Plainness and Frustration

January 31, 2011

To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. Not only have I been staring at my computer screen for the good part of four hours now, and yet have been unable to write anything, but for some reason WordPress decided to eat the post I’ve been working on for the past fifteen minutes. *sigh* It’s enough to make one want to throw their hands in the air and say, “I give up!”

Were it only so easy. The second draft deadline coming up this week, remember. But today’s string of bad luck has drained me so much.  The headache I have isn’t helping matters too.

So I’m calling it a night, and just pray that tomorrow gives me the opportunity to make up for all the time I wasted today. It’s a hopeless wish, but it’s all I have going for me right now.


Reversals

January 30, 2011

It’s just one of those weeks again.  You know, the ones with looming deadlines (this Saturday, again) which always seem to have me figuratively running around in panic, like a chicken without its head.  Once again, I have a concept in my head, but this time around I’m more hesitant to put things directly to paper, so to speak.  I think it’s one of those ides that need time to mull over, but unfortunately time is what I don’t have right now.

Tch. Kick reason to the curve, and just write down what I want?  In any other time, I probably would have, but for this class, especially after the ego-whipping I endured during the actual critique session?  Uh no, I’m going to have to pay attention this time around, and doubly so since we’re getting a particularly, shall we say, opinionated panelist on Saturday as well.

Again, no pressure right?

Oh, my friend Alain Gravel suggested that, since I’ve been mostly writing fairly sunny vignettes recently, he suggested that I try channeling all that anxiety and frustration into writing something darker (hence the reversal referred to in the title of this post).  The thing is, I’m not sure if I can even write something like that anymore.  It’s been more than ten years since I’ve been an angsty and depressed teenager, and I’ve brightened up immensely since then.

That, and I’m afraid that if I indulge my darker creative urges, I might have a hard time sealing them back in.


Random Thoughts: Chapter Tactics

January 30, 2011

Iron Hands battle-brother

Well, since I’ve got some free time, I figured that I’d drop by and do a quick post about something that came into mind while I was at work the other day.

In a previous post, I talked about how I missed the Traits system from the 4th Edition Space Marine Codex, despite how open to abuse it was for power gamers.  For all the way one could take advantage of the Traits System to get the better of one’s opponents, for many of us who weren’t WAAC (Win At All Cost) gamers the Trait System helped give our DIYs something to differentiate itself from the other nine-hundred plus Loyalist Chapters scattered in the Milky Way Galaxy of the Warhammer 40000 universe.

While the Chapter Tactics that replaced it isn’t all that bad, it pretty much forces a player to take a Special Character (or a ‘counts as’ counterpart painted in your Chapter colors) to give your Codex army a specific ‘flavor’ — for example, if you wanted to field a Salamander army a player is more or less forced to take Vulkan He’stan, or else you’re  just playing differently-painted Ultramarines. The same goes for the other Loyalist 1st-Founding Legions-turned-Chapters like the Raven Guard (Captain Shrike), Imperial Fists (Captain Lysander), and the White Scars (Ko’sarro Khan).

Then again, a power gamer would also take Vulkan He’stan, or any of the other Special Characters, because while Chapter Tactics often change the tactical dynamic of a Space Marine army, there’s also no real downside aside from taking a pricey Special Character.  Indeed in many ways they’re actually better point-for-point than the HQ Unit templates you have in the Codex.  And many don’t feel quite right with that.

In the two or three odd years since the 5th Edition Codex had come out, there have been many in the community who’ve submitted suggestions on how to rectify this perceived ‘issue’.  Now it’s my turn to throw my two thrones worth into the argument.

What I envision is something similar to the Sagas that are available to the Wolf Lords of the 5th Edition Space Wolf Codex, except these are only available to Chapter Masters and Captains.  And instead of the nebulous Oaths that a player may or may not have to fulfill, you instead have real drawbacks for selecting that particular Chapter Tactic — specialization has its price, after all.

These are what I’ve come up with so far.  I think they mostly (I hope) represent the attitudes of Chapters descended from specific gene-lines, or just a specific interpretation of Guilliman’s Codex Astartes.  They’re not as balanced as I’d like, and I’m still not sure how to penalize the divergent Chapters, but this is a work in progress after all.

