Breakdown, breakdown! Let's analyze JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and do it shining justice!


September 4, 2014

A Very Special (Deadly?!) Post


You know…I’ve been thinking.

Not too long ago, (the great) Jim Sterling of The Escapist put up a video suggesting that even if things in the game industry are WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY far from the ideal state, there are still things worth being happy about.  Being positive about.  Being excited about.  He brought up a game called Legends of Grimlock as his shining example.  Fair point on his end.  Personally?  I’d nominate a game like The Wonderful 101.  It genuinely hurts me, knowing that not a lot of people played it -- perpetuating the vicious cycle that “third party games on Nintendo don’t sell” -- but what’s important is that some people played it.  I played it.  And I loved it.

When I think about games like that, I feel happy.  I feel like even if there’s an aura of doom-and-gloom surrounding a medium I love, there are still bright stars that shine enough to pierce through the veil.  The Tales Series offers up that JRPG goodness.  I’ve got plenty of fighting games to mess around with, even beyond a mainstay like Street Fighter 4.  I know that big budget games and shooters can be downright fun, because BioShock Infinite and Wolfenstein: The New Order are solid proof.  So the way things are looking, I’m not going to give up gaming for a while yet.  I certainly can’t before the release of the new Smash Bros

That said, I can’t shake this feeling -- this question that’s been on the back of my mind for a while:

Is this just a terrible time to like anything?


I know I said that I’m not going to give up gaming.  But here’s the thing: if the industry was firing on all cylinders, and doing what it’s supposed to be doing, then the thought of giving up gaming shouldn’t have occurred to me.  It should NEVER occur.  But here we are.  Here I am, more frustrated with video games than I’ve ever been before. 

Too many games are moving backwards in terms of progression.  Too many franchises are falling apart.  Too many companies are turning into mockeries of their former selves.  Too many articles on too many sites are exposing mindsets that I can’t begin to get behind -- from bigwigs and players alike.  This isn’t how it should be.  I shouldn’t have to dig through the sand to find the hidden gems -- because this is a medium with more than enough potential to litter the field with gems.


That’s true of every medium, I know.  But unfortunately, every medium is capable of its missteps -- and there have been plenty of missteps, no matter where you turn.  It leaves me weary, and forced to think “This is the world we live in now.”  We live in a world where there are going to be at least five Transformers movies with Michael Bay’s name on them, and the fascination with reliving (and distorting) the past has reached a fever pitch.  We live in a world where Twilight has left its mark as a cultural phenomenon, and whether its heyday has passed or not, its aftershocks may well be felt for ages. 

We live in a world where you can succeed -- where you can get money, if nothing else -- just by giving an audience the chance to indulge in a product.  You give them sugar and junk food, and you win.  That’s not the way it should be.  I was raised and taught that hard work was what mattered.  Hell, I didn’t even need my parents to tell me that; I taught myself that.  If not in real life, then at the very least with this blog.


But when I hear things like the latest (and supposedly worst) Ninja Turtles movie not only topping the box office, but earning the rights to a sequel JUST DAYS AFTER IT APPEARED IN THEATERS, I can’t help but feel like sometimes, everything I’ve learned -- everything my life has been built on up to this point -- was all just a bunch of horseshit.

This isn’t how it should be.  But it is.  And it will be, until something or someone makes a change.  Which brings me to an even bigger question: why not me?  It’s one thing to whine about the woes of virtually every entertainment industry from behind the virtual blast shield of a blog, but it’s another to actually try and do something about it.  The only issue is that I can’t just say I’m going to do something. I need proof.  A decisive blow.  Something to show besides a bold claim.

As it turns out, now I have that.  Because I finished writing a novel.


Okay, that’s not 100% accurate -- but I wanted to end that section on a dramatic line.

If you’ve read this blog before, you may know that last year, I finished a NaNoWriMo challenge for the first time.  And it felt pretty good…to an extent.  See, the problem with it was the subject matter: it was a rebooted version of a story I’d finished well before I even made this blog.  When nothing came of it, I decided to give the first story a good, hard look -- all while imagining “what-if scenarios”.  That is, “what would happen if A happened instead of B?”  Or “If I were to do things differently -- i.e. better -- then I’d do X, Y, and Z, while taking out W.”  And that’s exactly what I did.  The reboot started in earnest in late 2013, and it didn’t stop.  I’ve been pecking away at it in the background for months.  Damn near a year, to my dismay (I wanted it done a LOT faster, but oh well.  C’est la vie.)

So follow along with me, if you can.  When I first started the story years ago, it was Dead over Two.  But during the revision process, enough details changed -- characters, concepts, and whole chapters -- to turn it into an enhanced version of the original.  So it went from Dead over Two to D.O.X. (short for “Day of Execution”).  But I’m not convinced that even D.O.X. was good enough.  Could it have gotten published?  Sure, probably.  But does that have the same prestige that it once had?  I have my doubts.  Thinking back, D.O.X. had its fair share of problems.  And I didn’t want to just bank on “good enough”.  I wanted something genuinely great.  The absolute best that I could do -- and well above the threshold of “good enough”.

So D.O.X is dead.  And in its place stands the third and final version of the story: Dead on Prime.


Meh.  Close enough.

It’s not all that often that I think “Wow, this thing I wrote is actually pretty good.”  But this is one of those rare cases.  I’m absolutely convinced that Dead on Prime is, if nothing else, vastly superior to D.O.X.  The story is denser.  The plot is simpler.  The pace is faster.  The themes are bolder.  The humor is funnier.  The drama is heavier.  The action is clearer.  And the characters are the best they’ve ever been, bar none. 

Individually, in this third stage they start at a point in their arcs -- in their viability as enjoyable people -- which the cast in its second stage didn’t reach until the very end.  It’s probably worth noting that the three main female characters have gotten significantly better, to the point where you could call it Super D.O.X.: The Notably Less Shit at Depicting Women Edition.  If nothing else, DoP passes the Bechdel Test…although that doesn’t mean what people think it means.

Either way, DoP gives the world what it so desperately needs: more female grapplers…with actual giant-swing action!  Rejoice, Tina fans!


That’s not to say that DoP is perfect, even after I finish fixing it up.  I like the characters, but it remains to be seen if anyone else will tolerate their antics.  I can’t shake the feeling that sometimes the cast gets to where they need to be because of dumb luck or contrivance.  I suspect it’s about as subtle as a brick to the face.  And as always, I’m concerned that my technique isn’t where it should be -- as if I’m trying to paint a masterpiece with a handful of melted crayons. 

I’ll have to dig back into the story to decide for myself, but even if there are weaknesses I can’t whisk away, I’m still reasonably confident in it.  If I were to give the story’s three forms a score, then Dead over Two would get a D-.  D.O.X would get a C -- maybe a weak C+ if the reader felt generous.  DoP is sitting somewhere between B and B+.  There’s work to be done, and a battle to be won, but right now I think I’m in good shape.

Now.  Let’s talk about length.



I really set that one up, didn’t I?

I’ve been trying not to mention this, because in hindsight it was kind of a dumb move.  But it’s worth explaining that in its finished form, D.O.X. wasn’t one book.  It was seven.  You could think of the whole thing as a comic book event -- one story broken up into seven volumes.  Each one was mostly strong enough to stand on its own (as acts that focused on a particular tentpole in the plot), but gathered together they started and ended the tale. 

It probably wasn’t an easy sell in that form, but the tradeoff is that it wouldn’t have been that hard -- maybe effortless -- to chain the seven back into one book, especially since I first broke them up to keep the Word file under control.  (Read: keep Word from crashing.)  I don’t remember the exact word count, but 544K comes to mind here.  Somewhere around 2800 MS Word pages, setting aside formatting needs.

Don’t be impressed.  It sounds huge, but the word count isn’t much more than The Lord of the Rings.


With DoP, I had the knowledge gained from past failures experiences to do what I thought would be best for the story.  (You know, besides rewriting it -- or Xrd’ing it, as I like to call it.)  So it started out as one book, and it’s going to stay as one book.  Like the last run, it takes place over the course of several days -- but instead of cramming 78% of the story into a single day, as I did with D.O.X., Prime has a mostly-even spread over four days.  It makes for a much smoother progression, and gives me the chance I need to slowly but surely unravel the story’s setting.     

Okay, so what about the length?  Well, it’s hard to say how long the story will be once I sand off the troublesome bits; I’ve been reading through chapters on a regular basis before this point, and there are some redundancies in there.  But right now, the file I’ve got -- well, the eight files, because I don’t want Word making my laptop melt -- weighs in at 501k words.  It’s an amount that’s more than possible to reach if you treat every month like NaNoWriMo (even though I didn’t, but whatever).  And again, I had the knowledge gained from past experiences; by and large, the story had already been written.  I just had to type it out.  Admittedly some days it was easier to “type it out” than others, but given that I once (and only once, when the planets aligned and I went into some kind of Super Mode) typed eight thousand words in a single day, I don’t think I’m allowed to take it easy.

All things considered, I don’t want to take it easy.


I don’t have much in the way of talent.  I’m not the genius people have claimed I am.  I’m nowhere near gifted, or godlike, or anything like that; I struggle, just like everyone else.  But the one thing I have going for me, more than anything else -- the one thing that compensates for my lack of talent -- is effort. 

I believe that I typed all of these words -- two entirely separate versions of the same general story -- for a reason.  I believe that someday soon, in one way or another, my effort will bear its fruits.  And if it doesn’t?  Then I’ll work even harder.  I’ll figure out what I need to do, and do it with all the force I can muster -- even if that means going right back to step zero.  That’s how I’ll become a writing hero.  That’s the hero I want to be.

…So I guess that makes me the Rock Lee of would-be writers, then.

  
I don’t want to pat myself on the back here, but even if I prefer to retain my modesty, I can’t help but think about what all of this says about me.  I mean, really.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks that my pace and effort borders on the demonic…and yeah, I guess in a lot of ways that’s true.  I’ve been writing like I’ve been possessed by something.  You could make a pretty strong argument that I haven’t just been writing, but -- in light of the lesser fare out there, and my own increasing frustrations -- I’ve been writing angry.  (Nic Cage would be proud, for sure.)

And lest you think I’m some sort of mad machine, I’ll debunk that right now. There have been plenty of times where I’ve felt (and was) burnt out.  But making Prime was something that I had to do, and not just to make up for time lost faffing about with D.O.X.  I had to do it, because if I’m going to be a writer of some renown, I want it to be because I gave the people the best damn story I could -- something genuinely good, instead of just “good enough”.

I wrote half a million words, and then wrote half a million better words.  Because that’s what the people deserve.  And there isn’t a single fucking thing that can prove otherwise.


I’ve mentioned this in conversations before, but I don’t know if I’ve said as much here on Cross-Up (at least not in a while, best-case scenario).  So I’ll go ahead and do it now.  As you can guess, the best ending for me would be to have this story published, have it become a tour de force in the world, and have someone -- anyone -- out there call me a hero.  So in a lot of ways, I’m doing this for selfish reasons.  I would absolutely accept the fame and fortune that came my way.  And more importantly, I’d accept -- hell, I want the power to sway hearts and minds, as countless stories have done before.

But there’s more to it than that.  If -- and I stress IF -- I end up becoming something major in the world, I know it’ll be because of more than just effort.  More than anything, it’ll probably just be luck.  I know that there are plenty of people out there just like me who have done even more, and gone even farther for the sake of their dream.  And I’m okay with that.  I wish them well.  I salute their efforts, and pray that they succeed.


But what I can do -- and what I want to do -- is be a bridge.  The first step on a staircase.  As I said, I don’t have much in the way of talent.  I know there are people much, much, MUCH better than me, because I’ve seen and met them myself.  I know that it’s pointless to try and chase after some stupid title of “the best” or “the number one”.  First off, that’s going to come down to opinion.  Second, I can’t be the best.  I don’t have what it takes.

But that’s fine.  I don’t want to be the best.


I want to be my best, of course.  But more than anything -- even beyond just being a peddler of words -- I want to be a bridge.  I want to show people that they can go far, and do what they’ve always wanted to do.  If people have to walk over me, and past me, to reach that goal, then fine.  Let them walk.  But know this: I’ll take a bold step forward to show people that, to put it simply, it ain’t over

Even if things look bleak, and even if it seems like there’s no good or justice in the world, I want to give others the push they need to be their very best.  I want them to use their talent -- tapped or otherwise -- to strike out, and surpass me.  I want to be a hero, so that others can find the strength and drive they need to become heroes, too. 

I want to become their hope.


Nothing will ever change without action.  And no matter how bad things look, there’s always a way to fix it, or at the very least make things better.  There are plenty of people out there, right here, right now, that can do that.  They just need the chance.  The passion.  The belief that they, too, can make a difference -- be it small or large.  I want to show people that.  I’ll be the proof, and become their hope -- so that they can spread that hope in turn.  That hope will change them, others, and the world at large; even if they’re just a bunch of radical dreamers typing away at keyboards, the stories they tell can affect hearts and minds far more than any world leader ever could.  That’s the power of a good story.

And I believe, steadfastly, from now until the end of my days, that it’s my power, too.


There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on my end.  A whole lot.  I need to clean up Dead on Prime, and make sure that the story is the very best I can make it.  And I need to show it to those who can take a folder full of Word files and transform it into a product that can do the people justice.   The fight’s not even close to over, but I have every intention of bringing it to the end that I want.

But that’s not all.  I have every intention of keeping Cross-Up going for as long as I’m able.  There are posts that I want to write, and posts I’m going to write.  And more importantly, I want to branch out to others -- give them good content, and celebrate their content in return.  I want to make this blog bigger and better than it’s ever been.  And while I can’t promise that every post from here on is going to be nice and meaty, even if I have to go on hiatus (and I suspect I will), I’ll have at least a little bit to offer anyone who ventures here.    It’s the only way to thank those who would bother for even a second to read my stuff.


And that’s about where I stand right now.  There’s no telling what the future holds for me, but I’ll use every ounce of power I’ve got to push the odds in my favor.  Is it going to be easy?  No.  Nothing I’ve done so far has been.  But that’s all right.  This is how it should be.  Not just because of effort.  Not just because of talent.  Not even because of something as silly as a dream.

It’s all about faith.  And I’ll do all I can to keep it alive.




Yeahhhhhhh...I didn't want to leave on just a picture.  This song just seemed so eerily fitting.  And Super Sentai's instrumental themes are just too damn stronk.

4 comments:

  1. "I don’t remember the exact word count, but 544K comes to mind here. Somewhere around 2800 MS Word pages, setting aside formatting needs."

    Damn. My Persona 3 fanfic is getting that long - word count-wise.



    I'm proud that you're working your ass off on Dead on Prime (or Time? lol). You really seem to want it done and out there to feel that you accomplished something, and maybe show others a thing or two about how hard work kicks the ass of cheap shots. The fact you went through three attempts at the same story is both overkill but very useful. Can't expect the first draft to go well, y'know?


    After reading this, I'm re-reevaluating how I'm gonna finish my fanfic, as it's one draft (with extra Word doc with nearly 200 scrapped scenes) and I'm the only one working on it. You can be your own worst critic, and I've found myself debating on whether or not I should re-write everything to condense things, reduce repetition, and remove pointless details. A few times I have asked a friend to bounce ideas off of but otherwise this was a solo project. Dunno if your story is also a solo job, if it is, I wish you a ton of luck my friend. But again, at least you have three drafts of the story unlike my one.


    Sorry if this turned out more of a me-centric comment, but I can relate and understand a bit of your dilemma about the state of things (gaming, entertainment in general). Hard work seems frowned upon and we're left wondering why the hell cheap, unimaginative crap gets all the glory and attention. We both don't want to run into the same pitfalls and cliches that are used to death and often don't consider any negative implications. I'm not 100% sure what inspired you to write Dead on Prime, but I know one reason I started my fanfic was to try to put in writing certain story elements that some people don't seem to get right. Is it arrogant of me to admit that I want to fix things? Probably. The story might not be great but at least I'm trying to put effort into it.


    So again. You deserve a pat on the back for your extra effort. Keep at Dead on Prime, dude.

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  2. Given some of the stuff I've talked about here on Cross-Up, I would be a filthy damn hypocrite if I let the first or even the second draft slip out into the world. Cripes, did I make some big mistakes there. But they've been pounded out with Dead on Prime, so I'm hoping that I won't have to do a fourth version of the story, because A) in spite of my fervor, I suspect that I literally can't start over again, and B) I want to move on to something that's even better.


    Here's a fun fact: this story here was supposed to be the thing that got my foot in the door, and earned me the leeway to work on my dream project. So the fact that I'm still putzing around with some story about ghost-punching frustrates me...but I guess it'll be worth it in the end.


