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Posts Tagged ‘imagination’

Fictional Event Planning

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment

I love how I can almost hear readers of this blog asking, what the heck is he talking about? For most of us, dealing with the day to day events is bad enough. Why fantasize about events that may or may not exist? Or even worse, why simulate them in our heads and map them out?

More years back than I care to recall, I had a group of friends that would regularly get together for role playing games. Typically the game being played was Dungeons and Dragons, but from time to time we tried out other ones as well (including a few we made up on our own – just to prove how socially awkward many of us were). Amongst our tight knit group it fell to a couple of us to run these sessions. That made the person in charge game master (GM) or dungeon master (DM), depending upon the game.

I tried different styles of running games over the years. Sometimes I’d come up with an idea and set down to prepare all the reference materials for it. These might be maps, encounters, creatures, and outlines or it might be little more than a suggestion of things to come along with possibilities the players might encounter or do. Of course playing with real people is the ultimate experiment in Chaos Theory, so that meant I had to be ready to roll with whatever they threw at me as well. Linear progression was virtually impossible!

And that, in a nutshell, explains how I came up with fictional event planning. Every gaming session was an event filled with multiple scenarios and opportunities. Maybe it was interacting with a serving maid in a bar to find out that the tavern’s latest shipment of ale was stolen or maybe it involved fighting a group of troll bandits that had stolen the aforementioned ale. And let’s not forget how much cuter the serving maid was after the ale was returned and a the first couple of rounds offered for free as payment for the adventurer’s services!

Fictional event planning is far more far reaching than gathering a group  of imaginative people to conduct fictional events in a made up setting. It’s used in all walks of life, from writing papers in college to telling jokes to preparing business cost analysis or life cycle management. Heck, we even use it when driving down the road and predicting what traffic around us might do and how we might react to it.

There’s another group of people to have learned to become pretty good at organizing fictional events: writers. The great thing about being a writer is that as long as something looks good on paper, you’re done! Real world implementation virtually never works out the way it appears it should on paper, but this is fiction. It works the way I want it to (or the way the characters tell me it’s going to).

I sat down last night to take a break from stressing over taxes and (hopefully) overcoming this miserable respiratory ailment I picked up last week. I started brainstorming about the third book in my Blades of Leander series now that book two, Victim of Fate, is in the hands of the editors and artists. While pondering book three I realized that I had more or less become a wedding planner. Although in my case wedding = epic fantasy story and planner = guy who writes down what my characters tell me to.

I’ve made the connection in the past many times. Planning a story is very much like planning a gaming session. Sometimes the objective is out there and the trick is to create an environment and obstacles for the characters to experience and overcome to reach the obstacle. At other times I come up with a scenario and toss the characters into it so I can see what they come out with. I like to think of the latter method as the rock tumbler approach.

Oh, and about those other guys that spent significant time running the gaming sessions… one of them has a couple of books published (Food and Philosophy and Porn – Philosophy for Everyone: How to Think With Kink) and he’s a professor. Another one has done a few commercials and is working hard to achieve success as an actor by the name of James Knight. Great guys that I still consider good friends, bonds forged by gaming and other adolescent pursuits. It just goes to show that not every gamer dork is doomed to a life of living in their parent’s basement watching pirated cable and becoming addicted to World of Warcraft and Internet porn. And it let me do a little name dropping, which is always fun!

Disclaimer: Yes, I tried out World of Warcraft when it was released. I quit inside of two months, becoming disgusted with the game play and cartoonish look. There’s just no substitution, in my opinion, for pen and paper RPGs.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

I Have the Coolest Toys!

For those that know me, the title of this post might raise an eyebrow. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not talking about those kinds of toys. 🙂

When I was a kid riding the school bus to elementary school I remember being too old for toys like action figures and such. It wasn’t cool, you see, but I sure did like playing with G.I. Joe and Transformers. I would even take one of them to school each day, stashed away in my school bag. Some people had a security blanket. Others had a teddy bear. I had play soldiers. That probably says something about me even at an early age… if it helps I always preferred the good guys over the bad guys.

Expanding upon the story, I somehow ended up one day sitting with the cool kid in the back seat of the bus. You know who I’m talking about, he was the good looking kid that was bigger and more athletic than everybody else, not to mention more socially adept than the rest of us could ever hope to be. He was also the guy who could determine the social status of every other guy in his grade just by what he said about them. Frightening power, in hindsight.

So I’m sitting with this kid and I’m scared shitless. Yeah, this guy was that cool and who was I? Just a stupid kid that liked to play with toys. Travis never played with toys, he was sooooo much more grown up and, well, cool! Well, somewhere along the way that particular toy came out and yes, there was some teasing that took place. I don’t remember the specifics at all. What I remember was that pretty much every day after that one the rest of the year he wanted me to sit with him and we’d break out whatever the day’s toy was and, in a very grown-up and cool / macho way, we’d play with it.

That was the last year of that. I don’t remember the grade or how old I was, but I do know it didn’t persist beyond that. Maybe I grew up too, but the toys stayed at home. Before too much longer the toys ended up being boxed away too, but thankfully my desire to play with them never did. I evolved into playing role playing games with friends, but time and distance eventually ended that as well. Soon my toys were gone, all I had was the memories of the good times. I felt like Al Bundy reliving his glory days of high school football before he became a shoe salesman.

I was reminded of this the other day when my daughter, who’s a month away from being 6 years old, sat in front of my salt water aquarium with my younger son (age 3) and went on and on telling him stories about the fish. He tried to add his own embellishments, but it was an amazing sight. She still plays with toys, though the Barbies don’t get nearly as much playtime as they used to. Instead she spends a lot of time in books and drawing / coloring, telling stories and making things up. Is she destined to be a writer like her old man struggles to be? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past her. In a few years I hope to write a book with her to see if it clicks (or if not, to at least help with the college fund).

The epiphany I had at that moment was that I still play with toys. Sure, I’ve got the manly grown up toys like a Harley and power tools, but I’m talking about the toys we keep stashed away for our private time. No, I already told you this wasn’t about those kinds of toys, I mean the ones that allow you to make up your own stories and your own scenarios. The characters are people you create, with talents and quirks that you pick out. The toys are in my head, and when you read my books they’re in your head too. Oh, and because some of you just won’t let it go, on rare occasions there might even be a book that has those kinds of toys in it. 😉

The moral of the story is that the toys may change, but we’re never too old to play with them!

In other news, keep an eye out for a pending new release from me called Bound. It’s got all sorts of great toys in it, from drug labs to hockey sticks to racy underwear and more! It’s technically a romance novel, but readers of my books will know that I’ve yet to meet a genre I can’t step outside of and take somewhere else!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Science Fiction turned Real

May 10, 2012 1 comment

There’s nothing more rewarding for me than when a story I’m writing does something completely unexpected. Oh sure, I’m the one writing it so I’m still coming up with the ideas and doing the writing, but some of the things that happen come out of left field. I’ve had this happen with several stories I’ve written, but most recently and most severely it’s happened with my Vitalis series.

I won’t share any spoilers, but I will say that I’ve started each story with an idea of what I want to happen. The way I write I don’t usually go into it with too much more than that. As I’m writing I’ll plot out some general thoughts of things I’d like to occur, but I don’t force them to happen. I follow the story as it unfolds, allowing the characters to speak to me and tell me where they’d like to go. With Vitalis it’s even worse – not only do the characters have ambitions and goals, but the world has a life of its own as well! And quite often the plans of Vitalis and the people trapped on it are at odds with one another.

The title of this article references that. It’s not about traveling light years through space to find a planet all set up for human life. Sure, that’ll probably come in time but that’s been predicted for hundreds if not thousands of years. Instead readers of my Vitalis books you’ll note how the world seems to have more and more of its own spirit or life to it. Given what’s been happening to me as I write them, it’s hard to argue the “reality” factor. If the placebo effect of many home remedies and supplements can offer real statistical benefits, then how can I argue there’s not a touch of reality in fiction as well?

So anyhow, Vitalis – Evolution has been out since the first of this month. I’m still planning on the next book being released on June 1st, Matriarch. The rough draft is finished, editing and cover art have commenced. Like Evolution, Matriarch surprised me several times along the way. Even some of my more devious scenes I had planned were manipulated by the voices. The end result, I have to say, left me stunned and impressed.

Unfortunately, Matriarch comes at a time allowing me a break from Vitalis. Not a long one, but I have other books that need to be written. Other characters that are demanding a chance to wrest control of my fingers away from me. I’m plugging away on the next Voidhawk book right now and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I love leaving a series then coming back to it after a while – it reminds me of how much I missed the friends I left behind. I suppose it’s not so different from reading the next book in a series in that respect – another chance to spend time with people who have become important to me. Sure, they’re fictional, but I try not to get hung up on details…

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.