Tone

It’s very, very important for fiction to have an appropriate tone. As for the difficulty of that, it’s strange. On one hand, I’ve seen many otherwise bland stories at least manage to keep an appropriate and decent tone. On the other, I’ve seen just as many ones-and these include professional and/or long works- that don’t.

I view maintaining a suitable tone as a kind of art that’s not easily explainable in terms of how to do, because you have no one answer for every story. What I also see is that getting the right tone is a very key factor in separating a proper story from a bowl-of-ingredients clunker where you have events and characters but they’re not really integrated. Not everything, but a big part.

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Supertanks

So, my big dilemma can be summed up in one work. Supertanks.

There are a bewildering array of paper supertanks that the fall of the USSR nipped in the bud. These, both western and eastern, range from conventional upgrades of previous-gen tanks (many of which were actually made, at least in prototype) on one end, to ultra-exotic “Crew of two and they’re both in the hull” designs on the other. 140 and 152mm monster guns, uncrewed turrets with innovative autoloaders, the list goes on and on. They’re interesting to see, and I’m wondering “If I’m making a semi-grounded fictional supertank, what real one should it most resemble?”

And yet, for one of my main antagonist groups, the question of supertanks gives way to the more important one of “are they the kind who’d have large formations of tanks at all, be they surplus or super”. That’s the question I should be asking.

Being myself

I’ve blogged here for over two years now, and my topics have ranged from the ultra-serious, as with the COIN wargaming post, to the silly and goofy, from the mundane to the strange.

It’s OK. I’ve spent so much time and effort long ago trying to be PLAIN AND NORMAL (caps on purpose) that didn’t work. I’m myself. Sometimes I have to remind myself of my own strength, and say “Coiler, be Coiler. You don’t have to be, or write like _____. Just be yourself.” And I’m taking that lesson to heart.

Being more tolerant of myself has also helped me become a lot more tolerant of other people and their tastes as well, I’ve found. So it’s very helpful and useful overall to me.

 

 

The Tank Army Out Of Nowhere

It may be implausible, but I love the concept of the tank army out of nowhere. I’ve seen it in a few cheap thrillers of dubious quality, and if the context allows it, I love it. It’s just a sign that the author simply does not care about those silly things like “logistics”, or “direct plausibility”.

Where I think I love the tank army out of nowhere (again, assuming the right context, which boils down to not taking things too seriously) has to do with my own hang-ups, where I’ve been too focused on “plausibility”. As a literary tool, seeing the tank army out of nowhere without any explanation save for a lame excuse (and sometimes not even that) makes me think “Ok, here’s tanks-this is going to be ridiculous, whether the author intends it or not.”

And I like ridiculousness in my fiction.

Nothing Vulgar about this conlang tool

I have discovered an excellent tool for conlanging that has helped me get over the hump of trying to come up with names and basic places.

That tool is called Vulgar. It has a free/demo version and a relatively cheap full version. At the push of a button, you can make a gramatically distinct and coherent language with a distinct vocabulary. Just tweak a few phonemes, and it can be distinct without resembling garbled English full of apostrophes.

For making names in non-English languages, it’s helped me tremendously. All I need to do is fire it up, yank a few terms that could easily be applied to proper names, and there I have it. I highly recommend Vulgar. For those who know linguistics, it’s not a substitute for a hand-built conlang and was never intended to be one, but it’s invaluable nonetheless.

 

Maybe I should just write what works

I’m straining to write stuff that is isn’t in my comfort zone.

Being a critic makes it hard to be a writer, because I feel hypocritical for going through the steps of a beginner.

You know what? Maybe I should write what is. I should just write something big in a sort of ‘historical narrative’ tone I’m comfortable with. Get at least one novella out of my system that way.

 

Rivet Counting Addiction

Help, my rivet counting addiction has been triggered yet again. The culprit this time is the Micromark Army Lists, a very large list of orders of battle that range from the historical to the purely theoretical, from the musket age to the present. On Wargamevault (great site), they’re cheap, and I’ve been snapping them up en masse.

Weird how my cautious mentality gives way. I’ll waffle and hesitate over a cheap e-book, but have been wolfing down these dry lists like crazy. I’ve tried to get novel ones, but there have been a few duds I probably should have seen coming (You mean an unreformed ex-Soviet republic is going to organize its military on gasp-Soviet lines [that I already know a lot about]? .) In spite of that, the novel ones have been pretty informative…

Which is a big problem. I’m worried I’ll get too bogged down in rivet-counting minutia. In my Command scens, I’ve never been shy about brushing aside a specific unit’s availability by giving it a fictional name, and I’ve become even more inclined since writing that post. In other words, I might make a fictional aircraft carrier too.

But somehow I’m struggling mightily to translate that pragmatism to prose fiction.  But I’m still trying, and I still have hope I can use the informative quality of stuff like the lists to my advantage while not turning into either an infodump fest (“oooh, X has two battalions of ___ per division, unlike Y who only has one, improving its firepower but also hurting it logistically….) or just stalling out.

There is such a thing as too much research, after all, especially if it’s misdirected research.

 

More supervillains

So, I took my drawing “””skills””” and made more supervillains that have been in my mind.

Ok. Two of these are major, and one is a placeholder of sorts. I’ll let you guess who is what. One guess only. More seriously,

  • Fir (pseudo-German for “four”, I did find an early 1900s pan-Germanic conlang that had it as four, so that works) is the final member of the Dead Hand. I put off drawing him for so long because I knew exactly what he looked like but didn’t have the drawing skills. Fir is, to be honest, an homage to the Kaiser Knuckle General, who is himself a rip-off of M. Bison from Street Fighter. So I guess it’s a rip-off of a rip-off, down to the powers? Fir came in fully formed, fighting in a pseudo-WWI and wearing a uniform to match (I wanted a field style one to distinguish him from the General’s ornate one.) Ok, he looks like a first graders attempt to draw Charles de Gaulle.
  • The Razor. The helmet makes him look worse. I imagined a ski mask under a barred helmet, like this or this. The Razor has a backstory. See, he started off as a minion supervillain a long time ago whose power was——–ready——he had a knife. That was it. Now he’s a sort of Charles Atlas genius combined with a walking arsenal of guns and knives who serves as the initial villain of an outline I’ve written.
  • Finally, the man in a ghille suit smoking a pipe. There was going to be an evil military commander there with a MacArthur style pipe smoke, but I both lacked the skill and didn’t yet have a clear theme. So I added a camo helmet, a scribbled-on ghille suit, and kept the pipe. Maybe he’ll become a more prominent character. I dunno.

 

Command Community Pack Commentary

The latest Command Community Pack has been released, with a whopping 29 new scenarios available in it.

I made two of them, Brazil Abroad and Human Limitation, and figured I’d give a “director’s commentary”.

  • Brazil Abroad was both logistically limited power production, and a slow-paced, sustained ops air campaign, something I feel has been underutilized in Command. I wanted to give the player limited resources and a wide array of freedom when pursuing a target, which in practice meant a LOT of targets.
  • Human Limitation is a concept I’ve been interested in for a while, even before I got Command. Not just of Gaddafi’s African adventures leading him to Rhodesia, but the basic min-max concept of lots of equipment and little skill vs. the exact opposite.

What will I make next? I’m considering a Circle Trigon scen or doing what I’ve long scoffed at, making a pull-out-all-the-stops classic WWIII.

Writing On The Blank Slates

So, what do I do when confronted with a semi-blank slate character?

Make up an incredibly ridiculous backstory, of course. Undertale is a good example in point, because of how deliberately vague everything in it is-given my fertile imagination. Obligatory spoiler warning despite the game having been out for quite some time now.

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The main character of the game is intended to be a blank slate. Their low-res appearance is intended to be of an ambiguous gender.

Nearly of my Frisks are girls, based solely on me thinking the sprite looked more like one. But more importantly, all of them have extant human families. The story of the one who climbed the mountain varies a lot-ranges from the child of two wealthy financiers to a struggling parent, to a crackpot “analyst”. But the one variable is that all of them are kind and loving. The worst I got was an unscrupulous and hideously ambitious “stage mom” who pushed her daughter too hard and, post-pacifist end, sees her as a way up-but who is still ultimately caring and not outright abusive.

I tend to dislike kicked-puppy backstories, and for someone like Frisk, it makes even less sense that an abused, beaten child could be as friendly and forgiving as them (to say nothing of their incredible will to live).

One of my crazier, not serious ones is Frisk as a Little Sister style test subject, the antithesis of that. One of my crazier ones is her as a descendant of a Circle Trigon fighter, but that’s just me liking that crazy taxpayer-funded Esperanto empire too much.

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Chara, the other human in the game, is a harder case. A kicked-puppy background is easier to justify for them, as they “hated humanity” and ended up committing suicide.  At first, I made Chara a boy named Charlie, but now they’re sometimes a girl with that as their proper name.

To be honest, Chara never held that high a place in the story for me. They’re long dead by the time Frisk drops into the underground, and that’s that. No genocide route and none of the increasingly twisted “narrator Chara possession” theories.

But I still wanted a backstory, and my most recent attempt at one was surprisingly large. Chara’s father was a war criminal who met a violent end, leaving his/her De’Londa Bryce-esque mother to try and preserve her lavish lifestyle on his dwindling ‘prize money’. When Chara got old enough, reading about their father’s actions and mother’s stress made something in them snap and they ran off to the mountain where it was rumored no one returned from. The rest was history.

Although, the words “war criminal” and “cutesy Earthbound homage” don’t exactly go well together. Oh well…