Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yes, I’m still around

I must apologize for the lack of posts lately. My wife just had a change in her employment situation, and that means we have the same work schedule. This has resulted in much needed time with my wife, but has meant I either had to put off blogging, reading, or writing until I could find a routine that allowed for all three. I choose to put blogging on hold.

But before I get back into my series of game theory for writers posts, I want to give a quick update again on where I am with my current WIP, Bleed Well.

I have officially put down the red pen as I have made all the major changes on my rough draft that I wanted to. Now I just have to transport those revisions to the computer. But that itself is essentially another revision, so I’m getting this novel pretty tuned up. In those revisions, I am about 60% done, and hope to have that set of revisions done by September 15th.

Once that is done I will be re-reading the whole work for continuity, send it off to the betas, and work on the query/synopsis.

I also have another WIP that I am in the draft stage with. It has not gotten the attention it craves as of late, but I’m about 25,000 words in and I really like what I have so far.

Hopefully I will find a way to finish my second post on game theory for writers by the end of this week. Until then may the words flow out of your head and onto the paper.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


“I was in Geno’s Bakery, picking up some rolls, when you walked in with a couple of your thugs. I’ve known you from around the neighborhood and figured what you were up to. Then I see you go into the corner market and the dry cleaners. It doesn’t take a genius.”
The man pulled the gun away from her head. “Alright. But then why come in here? Why should you give a fuck?”
“I didn’t want to just stand around and let you extort these poor people. I had to do something.”
“Admirable, but if I didn’t do it, somebody else would. You can’t stop people like me. It’s what we do.”
“So I was right? That’s what you were doing?”
“No, I was going in there to give them coupons to my bar.” He said in a sarcastic voice then resumed his normal tone. “There’s a reason I stuck a gun to your head. Do you get that?” Lizzy nodded. “So keep your trap shut or you’ll end up like Johnny Krause.”
“Didn’t he drown?”
“You killed him?”
“Yea. With my own two hands. And you’ll be next.” He walked to the corner of the room and picked up the golf club, handing it back to Lizzy. “Now get the fuck out of my office, and let me never see you in here again.”
Lizzy nodded and walked out with her head held low. As soon as she reached the street, she reached into her pocked, stopped the tape recorder, and walked towards the local police station.

Let me know what you thin, and leave a comment here


Lizzy tossed the club into the corner of the room and sat down. “Is this the kind of thing you protect those businesses from?”
“Don’t you be giving me any lip young lady.”
“I didn’t think I was.”
“See, that’s the problem with your generation. You’ve gotten so used to having this attitude, that when you’re around your superiors, you forget your place.”
“The problem with your generation is that you worship the divine dollar.”
The man leaned back in his chair and twirled his hand above his head, keeping the gun pointed at Lizzy. “Whatever.” He lowered his free hand and shuffled some papers on his desk. “So tell me. Where did you hear about this valuable service I’ve been offering some of our fine local businessmen?”
“Why don’t you go to hell.”
“Is it like that?”
Lizzy folder her arms across her chest. “Yea. If you think I’m going to tell you how I know, you’re out of your mind.”
“I see.” The man stood up and walked over to Lizzy, pressing the muzzle of his gun to her temple. “But since I’m an understanding kind of guy, I’ll give you a chance to try again.”

Does Lizzy:
A: Tell the man something he wants to hear
B: Tell the man off


Lizzy spit on the man’s shoes. “Go to hell.”
He pulled the gun away from her head. “Don’t fuck with me.” The man struck her on the head with the butt of his gun. Lizzy fell over in her chair and grasped at her head; blood oozed between her fingers. Before she had a chance to do anything, the man pulled her back up and sat her in the chair. “Let me ask you one last time. Where did you hear about this?”
She turned to him and began laughing, even as a small stream of blood ran across the bridge of her nose. The man raised his gun up to hit her again, but as he brought it down, Lizzy ducked out of the way and jabbed him in the solar plex. He hunched over for a second and she took the opportunity to knock the gun out of his hands.
With the man grasping his stomach, she ran over to the nine iron. Her knuckles cracked and the rubber grip imprinted its pattern onto her hand. She raised it above her head and brought it down on the man’s back. He cried out in pain and brought his hand to where the club struck his back. Lizzy swung again, this time connecting with the man’s hand. She heard the bones in his fingers snap.
“You’re gonna need some protection of your own.” She hit him once more, dropped the club on the floor, and walked out of the building.

Let me know what you think, and leave a comment here


Lizzy took a couple steps towards the chair. She prodded at the base of the man’s desk with the club then brought it above her head and swung at him. The man was faster than the nine iron though, and fired his gun.

Unable to make contact with the man, Lizzy jerked back and felt a stinging sensation run up her left arm. Her white sleeve slowly turned red as blood soaked into the fabric. The man stood up, still pointing the gun at her. “I said, have a fucking seat.”
She staggered towards the desk, and leaned towards the man. Before he could react, Lizzy, using her right arm, struck the man’s gun and it shot across the desk and landed on the floor. They both broke towards the spot where the gun lie, Lizzy getting there just before the man.
He grabbed for Lizzy’s throat with one hand and tried to secure the gun with the other, but she bit him and managed to free the gun. She took a step back, now holding the muzzle at the man’s head. “You wanted me to have a seat? Now you’re going to get on your fucking knees.”
The man knelt down on the carpet and put his hands over his head.

