Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good Moods Prove Your Potential

I'm a pretty level-headed dude.  When I do get worked up, I usually don't let it surface.  This is a double-edged sword for me.  Sure, I don't get too angry.  There I few things I actually hate.  But it also means I am rarely elated and filled with joy.  I rarely am so excited and full of energy that I want to work for hours on end.

Being neutral is its own funk.  You keep maintaining the status quo.  You keep not being particularly happy, but not being upset enough to actually make the effort to change anything.  It's not depression, but it's not very productive either.

Every now and then, though, I do get struck with a good mood. I want to try my hardest and create something amazing. And when those moods hit, I do something about it.

Good moods eventually fade, but the work I did because of them does not.  It impresses me how much I can accomplish when I'm focused and dedicated.  I want to be that way more often.  I want to be that productive, even when I'm not in a good mood.

The important thing to remember is that it can be done.  Good moods prove your potential.  You physically see exactly how much you can do.  You have a measure of how much to recreate, even when you are only feeling neutral.

I recently was in a fantastic mood.  In that time, I wrote these words:
"I know that inertia is a force that reduces over time, but I am hoping that it has given me enough of a kickstart to allow me to let my willpower keep me moving when this initial burst subsides. I know that I am already doing things I normally wouldn't have done, so I have proved it can be done."

You Are A Character

Ever have one of those stories that starts out with, "I just saw the weirdest person. . ." or some variant of that?  I know I sure have.  And, so far, everybody I know has, too.  And considering the percentage of people who both read this blog and know me, the odds are very much in my favor that you do.

Let's face it: people are weird.  They do weird things.  They say weird things.  Sometimes they just look really funny.  There's really no helping it.  Some people are just off.  Sometimes you simply don't have the context of the situation going on.

By the way, you are that person.  I'm not saying you're weird or off (although if you're friends with me, you likely are).  What I'm saying is that nobody knows your stories or the contexts of your actions.  The conversations people overhear, the inside jokes you share to people on the outside, the perfectly normal things you like to do with your friends - all of those things are really strange.

And most likely, somebody has a story about you.  You've got plenty of stories about "this one crazy person".  That one crazy person is a real, live human being.  Of course somebody else has a story about "this one crazy person" who happens to be you.

When you go looking for characters, don't forget to look at yourself.  But don't look at yourself as a protagonist.  Look at yourself as "this one crazy person."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Talking To vs. Talking With

I make a distinction between talking to someone and talking with them.  In common language, they're interchangeable, but they do mean different things, and I find it worth the distinction.

Talking to somebody means that you are speaking and the other person is listening.  When you talk to somebody, the communication only goes in one direction.

Talking with somebody means that sometimes you are talking to somebody, and sometimes the other person is talking to you.  Communication goes in multiple directions.

It is the difference between a lecture and a conversation.

I am not putting a value on talking to or talking with people; I am merely making a distinction.  There are times when a lecture is of benefit.  Right now, I am talking to you.  You have no option but to read through my words and receive my thoughts as I have chosen to present them.  If you want to hear my collected thoughts as a whole, or if you really just don't know where to even start asking questions or providing input, a lecture could be the best thing for you.

If, after reading this post, you decide to leave a comment, and I reply, you are talking with me, and I you.  When you do have something to say, whether it be a question to get more information, or sharing a story, which would provide more information, a conversation can be very satisfying and rewarding.  It acts as a bonding experience between people.

The main reason I make this distinction is that I know of plenty of people who do not talk with me.  It seems like they are having a conversation, but I never actually get a chance to talk back.  It made me realize that there is a big difference, and most people don't see it.

When your characters speak, are they talking to or talking with others?  When you write, which one are you doing?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Polish polish

I am breaking my usual rule of capitalizing all of my titles to illustrate a point. A "polish" is something that makes things shiny and smooth.  "Polish", however, is something that comes from Poland.

I find it amusing that these words have nothing to do with each other, are pronounced differently, but use the exact same letters; the only difference is that one of them is capitalized.

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I cannot say.  It simply is the language we speak.  However, it is an excellent example of why we need to be careful when we write.  Sure, we can make a lot of typos and misspellings and be understood, but if you can be exact in your writing, including capitalizing "Polish" when referring to the nationality, you will be sure to avoid confusion (unless the reader just isn't paying attention, but at least it's not your fault).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Better Than You Have It

A friend of mine was saying that we need to focus on the things we have and not the things we don't have.  We can put life in perspective by seeing the lives of others.  He closed by saying, "I might be flat broke, but at least I'm not getting foreclosed on, either."

