Day eight’s assignment blends in nicely with something that I’ve already said for several of these topics, which is that people care more about you if they feel like they know you. That’s why having a good “About” page is an important asset. Your “About” page is a place where you can talk a little about yourself, show the world who you are, and hopefully make prospective readers feel like they’ve become familiar enough with you to be interested in what you have to say on a day-to-day basis.
That’s why day eight’s assignment is create and publish your About page, and adapt it for a widget on your home page.
You might not think that having an “About” page is really all that important, but let me tell you this: I’ve been posting on this blog for over two years now, and of all the posts I’ve written, my “About” page is the most visited page on this blog. That means that on a regular basis, people wander past my blog, stop for a second, and then click on the “About” page to see – duh – what I’m all about. Whether or not they decide to stick around after that point is their own call, but without that “About” page, many prospective readers may have simply wandered back to wherever they came from, uninterested in someone who isn’t even willing to give a little bit of personal info.
I’ll admit now that before I came across this particular assignment, my “About” page was not thrilling. I hadn’t thought about it in a while and when I went to take a look I found this:
No Page Left Blank is a blog by Tracey Lynn Tobin, pre-published writer.
I am a 29-year-old Instrumentation Tech by trade, a writer by choice, happily married, and I have a three-year-old daughter. My aspirations are to publish some of the many novels and short stories I have in the works. My favorite genres are fantasy and horror, and I have a particular fondness for zombies.
Not an overwhelmingly interesting little blurb, is it? There are a couple of important bits of information in there, such as the pre-published writer bit, and perhaps people might be a little bit interested when they see that I’m a tradeswoman, and that I like zombies. But there is so much more to know about me, so many more things that I could mention that would possibly help convince people to stick around on my blog. So, in light of this assignment and that realization, I decided to do a little rewrite. My “About” page now reads:
Well hello there! Thanks for dropping by! My name is Tracey Lynn Tobin, and you’ve stumbled onto my blog!
I’m a pre-published author of various genres of fiction, who moonlights as an industrial instrumentation technician (tradeswoman, for short). I’m happily married to the man who turned me into a zombie-maniac, and we have a three-year-old daughter who is already more into superheroes than I could ever hope to be. When I’m not working on my blog, I’m writing mainly in the horror and fantasy genres, but I’ve also been known to dabble in supernatural, sci-fi, and even a little bit of romance. On the blog I discuss everything from my writing process, to the wonderful world of parenting, to my goals and aspirations, and whatever happens to spark my interest at any given time. My ultimate desire? To become a published author and spend my life writing awesome books.
Want to know a little more? Here you go!
See how that’s a lot more informative, a lot more personal, and a lot more fun? Now, if given the chance, which of the “About” pages would inspire you to stick around, hmm?
The second part of the assignment is, of course, to adapt your “About” info for a widget for your home page, and while I understand the importance for such a thing, I’m going to skip it. Why? Well, as a writer who plans to be published sometime in the future, I’ve already taken the leap of sharing a personal photo on my blog, and while a blurb from my “About” info would be nice as well, I feel that the photo itself is enough. Lots of bloggers aren’t going to want to share something like a photo because it puts you out there to the world in a way that not everyone wants, and in such a case an “About” widget would be an excellent compromise. Myself, I think that when people see my photo it’s enough of a jump-start toward convincing them to stick around for a moment, and hopefully that moment leads them to the “About” page. If I’m wrong, please let me know. I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again.
So go ahead, have some fun! Make your “About” page one that gets people interested!
Fellow bloggers, do you ever peruse the spam section of your comments folder? I’ve been flipping through there lately whilst permanently deleting them, and I’ve got to say it’s quite a riot. The spelling and grammatical errors, the blatant inability to properly speak English, the giant walls of Chinese character text, the ceaseless waves of adds trying to sell me things like Viagra. It’s really quite amusing. That said, thank the makers of WordPress that the spam filter on this site seems to work really, really well. I think if I had to put up with all this stuff popping up in my main comments folder every day I would absolutely lose my mind. 😛
Okay then, let’s get on with it!
Health and Body Image Goal
Last week was the very embodiment of “sitting on the fence”, wavering between healthfulness and the exact opposite of thus. See, last week my husband, our daughter, and I went on a shopping trip. We traveled one province over to Fredericton, New Brunswick and shopped for two days straight…then we drove backwards a little to Moncton and shopped for another day…and then drove all the way back to Halifax and shopped for another day before finally heading home in the late hours of the night. Now the thing about four straight days of shopping is that it involves a lot of walking (healthful), and in our case also a lot of carrying the baby around because she’s a lazy little bugger (healthful to everything except my back). By all rights, by the end of that trip I should have lost about five pounds, that’s how much “exercise” I got. Ah, but then there’s the other part of a four-day shopping trip away from home…fast food. Yeah. I believe we had a healthy breakfast on two of those days, and an actual restaurant supper on one of them. Everything else was Tim Hortons coffee and donuts, Taco Bell Big Box Meals, and A&W Chubby Chicken Wraps. It goes without saying that no, I didn’t lose any weight while I was on this trip.
