Monday, July 28, 2014

Sing-Along Blog

I know it's not Thursday, but here's a Blog Post that I wrote back on July 29, 2008.  It's in an old blog I'm not using anymore, but I thought it was worth reading.  I'm reposting it here.

Sing-Along Blog

It's rather hard for me to put into words just how much I hero-worship Joss Whedon.
...there. That's the end of this entry. Not enough for you? All right, I'll keep going.
My passion for Joss Whedon started when I was in high school. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was in its first season on the WB (remember them?) and I was completely hooked. "Witch" was the first episode I ever saw, and from then on I was positively glued to my television every night the show was on. During the show's third season, I would have "Buffy Parties" at my house on Tuesday nights when the show would air. The only rule for these parties was no talking during the show. Commercials were reserved for answering questions about the plot and characters. Suffice to say, I was a Joss-Head. I followed Angel, too. I didn't like it as much, but it had the same Joss charm and wit that the original series had.
High school was also the time when my passions for filmmaking and Buffy reached an intersection. I hadn't heard of anyone "continuing the story" on their own at that point, so what my best friend and I decided to do was a completely original idea to me. We wrote our own Buffy (And The X-Files) movie. Mulder and Scully go to Sunnyvale to investigate Vampire Activity, and end up on a double date with Buffy and Angel. It was hilarious. We wrote, directed, stared in and edited an 88 minute, feature-length movie on the subject. (We did the same for X-Men, but sadly, that project was never completed. But I digress...)
I entered a period of estrangement from my Whedon-passion during college. (Even though I kept my collection of Buffy VHS tapes--every episode aired, thankyouverymuch--close to my heart, and would put them on whenever I felt down.) Buffy moved to UPN, where the station aired the Buffy Musical Episode. There was no greater feeling than to be watching my favorite television characters dancing and singing. I was such a huge fan I went onto the internet to start searching for more Buffy to fill my cravings. That's how I was introduced to the wonderful worlds of "fandom," "fanfiction," and "rp."--but more on those later.
Even though Joss and I disagree on a few things (Jean Grey, for one) I was thrilled to hear that he was going to start writing for Marvel Comics. I'd been an X-Men fanatic since I was a small girl, as is obvious to anyone who looks in my closet and sees my huge collection of comics and figurines. Jean's always been my favorite character, and, even though he killed her off (how does one kill off a phoenix for good?), I started collecting the comics he'd written for The X-Men.
In 2003, knowing of my passon for Mr. Whedon, my brother sent me this Joss quote from Wired Magazine:
I think the Harry Potter Books are the finest of the century! J.K. Rowling is one of the three best storytellers in young-adult fiction, with C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl. Her characters are archetypes without being cutouts--we've definately known these guys, and at the same time, they're bigger than life. I'd like to see Harry kick it out a little, push against authority, including Dumbledore. But it's great that Harry actually gets older as the books go on. In the last one, they had kids making out for the first time--by Book Seven they'll be like, 'take that wand and shove it up your...'
Joss talking about Harry Potter was like two of my three worlds colliding in a wonderful and brilliant display of fireworks. By this time I'd hopped online and was very deeply involved with fanfiction and role-playing in three fandoms: Harry Potter, X-Men and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was also around this time that the television series Firefly was starting to gain a cult following. Because my attention was spread among three fandoms, it was growing harder and harder for me to follow Joss the way I knew I should. I never saw Firefly. Not one episode. Apparently, according to the rest of Joss Whedon's followers in the whole world, that was the biggest mistake I've ever made.
Suddenly people were coming out of the woodwork to sing Joss's praises to me. People who had never taken an interest in Buffy, people who thought me hosting "Harry Potter Parties" was a stupid thing, people who never understood spending $30, $40, even $50 a month on comics, were all coming to me and saying "Hey, have you heard of this Joss Whedon guy!? He's amazing!! This show is the best show ever made!! You HAVE to watch it!! Why aren't you watching it RIGHT NOW??"
Please excuse my immaturity for a moment. The response I had to bite back time and time again was, "Of course I know who Joss is! Haven't you heard me squealing about him for the last six years? Where the hell have you been?" So, I never watched Firefly. Not one episode. I avoided the movie Serenitylike the plague. I heard about scores of fans lining up like it was a new, well-written Star Wars movie, and I turned the other way.
Mostly, when Buffy ended, I found myself searching for something else to fill that big, gaping hole in my chest it'd occupied during its seven seasons on the air. The distraction I found was in Harry Potter. Again, it was a series, and running on a deadline, but the fanfiction and role-playing world appealed to me, whereas the Buffy one didn't. I moved on, and left my Joss obsession behind. It was a mistake I knew I was going to regret.
The regret came in the form of a three-part mini-series called "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. My Father-In-Law insisted we all watch the mini series, split into three fifteen minute segments. I must admit, after hearing the title, I had my reservations. I was soon to be proven completely wrong. Music, emotion, witty dialogue, beautifully directed comical sequences, interesting characters and an amazing ending all make Dr. Horrible shine like a brand new, copper penny. My faith has been restored.
There is no doubt in my mind, even after years of estrangement, that Joss Whedon is a God.
And, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go watch Firefly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Words to use instead of Said

I found this list of "words to use instead of said" on a message board somewhere, and I'm re-posting it here.  I can't find it again, though I copied them for my own use.  If anyone knows where they came from originally, please let me know so I can link back to that conversation!  I thought I'd post them here, and see what you think about these words.

Honestly, I don't mind the word said.  I use it a lot because it's very often the best word for the job.  But I've also learned not to adjust the word 'said' with an adverb when a different word for 'said' would work just fine.

For instance, why say "she said breathily" when "she whispered" would work?  It's a stronger sentence.  That's what we're aspiring for in our writing; stronger sentences.  Fewer words to get our points across clearly.  Using these words for said sometimes will surely lead to stronger sentences, but using them too often is sure to distract the reader.

Anyway, here's the list.  Let me know what you think.  

1. Exclaimed
2. Replied
3. Queried
4. Questioned
5. Murmured
6. Muttered
7. Screamed
8. Shouted
9. Whispered
10. Laughed
11. Cried
12. Whined
13. Yelled
14. Answered
15. Encouraged
16. Complained
17. Rasped
18. Whimpered
19. Barked
20. Giggled
21. Ordered
22. Implored
23. Insisted
24. Interrupted
25. Lectured
26. Mimicked
27. Uttered
28. Objected
29. Observed
30. Offered
31. Cowered
32. Sneered
33. Snarled
34. Remembered
35. Lied
36. Exaggerated
37. Cackled
38. Squealed
39. Fretted
40. Sobbed
41. Hollered
42. Persisted
43. Pestered
44. Pleaded
45. Pondered
46. Prattled
47. Prayed
48. Proclaimed
49. Proposed
50. Protested
51. Snapped
52. Added
53. Advised
54. Agreed
55. Allowed
56. Announced
57. Apologized
58. Argued
59. Began
60. Begged
61. Blurted
62. Started
63. Recalled
64. Remarked
65. Repeated
66. Responded
67. Revealed
68. Scolded
69. Simpered
70. Snobbed
71. Spluttered
72. Shrieked
73. Groaned
74. Sighed
75. Gurgled
76. Promised
77. Grumbled
78. Rumbled
79. Mumbled
80. Wondered
81. Thought
82. Told
83. Asked
84. Informed
85. Moaned
86. Breathed
87. Coaxed
88. Chanted
89. Howled
90. Spoke
91. Stammered
92. Sulked
93. Tattled
94. Teased
95. Threatened
96. Tormented
97. Urged
98. Wailed
99. Boasted
100. Called
101. Chatted
102. Chuckled
103. Concluded
104. Decided
105. Declared
106. Denied
107. Disagreed
108. Drawled
109. Inquired
110. Falted
111. Finished
112. Gasped
11. Gloated
113. Grunted
114. Hinted
115. Hissed
116. Warned
117. Wept
118. Wheezed
119. Yawned
120. Tempted
121. Reflected
122. Bellowed
123. Googled
124. Oogled
125. Burble
126. Commanded
127. Wheedled
128. Grizzled
129. Griped
130. Sang
131. Twittered
132. Demanded
134. Wooed
135. Blasted
136. Bit
137. Chewed
138. Bawled
139. Toasted
140. Growled
141. Roasted
142. Hounded
143. Grimaced
144. Slurred
145. Joked
146. Prodded
147. Lamented
148. Mourned
149. Stuttered
150. Dribbled
151. Pronounced
152. Spelled out
153. Reminisced
154. Warbled
155. Elocuted
156. Implied
157. Insinuated
158. Challenged
159. Countered
160. Countermanded
161. Bandied
162. Riposted
163. Deliberated
164. Communicated
165. Oozed
166. Assessed
167. Negated
168. Abnegated
169. Intonated
170. Cussed
171. Cursed
172. Caterwauled
173. Assured
174. Delivered
175. Bleated
176. Dripped
177. Flirted
178. Assented
179. Swore
180. Hesitated
181. Egged-on
182. Confessed
183. Chirped
184. Chirruped
185. Roared
186. Mewed
187. Rattled on
188. Harped on
189. Nattered on
190. Crapped on
191. Went on
192. Continued
193. Blathered
194. Blustered
195. Huffed
196. Nagged
197. Shouted down
198. Squeaked
199. Wished