My response:
Excellent point. People would be so much happier if they realized that they are probably so much more fortunate than so many other people, that if they never had more than they currently do, they could still be happy and ok.

However, I have come to realize that people do need to focus on the things that want (not merely things they don't have, though). Desire leads to effort and progress and betterment. Being content is a marvelous and peaceful ability to attain, but if you really want more, have the courage and determination to go and get more. Just because you have it better than others doesn't mean you shouldn't want to have it better than you currently do.

Have you written something that you're actually proud of?  Have you been published?  Have you been published by somebody you respect?  What do you actually want out of your writing?  Go out and get it.

I used to think that it was a matter of "no matter what you do, you can always do better."  That is a crippling thought, because it makes me a perpetual failure.  But if you change the concept a little, so it says, "If you want more than you have, actually do every possible thing you can to get it," you can find yourself with motivation and encouragement the whole way through.

Don't Stop Trying

I realized today that I stopped trying.  I haven't honestly been trying for about 9 months.  I haven't written any stories to completion.  I haven't submitted any writing wholeheartedly.  I haven't been searching for sweet, awesome jobs in my field.  I've been in a rut and spending all my free time on short-term distractions.  I haven't done anything of consequence.

Arguably, everything done is something of consequence.  I have gained experience in life.  I have gained life experiences.  I now know the part of life that I want nothing to do with because I have slept with it.

That said, I could have been perfectly happy not knowing so intimately what it is like to not do anything productive.  If the last 9 months were spent focusing on my projects, or even just one project, and putting in those free hours every day into creating and revising and editing and honing and polishing, I would be far better off.

This may be a lesson you have to learn first-hand.  Maybe all lessons need to be learned first-hand.  But, if nothing else, consider the advice to not stop trying.

I have repeated my teacher's advice: You are only a writer on days you write.  It is true.  But it is also never enough.  I have kept Cheff Salad active throughout this whole span, and it does keep me as a writer, but it's not enough.  You have to do more than write; you have to try.

No matter what you are doing, you have to actually try.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sounding Boards

'Converse' is a combination of 'verse', which means 'words', and con-, which means 'with'.  To converse is to talk with somebody.  A conversation needs a second person in order to be a conversation.

We as humans need to talk.  Conversations help us think our thoughts, solve our problems, relive our glories, dissipate our failures.  That second person can provide ideas and insights that we may never have come up with on our own.

Sometimes, though, the second person doesn't need to provide anything.  Sometimes they just need to be there and listen.  Being a sounding board can be just as beneficial, especially when a person needs to sort out their thoughts more than solve a particular problem.

In writing, a sounding board character is tricky.  If we only see one person talking, it seems like a monologue.  Then the listener ends up being like the little six-year-old girl.  However, a visual cue here and there may provide enough input to express that two people are there, but one person is doing the talking for both sides.

You could make for an interesting scene.  Give it a shot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Whenever people use the word 'gratuitous', they always use it in terms of violence, profanity, or nudity.  I have talked about profanity a couple of times, and I have come to the simple conclusion that profanity is not 100% awful, but it cannot be used willy-nilly.  There is a determining line, which is largely based on style and character.

For something to be 'gratuitous', it simply needs to be out of character.  Gratuitous profanity is unneeded swearing.  Gratuitous nudity is showing the naked body for no reason that adds to or advances the story.  And, really, anything that in your story that does not develop your story is gratuitous.

This plays right into my writing style: concise.  Writing concisely means you are not doing anything gratuitously.  You are giving the audience exactly what it needs - no more and no less.

Arguably, gratuitous writing is not terrible.  Sometimes a ridiculous, over-the-top action movie with copious amount of bullets and explosions is the most satisfying thing, even if it is way more than the story needed (although the counterargument is that it was just the right amount for an over-the-top action movie).

In that case, being gratuitous is a fine line.  Tasteful or artistic or plot-based nudity may be acceptable, but that leads to fan service.  And fan service may be acceptable, but that leads to flat-out pornography.  And pornography may be acceptable, but nobody is watching it for the plot.

When you add things that do not develop your stories, you take away from those stories.  A story that diverges enough from one path ends up taking another path.  If you are trying to tell a particular story, tell the story.  If you want to make a porno, make a porno.  Just don't try to pass one off as another.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Time Between Sentences

When I am reading, I periodically want to backtrack to find some interesting part and reread it.  Then I have trouble actually finding the sentence.  I go back a ways and skim backwards little by little, not seeing it.  So then I turn back a page or two or three.  I know I have missed it, but now I am way too far back from where the interesting line was.  I return to where I paused, then I see the sentence I was looking for; it was only a few lines above where I had stopped.

