17 February 2011

It's also called Character Development.

Continuing on from last post…
If tension is what drives your story, then the fuel is change.
… FUCK guys I don’t even—everything changes, EVERYTHING, EVER, IN THE WORLD. Do you not understand this?
Well no, I mean, most of you beginners are like twelve and you’re too young to notice how much things change, I mean…
No wait, what am I saying, JUST LOOK AT YOURSELVES. Idiots. Have you not changed since you were a child? And for those of you who actually ARE twelve, you’ll notice that that wasn’t all that long ago.
Things change. People change. Even the mountains, even the sky, even if you can’t notice it. Always.

So why the HELL do I keep seeing shitty stories where all sorts of shit happens—stuff blows up, characters die, mass genocide—and at the end, the main character is the same damn person he was at the beginning? He’s no wiser, no more or less jaded, nothing.
Fuck, how does that even happen?

When you write, you are documenting a CHANGE. Maybe even a shit ton of changes.
Let’s look at an example: Sailor Moon.
“But wait,” you might say, “Sailor Moon may be TOTES AWESOME, but it’s not a good example, is it? After all, it’s all about the sloppy writing and static characters.”
It kind of is. But Usagi, the main character, changes a lot over the series. It goes something like this:

Wimp ==> Whiny warrior who beats the bad guys but still wishes for a normal life ==> Brave warrior who realizes how great her powers are because they mean she can protect her peeps ==> FUCKING MESSIAH kind of ==> Ass-kicking peacemaker who realizes the futility of war, decides that violence won’t save her problems, and saves the universe with love.

It’s even more pronounced when you actually watch it. Especially in the manga.

Now, if a fluffy kids show can manage some friggin’ character development, WHY CAN’T YOU?

The things that happen, the people they meet, their own actions—these things all change a person. Sometimes it’s for better, sometimes for worse. Sometimes it’s neither better nor worse, simply different. Either way, they’ve got to change.

This is mandatory for a protagonist (That’s what makes them a protagonist), but don’t forget that other characters can change too! Of course, there’s no way every character is going to change much—that could pull too much attention away from the focus of the story, after al—but try to do as well as you can.

16 February 2011

Doing laundry probably doesn't count as acute tension either.

Guys guys guys let’s talk TECHNIQUE today.
(I know it’s been forever since my last post, shut up)
I want to introduce you to the idea of tension.
I don’t mean like, aww man, they’re doing some sports game and the timer’s out and can they get the last goal?
Actually, nevermind, that works pretty well.
But what I mean is that your story is fueled by tension. Something has to be at stake, something’s amiss, the reader needs to feel like this needs to be rectified. The story has to move along, and it’s tension that drives it.
That much is obvious. You knew that.

The thing that we need to talk about is types of tension. You see, there are two:

Acute Tension
This is probably the first sort you thought of (unless you’re an angst writer, we’ll get to that in a moment). This is something that’s happening right now, it’s got action and stuff happening and all that. Using the example, this is the sports game. Can they win it?

Chronic Tension
This is the subtler type of tension. Like the name implies, this is the tension that, chances are, have been going on for a long time—maybe even before your story began. These are the worries that eat away at your character’s mind, the mental blocks that keep him from kicking that winning sports goal (Can we tell I’m talking out of my ass with the sports? Write what you know, kids!). Is he pining over his lost love? Does he have daddy issues? Is he convinced he’s a total loser and subconsciously sabotaging himself? That sort of thing.

Every story needs BOTH of these in appropriate amounts. Acute tension is what keeps the story moving and keeps it from being boring, and chronic tension is what allows us to connect with the characters and relate to them. An imbalance in either leads to certain disaster.
Without enough chronic tension, the story is just a shallow string of events that the reader has no investment or interest in. Maybe he’ll be interested in what happens next, but he won’t bat an eye when you kill off that beloved love interest. This is a common pitfall of first-time writers and people who watch too many bad action movies.
Without enough acute tension, your story just sits there. Remember what I was saying about angst writers? This is where they fail. “Angst” stories tend to revolve around some character sitting around doing nothing but think to himself about how HORRIBLE and DEPRESSING things are. Nothing happens. He just sits there. Maybe if we’re lucky he’ll go walk to the store or kill himself at the end. Either way, it’s boring as shit. This is a pitfall of moody teenagers and artsy college students who don’t know better.

Furthermore, the end of the story should resolve both tensions in a satisfying way. It’s really preferred that the resolution is able to tie the two tensions together somehow. Say, by winning the sports game, our main character learns his own self-worth, gains the attention of his love, and earns his father’s approval. Satisfying! … Well, hopefully. That’s a pretty trite example, I know, but I came up with it off the top of my head so leave me alone.

It doesn’t matter which tension you come up with first, I’ve certainly written enough that I have my share of stories where I came up with the acute tension first, or the chronic, or both at once. Just make sure they’re both there and accounted for by the time you call it done.

08 July 2009

Drawling a drawing

Okay listen to me, guys.

