Thursday, June 28, 2007

No Blog

There will be no blog today. I will also not be blogging on July 1st.

Happy Canada Day to everyone. Stay safe and have fun.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007


I do a lot of research, maybe an inordinate amount. I think it helps. I also think that while the results are helpful the act of doing it can be a serious inhibitor. It certainly impinges on my time. I find it very easy to get lost in the work of doing research, even though I do nearly if not all of it online. I also think I tend to bog myself down in minutiae. Though sometimes that can make for good results.

The hardest research has to be to find out the simplest things. This is because often they are just plain neglected, and no one bothers to think about them. A good example was when I went looking to find out the different widths for different rivers. There is all sort of data about how much water flows down some of these rivers, but practically nothing on how wide they are, or how deep. I would think it might be good to know how deep some body of water is if you expect to take a boat down it.

The research I do is for just about every project as soon as I reach the point where I have to say something that should be easy to say, but it isn't because it’s a knowledge gap, or I haven't seen anyone just stop to ask the right question. Sure there are some things you can fake, but the more likely the reader is going to know if you faked something badly the more you have to be on the ball about it.

Mood: mellow.
Music: Ghost of the Navigator by Iron Maiden and Me and the Boys by Twisted Sister.

Iron Maiden: Brave New World
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Twisted Sister: Love is for Suckers

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Ideas, Notes, and Progression

I was doing some cleaning last night around the computer. There is a tonne of notes sitting on the second keyboard—for the second computer, which has not been there for a year or more, but may return soon. Each note page was written in various locations throughout the house and sometimes even outside or in the car. Each note is a flurry of thoughts, ideas, and snatches of stories and conversations as they came to me. What are these ideas for? Short stories, novels, role-playing games, blogs, whatever comes to my mind when I'm not at the computer.

I'm slow to transcribe most of them to the computer. They pile up faster than I deal with them. Even when I put them on the computer they are just in files with names that make perfect sense at the time but become ambiguous later. If the notes are related to a project that I am in the midst of, rather than just the brainstorming stage, then I put the notes in the proper files and folders almost right away. Still they can pile up in their proper places.

Some of the ideas can be rather abstract and need solidification before I can take advantage of them. Sometimes—I think these are the most fun—the ideas are actually questions. The questions can be multiple choices, usual either this or that. Or the questions are just something to ponder.

I threw out a bunch of notes already that have been put to complete use. I also collected a bunch of single thoughts from pages that were otherwise put to use so that got rid of some more of them. Still the stack is pretty thick. It's hard to guestimate how many of the notes have been put to use, how many no longer make no sense—like a beautifully written one that I can't understand what project I was supposed to be applying the idea to, and in what capacity. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

There will be no blog on June 19th so check back on the 23rd. Thanks.

Mood: vacationary.
Music: Awake by The Clay People and Wasting My Hate by Metallica.

Strangeland: Movie Soundtrack
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Metallica: Load

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Dating Stories

It seems like now is a poor time to be writing. It's perhaps harder than ever to write a story set in the present without including something that will quickly leave the story feeling dated. Technology of different stripes can be ignored certainly but more of them are becoming ubiquitous and should be involved. A good example is the cell phone. Cell phones can vastly change the playing field of a story. It's something of a downer to see every story involve there being no cell phone coverage. It's a cheap cop out to trying to craft a story where being able to immediately reach someone, even help, can still leave the characters with their conundrums.

The first of the Poltergeist movies was such a story that defies being changed if the time setting of the story were to be updated. The Freeling family was surrounded by neighbours, able to call upon the best people to try and help, and still the horror would not relent and the mood could not be dampened. The writers didn't need secluded woods, downed phone lines, or any kind of physical isolation. Yet isolation engulfed the movie's family just as fully as the haunting frightened them.

