Creative Writing – Writer’s Block

You’ve started writing that story of yours, the one you’ve been waiting weeks to write. At the time, everything had been planned and felt like it was strung together neatly, but now the ideas are becoming ever fainter by the minute and your muse is begging for more creative juices. You’ve stopped writing and your now becoming lethargic to the point of no return. This is what we call writer’s block. 

So, how do you get rid of it? Is it curable? 

There are definitely solutions to the issue, and there are also many different ways of tackling it. Essentially, it is all a matter of what works for you and your personal identities. Here are a few common solution to the problems you might be facing when writing:

1 – Take a break 

This may seem very contradictory to the initial intention, but taking a short break is a fantastic method of freeing your mind of its worries and refreshing the system clean. A short walk, a light meal, a quick exercise activity – whatever suits your style, try to take a little break from your daily hustle and bustle. This will give your muse the much needed capacity to think, leaving your inner critic much less focused than before. Hydrate yourself, stretch your muscles and then slowly ease back into the working environment. But, whatever happens, don’t extend your break further than is needed otherwise you are simply feeding the writer’s block and embracing procrastination.

2 – Rethink your plans

If you’re suffering from writer’s block, it is usually the case that you are struggling to put the ideas from your mind onto the page. This could be just a simple need for reformulating and rethink the plans you originally made in order to see it from a different perspective. What exactly is making this particular scene difficult to write? Is it the setting, the characters, the backstory, the plot or just the entertainment you get from writing it? Once you’ve been able to answer that question you’ll be able to hone in on solving it and rethinking the ideas until it eventually sticks. Don’t worry if it’s not quite there just yet – there’s plenty of time to change this later, just ensure that you have some idea as to where you’re heading with the plot and let your muse do the rest.

3 – Write something different

Even if you’ve got your eyes focussed on a particular piece of work, writing something completely different can offer a fresh perspective the next time around and can broaden your mind to the possibilities. If you typically write crime fiction, perhaps delve into a fantasy poem and see what happens, or an extract from a romance film script, or a non-fiction review. Be experimental and don’t let your usual style take control. This is a chance to be expressive and to spotlight your abilities in their varying lights. A completely subverted approach can really benefit a writer mentally for their longer, more complicated journey ahead.

4 – Find further inspiration

Everyone finds inspiration differently – some through music and games, others through film, television and fiction. Whatever it is you enjoy to engage with, try to take some time finding that inspiration. It might take a while, but you will eventually begin to understand exactly why you personally like that text and you’ll then be able to extract influences from it. There maybe characters you resonate with, plots you are in awe at, or flaws in the text that you seek to avoid. This is an opportunity to analyse your influences and optimise them to their greatest effect so that your writing can become a culmination of those inspirations – not to mention that it’ll have your muse in creative overdrive. 

5 – Write, write, write

And, if all of the above fail, try this one. Write until you can’t write anymore. Don’t listen to your inner critic, nor your mind. This is about getting the words on the page, no matter what they turn out to format as initially. They will be poorly written pages, but the point of this exercise is not to aim for quality but rather to achieve length to rid of the doubt and worry inside. If you feel that isn’t quite your pace and you’d rather have writing intervals, try to write as much as possible for thirty minutes and then take a ten minute break. Repeat that process until you’re content with the overall product. 

Another method for this particular strategy is to plan your daily timetables. Tell yourself that you’re going to write two-hundred and fifty words in that day and you’ll most likely end up with more. This is generally because your muse has finally found its inspiration, baited by the thought of only having to complete a paragraph or more of work before relaxing. You want to write more because you have the ideas again, this time much more concrete and malleable. Every word feels more satisfying as the last and then you’re back to your usual schedule. That’s the moment of realisation, the moment your block subsides. So, what are you waiting for? 

Good luck fighting your writer’s block! 

