The Journey of ‘CHRONOMANCER’

The seeds of the story that eventually became ‘The Final Power: CHRONOMANCER’ were first planted back in 2002, so it’s been nearly 2 decades in the making. I know the timeline because I remember how I was influenced by the first Lord of the Rings film, before the additional influence of reading the trilogy and seeing The Two Towers in theatres, which was late 2002 or possibly early 2003.

The main cast of characters and basic plot of the story have remained mostly unchanged since it was originally conceived. But with other projects taking the forefront of my attention, this one was put aside for a long time.

Roughly 5 years ago I began a personal project of taking all of the fantasy material that I knew of from different fantasy worlds like Middle-Earth, Tamriel and Azeroth to name a few, and fit them all into a single fan-fiction kind of world that I called “Grand Unified Fantasy” – I think just because I had been watching a lot of science documentaries at the time and kept hearing about Einstein’s “Grand Unified Theory” (not at all related.)

This project was begun for one reason, to create for myself singular versions of different kinds of races and groups like elves, orcs, vampires, and the like – creatures that typically have wildly varying rules depending on what story you’re telling. I had seen and heard so many different versions of vampires, and the rules about how they work, that I felt I had to keep making up my own from scratch whenever I wanted to tell a story with them. By establishing my own world with its own rules and myths, I could use that world as a template to build other fantasy stories off of, and then only make any changes that are crucial to the individual story.

 

As this fan-fic world developed, became more solid, and started getting more and more populated by races and characters of my own invention, I realized that I had put too much work into this world to use it for templates alone. It deserved its own story. So I began the process of either removing or greatly altering elements that were not public domain (a lengthy process of research) until I knew that everything in the world was either my own creation or publicly available. Then I began looking for a specific story to tell through this world.

 

This world is what eventually became Vel Ardon. And the story I found to tell through it is the same one that had been inspired all those years ago, which fit perfectly into the fantasy world I had formed.

 

But that was not the end of the process. Early 2016 is when I began writing the story in earnest, and I had a rough draft completed by the end of the year. 2017 was a sabbath year for me, which meant no editing or revising, and I knew I had to not even look at the manuscript until the year was done or else I would be tempted to make changes. So at the beginning of 2018, after an entire year of not even looking at the manuscript, I began revising and self-editing the rough draft until I felt it was ready to send to beta readers and a professional editor, followed by further revisions and self-editing until I finally felt it was ready to publish.

But that alone took an extra two and a half years (with other projects beside) – so much longer than originally anticipated. Not only because it was a longer novel than any I had published before, but also because I was not just telling one story – I was establishing an entire new world. One that I still also intended to be usable as a template for myself to use as a starting point for other fantasy tales. I was editing and revising an entire world with its own cultures, races, and histories.

 

I’m glad to finally be able to share this world with my readers, and thanks to the talents of artist Kirstie Shanks, I’ve got a professionally designed map to show everyone as well (colour version at top of the page)

 

I’ve also just un-secreted my CHRONOMANCER board on Pinterest for those who like to have visual aid when readings stories, or who are just interested in seeing kind of images I was using for inspiration as I wrote.

 

It has been a long journey to get to this point. Thank you for your support along the way!

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New Book Release ‘The Final Power: CHRONOMANCER’

When the high elven princess Zera is taken by an ancient darkness, the kingdom must call for desperate allies to launch her rescue. Three mercenaries: the barbarian Baruda, the warrior monk Erid, and the fellborn goblin Gnash find help in an unlikely companion to help them reach the princess. As they embark into the unknown, their adventure will take them to the darkest places in Vel Ardon, and even throughout time, as they seek the safe return of the lost princess.

 

It’s good to finally be able to share this with the world. ‘The Final Power: CHRONOMANCER’ is my first published epic-scale fantasy novel written for fans of high-adventure. Compared to my previous novels, the amount of world-building that went into this book was on a completely different level (which I’ll talk about in greater detail in a future post).

 

As you may have guessed from the title, this particular story involves the manipulation of time. The way I incorporated this into the story was quite different from most time-travel tales, and I hope that helps to set it apart. It also provided context for the invention of some unusual and fantastical environments which, to my surprise and delight, became one of the highlights of my experience writing and editing this story.

 

Another surprise was how attached I personally became to the characters. I’ve had readers tell me that my characters are likable and life-like, and that they miss them when the story ends. It’s one of the most encouraging pieces of feedback that I’ve gotten in my time writing, but this novel was the first time that I myself started getting emotional as I neared the end of the writing process – like I didn’t want it to end. These characters have grown on me too.

 

I hope you’ll pick it up, and I hope you enjoy it!

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NaNoWriMo Prep 2020

Hey guys! Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year? Are you all done with your prep work? If not, there’s still a week to go before November kicks off. Still time to cram in some prep. I myself have had a few projects on the go the past couple of months and now have to cram some of my prepping into the last minute, but I think I’m in a good position to get started on November 1st.

This’ll be my second time doing NaNo. When I did it last year I had no idea how it was going to go, but in the spirit of challenge I gave myself some added restrictions. One month – start from scratch – full-length novel of at least 50,000 words – only self-editing and revision within the same month – publish as-is, warts and all.

It wasn’t a challenge I was about to take on with just any project – I needed something equally crazy and fun where I felt I could just go for it and enjoy the ride. That’s why I settled on ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ – a story idea I’d had in mind for a while but that I knew would be a bit of a departure and experiment compared to my other works, so I knew I needed to approach it differently. NaNoWriMo felt like the best context for that project.

By that time, I had spent so long editing and revising other projects that it had been over two years since I’d written an original manuscript, and I was worried my head would not be in the game. NaNoWriMo revived my passion for creative writing, got my juices flowing, and gave me a context to just express freely. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to come back this year for another project!

I’ve completed most of my prep work, I think. I’ve got a skeleton plot, details for major characters, ideas of how the world works, and I’ve even put together a musical playlist. Stuff I still have to finish off are a Pinterest board, some starting details for the first scene so I can hit the ground running, and a schedule as to when would be the best time of day for me to write.

What about you? Are you doing NaNo this year? How’s your prep going? Have you ever done NaNo before? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Soulcalibur 6 Custom Characters – (part 5)

A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t. Most of these pictures however are just interpretations of others’ characters. Enjoy!

(To see some of these custom character creations in action, check out my Youtube channel playlist Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles)

Gambit from X-Men. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Gambit from X-Men. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Gambit from X-Men. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Gambit

 

Venom from Spider-Man. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Venom from Spider-Man. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Venom from Spider-Man. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Venom

 

General Sweet Mayhem from The LEGO Movie 2. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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General Sweet Mayhem from The LEGO Movie 2. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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General Sweet Mayhem from The LEGO Movie 2. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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General Sweet Mayhem from The LEGO Movie 2. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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General Sweet Mayhem from The LEGO Movie 2. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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General Sweet Mayhem from ‘The LEGO Movie 2’

 

Mr. L. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Mr. L. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Mr. L

 

Phantom Ganon from Zelda. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Phantom Ganon from ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’

 

Ariel from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Ariel from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Ariel from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Ariel from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Ariel from ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’

 

Monica from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Monica from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Monica from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Monica from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Monica from Vampires Vs. Dragons. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Monica from ‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’

 

Akame from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Akame from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Akame from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Akame from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Akame from ‘Akame ga Kill!’

 

Esdeath from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Esdeath from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Esdeath from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Esdeath from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Esdeath from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Esdeath from Akame ga Kill! Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Esdeath from ‘Akame ga Kill!’

 

(part 1)

(part 2)

(part 3)

(part 4)

Soulcalibur 4 Custom Characters

Soulcalibur 5 Custom Characters

 

See some of these characters in action on my YouTube playlist,

Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles

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Top 10 Mid-Series Shake-Ups: part 2

Today I’m finishing off the list of Top 10 Mid-Series Shake-Ups by going over numbers 6-10, because that’s how math works. Again, I’ve put them in order of most frequently used (by my reckoning), which is not the same thing as best or most recommended. If you missed the first 5 you can check them out in my previous blog post. Happy writing!

 

  1. A hero turns villain.

Nothing causes a shake-up quite like a character becoming (or turning out to have always been) a villain. Especially when it is a beloved character. It is also one of the most difficult twists to do right. Audiences invest a lot of emotion into well-written characters, and sudden changes or reveals of such a drastic degree can throw a lot of that investment out the window.

One of the most infamous failed attempts at this was when the Marvel comics revealed that Captain America had been a Hydra agent all along. Not only was this way outside of his known, established character, and not only did it go directly against everything he represented, but it was also inconsistent with known facts about the character’s behaviour prior to that point, making it clear that this was a recent decision by the writers and not something they’d had planned from the beginning. Since pulling off this kind of twist hinges on consistency, I’m going to provide the link to my blog post where I discuss Consistency in greater detail.

Put simply, your character’s reasons for turning (or having been secretly a villain all along) must line up with known aspects of their character in order for it to make sense to your audience. There are plenty of ways to make “the wrong side” feel like a legitimate choice for characters, especially if they have tragic stories where they are more likely to make desperate choices. If you want the character to remain at least somewhat sympathetic, then you will have to present their reasons as being justified, at least in their own mind.

If the character has been a villain for a while, then you will need to be careful with scenes that show their inner character, so as not to either give anything away too early, nor have them clearly thinking and feeling a certain way that contradicts the coming revelation. This is easy enough done if you avoid using their POV, which, in writing, means never narrating a scene from their perspective but always someone else’s, and on film it means you avoid or severely limit scenes that show them on their own. If they are being secretive about whose side they’re really on, then of course they will act like one of the good guys while they’re being watched, but when they are on their own they have little reason to put on a show, and of course if the narrative is from their perspective then the audience should know what they are thinking.

This kind of twist offers a lot of opportunity to show how other characters react and adapt, not only to the shock but also to the changing dynamics. Do old friends now have to fight each other? If it is a beloved character then you may want to have them switch sides again, and rejoin the forces of good. Wisdom will be necessary to decide when the time for that is right. Do it too soon and it will feel half-assed and half-hearted – not really having any meaning. But wait too long, have them go too deep into the dark side, and they may no longer be a beloved character. If you do plan on bringing your character back into the fold then give your audience time to deal with the initial shock, get used to the new normal, and build anticipation to see the character’s return.

 

  1. Change of leadership.

This can be one of the more uncomfortable changes to go through, both for your characters and for your audience. Leaders tend to be among the more popular characters – not the team captains like Cyclops or Leonardo, but the coaches like Professor X and Splinter. The relationship between leaders and their team tend to parallel the relationship between parent and child. Both your characters and your audience come to think of them as father/mother figures, and so, losing them tends to feel like losing a parent. And having them immediately replaced by another feels like suddenly having to deal with a new step dad before even having the chance to mourn.

Even less popular leaders (or worse, the leaders of the bad guys) are a big part of the overall feel of a series. When leadership changes, the characters suddenly have new dynamics to navigate, new expectations, new challenges. It can be an interesting way of forcing your characters into situations beyond their comfort zones, or just to see how they handle different kinds of pressure.

The leader does not always have to die to be replaced. Sometimes they can just be fired by somebody higher up, or step down if they feel they’ve made an unforgivable error. They can even be rehired later on if you only want the change to last for a season.

If the character coming into leadership is someone who has already been around for a while then the change can be less scary (or more, depending on the character). And if they were already second-in-command then the transition can feel much more natural. Changes will still occur in how the characters interact with each other under the new power dynamics. Coming into power tends to change people, bring issues to the surface that they didn’t realize they had, often having to do with their own experiences with authority figures. So keep that in mind when deciding how to approach character development, and whether they will succumb to their issues or rise above them to become stronger.

 

  1. Coming out.

Depending on your audience, this will either cause a drop in ratings or an increase, so it is always a calculated risk, but it is one of the more popular twists in modern storytelling since the LGBTQ community is still struggling to find a significant catalogue of characters they can personally relate to (since the community is itself so diverse).

Whichever character you do this with would by fact of the matter have to become more vulnerable and open with their comrades once they choose to reveal this information. Sexuality is very deeply tied to a person’s sense of identity, so for secretive characters to come out will force them into a very uncomfortable place, if this character is normally very open about things then you will have to come up with a (believable) reason why they have tried to keep it under wraps.

Before going down this road, see my post about Consistency, as it may help you avoid some of the credibility issues that some writers face when having their characters come out. I actually don’t recommend ‘coming out’ twists unless it’s something that the writer has had planned from the very beginning. Making this kind of change to a character part way through a series tends to come across as ingenuine. It is always better if this is something that you as the writer already knew about the character well in advance rather than something done just for ratings, since changing a character’s personality and then pretending that it’s not a change causes a loss of credibility as a writer, followed by a drop in audience faith.

Also, since inclusivity is the issue, I recommend researching which groups are not being represented as much in the media. Gay and bisexual orientations are the most common for characters coming out because they are the easiest changes to apply to a character without having to change too many other things, but if this is something the writer has been planning for some time then it shouldn’t actually be a ‘change.’ I don’t hear about a lot of hermaphrodite characters, but that’s clearly a born condition and something challenging to live with, so more characters with that condition would greatly help the diversity of characters in the media.

 

  1. Kids.

So your characters who have had engaging sexual tension for ages have finally hooked up/tied the knot/become official and now all of the fans who were bugging you to put the two of them together will finally shut up about it, right? WRONG! Because now those characters need to have kids – which you can also drag out for ages if you are so inclined.

Children are one of the clearest signs (and enforcements) of character development. They show that certain characters have matured and (if not) they force those characters to learn responsibility pretty quickly. They also tend to symbolize hope, since characters who don’t see much of a future for themselves may not bother to have kids (if it’s a matter of discussion). In a series, it also gives the audience something else to look forward to. Babies on long-running series literally grow up before the audience’s eyes (or at least the character does, even if the actors are repeatedly replaced). And child characters, by nature, have more character development over a shorter period of time than most mature characters who are already more set in their ways.

Depending on the medium of your story, you may have full control over when characters have children or, if working with live actors, you may find all the sudden that you have to improvise with the story you had in mind. Although there are always other ways of hiding a preggie belly, like just having the character disappear or sustain an injury and have to take time off work for a while, keep your audience in mind and consider if actually having the character pregnant at the same time can work for the story. You may be pleasantly surprised by audience feedback.

 

  1. Time jump.

I don’t mean this as a science fiction thing – unless you’re writing science fiction in which case maybe you can get away with it. Sometimes the storyline of a series reaches a certain plateau – all conflicts have been resolved, all threads have been tied, and all the characters are in a place you don’t really want to move them from, at least for a while. If you’ve got all that going for you then it may be time to just end the series. But if you’re not British, or you simply love writing too much, then ending the series just because you’re on a high note may be the farthest thing from your mind. In that case the right move for you may be to jump the story ahead a few years, months, or decades depending on the scope of the overarching story.

As a series shake-up, this has many benefits. It allows you to make quick character changes that would normally take several episodes or even seasons to develop believably. Most notably it allows you to ‘age-up’ any children in the series and see what they’re like as older children or even adults. It even allows you to introduce new babies, perhaps even from romances that were nowhere near happening in the previous episodes. Characters who were injured or incarcerated could be ready to get back to action after so much time has passed, and characters who have been training in one form or another could have mastered new skills by now.

If you had any characters ending the previous era in a positive state, like finding new relationships or enjoying retirement for example, a time jump also allows those characters to actually have the time to enjoy those things (from their perspective) before the new sets of challenges arrive. And fans who care about these characters and want to see them happy will appreciate that, even if it doesn’t last forever.

Make sure your time span is consistent along all characters though. Characters who were already on the older side of adulthood may not be as nimble as before. A major time jump is always a balancing act for finding the right time to do it. You may want to introduce or raise up a bunch of new characters but you may also lose some long-time favourites in the process. So consider it carefully.

As one of the bigger shake-ups that you can do, there is equally major risks and major rewards. That much change can make the audience excited to see what’s new, but they may also feel lost if too many of their favourite things are gone. Be sure to give them some anchors. I recommend taking at least one fan-favourite character and putting them in a position of wizened teacher (as long as it’s not completely against their personality). Seeing that character become something of a mother/father figure among the cast might help further the sense of home and make the audience feel more comfortable in the new era.

 

And that’s the list! Have any other ideas for mid-series shake-ups that I didn’t cover in this list? Let me know in the comments! Catch the top five on this list if you missed the previous post. And if you’d like more insights on writing in general you can check out my blog posts on writing starting with the Core Concept, or check out The Storyteller’s Handbook on Amazon.

 

Cheers!

 

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Top 10 Mid-Series Shake-Ups: Part 1

When writing a long-running series, sometimes significant changes must occur to give the audience a sense of newness and the passage of time, or just to make sure things don’t get stale. There are a number of different things writers can do with a series to shake things up, and as with most decisions a writer has to make, there are pros and cons to consider for each option. It is the mark of a skilled writer to know what sort of changes work best for the story, work best with the audience, and fit best with the writer’s plans as to where to take the series in the future.

I’ve made a list of Top 10 Series Shake-Ups so you can look over them and decide what sounds best for your series at any given time. I’ve put them in order of most commonly used (by my reckoning), which is not the same thing as most recommended. Frankly, more originality might be preferable if you want to keep your audience on their toes, but consider each one and decide for yourself what best fits your ongoing story. Since I’m going into a bit of detail with each one I’ve divided this list into two posts and will finish off the list in next week’s post.

 

  1. Kill off a major character

Seeing how someone faces their own death sometimes says as much about their character as how they faced life, and can go a long way when trying to communicate certain messages to the audience. Death is the final stage of character development. Though it takes quite a bit of care to kill off your characters right. As we’ve seen from how audiences react to the deaths of characters on popular shows, there are meaningful deaths and there are frivolous deaths. If you have written your characters well, then your audience will have invested a lot in them emotionally, and you’ll lose the trust of your audience if you don’t seem like you recognize (and appreciate) the investment.

If you are writing live-action, then sometimes character deaths are forced upon you, due to an actor’s contract running out, actual real-life health issues, or public scandal. In which case your audience is probably already aware that they’ll be losing a character ahead of time, but they will be turning to you to bring some sort of meaning and perspective to that loss. One of the most common reasons to kill off a character (or bonuses, if you have to do it anyway) is to establish audience hatred for a villain, by having that villain be the one to kill the character off.

This can be coupled with other shake-ups as well, to add further meaning to the death. Killing off a leader would obviously lead to a change in leadership. Killing off the protagonist, though often the most devastating, forces a change in the focus of the narrative, and the building up of other, secondary characters as the audience searches for a new protagonist to root for.

Of course, as with most seemingly permanent changes, you can usually do a 180 on a major character death if it isn’t sitting well, but this trick tends to annoy audiences, and lowers tension moving forward. After all, if even death doesn’t mean anything in your story then what do the good guys have to fear anymore?

As I’ve said in The Storyteller’s Handbook, “A good way to balance things out is to have the character come back not quite the same. They’ve got cyborg enhancements. They’ve got some serious emotional scar. Their powers are changed. Or have some great sacrifice on the part of the living characters in order to bring the dead character back.” In this way, you make sure that the ‘death’ the character went through was still a death in some sense, by making sure certain things are never the same again.

 

  1. An unlikely romance

Gossip time! Romances in stories are a positive thing in general as it creates the potential for future relationship milestones and things for your audience to look forward to; like first kiss, first night together, the proposal, marriage, kids, watching those kids grow up, and then those kids having relationships. It’s even more interesting and stirs up audience excitement when it’s an unlikely romance. This is especially popular when the two characters can’t seem to stand each other. The interesting thing about relationships is the fact that they happen at all. Relationships are challenging, complicated, and messy. Throw in a couple who are natural opposites of each other and it becomes even more entertaining.

People in relationships (or on the look-out) tend to be encouraged by these stories as well, because if so-and-so can find a way to make it work with whats-her-name, despite all of their differences and all of their struggles, then there’s hope for anyone.

Writing each relationship in a way that is believable is more of a challenge, if you don’t have personal experience like your own relationships or friend couples to draw inspiration from. After all, the more unlikely the relationship, the less likely that you’ve actually witnessed similar couples in real life. You don’t necessarily have to explain why the two are in love, because love is a crazy thing to begin with, you just have to show that they are in love.

I think the best expression of opposite characters displaying love for each other (though it’s a bit of a dirty word) is “compromise.” What is a character willing to give up for the sake of the person they’re in love with, even if it’s a seemingly small gesture? How are they stepping out of their comfort zone, and is the gesture being returned? Little things like this have a big impact on the audience believing that the couple can actually make it.

 

  1. Newly discovered power

This connects very closely with character development. If your hero has the same set of powers (and the same finishing move) for the entire run of a series, without ever learning anything new, then audiences will become bored and you will also lose credibility, since, why hasn’t the villain learned how to counter-act this power yet? If both sides of a conflict remain completely stagnant in the types of weapons and tactics they’re using then it isn’t realistic to what combat is really like. Of course, the same issue doesn’t apply if you know that you’re writing exclusively for younger children, since each member of that particular audience will have moved into a different category before they realize the story is not going anywhere.

It is important however for new powers to fit the personality of the character discovering it, or else audiences will want to see them change back and essentially (regress). A way to spin this, though, comes to us in the example of Spider-Man’s black suit which, when audiences complained about the change, was later revealed to be an evil symbiote that was also changing his personality. By adding that twist, the writers were able to market the change back to the classic suit as Spider-Man sticking to his true self. You can sometimes pull off a similar twist if you find that audiences are not responding well to something new.

Another variation is to have the new power be identified as something negative from the start, or at least something questionable. New is often unknown, and there’s a general fear of the unknown. As long as the powers don’t feel completely out of place with the world you’re writing, you don’t even have to divulge the source of the new power until later. You can use this uncertainty to add tension to the story. Or if you want to go the route of the power definitely and obviously being bad, such as the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then forcing the character to use it sparingly, or not at all, can be used to further develop the character’s personal strengths.

 

  1. A new enemy

The biggest surprise to an ongoing conflict is sometimes to resolve the conflict – have your heroes actually achieve a definitive victory over the enemies they’ve been struggling with for so long. But if your series is still going then you’ll need another conflict to take its place – a new main villain or evil group. Sometimes it’s fun to introduce new major villains while the old ones are still an active threat, thus creating a rivalry between the two evil forces and a three-way tension with the heroes. Either change can make audiences wonder what’s going to happen next, and add some exciting tension.

When introducing new villains, it’s important to make sure that their feel and style are distinguishable from the other villains, otherwise you end up simply replacing one conflict with a carbon copy of itself and audiences won’t buy it as anything actually new. One of the biggest criticisms for Star Wars Episode 7 was that the Empire had been replaced by the exact same thing with a different name, thus rendering the defeat of the Empire in Episode 6 as ultimately irrelevant. You don’t want to lose the sense of tension by making changes that don’t actually matter.

Shows that do this well tend to introduce villains that put a twist on the kind of threats the heroes are facing, sometimes an immunity to one of the heroes’s greatest strengths, thus forcing the heroes to improvise and devise new strategies for facing these opponents, all of which also forces character development. When The Walking Dead introduced the Whisperers, it meant that a zombie was no longer just a zombie, and it forced the heroes to change their approach to taking on their most common enemy. Game changers like that are a major shake-up for a series and can leave the audience wondering what will happen next.

 

  1. Change of scenery

Everyone appreciates a change of scenery now and then. If your story takes place in the same few locations for too long then a change of scenery could be a fairly simple way to shake things up a bit. This could mean where your characters go on missions, or it could be home base, or even their personal homes. If your story is set in the real world, for example, in a particular U.S. state, then cycling through other states could be a way of gathering interest from audiences who themselves reside in those states.

If the setting is a central part of your story however (like Brooklyn 99) then doing a long-term relocation to another district would be going against the core concept of the story. A change of scenery in that case would be better as either a temporary switch, or a spin-off concept. And as with most shake-ups, the kind of new places you send your characters to can create some interesting challenges for them – learning to live in the city or the country, learning to survive in the desert or the snow.

A long-term change would also mean that the overall tone of the story would change drastically depending on the nature of the new environment. Remember, a big chunk of your audience uses your stories for escapism, to be a part of your world for a few minutes or a few hours at a time, and your setting has a huge impact on whether your audience feels comfortable or excited by being enveloped in your story.

 

I’ll finish off this list in the next blog post.

 

You can click on these links for more posts on writing love stories, writing villains, or how to avoid tension-killers.

You can also check out The Storyteller’s Handbook on Amazon for more in-depth info on writing stories in general.

Cheers!

Posted in Pop Culture, Storytelling, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

It seems like a good time to keep you guys updated on the goings on with my various projects. There’s been a lot of change over the past year or so, and some of it is pretty exciting.

 

 

Firstly, as some of you already know, I recently published a 2nd edition of Singularity. This is something I’d been wanting to do for a while, to reformat the book to a more compact design, using less paper and making it more affordable in the process. I’d always had other projects on the go and, since I have trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time, this idea of a 2nd edition was always lower on the to-do list. But the five-year anniversary was the kick in the pants I needed to do something not just to enhance the product but also to celebrate it.

 

 

This year also marked the publication of my first book ever done during NaNoWriMo. Vampires Vs. Dragons was more of an experimental project, seeing if I could start a full-length novel from scratch and finish it within a month (including any editing and revision) entirely on my own. And I’m happy with the results (bizarre as the book may be in some places, let alone the premise itself).

I enjoyed the process so much that I already have another story in mind for this year’s NaNoWriMo, and I’m looking forward to the prep work beginning in September.

 

I’ve also spent the last few years working on one particularly long fantasy novel which (I think) is finally in the last draft of editing. Hopefully to be available before the end of this year, if I can avoid thinking of more things to add or change. This particular project is one that started as an objective of having one fantasy world that I could use as a template to base other fantasy stories off of, so that I’ve got a common language for how certain kinds of fantasy creatures operate. (In fact, some notes I already had written down for this story were used as reference when writing Vampires Vs. Dragons, making the process of establishing rules quite a bit easier.) But the problem with world-building of that magnitude is that it does make the first book in the series take quite a bit longer to complete, because it’s not just the individual story you’re telling but entire species, cultures and languages to boot. Which is why this project has been on the go for a few years already, but if all goes well I’ll be able to share it with you guys soon.

 

In keeping with my goal of getting a new book out each year (roughly), I’ve been working on other projects as well while this larger one is in the works, and NaNoWriMo would help me achieve that goal much more easily if I do it consistently, which is my plan moving forward.

 

Perhaps the biggest change since the last time I posted a general update here is that in 2019 I began a Youtube channel, presently simply called “Benjamin Collier.” To date, the channel is 100% videogames. To start I was posting recorded fights between custom-made characters on the game Soulcalibur VI, which I still do, even taking requests from viewers who want to see me try to create certain characters to battle each other.

All that required was using the Capture feature built into the PS4, transferring the data to a stick, then onto my computer to upload. The next step for me was figuring out how to trim and splice videos using my laptop’s built-in video editor.

That’s when I began “Skyrim (But I’m A Wuss)” – a series of videos starring a Khajiit named Mr. Floofypoopsington Jr. on his never-ending quest to avoid getting into fights. Skyrim Let’s Plays have no shortage of variety, but so far I haven’t seen anyone take the Wuss approach, something I think I do a pretty good job of.

The next step from there was to purchase a microphone and start adding my vocal commentary to my gameplay, and I’ve been slowly working up the courage to let people hear what I sound like. I recently posted my first commentary video when I did an “unboxing” of the latest DLC for Soulcalibur VI shortly after it dropped. And I’m also started a series called “Battleborn (A Farewell Playthrough)” as I tackle the game’s story mode one last time before the servers go offline and the game becomes unplayable.

 

So yeah, it’s been busy, slow, fruitful, surprising, and a bunch of other things. I can look back and see quite a lot of work behind me and look forward and see a lot of potential. Some of it is daunting, but mostly exciting. I’m trying to learn from each experience and carry those lessons forward into future projects. And I guess as I get a bit older it gets a little easier to see how each step leads me to where I’m supposed to be.

 

I hope y’all are doing well, and you should be hearing from me again soon. Take care!

Posted in Gaming, My Books, Personal, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singularity – 2nd Edition

This year marks the 5th anniversary of my space exploration mystery novel ‘Singularity.’ To celebrate, I’ve just put out a more compact 2nd edition, and I’m making it available for 40% off the standard price until the end of July. So if Space and Exploration sound appealing to you during this time, then grab yourself a copy! Follow this link to purchase from Amazon.ca

For more info on this novel, check out my original release blog post from fiver years ago!

You can also read an interview with the main character on lynnecollier.com

And check out the Playlist if you like to follow along with songs while you read!

Posted in Bite-Sized, Images, My Books, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Soulcalibur 6 Custom Characters – (part 4)

A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t.

I had recently discovered the internet creation ‘Bowsette’ and all her related designs – basically a variety of Super Mario enemies (and other creatures) re-imagined as princesses – so that got my creative juices flowing enough for a whole post dedicated just to those characters (my second one now). Enjoy!

(To see some of these custom character creations in action, check out my Youtube channel playlist Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles)

Thwompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Thwompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Thwompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Thwompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Thwompette

 

Fuzzette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Fuzzette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Fuzzette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Fuzzette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Fuzzette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Fuzzette

 

Bloopette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bloopette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bloopette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bloopette

 

Clowncoptette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Clowncoptette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Clowncoptette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Clowncoptette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Clowncoptette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Clowncoptette

 

Giga Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Giga Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Giga Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Giga Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Giga Bowsette

 

Dry Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Dry Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Dry Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Dry Bowsette

 

Meowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Meowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Meowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Meowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Meowsette

 

Bowsette Wedding Tux. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bowsette Wedding Tux. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bowsette Wedding Tux. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bowsette Wedding Tux. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.

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Bowsette (Wedding Tux)

(part 1)

(part 2)

(part 3)

(part 5)

Soulcalibur 4 Custom Characters

Soulcalibur 5 Custom Characters

See some of these characters in action on my YouTube playlist,

Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles

Posted in Gaming, Images | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Soulcalibur 6 Custom Characters – (part 3)

A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t.

I had recently discovered the internet creation ‘Bowsette’ and all her related designs – basically a variety of Super Mario enemies (and other creatures) re-imagined as princesses – so that got my creative juices flowing enough for a whole post dedicated just to those characters. (CAUTION: Potentially frightening images if you are easily freaked out by creepy eyes.) Enjoy!

(To see some of these custom character creations in action, check out my Youtube channel playlist Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles)

Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bowsette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bowsette

 

Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Booette

 

Yoshiette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Yoshiette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Yoshiette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Yoshiette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Yoshiette

 

Chompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Chompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Chompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Chompette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Chompette

 

Piranhette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Piranhette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Piranhette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Piranhette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Piranhette

 

Dry Bonette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Dry Bonette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Dry Bonette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Dry Bonette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Dry Bonette

 

Rexette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Rexette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Rexette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Rexette

 

Bullette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bullette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bullette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bullette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bullette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bullette. Made using Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. benjaminfrog.com

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Bullette

 

(part 1)

(part 2)

(part 4)

(part 5)

Soulcalibur 4 Custom Characters

Soulcalibur 5 Custom Characters

See some of these characters in action on my YouTube playlist,

Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles

 

Posted in Gaming, Images, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment