Hello, and welcome to my little corner of quirkiness. The purpose of this blog is to make it easier to connect with my readers. It's really that simple. The name of the blog, "Quirky Dreams," is relevant only in that my dreams are often quirky, unusual ones, and they are also where I get many of my writing ideas from. I dream in full-length, color, high-def story lines, and if they are remembered, I write them down. Parts or all of these dreams may enter a story. A story might be based around a single dream or an idea from a dream. Regardless of which it is, this is my writing blog, so kick back in your chair, bed, recliner, or airport terminal, and enjoy the blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good Memories

I was talking with Mark today about my high school writing days, because I had a friend in my classes who used to read as I wrote. Almost a co-author, though she did no actual writing. She was a literal genius who would run amok, pat people on the head, and call them "fluffy." Occasionally someone was "ew...not fluffy" and took offense.

I'll be honest. My writing was awful back then. But it was so much fun to write with someone. I did it for the fun of it (still do!), but it was never so much fun as when writing with her.

What amazed me though were the similarities between her and Mark. No, Mark does not pat people on the head and call them fluffy. However, both of them come up with the most outrageous ideas that make me laugh. Mark has his blaster ballerina moments, and this friend of mine had her "Give him a feathered boa!" moments. On another occasion, she wanted me to put a character in a diaper. At one point, I wrote her into a story, because she was just a character in and of herself.

I guess this is me just reminiscing some, but it explains a lot of things when I think about it. Blaster ballerina or feathered boas, I just like writing with someone who's a little crazy. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Video Game Stories, Part 2

I'll admit I can be a very critical person at times. I often focus on the negative and ignore the positive. This is not because I'm a negative person. It's just that I'm constantly looking for ways to improve things, myself included.

That said, I think it's just as important to look at a good example of story use in a video game as it is to point out poor use. Knowing what constitutes a poor game story only tells us what not to do. It does not tell us what we should do.

To that end, I want to take a look at some of BioWare's Forgotten Realms games. For you non-gamers, Forgotten Realms is Dungeons and Dragons setting on which a series of role-playing games was based where you design and play a character in that particular fictional world. Games that BioWare created, such as Baulder's Gate, are often spoken of as the standard that other fantasy role-playing games are held to. One of the reasons for this is the outstanding story lines and use of story in a gaming environment.

For the sake of this post, I'll only be looking at Neverwinter Nights, but many of their games follow the same rules. I highly recommend Baulder's Gate as well!

In Neverwinter Nights, you start off with a cut scene that sets the tone of the story. You're stuck in a plague-infested city, with limited hope for a cure. The walls are sealed as part of a quarantine, which effectively limits your exploration, but in reality, the city maps are huge, so there's plenty to do even then.

The cut scene explains the setting and why you are where you are. No more. It does not insult the gamer's intelligence. It does not try to teach you anything in a video tutorial. It doesn't cause your character to perform any actions you don't want him/her to do. It just tells you the state of things and why you are standing in an Academy. Perfect! I'm caught up in the story, and I'm ready to play it out!

The first part, as in any game, is the tutorial. You go through Academy training. The great part though? You can skip the training completely if you want and get right to the game!

Sometimes these things are worthwhile to play through though simply for the dialogue. This is a great aspect of the Forgotten Realms series. You have dialogue options to choose from. Depending on what your character says/does, different results occur. I often play through the same game story line several times in several different ways just to see all the neat plots that I missed the first time around! I will admit that this was probably a lot of work. You're basically creating dialogue trees or loops instead of straight dialogue, which can increase the size of the project exponentially. But the ability to choose what you character will and will not say is wonderful. Maybe you don't want to run a quest for someone who is mean to you. Maybe you want to slay an innocent peasant and play the villain. Maybe you want to trick someone into giving you more gold. Maybe you want to donate gold to the person who needs it. That's the best part! You decide.

The story in these games is actually played through. Don't get me wrong. This still requires a writer. Only the writer plays the computer side of things (the NPCs, or Non-Player Characters). Bad guy is discovered? You actually go through the portal and haul him back for a trial. Trial time for a minor character? You get to play the defense attorney or judge! A cure needs to be created? You get to do all the hard work of finding the components! The writer just makes sure that you have the ability to get the information you need to complete the story line. Sometimes the information is buried in dialogue choices. Sometimes it's obvious. Intelligently, the main story line information is usually easily found. Optional side-stories are sometimes not and must be searched for.

The "levels" of the game are broken up into "chapters." One of the really neat things about the game was that the completion of a chapter rewarded you with seeing the results of your actions in a narrated cut scene. Maybe your actions, as well-intended as they may have been, brought misery to someone. Maybe they brought hope. Either way, you get to see what far-reaching effects they had, and you are set up for what is to come next. It's a pleasant and engaging reward for work well done. The cut scene wasn't too long, and again, it didn't presume to have your character act for you. It didn't reveal anything it shouldn't for that moment.

Which brings me to the last item I want to talk about. The story was often filled with twists and turns that left me staring at the screen and wanting to know more. I played for hours just to find out the next part! I felt like I was living a book, and that is what really grabbed me. I think this is a series of games any fantasy reader could really get into, if only for the story.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video Game Stories

So, I'm an avid gamer, formerly a game-a-holic. I no longer play multiplayer anything due to my tendency of spending several long minutes wondering if I really need to get up and tend to that emergency, and is it worth letting my character or someone else's character die. I miss World of Warcraft, but it's not worth the loss in writing productivity. I only play games with pause buttons now.

This new single player me has led me to pay more attention to game stories and how they differ from your typical book or movie.

Lately, I've been playing Settlers 2, which is an older 2D game from the 1990's. I love strategy games, and this one is particularly entertaining. Then I noticed that Settlers 7 had been released this year! I quickly bought it based on enjoying Settlers 2 so much.

Well, it's not quite all that I had hoped it would be. They have a multiplayer aspect which they seem to be pushing. I'm not going to bite. Multiplayer is off limits. Instead, I turned my attention to the campaign, which, for you non-gamers, is single-player mode where you follow a set of scenarios and achieve objectives.

It opens with a story. I'm excitedly watching it...and watching it...and watching it...and...attention slipping...annoyance setting in...scowling...

FINALLY we begin. But by now, I've already determined that I'm probably on the wrong side of the fence in this battle. The story has given me TOO much information right at the outset and ruined the twist that I can sense coming further down the road. Worse! I had to sit through the many cut scenes and dialogues without doing anything! So now, we've already started off with the following problems:
  1. I'm bored because instead of actually playing my hero through the story line, it's been all laid out for me. This is appropriate in movies and books, because those are passive stories. You're sitting back and waiting to have the story unfold. Games should first be played through, then show cut scenes, and only THEN display text. The key is to engage the player. By time I get to the first level, I'm annoyed and bored.
  2. I already know where the story line is leading me. They've hinted that I'm fighting on the wrong side of a battle far too strongly. Great. Any writer or reader can tell you what the problem with that is. Only, it becomes much more of an irritating issue when you're working toward a goal you know is probably wrong, and you have no options to refuse that course of action. To progress, you have to pretend to be stupid and go along with it. If that's the case, what was the point of introducing the "role-playing" aspect to it?
Alright, annoyed, I begin the tutorial and complete the first step of the campaign. Yay. I turn it off, go do something else, then come back to see if it's any better in level two.

Nope. It's more tutorial. Finish that. Third level. More tutorial. Fourth level. More tutorial, and still no sign of the twist that I already know is coming, despite EVERY villain hinting at it! I'm also constantly getting lectured on new items and things to do! Really, it's not that hard!

How long does a writer spend introducing the characters and world before launching into the story? Usually, not very long. The characters, world, and rules are all learned during the course of the story, quite often without very much explicit explanation.

By now, I really don't want to return to the game. The story has lost me. The characters are so stupid as to be ridiculous. I have to play dumb to play my character. I already know the coming twist. Every level of the campaign has been annoyingly preachy and restrictive (whatever happened to a "turn off tutorial" button?!).

On more of a game design note, it doesn't even feel like a strategy game, so much as a mission-based game now. I can't use the map creatively anymore. I'm enclosed by the geography, so there's no exploration. I feel like cattle in a chute. There's only one way to move.

Bottom line? I think I'll stick to Settlers 2, where I am playing out the story line and I decide how to progress. That, very basically, is the difference between game writing and other story forms. The player needs to act out the script whenever possible. Not the writer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

PoC 4

So, I finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean 4. I was really excited to see it, having loved the first three. The first three had a great story, great character interaction, and great dialogue. Not to mention that I love seeing Johnny Depp's acting.

Unfortunately, PoC 4 didn't hold a candle to the first three. It was quite a let-down, especially if you know your history.

***There may be some spoilers ahead, so stop reading if you haven't seen the movie!***

Firstly, Ponce de Leon did not make the fountain of youth himself. He set out to discover it and failed miserably. So, what I'd like to know is why there would be Spanish-made cups required for the ritual. And why would the words to gain entry to the fountain be in Spanish? If anything, I can only imagine that they'd be in some Native American language!

