In the ink well

Dog Ear

June 9, 2016

Opener (DOG EAR)

e’ve talked about the importance of hooks, and how critical it is to draw a short-attention-span audience into buying/reading your masterwork. So how about character development? Shouldn’t we be able to form our character descriptions quickly? Hundreds of years ago, traveling troupes set up archetypes so that ignorant peasants in every village wouldn’t have to suffer the drag of character development. Scaramouch was always the trickster and weaver of plots. Harlequin was the mute jester. And so on. The characters dressed and acted according to their established types and were known immediately to their audiences. So here’s a good example […]
June 2, 2016

Gamebooks (DOG EAR)

kay, this one seems like a natural for me. You might have heard of Gamebooks. These are the branching type of adventures we used to see in all the wargame shops in the 80s. In them, you’d buy a book and read the opening chapter. Perhaps you were crossing a picturesque stone bridge and realized there was a troll under it. The story would break, and you’d see something like If you want to fight the troll, goto page 14. If you want to cross the bridge and continue up the path, goto page 24. Each of those pages would […]
May 26, 2016

Interruptions (DOG EAR)

t’s funny how creative and not-so-creatives view the very act of creation, but it’s certainly differently. See, I see it that I’m working with Squiffy, a sharp little adventure creator. You remember those old adventures where the computer would tell you a scene (“…You are in a path in the forest. The road runs north and south. To the east, there is the sound of rushing water. What will you do…?”) Yeah, back then we played about every Scott Adam’s adventure there was. Anyway, Squiffy lets you do this fairly easily (had to learn a couple of java script tricks). […]
May 19, 2016

New Media (DOG EAR)

eah, I always go after new media. Today on the train everyone was squintin’ and clickin’ (I, sniff-snuff, was reading Plato’s The Republic). But I bash the open changes we’ve seen, from Amazon rankings to cute media stunts to tie-ins to promotions and everything in between. But even I change, even though I resist. Was buying a mouse (for my computer, not my cat) at Best Buy the other night. They are hanging on by their fingertips (boooo, Amazon), which made me melancholy (for a box store – see – that’s part of it). But then I wandered through the […]
May 12, 2016

An unholy experiment (DOG EAR)

he screw was a half inch long, wickedly sharp and corkscrew-twisted. Tossed without thought into a truck bed, it had rattled out as the wheels bounced across the uneven railroad crossing. And there it had lain, piercingly sharp, until I’d wheeled along on the bike on my way to work. Somehow the passage of the front tire set it to dancing, it binged butt-first against the concrete just in time for the trailing tire to strike it dead on. Bang! A reverberating shock shuddered my frame as I rode over it again and again, the tip of the screw hitting […]
May 5, 2016

Understated (DOG EAR)

eople say that when anything happens to me, everyone knows about it. My kidney stone got more word-of-mouth (mostly my mouth) coverage than had it been a meteor burning its way towards a doomed Earth (and knowing my luck, it would be cloudy that last night so my telescope would be useless). But I digress. The point is that I’m a storyteller. Incidents are epics. Events are miniseries. Granted, I’m not like some (using a cartoony voice when straw-manning some person who has annoyed me in a later recount). I keep my stories honest. I just don’t keep them short. […]
April 28, 2016

Blogs (DOG EAR)

y buddy Steve is an interesting guy. Retired and funny, he descended like an angel into our train club with his electronics knowledge at exactly the right moment in our sectional layout effort. Instead of some kludgy half-thought-out-effort (since we didn’t have any sort of plan, I think that description qualifies), he came up with a bulletproof system that is one of the selling points of our sectional layout. Every show, one of us ends up sweeping back the skirts to show off what’s below track level (to model railroaders, that’s just as important as what’s on top). As the […]
April 21, 2016

Floatation Devices (DOG EAR)

o I gotta wonder where this phrase came from. “Floatation Device” Think about it. Someone was tasked with writing copy. He might have been a tech writer or just an engineer. Whatever. Planes were probably mandated at some point to carry these things (like anyone could survive a 300mph water landing and then bob in the water and not go hypothermic before help arrived (Ah, the Hudson landing, you might say. From pictures, it looks like everyone just stood on the wings with their shoes filled with water). I don’t know if they ever actually got used. But this guy […]
April 14, 2016

Spring Cleaning! (DOG EAR)

n The Name of the Wind, the magical university library sprawls across dusty space and time, it’s indexing part of a constant war between librarian factions. Some systems would be by title, some by subject, some by magical context. Bureaucratic wars are fought – indexes are burned, and the library, it ends up as a massively confusing collection of books. I was facing a similar problem with my own Library of Alexander. When I started doing reviews five or so years back, I was just blogging about things I was reading. I’d let my website sort them out, just popping […]
April 7, 2016

A verbal plea (DOG EAR)

kay, so not so much writing as communicating and identifying a new (or somewhat old) trend. I recently watched an impassioned message by comedian Sarah Silverman on Facebook. She’s making the pitch for Bernie Sanders. Yeah, I like her and I like Bernie – I voted for one of them recently, not sure which. This issue here is not political, though. It’s toastmastersical. I noticed, as I watched the video through, that the stream breaks and breaks and breaks, as if they shot it a number of times and pieced something together. To me (with my boomer viewpoint) this appears […]