Monday, December 30, 2013

The Philosophy of Writing: The Autonomous Character

Last week I began a new series dealing with the philosophy of writing. The first step was considering the motivation for ourselves writing a story. We analyzed the structure of a story as being a tool used by people to advocate a particular view of the world. It is important to know and understand why we tell our stories. Ultimately, our goal is to extricate ourselves from our stories as much as possible, starting with the plot and followed by the characters.

Who a character is, what their motivation is, what they believe, these questions illustrate the fundamental hurdle all amateur story-tellers must overcome. When writers start out, they often craft their characters as stand-ins informed by their own personal experiences. Myself, for instance, wrote two stories when I was very young. One story featured characters from existing narratives. The other was wholly original, but drew heavily on my own personality. Each character was a construction of my desires and what I truly wanted at that particular period of my life. It is natural to write like this when starting out. Fan-fiction, that reprehensible art form, derives from these fledgling experiences. And while such beginnings are safe and welcoming for the novice writer, to stay at this place is a horrible thing.

So, where do we go then, now that we understand our first instinct when writing characters?

We know characters are good when they are original, when they act autonomously, or do things that we don't suspect. In essence, a good character is self-contained. How much of this is formula, and how much of this is art, is not necessarily the question. Where we must start is understand what a character is. Characters are people when it comes down to it. A person has emotions and feelings, so does a character. A person has motivations and aspirations, so does a character. A good character emulates a raw person, one that is wholly different from what we want. Christian writing is often party to shoddy and cliched characters, particularly because the authors are creating characters to fit a particular mold or expectation of the publisher or potential buyer. But is this really an okay thing to do? I would hope that Christian stories, which fundamentally deal with people who have real problems and concerns, cultivate worlds conducive to our own. Our world can tend to be a dirty and rotten place. So why are we making characters that don't mirror the conceptual environments that they supposedly emerge from?

One tip that I have found helpful, at least, for creating an original character I will share before we exeunt is a rule that I recently developed for the final draft of my book. If you take the voice of a celebrity, or film actor, and imagine your character speaking in that particular voice, it helps to distinguish the personalities of the characters operating in the scene. This is not the same as writing "fan-fiction" at all, because the emphasis here is not copying what the celebrity does, or what they are. Here we are taking a distinct voice and supplying that voice with words. The voice of a gruff and disturbed fellow would not be conducive to a comely woman, etc.

In the next week I want you all to consider taking up an assignment. Write two character outlines and pick a hobby that you do not relate to whatsoever. Integrate these characters into their respective hobbies and have their motivations and desires align with their pursuits. This will train you to get outside yourself, and let your character act autonomously. Also, you might learn something interesting. Go for it!



SW

Friday, December 27, 2013

Swag, And Then Some

It's odd closing down a year and coming in to a new one. I always feel that twinge of regret, the knowledge that another year has passed. This feeling of morbidity, offset by the bountiful harvests of swag and transient distractions from the cold gripping hand of death, can be a confusing one. Actually, this year I got my hands on Neil Gaiman's new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Very excited!

Anyways, As far as updates go, there are none. My novel is currently being slaved over by my wife, who steadfastly soldiers onward. This edit is meant to cull the few remaining inconsistencies from my book. My projections are hopeful that once this step has been taken, there will no longer be any glaring faults associated with the project. This is for the best. Also, I've recently purchased the first of several books that I will need for research concerning my Sandman books that I am writing for Sequart Research and Literacy Organization. I'm starting my work on the parts that deal with Christianity first. Do what one knows best, hmm? Afterwards, I've gotten some textbooks dealing with animism and orientalism that I need to go through.

So I guess there are a lot of things that are new...

One more thing! Archaia has received my application to their internship program. The actual thought of me going up to Los Angeles to do an internship wouldn't sound nearly as cliche if the prospects of me doing so weren't so threatening. One must quit jobs, couch surf at friend's houses, reapply to old jobs if prospects are emptier than hoped, etc. Anyways, your thoughts and prayers are welcomed, nay, encouraged!

My artist continues to procrastinate ala "being with family" on the cover illustration for my upcoming book. When he gives me the proofs, goddamn me if I won't share them around for the whole world to see, including you, reader.

Life goes on and the battle rages, but aren't you glad you aren't me? Kidding. Just stay tuned. Things are a'foot!


SW

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Philosophy of Writing: Why Do We Write?

Were I to ask you the question, "why do we write?" what do you think you would say?

This is, I admit, a rather broad question. There are, conceivably, tens of thousands of proper answers. I contend that the reason why we write is to tell a story. You'll find that this reason, above all others, touches on our basic yearnings and needs as people.

A story is the most fundamental, self-contained unit of text. It has a beginning, middle, and end, a hero and an obstacle. After overcoming the obstacle the story finds resolution. Any of these tales can be of any length, from a sentence to several thousand pages. It is through these narrative units that we tell stories.

A "story" philosophically conveys a deeper truth when told. This is because, at the heart of every story, is a worldview (a fundamental belief about the world, or about how we see the world).  Stories are told to change people's minds. The story of Jack and the Bean Stalk, is about a boy who, out of desperation, steals from and kills a giant to survive and fed his mother. Fundamentally the story advocates the principal of "might makes right," and becomes a tale about a child exploiting the stupidity of another for gain. It also can be about the fight for survival that many experienced during England's medieval history, in which the peasantry went to great lengths to keep their land and liberty, even to the point of revolt. So when this story is told, we are being fed an idealized situation and confrontation that reflects a fundamental truth about the world. Another example of this is the Judeo-Christian YHWH, and his pursuit of mankind through history. His story of redeeming mankind reveals the fundamental truth of our need to be saved, simply because the story emphasizes our poor states and suggests that YHWH must do something about it.

So, after all of this, we must introspectively ask ourselves, "Why do we tell our stories?" Is there a purpose or reason behind what we write? That is what we need to know. Without such knowledge we are depriving ourselves of the incredible worth of telling our stories with intention. This is different than being "preachy," mind you. Being preachy is underhandedly inserting our own beliefs into a story as a means to influence others to our side. Telling stories with intention involves laying out principals initially for your characters to run with and follow throughout the narrative. A character can be a "struggling christian" without being a complete asshole, or stereotype. Likewise, a character can be an outspoken atheist without being haughty, prideful, and incendiary. Establish what your characters believe. Attempt to understand why, and discover the significance of that.

So then, the message of today, where we start, is to tell our stories intentionally, understanding that behind every story is a greater narrative being told implicitly. Chew on that a bit, and I will continue next week.



SW 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Bonuses and Project Updates

Is it Friday already?

This is the first year since I've been out of college that I've not had to set foot in a mall unwillingly. My predilection to enjoy this juletid derives solely from my inclinations towards Christianity, everything else can be wrapped up into a festive ball of refuse and burned. Relationships are strained, as family relatives paw at you like peckish wolves. The world goes mad briefly, championing willful statements like "the reason of the season" to justify acts of horror and injustice. Sadly, their crusades yield only emptiness and cheap victories.  

I recently got a holiday bonus, or as I refer to it, "revolt insurance," from my day-job employer. The holiday bonus reflects a wonderful time of year when employers give their shiftless employees a little extra pocket change. I imagine the gesture is apart of some larger scheme, one bent on satiating the secret societies and G-Men that watch over us from their secret televisions. It must be to their amusement then as they watch employees open their prizes to find that Uncle Sam has taxed the living shit out of it. Result: my $500 bonus is reduced to $280 in one fell swoop. Treason! Madness! Villainy! Perhaps it is pure irony then that I am a socialist. Honest to goodness, I wouldn't mind such egregious taxation, were the government actually to give me something valuable in return. Do we still have libraries?

The year of our lord, two-thousand and fourteen, will be my proving grounds, the Waterloo of my ambitions and fortunes. I've got so much going on. Sequart has commissioned me (with encouragement) to write a book for them. Not only that, but my long awaited novel will finally see the light of day on Amazon Kindle. Between the success of these two projects I will also be hopefully publishing the first couple of pages of my online graphic novel with my cohort Phil.

So much can go wrong can't it?

How do I keep sane, you ask? Baby steps, friends. "Rome wasn't built in a day." No, but, it was built on the misery and conquest of millions. Now, I must conquest the hearts of readers, one sentence at a time.


SW

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 19

Construct projections! It made so much sense to Laufey once he approached the guard inspecting the long dead soldier and his jaunty movements. Anke watched him as he observed the agent, looking the image over, mesmerized by it's resolution and rendering. He would never of expected the subterfuge had he not gotten close. Only now could he see how dated the technology was. Turning back to them all, he looked between them, wondering what he should do next. As his eyes scanned each of them, they fell to Geira.

"You," he pointed. "Crack this image and disable it."

"Ragna," he added, "go and find out where on the map we go in." Reaching into his pocket, he extracted the construct map and tossed the rugged vintage cylinder to his sister.

"There still might be a trap," he grumbled, crouching down and looking over the edge of the compound.

