Keep Calm and Carry On – My Thoughts on a Culture of Resignation

Keep Calm and Carry On“Keep Calm and Carry On.” You’ve seen it on bags and napkins and journals in every bookstore or gift shop. It’s everywhere. The motivational tagline that seems to have become the unthinking motto of the last few years. I say unthinking because it’s just that: the statement of the decade is almost undoubtedly accompanied by a full lack of thought – completely un-motivational in its banality and now as satirized as the middle-school-maturity phrase, ‘YOLO.’

But as kitsch as it sounds and looks now, is it innocuous? In the wake of worldwide financial crisis, terrorism, and governmental failures that make it difficult to understand the actual source of the issues – during a time when small groups of single-target activists gather on Twitter to raise half-hearted environmental awareness or lobby for some sort of reform – is this phrase just a bad tick among Western cliches, or is it something more harmful? Continue reading

Revisiting Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a good philosophy Uncertainty is a virtue in creative writing. If you’re a writer, you’ve likely heard or read countless interviews of famous authors saying that the outline is a great way to kill the spark. That’s not to say that outlining doesn’t work for anyone. I’ve outlined some stories that I needed to wrap my head around before I got too far in to redirect, and they turned out fine. But it doesn’t work often.

‘Write to discover’ is the long standing motto for many authors, and I’ve adopted it for myself. For a person who usually avoids spontaneity, this seems a little out of character, but then again I’m not writing about myself. I have to figure out who these characters are. To do that, it seems easiest to place them in a setting and a situation, and then I have ten pages from which a plot is quickly being born without my knowledge. Continue reading

The Thousand Names

The Thousand NamesWell, I only read one of the books I said I was going to this summer, apparently because I can’t tie myself down like that. But it was quite a book. Although mildly escapist, Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names is a page-turner. That’s what summer’s about anyway, right? Beach reads.

Easy to get into and easy to stick with, The Thousand Names holds a captive audience by means of some of the most riveting battle scenes I’ve ever read. Wexler is gifted in this aspect. Battle is something I’ve always struggled to write because of the sheer amount going on and the significance of all of the details.

Continue reading

Nothing New Under the Sun

Shadow of doubtThe more I read the more I realize that every idea – every idea at all – has already been taken. “There is nothing new under the sun”, the famous quote from King Solomon goes. And while I suspect this is a woefully misquoted verse, it seems to have veracity under most interpretations. And, gosh darn-it, he was saying that long before Christ!

As authors (or artists looking to bring something unique into the world), where does that leave us? Perhaps some of the greatest writers in history felt this inner demon attack on creativity, so maybe we’re not in bad company, but that doesn’t change the nagging suspicion.

A writer’s doubts cling to him or her like a shadow. Glance over your shoulder or into a mirror and you’ll find it. If you don’t, you haven’t done anything risky or creative or vulnerable enough to earn doubt. But perhaps this particular doubt should be cut down a little to a more manageable and realistic scale.  Continue reading

A Second Walk Through the Wheel Of Time

The Eye of the WorldThis is my second time reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time series. The first time it held me entranced through most of high school, but I only read the first nine before I got side tracked. (Not to mention, Jordan passed away around then, just before I had caught up to him). Not familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s capable and strangely similar style and talents then, I decided to delve further into fantasy with different authors.

Years and countless writing lessons later the Wheel of Time has turned, and I’ve come back to this classic series to discover it’s just as entertaining as it was before. Yes, I’ve read stronger authors including mega-series-world-creator Steven Erikson, but a broader perspective has given me the chance to view Jordan’s storytelling with a different sort of fascination.  Continue reading

Truth Magic: Philosophy in Fantasy

Screen shot 2014-06-17 at 11.17.51 AMDaniel Abraham is defining himself among fantasy authors as a brilliantly creative designer of magical frameworks that rival the creativity of Brandon Sanderson. While a system of magic is generally the root of all disasters in his novels, he manages to play with new and curious ideas in a genre that’s overstocked with gouts of magical flame and various elemental wizardry. And he manages to entirely avoid the young-mage-in-training trope that made titles like The Name Of the Wind fall flat in my opinion.

In The Dagger and Coin series, Abraham gives readers a unique play on many old things. Apart from the fact that the storyline is centered heavily on the point of view of bankers in this fantasy world – an occupation in fantasy almost entirely neglected aside from a few goblins in Harry Potter – the magic itself is unique enough to carry the story by itself. Continue reading

Story Graphs: Plotting a Plot

The other day I came across a picture of Kurt Vonnegut’s story graphs, which started me thinking…how many stories could I graph myself? Well I had some fun with it over a few days, and here’s what I came up with. Most of these do a little harmless damage to the truth, but if you’re looking for a humorous oversimplification of some classic stories then look no further!

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 2.48.35 PM

My favorite one of Kurt’s is his rendition of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Absolutely nailed it.

Here are my attempts:

This is obviously the entire series up to now. I figured the fortune of the plot could sort of be generalized down to 'horrible.'

This is obviously the entire series up to now. I figured the fortune of the overall plot could sort of be generalized down to ‘horrible.’

Continue reading