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Between the Move: The Long Solitary Roadtrip

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Something I wish someone told me about 13 hour drives is just how long it actually feels.

I mean yeah, already 13 hours doing anything seems like a monumental task, but we only know that because we relate it to things like Overtime at work or a long day of school. Even then they don’t come out to a full 13 hours.

A blockbuster film ranges anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5 hours at a given time. A football game, professional or not, can last anywhere between 2-4 hours. Reading a small paperback takes between 3-5 hours at most. Heck even the audiobook for Game of Thrones comes out to 8 hours. I would know. I listened to it during my first day of driving.

Granted I have been on many road trips before. My family would often travel to Mexico when i was younger, or go across the states for god knows whatever adventure we wanted. Not once did the length ever seem unmanageable, but then again, I always had a book or a gameboy, and lots of company.

This time, I was on my own. That means I had to take care of things on my own. No dad to pump gas. No mother to provide snacks. No older sister to pester for countless hours. Nope. If I wanted entertainment, I needed to do it myself. And believe me, for thirteen hours at the wheel, that is much harder than it sounds.

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Heart of the Mojave, Nevada

One thing I was thankful for, going from California to Grand Junction, CO. was a very pretty trip. During this particular leg I visited 5 states, and passed countless natural landmarks. You can always tells the deserts apart, for Arizona is always red, Nevada is always yellow, and Utah is a greedy and grandeoise mix of both.

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Outside Midvale, Utah

It was for this reason I was thankful my journey began this way. For one thing it provided many beautiful sights I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. It was also a fantastic distraction from the crushing reality of moving away from home.

Trust me, when you’re alone for that long, your mind has a way of letting these things creep up on you.

To combat this I made sure to keep my mind occupied. Playing mental games, listening to audiobooks, heck even putting your mp3 player on shuffle and letting it go is a great way to distract yourself. Thanks to that I rediscovered my love for certain bands I had long forgotten.

Here are a few songs I found in the depth of my playlist. Wherever you are they’re all worth a listen:

Another thing thing they don’t tell you about long solo road trips is how starved for conversation you become. Think about it, humans are typically social creatures. Even the most hardcore introvert loves a stirring discussion. Sadly, I learned I am very much an extroverted man, for I often made stops just to talk to people at convenient stores.

I must have looked pretty obvious to one particular teller in Utah:

“On a long trip?” he asked while stuffing my third pack of gum into a bag.

“Yeah, how could you tell?” I said, lifting my sunglasses to my uncombed hair.

“You’ve spent more time chatting with me than buying your things.”

I turned around and realized I was holding up a rather sizable line for a gas station. So, with a smile and a thanks, I took off.

Colorado

Colorado

All that being said, I did have a blast driving. What made it particularly memorable were the people I got to see and talk to. Many I saw in passing, able to exchange an all too brief hi-bye before my schedule tore me in another direction. Others I spoke through bluetooth (i’m not a reckless driver), and offered hours of much needed conversation.

Then, there were the ones I got to see in person. Again, when you’ve been in a car for far too long, human interaction seems like a blessing. I could spend an entire thousand more blog entries on these people, but by now y’all are probably tired of reading. I don’t blame you, but can you imagine you’ve likely been reading for five minutes?

Thhat would mean you’d probably have to read this blog entry at least 156 times to make 13 hours. Frankly I can think of many better things you could do with your time.

So, rather than fizzle out, i’ll show you what the rest of my trip looked like.

The still beautiful but abandoned Dana College

The still beautiful but abandoned Dana College

The cheapest gas i've seen this side of the Mississippi.

The cheapest gas i’ve seen this side of the Mississippi.

Beautiful Iowa

Beautiful Iowa

Rainbow in Decorah, Iowa.

Rainbow in Decorah, Iowa.

Summerfest in Milwaukee Iowa, with my friend Bret.

Summerfest in Milwaukee Iowa, with my friend Bret.

Switchfoot live. What a concert.

Switchfoot live. What a concert.

The Minneapolis Skyline

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Anyhow, that was a look into my journey. In the following weeks I should return to posting commentary on writing, reading, and overall geekery. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns post them in the section below.

Until next time

 

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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Personal Project – Fire and Stone: The Cast, Basics

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“A good story can be weighed down by mediocre characters. Good characters can carry a mediocre story.”
– I don’t know, I can’t find the source. *curls into a ball and cries*

In all seriousness, I cannot stress your characters’ importance. But if I were to explain it in a simple fashion, then allow me to talk as if I were discussing a movie.