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Moana Review – Visually Stunning and Beautifully Crafted

Disney has always been known for providing animations beyond what many could ever hope to imagine, and Moana is another example that their creators and animators are just as talented and skilled now as they were many years before. This is a film of impressive, mind-blowing visuals that explode on the screen with colour and depth, adding to the immersion and general visual presence. Beyond that, the score is as lively as previous Disney titles and the plot, while sailing familiar seas, grows from strength to strength as the film progresses. Characters have individuality and flaws that once again emphasise the fact that nobody is truly perfect. There is a lot to appreciate here and respect in the light of very recent animated movies – including the disastrous Emoji Movie and the uninspired Despicable Me 3. If you’re looking for an entertaining animation with plenty of vibrancy, flare and voice, this is definitely one worth watching.

The story follows Moana, a girl hoping to one day venture beyond the reef – her current residence – to restore peace to her village. It’s a fairly familiar tale that has moments taken from older influences, but it is stil a successful narrative for its simplisticity and general understanding of basic plot structure. While there isn’t a strong antagonist to attach to and focus on as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the antagonist they originally set up was actually one of the protagonists. This was interesting to see, especially for an animated film, and it gave a new creative flare to something that had been done before. Moana herself is likeable and easy to empathise with, putting yourself in her position in this daunting voyage. Certain scenes were handled particularly well, especially focussing on her younger years and the ending, but others felt somewhat rushed and unnecessary in terms of overall scale – most notably the ‘Shiny’ crab sequence. Humour in these sequences was handled rather effectively to balance the pacing and never making the film feel too weighty, what with the addition of the coconut tribe and the rooster on the boat. All in all, the narrative was very typical and stuck mostly to safe options, but its execution was brilliant in almost all of the scenes and the characterisation added some innovation and change to maintain its entertainment value.

Thematically, Moana offers a great deal of depth that is unconventional for its genre and style, adding further value to its overall accessibility. The main theme of nature destruction and the negative impacts it may have really are rooted deep into the heart of the story, which compliments the gorgeous, jaw dropping landscapes. It gives the film layers and layers to deconstruct and understand, leaving interpretations for the whole family – younger viewers being able to comprehend the surface level messages, whereas the older viewers being able to look beneath that into more abstract meanings. As Disney have always done, they provide lessons and morals that most animated films in this day and age have difficulty providing and hence why it attracts such a wide ranging audience. 

In regards to the technical side of the film, Moana presents a beautiful and colourful cinematography that is difficult to match. Every scene is filled to the brim with bright, sharp animations and character models that are near unprecedented levels of quality. The voice acting has emotion and humour, especially Dwayne Johnson’s Maui. It is interesting to engage with and see these characters struggle and learn, but also have fun and interact humorously with one another. On top of that, the score is joyful and memorable for the most part – especially with the songs ‘How far I’ll go’ and ‘Where you are’. This all culminates in a typically unforgettable and modern classic Disney style that is easily distinguishable from the rest. 

To conclude, Moana is a film of very impressive standards and a pinnacle of modern animations. It really is incredible to see such beautiful landscapes and character models and to compare that to the original Disney titles – animation has advanced significantly. It’s story has a lot of potential, warranting a few laughs and establishing a solid groundwork for great characterisation and interactions between Maui and Moana. This film offers technical mastery in music composition and art style, but a stronger, tighter narrative with a greater villain or higher stake would have made this film stand out from the rest. Nevertheless, Moana is a must watch for all those interested in animated movies and a true testimont to how far animations have come. 

VERDICT – 8.5/10


Creative Writing – Developing Character

Once an opening scene has been established and your planning has fleshed out the primary structures for the narrative’s progression, it is time to begin the real work: developing character. Your opening scene hopefully introduces the reader to a lead character, whether they be heroic, anti-heroic or even antagonistic, but now you need to give this character a sufficient boundary for which they can develop and grow into a three dimensional, compelling individual. Those that interest, intrigue, grip, scare or even make your readers sympathise or empathise with are characters that will drive forward your intentions and allow the story to flow through their perspectives. It’s possibly the lengthier part of planning, but also one of the most intricate and exciting. 

