Category Archives: Writing

Stories are everywhere. Keep telling them.


In my final quarter of university, I had to take a ‘portfolio’ class. The idea behind the class was to help students tie all of their humanities learning together into something they could talk about. It was all about figuring out what we’d been doing in school and cementing those last few lessons the university was supposed to be teaching us (like how to sell our skills). Mostly it was a bollocks class that tried to teach me how to write a gods damned essay for the billionth time, we made roadmaps of our time in University of Washington Bothell (Pictures). The one thing I can credit the class with was it did help me realize that I love stories. As a mythology-focused anthropologist, writer and – at the time – game designer, I am fascinated by the stories we tell to define the world around us. As an educator, I’ve come to realize that one of the most important tools you can equip a person with is the ability to tell their own stories.

Stories are the life blood of humanity. Almost as soon as we can talk, we’re telling tales. Young children always have something they want to tell you, even if they’re literally retelling the last twenty seconds of events. But we put down these tools of imagination as we grow up, swapping them for the technical, quantifiable and testable skills of science, technology, engineering and math or abandoning them out of self-consciousness. By middle school/junior high, the kids who still fight invisible monsters and pretend to grand adventures are weird or childish. Either kids are aimed at the drama department or left to tell stories on their own time, with the implication that stories are for reading and the odd project, not real life. The script is wrong.

I have run Dungeon & Dragons, D&D, for middle schoolers, LARPed (live action roleplay) with elementary school kids in the woods and watched twelve-year olds write and draw comics far better than anything I could have done, and been paid for all of them. I’ve run programs for kids who wanted to make video games, stop motion movies, or live action movies. Seen kids who hate reading record themselves playing a game, pretending they’re Youtubers recording for an audience. Through all of them, I’ve seen kids learn how to communicate, cooperate and collaborate. They’ve learned teamwork, leadership and some sneaky math to boot. But most importantly, they learned that it’s still okay to express themselves in narrative. That ‘actual adults’ haven’t completely given up on telling stories. These groups of kids weren’t just the nerds and geeks of their peer group either. Jocks, preps and all the other social groups played D&D in the program. Even the most serious kids found a niche for themselves during the Live Action Roleplay where we pretended the camp was a feudal realm and hit each other with foam swords in the woods. The joy on their faces, especially the older ones, the ones ‘aging out’ of the world of storytelling, was a sight to see.

Now, I’m almost sure we’ve fallen trap of thinking here. How many of you kept thinking of books, comics and movies when I was talking about stories?  Maybe some of you went to plays instead, bravo. I knew the trap was there and I still fell into as I wrote this. I don’t know if we can truly avoid it with the way English is structured but the trap is still a falsehood.

There are the obvious ways to tell a story. You can write a book, an article or a poem. You can film a movie. You can act a tale. You can draw, or animate. But there are other ways, less obvious ways. Musicians, those who free style or those who play from sheet music are telling a story in the flow of the music. The composers of songs use the notes to tell the audience a tale, if you know how to listen. Dancers tell their own stories, and not just the interpretive dancers. Even the technically adherent ballerina is part of retelling a story of a choreographer. Artists of every type leave a story behind in their pieces. You can draw a literal storyboard but even the most absurdly abstract piece of art says something. That two thousandth still life study that a power art student is doing right now still describes the fruit and the moment in time, and in collection with the other thousand, the artist’s growth (or lack of). Photographers have their own maximum for it, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

Maybe you don’t want to be an artist though. You like all the science and maths you do. Great, but even the simple chemistry equation tells a story. Maybe not be an interesting one but it’s there. The least obvious of all storytelling techniques is the most common though. You can say it. Kids start telling stories before they start writing them, people have been telling stories since before writing existed. You do it all the time anyway, like when you talk about James from Accounting or tell your friend what you did over the weekend. The trick is realizing you’re doing it.

Tell stories on purpose. It doesn’t matter how; it doesn’t matter if they’re good; it doesn’t even matter if they’re math equations. Stories are the soul of humanity. No one has every truly stopped telling them and it’s about time we realize that.

Peak Into A Writer’s World Bible – Founding Myth

Hey Everyone, Alexander here.

I’m swinging in for a last minute clutch post because the first post of the month is always the hardest for us to organize. Since our writing section is more than a little anemic, despite me being a writer — and because, I’ve forgotten the post I wanted to do about four separate times in the last two days — I thought it’d be fun to take advantage of this chaos to give you all a little glimpse into my writing notes and pull something out that might not normally see the light of day.

I do so much writing that simply can not make its way into the shorts or novels in anything more than hints but that help me give the world a sense of depth that my readers can sense. Or, more honestly, let me stop obsessing about a particular idea. You might never see the detailed anatomy of a historic country’s geopolitical make up , hell you may only see the country mentioned once or twice ever. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t spell out its entire history from founding to “present” because it has its own natural effects on history.

