Posts tagged ‘Stories’

The Art of Story Telling

So, we’ve started a new GURPS campaign over in my corner of the world (GURPS, for the uninitiated, stands for Generic Role-Playing System and is like D&D, but nerdier) and, this time, I’m the session leader (often call the GM – Game Master).

That means I have to come up with the story that we play through and I have to lead the players into making decisions that further the plot-line – there’s a lot of thinking on your feet that I have to do to alter scenarios based on what the players are doing but still stay true to the overall tale.

All this got me thinking about storytelling vs. writing a novel. There is a certain element that verbal storytelling has that the written word loses, no matter how eloquent the author is. I think it has to do with the storyteller’s facial expressions and tone as he tells his story, his body language and mood. All of those non-verbal cues add a new layer to the story that the written word just cannot replicate.


That’s not to say that verbal storytelling is better – I like both equally – but it is very different. I think that the oral tradition is focused on hearing, while the written word is more focused on creating visuals – painting word pictures, if you will. Because the author is not sitting in front of you, acting out his story as he tells it (i.e. making his eyes huge to indicate surprise or wonder, hunching his shoulders inwards to invoke fear as he describes a monster, etc.), he has to rely on painting a vivid enough picture that you feel those emotions yourself. A person verbally telling a story can choose just a few choice details and indicate emotions and other facets just by gestures and expressions.

Anyways, that’s where my mind wandered to tonight. I happen to enjoy both methods of conveying a story, but do you guys have any preference?


An All-Star Cast

Today’s TGIF prompt from GReads! is:

If you could use existing characters from some of your favorite books to create a new story, who would be in it?”

Hmmm… I guess it would depend if I wanted to write something serious or something silly.

For a serious story, I’d probably pair up Atticus O’Sullivan from The Iron Druid Chronicles with Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files (kind of an obvious pairing, I know) and have them protect some chunk of the USA from Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. With Harry now being the Winter Knight, it would be interesting to see how he would fare against a  High Sidhe who wants to turn his turf into a frozen wasteland and turn innocents into her ice-hearted slaves. It also would be fun to see how Mahb would react to such a challenge.

For a silly story, I’d pit the Weasley twins (with Fred still dead and ghosty) against Neil Gaiman’s character, A. Nancy and his son, Spider, from Anansi Boys. Let the prank/joke war begin!

Over on deviantArt, artist “Pika-la-Cynique” has done a marvelous job smooshing favorite characters together. Her fan comic is called Girls Next Door (affectionately dubbed GND) and is very much worth your time if you enjoy cross-over silliness.

TGIF – Show Me Your Cover! Well… Actually… Please Don’t.

This week’s TGIF prompt is:

“What are some of the worst book covers, but hold some of the best stories inside?”

Oh, I’ve got one! The new cover for Jennifer Roberson’s Lady of the Forest – it went from this:

to this:

This is not okay, people!

Marion is not your typical romance novel leading lady, Robin of Locksley is certainly not a Fabio-wannabe, and the story (for all that it is a romance) is not the usual fluff that usually lurks behind covers such as these! It covers politics, gender roles, soldiers returning from war, the power of personal choices and the consequences that inevitably follow, and the never-ending power struggle between the rich and those who want to become rich. It’s a surprisingly intricate and richly woven plot and they hide it behind a vapid cover like this??

All right… this is starting to sound like a rant, so I’ll try to give some sort of semi-rational reason for my dislike of the new cover.

First of all, it does not fit either of the main characters. Marion is not a weak woman – she has a quiet strength within her established gender role; and Robin, even though he is a strong and honorable man, is not the dashing hero who sweeps her off her feet.

Look at the first cover; Marion is coming towards Robin of her own free will. She is reaching out to him and he is gently supporting her. For all that she is looking down at him, their hands, just loosely clasped between them, indicate a level of comfortable intimacy and equality – like two long-time companions going on a journey together.

Now, look at the second cover. Robin has Marion completely in his grasp – one hand at the small of her back, the other firmly capturing her free hand. He’s pulling her towards him and she is completely passive as he looks down at her. Yes, it’s reminiscent of the waltz pose, and thus more obviously “romantic”, but it takes away any indication of Marion’s  strength or Robin’s inner character.

And (back to ranting), the focus on the bare, tanned pecs in the white flowy shirt just bugs me. If I had only seen the newer cover, I never would have read it, and thus, would have missed out on a good story!

TGIF – Musical Stories

Today’s TGIF prompt from GReads! is:

“If you could read a book about any song, which song would you love to see written down in story form?”

Well, this is a tough one.

For an instrumental song, I’d have to pick “Divinere” by Ludovico Einaudi. It’s a beautiful piece that has a lot of passion and emotion in it. When I listen to it, I’m inspired. Since it has no lyrics, any story that comes out of it would have a lot more freedom, since everyone would hear something different in the song.  In it, I hear wind and water – like someone doing aerial acrobatics over the ocean, so I’d probably write something having to do with dragons and a seaside fort or something – with an epic sea battle or two and lots of magic!

It’s much harder to pick a song with lyrics, simply because they tell their own stories already. But “Nemo” by Nightwish fits the bill pretty well. Tarja’s vocals and the orchestral background make it a very powerful song, and since it seems to be a lament or prayer, it could serve as the basis for a good character (maybe an assassin or a traitor) to build the story around.

Book of the Week – “Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge” by Barbee Oliver Carleton

As a child, I was an insatiable reader. I was also lucky enough to have copious amounts of free time to indulge in my favorite pastime. As such, I blew through books at a rather alarming rate.

