Friday, March 4, 2016

TWIC: Games and the KKK, writing, art, transmedia, teamwork, Rome

Humble Bundle is a website that offers bundles of digital media.  I have purchased phone and computer games, ebooks, music and recently, a Pathfinder RPG set.  The deals are pretty good but you have to make your mind up in a hurry; each bundle is offered for only two weeks and the link goes to one that has only five days remaining on the deal.

I think playing RPGs, and playing many types of games, is a way to flex your creative muscles.  Fantasy role-playing naturally requires quite a bit of imagination and an ability to use abstract - or fanciful - features to win or even survive.  However, any game requires players to think about the edges of the rules and how close they can come to them while remaining in the game.   Ah, what I'm doing right now is trying to tie my interest in role-playing games to the theme of this blog.  How am I doing?  I guess, in this vein, I could also point out that making such a game requires great creativity.

Anyway, it stands out in my mind for two reasons.  First, I just bought the set.  Second, on the same day, I also read an interesting article about KKK titles and D&D monsters.
You've no doubt heard of the "Grand Wizards" and "Grand Dragons," but what about the Great Titan and his six Furies; the Grand Giant and his four Goblins; the Grand Cyclops; the Ghouls; the Grand Council of Centaurs; the Lictor; the Nighthawks; the Invisible Empire and its enemy, the Alien World; the Fifteen Genii (who serve the Imperial Wizard); the Exalted Cyclops and his Twelve Terrors?
Okay, time to share my (lack of) ability with Microsoft Paint.  Dragon from here, mask apparently from here:

An online Intro to  Transmedia course just finished.  It was given in Korean but the material had English subtitles.  I presume the material will remain available for at least a little while.  An excerpt from the first lecture:
3:02 The idea of different forms of media coexisting, transforming, and converging to create a new media environment has been around for some time, albeit in less complex and less common forms in the past: stories jotted down on paper and later being turned into a stage script, or a song recording at a concert becoming a track on a CD or LP and, later on, played over the air and heard by radio audiences at home. These are some common and conventional examples of transmedia phenomena.
4:42 In order to read, one might go to a library; to listen to music, one went to a music room. Life is much more convenient now with transmedia, to the extent that instead of sourcing differentmedia outlets, a single machine with multiple integrated functions has the ability to provide the user or consumer with all of the content that was once only available through “old” media. This is the key feature of transmedia. In addition, the user can actively participate in the creation of media content.

5:21 In the past, we had to embrace media content as it was in the form laid down by the artist or creator, but now, media proliferation and dissemination allow any individual to have more opportunities to be involved in the creative process to shape the media output. As a result of this possibility, the concepts of art and creative process have also taken on different definitions. Through this course, we will seek to understand the concept of transmedia storytelling, after which point we will apply this understanding to explore the concept’s role in the media industry of today.
A handful of writing links listed together here:
Side 1: Knowledge, or Know What You're Writing Before You Write It
... Unfortunately, this meant I wasted a lot of time rewriting and backtracking when the scene veered off course.
As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn't describe anything, I didn't do transitions. I wasn't writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I'd worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I'd written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.
Side 2: Time
Several things were immediately clear. First, my productivity was at its highest when I was in a place other than my home. That is to say, a place without internet. The afternoons I wrote at the coffee shop with no wireless were twice as productive as the mornings I wrote at home. I also saw that, while butt in chair time is the root of all writing, not all butt in chair time is equal. For example, those days where I only got one hour to write I never managed more than five hundred words in that hour. By contrast, those days I got five hours of solid writing I was clearing close to 1500 words an hour. The numbers were clear: the longer I wrote, the faster I wrote (and I believe the better I wrote, certainly the writing got easier the longer I went). This corresponding rise of wordcount and writing hours only worked up to a point, though. There was a definite words per hour drop off around hour 7 when I was simply too brain fried to go on.

Side 3: Enthusiasm
.... I did know that I wanted those days to become the norm rather than the exception, so I went back to my records (which I now kept meticulously) to find out what made the 10k days different.

The answer was head-slappingly obvious. Those days I broke 10k were the days I was writing scenes I'd been dying to write since I planned the book. They were the candy bar scenes, the scenes I wrote all that other stuff to get to. By contrast, my slow days (days where I was struggling to break 5k) corresponded to the scenes I wasn't that crazy about.
But the more I struggle to make this work, the more I think there’s one key thing that makes writing more excellent: Finding your own blind spots as an author, and trying to see into them.
This is something I found out while I was rewriting and editing and tenderizing my new novel, All the Birds in the Sky, which had massive huge blind spots in the middle of it, even in what I thought was the “final” draft. (And it probably still does, because you never really win the fight against your own blind spots.) But it’s also something I’ve found with every other creative writing project I’ve ever taken on. Just the same way you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s hard to see what you’re not seeing in a story—but it’s essential to try.
The Art of Writing.  Talulah Lucy describes her work style when painting vs writing.  I've previously discussed on this blog how resistant to errors writing is- you can just delete a paragraph and rewrite it.  This isn't so easy in carving.  But you can plan ahead.  From Talulah Lucy:
For art I had this intense process:
1. Have idea
2. Work out the composition
3. Find some reference material
4. Sketch
5. Refine sketch
6. Begin building up the lights and the darks
7. Add layers of colour (known as scumbling in oil painting)
8. Add the final shadows and highlights
For writing my process was:
1. Write as well as possible
--- 2012, the company embarked on an initiative - code-named Project Aristotle - to study hundreds of Google's teams and figure out why some stumbled while others soared.
After looking at over a hundred groups for more than a year, Project Aristotle researchers concluded that understanding and influencing group norms [unwritten rules, for example encouraging small talk about family or whether interruptions were acceptable] were the keys to improving Google's teams.
The researchers finally a saw a link between two behaviors and good performance.  First, "equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking" - everyone talks nearly the same about in a day.
"But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined."
Second, Social sensitivity. "One of the easiest ways to gauge social sensitivity is to show someone photos of people's eyes and ask him or her to describe what the people are thinking or feeling."  People on good teams do better on this kind of test.
"There were other behaviors taht seemed important as well - like making sure teams had clear goals and creating a culture of dependability. But Google's data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work."
I don't know if this really fits into the blog's theme, either.  But it is cool.  Giga Photo is a company that takes thousands of pictures and stitches them together creating deeply zoomable images. Their Rome image is wonderful. The photos were taken from the Tower of Milizie.  I do plan to write some of my story in this location and the image shows a lot of ancient buildings, so maybe it is research.

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