Now, I admit that this doesn't say much for my ability to remember or to scan a page. However, it does say how amazing sentences can be.  The matter of a few sentences can contain so much information that it felt like several pages worth.

There is a great amount of time that can pass between sentences.  The sentence itself contains some amount of action (sometimes), but the proceeding sentence can take place any time beyond that.  It could be zero seconds, five seconds, five minutes, five years, or five generations.  The only thing more amazing than that is the fact that we humans can just accept it.  We can skip forward or backward in time and just say ok and go for the ride.  It may be disorienting at first, but we handle it just fine.

Buried In The Pile

The only downside to a daily blog is the sheer quantity of entries that accumulate.  While this is not always a bad thing (especially if you find yourself thoroughly addicted to my words), it does make a truly stellar post harder to stand out.

There isn't a whole lot that I can do about it, though.  If there is a post that I am particularly proud of, I can keep referring and linking to it.  If an audience member, the only way to find a great post is to read through them all and pick for yourself which ones are great to you.

I sometimes wonder if I wrote a particularly great post which I was unaware of or forgot about, and that it is buried in the pile of average works.  I do periodically go through my posts and find some great points, so it's not impossible.  It's also not impossible that all of my work is of good quality and that when I return to them with fresh eyes, that is revealed.

Unfortunately, there's no really great way to find out easily.  Best I can do is keep on writing, keep on adding to the pile, and let those who are brave enough to sort through the pile do so.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Don't Rush Reading

I like to be a little dramatic when I am talking.  I'm not melodramatic or overacting, but I do slow my words and add pauses when I am building suspense.  I do change my pitch and timbre of voice for effects.  I make use of every tool I have in order to make the effect I want.

Sometimes, though, the audience doesn't want any of that.  Sometimes all they care about are the facts.  They just want the words, the information.  They don't have the time to wait through your pauses; they just want to know what it was you found.

Unfortunately, there's not a damn thing you can do about this.  Whether you are telling a story, writing a book, or making a movie, some people will want to skip through.  I would be angry about it, but I know that I'm no better. When people start to build suspense, it drives me up the wall.  I don't want an author to entice me, then go on about something completely unrelated.  If your story is good, you don't need to set up an exciting scene and then leave it unresolved until later; I plan on reading your whole book, so just get to the good parts.

My advice to audiences is to chill out.  Trust that storytellers are being precise.  Try to get into their story.  It was made with a feel and set-up that makes for an excellent and powerful conclusion.  If you are impatient and skipping around to the "good parts", you may just skip over the best parts out there.

My advice to storytellers is to tell a damn good story.  Give your audience a reason to trust you and to bother getting into your stories.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dealing With Gravity

Everybody has to deal with the grave.  Everybody deals with grave things differently. 

Levity is my way of dealing with gravity.  I become completely insincere, make jokes, and generally avoid any actual concerns.  This is how I deal with everything serious.  Loss of life, loss of job, loss of relationship, all of them are fodder for insensitive jokes.  Kinda makes me seem like a jerk (and rightly so), but that is simply how I handle the stress that comes from grave situations.

The more common response is to become grave.  Serious situations need to be taken seriously and treated seriously.  Jokes are inappropriate and only hurt people in a vulnerable state.

I agree with the common response (kinda).  People are in a vulnerable state and should not be hurt.  But through levity, I remove myself from being in a vulnerable state.  I box up the weakness with insincerity.  Then I'm untouchable.

Some people like to lose themselves in a crowd.  The hustle and bustle and activity keeps their minds too busy to actually deal with the serious situation at hand.  Most writers I know, though, do the opposite.  They sit down by themselves and work through those feelings.  Some writers I know exclusively write in order to work through their feelings.

However you deal with gravity, it shows who you are.  Learn from that.  Learn who you are.  And use that when you write.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Speaking Of Grave Things

You cannot speak of grave things while feeling aloof.  Speaking of grave things makes you grave.

No matter what mood you are in, if you start talking about serious subjects, you will become serious.  Don't get me wrong.  If you're in a jocular mood, you can make jokes about serious subjects.  You can use those subjects as fodder for your humor.  But if you actually sit down and think about those subjects, if you sincerely discuss a serious subject, it will make you serious.

It is an amazing power.  You can use that power on people, too.  If you have a serious subject you wish to express, you can suck people in with an amusing introduction, then strike them with a serious subject.  Once they've started reading, they will keep going.  Once you slide into a serious subject, they will become serious, think seriously, but not be disgusted by it, nor will they push away with humor.  They will be yours.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.  The same tool that can make people care about doing good deeds can also be used to scar them.  A troll could, for example, start showing you fluffy kittens, making you happy and relaxed, then show you a picture of roadkill.  It's definitely a dick move.

There is nothing I am saying about "should".  I'm not really talking about right or wrong here.  I'm just saying that this is how we work.  You think about the grave, you become grave.

The Grave

We all know what a grave is.  If you don't, then it's a hole dug in the ground to bury dead people.  What not as many people understand is that 'grave' has a second meaning.  It also means serious.

We tend to see the this definition when we talk about 'gravity'.  Inevitably, it is "the gravity of the situation."  And it's usually about people not understanding said gravity.  But the point remains, 'grave' means 'serious'.

I find 'grave' to be an interesting word in this context because it is difficult to use.  People who intentionally use the word are either setting up for some pun (e.g. The zombie apocalypse was a grave situation) or trying to sound educated and sophisticated by using a somewhat archaic definition of a common word (or using a less common word in place of a simpler one, like 'serious').

The only thing I have that comes close to being a rule for this is, "Do what feels right."  It's kind of a cop out, because that means I can't describe or explain it.  I admit that.  But I also say that the matter comes down to tone.  It is a sound issue.  Can the person saying 'grave' pull it off?  Do they have the character?  Do the have the context?  The subtext?  Do the rest of their words fit with 'grave', or will it stick out?

If you can answer those questions, you will know if you can use the word.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Would vs. Will

Greg and Sharon are having a conversation about suicide.

Greg: Why would you be so upset if I killed myself?

Sharon: Because I like you so much. You make me laugh and smile.  You mean so very much to me.

Greg: Eh, you're a strong woman.  You'll get over it.

The wording here is very subtle, but very powerful.  The conversation begins hypothetically; Greg uses "would".  Sharon then responds to that hypothetical situation honestly.  She does not use "would" because her answer is not hypothetical; she legitimately likes Greg in the present. After that, Greg says the she will get over it, not that she would get over it.  This indicates a certainty in the future.  In this one word (and technically, it wasn't even the full word since it was a contraction), Greg has said that his mind has been made.

The most frustrating aspect of language is the vast amount of nuance within them.  Denotations and connotations and implications and suggestions are part of every word and sentence, and even when we aren't actively conscious of them, we are still aware of and affected by them.

Consider your words carefully.  When I talk about being concise, this is the kind of thing I mean.  When you can choose a single word that explains a shift in emotion, explains a sentiment, and declares an intent, you have a very concise sentence, and a very powerful one.  It's a sentence worthy of poetry when you can be that concise.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beat'em To The Punch

One night, my friend and I were talking and the runs came up.  Not diarrhea, mind you, but the runs that one runs by running.  I cracked up because, as soon as my friend mentioned the runs, she made a clarification, and I know that if she hadn't, I would have made a joke about that ambiguity of terms.

She beat me to the punch (if she'd made a joke, she would have beaten me to the punchline) and I loved it.  For one thing, it was funny because of the timing. She added the clarification immediately after the initial message, so I didn't have time to process the absurdity of what she had written.  The punch came faster than the speed of my brain (which is an extraordinary feat).  The delivery was also great.  It was a very matter-of-fact style, but done on a subject that is always danced around (because of its vulgarity), which also adds to the double take.

You can take and retain a great deal of power by beating them to the punch.  You make sure they stay surprised.  You take away the power to be angry or mean.  In life, it is hard to make fun of somebody for being ugly when the first thing they do is talk about how ugly they are.  Similarly, if you fall on your face, then get up and laugh about it, it is impossible to laugh at you because they will only be able to laugh with you.

And in your writing, you have to keep your audience guessing.  Make them surprised until the very end.  And if you absolutely can't obfuscate the truth, then embrace it.  Sure, it was obvious that your protagonist was going to escape from danger safely.  Make a joke about it.  Make a rhetorical statement or a thought mentioning how there is no realistic danger, so it's all good.  That way, the audience can't say that they saw it coming because you can tell them that they were supposed to get it.

Happy writing.

Monday, March 14, 2011


A couple days ago, I was talking with one of my friends.  At one point, she called me decisive.  I thought about it for a while, and told her that I didn't agree with her.  I only appear to be decisive.

A decisive person is quick to decision.  When given a situation, they immediately make a decision and that's the thing that's done.  And if it doesn't work, you friggin' make it work.  That's not me at all.  The only reason I might look decisive is that I don't share my opinions until I am sure of them.  If I am flip-flopping between what I think my be right or true, I am keeping my thoughts to myself.  The only reason I would look sure of my ideas is that I have carefully measured every possibility and chosen the best option.

