The Bad Luck of Bridges

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Recently, I have been reading a lot of stories that involved bridges, for some reason. And watching movies, too. To name just a few:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkein. In the second book of the first volume, to escape from Moria, the Fellowship must cross a narrow bridge. The bridge is their downfall–Gandalf holds the bridge against a Balrog and is lost (which I frankly could not believe happened and was in shock for quite some time afterwards! Up until Gandalf returned in The Two Towers, in fact.) Another mention of a bridge (not such an ill-fated one, though) in Fellowship was the Last Bridge, over the Mitheithel or Hoarwell, which they had to cross before they could ford the Bruinen, also known as the Loudwater or the river of Rivendell, in order to enter Rivendell. Perhaps the reason for their better luck with this one was 1) that Glorfindel had passed before them and left a “token” in the form of a beryl, a kind of elf-stone and 2) that they actually had a chance to scout it out before crossing. Not to mention that Glorfindel had drawn (or chased) all the Black Riders away, to give the hobbits and Aragorn some safety in crossing. (If you have only seen the movies and your experience of bridges in Fellowship is entirely bad, then I say “Bah!” to you. Come back when you’re older and wiser. ;-P)
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri. This is a sad movie, especially because SPOILER! the father dies and leaves his family and wife widowed. END SPOILER Probably one of the biggest reasons I don’t like war movies so much… :’-(
  • A Bridge Too Far. This movie, about Operation Market Garden (which, if they had had a better chance, might’ve ended WWII earlier), is the other reason why I don’t like war movies. So tragic–SPOILER! everyone I liked died in the end. In fact, EVERYONE died in the end. END SPOILER
  • Ranger’s Apprentice: The Burning Bridge, by John Flanagan. In this story, a bridge that would allow Dark Lord Morgarath to cross over the Mountains of Rain and Night becomes the least of our heroes’ worries when Will and Evanlyn are kidnapped. (Yes, I was delighted to find the second book at our local library. And for those who wanted to know–John Flanagan does get better over time. The point-of-view skips which were the thing I liked least, non-plot speaking, about the first book have all but disappeared in the second, and the plot is equally intriguing.)
  • The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. In this story, to reach the far north, Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum are forced to cross a giants’ bridge that leads to the road going to Castle Harfang. Before meeting the Witch-Queen of the Underworld, it was one of the most terrifying moments in the novel.

So why do bridges have such a bad rap in fiction and nonfiction? (Well, they probably have a bad rap in fiction only because of their bad rap in nonfiction… Shut up, Kysherin.)

Well, here are a few reasons why.

  1. Bridges symbolize decisions, especially irreversible ones. Thus, a bridge can be quite a dangerous thing, and may have serious implications.
  2. While on a bridge, you are exposed, and may not even have the cover of a low parapet if someone starts shooting or throwing lances, spears or knives at you, leaving you to trust your own judgement, which isn’t always a safe option, and dodge.
  3. Bridges often span dangerous things, such as fast-flowing rivers with sharp rocks sticking up, bottomless chasms, or deep ravines with rivers at the bottom. Since there’s nothing but a few feet of stonework or timbers, which may or may not be rotten, or, in the case of rope bridges, even just a woven walkway made out of knotted rope, or, if you’re lucky, planks, between you and utter disaster and nearly certain death. Gulp.
  4. Bridges are prime places for an ambush. After all, you can only get a limited number of people over them at once, and sometimes the obstacle they span is an impassable one, or at best, your troops are bogged down in chest-deep water and can’t move that fast. Thus, it would be relatively easy to wipe out the few men who could get over at a time if the bridge was held against you by an attacking force, or they could cut your men off and surround them, keeping them from receiving help from the remainder of your army. Scary stuff, here.
  5. Who likes to fall even five feet down? Still get that heart-dropping sensation at three feet!

