Friday, September 11, 2015

GenCon 2015 Part 4: Saturday, in which I finally play a game

Part 4: Saturday, in which I finally play a game

Panel, what, 12? Sheesh.

Character Voice with Steve Drew, Kameron Hurley, Brad Beaulieu, Jay Posey, Aaron Rosenberg

Yes, some of the panel topics overlapped a bit. I'll try not to overlap the notes.

1)      Read your/other authors' dialog without the tags/actions. Can you differentiate who is speaking?

2)      Treat characters with dignity (Do your research)

3)      There is a lot of current concern about being politically correct and not appropriating  culture inappropriately. If you are wondering exactly what that means, don't feel alone. But treat it cultures with more respect than Hollywood gave Native Americans in most earlier westerns and you'll be ahead of Hollywood, if that gives you any solace.

4)      Empathy. Each character is the hero of their own story, we just don't know how long they intersect this story.

5)      Add body language, habits to build character/voice.

6)      Okay to vary POV distance, e.g. when noticing details or doing internal monologue use some voice/idioms but when doing more expository description use less character voice.

Panel Next (that which is skipped when numbering hotel floors): What Makes a Character a Hero (Kerrie Hughes, Steven Long, Sam Sykes, Patrick fills-a-room Rothfuss)

This was Rothfuss' first panel and he brought the attendees in from the gaming tables, the room was more full than any of the prior writing sessions I'd attended. And with good reason, he pontificates well and entertainingly.


1)      Consistent moral core - line in the sand; let them bend, evolve but not cross/break

2)      Homer Simpson centers on Marge

3)      Good guys are heroes. The Greeks had great mean who fell due to a flaw, typically hubris

4)      (Considerable discussion of Superman/Lex Luther then Batman, Rob Roy, Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher) and Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)

5)      Need people to interact with or there is no story

6)      Need to have suffered an indignity

7)      Bathos - humor that undercuts tension

8)      Identification with a hero needs to be emotional

9)      Earnestness is easy to identify with: Han Solo and Luke Skywalker

I spent some more time on the dealer floor, I hadn't covered half of it yesterday. I saw some nice hardwood dice towers -- too expensive for me but I might try to build one, someday. Best I saw for the price were from Geek Chic Furniture (lots of great stuff, not cheap by any nuance of the word). The Cadillac of dice towers were on display from Wyrmwood, in your choice of seventy different woods.

I finally played a game!  I played "Code Names" from Czech Games. It's a more literary "Guess Who?" The fellow manning the booth explained the rules and then he and I played against a father and son that had also been watching the previous patrons play. It was pre-release -- they sold out several hundred beta copies, gone first day of the show -- but should be out about now, sometime in September, 2015. I plan to get one.

Fresh from my fun with Code Names I played another game at the Steve Jackson Games booth. They had "Mars Attacks: the Dice Game" set up for demo so even though I'm not a fan of Mars Attacks, I played a round of that. It was fun -- typically the only dice based games I play are Yahtzee and 10,000, but this was engaging without much mental challenge. After that it was time for the Guest of Honor session.

I was a bit uncertain about seeing GoH Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara. I read that book back in 1977 and it was clearly good but I couldn't get past the hubris or mimicry vis a vis J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. I wasn't the only one. Turns out Mr. Brooks is insightful and delightful and understands the burden with which he has been saddled. He answered questions from the 200+ person audience about the dozens of books that he has written and then they showed the MTV trailer from the forthcoming series The Shannara Chronicles (January, 2016) which starts with the second book, The Elfstones of Shannara. He then answered audience questions on that. I'll be interested to watch some of that. I'm reading the book now. In fact, I got a free copy and had Terry Brooks sign it on Sunday morning and I got a chance to apologize for not reading more of his work over the past 37 years. He was very gracious.

Panel 14: Character: Worthy Opponents (Elizabeth Vaughan, Matt Forbeck, Christopher Rowe, Geoffrey Girard, Terry Brooks)

Girard sat next to Brooks and was clearly in a bit of awe, especially as the panel introduced themselves; Girard has essentially one novel (and lots of short stories), while Brooks has dozens and a major TV deal, etc. Fun to see, both were good natured.


1)      Need to balance villains against protags

2)      Try to understand the motivations of your villains

3)      Christopher Rowe: "I don't like The Joker. I don't even like Heath Ledger's Joker. How about that?" (This is going out on limb, deriding a famous bat-villain with this audience, especially the version played by a favorite son actor, deceased no less.) I believe Mr. Rowe was saying he wasn't believable, all persona and no depth.

Panel 15: Supporting Characters (Maxwell Drake, Elizabeth Vaughan, Geoffrey Girard, Terry Brooks)


1)      Ask tertiary characters: What do you want from this scene? - Maxwell Drake

2)      "Plot drives everything." - Terry Brooks (the observant reader will not that this does not well align with an assertion in an earlier panel that plot is there to facilitate the characters, give them something to arc against)

3)      Have love and hate in every chapter

4)      Sometimes supporting characters can show up the main character -- builds character.

There was one more event for me (well, two, if you count out to dinner, which I do in this case) on Saturday, but I'm tired now and want to go, so I'll lump that into Sunday. TTFN.

No comments: