Author Archives: John

Moving…

Hello folks

You will possibly have noticed I haven’t posted in a while.

Well, a lot has happened and a few things became clear to me.  I started Fantastic Tales & Adventures as a way to incorporate my passion for writiting, storytelling and my hobby of gaming all in one place.  To build a brand, as it were.  I would have my youtube videos providing support, I’d have novel updates and I’d do some other stuff around hobbies.

I came to a couple of conclusions.  The brand I was creating was too mixed, and without time (Which I was struggling with), it would be too weak.  And that making youtube videos as regularly as I was was too time consuming at this stage.

I have spent some time with some experts, and I am in the process of getting a proofreading/editing business off the ground to support my writing.  But I really needed a website just for that.  It could have guest blogs, but it really needed to be a professional place.

So, http://www.sharp-writing.com was born.  It is still under construction, but it is where I will be moving my creative writing tips and whatnot.

However, I didn’t want to lose out on blogging about things I cared about, so I set up a personal blog called http://www.itsmorethanjustgaming.com, where I will be posting gaming, geeky and even some of my novel procrastinations.  www.fantastic-tales.com will cease to be active as a domain.  However, my fantastic tales & adventures facebook and Twitter are still being used as my social media platforms for my other sites.  I can reconcile having two sites for two purposes posting under the banner of Fantastic Tales & Adventures.

Thanks for reading my blogs.  I hope I will see you at my other blogs

http://www.sharp-writing.com for proofreading and writing support

http://www.itsmorethanjustgaming.com for all your geeky needs

all the best

John

Storytime – The Crumb Correspondence – New Video Upload

Hello everyone

a few years back, when I was at University I had reason to study story structure and the interplay between reader and plot (more on that in a future video).  This proved to be beneficial when I read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon (available HERE)

haddon

(Don’t click – it is already embedded in this post)

I realised that the main character, Christopher, was in my mind a faithful but unreliable narrator.  By that I mean, he reports things as he saw them, but disregarded stuff he didn’t deem worthy, and really struggled to contextualize anything.  In fact there were many fine debates between my classmates and myself about his reliability.  But I digress.

From a structural point of view, I found this to be an interesting idea.  Someone who sees things, but doesn’t get what is going on.  This was something I wanted to experiment with, and as fortune would have it, I had the perfect character sitting on a page of my notebook waiting for just such an opportunity.  So, I give you, the Crumb Correspondence.  By me.

 

I hope you enjoyed that!  I certainly think it is one of my lighter pieces.

All the best

Happy Writing!

John

Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and you can crowdfund my youtube channel on Patreon

 

Setting – New Video Upload

Hello Everyone

I have recently uploaded a video discussing the use of setting when writing fiction.

Have a watch to see what my thoughts are, and let me know if you have differing opinions, as I would really like to hear them!

 

Hope that was helpful.

All the best

Happy Writing

John

 

Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and you can crowdfund my youtube channel on Patreon

Monthly Roundup – Youtube, Witches and Moon themed Vigilantes

Hi Everyone, just thought I would do a bit of a blog about some of the stuff I have been doing this week.  No video this time round, as it has been incredibly hectic and the recordings I did for the video didn’t work and schedule was too busy to re-record at this time.

So, much of this month has been recording videos for the Youtube Channel, with the rationale being that I get stuff done in advance and I can get a fairly solid burst of writing done without having to worry about it (and as I discovered, the videos are time intensive despite being short).  So far, aside from this post, I have videos ready to go for the rest of November, and I will shortly be recording December.

I’ve also spent time on my Patreon Account, creating a channel trailer for it and have started looking at rewards for supporters.  This week I will be in talks with my University about doing audio novellas recorded professionally that will be available to patrons.  You can view my Patreon page HERE.

When not working on videos, I have been creating background for my novel.  It is a fantasy setting that has been knocking around in my head for a long time, in fact I wrote a lot of it years ago.  Of course, I wasn’t a particularly good writer back then, and certain ideas I had just weren’t good enough.  So, I am going through what I wrote and incorporating what I can into the background, dropping what I need to and modifying the rest so that it works.  This project has also provided backstory for a lot of the deities in the world I have created.

