Monthly Archives: February 2013

Bring Back the Illustrated Book! – The New Yorker

Sam Sacks posted this excellent article over at The New Yorker about illustrated books.

sacks-illo.jpg

“It’s curious how much of literature we are conditioned to consider unliterary. Few would contest the canonization of ‘Bleak House,’ ‘Vanity Fair,’ ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ and ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ but these classics have something in common we may be prone to disregard: each was published with profuse illustrations, and in each case the author relied on the artwork not only to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the book but to add meaningfully to the story.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/02/bring-back-the-illustrated-book.html#ixzz2LvIE94Xk

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What makes a character relatable?

This has been said over and over again, a thousand times, and without cessation. Flaws make a character relatable. Funny enough, for myself, it’s not a word in WordPress’ dictionary. However, I digress. (A fancy word for, but that’s not related to the topic, though I’m sure you know that.) What kind of flaws are we talking about though? Are there other ways to make someone relatable? The answers? Everything and yes.

Part of me wants to tackle the second question first, but we’re sticking to flaws. An example from one of my projects (being slowly reworked because I realized how terribly I started it) is that we have a hero. The magic of the world is built in an old language, called runes. Different runes do different things, and yadda yadda, the hero is considered a master. However, he admits to himself, that he really isn’t, and he cheated to get there. How many people cheat on exams? Lie? Everyone (Or so we tell ourselves… Maybe?). At the least you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t done one or the other. He’s also forced to take on an apprentice, and I say forced, because he’s rebelling against the system he’s a part of. We all try to be different and unique in our own ways (usually). The short of it is that he’s only around because he’s considered a master, and if people knew the truth, he’d be out and/or dead, and while he wants to redeem himself, he’s not in a position too, and so we have someone caught in a lie that’s out of control.

Other ways to relate are basically journal entries from characters, getting really into their heads and plainly spelling out on the page the way they think. It’s not the greatest method, but in certain quantities and forms, it’s a powerful way for us to understand the inner workings of tough characters.

The third, and I hate this way, is to have a character so plain, that they can be easily replaced with yourself (Bella from Twilight). While it does make a character relatable, it’s also a way to bring the story quality down.

Then there’s hypocrisies. These are a favorite, because when done well, they really shine through in a character. Say you have a misogynist (sorry ladies), who also follows a code of chivalry. Sure he doesn’t like women, but he will go out of his way to save and/or help them if he can. It can be something simple too, like they hate rice, unless it’s pork fried rice. Super religious and marries an atheist. Hates working out, but continues to go out of habit. These things make a character.

The final one I want to point out, isn’t just flaws, but fears. Fear of heights, spiders, crowds, closed spaces, clowns, etc. makes people relatable on some level. Someone out there can relate to your character at a primal, self preserving level, even if it’s due to xanthophobia (look it up).

I don’t want to conclude this, so I’m leaving it open to more examples and ways for the rest of you.


Blog Overhaul #2 – Questions for the Readers?

I have a few questions for those of you who do read this blog.

Is there anything you’d like to see more of? (Besides posting. I know there needs to be more of that.)

Any topics you want me to ramble on about?

Anything I should add to the blog?


Blog Overhaul #1

Not sure what else to say. I added several new pages to the blog, and intend to update them as soon as I can.

About Me – This was left kind of empty. I’m sure I’ll add to it as I feel like it.

My Library – I need to sit down and get a book list together before I can even think to start that.

My Writing – Another one that I’m sure I’ll add to as I feel like it. I might move Character Sketches over there, and start to post some actual writing.


dreampunk geek

Everyone always says that you have to write every day to become an author. Oddly enough, I never hear that advice given to artists. Instead, what I hear about is talent and natural skills. As if the ability to draw a circle is some God given blessing the rest of the population can never achieve without copious amounts of “talent.”

Does it take any less effort to practice drawing than to write? Do your hands cramp less from constant use (dooming you to a carpel tunnel destiny) more from painting or typing? Is one easier than the other?

All forms of art take practice. God given talent is for amateurs. Only the stubborn and the motivated succeed.

Last Wednesday my writing group was finally able to meet up after a 2 month break caused by holidays, health issues, and cold weather. It felt good to write. Liberating and stress relieving…

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Character Sketch #4

I thought I’d bring out another of my characters today, for fun, and to try and keep some regular posting going. This is one of my homeless characters. He was initially created with a D&D-esque berserker in mind.

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Carmine Brandole

Gender: Male
Age: 25

Carmine is a mercenary who wants to form his own company and become famous. He has short, red hair and brown eyes with an eye patch over one of them.

Having grown up in his father’s mercenary company, Carmine was fighting from a young age. When he grew older and more ambitious, he decided to set out on his own to make a name for himself, instead of just living off of the legacy of his father. At fifteen, he was on his third mission and got into a fight. A chip from the axe he blocked flew into his eye, causing him to lose it. It was later replaced with a magical one when he was seventeen.

Hopes & Dreams: Building a legendary mercenary company

Fears: Dying as just another unknown soldier

Hobbies/Habits: Dueling, Smoking, Short-Temper

Loves: Red, Fighting, Winning

Hates: Losing, Being cheated

Sin: Wrath

Virtue: Loyalty

Element: Fire

Other Features: A magical red eye which also serves the purpose of converting anger to strength. Its power is blocked by his eye patch so he doesn’t injure himself with it. His sword is a wooden blade carved from a tree, which has wood as tough as metal, and conceals an actual sword.

Companions: A red horse named Blaze


Expanding your Writing Horizon

While sickness and deadlines don’t make for a good blog revival, they do make for a good build up of wanting to write and get back to this. Once again, I’m confronted with the what though. I admit I haven’t devoted as much time to writing as I’d like lately, but I would like to bring up an interesting topic, and one that might not be seen as normal. Some people read books all of their lives and decide they want to write. Some want to be the next top journalist and travel the world getting the next big scoop. Poets and musicians bring words and rhythm together, and anyone who has worked an office job has written enough letters to want to hang themselves. That might be an exaggeration. Marketers and advertisers write scripts and witty one-liners, while comedians bring jokes to the acting stage shared by screen play/play writers. I admit that when I first began looking for writing jobs, I turned to the risky video game industry, where the quality has gotten poor, budgets high, and I hoped to help bring a diamond out of the dirty coal mine a hobby of mine had become.

Needless to say, I’m not there yet, but the thought does bring up something interesting, that at times I’m embarrassed to admit. One of the best story-telling genres is the role-playing games one. I’m not talking, create your character in Skyrim and bash enemies with scripted quests in a huge open world, but in a way I am. I’m confusing myself here, but I tend to write these posts without much planning, just an idea and a keyboard. I’m talking role-playing in general. No, not in bed, or in Skyrim, but something almost as simple. Table-top, written story, etc. This is actually how I got into writing, if by an accident involving an outdated computer and my gaming habits. (This is that embarrassing thing.) Two of my favorite sites, which I’ll post at the end for anyone wanting to make an attempt at it, had me writing stories with other people. One in a preset world constantly changing to players’ actions, and another where we’d make our own worlds.

The reason I bring this up is because there is little more challenging, than not being able to control all of the responses. You have to get to know your characters really well when another player replies, because say your character flirts with theirs. You expect a return, or a rejection. What if the player decides they pull a knife on you instead? Are you prepared for that? Are any of your characters? Role-playing takes time though, a reason why I like the sites I mentioned, was that it wasn’t table top, and I could spend anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, depending on my available time and available players, and do it at my own rate.

Thus, I offer the suggestion that everyone should give it a try, and see what it’s like to really get to know a character, and improve your style. For poets, maybe you want a bard to share your verses with the world and kill two birds with one stone? For fiction writers, you can find some like-minded people to help with your own world, just by playing in a similar one. Who am I to ask people to take more time out of their lives though? Just a humble worker with an ego big enough to think he can change the world with words.

Fantasy Role – for anything and everything

Battlemaster – for light fantasy, medieval game-play, a splash of intrigue, and politics in a ready made world. Be an adventurer, a noble, start a guild, work your way up to ruler, or lead the armies of your country. (Warning: This is an actual game.)

Whatever you do, keep writing.

~Underdog