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.