baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)

written today over lunchtime


"Hey, you," said the unearthly horror.

"Go away," I said.

Its bristled, wet protuberance squirted a puff of foetid air into my ear. "I hunger," it said in a voice like gravel scratching your best pie pan.

I slapped it aside. "You can't have my soul or my dried fish."

"I only wanted one of those things," it wheedled, but I ignored it and focused back on the bushes.

There was a heavy whump beside me, followed by a series of quieter, rhythmic thumps on the ground.

"Go and bother the urchin girl before I carve a psalm or three into your filthy hide," I said through my teeth, still not bothering to make contact with the acidic red pits it called eyes.

"She's awesome," the unearthly horror said. It did not move. The thumps continued. My target had gone by now.

I stood up in one graceful motion and kicked the abomination in the rear. It was worth the time I spent later sewing the trouser leg beck together.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)

Young Baskerville's foray into meta-poetry or satire or something. (© 1999)


Dissection

by Herm Baskerville, 1999

Settle down, class, please. The lesson has begun.

The poems we will be dissecting today will look
Like this one. The poems we have in school
Have been pre-killed to avoid distress, and are preserved
In formaldehyde. And if anyone feels faint at the sight
Of alliteration, you may go outside.

You can get the necessary instruments from the tray
At the front. You need one poem, one white tile,
One scalpel. It doesn't matter if, like this one, it is a little blunt.

Let us make a start. We haven't much time, so I suggest
That we go immediately for the heart of the poem.
Watch, and make a small incision here, between
Verses three and four: just there will do.
Yes, that's fine; try to make the cut as neat as mine.
And try to keep the punctuation
On the white tile, and not on the floor.

Pay attention, please. Notice the neat form of the simile,
Just peeping out from behind the extended metaphor.
Here we have the colon, and further down,
The semi colon. Can anybody guess
What this is? Yes, it is an internal rhyme.
And here is the inner or hidden meaning, visible
If we just hack our way through the outer meaning.

Oh, there's the bell.
Quickly put everything away. Just tip the pieces
Into the bin. If you haven't had the chance
To open up your heart, it doesn't matter.


Terry Pratchett said he liked this. So did my English teacher, but let's keep the credit to the one who inspired my love of writing rather than teaching a curriculum optimised to suck the life and colour out of it.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)

"What you doing, Aunty?"

Just a collection of reference pics for a future minor character – the son of a genetically uplifted horse, who commissioned a bunch of magogeneticists to give her foal a horn. She wanted him to be special. That's also why she named him Moonflower Etheriel Bliss. *facepawheaddesk* Mares.

Baby pic!

These following are all pics of one cremello chap and right for colour, but I don't know that he'd the right breed/build. (I know the horses in this setting are roughly Percheron-derived, but I haven't the expertise to recognise one if it came up and ate a stick at me.)
He still knows how to play
Our cheeky boy Levis
Levis as a 4yr old
Baptiste Levis Strauss
On the go

Here's a pic that I particularly like (source unknown; the url on the picture is sadly domainsquatted now, so I can't find out any info about it), although this might be overdoing the feathers. You know, just a tad.

feathery light-coloured horse

Possible reference picture for Moonflower Etheriel Bliss, the poor boy.

And finally, amusement courtesy of Second Life, because whatever daft idea you come up with, someone is bound to have done it before in Poser…

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)

So I was idly tweeting with another online writing enthusiast, David Ball of Ongoing Worlds

David: (to someone else about a different writer) I think he's got multiple characters in his head
Herm: Oh boy do I know THAT feeling. :)
David: Do you have multiple personalities? Or do you just mean you write about lots of characters? Or are they both the same thing?1
Herm: My characters are a lively bunch, but when it comes down to it, everyone is certain who's the writer and who the puppets. :)

David: Have you ever known a player who uses his name for the character? I always thought that was weird.
Herm: Not as such. Known people, self included, who use character names as their screen names. Can be warning sign but not always.
Herm: I knew one guy who invented a race of super-elves and used the species name as his handle. He also really thought he was one.
David: Haha let me guess they were better and much more powerful than normal Elves? Was he a god modder?
Herm: He tried so hard not to be a powergamer while his immortal psychic swordsman interacted with everyone else's humanoids… ;)
Herm: He was a good writer and a good friend for a while but he just couldn't play a human. When he did, it BECAME an immortal elf.
David: oh god! He should have read my article about god modding https://ongoingworlds.wordpress.com/…

David: So what's the different between a god modder and a powergamer? Is it just a different term for the same thing?
Herm: Yes, as I understand them. But I've seen others say "godmodding" to mean "writing another's character w/o permission".
David: Ahhh, good point it does also mean that. Maybe i'll do a follow-up article to distinguish the two

By which time I'd already decided to do a bloggy ramble myself.

First off, and tangentially: maybe it's just because I'm an old-timer, but we always said "godmode"/"godmoding", not "godmod"/"godmodding". I always assumed the etymology2 was "someone whose character is overpowered to a degree inappropriate to the setting – like using a God Mode cheat on a video game"3. Possibly the urge to rhyme won out in popular parlance. God-mod. Mod-nod-plod-oddsbodikins.

I say I say I say, what's personal, enjoyable and best done in private?

Of course you can be a good writer and also have the powergaming flaw, just like you can be a nice person but incredibly obnoxious when you're with more than two or three people. Some of us are naturally more suited to solo writing: after all, the protagonist or antagonist of a novel can be comparatively overpowered without tripping the same Mary Sue alarm in the reader, and without having to worry about discourtesy to the other writers.

So, if writing about immortal planet-building elves is your bag, and more importantly if it's your only bag and not shared by your friends, perhaps it's best bagged in private. That way you can use both hands and it's less messy.

All the same, if someone really wants to play with others, I won't say they shouldn't. (It helps if they're into it with the right reasons or attitude, which I'll cover later.) But that does come with a certain expectation of communication, cooperation and gentlefolkly behaviour towards all writers involved.

Be chivalrous.

Communication is a perennial problem in roleplaying games and I can't offer any advice beyond the obvious: do it. Do lots of it. Chat around the roleplay; chat about things you liked or didn't understand. Make yourself approachable and encourage questions or requests from others. And act on what you hear.

In extreme cases, yes, that may even mean making your precious character behave out-of-character in order not to distress another writer who may have some personal issues of his/her/their own. (If you're a good roleplayer who can think on your feet, even this can be avoided very easily. "Suddenly Cecil dropped his fork and had to stop talking for a moment." Done.)

The writer I mentioned earlier on had a degree of my own social impairment and didn't grok that. It was overridingly important to him to be true to himself, and his characters were too personal to him for an accommodation like that to be thinkable.

I think a lot of roleplaying etiquette problems stem from people taking either their characters or their writing skills over-personally.

One of the two of us is real. On balance, I don't think it's the guy with the wand of fireballs.

I've recently been involved with a fan roleplay for the first time ever. During that I've come across people with different opinions about how a character should behave. The person playing that character reacted in a very upset fashion to criticism along the lines of "I think that was out-of-character for him", describing it as the most hurtful thing it was possible to say to a roleplayer.

I don't agree with that. Between two fans of a series, what is in or out of character in any uncanonical situation is a judgement call, and just because one of the two fans is actually roleplaying the character in question, their opinion doesn't override that of someone else who likes the series. Of course, where one person's opinion does override the other is in the course of that particular roleplay – the character from the series 'belongs' to each of you, but the fan iteration of him is being played by one of you, and that's who has the final say about whether he ends up hanging from a bridge.

If you feel the game is wandering so far off track that it's no longer enjoyable for you, the other choice is to leave as amicably as possible, which the other player ended up doing. Their parting comments, although expressed fairly politely, were what caused that strong reaction from the player who felt accused of OOCness – and that strong reaction caused alarm bells for me.

As well it might. I've been guilty of the same.

Lessons can be learned. Blame can be shouldered. (With a smile!)

I'll take a fairly recent example. The vast majority of what I write and roleplay is original fiction, not fan stuff. When someone described a character of mine as (paraphrased) an arrogant know-it-all, I was very upset. Now, this could be an understandable reaction from a writer who had been trying to play the character as approachable and humble as well as highly intelligent: after all, essentially the comment signified that I'd failed to do this, which was a straightforward failure in my writing skills.

But being honest, I couldn't separate that from feeling hurt more personally. The character in question began as a bit of silly wish-fulfillment – a villainous Gary Stu, if you will. I've developed him over years into something I, while trying not to be presumptive, think is much more of a rounded and realistic fellow than he used to be, complete with healthy differences in outlook from his writer's. But still, unlike other characters of mine where I would take criticism of their personality flaws with humour and often agreement (and even secret glee that I as a writer have expressed those flaws well), with this one character there's still that bit of personal resentment that insists my friend is criticising me.

But it's a childish bit of personal resentment, and it's wrong.

It's not that I think the character's perfect – indeed he's deliberately far from it – but I suppose arrogance is an accusation that hits close to the bone for me personally. My upset was understandable, certainly, but it was wrong. And it needed putting in its place. After a bit of weeping and angsting and canvassing my other friends saying "Do I really write Suitov as arrogant, baw haw?" I got over it. I'm still not sure if I accept the criticism as it was stated, because the collective feeling was far from unanimous, but when I write the character now I bear it in mind. With any luck, Suitov is less likely to be taken as arrogant these days than he was before.

