Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Hype Music /// Music Monday #28

It's summer, which means it's time for fun, upbeat tunes that you can crank while cruising around town. Are you ready for this? You're about to get your socks knocked off! . . . And if you're wearing socks and sandals, then you deserve to have them knocked off. Because that's just bad fashion sense.


"Phoenix" from the album Rise
Composed by MDK


I'd have to say this is one of my favorite MDK songs, Maybe it's because it has a cool orchestral-ish intro that always brings to mind the image of a desert. Maybe it's the hardcore electric guitar and dubstep that follows. Heck, it could even be the build-up! (It's probably all of the above and more.)

A lot of the time, I don't care for electronic or dubstep music, because it can be annoying or repetitive or just really uncreative. MDK is an exception for me. When I listen to his music while I'm driving, I turn it up loud and roll the windows down. To do otherwise almost feels like a crime.

He's got a lot of cool, finger-tapping beats. I wouldn't necessarily recommend all of his songs, due to the fact that some of them have random harsh swear words, such as the f-bomb. You get rest assured that anything I share on my blog will be safe, and if there would for some reason ever be any swear word in any song I feature, I'd let you know. Also, if you want to listen to his music on your own, feel free to ask me about which ones are clean and which aren't.

Changing gears a bit, I need to fill you guys in on something. Whenever I sit down to write one of these, I always think to myself, "Oh, I should pick that song! But there's that one too. I can't forget about that one either." Truth be told, I could probably do a Music Monday post every week and wouldn't run out of ideas. Ever.

So I want you to answer this question: what kind of music do you want to hear more of? Do you want more movie soundtracks? More video game music? More lyrical songs? I'd like to mention that I've always considered the point of these posts to be exposing you to music you may not listen to normally, or know of at all. Feel free to give any suggestions in the comments.

What'd you think of the song? Did it fill you with summer hype? You feel like a phoenix now, ready to take on the world? If not, listen to the music on repeat until you do.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sophie Quire and Half Moon Investigations /// A Double Book Review

A little over a year ago, I reviewed the whimsical tale of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Since then, I haven't done another book review. But today is the day that I remedy the situation. I'll be showcasing not one, but two stories. I shall try to avoid spoilers, and any that I must give will have a disclaimer. Let's do this!

Also, I apologize for the lateness of this post. It just took longer than I thought it would, which is kind why I slightly rushed the second review. Sorry about that.


We shall start with the review for Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard!

Plot

Twelve-year-old Sophie Quire is at odds with the people in her town. Bustleburgh has decided they shall be rid of all nonsense--and that includes all fiction. They are rounding up all novels and creating the Pyre of Progress, which shall be lit in a short while. Sophie is having none of that. Her father is the owner of a bookstore, and as the bookmender of said store, she understands the magic of stories.

Her talents don't go unnoticed, and the blind thief, Peter Nimble, and his companion--the man-cat-horse known as Sir Tode--show up on her doorstep. They've brought a book with them that needs to be repaired, and it is anything but ordinary. The Book of Who is a thing of magic and nonsense, one that answers to your "who" questions by flipping to the correct entry.

Caught up in something bigger than herself, Sophie must join forces with Peter and Tode as they search for the other three books, which are What, Where, and When. Villainous folk lurk, and they would love to get their hands on the power contained within the books' pages. To save the world, Sophie will have to become . . .

The last Storyguard.

Pros

Oh, where do I start? I think the beginning is a very good place, because with the first paragraph, I was reminded just how much I loved Jonathan Auxier's writing style. Allow me to share it with you:

It has often been said that one should never judge a book by its cover. As any serious reader can tell you, this is terrible advice. Serious readers know the singular pleasure of handling a well-made book--the heft and texture of the case, the rasp of the spine as you lift the cover, the sweet, dusty aroma of yellowed pages as they pass between your fingers. A book is more than a vessel for ideas: It is a living thing in need of love, warmth, and protection.

In fact, I firmly believe that Auxier's voice is one of the reasons both Peter Nimble and Sophie Quire were so enjoyable. Take away his whimsical way of writing, and you take away one of the stories' key ingredients. A writing style is like the wheels of a car: if they're flat, no matter how good that car looks, it isn't going anywhere. I think he definitely nailed his own unique approach to a novel.

Something he's also succeeded at is his worldbuilding. While the setting of Peter Nimble was the mixture of clockwork machinery and fairy tale castles, this one has a very different flair to it. I wouldn't know how to describe it, but I very much enjoyed the backdrop he created. It fit the overall story quite nicely. One might say it resembled that of a classic fantasy adventure, but not in a bad way.

I'd like to point out--and appreciate--the fact that some of my cons from the previous book are now pros. A big issue for me was that some characters had felt a little flat and could've used some rounding out. If they had been given more oomph, the story would've come alive that much more. This time around, that was a non-issue. The main characters were teeming with more life than they had in the first book, and no side character was uninteresting. Considering that Auxier has only written one novel between the two Peter Nimble books, he's come a long way.

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I also mentioned that there were times when Peter suddenly felt something, liked tiredness or hunger, with no build-up to be found. Not a trace of that problem remained in Sophie Quire. It seems Auxier has learned from his mistakes, a much-needed quality in a writer.

I loved the plot. Just as the first book turned the orphan saga trope on its head, this title did the same for the chosen one trope. I was never once bored by the story, nor felt that any part of it was shoddy. I couldn't put it down for long; it got me hooked and didn't lose me at any point in the story. But what I really want to touch on is the theme of the story, which is both strangely profound and vastly different from anything I'd ever read. So, just in case . . . POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!

Auxier's message is that books are magic. When we lose that magic--that "nonsense"--our world becomes bleaker. There's one scene where Sophie peers into another world, where children are doing school. They'd lost their stories of wonderment and imagination, and now they're dreary from all the boring information they have to read.

That's what Auxier hits so perfectly. He inspires you to go read other books and renew that sense of awe. For a writer like myself, by the end of the story, I felt a strong desire to go out and contribute to that magic as well. I can't recall the last novel I've read that has ever had this effect on me.

He also disabuses the notion of escapism, which I've never appreciated or cared for. He demonstrates this perfectly in one conversation:

"I don't understand," Peter said. "How can burning a bunch of books hurt things in the real world?"
"The real world," Professor Cake repeated with a tone of notable contempt. "The very notion is absurd. Worlds and everything in them are made real by the stories that inhabit them."

I totally agree. Books can give us hope for brighter days, help us to see something from a different perspective, or just find some simple enjoyment. It's interesting to note that Auxier also proves this in the story's finale (ACTUAL SPOILER ALERT!): when a monster is unleashed to destroy all nonsense, the first thing it does is to gobble up the villain who brought it forth, then head right for Bustleburgh, as if they're the ones who are full of nonsense. ALL SPOILER ALERTS OVER!

I could go on and on about this story, but I still have to do the cons and another novel, so I better get in gear.

Cons

As is often the case with middle grade stories, twelve-year-olds do far more than they technically would. Both Peter and Sophie are this age, and they put their lives on the line a lot. However, because I enjoyed this book so much, it's something I can easily overlook.

Now, I have to ask, how much have middle grade books evolved since I was last part of the target audience? There are things I wouldn't have imagined back in the day. For starters, there's one use of "d--n," though said character is reprimanded. (I can't recall if there were a couple uses of "bloody" or not.)

Violence-wise, it happened less often than it did in Peter Nimble, though it was still the same level. Again, I don't remember all the instances of violence, but here are a few that stuck out to me: a character is gobbled up by a monster and suffers a most painful death; someone is shot in the throat; someone's hand gets chopped (off-screen); a man is eaten by wild animals; stuff like that.

But the biggest concern of this story is more of a . . . sensual matter. A woman gives Sophie a dress that bares her neck and shoulders (because her original clothes were torn in a "disadvantageous" way), but Sophie isn't comfortable with that. The woman tells her:

"A walled garden must have a lattice gate. Before a woman can be desired, she must reveal a bit of what makes her desirable."

Said female character later does things like slit her dress up to her thigh to garner pity and . . . male attention, I suppose. Now, if this was a YA novel, I would say it's a very clean one; I wouldn't really bothered by it. But because it's in the juvenile section of my library, then I feel weird about it being in here.

Conclusion

If someone were to ask me what my favorite book of the year was, it'd be a toss-up between Moonblood and this one. Sophie Quire was an immensely enjoyable read. Aside from my opinion that it should be labelled a YA story, I enjoyed everything this book had to offer.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard is one of those rare books that refuses to be pushed back by those who claim we read only to escape reality. Auxier believes stories are magical things that need to be loved and cared for, and he weaves a gripping tale that makes you want to go out and just read as many novels as possible. Too often, we abandon childlike wonder and hope when we age, but this story is a call for us to come back to that.

To conclude, Auxier included a quote at the beginning by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, who said, "The most priceless possession of the human race is the wonder of the world. Yet, latterly, the utmost endeavours of mankind have been directed towards the dissipation of that wonder . . . Nobody, any longer, may hope to entertain an angel unawares, or to meet Sir Lancelot in shining armour on a moonlit road. But what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment?" Auxier absolutely nails this message, tucked away in a delightful, imaginative read.

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I give it five out of five stars!

Now, here's the review for Half Moon Investigations!

Plot

Twelve-year-old Fletcher Moon is a detective who's seen it all. That's what he thought, anyway, until he gets a new case that is unlike anything he's dealt with in the past.

It all started with him proving that Herod Sharkey stole an organizer at school, and when Fletcher reveals that Herod is indeed the culprit, Red Sharkey doesn't like it. Fletcher's prized badge disappears, and he knows that the Sharkeys--the town's biggest criminal family--are behind it.

But in trying to get it back, he becomes involved in a new case . . . one in which he is framed for the crime. He has to clear his name, but time is running out fast.

And the criminal is still out there, waiting for another opportunity to strike.

Pros

As I mentioned in my last Monthly HapPENings post, I love me a funny detective story. My love for this sub-genre started when I read Sherlock Johny's Case Files on the MBs. Here, I even got the author's permission to share an excerpt. I wanted to include the whole scene, but it'd probably end up being longer than the actual review.


As soon as we entered the first floor, we were met with AP's voice.  "What will the Moderators do next? NOTHING! As usual. I'm AwesomePythor for MBN. We'll be back! Right after these commercial messages." The TV above MKM's desk cut to commercials.

"AP's so annoying," Darthy said. "And weird. He's like, addicted to chocolate milk."

"Addicted?" I asked.

"Yeah," Darthy said.  He lowered his voice.  "I heard he can't go without a bottle of chocolate milk a day."

"That's crazy talk," I said, turning for the door.

"No it's not, look," Darthy said, grabbing my shoulder and pointing at the TV.  A giant glass bottle full of brown liquid had just appeared.

"What's that?" I asked.  5 seconds later, I wished I hadn't.  Out of the screen belted the most obnoxious voice I've ever heard.

"Coco Sippies taste so good!

You should drink them, yes you should!"

On the screen a user suddenly grabbed the bottle and started chugging it.  It took me a moment to realize the user was AwesomePythor.

"When you're grumpy, when you're sad!

Coco Sippies make you glad!"

That story is where my love for comical mystery began, and if you enjoy that too, this is the perfect story for you. I really appreciate Eoin Colfer's sense of humor, and he succeeded at it in this story. But it's not all fun and games. The plot has some very interesting twists and turns, and even had a reveal in the end that I didn't see coming (but is apparently a trope used in old detective shows).

No one can ever say that Colfer creates boring characters. Well, The Supernaturalist might be an exception, but for the most part, they are all unique, and very much so. While there isn't necessarily a lot of emotional connection to the characters, by no means does that entail a disinterest in them. I very much wanted to find how whodunnit (see what I did there?). What's very clever is how Colfer made things seem really grand and conspiratorial, when in reality the whole thing was on a lower scale than Fletcher might be willing to admit.

I think those are probably the biggest pros of the whole thing: the spot-on humor, the intriguing plot, and the characters who tie them both together.

Cons

Very few. There's the occasional use of "oh my God." Fletcher finds himself in perilous situations, but there really isn't any strong violence (the one thing that really sticks out to me is Fletcher being struck forcefully by a bat). He also has to escape the police and break into one place, but that kinda comes part and parcel with the genre. Someone uses his computer to illegally download music. It's just little stuff that I mention just so people are aware, not because I'm actually offended by it.

Conclusion

After reading The Supernaturalist, I was hesitant to read another one of Colfer's stand-alone books. Half Moon Investigations seemed the most promising, but would it hold up to the awesomeness that is the Artemis Fowl series?

In short: yes. It was very different from that series, but it was very good. Would I say it was as good as Sophie Quire? No, because that book left me inspired and gave me food for thought. This was just a fun, fast-passed read, and it's most certainly worth your time. (I don't want to give the impression that I don't like the story. I just have less to say about it, and I want to get this post up.) I really hope it gets a sequel, seeing as it even got a small TV show.

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I also hope that other authors pick up on the whole comedy mystery idea. We could use some more of those types of tales.

I give it four out of five stars!

So what're your thoughts on my double review? Would you read either one of these books? Which looks more appealing, and why? Should I do more book reviews in the future?

Friday, July 06, 2018

Monthly HapPENings: June

Guess what, everybody? We're halfway through the year! I'd dance with happiness, except I'm not happy that 2018 is half over. It felt like it just started! (I know, I say that all the time, but it doesn't make it any less true.) I've discovered that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by. Kinda weird how it works, right?


June was a busy, busy month for me. For starters, Chloe graduated high school, and I had the privilege of being her emcee. While I personally felt that I was a little rough in my public speaking skills, I was only complimented by others for a job well-done. So perhaps I was my own worst critic. Preparing my notes and just the thought of the grad made me feel busier than it should've.

I also filmed my blogoversary vlog, answering all 71 questions that were submitted, which took a couple hours to shoot. When I tried uploading the videos onto my computer, I was worried for a while, because I encountered some issues. Thankfully, I was able to work my way around the finicky relationship between my phone and my laptop. Then I had to edit and upload those suckers before writing posts for all of them (believe it or not, penning those ten posts took around two hours). That ate up two weeks of June.

Finally, in the last week, my family took a vacation together. You probably didn't even notice that I was gone, considering how I had posts scheduled for every day. It was a much-needed breather, and I really enjoyed it. It differed from our previous vacations in the fact that we did a minimum amount of shopping, and also only a little swimming at the beach. It was more of a relaxing time to watch movies, read books, play games (electronic and Phase 10, to be precise) . . . stuff like that. We just hung out.

One of my highlights in every vacation is when we have a campfire on one evening and say something we appreciate about each family member. We've never had a time where no tears were shed, and it's moments like those where you really grasp the value of a strong family. This tradition is definitely one I'm going to pass on to my own family in the future.

Bookish HapPENings

Wonder of wonders, I actually read four books this month! All of which were on my holiday, because I didn't have (or make) much time for reading before that, since the vlog was my priority. Even better was the fact that the three of the four were really good! So which stories did I read?

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I'd picked this book up at a local book fair a while back, because it seemed interesting enough. But it was only a decent story. The plot is that the main character, eleven-year-old Alex has a life-threatening sickness (one that doctors conveniently can't figure out so that it can do whatever the author needs it to). In fact, he dies from it. But his mother, an Egyptologist, uses the Lost Spells from the Book of the Dead to bring her son back from the afterlife--and in doing so, she unleashes five Death Walkers and mysteriously vanishes, along with the spells. Now Alex and his best friend, Ren, need to find her and stop the Walkers at all costs.

I'll probably continue the series to see how it ends, but there's no other reason for me to finish. No emotional connection, witty dialogue, or captivating voice. Just a storyline that's barely interesting enough to keep me hooked. I'm also one of those readers who, once they've started a series that's only okay, needs to finish just for closure's sake.

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I'm gonna wait to give my full thoughts on this book until next week, when I properly review it. Suffice it to say that if someone were to ask me what the best book I've read this year was, I'd say it's a toss-up between Moonblood and this one. I loved it to bits, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you guys!

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I'm getting close to finishing this series, and it's been an interesting one. I enjoyed the new stakes and challenges the book added to the overall plot; it also finished very differently from any of the other installments. I'll definitely be picking up the final book very soon.

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This another novel where I want to share my full thoughts in a review. Suffice it to say I wholeheartedly enjoyed this book. I've got a hankering for more comical detective stories, and this one fit the bill. I adored it from the first sentence. It's one of my favorite Eoin Colfer books to date.

HapPENings on the Screen



My sisters and I have been progressing through S4 of Once at a very slow pace, but it's pretty good so far. I am, however, finding the villainess extremely annoying, as much as the one in the last half of S3. One big reason for that is because the costume designers thought her dress should be very low-cut. So that's both frustrating and disappointing . . . but the show has never been the epitome of modesty.


I'm also taking a while to rewatch S1 with Chloe and Kaitlyn, but it's been fun to see how far the show has come since then. We're definitely getting close to the midway point of the season, where things are really kicked up a notch. If you somehow haven't watched this show yet, I won't spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that your mind will probably be blown.


Even though I now notice the occasional flaw or plot hole, I still absolutely love this show. To think that it's on the ninth season is kind of mind-blowing, especially when they were originally going to stop at two seasons. The episode I watched last month had some really funny moments, one of which I have to include in my next quotes post.

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This movie was just as "ugh"-inducing as the last two. While I do think it's the best of the trilogy, by no means does that mean it was a great film. Everything was so laughable; mocking these movies is not hard. (One of the worst scenes was when two police were going after Sandman, who had hidden a truck. It was one continuous shot with a shaky cameraman. It went on so long my head started hurting just by looking at the screen.) I'll never figure out why some people think Tobey Maguire is the best Spider-Man. His lack of facial expression, or any emotion at all . . . Kirsten Dunst was also one of the whiniest, unlikable girlfriend characters I've ever seen. The fact that she hated on both Garfield's and Holland's movies makes me like her even less. Just don't bother watching this trilogy, unless you want something you and your friends or siblings can mock.

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So, uh . . . I watched this movie. And it was a . . . hyped one. A hyped musical, to be precise. *clears throat*

Okay, I won't beat around the bush: I didn't like The Greatest Showman. I didn't dislike it, either. It was simply "meh" to me. One of those movies where you watch it once and you're perfectly content with never seeing it again. First off, I'm not a big musical fan to begin with. I've seen a number of them, but most don't ring with me. Some exceptions are Disney's most recent princess ventures (Tangled, Frozen, and Moana). The reason I love them so much more is because they don't focus on the singing aspect; that's just a side dish. They've got interesting plots and well-developed characters. Heck, Moana has a scene that pays homage to Fury Road! You can't really go wrong with that.

And even if The Greatest Showman has the same amount of time between songs as the abovementioned princess films, it feels shorter. Like, they're singing every five minutes (not literally, but you get my drift). As for the songs themselves, they're decent enough. But you won't find me looking them up to listen to on my own accord.

I even predicted some of the plot at the very beginning. SPOILER ALERT! I thought to myself, "I bet Barnum and his wife are gonna have marital problems, but everything will be fixed with a song." And what do you know, that's what happened. I get that different genres have their tropes, but I just can't get behind those in the musical genre.

One thing I did appreciate was the theme. It starts off as a whole "follow your dreams" thing, but then it twists and says that sometimes you have to give up on those dreams because family is more important. I thought that was a good message to give, but other than that, the movie didn't have much appeal for me. Oh yeah, and I never picked up on the regular soundtrack, so it's struck me as (potentially) bland. I feel like composers for a musical are overshadowed by the songs, generally speaking.


This is my fifth or sixth rewatch of Cap's debut, and I still love it. Do I think Marvel movies have improved since then? Of course; if they weren't improving, they'd be stagnant. And no one likes a stagnant franchise. But I was picking up on things that are either referenced or built upon in the future, and it was just cool to see Steve's origin again.

