The Weekly Review - Edition 8
- In Newbie Central a figment of At Your Throat’s mind joins the site (Greetings from the Edge of the Mind Thread).
- In the Lounge MorganR bids a fond farewell to the site (That Crazy Owl Thread).
- In the Parlor Room debate rages over which story Kiel Farren’s latest masterpiece The Other World should replace (Draw Sethaniel’s Attention Thread).
- In the Forum Games section an opportunity is offered to fulfill what must be the fantasy of every young boy who has read Goosebumps and actually become a piece of slime (Slime Simulator Sign Up Thread).
- In the Writing Workshop Kiel Farren’s second week of Writing Exercises seems some fantastic creations (Writing Exercises Restart – Week Two Thread).
- In the Reading Corner GMB13carat describes a very… creative book he has been reading recently (Unwind and its Mind Screwiness Thread).
Featured Interview - Introducing Ogre11
Q: Why do you write Choose your Own Stories?
A: Why don't more people? Why do I write? Because it is fun. I really do like it. And I enjoy reading the feedback others give to the stories I write here. Now if I could just convince more of them to rate my stories with that elusive 8... oh, but as for "Choose Your Own Stories" specifically, I do remember many, many, many, many years ago reading a printed book (remember those?) that was a Choose Your Own Adventure Story. It was a small book, smaller than a regular paperback I think. It had a wizard and a dragon on the cover, I think. It was a neat way to read a story. I remember sticking my fingers in all the pages where I made a choice so I could go back if I didn't like the result of my choice.
I always liked those books, but I couldn't find enough of them to read. I was thinking how easy that would be to implement in HTML and the web, but I just never built a site to do that. Then one day I found this site where all the hard work had already been done, so I started making up my own stores here, and do still quite enjoy not just writing them, but reading them (hint, hint, everyone else, write more for me to read!)
Q: What is your preferred method and writing style?
A: Oh my. What is writing method and style? Those who have read some of my stories may have noticed that I try different things, at least when it comes to Choose Your Own Story. I've tried writing from the beginning to end, then breaking it up; I've tried planning parts on paper; and I've just written one page at a time to see where it will go.
I suppose if I had to nail down a method or style, it would be blurb writing. What's that, you say? When I get an idea for a story into my head (which I do very often), I find I like just throwing it all out there and writing where it leads me. I haven't been as successful in writing a longer story, but perhaps that's why I have written almost only short stories and have completed zero long stories/books. I write in spurts where I get huge piles of words down on the page in short periods of time, then end up not writing for sometimes days at a time. I don't know if that actually answers your question at all.
Q: Do you have any plans for future stories?
A: More than I could ever describe! I have notes on at least 3 book-length stories. I have at least 3 series of short stories with characters and ideas. I have other ideas for short stories wandering around my head. I know what I just typed conflicts with what I said in the last question, but not really. I have the ideas and plans, but not much detail. When it strikes me, the story appears in my head and WHAM, piles of words on the page.
More specifically, here on Choose Your Own Story, I've got one that is a long ways off that has been a ton of fun, Spy Mission. In that story, you are an average Joe who suddenly gets swept up in the world of espionage. There's tons of options and items and lots of ways to go. I'm also working on a series that is ending up a lot longer than I thought. I started out trying to write about Rory Thorn, a student in math class who has a number of different adventures. But I wanted to give the reader a lot of options. So the end result is that I'm writing a short story -- the end story as you read it will be around 3,000 words. But there are 32 different ways through the story! So yes, that is literally 32 different short stories -- which means I have to write 12-15,000 words. It has been a lot of fun, but it is really, really long for me in this setting.
Q: Who are your favorite authors and what are your favourite stories on this site?
A: Why did you spell "favorite" two different ways in that question? Does that mean you're half Brit? ;)
I don't know if I could single out individuals without missing some of them. I've read nearly every story on the site, and the only ones I haven't read, I haven't solved yet (but I have tried)! There are a large number of very good writers on this site. I guess I would say that the one story that really sucked me into the site and kept me here (coming back again and again to find my way to the end) is MyVacation. That one had lots of options, and was a real neat combination of a story and a game.
Q: Any advice for other writers?
A: Write! No really, just write! I almost applaud the Warrior Cats authors who tried to write here in the recent past. Yes, those stories were bad. They were really bad. But they did try. I know many, many authors who are so invested in their stories that they will never publish them. In many cases, they will take criticism personally and don't want to subject themselves to that. Here is a secret: someone is going to hate what you write, no matter how good it is.
A secret about me: I'm actually a professional, published writer. I have written a good number of non-fiction articles that have been published in different print magazines (remember those?). But I have also written dozens more articles that have NOT been published because someone didn't like them. I've even written articles that one editor didn't like and someone else grabbed up and published! But if you don't actually write, submit, or in the case of Choose Your Story, publish, then no one will ever see it! Don't write total crap, but do write and let other people see what you're writing. You might be surprised how much some people will like it.
Q: How about some final thoughts?
A: You mean I haven't written enough yet? I guess I'd like to thank all the people who have written articles here. I'd also like to thank all those who have helped me with comments on my stories and help in the forums. And a huge thanks to Alexp, 3J and others who help keep this site going. I've worked with a lot of web sites over the years, and to be honest, with the lack of appearances of the founders, every day I wonder if this site will just disappear. I am quite glad that it has not, and I do hope the hosting continues for many more years. I notice that the domain name doesn't expire until 2016, but hopefully that and the hosting will continue long past that point. And thanks to you, Will11, for the honor of being interviewed for the Review!
Featured Reviews: The Mayoral Campaign, The Quick Dating Game and Finding the Muse
Intro: Ogre11 and me joined at about the same time and apart from apparently sharing the same lucky number we have both published a number of good stories. While mine tend to stick to the same genre Ogre11 has branched out and it is my pleasure to review and recommend some of my favorite stories from the several he has written:
The Mayoral Campaign
Ever wanted to lord it over your fellow man? You can either become a dictator and kill lots of people or become a politician and Ogre11’s terrific story deals with the seedier of these two options; doing so with his typical brilliant writing and an intimidating amount of Variable Skill. This story runs like the literary equivalent of a very fun and addictive online strategy game and it takes a lot of skill or perhaps intuition to win (having all the intuition of a color-blind bomb disposal expert I didn’t win). I strongly recommend people check out this game if they want a genuinely challenging story-game.
The Quick Dating Game
In this story Ogre11 presents us with a humorous send-up of a familiar situation: often in life we find ourselves wanting to charm an attractive member of the opposite sex but encounter unwanted competition and in the absence of a firearm we are forced to resort to our charm and intelligence to defeat the forces of evil and win the object of our affections: in this game we get to do just that. With a host of funny questions laced throughout by the humorous banter of Bob the host and Rita the fair lady we must find better answers than our rivals (or perhaps just go for the funny ones) to win this game. Another great read I strongly recommend.
Finding the Muse
With a rather awesome cover depicting inspiration or perhaps some heavenly gastric emissions Ogre11 presents this story as a simulation of a struggle most writers often find themselves in: trying to find a strong idea to write about. We all overcome this problem of inspiration in different ways (or perhaps never find imagination and end up finding a career in the world of finance) and this story offers some great suggestions how to get inspired. Many articles and stories on this site deal with how to write but this story is special because it helps us find our own individual inspiration of how to write and I’d consider it very useful reading for anyone experiencing writer’s block.
I have found some rather funny and “true” short stories I would like to share this week:
1: Scientific Creativity
The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen.
"Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."
One student replied:
"You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."
This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.
For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn't make up his mind which to use.
On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:
"Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer."
"Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper."
"But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqroot (l / g)."
"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up."
"If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building."
"But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor's door and say to him 'If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper'."
The student was Niels Bohr, the only person from Denmark to win the Nobel prize for Physics.
2: Message from Down Below
A couple from Minneapolis decided to go to Florida for a long weekend to thaw out during one particularly icy cold winter. They both had jobs, and had difficulty coordinating their travel schedules. It was decided the husband would fly to Florida on a Thursday, and his wife would follow him the next day. Upon arriving as planned, the husband checked into the hotel. There he decided to open his laptop and send his wife an e-mail back in Minneapolis. However, he accidentally left off one letter in her address and sent the e-mail without noticing his error.
In the mean time:
In Houston, a widow had just returned from her husband's funeral. He was a minister of many years who had been "called home to glory" following a heart attack (died and gone to report in heaven). The widow checked her e-mail, expecting messages from family and friends. Upon reading the first message, she fainted and fell to the floor. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor and saw the computer screen which read:
To: My loving Wife
From: Your Departed Husband
Subject: I've arrived!
I've just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then. Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
P.S. Sure is hot down here.
3: Albert Einstein's Driver
This is a true life anecdote about Albert Einstein, and his theory of relativity.
After having propounded his famous theorY, Albert Einstein would tour the various Universities in the United States, delivering lectures wherever he went. He was always accompanied by his faithful chauffer, Harry, who would attend each of these lectures while seated in the back row! One fine day, after Einstein had finished a lecture and was coming out of the auditorium into his vehicle, Harry addresses him and says, "Professor Einstein, I've heard your lecture on Relativity so many times, that if I were ever given the opportunity, I would be able to deliver it to perfection myself!"
"Very well," replied Einstein, "I'm going to Dartmouth next week. They don't know me there. You can deliver the lecture as Einstein, and I'll take your place as Harry!"
And so it went to be... Harry delivered the lecture to perfection, without a word out of place, while Einstein sat in the back row playing "chauffer", and enjoying a snooze for a change.
Just as Harry was descending from the podium, however, one of the research assistants intercepted him, and began to ask him a question on the theory of relativity.... one that involved a lot of complex calculations and equations. Harry replied to the assistant "The answer to this question is very simple! In fact, it's so simple, that I'm going to let my chauffer answer it!"
Quiz of the Week
It has been said that the only things in life that are certain are Death and Taxes (and there are reports that the IRS is seeking to sign a contract with the Reaper to delay the first if the second is not in order). In this spirit a foolproof test has been developed to judge how long you have left until shrugging off this mortal coil, passing into the valley of the shadow of death and meeting the Great Spirit in the sky (or possibly Odi. Religions differ on small details like the afterlife).
1: Which of these best describes your view of Death?
2: If you were on your deathbed surrounded by your family what would your last thoughts be?
3: If your place of work caught on fire what would you do?
4: Which of these would you prefer to do in your spare time?
5: If you were on the Titanic when it was sinking what would you do?
If you answered mostly A’s... you might live for a long time but it will certainly feel even longer. Once you have eliminated all risk and uncertainty from your world you will be able to live the long life of a robot.
If you answered mostly B’s... death holds no terrors for you and you mostly consider it with mild curiosity on those rare occasions you think of it at all, it’ll certainly ruin whatever plans you had for the rest of the week.
If you answered mostly C’s... how are you still alive? I assume you answered this quiz from a hospital bed or therapy session as you clearly spend most of your time trying to prove you have more lives than a cat.
Special Thanks to Ogre11 for his interview this week.
Thanks for the feedback... after nearly a year on here though forum culture still baffles me sometimes :)
Damn, I'm late getting to this. Thanks for the advertising regarding my projects, hehe.
Another wonderful weekly review, always a pleasure to read your work, Will. =D