Top 6 Forgotten Realms movies (to start)

So here are my choices for an initial Forgotten Realms movie, presented in no particular order.

(With the caveat that it’s important for the actual creator to be involved. If WotC is going to try and interpret one of its novels onto the screen without the writer, the result is going to be less than ideal.)

(Though we should probably steer clear of the unfortunate boob window.)

(Though we should probably steer clear of the unfortunate boob window.)

1) AZURE BONDS (Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak): One of the first Realms novels, with intrigue and strong nostalgic value, featuring a cool female protagonist, her dinosaur companion, and a great intro to the Realms. Charlize Theron as Alias.

Such great visuals in this book and a great series!

Such great visuals in this book and a great series!

2) DARKWALKER (based on Darkwalker on Moonshae, Doug Niles): The origin of Realms fiction and a stirring, Arthurian sort of story. Huge Game of Thrones intrigue possibilities. It’s also the first of a series, so you could go on from this (excellent) starting point).

There have been several covers, but this is the classic.

There have been several covers, but this is the classic.

3) CRYSTAL SHARD (R.A. Salvatore): The first Drizzt novel and the intro to a much loved and popular series. Salvatore’s work has been a power-house for the Realms for almost thirty years, and seeing his vision on screen would be amazing. You’d have to do the drow right, of course–see below.

This is a fantastic trilogy.

This is a fantastic trilogy.

4) TWILIGHT FALLING (Paul Kemp): The second Erevis Cale novel, kicking off his own trilogy. Shadow’s Witness was very tied into the Sembia series, and I think this makes a good starting point. Intelligent, dark, heroic, powerful. And I’m just going to say it: Idris Elba and Vinnie Jones as Cale and Riven.

Dubious 80s hair on the cover aside, the story is fantastic. :)

Dubious 80s hair on the cover aside, the story is fantastic. :)

5) ELFSHADOW (Elaine Cunningham): We so need Arilyn and Danilo on screen. Great romance, great intrigue, great story, and the kickoff of a sweeping series. Elaine brought us some of the best Realms work over the history of the setting.

So many memories!

So many memories!

6) BALDUR’S GATE (Interplay): I know it’s not a novel, but Baldur’s Gate has wide cultural impact, the nostalgia factor, and it’s general enough that you can tell a sweeping, fun fantasy story with it. Plus it has Minsc, and you know you want to see Vin Diesel as Minsc. :)

 

WHAT, NO GHOSTWALKER?

You may be surprised that I didn’t include GHOSTWALKER on that list, seeing as I wrote it. And it’s great–High Plains Drifter in the Realms.

But here’s the thing: would it be the best way to introduce the Realms as a cinematic entity? I don’t know. It’s a spin-off side story that would make a great movie but be most effective when the Realms is already established on film.

I mean, look at that cover, right?

I mean, look at that cover, right?

(SHADOWBANE is similar–it’s a series but it shouldn’t be first. I’d want the Realms more established as an entity before we start breaking it apart.)

REGARDING DROW

Drow are tricky to put on the screen. They aren’t black people . . . they just happen to be an entirely evil race with a sinister reputation that live underground and have jet-black skin. The racial implications are all there, and the drow as-is would present an unfortunate picture on screen.

Also, if you put a white actor in blackface, it will destroy your movie, full-stop. Do not do that, Hasbro. (Please Gods and Goddesses, do not!)

The problem, of course, is that no small part of Drizzt’s appeal is that he represents a struggle against racism. In our world, he would be the one black man in a sea of white people, fighting for acceptance and respect. If he has nothing to fight against, that aspect of his character is lost.

I have suggestions for a few small changes to how the drow are portrayed that will alleviate or at least lessen some of the obvious objections:

1) Cast a black actor. Drizzt cannot be a white dude in blackface. The actor cast needs to be a young, promising black actor.

2) Introduce them slowly. In the first Drizzt movie (Crystal Shard), no other drow appear, and Drizzt’s “drow-ness” is basically a non-issue. There’s one moment when he and Wulfgar are in a tavern where people are giving Drizzt the stink-eye, and he explains to Wulfgar that his people are not welcome on the surface world, owing to their reputation for death and destruction. Bar fight ensues, Drizzt refuses to kill a dude, people go away confused at this non-drow-like drow.