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Another rewatch for me, and it was still very emotional for me. One of those films where it feels disrespectful to get up before the credits are over. If you haven't seen this yet, you need to. It's hard to watch because of its brutal honesty, but it's a good reminder for all of us. Don't forget to have several tissues on hand.

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I came into it with no expectations, and thus, I wasn't disappointed. I don't have any desire to read the Harry Potter novels, but I decided to watch the movie series. The first one was . . . all right. My biggest complaint was the lack of an overarching plot. It did hint at stuff, but not much actually happened until the end. I might be hypocritical for complaining, though, because I absolutely adore Knightley Academy and The Secret Prince. Those books, however often they may be compared to Harry Potter, were much more enjoyable and charming for me. My favorite things about the movie were the humor, Hagrid, and Snape (whose voice I can imitate very accurately).

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I've got say, Coco is now one of my top favorite Pixar movies of all time. Not only does it have an intriguing plot, dynamic characters, an unique score, and surprising twists, but I also was just appreciating the high quality animation. Seriously, pay attention to the details, like the peach fuzz on Miguel's face or the close-up intricacy of Hector's hands, and you'll be wowed. While this movie had some songs, there weren't enough to classify it as a musical (but I liked them more than The Greatest Showman's).

I also wasn't expecting it, but this movie got emotional. I suppose I should've seen it coming, because Pixar's really good at that stuff. But I had tears running down my face at one point; the movie's theme just struck a chord with me (pun intended). SPOILER ALERT! The theme is very similar to TGS's, but I just loved how it was portrayed in Coco more.

Watch this movie. You won't regret it.

Gaming HapPENings


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I did it. I finally beat Ganondorf and saved Hyrule from eternal darkness. Now I'd rather not visit the bland world of Twilight Princess for a long, long time. I just . . . I can't even with this game. You wouldn't believe how eager I was to finish. And while the final confrontation with the Demon Lord was one of my favorite parts of the game (it doesn't take much), the tension was undercut by me using the fishing rod to distract him. It was like he'd never seen one before!

Ganondorf: "I'm big and scary, and I'm gonna kill you!"

Link: *silently whips out fishing rod and whips it past Ganondorf's head*

Ganondorf: "Ooh, would ya look at that? It's so shiny." *gets distracted and is instantly attacked by Link* "Ouchie! Foul play!"

*repeat sequence*

I won't rant more, since this post is becoming monstrous as it is. You'll just have to wait to hear my thoughts until my "Skyward Sword Versus Twilight Princess HD" post.


I've mentioned before how this game turns fantasy tropes on their head, and it continues to do so. When the princess (who, in my game, was Toon Zelda) gets captured, you expect that saving her is the end goal. Nope! You save her at the end of the first world. In fact, I'm in the fourth world right now, and I suspect I'll be having a showdown with the Dark Lord (who's Gaster from Undertale for my playthrough) to prevent him from stealing any more faces. But I also have a feeling that the game is gonna surprise me again. (Unfortunately, I might know a twist, which would've genuinely caught me off-guard. Now I'm just waiting for it to happen.)

Writerly HapPENings

I was completely occupied with working on my vlog last month, so I didn't make any progress in The Tournament of Convicts. July shall be a different story!

And I'm done! I apologize for the late and absolutely massive post. What did you guys do in June? Have you read, watched, or played any of the titles that I did? Got any goals for July?

Monday, July 02, 2018

Another Favorite Soundtrack /// Music Monday #27

Is it really that time again? It feels like I just did one of these, and yet it somehow also seems like a long time ago. Kinda weird how that works.


So I've mentioned that I have three favorite soundtracks. I have shared an Undertale song, and two tracks from Ori and the Blind Forest. But I still haven't posted anything from the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack. Today, that changes.

"Brothers In Arms (Extended Version)" from Mad Max: Fury Road
Composed by Junkie XL


This is one of my favorite tracks from the soundtrack. (A little aside: I got the deluxe version on iTunes when it was on sale for $7.99. That means I got over 2 hours of mind-blowing awesomeness for just 8 bucks. It's worth so much more than that.) Maybe I really enjoy it because of the two separate tones in it. You first have the growling destruction, the gritty mayhem . . . and then those heroic strings rise out of the dust. It's just perfection.

I have yet to see the movie, but I think this scene in particular might end up being one of my favorites simply because of this song in the background. It's somehow both epic and almost . . . awe-inspiring? It's just good music. So good, in fact, that Hans Zimmer--the legend himself--said that the score was "absolutely phenomenal and mind-blowingly brilliant." I don't take that kind of comment lightly, and I think it was part of the reason that I actually listened to the soundtrack in the first place.

If you haven't heard this score yet, go right now and listen to the whole deluxe soundtrack. You won't regret it. While you may think that it's all action drums and intense pieces, it's not. There are a number of emotional tracks that almost have a classical tone to them, especially in the latter half of the album.

Before I conclude the post, I will mention this: when I write stories, oftentimes music I listen to inspires the scenes before I've even written them. The songs I pick shape the story, and those songs end up on a playlist. "Brothers In Arms" is going to be the conclusion to the final battle in my revamped Portal Chronicles trilogy.

You've probably thought of my cringy old story as an automatic response, but the new version is going to be far better, as well as quite different. This final battle is going to span across two worlds, with the heroes and villains bouncing between them. The stakes will be high, the threat large . . . it'll be a (hopefully) very unique showdown.

All that aside, what'd you think of the song? Have you watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack before? Do you make playlists for your stories? Does the music I showcased today inspire you to write something?

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 10

And here we are, folks. It's been a crazy ride, but we've finally reached the end. I just want to thank all of you for not only watching my goofy little vlog, but also for sticking around for a whole year. Really, it means so much to me. I can only hope that I make it up to you somehow, someway.

With all that said, I shall utter these words one last time: I recommend wearing headphones, and here are the links to all the songs I used in this video:






I know I keep saying it, but thanks again for submitting questions, watching, and just sticking by my side. This next year's gonna be even better!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 9

It's the second-last part! And what does that mean? Like, what does it mean emotionally? Physically? Mentally? Spiritually? I'll leave that one for you to figure out. Hey, you know what you should do? You should wear headphones so you can hear everything better! I'm also leaving the links to the songs I used in the video. But first: DO NOT SCROLL DOWN PAST THE VIDEO. I'm serious. Watch the video first. If you don't listen to me, you'll ruin one of my best jokes. I can't say why. Just trust me in this. Click play on the video, then finish reading the post. You got all that? Good.




