donderdag 28 juni 2012

The Author's Dread: Trademarks and Copyright

Curse Redirected To Myself
This was an issue I had for a very long time. What can I publish without losing all right to my story? What can I use in my story without getting sued? The legalese maze of our society is a dread to creativity that creates fear, dread even, in the creative mind and yet we need it so hard ourself (Curse Redirected To Myself). So how does this trademark and copyright thing work?

I want to use something I think is copyrighted/trademarked in my novel/story/project?
For example you want to write about someone drinking coca cola in your novel. That's perfectly ok, you don't have to write a polite letter asking for permission. Can I please use your product in my story? Yes, you can. Let the people in your story drink as much coke as they want. One exception: Defamation. No, coca cola is not made with human blood. You can't write it is in your novel, because this harms the company and the product. You won't be charged for copyright infringement, you'll be sued for defamation.

I want to cite something from another story, my character wants to read a passage from another book. Is this copyright infringement?
Under terms, no. You have to stylize it as quoted. You have to explicitly mention its source and do not have the right to claim its contents as your own.

Can I use a name from another story in my own story?
Eep, stop. This one's a pitfall. If the name is commonly used, yes (most names on the databases are this). If the name is unique (for example Gandalf), no. There's an exception to this once more. If you explicitly state that the name originates from the source (for example a character was named after the character from a book, because the book also exists in your writing universe). A character named after Gandalf is ok, if The Lord of the Rings is a book that exists in your universe and you state it so.

I've heard about coined words. Can these be used freely?
Coined words, or words created by an author, also known as neologisms, can be used freely. Unlike names, authors have little power over these words. So the word snark (C.S Lewis) can be used in your novel.

How do I preserve my own copyright?
The greatest issue for any writer.
Placing something in public domain ruins your copyright. The internet, newspapers, media (unless you got paid for publishing and got a contract) are usually considered public domain.
The best way to keep your copyright for yourself is finishing your novel and only ever sending it partially out to publishers. Letting other people proofread is ok, but outside the public domain.

Special thanks to Uncle Orson's Writing Class and the explanations of legalese terms on wikipedia.

woensdag 27 juni 2012

Stories, a part of ourselves

Which person will you be?
Today I made a birthday present for my best friend. She's been sick for a very long time and she means a lot to me. This article won't be exactly about that but about how these things relate to my writing. It's commonly known that a lot of writers use elements from their environment to enrich their stories. For my own writing that's no different. People who mean a lot to me, be they friends or family, get the offer to make their own character in my stories. The role they get in the stories is in relationship to what they mean to me. Because of this, my stories are a reflection of my environment, my relationships and myself. A good story, according to myself, has a very personal touch from its author and this only works whenever the experience or characteristic is real or based upon reality. Try to find a healthy balance between fiction and non-fiction.

'Most people' start out by writing their emotions down on paper. What discerns a good writer from 'most people' is his ability to weave them around the foundation of his story.

donderdag 21 juni 2012

Happy Birthday Pherione and the importance of days

Wikipedia gives an example, summer solstice over Stonehenge
Today is my birthday, other important event today is the summer solstice or the longest day of the year (on this part of the planet, Australians deem it a less favourable day as it is winter there). Any special character births, events and/or planet alignments just have to happen on such kind of day, simply because the words 'Summer Solstice' sound so awesome. Many cultures celebrate the Summer Solstice, both modern and pagan.

The Summer Solstice is the day the sceptre was stolen from the Tower of Stars, the Airship Oberon was finished and the day the Solar Guards were founded. I try making things as meaningful as possible in my writing projects so that includes the date things happen. You may know Oberon from 'A midsummer night's dream' . (The Oberon is one of two airships; the other is conveniently named Titania). The reason why the Solar Guards have been founded on the longest day of summer is probably clear to everyone.
A midsummer night's dream

You don't have to stick to existing important days either; just add your own. The day this or that war ended is perfectly fine.The Daban Tournament of Heroes was held to commemorate the day the Earthlings were swept back where they came from exactly one year ago. Of course it turns out there's a bit of a catch to that, but I won't spoil things here. It's merely the fact that meanings of certain days carry a load with them and when you place an event on such a meaningful day, it transfers some of that meaning onto the event. The things that happen would mean a lot less if they simply happen on any day. The Oberon could've been finished on any day, but as an author I chose this particular day because the story takes place on the midsummer day. A second reason to have the Oberon constructed on the longest day was because the people who built it are the master timekeepers, the Chronicans. To them, time is more important than to you and me. They live and breathe the meaning of time and time itself.

