Wading Through Word Vomit

My writing has suffered in the past few months due to my being caught in a sinking pit of Word Vomit.

As writers or readers, you may know this term. Word Vomit is a lot like it sounds—the act of spewing words onto a page, no matter how good or bad they sound, whether they make sense or not. Your first draft of anything is going to be mostly Word Vomit. As you read through it and re-write and edit, the Vomit gets cleaned off until three or four drafts later, where you will have a polished piece.

But I’ve always found Word Vomit frustrating in its own ways. Writing’s Block likes to sneak into even the sloppiest of writing, and Motivational Death results shortly after. For the past few months, I have been working on a new writing project. I got six chapters in before I realized I needed a new chapter four to fix the pacing and keep my POV alternations in order. So, with a suggestion from a well-read co-worker, I set out to revise this part of the piece.

I only recently managed to get to a point where I felt I could move on with the story. And ‘Vomit’ is an apt description for what I wrote. The chapter is a mess. While events are mostly in order, there are entire sections containing poor description, and other sections where I literally just wrote [MORE DESC] at the end of a paragraph. It was frustrating for me, to leave even a rough draft sadly incomplete. Yet it helped me see what was so essential about the Word Vomit process.

Yes, it’s messy. Yes, your word choices are terrible. Yes, your descriptions are confusing or incomplete. Yes, your characters are inconsistent. Yet even within the chaos, there is some order. And that order is just enough to let you soldier on ahead with your writing. Even with bracketed comments reminding me that more description was needed and a jumbled writing flow, I see where things are headed. There’s a series of events laid out, not clearly, but more like a street sign in a thick fog. I need to get close to see it, but it’s there.

Word Vomit is like the nervous system of your novel. It’s built on top of your outline—the bones—and is then supplemented by the edits and fixes and cuts you make later—muscle and skin. No matter how you hate it, once the project is complete, you will see how the Word Vomit supported the polished piece.

Chapter Four is an unholy mess, but I can see what it’s trying to be. And that’s enough to help me soldier onwards to Chapter Five.

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How NOT to Keep your Audience Reading

Your whole goal when writing, be you a poet or a short story scrivener or a novelist, is to keep your audience’s attention to the very last word. To have them so absorbed in what you ha e written that they absolutely need to finish that next page, and then the page after that, and then the page after that even though they should really be getting to bed because they have an early meeting tomorrow. There are many drafts to go through to reach this point, and every person is different so your writing won’t be for everyone.

Here are some things that have made me just give up on a book.

Endless Description– This is sometimes more of a skip offence for me. Details are great. They paint a picture, help immerse the reader’s senses, provide places to hide exposition and foreshadowing. But if I have read two pages describing the drop on dew on a blade of grass in the courtyard, I’m going to get bored very fast. I may not put your writing down if the story and characters interest me enough, but I will skip things over. I’ll put the writing down if I start to lose the plot trying to wade through metaphors and purple prose.

Boring Characters– If I’m supposed to follow these people around for the entirety of your story, as a writer, you need to give me something to invest in. If your characters are bland at best and loathsome at worst, I won’t want to read about them. Nothing is worse than your audience feeling apathy for your characters, and having despicable ones will not keep attention much longer.

The only greater sin is giving me really good minor characters, but forcing me to read about the terrible ones.

Confusing Plot/Boring Plot– It’s important to keep your plot organized, but also have it be exciting. If I have no idea what’s going on and can’t keep up with all the subplots infesting your primary plot, I will get tired of trying and give up. If I’m spending the entire time waiting for something exciting to happen, I’ll just get tired. The dreams I have while taking a nap will probably be way more entertaining.

Excessive Profanity– A good curse in dialogue is fine. A well-placed curse can even put emphasis on a crisis or make your audience laugh. However, dialogue is usually where curses should be limited. You don’t need to curse excessively in your narration, even if you’ve gone first person. A little emphasis is fine, but when every few sentences contains a curse, I don’t feel like I’m reading a professionally written piece. I feel like I’m reading the minutes of a fourteen year old boy’s Xbox session.

