Kommander's Writing Thread

Discussion in 'The Workshop' started by Kommander, Jan 25, 2020.

  1. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    For the past few years, I've been working on a fictional world and developing characters with the intention to eventually write novella/novel-length stories. I wanted a certain amount of uncertainty, so instead of of just writing, I made up some D&D 5e character sheets and roll dice to see what happens instead of just deciding what happens like most writers.

    Writing novel-length fiction is a lot of work. Adding in extra steps like trying to run a D&D campaign by myself, and changing D&D 5e so it suits my purposes... it's a challenge. After about five years of work, I think I've got things worked out so I can get to mostly writing.

    Also, I just want to write. I considered scrapping the D&D stuff and just writing, but it wouldn't be the same. Even if I did, I like writing in first-person, but for the main body of the series, third-person limited works better. First person doesn't work very well when one is jumping between characters. I've seen it done, but I'm not sure I can pull it off.

    So, I wrote a short story about one of the characters. Once I finished the rough draft, I decided I wanted to write similar stories about some of the other characters. So, I'm going to write a collection of four short stories and release it on SmashWords before I get into the main novella/novel series. It might get me some readers before I finish the first book, and having a short story collection series on the side will give me something to do when I get burnt out working on the main series.

    I've decided to share the rough draft of the first story with you guys. First link is PDF, second is epub:
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1L-8lNiB8ntv3Y7Hu2t_IKIDem9l7TOk6
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pW8Tlxhy8NEsA-CWTHqCrCjGUKf610EJ
    (I used an online converter to make the epub. It's... mostly formatted correctly.)

    Half-assed summary: Some guy is brought back to life a century after he died. Most of his personality and memory were recovered, except he only has vague episodic memories. He's warned that the world is very different than the one he came from. Which, makes sense, it's a century later. As he learns about the new world, he discovers that "a century later" is only the beginning of the changes.

    The working title was Holy Fucking Exposition, but I later changed it to Brash Decision.

    The main series is called Incident. There was an event that happened called the Incident. It's called that because everyone knows what incident it refers to. What was the Incident? No one knows. The only things that are knows is that it happened, and that it changed everything.

    The anthology I'm calling Tangents, because they're tangents from the main story. I'm creative.

    Read it or don't. Tell me what you think, or don't. If you decide to offer criticism, please do your best to tear it to shreds. Can't fix things if I don't know what's wrong. If you read it, I hope it gives you some entertainment. The ending I'm probably going to completely re-write, I got more monology and telling instead of showing than I care for.

    I want to monetize the series, but I don't really want to just sell ebooks. The short story anthology I'm releasing for free, and will probably do the same for others. The main series, SmashWords has a "buyer decides the price (including free)" option, which I'll probably use. Might start a Patreon as well. I already know I'm not going to make decent money writing fiction. If people want to read my stuff for free, I want them to be able to. If they want to pay me, I like money and I'll take it.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
  2. Lanzman

    Lanzman Vast, Cool and Unsympathetic Formerly Important

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    Interesting concept. You’ve some typos in there but nothing majorly distracting.
  3. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    After I wrote that first story, I started on the second, but I was out of steam, so I let things bounce around for a... half a year. I started writing again about a week ago and I'm 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the second story. I'm hoping I don't lose as much steam from here out and can get the anthology finished by the end of the year, and the first book of the main series finished before the end of next year.

    Half-assed summary of Story #B: After being semi-wrongly convicted of a crime he sort of didn't commit, some dude (a different dude from last time) finds himself released from his virtual prison stasis pod a year early. He then meets a noble with a similar past who had arranged for his sentence to be commuted, if he agrees to attend a new school for those with natural magical abilities. After arriving at the school, Some Dude begins to suspect the headmaster is up to something, and he'd determined to discover what that something is so he can decide if he wants to help or put a stop to it.