Phone calls aside there are other ways that the ever changing and evolving technological landscape will affect modern, current, fiction. Does the character have a CD player or an MP3 player, or is it in his phone? Is the character watching a DVD or a HD DVD or a Blu-Ray disc when the terrible event happens? Is the secret knowledge hidden in a book, or on a website, or stashed on a USB drive? Encoded on a blog? Did the stalker find his victim on MySpace or Facebook? Did he stick a GPS tracker to her car? Keystroke logger? Does the cell phone bearing crowd witnessing an accident have camera stills of it or streaming video? The options are there, and changing too fast or not they should be put to best use.

Mood: down.
Music: Vicious Circle by Quiet Riot and Poison Apples by Motley Crue.

Quiet Riot: Guilty Pleasures
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Motley Crue: Motley Crue

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Case of Body Language

Body language is an interesting concept when it comes to writing. How to convey it? Should you even try to do it at all? I'm a firm believer in using it. Sometimes it’s a sad state of affairs that actors aren't much into using it. At least some do though, and I automatically gravitate toward them. There was an interesting scene in a recent episode of the TV show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" where one of the main characters, Harriet, was talking to a lawyer about something and the general feeling was that Harriet's truthfulness was a problem. This scene took place just prior to the "wrap party" and Harriet was in her party dress. In a move that was just brilliant and seems to defy mere description she grabs the flare skirt-ish part of the dress and gives it a brief twirl or swing.

What is being said with this gesture? It is a mix of many things at different levels. There's something of a look at me, this is a nice dress, and I'm going to a party kind of vibe. It's childish, and a bit fidgety, but yet it's also part, I'm going to ignore the suggestion that the truth can be a bad thing, and also, okay I have to get myself in the right headspace for the party so I don't cause any kind of a scene, and so I don't impose my problems on others.

It's a flood of things said in this short one or two seconds, mixed with other body language, facial expression, and most importantly deep connection to both what was said just before it and to the on-going characterization of Harriet. Maybe it has to be seen to be understood. However to even approach that in a story, that's pure gold. Body language can be like that. There are different manifestations of body language beyond how one holds themselves while speaking. Amongst them are things like gestures or fidgeting, general comportment and demeanour. Most importantly it’s all a manifestation of behaviour, a conveyor of emotion, and it's pure character.

Mood: crazy.
Music: Cumbersome by Seven Mary Three and Sugar, We're Goin Down by Fall Out Boy.

Seven Mary Three: American Standard
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Fall Out Boy: From Under The Cork Tree

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Yak Yak Yak Yak Yak

I have a real love for dialogue in my writing. It's not a secret. Maybe it’s because of the hours and hours on end of watching television during the regular season, and the tonne of movies of which I'm so fond. I don't know that my dialogue is all that great, at least in and of itself. I do read my dialogue out loud when I edit to make sure I'm not letting anything in that sounds bad. It may not be easy to hear, find, or write great dialogue, but it sure is difficult to not hear it when it's bad. What I do like to believe, and no one who proofreads for me has disabused me of, is that I know how to get the most out of my dialogue.

What should dialogue do? The first thing is obvious; convey ideas between one character and another. The second thing is a little more transparent in good dialogue; convey ideas from the characters to the audience. The third thing isn't something that the reader thinks about directly; the dialogue should convey the character's character to the audience. What someone says can speak volumes about the person. This goes beyond just speech patterns, accents, and other indicators of where the character lives and/or grew up.

Then there are the things that dialogue can say about the relationship between the two (or more) speakers. On a side note, this is where I wish that in English we had something akin to the Japanese honorifics, because I really love the added depth they bring. All of these modes of communication bundled up into dialogue lead us to the last thing required for good dialogue: the parts outside of the quotation marks. While I love it best to convey as much as I can inside the quotes I do like the variety of "dialogue tags". There's nothing wrong with every dialogue tag being "he said" or "she said", but there are ever so many words to use in place of said to add even more meaning to your dialogue. This is without even getting in body language to enhance your dialogue.

Mood: level.
Music: Let's Get Rocked by Def Leppard and Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue.

Def Leppard: Rock Of Ages
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Motley Crue: Red White & Crue

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