Conspiracy! Card-a-Day #1

Card back: Evidence

The current design for the evidence card back.

I’ve decided to start posting bits and pieces from projects I’m working on, starting with a prototype of a card game I’m designing called Conspiracy! (exclamation point for emphasis).  It’s a kind of deck-building, card-matching mashup set in the world of global conspiracies and the conspiracy theorists who attempt to reveal them.

Why do this?  First, it’s fun to share.  Second, I’ve designed enough of these cards to post one per day for over two years.  So … what have I got to lose?

And so … I give you on Day One the card back design for the evidence cards, which will be the vast majority of the cards in the game.

(Disclaimer: this is a game prototype. Most of the images you see are placeholders, either Creative Commons licensed or used uncredited.  The final product will utilize all original art.  No work by others will be used by me in a product for sale without permission and attribution.  Promise!)

Lines Across Time

Glyph timeline

This looks strange and confusing, but it’s actually helpful.

Plotting for epic stories gets muddled fast.  Simple stories with a few characters and a straightforward narrative … eh, well, I don’t write those.  I like massive worlds with large casts of characters and intricate, interweaving arcs.  For this reason, I find timelines useful.  Until recently, however, I had not found an effective tool for creating them; I’d been consigned to clunky lists written in spiral-bound notebooks and the like.

Winning the NaNoWriMo 2014 challenge gave me access to some great writing tools at discounted prices.  One of those was Aeon Timeline, a timeline-creation tool created with the writer in mind.  I’ve only started using it, but it’s already been helpful.

Fantasy writing is appealing in part because you get to create a world from whole cloth.  I take the worldbuilding aspect of writing fantasy (and other speculative fiction) seriously.  Correction: I might enjoy it more than creating the characters and narrative.  But I get around to writing the story sooner or later.

Along with my zeal for creating geography, cultures, languages, and the like, I have a passion for extended backstories and long, momentous histories.  Even events that will never make their way into the written story get sketched out into detail because they inform the lives and motivations of characters, and add color and detail to locations.  A good timeline assists in the visualization of those through lines that intersect important moments and tie characters to the important events.  As you can see from the image, Aeon provides an impressive level of exactness.

It’s also great because you can customize the calendar to suit a fantasy world with its own days, months and eras.  So, if instead of B.C. and A.D., I want the years to be broken into the “Age of Serpents”, the “Septumbran Age”, and the “Second Scattering”, I can do that.  I can have three months in a year or thirty.  My week can have days named “Thursday” or “Kingsday” or “Ralph”.  (I’m still trying to come up with a good setting where a day named Ralph makes sense.)

I guess this is where I tie this post in with my previous one about maps: the visual and linguistic crossover makes some sort of synergistic hokum that induces some full-brain nonsense.  In reality, I think the appeal of visualization tools is as simple as the fact that writing is wholly conceptual (that is to say, words on a page require you to create your own images of things described), and any way I can make concrete those ideas—even if only as a reference for myself—facilitates the process of writing.

Which reminds me … I should be writing.

Trying the WordPress/Twitter publicize connection doohickey. Let the magic begin.

Glyphs, maps and imaginary places

A peek inside my Moleskine

Hand-drawn maps are a passion of mine. This is Glyph’s.

Writing a fantasy novel is a great excuse to draw some maps.  Not that I need an excuse.

It may be trite, but that doesn’t make it any less true: writing a novel is very much the same as undertaking a long journey.  I suppose the clichéd metaphor would be that writing is a journey inside yourself.  In any case, most journeys benefit from the use of a map; either you bring one to chart your course, or you create one as you go to record your progress.  When writing fantasy, the connection between the journey and the map is perfectly apt: maps are more than helpful—they help define the world you create.

Also, I have always loved maps.  I inherited an ancient globe from my parents—one that shows such long-lost places as Siam, East Germany and the U.S.S.R—and would spend hours poring over the names and shapes, tracing rivers and imaginary routes across oceans.  The hefty world atlas was another treasure trove of information.  Maps appealed, assuming subscription to an antiquated psychological theory, to both halves of my brain: there was language and history and art there, in the names and descriptions and graphical elements, but that information was presented logically, geometrically (well, geographically).  Maps are a perfect amalgam of creative expression and science, both a recording of facts and a work of art.  Gazing at them took my wee brain to places I’d never been or imagined.  Because I’ve always created my own imaginary worlds, drawing my own maps was part of a natural progression.

I began this particular story, Glyph, without a concrete sense of place.  I had a list of place names in mind, and a selection of settings for specific scenes.  As I began writing in November (taking part in the 2014 NaNoWriMo Challenge), the shape of the world—and, consequently, the map of that world—began to coalesce.  That’s when the scribbling began.  As you can see, the map of Glyph is a work in progress.  As the story becomes more defined, so does the map, which then becomes a reference for further narrative planning.  Helpful, yes?

This parallel map-story synergy has not always been my process.  Planning for a comic I’m writing has included creating a fictional city and all its landmarks; I’m drawing a Google Maps-esque reference on the iPad to anchor the story and give it a sense of place.  I also have a much larger, more elaborate fantasy map tucked away somewhere, designed originally for a roleplaying campaign I ran in high school.  I created it for a world called Syskuun, and I would love to revisit the place in writing one day.  But one universe at a time, I suppose.

My passion for maps also bleeds over into my game design.  One idea I have in the works involves a set of area-control games played on a map of Portland; I have a prototype map of the city, divided into neighborhoods and ready to be printed, in electronic format.  Another idea I’ve been toying with is a semi-collaborative game that begins with players creating the map of a fantasy realm, which then becomes the board upon which the game is played.  And then there’s my urban development game that sees players building a city, block by block and street by street, on a grid of colorful squares.

Why stop at games?  Couldn’t one use a map to describe a person just as easily a city, country or world?  Perhaps, in my copious free time, I should draw up a map of my life.  I could chart the places I’ve lived (many) and visited (numerous but not far-flung), tying in pertinent information to describe to a viewer a little about who I am.  The axes of the map needn’t be geographic, either; rather than north-south vs. east-west, I could plot accomplishments vs. adversity.  Or time vs. happiness.  Or any of a number of data, rendered in such a way as to explain one or two aspects of my history, values, personality or interests to a stranger.  A chart of myself.  We’re back to inner journeys now.  These posts are best when they come full circle, aren’t they?

Pardon the sawdust

I’m not entirely sold on this WordPress theme.  It’s a little loud and busy.  I like the backgrounds but it’s probably too distracting.

So, I’ll probably be rotating others in and out to test the look of other themes.  Do not be alarmed.  Thank you for your patience.

What in hell is a Glyphstone?

For starters, it’s the fourth (fifth?) incarnation of my blog.  Reinvention seems to be a habit for the virtual me.  Maybe this time I’ll get it right.

I ditched the Drupal setup in favor of WordPress because, as flexible as Drupal is, I don’t have the time to tweak it to perfection.  Plus, making HTML5 and jQuery work perfectly in all browsers is a headache.  Again, not enough time.  Other things to do.

Glyph stones are also a big part of the novel I’m currently writing.  As are magic, giant serpents, winged maidens, talking animals and islands in the sky.  Stay tuned.

Good things are in the works.  I’m feeling erudite, so it must be time to blog again.  It may also be time to share game design tidbits, worldbuilding insights, scraps of poetry, photographs and works of art.  In dribs and drabs, mind you.  No promises.  The proper rites must be observed.

Greetings and welcome!