    The working title was Holy Fucking Foreshadowing, and then Some Kind of Satirical Take on the X-Men, but Also It's Hogwarts or Something, but for now it's Edgelord. I'm trying to make the titles relate to the main characters. The first one is called Brash Decision and the main character is named Brash Johnson, the second the character is named Xaren Edgeward.

    Links for story 2 probably in a week or two. Maybe longer because the new Dresden Files book come out on Tuesday and I'll probably take a day or two off to read the hell out of that.

    Story 3 and 4 I only have basic concepts for at this point:

    Story 3: Female lead, she's a lieutenant on a pirate airship. After a new captain takes over and she finds out he's very into human trafficking, she's all kinds of pissed and ready to kick ass. The character is named Solana Drake, so the title was easy: The Drake Equasion, although I'll probably joke about the working titles being Holy Fucking Feminism and If I Want to Keep My Progressive Cred Intact At Least One of These Stories Needs to Pass the Fucking Bechdel Test.

    Story 4: Elf vampire lady doesn't want to be a vampire anymore, and thinks the resurrection research going on at Detroit University may hold the key, so she infiltrates the university with thievery on her mind, also the return of Brash Fucking Johnson! As of now the vampire elf's name is Kaeya Xylohn. I don't know how to turn that into a stupid pun title so I'm probably going to change her name to Heisty McGaffle or something.
  4. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    As for the D&D stuff going on behind the scenes...

    I used a standard array for ability scores: 16, 14, 12, 10, 10, 8. I wanted them good at one thing, not so great at one thing, okay at some things, and average at some things.

    The main characters start off at 1st level, and they'll just be hitting level 3 at the end of the first novel. For the prequel stories they have some of their first-level abilities, but those don't matter so much because I'm only using the D&D mechanics for the novels. While in playing D&D level one is typically somewhere around "very inexperienced," in this setting, it's more "competent but not an expert." On the version of "Earth" in my story, the baddest of motherfuckers are like level three or four.

    Trying to write a novel, DM a campaign, and play four or more characters is complicated, so I stripped out some things. The first thing to go is experience points, because fuck that. When it makes sense plot-wise for the characters to level up, they level up. I'm also keeping all the main characters at the same level. As new ones are introduced, they start at the level everyone else is. I'm not a fan of XP in regular D&D either. I find it limiting and it encourages players to be murder hobos. If I ever manage to get a group together I'm going to give them goals to accomplish in-game to level up. I'm going to try anyway, they'll probably be all "NO! You're supposed to do XP and if you don't I'm not playing!" Hell, the whole reason I'm bothering with this whole complicated concept is because I like the idea of roleplaying, but every time I sit at a table with others I have a terrible time because I'm the only one who wants to roleplay and create a story, while everyone else wants to collect loot and XP. Personally, I think MMOs and such are better for that, but if people have fun with that play style, good for them, but I'm not into it.

    Instead of micromanaging equipment, I created a kind of Preparedness DC. Weapons, armor, magic items, and plot items are the only things in their inventory. For anything else they might need, I do a wisdom or intelligence check to see if they thought to pack it and if a reasonable person would think to pack it. A flashlight? DC5. An evil baron demands a DVD box set of Breaking Bad in exchange for releasing the prisoners you were sent to collect? Roll three Nat 20s in a row. I'm also only tracking bankroll for the first novel. After that, I'm going to establish a certain amount of wealth at certain points, sort of a basic version of Wealth DC from D20 Modern.

    As far as describing combat scenes, hitpoints have become more of a plot armor meter. If a creature has at least one hitpoint, they're uninjured beyond maybe a few scrapes. A regular hit is describes as a miss, or a parry, or glancing off armor. A crit is either a demoralizing "that was a close one" situation or a graze, depending on circumstances. When reduced to zero HP, that's when a creature's luck has finally run out and they're seriously injured.

