Monthly Archives: November 2013

Free weight-loss tips at discount price

Having trouble losing weight? Your diet or exercise program isn’t quite working? Here are three easy tips guaranteed to help you. Though your doctor does not want you to hear these tips, we offer them absolutely free of charge!

1. Femur Extraction

Did you know that your femur bone is the heaviest bone in your body? Many people think favourably of their femur bone, assuming that it helps them walk, run and jump. While it certainly does assist in all of these activities, it also plays a significant role in making up the number shown on the scales. Removing your femur bone, we guarantee, can play a major role in helping you lose weight. But don’t do it yourself! We offer femur extraction services today at a discount rate! Contact us for more information.

2. Special Exercise

There is a fundamental problem with most weight-loss exercise programs. This problem is that they cause you to put on muscle. Muscle, as most people fail to realise, is far denser than fat, and is therefore a major problem when you are trying to lose weight. Particularly troublesome are the quadriceps, pictorials and gluteal muscles, all of which are tremendously heavy. The solution? Follow an exercise program which reduces the size of these muscles, making the scales your friend again! Our exercise program involves phasing off push-ups, squats, and cycling, among other things, at the rate our experts believe to be most efficient. Buy our exercise program NOW at a discount price!

3. Debilitating Disease

Increasingly rare today is a very effective method of losing weight: debilitating disease. In the past, diseases such as Malaria, Cholera and the Bubonic Plague played a major role in keeping people’s weight low. Today, these diseases are shunned by mainstream society. Even in the few countries where they still exist, persistent efforts, sadly, are being made to eradicate them. The good news is that many are not yet totally extinct. We specialise in providing Cholera, a disease which results in severe diarrhoea — a very efficient method of losing weight. Usually the bacteria necessary for procuring this disease must be obtained through unclean water, but we provide them in the capsule form at discount price!

So spread the word! If these free tips helped you to lose weight, tell all your friends! Don’t forget to purchase our exercise program, our cholera pills, and our femur extraction services, all at discount price!

Note: I am NOT making fun of overweight people here, I’m lightly making fun of weight-loss programs — but mainly just  having a good time. I hope you are too.

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Unrealistically boring characters

I think sometimes we over-fictionalise fiction.

I am not talking about our tendency to write wholly outlandish or unrealistic stories. I am not bashing high fantasy, or science-fiction, or Roald Dahl. In fact, I am not talking about ways in which we try to make our stories too interesting by forsaking reality, rather I’m talking about the ways in which we let our stories become boring by failing to capitalise on the amazing things that happen in real life.

Specifically, today I want to talk about this in relation to characters. I’ll tell you straight up: I write terrible characters. Nearly all of my characters seem, to me, to be flat, boring personas who walk around saying obvious or irrelevant things and who can’t so much as crack a joke. I have never succeeded in writing a Dustfinger or a Boromir or a Neville Longbottom — not even a Fred or George Weasley.

Why is this? I expect there are many reasons, but I think a major reason is that I have failed to appreciate and to capture the wonderfully wide variety of characters I have encountered in real life.

You may feel like you have had a relatively dull, uninteresting life. But when you think about it, you will probably find that you can tell far more interesting stories, far more fascinating pieces of information about your life, than you thought you could. They may not be stories which will change your listener’s life, but if you tell them right, they will certainly keep people interested. What about the fascinating people you have met? How many interesting people are there in your life?

What about the man you’ve met who knows at least thirty languages, possibly closer to fifty? What about your friend who was deposited out of the window of his car when it flipped over several times, but was unhurt? What about the pastor of your church who came third in a beer brewing competition?

You could get even more basic — rather than thinking of the fantastic accomplishments or fascinating stories, think of personalities.

What about the lady who always seems to be talking? If you tell her a story, she’ll always have a similar story or experience to tell straight back to you. Or what about your grandmother who feeds you nonstop every time you go to visit her? Every time she sees something she thinks you’ll like “on special”, she’ll buy it and send it to you — though you live thousands of kilometres a way. Or what about your grandmother’s friend who is equally generous? She is very old and overweight, has multiple joint issues, a weak heart, and yet continues to cook “Meals-on-Wheels” for people frequently. And, interestingly, she drives pretty fast. (contradictions are key to interesting characters)

All of these are people that I know, despite the fact that I used the second person, but I’m sure you can think of just as many fascinating people with fascinating stories that you know. Now that I’ve got started I can think of so many more.