1 – Round your characters, don’t rely on simple stereotypes 

A fantastic way to really integrate a character into a narrative and ensure that the readers are thoroughly engaged is to balance your characters morally. Antagonists shouldn’t be completely and utterly evil without any reasoning or explanation, unless you are desperately trying to convey a particular purpose, and nor should protagonists be wholly good and honest. Breaking away from convention and giving your characters internal struggles will help to add depth to their personalities, making for a much stronger impact within the structure of the plot. If your characters are simple stereotypes, they appear two dimensional and uninteresting, resulting in readers questioning the importance of following their journies in the first place. Unless you’re intentionally creating simplistic characters, perhaps for a comedic piece that acknowledges its presentation of character or war fiction that deliberately makes characters mere silhouettes for emotional impact, try to go beyond stereotypes and instead push conventional expectations away. Be different!

2 – Give your characters flaws, not just strengths

There are times you have most likely read or watched something where a lead character is considered overpowered or skilled to a point of superhuman abilities that makes you question the authenticity of their creation. Characters purely based on strengths are another trope that never give a sense of tension or achievement. If this character can face the world unharmed and unscathed, where exactly does that leave them? Who or what could possibly challenge them? You’re then left with an unconvincing antagonist and an overly embellished hero. Give your lead character internal struggles and turmoil that they have to deal with throughout the narrative, and push them to limits that you didn’t think were physically possible. Delve into their darkest moments and embrace their weak spots so that their strengths will truly be understood and acknowledged later on. It adds power and weight to those significant turning points and ‘payoff’ moments.

3 – Choose your name wisely

A character’s name is just as important in introducing a character as is their first act. This will be their label, the thing people will know them by. A simple John or Adam can work in particular situations, especially if you want your character to be seen as an ordinary person, but typically more unique and obscure titles work more effectively. If they have a particular skill, personality trait or a known fate, tailor their name appropriately to foreshadow or hint towards that. Make them memorable to the reader and maintain their individuality within the story. Researching names online can guide your choice and help to pick an appropriate name, so take the time to think about the purpose of their title and what it truly means for who they are or who they’re trying to be.

4 – Don’t be afraid to have a lead character be villainous 

This could be completely wild or unheard of to some, but villainous and antagonistic perspectives as lead characters can be just as compelling – if not more so – than a heroic one. You could have your character be seen in the light of a hero, but soon the reader realises the truth behind the myth. A great example is seen in Gone Girl, where the reader constantly puts blame and suspicion on the lead character to soon realise that the real villain is staring them in the face. It’s unexpected, bold and courageous, but it makes for such intricate and visceral narratives. Being able to insert yourself into the mind of an antagonist can add depth, balance and integrity to the writing. 

5 – End their arc fittingly

Memorable characters have always, or normally always, had a very satisfying conclusion to their purpose in the tale they are subjected to. In Breaking Bad, Walter White’s demise was as satisfying as they come. Give them something to reflect upon and let their aims either be met or crushed. Did they achieve what they had hoped to? If so, at what cost? This is their time to emotionally reveal themselves to the audience, to show their humanistic cores beneath the facades they wear. Stay strong with their purpose and conclude their narrative fittingly and succinctly. Don’t, whatever you choose to do, let your character die cheaply or unconvincing. Do not cheat your audience, for that is one of the worst mistakes one can make. End their tale properly and resolve what was started.

This should give more insight into the creation and development of deeper, more intricate characterisation. While there are no set methods of achieving compelling characters, these are a few pieces of advice that could work for you in your stories. If they don’t, hopefully they have at least instilled a sense of experimentation and thought into your designs and blueprints for your characters. Good luck, fellow writers! 

Splatoon 2 – Global Splatfest Coming Soon!

Over the past few weeks, Splatoon 2 has had a large array of free downloadable content, including new stages like Walleye Warehouse and Makomart as well as a brand new ranked mode. It goes without saying that the developers as hard at work creating this game and building around it to provide as much content as possible. And so, moving into 2018 and looking towards Nintendo’s paid online service, it comes as no surprise that a global Splatfest is on the cards.

