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I'm compensating.
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A little ramble on morality and, ultimately, how to write a three-dimensional character.

One thing that pops up again and again is the clumsy handling of characterisation and morality. In many cases, clumsy characterisation = clumsy morality.

How to fail at grey morality:
  • Present the character as "morally grey" because they do good things, yet they also do bad things.
  • Make the character good but give them one moral flaw. Eg. Sadism.
  • Make the character bad but give them one good trait. Eg. Loves puppies.
  • Not realise that the point of grey morality is to step away from presenting actions as inherently good or evil.
  • Flatten the antagonists so the grey protagonist by contrast remains the good guy.

I could argue that black and white morality is, in itself, immoral. Shouldn't we empathise with others rather than scapegoating them as nothing but their vices? Shouldn't we give the accused a chance to speak?

A soldier is both a hero and a villain, depending on which side of the gun barrel you're standing. We are all driven, in our kindness, selfishness, and everything in between, by mechanisms more complex than "right" or "wrong". Writing grey morality isn't about mixing black and white paint on the character profile. It's about exploring their depths.

Why a character does good things is as important as why they do bad things. Don't use their morality system as the explanation for their actions. Instead, explain the reasoning behind their morality system.


I lower the gun. He's only a child.
That's taking it for granted that we're cross-universally agreed that killing children is evil, just because, and leaving it at that.

I lower the gun. That's somebody's son. I think of Jamie, barrelling through the door with his drenched hair and muddy shorts, and half the football field on the carpet. I'd lose it if I lost him.
I lower the gun. I'm a bastard at best, but the brat deserves to grow up. You know? Drink, drive, kiss a girl. Maybe I'll kill him when he's older.
I lower the gun. If someone hadn't done the same for me, all those years ago, I wouldn't even be here.
I lower the gun. Mama said I shouldn't kill children.

In these examples the character makes the same decision, but for very different reasons.

Exploring these reasons makes a character three-dimensional. It gives them depth, emotion, and most importantly, identity. It sets them apart from the thousands of gun-lowering protagonists you find out there.

It's worth mentioning that undeadcrabstick once told me about a writer who, prior to experiencing the loss of his father, lived a fairly sheltered life and saw morality in black and white. He recounts that he reconsidered his view afterwards. So perhaps the secret to grey morality is simply getting hurt, and realising that life isn't as easy as good and bad.

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Lots of happenings in my latest antics. I thought I'd post films/pictures up so here they are!

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Climbed Mt Tongariro and almost got blown off the cliffs multiple times at the summit. Me and my (also light) friend had to cling to the rocks during gusts and sprint onward when it calmed down. I got a cramp in both calves.

Lots of fun!

Up in the Bay of Islands I did some more work for archaeology; it's one of the earliest Maori settlements found in NZ. A lovely place and I learnt lots about the history and culture I was illustrating.

It's nice when you're paid to go where others pay to go.

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I ended up on radio and TV for this job, though I can only find the radio article and podcast online.

If you want to hear my voice lol. I'm right at the end. (Lots of "you know"s because I was so caught off guard at being interviewed. I was working so hadn't realised the guy I was talking to had a microphone in his hand until halfway through.)

So there I camped for a week illustrating and generally chilling out. Very windy but warm. As we were leaving on the boat, some dolphins came to say goodbye. They are believed to be the guardians of the island.

Afterwards it was straight down to a norse camp with 3 hour's sleep and arriving at 7am. Hard fighting in the hot sun, dirty jokes at night and up the next day for more fights.

<da:thumb id="3741236214224249"/><da:thumb id="439544698306825"/> <-- a fly cult congregating to drink my blood.

I don't know how fucked that knuckle is but the cut was pretty deep, and it went through leather gloves. Though I'm still typing so I guess it's ok. :lol:

Anyway, there's my adventures for ya. No warning for blood because you should already know you're watching a viking.

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:icondummywaveplz: Today I'm going to show you how to put your world map on a 3D globe, which you can share with your friends.

Or me. If you have no friends.

Here's mine.

You can turn it round and doodle on it, though unfortunately it doesn't save the doodles. It's also useful for measuring travel distance (under Options).

It's really easy.

  1. Go to this website.
  2. Upload a rectangular map of your world (or generate one on the site.)
  3. There.

Go try it out and show me your worlds! I'd love to see 'em.

Personal Update

Been a looong time since I've been on dA. Quite busy at the moment! This weekend I'll be tentless camping just to see if I can pull it off. We're expecting a thunderstorm.

Then next month I'll be doing the longest camping period I've ever done. I should call it a campaign.

  • 4 days mountain hike
  • 6 days on a remote island (work)
  • 3 days a-viking

Super excited. Should be awesome.

Lore Update

First things first, my ice-wolves have been renamed to sea-wolves. Why? Because due to changes to the world, ice is now everywhere.

Tribes of the Black Isles by My-Sword-is-Bigger

If you've been stalking me, you might know I do things like stick a big red ball in the sky. I also had it that my world's obliquity (axial tilt) is higher than Earth's, making winters and summers harsher. With more polar ice.

Yeah. It turns out I got that wrong. :O_o:

Since ice ages are thought to occur because of fluctuations in the Earth's obliquity, I was under the impression that higher obliquity = more ice in winter = sunlight reflected from ice = cooler planet.

