Tag Archives: creative writing

What stories represent and what they tell us about ourselves

This week I wanted to discuss something on the more serious side of writing and representing the real world through story. So without further ado, allow me to take to the stage of the blogging world.

Gorgmenghast.

peake2

The name quietly stirs in your mind as you read the tale of its 77th Earl, Titus Groan. Complicated words, but colorful imagery. Small events and tragedies, we take for granted in our epic fantasy tales but under the careful magnifying glass of Mervyn Peake’s imagination, you feel its weight on your tired eyes.

The Gormenghast trilogy is quite different from your standard fantasy epic, even if you put in A Song of Ice and Fire in the mix. When you read it, you can see why publishers at the same had a hard time categorizing it. This was one of the reasons that prevented these novels from being published and recognized in writing circles.

If I described the Gormenghast trilogy, on face value it wouldn’t stir much interest let alone be considered a treasure in the literary world. Yet, while I read Gormenghast, I was wondering why the story stirred something inside of me. The writing and description was extraordinary but something about the story made me realize its true value.

I couldn’t put my finger on what is was though.

The story is about the life Titus Groan from birth to….well until the author died and never really completed the series. However, it shows how his life is ruled by rituals and traditions that have lost their meaning. Somehow, everyone in the castle goes along with this, as if its some sort of law.

Gormenghast was and is the law. Defying it, challenging it and any form of rebellion was unheard of that it even drove Titus’s father mad.

There is no escape, only submission.

mervyn peake illustration of dr. jekyl and mr hyde

After reading a bit about the author’s life,  I learnt that in his early years he lived in China. The way Gormenghast, the castle, and all its inhabitants live separately from the rest of society sort of reminded me of the Forbidden City.

Then it hit me.

No questions, go along with everyone, obey traditions that have lost any meaning and relevance in today and forget any individual happiness?

Maybe I’m over thinking this, but it felt like the story was representing a sort of Gothic form of collective societies. I’m not saying all collective societies are bad or every single characteristic they possess makes them bad. But anything in excess is usually bad, even individualism (I’m looking at you Ayn Rand).

atlasshrugged200

Back to my point, the Gormenghast novels seemed to resonate with some of my childhood (and even adulthood) experiences regarding collectivism. I grew up in a culture that emphasized on following traditions to the point that they had, figuratively, broken life down into an ordered grocery list. If you fall out of line or do something not accepted or done before, you risk being ostracized.

From a psychological point of view and personal experience, this conflict between choosing for yourself and following what the group does come at a price regardless of the choice you make. Now, if you reject certain traditions not only are you ostracized but you also, within your community, loose that sense of assurance you’re accepted. Maybe to some people that doesn’t sound so bad, but it can have devastating effects on a person’s emotional health.

And forget about ‘middle ground’ in these situations. It’s a dead concept.

Gormenghast offers readers a story about a family, specifically a boy, whose whole life has been planned before he takes his first breath. The senseless rituals he has to commit to have lost all meaning but no one dares question carrying them out or their relevance.

This reminded me of several arguments when I questioned certain traditions and mentalities about the collectivist society I was born into. Any direct question was pretty much met with the same answer (maybe an adverb or adjective if I was lucky):

Because that's what's best because- *insert rest of answer*

Because it’s what’s best because- *insert rest of answer*

This was especially true if I brought up about the role of women in today’s society. Out of my own stupidity and the sweet taste of rebellion (plus the added bonus of pissing off relatives), I wanted to insist certain values were….quite Victorian in nature.

Though doing this would’ve been more productive use of my time:

normal_headdesk

Nevertheless, books like the Gormenghast novels capture difficult concepts to weave into a story, let alone be the central theme.  Also, certain values that are morally grey are harder to come across effectively. But its these stories that bring a wealth of culture and the ability to look at ourselves and the world around us more closely.

It is these stories that we keep in our hearts and minds much longer than your standard white knight saves the world from dark wizard.

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Pseudo Pornos, Lusty Undergrads and a bad Tv show: The unofficial tale of Sex and the City

Once a upon a time, when I was a wee undergrad, I wanted to watch a funny show. This was in the dark ages before the Big Bang Theory brought us hope and light.

Of finding funny tv-show

On finding funny TV-show

All my friends told me about this one series I should watch.