    Instead of having magic weapons/armor with +1/+2/+3, I'm just going to have magic stuff and the plus is level dependent. Characters constantly upgrading their equipment is good game playing, but poor storytelling. A sword is enchanted, it grows with the user, and they keep it throughout the whole story arc.

    Magic is probably the biggest hurdle, because in my world the mechanics are very different. Magic is abundant, and it's understood very well on a theoretical level. Magical devices are easy to acquire, and anyone who wants to cast a spell can look one up, and if they can read the markup language, and follow several pages of instructions on hand movements, mental exercises, and command words, they can cast a spell. Without training, if someone can follow the spell perfectly, it'll take about ten minutes to cast a cantrip, and for leveled spells about one hour per level. Anyone can throw a fireball if they know how, but it's going to take them three hours, and it won't work if they don't follow the instructions precisely. People who can fire off spells relatively easily are mostly innate casters, and they are extremely rare. Pretty much all spell casters of first level and higher on the planet are characters in the story. The "school for magically gifted" I mentioned in the previous post, most of the students can cast one or two cantrips, maybe a first-level spell, and they have two hitpoints. A wizard with a master's degree or doctorate in magical studies can do amazing things if they have a lab full of equipment, but out on the street, they can probably cast prestidigitation and maybe another cantrip or two. I also broke down Prestidigitation and Thamaturgy into their base effects and labeled them Utility Spells. Lots of people can learn simple things, like turning their index finger into a cigarette lighter, or cooling or heating a beverage in the palm of their hand. A single effect of the two previously mentioned spells takes a month or two to get down.

    Example in the story linked in the OP:


    That... may not have made much sense, but I don't feel lire retyping it. What I'm going for is, magic is mostly technological in nature. In real life, I can easily lift a car and move it several meters... if I use a forklift. If I try it with my bare hands, I can lift the bumper up a few inches. Under extreme circumstances, I might be able to lift one end off the ground for a few seconds. A few rare individuals, with enough training, can consistently power lift one end of a car. A person who can lift a car with their bare hands as easily as a forklift can has super-strength and no one can do that in real life as far as anyone knows.
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  5. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    More D&D changes stuff. I'm not going to type out everything here, because there's a lot, but there were some things I meant to mention in my last post, but didn't because I was tired.

    I wanted to streamline inventory management and logistics, so I just gave all the characters modified bags of holding. The basic ones are the size of a messenger bag and unfold into a 2m x 1m x 1m box. When folded up anything in the box is weightless and inaccessible, but it still functions like a normal messenger bag. More expensive ones come in various sizes, on the larger end meant to store vehicles, and fold into a coin purse-sized pouch. Essentially, the characters can fit anything into a messenger bag as long as it's smaller than the average house. Also I don't want to be constantly typing things like "Solana spends three minutes unstrapping her massive backpack and then takes it off so she can fight the paladin without looking like a total jackass and probably losing because she has three hundred pounds of useless shit strapped to her back."

    Platinum coins are $100, gold coins $10, silver coins $1, copper coins $0.10, and aluminum coins $0.01. One dollar has the same buying power as about US$10-15 currently, depending on what's being bought. Although, some things are cheaper and others more expensive due to supply and demand. A new car still costs $20,000+ because they're not mass produced, whereas the smart phone equivalent devices cost $10-20 but do a hell of a lot more than smart phones.
  6. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    I finally picked up the 5e-compatable version of Dark Matter. I wanted it for normal D&D stuff but I was hoping it would also help with this project. Although, after looking it over, it's of limited usefulness at this time. I'm probably going to do more sci-fi stuff later in the series, but until the main characters hit level 10 or so, it'll be mostly modern fantasy. After I bought the Dark Matter PDF, I noticed Mage Hand Press had some cheaper PDFs and I bought Complete Gunslinger as well, which will be a major help. I made up an expanded list of firearms based on the stuff in the core rulebooks, but Complete Gunslinger is probably better as it's meant for normal gameplay guns instead of super-overpowered special guns.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2020
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  7. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    Edgelord is currently slightly longer than Brash Decision, but I'm only about half way through the story. The rough draft will probably be 25,000 - 30,000 words, whereas the Brash story is 12,000.

