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Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Bestiary Tag

Doing my first tag! This one is from http://storitorigrace.blogspot.com/ Check out her blog if you haven't already.

I will also be cross posting this on my tumblr, https://creatureofgraphite.tumblr.com/

The Rules:

The Questions:

1.) What is your favorite mythical creature?

2.) When was the first time you heard of this beast?

3.) What is your favorite portrayal of this creature in media?

4.) If you could shapeshift into a mythical beast what would you pick?

5.) What mythical beast would you love to have as a pet?

6.) What is your favorite mythological story surrounding a fantastical beast like in Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, etc.?

7.) What mythical creature would terrify you the most if you encountered it in person?

8.) What is the most unusual mythical creature you've ever heard of?

9.) What uncommon mythical beast do you wish you saw more of in books and movies?

10.) If you could create a mythical creature what would it be?


My Answers:


1.) What is your favorite mythical creature? Out of all the preestablished ones? Probably gryphons. They seem very cool, agile, versatile, and reasonably powerful.

2.) When was the first time you heard of this beast? When I was a kid, I watched Quest For Camelot by Warner Brothers. The gryphon in that show was the coolest thing ever.

3.) What is your favorite portrayal of this creature in media? Quest For Camelot's version is pretty cool. Narnia's wasn't half bad. There's also a book series called The Summer King Chronicles by Jess E Owen. I haven't read much of it yet, but it's about gryphons and contains a lot of elements I like so far. I'm also working on writing a comic about gryphons and dragons, so I'm having fun with designing the lifestyle of the gryphons in that story.

4.) If you could shapeshift into a mythical beast what would you pick? Man, I dunno. Depends on a lot. Would the shapeshifting be permanent, or could I turn back and forth at will? And what kind of story world would I be in? In some story worlds, it would be more advantageous to turn into something small that way I could hide and sneak around. But, in other instances, it'd be nice to be able to turn into something big, like a gryphon or dragon, that way I could have more fighting power. Whatever creature I pick...hopefully it would be cool, and something that wouldn't get me killed in whatever world I lived in this scenario.

5.) What mythical beast would you love to have as a pet? Well, a gryphon would be cool, but hopefully I could live in a fantasy world with wide hunting grounds that could sustain such a large predator. Either that, or have an omnivorous gryphon, that way it could eat plants too. That said...I dunno. Dogs and cats are obligate carnivores and it's actually not that hard to keep them. Maybe if we had pet gryphons in the modern world someone would make kibble based food for them.

6.) What is your favorite mythological story surrounding a fantastical beast like in Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, etc.? I like a lot of Japanese ones. I can't really single one legend out as my favorite, though.

7.) What mythical creature would terrify you the most if you encountered it in person? Malevolent spiritual entities have always creeped me out. Along with pretty much anything that could move through the dark and seems almost impossible to see, much less fight. I can't pick only one of those things. Thankfully thinking about that stuff doesn't terrify me as much as it used to.

8.) What is the most unusual mythical creature you've ever heard of? Some yokai are very strange. Like, I dunno, wasn't there one about a floating head attached to a wheel that had fire on it? I've seen something like that in anime now and then, at any rate.

9.) What uncommon mythical beast do you wish you saw more of in books and movies? Does a unicorn or pegasus with a dark/serious take on them count? Cutesy versions of these animals appear a lot in memes and accessories and such, but there aren't a lot of modern stories where they're taken seriously. That's probably why they're seen as prissy and girly. Nothing wrong with the sparkly take on those creatures, it'd just be nice to have more dark and serious ones as well. I plan on writing stories like that eventually, but that probably won't be for a while.

10.) If you could create a mythical creature what would it be? Creature design is one of my favorite things, so most of my story worlds have at least a few made up animals in them. Something I've been doing with one of my more recent story worlds is to take some beasts common to that world and form legends around them. So, those mythical creatures end up with a similar vibe to yokai and fairies, but with an entirely different mythology and culture surrounding them.

I tag:

Jessi L Roberts (If she wants) from https://jessilroberts.wordpress.com/

And everyone else who reads this post and is interested in the tag :P

Friday, July 12, 2019

Writing And Being -- What I Learned From Rushing Into A Story Contest:

In Fall of 2018, I decided to participate in Tapas’ annual writing contest.  The story I submitted is called Ascending Spires, and although I liked the idea of it, it probably won't get finished until I have more inspiration for it.  Meeting the contest deadline was a little stressful, but there were a lot of good things about participating that are worth reflecting on.

Participating opened me up to some opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Tapas offered everyone participating in the contest a chance to join the Tipping Program, even if they wouldn’t normally qualify based on the amount of subscribers they have.  If Tipping is activated on a Tapas author’s profile, it means that readers can tip them with Tapas Ink, which the author can then exchange for real money.

This was pretty awesome for someone like me that is just starting out and would like to begin implementing ways to make money off my work.  Furthermore, Inksgiving was going on during this time, which meant that I had a series that I could design an ad for and submit to the list of Inksgiving episodes asking for Tips.  Although I didn’t get many tips off of this, at the very least Tipping is now implemented on my profile and available for when I start posting comics more regularly.

This event also encouraged me to post more work online.  Sometimes it's hard to cross that line and put a story out there for the world to see.  I've already posted fanfictions on other sites, but outside of roleplaying, I haven't posted many of my original stories.  Entering the contest got me started with that.

The contest provided a way to test Tapas' author user interface and get an idea of potential click through rates.  Participating in the contest kind of brought home the fact that, for novels at least, a lot of people might bookmark a series that sounds interesting, and then completely forget about it until a much later date.  This really seemed to be the case when looking through the series' analytics day to day. Often, people would only read a chapter or two at most before moving on or bookmarking the series and forgetting about it.  

Of course it isn't impossible to make people read more consistently, but those posting on Tapas need to be aware that even when someone bookmarks a series, it can easily get lost in a sea of other free stories.  It takes time and planning to facilitate reader engagement, and participating in the contest helped me get a better idea of how that might work on this platform.

Also, I gained further proof that forcing myself to work on something I’m not truly inspired for under a short deadline is bad for me.   I already know I have a hard time forcing myself to write things I'm not inspired for.  Learning to write decently under pressure is an important trait to develop, but this contest served as an example of why those circumstances are not usually conducive to forming my best work.

Overall, this experience was both exciting and stressful.  But I did learn from it and so far don't regret it. Do you have any art/writing related experiences that were both stressful and educational?  Do you have any input as far as facilitating reader engagement or churning out better work even under pressure? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Writing And Being -- Why We Should Think About Characters and Their Authors Separately:

Reading is a wonderful medium that invites people to think, discover, and challenge.   Since readers are invited to contemplate a book's meaning and draw conclusions about the story and its characters, there is always the risk of misinterpretation, especially since many of the best authors won't bluntly state the point of every tale.

I know there's been times when I've disliked statements I've read in stories, and from some comments I've noticed online, most people have had the same experience.  

That's perfectly alright.  We are only human, it’s important to oppose bad things, and some authors do have beliefs that deserve to be challenged.  But, there are times when an author's intent is completely misunderstood .

Writers will often design their stories based on their beliefs and what lessons they want to convey, so to that extent, a story can and often does reflect its author, but not in the way we think.  Someone can write bloody horror without being a serial killer. People can write a racist villain without actually being racists themselves. A person of one belief system can write about characters of a different belief system.

This is often necessary, especially when tales have a large cast, go through a plot line that puts characters through heartache, and reflects an expansive world with complex cultures and history.

Furthermore, when writing from a certain character's point of view, we see what that character thinks and feels.  We get to learn each character's journey, see how and why they got there, and perhaps even feel angry or disappointed at their chosen path.  But that is vital for understanding how people operate. Knowing how people behave can make it easier to solve problems or even keep ourselves from becoming destructive.

People have to be careful when writing about things they haven't experienced, and writing about groups they are not a part of can be particularly challenging.  But, pretty much every story requires authors to step outside their own experiences in some way or another.

This is important on a personal level, because it makes authors empathize with others and invites their readers to do the same.  It is also important for at least some authors to show the world as it is.

Bad people exist, and villains reflect that.  If villains aren't bad people and don't do bad things, there's usually not a good reason for the heroes to fight them.

Furthermore, heroes are people, just like us.  Everyone has flaws. Sometimes those flaws are major and not socially acceptable by our modern standards.  Sometimes authors want to express that reality in a story, or even take those characters on an adventure that forces them to face their flaws and change their perspective.

Keeping that in mind increases our chances of interpreting a story accurately and getting something wonderful out of it, instead of getting angry and assuming the worst about an author.  This also helps us in writing our own tales. Why not study other people closely and learn how to write them accurately and fairly, even if they have a completely different belief system?  Why not illustrate the fact that bad things exist and have consequences?

The hows and whys of that are important, and would constitute entire videos of their own, but, hopefully this was food for thought. So, what do you think? Have you been angry at something an author wrote, only to learn that they meant something entirely different? What's your opinion on the relationship between what an author writes and how an author actually thinks? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Writing Tips -- 2019 New Years Resolutions For Writers

Here’s a list of New Year’s resolutions (or just writing goals/challenges if you’re like me and don’t exactly make official resolutions). There are a wide variety of them that will be useful to people at varying experience levels, so just pick the ones that appeal or apply to you.


Write 100 words a day, at least.  Preferably on every current WIP.  This one’s great for busy people that have a hard time getting themselves to make progress on their stories.  A hundred words isn’t much at all, so it’s a good way to chip away at projects bit by bit, and as the months go by, there will eventually be a decent amount of writing accomplished.


Write in a different POV style.  This can be in terms of writing a POV you aren’t used to (perhaps you normally write in third person, and want to write in omniscient POV for this challenge.)  Or, this could be in terms of challenging yourself to write in a POV you dislike(maybe you like writing in third person but normally hate writing in first person.  Writing a few short projects in first person could help you learn to write first person in a way that you like or help you figure out exactly why you dislike this POV).


Thoroughly research a different physical condition and write about it.  Again, do your research and write about it in a way that doesn’t disrespect people in real life.  But, let’s say you’ve never written a blind character before. This would be an opportunity to come up with one and explore what it’s like to be in that char’s shoes.  In this case, it would be good to figure out exactly what caused their blindness to make the research more precise.


Take at least one or two of your most prominent characters and give them a Myers-Briggs personality test.  Then, incorporate your findings in the character somehow.  This can be useful because it will force you to consider the character’s habits and thoughts more.  Also, once one understands a character’s personality type, it can be fun to research and incorporate quirks that that personality type is known for.


Research an obscure philosophy and consider adding it to your character’s story world.  Maybe not the entire philosophy, and perhaps in your story world the philosophy would go by a different name, but philosophies have a huge impact on how societies form and how people behave and thus can give worldbuilding a nice kickstart.

Find a culture, philosophy, mindset, species, etc. you’ve invented for your story world that is represented by multiple individuals, then make sure those individuals actually act like individuals.  Even when two people grow up in the same culture and have lots of similarities, they will always have differences that will eventually make a huge difference in their lives.  Extroversion is usually valued to some extent in the United States, for instance, so I’ve learned to get out there and talk to people when need be, but I’m still highly introverted and often avoid unnecessary conversations.  But practically no one will handle social contact in the same way. Different people have different levels of talkativeness, and they also have different types of social situations they will embrace or avoid.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Writing Tips -- How To Invent Psychology For A Species

When people think about creature design, they often think about the physical appearance of an animal, as well as occasional behavioral points. A cool, functional appearance is important for the creatures we invent, but the psychology of a being matters just as much, if not moreso.

This is especially true when it comes to a sentient being. Sentient beings are often faced with complex social situations throughout a story, and their psychology would, plausibly, affect everything they say and do. If they are not human, it makes sense to assume they would think at least a bit differently than us.

Being human ourselves, and not having any other sentient species to study the psychology of, how can we invent thought processes that genuinely feel different than ours?

Here are a few tips that have helped me explore what a different creature’s psychology could be like:

Think about what key traits the being has, then think very long and hard about why they have those traits/what the effects are. Nearly any trait will affect a being on a deep level. Let’s say the key trait is that, due to biology, the creatures’ natural lifestyle is a solitary one. Their psychology would vary greatly from that of social beings like humans. Humans might be alright with living alone, or can become so upset with people that they separate from society, but that isn’t usually their default state, and they can usually still form attachments to a special few. In fact, if a person can’t stand human companionship, they might be tempted to replace that hole in their lives with a pet, just because having some sort of companion tends to lessen human stress.

A being whose species has a biological tendency toward solitude might think differently, however. They might only see social rules and interactions as a threat, hindrance, or, at best, a way to further their own agenda. A solitary creature tends to handle everything itself, and any other beings it encounters will probably either be predators or competition. The solitary creature’s mind will be wired accordingly.

So, consider stepping into the shoes of a being like that. Day to day, how do these creatures handle themselves? Members of their own kind will often pose a direct rivalry for territory, food, etc., so encountering members of their own species might dredge up feelings of hostility or anxiety. Members of other species are less likely to be competitors, and thus may only be met with indifference or a hint of wariness(depending on whether they are a dangerous predator or not).

Once an author figures out how their creature operates in a natural setting, they can think about the ins and outs of how that creature might interact in a social setting. If a solitary creature joins the hero’s quest to save the world, he might only do so to obtain something he wants, or to keep the villain from destroying his territory. Thus, he’s forced to be social for the sake of that goal. How does this affect him? Does he cooperate on a surface level, but actually find the social setting stifling? He could even have some very extreme thoughts, like seeing society as evil. He probably has reasons for this that sound perfectly logical to a being ill suited for a social lifestyle, so a glimpse into his mind would probably make his beliefs sound passionate and/or reasonable.

Keep biology/environmental niche in mind. Humans are diurnal, which means active during the day. As such, we have poor night vision and are innately afraid of the dark/night. Primarily because it’s easy for things to sneak around at night and eat us, and we wouldn’t see the threat until it’s too late. As a result, we speak of darkness and shadows as evil.

Keeping this in mind, how might a strictly nocturnal animal feel about brightness? Maybe it scares them because it makes them feel exposed and in view of a predator. Or they see a need for excess light as a sign of weakness. At the very least, their psychology is different from ours in that they are more comfortable in the darkness, and we are not. Many of their beliefs and social norms, or at least way of describing the world, will stem from that psychological quirk.

Some other biological factors and niches to keep in mind are lifespan, location in the food chain(especially whether they are predators or prey), habitat, whether or not the creatures are generalists or specialists(generalists are usually more adaptable), if the animals are social, and what the relationships in their social group normally are.

Have them perform similar behaviors to animals or people in real life, but for different reasons. Going back to our first example of a solitary creature, how might the ‘same actions for different reasons’ idea be used?

We discussed the idea of the solitary creature joining the hero’s ‘save the world team’ in order to protect his territory. Normally, a social creature might think in terms of someone bringing large quantities of food back to camp out of a generous desire to feed everyone. So, let’s say the solitary creature kills a deer and, out of instinct, drags it back to the place he is staying the night so he can eat his meal in relative safety.

Afterward, he eats his portion and then walks to his part of the camp and sleeps, which clears the way for his comrades to eat a portion of the deer. His comrades might think him generous for bringing food back to camp every night, when in actuality, the creature is selfish and indifferent. He is used to hunting a large animal, eating his fill, then leaving the rest to scavengers. He is simply following that behavior, and doesn’t bother explaining that reality to his comrades because he doesn’t care if they know the truth and knows that it is to his advantage if they see him as kind and generous.

Consider manufactured/learned/ imitated behaviors vs. innate/normal behaviors.  Let’s consider our solitary creature again(I’m just going to call him Solitaire from now on). If Solitaire learns that he encounters issues whenever he behaves in ways his comrades don’t expect, he will probably alter his behavior accordingly. This can be as simple as teaching himself to say please and thank you to smooth over conversations, or expressing concern for a comrade regardless of whether or not he feels it. Sometimes learning how to cope in a society might fascinate Solitaire, but there will also be times when the learning process is inconvenient.

Learning the rules may be easy enough (show compassion, be helpful, apologize after upsetting someone, etc) but following them at all times is not. Learning how to apologize is easy in and of itself, but knowing when isn’t always. It’s easier for humans, since we’re usually wired to at least try and cooperate with each other, so it’s easier for us to recognize when we’ve genuinely hurt someone and desire to make amends.

That is not how Solitaire’s wired, however. He may learn to apologize whenever someone seems visibly upset at him, regardless of whether or not he means it. So what happens if he does something offensive, but the person he wrongs doesn’t show how hurt she is? Solitaire’s other comrades might demand he apologize, causing him to refuse, feel annoyed, and justify his behavior.

At this point, Solitaire’s manufactured behaviors become clear. He learns certain things in order to get by, but since social behaviors are not innate for him, he falls very short of social norms, though he often hides it. Of course humans can make fake apologies as well, but Solitaire’s reasons for being fake are a little different and far less likely to change. In fact, depending on the psychology the author chooses for him, he may not even have the ability to feel guilty for harming someone.

Solitaire may not like having to expend the effort to fit in with a species that expects so much of him, either. Even after learning to imitate social behaviors, he may sometimes dwell on the fact that he never had to deal with this when he was alone. He might also wonder why social creatures love living in a way that forces them to adhere to others’ expectations.

So, yeah, these were the first few ideas that came to mind. I may do a follow up post with a few more ways to brainstorm different psychologies.

What do you guys think? Do you have any methods for developing different psychologies for your characters? Are there any creatures/characters that you think have a unique or fascinating psychology?

Feel free to comment with questions as well. If anyone wants me to expand on anything in this post, feel free to ask and I might do a follow up article. Feel free to subscribe to this blog if you want to read more.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Writing Tips -- Why To Avoid The Word 'The'

How many titles have you seen that start with ‘The’?  (The Grand Escape, The Greatest Showman, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Girl Who Owned A City, etc.)  How often and how easy is it to start our descriptive sentences with The?


Obviously, there are plenty of things that don’t start off with The, and it's fine to use The now and then. But growing up it sometimes felt like this word was everywhere, beginning so many titles and, as I began to notice, starting a lot of my written sentences.  


After a while, the overabundance of The started to get grating, primarily since it made many of my sentences sound repetitive.  So, here came the self imposed challenge: Use The when need be, but otherwise, try to avoid using it to start sentences and titles.  


Simply reducing the use of that one word had some interesting results.  My titles became more interesting and creative, my prose less repetitive, and ideas expressed in my stories started coming through more vividly.  Being unable to use The very often made it necessary to learn and adapt, or even completely rethink scene descriptions and sentence structures.


So, for those looking to improve their writing, avoiding The as often as possible may be a useful exercise.  Or, for those already using The only on rare occasions, they can consider finding one or two other words that are repeated a lot in their writing and try to avoid using them.  Ultimately, exercises like these encourage authors to dig deeper and find titles/prose that are more unique and meaningful to the story.


So yeah, just a little something that’s helped me.  


Have you tried something like this at some point?  What words do you repeat the most? Are there any writing quirks, mistakes, or too often used words that have become a pet peeve of yours?

Feel free to comment, or subscribe to this blog for more posts. Thank you for reading :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Writing Tips -- Why Is Romance Important?

Romance kind of gets a bad wrap for being silly and frivolous when included in a story.  In some cases, this is for good reason. Mainstream media often depicts romance in a stereotypical manner, or in a way that’s so cheesy most can’t help but scoff at it.  As a result, some might see it as an annoying interruption, a deviation that has nothing to do with the main plot. Furthermore, some people have little to no personal interest in romance, and thus have no desire to include such things in their story.


Some stories are indeed better when devoid of romance, but there are many cases where a tale may actually benefit from the inclusion of romantic elements.  For the sake of this post, ‘romantic elements’ will encompass the normal connotations of falling in love, but also other issues that surround it, such as lust and marital conflict.


First and foremost, romance benefits stories by reflecting reality.  Romance impacts everyone, even those that abstain from relationships.  When people’s parents don’t get along, that shapes their childhood. Furthermore, practically no one would be born without romance and lust.  In general, even societies that lack romance and handle reproduction through more scientific means were probably affected by romance in some way.  In all likelihood, something in their history made them see romance as a hindrance to progress and thus caused them to focus on other means of sustaining their population.  Thus, even then, some sort of romantic element might merit discussion to explain the origins of that society.


