Ask Huley #2

Hey, everyone! Welcome to the second installment of #AskHuley, where I answer your questions about writing, video games, music, and pretty much whatever else is on your mind. Keep those questions coming!

Our feature question this week comes from Flickamatuta:

What video games inspired you when you were younger to pursue a career in the industry?

mario

I’ve loved video games for as far back as I can remember. In some ways, the limitations of older systems forced us to use our imaginations more than we do now. Pac-Man was merely a collection of mustard-colored square pixels on my TV screen, but in my head he had arms and legs, and sprinted around 3D corridors with ghosts under each arm squirming to get away. He was a ghost hunting bad ass long before Zak Bagans! 🙂

Although this planted the seed, it wasn’t until I played Super Mario Bros. on the NES that it bloomed. Nothing had captivated me quite like Mario and Luigi, and there was no turning back. I was hooked, and played every cartridge I could get my grubby, peanut butter and jelly encrusted fingers on. I could literally go from Legend of Zelda to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out to Tetris to Strider to Gradius to Double Dragon all in a single afternoon. Needless to say, I grew up with minimal exposure to sunlight. 🙂

As I got older, my tastes gravitated toward story-based games. In particular, Chrono Trigger stands out as a watershed moment for me. Not only was it colorful and fun to play (Active Time Battle for the win!), but it had amazing depth and memorable characters, which were things I didn’t even know I wanted in a game. From there it was a steady diet of influential classics including Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy IX, Grandia, Lunar, Thousand Arms, and countless others. Even Mortal Kombat II, believe it or not.

GC_Logo

All of this led me to one realization: I had to work in the games industry. Somewhere. Anywhere. So, I started my journey as a customer service rep for a specialty games retailer called Game Crazy. I worked my way up the ladder until I reached a buyer position at the corporate office, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. At this stage I was still pretty hooked on Phantasy Star Online, and my tastes were evolving once again… or so I thought.

Around this time, a little game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic hit my radar, and everything I’d ever loved about story-based games came rushing back. Not only did it have the memorable characters and fun factor near and dear to my heart, but it introduced something new: the freedom of choice. The game threw tough decisions at me: scenarios I had to put some serious thought into because they altered the story’s progression. I was in control of my characters destiny, and I liked it! This was the precise moment in which I fell head over heels in love with BioWare.

I was happy in my role as a buyer, but I still longed for something more substantial. I didn’t just want to sell games, I wanted to apply my passion and knowledge to creating them. However, I didn’t know how to write code, so I chalked it up as a pipe dream and tried to put it out of my mind. And I did, for a time, but then came Mass Effect.

masseffect

After I played Mass Effect, I was more determined than ever to pursue my dream of working for BioWare. It took everything I loved about Knights of the Old Republic, refined the concept ever further, and set it in outer space. I’ll never forget the first time I arrived at the Citadel. It was about 10:00 p.m. on a work night, and I figured I’d play for just a bit longer before going to bed. The next time I looked up at the clock, it was after 2:00 a.m., and I’d still yet to give the council my Eden Prime report. If you look up “immersion” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Mass Effect.

The games industry experienced significant growth in the late 2000s. Companies expanded and created new roles in effort to keep up with changing consumer habits. Suddenly, there were more opportunities for people to work on games who weren’t developers. It took some time and effort (and a whole lot of luck!), but I eventually made it to BioWare in July of 2012 and fulfilled a dream nine years in the making. Now after nearly four years here, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that it was absolutely worth the wait.

Our last question this week comes from KO_Rollins2K16:

WM32

 

I see that you’re a huge wrestling fan, which is awesome. Who do you think wins the main event at Wrestlemania 32?

I don’t see any scenario in which Roman Reigns doesn’t win. Am I excited about that? Not really. I’ve got nothing against Roman—I think he’s got a lot going for him, and has “it” factor in spades—but he’s not connecting with the audience on the level he needs to. I don’t blame him for that, though.

I think the main reason the core WWE audience rejects him is because he feels forced upon them. WWE wants him to be the next John Cena right now instead of allowing it to happen organically. Reminds me of exactly what happened with Rocky Maivia in the late 90s. Although fans hated him at first, with a bit of work, he eventually became one of the biggest WWE superstars of all time.

So, that begs the question: how do you “fix” Roman Reigns? If I’m WWE creative, I completely repackage him and turn him heel in a meaningful, didn’t-see-that-coming sort of way. No more playing up his past with the Shield. No more coming down to the ring through the crowd. Ditch the faux-armor and army pants. Write his dialogue to sound like the most aggravating, ungrateful jerk on the roster.

For those that already hate him, you’re giving them yet another reason to boo, and he’d draw heat like few others on the roster can. Believe that.

Thanks for another round of great questions! Remember, if you’ve got a burning question for #AskHuley, here’s how to submit it. Until next time.

Ask a Writer Blog Series: Writer’s Block

Got a question for the panel? Tweet it to me or click “leave a reply.”

This week: How do you deal with writer’s block?

David K. Hulegaard, author of the Noble series, Strangers

Always know where you’re headed before you even write the first word. If you think through your story carefully, and create a detailed outline to follow, then writer’s block should never become an issue. That said, if you ever do find yourself struggling to make progress, put down your project and start writing something else. Anything else. It doesn’t matter. Exercise your brain. Keep your mind stimulated and your creative juices flowing. After some time away, you should be able to jump right back into your primary project with a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Bernard Schaffer, author of the Superbia, Guns of Seneca 6, and Grendel Unit series

Writer’s block is a waste of time for serious authors who should be focusing on growing their body of work. It’s meaningless self-gratification. It’s a distraction that should be avoided like bushes of poison ivy. It’s emptier than a classroom of students interested in exploring the underlying depths to Michael Bay movies. To be perfectly blunt: it am dumb.

Wait, you said writer’s block? I was talking about blogging.

I don’t believe in either one.

Tony Healey, author of the Far From Home and Fallen Crown series

Writer’s block is an excuse. A way of saying, “I can’t be bothered,” and making it look like you have a head cold. Everyone who believes in such a mystery flu has their own remedy: “Go for long walks!” “Give yourself time out!” or “Here Are My Top Ten Tips for Beating Dreaded Writer’s Block!”

There is no such thing. If you’ve run out of gas, you’re burned out . . . it’s not writers block. You’re just bloody tired. Have a rest. Don’t do any writing for a few weeks. Watch some TV. Writer’s block is not to be confused with “I’ve run out of ideas”. To be frank, if the latter applies to you, then you have no business writing in the first place.

Everyone is a veritable fountain of ideas, of creativity. Nobody dries up. Even if you find yourself playing with the same motifs, the same themes, the same character archetypes . . . it’s all jazz. That’s what writing is: pulling stuff out of thin air, laying it down on paper, getting it to a point where you’re happy with it, and moving on to the next best thing. You don’t say “I’ve got Writer’s Block”, you say “I’m tired”.

You rest, then you come back and give it your all. And probably you’ll get tired again. That’s the nature of the beast, my friend. That’s the result of putting so much of your heart into making the smoothest jazz ever heard. And thank the maker you did.

William Vitka, author of the Hroza Connection and The Bartender series

Writer’s block is utter crap. It’s the literary equivalent of self-diagnosing yourself with Asperger syndrome to explain your shitty, anti-social behavior. If you are stricken with a case of ‘I can’t write,’ then write something anyway. Chances are, you’ll fall into the flow again. It’s almost like muscle memory. Don’t over-think it.

Ask a Writer Blog Series: Editors

I receive a ton of great questions from aspiring authors on Twitter. In fact, they’re such good questions that trying to answer them within 140 characters can prove challenging. So, I decided to start a new blog series where I can respond to these questions more in-depth.

Of course, there are many different types of writers, and there are no one-size-fits-all answers. With that in mind, I’ve invited a group of my peers to join me and share their valuable insights and experiences as well. Let’s get started.

Got a question for the panel? Tweet it to me!

This week: What are the characteristics of a good editor?

David K. Hulegaard, author of the Noble series, Strangers

I’ve been blessed to work with both good and bad editors. I say “blessed” because it’s important to know the difference between a highly-skilled editor and an overpaid grammar-Nazi.

A good editor is someone that you can always trust to have your best interest in mind (Hi, Jessica!). Any editor can correct your grammatical errors and typos, but only a skilled editor can help you identify plot holes, inconsistencies in character behavior, and also challenge you to think about your work from a reader’s perspective.

The best editors recognize your areas of improvement and coach you through it. Whether a gentle touch or tough love approach works best for you is entirely a matter of preference. I prefer working with people that aren’t assholes, but your threshold may vary.

A bad editor is someone that tears apart your work for the sole purpose of placating their ego (usually compensating for their own shortcomings as a writer). They won’t try to help you understand your mistakes or identify your areas of improvement. They pretty much just shit on you and make snarky comments at your expense. A bad editor can’t offer you anything more than a general editing pass because that’s all they’re capable of.

What’s important to remember is that for a good editor to do their job effectively, you must be willing to listen, and you must be willing to sacrifice your word babies if necessary. Choose your hills to die on carefully, because a good editor is usually right. The key is trust.

Bernard Schaffer, author of the Superbia, Guns of Seneca 6, and Grendel Unit series

Absolute cruelty in the face of poor performance. Delight in victory. Thorough steadfastness for the duration of the project. A guiding eye. An overall view. Knowing when to make a stand. Knowing when to let the author make theirs.

Tony Healey, author of the Far From Home and Fallen Crown series

They catch all the stuff you miss. All the little grammar things you probably don’t even think about when you’re composing your latest masterpiece. They tighten your writing, rein it in, ensure it’s clear and easy to read. A good editor doesn’t just stick to a style sheet, but bends according to each author’s voice. To the needs of the project, taken on its own terms.

A good editor is there to give you advice, to offer an encouraging word, to bite your head off when you keep making the same mistake over and over and over again. They give your their best because it’s their name going on the book, too. They’re helping you shape it into something that will hold a reader’s attention. They have your best interests at heart even if it seems like they’re getting on your case from time to time.

A good editor – no, a really good editor – like the lady I use, Laurie Laliberte, is all of the above and more. And that’s when she’s telling me: “Each time you abuse a semi-colon a kitten dies.”

Because it’s all about the work. None of it’s personal.

“Man up, put on your big boy pants and fucking own your writing or I’m increasing your rates!” she said to me one day.

Well, the rates have stayed the same. And I’ve sold thousands of books. So I guess that’s a really good editor for you.

William Vitka, author of the Hroza Connection and The Bartender series

A good editor gives a damn about the story as well as the writing. Yes, they sure as hell will catch the mistakes you missed — and bludgeon any adverbs or semicolons to death with a log — but they should also help guide you. They should make sure your tale doesn’t run off the rails. Or, at least, do their best to. Much of that is up to the writer. A shitty story is still a shitty story, even if it has perfect grammar.