This is the first global Splatfest in Splatoon 2, so it should test the online capacity to some extent and hopefully give Nintendo a strong idea of what to improve on in the next Splatfests. Another fantastic addition is that all the scores will collate into one total percentage at the results, so this broader length of matches and battles will only add to the excitement and thrill we have come to know. If you’re just starting Splatoon 2, this is a great time to join in and learn the mechanics.

So, here are the two sides and the times:

Action vs Comedy films – Saturday 13th January

12:00 UK Time

What side are you on? 

Nintendo Switch US Sales Charted – Fastest Selling Home Console

The Nintendo Switch has had a fantastic first ten months on the market, selling approximately 10 million units in nine of those months. It has once again achieved another landmark, this time in regards to the US Sales for home consoles. As of the current figures, the Nintendo Switch has sold 4.8 million units in America, which puts it above all other home console systems – including the PlayStation 4 and the Wii. So what exactly is the significance of this?

It proves to a large extent that this system has been a huge success, both on a commercial and quality basis. The appeal and overall attraction of their first party titles, such as Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey, added to the brilliantly clear and simple advertisements make for a perfect match. A significant factor could also be mentioned about the portable nature that this system is providing, offering a totally different and new experience to otherwise old titles. If you consider the failures of the Wii U, most notably Nintendo’s droughts in games and lack of strong marketing, you begin to see that the Nintendo Switch is heavily changed and improved on those fronts. Each month has been packed with content, whether that first party games, affordable indie titles or ported third parth titles, and the adverts have really accomodated for every and all audiences. The 60% attach rate of Mario Odyssey in the US, and 55% attach rates of both Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are clear evidence that the games are the primary driving force here, complemented by the concept and promotion. 

This success will also be integral to developers, including those within Nintendo themselves. They now understand what they must achieve in order to be successful with this console, so it is simply a case of replicating that this year with other titles of similar quality and ensuring that they sustain a schedule. This could be the deciding factor to third party developers that still haven’t taken the chance, one being Activision. A sales figure so tempting surely can’t go amiss here, not when money is to be made and business exists. If the player base continues to grow and develop at this pace, it is likely that we will see even more games arriving and more production funds being spent on specifically tailoring content for the hybrid system. It may take some time to be fully realised, but it’s definitely a stepping stone.

We shall have to wait for the coming months to truly understand the intentions of Nintendo for 2018, but these sales figures reiterate that this system was an unexpected success in every sense. Either way, what a fantastic start to the year for Nintendo!

Creative Writing – Opening Scenes

It’s one of the many challenges a writer can face, the daunting fear of having to finally put pen to paper in the hope that their weeks of thoughts and ideas could somehow grace the page miraculously. Opening sequences have to encompass a story’s narrative and provide a journey for which the reader can immerse themselves in, whether it be in the form of a screenplay, a short story or a novel. They can be completely unique and ambigious, or be grounded and attempt to build the structures for a visceral character and the beginning of their tale. But you don’t want to bore your readers or, worse, confuse them. This article should help to focus your attention on particular features that work within opening scenes, although this in no way reflects exactly how a opening scene should be written. That is for your mind to go creatively wild and find out for itself.

1 – Don’t be afraid to take risks

Taking risks and breaking away from convention is a particularly special skill to acquire, especially in a current market that demands change and innovation. An opening scene is a time to give the readers a flavour and an enigma to keep their interest and it is also one of the few times that you have to be completely and utterly creative because the readers won’t be expecting it. Take them by surprise, grip them to their chairs, make them want to understand this material further and further. If you take risks and attempt to subvert expectations, you’re already going to be off to a fantastic start. Just ensure that the risks you take are credible and are well executed, otherwise it may appear jarring or overwhelming. 

2 – Research, outline and plan

A huge element of the writing process resides in the research and overall planning stages, used as platforms to better understand the roots of the narrative wanting to be told and to concentrate the thematic traits into a culminated piece. Some writers choose to write ‘blind’, planning as they go, which can greatly improve the flow in some aspects and yet detract from the broader horizons and aims. If you feel like you work better in that environment then please feel free to ignore this point. Planning is still an essential part and will eventually be required later in the process if not done earlier, most likely in the editing and rewriting stages. Make sure that you do the necessary planning and research in advance of writing the opening scene: it will give you a little motivational boost and some creative confidence to lean on, especially if you’re delving into human, gritty, realistic stories that require authenticity.

