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John Adamus
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The Writer (and Editor) Next Door
The Writer (and Editor) Next Door

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Noir World Design Diary Number 1 - The Inclusivity Statement

Disclaimer: I'm completely aware that in more ways than I can easily and immediately know at the time of this writing I am a person who has blindspots and imperfect knowledge, and to that end I can only promise and effort to do the best I can when it comes to what I say and what it means. In no way am I looking to mount a soapbox or be dismissive, in fact, quite the opposite. Thanks.
One of the primary elements that I felt needed to be in the game is that I address, and not superficially address, I mean like actually give you my thoughts (as opposed to making some arbitrary statement that I don't wholly agree with for the sake of trying to pacify everyone in advance of their perceived outrage) on the chief issue with film noir's content.

There's a whole lot of sexism, racism, homophobia, and marginalization. Like tons. Like heaps. Like it's a bunch of white dudes, women as their murderous enemies, and minorities of all persuasions relegated to caricatures just to make sure the white dude gets an inch more attention.

And that sucks.

I'm a white dude who loves the original movies and books as pieces of art and I'm able to tell you that applying today's lenses to the material reveals not just a lot of dated preconceived notions, but also that the creators were just as imperfect as we the viewers are now.

We're humans looking at other humans who were trying to do a thing. We might not like that thing now, we might get really upset about that thing based on what we know today, but we can't ever deny that the thing exists and going forward we have a choice - to either perpetuate it or challenge it.

In Noir World, I chose to challenge it.

Because this game isn't coming out fifty, sixty or seventy years ago. It's coming out today, into today's world, into today's audience, and it's completely unacceptable to me that perpetuating the applesauce and craptastic views of the past is even something that we have to bring up.

I say this very early in the book, and at every convention game: the Roles of Noir World can be played by any person, in any way, no matter who they are or how they identify. And if anyone gets wrinkly over the fact that I'm deviating from the source material on this point, absolutely go find another game and have a great time playing it.

The number of games featuring more than one Role not heteronormative or not typically sourced far exceeds the number of games where everyone played strict to the archetypes. There have been androgynous Mooks, nonbinary Private Eyes, Fatale lesbians of color, and I think just about every Role at least once has been played against how it was represented in the source material.

And I am proud that there's a modular and adaptable quality like that to the game right from the get-go. It's your character, put whatever you want into them. I'm providing the framework, but how you bring them to life, that's up to you, with no criticism from me.

I know that's not a really popular stance, that I had the option of being more hard-nosed about it, but truthfully, I'm a straight white guy, and I don't think I can articulate what life is like for anyone who isn't me, let alone not a straight white guy. I can try, sure, but what's the point? Why take fumbling steps and do more harm than good?

Play the Roles however you want. Regardless of the time period in the game. Regardless of how you think "I meant" them to be. Because here's the secret - I meant for them to be available and adaptable to you, because you don't need the Starry Eyed Kid to be the perfect Aryan posterchild of the 1950s, you just need to be able to find your own version of "Gee whilickers, mister" in whatever way works for you.

Noir World is a toolbox and a love letter to storytelling and narrative structure. It challenges a lot of assumptions, and demands acceptance, trust, and kindness from its players.


Noir World's Kickstarter goes live Tuesday March 21st and 10AM ET. 

 I am so sorry to have let this slip off the radar. But we'll get it back on track. 

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It's 2016, and let this be the moment where we commit to developing good stuff.

Have you seen the FiYoShiMo index lately? http://writernextdoor.com/fiyoshimo-index/

Loads of stuff coming in the next few weeks. I need to get better at Community things. This is me signing up for accountability on that.

So here's a sneak peek at the idea I'm announcing Monday:

1. November is NaNoWriMo, and I am not a fan of NaNoWriMo. Here's why:
a) Speed is not the chief tool for writing
b) Fostering some sense of competition makes things like craft seem secondary
c) Provides false hope to writers who think that all they need to do to be the celebrity authors they idolize is write quickly and not focus on the steps of development, especially if those are weak areas to begin with
d) If people are intending to write and be published, why save it all for November? 

2. So I'm going to propose December is FiYoShiMo, or Fix Your Shit Month.

EVERY DAY in December, I'm going to post something that will take a writer through a mid-level revision process, in the following order:

Part 1 (December 1 to December 5) - Five Days of Beats, Theme, and Tone
--> The basics of storytelling

Part 2 (December 6 to December 12) - Seven Days of Character
--> 7 things to look for when you're building characters from the ground up

Part 3 (December 13 to December 19)  - Seven Days of Plot
--> 7 things to keep in mind when you're building a conflict

Part 4 (December 20 to 24) - Five Days of World Building
--> 5 components for making a world feel realized and accessible to people, not just as a place where this one story happens

Part 5 (December 26 to 31) - Six Days of Pitching, Packaging, and Wrap-up
--> 6 things to think about when you're done writing and need to know what to do next

It's ambitious, and yeah, I know it means I'm going to have to do a lot of prep in November to have posts lined up, but I'm up for it. 

Are you? 

Plot 201 this week is out on Wednesday. There likely won't be a post out on Friday, I'm out this weekend to attend a wedding. 

THIRTY-FIVE MEMBERS! I'm blown away. 

Here's something just for you guys. This will never be a blogpost. Call this bonus content. 
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Dear Creative Person,

Hello. I hope this message finds you well. I admit to being very nervous, both about writing to you and how you'll receive this. I want so badly for you to think I'm smart enough or good enough, and I don't want to give the impression that I'm stupid. Forgive me, I'm really trying so hard not to pepper this whole message with sentences that start with 'I', but I just want to show off a little - I want you to see that I can be as good as you, so maybe you'll give this a little extra attention. I assume you're very busy, and I hope that reading this letter can make its way into your schedule without too much intrusion.

There are so many questions I could ask that I don't know where to start! In my head, I've written this letter to you maybe a dozen times, starting off by quoting your own work back at you, then immediately not doing that because maybe you'd think that's dumb, or worse, cute. This makes me wonder if you wrestle with the same things I do: communicating, doing your best, working often, doing what you think is right and good. I wonder if you struggle with that balancing act between chasing dreams and being practical. Do you? Does it suck as much for you as it does for me?

I want to start by telling you I'm a big fan. Not like a superfan, I mean there isn't a wall of my bedroom plastered with your photos and printed out tweets, I guess I mean more like I'm really proud of you. I'm proud to know you've made things, or that you are making things, and I'm proud to see your efforts turn into things that inspire others. I doubt there's anything greater than that. Maybe babies laughing. Or nachos. Those are good too,

You inspire me, although we've never met, but if we did meet, I'm pretty sure I'd be a stammering mess around you, which I'd later just kick myself for, you inspire me all the same. To keep making things. To keep wanting to make things. To keep pursuing this goal I have for myself. It's sad to say, but even when there are people around me who support me tirelessly, there's something otherworldy about how your success motivates me. And not in that denigrating "if that person can do it, anyone can" way, but in that "this person works so hard, I bet I can do that too" way.

Is that silly? Is that wrong? I'm so scared that every word in this whole letter is just further evidence that I shouldn't be making anything, that I'm not being as fully impressive as I should be, that the paragraphs should be rich with clauses and semicolons and all the other trappings that mark the good sentences that people who I think are way better than me do things. Do you struggle with that insecurity? Are there people who you think about who make you feel like whatever you're making is some training wheels paint-by-numbers first time near art sort of effort? What do you do then?

I'll tell you what I do. I get scared. Not scared enough to quit, but certainly scared enough to slow down. Sometimes, I slow down to the point that work sits dusty, or virtually dusty, and I feel like I need to work doubly hard to make up for the delays and the fear. That's when I find myself trying too hard, and when I get even more frustrated that I'm just not doing enough, and because I'm not doing enough, I must not be enough. I hope you don't laugh when you read that sentence, it's the scariest one I've written so far, maybe ever.

There are so many questions I want to ask you. No, I won't ask you where your ideas come from, I saw that one time you sighed on that video from that event you went to, and I would hate to make you sigh, god I can barely stand it when the people around me sigh, because of course I think they're thinking that I'm foolishly wasting my time by trying to make stuff. I mean, are they? I don't know. But I've been thinking that they have been for so long, it's almost comforting just to keep telling myself that. I'm not even sure I know how to stop saying it in my head at this point.

Instead I want to ask you if you're like me. I know you've got to be somewhat like me, the creative person who's trying to balance all the not-as-creative things with the creative things, the person who has to pay bills or do dishes or raise kids or deal with a spouse or be present in your relationships or go grocery shopping or try and fight a cold. But do you do what I do and worry that while you're doing that stuff, you're wasting the creative time? That right there, in the grocery store parking lot, when you have that moment of "I should do something and earn money, and this is what I'll do", that you're never going to succeed, because you're supposed to be inside buying eggs and cereal and not forgetting the coupons? I keep reading on the internet about how creativity is infinite, but I'm too painfully aware that I'm finite - I have limited time, limited energy, limited hope. Though, frankly, the fears and doubts seem pretty infinite too. I'm starting to think I won't send you this letter.

Do you struggle with all the politics? Does it bother you that so many other people seem so hellbent and consumed by the need to shout about labels or equality or representation that you start to think nothing will sate them? Does it paralyze you the way it does me when you see so many people complaining about everything from a character's hair to their word choice that you'll never get it right for them? And then you remember that thing you read a few weeks back that you're not supposed to be writing for them, but aren't they the ones who are supposed to give you money for what you wrote? Where's the balance? Where's the sense? What am I supposed to do?

It's so discouraging to be around that toxic complaining. It seems to be a milkshake of fear and anger and label-slinging, and I admit that it's made me abandon so many projects just because there wasn't a way I could do what I think they'd like. I mean, I'm just me, and I'm probably not worth listening to. There are so many other talented, intelligent, marvelous people in the world, and I get so sad thinking that because of who I am, what I am and how I am, that I'll never be worth listening to. That thought makes me feel so alone, and then so sad for all the people who spend their time trying to point out divisions rather than what can unify us.

