You know…I’ve been thinking.
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
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.