Writing Atmosphere Into Your Stories

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Writing involves so intricacies to build something that may seem small in a narrative. Any decent writer needs to have a great attention to detail so they can hit the nail one the head with their descriptions of scenes and develop their characters. 

I know one of my strengths in writing is my ability to build an atmosphere that feels authentic or I can make the hair on your neck stand up. The way I build the atmosphere in my writings come from observations I make in those environments and other things as well. 

One thing I always do is pay very close attention to the places I go and the environments that I visit. I use my personal experience in different places to help establish my atmosphere and then I start adding things like what it might smell like in a forest of oak trees or the stench of peat in a swamp. Smell is a powerful thing to include in your writing because it can be extremely difficult to put into words. Another thing I focus on heavily is sound and what sounds belong and do not belong in the environment. I shouldn’t hear a car horn plainly or sharply in the middle of a forest but I could hear it faintly coming from the closest road. You could also go to the sound terrain made under a character foot or shoe. It could also be as simple as the sound of the wind pushing the grass around through an open field. Keep it simple at first and then expand once you have a backbone in place to hold the ribs up. 

I guess you could say set up your environments for a blind person and then add vision and sight to the end of the picture. I think this works because when I think about it I am not trying to paint a picture with words, that is impossible and thus dumb. I want to build the atmosphere from the ground up with sound, smell, feel, and finally sight or visuals. 

These are of course just my opinions and approach to writing atmosphere. My biggest weakness in writing is my character development and I am currently working to improve those issues.  

What Happened to Tom Clancy Games?

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Games like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW 2), Rainbow Six Vegas, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory all seem to be games that are forgotten and gone in ways of mechanics, strategy, and tactics. These were games that I grew up playing as a kid and I miss their challenging playstyles and objectives that were synonymous with the Tom Clancy name. When you played these games, you knew you were going to play a polished and challenging tactical shooter or stealth game. GRAW 2 brought you a tactical and strategical single-player experience while the co-op/multiplayer was an absolute mosh-pit of different playstyles and tactics. The co-op in this game was fantastic. If you wanted to experience the gamers version of a combat patrol, this game had it. If you wanted to go head-to-head in competitive game mode, it had that too. Splinter Cell was the best selling stealth-espionage game and its mechanics where truly one of kind when this franchise was at its peak.

Rainbow 6 Vegas, another game that brought a hardcore experience to shooter games with a cover system and squad orders similar to Ghost Recon but in claustrophobic and CQB settings. Rainbow 6 Vegas had everything from weapon customization to custom camo creation. You had breaching options and you would have to choose you plan of attack to clearing a completely open space with limit cover and choke points and completely cluttered rooms with cover everywhere. Your strategical choices mattered.

Nowadays, Ubisoft seems to not want to make games that are as complex and reward as these games were when you would play them. The new games that they are releasing now are big steps away from what made these franchises/IPs great. Ghost Recon Wildlands was a big change to the franchise and not everyone liked it. Ubisoft completely alienated a colossal part of their player-base by going to open world and sacrificing tactical mechanics that were staples to the franchise. They then doubled down with Breakpoint which was dead in the water on arrival because of the bad choices they made by implementing MMO ideas like weapon rarity. This had no place in Ghost Recon.

What does the future hold for these once great titles?

It seems the games we loved as kids like GRAW 2, and Future Soldier are never returning with the actions that Ubisoft has been taking recently with NFTs and other titles that were dead before they even began development. Ubisoft should really take a step back and look to the past when their games like GRAW 2, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Rainbow 6 Vegas were great games. These games were good because they stayed true to what they built on initially. Tactics, Hardcore, and being unforgiving. These motifs made these games rewarding to play when you succeeded in completing your objective or mission. The thing is, if Ubisoft made a good game, people would buy. This company is so disconnected from its fans and its original IPs that it is disgusting at this point. If you want to know how to kill a franchise, look no further than Ubisoft and its recent treatment of games that built the company into a AAA game company.

