Tag Archives: Writing

What Halo Taught Me About Writing

This post has two purposes. One, to talk about what makes Halo one of the greatest games ever, even today, with all the new games that have come out. Two, to point out what I realized when I started playing it again after all this time.

It’s all about the difficulty settings. Halo is almost three games in one. That’s how big the change is when you change the difficulty.

First, of course, is Easy. Easy is essentially an interactive movie. There’s a nice, comprehensive tutorial, all of your enemies have attended the Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy (meaning they’re horrible shots), and killing them is as easy as a headshot or a burst to the chest. Yes, there are harder enemies, and yes, you can die (usually only if you rush through an area and get surrounded), but as a whole, Halo is just a movie that you happen to direct on Easy.

Then there are the middle difficulties, Normal and Heroic. These two difficulties are the ‘real game’ difficulties. Both have real challenges, with Heroic obviously offering more of them, and with a higher maximum difficulty for any given encounter. Starting in Heroic, the Marines, who were never that helpful to begin with, become essentially useless. The Covenant can mow through your Marines like a scythe through wheat. Even the lowly Grunts pose a serious threat to your companions, which leaves you to be the true hero and play a real, challenging game.

And finally… Legendary. Playing Halo on Legendary is a completely different experience than any other difficulty, and it knows it. This is what the game says on the difficulty selection screen for Legendary:

“You face opponents who have never known defeat, who laugh in alien tongues at your efforts to survive. This is suicide.”

You might think they’re exaggerating. They aren’t. Legendary has no tutorial. From the moment you begin, when your boots hit the deck plating, your life is in peril. Before the game even gives you a weapon, you’re forced to dash through the exploding ship, past groups of aliens, any one of which can kill you. When you finally get your weapon, you come across a fight between several Marines and a handful of Covenant.

The Marines can’t be saved. It’s all you can do to save yourself. This fight, like every single fight in Legendary, is a serious, deadly, tactical battle between you and a squad of alien warriors who work as a unit. Even the Grunts can easily kill you, nevermind their role in weakening and distracting you for the Elites to kill.

Speaking of Elites, they are not simply opponents. Every one of them is a rival. In a one-on-one fight, even the weakest blue Elites will kill you. Your only chance of survival is surprise and position.

All this might make you think that Legendary is too hard. Why would you play a difficulty where you are all but guaranteed to die at least once at every checkpoint?

For the thrill. When the game is truly Legendary, every alien that falls to you is a mighty triumph, every new checkpoint a major hurdle overcome. Those moments when your grenade flies just right, clearing a fortified position, or when you hit a Spec-Ops Grunt between the eyes with a pistol from over a hundred yards, those moments make Legendary more than a game. Playing Halo on Legendary is truly an epic saga.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything. It dawned on me that these difficulties could easily be translated into books.

Easy books are those fluff books, the books that make you feel good without really teaching you anything or letting you get anything out of it. They may be entertaining, but they aren’t memorable. They may become hugely popular, but there’s no real meat to them.

Normal and Heroic books are the majority of books that stick in people’s minds. They’re a good, solid story, with a deeper meaning. Well-written, good characters, good plots, hard choices, the works. These books are the ones people seek out and recommend to their friends, with longer lifespans than the Easy books.

Then there are Legendary books. Legendary books are The Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. The works of Charles Dickens. The Count of Monte Cristo. Books that are ‘classic’, with powerful meanings and messages, infused with masterful storytelling and life-like characters. Authors who achieve ‘immortality’ are ones like these, who write Legendary books.

If something is Legendary, whether a book or a game, then every challenge your hero faces is real and threatening.  Not to say that he won’t have small issues to deal with as well, but the book or game won’t be relying on those small issues to fuel the book’s plot.  Legendary works deserve the epic combat music Halo plays before every major fight.

I don’t know about you, but I want my books to be Legendary.

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Sweet Relief

Finally finished my term exams. I feel good about all seven and know for a fact I got a 100 on two of them. So that’s over with.

Best part? A five day break, starting tomorrow. I’m probably going to just sleep a lot tomorrow, but the next four days should let me crank out some writing. Expect to see more Lezvie and Angela stories and possibly some Phenomenon.

Also, I should be able to put up my first video blog post, if I can get some opinions on what I should talk about/read.

So, that’s all coming up this weekend. See you then, wyrms.

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God: The Original Author; Fractured Creation

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Well, first of all, they don’t. It only happened once, and He volunteered.  But aside from that, let’s look at what people typically mean and try to answer that.

Bad things happen. They do. War. Crime. Poverty. Disease. Famine. Rape. Domestic abuse. Child abuse. So much that people cry out to God, “How could you let this happen?” Atheists point accusing fingers at people of faith, saying, “If your God was really a God of Love, He would stop all this!”

You know what? He wants to. He didn’t create any of this, in His Eden. He created a perfect world. An unbroken creation. A perfect manuscript. And what did we do? We tore it apart. We took God’s manuscript and ripped it to shreds, scattering the pieces and rearranging them.

We tried to make our own story. Thing is, we’re not qualified to. We don’t know everything about the Present, much less the Past or the future. We don’t know everything about ourselves, much less everything and everyone else. There is no way we could write a story.

So our world is wrong. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces mashed together in the wrong order. The picture doesn’t make sense, and there are cracks in it. Cracks that let things God never wanted in His story to slip in. Sin.

And we can’t fix it on our own.  We’re still not good enough. Only if everyone surrenders completely to the Author and lets Him finish His story.

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God: The Original Author; More Thoughts

These are some more thoughts I had about how this idea of God as the Author makes a lot of sense and is cool.

One thing I thought of that didn’t go into the posts is the very method God uses to create. Words. He speaks, and it is so. This lends a strong argument to my belief that words are powerful. Hence, I don’t (or rather, try not to. I’m far from perfect, yet) curse or insult people profusely, like I hear my fellow students doing. The pen is mightier than the sword, but a word doesn’t have to be written down to be dangerously powerful.

Another thing is, this is a good way to explain why there is evil in the world.  When was the last time you read a story, a really good story, where the characters had absolutely no challenges, and everything went well, and everyone was nice, and they all got along and lived happily ever after.

*gives you a few moments to wrack your brains*

There aren’t any. Because characters drive the story, and characters can only grow through hardship.  God doesn’t cause bad things to happen.  They’re just part of the story.

And another thing. God loves everybody. He wrote us. He took nothing and made it a person and gave it a unique personality that He loves. Even the villains.  Even the most horrific villains have some attachment to their author, because their author made them.

So everyone who’s addicted to something or who has made terrible mistakes, I have two things to say. One, God knows. Just because you don’t tell him doesn’t mean He doesn’t know. He wrote you. He knew what was going to happen before it happened.  So all the times you say, “Oh, He doesn’t know what I’ve done,” or “It’s too terrible, He can’t forgive me,” forget it. It’s crap.

Because, second thing I have to say, He loves you. It doesn’t matter what you did, God’s seen it, and is willing to forgive you if you just ask in the name of His Son, because He loves you. You’re His creation.

Yet another point: Satan is not the equal opposite of God. God is the author and Satan is a character. In my posts I described Jesus as the main character, though that’s not entirely accurate. It’s more like Jesus the man was the main character, if you could separate him from Jesus, the Son of God.

Anyway. Point is, Satan is not a threat to God at all. When my author friends and I are Role Playing our characters, and one of the villains does something out of line with our plans, one of us will call out, ‘Author powers’, and smite them. Annoying, sometimes. A threat, never.

There may be still more thoughts. We’ll see. Later, wyrms.

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Coming Soon

Sorry I’ve not been posting. School’s been busy. However, the results of that business (that’s busy-ness, not business like a job) should prove to be very cool.

I’ll be putting up a video of a few scenes from the Trojan War, enacted by my Mythology class and a few other people we roped in, and I’ll also put up the script, so you can see what I told the actors to do and how it actually came out.

I’m also designing a fan page for Thousand Foot Krutch for my Web Design class, and I might be able to let y’all see that, depending on how everything works. It will also have some information on the story that I’m planning/outlining/writing that was inspired by their album Phenomenon.

So, yeah. Stay tuned, wyrms.

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God: The Original Author; Part Three: Letting the Characters Live

So God is in the Garden of Eden with His characters, Adam and Eve.  Like any Author, He enjoys being with His characters and they revere him as the giver of life, as they should.  God gives them free will, and sets a few simple rules.  One rule, actually.  Don’t touch this tree.

Enter our story’s antagonist.  Satan.  The deceiver.  The fallen angel of light.  “Oh, no, you won’t die.  You’ll get better!”  And so the apple is eaten.  This is the Inciting Incident.  This is why we need a hero.

Fast forward a few thousand years to a little insignificant town called Bethlehem.  In a small room crowded with animals, a teenage virgin gives birth.  The child is called Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.  Embracing Destiny.  We needed a hero, so He came.

Another thirty or so years later, the child has become a man, Jesus. He’s been spreading the Good News and performing miracles.  The people in power don’t like that.  They kill Him.  Not only do they kill Him, but first they scourge Him beyond recognition, to the point where you can see His spine.

Then they kill Him by crucifixion. The single most painful way to die that has yet been invented. In the moment of His death, the ground shakes and the sky goes dark.  Satan, it seems, has won.  God died.  It truly was The Black Moment.

Three days later.  The tomb is empty.  Death has been overcome.  Christ Jesus is alive, and rejoins his disciples.  He ascends into Heaven to be with His father.  This is the Climax.  The Showdown.

What does this mean for us?  It means that all we have left is the Denouement.  The Resolution.  The Showdown has already been fought, and won.  The Kingdom is secure.  Christ is the Lord of the Universe.  All we have to do is surrender to Him and let Him use us to bring more people to Himself.

And that, wyrms, that is pretty amazing.

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God: The Original Author; Part Two: Creating the Story

So I’ve established that God is the only Author to every create a truly original story. Then I looked at how He did it.

On the first day of Writing, He came up with the raw materials: matter and energy. Then He brought order to the energy by separating the light from the dark, creating the day and the night.

In verse six, the second day of Writing began. In the second and third days, God shaped the world in which He would write his story, creating the sea and the sky, and pulling the land up out of the water and causing plants to grow.

In verse fourteen, the fourth day begins, and God gives a source to the light by creating the sun and the moon and setting up the orbit of the world, that we can have seasons and days.

Then comes one of my favorite verses in the Bible, one of the most concise, potent declarations of God’s ultimate power. Our Author just spent fifteen verses and four days making our world, shaping it carefully. In the second half of verse sixteen, it says, “He made the stars also.”

‘The stars’. The rest of the entire universe, which we have only seen a tiny fraction of, and only understand an even smaller fraction of, was little more than an afterthought to the Author. His story came first. His characters and their world came first.

In the fifth and sixth days, the Author populated His world with life.  Fish and birds came first, followed on day six by the land animals.

Then, in the second half of day six, God creates his character.  He spends six verses on the creation of man in this first chapter, the same amount of time all other animals combined had spent on them, and that’s not all. The Author spent all of chapter two describing man and his purpose.

He creates Adam and breathes life into him, giving him very simple instructions, and then creates a companion for him. Being the best Author, He spends more time on His characters than on anything else.

The world is made. The characters are in place, and the plot of the story is clear in the Author’s mind. Tomorrow I’ll talk about how that story unfolded, and what it means to us.

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