After I had exhausted my own supply of books, and in between raids on our local libraries, I would rifle through my mom’s personal library in search of new stories to read. On one such day, when I complained that I had nothing to read, she recommended this one to me as one that she had enjoyed when she was young.

Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge is a fun mystery for kids between 10 and 14 years old. It involves old grudges, foreboding, hermit-like relatives, local superstition, eerie music, and forgotten catacombs – all great things for a wonderfully atmospheric book. The mystery is nicely woven throughout the plot, and is surprisingly difficult to figure out, despite this being for pre-high school readers. I enjoyed the plot twists when I read it, and was quite satisfied with the ending.

This book is outside my usual diet of Fantasy novels. For that reason, I’m very grateful that my mom pointed it out to me, else I doubt I’d have ever picked it up. For all that it lacked faeries, elves, and such, I found it riveting, and didn’t put it down til I had finished it. What was especially nice was that it was spooky without ever really frightening me, just the right amount of eerie, in my opinion.

Of course, I’m reviewing this as someone who read the book at the appropriate age and enjoyed it immensely. Older readers may find it far too easy and light a read, though I very much enjoyed it when I reread it in college – but, perhaps that’s just the nostalgia talking.

Anyways, I recommend Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge to anyone who has young readers who enjoy mysteries. It’s a fun book for them to read or for you to read aloud with them.

The Grand Oral Tradition

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt is a good one!

1. What do you think of reading aloud/being read to? Does it bring back memories of your childhood? Your children’s childhood?
2. Does this affect the way you feel about audio books?
3. Do you now have times when you read aloud or are read to?

So, onwards to the answers!

1. In our household we have the (newly started) tradition of reading The Princess Bride to each other when we get sick. This means we’re only on Chapter 3 or so, but it’s a lot of fun. I find that I quite enjoy having the Beloved Husband read to me.

While my mom read to me every day when I was little, I don’t really get nostalgic when the Beloved Husband reads aloud to me – mainly because I attribute my love of books to Story Time With Mom, so I think of it whenever I read. And, when we have children of our own, I will definitely read aloud to them whenever I get the chance.

2. Audio books are fun during car rides, but I really prefer music when I’m driving. See, I can read faster in my head than the audio book can narrate, so I prefer reading books myself (at least on the first run-through). I did quite enjoy listening to the Chronicles of Narnia audio books when I was in high school though.

3. Right now, the Beloved Husband and I are working through Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy together – meaning that I read it aloud to him and he provides commentary on what I read. It’s a lot of fun and we’re about half-way through Two Towers.

5 Video Games That Would Make Good Books

Listed in no particular order, these are some video games that I think could be novelized well.

Square’s Xenogears for the Playstation 1.
This JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) is two disks or 100+ hours long. It’s this long because it has an incredibly detailed plot that slowly unfolds through an epic journey that is full of political maneuvering, secret societies, flashbacks, lost memories of past lives, and various scientific meddlings – from mutations to super-weapons.

I think the complexities of the various plotlines and their connections to the overarching story would be best suited to a Game of Thrones style Epic Fantasy novel, with each chapter/section being told from the third-person view of a specific character. As the characters meet up, the different pieces of the puzzle would come together and the story would become more cohesive in a way that would mirror the gradual unraveling of the mystery that binds everything together.

Square’s Final Fantasy VI for the Super Nintendo/Playstation 1.
Another JRPG – this one takes on a more Hero’s Journey feel as it follows the growth of the main character. It’s a 60+ hour game, but alas, many of those hours are spent in combat as the player navigates the “Random Battle” system or grinds to level up characters. Because of this, it’s easy to lose track of the actual story.

So, this one might actually be better suited for novel form because it would give a chance for greater character development (something that’s hard to do when you have 14 playable characters) and there wouldn’t be giant breaks from the plot while you battle things, making it easier to follow the chain of events.

Square Soft’s Secret of Evermore for the Super Nintendo.
Yup, an RPG again. This one is very quirky and involves evil robot butlers, a sabotaged time machine/holo-deck type invention, and an average small-town boy and his dog. It couldn’t be adapted as a “serious” novel, I don’t think. But if it was approached in the same semi-humorous manner of Good Omens or in the surreal style of Neverwhere, I think it could work quite well. Obviously, I’m leaning towards Neil Gaiman as the prospective author, because he’d be able to capture the fun quirkiness of the whole thing, while still preserving that creepy undertone that characterizes so much of the game.

Valve Coorporation’s Portal Games for the Xbox360. 
So, not an RPG, yay!!! The Portal games are puzzle/platform games with amazingly brilliant dialogue. As it is, given length and game design, both Portal games would have to go into one book in order for it to work, since the original game and its sequel make one complete story arc.

The story itself is outside my usual High Fantasy genre and I think it would work best as an action/suspense style, almost-psychological horror novel in a sci-fi setting. The deadpan humor would keep it from being truly horrific, but it would still translate as creepy, I think. But seriously, come on – newly re-awakened human test subject trying to survive and escape a hidden test facility run by a sadistic, sociopathic robot? Would be a cool book!

Supergiant Games’ Bastion for Xbox360 and PC. 
The way that the narrative in this game is set up would make it impossible for a direct translation from game to book. However, the story is compelling and keeps the gamer wanting more. Absolutely a Post-Apocalyptic novel, it has a Hero’s Journey feel to it that would make it epic in scope. And it has the potential for a wonderfully Inception-esque ending! It stands out in the Post-Apocalyptic genre because of its colorful scenery and light-hearted artwork. If that atmosphere could be captured in novel form, it would be a very interesting take on the whole thing.

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