Tag Archives: Magic the Gathering

Short Story published a new eBook (#MTG)

One of my short stories was published in an eBook that released on Friday, January 31st. The book is called “The Complete Commander: An Unofficial Guide” by Bennie C. Smith. It’s a book of background, strategies, and tips for the collectible card game, Magic: the Gathering. Interspersed throughout the book are short fantasy stories based on characters in the game. I was asked to contribute a story about the character, “Balthor the Defiled,” who happens to be a zombie dwarf. (How cool is that?)

ComComCoverI’m thrilled with the end result of the story and the eBook itself. This was an independently produced eBook, yet the editing and production was executed at a professional level. I’ve been really impressed with the end result and humbled to be a small part of it. The real kudos should go out to author Bennie Smith, however, as this book is the product of years of his work in one of the most popular formats for Magic: the Gathering. (Interestingly enough, the Commander format was once a small niche in the gaming world – started by fans – and has since blossomed in popularity. Bennie covers some of that history in the book.)

I know many of you reading this blog don’t play Magic and are not really interested in board or card games. That’s fine. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea (cups of tea?). For me though, “tabletop games” (board and card games with a role-playing element) are a fun way to spend Saturday afternoons and other down time. Magic in particular has been a game that in recent years has connected me online with a number of new people across the states, and a whole group of players in the Grand Rapids area.

It’s also been an honor for me to contribute to the canon of a game I enjoy, even on the fan fiction level. I’ve blogged before on the value of fan fiction so I won’t rehash it all here. Suffice it to say that I hope this story isn’t my last foray into the world of Magic: the Gathering.

If you’re a Magic player and you’d like to purchase “The Complete Commander” you can do so here.

Interview with MJ Scott – Fan Fiction Writer

Today’s post is an interview with MJ Scott, a fan fiction writer for the fantasy card game, Magic: the Gathering. MJ is a regular columnist on GatheringMagic.com and posts her fiction on her blog MoxyMTG.com. I’ve been interested in the Fan Fic genre lately and thought that picking MJ’s brain about the genre might be good for all of us to read. The first post in her current story arc can be read here

MJ ScottGive us a working definition of “Fan Fiction.” 

I don’t know what the technical def of fanfic is, though I’d guess it has cheesy and sexual implications. My personal working definition is this: an original creative story composed by any fan of a given established franchise.

Sorin Markov

Sorin Markov

How long have you been writing Fan Fiction, and what got you started?

I’ve been writing about a year now. I started with a series last summer about Sorin Markov from the Magic: the Gathering pantheon. He’s a hot-bodied superpowered vampire, so it was low hanging fruit as we were still in the throes of Twilight’s popularity.

3) How has writing Fan Fiction benefited you? Do you think it’s helped you become a better writer?

It has absolutely benefited me as a writer. Fanfic gives you the freedom to explore your voice, safe beneath the canopy of someone else’s world/characters. You can explore tangential plot ideas you think are interesting; you can explore characters’ dark secrets, sexuality, history, etc.; you can have fun with dialogue or situational comedy. If you’re a weak plot writer, you can work out on that. Or maybe you’re soft on snappy conversations – you can practice using established characters. You don’t have to get hung up on names or setting up a world from scratch (which can be huge time-sinks). Fanfic is a great vehicle for you, as a writer, to cross-train, so to speak.

4) What are the challenges to writing Fan Fiction?

In my opinion, you don’t want to go too far “out there” – you don’t want to directly contradict anything that’s really important in the canon of the world you’re working in. So you have to do your research, read what’s been published from sanctioned sources. You need to have a healthy respect for what’s been done. You can bend the rules, but don’t break them. Working within the limits of the chosen world is part of the creative exercise.

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Some thoughts on “Fan Fiction” and a link to my first posted Fan Fic story

Have you heard of “Fan Fiction”? If not, the definition is easy enough to decipher: Fiction written by fans of a given movie/TV Show/game/any-other-cast-of-characters.

Fan Fic isn’t a genre I’ve read much. I’m a big fan of numerous fictional universes (DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Star Trek, etc.) which have corresponding subcultures of fans, but I’ve just never stumbled upon much Fan Fic. That changed recently.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that lately I’ve been doing some writing about Magic: The Gathering, a strategy card game built on fantasy tropes. (Think of a more awesome version of Lord of the Rings on steroids, and with an extra dose of cool.) The fan community around Magic is one of the strongest I’ve seen. It rivals any comic book subculture fandom I experienced at the LA Comic Con, the Motor City Comic Con, or during my days selling comics at our local store. A big part of the Magic community is taking the characters of the game and making them “more real” through art, stories, costumes, and even jewelry.

One writer and Magic enthusiast who writes for the same site I do, MJ Scott, has her own Fan Fic blog. It’s on her blog that my first Fan Fic story is posted. It’s called “The Demon Inside” and it stars one of my favorite characters in the game, a leonin mage named Ajani Goldmane. It’s also a “Flash Fiction” piece that I wrote after my buddy Josh encouraged me to write more Flash Fic.

"Ajani Vengeant" by Wayne Reynolds

“Ajani Vengeant” by Wayne Reynolds

I’m guessing that some of you may think all of this is pretty stupid. Am I right?

I’m guessing that some of you may think things like: Why waste your time writing a short story about a game? Or Why waste your time writing something that will clearly never be read beyond the niche community who cares about it? 

Here’s my brief defense of Fan Fic. My experience writing it has:

  • Been a lot of fun.
  • Given me more exposure to new readers.
  • Connected me with another fiction writer who read and edited my material.
  • Forced me to think about writing a character within a fictional “canon” – not an easy task.
  • Allowed me to discuss something that’s bigger than the game, and bigger than fiction itself – wrestling with feelings of injustice / vengeance in our lives.

I’m sure there are more good reasons to write Fan Fic, but those are the things that jump to mind now.

So my questions for you:

  • Have you ever read Fan Fiction? What was it?
  • As a writer (or reader) do you think Fan Fiction is a waste of time, just a writing exercise, or a legitimate genre in itself?
  • If you were to write Fan Fic, what would it be about?

Now my friends, go and write. And have loads of fun doing it.

Another article on Magic: the Gathering published!

The back of Magic card.

The back of a Magic card.

I had my second article on the strategy card game, Magic: the Gathering, published online. It can be read on www.CubeDrafting.com and is entitled, “How Cube Drafting Taught Me to Play Better in Constructed Formats.” I’m particularly geeked about this one because I’m such a fan of the site. (Imagine a fanboy doing a nerdy dance and you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what I look like right now.)

As I said after my first Magic article was published: If you’ve not played this game, the article won’t make a lick of sense to you. But that’s okay! Sometimes writing something extremely niche is exactly what editors are looking for.

So what niche topic will you write about?

First article on gaming published

The back of Magic card.

The back of a Magic card.

If you’ve ever attended a writers conference, or if you’ve ever read a book about writing, then you’ve probably heard this phrase: “Write what you know.” That’s exactly what I’ve done. I’m a “gamer,” so I wrote about a game.

I’ve only mentioned strategy gaming in passing on this blog because I want to keep the focus of Tell Better Stories on writing and publishing. That said, I’ve been a “gamer” since middle school. Specifically, I play strategy board games and card games. (I absolutely stink at video games and hardly ever play them. Except for a little Mario every know and then … ) If you don’t know what I mean by ‘strategy games,’ think “RISK” and “The Settlers of Catan” and you’re in the right hemisphere of the gaming world.

The article that was published today is called “New Cube Formats for 2013” and it’s about the strategy card game, “Magic: the Gathering.” In addition to being an article about one specific game, it’s about one specific variation of the game called “cube drafting,” which not even all Magic players play. If you’ve never played Magic, this article won’t make a lick of sense to you.

I say all this to highlight that my article is for a niche within a niche. I believe that is (at least in part) why it was accepted by the editors at GatheringMagic.com. I provided them content that perhaps not every writer could have provided. I tried to give them an interesting take on a niche within the game. (Please don’t hear this as me being cocky. I’m just trying to analyze what I think happened.) It’s highly likely that not everyone who reads their site will care about my article. But I think that’s okay, and I’m guessing they do too. Sometimes specialized articles are exactly what an editor is looking for. It helps them diversify their site for a wider readership.

So this begs the questions: What niche topic(s) can you write about? What topics are out there that you could discuss that maybe only a handful of others could? Are you an expert at furniture upholstery? Do you play Chess like nobodies business? Do an abnormally large collection of customized radio controlled cars? All of these topics (or other niche topics) could be the next subject you write about.

I have a friend who builds a backyard hockey rink every winter. He’s done it for 20 or more years. He’s decided to finally write down everything he knows about it and put it into a book because he frequently gets questions and emails from other backyard rink builders.

What niche do you know? Find the websites that publish articles on that niche and send them your original ideas. It’s a great way to blend your passion for writing with whatever other topic you love.

Write strong!

-Andy