3 – Be succinct, not lengthy

This is more a point directed at fiction, but it similarly applies to script writing. Don’t try to crush everything together, or try to tell too much information all at once. Ease your reader into the environment, let them find their feet and slowly delve into the surface. It usually distracts readers when they read names or places that they simply have no knowledge of. Keep it simple, direct and to the point.

4 – Focus on someone or something significant

Have you ever been disappointed by the ‘it’s all a dream’ twist or by the death of the character in the first chapter? Focusing on a character that is going to die in the same chapter is irrelevant most of the time and makes most readers feel somewhat cheated into a cheap plot twist. Give the reader something malleable to work with, something concrete that absorbs their attention and genuinely makes them read. It doesn’t have to be an explicit character – it could just be a form of symbolism that is integral to foreshadowing certain events. A lead protagonist is usually common and addresses the situation well, but how you introduce that character is entirely your choice. For example, the critically acclaimed crime drama Breaking Bad introduce its lead protagonist driving a meth lab on wheels while two corpses slide along the floor. It’s important in showing something integral and it asks enough questions to get the audience listening. Unless you have a reasonable explanation for a dreamlike phenomenon or unwarranted death in an opening scene, there is little point in their existence here. An opening scene must accomplish something, not take something back from the reader.

5 – Show, don’t tell

A very popular and well known piece of advice is to show rather than tell and its importance is even greater in a scene of this magnitude. Telling is a form of being lengthy, and typically refraining from that lightens the weight of the piece and keeps your readers engaged. Those sinking their teeth into the story for the first time are hoping to be carefully placed into a situation and give just the right amount of information to fill in the gaps. Throwing names, places and objects that they don’t know will only add to their questions and eventually that may become tiresome. Showing offers more power and gravity to the scenes by allowing the reader to infer and treating them as an intelligent audience. Sometimes telling is absolutely essential, most notably in dialogue where certain events can be told to eliminate the length of showing it. Be careful and cautious when telling, always questioning if it could be reworded in a more evocative and powerful manner.

6 – Enjoy it!

The final and most important point: enjoy what you write and have fun! Don’t get too dragged down and overwhelmed by the supposed ‘rules’. Tell the story you want to tell, write to your heart’s content and be proud of yourself when hundreds of words have been etched on the page. This is your tale and therefore it is your voice and expression. If you enjoy writing the material, there is every chance that readers will similarly take that feeling when consuming and deconstructing the writing. 

So, hopefully these pieces of advice can be a stepping stone for those creative spirits to develop their craft and find out what works for them and what doesn’t. What are you waiting for? Expand those muses and dust off the old notepads. This is your opportunity to express yourself and start a new beginning this year!

Rocket League (Nintendo Switch) – A High-Octane, Insanely Addictive Experience

After recently receiving over 40 million sales, Rocket League has become one of the most successful indie titles to date, and the addition of a Nintendo Switch port further reiterates its current popularity and accessibility. It boasts an immersive, incredibly appealing and genuinely fun experience that many games struggle to offer on the market and it goes back to simple concepts that blend into one to create a very enjoyable atmosphere. Who doesn’t get satisfaction from scoring a goal whilst hovering in mid-air in a rocket car? The variety of customisable vehicle parts only deepens the simplicity and emphasises the replayable nature of the title. While its dynamic resolution on the Nintendo Switch may be quite noticeable when in handheld mode, it’s the exact same silky smooth 60 frames per second you’d expect. This is the Rocket League we’ve all come to know and love with a few minimal compromises.

