Medieval World Building
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For people who write medieval fantasy, play medieval rpgs, and the people who read or play those worlds. For me, the medieval world is 1066 to 1509, b...

Lesson From Arrow II

I’ve written about the elements I enjoyed about the CW show Arrow, lessons that I took away as a writer. Now it’s probably worth writing about what made me lose interest.

I mentioned in the last post that I get bored with shows and books easily. I’m not what you would call a completist at this stage of my life. Time is just too valuable to stick with an entertainment franchise that is not delivering. Having said that, I was really into Arrow, even when they sometimes jumped the shark (as all shows will). So why did I quit after the season seven opener?

The main reason, I suppose, was Felicity. When she was cute, funny, and off-the-wall I found her adorable. She changed over time, and that is fine. Characters have arcs, and they are not the same people at both ends of the curve. In this case, however, I discovered that I didn’t particularly care for the person who who landed at the far end of the line.

It’s important to note that the writers didn’t owe me a character that I liked. It was not their job to give me what I want, but what their creative vision was. Fan service is the swiftest path to being a hack, after all. It’s not the actresses fault, because I’m sure she delivered the performance that was written for her.

I could have lived with one of the show’s stars that I didn’t like anymore. No problem. However, all the painfully convoluted “will-they-won’t-they” plot lines really got on my nerves. That stuff verges more on melodrama, and I don’t like melodrama. It seemed to me that they only reunited Oliver and Felicity when nobody cared anymore. Well, at least I didn’t care by then.

I’m sorry if this sounds unduly harsh, because these kind of situations are television show standards. It can be handled well, and it can be bungled up. It’s funny, but now that I think about it, this show shared the same faults with the Ross/Rachel relationship on Friends, and the Nyles/Daphney storyline on Frasier. Both shows were very successful, and both are show I bailed on by the last season.

Do you think I’m being fair? Should I have toughed it out for one more season? From what I can see, dropping the show and moving on was very much in character for me.

More Writerly Observations

Now that the show Arrow is over, a retrospective would be nice. That is not what this is. I really enjoyed the show, although I have not seen the last season and a half, nor have I seen the latest crossover “Crises of Infinite Earths.” I may watch them at some point, but maybe not. I was really invested in the show, but there are reasons I jumped ship, and that makes for good writerly advice.

The first thing I noticed in this series was what I now realize is a CW trope–expand the cast with pretty people. Apparently, an ensemble cast makes for much more content and interpersonal interaction than having a show based around a single star and a loosely connected supporting cast. This makes good sense, because what better way to reflect upon your title character than with strong supporting characters.

The second thing I noticed was how the writers reinterpreted the source material. They took a relatively straightforward origin and then they grew it into a five year globe-trotting super origin. They visited this again and again in flashback sequences, and even made the island in question into an ongoing plot point and symbolic return to story’s core element. The island became a crucible in which multiple story arcs, and characters, were cast.

The third thing I picked up on is related to the second. When the writers reinterpreted the characters, they multiplied them. Speedy became two different characters, and the Black Canary became three instead of one. All the characters now had parents and siblings. And, if that weren’t enough, some of the characters even ended up having secret illegitimate parents, and there were secret kids who were raised in seclusion from their half brothers and sisters. The evil clone or twin element even came into it through adventures in multiple universes.

Here’s my takeaway: All this was good for the show, and made for fun television. You can learn a lot by taking a good look at your own creative ideas or properties and broadening them. Maybe you don’t want to go as far as the CW trope, but adding to your cast of characters will probably introduce a trove of new ideas.

When I revisit this subject, I will probably touch on the themes and symbolism in Arrow, and the reasons why I eventually stopped watching.

Observations & Lessons

I’m reading G.R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first book in his massive fantasy epic. I know I’m a decade behind the curve on this, but I enjoyed the first season of the show, so I thought I would make the plunge. I’ve never read any of Martin’s other works, so this was bound to be a learning venture from the beginning.

And, dare I say, I have indeed learned a lot. Martin really knows his way around words, and he writes a gripping tale. I’m only 145 pages in, but I’m easily bored by such things, and I have a bad habit of dropping novels or tv shows that lose my interest. So, why have I been sticking with GOT?

My first answer should be pretty obvious, I think. The chapters are short, the story really fast moving, and the writing somewhat propulsive. These short chapters remind me in a way of the stylized pulp writing of Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files. Those books are more formulaic, and they feature short chapters that each end of a cliffhanger, resolve it in the next chapter only to end in another, maybe worse cliffhanger, again and again till done. Butcher’s work is designed to keep you engaged and keep flipping the pages.

