Writing Update September 28, 2017

It’s been a couple of months since my last update, so here’s the latest on my current works-in-progress.

First though, a general update. Some of you may remember that earlier this year I announced that due to some significant life-changes I’d have to reevaluate my priorities in how I make a living and provide for my family. Luckily, since then I’ve had some new opportunities open up, the biggest one being my ongoing creative writing classes at South Puget Sound Community College. This steady work has allowed me to keep my family my first priority while still leaving time and energy for my writing career.

Speaking of my writing, here’s some specific updates:

The Next Keltin Moore Novel

After many false starts, this first-draft is finally in the groove. The instigating event is locked-in, and Keltin is firmly on his way to his next adventure. I’m also beginning the groundwork for establishing some new characters, as well as figuring out how to tie-in subplots from the first and second books. I have a feeling like this is going to be a good one for both new readers and fans of the Beast Hunter from Riltvin.

My Next Short Story Collection

I currently have four short stories for this collection, and half a dozen potential other pieces to add. Unfortunately, I’m not having any success with short fiction right now, so I’m taking a break from this project for now. Hopefully I’ll still be able to finish this one for 2018.

My Secret Project

I’m making very good headway on this project which has been in the works for more than a decade. This is definitely a passion-project, so I don’t mind taking the time to make sure it’s exactly what I want it to be.

 

Link to all of my books on Amazon

Link to my SPSCC classes

Top 10 Things a Writing Coach Doesn’t Want to Hear

10. This session didn’t count, right?

9. I’m going to warn you up front that I don’t take criticism well.

8. How many books should I expect to sell in the first week?

7. I’m not looking to hire a writing coach, I just wanted to send my manuscript to you to get your feedback.

6. I never realized how effective semi-colons are.

5. My writing group thinks you’re wrong.

4. How many copies of my book are you planning on buying for your friends?

3. What are your rates for writing college research papers?

2. Can you help me get my fan-fiction into Barnes and Nobles?

1. I’ve got the cover image done, now I just need to write the book.

Can you think of any more? Leave a comment below.

What Makes a Classic Novel Popular?

There are many novels that we would consider classics. Stories that have outlived their creators and found new readers with each passing generation. But not all classics are what we may consider popular in today’s culture. Many classics seem to live on mainly in schools and universities as required reading in a sort of artificial life-support rather than the healthy independence of a novel that people buy and read because they want to.

Of course, I’m not saying that assigning classic literature in schools is a bad thing. In many cases, it’s the first exposure students have to the kind of writing that challenges them to really think and consider what they’ve read rather than simply seeking to be entertained. But what makes a certain type of classic novel popular? Why are characters like Tarzan, Dracula, and Frodo Baggins still a significant part of our culture decades after they were created?

The simplest answer is that most people have been exposed to these characters outside of their original works. Movies, TV shows, and even video games and graphic novels have turned classic characters into brand names, something familiar that the average consumer feels like he knows and is therefore more willing to spend money on. These days, it’s likely that most consumers are first exposed to classic works of fiction through some medium other than their original work.

However, I believe there’s more to a popular classic’s appeal than its level of exposure. I think it’s safe to say that every classic novel has been adapted to some other medium at one time or another, but that doesn’t make them popular, just recognizable. This is why I believe that a classic book needs more than a move tie-in to make it popular today, and I think it has something to do with the quality of the original source material.

Put simply, I think it’s in the characters. A well-written character can withstand both the test of time as well as any number of adaptations, re-imaginings, and reboots as long as they are equally intriguing and empathetic. A popular classic character is both relatable and interesting, with qualities that remind us of ourselves and motivations that we can understand and care about.

Think of how many different Sherlock Holmes’ we have seen over the years. Many actors have left their own marks on the genius from Baker Street. Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch… they’ve all taken the name of Sherlock upon themselves, and yet the character himself has outlived them all. This is because Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his detective both nuanced and complex while still leaving enough flexibility within his development for readers to share in the creative process using their own imaginations. As we read a Sherlock Holmes mystery, we create our own version of the detective in our minds, and it’s that level of intimacy that builds a lasting relationship between the reader and the character.