My friend said that my belief was inaccurate.  In fact, it was the qualities I described that proved me to be decisive.  I let the conversation go, but I kept thinking about it.  I finally got around to looking up the word and found that we were both right.

Decisive people may be very bullheaded and shoot from the hips.  They may also be very methodical and fully-thought-out planners.  Just depends on which definition you choose.

Our language is frustrating like that.  It's bad enough that any given word connotes several possible meanings, but the denotations themselves can vary wildly in a given word.  How on earth are we supposed to be able to communicate when our tools of communication are about as rigid as jello?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Six-Year-Old Girl

In every story that has ever been written, or ever will be written, there is a six-year-old girl with the main characters.  She is small and quiet.  She never says anything and nobody talks to her.  Although she does follow people everywhere, nobody pays her much attention.

In all of our stories, we never mention her either.  We never describe what she looks like, what she's doing, what she sees or looks at.  In fact, there is no mention of her in any story that has ever been written (nor will there be mention of her in any stories that will be written).

Still, that girl is there.  How can you prove that she isn't?  Just because an author doesn't mention a person in their stories doesn't mean those people don't exist.  If a bed is not explicitly mentioned, we still know that it is present in a bedroom.  We assume all homes and offices are furnished and well-stocked on common items.  We assume that every business has workers maintaining it.  We accept that there are a great many things that exist actively in stories we read, despite them not being mentioned.  Why not a six-year-old girl?

Imagine if this was true.  For one thing, it would spooky as hell.  For another thing, it means every film adaptation of a book is wrong (unless we assume that girl is just out of shot for every single scene).  But, imagine if a film adaptation of a story did have a six-year-old girl in it who was never mentioned or acknowledged and has no lines, but is in every scene.  What a great way to screw with people's minds.

Writing can be tricky like that.  There is a lot going on that exists only in our minds.  When you start toying with that, you expand the realms of possibilities in your art.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Easier Thought Than Said

This is a continuation of a post from about a month ago (actually, it's from exactly a month ago, go figure).  Most things are easier said than done.  Coming up with words takes far less energy than turning them into a real, tangible thing.

Sometimes, though, coming up with words is the difficult part.  Our ideas do not come to us fully-formed. We get flashes of insight. A story may have a scene or a character or a dialog or a relationship, but a book does not pop into your head.  Sometimes, even a synopsis or a plot doesn't come into your head.  You just get those quick slivers of ideas.

So what do you do with them?  Do you think about them and what a cool story you could probably come up with from those flashes?  Or do you sit down and actually plan out that story?  Can you at least come up with words to describe those scenes?  Can you explain what you have in your head to somebody else?

In my experiences, if you can turn your thoughts into words, the rest will come easily.  Sometimes this is the first step you need to take in order to make the rest happen.  But once you take that first step, the rest will become easier.

Ideas are cheap.  They're a dime a dozen.  Doing something with them is how you make them valuable.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Words ARE Actions

We hear it all the time: "Put your money were your mouth is." "Instead of talking about it, do something about it." "Actions speak louder than words."  Somehow, we seem to think that talking is valueless.  Any action is more effective than talking.

There's one major problem with that sentiment: Words are actions.  Speech is a physical act.  It requires a conscious effort and a usage of the body to do.  The opposite of action is inaction.  It is sitting by and not doing anything, not saying anything, and letting events unfold without acting whatsoever to it.

Not everything needs a huge physical act.  Sometimes all we need is to talk.  Sometimes the sheer act of showing that something is worth talking about is all the validation we need; it's all the action required to handle a situation.

Words, whether you choose to write them or speak them, are actions.  Act with them as needed.

Periodically Crashing

Yesterday, I went to work, came home, puttered around for a couple hours, then crawled into bed for a nap.  I slept from 6 PM to 3 AM, woke up, had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then went back to bed until 10 AM.  Suffice it to say that I did nothing yesterday, including getting my post done (which is why I'm doing a double tonight).

This is something that doesn't happen terribly often, but does happen periodically.  I cut corners.  I go to bed late and wake up early.  I may get six hours sleep instead of 8 (or sometimes 4).  I sleep in on days I get free which helps me recover.  Still though, I don't recover enough and it adds up.  Every now and then, I have to forfeit a day to sleep.

I would love to have a simple, peaceful day every day.  I would love to get writing done, get chores done, and solve the world's problems, all in time to catch an amusing TV show and go to bed.  But I don't get to do that.  I manage what I can with the hours I have, and if I don't have enough hours, I reallocate the ones I had dedicated elsewhere.

