Thursday, October 2, 2014

Attachments

It's strange how attached you get to fictional characters you've created.

Ever since I stranded Bo in the depths of the sewers beneath TacoPlace, I've felt strangely guilty, like I'd left the baby sitting on top of the car before driving off.

I mean, yes, no measurable time passes in a fictional world which I create, but it galls me to leave a story half-done.

Back when I was younger, I had a real problem with starting and not finishing writing projects. I'd write the first couple pages of a story and then abandon it. Or I'd write the middle scene of an action sequence, or I'd build up the background to a novel and then I would just leave it hanging there. Or--and this is where I put my nerd hat on for realz--I'd start writing a role playing game, usually some kind of fantasy heartbreaker  (and one or two science fiction heartbreakers), get the statistics down, get some interesting systems in place, a skill or a class list, daydream for a while about how awesome it would be to get this all done...and then I'd move on to the next shiny.

I think I wrote a thousand imaginary books and ten thousand potential stories, but never finished any.

Writing has a bit of ebb and flow to it. There's a honeymoon period which disappears fast when it turns into real work. Then it gets better. Then it gets worse. But if you make a habit of pushing through to the last hard part, awesome things happen.

Heinlein once said that the first rule of writing was to write every day. The second rule was to finish what you write. I forget what any of the later rules were. Probably "don't forget the later rules."

But finishing what you write is very important. More important than writing every day, I think. Writing every day keeps your pen sharp. Finishing what you write is what makes you a writer.

Like I said, I never really completed projects when I was younger.

The turning point for me happened about five or six years ago. Maybe longer than that. I don't really want to look up the exact number because it feels like yesterday and finding out the exact timeline might be kind of depressing, like doing the math at the end of a bag of Oreos and realizing you've just eaten the equivalent of three or four happy meals and you're still hungry.

Like I implied before, I've had a life-long fascination for RPG's. The combination of game and simulation, the interplay of make-believe and hard rules, social elements colliding with math is a heady one for me. I started out playing D&D, flirted with HERO and Shadowrun, the old Whitewolf Storyteller games, and others. Like a lot of gamers, I made my own homebrew material and game systems.

I abandoned a lot of projects. Fantasy games about space pirates, games which were completely indistinguishable from AD&D except this one gets parrying and shield use right, man, games about mutants and psychic abilities, games where you play gods and have to acquire followers. Billions of permutations. And I abandoned almost all of them.

For a while, Dungeon magazine had this feature where every issue they'd feature a mini-game based on Wizards of the Coast's new d20 system. The mini-games were great. Instead of just bashing orcs and dwarves and playing in a fakey version of Tolkien's universe, there'd be games where you could play mutants scavenging through postapocalyptia, you could be a wanna-be John Carter fighting his way through the jungles of Jupiter. Another dealt with giant anime robots and who wouldn't want to play that? Trippy stuff, and all done in twenty pages each.

I got the itch one day, probably in early spring. Read one of them and thought "Hey, I could do that." Twenty pages wasn't much.

So I made a little Star Trek game for the d20 Modern system. And I decided I was actually going to finish the damn thing. And I did. I outlined every thing a Star Trek game should have. Figured out the tone I wanted to hit and plowed through it, come hell or high water, no matter what my mood that day was. I finished it.

Eventually, it went through several iterations, acquired a different game system, and became "Where No Man Has Gone Before 2." For a silly homebrew game, it's been weirdly successful. Not monetarily or anything like that, but it's nice knowing that a ton of people have played it and had fun. I once read a play report of some cool German guys getting together in a pub and playing it over beer. A very nice Canadian guy made miniatures and other cool art for it. And so on.

Once you finish one big thing like that, others become easier. You know you can do it and, even more so, you know it's worthwhile.

So now I'm finishing up that clone story because leaving it at a cliffhanger has been bugging me. Don't worry, Bo, I'll get you out of that awful place yet.

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