In other news, however, the leak in our basement that I mentioned in yesterday’s post – along with the overwhelming stench of cat urine that I couldn’t seem to locate the origins of – led me to began scouring down the basement yesterday. I’ve got it clean almost back to the pellet stove, which (you’ll have to trust me on this one) was a good bit of work. I have some more to do throughout this week, but the point is that soon I’ll have my basement back in working order and cleared of all the junk that we’ve been tossing down there, and I’ll be able to start exercising down there again. That’s not to say that I will (I’m a terribly fickle person, you see), but that’s my intention. Those of you who pray, please pray for me to have some motivation, please and thanks.
This one stands exactly where it stood last week. I’m still transcribing my notebooks (they seriously feel as though they’re never going to end), and through this am also editing as I type. By all rights I should be working on editing my zombie apocalypse since that was the original subject of this goal, but these notebooks are another distraction like the supernatural romance was – I feel like if I don’t get them out of the way I won’t be able to focus on my apocalypse. It’s really quite frustrating. Sometime in the future I have to figure out how to better organize myself. I’m the very stereotype of the scatterbrained writer who can’t keep track of anything they do.
1,000,000 Word Goal
Because of the aforementioned shopping trip, I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to write this week. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. The trip had a purpose, one which we achieved gloriously in my opinion, so that’s all there is to it. Despite this distraction which tore me away from my writing, however, I did manage to pluck out 11418 words. Most of that was morning pages, but there’s a bit of blogging and transcription in there as well.
And with that, I have a mini-goal for myself. My best week yet was somewhere in the range of 24,000. This week I’m going to try to break 30,000. That’s over 4200 words per day. It will be very difficult, I think, but all the transcription I have to do will surely help me. Wish me luck!
The third week of The Artist’s Way is about “recovering a sense of power”. This week looks into several concepts. One of these is anger, and how we should use angry feelings toward ourselves (“Oh my god, I’ve gotten so fat!”) to reveal those things in our lives which we need to be focusing on.
Another of the topics is “synchronicity”, which basically refers to great things that happen to us (coincidences, most of us call them) that help us work toward our goals. Most of us ignore these things, (“Sure, I met this awesome writer agent who is really friendly and helpful, but it’s totally a coincidence and she won’t want to read my manuscript.”) because we’re more scared of actually achieving our goals than never achieving them.
And the third topic is shame, which most of us have way too much of. We think poorly of ourselves because of concepts that society forces on us (“Artist’s are just lazy people who don’t want to get a real job.”) and that keeps us from following our dreams and goals for ourselves.
As of the writing of this post I haven’t been able to find the time to work on any of the tasks for this week, but there is one exercise that was in the bulk of the chapter itself that I thought I could share. It’s a series of “finish this sentence” lines that are meant to evoke some thought and emotion into who you are and what is important to you, as well as your feelings about certain concerns and issues that might be blocking your creativity.
The bold part of the sentence is the prompt, and the normal font is my response.
1. My favorite childhood toy was…probably my Super Nintendo. I can think of dozens of other toys that I absolutely loved, but the SNES holds a special place in my heart, along with such games as Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III(VI), and Uniracers (yes, Uniracers…shut up!).
2. My favorite childhood game was…Jailbreak. It goes by other names in different areas, so for clarification it’s basically hide-and-seek in the dark, where “it” sends people to “jail”. If one of the hiding kids is able to get to the “jail” without “it” catching them, he/she can yell “JAILBREAK!” and everyone runs off to hide again.
3. The best movie I ever saw as a kid was…probably the first live-action Ninja Turtles movie. I saw tons of movies as a kid, but I can specifically remember waiting in line at the theater to see this one and I was definitely not disappointed.
4. I don’t do it much but I enjoy…reading. I read more than most people I know, but still not much considering that it’s one of my favorite things to do. I love reading, but it takes up so much time that I don’t have.
5. If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself…attend a “Write-In” during National Novel Writing Month. “Write-In”s are basically when a group of writers were are participating in NaNoWriMo get together and hang out at a cafe or at someone’s house and just enjoy each others company while trying to write as much as possible. There are a couple in the next town over every year but I never go because it feels like a very un-adult thing to do for some reason.
6. If it weren’t too late, I’d…go away for college. The degree I got has served me well, so the university I attended was fine, but I always regretted not going away just to experience the whole “dorm life” thing.
