Storytelling Specter 3

Every story can be boiled down to a simplistic means.  Some claim that this is a really small amount of words.  Let’s discuss what I think in the Storytelling Specter.

StorytellingSpecter300I’ve been told that a story is essentially “someone does a thing.”  I can agree with that.  The source of that information also says that the story, any story, can be boiled down to about 500 words.  If you’re wondering, that’s about the length of each of my columns here on the Emerald Specter website.  I hold a different view, because I’d like my story to have a little more nuance.

About two months ago, I started thinking about all the “novels I’d like to write,” because I’ve actually got a list of them.  These are normally listed as first books of a series, with a couple being one offs, but overall, they are a list of stories that I’ve been wanting to tell.  Well, rather than wait to make these into novels or whatever, I’m going to start writing them.  There’s a little problem with that, though.

I’ve got a personal problem.  I like to start things but I have a really hard time finishing them.  I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (coming up this November, I’ll try to jump in again) and only once have I completed the event AND been satisfied with what I wrote… for the most part.  The goal of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, though, far shy of the 100,000 words that most people say a novel needs to be in length.  Well, here’s where my “let’s just write this stuff” comes out, combined with boiling down the story into a “someone does a thing.”

Instead of trying to boil my stories down into a 500 word synopsis, which is what I think they’d boil down to, I have created a personal “pilot” program.  I’m writing every novel idea that I have in a 3,000 word story.  The WHOLE story, and if that story is intended as a jumping off point for a series, then the solid foundation of what the first story would end up looking like.  I’ve outlined a list of about 13 starting ideas that I’ve placed into this pilot program and if the story turns out in a satisfactory manner, then that story will be expanded upon into more something resembling a 100,000 word story.

Interested in knowing how satisfactory or how far I’ve gotten?  As I write this, I have three 3,000 word “pilots” completed and I like them all.  I will have written at least two more by the time this article drops, meaning that I’m almost halfway through my initial 13 ideas.  I think that even if one or two of those don’t turn out, or hell, if six of them don’t turn out, I think that I have a nice foundation to build on.  Now I get to be a little cryptic.

One story is solidly a series, with the 3,000 just being the “jump off point.”  One story is the entire “first season” of a story.  The third one is the gist of the story I’ve been working on as a series and I realize that I’ve been telling the wrong story with that… until I wrote the 3,000 words.  Now I know what I need to write.  Success!

I suggest you do the same thing with your ideas.  If 3,000 isn’t enough, maybe your story isn’t what you thought it was and you need to revise the whole thing.  Look at me, I discovered that with one of my ideas and I’m guessing the idea I write in two hours from now will end up that way, too.

Write.

Specter Who – Into the Dalek

We return for the second episode of the newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi, as we venture inside a Dalek… despite the concept not being fantastic, I think that the episode as a whole was worth writing about… yeah, I just teased that so I can get to the rest of the review.

SpecterWho300Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman return in the second episode of series 8, Into the Dalek, which contains one thing that I do not like very much: Daleks.

How can I be a Doctor Who fan and not be a Dalek fan?  Well, I don’t loathe them, but if you asked me which recurring enemy the Doctor should be taking on I’d say the Cybermen.  But I don’t get a vote, apparently, so Daleks it is.

We are “honey, I shrunk the Doctor” down so he can go inside a Dalek and figure out why the “good” Dalek was bad.  Then he repairs the damage?  What, exactly, did you think would happen?  I think we’re beyond the shock value of the Daleks being anything but extermination machines and I don’t really think seeing inside the Dalek did all that much more to enhance my perception of them.

We DID see Missy again, whom people online are calling the Gatekeeper… and the Master.  I don’t think that she’s the Master but I am interested to see why she keeps popping back up.

Overall, I like Capaldi as the Doctor so much that I don’t even remember who the guy before him was.  That’s a good thing.  I give this one four out of five but that’s on Capaldi’s performance and I hope that the Daleks don’t pop up again this season.

