Tag Archives: fantasy

Der Sandmann

16 May

Perhaps the freakiest, creepiest short I’ve ever seen. Enjoy, but don’t let your kids anywhere near it – watch and you’ll see why.

The Bufoon Who Made No One Laugh

22 Mar

Beneath the gilt archways, in luxury’s shadows, snaking between fits of night and day, treads the Bufoon. The ugly wretch knows not its own name, its age or even kin. Born as he was, an exception to the rules which God had thrust upon the world, he is lost to Love.

© Wizards of the Coast

Ageless he is, this Storyteller who may yet live to see the end of Life itself and tell it to those who come to sweep up the filth left in Armageddon’s wake.

Some say he’s sidestepped death and passed straight into nothingness. After all, his flesh is not flesh any more, not the pink, vibrant morsel they call living. His veins weave into sappy tunnels, his brows grow hair and moss together, his skin grows warts and mushroom heads alike in the hidden creases of his skin.

It scalds the eye and churns the stomach to watch this immmortal wretch, but no heart would take notice of the trembling soul underneath the horrific shell. After all, he who no longer fears death should have naught to fear.

Yet he starts at any noise, crawls humbly out of sight and whimpers when called out of the shadows. He thrashes in his sleep and wakes in a drench of sweat, screaming horribly.

It’s perhaps the stories he knows, the truths he has seen about this world that frighten him so. Or maybe just knowing he will live to see just as much wickedness as he already has whisked in his broken cup.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps what he dreads most is the sound of shuffling feet at his door, when the master kindled by his sickening hunger comes to his room at night. Perhaps it’s the blood bath at every moonlit carnival, and the feeling that somehow all his knowledge of the world’s secrets is what drives the splintery spike through their entrails.

Perhaps it’s Life that spooks him so.

His own.

Good ideas DO grow on trees

14 Mar

Ever thought about mindmapping your way to richer characters?

I’ve been using mindmapping for years now, but I had only used it for educational and management purposes when it hit me: what a good tool to add some depth to my characters!

Since this is one of the most important things on my To improve list (somehow I feel my guys and gals – good or bad – generally need more meat), and since I am a visuals junkie, I had to take the shot. So, this post is about how mindmapping can be used to get some good work done on your characters. Nothing revolutionary, nothing fancy, but practical. The way I like my tools.

1.       What is mindmapping in the first place?

This is a story other people have already taken their time to write, so I’ll provide you with bibliography.

click on the image for an introduction into mindmapping

2.       Oh, I get it. But why should I use it?

There are two important things that mindmapping can do for a writer. The first is outlining – a mindmap is a great way to explore possibilities for your story. The second is getting a deeper, clearer view of your most important characters by constructing an exhaustive portrait of her/him/it.

By mindmapping your characters, you provide yourself with a coherent view of who they are and what their motivations, quirks and secrets are.  You put everything in one big picture that you can easily tap into with just one look. But guess what – this doesn’t do squat!

In my experience, it’s not being able to go back to the mindmap that helps – it’s actually making one. The process forces you to think of the characters by looking at them from all sides, hidden and obvious, and filling in the gaps.

3.       How should I go about doing it?

If you’v ever done characterisation essays in literature classes, this is the same process, reverse engineered. Instead of looking at existing heroes, your are creating new ones filling in a similar templat:

  • Visual characterisation – how the character looks, moves, dresses and generally behaves on a level that can be perceived visually
  • Dominant traits that the story will underline/feed on (including dominant passions and vices)
  • Direct characterisation – what other characters would have to say about the subject
  • Indirect characterisation – traits (psychological and emotional) that can be observed and extracted as conclusions from his/her behaviour

Well, the best way to go would be to give you and example. Here it is, mindmapping applied to Vasilisk, the main character in the Trashgod short story.

For this particular piece, I’ve used a dedicated software (a few options below), but if you feel like grabbing you crayons and an empty sheet of paper to open the floodgates of your child-powered creativity, don’t let me stand in your way (not that I would DARE to).

http://www.mindjet.com – ‘professional’ software

http://www.mindomo.com – partially free, subscrition based license; online, so location independent

http://www.freemind.sourceforge.net – freeware. fast and furious

An extra note on creative mindmapping: to keep your left-side brain from getting in the way, use all sorts of elements for mindmaps. Sketches, clippings, colours and, of course, writing – it doesn’t have to be a sterile land – my character looks like this or that, he does this and says all the wrong thigs, etc. The branches of your mind map could well be short scences from the (future) story.

