How long until we can just manufacture celebrities? Not that long, it seems. While this project was estimated to cost between $100K and $400K, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that technology will likely drop in price like technology is known for doing. Expect concerts by dead rock stars in the near future.
The next question, of course, is when will the artist become obsolete? Sure, you’ll still need technicians and programmers to make this kind of thing work, but when will we not need actual talented individuals to sing, dance, and perform for the crowd? How long until we have synthetic artists, totally artificial constructs?
The point where I will know my livelihood is in danger is when someone develops a program that writes, paints, or composes music, when a computer can be programmed with something akin to imagination.
Slippery slope? Nope. How much do you think publishers, record labels, and studios would kill for an employee that puts out material and never has to be paid?
Well, THIS is how I like to remember 2Ppac… His own voice, his own words.
It took years of research to bring characters such as these to life... not the ones in the pic. I mean REAL characters.
April 10, 2012
Characters are funny.
I’ve been writing since I was in fourth grade. And by that I mean stories, not just writing in general. I can’t for the life of me remember the names of any of my early characters, but I can certainly remember the ideas and images that made e want to use them. Characters, I found out early enough, need to be able to breathe. They must feel real and alive.
A character does whatever a character does.
I found this out playing Dungeons and Dragons, too. Most monsters are faceless and nameless thugs, thieves, demons, and occasionally fey who are there to provide a good combat challenge. For the big dogs, though, the characters that become recurring villains, I have to do a little more work. The same thing goes for Charcoal Streets. I need to sit down and figure out what makes these guys tick. Once I do that, I can put them in a situation and see what they do.
It’s an interesting thought exercise, but it’s not something out of reach for most people. If you don’t have time to make up your own characters, try to figure out what two established characters would do in a situation. What would happen if you put Richard Riddick in a maze trap designed by Jigsaw? All the people he could just let die and not care… but what WOULD make someone like that care? How could you raise the stakes?
When I designed my current D&D campaign’s primary villain, I set to make her something that would resonate with everyone and just let the interactions color future installments.
Her name is Keyleth Greymoon. She was a paladin of light until her xenophobia and paranoia made her leave her unti with several dozen soldiers in an attempt to gather power to “properly protect” her realm. This included trying to free a fallen angel and killing every non-fey in an isolated valley.
At first, she was just a xenophobe. She was particularly sickened by our half-elf rogue whom she called a half-human and, infamously for my players, a “half-breed bitch.”
Two and a half years later and they’re still steamed at her about that.
And that’s when I knew I’d made a memorable character. The line was ad-libbed. It sounded like something Keyleth would say, but it struck such a chord among my friends, all of whom abhor any sort of racism or elitism, that Keyleth is still around and the mere mention of her makes their skin boil. There are other incidents, but they all started with a few background notes.
I have similar notes for the characters of Charcoal Streets. Miguel, Carmen, Luz, Father Flores… if you think I don’t know their favorite drinks, hobbies, and hang-outs. You’re sadly mistaken. I know why Carmen prefers Glock pistols. I know what Father Flores’ tattoo means. I know why Miguel lives in that crappy apartment.
It’s all in the details, in the little things that nudge a character. Make sure you know what your characters do. Let them breathe. Let them have a drink, a smoke, and go to bed with whatever or whomever they want.
Characters are trees. You can’t tell where the branches will go. Just let them grow.
And now, until the next post, please enjoy dumb people this month.
It’s been a LONG week. I’ve got sunburn over my entire face and I feel sick and tired like… well, it’s just been a rough, long week. To make up for it, I’m bringing you a LOT of links full of epic randomness, as well as some short films, AND I’ll be writing a flash fiction for Monday, AKA the holiest day of the year. See you Monday!
I think we can all agree that children’s drawings are creepy by themselves, but make them into stuffed toys in real life and they are totally cute. Yeah, I called these beasts of nightmare cute. You gonna argue?
The Divide is the classic tale of nuclear war and the people who survive in an underground bunker and must fight their own demons. And it’s got Michael Biehn. Sounds good to me!
I’ll admit I don’t play a lot of video games, but I’d be wierded out too if I saw any of these creepy game glitches.