“Hey you should watch Sex and the City!” One said with glee. The other jumped in and agreed.

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I was hesitant by the name and wondered what kind of game they were playing. After all, these were my friends, they watched Dexter and other shows we all liked. If Game of Thrones had been aired, we’d all be rejoicing how Viserys got his golden hair.

download

“Dear friends,” I asked, “it does not sound like something I’d watch.”

“OH!” the other jumped in. “For it is! It is about the stereotypes women have to deal with, ignore the title, that’s part of the issue,” she said with a mischievous smile.

I was convinced at that point and figured I should give it a try. They love Dexter, I kept telling myself.

I couldn't help bringing in two of my favorite references

I couldn’t help bringing in two of my favorite references

They lent me the first DVD and said the beginning was poor.

“But that is to be expected, for this was their pilot!” I nodded at my friend. Some shows need to get their ground before coming around to great rating expectations.

“How many episodes shall I watch then?” I questioned examining the DVD. I had a feeling I should throw it away, but I thought maybe it was just my dismay at the title.

“Three, or five, and then you’ll be hooked! It won’t be long before you ask for another box set!”

So I went to my dorm and ordered pizza, while I waited, I decided to watch and hope for a laugh.

I sat and watched and wondered why, the first scenes were erotica not story at all. It’s probably just for ratings.

After two episodes, I got distracted.

Eating was more important

The pizza was delicious

After the third episode, I was downright uncomfortable.

According to the laws of the internet and Vamp from Metal Gear, at any moment someone will walk in

According to the laws of the internet and Vamp from Metal Gear, at any moment someone will walk in…

I managed my escape from the horrendous show, by playing dead in case Sarah Jessica Parker became the Ring girl.

images

The next day I went to my friends and returned the DVD.

“Did you like it???” They asked with hope in their voices.

“There’s video stores, there’s movies, and there’s books. But if you wish to continue lying to yourselves, just rely on one place where no one can judge you for watching, there’s always dear old HBO, or YouTube. Hell just type in on Google!”

I learned something that day as my friends pleaded me to torture myself through another two episodes.

Yes, we know Sex sells. But it can never replace character development, plot and have a better story for audiences. Sex is overused and often undermined now that we have to take it a bit ‘extreme’ to get it noticed. Or more importantly, people to watch.

‘Tis the end of my sad tale. About being lied to about series which discussed several issues.

Instead I got fooled into watching a porno with the dark lighting making it erotica and with dialogue making it a story.


Accurate Story Titles: The case with Disney’s Princesses Part 2

In the game of creating-accurate-story-titles-for-your-audience-to-read, you either

meme

Make them laugh or be lame!

The latter is pretty much death on the internet. Just much slower and more painful than loosing your head.

Let’s see, we’ve cover Mulan, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderalla…

Who’s next?

Wait…You. So we meet again.

My mortal Enemy

My mortal Enemy

From the dawn of my existence, your theme song played in the background of my home whenever you saw the opportunity, like your cousins the sirens when they saw new ships with young sailors, to tempt the women in my family to have a ‘girls’ movie night’. I was forced to watch treacherous ill gotten stories which neglected the very fabric of healthy relationships.

It nearly drove me mad. But I survived, persevered even because I knew one day, I shall have my vengeance upon you.

Then, you decided these taunts were not enough to thrill you in our game of TV remotes. You recruited countless radio stations and music stores to promote, sell and replay what only your most loyal of banner-men  or..um women, to sing your theme song over and over again. Along with that Titanic song I still believe you were one of its main architects.

I thought patience was the best way to go about my plans, but then you did the unthinkable.

You infiltrated my ‘real book’ of saxophone sheet music.

Tonight, I shall unveil to the world your true tale.

Prepare yourself!

This is our final battle!

Alright, Beauty and the Beast is one of those classics that will probably haunt humanity until we’re extinct or be a treasured artifact in  a post-apocalyptic zombie world where alien archaeologists are trying to figure out what happened.

A tale of Stockholm syndrome, forced redemption and re-enforcement of certain stereotypes

A tale of Stockholm syndrome, forced redemption, re-enforcement of certain stereotypes and how you can change your man with your love!

At the beginning of the film, the narrator tells us of a spoiled and selfish prince who was unkind. Hey, he turned away an old woman during a storm! That’s just extra points on the ‘typical-bad-guy-meter’.

Hmm, selfish, unkind to the poor, appreciates beauty, only apologized when there’s a bigger more powerful fish in the kingdom, you know he’s just an incestuous lineage and headless main character away from being-

Joffrey

Joffrey.

But Joffrey being a powerful beast would not be good. Tyrion Lannister won’t be able to protect us.

Anyways, Belle sings how boring her life is and she doesn’t want to marry the village quarterback. Funny thing, in the end she just ends up marrying the ‘changed’ prince and lives happily ever after. What’s the difference between that choice and marrying the quarterback? Both of them had their failings and issues. The only difference is one is rich and a prince!

At least Arya Stark knew she wanted something different and she wasn’t afraid to say what it was. And that’s a princess who knew what she wanted and what to sing about if she broke out into a musical number.

So let’s cut the plotline and get straight to it, she plays hostage trade with the beast. Then, begins a love story of stockholm syndrome.

Firstly, the beast gets pissy and actually orders the servants to let her starve (this sounds like something Joffrey would do). It seems like the time spent not being a human prince with everything didn’t teach him any humility.

If anything, just enraged him.

The enchantress that cursed him is obviously not an accredited psychologist. We need to alert the Enchantress Psychologists Board about malpractice and proper certification of a certain someone. Seriously, if I was an enchantress and wanted to teach him about inner beauty and humility well, there’s a whole bunch of recycled plotlines I could use that would fit better! Make him ugly and a peasant, then he learns his lesson, etc etc etc.

Okay, so the beast starts becoming nice and all lovey dovey with Belle because love changes you! This of course is one the major assumptions about relationships in today’s society. Kiddies, you can’t make people change. You can help them but the whole causality is wrong.

Also, it takes steps. A long process to get a person to change. I’m not saying people can’t change but….

Have any of you watched Gargoyles?

One Disney character (I'm still in shock) that tells you the hard truth

One Disney character (I’m still in shock) that tells you the hard truth

 Do you remember what Goliath told Angela, his daughter, about her mother’s actions in season 3 (Generations)? Well, I can’t post a direct link to the speech, but it sums up everything I want to say about changing a person:

“To truly change or redeem oneself is terribly difficult. Some work their entire lives and never manage it. “

-Goliath

I read that in Goliath’s voice….Anyways, Demona didn’t really change even in the face of her own beloved daughter’s pleas.

How can you expect the Prince to change?

This only re-enforces two stereotypes or tropes in romance media, (1) Stockholm = love and (2) your love can change him!

Here’s another issue, the woman is always beautiful. The man can be ugly. If its ever reversed, the woman is actually a flower waiting to bloom and turns out…wait for it…she’s actually beautiful!


Accurate Story Titles: A special case for Mulan

Fun fact kids!

The great wall of China

The Great Wall of China actually took quite some time to be built. Some of the walls were built as early as the 7th Century B.C. The one that we all know and love to visit (and comment to your mother that you are in fact standing on a large graveyard), was built between 220-206 BC as the great Wikipedia gods have told me. (If I’m wrong guys, please email/comment so I may correct this information.)

So, uh, Shan Yu

Yes, you, good sir. The one with the demonic eyes and the evil animal sidekick

Yes, you, good sir. The one with the demonic eyes and the evil animal sidekick

I have some rather concerning issues regarding your invasion of China, I have prepared a list for you so we can get straight to the point:

  • Why did you wait for the Great Wall to be completed? I’ve walked on that thing and I must say, climbing through those mountains then seeing a big ass wall on the mountain top would make me say to my buddy “we don’t realllllyyyy need to conquer China do we?” Plus amassing a whole army to climb the Great Wall would be a tad bit…I dunno…
Noticeable?

Noticeable?

Like, how did you carry your horses? Supplies and all that? If you did, and decided to take the really long ass scenic route, damn someone would’ve noticed by now. According to the original ballad of Mulan, she fought for twelve years. Maybe you spent that time getting your logistics sorted?