Cliches Galore– If I can guess everything that’s likely to happen in your story based solely on a summary and come out with a 90% accuracy rating, you’ve got a problem. Readers like to be surprised and to see new things. Predictability can leave your readers bored. We’re along to watch the struggle, not roll our eyes at obvious solutions or static characters and settings.

Preaching – There’s a difference between delivering a lesson and using a character as a mouthpiece to voice your opinions loudly and as if they are correct. Proper lessons are taught through character development and subplots (and even the actual plot, depending on your story). If I feel like I’m listening to an aggressive sermon, telling me about how this is bad and if you do it you are bad, I will stop listening.

General Discomfort– I once stopped reading a book with an interest plot, good form, and pretty good characters. My reason? Several scenes involving minor characters came off as exceedingly racist. Was this intentional on the author’s part? I have no idea, but writers, make sure you really look what you’re writing. You don’t want to alienate your audience with unintentional prejudice.

And if your prejudice is intentional? Then you deserve to lose readership.

Too many combinations of these will also result in a loss of interest, but for some people only certain combinations will do it. You could be fine with bland characters as long as the story is good. You might enjoy a cliche storm that you need not think too much about.

But as a general note, trying to avoid these issues will be the first step in keeping your readers engaged.

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What I Want to See in Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events

One of my favourite series as a tween was Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I felt it a special sort of series in the way it was written and how the plot unfolded. I loved Snicket’s quirky narration–the way he would constantly define words, or break the fourth wall, or how he would insert little things like two completely black pages because there was no other way to describe how dark an elevator shaft was. I loved how ridiculous it could be. The adults never listened to the obvious, and you’d think after Olaf’s third attempt on the orphan Baudelaires, the adults would have been more wary. There was a sense of fun to the books, and you always wanted Violet, Klaus, and Sunny to make it out okay, even if you knew there was only misery ahead.

Recent word on the web promises the books are to be made into an official series by Netflix. It’s exciting news for fans, especially after the disappointing film starring Jim Carrey. Though the “official trailer” for the series turned out to be fan-made, it got a lot of us even more excited for what this series has to offer.

Though, perhaps Netflix ought to hire this person on. This video is a masterpiece.

I eagerly await to relive my childhood in full with the coming of this series, but there are a few things I would like to see from it.

Lemony Narration– The movie did this with a shadowed Jude Law cast as Mr. Snicket and I would love to see something similar from the show. Snicket’s unique commentary was part of what made the books so enjoyable. I want Mr. Snicket telling me to turn off my TV and watch something happier. I want him to apologize to the audience after an episode leaves us on a cliffhanger. Snicket’s job was to tell us all he had learned of the Baudelaires, and I want him to continue to do so.

Proper Pacing– A big issue with the movie was how they chose to organize the events. They combined the first three books in the film, splitting the events of the first book between the beginning and end. This did not work. Now, this will be unlikely with a full series as we’re dealing with a different format. I don’t know how the seasons will be paced though. Will each season be a couple of hour and a half long episodes following a single book? Will three books make up each season? There are thirteen books to get through. I wonder how Netflix will do this.

An Intimidating Olaf– I get that the guy is over-the-top looking and that his design screams “eeeeevvviiiiillllll.” He’s so obviously evil it’s hilarious. The movie took the easy route, working with his absurd appearance by casting Jim Carrey and having him be whacky. I want Netflix to take the tougher route. I want then to keep the iconic look of the character, but cast an actor who can make me feel the same menace the Baudelaires felt. I want Olaf to be frightening. I want him to be somewhat dignified. I want him to feel like a real threat.

Story-telling Quirks– This sort of ties in with the narration, but Snicket always had these little things he would do that were interesting and entertaining. Above I mention two completely black pages being published in one of the books because Snicket decided this was the best way to describe the darkness of the elevator shaft the children are trapped in. I want the episode matching that scene to just have a few minutes of complete blackness, with Mr. Snicket narrating over it. Little additions like this would help keep the spirit of the books, even in a completely different medium.

Maintaining the Ending- Oh, how the series end screwed with people. There were so many questions! What was the purpose of the Sugar Bowl? Who were VFD? What was Olaf’s connection with them? These and many other questions were left hanging after The End. I want it to stay that way. Snicket’s opinion was that life never gives you all the answers, and I want Netflix to keep with that philosophy as best they can.

There’s a great deal of time between now and the premier of this series. The future will bring news of cast choices, sneak peeks, and eventually a release date. I pray to get my wishes for this series, and I look forward to watching it as each episode is released, and then binge watching the entire thing in proper Netflix fashion.

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Childhood Twists Sometimes Need A Tweak

Back in the 90s, I was a Pokemon kid. Like most in my age group, the Catch ’em All mentality was prevalent in my collection of cards, toys, and games. Unlike Sailor Moon before it, Pokemon served as an anime gateway drug for me. And like many kids, once Pokemon started to lose my interest, I turned to Digimon.

Now, I watched Digimon for many years, up until it started getting weird(er) and the kids no longer each had their own Digimon partner. I loved the heck out of the first series and quickly came in for the second. It was a semi-new team. Three new kids with newly designed Digimon and two from the first series, aged from children to pre-teens. I got some new, some old, and a continuation of the story, so I was excited!

This new team was faced up against the Digimon Emperor, an erratically dressed boy about their age who was enslaving Digimon and trying to take over the Digital World. I remember watching cartoons one Saturday morning and seeing a trailer for the next coming episode, where this villain’s identity would be revealed. This was an exciting deal for me, and I couldn’t wait for the episode.

Part way through the episode, the kids have a soccer game against a rival school in their world. A lot of the girls are gushing over this kid named Ken, the star player/high ranking honour student from the other school. This is the first time he is mentioned in the series and he’s made out to be a big deal.

Yeah, you know where this is going even if you’ve never seen the show.

Now, obviously this was a kid’s show, and reveals like Ken being the Digimon Emperor did surprise my younger, unobservant self. Even if I hadn’t noticed the set-up as obvious, an actor with a very distinct voice played the Emperor and, of course, Ken shared that voice. Plus, there was something suspicious about him the second he came on screen.

My point is that pulling stuff like this is not a good way to create a villain identity twist, even in a kid’s show. Kids are a lot smarter than people give them credit for. So, how is a twist like this best done?

Well, if I were to re-write the story with this reveal in mind, the best course of action would be to have Ken around from the beginning. He obviously wouldn’t be part of the main team (yet), but would have a presence as a classmate or a boy one of the team’s girls had a crush on. Make him visible enough to be recognized, but seem fairly unimportant in the whole Digital World plot. If he had popped up here and there beforehand, his reveal as the Digimon Emperor may have been a bit more shocking.

(Granted, kids may have also been able to figure out it was him based on his voice. As I said, it was a distinct one. But making him present, but forgettable enough from episode to episode would have possibly helped that as well.)

Surprise reveals need to be handled with subtlety. Most crime shows do this pretty well. A trained viewer, of course, can usually guess who the criminal is by the end. (Hint: In most crime shows, it will be the second or third person interviewed.) Scooby Doo also did this very well, to the point where there was an episode where the criminal was someone the Gang had never met—she was the assistant of the guy who’d hired them—and Velma made reference to how it didn’t make sense because there was no indication the perpetrator had existed before the reveal.

Obviously, the length of your story and the situations around it will allow you to lay as many or as few red herrings as you need, and distract the audience to the point where they might have not even realized what you were doing until later.

Today, my childhood nostalgia just happened to collide with my much improved writing skills. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an entire season of Digimon to re-enjoy.

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Lackluster Love-Interests

Romantic subplots are a great way to add a little spice into a novel. Whether they take only a single book or develop across an entire series, audiences love reading about the relationships between two characters. While they aren’t necessary to any story, there’s no denying that readers can be a very romantic sort.

But there’s no point to putting your protagonist into a romantic relationship if the love interest only exists for that purpose.