3) When drow eventually do show up (which should be at least 3 movies into Drizzt’s story), they are presented as having a range of skin colors, from light white-gray to purple to coal-black. I think one of the main problems with them visually is that they are depicted as monochromatic. If they were less, ahem, “black and white,” it would make them seem less like a stand-in for black people.

This may seem like a retcon (and it is), but I think it’s an acceptable one, particularly if you consider: a) the depictions of drow on the covers of Realms novels have varied widely over the years, b) black skin is really difficult to do effectively on screen, c) there is so much fan art out there on the internet (just google “dark elf” and you’ll see what I mean) that varies the skin color so widely.

What do you think about a Realms movie?

Cheers,
Erik

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Forgotten Realms, Movies, Uncategorized

Sensible, Fashionable, Protective: Women in Practical Armor

The pre-dawn light flickers across the battle field. The armies line up for titanic conflict. The bold elf commander steps out in front of her troops, raising her blade aloft, the sun gleaming off her exposed midriff. She sounds the warcry and . . .

Ooh, that does not look pleasant.

Ooh, that does not look pleasant.

. . . is cut down by arrows before reaching the enemy.

Why is Practical Armor Needed?

Other than for defending one’s bits, that is.

For many years, fantasy has had an odd relationship with women and armor. I suspect this comes mostly from guys writing fantasy, guys drawing fantasy art, and guys programming fantasy video games. It’s not that guys are intentionally being sexist or weird–it’s that they are asked to create “fantasy” and they create their fantasy, which often includes a lot of sexy females and tough dudes.

But there’s an issue. Maybe it’s the inability to suspend one’s disbelief after a point, maybe it’s considering chafing, or maybe it’s because women have every right to participate in this industry as we do. And they have every right to have heroes and villains that they can look to and see something other than sexualized caricatures created to indulge someone else’s fantasy other than their own. (Ahem!)

For these and many other reasons, I am pleased and honored to contribute a story to the WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR anthology.

Practical Armor? For a female fantasy character? WUT?

Subversive, I know.

This anthology, edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and the legendary Ed Greenwood, published through Evil Girlfriend Media, stars more than a dozen empowered women who are actually sensible about going into battle. They strap on real armor. They tie their hair back. They cover their butts–and those of their companions. They are of various colors and places on the sexuality and gender spectra. They are hack-and-slash heroes in honest-to-goddess protective gear.

From Evil Girlfriend Media--Kickstarting now!

From Evil Girlfriend Media–Kickstarting now!

The incredibly popular kickstarter has already funded, and now it’s a matter of hitting stretch goals and unlocking even more badassitude for the ladies within and for you, dear readers! ($10,000 is the next goal!)

But . . . but BOOBS!

I get it. I was a teenage boy once, too. But you see . . .

Mord Sith cosplay (model TBI)

*Rocking* Mord Sith cosplay (model MordSithCara on deviantart)

She’s covered head to toe, losing NOTHING in the presentation. She is powerful, intimidating, and in touch with herself. Just like a hero (or in this case villain) should be.

And ask yourself this: why does every female character of value to a story have to be measured by how sexy she is?

We talk about male characters as smart, dramatic, bold, strong, tough, sly, charming, witty, crass, or any of a thousand other adjectives.

What do female characters get? Strong and/or sexy.

I want female characters who can be everything a male character can be, and part of that is allowing them to wear things that are measured in dimensions other than sex appeal.

This is what the Women in Practical Armor are.

Can't be awesome without boobplate, you say? Samantha Swords would like a word.

Can’t be awesome without boobplate, you say? Samantha Swords would like a word.

But you’re trying to take my BOOBS!

Well, they aren’t *your* boobs, unless they’re actually attached to you.

I am all for cheesecake on occasion (particularly with strawberries), but it should be the exception, rather than the rule. There are female fantasy characters out there who don’t wear much (here’s looking at you, Red Sonja!*), and sometimes that makes sense. Armor slows you down. It’s hot and heavy, and can wear you out before the fight even begins. And some women feel empowered to be wearing what they’re wearing. That’s fine. Those would be legitimate exceptions.

I encourage people to wear what they want–so long as they’re the ones making that choice. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there *is* something wrong when that’s ALL you see. When the vast majority of female characters in our art look more like pornstars than heroes. Some women, sure, but all of them? What are we saying about women, when we view them all as sexual objects like that?

