Today’s Art ( 30th April 2019)

Today’s digitally-edited painting is based on this photo I took of the church in Privett last May. Although the painting was a little bit rushed, it turned out better than I’d expected 🙂

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Privett – Church Corner” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – April 2019

Well, it’s the end of the month, so it’s time for my usual list of links to the ten best articles about writing, making art etc… that I posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions.

All in all, this month was a reasonably good one in terms of articles (not to mention that this blog also celebrated it’s sixth anniversary too 🙂). But, like with the past few months, there were fewer articles due to the usual book reviews.

In terms of book reviews, this month was a bit of an interesting one. Although there was something of a temporary drop in the quality/sophistication of the books I reviewed near the end of the month (mostly for time, weather etc.. related reasons), I ended up reviewing thirteen books this month 🙂 The highlights were probably “The Scarlet Gospels” & “Weaveworld” by Clive Barker, “Autonomous” by Annalee Newitz, “A Trail Through Time” by Jodi Taylor, “Dominion” by C. J. Sansom and “Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy” by S. D. Perry.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – April 2019:

– “Six Things I’ve Learnt From Running A Blog For Six Years
– “Three Tips For Writing Reassuring Horror Fiction
– “Three Thoughts About Novelisations And Spin-Off Novels
– “Three Tips For Finding Your Own “Style” Of Horror Fiction
– “How To Know Which Details To Include In Photo-Based Paintings/Drawings
– “Using Banality In Dystopian Fiction
– “Three Sneaky Ways To Reduce Reader Frustration
– “Two Reasons Why Writers Include Metafiction In Their Stories
– “Three Reasons Why ‘Low Fantasy’ Is Better Than ‘High Fantasy’
– “How To Find “New” Art Techniques – A Ramble

Honourable mentions:

– “Three Achingly Hip (And On-Trend) Tips For Writing A Modern Novel[APRIL FOOL]
– “Three Reasons Why Writers Should Watch Game Design Videos

Three Reasons Why Writers Should Watch Game Design Videos

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this topic before, but I thought that I’d talk about why online videos about game design can useful for writers. Although prose fiction and videogames might seem like very different mediums (and they are), videos about game design can still be extremely useful to writers for a number of reasons.

So, I thought that I’d list a few of them.

1) Some lessons translate directly: A few days before I wrote this article, I happened to watch this fascinating (if lengthy) video about combat systems in action/thriller videogames. Whilst this might not seem directly relevant to writing, one part of the video stuck in my mind.

In one part of the video, there’s a description of how “dramatic” attack animations in videogames often focus more on the build-up and aftermath of an action than the action itself. It was then that I realised that dramatic fight scenes in many thriller novels often do something similar – devoting more words to both suspenseful descriptions before a fight scene and the consequences of each action after it happens.

So, yes, even though videogames may be a very different medium to prose fiction, some lessons can translate directly. This is probably because some dramatic techniques are fairly universal (after all, this advice about dramatic fight scenes would probably also apply to film and comics as well).

2) They teach you the value of design: One of the interesting things about game design videos is that they’ll often focus on how designers deliberately set up parts of their game in order to achieve a particular mood or effect. For example, a game might subtly encourage the player to explore by hiding useful items around the game’s world.

But, what does any of this have to do with writing? Simply put, it reminds you that every creative decision matters more than you think. After all, each structural or linguistic choice that you make will affect how the reader thinks and feels when they’re reading your story.

For example, Dan Brown’s 2003 thriller novel “The Da Vinci Code” has very short chapters. This design choice allows for frequent mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, it gives the reader a sense of jumping from scene to scene quickly and – because each chapter is quick to read – it makes the reader feel like reading “just one more chapter…“.

This subtle design choice helps to keep a story fast-paced and gripping. So, it’s perfect for thriller novels. Yet, if you tried using it in a romance or a historical epic, then it would probably seem slightly out of place.

So, learning to look for design and appreciating how it can subtly shape the way your audience experiences your story can be really useful.

3) It makes you think about medium-specific stuff: Games are different to books. Books are different to games. Films are different to both, so are comics and music too. Every medium has things that it can do that all of the other mediums can’t.

Game design videos will often focus on the stuff games can do that nothing else can. And, although this isn’t directly relevant to writing, it helps you to think about all of the stuff that books can do that nothing else can.

For example, books can spend tens of pages focusing on the events of a single minute. Books can show what happens inside characters’ minds. Every reader will imagine the characters in a book slightly differently. I could go on for a while, but there’s loads of stuff that books can do that nothing else can. And seeing videos about the unique elements of other mediums can make you think “Well, they’re doing all of this stuff that I can’t do… what can I do that they can’t?”.

——————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th April 2019)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting is based on this photo I took of the church in Privett last May. This is a giant semi-disused church in the middle of a fairly remote area, which was apparently built by a Victorian gin distiller. The whole place has this wonderfully old and gothic atmosphere which is both eerily ominous and yet beautifully relaxing.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Privett – Church Tower” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Stargate SG-1” By Ashley McConnell (Novel)

Well, thanks to the hot weather at the time of preparing this review and being slightly busy, I’m still in the mood for some relaxing easy reading. So, I thought that I’d take the opportunity to check out Ashley McConnell’s 1998 novelisation of the pilot episode of “Stargate SG-1”.