4.       When should it be done?

Any time you feel it is necessary. So far, I have never done it before starting a story, it has been more of a way to clarify things and make sure that a character does not get wishy-washy when he has some serios decision-making to do.

However, if you have a clear enough picture in your mind, you can start to put some more ‚meat’ on the skeleton even before you write the first line. Of course, this isn’t just for the main character. Linking their mutual stereotypes and feelings could be fun and creative.

So, what are you waiting for? There are no excuses left. Better characters are lurking out there, waiting for the right writer to prey on.

Bait them with some mindmapping and enjoy your writing.

Trashgod – part VII

13 Mar

The dragon’s screech followed them, but it died away before hitting. It was then that Vasilisk noticed the thick, rubber-and-cotton padding that covered the walls of the tunnel, even the floor they landed on.

“ He’s hit in the shoulder. Doesn’t look that bad,” suggested Mini as they stopped to examine Percival.

“A flesh wound, as 30 mm flesh wounds go. But that’s not what I’m concerned about.”

“What then?”

“This”, replied Vasilisk extracting a fragment fullmetal jacket.

Percival’s peculiar allergy to copper kicked in about an hour later. He was not particularly ill – no real fever anyways – and he didn’t thrash or anything, since his shoulder hurt. But it was pretty bad for his mates.

“Boss, isn’t there a way to make him stop?”

“… but I, being a poor man, have nothing …”

“We could gag him,” scowled Vasilisk.

“… but my dreams …”

“We should …”

“Fine. You hold him.”

Percival didn’t even seem to notice Mini as he was grabbed in the middle of the lyrical seizure, and kept on reciting as long as he could before Vasilisk stuffed his mouth with a dirty piece of t-shirt.

“… tread softly, for you are treading on my drhmfdsfs …”

The story of dirty Mari

10 Mar

Mari was was serving stale beer and cold food in a crummy pub when the Flying Spaghetti Monster walked in and ordered a Bloody Mary with extra tomato juice.

He sat at a small table in the back and sipped his drink through a yellowish straw. Funny. Mari couldn’t remember giving him a straw.

He looked handsome. Actually, he looked too good for the place; he just didn’t fit in the picture. His presence made the tables look dirtier and the floor beneath his feet stretched out greasy palms begging for a sweep.

She unbuttoned one more button on her shirt, but felt like slut right all the way to his table.

Oh God, everyone’s staring at my meatballs. Mari you’re so stupid. He’ll think I’m …

“Easy choice.”

His voice struck her. It was unctuous and deep, and no matter how uncomfortable the intercourse between his words and her thoughts made her feel, it also soothed her beyond anything she’d felt in a long time.

“Excuse  me?” she asked, barely squeezing the words past the lump of mince meat in her throat.

“Easy choice, with a menu like this. I’ll have some pizza. And some other drink, something finer than this cocktail. A glass of wine. Chateau something fancy.”

Saying ‘no’ to him, any kind of ‘no’, felt like the hardest thing in the world. She cursed herself for being a loser waitress in a losers’ bar instead of a smart waitress in a high class restaurant, where she could have spoiled his long, thin lips with the best selection in the world …

“ … Sorry, Sir. I’m afraid we only have the standard pill-brewed slipslop.”

Why on earth had she been so honest!?!

“Mari, get a hold of yourself”.

“Then get me a pitcher of Coke and I’ll make do.”

She wrote that down as if there was a goddamn chance she’d forget and was just about to leave when he said it.

“Since you will join me, make that a pizza for two. And two wine glasses with the Coke.”

It would have been impolite to say ‘no’, since this was her chance to atone for the redneck’s reply she’d just given.

It would have been impossible to say ‘no’ too, but Mari refused to let this realization into her consciousness.

“ What’s your name?” he asked pouring the Coke.
“Meatball Marinara. My friends call me Mari.”

He lifted the glass up in the air and examined it, swirling the Coke like an expert wine taster.

“Then history will remember you as Mari. Sweet, dry or any of the nuances inbetween?”

“S … sweet I guess …”

He placed the glass in front of her with an inviting look in his eyes and repeated the drill with his own glass as she tasted it.

It was wine. So fine, so expensive and good, it would have tasted of dollars had she sipped it in different company, but right there and then it was a cocktail of myrrh and frankincense and nectar and ambrosia. It tasted alive, frolicky, cleansing and diamond-sharp, it tasted of unrefundable lost time and great expectations and all the caressing hands of darkness, it tasted …

…  godly.

“Who are you?” she dared to mumble, squeezing into herself to brace for the answer.

“My name is Monster. Flying Spaghetti Monster, but you can also call me…’ and as he said this his head seemed to surround itself with a halo of starchy pure white”… God.”

Funny, it didn’t feel like he was joking. In fact, his olive eyes stared at Mari so intently, and the uncooked spaghetti rays around his head shimmered with such an unearthly glow that she could ask only one question.

“Why have you come to me, God?”

“Well, I had to meet the mother of my only son. So please, tell me all there is to know about you.”

Mari told him the stories of her entire life, the ones which register on the fabric of time under the weight of our actions, as well as the secret ones, of heart and soul, which pull happiness and sorrow into our life through the gravity of self-fulfilling prophecies. She told him about the marble she’d swallowed when she was eight, about the pup she’d drowned in the washing machine trying to show her mother he could be clean enough to keep, about the one exam she cheated on, the poetries she never wrote, and the days she just lay on the ground trying to feel if the growing grass was taking her closer to the sky. She told him about washing dishes in the kitchen, about Grandma and her foul smelling medicine, about the scare of her first menstruation and the relief of the following sixty-seven. She told him about her dreams, her hopes, her fears and insecurities.

She told him about everything, until, at some point in the ever winding story, he put a finger on her lips, then took her head between his thick fusili-fingered palms and drew her close to him. She closed her eyes. His breath smelled of basil, his hands held her with the firm kindness of velvet vise grips and everything else took a time-out from existence. There she was, table-scrubbing Mari, the uber-nun of Mortadella High, as virgin as an unopened can of peeled tomatoes, about to be kissed by a man so aweso…

No, by a god. About to be kissed by a god.

His lips touched her forehead, hot as pasta fresh from the microwave, and then he left, paying exactly what he owned, not a dime, not even a pence or a centime more.

It wasn’t until two weeks later, when she missed her period, that Mari realized she’d been over tipped.

~~~

My entry for the Chuck Wendig Irregular Creatures Challenge

Competition

8 Mar

Go on and join the Chuck Wendig flash fiction competition. 1000 words to spare for telling the story of an awesomely wrong, terribly irregular, hyperbolically twisted creature.

I’m working on my own version right now. Join the rest of us weirdos, for the fun of it …

Competition link on the banner below …

© Chuck Wendig

Words

5 Mar

While trying to second guess what familiar things gone wrong lie at the origin of curiosities populating Gene Wolfe’s bleak vision of the future makes the experience more intriguing, it is words that struck me the most in Shadow of the Torturer.

This is a good fun book, but it wouldn’t have claimed those awards and nominations without some good writing to back up the story and the charm of it comes first of all from words. Peltast, chrism, monomachy, fricatrice, exultant, autarch, fiacre, sabretache, destrier, chiliarch, portreeve, abacination, cangue, bartizan, flageolet, lambrequin, mensal, pavonine – should I go on?

What strikes me the most is that all of these and many other like them that Wolfe generously uses in the book are real words, not inventions of the author, as it is often the case in SF&F. Many of them have their original meaning preserved, but by using them instead of a more regular (shall we say ‘banal’ version), the author builds a feeling of eeriness in the book which I cannot describe with full justice – you really ought to read it to get it yourself.

The eerines is pushed even further by the somewhat illogic nature of the characters, I often felt that they acted bizzarely, driven by motivations which are layed out in the open, fully explained and logical by their terms and those of the world they live in to some extent, but a bit alien for the reader.

These lead to a rich reading experience and I have enjoyed Shadow of the Torturer not just as a masterpiece of the genre, but as a good lesson in taking a fetish for words to a new level of art

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