The word is "draw". Something that has been drawn is a "drawing".
"Drawl", however, means something else entirely.
You draw a drawing, you do not "drawl" a "drawling".
Pronouncing it this way is one thing-- a bit annoying at times, but I'll chalk it up to accent, whatever. At least it's better than "libary". However, just five minutes ago I just saw someone on an oekaki spell it this way. On purpose.
Do not do this.

Likewise, a "drawer" is something you put things in, it is not a person.
A person who draws is an artist or an illustrator-- not a "drawer".

08 June 2009


Look, I don't know if you got the memo or not, but spaces go after periods.
... what? They do!
And they go after exclamation points, commas and question marks too, as well as any other punctuation you can think of.
Leaving out those spaces makes your sentences so, so ugly and it makes everything hard to read. You don't want your work to be hard to read, do you? Because I assure you that no one will read it in that case. Or if they do, they will then proceed to flame the hell out of you for wasting their time.

On another note, please don't put three-five spaces in between each word/sentence. This is a less common problem that I mostly see on things written by middle aged types. Please don't do it. Only use one space at a time.

05 June 2009


*rises from the grave*

Okay, guys, seriously, let's talk.
Let's talk about why you fuckers are so goddamn lazy.
I mean, really, what makes you think it's a good idea to insert emoticons into your prose? Do you ever see it in published novels? Of course you don't. Because it's stupid and no publisher in their right mind would give money to an author who does that shit. It's lazy! It's saying "Hey, I can't be arsed to actually describe the character's emotions, so here's a stupid little emoticon, lol! =D"

Fuuuuuck you.

Describe things. Use actual words to describe how your character is feeling, what their expression is, how they're using body language-- words are so much more expressive than emoticons can ever be. This is not an IM conversation, thank you, this is literature.
(Or... or fanfiction. Or just... eh, you know what I mean.)

Special exception may be granted to script-format stories, unless they're actually trying to be stage/screen directions. That format generally exists to focus more on dialogue than anything else, so a lack of description really isn't that big a deal.

In other news, the reason for the dead-ness of this blog is twofold:
One, I have been very busy with school, and two, I have no inspiration.

So basically if I have more time or inspiration I'll post more... and that's that.
You guys can feel free to email me any suggestions for future rants if you'd like, especially if you've got a particularly painful fanfic for me to look at. <3
My email is selanp@planetxeeni.com -- so drop me a line if you've got any ideas.

30 March 2009

MsWord = lolwut?

Okay! Okay. Guys, here is a perfect example of why MsWord's grammar check is made of fail and you might as well just turn it off right now, as it will always steer you in the wrong direction.
So I'm writing, right, and I wrote a sentence containing the phrase "can of shaving creme". Okay? So MsWord didn't recognize that I was using "can" as a noun, which is a common mistake for it so whatever. But to amuse myself I clicked it to see what suggestions it had, and it told me to change "can" to "could".
Remember, please, that "can" was followed immediately by "of".
Thaaaat's right, folks, MsWord thinks that the phrase "could of" is grammatically correct.
And that is why it fails.

Because I can't remember whether I've covered this or not, please note: the phrase people usually mean when they say "could of" is "could've", which is the contraction for "could have". "Could of" is a bastardization based on normal pronunciation and is never correct. Ever. So there.

Why yes, I am actually using Word 2003, so it's entirely possible that this particular issue may not exist in newer versions; that said, it's an excellent example of why you should never trust a machine to do your proofreading for you, because issues like this will always crop up here or there.

24 March 2009

Tua mater, fuckers.

This blog isn't dead, I swear, it's just really inactive.
Gods, I wish I had time to sift through online writing and find things to get angry about...
Well ANYWAY, here's a rant.

Basically this concerns something that happens in spoken word.
I keep seeing people wanting to quote Latin things in their writing, right? And that's fine, Latin is made of cool and anything you write, anything, sounds cool in Latin. You could say, like, Non sum fatuum, tu es, and that sounds cool. So that's not the complaint.
My complaint is that, when these people read their work out loud, they totally fail to get the pronunciation right.
And they sound so damn smug about it!
Like, "Oh, look at me, I'm so smart, I used LATIN. Listen to me! SO SMART." Except that the whole illusion is broken by the fact that they have no clue how to pronounce anything in this language.
Even that wouldn't be that bad normally, since it's a dead language and all. Like I said, it's the smug tone that does it. That self-satisfied look on their faces, like they really think that they're the smartest person in the room, all while butchering even a phrase as simple as veni, vidi, vici.

HINT: It's pronounced wenee, weedee, weekee. Latin V's are pronounced as English W's, and C's are never pronounced as Ch's (they are actually always pronounced as a K).

My school is guilty of it too. Our motto is Vires, Artes, Mores, and everyone always pronounces that with an English V. I think the only person on my campus I've seen pronounce Latin things right is my Classics teacher, because her main field of study is Roman stuff so she's pretty damn good with her Latin!
(Also I'm still trying to figure out what they mean by Vires. Is that... that's courage or something? Strength, maybe? My dictionary also says "manliness", and I know that the motto was first adopted back when the school was a women-only college. Could anyone better with Latin help me out?)

So, look, either get the pronunciation right or stop acting so damn smug. It's all up to you.