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Portraits of Apocalypse

Hey Story-friends,

No new Uni City chapter today.  I’m still hard at “work” playing the game and making notes.  I should have at least one character’s section up by Wednesday.  I’ve gotten addicted to the Avengers game on Facebook, so everything is falling a bit behind.  

To whet your appetites, here is a confession: I loosely based Scrib on this character I made a few years ago.  I thought him up for my roommate, Kelly’s, birthday party.  Aside from sharing a house, we also share a tendency for over ambitious party themes.  This one was post-apocalypse themed.  She created two factions which would fight at the party’s climax.  Backstories were encouraged.  

Unfortunately, I got a bit too drunk and forgot most of what happened (oh, college days), but I do remember the concept of my persona.  He was the scribe of one of the factions and was a reluctant loner.  He was born in a library where his parents taught him how to read.  When they died, he travelled out to teach others how to read and to document the stories of the world.  

Also, Kelly did a photo shoot before the party, when we were all still sober.  You might notice the leather bound book in this Scrib’s left hand.  You might also notice he he gets his fashion sense from his favorite books–mythology texts in this case.  

This is pretty much how I imagine Scrib.  Just add some wire glasses and maybe lose the shirt and the archer’s glove.  

Who the other two girls (and dog) are, you will have to decide.  

Speaking of deciding, I’ve been spending some time combing through photos by the amazing Lee Jefferies.  I’m hoping to find some portraits that fit some of the people from Uni City, but I keep getting distracted by how fantastic they are.  Maybe you can make some suggestions?  Maybe I’ll send a prize to anyone that picks an especially appropriate photo.  

Anyway, I guess I should go to sleep at some point.  

Until next time, story-friends!Image 

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Armchair Author 1: Hungry for a dialogue on race

While waiting for the next Uni City chapter (should be up on Friday, for those of you on the edge of your seats), I thought I’d write up a brief post. 

I saw The Hunger Games this past weekend, like most people in the world did.  I really liked it.  This was one of those rare (yet increasingly more common) movies that I liked even better than their source material. 

Anyway, I’m going to introduce a new column: Armchair Author.  I’ve read the first two books of the series and I think the author missed at least one really interesting facet of her world that could have been focused on more closely.  Namely, District 11. 

I’ve talked about this in person when I was reading, but with all this press the institutional racists have been getting by tweeting surprise over Rue’s race, I figured I’d bring it up here too.  (Don’t know what I’m talking about there?   Check out this tumblr or this write-up.)

From what I remember in the books (the first two at least) Suzanne Collins made District 11 out to be an analogue of a huge plantation for the whole nation of Panem.  This is the district tasked with tending the crops and shipping them off to the other districts.  All the characters were described as dark skinned (despite what some tweeters remember from their klan book klubs).  It’s even mentioned that the District 11ers were harshly punished if they took any food for themselves.  What does this sound like to you?

It seemed like Collins was sending a racially charged message, but then didn’t really go anywhere with it.  There’s an entire race segregated into a ghetto-district, but race was such a nonissue in the novels that self-claiming fans missed that a main character was black. 

From my armchair I can safely say that, if I were writing it, The Hunger Games would have had a lot more to say about race in the future which would reflect more of how our own society sees (or doesn’t see) race. 

The Hunger Games did deal with a lot of issues—class, privacy, freedom, innocence, just to name a few—but I feel it would have been more rich if it spent some time on race too.

I might have to come back when I get around to reading the final book if they do address race more, but the perfect time to bring it up would have been the second book when District 11 riots (which the filmmakers snuck into the movie).  I guess I’ll have to wait and see. 

So, what do you think?  Do you wish race was more directly addressed?  Can you think of other sweeping changes that would have made The Hunger Games (movie or books) better?  (Like maybe making Katniss less annoying.)  Let me know in the comment section. 


Until next time, Story-friends.


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Brave New Words

Oh, hi there.

