What’s in a Game?

Video games were a huge part of my childhood, and though I don’t have nearly as much time for them as I used to, they’re still a pretty big part of my adulthood. This past weekend my daughter and I (mostly me…:P) defeated Little Big Planet 3, and I’m currently traveling with a PS Vita in my luggage, just waiting to finish off the last bits of Lego Batman 3.

Yeah, okay, I mostly play a lot of the more childish games these days, but we’re not talking about that today. Today we’re talking about a fighting game, because the hubby and I recorded our first ever gameplay YouTube video the other day. I unboxed the Collector’s Edition box of Street Fighter V, and then we proceeded to plunk down on the couch, stuck that sucker in the PS4, and ripped up some fights for the amusement of my subscribers. It’s definitely not the greatest gameplay video of all time or anything, but it was quite amusing to do and I’m sure we’ll do more of them in the future. I did get a huge kick out of how one of the very first comments on the video was a subscriber letting me know that I’ve got to play more defensively because yes, I suck at fighting games, goddammit. XD

So anyway, without further ado, I would like to direct you to said video. Give it a look! You may even learn a little thing or two about the history of Street Fighter. ^_~

Titular First Impressions….Titular…*snerk*

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

98. Choosing a title.

There are many aspects to writing that are difficult, frustrating, and sometimes downright miserable. Choosing a title is not one of those things. Oh no. Choosing a title is so, so much worse.

The title of a book is the most immediate of first impressions. It (along with the cover of the book) is the first thing a prospective reader will see, and with that in mind, you have to determine what exactly you want that reader to think when they first look at your book. A terrible title could completely destroy a book’s chances of being picked up, browsed through, purchased, and read. Imagine, for a moment, some alternative titles for your favorite books. Would you honestly have picked up that same book if it had had a ridiculous title? Can you imagine purchasing The Lord of the Rings, for example, if you knew nothing of it beforehand and it’s title was actually A Really Long Journey? What if The Chronicles of Narnia had been titled, Stories About Another World? What if Dracula had been titled, A Very Old Vampire?

These are extreme(ly silly) examples, of course, but never-the-less, you must agree that many an attitude can rapidly change about the readability of a book if you fail to title it properly.

Take, for example, my current work-in-progress, Parallels. This story, at it’s heart, is about a young woman who is pulled into an alternate universe – a parallel world, if you will – and discovers that she has been drawn there to save it from an ancient evil. I began writing this particular story almost ten years ago. It is the work that I’ve mentioned before…the one that I’ve re-written so many times that I’ve never gotten anywhere near to finishing it. When I first started this story, it was my intention that the world the woman comes from and the one she travels to would be very different, but also have many parallels between them. It was my intention that as she travelled along on her journey she would regularlty become confronted with people and places that mirrored the world she grew up in, which would force her to confront many personal issues. However, as the story evolved, was rewritten, changed numerous times, and eventually became the piece I’m working on today, that no longer became the root of the story. Yes, the two worlds are still parallels, but not nearly as much so as I had originally imagined. There are only a handful of these parallels left in the story I’m writing now, and that got me thinking that perhaps the title didn’t make much sense. Then I started really thinking and it occurred to me that even if the title did make sense, it’s really not a very catchy title at all, is it? Tell me truthfully now, if you were browsing through the fantasy section of your local book store and came across a book with the word “Parallels” emblazoned across the cover, would it catch you? Draw you in? Would you even notice it?

Now perhaps some of you can say yes to these questions. Perhaps even many of you can. But that is the hell an author has to go through when choosing a title : relentlessly wondering if it’s the right one.

Now maybe the title will just come to you and you’ll know, inside, that it’s the right one. Maybe you won’t even be given the chance because your publisher will retain the right to title your work as they wish (does this happen? I honestly don’t know). Or maybe you’ll be talking about your book someday and someone will say, “You know what you should call it?”, and it will be the greatest title ever and you’ll hug them and kiss them and be their best friend forever.

But chances are you’ll be like me, bashing your head off a wall, thinking about what a stupid title you’ve chosen and desperately wracking your brain for another. Many people have a very difficult time choosing a name for their baby. It is really no different for an author naming their book. So think about it hard, consider all the angles, and when you figure out the best method for making your final decision, please feel free to come back to this blog and let me know.

First Things First

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

71. Writing a great first line

First impressions are an important thing. Though not necessarily the final say on how a person will come to perceive you, the first impression can decide whether or not someone even gives you a second chance to impress them. You’re not likely, for example, to have a second date with a guy who shows up to the first an hour late and covered in mud. Even if there’s a good story behind it (and there better be), chances are your impression of him will have been ruined, and that makes it a hundred times harder for him to prove himself to you.

The first line of a novel is the same way. The wrong line can immediately make the reader think, “You know what? Never mind,” and toss the book back on the shelf. The right line can hook a reader, give them a good first impression, and make them want to keep reading.

Just exactly how to accomplish this is something that has been spoken and written about at length, and while there are some common grounds, there’s a lot of disagreement as well. For instance, some people steadfastly insist that your first line should never be dialogue, but plenty of wonderful authors have used dialogue for that first sentence and it worked out beautifully. Other people have said that the first line shouldn’t be too action-oriented (“The car exploded!”) because it’s cliche and puts too much pressure on the remainder of the scene to be exciting. Again, many successful authors have ignored this concept, used action-sentences as their firsts, and did a great job at it.

A theory I have heard a few times, which I happen to agree with, is that your first line should simply be the beginning of the story. It sounds obvious, but think about it this way: instead of obsessing over writing the perfect first sentence, just start the story. The theory is that the best first line is whatever line starts telling your story. If that’s a piece of dialogue, an action moment, a piece of inner dialogue, a straight-up fact, or any other piece of information, that’s fine as long as it begins the telling of your story. This idea can be, has been, and will be contested, of course, by the kinds of people who think that there’s only one right way to write a novel, but anyone who believes that there’s only one right way to do something deserves to be ignored anyway. So just tell your story. The right line will pop up, I promise.