Finding The Right Genre

Believe that you have it, and you have it.
~Latin Proverb~


Fantasy. That was what came into my mind when I thought about a new story line.

Why?

Maybe because I love the world full of magic and its extraordinary environment?

I love watching fantasy movies, obviously, with The Lord of The Rings easily becomes my all time favorite.

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Having said that, I do not read much fantasy books, except for The Charmed Ones novels, which are not an epic fantasy. My reading preference is always on mystery/thriller/investigation genre.

Why am I so focus on writing a fantasy story then?

At first I thought it was just me trying to avoid the so-called “facts” in my novel. My first young adult novel was based on a psycho-thriller plot. I did not know much about a psychopath nor a shrink, the therapy process, yada yada. Based on my little reading on the subject, I tried to avoid most of the technical explanation, simply because I didn’t want to provide wrong facts, hence making my novel less credential.

For years I believe that was the sole reason. To avoid writing facts, something that I don’t know much about.

Writing a fantasy genre would be much simpler because it doesn’t rely on facts, or so I thought. True, when I wrote the series Pengembaraan Fantasi I did not have much difficulty. Writing a teen book does not require much details or technical explanation, as long as the story is interesting.

When I wrote my second young adult novel, a cross-over between the real and fantasy world, I needed to incorporate a bit more details. Interesting alone is not enough. The world has to be believable too. It is something that I realized later on.

Although the fantasy world is not bound to the real world law of physics, it still has its laws that need to be followed. The writer, as the creator of that fantasy world, needs to create a set of rules, thus making the world believable.

These set of rules is not much different from the “facts” in the real world, is it?

It is not until recently that I fully understood the reason behind my genre preference, thanks to the Sword Art Online (SAO) light novels that I had read non-stop for the past 2 weeks.

Reading SAO made me realized that I am writing a fantasy story not to avoid the real world facts, but because it is who I am.

Someone who is simply amazed by the fantasy world. Someone who loves creating her own imaginary world and hopes that it will be her reality. Someone who just wants to hide away from her troubles.

Isn’t it ironic, that I knew this all along, but failed to acknowledge it? Maybe I’m afraid that people would think I’m such a delicate, insecure person.

I guess it is time to accept the truth about who I am. Who knows it might boost up my capability to create a more believable fantasy world.

My current manuscript can be classified as a low fantasy, and maybe a contemporary because the plot took place in the real world (with the element of crossing over to the other world through a portal).

However it is my wish – after the current manuscript is completed – to write a high, epic fantasy story (which I have started drafting it ^-^).

Between What You Want To Write And What Your Reader Wants To Read

It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.
~Francois De La Rochefoucauld~


Every writer has their own story to tell. But is it enough to tell a story the way you strongly want it to be? Or do you need to consider how other people would react when reading your story?

I guess the answer depends on your own goal.

If you are writing just to satisfy yourself, then you not need to worry about other people’s feedback. In this case, you can write whatever stories you have in mind.

But if you want to write a story that is saleable, you have to take into account who your readers are. Because these readers are the one that will determine your success in this field.

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When I wrote my novels before, I never allowed anybody to read my draft, except for my editor.

Reasons?

I really believed (at that time) that I want my story to be a great surprise, and by letting other people to read my manuscript before it is published would just ruin my goal.

Oh, who am I kidding?

At that time, I failed to understand the essential of readers’ feedback. Without good feedback, a writer might not go far in his/her career. There is no point in writing a complete manuscript if you can’t get your readers to leaf through after the first page.

So, who should be these readers?

They should not be of any family members, simply because they might be biased towards you.

Definitely not your partner, for the same reason stated above.

Friends, yes, honest friends who would help you to achieve your goal.(There are several types of friends out there).

Maybe professionals if you don’t mind paying the cost.

Or you can try uploading the first few pages online and get some random feedback. If you were to go for this approach, make sure your content is copyrighted. You definitely don’t want your creative idea to be stolen.

