Sunday, March 28, 2010
Number two is the proverbial Quest. In fantasy and a lot of sci-fi, you are searching for the magical thingamagig. In other genre fiction the quest could be for a killer, a long lost relative, some sort of material item, or even for the souls of the characters themselves. What your protagonist hero seeks out is element number three.
Number four is the hero himself, explicated as four major types. If they're clueless and the world is shown through their discovery of it, you have an Innocent hero. If they go gallivanting around trying to burn all evil to the ground, your Champion has arrived centerstage. If your hero perseveres through said evil with the help of moral character and strength of will, a Righteous hero you have, and the Loyal hero is trying to save those he holds dear. Any of these heroes will be brought into the fold of the story by a wizard, fantasy element number five. In other genre fiction, this character could be a professor, partner, or older relative of the protagonist. Whoever guides the Quest.
Which brings us to the other half of the list, which includes the heroine, the villain, the hero's companions, their lady friends, and the outer social structure of the world: kings, queens, government officials, inn keeps and co-workers. All the kings horses and men. These are the characters our hero surrounds himself with, his social network, if you will.
If you think about a Facebook profile (I've been forcing myself to learn it), the most prominent connection on your page is the one to your partner. It has its own little link right under your relationship status. In a story, this is the heroine to a hero, or in reverse-there are many fine female protagonists in literature, and in those books the main male character takes on this role. In stories that lack a certain romanticism, there could be two heroes or two heroines, with one taking the main hero role and the other their partner. This is one of the dynamics of Sam and Frodo's relationship in Lord of the Rings.
But who's the heroine in that partnership, hmm?
All joking aside, the majority of protagonists have a partner in crime. Or top friend. Or partner. They also need a villain to go up against. Fantasy authors are big on dark gods as villains, although it will often be some scion of this beast who does the real dirty work. This is the drama queen or troll of our hero's social network, that ex-friend that you blocked from all your messengers and your wall. We WANT drama in our novels, so no matter how annoying their net counterparts are, villains are essential to a story.
Next comes the gaggle of companions. As far as Eddings's Belgariad goes, this is where his characterization skills shine. The archetypes of Jung are there if you scratch the surface of his supporting cast, and, well, Mandorallen doesn't have a surface, so his portrayal of the quintessential Champion of all things right parades across the scenes for everyone to see. The hero of the Belgariad is an ignorant teenage boy though, so a right proper champion was a given. This gaggle of companions is your top friends list, the ones in your circle that you want to have easy, one click access to, much like the Fellowship of the Ring has easy access to Frodo for awhile.
All these close friends of our protagonist/hero/heroine have their own partners that have a quick link under relationship status. As you build out a social circle for your hero, these partners must be included. In a well developed story, they compliment and explicate the personalities of the hero's main companions. Mandorallen has a partner in the second series of books. She is a quiet, self sacrificing counterpart to his brash athleticism. Eddings uses the addition of female companions to help explain what happened in the 10 or so years between the Belgariad and Mallorean. Most of the lovely ladies appear in the first series, but only in a few scenes; providers of a bit of depth to each of the big strong men that accompany Garion on his journey. The amount of page time any of these partners receives is up to you, but their existence is an important tool to help flesh out your supporting cast, just as the heroine and companions assist in fleshing out your hero's history and character.
The final requirement on Eddings's list of fantasy elements is the inclusion of the outer circle of the hero's social network. In Facebook terms, these would be the celebrities on your fan list, the people you follow but don't know in a personal way. In an epic novel, these are the members of the clergy, kings, queens, and innkeepers, the characters that are the backbone of your story's settings. Their personalities must be distinct, even if they are just filling a needed role. All of Eddings's kings and queens have their own quirks. This helps his world seem more real to the reader. For every celebrity that joins a social networking site, the relevance of that site to everyone increases. These are the ways of the world.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Why do I let such petty things get in the way of my goals? I don't know, it is the way it goes. I need to look up to Mr. Corgan and get up at seven am to get some work done every morning, but my body is not cooperating.
I don't think it is ever going to cooperate.
I was also going to write an article covering St. Patrick's Day for the bloggy people, but I don't think that is going to happen. I am not going to be on SecondLife for the majority of Wednesday, at least that's the hope, so why do I want to waste my time writing a free article about St. Patrick's Day locations?
Or maybe I am mad because a damn Linden blogger got to the wrestling story before me. And wrote the usual piss poor dry shit that comes out of that blog. Funny how ahead of trend my brain works, considering how little it lets me care about such things. Next time I have an instinct, I'll just go with it. That would've resulted in an article out at least a week before the Lindens put out theirs.
The primary problem isn't the corporate whores getting to an activity of interest before me. I am still pissed over my lack of motivation and discipline that lead to that article not being written by me, and the rest of my problems as well. House would be cleaner if I motivated myself better. At least one book would be done. I'd get my two entries into Virtual Writer's World every week.
Though I am honest with myself about that, she's been getting punished the last two weeks for moving my favorite writing place with no warning. Sorry Harriet, but the POS Scottish sim is not the same, the setup isn't exactly the same, and the entire feel is different. I'll suck it up and go to talk to other writers, but Milkwood no longer inspires me. And that's just sad.
Get it together. You keep changing and doing things on a whim, and it shows with the sites. No comments except from us, and barely any of those. Immature and unedited crap front and center when you're supposed to catch it. Stop instigating new events and moving sacred things around and handle your business, please. Your flighty crap is driving me insane, and I may have to limit my sl literary interactions to Bookstacks and the Written Word if you keep up this way.
Which you totally will. I have taken a step back from SecondLife in the week since the gypsy camp at Milkwood was moved, I almost want to thank the Mistress of Milkwood for that. If the break hadn't come along with depression. No one likes their favorite writing spot moved, even if it is virtual. Though this is all just another excuse.
I need to wake up at seven like my hero, Mr. Corgan. I'm writing soon after I wake, so maybe tomorrow I'll actually wake up on time.
Do whatever it is you do to pray for me, mmmk?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I hope it's okay to call you that. I have been a fan of yours for a long time. I read a recent interview with you in Rolling Stone. My man bought me the magazine to cheer me up because you were in it.
And some would say this is an oxymoron. I'm a total fangirl of yours, and even I have to admit you are a bit cynical and depressing at times. This interview was no exception, but I wasn't surprised or saddened by that. The fact that you had to call them did shock me a bit, but you are right in saying that you have always been undervalued. Sometimes whining is warranted. Not quite so much, but I am emotional to a fault, so I certainly understand you're upset at feeling forgotten.
I have not forgotten you. I still play Stumbeline, both from my repurchased copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and on my own guitar. “And what you never knew/Can never get to you”. Those words have gotten me through countless depressions caused by teasing in school. Then there's the song I would use as my wrestling entrance music, Mayonnaise. It has felt like my personal anthem more times than I can count, cause “no one fails like me”.
Except you of course, sir. It has been troubling to watch you since the New York incident, like the Moon card in tarot, secret enemies swirled around you and the music was affected. I love the acoustic versions of anything you have ever produced, but Adore hurt dude. Smashing Pumpkins and electronica refuse to mix in my head, even ten years later. Parts of Machina were great, though, and I Iove Zwan.
I swear I tried to convert others to the cause, my brother, but some of the songs were too damn happy. You confused us, it has been a common fault of yours since the original family split apart in such a violent fashion. In any case, and despite your faults and failures, you have always inspired me.
Thus, I declare you my hero, Mr. Corgan. Sorry to put such a responsibility on your thin shoulders, but no one else has ever come close to motivating me to be better. Motivating me to be depressed, maybe, and some say you do that to them, but not I. You speak so close to what I feel, how I see the world. I don't know how or why, it has always been this way, since the first time I heard Disarm.
That's right, I disagree on which is your sacred song. It ain't Today. That one is chump change compared to Tonight, Tonight. It is all good that you have released it to mainstream to finance further musical journeys. I want to hear them, be inspired to evolve. But please don't let me ever hear Tonight, Tonight in an Ambien commercial.
I'd vomit a bit in my mouth, and you don't want to inspire that sort of thing, now do you, Billy?
Now, how does this tie into the whole time management thing. Yes, I know I was supposed to be all daily about those posts and stuff, and I am still gonna try for that. Weeds got in the way for the past few nights. Awesome show, but I have been staying up too late watching the DVDs and not motivated to post about scheduling in the mornings. Billy said in the Rolling Stone article that he wakes up at seven in the morning everyday.
Well god dammit, then I am too, Mr. Hero.
This is an important step in my quest to have a more defined and productive schedule. Wake up time is now in slices, with a definite start and end, as I already have a ten am start time in place for the boy's lessons. Wake up time begins at seven am now, the end, cause that's what my hero does. I will then have my coffee with eggs and toast. Billy, you do the egg white shit but that's not my style, I'll have grandma's scrambled eggs and toast with butter, spanks. This is my Google Reader time as well, so I will be sure to have the Gmail open first to keep up with my reminders after all is in the schedule. Breakfast and Reader from seven to eight, then read or write from eight to ten depending on the day. As Tiger said, got to give myself options with the time so as to be sure to at least to one of them.
Not the fornicating golf player Tiger, my SecondLife buddy Tiger. All my little sl topic posts get cross-posted to her awesome magazine Slick. I need to get on more content for that blog. Gotta put it in the schedule. First we'll start with rising at my hero's chosen time. Maybe the quiet beginnings of a typical day in the neighborhood will inspire my Soothe. I surely hope so.
If I can stick to my hero worship, a detailed explanation of the entrance of this sliced wake up time will be forthcoming after my eggs and toast tomorrow morning.
Thanks for being an inspiration to me, Mr. Corgan, and I hope you manage to receive the recognition you deserve before you die. You have to know that's why they worship Kurt over you. Dating his insane, untalented ex did not help sir. But I forgive you.
With sincerest thanks,
Instead, it gave me the well defined road map to story elements that I was looking for. This review of his principles twelve years after the publishing of them in the Codex's introduction is going to focus on how they apply to books of the fantasy genre today, but writers of all genres can benefit from this approach to defining the essential elements of story.
First up is religion. In fantasy, you about have to pick one, it is often the backbone of the story. Eddings himself went pagan, though UL was the father of all the gods, orchestrating much of the ending conflicts between the two destinies that were the heart of the theological arguments in the Belgariad and Mallorean. Tolkien also had paganism as his religion, although he was devoutly Christian. It is interesting to note that C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia were Christian in theology, and one of Tolkien's main problems with the books was how transparent Lewis was in his choice of religion. In modern fantasy, we have Brandon Sanderson, whose Mistborn trilogy is rather monotheistic in theology, the evil power of Ruin set against the world's attempts to bring forth a benevolent God to oppose and supplant him. Robin Hobb's Farseer books contain many theologies centered around ancestor worship at their heart, which is a more pagan way to go about it. This choice is also important in other genres, the underlying religious currents of whatever setting you choose lend an important feel to any story, even if their influence is not as apparent as it is in an entirely created world.
Every story has a plot. The plot of a fantasy story is centered around the proverbial Quest. This is number two on our list of required elements, and a damn important entry at that. However, it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to specifics. Exactly what is our quest about? Well, that leads us to number three on the list, the magical thingamagig. A stone, a sword, a ring, a crown, a pink elephant, all that matters is that it is something imbued with magic power and desired by all who know of it, even the god(s). Eddings went for the magical stone with the Orb of Aldur, Tolkien has the One Ring, Sanderson's characters are obsessed with a horde of the magical substance atium, and Hobb's are unique in that the magic thingamagig is dragons themselves. All stories have quests, even outside of the fantasy genre. In sci-fi, you may still be looking for a “magic” object, though there is a plausible explanation for its extraordinary properties. Mysteries and crime dramas revolve around finding a perpetrator, and while their thingamagig is a person or persons, the plot to get to them can be paralleled with the classic fantasy quest.