    Instead of being the origin story of one of the main characters, it's the origin story of three. Since it's about a school for people with innate magical abilities, and the only such school that exists in the world at that point, it made sense for some of the other characters to be present. Brash Decision is the origin of two main characters now. Tatiana was meant to be a throw-away character, but I decided to upgrade her to a main character. I also renamed her Dr. Tytiania Oakgrove so her name sounds more elven. With the third and forth stories, I think I can include most, if not all, of the main characters I've developed so far. I'm also thinking of including a fifth story from the perspective of Dr. Oakgrove that gets into some more of Brash's backstory, but I'm not sure yet. The original concept for Brash was a reformed conman/cult leader, and I don't really want to write about that part of his life. Although, in Brash Decision I already presented him as a different person than he'll be in the main series, and in the final story of the anthology he'll appear as he does in the main series, so it would probably be a good idea to include "during" with "before" and "after."

    In my first post I said the main series would be written in third person limited. I think I'm going to do everything in first person. Most fiction is written in third person, and lots of people have told me that it's easier than first person, but I like writing in first person, and I have a lot more experience with it, so it's easier for me. I prefer reading novels written in first person as well. I feel more connected to the story if it's told by someone who is front and center, participating in events rather than by someone who's just observing. Before I started writing the prequel stories, I had written the first chapter of the first novel. Writing in third person was slowing me down and was annoying. The only reason I had decided on third person is because I was planning on switching perspective between characters. However, I think I can keep it to one character per chapter, so there's really no reason to write in third person.

    The dark elf vampire I renamed Kaeya Swift, so I could title her story Swift Action and have dumb name puns for all the titles, now I have to make a fifth. Tytiania goes by Ty so that should be easy. Ty-ing the Knot, Ty Up Loose Ends, shouldn't be too difficult.
  8. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    Obviously, I've taken a break from writing, but I'm back at it. Anyway, giving myself deadlines makes me not want to write, so, shit gets done when it gets done.

    While I'm using D&D as the backbone of my current project, I want to do my best to just borrow from D&D lore and fantasy tropes in general and not rip it off. If I want to use a race or a monster, I'll use the D&D books as a guideline for what to include, then I'll go back to the source mythology and build up from there.

    For the scene I'm currently working on, I initially thought an encounter with some kobolds might be fun. Until recently, I was only familiar with kobolds through D&D. When I went to the source mythology, I discovered they weren't originally little dragon people but instead generally benevolent trickster goblins... which, I had those already, and I called them goblins. In D&D, goblins are FUCKING ALWAYS the first enemy, and I wanted to avoid that. Also, goblins were sort of an enemy in Brash Decision so eventually I decided to go with velociraptor-like creatures (yes, with feathers, and more bird than reptile.)

    As far as the "player races," so far I've decided to include humans, elves, half-elves, dwarfs, half-orcs, aasimar, and tieflings. Basically, they're all human, except some have various amounts of alien DNA. Elves and half-elves are human and high fey, dwarves are Neanderthal and high fey, half-orcs I just call "orcs," and are human and wild fey. Aasimar and tiefling, the names are distinctly from Forgotten Realms so I changed them. Aasimar I decided to call archons because I like the word and wanted to use it somewhere, and they're pretty much humans who tend to have natural magical abilities. Tieflings, pretty much the same. Instead of looking half-devil like the do in 4th and 5th edition D&D, they're pretty much humans with tiny horns and sometimes unusual skin tones.

