Category Archives: Storytelling

Short Stories From Quarroc: The First Door Part Two

Guilty!  The nerve of the court!  Tok was fuming.  How dare they subvert the will of Khaali!  They call that a jury of his peers?  There were women on that jury.  Women!  Like they have any authority to judge a man.  And statutory rape?  The unmitigated gall!  Those girls were his wives by divine right!  He only demanded of them their duties as outlined in the K’haal.

Tok was taken to what could only be described as a gilded cage.  Ornate, but functional bars slammed shut behind him.  What was this?  Surely this wasn’t the death row he was promised.  Was this Khaali’s reward for his faithfulness, did the king secretly protect the old ways, or was it a trap?  He did not know.  The cell was a large room, a spacious communal area for the prisoners.  Ornate furnishings were everywhere.  Silks, fine pillows, decorative rugs, plush mattresses, and other wonders too numerous to mention.  Surely, not all of the king’s prisoners received such treatment.  There was an oversized hookah in the middle area of the room.  Tok took one of the reeds in hand, eyeing it suspiciously.  Across from him was a short, fat little man who was furiously puffing away in a futile attempt to calm his nerves.  As the timid creature suffered no ill effects aside from his nerves, Tok indulged him self in vapor and smoke.  The stranger before him was garishly dressed in enough linen to make a tent.  His large, white beard hid his chin and neck.  A ridiculous, handlebar moustache concealed his mouth.  His hair, like his beard, was as white as limestone. 
Various prisoners luxuriated about the cell, including a woman bathing in a pool.  The square pool was set into the floor, with four sets of stairs going off the cardinal direction points.  This made the overall shape of the floor indentation a cross.  The woman was too close to Tok’s own age to be of any interest to him.  Her dark hair framed an intense expression, amplified by thick eyebrows.  She was possibly calculating her options at any given moment.
At one side of the room stood a faded blue door.  Many tried the knob, to find it locked. The weathered appearance of the door was deceptive, none could break it. 
The food was absolutely indulgent.  Fowl, fruits, beef, vegetables, and other items were prepared as though for the king.  Seconds were readily available.  Various beverages were available to slake one’s thirst.
Tok spent a few days in such luxury.  Then the blue door opened.  Two guards entered, followed by a short man in gray.  There were no frills of any kind on his garments, save for a large key shape rendered in black down the front of his closed jacket.  The short man summoned Tok.  Cautiously Tok arose and followed him through the blue door.  What was going on now?
The corridors were bare walls and dirt floors twisting on and on.  Soon, they entered a small chamber with three doors.  The guards each stood before a door, while the small man unlocked the remaining door.  “This way.”, stated the man in the key jacket.  The guards followed, closing the door behind them.  A small area was cut into the wall of the passage.  It contained a bench, carved from the same wall.  “Disrobe.”  Tok looked at the fit, little man who only came to his chin.  Then he looked at the two large and burly armed men behind the little one.  Tok was fuming, but he saw that he had no choice in the matter.  He certainly wasn’t going to give those goons the pleasure of manhandling him.  He stripped down until there was nothing left.  Suddenly, his hands were roughly bound behind him and a black sack slipped over his head.
The short man’s voice said, “The guards will guide you from here.”
Tok was pushed forward roughly.  He stumbled blindly through winding halls and stairs.  Every time he slowed, he was thrust ahead or dragged upward.  He began to feel warm.  The air felt different.  The loud noises of the market place wafted up to his ear from below.  A sharp shove knocked Tok forward.  Click!
He found himself trapped in a kneeling position with some kind of hard bond on his neck.  Confused and angry thoughts raced through his head.  How dare he be humiliated like this!  Surely Khaali would grant him power to destroy these vermin!  Why he would-


Short Stories From Quarroc: The First Door Part One

Tok was a man of vile convictions.  Bound inextricably to the old ways, he had naught but contempt for the king and the changes he brought about.  Were it not for his present errand, he would be nowhere near the bazaar, let alone the palace.  Heretics all, committing sacrilege by wearing such bright colors.  At least the king still had enough sense to choose grey, black, and white for the uniforms of many public servants.  The decadent ways of the king may have ancient roots, but the old ways are best. 

His present mission was one of spiritual import to the old ways.  Before the king took over, there were no statutes granting women the fool notion of equality with men nor were any ages off limits.  It was hard for him to find a new wife among like-minded communities, they were tapped out.  He missed the days when he could grab any single girl who caught his fancy and take her home.

His contacts had found him a ten-year old virgin he could buy in the capitol.  She would be his twenty-fifth wife.  A golden harem.  He would be assured the ability to double that in the afterlife.  He had to be careful.  New laws prohibited the practice, but Tok would not be denied.  He walked to a row of houses.  It took him a few minutes to find one with the sign of K’haal etched on to the doorframe.  He entered without a knock.