200. Related

Monday, June 9, 2014

10 Steps to Creating Lovable, Believable Characters

10 Steps to Creating Lovable, Believable Characters


1.) What does s/he look like?
It's important to have a very good vision of your character's appearance in your mind while you write.  And keeping notes in a journal/notebook or on index cards is a good idea.  (Or another file in your computer, since that's what kids are doing now-a-days.)  That way you don't say the character has blue eyes in chapter 2, and then brown eyes in chapter 11.  Sometimes I cheat and steal certain characteristics from actors/actresses, that way I can just reference a picture when I need to.


2.) What does s/he act like?
Sometimes, when I take notes on my index cards, I put down things like "broods like Snape," or "curious like Alice."  I'll write things like "massive flirt," or "gets angry at the drop of a hat."  These notes help remind me that when I'm writing these characters, to make sure and keep their mannerisms and dialogue consistent.  It's confusing and frustrating when characters act a certain way at the beginning of the book, and change drastically by the end.  (Unless, of course, there is conflict and character development to help lead the characters to new personality traits.  For the purposes of character creation, though, make sure to take notes on how your character is at the beginning of the story.)


3.) What backstory would lead to that personality and/or appearance?
Keeping the backstory consistent with the character's physical description and personality description is really important.  If a character is covered in battle scars and gruff toward everyone, there has to be a reason for it.  Perhaps he was injured in a war, and is suffering from post traumatic stress.  (Mad-Eye Moody?)  Likewise, if a character is overly friendly, naive, and young, it's possible that this character has been sheltered her whole life. (Anna of Arendelle?)


4.) What are her/his goals?
If you don't know where your character wants to be in his or her life, character creation is a wonderful time to start brainstorming those things.  A very specific goal is very easy to write--and will drive the story forward.  It's when we get characters with conflicting goals that makes for good drama.  Where would The Fellowship be if Frodo hadn't decided to take the ring to Mordor?


5.) What are her/his fears?
Likewise, your character needs to have things that are holding her back.  Things she fears, things that make her more believable and well rounded.  A character with no internal conflict makes for boring reading, even if the external conflict abounds.  That iconic scene where Rapunzel reaches the ground outside of her tower in Tangled wouldn't be nearly as heart-warming if she was gung-ho about leaving and had no second thoughts about hurting her "mother's" feelings.


Now you have a pretty good idea of who this character is.  Next you have to make sure the character isn't irritatingly perfect, or irritatingly flawed.


6.) Does your character have 1 flaw for every 1 merit?
This is a pretty basic idea.  Take your index card/notebook/word document, split it down the middle, and start brainstorming the merits of your character on one side, and her flaws on the other.  If there's more on one half than the other, you may need to adjust.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.  Villains are allowed to have more flaws than merits, or vice versa.  Not all of these merits and flaws will be made immediately known to the reader, which is another thing to keep in mind.  Also, sometimes one huge merit can outweigh a ton of flaws, or vice versa.


7.) Are your character's merits/flaws trendy?  Over-used?
I'm sick to death of characters who "read too much" or are clumsy.  I would prefer to read about fresh characteristics, ones that haven't been over used.  Take a look at the real-life people around you, and "borrow" some of their merits and flaws.  Do you have the best dad ever? (My daughters do.)  Maybe your character can be an amazing father.  Do you know one of the "entitled generation?"  Maybe your character is arrogant and self-important.  These are much better than something we've read time and time again.


8.) Are your character's physical traits believable?
If you considered "too pretty" to be one of your character's flaws, just stop.  Just stop now.  It would be a fantastic, wonderful, amazing world if the physical characteristics of characters in fiction and literature mirrored the physical characteristics of people in the real world.  People are fat.  And thin.  And tall.  And short.  Some have duck feet.  Some are pigeon toed.  Some wear glasses, and some don't.  Race, gender, cultural background and time period are all things to consider when creating your characters.  Diversify, and you'll find it'll be more fun to write and more fun to read.


9.) Does your character have a backstory that makes us sympathize with her/him?
Imagine if Harry Potter had grown up a jerk instead of a modest young man.  Or if Annie hated the world because of the way she was treated in the orphanage.  These are a couple of instances in which the backstory makes the character more endearing.  It would be quite easy to use the backstory for these characters to try and force emotional reactions out of the reader, therefore turning him or her off of your story.  


10.) Will you or your readers be jealous of her/him?
There are two different kinds of jealousy.  One is the kind that makes you dislike a character and the other is the kind where you want to be that character (Tony Stark).  It's okay to give your characters good things in their lives, but make sure that they're believable, and that they move the story forward.  No one wants to read about Scrooge McDuck counting all of his precious gold all day with no conflict and no character development.  Giving a character things struggle with and things to rejoice about will make him or her more well rounded in the long run.


These intricacies will give your readers reasons to root for or against your characters in their endeavors.  Hopefully the passions in your characters will drive the story forward.


Oh, one more thing:
11.) Is your character the "Every Man"?


It's acceptable, maybe even encouraged, to have one character who is "normal."  He is the sounding board for everyone else's crazy.  The Jim Halpert or Arthur Dent, even Yossarian with all of his crazy is a "straight man" when the world around him goes insane.  Having one boring character amidst a handful of interesting ones is perfectly acceptable--and may be a relief for both writer and reader alike.

That being said, good luck writing your characters!  Keep them consistent, change them when the plot organically causes character development, and for goodness sake, don't stop writing!

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Fantasy Disneyland Schedule

My Fantasy Disneyland Schedule

I get to go to Disneyland without children this June.  Two days of childless bliss in the Happiest Place on Earth!  It’s very exciting.  Though I know it’s going to be hot, crowded and exhausting, I’m still thrilled for the chance.

I’ve been to Disneyland a couple dozen times over the course of my life and every time I go I learn something new--a new trick or treat that should make my next visit even more enjoyable.

Here’s my tentative schedule for this visit: (and please, feel free to comment with more advice!)

Thursday: California Adventure
*Since I haven’t spent as much time in the new park as the old, I’m a little less confident about our schedule on day 1.

7:30am - Arrive at Downtown Disney for a quick pastry (?) and purchase tickets as soon as the ticketbooths open.

8am - Parks open. Go straight to get a Fastpass for the Cars Ride, and for World of Color.

10am - Disney Visa Photo: Disney Visa Cardholders get a free character experience and a free photograph.  At least, last I checked.  I’ll have to look deeper into it when we get a little closer to the actual day.  Or I can ask an employee.

12 - Lunch.  We’ll be bringing our own lunch and snacks with us into the park, to try and avoid high prices of food.  Of course, I’m sure there will be things we’ll splurge on, anyway.  But this will help save a couple of bucks!  And make sure I (we?) stick on our diets.

Afternoon: Shopping, Shows, non-ride experiences.  We’ll make sure to hit the Animator’s Studio, Turtle Talk with Crush, some Parades (Phineas and Ferb!), the Muppet Show, photos with whichever characters we run into and wander through the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

*At this point in the afternoon, we could go into Downtown Disney to do some shopping and/or wandering around.  It depends on how hot and crowded it is, and how much shopping we’d like to do.

Dinner: Boudin Bakery for soup in a bread bowl.  Funny, how I live next to San Francisco and insist upon going to Boudin whenever I’m in Southern California.  They just do a fantastic job with the sourdough, no matter where they are.

Why no Character Meal?  We weighed the pluses and minuses of signing up for a character meal.  In the end we decided it was too expensive, the food choices were limiting, and we could meet characters throughout the park.  (If I was coming with my kids, I might reconsider.  Character meals are so. much. fun. with the little kids.)

We’ll have to get good “seats” for World of Color, which performs around 9:45.  It’s standing-room-only (SRO to some people), so I hope that we’re not too exhausted at the end of the day!  Then it’s back to the hotel to SLEEP so we can get up early and come straight back to the parks!

Rides to Hit:
Soarin’ over California
Goofy’s Flying School
Grizzly River Run
Toy Story Midway Mania
The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Luigi’s Flying Tires
Radiator Springs Racers
Monster’s Inc., Mike & Sully to the rescue!

Things to Skip:
Most of Bug’s Land (It’s great when you’ve got little kids, but the rides aren’t especially exciting for two footloose and fancy free adults.)
Upside Down Coaster
Mickey’s Fun Wheel
Disney Jr. Live on Stage (Again, this is a must-see with my 5 and 2 year old.  But not without!)
Aladdin Show**
Jellyfish Ride

**The reason I’m skipping the Aladdin show is this: I went with some good friends to watch the show, and during the performance Aladdin and Jasmine got caught on the carpet, hung upside-down, 50 feet in the air over the audience.  I don’t know if it was because I was there that it happened, but I’m not going to chance finding out.

Friday: Disneyland Proper
7:30am - Arrive early.  (Plan to, anyway.)  Same as the previous day.  Possible pastry in Downtown Disney, or mocha to really get the day started.

8am - The park opens.  This is the best time to meet some characters.  It’s early, and things aren’t flooded with people yet.  

9am - Straight back to Pixie Hollow, Fantasy Faire (as soon as they open) and then to Toon Town to meet Mickey and Co.

Getting character meet and greets out of the way first thing is a great idea, because it leaves the rest of the day open to rides and other experiences.  Besides, the further into the day it gets, the longer the lines become.

Rides to Hit:
Roger Rabbit
Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Matterhorn
Star Tours
Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
*Innoventions

Rides to Skip:
Gadget’s Go Coaster
Autopia
Submarine Voyage
Teacups
*Any ride with a long line.

I would be interested in a viewing of the Jedi Training Academy, though I feel like that would be much more entertaining with a child in our party.

Mid-Morning (Depending on how crowded it gets in the park, this may get pushed back to mid-day) - Get on train in Tomorrow Land, and ride it to New Orleans Square.  (I would be perfectly happy to spend the majority of my day in New Orleans Square/Main Street.)

Rides to Hit:
Jungle Cruise
Indiana Jones
Pirates
Haunted Mansion
Splash Mountain

Rides to Skip:
Tom Sawyer Island (or whatever they’re calling it now.  It will forever be Tom Sawyer Island to me.)
Winnie the Pooh.  (Though, we WILL hit the sweets shop next to that ride.)

12:50: LUNCH!  Mint Julep!  Reservations at the Blue Bayou restaurant.

Afternoon - Main Street Shopping, Touristy photos, Mary Poppins Cafe(?), Tiki Room(?).  A Dole Whip is a must.

Dinner - MANY options.  We can go pretty much anywhere in the park for dinner, though I insist that when we get our dinner, we go sit in front of the “Rivers of America” and wait for Fantasmic.  We can sit down as soon as they rope off the area to foot traffic, and play with our phones and write postcards while we wait.  FANTASMIC is a must.

Fireworks - Optional.  Main Street will be packed with people.  After Fantasmic is a great time to hit rides, while people are watching the Fireworks show.  This is an excellent time to hit the rides in New Orleans Square, because the lines are very short.  (Also, because families are starting to leave the park to get little ones in bed at a “reasonable” hour.)

10pm - Midnight - The park closes at Midnight.  We’ve got from the end of Fantasmic/Fireworks until then to wander and hit anything we may have missed.

What did I miss?  Is there anything you’d want to see that I didn’t mention?  Hit me up in the comments. :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

10 Steps to Creating Lovable, Believable Characters

10 Steps to Creating Lovable, Believable Characters

1.) What does s/he look like?
It's important to have a very good vision of your character's appearance in your mind while you write.  And keeping notes in a journal/notebook or on index cards is a good idea.  (Or another file in your computer, since that's what kids are doing now-a-days.)  That way you don't say the character has blue eyes in chapter 2, and then brown eyes in chapter 11.  Sometimes I cheat and steal certain characteristics from actors/actresses, that way I can just reference a picture when I need to.

2.) What does s/he act like?
Sometimes, when I take notes on my index cards, I put down things like "broods like Snape," or "curious like Alice."  I'll write things like "massive flirt," or "gets angry at the drop of a hat."  These notes help remind me that when I'm writing these characters, to make sure and keep their mannerisms and dialogue consistent.  It's confusing and frustrating when characters act a certain way at the beginning of the book, and change drastically by the end.  (Unless, of course, there is conflict and character development to help lead the characters to new personality traits.  For the purposes of character creation, though, make sure to take notes on how your character is at the beginning of the story.)

3.) What backstory would lead to that personality and/or appearance?
Keeping the backstory consistent with the character's physical description and personality description is really important.  If a character is covered in battle scars and gruff toward everyone, there has to be a reason for it.  Perhaps he was injured in a war, and is suffering from post traumatic stress.  (Mad-Eye Moody?)  Likewise, if a character is overly friendly, naive, and young, it's possible that this character has been sheltered her whole life. (Anna of Arendelle?)

4.) What are her/his goals?
If you don't know where your character wants to be in his or her life, character creation is a wonderful time to start brainstorming those things.  A very specific goal is very easy to write--and will drive the story forward.  It's when we get characters with conflicting goals that makes for good drama.  Where would The Fellowship be if Frodo hadn't decided to take the ring to Mordor?

5.) What are her/his fears?
Likewise, your character needs to have things that are holding her back.  Things she fears, things that make her more believable and well rounded.  A character with no internal conflict makes for boring reading, even if the external conflict abounds.  That iconic scene where Rapunzel reaches the ground outside of her tower in Tangled wouldn't be nearly as heart-warming if she was gung-ho about leaving and had no second thoughts about hurting her "mother's" feelings.

Now you have a pretty good idea of who this character is.  Next you have to make sure the character isn't irritatingly perfect, or irritatingly flawed.

6.) Does your character have 1 flaw for every 1 merit?
This is a pretty basic idea.  Take your index card/notebook/word document, split it down the middle, and start brainstorming the merits of your character on one side, and her flaws on the other.  If there's more on one half than the other, you may need to adjust.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.  Villains are allowed to have more flaws than merits, or vice versa.  Not all of these merits and flaws will be made immediately known to the reader, which is another thing to keep in mind.  Also, sometimes one huge merit can outweigh a ton of flaws, or vice versa.

7.) Are your character's merits/flaws trendy?  Over-used?
I'm sick to death of characters who "read too much" or are clumsy.  I would prefer to read about fresh characteristics, ones that haven't been over used.  Take a look at the real-life people around you, and "borrow" some of their merits and flaws.  Do you have the best dad ever? (My daughters do.)  Maybe your character can be an amazing father.  Do you know one of the "entitled generation?"  Maybe your character is arrogant and self-important.  These are much better than something we've read time and time again.

8.) Are your character's physical traits believable?
If you considered "too pretty" to be one of your character's flaws, just stop.  Just stop now.  It would be a fantastic, wonderful, amazing world if the physical characteristics of characters in fiction and literature mirrored the physical characteristics of people in the real world.  People are fat.  And thin.  And tall.  And short.  Some have duck feet.  Some are pigeon toed.  Some wear glasses, and some don't.  Race, gender, cultural background and time period are all things to consider when creating your characters.  Diversify, and you'll find it'll be more fun to write and more fun to read.

9.) Does your character have a backstory that makes us sympathize with her/him?
Imagine if Harry Potter had grown up a jerk instead of a modest young man.  Or if Annie hated the world because of the way she was treated in the orphanage.  These are a couple of instances in which the backstory makes the character more endearing.  It would be quite easy to use the backstory for these characters to try and force emotional reactions out of the reader, therefore turning him or her off of your story.

10.) Will you or your readers be jealous of her/him?
There are two different kinds of jealousy.  One is the kind that makes you dislike a character and the other is the kind where you want to be that character (Tony Stark).  It's okay to give your characters good things in their lives, but make sure that they're believable, and that they move the story forward.  No one wants to read about Scrooge McDuck counting all of his precious gold all day with no conflict and no character development.  Giving a character things struggle with and things to rejoice about will make him or her more well rounded in the long run.

These intricacies will give your readers reasons to root for or against your characters in their endeavors.  Hopefully the passions in your characters will drive the story forward.

Oh, one more thing:
11.) Is your character the "Every Man"?

It's acceptable, maybe even encouraged, to have one character who is "normal."  He is the sounding board for everyone else's crazy.  The Jim Halpert or Arthur Dent, even Yossarian with all of his crazy is a "straight man" when the world around him goes insane.  Having one boring character amidst a handful of interesting ones is perfectly acceptable--and may be a relief for both writer and reader alike.

That being said, good luck writing your characters!  Keep them consistent, change them when the plot organically causes character development, and for goodness sake, don't stop writing!

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Heroes: Nick Doan (and Gwen Dreyer)

My Heroes
Second Installment: Nick Doan (And Gwen Dreyer) I've decided to write a blog post every month about someone who inspires me.  A hero in one form or another.  As so much of my life is based around reading and writing, many of these heroes are bound to be writers, bloggers, creators, artists and musicians.  Though I'm sure I'll put other people in here, too. Gwen and I went to middle school and high school together.  She was the reason I stayed in Girl Scouts, even though we both thought it wasn’t “cool” anymore.  We danced and sang together in our high school’s version of show choir (Before Glee.  Before it was “cool.”) and acted together in several plays over the course of our friendship.  The two that stick out most in my mind are “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (she was the Snoopy to my Patty) and “Miracle on 34th Street” where we memorized “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and recited it while the community center’s preschool ballet class acted out the scenes.  Gwen asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding in 2006, and I returned the favor in 2007.  She did my make-up for my big day, by the way, and made me look absolutely beautiful.  To say that Gwen and I share some wonderful memories is an incredible understatement. I also have to thank Gwen for introducing me to her husband, Nick.  Talk about an awesome guy.  The two of them make a fantastic and inspiring team.  Whenever we get to spend time with them together, it’s obvious who is the Yin and who’s the Yang.  (You’ll have to meet them and figure it out on your own!)  Nick is a very talented writer, and his creative spirit and follow-through, along with some very supportive people, I’m sure, led to the publication of his graphic novel “Monster Elementary,” which I absolutely adore.  I think I bought 11 copies to send to my family and friends. Whenever my family and friends do something that I want to do myself (for example, publish work or run a marathon or put on a play) I do my best to be as supportive as possible.  Sometimes it’s difficult.  Sometimes my heart just isn’t in it.  With Nick (and Gwen) I have never had that problem.  Buying Fat Rabbit Farm books has never been a challenge.  I’m quite honestly a fan of everything I’ve bought that he’s produced.  And I’ll continue to show that support however I can. You can find out more about Monster Elementary by going to http://www.monsterelementary.com. For more on Fat Rabbit Farm’s books, try this link:
http://fatrabbitfarm.com/books.html.

Monday, May 5, 2014

8 Tips on Surviving an Outing with a Toddler

8 Tips on Surviving an Outing with a Toddler


1.) Don’t go.
Really.  Don’t go.  If you don’t have to go out, don’t.  It’ll save you time, energy, money and stress.  Mostly stress.  And hassle.  Send your husband, wife, or partner to the store.  Or, better yet, go when the little one is asleep.


But, if you do have to go…


2.) Only make one stop.
If your child gets as cranky as mine does/did, then one stop is about all you can handle.  All the excess gear (shopping cart cover, diaper bag, etc.) and getting the little one in and out of the car/carseat will add quite a bit of time to your trip.  More time than you plan for.


3.) Talk to everyone you can.
This is a ‘stay sane’ tip, because we all need those.  I found that being at home with a child all day long made me yearn for adult interactions.  I found myself striking up conversations with the Starbucks Barista, the Checker, the Teller, anyone who would be able to talk to me about recent events or the weather.


4.) Don’t be afraid to leave.
If your little one starts to make a mess, or scream, or misbehave, don’t be afraid to leave a cart full of groceries in the middle of the supermarket and take the child home.  Sometimes kids just need a nap.  These outings take a lot out of them.  

BUT don’t make a threat you’re not willing to follow through with.  “We’ll go straight home!” will work much better in future if you actually do drop everything and take the child home.  (And you may only need to do that once if you actually do it when you threaten to!)


5.) Bring snacks.
For you and for the child.  I cannot emphasize how important this one is.  You can bring snacks, or buy snacks--Goldfish are wonderful, but I’ve also found that grapes, raspberries and Crasins work really well--but making sure you have something to keep the blood sugar up, keep the hands and mouth occupied, and keep a little one sitting still is imperative to being able to accomplish anything while you’re out.  


6.) Use technology to distract.
What would you rather see: a screaming toddler throwing items out of a shopping cart, making a huge mess, causing a ruckus… or a calm, peaceful child watching Mickey Mouse or Elmo quietly on his parent’s phone, while the parent has both hands free to finish shopping quickly and take said child home?


That’s what I thought.


I don’t want to hear the garbage about “too much screen time” or “we didn’t use that sort of thing back in my day”... parents have a hard enough time as it is.  Don’t judge.


7.) Have extra supplies, just in case.
You know what I’m talking about.  My little one likes to leave a load at Target.  Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if we’re in that store, she dirties a diaper.  I’m often scrambling to get diapers and wipes.  You’d think I’d have learned this by now.  Always have extra supplies.  Uh-Oh clothes, diapers wipes, hand sanitizer and tissues are really helpful.


8.) Don’t cave.
Don’t cave to the “just throw it in the cart so we can get out of here” impulse that I’m sure will come over you.  Don’t cave to the “if I buy this one thing for you, will you be quiet?” instinct that kicks in.  Don’t cave to the “I’ll buy three of these so I don’t have to come back out again next week” knee-jerk reflex that so often comes along with shopping with a screaming kid.


Make sure you’ve accomplished what you need to accomplish, without too much frivolous extras.  There was a while when I couldn’t get out of a store without spending $100 and at least 90 minutes.  You can do better than I did.  Just be prepared.