    Renaming tieflings was somewhat difficult. At first I tried putting "demon" and "devil" into Google Translate and looking at various languages for something to build on, but I didn't like anything that came up. So, I went with a different approach. My senior year of high school, I was dating a woman who was extremely toxic, manipulative, and abusive, and I intended to demonize her in my writing at some point but hadn't yet. I mean, all my female villains are based on her at least a bit, but that wasn't enough. So, I decided to name an entire race of devil hybrids after her. Her last name was Balaker, so, I played with the spelling until I arrived at something that didn't return any significant Google results, and settled on "balekur." Anyway, never fuck over a writer. You will be included in their writing, and it will not be pleasant for you.

    When I was in college, I had a professor who went to Oxford. He's about the same age as Rowan Atkinson, who also went to Oxford. They knew each other, and kind of very much did not get along. A decade later, my professor was sitting around in England watching a TV show called Blackadder (created by and starring Rowan Atkinson,) and the episode centered around a Lord James Farrow being beheaded and some related shenanigans. I'll give everyone one guess as to what that professor's name is.

    As I was typing this, I decided to fact check this anecdote. I did confirm they went to Oxford at the same time, and I found the episode of the show. At one point, Atkinson poses as this Lord Farrow and his impression, well, I'm definitely convinced it's a true story. It was also weird as hell watching Mr. Bean doing an impression of someone I know. The voice was exaggerated but he nailed his mannerisms. I thought about asking Atkinson directly to confirm the story, but it seems he hasn't been active on Twitter for years, and it's likely he has (or did have) a social media manager, so I decided not to bother. If I happen to run into Mr. Bean at an airport or something, (unlikely, but technically possible,) I'll ask him then.

    Anyway, don't fuck with writers.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
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  9. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    Edgelord now available in PDF

    I'll make an EPUBs if someone requests it, but otherwise I'll wait until all the rough drafts are done.

    This one was more difficult to write than Brash Decision. For one thing, it's twice as long. The plot may have made more sense as a novel, but I wrote it like a short story. I don't know if it works or not. If I start reading stuff before a work is complete, I feel compelled to start rewriting, and I never get anything done. When I sit down to write, I allow myself to read the page I'm on, and the previous page, but that's it, until all five rough drafts are complete.

    I decided to change some things between the two stories, and while I was writing this one, so there are continuity errors, and there will probably be more. For the time being, whatever is more recent is the correct version of events. A big one is that I started with these stories taking place a century after the incident, but I decided two centuries would be better.

    I had planned on writing everything in chronological order, but the next story I think I need to let kick around the inside of my brain a bit more. I think I'm going to skip ahead and write one from Tytiania's perspective next, and maybe the final story as well.

    While I don't know how satisfied I am with this story, my goal was to expand on the world and foreshadow some of the big-picture stuff, which I think I managed. Also, when I started writing it, I had the villains in mind as firmly being villains, but I ended up making them more ambiguous, and created the possibility that the protagonists are actually the villains. I like to avoid clear-cut heroes and villains as much as possible. Side-antagonists I usually just make assholes who like to ruin things for others, but main antagonists I try to avoid making outright evil.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2020
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  10. Kommander

    Kommander Prince of Poop

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    Most, if not all, writers have at least a few bad habits when it comes to writing. I, however, am convinced I have every bad habit it's possible to have as a writer. The biggest one being I hate everything I write and want to rewrite everything before I ever get anything finished. Another being sometimes I want to get some writing done but I'm just not feeling it, other times I'm definitely feeling it but don't want to sit down and write, and it's difficult to get "I wanna sit down and write" and "I'm feeling it" to line up properly.

    For most of my life, I approached writing with the attitude of "I'll just write when I feel like it and not worry about anything else. I'm sure I'll get stuff done eventually." That led to me to me starting a novel when I was 12, stopping half-way through fifteen to twenty times to start over, and then finally deciding the monstrosity of a dumpster fire I had spent more than half my life trying to create, and possibly my desire to be a novelist, needed to just die already in my mid twenties. It wasn't a total waste, I guess. I got in a shit-ton of practice, and it definitely shows between each rewrite. I knew there were issues, and I read a few "how to write fiction" books in my teens. Trying to follow those guidelines, creating an outline and rigidly structuring everything, took all the fun out of writing and made me just not want to write.