I’ve seen it many times before and there’s few writerly things that annoy me more than a love-interest who only exists to be a love-interest. They have only the most basic pieces of personality that are blatantly meant to appeal to the protagonist. They might mention having a job, or some goal they want to achieve, but it’s all waved off, secondary information that never gets elaborated on or shown. Any conversations about those topics end up quickly derailed into talking about the protagonist. The love-interest’s life revolved around the protagonist now that they’ve found each other. You’ll see this more with female love-interests than male ones, though there are cases of the opposite.

A love-interest who only exists to be a love-interest makes the audience wonder what the protagonist sees him them beyond the physical. Yes, there are generic traits like niceness or a sense of humour, but your love-interest needs agency and a life beyond her partner. Here are some things you should consider about your love-interest.

  • How are they compatible with your protagonist?

Yes, I did rag on this a bit, but a love-interest needs to have traits the protagonist will find appealing. However, they have to go beyond being “nice” or “having a sense of humour.” Consider the type of person your protagonist is. What qualities might they seek out in a partner? Are they the adventurous type who will want someone who can keep pace with them? Or are they the sort who needs a patient soul to wrangle them in when they get over-excited?

  • How are they not compatible?

There’s no such thing as perfection in a relationship. Personalities are going to clash in some cases and on some issues. If you protagonist is a hot-head, their habit of rushing into things full-steam may prove an issue to a more level-headed love-interest. Conversely, a love-interest with a blunt, matter-of-fact nature may be difficult for a sensitive protagonist to deal with. Personalities have to clash in more ways than “You do all these dangerous things and I want you to stop.” The trick to making the relationship interesting is in how they deal with these clashes.

  • What kind of life does the love-interest have?

As I said, the biggest issue with some of these love-interests is that they often exist only to be love-interests. Yes, they may be fighting alongside the rebels and wish for peace, but in the end they don’t have any real dreams or goals beyond the plot basics and getting with the protagonist. Your love-interest is a person with a life separate from their dates/random rendezvous in the starship’s halls/banter while travelling the kingdom. Where are they from? What do they do for a living? Who are the other people in their lives? Every person has a story you don’t know, and even if your novel is from the protagonist’s point of view, details of the love-interest’s life should pop up in dialogue or attitude.

  • What are the love-interest’s dreams and goals?

Everyone has things they are passionate about and things they wish to do. Losing weight, learning Croatian, getting their beginner’s starship licence—all these are examples of goals a love-interest could have. They could want to write a novel, travel the world by boat, or convert their sinking city into a flying one—all examples of dreams. Honestly, the two can often appear to be the same thing. While finding love and getting married can be one of these things, it shouldn’t be the only goal/dream for your love interest.

  • What is their purpose in the story?

To make a love-interest a full-out character, they need to be something more than a person for the protagonist to fall in love with. What’s their role in the overall plot? Are they significant to it? A love-interest is an important character, and they need to have more bearing on the plot then a few scenes showing their bland devotion to the protagonist.

Your love-interest needs to be a character in their own right for the audience to be invested in the relationship you’re building. You need to write your love-interest as a person, first and foremost, keeping their love-interest role as a secondary consideration. Perhaps not even that! Depending on how prominent a character they are in the overall plot, their love-interest status may even be a lesser concern.

Romance is fun, and can make an excellent sub-plot. However, if your love-interest isn’t on equal grounds with your protagonist, your audience is in for a bland, boring ride full of dull devotion and cliché conflicts. Readers get invested in characters, and if there’s nothing to be invested in, your romance will fall flat.

But look at it this way: would you want to be in a relationship with someone whose only interest was in said relationship?

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A Quarter Century

Over the weekend, I turned twenty-five. My mom considers it a milestone of a birthday. A quarter of a century. It’s a time for partying and for being excited about the future. Your twenties are supposed to be some of the best years of your life, after all!

I don’t know why they say that.

My twenties have been nothing more than a period of uncertainty over the past year and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. When I graduated last year, I was excited for what the future held. I couldn’t wait to start my career and meet people and write. I had met so many new people and was ready for the opportunities that awaited me.