For the amount that I do get done, it is usually worth the sleep I forgo.  However, since things always have to balance, I know that a day of crashing is guaranteed in the unforeseen future.  It is simply the way I choose to use my time.  If you would prefer to have a regular schedule every day, that's great; go and make it happen.  If you can't do that, or simply don't want to, then know that there is an alternative, and to lose a day in order to gain a few extra hours from all of your other days may be worth it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Not Everything is 50/50

Often times, we find ourselves with two viable options in a situation.  We say that we have a 50/50 chance.  If Option 1 fails, it means we should have gone with Option 2.  This is very, very wrong.

One of my peeves is when people say that they have a 50/50 chance because there are two options.  Statistics do not work that way.  Your options do not affect the rate of success on your other options.  If Option 1 is jumping out of an airplane with a green parachute and Option 2 is jumping out of an airplane with an identical orange parachute, you have a pretty high rate of success either way.  If Option 1 is jumping out of an airplane with an anvil and Option 2 is jumping out of an airplane with a safe, you're pretty well screwed either way.

A similar issue comes with determining the results of a given action.  I jump out of a tree.  Either I die or I don't.  50/50.  Wrong!

50/50 means that there is an equal likelihood between the two options.  Jumping out of a 10-foot tree.  The chance of death is not 50%; it is much lower.  Jumping out of a 100-foot tree, the chance of death is well above 50%.

This is an issue I find more in speech than writing, but it still stands.  Think about what you say.  It doesn't always mean what you think it does.  If you can take the time to plan and construct your words while writing, take the time to find out what your words really mean.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thank You

Tonight, I am taking time to say thank you.  If you're reading this, then you are a member of my audience, and I appreciate you for that. A writer without an audience is lacking greatly.

Well, that's not entirely true.  Plenty of people write for themselves.  They write to think and understand and clear their heads and organize their thoughts.  That kind of writing has no need to be shared.  But for people that are writing for the sake of others, an audience adds a great deal of validity and worth.

Cheff Salad is somewhere in between.  I post this publicly, but for a long time, I felt that I was preaching to the angels (a classy way of saying that I was talking and nobody was listening).  Over time, though, I have found a group of readers, some friends, some total strangers.  Some are followers, and some have not followed, but still keep coming back.

I write these posts partly for myself, but also for those who may come across it or hear of it and learn from or be inspired by my words.  If what I have to say affects you in a positive way, then I thank you and personally welcome you to come back as often as you like.

Today is no milestone in length of time or number of posts, but I don't need a reason to say thank you.  The fact that I am appreciative of you is all the reason I need.


I really don't like the word 'quaver'.  It always sounds like somebody couldn't decide whether to say quiver or waver, and ended up mashing them together.  And that's basically what the word means.  Still, it is a real word.  Looking at its origins, it actually comes from mashing up 'quake' and 'waver' (so I was pretty close). I find it to be an unpleasant word.

In a conversation recently, a friend used the word 'stolid'.  Somehow, that word sounded nice.  Still, it seemed strange to me in a similar way.  It sounds like a mash-up of 'stoic' and 'solid'.  The definition of the word is "not easily stirred or moved mentally; unemotional; impassive."  That's pretty accurate for being stoic and solid.

So I checked the etymology of 'stolid', wondering if I would be as close as I was with 'quaver'.  Turns out, 'stolid' comes straight from Latin: stolidus.  Damn.  I was surprised at how totally wrong I was.  How could it be that one word sounds like a mash-up and actually is one, but another word that also sounds like a mash-up is not whatsoever?

But that's the lesson, isn't it?  Sometimes the answer isn't what you think it is.  Sometimes that means it's simpler; sometimes that means it's more complex.  In any case, do the research if you can so that you know for sure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Write With Big Letters

I had to write a note for somebody last week.  It was not a very long message, only a few sentences, but I had a full-size sheet of paper to write it on.  Since there was no need to squeeze the message onto a small area of paper, I decided to fill the page by writing in big letters.  It was a nice experience.

Big letters are clearly visible (depending on how good your handwriting is).  They have enough space between the words to avoid confusion (no accidental mash-ups of words), but not feel cramped.  Although the note itself was not anything special, I still felt good writing it out.  It felt like a luxury to get to do it.

I realize that it felt like a luxury because it is not something I often do.  Again, I try to fit as many words and sentences on a page as possible.  I try to be as efficient as I can, which will save on paper waste.  That said, paper is not awfully expensive and if you feel better using big letters, it may be worth it to go through your paper faster.

This is something I never thought about until I did it on a whim.  I tried it and liked it.  I will try it again.  All I can really say is to try it yourself.  Try it once.  Then see if it is worth trying again.  You're not out much by trying, so what's there to lose?