In the end, the popularity of a classic work of fiction is probably a combination of good storytelling, characters that are relatable across different cultures and time periods, and a healthy dose of serendipitous good fortune. My only hope is that we never lose sight of the original works that introduced the world to the stories that we love, and that we continue to go back to these classic books even as we are entertained by the adaptations and reboots that pay homage to the original creator’s genius.

 

Thanks to Derek Schreiber for suggesting this week’s article. Leave a comment below if you enjoyed it or have a suggestion for a future subject.

Storyline Review for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

I thought I’d review the storyline of a game that I have played all the way through multiple times. Keep in mind that this review will be focusing on elements of storytelling such as character development and plot structure, rather than gameplay elements or gamer hints. Today I’ll be talking about Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, an action shooter and the first game in the Uncharted series from developer Naughty Dog Studios.

Premise

Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter and lovable scoundrel, is following in the footsteps of his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, to try to find the legendary El Dorado. He follows the trail to a former Spanish colony on an island in the southern Atlantic only to find it swarming with modern-day pirates and a centuries-old curse that could threaten the entire world if he can’t stop it.

Review

The Uncharted series has always been ambitious in its storytelling. The developers have said that their inspiration came from the pulp adventure movies of the early 20th century, the same type of movies that inspired the Indiana Jones character and series. What’s different about Nathan Drake is that he is cast as a sort of exceptional everyman, a likable guy who does amazing things but never loses his relatability. Drake is funny without being snarky, heroic without being an action figure. As I played Nathan Drake, I found myself drawn to his crooked smile and emotional honesty in a way that almost never happens for me in video games.

The rest of the cast is equally well developed. Drake’s friend and mentor, Sully, feels more like your fun uncle than the stereotypical wise old advisor. The story’s love interest, Elena, also feels realistic, with equal parts plucky courage and empathetic vulnerability. Even the villains, who don’t get very much screen time, are interesting and fun in a James Bond Villain kind of way, alternating between witty banter and cat-and-mouse sadism.

The development of the plot is a fine balance of gameplay elements that alternate the player between third-person shooting, platforming, puzzles, and cut-scenes. All of these elements play a role in developing the story, and the game never feels like it’s filling up time or padding the experience. Of course, as in nearly all games, the player is required to have a greater suspension of disbelief than would be required for a novel or most movies, but fans of this type of game should expect and appreciate the epic firefights and elaborate puzzles as a part of the overall experience.

It should be noted that this game’s story is very linear, with no player control over the plot or character decisions. The style can best be described as an interactive thematic experience, with the player taking over for anything involving action or problem solving, and leaving the sequence of events to the developers. While this may be a turnoff to gamers who prefer a branching storyline with multiple endings, I preferred the single, well-crafted plot with its balanced pacing, character development, and foreshadowing.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a game that pulls the gamer in with a well-crafted Conflict/Resolution Pattern and engaging characters as opposed to reality-blurring gamer input. I would recommend this game to anyone who has ever watched a summer blockbuster and wanted to play along with the movie, rather than change it to suit their own style. For me, as a lover of great stories that are well-told, this game is one of my all-time favorites.

Interviewing Aaron Volner

This week I’m doing something new. My good friend and fellow fantasy author Aaron Volner has just published his first novel, and I’ve invited him to my blog for a little interview. So, without further ado…

Lindsay
Hello Aaron! Welcome to my website. Are you ready for some hard-hitting, no-nonsense questions about your first novel?

Aaron Volner
Absolutely! I can’t promise the answers will be totally nonsense free, but I’m excited to talk about the book! Thanks so much for taking the time and space on your site to talk about it.

Lindsay
Ok, here’s my first question:
True or False – Is your book called Chronicles of the Roc Rider: Book One?

Aaron Volner
True! My book IS called “Chronicles of the Roc Rider: Book One”. Phew! They say the first question is always the hardest.

Lindsay
Perfect. Where did the idea for this story first come from?

Aaron Volner
I’ve always had a fascination with birds of prey, so it naturally followed that I loved the myth of the roc as well. In real world mythology the roc was a legendary elephant hunting bird that supposedly showed up when there were great storms. A while back I realized there weren’t as many rocs in fantasy as I would like and decided to do something about that. I started musing about how rocs would fit into a fantasy world, what their relation to humans would be, and the rest as they say is history.

Lindsay
So it isn’t because you have an irrational dislike for dragons?

Aaron Volner
That depends, does having an irrational dislike for dragons make me eccentric enough to be more marketable? Just kidding. I love dragons too. I’m a sucker for most mythological and fantasy creatures, really.

Lindsay
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Aaron Volner
I really loved writing the relationship between my main human character, Tanin Stormrush, and his roc, Zera. Tanin has suffered a big loss when we first meet him. His wife and his original roc partner have both passed on. Zera is, at this point, the most, in not only, meaningful relationship he has left. Trying to work in moments for Zera to have her own personality and not just be a horse or dog with wings, in ways that would illuminate Tanin as a character, was an invigorating challenge.

Lindsay
How long did it take you to write this book?

Aaron Volner
When I first started writing Roc Rider, I was working on several other big writing projects at the same time. So I made very slow progress for a few years. I finally decided that I needed to get down to just one project, so I could get something finished, and decided on Roc Rider as the project I’d focus on. Once I made that decision it went pretty quickly.

Lindsay
The fact that it says “Book One” in the title seems a subtle hint that there might be more of these. How many are you planning on writing for the series?

Aaron Volner
There will be at least three books in the Roc Rider series. It is possible, depending on how I choose to end the third book, that the series may extend beyond that. I’m not making any promises beyond three though, for now.

Lindsay
When will the next book come out?

Aaron Volner
I’m already working on the second book and my goal is to have it out sometime in 2018. I don’t want to say precisely when yet, but I’m confident we’ll have book two out next year.

Lindsay
Would it come out any sooner if you had 100,000 sales in the first week?

Aaron Volner
I’d like to say yes, that if I got 100,000 sales the first week I’d use the money to build a time machine, travel forward to my future self who’s already written the book, take it back to now and publish it super early. But plans involving time travel rarely work out the way you expect them too. Who knows? I might create a timeline where I never have the fun of writing the book, and that would be terrible! Still, if that many sales do happen the first week I’ll have plenty of motivation to get the book done in a timely fashion.

Lindsay
Do you have any other projects in the works?

Aaron Volner
I have several other novels set in a different fantasy universes that I intend to pursue, including an urban fantasy series set in Wyoming. My next project I intend to finish after Roc Rider is one of the projects I was originally working on alongside it. This one follows a woman bounty hunter, Shara Fordell, who undertakes a job for the emperor, only to find herself enchanted by the object she’s sent to retrieve. Suddenly able to change bodies like the enslaved shape shifters, but unable to control the ability, she’s forced to go on the run or risk being captured. Things get more complicated when a plan is unveiled to resurrect a long-dead god…all they need, is Shara’s blood. I also have a text-based choose your path adventure game I’m working on for my website, although that project hit a technical snag and is currently in development limbo while I decide how to proceed. Interested readers can play a demo of the game on my website.

Lindsay
Last question: If I gave you fifty words or less for some shameless self-promotion, what would you say?

Aaron Volner
If you enjoy Lindsay Schopfer’s books (and really, who doesn’t) you should read mine. If you enjoy my book (and gosh, I hope you do) you should read Lindsay Schopfer’s books. Perhaps not the most shameless self-promotion in the world, but hey, both our books are awesome. So why not?

Lindsay
I won’t complain. Thanks for your time, Aaron, and good luck with your first published novel!

Click here to check out The Roc Rider: Book One

Click here to check out Aaron’s author blog