Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Distress of the Privileged

Long time, no post but I've found this really good article that's given me a great perspective on those less than sympathetic characters that rates a slight inconvenience to them as terrible compared to the misery inflicted on others to avoid that inconvenience.  I can't explain it in a paragraph so just take my word on it and go take a look at this fantastic article.

Monday, February 27, 2012

1811 Slang Book

Well, I got interested in this book since it was mentioned in the Julian Stockwin newsletter (he's a great naval warfare author) and found it on Gutenberg. It looks to be a lively collection of slang terms for any who's interested. Some of these could doubtless be dropped into your world building efforts for a vintagey feel.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

SAMPLE IT: 15 Ways To Show Fear

I have posts on fear and your characters, the details of fear (which explains why I'm splitting SAMPLE IT: Anxiety from SAMPLE IT: Fear), two main uses of fear, trauma and a list of trauma symptoms. You can check out a really neat set of descriptions of physical sensations and movements in response to emotions (fear) in the aforementioned hyperlink. Still, I think I can add to that, so without further ado, here is a list of 15 descriptions of fear. Here's an opening piece to put me in the mood:

Images flash across the screen. He can see them now. The screams of twisted creature's haggard features. Water rolling back of the shore of something terrible. Twisting vines of dripping black dangling from the sky. A voice that shatters glass. A rolling front of white-hot trembling air coming forward. Flesh flayed from bones. A man faces a woman with a knife. She intones, her hands twisting through a number of bizarre gestures, snake-like, intense, wrong. The man's face twists in pain, his limbs jerking back, pustules cross his face, blistering, fluidic, his eyes clouded with blood, growing red, the blood running along lines in his blistered face. He turns to the television screen.

1. Dave grips the remote tightly in his hand, staring wide-eyed at the screen.
2. Slowly, ever so slowly, he lifts the remote and presses the 'off button' with a trembling finger.
3. The television snaps off, and exhales long and slow, his lungs still tight.
4. He uses the chair's arm to steady himself as he rises to his feet.
5. His legs are weak beneath him and he staggers to the wall to lean against it, staring toward the warm lights of the kitchen.
6. The lights go out. His heart thuds against his ribs as he looks around, searching for some sign of an intruder by the light switch.
7. The television snaps back on. Gasping, he whips around towards it.
8. Nothing. Just static. He stares at it, eyes wide and watchful, eyebrows raised somewhere between hopeful and terrified. Maybe it's nothing.
9. His blood runs cold and he can almost feel the pallor settling on his cheeks.
10. Something rustled in the kitchen. He held his breath, keeping still, listening for the source of the sound.
11. Someone was moving around in there and he was standing so very close to the door. He crouched down somewhat, moving away, neck muscles stiff with the effort of holding himself as still as he could all the while moving toward the front door.
12. Footsteps behind him. He flinched, expecting pain.
13. A hand clamped down on his shoulder and he pulled away from it, cringing in fear.
14. "Please d...." His weak voice failed to finish the plea.
15. He ducked his head as he turned to face his attacker. "Mum?"

"David Robert Smith, why on Earth aren't you in bed yet?" asked his mother, smiling grimly. "Maybe this'll teach you for watching those horror movies on a school night."

Yeah, yeah, I know. Not the best quality writing but that's kind of hard when you're focusing on bodily reactions in a third-person restricted POV where each line needs a new response. Notice the fight, flight, or freeze responses? The times when he takes a deep breath (or exhales deeply) to ready himself?

Anyway, if anyone has any other examples of fear responses, please feel free to post them down in the Comments box.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cheap 2nd Hand Books

Yay! I got about a half dozen books on pirates - ranging from fantasy to high adventure to thriller to historical - from the public library where I work. 20 cents each! Now that's a bargain. Unfortunately for the pirate books I'm too busy with my stuck in Mira Grant's 'Deadline' (from the Newsflesh series) to read them, but once I'm done dealing with conspiracies around a zombie-infested future, I'll dig deep into pirates.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CBT: How Beliefs Affect Feelings & Actions

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy uses a model of human emotion which basically states that it's not the circumstances of a person's life that make them unhappy but the views they take of them. While it does, of course, admit that certain circumstances would make any sane person unhappy, it still holds true that just HOW unhappy they make a person and HOW that person will react to those circumstances will depend on a person's thoughts and beliefs.