The most important, primary feature that embodies and encompasses the very nature of Rocket League is the gameplay, and everything in this area is absolutely astonishing. It’s lively, competitive, thrilling and addictive. One match leads to another, and then another after that. With a blend of compelling football matches, supercharged cars and arcade shooters, this title is completely innovative in its style and overall gameplay experience. There simply aren’t many games like it, at least to my knowledge, and that’s so appealing as a gamer to be able to just have fun. It’s a solid 60 frames, so the actual gaming experience feels just as natural on your Switch as it does on any other device and it means that online players on other devices don’t have an advantage. The game is very accessible for newcoming players, allowing for those with little knowledge of the game to play in the training area or have exhibition matches with computer controlled players. Those hoping for a competitive experience can sink their teeth into the online matches, which are typically very smooth despite a few minor hiccups here and there. This may just be an issue with Nintendo’s currently free online, which might get updated and improved over time so it is difficult to criticise it too heavily on this. Yet this never once takes away from the main attraction as it still warrants the fun and enjoyment aspect. The overall excitement and insane amounts of fun you’ll have are truly indescribable. It’s good to have a game that doesn’t care too heavily about the graphics or the resolution, but rather just having a great time.

As you begin to progress through the matches, you’ll become accustomed to the massive possibilities available in the field of vehicle customisation, from intricate antennas and goal celebrations to different vinyl designs. This keepsyou wanting to play, so you’ll achieve more and be able to gain a greater list of customisable options. There are also microtransactions in the form of loot boxes – all cosmetic – that offer rarer items if you seek a deeper inventory, but they come at the cost of actual currency. It’s such a significant factor in the replay value and maintaing an active consumer base that is never tired of the unlockables they acquire through playing. 

The online service is a little on the weak side, although this may be more an indicator of Nintendo’s convoluted online instead of Psyonix’s misjudgements. Text chat is available for those wanting to communicate, but the button layout gets quite frustrating and really isn’t coherent enough for those split second moments where voice chat would be preferable. Other than that, matchmaking is rather smooth and the matches are usually very enjoyable – though that is dependent on the latency of players as it can stutter jarringly in some situations. A greater incorporation of being able to play alongside friends would be greatly appreciated and a stronger sense of voice chat to match that, but this is definitely something that could be fixed or improved as Nintendo’s paid online service becomes more fleshed out and realised.

For those worrying about the portable aspect of the game, please don’t.  Psyonix have accommodated for those wishing to play offline with a full season mode, where you play against several, computer controlled teams in a league, and exhibition matches. It’s simple to accessible and allows the player to get back to where they were. While the online matches are usually a little more enjoyable and exciting, this functionality allows you to continue playing and practicing without the need for internet access. It’s resolution is dynamic and sometimes can drop below 720p in certain parts, but Psyonix have been attempting to stabilise this issue so it won’t be as noticeable. If you are looking for stunning visuals, this isn’t the most beneficial version. However, if you’re looking for convenience, the Nintendo Switch version offers everything you could want and more. Being able to take this game anywhere is truly magical and is a true testimont to how incredible it is, dynamic resolution or not. 

In home console mode, the Nintendo Switch version of Rocket League displays a solid 720p image that looks reasonably nice aesthetically, but don’t be expecting the advanced textures and strong depth of field as in the other versions. As you play the game more, you begin to question how much the resolution actually matters in this situation. A high-octane, intense game filled with action requires 60 frames to be credible, but a high resolution isn’t – especially when most of the attention is on the car rear and the ball. You might love looking at the backgrounds in the previous versions just for how visually impressive some are, but that isn’t as memorable here. Once again though, the frame rate is absolutely solid and continues to emphasise the importance of such when playing. 

Rocket League on Nintendo Switch delivers everything you’d want it to, minus a some minor details that are compensated for by the portability of the system. While the text chat is messy and the resolution is noticeably choppy at times, the essential gameplay is exactly the same and the fact that you can play it portably only adds to the value of this affordable £15 indie. The experience is wacky, crazy and wholly unique, offering a plentitude of customisable parts and unlockables to keep you gaming for hours on end. It’s little wonder that this game has reached such a landmark in sales, it deserves every last one of them. This is a game like no other on the market, and for that it truly is a masterfully fun title that everyone should pick up at least once in their lifetime.

VERDICT – 9/10