If Ponce de Leon was living in his ship and admiring his treasure and map until the day he died, why wouldn't it have fallen back then? Why wait until Sparrow and Barbosa get there to tip over wildly? Wind and sea would have done it years ago! :-S

Ponce de Leon did not die on his voyage, so don't go updating the history books just yet.

The romance between mermaid and priest was rushed. Very rushed. And I'd like to know why the mermaid just decided out of the blue that the priest was different, never having spoken to him, and decided to save him. I mean, come on! Most of us can't even decide that someone is perfect for us after a month, let alone at first sight. And here, a creature depicted as being blood-thirsty is swooning over her FOOD as soon as she looks at him! Please!

Speaking of the priest, I wasn't all that happy about a guy who is willing to get up in Blackbeard's face for the sake of his faith, then suddenly throw it all away for a pretty tail. But hey, I can live with it. I guess it happens. A few priests today throw it all away for an altar boy.

The dialogue between Captain Sparrow and Blackbeard's daughter was a bit off, but I really enjoyed the scenes with interaction between Barbosa and Jack. They always make a great pair!

The leaping through coconut trees was too far fetched. Seriously. That would require the luck of a two-sided coin. In other words, you'd have to cheat, which movie makers do.

I love how a magic sword just happens to pop up. Where did it come from? I mean, I can suspend my disbelief, but for something that powerful? You need to at least explain where it came from and how it works in a world where magic doesn't just run rampant (aka, everyone is not a wizard who can make these things).

Blackbeard, historically, was never into voodoo. If Hollywood really wanted to throw voodoo in, they should have made the voodoo practitioner one of his crew.

The 3D really didn't make the film. It would have been just the same in 2D for me. There were no really cool effects or anything to make it worthwhile.

So, I know I'll probably get some flak from die-hard PoC fans for saying it, but PoC 4 really didn't live up to my expectations. It felt very rushed, and I think the plot could have been thought through better. Johnny Depp and a select few did their usual stellar performances, but I think I might just pass on seeing the next PoC film in theaters. It has seriously surpassed my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cat o' Nine: Courtship of Knives

The second book of Cat o' Nine is finally available. It probably just feels like "finally" to me because I did a lot of the typo fixing. We had an extra pair of eyes look it over (thank you to Barbara), so it should be cleaner than book 1. We will, however, be revising book 1 for your reading pleasure. I really think we rushed it out of excitement, so there are typos we missed. They will soon be eradicated. I promise. Book 2 is much nicer.

You can get it for Kindle on Amazon, or find it in other formats, such as .epub, .pdf, .rtf, and more at Smashwords.

In addition, the price of the first book of the Cat o' Nine series has been lowered to $0.99, so if you haven't read it, now's a good time!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


So, Cat o' Nine 2 is just about done. A friend of Mark's is giving it one last look over before we publish it. We're currently working on the cover for it. With some luck, it might turn out better than the last one (definitely a good thing - I don't think I was ever quite satisfied with the cover for book 1). We're also planning on including some maps, so maybe Mark and I won't get so confused about where our characters are heading now (we frequently argue over what towns/cities are located where and have to look this up)!

Cat o' Nine 3 is pretty much outlined. It's time for a journey to the frozen north. I won't say much more beyond that.

We have nine books planned at this point and very vaguely and tentatively outlined. The entire plot is still open for revision. Nine books wasn't our idea, but it was a good one, so we went with it. One of Mark's friends came up with it, but I'm not sure who, exactly.

In other news, the second The Three Irks book is slowly coming along. Very slowly. I'm fiddling around with the outline again. There are some parts I'm just not happy with yet (luckily, I haven't written up to that point yet). This book is from Virk's point of view, and readers can get to know her a little better.

I'm tossing some ideas around for a one-off book. I don't like how everything I write lately becomes a series, and I don't know how wise it would be to marry myself to more than two series at once. I think that'd be biting off more than I can chew, especially with working full time and going to school. Besides, it'd be nice to write something where everything gets wrapped up nicely at the end!

College classes finally started for me, so my writing will slow a little. I'm prepping for mechanical engineering, but ironically, I'm taking a required writing course. I'm hoping to learn something useful, but I'm not sure how well a research paper course will apply to creative writing. I have an excellent teacher though, so I can't complain too much. It's a four hour long class, so I appreciate his ability to hold our attention. A boring professor for that long would be absolute torture. I just wish the reading assignments weren't so dry.

So that's the latest update and why I've been so quiet here for so long. So much writing to do and so little time!