Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Characters and Creativity

I was going to make these separate posts, but then I realized how closely entertwined they were. I don't think I could do a blog post on either without referencing the other--a lot--and they would both probably end up being short, even by this blog's standards, so here we are.

My characters tend to evolve very quickly or not at all. From what I've seen looking around at books, TV shows, movies, etc., this seems to be very often the case. If a character is the main character, by the time the story has started, you already have everything figured out about the character. For a background character, there is almost nothing figured out. If anything's there, it tends to be stereotypes.

There are exceptions, but my point is that, at least for me, characters rarely evolve gradually in my head. I come up with one or two traits, and then I have the entire personality in my head as well as a full visual. This ends up making it very difficult to communicate what the character is like, since I usually write short stories. Some of them are only five pages (Microsoft Word, Arial font size 10, quarter-inch margins). Why is it so hard to communicate? Imagine you're talking to your friends, about a friend. Now imagine someone overhearing this conversation. Does this give a good idea of the friend's personality? If I were to write a novel that showed the character in many different situations, that might be ideal, since it could be surprising, but still have a cohesive feel. However, presently I lack the patience to write a novel. Who knows? Maybe someday that will change. I already have a setting and characters and a skeletal outline if I do gain it.

Creativity works the same way for me: Stepwise. I'll have several things bouncing around in the back of my head for a while, and then something will hit--a major emotional reaction, such as anger or elation, a new discovery, whatever. And the story will all fall into place.

I would like to take a moment to distinguish between a story and, say, a manuscript. A story, to me, is all the stuff that happened. If you were there, you have the story, or at least a story. It takes someone with a fair bit of skill to come up with a good manuscript or a good story, but the difference is that you have to come up with the manuscript. You could stumble across a story, with luck and observation.

So I'm back to the same problem I had with characters. I can write the story as it happened, but will that be the best it can be? I usually write from first person, and so use a certain character's voice. That gives me some idea. But which details do I bring out? Certainly I can't describe every detail. Even if I wanted to, doing so destroys the pacing. And yet, not adding enough detail does the same thing. I solved this in one story simply by having a character tend to get lost in her thoughts--oh, they already had that conversation? Darn, I wasn't listening. [Summary] Ah. And that also allows me to have long pauses between long series of quotation marks without having to describe everything about the environment. But one way I try to improve my writing is to write many different characters, and so that it obviously not always and option. Recently I've taken to giving each of them a recurring quirk of some sort, and this helps pacing, but it still doesn't give an idea of the environment.

...Well, that and it means a large number of them are insane, one way or another. *unsettling laugh*

Hi. This is me, inviting comments. Please?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Honor Choir

Because I have to post this somewhere. If you don't want to hear about my personal life, stop now.

Solo: 18/20 (Superior)

Tone Quality: 18/20 (Superior)
* Descriptors: Dark, Open, Relaxed and Clean were circled, "BIG! SOUND" was written in the margin. Other descriptors (there was a separate line): rich, round, open & free!

Theory: 11/15 (I missed one point on the chromatic scale and all three on the major triad--I sang a minor at first. Oops!)

Tonal Memory: 22/25 (missed one point on the last and two on the third of five. They were supposed to gradually increase in difficulty)

Sight Singing: 9/20

So...guess what I need to work on? *Hunts for a sight-singing book*

EDIT: I can't believe I almost put this without saying...I got in. ACDA Coastal Women's Honor Choir, for those curious.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vampires Are the New Elves

This article will address both changes in vampire myths that makes them more similar to elves/fairies/the fair folk/the gentle folk/the fey and the original similarities.

1. Uncanny Factor: This is an essential part of vampire mythology that horror fans do not complain about (as much). The basic idea that vampires, whether friendly or not, are not like us. They are not human, they do not think like humans, they are truly a different creature.

Elves, or the fair folk or the fey or whatever else you might call them, tend to share this trait. They have their rules, and will follow them strictly and expect you to, as well. What are they? I don't know them all. This was, again, an essential part of the scary part of the fairy lore. It was what made them scary, because you might do something that to us is, at worst, a minor faux pas, and then you look up and grin sheepishly and--poof. Or worse yet, just saying thank you.

2. Glamour: Ah, yes. Who can forget fey glamour? Besides, well, anyone the Fair Folk want to forget. That just goes without saying. Vampire glamour tends to work much the same way, with the creature in question having control over it, and strength varying, without varying too much in any one story--usually. Series, of course, explore this much more extensively.

3. Holy Objects: Yes, believe it or not, these originally worked on fey. This detail is usually glossed over or forgotten in modern myth, but it was present, nonetheless.

5. Hunting You Down: Think about this for a moment, for vampires. Does it really make sense? If the person tells anyone about vampires in a world where there is a masquerade of some sort going on, no one will believe him or her. If there is no masquerade (or this would break it, somehow), and the vampire wants to stop him or her anyway, then just kill the human. Vampires are superstrong, superfast, stuperstealthy, etc. Why not?

And the usual response is either nothing or that the vampire gets bored. If that's not it, then there might be rules governing treatment of humans to avoid detection, but then we get back to the fey very easily. There are strict rules for the Fair Folk to follow in most lore, and they had to be followed exactly. Sometimes, breaking them results in them being hunted down. This could mean being tossed out or getting the Wild Hunt after you.

(Incidentally, this is totally Sunday. And if it weren't, the fact that I had a bonus update this week would totally make up for it.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Planning: Known/Unknown Knowns/Unknowns

Yes, the title can be combined in any fashion. This will be a short post explaining how, with the three traditional combinations first, then the fourth, Unknown Knowns.

Known Knowns
This is simple enough, and should, hopefully, be the basic of any plan. It means something that you know you know, essentially a truth that you know about.