For people who wish to read more about time, I recommend my post: time, history and why it's a scam.

vrijdag 15 juni 2012

Time, history and why it's a scam

Today's Writer Quarter is about a very interesting subject: Time and History. Ok, now that half of the reading audience has fled, allow me to continue.
When dealing with history and time as a writer it's important to know that history is never objective. It is a composition of opinions, what people think happened supported by vague evidence, usually influenced by the strongest opinions of the current time. Dominant civilizations and species get a head-start in history-writing.

The design of history
Why Historia is a scam.
Because not everyone is Greek that is.
There are many historians in the Otherworld Tales. Mythridius of Antia made an attempt at categorizing the ages, though it was not until author Henry Dale's On Immortals, that the intro-existential times were added to the current timeline. Timekeeping and history-writing are like their subjects: ever changing.

When creating history for your story, even if it's in a place unlike ours, it's important to observe how history is being recorded in the contemporary time scale. You can take a timeline and chop it up in several chunks that are just as large as the other. People who look closer at the timeline however, shall find it quite different.
There is a process of relativity in it. The closer you get to the present, the smaller the chunks get. This is because time is divided based upon major events in history. The closer to the present an event lies, the greater its impact on our lives and the greater the importance it is attributed. Historians believe it is a major event and thus make it a timeline-separator. The deeper we go into the past, the less important it seems for us; it was just another war. The people from that age might've found it mighty important, but to us it is just another date in history text books, hence why only the really big events eventually divide time towards the past.

Another thing to be noticed, is that most era's have a rise, pinnacle, fall tendency like a Gaussian curve. The modern age, for example, is often divided into three parts. Pre-modern, modern and post-modern. With this categorization, people refer to the power of our current dominant economic system and while capitalism is still fairly dominant these days and it is unlikely to disappear entirely, there is a tendency towards a more social model. For those unaware, we are currently in the post-modern age in the current timeline. Of course not every age is drawn out according to its economic model, the classic age was mostly based on the Greek and West-Roman empires (as the East-Roman Empire existed long into the Middle Ages), but it was once more designed according to a Gaussian curve.

Third and last, the terminology in history is dependent upon location and time itself. Other civilizations have a different time-keeping method (for example the Chinese or the Mayan cultures) and during the Enlightened Era in western Europe, the Middle Ages were pejoratively (and unfairly) known as the Dark Ages. Our name for that time, the Middle Ages, is actually a negative term by itself, although the semantic load (or meaning) has been lightened through time.

The design of time
Why time is a scam.
Chronicans may be master-timekeepers, but it is obvious that they will never achieve their goal of perfectly recording time. It is impossible to record the smallest unit of time, nor is it possible to build a clock that doesn't have to be adjusted. Observing time perfectly would require one to escape time, as one would need to get out of a box to see the outside.

I stated time and history are scams, but the real point to it is that our methods of tracking them are imperfect. We can try to comprehend time, we can try to write as much as we can about history. But perfect timekeeping and history is unrealistic. If, as a writer, you do not have a legit explanation to why this is so, then do not give characters in your universe the exact timeline. The perfect timeline is the author's tool, you can use it to build up your story, so unless your character is the most brilliant mind in the universe, his view on time is just as screwed up as ours on our own time.

For people looking for great time recording tools, I recommend this website, entirely free and easy to use and implement into other websites:

woensdag 13 juni 2012

The meaning of names, george and other evil alien overlords

My first topic in the Design Quarter will be about names. Why names? Because it is one of the most underrated things for writers starting out for the first time. Giving the names in your world a meaning adds an extra dimension to your story. Don't just think about character names here, this is also true for location names, object names and so on.

With everything that has ever been written about writing this is a truth: there are no rules and exceptions are everywhere. All I'm giving are guidelines of my own, a vision on the way I work my stories and I'm not even always using this method. You need to have a bit of a feeling of your own about what's appropriate and what not.