And there *is* something wrong (worse!) with a *legion of dudes* designing female fantasy characters in chainmail bikinis or leather halter tops or platemail that leaves the vital organs exposed. And then putting them into compromising, kinky, sexualized positions. And giving them orgasm faces all the time. (Ahem.)

It’s weird. It’s creepy. It’s sexist. And it’s giving the fantasy industry a bad name.

Yeah, RS’s chainmail bikini is a bit silly, but you should read this comic anyway, because Gail Simone is *awesome.*

So please, join me–and the many, many others who have already done so–in supporting WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR.

Cheers

 

*In the case of Red Sonja, Simone’s run feels like reclaiming the right of a woman to wear what she wants, without it being some dude’s warrior sex fantasy. Simone gets into Sonya’s head more than anyone, and when Sonja says she wears what she wants, it’s the first time I’ve ever actually felt cool with it. Sonja is making her own choice, and that’s key.

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Announcements, Characters, Combat, Feminism, Kickstarter, Small Press, Social Justice, Writing

World of Ruin: On Race and Privilege

First, a check: I myself am a SWCM (straight white cis-man), though I try to use my powers (i.e. privilege) for good. :)

Privilege. That’s a BIG deal in real life, and it’s a big deal in my World of Ruin series. It extends through wealth, age, race, orientation, and gender identity, and operates in important supporting ways in my books and stories about the WoR.

Let’s talk about race first, which is the most obvious operation of privilege in the series, and it’ll dovetail from there.

Sort of pale and wasp-ish, but the hood leaves a lot to the imagination.

Sort of pale and wasp-ish, but the hood leaves a lot to the imagination.

RACE AND ETHNICITY

First, it’s important to note that the World of Ruin doesn’t have ethnic groups that line up exactly with real world ethnic groups. But race is definitely an issue in my series, through the common social commentary lens of examining things through allegory and analogy. Humans don’t all look the same in my world, and there’s quite a bit of racism, mostly between two major ethnic groups, the Winterborn and the Summerblood.

The Winterborn hail from the Tar Vangr in the northern part of the world (not a surprise) and its environs. They tend to be pale and dark haired with have delicate, vaguely Asian features. They have a reputation for being harsh, humorless, and very caught up in questions of honor and duty. As a people, they tend to be more egalitarian regarding gender roles, sexuality, and gender identity. (More on that later.) Regel the Frostburn, star of SHADOW OF THE WINTER KING (SotWK), is winterborn through and through.

The people of the southern city Luether and its environs are known as Summerblood. They have very dark skin, bold features, and tend to have red or brown hair. They have a reputation for being temperamental, impulsive, energetic, and sensual/passionate–think of how Shakespeare’s work views those hotheaded Italians. While our earth has people who look kind of like Tar Vangryur winterborn, we don’t have a lot of examples of people who look like what I imagine Luethaar to look like. Scarlet red is not a particularly popular hair dye choice for dark skinned people these days, but that’s the concept. Summerblood culture tends toward heternormativity, especially among its rulers: the more powerful and important you are, the more pressure you face to marry the opposite sex and procreate. (More on that later.) The Blood Ravalis (that is, Demetrus, Lan, and Garin, among others) are all summerblood. (You see a lot of Luetharr culture in book 2, SHIELD OF THE SUMMER PRINCE [SotSP]).

Generally, the two races don’t mix very well, but are forced to clash in numerous situations. Twenty years before SotWK, a substantial body of rulers and courtiers from Luether settled in Tar Vangr, where they have spent the next two decades mingling and struggling over their varying cultural expectations. The Tar Vangryur police force/army has been integrated somewhat in recent years, though loyalties are still usually strictly divided along racial lines. At this point, twenty years after it was taken over by barbarians, Luether as a city does not welcome Tar Vangryur or anyone with white skin, and the vicious rulers of that place consider such interlopers spies at best.

I wanted to touch briefly on Ovelia Dracaris, the female lead in the books, who is a mixed race person–half northern “winterborn,” half southern “summerblood.” She has deep bronze skin, burning red hair, and hazel eyes. This puts her in the unique position of being basically between the two major ethnic groups, opening her up to hate from both sides, which each tend to see traits of the other in her. She has a powerful temper but is able to control her sharp impulses through a healthy dose of cold reason. I don’t want to go too deeply into it, but she’s basically the best of both worlds. She’s awesome, and she’s the star of “King’s Shield,” which is included in WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR (which is currently running a Kickstarter!).

