Monday, December 10, 2012

The thing about writing with music.

"You should write more!" Say I to some of my friends, many of which profess to wanting to write stories, books, anime, movies, comics, videogames, etc.

"But it's haaaard!" they whine.

"Do it!"

"But I haven't had my muse for a while!"

And this is the point at which I silently sigh and rest my head in my hands, glad that most of the time this conversation is via E-mail or skype's instant messaging.

"Just start writing," I say "The rest will come naturally. Start anywhere, you'll get there."

"Okay." They eventually reply, after some encouragement. "Just let me get my playlist together." Usually at this point I groan aloud and melodramatically shift to the floor to complain to the empty aether. Writing isn't going to happen, now.

Now mind you, writing to music is awesome. I do it all the time.

"Then why complain?" You ask, probably personally offended because "I write to music all the time!"

Well, it leads to some problems.

1. It's harder to focus with some kinds of music.

Mind you, some kinds of music are GREAT for creativity. Classics, Techno, Dubstep, Jazz, foreign music, that sort of thing. Why these kinds specifically? Because they're less likely to have lyrics.

Now this might seem strange to some of you, but just think about any time you've tried to write with someone talking at you. Isn't that kinda hard? You're listening to your significant other ask you where to go for dinner, and suddenly your characters are walking into an Applebees instead of a dungeon. Why? Because you're trying to reply in your head and your hands can sometimes reply faster or more coherently than your mouth can. Music with lyrics that you can understand will distract your mind, because you're busy thinking of the lyrics. Movies and other things on in the background can also do this. Foreign music (when you don't understand the language being spoken to ANY degree) and music without lyrics won't distract as much.

2. Changing tracks/volume.

"It'l just take a second." You think as you switch windows to change music, or as you refocus your attention to alter the volume. You look back at your page and wonder "...What was I doing, anyway?" Now it takes you a few seconds to re-read and immerse yourself again. It's not as much fun when you're getting dislodged from your thoughts.

3. "Ooh, this track fits this character..."

And then suddenly you're writing a music video to your music. That's cute and all, but you're probably not writing a songfic. Songfics are a clichĂ© and aren't nearly as clever as you probably think they are. Mind you, some can be good, some can be wildly successful, and some can be bad. I can't think of any that are particularly good, but I don't make it a habit to read them, so I can't mention any bad ones, either. Now writing things like battle scenes can benefit from listening to appropriate music. It can make the battle scenes seem more kinetic and fluid. But you also have to be careful that they don't end up schizophrenic, too. Just be very careful when you're taking inspiration from music. That said: I would suggest listening to character-appropriate music when you -aren't- writing. It can be great for getting inspirational juices flowing. But the other problems mentioned can really raise problems -during- the writing. You do have to be careful about that.

4. Sudden tonal shifts.

Not a big problem if your playlists are consistent, but if -like me- your pandora station covers everything from Dragonforce to Weird Al, you'll probably get a wide variety of music. If you're writing to music and you see your tone changing, that's a big red warning flag. You might consider consolidating your music to something tonally appropriate to what's going on. Pick something peppy for a happier scene or more active, lighthearted combat scene (characters like Nightwing or Spiderman are consistently the type to quip while they fight, they would probably benefit more from Smash Mouth or New Medicine than, say, Linkin Park or Dragonforce.), while a fate-of-the-world struggle between good and evil might need some opera or gregorian chanting or Skrillex or whatever you like for that sort of thing. There's all sorts of moods, sometimes music can be important to what you're writing. I personally have a supervillain playlist full of music that I will be using while I take over the world. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

5. Sudden jumps.

If you're switching tracks and tones and getting distracted by the words, you might get this curious habit of cutting or switching thoughts. A little bit of music-inflicted ADD, perhaps. I don't know that this is a big problem, but one must be wary of any kind of skipping or sudden changes that come from changes in music. Be warned! I hope this helps you all in wrangling that mysterious muse of yours in the future.

Be well, and good writing, my friends!

Friday, November 30, 2012

That is the Question.

Since this is now a writing blog, let's take a look at some writing that more people should be familiar with:

The Question.

No, not a thing that ends in a question mark, but the superhero "The Question". Why take a look at this character?
Well really, I want to take a look at a amusing part of his character that remains relatively consistent regardless of writer.

For those who don't know, the Question (or Charles Victor Szasz, or Vic Sage after he changed his name) is a superhero whose defining feature is a mask that makes his face appear to have no features. No nose, no eyes, no mouth. He can still see and speak, it's just a very clever mask. He is frequently seen in a blue trenchcoat and fedora (though his clothes have changed depending on the artist, as has his hair colour), but the one defining feature is his faceless mask. The second Question was Renee Montoya (who some may remember from the TV show of the early 90's, Batman the Animated Series, as a police officer) and she too had this mask.

So what do I want to say about the Question? His wit. He had a lot of pseudo-philosophical (and indeed, very philosophical) moments in comics, he talked a lot, he had some great jokes (in my opinion, he is at his best as the conspiracy theorist of the Justice League Unlimited series, where he appeared in just a few episodes and absolutely stole the show). His best jokes were simply a part of his character. People love to comment on the obvious, you see, and nothing endears one to a character more than a quick wit.

"What happened to your face?" someone might ask.

"Grandmother's lye soap. I was always grateful she never made me wash my mouth out with the stuff." He might reply.

"You've got no face!" Shouts a drug dealer.
"About time somebody noticed." Question muses dryly.

"What happened to your face?" Asks a doctor.
"Acne medication. I over-did it!" Q replies.

But when someone else asks
"Are you crazy?"

He says to an avenger:

"I am not innocent. Do I deserve to die?"

Characters who are otherwise difficult to redeem can become redeemable with a sense of humour. Characters that are otherwise very serious can be made into very friendly sorts with a few well-placed bits of wordplay. It's all a matter of finding the time and place. Question is a character with a good deal of depth if you get to know him, but I just wanted to highlight some of his humour.

Hopefully that will keep your interest today. Perhaps I'll touch on the topic of the Question again in the future. I'm sure I've mentioned him before.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Re-vamping of the blog and an exciting announcement!

I've decided that this blog should be more focused, and therefore it will now focus on writing. All opinions will only be the personal opinions of the author, but I think I have some valuable advice to give to young writers and old alike.

With the revamping will hopefully come many many more posts, of course. I hope you all enjoy! I'm going to try to make more posts in the hopes that I'll be able to make some kind of money off it for my next exciting announcement!

I'm going to London in the spring!

Some of you may know that I'm a big fan of BBC's Sherlock, the culture, the writing, etcetera. So you'll probably understand just how excited I am about this! But the problem is, it's an expensive trip, and I don't yet have a job. I'd like to make blogging my job, but I'd also like dragons to be real and for DC Comics to recind the reboot, and neither of those is likely to happen soon, either.

That said, myself and my travel buddy have begun another blog! This blog will cover our travels, from acceptance all the way until we return to London and have to deal with the reverse culture-shock!
This blog is at, it's Tea and Crumpet's Adventures in London. It'l have everything from journal entries to pictures to funny postcards to just recent events for us. We'd like to keep up a dialogue with readership, too, so feel free to comment!

Please pass the blog on to your friends. It'l make two travelling ladies very happy.


Monday, July 30, 2012

American English Vs. American Sign Language.

English is a funny language:
You can have a safe, and you can be safe, but you must save the safe.
I hear some people get frustrated when people don't ("won't") learn English when they leave their countries and come to America. But I'd like to point out that English is about as hard to learn as a second language asd Chinese is. If you want proof that there are much simpler languages, try ASL (American Sign Language). Children who are taught ASL as they grow up tend to prefer ASL to their spoken language, and with a good teacher, it's not very hard to learn. In college now I'm learning ASL, my grades are fantastic, I'm learning a different culture, and it's even strengthened my grasp of English.

Once on the Internet I heard of someone referring to ASL as a "broken English". Well that's completely untrue.
ASL is a full language all its own, which belongs to a culture all its own, and while we're at it, it's got a poetry all its own. There are ASL poets (Such as the late Clayton Valli ), Deaf doctors, Deaf lawyers, and a number of other things. Being Deaf doesn't hinder intelligence, nor does it prevent them from understanding a person. Some Deaf people read lips (which isn't a good plan if you intend to communicate for long periods, as it is somewhat innacurate), and many have hearing children or relatives who will be more than happy to translate.

Some argue that ASL isn't a full language. This is wrong, but I can see why some would say "But it doesn't have X!". English doesn't have many things, as well. English doesn't have a word for "feeling as though you have done a thing before", which is why we borrow the French 'Dejavu'. English doesn't have a word for "A witty comeback that you think of a little after it's too late", so the French have 'Esprit d’Escalier'. In Arabic there is a word ("Ya'aburnee") that describes the hope that you will die before another person so that you will not have to live without them. As such, ASL has untranslatable things as well, such as "Cow it", meaning either 'something slow', or 'deal with it'. There is "Train go, sorry", meaning 'you missed the boat'. There are signs for 'Feeling passionate', 'feeling deflated', and like English, there's more than one way to say someone has died. There are many similarities to English, and many differences. Some of the things that seem absent are actually just expressed in a different way, possibly through eyebrows or expression. Many of the things, though, are just not needed. When you say "The dog ran", is the 'The' completely necessary? Why not just say "Dog ran"? Especially if you can point in a direction, or signify if it's someone you know. Perhaps you can say 'A strange dog' to clear up the fact that you're not talking about all dogs? There are many things we do in English that don't make sense if you examine them closely (Saving Safes, remember).

ASL is a full language, it's interesting, and it's quite intuitive to learn the basics. If you only want to know 'in case you run into someone', then it's not a bad plan to try and learn, even if you only get the fingerspelling down. Many Deaf people will be nice enough to slow down and repeat themselves multiple times if you need to, but it's better if you learn the language and have some practice. Many things are intuitive. "Door" looks like a door swinging, "Book" looks like a book opening and shutting, it's really not hard to grasp many concepts. Some are harder than others, but with just a bit of time it can be learnt.

I might post more about Deaf culture if anyone's interested. I'm by no means an expert, but in my short time in class, I feel like I've learnt quite a lot about it. I have an amount of respect, and realize that people who are Deaf are perfectly capable of just about everything hearing people are.

Fun fact: The Football huddle comes from Gallaudet University, a school for the Deaf. The players realized that the opposing Deaf team could read their play signs, so they huddled up to avoid letting the other team know what was up. Now it's a staple of modern Football. Chew on that, and let me know if you'd like me to post more about my experiences learning about ASL.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Three poems for you all, and an explanation.

I've been away from my blog for far too long, and now fully intend to stay rooted on it. I also intend to make some other changes (for example, upping the font size and clarity). I'd like to eventually make money on my blog to save up for a big trip to London I have planned for the winter! I'll be going through my school. So keep an eye out for big changes, and please tell your friends to visit my blog! Thankye all for your continued following during my absence.

Leaving 7/29/12

Whiten teeth and cut my hair
Because I'm going over there
buy warm clothes in midst of heat
Learning how to travel neat.

Change my name, a new passport
Learn the game and Rugby's sport.
Just for fun, a new accent
Get ready to be feeling spent.

Learn the slang and history,
I'm on a self-improvement spree!
New make-up and brand-new clothes
But there's a problem here, oh noes!

I've changed so much from here to there
I'm not like myself much anywhere.
To make a good impression soon,
Sadly now it's not a boon.

Save my money, pennies pinched
Saving for it inch-by-inch
I cannot buy those books I want,
For one grand educational jaunt.

Magpie Murders 7/29/12

One for murder
Two for theft
Three for widows quite bereft

Four for poison
Five for knives
Six for someone's missing wives

Seven for luck
Eight for planned
Nine for tears that must be dammed

Ten for Hemlock,
twenty for Dwale
Thirty for bodies grown cold and pale

Forty for Vengeance,
Fifty for cash
Sixty for showmanship, bold and brash.

Seventy for ritual,
eighty an accident
Ninety for a murder not fully meant

A hundred for coincidence,
a thousand for planned,
Ten thousand, and the whole case goes unmanned.

Heraldry for Geeks 7/29/12

First you pick a shield:
Hero of the time,
of the people,
of the war.

Then you pick a colour:
Blue: Truth,
Green: Honesty
Red: Valour.

Then you pick your helm:
or hero's mask

Then what is your motto?
I'm afraid I have to ask.

Supporters left and right will guard your heraldry, as such:
or horse?
Yes, I would have thought as much.

But what goes on your shield I ask?
Well that one's up to you:
Writing tools
or gadgets,
time or pets
In red or black or blue.

A mantle top and bottom,
in the colours you have shown
You may have noticed now, but your mantle's overblown.

And lo we are not finished, for I suggest:
Want it to look its best?
you pick a crest!

And after that is all performed,
You need mantles top and bottom adorned.

So now you have a perfect crest?
it represents you? Well take a test!
Wait a year, untill things may change.
Go back, and make the crest again.

