Writer’s Confessional Part Six

This past month has been a writing bonanza. I’ve written my own obituary, started my About Me biography for WjK ARTiSAN DESiGNS, and have also focused on the anthology project for the Deadwood Writers Group. It’s been an interesting thirty-one days.

I’ve been concentrating primarily on my top five strengths through the class I am taking with Jo Self at Jo Self Consulting. It’s a strengths-branding course (she differentiates for each person’s needs). For my individualized consultation we’ve concentrated on my solopreneurship to dig through my top five strengths—Responsibility, Harmony, Discipline, Consistency, Maximizer–and beyond, which are the result of a specifically designed questionnaire at CliftonStrengths 34 online. It’s been enlightening.

Writing my obituary was a fascinating exercise. What would you want someone to say about you at your funeral? Or, if not an obituary, how about a speech at your 90th birthday celebration? It is a lesson everyone should try. It forced me to look at the accomplishments in my life. What should my life look like as I move forward? Did I reach for things I wanted? Did I set on a path to success? It was an emotional read. When I got to the end, reading it aloud to the participants on the conference call, I had to stop to control my tears because of the hope I have that I will have helped my girls turn into great women. The exercise also allowed me to see what needs to be done to reach the goals I’ve set for myself in my professional life.

During the second section of the course Kirsten Back, The Word Distiller, helps with branding our businesses. She wants us to emotionally connect with our customers. That, in turn, will help customers justify their return or pass on the word about our businesses. There’s some more work to be done with Kirsten, but I’ve got a good start to my About Me page. Now, I need to add the nuances of my top five strengths into what I’ve already written.

And to wrap things up, I’ve asked a lot of what if questions regarding where I want my characters to go in the Anthology for the Deadwood Writer’s Group. The ‘What if’s’ stem from a book I discovered by K. M. Weiland, called Outlining your Novel, Map Your Way to Success. The idea is to take your story in a direction that the reader doesn’t expect, so I asked myself the ‘What If’ questions to understand the premise goals.  This exercise led me to some interesting ideas about the characters and how they’ll interact with the main prop, the coin of Caligula. It must be a part of everyone’s story for those participating in the anthology. It was a fun bit of writing and hopefully, I have a solid foundation to move the arc in the direction I want the story to conclude, with a happily ever after.

First Impressions of Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Warning: There are spoilers in this article.

In spite of the fact that Life is Strange: Before the Storm was released in August of 2017, it took me almost a year to get through the game in its entirety. I played a bit of it in November, then essentially let it sit on a shelf before getting back to and finishing it in June. I can’t say why I procrastinated so much, but the game was quite the experience when I finally got around to it.

I was delighted to dive back into the world of Arcadia Bay and see younger versions of the characters I’d fallen in love with in the first Life is Strange game. And it was nice to finally get introduced to Rachel Amber, the murder victim I was disappointed didn’t get any screen time in a game that included a character with time travel powers.

The central figure of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is Chloe, the angry-at-the-world punk with a heart of gold I found so endearing in the first game. Chloe is at a point in her life where she is still coping with the loss of her father, the childhood friend, Max, she was so close with has stopped writing, and she sees her mom’s new boyfriend as an intruder in both their lives.

Rachel comes into Chloe’s life at a point when the latter really needs a friend to carry her through a dark period. What makes their budding friendship so intriguing is that Chloe and Rachel are polar opposites – or at least that’s how it seems to be at the start of the game. Right off the bat, Rachel is perceived as a straight-laced honor student whose life must be perfect since she comes from a loving household and her father is the D.A. But her association with Chloe as the game progresses reveals that Rachel has a dark side.

Though I was glad to delve into a story revolving around Chloe and Rachel, it was also tragic to see them dream of a future they’d both ultimately be denied. While it’s nice to see them find some degree of happiness by the end of Life of Strange: Before the Storm, such a thing is marred by the knowledge that their lives are cut short with the next chronological game in the series.

The story is also a bit soured by the knowledge that Rachel will have broken all of her promises to Chloe by the time of her demise. I would have liked to see a bit more of their story to get a sense of what led to this betrayal.

On the contrary, one of the things I like best about Before the Storm is that it looks to have multiple endings. It is a game that I can see myself playing through at least half a dozen times to see the various conclusions.

The game also has a side story revolving around Max after she and her family have moved away from Arcadia Bay. I have yet to delve into this part of Before the Storm. But it is a storyline I will explore in the coming days.

I know there is a Life is Strange 2 in production that will feature a completely new story, location, and set of characters. It was nice that the characters of the original game were given a bit of a send-off, and I hope that those introduced in the sequel will be equally as likable and endearing.

This is Us

Watching the previews of coming television series helps me decide which shows might hold my interest. I dislike wasting my time on stories with predictable plots, comedies that aren’t funny, and unreal reality shows. The previews of one show, “This Is Us,” caught my attention because the story promised a multi-generational, multi-cultural drama. I decided to view the first episode, and I was an instant fan.

 

NBC’s popular drama, “This Is Us,” which premiered in September 2016, recently filmed episodes for their final season. The series depicts the lives of a Caucasian couple and their three children, one adopted African American male, all born on the same day as the father’s 30th birthday. The family experiences emotional struggles, personal challenges, and immense losses as well as delightful moments.

 

Rarely do writers successfully tell stories intermingling the past, present, and future of the characters’ lives during the same episode. I watched each installment of the series twice and discovered something new each time. Insignificant moments in one episode revealed defining moments in another.

 

Often fans of the series would meet the next day to discuss the story and the impact on their lives. If you enjoy excellent storytelling, “This Is Us,” is a must see. It will be sad to see this exceptional show end.

 

What television series have made an impact on you?

 

Writer’s Confessional Part Five

It’s said that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you’re gifted with eloquence. Or, if I tell it like most people have heard it, the gift of gab. Well, I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone. Too many lips on the same surface for my taste. But, what I won’t bullshit you about is as soon as I saw the green of Ireland I fell in love. I already felt a pull toward the land of Skellig Island off Portmagee, which is southwest of Dublin, also the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren’s. Setting foot on the earth where God granted a little more green than other places, the magic of the island was captivating. Larger modern cities like Dublin, Cork, or Killarney, they have their own mystique, their own magic in music, the people, the pastel-painted architecture, the history, the beer. Take away those larger cities and I’m left with nature so beautiful it’s overwhelming. So much history, blood, and struggle poured out into the land I can’t possibly fathom what life was like a thousand years ago or beyond. It was inspiring, as an artist, a writer, as a person with Irish blood.

I took my sketchbook with me but didn’t pull it out, surprising myself, since everything there is a sketch study. I took as many photos as I could though, a lot of the flavor of Ireland waiting to be written or drawn.
One thing that caught my writer’s mind was the concept of the fairy myth and folklore. I didn’t see it marketed anywhere. As an American you can go to any craft store and find ceramic garden fairy’s, fairy doors, mushrooms to go with the fairy’s, etc. I found it odd, but satisfying that they didn’t market the fairy myths or the idea of leprechauns for the touristy crowd throughout most of the country. There was a particular store, but it was done in a commercial way rather than done by craftsmen or artisans.
But what are your thoughts on Irish myths and folklore? Conjure your concept of a leprechaun in your mind. Some might consider a character from a movie wearing green pants and coat with scary bright orange hair, a sinister angry face, or maybe something from a children’s book a little softer, more inviting with a rainbow and a pot of gold. In my mind, it’s a bit of both. I did see something that caused me to think of just those kind of stories, though.

We landed on Irish soil during the sunniest week Ireland will ever see this year (I actually got a sunburn). As we enjoyed the shade in Cork’s shopping district I noticed a man that looked a little separate from everyone else, like he was floating through the brick and mortar landscape of shops and the modern world. He was about my height, five feet nine inches tall, squarer in the shoulders, dramatically so. The man’s hair was not the stark orange-red that most people think of when they think Irish heritage, but it was a deep rusty red, a windswept mess. His clothes were bland in color, plaid shirt, and twill pants, hanging off him like they didn’t belong. As we passed him a shiver danced across my skin because his stare in his craggily and pitted face was blank almost as if he was looking off somewhere that no one could see. I asked myself if he was seeing something other than the fast-bustling pedestrians needing to get their tourist trap purchases back to their hotel rooms before they went off to the next pub to have a pint or if he was so displaced in time lost to all the people around him. It scared me a bit, his blank stare, his ghostly demeanor. But I brushed it off and continued to wander through Cork with my hubby. But I couldn’t get the man out of mind so when I saw another person that was so similar in features, a smaller frame, feminine this time, I started to pay more attention and this new set of characters came to life in my head. It was exciting.

There were other instances where this happened too. A dilapidated house in the middle of a flourishing neighborhood outside of Dublin, the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, with its jewelry made by Vikings, or the sheep and cows littering the landscape disappearing into the rocky green hills, or the castles that would pop up just around the bend on the narrow road. It was a compelling and fantastical place.
So, as a writer what am I trying to tell myself? What did I learn while I was on the green island? I would say that I need to go outside more, wander a bit, even if it’s to a city or park I’ve been to several times. Pay attention to what surrounds me and stop being so apathetic to my city, towns and parks nearby. Do a little digging into the history of the places and I might just find a story somewhere left in the cracks of time.

Video Games I Really Don’t Like

I am selective when it comes to games I play as I’ve stated in a previous blogpost. That doesn’t stop me from giving a certain title a chance. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy whatever game I decide to delve into. But there is the occasional title that doesn’t hold my interest and is permanently shelved after so long.

Below is my list of ten video games that didn’t make the grade.

1) SimCity 2013 – I have long been a fan of simulation games made by Maxis and have gotten hours of enjoyment from such titles as Sim Theme Park, SimTower, and The Sims. I went into 2013’s SimCity with high expectations, only to be sorely disappointed within a few days. My main dislike is that the game cannot be played solo – at least not easily. SimCity 2013 is an online multiplayer game that forces you to rely on other players around the globe for aid. Any attempt to build all the necessary structures to get your city thriving, such as housing, businesses, and power plants, is a lot more difficult on your own. I may have been able to accomplish this as a single player, but the game didn’t intrigue me enough to want to find out if I could.

2) Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City – I am a huge fan of the Resident Evil game series. But as with all franchises that have multiple titles to their name, there is certain to be one or two bad apples in the bunch. For me, that was Operation Raccoon City – and not just because it explored a what-if scenario that took place in the early days of the series and gave you the option to kill series veterans Leon and Claire before their stories even really got started. Like SimCity 2013, Operation Raccoon City is a game that isn’t meant to be played solo. For each mission, you can select one of six characters with a unique skillset. In the event that you don’t have any buddies playing as one of the other characters accompanying you on this mission, your teammates are instead controlled by an A.I. that isn’t the least bit helpful when it counts. What I hate most about Operation Raccoon City is that the toughest monsters will only focus on a player-controlled character. If you’re playing solo, you will inevitably get rushed by a powerful creature you have very little chance of surviving against at the end of some missions.

3) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – The Transformers live action film series isn’t exactly stellar. Even more so when it comes to the video games. Revenge of the Fallen is one game title that I wish I hadn’t wasted my money on. Aside from running in circles on most levels to complete your objective, the controls are needlessly complicated when it comes to combat. The first Transformers game allowed you to switch from robot to vehicle and back with the push of a button. Revenge of the Fallen made you hold down one button to stay in vehicle mode, hold down another to drive or fly, use the mouse to steer, use a third button to lock onto a target, and press a fourth one to fire. This necessity really got annoying very quickly.

4) Battle CatsBattle Cats is a title that I inadvertently got into when I purchased an Android device specifically for a chance to play Plants vs. Zombies 2. Even if the device hadn’t broken down in less than a year with the loss of all my game data, I still would have come to see Battle Cats as a piece of garbage. It has a simple enough premise where you select cats with varying abilities and strengths to combat an army comprised of a variety of creatures and take out their base. Battle Cats is free to download, but I believe you have to throw a lot of money at it if you want to have the best units at your disposal. Otherwise, you have no hope of beating the later levels.

Note: I last played Battle Cats three to four years ago, and current YouTube videos I’ve watched show that some improvements have made the game less of a cash grab.

5) EverQuestEverQuest is an online multiplayer game I only started playing because a guy I was dating was very much into it. I was given a copy of the base game and all its expansions to install on my computer, but I never found it that engaging. After the breakup, my interest waned to the point that I just uninstalled the games and never looked back. You would think that a fantasy role-playing game with hundreds of monsters to fight would be right up my alley, but EverQuest was simply too boring for me.

6) Command & Conquer – I’ve stated in a previous blogpost that I am a huge fan of the Command & Conquer franchise. My love of the series got me to buy a collector’s edition that included every title in the franchise. When it comes to the very first game, I have to say it’s not that great. The maps are too small and you don’t get very many units to work with for each mission. On some levels, I kept losing all of my soldiers and was unable to complete the objective. On others, I would explore the entire map without finding the means to advance. I don’t know if I was missing something obvious or if the game was just bugged, but after a while, I permanently shelved the first Command & Conquer.

7) Fallout 1 & 2 – The Fallout franchise is something I got into after seeing gameplay footage of the third game. It is also a series where the first two games are a radical departure from their role-playing, 3-D open world successors. I tried giving Fallout 1 & 2 a shot, but there was something about the 2D turn-based gameplay that I didn’t find engaging enough to stick with.

8) Title I can’t remember – In general, I have a very good memory, but there is one poorly-made video game I’ve played whose title I can’t remember. What I do recall is that it was a single player game influenced by Norse mythology and which alternated between village building and combat. This particular title kicked off with the lead character having a vision of battling a fearsome-looking dragon alongside three other combatants. What irritated me the most about the game was the combat missions. Of the four fighters you have at your disposal, three are good at close combat while the fourth – an archer – can only attack from a distance. Every single time the archer got rushed by the creatures I was fighting, she would refuse to back up so she could keep dealing damage.

9) Lost Planet 3 – The Lost Planet series is one I’ve never played but had always been interested in checking out. I have no clue how the third game compares to the rest of the series. But Lost Planet 3’s story wasn’t engaging enough to make me want to play the game all the way through to the end. I don’t know what I expected, but it felt like the plot was taking too long to get going. After almost thirty minutes of very little happening, I abandoned the game in favor of something more exciting. Maybe someday, I’ll actually dive back into it, but it’s earned a spot on the shelf for now.

10) Ahriman’s ProphecyAhriman’s Prophecy is a prequel to a fantasy adventure series called Aveyond that I’ve become a huge fan of. The prequel is also a title that differs from its successors. Instead of featuring turn-based gameplay like every other game in the series, Ahriman’s Prophecy features real-time combat. You really have to act quickly to take out the enemy units before they kill you. I wasn’t always successful at winning a fight. Eventually, I just gave up trying.

One of the things I like about the video game market is that there is no shortage of titles to pick from. Unfortunately, this means that there will be games that may look or sound good but ultimately fall flat for the player.

I hope you all enjoyed this list of video games I dislike. If you would like to tell of games you personally didn’t enjoy or simply comment on one of the titles listed here, please leave feedback below.