And speaking of cheese and blood, an 18-year old filmmaker named Emily Hagins from Austin just got distribution for her vampire film, My Sucky Teen Romance. Looks interesting and is defiantly written with the genre in mind.
Apparently, they’re filming a new Resident Evil movie and two dozen or so extras were injured. I read this story and the only thing I got out of it was… Michelle Rodriguez is in it? Didn’t she die in the first one?!
I’m not going to give it away, but… okay, just watch this commercial and a) try to guess what it’s selling and b) try to guess the ending.
And finally, as promised, a short film by the creator or Trick ‘r Treat, as well as some creepy and really cool promos. Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Monday, Halloween 2011!
It’s Mexican Independence day! To me, this is a bittersweet holiday. Yes, it marks Mexico proclaiming itself a sovereign nation. On the other hand, the country is enslaved by the cartels. Right across the border, just a few miles from where I wright this, two people were tortured and publicly displayed for writing negative things about the Zetas. We have a long way to go, but I’d like to start by ending this stupid war on drugs.
And speaking of things that were probably influenced by drugs, let’s get some links out there and catch up with the week’s stories.
To all the new freshmen in college, please, for the love of Bob, don’t do this.
And speaking of bad decisions, could celebrities please stop taking naked pics of themselves with their phones? You, the thing that can be hacked? Unlike that camera that you need to physically get to retrieve said pictures? The reaction to Scarlet Johansson’s leaked nude pics has ranged from everything from an FBI investigation to the internet having a collective seizure. Because the internet, as you know, has been seen naked boobs and butt.
Nancy Upton entered a contest for American Apparel. She satirized what I can only describe as really unflattering images of women that look like they need a sandwich. Her pics were… well, they were unique. She’s confident, has a sense of humor about herself and the company, she looks wonderful and natural, and she won the contest by a large margin… and now American Apparel is saying they won’t go with her because she’s not targeting their demographic. Hypocrites, anyone?
Disney does not have the best record when it comes to acknowledging the audience’s intelligence. However, some of their older animators didn’t react too kindly to the higher-ups changing the name of a movie to make it more descriptive since audiences “might not get it.” The result is pure sarcasm and gold.
And finally, Nice Peter came out with another Epic Rap Battle. Mister Rogers all the way! Represent! And I’ll see you all on Monday!
And speaking of things that are fun and bring us joy, every time a new harry Potter movie or book comes out, without fail, we get the psychos. Pat Robertson is already out in full force, but this gentleman takes the cake. Yeah, he’s a comedian, but the scary thing is that I’ve heard people who talk like him.
The Amazing Spider-Man is coming out next year, and we’ve already been treated to a blurry teaser filmed in a movie studio. That doesn’t mean we can’t look back on the old cartoon and guess at the kinds of things we can expect from a darker take on our favorite web-slinger.
Look, I’ll be the first to say that watching a bunch of dumb white kids go after weird noises and die ironic and elaborate deaths at the hand of a lovable sociopath is fun. I’ll be the first to say that a creepy sound in a quiet room can make most of us jump. I will admit that a well-done horror movie gets the blood pumping and the adrenalin going. A really good horror film can be an exercise in suspense, drama, and character growth.
This, I guarantee you, is none of those.
Yes, the franchise that just won’t die, even with a Mozambique Drill, napalm, and a kryptonite shiv in its back, is back for another installment. This time, it seems as if Death collapses a bridge and the survivors must once again try to outrun Death much the way trees outrun winter. This time, if the trailer is to be believed, the rules have changed!
Maybe Death got a gun and became more efficient.
Seriously, though, I remember when the first movie came out. The idea seemed interesting, if claustrophobic. If Death is after you, game over. How do you escape something like that? Well, according to the movie, you don’t. Big whoop. Even Ali Larter, who managed to survive in two installments, finally met her fiery end.
This film series, along with the many Saw remakes, are part of the reason torture porn is getting such a bad rep. Pretty much any slasher film will contain violent and gory shots, but that isn’t tension. I love a gory shot… if it has some sort of context. The Final Destination movies are really just a series of scenes wherein everything from a pebble to an escalator can kill you. There is no tension. You know people are going to die. The only question is the how. If we focus on one character, hey, guess what? That character’s dead. There is no getting around it.
Oddly, one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in the last few years is gorier and bloodier than the Final Destination films. Hatchet has about as clichéd a set-up as possible. Tourists go into the New Orleans bayou and encounter an undead hulk that butchers them with everything from the titular hatchet to a sander.
The difference? There was an actual sense of drama as to who would die and when. People had options. They made plans that didn’t actually depend on a deus ex machina coming in and killing them in the most contrived way possible. I know, I know. In most slasher films, you have to assume virtually no one will survive, but Final Destination takes away any pretense of drama and just shows us people being tortured because Death is far too much of a dick to just give you a heart attack or drop you out of a window.
It has to take you out with Freddy Krueger-like flair.
If you’re anything like me, you love you some science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There’s nothing better than an epic space battle with battleships the size of Alaska blasting each other with nuclear-yield weapons, a suspenseful chase as a vicious killer chases the last remaining protagonist you actually like, or the swarms of eldritch sigils flying through the air as a practitioner of the dark arts invokes otherworldly powers to crush his foes.
As much as I’m a fan of the genre, there are those things that just… bug me. Really bug me. They’re things that seem to have just taken hold of the collective imagination for both writers and fans. They’ve become standard, not necessarily something you choose to use. Imagine if you suddenly found out that you didn’t need to use a ball to play baseball and could use rocks, or if you learned that cars could easily be built with three wheels and we picked four because, well, someone did it like that first.
Look at The Ring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism. What do they have in common aside from mentally tormented young girls and an overuse of the term “exorcism”? If you guessed a white nightgown, you’re right.
I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure The Exorcist started this one. It made sense back then. Regan was a young girl who was thought to be sick, so it makes sense mommy dearest put her in her sleeping gown to make her comfortable. But why oh why did every woman dealing with a ghost or demon (or herself a ghost) have to wear this now? It’s like the similarly ridiculous “ black trench coat = mysterious badass” mentality.
Why not a hospital gown or even regular clothes? Why not just regular pajamas? The easy answer is that such clothes can easily date a character, but a nightgown is something that, at least today, looks old. How many women out there own a nightgown like the ones worn in these films? Anyone?
What’s that? An alien ship approaching your interstellar flagship? Oh no! It’s organic! It appears to have been grown by an advanced civilization. All its systems are carbon-based weapons and armor. All your ship has is a laminated alloy hull with ceramic plates for heat dissipation, high-powered coilguns, and thermonuclear missiles.
Really, though, this one is just plain annoying. It’s hard to really pin down where this one started. Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee Timeline stories have a version of this little cliché wherein the god-like Xeelee “grow” their technology, although it’s not organic, so the description is a bit vague. Babylon 5, Star Wars (New Jedi Order), and even Battlestar Galactica to an extent all used the assumption that organic technology is superior to simple metal and artificial materials designed from the ground up to perform a specific task.
Do you think “organic” is better? Would you rather wade into battle with a vest made of hardwood or advanced ceramics and Kevlar built to withstand such strain?
Would you rather have a dozen mathematicians in a room perform split second calculations for orbital reentry or have a single computer system built with accuracy to the trillionth degree?
Would you rather have an artificial weapon, like a gun that fires ferrous slugs at a fraction the speed of light, or biological weapons that are indiscriminate, can be killed by extreme temperature and radiation, and may even mutate?
This one’s a personally sore spot for me. For a show like Star Trek, one which claims to be multicultural, to not have a single prominent Hispanic character besides the animalistic B’Elanna Torres is inexcusable. Want to know how many Hispanic characters I can count in speculative fiction?
Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), Bender from Futurama, and Vazquez from Aliens.
Adama doesn’t count because although he’s played by a Mexican American actor, he does not portray a Hispanic character.
It seems that, in the future, there are no Mexicans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, or anything else. We’ve got Europeans, Asian-inspired culture to pander to the anime crowd, and some assorted ethnicities for flavoring. But where are the Mexicans?
Or the Costa Ricans? Brazilians? Chileans? Iraqis? Turks? Libyans? Anyone brown?
I really can’t find a good example of these demographics in speculative fiction. Sorry. Any idea?