Now, there’s probably more to the bad reputation bridges have than simply these five reasons. If any of you decide to research the question further, link me back to your findings! I’d love to check it out. :-)

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

 

Morality Sans Preachiness

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In modern writing, there is one big no-no, above every other taboo, except, perhaps, a poorly-thought-out plot or out-of-character characters (see Out of Character Syndrome or OOCS), and that is sounding preachy. Whatever your authorly stance on controversial issues, you must never, ever preach. Nothing sends readers running for the hills like a sanctimonious bludgeoning of preachiness thinly disguised as a story. For one thing, authors of such tripe rarely take the time to actually write a story instead of just a sermon. Your story should not be a story with a moral, it should be a story that “just happens” to have a moral. It takes talent and practice to write a story that happens to have a moral. The moral should not be the be-all and end-all of the story–rather, it should rise gradually, organically, from the rest of the tale.

But the simplest way of putting morals and morality into your story without sounding preachy can and should be easy. (Mind, I didn’t say simple–just simplest.) Simply put, neither should you as the narrator intrude on the story to preach, nor should your characters. They should not–unless it is absolutely necessary to the story–ever state their moral code, but it should be abundantly clear by their actions that they do have one. This is the very heart of good writing. Also, if the moral code in your story is ever stated, hypocrisy will become a very serious offense in your reader’s eyes. It can be used in order to create hate for a given character in your readers, and can cause a serious “alignment check.” Which means, your character may be on a fast road to the Dark Side, even if it’s only in your reader’s eyes; what your readers see is everything to them. It’s better to manipulate those emotions than it is to have those emotions slip out and betray you, which is why it’s also important to check back a couple times on what your readers will be thinking, and what they should be thinking.

To recap, your characters should not preach; they should not say “right” or “wrong” unless it’s necessary to the plot. Rather, make it clear by their actions that they are good people.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless! Love all you wonderful people. ;-)

Allowed in Writing, Forbidden in Editing

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Or, How to Talk With Authors and Not Tick Them Off.

Have you ever compared a writer to a published author, only for them to become upset and irritated? It’s a common enough occurrence. I know that I myself have been subjected to this form of torture a few times.

Why do writers find comparison irritating? Well, perhaps because they are occasionally inadvertently compared to an author whose work they object to, or whom they simply know is not really very good at their craft. But more often, it’s like this.

While comparisons are the essence of description, they can also be trite and shallow. And when dealing with an author, it’s a good idea to not upset them. For one thing, it won’t change their mind or their writing if they feel antagonized. For another… have you seen those buttons around the internet?! You know, the ones that say “Be nice, or you’ll end up in my novel”?! There is truth to those, you know.

So, each event, no matter how commonplace, should be taken as a new and unprecedented one in the larger context. Also, an author may take you too literally when you compare them to Rousseau, for instance. They may think you are calling them unoriginal, that you think that their ideas are too similar to Rousseau to be taken practically. They may think that you’re secretly irritated with them for emulating Rousseau. (It’s true, writers oftentimes have inferiority complexes.) Instead, you should tell them, “Your prose reminds me of Dumas!” or “Your world-building brings C.S. Lewis to mind!” or “I love this description. It sounds like Tolkien’s work. I can really see it in my mind’s eye!” Rather than making a sweeping generalization, it’s better to compare different elements of their work to authors, rather than comparing their work as a whole. Remember, real life isn’t actually a paper you’re writing on how different mythologies influenced Lewis and Tolkien, making their work different, or comparing Dumas son to Dumas pere. Instead, you’re supposed to be giving useful feedback (not necessarily advice!) to an author who isn’t dead yet, so be specific.

Good luck.

Casualties of the Fandom: Character Distortion

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Ironic how many of my posts begin with discussions with either Professor V.J. Duke, Liam, Head Phil, or Rosalie… No? Nobody even noticed?! That’s kind of… *shrugs* Ah, well.

Anyway, I was talking with… well, any or all of the above… and with Eric, and also with Iris (the other big one in my blogging inspiration life), at some point, probably… Well, actually, I have probably discussed this with everyone I’ve ever met who shared a fandom with me… And the one big topic (well, problem) of fandoms (other than outside characters or whether Han shot first) is character distortion, or, even worse, character assassination (to which, we fear, Obi-Wan may fall victim in time, or from which he may have an abominably narrow escape, now that Star Wars belongs to Disney… *ominous music starts playing* Yes, I’m a Disney fan only when I’m kicking and screaming. Got a problem with that? :-P).