Anyway, back to the main point. Although you do focus on what the readers want, bear in mind that you can’t please everybody. I speak from experience, AS a reader πŸ˜›

If I can question why the genius Oda-sensei chose such an approach in One Piece or why Reki-san kept on introducing new female lead and push the one and only heroin to the sideline in his best selling Sword Art Online light novels, definitely a newbie and a no-name author, like me, would raise much more questions on the story line.

Personally for me, that would make a good learning experience. Know what the readers want, what the majority of them are not happy with, and try to improve from there.

But try not to lose your identity just to please your readers. Your story is yours to tell.

The feedback helps to improve your writing, to make the story line more interesting. What your readers want will help you to focus in the right direction.

However, never ever compile ideas from your readers. If you think that will sell your novel, you are making a big mistake.

Know the difference. Learn and improve from the feedback. Not blindly copy and compile from the suggested ideas.

The Sky Is The Limit

Every ceiling, when reached, becomes a floor, upon which one walks as a matter of course and prescriptive right.
~Aldous Huxley~


I always believe that you need a talent in order to succeed in something. Even so, I still challenged myself multiple times to do something I’m not talented at. And the way things turned out always surprised me.

I’m very good at sport so basically I can play almost all games with a little training. Creative writing is also part of my talents.

However, there are also interesting things that I want to do which I’m not good at. Being a songwriter for example. I don’t have much basic in musics. My guitar skill was obtained from YouTube, which until now is still rough. And yet I still attempted composing my own song and succeeded. After doing it several times, composing song feels almost natural now.

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My latest attempt is drawing a manga character. I just started two days ago by simply following an online tutorial. As music, I don’t have any talent in drawing.

I did not pay much attention in my drawing class during high school. Most of the hard assignments on drawing were done by my brother (Ops! Yeah… very very bad.. I know :P) Since the marks from drawing did not contribute to my grade, so I didn’t really feel guilty about it.

Although I’m crazy about manga and anime, I never have any intention of drawing the manga myself. What I have in mind is just to expand my writing skill. Apart from novel writing, I also wish to write a graphics novel.

I want to use my nephew’s talent in drawing to draw the characters for me. What he is still lacking of is the right technique to draw manga-like characters. So I sought for an online tutorial in order to help him to learn. To proof that the tutorial would definitely work, I picked up my pencil and started drawing. And after a few attempts, I made it!

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All these made me thinking. Yes, with talent you could go higher in a short time. You just need to work on maximizing your talent.

But I also realized that if you want to make something to work, if you make an effort towards it, there is always a chance to succeed. I guess the keywords are to keep on trying, be patient and be interested in it.

Without a natural talent, the hurdles to succeed might be bigger. But hey, where’s the fun if everything is smooth sailing. An obstacle in life will make us a better person right?

However, if after an umpteenth times of trying and it is still not working, personally, I think it will be wise to pursue a different interest. There are certain things that are just not meant to be. ^-^

Writing A Novel: Series vs Standalone

Fully to understand a grand and beautiful thought requires, perhaps, as much time as to conceive it.

~Joseph Joubert~


As a writer, I often ask myself what type of book to write: series or standalone. Subconsciously, I would straight away think of a plot for a standalone book. However when I was offered to write for teen books category, surprisingly the first thought that came to my mind was a series.

I guess my reason at that time was because as a kid, my favorite books were from series: The Famous Five, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Somehow I thought writing series for kids would be more appealing. Especially when you find out that there were some kids who were actually waiting for your series’ sequel!

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When I had the chance to write for the Young Adult’s (YA), I forgot all about series and focused only on writing a standalone plot.

That what was my thought before: series are only meant for kids while standalone books are for YAs and adults. I was wrong, pretty obviously!

It doesn’t matter which category you are writing for – series or standalone can always fit in. What matters most are the character(s) and the plot.

Writing a standalone book requires the author to develop the main protagonist and antagonist well, intertwine with a great story line. Once the story is over, the author can move on to the next idea, with different characters and plot.

Writing a series, to me, is a little bit harder. Firstly, the author needs to create characters that can have followers. When I read my favorite series, I wanted to read about my favorite characters. I wanted to know more about them. I hated the idea if my favorite characters were suddenly downgraded and pushed to the sideline (I felt that way with Sword Art Online light novels Vol. 3-6). That is not something that is easily done.

When creating a character for series, that character must be developed consistently as the series progresses. The character must have the ups and downs for he/she to grow and capture the emotions of the readers. Otherwise, nobody would be looking forward to read the next sequel of the series.

Secondly, the plot of the series must be fresh and not repetitive (this holds true for a standalone plot too, of course!). With series, the plot of the story is always focusing on the main character(s). If there are five of them (like The Famous Five who always solved mysteries together), then the author has to create a story line that can include all five of them.

And the character’s signature must be maintained throughout the series. The mystery to solve is of course different. The tension and drama should be too. But the characters’ unique identity, what made them stand out in the first place, must be presence all the time. Like Dr. Alex Cross. Or Sherlock Holmes.

I have the experience in writing for both series and standalone books. And my preference for now? I’m gonna focus on writing a standalone story – simply because I wanna have a complete different character as the protagonist ^_^

Sword Art Online: Is It Possible To Create A Fully Immersive Virtual Environment In The Future?

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

~Marcel Proust~


I’m not a hardcore gamer. It is not because I do not enjoy playing games, but simply because I’m easily addicted to it.

My first game console experience was when my dad bought us Atari 2600 (yeah… I know, it was ages ago!). My favorite games at that time were Pacman and Space Invaders. Years later, he bought us our first PC and I got myself hooked on the Prince of Persia game.

As I grew up, I played various other games – from PC to console to online games. I did play Hidden and Dangerous 2 once, a multiplayer, first-person shooter (FPS) genre. Unfortunately I have an extreme motion sickness which obstructs me from diving further into 3D games, including virtual reality games.

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Speaking of virtual reality games, this brings up the topic of discussion for this post: Sword Art Online (SAO). Yup, SAO is a light Japanese novel series written by Kawahara Reki, and have been made into an anime.

Putting the ‘anime-freak’ in me and the creativity of the story line aside, what impressed me the most about SAO is the world it was based on: virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). A subject that is really close to my heart; something that I proposed to do at the start of my PhD (not exactly on MMORPG but something related to VR games) before resolving to a natural user interface area.

A little bit of background on SAO. The story was set in the near future where humanity had finally created a complete virtual environment. By donning a VR helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, known as Nerve Gear, players could control their in-game character with their mind. When the players logged in for the first time, they found out that they were trapped in the VE without being able to logout. The only way out was to clear all 100 floors and defeat the final boss. To make matter worse, death in this game means death in the real world as well.

Watching this anime made me think about the possibility of creating a complete virtual environment, that gives the feeling of naturalness to the users. With the current technology, we are still far behind from achieving that goal.

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When I did my research on natural interfaces, the first thing I looked for was the technique used to implement the interface. I had not done much research on VR games since my focus was more on a 3D manipulation technique. However, our goal was still the same – to make the interface as natural as possible.

So, what is a natural interface?

In my thesis, it was defined as:

β€œAn interface that relies almost exclusively on visuomotor skills already possessed by users.”

In other words, an interface is considered natural if the user does not take long to learn how to use it. Not every action in the real world can be simulated as it is. Some actions need to be compromised with some tricks to achieve the naturalness in the interaction.

Why is the naturalness so important in the simulated world? To me, it gives the feeling of satisfaction. I played Tekken on a console, and loved it. I played EyeToy: Kinetic Combat and the feeling was overwhelming.

It is what engaged the users to the virtual world. After all, the VR world is the place where people would go to, to take a break from reality. To be what they can’t be in the real world. To make them feel belong in this universe.

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To arrive at the world portrayed in SAO where all of our five senses work as in the real world seems to be out of reach at this moment. Even with the 3D manipulation technique I implemented, the effect of a haptic feedback was omitted because that will require a whole new research.

But one thing for sure, the gaming industry is moving towards VR and AR experiences. More researchers will be investing their time in creating new technologies for this purpose.

It is only a matter of time before the world in SAO is no longer a dream.