Known Unknowns
These are also integral in the making of a plan. These are the variables you cannot predict--whether because of insanity, lack of information, or anything else. In other words, it is something you know you do not know--so you can prepare for it.

Unknown Unknowns
These are the things you simply cannot prepare for. There is something that could mess you up or help you, but you have no idea it exists. In short, you don't know what you don't know.

Unknown Knowns
Here is where I get the most odd looks. This is fair, since the only reason I thought of this was because I imagined known/unknown knowns/unknowns as a chart, the former on the top and the latter on the side. What is this? This is something you should know, something you either have been told or have learned, but you do not remember it. Put another way: it's true, you would recognize it, but it doesn't quite make it into your head when you're planning.

(As a side note, something I found while spell-checking this: My computer recognizes known, unknown, and unknowns, but not knowns. Weird.)

Tropes for planning (Warning: Addictive):
And when you figure everything out quickly:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Short Haircuts

For about a year previous to this, I have been looking around at short haircuts, since I wanted to cut mine. During my research, I read several sites that said that people with thick hair should not get short haircuts. I also ran across some horror stories, up to and including a woman's boyfriend breaking up with her.

Well, I was on the fence, leaning toward short hair. So I brought it up around some friends. And then:

"Girls cannot have short hair."

I don't believe I need to elaborate upon the immediate reaction of every female at the table, including myself.

Next haircut appointment, I arrive a little early, flip through some magazines, and get my hair cut from mid-back down to about an inch, with side bangs.

And the horror stories? ...Not so much. I got a bunch of compliments on my new hairstyle, and the worst comment I got was that I look like my mother. Bringing this up in front of anyone while we are both in the room is a good way to get a few laughs.

I know several girls from my school were horrified at the idea of their hair being cut short, yet everyone--everyone--seemed to like my hairstyle. So my main question is...why the terror? What is this obsession with long hair? Some justifications I hear around are that long, healthy hair takes years to grow, so it means the person has been well-taken care of, that guys grow up wanting to rescue Cinderella and Rapunzel, and none of these princesses have short hair, so guys aren't going to want to 'rescue' girls with short hair, etc., etc.

My view? My neck pain's dissipating, I'm getting fashion compliments, I'm not hiding behind my hair anymore, and I feel better after running. Short hair rocks. And anyway, I'm more of a knight than a princess.

Tropes That Occured to Me While Writing This (they didn't inspire, they're just sort of related):

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Vampires. Love 'em, hate 'em, they're everywhere these days. It's like unicorns all over again, except people seemed to just ignore the fact that unicorns used to be this powerful, wild creature. I don't mean that unicorns were all death and destruction, but most people remember the virgin capture. It was to tame a unicorn. There was a wild creature there to tame.

So, why are some people so obsessed with vampires remaining monstrosities (because yes, any smart being who is always evil is a monstrosity)? It could be because of our most basic definitions of what a vampire is: a humanoid that sucks blood. Losing blood is a dramatic and gory way to die. Strictly speaking about pain, bleeding is not the worst way to go, but it looks bad, it sounds bad, and, if you are around, it smells bad. Scent gives a very visceral reaction.

The biggest complaint I hear is that vampires are being treated as sympathetic and/or kind creatures. The explanation I usually get is that you can see clearly by looking at Dracula, Nosferatu (and occasionally Carmilla) that vampires are evil beings. Pointing to these vampires as the original undermines the point that they are trying to make, as vampires predate the printing press by a long ways. Assyrian, Babylonian, and ancient Hebrew tradition have some written examples, and vampire myths exist in enough separate cultures to suggest a fairly universal idea. Not all these vampires were good, but as to whether they were actually evil...that's not always spelled out any more clearly than it would be for a human in a story. Not even getting into a debate of what is evil...

The secondary complaint I hear, which is usually latched onto the first, is that vampires are becoming hypersexualized. This is an...interesting argument, especially when coupled with a reference to Carmilla or Dracula. Dracula is a thinly veiled "those gol derned foreigners are comin' into our town and rapin' our wimmin!" (Apologies to anyone who actually talks like that or knows anyone who does.) [Note upon rereading: I like Dracula. I've read through it, and enjoyed the book. This is not an insult to the it.] Carmilla is a precursor for lesbian vampires everywhere. Even without that, vampires' lust for blood and lust for sex are commonly combined or conflated in one way or another. If you are saying that older is better, having borderline hypersexualized vampires is all but required.

Why does this bother me so much? Because this restricts vampires to forces, like a tornado, an earthquake or a tsunami. If a vampire just is evil, there is no motivation because there is no choice. A vampire by that definition, or indeed any being with no choice in his or her morality, is not a character, s/he is a force. Even if the vampire was good, that person is dead and gone.

The hypersexualization mostly bothers me because it is a part of the original myth. It would be like calling succubi or incubi hypersexualized. It is a centerpiece of the mythology. Making them without it is completely fine, but don't tell me that doing so is better.

In Summary: Vampires have no 'original' mythology. Don't tell me you, who probably hasn't even been around 100 years, know what happened when bloodsucking humanoid creatures were created. And please don't tell me that's the only way to write them.

P.S. Did you know sunlight didn't kill vampires until very recently? Usually it just de-powered them. True story. [Later: And, of course, really old vampires tended to not physically leave their graves.]

Tropes To Look At (WARNING: This site will ruin your life, suck up all your time, and may addict you to the point that you will no longer be able to have a normal conversation without thinking in tropes. Believe this troper. She knows.)
(Oh, reading anyway? Alright.)
[Note: None of these contain an actualy continuation of my blog post, they just are some of the tropes that got me thinking.]
How addicting is this site? While pulling those links up I started browsing through. I got to non-vampire related tropes, and I almost reflexively linked to wiki walk. Gah!
(And for those of you who want more on that beginning bit: )
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart