Lost Lord

Three guesses who the title refers to. Two if you’ve read Imalion’s Tale.

New story! Check out Lost Lord, the next episode of the Knights of the Moon story.

Also, this story brings a temporary close to Rylacia and its inhabitants. Writing is still coming along fine, no worries there; I’m taking a break from the world I began with Imalion and his diary in 2011 and am starting an exciting journey with Talmere of Nerida. More info soon!

The Pen of Joel

Thepenofjoel. Succinct. Short. Meaningful. It combines the ideas of “pen name” and “writing” and “written by” into a single, easy-to-remember nickname. It is the pen-name of a writer buddy of mine. (Oh, but don’t let anyone know that I suggested that name to him, k? That would be telling.)

Personal achievements aside, Joel is a great writer with a keen eye for story. He does structural editing for Legends of Eisenwald (otherwise the game would be doomed), writes Daniel Roth mystery books (starting off with A Final Portrait), hosts The Morning Bell‘s podcast for emerging writers, and publishes intelligent, thought-out video criticisms of well-known computer game stories on his YouTube channel, thepenofjoel.

Seriously, check him out. Or, better yet, send him a question on his ask.fm page – he monitors it regularly, so go ahead!

If you want someone completely fluent in writing gobbledygook with a keen eye for the little things about stories that truly matter, Joel is your man. And he’s approachable, too. Let me demonstrate: Joel, what started you out on your writing career?

Writing App

Some of you may remember that I once blogged about Storybook. I was just trying the program again before I posted that blog post, and my article turned out pretty disappointed. Now it turns out that the program very nearly died – it only survived due to the charity of the lovely open source community. So it still exists. However, I’m not here to talk about that program. I never found it much fun (although now I’m curious about whether the community has fixed it).

I’m here to talk about another writing program entirely.

Subject

Writing App is smooth, portable, and – in my opinion – fun. It costs $3, and I’ve used it long enough for it to have earned every cent. If there’s one downside to the app, it’s that it is only available on the Apple store. That bothers me a tiny bit (what will become of me when my aging iPad dies?), because I’m not a fan of Apple policies, Apple prices, Apple cables, Apple formatting, Apple hype, or apples. Well, okay, apples are fine. This app probably means that I’ll be scouring eBay for an unused old iPad when mine dies, but if it continues to deliver, I’m okay with that.

The app lets you create a project. This can be either a short story or a novel. I only ever pick novel, due to the type of writing I do (I either write novels or collections of related short stories). Within your project you can add characters, items, places, notes, and chapters. Each item – except chapters – has sub-pages, such as eyes, hair, strengths, weaknesses (for characters), descriptions, etc. These are totally optional, but I use them to help me flesh out the stories and characters. It’s no secret that an author should know a lot more about his world and characters than the reader does. After you have whatever information you need, just add a chapter and start writing. (Oh, and it has a fantastic font for fantasy writing: Bradley Hand.)

Pros

Kudos to the app developer, Thomas Sillmann. I’ve chucked several comments (including bug reports) and compliments at him, and he has responded every time. Generally within a day or two.

The app has a clean interface. None of that messy jumble we get with half our apps these days (what do all the little buttons do?). The menus are easy to navigate, the sidebar makes swapping between characters/items/chapters easy, and saving is automatic (I had a lot of problems with that with other apps). As messy as we writers can be, it’s important to keep at least a reasonably clean writing space.

Dropbox integration. That means you can upload entire projects straight to Dropbox to access them on your computer. You can also upload each file individually to Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, or an email address.

Cons

The Dropbox integration is currently a little buggy. An update to the app did something weird, and Thomas is working on fixing it. Individual files still upload correctly, but project backup is out of the question at the moment. Bit sad, because I like to look over my project on my phone when I’m on the run, but I’m looking forward to the update.