I hope the vlog isn't getting boring at this point. Did any particular answer stick out to you in this video? I hope everything has turned out all right so far.











Also, in case you didn't know . . .



. . . the last song was:




That's right. I just rickrolled you.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 8

We're in the stretch! "Aren't you excited?" "Aren't you happy?" "You're going to be free." (Mad respect from me if you got the reference.) But let's not stand around on ceremony. Headphones and music used! And before you ask, yes, there is a song at the beginning, like always. It's just very subtle. You may have to strain a little in order to hear it.







Are you looking forward to finally not getting more notifications about these posts? I'll bet you are  . . . not! You know you love me. Admit it. (Or don't . . . that's okay, too.)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 7

So the day after I uploaded this part, I go to my YouTube dashboard and find out that the video has been copyright claimed because of the last song I used. The claimant was fine with me keeping the music in; it's just that they would get any money from ads. The funny part is that all of my vlog parts have been unlisted and non-monetized, so what's the deal? How'd this one get claimed, and all of my other videos are fine? Doesn't make sense to me.

Anyway, you know the drill: wear headphones, and allow me to give credit where credit is due, musically speaking.








Are you having fun yet? Because if you're not . . . you probably should stop watching these.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 6

Part six, here we come! What's in store for us today? Eh . . . boring stuff, I'm sure. Like me talking about pranks ("It's just a prank, bro!") and bad ideas (like when I tried jumping over a swing as a young teen, which I didn't mention in the video). I suggest wearing headphones and checking out the music used in the video.







Still enjoying the vlog? What do you think of the thumbnails? My rule of thumb is to go with a goofy one, but sometimes my pose is very similar in multiple thumbnails (e.g. this one and part two).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 5

Hey, we're halfway there! Not sure if we're living on a prayer, though. *shrugs* Well, this part has a bit of a different ending, so get ready! The first step to take would be to wear headphones. The second thing would be to find out which tracks I used:





What an amazing ending, wasn't it? Brings a tear to my eye every time I watch it. Thanks, Megan, for asking such a moving question.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 4

Here comes part four! Woo hoo! Aren't y'all excited? You should be, because in this video I answered one of the most creative questions of the whole bunch, submitted by none other than Brianna. But don't take my word for it; watch the video yourself. While you do, I recommend using headphones to enhance the experience. After all, don't you want to hear these songs better?





What'd you think of Brianna's unique question? It was very devious of her . . . too devious. We need to keep an eye on her.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 3

Here's the third part of my vlog! . . . I dunno what else to say. These posts are going to be pretty short because you're here for the video and not the post, so I don't need to say much. Also, I just want to get this done ASAP, so . . . yeah. *awkward cough*

Headphones are recommended, as always! As for the music I used . . .





Yay or nay to this part? Did you like my long answer? If you did, there are more just like it on the way. Isn't my music selection just the best? (I won't take no for an answer.) Also, "Undertale" is one of my all-time favorite songs.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 2

Well, today is the "official" anniversary date. I started my blog on June 23rd, 2017. I shall never forget that day . . . hopefully. As of right now, my first post, "Greetings and Salutations," is tied with my first Music Monday Awards post with 125 views each. I didn't think the Awards would get so popular. Here's to hoping for even more success this year!

Speaking of music, here are the songs I used in this video. Headphones are recommended!










How're you liking this so far? Did I answer the questions good enough? Do you have a favorite answer for part two?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Blogoversary Vlog, Part 1

Yes, the day is finally here. Last month, you guys submitted questions for me to answer in a Q&A vlog. Lemme tell you, I got a ton! But I promised to answer them all, so here we are.

As you probably know, the reason for this vlog was to celebrate The Steadfast Pen turning one year old. That thought still blows my mind. I look back to that Friday last year, when I finished up my first post before I headed off to work at one of city's gas stations. I anticipated coming home and checking to see who had all commented on my blog, and I was not disappointed.

If I had fast-forwarded one year, I'd never have guessed that I would be filming my second vlog for you all. It's been a fun journey, and I hope you've felt that way too.

So here you go, part one of ten! Starting today, you'll get one video per day, with July 1st being the last one. This process took a goodly amount of works, due to my computer and phone being finicky with each other during the import process. Also, editing and uploading ten videos that are all at least ten minutes long takes longer than you might think. Headphones are recommended! Here are the songs I used:




So what'd you think of this first part? Did I do better with the music volume than I initially did with my Humble Beginnings vlog? Are you looking forward to watching nine more videos of me chitter-chattering?

Monday, June 18, 2018

We're Halfway There /// Music Monday #26

Well, would you look at that? Not only are we half-done the Music Monday posts for 2018, but we've also been at this for a year now. Woo hoo!


And for today's song, we have one from a video game that sounds like it's been pulled from a movie instead.

"Now" from Detroit: Become Human
Composed by Nima Fakhrara


If you haven't heard of this game before, it's about a not-so-distant future where androids are a reality. Their presence, however, isn't appreciated by many people, because of the AI taking jobs that humans once had. The developers have a lot of interesting things to say about a world with androids and how it would affect everything; it's also a means for them to talk about racism, because that's what it feels like when people make a point of calling an android "it" and treat it less respectfully.

I'm currently watching Jacksepticeye play the game, and while I don't know the overarching plot yet, it's really interesting. It focuses on three main androids: Connor, Kara, and Markus. Connor is working with the police to locate deviants, androids who've broken through their programming and fallen prey to emotion. Kara is a maid to an abusive father and his young daughter, who fears her dad's wrath. Markus is the caretaker of an old painter whose son despises AI with a passion.

You follow them on their journey in this game, which, truth be told, feels more like an interactive story. Much of what you do is make choices, and there are lots of those. What you do affects who will live or die throughout the game.

What's really cool is that they got three different composers for each character, Philip Sheppard has a more emotional score for Kara; John Paesano goes for something more epic with Markus; and lastly, Nima Fakhrara takes a Tron-esque approach for Connor. As you're probably able to guess, today's song is for Connor's storyline, when he's pursuing a deviant in an intense chase and you're making rapid-fire decisions throughout.

People in the comments were comparing it to "Mombasa" from Inception, and I can see the resemblance. But the overall sci-fi tone sets it apart. I really love the blend screeching strings, pounding percussion, and simmering synths. (I don't why I described it as "simmering." I just wanted to keep up the alliteration.)

What'd you think of the song? What're your thoughts on a world where androids are a reality? How would you treat them? Do you believe they'd have the potential to take over?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Coincidence? I Think So /// Humble Beginnings, Part 11

Can I get some hype for another Humble Beginnings post?!

source; instantly regrets putting this in before writing enough to hide it

. . . That's it. The intro's over. Let's move on, please! Before our eyes hurt from that crazy Toad. I will just quickly insert here that the chapter is called "Silent Shadows," which seems a bit unnecessary. Last I checked, my shadow has always been the strong, silent type.