  • Killing the emperor only. Seriously? That’s your plan? Um, sorry kids but it was well known the Emperors had gardens/mazes dedicated to the Emperor playing games (no, not that kind perverts) with his concubines (which at that point you hear your mother asking the tour guide what about the Empress?). Let’s not forget, they had several children. So..um…See my point?
  • Your whole army gets killed and a handful of you go off into enemy central? You’re quite….well…obvious you’re not from around here. Plus what would that accomplish, kill the emperor and any successors. Then what? Oh and ever heard of army morale?

I could go on but…

Your bird is giving me a weird look

Your bird is giving me a weird look. And about your eyes, I know a good Doctor who can check that out…

Okay, so about Mulan…

Technically, she isn’t a princess. Disney added her as a princess I guess to negate certain issues. Although she did marry a General, she still is not a princess.

Mulan

Disney could have justified its decision in making Mulan a princess if they made General Shang one of the Emperor’s sons. Then again,

We couldn't use the wise old king trope

We couldn’t use the wise old king trope

In Hua Mulan, the man Mulan fell in love with was one of the Emperor’s son (number 7 I think).

Okay, that’s it. End of story.

Nope. I still have issues.

What I wanted to point out in this special ‘interlude’ was the different  interpretations of Mulan. I’ll forget about Disney’s list of wrong  assumptions. Seriously guys, if her family owns that land and let’s face it, it looks like she’s from a ‘rich’ well moderately rich family, she’d have more brothers and sistersandwhatthehellseriouslyguys?Alsoculturalintepretationsjustbecauseshewentagainstsociety’snormsdoesn’tmeaneverysinglecharacterhastobeloveableclumsythatisjusttheshortcuttotheaudiencelikingher!Whatiswrongwithyou-

ARGGHHHH

ARGGHHHH

I feel better now.

Anyways, Disney took what I’d like to call the ‘standard’ route to introduce Western audiences to an unfamiliar culture and time period.

Heroine is against cultural norms, therefore lovably clumsy but smart, does something drastic to protect her father, goes to war, triumphs. Also, the war looked like it didn’t last too long.

Now have a look at this trailer:

I’ve watched this movie recently and although it has certain issues I’d love to discuss, I think it had something more to offer older audiences regarding the original legend. How being at war for 12 years affected the heroine as well as the ultimate decision she made at the very ending. It isn’t a happy ending, more like bittersweet, when you think about the implications of her decision but I won’t spoil it.

I could write a whole PhD thesis on what’s wrong with the Disney movie but-

Hey, that’s an idea!


The different types of writers

In any endeavor, we often view things in the ‘romantic’ sense.

Take playing the saxophone for example,

Put a saxophone in anyone's hands and its automatically sexy

Put a saxophone in anyone’s hands and its automatically sexy

Sexy, cool and totally badass.

With your sexy playing, you’ll seduce everyone in the audience.

Guess what?

Get used to cleaning up your spit after playing it.

Sexy isn’t it?

Somehow just saying you’re a writer gets a similar reaction. Everyone forgets there’s hard work and stuff to clean up (hopefully, not spit in this case).

There are three self-proclaimed writers, probably among your friends, that fit these ‘extreme’ archetypes.

1. The show-off:

This writer can be equated with the ‘it’ girl in any social group. She/he will always bring up any opportunity that they are a writer, especially whenever there’s a delicious word play. Any failings to spot obvious play on words or lacks certain articulations expected from a writer, the show-off will use her/his most famous line as a defensive shield:

‘I didn’t see that! And I’m a writer!’

Or something like that.

This writer hates constructive criticism. Even if you have your friend’s best interests at heart and genuinely believe they have a diamond in the rough, be careful.

This writer will rally the support of her/his family and friends to get their blog numbers up or any comments in any published material on the net.

For example, you may find his/her mother defending  or praising the writer’s views in the comment section.

2. The Free spirit:

Writing has been equated with being a free spirit, meaning stuff like planning and contacting publishers are so…technical and not-free-spirity. Some may view that writing a ‘plan’ hinders the creative process.

This type of writer often has an innocence in his/her demeanor. They believe that their work will be automatically picked up thanks to their creativity but when it comes down to getting an agent/editor/publisher to look at their work, things get complicated.

Free spirits maybe more open to criticism of their story, however, don’t try your luck out when advising them on how to improve their writing methods.

Just as every writer is different, so are their methods. The free spirit is lodged on an ideal that creativity alone will push through all the business-y stuff.

3. The Analyst:

He/she spots the common mistakes and other issues with other pieces of work. This archetype writer believes he/she has avoided these mistakes in creating their debut work or magnum opus. If you point out this person’s mistakes, he/she might have an explanation on why they did this or that in the story.

The analyst also believes in following a religious pathway in publication. Anyone who diverges from this path will not be successful.

All in all, every writer is different just as every sax player is (quick info: each sax player’s mouth is slightly different so they have to practice to find the ‘right’ position for their lips on the mouth piece, how ‘plump’ their lips are, how to use their cheek muscles, etc). And like each sax player, each writer needs to figure out what works for him/her.

This annoyingly takes time, patience, practice and self-reflection.

And take risks in the roads to publication.

Despite all of this, it’s still ‘romantic’ in some sense.


Perfectionism: The common cold of the writing world

One the worst diseases in the writing world is the common cold   author perfectionism.

Knock knock, new chapter, knock knock, new chapter, knock knock rewrite

Knock knock, new chapter, knock knock, new chapter, knock knock rewrite new chapter

There’s a book I’m dying to write, but every time I get around to actually writing it… I end up re-writing the whole damn thing.

I, too, suffer from the crippling disease of author perfectionism. When you overcome it, a new strand of author perfectionism infects you. This is another reason I haven’t chained myself to my laptop to write Ladders Into the Grave properly.

Any antibiotics out there? As your quack author doctor, I prescribe one book for you. Read it daily and tell me how you feel after 90 days and I’ll prescribe you something else.

41AsVnidC-L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-63,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_

This is your fee for the prescription. Please fill it out on the way to book/kindle store.

Pretty please? Or else I’ll have to resort to the internet’s number one strategy!

Its low, its immoral but an effective tactic

Its low, its immoral but an effective tactic


Lies to breakdown before writing about Adult characters

Dear Ma,

Over the past few years, I discovered you lied to me about many things but certain LIES stood out from the rest.

Those lies are much worse than the Santa Claus incident and Tooth Fairy stunt you pulled off years ago. I have organized these terrible, horrendous lies into a short list:

1. Adults are mature: Ma, you gave me an impression that all adults (regardless of sex) acted like these people:
Goliath      Carter_StargateSG1

When I stop hearing young women arguing how people’s lack of fashion sense is a bigger issue than the current financial crisis and when I stop hearing young men boasting how they ‘own’ companies in different countries or exaggerating any of their accomplishments, I might re-consider my position.

They’re young you say? Not fully mature? Wait, this isn’t a level up gauge bar like my Final Fantasy games!

It is?

Okay! Then how about when they become parents? Ma, when was the last time you heard another parent showing off their spawn? Hell, when was the last time another adult boasted about their accomplishments to everyone?

Yeah thought so.

2. Adults don’t get jealous:

Seriously? Ma, I have a database of issues I’d like to go through. They are also alphabetical for your convenience!

We can start we B, from Beauty to Bonuses? Or maybe you’d prefer E, start off with Education to extra-curricular activities (the one you immediately thought of and the more ‘sporty’ one…wait that can be misinterpreted). Or S? From…*wink wink nudge nudge* to Spouses or how about Success? C, Children. Who has smarter/better spawn? Oh, already mentioned that.

3. Work hard and you’ll get what you want: I work very hard in procrastinating while doing papers but I still end up doing them! Yet, when I don’t procrastinate and work to write epic stories to dazzle my audiences, I end up writing nothing.

4. As you grow older, you’ll become more humble:

Have you ever seen how masters’ students act after they graduate? Hell, have you ever seen someone act when they get their first ‘official’ job?

Not old enough?

Ma, do you remember the last family reunion?! It was like watching a bunch of high schoolers who somehow became the product of a deadly concoction of teen fangirls gossiping about anyone in sight and jersey shore boys flexing their financial muscles sprinkled with cultural pressures and expectations.

Okay, okay, yes Ma that was mean. I take it back. I’m sorry.

Well, the last family reunion was more like-

Gladiator

This.

How could you, Ma? How could you?

As an amateur writer I have a sworn duty to accurately portray human nature! No matter what!


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