SEXUALITY AND GENDER IDENTITY

I’m just going to lay all my knives on the table (i.e. be honest about it): Tar Vangyr is the best place in the World of Ruin to be, particularly if you aren’t a straight person, and I did that intentionally. I’m not saying the Vangryur are the best (though they’re much better than the alternative, see below), but I did want to present them as the “generally good” kingdom, constantly under siege by the forces of evil. And so it’s no surprise that they’re fairly open as regards sex, sexuality, orientation, and identification.

Men and women are considered equals, and there is no traditional “man’s work” or “woman’s work.” Kings and queens are of equal value and power in Tar Vangr’s history, and its founding hero was a woman (in practical armor, no less!). Usually Tar Vangr is ruled by only a single monarch, who usually has at least one breeding partner of the opposite sex for the purpose of heirs, this may or may not be an actual consort. Sometimes a King declares a consort to be a Queen (or a Queen names a consort King) but it’s not required and there’s no stigma either way–it’s merely a question of succession. Marriage is generally not a thing in the north (most Winterborn consider the concept similar to slavery–another summerblood import), polyamorous relationships are quite common, and sex isn’t invested with the same hang-ups as elsewhere in the WoR or in our world.

Here’s a neat thing: Tar Vangryur don’t generally receive names at birth. Usually only *nobles* have birth names–mostly for posterity–and they are encouraged to gain new names as they grow. Names are given in recognition of deeds or significant events, sometimes by the person in question or by someone in a perceived position of authority (kinda like nicknames). A Tar Vangryur person might have multiple names, but usually a given person earns only one or two.

The whole system is a little bit oppressive, sure, and the implications of someone else naming you for what they perceive as worthwhile is a little weird. (Which is intentional, by the way.) But the big pay-off is this next part:

Tar Vangryur children (as is implied in “King’s Shield”) are not ascribed a gender at birth. They are referred to as “the child” or sometimes “my child” and the default pronoun for them is “their/they.” A child does not have a gender until it decides what gender it wants to present. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, but whatever the child eventually goes with, that’s what the child is considered. And some people choose to present no gender, and that’s cool too. Native winterborn and particularly citizens of the mage-city Tar Vangr basically never misgender anyone–it is considered the height of rudeness to do so. They’re so accustomed to gender fluidity that they can usually tell, and when in doubt, they will ask. (This comes up briefly in SotWK in a conversation on a skyship in the middle of the book, but to say more about it would be a spoiler.)

As I mentioned above, Luethaar society is not nearly as open or progressive in this regard. Men are supposed to be tough and active, women demure and passive (you know, kind of like a lot of our real world socialization). The Blood Ravalis is *particularly* sharp in its condemnation of anyone going outside the accepted narrative. There’s a little breathing room when one is lower class, but at the top, it is considered a sin against your people to have homosexual inclinations, regardless of whether you also breed.

This comes up partially in how Lan treats women throughout SotWK (including Ovelia), and then again in a big way in SotSP when Ovelia has to navigate Luethaar society and also in regard to Garin, who is gay. Like *majorly* gay. He’s not closeted, no–he knows who he is and he romances who he likes, as the dashing rebel leader trying to reclaim his city from the barbarians running it into the ground–but he is completely and utterly unable to be open about it around his family. Not only is he under substantial personal pressure, but also he dreads that coming out would doom his cause: how can he unite Luether against its oppressors if he isn’t one of them, who belongs to the same understanding of reality that they have? This is a big deal, particularly in book 2.

(A side note: Ovelia, whom I mentioned above, may be a daughter of both nations, but she was raised almost exclusively in the northern city of Tar Vangyr by her ex-pat summerblood father Norlest in the household of his best friend [with benefits] Orbrin Denerre, the Winter King. As such, her cultural identity is mostly Tar Vangryur, and she evinces many of the same attitudes toward sex and sexuality. She is also definitely *not* straight, as I think becomes fairly clear not too far in SotWK, and is *very clear* in SotSP. And in “King’s Shield,” my story in WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR . . )

Did I mention this Kickstarter? Go back it!

OTHER TYPES OF PRIVILEGE

Those are the big ones, but I also deal with wealth, age (most of my heroes are in their late 30s, if not late 40s or 50s–none of this “farm boy destined to save the world” business!), and disability in a pretty significant way in the books. I can’t talk about at least one of those without spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that–at least until SotSP comes out (hopefully by Spring 2016!) and we can all see what happens.

Until then, may Ruin’s gaze fall from you,

Erik

P.S. “SotWK” is pronounced “sot-wiki” and “SotSP” is pronounced “sots-pee.” Just in case you wanted to get the lingo. :)

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Kickstarter, Shadow of the Winter King, Shield of the Summer Prince, Social Justice, Uncategorized, World of Ruin, Writing

Brief Post-Mortem: GenCon 2015

Well, GenCon is over, and it was a great success!

The second edition of my home-brewed Mass Effect RPG went over really well: I ran three sessions that were very well-received. I told people not to talk about it too much online, because then I might be nominated for an ENnie, and no one wants that. :)

My brain apparently loved it so much that it has now conceived an entire Mass Effect campaign hook, which I hope to run in part for my friends back home. So there’s *that* keeping me from my writing deadlines. :)

Two panels at the Writer’s Symposium, both about writing good lead characters, and a read/critique session that went very well. It’s good to see the program growing by leaps and bounds!

The Women in the Realms seminar had a huge turnout–more women in the room than ever before–and the pins (one a composite of Selune, Shar, and Mystra’s symbols, the other a non-datestamped Harper pin) are really fantastic. The male organizers (including myself) spent the first hour and a half just not talking at all, and let Erin Evans and Jaleigh Johnson take the show. Because that’s what this seminar was all about: the female voice in the Realms.

The seminar very quickly became about “diversity in the Realms,” which was awesome. We spent the last half of the seminar taking questions and talking about all things Realmsy, you know, like Candlekeep would normally do. One highlight was all the costumes late on a Saturday, including a fully outfitted adventuring party, whose equipment was all based on actual art in the books, as well as two young women who came as Farideh and Havilar and basically made Erin’s head explode. :)

Note: We’re currently discussing the theme for next year’s seminar, so any suggestions would be welcome. I want something villainous. I’d also like us to make Zhentarim pins, so we can run a GenCon-wide Harpers vs. Zhents game, ala the Assassins game. :)

I played Malcolm Reynolds in a Firefly RPG session that will live in infamy: Jayne (as played by Jaym Gates) got it in his head to betray the crew, which he did successfully, and despite all the entertaining deception I tried to pull as the Captain, the complications were just too much. I ended up the session zip-tied, half-nekkid, locked in the cockpit of Serenity, just struggling to activate the ship (Wash screaming in my ear “It’s the big red button! Push the big red button!” and I just couldn’t button), then trying and failing three times to get out of my cuffs. I eventually rolled a survival check to avoid a mental break and failed, so I started chewing my arm off. :)

I got a chance to wander the hall a couple times, mostly to visit friends at the Author and Artist Alleys, but also to buy some things. I picked up a copy of the fantastic hardcover Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin, which I’m looking forward to running for my peeps here in Seattle. I also bought a present for my wife: Fairytale Gloom, which I think she’ll really enjoy.

A couple personal shout-outs:

One to Eric Menge, with whom I may or may not be working on a semi-secret project. His webcomic, SNOW BY NIGHT, was very popular at Artist’s Alley, and if you have any interest in fantasy comics on the web, I highly recommend it. I also got to meet Steph Stober, who is awesome.

Another to Claudio Pozas, my good friend and roomie this year, a Brazilian artist well known for his work on D&D and fantasy in general. I picked up two prints he created of my characters A-Girl and Lady Vengeance, and his work is just fantastic.

The Women in Practical Armor kickstarter launched out of GenCon, and it’s a roaring success! Back it today!

That’s what I’ve got. Back to work. :)

Cheers,
Erik

 

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Conventions, Dragon Age, Feminism, Forgotten Realms, Game Design, Gaming, GenCon, Mass Effect RPG, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Mass Effect at GenCon 2015!

Sorry to spring this on everyone last minute, but that’s just how I roll/role sometimes. :)

What I’m doing right now is creating pregens for people to use in my Mass Effect game. If you’re in either of sessions (Thursday or Friday morning), please let me know on Facebook (@erik.s.debie), Twitter (#erikscottdebie), or email (erikscottdebie AT yahoo DOT com) if you have any particular preferences for what character you’d like to play. First come, first served, and if you don’t express a preference, I can’t guarantee that character will be around to be used.

(Not like last year when I had EVERYONE.)

I currently have two Shepards (though only one at a time), Liara, Garrus, and Tali. I was thinking of making Miranda, Jacob, and Mordin next, but I’ll happily take requests.

I think this version of the game will be much better than last year, which was fun but bogged down easily. This should be faster and more user-friendly.

Cheers,
Erik

Copyright (c) Zenin Amit (Deviantart)

Copyright (c) Zenin Amit (Deviantart)

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Conventions, Game Design, Gaming, GenCon, Mass Effect, Mass Effect RPG

de Bie Quest 2015: GenCon Schedule

Where can you find me at GenCon this year? I have a couple panels with the Writer’s Symposium, I’m running a couple of games, and I’ll be at Candlekeep Presents as usual. :)

THURSDAY
Mass Effect RPG: 10 am – 1 pm
JW Marriott Room 301, Table 2
Do you have what it takes to save the galaxy from the insidious grasp of the Reapers? (Updated system from last year’s playtest!)
https://www.gencon.com/events/69347

FRIDAY
Mass Effect RPG: 10 am – 1 pm
JW Marriott Room 205, Table 6
Come save the galaxy . . . again!
https://www.gencon.com/events/69348

SATURDAY
Character Craft 101 9 am – 10 am
Writer’s Symposium ICC : 245
Learn about writing compelling characters and avoiding pitfalls!
https://www.gencon.com/events/77084

Character Craft: Heroic Pairs 12 pm – 1 pm
Writer’s Symposium ICC : 245
Learn about crafting interesting partnerships and writing witty reparte!
https://www.gencon.com/events/77088

Signing in Exhibit Hall 3 pm – 4 pm
I’ll be at the Writer’s Symposium signing area! I may or may not have books on hand, but if you’ve got something for me to sign, bring it by!

Candlekeep Presents: Women of the Realms 8 pm – 11 pm
Crowne Plaza : Victoria Stn C/D
Join us at the fourth annual Candlekeep Presents seminar to talk about the Forgotten Realms, hang out with industry legends and secret guests, and celebrate the various awesome ladies who have made the Realms so memorable.
https://www.gencon.com/events/68164

SUNDAY
Read and Critique 9 am – 11 am
Giving some writers some feedback! One of my favorite things.

See you next week!

Cheers,
Erik

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Characters, Conventions, GenCon, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Alert: On Attribution

Some Bad Writing Advice for the day: This post I’m sharing would have you use florid attribution. See here:

From "Writer's Circle" facebook page: 198 unnecessary and extremely risky ways plus 2 sensible ones, you mean.

From “Writer’s Circle” facebook page:
198 unnecessary and extremely risky ways plus 2 sensible ones, you mean.

Why is it bad advice? Because 198 of the entries on this list will almost certainly cause an agent to reject your submission. Only “says” and “asks” should be used.*

* When it comes to writing, there are always exceptions to every rule. So here’s the explanation:

I think of this (what the Writer’s Circle would have you do) as first level dialogue, or “Thesaurus Dialogue”: putting in unnecessarily complex or florid attribution. (e.g. “I’ll get it,” Harry expressed. He opened the door. “Hi Hermione!” he exclaimed.) Overuse of it makes your work look like that of an amateur, and agents know to look for this. Don’t do it–you’d be dramatically reducing your chances of getting published.

(A similar style, let’s call it level 1.5, “Adverbial Dialogue,” is when you attribute dialogue using “says” or “asks,” but then you also add an adverb, e.g. “I’ll get it,” Harry said quietly. You shouldn’t do this either–and especially not with one of those more florid words, like “shouted angrily” or “opined reasonably.” It’s distracting and you’re almost always better off expressing how the person said something from context.)

Second level dialogue, or “Clean Dialogue,” is to use only “said” or “asked,” which makes your text cleaner and much less distracting. (e.g. “I’ll get it,” Harry said. He opened the door. “Hi, Hermione!”

Third level dialogue, or “Context Dialogue,” is to use no attribution at all, but simply make it clear from context who said what. (e.g. “I’ll get it.” Harry opened the door. “Hi, Hermione!”)

Fourth level dialogue, or “Voice Dialogue,” is to use no attribution, but have the characters have such a clear voice that it’s obvious who’s speaking. (Tough to give an example without sufficient build-up, but if I’ve constructed Harry as a shy, nerdy type, it might look something like this: e.g. “I’ll–I’ll get it.” Harry opened the door. “Hermione! Uh, hi!”)

Good dialogue is usually a mixture of level 2 (Clean; asks/says) and level 3 (Context: attribution through context), whilst occasionally elevating itself to level 4 for effect. You can get away with level 1 dialogue every so often, but it has to be for a specific purpose, and the word has to be so carefully chosen that nothing else would have sufficed. (And I’m not going to give an example of that, because it would literally take several chapters to *earn* the power to use one of those words.)

As always, my writing advice is always *my* advice, and should not be taken as gospel. There are always exceptions and you may find that your own writing goes a different way.

Best of luck to all!

Cheers

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Uncategorized, Writing

Black Widow Movie outline

I did something similar to this with my basic outline for a Captain Marvel movie. So here’s my basic Black Widow movie pitch.*

! We want Widow bannerBlack Widow is tracking a lead on the Winter Soldier (timely!) when she comes under attack from an unknown assassin. At the end of act one, the assassin is ultimately to be . . . Black Widow, i.e. Yelena Bolova.

During act two, Natasha teams up with the Winter Soldier to take down the new model, but the WS ultimately ends up snagged again by mental control from the real baddies. Black Widow is wounded and has to take shelter for a time to lick her wounds (aided by her sidekick, see below).

And of course, as we learn in act three, the real villain behind Yelena is the Red Room operators, who are still carrying on after all this time. Widow has to decide whether to kill them, or if she will rise above them, at long last.

Scarlett-Johansson_Black-Widow-Captain-America-2-Poster-618x400

Other plot points to include:

– One small discussion about the Hulk, and how Nat’s not happy that he left her, but she understands. Relationships are hard in her line of work. (Then that’s it–no more of that plot thread ever again.)

– A one-side phone call with Cap (we only hear Nat speaking) wherein he offers to help, and she tells him (nicely) to STFU, she’s got it.

– Along the way Nat meets a teenage girl who’s vacationing in the country where they do the filming, name of Kate Bishop. She happens to be a crack shot with a bow and Nat enlists her to be the new Hawkeye. (Did I mention preference for a non-white actress for Kate? Yes. That.)

– Idea from a friend: Atonement is a major theme, much like in the current comics and picking up on a thread from the first Avengers movie. Getting red out of the ledger.

There. Done. :)

(*I don’t expect Marvel to borrow any of these ideas, but these are free for use. Just make the movie!)

Cheers,
Erik

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Comics, Movies, Superheroes, Writing

Donate, Help, Be in a Story!

Want to see your name in print? And help your fellow humans in need?

My wife is heading to Africa in July to build houses for the homeless, through Habitat for Humanity.

Back here in Seattle, I will be writing a story inspired by her work, and I’d love to include you.

Donate to either of her campaigns to help her do this, and I’ll name a character after you. Hero or villain, it’s up to you. (Suggested donation $45+, depending on how major you want your character to be!) :)

Her campaigns:

Shelley Lawson: Habitat Malawi Build (ending June 9th!)

Shelley Lawson: Habitat Zambia Build (ending June 16th!)

All donations 100% tax deductible and going to a great cause. :)

For those who have already donated, thank you! Assuming you’ve left updated contact information along with your donation, I will be contacting you after the campaigns are over to determine your preference for inclusion. If you don’t hear from me, please drop me an email (erikscottdebie at yahoo dot com) or hit me up on facebook (www.facebook.com/erik.s.db) or twitter (@erikscottdebie).

Cheers,
Erik

EDIT: If Shelley exceeds her goal on either campaign, it’s totally cool. Trust me, every donated cent will be put to good use directly supporting the project. Shelley and I are putting up most of the money ourselves, so any in addition to the listed goals will help. Also, there’s still plenty of time to get in on this!

Further reading/viewing:

Habitat Zambia: Check out the awesome accomplishments Habitat is making!

Habitat for Humanity website

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Announcements, Social Justice, Uncategorized, Writing

Check Your Paladin Privilege

To understand privilege, think of yourself as a D&D character in an incredibly poorly balanced version of D&D (let’s say 2nd edition). You have a gender, you have a race, you have a class, and you have an alignment. These things generally dictate how the game goes for you. Sure, there’s a luck element–roll that d20–but even that is heavily informed by your ability scores, skills, training, feats, etc. The result of your build is a map of your particular privilege (which varies widely for each PC).

But let’s look at a specific example:

You’re a lawful good paladin, I’m a neutral evil assassin.

When we’re traveling in goodly lands, or in the court of a good King or Queen, you–as a LG paladin–can expect good treatment, politeness, and the ability to follow at least most of the laws without compromising your values or goals. Maybe you even get some reaction bonuses to charisma checks and such.

That’s paladin privilege.

For me, however, as a NE assassin, I can’t follow my nature. I can’t do my job or employ my skills, under penalty of arrest, attack, or exile. In fact, my own party (you’re a paladin after all) is always bugging me to change my ways, and that it’s really all my own fault that people distrust or dislike me. If I’d just act more like you (maybe not dress all in black leather, maybe not stab the people I want but only the people society approves of being stabbed) maybe people would hate me marginally less.

That’s assassin privilege. And in most cases, it sucks. It is mechanically inferior to paladin privilege.

Are there some areas where assassin privilege trumps paladin privilege? Sure, but they’re rare. If we’re captive of a former or current employer, maybe I can pull some strings and get us not executed. You know, assuming you don’t say something insensitive to the dark lord’s philosophy and make us roll initiative.

But can you really blame me if I hesitate to use my assassin’s privilege to benefit the paladin who’s made my life miserable for multiple adventures?

Let’s go further to say you’re a human paladin and I’m a half-orc barbarian. When we’re in human lands, even if they aren’t necessarily goodly (maybe they’re neutral or even evil), you’re still going to be treated better because you’re a human, whereas I’m a half-orc (with an implicitly tragic backstory). This is human privilege (useful 90% of the time) vs. orc privilege (useful 10% of the time).

Elves are generally considered one of the best races, and they have pretty high privilege. Of course, they aren’t the best all the time–particularly if you’re playing an edition where elves get a constitution penalty. Fortunately, in D&D, you have that choice about what racial privilege you want for your character–in real life, you’re not so fortunate.

What about gender? Say you’re a male human paladin and I’m a female half-orc assassin. If we enter a realm where all the kings throughout history, most if not all of the lords are male, all the laws are made by men, men are in charge of the majority of the households, the majority of the guards are men, etc., etc., hazard a guess for me as to which of us will be automatically respected and which will be treated with suspicion. Say we’re both human paladins, in fact–which one of us will the guards in this male-dominated culture probably assume is the leader of our party?

(Though if we head into matriarchal Menzoberranzan, a female character would obviously have the advantage there.)

Heck, what about campaigns set in settings that have no non-straight people, or where anything other than heterosexuality causes waves of loathing?

Some classes have, historically, just been better than others: that’s privilege. Paladin privilege has been pretty constant across the editions, and wizard privilege tends to kick in around level 6 or so. Thieves and druids were pretty low on the privilege ladder until 3e showed up. PCs who utilize class enhancement books (Complete Arcane, Martial Power, etc.) benefit from power-creep privilege. Balance was king in 4e, with some exceptions (how about that Whitewell Warlock, huh? And who would willingly play a Seeker?).

Both in the game and in real life, there are hundreds of variants of privilege, all of which apply in a varying number of situations. No sort of privilege is an advantage in every situation, but some are generally better than others–if you’re lucky enough to have a privilege which is an advantage in 90% of situations, you’re pretty much set.

For instance, if you are sex: male, gender: cis-heterosexual, race: white, class: middle or above, alignment: Christian, background: American, then you can probably handle most encounters that you’ll ever have without a lot of effort (easy mode). The more you vary from that pinnacle of privilege, the more often you’re going to have to expend your powers and hope for some lucky rolls, and you’re going to lose more hit points than your paladin fellows.

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D&D, Gaming, Social Justice