Once you realise the rich reality that you are faced with, you may be able to better incorporate that into your fiction. As David Corbett says in his article “How to craft compelling characters”, “the best inspiration often comes from within us—and from our experiences with people in our lives”. In other words, take all those fascinating people, those wonderful idiosyncrasies, those fantastic stories, and use them to inspire your fiction. Give your imagination some material to work with — use your imagination to aid and abet and transform the rich experiences of real life into something new, but something just as authentic and exciting.

Just as we should take advantage of those wonderful real-life characters in order to inspire our fictional ones, so should we take advantage of our own real-life thought-processes and emotions in order to write realistic and powerful thought-processes and emotions for our characters. In the same article, David Corbett says “It often surprises me how frequently writers, especially young writers, fail to explore the rich veins of emotion they possess in their own lives, so they can translate that to their characterisations”. He recommends thinking about important emotional experiences we have had so that we can create them more effectively in our characters. For example, think about your “moment of greatest fear”, your “moment of deepest shame” and your “worst failure” — and think about more positive emotional experiences too (if you plan to give your character any). It seems to me that even if the low-point that the character in your novel experiences is wholly fictional, you can make it far more powerful by thinking of your own feelings during similar (if much less severe) situations.

So I think there are two applications of this post for me. Firstly, I want to take greater note of the personalities, the idiosyncrasies, and also the stories of people I know. Possibly I’ll write portraits describing them or even short stories involving them. In this way I will become keenly aware of how fascinating real-life people are, and I can build on that to make far more interesting and realistic fictional characters. Secondly, I need to think more about how I would feel in my characters’ shoes. More specifically, it would be good to think of situations that I would find very difficult — very shameful, very fear-inspiring, or whatever — and try to put my characters in those situations. Show no mercy to your characters. The day when my reader’s gut is wrenched because they actually care about my character, and the things my character suffers actually means something to them — that day I will consider myself to be a half-decent writer.

I hope that this post is as useful for you as it has been for me. For some reason I have written it predominantly in the second person, even though these are ideas for myself more than for anyone else. If you have any thoughts on this, please do comment. You may also like to read the David Corbett article, linked to both here and above, which I found quite useful even though his commonly used Blanche Dubois illustration fell flat, me never having read the book.

An apology, an excuse, and a proposal

Hello,

I am sorry for abandoning you all. Indeed, I have been absent so long that you probably assumed my blog was dead, and had become yet another fallen tree in the forest which is WordPress. Actually, the tree was only hibernating. It lost all its leaves, certainly, but it was not completely dead. Now Spring has come (I hope) and perhaps the tree will gain some leaves again. Either that or (which may be more likely) I will post once or twice in the next week and then we’ll have another long winter.

I have given my apology, and now I must give my excuses. (For, you must know, I don’t really want you to forgive me — all I really want to do is to prove to you, by whatever flawed means, that I was not actually in the wrong.) This last nine months have been the busiest of my life. “Back to Cambodia,” I thought a year ago, “back to where I will have time to read and to blog and to design board-games, and to run as much as I do already”. Not so. I began distance education in January, and I realised then that I had previously been taking life easy. Since then I have had little time for pleasureful pursuits, and since I am clearly not made of the same stuff as Miriam Joy or John Hansen or other teenage writers I could mention (who manage to go to school and do extracurricular activities and write novels and blog) my spare time has been taken up with less mentally engaging activities and my blog has languished.

However I want to begin using my blog again. I believe this is more realistic than it would have been six months ago for two main reasons.

Firstly, I discovered during exam week in late September, that one does not really need hours and hours in order to write something worthwhile. Even if you don’t spend ages thinking of everything you want to write, nicely arranging it in order, and then following your outline closely as you write, you may still be able to write something which is of value to yourself and to others. By spending less time on each blog-post, using the same amount of time, I will be able to write more blog-posts! (isn’t maths wonderful?)

Secondly, I have discovered markdown. I often have a lot of trouble connecting to WordPress sites, which sucks. Often I want to write a post, but discover that WordPress won’t load so I can’t go and write it. Now I will do all my blog-writing in some plain-text application in markdown whenever I feel like it and just publish it when I happen to be able to access WordPress for a sufficient length of time.

In terms of what I will write: I can’t say I know for certain. But since the blogging community I feel somewhat connected to is a teenage writing community, I will probably post some book reviews, some ideas I have related to novels and writing, some short-stories, and then a bit of whatever other ideas my meandering mind thinks should exist here. Right at the moment I am thinking of writing some posts on saving time (or wasting, it depending on your preference — simply do the opposite of what I suggest), as much for my benefit as for yours.

And that is all. May the doom of Mandos be ever in your favour.

Leinad