Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Starting Over

Before I go into this, I just want to point out that I'm in no way talking about being something you're not or running away from your problems. I'm talking about exploring parts of your personality and interests that you've always just sort of put on the back burner instead of delving into. That being said, read on. 

To many people, myself included, the idea of getting a fresh start is pretty appealing. Wouldn't it be nice to get away from all the problems in your life and go somewhere where no one knows about all your flaws or the embarrassing things you've done, and the only thing you need to do is give off a good first impression? Maybe you just want to try something totally different, like dressing a way you've never had the confidence to dress before, or start going by a nickname for a change.

In late middle school, the vast majority of my clothing was black, or at the very least, had some sort of dark, Gothic design to it. I loved that stuff. I still really love that stuff, actually; I just don't really wear it anymore. Anyway, in seventh grade, I bought a shirt that was super bright pink and orange. I liked it, despite the fact that it was pink and I've never really liked pink, so I got it. It sat in my closet for months because I never woke up in the morning and wanted to wear it. Eventually, on April Fool's day, I figured I'd dress super-girly and confuse the hell out of my friends, which worked far better than I expected. I wore that shirt, got compliments on it from people who never really spoke to me, and got a whole ton of appalled stares from the guys I hung out with. After that, I never really had the confidence to wear it again. It's probably still buried in my closet somewhere.

We all have comfort levels around our friends, and when one of those friends does something totally unexpected, it suddenly throws the friendship into question, even if it's really silly. "She never wore pink and always says she doesn't like pink, but here she is in pink! What if everything else she ever said was a lie!?" It seems totally ridiculous, but imagine if one of your friends suddenly showed up to a hang out dressed in a way that seems a polar opposite to how they normally are. It's hard to not judge them in some way at least a little, I think. Humans are very judgmental creatures.

Over the years, I've come to like a massive spectrum of things. There are a lot of styles I think are nice, but I generally stick to plain, dark-colored, fitted t-shirts and jeans. If not that, then some sort of spaghetti-strap tank top, either by itself in warm weather or under an unbuttoned button-down in cooler weather. It's simple, gets across the colors I like, and, most importantly, it's comfy. That doesn't mean I don't want everything in the window every time I walk past Hot Topic.

See, the clothes I have now can usually be adapted into something that looks nice enough to a job interview or is casual enough for a day lounging around doing nothing. I even sleep in my tees and tank tops when it's chilly, because they're comfortable enough to do that. I have a shirt made to look like a corset, and that's not nearly as versatile. I love it, and it looks nice, but I just don't wear it much. I'd wear make-up more if I wasn't too lazy to put it on every day.

What I'm getting at with all that (and wow, that was a lot more than I thought it would be) is that we might have tons of interests and likes, but we'll always deviate towards one over the others, regardless of how much we may like the others. If we were to start over somewhere new, it would be a good opportunity to pick up the interests we put to the side before, with the added benefit of not having anyone judge us for making that decision.

That being said, I think one of the biggest reasons that most of us don't change out style on a daily basis is because we worry about how others will think of us. If you walk into class one day with rainbow hair and tons of super bright colors, then a week later your hair is black and you look like a lace monster, people are either going to think you're insane, just following trends and can't think for yourself, or just trying to impress someone and not being true to yourself, even if you really do love rainbows and black lacy stuff.

Fashion is only a single aspect of the whole "fresh start" thing, of course, but I think it's the most appealing. After all, what you're wearing can say a lot about your interests, and it's inevitably going to attract and repel people. One of the whole points of starting over is attracting and repelling types of people that hopefully won't ruin your new life.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Creative Blocks

I have them. :|

I evidently can't even write a blog post about said creative blocks. This is not going well. I bought some clay tonight, and where that won't get anything written, maybe I'll just screw around with that for a while and then try to write everything I need to write in the morning. Yeah. Seems like a plan.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why I Hate Wall Photos

Facebook introduced a feature not too long ago that lets us mindlessly share images with messages we agree with but are too shy to flat out say. It lets us share funny comics without having to link to the artist's site. Who needs credit for anything, anyway? It also lets us share news stories (which are often partly or completely false) and chain messages. I think it's the most irritating thing Facebook has done yet.

Facebook used to be a generally safe-for-work environment. After all, it's all text. Unless someone is right over your shoulder, it doesn't matter what's on your screen. Now, though, I frequently have pictures of babies with cancer, deer with cancer, naked men painted to look like a rainforest, women dressed like hookers, half-dressed fat people, and dogs that have been abused and mutilated. 

Then there are the thousands of not-very-witty phrases in image form, which everyone seems to use to throw their views up on Facebook without having to actually say those things themselves. Sorry, but I never heard you complain about your husband before. Now all of a sudden your wall is 90% shared photos with clever sayings about how dumb and lazy he is?

Let's not forget the dreaded chain letters. "This baby has cancer! Some Company Inc. donates $1 for every share!" No. They don't. All you're doing is posting some hideous baby on my newsfeed. Have I ever mentioned I hate babies? Like, to the point that it's a serious phobia and they're about as gross to me as spiders? Now you know!

Point is, Facebook is not where I want to be anymore. Instead of updates from friends I don't see, I get their political views, their religion, motivation I don't need or want, and their really old comics that keep resurfacing shoved down my throat every time I want to see what everyone's up to. Tumblr exists practically exclusively for this kind of crap. Why can't everyone do it over there? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing Tip #12

I starting writing this a while back, had it almost done, and then never finished it. So here. I finished it and posted it finally.

Tip #12: Think of your story as a video game.

I explored a very specific incarnation of this tip when I went over turning characters into Morrowind characters. This is going to be much more general and focus on different gaming aspects.

The first thing to think about is how your characters interact. In The Devil's Blade, Valdius acts and fights alone. Anastera, my lead female, has no combat ability, and Zirk is really only ever a bystander. If it were a game, it would be very God of War-like, with one powerful character essentially fighting his way through tons of stuff to save/protect someone.

Among the People Lost could potentially follow a party format. Dante is, first and foremost, a sharp shooter. Put him in a fantasy setting, and you're probably looking at a skilled elven bowman. Solstice balances him out by being a very skilled martial artist. She uses hand-to-hand techniques and a dagger, meaning she can get up close while Dante hangs back. Hunter, a sniper, is sort of the equivalent to a mage in ways, being the stereotypical "glass cannon." He would be the farthest back of the group, protected by the others but dealing instant kills when he fires. Add in all the other characters that come and go, and you've got a pretty balanced party.

The point of all that is having characters who balance each other out. Action movies often have, like, five guys running around with guns, and that's not really that practical. In games like D&D, you need to have a group with a wide range of skills so there's always someone for the job when a tough task comes up.

In the first example, it's important to know your character's limitations. Maybe he gets better and gains more skills as the story goes, allowing him to go back to places he couldn't quite get to before and overcome enemies he never would have hoped to conquer. Characters that start out super powerful aren't particularly interesting. There needs to be some measure of growth and development.

Video games get more difficult as you go. A lot of books are the same way. Harry Potter's challenges in the first book are nothing compared to the seventh. As characters grow stronger, they're able to push deeper into enemy territory, take on stronger enemies, and, if they're good enough or lucky enough, win against their greatest opponent and save the day.

That's not to say, though, that there aren't really easy enemies along the way. Even weak enemies that are easy to beat can give a little experience here and there. They're more to keep the character from falling behind than to really make him move forward. Real learning experiences come from the difficult fights, the losses, and the power upgrades.

Thinking of your story in game terms can help determine if an ability or skill is really over-powered compared to other characters. If your character is really skilled, is he the only one? Or are all of his enemies roughly the same skill level? If your story follows more of a party format, where is the group really weak? Who gets tired after walking up a short hill and who can run five miles without an issue? All stuff to consider when writing stories and making games.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Writing Simply

I once believed that life was a gift. I thought whatever I wanted I would someday possess. Is that greed, or only youth? 

Green Angel is one of my favorite books. You probably haven't heard of it. I bought it at my school's book fair in 6th or 7th grade, read it over the course of 4 hours, and still count it right up there with Dragonlance and Drizzt. I have a review of it over here in my webzine, if you're interested in a review, but for now, let's just go over what this thing actually is. 

Green Angel is a pretty short novel aimed at the roughly 13-year-old range. It takes place in an unspecified location in an unspecified time period with characters with really vague names. The main character is called Green, and she's practically a plant empath. She's good with gardening to the point that it's a borderline magic power. The plot follows her from a first-person view as she recovers from losing her family in some sort of disaster, also very vaguely described.

What makes the book so fantastic is the way it's all put together. Absolutely everything about the book gives it a sort of dream-like, surreal atmosphere. When dialogue is spoken, it's italicized rather than put in quotes. It sort of makes you wonder if anyone is really speaking at all, or if it's all imagined in some kind of dream. Everything has a dark, poetic simplicity to it, and I think it's beautiful. It's full of things that hit me really hard just because of how simply they were put. No dramatic death scenes. No epic battles. Just simplicity at its finest. 

It's a kind of writing that's impossible to emulate by trying. It has to naturally flow, or you're going to break that simplicity. I've read through a lot of reviews of Green Angel, and it seems that the style is either loved or hated. It's too different to be somewhere in between. You can either appreciate the magical surrealism of it, or think it's the dumbest thing ever and go for something more realistic. Personally, I think it's one of the best ways to write a story, and whenever I find something similar, I love it.

I had similar feelings towards I Am Legend, though to a lesser extent. Some lines are so hugely important, and yet they're also super simple and blunt. There's nothing to say other than the simple truth. I think those lines can sometimes make more of an impact than several paragraphs explaining a heroic death.

Like everything in writing (and everything, really), there are times and places for everything. Simplicity doesn't always work. Still, I think Green Angel really did it right.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Alright, 2012. You're just over two weeks old, and already I've dumped a whole ton of projects on you, and I expect cooperation. I'm hoping to do all of these things (at least to some extent) by the time 2013 comes around. Or we all die. Whichever comes first.

Sometimes, things are generally uninteresting until you get that tiny spark that starts a landslide of information and education. I think I've found my spark to start seriously looking into metaphysical studies. 

This is a secret (mostly) project I'm working on. Only a few people know about it so far, and it's sort of big. I've been working on it a little at a time for a few days now.

I still have to apply and stuff. I'll be starting in the fall for visual arts.

Among the People Lost Prequel
I'm writing two. One is started, and it needs to be finished. 

I have a Latin book. Let's relearn all that dead language stuff I forgot.

Stay Relatively Healthy
When I worked at Target seasonally, lifting 40 pound bags of dog food and cat litter rebuilt a lot of muscle I'd lost over the past few years, where the only activity I saw was moving my laptop around. I'd like to keep doing stuff to stay sort of in shape.

I don't read as much as I used to. I just bought a book on eBay two days ago, and I should just suck it up and buy some downloadable ebooks so I don't have to spend so much money on bad literature.

Tim and I decided to have a veggie and herb garden this year. We found habanero pepper seeds at Wal-Mart.

Throw a Doom's Day Party
What better way to end the world than with a party? Related, I plan on waking up on December 22nd.

Keep the Magazine Going
My webzine is doing okay. I want it to stay at okay and rise up to pretty well. 

Be More Organized
I made a prioritized to-do list, and I'm hoping to force some better time management on myself to keep myself from getting so distracted.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Surreality of Facebook

On Facebook, I've played quite a few games, which means I've added people from all over the world and gotten to know people from different states and countries. You see the Happy New Year posts when it's only 6 PM in your own timezone, get birthday wishes a few hours before and after your birthday, and hear about events in other countries that don't happen in your own. It's all sort of strange.

The weirdest thing, I think, is getting a tiny peek into everyone's lives. Right now, a friend I know through Facebook, and who happens to live only about 40 minutes from me, is missing. His wife and children have no idea where he is, and the police even revoked his missing person status simply because there's absolutely no trace of him. The people close to him are all very concerned and upset.

Meanwhile, it seems so insensitive to see the posts about people having trouble finding a new car or hating their homework. And yet, to them, my posts are a world away. While one of my friends is crying over a missing friend, another just lost a family member and another is having the time of her life on vacation. It sort of makes you feel tiny.

It seems naive to think that anyone cares where I'm going for dinner when someone just had a baby or someone else just ended a long relationship. It really helps to emphasize how much the importance of our actions really fizzles out the farther it goes from us, hugely impacting ourselves and the people close to us, and not even touching others. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Music Project

I'm starting off the new year with a brand new project that will be on-going for quite a long time. For months, I've been thinking of doing a music project. Music has always been very important to me, and I feel like I've sort of gotten away from it a little in the past couple years. Well, lately I've been finding new music and rediscovering a lot of old stuff. Music is my biggest inspiration. Among the People Lost wouldn't have happened (at least not as soon or the same way) if I hadn't heard Five Finger Death Punch's "Bad Company" cover. Point is, I friggin love music.

My project is simple - make art for every song I love.

That sounds like a lot, and that's why this thing is so big. I don't really plan on stopping or calling it complete at any point. I'm making a new Music Project folder at the bottom of my DeviantART gallery, copying the song-inspired art I already have there, and will be adding to it as I make stuff. I'll still sort things into their respective Fractal, Jewelry, Photography, etc folders, but now there will be that nice thing at the bottom to view all my music-inspired art at once.

Also, I'm so behind on everything art related. I need to do some hardcore organization and work recovery so I can get back to doing things.