(Written out of frustration at the fact that there are few intellectually-based heraldic shields out there that I could find, and fewer qualities for those who wish to make a heraldic shield that are called intellectual qualities. Most are based entirely in battle, which isn't very useful in this day and age. I have no idea why some of the lines highlight, though. Afraid I can't fix that.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Still not dead and Sherlock Holmes

Cripes. Once again it's taken way too bloody long to post, and I do apologise for that. My fanfiction is now up to 32 chapters, and doing well, but let's talk about something far more interesting.


 Being that I've been spending my time in Washington (It's just as grey, foggy, and almost as chilly in the winter as London is, as far as I can tell, so why bother leaving for a place I won't recognize after I've time-travelled over a hundred years into the future?) I can't yet watch season two (unless I trick my computer, which I fully intend to.) I'll just talk about season one for now.

 BBC'S Sherlock is a beautifully done modern-day reworking of Sherlock Holmes. At three episodes per season and about ninety minutes each, they're not hard to catch up on, and completely worth the time. While many might think a modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes sounds like a silly idea ("What, a handlebar moustache on Watson in the modern day? Will this be like Sherlock Holmes in the Twenty-Second Century?" You might ask) it's actually quite brilliant.

 Sherlock Holmes judges John Watson by the state of his phone, rather than the state of his pocketwatch, rattling off details about how no sober person would leave gouges in the charging port, and how because it's engraved to someone by the name 'Harry Watson', it must be John's brother's phone, and that he recently broke up with his wife, etcetera. What truly makes it modern, though, is the modern thinking that goes into it. ("You were absolutely right, Harry and I have never really got on." "But?" "But Harry is short for Harriet.") Sherlock and John (Referred to, in this series, mainly by their first names instead of going by "Holmes and Watson") are almost constantly mistaken as a couple by restaurants, passers-by, and even their land lady Mrs. Hudson. I will attempt to avoid spoilers to a point, but I assure you, there is enough hilarious dialogue to keep you occupied for hours laughing. One of the best scenes is the one where Sherlock and John are talking in a restaurant...

 J: "So, do you have a girlfriend?"
S: "Dating, Not really my area."
J: "...Do you have a boyfriend? Which is fine, by the way."
S: "I know it's fine. No. I don't."
J: "Oh. So you're unattached then. Like me."
S: "....Listen, John, I consider myself married to my work, and as such I'm not looking for any..."
J: "NO. No. I'm not- I was just-... No. I was just saying... It's all fine."
S: "I know. Good."
J: "Good."

Cue Sherlock giving John a suspicious look, and an awkward ensuing silence.

Did I mention that is the restaurant where the owner thinks they're dating and offers to bring them a candle "because it's more romantic"? Did I mention that Sherlock does absolutely nothing to confirm or deny anything? Did I mention this happens in the first episode? It's absolutely hilarious, but at no time does anyone seem bothered by it (except maybe for John, but if enough people mistake your irritating flatmate for your significant other, you'd be pissed off, too.) Now I'd like to delve into the characters a bit, and how they're written. Warning: I will try to avoid spoilers, but one or two may come out. Mostly minor ones, but still.

  Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock is tall, lanky, has gorgeous black curly hair, sharp and piercing eyes, and is quite possibly the most canon a modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes can get. He shoots the wall when he's bored, takes nicotine patches instead of smoking ("It's almost impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London these days. Bad news for thinking." "Good news for breathing." "UGH! Breathing! Breathing is boring!") which implies that he did smoke at one time. (Possibly with Lestrade, who is also on the patch). He claims to be clean, but Lestrade at one point organizes a drugs bust to get Sherlock to cooperate with him on a case. ("So you organized a pretend drugs bust to bully me?!" "It stops being pretend if they find anything." "I am CLEAN!" "Yeah, but is your flat? All of it?") So there are implications that perhaps Sherlock was a bit less honourable in the past.
Speaking of honourable, Sherlock in this series does not give one iota to what the police think, so long as it solves his case. Lestrade begrudgingly seems to allow this, but does his best to make sure it happens by the book (with the aforementioned drugs bust being to get a key piece of evidence from Sherlock, and telling the detective he can only allow him a few minutes of time on the crime scene). Sherlock calls himself a "High-functioning sociopath", and therefore doesn't honestly care if he offends someone (Outing a female friend's boyfriend as being gay in front of her, and being bewildered when she runs off crying, or after finding out that the victim wrote the name of her dead daughter from fourteen years previously on the ground, asks "But why would she care about that? That was AGES ago!" and looking a bit confused when the rest of the room falls silent. "...Not good?" "A bit not good, yeah." ) unless it serves his purposes, such as purposefully pretending to cry about a dead victim, and then giving false information about him to the victim's fiancée, so that she would correct him ("People always love to correct you.") or only ever complimenting Molly (who works at the morgue and has a clear crush on Sherlock) when he needs something from her, otherwise telling her to get him coffee. Sherlock's relationship with John is fascinating, as no matter when Sherlock calls or what about, John comes running, or at the very least begrudgingly does his friend's bidding. This gets to ridiculous extents in one scene:
[Phone beeps] 
S: John. Phone. 
J: [looks around] Where is it? 
S: Jacket pocket.
John then walks over to Sherlock and removes the phone -from Sherlock's pocket- to check it for messages.

  John Watson Aside from John's begrudging acceptance and toleration of Sherlock, John is a very good character in this series. While he doesn't contribute in large ways to Sherlock, we get the feeling that without John there, Sherlock would be much worse off. John tolerates him, gets the shopping done, makes sure at least -one- of them has a proper job (as Sherlock doesn't care to get paid for his work), and for some ungodly reason he protects Sherlock, and even tolerates getting kidnapped quite well. Twice. Nearly blown up? Just another day for John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Not just a foil for Sherlock, though, John is a very unique and interesting character on his own. He was injured fighting in afghanistan, and was sent home because of an injury to his arm. He has a psychosomatic wound to the leg, though, and walks with a cane. His hands shake when he's calmest because he honestly can't stand to be without action. We get the strong impression that John sticks by Sherlock just because he desperately needs Sherlock's knack for getting into ridiculous amounts of trouble to avoid his own life being miserable. He even forgets about his limp entirely a good portion of the time, but sometimes even when the stress is too great, his leg clearly pains him (such as in the final scenes of episode three, which I refuse to spoil).

  Moriarty If you're wondering why there's no first name for this one, then by the time you've finished watching episode three, you might know why. Jim Moriarty is, at first, the most infuriating character ever. You may even hate his actor's portrayal of him at first, but if you do, then you have missed the point entirely. This portrayal of Moriarty has a sing-songy voice and a smug attitude, overacts and even has a bit of scenery as an appetiser, on first watch. After a few more watches, however, you'll grow to realize that it's that sing-songy tone and supposed overacting that makes him so absolutely excellent.
"Do you know what happens, Sherlock, To you, if you don't stop chasing me?" "Oh, let me guess, I get killed?" "Kill you? *tsk* N-no... Don't be obvious, I mean I'm going to kill you anyway, someday. But I don't want to rush it. Oh no no no, I'm saving that for something special. If you don't stop following me... I will burn you. I will Burn. The HEART. out of you."
It sounds like it's overacted, and to a point it is. Moriarty's facial expressions are kind of extreme. Why? Because they're mocking. Moriarty knows he's won. He probably won before Sherlock even knew who Moriarty was. Now he's finally letting the detective get a taste for who he should be going after, and who is really behind all the tricks just so that the detective will be all the more defeated when he loses the round. Not just a round, though. Moriarty promised to burn the heart out of Sherlock, and he knows better than the detective that there is a heart somewhere deep down in Sherlock's prickly exterior. He will find that heart and slow-roast it just so that the detective suffers all the more for it. Why? Because that's what happens when you get in Moriarty's way.

There's something absolutely wonderful between Moriarty and Sherlock, a mutual respect and hatred between the two, best summed-up here:
"Nobody ever gets to me. And no-one ever will."
"I did."
"You've come the closest. Now you're in my way."
"Thank you."
"Didn't mean it as a compliment."
"Yes you did."
"Yeah, okay, I did. But the flirting's over, Sherlock, Daddy's had enough now~!"

It's all just a game to Moriarty, and he wants to play it with Sherlock, the only good challenge in London. Sherlock wants to play, too. In the books it was theorized that Moriarty's crime made up at least fifty per-cent of the crimes in London, or at least fifty per-cent of the crimes Sherlock took on.

If Sherlock is married to his work, and Moriarty is at least fifty percent of Sherlock's work...
Food for thought.

Hope this makes up for all the time I've spent not-attending to the blog. I just wanted to make sure I had something of interest to write!