Throwback Thursday: Writing Like Air

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Every Thursday, I’m going to post a previous article from my blogging past. This week’s post was originally titled “Elemental Writing: Air” and appeared on Obscure Authors Alliance. 

Air

Image source: The Avatar Wiki

Across cultures, air has quite a mix of meanings. It’s the element that seems most free to move as it pleases, yet it is all-encompassing. We can’t live for more than a few minutes without it, but at the same time it doesn’t rely on anything else to exist. Air is simply air, the invisible thing. Is it any wonder that it’s the one that is toughest to pin a meaning to?

The two most common traits associated with air are agility–speed and the freedom to move quickly–and intellect. It’s hard to understand why air is so commonly tied to the mind, but it comes up again and again. Science says that our brains are made of billions of tiny little pathways, chaotically firing off electric signals in a way we can hardly understand, and we can never stop it, unless we die. The more alert and tense we are, the faster these signals move, just like a brewing storm.

An air-based character will always have a sharp wit in some form or another. Two archetypes that spring to mind are the smart-mouthed thief and the mind-reader. What do they have in common? They can slip into places where they’re not supposed to go, like a draft beneath a closed door. They always seem to know exactly how to put their skills to use.

Sounds useful, doesn’t it? To know exactly what you’re doing and how to do it? While you may not necessarily come out as unscathed as a breath of wind, you still need to delve into the ways of knowledge and come out with the clarity to see which things are useful to you. Ironically, this last bit is something that can’t be taught–but other skills certainly can. Learn tricks to write quickly and effectively. Research the subjects of your world. And never, ever think you’ve figured out everything you need to know. I don’t care how many books you’ve written and published before. There are other minds out there with secrets worth finding and using as your own.

It’s a little uncomfortable, isn’t it? You wouldn’t want everyone digging up the things you keep most hidden. Your characters don’t, either–but you have to. Dare to go where nobody wants you to go in your story. Doing that will allow you to ramp up tension and conflict faster than you can blink, and that’s how air works inside the story. In fact, in the Tarot, air is associated with Swords, and every one of its cards is tied to tension and restlessness.

I hope I managed to bring this element, easily the most confusing of the four, into something understandable. Air is intelligence and learning, the ability to find things that were never meant to be discovered. It moves quickly, and is the element that builds conflict and pace.

That’s all for this week. Next time: water.

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Let’s Focus

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I had a pretty big list of goals on here a few months back. But, as you know if you’ve read my time management posts lately, I’ve had a lot less free time since then. One way of managing that problem: reduce the number of goals I’m going after.

Of course, that doesn’t mean getting out of work. I still need to live! And I’m still excited to marry my fiance, so it’s worth spending time with her every day. Those are technically both related to my goals, but they’re pretty much a baseline routine, so I don’t have to put much effort into it.

So what’s left? Pretty much Japanese and game development. When we last talked, game development referred mainly to Dungeon University. Now? I’m not so sure. I’m going through a ton of tutorials, and I’ll see where they take me. At some point, I hope that I’ll be good enough to go beyond what the tutorial says and make something a little different. There’s no way of knowing what I’ll make, but I don’t want Dungeon University to be the first game I show the world. It’s too big for that.

Japanese is a little more complicated. Despite the fact that that book I was reading, Fluent Forever, wants me to just do everything with flash cards, I have doubts that it’s that simple. I’ll keep studying my kanji during my breaks at work, but then I’ll come home and do something like play Pokemon X in Japanese. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on that–my time at home should be focused on Shelby, game dev, and relaxing–but it needs to happen at least some of the time.

And that’s basically it! If I don’t ask anything else of myself, maybe I can keep my focus on that stuff. At least, I hope so. And you know what they say about telling others what you plan to do: it keeps you accountable. If you don’t continue to see more updates about the game dev and Japanese, yell at me!

Throwback Thursday: Writing Like Fire

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Every Thursday, I’m going to post a previous article from my blogging past. This week’s post was originally titled “Elemental Writing: Fire” and appeared on Obscure Authors Alliance. 

Fire Image source: The Avatar Wiki

Fire. The purest form of energy. Creation and destruction in one ever-changing thing. It’s the most primitive element, the one that can’t be grasped, and yet civilization is born from those that learned to tame it. It symbolizes change, creativity and passion. It’s the spirit that drives man’s greatest endeavors.

Characters tied to the element of fire are usually portrayed as strong-willed people with short tempers. And while it’s true that, when overused, fire can lead people to be overbearing, it is more often than not the characteristic of a good leader. They’re usually the ones who are ambitious and eager to take risks, and at their best they can set their companions aflame with the same tenacity.

For us writers, fire often represents the beginning of something. You know when you suddenly get that idea that grips you, and you absolutely have to get writing it? Later, after you’ve written for a while, you might feel a crash. That’s the fire in you, bursting with creative potential from the start only to die down later. Fire is what makes people excited, what drives them to go after their goals.

So how can you keep your fire going? One way is to give it a base in the other elements before you get started, but I’ll cover them later. Besides, more than likely if you’re worried about this, your fire is already practically out. To rekindle it, you’ll have to come back to the beginning of your idea and remind yourself why you were so excited about it in the first place. Was it a certain character? The setting? Or an ingenious plot device?

Whatever it was, think about it again. Focus your story back on that and make sure you aren’t leaving out any of the aspects that made it the great idea you once had. As an aspect of the story itself, fire is the concept that your story began from. That’s the source of your plot, and it should be the source of your motivation, too.

Remember, fire is the force of creation and transformation. It makes for strong, leaderly characters, tenacious writers, and represents the concept that gets readers hooked.

Next week, I’ll be back to talk about the next element: air.

Been Reading: Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner

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Recently, I grabbed the Overdrive app and got to work looking at books that my local library has. Basically, if you have a library card, this app lets you do normal library things with digital downloads.

So, for the first couple of weeks, I’m borrowing Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a strategy book for getting really good at any language. Gabriel says that, given about a half hour each day and some extra effort on weekends, you should be able to master “easy” languages in four or five months, “intermediate” languages in eight months to a year, and “hard” languages in one and a half to two years.

Of course, Japanese is a “hard” language, and I’m not completely sure that I have the time prescribed. Right now, my study is a lot of kanji flash cards, and some practice in listening and reading when I have the time. I imagine that this is going to take me in a slightly different direction, given the emphasis on pronunciation and speaking. Still, I’m quite excited to get back to reading it… right after I do my flash cards.

Before I go, are you reading anything interesting lately? Ever tried Overdrive before? As always, I look forward to comments!

Throwback Thursday: Getting Attention

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Every Thursday, I’m going to post a previous article from my blogging past. This week’s post was originally titled “Look At Me!” and appeared on The Texts of Madness in October of 2012.

Everyone on the internet wants attention. That’s just how it is, right? Whether you’re an author scrounging for an audience or just some random person posting your thoughts somewhere, it’s all turned into a complicated popularity contest. Luckily, it’s perfectly fine–even a good thing–to share victory. Now, I don’t exactly have any victory to go around, but we all start somewhere, right? Maybe it’s the same for you. Either way, I think we can all learn something from each other if we just share our thoughts on the matter. So here are mine.

The way I see it, attracting people who consistently look at your content, time after time (the most valuable kind of attention you can ask for) is a bit of a balancing act. Yup, time to roll out the three-point system, bane of essays and speeches everywhere.

First, you have to have some kind of general subject matter that you stick to pretty consistently. In my case, that’s writing, specifically sci-fi and fantasy (what else do you expect?) It’s a continuous look at what influences my work day-to-day and how I respond. I pretty much never deviate from that. That’s the easy part, to me at least.

Building on your subject, you then need to offer content that’s either useful orentertaining in some way. Entertaining might mean you have a short story or video every week or two that keeps the people’s attention (this is how most YouTube channels get their followings.) As for being useful, I think that’s the thing that a lot of people have trouble with. They think they don’t have any new or interesting information to present to the world. I certainly haven’t done a good job at this aspect up until now, but I think that because everyone has a unique take on everything, it’s a matter of getting creative.

Finally, make sure to add a personal touch. Nobody wants to read something written by a faceless robot (except maybe to see how faceless robots write, but once the novelty wears off they’ll lose interest.) If you’re a writer and you have a developed voice in your work, by God please use it. I’ve had enough boring reading. Yes, think about how you write, and also, find places where you can hint about other aspects of your life.

Okay, now in case you’re not exhausted of all blatantly working too hard to take my own advice, it’s example time. In fact, this is what got me thinking about this topic. I was reading my philosophy textbook for college, and all of a sudden the author brought up his dog. Apparently the dog’s growing and shedding of fur perfectly illustrated the theory we were talking about. We were still on the topic of philosophy, it turned out, so he didn’t violate that. Not only that, but it helped in understanding what I was trying to learn. And, of course, I now know a little bit more about the textbook author (who I didn’t really think of as a person before.)

Funnily enough, I pretty much did the same thing by citing that example, didn’t I? But if I bring that up then I have to point out that I’m still doing it and now we start getting into an infinite loop and okay I think it’s about time to wrap this up! It was kind of a long post but I wanted to not only tell you guys what I think but also have lots of chances to use those techniques myself. Thanks for being so patient, and for actually reading my blog in the first place for that matter. I’d love to see what you guys think about this, too, so please feel free to comment.

Just Leaving This Here

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It’s pretty relevant to what I’ve been talking about lately, and I can’t really add anything that isn’t already said. It does skip around but all the pieces are helpful in my opinion.

10 Musings on Time Management, Minimalism, and Clarity