GOT does this too, although I would say it’s a little less by the numbers in doing so.

Martin doesn’t weigh you down with exposition. There’s a rich history in Westeros, and a detailed world out there, but he lets the reader put it together in bits and pieces. There’s a cumulative buildup of setting, and it never outweighs the narrative. For example, he gives you enough background on each character to identify with, but not too much. We are not given long treatises on Westeros facial hair styles, or specific clothing styles, or the anatomy and life-cycle of dire wolves, or religious hierarchy, etc.

Martin gives the reader a strong impression of each of the characters and their world. We know Sansa is ladylike, Arya is a tomboy, Jon is kind and idealistic, and so forth. I doubt I could remember any of their eye colors, or hair styles, or whatever, but I remember the characters and their key elements. Martin lets the reader fill in the blanks, and because that’s the way our minds work, by inference, we do.

In effect, is Martin is more interested in telling a ripping good yarn than being an educator. Yes, we get the education as we advance into his setting, but it is never pedantic or dry. He gives us the tools to piece Westeros together as he propels the story along.

Lastly, I will say that while his writing style is not sparse, neither is Martin’s prose purple. It is well crafted and muscular. He does not appear to be attempting full on literature, dazzling us with insights and poetic turns of phrase, but he chugs along happily within genre writing. He seems more intent on entertaining readers than impressive literary critics.

Caveat: All opinions are my own. I come late to the world of GOT, and you may see it very differently than I do. That’s fine.

New Video!

Good morning, my capacious and collegiate confreres!

This latest video is the Medieval Room’s floor installation. It’s a doozy!

Since this video, I have been bringing books and furniture. Whew! What a job!

Assorted Commentary

Good morning, all my friends, fresh, foul, and furtive!

Yesterday I was quite saddened to learn of the passing of Terry Jones. Much has been made of his Monte Python association, and well it should. I grew up on that show, as did so many other people in my generation. It, Bennie Hill, and the Goodies were my introduction to British humor and absurdity. In more recent times, I connected with Jones on his books and television series on Medieval Lives. These were educational and entertaining, spiced with the Mr. Jones’ peculiar wit. R.I.P., Terry Jones.

Last night I took my second blacksmith class at the Indianapolis Art Center. My fellow students and the instructor Erik Shotwell are all very pleasant and fun to be around. Again, I learned a lot.

There are a few takeaways in it for me. First, I need to slow down a little bit, and stop competing with other students, and not show off. I’m a quick learner, but this is still a new medium for me, and no one expects me to be an instant prodigy. I judge my progress a little harshly sometimes. I need to remember that slow and steady is the key to proficiency.

Sorry I haven’t posted art lately. I’ve made it, for sure, but its all been of the research and note taking type, and meant more to focus my thoughts than be finished pieces of work.

This Week, Jan 20 2020

Hello, my fine friends! It’s a new week, and there is a lot of fun stuff going on. First up, Benita and I have a new video:

This project was really fun, and it was a whole load of effort! We are working on the flooring video now, and we are both sore! We plan to keep these videos coming as we delve further into medieval history.

I began putting my notes together yesterday researching another series I’m making for Youtube. We are still hashing out the details, but it’s going to be around artist appreciation. More on this as it develops.

I sent my first four columns off to Bob Hickey yesterday for Shoutfyre. I make a pretty strong start, and I look forward to promoting them as they open up for business. I already have four more columns in the oven! After more than two decades in the indie comic field, I’ve got a lot to write about.

Story Studios presents Changing of the Guard is up for sale in the Kindle store on Amazon, but I have not promoted it much yet because I don’t have the print version available yet. Time caught up with me, interrupting my learning curve on formatting, so I hired the ever-skilled A.P. Fuchs to do my formatting this time around. It’s all coming together quite soon, and that’s when the official launch for the book happens.

I’ve been watching the Witcher sporadically. I’m four episodes in, and I’m digging it. The chronology is confusing and hard to suss out, to be honest, because the show jumps around in time a lot. I guess you could say there are lots of long, flashback story arcs, but nothing in the show to indicate that time frames have shifted. I can live with that, I guess. The costuming is gorgeous, and Henry Cavill seems born for the role.

I’m busy reading the first book of the Song of Fire and Ice, that being A Game of Thrones. It reads beautifully. Since the book is so long, I didn’t expect the actual prose itself to be so tight and propulsive, but it is. So far, I can see that the early episodes of the TV series stuck to the book pretty closely. I’m happy with my choice to pick this series up.

Thursday, Thursday…

Greetings and felicitations, my fine inter web friends! Lots of cool stuff going on!

Spire City Noir no. 2 is off to the printer. There were times it seemed like this was never going to happen, but it it has, and it is. I’ve ordered a proof copy to make sure it’s all right and good to go, then go we shall! Steven is hard at work on issue 3, and I’m throwing some last minute TLC on the script for that issue. It’s epic.

Last night I took the first of many classes on blacksmithing. Yeah, blacksmithing! I’ve always wanted to learn, so Benita signed me up at the the Indianapolis Art Center. I even tried my hand at it (in a very untutored way) when I was a kid, but that was a spectacular fail. I’m not sure what projects I’m going to make, but my vote is for a rush light holder. Very medieval.

Things are moving along very well with the new medieval room. If this is news to you, it goes like this–in my studios I made a medieval corner for all my medieval themed toys, art, books, etcetera. There was never enough room for all of it, especially once I realized that I was really digging back into that time period. So, we set aside a poorly used room as the new medieval room. We have called the old room “that room at the top of the stairs” for 25 years now. It was never well utilized, but now it’s a design challenge!

Medieval Mayhem!

Last night, as I was doing some research, I wondered where my fascination with medieval history began. My first thought was that it must be a Dungeons and Dragons thing, but then I remembered that wasn’t it. Not by a long shot.

Thomas Becket Shrine

I remember finding a copy of Thomas Malory’s Le Mort D’Arthur at my house when I was growing up, and I was transfixed! I was probably about nine or ten years old, and what could be better than the romanticized adventures of knights and heroes and villains! I still have that book and treasure it. I also found my first copy of Don Quixote in those old books, and devoured that too. Even as a kid, the parody aspect of that book was not lost on me.

Then I met the Sword and Sorcery genre. I remember well Robert E. Howard’s Conan books, many of them pastiches by other authors. Then came the books of Michael Moorcock, most notably the Elric books, but also the Corum and Hawkmoon series. Then came the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillian.

J.R.R. Tolkein’s books had a big impact on my life. I honestly believe that everything I have learned about loyalty, friendship, and duty came from those stories. Now, in far retrospect, I would not call the LOTR cycle “medieval,” but I would say it represents a story for the so-called Dark Ages.

Short Digression: As far as I’m concerned, what we call the Middle Ages begins with the Norman Conquest in 1066, and ends with the reign of Henry VII in 1509. After that, you get a Renaissance king, Henry VIII. Anyway, for my own purposes, I call the period between Roman Britain and the Norman Conquest the Dark Ages, and do not consider them “Medieval.” You can try to change my mind, I don’t care.

When I was about fifteen, or maybe fourteen, some nearby friends Ed Trout and his brother Ken Trout introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons. I would have to ask Ed, but I think this was around 1978, more likely 1979. I was hooked in a big way. In fact, I played tabletop role-playing games avidly from then till about 2000. I made many life-long friends playing RPGs. I laugh now, but there are whole generations of people whose preconceived ideas about the medieval period are based on D&D.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note the Deryni books of Katherine Kurtz. I got these in my early twenties, and they were a big influence on me. I’m thinking of rereading them in order, to be honest. Benita introduced me to them, and for that I can never thank her enough.

Dover Castle

In my mid-twenties I went back to college, this time going for a degree in medieval history. This was a rich learning experience, and academically I got to shine in a way I never had before. I had some outstanding professors, especially Dr. Kenneth Cutler. He’s long retired, and I’m not sure if he’s still alive. I couldn’t find him looking online.

When I went back to college, this was all in the time prior to the internet. I was almost done with my degree when the professors first got email! Anyway, I managed to get by as best I could without much access to primary sources and limited availability of the books I needed. Now, with the internet, it’s all scanned and easily available, most of it for free! My medieval education has been just as intense in these last few years with material gleaned off the world wide web as it was in my college days.

Around age 30, I started participating in the Society of Creative Anachronism. It was not an all-together positive experience. After having had two serious cases of sun stroke, my body couldn’t handle the heat of armor, and I got sick several times trying to learn how to fight. It took me some time to realize it, but physically I was not up rigors of this martial art. Oddly enough, I believe I could handle it just fine now, but in my 50’s I’m in better shape than I was then.

