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As you may have seen the last couple years, I do a vote on which project I should pick for National Novel Writing Month. This year, I found a premise I liked so much I decided to pick it ASAP.

Though, now I want some more info to prepare for it when November comes.

Here's where you come in: below is a link to a survey that will ask you questions about my upcoming story, Across The Isolation. It's split into two parts: story content, and tone. The story content questions are optional, but preferred. The tone questions are required.

Once you finish it, you can also leave comments or questions in the comment section here.

It's October, an that means National Novel Writing Month is one month away!

And to get you ready for it, it's time once again for...

NaNOctober - National Novel Writing Month Prep!

What is National Novel Writing Month?

Started by Chris Baty in 1999, it's a month where you write a 50k word story. Whether you finish it or not doesn't matter, nor whether or not it's good: just as long as you hit 50k. This means 1.6k words every single day for 30 days, but there will be off-days where you'll miss your quota, and on-days where you'll overshoot.

NaNoWriMo is not a race or a contest! It's a marathon! You're not competing with anyone but your own procrastination. You're free to race with folks to 50k if you want, but that's not the point: the goal is to just finish.

Prizes for winning include...
  • The fact you can say, "Hey, I wrote a 50k+ word story!"
  • A bunch of coupons and discounts on writing-related stuff, like writing software, a personal print of your finished story (if you do finish the whole thing, that is), etc.

Why should I do it?

  1. It's fun and challenging.
  2. You'll be amused and surprised by the story you'll come up with.
  3. It'll get you tons of writing experience.
  4. It'll get you tons of time management experience, too.
  5. Did I mention it's fun?
  6. You can share story ideas with friends and vice versa!
  7. For a month, you get to have the novelist experience!
  8. Seriously, you'll have a friggin' blast!

What are the rules?

  1. You may only start drafting on the midnight of November 1st, and you must reach the 50k word minimum before 11:59:59 on November 30th, local time.
  2. No early starts: you cannot draft any portion of the story prior to the 30-day writing period. However, planning and outlining is perfectly okay. (That's why I'm writing this post!)
  3. You don't have to finish the story: just reach a minimum of 50k words. It can be a finished 50k~ word story, or first 50k words of a longer story, but just as long as you hit 50k, you win.
  4. You can write about anything. Genre does not matter. Content does not matter. Fanfiction and metafiction is okay. If you think it's a novel, it counts. Although the main focus is fiction, NaNo-Rebels are writers who do other categories that bend the rules: non-fiction, short story collections, essays, and memoirs, but as long as if you hit 50k, it works!

How do I do it?

Here's how:
  1. Register yourself on the NaNoWriMo website and set up your novel. Pick your genre, upload a cover, and get ready for November 1st.
  2. Once November begins, write away. Every day, update your word counter on the NaNoWriMo website. Use the word count function of your word processor to find out how much you've written.
  3. Once you hit 50k words, there'll be a verification box on the site. Copy-paste the text of your novel into the box. It will count the words. If you've hit 50k, you win!

So, how do I prepare?

Whether you've never written before or are a seasoned pro with multiple NaNo wins, here's what you can do!

1. Supplies!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Some way to take notes: either a notebook, a phone, or a tablet.
  • Preferably a cloud-drive document system like Google Drive.
  • If you have a Bluetooth compatible device and internet, a wireless keyboard for writing on the go. This one is a HUGE lifesaver for those regularly stuck at work or on the go.
  • Caffeine.
  • Some way to track time: it can be as simple as a phone timer to a fully detailed planner.
  • Music to get you in the right mood, so start making an inspiration playlist.
  • A group of friends to write with and share ideas with.
  • Grit, determination, and a can-do spirit of never giving up.

2. Study!

If you've taken a class in literature and actually paid attention, you may have all you need, but for those that need the extra push, here's a list of recommended reading:
  • No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. The original NaNoWriMo handbook, which covers how to write as much as possible in as short time as possible. It covers how to keep your plot going forward, how to schedule time throughout the month, how to come up with a premise that'll keep you going, and so on.
  • Story by Robert McKee. The gold standard of story guides, it covers every imaginable story structure and style under the sun. It covers plot construction, character and cast design, how to develop theme, genre conventions, common pitfalls in story writing, and much, much, MUCH more.
  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. Similar to Story, covering every major writing topic, but focuses more on character arcs as the center of the story. It comes with several nifty exercises that'll help you develop your premise, plot, characters, and beyond.
  • The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Want to study The Hero's Journey structure and character archetypes, but don't have enough time to read Joseph Campbell's comparative mythology writings? Used as a blueprint in the renaissance of Disney, Vogler's writings on The Hero's Journey simplifies everything in an easy-to-understand and digestible format anyone can understand.
  • The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass. The Breakout Novelist is a combination of publisher Donald Maass's previous works, The 'Writing The Breakout Novel' Workbook and The Fire In Fiction. It's full of exercises to get you thinking more about what goes into your writing, as well as sharpen any weaknesses you may have. (And really, check out pretty much any guides by Donald Maass. They're all good. It's just this one encompasses a lot of his work.)
  • The 3 A.M. Epiphany and The 4 A.M. Breakthrough by Brian Kiteley. Writing professor Brian Kiteley offers a series of unconventional writing exercises and prompts to get you to break out of your typical writing habits and think more creatively about what goes into your writing.
  • Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer. Sci-fi writer Jeff Vandermeer gives us a unique book on world-building, prose, story structure, and character creation with unique illustrations, artwork, and even "devil's advocate" advice that goes against conventional storytelling wisdom. Definitely a must for sci-fi and fantasy writers.
  • Dan Harmon's Story Circle Guide. Before creating Rick & Morty and Community, Dan Harmon was the founder of internet TV site Channel 101, to which he had this super-nifty distillation of the Hero's Journey, but even more distilled than Vogler's writings above. It's available freely online, written for aspiring writers of Channel 101, but it serves as the backbone to all of Harmon's works. If you don't want to read it, there's also this nifty video version.
You may have noticed a lot of this covers story structure, characters, and theme, but not a lot on prose. Well, if you can talk, you can probably write, but if you need a style manual, there are way, waaay too many to recommend. Just go to a reference section of any book store or library and you'll find more than enough guides on actual prose writing.

If you got more book suggestions, suggest them in the comments below.

3. Brainstorm!

Chris Baty's recommended method involves the following:
  • Write down a list of your favorite story tropes. Do these!
  • Write down a list of your least favorite story tropes. Avoid these!
  • Follow these guidelines you've now written, and you won't get backed into a boring corner!
  • Then, for all subsequent ideas, write everything down! Get your ideas down on paper so you don't lose them! In the words of comedian Mitch Hedberg, "If I have a joke that I need to write down, but I can't find a pen, I just have to convince myself what I had wasn't funny."
  • Look at your favorite genres and think of story ideas in that! Or, stretch yourself and do a story in a genre you've never done, just to see what'll happen!

Want to develop settings? Remember the dimensions of setting:
  • When does the story take place? If it's in the past, research the culture of the time period. If it's in the future, see if you can write a parallel/contrast to now.
  • Where does the story take place? Different places and geographies, whether real or imagined, have different cultures. If it's real, do your research. If not, same as above: ask how these people would live in a place like this.
  • What is the inherent level of conflict in this setting? Compare a love story that take place in a big city vs. a small little town, or an action story on a battlefield vs. a small bank. Different locations have different possibilities for what can go down.
  • What is the history of this setting? How the past of this setting will affect the present and future of the story. Know what happened previously in this setting and how it colors the story world.

Want to develop characters? Remember the dimensions of character:
  • Characterization: The surface details, which often influence how the character behaves. These traits include...
    • Gender
    • Race
    • Hair and Eye Color
    • Physique and Body Weight
    • Health
    • Mannerisms and General Behaviors
    • Language
    • Conscious Motivations
    • ... and basically anything you can see without getting to know this person.
  • Deep Character: The inner world of the character, the stuff hidden in the character and only brought out during the conflict of the story. These traits include...
    • Unconscious Motivations
    • Hidden Fears and Desires
    • Secrets
    • Thoughts and Feelings
    • Past Memories, both good and bad.
    • ... and basically anything that controls the characters' underlying behavior.

Want to develop plots? Well, there'll be more on that, but first, let's look at all the different genres we can explore...
  • BASE GENRES: Genres by plot. These can be contained within a setting or medium.
    • Relationship Story: The catch-all for any story about the coming-together or falling apart of a relationship. Subgenres are divided by what kind of relationship.
      • Buddy Story: A platonic love story.
      • Love Story: Your classic romantic love story.
      • Love Tragedy: Two characters in a relationship fall apart.
      • Erotica: A love story with a focus on physical love.
        • Passion Tragedy: The spiral into sex spells doom for the characters.
        • Sex Comedy: The spiral into sex creates problems, but is solved in humorous fashion.
    • Horror Story: Characters must escape something, well, horrific. Subgenres divided by the source of horror.
      • Natural: The source of horror is something real. Examples include...
        • Serial Killer: A killer is trying to kill the characters.
        • Home Invasion: Criminals invade a house.
        • Animal Survival: An animal threatens the characters.
        • Nature Survival: Nature threatens the characters.
        • Torture Porn: The villains want to mutilate the cast, not quite killing them quickly.
      • Supernatural: The source of horror is something imagined. Examples include...
        • Ghost Story/Haunting: The literal supernatural threaten the character.
        • Possession: A ghost takes over a character.
        • Zombies: The undead threaten the characters.
        • Monsters: Any sort of creature threatens the characters.
        • Kaiju: GIANT creatures threaten the characters.
        • Aliens: Extraterrestrials threaten the characters.
        • Cosmic Horror: Incomprehensible creatures threaten the characters.
      • Super-Uncanny: The source of horror is unknown: whether the ghosts and monsters are real, or simply the character's imagination. Examples include...
        • Psychological Horror: Is it real, or is the character going crazy?
        • Faux Horror: Is it real, or is it simply characters using the horror for their own motives? (Ala Scooby Doo and the original House on Haunted Hill.)
    • Modern Epic: One individual takes on a larger system, often one that controls society.
    • War Story: A battle between two warring sides. Comes in two flavors...
      • Pro-War: Glorifies the heroism, adventure, and necessity of fighting.
      • Anti-War: Discourages the violence and questionable morality of fighting.
    • Maturation Plot: The coming-of-age-story: a character begins with an immature outlook on life, thinking their outlook is the correct one, only to get hit in the face with reality.
    • Morality Arc: A character changes their behavior. Comes in three versions:
      • Redemption Plot: A bad character becomes good (and is usually rewarded).
      • Punitive Plot: A good character becomes bad (and is usually punished).
      • Moral Dilemma Plot: A character takes a trip across the entire spectrum, turning bad to good to bad or good to bad to good, and experiencing the punishments and rewards of all sides.
    • Testing Plot: A character is tempted to give up their ideals in exchange for something else. Essentially a Morality Arc, but the plot comes from avoiding the choice.
    • Outlook Arc: A character changes their worldview. Comes in three versions:
      • Education Plot: A character's outlook shifts from bad to good.
      • Disillusionment Plot: A character's outlook shifts from good to bad.
      • Mindset Change Plot: A character's outlook shifts from good to bad in one area, but bad to good in another related area.
    • The Western/Folk Tale: A single character, usually an outsider, brings law and order to a lawless and/or chaotic land.
  • MEGA GENRES: Genres by focus and tone. Contains base genres within them and can be contained within a Supra-Genre.
    • Comedy: Takes apart the conventions of society and life to examine the stupid, the witty, or both. Subgenres grouped by what's the target for the jokes and how rough is it. These include...
      • Satire (ridicules society)
      • Parody (makes fun of society)
      • Pastiche (celebrates society)
      • Romantic Comedy (celebrates love)
      • Screwball (makes fun of love)
      • Farce (ridicules love)
      • Black Comedy (ridicules the dark, painful corners of life)
      • Wit (celebrates how people behave)
      • Comedy of Manners (makes fun out of people behave)
      • Cringe Comedy (ridicules how people behave)
      • Surreal Humor (celebrates the unexpected)
      • Shock Humor (ridicules the unexpected)
    • Crime: A story of a crime being committed, the crime being discovered, whether or not the heroes get away, and if justice is delivered. Subgenres grouped by perspective...
      • Murder Mystery: The master detective's POV.
      • The Caper: The master criminal's POV.
      • Detective Story: The cop's POV.
      • Gangster Story: The crook's POV.
      • Thriller: The victim's POV, often at the mercy of a powerful criminal who makes it personal.
      • Courtroom Drama: The justice system's POV; often the lawyer's or jury's.
      • Newspaper Story: The reporter's POV.
      • Espionage: The spy's POV.
      • Prison Drama: The inmate's POV.
      • Film Noir: POV of a protagonist with mixed qualities: part cop, part criminal, part victim, and maybe more.
    • Social Drama: Identifies a problem in society and looks for a way to cure it. Subgenres grouped by the problem at hand...
      • Domestic Drama: Focuses on problems within the home.
      • Political Drama: Focuses on political problems.
      • Gender Study: Focuses on the problems of being a man/woman in a culture with certain disadvantages on being a man/woman.
      • Eco-Drama: Focuses on saving the environment.
      • Medical Drama: Focuses on saving the physically ill.
      • Psycho-Drama: Focuses on saving the mentally ill.
      • Queer Drama: Focuses on the problems within gay or transgender culture and how it clashes with straight culture.
    • Action: Focuses on external conflict. LOTS of external conflict. Comes with two subgenres...
      • High Adventure: In addition to normal worldly conflict, there are also concepts like fate, destiny, and other supernatural forces at play.
      • Disaster/Survival: Nature provides much of the conflict.
  • SUPRA-GENRES: Genres of setting or medium. May contain the above genres within them.
    • Historical Fiction: Takes place in the past to look at human nature from a safe distance, reflecting back our current behaviors.
    • Biography: Focuses on the life of one person from real life.
    • Docu-drama: Recreates actual events, but told in dramatic fashion.
    • Mockumentary: A fictional documentary.
    • Musical: The major plot turning points finish on the character erupting into song.
    • Science Fiction: Uses technology as the crucible for character change.
    • Sports: Uses sports as the crucible for character change.
    • Fantasy: Uses magic as the crucible for character change.
    • Metafiction: Uses writing itself as the crucible for character change.
    • Animation: Uses the stylization of animation to distort reality. With novels, you can make them into Visual Novels.
    • Arthouse: The story itself is unconventional in its telling or structure.

