My new e-book: When Once They Had Voices (stories from my JRPG “Voiceless”)


This past year I’ve been working on a different sort of project than my usual novels: a video game. Specifically, a JRPG (what is essentially a story-based game). My friend and colleague Kyle Bryant is doing the programming and most of the work to actually bring the game to life (and a shout out to Greg Bayles for our character art and Gordon Goesch for his contributions to the RPG mechanics), but the world and story and characters are my own.

Voiceless is inspired by the silent protagonists of the original Final Fantasy game. I take the idea of these silent, chosen heroes and make it concrete. Their silence is not just a function of the gameplay (allowing the player to insert him- or herself into their role), but a real and deep story question: why are they silent? Why keep their lips sealed? Is it a curse? Is it by choice? Some sort of vow of silence? There’s a big answer behind that, and I hope you play the game when it comes out to find out just what it is.

Kyle mentioned something in a phone call much earlier in the year when talking about how hard it can be to make your indie JRPG stand out from a big pack. It was something to the effect of, “People like short stories.”

That struck me. It thrilled me, actually. I could do something that I already knew how to do, something that could actually help sales of the game and maybe allow me to even create something substantial and artistic in the process. So I happily took on that project. Now, several months later, the short stories are done.

At the time I’d already sketched out some of the backstories of these characters, stories meant to be revealed as the player goes through sidequests towards the end of the game. But composing them as full, legitimate short stories in an anthology allowed me to dig in far deeper, to make their tales something literary. And so besides the many perspectives on a world at war against a demonic uprising, I wanted to tell each story from a slightly different literary angle. Among these tales you’ll see not just short stories, but also an epic ballad, a curator’s description of an artist’s paintings, and a cryptic poem of pure expression by the most mysterious of them (whom you will not know until you play the game).

And now it’s on Amazon for just $2.99: When Once They Had Voices: A Prelude Anthology to Voiceless

The description from Amazon:

You don’t really know someone until you’ve heard their voice. They come in different forms, for different reasons, with different volumes, but all cry out for one sole reason: to be heard.

A ballad written by a chubby young boy with a speech impediment. A series of paintings that tell the story of a bastard child conceived in horror and muted by an inner rage. The chime of a young healer’s bell that puts her on a path to retrieve her voice from the demon that stole her beloved away. These and others are the stories of those who fought through darkness and despair to give voice to their souls—voices that were eventually taken away from them…and if returned, may prove the destruction of their world.

This anthology provides a companion backstory to Voiceless, an upcoming JRPG from Four Ends Games. Only by playing Voiceless and reading these stories can you discover the ultimate secrets of these silent protagonists and know the true depths of their loss. Cast your mind back to theses tales as you play the rest of the story in Voiceless and ensure their sacrifice was not in vain.

Check out Kyle’s developer website for more info on the game’s progress.


Why We Write Fiction


Novelists are con men (and women). We write stories to trick people. The goal of the trick is make the reader think that what they’re reading, what the novelist is writing, matters. This of course applies to films and video games and even visual artists. What these people are doing, myself included, is show you a world that doesn’t actually exist except inside your head, and trying to get you to invest some part of yourself into that world, whether that’s some of your time, your emotions, or even your soul.

Some readers are more susceptible to this trickery than others. They devour anything they can get their hands on. They hunger for new worlds and new friends and to see evil defeated (perhaps unsatisfied with Good’s progress in the real world).

Some writers are more talented at tricking than others. They can get even the most reluctant reader to flip through pages and forget the real world for a time while forcing you to care about theirs. They are founts of creation, designing worlds that their readers naturally immerse themselves in, birthing characters that can be more real than a stranger on the street, and offer peace to a troubled soul through good’s triumph over evil, or if not, showing the reader truth and beauty despite evil continuing to exist even in their pretended world.

Sometimes we forget that these worlds are fake. But nonetheless, can’t we agree that these fake things can have powerful effects on reality? That’s the magic of fiction, whether in books, films, games, whatever.

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

So it is a trick. It is happening inside your head. But it can be no less real than anything else in your life if it goes on to affect that life.

So what’s my point?

Fiction writers: if you’re going to make your readers/players/viewers care deeply about something that is no real, make it matter in reality, too. The creation of worlds is an immensely powerful tool, and with that power comes great responsibility. So don’t waste it, or misuse it. Use your power wisely and for that aforementioned Good’s sake. You can change people with your stories, so change them for the better.