7. My favorite musical instrument is…the guitar. It has always been a little difficult for me to play since my fingers are so short, but it’s more fun than the piano, and I just love the sound of a good acoustic guitar.
8. The amount of money I spend on treating myself to entertainment each month is…almost non-existent. In the past couple of months I’ve spent a bit of money on video games for the Vita my husband bought me, but normally I don’t really spending anything at all. If you work it out monthly over the course of a year it’s probably less than $10.
9. If I weren’t so stingy with my artist I’d buy her…some craft courses. There are lots of awesome-sounding writing courses on WANA International and Writer’s Digest, but I just can’t bring myself to spend money on my writing when I have no way of knowing if I’ll ever make any back.
10. Taking time out for myself is…almost impossible. When I was working out West I was accounted for 23-hours of the day, and when I’m home I can’t even sneak away for two minutes without the baby hunting me down and wanting something.
11. I am afraid that if I start dreaming…I’ll crash and burn. I’ve been allowing myself a hope and prayer for the past while, but it’s a tenuous grasp. I worry that I’ll put all this effort into something that I never get anything back out of.
12. I secretly enjoy reading…all these cheesy sexy-vampire-novels-that-are-marketed-toward-teenagers that are out these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still like my vampires to be scary-ass monsters that will rip your throat out, but there’s also an inherent charm to the sexy ones, especially if they’re sexy and dangerous.
13. If I had had a perfect childhood I’d have grown up to be…a writer, for sure. It’s what I’ve wanted since the third grade, so if everything had fallen into place perfectly, that’s definitely what I’d be doing today.
14. If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d write or make a…series of novels based on all of my favorite video games from my childhood. Games like the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, the Breath of Fire series, and Secret of Mana all had such amazing story lines, I’ve always thought they deserved to be fleshed out and paid more attention to. I’d love to put 100% of my attention into these things, IF I had any belief that the respective copyright holders would ever allow me to publish them. For now, I’m just spending some of my writing time on the Final Fantasy VI one (a girl’s gotta dream).
15. My parents think artists are…artists? I really don’t know how to answer this one, since I’ve never really asked them. My parents are supportive; whether that reflects their actual attitudes toward artist or not, that’s all I really know.
16. My God thinks artists are…non-existent? I don’t have a God, so I doubt he thinks very much about anything at all.
17. What makes me feel weird about this recovery is…just an overall sense that it’s silly and pointless. I can honestly say that some of the tasks have prompted some “Ah-ha!” moments, but overall I just feel like it’s going to turn out to have been a huge waste of time.
18. Learning to trust myself is probably…one of the harder things I’ve ever tried to do. I might seem confident sometimes, but inwardly I’m pretty sure that I have no real talent and will never succeed in my goals.
19. My most cheer-me-up music is…mostly alternative rock from my younger years. Oddly, even when the lyrics are the exact opposite of “cheer-me-up”, things like the Offspring, GreenDay, and Blink 182 give me a little burst inside. That’s why I have tons of their songs on my phone.
20. My favorite way to dress is…jeans and a tank top. I don’t really like dresses because I hate having to sit properly, and I’m not a huge fan of shorts because I’m not a huge fan of my legs. I prefer tank tops to any other kind of top because they’re cooler (I get overheated strangely easy) and they show off some of the qualities I actually like about my body, like my shoulders and upper back.
So there’s a little piece of me, as per The Artist’s Way’s exercises. Did you learn anything?
What about you? Care to share your answers to some or all of these questions? 🙂
I’ve recently coined a new phrase that I think will catch on: “Trying to write with a toddler around is like trying to do complex mathematics while covered in puppies.”
Okay, so it’s not terribly clever, but it’s true. For all the parents out there who are trying to take their writing seriously but have young children in the house with you at the same time that you’re trying to work…you’re not alone.
I love my daughter beyond words, but no one with kids can argue with me that trying to work from home with little kids around isn’t like climbing uphill, backwards, wearing four hundred pounds of gear. It’s a little difficult, is what I’m trying to get at.
And with that said, let’s move on to the accountability, shall we?
Health and Body Image Goal
Last week I laughed (digitally) at this one. This week I am in so many stitches that I’m turning blue. I’ve been battling with some major sugar cravings that seem constant and unyielding, and no, I haven’t done any “real” exercise. That said, I’m in the process of cleaning up the basement so that I can start doing my workout videos ago. The only problem with this is that my cats have recently decided that they don’t much care for their litter box. The entire basement smells like cat pee, and I’m at a loss to figure out exactly where the smell is coming from. Pray for me, my friends. I’m gonna need it.
I haven’t done any editing in the traditional sense, but I have been doing something that I think is just as important. With the hell of several great blogs and some interesting articles on the Writer’s Digest website, I’ve been making some important notes about changes I want to make in my zombie apocalypse novel. I think these changes will really improve the flow of the story and the believability of the characters, so I’d say that’s as good as actually doing some editing, right? Damn right!
1,000,000 Word Goal
Again, this week I didn’t get as much writing in as I was hoping, but my total turned out to be surprisingly high. Between blogging, transcribing, morning pages, and other Artist’s Way exercises, I managed to wrack up a total of 24263 words, which if I’m not mistaken, is my best week yet. I may not reach a million words this year, but I am definitely destroying my previous years’ records.
As mentioned yesterday before my little excerpt, this weekend has been more than a little busy. We spent the entire weekend visiting family and taking part in various events. We even spent a chunk of time just shopping around with the baby in tow. It was all a good time, and we ended it off with the baby’s first trip to a super-wavy beach (which was a blast), but it finalized in the most exhausted me you could imagine. I slept approximately ten hours last night, and I swear I could sleep at least ten more. But the world moves on, there are more things to do, and so I’ll have to just pretend that I slept twenty hours, okay? Okay.
Health and Body Image Goal
*insert slightly insane laughter here*
I actually probably lost a pound or two over the past four days, because that seems to happen whenever we spend a chunk of time visiting down home, but for the most part I can honestly say that this goal did not even exist in my mind this week. The only exercise I did was dragging the baby around, and the only non-fatty food I ate was the vegetables that we had with our steak on Sunday. And that trend isn’t likely to end for a little while yet because I have a children’s birthday party to go to this evening (sugar sugar sugar), and then sometime over the next week and a half we are planning on a shopping trip to New Brunswick (fast food, fast food, fast food). Wish me luck in not actually gaining a bunch more weight!
I’m a bit up in the air on this one. I didn’t technically do any editing for my zombie apocalypse novel, since I’m focusing on trying to transcribe my notebooks right now. But then again, I’m technically editing as I’m transcribing. The transcribed stuff will likely still be revised and edited further once I’ve gotten everything properly organized into Scrivener, but I am editing bits and pieces as I’m typing them up, so I guess you could say I’ve been doing mini-edits? Yeah, let’s go with “mini-edits”.
1,000,000 Word Goal
I didn’t get as much writing in as I was hoping, because I grossly overestimated how much time I would be able to spend on my laptop while down home visiting people, but I still managed a chunk. By counting my transcribed words (which, I have to be honest, I still feel a little skeezy about, but whatever), I managed to eek out 17166 words. A fair bit of that is also The Artist’s Way exercises and tasks, of which I have many more to do this week, so hopefully next week’s word count will be as good as this one was!
And speaking of The Artist’s Way, I’d better go work on a bit of that while I’ve got a chance, before that children’s party I mentioned earlier. Later!
The first week of The Artist’s Way is all about recovering a sense of “safety”. Miss Cameron fully admits that this week will probably feel silly, even stupid, but that you should push through it anyway because it’s important. The exercises involve writing affirmations (basically sentences that you say to yourself to tell yourself how great you really are), acknowledging your “blurts” (negative thoughts that spring to mind, such as “I’m such a terrible writer”), and facing the demons in your past that have caused you to think negatively. The whole idea, overall, is to face the fact that we all have an internal voice (a “Censor”, she calls it) that shouts negative comments at us all the time, even (and especially) when we don’t deserve it. And generally this Censor is a culmination of all the negativity we’ve had to endure from our peers and elders throughout our lives.
But the exercises aren’t all about facing negativity. One in particular was actually quite amusing, I thought. Basically, imagine that you have five alternative lives to live; who would you be and what would you do? The point isn’t to be serious, it’s to give life to the you that your inner child imagined you might become.
For myself, the answers were immediately clear, because there are five things I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. Hey, I know, why don’t I share them here? 😀
Imaginary Life #1 I’d be a (successful) writer, as if that weren’t entirely obvious. I would write fiction novels and occasionally publish a book of short stories. I would have a room in my house specifically for writing, with shelves of books on every wall, and a beautiful desk in front of a large, bright window. The desk would house my laptop, and a stack of notebooks and pens, and I would write there all day while sipping hot tea and cafe mochas.
Imaginary Life #2
I’d be a singer/songwriter who specialized in the guitar. I’d write and compose all my own songs and travel the world playing shows and festivals. I’d be on the road most of the time, but when I wanted to rest I’d come back to Cape Breton and play around a campfire with my friends and family.
Imaginary Life #3 I’d be a famous artist. I’d delve into all the different mediums; drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. I would have a room in my house dedicated to art where I would store all kinds of different supplies from around the world, and I’d draw and paint on the walls to chart my inspiration.
