Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dialogues with My Character: Characterization

Me: What the hell happened in there?

Character: I don’t want to talk about it.

Me: She thinks you’re a colossal idiot right now.

Character: Well whose fault is that?

Me: I certainly didn’t tell you to be nervous.

Character: Yeah, but you manufactured it that way, didn’t you?

Me: You’re supposed to be confident. Or at least semi-normal. Not awkward as hell.

Character: How, exactly, do you expect me not to be socially awkward when my entire existence is based around your understanding of reality? I can’t be less awkward than you.

Me: You can because the situation is controlled!

Character: I don’t know that. And honestly, she was acting like a bitch in there. How am I expected to be confident that she’s interested when she keeps telling me to go away?

Me: Hey. Watch it.

Character: What? No one can think your precious protagonist is a bitch?
                   
Me: She is a bitch, but you’re not supposed to see that. And, anyway, you’re the protagonist.

Character: Funny how the world revolves around her then.

Me: It does not.

Character: The entire situation was contrived to benefit her and screw me.

Me: What do you want from me? I set it up. I made you both there. I didn’t even make you seek her out like the colossal stalker you are.

Character: You set it up in her comfort zone. It was a place she always went to doing things that she always did with people she knew well. I’ve never been there before, didn’t know anyone. I was so far out of my comfort zone, and then, there she is, giving me monosyllabic answers, not looking me in the eyes. Insulting me.

Me: That was a joke.

Character: Which is all perfectly fine if she had a semblance of fondness for me.

Me: Well what do you want me to do?

Character: It doesn’t have to be so one sided!

Me: It adds conflict.

Character: You don’t really believe that.

Me: Listen. Little girls are taught their whole lives that men don’t really like them, that they are replaceable, that anyone with a pretty face and the remotest amount of interest will do. We’re constantly afraid that someone is with us because we’re the ones who will say yes. So it’s appealing, in fantasy, to have a guy like you even when he doesn’t know if you like him back.

Character: Your misandry is showing. Or at least sadism.

Me: It’s not about making him miserable.

Character: It’s about making me miserable.

Me: … Okay. Fine. But that’s just to punish you for that stunt you pulled in Chapter 10. Not because I have a sadistic pleasure in men being uncomfortable.

Character: Bull.

Me: You’re not supposed to be uncomfortable. That’s the point!

Character: That’s an unfair and unrealistic representation.

Me: Psscht. It’s a romance novel.

Character: Hardly. Also, that’s a cop out and you know it.

Me: Fine. You’re right. Fine. And I guess being nervous is kind of attractive in real life.

Character: Good. Let’s move on then. Chapter 14…

Me: But it’s not attractive on you. You have represented yourself as a bulldozer of confidence, and this sudden sign of weakness—at least in that mess that you just showed me—is not appealing.

Character: I see there’s a lot of pressure on me to solve the problem. What about her?

Me: We just need to tweak your actions. Illustrate your nerves in a manner that don’t make you look like…

Character: Yes?

Me: Well, me.

Character: Believe me, I don’t want that either. But you know that the perception of character is often based around other characters’ perceptions on them.

Me: What are you saying?

Character: Like real life, a bad date is not always the man’s fault.

Me: Romance novel.

Character: Stop saying that. You’re not convincing anyone. My point is that if you want me to be less awkward and more charming, she needs to perceive me as charming.

Me: She does.

Character: Can she just vocalize that? It’s from my point of view… we have no idea that she gives a shit. And I want the audience to know she gives a shit, or I look like I’m an idiot. Is that really too much to ask? Are you seriously trying to tell me that reciprocal flirting is undesirable?

Me: I can’t change who she is any more than I can stop you from disappearing mid-party.

Character: It couldn’t be that you just have no idea how to flirt, could it?

Me: …

Me: I think we’re done here.

Character: Ho, ho! The cat’s out of the bag. You don’t know how a woman should react when she’s interested in someone, so you expect me to just have ESP.

Me: If I can get away with it…

Character: Did it ever occur to you if you actually envisioned what flirting should look like, you might actually be able to flirt?

Me: I don’t want to.

Character: Uh-huh. Which is why your books focus on the more “intrapersonal” relationships. If you catch my drift.

Me: You flirt pretty well.

Character: Apparently not! Apparently I’m a bumbling idiot.

Me: Heh.

Character: Look. I’ll accept that your target audience is going to want me and ignore her. Believe me, I’m fine with that. And I’m fine with pandering to that. I’m fine going above and beyond the call of duty in the relationship because it’s my actions the readers are interested in. But you and I both know the issue here is a lack of connection. There is no way for me to not look like a desperate tool if there is no reciprocation. And who wants that kind of relationship anyway?

Me: …

Me: I’ll talk to her.

Character: How about we move the setting?

Me: No.

Character: How about we get rid of her douchey friends?

Me: The waiter? He’s an acquaintance.

Character: He didn’t look like it.

Me: Hmmm….

Character: Oh no. Don’t even think about it. I’m not vying for her attention with some quasi-love interest that no one wants to happen anyway.

Me: Alright, alright. Fine. I’ll ply her with liquor first.

Character: There’s something inherently wrong with that. Scratch misandry. I think you’re just a good ol’ misogynist.

Me: She knows you’re coming. She drinks a lot to calm her nerves. Plans on things to start up a conversation, and makes a fool of herself, and she can run out and trip over the drunk.

Character: I did not.

Me: Really? Because that’s what I wrote.

Character: …


Character: Jesus Christ. Okay. Let’s rewrite this scene.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Line Between Self-Promotion and Ticking Me Off

Alright. So I’m pissed. You need to know I’m pissed because I’m about to go on a rant that will bitch about certain things that many people do at many different times. And those many different people and those many different times did not tick me off. Which is a long way of saying, if you do any of the following, you’re not necessarily an idiot. Just this guy is. Bear with me. I’m in a mood.

I follow him on Twitter. Or he followed me first. I don’t know. It’s hard to say when you’re being trigger happy. He sends me a message asking me to look at his blog. I do, because I always do, because the fun part of seeking out new authors or artists or even bloggers is to look at their stuff. Seriously. If you want me to like a Facebook page, follow you on Twitter, or read your blog, just ask. I don’t feel inconvenienced. I enjoy it. But this one takes me straight to a video. I don’t do videos. I don’t watch videos and I don’t watch Podcasts. Er... listen to them. Whatever. If it makes noise, it's not gonna happen.

For one thing, I don’t have the attention span. My reading process is similar to my writing process and I will often read something until I’m bored, go back to writing until I’m bored, then go back to reading, then dance around for a while, look at myself in the mirror, find my headphones, and go back to reading. This is harder to do when you have to consciously press pause. Then you’re far more aware of your scattered-brained brain. Also, I don’t like the noise. There’s other people in my house, including my cat, and I don’t need them judging me for whatever I’m watching. I’m exactly the reader on Cracked.com that needs a transcript below a video link because I ain’t playing shit.

So I ignore it and I move on. He then direct messages me, basically saying the same thing. He tells me to “Tell him what I think.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen. If I like it, you’ll think I’m lying. If I hate it, I’ll have just alienated someone. Nope. I’m keeping it to myself, thank you. If I wanted to be an asshole, I’d go review things on Amazon.

None of this rhetorical request bullshit. Seriously, stop asking me questions you don’t want answered, and trying to get me to look at your stuff under the guise of “feedback.” If you don’t want feedback, I don’t have to give it to you, and honestly, it’s easier for me. Because, such as this case, I just want to scream, “YOUR INEXPERIENCE IS SHOWING.”

I didn’t actually mind the multiple requests. I have a high tolerance for people pitching their stuff to me. So, no, not mad yet. Just not convinced either.

It was his third message when he said, “You’ll be a fool not to give me two minutes of your long day,” (Although, the spelling and punctuation is mine) that I decided to claw my face off.

Oh. And then smiley face.

Okay, I see where he’s coming from, and I feel bad for being so pissy about it because I do not see malicious intent. He’s trying to be over the top and funny—as indicated by his : ). I don’t care. I have to be of a more rational mind set to give people their benefit of the doubt, and he’s worked me into a fury. My rationale has taken a backseat to getting rid of this unadulterated anger.

Do you understand how many pitches I get in a day? How many people ask me to go to their Facebook page and read their blogs and subscribe to their Youtube channel? Understand just how many people on Twitter are trying to do the exact same thing as you and you’ll figure out why you seem inexperienced when you suggest that my time isn’t valuable. No, two minutes isn’t a big deal. But I’ve gotten eleven requests to look at people’s websites since I started this blog. (Okay, okay, a part of that is that I stop writing the blog to go to these other websites. Shut up.) That’s 22 minutes of my time, according to you. That’s an entire T.V. show I could have watched. That’s also more than a page of writing that I could have gotten done.

As for the “You’ll be a fool,” thing? You’re telling me I’d be stupid to not explicitly trust the advice of a random stranger on the internet (giving me a pitch nearly identical to hundreds of others that I’ve gotten), and not waste my time with it? Sure, I’m looking at your blog for my fun, and hell, sometimes even learning experience, but statistically it’s unlikely. One out of every six blogs I read is interesting to me. Vaguely. One out of every twenty says something I haven’t seen before.

I have absolutely no reason to think you know what you’re talking about. And, okay, I know—I KNOW. You weren’t being entirely sincere, and I should just drop it. If I had heard your tone of voice and saw your body language, I probably would have been able to laugh. Hell, it might have even been charming.

And maybe I should be laughing, even. That one line revealed your lack of experience, so to have you suggest I’m a moron for not trusting you in the same line that makes me not trust you, is kind of funny, isn’t it?

But your whole thing is about giving marketing advice. Marketing is all about getting people to trust you. And I have to say that from everything I saw of you, your whole page—Twitter, website, whatever—reads to me like an issue of trial and error.

You want to know my marketing tips?

1) Put a Goddamn person in your profile picture.

Actually, I know you followed me first for this very reason. I usually follow authors, and I tend to skip people who don’t have personable photos. Why? Because non-human photos often spam you more. Hint, hint, hint.

I don’t trust you, and I don’t feel any connection with you. When I see the face behind the author asking me to buy their book on Amazon, I’m going to go to the page and take a look if only to help out another human being.

In fact, the only non-science fiction/magic based books I’ve ever bought, I bought because I liked and/or wanted to support the author. Personalization is key.

2) Your first ideas have already been tested and found wanting, my friend. BEFORE you suggested them.

You know that game show Family Feud? And the host asks a question in which the family has to guess the top six most common answers? It’s like that.

When you first come up with an idea, there’s a good chance that it’s the first idea everyone else has come up with too.

So when you think that the best way to market is legitimately to post your link on Youtube videos, what I hear is, “I’ve never actually tried this but…”

Do you know which website is notorious for having some of the cruelest people in the world posting comments? Youtube. You want to have twenty-thousand people screaming at you for self-promotion? Youtube is exactly the place to do it.

Now, I’ve never posted my link on Youtube, and the main reason is enough people have done it I've seen the reaction it causes. I have posted comments on other people’s blogs, and while people are kind, and it does have an effect, the amount of traffic I get from it is rarely substantial. Posting it to Twitter has had more of an influence.

But you’re supposed to be the experienced master, so shouldn’t you know that? Shouldn’t you be giving me an idea that I hadn’t already thought of before? That I hadn’t already tested out for myself… when I first thought of it?

3) Be more experienced than me at picking up scam artists.

I rarely pay for things anyway, so recognizing scams has never been a necessary skill-set of mine. And yet, I’m exposed to them enough that there are certain tells of when you’re dealing with someone who, I don’t know, writes a self-help book about marriage and then goes to murder his own wife versus someone with actual credentials.

People promoting their expertise in things don’t always have it. End of story. And everything you did tells me you don’t, sir. From your profile picture to the actual commonplace tips, I had a distinctive feeling you were one of those people who knew less about their subject than even I do. AND THEN, low and behold, I find you’re charging 500 pounds for a workshop on how to market. That’s what? One thousand dollars American?

Screw you.

If you’re going to be a scam artist, you need experience being scammed. I understand preemptively believing you’re proficient enough that you should start giving out advice (believe me, I understand.) But once you start wheedling people out of money, you need to kick it up a notch.

4) If it’s a battle of who’s the idiot, I’m always going to be on my own side.

Here’s the problem. I’m a great bullshitter. But only to myself. What that means for you, my condescending friend, is that the reality of who’s smarter doesn’t matter as much as what I want to believe.

You say I’ll be a fool if I ignore you, I’m going to start looking for reasons why I would not be a fool. Which means me actively seeking reasons why you are the fool. Which, in this case, was not so hard.

“Two things I really like people to know & learn is – how to get traffic – and how to convert traffic into buyers, please concentrate on this.”

Where’s your pipe, Sherlock?

“Deliver high quality content every time. The benefits are so rewarding.”

I’ll get right on it.

“Use a premium theme – free themes are free for a reason, they just don’t work as well.”

I’m assuming you’re referencing themes on webpages. That only applies to a few from the myriad of options when it comes to page design. Like, say, hiring a professional, buying a package, purchasing Front Page or similar software, learning HTML yourself, or using any of the other website hosts that don’t refer to them as “themes.”

“Stop spamming people with sales in your emails you’re sending, your emails must give value to customers.”

Ahahahahahahaha.

These quotes, by the way, are in full. I am not taking them out of context. That’s all he has to say about it.

5) USE FULL WORDS.

I know it's Twitter, but seriously, talk like an adult if you’re interacting with me on a professional level. I’m not wasting my two minutes dealing with someone who can’t write out the word “you.”

But, hey. I just spent four minutes of my time bitching about you. I examined your site more closely, read your actual tips, and you definitely got my attention!

Yes. And that is all you will get from me. You better not have wanted a subscription, money, respect, or a longtime fan.

I mean, in all honesty, I’ve calmed down now, and I’m not nearly as irritated as I was an hour ago. I can be more rational, even. But, at best, that puts him back at square one. Most likely, however, if he messages me again, I have a feeling my rage will immediately pike to ten.

Sure, I have, and will make many of these mistakes, and right about now I’m really hoping karma isn’t a thing. But now that I’ve said it, compartmentalized it, and all without doing it in a means to hurt his feelings (because, honestly, he’s not going to be reading this blog anytime soon) I am far more able to understand why I felt the way I did and how not to make the same mistakes later.

And besides, as I went to close out of the webpage, I saw another piece of advice that makes me reconsider—Maybe he does know what he’s talking about:

“Please remember that some people online will and love to try bring your success down to make them feel better. Trust me when I say this as I see them everyday. And yes you’ll probably meet more over the years.”


Yes. Yes, they will. And thank you for offering that service. I do feel better. Asshole.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dialogues with my Character: Motivation

Me: You have to do something today.

Character: You’re going to have to be more convincing than that.

Me: Get up!

Character: But what’s my motivation? I can’t act without motivation.

Me: Your motivation, MacBeth, is that you’re being a boring ass.

Character: That seems to be a “you” problem.

Me: Get up! We have shit to do!

Character:  Like what?

Me: …

Character: Did you ever feel like that might be your issue? Maybe it’s not me writing your story for you? But you just… I don’t know. Lacking one?

Me: Cram it.

Character: Because if you had a plot—now just hear me out—a decent plot, wouldn’t I want to move forward? Wouldn’t I be propelled to not stand here and do nothing?

Me: I have a plot!

Character: That’s what you said last time. And look what happened.

Me: Evil villain. Taking over the world. Bam.

Character: I hope that was something you just pulled off the top of your head.

Me: I don’t know. He killed your father!

Character: Just watched Star Wars, did we?

Me: You know what I’m talking about. Work with me.

Character: No, I don’t know, actually. I know nothing about the evil villain. I don’t pay attention to politics, and even if I did, his plans are a pretty well-kept secret, aren’t they? You deliberately conceal things from me, and then are surprised I don’t care.

Me: I’m pretty sure you’re just callous.

Character: Nothing I have ever done has indicated I am callous. Standoffish, yes. A megalomaniac, certainly, but if anything, I care too much. And that’s why you like me.

Me: You’re going to be mad when I start working on that other book again.

Character: Like that’s anything new. And that doesn’t bother me, because if I don’t get away from you for a few days, “doing nothing,” is not going to be your problem.

Me: You seem to be deluded about the amount of control you have.

Character: Funny, I was kind of thinking the same thing. Anyway, I think I can solve your problem.

Me: Oh, sure.

Character: A big motivator for me? The real thing that will make me start running?

Me: A fire poker.

Character: Knowing stuff. You might just tell me that something’s going on, and, maybe, just maybe, I’ll do something about it. You think you can handle that?

Me: …

Character: I know it’s hard…

Me: I’m working on another book.

Character: What?! The one with the stalker?

Me: He’s not a stalker.

Character: Okay. You know what? Fine. Whatever. I’m sure you and “Edward” will be happy together.

Me: Get away from me.

Character: Fine!

Me: Now. Right now. Go.

Character: I’m gone.

Me: Good!

Me: …

Me: … Annnnnd, I think I might have just gotten an idea.


Character: I doubt it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Time I Used the Word Chagrin

It was college. And like any college student, I was experimenting. I had been writing long enough to stop caring so much about doing things the “right way” and focused more on doing things the fun way. I had always been criticized for a high vocabulary, even outside of my stories. While at times it came from being a pompous windbag, that was also natural, and now I was starting to free myself from the concerns of teachers who didn’t know what “enigma” meant, and just writing in the style that I actually wanted to be writing in.

I produced a lot of plays in college. I would gather the students together, telling them, “Congratulations! You got the part.” (They weren’t going to question the lack of auditions if they already succeeded), and then informing the teachers on the performance date. (I’ve found just telling people what was going on was far more effective than asking.)

So one day a friend of mine, my actor, decided that I was making words up. This wasn’t a surprise to me. I had been directing him for a long time by then, and my most common director’s note was, “You know how I can tell you don’t know what you’re saying? Because what you just said doesn’t make any sense.”

If he didn’t memorize his lines perfectly, he’d try to say the gist. But if he didn’t know what the gist was, he’d change enough words to turn it to complete gibberish.

Now, I’m not going to put all on him. By this method, I did find some denser styles in my writing I knew that I wanted to change. I was taking risks, and he was a great indication when I had gone too far.

That being said, if I stuck with only words he understood, I’d only being using “was” and “cat.”

So, one day he comes up to me and says, “Did you make up the word chagrin?”

I said, “Why would I make up a word that you couldn’t figure out what it meant from context?”

He shrugged. “I’ve just never heard it before.”

“Wait a minute. Isn’t Twilight your favorite book?”

“I love Edward!”

I just glared at him.

“What?”

“Did you seriously just ask me if I made up a word that your favorite book is accused of using way too much?”

In essence, when he read a book he trusted, he completely ignored a word he didn’t know—one that was so common that her readers started to criticize its use—but when he read my play, one that he didn’t trust, he had to severely question it.

It’s not like I want to be a dense writer, but don’t limit me to simple word choice just because I’m not as deserving as Stephanie Meyer to—I don’t know—use the words that I actually know.