Coded green.

Freeday 8 March 2002

Screenshot The Sims

Pic of the day: Screenshot from The Sims. In real life I cannot write as fast as I can read.

Books & writing

It's been a work week, and being an office worker I am mentally tired. I can't go into detail, just take my word for it. I don't want to write lots of deep stuff. I just want to play computer games and write fiction. If I had a TV, I would have vegged in front of it and fallen asleep on the couch. If I had a couch. (Man, I hope this was right. I have a hard time telling apart coach and couch. *checks dictionary* Yes, made it this time too. I usually don't need a dictionary, but some words are just hopeless.)


Scrambled together a short first chapter in my fantasy story. It doesn't even have a name yet. Well, the chapter has, tentatively. "A tragic mistake." From a point in the present, Helge-Dag looks back on a day that went truly horribly wrong. And then there's a cliffhanger line.

I actually bought some correspondence course in writing, years and years ago. I found the textbook very informative, but I never got around to send in anything. Good or bad, who knows? What I know is that I will never be a good fiction writer, because I can't do plots. I can do characters, and they make the plots. But like most of us, they don't really make great plots if left to themselves.

According to theorists, there are very few primary plots. You can join them together, but again there are not all that many different ways you can do that. I guess that explains why writers tend to repeat themselves after a while. I used to buy anything by Piers Anthony, for instance. But you can't write that much and not repeat yourself a lot. I'm not crying in my beer that I haven't found his latest books. This is partly due to me not having any beer, but I would need to drink it first in order to cry, which would kind of invalidate the whole ... OK, I'm digressing really fast here.

Anyway, as I was saying, plots are usually quite simple. It's the way you disguise them that makes the difference. Style. Telling things in such a way that people don't find the time to stop and analyze it until it's too late.

As an example, let me point you to the book Fortune's Stroke by Eric Flint and David Drake. This is the second in this series I read in e-book (bought from and it is quite good. I notice that the characters are generally larger than life. For quite a few of the men this is literal: They are bigger and stronger than present day athletes. But also more figuratively. Both men and women are smarter, luckier, more attractive etc. Except for the cannon fodder, of course, most of whom luckily happen to be enemies.

Despite being aware of this quirk since around the time I started on the last book, I enjoyed it thoroughly. After all, the characters are people out of legend already, historical persons from the 6th century, a time where exactitude was not the main virtue in history writing. So it kind of fits. The undercurrent of humor also helps.


I don't aspire to anything like that. But I hope to entertain myself, and possibly some of my online friends. After enlisting their help to get the hair right, I guess I owe them to try at least. The thoughts in my head have already outlined chapter 2, but the muscles in my right arm are not nearly as keen on the job.

I really wished there existed affordable dictation software. But no. This was the big thing "really soon now" ten years ago, and still is. Several products have been released for the office environment, but died a grisly death as people realized it took more time to correct the misunderstood words than to type it. Misunderstood? Misguessed, at best. The software available today lacks artificial intelligence to guess that some words are more probable than others in certain contexts.

Actually I use Word97 at work. No, it does not take dictation. It does offer to correct my spelling and grammar mistakes. I do make the occasionaly typo, I admit that. But when it comes to grammar, the program tries to change from right to wrong far more often than the other way around. The problem, it seems to me, is verbs. In English, verbs and nouns often are exactly alike. The program seems to assign all these as verbs, and get horribly confused if there is another verb nearby. Now, that's a Microsoft product. But the competition isn't exactly hot.

Don't tell me, if there was affordable dictation programs that worked, that they would not be as common as mice and keyboards. The sheer savings in sick leave would rush them into the workplace, and from there they would migrate to the home. But so far I haven't seen a one. Debs, the NZ camgirl and master of sarcasm, gave an example of the output from one such program. It's a few years ago now. Despite more powerful processors, it seems common sense eludes the boxes still.

And perhaps that is a good thing. I don't look forward to the day they write our books and compose our music. Would our spirit survive being dethroned like that? Then again, wasn't that what they said about chess?

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Incarnations of mortality
Two years ago: The small difference
Three years ago: Talent nullified by design

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