Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Today is October 31st, and you know what that means. People watching! Okay, so candy and pumpkins and costumes too, but it is yet early in the day and the best I can do is sit here in my costume no one gets (is Clara Oswin Oswald that obscure?) and watch out the window at the other students passing by in their costumes. It's more fun than it probably should be. I like Halloween because it's interesting to see who comes as what and how awesome their costumes look. So, here's a list of what I've seen so far today:

- The Doctor (11), both male and female
- The Doctor (4), male
- Aang
- A Kyoshi Warrior
- Dr. Horrible
- The Magic School Bus (functional, will take you where you want to go)
- The Men in Black
- Batman
- Superman
- Spider-Man
- Steampunk figures of all kinds
- The Knights of the Round Table, without horses but with a servant and coconuts
- Snow White
- Little Bo Peep
- Flynn Rider
- Rapunzel
- Jack Frost
- Various Harry Potter characters
- An Asian farmer
- Two Russians
- Charlie from "Lost"
- Finn the Human
- The fandoms (3 girls dressed as "Doctor Who," "Sherlock," and "Supernatural." They wore colors, clothes and motifs from the shows. I ran after them, but lost them.)
- Waldo
- Velma
- Carmen Sandiego
- The Dread Pirate Roberts
- Inigo Montoya
- Hard-core leather-clad bikers
- Peter Pan
- Buddy the Elf
- Gandalf
- A banana
- A gorilla
- A Stormtrooper
- A Jedi
- A character from "TRON"
- Rosie the Riveter
- A zombie
- A French girl
- Link

That's all I can think of now, and I'm sure I will continue to see awesome costumes as the day progresses. Last year I saw an excellent Zuko costume at a late-night Halloween party. Anyway, looking over this list, I'm starting to think that Halloween is becoming a holiday where you can let your geek flag fly. So many fandom characters. So many.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A "Huh" Moment

The thesis is moving well, and I've started dreaming about my characters. The climax in in full swing and I'm not sure I'm handling it well (that's what revision is for, right?) but the characters keep surprising me and they feel real. Hence the dreaming; I don't usually dream of my characters until they become real enough that I can't control them anymore. IT'S ALIVE!

Anyway, I workshopped the first story of my thesis last week and I've been looking over comments. One of the compliments I got - and yes, there was plenty of criticism; I'm working on it - was that I'm good at setting. A classmate commented that in this piece and another story I wrote the setting felt real. Nebraska feels like Nebraska and Alaska feels like Alaska. I've gotten this comment before about other works. I've been told that my stories make people feel like they're there. They see and smell and feel what that location looks and smells and feels like.

This was weird to me. I don't practice setting like I practice pacing (my weakest skill) and character (the most important skill, to me). But I don't think it's inherent. I've traveled a lot, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the written word. I thought about it, and I think I know why this is working.

I'm a fantasy writer. I need to be able to build a world and then inhabit it. I need to be able to describe everything in a fictional world, from the smells of the food to the feel of the rocks and wood, to how the people speak. I need to be able to sit in my world and watch. This is translating to stories I write in the real world; I sit and watch the people in my memories of these places, in the facts I read about them, in the pictures I look up. I worldbuild the real world.


I bet I'm not alone. I bet other fantasy writers are also finding setting easy or more colorful than expected. I hope so; that means that there is a technical benefit to writing speculative fiction. Worldbuilding translates well to any kind of writing. You can bet I'm going to teach my creative writing students worldbuilding.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thesis Rush

It's been a busy week, but I'm still going to try to post weekly. This may be a short post today. First off, I finished reading the novel Yesterday Again by Barry Lyga, the third book in the Archvillain series, and it was awesome. It was a good example of the ending being both unexpected but inevitable - I didn't see it coming, but once it came, it made sense. It changed the entire dynamic of the book, made it more serious and changed the direction. I like it, and I hope the series continues because I SO want to keep reading.

The reason the week's been so busy is due, primarily, to the fact that my master's thesis proposal is filed and now I need to focus my energy on writing the thesis. I got a start in September, but stopped for a while to focus on the prospectus. Now that's done and I need to get back to the thesis.

Not much to say on this, other than I'm working hard to write at least 1,000 words a day (about an hour's work, on an average day. I type fast), which means that on days I revise I need to make sure I'm still adding 1,000 words total, even after deleting some work. It can get long. But I'm happy with the direction of the plot right now, the pacing (sort of), and what my characters are doing.

The trouble is, my protagonist is evolving and I'm not sure what to do with it. When I started writing her, the biggest obstacle I thought she'd need to overcome would be external. I thought she'd need to manage her relationships with people and eventually escape from danger. Physical danger. Now, she's showing me that her greatest vulnerabilities are internal. She's haunted by her past to the point that it is speaking to her, preventing her from healing and moving on. It's good, I like it when my characters take over and show themselves for who they are, but it's going to cause some knotty problems later when I try to revise.

I'll keep you posted on writing developments and publishing. Nothing conclusive to say there, but I can tell you that I think it's going well.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

After My Vacation, Superheroes

I didn't really go on vacation. I just haven't posted in a while. I'm neck-deep in the semester and am trying to teach 1 1/3 classes (it makes sense, I promise) and stay on top of my own while finishing my thesis prospectus AND get a move on with my thesis. I hit writer's block with it, and it doesn't help when my fiction workshop takes a short story I wrote and asks that it become a novel.

Okay, that was flattering, I'll admit. But now I'm thinking about this story when I should be thinking about my thesis. And I am, thinking about my thesis, I mean. I'm just not anxious to work on it because I think I've got some serious revision ahead of me. Ah, who am I kidding, it's not going to be that bad. I'm just lazy and impulsive. The new idea involves superheroes, though.

Without giving too much away (my story, my idea, MINE, PRECIOUS!), my story features superheroes. I look at the superhero genre in a new way, one that apparently doesn't come to mind. The short story undermines some expected tropes of superhero-ness, and my class liked that. They also want a novel, which made me think in terms of novel, and now, guess what, the story has metamorphosed into a novel. I'm worried about keeping up the fresh view of superheroes.

I figure that in order to keep undermining and twisting superhero cliches I need to know them. So, today, I am using my blog as prewriting and am going to list superhero cliches so I know them and can undermine them...NOW:

- Colorful costumes and masks
- Love interest is not a superhero and often not all that bright
- Many villains per one hero
- Heroes use brawn, villains use brains, brains lose
- Superheroes are young, fit, and beautiful
- Superheroes are created through accidents, an act of fate
- Superheroes are noble and selfless
- Technology is very advanced and not well understood
- Things fall from space. A lot. With ghastly consequences.
- Scientists are prone to test experiments on themselves
- Lab accidents happen all the time
- People are always falling from buildings
- Heroes live in a big city
- Superheroes always seem to mutate/get powers that are helpful and don't cause medical trouble
- Superheroes work for newspapers, are scientists, or are independently wealthy
- Hero backstory often contains some traumatic event that caused hero to fight for justice (or revenge, or whatever)
- Secret identity remains hidden to the world at all times (not even families know)

That's all I can come up with now. If you have any other superhero cliches I'm not thinking of, I'd be very grateful if you could tell me in the comments.

Also, anyone else watching "Agents of SHIELD"? I greatly enjoy it!