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Writing Wednesday

HEY GAIS, welcome to a special late-night edition of Writing Wednesday, with your good friend Cypress.  Last time on Coming Up Cypress, I talked about how I was finally gonna get back into the swing of things and start posting more and writing more and getting up early and being a REAL HUMAN BEING THAT DOES SHIT AWWW YEAH.

 

Then, as evidenced by the lack of those things having happened, I promptly didn’t do those things.

 

It’s not that I didn’t WANT to post, didn’t WANT to write, didn’t WANT to be a real human being that does shit awww yeah – I DID want to!  I still want to!  I wanna be the very best like no one ever was.

 

Instead I was waking up about an hour before work, looking at some funny pictures on Imgur, and then showering and going to work.  Then, I’d come home and have dinner, look at more funny pictures on Imgur, maybe rub one out and then go to sleep with the intent of getting up the next day bright and early and accomplishing something.  Never happened.

 

I started to wonder why, and started to come up with excuses – posting here is HAAAARD, I need IDEAAAAAS!  Writing is HAAAAAARD, it’s been so long I need to go back and remind myself what I’ve been DOOOOINNG.  Waaaaaah wahhhhhhhhhhhh boo hoo.  It wasn’t until today that I kinda came to a realization.

 

I don’t know if i mentioned this in my last post, but I’ve been going to the gym the last couple months.  Not a ton, only once a week (fatty mode), but I figured that’s better than nothing.  This week, for the first time, I’ve gone twice.  Today was the second time.  And as I’m there, being harassed by my trainer not to quit because I’m the coolest (paraphrasing), for the first time I kinda didn’t feel like I was gonna die.  I walked out being glad that I went.  First time for everything.

 

I got in my car and I went “waaaaait a minute.  I’ve been avoiding this for years and making up excuses and hating every minute of it until this week when I expected to hate it the mostest…what changed?”  What changed is that I’ve been moving.  I’ve been exercising.  I’ve been getting stronger.  My body and my mind are becoming better at handling this set of tasks, taking to them more readily and recovering from them more quickly.

 

It’s the same motherfucking thing with writing.  Some people will say “your brain is a muscle, flex it!” or some bullshit, but the BRAIN IS AN ORGAN NOT A MUSCLE DON’T SPREAD YOUR LIES.  However, the sentiment is the same.  If you write regularly, you’ll be more productive and you’ll retain more and more of what you’ve been writing in your next session.  It’s been proven that regular mental activity will increase your mental acuity.  

 

That’s right, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

 

When I was unemployed, I was writing damn near every day, and by the time I got a job, my work was really shaping up both here and in my novel.  My writing “muscle” (I feel a little sick just using the term BUT ITS THE EASIEST WAY TO MAKE THE POINT) was well-toned and ready for action.  Sure, I needed a little pick-me-up (read: Vyvanse) to get started, but the rest was all me baby.  I consider the ADD medication to be the equivalent of workout supplements like protein powder and other terrible things serial exercisers put in their bodies.

 

So what’s my point?  My point is that if you don’t write enough, you’ll eventually just stop writing altogether.  You’ll be the author equivalent of a couch potato, sitting at your laptop eating bonbons (or whateverthefuck) and reading fanfic or something going “MAN IN MY DAY I COULD HAVE WRITTEN LIKE THAT”

 

Don’t become the Al Bundy of writers.  Get typing, asshole.

Fearless Friday

Hey there, true believers!  It’s been a little over a year since my last blog post, and I feel awful, truly terrible about letting this thing go for that long.

 

The truth is, the job I mentioned in my last post?  More time-and-energy consuming than originally anticipated.  They also put me on a shift different than advertised in the interview.  What I thought was going to be an afternoon/evening gig turned into a morning gig, at least for the last year.  I gotta say it was pretty grueling at first, as I’ve never been much of a morning person to begin with.

 

However, just a couple of weeks ago I accepted a promotion (gasp!) at this job, which necessitated a change in shift from the 8 am to 4 pm to which I’d become accustomed, to a 12 pm to 8 pm to which I will have to adjust.  I’ve been on this new shift since this Monday, and while it’s going to take some getting used to, I think it will help me in the long run.

