How to Win Fans and Influence Writers, pt. 1: Writing Real Characters

I admit– I am a terrible blogger. I’m not very good at writing a review or a post due within twenty-four hours, which is probably why I’d fail in journalism. (Thank the good Lord above for small miracles!) So, I humbly and profusely apologize for my absence.

But I am good at one thing, though, when it comes to writing, and that is writing a novel. As I am typing this blog, I have just finished proofreading my first book. I started this project back in college about ten years ago; since then, I’ve written three completed manuscripts, one partially completed manuscript, and a total of six storylines, although the last three are subject to reconstruction. I personally say that’s quite an accomplishment, considering I was just a full-time nineteen-year-old college student with no creative writing background.

And, so, I would like to share with you some tips on writing… or at least for this blog, writing the perfect characters. I’ve been to two writing workshops in the last three years, both of which shed light on this subject, and while they were nothing new to me, they might be for you.

In my opinion, the only way and best way to write a character (or characters) is to be in that character’s shoes, even if it means using yourself as a template for that character. Now, I’m not talking about creating an exact replica of yourself but on paper and in words; I’m talking about drawing from personal experiences and infusing them with your character. The character should have, first and foremost, a story to share with the reader, and the more realistic and personal the story is, the more likely the reader will grow an attachment for that character. But we can’t forget personality, feelings, and at least one quirky trait either, all of which are great for character creation. Yet, if a character has a story to which the reader can relate, the character will be twice as real to the reader’s mind. As one author suggested at these workshops, you have to make your character(s) memorable if you want to be a successful writer. If your character seems fake or two-dimensional, your book probably won’t sell.

Secondly, do your research and know your character(s). Study them, find out what makes them tick–both in a good way and a bad way. If you’re not basing a character off of you, I suggest you practice the art of ethnography, the study or observation of people. Yes, I’m talking about “people watching”, and, no, Facebook stalking doesn’t count. You need to be out in public, preferably with a close friend or two, and casually watch the people around you. If you must, jot down your observations on a small piece of notebook paper. I suggest doing this at the mall or somewhere crowded where people are less likely to be weirded out if they catch you staring at them for a long time. (You might also want to pretend that you’re having a good time chatting with your friend(s) over a latte or a cookie, but don’t forget why you’re hanging around on a bench outside of, say, Hot Topic. It’s best to blend in with the crowd.) Also, if your character is not from your native country, you better get familiar with your character’s country of origin fast. The last thing you want to do is to turn off your readers by your ignorance of foreign customs and incorporating yours in a country where, for example, Fourth of July is just another business day because, obviously, it’s an American holiday.

Exhibit A: I chose to use my personal story for Rizu Hikarino (a.k.a. Tamashii) in my novel Angelic Guardians: The Gathering because, one, it was unique given in an age where most strong female characters are not necessarily the underdogs and typically get what they want, and, two, the timeline of events in the book occurred during a period in my life that I could vividly recall. I mean how could I write a character who attends university if I hadn’t been to university myself? How would I know the job description of a concession stand worker if I had never been one? Wikipedia is great for research–don’t get me wrong, but there are times when hands-on life experience is necessary.

Lastly, consider the other characters–are they diverse, or are they just like the main character in every sense? There are going to be some readers who will relate better with another character, so try to avoid redundancy. Bring a variety of personalities to the table, and let those personalities contribute to your story with their own. Friends, family, coworkers… even complete strangers in your life make good templates!

If you are in the beginning stages of writing your first story, I hope this entry has helped you. Even though it may appear to come easy, writing is a difficult process. But it’s worth the (proverbial) blood, sweat, and tears… or, in this case, the burnt midnight oil, lack of sleep, and frequent trips to the local coffeehouse/Starbucks.

The next entry for this theme will be my personal favorite topic, as I have dealt with it far too often: writer’s block and how to tackle it.

Friendzoning: Just for Guys?

Twice today on the Internet, I’ve seen articles about friendzoning, especially in the case of men. One of the articles was a follow-up to a recent interview with one Mr. Harry James Potter (Daniel Radcliffe):

Friendzoning is a terrible thing. The idea of a friend zone is like a terrible, male…have you ever heard a girl say she’s in the friend zone?

Well, Daniel, I can say from personal experience that, yes, I have been. Numerous times, actually. Most of the cases are centered around unattainable guys or guys who are out of my league. But there was once a time when the cards were in my favor, or so I thought: I had a close friend who could have easily been mistaken for a brother or a cousin because of how much we were alike. But what he didn’t know is that I was in love with him. I would send him gifts for his birthday and Christmas in addition to all my long-distance friends, but, oddly enough, he was the only guy in the circle for whom I shopped.

