Popular Anarchy: Tools of the Trade

I first got interested in writing in high school. I had an assignment to write something creative for my ninth grade English class, and I wrote a short story where my English teacher hunted down and killed every member of our class for various reasons. I think I died because I thought I was witty, yet was sorely mistaken. This story got me an A, the adoration of my teacher, and a trip to the guidance counselor. If I wrote that story today I imagine I’d be suspended and the teacher would be fired, so I’m glad that didn’t happen, Mrs. Jones! I hope you are doing well.

I still remember writing that story, sitting in my bedroom and typing away on a computer made sometime in the 1700s, using whatever text editor was available on Windows 3.1, typing in Arial font and trying to figure out what was happening whenever I used the world “I’ll” in a sentence. The computer I have now could probably load a few thousand instances of that program side by side while playing Skyrim with no slowdown, but I’m not posting this afternoon to talk about how old I am (29) or how easy kids today have things (so easy). I’m posting to talk about how I write, which is basically unchanged from that freshman high school assignment.

Popular Anarchy was written using Google Docs, mostlly because I can access my files from work, desktop, and laptop. Most of my writing has happened on lunch breaks and before work, though I’ve pushed some nights to midnight or later because the scene is working and stopping it would be silly. I know there are programs that are supposed to be of great help to writers — Scrivener is one that I hear a lot about from my friends — but I don’t really understand what those changes would be. I imagine once I actually sit down with the program I’ll wonder how I ever got by without it, just like how I felt with Google Docs after I stopped emailing Wordpad files back and forth to myself whenever I wanted to work on something.

Editing Popular Anarchy has been much more difficult. My preferred method of editing is to print the document out and make notes by hand, but every printer I have ever owned has died within a month and I don’t think I can get away with printing 120,000 words of novel out at my office. Crocodoc worked pretty well in theory, but in practice updates kept crashing my browsers and made editing much more of a chore than it needed to be. I took to editing with two pages open, with the story in one window and my notes on the other. It did not go well. I’m still not pleased with the editing, and if anyone has a better solution I’d love to hear it.

I’ve always been interested in how everyone actually writes. My wife writes longhand and transfers it to the PC once she’s done. Another friend of mine doesn’t sit down to write until he knows he’s ready to do the final project, and doesn’t write first drafts or big outlines, just the final story itself. My editor writes via typewriter and mails me my stories marked up with red ink with a handwritten note explaining that he doesn’t hate me. Another friend of mine writes on his laptop after disabling his wireless connection so he’s free from distraction. I can see the appeal of that last part; I remember looking up the official names of parts of a sword one afternoon and finding myself reading up on the history of Pac-Man less than an hour later. It’s not even that interesting. Wikipedia just does that to you.

While trying to find an image for this post (so many words!) I went on Wikipedia to look at “writing” and see what they have. I’m already on Sting’s page by way of Botticelli’s painting of St. Augustine writing. I’m just closing the browser now before somebody gets hurt. No image!

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Attacking The Darkness

Every week, I inform my friends and family that I am the master of their futures and their very lives are in my hands. Whether they live or die is solely my discretion, and my faintest whim will determine the course of their future.

And then we roll some dice and hit things.

Wednesday nights are Gaming Nights around here. Back in 2003 I started a Final Fantasy d20 gaming campaign, custom-built (read that: shamelessly stolen) from various d20 rulebooks and my own fevered imagination. We started with two players, grew to four (and two games!), then went down to three when one of my players decided he had better things to do, like go be a lawyer or something. We miss you, Taylor! Though we understand you have about no time left in the world anymore.

My players are my best friend from high school who moved out here to Kansas City with me in 2003, another really good friend who moved out here to Kansas City with me in 2004, and the girl I moved here to Kansas City FOR, and who I married in 2008. The player who ended up leaving the game was another one of my best friends from high school who moved out here to Kansas City with me in 2003. Aside from gaming, we have maybe two things all in common, one of which is a susceptibility to mind control.

There is a list, somewhere, of things that no one wants to read about, and stories about your gaming sessions are no lower than #4 on that list. So I’m not going to just recap sessions each week here, because no one wants to read that who isn’t already playing in the game. So instead I’m going to try and find interesting things to talk about as far as game design, how I run things, special extras either I or my players have done, stuff like that. We’ll start with music, because this will frame a lot of the later posts.

Final Fantasy games are big on music. Most every character in a game has a leitmotif, there are special battle themes and city themes and mood themes, so forth, so on. When I started planning Final Fantasy Omega, I decided I was going to make music a big part of the game, so I told everyone to pick their character’s theme song, because it would be used for their Limit Break (big super signature attack). I would also have themes for the villains and cities and everything.