The table occupied most of the [meeting] hall, its round shape symbolizing that there was no head or tail; everyone was equal, and ideas could be shared freely.

This isn't a negative thing, but I just wanted to point it out because it makes me think of a humorous scene in the Ninjago show that was later imitated in the movie as well. Lord Garmadon, in both scenes, needed his minions to help come up with a plan to stop the Ninja, insisting that there was no such thing as a bad idea. But whenever someone suggested something he didn't like, he had them thrown off the ship (the show) or literally fired them out of his volcano base (the movie). Random, I know, but that's just how my brain thinks.

Soon, all that was left were ten empty spots. "Who are those for?" [Mark] asked John.
The former tank gunner stopped rubbing his stubble and said, "Oh, they're for the rebel delegates. See, when we need to discuss battle tactics here in Castle Wurlenit, they send 'ambassadors' to help."
"But why? Wouldn't they add negativity to the atmosphere?"
"Most aren't that bad. They just need a different cause."

Hold up for a minute. We need to discuss something a few things about this blurb. First, that's cute and all that they invite the rebels, but why? What if the rebels decide to sell them out? They could easily hand over all that info to Lurkum. I mean, they didn't care about Revier, so . . . I know, I know, different generation, sins of the father, and all that stuff. But still, has no one considered this?

Secondly, I'm getting tired of the whole "call the person by their job" trick that I overused in this story. I'm not joking when I say it's kinda getting on my nerves, and I have no idea why.

Thirdly, what the heck is the name Wurlenit? That's the dumbest name for a castle I could've come up with.

And fourthly, younger me, make up your EVER-LOVING MIND about the rebels. Are they good or are they bad? You don't seem to know, and if you don't, your readers won't either. Don't make me slap you upside the head; get your act together!

The men clasped hands tightly and shook. John whispered to Mark, "He's the rebel chief, or leader. Samuel and Richard are friends from way back. Unfortunately, that doesn't give a hoot to the rift between Followers and rebels."

Again, inconsistency with whether the rebels are decent or not. If the leaders are friends, does that literally have no effect whatsoever on their people? Also, incorrect use of "giving a hoot."

Richard raised a palm. "Your turn, Taylor."
The man who had helped David seemed hesitant. "We heard your bomb was finished, so we request that we use it to destroy a castle near Levgalne."
Samuel's jaw dropped. "The Rachendax? Not only does the maraconda baron dwell, but Leviathan is also stationed inside. Any attempt to blow up the castle would be extremely challenging, if not a sure death."

Hey, remember Taylor? You know . . . Taylor? C'mon, how could you forget such a memorable a guy like . . . wait, what his name again? Ah, that's right: Taylor! I feel like I reused characters I already named just because, if they wouldn't logically be wherever the scene was taking place.

Smooth exposition there, Samuel. I'm also glad you know how to speak and didn't forget any words in what you said, because that'd be awkward. Especially when you're trying to make the reader scared for the characters who are probably going to take up this suicide mission.

"At least it would be more useful than going to Zracs and signing a parchment before freezing to death," another delegate exclaimed.

Lemme fill you in by saying I didn't include Harvey's comment about them making a treaty with the wraithclaw tribe before launching an assault. Does this idiot delegate not think that their chances of success are higher if their forces are larger? How was he/she chosen to represent the rebels?

"Besides," Richard added a lot more gently, "I thought the chosen ones were supposed to do it." He then quoted a prophecy: "The ones who are chosen/Will bring out their best/If they will succeed/The wanting heart's test/But those who are not/Will harden the race/They will destroy/Like the spikes of a mace."

Eh . . . definitely not a great prophecy, or even a well-written one. I wouldn't rely on it too much. The prophet was probably drunk at the time.

"And that's just it," Smits said. "We know who the Chosen Ones are."
A hush blanketed the hall immediately. Richard broke it by saying a hopeful tone, "If you know, then who are they?"

Ooh, I wonder if it's Lance, Reuben, and Xander, just like the stupid villains thought! I can't stand the anticipation. Richard, by the way, you speak in a hopeful tone. Get it right next time.

"These three," replied Samuel, pointing to David, Mark, and Warren. "We translated a Toreth tablet by first looking at its reflection and unscrambling the words. It was a quote by an unknown philosopher that read, 'Detrius created love to be a rock in life's race.' The word race refers to when an apostle named Paul said that he had finished the race. David has firm Follower beliefs, therefore, relating to the 'race' of a believer. Warren is like a rock with his physical strength and solid friendships. And Mark is loving, besides the fact he is in love with Michelle."

. . . Are. You. BRICKING. SERIOUS?! What the actual brick, younger me? Explain to me how a random quote by a random philosopher randomly placed on a random tablet that randomly says "The Chosen Ones' Description" on top is talking about these three? It could apply to just about anyone. Heck, the baddies could've actually been on to something, and their guesses were the absolute worst. If you're going to do Chosen One/prophecy tropes, do them right, man! Not like this junk.

"We have the advantage of surprise now. We need to use it before it's snatched out of our grasps," a delegate argued. "We have siege towers, ballistas, catapults, men, horses, and the bomb. There's no time to waste. And if you don't give us permission to use the Chosen Ones, we may take them by force."

#MoreConflictingRebelStuff

For your information, the proper pluralization of ballista is ballistae. You're also being a little forward, assuming that the Followers are gonna hand over their bomb to you when you've done nothing to deserve it.

Warren cleared his throat and felt eyes turn his way. "I have a compromise. We go with the attack, but should trouble show, we run and sail to Zracs."

Yes, this is a compromise, but it is by no means a good strategy. I'm a little surprised/not surprised that none of the rebels see this.

Ian made sure the coast was clear before he left the darkness the barracks provided from the moonlight. He had two important jobs to do tonight, both with swiftness and stealth. The less people that saw him, the better. Because he had instructions to eliminate any that noticed him. So hopefully, no one had been awake when he passed by the barracks window.

As per usual, I've got a couple of bones to pick with this, but I'm gonna do it rapid-fire. The first sentence feels awkward; the "because" sentence feels like an afterthought; and Mark did see Ian (just didn't include that part), except he thought it was his imagination, so I guess Ian's in the clear.

He dashed from shadow to shadow, avoiding patrols that made their rounds. His eyes scanned the area, searching for a high vantage point. Catching sight of a tree, Ian ran to it. He scrambled up the branches, wanting none to hear or see.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't dashing make you more noticeable to the patrols? Surely they'd sense movement in their peripheral vision and check it out. I'd also like to see a demonstration of someone climbing a tree quietly.

At a high part, he looked over the gigantic courtyard. He finally spotted the prison building a good distance away. Satisfied, he hurried to the solid ground.

Let me get this straight: this dude somehow convinced his superiors to station him in front of the room where they were deciphering the tablet, but he DOESN'T KNOW THE WAY TO THE PRISON?! This . . . I . . . I have no words.

"Ian," a watchman said."What brings you out here at the late hours of the night? You anxious for the fight tomorrow or something?"
Ian cursed his foolish actions. He had forgotten there was a tower close to the tree. He turned and looked at the man, who was illuminated by a torch. The traitor produced a blowgun, targeted the watchman, and blew out. The arrow whizzed into the guard's throat, sending poison to his heart. The watchman buckled, cracking his skull on the hard floor.

And now he's forgetting about nearby towers? I'm starting to think Leviathan chose the wrong guys to work for him on Adiryulle. Now all the patrols within earshot should be wondering why there was no response to the watchman's questions. If only they knew he was killed by conveniently-fast-acting poison.

He reached the prison with ease. The building was dull and set low in the earth, stairs leading down to the doorway. A sentry stood in front of the steps, his helmet on the ground next to him. Seeing Ian approach, he waved and started to say his greeting. Unfortunately for him, Ian's flail was already in action. The spiked ball slammed the side of his head. A severe crunch sounded and the sentry fell, his mortal wound leaking a thick substance. Ian took the fellow's key ring and stepped to the door, unlocked it, and going inside.

*gags* Blegh . . . that is morbid and gross and disgusting and what was wrong with you, Josiah? Why did the sentry have his helmet off? How did he not see Ian start to make a move for his head? I will say, I love the tense change in the last sentence. Best idea for the story so far.

"You failed," Ian said flatly.
"Ssen flunked his job," Hcol growled. "If he hadn't, I would have succeeded my part. Now hurry up!"

Yeah, about that . . . both you virockel spy dudes failed. He was a poor imitator, and you showed up at the trail disguised like someone already there. Just saying, is all. Oh, and by the way, you might want to take an English course. "Succeeded my part" sounds pretty bad, and if it is correct, that's plain stupid.

As Ian took off the shackles on his hands and feet, he asked, "Hcol, do virockels have a weak spot?"
Hcol glared. "Yes, one." He pointed to the base of his skull on the back of his neck. "That's where."
"Interesting." Ian pulled off the neck shackle. "Well, you just may want to keep that part covered."
"Why?"
"Somebody might do this." Ian whipped his flail at the soft area full force. It connected, and the virockel stumbled forward.
"You'll . . . pay," Hcol grunted, fury alight in his taut face.
"Nah. Leviathan would have you executed anyway, so die, won't you?" Ian shoved Hcol, who in turn toppled onto his back. Green and blue blood mingled in an oozing mess.

Wow. So there's no one you can trust in the bad guy army, can you? Everyone's gonna double-cross you, and then they'll get double-crossed by someone else. To be fair, if someone asks about your weak spot, you probably should be concerned. (Also, I used to think Ian's last line to Hcol was so cool, but now it's just meh.)

Ian left the building and headed for the stables. Now that the job was done, there was another to tend to, which was telling Alex the assault plans.
The Followers and rebels were in for a nasty surprise.

You do realize you're gonna have to pick up the pace, right, buddy? If Leviathan wants to get a drop on the heroes, Alex is going to need to book it back to the castle as fast as he can. Just make sure he doesn't kill ya first. And ooh, such suspense! I'm shaking in me boots.

It's so weird to think that there are only three chapters left. Does that news bring heartache to you? I hope you enjoyed this part regardless. Did I up my sarcasm enough? (Pretty sure I did.) 

Friday, June 08, 2018

6 Writing Lessons from Indie Games

Earlier this week, I mentioned how I rooted for the underdogs of media. It could be anything from a movie (such as The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which is disliked by many and didn't even make double the budget) to a game (like Skyward Sword or Spirit Tracks). It got me thinking: why do I like these things so much?

Now, I love gaming. But I also know not all of you are here just to read posts about video games. So I figured, "Why not make it a post about games and writing?" That's how this idea came into being. We're going to be looking at six indie games that are all very different from each other, but are similar in the fact that they can all teach us something.

left to right: OneShot, Undertale, Among the Sleep, Little Nightmares, Terraria, A Hat in Time

Before we delve into each title, I want to quickly chat a little bit about the indie game territory as a whole and what we can learn from it. It's interesting to note how crooked some triple-A developers have shown themselves to be as of late. We've got companies like EA making games like Star Wars Battlefront II (the 2017 version) pay-to-win and refusing to get rid of loot boxes, despite numerous states and/or countries comparing them to gambling and making them illegal. Bluehole wants to sue Epic Games, because they're miffed by the fact that Fortnite has taken over the battle royale genre in popularity instead of their own PlayerUnknown's Battleground. (Yeah, because you can copyright a bricking genre, and it's always a good idea to sue the company that created the engine your game runs on.)

Then we look at indie developers, and their story is usually quite different. Believe it or not, Minecraft started out as an indie game. However, through word-of-mouth, it became so popular that Microsoft bought it for $2.5 billion. Unknown Worlds Entertainment nearly went out of business a few times when they were making Subnautica. But thanks to YouTubers like Jacksepticeye, who bought and played the game in Early Access, the game gained popularity, and the developers were able to see their dreams come true. There are a number of indie titles, such as Undertale and A Hat in Time, that used Kickstarter projects to get enough finances.

For me, it's always cool to see when these underdogs make it to the top. That's not to say all indie games do; they tend to either be really good or really bad. But I think we can take note in the fact that bigger doesn't always mean better. Triple-A games aren't always the best. So just because we as writers may not get a famous publisher to put out our books, it doesn't mean our big break isn't coming. Take heart and keep doing what you love. Enthusiasm is catchy.

For indie games, it's also interesting to note that there's less . . . expectations, if you will. When you're a well-known developer, there can be a lot of expectations and criticisms from fans that you have to deal with. Smaller developers are often free to do whatever they want. I do want to note that this isn't always the case either way, but that's what seems to often happen. We have to remember to balance the two: take into consideration the suggestions of others, but make sure your project is still yours.

But let's take a closer look at the individual games and get one takeaway from each.

source

A child named Niko wakes up in bed, but he knows not where he is. The world is dark and unfamiliar to him. He eventually discovers that he can speak to you, the god of the world. You must guide him on a journey to save the land and restore the light by bringing the sun, in the form of a small lightbulb, to its rightful place atop a tower. There is no combat, only puzzles that must be solved. But if there is one thing to remember every step of the way, it is this:

You only have one shot. Succeed, and revive a broken world. Fail . . . and watch everything fall into an unforgiving darkness for eternity.

While I have yet to finish this game--and I'm doing my best to stay away from all potential spoilers--the thought of only being one shot to make things right intrigued me. Yes, the whole concept of the game being very aware of your presence also got me hooked, but it was the story that truly made me stay. And I do have to wonder: how will my choices affect the ending? I don't want to fail, but I fear that I might miss something and do so.

What we can learn: your story must have weight to it. If there is no gravity to the plot--if nothing the characters do have consequences--you shouldn't expect readers to stick around. But if you can show that actions have effects, including bad ones, they'll be hooked. Don't be afraid to make both the characters and the readers fear failure.

source

I could give a lot of writing lessons based on this game alone. Everything from how it makes you really think about consequences and how life doesn't give you a reset button, to the core themes and ideas of the plot, like mercy, determination, and the inner struggle between good and evil, would be interesting to talk about.

But as I mentioned in my review, something Undertale excels at is flipping the entire RPG genre on its head. It gives you the option to be nice to your foes and spare them. It even tricks you by calling them "monsters," something I'll eventually talk about in a full post.

If you go into it and act like it's just another fantasy RPG, you're going to be shocked. You'll either initiate the Genocide route, which tosses the two hardest boss fights at you just to make you change your ways, or you'll get a less-than-satisfying Neutral ending. The game punishes you for not giving any thought to your actions.

What we can learn: make your story unique. You might be writing a fantasy, a sci-fi, a contemporary romance . . . whatever genre you're dabbling in, find ways to shake things up. Subvert your readers' expectations. Your story can be different from the thousands of books that share the same category. Don't let the genre's name keep you boxed in. Dare to try something spectacular.

source

The hero of this game, a two-year-old who goes unnamed, is celebrating his birthday with his mother. He receives a gift from his father, who doesn't live with them anymore: a teddy bear by the name of Teddy (simple and straight to the point). That night, the child gets out of his crib and plays with Teddy, who happens to talk. But something else is in that house. A monster lurks, waiting to snatch the kid.

As the game progresses and the child goes on a frightening journey, there's a feeling that pervades everything. A feeling that everything here in this nightmare landscape has a double meaning. I don't want to spoil the plot, because it's quite interesting. Suffice it to say that the game tackles some tough, but real, issues through the eyes of a small toddler.

And that's the game's strongest point. With how everything is structured, it wouldn't make as much sense in anyone else's POV. But make a very young child with a whirring imagination experience all this, and it makes for a twisting turn of events.

What we can learn: think about who's watching your story's events unfold. How will things look if you change the POV from a courageous hero to a cowardly villager? What if the antihero provides the eyesight for your readers? How about the princess's bodyguard instead of the princess herself? Change the POV, and you might get an entirely different story, because how one person sees something will not be like how another sees it.

source

Six is a kid trapped in a dark, steel prison. Where she's locked away, kids like her are fresh meat for their massive captors. She must do all she can to get out--but what will it cost in the end?

That's the basic plot of the game, and it's hard to really say more. Why? Well, besides the spoilery reasons, there is no dialogue to be found here. Any story here is presented through characters and what they're doing. You have to piece things together.

So in a game where there is no conversations, you might be tempted to think that there's no real theme here. But there is, and it's a strong one told expertly throughout. It's all about hunger, and how far someone will go to satisfy that hunger. While shown through the lens of physical hunger for food, it can be easily interpreted for anything that people crave. Again, this is something I'd like to delve into fully in a separate post.

What we can learn: don't outright preach your theme. You can lessen its impact if you just talk about it. Weave it into the actions and motives of your characters. Be subtle. I didn't catch everything Little Nightmares was trying to tell me the first time I watched it being played. I had to watch it a couple of times to grasp the whole concept. Your readers aren't dumb, so don't act like they are. They can appreciate a story that makes them ponder.

source

How does a game with no plot whatsoever teach a writing lesson? All shall be revealed very shortly. You see, Terraria is a game that allows you to, essentially, do three things. You can choose to explore and nab materials, craft things with said materials, or fight bosses. Some people might find games that aren't story-driven boring, but I quite like this game.

One of my favorite things to do is crafting. I randomly decided the other day that I wanted to make a home in the snow biome. So I created a new character and a new world, and headed off to find the perfect location. I'm now working on my cabin/lodge, and it's really fun! I harvest all the right materials to make things such as windows, furniture, and the like, then find the perfect place for everything to make a cozy home.

That's not to say that mining by myself doesn't get tedious at times, but the end result is worth it. It's even more fun when you can play with a friend, like I have with Preston, to do stuff with. It just adds to the whole experience so much.

What we can learn: unleash your imagination in your story. The sky isn't the limit; heck, even space isn't! Your only limits are the ones you set on yourself. Everything you need is at your fingertips. Some things take time to hone and perfect, but you'll get there. Enjoy the journey and allow your creativity to roam freely. And hey, if there's a friend you can bring on the journey, don't pass up on that opportunity. Two hands are better than one.

source

The developer of A Hat in Time set out with one goal in mind: to right the wrong that was Donkey Kong 64. He believed in better platforming games and wanted to renew interest in them. However, the release date for the game fell in an awkward place. It was after the release of Yooka-Laylee, a platformer that wasn't received with glowing praise, and before the release of Super Mario Odyssey, a highly-anticipated platformer that could overshadow A Hat in Time.

Turns out, there was nothing to fear. Just check its Steam page, and you'll see it has overwhelmingly positive reviews to this day. Why is it so loved? There a number of factors, from great voice acting to phenomenal music. But I think it can be boiled down to the fact that it's very unique.

You see, the plot is episodic, and the worlds are all vastly different from each other. Mafia Town is the most "normal" one of the bunch, but you can't deny that Mafia with bad English and great accents are a great addition. It also introduces you to the villain, whose intentions really aren't all that bad. Battle of the Birds is all about making movies, and switches between things like a murder mystery on a train and an explosive game of follow the leader. Subcon Forest is where you lose your soul to a devilish fellow who has you do his dirty work for him--that includes fighting a possessed outhouse and sneaking through a very creepy mansion. Lastly, Alpine Skyline allows you to free-roam and explore mountain peaks in search for Time Pieces, which is what the plot is all about.

What we can learn: right place and right time are important elements in anything in life. But while these are things you should consider, don't get bent out of shape because of them. Even if the timing sometimes looks bad, don't give up. You have something unique to say with your story, so don't let yourself be overshadowed by other books. Your art will always have an audience.

That wraps up this writing lesson! What'd you think? Did you have a favorite takeaway, or one that you know you need to work on? Why do you think there are a lot of popular indie games these days? Is the same true on the indie book scene?