Friday, July 6, 2018

Quick Analysis of a Great Opening Scene

When you are trying to write a new story or even make a game, perhaps one of the most important tasks is making a good starting experience. Now if you were to ask me what would be a good example of a solid opening, the first answer will probably always be How to Train Your Dragon.



While the video I shared above cuts off the very beginning, the rest of it is pretty much solid. If you were not interested after watching the first well-done 10 minutes of the movie, then I'm not sure what will impress you. The music, transitions, choreography, monologue and dialogue, and action are excellent. It also serves as a good preview on what the rest of the film will be like. I theorize that if you make a good opening, you shouldn't need a spoiler-filled trailer to build up hype.

You have a quick introduction that is timed perfectly with fantastic music. In fact, I often listen to the soundtrack and reflect on well-done it was. How to Train Your Dragon does fantastic job by starting with a nice mellow but vikingish tune and scene but quickly turns to humor and epicness. Within the first 10 minutes, almost all of the themes that will be apart are covered. You are subconsciously told that there will moments of reflection, humor, epic encounters, romance, and a few twists. The only theme missing that is the core to the whole movie which is friendship. 

As sort of a proof of how well the opening follows the movie, consider which characters get developed in the film. There are three: Hiccup, Stoic, and Astrid. They not only appear in that order, but their development and time spent as the focus of the movie corresponds to their time as the focus within the first few minutes. Even though Gobber is present, he's never the real focus. You know this because Gobber is used to tell us more about Hiccup (and later about Stoic or dragons) but never about himself. However, Stoic has a few scenes where he is the star of the scene and Astrid has one moment in the opening as well where she's the star. Now if you argue there's a fourth character, I would agree if you mean all of dragons. This is because they also take the focus as Hiccup informs us about a few of them which happens quite a bit throughout the film but at a good pace.

While it may take 10 minutes to present this solid picture, the fact that it is pleasant, entertaining, and well executed makes you forget about the time. I kept thinking it was 5 minutes only because of the time on the soundtrack, but when I actually analyzed, I found it was closed to 10. I think it's safe to say that if we can make the audience forget about the time, then we have done a good job with our art. And if the audience is pleased after finishing the whole thing, then we did a fantastic work of art.

Dream On,
J. D. Nyle

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mature Stories

Society has a weird relationship with mature stories. I would argue that the intended audience for most mature rated content is actually the immature and there is no intention to actually maturing them. It is mostly the fantasies of the immature that are shown, and that depresses me because that is not how it should be. A good mature story is one that sets up the growth of the audience rather than the appeasement of immature fantasies.

If you watch Empire Strikes Back and then Return of the Jedi, you can see the former is truly a more mature story while the latter is pretending to be mature in the first half. The former is a true classic, but the latter really isn't so great and was even criticized when it first came out. As an aspiring storyteller, I've grown to dislike Return of the Jedi more and more as I grow older, while Empire Strikes Back gets better and better, and I used to hate that movie.

You don't need to show mature content in order to talk about it. For example, does a long and vivid sex scene provide any necessary information about the effects of an affair? No. You can fully and effectively discuss a topic without necessarily showing it. In fact, if you show it, then you probably will actually distract from the topic.

My intent for Neostriker is that there will occasionally be mature stories, but not inappropriate content. There will be no sex scenes and even foul language will be in check. Even if there is language, I will likely use fictional words instead in order to bring attention to the underlying psychology and not promote use of actual bad language.

Why this self-censoring? Because as storytellers, we also hold responsibility for promoting good, but not even all good things are appropriate for all ages. Just as honey is dangerous for an infant, so too some concepts are dangerous for those who are not yet mature enough. As you can see from the short story on preventing suicide, there will be darker themes popping up now and then. I consider these fair topics as they are something a youth will encounter and I hope to provide a good model for then. As a result, I plan to mark the more mature stories so that it's encouraged for those too young to discuss the story with their parents. However, I do intend to continue to encourage thinking in all the stories, like is seen throughout Shining.

Will my new stories always be dark and mature? Not according to what I have in mind. I plan to write according to the stories I have in mind, and some series will lean towards certain levels of maturity. Though I think a good age to strive for is ones that adolescents will appreciate. If you consider that as the target group for Empire Strikes Back or Spider-Man 2, then you realize that you can actually make good stories while still being mature.

Hope you look forward to the new stories.
Dream On,
J. D. Nyle

Friday, May 4, 2018

May 2018 Update

Last month, I shared a short story written for what I have in mind for a series set in the world of Neostriker: Shining. As you can probably see, the style is different than the Legends series I was posting before. I still plan to work on Legends, especially since I do have one story that I would like to write. One thing you might notice is that Neostriker works a bit differently in each of the stories, and that's something I decided after writing Shining back in 2009. The core would be the same in that Neostriker would be spirit-based, but how that would come into play would vary from series to series. Now let's dive into elements I intend to build the new series on as shown in this short story.

First element to point out is that David and company are not the main characters. This has always been the plan. This helps keep Shining as it's own complete story and I really don't have a story where they are the main characters.

The second element I want to try to expand is the continued link between dialog and combat. There are hints of it in Shining. Perhaps I will mostly use the same model as in Shining, but as this story shows, I want to focus on the dialog more and have that dictate the action. There is another model I'm considering where it'd be like a detective story where there is a battle and in the aftermath, a conversation. At the same time, I'm open to the possibility that some stories won't have any fights at all, sort of like the chase chapter in Shining or some stories in Legends.

The third element of the stories I'm planning is the task force model. Rather than being an adventure, the new series would simply be stories taking place in the same general area. My thought is that this would be a combination of superhero vigilantes, but they are actually a government force tasked with stopping evil Neostrikers. Part of that would be the use of human operators rather than Asens.

The fourth element is the additional combat mechanics. At the moment, I have two planned though they are pretty much related to each other. One isn't shown in this story, but it is related to the second element I mentioned above. The other mechanic is actually an old one that I didn't include in Shining called purification. While you could see Jenny do purification, it was actually a combat mechanic that the warriors would use.

The fifth element is the kind of topics the stories bring up. Arguably, this short story is more mature than all of Shining since it focuses on depressing matters like suicide, depression, and heartbreak. While I intend to stay away from having profanity and sex in my stories, I figure a topic that might concern a twelve-year-old is important to cover. I believe I was 10 when I I had a thought of committing suicide. And we also know there are stories of adolescents committing it even on live video feeds. As a result, I think providing good stories that help bring up the conversations while also providing some answers to help prevent such depressing actions is a good thing to do. Therefore, a large focus of this series would be examining everyday issues and questions youth may have.

The final element that I want to include is the letter at the end of the story. I actually originally had another story that I wanted to do based off the rival I mentioned before since there was great dialog and action, but there wasn't a good letter for that yet. These letters are based off the letters you can read from N. D. Moharo's blog, though I'm still working out how I want it to work.

How did you like the short story? What do you think about these 6 elements that I plan to base the new series on. Do you think the short story did a good job as a proof of concept? I would love to hear your thoughts about what worked and what didn't. I especially would like to know if you are interested in reading more stories like this.

Dream On!
J. D. Nyle

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Short Story: Assisting the Suicidal

The following is a draft I made for what I'm currently having in mind for a new series set in the world of Shining.

Note that this story does deal with fairly dark themes. I highly encourage discussing them with your parents if you are a minor.

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Atop a suspension bridge, a lone figure watched over the water as the sun sets before him, giving a grand display of colors as it reflects off the water.
"This is great!" said a female voice, "You have to take me there sometime, big brother."
The lone figure smirked beneath his mask and answered, "Sure, sis. Let's make a plan to come again when we aren't working."
"It's not really work if you're doing nothing but enjoying a sunset. It's also not fair when you're doing it without me."
"You can still enjoy it from the feed I'm sending you. It's like you're here."
"It's not the same and you know it!"
The figure smirked again. It was very much true. The feel of the gentle breeze, the natural colors of the world, and the uninterrupted view made for a great experience to be enjoyed firsthand. To be fair, it's hard to feel the breeze when you're wearing a high-class armor, but at least it has it's perks.
"Maybe you should try and join me then," he teased his sister.
"That's not possible and you know it. Unless you want to give me your wings."
"Not happening."
The wings... Two grand wings like that of a great eagle. While his ability to fly wasn't perfect, the wings do at least let him reach this viewing spot. And from this spot, he could easily glide a good distance if he reads the wind correctly.

That need to glide would come handy quite quickly. Looking down, he spotted a figure climbing up the bridge fence, ready to jump. The winged figure barely got up before witnessing the leap.
"Sera, send a rescue boat!"
"Got it, George!"
George dived down. They say a peregrine falcon can travel faster than 200 MPH while diving. While he certainly wasn't trying to break that record, he did dive down fast and broke soon enough to get a good lift to support his glide to his destination.

The feminine figure was struggling to stay afloat, but soon George was in the water providing aid. This was good enough until the rescue boat came and took them aboard. The captain came with blankets to help the young lady keep warm.

"Are you okay, miss?" George asked as his wings dripped water. However, he was not going to get a welcoming reply.
"What's the big idea?" she retorted vehemently, rejecting the blanket. "I have a right to die!"
"Wait, what?"
"You know! I have a right to die if I want to. You just prevented me from doing that. How dare you impose on my right to choose?!"
George took another look at the woman. She did not seem any older than him. Simply a girl that may be in college. They could actually be the same age. Of course, she wouldn't know that with him wearing his mask.
"You might look like an angel in that getup, but you are a demon!" she continued.
"Is she saying that because my armor is crimson red?" George quietly asked his sister.
"George! Now is not the time for that!" Sera rebuked over the line.
"I know, I know. But I need to keep my spirits up in order to handle this."
"Well then, she would still have the same opinion if she saw your face."
"That's low, sis. You're supposed to be my support "
"Baka. That's what you get for trying to joke in a serious situation."

George faced toward the girl before him and replied, "What's the matter?"
"You! Don't you dare try and stop me again!"
She started to run off the boat. The captain grabbed hold to stop her, but then a purple mist enveloped her and she transformed. It was a simple form, utilizing a black color scheme, a hood, and a knife by her side. Using her added power, she pushed the captain away. Just then, a yellowish barrier encompassed the boat, preventing escape.
"This is the Nellenion field," George informed her. "You won't be able to escape unless you defeat me."
"Fine then!" she answered as she took her pose. She then dashed forward with her knife to strike.
"What makes you think you can impose on my right to die?" she asked as she attacked.
George evaded the blade. He then pulled out a sword of white light and swung, but he missed.
"Why do you want to die?"
"It's my right to choose!" the black form replied as she backed away and fired an energy blast from her hand. "I will not be controlled by a man!"
A barrier encased George and protected him from the blast. "I don't see how my gender has anything to do about trying to keep you from dying."
"It has everything to do with it!" came the reply as a another blast was fired at the winged figure. George was beginning to understand what was going on.
"Is it possible you had a breakup or suffered abuse?"
The girl froze. Eventually she muttered, "Both."
George moved closer and asked, "Would you mind taking about it?"
She examined him closely but then fired another blast while saying, "I gave him everything!" She fired another blast as she continued, "and then he dumped me for another girl!"
George did not try to evade as the blasts hit him. She saw this and stopped firing out of confusion.
"Why aren't you moving?"
"Because I don't know what to say," he replied while looking down at the floor. "You are hurt and I don't know how to console you."
The black figure looked down for a moment. She muttured, "No one loves me."
Despite as quiet as she said those words, George was able to hear them. "What about your parents and friends?"
"My parents don't love me. They are so strict that they would lecture me rather than comfort."
"And friends?"
"What friends? They don't even try to talk to me. I opened myself to all and no one responded."
"I see..." George put away his sword of light. "Do you need a hug?"
The girl examined George closely. No weapons out. Just the red angelic figure. She approached him, got right up to him, and then stabbed him in the rib!
"No one loves me," she cried out louder.
However, George didn't flinch. Instead, he closed his wings around her. She could not see that his hands were glowing.
"Do you know what it means to love?"
"What?" she asked in a demanding tone.
George paused fora moment before explaining, "My father said it's to desire what's good for someone else. Simply it's caring."
"So what? No one cares about me."
"What about me?"
"What reason do you have for caring? You're a stranger."
"You are human and that's enough, according to my father."
"Your father is an idealist."
"Yeah... He was..."
The hands began glowing more. The girl's countenance changed as she realized the meaning of those words.
"I-I'm sorry to hear that," she said quietly as she looked below.
"Thanks."
They stayed quiet for a while. No sound was made but by the gentle motion of the water below them. But after some time, the black figure became alert, slashed, and tried to push herself away from George.
"I will not fall for your trap. I will not be abused again!"
George stood his ground.
"If there's nothing I can do to make you trust me, then let me at least share words from my mother," he said with a solemn tone. The girl calmed down and focused her attention on the angelic form.
George took a breath and continued, "The last words my mother told me before she died was this: 'Remember there will always be someone who loves you'"
"Do you believe that?"
George thought for a moment for this potent question. These words that his mother would often tell him. These words that were on her lips even as she died. These words that came from a mother who loved him so much.
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Because I'm not the only one would dive into the water to save a stranger. As my father said, there is no reason needed for loving others. Being human is enough."
"It's one thing to save a life, but do you care beyond that?"
George opened his wings and the girl stepped back and saw the marks from all of the attacks she made. At that point, the light from his hands grew and a bright flash filled the arena.
After the light faded, the captain of the ship saw the two figures still standing in place, but the black figure was no more. The girl had returned to normal and the Nellenion field had vanished.

"Thank you," the girl said. "Thank you for caring. Can I get your name?"
George smiled and replied, "George. And yours?"
"Sofia. Nice to meet you."
George smiled and replied, "How about we get you that that towel and warm you up? It's getting cold."
Sofia smiled and answered, "Thank you."
The captain brought the towel back and Sofia gratuiticly accepted it. The two youths sat down on the dock and continued to talk as they enjoyed the twilight sky and the gentle waters.

------------
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My dear child,

There are some evils I wish I could protect you from, among them is depression from loneliness. I pray that when you encounter this that you have the strength to continue on and live. Remember your mother's words: there will always be someone who loves you.

Loneliness is a strange phenomenon in that you can feel lonely even while surrounded by people. The reason for this is because loneliness truly describes the state when we don't feel loved at all. When we feel loved, we can endure the hardships of life still smiling. However, when we feel lonely, we can lose all motivation, losing even our will to live.

I ask you to continue to fight, my child. Fight the feelings and know that they are simply feelings. Remember that there will always be someone who loves you. If you can persist past these feelings, that would give me pride.

It is certainly a task easier said than done. To help you overcome this trial, it might help to understand the nature of loneliness. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

Loneliness is caused by not feeling loved. Therefore we must remember what can make people feel loved. Recall the four love tanks. People want to be cared for, admired, liked, and wanted. These in turn are filled by Dr. Gary Chapman's five love languages. If you can figure out which tank is empty and your primary love languages, that can help a great deal in recovering.

Now if you were to encounter someone who is suffering this fate, I would entreat you to help them. I can easily believe that this kind of depression is cause of most suicides. If you can help these people, then you will be a great hero.

With love,
Your father

Saturday, March 10, 2018

March 2018 update

If writer's block is when you cannot think of anything to write, what is it called when you have too many ideas to start? Let me know when you have the answer. Until then I can give at least an update about some recent ideas that have come to my mind.