At his feet in the sand, he dug around until he found a small stone. When he found one he hurled it towards the building to see what happened. Harmlessly the rock clanged against the exterior of the building. As he did this Ragna had opened up the map, isolating the front entry way. Kaupi and Keli followed Kaun onto the sandy dunes, crawling on their hands and feet covertly. So routine, so mundane, Laufey thought. It had been too easy.

"This doesn't feel right," he murmured, keeping his eyes on the triplets as they edged closer.

"Very observant," Geira said, and she busily worked on her virtual construct station. "I thought the same thing before we got into this whole mess."

Laufey could not help but express his disdain.

"Why would some creature kidnap Amma," Laufey speculated, "when all of this was just simple tricks?"

"Maybe daemons are as stupid as we are," Geira murmured under her breath. Laufey sighed in exasperation and looked back at the triplets once more.

A small brown rabbit hopped along them, hidden on the other side of the dune. The children didn't seem to notice, only Laufey. He squinted, trying to follow the creature, hoping to see where it went. As it veered off to the left, towards the compound he stood up and held his breath. Kaupi let out a loud cry of laughter, causing the rabbit to dart towards the facility, when a large beam of energy exploded from the door. The boys shrieked, rolling away from the building, and when the dust settled there was no more rabbit, nothing at all.

Ragna and Geira froze, huddled around Anke, who all the while was looking over Geira's shoulder until the blast errupted. Laufey grew tense, anxious.

"Alright, Geira. Let's see what you have, shall we?" Laufey said, whispering. Geira blinked then, as if coming back to reality, began to frown. She expanded her construct window once more and looked over the edge of the projection, pressing a final key. The projection faded, the charade was over.

"So," Anke began, quaking with anger, "you got me to come along on this crusade... I'm not one to hold a grudge or think less of you either."

He paused, glancing a moment at Laufey.

"So why is there a battle bot, at the front?"

Laufey craned his neck, to observe the machine. It was an old one, still watchful and on guard after centuries. All the projections now vanished, Laufey could see that their prize laid on the other side of the main blast doors at the front of the desecrated compound. The silver exterior had faded to an orange hue. The scent of oxidation became all the more apparent.

"So there's a battle bot," Laufey replied. What of it?"

"Well, Sigmundur's boys were nearly killed." Anke retorted harshly, his voice a shrill whisper. "What do we do now?"

Laufey had anticipated this, though what was to come he dreaded. Glancing at Ragna, he pulled out his construct wand and cycled it on.

"What we talked about," he began in a slow calm voice. "Are you ready?"

Ragna bit her lip, her attention returning to the battle bot, which shuffled stiffly on it's iron haunches. Grabbing her own construct wand, a large sword and shield materialized around her.

"Yup, let's get this over with."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Building Characters: Where we have gone, Where we can Go!

I thought it prudent to have today be a bit of a recap on our work in creating characters. It's been great so far (I think), and we've covered a lot of ground. What I do today is actually something not all too uncommon in the book writing business. Reconciling your material, streamlining it, and restructuring it is a necessity. I've been writing this series since the tail end of October. Let's see what we have!


  • Character Foundations: The Silhouette - Every character needs to be distinguishable in an iconic kind of way. This first step begins with constructing a silhouette for your character that will be immediately recognizable.   
  • Character Foundations: Descriptions - This lesson, and the following one, deal specifically with the two approaches I take on describing characters when writing books:  "Show Me" and "Tell Me"
  • Recap! Let's Make a Character! - Four weeks ago I fabricated a character taking our previous lessons and put them to use. The result was Reinaldo, a royal printer from a period setting. 
  • Crafting an Accent Comprehensively - People go overboard sometimes when they make up accents for their characters to have. Here I lay out some principals that can help alleviate the urge to make your character speak unrealistically. 


Take this week to review where we have gone. Next week I will move on from Character Development to a new series on the Philosophy of Writing. I hope to see you there!


Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hobbit - A Lighthearted Review

So I, among the throngs of prepubescent tweens and star trek nerds, assailed the local cinemas to glimpse at the first images of The Hobbit last night. This is why I am late posting, and I am not sorry.

Well, maybe...

Anyways, the film seems to have tapped into a deeper reality of most Hollywood adventure pictures to date. Rather than be confronted with deep philosophical truths, more often than not, our experience at the theaters is more akin to a dairy farm. We are the cows eating our rich nutrient paste from the troughs, wondering all the while if we are partaking in the flesh of out fallen brethren. We are what we eat, but only when we begin to feed on our own bodies do we realize that we have approached a deeper madness.

But, this is okay.

In fact, this is better than okay. It's marvelous! Peter Jackson's films truly have, in the words of Christopher Tolkien, "eviscerated" the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, but we must be okay with this. What we have been given is a conceptual universe on the scope and scale of Star Wars. Concept fantasy versus philosophically driven fantasy is always easier to digest. That is the way of the age, and because Peter Jackson successfully achieves this in all his film none complain. Even the diehards, the drones that sup from the hairy New Zealand teat of Mr. Jackson, are so reprehensibly, philosophically illiterate that they fail to understand what is before them beyond them beyond bastardized folk myths of the Viking Age.

The Hobbit was a well intentioned film, born of love and admiration for the source content. It's a shame that none see past the flashy bits to understand what it really means. Unfortunately, in order to do that, we must be Oxford doctoral candidates.

Go see it, I say. You'll get exactly what you are looking for, no more no less.


SW

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 18

Following the construct map proved neither difficult nor taxing, and in the journey there, Laufey perceived that those who were otherwise obstinate, unwilling to aid him before, were now more generous in doing so, Geira especially. The shadow man, whatever creature he was, or was not, followed them day by day to observe them. Laufey discovered him one morning walking away into the tree line, his head disappearing just as Laufey turned his head towards it after emerging from his tent.

The compound, as it appeared on his map, still stood in Gaun. The building's exterior, though neglected, was intact and as he suspected it to be. Kaun and his brothers, their scouts, were the first to find it, not that finding it was difficult of course. The structure stood on the head of a great delta that flowed into the fjord. Given it's size and presence at the head of the river, he wondered to himself why the building had not attracted the attention of others.

What secrets did it hold?

After the party exited a long, cavernous pass which ran adjacent to the river, it became apparent to Laufey why this was the case. It was populated with people. He looked at the map, then up at the compound, shaking his head.

"No..." he lamented. "This is all wrong. This isn't right." Laufey removed his binoculars from his head and passed them to Geira. Scanning the compound, he heard her grunt something angrily under her breath.

"When we get back," she began in a slow, calm voice, "I am going to find the man who sold you that map, and kill him."

"Get in line," Ragna growled. "What the hell are we supposed to do now? Do people already know what is inside?"

Laufey shrugged.

"I can't answer that," he admitted. "That, right now, doesn't matter. But if Amma is going to live, we are going in there. Grab your gear."

And they did, and soon had found their way nearly to the front, along a large road that had worn away in the past years, large parts of it washed out from past rains. The compound seemed impervious to weather on the other hand, it's foundation built of reinforced masonry and it's walls made of titanium.

Each of them perched themselves up behind a bunker in the sand to peek their heads over the hill. The figures walked routinely, some stopping to chat with one another. Another took out tobacco and rolled up a cigarette, a detail that struck Laufey as odd, for tobacco was hardly common this day an age.

"There's a lot of people up there," Kaun grumbled. "How do we get in?"

"Not a question of how, but where, don't you think?" Keli added.

"Look at their guns..." Kaupi murmured, ignoring their qualms.

"That's the main door," Laufey confirmed, pointing to where three guards stood, pacing the airlock in suspicion. "We have to get in through there."

"And how to we manage that?" Geira said. "Each one of those guards are armed."

"I don't know," Laufey admitted, letting his head fall into his hands. "I'm still trying to figure that out. Jesus..."

"Hey Laufey," he heard behind him.

Turning around, Laufey saw Anke standing next to a soldier, his arm sticking through the man's belly as the energy around it shimmered and distorted. The guard noticed nothing, looking around causally, as if they weren't even there.

"What does this mean?"




Monday, December 9, 2013

Character Mannerisms - How Much Is Too Much?

So, if I created a character that had particular quirks or mannerisms, what would that look like? This is a huge problem when writing anything because the common thing to do is go overboard and do too much mannerism!

In my upcoming book, I had this character on the fringe. He's meant to be an oddball, not really because he's stupid or slow, but because he has lived on his own in seclusion for quite a long time. Experiences like that change people, make them weird, etc. Characters that express odd behaviors should derive these habits for logical reasons.

So mannerisms should start here: beginning with a habitual circumstance or behavior that sheds light on the character.

All mannerisms must express a facet of the character's personality. Captain Jack Sparrow's slow, lackadaisical movements are supposed to typify a drunk pirate, which is the stereotype we are all familiar with. If your character works at a desk, let him fumble with paperclips or lick the tip of his pen. This characterization can be taken further if you like. Mannerisms can also shed light on the internal motivation and drive that the character possesses. The inherent organization of a character's desk highlights his/her fastidiousness. A general who looks at a pocket watch in the heat of battle emphasizes his callousness in the face of inhumane carnage. You get the idea.

Something to consider in all this brings us back to our original problem: how much is too much? One of the distinguishing characteristics between a mature and an immature writer are the presence of tired out mechanisms in the writing, and mannerisms are the chief offender. My rule of thumb is to only have an instance of mannerisms at the beginning of a "beat" or new period of narrative action. If a character is the kind of person to have a short temper, make them swear when opening up a difficult pack of cigarets. Or, if your character is prone to complain, have them whimper occasionally.

Ultimately, mannerisms should be used diplomatically. Make them aspects of a character, not the sum, and you will go far.



SW

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lateral Movement

To my chagrin, I recently got a promotion at my day job. The tantalizing prospects of finally breaking the $15 per hour threshold makes me wary however. Have I traded my dreams for a better paycheck, or will I endure the bi-vocational hell of uncertainty a little while longer? It's not that I can't work. Far from it! It's just not what I'm passionate about. Inventory specialist is not a career field that builds brotherhood with the common man. Rather, I feel it will transform me, align me with darker purposes, until I am like Sméagol turned Gollum, a ghastly wraith in a cave, descending from the shadows to haunt some poor soul that placed a pallet where it ought not be.

You see, the "day job" is a place where we go to die, where we drink the Lethe waters of forgetfulness and pass on into relative obscurity. We should not be proud of it, but abhor it. Seriously! People would graduate from college and just get a job and work for 40 years, then retire. That's not for me. I want to do what I am built to do, and that's tell stories.

These passions are what we battle on a regular basis. It doesn't matter what career we choose. Everyone has that thing they really want to do. "Do it," I say.

The time is coming for me to buy my research materials for my upcoming Sequart book. It's rather surreal to me, to do this now, of all things. I've never written non-fiction. This will be one hell of a starting point, but I'm confident. Thus far my word count on Sequart is in the high 70,000s and rising, that's a 150 page book, and I've been only writing a year for Sequart. I plan to do that, but in 6 months. Let's get to it!

I can do this, right?



SW

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 17

Before Laufey, standing beside saplings still as ice, a dark apparition appeared. That it was a man Laufey could not tell. The creature had the shape of a man, but was severely disfigured, one arm smaller than the other, legs stunted, and head crushed. It swayed in the wind, lonesomely, taking great care to stay in the shadow, but they all saw it's eyes. Each glowed in the darkness, a cool white hot blue.

"What are you? Why are you here," Laufey said, drawing his knife and brandishing it towards the creature.

The old man, breathed deeply, it's lung vibrating richly.

"Mmm, not what," he said, bobbing it's head. "Not what, but who. I mean you harm if you are to harm me young children."

Stepping into the light, Laufey got a clear look at him. He was covered in moss and fur, like a troll from his father's stories.

"What is your business here on my mountain?" His eyes scanned them all, slowly. the girls stepped back, gripping one another tightly, while Anke, and the triplets joining Laufey from behind.

"What did you do to our friend? Where is she?" Laufey demanded.

"She... She is fine. Young and healthy." His voice shook and quivered with such force that Laufey felt the rhythms in his chest. "You are on an adventure, to find the treasure hidden in the glacial pass."

"How did you know that," Laufey said quietly, keeping his fear muzzled."

At this the creature's eyebrows raised slightly in surprise.

"You, your companions... They are very loud. It was bothersome, and informative."

"Give her back!" Geira screamed, lurching forwards in Ragna's arms. "I'll kill you, you whore's whelp!"

The old mannish creature, loosened it's jaws and cracked its neck.

"I won't," it said flatly. "Of this I am certain. The little lamb has too much meat on her." Hearing this, Geira began to shout but was stifled by Ragna.

"We couldn't change your mind then?" Ragna said, her eyes darting between herself and Laufey.

The treasure was a bartering chip, Laufey thought. Ragna was pleading with him for it.

The creature was less perceptive. Slowly it mused and combed through its massive beard with it's fingers.

"Mmm... I require things that you cannot provide, but in the valley of the great ice is a fortune... We mutually seek it, you see. Bring it here... Bring it in two weeks. And she will yet live."

Clenching his fists, Laufey felt helpless, but it was clear to him, his options were strained. Lowering his knife, Laufey looked the creature in then eye and nodded.

"I don't think we have much of a choice." Laufey grumbled.

"No... No, no... Good. Bring what I need. I will find you here."

Then, with a shimmering light blooming around it, the creature vanished. Leaving Laufey standing idly, in shock, filled with indecision.

"What shall I do?" He thought, and looked to the branch that had melted in his hand.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Crafting an Accent Comprehensively

So as our series continues lets recognize where it's all going, that is, the creation of a character. We started off building a character that focused primarily on the writing craft. Writing is an art form foremost, so it needs to be emphasized that to some degree the writer must posses an ability to actually write, weave sentences together, and successfully create a word picture for the reader.

We now continue on to the language end of things, beginning first with accents. Accents are important to a character's presentation, not development . This is important to understand. An accent makes the statement that the character is different is some way. It doesn't reflect where the character has gone in life, most of the time.

When considering a good accent the first step begins at deciding what the accent with state about the character. Should a character be poor? Rich? The accent with decide this. More abstractly, a character's speaking style can reflect their humility, fears, or pride. At this point the skill of the writer's control of language is of primary importance for executing this.

Accents above all must be consistent; they should reflect the character's personality evenly throughout the narrative. The best way to insure that your character always misses his 'H's is to set up a chart or graph of all your characters so that you can keep track of which character speaks which dialect. Another way is studying the regional  dialects of whatever place your character comes from. If the story takes place in a fantasy universe, then much care must be taken when developing accents to insure that the accents reflect socio-economic disparity or class conflicts. Otherwise, if these aren't taken into account, your universe will lack the diversity it otherwise could of had.

Remember: immersion is key. Without it, your universe will be stale!

I want ti elaborate in these points next week with an exercise on dialogue. Stay tuned for more!



SW

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reading a Book for a Friend

In the tumultuous affairs of recent memory I regret my lack of posting of Friday. It was an oversight, forgive me!

How was your Thanksgiving? My was fine, thank you. It's one of those holidays I relish for it's bounty of free, high quality foodstuffs. I am a simple man, and food is simple enough, my Freudian muse.

The following Friday, yesterday, the day that I should have posted this, was occupied by something far more sinister. I offered to read a book for a friend, by my own volition and enthusiasm, because I genuinely wanted to offer feedback to him for the project. The book is entitled Journey to Rainbow Island, and is the product of a trust fund baby with more money than I or you (reader) could ever hope to achieve in our lifetimes. I actually enjoyed the book, but in no way that one finds favorable. My friend, whom I love dearly is the one who actually wrote it, or at least 85-90% of the book. What is funny is that I can tell which sections of the book are his, and what the remaining 10-15% comprised the mad scrawlings of a depraved, egomaniac that bought a production company in Taiwan, allegedly, just to turn this contrived tale into a Harry Potter film Goliath.

My heart goes out to my friend though. Nay, a medal should be minted by the finest jewelers of Tiffany & Co. for his efforts. He was able to take an awful, horrendous, shell concept (likely to have been written on a napkin at Starbucks during a fleeting moment of inspiration) and make it readable! God save the Queen!

Anyways, I read all 383 pages of it. It took me 8 hours. Was is worth it? Anything for a friend, as I always say.

What kills me is that so much of the book was actually good fantasy, or had the glimmering instances of one anyways. I will spare you a plot summary but the book primarily is a platform for New Age Spiritualism, which preaches more than George Whitfield at Cambuslang Scotland. Every book preaches mind you. (Isn't that why we write books?) I've just never read a book that includes an entire end chapter, that has no greater purpose than advocating some hippy, masturbatory fantasy of what Taoism is.

My hat is off to my friend though, who was paid handsomely for his effort. It is proof that even a rich wannabe, with all the money in the world, can't produce good fiction. Fight to good fight brothers. Write on!



SW  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 16

Trembling, Kaun woke his brothers. Kaupi and Keli began to weep as he revealed the news about Amma. Anke was still and quiet, murmuring words best left unspoken. Ragna pulled at her hair and Geira began to panic, becoming filled with fear. But Laufey did nothing. Absolutely nothing. He felt the weight of responsibility crush him, the heft of expectations deflate his ego. He had let Amma disappear, right out from under his nose.

It was his fault.

Geira screamed, "Amma! Amma where are you!" into the woods hut to no avail. Eventually Ragna slipped out of her  stupor and came to her aid. Laufey watched this transpire in his mind. The surreal moment passed by, vaguely apparent that he was related to it. It was like watching someone from behind them, speculating how they perceived the world. Stooping down into the tent he took the switch that was strewn across the ground. Along it's stem were three red berries packed into a tiny cluster near the base.

"This is evil," Kaun whispered nervously.

"What are we going to do?" Geira said her voice feverous and shaky. Ragna came in from behind to calm her.

"Everything is going to be alright, okay?" We will find your sister no problem.

Geira began to whimper. Her eyes turned red and she wept throwing herself into Ragna's arms. Then, she shot a glance at Laufey, filled with anger and indignation.

"This is your fault!" She growled. "You wanted this stupid treasure, and look where it's gotten us!"

Laufey held up his hands in innocence backing away.

"Me?" He said incredulously. "How is this my fault? What did I do?"

"Were here because of you!" She screamed, her voice shriveling at the end into a hoarse cry. She sobbed hard into Ragna's breast, the latter helplessly looking at Laufey, unsure of what to do.

The triplets huddled together as one. Kaun, holding onto his other brothers heaved a heavy sigh.

"Okay," he started," what are we going to do?"

They all looked at him, including Laufey, who felt obligated to answer, though nothing came to mind.

"We need to find her," he began, "she couldn't have wandered off. Maybe she walked off to just go ti the bathroom and got lost." Though plausible, the idea didn't go well with Geira and Ragna, who mutually cast him a look of disdain.

"That's what happened?" Ragna said.

"It was just a guess okay? I'm trying to help."

Laufey looked at the ground, then at Kaun who he noticed rather still. Curious he walked closer, and saw that Kaun's gaze was affixed to the darkness. Something was moving in the bushes.

Laufey took out his construct and powered on it's illuminator and shinned the light when an old man covered in ferns appeared then disappeared. The rest had seen it too, who were now frozen in place, unable to move. Laufey couldn't either. Something evil dwelled near him now, and he could feel it's breath coming down of him.

"You. This is your fate. Why are you in my wood..." A low, rumbling voice boomed behind him.





Monday, November 25, 2013

Establishing a Visually Striking Character

So last week I built a character. That was fun. In continuation of our series, I want us now to look at the nuances of character designs that incorporate into the final character concept. Like my previous series on World Building where I discussed often details often overlooked when build immersible worlds, there are dimensions that can be missed or not considered integral to the process. Here I will discuss apparel, clothing, and iconic accessories that go into creating a likable, iconic character.

Clothing can vary in one or two ways I've found. There could be other ways but, suffice to say, let's assume that Genre and Period setting narrative are the most common ways to establish who a character is and how they are important to the story.

There are many genres and sub-genres of fiction and non-fiction. Each genre distinguishes its self from another by tropes and moods. A detective fiction would be moody and dark, whereas a comedy would be light. Notice how in films like Sherlock Holmes the titular protagonist wears darker colors, like browns and blacks. Also there are a lot of reds to emphasize the color of blood. On the other hand, in comedies, like 40 Year Old Virgin and Step Brothers, the colors are vibrant and expressive. They help to enhance the facial expressions and routines the characters run through to help the audience know when to laugh. So when considering your genre that you are writing, understand the psychology of your characters and their parent genre. It will help your character's apparel and exterior appearance stay in line with your work.

Clothing in Period setting narratives is much different for a number of reasons. If your story is set in the 1100s, it would behoove you to understand the contemporary styles of the time. Immediately you will be limited in what you have to choose from as far as clothing already. Peasants of the time looked the same more or less. Where you can help to make a distinguishing character stand out, clothing wise, in a period setting, is in how they wear the clothing, what it's made out of, or have them be an outsider. There's a cool comic book called Northlanders where one of the protagonists is an outcastes son, who was run out of the kingdom when he was young. He didn't visually fit the viking look at all, and the clothing he returns wearing is arabic in design from his stint in Constantinople, and the Near East. Using this, the writer of the comic helps to create a visually striking character by playing to the cultural biases of the time. Another interesting example was from the Robin Hood movie put out by Ridley Scott. In this movie we see the King of France in a particular scene, dirty, bent over next to a stream, eating oysters. He looks repulsive and dirty, but at the time that wasn't all too uncommon. They didn't have showers, and baths were highly luxurious. Nevertheless the character is iconic because he is this high figure in society, but visually unappealing.

Now these two dynamics are two of many approaches. For now, I will leave you with these understandings. They serve as a good starting point for most narrative work.



SW

Friday, November 22, 2013

The One Where I Contemplate Going Mad

I'm getting tired. Maybe it's just because I keep working. In my mind I think to myself, "oh, the end will come," and I hope this is the case. I still go to the gym, maintain an active, healthy lifestyle on the weekends. Despite all of this I feel fat, constantly. Maybe I'm just reading too much comics, and my musclebound role models never had a food associated coping mechanism? But then I remember, "Oh, I haven't had time for recreational reading for the last two months." That figures.

The holidays have, for myself, been a testing ground of mental fortitude since I could remember what a Christmas tree looked like. Maybe it's just because I  have (or think I have) S.A.D.? All I know is that I have mounting projects with little time to accomplish them in. My life more and more is like a long distance race without a finish line, and every body around me is from Kenya.

To give you an idea I've begin to proofread for Authentic Publishers, a publishing company based out of Australia. That's actually not too bad. I get paid to read books and change them. I feel like a Time Lord, almost, getting to re-write future history in real time. Sequart has similar needs as well, which I gladly take as well. Those I don't get paid for really. But everyone has to start somewhere. Then there's always the next project, a Sandman Sequart book. This is underway, and my books are soon to be ordered.

In all of this my hope is to not go mad, which I wouldn't mind come to think of it... Don't mad people get free room and board in a calm, non-stimulating environment for the rest of their lives? It's not a bad prospect when living in the state of California, or as I like to say, "in utter poverty." Things are looking up though. They always are. I have my sanity to thank from my relationship with Jesus and my wife, both of which are tested, strangely, on a regular basis.

Very soon I will be having another meeting with my designer and illustrator for another sit down, I'll give you updates when I hear back from them on their progress.

Until then, well, don't go nuts. I'm already there!



SW

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 15



"When are we going to get to the end?" Anke moaned. "This story is soo long!"

Laufey squinted his eyes, pulled out  from the story by Anke's entreaty. Looking around him. His sister was looking into the fire, unmoved by the interruption, calm and wistful.

"Why would they have failed?" She asked, turning her head to Kaun. The boy shrugged.

"Dunno'" he said, "I like stories with mysteries though."

"And why mysteries?" Anke spouted incredulously.

Kaun leaned back then. He didn't hasten to answer as he did before, pausing a moment. Weighing the options that presumably entered his mind, he bobbed his head here and there. Finally he another piece of wood into the fire. 

"Mysteries give us a reason to keep listening, I think. My dad told me that , sorta'. He's always better at talking than me."

"Is that why we don't know the woman's name?" Ragna asked. Before Kaun could reply Laufey laughed at the question. 

"It's because she's a woman," he said with sarcasm. "Obviously! Geira here sounds more a woman than her anyways."

Geira perked up. She didn't say a word, though her cheeks turned a rosy color. But it was hardly noticeable under the dim light of the fire. 

"Oh, shut up!" Ragna retorted. "I want to know."

Kaun nodded leaning back into his brothers who had fallen asleep, folding his arms playfully.

"And know you should, Ragna," he replied looking at Laufey rebelliously. "You never know if it's her power, or a deeper trait of hers that will come back. The best stories are the ones we have to keep hearing, over and over. Those are the ones that we memorize and pass on." 

Laufey laid back and looked up into the night sky. He gave up. Contending with them wasn't worth the salt. As he did though, a chill passed through him, one that he had not felt before. Rubbing his arms didn't do much for it. "Probably a bad wind he thought."

Geira raised her head shortly after, suspiciously scanning the outskirts of the campground. She grew exceedingly uncomfortable after that. 

"Amma is gone," she said flatly, paralyzed. 

Ragna shot her a look of disbelief.

"What?" 

Laufey found himself rising up first, dashing over to the tent laid out behind him. Panicking, he ripped open the canopy and saw her blankets lifted up, and vacant. Then, his heart pounded. Loudly. On the ground was a switch of lingonberries. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Recap! Let's Make a Character!


So this week for our lesson I had some difficulty coming up with other dimensions of character development. There's certainly a multitude of ways to approach this topic, so I wanted to recap then on what we've learned, rather than explore unfamiliar territory. What we shall do today is create a character using the three dimensions of character development that I have offered thus far.

Coming up with names for characters I haven't touched on yet. It's really up to you how much you want to emphasize this stage of characterization. It's important to decide on a name before hand however, only because names are foundational to the character; they establish the basis of a character's personality. In the past it was common for Victorian age literature to create characters that had names that were symbolic to their function in the narrative. You can still do this today, but, because you are not Virginia Wolf or Thomas Hardy, I would sweat the details. Only famous people can do it and pull it off without sounding really cheesy.

So the name of our character will be Reinaldo (and yes, I am going to pull a character out of my ass on the fly. Prepare yourself.)

Reinaldo needs to be distinguished in order to be a leading protagonist. The genre of literature we are operating in will determine what characteristics Reinaldo will possess as they pertain to the general narrative progression of the story. For argument's sake, I will select the Age of enlightenment.

And now for the silhouette...

Reinaldo is a Spaniard, but his family hails from a bordering region that aligns itself with France. His French blood distinguishes himself from his Spanish countrymen, but he is still a man who loves his country. What this backstory tells me is that Reinaldo is upright, proud, but may possess at times too much pride, bordering on hubris. His occupation is that of a royal printer. He is well fed, in shape, his chest is out as he walks and his hands are sensibly dirtied, being the kind of man who likes to be intimately involved in his work. Therefore, his beard will be trimmed but always subtly haggard. It covers his jaw, offsetting his undefined cheekbones. He is still handsome in the classical sense, wearing a cravat over a well buttoned Italian vest. His sleeved are rolled up exposing his strong arms, which are covered in black hair, though not overly hairy. His skin is olive, being a man of his country, and it pairs well with his richly adorned and finely dyed clothing (mauve with yellow accents and polished black leather shoes). His hair is scraggily being a man of work and not pleasure, but the back is neatly tied nonetheless. His nose is slightly large, making his words nasal, and appropriate for his modest French. Using this rough outline we now have a characteristic description of our protagonist. It relies on stylized stereotypes of the era, but Reinaldo himself will be just distinguished enough to stand out as unique in this period. He will be a byronic protagonist, a man seeking success in a rapidly changing world. His decision making will not ruin him but bring him down low, and his new state will return him to his family, but at the cost of his social standing and personal fortune. Using this, now, we can move on to the description style.

Tell Me, or Show Me.

For the sake of simplicity I will describe Reinaldo using the "Show Me" style. So here below is a sample description from the narrative that would be an introductory description of Reinaldo as we first meet him in his printing room:

"In the early afternoon, Reinaldo brooded over the typeset asked by her majesty's interpreter. Scratching his rough chin with the back of his knuckles, he approached the press. Xavier, his assistant stood behind him, a small brown man from Naples. Together they watched the apprentice smear the tar like ink across the metal grid with a hefty brush. Reinaldo shook his head, grabbing the brush impetuously and scolded the boy for using too much. Lightly he set the brush down and smeared the excess ink from the header with his hands and backed away, nodding with approvals The sun lit up the room now, as he stood shielding his dark, eyes from the light. His other hand was covered in the pasty ink, which hung at his side. The day had proved productive, the cover page for the royal address nearly complete. Satisfied, he raised his hands proudly, and backed away from the press. In the corner his coat hung on a wooded peg, which he retrieved after he washed the remaining ink from his hands. His boots, unsoiled, would make Sophia pleased with him, who spoke her mind often about him needlessly ruining his clothes. Behind him Xavier returned to the press beside the boy, and Reinaldo left to go for a walk to think."

Attitude...

Reinaldo's attitude should be emphasized by his actions. Notice how I made him a bit self absorbed and a perfectionist in the way he takes the brush from his apprentice and how he wipes away the excess ink on the press without any concern to his expensive clothing. When expressing attitude in characters and developing their personality, placing them in proximity with other minor characters helps further define them as well. So we get to understand Reinaldo by watching him work around Xavier, his assistant, and also through his interaction with the young apprentice. His wife, briefly mentioned does not supply us with enough information to know if Reinaldo is kind or indifferent towards his wife's opinions, but the added detail shows that he is aware of how people perceive him. The final detail, in which Reinaldo turns around and observes his fine work, shows the pride he takes in his work.

These are the details that give our characters a soul and personality.

So, with this information, create a character sometime this week. Experiment and have fun with your work! Next week I will continue the series once more. Until then, keep writing!



SW



Friday, November 15, 2013

That Moment When You Feel Helpless

This week I found myself in an odd position. It involved me and one of our new dogs that we are fostering for the Escondido Humane Society. A dog got out, and I had to find him. I eventually did, but the whole process of getting to that moment still causes me to reel.

When I saw my dog running down South Center City Parkway, I knew that I would have to run out into the street and hail down the cars to stop. I did all of this, surprisingly, but for the first time in my life I felt absolutely helpless. This was the aforementioned "odd position" I was referring to. I don't have kids yet, but that moment after you've lost them at Disneyland and you find them and they are safe and you are screaming and crying at the same time, I think I understand now...

That's what I had instead of coffee on Tuesday morning.

Slowly, but surely I've also been going back through my book to do the character dialogue revisions, per the advice I received from the advance copies I sent out. I know I mentioned it before previously, but I've been encountering interesting pieces of wisdom from my characters since I started. I would share with you a quote or two but the book is at home, and sadly I don't have access to it. Suffice to say, I'm coming to sections of dialogue that are oddly wistful. It's really fascinating when you are reading the advice from a sage in your story and suddenly realize that those words came from you.

Very soon I will have samples of the cover art for my book. My illustrator, Phil has completed 8 proposal sketches. One was selected and now we are moving to the initial design phase. I'm super excited to share it with you guys so keep your eyes peeled for that.

I don't usually say this but also, if you haven't seen it yet, check out the Bioshock: Infinite DLC! It's incredible!


See ya,


SW

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 14

"'I want you to get up this instance,' she said, placing her hands on her hips. 'There's work to be done.'"

"Minophus frowned, shaking his head spitefully."

"'Work? You still dream... Lovely. I kindly restate my original sentiment: sod off! That was a long time ago.'"

The woman was taken aback. 'Minophus,' she thought. 'You were such a gentleman once.'" A foul smell suddenly wafted to her nose, causing her to cringe.

"'Oh, you've been drinking,'" she exclaimed waving the smell away.

"'Aye,' Minophus replied, 'I do that now, drink that is. You ought to try it sometime. Really takes the edge off.'"

"'But our oath,' she entreated. 'have you forgotten our purpose, our fate?'"

"'Fate? For god's sake, get a hold of yourself...'"

"'Us meeting here, that is fate.'"

The man begrudgingly conceded that it was indeed somewhat odd that he would see his sister once more, after having walked the midday realm of man for something equaling a rough five hundred thousand years. And were his sister to have guessed at the remaining alcohol in his flask, her tenacity would have broken his stubbornness. Fortunately for him. He was rather apathetic about the whole thing still. Bitterness was a far better friend than conviction.

"'Fate, coincidence, same thing. Gods, do you know how long its been since I've seen you? I couldn't even recognize you. In fact, my mind is so wearied I don't imagine that I ever would have recalled why I was here in the first place. So, if you would be so kind, I need to drink, forever, alone.'"

"'No,' she said firmly, laying her hand on him. 'I'm not losing you again, not to this. Get up or I will make you get up.'"

"The man smiled a little then. He would like to see her try..."

"And try she did."

"She grabbed the man by the hand and threw him high into the sky. That was his theory he imagined. It explained why he was in upper orbit. Feeling his lungs begin to burst, she was there again right in front of him, floating like an angel. With a swift blow, he found himself rocketing to the ground once more. All over him, his clothing burned and singed, until it disappeared altogether."

"And then he was back, on the ground, and all around him the forest was on fire."

"'See,' he began to say, 'Look at the mess we have made. That was your fault.'"

"She smiled and looked around her. She was floating over a crater that encompassed most of the forest. all around, trees ages old, were disintegrating and vanishing from the world. Hundreds of animals lay dying, hidden away or out in the open. It was an ugly sight. Nevertheless she pointed at him scathingly."

"'Then do something about it,' she said in a cold voice.

"The man, torn in his soul, looked around. He saw what she did, and it broke his heart. She made him do this. He had gone so many years since his last summoning. He nearly forgot, even. Opening his hands, he stretched his powers over the earth, and everything was renewed. The trees were no longer on fire, the animals restored to health, and what once was the crater was replaced with a field, then a road, as if nothing had happened."

"'So this is the part where I believe in myself, eh?' He said sarcastically. 'Shown me the error of my ways have you.'"

"The woman glowered over him. 'He had his due,' she thought to herself. 'Why must I keep reminding him?'

"'Come here.' she said to him, picking him up again. 'I just want us to be friends again. I want to find Cerebus, solve this mess, go home... Why can't you come with me?'"

"Minophus gritted his teeth, looking away feeling shamed. Patting down his silken garments, fully threaded once more he stepped forward into the road and put his fingers in his mouth. He blew but no sound came."

"'So you two have been up to no good, haven't you?' She said, hardly surprised. 'That explains why it took me so long to find you.'"

"'Perceptive,' Cerebus said, emerging from the trees. He was in his hidden form, merely a small dog at first glance but underneath his coat a rumbling power surged.

"'And you had something to do with all this?' The woman said with a frown."

"'Aye. I think it's time we've had a talk.'"


(To be continued...)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Character Development: Defining Attitudes

So we've been talking about character descriptions these past few weeks. The first lesson was on silhouettes, building a character with key distinguishing characteristics that make them unique and iconic. The second lesson (which was broken up into two parts) focused on the initial description of the character, specifically concerning what they look like and how their behavior factors into their appearance.

Today is different. Developing a character goes only so far if the visual aspect is the focus. I just saw Thor 2: The Dark World for instance the other day and there was a character just like that. It was a bruiser that was just a bruiser and that was it. Sure he looked cool, but was completely interchangeable with any other character.

Attitudes, that is where I'm going with this. The demeanor of a character is important to focus on, and the best way to develop a good demeanor for a character is to imagine two people talking to one another. Which one talks? Which one listens? Which one gesticulates? And so on... That's just the basics though. Which one has a strong sense of justice? Which one is empathetic? Which one is conservative? Which one is the libertine? Once you've decided that, how does one feel about the other?  Imagine an interplay between your characters and slowly their personalities will begin to gestate.

Another thing to consider is the level of detail that is possible in a personality. It's easy to fabricate a team dynamic between two people, bit what about six? Pick your battles, because at a certain point you just can't create bold and realistic character when a handful of others have to share the page.

From here I usually make sure the attitude of the character matches the personality. You can certainly be creative and play with convention a bit. Can a fat character be giddy and enthusiastic? Certainly! But to what degree? How giddy? How will you retain their visual appearance without conflicting with a incongruent personality? Think about that for a moment.

Lastly with attitudes, I caution you all to take special care for your character development at this stage. The worst thing you can do is lean on character stereotypes or shell characters (the jolly Scotsman or a brooding Frenchman). It makes your book one dimensional and certainly less creative.

And have fun with this too! Let me know what you come up with in your brainstorming. I'd be curious to see what you can all create!



SW

Friday, November 8, 2013

Testify!

I've been around the Christian subculture for a while now. I think the dynamics within the group are fascinating, though elusive. Still, I don't rightly know what to think of it now. Occasionally, I wonder at things. It allows my conscience to rest easy, knowing I've probed the depths of my faith. Talking about faith and religion is something most of us steer away from. Let's call this a reflection then. It's better that way.

Have you ever heard of a "testimony?" (Don't answer that.) It's something we do as christians to share how we came to believing in God. There comes a certain point, a sudden illumination, an epiphany, and we are there, accepting the death of Jesus as our sole saving grace.

Theres a whole culture that's emerged from the testimony. They bring in a kid who was slinging meth when he was four, or a woman that had sex with everything that moved, each reflecting the extremities of human depravity. Personally I hate it when people ask me for my "testimony." The next words out of my mouth are, "which version?" Is it the one where I was molested by my cousin's gay friend? Is it the one where I skip over the whole of High School to save myself from revisiting the awful depression and anxiety attacks I had to endure because everyone was leaving the faith at the time? Or is it the one where I smile and go, "Well, I knew some friends at school and they were christian, so I jumped on board because I was lonely..."

Ideally we should all have "boring" testimonies. Where are those guys? Why does it always have to be weird?

Why doesn't anyone spend that time focusing on people who still are christian, despite it all? Christianity, to me at least, has become an expression of endurance not, an exercise in decision making. My friend's son is in seventh grade and is thinking about getting baptized. You know what I told him? It wasn't my "testimony!" I wasn't trying to present the Gospel as the next logical decision in a sequence of life events. I told him exactly what I wished someone had told me all those years ago,

"Being a christian will be the hardest (though rewarding) thing you will ever do, including getting married, having kids, dying..."

That's what we miss, the details.

It's not adding a notch to one's belt in celebration of a catechism. It's introducing someone to a life of awkwardness and derision. It's all worth it, don't get me wrong, but it's a battle to the finish.



SW



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 13

The following is my new short story series entitled "Laufey's Treasure." It is an action adventure series featuring minor characters from my upcoming novel in their own lighthearted journey. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to catch my previous short story featured in the same universe called "The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson." 



"You don't know them. They are those that slither away into the night after all have gone to bed. 

"A dog, a man, and a woman. 

"They go by different names, different than what you might expect. They have watched since man could remember. Their names are lost to them now. Only the dog remembers the first master they swore to. For the others, it is a dim memory shrouded in mystery. 

"Before it all began each of them had a sword. These were swords unlike any other. They were avenging blades, given to them by the powers of heaven to break the will of those that would practice evil. This particular evil they did not know, for it had hid well from their sight. Watchful they stood upon the perch of their fortress, gazing contemplatively out into the world. But one day they met an evil that they could not defeat. This evil broke their spirit and will. Their immortal, beautiful forms were cast then into shallow bodies, let alone to stray into the wilderness, with only the promise of fate to reunite them once more. 

For eons, they waited. 

One day, not too long ago, in a land that many no longer rightly remember, it is said that the woman was wandering, pondering where it had all gone wrong. Her mind mulled over the final blow, the disbarring from her home, and her wretched fate when she struck a man, tripping over him.

"'Gods! What was that for?'

"I'm so sorry, oh dear. Are you alright?' She said hastily. 

"Leaning down she picked him up, careful not to reveal her strength, and dusted him off with the back of her sleeve. 

"'What on earth were you doing down there?' She asked, hoping the poor man was not hurt or dying. 

"'I was thinking,' the old man replied, slightly irritated. 'Can a man think without some mad woman interrupting him?'

"The woman raised her hand to chide the man but thought it best not to. He was awfully cross, and he probably didn't mean it. Sometimes people, when they are mad, release their anger onto another out of spite. This is what she had learned at least in her time walking in the world of Man. 

"'I'm sorry to have injured you, sir.' She replied kindly. 'Wherefore do you go, and I will see you there?' 

"'Bah!' Replied the man. 'I have no need of any help, thank you. Besides, I hail from a faraway land that you, nor the gods did they so please, cannot return me to. I am old. Let me die in peace.'

"The woman felt terrible about the way the man felt. He looked so alone, and yet, so familiar.

"'Where do you hail,' she asked, 'that I may give word to your brothers should I find myself there someday?'

"The old man laughed. His body rumbled, quaked, and quivered, so much so that she had thought that he could be ill. 

"'That is not for you to know, girl,' he said shaking his head. 'For goodness sake go bother someone else. Off you go!' 

"'The woman felt rather offended by his words then, folding her arms with a scowl. But the remark was typical of a man she once knew. It took her a while to recognize him. And when she did, she knew him well indeed.

"'Minophus,' she said, 'what fool do you take me for that I  would not recognize my own brother?'

"Minophus paused a moment, lifting his hand, then putting it down, then lowering his head in shame.

"'What do you want?' He said."

(To be continued)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Character Foundations: Descriptions (Continued)

I never got around to adding those descriptions last week of either category. That was my bad, but I figured actually showing you a few in depth examples would by far make up for the exclusion.

So we had two styles of description. Show Me was a style that followed the traditional methodology of describing characters, but with the added spin of creating personalities out of the descriptive process. The Tell Me style was conducive to eliminating character description altogether, but this was to give freedom to the reader to build their own conception of the character. The trick here is forcing the reader to come to your conclusions though! I mean this in sort of a lighthearted sense. You don't them to think that a fat person is thin, or a greedy person is generous.

So here are a couple exampled of Show Me descriptions. Your goal is to picture what the character looks like and from that description isolate what their personality might be like.


Examples:
"How many day Jack Whims is gonna' steal from me I don't rightly know, but that lazy pompous bastard can't wash his own jacket to save his life. His loathsome smell and mottled face, reek of Irish Whiskey and shiftless dreams. I saw him the other day, takin' great care to lift his shoes up, out of the mud, on Birtchdunne Court. 'Told me that they were new, and I couldn't believe my eyes. That child's limp, soft arms couldn't lift a shovel, let alone the bag of pennies he had to spend on those loafers. He still has brown hair mind you. Never worked a day in his life at the coal winds in Wrenhaven. I ne'er trusted a youth that couldn't work."
"White gown, six stars, a crescent bow. There she walked with poise like no other heiress. Pristine shoes as white as forge iron, sparkling like emeralds and walking on clouds, she had me. I had never seen an empress before. How I thought I was dead. Six of her attendants took post at her trail, wide as a man and long as a sloop. They kept us back, pinned to the alley. Each one was her barrier between the filth of the city and her crystalline aura. When she came to me I saw her face. O' how pure it was, like cool milk and soft as goose down. She said no word to me, nor my companion, but strayed her gaze a moment. Her cerulean eyes, like the clearest lake of my childhood were the most treasured sight I ever beheld."   
   
Do you get the idea?

Now here are a couple of Tell Me descriptions. Try to visualize what I am trying to convey here.

Examples:
"Sixteen hours. Three matches, one cigarette refuses flame in the cold, drafty loft of my New England apartment. My answering machine has no calls. Work is always slow this time of year. Crime goes into a lull, a bad one. No work for a freelance detective anyhow. My hands shake, turning the nob of my television up. Electric snow fills my apartment. I feel tired suddenly. I want to sit, but there is nothing to sit on. I'm empty. Scratchy voices fill my dreams, tell me what could've been, and I listen, only for a moment. I like what I hear, then remember it's a dream. Four of my friends from the force show me a good time once a week. I haven't heard from them in a while since the falling out. They don't want a geezer like me around no more. I'm just a rusty gun."
"Gary sells things. He calls them that to help him sleep. I knew him for only a short while. He knew his way around a product. Where he gets them I don't know. Every product has a past, some more bloody than others. He is pristine, precise. His figures are always in line. I remember the way he talked, the way he smiled. Every syllable finds it's way. There is nothing he says that comes across other than how he meant it. His products know why Gary is who he is. They know that he will never let them go, never make a mistake, never drop the ball. Sometimes I regret what I did, but Gary made it so easy. He made the perfect transaction, the perfect experience possible. It was all because he was Gary, pure, distilled Gary."
   I want you guys to looks at both sections of each style, and figure out what these characters look like. Who are they? What kind of people do they remind us of? Next week we'll move on, but for now meditate on these descriptions. As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment.



SW
 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Oops, A Dog Happened

Yeah, I forgot yesterday's post. Big whoop! Wanna fight about it?

I had a feeling this day would come. What do I do? What can I do?

This past week has been pretty hectic. Why? Good question. I don't rightly know. What I do know is that I might be getting a dog, which presents it's own line of complications.

I've always been around dogs growing up. Even though I was the cat person, and the dog was something cool that my friends had, I knew that there would be a day when I could get a dog for myself. I longed to go to a park and throw a Frisbee, or go on jogs along some kind of tributary in the North East sequestered in an urban jungle of homeless people and minorities. Alas, my mom knew we couldn't handle the responsibility.

What about now though?

It's funny trying to go out and find a pet. Often the process to me is very arbitrary and the ultimate pick often ends up being what you least expected. Even what you were expecting doesn't work out! I walk into these shelters, faced with a myriad of furry inmates praying for death, and I am their savior, their redeemer from the cruel hands of fate. Even after getting the pet, all the other things come into play. What kind of food do you get? What kind of toys do you get? Flea medication? Jesus Christ! I just wanted a dog...

The first thing that popped into my head wasn't any of these questions. What happens if it dies? Do I bury the dog? What are the protocols that come out of a furry death? I don't rightly know, but it was a question that needed answering, dammit.

Maybe now you realize why I didn't make a post this week on Friday. I forgot, but that's besides the point!

I also got a proof reading gig! Maybe I mentioned that... I should probably get back to work.

See you guys Monday!



SW

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 12

The following is my new short story series entitled "Laufey's Treasure." It is an action adventure series featuring minor characters from my upcoming novel in their own lighthearted journey. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to catch my previous short story featured in the same universe called "The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson." 

Chapter 12

"That's a story," she said proudly, folding her arms.

"Aye," Kaun said, glancing at Anke. "Good story, wasn't it?"

Anke looked over, his eyes heavy with sleep. He nodded, releasing a yawn, and covered his mouth with the back of his hand. 

"I liked my story," he murmured, "I liked it because it actually happened. All of yours are fibs."

Laufey expressed his shock at the statement, mouth agape. The others were only vaguely challenged by Anke's accusation, but kept to themselves. Ragna leaned forwards, kindling the dying embers of the campfire. Sparks weaved up through the cold night air, dancing in the moonlight above. 

"I like fibs," Kaun said. "They make the world a brighter place."

"How so?" Laufey said looking over at Kaun, interested.

"We can tell ourselves what we want to hear," Kaun said proudly. 

"You would say that," Anke scoffed. "The shepherd's son has a tale for us. I can't wait..."

The intense disdain in his voice caused Laufey to stir. He knew Anke's spirit. It troubled him to see Anke so hurt, his soul soured. Laufey grabbed Anke's shoulder firmly and massaged a large knot out of the boy's back. Anke did not stop him, he just closed his eyes. 

"Maybe if you just relaxed once in a while you'd be able to get along with us," Laufey said. 

"I recall saying something like that to you," Ragna chimed in, laying a peice of firewood across the embers. "That was me, what you just said."

"Isn't he better for it?" Kaun said. A moment later Laufey reached around an knocked him upside the head. Rubbing his head, Kaun flashed a defiant look in his eyes.

"Don't look at me," Laufey said in a stern voice. "Keep talking, and see what happens."

Kaun looked between them all, wearing a decided expression. He leaned over the fire and warmed his hands then leaned back into the evening air.

"It all starts the same way," Kaun began, his voice slow and even. "A dog, a man, and a woman..." 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Character Foundations: Descriptions

So last week we talked about character sketching. Hopefully by now you've had a chance to practice building your characters based off that information. If you haven't, I would take a second look.

The thing about foundations is that they are the basis and blueprints for the entire project going forward. Having a recognizable character is imperative, otherwise your story will be populated by subtly varying clones. No one wants that.

After sketching a character we move on to the general character description. There are two philosophies to proceed with concerning the character description. I will touch on both of them.

Show me...

Authors create successful and memorable characters for their books all the time, but why are they successful? Well, we know that their silhouette is memorable; each character we experience is unique and different. What about their description though? A good description focuses on how a personality relates to visual appearance. The Scottish, ginger-esque, appearance has personal associations with a feisty demeanor. Note that these are expectations based off of stereotypes. Occasionally, however, we must rely on these expectations. Not all dark, brooding characters have black or brunette hair, but we sort of expect them to. How these visual details, like sunken eyes, or a cleft chin integrate themselves in with the personalities of your characters is important, and at least worth considering.

Tell me...

Now there are some authors (myself included) that don't describe characters in their book. What they do is tell you about the character and allow the reader to create an image of a character in their minds that fits what they are reading. This is by no means an "easier" way to building characters. It takes years of experience or a special knack to describe characters this way. Probable character traits can be determined either through how the character reacts to situations or what they say. A character that skirts responsibility and is lethargic could he construed as lazy, or fat. Likewise, a character could be ambitious, vocally outspoken, and industrious. I could imagine these characters having a powerful physical presence, or their sleeves rolled up. Either way, its up to you, and both models are fitting.


I'm kind of in a rush this morning, but later this afternoon I will write descriptions to help aid you in understanding either of these philosophies. I hope this was helpful!




SW

Friday, October 25, 2013

N.G.A.P

 "Not Good Around People."

I'm very leery-eyed when it comes to my social life. Being a writer may be the cause of it, maybe. Spending hours inside being afraid of the sun and the "kids on skateboards" feeds my paranoia like prunes feed a Floridian snowbird. Sitting at a computer, writing, doing what I'm doing now, it's solitary work. God help me when I have kids.

Believe it or not, I used to be very social. I still am, depending on the context. I went to Comic-Con this year and didn't panic vomit on people! That's good right? Networking makes the terrors go away. But if I'm mingling at a church gathering I feel like I want to curl up and live in the ground forever. At my weekly gathering (which sounds rather ominous), there I stood with a beer in one hand and a bratwurst in the other standing around a gaggle of guys talking shop and felt really out of place. This is strange too because I was buzzed and my inhibitions for small talk were exponentially lowered, but lo, there I was, staring into my cup with nothing to say. There was a time when I was better at small talk. Now I just glare, unintentionally. I've actually been told this, mind you.

Maybe I'm just not good around people? I swear, I'm not trying to be that "author who doesn't like talking to the kind folks at home" kind of guy.

Maybe the reason why I'm spilling my guts, though, is that I am slowly approaching this event horizon that will finally put me into contact with real life forever. The only alternative is eating paste and playing Dungeons and Dragons with three large-breasted men. One of the most important things about being an author is having an audience. I love what I do and love creating stories, but without someone to hear them I feel like I have schizophrenia. I have a surly WW2 marine, a bi-sexual art student, an Irish drunk, and a subterranean lizard man all stuck in my head. They get very loud and very unruly without their daily purgings.

I have been charged by my designer to go outside, into that terrible, suffocating fresh air and experience other writers midst intimate colloquiums where the word "vagina" is as common as they are terrifying. The idea of sitting in a room with people who are perpetually 20 pages in to their upcoming vampire romance is unsettling to me. It's not that I hate their lack of productivity. I've met a few of these kinds of people and they are really nice and well meaning. Nevertheless, I must entertain their pleasure centers and cultivate their interest in my craft in order for me to thrive as a novelist.

I have a few short stories that could be great ice breakers, but then that puts me in an odd position of, "Hey. Don't steal my shit, lest I beat you within inches of your life with the Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition." Being unknown helps in the beginning, but eventually you have to start thinking like a paranoid, pill popping, mental patient. Maybe I'm just not good with people though? Nah...

It's important to get out there and meet new people. I know that many of my favorite authors spent loads of time just writing material in reams and reams of various journals and serials. Has it gotten easier? Maybe. Chances are, if you are here, you were looking for pornography. Trust me, I am quite handsome. Maybe I should go bi-vocational?

Were I to offer you some advice on the meaning of being an author, I would say this:

Authors are fleshly creatures that need social contact to survive, so get out and contact your local newspaper, or editors directory, or poetry circle for that much needed support. I learned it rather late, but better late than never.

Hit the jump for more!



SW

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Laufey's Treasure - Chapter 11

"Well then," Laufey said, looking between them by the fire, "looks to me that I am the victor." Slowly he reached forward to grab the sausage cooking in the pan.

"Wait now," Kaun objected. "Why do you get it? Who says you won the wager?"

Laufey held back his hand a moment. It was a reasonable problem. He was just hungry. The story was good enough. Anke's was simply filler. Geira above all was the best so far, but she said nothing. Her eyes met his as he thought, they were low and presumptive. For a moment Laufey felt guilty, just a moment.

"I thought we weren't finished with the stories yet?" Amma said confused. "Kaun still has to tell his story. I haven't yet either..."

Laufey suddenly felt himself blushing and nervously looked the other way, which happened to be at Geira. For a moment Geira looked perplexed, but slowly her expression changed to dismay then frustration. Laufey shook his head. "Oh. There you go. Now you've done it," he thought.

"I just thought we could go to sleep," Laufey admitted. He did feel tired actually. "We have another 10 kilometers tomorrow before we reach Gaun."

"I still think I have enough in me for a story," Kaun said beside his brothers. Keli and Kaupi nodded quickly after in agreement.

Amma sighed feeling her head with the back of her hand.

"It's awfully late," she said, "and I feel a bit warm I think." She looked up at the rest of them, smiling weakly. "I think I will turn in."

Beside her Ragna rubbed her back with a gentle expression on her face.

"Why don't you get some rest," she said in a pleasant voice. Amma got up then and walked over to the collection of tents behind the fire. After she had laid down Ragna turned to her brother with a malicious grin folded her arms.

"So I can't tell my story then? You think you'll be bored to death?"

"No," Laufey said, his reply a long, tired admission, "that's not what I meant."

"Then maybe I'll tell a real story then."

"Ugh! Fine, say your stupid little story," said Laufey quickly. Ragna's eyes glinted in the fire victoriously. Straightening up she presided over the flames and began her story.

"There are not many who remember the first game at the arena in Vøma. It was a long time ago, but one can still watch the construct reels in the archives at Sog. Among all the strongest of the warriors that first played, one if them was the fiercest. His name was Tyrnaogh.

"From the far reaches of the North Sea, all the way to the coasts of the simple lands, he was known for his triumphs, so when the first coaches gathered together to make their teams, each of them fought over him, but only The Black won him.

"He succeeded well at his craft. The games were much more brutal then. There were no construct rifle dampeners, nor were there period rests. It was a race to the bitter end. After 10 seasons despite his age he was still winning and none knew why.

"It was at this point that the teams gathered a council and asked themselves what Tyrnaogh did to win his battles. Some said that he prayed to the god of Thunder, others said he had sold his soul for strength, but among them was one voice, a solitary one. He was a pruned old fellow that shook when he spoke.

"'Trynaogh is not who you think him to be. He is not a man of flesh and blood but something else entirely, a relic of the old world that has long departed. I tell you the truth when I say this: he is a machine-man.'

"Each of them looked at one another.

"'Surely this man is insane, said one of the younger players.'

"'How can you say that,' retorted another. 'The man does not bleed.'

"'Then I will expose him,' an up and coming star player called out. She bravely looked at them all, her eyes strong and wise.

"So that night the players of The Black invited Tyrnaogh to the tavern to drink. Tyrnaogh surely came, but he did not drink a single cup of beer, for he said his stomach was unruly that night. But as they talked among one another, the young player watched him.

"'I don't think we've met?' She said coyly sitting close to him at a table. 'Can I ask you a question?'

Tyrnaogh did love women though and kindly let the young player in to be close to him.

"'And what kind of question is it?' He said stroking her thigh. She looked at him and smiled.

"'If Odin-All-Father did indeed make the heavens and everything in them, what he can do is beyond all possibility.'

"Tyrnaogh nodded, smiling, and leaned in close to her,

"'That is what they say,' Tyrnaogh admitted.

"'Then could the All Father create a pig so  strong that he himself could not kill it?'

"Tyrnaogh laughed and began to think aloud.

"'That's a mind teaser, that one. Well that... Is... What do... I. I. I..."

"And he kept on speaking. His words trailing out of his mouth nonsensically, and they all watched him closely until purple blood began to seep from his eyes, mouth, and nose. Then, nothing. Tyrnaogh was dead.

"Speechless they watched the young player in awe, their mouths agape.

"'How did you do that,' one of them said prodding poor Tyrnaogh's body.

"'I destroyed his mind,' she said simply.

"'I know that,' one of them replied. 'But how did you know?'

"Slowly she beckoned them toward her and opened up her arm, and inside it, she glowed brightly in the dim light of the tavern.

"'I know what I know,' she said. 'And he was the last of us.'




Monday, October 21, 2013

Character Foundations: The Silhouette

It's taken nearly 4 drafts of an entire novel before I established the mannerisms and habits of my main character in my upcoming book. I wish I had thought about the challenge I was undertaking before I began, because maybe I could have found who my leading protagonist was a little sooner. I don't believe for a second that the formulas I'm going to give you over the next few weeks would have made my job less difficult. Life experience creates good characters. Nevertheless there are aspects to character development that are critical, and finding a way to mold a character consistently over a large volume of pages is both an art and a procedure. This first lesson deals with Character Sketching. This stage involves creating archetypes and roles for each character. Artists do something similar before sitting down to create concept art for new projects. They arrive on what is called a Silhouette for the character. This is what I will be primarily speaking on today.

Every silhouette starts with a grey bubble. The grey bubble is negative space, and creates an aura for the character. The more iconic a character is, like Bugs Bunny or Popeye, the more distinct their silhouette is. In writing, creating characters involves the same thing.

The difference between a good writer and a bad one involves the silhouettes they create for their character. Good characters are immediately recognizable. They jump off the page, and communicate their voice to the reader as soon as they speak. Why? What allows them to do this so well?

I believe the answer to this lies in the adherence to archetypes. The villains have accents in Disney films, or they are Nazis in Spielberg pictures, but these models are not based on archetypes, but stereotypes. A writer could write a book featuring Nazis but what they are actually writing about is an interpretation of a historical perception of Germans. The same goes for Disney villains, which are just racial stereotypes, and are relied upon for their memorable and familiar traits. These are poor ways to creating a silhouette. What this process should begin with is an archetype.

Now certainly archetypes can be cliche in their own way. The Byronic villain, like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, is typically jaded and self-destructive. Their own unbridled passions ruin and end friendships and partnerships. This character at it's inception was very appealing and groundbreaking, but by the end of the Romantic period there were many Heathcliffs, and they were all terrible and being the original one. What made the original Heathcliff who he was lied in Emily Brontë's ability to take an existing archetype and make it unique.

Getting Started

Building your character begins with choosing between Hero, or Villain. While one could argue an anti-hero is a category in and of itself, the power of the anti-hero derives from the conceptual framework of the Hero and Villain molds. They just teeter between one another and it gets old. They are predictable. Heros and Villains are predetermined, yes, but they also have tremendous freedom. Think of it like Classical music. Classical music operates on a multitude of regimented rules and tonal regulations, yet there is so much variety and beauty to the classical repertoire. The reason for this is that famous composers accept the limitations of their art while simultaneously deconstructing the approaches to satisfying these expectations to their sound and style. Just like these genres of music, the Hero and the Villain are expectations waiting to be thwarted.

The Villain

Villains don't need to be evil. Likewise, they don't need to be unfair either. They can be role models, soldiers, or struggling pianists. Your character as a villain already is immediately recognizable because he is in opposition to the hero, but the villain can also be passionate about why he/she struggles. Villains do what they do because they are motivated to do something for themselves or for a greater cause they envision themselves to be apart of. Lex Luthor for instance is the nietzschean Superman, a human who have evolved beyond average potential into the what he is now. He hates Superman because the big blue boyscout, as long as he is alive, will always outshine him and make him lesser than what he is. In the words of Grant Morrison via Luthor, even with all our strength and intelligence and intuition, as long as Superman is living and breathing, the man will be a parody of himself. You can't be mad at Luthor for feeling this way, but he is still the villain because he is in opposition to Superman.


The Hero

Rooting for the underdog, the aspiring artist or musician, has always been trendy. The Hero likewise is a difficult archetype to make interesting. The Anti-hero role was developed for this specific difficulty, and it as all but ruined the way storytelling works. Anti-heroes arrive at no resolution other than the insistence that the human race has fallen from grace, and is now mired in cynicism. The Hero to surmount this challenge must then become something more than he/she is to endure. I like Billy Batson from the SHAZAM! comic books because to me he is what a real hero is. Billy's origin story revolves around his being orphaned at a young age, and despite all odds he maintains his good nature, eventually being rewarded for his good heart by the wizard Shazam with the powers of Captain Marvel. Billy must call on the power of someone greater every time he gains his powers. In doing so, he becomes something more when he becomes Captain Marvel, the World's Mightiest Mortal. Billy is the Hero, but his life is far from perfect. He is constantly betrayed and hurt by those around him. He even wishes deep down to stamp out the bullies in his life through lethal force, but he doesn't. The Hero doesn't need to be perfect by any means. They need to, at the end of the day, lift their heads up and do the right thing, selflessly.

You can play with these archetypes as I mentioned before. It is your role as a writer to create a character that fulfills his/her purpose in your story. They need to be immediately recognizable. This can be done through their choice in apparel, or their physical build, but most importantly a character's silhouette is founded on their heart and their role in the narrative. Everything else is fluff.  

Remember that.



SW