Why you won’t see the UKTV RPG Channel any time soon…

26 06 2008

The genius Lore Sjöberg has a piece on Wired about why exactly Cookery and Roleplaying books are so similar, and yet the cultures are so different.

Pop over and give it a read.


One Way!

24 06 2008

Those crazy Buddhists! They know!

One Way

Ginkakuji gardens, Kyoto, May 2008.

I had a lovely email from Colin Baker today.

20 06 2008

Yes, this Colin Baker:

There was some kerfuffle a couple of weeks ago regarding a podcast which shall remain nameless spreading bogus claims that “THE Colin Baker” was endorsing their shoddy product. You can find a potted history of the furore here.

Well, it was only polite to let Mr. Baker know that his name was being used in vain, and here is his response (name of offending podcast is blotted out to protect your brains):

Dear Trudi
My agent forwarded to me your email in connection with the nasty little ‘**************’ website
First of all thank you for alerting me to it.
I don’t want to contact them directly to tell them to stop it because, frankly I don’t know how to do so without giving them my contact details and as I have already been taken for a mug by them once (when I recorded the message about the “Twin Dilemma” for a fan at a Convention having been told it was for a couple of Dr Who fans who were twins!) –  I don’t want to give them more fodder.
The sad things is that from now on I will have to refuse to record things for fans in case they are dregs like these two.
Anyway I am not sure whether you have the opportunity to convey to the world at large that I have never been asked by these two idiots to approve their website and I would never have any connection with something so unpleasant, vulgar and offensive.
I have put a statement on my website http://www.freewebs.com/colinbaker/latestnews.htm making it clear that I have nothing to do with it and will ask the Drwhoonline guys to do the same.
Please feel free to do so on your website if you would like to.
Again thank you for your consideration in informing me.  Otherwise I may never have known about them.
Best wishes

Colin Baker

What’s unfortunate is that thanks to the constant lying of the podcasters involved, Mr. Baker feels that he can no longer record such messages when actual fans ask it of him, just in case this happens again.
On a more positive note, however, hard work is being undertaken to elvate Mr. Baker to Hoff-like status, so perhaps some good will come of this after all…

It begins!

20 06 2008

But it’s top secret, so I can’t tell you anything about it.

Pain in the arse, really 😀

Humdrumming Gets Œstrogen Injection

15 06 2008

Yes, here’s that news I was telling you about earlier in the week (oh, all right, last Monday). As lifted from Humdrumming’s website:

We are pleased to announce the addition of a bouncing girl to the family! No longer will the hallowed halls of Humdrumming be exclusively the domain of dead-butch, testosterone-oozing manly men! No no! Now we’ve got a bit of skirt around here, and not because it’s one of our ‘theme nights’ either!

Trudi Topham is the self-proclaimed ’shipping monkey’ for Humdrumming, with practical tasks such as insertion of books into boxes of the mailing variety beginning with the up-coming release of Gary McMahon’s novel Rain Dogs.

“Goodness me,” you cry loudly, “that’s a familiar name to my ears; from whence cometh this intellectually staggering Amazonian help-meet?”

Trudi Topham has been frittering away her time with travel and art and, as a side-effect, hasn’t led anywhere near as interesting-sounding a life as the other Humdrummingers. She may occasionally let slip that she spent thirteen years in i.t. to fund her travel addiction, but for the most part she fobs off attempts to pin down what exactly she’s been up to since 1974.

We suspect that she has a secret lair in the Swiss Alps.

As someone who’s aspired to being a writer since childhood, Trudi’s aversion tactics have evolved to the point where she now edits two magazines (Pantechnicon and Hub), provides oft-ignored editorial advice on her blog, and pops out a bit of fiction now and again while nobody’s looking.

She is currently working on her first novel.

Visit Troo’s site: www.troodler.co.uk

Write a Doctor Who novel in six months.

14 06 2008

The lovely Lance Parkin has a challenge for you. Yes, you. Click here for the full details.

Actually, Lance’s The Eyeless blog is going to be extremely helpful for all you people looking to be writers. How do I know this? Because I do. I know these things.

The challenge is deceptively simple. You want to be a professional writer? Come on, then. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

Will I be following Lance’s challenge? No. Because I don’t have the time to write a 55,000 word Doctor Who novel for fun. But I will be following the blog, because I have a novel underway, and if I can hit the finish line by the deadline (Boxing Day) then I’ll be sorted.

So for me this is more of a “pull up your bootstraps, stop fucking around with computer games, and get back to writing” clarion call. But for you? Make it whatever you want it to be. Write that Doctor Who novel, or maybe just write something of your own.

Go on. Do it.

How to create great characters.

13 06 2008

You should know as much about your characters as they would know about themselves. Oh, sure, you don’t need that level of depth for a short story (although it’d help, if you’re really struggling), but for anything longer than 10,000 words you’d better have a really good idea of who they are, what events shaped them, how their past informs their outlook on life, and why they want whatever it is they’re after.

Two-dimensional characters often come about from an outline such as this:

David was born in 1965. He discovered he was a wizard at the age of 13, and since then has been studying really hard. He is now a really powerful wizard. He lives in San Francisco.

What? Is that it? David’s whole life revolves around him being a wizard? Has he no family, friends, rivals, enemies, pets, favourite foods, lovers, overdue books at the library, or any other influence which could turn him from a dull set of facts into a living, breathing person?

Here’s the thing. You might be writing about a powerful wizard living in San Francisco, but he’s also a human being. Well, he is for the purposes of this example. Here’s a shortish checklist of things a human being generally knows about himself:

Birthdate of himself, his parents, his siblings, long-term partners and friends.

The schools he attended.

What pets he or his friends / family had.

How popular he was at school, and whether or not he’s still in touch with school friends.

His employment history.

When and where he met his best friends and / or lovers.

Their names (usually, although it speaks volumes about a character who can’t list his lovers).

What he likes and dislikes (from food and drink, through to holiday locations, political viewpoints, and “certain kinds of people”).

Date of death of anyone important (a parent, a sibling, a best friend).


And that’s just your basic starting point for a human being. If your character is from another race, he’ll know just as much about himself, just with facts pertinent to his race’s culture – he may not know what “school” is, but his race might follow a rigid path of indentured servitude or military service, about which he’d know just as much as a human does about their school days.

And I’ll step in now, Mr. Clever Clogs: If your character is an amnesiac, you still need to know these things.

Then you layer in what makes your character stand out from the crowd. What makes him the hero, the antagonist, the ally, or the Tin Dog? What makes him get his arse off the sofa / rock / grassy knoll and get involved in a story? All this should come from the world you’ve built to set your story in (you did do that bit, right?): If your world is contemporary London with Vampires, did a Vampire kill his sister? If your world is a distant planet with spleen-sucking aliens, did he witness a spleen being sucked and get so terrified that he’s acting purely in self-defence? Has he been living a dual life, or has this taken over his life? Is he in contact with his world, or has he been removed (or removed himself) from it?

Since stepping off the path of dull, normal life, who has he met? Has anyone taught him what he now knows? Has he teamed up with others who seek the same goals? Is he still with them? If not, why not? Has his new life utterly changed his personality? Was he an easy-going guy before dog-faced beetles chewed his father’s head off? Have new-found powers made him overconfident, or does the new playing field scare him to death?

I mentioned earlier that your characters are after something. This is vital. Without desire, they won’t move forward.

All your characters must want something.

All your characters must need something.

What they want and what they need are two different things.

So let’s look at David the San Francisco wizard. Let’s say we now know what school he attended, what happened to his parents, who mentored him in magic, and all those other great facts. Instead of a couple of lines we now have two or three pages of background (or more – don’t be shy now). With all these facts you’ll have a better idea of the kind of guy he is – trust me, you will. How he’s dealt with enemies in the past will inform how he deals with them in your story. Does he hurl fireballs, or does he retreat to the library and research his foe? Is he too prone to losing his temper, or is he such a perfectionist that enemies run unchecked while his nose is in a book?

What does he want?

Why does he do what he does? Does he want to become all-powerful, or does he want revenge? Does he want to protect those unable to defend themselves, or does he want to rule the world? Does he seek to cure his wife from a Lich’s curse, or does he want to become a Lich himself? If he doesn’t want something, he won’t strive for it, much as if you don’t want money you won’t bother turning up to work every day.

What does he need?

Oh yeah. Now we’re down to the guts of it. What is it that your character needs, that he’s unaware of? What would truly solve his problems? He may want revenge, but maybe what he needs is closure, and revenge won’t give it to him. Maybe he wants to find that cure, but what he needs is to recognise and accept that even his power can’t achieve everything. Perhaps he wants to protect the defenceless, but he needs someone to make him feel protected.

What he wants and what he needs should conflict one-another. And the moment you give him either, the story is over, unless you can replace one want or need with another want or need. Remember that if you want to draw your story out into a series.

Nobody wants to read about a character who’s got nothing to do.