Does Lizzy:

A: Let the man live and rob him
B: Execute him


Lizzy went over to his desk and opened the drawer. Alone next to some extra ammunition, sat a bulging white envelope. She peeled the flap open, revealing a bundle of $100 bills. She slid the envelope into her pocket.
“I’m taking this money back to the people you extorted it from.”
The man smiled and brought his arms down. “I’ll just have to take it right back then.”
She nodded, walked over to him, and kneed the man in the chin. He fell back to the floor and rolled around on the carpet, spitting out blood. “You better hope I don’t hear of you doing anything like that.” She put her foot on the man’s face. “Because I will never forget that you shot me, and I will take my revenge on you, and you won’t like it. I don’t play fair and I don’t get even. I go ahead.”
She spit on the man and walked out, holding her arm tight to slow the bleeding.

Let me know what you think, and leave a comment here


Lizzy put the gun to the back of the man’s head. “You’ve terrorized this neighborhood, ruined families, and I’m pretty sure you’ve killed a couple people. There’s nothing worth redeeming--”
“I didn’t mean to do any of that.”
She pistol whipped him. “Shut up!” Lizzy put the gun back to his head. “I don’t see any reason I should let you live. You’re scum.”
“I can change. I really can. Don’t you believe in forgiveness?”
“Other people do. I just believe in revenge.”
Lizzy pulled the trigger.
Small chunks of skull and brain covered her chest. The gun shook in her hand, still pointed where the man’s head used to be. Now he was on the floor and his head had a large hole blasted into it.
From outside the office she heard rustling and two men burst in, each with guns pointed at her. Lizzy dropped hers, but it didn’t matter. They both opened fire upon her, sprinkling bullets across her chest.

Let me know what you think, and leave a comment here

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Game Theory for Writers: Part I. Go Ahead and Burn That Bridge!

I had hoped to get this out much earlier, but later is better than never.

I also am going to have to do this in a couple different series since there is SOOOOOO much I could write about and don’t want to overwhelm all at once.

Now first, why do we care about game theory (GT) in writing? Well for one it helps you get a good grasp on what people would do in various situations. For second it will allow you to identify strategies that a smart character would use to win some sort of game (by game I could mean a game of checkers, or the “game” of taking over the world. Basically game just means a situation where there is some sort of competition). So hopefully you will be able to craft out a well thought-out plot that has your evil villain choosing the wrong strategy and going down in defeat because your hero was smart and picked the right one.

If that convinced you, now we need to get you grounded in GT. Basically all you do is write down the different choices the different players could make and the outcomes of those choices. So a real simple model game would be odd/even. This would be where player 1 (Bob) holds either 1 or 2 fingers behind his back. Then player 2 (Meg) tries to guess the number. Real simple.

Now lets say that when Bob chooses a 1 and Meg chooses a 1, then Meg gets $2 and Bob gets $1. If Bob chooses 1 and Meg chooses 2, then Meg gets nothing, and Bob gets $1. Now if Bob chooses 2 and Meg chooses 1, then again Meg gets nothing and Bob gets $1. Now if they both choose 2, then Meg gets $2 and Bob gets nothing. This is shown by the following chart.

Meg/Bob Bob (holds 1) Bob (holds 2)
Meg (guesses 1) 2/1 0/1
Meg (guesses 2) 0/1 2/0

So you can easily see that Bob should always choose 1, since his payoff is always going be be as good or better than if he chooses 2, and Meg, knowing this should also choose 1 every time. And since neither player can do better than this, both choosing 1 is called a Nash Equilibrium. Yes that same John Nash from A Beautiful Mind.

What does this particular game tell us about writing? Not much frankly, but that is notation that you need to know before we get onto the good stuff.

So the first thing I want to show you is why a smart character will eliminate one of their options in certain situations in order to gain an advantage. Yes that’s right, you can gain an advantage if you eliminate an option. So a businessman can gain an advantage over a competitor if he shuts down a factory, or a warrior if they burn their ships. Lets see how.

Lets take a business case. Say Sony and Microsoft are both existing in the business world. Microsoft happily making software, and Sony happily making TVs. Then one day both of them get the idea to make a gaming system, but then the market research folks come in and spoil the day. They conclude that if both companies enter the market, the competition for market share will be a drain on the company and they will both make $0 in profits. If both companies give up plans to make a gaming system, they will both go back to making $2 billion in profits. But if one company retreats, while the other company goes forward; the company making the gaming system will see profits of $5 billion, and the other will suffer from embarrassment and their customers won’t want their products. They will only make $1 billion in profits.

Here is the chart:

Sony/Microsoft Microsoft (retreat) Microsoft (go ahead)
Sony (retreat) 2/2 1/5
Sony (go ahead) 5/1 0/0

After many intense negations, neither company is willing to let the other be the only one with a gaming system, so obviously the best solution is for both of them to retreat. But then Bill Gates out of nowhere guts his software business and declares that from this day forward, Microsoft will focus only on their gaming system. They have essentially removed the option for them to retreat, and only the second column remains. Sony now has to choose between $1 billion in profits, or $0. Unless they want to sacrifice their company too, they will retreat and Microsoft will win.

So a warrior then who burns the bridges behind them and forces themselves to fight will gain this advantage. Same with somebody playing chicken who removes their steering wheel. Same with hostage negotiations when you have a policy where you can’t negotiate. The list goes on.

The one caveat with this is that the other player must know this. If not there could be disastrous results.

Now go out there and show off how smart you can make a character look by having them eliminate the safe option and take victory!

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