Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Anonymity

I spent last night (after waking up from a three hour nap...) staring at a wall when I wasn't staring at this screen. I put Crashed and Ghost of Me on repeat because they've become the themesongs of my latest idea (the one with Janus and Elliot and that creepy house). I wrote the titles of my favorite books in various Sharpie inks on green Post-It notes and put the Post-Its on my ceiling. My brothers promptly laughed that I'd done something so stupid.

It makes sense to me, though, to wake up and see my favorite books first in the morning. The titles I chose are The Road, The Gargoyle, Dear John, and Cross.

Those are all favorites because of separate reasons.  I did notice one similarity between two of them, though. In both The Road and The Gargoyle, the main characters are unnamed. The characters of The Road are simply called "the man" and "the boy", while the main character of The Gargoyle never introduces himself to his readers. We know almost everything about those characters, except their names. So often names are chosen in some way to define a character. When they're gone, you (as a writer or a reader) can't define the character within the parameters of their name.

They could be anyone. Your best friend, neighbor, the dude who runs the flower shop across the street.

In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud says that there's a reason why some arts portray their characters as more "iconic" or more realistic. 

Archie is drawn less realistically than the Comedian. Archie can be any high school kid, struggling with high school issues. The Comedian can only be the Comedian. He'd be the Comedian without his mask and getup and he'd always act like the Comedian, no matter what universe we plunked him in. I don't know how Archie would act if he was taken from Riverdale and thrown into the universe of Watchmen.

I think the same thing goes for names. Names paint a picture of the character in a medium where we can't use literal images. So, if you were to write your characters without a name, would they act the same? I think mine would.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

there and back again

a pictorial journey through my new idea.

Back in

I didn't really want to call this post "Back in Black", so you guys can decide what you want the last word of the title to be. I haven't updated this in a week, and I have a feeling that my weekends will be the only time free enough to justify a blog post. I just realized that you can spell 'post' and 'spot' the same way. That's neat.

I'm not really back to where I was before I hit that low last weekend, but I've started to want to write again. Just roleplay posts, things that don't matter. Of course, the only roleplays I want to reply to are the ones I'm waiting on replies from, but feeling like writing is nice. When I think of NaNo, I'm no longer apathetic about it. It's going to be hard this year with all of my classes, standardized tests, and thinking about college, but I'm going to do it. I wrote 20,000 words in something like forty hours last year while I was sick; I can find the time to write 1,667 words between school and homework.

Speaking of NaNo, my ideas keep proliferating. So it's not just Gunmetal Gray or When the Storm Birds Fly anymore. I can't decide if I should be happy about this or exasperated, so I'll be happily exasperated. 

Finished The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson last night. Awesome book. 

Everyone should check it out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Now's Not the Time

I don't believe in Writer's Block.

Usually, I get Writer's ADD. I want to write too many things at once.

Right now I couldn't give a damn if I wrote anything. This is what I call Writer's Apathy. I'm trying to work my way through it, but I feel like I've lost the spark for writing. Nothing's really exciting right now. I look at my stories and I see characters that need to be written, plots so riddled with holes they wouldn't hold water. Let alone a reader's attention.

I don't know. Hopefully, this will pass. In the mean time, I'll listen to more Daughtry and read ahead in my history textbook.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Puzzling Plots

Junior year has begun. Homework's picking up a little bit, but not as much as I was expecting it to -- there's been a few nights without homework and this weekend is a no homework weekend, because of the Jewish holidays. I've been working with one of my friends on orchestrating a letter campaign for the troops currently serving overseas, so that's taking up most of my time that I'm not spending on writing.

Plus, I've just been lazy with updating this lately. I've been a little sick all this week; it hasn't been very fun. Oh well. I promise I'll update this thing over the weekend. Maybe with some character studies with someone other than Roulette.


There's a forum topic on Nathan Bransford's forums about Weak Female Protagonists in YA Literature that caught my attention. Some of the protagonists mentioned were Bella from Twilight and Katriss from The Hunger Games. I haven't read The Hunger Games yet, but they're on my list, so I can't talk about them. I can, though, talk about Bella, as I read the first one and a half books before giving up on her. 

The purpose of a character is to evoke an emotion from the reader. They must further the plot in a way that makes the reader care enough about the conclusion to keep reading. Bella did her job: she made me want to beat the crap out of her for being pathetic, but she got an emotion from me. Twilight isn't meant to be anything truly literary; it's meant to be a romance. A poorly written  romance about a mortal girl and a vampire guy who fall in love.

And when Edward abandons her, Bella doesn't know what to do with herself. She sits for months, doing nothing. This was when I could no longer relate to her even as a character. She was so petty and unrealistic (for me) that I couldn't stand it. I put the book down. But millions of other girls my age adore the stories. My best friends have read them and liked them. My cousin loves them. So Twilight did what it was meant to do.

Another best selling series is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordian. Annabeth is one of the strongest female characters I've read in YA, and she was written by a middle aged man. She and Bella can't be compared, because they're such opposite characters. Annabeth would never get herself into the situation of pining for a lost man for months. She wouldn't let the emotions run that deep. Even if she was hurt, she would pick herself back up and continue on with life, because her world would demand it.

The plot would demand it. Bella's plot didn't. So, if plot affects characters, and if characters affect the plot, what should be more important? The effect the plot has on the character, or the effect the characters have on the plot? I think it should always be the latter, because without characters you have no vehicle for your plot, which is how an author's message manifests itself in a novel.

Plot and character may be interwoven, but character should always drive the plot.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Never Was, and What Never Will Be

AND THIS POST WINS THE CONTEST FOR THE MOST EMO POST TITLE YET. Stole it from Everybody's Fool by Evanescence. Love the band, still can't properly pronounce their name after a couple years of listening to them, but their lyrics are really damn emo when taken out of context.

I'm going to write a short story about a Roman soldier as soon as I finish this blog post. I'm going to handwrite it and not let myself on the computer until it's at least halfway done. I don't have any homework, and the rest of my night is free, and this is a story I've been meaning to write for a while. If it goes well, I might post some of it up here. 

In the twelve minutes before 8:00 PM (when I've decided that I'll start the short story) I'll try to answer another meme question.

How Do You Create Your Characters? Describe your Process.
Eleven minutes might not be long enough for this question.

It depends on the character is the shortest, simplest answer. Most of the time, I have an idea, and the character blossoms from that. My newest character, Phaedrus Heron, is the character in the short story I was just talking about. With him, I wanted to write a story about a soldier who painted a fly on his shield. That's all I had. I knew that I wanted him to be either Greek or Roman, and that he would be a guy, but I don't know anything else about him. I got his name from a random name generator on Behind the Name. So his process isn't finished yet, and I'll learn more about him as I write.

Daniel 'Roulette' Gray is one of my favorite characters. I've only ever used him for a role play, so his process was different from the characters that I create knowing that they're going to be in a longer piece. Originally, I just wanted a character to be named Roulette, because it's one of my favorite words. I'm somewhat obsessed with crime, so I thought it would be cool if that was his street name. He wasn't going to be a WWI veteran or a carnie until I was looking for a picture of him on the internet for the hell of it. I only bother to look for pictures of my RP characters, because some of my partners like having them and I think it's fun. This is the picture I found: 

So I went with the theme of the picture. He became a Ringmaster of a traveling circus, living in the Great Depression. This is about the furthest from what I thought he would become as I can imagine. Originally, he was supposed to be scruffy and dark: brunette hair, black eyes, tattooed, and a drug lord.

As he is now, he's a rather murderous dude, but I love him and he's one of the only RP characters I have that I think can carry their own longer work.

I could explain the reasoning behind all of my characters, but I only have three minutes, so I'm going to wrap it up here. I guess, if you guys are curious, I could go into detail about my other characters, but I won't force that on you. =P

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Moment of Tribute

I'm starting my tribute to the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks early.

Nine years ago tomorrow, at 8:46 AM, the United States was forever changed. We were scarred. As a people, as a nation. As families and friends. I was only seven, but I remember my second grade teacher gathering my class around her to explain that something terrible had happened in New York. Around that time, United 93 was flying over my city, and another plane suspected of being hijacked was being landed at our airport. 

My Dad was driving home from his shift at the fire station. My younger brother was in physical therapy with my Mom, my youngest brother in school. Later that day, my Mom caught her ankle in our screen door and started to bleed out in our kitchen. She wouldn't let me call 911.

I still remember those events as happening on separate days. I don't think I'll ever fully understand how two traumatic instances could happen on the same day, even though I know they did.

2,977 people lost their lives across the country that day: in New York City, a Pennsylvania field, in Washington D.C.

I've never visited Ground Zero. I've never been to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I've visited the Pentagon. Such strong buildings fell that day. So many families were thrust into misery that they can never truly overcome and that I'll never really understand, because I'm lucky. I'm damn lucky. I remember thinking that my Dad would have to go to New York, to help the other firemen there. I remember praying to God that he stayed with us, because even then I knew that firemen were losing their lives as they dragged people from the rubble. 

I didn't understand what had happened, but I don't think you need to understand something as horrendous as the 9/11 Attacks. You just know. 

My best friend's grandmother lived in New York at the time. Her Dad was visiting her grandmother when the towers fell. 

The man who raised one of my other friends is currently serving the remainder of his time with the Army in Iraq, though the mission was officially ended a couple weeks ago.

My cousins are all in the Air Force. One of them was stationed in Baghdad in the early days -- 2004-2006. I didn't know it then, but he was in the middle of a war, even though he said he spent his days patrolling peaceful provinces and streets.

There's a woman who graduated from my high school, whose husband enlisted with the Marines post-Sept. 11th to fight. She was pregnant with twins who have just started at the same preschool I attended when he was killed in action.

And today, in our class meeting that we have every Friday, my grade couldn't shut their damn mouthes for a moment of silence. My friend kept writing her damn AP Biology lab, because she couldn't be bothered to stop.

30 seconds isn't much to ask, when we've been given years of freedom at the expense of others. 

I ask that whoever reads this blog post take 30 seconds from their life and remember, because we should never forget.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I need to start thinking of better titles for these posts right about now. 

Nathan posted an interesting blog on dialogue today. As a writer, dialogue is what I struggle most to write. I always think that I'm not writing it as well as I could/should be. I'm paranoid about it coming across as realistic or stupid, in character or out of character. His blog covered everything from expository dialogue (and how to avoid it) to how we, as writers, need to cut all the boring things from our characters's speech.

And he's right.

When I first started to write, I explained everything through dialogue. Now, I only use dialogue when I need to. Some characters talk more than others do. One of my friends and I throw a mini "party" (really just us laughing at each other) whenever one of my characters speaks, because he's so quiet. Another of my characters will chat your ear off if you let him. Whenever I speak, I generally think about what I'm saying and how I want to say it beforehand, unless I'm talking to one of my friends. I rarely speak without thinking of how I'm saying something, so I'm hyper-aware of my own dialogue patterns.

How do you guys write dialogue? Do you speak the conversations out, or just let them flow? Do you use dialogue tags (Personally, I hate them, so I'm always on the edge of removing them too often) or do you use gestures and actions to convey what your character is saying and feeling? 

On that note, I read a really interesting discussion on Nathan's forums today about how to inject emotion into your character's actions and habits without resulting to the cliched sighs, eye-rolls, and chuckles. I don't think I've ever used an eye-roll in my writing, but I'm definitely guilty of chuckling. My characters chuckle way too often. I try to spice it up, but there's only so many times I can say something like "laughter bubbled from deep within his throat, his words dripping with jocularity" without banging my head into my screen.

Chuckling is so much easier.

What I realized through reading that discussion, though, was this: There's no way in hell that writers are ever going to be able to totally capture the realm of human emotion and how it manifests itself, no matter what words we use and how we use them. What matters is that we tweak, rather than attempt to reinvent, every emotion. One of my characters scratches the nape of his neck, pulls his hands over his face, or messes up his hair whenever he's exasperated or exhausted. 

For another, his mouth twitches whenever he's feeling a particularly strong emotion, and it doesn't matter what emotion it is.

Most of our communication is silent. How're we supposed to translate that into a written medium without gestures or dialogue? 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Heard the Earth Inhale

My post titles don't make sense anymore because I keep using song lyrics. That title came from In this Light and on this Evening by the Editors, who're my newest obsession.

I won't have homework for the next couple of days because of the Jewish holidays.

So that last blog post actually had a point:

When the Storm Birds Fly  is back on.

Everyone else is probably more pleased about this than I am.

But damnit, I think I'm writing this story for NaNoWriMo

This Post has No Title

I'm taking a moment away from all the writing meme posts I've been doing to talk about what I did this Labor Day.

Where I live, there's always this massive air show on Labor Day. So my family and I went down to watch it and see all the planes. It'd been a few years since I'd gone, and I was totally floored by the amazing skill of all the pilots. I've always harbored a secret wish to join either the Air Force or the Marines, and after yesterday I remembered why. I was able to crawl through one of ten B-17 Bombers from WWII that still flies, and see everything my Grandpa would've seen when he was a bombardier serving in the war.

I never realized exactly how close he was to the action. The bombardier is the man who sits in the nose of the plane and pilots it while it drops the bombs. He would be the person the Germans/enemy would attempt to take out first, because without him the bombs couldn't be dropped and the plane would probably go down. Most of the bombardiers didn't make it before fighter planes were built that could make the entire journey with them. I've grown up with his stories of the war, but never realized just how lucky I am to have a grandpa who survived that.

Most of my friends grandfathers served in Vietnam, if they served at all; where I go to school, there aren't many people who can claim their family's fought. My Dad fought in Vietnam, my grandpa in WWII, and my great-grandpa in WWI. 

Maybe this is why I've always felt drawn to the armed forces and write about them as much as I do.

I don't actually know what bomber that is, because there were a ton of them made for the war, but that would be what my grandpa would have flown and fought in. When I was writing this post last night, I was trying to find a good picture of the nose of the plane, so everyone could see it, but I clicked on a picture from google to get its link and I almost got a virus.

So everyone will have to deal with the one picture.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Every Ending has a Beginning

Because I'm working on Gunmetal Gray (finally!) and I haven't posted an excerpt of it yet. I thought I should show you guys (or whoever ends up reading this) some of my stuff. This is an excerpt of the prologue, which is from Lee's brother Cam's POV.

This is also a first draft, so I'm not all that worried about minor details as of right now.

Gunmetal Gray Excerpt: The Prologue

There’s a man yelling at me in a language I don’t understand. The streets are empty; the sun’s just about to rise, the sky looks like it’s holding its breath before color explodes from the horizon. And the man is screaming. John’s trying to talk to him, trying to calm him down enough to speak. Tex’s voice murmurs like the sand, quiet: “What’s he saying?” We wait, and the sky’s not the only thing holding its breath. Sometimes, you don’t need to be a language specialist to figure out what someone’s saying – there’s a crazed look to the man’s eyes. They’ve seen too much death, too much destruction; the land is reflected in his irises. They’re black, but gray and brown, too. I’ve never seen eyes like his.
He looks like he’s seen a ghost.

“I dunno.”

“John, what the hell's he saying?” We aren’t alone anymore – people are beginning to notice us. They don’t speak, but I see children behind their mothers’ silhouettes. If we aren’t careful, soon we’ll have a situation. We might already have one.

“He’s talkin’ Turkish! I don’t speak Turkish! I speak fucking Farsi – not Turkish!” The man’s begging for something, looking between John and Tex and me.

“Ben, Doc, you boys come with me.” Preacher’s watching the people watching us. Everyone’s waiting for something to happen – our rifles are heavier, the wind gentler. The man’s not screaming anymore, but he’s babbling. Talking to hear himself talk. To convince himself that everything’s gonna be alright, that his world’s not going to disintegrate around him.

“Where y’all going?” Tex is closer to John now. The man’s eyes are buggin’ out his head.

“We gotta figure out what the hell he’s so worried about!” calls Preacher, and he isn’t afraid of the dark. Preacher isn’t afraid of anything, ‘cause he’s got the Lord with him. He baptized Tex a few days ago. Did it in a kiddie pool and ended up in the pool with Tex when it was done. Preacher’s been here before. He’s gone home and come back, and he isn’t afraid.

Go, Go

I'm in a Power Rangers mood and it's awesome. So far I've written close to 2,300 words, none of which have been in any way related to any of my WiPs because they were both RP posts for my favorite role-play, which was just revived after a two month hiatus. So now I'm totally distracted from everything else in the world except rereading that RP and watching Power Ranger episodes on Youtube. I'm surprisingly okay with not writing my WiPs like I said I was, because I'm still writing and it's 2,300 words more than I've written in forever and I'm working on fleshing out one of my favorite characters with each post I write. 

So because I don't think I'm going to work on the Write Off, which is ridiculously ironic since I started it and I'll probably look like an idiot, I'll answer more questions instead.

Do You Listen to Music While You Write?
The short answer is yes, I do. I'm almost constantly listening to music, so it doesn't make sense for me not to write while listening to music. I have such an ecclectic taste in music, I can almost always find something to match a character or a scene. Take the Power Rangers roleplay for example: the two songs I listen to (and am listening to on repeat right now) are Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons and the long, instrumental version of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme. I think that's the longest link I've ever typed. 

For me to listen to something when I write a piece, I have to associate the music with the character. Most of the time, I end up making playlists for characters, or giving them themesongs. I don't know why Wil's themesong has become Little Lion Man, but it has. Roulette's theme is Carnival of Rust by Poets of the Fall. The more developed a character is, the more themes they have. Lee's themes are If You Only Knew by Shinedown, Unknown Soldier by Breaking Benjamin, and Message for the Queen from the 300 Soundtrack. His brother Cam's themes are I'm Already There by Lonestar and Into the Nothing by Breaking Benjamin. 

 I also give entire projects themes. Some of the themes for Gunmetal Gray are If You're Reading This by Tim McGraw, Hold On by Julian Gallegos, Arlington by Trace Adkins, and The Greatest Tragedy from the Stop Loss soundtrack.