I realize now that your twenties are actually confusing and uncertain, especially when you feel like you’re falling behind everyone else. You see the people around you starting their new careers and getting married—some even having children—and buying their first homes. You feel stuck because nothing in your life is changing, and you aren’t certain when it will change.

It’s a feeling I’m becoming familiar with. Over the past year, I’ve applied for numerous jobs, but only had five interviews. One went good, one was an unexpected phone interview that I flubbed, and the other three were only interested in my retail experience, not my education. Now, we’re in an economic slump where I am. There’s been lay-offs everywhere, and now the entry level positions I may have normally had a shot at are being filled by people with experience who have been laid off and are not choosy about taking entry level jobs. I try to remind myself that it is what it is, but a bad economy makes job hunting even more discouraging.

I can’t say where I’ll be five years from now, of course. I don’t know what the coming months will bring. All I can do is fill my time with writing and friends and the things in life that I love to do. I can continue to go on Sunday morning hikes and replay some of my favourite video games. I can learn how to make new foods. I can take a few fun classes. I can volunteer.

I can fill the coming days one at a time, and try not to let the confusion and uncertainty get the better of me.

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Silent Protagonists: Behind the Controller or Nose in a Book

E3 2015 has come around again and brought us a plethora of new game announcements to anticipate in the next year. New games, DLCs, sequels, remakes, re-mastered editions, all your gaming needs from Nintendo, Bethesda, Blizzard, Ubisoft and other big names and independent publishers. Of particular interest was Bethesda’s announcement: that they would be making a sequel to the highly successful Dishonored.

I’m so far through the moon about Dishonored 2 that I blasted out the dark side and landed in another galaxy. I know little about the game thus far, but the trailer shows that Empress Emily Kaldwin will be one of our playable characters alongside Corvo Attano, both having been betrayed. Talk of a Dishonored sequel was floating around the internet for a while, a lot of it spurred by a fake leak called “Darkness of Tyvia.” Throughout all of this, speculation, ideas, and suggestions were made in various gaming forums.

One of those suggestions plays relevant to the topic today: the silent protagonist. It’s always been a fairly well-known factor of video games, allowing the player to better feel like the actual protagonist. However, from a story standpoint, a blank slate makes for an uninteresting character. One thing some gaming forums demanded of a new Dishonored game was a protagonist who actually spoke.

Silent protagonists are not the easiest characters to make work. As they are a blank slate for the player, someone looking for a hero to support can find themselves a little underwhelmed. The only thing I projected onto Corvo was my desire to protect the child Emily. Unsurprisingly, I never went for one of the game’s bad endings. Overall though, there wasn’t really much to Corvo but that protective aspect and a desire for revenge.

The DLC content for Dishonored, however, gave us Daud. At the beginning of the game, Daud assassinated the Empress of Dunwall and appears near the end when Corvo is betrayed by his allies and left to die. In the DLC, you actually play as Daud, facing off against a different villain in an effort to protect Emily from a threat Corvo has no knowledge of. This content was far better written, with more interesting characters and locations than the main game.

Daud was a more interesting protagonist because he could talk (and was voiced by Michael Madsen aka Mr. Blond). We got to learn a lot about him. Saw how he reacted to situations beyond fighting. Came to understand how he cared for his subordinates and got to see how he related with others. Most importantly, we got to see the guilt he felt over the Empress’s death.

Granted, this is all the from the Good Ending run. Like I said, I was terrible being evil.

A silent protagonist doesn’t work well in a game like Dishonored because of the first-person format. Link from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise is one of the best known silent heroes in gaming. Where other characters have dialogue boxes (even if they aren’t fully voiced), Link is never shown speaking. However, because Zelda is a third-person game, the player can see Link react to things around him. They can see his facial expressions and gestures and the way he behaves around others. A silent protagonist must be visible and emotive to be effective in a video game.

But from a written perspective, a silent protagonist is probably best portrayed first person. If said character doesn’t have a communication method like sign language or writing in a nortebook, the reader will need to see inside their head. A silent protagonist could be done in third person, if they are an expressive one like Link, but in first-person the reader will get to better view their thoughts and feelings. We also will want to know why they’re silent. Are they mute? Did they lose the use of their voice in an accident?

However, the best way to create a silent protagonist is to use factors from both methods. Let us have the protagonist’s inner thoughts, but make them expressive so we can see how they physically react to the world around them. Stone-faced protagonists are rarely endearing when they talk. A silent protagonist with no inner thoughts and limited expressions is going to be either boring or a tired cliché.

Classic in video games but rarely seen elsewhere, the silent protagonist takes some skill to pull off. A silent protagonist need not fall into first-person gamer blankness as long as the writer remembers that even without a voice, there’s still emotion and agency behind this character.

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Story Mapping…With Actual Maps!

Open up your average fantasy book and you’re likely to find a map on the very first page. This map can be simple or detailed, display an entire city or several neighbouring countries or even a whole continent. They give the reader an idea of where a character is in relation to other places. They show us how the setting is laid out. They present the protagonist’s home, hangouts, and places he or she prefers to avoid.

They’re also great tools for when you’re writing.

Your setting is an absolutely massive part of your novel and, like everything else, it needs to be kept organized. You can’t have your protagonist know the location of a place in relation to his home in one book, and then have it be in a completely different location by the next book (unless the owners changed locations or someone moved, of course). But consistency is important, and it’s nice for readers to have something visual to reference.

So, I highly recommend making your own setting map.

“Make a map?” You might be saying, “But I know nothing of cartography!”

Don’t worry. This map doesn’t need every street marked out or every town listed (it can if you want, but it’s not necessary). For example, the map of Camorr in Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora is simplistic. As Camorr is a city-state made up of various islets, only those locations are labeled with names like “Shade’s Hill” or “The Shifting Market.” Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon goes even simpler, showing us the shape of a continent, a few boundaries between kingdoms, and the locations of three or four major cities.

Say your map is of the city where all the story (or most of it) takes place. You might choose only to label the districts. It’s simple, but if your character lives in “Merchant Quarter” and needs to get to the “Freedocks,” a glance at a map will give an idea of where your character is going, how long of a trip it might be, and even the type of area they’re going from and headed to. The Freedocks might be located near the Temple District, and thus be busy, but respectable. Or they could border Murder Row, and be a place to avoid after dark.

You could go a step further and add in key locations. The protagonist’s home, place of work, and usual drinking hole could all be dotted in. Major landmarks could be labelled. Drawing a map might also help you learn a few things about your character. A character with financial stability would probably live in a nice location, like an apartment near a mall or an area with nice shops, cafes, restaurants, or markets. If your character is poor, how far do they travel for work? Chances are a maid from the slums who works in a manor has quite the commute.

For larger maps, you need not add every town and village in the kingdom, but you could add those the heroes pass through so the reader can trace their path. Label areas the heroes may venture into, like forests or lakes or fortresses. It will help you make sure your characters are headed south and don’t start going east because you forgot where the wizard’s tower was.

You can make your map on poster board or just scribble designs in your notebook. Add as many details as you want or as few. Maps are great references, and you’ll find you characters navigating their surroundings much easier because of them.

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Journalistic Endeavors

When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the appeal of journals. Every television show had an episode where someone got into someone else’s journal. Commercials advertised journals that were voice activated and girls everywhere were thrilled. I got a journal for my birthday one year and wrote two entries in it before I forgot it existed. The only other time I did journaling after that was for an assignment in university, and I’m pretty sure I just threw up my hands, said, “Screw it!” and scribbled most of my entries last minute.

My problem is that I don’t like writing about myself. Considering how I run this blog, I seem to be getting better about it. A personal journal is still out of the question. These days, I gather multitudes of journals for different reasons.

Have you ever had a dream that was so fantastic and inspiring, only to forget about it mere moments after you wake up? Ideas can come and go like this two. One second you have an amazing bout of creativity and it drives you to your computer, only to fade one you open Word or whichever writing program you prefer. Journals, as it turns out, are a great solution to these problems.