Let’s go with The Matrix.

I’ll be 100% honest. I saw the Matrix sequels long before I saw the Matrix itself. As such, the initial shock and awe of “this world is a fabrication” was lost on account of “Yeah I knew that already.” In spite of this, I didn’t want this to spoil my enjoyment of the movie. As such I went in with the mindset of “Let’s see how it gets there.”

Well, to be honest, I almost fell asleep half the time. Not to say Mr. Reeves isn’t a good actor, but I found more personality in my cereal spoon than his performance.

Keanu Spoon

And it wasn’t just Keanu. Morpheus and Trinity struck me as such wooden characters that I found myself caring almost little for anything they did. I even considered shutting off the movie until I got to the major “betrayal scene.”

For those who have watched the movie you know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t seen the Matrix i’ll not spoil this for you.

In this particular scene a character does and says somethings that put the main characters in a real, tense, life-threatening situation. This character fascinated me so much, because I heard, in that character’s monologue, all their strife, anger, and the many layers that makes a human a human. I was enthralled by this person’s performance on such a scale that it convinced me to watch the rest of this movie.

Now, i’m not saying the Matrix was a bad movie. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone. However, as novel as the world and plot were, it meant little when none of the cast members came close to that level of intrigue and humanity.

The same goes for writing your story.

Your characters are your actors, and good actors are those who make the audience believe they are real people. It’s why Heath Ledger’s performance as “The Joker” was so haunting, and why Marissa Tomei won an Oscar for playing a woman from New Jersey in My Cousin Vinny. However, in a writer’s world we are not blessed with being able to pick and choose who portrays what in our story.

So it falls upon us, as writers, to create those characters ourselves.

For my story, Fire and Stone, no two characters got more development than Nijam and Elhove. These two, a girl and boy respectively, carry the brunt of the story, and as such they hold the responsibility of being the most realistic. Getting to that point, however, meant that I needed to get to know them better.

Ever have an imaginary friend? Someone you talk to? Listen to? Gives you advice even though, deep down, you’re really just talking to yourself? To me, making a character is a lot like that. I’ll give you an example, a bit of written dialogue I had when I “interviewed” Elhove.


(This is after I asked about his dad)

Elhove: Well what do you want to know? He’s the Elect. People like him. He’s kind of a big deal.

Me: Yeah but do you like him?

Elhove: *shrugs*

Me: What does that mean?

Elhove: I don’t know… I don’t talk to him much.

Me: What do you mean? You’re his son.

Elhove: Only when it’s convenient, I suppose.

Me: Convenient?

Elhove: The last time we talked he scolded me for missing my studies. *covers his arm*

Me: Is that when he gave you that scar?

Elhove:  *glares* Let’s talk about something else.

Silly as it sounds this “interview” went on for a couple of pages. In that time I really got to know a character I made up, simply by keeping in mind what kind of person he might be. As I learned more about him, I looked up various psychology books about children and teens who go through similar pains, all in an attempt to make him seem realistic. Throughout the interview a lot of his answers surprised me, and though he was a figment of my imagination, I felt as if he were a real human being. Whether that comes across to others is a different story, but the fact of the matter is I tried my hardest with everything I had.

For the sake of telling a good story, a lot of work goes into the mechanics. Regarding characters I found you have to practically talk to them, and make them feel like real people rather than just a few archetypes smashed together. This wasn’t the only way I got to know my characters but it definitely helped round them out. Maybe next time I’ll go over more details as to how I get to know my actors and actresses.

In the meantime here are a few links that helped me better understand the people on the page:

http://solsticeapocalypse.tumblr.com/tagged/character-crafting (this tumblr has a wealth of writing information. Very helpful stuff.)

http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm (how to tell if your character is a “Mary Sue”)

http://www.pgtc.com/~slmiller/characterdevelopment.htm (your basic, catchall character writing site. Contains a good list I use)

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So do any of you have a hard time getting to know your characters? What tricks or tips do you do to help round them out? Have you ever had a character talk back? What do you think about Character archetypes?

And with that I bid you all adieu until next time.

 

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Trope Discussion – The Love Triangle

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Alex loves Betty.
Carl loves Betty.
Betty cares for both.
Alex and Carl want her to choose.
She can’t because she doesn’t want to hurt them.
Drama/Hilarity ensues.

The Love Triangle, one of the many tropes that act as a double edged sword.