It’s really sad to see these games and IPs being killed off like you are watching a really bad action movie with expendable characters. Hopefully, one day, Ubisoft actually listens to their fans and not just says they did.

Is the Western dead?

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Genre Blending

In the last ten years it could be argued that westerns are not wanted anymore, and this can be seen in the writing world more than on the screen. Over the years, westerns have seen genre blends that try to make them more current with movies like Bone Tomahawk that blended the western and horror themes together. There is also the modern take on westerns like the TV shows Justified and Longmire that did well with their viewers. Both of these shows are modern takes on the western motif mixed with modern crime fighting/drama. There is also the movie No Country for Old Men which for some reason is not listed as a western. I’ll just add it to the list of Modernized westerns that have been appearing in recent years.

What About the Traditional Western?

The traditional western is still around with the wild west appeal. Some movies that come to mind are Django Unchained, The Sister Brothers, and The Hateful Eight. These movies have more traditional roots than the previous mentioned movies and they were also received well by viewers. We also have TV shows like Hell on Wheels, Godless, and Deadwood that audiences received well and enjoyed watching. It would seem the traditional western is alive and doing somewhat well whenever they come to the big screen.

So, is it dead?

I would have to say in movies and film no, the western is not exactly dead. I would say that it is far from a thriving genre though. In writing, I feel like it is getting harder and harder to find an agent that is looking for a western piece. If I had to put westerns on a scale, I would say that they are in between alive and dead but slightly on the dead side. With movies like The Rider doing so well it shows that people want to see and watch westerns in Movies and TV shows. Hopefully this keeps westerns as something agents want in in the writing side of things.

More Quotes

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“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – Gen. George S. Patton

“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” – Jocko Willink

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

“Any fool can know. the point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein

A thought or realization I came to recently:

Power goes unchecked, but freedom does not.

Review: Season 2, The Witcher

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I have long been of the Witcher Universe, books and games to be specific. The Netflix series of The Witcher is something I have been paying attention too and I think I can give a review about the second season after having few weeks to digest everything that happened and didn’t happen.

The first episode was amazing, it was absolute showstopper, but the rest of the season was not to me. I will state this is merely my opinion and nothing else. I want to see the show do good and I realize I am not the only person watching. With that said I will say that the first episode was very well done and set a high bar for my expectations. There were better special effects that made the show look way better than season but season one was good on its own.

The main issue I have with the second seasons is the narrative directions taken that were away from the books and the characters that lived in them. My first area of contention is the portrayal of Eskel. It seems that they switch the characterization of Eskel and Lambert for whatever reason. I didn’t like this because that isn’t how Eskel was in the books and the show promises a faithful book adaptation, but this choice is anything but that. Then you have him being killed off in a less than honorable way that makes him out to be a womanizer or worse. I personally don’t see how this characterization, or his death elevated the show or the stories within the show. In my opinion it detracted from. As a fan of the books, I wanted to turn off the show and not finish the season.

Another small criticism I have is the amount of Witchers there were at Kaer Morhen. There were not that many in the books and the way they were dressed made them look more like pirates and marauders than Witchers. These extra Witchers served no purpose other than to die somewhere in season 2 and I don’t see the point of that. I understand the book this season is based off of is boring and slow and you need action in a show like this, but this felt more like gratuitous violence than creative direction. Time of Contempt is exactly what it sounds like, punishing and painful. No that doesn’t mean the show needs to be that way or depict the book that way but if you are going to use creative direction than use it correctly, make something good and interesting from the universe you have. There are so many things that could have been done instead of waste the Witchers like that.


I really disliked what they did with Yennifer in this season as far as the whole losing her magic and then being leveraged against Ciri. I found this idea to be disingenuous to the books and the fans because Yen would never do this in the books. She was far to intelligent to fall for this in the books and the games. There are other ways to put Ciri in danger that do not involve this plot. I understand that they could have been trying to make Yen seem like an average human that can fall to things like being desperate, but she was more than that in the books. She was above that kind of thinking and conceding to those sins. So, in my eyes it made her seem weaker as a character and I don’t think that is a good look for the Netflix series. I thought and still think that this plot that stabs both Ciri and Geralt in the back was a bad choice. Geralt and Yen are intertwined by a wish that can’t be undone (currently). Geralt and Ciri are intertwine by destiny through the Law of Suprise. This plot is like that last puzzle piece that you have to complete the puzzle, but it doesn’t so you try to force it in its place, but it just doesn’t look correct.

Do I hate this series? No, I don’t. I just want to see it done well and that is why I have and shared some of my thoughts and criticism. I think Henry Cavill’s depiction of Geralt is spot and I would like to see more of it. I think the other actors and actresses are doing well too but I will say I feel like some of them don’t know their Characters as well as they should. That is my opinion and I hope that I have a reason to change it in season 3. I was hoping to see Geralt’s first run in with Dijkstra because it is important, and it also demonstrates the lengths at which Geralt is willing to go to protect Ciri. Maybe next season?

I still have high hopes for season three and this Netflix series and I can’t wait to see what they do and where they go in season 3.

Good vs. Evil

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Have you ever heard the phrase or ideal that you cannot have one without the other? Or maybe ‘you can’t have a winner without a loser?’ They are both statements or observations that try to portray the understanding of equilibrium and how balance is important in all things in life.

The problem with such a simple idea is that we as humans love to add complexity and depth to things that do not necessarily need it and then there is also the matter of perception. The way we perceive things differently as people is why certain ideas and actions fall into both categories of good and evil. The thing is we could not even have this conversation if evil did not exist. As a writer there will always be good and evil as a trope in all of my creative writing.

I do want to make something clear about this post though. My whole point and understanding about this never ending fight is that evil must exist for there to be good and it must also exit in our reality because otherwise our world would not exist. That is MY perception. The thing is it is not just as simple as picking a side when it comes down to judging and interpreting others actions as good or evil. The water in this glass is getting murkier by the minute no?

You could argue that good and evil are different wings of the same bird but I do not like that phrase or metaphor because what does it really add to the discourse of this subject. To me, that is more of a way to state the obvious which is a waste of time. It does nothing to add to the discourse.

Why is this important?

Because it is something we all face in life and it is something we all will have to struggle through at some point in our lives. It is something that we all have to contend with and it is something we all must have some level of understanding about. The main thing I can add to this conversation is how and what fighting evil can do to a person.

A wise man once said that if you participate in war, it has a way of touching you back. No it is not the most profound greatly written idea but what that statement does offer is a truth most people do not get to witness in their experiences. I understood what this meant when I heard it but I would like to rephrase it so it is easier to digest.

  1. If you participate in war, it will also participate within you.
  2. If you touch war, it will undoubtedly touch you back.

If you fight and touch evil it will also touch and fight you back. Will it may be the right thing to do, you must also equip yourself for the aftermath once you finish your fight or struggle against evil. The thing you have to understand whether you are fight war or evil (and many times they coincide) is that it will leave its mark on your soul and psyche. You must also know that you are the only one that can save your soul. You have to be the one that wants to heal, no one else can do that for you.

More Quotes from Some of My Favorite Books

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Here is another post of some of my favorite quotes.

“Today’s veterans often come home to find that, although they’re willing to die for their country, they’re not sure how to live for it.”
-Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet.”
-Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

“It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”
-Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership

“You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”
-Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
-Homer, The Iliad

TV Show Review – Godless

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I recently got around to watching the television series Godless on Netflix. This show ended up being far better than I expected and I thought I should take the time to review it as I enjoyed the majority of the show but I did have some criticism to share too. It is a dark western themed show sort of like Deadwood but darker and grittier.

First the good, the really good.

There are some great details and great scenes in this show series. You could tell that the producer got great insight from the advisors he used on his set for the scenes with the horses. There is a character by the name of Roy Good that the series revolves around and he is busted out of jail by a woman that needs help breaking all of the horses she had purchased before her husband died. The great details here are how the actor portraying Roy worked with the horses to break them to ride and the details he taught the woman’s son about riding when he would take him out to teach him to hunt or how to be a man. There is so much nuance in horseback riding and I was glad to see that a show like Godless took the time to put that into the narrative.

More Good.

The female characters and the character development as a whole was very good in this series. The audience gets to see both progression and the past from where these characters started in a timeline that shifts from present to past but does so in a non jarring way that pleasant to watch as it shows the past and history of the characters and the town. There are a lot of great details in this series but I do not want to spoil it for anyone that may not have watched it yet.

The Not so Good.

The only issue I had with the series was the final shootout or showdown between the whole town of women and the antagonist Frank Good and his gang of murderous outlaws. The issue I have here is that the series is so dark and gritty throughout that the reappearance of the Sheriff and Roy Good to save the town was too heroic and bright. The show went from non-traditional romanticized western to the traditional romanticized western. It did what it seemed that the series set out not to do. I don’t know if they fired the writers for the last episode or what but the ending shootout and its events didn’t make much sense to me. The Deputy that the Sheriff left in charge of town gets killed immediately before all of the real action happened and the worst part is his character deserved a better death in the series than that. It was like watching all of the great writing for the show stop at the last episode. A lot of what happened at the end I did not see coming and I thought it was really off from the rest of the series.

All in all, I have to say that Godless was a good series and a must watch if you are a fan of the gritty and dark wrapped up in a western. The series pros greatly outweigh the cons or missteps of the series by a long shot and I will watch it again. Godless gets a lot right in this show and the depth the characters have in the show needs to be respected.

Words and Definitions

When you stumble across a word you don’t know or have never seen you probably look it up on google or in a dictionary. That is what we were taught to do in school? The thing is, some dictionaries are not listing more than one definition for a given word. I think this is a problem if you are a writer because it takes away from our creativity and the way we can use words. One of the most intriguing class discussions I had in my undergrad was about a line in Hamlet by Shakespeare where Hamlet has some choice words for Polonius. It is still debated what Hamlet meant because the word he used had different meanings and the beauty of it was that you as the reader had to interpret what he meant. Read between the lines if you will.

As a writer today I think you would be hard pressed to achieve that feat with how online dictionaries work and only provide one definition at times. You are better off looking up a word in a real hand held dictionary in my opinion if you want to respect your favorite authors use of words. I think this is a failure of the internet and the instant gratification it can provide. I think this is a disservice to not us as writers but also our language as a whole. I don’t agree with this development and I hope it is just a passing fad. Hopefully, we can one day get back to the art of using words and their alternate meanings in our writings.

Motivation and Lack There of

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Motivation has been apart of just about every writer’s or creative person’s vocabulary and then, out of no where, it disappears from it just as fast as it has shown up. Motivation is a fickle thing and its something that you shouldn’t depend on as any type of creator whether it be writing or another art form.

Motivation and inspiration are just the start and should transition to something more lasting than a spark. You want something that will burn like a good bonfire but you want it to burn for a while and not just be a spark or a flash in the pan that yield nothing other than an idea on a page. For this, you need to turn to something called discipline. Discipline will take the place of motivation once you have your idea and you start pursuing that idea.

Discipline will keep the train moving along steadily as you keep creating and maintain your focus on this new or old idea. It can be hard at first to stay disciplined and focused on your goal but as long as you keep at it and keep making progress you are winning the fight. Giving up is easy, completing and going after your goal is hard. You will suffer some but that is also your chance for growth. Those that take the easy road will not suffer and thus will not experience growth.

What is on your reading list?

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Hello to everyone that follows my blog and those that do not. I want to add some books to my reading list for next month and thought what better place to ask for suggestions than by blog?

So, what is everyone reading and do you recommend it? I am currently finishing 1984 by George Orwell and a second read through of The Sister Brothers by Patrick deWitt.

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