Imaginary Life #4
This one might surprise even my closest friends and family, but I would be an actress. I’d do all kinds of things, from movies and TV shows, to cheesy horror movies and voice acting. In particular I would regularly audition for parts in action-adventure movies as the damsel-in-distress who is actually pretty kick-ass all on her own.
Imaginary Life #5
I’d design video games. I would do a little bit of everything, from concept art and character design, to programming and beta-testing. I would want to be a part of every aspect of the process, and I would help to create characters and storylines that draw in the gamer, as well as controls and gameplay that keep the gamer hooked.
#1 is pretty obvious if you’ve read at least one of my other blog posts or have known me for more than five minutes, but the others may be a bit surprising, especially to those who don’t know me personally, so let me explain a little.
#2 comes about because I’ve always been a bit musical, like much of my family, and in fact much of Cape Breton in general. We’re a musical region. I took several years of piano lessons when I was young, and then moved on to guitar, which I mostly taught myself. Though I haven’t had time for it in recent years, I’ve always loved playing and singing, and it’s one of the few things I feel like I can do in front of a crowd.
#3 dates back to much younger years, stemming back as far as grade school. I loved to draw, and I’d paper my walls with drawings of my favorite TV show and video-game characters. I was never really any good at the other mediums like painting, but I always used to think that if I just kept practicing and practicing, someday I’d be a great artist. Sadly, art in general is something that went by the wayside for me, as I focused more and more on writing instead. The only thing I’ve drawn in years are tiny sketches of the Ninja Turtles at my daughter’s bequest.
#4 is my little inner guilty pleasure secret. I don’t think I’ve ever, at any time, voiced a desire to be an actress, but I seriously started thinking about it in high school as a result of a Drama course. For one assignment we had to do a monologue, and I picked this really dramatic piece where a girl talks about a death in her family. After I performed it the whole class applauded and told me how awesome I was, so for a while after that I convinced myself that I had real talent and would somehow get discovered someday (despite a lack of any kind of effort on my part to actually pursue acting).
#5 is the most childish of the bunch, in my opinion, because it’s based on a childhood assumption that video games were really easy to make. I figured I just had to learn a bit of programming and off I would go. Obviously I’ve learned a lot since then and know that it takes huge crews to make (most) video games, but I still think it would be an awesome profession to be a part of, if only to see the end result of all your hard work enjoyed by millions.
So there you have it! The five imaginary lives of Tracey Lynn Tobin.
If you had five imaginary lives, what would you be? I’d love to hear about your choices!
Have you ever experienced a thunder storm without the rain? Maybe that’s common in other parts of the world, but up here in Cape Breton it’s not the norm. We usually have torrents of rain coming down for hours before the thunder and lightning starts, but yesterday we had hours of thunder (and possibly lightning, but it was too light out to tell) for hours before the rain started. It seemed odd and unique to me, which is why I bring it up.
Alrighty, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Health and Body Image Goal
Still thinking about striking this goal from the list, but at the same time I’ve been thinking about how to resuscitate it. I do want to be healthier and lose some body fat while I’m at it, but I’ve been expelling some much of my energy on everything else that I can’t figure out how to work this back into my lifestyle. I’m amazed that I somehow have less time and energy while unemployed at home than when I was working 12-hour shifts out West. How does that even work? It doesn’t matter. The point is that what I want to do (once I tie up a few loose ends) is start a three-times-a-week exercise program that I will interweave with three days a week of doing my Zombies! Run! program (which I will have to start over since I’ve negated everything I did before). Currently I’m trying to decide what the exercise program will be. I’m considering taking Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution and just replacing the cardio days with my running days, but if anyone else has any suggestions for a good three-day-a-week program for women, please share!
I’m happy to report my best editing week yet since I made these goals. My supernatural romance (tentatively called Moonlight) is complete! I just have to do one more read-through to make sure I didn’t make any glaring errors and then it should be ready for submission. I don’t have high hopes for it, but being able to say that I finally submitted a manuscript to a publisher will be a big deal for me. Plus, now that I’ll finally have that story out of my hair, I can move back on to my zombie apocalypse novel, which is the one I really care about. This one is much longer, so it’s obviously going to take longer to edit, but I’m setting myself a mini-goal to have it done by November, because I fully intend on participating in NaNoWriMo this year and I don’t want to have the last chapters of a zombie apocalypse on my mind while I’m doing it.