I'm still really thinking about making a video game I would really think that would be fun and a good advertisement. And since it'd be based off a game I previously made, I know the mechanics, and so it shouldn't be too hard to make if only I had the game development skills required to make it. However to devote the time to acquire those skills would be very difficult.

One thing that has been recently developing, though arguably it has been developing for 9 years, is a sequel series for Shining. Back then part of the issue was trying to make characters distinguished from those in Shining and each other. Among those would be the rival for the main character. An idea I had was a type based off a musketeer since I liked fencing. However when I drew that concept it looked horrible. So for nine years I was without a concept for a good rival that could match any of the four from Shining. And since I wanted this series to be team-based this was a very important thing.

So here's a rough draft of what I have in mind. Instead of a fencer, he would be a martial artist. His main weapons would be very very short swords that he essentially he is punching rather than slashing. And at the same time he would also fire long-range energy blasts. This would reflect in his personality in which he would ask very direct and personal questions, but also keep things at a distance when he's not comfortable. One interesting idea is that by using punches rather than slashes, is a text or more quick and to the point while slashes follow the logic of, the longer the blade, the more time it takes to swing. This in turn reflects that maybe he will not allow people to think so much, and while his logic it might be sound, his comments might be a little too personal and direct. For example in one case he'll probably ask, "do you know what the meaning of life is?"

One concept that might be pretty cool is that maybe he can throw back bombs using energy powers kind of like how energy blast in shining. And most likely in every one on one encounter the main character loses to him. Yet he will probably have one flaw that would prohibit him from being able to defeat the main enemies. Most likely it would be from personal torment and dealing with the dark power perhaps he took a little bit as a drug and now he's addicted? This might allow for a deeper relationship with the main character's sister as maybe she is one that supports him in trying to recover.

This leads into one of the themes considering for the series: Life issues. I'm thinking of this series taking place either in high school or college age. This would kind of be like The Spectacular Spider-Man TV series in which they take care of crime and stuff but at the same time to deal with teenage issues such as asking a girl out on a date. And again and cover topics that don't seem to be questions as much. For example well, some teenagers will wonder what is the meaning of life. So it would be cool to explore that and see how different people act.

One TV series that used to watch when I was younger but it's starting to influence how I'm thinking about this series is Psych. In pretty much every episode, the main character would learn something from his father that would help him solve the case or was somehow president to the case even though these things tended to be typical life lessons or ways of thinking. We'll see if I can pull it off. While it would still be better as visual media, I might be able to work this out in a serialized story format as well.

Dream On,
J. D. Nyle

P.S. I wrote this blog post using voice typing. What do you think? I had to correct a few things, but otherwise I think the result turned out well and especially allowed my hands to rest.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Making the Cover Art

After the cover art was finally finished, my wife came to me and said, "Now I know why the cover art was so important. It makes you want to read the book." That's exactly true. The primary reason why I hadn't published the book after receiving it back from the editor for over 18 months was due to not having any art.

I had one artist who said he was interested, but he never sent me the first draft and never replied to my messages. There was another guy who sounded like he might have been interested, but I also never heard back from him. Then one guy came up and asked about the project. I told him and he said he wanted to do it and he even agreed to do a trial piece.

That trial piece was important as I looked at his deviantArt profile and couldn't find anything that resembled what I was looking for. Some time before, I had decided the best cover art for this book needed to be a tapestry that showcased modern elements. I eventually settled on the fight between Cyonex and Crawn as it was the best for showing the fantasy elements and the time. However, no art on the artist's profile page matched this feel, but the trial piece would give me faith.

Since this was a trial piece, I didn't want him to use Neostriker for the basis. Instead, I needed him to use another series that had modern elements and see if he could transcribe them to a tapestry art. The result was Star Wars. While I could see room for improvement, the trial piece was good and I gave him the task of making the cover art.

The first draft he gave is what I would describe as a comic book cover. It was good. He implemented part of my design for the hero, which was to my liking, but I thought it was too realistic. I wanted the cover art to allow freedom of imagination to the readers. It also wasn't the format I was expecting after the trial piece. Part of the issue is that it wouldn't work with the cover template I had found to be the best of the options available.