For example, let's say your elf warrior is walking along and notices human tracks through the forrest. If he believes in the tales of legendary gold-bearing humans who come to bear tribute to any elf that they find, he'll likely react with excitement and joy. If he believes in the tales of forrest-destroying, war-mongering, and ambitious humans, his reactions are likely to be resentment and horror. The prints are the same. The person who left them is unchanged. But the elf's perspective can be very different and he will react according to that perspective.

Should the elf find the human, he could either approach according to the friendly customs of his people or attempt to frighten the human away. Let's say, the custom is to shoot an arrow into a tree near the individual to show you could have killed them, but didn't, and thus are open to peaceful talks. The human, depending on their knowledge and biases, might see it as a threat, a missed assault, a friendly greeting, a foolhardy custom, or the sign of a stupid hunter who saw him as a deer. Again, the human's reactions (and feelings) will depend on their beliefs.

This ability to interpret, reinterpret, and misinterpret events according to one's beliefs is what can be used to add so much drama into a story but, unfortunately, it can also damage the story's credibility when the beliefs are stretched to illogical lengths to justify bad reactions. The difference is the logical consistency of those beliefs. If enough contrary evidence is given, most people are willing to make an exception for an individual, even if they won't change their whole belief system. This is how you get racists who espouse racist beliefs but who are on really good terms with a local Asian or Aboriginal family.

And it does take awhile to change your core beliefs, which is something I'll go into next week.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Feed, Mira Grant

'Feed' is part of the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant and it's a first-person story revolving around three bloggers who are hired to follow a presidential campaign a few decades after the Rising. The Rising is where the Kellis-Amberlee virus (a combination of a viral cure for cancer and a viral cure for the common flu) started taking over human hosts and giving them a desire to either spread the infection either through swapping fluids (i.e. biting) or consume meat that can be used for viral replication in place of the body's own meat.

It's a very well-researched and interesting read and there wasn't a moment when I doubted the authenticity of the people, locations, or technology -- even the zombies seemed realistically portrayed. It's rare that you find a zombie novel that deals with what society might look like after the Rising and how people might grow to adapt to the possibility of loved ones gnawing off their head but Mira Grant captures it all in spades.

This novel made me cry a total of three times. It's the first time I've cried in a novel in a VERY long time and I do read a fair bit so that is saying something.

I can't recommend it enough.

Read It For: Brilliant characterisation, well-written point of view, touching tragedy moments done well.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gendered Characterisation

This is a fantastic article from TV Tropes on the different media expectations, tropes, and reasoning behind certain gender norms on television and in other forms of media. There's no real way for me to summarise all the brilliant details here but I do encourage you to take a look. It'll help you understand why your characters don't seem feminine or masculine enough for your readership and what the perspectives behind the issues are.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to reveal flirtation

1. Jack stared at her until he was sure he'd caught her eye, then he looked away, glancing back a few short seconds later.
2. Jane leaned forward in her chair, her legs crossed with her hands clasped on her knees so that her arms squeezed her bosom a little.
3. He grinned and raised his eyebrows at her, raising his drink in the same movement.
4. Her lips parted slightly as she slowly returned the smile.
5. That was as good an invitation as any. Jack sauntered over, sitting down on a nearby chair and leaning forward a little in his chair (mimicking). "Hello."
6. Jane tossed her head back, running her fingers through her dark blonde hair (preening) as she rose to her feet. "Hi there."
7. Jack rose as well. "Going somewhere?" Her hooked in his thumbs in his pant pockets, fingers splayed. (A cocky framing device for his, um...)
8. She flicked her gaze from his shoes on upward. "Maybe. Depends."
9. His grin broadened and he cocked his head to one side, waiting. The silence stretched on, so he asked, "On what?"
10. She bit her lip lightly, holding it there for a moment. "You."
11. He chuckled and glanced away from a moment, then turned his attention back on her. Boy, she was making him nervous. "Oh?" His throat was a little dry, so he cleared it, and tried again. "Oh yeah?"
12. "Yeah. Maybe." She shrugged and flicked her hair back over one shoulder.
13. He took a short step closer to partially close the gap. Now they were in touching range and he sure wanted to touch her. Still, this girl wasn't exactly subtle but that didn't mean he was home free yet. (proximity helps)
14. She held his gaze for a few additional minutes then dropped her gaze, almost coyly, to the floor, moistening her lips as she did so.
15. He resisted the urge to touch her, to gently lift that chin and lean forward to kiss her. Instead, he scratched at his chin. "So, uh, can I buy you a drink?"

Okay, this isn't the subtlest of flirtations but I tried to show a range from the arsenal. Remember, though, that flirtation is very particular to the character. Some may flirt simply by talking to you. Others might draw on a wide range of coy behaviors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to show sadness / melancholy

This is a tricky one as melancholy often involves a sort of visible weariness that manifests in limited, often jerky, gestures and short, stilted speech. Still, I'm nothing if not keen on a challenge.

Of course, since I'll be throwing out examples of sadness, let's get the obvious one out of the way:

1. Jane cried / wailed / keened over her tiara.

Now onto the less obvious methods of showing sadness.

2. Jane slouched into the room and headed into the living room.
3. She slumped into the couch.
4. "Sure. Sounds great." Her flat tone and drooping shoulders showed she thought it would be anything but.
5. Her eyes welled up in tears as she stared down at her feet.
6. She didn't bother to look at him. What was the point?
7. She plastered on a tight smile. "No, really, I feel better now," she said a little too loudly. "You can stop, really."
8. Her lower lip trembled as she struggled to blink back the tears before they dripped down her cheeks.
9. She lowered her head into her hands, shoulders shaking as she fought back the grief.
10. Jane leaned her head against the window glass, staring outside but seeing nothing.
11. She tried to clear her throat, but the twisted lump remained, drawing her voice tight over every syllable.
12. She clenched her fists, quickly drawing in breath, hoping the feeling would pass.
13. She rubbed at her chest, trying to ease the ache in her heart, and gulped for air. It was so hard to breathe.
14. "Where were you?" Her voice broke over the last syllable.
15. Her breath caught in her throat. "Simon?"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to show confidence / pride / arrogance

Pride and arrogance aren't the same thing but, for simplicity's sake, I'm combining them both here.

1. Jane jutted out her chin (suggesting obstinance)
2. She tilted her head back and stared down her nose at him.
3. She hooked her thumbs into her armpits, splaying her fingers.
4. Jane rocked back on her heels, staring down at him.
5. She leaned back in her chair and folded her hands behind her head.
6. "Do you really think that?" Jane asked, closing her eyes and arching her eyebrows at her friend.
7. Jane blew on her fingernails, then polished them on her lapel. "Chalk another one up to me!"
8. Jane stared at the teacher, clicking her fingers in the air to get her attention. "Excuse me? Excuse me!"
9. "Who? Her?" Jane indicated the girl with a dismissive flap of one hand. "Well I suppose you could talk to her."
10. Jane smirked. "What a good idea..."
11. She puffed out her chest and put her hands on her hips as her commanding officer heaped praise on her.
12. Gestures that involve taking up space show confidence (sometimes arrogance depending on the situation) such as: Jane flopped on her friend's couch and threw her legs over the arm rest.
13. Jane kept glancing past her date, looking for someone else to talk to.
14. Jane strutted into the store.
15. Jane swaggered out of the store.

If you want some more details on how you showcase arrogance, take a look here: