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New eBook Release: When Ai Met Yu

After being published in five parts on my own blog, it's time for this story to come to a wider audience. My first attempts at both a re...

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Reapers are a Writer's Best Friend; Introduction

Let's face it: death in all its myriad and repulsive forms is an inseparable part of life. It's the yin to the yang, the other side of the coin. Nere the twain shall meet, yet one cannot exist without the other. But the problem is that death is liable to be treated in popular media in a way that might skew its place in people's lives. Sure, there are plenty of ways in comics, movies, television, books and games that treat death with the respect and gravity it deserves, but there are just as many who treat death as an almost-trivial means of advancing the story. This post is in the form of a basic introduction to the concept, recurring themes, and my goal with this post series.

So what makes a good death in fiction? Well, it depends on the genre, the scale and the setting, and also on how you want to tell the story. Deaths in the main cast can prove a strong catalyst for the story depending on how you lead up to them, while supporting characters carry less weight and are consequently more liable to slip into the background of importance. A villain's death or expected death - whether just or ironic or even humiliating - is an expected and consequently overused trope. Quite often it's the main protagonist dealing the blow, or failing that trying one last time to save them despite their villainy. Widespread death of a population can also form both a background and catalyst in the story - these can be caused by plague, human agency, or widespread disaster.

In a murder mystery or thriller, a death acts as the catalyst for the entire story, and can be anyone with anything as long as there's a kind of reason and logic apparent by the end of the story; it also has a realise on the type of genre featured. It can be a single isolated death driving the characters forward, or a series of murders leading them on. Everyday stories don't tent to feature death except in a natural form. In fantasy and science fiction, death can be treated rather more freely, even to the point that none of the characters die at all. It is also more likely to be highly fantastical and perhaps even clean due to the nature of the death.

The type of story the author wants to tell also affects whether death plays any part. Young children's fiction generally avoids the topic for good reason. Older children and young adult stories can more frequently involve it, but often in a stylised form. Adult fiction more often brings forward realistic and messy deaths where applicable. In general, various factors contribute to how death is introduced and handled , varying from author tastes and genre to the story's setting and tone.

Over the next few weeks, I will be creating several articles that look at particular deaths in different media, and how they impact and advance or conclude the story. My articles will concern death...

In books.
In movies.
In television.
In video games.

Finally I hope to look at how my own character deaths are created, and the lessons I've learnt over ten years of evolving my style. So until next week, please look forward to it. See you then!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Mythos - My Picks

A mythos is something a large number of fictional universes have. Some are more detailed that others, and some are so detailed that they come off as obtuse until adequately explained. In this article, I'll be looking at three chosen fictional universes with extensive background lore. One from the world of books, one from movies/TV, and one from video games.

The first mythos is one I've chosen from one of my favourite authors - that of the Bartimaeus series created by Jonathan Stroud. Spanning the original trilogy and a later prequel novel, the world of the sarcastic Djinn and his human associates and masters is incredibly detailed and expressive. Something to note about this is that it is the product of a single mind, and because of this that one mind is able to cover and control the mythos' content, but you have to admit his skill. Without any contradictions that are easily seen, he tied together a pseudo-magical alternate history where a series of Magician-ruled civilisations rise and are brought down by their own dictatorial power. Also, by telling the story from two and eventually three points of view, he offers a full vision of Britain as the magical ruling power, giving a perspective that many other similar narratives would lack. But is above all the sympathetic tone of the cast that enables a full absorption of this world Stroud created.

In both movies and television, the Star Trek universe is both massive and detailed. Beginning as a series with a tight budget and moralistic finales in the mid-1960s, the series proper has spun-off into six series, ten movies and an ever-growing mountain of additional media. Amazingly, across the series and movies at least, the series' canon and continuity has remained consistent across fifty years despite some dubious actor-based failures in alien or character portrayals. Here the reason is known and clear; a series bible that has been maintained and adhered to right up until the recent movie reboots reset the timeline. Across upwards of three generations, with only occasional drops of clangers, the continuity of race encounters, relations and discoveries has been preserved to the point of obsession. This makes Star Trek one of the most uniform speculative fictional universes in existence.