Reflections On The Semi-Gods

Thinking about the story I wrote yesterday, there is a lot to consider.  To me, it was not so much a story as it was a writing exercise.  I needed to figure out who these characters are, what they want, and how they feel about each other.

I discovered that BenPo had the hustle, which made the character feel like the protagonist.  We saw the most dialogue and the most passion.  Apparently omniscience really does make people bored.  I discovered that the person without omnibenevolence was not evil by any means, but more of a jokester, doing things out of boredom for no reason but to do them and to have nothing better to do.

One of the questions I had earlier in this series was how to make these characters interesting.  They seem relatively shallow and only having two ways to play them off (to type or against type).  If these characters were left alone and surrounded by mortals, that would probably happen.  But by putting all three of them together, none of them are seen as gods.  They are all equals.  Similar, but different, each with advantages and disadvantages.

I also stumbled upon a realization in the last sentences of that story.  They are asking the same questions that we ask.  Suddenly, they have gone from being gods to being human, and now are much more approachable and deep.

Although I don't plan to keep that scene, I have benefited from writing it.  I know my characters more.  I know my story more.  I am far closer to making a final product than I would have been if I spent that time thinking about the characters and not writing down my thoughts the way I did.

This is the end of the series on the three semi-gods.  I will no doubt return to them at some point.  They are a good concept and are only a hyperlink away.  But in the mean time, every post I wrote gave me two more ideas to work on, so I am ready to go through a burgeoning list of posts to make.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Three Semi-Gods

I am going to write a piece using the three characters I have been talking about.  This will by no means be a finished piece, but an idea of putting characters in a room together and letting their personalities dictate what else is in the room, what they say, and what they say back.

Three beings lounge in a plain white room.  They are the three semi-gods: SciBen, the all-knowing and all-loving; BenPo, the all-loving and all-powerful; PoSci, the all-powerful and all-knowing.  They spend much of their time in this room.  It exists in a realm beyond our understanding, which god-like creatures prefer to be in.

BenPo sits at a table, writing into a notebook, slowly smiling.  The latest plan for a Great Pacifying is looking particularly promising.

"It won't work," SciBen says from the couch. "Their biology would produce people that would be so different that would reinstate all of their prejudices.  Your world peace would crumble within three generations."

BenPo sighs, then rips out the paper.  The notebook is getting progressively thinner.  There is not much left between the front and back covers.  Seeing this, BenPo points at the far corner, where all the other crumpled scraps rested, and obliterated them.  The notebook then refilled with clean, white paper.  BenPo starts to write, but is interrupted again by SciBen.

"Don't even bother.  Humans would use it as a tool of war and end up killing them all before they even realized it was meant to end war."

BenPo rips out the page and throws it back into the far corner.  "If you know everything and I can do anything. . ."

PoSci, standing upside down, says, "You can't collaborate because you have terrible communication skills," then turns the crumpled paper into a glass of water.  "You should remember that from all those times you tried and failed miserably."

There is nothing BenPo can say about that.  For whatever reason, creating a plan to help people alone does not end well, but collaborations are just as ineffective.  Still, BenPo is frustrated that SciBen is not even trying anymore. "How come you don't even leave that couch anymore?"

"I just don't care anymore.  I know everything. I also know there is nothing I can do about it.  I'm tired of trying to change the unchangeable."

PoSci turns the glass of water into a tennis ball, then giggles.

"And you," BenPo says. "You're the only one who actually knows how to make a plan that would work and has the ability to do it.  Why are you standing on your hands, doing nothing?"

PoSci makes the tennis ball bounce around the room, its energy not dissipating.  "Because, just like every other time you have begged me to help, I continue to not give a shit about life, human or otherwise. Its just a collection of matter, like everything else."

BenPo pushes away from the table. "Then why are we here?"

PoSci catches the ball , then turns it into a doorknob. "Now you're asking the question that they all ask every day."

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Break For 7 Facts

7 Facts: It's a start
I was right in the middle of my series on wicked sweet powers when I discovered I was nominated for the 7 Facts Award.  I'm not much for awards and honors, but since it came from Whitney, I graciously accepted.  I was hoping to quickly go finish up the series, but I don't want to be a jerk and put this on the back burner, so I'm taking a break to take care of business.

First things first, let's talk about some facts:

1. I shovel snow in a t-shirt and jeans. I love cold weather; I was designed to thrive in it.  I generate so much heat that if I do physical activity, I will break a sweat.  When it is freezing cold and the wind is blowing, I can work as hard as possible and I will be comfortable.  It's awesome.