Why do writers still use these ideas? The best explanation is that at some point, it sounded or looked cool. The nightgown made sense from a storytelling perspective. Biological technology has some useful applications. At one point, Latin Americans were a fringe minority. We know better today, and yet these ideas linger on. These are only three little clichés, but I was thinking about them this weekend. There are many more, and maybe I’ll explain some later.
In the meantime, enjoy these links, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.
Do you want to be an artist? That can mean so many things. Maybe you want to sketch on the weekends. Maybe you want to make a living in graphic design. Some people dream of writing a best-selling, critically acclaimed novel…
Well, guess what?
Talent and connections mean crap if you want to be an artist. Do you want to create something the world’s never seen before? I don’t care if you use acrylic or a camera. Every artist, every one, needs five basic things.
If you’re serious about making it as an artist, be prepared to tighten your belt. A full-time job is nice and pays the bills, but if you’re willing to risk it all, be ready to take something less. Tutoring, classes at the local college, plasma donations, or anything at all that helps pay the bills and gives you the time to work is preferred to a 7 AM to 8 PM job. That kind of schedule is a killer on its own and you’re liable to burn out in just a month if you try to jam everything in.
Don’t be ashamed to taking a less time-consuming job, even if it means you make less. I can’t stress enough how much this is a FULL commitment and is probably an optional part of this list. If you have the drive to see it through until you finish that book or that series of paintings, this is the best thing you can do if you can manage it.
Plenty of writers and writing teachers (myself included) believe that you should be able to write or paint or draw no matter where you are. Don’t have your favorite camera? Use a disposable. Computer’s on the fritz? Pen and paper work just fine.
Well… that’s fine if you have no choice, but if you’re going to devote hours of your time per day to something, you need a space that’s your own.
It doesn’t even have to be a full room. It could be the kitchen table, but make the space personal. Listen to music. Have a few books with poems, artwork, or photographs handy if you need a little reference or inspiration. Make sure you’re comfortable.
Do anything and everything so the space is a place you wish to revisit over and over again. Take control.
Thing you’re going to eat at fancy restaurants or sip coffee with likeminded misanthropes in some trendy coffee bar? Think again, Sparky.
Creating art takes time. I’m talking real time. Hours a day, months or even years at a time. While you may go out once in a while, you’re not getting your meals from a restaurant on a daily basis unless you have the cash handy and saved up. Likewise, don’t count on instant meals. Those things have so much salt in them that you’ll shoot your system before you can finish your masterpiece.
Learn to make the best of pasta, vegetables, chicken, and fish. Of course, there are other foods you can use, but make sure you get enough to keep you going.
Orson Scott Card once wrote that every writer needs two critics: one who never lies and one who piles on nothing but praise.
Find someone who will shower you with praise. That someone could be a spouse, partner, child, whatever. Just find someone who will point out the great things about your work. The important thing, though, is to not pile on false praise. Find someone who will see the true good points in your work.
And the other critic? It should be someone who wants to kill you just to watch you die.
Seriously. Find someone who will find the most minute errors in your work, everything from a wayward piece of dust to a misplaced comma.
You want both because hearing the positive critic will make you receptive to the negative critic. You’ll find the mistakes in your work and not feel down because, well… you found the mistakes in your work.
There are two types of artists: those who cry at criticism and those who say they don’t cry at criticism.
Good work takes time. I won’t pretend I fully understand when a work is done. Frank Herbert once wrote that in the Dune universe, Arrakis taught the philosophy of the knife: you cut away until a work was complete.
Learn this basic trait. At some point, you’re no longer editing or honing your craft. You’re stalling.
Okay, I’m a carnivore and know that meet comes from animals that must be killed… but do you really need a bullet that could take down a battle tank?! Look, if you need a gun that shoots an anti-tank round and you use it to hunt ducks, you’re about as hung as a Ken doll.
You’ve got your notebook. You have an idea. In fact, you’ve rearranged your schedule so you have an hour, maybe less, each day when you can write. You already have a great story for a novel you think may be the next American classic.
And ten minutes into writing, you get tired and feel like stopping.
Welcome to the life of a writer, buddy. It’s lonely and smells like chair.
Look, I’ve sat through movie marathons. I watched the extended cut of Lord of the Rings. Hell, I stood outside a movie theater for eight hours once waiting to see a movie. Might have been one of the Star Wars prequels.
Anyway, patience is a virtue in this game just like any other job. Yes, you’re sitting down, but think of all the things you’re doing. You’re thinking critically. You’re hitting keys at five or six strokes a second if you’re a fast typist. You sit in a chair for a long time, an hour, maybe two at a time. You’re going to get tired.
If you’re going to be plopped down on a chair for hours at a time, take some time to walk. Seriously. If you work in an office, take a five minute break and walk downstairs, up the stairs, around the building, to the bathroom, to your car, back, whatever, but just get moving. Your legs are going to cramp up.
In the long-term, try and get into an exercise routine. You don’t have to be Tony Horton or anything, but do stretch and try and do some cardio and some strength-building exercises. Push-ups (on your knees or feet) work pretty well. Jumping jacks are nice and simple. A few minutes of each, alternating, work wonders to wake you up and give you a little boost of energy. You don’t even have to get weights or anything like that. Just move and keep your heart-rate up.
If you’re going to be sitting down, you need to keep your limbs moving or you’re going to cramp.
I’ve been doing regular exercise for a while now and got on P90x about a year ago. I found that keeping the body healthy is SO crucial to writing well. If the body’s not happy, the mind gets dull.
Here’s a little trick teachers use. Or at least my mom and I use this trick. When planning a lesson, we take the average age of the group and add five to it. That’s the maximum amount of minutes that person can keep his or her attention span on a single task. After that, the brain starts to wander.
What does this mean for you, the writer? It means that, if you’re twenty, every half hour or so, you need to step away from the computer for a minute and do something else. Forget the story. Forget the deadline. Forget that you forgot to walk the dog.
In fact, walk the dog.
Do anything else for five minutes.
Listen to a song at high volume. Put on some classical music and zone out. If it’s late at night, grab a beer or some bourbon or something. Just clear your head.
There is such a thing as burnout, and if you’re typing at maximum speed, this maximum attention might be a lot lower. Next time you think you’re getting a little burned out, check the clock. Your age might be betraying you.
And the number one tip for avoiding fatigue at the desk…
Seriously. Look, whether you’re inputting rows of data (been there), trying to meet a deadline (also been there) or just trying to create something that will touch people and not be ridiculed because it sucks (I live there), you need to have fun with it.
Play a game. Bet yourself you can make a certain word count. Listen to fun music while you’re working if you can. Write something funny just to see how it sounds, then delete it if you have to. Just… laugh.
If you’re not having fun, it’s going to show in your work. It will come out as artificial and forced. This is a job, yes. It’s a business. it’s a career for some of us, a hobby for others. But you can’t do a good job if you’re straining to punch out every key.
And that’s it. It really does boil down to keeping everything in good working order. You don’t have to set alarms to keep track of your attention span, and I’m not asking you to go on an all-protein diet and lift three times your body weight. I’m just saying there are little things you can do to make writing, or just sitting at a desk, better for you.
Thanks to everyone for sticking around during the long hiatus. I’ll see you Monday, hopefully with a new Charcoal Streets story, but I can’t really promise that because… well…
I’m going to be in San Antonio at the Texas Deer Association Conference.
Yeah. Weird, but VP Productions is doing a lot of work with ranchers and a lot of them will be there this weekend.
Billy the Blue Power Ranger is gay! My childhood is shattered! Either that or I’m happy for him for coming out and wish him good luck and a good response from the fans. And if you have a problem with this, just remember that you’re mad because a guy who you used to watch running around and doing acrobatics in blue spandex turned out gay. Yeah, that’s what i thought.
This is by no means a blanket statement on the armed forces (I have way too many friends who served or are serving our country), but it’s really disturbing that some soldiers are apparently water-boarding their own children.
For a trip to the land of “What If,” check out these movie posters of films that never were. They’re all real films, but thee posters ask what would have happened if earlier directors had tried making them. My fave is the Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing version of Ghostbusters. The Sam Peckinpah version of Wolverine staring Clint Eastwood is a close second.
And finally, here’s the trailer for a new show called The Walking Dead. I can’t recall another series that dealt with zombies, but since we’ve already got vampires pretty well covered, it seems like the next logical step. It almost looks like an Americanized 28 Days Later, but we’ll see how it turns out.