Now, that is not to say that outside or original characters are actually a problem, per se–it’s only when they go to the Sue Side that they get really bad. Or if they’re underdeveloped. Never mind that, though. (Also, I believe that Han really did shoot first. :-P)

To get onto the real topic of this post, I’m addressing out-of-character syndrome. OOCS, for short, is a very serious condition that really affects an author more than a character. This often happens when a fanfiction writer dislikes a character so strongly that they don’t bother to make them true to themselves, or worse–when they really see such-and-such a character as the way they portray them.

Then, there is the gap (sometimes slight, sometimes very significant) between a character as they are in the canon, and a character as they are in the fanon (yes! Erin is finally learning fan-speak! yaaaaay!). A good example is Mace Windu.

Not Mean.

Seriously, why does everyone hate Windu? He’s cool!

In the Star Wars movies, Windu is the man with reservations and mad skills with a lightsaber. However, in the fanon, he seems more repressive and colder, and is often presented as the chief antagonist of Anakin (and sometimes Obi-Wan) within the Jedi Order, despite the fact that Anakin is comfortable enough with him to confess to him in Revenge of the Sith that Palpatine is, in fact, Sidious, and that he takes almost a fatherly attitude toward Obi-Wan in the movies. Also, there is the added evidence that, in the Clone Wars TV series, Obi-Wan actually dares to sass back to him after Windu inadvertently sets off a trap: “You certainly stepped in it this time!” (Many’s the time I’ve wanted to do a fan-dub of this scene, but changing Obi-Wan’s line to “You certainly put your foot in it this time!” I thought it would be funnier… *notices Obi-Wan looking over her shoulder* Whoops, sorry, off topic… *blushes*)

What in the name of the sweet ever-living Force?!

Yeah, you got that right.

I can only assume that the fans mistook Windu’s hardcore and occasionally almost harsh ways for dislike of other people, even though there is good evidence that they weren’t.

Another example would have to be Elrond. In the movies (recurring theme here!) he is repressive and stern, even grumpy. I can only assume that they mistook his impressiveness in the books for grumpiness.

You see, in the books, Elrond was a wise, hospitable half-Elf who had a cameo in The Hobbit. In The Lord of the Rings, he made a huge comeback and was given a bigger part. Stern Elrond may be, but humorless he certainly is not; when taking Frodo to see Bilbo, he even goes so far as to tease Bilbo, saying, “Awake, little master!” when Bilbo was not really asleep. Believe it or not, he actually smiles at his council, and though he does want Aragorn to reclaim his inheritance before seeking Arwen’s hand, this story line is not as relevant to the movie due to a difference that I will discuss in a minute. Arwen and Aragorn’s separation was entirely due to an agreement between them, not due to jealous father’s intervention.

Now, for that divide of realities I mentioned a moment before.

Elrond wanted Aragorn to reclaim his patrimony before returning to court Arwen. However, in the books this wasn’t really an issue because, unlike in the movie, before the story even began Aragorn had foreseen what he would have to do and knew that he was going to return to Gondor. He didn’t have quite the same lack of self-worth in the books, though he still felt ashamed of Isildur. It made for a great source of angst, sure, but was it actually necessary? (Though it is kind of hard to imagine the movies without it… oh, I feel like such a traitor now…) Believe it or not, they actually knew where they were going from the very start. They had more foresight than in the movie! MWAHAHAHAHAHAH!

…Ahem. :-P

These are my two biggest pet peeves when it comes to character distortion. The other pet peeve (bad Obi-Wan fanfiction) I will not even start on, else I’ll drive everyone away, I fear. Normally Obi-Wan isn’t so out of character (unless we run into one of those horrid Obi-Wan haters who misunderstand his motivations and actions at every turn…), but he normally takes a smaller part, which makes it just feel sort of wrong, since Obi-Wan should be taking a larger part and it does not make sense if he doesn’t, since it’s slightly out of character for him not to be in the middle of things. He can’t just leave things be, y’know?

Oh, and then there’s Anakin. He lends himself well to humor or heartlessness or idiotic blind jealousy very well. No offense, Anakin. But you were the one with “Most likely to get drunk and end up in a tree” in your yearbook.

Before I finish, there’s something to be said for humor–or crack, as some incarnations are known. (Crack is the version that’s not meant to be taken seriously at all.) Slight out-of-character-ness is to be expected, and here, it’s not taboo. The key is to be just funny enough without weirding your readers out. ;-) However, in my opinion, the best funny stories are the ones where everyone is in character, and humorous things just keep happening. ;-)

What character distortions plague you the most? Who do you feel is consistently portrayed as being out-of-character in the fanon you adore?

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

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A few thoughts on homeschooling

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I was commenting on Rachel Carrera’s blog, and we got to talking about homeschooling. (I also was talking about it with pinkdoughnuts15, too. HOMESCHOOLERS UNITE!!!) Anyway, I somehow (it happens, sometimes,) came out with this pithy piece of wisdom:

At public school, kids learn stuff. Homeschooling kids learn how to think.

I don’t know how I got to that conclusion, but that’s how I feel. At college last year, I met other students, and was in the top 10% of all my classes. About my lowest grade was a B+. People thought I was really smart, but I think it was partly because I had already covered a great deal of the material before, and partly because being homeschooled had taught me good thinking strategies.

Also, for some reason “homeschooling” is accepted as correct by this stupid word processing program, but not “homeschooled” or “homeschool.” What’s with that?

Hooray for homeschoolers! X-D

Archivist of Selay’uu’s Journal: Vivaldi

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A couple of days ago, I was walking past Obi-Wan’s room on my way to the breakfast room, which was empty, to meet with Gervaise in order to get to work on his story. However, as I drew level with his room, I spotted Ventress standing outside it, shouting through the keyhole. Instantly intrigued, I ducked into one of the conveniently-placed curtained alcoves that are scattered all over the old house. Frankly, with those things in place, I’m surprised there are any secrets left in the House of Selay’uu at all.

I had arrived too late to witness Ventress’ initial arrival and shouts through the keyhole, but now I could hear Obi-Wan’s reply quite clearly, despite the fact that there was a door, a hallway’s worth of open space, a former Sith, and a curtain between us. “Go away, Ventress! I’m busy!”

“Oh, come on!” Ventress growled, at her most sultry (and, most irritating, for both me and Obi-Wan,) I thought. Was she trying to ask him out? I stuffed my hand in my mouth to stifle the giggles. If she was, she’d have to beat Morgana to it–and besides, Obi-Wan didn’t date people that I knew of, and I could not imagine him dating anyone at any rate. “What’s so important? What are you doing in there? Not washing up, I hope?” There was a loud bang and a sharp clatter as something hit the door and Ventress jumped backwards in an attempt to not get jarred. Obi-Wan had thrown something–a pewter mug, perhaps. Maybe even the self-same one he normally kept his pens in. I inwardly grinned. Testy. This was going to be a show to remember.

“I’m listening to Vivaldi! Clear off!” Obi-Wan shouted back. Ventress growled again, really grumpy now.

“You need to learn to make better excuses, Obi-Wan dear.”

“You scarcely know me, Ventress. That wasn’t an excuse. Go boil your head.”

No matter what else Ventress said or did, short of cutting the door open (which would have gotten her confined to her own room, sans either lightsaber and stripped of the Force by the order of the Council), Obi-Wan would not make any further reply to her shouts, and at last Ventress lost interest and wandered off. Suddenly remembering my own appointment, I hurried off as well. I was late, but Gervaise didn’t complain.

Later, as I passed Ventress on the way to bed, I added insult to her injury by humming “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” rather conspicuously. Ahhh… life in the House of Selay’uu.

Archivist of Selay’uu’s Journal: The List of DOOM

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Below is a list of basic rules for anyone who wishes to enter the Selay’uu Manor. Enjoy!

  1. Never, ever, ever, should you question Mistress El’ye.
  2. Isaac Stranger is no longer allowed to grow his hair out.
  3. Well, maybe someone we both know should help Isaac Stranger to cut his hair, lest he disgrace the Zeigweirr Institute!
  4. There shall be no running with scissors.
  5. Nor shall Professor Marn lay hand to scissors to cut any student’s hair. Ever. Again.
  6. On second thoughts, I don’t care if I disgrace the institute. And if anyone disagrees, they can go complain to Namaah!
  7. One does not simply startle a Ranger out of sleep. Unless one has a death wish.
  8. To whom it may concern: Come near my apprentice with hair dye again, and I will make you eat it.
  9. Anakin is hereby debarred from entering any part of the mind palace containing new people, the Bound to the Flame characters, Dr. McCoy, the author when she is working, or Captain Kirk.
  10. ESPECIALLY Captain Kirk.
  11. Not even at meal times.
  12. Concerning Item 8: The same also goes for oversized pillow cases. Consider yourself warned.
  13. Alien invasion, the zombie apocalypse, and other figments of your imagination are not excuses to miss your physical. No matter how much you hate the way my office smells.
  14. The Council will no longer interfere if Anakin baits Jim Moriarty. He will have to stand the consequences on his own.
  15. If Captain Kirk flirts with the author while she is trying to work, there will be no retaliation by the Council for any physical harm caused by books, pillows, and/or whatever happens to be within grabbing range.
  16. Unlike Mistress El’ye, you may not doubt Obi-Wan, not even in the privacy of your own mind.
  17. Legolas’ contact with sausages is hereby limited to mealtimes only.
  18. Will’s unfortunate mishap with the weevils, pinecone, and molasses is no longer open for discussion.
  19. Do not shoot at me with tracers. It’s just plain stupid. I will find you.
  20. Ignore number 19; it was from an outsider. (Well, don’t ignore it; don’t shoot at him with tracers, but other than that shoot him all you like.)
  21. Taunting people who are not endowed with superpowers, magic, Force-sensitivity, or insane skills is not acceptable. (Anakin, this means you! And if they turn the tables on your arrogant hide, you deserve it!)
  22. Merlin is not present merely to have coffee, whether hot or cold, dumped on his head.
  23. Will is not a clothes-horse for pygmies, and duct tape is not a proper substitute for thread, fabric, or clothing.
  24. Will is not a pygmy, and Anakin is to stop insinuating that he is. (Anakin deserves whatever he gets from Will from this—even if Halt “intervenes.”)
  25. Anakin deserves whatever he gets as comeuppance. No one is to interfere with any of his deserved impromptu punishments.

Don’t worry, this is not the end of the List. There will be more humorous rules for Selay’uu in the future. ;-) Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

If you can’t make it yours, make it your own!

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Erin walks on, wearing a bright cyan headband over messy yet undeniably gorgeous curls.

People complain about originality an awful lot… She notices the looks at her hair, then shrugs. I feel pretty today. Normally my hair is frizzy, fluffy and horrible. Give me my twenty hours of advertised glory with that Pantene curl scrunching gel stuff. It’s better than what I normally get! She sits down on the chair on stage.

So, people are complaining that all the original plots are taken. She shrugs. So? My advice is, if you can’t make the plot yours, make it your own. If you can’t own it, OWN it! She notices that everyone is staring at her blankly. Am I talking gibberish again, or is my message just not getting across? She crosses one leg over the other.

If you haven’t got an absolutely original, unprecedented plot, then so what? You can still make the one you have absolutely unique. Just pour your heart out into it until you have nothing left to give. I know that sounds hard! She stands up and begins to pace. But that’s what writing is. It’s about going on even when you feel as if there’s no point. Well, there is a purpose to it, even if the purpose is only to get the people living in your heads to stop screaming at you for a little bit. It’s also not always about ending, either. It’s a paradox. You can unravel it if you like that sort of thing.

