Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fresh out of Parental Figures, huh?

   Parents are great in real life, but they can be quite an obstacle for an exciting story. For authors and screenwriters everywhere it is a challenge to either stealthily eliminate the parent factor altogether, or figure out how to properly work in the parental figures without them dampening the intensity of a story. In this post I am going to point out the tactics in popular shows and books used to accomplish this task.
   Parents discipline, and that is why they hamper a story, especially with teenagers. How are characters going to do anything plot-driven when parents are getting in the way disciplining them and stopping them from doing stupid stuff they can later (not until the end of the story) learn from?

  • Harry Potter and the Fact that He's an Orphan Isn't Just to Make Him Cooler: Rowling decided to take the easy route on not having to deal with parents, and that was to kill them off. Now, of course I am not suggesting that the single and only reason Harry's parents are dead is so JK wouldn't have to worry about working them into the story-- of course they have the whole love shield thing going on, and the prophecy, and the motivation for Harry, all that good stuff. What I'm saying is, let's play out a hypothetical HP series where, oh I don't know, Voldy went and killed the babysitter when getting to little baby Harry while the parents were out enjoying whatever movie was playing back in '81, and his parents get to stick around for the whole Boy Who Lived battling it out with Voldemort adventure. Now, apart from Harry being more used to magic and maybe his parents being involved in the Order, I'm assuming the basics of the story would be in place. So even if the parents were accepting of their child on a yearly basis from the time he was eleven fighting the most dangerous and evil wizard in the world, would they really be okay with Harry having to die? No parents would be okay with this news, and would do all possible to prevent Harry from dying. I'm sure it would still all work out in the end, probably Harry sneaking away from his parents during the battle or something, but point being it would have been much more difficult. Plus, we wouldn't have had near as much of that good ole HP angst we all know and love. This one was fairly well done, as JK was able to work out the parents with justifiable reasons.
  • The Hunger Due to the Fact that My Mother is Completely Incompetent Games: Katniss, as most teen protagonists, has had a hard knock life. She too is partially orphaned, with the decease of her father, and to get the other half of the parental problem out of the way of the plot line, Collins decided to leave the mother shell-shocked-- erm, grief-shocked, that is-- from the father's not so pleasant mining death. The mother being not involved, along with adding to angst (much like Harry), was secretly necessary, teaching Katniss to shoot arrows like a boss and thus preparing her for the Hunger Games, where she happens to attain a bow and some arrows. Nifty. Again, I say this was fairly well done, though both Collins and Rowling decided to take obvious routes to arrive at the lack of parenthood state.
  • Victorious-ly Failing to Have Parents: As this is probably less popular, here is a teen show on Nickelodeon called Victorious. I'll admit it, over the summer it was my guilty pleasure. The basis of the show is a group of friends at a fine arts school. Now, like I said, I watched this show during the summer, and for the longest time I was convinced the main chick must have been some kind of biological miracle-- her parents just aren't around. No, the school is not a boarding school, as that is--second only to the orphan option-- the easiest/most obvious way around the parental factor. But no, the girl goes home everyday, and a good half of the show is spent in her living room (that's another odd thing about the show-- I'm not convinced she has a bedroom either...but I digress). Her parents just aren't there. Finally, I saw the pilot episode and thank goodness they're in it. Including this, the parents are show up in maybe three episodes, and usually only for a short scene. So I say to this show: you aren't even trying, are you? 
  • Pretty Little Lack of (Good) Parenting Skills: Now, again, I have to admit that I do watch Pretty Little Liars-- a teen drama where the four girls are figuring out who's blackmailing them and possibly killed their friend-- wholesome stuff. For the first season, there was a decent lack of parenting. Yes, the parents were around, they were just completely oblivious to their children getting blackmailed and becoming involved in all sorts of troublesome situations. This I found to be unrealistic-- I mean really, how many times can you say you're just "going out" before your parents start to question it? Then in the second season and this season the writers must have realized this, because the parents at least try to get involved, but honestly are just really bad at it. They send their kids to therapy, which randomly ends for reasons I'm unsure of. They tell their kids they shouldn't hang out together so much-- the kids get around it easily and so the parents just drop it. They tell their kids not a date a certain someone-- the girl does it anyway, and with ease. Sometimes the parents become angry, sometimes they try to be concerned or give advice-- but to no avail, and honestly because it was a crappy attempt. So to this show, I say: maybe you should go back to the oblivious parent thing, it worked better because right now the parents just get in the way.
  • Catcher in the Why Deal with Phony Parents Rye: Yes, I end with Salinger. Classic Holden decides not to deal with parents by just not. Leaving his boarding school-- yes, starting with an easy escape from parents-- Holden goes to NYC instead of home. His parents don't even know he has left the school. Salinger did a beautiful way of eliminating the parents-- acknowledging their existence, but just not dealing with them. They completely would have hampered the story as Holden wanders around struggling with his awkward adolescence, something that Holden needed to do on his own. If his parents had been there or found him in NYC, they would have tried giving him loving advice, and he would have never questioned the loss of innocence or wanted to be the catcher in the rye. Salinger worked the story successfully without parents in the most clever tactics of those I've listed (what can you expect, it is the one piece of literature on here).
   So in conclusion, while parents are lovely and I would never want to be without mine, stories with young protagonists need a lack of them in order to go through life and identity struggles. Plus parents can hamper the excitement of the story, though complete lack of them can prove unrealistic-- it is a tricky balance.
   As a quick disclaimer, I would like to say that I am not bashing anything on this list. I read/watch all of them, and enjoy doing so. Hope you enjoyed this excessively long post, and sorry for the lack of pictures.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Lazy Post

   It's been awhile since I last posted, but I actually have been at least slightly productive. Not only can I use school starting back up as an excuse, but also I spent this weekend finishing a story I've been working on, and now I've returned to one of my previous stories I never finished. Reading over it, it's one of my better pieces of writing and so I look forward to actually working on it and finishing it. And now, since I feel bad for having not posted and there's no point to this one, I will leave you with a passage from the story I have returned to (file name "grass story"). Enjoy.

I turned in the direction the arrow had come from, to find my predator. All I could make out was a guy in the shadows of a tree, perched on a branch. And he was quick. Before I could even think of how to react, he leapt down from the tree, tossed his bow to the side, pulled out a knife, and within seconds was just inches from my face with the knife to my neck.
But I wasn’t scared. His face mere inches from mine, the point of a knife just under my chin, yet I wasn’t scared. It was because of his eyes. His eyes, unwavering, told me not to be scared. I could see from his eyes that he had no intentions of killing me. His eyes held a strong gaze, looking deeply into mine, and I could see that he meant no harm; he was confused, shocked by my presence, just trying to figure it out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

3 Totally Hipster Ways to Find New Music

(A touch a sarcasm? Perhaps...)
   I, for one, love music. And finding new music is always a grand adventure. Over the years I've accumulated some extensive tactics to search for and successfully find songs that appeal to my taste. As challenging as it can be, these are 3 ways that may help you find music accommodating to your tastes-- and before it's even popular.

1) Listen to the Radio
   Whether you're jamming out in your car, on your computer, or just feel like busting out the dance moves while you're home alone, the radio can offer a variety of music that you may or may not have heard. One of the beauties of radio is options-- nowadays, thanks to online music services, you can find music based on specific genres, artists and songs. Pandora is the most common, though I found Slacker first and have always used it instead (See? Total hipster.). Another online radio I recently found that's much more unique and unknown (I know, again, just such a hipster) is called stereomood.com. It's basically a bunch of playlists based around moods instead of typical music genres. The music on there is sort of hit or miss, but honestly I've found tons of new songs from there-- my favorite playlist is piano, in case you're wondering. So if you're just sitting around bored with the music on your iPod, then download a radio app or just tune in to a local station-- it's crazy how they sometimes play songs you might like.

2) The "Buddy System": Talk to a Friend
   Okay, so as strange a concept as this may be, you and your friends may have common tastes. Your friends may be the ones to provide you with some new music you've never even heard of. Just strike up a riveting conversation about music and maybe you'll both find new favorite songs. Not only will your iTunes library grow, but so will your friendship-- sharing is caring.

3) Be a True Fan: Beyond One Song
   Even I will admit to doing this-- in fact, I do it all too frequently. After listening to the radio, finding a song I like, that's the extent of it. Why stop there, I finally asked myself. So after finding a good song via radio or friends, get yourself onto youtube or iTunes and search some more of the artist's work. If you like one of the songs, they could have a whole medley of likable music for you to enjoy. Or maybe their one good song is just a fluke. But hey, give the artist a good shot-- they've worked hard in the whole music biz. Who knows, maybe soon enough you'll become a crazed devout fan to some new band.

   So there you have it, my mindful tactics to find music. Godspeed to you in your grand journey to discover new songs and artists before everyone else does and said song/artist becomes overplayed and you are too cool to like it anymore! Be the hipster-- find it before it's even cool.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Solitaire

   Procrastination is a large part of my life, though I like to think of it more as good time management. I'm not so bad that it deters my work that needs to be done, but it's enough to where I feel I have to bother myself to do the work, which is really what this post is about.
   I spend-- as I'm sure many teens do-- a decent amount of time on the computer. While a portion of the time is directed towards productivity such as writing, a bigger portion of the time is what could be considered wasted time.
   Immediately clicking internet when my computer turns on, I usually check facebook, put on some music, and virtually do nothing. Feeling the need to be actually doing something, solitaire has become a common game for me. My mom taught me how to play solitaire when I was younger because I loved playing games but there was not always someone willing to play with me. I picked up on it, and now it, along with internet and Word, is one of my frequently open windows.
   Often I can spend a long time just listening to music and playing solitaire. And usually the entire time, my mind is arguing with itself that I could be doing something more productive. During school it's homework, during break it's writing. I tell myself I'm about to do something productive, but instead when I finish up the game, I click 'yes' to a new game automatically and start playing.
Screenshot of a typical day: facebook, youtube, blog, Word, and on top-- solitaire.
   Really though, when I'm playing solitaire and listening to music, I'm doing more: I'm thinking. I realized that while my fingers are clicking away and dragging black sevens onto red eights, or clicking on the deck to show the set of three cards, I'm playing the game rather mindlessly-- that's not where my thoughts are. I'm actually brainstorming ideas, playing out stories in my head, planning out my days to come. It is similar to the way I am when I watch TV during the commercials-- I zone out and think of what to do for when I actually feel like being productive.
   While I realize this, my brain will forever to continue to pester me whenever I open up the solitaire window on my computer. As usual though, I will just ignore that little voice in my head-- that is, until I really do need or feel like doing something other than playing solitaire.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Quest-ready Puffer Fish

   Just a short post today, as I have been traveling the car all day and am too lazy to come up with an epic post. So this is another animal photo with a quote. The author Rick Riordan is quoted in this photo. I wish I could remember which book of his the quote comes from, but I believe it is from the Percy Jackson series. He's a fantastic writer and I love his series, and really this is a fairly profound quote I was impressed with. After taking (and absolutely loving) AP literature and composition class this past semester, I couldn't agree more with the quote.
   As for the picture, I took it a few years ago at an aquarium in Florida. Of course, I was thrilled by how well it turned out-- shooting through glass is always hit or miss.
This puffer fish looks like he's ready to do some serious searching.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Working Backwards

   As I started writing seriously my freshman year, I have naturally improved in my writing, which is completely logical since practice does help in virtually every aspect. Reflecting back on my stories, I realized that one of my weak points in writing was plot. Characterization and dialogue came naturally to me, descriptions were a conscious effort, and then there was plot. An active mind, I come up with scenarios in my head constantly, and have to file through them to decide if they are worth writing down. I can create a character or situation with ease, but what happens to them, that can be a challenge.
   Through both creative writing classes and just flat out writing-- I believe the fact that I read more has helped too-- I have improved on this. Of course it will remain my weak link, but the improvement is exciting.
This is my cow eraser. We were typing up a story.
   In realizing my weak link, my somewhat backwards pattern of writing I believe can be explained. My first completed story, file name "Portal" (because I don't always title my work), I wrote freshman year and is 110 pages, single spaced. I never bash my work, and I think it was a decent piece, especially for a first. And while 110 pages seems impressive, it is really due to my lack of a solid plot. Yes, there was the loose plot of a journey, but otherwise the story entails of just random occurrences as they tried to reach a specific destination. It focused mostly on the characters and their conversations-- constant dialogue, as it was my first story and that's what came naturally to me. So the story dragged into quite a large size. If you had asked me to write a short story back then-- I'm not convinced I could have done it. In fact, I know I couldn't have.
   My next completed story, file name "Cello Story," was exceptionally boring, but only 50 pages. I learned to transition better and not use excessive dialogue, cutting down the story size. The plot was still weak, again more of a character story, but it was at least concise.
   From there was a period of unfinished stories I hope to return to, and then I entered a Creative Writing II class, in which one unit we had to write a short story. Nervous about this, as I recognized my pattern of writing, I decided to attempt short stories before being forced into a corner of something I hadn't even tried before. I succeeded, writing a 10 page single spaced story, file name "crazy story." It was rough, but it did what I was hoping to accomplish-- have a solid story in a short space.
   The maximum for the class short story was 10 pages double spaced-- much different than what I normally wrote. Mine ended up being 11 pages doubled spaced, titled "Duly Noted." It was nothing profound or exciting, but it gave an interesting scenario with an at least fairly exciting plot. The point was I had finally broken the barrier that I had for so long struggled with.
   For the longest time I thought it impossible to write an entire story in so short an amount of pages. Once I succeeded in doing so though, it clicked and ever since plot and concision have stuck with me. Over the summer I wrote a short story (file name "A Simple Story" -- 13 pages single spaced) that is one of my favorite pieces I have ever written. Now even on my larger scale stories I can plan a detailed plot, which definitely shows in the story. Even though plot has improved, it will remain my weakness, just as dialogue and characterization will forever be my strong points-- it's being conscious of and accepting the challenge of plot that helps to improve my writing.
   So although I worked backwards in page numbers, I try not to focus on the number of pages so much as the content, which of course has always been my focus.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bird of Witticism

Even on days I don't get a chance to post a full length narrative, or really just if I get the chance, I hope to make this a regular thing where I post a picture with a fitting quote. Today's is a picture I took awhile back of a yellow finch right outside my window, and Oscar Wilde is quoted, one of my favorite writers.

The bird just looks so clever, right?

First things First

   Just getting started on this blog, I feel the need for a disclosure explaining what I plan to do on here-- perhaps it is more for my sake than the readers, but it will give me a sound mind. So I apologize if this post is not exceptionally exciting or interesting, but I feel the need for it to be posted.
   So, as my mind is constantly on the move-- between trains of thoughts and story ideas playing out-- I liked the idea of having a blog to express these. A majority of my posts I plan on just being narratives, thoughts and ideas that occurred to me, perhaps with interesting anecdotes. Some will be amusing, others might just be random. I also hope to occasionally post exerts from my stories and poems-- yes, I have a passion for creative writing. I plan to share my interests and other such findings-- a list of good books, songs, or movies, an interesting link I found, those such things. Lastly, I dabble into photography by no means professionally but just out of fun, so my photos be scattered throughout the blog.
   Well, as nice as that was to get off my chest, I believe it was rather boring. I don't know how frequently I'll post, but hopefully it will be a fairly often. And with luck they will be more exciting than this one.
Cheers to the New Year!