4. Plan!

As said in the rules, you're free to outline your story early, and October's a good time to plot your course. Some folks write by the seat of their pants, but if you write with an outline, here's several ways to outline once you got your premise ready:
  • Three Act Structure: The old classic standby, Three Act Structure is versatile and covers your beginning, middle, and end.
    • Act 1 shows your character(s)' life being thrown out of balance and then vowing to fix things.
    • Act 2 is them trying everything they can before failing miserably in an apparent defeat.
    • Act 3 is their final act of desperation (and hopefully character development) that resolves everything.
    • You can then break down the acts into sub-acts, or sequences, and break those sequences down into scenes!
  • Plot Spine Paradigm: Instead of three structural units, why not 7? The Plot Spine Paradigm runs like this:
    • Opening: How life is at the beginning of the story. Should wildly contrast the ending.
    • Plot Point 1: Something to kickstart the character(s) journey into the story.
    • Pinch Point 1: The initial obstacle the character(s) faces while resolving the conflict.
    • Midpoint: A major moment of character development and apparent victory showing the character has what it takes to resolve the story.
    • Pinch Point 2: The apparent defeat of the character(s).
    • Plot Point 2: The final act of desperation (and hopefully character development) that resolves everything.
    • Ending: How life is at the ending of the story.
    • Ideally, write the Ending first, then the Opening, then the Midpoint, Plot Points, and finally Pinch Points.
  • Character Arc Paradigm: Structural units not your thing? Why not break down the plot by the main character's development itself?
    • Weakness and Need: Your main character suffers a weakness that affects both them and the people around them in a negative way, and they need to do something to overcome it. For example, let's say you have a reckless character: their behavior hurts them and they put others in danger. In this case, their need is for maturity and responsibility. From this, you preferably want the setting to play on this weakness as much as possible.
    • Problem and Desire: The inciting incident that throws your character's life out of balance, and what the main character's desire is from this initial problem.
    • Opponent: What's to get in the way of the main character stopping the problem and attaining the desire? This can be actual opponents, whether it's well-meaning people undermining the character's efforts or an actual villain threatening to stop the hero. It can also be an external force, from weather to society. Lastly, there's also internal conflict as well. Either way, name your opponents and how they beat the main character because of their weakness: you'll need this shortly.
    • Plan: How the main character will attain the desire, usually without foresight thanks to their weakness. Inversely, the opponents also have their own plans.
    • Battle: This will make up most of the rest of your story until the climax. Now that you have your main character's weakness, a desire, your opponents, the hero's plan, and the opponent(s)' plans, you should have all the ingredients you need for conflict. Start writing out scenes of the hero trying to beat the opponents with their plan, but failing because of the weakness, eventually culminating in the climax (which you preferably want to figure out first). They may succeed on occasion, but their desperation starts hurting others thanks to the weakness, eventually resulting in an apparent defeat.
    • Self-Revelation: Eventually, usually by the climax, the hero will realize what their weakness is, and will usually have to make a final choice between staying the same or changing. Of course, it can't be an obvious choice: they wouldn't have had that weakness if it didn't serve them in the first place, like a shy person who avoids people because they feel safer that way, or an angry person who credits their anger for their passion. Either way, their final choice determines whether or not they achieve the desire or not, or succumb to tragedy. Of course, the main character doesn't necessarily need to attain the desire: they can change and give up on the initial goal. And they can also attain the goal without changing: tragedies where the hero becomes the villain end this way, where the main character has no moral revelation. But again, as said with the other structures, this is the final act of desperation (and hopefully character development) that resolves everything.
    • New Equilibrium: How the character lives their life after the story, hopefully overcoming the weakness.
  • The Hero's Journey: Another old standby, these are the most common beats of myths from around the world. You don't need every step or even in this order, but here they are in detail:
    • The Ordinary World: Establishing the main character(s) and the world they live in.
    • Call To Adventure: The inciting incident. Something's wrong and the characters have to venture out to resolve it.
    • Refusal of the Call: At first, the main character(s) can't resolve the problem because they're not ready.
    • Meeting the Mentor: The character(s) meet a character who can prepare them for the journey.
    • Crossing the Threshold into the Special World: The character(s) must face special threshold guardians before crossing into a world unlike the Ordinary World. Luckily, they should be prepared by now.
    • Tests, Allies, and Enemies: Now inside the Special World, it's time the character(s) learn how things work. They'll meet new allies, fight new enemies, and use what they know to make it through, but they'll quickly learn the things that work in the Ordinary World do not work here.
    • Approaching The Innermost Cave: Like a room full of health packs and ammo in a video game, this is the main character(s)' last chance to get ready for the deepest section of the Ordinary World. If they have any doubts about why they went on this journey in the first place, it's time to put them aside once and for all.
    • Ordeal: The main character(s) faces their greatest fear, and even succumbs to it.
    • Seizing The Sword: Luckily, from their previous metaphorical/literal death, there is a rebirth, and the hero(es) emerges stronger than ever, often with a special reward that will help them for the remainder of the journey.
    • The Road Back: Now with the reward, the hero(es) must return to the Ordinary World, but they may also have the option to stay if need be.
    • Resurrection: The final confrontation, similar to the Ordeal, only now the hero(es) have both the abilities from the Ordinary World and The Special World. By this point, the hero(es) is no longer the same, but reborn as someone entirely new.
    • Return with the Elixir: Back in the Ordinary World, the hero(es) is now transformed, now better able to handle things in the Ordinary World.
  • The Story Circle: Dan Harmon's even simpler version of the Hero's Journey. It requires a little setup and understanding, but once it's ready, it's quite powerful.
    • Prepwork - The tops and bottom halves: Draw a circle. Then, draw a horizontal line through the middle. The top and bottom halves now represent the dualities of life: life and death, order and disorder, the conscious and the unconscious. Keep this in mind for later.
    • Prepwork - The left and right halves: Now draw a vertical line down the middle. Going clockwise, number the top 1, the top-right corner 2, the right 3, the bottom-right 4, the bottom 5, the bottom-left 6, the left 7, and the top right 8. These halves represent the journey: to the right, the descent into the unconscious desire of the character, from safety to danger, from order to disorder. To the left, their ascent out back to the normal world, but with new insights picked up from position 5.
    • 1. You: Introduce the protagonist and some sort of weakness they have their ordinary world. Once they get to 5, we should begin to understand why they have this weakness and what they think overcoming it will bring.
    • 2. Need: Something upsets the life of the protagonist, even more so than their normal everyday weakness, and now they decide to embark on a journey to restore balance. Again, this will play a large part in 5.
    • 3. Go: The character embarks upon the journey, meeting the forces of antagonism along the way. This is your "movie poster moment" where we get the full idea of what the character wants and what's to stop them, from dealing with a killer shark to meeting an enemy army to simply falling in love.
    • 4. Search: This is your "Road of Trials" phase, where the protagonist has fully crossed over into the bottom half. The metaphor Joseph Campbell used was "like food being broken up in the digestive tract": in this case, the hero can no longer rely on their status, phones, promotions, or eyeliner here, but adapt to the new forces of antagonism. It's sink or swim.
    • 5. Find: Your midpoint, the protagonist is actually starting to get the hang of things and learns or attains something absolutely vital for resolving the story. If you'll notice, 5 is on the opposite side one 1. This is the location where we learn more about why the protagonist wants what they want in 2, and often how it relates to their weakness in 1. They might even attain the desire from 2, but either way, this will lead to setbacks in 6. This step is often called "Meeting with the Goddess," though it doesn't necessarily need to be: the basic idea is if the protagonist was a child in a mother's arms in 1, this is them leaving the house and meeting a new mother-like figure who will give them new knowledge.
    • 6. Take: Think of this as yet another Road of Trials, only much more difficult. Now that the protagonist has reached 5 and attained new knowledge or gotten the goal at the bottom, they've awakened the maximum force of antagonism. This is where the hero is temporarily beaten by the villain, or the lovers break up, or bad guys capture someone important. However, having made it to 5, the protagonist takes this punch and is still ready to fight back in 7 and 8. If you'll notice, this one is opposite of 2: the character now has a new need for the finale.
    • 7. Return: The protagonist, using what they learned in the story so far, they are now more easily handle all of the challenges they had previously encountered before. This is often the "Magic Return Flight" part of a hero's journey, on the opposite side of 3.
    • 8. Change: The climax of your story. Using what they learned, this is where the protagonist is now the master of both worlds. They are now equipped to now defeat the bad guy, confess their love to love interest, and so on. With 4 being opposite of 8, it's no wonder all of the setups in 4 are finally paid off in 8.
    • Repeat: If you are writing for multiple characters, you can do the same with them as well.
There are dozens of other structures you can use, and you can even combine the best of each one's parts to average out your plot, but this should get some ideas flowing.

5. Other tips!

Naturally, your will get stuck during NaNoWriMo, so here are some useful tips for avoiding missing you quotas...
  • Write more than your quota! Just because the word quota every day is 1667 words doesn't mean you should stop around 1667. Preferably, you want to push past it enough so you don't have to worry about the deadline by the end of the month.
  • Never underestimate the power of a sudden plot revelation. A good plot reveal, a character confession, or a sudden death can bring fourth hundreds of new ideas. Even in improv theater, a classic technique for driving a boring scene into something interesting is to simply have a character say, "I have a confession to make," and then admitting something huge. Dropping a bombshell into the story is a surefire way to keep things going. (And don't worry if it doesn't make sense: it's NaNoWriMo, and part of the fun is just seeing where it goes. Plus, if you really like the story, edit it and work it into the plot later... or hell, go back and work it into the plot during NaNoWriMo and get some extra words out of it!)
  • Always, always, always be coming up with new ideas. If you're busy at work or school and in a spot where you can just brainstorm without it interrupting anything, take that opportunity. Even better, if you have a chance to jot it down in your notes, do that, too. That way, when you finally get back to your keyboard, you'll be ready to just type away, story fresh on your mind.
  • Join a writing group. Thankfully, most of you are part of some sort of chat group or have access to one, so have some way to bounce ideas off of others. Two heads are better than one, and more than two heads is even better, so if you're running dry on ideas, feel free to ask others for their input.
  • Remember to take care of yourself: As much as it's joked about, please take care of your health and sleep well during NaNoWriMo. Besides, you write better with a full night's rest and a full belly. If you want a meal on the go without sacrificing nutrition, consider protein meal bars: light, cheap, filling, and usually full of vitamins and nutrients.

That's all the help I can offer for now. I hope it helps you on your NaNoWriMo journey this year, and I wish you all best of luck hitting 50k words!

Lastly, if you're a NaNoWriMo veteran, feel free to share your tips below!

Happy Writing,
Once again, I need to clear up some confusion over what my definition of "good writing" is. Preferably, you'll want to actually hear it from the horse's mouth than somebody else: especially since those who muddle my definition of "good writing" tend to think I somehow hold new writers back, want to scare them away, or want to force them to write only "one way." But since I do support new writers and wish for their growth and self-confidence, and since National Novel Writing Month is only a month and a half away, use this post to help further your writing skills!

My definition of good writing is thus:

Anything that entertains and/or informs the audience as the writer intended is good writing.

Key phrases:


Whatever works, works. All writing techniques are fair game. We'll get to this in a sec.

... that entertains and/or informs the audience...

Some writing is meant to be non-fiction and only to meant to share information. Other forms of writing are purely junk food entertainment. Some are a marriage of both, entertaining the audience while provoking thoughts and ideas. You don't necessarily need either or: writing can still be good even if it's 100% informative or 100% entertaining.

... as the the writer intended...

As Yahtzee once put it, not all entertainment is purely "enjoyable," as some forms of entertainment use horror, disgust, dread, and anger for the emotional high. Stories that are entertaining for reasons the writer didn't intend fall under the category of "so bad, it's good." Of course, sometimes writers intentionally aim for campy, so in a sense, even corny, cheesy stories can be considered "good writing." Sure, there are high artistic forms of writing, such as your Citizen Kane and Moby Dick, but there's also mainstream popcorn fun like Starship Troopers and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Even for non-fiction, there's a far line between All The President's Men and The Zombie Survival Guide, but we consider both to be "good writing."

The most important takeaway from this is there is no single way to write. Whatever choice you make as a writer is what defines you. Now, not every choice you make will work out, as the audience gets the final say, but as you hone your craft, you will develop an artistic originality that defines you. Everyone's style will be different, but whatever gives you your best voice will be your own path to "good writing."

But what about “bad writing”? Bad writing can be defined as the accumulation of things that get in the way of the writer’s ability to entertain and/or inform the audience. A few errors are forgivable, but that’s why I said “accumulation”: enough breaks in tone, style, continuity, structure, and character choices slowly destroy the entertainment value and/or credibility of the writing. However, much like the choices that go into good writing, the errors of bad writing are also on a case-by-case basis, so let’s save that for another time. (Or better yet, discover them yourself.)

(And since I know some smartass is gonna say, "But what goes into 'great' or 'outstanding' writing?," my response will be this: the same that goes into "good writing," but more of it.)

Now that we've defined "good writing," let's look at the taxonomy of "good writing." This isn't a definitive list, but it should give you an idea of the many, many, MANY choices that you, as a writer, have.

Media and Presentation

  • Is it visual, prose, or recorded audio? Is it mixed media?
  • Does it take place in real time or at the reader's pace?
  • Is it interactive?
  • If it is written, what are the word choices? Is it simple or verbose? Is it formal or informal? For more information of style, read Prose! A Guide To Actually Writing.

Subject, Inspiration, and Tone

  • Was the subject imagined or real?
  • Is it about people, places, or events?
  • Was it inspired by something positive or negative? An infuriating idea can be just as valid as a positive idea.
  • Is the purpose of the writing meant to entertain, inform, or a mix of both? And if so, at what ratio?
  • Is the tone light or dark? Optimistic or cynical?


  • Is it structured or freeform?
  • If it's a story, does it follow act structure? Scene structure? Does it follow its own beat system?
  • If it's a story, does it follow a structural paradigm? If so, which? For more information of structures, read The Shapes of Stories for a comparative look on common structures.
  • If there is no structure, what is holding the unity of the writing? Is it a unity of ideas? Of events? Or is it a dreamlike stream-of-consciousness?
  • Is there a genre? If so, what is it? Are there multiple genres?
  • Is there a structure to how the information is being unfolded? Are we told everything up front, or does the writer hold secrets from us until the end?
  • Is there a definitive ending/closure? And why?
  • How are plot holes and continuity errors handled? Are they on-purpose, or merely just mistakes?
  • Is the story trope-heavy or low-key? Does it indulge in cliches, play with tropes, or try to avoid them altogether?

Character Design (if applicable)

  • Are there defined characters roles (good guys and bad guys)? Is there a strong sense of morality, or are the characters morally grey?
  • Are there defined character archetypes (stock characters/personalities)? Is the cast organized or freeform?
  • Are the characters static or dynamic? Do they stay the same or do they arc?
  • How smart are the characters? Are the characters functionally genre savvy, or do they adhere to common tropes?
  • How are the characters designed and what holds them together?

This should give you an inkling of why we, as a society, equally love classics like Casablanca and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also shelve them alongside mainstream hits like Star Wars, The Matrix, and Mad Max, and why we also indulge in stuff we deem "trashy" yet still watch like Eromanga Sensei and Sharknado. Sure, we knock the cheesy and campy stories, but we must not neglect the fact that mainstream audiences like a little literary junk food once in a while. At the same time, we cannot use this as an excuse to be lazy: they also like smart writing just as equally. Audiences want a well-balanced diet of BOTH meaty artistic stories and empty calorie junk food stories.

Some things to consider when you think about this idea of "good writing":
  • A structured story can work just as well as an unstructured story, and vice versa.
  • A story full of cliches and tropes can work just as well as one that plays everything straight, and vice versa.
  • A campy story can be just as good as a serious story, and vice versa.
  • Elaborate word choices like James Joyce are equally as valuable as the creative use of common words by Chuck Palahniuk, which are both equally valued as Earnest Hemingway's minimalist approach.
  • Society loves both serious stories, funny stories, and a mix of both. All genres are equally valued. Most characters are equally loved, and even tropes most people despise can be done right under the right circumstances.
This cannot be emphasized enough, and I'm going to keep emphasizing this from now on: there is no single path to "good writing," because every writer's choices will define their unique style. You must make your own style your own.

My choices will be vastly different from yours and others. I don't like fleshing out my characters' backstories, but my friends love to. I love sharpening the premise and structure, my friends prefer letting the characters do the structuring for them. I really like writing stories about finding hope in bleak worlds, but others write their own favorite subjects. Anyone who claims I'm going to force my own writing style on others is either wrong or just downright lying, because there is an infinite number of ways to write. The combinations and stylistic choices are endless, and it is what defines each and every one of us as a writer.

Lastly, there's the matter of drawing inspiration from others. Sure, you can borrow stylistic choices from other writers, but please understand why they made those choices before blindly following them. Copying somebody doesn't always lead to success, especially when you don't understand why it made the original successful in the first place. This is why finding your own writer's voice is a path you must undertake yourself: you have to discover what works for you and you alone, as well as question why it works so you can replicate it in the future, not to mention improve other areas in your writing.

So, if you ever worry about not being artsy enough to be a good writer, or worried that audiences only care about memes and cliche-heavy crap, have heart knowing that there is no single path to being a writer: your writing choices will define your unique style, and once you master what's right for you, you will find your niche/audience. Art is subjective, and one person's "good writing" is another's bad, but hopefully this will get you closer to the right audience saying, "Hey, I like how you wrote this."
Remember, you're allowed to make anything you want, pursue any project you desire, write in any which way you believe works best for you, and nobody can tell you otherwise.

Of course, not all things work out, but you're still free to pursue anything you want. For example, everything has a target audience and community demographics: you're free to pursue whatever you want, but just remember that some things are harder to market to people than others. In this case, you'll have to go the extra mile to find your niche audience. Just because something is harder to market doesn't mean you can't pursue it.

Sometimes you'll make something that doesn't fit the standards or rules of the group you're submitting to. In this case, you're still free to pursue whatever you want, but outside of that group. If you insist on getting your art into that group, it's like fitting a square peg in a round hole: it won't fit. Instead, find a square hole, i.e. find the group that will accept it. Just because some groups won't accept your art doesn't mean you can't pursue it on your own.

Sometimes you'll be on a group project and you'll have an idea that clashes with the group. In this case, you must understand that a group is the sum of the ideas of everyone in it, not just yours. Let the group project's ideas be that of the group's, and let yours be yours. You can still submit ideas, but the whole group gets the final say. Just because a group won't accept your ideas doesn't mean you can't pursue your own projects by yourself.

Sometimes people will critique your style of writing or direction. There are dozens of schools of writing, but they all lean towards the idea of how to entertain the audience. How you choose to entertain people will be different from others. Art is subjective: not everyone will agree on what's good or bad, what makes what work, or why. In this case, find what's best for you and do it. If your skills aren't up to snuff and people are constantly criticizing you, just practice, practice, practice. Look at those 1-year progression charts, and you'll see what experience can help you do.

You're free to do anything. Sure, not everyone's going to like it, but who are they to tell you what you can or can't do? Everything has a niche audience, everything had its place, and if there is none, you can make it! Critics can't stop you, groups can't stop you, admins can't stop you, nobody can stop you but yourself. You have a right to pursue whatever project you desire. Sure, there are moral limits (things that threaten people or are hideously NSFW to the point of disgusting the majority of people), but beyond that, nobody has a right to tell you what you can or cannot do. If anyone tries to tell you that an individual or group is holding them back from making whatever they want, or tries to scare you into thinking you can't do anything because of somebody else, they are wrong.

So, go out and do what you want. Unless what you're doing is breaking the rules, inciting violence/drama, or disgusts the general public, nobody is allowed to stop you.
Heading to California, which according to Tupac and Dr. Dre knows how to party, for AnimeExpo! And I'll be joining folks from both the Walfas Station Wagon and /r/Touhou! So get ready for all sorts of shenanigans from folks all across the Touhou community!

And as with every con I go to, I'll be posting on my Twitter and my Tumblr.

See y'all there!
So, I predicted earlier this year that we might be seeing a huge leap in Walfas comic production standards and techniques. Halfway through the year, that prediction is beginning to come true.

We are slowly working our way from "frame-by-frame medium shots of characters on a static background" and are working towards full-page comics with dynamic backgrounds. Although I'm still nowhere near done with Wrath of the Amanojaku, the future of full-page comics is already here, and the results look dang good!

As you saw in my previous status post, I talked about TheCurseWatcher's The Little Devil's Rock. Well, let's go a little more in-depth into its style and editing.

The Little Devil's Rock - 002 by TheCurseWatcher

Right out the gate, we have full-page editing, camera angles, over-the-shoulder shots, lighting, everything! And let's get to the fight scenes:

The Little Devil's Rock - 015 by TheCurseWatcher

What's this? Actual danmaku battles?! In a Touhou fic?! I know this sounds odd, but we seriously need more dynamic fight scenes like these ones! For once, we have someone who's actually making legit Touhou-style combat instead: minimal dialogue, the fights do all the talking themselves, and plenty of sweet, sweet bullet hell. If you haven't read it in full, you should totally check out The Little Devil's Rock: it's raising the bar on how we do Walfas comics.

But Curse isn't the only one taking the leap into full-page comics. Here's a sample from Unknown-Nobody-XD115's The Unknown Saga, edited in ComiPo, the program I'm currently using (and used for the Twilight of the Hakurei Reboot).

The Unknown Saga Page 002 by Unknown-Nobody-XD115

Once again, camera angles, lighting effects, shadows, the whole nine yards!

And there's more: even gervin51 is joining in on the new format:

[Walfas] 4koma ~ Where did you come from?! by gervin51

[Walfas] ~ Am I being underestimated? by gervin51

And not only that, he left a nifty tutorial so even you can join in on this new format: Walfas Tutorial ~ Proper Frame Panel Tutorial.

And let's not forget our favorite French party animal Hat-Warrior-999, memeing it up with this:

Touhou characters by Hat-Warrior-999

And, of course, here's my contribution to the full-page revolution: one of the first Walfas comics uploaded in .pdf format:

Twilight of the Hakurei 2018 Trailer by Spaztique

And although it's still in production, let's not forget: the DitR-killer itself, mother-friggin' Wrath of the Amanojaku... (And to all you Starcraft 2 fans out there, this is for you.)

WotaCh8FireandFireWIP 029 by Spaztique

WotaCh8FireAndFury by Spaztique

Edit: And now that ORT451 mentions it, here's him throwing his hat into the ring!
4koma: The Most Magical of Days by ORT451

But of course, even if your comic isn't in the new format, let's not forget that even the frame-by-frame comics have been evolving as well. Take a look at the complexity of the shots from the following artists:

From the classic TobiObito4ever, just look at the ridiculous level of detail of all of the props she uses:

Vinekoma- The Stuff of Nightmares by TobiObito4ever

Or how about awesomedude2011's 1-to-1 3d scale of Utsuho's Spell Card Attack?

Blazing star ''Fixed Star'' by awesomedude2011

Or heck, look at Hat's other props and the promo alone for 'em!

More cupcakes (props) by Hat-Warrior-999

And let's not forget, essentially one of the greatest custom sprite walfas animators, JaphethStuff.

Walfas - Just Donate by JaphethStuff

And check out Japheth's videos to see just how many customs he's got!

And one more from ORT451 (and check the link in the description to compare it to the 2013 version):

[Redo] Thief: The Touhou Project by ORT451

2018 is turning out to be a good year for Walfas, at least in terms of technological leaps. Walfas is evolving, and if you don't catch up, you might be left in the dust. But no worries: here's a resource kit I posted to help you get started!

If you got any more commendations for folks you think are raising the Walfas community's standards, post 'em below! These folks could use a little more recognition for their efforts in expanding our works.

Despite all the hardships and drama we've faced over the years, I'm still proud of all of you for keeping our community not only together, but growing and thriving. I believe Reimu can sum it up for us:

WotaCh8PreviewBetter by Spaztique
It's been long enough, and I do these yearly, so...

Ask Me Anything!

The only rules are...
  1. No questions that could put myself or others in danger: no obviously personal or private stuff.
  2. Troll questions will be given troll answers. Asshole questions will just be plain removed.
Beyond that, you may ask me anything: it can be music-related, food-related, ideas, opinions, philosophy, politics, religion, you-name-it! Ask as many as you'd like! There's no limit to your questions! (Well, within reason, but still...)

And you know what? Let's add something new: you can also ask my characters anything or ask the cast (specifically the actors playing the characters) of Wrath of the Amanojaku anything! So if you don't have a question for me personally, you can still ask the characters I work with!

Well? Ask away!
Just a minor thing I've been doing in the WSW voice chat (though I might run this elsewhere if requested), I'm running a weekly tabletop co-op RPG based on the Youkai & Yukkuris tabletop game by ChibioChen. It's a mod called...

Youkai & Yukkuris: LEGENDS!

Updated weekly with new mechanics every playthrough, Y&Y: Legends takes the original format of Y&Y, wherein you play an outsider dropped in Gensokyo and your goal is to survive, but adds a new twist: four players are all dropped into a random incident, Reimu and Marisa are out of commission, and it's up to a bunch of random humans to save the day!

Highlights so far include...
  • Unknown-Nobody-XD115, a tengu, riding ORT451, an oni, like a horse, charging into battle against the Lunarians while gunning down everyone with a Lunarian rifle.
  • Gii828 joins the Moriya Shrine and gets into a duel with makutadesrex as he tries to stop Marisa as she duels Sanae.
  • Nova and Makuta duel Koishi at the Moriya Shrine, nearly about to die, just as MD5Ray01 rushes in with Marisa, Satori, Orin, Parsee, Yamame, and Kisume in tow to save them and expose the Moriya Shrine Conspiracy.

Oh, and the comedy highlights...

  • Unknown Nobody successfully romances Junko.
  • Gii and Makuta roll a 20, looking for a way to the Moriya Shrine, and end up finding a random prospector selling canoes.
  • Nova gets into a drinking contest with Yuugi... and wins... and then brings her upstairs... and comes down with four less HP and sanity loss.

So, this Thursday at 9 PM Central in the WSW Voice Chat (unless requested elsewhere), see if you have what it takes to save Gensokyo and become a LEGEND!

I've always wanted to write something on what I think makes a good sketch video, so here's a quick write-up on how I've composed every sketch video I've ever done or taught others on how to do it.

1. The Basic Format

First, I start with the Intro: opening credits, title cards, and so on. Other times, I'll use a Cold Opening and then lead into the intro, though I prefer to keep the opening short unless it's a special circumstance (as seen with the backstory of Touhou Sketches: Utsuho Edition). Not to say you can't do longer cold openings: StevosStuff's sketch videos have some epic cold openings that set the tone for the rest of the video.

The bulk of a sketch video is made up of random sketches and running sketches. Random sketches are standalone and can easily be enjoyed out of context. Running sketches come in two sub-categories: narrative runners and gag runners. Narrative runners build an overarching story into the sketch video, while gag runners are several installments of the same sketch spread throughout the video. For the 2017 Walfas Christmas Video, you have Unknown-Nobody-XD115's Christmas Calamity as the main narrative runner and Gii828's Christmas Tree sketch as a two-part runner, while Makise-Homura's Top 10 Gift Ideas and my own Holiday French sketches are gag runners.

Of course, gag runners are not to be confused with running gags (though gag runners, by their nature, include running gags), and its cousin, the callback. Running gags are gags that can be seen multiple times throughout the same video, while a callback is a joke that references a previous joke. Going back to the 2017 Walfas Christmas video, running gags included Jun The Villager's abuse and Rinnosuke eating everything in the main sketch, Chen messing up her Christmas across multiple different sketches, and Parsee getting screwed over, while the Aki Sisters showing up at the audition after the gag from the first bit is a callback. In Chicago-style improv theater, it's natural to end a show with a large series of callbacks. In the 2015 Christmas Video, there was a double callback: the runner I was animating for crystalgreatsword and IShingoYabuki references a previous sketch by Ceej39 where Mr. Kirisame calls Reimu a freeloading liberal, and Ceej's sketch after that features another callback to the runner where Nazrin pops out and steals something ("CUZ I'M NAZRIN!"). Another example is from Touhou Sketches: Utsuho Edition: nearly all of the final sketches contain callbacks to previous sketches, from Crowception (which in itself is a reference to TobiObito4ever's Put A Bird On It sketch) to Aya's pronunciation of "nu-cu-lear" and Kaguya in space.

Lastly, there are the Credits, which you put all of the music and voice actors (though be sure to include credits in your video description as well, especially if you've messed up in the final render as I've done before). After the credits, you may opt to include a stinger, a short bonus sketch. This can be a standalone sketch, but I've found the best stingers are callbacks to previous sketches. It can be a runner or a random sketch: as long as it leaves the audience satisfied for sticking around.

2. Video Structure

Sketches themselves need variety in their length and intensity. The rule of thumb is that narrative runners can run longer than random sketches, and it always helps to have several short sketches to break the pacing. If you have a long sketch, especially a slower sketch, it helps to spice things up with short-and-gag-heavy sketches. One of the common criticisms I got with Touhou Sketches: INDY Edition is that many of the sketches were a bit too long, so even though it was more technically competent than Touhou Sketches: Yuyuko Edition, Yuyuko Edition still had better pacing. Look at the two videos, and notice how the sketches of Yuyuko Edition are varied: some sketches are only a few seconds, others 30 seconds, others a few minutes, whereas INDY Edition's sketches were all at least a minute.

Of course, the opposite is also true: if you have a series of random sketches, you may punctuate it with a longer sketch. It is technically possible to have two long sketches back to back if several sketches built up to it, and the following sketch is a runner. For example, a common pattern would be a 10-second sketch, a 15-second sketch, another 10-second sketch, a 45-second sketch, and then a minute-long Narrative Runner, which then transitions back to a 10-second sketch.

Here are a few examples of sketch structures. Here's your typical sketch video:

  • Intro
  • Gag Runner Part 1
  • Random Sketches
  • Gag Runner Part 2
  • Random Sketches
  • Gag Runner Part 3 w/ Final Punchline
  • Credits

This is a pretty safe structure that's been tried, tested, and trusted over decades. Most sketch videos follow this format, and even shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus run on this format. This structure is your basic workhorse. You don't necessarily need the Gag Runner to deliver the final punchline, but it certainly helps.

But there's also the more advanced structure that uses a narrative runner as its "center." It looks like this:

  • Intro
  • Narrative Runner Part 1
  • Random Sketches
  • Gag Runner Part 1
  • Random Sketches
  • Narrative Runner Part 2
  • Random Sketches
  • Gag Runner Part 2
  • Random Sketches
  • Narrative Runner Part 3
  • Random Sketches
  • Gag Runner Part 3
  • Random Sketches
  • Narrative Runner Ending
  • Credits
  • Stinger

Of course, you can also mix it up with something like this:

  • Narrative Runner Part 1
  • Gag Runner Part 1
  • Random Sketches
  • Narrative Runner Part 2
  • Gag Runner Part 2
  • Random Sketches
  • Narrative Runner Part 3
  • Gag Runner Part 3
  • Random Sketches
  • Narrative Runner Ending

You might be wondering at this point, "Wait: do we have to end the video with the end of the narrative runner?" As I said before with ending with a Gag Runner, you don't, but you better make sure your final sketch punctuates the video. It's easier to end with a narrative runner because it ends with closure and usually a good final gag to wrap everything up. Although INDY Edition's weakness was sketch length variety, the main runner was its greatest strength, and the ending gave birth to the phrase "Master Spark solves EVERYTHING!," which capped the video.

You might also be wondering, "Is it possible to do a video without a runner?" Yes, though running gags and callbacks definitely help add variety and satisfaction to the overall experience. Even on shows like Saturday Night Live or MadTV, recurring sketches and characters carry the same feel as a "runner" over multiple episodes, so not even they are immune to it. Though, if you wish to go runner-less, it's perfectly acceptable and doable.

Of course, the above patterns are but two of an infinite number of combinations. Typical improv theater has a format called The Harold, developed by theater teacher Del Close, which runs like this:

  • Opening (which sets the tone for the rest of the narrative runners)
  • Narrative Runner A Part 1
  • Narrative Runner B Part 1
  • Narrative Runner C Part 1
  • Random Sketch(es)
  • Narrative Runner A Part 2
  • Narrative Runner B Part 2
  • Narrative Runner C Part 2
  • Random Sketch(es)
  • Runout: All of the Narrative Runners start to mix with eachother for the remainder of the sketches, and callbacks run aplenty. Though, you can do one more sets of Narrative Runners before doing the Runout.

As you can see here, this one is made up entirely of narrative runners, outnumbering the random sketches. This should help cement the idea that there is no limit to the structures: it's really up to you in the end. Sure, you still have to worry about pacing and variety, but beyond that, the sky's the limit. If you're daring enough, you can even do it freeform, but remember: structuring your sketches makes it more comfortable for the audience, since there's a defined pacing of the content, and they'll be able to feel when the next runner or random sketch is coming. Only go freeform if you want to mess with people's expectations, not because you think it'll be easier.

In action, here's what it looks like for A Very Walfas Christmas 2017:

  1. Narrative Runner A Part 1 (2 minutes)
  2. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  3. Gag Runner A Part 1 (15 seconds)
  4. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  5. Random Sketch (25 seconds)
  6. Random Sketch (15 seconds)
  7. Gag Runner B Part 1 (15 seconds)
  8. Random Sketch (40 seconds)
  9. Random Sketch (15 seconds)
  10. Random Sketch (40 seconds)
  11. Narrative Runner A Part 2 (30 seconds)
  12. Gag Runner B Part 2 (20 seconds)
  13. Narrative Runner B Part 1 (45 seconds)
  14. Random Sketch (15 seconds)
  15. Random Sketch (20 seconds)
  16. Gag Runner B Part 2 (15 seconds)
  17. Gag Runner A Part 3 (15 seconds)
  18. Random Sketch (20 seconds)
  19. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  20. Narrative Runner A Part 3 (50 seconds)
  21. Random Sketch (15 seconds)
  22. Gag Runner A Part 3 (10 seconds)
  23. Narrative Runner B Part 2 (50 seconds)
  24. Gag Runner B Part 3 (15 seconds)
  25. Random Sketch (20 seconds)
  26. Gag Runner A Part 4 (10 seconds)
  27. Random Sketch (1 minute, 15 seconds)
  28. Narrative Runner A Part 4 (1 minute, 15 seconds)
  29. Gag Runner A Part 5 (15 seconds)
  30. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  31. Random Sketch (50 seconds)
  32. Random Sketch (45 seconds)
  33. Gag Runner A Part 6/Ending (20 seconds)
  34. Narrative Runner A Part 5 (2 minutes)
  35. Stinger Referencing Sketch #27

As you can see, first of all, it's nowhere near as neat as the outlines I gave above, but let's take a closer look and dissect this. From a far-out view, the video looks like this:

  • Narrative Runner A
  • Sketches
  • Gag Runners A & B
  • Narrative Runner A
  • Narrative Runner B
  • Sketches
  • Gag Runners A & B
  • Narrative Runner A
  • Sketches
  • Gag Runners A & B
  • Narrative Runner B
  • Narrative Runner A
  • Sketches
  • Gag Runner A
  • Narrative Runner A

Now this looks much cleaner: the structure of the sketches are symmetrical.

And speaking of symmetry, when we add up the time, it looks like this:
Random Sketches: Est. 7 Minutes, 20 seconds
Narrative Runners: Est. 7 Minutes, 10 Seconds
Gag Runners: Est 2 Minutes, 30 Seconds

If we look at these times, an interesting phenomenon happens: although the narrative runners are roughly as long as the random sketches combined, they don't feel as long thanks to pacing, and while the gag runners are short, they're memorable for being spread out all over the video.

Now let's look at another example by somebody else: good ol' asdfmovie by TomSka!

Here's asdfmovie #1, which proves you don't necessarily need a runner (at least to start with):

  1. Cold Opening Sketch (10 seconds)
  2. Random Sketch (12 seconds)
  3. Random Sketch (3 seconds)
  4. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  5. Random Sketch (5 seconds)
  6. Random Sketch (3 seconds)
  7. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  8. Random Sketch (3 seconds)
  9. Random Sketch (20 seconds)
  10. Stinger (8 seconds)

Notice the alternating length in scenes, and how the final sketch is the longest.

Now for asdfmovie #2, which is more structured:

  1. Cold Opening Sketch (5 seconds)
  2. Gag Runner A Part 1 (8 seconds)
  3. Random Sketch (5 seconds)
  4. Random Sketch (8 seconds)
  5. Random Sketch w/ Callback to asdfMovie #1 Sketch 8. (5 seconds)
  6. Random Sketch (10 seconds)
  7. Random Sketch (5 seconds)
  8. Random Sketch (4 seconds)
  9. Gag Runner A Part 2 (8 seconds)
  10. Random Sketch (4 seconds)
  11. Random Sketch (3 seconds)
  12. Random Sketch (12 seconds)
  13. Gag Runner A Part 3 (10 seconds)
  14. Gag Runner A Part 4 w/ Callback to asdfMovie#1 Sketch 10 (4 seconds)
  15. Stinger (8 seconds)

Remember that classic sketch structure I talked about before? Here it is in action. Also, notice how the lengths of the final sketches: Part 3 of the "I Like Trains" Runner is a fakeout and slower-paced than all of the others, leading into Part 4 and its fast-paced and explosive climax. And as you'll see, the rest of the asdfmovie Series has a runner at the center of most of the videos (the Salad Puncher in Part 3, Mine Turtle in Part 5, the Muffin in Part 7, the Skateboarding Cow in part 8, the singing sheep in Part 10), and each video with a Gag Runner ends on said Gag Runner (with the exception of 3, which ends on a Callback to Part #2). asdfmovie, as a whole, is a great example of how to use callbacks, running gags, and runners, and I'd highly recommend giving it a rewatch knowing what you know now about sketch video structure.

3. Your choices as a sketch video maker.

Lately, I've been emphasizing more that my guides are mainly to give people more choices, since some folks seem to think I believe whatever I write guides on are the "only one true way" to do things. They're not: these are just my observations and what's worked for me, my friends, and fellow writers. So, here are things to consider when writing a sketch video:
  • Do you use a cold opening with a sketch to set the tone for the video, or just use a quick title card?
  • Will you focus on a Narrative Runner or a Gag Runner? Or will you use both? Or neither?
  • How will you structure the sketches? Will it fit a certain pattern or follow a certain theme? Or is it freeform?
  • What sketches can you reference near the end for a good callback?
  • What gags can be made into running gags without feeling forced?
  • Is there enough variety in the pacing of the scenes? If not, should a longer sketch be cut apart and turned into a runner?
  • Does the video need a stinger? If so, will it be standalone or a callback?

In addition, here are some tips for learning sketch structure:

  • Watch classic sketch shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus or The Kentucky Fried Movie.
  • Look at online sketch videos with the above information in mind, and try to spot the runners, running gags, and callbacks.
  • Watch a sketch video or show and log down the lengths of each scene and what category they fall under. It'll give you can idea of the structure.
  • And, of course, just do it! If you got a program to make stuff in, make a short little sketch video. It doesn't have to be epic in length: if you have twelve ten-second sketches, you have a two-minute video. Again, look to asdfmovie, which is a short video about short sketches, but is seen as a classic across the internet.