    In any case, you and I aren't the only ones who've lamented the state of the entertainment industries. I've heard the theory that people buy into the lesser fare because even if it IS lesser fare, it's still catering to the basest desires and tastes. There's an audience and (shallow) success in doing that, even if it effectively costs a creator his soul. But there's a much BETTER audience out there when a work actually has...you know, WORK put into it. Call it "creative justice" if you will -- if only because it sounds freakin' cool.


    Anyway, thanks for the well-wishes. I've still got some work to put into it, but for once I'm confident that it'll get there. Or somewhere in general. Likewise, good luck with things on your end. You can take it as far as you want, but the fact that you're willing to give it your best -- to try and right the wrongs you've perceived -- has to stand for something. No doubt about that.


    "I'm not 100% sure what inspired you to write Dead on Prime"


    It's because all my stories are built around certain themes and superpowers, and none of them (at the time) dealt with ghosts. That's pretty much the gist of it. Well, there is more that I can say, but I'll get to that another time.


    Actually, I just remembered that I started doing blog posts on the shift from the earlier versions to Dead on Prime. I should probably get back to doing that again; it actually helped me out in a couple of spots. I don't know why I dropped it.


    ...But I'm going to blame Watch Dogs for it. You should, too.

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  3. First off, congratulations! Second off, 500k? Yikes.

    Real talk here. As someone that's been in your shoes. My first draft of my work in progress was 500k+. Once I got off the high of realizing I had something pretty good I poked through it, realizing it had a lot of content. About three or four books worth.

    The first thing you should do is figure out what happens in it. 500k is nothing to sneeze at, but you may be looking at only 100k of usable material. Usable is a harsh word, so let me clarify.

    Let me use Two Destroyers as an example. It has four POVs and when it comes down to it, it covers Derrek's arrival to Pange, the realization the sun is gonna blow up a city/the world and the resolution of this earth shattering kaboom. The other three POVs want to resolve the same issue but they each have their own personal conflict to endure and overcome.

    That's a lot of ground to cover in 120,000 words.

    Book one of LotR -- The Fellowship of the Ring: 187k

    Book one of A song of Ice and Fire -- A Game of Thrones: 298k



    See the issue? These are Fantasy Epics. If you've read either of these bad boys a lot happens.


    My advice? Get in touch with what is accomplished in the book and what stops along the way need touched on. Let me know if my developmental stuff would help you organize those 500k words.


    P.S. In Two Destroyers I 'used' about 200k of the 500k draft, but almost none of it ended up seeing the light of day. I almost completely rewrote the material and turned it into a 'bible' for the final product. Food for though. :)

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  4. Ah, I had a feeling you'd pop in eventually -- as the voice of reason to my voice of, uh, hot dogs, I guess. I want to say "madness", but come on. That's a little on-the-nose, isn't it?


    In any case? Yeah, I probably need to take a good, hard look at what needs to go. Historically my strength has been getting ALL OF THE WORDS on paper; the problems come in when it's time to start cutting them out. I'll have to think hard on what needs to stay and what needs to go (if anything, but I suspect there is). Still, I'd like to think that I've made things at least a LITTLE easier on myself than I have in the past. If nothing else, I don't need to cram in chapters to try and develop characters or events.


    Seriously, man. Xrd'ing this story was practically a necessity. You don't even know.


    Well, whatever. I should be able to sort things out...though looking at the totals of the fantasy epics you posted here, I have to wonder where I got my numbers from.


    *checks bookmark*


    Oh, I see. I guess my eyes glazed and I misread; LOTR weighs in at 473k altogether, not just the first book. So I was using the wrong point of reference this whole time. Uh, whoops.


    Well. There's never been a more appropriate time to deploy this song.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPqRBsXS0iQ



    Well, whatever. Thanks for the praise and the well-wishes. And the offer, by extension. I don't know how many times and how many ways I can say "I appreciate your input" before it actually takes on physical form and showers you with crystallized miracles, but until that day comes, all I can say is thanks.


    Good luck on your end. Now excuse me while I go find a banana peel to slip on. For science -- or something.


    Also, Kamen Rider is (also) too damn stronk. Just thought I'd leave on that note.

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