Where does one start? Why in Myth and Legend, of course! This is how the Universe was Born.

The worlds have always been, The Firstbornes gave them life. For they were great travelers who first crossed worlds. Yet they grew lonely for the worlds they crossed were uniformly barren and lost, separated from each other and lightless. Some among the Firstborne saw the truth of creation, that the worlds they saw were seeds of hope and potential needing light. Those Who Saw convened a great council of the Firstborne to convince them a great sacrifice was necessary. The Firstborne knew it was their duty to creation to give these seeds a chance to blossom so Those Who Became sacrificed themselves by the thousands to give every world its own set of stars to guide creation’s potential. Yet, the Ones Who Set the Stars were of the same people. Thus the life of many worlds can interact with each other and indeed many creatures can thrive on worlds not their own.

But not every Firstborne joined their brethren amongst the heavens. Some were given a harder duty, for the young new species emerging would need the guiding hand of their elder to. Even the Firstborne knew creation could be cruel. Those Who Remained were given the task of protecting the new saplings from predations of that borne in the darkness. For some things only birthed themselves in shadow and lightlessness and they hungered for spark of life they lacked. Those Who Remained split all of creation into two kingdomsL the Praeskensha (Kingdom of the Guardians) and the Etominru (The Kingdom of the Starless). The Praeskensha watched over the worlds of Stars while the Etominru held vigillant in the worlds of darkness, the vanguard of all their brethren had sacrificed. So peace reigned and life blossomed.

That Seemed really clean and ready for publishing didn’t it?

Wanna see the OneNote Page?

OneNote Screen Shot - Glimpse in a Notebook Cropped

It’s Not quite as clean is it?

Oh and Don’t Worry. We’ll get to the Textile and Dye Materials Page. That’ll be Fun.

Well this was fun. Thanks for letting me indulge in parading my world-building around for a few minutes.

Dream Remake: Mortal Kombat

Warning: You are entering a zone of extreme nerdiness and fan boy passion

In 1992, ninja assassin disguised as a game developer, Ed Boon, delivered unto us a game so violent that the ESRB rating system was invented to keep the video game world from being the wild west of pop culture. That game was Mortal Kombat. In 1995 we got a film adaptation of the same name that could quite possibly be the first and only successful video game movie, just to have it ruined by the diarrhea hurricane that was it’s 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. What made the first film so enjoyable for fans was its embrace of the wacky lore of multiple realms, vengeful ninja story lines, and mystical powers that contain no logical sense what so ever. In 2010, Kevin Tancharoen released an 8-minute short film as a pitch for a more realistic depiction of the Mortal Kombat universe. This brilliant reimagining of the franchise would allow Tancharoen to do to Mortal Kombat, what Christopher Nolan did to Batman. This caused me to suffer from a disease only know as Fan-Boner Extremis. Unfortunately for me, when the Kevin Tancharoen was given a YouTube series instead of a feature length film, the original lore was included which caused its logic to spin out of control once again, but now with a strange serious tone that absent of any fun. This wasn’t a terrible depiction of the MK universe but it could be described a less fun retelling of the video game series. The point of movie or series adaptations is to have the source material “adapted” to the new media form which provides the fresh spin people like myself enjoy seeing. If I wanted a whacky Mortal Kombat, I would have played the video games. Right now, I know what you’re thinking, “Doc. How do we fix it? How do we make a Mortal Kombat movie ground and set in the real world?” Here’s how:

The Tournament is an Underground Street Fight (not the game street fighter):

The key to the success of its game series was its unique characters. Each character had incredible powers but was usually an over-the-top example of extremely good or extremely evil. For the game, that’s all we need when we can distract ourselves by upper cutting people through the ceiling. A modern movie adaptation can’t use these pieces without feeling ridiculously campy, and we really need to see the moral ambiguity and emotional conflict of when Jax rips the arms off of Reptile.

The tournament, as depicted in the game series, is a fight to see who controls Earth realm. Participants from Nether Realm, Outworld, and other metal band names all want it to expand their control. While if any of Earth’s warriors win, Earth Realm stays safe till the next tournament. What kind of messed up reward structure is that? Now let’s scale it down and add a bit of logic.

The Deacon City is rotting from the inside out with gang violence and criminal activity. The criminal syndicates with in the city are growing strong and taking more control of the city each day. When a rival gang is wiped out their territory becomes open, and rather than having a war across 4 different syndicates, all gangs agree to have a tournament financed and organized by the leader of the Brotherhood of Shadows, Shang Sung. Each gang provides 4 fighters, and the last team standing wins.

Who is participating in this tournament:

Little is known about the Brotherhood of Shadows. All we know is that they have nearly limitless funding. Informants have revealed that they are buying up tons of weaponry from the Black Dragon clan, and that there is someone above Shang Sung who is the really mastermind with an unknown motivation. Their known accomplices are the unlikeliest group of criminals that would be expected. First is a cannibal who was born with his skin inside out. His scaly completion led him to adopt the name Reptile. Next is a plastic surgeon who went insane and turned the knife on himself. He sharpened his teeth to fangs and inserted sharp pieces of steal into his forearms. He now goes by the name Baraka, an ancient African word that means “The Devil’s Servant”. Then there is Devin Ermac, who is a recent escapee from Deacon City Insane Asylum. A master of 7 different martial arts styles, who was locked up for multiple personality disorder. Each personality clamed ownership to a different style of combat. Lastly is Quan Chi. The newest player in this gang of misfits but the most dangerous. He was specifically chosen to work alongside Shang Sung to assist in fulfilling the will of the Brother Hood of Shadows.

The Black Dragon clan has been plaguing Deacon City for years. Their leader, Kano, has been moving weapons in and out of the city. The Black Dragon has been arming two warring factions, the Lin Kuei and Shirai Ryu, and is single handedly to blame for the increase of gun violence within the city. What makes them an even bigger threat is Kano’s right hand man, Kabal; Kano’s childhood friend and personal assassin. After barely surviving a car bomb, Kabal wears a specially designed life support that was personally developed by Kano. He is loyal, lethal, and hard as hell to kill.

The Lin Kuei is a Japanese gang similar to the Yakuza, and Deacon City is their most prevalent location for criminal activity. They have had their hand in everything; racketeering, drug trafficking, etc. They are rivals to the Chinese crime syndicate, the Shirai Ryu. In response to the deadly war between the 2 factions, the Lin Kuei formed an elite team of assassin’s, all with codenames to conceal their identity. There is Sektor, a demolition specialist and an expert with explosives; Cyrax, an interrogation specialist known for capturing enemies and sawing off limbs for information; Smoke, a master of stealth and camouflage; and their leader Sub-Zero, an assassin who utilizes a liquid nitrogen system that runs through the sleeves of his jacket and releases the gas from his palms. He is known for freezing an enemies arm or leg and ripping it off in one motion.

The Shirai Ryu is a recently destroyed Chinese syndicate. Only one man was left alive, Hanzo Hasashi. After barely escaping death from the attack on his clan, Hanzo finds out that not even his wife and child were spared from this deadly attack. After time recovering and healing his wounds, he seeks the man responsible. All he knows about the man in charge of the attack was that he was able freeze people and objects with his hands. With his family and clan dead, his territory becomes the location up for grabs in the next Mortal Kombat tournament. He decides to adopt the mantle of “Scorpion”, the name of an ancient warrior from his home village.


Who are our Heroes:

The main story will focus on Sonya Blade, a rookie recently added to the Deacon City Criminal Task Force lead by Jax Briggs. She is the third member with the other being Kurtis Stryker, the best shooter on the force.

Intel has revealed that the tournament will be happening within the city. Their mission is infiltrate the tournament, and confirm its destination so a SWAT team can breach the location and arrest all the killers in one fell swoop. More intel has revealed that Hanzo Hasashi has been sent an invitation to compete in the tournament. Hanzo is recruited by the Deacon City Task Force to enter the tournament after being given evidence that Sub-Zero will be there. Together, they enter the tournament as the new Shirai Ryu.

The following events focuses on what happens to Sonya as she has to mentally cope with brutally killing people in one-on-one fist fights and staring down death at every turn. The city is being held ransom by Shang Sung leaving her no choice but to push aside her faith in traditional justice by commit violent acts in the name of protecting the city. Not to mention Sony has the added pressure of seeing her superiors Jax and Kurtis fall in the line of duty and leaving her to be the last bastion of a better future for the city.

This Scorpion/Sub-Zero side story is actually best kept to its video games routes. Sub-Zero has actually been framed for the death of Scorpions family as part of a much more elaborate and sinister plan. Our movie demonstrates the hubris that falls upon Scorpion for fighting only for revenge. Scorpion’s pursuit of Sub-Zero only leads to his self-loathing and dishonor as he finds he has been so easily manipulated the man who really killed his family. After an epic fight between the world best assassin’s Sub-Zero exposes proof that he wasn’t responsible for the killings and that Scorpion’s only reason for living is a lie. Scorpion finds no justice and only has himself to blame.

This is the movie we could have got 5 years ago, which is a movie I would spend money on time-and-time again. Of course, movie executives would not run the risk of making a film that places a realistic spin on a violent game franchise, which robs us of ever seeing Jason Statham as Kano, the robotic-eyed gun runner, or Lateef Crowder as the murderous fang-toothed plastic surgeon who has amazing martial arts skills for no explainable reason, or even a sequel movie that has Chris Pratt as Johnny Cage, the cocky actor who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately for me, this is a movie that can only exist in my own head, making me the biggest fan of my own fan fiction.

Writer’s Corner: Why I don’t like NaNoWriMo

(Intentionally mildly pretentious image of me writing? Check!)

I wasn’t going to do it. You couldn’t have made me. There was no way in hell you were going to get me to throw in my hat into the “Hey guys it’s time for NaNoWriMo!” ring if you held me at gunpoint. But suddenly, here I am. Of course, it’s one of the biggest events for beginning and amateur authors of the year. Confused about what I’m talking about? No worries, it confused me at first. It’s November! Which means that NaNoWriMo is starting up (hey peeps, it already started by the time you’re reading this!). NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writing Month — go here: — The idea behind this event is to give you, the budding author, or the lazy one, a deadline and timeline to force you into writing a 50,000-word ‘novel’. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be trash, it just has to be 50,000-words or greater. What do you get for completing this Herculean task you ask? Why absolutely nothing, aside from the soul-affirming knowledge that you finished a 50,000-word novel in THIRTY DAYS. Oh and you have a 50,000-word novel now, of course. Why wasn’t I going to talk about this great idea some genius put together way back in 1999? Because, I don’t like it.

Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t think there is anything wrong with the program. I’ve ‘tried’ for the last three years. I have a bunch of writer friends who love it, it’s a fun sort of marathon for all us writer nerds, but it’s not for everyone.

I don’t know about any of you, dear readers, but November might be the most hectic and chaotic month of the year for me. It’s midterm season for many of the students in the US, you have Thanksgiving (American) and the whole month always seems to get really damned full. That’s the first reason I don’t like NaNoWriMo (hence forth Nanowrimo because capitals suck). November is an awfully busy month by dint  of not being December, when everyone is home with their families and being far enough from September that school tends to be really crunching down.

My second reason for not liking it? I don’t write in a way that’s conducive to Nanowrimo. I’m a procrastinator by nature –- yes, I’m sorry Sennie but this is not quite late! –- so I need deadlines and Nanowrimo’s fantastic for that, true. Yet while I have proven I can write novel length books at a George RR Martin speed (Seven years from inception to my first ever –- read: crap –- novel is pretty good in my defense) and I know I want to write novel length books, I just don’t like to focus on them. I created a rich and complex world while working on my first book and I love it dearly but it’s big enough, and I was stupid enough, that I have to create languages. Not one, multiple. The number of which will only go up as I explore this wonderful world. World-building is one of my favorite parts of writing, but the words and time I put in to world-building don’t count toward Nanowrimo. The fifteen short stories I run off to record as inspiration hits me don’t count either, sorry me. Part of this is a discipline problem, I should be able to write down the idea for those short stories and move on; I shouldn’t feel the burning desire to write a small essay about the caliber system used by the primary species in my story (because their guns don’t use bullets), or a 100-word history/bio about the pistol my main character loves… or the eight other weapons that manufacturer makes and their fire rates, ranges, accuracy, general methods of use and history. But for me, for a long time, that was fun and sometimes that’s all you need.

I wanted to –- read: want to and am still working on –- write novel length piece because it’ll show off all the wonderful world-building I love to do but Nanowrimo has proved to be an actively discouraging experience. Just because I can’t write 1600-words a day for an entire month because my life is busy or I’d rather spend that hour or two crafting a half-dozen civilian corporations that may matter later, but I’m inspired to do them now; I was starting to feel like I was less of a writer than my dear friends who were doing it with me. Which was ridiculous because if you’re not careful I have a forty-five-minute lecture on caliber (I call it TEOIS, which stands for Total Energy Output and Impact Strength) that comes all off the top of my head.

So this is me talking to all those other writers who struggle with Nanowrimo incredibly but know they can stick to a proper writing schedule. That when they sit down and focus, they can punch out a prodigious amount of words in a very short time and have already finished a writing project of some length before. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, Nanowrimo is to help light a fire under people’s asses; it’s not a contest or a measuring stick for writers to beat themselves up with, so don’t. Cheer on your friends who really do try it, help them out and all the while keep chipping away at your own. Do what you love, and do what you’re comfortable with. And HAVE FUN (or at least enjoy emotionally torturing your readers) because that’s why we started writing. We wanted to tell stories bubbling inside of us and we found the written word as our medium.

So keep writing 300-word break downs of every star nation’s ship classes and their traditional and non-tradition tactical and strategic roles… oh. That’s just me isn’t it? Very well then. How about we end with, keep writing.

Shameless plugs:

In case you were wondering, my big writing project a 200,000-word, seven-years in the making novel that is very much not for sale and a pair of short stories on Amazon that I self-published because I could.

Check them out:

Jirvaerka Anniversary:

Project Implacable