Do weeee ooooo!

Fitness Specter 3

Health and fitness is a never ending battle.  Do you want to be on the side that keeps pushing and keeps trying to achieve no matter how much you really don’t want to?  Do you want to be the guy in that magazine, in the wrestling ring, or on the TV that looks spectacular with his shirt off?  (Unless you’re a lady reading this, then replace that with lady versions.)  Do you want to succeed when everyone else around you says “eh, I’m healthy enough” and then they die from being fat?  Then you’re in the right place.

Welcome to the battle.

FitSpecter300Where do I start?  This is the third column, I don’t need to “start.”  I need to ask you if you’ve been eating healthy.  Do I?  Have you?  If the answer is “no,” again, you need to set your foundation that you build upon and not just “hope you lose weight.”  Eating is the single most important thing you need to do in order to get fit.  Everything begins with a solid diet.

So far, I’ve covered healthy eating (a solid diet, not “a diet” but a solid diet).  I’ve also covered getting moving, even if you’re just walking.  I’ve even mentioned that running and biking are options.  If you’ve been waiting for me to talk about actually working out, you’re in luck… this is the column.

I’m going to concentrate on the single most important part about working out: habit.  Make working out a habit.

A habit is not “I don’t feel like going to the gym today, I’ll skip it.”  That’s an excuse.  If you want to move your “off day” to accommodate that spur of the moment change, that’s different, but you need to make going to the gym a habit.  Going to the gym should be a way of life, not something you just kind of do once in a while.

You can create a habit, according to experts, in 21 days.  In other words, you need to make going to the gym a habit for at least 21 days.  You won’t even start to see positive results by going to the gym on a regular basis for at least 3 or 4 times a week for the three weeks.  That’s 21 days, 3 to 4 times a week.  If you can do math: that’s 9 to 12 times of going to the gym.  Now I’ll tell you how to make that work.

If you’re a beginner, don’t dive in with 4 times right off the bat.  When you go in, don’t lift as much as you can.  Start a week with twice… two times the first week.  Maybe even do that two weeks… then jump it up to three, then jump it up to four.  If you’re really serious about working out, go up to six, but don’t do more than your body can handle… it WILL let you know, too.

If the gym isn’t a habit, you can fall off the wagon and spend a month away from the place that is making you healthy.  I recently got back into the gym after six weeks… week one?  Three days.  After I get another week under my belt of three days, I’ll go back up to four.  I’d like to do six again but I know that isn’t likely, not with my current work schedule.  But at least I’m going.

You should start small… make it a habit… and for the love of Groot, eat healthy!  You can’t call it a “cheat meal” if you’re doing it better than 10% of the time.

Would You Support A Podcast (Live Show)?

Would you commit to Patreon for a live show?  Would you be interested in hearing topical things that also appear in a printed form in a live place where you could chat with the host?  Is there a chance you might help pay for a Mixlr Pro account so that the show in question would be longer than 1 hour?

If you are interested, let me know.  I’d love to broadcast, as often as possible, and if you would like that to last longer than an hour, I’d be looking at doing a Patreon account to keep that rolling in a longer format.  I would also be able to get back into the podcast field a lot sooner than I currently plan on, which is looking to be later in the year, yet.

Let me know at emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com and tell me what you think of these ideas!

Enjoy the columns I’m pushing out, folks!

Ingress Intel 4

One of the hardest badges for me to get inside the game of Ingress is the 150 guardian badge.  I was stopped at 112 days by a stupid cheater and I’ve not come close since.  Why, you may ask?  Well, in my area there is just enough competition to keep me from getting said things and if I don’t get my guardian badge before I leave North Dakota, I don’t think I’ll be able to get the badge.  Where I plan on going has a LOT MORE COMPETITION and I think that trying to hold a portal for anywhere longer than a couple of weeks is going to be a hard, hard task to accomplish.

Oh yeah, this is Ingress Intel.

Ingress300Do you know how hard it is to sit here and write that I came within 38 days of getting the highest badge for guardian portals?  It’s very hard.  In fact, I’m going to pause to recharge the few portals that I need to keep charged in the hopes one of them lasts into the 149+ day area… I’ll be right back.

(Jeopardy Music Plays)

Okay, I’m back.  Yes, I actually did do some recharging there.  So, nobody drive out to the Sage Grouse to take it down, okay?  I need me the guardian portal.

No, I don’t own the Sage Grouse.  Fooled you.

There are lots of badges that I’m interested in getting.  I’d like to get the one that is for destroying resonators… and the one for connecting portals.  I need 2 more silver badges to get to level 9 as I type this and that means I need to do some Ingress stuff in order to advance myself in the world a little.  If I can get the “easy” badges for my area, when I move, I can get the easy ones there and then I can be a level 16, in which there aren’t many in the WORLD right now.  No, not many level 16s at all.

Ingress has got me wanting to go out and be active.  I could combine this column with my Fitness Specter column to really get people more active… but then I would have only one column and that wouldn’t be any fun at all, would it?  Maybe I should do a cross over, but not today.

There are a number of players in my area that do what I call “drive by playing,” which eliminates the point of having Ingress in my opinion.  You should want to get out and walk around, which I do more often than not, and want to be out in the world.  I’ve met plenty of interesting other players in this and they have also been outdoors being active, which means that we’re all playing the way that I think the game was intended.  Why not get more active and join the community?

We rely too much on computers and phones to get in touch with people but we don’t spend time getting out, getting badges, and meeting friends.  Let’s all Ingress together.

I’d really like to get in on the next event FIRST HAND rather than remotely, too.

This was kind of disjointed, but hey, this is my column and I can do that.

Charge that portal.

Game Specter 1

Holy new column, Batman!  It’s time for a… new… uh… column.

GameSpecter300I don’t know about you, but do you walk into a role playing game with friends and expect to tell a story?  Are you getting together with people to help tell a collaborative story that gets everyone involved, where everyone has fun, and you look forward to expanding the adventure in the future?  No?  Well, then you experience what I experience.

What I have come to notice with my RPG experiences is that the players, as I am often the game master, want to “compete” with the GM rather than telling a story.  Those players are often looking for a game session filled to the brim with combat and they’re looking to dominate said combat without any regard, whatsoever, for their fellow players.  Yes, those are the players I often end up with and those are the exact players I’m looking to avoid for the future.

What I would really like to do is have everybody show up with a “rough idea” of what kind of player they have and then just enter into the story I want to tell in order to HELP ME TELL THE STORY.  Why is that so difficult?  Why don’t you want to play the way I want to play?

How can I find the type of player I’m looking for?  I don’t mind some combat, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want the entire experience to revolve around 37 seconds of combat that happens to take 4.5 hours to get through.  Yes, that is normally how my gaming sessions feel because the players are competing with me, as the GM.

Here’s the scoop, folks.  I want to have a collaborative storytelling experience that makes the players walk away from my game saying “wow, that was really awesome.”

What about coming to a Vampire game with the sole intent of really just politically orienting your character into a better position?  How about your superhero character develops that relationship with that hot reporter you’ve wanted to date instead of pounding the crap out of your nemesis for the 30th time?  Is that something you’d be interested in playing?  If so, hit me up!

And I’d really like to be a player, folks.

I was introduced to Vampire the Masquerade, and by default the entire White Wolf Storyteller System, in December of 1994 (in Japan) and I’ve not played another gaming system since.  Nope, not one other system.  I also haven’t been a player in a game since 1997, when my primary gaming group was no longer playing… with me… mainly because I got out of the Navy.  So, I have been a GM since 1997… ONLY.

