Friday, September 30, 2016

What makes a Good Story?

People love to hear a good story, but what makes a story great? Over time, established classics are soon considered overrated. Some people try to claim they are great because they were the first to try something. However, others will claim that more recent stories do it better or say the old is boring because it has been copied so often. This is actually one reason why I published Shining when I did. I noticed that even though I wrote that story before so many modern fantasies started to become popular, if I wait longer, people will be tired before I have a chance to publish. In fact, I anticipate it's already too late.

However, even if a story does tread along similar lines as other stories, it can still make a name for itself. Critics will point out that Star Wars offered nothing new but instead was a tribute to many ideas such as Akira Kurosawa. Japanese Role-Playing Games have a stigma of being the same story again and again, but occasionally a game will have a great fanbase because the story was well done. I told someone I downloaded one game even though I haven't had time to play it because critics said the dialogue was well-done and the world is very fleshed out.

Some people like stories that make fun of tropes. However, I feel like those only work for a short period of time. I don't know, but I hope Shining's method of examining ideas rather than just making fun of them will be more charming, even if only to a few people.

Now if only one person in the world thinks a story is great, does that make it great? I would like to think so. When I think about it, what makes a story great is how it connects to the audience. In the case of a book, this is even more so as the reader is essentially the director. He must imagine the scenes and cast the characters. I wrote one story and imagined how the character would speak. I gave the story to someone else to read and was given a completely different interpretation, but they still loved the story. As an author, I can give guidance like a scriptwriter, but it's the director who makes the picture. If the reader can turn a script into something fantastic in his head, then I did my job well.

J. D. Nyle

Friday, September 9, 2016

Planning a Story

When you start to write a book, there are a few approaches you can take. You can write as you go, plan it all out ahead of time, or a mixture of the two. Generally, my practice had been write as you go and let the plot develop itself. Shining followed that approach as well in which only a few chapters were predetermined. For the next novel, however, I'm thinking I'm going to lean more towards the planned route.

The first route is certainly one that seems faster. It also allows you to freely use ideas and actually start writing. The issue is that without guidance, the story and pacing becomes chaotic. Also, if you can't think of anything, then you have a Writer's Block which means you won't write at all either. It might be good for exercises, but not the ideal for writing a novel.

When writing a novel, the book needs some sort of flow. This means that not only does it have great scenes, it needs to build up to the scenes naturally. While it seems counter intuitive to think that planning something is more natural than free writing, there is truth to it.

In order to get the full benefit of free writing to be natural, you need to have complete understanding of the characters. When you write multiple novels with the same characters, this can happen quite well. However, when starting with new characters, like I'm doing, that's not possible. Unless you have the backgrounds and their characteristics established, you will end up backtracking and rewriting far longer than is good. If you backtrack a lot, then you can lose sight of what is still present in your novel. resulting in confusing your reader.

When I started the new novel, I had a lot of things planned, but not enough as I have come to realize. The main characters I had a good idea for, but I neglected the secondary characters. The result is they were essentially nothing but names. While it is important to develop your main character, fleshing out the secondary characters is important as well. They need to have a history, philosophy, relationships, and goals.

The result is simple. For a good story, you need to do a lot of planning, especially if you don't want to rewrite it multiple times. For me, finding the time to write it once will be difficult enough. However, once all the elements are gathered, it should hopefully be as natural as free flow.

J. D. Nyle

Friday, August 5, 2016

Story and Philosophy

If you have read my stories and that of N. D. Moharo's, you might have noticed that the former is influence by the latter and vice versa. This relationship between storytelling and philosophy is quite amazing and natural. Stories often convey ideas and the author needs an understanding about the world and society if he wishes to tell a story about them. In addition, stories provide experiences which form the basis for philosophy. Whether the story is fact or fiction, it does not matter when it comes to philosophy, only that it contains truth, especially about human nature.

The other interesting thing is that if your philosophy changes, so does the story you want to tell. I had a goal for my next set of stories, but now I'm evaluating if that is good or if I should work more toward Moharo's latest series of stories about True Love. One thing I do love about the series is that it points out that True Love is not restricted to only romance. In fact, friendship is probably even greater than romance, which is certainly counter-cultural but makes sense when you think about it.

Now if I do consider changing my approach, it at least shouldn't affect the next novel. However, I still don't know when I'll have time and energy to focus on it. The biggest threat would actually be another novel that I've been thinking about quite often but takes place quite some time after the next novel. While I think it has to the potential to be better, that also indicates that I should write the weaker novel first. But... yeah. Being an author is quite difficult.

