Tag Archives: Writing

Humbled

So I’m sitting here, writing, in my angry place. About suicide, the state of the nation, all these deep poems. Trying to decide which terrible thing to post. 

Then I get a group text from my sister. It’s a gibberish link.

She does not stay up late at night. She does not use ellipses, ordinarily. And she does not send links. She’s not really techy at all. She doesn’t even open the links we send to her!

Spam spam spam spam spam.

I tell her she’s not being herself, and to change her password. My sister didn’t respond. Everyone in the thread considers themselves lucky not to have clicked it (except the one person who did and it didn’t load).

The preview said “dogapillar in my back yard.”

The group is disappointed that we can’t click on this enticing link. We try to find adequate replacements in GIFs. No dogapillars, unfortunately. Caterpillars, cat caterpillars, and old men with caterpillar mustaches. Images abound. Nothing can fill the need. We didn’t know we had this need until we weren’t allowed to see it.

Then she messages again and says that she really did send it. This was it: 

Dogerpillar-in-the-backyard8230-428cf1

 

So was sparked much discussion on what the appropriate time and syntax is for sending pictures of dogapillars. Should there be a code word to accompany it so we know it’s a legit dogapillar photo? More related GIFs and photos were exchanged.

At long last, the discussion was concluded, and bedtime announced. 

I got back to my poetry rant. It looked so self-important and… small. I can’t post this shit. I have a hard enough time taking myself seriously as it is. Nothing compares to long, ridiculous dogapillar-centric conversations. I have been fully outmatched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

On Chopin

 

What does it take
To write like Chopin
Seamlessly blending two voices
One steady, one light but sad
Complement, overlay one another
Right and left hands
High and low
Yin and yang
Together expressing
The integral beauty, and tragedy, and beauty in tragedy
Joy and laughter that it is to be human
It pains it pleases it pauses
It hits highs
It goes lows
Together, but separately highlighting each other

Negative space                 Emphasises

One voice holds, the other can be heard
Once the other is heard it becomes negative space
For as long as it repeats the same theme

Negative space
Deep breath

All of the pathos
None of the drama.

Feel it hard
Say it light.

Gently
Makes for delicate work

Patience

Then it builds, builds,
To a crescendo
Like everything in life
It will die
But it makes a valiant last effort to survive.
Everything dies.
Even the beautiful.
Especially the beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Journal: on writing characters

This is pretty random. Just thinking aloud.


People are made up of opposites.

A good character, you get to be able to predict their reaction (Ed stands up for himself against anybody, no matter how imposing. He shouts at cops, throws punches at huge bouncers). Then you figure out what their opposite character trait is (Ed cannot say no to little kids. They trample him daily. He spends all his pocket money buying them ice cream).

Here’s another thing to consider: Ed is in danger of being a stereotype. Which one? The Gentle Giant. You know that one. Or if he’s smally built, he’s the juvenile delinquent who talks tough but has a soft heart. Yeah yeah. We all know those guys.

So let’s throw some wrenches in the works. Yes, Ed is brave and scrappy. Yes, Ed loves kids. Ed is also SUPER NERDY. Tiny asthmatic with an inhaler. Angry little asthmatic. An angry little asthmatic who loves death metal and babies. He gets so angry when people mistreat him it’ll spur an asthma attack, and after the fight he’ll gnaw his inhaler. The plastic end is gnawed to hell. It looks like rats got ahold of it. This is not a stereotype. It’s way too weird. And that’s what makes Ed interesting.

You can spend the rest of your spare time trying to explain why he is the way he is, giving him a backstory. Maybe he was bullied. Maybe he is the oldest of ten siblings. I don’t know.

Let’s try making another character.

Gina is a hippie. She enjoys gardening. She never mows her lawn, it’s full of tall weeds and wildflowers and snakes. She calls it wildlife habitat. Her HOA hates her and she’s always having to defend herself. She is severely freckled and never wears makeup.

Gina is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She could take anybody down. But she’s never been in a fight.

Gina is also a tech whiz. She is fluent in several computer languages and spends her workday creating webpages.

Gina has three disparate fields in her life. None of them seem to hang naturally together. But they do. I heavily based Gina’s character on a real person. (Yes, you can do that too. It’s called cheating. Just kidding.)

These hobbies are all opposites, so she’s already way out of danger of being a stereotype or cliche. But it’s not enough. What can we do with this character?

Gina needs some kind of inner conflict. We need to know about her insides.

Let’s say… she has very poor health and high anxiety. She needs her garden as a happy place but the HOA fights are giving her a stress ulcer. She needs her job for the insurance but the job makes her want to go postal. She needs her Tae Kwon Do to make her feel strong and confident, but her body is always giving out on her.

Now she’s finally getting interesting. I’ve inserted conflict into all areas of her life. Poor kid. Being one of my characters isn’t easy.

Now she needs some kind of a crisis to pull her into a character arc.

Every character has to go through an arc. They can win, or lose, learn something, or even learn nothing. But they have to face something, and near a breaking point.

There are plots which are wholly driven by character arcs. The story can be as big (e.g. dealing with the death of a loved one) or as little (e.g. worrying about the bee in the back yard) as you please. As long or short as you please. Ain’t writing grand? As Bob Ross would say, this is your world.

As an example of a character driven story, let’s try writing the small story, the bee story:

 

Gina sat in the chair on her porch, watching the bees pollinate the wildflowers in her overgrown lawn. She kept it tall just for them.

One of the bees appeared to be a little slower, a little heavier than the others. It landed near her, and she noticed its wing was deformed. It sat still in the sun, resting quietly.

What a sad thing. How did anything make it to adulthood in the wild with such a disadvantage?

It’s a social insect after all. Social creatures can afford to rely on their fellows to share the burden.

Gina shifted uncomfortably in her chair to take the weight off of her bad hip. Tae Kwon Do was getting harder these days. Where was her social support network? She considered, once again, quitting work. She could get by on disability.

The bee twitched, buzzed, and took off with visible effort, buzzing back into overgrowth. It landed on a purple nettle and explored the pockets for pollen.

Then again… even the bee was working.

If the bee could make it, she could. It was only four more years to retirement. Until then, she would have to content herself with only weekends in the garden. In four years, she could spend all her time here.

 

I don’t know, that was just a draft. But you see how pretty much nothing happened? She stared at a bee. But in her head, she made a decision about her life, and chose her pride over her health. That was her character arc.

It’s entirely possible to have a plot driven story instead. This is the kind of story where stuff happens. But it might be a bit hollow if unaccompanied by a character arc. Let’s try writing a story with no character arc.

 

Gina sat on her porch drinking tea when a van pulled up. She knew this neighbor. It was an HOA representative.

“Miss,” the man said, all beer belly and suspenders. “We’re gonna have to ask you to cut your lawn. It’s overgrown by two feet!”

Gina sipped her tea. “This lawn is a miniature nature reserve. I will not cut it.”

He grabbed his suspenders and stuck his belly out. “It’s attracting snakes and vermin!”

Her tone even, she replied, “It’s attracting endangered bees, harmless garter snakes, and monarch butterflies. It’s providing a place for native prairie plants to flourish.”

The man hiked up his pants before forming his next argument. He was turning pink with frustration. “It’s against the homeowners association code!”

Gina leaned back in her rocking chair and met the man’s eye. “If you examine the bylaws from when I moved in, there was no lawn restriction. I never signed any documentation agreeing to conform to this.”

The man huffed extravagantly and waddled back to his van, outraged but out of arguments. For now. He pulled into her driveway to turn around, squishing one corner of her grass to do it. She was sure he did it on purpose.

Gina sipped her tea. What a silly goatee. He would have looked better with a full beard.

 

Okay, so that was hard. I had to make the universe arc around her. It kind of killed me not to make her react, get angry, even smile. A smile would have denoted smugness, victory. I had to get rid of all those character flaws we just painstakingly created. It might actually be harder to not have a character arc than I’d thought.

Anyway, this story, in the end, seemed like either a bad joke (everything Gina likes is hairy) or some kind of weird morality tale (environmentalists are heroes and always right and if you’re a good person don’t cut your lawn ever).

(Side thought: fairy tales, folk tales, parables, and morality tales rarely have character arcs. These have very consistent characters, which each act in accordance to their established rules. It’s more like they’re outlining the outcome of having a specific character trait than they are telling a story.)

Now if we can blend a character arc with a plot arc, well, then you’ve got something. You go do it yourself though. Feel free to use my characters (share if you do!).

I’ve learned lots. I’m going to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Anime/Manga style drawing

 

Anime/manga style art is the way it is for many reasons. Here are the things I like and want to emulate:

  • Cartoon styles can be exaggerated, meaning they can be more lively and expressive than realistic styles, which can look static by comparison.
  • It’s simple, attractive, and easy to draw, which helps when you’re going to draw an entire book of manga on a deadline.
  • The pacing and plot lines. They’re beautifully flowing, interconnected  hill climbs, with periodic bursts and falls. They line up perfectly with my EKG. Long-running TV shows also do this well: They’ll have a mini arc within the time between a commercial break, a larger arc in the 30-minute episode, and an even larger arc encompassing the whole season. This makes me happy in a very deep way.  I got distracted didn’t I. What was I talking about? Anime art?

What I don’t like:

  • I’m not good with faces, and I have trouble telling characters apart sometimes if the artist doesn’t do a great job with character design, because all of their faces are the same.
  • It has a standardized visual language to communicate standard emotions or character types. This is cute and very effective, but leaves little room for complex emotions or characters. The best manga writers use these only rarely.

Learning to draw digitally, I was getting pretty frustrated (as my sharpest regular readers no doubt picked up on, haha). I thought, dammit, I CAN DRAW. And I figured I’d do an anime style as a morale booster. It wasn’t as easy as I expected, but it was certainly easier than everything I was attempting. Morale was boosted. I realized I was trying to develop my own style while also trying to learn new software. No wonder I was frustrated.

 

animehug.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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