 

I’m hoping that this shift allows me to get back to writing and creating, rather than just going with the flow like I’ve been for the last year.  While unemployed I had really gotten into this whole blogging thing, and my novel was really starting to pick up steam – a steam that’s all but been lost to the daily grind.  But now I’m in a shift that I think suits me more – I can stay up much later into the night, allowing me to not only see more of my friends but also burn more of that precious writer’s resource, the Midnight Oil (I feel like that would be a really cool item in a video game or RPG, like maybe it raises your intelligence or something).  It also gives me the chance to get up a couple of hours before my shift and get some blogging done.

 

Here’s what I’ve decided to do in order to help me get my proverbial shit together – I’ve turned all of my works in progress and resource documents into private Google docs that I can access from anywhere.  This will allow me to write whenever, and wherever.  If I’m at work on lunch and don’t feel like going out for an hour?  Git ‘r done.  This also works as an additional means of backing up my files.

 

I’ve also decided to put together my finished short stories into a small collection and try and get it self-published on Kindle and Nook.  Call it a test of concept.

 

In any case, I’m calling today Fearless Friday because I wanted some alliteration but also because it’s a quality I need to learn.  It’s also the name of the Youtube Channel I’m still a part of and the games company that we want to turn that channel into.  So maybe I’ll do more Fearless Fridays going forward, with the idea of doing like…motivation posts about overcoming fear, or like…gamistry (hell yeah makin’ up words).  WHOOOO KNOWWWWWWS

Writing Wednesday

Sorry for the silence last week, I just started a new job.  It’s gonna be a full-time gig, so I’m still working out the logistics of when I’ll be able to make posts here during the day.

 

That said, I wanted to use this post to sort of address the very problem I’m now experiencing.  See, before I was either unemployed or only employed part-time, and had all sorts of opportunities to write (many of which were squandered).  Now?  Now by the time I get home my Vyvanse is on its last legs and I’m tired and I don’t give a fuck about my characters and their lives and I just wanna have a beer, watch some Kamen Rider, and maybe spend some time with the girlfriend.

 

This of course just won’t do.  I want to actually FINISH my novel, and I’ve got a writing contest coming up soon too.  Just because I’m gainfully employed doesn’t mean I should let myself get complacent and give up on what I really want to do.

 

Sure, I could write on weekends, but I’ve got myself set up on a specific schedule with my Vyvanse, and I don’t take it on weekends.  I have a lot of trouble writing anything significant -with0ut- the Vyvanse, and I don’t feel I can adequately do my job without it either so changing my schedule there doesn’t work.  THANKFULLY, once my training is over at this job, I’ll have Mondays off (I’ll be working Saturdays though :/).  What I’m going to try is keeping my Vyvanse schedule to Monday-Friday, and hope that Saturdays at work are doable without it.  This way I can spend Monday writing and editing and doing all the stuff I love while the people I love are all at work.

 

However, until then I still need a solution.  My current idea?  Well, I live close to where I’m working so it’s not impossible, or even difficult for me to come home on my lunch breaks.  So that’s what I’ll do, a couple of times a week.  I’ll come home, write as much as I can before I have to go back to work, and when I get home hopefully I’ll have built up some steam while on lunch.  I could also just bring my laptop with me to work and write there if I want to save the gas.  I may use this alternative once I move into my normal shift.

 

This all comes back to my post on finding the time to write, way back in like…what, August?  But what also comes into play, that I hadn’t considered at the time, is working out your priorities.  With my now-limited time, I need to decide what projects and activities are most important to me, and assign them their own timeslots of a sort.  This may not seem like news to a lot of you, but for me?  FUCKIN REVOLUTIONARY.  I’ve never worked a full 40 hour a week job before, so this will be a whole new adventure.  I’m sure I can handle it, though, and I’m sure anyone reading this can handle their own time management solutions as well.

Writing Wednesday

One of the most common pieces of advice writers are given by other writers is to “write what you know.”  I may even have mentioned it in some way in a previous Writing Wednesday.  I, like so many others, believe this nugget of wisdom to be absolutely paramount in writing – that is, at least, if you want your work to be any good.

 

I may anger a lot of people for this one, but let’s compare two pieces of literature (and the term is used lightly for one of them): Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  Unfair comparison?  Kind of the purpose of this exercise.

 

In this corner, Don Quixote, widely considered the first European novel, and one of the greatest works of fiction ever penned, about an old, retired landowner in 15th Century Spain who decided to don an ancient suit of armor and become a knight-errant, righting wrongs and just generally being the Dos Equis guy.  Written by Miguel de Cervantes, the real-world Dos Equis guy.  Seriously.  The guy’s life was crazy.  I’m just gonna copy and paste here:

“In 1569, Cervantes moved to Rome, where he served as a valet to Giulio Acquaviva, a wealthy priest who was elevated to cardinal the next year. By then, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment and continued his military life until 1575, when he was captured by Algerian corsairs. After five years of slavery he was released on ransom from his captors by his parents and the Trinitarians, a Catholic religious order. He subsequently returned to his family in Madrid.

In 1585, Cervantes published a pastoral novel named La Galatea. Because of financial problems, Cervantes worked as a purveyor for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector. In 1597, discrepancies in his accounts of three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Seville. In 1605, he was in Valladolid, just when the immediate success of the first part of his Don Quixote, published in Madrid, signaled his return to the literary world. In 1607, he settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. During the last nine years of his life, Cervantes solidified his reputation as a writer; he published the Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels) in 1613, the Journey to Parnassus (Viaje al Parnaso) in 1614, and in 1615, the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses and the second part of Don Quixote.”

For those of you who don’t want to read all that, the short version is that he saw a lot and experienced a lot of shit in his life.  Just this brief, brief summary of his existence calls out to the Don Quixote character.  Cervantes’ military and religious background give him the license to write about morality, justice, and honorable combat.  His time in prison gives him license to write about injustice, corruption, and the underbelly of the world.  Cervantes took parts of himself and molded them into the hero La Mancha needed.  Don Quixote is so popular because the character, despite his outlandish and somewhat unrealistic choices, feels organic and real, backed by the knowledge and experience of a man who’s been there.

 

In the other corner, Fifty Shades of Grey, recent explosive bestseller, about a young virgin woman who enters into a contractual BDSM relationship with a young, handsome, tortured billionaire – like some kinky Bruce Wayne.  Written by E.L. James, an ex-television executive who initially wrote fanfiction under the name Snowqueen’s Icedragon.  Not even lying.  Look it up.  I’m going to copy and paste, the same way I did with Cervantes:

In 1963, Leonard was born Erika Mitchell, to a Chilean mother and Scottish father, a BBC cameraman.[9] [1][10] Raised in Buckinghamshire, Leonard read history at the University of Kent, before becoming a studio manager’s assistant at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield.[11]

James initially wrote fanfiction under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”, with her most notable work being a Twilight fanfiction that eventually developed into Fifty Shades of Grey.[12][13] James has spoken of her shock at the success of the book. “The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise” she said.[14] James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy as “my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.”[15] She did not start to write until January 2009, as she revealed while still active on fanfiction.net as Snowqueen’s Icedragon: “I started writing in January 2009 after I finished the Twilight saga, and I haven’t stopped since. I discovered Fan Fiction in August 2009. Since then I have written my two fics and plan on doing at least one more. After that… who knows?”

Note the differences.  E.L. James’ life was modern and uneventful and fairly normative.  Is there anything wrong with that?  Fuck no.  But look at that quote in there, about her work – “my midlife crisis, writ large.  All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.”  Nothing of her experiences or her expertise, of her knowledge or of her life.  Only fantasy.  Was there fantasy in Don Quixote?  Absolutely.  But it wasn’t in there, by itself.  You, dear reader, have certainly had a fantasy or ten in your life.  It happens to us all.  But what happens, nine times out of ten, when that fantasy becomes reality?  It’s nothing like you imagined.  Reality gets its grubby mitts all over the fantasy, and sometimes that can be really disappointing.  However, it is that same process that tempers a fantasy into something real and believable and organic.

 

What I want you to do, if you’re still on the fence here, is discuss Don Quixote with any retired military men you may know.  See how they feel about the piece.  Then I want you to discuss Fifty Shades of Grey with anyone you may know who is in a BDSM relationship.  See how they feel abut the piece.  I suspect there will be vastly different results.

 

This is because E.L. James didnt’ write what she KNEW, but rather what she HOPED.  It’s not so different from reading a child’s story, in which the President can tell vampires “NO!  Go home!  Stop being vampires!” (THIS IS AN ACTUAL EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING I WROTE AS A CHILD) and the vampires fucking listen.  That would absolutely never happen if vampires and the President were in the same room.

 

Where am I going with this?  Well, now that I’ve broken down the concept of writing what you know, I want to tell you to LEARN.  There is no excuse for a writer not to constantly broaden their horizons.  A writer should be one of the most educated people any of us know.  A writer should be the guy/girl who, when a topic comes up, can lean forward and say “Oh yeah, I spent some time doing X in Y.”  This can be difficult in this day and age – school is expensive, and many of us have families or jobs that keep us from just up and running off.  My suggestion?  Creative use of vacations, and hobbies.

 

I cannot stress the importance of hobbies.  I want you to think of all the things you do in your spare time.  List them off.  How many fingers is that?  Here’s my list: I read, I paint, I sculpt a bit (not very well), and I’m learning to carve.  My goal by the end of this year?  Get onto two hands worth of hobbies.  I don’t need to master them this year, hell I don’t need to master them in this LIFETIME, but I need to give them a shot.  This way, when I’m writing, if I decide to write someone who does one of my hobbies professionally, I’m one step ahead of someone who’s never held a paintbrush/book/carving knife/bullwhip/longbow/violin/objectofhobby.

 

There’s a reason “Renaissance man” is a compliment.

Writing Wednesday

Get by with a little help from your friends.

 

That is to say, both you and your characters should be willing and able to consult those around you/them when things are unclear.

 

For example, I recently send a friend and colleague of mine what I have of my novel manuscript.  I’ve been concerned about the pacing, primarily, but I also just found myself at a point where I needed to know the answer to a very important question: Is this shit any good or am I wasting my time?  She has since gotten back to me, halfway through what I sent her, very much enjoying it.  This has given me a new zeal to continue writing and hopefully FINISHING the damn thing, whereas had I not sought her opinion, I may have just let it go.  I expect that she may have more to say once she’s finished it completely, and I’m eager to hear her opinions.

 

Incidentally, I got the idea when my main character essentially did the same thing.  He was stuck in his investigation, and decided to seek the advice of his friend and colleague.  He got a little more than he bargained for but it’s set him on the path to the rest of the goddamn plot.  Thankfully.

 

Human beings (or human-like characters in my protagonist’s case) are social creatures.  We thrive off of community, whether we like to admit it or not (I’m looking at you, tough guys!).  It’s why society even exists, as fucked as it can be sometimes.  It’s also why we even HAVE friends.  Ever wanted to slap your friends so hard they can’t pronounce the letter ‘t’ anymore?  I bet you have.  Do you still hang out with them?  I bet you do.  Like it or not, you need them.  But it’s okay because they need you too.  No man (or woman) can be an island for long, and denying yourself community will only limit your growth.  Imagine trying to live life based entirely on your own decisions – even the hard ones that you hate making!  Not having people to go to for advice just feels wrong, doesn’t it?  We all have a confidant.

 

So too should your characters.  Someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to offer a fresh perspective, and even someone to tell them “You’re flat-out fucking wrong you miserable turd, stop being such a shitwizard.”

Toku Tuesday

Missed a week, whoops.  There hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about, until just a moment ago when i saw some screenshots for the upcoming video game Kamen Rider Battride War.

 

Dumb name aside, this game looks SICK.  It looks like they’re going in a kinda Dynasty Warriors direction, and that makes me fairly tight in the pants.  The only problem?

 

WE AINT GONNA GET IT IN THE STATES.

 

Thankfully, if I want to play it, PS3 games typically aren’t region locked.  However, I don’t speak or read Japanese.  I know the odd phrase, but reading it is still impossible.  As a result, if I DO buy the game, I’ll be guessing the whole time and probably won’t even really enjoy it.  And this is where I get frustrated with the fact that Toei hasn’t deigned Western audiences as a profitable market.  They don’t think there’s enough demand to offset the. costs of even making subtitled DVDs, let alone translated video games.

 

My rebuttal to them?  We’ll never be a big enough audience if you don’t actually try.  If all we get is Power Rangers, which is the typical watered-down American kid’s show schlock, then the majority of the American population won’t see any of your products as anything but “power rangers, right?”  And yeah, maybe I’m butthurt.  Maybe I’m sick of either not talking about what I watch, or having to explain the differences, or having to hope that something I want to watch interests a halfway decent fansub group.  Maybe I want to pay you my dollars for your products, and you just won’t fucking let me.

