The Writer's Room

  1. Story Elements: The Sidekick

    Speaking as someone who has spent the better part of his life as the sidekick, I think they don’t get enough credit. Now I’m not complaining about having been a sidekick. Quite the contrary, it was great fun. There’s a lot you can get away with going unnoticed in someone else’s shadow.

    In stories though the sidekick is more than just the guy seeing what he can do while everyone else is watching the star of the show. In literary terms, he or she serves as the foil. Not aluminum foil. Not the fencing sword thing. And no, the purpose is not to ruin anything.

    A foil serves as a counterpoint to the main point. Your hero seems more heroic in the face of the sidekick’s doubt. The ingenuity of the hero shines compared to the concrete thinking of the sidekick. A heady romance of sweeping emotions overwhelms the practical concerns of the onlooking sidekick.

    Think Watson to Holmes. Think Sancho Panza to Don Quixote. Think D’Artagnon to the rest of the Musketeers. Think Robin to Batman, but only if you can do so without giggling at the homoerotic undertones.

    At the very least, think about those ancillary characters as more than just convenient plot points. The more fleshed-out and real you can make them, the more depth you can add to your protagonist either in contrast or in compliment to the attributes you give your sidekick. It’s just another layer of depth available to the careful author.

    10 comments Posted 2010-03-22 Author: THX 0477
  2. The SxSW Web Awards: Not A Big Winner

    Since neither Jason or I are at SxSW this year, we have to find out through twitter, e-mail, etc, if we’ve won or not. I have to tell you, it’s stressful waiting to find out. I think it may be more stressful than the first time we went through this with ficlets!

    And so the big news is… We didn’t win this year. And that’s OK. I’m happy that we were finalists for the second time.

    But, so it doesn’t go to waste, here’s the acceptance speech I put together from all of your lovely sequels. Thank you guys for doing that, and for caring enough about Ficly to share your thoughts.

    Maybe next year!

    Thank you to everyone who voted for us, for the judges and for all of you for sitting through the next 45 seconds.

    Ficly is a creative oasis in a sea of sameness. It allows anyone with five minutes to create a world, a character, a scene or an emotion – all in 1,024 characters or less. In fact, this acceptance speech is a Ficly, written by the community to express what it means to be part of the community and to thank you for this award.

    Before we get to that part, we have a few people to thank. First of all, Jason Garber for pushing to build Ficly after ficlets went away, and writing all the CSS that won us this award. Viget Labs for helping us out with such an amazing design. Seimitsu for being there with the hosting for us, and the Ficly community who help keep us going!

    Now here’s what the community wants to tell you about what Ficly means to them…

    Ficly is more than a writing site, it’s a family. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Here you aren’t shunned by what you are in real life, you’re accepted no matter what your background is.

    In the world of Ficly, we get the greatest assortment of people. Nerds, gays, even the odd robot or three. Ficly has challenged it’s members to use their brains in any way possible, writing short, writing long, writing different languages, writing new genres. Ficly has provided some gems for any genre you can imagine.

    Ficly is a place to shout and be read.

    Ficly is a giant, online creative writing class with no teacher and a lot of eager students. That’s how I like to think of it, and its why I love it.

    Ficly is about that brief creative burst, middle of the day or late at night. Ficly forces you to choose your words wisely and accurately in order to create something coherent.

    Ficly is a platform for me to stretch my brainpower to its very limits just to pen down that story to express my sadness, happiness, excitement, anxiousness.

    It is a joy to ficly.

    Thank you!
  3. Help Write Our Acceptance Speech!

    Just like last time we were up for this award, I think it’s only appropriate that you help us write the acceptance speech! I’ve started it, thanking most of the people we need to thank (I’ll probably need to add more) and what I want to say. The rest is up to you!

    So, write sequels to my acceptance speech before next Wednesday (oddly enough, that’s The International Day of Awesomeness) and I’ll compile them into our acceptance speech, which will be read by one of our friends from Viget Labs since Jason and I aren’t going to SxSW this year.

    Get writing!

  4. Award Season

    Yes, I know the Oscars are in a couple weeks, but this is about something better. Ficly, like ficlets before it, is up for a SxSW Web Award this year! Thanks to Jason’s insane CSS skills, we’re up for the CSS award again.

    And, just like last time, you guys can help us win! You can go vote on the SxSW Web Awards Site once a day, every day, right up until the day of the awards (I think).

    So, if you don’t mind taking a couple minutes out of your day… go vote!! And, thank you!

  5. Something Awesome This Way Comes

    Expect Awesomeness.

    In a few short weeks a momentous day shall be upon us, my fellow miscreants of miniscule fiction. It is that time once again for the International Day of Awesomeness. March 10th. Mark it on your calendars. Send yourself an email. Get a tattoo.

    No wait, scratch that last one. Most or at least a lot of you are minors and shouldn’t be getting tattoos. I am not taking the blame for that sort of misadventure.

    The point of the day is awesomeness. The commemoration is of all things awesome. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

    Now I know I’m early, like a Christmas tree going up the week before Thanksgiving, but awesomeness doesn’t just happen, people. Trust me, as I’ve failed to mark my calendar enough years in a row to know personally how hard last minute awesomeness is to achieve. It’s very difficult. The closest I’ve come is being awesomely lame and pathetically late…which is about the same as I tend to do with birthday cards to my family members (sorry guys!). Perhaps I should have started the post instead with…

    Plan Awesomeness.

    Yes, make some plans. Dig deep and pull out some awesome. You know, do something cool on the day, whether it be a one-time thing like a stunt or a new goal, like putting up decent blog posts more often than once a month or so. Make it your own though, so I’m not going to give any more suggestions. Also, I still have to figure out my own awesomeness.

    Stay tuned for more awesomeness, and happy ficlying!

    16 comments Posted 2010-02-19 Author: THX 0477
  6. Simple Message...Repeated Needlessly

    Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.

    Thus ended another Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. Man, that guy’s got a voice that makes you want to just sit by the fire and listen for a spell. He could probably read the dictionary, and it’d be fairly interesting. For me the whole Prairie Home Companion thing is nostalgic, though I can’t even say when if ever I listened to it on a regular basis. Did my dad listen to it when he wasn’t exposing us to Baroque classics? Did my mom listen to it when she wasn’t censoring any and all media entering our household?

    Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.

    Maybe it’s not about having listened to him in the past. Maybe it’s something to do with the simplicity of a radio program, the quaint majesty of the spoken word conveying images, thoughts, and narratives. No special effects. No choreographed fight scenes or high speed chases. Nothing in 3D whatsoever. Heck, I don’t even think it qualifies as 2D. Perhaps it’s just nostalgic the same way Norman Rockwell paintings are; it’s just the intended style, a crafted hominess.

    Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.

    Then again, there’s something to that, an inherent honesty. Truth hits and tends to feel familiar. It’s what we want. Say what you want, but there’s rarely anything controversial about what gets said by Mr. Keillor. It feels right. It feels honest. It feels like where you want to be. Sometimes when what you want to hear, what you need to hear, and what you yourself have been trying to say however inarticulately meets with a soothing voice the message manages to settle in, for better or for worse. This time around, I think it’s for the better.

    Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.

    3 comments Posted 2010-02-04 Author: THX 0477
  7. The Bell Tolls

    “…Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    I don’t know about you, but whenever I read that I imagine it being intoned by a very ominous sounding baritone. It has a morose, threatening sort of feel to it, like I’m going to die. Please allow me to present to you a more complete rendition of the quote.

    “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a peice of the continet, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of they friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~John Donne, Devotions, XVII

    Is that not lovely? Is that not sublime? It’s not supposed to be ominous at all, which amuses me in itself, as I always love when my preconceived ideas are dispelled in such a way. It’s not about some dread foreboding; it’s about a way to be connected to all of humanity, to be involved in such a way as to feel the loss of even one soul.

    I like to think, you know, when I’m rather full of myself like I am this evening, that writing is one way in which we can achieve this. If I may clarify, it is not just in the writing but in the reading. Then it is in the discussion. Next comes those brilliant moments against the dull monotony of life when creativity pings from one mind to another, when epiphany bursts from the stray words of the semi-anonymous peer, or when you bear witness to one soul touching another through the written word.

    May it happen more often. May it happen more dramatically. May it happen to you.

    Happy ficlying, my friends.

    16 comments Posted 2010-01-23 Author: THX 0477
  8. It won't be good enough...

    Sure, I know you’ve thought it. Heaven knows I have.

    You sit there, pen in hand poised over paper…no, wait. That’s rather old school, isn’t it. It’s so dated it should be referred to more accurately as olde school. Let me try again.

    You sit there, nervous hands poised over a keyboard while the harsh light of the monitor bores into your skull. Yes, yes, that’s far more contemporary.

    You think…

    I think…

    He thinks…

    She thinks…

    He/She thinks…(didn’t want to leave out our transgender friends)

    “It won’t be good enough.”

    Bah. Pheh. Phooey. I say all three in tart rejoinder to the thought, to myself and to you all, gender benders included. Art is for the doing. The viewing and the appreciating comes later, a secondary afterthought to the exercise of human creativity. Anything else is mere commercialism or a primped up shadow of adolescent attempts to gain popularity, to be liked.

    So just write the darn thing already. Go on. Put something down. If it’s really all that horrid, call it a learning exercise and do better on the next one. You don’t even have to do all that much better. Just a little improvement at a time with lots of messes and backsliding along the way.

    Writing is like life, I say, if you’re not enjoying the process what’s the point anyway?

    Happy Ficlying.

    28 comments Posted 2010-01-07 Author: THX 0477
  9. Exploration

    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”
    ~T.S. Eliot

    For me the purpose of any artistic endeavor is exploration. A painting can lead you down the tortured streets of Guernica. A symphony may take you the heights of eroica. A sculpture can put you right back in the golden age of Greece. As a writer where will you take your reader?

    Aside from where the consumer of art can be lead, there is where the artist himself may wander in the creative process. From the depths of one’s own guilt may come a masterpiece of suspense set to the beat of a guilty heart. One man’s search of boundless expression could produce seemingly random paintings that still say so much. As a writer, to what well will you go for inspiration?

    May the journey be kind to you, and the discoveries worth the exploration.

    6 comments Posted 2009-12-23 Author: THX 0477
  10. Server Support Project: The Stories

    I know this is seriously late, but I don’t want to let it go any longer. The stickers have been ordered and should arrive any day, at which point, I’ll send them out.

    • Christopher Steffen chose Dark Room by Textmason
    • Jeremy Keith chose Z is for Zombie by… me
    • Jessica Cahill chose Without Walls by Spiderj, and her favorite story of her own is Junkie.
    • Coccinella chose One hundred thousand bagels, he said by Scott, and her favorite story of her own is A white wedding
    • and that’s all I have. There should be 11 of these, but I can’t find anyone else’s response. SO, if you pledged $20 or more and didn’t send me a story, please send me either a note on here or an e-mail to kevin at and I’ll add it to this post.

    I had a hard time getting the money out of Amazon Payments, and then finding a place that would print the stickers exactly how I wanted them. But, the money’s in my account, the links (well, some of them) have been posted, and the stickers are on their way to me (and then on the way to you). I’ll be delivering the check to the hosting place next week.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you guys supporting us like this. It means a lot to me, and I’m sure to Jason too.

  11. The Truth, The Lie, and The Story Inbetween

    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” —George Orwell

    Welcome to the modern age, or maybe just my cynical view of it on a cloudy afternoon. It seems that all we have around us these days are lies. For goodness’ sake, even little pieces of Frosted Mini Wheats lie to us, saying they can make our kids do better in school. There seems to be, in fact, a general consensus that we can’t handle the truth. Heck, we’re so jaded that a poor guy runs his car into a tree or fire hydrant, and we’ve got him convicted of driving under the influence, having a mistress, and probably selling secrets to the Russians.

    Enters the writer, to tell a tale, the intentional lie. We go so far nowadays as to put disclaimers that if anything or anyone in the story resembles reality the reader should chalk it up to coincidence (not irony, coincidence). The stories are fictitious, nothing but lies we proclaim with the very heading. We writers should fit right in, shouldn’t we?

    For all the lies we tell, fibs we might call them, our writing has power and impact only in proportion to the truth we can surreptitiously weave in the midst of a fanciful story. The place may be as remote as unexplored space, but the fears of being alone speak to many an honest soul. The situation may be as far-fetched as zombies who resemble Karl Marx, but an earnest desire to be an individual rings true. The heroine may be as unlikely as misguided fairy, but that need to make a difference hits home.

    So go on, tell me some lies. Just make them good ones.

    14 comments Posted 2009-11-30 Author: THX 0477
  12. The Power of Storytelling

    I found a one page article in the February 16, 2009 issue of Newsweek. In it, the author Ann Banks wrote:

    “If my grandmother Blanche were around to read the headlines today, I know just what story she would tell” in the mid-1920’s, at the height of the Florida land rush, she was working in a real-estate office in Palm Beach. Times were flush and sales were booming. This exuberance was on display in the showy mosaic map of Florida embedded in the office floor.

    To highlight Palm Beach, the artist had cemented in a shiny silver dollar. Before long, the speculative bubble burst, helped along by a hurricane. One morning my grandmother and her colleagues arrived at the office to discover that someone had chiseled the silver dollar right out of the floor. Times were hard.

    Blanche ended up losing her house, her car and all the money she had saved for my father’s educations. Those things, though, she seldom mentioned. Instead, she told me about the stolen silver dollar. It comforted my grandmother, I believe, by reminder her that in her misfortune she was far from alone.

    I was raised on Depression stories; this was only one of many told around our dinner table. Hearing them again and a gain, I became fascinated by the role that stories play during hard times—the way they seem to strengthen people, offering a bulwark against loneliness and feelings of personal failure…”

    She wrapped up her article with the sentiment, “We need again to imagine a future that is meaningful in the face of difficult circumstances. Listening to each other’s stories may grand us a sense of common purpose that money can’t buy.”

    Behold the power of writing. Ficly-teers, tell us your stories. Draw us in, and help us relate to your experience in this crazy world. Imagine that brighter future. Or imagine the dark future that haunts your dreams. Write. Tell your story. Come together.

    8 comments Posted 2009-11-18 Author: THX 0477
  13. Diagnostic Theory

    In psychiatry we have nine defined personality disorders. These represent a stable set of behavioral patterns that are consistent across multiple environments and over time. Briefly, they are:

    Paranoid: They may not be convinced the FBI is spying on their every move, but they aren’t ruling it out either. Basically they see the world as a dangerous, aggressive place.

    Schizoid: The content loner, off on their own but happy to be so, generally pursuing solitary activities, especially collections of various sorts.

    Schizotypal: Eccentric right up to the point of being psychotically delusional but not quite. They have magical beliefs and tend to come across as rather odd.

    Antisocial: No, they don’t avoid parties. They have a disregard for rules, societal norms, and how you feel about what they’re doing. They tend to be career criminals.

    Borderline: Not easy to deal with. They are prone to emotional outbursts, tend to see the world in absolutes, fear abandonment above all else, and can go a little psychotic when stressed.

    Histrionic: Dramatic and generally provocative. They’re entertaining to have around, but I wouldn’t be alone with one if I were you…unless you’re single and feeling daring.

    Narcissistic: Yes, they think they’re all that, and they’re dangerous if shown to be otherwise.

    Avoidant: They also wind up as loners, but it has more to do with a fear of scrutiny and public embarrassment.

    Dependent: They can’t make a decision and would really like you to make it for them.

    Obsessive Compulsive: No, they don’t wash their hands 100 times a day. This group is the epitome of anal retentive, liking things to be in order, parallel, perfectly right. They don’t delegate well and can be overly concerned with right and wrong.

    The fun part of knowing these diagnoses ( for full criteria) is that you can diagnose your friends and family. Also, these represent stable, realistic, and common archetypes of human behavior upon which to base characters. You don’t have to make someone exactly fit a diagnosis, cause real people rarely fit exactly either, And you don’t have to keep a character in that role for a whole story (remember the whole dynamic vs static character thing from Eng lit). Deciding on a character’s makeup and underlying psychology will help you keep them consistent, cause nothing kills a story more than plot-convenient behavior that defies a character’s previously described idiom. It also helps the story to feel real when what goes on manages to ring true or remind the reader of things they’ve noticed in real life.

    17 comments Posted 2009-11-03 Author: THX 0477
  14. Story Elements: Conflict!

    Have you ever noticed that there aren’t a lot of good stories revolving around pacifists?

    Any good story has to have conflict. Though honestly, as I sit down to write this it’s difficult to articulate why. The best example I can think of is the ‘Little Bear’ television program for little kids. I’ve had to watch a lot of episodes, and they are mind-numbing. Mostly I blame the incessant, bland, meandering background music. The other big problem is a glaring lack of conflict in most of the episodes. You just wind up thinking, “Why am I watching this?” Or more to the point, “Why is this story being told?”

    If your story needs conflict, does that mean there has to be a big fight scene? Beowulf fought Grendel. Dracula finally got a stake through his heart. Rocky went the distance. Sydney Carton got hanged (okay, it wasn’t much of a fight, but someone lost…or did he win?). ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is basically one long argument, though fortunately it never gets to physical violence.

    Thankfully, especially for you pacifists out there, conflict doesn’t have to be obvious, external, fist-on-face (or tentacle-on-face, or fist-on-slime, or what-have-you). Generally, there are four types of conflict. Physical would be your character physically fighting against other men, women, children, animals, or natural forces (see above list). Classical refers to a character fighting against fate or the circumstances of life (think Film Noir). Social conflict means you’ve got a character struggling against ideas, practices, or customs of the group (Yentl). Psychological is, of course, my favorite and involves the internal struggle to overcome the enemy within.

    Which type do you write the most? Do you only use one type of conflict in your stories? Is the conflict obvious or does it get lost in flowery descriptions of each and every bit of minutia? (That’d be me) Can you, would you, or should you try to layer in different kinds of conflict over one another? Does the conflict necessarily create or define a “right” and a “wrong”, a “villain” and a “hero”? Do you remember where you parked the car?

    Just a few questions to get you thinking. Now quit thinking so much and get to writing! [see last post]

    11 comments Posted 2009-10-22 Author: THX 0477
  15. The Block

    The Block. It’s so hideous, I hesitate to even mention it for fear of causing a collective jinx. Whatever I do, it’ll be there one way or the other. Goodness knows I’ve had my fair share lately. For instance, Ernest Hemingway reportedly answered that the most frightening thing he’d ever encountered was, “A blank sheet of paper.”

    In brief…
    “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”
    (William Goldman)
    “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
    (Anna Quindlen)
    “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining—researching—talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
    (E. L. Doctorow)
    “Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.”
    (Daniel Pinkwater)

    So, welcome to ficly, the perfect cure for writer’s block! Read a lot and be inspired. Jump on a challenge to get something done. Hit that ‘Random Story’ button, and see where it takes you.

    Fight the block! Write, write, write!

    18 comments Posted 2009-10-14 Author: THX 0477
  16. Sharing The Love

    Ahoy! Jason here. We’re working on many things here in Ficlyville, most of which are requests from authors like you. Yes, you! And you!

    One of the items on my to-do list is to come up with the best possible means of allowing you all to share your creations with your friends, families, co-workers, fellow authors, and whomever else. So I pose to you, dear Ficly friends, this question:

    What are you using to share things these days?

    Facebook seems like an obvious answer. Same goes for Twitter. And email. But what other services are you using to share content? Or… how else are you sharing things online?

    Let us know in the replies and we’ll use your feedback to help us make the best decisions for implementing the new feature.


  17. Times and Seasons, Learning and Playing

    “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”
    — Leo Buscaglia

    Welcome to the schoolhouse. Welcome to the play yard.

    I’ve always described ficly (and ficlets before it) as a giant online creative writing class with no teacher. Then people look at me funny. Still, I stand by that description.

    Welcome to the schoolhouse.

    Hopefully all this writing and reading will amount to something. Are you making the most of it? Have you tried a new style or genre yet? Has a challenge or sequel opportunity stretched your abilities as a writer. Most importantly, can you glean from the feedback something to improve, change, or just work on?

    Welcome to the play yard.

    Ideally the whole process is fun. As a good friend once told me, “If life isn’t fun, you’re not doing it right.” Can you find the pleasure in discovering a new story? Do your character excite and invigorate you? Does this whole thing get some creative juices flowing?

    I hope so. I also hope we can all appreciate that this is a one room schoolhouse, so we have the grade school kids in the with the post-grad crowd. That may mean a little patience at times, from both ends of the spectrum. Best case scenario, it means people striving to be better while also attempting to lift others up.

    “Was man nicht erfliegan kann, muss man erhinken…Die Schrift sagt, es ist keine Sünde zu hinken.”

    39 comments Posted 2009-09-26 Author: THX 0477
  18. Art as Redemptive

    In her essay, ‘Reflections on Working Toward Peace’, Alice Walker had this to say about the creative process, and perhaps more importantly, life in general.

    “All we own, at least for the short time we have it, is our life. With it we write what we come to know of the world…I have learned to accept the fact that we risk disappointment, disillusionment, even despair, every time we act. Every time we decide to believe the world can be better. Every time we decide to trust others to be as noble as we think they are…The alternative, however, not to act, and therefore to miss experiencing other people at their best, reaching toward their fullness, has never appealed to me.
    I have learned other things: One is the futility of expecting anyone, including oneself, to be perfect. People who go about seeking to change the world, to diminish suffering, to demonstrate any kind of enlightenment, are often as flawed as anybody else. Sometimes more so. But it is the awareness of having faults, I think, and the knowledge that this links us to everyone on Earth, that opens us to courage and compassion…”
    “Sometimes our stones are, to us, misshapen, odd. Their color seems off…Presenting them, we perceive our own imperfect nakedness. But also, paradoxically, the wholeness, the rightness, of it. In the collective vulnerability of presence, we learn not to be afraid.”

    Read More
    13 comments Posted 2009-09-17 Author: THX 0477
  19. A Passing Amongst Us

    “Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come."
    ~William Shakespeare

    The inevitability of death still does little to lessen the sting when that eventuality comes too soon or too suddenly. Mighty Joe Young has asked me to let you all know that his wife passed away today.

    She was known here on the site as Not You. She was one of us; therefore she is part of us. Long may her tale be told.

    26 comments Posted 2009-09-09 Author: THX 0477
  20. Ficly-tiquette: Sequels, Prequels, and Major Tom

    “If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.” ~Unknown

    What a beautiful thing it is for the human mind to create out of its own depths a work of artistic expression. How much more beautiful is that creative act when it becomes a cooperative effort, the joint brainchild of two or more writers. Ah yes, that is when, here on Ficly, we have that elusive and prized magical creature, the Coop Story.

    There is just something amusing and fun about writing characters and honestly not knowing what they’ll do next. The exercise of continuing another author’s style, narrative voice, or take on a genre can also be an opportunity for growth as a writer. Or, on a more self-serving note, it’s one way to get at least one comment, as the person you sequel or prequel is bound to comment on it.

    So, in an effort to encourage more of this sort of thing, this sort of thing that happens to be one of the basic points and purposes of the site [hint, hint], I thought I might lay down two ground rules and invite you to add your own for discussion.

    1. When you sequel or prequel something by someone else, tag your piece with ‘sequel’ or ‘prequel’. That way, those of us who like this sort of interplay can use the search feature to find them more easily.

    2. If a story is posted here on Ficly, the assumption will be that the author desperately wants you to prequel or sequel. If that’s not the case, please indicate so in a comment on your own story.

    So let it be written; so let it be awesome.

    10 comments Posted 2009-09-09 Author: THX 0477
  21. Drive Theory

    The person driving the car gets to pick the radio station.


    Freud’s theory of human behavior was a “Drive Model” in that he proposed that our behavior is pushed forward by innate drives deep within our psyches. The initial two were libidinal and aggressive drives, or sex and violence. Later he proposed a third drive, called Thanatos, a deep-seated desire to just not exist any more. For him, it boiled down to behavior relating to wanting to procreate, destroy the competition, or roll over and die to get away from all the upheaval and stress associated with the first two.

    Just as normal people have a basic psychology at play (whether you buy Freud or don’t), a good character should have a solid and consistent psychological make-up. Nothing kills the authenticity of a story more than a character defying all previous characterization just to do something that moves the plot along. I’m not saying you have to study Freud, Jung, Adler, or even Skinner. Just take that extra moment to think out your characters’ motives, make them believable, and keep them consistent. In the end, it makes for a more believable and palpable story, whatever the genre or however far-fetched your premise.

    12 comments Posted 2009-08-31 Author: THX 0477
  22. Story Elements: The Setting

    As they say in Real Estate, “Location, location, location.” In stories though, I begin this blog post not entirely convinced. My brother has a movie he really liked which is basically three people wandering around talking. The setting is a castle or something, but it winds up irrelevant. They could have been anywhere.

    On the other hand, ‘The Hunchback of Le Louvre’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. To put it on a slightly more modern footing, would "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou’ been as funny set in Canada? Okay, it might have been slightly more amusing, depending on the number of moose and back-bacon references.

    Then again, and especially in this format, I’ve done whole stories with almost no mention of the location or atmosphere. They’re usually heavy on dialogue. Come to think of it, they usually wind up a little detached and philosophical.

    I think what it comes down to is that your setting is an additional character. Like any character the story might survive without it or with an alternate. However, as a character, it deserves at least as much attention as any other character, if not more. After all, the setting will probably be the largest character unless you have a story about giants set on a tiny, tiny island.

    Updated by Kevin: Sorry to butt in to THX’s lovely blog post, but I didn’t want to push it off the homepage since he spent so much time writing it. But, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped out with the server support project! There’s still time to donate, but we made our goal so as of 9/1, we’ll have hosting paid for for the next year! Also, I had some time this afternoon – so I fixed the search engine. Search is working again (for real this time, not just the tags)!

    7 comments Posted 2009-08-23 Author: THX 0477
  23. A Call to Pens

    In days gone by, a sullen figure trudged across the field of wordcraft. Megalomania flourished. Self promotion ran rampant. Myopic fools ran this way and that, seeing only their own meager creations. A deep sadness arose within the man, gnawing away at his hope for a better world, a world of cooperative creative enterprise and mutual assistance.

    Rather than skulk away in lonely defeat, he cried out to the ether of the interwebs. A challenge was issued. Tenets were espoused. A condemnation or two may have been intimated. The mantle of Grand Awesome Marshall was presumptuously assumed. Upon a mountain of bombast and indignation the banner was unfurled to flap in the breeze of imagination. Upon the standard brightly blazed the letters that would come to signify so much with so little: LoA.

    Much to his general surprise, writers, valiant and true, came to the erected standard. They pledged to abide by principles of the newly born League of Awesomeness. Together they shouted, “We will look outward, see the works of others, and comment constructively upon them!” With a voice of thunder the masses intoned, “Our works and our blood shall run together, sequel upon sequel, prequel upon prequel; the lone series be damned!” In a great exhale of aspiration and audacity, the league proclaimed, “We will be awesome!”

    The time has come once again, dear friends, to raise the standard. Come one and come all. Bring your awesomeness and add it to the rebirth of legend. Pledge to abide by the principles of Commentation, Cooperativity, and Awesomeness. Be one of us. Join the newly reformed, the slightly renamed (for copyright purposes), the utterly incredible, the League o’ Awesomeness. Some join overtly, by a missive to the Grand Awesome Marshall (me), or you may consider yourself a member purely by virtue of your own awesomeness. Some proclaim their membership with ‘LoA’ on name or comment, but you may just as well scream your allegiance through awesome acts.

    The League o’ Awesomeness is not a label; it’s what you do. Membership is not on a roster; it’s in your heart.

    36 comments Posted 2009-08-14 Author: THX 0477
  24. Downtime

    Yeah, that sucked. This morning, I saw on twitter from a couple people that they couldn’t get to the site. We were packing up to drive home after visiting my parents (a ten hour drive down I-95). I spent a frantic 45 minutes before leaving trying to find a solution before we absolutely had to get on the road. Obviously, I didn’t figure it out.

    The problem started because we somehow ran out of disk space last night, which caused the database to absolutely freak out. It refused to restart, even though I fixed some of the disk space problems.

    We got home a little over an hour ago. As a last-ditch effort to fix the problem, I rebooted the server, and well, things work again. We have tons of disk space now and should be OK.

    I think part of the problem is the new search stuff since the server was working just fine before we turned it on. You can expect search to go through some changes this week (I have a possible solution already). Update: That was quick. Apparently, the disk space issues caused the search stuff to go completely crazy, so I’ve removed it for now. I’ll get the new solution in as soon as I can this week, but it’s not going to happen tonight. I need some sleep!

    Sorry for the downtime. I wish we had the resources to throw more hardware at the problem or to have someone dedicated to keeping us up and running – but we don’t. We’ll just have to get by.

    Oh, and yes, the pledge drive is still going – we could use some more RAM and a bigger hard drive, so anything over the $800 will go towards making the server a little beefier.

  25. The Ficly Server Support Project

    I’m not exactly sure how to start this, but here I go anyway. Ficly’s now been live for about two months – and the response has been amazing. I couldn’t be happier with where we are with the site or the plans we have to make things better. I think you all know the story behind Ficly’s creation, so I won’t bore you by repeating it. This isn’t about the past… It’s about the future – and I need your help.

    Ficly isn’t backed by a big company. It’s back by two guys with day jobs and a passion for writing and community. There are costs associated with keeping Ficly up and running – which I’m fine with paying, but I wanted to see if you guys would help shoulder the burden. It’s not much.

    I started a project on Kickstarter. Think of it as a pledge drive, just like on Public Radio – but without the constant interruptions or awkward video of volunteers manning a phone bank. My goal is to raise $800 in the next month – which will pay for Ficly’s hosting for the next year – both co-location and the storage we’re using on Amazon.

    There’s no threat that Ficly will go away if the pledge drive fails. I’ll still pay the bills. I just want to see if you’d be willing to help. The minimum pledge is $1, and if we don’t get enough pledges to cover the $800, then no one’s out any money.

    If you could take a couple minutes to check out the project on Kickstarter and give what you can (be sure to check out the rewards – and I even made an awful video), I’d appreciate it.