Brushing off the Dust

I’m not dead or anything, just busy. At least that’s what I want to say. Well, I’m not dead, so I suppose there’s that much that I can say. So, dust, brushing, cleaning up, and starting fresh and other such words. Does that mean I’m back? Yes, I do believe it does.

I can’t promise a solid schedule, but I hope to be much more active in the near future. With summer coming close, and one of my jobs taking a 10+ week hiatus, I should have more time to devote to everything, I hope, unless that dream job falls on top of me. Then we’ll see what happens.

Of course, I’ve probably alienated my few followers, so I suppose I’ll need some more. Like the legendary hero who gets separated from his friends, and can only get back to them by making new ones and growing as a person, I will save the world!!! Or I’ll just write about stuff. Your call.

~Writing Underdog

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Reality as a Tool

I think the past few months have been a real eye opener for me. While I may not be quite as active of a blogger as I was due to real life obligations, I’m still learning, and itching to talk about it. Maybe not itching. I don’t like itching. How about hungry. Hungry’s better. After all, who doesn’t like to eat something? Imagine this as a therapeutic snack or something. Anyway! Before I side track myself further with the realization I ate a doughnut for breakfast and haven’t eaten since…

Desires! That’s what this post is really about! That one thing your character must obtain! Sure we have dreams and passions and goals, but the real need for something is, as I’m discovering, much more of a gut reaction than one of the heart. See, on top of my life, I’m looking for a job so I can stabilize my life. Right now, I’m underpaid, overworked, and barely squeaking past on student loans and gas money with my paychecks. It doesn’t leave much for a whole lot else, and my nerdy habits that let me relieve stress begin to get affected.

See, I don’t just want a new job. I need a new job. Every time I walk into work, I feel it in my gut. The intense dislike of being the office bitch, as I duly call myself to anyone out of a professional setting. My most recent promotion, with no increase in pay, is the boss’ taxi service for whenever he drops his car off to get worked on. I don’t just need a new job. My life depends on me getting a new job. I cannot continue to work in an environment with an “evolving job description” that changes to suit the boss’ needs, but not my own. Thus I’m doing everything in my power to get this new job, regardless of how difficult it is.

I admit that I’m young, but I don’t think I quite understood the drive needed for a protagonist until the last couple of months, and even then I’m sure that I’ve still missed something in it, but it’s a start.


The Boston Marathon Tragedy

I’m sorry to interrupt the sporadic posting with this. I’ve been working on another post off and on for a few days now, stealing time here and there to get to it, however I have to say this.

What happened in Boston yesterday was a tragedy. I’m not sure how I feel about it, it being so surreal. I followed live update threads for hours, watched a few videos, checked articles, and still at the end of the day, it didn’t feel real. I felt disconnected from it, and Boston is sort of my back yard. My girlfriend had a friend near the finish line until 2 hours before the bomb went off. Another friend of my mother’s was a massage therapist for the runners near the finish. Finally, another friend has an EMT in the family who was on the scene. All lived. All are fine.

I can’t say I didn’t have a reaction though. I was actually watching the news when the first reports went on the air, and my first thought was this. Don’t let it be someone from the Middle-East. Now, I’m white. I’ll admit it. Nerdy, awkward and everything that goes with it. My first thoughts weren’t how many people were hurt, what happened, or what’s going to happen. I wanted it to be the random act of a crazy person. I don’t think the United States knows how to handle terrorism, and maybe I’m in the minority on this thought process, but we don’t. We put systems in place like the TSA, and draft laws like the Patriot Act, or the one that lets the President use drones to assassinate people. It’s not a healthy response.

Of the responses I’ve seen so far though, I have to appreciate these the most.

The first is a quote from Mr. Rogers, who says, “In times of tragedy, look for the helpers.” Follow this up with a quote from Patton Oswalt. “When you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye. Think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.'”

So many people rushed to the scene to help out, that it’s comforting to know that the actions of a few are clearly outnumbered by the good, and those willing to help. Instead of hiding in terror, we should seek comfort in the actions of others, and know that we are stronger than anything these people can do to us.

The second reaction that impressed me was the Boston Comic Con, which was scheduled for April 20th and 21st at 900 Boylston St. in Boston. The explosives went off around 600 Boylston, so you can probably guess that it would incite caution. This was the response on their Facebook Page.

“Boston Comic Con is happy to announce that the convention will go on this weekend as scheduled! We hope to stand as an example of the resilience of Bostonians in the wake of this horrific tragedy. The many statements of solidarity we have received from fans and guests alike have been very encouraging. We will be donating a portion of the art auction proceeds to the Red Cross for the Boston Marathon victims relief effort. In light of the heightened security in the city we ask cosplayers to not bring prop weapons this weekend.”

Thirdly, Google got a person finder up within an hour or so, allowing people to give information about people they’ve seen, report in, or for loved ones to search for friends and family.

Finally, we had the good users of Reddit, where I watched the live threads, put up links to a pair of Google docs for displaced people to find places to stay, and one for people to offer places to stay. Some offered rides, and other support as well.

Other great acts was the IRS giving tax filing extensions to people in the Boston area, and many airlines were waiving cancellation and flight change fees in light of the events.

Be proud. American or not we should be proud that as human beings we can rally together so swiftly in the heart of chaos and tragedy, pick up some of the extra weight, and keep going. This was a healthy response, to find it within ourselves to offer support to anyone we can, because no matter our race, country of origin, gender, wealth, or beliefs, at the end of the day we’re all human, and that’s all that should really matter.


Dark and weird for being weird, or because life is actually kind of like that?

Okay, so maybe it has been a while, and maybe I have been slipping quite a bit since NaNo in the daily struggle to pay off student loans and find a better job so that I can actually begin to live my life. Admission is the first step though, right? Right?

So what am I going to ramble on about today? Today, I’m turning my focus towards a video game series. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re back after all this time, barely a word in about why, and you aren’t even talking about writing? Well, yes and no. Today, I’m thinking about characters, and the types of people that exist in the world – any world actually. So the series I’m on about is Drakengard, and I thought of this post after a discussion with a friend of mine on the series. What makes the characters so interesting that I’m devoting a post to them? It’s the twisted reality of terrible people that comes with the games that I enjoyed the most.

Before I start, I will side track with this. The most recent Tomb Raider was criticized over a possible rape scene. You had to solve a quick-time event, or else you would be attacked. When released, it turns out that Lara Croft was only going to be strangled to death, but apparently the lead up screams violation. Of course some games are more verbal about it, with American McGee’s Alice, having a much darker twist than appearance in the narrative, but again, nothing is shown. Games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age from Bioware have been letting people explore sex as a part of their characters and story, straight and otherwise, but things are cut – understandably so – in order for the releases to get the go ahead. So, my point is that as games, and as the American culture catches up with modern times, we are seeing these things come in that we normally wouldn’t be able to touch not so long ago. I actually approve of this growth in our culture, as much as some people won’t, because if it shows up in one form of media, or entertainment, then we can handle it in more mainstream cultures, and actually begin to approach these topics more rationally than just vilifying the whole matter and ending it at that (not that rape doesn’t deserve to  be vilified). Anyone who watches the news in the US will probably have heard about the Supreme Court being faced with legal questions about gay marriage, for example. As a society, the younger and modern generations are quickly accepting it and promoting the acceptance, and as it reaches the mainstream of our culture, we have seen it in video games, and television, as more than a joke.

So, where was I? Drakengard. In particular, I want to bring up the first one, because the second does not have the same cast of unique characters as the first, and is actually infinitely more tame by comparison. Also, the first, which was released in the US in 2004 was also heavily censored due to the way the characters were portrayed. What could possibly get most of the cast censored? Where shall we begin?

Let’s start with the main character, a man chasing his best friend who kidnapped his sister because he was in love with her, though she held no feelings for him. In fact, Furiae, the sister, was in love (not familial love) with her brother, which leads to a rather confusing suicide when the US version had the information cut. The main character is actually a man essentially on a violent rampage through the game, sacrificing his voice to gain a dragon as an ally so that he can wipe out the neighboring country, where his sister was taken to.

Then we have several allies who, although play minor parts, are almost as equally if not more twisted. The most tame is Seere, a young boy who cannot age. He’s 6 years old, and while his possessed twin sister (also 6) is the main villain of the story, he is faced with having to help bring her to justice (which ranges from imprisonment and beatings to her death depending on the ending you watch). Next we have Leonard, who is a cowardly monk that wanted to kill himself because he blamed himself for his Order’s deaths. The part cut out about him? He’s a pedophile. Finally, there is Arioch, the Elf who’s family was murdered by the country the main character is after. It drove her mad, and her sacrifice was her ability to have children for power, which is probably a good thing, because the madness made her enjoy killing and eating children.

While I can’t say the characters earn a ton of sympathy, I have to applaud the creators for daring to put these people in their games. While the subjects are still very much a taboo, as people, we can’t deny that these types of people exist, and in all honesty, I think it brings the dark world to life, albeit in a really, really twisted manner.

So why did I say series? Drakengard 2 touches on something I hadn’t seen except in Ursula LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. People are locked up in poor areas, forced to starve and labor after the events of the first Drakengard for the prosperity of others, and lo and behold, our villainess  from the first, no longer possessed, is now attempting to be a hero and save them. Like in LeGuin’s story though, as long these people are locked away and suffering, the world continues in peace and prosperity.

Nier. Nier doesn’t have the title name of the series, but is actually a result of a different ending of the first Drakengard, originally seen as a gag ending that sent the hero, Caim, to our world. The real Earth falls apart as a result of magic coming into play. The game could easily stand on its own as a title by itself, which is why it is kept separate, yet within the universe. The character I want to bring up here though, is Kaine, a woman, also possessed, with a slightly different lower anatomy, resembling that of our male hero.

While I cannot discount that maybe the creators are a bit crazy, I have to appreciate the themes within the games. They may be twisted, dark, sickening, and I can be uncomfortable as hell talking about them, especially on an open forum like a blog, but I have to appreciate them. I appreciate them, not because I think they should be mainstream, or acceptable (Again definitely not rape or pedophilia. I’m sure you believe me, but I feel I should emphasize it.), but because some of these things exist. It’s a part of the real world that we generally try to tune out, and as someone who enjoys writing, and creating worlds, and as there are others who feel the same way about it, we need to understand that they can and do exist. There’s no such thing as a perfect world, and I felt the need to point out that life can be sick, and twisted, and terrible, and by recognizing it, we can build better worlds for it, and not just put these themes in for shock value, or to create enemies that will be hated instantly. After all, the characters I described were all meant to be liked as heroes of their stories, despite showing deep scars of humanity.

I’m sorry this was a bit of a wall of text. I know I described some very dark themes and how they are important to recognize, and that this topic might not be right for everyone. However, I think touching on them is a good basis for some interesting discussion, and I am genuinely curious, if you think my appreciation crosses the line, and that I’m crazy, or if there’s some merit to what I’ve said.


Contest: Ninth Letter Arts

There’s a contest over at Ninth Letter Arts. The winner will receive $1000 and be published in their Fall/Winter issue. There’s a $17 entry fee, and you can submit to the Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Translated categories. Good luck to any participants!


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


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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