This was a second-hand novel that I bought, along with a couple of other old “Stargate SG-1” novels, a month or two earlier – mostly since I was feeling nostalgic about binge-watching this show on DVD a few years earlier.

However, I only got round to reading one of these novels at the time and, since that novel didn’t impress me much, I ended up abandoning the other two. Still, since I needed some easy reading, I thought that I’d give another one a try.

So, let’s take a look at “Stargate SG-1”. Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS.

This is the 1999 Channel 4 Books (UK) paperback edition of “Stargate SG-1” that I read.

The story begins with a few American troops who are on guard duty in a military bunker. They’re guarding a room that contains nothing but a mysterious object covered in a tarpaulin. Due to the sheer boredom of the job, they’re passing the time by playing poker. However, in the middle of their game, the ground begins to rumble and the tarpaulin falls off of the object – revealing a giant, rippling portal.

Mysterious metallic serpent-headed figures emerge from the portal and begin to fire energy weapons at the troops. Although the troops prevent the intruders from advancing further into the base, one of them is kidnapped before the attackers retreat back into the portal.

A short time later, a US Air Force officer visits the house of a retired colonel called Jack O’Neill with orders to bring him to the base. Before his retirement, O’Neill had led a mission through the portal (or “Stargate”) in order to protect Earth from an alien invasion. So, it looks like his expertise will be needed once again…..

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it’s a really good memory jog if it’s been a while since you last watched the pilot episode of “Stargate SG-1”, since it is a fairly accurate adaptation of the episode. However, when seen on it’s own merits as a sci-fi novel (rather than a TV show adaptation), it’s a somewhat pulpy old-school sci-fi adventure/thriller novel.

However, if you’re expecting loads of extra stuff that wasn’t in the episode, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Still, given the time that it was written, this is fairly understandable. After all, the series was still fairly new when the novel was published. Although, if you’re a fan of the show, then all of the recaps (about the original “Stargate” film) and the story’s “mysterious” moments may seem mildly redundant. However, it’s still a fascinating glimpse into the days when this show was new.

One interesting aspect of this is that the novel’s initial description of O’Neill seems to possibly be based on Kurt Russell’s character (who has blond hair, if I remember rightly) in the original “Stargate” film, rather than Richard Dean Anderson’s interpretation of the character in “SG-1” (even so, the novel contains a reference to “MacGyver” – so, maybe not). Plus, the novel includes some earlier elements of the show that seemed to disappear in later episodes, such the temperature of anything or anyone travelling through a stargate being reduced due to molecular compression.

Even so, you probably won’t get too much more out of this novel than you would get from watching the episode it is based on. There are a few small extra background details and stuff like that but, for the most part, this is just a pretty standard/ordinary adaptation of the source material.

However, whilst the episode itself is fairly dramatic, the story can sometimes come across as cheesy or pulpy when converted to the written word (the novelisation’s brief reference to more sophisticated works of science fiction by Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov etc.. doesn’t exactly help the comparison either).

In terms of the writing, it’s reasonably ok. This novel’s third-person narration is written in a reasonably fast-paced, but descriptive, way that is fairly reminiscent of older thriller novels from the 1970s-80s. The narration is informal enough to be quickly-readable, whilst still being slightly more formal than the average modern action-thriller novel. Still, some elements of the writing do seem a little bit clunky, such as the fact that Teal’c is described almost every time that he appears or the fact that “Jaffa” is misspelled as “Jaafa” during an early part of the novel.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is excellent 🙂 Not only is it an efficient 202 pages in length but, thanks to the reasonably fast pacing, it probably won’t take you too much longer to read than it takes to watch the pilot episode of the show.

As for how this twenty-one year old novel has aged, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Thanks to the writing style, it can come across as being a little bit like an old pulp sci-fi novel (but, saying this, the nude scenes in the original version of the episode seem more understated in the novel – although this somehow makes the story seem even pulpier) or possibly a thriller novel from the 1970s-80s at times.

Plus, since the novel is fairly close to the source material, it mostly just comes across as being as old as the episode in question. Even so, it’s still reasonably gripping and is a good nostalgia piece for fans of the show.

All in all, this is a competent adaptation of the first episode of “Stargate SG-1”. It’s a great reminder of the episode and it doesn’t take too much longer to read than it takes to watch the episode. Yes, when transferred to a novel format, the story seems a bit more pulpy than it does on TV – but this is still a competent adaptation. However, if you’re looking for extra depth (like in the best film/TV/game novelisations) or stuff that you wouldn’t find in the episode, then you’re probably going to be slightly disappointed.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three and three-quarters.

Today’s Art (27th April 2019)

Well, today’s artwork is a quick digitally-edited drawing that is based on this photo I took of Massey’s Folly. Originally, this picture was just meant to be greyscale – but this version didn’t look great. So, I added colour digitally – although this gave the picture more of a stylised look, I quite like how it turned out 🙂

As usual, this drawing is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Massey’s Folly – Overgrown” By C. A. Brown