Worst GM

I’ve played countless games on scores of different tabletop systems, and even in the least cohesive group, we always managed to do something fun or epic. There’s always engagement, creativity, and emotion poured into the game. And when there isn’t there’s bloodshed, glory, and a story to go with the scars.

Then there’s D&D.

Now 5th edition does have quite a few tools to allow the story teller to come out form people, but it lacks any firm facility to (more…)

Sunk Cost Fallacy Fallacy

The problem with common sense is that it’s definitely not common. In fact, the more commonly expressed that a given piece of advice is, the less likely that it’s useful for the given situation that it is given. I choose to believe that this is because these sayings are spread by Hollywood thinking, which is when unrealistic situations are presented in which a single piece of advice magically solves a dilemma. However, it’s most likely that the common phrase simply doesn’t apply when it is suggested, it’s only suggested because it’s fresh on someone’s mind.

One such example is the Sunk Cost Fallacy. The short explanation is that if a company has been working on Process A for 6 months and expect it to take another 6 months, and Process B could be started and completed in 4 months, then the 6 months spent on Process A should have no bearing on moving to Process B. The company can’t get that time (or money) back. If there’s an emotional attachment to Process A, the time spent on it can seem like it still has a lot of value. The typical example is a company spending money on tools for producing a new product, and realizing it’s not profitable. They shouldn’t produce the product just because they bought the tools, if they know that continued activity will lose more money. The problem, though, is that there is not good example.

Where it goes wrong? There are very few things in a person’s personal life in which emotions are worthless. In order to apply the concept of a Sunk Cost in economics, there cannot be qualitative results that are incompatible with the measurement being used. I could very easily tell someone that their 25 years of going to the movie theater (more…)

Bait and Switch

In real life if someone were to pull a bait and switch on you, it would be bad. They plan on presenting one thing to you, make you pay for it, and then deliver something different. It’s actually quite frustrating to be on the receiving end because it’s hard to explain on the spot. It kind of takes the words out of your mouth because it’s dishonest, but it’s not straight forward enough to call out.

It’s also pretty frustrating when writers do it. Not that they sell something and deliver something else. This is more about presenting information and then contradicting it soon after. It’s rarely intentional, but it’s very jarring for the reader.

It’s usually done in descriptions. The conventional wisdom on describing things in writing is “show don’t tell”. Which is good advice on it’s own but it gets mixed in with weird magical number rules. Like “only one adjective per sentence” and “always pick 2 senses and never sight.” There’s a lot of absolute advice out there that is catered to the individual giving the advice, not to the recipient. So it ends up creating bait and switch in writing.

Here’s an example:

The soldier walked into the room. His best friend Stephen gathered around him, weapons in hand. Their shimmering glow lit up the room, almost like magic. The table in front of them drew out the battle lines. One assault from the first set of riders, then an assault from another.

Riding wolves is hard. The men on the battle field knew that their steeds were not as well trained. And the sound from the plasma rifles easily startled these beasts. But their ferocity more than made up for their skittish nature.

So what happened in this scene? We were presented with an unknown setting, slowly fed details, and led onto what our imagination painted the setting to be. We get all the way into a fantasy world before the first detail completely erases the perception. Riding wolves? Plasma rifles? This is a really jarring reading experience.

Now the example above is really just made up on the spot, but many writers of varying sets of skill do this by accident. As a writer the world is clear in their head, but as a reader we are painting it, and trying as best we can to match what is in the story. The varying differences are what make written word so great, but losing the reader completely is bad.

The takeaway I’d like people to have from this is to suit your own skill, and not blindly take advice, especially with magic numbers assigned. Do what works for YOUR writing. Do what YOUR readers need. And please, bring consistency to your work so that people are not jarred away. It may not always make somebody put the book down, but it leaves a sense of unease through the rest of the page.

 

 

Concordance Character Bible for Google Docs

concordance_smThe first question that I ask any writer that I come across these days is simple: “What tools do you use to write?”.

There are such a wide variety of authoring tools out there that it seems every writer has their own set of tools. Where microsoft word may be popular for many to write the story, they each have a different process for brain storming and creating story webs. There even seems to be as many brands of writing software as there are ways to write! Some have amazing professional tools, some are great at publishing but not writing, some are great at brainstorming but not publishing.

So what about writers who are on a tight budget or simply would rather use Google Docs?

For me, Google Docs is a must have. What I need more than anything out of a writing tool is collaboration, web editing, and revision histories. I can hobble together story timelines and character narrative charts easier than I can handle passing around save files from computer to computer. I just always wished that Google Docs had more tools to make the job easier.

Enter Concordance Character Bible! This is the first app in (more…)

Smashwords Summer Sale

Bookworms are the most traditional kind of nerds, but all those new-fangled video game nerds are bragging about their hauls from the steam summer sale. Don’t let all that get you down because Smashwords strikes back with a huge event lasting until July 31st. Get many indy titles at huge discounts, many even free… Wait, did I just say free? YES SIREEBOB!

For this month only the Novella Fearsome Devils is free at Smashwords! Dive into the exciting forest of Edir and let your imagination crawl into the deep recesses of dark caves, run through the dense woods, and enjoy a quiet conversation with the animals.

Happy reading!

 

 

Premature Optimization is NOT the Root of All Evil

Yes, I’m also a software developer and from time to time software stuff needs to be talked about. Today is one of those days. And today’s topic, Scape Goats!

There are a few ubiquitous quotes that programmers know and share. Most people don’t get them without some background in software development, but meaningful they are.

“Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.”
– Brian Kernighan

“Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.”
– Martin Golding

“A programmer is a wonderful machine that converts coffee into software.”
– Unknown

There’s a grain of truth in each one, the problem is that the following has no grain of truth. Only a misunderstanding and a shifting of blame:

Premature Optimization is the Root of All Evil

What is it supposed to mean? (more…)

You Are Your Own Main Character

The prevailing culture driven by, I think, social media is one of not being proactive. If we care about something, we give it a thumbs up online. We pay lip service to our friends. We talk about how fun it would be to at on things with nothing more than hope that they will get done.

This is a sad existence. We’re not satisfied with that kind of interaction. We’re humans. We’re natural story tellers. We crave explanation, detail, and meaning. We never act without a story to tell after, even if told only to our own minds.

We can be part of a different culture instead, one that operates around and above us. That culture consists of people who live their own stories. People who have decided to be main characters in their own story.

The tendency in the inactive culture is to allow things to happen around us. To be reactive people. It’s a thought that our life only changes when things change around us. We need to be (more…)