The people in the Society of Creative Anachronism were friendly and inviting, and I was tempted to stay on explore the non-combat elements of the group. I did not find anyone in the group with a serious drive for history, unfortunately–these were not scholars, but semi-informed enthusiasts. That may sound critical on my part, but I don’t mean it that way. The SCA was a gateway to Medieval learning, and that’s fantastic. After the last time I tossed my cookies at a meetup, I stopped going. I never did try to certify as a fighter, because I never went to any of the big events where that was done.

If I had it to do over, would I have approached the whole thing differently? Sure. I could have been a friendly ambassador for history, I could have done so many non-combat things. I could have written articles for their publications. But, ces’t la vie.

The next stop on my medievalist path was a trip to Britain. I think I was about 27, and my grandparents sent me, Benita, my mom, and my step-dad, Floyd, to England for ten days. It was a fantastic trip that is forever burned into my memory. I am an Anglophile, through and through. Benita and I ran around inside castles and cathedrals, and I remember the first time I touched a stone tower wall that had been there since the medieval times.

Highlights of the trip include Lincoln, Canterbury, Salisbury, London, Dover, and Edinburgh. Castles, Cathedrals, and Chapels Oh my!

After this, I took about a two-decade break from all things medieval. I was busy trying to establish my career in indie comics, after all. My passion really reignited when Benita introduced me to the British television show Time Team. I love that show, and have seen all of them (I think). Not long after that I remember getting my first longbow, the type used in the middle ages, and taking up traditional archery.

Then came the Book of Lists.

The BOL is my insane attempt to marshal medieval terminology, history, and material culture. All of it. Really, every last bit. This book is not done, and it should take years to finish, but it’s aimed at writers and gamers who want to understand the very cool options hidden in history. Honestly, the deeper you dig, the more you realize that actual medieval history has many more cool options than Dungeons & Dragons or Lord of the Rings ever touch on. There is a wealth of cool jobs, technology, magic, and material culture in there!

So, that’s where I’ll leave it. I’m sure there are going to many more medieval-based adventures and by-ways for me to explore. I’m ready now. 

Cool Reviews, Fun Stuff!

Hello, all you fine examples of human development.

I’ve got three lovely reviews for the advance copies of Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard.

Kevin T. Phillips 5.0 out of 5 stars

Fast-paced and visceral, this action-packed story even tugs at the heartstrings

Make no mistake, this is a superhero story. The author doesn’t try to hide it, but he also doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence. It’s a damn GOOD superhero story, with richly drawn characters, well-developed backstories and believable subplots. The author (the aptly-named Scott Story) has a sense of humor about his subject matter: The superheroes have sometimes silly names, weird powers, and inter-relate in a larger-than-life social pecking order. But they also feel pain, both physical and emotional from their conflicts and the body augmentation many have had to endure to become the heroes and villains of the world they live in. Scott is great at describing these epic battles and the destruction left in their wake, but he is equally good at chilling the spine with more horrific sequences when he delves into the supernatural, because these forces also exist in abundance in Spire City: Crystal Skulls, Druids, Thought-beasts and even hints of Lovecraftian horror! Is the best yet to come? I’m sure of it!

P. Mccall 5.0 out of 5 stars

Vivd descriptions, Punchy plot, a joy to read!

Changing of the Guard (Spire City Noir Book 1) is a continuation of the Story’s long running graphic novel adventure featuring their main hero/anti hero Johnny Saturn this time in prose form. The prose can be described as purple in the best terms, that is to say vivd and colorful. You can feel the sweat, the grime and the atmosphere oozes. There are also several pen and ink character portraits illustrating the book which helps defines the reader’s “skull cinema”. Five stars, two thumbs up, full marks on any scale.

Ian T. Healy5.0 out of 5 stars

Rollicking good fun

This is a fun collection of superhero yarns that has a strong four-color influence. If you grew up reading comics in the 70s and 80s, or read them now fondly, you will enjoy this book. Scott and Benita weave a fantastic, detailed world where superheroes and supervillains have epic battles with tremendous stakes, and at the same time have powerful character moments.

2020? Yeah!

Hello, intrepid people who follow this blog!

I’m not writing one of those “this is my plans for the new year” kind of things, because I’ve had all this planned out for a few years, and 2020 is going to be a continuation and finishing-up type of year. I’m all about wrapping up ongoing projects! I’ve been working at it hard, and I’ve finished a lot this year, and next year is more of the same!

One thing is sure–this is going to be a year of writing! Between this blog, the several novels I’m working on, the blog I’m going to be doing on Shoutfyre, and my forthcoming newsletter, I should be writing everyday. A lot.

Benita made me a Johnny Saturn stuffie! Johnny Saturnball! (I painted his eyes, and I didn’t even know it was for me! Sneaky Benita!)

2019 has been the year of pen-and-ink for me, and I’ve increased my skill and technique in this medium exponentially. Here’s my latest, a fantasy character from an upcoming novel.

Lot’s going on, so I’m going to present my thoughts in a free-form blast of cognition.In a couple weeks, I’m beginning in a 7-week blacksmithing course. Very exciting, I must say. I’ve done a little of this (very little) in the past, so I’m really looking forward to learning more.

Steven Dotey has gotten me the rest of the pages for our collaborative effort, so I expect to be sending this issue off to the printer early this week, and following it up with a guided view digital version. Pretty cool.

Benita is still hard at work formatting the print version of Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard. Will it be done in time for Near Year’s day? The runes say no, but very soon.

I’ve been eyeball deep in some crazy Medieval research lately, where no fact is too obscure if it’s cool. It’s a bit of an obsession.

One thing I’ve always believed: that my degree in Medieval history was not wasted, even if it didn’t teach me how to fix cars, re-wire a house, or program a computer. Yes, those things might have made me much more money, but the lifetime of satisfaction that it has given me is worth more than money.

Here’s something very cool–Benita bought me a wooden trebuchet kit! I had fun building it over about an hour-and-a-half, and I think it’s time to test it out now that the glue has dried. Huzzah!

Hey Oh! Today is All About Me

Greetings, fellow people!

Today is my birthday (I’m double nickels young), so this is my personal beginning of a new year.

First up, who am I?

My name is Scott Story, and I am an author, artist, historian, Medievalist, introvert, mentor, musician, and student. I am not the student in any particular institute of higher learning, but I am an avid student of life.

What does that mean? Student of life? It equates to a couple of things. First, it means that no knowledge is wasted, so if I learn about subjects outside my bailiwick then that data is still absorbed and will probably surface at some point in my creative output. Second, it means that I pursue information on these subjects:

Medieval History, Zeppelins, World War II, Guitar, Bible History, Egyptology, Theology, Dinosaurs, the Paranormal, Mythology, Science, and so forth. When it comes to the paranormal specifically, I’m all for ghost stories, magick, the “real” history of mankind, Christian mythology, the ancient astronaut hypothesis, symbolism, UFOs, and whatever else grabs my attention.

A few caveats: Just because I study the paranormal does not necessarily mean I’m “believer.” What I believe is irrelevant. What makes mind-popping ideas, however, is the key, because my creativity is often fueled by wild ideas. I’m an artist and author, and fringe ideas really get me going.

A lot of people don’t understand the term “Christian Mythology,” so I’ll set the record straight. I’m Christian, always have been, always will be, that’s that. Still, there is a wide world of myths associated with Christianity that may or may not have a basis in reality. The Spear of Longinus? The Shroud? the Book of Enoch? The Wandering Jew? These are the very tip of the iceberg that is Christian Mythology. This is stuff that you won’t hear about in Sunday School! I love this stuff.

What else do you need to know about me? Um, I love cats, and just about all animals. I love going to antique malls, books stores, and art supply stores. I have a collection of teddy bears and toy dinosaurs. I am an Anglophile, and love most things British. I love trains, railroad history, and toy trains.

What else? I’ve always wanted to build a building from scratch. I’ve always wanted to learn blacksmithing, and medieval swordplay and fighting. I have always wanted a live-steam locomotive and railroad track for it. I’ve always wanted a Stratocaster Guitar, or a Les Paul Guitar, and a big tube amp. I always wanted to be in a rock band.

I think that about covers it. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s good for now.

Art Studio Tour

Hello! I thought I would post something special today, and that’s a tour of my art studio. Maybe I should rename it the Scott Story Art Facility on the Story Studios Campus? No? Ok.

There are a lot of toys in this room, as well as owls, superheroes, and great natural light. These days I even have houseplants (not pictured). It’s a great place for me and my studio cats to hang out, listen to podcasts, and be creative.