Hope you’ve been doing well.  I’m sure all of you, the masses that religiously followed my first two posts, are wondering why I stopped updating? Was it just standard blog-fade (that’s a term that people use, right)?  Did I somehow get a life?  Did I finally realize that my blog was pretty boring?  Was I in some terrible, crippling accident and only now—with the help of the most cutting-edge cybernetic technology money can buy—can I return to regular blogging?

Actually, all but one of those is true (I won’t tell you which one though).  The big problem was the boring part.  I know you, my droves of story-friends, are too polite to say it, but, yeah, it was boring.  Ok, I agree, the writing style was quirky and sometimes hilarious, but the subject matter could be pretty dry, even for me.  And let me tell you, blogs that bore their readers don’t last long, but blogs that bore their authors are doomed.

I’m here to hopefully rectify that situation.  I’ve been spending the last few weeks thinking of a new focus that could reinvigorate this little abandoned blog of mine.  I came up with several that I thought would be fun, but couldn’t bring myself to pick one.  That’s when it hit me—why pick just one?

Going forward, Story Friend will be a weekly (or more, depending on my free time) blog with revolving columns, each with its own focus.  Theoretically, the columns will cycle in a pattern, but more than likely a column will appear whenever I feel like writing on it.  If a pattern emerges, it will probably be by accident.

What are these newfangled columns going to be?  I’m glad you asked.  Here is a rundown of some I had in mind.  (New columns might arise in the future and some of these are sure to fall by the wayside if they get boring or they run their course.)

Re-fics: Short for “re-fictions,” this column will be re-imaginings of existing creative properties.  I will be examining what makes these stories good, what could have been better, and how I would have written them differently.  What if the Harry Potter books were set in the US?  What would the X-Men be like if they focused more on interpersonal politics?  What if the Star Wars prequels were good?  These questions and more will be answered here.

Spirits of the Staircase:  This will be a short column in which I write about real life situations in which I seize the privilege of hindsight to examine how things could have gone better.  There’s one catch though—I’ll be drinking a good share of spirits before I write this column.  Should be interesting, might not be comprehensible.

Lone Wolf Theatre:  I’ve been playing role-playing games since middle school.  RPGs with pens and paper and table-tops, not the video game kind.  Recently though, my mind was blown by this new wave of RPGs called story games which are less run-around-and-kill-dragons and more let’s-collaborate-on-an- improvisational-story.  As you might imagine, this is relevant to my interests.  The problem is that, despite trying for the last few months, I can’t get any of my friends to try these new games out with me.  To rectify this, I’m going to do what I do best—play with myself.  Wait, that came out wrong.  Anyway, in this column, I’ll be recapping the stories that I create with the rules of one of these games.  These will probably be broken up over several weeks.  Serial fiction, awesome!

Review-Friend:  Yeah, this has the weakest title so far.  I’m still working on it.  Anyway, this column will be pretty straightforward—I’ll give you some unsolicited opinions on media.  Lately, I’ve been trying to go to the theatres with my stunning romantic partner every week, so expect lots of movies.  I wouldn’t be surprised if older stuff found its way in there too.

And that’s what I have so far.  Sound good?  I can’t wait to start these.  Do you see any that might be particularly fun to read?  Let me know by commenting below.

Next week, we’ll kick things off with Lone Wolf Theatre, where I will recap what happens in my first actual game of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World.

Until then Story-Friends.

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Definitions and Shark Attacks

Oh, hello story friends.

Welcome back.  Today I’m going to talk about what I feel stories are.  Since you’re currently reading this, I’ll assume you like stories, but have you ever really stopped to think about why?  The entertainment industry has been the largest segment of revenue in the universe for the last few thousand years.  But why?

If you boil it down, stories are just a medium of communication.  A device to transport data from point A (the storyteller’s imagination) to point B (the ears and minds of story friends like us).  Cold hard facts (very much unlike the claim I made up about the entertainment industry above, although I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn it was true) can deliver information much more efficiently, so why are stories so much more fun to receive for most people (I’d call those other people “math friends”).

