Friday, May 31, 2013

FFF 1.1

Alrighty, here's where I went with the line, "In this case, it would be incorrect to assume Occam’s Razor."

500 words exactly!

I really, really hope more people will come back and post what they did with that line :) C'mon... you have the whole weekend... do it for me, please? Pretty please with sugar/chocolate/rum/butter-chicken/whatever-you-like on top?

In this case, it would be incorrect to assume Occam’s Razor. Yes, it’s delightfully simple to conclude I’ve got trust issues, but it’s also lazy-brain work to only think as far as the simplest solution.

It’s not about trust, it’s about having zero expectations, because everyone is hardwired to look out for the big fat number one. If you want to throw a comfortable label on my way of looking at things, I’d call it realism. Sure, lots of people come at you with good intentions, but then
wham, shit blows up and you end up trampled in the wake of self-preservation.

Or in my case, stranded on a freaking roof with two amazingly unattractive choices.

The painfully simple ‘option one’ is to make that big step and take the fast way down to pancakeville. The ever-exciting ‘option number two’ is to sit here and wait for someone to find me.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a proper choice at all, but the single piece of highly critical information in play here, is knowing that whoever finds me won’t be coming with good intentions.

It seems unnecessarily redundant to say they’ll have very horrible, irrevocably bad intentions, but it’s the repetition of reminding myself over and over of that fact, that’s got me standing on the edge, about to leap-of-faith myself into sidewalk art forty-six stories down.

So yeah, this is why I have no expectations, because I know right now I would throw a hundred people off this roof myself if it meant I didn’t have to choose between options one and two. In fact, I’d toss over another fifty for an umbrella, a warm jacket, and a tall Americano with an extra shot of espresso.

Self-preservation strips away all every flashy, moralistic notion of civilized normality, and kicks us right back to the cave where we had to run like hell just to eat and survive another day.

And worse than knowing you can’t count on people, and having that knowledge validated at such an unfortunate time and place, is the fact that I bent my rules for a pretty face, and a set of double-D’s nestled tight in a push-up bra and baby-blue tank-top.

People may screw you over to save their own asses, but the opposite sex will do it just because they can.

It rips my heart out to know how easily I fell prey, how she barely had to flutter those long eyelashes and lean forward across my desk, breasts squeezed between my Linksys modem and Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, before my brain got stupid trying to show off how smart I was.

Self-preservation may be an uncontrollable instinct, but so is the damn sex-drive which short-circuits the frontal lobe on a slim chance of getting laid.

But I’m out of time.

She’s got the flashdrive, and I’ve got a modern-art installation piece to paint on a fresh, cement canvas.

Flash Fiction Friday 1.0

I know there are other groups that do this already, and I'm not trying to start a big group or anything, I'm just thinking it would be kindof fun to exercise my brain a little and fool around with new characters/settings, and thought I'd open up the party to anyone who's interested, like anyone who wants to be writing, but isn't. Or maybe you're in school, working long hours, or perhaps you're just burned out from the recent A-Z challenge and need a reason to ease back in.

SO, I am going to try to post a single sentence on Fridays, then drop by again later to post whatever piece of flash fiction was inspired by that line... and no claims/assurances that the lines will be *amazing*, more likely they'll be a little south 'o strange...

Even if no one else joins in, I'm going to try to keep this up for a while to (hopefully?) spur on a much needed storm of inspiration.

Post your own flash fiction piece in the comments, and/or post a link to your blog.

If you hate my line, go ahead and edit it, or just make up one of your own!

Time limit is... the weekend, I guess? But let's set a max number of words... 500 sounds good? I don't know if Blogger has a word/character limit for comments.

So, join in, comment, critique, laugh... whatever! No big time commitment here.

If you've got a spare 20 minutes this weekend, pop back and jot something out. It doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to be good, heck, it doesn't even have to be finished! It could simply be a character sketch that goes nowhere. Here's your chance to experiment with a new voice, a new POV, a new genre, etc, and since I allow anonymous commenters, you can even post under a different name if you so choose.

Here's the line for today, now GO!

In this case, it would be incorrect to assume Occam’s Razor*.

I'll post mine later today, but seriously, you guys have the whole weekend! Please join in!

*I've been notified that Occam's Razor isn't common knowledge, so here's a short definition. It's a theory used for science/philosophy/etc which suggests that, if you are presented with a number of explanations for a problem, then the simplest one is usually correct.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

He's (mostly) there to laugh at

I love characters who are thrown in to lighten the mood and give readers a moment to take a breath. Even better if they also get the reader to think a little ;)

Of the different kinds of characters who can fulfill this role, I like the ones who say stupid things the most.

Like, I love Jayne from Firefly.

A few days ago, I had the fun of one-such comedic-timing-styled character spontaneously drop into Project #6... with a few surprises...

This was probably due to a conversation I had last week with someone at the dog-park about racism in Canada. The person I was talking to is an immigrant from Russia who is currently taking an MBA program at one of the Vancouver universities.

...but that isn't all that important, more just me connecting the dots as to how & why this particular new character showed up without me planning for him.

The important part of the conversation was about how some people are so overly concerned with being politically correct, that it goes beyond treating everyone the same, and becomes a different way of singling out groups of people (be those racial, sexual, religious, etc). Like how there was the discussion about editing Mark Twain's books, 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huckleberry Finn' to remove certain racial slurs which are no longer deemed appropriate.

Words have power, and certain words that originally had no malicious intent behind them, have become skewed through fear & hatred.

Like, I remember my mom telling me once that, when she was at university, the word 'fag' referred to a cigarette. Now, if someone used that term, the assumption would be completely different.

How our society looks at certain words might change, but people who fear & hate will always find new words to replace the old ones. White-washing old literature does nothing to change that, all it does is paint a pretty layer over the underlying rot. It's just pretending the problem isn't there.

So, something that became ensnarled in the back of my brain was the notion of bigotry, in its widest form.

What happens if a person hates everyone equally?

If they are equally rude to Females, Koreans, Caucasians, Africans, Buddhists, Jews, etc?

...if they treat everyone equally bad, does that make them better or worse than someone who singles out one specific group of people?

I'm not out to answer that question, since I think most philosophical questions are virtually unanswerable, but thinking about it is probably what sparked the birth of this 'drop-in' character.

Donovan is his name, and he's Jay's cousin. He's described as:

Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s not thicker than bigotry. The guy is a serious asshole. I’d like to say he grew up in a cult compound, had nut-job parents who taught him to fear his own shadow, or maybe blame it on generations of inbreeding, but that’s not it at all.
Donovan is just an ass, but at least he’s equally an ass to everyone. He calls me a homo ‘cause I paint, and calls his dad a redneck, even though my uncle is an accountant of all things. I’ve even heard him call his mom a bitch, right to her face.
I know you can’t choose your family members, but I sure as hell believe you can choose to walk the other way when you see one coming.

...and I honestly have no idea how much 'first-draft' dialogue for this character will make it past my first edit. Writing this character feels SO wrong because I agree with nothing he says, and none of his opinions, to the point where he almost feels like a caricature of what I think sucks in the world.

...but the thing is, a lot of his dialogue is actually based off of things I've heard real people say, often in a casual laughing/joking way... if fact, I've already toned down some of it, but what's there still makes me squeamish.

Anyways, like I said, I'm not out to say I have a definitive answer to the question, but throwing in a character like this at least presents the opportunity for a dialogue on the subject. Addressing a sticky subject is better than ignoring it.

Yet I'm already admitting to toning it down... so, am I avoiding it even while trying to address it?

No matter what, I find it's exercising my ability to write snappy/insulting dialogue, not just on Donovan's end, but Jay & Kell's responses to the stupid things Donovan says.

Have you ever written a character that you disagree with to this point? If you have, what have you chosen: to use that character as an example, or do you write the character true to him/herself and leave it up to the reader to make a moral/ethical judgement?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Clumsy, awkward, & strange

Yup, three words to describe the result when I try to write a love scene.

And no, I'm not even talking about one of those 'roll-in-the-sheets' kind of love scenes, I mean anything that borders on romantic.

Somehow, no matter how good my intentions, what ends up on the page is more 'Napoleon Dynamite' than 'A Walk to Remember'.*

I'm not really in the habit of asking people what their first kiss was like, but isn't clumsy/awkward kind of the norm?

Or do people out there actually have experiences that didn't involve accidentally banging teeth and cutting a lip, getting your nose slobbered on, having your neck touched by really clammy hands, or realizing too late that an apple flavoured Jolly Rancher isn't nearly enough to mask disturbingly awful stale-coffee-breath?**

I get that a lot of YA books are about the sweet first love, that perfect first kiss, and all the other 'firsts', but where is a good line between 'properly/realistically awkward' and 'this will make the reader burst out laughing***'?

To throw out any illusions or misconceptions, I have not (yet?) written a first kiss scene with Jay & Kell, or even decided if there is going to be one or not. What I have been writing is an important scene that happens... hmmm, maybe about 1/3 of the way through the story.