What are Your Favorite Genres to Read and Write?
I don't know if I have any. I love anything that has a plot that goes beyond cutout characters. I need to have characters before I need to have a plot. When I'm writing, I love to write introspection, even though I love to write and read a good action scene. The best things I've ever read can do both of those. I need the author to have developed their characters beyond whatever situation they're in. I like the useless details that never really come out in writing. Like with Wil, who's my character for my newest obsession Power Rangers role play, he hates his real name, which is Wilson. He doesn't like heights. He lost a bet with his friends that he could chug the most pop and eat the most pop rocks without puking.

I also like to put my characters through hell and back. I like it when everything goes to shit around them and they still have to function because otherwise they'll lose themselves. Maybe they already have lost themselves. As a writer and a reader,  I like being with a character on that journey. I feel like it pushes not only the characters, but the author and the readers to write/read those types of scenes.

Plus, I find that the crazier a character is (either Rorschach insane or like...Cosmo from Fairly Odd Parents insane) the more interesting they are to write.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gotta Go with What I Know's Real

Everyone should listen to this song, because it's what I'm listening to now, and I'm cool. So obviously the song is cool, too. It's by Poets of the Fall, and it's one of their softer songs. I don't know what music you guys normally listen to, but I normally listen to rock and everything rock-esque. The music that's claimed my soul, though, is the original score and songs to The Phantom of the Opera. 

I don't know where I was taking that, so I'm just going to switch topics now.

My best friend is leaving tonight for her year abroad in Spain and I just hacked her tumblr in about two seconds. This amuses me. And I just tried to spell amuse with a z.

I just realized that I skipped a question on the writing meme, so I must correct this most horrendous ill of all horrendous ills. Ironically, it's the question I was leadt looking forward to answering.

How do you name your characters?
Let me get one thing out of the way: I DETEST NAMING CHARACTERS. 

I think it's the worst aspect of being a writer and creating characters, honestly. I never think that my names are good or unique enough. Especially the last names I give my characters. The most interesting last name I've ever given one of my characters is Matteoli, and I stole that from a driver in the NASCAR Craftman Truck Series. yes, I'm actually a redneck in the middle of Ohio, don't judge me. The second most interesting last name I've ever given a character is probably Feliks. 

I don't really know why I hate naming characters so much. Maybe because it's supposed to be so important and symbolic. For example, in my AP English class today, we read Alice Walker's short story, "The Flowers". It was a very well written short story about a little girl named Myop. When my teacher asked if we thought her name was significant, my friend was the only one to raise her hand. She then said that myopia is the condition of nearsightedness, so it meant that Myop was nearsighted and blind to everything around her until she discovered the skeleton of the lynched man in the woods.

I'm sorry, and maybe this is just because I'm a teenager and an unpublished writer and still learning my craft, but that is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard. Yes, it makes sense in the story, but goddamn, my names are never that symbolic. That borders either on genius or ridiculous and I haven't decided what it really is yet.

Enough of the rant, though.

Whenever I need a name, I go to Behind the Name because it has almost all of the nationalities and the various popularities of the names based on the decades, in addition to the meanings of the names. It's damn convenient when you hate naming characters as much as I do. 

Some of my characters just come with names, though. Like with Roulette, I knew that I wanted his name to be Roulette, and then Daniel Gray came out of nowhere. Same thing with Janus, though she doesn't have a complete name yet.

Where are you most comfortable writing? What time of day? Computer or pen and paper?
It depends on the story. I usually write on my computer, which is in my room, from 4:30 to 7:00 PM. That's what I consider to be my writing time, so I'll sometimes spend it planning. I generally don't write past midnight. On the weekends, when I'm not working, any time between 8:00 AM and midnight is fair game. Whenever I'm really inspired, though, time doesn't matter.

Take last night for instance: I finished Stephen Junger's War (which is one of the most poignant, inspiring, and truthful accounts of the war in Afghanistan I've read. Everyone should read it.) and was so inspired that I found a pen and my writing notebook and wrote a couple paragraphs before my reading light gave out and my hand cramped. Then, it didn't matter what I was writing on, or what time it was, but only that I was writing. 

If I do handwrite something, it has to be in pen. I hate pencils and don't use them except for tests, so I don't see why I'd ever write a story with them. I know that some people feel that pen is too permanent, but I love how the words can literally flow from your mind to your hand and then to the paper with a pen, and I've never felt that with a pencil. I adore how pen looks on paper, too, but that's just with black ink.

These blog posts keep getting longer and longer and they're taking me too long to write.