31 Oct 2012

NaNo Warm Up

Just a small exercise to get the creative juices going.  The scene won't be in my NaNoverl this year.

Karen felt every muscle in her burn as she swam through the rough seas.  Between the swells, she saw her destination, the outline of what she hoped was an island, silhoutted by the setting moon.  Even as she drew closer, she felt her resolve erode as fatigue set in, making her arms and legs leaden with every stroke and kick.  A wave submerged her.  Karen fought her way to the surface, coughing out the seawater she swallowed.

The Winner Is . . .

It's Hallowe'en, All Hallows Eve, October 31st.  This means that NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.  I have yet to make my decision.  This . . . is not good.  So, last minute decision time.  Beaver Flight or Mecha Academy?  Both have a detailed enough setting, characters, and plot.  Both can be adapted to some degree.  That means I have to choose the one I feel will keep my interest for 30 days and 50 000 words.

Last night, I managed to work out scenes for both.  Didn't exactly help the decision process.  But, MechAcad will have some major changes from what was planned, and I may need to ponder over the impact.  Meanwhile, a prologue and the set up to the plot twist in Beaver Flight doesn't require additional changes.

So, the choice seems to be simple.  The story for this year's NaNoWriMo will be:

Beaver Flight.

Stick along for the ride.  I can't promise daily updates, but I will be updating my progress for everyone to see.

Enjoy the ride!

30 Oct 2012

A New Approach

After Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Parts I, II, and III, I still haven't made a choice.  I have a better idea of where I am with each idea and how much work is left to go.  Brazen Hussies has no characters defined yet, but that could be a plus as much as a minus at this point.

Next angle, though, would to bring in adaptability.  Over at Fan To Pro, I write a column, Lost in Translation, that looks at adaptations, reviews, and remakes and what makes for a success with them.  I could use this year's NaNoWriMo to create a work that can be easily adapted.  Let's look at my contenders.

First up, the Brazen Hussies.  As mentioned before, the Hussies' setting is already defined.  The cast could become an issue, as could the format of the storytelling.  The idea with the Hussies is to show several levels of the command structure and how they deal with the events of the story, from the Regimental Commander on down to the grunts on the front line.  Added to this is the concept of the mercenary unit being all women; Hollywood tends to treat female leads as a rarity, especially for action and war movies.  This becomes a solid strike against the Hussies through no fault of their own.  A mixed gender cast may work better, but would require a rethink of the entire premise.
Next, Beaver Flight.  The setting right now is just a loose idea, with details filling in as needed.  However, since the setting is also local space (i.e, Earth, the Moon, and environs), a lot of it already exists.  With a smaller cast, a television adaptation is easier, and Canadian content can be met if needed.  The theme song just needs to be licensed.  Special effects may get difficult; right now, the main base is on the moon, with a lower gravitational pull than Earth.  That could be handwaved or, if needed, moved to a space station with the proper rotation.  (A space station can also become stock footage for scene breaks, if desired.)  CGI will be needed for the powered space suits, but the suits can also be turned into collectables.  Yes, I am considering merchandising for the story.  Action figures, dolls, miniatures, gaming, posters, anything that the fans might even think of wanting.  Despite the lack of male leads, I figure Beaver Flight has a better shot of being adapted over the Hussies, if only because the story can be turned into a movie, a TV series, a comic/webcomic, a gaming supplement for an science fiction RPG, and still maintain a cohesive story.

Can Mecha Academy top Beaver Flight?  The story shares the same setting as the Hussies’; in fact, MechAcad came first.  The format is similar to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter – a year by year look at a group of students, though in a different setting and without magic.  The risk of adaptation is the same.  If the first book of the planned series is filmed before other books appear, will liberties taken cause problems for adaptations down the line.  MechAcad also would work better as a TV series than a movie at this point; several plot elements will get woven through the narrative to be wrapped up either at the end of the novel or in a future title.  The reset button will be broken; order would matter, and traditional broadcasters aren’t at the point where they want all their offerings to be set in stone.  Cable, on the other hand, doesn’t care.  Series like Dexter, A Game of Thrones, and True Blood thrive on cable.  Working against a cable deal, though, is the young adult approach MechAcad needs.  The cast are young adults, just stepping out into the wider world beyond secondary school.

