fiction

Fiona: A Flash Fiction Piece

I didn’t mean to hurt her. I should have known that this other girl had a disability. I realized that some people with disabilities did not respond well to yelling.

            The girl’s name was Fiona. Fiona had interrupted me with some thought going on inside her head while I’d talked to my friend, Juliette. She’d spoken about something that happened at a game she’d seen. She’d done it over and over again until I snapped at her, saying, “Fiona, stop it! You’re being so freaking annoying! Go away!”

            And right that second, Fiona had burst into tears. Another kid had said that Fiona had some disability. I had flushed after.

            I now sat at my desk and did my homework. For health class, we had to research a disability. I was assigned Asperger’s Syndrome.

            As I pulled up the Internet on my computer, I received a text message. It came from Juliette.

            Hey Mandy

            Fiona just told me she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome over the weekend. She was too afraid to tell you.

            I opened my mouth. I had not yet researched the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. But maybe that explained why she had had trouble with understanding my feelings. Why she had been desperate to get her thoughts out. Why she had cried when I’d yelled at her.

            When I did the research, I saw that people with Asperger’s can be eager to let their thoughts out as well as emotionally sensitive.

            After finishing my homework, I texted Juliette back.

            Tell Fiona I am sorry for yelling at her. Thanks.

            I sent the message. Hopefully, Fiona would forgive me.

art

Why I Draw with Pencils First, and Then Trace in Pen if Desired

Image from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, I was taught to draw in pencil first. Then trace it in pen if desired. And you know what? I think it was great advice. In fact, I still do that now these days… sometimes. To be honest, I haven’t been drawing that much recently.

Anyway, you know that pencils come with erasers. If you make a mistake, you erase that. There are also erasable pens. But I haven’t used those since, like, fifth grade.

Yes, if you make an error with a permanent pen, you can’t remove it. But you can put white-out over it. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

What I like to do is draw the basic shapes with light pencil marks. Next, I draw the main images with normal pencil marks. Then trace over them with pens. I finish by erasing the pencil marks. After all, no one is perfect. So pencil marks will still show unless you erase them.

I have drawn purely without pencils before as a child. That was fine. But those were drawings for personal pleasure. Not for school. Plus, I hadn’t received the full formal training for art, then. I took art classes at school. But they were required for everyone, including those with little to no artistic talent.

Once I got the formal training in high school and college, I don’t think I ever started drawing with pens voluntarily again. Sadly, these days, my hands sometimes shake too much. And because I don’t have an authority forcing me to start with a pen, I probably won’t return to drawing with pens only for a long, long time. I will still trace pencil lines with pens, though.

movie

The Scarcity of Stop-Motion Movies

Image from Pixabay

There are three types of animation: hand-drawn or 2D, CG, and stop-motion. Stop-motion is when an object is moved very slightly and then photographed. Several photos are done until each object moves believably.

Usually, stop-motion animation is done with puppets. Examples include those Christmas specials like “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Then there are more recent examples, like “Paranorman” and “Box-Trolls”. There is also another kind called Claymation, where the animators use clay models instead of puppets. A couple examples include “Wallace and Gromit” and “Early Man”.

While stop-motion films look fantastic, I notice there are not too many. Why is that, you may wonder? I think it’s because they are extremely time-consuming.

Before CGI was invented, most animated movies were 2D and drawn with pencil and paper. There were some stop-motion films, like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Then, after the turn of the century, when 2D animated films were dying out, and CG animation was booming, the number of stop-motion movies have pretty much remained the same.

Stop-motion animation may involve lots of skills, patience, and time, but I don’t know if they will increase the number of films, or decrease them.

Yes, there have been advancements, like the use of special effects in movies, like “Paranorman”. And I’m sure that involves more work, therefore, more time.

movie

Musical Movies: Why Were They Huge in the 20th Century?

Image from Pixabay

Although I was born at the end of the 20th century (1993), I still watched a lot of old movies growing up. I noticed that many of them were musicals.

There was “The Wizard of Oz”, “Singing in the Rain”, “The Sound of Music” and many, many more. Then there were the Disney classics, like “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid”. But Disney still makes their classics musicals, even if they [sadly] stopped doing 2D-animated movies after 2011.

While there are musical movies of this century, like “The Greatest Showman” and “Mamma Mia”, I am going to focus on those released in the 20th century.

Why were musicals so big? Was it because movies were new forms of entertainment in the early 1900’s. Well, those had no dialogue, except for words shown on the screen after the scenes.

But once dialogue could be heard and not explained through separate words on the screen, musical films were born.

Of course, not every movie was a musical. For example, could you imagine films like “Jaws” being a musical? Or “Friday the 13th”? I think horror and thriller movies would have looked strange with singing and dancing.

By the end of the 20th century, musical movies seemed less common. Maybe people were tired of them? Or they wanted to focus more on the stories than the singing and dancing? There are people who favor that more. Therefore, they prefer live plays over musicals. I’m the opposite, though. I find shows with singing and dancing more fun to watch as they look much harder to perform in. But that’s another topic.

Musical films seem a lot less common these days. Oh well. Just like time, trends change. I have not seen “The Greatest Showman”, but I have seen “Into the Woods”. Although I usually enjoy musicals, I will admit that “Into the Woods” wasn’t really my cup of tea.

This post may have seemed like a lot of questions asked. But it is just an observation of movies and their trends.

Writing

How I Develop My Characters

Characters come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and much more. So do the ways they are developed.

Many writers base their characters of real people they know. They also develop them like the folks they know.

Want to know how I develop my characters? Yes? All right. Here I go. I often develop them as I develop my storylines. I get to know them as I draft. I unconsciously develop them through other story elements too, like dialogue and actions.

Now these are not the only ways I develop my characters. Sometimes I plan their personalities, even if the characters don’t make it to the final drafts. I also might base them off other fictional characters from other franchises, sometimes myths and legends. For example, in one of my works, there’s a character inspired by the Grim Reaper.  

Unlike many authors, I never really base characters off people I know. However, I do often develop them like those in my lives. This was especially common in my earlier works, when I was still learning how to develop my characters. I developed a couple like my cousins at that time and one like my brother back then.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all way to developing characters. It is, however, important to make your characters believable, round rather than flat, crucial to your story, imperfect (they should have at least some flaws), and change at the end of your tale. This is especially essential for you main or major characters.

This technique also takes a while to learn. It took me, like, seven years to discover my writing voice. A similar amount of time might happen for you if you’re new to creative writing.

If you search for me on Amazon, you’ll see that I have published five books, but only one is for sale. That is because the others weren’t exactly the strongest. Except for one, I did pretest the others to make sure they were good enough to please strangers. They were. But I felt the novels could’ve been better.

So hang tight as you learn to develop your characters. If you need assistance, there are character development worksheets you can find online and use to answer questions about your characters. Sometimes I’ve interviewed my characters, answered questionaires about them, or even wrote short stories from their points-of-view. This might help you. Something will.

cooking

Cooking for Those with Dietary Restrictions

Image from pixabay

Do you enjoy cooking? I most definitely do. However, I know a few people with dietary restrictions. One has a peanut allergy. The other has a dairy allergy.

Although I’ve never had to cook for the person with the dairy allergy, the person with the peanut allergy has come to my parties in recent years. So I had to be very, very careful with what food I served and their ingredients. I ended up doing a lot of cooking from scratch as many commercial-made products are not safe for those with peanut allergies.

Sometimes, I’ve contacted companies for a definitive answer on, whether or not, the products were safe for those with peanut allergies. The one with dairy allergies ended up not being able to come to any of my parties. But I did go to one of his. His mom had baked him a special, dairy-free cake from scratch. I ended up not having it since I wasn’t feeling well. I left early.

Although it may seem like a bummer that you can’t serve something you enjoy because a guest has a certain food allergy, you can still figure out other ways and be creative. It worked out very well that I learned to cook from scratch when I was twelve. Otherwise, I would’ve had to travel far for a peanut-free cake (the bakeries near me are not safe for those with peanut allergies) or would’ve had to have my mom bake the cake. That would’ve meant giving up control.

Aside from cake, I’ve also learned to make ice cream from scratch as well as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and much more. I, myself, have a mild tomato allergy. So my mom has come up with alternatives for certain recipes traditionally made with tomatoes. For example, she replaced tomato sauce with canned pumpkin. It still came out delicious.

Whether you have to accommodate for those with dietary restrictions or not, there is always room for creativity, like for health reasons. It can work.

Writing

When You Unconsciously Use the Plot Structure in Any Story You Write

I’ve been studying the writing craft for years. It was seven and a half years ago when I learned the right rules of creative writing. It took about that long to hone my skills and mature my creative writing abilities to what they are now.

However, before I studied the craft, I wrote a bad novel that I was dying to publish and convinced my parents to let me do so. When it was published, there was no positive feedback. However, I do realize now that I still included the classic plot structure, which I wasn’t aware at during that time. I continued to use that structure in later novels where I studied the craft.

What is the structure, you may ask? It starts of with the inciting incident, where something greatly changes your main character’s situation and sets him or her up on a rough road to achieve his or her goal. Then there is a call to action, and the main character often refuses it at first. Then he or she will accept it.

Next comes the first plot pinch, which sets your main character up for failure. Then there is the midpoint, which can be a major defeat or loss. That will push the protagonist’s struggle to achieve his or her goal even further. There will be complications and higher stakes, which will lead to an all-is-lost moment, where the antagonist wins at that time.

Then comes the climax, where something prepares the protagonist for the final battle (not always literally, though). There may be a ticking clock too, where the protagonist’s time starts running out. Finally, there is the resolution of denouement, where the main character has come somewhere satisfying. He or she may achieve his or her goal. If not, he or she may realize that the goal was not something he or she had wanted all along or something not right for him or her.

And no matter what story I write, usually novels, this plot structures comes out into my writing unintentionally. I don’t know why, though. It’s like my brain has somehow inserted the plot structure into its subconscious or something. But that’s probably a good thing.

No matter where you are in the writing process, whether you are new or experienced, it’s important to know the plot structure. Any successful work, written or visual, needs to follow this structure.

Writing

Plot Hole Problems: Why They Bother Me (and Others)

Plot holes happen everywhere: movies, TV shows, books, and so forth. Even the top writers end up making plot holes, either as inconsistencies or unanswered questions.

Of course, no one ever means it—at least not usually. Even when they are being reviewed by agents or anyone before the works get released to the general public, plot holes are missed. It often isn’t until after the works are available to the public that the plot holes are pointed out. Sometimes, shortly after, and other times, not till several years later.

Obviously, no work is perfect nor do any please everybody. But some plot holes bother certain people a lot. There are examples in some of my movie critique posts, like “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”. The ones where I spend a lot of time expressing my thoughts are the ones that bother me the most.

A plot hole I have not addressed here before is from the book, “Being Julia”. It’s not a super-big bestseller. But it was good and engaging up to a certain point. Julia gets grounded and has her computer confiscated. She tries to convince her dad to give it back to her shortly after, even though he won’t. When she is no longer grounded, the reader doesn’t get to see her getting her computer back. Another situation is happening. Then the next chapter takes place months later, when Julia is getting ready for college. Um… hello? When did she get her laptop back? This unanswered question plagued me so much that I wrote to the author and asked when Julia got her laptop back. Sadly, the author didn’t answer. So I moved on.

Some people will address plot holes later or separately. A good example is J.K. Rowling. These days she has been answering so many questions about plot holes in “Harry Potter”. Some folks, like me, enjoy that. Others, however, find it amateurish and lazy. I could see why.

While there are some plot holes in works that don’t bother me or I don’t care about, there are still some that will plague me for a while. A YouTube channel, called Cinemasins, is known for pointing out flaws in movies, such as plot holes. Because I watch movies with a critical eye, I enjoy this channel. I discover issues that I didn’t realize before.

Remember that nobody is perfect. Pretty much all works will have plot holes. Some may be addressed in sequels or on separate sources. Others will remain unanswered forever.

Writing

The Struggle with Sequels Standing on Their Own

How many of you have written a full-length novel? If so, congrats! What about a series? Extra congrats times a million! Now can your sequels stand on their own?

I don’t know about others, but for me, getting a sequel to stand on its own was the biggest challenge for me. It ended up connecting to my first book too much. Maybe because of how I ended my first book (don’t worry, I won’t say how)?

To get a sequel to stand on its own, you need just enough backstories to get the reader caught up with what happened in the first or previous installment. It’s going to be a bit hard, depending on your story.

It took me nearly three years to complete my sequel (which is temporarily off the market, but will return as a second edition soon). And the biggest reason is probably because I had trouble making it stand in its own.

Depending on your storyline, you will need to include backstory that is relevant but also makes the sequel stand on its own. My problem was that I hadn’t included enough. But with the help of editors, it worked. And many readers said that the sequel was able to easily stand on its own.

It may also be necessary to summarize your first book in one or two paragraphs in your sequel. Obviously, do it when relevant and don’t get too hooked on certain details.

The best way to test if your sequel can stand on its own is to have editors or beta readers look at it and give you honest feedback. You won’t be able to judge by yourself.

Anyway, thanks for reading. In the meantime, you can check out my novel, “From Frights to Flaws, 2nd Edition” right on Amazon.

art

Drawing by Hand and Coloring in Photoshop

Who’s done this before? Raise your hand. Ha ha, just playing with you. But believe it or not, it can be fun. I’ve done it so many times.

I do have a graphic tablet that I can draw on. Although I’ve gotten better control at it, I still draw better with pencil and paper—the old-fashioned way.

However, when it comes to coloring, digitally is more fun. Think about it. You’ve got unlimited colors, digital tools, and best of all, no mess to clean up. It’s all on your computer or tablet (like an iPad).

Below is an example of an illustration I did where I drew by hand and colored digitally.

Can you see the pencil lines? I don’t know about you, but I can. They look kind of rough. There are a few digitally-drawn lines as you can see on the sidewalk, street, and even the bricks. And the colors are obviously digital.

Here is another image drawn traditionally and painted digitally.

Although this might not look nearly as exciting as the one with the teenage boy above, the pencil lines are more obvious. The colors were originally done with chartpak markers, which leave extreme marks. Some hues were re-painted in Photoshop.

While these were fist done with pencil outlines, sometimes I trace the pen over the pencil and erase the pencil marks, like in this image below.

Chairs

Those lines look crisp and clear, not to mention much smoother. That is because they were done with high-quality pens. And, of course, the colors are digital.

Yes, Photoshop and any other Adobe program is costly. But if you have it or want it, once you get good at it, coloring your hand-drawn images is super fun.