4/16/2015

Brainstorm Your Next Novel with Fiasco


Having some trouble with your novel WIP? Not sure how to connect the dots or how to fill out that character roster? I'm here to help.

Fiasco is a tabletop RPG from 2009. It's ''a game about ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them, to put it mildly, and in the end it will probably all go south in a glorious heap of jealousy, murder, and recrimination. It’s designed to be played in a single session, usually around two and a half hours, with no prep.''

For some reason my brain always wants to compare it to the Coen brothers movie Fargo: Intersected story lines that end up in some pretty grim/hilarious violence (that's a poor description of Fargo, but it'll do for our purposes today).

What we're going to do is take the the set-up part of the game and use it to brainstorm short stories and novel outlines. It's useful if you want to jump start an idea or perhaps come up with some subplots for your novel, but you can also use it to come up with some interesting locations or MacGuffins.

The Fiasco Companion book discusses its use as a writing tool and there's a series of blog posts on theUnleaded - Fuel for Writers blog. We're just gonna do things slightly different here.


How it Works

Although there is no one standard setting, each game of Fiasco uses a playset that indicates the setting of that specific game.

Each playset consists of a basic description of the setting and:
six groups of six relationships between two characters in the setting
six groups of six needs to be shared by two of the characters
six groups of six notable objects
six groups of six notable locations

Each group and each element within that group is numbered from one to six.

To put it simply, each playset has a theme and is essentially a list of Relationships (father-son, sheriff-criminal), Locations (behind the barn, the library), Needs (to get out of town, to get rich quick) and Objects/MacGuffins (a revolver, a picture of a woman).
Creating your own Playset

This website contains most of the available Fiasco playsets out there. They are free to download. If you happen to be writing something that fits exactly the theme of one of them (say, the Salem one, because you're writing a period piece about Salem witches), you're probably all set. If not, you'll have to do some extra work.

The novel I'm going to be using as an example, which I've already outlined to some degree, is about two buddies who are trying to save their small town from a Lovecraftian entity that is manifesting. I hunted around for playsets that dealt with small towns, horror and monsters.

I picked up Cults of New England, Dark Shadows, Last Frontier, Back to the Old House, Sucker Creek and a couple of others.

Let's start with relationships. I just went and picked out whatever looked good or seemed to fit with my plot, themes and established characters. Since I'm only experimenting, I didn't include any of my own ideas (I could have put in ''Childhood Friends'' or ''Diner Regular and Waitress'' since I know these two relationships will feature in the novel), since, well, I already have those. I'm hunting for new stuff....more 

In L.A., you ain’t shit


I was in Iowa City last week for a festival. My big sister traveled there with me—I flew to Chicago and she drove me to Iowa so we could spend time together and because she rules. Iowa City is home to a huge university with a Girls-approved writing program and those crumbly, red brick buildings of which so many campuses are fond. It’s quaint as hell.

I was almost too relaxed stepping onstage that night. My sis and I had spent the day eating for-real diner food at a for-real diner and strolling the river that snakes through town. It was the first spring-type day the city had seen and college kids were draped over everything, sunning hard. We joined them.

The theater I was performing at was old and rad and built in the ’20s and the local openers were on point—totally different from one another and really sweet and professional. Hospitality left me a dang basket of ChapSticks in my dressing room. You know how I love ChapSticks!

I’m from Chicago, and I mentioned that a few minutes into my set; I also mentioned that I currently live in Los Angeles. This was after I’d praised the crap out of Iowa City and talked of missing my hometown and tipped my side mullet to tough-as-hell Midwesterners fighting the good fight against crazy weather and succeeding. Then I said that I live in Los Angeles. At the mention of L.A., the crowd got a bit hushed. Then a gal in the audience yelled out, “I’m sorry.” I took a moment that night to let the audience know they didn’t have to feel weird about my living in Los Angeles. After all, it’s clearly working for me. I’m a major celebrity. But there’s more to my response than that.

I’m never a bit surprised to hear that someone hates my current address, which happens all the time. I get it; I grew up hating L.A. too. It’s such a dismissive city. So segmented and cutthroat. There’s no sense of community and no culture and the people are vain and vapid and made of cars and Botox. Unless you’re a movie star or a Kardashian, find a different place to live. Because in L.A., if you’re a normal person, you ain’t shit....more 

Citizens Of The Netherlands Suing Their Government Over Inaction On Climate Change


A coalition of 900 Dutch citizens has taken the government of the Netherlands to court over its inaction with regard to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change.

This represents (arguably) the first time ever that a national government has been taken to court over existing human rights with regard to climate change — as well as the first time that a group of citizens in Europe has attempted to hold its government legally responsible for inefficient/ineffective climate policies.

Public arguments for the proceedings are set to begin fairly soon in the Netherlands, following the dubbing by the Dutch press of the case as a “landmark legal case.”

“What we are saying is that our government is co-creating a dangerous change in the world,” stated Roger Cox, a legal adviser for the plaintiffs. “We feel that there’s a shared responsibility for any country to do what is necessary in its own boundaries to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions as much as is needed.”

The goal of the case is reportedly to force the government of the Netherlands to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25–40% (relative to 1990 levels) by the year 2020. The achievement of these figures would put the country in line with the reductions outlined by the IPCC as necessary for developed nations if there’s to be a 50% chance of avoiding a 2° Celsius rise in average global temperature.

As it stands, the European Union has verbally committed to cutting emissions 40% by the year 2030 — but no specific commitments were made by the Netherlands, which claims that it will simply adopt whatever (likely anemic) international agreement that results from the Paris climate talks scheduled for late 2015....more 

Robots cooks may happen sooner than you think

Those of us of a certain age relate many technological advances to the old Hanna Barbara cartoon “The Jetsons.” Folding cars and flying cars remind us of George Jetsons’ vehicle that folded into a briefcase after flying to work, and a robo-vacuum automatically brings memories of Rosie, the Jetsons' robot housekeeper.

Right now, according to Ars Technica, The Moley Robotic Kitchen can only make crab bisque, and it can only do so if everything to make the soup has been pre-positioned perfectly. Its creators hope that within two years, the technology will be ready to sell to consumers with an “iTunes style library of recipes” to be downloaded into its memory. The cost? The first to purchase the robotic chef can expect to pay about $14,600.

The robot’s movements are designed to copy “the exact movements of Tim Anderson, the 2011 winner of the television show ‘MasterChef’.” It cannot think for itself and cannot compensate if any tool or ingredient is out of place. If things aren't laid out perfectly, there will be no bisque...more 

MUSIC: Tenterhook - What I Like

MUSIC: ID - Mr. Toot

MUSIC: A.N.D.Y. - Chemicals (Feat. Vanya Taylor)

4/06/2015

Closet Clean Out: The Only 10 Pieces of Clothing You Need


I have only good memories of walk-in closets, except for the time I was rummaging around in the back of one—and suddenly came across a high-top sneaker with two kittens sitting in it.

It was a charming scene really, with one tiny kitten gnawing on a shoelace and the other batting at his brother with a fuzzy paw, unless you stopped to consider the cold facts of the situation. My closet was so stuffed with clothing that I hadn't noticed when my cat gave birth to a litter in there several weeks earlier.

How do closets get so overcrowded? How does a pair of blue jeans you had in college manage to surreptitiously elude the Salvation Army dragnet for decades to follow you as you move across the country, back and forth and back again, to each new walk-in closet?

Yet. When I remodeled my house last year, No. 1 on my wish list was a walk-in closet. Less than nine months later, the closet is already a shambles. By last week, every time I tried to walk in, a stray shoe would trip me. The sleeves from blouses were twining themselves, anaconda style, around my neck.

It was time to clean out the closet, drastically and once-and-for-all. I was sick of feeling as if my clothes owned me. I came up with a new strategy: Define the season's wardrobe as minimally as possible—I pared down to 10 pieces—and put everything else into organized deep storage. I know 10 pieces sounds pretty draconian. But if you look at a weather map, you'll see most of us live in climates defined by three-month stretches that don't vary that much. And more minimal is always more peaceful.

My 10 essential pieces include jeans, black pants, khaki pants, a knit dress, a pencil skirt, two collared shirts, a cardigan, a blazer, and a white T-shirt. Here's how to pare down your closet to your own personal 10 essential pieces.

Step No. 1: Confront your closet.

Can you even see what's in there? Start the cleanout by reaching in to grab every piece of clothing you love. Note: If you hesitate over an item for even a second, you don't love it.

Place the clothes you love on your bed. Arrange the articles by type: jeans, pants, shirts, etc.

Step No. 2: Examine the items on the bed to see if a theme emerges.

 Is everything blue? Perhaps you chose clothes made only from comfortable fabrics. Did you choose only your best-fitting pair of jeans? Did you leave all the skirts in the closet?

By examining the clothes you love in a vacuum—that is, without the rest of your wardrobe surrounding them and clamoring for attention—you will see a pattern. Maybe you like striped shirts best. Or maybe you really only feel comfortable in black. Next time you're on the verge of a purchase, think back to this moment: How would the new piece you're considering fit in with your favorites?...more