Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Reader.

The reader is the client. This may seem like a no-brainer for a writer, but sometimes I get the feeling that writers in general have ulterior motives. We all want to be successful, sure. I think it's common for the author world to fantasize about book signings with lines of people out the door, standing behind a podium at a writing conference with dozens of eyes fixed unblinkingly, and the sweet weight of a real book with our name inscribed in our hands.

It's a good thing to envision success.

However, with any successful job, the consumer should be at the forefront of the mind. It isn't necessarily about the ego of the deliverer as much as it is about the appetite of the recipient. In writing YA Steampunk, I try to keep my audience in mind. Who are they, these people? Who goes to Barnes & Noble and peruses the fantasy aisle in search of Steampunk? Or do they seek Steampunk out at all? Is it the cover or the title that entrances the roving eyes of a reader? In the fantasy world, it's important to consider the fan. The trekkie, the Star Wars guru, the comic book store guy, the basement dweller, the Mac enthusiast, the PC devotee, the gamer, the Anime freak, the D&D overlord, etc, etc. The reason people read fantasy is to get away from this world. This is why, when Hollywood makes the ambitious decision to make a movie based on a book, the fans are going to come after them with torches if they don't make it the way people pictured in their minds. It's more than just a "stupid book". It becomes a whole other world that people make their own.

This is why the writer's job can't be taken lightly. This is also why character development is so important. If our desires and motives start to dominate those that are natural to our character, then the fans WILL notice. You'll get that one guy who raises his hand. "Excuse me. Yes. Um, why would Captain Bartholomew Vortex make plans to travel to the Cropton Nebulae when he has a pathological fear of Gortangus Squid, which are common to that particular region of the galaxy?"

If the author stammers out, "Well I uh...needed him to go there to move the plot along..."

Then we clearly have a problem.

This character is so important to the reader. Writers are readers too, so we know this. It's the same with any business trying to reach out to the consumer. The grocery stores have to sell things they want to buy and they're supposed to sell the freshest stuff to make us happy. Restaurants serve with a smile even on their worst days. Custodians clean up after us, keeping our sanitation, health and well being in mind. Chefs cook things that taste good. Politicians rule and delegate with the best interests of the public at heart. (Ha. Ha. Haaaa.)

The writer's task is to create a world into which any person can dive when they need release from this one, ESPECIALLY fantasy and ESPECIALLY YA. Do we all remember how hard it is to be a teenager? Angst, hormones, awkwardness, budding puppy love, enslavement in the establishment and the rents' house, and so full of dreams that they spill out. Of course, one of the most rewarding audiences is YA, who are so hungry for hope, stimulation and intellectual inspiration that it hurts. The reader is also sensitive to patronization, uninterested in inflated moral platforms and eager to read about sexual tension. They want strong characters with clear objectives, and they're crazy about good versus evil and overcoming "the man". A rebellious, rule-breaking hero is right up their alley, I've noticed. And I remember being that age! I think we all could if we thought about it.

Hail to the reader. Without you, the writer would be nothing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hey baby. What's your exploded chakra?

In character-driven fiction, it’s important to know the characters inside and out.

My sister takes a voice and movement class for her acting degree, and she’s been learning about the ancient study of “chakras”.

The chakra comes from Hindu texts originally, but has been studied in many eastern cultures.

These are “force centers”, or spinning discs of energy within the physical body. If someone has an “imploded” chakra, the energy is withdrawn from that chakra. There’s a disconnect there. This could result in a change of posture, behavior or affect interaction with others. An imploded chakra could come from a traumatic experience (If someone has a deficiency in chakra 2 where sexual pleasure is located, it’s possible that the individual may have undergone abuse in childhood.) In the case of an “exploded” chakra, there’s an excess of energy. If someone has an exploded 1st chakra at the root, that could mean that he or she speaks with forceful conviction and enters rooms with great assurance.

So how does this affect character development?

Does your character have exploded and imploded chakras? Is your character earthen, with a strong 1st root chakra, with a tough attitude and a forceful presence? Perhaps he or she has a strong 7th chakra at the crown, and feels connected to the heavens above. Or, perhaps this person is weak at the 5th throat chakra and has trouble voicing his or her opinions. I think it would be a worthy practice to diagram a character based on this ancient study of movement and soul. I think it would affect the way the character walks into the room, the way he or she speaks and the way he or she deals with problems.

I can’t wait to map out my characters in this fashion.

More on this later. Perhaps a blog about some famous characters and how their chakras may have been.

Happy writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It's important to think positively in any wake of life. As the following link explains, it's crucial in our relationships with people and in the way we affect the people around us.

Negativity is like a contagious disease. It festers and spreads to those we contaminate. As a cynic who speaks fluent sarcasm, I'm one of the biggest offenders I know. I also have a bad temper problem, so it can be poisonous.

But honestly, it's important to talk with a smile and think with a smile too. It's especially important in writing, because this can be a discouraging field with little to no validation. We write because we love it, because we have a vision, because we can't stop...not necessarily to feel better in terms of feeling awesome. There are a lot of brick walls. There is a strength that exists within, and it comes from KNOWING that it's going to work out.

When your fingers fly over the keyboard, make sure you've got a smile on that dream of yours. Smiles toward success.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh, Twilight.

All of the hipsters love to make memes about Twilight. I just wonder if anybody really appreciates the true problem with it. I think the modern generations have grown bored with long gazes and insistent lip-biting. They've finally understood that they don't need to rely on their feeble infatuations to give their bleak, misunderstood lives meaning.

Oh wait, no they haven't. They're still helplessly obsessed with it and perfectly reasonable women are falling all over themselves to be a part of the Vampire magic. I had a conversation with a 23 year old married WASP about this. She's an intelligent girl. When I made a passing disparaging remark about the whole shebang, she looked at me in surprise.

"Bella's in love with Edward though."

"So? That doesn't mean her entire character has to revolve around his involvement in the plot. She's a two-dimensional character with no substance whatsoever."

"But she's in love with Edward."

Then she blinked at me. It suddenly made me realize the same thing I realize every time I'm in a room full of people, make a negative comment about Bon Jovi and get reamed because there's always AT LEAST one Bon Jovi fan in any room at any given time. It reminds us cynical "hipster" types that the processed alternative mediocrity really does sell.

But I digress.
The problem with Twilight is Bella Swan. The love story itself is whatever. There are a jillion like it. Two people who shouldn't be in love are. It's dangerous and risky. One really wants to eat the other one. It's riddled with problems and tragedy. Congratulations, you have 75% of all marriages in the world. Throw in a Vampire and a werewolf and you have 75% of European marriages. (I really don't even know what that means?) What's up, Beauty and the Beast?

The main character's a two-dimensional character. I tried to remember what she was like in the few chapters we had her before Edward glittered into her life. Honestly, all that comes to mind is a pale-skinned Arizonian girl with divorced parents. That describes one of my friends and she's a hell of a lot more interesting than Swan. But WHY is she more interesting than Swan?
Take Hermione Granger. Why was Hermione voted one of the strongest characters in fiction ever? Hermione is strong in the real sense, of course. She saves everybody's ASS on a chapterly basis. Ron and Harry wouldn't have been able to get past the first problem in the first book without her help. But she's also strong in a literary way. She has interests, desires, ideals, causes and objectives that exist OUTSIDE of her relationship with Ron Weasley. She loves Ron, sure. But the real objective is far more important. She has to fight evil.

"But Twilight is a romance. That's its thing."

No, man. No. Romance can have interesting characters. Romance writers often have the toughest job of all. They have to sell you a relationship. They also have to sell you the characters. A really good romance has a couple of awesome characters in it that are well-rounded and clear. Ever read "English Patient"? Take a gander at Kip and Hana. That's a romance.
Bella Swan is a two-dimensional character created as kiddie crack to adolescent girls so they could see themselves in the role of a vampire's lover. That's all she is.

It's the difference between something nutritious and something that's garbage. A blueberry is a work of art, created to nourish us and prevent us from dying. A Big Mac is created to pleasure our unsophisticated tastebuds. It has no nutritional value and actually aids in perpetuating the indulgent instant gratification that has become an integral part of America's mentality.

Sounds like Twilight. Bella Swan isn't good for us. She teaches us that it's all right to rely on an infatuation, become wrapped up in lust and dive headfirst into an indulgent, romantic relationship with no desire to seek the depth in life. Not to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight the world together, but to gaze into each other's eyes and lose focus of everthing else around us. She teaches us not to fight, but to lay dormant until we're given our drug of choice, in her case a Vampire. That's problematic.

Worst of all? She's a bad character. The writing of her character is poor. Meyer will probably sell more books than I ever will. She's a successful, published authoress, and I'm a locksmith with a dream. I get that. I appreciate and respect it. I'm Steampunk, so I admire the ability to ensnare millions of teenage girls with an old-timey, old-fashioned guy with poetic diction and a lust for the girl next door. I'm totally going to capitalize on that. My issue though, is with our ingenue. She's a co-dependent character. If you compare her to any other female literary figure you can come up with off the top of your head, it's pretty staggering how she fades into the background. All we know or care about with her is her relationship with Cullen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I've been on a mission since the onslaught of 2012, and it hasn't been easy. It's affected all wakes of my life and though I haven't been completely successful, I believe I'm on the right track.


The "Truffle Shuffle"
It started with diet and exercise and trust me, as an inner fat kid who loves on-the-go processed delights, it's definitely been hard. I'm not there yet, but I'm closer and healthier. The key to accomplishing it is planning and routine. It's really hard to eat well when you don't bring your lunch, have a dinner plan or eat a healthy breakfast before you leave the house. Spur of the moment stuff is what makes you get Egg McMuffins, Taco Bell, and vending machine stuff. Preparation and planning is key. Knowing your stuff is key too. Wandering aimlessly down the grocery aisles snatching at boxes that preach health is fruitless. (Haha, get it? Fruitless?) You have to know what you're doing ahead of time or you'll be distracted by labels, cleverly manipulative advertisements and processed garbage that dresses in nutritional sheep's clothing.

So the tie-in to writing now. My witty segue.

Same thing. Routine and preparation. Knowing and having an objective when you sit down at the computer or even start your week. I've struggled with the blog because I've been treating it as I used to treat snacking or eating in general. "Whatevah. I do what I waaaaant."

Well blogging is a job. A task. A successful blogger posts at the same time every week, plus additional times if there is some good, interesting information that needs to be said. The blogs I subscribe to are consistent, relay useful information and aren't focused on the blogger herself. This takes preparation, as it's sometimes difficult to come up with topics that are prevalent. You can't just plop down behind the computer and come up with something at the drop of a hat. It takes maturity.

Writing in general is the same way. Routine is important. Even in the uninspired times, forcing oneself to write a little bit a day and giving oneself a goal is essential in making this a career. It takes the proper environment, the proper discipline and the proper mindset.

You have to take it seriously.

I'm a black belt in kung fu, and when I'm training the most successfully, it's always when I'm working out on a regular basis, in a serious state of mind and ready to sacrifice my happy-go-lucky time in order to accomplish my next degree.

Focus is key, in other words. It's key in good eating habits, exercise routines, networking, working (writing in our case), and success in general.

Many people think, "I must have A now! NOW!"

A can't happen now. A can only happen with a lot of work and dedication. Falling in love at first sight is merely a spur-of-the-moment compatibility between visual attractions. Falling in love for life is the result of years and years of work, suffering, sacrifice, effort and camaraderie. And focus!

I'm not saying that spontaneity is the devil. Spontaneity can be fun, productive and interesting. I'm merely saying that it's most effective to make these goals an integral part of your lifestyle.

Cheers to good health and happy writing!