I’m not going to sugar coat my feelings: At one point in time I considered this trope is more trouble than it’s worth. People I knew often defended it by saying stuff like “this happens in real life” and “you can’t help who you fall in love with.” True as that may be, anyone who has actually lived a love triangle knows how frustrating this can be. Whether you’re on the pining or pined for end, a love triangle brings about a certain level of stress no matter the outcome.

The other issue that concerns me is that this trope is often used as “1 can’t chose between 2 and 3” when in reality this trope can be endless in it’s execution.

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For your consideration. The arrows show which way love is being given.

As shown above, the Love Triangle can be done multiple ways, and it has. Some notable examples are as follows:

2) Berserk, between Guts, Griffith, and Casca.
3) Archie Comics, Betty and Veronica to Archie.
4) The Wedding Singer, Where Julia and Glenn are engaged, but Robbie likes Julia.
5) Naruto, Naruto likes Sakura, Sakura likes Sasuke.
6) Wheel of Time, Elayne and Min over Rand.
7) Scott Pilgrim, where Scott dates both Ramona and Knives.

And so on and so forth. As you can tell, the examples and ways a Love Triangle can be handled is nearly infinite. Hence, my issue with this trope is not it’s existence but in it’s execution. When done well, it reveals an underlying strength or flaw the characters possess, and enriches the story with it’s multi-layered facet. When done poorly, it serves as pointless drama and does nothing short of aggravate everyone in the room.

So, fellow writers, should you choose to execute this trope, keep these things in mind:

  • This trope is highly volatile, and must be handled with care.
  • In real life this trope causes several issues, so keep them in mind at all times.
  • There are many paths this can take, as long as there are three it counts.
  • It’s been done to death, so be aware of cliches.

Keep this in mind and i’m sure both your sanity, your readers, and your characters will appreciate it.
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I spent this article explaining why this trope can be volatile so what tropes seem problematic for you? In what way? What’s the most common love triangle you’ve noticed? Is any one of them your favorite? Keep in mind this can be done for laughs, so how would you make them sound funny?

With that, have a nice day.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Advice, On Writng, Tropes

 

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Fear of Writing – How to put words on the paper

 

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Hey everyone, sorry for the massively late update.

If you’re like me then you’re a twenty something year old individual who spent most of his life in school. And, if you’ve experienced that, chances are you know what it’s like to procrastinate like crazy. In my last post I talked about the benefits of procrastination but keep in mind that even research needs to be kept on check.

I once read that, as an Aquarius, I am one who lives an Ivory Tower existence. In essence: I spend all my time looking out the top of my window and pontificate the meaning of existence and all that entails. All the while, the room remains unswept, the dishes pile up, and I never get any visitors because I smell like I haven’t bathed in years. In summary, if unchecked, I am doomed to the life of a smelly, unlikeable bore.

While I don’t take astrology seriously, I did find this to be an issue in my life. Too often had I told myself, “I’ll write after this episode,” and, fifteen episodes later, it’s twelve in the morning and I’ve no ambition to write. Either that, or I spent so much time “researching” that I never make the time to write.

This past year I knew this behavior wouldn’t fly, and I decided to make a change. I planned to write every single day, and to make progress even if it was just a few paragraphs. However, as someone who had never written on this scale before, how does one get to writing something as big as a novel?

Well, after weeks of never getting past the first page, my process boiled down to two rules.

Rule Number 1

At least 500 words a day.

When put into a word document, five hundred words comes out to about three, three sentence paragraphs. Honestly this can be a great exercise in and of itself because, not only are you writing, but you have three sentences to write what you want. You can get a lot accomplished, as I demonstrated with this paragraph.

Rule Number 2

Just Write

I could spend hours talking about how I would retroactively correct my writing. I could tell you about the many days I spent starting with a blank screen and, after hundreds of black printed letters, ended with a screen as blank as my grasp of Calculus. I could do that, or I could just write what I’m thinking and be done with it.

Part of the issue with writing is we want to get it right the first time. We want to make what’s in our heads be translated perfectly on the page. However, if you’ve ever tried that with a drawing, you’ll find that’s not always the case. Sometimes it takes more than one shot to write what you meant, but you’ll never find out what you need until you have a foundation. As I said in “Shitty First Draft,” that is your foundation.

That is all I have to offer: two simple rules. They carried me through all 309 pages of my Senior Project and I hope it serves you as well. If it doesn’t, well… I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

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So how do you guys get to writing? Do you just write? What inspires you to write? Do you have rules for your first draft?

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Advice, On Writng

 

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