What could really unify us is to put down these banners, and see that the fight isn't about who is or isn't supposed to be doing or not doing things, or who should be included and who should be discounted, but that we can all do stuff, whatever we want, and not everyone's supposed to like it. Maybe that's too lofty an idea. Maybe that means people would have to do something other than fight so much. Maybe that means I just don't get it. I don't express that idea so much, because I'm afraid of what would happen if it spread.

Do you worry about people judging you? Do you worry that someone somewhere is going to be really upset by what you make? That it won't matter if you tried your best, or if you did all you could think of , because someone somewhere is going to raise a fuss because something that you didn't even think would be a problem is somehow the largest problem on their radar? That's the sort of fear that makes me go days and weeks without being creative. I don't know how to solve that. I don't know if I ever will.

Do you worry about failing? I have so many choruses of voices and memories in my head, people telling me all kinds of the worst stuff, that it seems like I'm in this duel with failure, maybe on the edge of cliff, maybe while some dramatic music happens. It's like I talk myself out of even trying because the fear that later I could fail gets so overwhelming, and I haven't even done anything yet!

Does starting things scare you? Do you freak out when you see the blank page? Do you get these great electric surges of inspiration and a rush of creative gasoline that fuels a burst of pages, then like a match in a hurricane, the fire goes out, so you try again and again to make the fire come back at just that intensity? What am I supposed to do? I guess I could go slowly, and do the best I can every chance I get, but that scares me. Because it seems to take so long, and what if other people do (and produce) better stuff while I'm still working so that by the time I'm done, what I've said is irrelevant? I guess that's what makes me so impatient. I guess that's also what makes me angry and guilty about doing or not doing things.

Have you ever thought about what you'd do if you had a genie and three wishes? I know what I'd do with my three wishes. I'd use that first wish to take care of my personal worries. Things like health and being stinky after working out and that weird nausea I get after I eat that one soup with the mushrooms in it. For the second wish, I'd wish for the prosperity of all the people I love. I worry so much that me trying to be creative detracts from me being responsible or adult or good enough or who they want me to be, that I really want to make sure that they're taken care of, forever. I feel like such a burden when I ask for time to create. I feel like I don't deserve to be creative, because like a kid at dinner, I didn't finish my proverbial vegetables or responsibilities. I struggle a lot with that. I mean, I struggle with a lot of things. I hope you're still reading this. I worry I've scared you off.

My third wish, and I spend a lot of time thinking about this one, is that I'd wish for a chance. Not a guarantee. Just a chance, an opportunity, to get whatever I'm making in the hands of the people who would be most receptive of it. I know, it's a wish, and I could give myself fame or wealth easily, but I'd rather earn that, because I've so seldom felt worthy or deserving of anything. Did you know I cry when people give me gifts? I don't do it when they're around, but I usually "have to go to the bathroom" and cry a little because someone spent money on me. It's worse when they make things for me. I blubber terribly that way. Maybe I shouldn't say that to you, you're a big successful creator, and I don't think you want to know about my sobbing jags.

The internet is so full of people and places and things all with ways of pointing out shortcomings and faults and errors, do you think it's possible to just start something positive? Something where we all know we make mistakes, where we admit we're not perfect and where we know what we make isn't perfect, but rather than say for the umpteenth time how this or that is a problem, we go ahead and support ourselves and each other as we do what we do? Is that naive? Am I? I think I'd do a lot better as a creative if there were places that praised positive efforts and strategies as quickly as they cite complaints and slights.

A lot of what I see is people waiting. They're waiting for someone else to go first. They're waiting for someone to give them a map and say, "Here, do what I did, end up exactly where I am." I get that. I want that too. I look at all my friends, even people I don't know and I see them gathering successes by the truckload, and I'm just sitting here, writing you this letter, wondering if maybe I'll get that next paragraph even started, or if I'll get that thing I finished (i'm pretty sure I've finished it, I'm too scared to say so). I want that kind of success, hell, at this point, I'll take any success.

Sure, I know, you'll maybe tell me that I already am successful because outside of this creative stuff, look what I've done. Look at how I've gotten this far. Look at how I've gotten out of bed, brushed my teeth, showered, managed to put on clothes, and even eaten. But that's the stuff we're supposed to be doing, right? Celebrating that doesn't happen, not when you compare it to sales and money and announcements of big projects, right?

Wow, I said a lot here. Was it too much? Maybe. Maybe not.

Again, let me say that I'm proud of you, I'm inspired by you, and that for all my fears and doubts, I still want to create, and there's nothing better than that, when it gets right down to it.

All the best,

John

Tomorrow I record the next blogpost (so it'll go up when I'm back at the doctors on Friday morning). Then I start figuring out if there's a want for a #writerchat  on Twitter. I think it would be good, though as per usual I'm wondering if people aren't a fan of talking about what they're doing, only on what they've done. 

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See this? I'm going to break this down on the blog in the very near future. 
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Between all the permission-seeking (Is it okay if I write this) and all the validation-seeking (please oh please gatekeeper say yes to my MS), it's important to keep your goal, whatever that might be, in mind. 

So why do you write? (no there aren't any wrong answers). 
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