Get a Free Short Story Mailed To You!

I am delighted to announce I am starting up a free short story service here at One Wet Sneaker.  I’m always digging up great old stories online, and want to learn to use an certain automatic email program, so I thought I’d combine them this way.  These are the best short stories I can find.  In one case, the story is so good that I’ll be typing the story in from a scanned document.  It’s in the public domain, but it’s not on the web in text format anywhere.

(This particular story was the inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s story Coraline, and in my opinion it’s a much deeper and weirder story.  It’s less spectacular, but far more strange. — But until I type it up, I have plenty of other great stories lined up.)

So, sign up and enjoy a short story mailed to you every week — free!

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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Incredibly Cool Site for Writers…

Here we have fictional characters from various famous novels rendered pictorally by police artists.

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Jumping Conclusions Scientifically: Reading IF Reviews

As a boy, when I learned the difference between induction and deduction, I was deeply impressed, and went looking for instruction on how to do induction.  Everybody knows how to do deduction:  Socrates is a man; all men are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal.  — But where do you get the rules?

You get them, of course, from induction.  But all the material I found on induction was really stupid.  One explained that, you look at Mercury and determine it’s sphereoidal; and at Venus, and determine it’s sphereoidal; and so on to Pluto; and from this you determine “inductively” that all planets are sphereoidal.

Which is useless, of course.

John Stuart Mill, of intro philosophy course fame for his ethical theory, identified and formalized the rules we intuitively use to work from specific cases to general ones.  Get good at them and you can work with fuzzy, non-quantifiable data scientifically. 

These are the basic rules that Jared Diamond used to organize his historical observations in Guns, Germs, and Steel.  I’m writing them up to encourage you to use them for cross-comparison of IF Comp reviews this year.

Key.  We’ll have A, B, C, D, E, F, G refer to properties of the game being reviewed, and t, u, v, w, x, y, z refer to opinions of the reviewer.  The question is, what game properties reliably elicit what reviewer opinions. (more…)

Freytag’s Technique of the Drama (and AutoBlurb, live)

This is such a great book I’ll squeeze it in here, sideways.

Gustav Freytag’s Technique of the Drama is a long, older book that’s available online. A very useful, insightful, and overlooked book.

Freytag says that the dramatic is not emotion and not action, but it is emotion conjoined with action; it is action that is undertaken for emotional reasons. (Shades of Foster-Harris, but with a different palette.) He says drama is composed of play and counter-play: the play is what the hero does and the counter-play is what is done that has an effect on his psyche. He argues that the tragic should be an essentially ethical force which the hero must fulfill (again the resonance with F-H).

He breaks drama into five parts, with three crises joining them. The five parts are the introduction, the rise, the climax, the fall, and the catastrophe. (He only deals in the tragic; no happy endings here.) The three crises are the exciting moment (or exciting force), the tragic moment (or force), and the moment (or force) of last suspense.

He goes through Romeo and Juliette to show how to use minor characters like chess pieces to push around the major characters and make things happen. Indeed, he steps through the process of making a germ of an idea into an entire work — not formulaically, but nevertheless with an eye to the practical and useful.

There’s a slightly typoed pdf of his book here. You can get image-only scans online quite easily.

(That link broke somehow.  It’s fixed now.  I guess I can’t link directly to the pdf.  But the pdf is available for free download on the newly-linked page.)

Meanwhile, AutoBlurb is live and online! You can get completely fresh, random plots generated by clicking these links: Here for classic Polti plots, or here for Polti plots souped up with sci-fi contexts taken from S. John Ross’s Big List of RPG Plots.

Note:  AutoBlurb online does all kinds of weird things with punctuation.  I don’t know why; I don’t have ready access to the online version to streamline the generator file.  These formatting troubles don’t show up if you use the desktop program.

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 8:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Take the Foster-Harris Survey!

Although I haven’t written anything on Foster-Harris in a while, I see that I’m still getting traffic on his writing system.  If you’re interested in his emotion-based formula for building stories, you can take the survey here.

If you’d like to let others know of this survey, you’ll find the tinyurled link most convenient — it won’t break under cut+paste:

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review of “Story Structure Architect” as it applies to IF

A certain odd and kind of spooky thing happens sometimes, where you go looking for something in a place where it has no business being, and find it.  Sometimes when I’m reading Shakespeare, I’ll think, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if he …”  And then I go looking for it, and not only did he do that, but he did it cooler than I had in mind.

I’m reading through a few books on story design, for the purpose of extracting ideas for Interactive Fiction.  Today I got around to a little library book called Story Structure Architect, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.  (more…)

Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Free ebook – Emotional Logic, by Aristotle

We’ve been talking about emotions a great deal, but it’s all been about using emotion to write powerful stories.  We haven’t said much about how emotion works.  Let’s remedy that.

I have for you here a classic work on emotion, by Aristotle.  It’s part of a larger work, which you may have heard of, called The Rhetoric.

Aristotle was a greatly practical-minded guy, and human nature hasn’t changed all that much in the past 2,300 years.  Definitely worth a read.

Here’s Aristotle on Emotional Logic.

ps – Also, you’ll notice I’ve conveniently added an item, “resources,” to the sidebar, where you’ll find this and any other ebooks I may add.

Published in: on June 26, 2009 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Emotion + Action Story Formula

This formula combines the Foster-Harris emotional formula with the Lester Dent action formula.  It aims at a story 6,000 words long.  If you’re just tuning in and don’t know about these guys, check out the tags on this blog for the background.

The goal here is to create a story with action and emotional conflict, where the emotional conflict motivates the action, and the action is emotionally significant.


1.) Use the F-H system to design an emotional conflict of interest to you.  We’re using the words “emotion” pretty loosely here; the conflict can be between any two values that get a rise out of people.  For example, the conflict between power and identity.

In general, you want these emotions to be similar to each other, or lay claim to similar domains of activity.  So Love v. Hate is not the way to go.  Love v. Lust is better.  Also popular, according to Foster-Harris, are Pride v. Honor (big with men) and Status v. Love (big with women). (more…)

Published in: on June 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm  Comments (3)  
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Q & A on Foster-Harris

Must emotions be about the future?

On the secret, hidden part of my blog, where I’ve posted my first story written to pulp formula, Wayne commented:

I’ve read Foster-Harris’ books and he’s excellent at explaining subjective POV.

His other notions are intriguing and I wish he had explained them more and gave more examples.

F-H says every fiction sentence should have an emotion looking forward and a fact looking back. Like “Angrily, he swirled.” Anger is an emotion but how is it looking forward? Anger is frustration at being stopped. How is swirling a fact looking back.

Well, there are different kinds of anger.  If the anger were about being stopped, then it would be “about the future” in the sense that the angry person didn’t want to be stuck on whatever had stuck them, but was already mentally trying to put themselves into the future situation, and stupid reality wasn’t keeping pace with them.

But your criticism is a very good one.  Emotions aren’t always about the future.  Foster-Harris is wrong on that point.

Some emotions are always about the future.  Fear, for example, doesn’t make sense if it’s not oriented toward the future.  You could image a situation where someone was fearful of something that technically had already happened — fearful of getting a bad grade on yesterday’s test.  They might know it had already been graded, but until it happens to them, until they get the grade, it’s in their future.

Other emotions are always about the past.  Regret, for example. (more…)

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pulp Report – First Story Finished

Last night, I finished The Robot Murders, which I’m posting here.  I have to post it with a password, because part of the experiment is to try to sell it.  If you’d like to read it, write me with “pulp fiction password request” in the subject line. (more…)

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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