I hope this guide helps those of you out there wanting to make sketch videos of your own, as well as give a view of how I see sketch video structure.

Happy sketching,

So, got tagged by Gii828, so here's his questions:

1. If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
Alcohol and pot brownies. Should make the experience more bearable.

2. Which two characters from any universe, real or fake, would you like to see in a deathmatch with each other?
Dunno, but the first thing that comes to mind is Ragna the Bloodedge from BlazBlue vs. Vash The Stampede from Trigun.

3. What is your favorite music artist/band?
Would you folks be surprised to find I'm an unironic Linkin Park fan? Seen them in concert four times, and each one was amazing. It sucks what happened to Chester Bennington. I hope they either continue with a new singer who can do him justice like with AC/DC or Drowning Pool, or they start a new band ala New Order.

4. Besides Suika or Yuugi, who would be the Touhou character you would be least likely to pick up the bar tab for?
Yuyuko. She'd probably clean out the kitchen.

5. Had you known it wasn't related to Touhou, would you have bought a shirt similar to Hecatia's "Welcome to Hell" shirt?
Nope. I'm a very plain-clothes kinda guy.

6. If you had control over water, fire, earth or air, which one would you choose?
Water, assuming I can make it. I'd never get thirsty, never have to worry about bathing, I can put out fires, and so on.

7. Would you rather see two hours into your own future or two hours into everyone else's future?
My own, only because I know I'd probably be helpless in using other people's futures to their advantage. Plus, I'm more likely to actually do things with my own future, and if other people are involved, it predicts their futures as well.

8. What would be the crime you would most likely commit? (Note: "nothing" is not an answer)
Speeding. I've gotten a speeding ticket before in some pretty unfortunate circumstances (sandwiched in by a tailgater who what speeding).

9. If one sport had to be wiped off the face of the earth forever, what would it be?
Pro Golf, only because apparently it's a huge time-sink among the rich and politicians from doing more productive stuff, and I'm willing to bet more stuff would get done if it wasn't around. Putt putt can stay, though.

10. What is your favorite genre of movie to watch?
Action-adventure, of course!

11. What is your favorite walfas video, if any?
This is a tough one. Picking something I had no hand, it's gotta be castlepokemetroid's Rinnosuke's Hardware Store. Well-animated, great music, showcases every character, funny, it's got it all. Though, for collabs, I want to say Ceej39's adaptation of The Greatest Story Never Told: Ceej took a pretty standard comic of mine and turned it into gold with his top-notch direction and great additional sight gags.

12. If you had to revive a dead celebrity, who would it be?
Chester Bennington. See Question 3.

I'm not tagging anyone, but feel free to tag me if you want: as much as I made fun of tag questions in the past, I wanna get around to doing these more nowadays.
If you've paid attention behind the scenes, you've probably heard me talk a lot about the mechanics of Diamond In The Rough and its antithesis Wrath of the Amanojaku. I've also been really emphasizing lately there is no single way to write: that everyone will develop their own style and series of techniques. Of course, some folks love to say, "Write like Spaztique says or he'll come to get you!," but that completely ignores the disclaimer at the start of my guides saying, "Hey, I don't have all of the answers, this is just me adding my two cents."

So, I want to talk about the myriad ways of writing heroes and villains.

This post came about from, as I said at the start, comparing and contrasting two of my feature-length projects, the self-insert-fic-deconstruction Diamond In The Rough and the celebration-of-all-things-Touhou comic Wrath of the Amanojaku. In one, the characters fall into a dark-grey territory where it's no longer clear who's really the villains or the heroes, and in the other, there is a clear villain and clear heroes. In the fics I've either critiqued in the past or helped folks out with, they've spanned from anti-heroes and anti-villains to straight-up heroes to straight-up villains. I'm not going to tell you "what makes a good hero" or "what makes a good villain", because that falls on your ability to plot. As I've said before, a good plot brings out the best in even the most poorly-written characters, and a bad plot destroys good characters.

Rather, this post is about your options for creating heroes and villains.

Your options for villains.

First, obviously, what is their motivation? Some of what we deem "villains" are just normal people. An antagonist does not need to be a twirly-mustached Snidely Whiplash type whose hobbies include tying damsels in distress to railroad tracks and armed robbery: it can be as simple as a rival love interest in a romance comedy, a rival in a sport movie, or even two friends competing over the same goal. Of course, you can do Snidely Whiplash types if the story calls for it: otherwise, we wouldn't have "obvious villain" villains like Harry Potter's Voldemort, Lord of the Rings' Sauron, or, to some extent, Hans Gruber from Die Hard. The pitfall of writing an "obvious villain" villain is that it's too easy to fall into the trap of not fleshing out their motives, other than, "They're evil! Why do I need an explanation?" And sometimes, this can be done well: if a villain does it merely for what appears to be the sheer thrill of it, like The Joker from The Dark Knight, or simply out of animal instincts, like the shark from Jaws, it can be quite scary.

How do they achieve their motivation in a way that makes them villainous? A common writing adage is that villains could often be heroes if they just went about achieving their goals different. Most war stories or battles of wide-scale conflict often have both sides saying they're fighting for peace, but one side believes in freedom and the rights of all, while the other believes in power and crushing those who get in their way. Both sides have the same resources, same setting, same really everything, but their ideologies split them between heroes and villains. Compare Star Wars' rebels (peace and freedom) to the Empire (power and oppression), Transformers' Autobots (peace and freedom) to the Decepticons (power and oppression), or even Command and Conquer's GDI (peace and freedom) to NOD (power and oppression). Historically, that's been that appeal of WW2 fiction, at least the European Theater: you had the Allies (peace and freedom) vs. the Nazis (power and oppression). Interestingly, the Pacific Theater, and the war stories it derives, focus on another dynamic: what if both parties both say they're fighting for peace and freedom, and both parties also use some pretty underhanded tactics? As a result, stories of the Japan-US conflict of WW2 tend to be more pessimistic, dark, and sober (Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers, Tora! Tora! Tora!, etc.) than their gun-ho adventurous European counterparts (The Longest Day, the original Medal of Honor and Call of Duty games, and even Saving Private Ryan has a "quest-like" feel to it).

Continuing with this idea of motivation, let's look at this on a smaller scale with individual characters. Watchmen is a great example of how not every hero is heroic (such as the cold and tenacious Rorschach, who's not above torturing his enemies) and not every villain is villainous (the big bad's main goal is to end the Cold War and bring world peace). Of course, it's also great to have a hero who loves doing good, fighting an enemy who's obviously evil: look at any Marvel movie, or the campaigns of Starcraft 2, which feature truly heroic characters saving the universe for nightmarish villains. Plus, as I said in the first point, not every antagonist needs to go out of their way to be bad: most sports stories have teams fairly competing, and the only real conflict is, "Side A wants to win, but so does Side B." In the first three Rocky movies, Rocky challenges his opponents to a fair fight: Apollo Creed is obviously just an ordinary boxer who plays by the rules, as is Clubber Lang (if slightly more aggressive), and Rocky is just another match to them, but the conflict stems from how Rocky is hopelessly outmatched and must train like crazy just to survive, let alone win. The Rocky series took a turn for the campy when in Rocky IV, we're introduced to Ivan Drago, who doesn't play by the rules, even outright killing Apollo Creed in the ring, and rather than being a conventional sports movie, it becomes revenge story amid Cold War-era politics. Of course, this doesn't stop people from liking Drago: iMockery even made a game in homage to Ivan Drago's over-the-top character. So, there you have it: even if the plot doesn't work, an entertaining villain is still an entertaining villain.

Do they actually know they're villainous? To quote my favorite writing teacher Robert McKee, "Most villains don't even know what they're doing is bad, but it's often the people who believe they are completely good who end up being the most evil." As mentioned in the previous point, a villain can be a hero if they just changed their ways, but why change them if they already think they're "good" to begin with? Every evil empire thinks, "Well, we have to oppress people. Freedom is dangerous in the hands of idiots. Power means order, after all!" The person who yells at us in line, the car that honks at us for not running a red light, the cook who gets mad at you when they got your order wrong, all these people see themselves as in the right. Heck, I'm sure we can all remember a time we ourselves thought we were in the right, only to look back and think, "Crap, I really acted a jerk to that person." Everyone, no matter how good, acts in their own self-interest; not in a "selfish" kind of way, but I mean we view morality from our own point of view, do things to ensure our own survival, and so on. To put this into perspective, altruism, kindness, and humility in themselves are forms of self-interest: we put the interests of others before our own because we believe it'll be better for us in the long run, and that selfishness, bullying, and greed will hurt us rather than help us. However, not everyone believes that: some folks really do think that lying, cheating, hurting others to get ahead, taking advantage of others, and being a jerk is acceptable because "that's the way of the world." They justify doing horrible things by saying, "Well, everyone else is doing it, so I might as well do it, too!" So we end up with cynical characters like Tyler Durden from Fight Club, who decides the only way to defeat the corrupt exploitative establishment is to replace it with his own corrupt exploitative establishment. The same can be said of tragic anti-heroes such as William Foster from Falling Down, Paul Kersey from Death Wish, or Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, who are so fed up with the corruption of society that they decide to fight back just as brutally. To them, it's an eye for an eye, and their rampages feel perfectly justified. In the minds of many villains, they don't really see themselves as villains: they see themselves as "anti-heroes," justifying their hideous, reprehensible actions by saying the ends justify the means. Of course, we'll cover real anti-heroes (and not just self-glorifying villains) later in this.

But sometimes villains know they're doing evil. Then comes the next question, do they care that what they're doing is wrong? In the case where it's a simple rivalry, you don't really need this question, but if the villain really is doing some bad stuff to get what they want, how do they feel about it? Are they like Mr. Freeze from Batman, who only commits crimes so he can find a cure for his dying wife, and it's obvious his life of crime is merely out of desperation? Or are they like The Joker, who sees it all as one big joke? To Vincent from Collateral, murdering people is just a job. Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street and Pennywise from IT both have an absolute blast torturing kids. On the comedic side of things, Dr. Evil from Austin Powers literally attended "evil medical school" for his title, and when his #2 man "Number Two" calls him out for the fact his evil schemes make less money than their business front, Dr. Evil simply kills him in cold blood. The Grinch of How the Grinch Stole Christmas gleefully steals all the Who's Christmas stuff to end their yearly Christmas racket, reveling in how they'll react once they find out he stole Christmas (of course, the fact the Who's still celebrate Christmas anyway gives him a change of heart, which I'll cover shortly). The same can be said of the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine, who gleefully destroy all the joy and goodness of Pepperland simply because they like being mean, and it's up to the Beatles to save everyone through the power of music (and, like the Grinch, they have a change of heart). While not every villain needs to be a "card-carrying villain," they are possible and often very, very enjoyable.

Lastly, do they have a moral limit? In a classic scene in Scarface (which, with a violence and language warning, you can see here), just when it seems like Tony Montana couldn't hit a moral rock bottom after stealing, lying, abusing drugs, and insulting his wife for "having a womb so polluted she can't even had a child," he's called to do another assassination by his drug dealer. Everything seems normal until the target gets into a car with his wife and children. Tony relents, but is forced to follow the car, knowing that if he refuses, his dealer will obviously kill him right back. The assassin driving with arms a bomb planted under the targets car, and Tony tells him, "You don't have the guts to look them in the eye when you kill them!" In that moment, we recall all the other previous scenes with how close he was to his family, his sister, and how just only a few minutes ago, despite insulting his wife before she left him, he wanted to have kids of his own. The other assassins tell him to do his job, but instead of destroying the car, Tony Montana shoots them, leaving the target and his kids to drive off safely. Unfortunately, this action leads to his eventual demise when said dealer sends an army to assassinate Tony (but not before taking as many of them with him as possible), but for a moment, we remember that Tony, despite being a mafia kingpin, has a conscience, unlike his fellow criminal masterminds.

Many stories have moments like this where the seemingly bad character realizes maybe what they're doing isn't worth it: the Grinch's heart growing three sizes after witnessing the Who's aren't as materialistic as he thought they were and celebrating Christmas anyway, the cynical capitalist Oscar Schindler of Schindler's List witnessing the extermination of the Jews firsthand and deciding from there to save as many as he can, even Darth Vader of Star Wars, who was willing to commit genocide for decades, finally put his foot down when the Emperor threatened to kill his son. If a villain can eventually reach his limit and put his foot down, the results are often memorable and moving.

But not every villain has a moral limit: some remain defiant to the end. In the finale of Star Trek (2009), the crew of the Enterprise offer to show the villainous Nero, who had already committed genocide and many other crimes, mercy and save him when it's clear he won't survive. Spock questions why they'd save him, and Kirk says showing compassion would probably work on a Romulan. Instead, Nero replies he'd rather suffer in agony than accept help from the Enterprise. Knowing there is literally nothing in the universe that will ever change Nero's mind at this point, Kirk simply replies, "You got it," and not only leaves him to die, but fires everything they have left at his already-imploding ship: a truly badass moment as the Enterprise give the villain a death he both wants and deserves. Many James Bond villains go out in similar ways: it looks like they have Bond on the ropes, taunt him for not understanding how the world "really" works and how he's such a naive optimist, only for Bond to outsmart his enemies, kill them, and save the world. In some cases, the villain simply does not have a moral limit: the shark in Jaws just wants to eat, the Terminator just wants to kill his target, and in the case of comic horror, the villains aren't even aware the humans exist, or at least don't even consider them to be alive, such as the titular Hellstar of Hellstar Remina, or in a more comedic example, the humans in Sausage Party.

So, these are just some of your choices you have to work with. And, as always, it's not black or white: this runs along a sliding scale for each variable. In summary, think of these as sliders:
  • Is the villain's motivation concrete, abstract, or unknown? Another way of putting it, is it simple, complex, or hidden?
  • Is the villain moral, immoral, or amoral? Another way of putting it, do they want to do the right thing, are they willingly doing bad things, or do they change their morality depending on the situation? What are their methods of achieving what they want?
  • Does the villain willingly and knowingly do bad things? Do they know they're a villain, or do they think they're good and oblivious to their wrongdoings?
  • If they know they're villainous, do they feel bad about it, neutral, or good about it?
  • Does the villain have a moral limit? And if so, what is it?

From this, we can make a template to analyze villains. Compare the villains below:

Villain A:
Has complex motivation: wants to save the world and bring world peace.
Is Amoral: has an "ends justify the means" attitude and commits atrocities knowing it'll be worth it in the end.
Knowingly does bad things, feels only slightly bad about them.
Does have a moral limit, but avoids crossing it.

Villain B:
Has simple motivation: destroy their enemies.
Is Immoral: knowingly lies, cheats, steals, and stabs people in the back to get what they want.
Does not see themselves as a villain, but an all-loving anti-hero fighting "the true villains."
Has no moral limit.

Villain C:
Has simple motivation: to beat out their competition.
Is Moral: will not cheat, lie, or steal. Uses only the power of hard work and determination.
Does not see themselves as a villain, mainly for not doing anything villainous.
Obviously has moral limits.

Villain D:
Has no known motivation, but appears to be destroying/eating everything it comes into contact with.
Is Amoral: does not operate on human logic. Simply uses brute force.
Does not see themselves as a villain.
Has no moral limit.

Wildly different antagonists, huh? Villain A would be your classic "anti-villain" archetype, who's heart might be in the right place, but the way they go about it turns them into a villainous person. It's easier to sympathize with Villain A than Villain B, the self-righteous hypocrite villain like Borderlands 2's Handsome Jack or the less-funny Voldemort from Harry Potter. Then you have the honest rival, who'd be your Apollo Creed from Rocky, Iceman from Top Gun, or Miles Edgeworth from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Villain D is the animalistic antagonist, ranging from the Xenomorph from Alien to the cosmic horrors of H.P. Lovecraft's works.

Again, these variables are not exhaustive, so I'm sure you can find more.

Your options for heroes.

Many of the choices for villains are similar for heroes, but due to narrative focus, i.e. more screentime, some choices will be different.

First, what is their level of motivation for getting what they want? Some heroes want to jump right into the fray, such as most shonen protagonists, or like any hero of the Star Wars franchise: Anakin, Luke, and Rey all want to jump head-first into adventure and already have minoring adventuring experience beforehand, almost practicing for the real deal. Harry Potter jumps at his chance to go to Hogwarts, Bill & Ted see their time-traveling adventure as a godsend for their history assignment, Shirou of Fate/Stay Night dives in headfirst when he finds out he has no choice but to fight in the Holy Grail War, Neo of The Matrix is sick of his boring life and joins the Zion rebels to fight the Machines, and in a darker example, Ishmael jumps at the chance to go on a whaling adventure in Moby Dick, in a time where sea creatures were considered kaiju. In some cases, the hero just rolls with it because they don't have a choice: Gordon Freeman of Half Life finds himself at ground zero for intergalactic disaster, and has no choice but to pick up a crowbar and fight for survival, as is the case for the hero of Doom. In Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent is minding his own business when his house gets demolished to make way for a new highway, and just when things can't get any worse, it turns out Earth is going to be demolished for an intergalactic highway, so Arthur hitches a ride with Ford Prefect through space because he has no choice. Some heroes want to go on the journey, but not every hero does.

Naturally, this ties into the next question: what is their goal? This is pretty basic storytelling stuff. Do they want a physical goal or an internal goal? Physical goals include stuff like win the contest, get the love interest, defeat the villain, and so on. Internal goals include stuff like maturity/growth, peace of mind, coping with a past upset, and so on. Of course, neither is mutually exclusive: as I've written about in the past, many journeys require characters to achieve the internal goal before getting the external goal, and in some cases, the external goal to achieve in the internal (though, this materialist twist on things is less common). And again, not every story needs both: sometimes you can only have an external goal if the characters' arcs are solidified, or an internal goal if the story is more laid back. To illustrate this, I offer two examples:

First, a serious example. In Mr. Holland's Opus, Mr. Holland wants to be a famous composer, so he decides he's going to be a music teacher: he's got all summers and evenings off and decent pay, so of course he'll have time to write, right? Turns out the school wants him to host some after-school stuff, tutor kids, and to spend more time at work. Not only that, his wife is pregnant, and when the son is born, it turns out he's deaf. Now Mr. Holland has to balance his family life and work life, and the story progresses over multiple decades as he focuses more on getting closer to his deaf son and saving the school's music program than writing his opus. Finally, the school shuts down the music program, Mr. Holland is about to retire, and he never finished his opus. However, just as he's about to leave, he's led to the school auditorium, where all of the students he influenced fill the crowd, and his son and wife wait in the crowd, and he gives one final performance before all of them. So, despite not getting to fulfill his dreams to become a rich and famous composer, he got something more important: the love of the people he most cares about and who care about him.