Every plot needs a protagonist to center around, and in fantasy we call this character the Hero. There are occasional Heroine's – Elizabeth Haydon's Rhapsody is a good example of a fantasy heroine, even if she gets a bit too wrapped up in romance at times. Now, we could just call our Hero a protagonist, but in fantasy, as in any story, there is often more than one big personality running the show. The Hero is the one who gets the Quest, however. All others are there to help him along.
Eddings describes the types of Heros in terms of the Knights of the Roundtable, but I prefer to look at them in a more general way. Heros come in four essential flavors. Innocent, righteous, champion, and fierce. Innocent is what Eddings went with in his hero, Garion, and you could as easily name it ignorant as innocent in most cases. Tolkien had innocent heroes in the hobbits as well, although I feel one of the most compelling things about the Lord of the Rings is Tolkien's ability to center a story around so many heroes. Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, and Gandalf all take turns as Hero. In fact, the hobbits act as four parts of one Hero, with Pippin ignorant, Frodo with a righteous will, Merry as the most physically adept, and Sam fierce in his loyalty to Frodo and thus, the quest. These four types of main protagonist exist in mainstream fiction as well, Janet Evanovich uses innocent to great comedic effect in the character of Stephanie Plum, and Roland from Stephen King's Dark Tower series is a classic case of a righteous protagonist.
It helps to boil characters down to these general stereotypes at times so we can tweak them to create unique characters. Eddings does a classic job of this with the wizard Belgarath, a scamp and derelict of a sorcerer that breaks the fantasy mold of the wise wizard that is number five on the list of essential fantasy story elements. This is also Janet Evanovich's success with the Stephanie Plum character in her Number novels. The innocent character, surrounded by a cast of all the horrible criminals a bounty hunter comes in contact with, blows every serious scenario where the innocent character is supposed to get screwed into full on comedy. This drives the plot, you keep turning pages, wondering what sort of chaos she is going to run into next due to her absolute inability to perform her job as a bond enforcer properly.
However, neither Stephanie nor Frodo would be anything without their supporting cast, and all the baggage they bring along with them to flesh out the background and plot of a story. Before we cover all of them, maybe it would be best to sit down and see where the characters and situations of our current projects fit into this list of story elements. The religion, quest, object, hero and wizard are pieces of any story, albeit under many different names.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Life is cluttered beyond the finances though. The root of the entire problem is that we aren't the best at scheduling our days. I have a firm block schedule in place, but in practice, I am finding that it is not enough structure to me. The blocks need more slices, clearer defined times. Yet, how do I do this without walking away and ignoring it like I do my other lists?
This is where my call to Google for help comes in. I have tried the Calendar function before, but it didn't translate in more motivation to take nature walks or hit the Absolute Write Sci-Fi chat like I had hoped, due to a complete lack of checking that email address for the reminders. As I am now quite fond of Gmail and Reader, this is no longer a problem.
How far do I go in my slices, however? My other efforts to schedule often suffered from being too detailed, and thus, too hard to follow without feeling I had put myself in a straight jacket. The current "schedule" consists of six blocks of time: wake up time, morning school, lunch, afternoon school, dinner, after dinner. The after dinner section consists of two slices already - family time and after kid's in bed time. I thought this obvious openness would give me some structure without overwhelming me, after a long period of life being too chaotic to even dream of scheduling it. It has helped me bring structure, just not enough. I flail in the mornings and evenings, so many things that I could do overwhelming me and leading to inevitable shutdown, fried brain mindlessly roving SecondLife, Twitter, or Reader instead of writing something, ANYTHING, or doing one of a hundred things around the house.
Housework is never "done". It's one of the reasons I despise it.
I feel an overwhelming need for more balance in my life. Over the coming months, I hope to use the Google Calendar to its fullest, bending its functions to my will and slicing the broad divisions of my schedule into more structured pieces of a whole that will be more productive. Today I am about spent after weeks of insomnia, agonizing over how to better organize my time. Seriously. Being less productive than I feel I could be makes me depressed, until I burst in flaming tears. Tomorrow I'll come to a conclusion about how to divide my broad blocks, following my friend's suggestion of "give yourself a choice". All slices of time will have two options. It works with the boy's schooling, it could translate to the rest of our time.
Where does Google fit into all this again? I hope to use its connection of Blogger, Buzz, Reader and Gmail, along with the Calendar and Document functions, to make my real life and online life more streamlined. Let's see if email reminders work when my lazy ass actually checks the email account they go to, shall we?
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Just got back to me office after checking out a few places on the 2nd Annual Steam Hunt, a grid-wide scavenger hunt that has shown me all the various awesomeness the steampunk culture has added to our virtual home. A few of these places were fixes by the owner, and two others were in hopes of being able to find some well hidden gears. I succeeded in finding one that had eluded me.I have been on a few other scavenger hunts since I rezzed a few months ago, stumbling upon the first at the shop of one of my friends. The Bitten and Frost Hunt was a great idea, and did introduce me to many cool things on the grid, and other hunts, but the two path concept lead to confusion that the organizers and store owners could not seem to eradicate. I eventually gave up about 50 stores into the Bitten Path, having been lead astray by other hunts and non existant snowflakes quite enough for my taste. I dabbled in various Christmas hunts, and my inventory exploded with much higher quality free stuff than I was used to.
I had to take a break from hunting during the Valentine's season, though I do have a few bleeding hearts in my collection from stores I frequent anyway. The Steam Hunt is very well organized. I happened to be on late last Sunday, so received the notecard containing all the landmarks in a group notice right at midnight on the first of March. You can join the hunt group yourself and receive the hunt information here. They are also on top of fixing any broken links in the chain of stores.
Well, the contents of the gears are not your average freebies. Some joker put in this crazy, oversize, mechanical steampunk bonnet, but overall, everything I have opened has been fab. The dress at Arieala Andel & Serrita Ember Store has garnered ten compliments this weekend. The jewelry set from Amaranthus is high quality as well, my avatar is wearing the earrings. This is a stretch for me in any life. Jewelry has to be perfect, or I just won't bother.
So how do you get all this great free stuff for your very own? You go hunt about the stores, of course, searching high and low for those elusive spinning bronze gears. Some stores have hints, some do not. Some participants try to hide the gear near their steampunk inspired creations, others shrink it and hide it behind, or even embedded in, their displays. The hiding of the gears is at the participating creator's discretion. Now, I will admit to not being the most observant person in the world, and I found 127 of 130 gears. You can too.My favorite friend while on a hunt is my camera controls. If you do not already have them up on your screen, they are under View in the upper taskbar (unless you are using the Beta of Viewer 2.0, in which case they are on the bottom). The control to the left rotates your view, the slider in the middle is zoom, and the control to the right moves you side to side and up and down. You can only zoom so far, so sometimes you will have to play with the two crosshair controls to see behind things and find the gears, or whatever object is being used for the particular hunt you are on. There are at least ten hunts going on gridwide at any one time. Linden Lab would do themselves a favor by adding these scavenger hunts to their main site, it's a good way to get a new person oriented with the controls of their avatar and the true vastness of this virtual world we call home.
In short, if your inventory has been feeling a bit lean, you feel the need to get out of the house on a LOW budget, or you just want a slew of new things to play with, head over to the start point or any of the stores listed in this blog and get yourself full of steam, like my clockwork squirrel buddy and I.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I have played the role of hermit writer for a long time. The draw of SecondLife for me lies in the opportunities to connect with other writers here. Part of connecting with other writers is reading your work out loud, and it has been a long time since I have participated in an open mic. Fear and transportation have gotten in my way for about five years now. The grid takes care of my transportation issue, at least.
Fear is a harder thing to handle. The literary community in world is full of talent, and I have come to respect the work of my fellow writers here. The lineup of the poetry fest reads like my most wanted list. Flawnt Alchemi is leading off the festival at 1Pm Friday, at the Bookstacks Performance Space. I adore his use of language. Rosemary Serenity will be reading at Storybook Dell, 1:45PM, her introspective musings on human nature always inspire me. Another must see for me on Friday will be Stosh Quartz at the Stone Circle, 2PM. I enjoyed her poetry workshop at the Haunted Library the few times I could make it. The other workshop she's involved in, Saturday mornings at 10AM, at The Blue Angel Poet's Dive, has been a quest of mine from my first Saturday on grid. It would seem a perfect time for me, with the afternoon just settling in here and laziness the name of the game after a week of schoolishness. Various rl and sl things have gotten in the way, and the time of the workshop does, well, float around a bit. I will catch a full one this Saturday morning. Maybe.
Back to the poetry fest and my quest to get over the inevitable stage fright that settled in when I received a request from Harriet Gausman, the lovely mistress of Milkwood, for an author biography. My brain screamed help and my fingers flew to the Google search bar. I found some good advice, and spent an hour crafting a little blurb about myself, rather skewed towards my avatar persona, such as it is. Self promotion is a skill that I am still learning, partly by reading, mostly via trial by fire. I feel relatively squeemish doing it, but there's nothing to do but try. At least I am reading on Saturday.
Friday afternoon will be spent taking in the sights of Milkwood to the accompaniment of words whose beauty may surpass the view. While I furiously take mental notes and get my setlist of poems ordered for my own reading Saturday at the Stone Circle, of course. The grid has given me a wonderful new source for deadlines. Harriet is a gentle taskmistress, though. I work better under pressure, it makes me force my brain to a stop and go forward with an idea.
I am on after Rosedrop Rust, a poet I enjoy and respect a lot. The one open mic I can get to with any regularity, Literary Night at the Hotel Chelsea, has been graced with his presence on quite a few happy occasions. His particular brand of word whimsy is always enlightening, and slightly twisted. His poems make me smile. After all that joy, maybe my fears will be erased and I can sail right through my thirty minutes of personal horror without so much as a stutter. I'll just imagine all the avatars are wearing underwear, yeah. Or is someone willing to do me a favor and come that way?
I didn't think so. Damn.
The party of poetry at the Stone Circle on Saturday also includes Klannex Northmead, pirateneko poet extrodinare - pray he reads Peaches, everyone - and Huckleberry Hax, who in addition to being a poet also writes stories using the uniqueness of the grid as a setting.
Sunday's readings are going to be housed in the cozy Haunted Library Room, perfect for the weaving of words on an early spring afternoon. That last statement about spring may be wishful thinking, but let me have my dreams people, please. The dumping of snow on the east coast led to one aborted Blue Angel workshop attempt, and one complete miss. Corwyn Allen, reading at 3PM, shared a deep and descriptive work in progress at the part of a workshop I did make it to. I look forward to hearing his words, while ensconced in a rich, velvet covered chair, surrounded by dark bookcases, and in front of a roaring fire.
Right now, the yearning for that moment is making the draft in my office more noticeable. April, save us! I shall take solace in the writer's fantasy that is Milkwood, and let the words of my fellows and my own leap of faith propel me through March, to glorious spring.
The entire lineup of poets for the 1st Annual Milkwood Poetry Festival is as follows:
Friday, March 5th, 2010
Flawnt Alchemi - 1PM - Bookstacks Performance Space
Morgue McMillan - 1:30PM - Outside Milk Wood Library
Rosemary Serenity 1:45PM - at Storybook Dell
Stosh Quartz - 2:00 - 2:30PM - at the Stone Circle
Kezhen Yheng - 2:30-3PM - at the Stone Circle
Saturday, March 8th - Stone Circle
Rosedrop Rust - 1:00 - 1:30PM
June Stormcrow - 1:30 - 2:00PM
Donjuan Writer - 2:00 - 2:15PM
Morgue McMillan - 2:15 - 2:30PM
Klannex Northmead - 2:30-3:00PM
Huckleberry Hax - 3:00 - 3:15PM
Sunday, March 7th - Haunted Library, Milkwood
Wolfgang Glinka - 1:00 - 1:30PM
Kamille Kamala 1:30 - 2:00PM
IU's Man in Black - 2:00 - 2:30PM
Aianna Oh - 2:30-3:00PM
Corwyn Allen - 3:00 - 3:30PM
Manx Wharton - 3:30 -4:00PM
This is an event enabled by voice. Please do not feel pressured to speak, only encouraged to listen. All times are SLT.
I love having fine print.