Friday, September 23, 2016

My First Novella! Bionicle: Raiders of the Forsaken Archives

I have finished a book! Bionicle: Raiders of the Forsaken Archives is a fanfiction based on the LEGO line, Bionicle. As a child, Bionicle had everything I wanted in a story: adventure, flashy magical powers, an in-depth, immersive world, and a buildup of scale and magnitude. Bionicle hit me at the sweet age where nostalgia grabs hold, and the story grew up with me.

You can read Raiders of the Forsaken Archives here on the BZPower forum. BZPower is a place where fans of Bionicle get together and share stories. I am surprised and delighted to see it alive and active after all these years. It goes to show that, if you let it, whatever you love as a child will stay with you into adulthood.

I started writing Raiders around ten years ago, working on it off and on, sometimes going for months only adding a sentence or two. However, once I started this blog, I took it to the grindstone. Though the first draft took ten years, the second draft took only three months, and the line editing, a week. Getting myself in the mindset to write more was one of my original goals for this blog. It is so satisfying to find that my writing incentive has indeed increased tenfold.

Though I wanted Raiders to be a novel, it only ended up with 30,000 words, well under the 40,000 novel threshold. I think, though, that I could have passed the mark if I had written a third draft. After finishing, I wrote a list of problems with the final draft, most egregious of which was doubling the number of characters at the 3/4 mark. Since fanfiction has low expectations, I can leave these problems unfixed. But the list gave me an idea: each time I finish a draft of a book I want to publish, I will write a list of problems, and write another draft to fix all of them.

Raiders was written with a sequel in mind. I don’t know right now whether I will write that sequel, but if I do, I am sure I will have as much fun with it as I did with Raiders.

Someday, I hope sooner rather than later, I will look back on Raiders and wonder how I let something so awful be revealed to the public. Right now, though, I simply feel pride. I like my beginning, I like my ending, and I feel satisfied that I made the middle interesting enough to keep you going through it. And now that I have proved to myself that I can finish a book, I can write my first original novel with the concrete surety that I will finish it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Giving Crash Bandicoot a Good Story

I grew up playing video games in the Nintendo 64 era. Many of the games I played back then are still among my favorites today. One of those that I keep coming back to is Crash Bandicoot.

I love Crash. It is ridiculously fun to play, with its challenging levels, bunches of crates to break, and hidden collectibles. But for story, it is considerably lacking. Maniacal villain Dr. Neo Cortex wants to take over the world, by giving marsupials self-awareness and enlisting them into an army. Crash is a bandicoot who undergoes the process, but the brainwashing fails, and Crash escapes. He then has to traverse the islands to stop Cortex’s plan. Oh, and Crash also has a girlfriend named Tawna he has to rescue, but we try not to think about her because she looks like something out of an H. P. Lovecraft horror story.

Neo Cortex looks like a great cartoon villain; sinister, grumpy, and a little cute. His theme songs are amazing. But his battles feel shallow, like there isn’t really any reason to fight. Sure, the fate of the world may hang in the balance, but we don’t know enough about the world to care. Here, then, is my alternative story for Crash Bandicoot.

First and foremost, Cortex’s taking over the world thing has to go. This is a story about a mutated bandicoot on a few small Oceanic islands, so the scope of the story should be the same. So what if instead of a megalomania complex, Cortex has a personal motive? In the later games, whose existence I almost never acknowledge, Neo has a niece, Nina Cortex. Perhaps she has an accident, and is in an incurable vegetative state. Neo wants to restore her, so he conducts experiments giving animals intelligence, hoping to apply the knowledge he gains to his niece.

Cortex treats the animals cruelly, and one of them, Crash, rises up against him. But Cortex does not recognize Crash as a person, asserting that humans are superior to animals no matter what. This adds an element of irony to the earlier boss battles, when Crash has to fight other animals who have been subjected to Cortex’s experimentation. With these changes, Cortex has a reason to hate Crash, and Crash is justified in fighting him. And when the final battle arrives, it is charged with emotion and feels like a true climax.

Yes, I know the game was marketed for kids, but those of us who loved it growing up still love it now, and it is a fun exercise to imagine how it could have been more interesting to us as adults. Even with the story it has, Crash Bandicoot is a trilogy I will revisit time and again for years to come, and the remastered versions in the works are one of several reasons I plan to get a Playstation 4 sometime in the next few years.