Writing Through the Gloom

Here’s a quote from another fantastic guest post on Chuck Wendig’s website. This one’s from Michael J. Martinez, and it’s about how to write while the world burns:

So my own answer is to get down to it and create the adventures that my readers seem to like from my work, all while making sure that the ideas behind it and the values I believe in are reflected therein – without overshadowing the story, of course, because ultimately, the story is paramount. That’s it. No silver bullet. Sorry.

It seems like every day is a new punch in the gut. Bald-faced lies, hurricanes, grand juries, floods, riots, earthquakes, hatred, heat waves, bigotry, human rights violations, forest fires, fascists and racists and Nazis… oh, my. Rudeness, cruelty, and willful ignorance as far as the eye can see. You have to worry about it’s going to affect, your community, your friends and family. If you’ve got a working sense of compassion, you’ll be concerned about the welfare of total strangers. It’s like living in a nightmare, and fighting the good fight every day is exhausting.

And still, we need to get up, go to work, and take care of each other and ourselves.

Writing Through the Gloom

As Martinez advises, I did throw my values into the last two books that I wrote and published. Revelations in Cold Iron is about everything that I stand against — corruption, a lack of transparency, oligarchies, an apathetic populace happy to let populists run their lives, and flat-out fascism. It was hard to write. The first draft was too angry and harsh, the second was too tame, and the third… is probably still too tame, but I’m happy with it. The game is well-reviewed, and I got to play with the concept that even if things become far worse than they already are we can still fight back.

Starlight Manifesto, on the other hand, is about all of the things that I stand for. Peace, cooperation, science, truth, justice, and the things that make humanity wonderful. It’s almost a utopia, but it needs to be defended from forces that would try to corrupt it from within and tear it down from without. There are things that are still broken, but there’s nothing but hope that they can eventually be fixed. It’s certainly far more positive, lighter in tone, and in places even joyful. If Cold Iron is a stick, Starlight is meant to be a carrot.

In both games I did focus on story, as Martinez says. I wanted to offer readers an opportunity for catharsis. Go play a tabletop roleplaying game. Vicariously beat the hell out of villains that represent everything wrong with the world. Defend the things you feel need to be protected. Have some sort of release so you can go back into the world and pretend that things are normal, or at least normal enough for you to function. Escapism is vital in these times, as long as we don’t forget that we still need to fight the real evil out there.

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