 

You realize that American nerds are really irresponsible with their money, right?  You put out a subbed DVD set of ANY show that’s not been subbed or has bad subs (I’m looking at you, Kamen Rider Blade), and you’ll make more than enough to offset those costs.  I guarantee it.  The DVD will sell, then toy sales will go up, then we’ll be able to show other people your product in an official manner on a good screen, and possibly bring OTHER CUSTOMERS.  Sure, maybe my parents won’t give a shit, but do you know who will?  My comic nerd friends.  Because your heroes and our heroes REALLY AREN’T ALL THAT DIFFERENT.  There’s a reason V3 and Supaidaman teamed up.  Truth and Justice translate.

 

SOMEONE EMAIL THIS TO TOEI

Writing Wednesday

When writing inhuman characters, it’s important to keep in mind that your readers are still human.  If you’re writing about a four-legged blue space alien, and you want your reader to like that alien and care about that alien, then you need to find a way to make your reader connect with that alien.  If you want your reader to hate that alien and want that alien to die, you need to find a way to make your reader connect with whatever victims may exist of that alien’s crimes.

 

It’s also important to exercise this same approach in regards to your other characters that aren’t four-legged and blue.

 

A great example of something like this exists in The Fellowship of the Ring.  Gimli and Legolas, dwarf and elf respectively, are as different as you can get, and at first they really don’t like each other very much.  Dwarves and elves rarely get along, partially because of these differences and partially because they refuse to really give one another a chance.  Anyway, towards the end of Fellowship, the eponymous group meets up with the elven queen Galadriel, and when they leave she gives them each a gift.  Frodo gets some bottle full of light, Samwise gets some rope, I think someone in there gets a boat or something but eventually, she comes to Gimli, empty-handed.  She has nothing a dwarf would want, or so she thinks.

 

All Gimli asks for is a strand of her beautiful golden hair.  She gives him three.

 

It’s around this time that Gimli and Legolas start their beautiful bromance, and if you really look at it, it’s entirely because of that small gift.  Now, I’m gonna blow your mind in a minute, but let me just start small.  Part of why this wall is broken down between an elf and a dwarf is that they’re forced to spend time around each other and realize that they aren’t so different after all.  Dwarves are capable of appreciating beauty, and Elves are more than capable warriors.  Both races are prodigiously skilled craftspeople, and both are very proud.  All it took to really bring it all together was three strands of hair.

 

But here’s where I blow your mind and where Tolkien really hit a home run (and where the films do a great job translating the unspoken).  Galadriel’s hair is like the prettiest hair of all time.  So pretty, in fact, that a guy named Feanor asked her for a single strand of her hair like a thousand fucking years ago.  She turned him down.  So, this Feanor guy creates these things called the Silmarils.  These things are gems created from the unmarred light of some super magical trees yadda yadda and they’re considered to be the most beautiful thing ever to exist, so brilliant in fact that evil can’t even touch them without getting hurt.

 

He got the idea from Galadriel’s hair.

 

So fast forward like a million years and Gimli asks for a strand of her hair, and gets THREE.  He’s telling Legolas about it afterwards, and like a lovestruck teenager he basically proclaims that nothing is beautiful anymore except for those three hairs.  Nothing more, nothing less, just appreciating them for what they are.  In the film, Legolas smiles knowingly, and thus begins the bromance.  Legolas knows about that hair – he knows what’s up.  He knows that Gimli was given three times what Feanor was denied, and also knows that Galadriel happens to be a supernaturally good judge of character.  It’s in that moment that he realizes that Gimli isn’t such a bad guy, and that the two have more common ground than they thought.

 

This same kind of thing can be done in any setting.  Take out magic hair and add in a Babe Ruth signed baseball or like the world’s best egg salad sandwich or something.  It doesn’t matter what the object is as much as it’s something both characters can relate to, and both could cherish.  It’s something they can see eye-to-eye on.  Hell, it doesn’t even have to be an object.  It can be a person (a la Once Upon a Time), a country, hell even a CONCEPT.

 

Bonus points if it’s something your reader can relate to as well.

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