If you want to have nothing but combat, I’m happy for you.  Don’t involve me.  If you want to war-game, great.  Don’t ask me to come over.  If you want to grind a quest through a dungeon, awesome.  I don’t.  I want to tell a story that is epic in scope, awesome in depth, and involves everyone who shows up to game.

It would be thrice as nice if I could PLAY that game, too.

Storytelling Specter 2

It was a dark and stormy night.

Wow, that was not really exciting at all… and I used “it” when I could have used something else.  It’s the war against “it” in today’s Storytelling Specter!

StorytellingSpecter300Write a paragraph without really thinking about what you’re writing and you’ll more than likely use the word “it” more than once.  It was this.  I think this is great but he didn’t think it was.  It.  It.  It.

Stop using the word.  “It” should be used in dialog because that is how people speak but you shouldn’t use the word in your fiction.

Hey, you used “it” several times in several columns, INCLUDING THIS ONE.

Well, I’m not perfect and a column isn’t fiction.  It just isn’t.

When you use the word it, you’re shortening your word count.  Think about that for a moment.  You could easily get at least two more words out of what you’re writing if you used something other than the word it.  Let me use an example.

He looked at it and shook his head.

Out of context, you have no idea what “it” is.  This is a complete story, too, and if I want to really get the most out of this sentence, I need to elaborate.  I need to replace “it” with whatever “it” is.  So, let me alter the sentence to be a little better.

He looked at the smashed window and shook his head.

There.  See?  I got at least one more word out of that… technically two because I removed “it” with two words.  Sure, that’s semantics, but hey, I’m semantically inclined?

When you sit down to tell a story, the word “it” is something that just shouldn’t be used.  The word doesn’t tell us anything and really doesn’t move the story along.  Some people claim that it creates a sense of mystery in mysteries and sometimes isn’t avoidable.  You can ALWAYS avoid it.  Explanation and detailed elaboration help tell the story to the reader and if you have to use the word it, you should use that word only as a last resort.

Look back at your unthought out paragraph.  You probably used it several times.  That should make you cringe like fingernails on a chalkboard while watching bare teeth bite into an ice cube.  If none of that makes you cringe, what are you, a robot?  Look at all the stuff I’ve made you think about without using that awful word!  Hey, I’m even avoiding using the word to talk ABOUT THE WORD!

There are lots of rules to grammar and writing.  You have to use this type of word here, you should show and not tell, you should do this, and you should do that.  What you really should concentrate on, especially early on, is not using the word it.  Why would you use a two letter word that has to be guessed what the word represents when you can use a much better sounding word to tell a story to the reader.  Why be boring?

Stop using it.  You’ll be much better for it.

I crack me up.

Specter Who – Deep Breath

Doctor Who has returned with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor in Deep Breath.

My first rule with Doctor Who is never to judge a new Doctor by their regeneration episode.  In fact, I can’t think of a new Doctor whose regeneration episode/story I’ve really liked.  The “kooky adjustment to the new body” episode is never really all that great, in my opinion.  Why do they keep doing that, then, right?  Anyway…

SpecterWho300All of the build up, all of the speculation, it finally culminates in the episode actually showing up.  I’d like to say that since this is a regeneration episode, my expectations were far lower than they would be for any other episode.  Overall, though, for a regeneration episode, I’d like to say this is one of the better ones.

The action was slower paced, there was more concentration on character development, and there was some connection to the previous incarnations than just the companion that was there FOR the regeneration.  The baddy in this one wasn’t so overwhelming as to need a deep explanation and was just difficult enough to deal with in order to give the audience a reason to be interested in the action.  I was a little confused by the end of the episode, the “promised land” segment, but I’ll find out later if that has anything to do with anything.

I give the episode a three out of five.

Now for some background.

There has been so much focus on why the Doctor looks like “someone from before.”  Why is there so much focus on that?  Why is this the first time we’ve been so worried about the Doctor looking like someone else the same actor has played in the past?  What am I talking about?

And you call yourself a Doctor Who fan.

Colin Baker played a character named Maxil in an episode of Doctor Who starring his predecessor, Peter Davison.  Several stories later the Doctor looks like him and we have no obsessing over why the Doctor looks like someone that appeared in a story before.  Yet, here we are, obsessing over why the Doctor looks like someone from several seasons before.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Modern fans obsess, I get that.  Why not obsess over things that matter, though?  There is so much more that can be worried about than why the Doctor’s face is the same as another character’s, why the TARDIS explosion wasn’t satisfactorily answered (in some eyes), or why other things happen.

Anyway, there’s the rating.  Three out of five.  I do like Capaldi better than Smith already, though.

A Review of Divergent

divergent-la-11-15-13
This is about the movie, though for adaptations from the book, this one was one of the more accurate translations.  Over all, I think that this was a pretty decent movie, though the books turned movies that are “dystopian future, girl centric” stories that have been coming out lately are starting to blur together… and weighed against Hunger Games, I’d say that this one is much better.  Hunger Games just got a bigger hype.

This movie suffers from being several movies away from being the first one of its kind.  I also wasn’t completely invested in watching the movie but I will say that I think this is better than Hunger Games was, over all.  Some may disagree but I don’t care.

This one is a solid four out of five, though I’d probably give Hunger Games that, too, at this point.

Fitness Specter 2

If you’d have told me that Fitness Specter was going to be my most popular column, I would have told you that was awesome.  However, I would not have guessed that.  So, why not get into the column, right?  FITNESS!

FitSpecter300Are you eating clean?  Think about your last three meals.  How many of them involved something other than homemade meals or mostly vegetables?  If you answered “none,” congratulations.  If you have a number attached to that answer, you need to eat clean.  Go on, eat clean and come back… this column isn’t going anywhere.

I will continue to hammer on this point.  Get rid of over processed foods: enriched anything, white flours and sugars, anything that has more ingredients than label actually should, or anything that is considered “mass produced.”  Get rid of high fructose corn syrup.  STOP EATING TERRIBLE FOOD.  If half your plate isn’t vegetables, preferably green vegetables, then you aren’t eating correctly.

Am I really going to talk about food in a second straight column?  No… but you’re going to see this subject a lot because that is the sole foundation of the whole fitness effort.  Eat better.

Now that I’ve established the foundation, again, it’s time to start small.  Get up and walk.  Go for a walk around the block.  Not tired?  Walk a mile.  Still not tired?  Walk five miles.  What I’m saying is you need to walk.  Do you want to run?  Great, go for a run.  Run for a while, though, don’t just run for half a block and stop there.  Just like walking, build up until you’re doing about 3 miles, if you’re going to do it.  You need build up from somewhere and you might as well start doing that now because if you are eating right, the next step is small steps.

Don’t go into a gym and try to lift 600 lbs in a bench press right out of the gate.  Get into a healthy routine and start small.  I recommend walking but I would say that you should get to running once you need to walk a long ways to get your routine out of being a routine.  The body gets lazy into a routine so you want to keep things fresh.

We will get into muscle confusion in later Fitness Specters, right now, we are establishing a foundation.

Why are you still reading?  Get off your ass and start walking, fool!  Run!  Bike!  Get active.  Get up and do something.  Okay, keep reading before you do that.

We spend so much time staring at computer screens, looking at Facebook, watching YouTube, talking to people…through messengers.  We don’t get out and DO anything anymore.  We need to get active.  We need to walk.  We need to run.  We need to lift weights.  We need to get healthy!  Get active!

If we don’t, when the aliens invade, it’ll be easy pickens’ because we’ll all be too fat and lazy to fight back.  What about zombies instead of aliens?  Does that inspire you more?

Don’t you want to be able to outrun that bear that just saw you?  Yeah… run.

Get up and MOVE!