Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Iliad, among other things

           It's been one of those weeks when you know you've been crazy busy, but you look back and think. . .  "What was I busy with again? I know I've an a good excuse for fall off the face of the planet. Just let me find."

            For World Literature, I have to read The Iliad by Homer. I thought it'd be a stuffy classic. But the translation we're using is terrible. For instance, when someone referred to Agamemnon's plunder, he used the word "stuff." And when taunting the enemy for having missed him, one warrior says, "Looks like you didn't have my number after all." Seriously?! This is a classic of classics. The person who translated this obvious doesn't know what he's doing. I had anticipated using a lot of brain power to read the Iliad, but I'm striving more to stay awake with all the cheesy pick up lines. :P

           Ignoring the translation. . . the concepts, characters, and overall plot of the story is interesting. There's a part where one of the gods asks, "Does it make him a better or nobler man?" That one line by itself had me thinking. About people, characters, and even myself. Is what they are doing, what I am doing, making us a more honorable person, or a disappointment to mankind (okay, that may have been dramatic).

           Am I friends with someone simply because they offer good conversation? Or do their actions and words have true meaning? Is one of my characters likable because they have a sensational sense of humor, or do they do the right things for the right reasons even when it's hard and nobody's looking? Are my own goals something that is of lasting importance? Are my goals only for myself? Are they something that is significant to others? Are my current everyday actions and words something that will inspire others to the Truth? Am I not only doing the right thing, but also doing it with the right motives?
          Sorry I don't mean to get intellectual or. . . philosophical, I guess. But it's interesting that what's going on in the Iliad is similar to what I heard in church yesterday. All it takes is an attitude to change everything. A good attitude. Or a bad attitude. At the beginning of the Iliad both King Agamemnon and Achilles were asked to do what was right. To honor the gods and respect each other as fellow Greek warriors. They both refused; they decided to have a bad attitude, to get offended and nurse their egos. And so Agamemnon brought grief to his men, and Achilles prayed for the destruction of his own army to teach them a lesson. Even the gods have attitudes toward the two opposing sides, Greece and Troy, that have them involved in the war that have them defying Fate/Harmony which is supposed to be the power that has authority over all them, even Zeus.
          What happens as a consequence of this? Achilles' best friend is killed while trying add the Greek army. Achilles is overcome by grief but is still not willing to admit he is in the wrong. The only person who ever does anything right, Hector a Trojan prince, is killed because the gods and Achilles are mostly against Trojans with little reason beyond their own pride.
          After book 22, the professor said, "That's the end of the book, guys. The good guy dies. Have a nice day." Have a nice day? What! The world just came crashing down on the only good character and you say, "Have a nice day"? Ugh.

           I actually need to finish book 24 today. Especially since we have a quiz tomorrow. It's just interesting how it can apply to my own books. Rocky has the attitude that Oddball runs from any kind of danger, and Oddball has the attitude that Rocky isn't all that bright. This causes tension in their friendship. They have difficulty working together when they're in danger. But when they relent and let their attitudes change, they are able to understand each other better.

           It's all fiction. But it's true in today's present world. It's happening now. I have an attitude that I dislike my job, so when I go to work all I can see is the bad. But when I open the door to let my attitude change, I can see that it's not that bad and other people have it worse.

           In reality, people lie; they even lie to themselves. You only see the surface of things half the time. Sometimes I wonder if fiction holds more truth, than reality.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Divergent: the characters

           I finished Divergent, and considered writing a review. But. . . I spend most of my time writing about the characters in the review, and with these faction highlight posts. . . Why don't we just skip to the characters?

           Caleb: He's Tris' brother. Honestly, I kind of like Caleb. And in the second book, he disappointed me. A lot (not sure if I believe it yet). I think I kind of feel like Tris with her sibling "I love you/I despise you" feel toward him. He's intelligent. And hilarious unaware and uncaring about his physical appearance.

          Christina: Tris' fellow initiate and best friend. Christina is awesome. She's strong and unafraid of what people think of her for the most part. She's not afraid to be a girl, or admit when she can't do something. She's loud and perky, Tris' opposite. And she's afraid of moths. . .

           Will: another initiate. He's from the Erudite faction, and I'm afraid he's still got a lot of it in him, except without the malice toward other factions. I like Will too. He's hilarious and always a smart mouth. Smart mouths always make dialogue more fun.

           Peter: another initiate. I really don't like Peter. Take hatred, revenge, intelligence, and add a lot of cowardice, and you get Peter. He speared someone's eye with a butter knife! In the middle of the night when the guy was asleep! He's despicable. Just saying.

           Eric: a Dauntless leader. He's a lot like Peter. Except worse. He's more of a weasel and I'd say he's more dangerous. He takes the honor out of the Dauntless and replaces it with unreasonable brutality. He's sadistic too. He's one of those people who makes you angry and scared at the same time. So you're unsure how you want to react to him. He grins sadistically at you and waits to see which wins out first, your anger or your fear?

           Tori: a Dauntless member. I really like Tori. She doesn't play a big part. But I think she's smart. And I would definitely fear her anger.

            Tris' mom: forgive me, I've forgotten her name. Tris' mom is amazing. Really. She's definitely a mom. She seems very gentle and domestic. And she is in ways. But she's Divergent too. And there's a whole other side to her. She's very strong. I love her self sacrifice and what that teaches Tris, that what Tobias said is true. Your bravest acts are normally your most selfless. She's very inspiring.

           Marcus: Tobias' father. My reaction to Marcus is pretty much the same as Tris'. He just disgusts me. His duplicity. His lying. How he's so counterfeit and yet weasels his way into getting people to so easily believe him. He really isn't strong, or selfless, or brave. He works on charm and manipulation and I can't stand people like that.

           Jeanine: the Erudite leader. With all the other antagonists, Jeanine is probably the main antagonist of the book, but she's very different. While Eric is sadistic, Marcus is deceptive, Peter is murderous; Jeanine doesn't seem to have a heart. And I don't say that with venom. She truly doesn't feel people's pain or care to. At a point in the book, Tris sees her as a machine doing anything it takes to accomplish her goal without partiality. She doesn't care if her enemy meets his end with great pain, as long as he reaches his end. And if she can learn something from him along the way, even better. She's unfeeling, and sometimes that's scarier than sadism. I'm not sure.
           Tobias: the love interest/ influential in the Dauntless world (technically he's not a leader, but people seem to follow him anyhow). He's Divergent also. Out of everyone, he's the first one to notice Tris for who she is. He looks beyond her smallness and gray clothes. He can be intimidating when he wants to be, and sometimes without meaning too. He's definitely not someone to mess with. But at the same he can be sensitive to others. Sometimes. . . He's intelligent and quick-thinking. I like what he believes about the factions system. He mentions that he wants to not only be brave, but to be brave, kind, intelligent, honest, and selfless. He's probably one of the only people in the whole book who has a clear idea of his identity. He's embraced being Divergent. In the extras in the back of the book Roth mentions that she thinks Tobias' has the right mixture of strength and vulnerability. I agree. That's another reason I like him. That balance is so hard to find. At times his angry does seem volatile, but that's not often. Sometimes I wonder if he's one of the most stable people in the book.

           Tris: the protagonist. Divergent is one of the few books where I favor the protagonist over any of the second characters. Tris is originally from the Abnegation faction, she transferred to the Dauntless faction. Which is very rare. The factions are very different. I relate to Tris in a lot of ways. People always seem to underestimate her. This leads her to underestimate herself at times. During the Dauntless initiation she begins to find out what she's capable of. She's looking for where she belongs and who she is, what does it mean to be Divergent. She has a love for heights, which I like. She's afraid to look vulnerable or weak, but she cares more than she lets on. Well, depending who you are. If your name is Peter or Eric, yeah, she doesn't care at all. If I had to go through the a Dauntless fear landscape, I know at least half my fears would match hers. Tris isn't always very likable. She's not particularly nice, but she can be more selfless when the situation calls for it. She's tough and does what needs to be done even when it's hard. She doesn't shirk away or make excuses; she just does it. And sometimes she isn't completely aware of her emotions because she tends to shove them down until they come screaming out.

           Okay. I'll be done now, because I could go on forever about the characters. Hopefully there'll be a Dauntless post up soon. And, well, what do you want to talk about?


Friday, February 14, 2014

The End!!

            My friends, I am ecstatic to announce to you that I have finished the first draft of the first book in the Sandy series! Goal accomplished! It's so amazing to write the words "The End." :)

           Honestly what I want to do now is write book two and delve deeper into the characters. But I don't think I can do that.

           Oddball has been coming around more often. He appears in different places and asks, "Why are you here?" And usually I answer, "Well, I'm working Oddball. This is what normal people do. Unfortunately I can't get paid to transverse the earth's surface and escape danger by the hair on my head like you do." He sticks around for a while making smart comments about my co-workers or classmates, and just is his moody self. Asks again what I'm doing and why I'm here. And eventually leaves.

           Really, and don't tell him I said this, but he feels neglected. I haven't "bothered" him in a while. And I do miss them all. I'm really looking forward to continuing the Oddball trilogy.

           But while we're celebrating the completion of my most recent lunacy. How about a character post from the Sandy series?
          Seth is the main character of the Casprian side. Or the antagonist side. In the Sandy series.

           In ways I don't know Seth very well. I wondered for a long while why writing from Seth's point of view was so hard. Why one minute, he was thinking one thing and the next he was doing something completely different. Why what he said, what he believed, what he did, didn't always line up right.

           I thought it was just me, and I didn't know Seth's character enough.

           Then I realized, yes, I don't know him well. Because Seth doesn't know himself very well.

           Seth did surprise me in the beginning. I had planned him (note to self: never plan anything before consulting with the character), to be more sadistic, cruel, and a bully in ways. More like King Carlo and Lady Jade. But nope. Seth refused. He's a gentleman. Yet he's been taught to embrace the ideologies that make Carlo and Jade so unfeeling. He doesn't ignore these teachings. He's been taught that this is what is right. It's excellence; it's perfection. And he's one of those people who want to do what is right. So he tries to embrace it. He looks up to his instructors and admires both Carlo and Jade. But he doesn't quite understand the big picture. The catastrophic effects of their ideals. In a lot of ways these ideals require actions that are against his nature.

           So in this first book, Seth has a lot of internal conflict. Of who he is, what he stands for, who he wants to please.

           And in all honesty, he wants most to please Lady Jade, as she is allegedly his mother, the best spy and assassin in Caspar, and incredibly hard to impress.

          I know that sounds weird. Because normally you think of boys wanting to please their fathers. But his alleged father, Carlo, already approves of him and encourages him to do better. And Seth is one of those people who must have something to strive for. So he strives for Jade's approval. Because hers is the hardest to acquire since you would have to be the best of the best. Therefore it's worth acquiring, in his view.

           He's also betrothed to a lord's daughter. Lilac. She's rather sweet. She means a lot to him. Like I said, he's a gentleman and it shows the most when she's around. And she's always surprisingly strong when the situation calls for it. Clear headed. Never complaining or over emotional. He admires that. I really don't think Seth would give an over-emotional girl a "Good morning," if he didn't have to out of formal politeness.

           (Casprians are big on formalities. They're stuffy like that. :P But the Sierrans aren't. Most Sierrans used to throw formalities out the window. Probably why Casprians consider them as barbarians. . .)

           Seth is a squire, but he's not exactly in training for knighthood. More like secret ops and especially for tracking. He's an amazing tracker (one day I will find a better name for it). He's one of the most skilled they have. He's been in training for a while though, and he's itching to prove himself.

           He's also the best squire with a sword. Crowback, his good friend, is particularly formidable. Mostly because Crowback doesn't hesitate to hurt to someone when holding a sword. But Seth is more deft. Crowback is a bit more of the guns blazing type (you know, if they had guns). And Seth puts more thought into things. They make a good team.

            He's always excellent in his studies, both academic studies and combat studies. His instructors are very emphatic on you must know your enemy well in order to defeat your enemy. So all the squires are supposed to not only know their own country's history and language, but also other countries'. Especially Sierra's. This is the most slacked skill among the squires, for obvious reasons (can we say bordem city?). But Seth tries to apply himself here. He understands the reasoning behind it; even if it does tend to be dull.

           Seth is eighteen (ha! take that cliches!) and has sandy blonde hair (Sandy doesn't. . . I'm not sure how that happened). He's tallish. I've never stopped to measure him exact. But he'd be taller than me. Maybe six foot, six foot two? Something like that. But Crowback is taller. Seth's more wiry, built for speed and accuracy. Crowback is more like a rock, built for, uh. . . smashing things. (Crowback likes to pretend he's a monster of a bully, but he does have a rather soft side. He can fool anyone except Seth. And unless it matters, Seth always gives him away. Like I said, they make a great team.)

           I'm not really sure what else say. Even though he is the antagonist and Sandy's archenemy, he's probably more likable than her. Because he's the bad guy who does things right sometimes and she's the good guy who goes about it wrong sometimes. He does change a lot over the series. He deals with the same things Sandy does. At the beginning, he's just still green to things like bitterness and anger, unlike Sandy. He makes a great second main character though. Tons of knots to untangle over the series. I love it. 

           I apologize on the hold off on the Divergent faction posts. My photographer (aka: one of my brothers) was out of town. But he's back now so maybe we're have a Dauntless post up soon! Actually I apologize for the lack of posts in general. School and work have been trying to swallow my life whole. I'd like to tell them very much to stuff themselves in a dark lonely closet so they can see how despicable their own company is. But unfortunately, I have to be a responsible adult, and take it like it is. :P

           Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sandy, an attempt at a character post

           Sandy is the protagonist in the Sandy series (I'm honestly not try to insult your intelligence). Her name is under reconsideration. Sandy is a Sierran slave in Caspar. She's sixteen (sorry, I know the cliche is a little disappointing). She looks younger than she really is. As any slave, she's rather lean, and short,  (it is said most of the younger slaves are short due to malnutrition). She has a rat's nest of red hair. She's not much on caring about her appearance, or wearing fancies dresses. Or letting other people do all the work.

           She becomes a spy in the slave village. But most of the slaves spies are caught and hanged within days of their appointment. She's just starting out. So she has some successes, a lot of failures, but she manages to stay alive. As the series progresses, she does become an excellent spy. She gains a feared name among the enemy and a legend among her people.

           Sandy's one of those character's who existed before her series began. She was a very strong, independent person. And she had very few faults. Let's just say, she came to me when I was around fourteen, so I was very new to writing and creating characters. I didn't know that flaws were good, and actually helpful to the writing process (conflict = story, if the characters have flaws there's more opportunity for conflict to arise).

           I began her current story when I was eighteen. She had changed a lot then. Sandy had faults galore. Still does. But as the book progresses, she changes so much. Her view of people changes.

           I realize that many people may actually dislike Sandy even after she changes in the first book. Because she goes from having a restrained ferocity to being very humble, almost too humble. She will doubt herself often and get easily discouraged. She seems very determined to other people, but on the inside she needs encouragement. She goes from being insecure on the surface, to being insecure only on the inside. She really has no self-esteem to speak of, and she doesn't ever seem to find any.

           But I promise, that strong, independent person she originally was is still in her. She grows over the whole of the series. Dealing with the balancing act of humility and pride, when to give in and when to stand and fight, bitterness and forgiveness, hatred and love, loss, death, hope. This book is different from the Oddball's series, in that it can be very dark at times without many funny parts to lighten it. The whole mood can be more grave.

           Sandy is also intelligent and quick-thinking. She tends to be hard on herself too. When she doesn't figure things out before she needs to she always berates herself, even though most people wouldn't have figured out the answer at all.
           Before the slave raid that took her captive, Sandy was the daughter of a lord and lady. She had a twin sister, Sierra, named after their homeland. She has no idea what's become of her family. She's not sure she cares. Back home, she was the one who wanted to help the servants work, to be friends with the village children, and she didn't want to act with proper etiquette. She didn't see why people of authority and royalty should be treated different from other people (that idea was one of the ideologies at the heart of ancient Sierran tradition but has in recent decades been lost).

           When they were younger, her sister, Sierra, was her best friend. But then Sierra became more aware of what being a lady of the manor was, and the difference between social rank. Sandy understood it too, but Sierra embraced it and Sandy did not. They would argue about it. Sierra would chide her when Sandy insisted on acting below her social status. Considering all this, Sierra was a favorite with her parents, and Sandy was the hopeless one. Though her parents took little interest in the well being of either child, it was Sierra they would present to guests with pride and Sandy was always the other one. The scarlet thread, a Sierran saying that sprang from an old, true story. 

           I'm not sure what else I can say about her. I love Sandy.  She's a conflicted character with plenty of knots just like Seth (his post is coming soon!). The perfect kind of protagonist. Especially for a series. She's learning who she is, what is right and wrong, and where she chooses to stand. A nice muddled mess. Often I feel inadequate as a writer. Like the story is much better than my skill, and I don't do it justice. But I'll get there.

           Did I mention that Sandy is part of Seth's training? He trains to be a tracker (I've yet to find something better to call it). So his instructor lets loose some slaves in the woods that are enclosed in the castle walls. Sandy is always one of them. She must be careful not to make it too easy for Seth or impossibly difficult, or else she gets beat for it. What I like best about it, is that they both know each other well. They're arch-enemies even before the war begins.

("People don't have arch-enemies. Not in real life." It's okay this time, Watson. It's a fantasy book.)

           What do you think? Does Sandy seem unlikable? Do you have any suggestions for a better name?