Where to get names?
Names can be found anywhere. You can use names around you, check birth lists, delve into the depths of history or scour geographical maps. I recommend the following websites for person names:

Another important thing when looking for names is to think broad. The history you were taught in school is not the only history. What was the rest of the world doing while the Romans conquered the Mediterranean? What was going on elsewhere during the 2 world wars? You can also dig into obscure folklore, legends and traditions. It's not like the entire world knows where the name of the city Antwerp comes from. (disregarding those people who believe that Belgium is the capital city of a country named Europe...)

How to choose names?
George, dragon slayer or alien overlord?
Try to keep your names consistent.
Don't call the evil alien overlord "George", unless you're designing something humoristic. Keep your landmarks within the cultural context you meant them for; don't screw with unrealistic technology too much.

You can try to choose names that tell you something about the character.
George, for example, means farmer or earth worker. He is associated with earth, but also with the Saint that slew a dragon and several British monarchs. Therefore it is safe to use the name George for someone that is quite literally a farmer, a dragon-associated person, a saint, a king, but also with an earth-element magician.

Don't be afraid to go cross-language.
The world is multicultural and multilingual so planets of hats aren't exactly the right thing to have in a realistic setting. (the amount of Englands in fantasy is uncountable)

Give things a full name and give everything a name. 
No one has just a first name or just a last name. Give persons both. If a name is hard to pronounce, add a nickname too, just like people would in real life. Endearing names for loved ones should be taken into account as well. Don't forget locations either in this one, everyone will probably know where the big apple is.

Other things to consider

Have fun with it. You're still the designer. It's ok to make hidden jokes with your names. Have people complain about their name. Make puns, anagrams, word jokes, you name it. George might be a dragon slayer, but maybe he doesn't like his name? Or he doesn't want to be a dragon slayer at all?

I'll try to give a specific example of naming when I create a character from scratch in one of my Dev Diary topics for the people who want a more practical example and to end my article about names, a fitting quote from Ian McEwan, British novelist and screenwriter.

It is not the first duty of the novelist to provide blueprints for insurrection, or uplifting tales of successful resistance for the benefit of the opposition. The naming of what is there is what is important.
-Ian McEwan

People who think they know where the name of Antwerp comes from, feel free to place a comment. I know it's pretty well known in Belgium itself, yet I found it a fitting challenge for the rest of the world :-)

maandag 11 juni 2012

Homo Emet and Stories hidden within.

Today I started the day with the creation of a wiki page (on my private wiki) of the 'Golem'. It is clearly inspired by the clay man from the stories about rabbi Löw, though I gave it a twist to integrate them into the story plot. The Golem or Homo Emet was created after the iconic duel in the skies between my main protagonist and antagonist in 1925.

Rabbi Löw and the golem of Prague
The golems live a secluded life afterwards in their city in the Eidolon Grotto around the sword Emet and only reappear by the end of the story in the far future when the adventurers of that time seek powerful weapons.

The Homo Emet, the sword Emet...for those of you that are familiar with the stories of the Golem, they'll know it means 'truth' and it is the word carved in the forehead of the golem. Another thing you might recognize in the novel is 'the sword in the stone' as the golems fail to unearth the sword that created them and the one that would manage to do so shall lead the golems.

I implement a lot of these old legends, fairy tales and folklore, both obscure and famous and I hope that my story will be a double journey because of this. A journey with the main protagonist through an amazing world and a journey for the reader to old stories about mythical creatures, locations and a forgotten history whilst keeping things enjoyable for those unfamiliar with these tales. It is also my hope that those people will be piqued by curiosity and stroll through these layers upon layers of stories and meanings...

Welcome to the Otherworld Tales Public Blog

The Otherworld Tales is a sprawling, dynamic and expansive sci-fi/fantasy universe in my own head. Currently there are a novel and rmxp game under production that take place in this setting as well as a short-novel in a planning phase.

This blog shall consist of 2 major parts: The Dev Diary and The Design Quarter.

The Dev Diary will be a personal view on the development process, I'll tell you what occupies me at that moment. As such it'll be more varied and subjective. I'll tell you about the specific characters and species, the locations and the story plot material. If you wish to have a detailed image of the story, this will be your part of the blog.

The Design Quarter on the other hand will be an overview on the technical aspects of development. How do multiverses and omniverses work? How were scientific models blended with fairytale materials? If you want to know more about the how of the development process, this will be the place the search.

Neither part of the blog will contain major spoilers so they're safe to read and won't ruin the reading/playing experience.

Happy Reading!