Mediums of Storytelling- Videogames

The next couple blog posts will be on my experiences and thoughts with varying forms of storytelling and their influence on writing.  Reading is heavily influential on writing, after all writing begets writing.  Writing stories is not just about novels.  Television, movies, and videogames all involve this process.

I’ve been playing videogames since I was six years old.  It didn’t take long to learn about the stigma around the hobby.  Those who play videogames are often thought of as lonely childish men living in their parents’ basement.  Adults who haven’t played games before tend to think they are for children only, despite a good portion of them rated mature.

As a medium, videogames have evolved considerably since the 80s and 90s when they started to gain popularity.  Back in the day, story was secondary to gameplay, if it was even existent at all, outside of RPGs.  Now, compelling and inspiring stories are told through videogames, and subsequently are fuel for writing stories of my own.  Even when the story isn’t explicit through cut scenes or a plethora of text to read, certain series do it masterfully through the gameplay itself.  Castlevania, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda games are just a few examples.

Sure, videogames are abused by some folks.  I had a roommate in college that would play World of Warcraft for 48 hours at a time sometimes.  He would rarely go to class and practically lived in front of his computer screen playing games.  Spending hours a day neglecting responsibility has been associated with videogames, along with provoking violence.  However, that is by far the minority.  Anything can be abused.  Television certainly is and has been since its invention.  I would even submit even reading for hours and hours on end isn’t healthy either.  Why?  We may be working our minds while reading but we are still sedentary.

Videogames are a way to gain visual inspiration just as television shows with deep stories.  Authors who are gamers shouldn’t be ashamed of, in fact we should embrace it as a means to dive into a world rich with inspiration.

Hard Lessons Learned-My Experiences as an Author

Writing, like anything worth doing in life is challenging and filled with daily lessons.  One lesson became painfully obvious despite my many attempts to ignore it. I am on my own when it comes to marketing. I research quite heavily on how to market a book.  Many people suggested outsourcing marketing such as hiring bloggers to share or review your work.  There are an innumerable amount of people and “companies” on Twitter who are willing to Tweet books and/or put you in their email list to their “many” followers.

Like most authors trying to build a brand, I’ve had a hard time with marketing.  The feedback I’ve gotten on my books from people I trust has been largely positive.  However, giving out books for reviews rarely produces any reviews at all.  So many people say they would love to write a review but when it comes to committing, they simply don’t show up to prom.  To further that metaphor, I’m left alone on the dance floor without a date that swore to Heaven she would show.  This is even after treating her like a princess and picking her up, she just slips away quietly right after we enter the school.

I feel like everything I’ve done as far as marketing is concerned is met with similar results.  My wife and I tried to hire a marketing team, but even with the prospect of paying company several hundred dollars they still took weeks to respond and never met their deadlines.  It’s beyond infuriating when I’m told I will get a response by Friday of this week and I don’t hear anything until four weeks have gone by and I contacted this person’s boss.  After this I felt depressed.  I am still learning how to find my audience.  I need someone to come along side me and work with R. Michael Books long-term.  I also got desperate.  Desperation never results in good judgement.

I decided to reach out to a blogger who writes book reviews who initially contacted me.  I researched this person and could not find anything bad about her and her site was professional and looked legitimate.  I did research on whether authors should pay bloggers and one site suggested it is a good way to get exposure as did a few others.  In my desperation I became convinced and decided to hire this blogger. She seemed professional and was always kind in her emails, so I ignored my reservations.  She did produce a review on her blog, but it was obvious that she hadn’t read my book.  It was just a bunch of flowery platitudes that were carefully crafted to stroke my ego, most likely in order to win a repeat customer. I decided to dig deep into Google and try to find ANYTHING I could about her other than what her website says.  Lo and behold I found a KDP thread where a few authors detailed a similar experience with this blogger.  I then carefully read through her blogs and they were all the same.  Overly flattering to the author, she was reviewing.

I tell of this experience because I learned a few things.  NEVER pay for a blogger to review your work.  No matter how reputable he/she may be.  The blog I purchased wasn’t technically for a positive review, and the site owner claims to only charge to help her family.  I also know as someone who has a few websites that they are expensive to keep operational.  It is frowned upon to pay for reviews in the literary world.  I honestly didn’t realize that until it was after the fact and I did more reading on the topic, which meant going more than a few pages into Google.  This review is utterly useless due to the nature of how it was designed to flatter me more than actually giving an honest look at my book.  Initially I justified this in my mind because there are large companies that review books for several hundred dollars.  Well-known companies and I found it odd that paying them is considered professional but not a blogger.  Honestly, I don’t think either are all that helpful.  As authors when it comes to getting reviews and selling our books it is based on time and hard work.  Throwing money at the situation doesn’t solve the problem.  I’ve learned my lesson, and if you are an author too, learn from mine as well.

I Believe in Science!

I just started writing a science fiction novel.  With writing in a new genre comes research and new things begin to stand out more than normal. Many times, I come across either memes on social media or blog posts declaring that a person or group “believes in science.” I find this to be rather odd.

I’ve never read about, met, or otherwise known of anyone who doesn’t believe in the process of coming up with a hypothesis and testing it to see if the results are not only possible but repeatable.  Despite what some may think, I am not sure there are many worldviews that are actively against believing in such processes.  Of course, I’m not an idiot and know that this declaration is meant to counter what the scientific community’s stances are on evolution and climate change.  More accurately, “I believe in science!” is a statement that has baggage which indirectly is sometimes used to discredit “religious” beliefs.  Not always, but it is true rather often.

As a Christian who accepts the scientific findings, I am all too aware that the culture that surrounds my faith is known for rejecting things that appear painfully obvious to those who do not adhere to Christianity.  I would argue that such an instance isn’t about rejecting science, but instead scientists’ findings and claims.  Those who announce their love for science claim those who do not fully accept climate change and evolution to be real fail to understand or believe science at all.  Those on the receiving side of those arguments say that there are things science cannot answer and can and has been wrong before.  “Religious” folks do not see it as rejecting science as a process.  Many of them believe science supports other ideas than what are mainstream.  Instead they reject common belief due to worldviews and that history has shown that scientists have been wrong before.  Do I as a Christian agree with this position?  Not entirely.  Yes, scientific consensus has been wrong in the past and until more information comes to light we might find out that is the case now as well.  That is the nature and beauty of science.  However, where I disagree is to use that as a catch all to simply justify preconceptions and therefore reject an idea even when heaps upon heaps of evidence, peer reviews, and testable evidence support a theory.

This topic ties into my previous blog post about truth.  People believe what they want to believe no matter what evidence is given.  One must not only be open-minded but have a worldview that doesn’t crumble simply because something is uncomfortable.  This is true on all matters, not just heavy topics like climate change.  Another thing that would help would be for both believers and non-believers to acknowledge that science and faith are not incompatible.  Certainly, they are if either are layered with presuppositions, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  Ultimately, believing in science does not equate believing in scientific claims.  The process and the results are different.  Political and religious worldviews shape how we interpret these claims.  I would argue both political sides ignore important scientific truths.  The reality is we must do our best to curb our natural human bias with discernment.  This is possible, but a difficult endeavor.

“The Cursed Forest” is now available!

Have you heard the legends of the “Cursed Forest of Massachusetts?” Shortly after the birth of America, the small, secluded community of Andonville, Massachusetts, rested on the border of a forest steeped in legend and rumors. People start disappearing, and Abigail loses everything. She wants nothing more than to abandon Andonville and the terrible forest, putting the past and the problems of the city behind her. Fate has other plans, however, and she gets sucked into the mysteries around her.

You can read this short story here.

Growth

I wrote a blog before about how characters are expected to change and grow. That is a fair expectation, if all characters were static they wouldn’t be interesting.  Everyone changes to some degree, but how many people change significantly enough where they would be considered a “dynamic” character in a book? Honestly, I do not know the answer. Maybe it’s everyone, maybe the number is a small minority.

From my limited perspective, the anecdotal evidence in life seems to indicate that people both change and stay the same simultaneously.  How is that possible?  As people grow older their behaviors change, become more refined, their habits that are good and bad become deeper entrenched. It is common from what I’ve seen for people to become set in their ways and when they encounter challenges to their lifestyle they become defensive.  However, they become set in their ways after adapting to the environment form their childhood and early adulthood.

True change is hard.  I think we all can say we do things that we wish we would change, but despite hating certain behaviors or habits, sometimes they still rear their ugly head. From my limited point-of-view it appears that people eventually accept these habits as a part of who they are.  As I said, change is hard. It takes active participation every day, and frankly not everyone has the will to follow through. There are things I am challenged with daily too.  There are things that I do sometimes that I know are wrong yet do them anyway because they have become ingrained in me.  This is a struggle that we all deal with, but I want to actively try to change them.  Sometimes it is discouraging because it never feels like there is going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Sometimes “discouragement” is too weak of a word, “depression” and “hopelessness” are more fitting.  We feel like we can’t be better, we are a slave to our whims, passions, and habits. However, we can change.  Every one of us, no matter what the issue may be. Let us all actively work hard to be better men and women everyday while accepting perfection isn’t going to be possible. We don’t have to be slaves to our habits and become set in our ways.