    After a few years of not writing any fiction, I decided I wanted to get back into it, so I took two levels of creative writing classes when I was in college. The first class involved writing a handful of poems and four or five short stories. Level two involved a handful of poems and writing and revising a novella. During those classes, I changed my writing process to "just get the shit done and turn it in." Somehow, it worked. I got everything turned in on time, and I actually wrote some things I didn't hate.

    I started working on my current project about five years ago, and returned to my previous writing habits, only worse. I couldn't even get to chapter two without scrapping everything and reworking the entire concept. Some of that was that I was attempting a very ambitious project and I needed to spend more time planning than I had, but I definitely needed to change my writing habits.

    While the rigid planning presented in fiction writing books didn't work for me, the loose structure of the creative writing classes did. So, I decided to do more of that. I set an attainable goal: a collection of four (now five) short stories/novellas, and I created a loose plan to actually get it done:

    Step 1: Just write the damn things. Get them done and don't worry about anything else. If I feel like writing, write. If I don't feel like writing, don't write. When I sit down to write, I can read the current page, and the previous page to get my bearings, and I can rewrite the last two pages if I absolutely feel I have to, but everything written before the last two pages no longer exists until all five stories are completely written.

    Step 2: Convert the stories to EPUB, and read them like I'm just reading a book. No editing, just read it, take it in as a body of work.

    Step 3: Massive rewrite. Turn the rough drafts into something people might actually want to read, and possibly pay for. I can make as many changes as I want, and can change as much as I want, but what's done is done. I have to work with what's there. No starting over.

    Step 4: repeat step 2.

    Step 5: Light editing. Correct mistakes, reword some things. If major issues are still present at this point, I have no business writing.

    Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until Step 5 becomes a second Step 4.

    Step 7: Put everything in to a single Word doc, format the text according to the SmashWords Style Guide, and upload to SmashWords.

    Step 8: ...

    Step 9: Profit.

    So far it's working, but I'm still in Step 1. Still, I'm sticking to it, and that's a big step for me.

    Speaking of the creative writing classes: The professor did a thing where he collected $5 from everyone (optional). If people in Level One showed evidence they had submitted something to a (non vanity) publisher (a "submission received" email or a rejection letter), they'd get $15 from the envelop. Level Two had to make one submission for a grade, but were eligible for the $15 if they made two submissions. (There were only a handful of Level Twos per semester, so it was one class.) He also said there would be a special prize if anyone's submission was accepted for publication. When asked what the special prize was, he said something along the lines of "If it happens, I'll figure it out then. I've been doing this for ten years and it hasn't come up yet."

    While I was in Level One, Cracked.com did a "write a letter to yourself in the past" photoshop contest. I made a submission, and they used my submission and published it (5th place!). While it was a photoshop contest, technically it was a piece of writing and it was published. I asked the professor about it. He was against it because it was a photoshop thing and he's a cynical jackass, but decided, to be fair, he's ask the other professors in the English department about it and put it to a vote. A few days later, he told me he was the only one who voted against me, so I won the special prize.

    On the last day of class, he said "last chance for rejection letters," two people got their $15 bucks, and then he said "The reason I do this is to demonstrate that it's very difficult to get published. Unfortunately, somehow, Kommander managed to get published on Cracked.com, so I can't properly make my point. Congratulations, and thanks for ruining my fun," and he handed me the envelope that had $30 in it. Then I said "this would have been so much funnier if the envelope was empty."

    The first rejection letter is a rite-of-passage for writers, so during Level Two I submitted my shittiest poem to poetry.com and a few months later, I got my first rejection letter. I put it in a frame and hung it on my wall, right below a framed printout of the thing I had published.