Tuesday, April 30, 2013

You as the Character

           Hello, readers of THE BLOG! This amazing. They don't have this computer stuff where I'm from. It really opens up new worlds. I see why you spend your time on this-

     I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Lucky Peril. But we won't get into that. You can call me Lucky. Or Peril. Your preference.

     But Ashley wanted me to. . . why in the city does the text look this way? One second let me see if. . . There. That's - No, that's not better.


Just wait. We're having. Technical difficulties. Okay wait.

    I think. I think, yes. Much better. And Oddball said I wouldn't be able to figure this out. What does he know? Okay, maybe a thing or two.


    So as I was saying. Ashley wanted me to talk to you about character development. You have your character with all his qualities. All the fears and failings. All the hopes and desires. But when do you show these?


   Enter: Page one. Sentence one. Word one.


   Whoever owns the POV of the scene. This is his time of freedom. All the wording, is what he would say what he would think (okay, so Ashley admitted that this was like deep POV level, maybe, she said maybe).


   The things he first notices about a person, an event, a place, that characterizes him. What he says. His gestures. His posture. If he's forgetful and walks into battle without his weapons (how do you forget that, really?) then he won't remember his weapons until he needs them or someone else mentions to him, "WHAT in the city are you thinking??" The answer is: he probably wasn't. Thinking, that is.

   Anyhow, when you introduce a character for the first time. And don't worry to much about this for first drafts, they're tinder for the fire anyways. But when you introduce the character, give a strong introduction. Set the stage. Put him in the perfect place and situation that will show off his character. Does he talk fast, wheeled a sword like a Shamdram, have a terrible phobia of birds, and wants to, wants to. . . sail twice around the world, conquer the Celica nomads, and make his dead father proud?


   Eeeasy! So he's swordfighting this guy who is obviously losing because the character is a great swordsman and is talking his opponent in circles, WHEN!- his arch-enemy calls in his trained air force of fowl (the Raven Unit 09A, because the bad guys always have a raven if their pet is a bird, after all who would take a villain with a turkey seriously?). And then? Then the evil man laughs a hacking merciless, uh, laugh as the hero shrinks back from the brigade of crows and then this master of villainery mocks his dead father, belittles the old man's existence and then stoops low to spit in our hero's face, "You will be even worse than he, so far below, you couldn't even make it on a ship as a stowaway. You'd sink before you ever boarded. And the Celica nomads? They'd eat you alive and spit you back out because you tasted of poison." And then the adventure begins, and the hero. . .


   I'm sorry. I just wrote the whole scene for you. No matter. You get the point. You have already told the reader (without telling, of course. I forget telling's a forbidden for you writers) that the character is great with the sword and spoken word, you have introduced his archenemy, told us the character's strange fear of birds (which might perhaps have a story to it *raises eyebrows* I'd love to see you pull it off), and he has a desire to, well. . . you know. And if he's smart, he'll use big, fancy words when he grapples with the enemy, or perhaps he's more tame or chill with his lingo, or maybe he has strange and wild wording.

   Some people are like that, you know? They just say the craziest things. Right out of the wide wilderness too.


   And you can even squeeze in things like. . .Oo! if there's this right-hand man of the chief who is always annoying him. You see the hero and the right-hand guy? They're rivals. So instead of having a whole scene where they just blow up at each other (though that would be quite effective too), after the battle scene, the right-hand guy could come up to our hero. "You lost again, huh?"

  
   Hero: "Go stick your head in beehive."

  
   Right-hand guy: "It was the birds again. What is with you? They're just birds! I wouldn't be afeard of any birds."

  
   Hero: "But could you handle a blade like this?" And he demonstrations with a whip of his sword and the right-hand little softie is pinned between our hero and his cold steel.


  
   I'm sorry. Got carried away again. But characterization begins the first word the character walks on scene. Every single line comes from his headead. You are writing as the character. Isn't that marvelous?
   So I think that's all. Although. . . You've just got to tell me!!
llAnI thi
   person  away Got

  
   Why is the hero deathly afeard of birds? It's got to be something good. He was on the brink of defeating his arch-enemy! You don't just give that up for nothing. Why? I've got know.



Characters Readers Care About

           So I'm Rocky, and Ashley did decide that we could talk to you. Not! that we're, like, dangerous or anything. Or quarantined . Or shut up all day. I mean, well, that I have her permission to write. Here. On this blog thingy.