The Brazen Hussies have fallen back in the pack.  Given that there’s a lot of character work to be done and no audience as of yet, the Hussies will be set on a back burner.  The idea will still be around and can still be worked on, just not this November.  Beaver Flight and Mecha Academy are still evenly weighed.  The final decision will have to find another factor first.

27 Oct 2012

Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Part III

Parts I and II took a look at Mecha Academy and Beaver Squad.  On to the third idea, The Brazen Hussies.

At this point, I don't have characters yet.  What I do have are roles to be filled.  I've worked out that the mercenary unit is an all-woman team of at least regiment-sized with three battalions, each battalion having four companies.  The Hussies are one company, mixed infantry and heavy infantry.  That leaves creating a chain of command.  Starting at the top, there's the board of directors, composed of the unit's owners and past commanders.  The board determines the jobs the unit takes.  Also on the board, the current commanding officer, a colonel, who will need to be named.  Next step down, the battalions all have command staff.  I only need the commander of the the Hussies' battalion, though, even if she doesn't make an appearance.  She'll have a rank of Major, with a Lieutenant as an aide.

This brings me to the Hussies themselves.  The company commander, a Captain, will definitely have a role, as will her command staff (second in command, aide, clerk).  The three platoons comprising the Hussies will also have their commanders (Lieutenants) named.  Then there's the platoons themselves.  At this point, though, having at least 12 troops per platoon, naming each one might get to overkill, though a rough idea of who is in each unit may help.

The idea with the Brazen Hussies is to highlight the different levels in the command structure, from the Colonel in charge down to the ladies on the front lines.  This may lead to needing, essentially, three casts; one for the high level (the Colonel, the battalion Major, the board of directors), one for mid-level (the company commander and staff), and one for the front lines (at the minimum, a squad or two).

Oh, and figure out a plot.  I have a vague idea for one (the Hussies are hired to fill out an army where the bulk of the serving soldiers are trying to put down a rebellion when the government falls), but no milestones to aim for as of yet, not even a beginning.  But, that's a different topic for another day.

25 Oct 2012

A Decision is Made!

Yes, indeed, I have made a decision.  Unfortunately, not for NaNoWriMo.  Le sigh.  (Though that is coming after Part III of Characterization tomorrow.)

No, what I have done is decide what my character will be for the next season of D&D Encounters.  It's the final arc of the Web of Spiders, where the fate of the Realms are in the hands of the players.  One last push against the Drow after they've enacted a plot to steal the Demonweave of magic for the Spider Queen herself, Lloth.

I shall be playing Valanæ Winterbreeze, an Eladrin nethermancer (shadow wizard), who escaped from the Drow's clutches with the help of her assistant familiar, who will be working to keep Valanæ on the straight and narrow.  She will be joining such companions as Miss Quito, a vampiric Pixie, as they fight to keep the Realms safe from the machinations of the Demon Queen of Spiders.

Now to make sure that Valanæ has a cutie mark...

Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Part II

Last time, I covered the character development for Mecha Academy.  Today, I look at Beaver Flight.

As mentioned before, Beaver Flight was inspired by an Arrogant Worms song.  The story follows the titular unit as they fight a secret war against alien invaders.  The main question, before starting, is, "Why only women?"  That's a very good question, one that needs answering before continuing.  Why women?  Because the aliens kept taking the men that were fighting before.  In every battle before switching to the all-female force, there were no bodies left, either of the Allied Forces or of the alien invaders, except the one time a Russian woman was found in her powersuit.

Again, the main idea came first, so now I need to figure out the roles and fill them.  Obviously, I will need a leader, someone who has proper military training.  At the time I was first working on the idea, I was on a contract at the Department of National Defense; specifically, the Canadian Forces Air Command.  From there, I figured the leader would be a newly graduated helicopter pilot.  Why a helicopter?  The controls are more complex than airplanes, which would lead to an easier time training the pilot on the powered armour.  Darcy, call sigh "McGee", is an Royal Military College graduate that is nominally assigned to 404 Squadron* but on assignment on the moon.**

With the leader out of the way, the next one I came up with was Victoria, call sign "Geek".  Victoria is a University of British Columbia engineering graduate.  Her top marks and her geekiness got the attention of the project leader, who authorized an offer: join the mission and have your loans paid off in full.  What newly graduated student wouldn't jump at that?  Victoria's role is to be a field mechanic and design consultant.

Next up, Dominique, call sign "Dominatrix".  Dominque holds a Masters in Physics from Carleton University, ideal for adapting tactics in space.  Her call sign is a holdover from her basketball days as a Raven, dominating the opposition.  Being tall and athletic, Dominique will likely be used for spearheading attacks in gravity.

Finally, in the flight of four, Renee, who still needs a call sign.  Renee has a degree in linguistics.  Command is hoping that she will be able to work out the invaders' language, allowing the Allied Forces to find out what they want.

Part 3 will look at the Brazen Hussies and my approach in setting them up.

* The squadron does exist, but the 404 also refers to the "Page Not Found" error.
** I realized that I had to place the story in the future as a result.  This will give me a prologue to explain the details of the setting, adding to my word count.

23 Oct 2012

Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Part I

In an effort to figure out which story to write for NaNoWriMo, I'll go through how the cast of the stories I've detailed before.

First up, Mecha Academy.  This story started off inspired by several anime and related RPGs.  The idea was to follow a group of cadets through their time at the titular academy.  This meant coming up with a squad's worth of characters.  One of the cast was an idea I'd been playing with after reading through the Mekton Zeta lifepath generator,* resulting in a young woman whose family had defected to the other side.  After mulling things around a bit, I determined that she had gone, too, but returned with some assistance from a spy from her homeland.  Dusty, for that's the name she answers to, fills the somber niche in the squad, plus can be a source of internal conflict.

That still left me with four characters.  However, with Dusty as a source of conflict, I added someone for her to conflict with.  Hence, Rhiannon, the daughter of a duke, and whose brother died when Dusty's family defected.  Ta-daa!  Instant conflict!  But, why is Rhiannon out at a frontier academy instead of one on a core world?**  The obvious answer - she wants to make it on her own merit instead of being treated as nobility.  On a border world, she thinks that she'd be treated just like every other recruit.  This, though, implies that the core academies tend to make it easier for the spawn of nobility to graduate.

So, now with two characters who will generate conflict, what next?  Maybe a hint of romance, to attract shippers***.  Mind, shipping will happen, no matter what.  But, I get to pair off my characters first.  Nyaah! :P  So, next character was Rick, a hot-shot type with a flair for piloting.  All space opera has a hot-shot pilot; it's in the rules somewhere.  And, most hot-shot pilots are considered dashing.  If Rhiannon wants Rick, she's going to have to get his attention.

The next character is Lars.  I needed someone who is local (though Rick could also be from the same world).  With Lars, I made him a farm boy, giving the squad some basic survival skills before classes start and a guide to the local area.  Rick, though, is more familiar with the main city.  Lars is also more physical, the biggest of the team.  Trope-wise, he's the Big Guy.

This left me with one more character.  The big difficulty here is to avoid adding a character just to fill the role.  That would have the character just there for the sake of being there, with no other motivation.  I didn't want Miyami to suffer like that.  She needed her own storyline.  Thus, she's actually underage.  Miyami left home to join the military to help her parents out with extra cash.  She forged her age and enlisted.  This also means she's a hacker, a skill that the other four don't really have.  Miyami now has her niche and a secret to keep hidden until she graduates.

Now, I have my squad, some conflict already, potential hookups and shipping.  All that's needed is a plot.

In part 2, I'll cover Beaver Flight.

* A series of tables with suggestions for a character's background; the option was to roll or choose.  In this case, I opted to choose.
** And you can see elements of setting building up.  The setting has been greatly expanded, allowing for nobility, flying cars, and giant mecha.
*** Shipping is the pairing of two characters romantically, usually in fanfiction.  Gender doesn't matter.  Shippers are those who ship characters.

19 Oct 2012

Season "Team Evil" Comes to a Close

This past Wednesday saw the end of the current season of D&D Encounters.  My character, Xaelynna, the drow enchantrix, died.  She was brought below 0 hit points during the fight and left by her teammates in a spider web.  It was the best sort of death she could’ve hoped for, besides being assassinated.  She leaves behind one annoyed mentor who was going to use her to gain power on the ruling council.  If the campaign continued, I’d be working out a new PC, most likely a deep dwarf slave attached to another drow PC.  Then I’d mention to the GM that Xaelynna’s mentor may want to exact revenge at some point.
Next week’s Encounters is a “Slot 0” session, where players create characters for the next season.  I mentioned previously a few ideas I had.  Others are coming to mind, too.  An eladrin witch (Heroes of the Feywild), an eladrin nethermancer (Heroes of the Shadowfell), and a tiefling druid are all in the running with the pixie skald.  I’ve got a week to figure that out.  Part of the decision will be based on what’s needed.  Defenders were thin on the field this past season, and leaders rare the season before that.  Ideally, I should have ideas for each role, and I’m halfway there.  (Wizards are controllers, druids can be either controllers or leaders, skalds are leaders.  Just missing are a striker and a defender idea.)  I’ll post my decision when it’s made.

Oh, and possible try to figure out a pic for the PC.

13 Oct 2012

Encounters Characters

As can be guessed, I play RPGs. Wednesdays, Wizards of the Coast has an event known as D&D Encounters. The goal is to let new players try the game starting from first level without having to find a group or a game convention. Naturally, WotC also uses the event to market the latest books. I've been playing locally using a variety of characters. It's a chance for me to experiment and try races and classes I don't normally touch.

Two seasons ago*, I decided to get back in touch with my inner swashbuckler. Back when Living City was a thing for AD&D 2nd Edition, I played a swashbuckler half-elf thief called Aelfward Shadowstar. During play, he got gender-changed and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. Yes, in the same adventure. He never got swapped back, and ultimately was eaten by a brown dragon. However, Aelfward Junior existed. So, when Living City went to third edition, Aelfward did, too, this time as a swashbuckling bard. Unfortunately, work ate into free time (scheduling problems; avoid working in call centres if you want to see people who don't work in one), and the character languished. When I found better employment, I got back into regular gaming. Along comes D&D 4th Edition. In an early game set in the Forgotten Realms, I created Aelfward III, a swordmage who swashbuckles. Again, just for the fun of it. And that brings us to Aelfward IV, elemental warlock and arcane swashbuckler who was a lot of fun to play. Playing a swashbuckler, I look for chandeliers to swing from, damsels to de-distress, and jokes to quip. The class was an afterthought.

Last season, because there was a dearth of leader types (classes that heal others), I went for a Warpriest from D&D Essentials, using the Sun Domain. Varrs Shadowstar (a distant relative and a full elf) handed out healing and temporary hit points like candy on Hallowe'en. "Oh, is that a minor scratch? Here, have some temporary hit points to make you feel better." Healing others didn't take away from fighting the monsters. Usually, if anyone went down, it was Varrs because he gave healing away to the rest of the party. At the same time, Varrs was on a mission, a roaring rampage of vengeance and light against the drow. With drow in the party. "You can't trust drow. They're a race of murdering liars. No offense."

This current season, which is about to draw to a close Wednesday, takes a look at the other side of the fight, Team Evil. The players are drow or their minions/slaves, working to bring the Demonweave under the control of Lloth. Naturally, being the more unsavory types, not a good-aligned PC around. I went for evil, aiming towards the old Lawful Evil alignment, where one worked in the bounds of rules and regs to move towards the top of the food chain. Thus, Xaelynna, drow enchantrix (drow elf, Essentials wizard, school of enchantment). Her goal, to become the power behind the throne, pulling strings, manipulating, all through the use of her spells and her charisma. Think Tolkien's Wormtongue, but female and sexier. And she managed to get a major goal during play. Publically, she's now an apprentice to a more powerful wizard in her House. And, to appease the misadrist priestesses on the Council, she's volunteered to be the act as her mentor's voice as the wizards advise the priestesses on the use of the Demonweave. Xaelynna is exactly where she wants to be. If this was a long campaign, she'd be working at worming herself into Council, manipulating her mentor, using gossip and lies to deal with enemies, and just being a nasty little vixen. Xaelynna deals in favours, and will remember who owes her.

And that brings me to next season of Encounters, the last one in its current form according to WotC. As long as it relates to Essentials (ie, not from the older Player's Handbooks 1, 2, and 3), it's allowed. So, that rules out the wild mage sorcerer idea; the class is in PHB2. But, looking through what I have that is allowed, well, a Pixie Skald (bard variant found in Heroes of the Feywild) and a Tiefling Druid of the Wastes (Warden Druid variant found in Heroes of the Elemental Chaois) are both legal and intriguing. As a bonus, both are leaders, thus helping ease the pain of hit point loss on others. I have about two weeks to decide. Mind, the pixie feat Streak of Light might be the deciding factor.

Encounters player? Let me know what sort of PC you're playing currently and what you're thinking of playing for the next season!

* Each series of adventures is called a season. The adventures are linked in an overall story.

12 Oct 2012

Decisions, Decisions

NaNoWriMo is coming up.  This will be my seventh year participating.  I've had a decent run, too.  Seven starts, seven times hitting 50k words.  One year, I reached 85k words.  (The math puts it at an average of 2667 words/day.  It took the first week of December for my hands to recover.)  Last year, though, was a measly 51k.  Usually, by October, I have narrowed the ideas down to one and have at least thought about the setting.

This year?  Oi...

Three ideas.  All similar, but different enough that mix and match isn't possible without getting another idea.  So, here's what I have.

Mecha Academy
I finally figured out the format for the story.  Originally, it was more episodic in nature.  To work around that, the framework is to tell the story of the cast in their first year at a military academy for mecha pilots.  Over the course of the year, they'd have conflict with each other, fellow cadets, officers, and the Republic (the "bad guys").  I had started working on this back in 2001, but hadn't filled in the gaps since then.  Technically, this makes me a NaNo rebel - I'm not starting a new story from scratch.  (But it's not cheating.  Fifty thousand new words is still 50k words.)  I have worked out background, setting details down to ranks, the nature of the Imperium and the Republic, types of vehicles (fanbikes!  Flying cars!), all of that.  Just have to, you know, write.

Beaver Flight
Inspired by an Arrogant Worms song ("We Are the Beaver"), the story features an all-woman flight of powered armour (smaller than Mecha Academy's mecha) as they take on an alien invasion.  The characters are worked out, very little has been written, and I might even know where to start!  (Yay, prologues!)  The nice thing about Beaver Flight is that I don't need to end the war in one book.  I have a rough idea of the supporting cast, including command staff, other flights (Eagle, Bear, Kangaroo, Tiger).  The problem, well, given the nature of the staffing, despite using national animals... yeah.  But, there's a big reveal in place!

The Brazen Hussies
Another all-woman force, this time a mercenary unit working in the Republic (see Mecha Academy, above).  Just placing the story in the same setting cuts down on prep work, but I still need to figure out cast and plot.  Though, with this story, I could work on a multi-level narrative, from the troops on the pointy end of the explode-y stick to the field commanders to the brass.  All that I need to do is work out the mercenary force.  I've got until November 1st to figure all that out.  Oh, and come up with the proper name for the Hussies; the title is their nickname.

Eventually, I'll have a choice.  And I'll be blogging the insanity of NaNo throughout November, provided my brain isn't all melty.

11 Oct 2012

What's All This, Then?

Welcome to The Chaos Beast, my little corner of the web.  This will be a place where I pontificate about things on my mind, such as writing, reading, current events, basically, anything.  More serious work will appear over at Fan To Pro, where I contribute.  I'm a fan of movies, animation, books of all sorts, and sometimes baseball.

Updates will be irregular, but hopefully interesting.

See you around!

Merry Christmas!

Hello, World