Much like some people keep “Dream Journals” at their bedside to record their dreams, an author can keep one at hand to record ideas when a bout of inspiration hits. Journals come in a number of sizes, and a small one will easily fit into a purse or a back pocket. These are ideal for those on-the-go ideas that come from nowhere and need to be scribbled down right away.

There are slightly larger journals—ones roughly the size of your average hard-cover book. While these can be used to record anything from striking lines to entire paragraphs, I prefer them to record notes. Anything from characters to world-building to sketches of maps and lists of deities reside in my medium-sized journals. It’s vital to remember the important factors of your story, its characters, and their world. Otherwise, you might forget that interesting subplot, or that secondary character’s motivation!

For actual writing, I prefer the education-sized journals. More accurately labelled as notebooks, they’re a nice large size for planting down bits and pieces of fiction writing when a computer is not readily available. It was fairly common once for writers to start with handwritten rough drafts before typing the second draft out onto a computer (or a type-writer, if you want to go further back). It’s a valid practice. Handwriting gets out a lot of the word vomit, and as I re-write it onto the computer, I can easily see places where a bit more description might be needed, or where I might want to swap sentences or entire paragraphs for better flow.

So, while I doubt journals will become places for me to pen my biggest fears and most powerful thoughts, they are serving their purpose. I’d recommend a journal as a tool for any author, budding or established. Just make sure you have a few good pens to go with them!

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Day at the Cirque

This should be a fairly image heavy post, but my camera tragically didn’t want to cooperate with me. I apologize in advance.

Before last weekend, I had never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance. The Cirque passes through my city on a fairly regular basis during their tours, but I’d never gone to see a show, usually because of the price of admission and my lack of funds at the time. Also, any friends who might join me were also affected by a lack of funds.

However, when the Cirque set up a city over with their Steampunk show Kurios, I had to see it. The result was a weekend trip through rain, wind, and weird smelling popcorn.

Since getting tickets, I was excited for the show, but in that subtle way most people are when they’re looking forward to something. That was until I saw the tent.

It was in a tent and I was suddenly seven.

We walked in to the smell of popcorn and cotton candy. Booths sold souvenirs ranging from keychains to soundtracks both vinyl and disc to shirts to DVDs of older shows. The center-most support pillars hosted bars selling beer and wine. Despite the pouring rain outside, the interior of the tent was quite warm. Our seats were nearly ring-side, giving us an excellent view of the stage, and the intricate steampunk devices set up there.

The soundtrack for this show—which I bought during the intermission—was upbeat, almost like swing. A woman in a gram-o-phone hat sang alongside the music, but there wasn’t much for actual lyrics. It was mostly musical sounds like “la” sung, though it fit, giving the illusion of lyrics, without words to distract from what was happening on stage.

The acts were varied, with balancing acts, acrobats, contortionists, and high-flying stunts. If I had to pick my top three parts, I would say the contortionists and the comedy acts. There were two comedy acts done between some major performances. One involved a tiny stage rigged with machinery to play an invisible circus. Another was a skit of a man trying to impress a girl, only for his cat to take over while he was getting them something to drink.

The guy did an absolutely brilliant impression of a cat, from kneading to sticking his ass in her face to hopping off the couch to use the litter box and then coming right back for attention.

While the acts were all very impressively performed and costumed in their own right, I thought the best act was the quartet of contortionists. They were wheeled in on the back of a giant mechanical hand, all intertwined in a pile. Dressed in fully body suits, they invoked the image of an orange, blue-spotted octopus when they moved. They were mesmerizing. Their bodies contorted in impossible ways that seemed to flow so naturally from them. And despite the fact that they were all five-nothing with ribs that were visible in some of their motions, you could see the strength to them.

I wouldn’t want to fight a contortionist. Just saying.

Kurios was a grand show, hampered by only two things: the torrential rain that poured throughout the day, and the smell of salt & vinegar barbeque popcorn my dad had purchased from the refreshment booth.

My first Cirque de Soleil was an absolutely fantastic one. I’d recommend seeing Kurios if you get the chance. And if you can’t see that one, well, they’ve got a plethora of other shows as well!

Categories: Cool stuff, stuff i like, This is my life | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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