            *sighs* She thought that it was a good idea that you hear from the characters during Character Month. That's what I mean.

           And she told me to tell you that readers want to read about characters that they care about. Because they'll stop reading if they don't. And because, uh. . . who wants to go on an adventure with someone boring or hateful or over-pitiful, or. . .

            What exactly did she say again?

           Wait, now. I can get it. I'll remember.

           This is kind of like that time when Jaykin sent Oddball and me to Kyn. But you see, we forgot the way. Or I forgot the way. Oddball is good with direction. Okay, he's actually the best mapmaker I've seen in a long time. But the map got burnt, uh, zapped. By Bolt.

           Wait. You don't know who Bolt is. He's a dragon. And him and Oddball, well. They sort of get along. They act like they don't like each other, but they really do. If you pretend you're not looking. But he ate Oddball's maps.
 
           We knew that Kyn was up east of Shamdram though. So we thought we'd rely on Oddball's memory and just walk until the people started talking jibberish. Because if you know Kynians, they don't ever make a law of sense.

           Really they don't. You get arrested for the dumbest things over there. Like eating turkey on a Tuesday. Sitting up instead of down. Going out without a hat on. They even write all the laws on the town hall wall in case you forget. But they had so many stinking laws that they had to make more walls to put them on! Oddball about went crazy when-

           What were we talking about?

            Characters, yes, and caring about them, and why. I forgot why. Right. That's where we left-

            Yes! Ashley made me a list. I'll copy it out for you.

            Reasons people well care about your characters:

-
if they are funny or charming, like Captain Jack Sparrow


-if they are virtuous, like I can't think of anyone at the moment

-if they are sacrificial for people they care about, like Katniss

-if they are smart or clever, like Sherlock Holmes

           Hey! No. Not that button. I need to see that list again.*bangs fist on table*

           Low places. I hate computers.

But she also said something about faults. I know it wasn't fault lines. It had to do with characters. So it must be bad things about a character's character. Faults. Of course. Because readers like relatable or human characters.

           Human? So your characters shouldn't be animals. No dogs. No dragons. No things either. Though I'm not sure how you would have a thing for a character. That seems boring a story about a, a, hammer. Now a story about a mountain. That could be interesting. Stories of all the different peoples who climbed. Their adventures. The mighty wind howling around it, the rain beating down on it, but still it stands. The people who it inspired when climbing it. the people who missed death by a crag it's cliff face. But it must not be right because Ashley said humans only. I suppose some nut head tried it or else Ashley wouldn't specify that a character must be human.

And so readers like characters that they care about and. . . . remember that. And- there had to be something else. Think, Rocky. Think! Characters, likable characters.    

            I don't know a rock from a hard place! I don't read. You guys read. You know what characters you care about. Why do you care about them?

           And afterward, we will later hear from Peril. Who knows what she'll talk about. Or if she'll even get around to it in time. The month's almost over, Peril!

Tuesday Quips

said Frodo sharply. . . ."I want to think!"


"Good heavens!" said Pippin. "At breakfast?"

The Fellowship of the Ring

by J. R. R. Tolkien
  

Monday, April 29, 2013

good characters always have something good to do- and A Protest

            Hi. Again. *sighs* This happens to be me, Oddball. You see, Ashley thought I wrote such an amazing post last time, that she decided I should take over her next post. About characters and their goals and the beginning of scenes and. . .

           Okay, fine. She's more like punishing me for hacking into her account. So she wants me to tell you that good characters always have something worthwhile to do with their time.

           Translation (because Ashley is terrible at articulating): People like characters with goals. Or something to that effect (like I said, she's not easy to understand sometimes).

           See at the beginning of a book, or even just a scene, a character shouldn't be "aimlessly wandering around" (she used the -ing verb, not me). "He should be doing something that helps him achieve his goals." If he wants to be a runner, perhaps he is buying running shoes, eating healthy, or whatever it is that runners do that makes them runners- besides run. What do I know?

           Or he should "do something that characterizes him." If he is hot tempered, maybe the scene opens with him ranting about the bumble-head who keeps losing his compass and doesn't know east from west. No, I'm not hot-tempered. In case you wondered. But I might know a someone who doesn't know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

           Why? Good question. Wish I knew. Unfortunately, Ashley thinks she has an answer: "Idle characters tend to be boring and aimless, along with scenes that begin with mundane things like driving a car, waking up, sitting around, etc. If you begin the scene with more purpose, even if it's just to develop the character, the scene and (hopefully) the character will have a better chance at being worthwhile." No translation here. Sorry guys, you're on your own with this one. What is a car? I don't think she's very certain about this anyways. She didn't look too sure of herself. What else is new?

                                                                     The Protest


           This is punishment because I am a goal-less character. Especially at the beginning of the book. So I'm terribly sorry if I don't seem enthusiastic to all you readers out there.

           "Get some goals."

           "What do you plan to do with your life, Oddball?"

           That's what I hear all day. Well, I do have goals. Uh, one. Survive. And I do that very well. Often you see me running for my life (no, I don't wear running shoes, or eat healthy). And I might find something worthwhile to do later in the story. But surviving is a good goal. Without me, where would the book be? At THE END.

           One other note. This was not a good course of punishment. Allowing me to do what I "got in trouble" for. I'm having a blast, Ashley.

           Whoopee.


         

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Quips

                                      You can't blame a writer for what the characters say.

                                                                  Truman Capote

Monday, April 22, 2013

From a Real Character

          Hello, readers of Ashley's blog. I'm Oddball. And this is the blog? Hm. Interesting place to spend one's time. It's like a real place, but virtual. Weird. This computer stuff is different. I'm not sure I like it yet.

         
Hey, Oddball, what are. . . What is that?

           A computer.

          
A huh?
  
           Techonology, Rocky. I know that's over your head, but. . .

          
Oh, is this that blog thing Ashley talks about? That whole other world. The virtual realm?

           Is that how she explained it to you?

           Well, yeah.

           Or is that how you understood it?

          
Um, how are you in her account? Wait, you broke in didn't you?

           It's called 'hacking,' Rocky. And of course not.

           Then why. . .?

           Ashley just wanted me to let everyone know that since she's busy with school, she has allowed me to post. . .

           Post? Like a fence post?

           You guys can't have a secret meeting and not invite me.

    *mumbles* So we've found out.

          Peril, I thought you were delivering some kind of message in Kyn.

    Yes, and now I'm back. What are you doing? This looks thoroughly interesting.


          I'm trying to do something here. Would you all just. . .

         Wait, wait. This is the blog! The blog! We are on THE BLOG!

    *sighs* We have now firmly established that we are on the blog, okay? Is there anything else you'd like to say?

           Can we talk to the readers? Pleeease? Or followers?

    No, you can't.

         Oddball, why are you on here?

          Ashley's busy and I'm taking over for the week.

         So she let you on here?

         Hello, followers of the blog! My name is Lucky Peril. Technically I don't have a name though since I was born on the run and. . .

         Peril, not again. Look they're sleeping already.

         Wait, she let you post? Why you? Can't we all post? I mean it is Character Month. Why not let the readers hear from all of us characters?

    I don't know. She didn't say that. . .

          That's a good idea. We could each take a day to say something.

          Like what?

         Oh, I'm sure we could think of something.

    Characters, duh. Who knows more about characters than us? And it is Character Month.

          You guys do know she made that up, right? You don't need to capitalize it.

          She made us up, didn't she? Why can't she make up Character Month?

          Stop capitalizing it!

          Hey! What does this button do?

    Don't touch that! We don't need that button.

          Oddball, I know what 'Publish' means. She didn't really want you to post anything, did she?

          So?

          So, what are you doing?

          I was curious.

          Wait, so if you're not going to publish this- so she doesn't know what we've been doing- then- Why are you on here?

    I already told you. I just wanted to see how these computer things worked. Okay?

          Ah, I see. You're - what do they call it?-  pretending.

    Shut up!

          We should really get off now, you guys. What if she sees us?

           Aw, what's the big deal? She'll never know. And if she does, what does it matter? It's not like she can kill us. She needs us.

           Very good point.

           Not really. She can make our lives as miserable as possible.

           She does that anyways.

           Yeah, it's her job.

           Oh, come on! Don't take up for her.
   
           You're just trying to get on her good side.

           She has one?

           No, really. . .

    Careful! Not that button!


   

         
     
          

          

         

         

Thursday, April 18, 2013

DF: Reading


           I'm a slow reader. I like to savor my books. Not devour them in a sitting. And with work and school and life demanding my presence and attention, I don't have a lot of time to read books.

           I feel so behind in my reading.

           When I read blogs, my friends are talking about all the new trends out there. All the new books. They've read Cinder and Scarlett. They've read Percy Jackson and the author's other books. They debate about Harry Potter. Some are Lord of the Rings fanatics. I was proud of myself for figuring out what LOTR means. They love Maggie Steivafiver (I'm sorry. I don't know how to spell her name). They quote Lemony Snicket. I don't know what Game of Thrones is about. I hear about The Ranger's Apprentice.
         
           I've read The Hunger Games Trilogy. People don't talk about it as much any more. I've read Divergent and Insurgent. More people should read them. The fantasy that got me into fantasy is The Trophy Chase Trilogy. Who's heard of that? (I still love it though. When I learned what POV is I realized Polivka has terrible POV, but I forgive him, Blaggard's Moon is worth it.) I've read Finnikin of the Rock. And, hm, The Hobbit, yes. After much convincing from my friends. I'm on chapter 3 of The Fellowship of the Rings. And, I think that's it.

           But when I go to college, people talk about the classics and the authors who wrote the classics. People like Hemingway, Poe, Tolkien, Faulkner. They talk about how they revolutionized the writing of their times. And I just sit there and listen meekly. Because I have no idea what their talking about. I haven't read many classics.

            Some of the ones I have read a somewhat obscure. Like The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Black Arrow, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Although I have read Tom Sawyer. And I love Pride and Prejudice. But who likes Pride and Prejudice anymore? It's seems most people I know don't like Jane Austen. One day I'll have to do a post on her. She's just underestimated. I tried to read Silas Marner, but I couldn't understand it. And that famous short story that Poe wrote that revolutionized, or maybe it created, mystery writing? I didn't finish it. One of my friends liked it. So I thought I'd give it a try, even though Poe's poetry is so morbid. I told myself, "It's a story. Stories are always better to follow." Four pages. He was talking about the two main characters' strange introvert way of life. Nothing was happening. I closed the book. Probably just before something was going to happen. I tend to do that. Stop just before it gets good.

           Maybe I just need to have a little more perseverance in my reading. Because Finnikin of the Rock was good after I read half of it.

          What are you reading?  What is some of your recent favorites? Do you have any classic favorites? What do you prefer? Modern books or old literary books?

Backstory: the Bad, the Good, and the Silly

           We, writers, are always put down for dumping backstory into everything, right? Well, honestly, backstory is a good thing.

          The bad way to do it is, well, the way most people cliche us for doing it. The Tolkien style of miniaturizing The Hobbit inside the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring. It's dumping every little detail in.  All at once. At the beginning. I personally don't like to dump anything that may appear undesirable to the reader. Which brings us to point number 1 of  the good way to do it.

           Sprinkle! I know, we're back to the sprinkle thing. Here and there a little detail so as not to drag the action down with long-winded going-ons about what the protagonist's favorite breakfast food was when he was ten.
           Two: disguise it; don't give it to them straight. Cocoa powder is disgusting. But if you turn it into chocolate? Well, that's different. A plain cake is okay. But if you frost it, decorate it, add some fruit or candy on top, it's more likely to be devoured. The biggest part about disguising it is the old and forever true rule: show don't tell. There's:
                     Cindy loved baking cookies because her grandmother taught her how to bake before she past away.
           And there's:
                     Cindy poured the chocolate chips into the batter. The subtle, moist chocolate aroma brought back her grandmother's voice, "We'll just add an extra chip or ten; nobody'll notice."


           So backstory? It's not bad. As long as three: it's necessary. Readers don't really want to know what college the protagonist attended unless it's necessary to the story. Or unless you turn it into a running inside joke amongst the protagonist's friends. Hm. Yeah, maybe not.

           The characters' backstory can relate to what they fear, love, desire, value, regret, etc. Their culture or the way their were raised may have instilled certain values in them. Or maybe they rebel against the values they were taught. Maybe something they saw or something that happened to them made them view things differently. Maybe they worked so hard for something only to fail miserable in the end. Maybe they hurt someone, and they can't get over the regret. Perhaps someone else deeply disappointed them. Maybe they have this strong fear or passion because of something that happened to them.

            Of course not all their fears, loves, wants, values, etc. have to be rooted in backstory, but sometimes it makes them strong and/or more believable. If they have a strong a sense of justice when everyone around them including their friends could care less about right and wrong, it would be hard to believe that they have this strong sense of justice 'just because' that's the way they are (*gasps for breath* run-on sentence alert!). But if there was a good story behind it, it becomes more believable. Because everything with a good story behind is more believable. Like lies. People say fiction is the believable lie (perhaps a post on that later, after character month).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Making Characters 2

          So what is a person? What makes you, you, and not somebody else. If you had an identical twin, you are two different people. You, yourself,  are not composed of concrete nouns (forgive me, I'm turning English major, here), but you are made up of abstract nouns. Things that can't be touched. Like loves, fears, hopes, regrets, beliefs, values, and so forth.

          Normally you think of the opposite of love is hate, right? I did too. But at a writing workshop Steven James was speaking on characters. I learned that the opposite of love is fear. Interesting. But if you love freedom. You will fear entrapment, limits, and the like. This makes things a bit easy too. Because if you know what your character loves or desires than you already know what he fears. Or if you know what he fears, than he loves the opposite.

           Maybe this is just me speculating on the spot, but perhaps fear is stronger than hate. If I hate spiders, I'd have an obsessive vendetta against spiders, smash every one I saw, go hunting for them. But if I have a deep phobia of spiders, I would cower and cry every time someone mentions the word 'spider,' and, if I was to see one- complete panic attack. Not saying that hate is good. Never. Hate is more like the enemy of life. It's the cause of death. But while fear holds you back from attaining your goals and keeps you from what you love or desire, hate is the passion the burns action toward your goals. If I hate spiders, I desire a spider-free world., and I will do something about it If I simply dislike spiders, I will probably desire that the place where I presently stand to be spider-free,  I will again probably do something if need be. But if I fear spiders and although I desire a spider-free world, that fear paralyzes me, and nothing comes of my desires.

           So fear is an obstacle that the character must overcome. Inner journey stuff. Make your character suffer stuff. Although the spider thing was kind of a bad pull-out-of-the-air example. The things your character will desire and love are more serious topics like freedom, justice, strong family relationships, mercy, and so forth.

           Goals go along with a character's love or desires in a way. If the protagonist desires or loves freedom, one of his goals (stated or understood) may be to break free of something that holds him in bondage or maybe he has a friend or even a group of friends, a whole country held captive (figuratively or in reality, it's the wonder of books, nothing is impossible). A character may have long term goals or short term goals. And sometimes goals change or build on each other. "The Hunger Games" for instance, Katniss' main goal was to protect her sister. In doing that she realized that she not only had to take Prim's place in the Games, but she also had to keep her promise to do everything she could to win and return to Prim. And after she won, Katniss had no goals (until she found out she had to go back). She just survived. So a character doesn't always have to have a goal. Oddball, my protagonist, is rather goal-less in the beginning. In the Hunger Games many of the secondary characters had the long term goal of defying and destroying the government system of Panem. I'd say it was Katniss' too, but she was more dragged into it.
    
      Values. This is more where the disliking will come in. If your character values life, he won't like death. If he's in a fantasy, he will be hesitant to kill his enemy, maybe wound him, but kill him? If your character values tradition, he won't like change. He will probably rebel at the sign of any kind of change. Or maybe he values new ideas and progress despite if it's a good change or not, than he won't like any kind of tradition. Back to "The Hunger Games," Katniss valued life. She even valued her enemies' lives- until they would threaten the the lives of the people she loved. She valued life. But she valued the life of the people she cared for more than the life of her enemies. Values can have limits.

           A character may also have a sense of right and wrong. In life, one person may do something he believes is right, and another person may found it wrong. Some people may have a standard or moral code they follow. Like I believe the Bible is the standard for right and wrong. Other people think their own opinion or their own situation determines what's right and wrong. It goes partly with what characters value perhaps. Like Katniss would think that killing is wrong, even killing your enemy unless the life of someone you love is at stake. Also though, just because someone believes something is wrong doesn't mean that he won't ever do it. So a character may do something against what he believes. He may change what he believes in order to compensate for the inconsistency in his actions (psychology wasn't a complete waste of time, just almost). Or he may just feel guilty about it.

         Other things that can hold a character back besides fear: guilt and failure. This goes a little more with backstory. But also with values, beliefs, and goals. If a character did something he believed was wrong or maybe he failed to meet a goal, he might hide it. He might care the regret with him everywhere. It's a good obstacle to throw in to make our characters miserable.

           These are some rather vague examples, but the core elements of characters will help dictate how they will act, think, talk, etc. Along with their background (more on that later). So if the protagonist is in a situation and you're not sure how he would react just think back to his fears, desires, values, and so forth.

        

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Making Characters



          This is the fun part. Kind of like the Build-A-Bear Workshop, you build your own character. Okay, maybe that was a wimpy comparison. But really this is one of my favorite things about writing. Populating your story world.

           Some people think you should know what your character's physical appearance first. They even stress it in their writing. There is the paragraph, about a page long, that describes almost every outward feature of the character.

           Boring.

           If you do add many details about your character's physical appearance, please, for the reader's sake, sprinkle, don't dump. I think of it this way: If I don't like reading it, then why would I write it that way and put my future readers through it?

           I personally try not to add a lot of detail about my characters' physical appearance. Unless, of course, it's essential to the plot (in which case, disregard since the whole point is that story trumps all). Sprinkles are good, but too many sprinkles means not enough cake. People are not their outward appearances. People are the stuff inside of them. The loves, the fears, the goals, the failures, the pasts, the futures, the regrets, the hopes. So are characters. And when you emphasize that, people will see your character for who he/she is, not physical appearance, but who he/she really is.

           When you read, do you put yourself in the POV character's shoes? I do it all the time. I always pretend I'm the POV character (it's okay, I know I'm strange). I read a year or two ago on a blog (The Kill Zone, to be precise) about one of the authors who said he rarely describes his character's physical features for the exact reason that it helps readers envision themselves as the POV characters. Many of his readers even told him that they see his protagonist looking a lot like themselves. Not that many physical feature details has ever hindered me from imagining myself as the POV character. But I. . .may have a frightfully wild imagination.

           I read recently on another blog (Taryn Writes) about character descriptions in first person writing. And since she says it better than me, I'll just quote her:

           Do you go around imagining yourself doing everything you do throughout the day? I like first person because you can slip into the head of a character. You aren't watching the character. You are experiencing BEING the character."

           I like that last sentence. Though I think as all writers should try to give the reader the experience of being the character, first person or not, to the best of their ability.

           And don't take me wrong, a little is good. Sprinkles are still good, just not too many. Basic things, like hair, height, anything that might be unusual, etc. And if you have various POV characters (Oddball has more than one POV character), so easy. Describe your protagonist from some other character's POV. The other character will not view the protagonist the same way the protagonist views him-/herself.

           At a writing seminar I sat in, the speaker says, "And no cheating. No the protagonist-looks-in-the-mirror tricks." My friend and I look at each other say, "Oops." We had long ago read each others' mirror tricks.

           So what do you do besides cheating mirror tricks if you don't have other POV characters? I don't know. The speaker didn't say. He left us with, "be creative." Gee, thanks. But I suppose there are ways around it. Like if you're protagonist is particularly tall or short, some other character is bound to remark on it at some time. Because that's what happens in real life, right? If you're tall people ask you to reach things located on high shelves, you see the tops of people's heads, and others ask you what's going when they can't see through a crowd. If you're short, you can't go through life without hearing at least one short joke, you probably ask tall people to reach things, people can't find you in a crowd, and although you can't see over one, you can probably squeeze to the front of it. There are ways of showing it; it just takes extra thinking. As if we don't think enough.

           I'll tell you how I do it with Oddball a little later. And soon we shall also have the cake of the character. Who the character really is. Other self: The cake of the character? Really? Self: I was alluding to the metaphor earlier: too many sprinkles means not enough cake. Other self: And why you said that, I'll never know. Ludicrous. You certainly don't get these ideas from me. Self: I thought it quite clever actually. Other self: Well, it was quite stupid. Don't do it again.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday Quips

       Blood is a strange color. It's darker than you expect it to be.

-Insurgent
by Veronica Roth
                                                    
source

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Month of April

source
          Your friend asks if you would like a piece of gum.
         
          You say, "Yes," and he hands it to you with this odd sort of smirk. You shrug it off because your friend is rather odd in general so nothing's out of the ordinary here. You pop the gum in your mouth and expect a sweet burst of flavor. Instead you are met with stiff, tasteless- cardboard. You glare at your friend.
         
           "You should've- seen- your face!" he grasps between laughter.
         
           You throw the wad of cardboard at him.

           Have you ever picked up a book in great anticipation of the amazing story it foretold to have, only to find cardboard for characters? A little distasteful, right? I know I have.

         So this month is Character Month! Characters are another one of my favorite story elements (it is okay to have more than one, right?). Good characters always make a story more memorable.

          To kick it off, a few quick tips about characters that we may look into more depth later:

           -good characters always have something good to do

           -characters are like people, it's not the outside that counts, it's what's on the inside

           -readers want to care about the characters, or they won't care to read the book

           -character development begins with the first word and ends with the last

         We might have a few, who's your favorite character posts, perhaps a character interview or two, and if I can figure it out, a link up. April, you are officially Character Month of 2013, well, around here at least. In most places I suppose you are better known as poetry month. This just gives you more dimension, like a character.

          This is going to be fun!

                              When I Brainstorm Characters

 
source


Friday, April 5, 2013

Drum roll please: The first scene

     So I haven't read it in a year or so. Tomorrow when I do read it, I will probably regret posting it. So although it may undergo many changes before it hits the real page-one day, far away- this is what it looks like now. Forgive me for the absence of a picture, *grumbles* again. All the same, here it is. I hope you enjoy.

     The first scene of the title in progress- The Misadventures of Oddball

   

     “Get him!”
     “We’ll hang him high in the sludge branches!”
     As he ran through the mire, he could hear the faint shouts of the angry men turn into frightened screams cut short. Uh oh. Prackles. He could picture the large, saber-toothed reptiles devouring the lynch mob and he did not slow his pace. Those monsters were surprisingly fast.        
     Prac, rackle! The prackle’s raspy cry echoed through the sickly humid air.
     He darted through a clump of reeds and weaved through the tall, gray sludge trees. The men’s yells had died. He glanced behind him, still nothing pursued. He stopped to listen, but not too long or the mud would have sucked him down to his knees.
     A prackle surged toward him, mouth agape. His heart jumped as he turned and dashed away. He was able to stay just beyond its reach.
     Rrrackle!
     He shivered. The prackle call was incredibly close, but it had not come from the one behind him. Reeds swayed off to his right. He jumped and grabbed a branch, using his momentum to swing himself onto it. As he did, a second prackle broke through the reeds and lunged at him. The reptile’s saber tooth barely missed his leg.
      As he climbed higher, he heard the branch he had left crunch, its splinters hitting at his heels. Once safe, he stopped and peered through the reddening leaves as the prackles circled his tree. The two prackles wrestled, ripping and clawing at each other. Their own teeth were the only things sharp enough to penetrate their scales.  He glanced at his leg. A trickle of blood flowed from where the prackle’s tooth had nicked him. It wasn’t bad, but the smell of blood made the reptiles crazy. He looked away, sickened as the smaller prackle was finally overcome by the other. He climbed from branch to branch, tree to tree, toward the borderline of Odd and Bal.
     During the autumn the prackles were so numerous, most people saved their meager earnings to stock up and barricade themselves indoors. How revolting to see the prackles turn on their own and tear each other to shreds.  When winter came, the prackles hibernated or died in the severe cold. But the cycle would begin again the next year. 
     Who would want to live here with the muck, the extremes of winter and summer, and the constant danger of ravenous reptiles that lived nowhere else? Thunder rumbled above him. Yes, and the rain, 365 days a year, and on leap years 366. The only color to enter this world was the dull green leaves in the summer, that at least turned a satisfactory red in the autumn, and the same dull green of the reeds, that grew ridiculously thick in some places and were completely absent in others, for what reason no ecologist knew. That is if the ecologists survived long enough to even think on it. He sighed. Yeah, ecologists…
     Even the people were unpleasant around the border of Odd and Bal.  He knew when he reached the borderline, despite the danger a few foolish young people would be standing on their side of the border, hurling insults at each other. Maybe some mud too. But most people had enough sense to avoid their enemies altogether. 
     He made it to the edge of the two kingdoms and looked right and left down the open path through the trees. Actually it was twice as wide enough to be called a road, but nobody would want to travel between the hostility of Odd and Bal. As he suspected, pacing up and down the mud gap were Oddish and Balen people. He tried to creep over to the Oddish side as they were occupied in creating nasty names.
     “All you Balens are garbage-eating fish heads!”
     “Yeah? Well, you’re a leech-infested stink face!”
     “Wait.” One of them pointed at him as he saw some prackles sneaking up behind them. “There he is! The…” 
     Prack!
    The group of prackles charged through the troublemakers. The people scrambled in all directions, screaming and hollering, mud flying everywhere. He escaped to the other side in the skirmish, gritting his teeth.
     Hard living conditions usually brought people together. They would put aside their differences and work together to survive, but not the Oddish and Balen. Anyone of those people in that prackle attack who found themselves on the wrong side of the border, would not survive long. All homes would turn them down. Those wanting war would form a lynch mob and hang them. Or the prackles would eat them first. For half breeds it was worse. Though because of the hostility between the two kingdoms, half breeds were rare, and they were always very young, too young. He was lucky he had survived the fifteen years he had. It was a long time since his Balen father had been shot and his Oddish mother hung. Between the angry men, screaming women, lynch mobs, and cunning prackles, he had swift feet, but not swift enough to leave Bal or Odd altogether. By now all border dwellers knew his grim face and ragged hair and they all scorned him as Oddball. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

DF: a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien

         I must apologize that I have not been keeping up with Tuesday Quips. This Tuesday I had very little access to a computer. Our internet at home likes to slug around as if the whole world will move in slow motion with it.
 
         But for now, I am reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien. It's my first time to ever read The Lord of the Rings. So don't give anything away! :) Honestly, I've only read the first chapter. I know. I've been busy. Unfortunately, Tolkien's style is a little. . . boring to me at times. Except when he gets witty, or attempts to be. But the story itself is wondrous. And his poems and songs are pretty good.

          So a poem from "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first chapter, of course. Bilbo leaves the Shire singing:

 The Road goes ever on and on
      Down from the door where it began.
 Now far ahead the Road has gone,
      And I must follow, if I can,
 Pursuing it with eager feet,
     Until it joins some larger way
 Where many paths and errands meet.
     And whither then? I cannot say.

         
I always hear it sung in a deep, rich voice. Isn't it a great the-start-of-an-adventure kind of poem? J. R. R. Tolkien nailed it. And I just got out of English 1302 where my professor talked about the proper way to write a Works Cited page, MLA style. I feel as if I'm doing him some wrong by not including that in this blog post, but don't worry. I won't bore you with it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Oddball: the blurb


          Oddball tries to escape the racial prejudices that threaten his life and homeland. But being a postal traveler only borders him more precariously on danger's edge. He and his partner must navigate through unknown lands, face fierce creatures, and tiptoe around war-riddled kingdoms as they deliver the interkingdomal mail on time. In the end Oddball comes out not only with some scrapes and scratches, but also with the knowledge that there's a God who loves everyone no matter what they've done and that there is a place where even half breeds belong.


          
Yeah, that's it. I used to call it YA. But it has this plot frame of one-adventure-into-another, so it might actually be MG.

          Also, I'm still uncertain on the part about God. Because I don't really want it to be a Christian book. I don't want it to be cliched. And definitely not preachy. But how do you write a book in which the protagonist becomes saved and still keep it from sounding preachy or being stuck in the Christian genre? It's a challenge. I'm not sure if it's a challenge I can write up to. I've never finished a full manuscript before. So that part, is tentative to change. I think I will write it like this first, and if it still doesn't come out right then I'll take the Christianity part out. Maybe it shouldn't even be in the blurb if it's not supposed to be the main point.

          I do want it to glorify God, but if people turn away from it just because it's cliched or too preachy then how can it glorify Him? It's a story, not a sermon. So story trumps message. Which is the best way. When the story trumps message, the message shines all the more in its excellent subtlety.

           What do you think? How do you approach God in your writing? What kind of challenges do you have that you think are too big for you right now?

           By the way, I will post the first scene some time this week (probably at the end, suspense is a good story element, you know). I haven't read it in a long time. I'm tempted to post it without reading it first. just for the insane fun of it.