We’ve since moved the game online, where we log into IRC every week and type out our dice rolls and character chatter, since the youngest of us is 29 (me!) and everyone’s getting old and lazy, and the player who left still played for a few years after moving to Nashville from KC. I can still do music, though, by setting up a sounds directory in IRC and then using commands in-session to play music.

The sounds directory has, at the time of this writing, 489 items in it. Many of these are tracks that I have played only once. It’s not enough to say I have themes going for certain characters — I’m limiting composers to specific character arcs so I can have a consistent unifying theme for that character and anyone related to him or her.

Most of the music comes from video game soundtracks, so expect this space to talk a lot about music.

Worldbuilding And The Art Of Careful Appropriation

So I wrote a book. It’s called Popular Anarchy. I’m going to talk about it now.

The title itself is something I came up with as an angry teenager about twelve years ago. As most small-town teenagers with big dreams and an even bigger ego, I wanted nothing more than to get away from the idiots and the sheeple, man. I don’t know what perceived injustice I was railing against when the title hit me, but I kept it with me for a long time after that, wanting to do something with it. I had a few false starts over the years, but two years ago I finally sat down and started ironing something out.

As you’ll see elsewhere on the site (eventually), I run a homebrew d20 roleplaying game every week for my friends. It started seven years ago and has run ever since (January 2012 at the time of this post), minus a two-year gap in the middle where I burnt myself out on gaming and didn’t want to work on it anymore. It’s Final Fantasy, which makes me the King of All Dorks, but it’s fun, and it’s an original world that I built myself, in the FF tradition.

I was considering running a followup to that game back before it ran for 200+ sessions, and I started creating a world in which to place that game; a high fantasy world with multiple nations and races, a world that skipped the industrial revolution and instead had a magical revolution, a world with an actual reason for airships and passenger trains to exist, a world where I could have swords, sidearms, and sorcery side by side. And other things that begin with the letter s. Long story short, I decided not to run a Final Fantasy game in this world, but I did decide to do something with the idea. I took the Final Fantasy out of the world, removing moogles, tonberries, Ronso, Espers, and blatant references to four warriors of light and other in-jokes like that. In their place, I started worldbuilding.

Someone once said that there are no new ideas in writing. Every good idea has already happened, and now we’re all just writing the same story in different ways. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I did see some hints of that in my worldbuilding. For instance, the first thing I did was take one of the races I wanted to use in the Final Fantasy game, tonberries. I changed them from green to blue.

Completely original! No one will ever crack that code.

But that’s only the start. The next step is to take a look at what makes a tonberry a tonberry. (Slow speed, nightlights, and a penchant for stabbing.) Now I have to modify each of those in such a way that it’s no longer a tonberry and is, instead, something original. Once you get going, it gets easier. Instead of being a primarily physical race, I change them to be magical. From that idea comes a strict class system based around what kind of magic each one uses, a set of Houses that then corresponds to all of their society, and from there I’m sketching out a brief history of what caused the class separation to begin in the first place. In that sketch is the founding of their capital city, which leads into the design of their city, which leads to their need to trade with another race to bring in enough goods to make their country viable for long-term settlement by their people, which leads to a myth about what would happen if they were ever to abandon their home, which leads to…

Not every idea springs fully-formed from someone’s head like a literary Athena. Sometimes it starts as small as a blue tonberry. There’s no shame in that.

Plus, if Blizzard can get away with Zerg vs. Tyranids, I’ve got nothing to worry about.

From This Moment On I Shall Be Known As Future Man

So apparently WordPress does achievements now? I’m not quite sure what the goal here will be. Do I have a gamertag here on WordPress? Can I compare my Cheevos with other bloggers? Is there a point where I beat WordPress, and the final boss triggers his One-Worded Angel form or something like that? Do I have to fight Hemingway?

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this.

However, I do know how to feel about the suggested tags there. That is absolutely wonderful. Future Man away!

Hello And Welcome To It

Hi! Welcome to my blog!

In the long list of opening lines, that probably falls down near the bottom. But I feel like there should be some kind of intro. This is the first post I will ever make on this website. Someone might be bored in a couple of years and go back to see how this whole thing started. (They will find that it started poorly. Sorry, Future Man.) So, uh, welcome to Loading Screen. I’ll keep this part as short as possible.

I started this site for two reasons. 1) MattWBowyer.com was available, and since that’s me, I thought I should do something about it. 2) I’m writing a book. Actually, I wrote a book, or at least I wrote a first draft. It’s not too good, but I think it will end up being good.

I’m going to try and get this thing published. This blog will document that whole process. Will it be a resource for other up-and-coming authors? Maybe. More likely than not it’ll just be like a diary for me, a diary that I’ve lost the key to and someone has posted up on Facebook.

My goal is to publish something on here at least three times per week. This will last maybe two weeks, but hey, aim high!

Thanks for reading my blog! XOXOXO