J. D. Nyle

Monday, July 11, 2016

Change in Update Schedule

Dear Readers,
    Due to a change in priorities and circumstances, I've changing my update schedule to be once a month instead of bi-weekly. I'm still working on getting Shining published, but that's taking a bit more time than I thought. I wanted it done by the beginning of last month, but the prospective publisher hasn't given me any details yet. I'm also waiting for some cover art. I was tempted to do it myself, but that would require me to take lessons in art and for my wrist to be healthy.
    The next novel is planned out, but the time I have to write is very limited. The addition of my wrist taking so long to recover also was a major factor. Also, there are other projects that require my attention, as well as work and family. I was hoping that I would have an additional two hours to focus on the novel, but that did not come to be.
    I do intend to eventually write that novel, along with all the others I have planned. However, it will take quite some time. For this to change, I would either need a team or a large enough profit that would allow me to quit my job. We'll see how Shining goes.

Until next time,
J. D. Nyle

Monday, June 27, 2016

Art and Profit

You may recall that I intend to polish up Shining and get it published. Perhaps I should explain a little more of my plan.

At the moment, I'm aiming to sell the book for $10 a copy. When I punch in the numbers at Amazon's services (since publishers haven't given me their estimates yet), that can equate about $1.50 or $2 per book in royalties. Considering how much money I've put into the project, I have to sell at least 1000 just to make even. However, if you consider the amount of time I've put into the project, that's not even close to enough.

Every foray into the art industry is a risk. It takes a lot of time, energy, and money to create something, even more to polish it up, and then to market it. If I can sell 1000 copies, I guess I will be satisfied, but as an unknown in the industry, I doubt I will reach that. This means that Shining itself is sort of like an investment to help get my name out there. Of course, that means I need to then write another novel in hopes of reaping any benefits. That means a lot more time, energy, and costs.

Unfortunately, as I grow older and obtain more responsibilities, this becomes even more difficult. It also means that the reward system needs to be good if I hope to use it to provide for a living. As a teenager, I used to not care so much about copyright, but when I decided I wanted to be an artist as well, and faced with the reality of how difficult it is to get by, I cannot accept that violating copyrights is okay. That is why I'm asking you that, even though a draft of Shining is available on this blog, please do not distribute it for your own profit. And when the book does come out, I'm okay with you lending it and talking about it with friends, even putting it in the local library, but please don't upload the finish product.

Thank you,
J. D. Nyle

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Reflection on the introduction to Shining

With all of the focus on the Legend of Zelda because of E3, I guess now is a good time to share a little bit more about the influence it had. The reason for the prologue is because I like the intro to The Wind Waker. As I look back, it might have had more to do with the music than the actual text. Then again, the stained-glass style was also good.

I find it interesting how the prologue gets received. I tend to hear "It's so simple and not complex," and then once they finish reading that passage they say "Wow! Didn't expect that twist." I'm also surprised when I hear people saying they liked the first chapter. While my first chapter certainly does not compare to How to Train Your Dragon I guess it does do its job. An intro is supposed to introduce what the audience should expect such as the themes, major characters, and style.

So when I think about the prologue and first chapter, I guess I underestimated how well it does its job. One unintentional theme is that things seem simple at first, only to reveal there's a twist at the end. Some are really obvious while others will require some digging. Now that I reflect on it, the first chapter with the prologue really do help set the themes, despite none of them being intentional. So maybe it really is a good one, and my dissatisfaction came from seeing it so often and then comparing it with the first chapter for my next novel. However, since the books are completely different, the introductions should be different as well.

What were your thoughts about the first chapter? For those who read the story, do you see how it established the themes you could expect? How would you think it could have been made to better reflect the story? Look forward to hearing from you.

J. D. Nyle

Friday, June 3, 2016

Games as Storytelling Platforms

If you read through Shining, you may have noticed that it might feel like a video game. That is true for a few reasons. Even though my original intent was to avoid the video game feeling, it still snuck in. More recent edits have trimmed it back to resemble more of a novel, but it did benefit from some game design choices.

When designing something, especially a combat system, it's important to be consistent. By assuming that the story could be a game, I had to determine the power of various attacks and the health of everyone. I was able to determine the rules and this made combat consistent.

Games also allow for more avenues in storytelling because it can make even tedious tasks boring. We might not care to watch help missions in a TV show, but in video games, they are fine and therefore provide plenty of opportunities to expand the world.

Another benefit is the choice system. Even though most video games are linear in their stories, the ability to show different outcomes is amazing. For example, what if David made a different choice in Episode 12? In a movie or TV show, unless time travel is a plot point, this cannot be done often. In video games, this can be done and fully explored if the developers are willing to take up the task.

So are video games the best storytelling format? Maybe for some stories, like what I've heard for Rachet and Clank, but not all. I just wanted to convey that it is a legitimate medium that has its advantages. Would Shining be a good video game? There are things I would like to do if it was, but I think it wouldn't be as enjoyable as a comic/manga. In addition, the novel format also has its advantages, but that's for another time.

J. D. Nyle