High obliquity actually melts polar ice. Even higher and it's all gone.

Here's the study I read on obliquity and climate.

That gave me two options. I could either make my world's obliquity less than Earth's, resulting in an ice age and less dynamic seasonal cycle, or

...I could go wild.

You know me, I like to make living conditions ridiculously uncomfortable.

At 75º obliquity,

:sun:  The sun moves from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere throughout the year. Most regions experience full daytime/nighttime seasonally.

:sun:  The equator is on average colder than the poles, with two summers and winters a year.

I don't see why ecosystems couldn't evolve to these conditions. There are two growing seasons - late spring to early summer, and late summer to autumn.

Coastal temperatures on the continent would resemble Siberia. Inland it'd be much harsher, with most vegetation being tough grasses, tumbleweeds, fire-propagators, sedums, annuals and resurrection plants.

Animals are migratory with lots of birds and ocean dwellers. Mammals would moult like crazy as well as migrate.

(Speaking of mammals, last time RetSamys mentioned that mammals wouldn't exist in a high-obliquity world. Why is that? What if they're moulting mammoths that move to the cooler regions in midsummer and hibernate in winter? xD)

In spring, the sea is actually colder than in winter. It takes that long for the absorbed heat to dissipate. So there won't be any sea ice in winter, but there might in spring.

So anyway, that concludes this session of weird worldbuilding and me tampering with climate. I relish having such extremes as it gives me more material to play with - cultures would be more interesting, for one.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any skepticism / doubts about such a world. I'll need to consider it all to make it work!

And please do link me to any globes you guys make :earth:

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I lost my shit at a drunkard and tried to brand his face, then beat him with the stick and couldn't stop laughing maniacally.

More detailed update coming soon when I can be bothered, I guess.

CSS by lockjavv Dragon by kerembeyit
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Answered a forum post on this and decided to share it with you all.

First off, giving each character their own unique dialogue/mannerisms can be done afterwards as an edit. So if it's not perfect, don't stress.

Second. I find writing a script helps. With narration stripped away you can better gauge how a conversation flows, whether the rhythm of speech repeats too much, and how each character's voice stands out. Ideally, you as the author should be able to tell who's speaking just from the dialogue.

 Try listing every way something can be said, then picking which suits the character most.

:pointr: Dialogue
:pointr: Body Language


Consider varying their grammar. How proper is it?
  • "Anna and I are going to the beach. Want to come?"
  • "Hitting the beach with Anna, you up?"

How do they structure their sentences? Long, short, fragmented?
  • "I'd love to, but my grandpa's been coughing up his lungs and I got to look after him."
  • "Grandpa's sick, man. Sorry. Maybe next time."

Do they add unnecessary tags, anecdotes, curses, exaggerations?
  • "Guys, help me. I'm fucked. Pissed off my girlfriend, god knows how - I feel like I'm in a fucking minefield. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, call the cops. Start renting a suit. I'll see you at my funeral."
  • "I just don't know what's in her head. It's just like that time with the dress again. You know, when she asked if she looked fat and I said yes, I mean, she asked, I thought you're supposed to be honest? And then she got all mad and wouldn't even tell me why. What am I, a mind reader? Anyway..."

Think about what makes sense for each character. Are they a no-nonsense, "don't waste my time" type? They'd probably use shorter sentences, more abrupt and to the point. Are they well-read and enjoy discussing long topics? They might be more eloquent.

Body Language

The same concepts apply to mannerisms. How many ways can you show the same emotion, and how will this character react? Remember to vary the type of body language you write about. Amateur writers will fixate on a character's expression and nothing else. I had a phase where all I wrote about was eyes, since that's what I look at first when reading a person.

  • He met my gaze, cold and unwavering. "I don't want to talk about it."
  • "I don't want to talk about it," he said, toeing the broken glass, watching his boots, his nails, his palm, the clock a-tick-tick-ticking away, looking at anything but me.
  • It was quiet, and she'd turned away, lips barely moving as she said, "Go, then."
  • Her face scrunched up, red as a beet. "Go, then."
  • "They miss you." Her voice cracked. She clenched her teeth, forcing the words out as if each one were agony. "They want their dad."
  • A whisper now, wavering, no strength behind it. "They miss you. They want their dad."
  • My hands returned to the notepad again and again, as if searching for those answers, as if between thin blue lines and white spaces they might be found, so I found myself shredding them, each strip an eternity, the dull rasp of paper my only companion. "Where could he be?"
  • I threw down the notepad. "Where could he be?" Arms over my head. I was making a scene, I didn't care, I just wanted the damn truth. I paced about the room from wall to wall, listening to my own footsteps. At least they were consistent. Nothing else was.

Oh, and before you ask why all my examples are's because I just. Don't. Understand. Happy. I just don't. I can write lighthearted scenes but never with the same realism and emotion. I can't feel it. Advice and example descriptions are appreciated.

If I've missed any points or you have relevant tips to share, leave a comment.

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On Grey Morality by My-Sword-is-Bigger, journal

Mountains, Islands, Radio and a Broken Hand. by My-Sword-is-Bigger, journal

Make a Globe (+ lore update) by My-Sword-is-Bigger, journal

Completely out-of-context update. by My-Sword-is-Bigger, journal

On Writing Dialogue and Body Language by My-Sword-is-Bigger, journal