2. I make anagrams for funsies.  I could make all 7 facts be about the things I love when it comes to language, words, sounds, and the like, but I will let this represent them.  Letters and words are a joy to me.  They are so free and fluid in their ability to make sentences.  But anagrams add an extra dimension of fluidity.  I could easily lose a day making anagrams based on any set of letters I come across.

3. I like nice clothes.  Don't get me wrong - t-shirts and jeans are plenty nice.  There is always something to be said for comfort.  But when I get to dress up, wear a suit and tie, a nice pair of dress shoes, I feel good.  I feel classy and slick.  I'm sure if I had to wear it every day for hours upon hours, I would get sick of it, but as things stand, when I get an excuse to dress up, I relish it.

4. I have no tattoos.  It's not that I am averse to the idea of permanently imprinting an image or sentiment on my body.  I simply have nothing permanent to say.  I have nothing that I think I should permanently remember.  The closest I could come to that would be getting a tattoo that said "impermanence".  But that would be like saying, "this sentence is a lie."  And I'm not that big enough of a tool to do.

5. I am a formatting freak.  Format matters as much as content.  The vast majority of our understanding of the world is visual.  How things look matters.  When you have a paragraph and the last line is a single word, I will go through the effort of reformatting to pull that word up (or adding more so it isn't lonely).  When I have a document that is two pages, but there's only two or three lines on the second page, the same thing happens.  It's all about parallel structure.  If you start doing something in a particular way, keep doing it that same way.  If you change the way you do things, change everything you've already done so it looks the same.

6. I am an opportunist.  Every one of these facts sounds like a good blog post to me, so I probably will make a blog post based on each of these facts.  If I can double-dip, I will.  It's not that I am lazy or unmotivated.  I truly just like taking opportunities when they arrive.

7. I like captioned pictures.  Whether it says I am lowbrow or low class or whatever else, I love websites like Fail Blog or So Much Pun.  The ability to take a seemingly innocuous picture and create a new view of it is tremendous.  It is incredibly small, very consumable, but can pack a significant punch.

Writing this up has actually been pretty fun.  I want to thank Whitney for including me in the festivities (and for making me the first blog she linked to in her list).  And, in keeping with the rules of said festivities, here are 15 blogs I nominate.

1. Word is Bond
2. Um...

Well, crap.  Turns out I don't have 15 blogs to nominate.  All the blogs I have followed are inactive or completely vanished.  I don't wish to besmirch this prestigious award, so I shall have to hold out until I find 14 more blogs worthy of nomination.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's Not Always That Terrible

In my previous posts, I have been discussing omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence, and what it would be like to have only two of those three qualities.  I also gave examples of what those characters might be like and how it could end up being lousy, even considered a curse.  But, in all fairness, things are not always that terrible.

Stories tend to have twists.  If everything worked perfectly, it would be boring.  If somebody is all-knowing and all-powerful, making them a jerk adds the twist.  If they weren't all-loving, but still helped people out sometimes, there isn't nearly as much to go on.  Still, nothing says that it couldn't be the case.

It is difficult when you find yourself in a black-and-white circumstance.  You have a character who only has one flaw, which means you either exploit that flaw, or you let it slide.  But when that is the only flaw, it becomes difficult to make either choice.  The best way to deal with that is to find a third option.

There is a way to make these characters be interesting, without making them obvious.  One way may be to put all three of them in a room together (or an apartment).  Let's see how that goes tomorrow.

Omnibenevolence and Omnipotence

The third combination of the three great characteristics is omnibenevolence and omnipotence.  This is a character who loves everybody and everything, has the power to make everybody happy and joyous, but has no idea how to do it.  I think this is also a fairly tragic character.  Much like the omniscient and omnibenevolent person, they want to help and do good, but are unable to do so.

We often see a character like this when an average person is magically granted super powers.  They want to do so much, and now finally can, but every time they try to help somebody, they make a situation worse.  The lesson is usually that it's better to be a mortal with limited powers if you can't handle them - either that or not everybody can be helped.  They're both pretty shitty lessons if you ask me.

What I find interesting is that this character could respond to the situation in noticeably different situations.  Somebody who tries to help and fails consistently could become gun-shy. With enough failures (or causing a significant catastrophe), one might decide to hide away forever.  Without that fear, a confident person could continue to try, time and time again, dedicated to get it right.

I guess the main difference is how you determine omnibenevolence.  Is it better to risk harm to others in hopes of helping all, or is it better to not take the risk to make sure you cause no direct harm?

I don't know.  And since these people aren't omniscient, neither do they.