He found the man he was looking for.  They bargained extensively over the price.  The man was shrewd, but Tok was the best negotiator in all of the Mozuul.  They came to an agreement.  Tok glared a cruel smile as he counted golden coins into the seller’s hand.  After testing a coin with a bite, the seller waved Tok to the back room.

Eagerly, Tok pulled back the curtain.  A small figure sat on the other side of the room, cloaked in the traditional grey garb of a female practitioner of the old ways.  He slowed his pace to savor the moment.  He would consummate the marriage here, then take her home.  As he passed over the patterned rug of the dimly lit chamber, his anticipation built.

Silently he reached for the back of her head covering.  As he removed it, she spun around with a gun to his face!  She turned out to be a grown woman of remarkably diminutive stature.  The sleeves of her garment slid back to reveal the bracers of law enforcement.  On the left one was a badge and ID.  Two more clicks behind him as two more officers came out of hiding, cocking their weapons.  From between them came the seller throug the curtains.  He smiled widely with rotten teeth as the parting motion raised his hands high enough to reveal his bracers.  He removed the rotten teeth to expose a perfectly healthy set underneath.

“You are under arrest for the attempted purchase and sexual exploitation of a minor.  Further charges may be pressed later.  You have the following rights…”  As the cursed head of this sting operation droned on, Tok begrudgingly allowed himself to be cuffed.  Curse this king and his minions.  Khaali would deal with them all in the judgement.

Tok was led off to a holding cell to stand trial.

Short Stories From Quarroc: The First Door Prelude

Welcome to the curious desert land of Quarroc.  Do not mind the heat my friends, it is a dry heat that bakes the sand and clay alike.  The drab background of light tan buildings indistinguishable from the ground only serve to curate the colorful apparel of the residents.  As we enter the main gate, we are greeted by the din and hubub of the bazaar.  Watch your valuables!  And watch your tongue even more so with the sellers!  If one isn’t careful, one could wind up penniless just buying a coffee mug.  Be skilled in negotiating, or else leave the bargaining to me.  Move quickly now.  We don’t wish to be trampled.
Ah, how about some refreshment?  Now sit back and relax, we have an excellent view of the palace.  Oh, I know the plain exterior isn’t terribly exciting.  But look at that size!  Huh.  Oh, never mind me.  I just happened to notice that man over there, in the grey.  So unusual to see one of the old timers here.  Young you say?  Ha, you are right.  Around here “old timer” refers to the practitioners of the old ways.  They once ruled the land.  People rejoiced when our king subdued them.  They forced the tenants of their beliefs upon the nonbeliever and murdered many in horrific ways.  They avoid the palace area as a rule.  So what is one doing here?  I do hope it is nothing despicable…

Short Stories of Quarroc

I’m working on a new post for Monday.  My imagination has concocted the land of Quarroc.  So, I will occasionally write short stories featuring this fictional land.  I will be starting with the series of the three doors.  I hope you all enjoy.

Spoiler Alert Protocol

Spoiler alerts, those nice little courtesy warnings before reviews.  How have they garnered such a negative opinion?

Simple.  People have become unreasonable in their demands for them.  If you were to tweet with a friend about your favorite decade-old movie, chances are that someone would take you to task for not issuing a spoiler alert.  The reasoning?  They might want to see it someday.  Big.  Whoop.  There are too many shows, books, movies, games, and other media to absorb them all.  The rest of the world isn’t going to wait until you’ve seen something to talk about nor are they going to put up a spoiler alert before every media discussion. 

On the other hand, revealing details of something recently released is a jerk move.  So, when do you need an alert and when is one unreasonable to expect?  I present the following guidelines:

1.  If the dvd/blu-ray/download/other non-theatrical format has been out over 6 months, no spoiler alert required. 

2.  Exception to #1 is if you are talking directly to someone whom you have prior knowledge hasn’t seen the story in question.  I.E. if you and your co-host review Upside Down on your podcast, no alert needed.  But if I ask my sister if she’s seen Firefly over Facebook, and she says no, I shouldn’t spoil it for her.

3.  If you discuss source material of an adaptation, no spoiler alert required.

4.  If you discuss a poster, trailer, or you are merely hypothesizing over what you think might happen, no spoiler alert required.

5.  If you discuss the merchandise, no spoiler alert required.

6.  If you are discussing a book under one year old, spoiler alert.

7.  If you are discussing a movie still in theaters, spoiler alert.

8.  If you are discussing a tv series, wait until 2 weeks into the summer hiatus to remove the alert.

9.  If discussing a periodical, like a comic issue, no spoiler alert is needed when the next issue hits the stands.

Any others?  Weigh in in the comments!

An Open Letter To FOX

Hi there.
I have of course heard of Gotham arriving to your network this fall.  Congratulations.  As a Batman fan, I look forward to it.
That being said, I have a concern.  Your history with science fiction.
Science fiction is one of the many genres from which superhero stories draw root.  It is also a genre you have not handled well.
I understand, the numbers for the first seasons of Firefly and Almost Human were not to your liking.  Maybe, then, you  simply don’t realize one important fact regarding science fiction.  You can never judge by first season numbers.  You need to commit to a minimum of two seasons and compare the numbers between the two.  It takes that long to build the audience.
A large risk, I know.  But look at the benefits.  Science fiction audiences are loyal.  They’ll give a show a few episodes chance to recover from a misstep.  They are also avid consumers.  Before dvd made seasons practical, Star Trek: The Next Generation fans bought the complete series on vhs.  Seasons, collectibles and branded gear of all price ranges, these are more popular among fans of sci-fi and superheroes than any other genre.  Surely you can see the profit there.
If that is a risk you are unwilling to take, I understand.  But look at Firefly.  It got a movie and a comics series from dark horse.  Fans are buying the series and the merchandise.  I expect similar from Almost Human.
You will do as you see fit, of course.  I can only offer the recommendation of either committing to a two season minimum on all sci-fi and superhero shows or avoiding the genres entirely.
Good luck with your future endeavors, and I shall be tuning in for Gotham.

Expounding Upon Internal vs. External Theory of 3 Dimensional Film Composition

Please refer to my first post on Internal vs. External Theory of Three Dimensional Film Composition.

To clarify the difference between the two disparate theories, let us turn to the live stage play.  The concept of a fourth wall within all forms of storytelling is best illustrated here.  The fourth wall refers to the invisible barrier between the audience and the actors.  All fiction is dependent, to a degree, on the suspension of disbelief.  While the audience knows that the events they witness are fake, this realization is pushed to the back of their minds.  Address or involve the audience, and the collective attention of the audience is directed back upon itself.  This makes it impossible to suppress the aforementioned realization.  As a result, the suspension of disbelief is destroyed.

The audience must be able to feel like an unnoticed or invisible observer to the events of the narrative.  A “fly on the wall”, so to speak.  There are times when violations of the fourth wall can be effective.  Take the Glass Menagerie for example.  One of the principal characters addresses the audience directly to double as narrator.  Such examples are rare.  It is generally advised to leave the fourth wall as an absolute.

So it is with the use of external theory.  External theory always breaks the fourth wall.  External theory, like any other method of breaking the fourth wall, is best used sparingly, if at all.  I would recommend that all directors make a habit of avoiding external theory as though their careers depended upon it, for well it may.  Even though the actors may not be addressing the audience, they or the props are approaching the audience in a direct manner when external theory is applied.

Instead of pointing an object straight at the center of the camera, throw the object a little off center.  Remember that diagonal lines generally draw interest in the traditional two dimensions.  So it is in the third.  Remember the rule of thirds.  If looking down at a skyscraper, make the bottom appear to align with the lower left-hand intersection and the top with the upper right or from the lower right intersection to the upper right edge  This way, internal theory comes into play.

Also, try to focus on layers of activities and objects as opposed to a single object performing a single action.  Rather than focusing on a single train coming downstage along the track into a station, place the camera close to a perpendicular angle with the principal train in the foreground so that the action of all the busy trains runs back and forth in layers of depth.

Ever notice how a cubicle seems so tiny, yet the room containing the cubes is so vast that the cubicles seem to go on forever?  Use 3D to your advantage to contrast the spaces.  The third dimension can do so much more than make the audience jump.  Overuse that one aspect and it becomes old hat very quick.  3D can assist the filmmaker in making the overall tone of a scene feel closed in, without escape, and very panicky.  Or it can be used to create a sense of unbridled freedom and open space.  Filmmakers already employ techniques to create these feelings, 3D can enhance them.  Just don’t throw every storytelling concept out the window as soon as someone mentions 3D.  Many of the same principles of storytelling, design, and composition still apply.  They just have one more aspect to play with, that’s all.

The three dimensional screen is more akin to the stage than anything that came before.  Preserve the fourth wall.  The moving view-master of three dimensional film is a playground of limitless potential.  Many directors approach 3D as though it were a loathsome, constraining thing.  It is exactly the opposite.  It is freeing if you work with it rather than against it.  3D is the new color, the new talkie.  Get used to it.  Apply internal theory.