Story — Counting the Days

Day 25.

They make eye contact. She smiles. He pulls out an earbud and leans over. “Do you have a pen I could borrow?”

She shuffles through her bag and hands him one with the same smile. He returns it and thanks her.

Day 26.

“Hey, sorry to ask again. Could I borrow another pen?” he asks, pulling out an earbud.

“Sure,” she says. “No problem.”

Day 30.

They wave to each other when he walks in. She hands him a pen with a knowing smile, and he takes it.

Day 38.

She hands him his pen. He takes it with a smile. She gestures towards her ears, and he takes his earbuds out. “What are you listening to?” she asks.

Singin’ in the Rain showtunes.”

“Really? Can I hear?”

He scoots his seat closer and gives her an earbud. They sit together in silence for a moment as they listen.

Day 50.

She hands him his pen, he hands her half of his earbuds. They listen for a while.

“Have you seen Endgame?” he asks.

“I’m not really much of a moviegoer,” she winces.

“Oh, got it. No problem.”

More silence.

Day 62.

She is sitting in his seat when he gets there. “Somebody was in mine when I got here,” she explains, handing him his pen. He takes it and shrugs.

He hands her an earbud, and she puts it in her ear, but frowns. She takes it back out. “You gave me the wrong ear, let’s swap.”

“We can’t.”

“Why?”

He shrugs, avoiding her gaze. “The right earbud is busted, it doesn’t play anymore.”

Day 68.

“You know,” she starts, holding out the pen. “You can keep it. You obviously need it more than I do.”

“Well, I actually have a confession,” he replies. He takes out a pen of his own. He scribbles a quick note and hands it to her.

She blushes. “Tonight?”

“If you’re free.”

She was.

Day 77.

He walks in, and she hands him a box. He takes his earbuds out.

“Happy birthday!” she says.

“It’s not my birthday,” he replies, taking it.

“But it was. And it will be again.”

He opens it. It’s a new pair of earbuds.

Day 82.

They sit together for a while. She takes the last sip of her cup and frowns.

He looks up. “I have coffee at my place, you know. And it’s free.”

She considers it.

“I also have movies. Those are free too.”

“I do like free,” she says.

“I thought you might.”

They leave.

The same Day 82. Before or after the first.

They make eye contact as he walks in. A curt smile and a subtle nod. He sits down next to her. The only free seat. They sit next to each other for a while but have not met. He thinks about saying something. About asking for a pen. But just as he plans to execute, she packs her things and leaves.

He sits there, pretending to be working, but gets nothing done. Next time, he thinks. Next time will be different.

Me — Where to Go After the First Draft?

As you may or may not know, I’m putting together my second short story anthology, which will be collected stories from three established universes as well as several standalone shorts. I’ve been bringing a few of these into my writer’s group, and depending on the story, I’m getting lots of varying types of feedback. What I mean by that is, I’ve heard everything from “this is perfect, don’t change a word” to “it’s a solid concept, but it needs a lot more polishing before it’s ready” (which is a nice way of saying it’s terrible).

When you’re getting lots of feedback that wildly contradicts one another, it can be difficult to know what you should think. It’s easy to agree with the person who loves it and simply move on to the next story, but it can also be soul-wrenching to hear that somebody doesn’t like the thing you’ve worked so hard putting together. It might even be enough to make you want to throw it in the garbage and start over completely.

And maybe that’s what the story needs, but I’m of the opinion that you should never destroy your work. Instead of deleting the file where you keep your first draft, if you must start over from scratch, why not simply make a new file titled “second draft”?

That being said, how are you supposed to know when a story needs to be rewritten completely, or if it simply needs some edits?

As with virtually any writing advice you receive, what comes next is going to be hearsay, so take it with a grain of salt.

In my experience, when I go to my writer’s group I will already know if a story needs to be rewritten from scratch, but it all depends on what I’m trying to do with that piece versus what it actually does.

For example, I wrote a short story in my Spear Gate universe that was essentially written for the atmosphere and the scene. I fell in love with the crazy weird locale the story was set in, so I wanted to make it about the locale. This meant thorough descriptions and a narrative style that matches the mood of the setting. But what ended up being written was a story about a mom with a robot butler worried about her son, and the mom happened to live in a weird place with odd descriptions. The difference is the focus of the story. Instead of writing about Neda and how anxious she was that the sun was setting and her son was supposed to be home by now, I should have written about the cold steel of the walkway she sat on, and the warm cup of coffee doing little to stave off the chilly breeze.

This is a flaw that edits would not fix. Or rather they could, but the wording would have been altered so drastically that it would become a ship of Theseus. If you have to change every sentence, is it really the same old story? In this case, it’s clearly better to simply rewrite it. So I did, and as you might imagine, I think it works much better than it did.

If, however, the story is accomplishing your basic goals, whether it is an interesting character, or a cool plot twist, etc., then more than likely the only thing you’ll need to change is how well the story accomplishes those goals. Maybe the plot twist could be better if it was more subtly foreshadowed, or the interesting character needs a longer interaction to really shine. In this case, you don’t have to tear the whole scaffolding apart, you just need to go back and reinforce what’s already there.

Now this is a huge topic, so I might discuss it more thoroughly later, but the main point here is that you’re the author, so you’re the deciding factor on what the story needs. Don’t let somebody tell you your story sucks if your character simply needs clearer motivations. But if they have good points and you agree that your character simply isn’t interesting enough to be the protagonist, maybe a rewrite is in order. Just think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your story and look at how critical the flaws are, and woven into the story those flaws happen to be.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 4

More voice acting sample monologues with which to practice silly voices! I’m writing these for D&D, but you can use them however you’d like. If you’d like me to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

Previous posts can be found herehere, and here.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Optimistic Adventurer:
    I believe that an adventure should be more than killing a dragon and taking its treasure. The journey is more important than the destination, as they say. It isn’t the dragon the heroes defeat. It is the wonderful places they go, the friends they make, and the moments they share along the way. It’s the one-too-many pints of ale in the rundown tavern. The soft whistles of an undetected dart trap. The thankful smiles of the people helped along the way.

    I want to dance to every song I hear and tell a spooky story at every campfire I have. I know it won’t all be fun and games, but I think life can sometimes be most precious when it is at its most trying. I can tell that it isn’t my purpose to lie and wait for destiny to find me—I have to go and make my own, and even if I can’t solve every problem I’m faced with, I want happiness to follow in my wake as best as I am able, like sunflowers in the thick of spring.

    Life is what you make it, and I want mine to be like the ones told in fairy tales.

 

  • Surfer Bro, doesn’t have a care in the world:
    Well well well, if it isn’t my main man! What is up my dudes? How’s it going? I see you have a few tag-alongs this time around, that’s cool. It’s all chill, man. Listen, I know the last one I sold you wasn’t so hot, but I got a buddy of mine that says he’ll sell you a boat for eighty gold. This guy is the real deal, I swear. Matter of fact, he patched it up himself. Got a full mast and a working rudder and everything. And I know what you’re gonna say. You don’t want to pay that much money after the last time we talked, I get it, that’s chill. But hear me out. I like you guys, you really did me a solid by saving me from those thugs a few months back. So here’s the thing. I’ll front twenty gold to help you pay for it, and if it blows up, no big deal, that money is yours. If you like it, next time you’re in town you just pay me the rest of the dough and everything is solid. You guys game?

 

  • Ogre/Giant. Not too bright:
    Lookie here, Enk! We got a little peoples tryna sneak by! Says his name is… whadya say it was again? Nunya? Stupid peoples and their stupid names. What should we do wif em? I’m still kinda full from the last ones we ate. Maybe we could ask em to stay so we can eats em later? Whadya say little peoples? Do you wanna stay around so we can eat y—uh, I mean, we won’t eat you, oh hey. Where’d he go? …Enk, I lost the little peoples. I think the bugger ran off while you was distracting me. Shut up next time, okay? We almost tricked em!