1,000,000 Word Goal
Good news! My mini-goal was a success! I wrote my ass off last week, and between blog posts, writing exercises, morning pages, and new-or-changed scenes in Moonlight, I wrote a total of 20194 words! That brings me up to a year-long total of 201938! When I originally made this goal I had hoped to be a lot further along by now, but this is still so many more words that I likely would have written had I not made the goal in the first place. That’s like four NaNoWriMo‘s! In one year! I really hope to be able to keep up this pace. It’s become very unlikely that I’ll hit the 1,000,000 words by the end of the year, but if I’m able to hit 500,000 I will still be very impressed with myself and will mark the goal a success.
As a closing note, I want to mention that I’ve begun The Artist’s Way this week, and over the next couple of days I will be trying to complete as many of the Chapter 1 tasks as I can. I’ve accidentally timed my start such that I’ll finish one week before NaNoWriMo starts, so aside from sharing updates as I go, once I complete the program I’ll do a quick review and let you all know whether it helped me in any way toward writing a new book. Look forward to it!
I’ve brought up the Nickelodeon re-imagining of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a couple of times, not only because my daughter loves them, but also because I’m pretty enamored myself. When we first saw it my husband and I were a little bit wary – this was our childhood Nick was messing around with after all – but we soon found ourselves watching the show just as intently as our daughter was. Later we discussed among ourselves exactly what it was about the show that made it so appealing, and we established that it’s the characters. Specifically, it’s all the things about the characters that were lacking from the original cartoon.
So with that in mind, here are a few key concepts that I think Nick’s version of the Ninja Turtles can teach writers about creating good characters:
Your characters should BE who you SAY they are.
It sounds obvious, but not as obvious as you might think. A lot of people make the mistake of putting a label on their character, but then doing everything possible to make their character act like the exact opposite of that.
This is the first thing that my husband brought up when we were talking about what makes the new Ninja Turtles a great show: “They actually, you know…act like teenagers.” I realized right away that he was right. If you go back to the original cartoon, later iterations, and even the live-action movies, the Turtles consistently act very un-teenager-like. It’s a key descriptor in their very existence – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – but they’ve never acted as such. The closest they ever resembled actual teens was in the original cartoon, but I challenge you to go back and watch an episode right now. You’ll notice that they act less like teenagers and more like surfer frat-bros.
In the new version of the show, the Turtles embody everything we think of when we remember what it was like to be a teenager. They’re goofy and playful, quick to anger, and constantly getting in trouble. They defy their “father” on a regular basis, get crushes on girls, are cocky and overconfident, and have to take a major beating to learn any lesson. They’re also brothers who actually treat each other like brothers, constantly fighting and bickering, tormenting each other and picking on each other, while also taking care of each other and having each others’ back.
So think about this the next time you’re creating a character. If your character is a religious older woman she’s not likely to be hanging out at night clubs all the time. A jock character isn’t going to seem authentic if you never write him playing any sports. And a teenage character should act like a teenager.
Your characters shouldn’t be clones.
Quick, anyone who grew up with the original Ninja Turtles cartoon, what are each of the Turtles known for?
“Leonardo leads; Donatello does machines; Raphael is cool, but rude; Michelangelo is a party dude!”
Everyone who grew up with the show knows these distinctions. Leo is the stalwart leader, Donnie is the techno-genius, Raph is the feisty grouch, and Mikey is the lovable party guy. Right?
Again, I challenge you to go back and watch the old cartoon. We all know that these are the different personality types of the four Turtles, but if you watch the old episodes you’ll notice that aside from when Donnie plays with a computer’s keyboard or Mikey says, “Cowabunga!” all the Turtles act exactly the same. Raph is in no way any more “rude” than his three brothers, and Leo doesn’t lead so much as he lifts his swords in the air and says, “Get ’em!”
Hell, they even look identical except for the color of their headbands.
In Nick’s version, each of the Turtles have very distinct personalities. Leo is the leader, yes, but he’s also a huge geek who loves a Star Trek-like cartoon so much that he has the episodes memorized. Donnie is the techy, who he’s also gawky, and socially awkward. Raph has anger management issues and is extremely sarcastic pretty much all the time. Mikey is dumb as a brick, but in an incredibly cute and innocent way. And there are lots of little details that differentiate them all, like how Raph’s shell is chipped to show that he’s the rough one, and how Mikey is shorter than the rest to give the impression that he’s the innocent, youngest brother. Hell, just look at them…you can practically see their personalities in the way the new creators designed them:
Remember, even if your characters have a few key similarities, you want them to stand out from each other. They should have their own specific likes and dislikes, personality traits and hobbies. When a reader thinks of a particular character from your book, you want them to be able to picture that character apart from the other ones, to immediately know exactly who they’re reading about.
Antagonists should bring drama and tension to the story.
It goes without saying that The Shredder is, and forever will be, the main villain in the Ninja Turtles universe. He’s their arch-rival, the enemy that relentlessly strives for their extermination.
Also, in the original cartoon, he’s a bumbling idiot who can do nothing right.
I’ll admit that the late 80’s/early 90’s era was one during which most cartoons were a little weak in the drama center. They wanted to be light and fun, without exhibiting too much violence or anything that grumpy parents might find distasteful. But even taking that into consideration, The Shredder brought very little in the way of antagonistic tension to the original cartoon. He was such a pathetic fool that even as kids we knew there was no cause for concern because his plans always failed miserable. And he was a laughing stock, for sure. No kid who watched the original cartoon thought that The Shredder was anything other than hysterically inept.
The new Ninja Turtles, while still designed for kids and careful not to be too violent or mature, has fixed this issue with their villains. The Shredder is angry and powerful, and while his cronies may be a little pathetic, he is absolutely not. In the first episode in which the Turtles face Shredder, they get absolutely pulverized…and that’s the end of the episode. They are able to escape certain death by complete chance, and we’re left with the knowledge that our heroes are currently not powerful enough to defeat their enemy.
Even in a kid’s show, tension makes for good storytelling, plain and simple. Your antagonist needs to bring that tension. You want your readers to genuinely wonder if something horrifying is going to happen to your main characters at any given moment. Without that tension, the story serves no purpose and the antagonist is flat and pointless.
All characters should have flaws.
No one is perfect; not protagonists, not antagonists, not anyone. The original Ninja Turtles cartoon (along with most cartoons of that age) really glossed over this concept. The Turtles were always able to save the day easily because they always knew exactly what to do. They never made anything other than the smallest of mistakes, and lessons were learned with minimal effort. While this can be acceptable for small children (since they think their heroes are infallible anyway), it doesn’t fly most of the time. Characters without flaws are impossible to relate to.
The new Turtles have lots of flaws, and it makes them more relatable and likable because you can put yourself in their position. Leo is the leader, yes, but he’s also a teenager with all the angst and frustrations that the age group is famous for, so he makes mistakes and doesn’t always act like a leader. As previously mentioned, Mikey is dumb as a brick, and he’s constantly screwing up and getting himself and his brothers in trouble. Donnie is a tech genius, but sometimes his gear breaks down or blows up in his face. Raph lets his anger get the best of him and it lands him in lots of trouble.
Even the co-characters have their flaws focused upon. Splinter lets his fear for his “sons” cloud his judgement. April does whatever it takes to look for her father even when her ideas are dumb and dangerous. Shredder has a vendetta against Splinter that takes precedence over everything else and causes him to make poor decisions.
Readers want to be able to relate in some way to the character’s their reading about. If a character is clumsy or shy or a terrible drunk or has a gambling problem or an awful body image, it lets us put ourselves in the place of that character because we feel empathy with them. When a character (mostly likely an antagonist) has really awful flaws, like being a psychopath, it makes us root for their downfall that much more. If a character has absolutely no flaws it makes us wonder “where the hell this perfect person came from and why should I give a rat’s ass about them?”
The characters make the story. Without good characters even the best of plot lines can wither and die. You want your readers to love your characters (whether they’re good guys or bad guys), to care for them, to root for (or against) them. There are a lot of books, movies, TV shows, and video games out there that are sub-par because the creators made characters who are hard, if not impossible, to like. And sometimes we, as writers, have a hard time seeing that our characters are unlikable, because they’re like children to us and our children are always perfect in our eyes. So I beg you to read articles like this one, examine the characters you love from all kinds of different mediums, and ask beta-readers about your characters’ likability. A little bit of extra effort can make a world of difference in creating characters that feel real.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, this week I have a mini-goal to wrack up enough of a word count to bring my yearly total thus far to 200,000. As such I’ve been doing everything I can to get words down. I’ve been blogging (obviously), doing morning pages via 750Words.com, and repairing scenes in my supernatural romance. What I haven’t been doing is writing anything new.
Here’s my problem: since I’ve been home from out West, I’ve only been writing on my laptop. I type a helluva lot faster than I write by hand, so it only makes sense to use that speed. But for months now I’ve been writing in notebooks; thousands of words of long-hand.
Why is that a problem? Well, I have tons of my works-in-progress in notebooks…none of it on my laptop. For instance, I have the first four chapters of my epic fantasy novel on my laptop, then about a dozen chapters in notebooks. So if I want to continue on with that work-in-progress, I either have to skip a bunch of chapters in my Scrivener file in order to move on, or take the time to transcribe all the notebooks onto my laptop
Maybe I’m alone in this, but it would drive me absolutely insane to move on with the story without most of what I’ve written actually being in the Scrivener file. It’s just one of those things. I’d absolutely lose my mind. But on the other side of things, it will take me ages to transcribe everything that I’ve written in notebooks, and that will be time that I could have spent writing something else and wracking up word count. I suppose I could count word
s transcribed as words written, but that feels like cheating, since they’re technically words I’ve already written.