The second draft was closer to expectations and also very promising. It was still a bit dynamic, but I liked the design of Crawn he came up with. I didn't care much for the background as I felt like it took away from the location of the fight. However, the biggest objection I had was that Craw's sword wasn't pointed at Cyonex. It was a good piece of art, but it didn't look right for a cover piece. It looked like Crawn was lecturing Cyonex which would completely change the first impression readers would have. While the book certainly has a bit of philosophy, I felt like it gave the wrong impression as it made Cyonex look like the aggressor. Had this been inside art, then that would be okay, but not good for the cover.
The third draft was fantastic. Even though I personally liked the designs of the warriors in the previous drafts better, this one felt like it could have been made in medieval times. It also allowed the imaginations of the readers to flourish. In addition, adding the jetpack helped conveyed that it was a modern story. As a result, we proceed to color this one and fine tune it. The result is the final art piece we have today.

I hope you enjoyed that look into the process of creating the cover art. David is an aspiring young artist. His hobbies include Star Wars, comics, drawing, cosplay, and sword-sparring. If you want to hire him, you can reach him through his DeviantArt profile, Omnipotrent

J. D. Nyle

Neostriker: Shining is now available for purchase from Amazon in US, Canada, UK, and Europe

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The New Stories

Now that Shining has finally been printed, it could be said that it's time for me to move on to new stories. However, you might be aware I've been slow on working on them. Part of that was due to the decision to actually publish Shining in print, but it's also a combination of time and inspiration.

Neostriker is certainly a hobby, but it's one of many. While pretty much everything I do ends up contributing to Neostriker in some way, I can only write when I have free time and if I feel like it. While I would like Neostriker to be my career, the only funding I currently have is by working full time. In addition, I do have a family to take care of so the chances that I'll complete a new story in the near future is fairly low, unless I do serialized stories instead.

Now for years, I've had planned I want to do at least 12 different stories, but which ones I develop keep changing. Most of the time, it's the "Origin" novel that focuses on the first Nellenion King. However, I've also had periods of high inspiration for other stories along the timeline as well as sequels to Shining. To give an idea about the diversity, here is what I've been planning (names not final):

Main timeline

  1. Origin: Adventure novel on the first Neostrikers and the first Nellenion King. Feel would be like chapters 15-18 of Shining. The first chapter, which I wrote before deciding to rewrite Shining can be read here
  2. Legends: Serialized stories taking place in the same period as Origin. A few of them can be read on this blog.
  3. Twilight: Epic novel highly inspired by Twilight Princess. Takes place quite some time after Origin and focuses on the princess and a hero with the heart of a child. Many of the ideas here are a result of some dreams that I've had.  
  4. Fall of the Nellenion Kingdom: Covers the war that leads to the defeat of the Nellenion Kingdom which was partially described in Shining.
  5. Rebellion: Story of rebellion against the occupying forces taking place in a steampunk world. Inspiration varies from Zorro and The Last Story. Possibly serialized
  6. Wings of Freedom: Norse-inspired story that follows the descendants of the exiled prince.
Expanded universe
  1. Rising Sun: Japanese-inspired story. Possibly serialized.
  2. Eagle-heart: Native North American-inspired story
  3. Heart of the Ocean: story of a fisherman and his "mermaid" love (not actually half-fish).
Shining Universe
  1. Story focusing on the children of David and Jenny. Best if visual media like a movie
  2. Serialized stories following the events of aforementioned sequel. Best if a TV series
  3. Climax

I originally intended to focus on Origin, but I made a change of plans when I decided I wanted to practice my writing skills first with Shining. As a result, the core concept of the world has been established already, making me feel like I can actually write in any order like Brian Jacques did with Redwall. Of course, there is also the desire to make a Neostriker video game, which would take a very long time to do. Then again, if Shining sells really well, then maybe there is hope I can focus on these ambitions sooner.

Dream On,
J. D. Nyle