 

D&D — Aleor Campaign Diary 1: The Night of Fire

(Here is the first of a series of posts retelling the story of my most recent campaign. I’m going to translate this into mostly narrative, but there will be a few D&D terms as well.

If you’d like to read the Lore intro to Aleor, you can catch up on it here.)

Our story begins in a tiny village called Soulrest. Little more than a pitstop, Soulrest is famous for its large inn, being a convenient place to rest for travelers between the region of Eastbend and what remains of the once-great Aloran Empire to the west. The town counts its population in the hundreds here. Everyone knows everyone else, and the most notable thing to happen in the span of a few months is when Ubin, the de-facto mayor, was uncharacteristically nice to some people.

There is no adventuring here. At least, not yet. But at year’s end the town gets excited for their yearly bonfire: a ritual called the Night of Fire. This holiday is held at the top of the ruined tower that overlooks the village, and a great bonfire is lit where townsfolk throw away things they no longer need in preparation for a new year. Jeremy Squips, a traveler from Eastbend, is staying at the inn when he hears about this event. He had planned on continuing on, but decides to stay an extra night so he can enjoy the festivities.

Our players, not yet heroes (or even adventurers by any means), are Balgraff Greyhand, the dwarf blacksmith, Sieg Warsen, son of the inkeeper, and Buck Holder, son of the cobbler.

Many of the townsfolk gather at the top of the old tower. Ubin has lit the huge bonfire, and its height allows it to be seen for miles. Then, one by one, the people go up to Ubin’s large red orb, touch it, then throw something into the fire. Not everyone does this, but a good many folk do. Jeremy chimes in with a bit of music to add to the festivities. Buck is given a box by his father to throw in. He doesn’t know what was inside, but he takes it. As soon as he touches the orb, it cracks, and for a moment everything stops. Ubin rushes up to him, but when he inspects the orb, there doesn’t seem to be any missing or sharp pieces, and Buck appears unharmed. The wise old elf appears clueless, but Buck swears he saw him nod to himself ever so slightly.

The Night continues until a loud explosion centered in town fills the air. They look to see the Happy Camper, the local general store, going up in flames. Everyone bursts into action, but none are as quick to act as Buck, Sieg, Balgraff, and Jeremy. They hasten down the hill and start doing all they can to fight the fire, throwing water pails at it and smothering it with whatever they can find.

When all is said and done, the fire is put out, but not before it destroyed the town’s beloved store. The smithy and inn were on both sides of the Happy Camper, and they sustained a bit of damage on their own. It’s a bad start to the new year, and to top it all off, Jeremy comments that he saw hooded figures running into the nearby forest immediately after the explosion…

To be continued…

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 3

I’m having a lot of fun writing these voice acting monologues, so I’m just gonna keep doing it! Previous two posts can be found here and here! As usual, I’m going to try to keep these gender neutral and vague so they can be practiced with a myriad of voices. Feel free to use these at your leisure, and if you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Naive youngster:
    I just don’t understand why people can be so mean sometimes. I know it’s not a big deal, and it wasn’t really any of my business, but today when I was walking down the Green Row I saw a bunch of kids bullying one of the shop owners. One of those small-time guys that barely has a stall of peaches to sell. He wasn’t bothering anyone, he was just trying to live his life and these kids come up and toss all his peaches into the street! I didn’t want to make any more of a scene, and those kids probably would have just beat me up if I stepped in, but I just can’t believe how cruel people can be. I mean it’s not like they got anything out of being mean, they just did it to ruin that guy’s day. Whatever. I’ll get over it. I’m going to go find a cat to pet.

 

  • Eloquent Elf:
    Greetings, friends. Welcome to the Embassy of Glass. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Feel free to make yourselves at home here, take a walk amongst the fauna, if you so wish. I might caution you away from any of the flowers that look too pleasant, though, these gardens cultivate a number of carnivorous plants, and it would be inconvenient to ruin any perfectly good specimens in order to rescue you. Also, if you please, be mindful of the stones you tread upon. These walkways were built from stones of the Feywild, and a number of them don’t take kindly to being stepped on if they aren’t acquainted with your feet.  Don’t worry too much, though, the more irritable ones are few and far between, and I’ve taken care to place them outside the typical areas of foot traffic. Enjoy your stay.

 

  • Amiable Barkeep:
    Hey, how goes it? It’s always a nice change of pace to see some new faces around here. Oh, wait a minute. You must be the adventurers from Wakefield I’ve heard about. Everyone’s been talking about you! I shouldn’t do this, but the first round will be on the house, okay? Don’t be shy, don’t be shy. Here, stay a while and let’s have a chat about the news from outside. There’s been talk about increased fey presence in the woods, you know. Apparently they’ve been getting aggressive and coming closer to settlements. Is that true? I’ve got a boy that works down at the mill just outside town, and I’ve been getting a bit worried, to be honest. Oh, there I go again, talking about me. Here, I’ll shut up… So, got any fun stories?

 

  • Dragonborn Oracle (enunciating the ‘s’ sound):
    You come to me seeking answers to your quest to attain peace? Your kind is so foolish. Always pretending you want peace but only starting new fires once you succeed in putting the old ones out. No, you will find no answers from me, humans. Like everyone else that shares your blood you seem to be lost in your delusions that I owe you something when you have only just set foot in my home unannounced. It is as though the world is built to accommodate you and to bend to your every whim. I have helped you one too many times, and you shall find no more assistance from me. In fact, you can—wait. What is that you wear on your arm? …it has been some time since I’ve seen those markings. The influence of the Grovewardens does not often reach this far south, but it is a pleasant sight to see. Fine. I will answer one question, but then you must leave, and quickly.

 

Bonus (This is a snippet from a short story I wrote):

  • Excited Fairy:
    Oh, right. Old Lady Picnic. Anyways, she sits down under the tree I’m in and takes out a little blanket from her basket. She unfolds it and lays it on the grass. It’s this cute pink and white quilt patterned with baby elephants and rabbits. Stars above it was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. She probably made it herself! I would never sit on something like that. A work of art like that should never be laid on the grass. But she put it there and started taking out food. Bananas, tiny sandwiches, potato salad, and a gorgeous apple cinnamon pie, and in that moment I knew that if that pie was half as good as it looked and smelled, I would die a happy fairy, wings earned or no. Have you ever felt like that? Where you’re so sure of something that hasn’t happened yet? What am I saying, of course you haven’t.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 2

In my last post I mentioned how I have a hard time finding good pieces of dialogue to practice voice acting on—for fantasy character archetypes in particular. Well, I’m continuing the series, and I foresee even more of these posts in the future. Feel free to use at your leisure. If you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Grumpy Old Man:
    What are you lowlifes doing in my fields traipsing all over my petunias?! You’re going—oh. Don’t tell me. You’re adventurers, aren’t you. Always the adventurers that come around here bringing trouble with no regard for the working folk around them. You’re probably going to ask me about the Lost Cave of Cadavra. Only reason your type comes this way. It’s about a mile north of here, but you better make sure your affairs are in order if you mean to go that way. I send a group of travelers that way once every few months, and none of them have come back yet, so I can only imagine what horrible beasties are lurking in there. Now get out of here, and watch the petunias!

 

  • Demon Lord:
    Mortals of Aleor: behold my visage and tremble! For I, Thruz’kel, once again set foot on this realm. This time, no power of man or god can stop me—all shall lie broken beneath my feet. Even now my legions lay siege upon your cities like the surging tide of the sea. Bow before me, and I may yet spare your miserable lives. Resist, and you shall know suffering the likes of which have never been dreamed. The end is nigh. Embrace or resist: it is of little consequence to me. This realm will be as ash before the next moon rises.