Follower of the Codex: The Chapter uses the Combat Tactics rule as it appears in the 5th Edition Codex. As this is the ‘default’ or ‘vanilla’ choice, this Chapter Tactic does not have any penalties.

Follower of Dorn: Replace Combat Tactics with the Stubborn universal special rule. (Author’s note: How do I penalize this? I’m thinking of having 1d6 for Falling Back from combat, instead of the normal 2d6 inches)

Follower of Corax: Replace Combat Tactics with one (and only one) of the following universal special rules: Infiltrate, Stealth, or Fleet.  A Chapter that selects Infiltrate may not use the outflank function of the rule. (Author’s note: How do I penalize this? Limiting the use of heavier tanks like Land Raiders and Predators?)

Follower of the Khan: Replace Combat Tactics with one (and only one) of the following universal special rules for use: Hit & Run, Outflank, or Counter-Attack.  (Author’s note: How do I penalize this? Similar to the previous one, limiting the selection of tanks one could take?)

Follower of Manus: Lose Combat Tactics, and instead all Independent Characters and Sergeants gain use of the Feel No Pain universal special rule.  (Author’s note: How do I penalize this?  I got nothing at this point, except possibly limiting Elite choices, but that won’t make sense for the Iron Hands)

Follower of Vulkan: Lose Combat Tactics.  Flamers and meltaguns count as twin-linked. (Author’s note: How do I penalize this? Limiting Fast Attack choices?)

Yeah, coming up with viable alternatives is kind of hard, but it’s something to mull over during my free time.


Masks

January 29, 2011

I’m relieved in a way that our professor allowed us to use pen-names for writing our drafts. While it doesn’t completely take away the sting of very harsh critiques, it does lessen the blow somewhat, especially when you think that your classmates are really criticizing your alter-ego, instead of you directly.  This isn’t to say that you can just ignore their criticisms about your work — the point of the critique is to take the garbage you wrote and find a way to make it stink less — but at least this way you’re going to be less, to borrow a term, ‘butthurt’ about what happened.

That said, God, it was so hard to keep up the pretense of being part of the circle of critics, instead of being the poor writer that’s been put on the spot.  I must admit though, there’s some kind of sadistic fun in calling out the BS contained in your own work along with everyone else in the class.

I wonder if anyone’s finally figured out my identity though… I’m certain that some of my classmates have access to this journal, or at the very least had stumbled upon it by accident.

Well, no matter.  It was a net gain overall, as I have a good idea now of which aspects of the draft I can improve upon, and which ones I can dispense with (even temporarily).  It’s going to be a heck of a rewrite though, almost like building from the ground up again, but that’s how it is with all concepts, right?  A constant stream of destruction and reconstruction, until you can finally come with your ideal story… Or something close enough to it anyway.

It should be fun.

This session has also made me aware of the things I’ll have to either be careful with or outright avoid with the next draft I have to write. A draft whose deadline, incidentally, is next Saturday.  But no pressure, right?

On a slightly-related note… I found it funny how two of the other stories up for critique today turned out to have Incest as subtext, both overt and subtle.  What is it with my classmates and their fixation on that particular taboo, I wonder?  I had to suppress images of Yosuga no Sora for the duration of the class as a result.  Yeeach.


Shoring up Emotional Defenses

January 28, 2011

… Or I’d like to think so. Honestly I’m still worried about tomorrow’s class, but I think I’ve come to the point where I’ve accepted that my classmates, teacher, and the guest panelist will rip my submitted concept apart.  I’ll try to be strong about it, but after reading through the four other stories that are also up for critique tomorrow, I’m not too sure anymore.  Why?  Because of all the concepts up for review, mine looks like the weakest so far, especially in terms of execution. It’s really that bad.

*sigh*  I’m really bumbling into this blindly.

And as for conveniently not coming to class to avoid the emotional onslaught that will come? Not possible, since we have to submit a written critique of each story.

So much for that idea.

Speaking of which, I have to finish those critiques.  It won’t ease my mind any, but it needs to be done anyway.

It’s going to be a depressing day tomorrow, though.  Oh well, at least I’ll have a excuse to marathon ARIA again. That’s something to look forward to, at least.


Willfully…

January 27, 2011

If writing were like an exercise, then one might say that I’m not doing enough of it.

Some people might that observation strange, especially when one considers the fact that I post on this journal once a day, but I don’t think it’s enough. I’m supposed to be a fiction writer, so it goes to say that I should be writing fiction pieces as an exercise… Which I’m not really doing at all.  Kind of like going jogging everyday, where instead one should have been doing push-ups.

It’s one of the reasons why, inspiration permitting, I’ve been recently posting story drafts here.  I understand they suck, but I won’t get practice writing fiction if keep on writing essays, right?

Gosh, it’s hard to believe that I was a fanfiction writer before. What happened?  Granted, having pre-existing world settings and characters does seem a whole lot easier than creating something whole-cloth (or if you’re more cynical, stitching together many older themes together so that the cloth seems new), but still…

Anyway, I understand that I have a tendency to ramble, which leads to long and meandering drafts, so this time I’ve tried something short instead. Yesterday’s post Contracts was the result. While not as tight a narrative as I’d hoped, it’s word count is right about the goal I set, which is around five hundred words. In that regard, it’s almost like a piece of flash fiction, except calling it such would be an insult to flash fiction writers everywhere.  ^^;

Hopefully I can start doing more of those shorts in the coming days or weeks (the second school draft’s deadline aside).  They’re not going to be pretty pieces of fiction, but I’m trying to practice after all.

Oh, and one more thing before I close out this entry that’s completely unrelated to writing… I joined in another SCCSAV session, except instead of another anime Crusader chose the recent Ultramarines movie.  Along with Foshizzel,  we had a fun time, but I’d be lying if we didn’t groan or verbally facepalm during the viewing, but that’s probably because of our knowledge of the Warhammer 40000 universe. A casual watcher will probably enjoy this a lot purely as an action movie though.


Contracts

January 26, 2011


Cristina has always had vivid dreams. This was no different.

And this was a dream. She knew that without pinching herself.  After all, hadn’t she been in bed already? She even remembered not bothering with pajamas, and then… she was here.  And in her office clothes to boot.

Where was this place anyway? she wondered as she looked around.

It didn’t take her long to recognized where she was. This was her favorite table by the window in her favorite coffee house.  The street outside was deserted though, as deserted as the coffee house itself.

Well not quite.  On top of the coffee table there sat a cat.  At least she thought it was a cat; there was something slightly off with it. The way it intently stared at her didn’t help with the impression.

Welcome.

And then there’s that. Did she just heard the cat speak in her head?  Definitely a dream then. As far as she knew, cats don’t have telepathy.

But I am not normal cat, it seemed to reply to her.

Obviously.  Its cheerful and girlish voice was not helping matters. It was disturbing, actually.

I understand your discomfort, but this meeting has a purpose, it continued.  The cat’s blood-red eyes continued to stare at her.  And an important reason at that.

“And that is?”

A proposition of sorts. The cat tilted its head, its expression unchanged.  Although you don’t know it, there is great potential in you. It is currently lying dormant. Unused.

The cat’s head returned to its vertical position. I want to help you unlock it.

“That sounds too convenient,” Cristina said, unconvinced. “There’s a catch, right?”

If you could call it such, the cat admitted. In return for unlocking that dormant… possibility,  I ask you to use it to help save the world.

“Ooooookaaaaay…”

I assure you this is not a joke. Doom is coming, but with your power we might stop it.

“Hmm, let me think,” she feigned a pensive pose. “Nope. Sorry, find some other idiot.”

Will a wish change your mind?

“I read both Faustus and the Monkey’s Paw. Sorry.”

The cat actually looked disappointed. A pity then. It jumped off the table and walked toward the cafe door. Before it exited, it gave her one last look. In case you change your mind, use that to call upon me. Cristina saw a gem lying on top of the table.

“I’m positive.”

You say that now…

Cristina opened her eyes, and saw the dark ceiling above her. She was back in her room. It was quiet, and the only thing she could hear was the whir of her fan and the sound of her breathing.

“Stupid dream,” she grumbled, as she turned on her side. “Stupid spirit guide and its proposition. A wish for anything? In exchange for becoming a magical hero? As if things were so easy.”

With that she went back to her slumber.

If she had stayed awake just a few moments longer, she would have noticed a cerise-colored gem. There it sat in a hidden corner of her room, continuing to shine independent of any light source.