I hope that this helps you with your outings.  Just remember that you will only encounter two types of people out there in the real world; those who are sympathetic and supportive, and those whose opinion doesn’t matter.

Good luck.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tiny Fanfic: Audrey Weasley


There was flour everywhere.  Literally.  The walls were coated in flour dust, there was a fine layer over the floor, the countertops, the cabinets, the windowsill.  Thankfully, a quick charm could clean up the white powder, but the damage was done.  The toddler sitting in the middle of the mess was laughing hysterically and waving her Mummy’s wand all over.

“No no, please!”  The tired mother, Audrey, was carrying a tiny infant against her chest.  It’d probably been three days since she’d had a chance to shower, and the poor woman couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept for more than four hours in a row--and even four was pushing it.  There was no sleeping when a baby wanted feeding and changing every ninety minutes.  “Molly, Molly, give Mummy the wand,” she said, bending down to take the wand from her older daughter.

“No!  Mummy!  No!”  The toddler, Molly, started to wail, kicking her feet and pumping her fists in the air.  It made a little puff of white dust all around her.  The wailing, though, woke her sleeping sister, who also started to cry.

“Molly!  For goodness’ sake!”  Audrey sighed, lifting the wand to wave it about.  She cast a quick cleaning charm on the cabinets, gently bouncing the now-awake-and-fussing baby in the sling against her chest.  She took a lap of the island in the middle of the kitchen to make sure that she cleaned the flour off of every surface.  “You know better than to play with Mummy’s wand!  Your father’s told you time and again that you need to…”

Audrey’s words trailed off, though, as she noticed that Molly wasn’t in her seat.  Lucy’s crying against her chest and the cleaning spell had distracted her.  “Molly?”  She asked, her heartbeat quickening.  “Molly??”

She heard the gate at the top of the stairs creak open.  “Molly!”  Audrey cried out, and rushed in that direction.  As Molly took a step forward and started to fall, Audrey flung her wand out in an S movement and cast a quick incantation of “Spongify!!”

Molly’s giggles could be heard all the way down the stairs as she bounced on the rubbery surface, and landed safely at the bottom.  Audrey decided it was time to let Daddy watch the girls, so she could have a nap.  And possibly a stiff drink.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How Are My Kids Growing So Quickly?

This year, 2014, my daughters turn 2 and 5.  I've seen a lot of posts on Facebook and other social media where people post about "on this day, x years ago, I went into labor..." where parents--mothers, mostly--remember fondly the time that led up to their children coming into the world.


I don't really remember much of my life before I had kids.  I know it's weird to say, and probably a little sad, but in all honesty, I don't really remember what that was like.  I think I stayed up all night on the computer a lot.  I imagine that it was easier to go see the movies that I wanted to see.  I must have worked.  I must have worked OUTSIDE the home.  I probably had to wash pee-soaked clothes less.  


That's besides the point.  The point of this post was supposed to be how fast the time goes.  I do remember clearly what it was like to have a newborn.  I remember the yellow, stinky poop leaking up her back out of her diaper.  I remember walking around the apartment all night long, bouncing her against my chest to try and get her to sleep.  I remember trying--and failing--to get mashed bananas out of clothes, burp cloths and blankets.  I fondly remember that front backpack, and carrying my girls around at the County Fair, Disneyland, the Tech Museum, and several Zoos.  I remember being able to dress them up as Hermione, a Snitch, an owl, Spider-Man, Minnie Mouse, Jessie and Tinkerbell.


Now things have changed.  Suddenly, it seems, my girls are developing into their own people--with strong personalities and wants and dreams of their own.  Alice doesn't like hard pants (jeans or khakis).  Claire didn't want to take off her Anna dress from Frozen after their joint birthday party.  Claire refuses to drink milk unless it has chocolate in it (mucka and shawcheet).  Alice called it "chalka nilk."  Both of my girls suck their thumbs.  Claire has a stuffed giraffe named "Georgie" that she cannot sleep without, and we were so nervous it's loss would cause devastation that we ordered a second one from Amazon.com.  Alice is reading, writing, and doing simple maths.


Next September, Alice will be starting Kindergarten, and Claire will be going to Montessori Preschool.  My children are school-aged.  No more babies for us.


On one hand, it's exciting to see what sort of young ladies my babies will grow into, but on the other I already miss the babies they were.


The next stage of life is exciting for all of us.  Girl Scouts are just around the corner, as is reading and writing longer sentences and stories.  We've already started playing video games with Alice, and doing puzzles with Claire.


Hopefully we're doing the right things.  So far it seems like we're on track.


Never got that instruction manual.