Strong Characters

I’ve been thinking a lot about the post from Jocelyn over at 52 Letters the last few days. (I know I mentioned it in the roundup post but it has been eating at my brain.)

What makes strong characters?

Jocelyn says:

the current trend of badass, take-no-shit, cool as a cucumber under pressure, stoic protagonists who face fifty million kinds of stress without any outward sign of freaking out

She’s specifically talking about YA but I think that trend is absolutely wider. Calm, cool, an answer and a quip for every situation. When they do have a Moment it is a Thing and not a part of who they are.

Think Buffy right. (I know, a little old but still entirely fits this character.) The times where she breaks down are really meaningful because she’s always got a quip and does the slaying in an entirely casual way.

A part of this is that after you have been dealing with horrible shit for a long ass time you likely get better at it. So I get that by season 4 or 5 or even the third book a character can be like, yeah…been there, done that.

But even the coolest, most badass, take-no-shittiest among us would likely freak the heck out if thrown into these worlds.

There is also an element of why can’t anyone be a hero?

Like Jocelyn I’m introverted. Personally I’m all the way to the introvert side of the scale. I’m over here on my side of the scale trying to break down the edge to get away from the other people.

I do like characters who spend time inside their own head. I like characters who think things through before they do them. And I like watching characters overcome things to go out and fight and win.

Muscled arm

Strong characters don’t all have to flex their muscles.

My strong characters

Both Eva and Jenna are somewhat introverted. Much closer to the middle of the scale, but for both their happy places are when they are working on their projects alone. Neither of them are charging out to get into the middle of trouble.

One will go out to fight for the people she loves. One kind of gets dragged kicking and grumbling into fighting.

Diane is very extroverted, but she’s actually a character who is quick to cry, highly emotional, and deeply empathetic.

I do think that just thinking about this will absolutely change the way that I design my characters. Creating more depth and a wider range of characters is always valuable. I know I have secondary characters who are like this. But it is worth considering if there are elements of this that should be brought into other characters.

Any strong characters who are not cool under pressure?

Cress. She’s the first one who jumps to my mind. She grows, but she starts out tiny, taking up as little space as she can. She doesn’t like to speak up. But she is strong. She is powerful.

I’m not sure I’ve got any other good examples coming to my head.

Spring Roundup

Spring is here and so I’ve done a spring roundup. Well they are vaguely tied to spring in my head. Emotional intensity, sensory experience, creativity, and of course SMBHs. (What don’t you think of Super Massive Black Holes when you think of spring?)

Reading YA and introverts and emotions

Jocelyn at 52 Letters has a great post about seeing yourself in characters, about emotional reactions, and about the way we expect our characters to be. I highly recommend it.

I’m not sure I have all my thoughts wrangled together on this yet so I may end up looping back to it.

Senses

Computer Generated Logos not entirely a creative AI but similar I think. (There is also an Atlas of Potential Nations, which generates country names and flags.)

Listen – Table Top Audio is a cool audio tool for listening to audio with a specific ambience. Designed for tabletop gaming, but works incredibly well for writing too. (I’ve actually been loving Thunderspace an app for the iphone for rainstorm sounds as well.)

Taste and Smell? – The future of gardening? I really try to keep myself aware of the range of the future. I know I have talked excitedly about the future of ponytail holders. (Because yes, I am the dullest person ever…shut up.) There seems to be a tendency to focus on some of the big things with technology, but it pervades everything, including gardening. I know there are the fancy indoor gardens (which I’m not convinced I could keep alive) but these little pods seem like another step along the path to the future in another way.

Creativity, the brain, and practice

Creativity and the 10,000 hours thing

So in reading this I’m not entirely sure I understand it. I want to say I disagree but I don’t feel like that’s the right phrase, if this is what the science shows then …who am I to disagree. But it sort of doesn’t seem like what he’s saying is entirely backed up.

the techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to “highly developed fields” such as chess, sports, and musical performance

But is snowboarding a much more highly developed field than civil engineers? Are musicians not creative?

Supermassives

Supermassive Black Holes are spinning the same way

This was a cool story about the possible reasons that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of the galaxies appear to all spin the same direction. Early fluctuations of the universe seem entirely reasonable for this, but hopefully this can also give us more insight in the long term into the early universe.

Motivation

I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.

Sisyphian motivation

Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.

This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.

I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.

I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.

What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.

Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.

So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!

Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!

I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.

I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.

And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.

Related article about the desire to get things done undermining effectiveness

Local Robots

What robots have you interacted with recently? Ever? What are your local robots?

I’ve been talking to people and looking at robots a lot lately, when most people talk about robots they talk about they are thinking of Asimo.

Generic robot drawing

Not your local robot.

 

Your local robots might include

  • Vending machines
  • Roombas
  • Drink vending
  • Car washes
  • ATMs
  • Redbox
  • Self-checkout
  • Which did I forget?

It really seems like once we get used to a robot we call it something else and just assume it is part of our life and always will be. We forget that it is fancy. (Hello cars, nice to see you.) We forget we live in the future. That we live in a world where things that seem like magic happen all the time.

We sort of find those things fading into the background. This will continue to happen into the future too. In 10 years will people even think about the fact that they get into cars that drive themselves around?

I’ve been thinking about the Wonder as a subgenre idea from Writing Excuses (entirely worth a listen). We (humans) loose wonder really fast. I went to the grocery store this morning and used the self-checkout. The regular checkout is sort of magical enough. You wave a bunch of stripes of black over a laser and it tells you how much it costs, tells the store all kinds of information like when it was bought and should they order more. When you are done, you pass a tiny little magnetic strip and the store calls your bank and takes money from your account. And now I can do all that without talking to a person? Bag my groceries and be on my way quickly? (Yes I’m an introvert, was that unclear?) But it doesn’t even seem fancy. We want the self-checkout to always get things right, the roomba isn’t good enough if it had to go back to recharge before finishing the job of robot maiding. Our fancy robots are incredible.

You go to the store through a door that magically knows when you are in front of it an opens for you. You get produce that comes from a really long place away. The produce mister automatically kicks on and off. The self check out. So many things we don’t notice.

Self driving cars, space ships, aliens, all of these can be dull, boring.

(Also this sort of unintentionally leads into my flash fiction piece that comes out on Friday. Tune in on Friday for that!)

600 Second Saga now on Google Play

Listen on Google Play!

600 Second Saga is now available on Google Play.

Google says:

Starting today, podcasts on Google Play Music in the US and Canada will begin rolling out on Android and be available on the web. The rollout on Android devices will be gradual, so users may not see podcast content on the Google Play Music app immediately.

Please listen on Google Play or any of the other places you find podcasts.

I wrote about how to listen to podcasts. If you have a podcast tool that you prefer and you can’t find 600 Second Saga please let me know and I’ll work on it!

S1.4 Beyond the Boundaries


Beyond the Boundaries by T Que

Her upcoming short stories include “Back in the Day” and “Where We Are Now”.

T Que is a short story author and aspiring novelist. She is also  a graduate of York University’s  Glendon College Political Science program. Beyond the Boundaries is her first foray into the fantasy genre which has expanded her range of writing. When T Que is not writing she is actively enjoying cultural cuisines within Toronto.

Music is provided by MADS.

You can support 600 Second Saga by giving us a 5 star review on your podcast tool or by becoming a patron.

Creative AIs

I’ve been thinking about the new wave of creative AIs. When will AI be able to take over many of the jobs? It is coming, the question is when. How long until AIs go from iterating (which is primarily what they are doing now) to revolutionizing? That is the real trick with art and creativity in all things. Not just thinking about how to build a better mousetrap, but how to build a house that is mouse proof.

Part of that is you can try a thousand revolutionary things and you’ll be lucky if one of them takes off. Revolution is so much harder, and based on so many other components. But AI might be good at looking at the market trends, at taking in millions of factors, the change in weather, the downturn of the economy, the last revolutionary shift, etc. Take all that into account and it might be able to go, ok here are the 40 potentially revolutionary books that might shift everything. And yes, there might be hundreds of other books or movies or whatever like that, but you just need to be the right one at the right moment to create that entire shift in the way the market is, or to create and entirely new market.

Recently there was the Rembrandt thing, before that the Japanese novel, I was sure that some AI somewhere was creating music.

Emily Howell

This is from 2009 so yeah, that’s been a while. She’s gone on to release more records as well. And yes, Emily Howell is an AI. She builds compositions, takes in feedback and adjusts based on if people thought it was good or bad.

Also every article I read absolutely called this AI by the name the programmer (David Cope) had given her, and also calls this AI ‘her’. Which, yup! I am too.

I don’t think either the Rembrandt AI or the Japanese Novelist AI had gendered names. I hope somewhere out there someone is doing a study about what impact using people names for AI has on our brains and interactions with them. (Bonus Rap Bot)

New Rembrandt

New Rembrandt made by creative AIs and humans. Lots of humans.

MS AI makes a Rembrandt knock off

This doesn’t personify the AI at all, it talks a lot more about the team working with it than the actual AI. It sort of talks about how the team (of humans) uses the AI as a tool. Which is a very different take on the whole thing from Emily.

They really talk about it like they are doing this as an extension of Rembrandt. Would you be comfortable with someone taking what you do now and coming up with what happens next? It does happen plenty now.  (Wheel of Time anyone?)

Is it very different to have someone else finish a work rather than have an AI do it?

Japanese AI Novel

This is another instance of it really being about the human team working on the project.

Though people are calling for the end of authors because of this.

Do you welcome AI overlords?

The basics of this seem to be that the human team did an outline and some basic development and then the AI filled it in. This is sort of like the AI ghost wrote the novel. If you could get an AI to ghost write your idea would you? (Although I don’t think that it “almost” won an award. It got past round one, it was not the runner up.

Resources

When I go looking for information I find I often go back to the same resources. Yes, I mostly start with Wikipedia and Google. But if those aren’t finding me what I want I have a few other places I regularly loop through.

Cracked – personal experience column

I know it is a humor site but it is surprisingly good, especially the personal experience. Depending on what you are looking for it can be a good place to go. There is a lot of adult language. I cannot express this enough. But if I want a little background story on someone who wrote video games or cleaned swimming pools? This is great.

Ars Technica

This is a great site for news. They frequently do a surprisingly good job on the research so I use this on the current stories I want information on.

Mental Floss

There isn’t a lot of original content here but it is a good place to find links to other stuff and they do a very good job of citing sources. It is often a place I stop when I feel like something should exist but I’m having a hard time finding what I want. They do sometimes put together fun lists and posts as well.

Science Based Medicine

This is a site I come to for medical news and when I’m not sure of something. Is this really a thing? Ask SBM. It helps to understand what the science and evidence say about medicine and I am not great at reading medical papers, I can scan them but I often miss stuff. So this is a good tool to get the actual understanding of what is happening.

Scientific American

I’ve certainly linked to this often enough. Good resources, links to the studies, interesting stories. All the stuff you want.What sources do you use that might be unusual to help you find the information you need?