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Friday, September 21, 2012

Cookie Cutter Taverns

I meant to write this post sooner.  I need to finish it now before PAX is too far behind me and I forget what I wanted to write down!

My first night in Seattle, I went out to dinner with friends as they planned to participate in the annual "Triwizard Drinking Tournament."  It is quite the endeavor, as 200 PAX attendees get together, dress up as students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and split up into their respective "houses" to go on a pub crawl to various bars in downtown Seattle.

I do not drink, and I spend very little time in bars.  I was facinated by what my friends would be doing that night, so I decided to tag along "at least for one or two bars" to see what it was all about.  The evening was very fun, as the participants went about their evening doing their thing while also raising a bunch of money for the Child's Play Charity by auctioning off various items throughout the night.

When I arrived home from Seattle and started looking at Ryndaria, I realized that taverns in fantasy realms tend to all be the same.  They are seedy, dirty places where people drink, get in to fights, and find adventuring work.  I noticed that I pretty much envision every tavern any of my characters have ever walked into exactly the same!

This idea does not match up with what I see in bars in the real world.  Bars/pubs/taverns are an expression of culture.  This was extremely evident when I walked into five of them in Seattle.  Every bar had a unique layout, music style, theme, lighting, etc.  There are things about bars that are similar (they all have a "bar" where you get your drinks, they tend to be darkly lit, etc), but they all have something about them that makes them one of a kind.

So why do we tend to make taverns so cookie cutter?  Is it to make it easier?  I believe my world will come alive so much more when the little details are taken care of.  For this reason, I have spent time designing "third spaces" in my worlds.

This doesn't only apply to bars.  If there is a large city, wouldn't it have fancy restaurants?  What about family restaurants in a society where families are able to spend time together?  What about a "Starbucks" or "McDonalds" where people can get food conveniently and inexpensively? 

What would these places look like?  What would be the equivalent of an "Irish Pub" or a "Sports Bar" in my world?  These are the questions I ask myself now as I flesh out the world in which my stories take place.

What do you think?  Do these details matter?  Do they just distract from the narrative?  Any cool examples in your own worlds (or books you have read) you can share?

As always, thank you for reading!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

PAX and Twitter Lessons

So PAX Prime was gigantic.  I attended the show back in 2008, and I thought it was crowded then!  The show takes up 2 or 3 times more space now, and it was even more crowded than before.  I was completely blown away by the sheer size.

The highlight for me, from a writing perspective, was sitting in a discussion by the creator of the Eberron world of DnD, Keith Baker.  He discussed world building and the origins of Eberron.  He also spent some time talking about his approach to a new world he is currently working on.  He even took one of my questions and talked through it a bit, which was exciting.

The other thing I really enjoyed was painting my first miniature from the guys at Reaper Minis.  They recently completed a Kickstarter for a whole new line of plastic miniatures for table top gaming, and I could not help but support the Kickstarter (over 240 miniatures are coming my way over the next six months!). 

I never painted a miniature before, and I was worried it would be very difficult.  When it comes to painting on canvas, I am not fond of what I produce.  I lack the practice to create lines the way I envision them.  Painting little 2" tall characters is a totally different experience!  I really enjoyed the process, and I'm pretty proud of how my guy turned out. 

I found the creative process of painting this guy to be extremely rewarding.  Sadly, it was one of the first things I did at PAX.  The rest of the show was great, but it could not match the fun and excitement of creativity on Friday morning.

I learned something interesting the last couple weeks.  ReTweets are a powerful tool on Twitter!  Twice in the past two weeks I have had my blog retweeted by people with many more followers than I have.  Both times, the hits to the blog more than tripled!  Of course, the views only lasted for a day each time.  As soon as the retweet faded away, so did the hits.  I learned first hand the power of Twitter.  For those that are reading due to those tweets, thanks for stopping by.

I am back home now and working on a number of projects, but Jairus is still strong in my mind.  I continue to work through my outline in preparation to write chapter two.

Thanks for reading!