The chapter-writing interface isn’t necessarily as pretty as I’d like. Some authors (myself included) get a little dazzled by blank white pages, and this is about as white and dazzling as they get. Put a paragraph or two on it, and it’s fine, but I’d really like some kind of border option (on the sides) or something. Or a slightly crinkled parchment backdrop. Ooh, that’d probably even kick a few extra dollars out of me. Well, anything but an absolutely blank page.

Overall sentiment

I find the app very clean, as well as helpful for sorting information and writing short pieces, and I’m impressed by the developer’s swift responses to my questions. Customer support is one of the most important aspects of the app market, but even more so when a writer is having trouble with an app and needs to keep his pen to the paper.

Story Structure

I’ve got this thing against people swearing by a single story structure. I don’t quite know why it is, but – oh, yeah, I do. Watched a new Hollywood release recently? Seen it before? I have. Seen it too many times before? Me too. And I just can’t get over the idea that while each and every release has a thread – or maybe even two threads – of potential, someone or something is throwing it away.

And then another movie comes out. Same story. Quite literally.

Cinema has so much potential, what with all the tech, all the costumes, all the actors, and the studio community. It strikes me as odd that production teams with so much skill and experience just settle for basic, over-used stories. I don’t like being able to predict absolutely everything that is going to happen during the film. Maybe I’d like to just think of myself as some kind of gifted prophet, but I can’t – other people seem to have the same gift.

It happens a lot with books, too. I used to like to say “it’s all the fault of our teachers”, but if they were anything like my teachers (that’s you, Earl), then they were giving us good structural advice for when our stories are in trouble. In other words, you’re going nowhere. Kaput. Not as an “if you don’t use this structure, you aren’t writing a story” statement. Writers who took any kind of course all heard the fantastic and miraculous tale of the ultimate structure: The Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell). We’ve probably all seen Kurt Vonnegut talk about three simple story structures. And then, if we still read books, we see it in action.

So when I bumped into the short stories about Geralt of Rivia (who some of us know as the witcher), I was thrown off my feet. They weren’t particularly fantastic. They weren’t extremely comprehensible. Heck, they didn’t even seem to be in any particular order when I first read The Last Wish. But they were interesting. They were unpredictable. What I saw in them was a kind of new potential for storytelling: little snippets of adventure. They felt more like events than structured stories. Instead of reading through them and thinking “ah, yeah, so now he turns around and goes sad about life for a few minutes before someone sets him back on his feet”, I found that the stories were organic. Sure, there were small overdoses of heroism, but that’s nothing compared to overdosing on story structure. I’d rather see a (kind of) invincible character doing interesting things than slog through a story where a true-to-life character runs through the motions (and yet, is that really true to life?).

That’s not to say that I like superhero stories. They are endurable, sometimes (except that most of them follow the same story structure anyways), but I’m talking about something else. I want to read interesting stories with characters who are relatable on an emotional level.

Hence the title of this blog post. I’m working on episodic stories. They are more for interesting content than any kind of structure. Sure, I might slip into some kind of clichéd structure for one or two stories, but my focuses are content, setting, action, world. Organic storytelling and interesting content.

The Knights of the Moon

This year, I’ve decided to focus on something different. I’m working on a collection of episodic stories about the Knights of the Moon. These aren’t the same chaps you will have met in Imalion’s story, but yes, they are related. The knights I’m focusing on are part of a remnant army that traveled north of Jarbia (that’s right – off the map!) and across a thick mountain range. The army was sent while Rylacia was largely under the control of the Vieran empire. This campaign to expand the empire turned out too costly. Viera’s remaining army was too small to protect the empire as a whole, and so the empire split into three kingdoms (which later turned to Brucia as client kingdoms). The northern army never received word of this, as it had its own problems.

Empirical collapse aside, there were Knights of the Moon that traveled north with the army, and now – some two hundred years after they went north – we get to see something of their lives.

It’s the north. It’s the dragon lands. It’s somewhat colder. It’s isolated.

There’s more information and (so far) one episode on the Knights of the Moon page.

Enjoy!