 

  • Tiny Sidekick. Never been sure of anything in their life:
    Oh, dear. You’re, um… you’re going to go fight the demons? Oh, well, umm… okay. That’s very brave. Umm… Would you maybe… umm… no… Okay, yes. Would you, uh, maybe consider… umm… bringing me along? I know I’m not, uh… as strong, but… umm… it’s my home, too, and, and, umm… I want to help. Even though it’s really scary! I don’t know if I could… uh, fight demons all by myself, but… umm… with you and me together, they won’t stand a chance, right? Umm… I mean… if you want, to. I don’t want to… you know, umm… be too pushy… I won’t come if you don’t want me to, but, um, if you want me to, uh, we can beat them!

 

  • Merchant. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer:
    Hey, how’s it going? Come to buy some masks for the festival tonight? I’ve got a variety of wares. Made them myself you know. Cotton, wood, resin, you name it. You folks look like the type to be looking for more exotic masks. Don’t deny it! I can see that look in your eye. Yeah, you, the tall one. I see one has caught your fancy. Oh! You must be eyeing the dragon mask. Rather perceptive I see. That one’s the best of the bunch! Took me a full week’s work to make it, you know. Those are real dragon horns affixed to a nice resin. I wanted to use real dragon scales, but it made the thing far too heavy. Now, I won’t lie to you, that one’s the most expensive of the batch, but I’ll make you folks a deal. If you tell people where you got that mask, I’ll give you a bargain of 500 gold pieces, what do you say?

 

Any character archetypes you’d like some samples for? Let me know and I’ll include them in the next post!

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 1

Any time I try to look up bits of dialogue to practice interesting voices on, I’m always disappointed because I invariably end up with ad copies (commercial scripts) or cheesy dialogue from anime 20 or more years old. So you know what? I’ll do it myself, internet. Thanks for nothing. Feel free to use at your leisure. Here are the first four, with more to come in the future.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Shady thief-type. Face is probably covered in shadows:
    “A little birdie told me you were headed for the Swindler’s Claw. Dangerous place if you don’t know the right folks. If you’ve got the coin I can take you there. I’ll introduce you to some colleagues of mine. Just don’t make the mistake thinking that anyone you meet around those parts is trustworthy. Half the town would shiv you as soon as look at you, the other half will just pickpocket you. The good news is, if you give me your coin now, you won’t have to worry about misplacing it when we get there.”

 

  • Lord of the Realm. A valiant hero everyone respects:
    “This is a daunting quest you speak of. As far as I’m aware, there have been none brave or foolish enough to venture into the Sundered Wastes in ten years. I’m afraid I must decline your request for a detachment of my guard to accompany you. For as noble a goal as this is, I simply do not have the disposable resources for such a task. I’m afraid you’ll have to go alone. Still, I would never hear the end of it if my son caught word that I left you empty handed after all you’ve done. Here, take my signet ring. It bears the emblem of House Raidell, and can serve to protect you in times of dire need. I bid you a safe journey and a speedy return.”

 

  • Sword-master who’s getting too old for this:
    “There is no weapon made by man or elf that can harm the likes of Thaleus. His control over the darkness has grown too absolute. the only way to stop him is to shatter the crystal atop his staff. That crystal is the true source of his power, but it is also his greatest weakness. If you’re clever, you can find a way to separate him from his power. Without that crystal he is no more powerful than any typical conjurer. Now go! Time is of the essence, my friends. Thaleus grows more powerful with each passing minute. And remember—take the staff, then break the crystal. Only then can you defeat him.”

 

  • Evil Wizard. Might be nasally, but could instead be quite sinister:
    “It’s a shame you’ve come so far in your quest only to be defeated at the hands of mere pawns! Who do you fools think you are, anyway? That minotaur skeleton was hard to find, you know. He was my favorite, and for that you’ll pay dearly! Come to think of it, I do seem to be short a few undead servants now. How would you like to join the ranks of my minions? It won’t be so bad. You’ll never have to eat, sleep, or contemplate your meaningless existence ever again! Oh, what am I saying, you don’t have a choice! Now, hold still and I’ll only make this hurt to a moderate degree.”

 

Future dialogues to come! If you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

  • Grumpy Old Man:
  • Demon Lord:
  • Tiny Sidekick. Never been sure of anything in their life:
  • Smallfolk. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer: