A new regime

•August 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So tell me if you’ve heard this one before, but I’ve decided to buckle down and create work ethic. It all came to me while I was explaining the idea off Burger King not selling burgers to a drunk guy at 2am. I realized that I could be writing something interesting, but instead was doing something ridiculous. I think the problem with my work ethic has always been that I’ve seen work as something I do as a hinderance to my recreatin time, but that premise makes little sense. I enjoy writing, just as I’ve enjoyed some of my jobs and aot of schoolwork. I mean sure it sucks to have so much depend on the quality of an essay, but I often enjoy the subject matter and later on will spout of facts about said subject with enthusiam (the Olympics have been fun for me having just learned about Chinese politics).

From now on I’m going to focus on the enjoyment I garner from writing rather than the effort and time it takes. It will be hard. Usually I notice that I could be writing while streaming video, reading comics or just stumbling on the internet, but I think I’ve found a way of way around these distractions. I’ve joined twitter

Allow me to explain, I’ve decided that I want to write blog entries every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and at least one page of something else every Tuesday, Thursday and weekend. Upon completion of my pages I will twitter that it’s been done. If it gets to be late afternoon and I haven’t twittered it, I hope friends of mine will yell at me until I do.

This could be a really good idea or I should stop staying awake after all night shifts.

Common Cense Column

•August 12, 2008 • 2 Comments

So considering that writing about writing leaves me with little to blog about, and everyone’s need for constant updates, I’ve decided to try out a new weekly post idea. It came to me while flipping between the Hour and an episode of Wife Swap (man, Wednesday’s have bad tv). I’m going to give my two cents on things that other people do wrong or poorly, that seem obvious to me.

Before getting started, I hope people will recognise that most of these articles will be written with no firsthand experience of the situation. As such, feel free to yell at me through comments (I think I’m writing this subconsciously to raise my hit count).

The first subject I would like to tackle is children (as opposed to the children I actually want to tackle in the theater) and how they are raised.

I’ll start with a rhetorical question: how do you find the area of a cone?

It’s odd, we all know we learned it in school, some of us remember it, but even then only after scratching our heads for a few moments. The reason for this is that we are taught so many facts in school that most are either forgotten or become something of an afterthought. It’s why Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? works; because for the kids on the show it’s about things they learned a week ago, but for us it’s stuff we learned years ago surrounded by other murky facts that we could swear we remember.

The truth is that the most important lessons, the ones we never forget, are not about facts but about life. We all remember staying up all night to finish our projects on the Sperm Whale, but how much do we remember about the gentle giant? We remember getting caught cheating on that one math test, but do we remember the answer key? (actually, it was A C B A C D B A)

What am I getting at here? It’s simple, if you have kids and you want them to know something and be sure they remember it don’t leave it up to school. Keep in mind, I’m not saying schools are bad at teaching. I’m talking about the school experience which is present at all schools no matter how rich or poor, religious or secular.

Things that parents should be teaching their kids include almost everything taught in careers and civics (the biggest waste of a semester Ontario schools are forced to spend money on), sex ed and etiquette.I won’t go in to careers and civics because the 64 and 63 still sting 6 years later.

I know I lost some parents with the sex ed thing, but give me a chance. I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about sex with your kids, but think of your kids retarded friends, know think of one timid gym teacher trying to teach your 14 year old about STD’s while his classmates can’t stop laughing at the mention of penis’ (or peni). Ultimately an uncomfortable talk where you can traumatize your child properly about the dangers of sex must seem more affective.

The last thing I example of a lesson best taught at home (and these three examples are just that, there are many more) is etiquette. By this, I mostly mean how your children should act in public. They should not be talking during the movie, they should bus their trays at the fast food restaurant and most of all they should be seen and not heard.

Another good aspect of teaching your kids is that they see you in a better light than if you merely watch, punish and limit them. Teachers are automatically more respected than parents, because a parent’s relationship with their kids is personal, but the relationship between teachers and students is a social convention. Even if kids hate their teachers and school, but are forced by conditioning to listen to them (for the most part). This relationship can extend beyond the classroom and into the house.

Of course, I’m not saying that parents should be disconnected educator, rather that the education of children is increasingly shifting away from the home and into the school (or even worse to media, a subject I plan to tackle in an upcoming column) and this is a mistake by parents everywhere.

In search of a rhetorical style.. or any style

•August 4, 2008 • 4 Comments

First post in a long time. Mostly because I haven’t written anything in a while. A month or so ago, I finally had more than a page written and something weird happened. I sat down to add more to what I had and realized that my style and tone had completely changed in a matter of days.

My esteemed colleague recently asked about his writing style. His ability to question his influences made me realize that I have either none or far too many. I wish I could write like my favourite author, but whenever I start to force myself to use their styles, I feel like a hack. However, when I write free form I feel bland.

I think I have remedied that for now by starting a new project in which I am harnessing Vonnegut and some Douglas Adams in spirit but without many of their biggest style choices. Allow me to share the first few paragraphs I’ve written (be kind):

Hello.
How are you doing on this fine day or night?
I find that all too often stories are told without any consideration of the reader and as such will try to maintain all niceties while conveying a tale of regret and social ineptitude. In this spirit let me compliment you on what, for my money, is one of the nicest reading outfits I’ve ever seen. Have you lost weight recently? It really shows.
With that out of the way, let me begin in the best way I know how: the end. This story ends with the protaganist staring at his computer screen full of self loathing and wishing he had the ability to change himself.
Isn’t that cheery?
Let’s flesh out this protagonist. His name is Harvey Walters. At the end of the story he will 20 years old. He’s white and from an upper middle class family that lives in the suburb of a big North American city. Honestly, suburbs are all the same regardless of the city they satelite, so please feel free to pick your favorite city with a population of over two million and assume that within a 20 minute drive of said city exists a suburb by the name of Winchester. His parents were excessively successful in their chosen fields, which both can only be explained with technical and economic jargon, hardly a proper use of our time together. Lt me just say that Howard was comortable econimically without the decadence his generation (Generation Y, that is) generally aspires to.

Any thoughts? Feel free to correct my grammar as I wrote this at 4am and probably made several mistakes. I’m hoping that by fleshing out my style here I’ll be able to tone it done for plot driven projects like the fantasy ideas or the steampunk project.

Also, stay tuned for a short story I’m working on as a backstory for my D&D character.

Romeo by any other name would still be a little bitch

•July 2, 2008 • 2 Comments

I’ve never realized just how bad I am at thinking of names. It’s quickly becoming the biggest hindrance to my writing after my own laziness.

I don’t know what it is about naming characters that scares me so much. I know everything to know about the characters I create, but not their names. I know +it seems kind of foolish to say that I know everything about my characters seems, but after reading so many Vonnegut novels I find myself thinking up elaborate back stories for the most insignificant characters even though I know I’ll never actually write most of it. I guess I’m glad of the habit because it helps me figure out how characters would react to certain situations.

So how is it that by the time I actually come to write about a character their names cripple me. I’m always afraid that my names will come of as being too generic (especially when the genre dictates weird names, such as fantasy or steampunk) or too ridiculous. On the side of ridiculousness I’m not afraid of being unique in names, but rather ridiculous in the cliched sense in which characters are named based on their characteristics or place in the story.

I think that the bigger problem might be that I don’t like boxing my characters into existence (if that makes any sense) by naming them. The more I reveal about a character in the story, the less I can play with their back story in my mind. This a problem that I must solve going forward, as writing while fearing character development is counter intuitive to say the least.

I’m hoping that as I get used to naming and introducing character it will become easier. Any ideas for names for throwaway characters would be appreciated.

Lazy Saturday

•June 28, 2008 • 3 Comments

So my new header is up. Basically just a snapshot of my floor at the moment. Nothing but dirty laundry and books. Unfortunately the cropping removed a few of the visible books. Fortunately it also removed all of the visible underwear.

On a different note, I’ve finally installed a word processor on my desktop and have started writing. Well, sort of. I’ve had the intro for my steampunk project in my head for a while and I wrote the first page last night, but I’ve come upon an unexpected problem. I’m having trouble making it steampunk. Besides the mention of the zephyr that’s used as the main setting I can’t really think of a way to make the primarily visual genre translate into text. To be fair my story so far is more of a character introduction that an introduction and will probably not be the first part of the story once it’s all written.

Let me backtrack to the for I’m taking in the story. I’ve decided to introduce each character separately (or two at a time at the most) through mini chapters detailing each characters vacation between missions. I’ve started with the resident spy and assassin (probably because the art for the character was based on me, but also because I had some good ideas about the character). I’m thinking of writing the engineer next as a good intro to the technology and world in general or perhaps the captain, either one to be placed before the spy story.

I’m not really sure how long these intros should be. With at least 7 (perhaps 8 ) crew members, I don’t want the intro to drag on. At the same time the current intro I’m writing is one page in and I could write ten more. I’ll probably cut myself off between three and a half and four. That way the character intros can be 28 pages and then I can introduce additional characters later on.

I guess it would also be helpful to figure out how this story will be presented. I was thinking of writing it like a serial novel in terms of length, but that makes 28 pages a large investment for a book that would only be about 200. But that could be worth it if I can write a series of these books, which the story definitely lends itself to.

In any case, it’s good to finally be able to write, I’m hoping to keep myself at at least a page per day regardless of which project I’m working on. Not a lofty goal, but with my work ethic still may be difficult.

Now for some viewer participation, I need a name for my spy/assassin character. I’ve been using my own name so far, but that feels too fanfic-y. Also, I’m still having trouble coming up with my race designs for my fantasy project, so any ideas are appreciated.

New theme

•June 27, 2008 • 1 Comment

So after my most esteemed colleague and housemate pointed out the similarity between my theme and a cheap Italian restaurant, I was forced to switch. This creates a new problem as this theme has a header that I’m not a huge fan of. Somebody please give me ideas/images for a better banner.

That’s all I’ve got for today as my word processor is still not in place and as such I have nothing new to bitch about.

How do you fix a problem like fantasty?

•June 26, 2008 • 3 Comments

As mentioned in my last post, one of the projects I’m working on is a fantasy world. Fantasy has always held a special place in my heart, though I don’t really know why. I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve never read the Narnia series, never finished The Return of the King (though I got through the other two and the Hobbit, so I still deserve a medal) and never understood Warhammer. I have played World of Warcraft, but that was more recent.

I think my pull towards fantasy is a much more personal one. It isn’t the worlds that have been created by others that intrigued me, but rather their form. This is to say that their form is almost entirely up to the author. Want to tell the story of a war between the lion and the witch through four orphans? Sure. Make the most unassuming race the heroes of Middle Earth? Great!

However, it seems to me that at some point after tabletop gaming became all important in the fantasy world, authors stopped trying. Or, at least, they’ve made a concerted effort to make everything very similar. It makes sense, nobody is going to buy miniatures and cards and handbooks for games that have no dragons or dwarves, especially when so many familiars games are so entrenched as the giants of that industry.

To me, the best thing in fantasy recently has been the Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not to say that it’s better than Narnia or makes Warhammer look stupid, but at least it’s different.

So here’s my goal for fantasy: to have an original world from which I can derive many stories. I will create new races (I’m even considering removing the human race for the purposes of full originality), with a new mythos that does not come from any fantasy world before it, whether it’s the Christ myth or the Elder Gods of Azeroth.

My earliest conception was a world in which a powerful being (not sure who, why or how) comes to the world (name needed) and proclaims four words. Four brothers (I’m thinking this is where humans can be placed) hear the words and squabble between themselves as to which the all powerful being meant as the most important. This causes a rift between the brothers as they each pursue their word-based ideology. After thousands of years the descendants of the brothers have become separate races, each having used magics and science to help them better act according to their ideology. The words uttered are Justice, Freedom, Honour and Reason.

I have a number of ideas of twists that can be thrown into the four brothers myth and am thinking of throwing a fifth brother or a sister. To me the first thing I really need to some understanding of how beings that base their entire live on things like freedom and justice should look and how each would feel in relation to the others.

Let me know how derivative this is of other fantasy (as I’m sure I accidentally rehashed something from somewhere else), or if you have any design ideas that I can have.

Until next time, may the light embrace you.