Yesterday, I went through my old attempts to build a 3D basis for book making and extracted a new proportion set:
Big feet, big hands, big heads gives a cartoon/toy feel. Sculpted forms plays into my prejudices also. I think it will do. I won’t know until I model a couple of characters, and ultimately make a book with them. But I have a good feeling about this set.
The single, most efficient way to test this idea of using lego people to make books is to design a book that only has one character. At most, two. Preferably a constant background. Preferably a blank background.
Basically, The Monster at the end of this Book.
Although, come to think of it, making posters would be a good intermediate step. Just having finished, printable pictures would tell me a lot of what I need to go to keep, cancel, or modify the project. So, my prior contention that I should just use this as a way to do the Original Character challenge is probably the way to go. And that is probably what I’ll do.
But I started this blog post with the intention of listing as many potential projects as occur to me in the off chance that one of them will have an obvious “Monster at the End of this Book” story I can tell. And having that list will be useful. So I’m still going to make it. In alphabeticalish order.
Note that some of these ideas overlap, and in case of overlap, whichever gets done first is liable to absorb the others.
8 Lives Left
Meant to be a videogame about a murdered cat seeking revenge, this is not a good choice for a children’s book. I include it for completeness, as I intend to use this list even when I go back to game dev.
8 Lives Left is meant to be the combat system of Breath of the Gameboy, extracted out and turned into its own game. As such, it would take hints from Megaman, featuring a small collection of levels full of enemies to fight with a boss and a weapon at the end, rather than having a broad world to explore. Emphasis would be on tight combat controls and weapons that interact in interesting ways — you can equip any two at a time and there is more to the combinations than mere “let’s have both effects.” E.g. the Nuclear Arms let you throw enemies. The Anvil On A Stick is slow to swing, but hits hard. However, it swings as fast as any other weapon if you are also using the Nuclear Arms.
The Alphabeasts would make a great Star Trek/Power Rangers -esque series about the continuing adventures of spacefaring heros. And that would give kids reason to care about the characters other than the blurbs in the first book itself.
Basically, the Star Ark is a sleeper ship full of animal characters seeking a colony world. Of those characters, 26 with unusual skills or powers have been selected to take a place among the heroic Alphabeasts, and be awakened with the Ark is threatened or when a new world needs exploring.
What if I made my creativity maximally available by turning all my stories into a webcomic? What if I prototyped all my stories using reusable game-style pixel art?
What if 16×9 squares fit very handily into a 5×8 book’s page?
Alpha Test is the idea that instead of investing intense effort into a single project, I should invest low effort into all my projects, and then further develop and intensify the ones that show promise. Thus, it is a variety show of everything in this blog post at once, cranked out in the format of 8-bit theater. And it is the evolution of the Gag-A-Day book.
Anvor is a standard elf and dwarf fantasy island I invented in my teens. I used Anvor stories to get out of chores: I’d tell stories to my siblings, and in return they would do my work for me. (That should have been a clue from God I was supposed to make kids’ books, but I did not take the hint.)
The longest running were the tales of Prince Bryan, which was basically Tolkien-themed Dune, but with good guys.
I stopped paying attention to or working on Anvor when I left for college, lo these 15 years or so ago. My reasoning was: I’m trying to write serious novels, and I can make a much more believable fantasy world with much cooler characters now that I’m older and wiser.
But I make little stories about sharks fighting jellyfish for mermaids these days. So my argument is invalid. Anvor is a live option once again.
Narnia meets Harry Potter. Archangel is about a private school where teens have been known to fall into a fantasy world, there to develop the skills and powers they need for fighting supernatural threats in our world, and the detective agency they subsequently found. It’s a great setting for roleplaying games. It’s a little too diverse make a coherent series of books. But with some effort, it could be done.
Son of a biscuit, this project is old!
Alright. So, in my Starlancers setting, but before the invention of the ripdrive and waygates, you could have hyperspace communications via ansible, but you had to go to planets the slow way, via sleeper ship. So what you did was you sent terraforming robots ahead, and then you set out after them.
When your robots arrived at your new home planet, you’d be plugged in to Starnet. There, you can use your avatar to hang out with people on earth, play MMOs, and run the terraforming robot to set up your new homestead.
All of which is prefigured by the creation of the ansible, starnet, and starnet hackers before the space travel comes up. So, basically, a virtual reality setting where hackers fight viruses.
I am leery of getting too religious in my books. But I also am dissatisfied with the religious kids’ books on offer. Too much “Jesus was a nice guy who liked all the kids! Oopsie; he was crucified for one page. But let’s ignore that and get back to the happy stuff!” and not enough “Here’s the king of the world kicking the tuckus of the dragon of Eden!”
Too much “You should be brave like David, fighting Goliath!” and not enough “David is a foreshadowing of Christ,” for that matter.
So, Precious Moments, but the Angels inspire Awe instead of Aww, and the typology is made more explicit.
Awesome Moments is the project I am currently investing the most in, and the reason I came up with this model set, but it’s grasp on the model set is non-exclusive.
Breath of the Gameboy
My favorite game of all time is Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the gameboy. Yes, I know a Switch remake exists. I dislike it because the gameplay is looser and less quirky, and because the added content feels like busywork forced into the story rather than like bonus content to be enjoyed.
My second favorite game varies between Super Metroid or Breath of the Wild.
Anyway, my dream game is something with the graphics and gameplay style of Link’s Awakening, but the scope of Breath of the Wild. And that game is too big for one man to build quickly. So my proposition is to build it in pieces, and 8 Lives Left is the first piece.
People tell me Jump the Shark looks suspiciously like Sonic the Hedgehog.
Well, that’s because he was intended for a video series where parodies of video game tropes hang out. Then, I wanted to make a book for my kid, my kid likes mermaids and I like action, viola: Jump the Shark is my go to character.
Crossover Arcade is still worth developing.
I hate Eragon. I want to like Eragon, but I can’t. Eragon was sold to me as “A blatant rip off of Star Wars, but with dragon riders,” which should be a shoe-in for my favorite thing ever. But it’s not. It doesn’t have the spirit of anything it’s supposedly ripping off, it just goes through some of the motions.
One day, I will have to make a blatant rip off of Star Wars, but with dragon riders.
Drone Fu is now permanently camping in this post.
Gag A Day Book
Not a project, but a project format. Best suited to Re-Tail, but given my talents and proclivities, it may be a good way to handle many or even all of my projects.
- A book of, say, 30 pages.
- Each page is a four-panel “newspaper gag-a-day” comic strip episode, with one or two pages in the climax or point of inflection permitted to break the format for the purpose of supporting the story.
- The whole book is a single complete story.
I go more into my reasoning here.
Arthur Rabbit’s struggle against the Night Mare is about a third done. As soon as the other two thirds are worked out, it goes into production. And this is a story I chose precisely because it is well suited to ink. But! That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t look better as paintings!
Hat Trick has been in my system so long, I’ve even brainstormed what it would be like as a series of games…
John Michael Jones
John Michael Jones is meant to be a paragon character. An average boy who nonetheless always does what is right. You know, like Superman before Watchmen hit it big. I have a three-part story in the works where he falls into a video game world and fights evil there, but while the first part is finished, I’m not going to produce it until I’m happy that the second and third parts will be good. And frankly, I’m not sure I want to go this direction with the character.
See, John Michael Jones gets orphaned early on because it’s hard to have a kid be the hero of a story and in a functional family at the same time (otherwise, why doesn’t his dad fight the monsters?) But one of my goals is to make a series of books starring a functional family, and I like JMJ for that project too. In the end, he’ll probably continue being an orphaned cripple, and the functioning family status will go to Star Dogs or Star Lancers (or both), but we’ll see.
JMJ would be a fantastic option for a one or two character book, though. I could do a story about him as a little kid getting trained in the manly art of swordsmanship by his dad. And JMJ may well be Awesome Moments, with the books being set in John Michael being catechized by his father, or catechizing his own kids (which is a way for me to keep the orphan thing and still do a functional family: fast forward to the family John Michael builds).
Jump the Shark
The simple fact is the best option for me in terms of long-term growth as a kids’ book author is to pick a series and stick with it until it starts making money. And Jump the Shark has two books and a gimmick Twitter account, which automatically makes it my best choice. Don’t @ me.
It occurs to me that Jump the Shark would make an excellent test of the Gag-A-Day concept…
I have in my pocket a collection of RPG mechanics that are well suited to phones or tablets as well as PCs or console, and would suit short stories. The perspective would be a side-on perspective similar to arcade beat-em-ups for simplicity. And I would love to have and play these games.
The Licensed RPG engine adapts incredibly well to most of my story concepts. Especially Hat Trick, Anvor, Masks, Stardogs, John Michael Jones, and especially, Theria. One day, I want to make a Theria virtual pet, and the Licensed RPG can be to that virtual pet what 8 Lives Left is to Breath of the Gameboy.
And video games have an easier distribution solution than children’s books. They don’t 100% solve the marketing problems I currently face, but they 30% solve them, and that’s not nothing.
My kid loves mermaids. I got a start on writing a poetic version of Hans Christian Anderson’s story…
Far, far, away where the sea is blue As a cornflower drenched in the morning dew Where it’s clear as a gemstone filled with light Beneath those waves lies a wondrous sight. Many steeples stacked from the ground below Could not reach from the depths to the sun’s warm glow Nor cable could fathom the liquid gloam From the Sea King’s roof to the Sea King’s throne. Now the bottom is not just yellow sand For a mystic garden spans that land With trees and flowers and fish and plants That the water's paths entice to dance And lo! In the deepest place of all Stands a palace with a coral wall And amber windows, crowned with with swirls Of seashells set with shining pearls. Many years before, the Sea King’s wife Had tragically lost her enchanted life And she turned into foam on a distant shoal For a mermaid has no eternal soul.
Anyhow, I did the math and the book would be impossibly big if I tried to make a page for each verse or two, especially at the rate I was converting Mr. Anderson’s text to verse. However, I dearly want my kid to prefer the original version of the Little Mermaid to the Mouse’s version, so while the project needs to be rethought, it will never be abandoned.
Masks of Avalon
My supers setting. As the Roman Empire fell, Merlin decided to create a new civilization on Avalon that would last. There, he gathered everyone of noble character with powers he could.
In the modern era, Knights of Avalon with their squires and their brightly colored heraldry take on secret identities in collapsing civilizations where by day they try to blend in, and by night they go questing. But not all those with powers are Avalonian, and not all Avalonians are noble…
Masks of Avalon has dozens of sub stories because, like Anvor, it consists of stories I told when I was kid, dusted off and polished up.
The Piqha are weird little creatures. Genetically engineered to serve as internal components to starships. Originally human, now they are little goblins. Sometimes I draw them with hands, sometimes without…
The Piqha are less a story and more a setting into which stories can be placed. Any and every character I come up with can be turned into a Piqha. They are, I suppose, my version of Dr. Suess’s Whos. Of course, there isn’t a Piqha model basis in my set. I should fix that…
Re-Tail is me being bitter about working a retail job. It’s also a comic engineered for maximum success, and if newspapers weren’t so hell-bent on committing suicide (and I weren’t so hell bent on saying politically incorrect stuff), I could easily make a day job out of it.
It’s still worth considering. Newspaper funnies are the single thing for which I am most thoroughly qualified. The prime candidate for a Gag-A-Day project.
Stained Glass was meant to be a video game in a Stained Glass art style about a nun who fights vampires. It is not well suited to my 3D lego models because the art style is integral to the concept. I include it here for completeness.
Someone once commented to me that the Berenstain Bears are unsuitable for small children because Papa Bear is a buffoon. I thought to myself: what if there were a series of books about family life, but instead of buffoon dad, competent mom, and 1.5 children, it was a big family, lots of kids, and very competent all. Then I thought, “why not put them on a space-faring houseboat?” Thus the Stardogs were born. At the moment, the concept has almost zero development, but it’s the best or second best (or third best, depending on how John Michael Jones works out) torch bearer for my “children’s books with a functional family” idea.
Sci Fi about… a houseboat of mostly family having Star Trek style adventures, except it’s a patriarchal fantasy instead of a progressive/commie fantasy. May get rolled up into Star Dogs for obvious reasons.
A bestiary designed to supply all my monster needs, from a Pokémon or Digimon style setting with flexible metamorphosis trees, to monsters engineered specifically for the needs of video games, to monsters engineered specifically for the needs of fantasy settings. As seen above, Therians feature into John Michael Jones. They also feature into V-Knights, Wren Valen, Crossover Arcade, Piqha, and so forth. Work on Theria is automatically work on several other projects.
However, Therians will require their own models…
My favorite thing to do when coding is muck about with 2D side-scrolling physics. Especially platform physics. So much so that I have contemplated making 8 Lives Left/Breath of the Gameboy a platformer. Why not? I like gravity and running and jumping more than I like top-down perspective.
Any platformer I would make would be considered a Metroidvania because my favorite genre is Action Adventure, and “Metroidvania” is what they call the Action Adventure genre when it is expressed as a platformer. Although my Licensed RPG concept is far better as a story-transmission device, making platformers seems to me more likely to hold my attention.
Part of the Starlancers/AV@TAR/Wren Valen setting is the ability to summon armor made of hyperspace materials. I have a set of stories where some kids are accidentally invested with such armor, and have to fight off Therians (yeah, a lot of this stuff ties together) as well as armored foes.
This is quite frankly one of the better settings for my functional family. If the kids have the superpowers, then dad can still be wise and strong, only he has to prepare his children for the troubles they face that he, himself, is unable to affect.
When I was a child, V-Knights was my best-received story ever. And it would play very nicely with 3D. I don’t talk about it a lot, but it’s a mighty strong contender.
Not children’s books (could be YA, though). Wren Valen was a brief attempt to use stories to explore a steampunk flying island setting. I challenged myself by going with a female protagonist and, alas, fell into the trap of writing a man with boobs instead. But my wife loves the stories, so I may pick them up again someday.
Suitable to 3D-izing, but, being not meant for children, I’m unlikely to do anything with it any time soon. Included for completeness.
Project Count: 27 as of 2021-04-23