I did eventually get his attention, and he invited me to his hometown for a week. He treated me to many outings, showed signs that he was interested whenever I caught him looking at me, and… well, I’ll let you fill in the blanks yourself. And just as I was about done with my house of cards, he met someone whom he would later marry a few years later. He finally came clean as to when exactly he was getting married, and I told him the truth then. Needless to say, we both sucker-punched each other: he hadn’t realized I was seeing him as much more than just a friend, and I was never in the running for a committed, long-term relationship with him.

The house of cards came crashing down hard that day, and I’ve never been able to pick the pieces back up since. Usually, when guys friendzone me, it’s because they see me as the girl next door. Sometimes, it’s the fact that I act like I’m one of the guys, and they feel weird about going beyond being friends with me. And more often than not, the “girl-friendzone” doesn’t last long, as guys have the tendency to just drop the friendship completely and run far, far away. Don’t ask me why, but it just seems to be the natural reaction to the male mind.

On the other hand if a good-hearted guy friendzone you and you haven’t done anything of the sexual or romantic nature, it’s a better (not bitter!) pill to swallow. You can be just friends, providing that the two of you make some sort of agreement to keep your friendship on a platonic level. One of my old college buddies and I stay in contact via Facebook. He’s not part of my inner circle, mind you, but I did have somewhat of a crush on him. Alas, he, too, got married, but I wasn’t as hurt with him as I was with the one above. We never went on dates, but we got to know each other pretty well. Even if he was to divorce his wife, I still wouldn’t cross the line and ruin our friendship. And to be honest, him friendzoning me was probably the best for both of us. He’s almost like the older brother I never had.

So, no, Daniel, friendzoning shouldn’t be all about the guys. Women go through it too. And it’s not the fact that we get upset because we (excuse me for my lewdness) don’t get laid. It’s the fact that we don’t get the romance, the commitment, and the fidelity that comes the sex. The guy thinks he got friendzoned because the girl doesn’t want to sleep with him. For the girl who’s been in my shoes or similar ones, it’s the complete opposite: the guy doesn’t want more than just sex. He’ll lure you in, and you’ll do favors for all kinds for him until you come forward and pour out your heart and soul to him. And men say we’re manipulative.

I’ll let you ladies laugh at that thought.

Pokémon Conspiracy Theories: Shiny Mega Gengar’s Origin?

Since the days of 8/16-bit pixels and Game Boy consoles, I’ve a fan of the Pokémon video game franchise. My choice of poison type-wise? Ghost, preferably the first and only ghostly family in the Red, Blue, and Yellow Versions: the Gastly evolution line. If a game calls for a wild Gastly or Haunter in the storyline, I always make sure I snatch one up and raise it to its final move (via leveling up, that is) before I trade it off so I can have a Gengar on my team. Don’t ask me why, but I just love those Ghosties, especially when I saw their movesets in Generation IV. (The fact that their Ability is Levitate, they have high Sp. Attack stats, and they’re immune to Normal-type attacks such as Selfdestruct and Explosion are just some of the reasons why I feel the need to include them on my team.)

But then came along Pokémon X & Y Versions, the sixth generation games of the franchise, as well as a new concept for many fully evolved Pokémon: Mega Evolution. And guess who made that list. Yup, good ol’ goofy Gengar! I wasn’t completely surprised, but when I saw his ME form, I almost wished that I didn’t. To tell you the truth, I was hoping Mega Gengar would be something more than just a three-eyed ghoul whose body is halfway in the ground with arms similar to Darmanitan’s (or if you need something more realistic, think of either an orangutan or a gorilla). And what’s worse–Gengar could no longer use its Levitate ability as Mega Gengar! I guess that means I can’t Mega Evolve if I’m up against a Ground-type that knows Magnitude and/or Earthquake. Bummer.

Mind you, I haven’t bought either game yet, let alone a 3DS. I didn’t want to at first, but a fellow gamer told me about how the encounter rates for a shiny Pokémon are higher than in past generations, which makes coming across one less rare. Well, I’ve always wanted a shiny Gastly, and at the rate I’m going in my Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum versions, I’d probably be better off finding one in X or Y.

Now, I said all this first so I can let you in on a little conspiracy theory I came up with the other night. You might not have known this, but for a few years, I’ve been a Pokémon creepypasta enthusiast; I enjoy reading fans’ attempt to create a dark side to a game I’ve loved since my middle school days: Glitchy Red, Gary’s Raticate, Lost Silver, Lavender Town Syndrome, and, my personal favorite, Creepy Black/Cursed Black, or just simply Pokémon Black (prior to the actual game). Most of them can be “busted” if you do your research or you go back to the original game and read through the dialogue. The only creepypasta that I, along with other fans, can’t seem to bust in its entirety is the theory of Gary’s/Blue’s Raticate.

So, may present to you another theory, based out of Lavender Town in Generation I:

There’s a little girl standing outside of the haunted Pokémon Tower. She asks you if you believe in GHOSTs. A pop-up window appears on your screen with two choices: YES and NO. If you select YES, she replies with, “Really? So there are believers…” If you select NO, she answers back, “Hahaha, I guess not. That white hand on your shoulder, it’s not real.”

Hmm, Ghosts… White hand… Lavender Town… What Ghost Pokémon of Lavender Town lore could possibly have white hands?

Then, it dawned on me.

Shiny Mega Gengar Was in RGBY!
White Hand Theory

Now, Shiny Mega Gengar might not look entirely white here, but in the video games, he does. Therefore, it would make sense to me to believe that Mega Evolution, or at least Gengar’s, was already in the works since Generation I.

But what about you? What do you think?

Things Are Not Always What They Seem to Be

Back in March of this year, I decided to take trip to Texas for the third time. But instead of flying, I wanted to drive to the Lone Star State, under the impression that if I were to move down there in the very near future, I would rather travel back home by car than by plane. Silly, I know, but I just happen to enjoy taking the scenic route while jamming along to whatever is on my iPod. So, I saved up all of my money between tips from my night job and any monetary gifts I might have received for Christmas and my birthday. And that was just for gas.

Saturday, June 7th, finally rolled around. My alarm clock was set for 4:30AM. I rinsed off, put the rest of my toiletries into my little tote bag, and loaded everything I needed for the trip into Mom’s car. Now, mind you, I would’ve taken mine except I had a little problem with the fuel pump the day after we put in a new serpentine belt, and I was advised to not drive it down to Texas. (I guess the heat and failing fuel pumps don’t mix.) Thankfully, Mom’s was still fairly young in car years with no problems whatsoever.

Driving around Indianapolis on I-465 a little bit after 6:30AM was no problem. Crossed the Indiana/Illinois state line about an hour later, even though I would gain another hour onto my trip thanks to the time zone change. Made a stop at Rend Lake to stretch out, use the facilities, and get my second chocolate fix for the morning (Yoo-hoo, of all drinks in the vending machine).

At that point, I had about 100 miles left to go before I reached the “E” on my gas gauge, and I thought that maybe there would be a gas station near the Illinois/Missouri state line, say about Cairo, IL. Well, I went ahead and drove on past Carbondale, the last Illinois city on Interstate 57. After that, it was small town after small town with no well-known (or if any) gas station at any of the remaining exits.

That was when I started to get into trouble. The “Low Fuel” warning light turned on, and because of my speed on the highway, I was going downhill rapidly. There was no way I was going to make it by Cairo. So, I did what any other ditzy driver would’ve done: I pulled over onto the shoulder near mile marker 11, flipped on the blinkers, and called my parents, who lived nearly 5 hours from my current location, for help.

Fortunately for me, my dad is a truck driver, and he has driven many routes over the years. Even better, he always has a road map on hand. He was able to get to the next exit (Mound City), and as I was approaching it at a painful slow speed (for the sake of the gas, mind you), I saw that the only gas station there was a truck stop. Well, I had no choice but to take it.

So, I swallowed my pride, pulled in with just 2 miles to spare, and found myself wondering if the place was even in business. It looked completely dilapidated, almost like it was out of business. But the gas pumps were there, just not credit card-friendly like other pumps, and they were full serve. And that brought another question to my mind: where was the gas attendant?

That was when I heard a door open, and a rugged man in either his late 50s or early 60s with a cane hobbled over and began to top off my tank. I was too nervous to make conversation with the man; he struck me as being a rough-around-the-edges kind of person. I didn’t know what to say to the guy.

Afterward, I followed him into the store. The inside wasn’t really all that bad: there was an area off to the side with a few booths and a countertop for coffee and other beverages. And there was even an ice chest full of ice cream novelties. It was definitely an independent truck stop. But what caught me off-guard was that this man had posted a sign with the 10 Commandments from the King James Bible. Now, I’ve been to plenty of truck stops in my life, whether it’d be a franchise or independent, but none of them would dare to hang something like this in their building. Heck, even on their property!

I think the man took notice of my surprised reaction because after he rang up the total cost ($49.50… good grief!), he made a comment about how he ran his business compared to most truck stops and tow companies: most places would charge an arm and a leg if someone got stranded on the side of the road, like how I almost did. But he charged his customers by how much they were willing to give to him as a free will offering. If they couldn’t afford it, he’d still do it, because Jesus Christ would’ve done the same.

I didn’t know whether or not this man was the answer to my desperate prayer back on Interstate 57, but hearing his testimony made me believe he was. He could’ve been closed and operated on a 5-day weekly schedule because Mound City was a small town; he could’ve been out of business too. But I got something out of that 10-minute pit-stop other than a lessoned learned. It was a short, but sweet sermon that I would’ve otherwise passed over if I had paid attention to the gas gauge.

And you know what? I’m glad I filled up when I did, because as I was approaching the exit for Cairo and I drove past the town, there wasn’t a single gas station within that 2-mile radius. If I had enough gas to barely get me there, I would’ve surely been on the side of the street.

The moral of the story: things are not always what they seem to be, even if they are nearly abandoned or lacking signs of life.

That and make sure you grab some gas before you leave Carbondale, Illinois.

Icebreakers and Formalities

Salutations to all. My name is Elizabeth Smith. My grade school peers call me Beth, some call me Elizabeth, but most of people I know these days call me Liz. I prefer Liz myself.

As I mentioned in my mini bio, I hail from Logansport, Indiana, population… approximately 15,000, give or take. Really, there’s nothing to do here: the Logansport Mall is becoming a faded memory due to the poor economy and the lack of good-paying jobs to keep the stores from leaving; over half of the population (maybe 3/4) is either unemployed, on welfare, or secretly using their basement for a meth lab, and whenever something nice is done for the community, some idiot has to go and ruin it for everybody with their stupidity. (Okay, so maybe stupidity isn’t the right word, but between vandalism and the I-don’t-give-a-crap-about attitude some people have around here, I don’t know how else to describe their actions.) Sociologically, the Hispanic community is the largest minority around here, followed by the Burmese and a few other Asian cultures. And if you don’t want to have Mexican or Chinese for supper, there are a plethora of pizza chains to choose from as well as the ever-popular McDonald’s, two in fact!

Welcome to Small Town, U.S.A.

But like every small town, there’s always some kind of gem hidden somewhere in the walls, usually in the form of local eateries, weekend entertainment, annual festivals, and recreational facilities. Should you ever decide to bestow your presence upon us, may I recommend a hand-breaded tenderloin at the Old Style Inn in downtown Logansport, followed up by a banana split at the old-fashioned ice cream parlor at Mr. Happy Burger East (preferably on a night I’m working)? Or perhaps a Saturday evening at the People’s Winery with tickets to see a comedy act at the Shindig just around the corner? Then again, it would be great to have you with us for the Taste of Cass County in August! Feel free to use the River Bluff Trail near Riverside Park once you’ve had your fill; 2.6 miles round-trip with lots and lots of nature all around you, including the 10th Street dam, the Hervey Preserve, wetlands, and, oh yes, a 90-foot stone labyrinth. Now, those are some mighty fine gems, if I do say so myself.

Okay, enough about my stomping grounds. Some of you are probably here to get to know me better because I seem like an interesting person. Or maybe you’re wondering why the hell I have a blog via WordPress.com to begin with. If my bio hasn’t already given it away, I’m a writer. Not a journalist, not a blogger, just a writer. I love writing fan fiction, but during my college years, I began to write original material. I am, by no means, far from becoming an established author. I might have three manuscripts written, but none of them are published. Yet. Suffice it to say, I’m a perfectionist, and I work at my own speed. If I’m not happy with the manuscript, I have to go back and polish it up a bit more, even if it takes me a whole year.

But for the purpose of this site, I will do more than just give you a sneak preview of my current project. After all, a writer is just one of the many hats I wear. I’m also a cosplayer, a Sailor Moon enthusiast, and a Renaissance woman of my own kind, so be prepared to see entries involving any of my travels and (mis)adventures.

For now, I leave you with the same choice Morpheus left Neo in The Matrix: a blue pill and a red pill. You take the blue pill, you may proceed to the next blogger and pretend you didn’t see this page. You choose the red pill (that is, if you choose to follow me), you become a part of my Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole of my mind goes.

The choice is yours. And with that, I bid you all adieu.

"Angelic Guardians", anime and manga, cosplay, and other musings.