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Character Development 101: Homework Assignment #42

Welcome back, students! Based on Tuesday’s lecture, you have an assignment related to what we learned about character development: develop your characters in a social setting. I see you groaning back there, Jeremy! Just for that, I give you a D-! I’d give you an F, but that would only mean having to see you again next semester!

Alright, I’ll cut the schtick. Basically, today’s prompt is to write a short story about your characters sitting down to a meal. It can be anywhere, eating any cuisine–if you make them sit down to eat shawarma, you get extra credit (okay I know I said I would stop but that’s the last one, I swear). Just imagine what they would order, what the conversation would be like, who would argue over the check, who would be the one to make all of the food from scratch, who would simply order takeout. The world is Oysters Rockefeller!

Class dismissed! (Dammit). Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Character Development 101

Hola, my word-guzzling knowledge seekers! I’ve been thinking a lot about character development lately because my finals involve writing a pitch for an original TV show and presenting it to my peers. Yes I go to college, believe me.

What I discovered through this experience was that my character development skills are alright when looking at one character, but I neglected to explain how my characters would interact with one another. It’s not that I forgot that this was important, I just assumed that once my characters were fully fleshed individually then their social skills would develop and they would just magically have quirky relationships with one another. Well that’s not how it works in the real world, so why would it work in a reflection of it? Everyone, including you (unless you were raised by rocks), is in the presence of another being or multiple beings when they’re at the critical stages of development—namely ages 0 through 5. So it should follow that during the critical stages of character development, your character should grow along with his/her companions, family, mentors, what have you.

When I started to think of how my characters would interact with one another, more personality traits started coming to me. For example, one of my characters, DJ, became an incorrigible flirt (with little luck in that department, but he tries nonetheless). A love triangle started to develop between DJ, the little punk who calls himself DJ’s rival named Coulton, and Jett, the serious and seriously beautiful badass—well, it’s pretty one-sided since Jett has a crush on DJ’s older brother, Miles. I guess that’s more of a love rectangle. Quadrangle? Whatever you call it. As a result, I had the idea that while outwardly she rolls her eyes at their feud, inwardly she likes that she has boys who are interested in her since throughout her life she’s intimidated every other male in her life. This is just one example of how my characters began to become more interesting when they developed together as opposed to individually.

So take it from me, readers. Let your characters grow together. Let them eat together, fight together, play games together, maybe even sleep together. Unless your main character was raised by rocks and is meant to be socially awkward. I would read a story like that too.

Until next time, readers! I hope you’re as ready for turkey as I am!

November 11, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: 11 days in!

Remember, you can’t actually fail until Dec. 1st, 2015. You still have time! Even if you only hit 40k words, that’s 40k closer than you were on Nov. 1st. Do your best, keep going! :)

Mystery is Where You Find it

The riot of color outside tells me that fall has arrived in the Midwest. I’ve lived here most of my life but traveled pretty much all over the country. During those travels, I hear the jokes about “flyover” country, and I have to listen about godawful trips through some boring, flat stretch of road. People would scoff at the idea that the Midwest has any sort of mystery, creepiness or “thin” places, where the line between this world and the next are very thin.

To be fair, I once thought like they did. I thought you had to visit Ireland, England or places overseas to find those mysterious places. I missed the fact that in my own backyard, strange and beautiful places abound.

Stephen King challenged me on my geographic blind spot, as he used the landscape of his native Maine to tell stories of mind-numbing terror, gorgeous beauty, and skin prickling mystery. He challenged me to find the mystery around me, instead of looking to exotic landscapes.

True, parts of the Midwest are nothing but flat cornfields. Two hundred years of logging, farming and mining have made the land barren and boring. But, it wasn’t always so. Before the settlers came, the Midwest was a vast, unbroken forest full of shadows, mysterious events and strange mounds that rose about the trees.

These mounds, especially the ones in Ohio, give the Midwest its mystery. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend you visit the ancient, 2000 year old mounds in Ohio, such as Newark earthworks, which is one of the largest earthen observatories in the world. Yes, you heard that right, 2000 years old. Or, visit Serpent Mound, full of mysterious energy and a possible gateway, so the ancients believed, to other worlds.


Serpent Mound, Ohio

See? Mystery is where you find it. It could be in that old museum in your hometown that you never visit. Or, the state park that contains remains from an ancient civilization that no one quite understands. Or, mysterious river towns that no one visits and the inhabitants don’t talk to strangers.

In reality, there is nothing boring about our world. It crackles with mystery, strangeness and unexplained events. The problem is us, and our perception of the nature of reality. We think that science has solved every problem and answered every question. Any good scientist will tell you the opposite: Science is just the discovery of more questions and deeper mysteries. And, many of them are right next door to us.

This Halloween, I challenge you to go and find the thin places. Find the mystery in your own town or ask an older person to tell you some of the town legends. Americans still believe, for some reason, that our land had no history before the Europeans got here. Yet, native peoples have been here for thousands of years. They have legends about the land that we could never dream up or understand. So, if you can, find a native person in your area, and ask them to tell you the stories of their people, about the land you both share.

What you find will surprise you. And scare you. But hey, it’s Halloween. Samhain. All Soul’s Eve…when the veil is the thinnest.

Writing Prompt

Write a story from the point of view of something we view as non-sentient. Make our actions as humans meaningless or non-important to the object. Create a culture for these objects that we are completely unaware of.

Here is a short example:

Phase transitions of water (solid, liquid, gas) could be a life cycle. Freezing could be a death, liquid could be life, steam could be spirituality.

The same could be done for things like stars, dirt, light, or music.

Original vs. Derivative

Whenever I try to come up with a story I am always worried that someone has already done it before. That is usually why I don’t finish writing a story. As it develops, I come to realize that my story is something right out of TV Tropes.

I have been thinking lately on being the first to do something. What facet of writing is easiest to be original and which is the most difficult? Here are my thoughts on a few:

  •  Characters: I think that coming up with original characters is the hardest to do. Character archetypes can be repeated across multiple genres. I think that coming up with an original type of protagonist, antagonist or supporting character would be the most difficult.
  • Plot: Coming up with an original plot, with some new twists that haven’t been done before seems possible. I believe that most creativity in plot is just a subset of seven repeated stories (Christopher Bookers, The Seven Basic Plots.)
  • Setting: I think creating an original setting is the easiest. A character or plot may be used over and over again with some common variations. Sometimes the plot or actions of a character can be guessed because they are cliché; however, I very rarely find myself thinking that a new story occurs in the same world as another.

Author K.M Weiland’s Post on Why NaNoWriMo Matters

Piggybacking on Quantum Fairy’s post a couple of weeks ago about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for you noobs), I wanted to share a post written by the always brilliant K.M. Weiland about how participating in NaNoWriMo can make you a better writer all year long. She breaks it down to seven skills that can be developed by participating:

1. Learning Healthy Preparation Skills

2. Prioritizing Your Writing

3. Getting Into the Habit of Daily Writing Sessions

4. Maximizing Word-Count Goals

5. Turning Off Your Inner Critic

6. Connecting With Other Writers

7. Finishing Books

She goes into fantastic detail about each of the points, so go read the whole post here. Seriously, even if you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo, the skills she talks about are ones that every writer should work to develop.

Anyone out there getting ready for NaNoWriMo? What are you doing to prepare this month?

Childhood Reinvented

Hello once again, readers! I think you’re going to like this prompt—I know I do! So sticking with the theme of cartoons, I thought it would be interesting to take a cartoon from childhood and reinvent it for the children of this generation. Pick a TV show that you absolutely loved as a child and watch a few episodes to get reacquainted with it (this step is optional, but the most fun in my opinion).

Think about answers to the following questions:

  • What would the characters look like now?
  • Where would they live? In the same place or somewhere more relevant to today?
  • What lessons would each episode teach (if they were originally intended to do so)?
  • How would political/social views of today be present in this revamp?
  • Who would you ship with who? (Okay, maybe that one is just for wish fulfillment purposes)

So go! Reinvent something that you connected with in your childhood and imagine how children today would connect with it. Never doubt the integrity of cartoons!


Until next time, readers. Adieu!

Cartoons: A Gateway to a More Progressive World?

I know what you’re thinking: “Geez, does this girl do nothing but watch cartoons all day?” First of all, shut up. Second, now that school has started up I haven’t had a lot of time to watch cartoons… as much. I am studying animation, so let’s just agree to call it research. It seems like a lot of people my age are doing the same research. Call us an immature generation, but I like to think that cartoons have simply gotten more sophisticated.

What I’ve learned from analyzing modern day cartoons is very inspiring: they’re teaching children to be more accepting of other genders and sexualities. I know this sounds like a stretch, but there is one particular show that without a doubt portrays romantic relationships between same-sex characters. Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, is a story about a boy named Steven who has to defend the world from evil along with the help of his three badass teammates, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. These three are portrayed as humanoid, but really their bodies are projections coming from their gems, the sources of their power. It is unclear as to whether or not they identify as female, but we assume that they are because of their obviously female appearance. In fact, all of the gems that have been introduced to the show thus far have been female. Let me just add that point to the progressive list: Steven is surrounded by incredibly powerful women. Feminism for the win!pp-1 Next, there are some strong indications of the existence of homosexual relationships within the show. Actually, scratch that. There absolutely are without a shadow of a doubPP-2t homosexual relationships in the show. It is heavily implied that Pearl suffers from unrequited love for Steven’s deceased mother. In addition, two characters, Sapphire and Ruby (in the image on the right), are very much in a romantic relationship. Two girls. In love. Has this ever been done so blatantly in a children’s show before? No and it is abso-frickin-lutely adorable. Think about the millions of youths who get to see such a positive display of homosexual relationships? Not only that, but some heart-wrenchingly sad displays as well! It teaches them that homosexual relationships have their ups and downs just like heterosexual ones. It teaches them to be more accepting of what used to be thought of as unacceptable. More importantly though, it comforts those who are struggling with who they are and who they love. I think it is extremely important for a show like this to be on the air during such a crucial era of change. Though some countries are a little less accepting than others….PP-Censorship

So readers, I encourage you to give this one a try. And for the sake of the future, make your kids watch it if they aren’t already! It is beautiful both visually and emotionally. Plus, it has one hell of a soundtrack! I listen to it when I go to the gym. I am not ashamed. Be forewarned: you will fall in love with the characters instantly. Steven is a cutie patootie.

Thanks for reading! See you all again on Thursday for another exciting prompt.

Comics Writer Gail Simone on the Bare Necessities of Writing

I read a lot of comics. I read a lot of web comics. There are some web comics that have the potential to be truly truly brilliant (and there are others that are truly brilliant). But something I see so very often is web comics that make huge jumps in story — sometimes this manifests and failing to introduce a character, indicating a change of scene, or outright hopping over to a different story arc. Some of those comics have fans that still seem to follow what’s going on — and I think these are the ones that rely on message board/comment discussion for moving the story. But you know what? That’s bad writing. I shouldn’t need to know external matter to understand your 3 daily/weekly/whatever panels.

You need to learn how to do your storytelling, comic writers.

And you know what? (more…)

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