In television, there isn't a universe to rival Star Trek aside from Doctor Who, which initially ran from 1963 to 1989, before being resurrected as a television movie in 1996, and then revived successfully and running since 2005. One of the main explanations behind the variety and scope is that well over thirty writers have worked on the series during the course of its run. There is also the fact that - as a science fiction universe involving time-space travel - the number of ways and times events could cross is strictly limited by the laws of common sense. That also leads to a question - how the heck do they keep the canon from being riddled with contradictions? Well, it was at one point. But since the advent of the second-to-third incarnations of the Doctor, established lore has been set in place that new and returning writers follow. Writers for the revived series have taken the trend of tying everything directly back to overarching threads, but they have also respected the earlier canon. The creators of the original series managed to use the format of episodic and disconnected stories to avoid alienating potential new viewers as they could jump in at any stage. Sadly the revived series has not followed this model. While the inner workings can still be something of a mystery, but you have to admire the writers for keeping the lore consistent as far as humanly possible within the scope of over two hundred stories from

For the video game entry, the one I must choose is Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy. Created by regular Final Fantasy writer Kazushige Nojima, the mythos is mainly seen as a failure by fans of the Final Fantasy series, and from a developmental standpoint it was undermined by its own ambition, which was not compatible with the development resources and production structures of the time. Compared by developers and journalists to Classical Greek mythology, the mythos is a fairly simple tale of divine rivalry and the nature of "heart" and "soul" in humanity, all tying into a darker take on the Final Fantasy series' traditional Crystal motif. This mythos is unique in that it doesn't tie into a continuous timeline, but rather creates a shared theme of divine power enforcing its will on chosen humans. Unfortunately, despite the promise of the mythos, the developers made the cardinal mistake - by jumping between information dumps and complete mystery and the detailing of crucial elements in Japan-exclusive material, the mythos alienated players before they could appreciate its nuances.

There are more expansive universes than one article can comfortably accommodate, ranging from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the overly extensive and retcon-filled comic series of Marvel and DC Comics. The ones I've chosen represent both my favourites and those I've had extensive experience of. Each of the ones above provided experience and inspiration for me for my own work as a writer and author. Out of all the extensive universes I've experienced, there's one thing I've learned - make it consistent, or people will roast you.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

New eBook Release: When Ai Met Yu

After being published in five parts on my own blog, it's time for this story to come to a wider audience. My first attempts at both a real world setting and a romance, it is a story set in contemporary Japan that casts a critical eye over the tropes of the country's LGBT literary and graphic novel genre.

When Ai Met Yu tells the tale of two men and their romance in a culture with a history of both tolerance and prejudice. Told from the perspectives of Ainori Uchida and Yusuke Ishinori, the two navigate life as they go through Wasada University and reunite some time later to realise their feelings for each other. Can they find happiness without compromising each other's freedoms and identity?

As of 8 June 2017, you can buy When Ai Met Yu on Amazon Kindle...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Ai-Met-Yu-Japanese-ebook/dp/B072PWD734/

https://www.amazon.com/When-Ai-Met-Yu-Japanese-ebook/dp/B072PWD734/

...and Kobo Store.

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/when-ai-met-yu

As might be expected of a short story, it is placed at a bargain price that puts minimal strain on the wallet. For those who buy it, they will be experiencing a romance that not only falls within the boundaries of the yaoi/bara genre, but also subverts them with its distancing from and criticism of typical tropes surrounding the nature of the romance and the imposition of male-female roles.

This is an LGBT romance for everyone, as its lessons can apply equally to heterosexual relationships. Here's hoping you enjoy this trip into my take on the Japanese LGBT romance subgenre.

In addition to this, the story has undergone further revisions and editing to increase both quality and readability. In addition, minor alterations have been made to character names with the guidance of novelist and anime reviewer Sarah Ash (WebsiteTwitter, Facebook) to make it even more authentic.

So there's only one more thing to say; read and enjoy. Arigat┼Źgozaimashita!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Sunday, 4 June 2017

First and Third

In writing, there are two major narration styles that everyone will know about. First-person (where the story is told from a particular person's point of view) and Third-person (which tells the story from a separate perspective independent of the characters). Now that I've had the experience of writing using both forms, I've had a chance to appreciate their merits and detriments, together with some examples of the better uses I've seen of either style, and in some cases both styles.

First-person is something I've been slightly afraid of for some time due to one of its key drawbacks; omnipotent narration doesn't work, and instead you have to restrict your perspective to a single character or limited number of characters. This severely restricts or outright eliminates the ability to jump around in a story. On the other hand, first-person narrative can heighten dramatic effect, and make character revelations more resonant if you're focusing on an individual's reaction from within their very being. One of the major advantages of first-person from a purely narrative perspective is that you can keep key plot twists a secret without resorting to padding or contrived red herrings. Of course that's also possible in third-person, but it's only the most skillful writers who can successfully pull this off repeatedly. The biggest advantage is that it adds a layer of personality to a story that might otherwise be missing, as you're telling the tale from a person's point of view rather than from the clinical view of a disconnected narrator.

Some of the best examples of first-person narrative I've come across include: Jules Verne's seminal work Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, which tells of Nemo's undersea exploration from the perspective of his captive Professor Aronax; many works by H.P. Lovecraft including The Call of Cthulhu, At The Mountains of Madness, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, who uses the technique of the unreliable narrator to unsettling effect; multiple novels by Agatha Christie including The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which uses its first-person narrative to plant one of the biggest red herrings in the history of fiction; and Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill, which makes masterful use of both multiple first-person perspectives and a non-linear narrative to tell the complex story surrounding one person's fate to be caught in an eternal cycle of conflict.

Third-person is the style I've been most used to, mainly due to its use by my many inspirational authors - and the fact that it's easier to adopt an omnipotent narrative than it is to focus on a single perspective. I have to work at first-person because third-person is the easier route. There are benefits to adopting an omnipotent view; you can cross between multiple characters on a whim, increasing the grand scale of the narrative without overly confusing the reader. The main drawback to using an omnipotent viewpoint is that personal internal vignettes by characters can seem out of place, and taking a distanced viewpoint can blunt the story's emotional edge unless you take a particular stance really invest in saying what the characters feel. It also opens up the temptation to drop too many hints into a story that first-person narrative logic wouldn't allow.

Some of the best examples of the third-person I've encountered include Frank Herbert's sprawling magnum opus Dune; Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth, which adopts a more focused approach by following no more than two characters; Roger Zelazny's Jack of Shadows, which adopts a unique style which reads more like a classical oral legend than contemporary science-fantasy; the Earthsea novels, which alternately adopt an overarching and intimate style to create a flowing and rich narrative across five books; and A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke, which portrays the multiple perspectives surrounding the disastrous final voyage of the lunar tourist cruiser Selene.

There are also a few stories where first- and third-person narratives are used interchangeably for dramatic effect. This style is quite rare compared to its two parent styles, which makes it all the more impressive when this blending of styles is pulled off successfully. I can only thing of two I've encountered to date. One is found in some of the works of Christie such as The A.B.C. Murders, which uses this dual narrative style to create tension and lead the reader down the garden path. The best example I've seen to date is Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus series (The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye, Ptolemy's Gate, The Ring of Solomon); Stroud alternates brilliantly between the snarky first-person style of the titular djinn, a sweeping third-person narrative surrounding the djinn's master Nathaniel, and a more focused narrative around central heroine Kitty Jones.

In an interesting side note, the different narrative forms have transitioned differently into different story-telling media. In films, the most prevalent style equates to the omnipotent third-person narrative, as it flicks between characters and time periods at the smallest provocation. In television there's a balance between first- and third-person, mainly due to the wider allowance in run times and content than is often available in mainstream film. In radio, there is again a mixture of perspectives, with first-person being favoured for things such as mystery stories whether original or adapted, and third-person being reserved for grander or more complicated narratives. Video games still focus to a large degree on the equivalent of first-person narratives

I don't see the need for any personal preference. Instead, you should follow the style you feel is best for your story in the moment. What styles do you prefer?