It's not even so much a romantic scene, but one of minor revelation for the extremely cynical Jay.

In a way, it's the "I win" moment, but it's also the "I lose" moment 'cause very soon after, everything is going to spiral down the figurative crapper.

What it does do (hopefully?) is capture some of those awkward & clumsy fumblings that are so reminiscent of 'first times'.

...and I can tell you already I'm scared to death of anyone looking at this particular bit of writing... but I can't even nail down why that is...

I'm not embarrassed. I don't think it's sub-par writing. There isn't anything racy or creepy about the scene, but something about writing this 'moment' weirds me out a little**** and makes me want to dig a deep, dark hole out in the middle of nowhere and hide it where it won't ever be found.

Totally irrational, yeah, I get that. But, I figure if I'm getting that strong a reaction from my own writing... then it's probably accomplishing at least a smidgen of what I'm intending it to.

So, what do you guys think of first-kisses and that kind of thing... Awkward? Clumsy? Strange? How far is too far, and can you give me any good examples of where it's been done right?

By the way, I'm thinking of crawling out of my warm, comfy, anonymous shell and re-vamping my blog a little. Not today, not tomorrow, but sometime relatively soon. Among other things, I'm toying with the notion of re-doing my 'Contact' page to include my actual name, or making an 'About' page, and there's even the terrifying possibility of an actual photo being posted somewhere off in the far future...?

Be warned: it has the potential to scare small children.

Don't worry, if it does go up, there will be a surgeon general's warning advising you to consume copious amounts of alcohol before viewing.*****

* How bad is it if you have to Google "romantic first love movies" to actually find a comparison title? Seriously, I swear I was born without the romantic gene.

** Please, no one ask me which of these are anecdotal and which are autobiographical.

*** And I don't mean in a good 'you are supposed to be laughing' kind of way...

**** Terribly eloquent, I know.

***** And yes, my favourite type of humour is self-depreciating, hence my ongoing request for dumb-blonde & Irish jokes.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Broad strokes vs details

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about multitasking.

While she's in school, she has a part time job as a manager at a very well known clothing chain. She was telling me how, everyone who applies for a job says they are good at multitasking, yet 19/20 employees can't re-fold a t-shirt while giving simple directions to a customer (like, "kids section is on the left"), which seems like a pretty basic level of multitasking.

Since I love blonde jokes (being blonde myself*), her story reminded me of the old joke about not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

So what constitutes 'multi-tasking'?

Maybe this is totally wrong, but I think of people who are good multitaskers as those who are good at painting with broad strokes. They can quickly assess multiple problems, prioritize them, then efficiently juggle the tasks, giving just enough effort to each as is absolutely necessary. The tasks may not be perfectly done, may not be done super fast, but they can be completed in tandem.

Broad strokes give the most impact for the least amount of effort.

Those who are not multitaskers get caught up in the details. Getting multiple tasks thrown at them at once, some will be able to prioritize quickly, others will get overwhelmed, but both will (one getting started), work on a single task until it is completed, then move on to the next.

Detail work may not seem as bold or prolific as a broad stroke, but it'll have more depth.

Yeah, sorry about all the art/painting comparisons ;) I've said before that when I'm writing, I tend to slip too far into the character and *my* writing style changes.

I've been thinking about this 'cause I'm not a multitasker, but also because I'm a pantser rather than a plotter. I can't see/organize a story in broad strokes, like an outline. I focus on the detail in front of me, finish it, then move onto the next. Somewhere in my brain the scope of the project exists, but it's fuzzy and indistinct. There's no sketch, each detail gets set into a blank canvas, like a mess of puzzle pieces dumped on the floor, they are complete in their own right, but I can only see the final product when they've all been laid out and clicked together.

Sometimes I envy plotters (and multitaskers) for being able to view their stories through a wide lens, while I'm stumbling along with blinders on until my first draft is completed.

But sometimes I feel proud because each scene I write is usually fleshed out with so many details that my brain has a dozen new avenues to explore when I am ready to write the next.

I don't think being one or the other is good or bad, I just think it's interesting how they both have advantages and disadvantages. As long as you're playing to your strengths, and not worrying about what you don't have, it's all good. Not every job requires you to give directions and fold t-shirts at the same time ;)

I wonder, what kind of writer are you, and what about your characters? Are they multitaskers, or are they detail-oriented?

Certain genres seem to call more for one type of storytelling (and character-type) than others. Like, wouldn't a fast-paced action/adventure story be thrown into chaos without a multitasker at the wheel fielding all the problems being hurled their way?

...and doesn't that kind of make you want to try writing a story like that?

...or is it just me? ;)

*See, as a natural blonde, I can find humour in poking fun at bleach-bottle blondes, especially since my sister and several of my cousins continue to use drug store products to re-capture their childhood hair colour ;)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writing more 'Jay'

Yes! I'm actually writing again!'s been too long, and I do admit, it's coming slowly, but I'm about 5,200 words into Project #6.

Here's a taste of where I am and what this first draft is looking like. Please feel free to mock, or correct, any abysmal violations of grammar, or the English language in general. I'm sure there are many.

In this scene, Jay is referring to Aricia, his last girlfriend. Since they broke up, he hasn't painted at all until his interest was recently piqued by Kell and the unusual number of scars on her body. He's still pretty bitter about the breakup, since she dumped him before the painting was complete, which resulted in him only winning second place in a very important contest.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kicking the ass of kick-ass female characters

I know it's an old post, and I'm sure many of you have already familiar with it, but I just stumbled across this a few days ago and it's been on my mind ever since.

Please, if you haven't read it, go read it now before you continue because I'm not going to bother quoting large chunks of text.

I'm delighted to have regained enough stability in my own brain to read again, and in the last three days, I've torn through 4.5 books, three of which have kick-ass female main characters.

As in, they 'literally' kick a hell-of-a-lot of ass during the course of the book.

But looking at the 'figurative' kick-ass side of things, they sit at varying points on the whole "strong character, female" scale.

Total number of villains defeated does not a strong character make :)

In keeping with my policy of avoiding negativity, I'm not going to give you the names of the books, or the characters.

After all, I'm not interested in putting down things that I personally don't like, when I know lots of people do like them, and the authors worked long and hard to see their work published.

My opinion is only that. Mine.

Three of the books I've read are very similar: fantastical world building (meant as an umbrella term, including, but not limited to: magic, alternate world, steampunk, alternate history, dystopian, etc), clear villains with clearly evil intentions, each female is "amped-up" in some abnormal/extraordinary way, each female character is involved (to varying degrees) in a love-triangle with a 'good boy' and a 'bad boy', each is described as beautiful, and each wears a lot of pretty/interesting clothes during the course of each book.*

All three are also first books in popular series (I admit, I haven't checked to see if they are all trilogies/etc).

If we roll out the familiar notion that there are no 'new ideas', only recycled ones, these three books make a good example, because so many of the basic elements are the same.

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the Bechdel test? To pass/fail, the basic three criteria are:

1) If a work of fiction has 2 or more (named) female characters

2) If they talk to each other

3) If they talk about something other than a man

I'd like to throw another few criteria into the pot to determine whether a a female character is a "kick-ass female character", or a "kick-ass character, female":

1) If there isn't a specific comment/line about how the FMC (female main character) has never gotten along with, nor ever had any good female friends in the past

2) If she doesn't insult/belittle/put down 'regular' girls (as in, the ones she couldn't/doesn't get along with), often specifically referring to them as 'silly', or otherwise insulting their intelligence and choices (most notably, marriage)

3) If she doesn't feel an immediate kinship with the one other female character who is somehow 'different' from 'regular' girls.

4) If another (beautiful) female character vying for one of the FMC's love interests isn't deceitful, wicked, vain, a liar, or somehow morally corrupt and/or in league with the villain.

5) If the description ratio regarding the FMC's clothes isn't vastly skewed when compared to description of any other person, place, thing in the entire story

6) If the first introduction of male characters (notably, love interests) isn't dominated by physical descriptions of how attractive (physically) they are

7) If, during those introductions, the FMC's first thoughts aren't primarily about her own appearance and whether or not she's looking her best

8) If she can interact with either male lover, for any duration of time, and think more about his inner/good qualities than his outer/physical ones

9) If she can keep her mind on defeating the bad guy without being constantly distracted by a male love interest taking his shirt off (or some variation of that point)

Do those sound like reasonable things to look for? I can't tell you how many of these show up in YA novels, and let me say now that one of the three books failed on every single one of these points.

Now, I'm not saying books should never include any of these things, what I am saying is that when the main female character of a book spends more time thinking about her clothes, her men, and her appearance than anything else (especially saving the world), then it's time to have a good, hard look at whether that can be considered a "kick-ass character, female", or a "kick-ass female character".

What do you think about this subject? Do you agree with my criteria or not? Do you have any to add of your own?

*small, additional note: these characters almost all have amazing healing abilities so their perfect faces aren't permanently marred while they are kicking (literal) ass. Only one received permanent scars, but notably, not on her perfect face :)