“Stranger Things 3” and Chekhov’s Gun

Television shows have come a long way since the late-1940s. Sitcoms and serials didn’t necessarily have the amount of world-building that we see today. Each week, the audience would get a single story that would resolve itself by the end of the episode. On rare occasions, there would be a two-part episode covering a larger plot, but it would always return to the status quo. In the early-2000s, TV shows started to become more movie-like. Shows like Alias and LOST would use the full run-time of each episode to advance the larger narrative of the story while also exploring smaller arcs to develop the characters. The trick with viewing a show released an episode at a time over a couple of months is that much of the details had to be memorized so the thread connecting them together would be understandable. This is why you’d usually see a “previously on [BLANK]” section at the start of these episodes to remind you...
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What video games can teach us about writing (3/3)

Over the last two months, I've written posts about how Breath of the Wild is an excellent example of how to do settings and how Shovel Knight reveals the depths of its characters through gameplay. While I'm sure the Breath of the Wild sequel will continue to advance its worldbuilding technique, and the final Shovel Knight DLC will give more insight into one of its boss characters, I'd like to spend this month discussing how Hollow Knight can provide writers with some clues on how to write effective foreshadowing, integrate ambiance into their settings, and provide steady and discernible character growth in their protagonists. Before we get into it, though, I feel a short explanation of the "Metroidvania" genre is in order. Hollow Knight is a platformer that abides by some of the basic tenets of games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (hence the genre of "Metroidvania"). There are two main aspects to a good Metroidvania: exploration and upgrades....
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What video games can teach us about writing (2/3)

Last month, I discussed how The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild could teach writers about world-building, travel time, and how to show (and not tell). Even if open-world games like Breath of the Wild can give the player any experience they want, there are still some weaknesses of the genre. It’s difficult to provide direction for a plot that can be experienced at any time and in any order. Older video games didn’t particularly have this problem due to their fairly linear format. Of course, there also wasn’t much in terms of a story either. While nostalgia can color our experiences with games like Mega Man and Super Mario Bros., one can find their influence on modern gaming in gems like Shovel Knight. With modern development tools, game companies can preserve the nostalgia of these older games while also advancing the “retro” style in exciting ways. What’s perhaps surprising about Shovel Knight is its ability to tell a story...
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What video games can teach us about writing (1/3)

Art inspires art. Sometimes a beautiful painting can give you an idea for a short story. Perhaps a beloved song is a jumping-off point for a novella. Maybe a great movie can get your creative juices flowing for a book of your own. Art can come in many forms, but one form most people don’t readily recognize is that of video games. I’ve already written about how games like Not Tetris describe my idea-collecting process, but recently I’ve played a few games I would consider artistic enough to pull some lessons into my own writing. Art inspires art. But, are video games art? Video games have come a long way from the days of Pong and Pac-Man. While these games were kept simple due to technical limitations, today’s video games no longer have these restrictions. I think one of the reasons why video games aren’t considered art is that most art is one-directional. You go to a museum to view paintings. You listen to music on your...
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When is a manuscript “good enough”?

Just like I was surprised to realize I had been journaling for ten years (now up to 12 years), I’ll be participating in my 10th National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November. It’s weird to think that I’ve written nine books with this challenge over the years, even to the point where I’ve used the experience I’ve gained in doing so to publish other books outside my self-imposed NaNoWriMo publishing cycle (like the Cinema Connections book slated for release this September). Back when I wrote First Name Basis, I was so excited CreateSpace offered me five free proof copies of my book just for finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge. I really wanted that physical copy of the book I had just spent six weeks writing, but I also knew it needed some polishing so I’d be proud of what I had created. I asked some friends to help beta read, and I took their notes and performed a number of edits before finally clicking that “submit”...
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How much should you write?

Writing is my hobby. It is not my full-time job. It is not paying to support my family. Sure, it can make some money on the side, but I generally write to be creative. I have stories and ideas that I want to get onto the page and out to the world. I started writing for fun in college, creating a series of intertwined short stories I wanted to collect into a novel-length book. Nothing ever truly came of these short stories, other than to convince me that they were possible. Then I wrote my first novel. I found it ironic that I didn’t pursue a thesis-based Master’s Degree, but ended up doing nine months of research to write a thesis-length book in roughly six weeks. This was the largest thing I had ever written. Unlike my previous short stories, though, a coupon to get five free proof copies of this book was the impetus I needed to edit and polish...
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2019 and Beyond

While December was a good time to look back on all that I accomplished in 2018, now that it's January, it's time to look forward to the future. I have a lot of plates spinning right now, and a lot of manuscripts still waiting for me to edit them. Fortunately, I have plenty of projects that are wrapping up in 2019. The Buried Colony 2017's NaNoWriMo novel, The Buried Colony (originally titled as Frozen Planet) has gone through three editing passes in 2018 in preparations for one of the most terrifying things I have yet to do with my writing: submitting a manuscript to an agent. That's right! I'm going to spend 2019 pitching this hard sci-fi story to agents in the hope that I can have it be traditionally published in 2020. Since The Martian has helped make hard sci-fi a more viable genre in recent years, I hope that my exploration of how to potentially send humans outside the solar system is met...
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2018 Year in Review

It's incredible to think that 2018 is almost over. This year, completed quite a few projects and started many more. In case you've missed some of these announcements, this post is a handy recap of all the content that I released in 2018. So, without further ado, here's the . . . 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW Fourteener Father While 2017 saw the re-release of my first three books in the form of the 2nd Editions of The Fluxion Trilogy, this year I released my fourth book, Fourteener Father: a memoir of life above 14,000 ft. Here's an unboxing video for the paperback and hardcover versions: This book was a labor of love and the first non-fiction book I've written. Over the last 20+ years, my father and I climbed all of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, and I wanted to share that experience and journey with everyone. I released this book on Father's Day of this year and have been getting pretty good reviews on it on Amazon. It's...
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An Engineer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo (or how I grew from a newbie to a veteran)

This post was originally written for the NaNoWriMo blog. You can check it out here (it's been slightly modified, but the content's basically the same). I’m an engineer. While most of my colleagues use this as an excuse to keep themselves from writing anything, I argue it’s the reason they need to be the best writers. The concepts engineers can create in their minds still need to be communicated to the world. Concepts never imagined before. Similarly, how many writers are out there with an idea nobody has ever read, just waiting to get it onto the page? As an engineer, I have a particular set of skills—some would say “quirks”—that have helped me over the last eight years of NaNoWriMo grow from just barely finishing to writing rapidly and voluminously. Most engineers are known for their problem-solving skills, and NaNoWriMo presents an interesting problem: how do I write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days? Like most problems, I resort...
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