An Aside

My writing self is pretty insufferable right now.

Let’s imagine the conversation between the two of us: my conscious self, studying for classes, having fun, but all the time wishing he could motivate himself to write instead of procrastinating all day— and my writing self, who is doing nothing.

***

Conscious: Bro, get off Facebook and start writing.

Writer: But have you seen this puppy video?

Conscious: It doesn’t matter.  I want to finish this current novel by the end of this month.

Writer: Puppies.

Conscious: What’s going on?  You used to be so powerful.  You used to motivate me to get all my stuff done so we could write for eight hours, then publish a blog post, then write some more.  What happened to us?

[Hello plays softly in the background]

Writer: I don’t know, man.  It’s just…  We’ve drifted away from each other and I’m not sure we can ever get back.

Conscious: Don’t say that.  We’ll make it work. (more…)

On Choices

Great people see potential in a certain light.  Schools, specifically undergraduate schools, consider potential quite differently.

Over a year ago, I visited a bunch of colleges that I didn’t choose to attend.  As liberal arts schools, they sold themselves in a very specific way, a way that appealed especially to me.  They knew what they were doing.  They advertised well, they made people feel at home, and they made every prospective student feel the same way: good.  Everyone leaving the school after a visit felt as though they could really, truly, have fun and learn at that school.  But mostly, have fun.

For me, this feeling came in the form of the ‘undecided’ option.  One school— small of campus and creaky of stairway, with free food and a stone library— offered two full years without having to pick a major.  Through freshman and sophomore years, the student needed to do nothing but pay their bills and take random classes, until junior year when they would have to pick a major or, for those who really couldn’t decide, make up a major of their own.  All this because they were creaky of stairway.

Over the past four years, I have seen piece after piece of advice— essay after essay, talk after talk— encouraging people to pursue their passions and pursue them now.  If you want to be a writer, write.  If you want to be a cartoonist, cartoon.  Before you can become anything, you have to do it first.  This struck a chord with me as well.  (In fact, I’m sure I’ve turned around and given the same advice here on the blog.)  If you work hard enough at something, you can succeed at it.  This was the message all these successful people would give.

Funny, isn’t it?  I’m not trying to say that people running colleges are not successful people, nor invested in the success of their students.  But why is the approach so different?  One group says you don’t have to decide what you want to do— just play in the sandbox as long as you want, then figure out a general direction.  The other group says if you know what you want to do, you have to do it— there isn’t time for the sandbox. (more…)

Writing as a Performance Art

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the concept of oral storytelling.

About a month or two ago, a friend sent me a link to some spoken word poetry.  It was fantastic.  The words themselves were beautiful, but the passion and skill of the performers made it better.  Around the same time, I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Worldbuilders readings of Jabberwocky and Green Eggs and Ham.  Anyone can read those stories, but he took it out of monotonous rhythm and made it interesting.  Plus, the accent.  Then I started on epic poetry.

If you’re at a party and they start passing around the Homer, just say no.

Last week, I found myself with the smudgy draft of a short epic poem, at nearly midnight.  It’s the short story equivalent of a real epic poem, and considering the inherent structure I’ve dissected and essayed upon since then, it’s doesn’t quite fall into all the parameters of epic poetry— but it has the basics.  I wrote a short poem in unrhymed blank verse, set in my current storyworld, about a mythic hero’s last sacrifice.  No, it doesn’t invoke the Muse.  No, it doesn’t begin in medias res.  Unfortunately, I skimped on both allegory and epic simile, because I haven’t created enough of this world to be that academic, and I still had a bit of a purple prose filter on.  But still, I consider it epic.

Probably the biggest reason is this: it’s written to be performed. (more…)

Jokes, Gobbledygook, and Cardboard Cutouts

Over the past week, I’ve pondered many things, but none of them long enough— or originally enough— for them to merit entire posts.  Because I’m too lazy to expand them, here are a series of partial posts that will hopefully all make sense on their own.  Feel free to comment on one, comment on all three, or bring up something completely different.  They are yours to expound upon or ignore as you will.  I hope you get something out of each.

***

Humor

Humor is important, as I’ve said many times.  In fact, this last week, I used humor as a tool more than I ever have.  I made more people like me in that week than in months in other places.  Correctly placed, it is a tool.  Incorrectly placed, it destroys just about everything you work to build.  But I’ve posted on that before, so I’ll let that lie.

Brandon Sanderson believes humor can be cultivated into the tool I mentioned, every time you need it.  Many others believe humor is spontaneous, a gift for those lucky enough to have an edge.  More and more, I’m finding Sanderson’s opinion correct.  He’s not a funny fellow, all by himself and spontaneous.  But when you give him the time, he writes killingly funny quips.  He’s admitted to purposefully raising his humor level in books, especially Warbreaker.  While he isn’t quick on his feet as, say, Howard Tayler, he knows the system of humor and uses it as a tool.

Moral of the story: humor is a tool, not something you’re born with.  Practice it, perfect it, and use it. (more…)

Why I Should Get a New Device

It has recently come to my attention that I haven’t acquired a new device in quite a long time– not since I got my graphing calculator at the beginning of the school year, in fact.  Since said graphing calculator has no internet access nor even the ability to play space invaders or anything, I feel that it is about time I got something else, something more fun.  And yes, it is possible to top the thrill of correctly graphing a quadratic equation on the first try.  This post shall strive to prove to you why I would like– nay, why I deserve– a new device.

First of all, it would help, not hinder, my writing career.  After all, isn’t it easier to Google and take notes on a small device that I could carry with me all the time?  All the functions of the internet are there, at my disposal.  Looking up definitions, calculating the velocity of a falling object, and knowing what noises a penguin makes– everything would be available to me at the touch of a screen.  More than that, I would be able to do necessary activities without losing writing time.  By using another device to check my email, chat with friends, and update word counts, I would spend less of my computer time doing mundane tasks and more of it writing.  After all, I only have so much time in which I can use the family computer. (more…)

I Am Heartily Ashamed Of Myself

Do you think this blog is helpful?

I do, under a certain set of conditions.  It helps me a lot.  You have no idea what you never knew until you write a thousand words about it.  If it helps others in the process, excellent.  However, its true purpose is to help me.

And does it?  I think it does, under a certain set of conditions.  Unfortunately, the more frequent advice comes through this blog, the less often those conditions are met.

What are those conditions?  That I write.

None of this helps anyone if I don’t write.  I could write ten thousand words a day about character development, plot twists, and story structure, but if I don’t write, it all goes to waste.  But wait… I’m writing ten thousand words a day.

I meant writing fiction.  Story structure and character development don’t help essays. (more…)

Kmalmor the Great and Mighty Dark Enchantress

Katniss.  Kira.  Karou.  The Hunger Games, Partials, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  What do they have in common?

For one thing, they’re some of the strongest heroines I’ve ever encountered in YA fantasy.  Katniss spearheaded a rebellion as the girl on fire.  Kira researched a virus that has killed off most of humanity and then set out to find the cure, almost on her own.  Karou… eh, she just fell in love, but she did it with style.

Then look at the names.  They all begin with K.

For some reason, names beginning with K give a sense of the same independence and strength that pervades the personality of each character I mentioned.  Or perhaps the characters lend their strength and independence to the name, and it’s just a coincidence.

Whichever is true, it seems to be popular.  Strong heroines have K names.  Maybe because the letter is spiky. (more…)

Questions

I have a few questions floating around my head.  Before they decide to start a family inside my head, I’d like to let them out.  Answer as many as you can– most will be opinions.

Firstly, a question about a technique in starting stories: “Bullets flew past my head… but how did I get here?”  Personally, I don’t like this technique because it provides an all-too-convenient bed for an infodump.  Who in their right mind soliloquizes about the events of the past week when they’re running from the villain’s Legions of Terror?  However, when the true beginning to your story is too large for a prologue, can’t become a first chapter, and won’t be left out, you need to stick it in somewhere.  If the next chapter is the ideal size for a snappy beginning, it seems perfect to switch the two, presenting the first part in a series of flashbacks and remembrances.  It must be carefully done, however, to keep from infodumping.  So, my first question: what are your thoughts on this technique?

Secondly, a slightly moral question: is it considered cannibalistic to eat a creature with the same cognitive development as yourself?  Those who eat their own kind are cannibals, but what about other creatures with the same brain power?  Let’s say cows suddenly gain human-style brains.  Cows begin building their own civilization and consorting with humans.  Would it be considered morally wrong to eat hamburgers, then?  Similarly, if aliens landed and said, hi, our planet blew up, can we move in with you?  What if someone realized that these aliens taste really good?  Would it be wrong to eat alien a la king?

And lastly, what have I got in my pocket?

Smile

Today I played in a four hundred-strong youth orchestra that could barely keep the tempo and key through each piece.  I’ve played in the same orchestra, with the same conductors (a different one for each piece), with the same pieces, for three years now.  This massive orchestra played its music in the middle of a shopping mall, surrounded by a crowd of parents mixed with people who only wanted to get to the food court.  The acoustics were horrible, the players varied from amazing to mediocre, the ages varied from eighteen to eight, and it wasn’t an astounding performance by any stretch of the imagination.  These pieces were so familiar to me, I played half of them by memory.

I had so much fun.

There are things in life that aren’t fun.  There are things in life that are boring.  There are things in life that deserve to fall from the roof and spend the next three months in a coma, dreaming about purple canaries.  But all of that can change, without ordering today– just call the number on your screen! (more…)

Once… Twice… Thrice!

First of all, I wanted to call this post The Power of Three, but that sounds cliched, useless, and rather like I’m writing an Avengers fanfiction with only three people on the team– The Revengers Reassemble.

Bad post titles aside, however, this post is just to share a link I thought very interesting: Rule of three (writing) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Skim through that.  It’s quite an interesting idea– that things in three are inherently funnier and more satisfying than other things.  Take, for instance, the comedic triplet I used in the first paragraph to describe my failed blog post title.  For some reason, things in threes work.  No idea why.

Anyway, I don’t have anything to add to that article.  Enjoy.

BONUS PORTION:

There was recently posted on a friendly blog a list of tips from the author Heather Vogel Frederick.  You can find that at the link blow:

Guest Post: Heather Vogel Frederick.

That was really helpful.  I can’t say I really like the author, though long ago I read some of the author’s works and enjoyed them fairly well.  I don’t remember much, but I do know that the storytelling was vivid and the characters seemed real– that was enough to make me pay real attention to this list.  I encourage you to do the same, if you’re interested in writing.

AND THAT IS ALL.