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thelunarfox in simstorytellers

Sim Storyteller Spotlight: TheLunarFox


Hello, plenty of you are probably wondering who the heck I am and what I'm doing here, lol. So I guess I should first introduce myself. I write a story called Ruin. Ruin is about a world in decay. Humans were once experimented on until they broke free. Those humans now have powers, and they've created a territory for themselves called the Wildlands. It's a constant struggle to survive.

I tell Ruin with independent stories that connect through similar characters and cross-over moments. 


1. Tell us about yourself. (What you do for a living, your interests, where you live, your non-sim hobbies, etc.)

My job is pretty boring, except that it gives me a lot of time to think and write, but I live in a place I think is pretty cool. I live in Monterey Bay, California. The weather here is extremely moderate. Hot here is high 80's (Farenheight). Normally it's cold and a little foggy.
Welcome to Fort Ord- or what's left of it.

My hometown is right next to the closed military base, Fort Ord. Recently, I've been running around the old base, snapping pictures of it in its current state before they tear everything down. I remember when it was still in operation (it closed when I was 14), and I've watched it fall into disrepair even as other parts of it are being built up for the university.

It's probably safe to say that it has inspired my story.


2. Do you have other creative pursuits that affect how you tell your sim stories? (Such as photography, creative writing, etc.)

Can sleeping and day dreaming count here? I mostly write-- A LOT. I sometimes doodle, but I'm no good at it. Writing and telling stories is just about the only thing I have.

Well, except the aforementioned taking pictures of abandoned buildings. That's a new hobby, and it's more about seeing the building, remembering what it feels like to stand in a quiet abandoned place, and even trying to get inside if I can. I've been posting a lot of these pictures to my inspiration blog.


3. Do you use Maxis pre-made sims, original sims, sims based on other sources (TV, movies, books, other games), or some combination of these? Why?

I don't always like using sims based on real people, so no actors in my game. I also can't get into the pre-mades. The truth is that I can't tell TS2 sims apart unless I make them, and so when I used to play, I had to make my own sims.

That set a precident. In TS3, I LOVE making sims. Plus, it's sort of necessary because it's too easy for them to look like Disney-character-cast-offs with large eyes that are always surprised and a stupid grin on their little faces.


4. How long does it take you to create a new CAS sim for a story? (If you create original sims, that is.)

Not long at all. TS3 really gets picked on when it comes to the sim creation part of it, but I've found it much easier to create sims than I did in TS2-- and I'm talking without extra sliders and without any sort of slider enhancers. Pretty much all of my sims are created without slider hacks. The few exceptions are usually body sliders so I can control waist size, hip size, and height.

I'd say, I can have a sim done in about an hour if I have a strong feeling about them. This includes the time it takes to bring them into the sim world and take their first test shots. That's an important step in TS3 sim creation.


5. Do you have one sim that frustrates you more than any of the others?

Yes. It's not really the sim's fault, it's the character. Henri Smith is a stoic man. He's been through a lot in his life. The sim of him is a great likeness, and a great little actor. But when it comes time to have him in updates, I'm never quite sure what to do with him or his hands or facial expressions.

But it does make me laugh when the actor sim suddenly starts clapping and smiling at his favorite food.


6. Do your sims have their own theme songs?

I wish more did. So far only only three characters have  come up with their own songs. Jimmy Bennet has a song called Mourning, by a local band, Waking Wander. Mary's song is Closing In by Imogen Heap. (The "I hope you make it, I hope you find your way" always haunts me.)

And Paula's theme song is Shine also by Imogen Heap.



7. Do you like using aliens, vampires, zombies or any other non "normal" sims?

I love it! I miss all of those things in TS3, though my story doesn't really call for any of those, so I have no reason to use them. All my sims are granted alternate lives though when I'm testing EPs, so I do get to have some fun with it.


8. Do you usually create backstories for your sims?

Yes. Especially with TS3. It's hard to look into their eyes and not find a story there. Usually, when I see a story written on their faces, that's when I know I've got something. Even if I wasn't using TS3 to illustrate my story, I think I'd still use TS3 as a writing tool. It's very much like a simple 3D program.


9. If it were possible, would you carry out "romantic interactions" with any of your sims?

Oh no, lol. Someone once asked me which character I'd most want as a real person though, and I said Jimmy Bennet. He'd probably be pretty laid back and fun to hang around if not for the things that have happened to him in his life.


10. Have you ever cried when a sim died? How emotionally attached are you to your sims?

TS3 sims, I'll admit, I can't get emotionally attached to them. I have a million copies of them in so many different save files that it makes my head spin. It's no big deal to kill one off so long as I have a copy.

But TS2? Those sims are precious. They have memories, and ties to their family and friends. Plus, you know, they can sort of blow up your game if you aren't careful. I think the TS2 programmers did a little too good a job with them! Each sim is a one of a kind. They're really kinda special in that way.

11. Do you have a favorite character/family?

Jimmy Bennet and Brandon Smith. They're half brothers. Jimmy raised Brandon until he was old enough to live on his own, and Jimmy still sees to his training even though Brandon is a grown man with his own place in their tribe.

Both brothers have a special place in my heart. They seem one way, but there's a whole 'nother side to both of them that I think is unexpected. It makes them fun to write about.


12. Are there any stories in particular (sim or non-sim) that have inspired your storytelling?

Lakeside Heights. I imagine that we have a silent competition going with the sex scenes. But I love the way she delves into her characters. She uses the game as a prompt which then inspires her stories. They take off on their own.

Otherwise, I am heavily inspired by anime like Noir and Gunslinger Girl as well as comic books like the X-Men (to a degree).  I'm also a huge fan of Isaac Asimov. He's a very straightforward storyteller, and I like that.


13. How do you decide on names for your sims?

Randomly picked. Some characters have always had a name. Others didn't have a name until I create them in sim form, and then I look for a name that will suit the face I see.


14. Do you use hacks in your game? If so, which ones? How do they affect your stories?

Yes, here's my listing as of June. (Wow, due for an update). Most of my hacks are for story picture taking. TS3 is super fun for the story pictures.


15. Do you have a favourite EP/SP? Which expansion adds the most to storytelling for you?

Seasons, still to this day-- hands down. And Open for Business. I'm enjoying the TS3 EPs, but none as much as those two.

I find that the EPs in TS3 aren't always necessary, per se. I still run out and get them to have the extra items. So far, World Adventures has probably added the most to the game that I actually use. Like the photography for family pictures, tents for camping, exotic items, rubble, and interesting animations. Oh, plus all the sparring.


16. Do you make your own custom content?

If I have to. I did make invisible furniture using the invisible script by Buzzler. That was handy for picture taking back before the pose player and the fancy OMSP that sims can be put on.


17. Do you have a favourite sim outfit or hairstyle?

Yes the hair on Jimmy and the sweatshirt under the blazer. So cute! I don't like it in real life, that strange and impractical layering combo, but in sim life, it's adorable. Plus, I imagine that the blazer is a gift from a close friend of Jimmy's and he's not wearing it properly. If his friend knew, he would certainly have something to say!



18. What are some things that you wish were included in the Sims games (2 or 3), but aren't? (For example - social interactions, the way sims interact with objects, etc.)

Kisses! There are a few, and they're cute, but I could use more. I liked Ale's reasoning that it's a latin thing. I'd like to claim that as well, but the truth probably has more to do with the fact that I'm a pervert and I like taking dirty pictures using sims, lol.

Also, I really miss the cloud watching from TS2. I do love the new star watching that came with Generations though. It has a lot of animations, but none of them seem to include lying on the back and looking up, and I have a couple of characters that I see laying in a field, staring up at the sky while cuddling in each other's arms.

I suppose there's always the pose player animations.


19. How long does it usually take you to prepare a story update?

Not long. I'm lazy. I try to write everything out in advance, so I don't usually start posting a story until I have it completely written out. Once I start posting the story updates, the comments will tell me if something isn't clear and I need an extra scene. Extra scenes can usually be written pretty quickly, but I like to let them set for a day or two before I post just to make sure I've got what I want.

The pictures can take a while depending on how distracted I am. Because I don't do anything crazy-- I don't even use the pose player that much-- I can normally knock out a scene in the game within an hour. It can get more complicated if I have to build a set though, or if I have to dress a few sims. (I have way too much fun with dressing sims.)



20. Show and tell: Please show us your workspace (a photograph, if possible, or just describe it), and tell us about the conditions you prefer to work in. Do you have any bizarre habits or rituals?

I have three work spaces. I do most of the writing at work, where I have an office and plenty of time on my own. (People always ask how I can stand it. I don't tell them I have a lot of characters in my head to keep me company.)

My second work space is my desktop at home. That's where I play the game and get the shots I need. The computer is 4 years old now, but it still plays the game pretty well.

The pictures on the desktop then get put into my Dropbox and I move over to the living room to watch TV and cut up screen shots.

Much of the process used to happen on Thursday, but Thursday is now $1 crunchy taco day, so I have to get busy on Wednesday. Then, come Friday morning, I put the words and the pictures together, and edit as needed to sort of make things in line if I have to.


21. Do you usually have your sims act to a pre-written script, just follow what they do, or some of both? what comes first - the text or the image? Is one of the elements more important than the other to you, or are they about equal?

Text first. I wouldn't say that the text is more important to me, but it is the most natural part of the process. I get the story out that is on my mind first, and then I can fix it when it comes time to think about how I'm going to bring it to life with Sims.

The images create the mood, when I use them right. So they're present to do a little more than just backing up the text. Sometimes I try to put clues in them. A lot of the time, I go really abstract. You'll only see body parts in the scene, no faces. I let my subconscious lead me when it comes to the pictures.


22. Can you give us any hints about what is coming up in your stories? (Oh, come on...)

Haha, I don't think enough people know about my story to care about this one. I'll say that I have enough updates planned that there should hopefully be another year of updates, and then we'll see.

For the readers, remember this scene:


We'll be coming back to that moment again in the blog.


23. In your opinion, what makes a good sim story? What do you like to read in other people's stories?

Oh, this is a tough question. I don't like to say a story is good or bad. But I can tell you what pulls me into a story.

Good characters. I like interesting characters with many layers. I'm not fond of character that are bad just because. I need a reason to care. Why are they doing what they're doing? Do they have a reason? Sometimes the best bad characters are ones that aren't bad at all, sometimes they just do bad things without meaning those actions to be bad.

I love murky characters with room for interpretation.

Also, I sort of hate to say this, but grammar and layout. I'm not too nit-picky about grammar, but if it's a struggle to understand a story, then I won't read it. And layout, I'm talking just about how a story looks. If it's just one big long paragraph with some dialogue, I might have issues reading it. Normally, I suggest putting a space between paragraphs so that they're clear. It's also helpful to not be faced with a wall of text. Maybe I'm just old, but it hurts my eyes to try and read a page long paragraph online.


24. How often do you check your flist to see if your favourite authors have updated?

I try to be consistent and check regularly, but I get soooo distracted when I'm in the midst of writing a new story. Especially towards the end. Most recently, I let things go for a month. ^^;; I always promise not to do that again as I follow dinuriel and Sullivan Sims, and they're both very consistent updaters whose work I look forward to catching.


25. What advice would you give someone who wants to create a sim story?

Don't worry about comments or popularity.

It's okay to be jealous. Acknowledge it, but don't let it control you.

Write because you have to-- because a story tickles you, and it begs to be told. That's the best reason to do anything, I think.


26. Storytelling aside, what first drew you to The Sims? What do you like most about playing The Sims?

My sister introduced me to the Sims. She bought the first sims game at Ross on sale. Her husband was the one who encouraged her to do it. (That's a miracle in itself!)

I loved the simplicity of it. It was weird telling thes little people to go get their newspaper and clean their toilet. It was a game that was easy to play while watching TV. Eventually, I started crafting stories with the simple little characters. It was like playing with dolls.

I don't play as much anymore. Still, the best thing about the sims are the players. You never have any idea who plays. My mother plays, and she's approaching her 70's. My sister still plays and she's in her fourties. We sometimes swap game play tips when the entire family goes out for dinner. Of seven, only three of the family doesn't play. Since they're in the minority, they just have to suffer.


27. How long have you been playing The Sims? Have you been playing since Sims 1?

Yes. That's probably nearly ten years in my case. I was in my twenties when I started playing. (Wow that's a long time! I also still play my Atari.)


28. Do you only play the game with stories in mind, or do you also play just for fun? Do you record everything with photos anyway?

Stories come to my mind while I'm playing. I start developing the character even as I'm dressing them up to plop them into a house. The stories are the fun part.

Right now though, I only play when I'm going into get shots for the story, and that's pretty much it. There just isn't enough time in the day for everything I want to do.

But I do take millions of pictures while I'm playing, lol. Sometimes the pictures can tell a story. In fact, I've made a post on my game play blog that was all pictures before. I'll probably do it again!


29. Do you have a self sim? (We'd love to see him/her, if you want to share a pic.)

I do actually. My sim, Paula, does look a lot like me. She's technically a born in game sim-- I made her parents (who look nothing like my parents) and then I had them give birth to her. Maybe there was something subconscious to it, but it wasn't intentional.

So I made a sim of myself using Paula as the base.




30. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me. I know I'm a stranger to most since I'm not active on the LJ Sims community.





Extra questions:


From starling_1Your work is an example of how a really great writer can use the game to illustrate a story that has nothing to do with the sims. I do have one question: at what point did you decide to switch between points of view? I only wish I could do that.

*blush* aw, thank you.

I change the point of view depending on my needs and the story and the character. Ruin is just a series of stories rather than one long and ongoing serial, so it's easy for my to flop around and be wishy-washy in that way.

First person is when I want you right there next to the character, intimately close. They're telling you a story almost as if they were writing it in their journals. This also means that while they might be honest, they aren't necessarily telling the truth. Their story will probably be clouded by their experience or what they think they know.

With third person, I want you to have some distance. Sometimes I have to do this is a story is too painful or a character is particularly damaged.


From silenziiReadins Sims 3 stories I noticed that the game seems to be more limited in poses and facial expressions. Do you think is more hard to produce good pictures in TS3 than TS2?

I guess it depends on what you mean by good and hard. (I told ya, I'm a perv!)

I wouldn't say the poses in TS3 are more limited, though it can seem that way at first view. The animations for the TS3 sims are actually very flexible, and their facial expressions are quite variable depending on their facial features. I find it's much easier to get good, interesting shots using only the basic animations with TS3. (As opposed to TS2, where I needed pose boxes and facial overlays.)

But with my pictures, I'm aiming more for a mood rather than aiming to show you exactly what's going on. I sort of want you to read into the pictures, the same way I want you to read into the text. The readers come up with some interesting interpretations sometimes based on what expressions they see in the pictures and what they're reading in the text.


From xoxo_quiHow do you develop the personalities you give your characters? Do you base them off of people you know and have encountered or do you give them each a piece of you?

Character personalities kind of develop slowly for me. It takes a lot of "off screen" writing for me to understand the character. I like to delve into their childhood, and even into their parent's lives sometimes, in order to understand their motivations. I don't like to have them do things unless I understand why they're doing something. Even if I find out that they aren't exactly sure why they're doing something-- I know what they're doing. Hopefully that makes sense, lol.

I think characters are a mix of people I've met and little pieces of myself. I can't always pick out the parts that come from others, but I can see the bits of myself in some of my characters.

From dinurielYou've said before that the story of Ruin had been in development for years before you started the Sims version. What have been the most significant changes in the story, characters, and setting over that time? Are there any aspects that have always been the same?

Ruin is something I used to free write for fun when I was in high school. The characters I came up with at the time were Paula, Jimmy, Brandon, and Henri. Side characters that made an entrance then were Kyrene, Aaron, and Alex, among others. When it's time to craft a new character, I usually pick over the remnants of the old to see if I have a character I can salvage.

Pretty much everything changed. The stuff that stayed the same was the basic world setting (The three territories) and Jimmy's history (which I gave great thought to changing, but nothing felt as right as leaving it as it is). Oh, and Paula's family relations. 

In those earlier "for fun" free writes, Jimmy was actually kinda nice, though he had a dark side.

Comments

Your work has had me sending angry comments about what should NOT happen and giving my opinion about that kind of world in general. You really pull your readers into your story, and one of the things I've loved the most is the challenging discussions. I'd also like to say that your shots have been inspirational. It really is possible to say a lot with something as oblique as a foot. Fabulous, wonderful work!
Thanks, Beth. Haha, I know, sometimes you do get angry and I wonder if you're enjoying it or if I'm driving you away by being too dark and depressing. But maybe that's part of why I like exploring a world with horrible power imbalances and a questionable morality code-- it gets people talking. It also means more when I find a character with hope or love so deeply hidden the character isn't completely conscious of it themselves.

Thank you, Beth. I do always appreciate hearing your thoughts on the story, though.
Good interview, very cool.
Thank you. :)
:D I know who you are! I found your work a while back whilst bumming around the internets looking for an excuse to not do something useful with myself. I read everything in one swoop. It was fabulous. <3 Great interview btw.
Thank you. I'm always glad to offer an alternative to doing something useful, lol.
Well I never call reading a good story not useful. :D Inspiration and what not eh?
Bwahahaha, a sex scene competition! Oh, it's on, baby! ;)

Ah, it's because you live in central CA that you think the blazer/hoodie combo is impractical! :p I find it quite useful in the late fall months, just before winter. Love it on Jimmy though. But you know I love Jimmy in just about any way, shape, or form! ;)

I'm so impressed by how fast you can churn out such amazing and polished updates! Sorry I didn't get to the official questions in time, but that would be my question to you: how do you do it? lol!
Haha, I think it helps make us both better storytellers, don't you? ;D

You mean people actually do wear hoodies and blazers? It just seems like it'd be uncomfortable with a thick or even a thin hoodie underneath a blazer.

Me and my updates? Polished? Pshaw! I guess I actually find I generally write best when I'm not thinking. Huh, that must say something, surely, lol.
I think a few people might know who you are. ;) I do, anyway!

The guy who used to host Australian Idol used to wear a hoodie/blazer combo quite often, or at least he did around about the time EA probably designed that outfit! I think he's the only person I've seen it on in RL but like you, I kind of like it in the game too.

And I laughed at the idea of Henri grinning and clapping at his food!

I have no questions to add but I did want to say that I really loved your interview. Lots of fun to read. :)
lol, I hope that some of you do! :P

Really? On TV? Haha, I've seen it in advertisement, and it looked cute in pictures.

Thanks, Carla. :)

(Anonymous)

I have to agree with Sullivan about the Henri sim. Do you happen to have any pictures of his gleeful antics? :P

Wish I had a bit more to say (maybe it'll come to me) but great interview! :D
Aaaaand that was me o_O

(See, this is exactly why I shouldn't be allowed to do anything before noon...)
I know what you mean. Before noon is brutal on me too.

I do have pictures of his gleefulness. The first time I saw it, I didn't know what was going on, lol! His picture is here: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v152/studyofme/Sims/Ruin/whee2.jpg And Paula's apparent reaction is here: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v152/studyofme/Sims/Ruin/bestfaces.jpg
These pictures are so lovely... when I have time you might have a new reader. I'm always a sucker for good characters. :)
Thank you. :) I always love new readers.
It was awesome to see your name for the spotlight this week. I really enjoyed reading it. Great interview! :)
Thanks, Ale. :)