Monday, January 8, 2018

Why is structure so important in storytelling?

A couple of days ago I was thinking about storytelling in the games that I have played. I was thinking about how important it is that the storylines in these games are well written and that the structure in them makes sense.

After all, when you manage to make the structure work and seem plausible, it's going to be so much easier to create a good story. It's so much easier to come up with a game that people are going to find enjoyable and worth playing.

So when it comes to good storytelling games, in most cases people probably like to refer to the 'Uncharted' series on Playstation 3 & 4. These games have managed to entertain us over the years and have kept us satisfied as players.

One of the biggest reasons that the series has managed to be so entertaining is that it has managed to respect the story structure. In most cases the series has managed to pay attention to this important aspect of storytelling.

When it comes to having a good structure, it's about having elements in your story that keep you entertained and immersed. A well structured story means that the story sucks you in and you can't take your eyes off the screen.

The best way to achieve this immersion is by coming up with a story that is well thought out and balanced. You need to have a solid premise, relatable characters and an overarching storyline, so that your story beats could make sense throughout the length of the game.

In the case of 'Uncharted', the game has been so entertaining, because we get to play a likable, 'Indiana Jones' type character in the game. We get to play Nathan Drake, a likable and relatable character who's always ready for another adventure.

Whether we're talking about him trying to follow Marco Polo's foot steps and trying to find the lost city of Shambhala, or him trying to find pirate Henry Avery's lost treasure and his hidden pirate colony, he's the guy that we want to spend our time with.

The series has worked in most of its installments so well, because the story manages to stay on point. The game pushes our characters to the right direction and most of the sequences in the game are well thought out and balanced.

Still, this is not to say that 'Uncharted' hasn't had any problems as a game series and that it has always gotten everything right. I'm not saying that all the installments in the franchise have been flawless and that the story has always been great.

On the contrary, especially when it comes to the third installment in the series, 'Drake's Deception', it has to be said that there were really big problems with the story. The structure was lacking and it was difficult to enjoy the game in certain places.

By that I mean that even though the main characters were still as likable as we've used to seeing them and even though the main storyline was still okay, that wasn't enough. The game had an awful pacing and the structure was simply not there.

As unfortunate as it is, especially in the second half of 'Drake's Deception', the game went on a such lengthy and unnecessary tangent that the structure of the story fell apart. The game, more or less never got to recover from that storytelling mistake.

In that sense, when you think about the 'Uncharted' series and storytelling in general, we shouldn't forget how important it is to make sure that all the aspects in the story work. We shouldn't forget those crucial things that matter and take them for granted.

After all, even though it's true that characters and storylines count the most, they are not the only things that matter. It's not enough to think that as long as your characters are likable and your storylines have potential, you have everything figured out.

In the end, the truth is that you still have to figure out things like story beats, pacing and the overall story structure. They are going to count too, so you have to make sure that you come up with stuff that fits in with the rest of the elements in the story.

In that sense, even though Uncharted 3: 'Drake's Deception' clearly was a big success saleswise - like those other 'Uncharted' installments - that doesn't mean that it was much of a success when it came to its story and how the story beats were executed.

On the contrary, the game managed to become a hit despite its unfortunate storytelling mistakes. It was a massive hit, even though it was clear that there were a of lot of problems with the structure and that the story as a whole didn't work that well.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Things to consider if you want to become a blogger.

As I reached my 300th blog post on this site last week, I was thinking that perhaps I could write something about being a blogger. I thought that I could give some advice, so that one could know a little bit more about the craft.

Below are some specific things that you should consider if you're thinking about becoming a blogger yourself. Even though the advice is pretty basic, it's still useful when it comes to blogging and being productive as a writer.

1) Choose a topic that you know of and that you're interested in. 

When you start blogging, you should choose a topic that you know a lot about and that you're interested in. Whether we're talking about fashion, music, food, television, movies, sports or something else, it's good to know what you're talking about.

After all, the better you know your stuff as a blogger, the more your writings will be based on facts and reality. This way you won't run out of things to say that easily and people have a reason to visit your blog more often.

In my case, as a tv spec writer, since I knew quite a bit about the craft and since I was also interested in sharing my thoughts, I thought that coming up with a blog would make sense and would be the way to go as a writer.

2) Have a consistent writing routine and publish regularly. 

When it comes to writing and publishing stuff, the best way to get things done is to have a steady writing routine. By having a solid writing routine, you'll find it easier to write and publishing articles becomes a second nature for you.

At the same time, you shouldn't write so often that you'll get burned out. There's no reason to write so often that you'll get so stressed and so tired of the whole process that you'll simply give up and stop posting stuff.

In my case, when I started writing this blog, at first I tried to write every single day. Not surprisingly, it didn't take more than a couple of weeks before I got so tired that I went for like a two month break from publishing anything.

3) Pay attention to the quality of your articles.

As a writer, you should make sure that you always value quality over quantity. You should understand that quality comes first and that there's no value in publishing stuff when you don't have anything meaningful to say.

Instead of forcing yourself to publish something that has little to no value, you should understand that less is usually more. You should spend enough time writing and rewriting your posts, so that they would be worth publishing.

In my case, over the last four years or so, I've been writing one article per week (4 every month). This way I don't have to rush things and I have enough time to make sure that my articles are readable, informative and entertaining.

4) Try to be as truthful and fair as possible.

It's important that as a writer you're always honest and that you don't worry too much about what others might think of you. Your advice and critique should be truthful, even though you might be stepping on other people's toes sometimes.

At the same time, there's really no point in being negative just for the sake of being negative. There's no value in being too cynical, so you should find ways to be constructive in your criticism, as long as it's only possible.

In my case, I try to make sure that I don't write about television shows and movies that much. I try not to critique and review them that often, because I know that in most cases I wouldn't have much, if anything good to say about them.

5) Be respectful towards others. 

Finally, when it comes to interacting with others and receiving feedback, pretty much everyone is going to get negative feedback from time to time. There's really no way around this and you just have to be able to deal with this fact.

So when you get negative feedback, don't let yourself get too worked up over other people's comments. As long as it's only possible, try to reason with the commenters and try to explain where you're coming from as a writer.

In the end, the truth is that when it's all said and done, you should treat people with respect. You should treat them with respect, because the more friendly and the more helpful you are towards others, the better things are going to be for everyone.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Writing helps take care of your mental health.

Over the last couple of days or so, it has to be said that I haven't felt good about myself. I have more or less felt that something is missing from my life and that I should do things that would make me feel better inside.

After all, over the last ten days or so, I haven't actually managed to do anything meaningful. Even though I have thought about writing something almost every day, I haven't spent time doing the actual writing at all.

The biggest reason that it's so important for me or anyone to write is that writing - at least in my opinion - helps you feel better about yourself. It helps you take care of your mental health and helps you in having a more positive outlook on life.

After all, when it comes to writing, one of the best things about the process is that when I'm writing an article or a screenplay, I feel that I'm doing something that makes sense. I feel like I'm doing something that has value and meaning.

The writing process is beneficial for me, because when I'm writing, I have to pay attention and concentrate on my task. I have to come up with ideas that have the potential to make sense and that are worth exploring and going through.

It simply cannot be overestimated how important it is to be able to concentrate on this process. It helps me find my inner self and the 'flow effect' makes me forget my worries, my fears and those other things that might make me depressed.

Instead of being overly worried and feeling confused about things, I get to use my energy on something constructive. I'll notice that I have certain abilities and tools that help me in processing those frustrating feelings that bother me.

So in most cases, by using these tools and by working on my writing project, I'll manage to come up with ideas and solutions for my task. I'll manage to produce solid stuff on my computer screen that makes me feel better.

Still, even though writing is good for you, this is not to say that writing is also something that is always easy to do. I'm not saying that writing stuff is always going to be easy and that it doesn't require effort or hard work. 

In reality, writing as a craft is most of the time genuinely challenging. Most of the time you tend to have problems and you struggle when you're trying to come up with something that might be worth your time and worth reading.

Nevertheless, when it comes to this process as a whole, it can't be denied how important and beneficial it can be for you. At least in my case, writing has been so good for my mental health and has given my life purpose and meaning over the years.

In that sense, if you're thinking about becoming a writer or simply thinking about writing as a hobby, you shouldn't be afraid of giving it a go. You shouldn't be afraid of giving yourself a chance to see what you're capable of as a writer.

After all, if you manage to give yourself a chance, you'll notice that writing is not about being perfect and about not making mistakes. It's not about thinking that you're not allowed to make errors and that you're a bad person if you screw up.
On the contrary, writing really is about giving yourself a chance to make mistakes. It's about trying things, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and knowing that you can fix things later and that you don't have to be 'perfect' right away.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Make sure that your story has a good ending.

Even though I have had problems watching tv lately, last week I managed to watch a new episode of The Big Bang Theory. I watched the episode, because I wanted to give the show a chance and see if it was even remotely watchable nowadays.

After all, over the last few seasons, this popular sitcom about our four nerds hasn't really been that watchable. It hasn't been well written and its storylines and characters have been mostly hopelessly stale and uninspired.   

So based on these things, I didn't exactly have my hopes up when I started watching episode S11E09, 'The Bitcoin Entanglement'. I didn't think that the show could work anymore and that it could even produce random quality episodes.

Nevertheless, as I started watching the episode, it didn't look that bad right away. It seemed as if the episode might actually work and that it would remind us of the good old days when the show was still funny and fresh.

After all, this episode - that dealt with our guys mining some Bitcoins - was about these characters going back in time. The characters were back to their 'normal' selves and were even back to wearing their old clothes.

In the episode, the main storyline was about our nerds trying to remember what they had done with their precious bitcoins. They tried to figure out where they had hidden their laptop that had the keys to their bitcoin wallet.

The only one who could more or less remember what had happened was of course Sheldon with his eidetic memory. He was the one who was able to remember important details about the case and how things actually were.

The main storyline, at least the premise for it, for once felt plausible and revolved around the nerd stuff. It was refreshing to see a storyline that was something else than the usual tired relationship nonsense that had zero energy or creativity.

The episode also felt fairly watchable, because the jokes in most cases were character driven and felt like they were organic and natural. It felt like the writers were inspired and were actually doing their jobs this time.

However, there was one thing that didn't work in the 'Bitcoin Entanglement' at all. The ending for the episode didn't work because the resolution for it - rather predictably -  was so disappointing and that it did not make sense.

After all, there was no way that our nerds would actually end up becoming bitcoin millionaires. It was obvious that there had to be some kind of a resolution that would lead to our guys losing their precious 'treasure'.

So not surprisingly, when Sheldon told that he had hidden the bitcoin key to Leonard's USB-stick, and that Leonard revealed that he had lost the Batman stick years ago, we got our weak ending. It was just a weak climax that didn't have a point at all.

Of all the resolutions that the writers could have come up with, the one that they chose was probably the worst. It did not match with the rest of the episode and how much energy and excitement the rest of the story had.   

In that sense, when I think of the resolution for the 'Bitcoin Entanglement', it's clear that even though the episode did have quite a few solid and funny moments, those moments weren't able to make up for the fact that the ending was just incredibly weak.

As a whole, the episode didn't work because it's not possible to write a weak ending to your storyline and expect that your story is going to work. You can't write a quality screenplay unless you make sure that your 'climax' works too.

In the end, even though it's true that you don't always have to come up with a happy ending, you still have to make sure that your ending makes sense and that it can be derived from the rest of the episode and how the characters have behaved.

It simply can't be something that comes out of nowhere and that gets resolved in less than a heartbeat. It can't be something that makes little or no sense and is something that is going to underestimate the intelligence of your audience.

In that sense, it's just too bad that in the case of this TBBT episode, the writers weren't able to come up with a solid ending. It's too bad, because had they done their jobs well, 'The Bitcoin Entanglement' could actually have been a really good episode.

Friday, December 8, 2017

It's important to keep your mind fresh as a writer.

One of the most important things about being a writer is that you're able to be a consistent writer. You need to have the ability to write even when you don't feel like doing that and when you don't think that you can come up with anything good.

After all, as a writer, you don't always have the luxury of choosing when you're going to start writing. You don't always get to choose that precious moment when you're inspired and when you feel like you can get things done.

The reason I'm writing about this is because during the last couple of weeks, I haven't felt like writing that much. I haven't felt that good and have had problems getting myself in the mood to write anything that could be worth reading.

The biggest reason for this lack of focus and lack of concentration in my life has had to do with me not taking enough care of myself. I haven't managed to pay enough attention to everyday basic needs that matter in life.

For example, even though I have managed to exercise on a daily basis, I haven't paid enough attention to my sleeping patterns. I haven't managed to get enough sleep, which has made me less active and less focused than I'm used to being.

What this means is that during the last couple of weeks or so, after I have managed to come back from work, I haven't had that much energy left. I haven't had energy when it comes to writing and thinking about what to do next.

Instead of coming up with solid ideas for this blog or simply having the energy to watch television shows, I have tried to do something else. In most cases, I've gone straight to bed to get some sleep, which hasn't really worked at all.

The bad thing about these afternoon naps is that when I have went to bed to recover from my lack of sleep, I have gotten even more confused and disoriented. Napping has made it even harder to get my head straight and to get anything meaningful done.

After all, it's a known fact that you can't replace sleeping hours during the night with napping hours during the day. In the long run it's not a healthy way and will lead to health problems when it comes to your body and your mind.

So when I have woken up after my nap, unless I had a really good writing routine going on and unless I had a deadline, it was almost impossible to get anything done. It was more or less guaranteed that my day was over when it comes to being creative.

In that sense, when it comes to my well being as a whole, it's clear that I need to change my sleep patterns at least a bit. It's clear that I need to change some of my routines, so that I could feel less tired in my life again.

After all, even though it's true that napping during the afternoons can sometimes be a good thing - like for example when you're writing a screenplay - in the long run it's not the way to go way when you're trying to be at your best.

As a whole, not paying attention to your sleeping patterns and not making sure that you sleep enough is simply going to be detrimental for your health. It won't make you more creative and most certainly won't make you any more productive.

So in that sense, when it comes to my sleeping and resting habits in the future, I have to make sure that I'll find some time to get to my bed at least a bit earlier. I have to make sure that I find a way to change my sleeping habits at least a bit.

After all, there's no point in staying up until 4 am in the morning and not going to bed earlier. There's no point in not getting enough sleep, feeling constantly tired and not having the energy to do all those other things later during the day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tv critics can't tell a good show from a bad one.

When it comes to the biggest surprise of this television season, there's no question that 'The Orville' has been a pretty big surprise. It has managed to win over a lot of Star Trek fans, who have been waiting for a solid sci-fi series for so many years.

Even though most of us didn't expect the series to be any good, this Seth Macfarlane show has managed to deliver the goods. It not only has managed to respect the spirit of the original Star Trek shows, but it also has brought something new to the table.

Still, even though pretty much everyone has managed to like the series, professional critics have been the exception. Television critics in general have been the only ones who think that the show isn't worth your time and that it's not worth watching.

According to them, 'The Orville' doesn't work, because it's too optimistic and that it has comedic elements in it. The fact that the series also manages to be sincere and that it gives us hope is something that is just not acceptable to them.

On the other hand, when it comes to a dark, depressing and a badly thought out show like 'Star Trek: Discovery', critics have had no problems liking it. They have praised the show, even though it's pretty obvious that it isn't well made at all.

After all, the biggest reason that this official 'Star Trek' series doesn't work is because it has nothing to do with the original franchise. It manages to disrespect the vision and the values of the original Star Trek shows that people loved watching.

Instead of being a series that promotes intellectualism, curiosity and pacifism, the new Star Trek promotes stupidity, war and bellicosity. It portrays a world where there is no hope for mankind and where it doesn't have a future.

Not surprisingly, most Trekkies who gave the show a chance didn't like it at all. They couldn't stomach watching it and have been complaining how little the show has to do with the values and the idealism of the original shows.

Still, why did critics in general think that 'The Orville' wasn't a good show and that it wasn't worth watching? Why did they think that a bleak and a depressing show like 'Star Trek: Discovery' would actually be worth your time instead?

I mean, could it perhaps be because they have been bought and paid for by the entertainment industry? Perhaps they are so corrupt that they're willing to promote awful television shows simply in order to make a quick buck.

Or perhaps that's because they're trying to appear 'hip and cool' by promoting a show that looks 'dark and serious'. Perhaps they're really that out of touch with reality and how the common people think about quality entertainment.

In the end, regardless of what the truth is here, it's safe to say that they got things completely wrong here. It's safe to say that by promoting 'Star Trek: Discovery', the critics bet on the wrong horse and are being ridiculed for all the right reasons.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sexual harassment and tribalism in America.

Over the last few weeks there have been an incredible amount of revelations about sexual harassment cases in the U.S. Ever since it became known that producer Harvey Weinstein had a long history of being a sexual abuser, things haven't been the same.

After all, it didn't take long before other big names were outed too. Celebrities like Kevin Spacey, Louis Ck, Charlie Rose, John Lasseter, Al Franken, Brett Ratner and Roy Moore among others were also revealed to be sexual abusers.

In most of these cases, being outed as a sexual harasser meant that your career came to an instant end. In most cases it didn't take more than 24 hours before the public outcry became so strong that your career was finished.

Yet, there have been two major exceptions so far in these cases. Of all the accused, Al Franken, a democratic senator from Minnesota and Roy Moore, a republican senatorial candidate from Alabama, have not paid the price for their deeds yet. 

When it comes to Al Franken (in picture), we're talking about four female victims. So far he's been accused of three counts of sexual assault (forced french kissing, butt groping) and one count of sexual harassment (following a female victim to a bathroom)

In Roy Moore's case, the public accusations are more serious. Among other things, Moore is accused of trying to have sex with a 14-year old girl, attempting to rape a 16-year old and for preying on minors on multiple occasions.

In any even remotely functional society these kind of accusations would mean that your political career would be over. In any normal society these accusations would mean that you would either resign or that you would drop out of your senate race.

However, since we're talking about politics and The United States of America, things don't work that way. The tribalism in politics is so strong that as long you're batting for the right team, it doesn't matter what you've done.

What this means in reality is that in Franken's case, democratic loyalists are convinced that Franken has done nothing wrong. They are convinced that the women who accuse him are liars and that they cannot be trusted at all.

Corporate democrats and Hillary-loyalists are taking it so far that they even claim that it might be Russia that's behind the whole thing. It's Vladimir Putin (!) who's behind these outrageous accusations against Franken.

In Roy Moore's case, it doesn't seem to matter to evangelical voters that he's accused of pedophilia and that he's a serial child molester. It doesn't matter that there are at least a dozen witnesses against him and that they all seem to be credible.

After all, 'a man of God' like him would never do things like these. There's no way that an honorable judge like Moore would do anything like that, so all the witnesses and the evidence against him has to be false and made up.

This kind of tribalism is so extreme that it isn't even limited to just Franken and Moore anymore. This kind of insane party worship also extends to former president Bill Clinton and to current president Donald Trump. 

After all, even though there are dozens of accusations against president Clinton, they don't really count. 'Mr. Lolita express' is a good man and those things with Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Monica Lewinsky never happened.

In the same way, it doesn't matter what Trump has been accused of doing either. Those 'grab 'em by the pussy' tapes were only locker room talk and those other 14 sexual harassment cases against him don't amount to anything either.

So in that sense, when it comes to these sexual harassment cases, things could certainly be a lot better. Things could be better, even though it's a good thing that women are finally coming forward and that in some cases they're being taken seriously.

In the end, the truth is that especially when it comes to accusations against high-profile politicians, their victims unfortunately aren't being taken seriously enough. Both tribalism and party loyalty run so rampant that no amount of evidence seems to be enough.

As a whole, that's really unfortunate, because this kind of behavior is simply unacceptable for the nation. It's unacceptable, which is why it's so important to get rid of these politicians who are guilty of sexual abuse and harassment.

In that sense, I just wish that at some point people would stop playing politics when it comes to sexual abuse. I just wish that people would stop putting party over the people and that they would do the right thing.

After all, if they did that, things could get at least a bit better for sexual abuse victims. Things would get better and it would show everyone that nobody is above the law and immune from the consequences of one's actions.