Making Choices

When we’re creating families and living out their lives through our games, it’s sometimes a difficult thing to see them unhappy. I know from reading the discussion boards at EA’s Forum that a lot of players go out of their way to make life easy for their sims.

I’m not one of them.

It’s possible to use cheats to improve a sim’s skills, get job promotions, and add hefty sums of simoleons to the family account. There are also “in-game” tricks — like taking a thoughtful shower for inspiration before a sim sits down to write a novel. Of course, as the all-knowing, all-seeing, everywhere-present creator of our own sim world, we can easily step in at any time to intervene when things aren’t going well. I’ll admit to occasionally slipping over to CAS to create a “potentially perfect” mate for a lonely sim, but beyond that, I try — as much as possible — to take a “hands off” approach. I want my sims to have their own lives, to make their own choices, and to accept the consequences of their own behavior. In keeping with that style of play, I mostly sit back, watch my sims, and follow their whims and aspirations as guides.

The result is that I often have unhappy sims. Some, in fact, are utterly miserable. Am I heartless? There are certainly times when I feel sorry for a sim in my game, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to jump right in and fix things for him or her. Instead, I’ll shake my head a bit and lament the poor choices and bad decisions that have caused so much misery.

One such miserable sim is Dalton Vaile. I briefly shared a bit of his story before when he and his girlfriend, Janis Melanson, went out on the first “dinner date” in my game. Now, for me, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Dalton is degenerate. As an artist, he’s lived a wild, reckless lifestyle, carousing long into the night with his other degenerate artist friends. Think Bohemian lifestyle…to the max.

At one such drunken soiree, he met Eva, a townie whose last name I don’t recall. Somehow I neglected to even note it in my records. I never liked Eva, you see. She had nothing to offer. When she got pregnant and claimed that Dalton was the father, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Dalton was not the marrying kind and neither was Eva. So, I stepped back and let them live their own lives.

At the time the baby was born, Dalton was living with Beatrice Oakes. She was an older woman who’d lost her husband, and she rented a room of her house out to help struggling students. She believed in Dalton and his art, felt sorry for him, and took him in. Of course, when she learned that Dalton had a newborn son, she persuaded him to at least see the child. He did, and with a bit of gentle persuasion from Beatrice, he decided to “do the right thing” and marry Eva. Maybe, in time, they’d come to love one another.

It was a miserable marriage from the start. Eva and little Coleman moved into Beatrice’s home, and for the most part, Eva took full advantage of having a built-in babysitter. Although she was unemployed and did nothing more than sit around, Eva left the care of her son almost entirely up to Beatrice.

More unhappy than ever, Dalton resumed his reckless ways. He flunked out of art school, spent most of the time in a stupor, and fought with Eva every moment they were together. Finally, he divorced her, kept custody of Coleman, and made a desperate attempt to get his life back together. Oh, this man was so miserable.

ColemanHe sunk lower and lower, and finally even the kind-hearted Beatrice could bear no more. She tossed the fellow out on his ear, and little Coleman along with him. Forced now to fend for himself, he rented an inexpensive little house, but couldn’t afford to furnish it beyond the bare necessities.

For several years, he and Coleman struggled. As much as Dalton loved his son, he still couldn’t break free from his old habits, and the little boy spent a lot of time alone, staring at the walls, wondering just where his father might be.

I think the turning point came when Coleman asked for an art table. No way could Dalton afford to buy one, but he sold a few old paintings to scrape together a bit of cash, and even though it meant not paying the rent that month, he bought his son the table he wanted.

Seeing the joy on his son’s face changed Dalton, I think. He started spending more time with Coleman. He started painting again, too. Soon Coleman was making friends and becoming a little more outgoing. Dalton stopped throwing money away on parties, started being a more responsible parent, and even saved enough to fix up the house a bit so that Coleman’s friends could come to visit.

SelfieEventually he met Janis. It was at Magnolia Blossom Park. He was painting there one afternoon when a “Singles Club” came out for a gathering. He and Janis began chatting, exchanged phone numbers, and even took “selfies” together.

Afterward, he nearly missed out, though. He was hesitant to call Janis. Why would she want to go out with a loser like him?

Fortunately, he took the chance and called her.

The relationship has worked out well, and they’re both very happy. Dalton’s ex-wife, Eva, by the way, finally landed in jail for shoplifting, so she’s out of the picture — not that she ever came around that much.

Coleman and Janis get along well, and now, Janis is expecting. Will Dalton propose? I’m hoping he will, but it’s up to him. He’s made many bad choices and wrong decisions over the years, but I think he’s learned a lot about life now. For the first time ever, Dalton Vaile is a happy man. His son is happy, too.

I wish them well.

 

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A Close Call

Edgar EvansFormer astronaut Edgar Evans is proud to say he now has 22 members of his fan club — all the neighborhood kids. They’re so cute. He loves visiting their little club and talking about his time in space.

Of course, he also enjoys having the current group of NSSA Cadets over to his place and fixing dinner for them. He makes a mess, but his wife, Sara, never complains.

The Evans family did have quite a scare recently, though. Edgar’s wife, Sara, has been spending a lot of time taking care of those exotic space plants the space agency has been studying. A woman working at the agency — Yasmin Grayson — nearly died because of those plants. It seems they’re the cause of an ailment the scientists have named boverde flu.

Boverde Flu Sara got violently ill, and Edgar was afraid he was going to lose her. Fortunately the doctors have now developed a cure for the disease.

Edgar is very insistent that his wife steer clear of those exotic space plants in the future.

And what’s going on with Kat and Jonathan? Why aren’t they having babies? Family is far more important than career, at least in Edgar’s opinion, and Sara is inclined to agree with him. But so far, no news about any little ones on the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could It Be His Fault?

Depressed KatJonathan Evans is getting concerned. He and Kat have been married for a while, and although she’s trying to get pregnant, it’s not happening.

She’s moping around, feeling awful, and spending a lot of time in bed. Jonathan hates seeing his wife so depressed. Could it be his fault? It might serve him right, you know, for cheating on Kat.

But he’s not doing that anymore. He’s ready to have a family, or at least, he thinks he is. They’ll keep trying. What else can they do?

thNL9PCMR6He did give Kat a beautiful gift for their anniversary. He bought her a baby grand piano. It took all they had in savings, but it was worth it. He’s been writing music — a few modern jazz pieces for violin — so he’s making a few simoleons. He’ll have their savings built up again soon.

Kat’s been doing well with her music, too, so she’s got that to cheer her up. She’s one of the most requested performers for weddings and funerals, and while that might not seem like much to brag about, it brings in money. They’re doing all right.

But why can’t they have babies? Is something really wrong with one of them? Which one?

 

 

 

High Fives!

Have you ever had a sim you hated? You know, the sort of sim who’s just a real jerk? I’ve had some rather unpleasant sims over the last 16 years, sims whose outlook on life diverged greatly from my own, but of them all, I think the sim I most disliked was a fellow named Ethan Turner.

He was part of my Sims 2 game and came from a very solid, very established, very well-to-do family… although, to be honest, I never cared much for them, either. Let me begin by reminding you that I have quite a vivid imagination, and I include a lot of elements in my game that don’t really exist. I create backstories for my sims, give them different occupations that EA would ever include, and build stories around them that often go far beyond the confines of the game.

And so it was with Ethan Turner’s family.

BVBefore I get to Ethan himself, I have to begin with a pair of little old ladies — twin sisters — who were desperately looking for love. One was widowed, her sister divorced, and eventually they both did find husbands. One married a former professional wrestler — I’ll share his story someday — and the other finally found true love while vacationing on a tropical isle from Bon Voyage.

Robert Turner was a prize catch — at least as far as money was concerned and that was one of the things this lady loved most about him. He was filthy rich. How had he made his millions? Well, Robert Turner was also known as “the Porn King.” Yes, he was the man behind all those “Girls Gone Wild” videos, which was why he spent a lot of time on those sunny beaches. His hot movies were phenomenal sellers. Now, he was widowed, lonely, and looking for love, too.

It was a good marriage. Both Robert and his new wife were elders, by the way. I’d already given her a few family members, and now I created Robert’s children, quickly aged them up “off-screen”, so to speak, and then gave them children as well, so that the family structure would be appropriate for a man of Robert’s age.

Ethan was one of the grandchildren. He and his parents lived with Robert in a very beautiful mansion, complete with maids and a butler. He was privileged, he was spoiled, he was, he was handsome, he was charming. Yes, Ethan Turner had a perfect life.

But, truthfully, Ethan was a jerk. I didn’t see it so much when he was younger, but after he met and married a very sweet young girl, his true colors began to show. He’d moved out on his own, had bought a gorgeous home with a huge pool and all the amenities, and he threw huge all-night parties with lots of liquor and food. He was wild, he was crazy, he was rich, and he could do whatever he pleased.

That was when he met Kimmie. Sweet. Shy, Innocent. She was the total opposite of Ethan, so I was surprised when a relationship developed between them. He married her, and for a brief time, they seemed happy together.

But then Ethan quickly got tired of his quiet wife. He started partying again, spent a lot of nights out on the town — with other women — and didn’t really care what little Kimmie thought. She, of course, was too meek to even confront him.

Ethan’s behavior worsened. Even his own family began to realize what an insensitive jerk he was. And then, one night, Kimmie invited friends over for dinner. Ethan, as usual, was being rude and disagreeable. Nobody paid much attention to him, though. These were Kimmie’s friends, and they didn’t care much for her loud-mouthed husband.

And then it happened. Somehow Ethan managed to set the kitchen on fire, and I watched from afar as the dinner guests quietly left the scene without bothering to help the burning fellow. They amicably chatted outside while Ethan went down in flames, and then as the Grim Reaper appeared, these guests high-fived one another.

I’m not making this up, folks. They high-fived. At that point, I had to wonder…was it really an accident that cost Ethan Turner his life?

In many ways, the death of Ethan Turner reminded me a little of a true-life crime that happened here in Missouri. Maybe you’ve heard of — or seen — the film In Broad Daylight. It tells the story of a town “bully” who finally got what was coming to him. To this day — the bully was murdered in 1981 — no one has come forward to reveal who was responsible. The townspeople have remained united in their silence.

And so it was in my little town of Cedar Point. Ethan Turner’s untimely demise was simply listed as a most unfortunate accident. Little Kimmie received a large insurance settlement and went on to live a long and happy life.

High fives, folks, all around!

A Husband of Her Own

ProposalFiona Patterson was about to give up on Benjamin Brooks. He’s always late! They were supposed to meet for a romantic night in the park, and he didn’t show up. She got tired of waiting and went home, and then he showed up at the park.

He finally came on home, and before she had a chance to yell at him, she found out why he was late. He’d stopped at the jewelers to pick up the engagement ring he’d ordered.

An engagement ring!

Yes, he proposed, and Fiona didn’t want to wait. They hurried off to find a judge and got married right away. After all, they’ve been living together so it wasn’t anything to make a big deal over. Fiona was tired of listening to her mother go on and on about how sinful it was.

Is Fiona happy now? No, not really. Well, yes, she loves Benjamin, but he’s still always late. He’s late to work. He’s late getting home. He’s late getting up. He’s not making much money either, but neither is she. They’re broke. Bills are coming due again soon, and Fiona’s a bit concerned. Things will get better, of course.

And what of Jonathan? She hasn’t seen him since he broke off their relationship. He told her then that he really loved his wife and wanted to make her happy. Well, Fiona told him a thing or two! And now, Jonathan, guess what! She doesn’t need you anymore. She’s got a husband, and by the way, he’s much better at keeping her satisfied that you ever were.

So there, Jonathan!

 

 

And the Winner Is…

Today’s the day, folks! The day I hand out the first ever “Edgar Evans Award for Community Service“.

Award

And the winner of this prestigious award is Liev Capra, created by Simmer RosemaryMarie for her Sim Blog Noble Doubt. Be sure to stop by, read her stories, and congratulate her for Liev’s “community service” award.

Liev Capra with Memphis Noble - Photo courtesy of RosemaryMarie
Liev Capra with Memphis Noble – Photo courtesy of RosemaryMarie
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I am extremely honored to be receiving something as important as the Edgar Evans Community Service award. I am earnestly grateful for the recognition I have received because I am very sure that every other nominee for this award was as adept, if not more so, of winning this award.

I have faced many challenges on my way to this moment, both personally and professionally. But each one of them has only built up my character; making me the person I am today. Winning this award would not have been possible without the encouragement I have received from my family, colleagues and community all for whom I have the deepest respect, and from whom I have received the strength to challenge myself.
I sincerely thank Jonathan Chronicles for inspiring me to reach a stage where I can proudly hold up this award as a symbol of my accomplishment. Thank you!

I Murdered Chester Gieke

I shudder at the thought of law enforcement ever impounding my computer. What a field day they’d have with my search history. Of course, they’d have fun, too, reading posts on the Forum as we simmers casually discuss the most efficient ways of getting rid of our sims or the cruelties to which we’ve subjected our darlings.

In my own defense, I’ve never been one to deliberately kill off any of my sims. I think I’ve only done that once — way back in the original game — and only under very extenuating circumstances. Yes, I felt awful afterward.

The deaths in my game have always been natural or accidental. But then, there’s the story of Chester Gieke and his untimely demise. It was murder.

ChesterLet me tell you the sad story of Chester Gieke.

Chester was a “pre-made” in Sims 2. I didn’t normally play pre-made sims, but at the time I put him into my game, I was needing a “house-sitter.” A kind elder lady, Lucille Menne, had been elected governor and I was preparing to move her into the governor’s mansion. I didn’t want to lose her lovely house and all its furnishings, though, so I grabbed Chester Gieke from the “sim bin” and let him live in the house until Miss Menne’s term as governor ended. I had no intentions of ever playing Chester.

But then one day as I was playing a young university student, Chester came strolling down the street. This girl was definitely looking for love, and when Chester stopped to chat, they quickly realized they were a perfect pair. They had so much in common. Their taste in music, their favorite foods, their aspirations for the future…oh,  yes, Chester and nerdy Clarissa were meant for each other. They fell in love, got engaged, and planned to marry as soon as she graduated.

But then one day she tried to call Chester.

He was gone.

What? Where was he? I spent at least an hour — if not more — desperately searching for Chester. He was no longer living in Miss Menne’s house. She’d lost the most recent election and had returned home. Chester was supposed to be living back in the “sim bin” — the Sims 2 version of “household management.”

The bin was quite confusing, at least for players like me who had several different neighborhoods in the game. It was possible to remove a sim from the bin in one neighborhood, yet find the sim still “in the bin” in other neighborhoods. Soon after Miss Menne returned home, I went on a bin-cleaning binge and somehow in the process, I killed Chester Gieke. I didn’t mean to do it. Really, I didn’t.

I tried searching for another copy of Chester in another neighborhood bin. Alas, he was nowhere to be found. His girlfriend was devastated. They’d been so happy together. They were about to get married and begin their future. How could fate be so unkind?

Of course, it made for a terrific story, and to this day, no one in Bloomington — the neighborhood in which they lived — knows who killed Chester Gieke. His death remains one of those unsolved mysteries that haunts detectives to this day.

So, perhaps the time has come for me to stand up and make my confession. Yes, I murdered Chester Gieke, and I can no longer live with the guilt. I’m sorry, Clarissa. I didn’t mean to do it. Please, forgive me. May the Sim-gods have mercy on my soul.

 

A New Leaf

Angry FionaJonathan Evans is turning over a new leaf. He’s decided he’s not going to put his marriage at risk for a meaningless little fling with Fiona Patterson. That’s all it ever was, really.

Jonathan cares about Fiona, but he’s vowed to love Kat forever, and he’s going to do the right thing and honor that commitment. He’s going to be the kind of husband Kat deserves.

Fiona wasn’t happy when he told her, but she’ll get over it.

For heaven’s sake, she’s living with Benjamin Brooks, so she’s been cheating, too. Maybe she should stay home and spend a little time with Benjamin.

The way Jonathan sees it now, he’s been asking for trouble. So has Fiona. It’s not worth it. He wants a happy marriage, not one riddled with suspicions and doubt.

Now, his only concern is what Fiona might do. Jonathan hopes he won’t be seeing Fiona around town too often. It could get awkward. It could get nasty.

The Edgar Evans Fan Club

Edgar EvansPart of the fun of following Jonathan along on his life’s journey comes from knowing his family. His father, Edgar, was one of the first sims I created for this version of the game, and I’ve always been proud of him and his accomplishments. I’ve also been amused at his bungling attempts to master social media

Yes, Edgar has conquered the stars, but now that he’s been retired from space flight missions and is back on ground duty, he can’t quite get the hang of blogging and creating a following. He finally decided he should simply leave the writing to his talented wife, author Sara Evans.

But truly, Jonathan does have a following — in the form of a fan club begun by kids in the neighborhood. The little fan club is up to sixteen members now. Yes, that’s more than Get Together allows for a single “club meeting”, but in Edgar’s world, once a member, always a member. For story purposes, his fan club continues to grow.

Now, this is what I most admire about Edgar. He is quite literally “down to earth”, and he cares very much about his six-, seven- and eight-year-old fans. A lot of busy, important men would likely find it a bother or think it a waste of time to meet with these children. Not Edgar. He enjoys getting together with his little fan club.

He gives them inspiring talks, shows them — even lets them touch — curios he’s collected from his space missions, and answers their questions about the astronaut program. Edgar likes to think that what he’s doing today might be the reason why a child chooses to pursue a career in space exploration or rocket science tomorrow.

We need more people like Edgar Evans, I think, and I’m not just talking about Sims 4. We need people like this in our real world, people who care about youth, people who are passionate about serving their community.

I guess I consider myself another member of The Edgar Evans Fan Club. I’m definitely one of his biggest admirers, and I’m grateful for the inspiration he gives me.

Big Blue DividerDo YOU have a sim in your game that you admire?

I’d love to hear about your upstanding sim citizens.

Please leave a comment on this post.

You and your sim might win the first “Edgar Evans Award” for

service to the community.

Award

I’ll be presenting the award one week from today.

 

Getting to Know You

Getting to Know You” is a lovely song from the musical, The King and I, and it’s always been one of my favorites. I don’t care for it so much anymore now that some identity-theft company has borrowed it for one of their commercials. The idea of getting to know you has become associated with internet fraud, and that does make the song a bit less appealing.

Getting Acquainted
Getting acquainted is a fun part of any relationship, especially an author’s relationship with a story’s characters.

But this post has nothing really to do with music or crime. It’s about storytelling and the importance of truly getting to know our characters.

With “SimLit”, much of the information we need to know is neatly compiled for us, readily available. No need to wonder about a character’s eye color or hair color,  for instance. We can simply zoom in and take a look for ourselves.

A lot of writers go to elaborate lengths to get to know their characters, putting together “character interviews”, clipping illustrations from newspapers and magazines, and reading astrological profiles to gain insights into how the character might behave.

Some of this is good, but too much can be counter-productive. You want to write stories, not spend your time writing lengthy character biographies.

For me, getting to know my story characters is probably the most enjoyable aspect of fiction-writing. I keep it simple and try to create distinct characters for each story. A lot of the information remains “in the background” as I write. We don’t have to use every detail. But it’s there in our heads, helping us understand who our characters are so that we can better know how they will react in different situations. Knowing our characters helps us “get inside” their heads — and hearts — as we share their stories with our readers.

Here are the things I want to know about each of the important characters in my stories:

  • Character name
  • Age
  • Where does the character live?
  • Favorite music
  • Favorite food
  • What color is the character’s room?
  • What is this character’s favorite memory?
  • What is this character’s most traumatic experience?
  • What is this character’s most prized possession?
  • What scares this character?
  • 5 likes
  • 5 Dislikes
  • What word do others use to describe the character?

The answers to these questions can give us a good look at who a character is and why they act the way they do. Understanding what’s important to a character — favorite memories, prized possessions, personal surroundings — and what upsets him or her — traumatic events, fears, dislikes — goes a long, long way toward helping us really know the people in our stories. This leads us to a better understanding of what our characters want, how they hope to get it, and why it matters so much.

Happy writing!