So I leave it to you, fellow bloggers and readers: should I take the time to transcribe, or move on to something else? If I take the time
transcribe, should I count the words toward my word count or not? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!
Despite the fact that I haven’t yet finished reading Kristen Lamb‘s Rise of the Machines, yesterday I decided to start reading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I’m a glutton for punishment, and somehow don’t feel like I’m torturing myself enough if I’m not trying to do eighty things at once. Viva la insanity.
Shown above: Me, almost all of the time.
So the book is meant to be a 12-week program, with each week focusing on a different aspect of creativity (and the resurrection thereof). There are exercises and the like for each week as well, with the intention that you pick and complete about half of those suggested. I haven’t gotten to this part yet because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a number of small sections that occur before the program begins, and I wanted to give some attention to those first.
There are two different introductions in the book, one of which explains how the author came upon the idea of helping artist’s rediscover their creativity. In this intro she talks a lot about a “Great Creator”, which may or may not be God. This put me off a bit at first, but she is actually quite open and tolerant, and speaks about how it doesn’t matter whether you really believe in God or the “Great Creator”, just as long as you can believe in the idea of creativity being something that you can give yourself to. Because of the way she speaks, you can tell that she believes in a higher power guiding creativity, but she also makes it perfectly clear that she doesn’t expect everyone who uses her program to believe in the same thing. It’s a refreshing notion because I’ve heard it said before that atheists can’t be creative because they aren’t spiritual. It’s nice to know that someone as prestigious as Julia Cameron isn’t a bigot. I’m just sayin’.
Then the book moves on to talk about some “basic principles and tools”. Specifically, the author talks about two tools that she is absolutely adamant that we use on a regular basis, throughout the program and forever on afterward.
The first tool is called “morning pages”. I’ve seen these discussed on other blogs and websites, but this is the first time I read about them from the person who created them. Put simply, “morning pages” are three pages written each day (preferably first thing in the morning). It doesn’t matter what you write about, and actually it’s better if what you write about isn’t “real” writing. Rather than focus on prose, for example, morning pages should focus on whatever is in your brain that needs to get out. For all intents and purposes, it’s a diary with a minimum page requirement. The idea is to get all the nonsense out of your brain (even if that nonsense is nothing but negative thoughts and whining) so that it’s out and gone and it can’t bother you while you’re working on your real writing (or drawing, or acting, or whatever your art may be).
I’ve actually been doing morning pages for a while now, though not on a daily basis, which Julia Cameron insists upon, so I’ll apparently have to work on that. I’ve also not been doing the pages freehand, which Cameron suggests. I’ve been instead using 750Words.com, which was actually created for this exact purpose. The webmaster of this site also read The Artist’s Way, and after determining that three pages of his long-hand worked out to approximately 750 words, he created the site. Though I occasionally do enjoy writing longhand, I prefer to utilize 750Words.com because of the speed factor. It takes me a heck of a lot longer to do three pages in longhand than to type it out on my laptop, and time is something I’m all in favor of saving. With that said, I’ve signed up for the August Challenge on 750Words – the challenge is to do your 750 words every day for the month, so hopefully that will be motivation to make sure I do my “morning pages”.
The other important tool that Cameron insists upon may be a little bit more difficult to work in. It’s called “Artist Dates”, and simply, they’re dates with yourself. That’s the long and short, really. You have to take an hour or two, once or twice a week, and go on a date with yourself. Go for a walk, go to the beach, go bowling…just go do something fun and/or relaxing, with the caveat being that you have to do it by yourself. No spouses, no kids, no family or friends of any kind. In the book Cameron talks about how you will resist doing these dates, how you will find every excuse in the book not to do them. She’s definitely right. If even half of her readers are the tiniest bit like me, there are a lot of artist’s out there saying, “Are you kidding? I can hardly find the time to bathe by myself, never mind taking myself on solo dates every week.”
And yet Cameron insists that these dates are important, if for nothing other than keeping yourself sane. I can see her point; how can one be creative if one can’t even find an hour a week to do something fun by oneself? That’s not saying that I’ll do them, but I’ll make an effort, if Cameron thinks they’re that important.
So it’s with those two “tools” in my mind that I move through the rest of this week. Starting this coming Sunday I’ll read the “Week 1” chapter and start working on the exercises. If those exercises happen to involve writing of any sort, I’ll share them on this blog. Here’s hoping that the book will help me as much as it’s supposedly helped many other artists!
Have you read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? How did you find it? Did it help you “rediscover your creativity”? Do you have any suggestions for someone just starting the program? Please share!