Even if you have an unprecedented plot, it still pays to put in that extra little bit of work. You following me? Scattered “yes’s” and “no’s.” She ignores the no’s. Good.

Even if you’re not the first person to write a plot of this cast, it will still be unique as long as you take the time to make it unique. It will be worth reading, because those who say “read one, read ‘em all” are WRONG! Besides, some people like to read variations on a plot anyway!

So, what is the pith of this little post? I’m telling you to take the extra effort and make your story unique in every facet, because frankly? You’re NOT going to be the next… J.K. Rowling or Susan Cooper or whatsername who wrote the Hunger Games. You’d better start pursuing your own niche because there is no way you can ride to fame on the skirts of their coats. Cloaks. Whatever!

Oh, and if you’re not writing a completely unprecedented plot, don’t despair. Make it your own.

Cliches can be turned to advantage. With enough detailing, even a stereotype’s hardened exterior will dissolve into a most definitely non-Mary Sue.

Rant over.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

Archivist of Selay’uu’s Journal: Ninja Elf Jedi Pillow Fight

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I was innocently–or at least, as nearly innocently–walking along the corridors of the mansion when Obi-Wan dashed by. He ducked swiftly under cover. I stared for a moment, shrugging, and went forward, minding my own business.

Certainly, the last thing I had ever expected was to be nearly run over–and actually sent flying sideways–by Legolas Thranduillion, of all people.

Of course, he was Elf through and through, meaning he shouted “Sorry Erin!” but he was focused enough on his target–Obi-Wan–that he kept on going, and he shouted it in exactly the same way he shouts “Come on Gimli!” in The Two Towers.

He didn’t even deem it of enough importance to punctuate it properly, with an actual comma, between “sorry” and “Erin.”

Insufferable Elf.

He’s also not taller than me, did I mention that? I’m just edging over him in height. Hah.

Anyways. Legolas ran off after Obi-Wan, leaving me to recover from being bowled over by a mad, berserk Elf. And this, though surprising in itself, is actually a pretty normal day in Selay’uu.

Of course, after being run over by an Elf, I was curious, so I followed–albeit at a less-breakneck speed. Obi-Wan appeared ahead, leaning around a doorway, and flung a pillow–nothing more dangerous–at Legolas, who evaded it with a neat ninja roll. I’ve done ballet for fourteen years, but even I had to envy that. Legolas dived under cover, shouting, “You are finished, Glorfindel!” (Yes, Obi-Wan is called ‘Glorfindel’ by the Elves. Something about reincarnation or something like that. Probably due to the fact that–it’s a secret of Selay’uu and you must not repeat it–Obi-Wan is half Elf himself, and bears an uncanny resemblance to the original Glorfindel, who is not present in Selay’uu since he currently resides in Valinor. Sigh. Also Obi-Wan has some sort of odd memory share thing with the original Glorfindel–it’s like a bunch of things in Lord of the Rings. It only makes sense until it is explained. After that, it sounds like baloney.)

“I doubt that!” Obi-Wan shouted back, throwing another pillow. It curved in mid-flight and managed to smack Legolas a good one. Legolas, of course, returned fire.

I love a good pillow fight, and though Legolas is awesome, when it’s him versus Obi-Wan I plead no-contest. Besides, this is the fellow who just knocked me over with scarce a word of apology. Summoning a stray pillow with my new-found Force powers, but not yet confident enough to use the Force to accelerate it into the Elf’s back, I grabbed it and flung it as hard as I could. It hit Legolas in the back of the head. He turned to stare at me in amazement, and I ran. Diving behind Obi-Wan, I grabbed another pillow and tried to Force-throw it at Legolas. I missed.

“Obi-Wan, what is this?”

“What’s it look like?” he retorted, obviously too fired up to speak in his normal almost clipped manner. “Look out Erin!” He grabbed me and shoved me down, evading a pillow from Legolas.

The other residents of Selay’uu were astonished a few moments later to see an archivist, a Jedi, and an Elven prince of the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood chasing each other through the halls, assaulting each other with pillows.

Just because we’re all technically adults, doesn’t mean we have to act it!

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