Second, a not-so-serious example: in Kingpin, Roy Munson is a former champion bowler who gets screwed over by rival Ernie McCracken, resulting in the loss of his hand and the end of his career. Cut to several years later: Roy now has a prosthetic hand, living in a rundown apartment where he's forced to have sex with the hideous and ill-tempered landlady to pay the rent, clearly having given up on life. The rest of the plot follows him as he tries to climb out of the gutter (pun only slightly intended) and get revenge on Ernie in the latest tournament, joined by Ishmael, a young Amish man learning how to bowl to save his family via tournament prize money, and Claudia, a woman escaped a relationship with an abusive bowler herself. Things go well for a while, as Roy nearly beats Ernie after all these years, but Ernie still wins, much to Roy's horror, and Ernie seems to get off scot-free for his crimes. But despite losing, Roy's efforts pay off: Roy gets an endorsement from Trojan for his nickname "Rubber Man" for his prosthetic rubber hand, and Ishmael is forgiven for secretly bowling after Roy and Claudia explain the whole thing. In the end, Roy donates his money to Ishmael's family to save his farm, and he and Claudia drive off into the sunset. He didn't get the money, but at least he got a new chance at life.

Both films are classic examples that not every goal can be achieved, but the journey to maturity is often more important.

Of course, how do they go about getting what they want? Same case with the villains, and here lies the sliding scale of heroes to anti-heroes. True heroes are paragons (read: high examples) of morality and goodness. They don't cheat, lie, steal, or hurt others. On one end of the scale, we got the truly heroic heroes who refuse to kill people (ala The Lone Ranger, Batman), who use their powers to make the world a better place (despite his snarky exterior, like Tony Stark, aka Iron Man), and use their influence to unite people (Jim Raynor from Starcraft, the titular Harry Potter, Optimus Prime from Transformers). Going down the scale, you got the classic anti-hero, i.e. a hero with not-so-heroic traits: Tony Stark has all of the classic heroic qualities, from his ideals to use his technology for peace, willingness to sacrifice himself to save humanity, and never giving up in the face of adversity, but he's also rude, ill-tempered, doesn't play well with others, cynical, and when he's not battling alcoholism, he's facing anxiety attacks. The same can be said of Star Wars' Han Solo or Dameron Poe: both loose cannons who don't play by the rules, but also willing to set that aside to save the galaxy. Deadpool is a self-aware example: he describes himself as "a bad guy who beats up the worse guys," and is willing to murder villains with no remorse (and plenty of quips), but is still a compassionate and protective person past all his snark and comedic sociopathy. Some heroes aren't above lying or trickery to save the day: they can be as harmless as Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop or the Doctor of Doctor Who, or the Chaotic Neutral of Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean. Going further down the line, we have the previously-mention tragic heroes, who do pretty terrible things to worse people. At the furthest end of the spectrum, you have the villain protagonist, who blurs the line between hero and villain: folks like Light from Death Note or Captain Walker from Spec Ops: The Line. At this point, the only thing that makes them a "hero" is that they're the protagonist, but looked at objectively, they're really just villains in denial.

And lastly, is there a moral line the heroes are willing to cross to get what they want? On Nickelodeon, there have been numerous episodes on every series dedicated to this: the episode of Rocko's Modern Life where Rocko becomes a megalomaniac boss, one episode where Doug pawns off somebody's stuff (albeit unknowingly) for extra cash, an episode of Aaah! Real Monsters! where Ickis decides to exploit people's phobias than be naturally scary like his school is teaching him to do, and so on. Of course, in the end, they're always punished for it (most famously with Ickis having to clean the bathroom floors with a toothbrush). The majority of heroes won't stay over the morally ambiguous line forever, often always having a "WHAT AM I DOING?!," reaction before stepping back. But when they stay over the line, they often become villains, and such moments are both heartbreaking but oh-so-amazing: Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face in Batman, or Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII transforming from the stoic badass leader into the maniacal harbinger of doom.

Again, this list is not exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of your choices when it comes to heroes. In short:

  • What is their willingness to go along with the story? Do they want to go on an adventure, don't want, or don't care either way?
  • What is their goal? Is it internal, external, or both?
  • Are they moral, immoral, or amoral? What do they do to get what they want?
  • Is there a moral line they're willing to cross to get what they want?

Compare and contrast these heroes. The template is a little simpler, as answering one will answer another:

Hero A:
Wants to save the world, is completely willing to go on the journey.
Tries to be Moral, but can be Amoral. Does the right thing for the most part, but is willing to compromise their values if desperate.
Does have a moral limit, only crosses it out of desperation, feels regretful if doing so.

Hero B:
Wants to save the world, doesn't have a choice, but goes through with it anyway.
Is Moral: will not lie, cheat, or do anything to compromise their values.
Does have a moral limit and will not cross it.

Hero C:
Just wants to get stronger, uses external goal as a crucible for change.
Is Moral: will not cheat, lie, or steal. Uses only the power of hard work and determination.
Obviously has moral limits.

Hero D:
Wants to destroy their enemies at any cost.
Is Immoral: Uses the tactics of the very people they're fighting, simply because the villains will "do it first."
Has no moral limits, willing to do hideous things in the name of "good."
Hero A would be your classic hero typical of a Hero's Journey arc. They want to do good, but certain traits hold them back until they finish their character arc. Hero B is the reluctant hero: they don't want to go on the journey, but since they have to, they're going to play the hero to the best of their ability. Hero C is the foil to Villain C: two rivals in fair competition. Hero D is the "Hero in name only": depending on the story, they can either be "the bad guy who beats of the worse guys," such as Michael Corleone from The Godfather or Tony Montana from Scarface, or just a plain villain protagonist.

I'm going to keep repeating this: this list is not exhaustive. The lesson here is that there are several choices that go into making a hero or a villain, all on sliding scales. The next time you're wondering what makes a "good" hero or a "good" villain, remember that each one of these heroes and villains have been pulled off correctly. There are 100% good heroes, 100% evil villains, villains with good intentions, heroes with bad intentions, heroes with complex motivations, heroes with no motivation, villains with complex motivations, villains with no motivation, and so on and so forth.

And remember, there is no "one" way to write anything,

P.S. Actually, take a stab at who those villains/heroes in the examples are based on, and if you're right, you get a llama badge! Hint: the examples are all in this blog post.
I've been wanting to do this for February, so I might as well do it before the month ends.

From the creator of "Spec Ops: The- HOLY SHIT, A GAZELLE!!!," it's...

Doki Doki Literature Club - You Pick The Route!


For those unfamiliar, Doki Doki Literature Club is a cute, fluffy, goofy visual novel with a surprising amount of heart and complexity: so much so that it's earned numerous awards. Now YOU can see what all the fuss is about!

And better yet, YOU get to pick which girl I romance!

The story's simple: your best friend Sayori gets you into a poetry-writing club, and it's full of your typical anime love interest archetypes...
  • Sayori: Your goofy clumsy best friend! However, she appears to be harboring sadder feelings inside, and her route focuses on getting her out of her depression!
  • Natsuki: The tsundere, of course, who specializes in baking. Her route goes into her home life, and you become her Prince Charming.
  • Yuri: The yandere, but she's fine. I know they say, "Don't stick you @#$& in crazy," but she's actually a fairly complex character, and her route is actually pretty steamy. I won't spoil much: you'll just have to see it for yourself...

And there's Monika, who doesn't have a route, but she's my favorite character for not being 100% batshit crazy (at least in comparison to everyone else), for poking at the fourth wall a lot, and offering helpful hints and insights throughout the game. And by breaking the fourth wall, I mean she's practically aware this is a dating sim and basically indulges in the cliches. BUT THEY DIDN'T GIVE HER A FRIGGIN ROUTE!!! WHYYYYY?!?!?! But oh well: just think of her as my "co-host" for this stream.

Anyway, you guys get to pick which girl I romance this time around: I've already beaten all three routes numerous times, but I just wanna show the game off. If you want cute and heartwarming, pick Sayori. If you want funny, pick Natsuki. If you want sexy, pick Yuri.

Stream time is 8:00 PM Central on Friday, 2/23/18, on my Twitch channel.

Trust me when I say you do NOT wanna miss this!

We'll be waiting!,
-Spaztique and Monika

In case you haven't heard on some of the chats I frequent, I'm working on a manga adaptation of my National Novel Writing Month 2017 entry Virgin Killer Club!, the tongue-in-cheek affectionate parody of eroge visual novels. For more information of this story, click here. My goal was to write a moderately cleaner version of the original story that could easily pass for broadcast. All of the content's been drastically toned down, the love scenes are safe enough to watch on network TV, and the plot's been nicely cleaned up! Unlike the purely R18 original VKC, the manga version is more PG-13 (or at least R15 using doujinshi ratings: safe for high-schoolers, not so much for anyone younger).

However, after talking it over with dA senior members and volunteers and showing them what I had so far, it might be better to err on the side of caution and move the comic off-site.

Luckily, since VKC isn't pornographic (the love scenes never show anything explicit at all and are done for comedy and to advance the plot, not titillation), and there are content tools to ensure nobody can see anything NSFW unless logged in, we've reached a comprise, and I should be able to safely link it to at least get the word out.


The Virgin Killer Club! Manga Tumblr Page!

To ensure the safety of dA users, there's a three-tiered system in play: first, none of the NSFW material is accessible from the main page itself. Second, you need a Tumblr account to even get to the NSFW pages in the first place! Third, I plan to take the link down once we start getting close to uploading anything even remotely NSFW, so you better follow while the gettin's good, otherwise you'll just have to google it.

Here's a preview of what to expect... (Note: To preserve that authentic manga feel, it reads right-to-left.)

VKCEpisode1Clean 017 by Spaztique

VKCEpisode1Clean 023 by Spaztique

VKCEpisode1CleanPart2 027 by Spaztique

As you can see, it's actually a straight-forward harem romance comedy. Though, not to say it can also get pretty dark...

VKCEpisode1CleanPart2 012 by Spaztique

VKCEpisode1CleanPart2 029 by Spaztique

VKCEpisode1CleanPart3 006 by Spaztique

So, if you want to see more, follow the VKC Manga Tumblr! Uploads will begin on February 21, and links will be taken down within a month or so of that.
As animation for the (hideously belated) Christmas video wraps up (at the home stretch as of 1/19/18, hoping this video isn't a month late), I'd like to briefly talk to you folks about the upcoming feature-length comic I'm working on...

DDCWotaLogo by Spaztique
If you're unfamiliar with this project, it's a retelling of Double Dealing Character with several elements of Symposium of Post-Mysticism, Impossible Spell Card, Hopeless Masquerade, Urban Legend In Limbo, and even a flashback to Mountain of Faith (explaining why Marisa B was so overpowered). Expect MinusT-style danmaku dogfights, gobs of references, and a celebration of everything we love about Touhou. (Basically, everything encapsulated in this page.)

As I said before, this project is the true anti-Diamond In The Rough: While DitR was a dark look at Touhou self-insert fics, saying your OC is nothing more than a pawn to forces beyond its comprehension, WotA is a brighter look at vanilla Touhou, saying even a pawn can win the battle. In DitR, there are no clear heroes or villains: the "good guys" do horrible things, and the "bad guys" are trying to save Gensokyo in the long run. Here, the story starts out with anti-villains wanting to save Gensokyo and the main characters being petty and bickering with each other, but there eventually comes a point where it's very clear there are heroes and villains. (Or rather, a villain.) In DitR, all of the factions were merely out for themselves, emphasizing the unpredictable nature of Gensokyo's youkai and why it's not a good idea for you (the OC writer) to automatically trust them: especially considering Yukari's plan to prolong the balance in the youkai's favor indefinitely. In WotA, a running theme is that the youkai need the humans as much as the humans need the youkai to protect them, and that all of this "youkai vs. humans" stuff was made up (and I'm planning to have Yukari imply she is the one who wrote DitR to scare outsiders who want to go native). So, if you hated DitR for the reasons above, you're probably going to really love this.

But that's not how DDC: WotA has changed how I do Walfas.

As many of you have heard in the chat, I'm using the program ComiPo, essentially a 3d manga consumer version of Walfas (though you have to wait for it to go on sale because it's not normally cheap). I've posted previews of what I've been doing in the WSW chat and some related Touhou chats, but I feel like I should let the DA folks know what I've been up to as well. (Especially considering certain folks love saying I don't do Walfas anymore, even though I've still been tutoring folks for the years they've said this.)

To give you an idea of the level of detail ComiPo is capable of, here's a few pics from a test comic I've been working on in my non-animating time, based on Sumireko's final stage (though, this comic doesn't spoil really anything) and the movie Being John Malkovich:

BeingSumirekoPreview 002 by Spaztique

You might be wondering, "Where'd you get those 3d backgrounds?" Those were all made in ComiPo using textures and 3d objects.

But it's not just backgrounds you can do. See the desk? Here's one panel from the next page. (And btw, you can render individual panels, too. That's how I rendered the DDC Logo above. And yeah, that was made in ComiPo, too.)

BeingSumirekoPreviewFrame by Spaztique

That's rights. I was able to render the desk and chairs in 3d with ComiPo using the 3d primitives props. When I said ComiPo would be a Walfas game changer, I friggin' meant it.

But it also does Walfas backgrounds, too. Check this out from the latter half of the comic (and here's the other scene it's based on to compare, and if you played AoCF and watch that entire clip, you'll know why I'm doing this parody).

BeingSumirekoPreview 012 by Spaztique

So, how does this translate to DDC: Wrath of the Amanojaku?

Well, that comic you see above is an effects test for DDC: WotA. I'm doing test runs to experiment with my new workflow using ComiPo, so that when the time comes, I'll have a whole toolkit of techniques to use for DDC: WotA.

If you've been following production status of DDC: WotA, then you've probably seen the preview versions of each chapter. Let's use page 5-52 as an example. The context here: the heroines have just shot down Sekibanki, but she's not giving up any answers to what's going on. The youkai not participating the rebellion, which includes Kogasa, show up to help, and Kogasa quickly identifies Sekibanki, who tries to basically tell Kogasa, "Shut up, you don't know me!"

DDC Part5 052 by Spaztique

So, how does this translate to Walfas?

Using rsgmaker's createX and PNG Exporter, I can individually capture each character. I can add shadows within createX or ComiPo. The result looks like this:

DDCCh5FirstLookPreBackground by Spaztique

The cool thing about this is I can easily swap out character sprites or backgrounds if I ever make a mistake, without ever having to recreate the entire picture. I even plan on recoloring Kogasa's eyes in future edits, and I don't have to worry about editing the whole picture: just individual sprites.

Using a temp background, I can show the next step: adding backgrounds and color correction. Although this isn't the final product (the background needs work), it should give you an idea of the level of detail I'm going for... (Oh, and btw, I'm eventually gonna need background artists when I start acquiring props, so think of this as your proof of concept.)

DDCCh5FirstLookPostProduction by Spaztique

The cool thing about doing Walfas stuff this way is I never have to worry about opening create.swf and then be short on what dialogue to give the characters: I can just write out the entire script in ComiPo first and never have to worry about wasting time on a scene where I have to go back and delete the frames. Each of these pages took roughly 45 minutes, when making a comic with this level of detail the old-fashioned way would take over an hour. Plus, it has that nice comic format that's rarely employed with Walfas stuff.

I'm still looking for a freeware alternative to ComiPo, and doing this in Gimp or Photoshop has always been tedious and time consuming. But for now, it's become my main editing tool of choice, and when I get back to making comics with the regularity I used to, you can bet it'll be done with twice the speed, efficiency, and quality as before.

Either way, I'm hoping these kinds of comic make it big in 2018. If all goes as planned, DDC: WotA is going to break new ground for what's possible with Walfas, not to mention its message about hope for the future, the importance of friends and community, and never giving up in the face of hopelessness. It should be the ultimate antidote for all the drama the Walfas community has faced over the years.

But before I can do that, it's time to finish that video.
Happy 2018, everyone! Why not make your New Years Resolution to get more creative? And to do that, why not do a little create.swf this year?

Why not try...

Spaztique's 2018 Walfas Starter Kit!

For all skill levels!

This Starter Kit is contains everything you need to make Walfas comics and videos, including free software and tons of tutorials, all divided by skill level!

The Starter Kit is split into three sections:
  1. The Essentials - Stuff you need to make Walfas stuff!
  2. Technical Tutorials - Guides on how to make Walfas stuff!
  3. Challenges - Do what you learned!
With this and a little effort, you'll be able to make stuff like the pros in no time!

1. The Essentials - Stuff you need to make Walfas stuff!

Beginner-Level Essentials: For simple comic creation.

  • Create.swf (archived version) by KirbyM: The original 2d Touhou sprite engine, used by comic makers and animators the world over. Simple, versatile, all you need to make stuff!
  • Flash Player Projector: This is the program you'll need to open up create.swf and have it run efficiently. It is possible to open it in a web browser, but Flash Projector is much smoother.
  • Comic Layouter by rsgmaker: For simple comic layouts.
  • AndySnap: A trusty desktop capturing app. Great for taking screenshots of your creations without needing to hit PrintScreen and then copy-pasting it elsewhere. There's more software like this out there, but this is what I personally use.

Intermediate-Level Essentials: For advanced comic creation.

  • CreateX Mod by rsgmaker: A modified create.swf with new props, skins, recolor features, backgrounds, camera tools, and beyond!
  • PNGExporter by rsgmaker: Allows you to save transparent images of your creations. Especially great for prop makers and animators!
  • Custom Hands by Ceej39: Now you can have characters giving advanced hand gestures!
  • Custom Arms by ShinKong: Due to missing custom bent arms in both Create programs, here's custom versions of all character arms. CreateX already allows detaching custom arms by default, but for vanilla users, use this.
  • GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulator Program: A freeware image editor. Good for making new custom props, background, modifying images, and beyond.
  • Another freeware image editor. If you're having trouble with GIMP, give a try.
  • Inkscape: A freeware vector drawing program. Great for props.
  • FreeMind: Freeware mindmapping software. Great for outlines and organizing ideas.

Expert-Level Essentials: For videos!

Pro-Level Recommendations: This stuff isn't free, but here's stuff either I personally use or my friends use...

  • Vegas Movie Studio Platinum: This is what I've been using for videos ever since I started. Simple, great for frame-by-frame animation, and very affordable. You can get it on sale on Steam.
  • ComiPo: Comic layout software. Although it comes with 3d models and is basically a 3d paid version of Create.swf, it can be used with create.swf to make some really advanced layouts. You can also get it on sale on Steam.
  • Adobe Photoshop: Not exactly cheap or easy to come by, but a godsend that blows GIMP and out of the water with its custom layering system, masking, soft selection tools, and more.

2. Technical Tutorials - Guides on how to make Walfas stuff!

Beginner-Level Tech Guides: For basic operation of create.swf.

Intermediate-Level Tech Guides: For actually making decent content.

Expert-Level Tech Guides: To stand out from the crowd.

Pro-Level Recommendations: This stuff isn't free, but here's stuff either I personally use or my friends use...

  • Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud. These are three indispensable guides to the history of comics, how they work, why comic makers do what they do, and how to improve upon comic conventions.
  • Story by Robert McKee. My go-to writing guide, it covers everything from structure to writing principles to how to tackle specific writing problems most writers face. A must for everyone from sketch comedy writers to serious playwrights.
  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. This is a great guide for character arc-based stories and building a solid story premise.

3. Challenges - Do what you learned!

Note 1: You don't have to upload these. Do these on your own time, and it'll show once you finally start making stuff worthy of being uploaded. Though, if it is good, upload it and share it.

Note 2: The beginner and intermediate challenges assume you'll be using Vanilla Create.swf.

Beginner-Level Challenges - Getting to know Create.swf:

  1. Hello World: Download the essentials, open Create.swf with Flash Projector, and take a screenshot of a random Touhou character. Congrats! You now know how to make screenshots in create.swf.
  2. Ready Player One: Design an Author Avatar based on what you are currently wearing.
  3. Set The Stage: Properly resize the background.
  4. Make A Scene: Make a simple scene involving two characters and some props. Dialogue is optional.
  5. I Can Talk!: Properly resize your first speech bubble.
  6. I Can Walk!: Use the Parts system to make a simple walking animation.
  7. Drop The Bomb!: Use the Cluster function to make a danmaku bullet pattern.
  8. Make It Rain!: Use the Rain function to make it rain a certain prop.
  9. The Invisible Man: Successfully remove all of the parts on a body.
  10. Return To Nothing!: Clear the stage without having to restart create.swf or use the delete key.

Intermediate-Level Challenges - Let's Make Something:

  1. Set Dressing: Use at least 15 props to decorate a background.
  2. MacGyver Stagecraft: Make a background entirely out of props. (Hint: Zoom into the props to make walls and the floor.)
  3. Roger Corman Prop School: Make an object that's not in create.swf by default out of objects within create.swf.
  4. Accessorize!: Using an empty character, add additional accessories onto an existing character.
  5. I Found My Shadow!: Place shadow props under your characters.
  6. Strike A Pose!: Remove the arms off your character and give them a custom pose.
  7. The Far Side: Make a single-panel comic and save it as a .png file.
  8. Four Panels To Freedom: Make a four-panel comic using the setup-elaboration-twist-result format, saved as a .png file.
  9. Looney Toons: Animate a simple frame-by-frame animation. This can be done in GIMP and can be exported as a .gif. 
  10. Welcome to the Party!: Upload something to the internet!

Advanced-Level Challenges - For next-level Create.swf users:

  1. Upgrade Complete: Switch to CreateX. Add lights, morph an object, and detach the arms off a character. Congrats! You're now ready for the advanced features!
  2. Downloadable Content: Insert a custom prop or background into create.swf.
  3. Worshop Mods: Create a simple custom prop and then import it into create.swf.
  4. No Longer A Pain In The Neck: Detach the head so your character can now freely rotate their head.
  5. Don't Turn Your Back On Me: Make or use a back sprite.
  6. In 3D Where Available: Either create or modify a background so it gives a sense of perspective and depth.
  7. We'll Fix It In Post: Edit one of your images in an external image editor in a way that can't be done in vanilla Walfas.
  8. It's A Long Story: Make a comic with at least eight panels.
  9. Give Me A Minute: Make a video that's at least 60 seconds long.
  10. Join The Club!: Upload something to a group!

Expert-Level Challenges - Not for the faint of heart!

  1. Marvel At My Works: Create a comic in a page-layout format instead of frame-by-frame format.
  2. I'm Sure KirbyM Didn't Draw That: Modify a Walfas sprite in such a way where it looks more like an original drawing. For example...
  3. Feature Length: Make an animation or series of animations that clock in at 10 minutes.
  4. To Be Continued: Make a comic that requires at least 3 parts to finish.
  5. Careful Not To Break Your Computer: Make a scene involving over 100 different objects on screen.
  6. Total Conversion Mod: Use Create.swf to make something outside its intended use. For example, here is a Mogeko Castle animation I made in create.swf.
  7. No Touhou? No Problem!: Make an animation involving a non-Touhou series. It can be original or based on an existing series.
  8. Let Your Voice Be Heard: Voice a character in a video!
  9. How It's Made: Stream yourself making something.
  10. Ready Player Two: Collaborate with someone on a project.

With that, you should have everything you need to know how to embark upon your journey into Walfas.

Additional tips:

  • Being good at Walfas means nothing if you're a jerk, so be sure to be friendly to your fellow Walfasers. Be nice, avoid grudges like the plague (you'll find the toxic side of the community tend to cling to their grudges to disturbing degrees), remain friendly with people regardless of group affiliation, and so on. Kindness goes a long way, and you'll find many of the community's leaders don't necessarily even make content, but do their best to keep the community together and encourage those who do make content.
  • Being good at Walfas also means nothing if you're miserable doing it. Do Walfas because you have fun with it: don't do it for fame or to prove yourself to anyone. Do it because you have fun developing stories and then sharing them with others.
  • Always remember Walfas is a hobby and should never get in the way of your life. Family comes first, school and work comes first, your health comes first, your offline friends need to know you still care, and so on. Do Walfas in the same way you'd spend your time watching TV or putting tiny ships in bottles.
  • And since Walfas is a hobby, be patient with yourself when it comes to getting better at it. Compare everyone's first works to their later better works, and you'll see everyone learns more and more over time. If you're having trouble, either experiment or ask for help. The community is super-tight-knit, so you'll definitely find plenty of folks willing to help you.
  • Join all the groups! You'll find each group accepts and rejects different stuff based on who's running it. You'll also find that groups share members, so don't think you can avoid them by just "switching" groups, because you're not really switching communities since it's all just one big community: you're just switching places where you put stuff. As I said previously, avoid grudges like the plague and don't discriminate based on group affiliation: most Walfasers are part of multiple groups unless they tend to only upload stuff to one group.
  • And speaking of which, you don't have to upload everything to groups, so don't feel bad if it gets rejected. It just means your submission wasn't a good fit for the group. Just keep it on your profile or submit it somewhere else. Don't ever leave a group just because they rejected your submissions: just find out what they accept and work on your skills.
  • And lastly, JOIN THE GROUP CHATS!!! What happens on DA is only the tip of the Walfas community iceberg: 90% of the actual events happen in our chatrooms. It's where we exchange ideas, hang out, and discuss community news and events. If you only get your information from the DA Walfasers, you're going to be left in the dark on a lot of current events.

Did you like this guide? Do you know anyone interested in Walfas, but doesn't know where to start? Share this guide with them! I'm hoping this guide helps spark a surge in newcomers, and the resources provided will ensure they take Walfas to new heights.

If you got any other tutorials or resources to suggest, feel free to put them in the comments.

Let's make 2018 a big year for the Walfas community,

    Every single year, with no exceptions, I have watched the TV Funhouse Christmas Special. For those unaware, TV Funhouse is a spinoff of the Saturday Night Live animated segment by Robert Smigel. The series ran only for December of 2000 to January of 2001, but each episode was downright amazing. But above all the great episodes, from Smigel reprising his role as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in a two-parter episode to the episode where the cast ditches the show to go to Tijuana, the best has to be, hands down, the Christmas special.

    The plot concerns the Anipals (the puppet animal cast of TV Funhouse) not being in the Christmas Spirit, while the show host Doug is in a festive mood. They think he's high on drugs, but it turns out to be Christmas Cheer, which they still assume is a drug and try to extract from Doug. I won't spoil any more: you just have to see it for yourself.

    Here's an edited-down "no shorts" version so you can appreciate the main plot in all its glory.

    Now then, let's analyze why this special is so damn good.

    The Main Plot - The Anipals' Christmas Cheer-Fueled Drug Spiral

    If anyone remembers the Peanuts Christmas Special, you'll remember the plot concerns Charlie Brown not being in the festive mood, and how everyone thinks he should get involved in a Christmas play to lift his spirits, but when things don't work out, Linus reminds him of the Christian origins of Christmas and to maybe not fret over the commercialized version of Christmas.

    The TV Funhouse Christmas Special is like that, but on crack (or should I say, Christmas Cheer).

    The episode starts out with the Anipals being annoyed by Doug's Christmas song (which itself is satirical of Christmas songs, only pausing briefly to go "Chriiiist waaas born!" before going back to the nonsense lyrics). Chickie even shouts, "Christmas?! BAH, HUMC**T!!!" None of them understand the Christmas cheer Doug has, thinking it's some sort of drug, and when they hear about it, Hank the lobster shouts, "S**T! We can make a FORTUNE!," like it's some kind of drug they can peddle. And let's not forget the subtlety when they go to Chickie's home to look for the kid with the science kit, pretending they're trying to make Whisker's "famous Christmas yogurt." It's clear none of these characters understand Christmas whatsoever. ("Snooow is falling!... on the yogurt!")

    When the Anipals finally get high on Christmas cheer, it descends into a typical commercialized version of Christmas: everyone's building a giant snowman, blaring out Christmas carols (on real victims), peeing "Merry Christmas" into the snow, all while doing lines of Christmas Cheer, selling it to other animals, and cutting back to a psychedelic band performance (a running gag of the series). Even the Christmas party they throw is just a drug-fueled orgy, and Christmas Cheer is nothing more than a drug for the gang to acquire.

    The next day, everyone's hung over from the drug-fueled orgy. I especially love the subtlety of the line by Jerry the sheep when he realizes it's 10 AM, "CHRIST!... I GOTTA BE SANTA!" The Anipals then go to a nativity play, high on cheer, annoying everyone else. They eventually realize, after a bizarre visit from the Ghost of Christmas past, they've got to stop doing drugs, just as they notice the nativity scene in front of them. They return to Doug and tell him Cheer isn't what Christmas is all about, and that a duck/lobster/cat/chicken/turtle/cockapoodle was born in a manger, before launching into a somewhat straight version of Angels We Have Heard on High, complete with Hank the Lobster in an operatic voice.

    The whole special never takes itself seriously, delivering everything in thick sarcasm, but as the old saying goes, "A story is a lie that reveals the truth." So for all of its satire and parody of Christmas specials, it somehow manages to remain a true-blue Christmas special. Sure, it's nothing you'd want to show your grandma (unless she's cool), but it's a Christmas special done right.

    The Side Plot - Xabu Catches The Tail, Christmas Edition

    Every episode of TV Funhouse cuts between the Anipals on their crazy adventures and Doug as he tries to keep the show together by himself and one co-host. It can be Rocky the Fish, a fish-out-of-water who actually enjoys entertaining kids, but needs to be splashed with water to keep going, or Terrance the Snake, who plays the game "Guess what Terrance ate", or Xabu, a husky who's always chasing his own tail.

    For the Christmas special, the side plot concerns Xabu trying to chase his tail again. Unlike the main plot, it's mostly family-friendly: Xabu's just trying to catch his tail in a cartoonish manner, like "lulling it into a false sense of security" by sitting it down to watch It's A Wonderful Life and bringing it under the mistletoe. Of course, there's nothing to stop Xabu from trying a similar approach in other episodes (which he has done, such as dressing us a lady tail in a bikini in one episode), so the only real difference between this and other episodes is they're just doing it with Christmas-theme traps. In other words, it's just a normal Xabu-chases-his-tail plot, but decorated with Christmas decorations. This is usually the norm for most Christmas specials nowadays: it's a typical episode, but it just so happens to take place on Christmas.

    And unlike the Anipals, Xabu seems to be in the Christmas spirit of sorts. Despite his protests of "No days off till I catch the tail!," he designs his traps around Christmas. However, much like the Anipals, he's celebrating the commercialized version of Christmas. And unlike the rest of the Anipals, he's still chasing his tail by the end of the episode. For him, it's any other day, just decorated with Christmas decor.

    In Conclusion...

    If you want to learn how to do a perfect parody of a Christmas special, look no further than TV Funhouse's Christmas Special. It plays the "commercialization of Christmas vs. the origins of Christmas" plot to a full hilt, plays with so many Christmas special tropes, makes fun of everything Christmas related from carolers to mall Santas to Christmas parties, and the ending is a perfect mix of sarcastic over-the-top bathos and genuine heartwarming spirit.

    And that is why I watch it every year.

    And while you're at it, just look up TV Funhouse on Youtube, though be warned: the Christmas special is oddly tame compared to the rest of the series.
    Due to needing to dedicate all of my time for A Very Walfas Christmas 2017, I will be cancelling all gaming streams until it is finished.

    Spaz & Co. Make Stuff LIVE will be moving to my Youtube page. Stream time will start between 9:30 and 10:00 PM Central.

    I will also be working on Double Dealing Character: Wrath of the Amanojaku over there once the Christmas video is finished.

    Looking forward to seeing you there!
    NOTICE: The December gaming streams have been cancelled due to the Christmas Sketch video needing priority. All streams will be dedicated to the Christmas Video stream.

    Original Post:

    With NaNoWriMo over (and finally beating my two-year losing streak), it's time to stream again!

    This month's schedule...

    Tuesday at 9:30 PM Central (starting 12/19/17) - Borderlands 2 DLC!

    Rejoin Spaztique, BleachBummer, crystalgreatsword, and IShingoYabuki as they return to Pandora to kick all kinds of ass, blow crap up, drive recklessly, get into hair-trigger duels, and fail to revive their teammates! This December, there ain't no rest for the wicked!

    Wednesday at 9:30 PM Central - BlazBlue Chronophantasma

    With co-commentator IShingoYabuki and open voice chat. Years ago, the New Order Library and the Ikaruga Federation clashed in civil war, resulting in the destruction of Ikaruga. Now, new information is leaking out the "civil war" might not have been what everyone thought it was. Join the ragtag group of heroes, the anti-heroic Ragna the Bloodedge, sarcastic loli vampire princess Rachel Alucard, shy wallflower with a destiny Noel Vermillion, cold swordsman Jin Kisiragi, amoral-but-well-meaning scientist Professor Kokonoe, spunky boxing squirrel girl Makoto Nanaya, and many, many more as they wage war against the dark forces of Yuuki Terumi, avatar of Susano'o, god of destruction.

    Thursday at 9:30 PM Central - Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon / Helen's Mysterious Castle

    Finishing Helen's Mysterious Castle (waiting on a patch to fix the finale), but following up is Konami's cult classic, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon! It's feudal Japan, and the Peach Mountain Shoguns want to turn Japan into a giant stage to become intergalactic superstars! It's up to the hotblooded Goemon, the overly effeminate Ebisumaru, the serious and professional agent Yae, the destructive-but-polite mechnical ninja Sasuke, and international super fighting robot Impact to save Japan (and make corny jokes along the way)! Voice chat will be open for co-commentary.

    Friday at 7:30 PM Central - Spaz and Co. Make Stuff LIVE! A Very Walfas Christmas Edition!

    That's right! Most of you are here because I used to make Walfas stuff before my hiatus, and now it looks like it's almost over! Join us as we make A Very Walfas Christmas 2017, plan sketches, animate, and provide Walfasing tips to new users! Whether you want to learn how to Walfas, make sketch videos, or just hang out with the peanut gallery, come rejoin a classic WSW past-time!

    Saturday at 9:30 PM Central - Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

    With co-commentators DeityDiz93 and BleachBummer, with open voice chat (no spoilers). After the events of Kingdom Hearts, Sora, Donald, and Goofy find themselves in Castle Oblivion, a castle that seems to suck up everyone's memories as they traverse through it, piecing together the events of the first game. Join our familiar Disney and Final Fantasy characters as they uncover the secrets of this castle and the mysterious organization behind its whereabouts. Oh, and everyone duels to the death with a card game.

    All streams will be on my Twitch page. Voice chat is on the WSW Discord unless noted otherwise. Hope to see you there!
    It's hard to think that for NaNoWriMo 2017, I'd be writing an erotica story, specifically an homage to hentai games. For the last five years for NaNoWriMo, I've done 3 action/adventures and one dark comedy satire, but this year, I've stretched my comfort zone into a genre that not only do I not do, but a genre my general audience doesn't follow. And yet, my usual naysayers keep thinking I only write "for fame" or "to prove how good a writer I am" or "to teach people lessons" or whatever nonsense they keep telling themselves. (Anyone who knows me knows my philosophy is that if you enjoy your work enough, fame follows, and that if you do anything to prove how great you are or prove some kind of idea, you almost always never finish. Even when I write non-fiction guides, I do it with the disclaimer that I'm only sharing ideas and that I'm not infallible.)

    So, why do I write?

    I think it's better you get it from the horse's mouth than anyone else: even my own friends can't seem to pinpoint the reasons why I write. So, here are my reasons for why I write:

    1. It's fun!

    It's like getting to watch a movie, read a book (obviously), or play a game, but you get to control where the story goes. You decide the fates of the characters, you build the world, you get to live the lives of several people and determine why they do what they do, what they do, how they do it, and whether or not it works. Anyone who's ever played with blocks, Lego bricks, the Sims, Garry's Mod, whatever, they can testify just how fun it is to play pretend on such a wide scale.

    In fact, everything else on this list is mainly an extension of this first point, so keep that in mind.

    2. You get to explore new worlds and meet interesting people!

    Everyone who's read my writing knows I love worldbuilding. For examples from my non-contemporary stories...
    • Voidspawn takes place in a post-apocalyptic nightmare where giant mechs fight eldritch abominations that can make you go blind just looking at the with the naked eye, where food is rationed and nobody is allowed to reproduce because the world's army can't sustain any more people. I had so much fun coming up with how much more nightmarish I could make the setting, how hopeless the war was, and how downright terrifying the Voidspawn actually were. Plus, I got to mix in a typical harem romance comedy in there, and I had so much fun designing the cast and their tragic backstories: especially Lilith and her backstory.
    • Loveless City is basically World War 2 porn crammed in a single story: you got the Brailens, who are what Soviet Russia wanted to be, mixed with British stiff-upper-lippedness and politeness, and their technology is all cyber-steampunk. You got the Derachians, who are a mix of Eageland America and Imperial Japan, and they're all gritty Deiselpunk. Then there's the Great Resistance, who despite being called a Resistance are actually a giant collective of fascist nations (language in Loveless City tends to be ironic: The People's Oligarchy of Deracho is actually a kleptocracy, while the Glorious Autocratic State of Braileh is actually a radical democracy, and the so-called Comrade Despot is actually just a figurehead and leader of ideals who rarely uses their absolute power), and they're a nightmarish mix of WW1-era technology and terrifying Medieval torture tactics. Mix in titanic battles and a rich history of geopolitical warfare, and it's war porn for the war enthusiasts!
    • We're Watching You (And We're Bored As Hell) turns the terrifying idea of the New World Order into a hilarious pencil-pushing Dilbert-esque farce. People play games with the people they're spying on like Curse Poker and MasturBINGO, they get into petty water balloon and marshmallow gun fights, they make stupid bets to pass the time, and they insult each other with the most colorful language they can get away with. And even the setting itself is hilarious to write: the world is not only flat (and resting atop an infinite tower of turtles), but there are giant teleporters on the side of the Earth to give it the illusion of being round (but according to the science, it would actually be donut-shaped). They live with the sasquatches, lizard men, and aliens, and apparently the sasquatch world is like red-light-district Thailand, complete with prostitution bars catering to humans. Oh, and the head of the NWO is Santa Claus, who is really the Anti-Christ, and he keeps pushing Christmas earlier and earlier to make sure there's no Rapture since Jesus said he'd only come back if things got bad. Just as I had fun making Voidspawn into a living nightmare, this I had fun making the idea of an all-powerful government organization into something petty and stupid.

    And let's not forget the casts. I love designing well-meaning heroes with dark or unfulfilled pasts, plucky heroines, high-ranking leader types who actually help the heroes (a trope I love subverting because I've been helped out by so many mentors in the past), hypocritical villains, and everything in-between. Sure, I tend to gravitate towards the same character archetypes, but I consider that my signature style (plus, they're easy to write).

    You got the hopeful hero with a long history of failure waiting for their first big break (Trent Kestral from Voidspawn, Lorsama Kalvei and Natkaos Kaleogriki from Loveless City, Agent Newman from We're Watching You, Tomoya Itou from Virgin Killer Club), the well-meaning-but-abrasive heroine (Katya Brasova from Voidspawn, Eliss Revomili from Loveless City, Noell Elliot from We're Watching You, and Akari Kirishima from Virgin Killer Club), the absent-minded-but-knowledgeable hero-of-another-story character (Serena Blackswan from Voidspawn, Rohn Vemos from Loveless City, Overseer Ella Bonnet from We're Watching You, and Manako Amagai from Virgin Killer Club), and so on. These are the characters I have the most fun writing, so they always pop up the most.

    Of course, there are always characters that only show up every other story: I had fun writing the socially-awkward-but-skilled Lilith Green from Voidspawn, cloudcuckoolander medic Ash Lemescu and hypocritical megalomaniac Leakyhua Plasmuto from Loveless City, the only-sane-man character Agent Sean Idle from We're Watching You, and I'm getting to write my first yandere with Rin Fujiyama and first oujo-imouto/bratty-little-sis character Ryoko Itou in Virgin Killer Club.

    The creation process for all these is roughly the same, though the order always varies:

    • First, I develop their function in the story overall. Why should they be there? At this point, they're a blank slate; a cold, emotionless cog in the story machine.
    • Then, I layer on their main strength and main weakness, their personality, their likes and dislikes.
    • Once that's settled, I develop their relationship web with the other characters, their status among their peers, and so on.
    • Finally, I pepper in their hobbies, personality tics, dialogue style, and start looking up a good name to represent their character.

    The only time I ever did this in reverse was with Where the Zombies At? since they were all based on real people, but needless to say, with the lowest wordcount of any of my NaNoWriMo stories, it didn't quite pan out as planned. (As I've said before, the best NaNoWriMo projects are the ones you're most passionate about and have the most fun writing, and that wasn't one of them.)

    And even when I'm not discovering stuff through writing, I'm also discovering stuff in my research. For Voidspawn, I've done plenty of research on apex predators to create the Voidspawn themselves, which led me to making a hybrid of the deadly Mantis Shrimp and the resilient cockroach for the main Warrior Spawn, and a giant HIV-like retrovirus for the Drone Spawn. Loveless City was a giant WW2 research project, where I inundated myself in classic soviet propaganda, wartime films, documentaries, combat footage, and pretty much everything that happened on the Russian Front. Virgin Killer Club has also led me to doing a lot of sociological research on just how prevalent sexual dysfunction and social isolation is in society. Even the research alone is a trek of discovery!

    3. You discover the story just as much as the audience will!

    One of Murphy's Laws is that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. My personal writing rule is no outline or drafting plan ever survives contact with the page. I find it funny when people tell me, "I don't like outlines because they stifle my creative voice! I just like to improvise!," or when religious outliners tell me, "A story is as only as good as its outline: I never write anything I don't plan." But the truth is, we're all part-planners and part-pantsers: we think we have a solid outline, but once we get to writing, the thoughts start coming up: "What if I do this instead of that?" "Wait: that conflicts with the previous scene. Should I add a new subplot or change the earlier scene?" "Hey! I just got a new good idea! And it fits with the story! Why didn't I think of that before?"

    Which just goes to show you: all writing is exploration.

    Just as I have fun building worlds and plopping characters into them, it's always fun to see how your original plans and outlines change throughout the story itself: characters you once thought were squeaky-clean actually have dark secrets, and the dark characters actually have a good side to them. Characters you thought were going to die live, characters you thought would live die, and the craziest thing is you don't see it coming because you think, "Well, I'm the writer, so I should know where my own story is going, right?" Wrong! When you get down to it and re-read your own stuff, things change:
    • Voidspawn was supposed to focus way, waaaay more on the harem romance stuff. Eventually, it became more and more about the existentialism about why we even need to fight to preserve our species if we're just going to die anyway. Originally, Trent was going to remain immature for most of the story, but it evolved into a coming-of-age story where he learns that he has to give up his childish obsessions and become an adult.
    • Waaaay back in 2005, Loveless City was, as the titled might've hinted, a romance story between Erik and Ash, using the apocalyptic battle as a backdrop. Now they're just one of the many, many subplots as Kalvei learns to become a leader, Vemos learns to protect his people instead of fight for glory, and President Klevel learns to take back his country.
    • We're Watching You was a little more tame when it originally started. It was supposed to be more about boredom at the office, but it soon devolved into pure farce. After all, the NWO has been around for centuries, so it's only natural they've abandoned all politeness and stopped caring.
    • Virgin Killer Club was supposed to be a lot more lighthearted and goofy. It's now based on the loneliness I felt growing up in high school while everyone else had girlfriends, the intense sense of isolation from all of my non-virgin friends as I grew into my late teens/early 20s, and the exploration of awakening sexuality. It went from being something akin to this (warning: partially NSFW) to something along the lines of Katawa Shoujo: from being a parody of hentai to a more realistic depiction of the awkwardness and grossness, but also the tenderness and closeness, of virginity loss, as well as an exploration of society's obsession with sex, virginity, and our over-reliance on porn to depict both. It went from "let's point and laugh at the realistic sex scenes!" to "Wow, I actually kind of feel sorry for them."

    You never know how your story will change when you get there, but it will leave you pleasantly surprised.

    4. It's where you get to test, refine, and discover writing techniques, which you can later share with other writers.

    Any time I write a guide on writing, it usually comes from the insights I get long after testing stuff in the field. Sure, I may start by getting stuff from other guides, but I only post what I've learned once it's been tested on the battlefield that is drafting. Everyone's writing techniques change and get refined through the years with new distinctions for each new story. Sometimes I'll write out the outline first, sometimes I'll only have character personality types, and so on. This year, for Virgin Killer Club, I went with the Japanese Blood Type system (a system similar to the 4 Humors), mixed with the usual Japanese character archetypes, and I've found the characters super-easy to write. Of course, this isn't to say it's the only way to write: I still stand by my "strength vs. weakness" system that's gotten really popular, and if you use another system, that's fine, too. Really, any system works.

    I remember back in high school, when I wrote the original Loveless City, I had twelve episodes I wrote on notebook paper. Then as time went on, for other stories, I switched to Notepad files. Nowadays, I switch between FreeMind mindmapping software and just winging it. But in the end, you find that any technique works, just as long as it gets you to write.

    In fact, that's kinda the point of NaNoWriMo: to get you to just sit down and write. It's the old saying, "Just do it!" When you sit down, let go of all of the esoteric theories of writing, and just write, the rest takes care of itself.

    Now, I do know there's plenty of people who say I only share my ideas on writing because I "think I'm some kind of infallible god" or that I "look down on others," to which I say the following. First, why the fuck you lyin'? Second, it's normal for writers to talk shop, discuss what techniques work for them, and share ideas to improve each other's writing. Sharing feedback on anything is the essence of being human: we help each other out simply because it feels good, not because we "look down on them" or because we think we're "better than them." I believe in altruism: people can do good things for each other with no intention other than just helping them out. Writers share stories with other writers all the time: challenges they faced when writing certain scenes, celebrations of victories when they broke through, word counts, character creation templates, story structures, and so on.

    So, not only do you get to discover the characters, setting, and plot of story, but also how to make those characters, worlds, and events.

    5. You get to entertain people!

    Yes, you should at least entertain yourself first, because if you're bored with what you're writing, you'll probably not even finish it. But in the end, there's nothing better than brightening up someone's day with a great story, or scaring their pants off with a scare story, or making them laugh, or making them cry, or make them swoon over a beautiful romance, or angry at a nasty villain. As an entertainer, I live for watching audiences react in the ways I hope for, as well as leaving audience thinking long after the story is over.

    Sure, things like The Stanley Parable may have pointed out that all storytellers are basically creative liars and emotional manipulators, but I have a more lighthearted view on storytelling. The storyteller is an emotional rollercoaster architect: we design the track color and carts in a way that entice certain audiences and drive away others, we plop down the riders into the carts with our opening hook, we slowly bring them up the first hill with our opening act, and then plunge them down the first giant drop once the story gets going proper. We build hills, drops, twists, turns, and loops, hoping our audience will either scream or laugh or feel a sigh of relief. And when it's all over, we hit the brakes with the resolution, hopefully on a smooth piece of track and after the carts have run out of speed, and we let them off, hopefully talking about how good the ride was and purchasing a gift photo on the way out, but also being wary of the folks who puke their gets out and hear those who say, "I'm never getting on that ride again!"

    But I also like to go a step further: in addition to sharing the final product, I'm known through the Walfas community as someone who loves sharing insights into the creative process for all the reasons listed above. And again, not because I'm "full of myself": it's because I think the joy of creation is something that can be just as great as the final product, the art of discovery, the journey to creating a finished story and getting to see all of the changes. Everyone knows I love "making of" documentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes. I love knowing how thinks get made and what decisions go into every creative process. This is why I always stream whenever I make cartoons or music (in addition to giving an environment for open feedback and because it holds me accountable to just finish the damn thing I'm making), and why I always post links to my NaNoWriMo projects: there's nothing cooler than watching something getting made. Hell, that's probably why there's a whole Creative category on Twitch.

    So, there you have it: the reasons I write. Feel free to list your own reasons for writing down below: as I mentioned in Point 4, it's okay for writers to share their writing experiences.

    National Novel Writing Month 2017 is approaching, and despite still not feeling as productive as a was before 2015, I'm not one to five up so easily. So, once again, it's time to vote for my next NaNoWriMo Novel!

    Next, the list of potential premises. But before we begin, here's how it works:

    Idea #: Working Title
    Rating: Content advisories, based on the MPAA system.
    Synopsis: A pitch of the premise.
    Laconic: The short version of the synopsis.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Similar to how StevosStuff and TalosAngelDA both have similar works on their page, I figured I'll follow them and do something similar. Just as the name implies, you'll probably like this story if you liked the listed examples.
    Author's Note: Personal notes about the premise.
    Why I Want To Write This Story: Rather than rank how much I wanted to write it (which tainted the votes for last year), I'm instead going to list why I want to write this story.
    Potential Theme: Music that will give you a better feel for the tone of the story.
    Emotional Torque Scale: The likelihood of events that could end up on a TVTropes page...

    • Awesome: The likelihood for Moments of Awesome.
    • Heartwarming: The likelihood for Heartwarming Moments.
    • Funny: The likelihood for Funny Moments.
    • Nightmare Fuel: The likelihood for scary moments.
    • Tearjerker: The likelihood for sad moments.
    • Idealism Rating: Where it sits on the Sliding Scale of Idealism and Cynicism. 0/5 means horrendously dark, 5/5 means optimistic and bright.

    Examples of previous NaNoWriMos...

    NaNoWriMo 2013 Winner: Voidspawn
    Action, Harem Romance, Horror, Drama
    Rating: R for violence, adult language, mature themes, and sexual content.
    Synopsis: The Voidspawn, a hideous alien species, have invaded the galaxy and are sapping every planet of its resources, and they've just invaded Earth. Civilization is wiped from the planet and the remainder of the world, united under the One Earth Government, are confined to mobile military bases, trained from birth to pilot giant robots to destroy the alien menace. Amidst this, high schooler Trent Kestral has two choices: leave Earth and join the Battleship Fleet in the safety of space, where he can reunite with his pre-war sweetheart, or stay on Earth and join the mostly-female Mech Core. He gives up hope on his sweetheart and decides to try seducing women in the Mech Core in hopes of losing his virginity before he dies, only to learn his sweetheart flunked out of the Battleship Fleet, too...
    Laconic: Lonely boy in an all-girl mech outfit thinks he can form a harem with his co-pilots. The war complicates things... a lot.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: HP Lovecraft, Neon Genesis Evangelion, MuvLuv Alternative
    Author's Note: A dark take on the Battle Harem genre, inspired by works like Infinite Stratos and such. Here, the aliens are presented as horrific eldritch abominations, and the actual Mech Core is portrayed as dehumanizing, cold, and with only one goal: to destroy the alien menace. One of my darkest works, even compared to Diamond In The Rough.
    Potential Theme: The Day The World Went Away (Terminator Remix) by Nine Inch Nails
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 3/5
    • Heartwarming: 1/5
    • Funny: 1/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 5/5
    • Tearjerker: 4/5
    • Idealism Rating: 1/5

    NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner: Loveless City
    Genre: ACTION
    , War, Adventure
    Rating: R for graphic violence.
    Synopsis: For centuries, the Autocratic State of Braileh and its allies have been menaced by the Great Resistance: a ruthless and vast army with no remorse, whose sole existence is to overthrow Braileh and plunge humankind into a dark new era. Braileh has exhausted its resources trying to save their allies, all to no avail. Its final option: hold up with Braileh and adapt to the endless invasion. However, when the neighboring nation of Deracho cries out for help, it's up to a ragtag bunch of heroes to defy orders, the odds, and a vast army that outnumbers them all by the billions. VICTORY AT ALL COSTS!!!
    Laconic: A isolated futuristic civilization tries to save a dieselpunk civilization from the overwhelming numbers of an evil steampunk civilization.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Starship Troopers, The Longest Day, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagan
    Author's Note: Based on my old Garry's Mod series, this is possibly the most batshit insane thing I've ever written: once the actual Battle of Brailey begins, it's a non-stop action frenzy that constantly tops itself. Think The Longest Day meets Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagan. It's told in the style of a non-fiction history book, told as eye-witness accounts, but the stylized action give it an air of a typical action-adventure story.
    Why I Wanted To Write This Story: After all of the dark stuff I had written previously, this was a welcomed breath of fresh air: action scenes with truly heroic/badass moments, no moral ambiguity, rarely takes itself seriously, heroic heroes and dastardly villains, non-stop action with little to bog it down.
    Potential Theme: Sky Titans by Two Steps From Hell
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: OFF THE FRIGGIN' CHARTS/5
    • Heartwarming: 4/5
    • Funny: 3/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 3/5
    • Tearjerker: 3/5
    • Idealism Rating: 4/5

    NaNoWriMo 2015 Attempt: Where The Zombies At?
    Horror, Drama, Crime
    Rating: R for graphic violence and adult language.
    Synopsis: The zombie fandom forums of Rob's Rangers are super-excited over the first real zombie attack in Virginia. Before anyone can pack their bags to get in on fighting the outbreak, the army has already quarantined the five-square-mile of the infected city of Lynchburg, opting to let the zombies starve to death until they can find a cure. However, charismatic forum newcomer Dr. Love not only has friends in the army who can sneak them into the quarantine zone, but enough money to fly all of the admins of Rob's Rangers and the affiliates to the quarantine site. Under the guise of hosting a zombie convention, they all meet up, only to sneak into the quarantine zone for the hunting trip of a lifetime. However, once inside, things go awry quickly: the military has blocked them in and turned on them, and the zombies act nothing like what they've expected. Of course, the worst is still yet to come when somebody finally confronts Dr. Love about what he's done, plunging all of Rob's Rangers into a downward spiral of paranoia, betrayal, and murder...
    Laconic: Group of zombie-loving online friends hear of real zombie outbreak, get tricked into sneaking into the quarantine zone to fight it, find out too late it was so that an internet troll can get them all killed.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: The Dark Knight, mobster movies, A Serbian Film
    Author's Note: Incredibly dark, nihilistic, quite possibly the most horrific story I've ever thought up (even compared to DitR or Voidspawn). Without giving away much, it's a throwback to the concept of "zombies as a metaphor": I plan to really play with the zombie tropes and the idea of what if somebody could remain lucid while under influence of a zombie virus, blurring the line between "undead" and merely "infected," which makes the murders of the zombies become increasingly uncomfortable as the story goes on. At first, you're fooled into thinking, "Cool! We're going to hunt zombies!," and then halfway through, you begin realizing the cast are killing terminally ill people with varying degrees of psychosis. I won't say much more about the cast than it's based on real people, and if you know your WSW history, you may know what it's based on.
    Why I Wanted To Write This Story: As much as I like light-hearted stuff, I really wanted to break barriers in terms of how dark I can write something. I'm not even talking violence, either: the most horrific thing in this story is seeing all of these strong friendships break down one by one. Unfortunately due to illness and lack of momentum, I could not keep up the momentum to finish this one by the deadline, but at least I can happily say I failed a NaNoWriMo to show everyone else there's always another chance.
    Potential Theme: Roadside by Rise Against
    Emotional Torque Scale:
    • Awesome: 2/5
    • Heartwarming: 1/5
    • Funny: 1/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 5/5
    • Tearjerker: 4/5
    • Idealism Rating: -1/5

    NaNoWriMo 2016 Attempt
    : We're Watching You (And We're Bored As Hell)
    Comedy, Satire
    Rating: R for adult language and sexual content.
    Synopsis: Every conspiracy theory you heard is true: the government is controlling everyone, every world event has been orchestrated by the government and planned decades in advanced, and the world is under control by the nefarious New World Order... and the job is boring as all hell. This is a snapshot of the lives of the New World Order's day-to-day lives in the top-secret bunker under Antarctica: talking over coffee, thinking up new wars, but above all else, spying on the everyday lives of every citizen, even though nothing happens for 99% of the time. However, the advent of globalization and world peace threatens the NWO, and the race is on to figure out how to start World War III before it's too late...
    Laconic: The everyday lives of the world's top-secret organization that spies on everyone.
    You'll probably life it if you liked...: Cabin In The Woods, Dr. Strangelove
    Authors Note: As the target for Walfas community conspiracies and a lover of cringe-inducing crackpot conspiracy theories, this is my take on what it would really be like to be the kind of person who orchestrates a world-wide mass conspiracy. The wide scale of how far the NWO has to go to cover up everything should induce plenty of laughs, and the plot mostly has to do with the characters figuring out how to start World War III like it's some kind of new marketing project on a limited budget. If you thought conspiracy theories were already plenty stupid to begin with, prepare for a fun-filled ride.
    Why I Wanted To Write This Story: It's biting satire at its finest: every character is a jackass, the setting just screams "bad decisions" all over it, this giant nebulous organization does nothing but spy on people masturbating, and no matter how it ends (either they start World War III or they get killed by revolutionaries who then start their own NWO), you can guarantee this will be the funniest idiot plot you'll ever read.
    Potential Theme: Policy of Truth by Depeche Mode
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 2/5
    • Heartwarming: 3/5
    • Funny: 5/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 1/5
    • Tearjerker: 2/5
    • Idealism Rating: 3/5

    And now, your nominees for NaNoWriMo 2017...

    Idea #1: Day of Bravery
    Disaster, Drama
    Rating: PG-13 for perilous scenes, violence, and some harsh language.
    Synopsis: The final battle against the evil Empire of Setira has come to an exciting climax: an ordinary farm boy has risen from lowly dreamer to one-man-army and hero to the People's Rebellion, the dashing rogue has sacrificed himself to destroy the Basilisk Arcing Laser Cannon, Emperor Setira has been killed, and the princess has been rescued. The resulting battle has left Setira Castle a smoldering pile of rubble... but this is not the story of the heroes. This is the story of the rescue workers of the Empire trying to save the survivors, and coping with the inevitability they are about to lose the war...
    Laconic: Rescue workers race the clock to save survivors of a final battle of the enemy force's heroic story.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Star Wars, Oliver Stone's 9/11, Deepwater Horizon
    Author's Note: This story is the one I most want to write because of how realistically it treats a cliched old final battle's aftermath (in fact, I'm personally voting for this one). Just what would a normally-heroic final battle look like from the perspective of the citizens who support the evil empire? What does a heel-face turn look like to its citizens? What does a heroic sacrifice look like to the people they're fighting? After this, you may never see so-called "heroic" tropes the same way again.
    Why I Want To Write This Story: Everyone knows I love spinning tropes on their head. This is the ultimate deconstruction of heroic awesome final battle scenes.
    Potential Theme: Storm Is Coming by Junkie XL
    Emotional Torque Scale:
    • Awesome: 3/5
    • Heartwarming: 3/5
    • Funny: 2/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 4/5
    • Tearjerker: 4/5
    • Idealism Rating: 2/5

    Idea #2: 'Rachi, Greatest Rapper Alive
    Cringe Comedy, Mockumentary
    Rating: R for adult language.
    Synopsis: Lawrence Smith, an unassuming high-functioning autistic man who died at 42, will forever be remembered by the Open Mic clubs as "'Rachi, Greatest Rapper Alive." Not because he was the "greatest rapper alive": far from it, with his misogynist, bizarre, and occasionally racist lyrics (citing himself as "the world's only trans-racial rapper"). The only thing 'Rachi had going for him was persistence and a devoted fanbase, mostly for his ridiculous antics such as filling his concert photos with only photos of himself or holding several-day-long protests against clubs he was kicked out. Join us as we chronicle the life of quite possibly the strangest rise to fame in rap history.
    Laconic: Delusional Nerd thinks he's the greatest rapper in the world, somehow actually acquires an ironic fanbase.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Sonichu, Malibu's Most Wanted, Tenacious D, Wesley Willis, This Is Spinal Tap
    Author's Note: Having done plenty of research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, plus being a "fan" of Sonichu, plus having been to many open mics for nearly a decade, I decided to make a character study of the typical bad open-mic'er: similar to what inspired Tenacious D, I'm talking about the self-important audience-insulting going-over-time jackasses who think they're God's gift to the stage (but unlike Tenacious D, these folks ain't parodies). 'Rachi is a project I kinda wanted to pursue in real life, but never got around to it since losing my old music software (and being too scared of being kicked out of the open mic's I frequent). 
    Why I Want To Write This Story: It's hilarious: it's a portrait of essentially the Christian Weston Chandler/Wesley Willis of rap. Think Kanye West on even more Kanye West (with a dash of Jaden Smith).
    Potential Theme: REAL HIP HOP by Politikz (Filthy Frank)
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 2/5
    • Heartwarming: 2/5
    • Funny: 5/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 1/5
    • Tearjerker: 2/5
    • Idealism Rating: 3/5

    Idea #3: There's A Big Beautiful World Out There
    Romance, Comedy, Drama, Slice-Of-Life
    Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and adult language.
    Synopsis: Mitt lives a rather empty life: outside of high school, he's a mama's boy who subsides on video games and online videos. He's never once had to take care of himself, he has a disposable income, and although life is bland, he doesn't have to lift a finger... Well, at least not until he walks into his living room one night to find his mom has had a stroke. Not knowing where to turn, he hires Jen, a tutor and quasi-maid, to take care of him and tidy his house. However, Jen is a shut-in herself, only leaving the house to take care of other people, as the circumstances with her family keep her from leaving. As the two continue the commute from one another's houses, they begin to realize there's more to life than they previously known: although it's a world of pain, fear, and uncertainty, it's also a world of adventure, happiness, friendship, and, of course, love...
    Laconic: Spoiled loner is forced to go out an make friends, finds out everyone else is just as shy, and they all learn the value of friendship.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Azumanga Diaoh, virtually any slice-of-life anime, Peanuts
    Author's Note: A fable about loners. It's very slice-of-life influenced, with credit to series like Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, and a hint of Azumanga Diaoh. It's light, fluffy, and I plan to make it super-cute and idealistic (beyond it's rather dark opening). I only have its main characters, the premise, and the ending fleshed out so far: I really want to expand the cast and see where this one goes.
    Why I Want To Write This Story: I've always wanted to do a slice-of-life story, but I have my most fun writing either comedies or action/adventures. I want to do this because it'll be my lightest work ever: something to read good and instantly lift your spirits. I want people to laugh and get the warm-and-fuzzies reading this one.
    Potential Theme: Into You by Dead By Sunrise
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 2/5
    • Heartwarming: 6/5
    • Funny: 3/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 0/5
    • Tearjerker: 2/5
    • Idealism Rating: 5/5

    Idea #4: Saving The Emperor
    Drama, War, TEARJERKER
    Rating: R for graphic violence.
    Synopsis: The Grand War is coming to an end, with its final conflict between the Republic of Medis and the Septirian Empire. The Medis people are crying out for the blood of the Septirians after the ruthless Medoiric Massacre six years prior, and the Medis Army is returning the favor with the firebombing of the Septirian capital of Kentrici. Emperor Saltik wishes to propose an unconditional surrender, but his army won't have it: the Medisians will surely execute him and massacre the people. Meanwhile, General Marlov must deal with the fact he might have to take responsibility for the genocide of the Septirian people. When the Emperor begs for his life and the survival of his people, General Marlov does what he can to ensure he and his people will live, even in the face of the end of his nation...
    Laconic: A horrifying bloody war ends, General of the conquering army doesn't want to be responsible for the genocide of the conquered people, sets out to save the Emperor and his people.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: The actual WW2 story it's based on, Charlotte's Web, Schindler's List. Possibly Loveless City as it takes place in the same universe and is written by the unnamed Writer.
    Author's Note: A prequel to Loveless City, taking place several thousands of year prior. Nowhere near as action-packed, as the story mostly focuses on the relationship between Emperor Saltik and General Marlov. It was heavily inspired by the story of General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito after WW2, which itself is a pretty bittersweet story, but I'd rather not tell that story since it's a sensitive subject and telling my own story would give me more creative freedom. It's quite possibly the saddest premise I've ever developed: not dark, but every time I think of ideas for it, I burst into tears just thinking of it. It's going to have a somewhat happy ending, but everything up to that point is going to rip your heart right out of your chest.
    Why I Want To Write This Story: The premise makes me tear up every time I think about it. Plus, it's a war story that takes place after the war has ended: one of the underated war story subgenres (most stories take place leading up to the war or after the fact). Where with Where The Zombies At? is my excuse to go as dark as possible, this is my excuse to go sad as possible. I really want to make audiences cry with this one.
    Potential Theme: Fix You by Coldplay
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 3/5
    • Heartwarming: 5/5
    • Funny: 1/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 3/5
    • Tearjerker: 6/5
    • Idealism Rating: 2/5

    Idea #5: Stardust Symphony
    Sci-Fi, War, Action/Adventure
    Rating: PG for fantasy violence.
    Synopsis: Runty orphan Dimitri Markov is slated for execution when the High Order deems him unfit to contribute to society. The night prior to his execution, his only friend Estelle, a mysterious girl with ghostly white hair, invites him to the roof to reveal she's running away and he's coming with her. But there's a catch: she wants to bring him to a whole other galaxy. She's actually an alien looking for potential heroes, and Dimitri fits the bill just nicely. This all sounds fine and dandy, as Dimitri joins the Multi-Galactic Alliance of Heroes, but it turns out the enemies they're fighting, the rebel army, want to end the corrupt rule of the galaxy and their exploitation of naive child soldiers to carry out their dirty work... Adventure ho?...
    Laconic: Kid is selected to be the hero of a war in space, gets into space to find out he's actually a child soldier for a corrupt government to take down a rebel army, but then he finds out the rebel army are even worse than his employers.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Diamond In The Rough, Metal Gear Solid, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Star Wars
    Author's Note: A take on the Space Opera genre: think of it like a sci-fi version of DitR. You guys may have seen me hint at this story before in this post, but here's the full story. Though, just because it starts out by ripping the space adventure genre apart doesn't mean it'll end that way: by the end, Dimitri becomes a fully-fledged hero.
    Why I Want To Write This Story: I love subversive action-adventure stories that are 80% dark-hearted deconstruction, 20% lighthearted reconstruction. I've never done a space opera before, and this looks like loads of fun: especially playing with all the space opera tropes.
    Potential Theme: The Pagemaster Theme by James Horner
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 5/5
    • Heartwarming: 2/5
    • Funny: 1/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 3/5
    • Tearjerker: 3/5
    • Idealism Rating: 3/5

    Idea #6: Five Dangerous Months in Safehaven
    Steampunk, Action/Adventure, Romance
    Rating: PG-13 for violence and some harsh language.
    Synopsis: The world as we knew it effectively ended in an event known as The Great Collapse. Mankind is sent back to the steam age, and many townships are effectively lawless. Caleb Baker lives a boring-but-safe life in Peacehill, dreaming of one day escaping to New Arcadia, a utopian city unaffected by the Great Collapse. Caleb's sister Lily, a retired inn-keeper and now the ambassador for New Arcadia, offers him a proposal: stay in Safehaven for five months, and she'll give him a free pass into New Arcadia. There's only one problem: Caleb burned several bridges in Safehaven, and the entire township wants him dead. Aided by his old combat buddy Enna Springfield, Caleb must right his wrongs to gain a chance to live in paradise, or die trying...
    Laconic: Cowardly bum agrees to return to his childhood town to set things right, but everything goes wrong the moment he returns.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: My Name Is Earl, Love Hina or Five Dangerous Months at the Hinata Inn, anything steampunk.
    Authors Note: Running off the title, I liked the idea of being locked in a single location filled with several dangerous, and I also like a protagonist that sets things right. The more observant of your out there may remember the setting from this fragment I wrote a while back. This is also my chance to write steampunk fiction.
    Why I Want To Write This Story: I really like the setting, and this story shows just how dependent we are on technology to connect to others and know what's going on in the world. We take for granted all of the luxuries modern life has given us, but at the same time, we also have to remember technology isn't everything: it's a story about balance.
    Potential Theme: Black Sheep by Metric
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 3/5
    • Heartwarming: 4/5
    • Funny: 3/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 1/5
    • Tearjerker: 3/5
    • Idealism Rating: 3/5

    Idea #7: Virgin Killer Club!
    Erotic, Romance Comedy
    Rating: X for explicit sexual content and language.
    Synopsis: It's Tomoya's final year, and he's still a virgin, unlike his fellow classmates who have all gone on crazy sexual misadventures. Desperate, he takes out an online ad to find someone, anyone, to have sex with. After three months, somebody finally answered the ad (and a fellow virgin to boot!), but upon arriving at a love hotel to meet them, he's shocked beyond belief to find it was actually his classmate Akari, a cold-but-blunt girl who's never really expressed any feelings towards Tomoya. After an awkward-but-satisfying night together, the dark cloud hanging over both their heads is lifted and they find themselves more relaxed with themselves as people. Suddenly, both Akari and Tomoya's friends (mostly girls) begin catching on, and they begin wondering if perhaps Tomoya could help them out as well...
    Laconic: A group of shy virgins experience a coming-of-age story together; emphasis on coming.
    You'll probably like it if you liked...: Eroge dating sims, hentai, porn, smut, etc.
    Author's Note: Just for fun, I wanted to add an erotic story to the list. I had another idea of a School Days-esque deconstruction, but you know what? Why not just a funny coming-of-age story? I've had a little experience writing some rather dark erotic scenes for Voidspawn, but those more emphasize the desperation of the protagonist to connect with others than to turn anyone on. This, on the other hand, is my chance to just let loose and write good ol' trashy-ass smut. I already have a cast in mind: in addition to the obvious Tsundere female lead, there's the overly shy girl who's abandoned all hope of ever getting a boyfriend and coped by treating all sex as something cold and clinical (until seeing what happened to the main characters), the overly enthusiastic loli girl (who's the same age as the rest of the cast, 18) who worries her youthful appearance turns guys off, and the hotheaded bitch who's in charge of the school's morality club, but mainly as a coping mechanism since she herself can't hold down a boyfriend (basically, if she can't get laid, nobody can). 
    Why I Want To Write This Story: Look at everything else on the list and look at this: this is the least serious thing I'll probably ever write. Plus, I've never written straight-up porn before: this could be fun!
    Potential Theme: Diagnosis: Love Sickness (English Version) by shito (English ver. by JubyPhonic)
    Emotional Torque Scale:

    • Awesome: 2/5
    • Heartwarming: 4/5
    • Funny: 4/5
    • Nightmare Fuel: 1/5
    • Tearjerker: 2/5
    • Idealism Rating: 5/5

    If you want a deeper explanation of each story, feel free to ask.

    Votes (Updated 11/1/17, 12:00 PM):
    Idea #1: Day of Bravery: 11 votes.
    Idea #2: 'Rachi, Greatest Rapper Alive: 3 votes.
    Idea #3: There's A Big Beautiful World Out There: 4 votes.
    Idea #4: Saving The Emperor: 3 votes.
    Idea #5: Stardust Symphony: 1 votes.
    Idea #6: Five Dangerous Months in Safehaven: 2 votes.
    Idea #7: Virgin Killer Club!: 12 votes. *WINNER!!!* (God helps us all...)