Of course, focusing on background is a bit dry (though necessary), so I have been looking at character back stories.  In that respect, I realised that I was doing myself and potential readers a disservice with some of my characters, after producing my video on character creation [which you can view HERE].  It occurred to me that whilst I was touching on much of what I was talking about in the video with my character creation process, I was not going deep enough.  And as a result, character personalities were not coming out strongly enough.  So, I took a new character that I had come up with, and then ran through the process I had discussed in the video.  It took a bit longer, as you might expect.  But I got a much stronger sense of who I was writing.  Every day is a school day for a writer, when you get right down to it.

resized_20161101_093700

Over the last month, I have been reading Wit’ch Fire and Wit’ch Storm by James Clemens.  They are the first two books in a fantasy series called “The Banned and the Banished”.  I read them years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed them and decided to read them again.  They are high fantasy, in a world where magic is real, though manifests very differently for different types of people.  For Mages, and Witches, it is blood magic, whereas there are also elementals that have gifts more akin to  X-Men style mutations (Though some of the darker elementals are quite horrific).  I am quite enjoying the story again, as it is entertaining, not too deep but not dumbed down either.  It is a quest narrative, like many great fantasies of the Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons type.  And by that I mean a party of people with different skillsets and mystical powers coming together to go to a place to achieve a thing.  It is the plot of the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Most David Eddings books and the Banned and the Banished.  It is a formula that works.  What I find quite interesting is that in the first two books, the main character, Elena, only really does one or two things in the entire story.  There is a lot happening in a very short space of time, but only a couple of adversaries are defeated or a  couple of challenges overcome.  I quite like that the objective in the first book is basically on their doorstep, and the quest is actually quite short geographically but a lot still manages to happen, and it doesn’t feel rushed.  I also like that each book has one or two forewords from future historians etc set in the same world passing judgement of the text, framing the narrative and giving you an idea about the world that comes after the story.  I won’t say any more, other than you could do a lot worse than get the 5 books in the series and read them.

 

This month, after two and a bit years of gaming, some friends of mine and I finally got to the end of a long Marvel Heroic Campaign.  Marvel Heroic is a roleplay game based on the marvel universe, sadly no longer in print.  We started a joint storytelling adventure approx. two years ago, and finally concluded the story.  We were all playing slightly skewed or non-standard versions of Marvel Heroes.  So, our Spider-Man was 16 years old for the entire campaign, our Clint Barton started as the current Captain America, and my Moon Knight had been abandoned by his god, lost his fortune and was working security for Tony Stark wearing an old Iron Man armour.

avengers-assemble

Drawn by Barry Martin – Our first heroic entry as a team, this happened just after the halfway point in the story.

 

Our story was a rough one in the beginning, particularly mine, as the character Moon Knight is not a likeable person, and in this campaign, was bitter at losing the stuff that made him special.  For those of you that are less familiar with role-play games, properly done they are a shared storytelling experience.  One person writes the overall story and the other players interact with things as they believe their character wood.  So, for instance, one of the best scenes early on for Moon Knight was a complete emotional breakdown in the middle of a fight, where nothing was going right for him.  The first few games were about him feeling abandoned by his god, and trying to continue being who he was after a loss, but by changing who he was to be able to do what he used to do.  He was a deeply messed up character, who actually wasn’t effective for quite some time.  Until he evolved.  After a few months play, he got an upgrade on the armour and became effective, and his story became “Who am I?”  By the halfway point, he had found a connection to his god (Khonshu) and rejected the power armour in favour of becoming a holy warrior of Khonshu.  The turning point for him was a battle between him and Doctor Octopus where he shed his armour like a skin, his faith restored, and terrifies Doc Oc into submission with new found conviction and confidence.

The campaign we played was a lot of fun, but for me, the most compelling part of playing the character was his voyage of discovery, picking up his broken life, putting it back together and and answering the character, “Are you the next Iron Man, or are you Moon Knight?”  I guess the point here is that, whilst by the end of the story Moon Knight actually became the god Khonshu, he was anything but to begin with.  Whilst there was a cosmic villain doing great evil, the best part of the story for me was the character developing.  And that is something that writers can take away an learn.  Some people write fan fiction, and some folk read it.  Some of it is good, some of it not so good.  And one of the flaws of a bad fan fiction or that of an inexperienced writer is the “Mary-Sue” character.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, and I was too a couple years back, a Mary-Sue is a character that is writer wish-fulfillment, has no perceptible flaws and is often overpowered.  It is a trap some writers fall into that they write their protagonist this way.  This is a mistake.  First off, no one is perfect.  Secondly, even if they are perfect, what is their story?  Surely it is much more interesting to know how they got there?

All I know, it took my Moon Knight several breakdowns, being beaten to within an inch of his life several times, a lecture from a 16 year old kid, a trip down a dark road with a demon (Called Hollywood, believe it or not) and two years of discovery before he finally found his destiny.  And it was a damn good journey.

That’s all from me for just now.  I have to go prep for a grad fair, and write some stuff!

Happy writing!

John

Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and you can crowdfund my youtube channel on Patreon

Creating Characters – New Video Upload

Hi folks

Today’s video upload is a brief overview about creating characters for your stories.  I hope you find it helpful.

 

I referred to a couple of useful books in this video.  They are available from various stockists, however here are the links to where I got them from.

Creative Writing by Linda Anderson HERE

Mythic Structure by Christopher Vogler HERE

Since I only cover the basics, if you are interested in learning more, they are a good place to start.

All the best

Happy Writing

John

 

Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and you can crowdfund my youtube channel on Patreon

Storytelling as a Life Skill – Start at the end

 

It is my observation that there is a spectrum of how to writers create, and by that, I mean that different writers have different styles when writing stories.  Some need to plan things out to the Nth degree, and others are happy to just start writing and see what happens, and some folks like me are somewhere in between.  That is why I say spectrum.  I don’t believe that just the extreme ends exist, there are intervals in between where many of us fall.  And today I wanted to talk about the planning part.

 

Over the years I have written many short stories and started novels, though in the past I was never quite able to finish them.  I had all these ideas, but I could never quite figure out how to pull the strands together and make them do what I wanted them to do.  It always felt that I was forcing plot, contriving scenes just to get from A to B to Z (By way of the rest of the alphabet, of course).

Then, one morning, it hit me.  If I wanted to plan, then I was going about it the wrong way.  It is much easier to have that perfect ending, if you start with the perfect ending and work your way backwards through the events necessary to make it happen.  I don’t necessarily mean write your finale in its entirety, and then write the penultimate chapter and so on.  I suspect that would be challenging for the most skilled writer.  But if you plan, using software or a noticeboard (like I do), then you are well advised to start with the finished product, and work your way back through the necessary building blocks that make it possible.

 

This is also a useful skill for life.  Next month I am attending the National Graduate Creative Writing Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University, to start getting myself out there as it were, meeting agents, publishers and writers and so on.  And I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I had a business card to hand out?”

 

So, off to Vistaprint I trotted, and started designing my new awesome business card.    I have no doubt I will be on their direct mail list for about ten years now.  I was designing the card, when I noticed that they had the facility to add QR codes.  For anyone that doesn’t know, a QR code is basically a digital bar code thingy that smart phones (With the appropriate app) and other devices can read.  And these codes could tell these devices to look at a website or go to an app or something.

They look like this

qr-code-channel-trailer

 

I thought, what a great idea!  I can put a QR code on the back of my card, give it out to people and suddenly I’ll be famous and connected!  Ok, maybe not famous or connected, but it would look professional.  Then I thought, I know nothing about QR codes or how to get them.

I googled it, and it turns out it is easy to get free qr codes online.  All you do is visit a website, and tell it where you want the code to point at, and you are good to go.  I used this WEBSITE

 

So, I had learned how to get QR codes – I was ready to go back and complete my card.  Except I wasn’t.  It needed something to point at.  I could make it point at this website, but since in the final design the web address was printed on the front, that made no sense.  What about my youtube channel?  Great idea.  I have that channel trailer I made when I started the channel, it links to the first tutorial video.  It would be appropriate.  Except I made that video about 2 months ago before I got better at video editing.  It does the job, but I can definitely do better.  I needed a new channel trailer.  So, I needed to research how to make a video into a channel trailer, and then make one.  Which meant scripting one.  As it happens, Youtube help pages are quite informative so it took only a minute to learn how to turn a video into a trailer.  And once that was done, I just needed to script the trailer video, and then compile it.

 

I’m going to summarise

 

I wanted a business card with a QR code

I learned how to do QR codes

I needed a youtube channel trailer for the code to point to, so I learned how to do that

I scripted the trailer video and recorded it.

I uploaded it and made it into a trailer.  You can see it HERE

I made the qr code

I designed my business card

 

I knew what I wanted for my end product, in this case, a business card with a QR code.  So I worked backwards learning all the things I needed to learn and doing all the things I needed to do to achieve that end.  This is what it looks like, incidentally.

 

business-card

 

This is how to plan projects, and it helps if you are a novel planner.  If you have a finale in mind where your evil wizard is confronted by the hero, and their allies in a specific location, you need to give them a reason to be in that location.  If the hero is experiencing a specific emotion, or has some mystical weapon that will allow them to triumph, you need to give them a reason to feel that way or have that weapon.

To know where to start, sometimes the best place to start is at the finish line.

John

Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and you can crowdfund my youtube channel on Patreon

 

 

Storytime – Thrown to Wolves – New Video Uploaded

Hi everyone

I hope you are well this week?  Today, I am showcasing a story I wrote a few years back when I was working out the backstory of one of my characters.  If you are interested in being a writer, hold onto that thought  as I touch on it in my character creation video, due for release soon.

In the meantime, enjoy Thrown to Wolves

 

I hope you enjoyed that, and that it gave you some food for thought!

All the best, and happy writing to you!

John

Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and you can crowdfund this channel on Patreon