A point to all of this. I know I had one.

Pairs of things.

Authors do take their characters personally, that much is obvious, but it's (a) not a positive trait and (b) not an immutable fact. Nobody is stuck with a thin skin. Part of playing with others means, to put it brutally, jolly well blowing one's nose and growing a pair. Whether breasts, balls or whatever secondary sexual appendages we neuters get to have, when you play with others you will either end up growing a pair of something or you'll always fail to fit in anywhere without upset.

If you don't want criticism, you can always write your novel, send it off and then prepare yourself for the possible shock of your life when you hear back from the slush pile editor. That's cool. Many people work best that way. Writing solo is a different kind of writing, as we've covered above.

But, if you've chosen to roleplay with others for fun, you will need to accept the basic tenet that fun needs to be had by all writers involved.4 They're not there to carry you or stroke your ego. They're not there purely to set up really cool lines for your character to say.5 You're all there with the aim of forming a kind of gestalt lulz machine, cranking out fun and jollies for all in the vicinity.

Happy pretendy funtimes.

To finish with, I could do a lot worse than to link you all to the legendary article entitled Internet Drama and You. Even if you just skimmed my lengthy post here, I urge you to read Wade's in full. It's funnier than this one and it's written by another Deadpool fan. If that hasn't yet convinced you to read it, it also has ILLUSTRATIVE PICTURES. Come on! I mean, pictures!


1 I could deal at a bit of length with the similarities and differences between dissociative identities and being a writer, but that's not the topic of this post. I know some multiples number among my friends, so as a courtesy to me, no flaming David for his well-meaning curiosity. :) (Or, frankly, anyone.)

2 Yes, I do theorise uncontrollably about etymology. For someone lacking a classical Greek and Latin education, I'm weirdly interested in the epidemiology of words. I put this down to two of the racial flaws I took at character creation, "Half English Teacher" and "Half Geek", which infused my genes with two hefty doses of pedantry. Come to think of it, even as a toddler I wouldn't say a new word until I knew how it was spelled.

3 Wikipedia has more about God Mode and debug modes. Even modern video games use this term sometimes. The command console in Oblivion, for example, toggles god mode with "tgm".

4 But not necessarily all characters involved, of course. (Sorry, Weft.)

5 There's an element of that, of course, but Crowning Moments of Awesome, Snarkitude or Being the Universe's Butt Monkey are there to be shared – appropriately, according to character type. Two badass characters in play means two characters who both need to be given scenes that express their badassery.

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baskerville: Chibi (manga) picture of Weft as a catboy, dressed in feminine colours and obviously very annoyed about the whole deal. (Weft not a kitty)

My Hobby: Wryly smirking at people's obsession with homoromantic subtext, while writing three major male characters who are exceptionally guilty of it.

(To be fair, one doesn't realise it and would be appalled if he did, one is above caring about such things, and the third describes himself as omnisexual but is really just foul. With him it's not so much subtext as nobody believing a dog is really chatting them up.)

Being as how my own orientation points strongly towards the siblinghood and bromance side of things, while I'm not above flirting with the idea (especially for laughs!), the relationships I really want to write about are complicated, banter-filled, occasionally fraught or downright confusing to both participants and onlookers, but never all-sex-all-the-time.

That being said, do note what I'm very carefully avoiding denying outright, and therefore please don't take this as a cue to stop speculating or indeed writing slash fic, because that would just be no fun at all.

That's not to say some of my characters don't enjoy happy, normal romantic-sexual relationships too. Suitov is seeing Jaina, and Paraskive is cougaring (she'd slap me for that, and quite right too) a delightful postman toy boy named Alisander. One of these relationships will end badly owing to Suitov being, well, honestly, pretty bloody idiotic for a supposed genius, and the other may be strained when their island is put under martial law, but we'll see. And among my backstory and minor characters, of course, there are plenty of successful hetero, homo and even xeno relationships. (Instarrian boys loooove them alien womens. Quite often for a price.)

There's the added complication of pairing roleplay characters up. If you pair yours off with someone else's, and they're infrequently around, it can cause frustration and slow down a plot. If you pair one of yours off with another of yours, it can become a bit like brainwanking, restricting the opportunities for other people's characters to engage with yours. I don't have an easy answer for this one. I sometimes write an NPC partner in for a character, or make it explicitly asexual or celibate, simply to avoid having to write too much about romance.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)

In which (three short updates) we see a little glimpse of Young Suitov's values. Wait, he has what now?

Suitov was currently standing at the top of the steps, in the early morning light, raking the gravel of the driveway. This was accomplished without touching it physically. When one is fifteen and a new mage, one tends to do things the flashy, inefficient way for the sake of it.

One Dog Night continues. (I really need to find a better name. They've been together for, what, a couple of days now, and the story's continuing for at least another couple.)

N.B. There is an overlap of a sentence at the end of some posts. That's just to do with where I break off writing. Will be fixed in a final edit.

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baskerville: Suitov Iceheart's face in profile. He's a pale-skinned, dark-haired young adult male wearing black and gold. (Suitov)

"You look ill, Rige," Lottir understated.

"Really? Where does it show?" asked Lord Suitov of Applestone, who was sweating bucketfuls, trembling slightly, breathing so hard he was almost panting, and apparently undecided about whether or not to throw up.

Heatstroke

Just about universally requested by my readers, when I asked what I should post more of, were fiction excerpts. That made me happy, so here you are.

In this one we get to see both more of Suitov as a young man, and more of the drawbacks of those atavistic Nordic genes of his.

It's not particularly hot here at present, but I've had the image of… well, what he does at the end… in my mind for a long time.

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baskerville: The smiling face of a big grey dog resembling an Irish Wolfhound. (Great Grey Dog)

An important step in making sure you have a rounded character instead of a Mary Sue, or so I've read, is making sure your little puppet is not omniscient, isn't correct about everything and is sometimes pretty failtastic at telling important information from unimportant.

Recently, in the interest of characterisation and hopefully the occasional plot idea, I've been mentally listing ways in which my characters are wrong about other characters. I don't mean factual things here, but rather those impressions that you form of people for whatever trivial reason and, thanks to confirmation bias, are hard to dislodge.

Some of them are secret for the sake of spoilers (although, for the record, even Suitov thinks Weft is gay), but here are some examples.

Suitov is wrong about:

Malfina: "It's a pity her gameplan for her life could never involve me. I gave up asking her the question; I imagine she was bored of hearing it."

Jaina: "She is emotionally fragile and I have to protect her. She couldn't cope with knowing about everything in which I'm involved; I'm not sure I could rely on her understanding."

Basaltine: "He will come to regret giving up his lifespan to match mine."

Sebastian: "The man is a ridiculous fraud playing a game of his own devising and not caring a whit for those around him. Sounds like a lot of fun, actually."

Himself: "I am not 'evil'. I am not cold-hearted. I feel as deeply as others do. That nickname 'Iceheart' is just a silly reputation on which I capitalise. I do have principles, some of which I will not break for any reason."

(Suitov has quite a balanced personality overall, and is intelligent and well-informed, but that doesn't protect him from sometimes being plain wrong, sucka.)

Weft is wrong about:

Sebastian: "He can do anything! Everything he says is true. In fact, I'm not worthy to hang around with the servant of a goddess. I wouldn't be surprised if he despises me."

Nico: "She has an irrational grudge against my organisation. Either that or our enemies have been telling her lies. She thinks I'm weak and she probably despises me."

Jaina: "She luuuuuurves Suitov so much that she won't listen to anything against him. They could never be happy together. I try to warn her off and she despises me."

Himself: "I'm worthless. Anything I try to do on my own initiative will end disastrously. Everyone I ever love will die horribly and it's my fault. I ruin everything I touch and I deserve to be despised."

(Classic example of an attitude problem saying more about the perpetrator's attitude to himself.)

Basaltine is wrong about:

Sylvie: "She could be my girlfriend. It could so work! We'd be awesome!"

Ferrl: "And she could be my girlfriend too. I'm her type!"

Helmine: "She so wants me!"

(Basaltine has a definite advantage in nosing out lies and motives, but hey, even a doggy character needs silly self-deception. A good-natured and hopelessly optimistic doggy personality provides that in spades.)

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baskerville: Suitov Iceheart's face in profile. He's a pale-skinned, dark-haired young adult male wearing black and gold. (Suitov)

"Rigey, tell me a story!"

"What do we say when we ask for things?"

"Pleeeeease!"

"Oh, all right then. One story."

Bedtime

Heheh. You like?

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Default)

It was fictitious mythology nite tonite. Hehe.

That's background stuff I worked out for a co-op story I'm writing with others. My excuse for this enjoyable exercise (a legitimate one!) is that one character, loosely mine but technically shared, lives this stuff and I want to add some depth to her knowledge. The other reason is that the avatars are settling into my brain and demanding attention.

Religion isn't interesting, but I love stories.


Piper was scared of the fireworks earlier this evening. Now he's near my feet, curled up on the study room carpet and happily sleepy. Not only have the fireworks stopped, he has been brought upstairs, made a flash-bang-excluding nest, fed and provided with a litter tray. This cat really prefers indoor toilet facilities. Too bad for him, most of the year.

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