“A shark is a dangerous sea creature,” conveys all we really need to know.  It doesn’t really appeal to our emotions though.  There’s a disconnect that makes us less likely to take the information seriously.  We don’t need a story to get emotional though.  That’s what statistics are for.  “Sharks kill 40,000 people every Tuesday,” provides pertinent information and also appeals to our emotions.  We immediately think something like “40,000 people?  I was going to go to the beach next Tuesday!  Maybe I should see a movie instead, I don’t want to be killed by this dangerous sea creature everyone’s talking about.”

BUT, you see what you did there?  You heard the statistic and wedged yourself into it—you created a story based on the information you were provided.  It doesn’t have to be a statistic that could directly affect you either.  We would still instinctually construct a story around something like “80% of shark marriages end in cannibalism.”  Not being sharks, we have little chance of being impacted by a shark marriage, but the tragic image of a sharky husband coming home to eat his wife creates a vivid image (and a colorful story).

Statistics was the only math subject I could ever wrap my head around, because it wasn’t just random numbers, it was a proto-story.  That’s what makes them such an effective data medium.  Mathematicians and scientists might disagree with me, but I think there is another conduit of information that is even more effective (and affective in this case).  The answer is a bit too obvious for a drumroll, but hold for a dramatic pause for me.

Stories!  Stories are the best way for us humans to communicate with one another.  Better than the fact that sharks are dangerous, even better than the statistic of how many people sharks kill on any given Tuesday, is a story that illustrates the point that sharks are man-eating monsters.  Go rent Jaws, or read the novel, or watch the local 6 o’clock news during the summer in any coastal Floridian city—you’ll be transferred data about a shark that attacks humans.  The storytellers that produced these stories transferred information, but they added relevance by making it applicable to you on a personal level AND they made it entertaining.  They added drama and story arcs and made us feel the story on a personal level (like statistics do) AND an emotional level.

And that’s my definition of a story—an entertaining (or hopefully entertaining at least) transference of information that is meant to be reflected on vicariously by the recipient of that information.  That is overly esoteric, but you get the picture, it’s information that you can put yourself into and that you want to hear again.  That’s what you need to make a story, now making a <i>good</i> story, that’s something different altogether, and something we can talk about next time.


Until then, story friends.

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Story friends,

I sort of hate beginnings, don’t you?  Think of the three-act structure—the whole first act is dedicated to all the boring stuff.  Let’s see what the hero’s life is like before he/she becomes a hero.  No thanks.  If I wanted mundane I could read my diary (actually, that’s the place I go for melodrama and hyperbole).  I would much rather jump right in to the interesting part.  The more you think about it, though, the more you realize that a story just isn’t a story without the setup.

With that in mind, here is the inaugural entry/article/episode/chapter (I’m still debating what each unit will be called) of Story Friend!  My goal with this blog is to discuss the importance of stories, analyze stories and try to glean their meanings, and share some stories with all the story-lovers who happen to find this humble web log.

I guess I’ll keep this first entry/article/episode/chapter brief and just share a bit of my own story with you.  I have a BA in creative writing and my MFA in scriptwriting is in the mail (or so they tell me).  I’ve lived in central Florida since I was about seven.  I grew up reading comic books and then coming up with original stories that my friends and I could act out on the playground (weirdly enough, all the superheroes in those early days had children which had their same powers and costumes, maybe one day I’ll talk about the adventures of Spider-Kid and Wolvie).  I often cheat at video games so I can experience the plot without needing to wait to actually develop any kind of skill.  Even though I have a Masters in English, I’m not amazing at grammar and often get asked to spell things even though I couldn’t speel my way out a paper bag.  I mean “spell.”  I love parenthesis and run-on sentences a bit too much (or have you noticed that already)?  I used to be an activist, but not so much anymore—although I will still debate politics all night if you dare me to.  And, let’s see, I eat pizza an average 6 times a week.

This might have been the most boring entry/article/episode/chapter (at least so far).  Join me next week when I talk about something pretty familiar to all of you.

Hope to see you then, story friends!

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