There are ways to avoid a story being impacted by romance, but they often require writing about beings vastly different than us.  Having all the chars be immortal is one method. Another is to write about a completely asexual species that has always been like that and has no contact with creatures that reproduce other ways.


Romance can provide sequel material.  If the main character’s story arc is over, either because they died or they are done adventuring forever, sequels are going to have to focus on other characters.  Although it may be possible to use previous side chars or new chars as the sequels’ protagonist, focusing on the next generation instead may have more impact. This gives authors a chance to build off the previous arcs of well loved chars and show how they impacted others.  A character’s behavior is often going to impact their family greatly, after all. Even further, the character’s children can provide a fresh perspective on previous events and people.


Using next gen characters is also usually easier than starting completely from scratch, since next generation stories ground readers in pre-established situations instead of having to take time for exposition to introduce new ones.


But next generation characters are harder to introduce without some degree of romance(unless the stork dropped them on the parent’s doorstep one day).  If someone has a biological kid, the question of who that kid’s other parent is will likely come up at some point. Maybe the question would realistically occur in the story, or it will simply be something readers want to know.  But having a kid is a process, an entire segment of the character’s backstory, and thus would impact the character almost regardless of the circumstances around their child’s birth. If, for instance, a man has a child because he got married and his wife died in childbirth, that should have some bearing on his characterization.  In turn, this will have a bearing on their child’s characterization.


Writing romance well can be very vital in cases like that.  Main characters have the spotlight on them. If everything else about them is well written, yet their romance arc is flat, stereotypical, and/or barely discussed, it might weaken the story’s quality.  Or, even worse, it can cause people to misread the character. If a character is supposed to be kind hearted and empathetic, yet his spouse dying in childbirth has no impact on his behavior going forward...he may come across as callous, or at least inconsistent.  It would also be strange if that romance arc didn’t impact the character’s child in some way. The child might not be sad, due to not knowing the mother, but such things would impact how the child grows up and sees the world. This can fuel a sequel by giving the next generation character challenges to work through.


Romance is an excellent way to explore human psychology.  Many normal relationship dynamics, such as friendship, conflict, etc. are present within romantic relationships, but the two characters are more deeply intertwined.  Because of the impact they have on each other, their relationship dynamics are magnified. If two regular friends don’t get along, it’s usually a lot easier for them to go their separate ways, so we may not see what would happen if their conflict worsens due to close proximity.  


In a romantic relationship, however, breaking ties can be harder.  The two chars are more likely to be emotionally bound, or they built a life together that will fall apart if they stop interacting.  Factors like that may force them to stay together and in conflict far longer than people who are just friends. This is the perfect opportunity to show how a detailed, somewhat inescapable conflict looks like over the long haul.


But conflict isn’t the only psychological aspect that can be explored through romance.  There’s also long term friendship and camaraderie. Normal friends have a higher chance of moving away and growing apart, but a romantic partner may very well stay there a lifetime, if all goes well.  This can be used to explore how such close friendship impacts someone’s life. When people always have someone they can count on, that greatly affects their behavior. People might be a little more daring or effective if they know someone’s always got their back, for instance.


Romance doesn’t have to be cheesy or stereotypical.  Not only can it can be an intricate study of human nature, but it can be used as a well thought out plot device.  The way people treat their significant others, for instance, says a lot about them and helps with characterization.  A romantic partner can be a help or a hindrance, depending on the story. When characters responds to each instance of that, they show who they are and move the story along.  At that point, the romance doesn’t have to be sappy and cheesy, but an interesting set of behaviors instead.


If authors want to write stories and characters that feel real, they often need to address romantic elements at some point or another.  Simply because of that, learning to write romantic elements adds another tool in the author’s arsenal. One way to start learning is by finding shows/comics/etc. with well written romantic elements and various types of relationship dynamics.  When people find romantic elements in a story they enjoy, it becomes far easier to internalize how to add those elements in their own tales. Additionally, pay attention to romantic elements that occur in real life and compare them to romance stories that seem poorly written.  Based on what is seen in real life, what did those romance stories do wrong and right?

So, just my two cents worth on the subject. What are the best and worst examples of romance writing you've seen? What are your habits/opinion when it comes to romance in stories?

Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave a comment, or follow the blog if you want to read more.