plot and in relevance to characters. The dog pits are a far-off tidbit of information until John, who is stricken with melancholy after creating the drug, appears on the scene or until Lucy mentions the pits as something she’s seen very often in the streets. That kind of weaving makes the world seem real rather than characters and the world being separate chunks in the space of your novel.The most important thing to do is to connect everything believably.

Influences of Other Works

Sometimes, when consuming media of any kind, we come across something that we really like on a conceptual level and in execution. Something we ourselves would like to explore in a situation of our own. This sort of creative borrowing is especially prevalent in the impressionable teenage years and thus I am rather familiar with the concept. The ways this affects one’s writing is double-sided

Firstly, it can enrich your work if it sufficiently workable and liable to changes. Adapting something that interests you will likely interest others who also like this thing or activity you are portraying. Without being a ‘rip-off’ or stolen, it can bring in an otherwise untapped part of the audience. Sometimes a work is better with the ‘duct-tape’ that a borrowed concept provides.

The negative side of this sort of borrowing is the fact that a writer, or creator of any kind, may be sidetracked by the effects of the borrowed idea rather than adapting it for their own purposes. I ran into this problem in my earliest works, trying to copy ‘cool’ things wholesale into my novels. While it can be enriching to include a variety of things, it can turn into an equally likely mish-mash of cliches. Not everyone can execute concepts of every kind into workable results.

Use borrowing carefully, never steal and remember to be yourself when writing your fiction.