Monday, May 28, 2012

*dusts off old blog*

I think I'm going to start posting on this again. We'll see how long it lasts (see the original intro post; I still feel mostly the same about blogs). I'll try to keep this blog to writing-related things and the occasional political thing, but fandom might creep in as well--no promises.

Since I mentioned politics, please be aware that...well, first, that I'm a different person than I was six years ago, and I'm much less interested in responding to disagreement with blistering sarcasm. This is no guarantee I WON'T--particularly if I feel you're being deliberately obtuse--but for the most part, I've found politeness nets more interesting discussion anyway.

So, that said, if I post something and you disagree with it, let me know. Publicly if you're comfortable, privately if you aren't. I like conversation much better than silence.

And I like having my words on a page in a public forum again, even if no one knows this blog exists anymore. :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

On "pings" :D

I was going to call this post "on fetishes" but, I figured that might offend some people. Don't worry: I'm still talking about writing.

I find that there are certain things my writing always returns to, certain kinds of scenes I like to write, certain characters I gravitate towards. Everyone has these things, I think--you love reading about them, you love writing about them, they fascinate you. Sometimes for reasons you can't explain.

For example: I love writing about skies. I don't just mean descriptions of sunsets or stormclouds (though I do enjoy those); I mean ANYTHING associated with skies. Cities in the clouds. Characters with wings. Birds, dragons, intelligent bits of lightning. I love the symbolism of sky vs. ground or sky vs. sea. I love writing about wind, about weather, about flight and about falling. Even stories that do not center around these things tend to at least touch on them.

For another example: I love describing broken things. Some people can spend paragraphs waxing poetic about their character's good looks; me, I make pretty metaphors about corpses. Likewise, I prefer ruins to functioning cities. I love describing dead things, and things that are shattered or torn or bleeding. I think possibly this is a response to the overabundance of "beautiful" description in the things I read: I want the ugly stuff to get just as much attention. Beauty doesn't mean anything without ugliness. ...Also, describing dead bodies is really fun.

For a third example: Give me a story--any story--that features a child soldier, or ANY child forced to grow up quicker than they should. I am hooked. It is the same in writing as it is in reading. It's not that I approve of this sort of thing--it's that I find it one of the most tragic situations a character can be put in, and that makes it fascinating. And, well, creepily stoic teenagers >>>>>>>>>> whiny, angsty brats.

So! What are your "pings"? What are the things you can't seem to stop yourself writing about? What things do you think you could write even if you had no story as a backbone? And what are the reasons you love these things--if you know the reasons?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Characterization

It was sometime back in high school that I really started being concerned with characterization. I don't know what prompted this--if I had to guess, I'd say it was about the same time I started reading a lot of fanfiction, and became familiar with the term "Mary Sue." (For those who don't know what that is, wiki it--if nothing else, it's one more bit of internet jargon to familiarize yourself with.)

Either way, I became hyper-aware of my characters, both as roles in the story and as people; and I hope, by this point, that that awareness comes through in most of the stuff I write. Characterization is probably the most important thing, to me, in judging the quality of a story.

When it comes to writing, I like my character growth to be as organic as possible. This used to mean writing out in-character journal entries, or filling out surveys; then I realized it was much faster to simply role-play the character, either online or in real life. The latter, especially, helped me get a really quick sense of how the character spoke, thought, and moved--things which are, in my mind, at the core of consistent characterization. The rest of the stuff is reasons and details.

At some point I became able to just sort of think to myself "I have this space in the story. I need /x/ sort of character," and wait. I'd compare it to putting out a "Help Wanted" ad--because that was what it felt like, the moment that an /x/-shaped character sort of...showed up. With these sorts of characters, I try to just give them space at first--I might write down their name, or talk about them with other people, but I don't actually write the character until they've "settled" and I have a bit of an idea of their backstory. Generally speaking, it isn't backstory I consciously come up with; where I used to have painstaking psychoanalysis of a favorite character's reasons for being the way they are, these days I just...ask.

And that's pretty much how I judge whether MY characterization's on-target or not--am I asking, am I listening to the answer, does the answer come easy and make sense; yes? Good.

So, nowadays, I guess I would say I don't "build" characters so much as get to know them, the same way you would people.

This probably sounds pretty schizophrenic to those who do things differently--SO! Let's hear your opinions on the matter. Am I nuts? How do ya'll build characters? How important is characterization to YOUR writing?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Touching on weather

It's snowed more in St. Louis in the past day than it has in over a decade. This morning, I walked out of my dorm and the concrete stairs had become a smooth white slope. The roads are slush already, and it's not snowing anymore, but every path that hasn't been cleared out is covered in a thick coat of snow. And it's the best sort of snow, too, good for packing and throwing and sledding and skiing.

I'm in love. <3

What's your favorite writing weather?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Writing Exercise I

In my Fiction II class, we get a lot of in-class prompts, and we're asked to write about 500 words for 'em, after which we can turn the prompts in or take them home to polish. I kind of like how this one turned out, so I figured, since this is a writing blog, why not stick it up.

The prompt, in this case, was to write a fabulist piece. Comments welcome, though I don't really plan on doing anything with this.


No matter what anybody tells you, dead mothers don’t make good alarm clocks.

I know, I know, should be self-evident, along of dead things don’t usually move, or talk, or start playing your favorite radio station at full blast, unless you stuck a radio inside a dead thing, in which case I think you’ve got more problems than I can help you with.

But it’s actually not the “dead” part that’s the problem, in this case. Ma didn’t quite catch on to being dead, see; she was patient about it for awhile but when we started closing the coffin lid, well, let’s just say me and my brother would’ve been grounded forever if we hadn’t let her up. Ma’s always been a nonconformist, says Da, and we should be good boys and respect her point of view, and also it’s hard to get a dead body into a wooden box when it doesn’t want to go. So we drove her home from her own funeral, helped her get her mouth unglued, and since then it’s mostly business as usual, save for the small fortune we’ve spent on air fresheners and scented candles (because whoever told you mothers smell like fresh-cut roses and ivory soap never had to live with a dead one).

Like I said, though, it’s not her being dead that’s the problem, at least not that alone. Dead things can still be alarms. Jason down the street says his dog wakes him up at seven sharp every morning, and Skitter’s so dead he doesn’t even have fur anymore. No—the problem’s when you mix “dead” with “mother”.

See, ever since Ma died she’s got this idea in her head that we don’t want her here anymore. Which isn’t true, really. I mean, my brother really freaked out last week when he found one of her fingers sitting in Da’s ashtray, but I think that was just ‘cause he was disappointed it wasn’t a cigarette for him to steal. We want Ma there, if for no other reason than she makes the best peanut butter sandwiches in the world (even if they have a clingy sort of graveyard taste to ‘em now). But you can’t argue with dead people, really, and she thinks we don’t want her.

And I mean, if you thought your kids didn’t want you there, and you came in the morning to wake ‘em up, and there they were sleeping, would you want to wake ‘em? Nobody likes getting up in the morning. Especially not when they have a big test, even if they studied hard, you know? Ma was just trying not to push things, plus probably she doesn’t really realize how important school is, since she’s dead now and time doesn’t matter so much anymore.

So I really, really don’t think it’s fair to count me tardy, unless you want to tell my dead mother she’s not allowed to wake her son up for school. I mean, I know dead mothers don’t make good alarm clocks, but it’s not like you can punish her for being late.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On naming things.

My head's filled with names today. Not the normal sort, either: Sweet Moment of the Waking Dream. Precious Falling Star. Eve of the Blood-craven Dawn.

Weird little things like that.

I like naming things. It's my favorite part, I think, of having new stories and new characters and new places. It's also, to me, one of the most essential parts: I can't develop things, really, until I've named them. A character without a name is just a placeholder; personality traits, backstory, appearance, none of it STICKS until they have a name. Once they have a name, they're people.

(This is also how I judge whether a story will be eating my brain, in its early stages--do the characters have names? and are they GOOD names?)

I also find that I geek out about names in stories--I love it when characters have more than one name, or nicknames; I love it when you can tell the closeness of two characters by what they call each other. I love figuring out what characters refer to themselves as, or when the name the character uses gives away something about how old they are, what they're feeling at that moment, their self-identity.

If I could write a story completely, entirely about names? I probably would. I think my love of Japanese is based partially in the neat things it can do with names: you can write the same name dozens of different ways, and it is still the same name, but the meaning's totally different; what two people call each other tells you how close they are, their relative social rank, and something about their personality; and your name carries with it all of your family history. In Japan, names have always been one of the most important things. I relate to that.

I've got no system for coming up with names. I know a couple, but my favorite names tend to come on impulse. When the right name hits, I KNOW it's right--and from there on, I can build.

Contrarily, I have a close friend who, when she writes, insists on naming her characters last. Her reasoning is, she can't know what sort of name will fit until she knows the character. I don't want to say she places less importance on names, because she doesn't; she just names things last. It's a finishing touch, for her, rather than a foundation.

What about ya'll? Are names an integral part of character creation? What systems do you use to name things? Do your characters' names ever change as they develop; do you sometimes use the same name for more than one character? Tell me about it~

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Starting Stories

Since I made this blog to talk about writing, I figure I might as well try and do that a little! Right now, I'm starting a story. It's an old story that I've tried to write several times, but it tends to change enough that it feels new. Always blindsides me, though, this story--today I was just sitting at home, looking over my sister's shoulder while she played Phoenix Wright (off-topic: AWESOME GAME), and I get up to get a glass of milk and all of a sudden the main character in this story starts blabbing at me. I haven't worked on it in months! But there he goes. I find that's usually the way story beginnings work for me. I can never control where the first scene comes from, or when it comes. (To be fair, my brain is geared towards ideas that are shiny and new, so finding starting scenes usually isn't very hard--at least compared to finding middle scenes, end scenes, etc.)

And I'm always tempted to outline when I get a new story idea--I think it's because I'm such a perfectionist, and there's a childish part of me that still thinks if I just outline ENOUGH, I really will "get it right" the first time through.

However, I also find that outlining too much kind of strangles the story. I might feel a little more secure about it, if I have an outline, but when I actually start working on something I've already outlined, a lot of it feels lifeless and forced. I think, possibly, I need to be a little scared when I'm writing, a little unprepared for it: else I don't pay enough attention.

But everyone's different. So for my first writing-related post, a question for ya'll! How do YOU start stories? What inspires you--real life events? songs? random bits of dialogue? other stories you've read? How much do you think about/worldbuild/outline/plan the new story before you write, and why? And how easy do you find starting stories, as compared to continuing/finishing them?