Writing

Developing Protagonists and How I Did it

Every writer develops his or her protagonist his or her own way. Some are inspired by real people, which is how I think Lewis Carroll developed the character, Alice, for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. According to a magazine, His heroine shared the same name with a real girl, also called Alice.

While many of us know that J.K. Rowling came up with the basic idea of “Harry Potter” on a delayed train, she used some of her own life experiences to build Harry.

As for my protagonist, Alyssa McCarthy, the development of her goes back further than anyone could imagine. In fact, the inspiration for the character dates back to when I was in 2nd grade, and it came from a source that nobody would have expected: An early reader book.

That was “Morris Goes to School”. After reading it, I got inspired to do my own version of that story, but with an upright polar bear named Spike. I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who went to school with human children. One of those extras was a girl with long blonde hair, who got her own spinoff in my mind, where she lived in a house in a jungle and had animal friends. The girl could talk to those creatures, too. I envisioned that creation from maybe third grade and all through fourth grade, but abandoned the idea in fifth grade. Like my MC today, her name was also Alyssa.

For the next several years, I lost interest in creative writing since everything I thought of sounded no good after. However, that changed in early eleventh grade.

While in the shower, the same idea of what I daydreamed about in fourth grade of a girl called Alyssa with long blonde hair who had a supernatural ability hit my mind. After that, I brainstormed ideas and wrote a story similar to my childhood imagination. Sadly, no one else liked it.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college and I scrapped the original idea and turned it into something more appealing. It took a while to create another tale of a girl named Alyssa with long blonde tresses, but with better ideas from me.

While she does have a few similarities to me, such as her sense of style and some food tastes, Alyssa, my current protagonist, is also quite different from me. I developed her personality with a combination of some of the Disney princesses. I also got a ton of inspiration from the “Harry Potter” series for Alyssa’s life and the events that happened to her as well as what goes on in the stories. In fact, readers have constantly compared my “Magical Missions” series to the “Harry Potter” franchise since they share a lot of similarities, but not enough to be exact.

That is the true history of how I developed my main character.

Writing

Don’t be Shy and Give it a Try: Research by Asking Real People

With research, you look for more than just the craft rules. Those include the setting your story takes place, the laws of that society, and much more.

While I have researched common things like how detention works in schools, one thing I needed to learn more about involved a minor backstory error in both the first and second installments of my novels.

However, I am resolving it by adding a twist to that mistake in the third book. It will reveal how that incorrect statement had been false the whole time.

If you can’t find anything relevant to the research needed for your project, sometimes it is best to ask someone who is an expertise in that specific field. Just give him or her enough information about your project as well as your question. I did that for the little error I made in my books due to not performing careful research on it.

You can also join writing forums for help, as well. The one I participate in when I have questions has a research section. That is where I asked about things I had to know, and would be harder to seek through Google.

That is also where I found out how detention works in schools, since in my series’ second installment, my main character lands in it. However, I never got detention in school, which is obviously a good thing. But I still received useful answers.

Another topic I needed to learn more about was how much stress it would take for somebody to end up in shock. Unlike the detention subject, though, this element did not make it into my first book, where it was intended to go.

While the Internet may be there 24/7 (for the most part), you can always ask real people for research questions whether it’s one person or on a forum.

art

Why Reference Images Make a Difference for Art

What is a reference image, you may ask? It is an image an artist uses to help him or her create something by making it similar, but not exact. For example, if you use a house photo as a reference image, you may draw some things the same, but maybe change the shape of a window, remove a decorative touch, or use a different color for the roof.

For me, when I want to draw a person whom I have a specific envision for, I refer to different pictures to create the subject. I may use one picture for the face shape, another for the eyes, nose, mouth, and so forth. And guess what? Referring to photos makes a big difference for the aesthetic of the drawing I make.

Below is a drawing I did of my book’s main character with hardly any reference material used.

I find this sketch to be very unattractive. Not because of the photo lighting quality or the pencil marks, but because the face doesn’t look appealing. Proportions are kind of off.

So, here is a revised sketch I did of this same character. That’s another tip: revise your drawings if you feel it’s necessary.

It’s a little better than the previous drawing. However, the eyes are too big, and when I tried to adjust them in Photoshop, it just made the girl uglier. And she’d supposed to be more beautiful to me.

So, here is the third revision for the image:

She is starting too look more attractive, but the forehead is a bit too big. Also, this looks like it was cut and pasted on a solid-colored background. Honestly, I think it appears amateurish.

Now onto the final and best portrayal of my protagonist.

This is where I got serious into using as much reference material as possible. Hardly any of the features drawn were from my imagination. Of course, I didn’t copy anyone or make the girl resemble any real person. But thanks to the different approach, this is the best drawing out of all four. It kind of reminds me of a “Charlie the Unicorn” style. You know—the YouTube series about a cranky unicorn who gets taunted by two hyper ones. All right, that may be beside the point.

Anyway, for those of you who draw, you may want to consider the advice of reference material and revising your drawings. Hope this helped.

movie

Check Out this Review of “Christopher Robin” (2018)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Young Christopher Robin is spending the last moments with Pooh and friends. The animals even throw him a goodbye party before he goes off to boarding school.

Thirty years go by to the point that Christopher Robin is now an adult trying to get something done for his job. His wife, Evelyn, points out that he isn’t spending enough time with his daughter, Madeleine. But Christopher still focuses on his work.

Pooh-Bear spots Christopher in a local park, making him shocked. Christopher forces Pooh back to Hundred-Acre Wood, claiming that he is a grown man and has other responsibilities. Later he runs back into the other creatures from Hundred-Acre Wood, who also go into the regular world. Things go in unexpected directions.

I found this film to be a good watch. I admire how it communicates the importance of family and how family is more crucial than work.

That being said, when Madeleine ran away to London via train, I was predicting that she was going to be grounded for a long time for doing something super-irresponsible and dangerous. Add the fact that she lost her dad’s important papers, and she would have received more severe punishments. But, instead, her parents comforted her and her father shrugged off his work documents as nothing essential. I get that this is meant to teach the audience about how family matters far more than work and how Christopher grows and changes to acknowledge that. However, it isn’t believable. If a kid does that in real life, he or she would get the beating of his or her life and be as severely punished as possible. Not to mention that the parents would be in trouble with authorities.

Another lesson portrays the importance of reliving your childhood. Christopher Robin, Evelyn, and Madeleine eventually spend time in Hundred-Acre Wood with Pooh and friends. While that is a sweet moment, I felt that Christopher Robin’s reaction to Pooh returning to him after thirty years was how most people would react. In real life, we move on from things very quickly. We grow, change, drift in different directions, and much more.

For instance, after graduating high school, it is common for people to move on from their friends then in as little as a few years. Although it would be nice for old memories to be relived, it’s very, very rare.

Nevertheless, I would rate “Christopher Robin” 4 out of 5 stars.

fiction

The Ball: A Flash Fiction Piece

“Let’s have some fun in a cartoon world,” said Dylan, my nine-year-old brother.

            “Are you crazy?” I asked.

            “I found a special ball that claims it can take you into your favorite cartoon.” Dylan held the glass ball in his hand.

            I made a facepalm.

            “Come on, Elise, please?” Dylan made a sad puppy face.

            “No!” I said.

            Dylan groaned and walked away.

            I was fifteen, and had no time for that nonsense. Plus, Dylan should have known better than to claim that an object could transport him into a cartoon.

            I didn’t know how he’d come up with it, or if he had read it somewhere. If the latter, then that person needed to be penalized.

            I went up to my room and sat on my bed. Perhaps, chatting with friends could take that ridiculous statement off my mind.

            I picked up my phone—only for Dylan to scream.

            “Dylan!” I bolted up and rushed out of my room. “Dylan?! Are you all right?!” I opened his bedroom door. He wasn’t there. My parents were out of town this weekend, so they couldn’t help.

            Inhaling and exhaling, I hurried down the stairs and checked every room. I finalized with the family room—only to find steam arising from Dylan’s ball. I gasped and knelt. “Oh, no,” I moaned.

            My knee pressed on something, which happened to be the remote. The TV turned on, but it played a commercial. The cartoon, “Tyndale and Tina”, about two talking-dogs, came on. The episode started as always—yet a familiar voice sounded, shouting, “Help, help, somebody help me!” A cartoon boy burst into the room with Tyndale and Tina. The kid had pale-blonde hair, and wore the same clothes Dylan wore. Either this was a new episode or…Dylan had ended up in the cartoon.

            “Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked Tyndale.

            “I got sucked into this world!” exclaimed the kid.

            I inhaled. “Dylan!” I knocked on the monitor. “Dylan!”

            None of the characters responded.

            “Dylan, can you hear me?!” I asked. “It’s me, Elise, your sister!”

            Still nothing.

            “Oh, shoot.” I stood and my breathing quickened. If my mom and dad found out about this, they’d ground me, especially since they’d left me in charge.

            My eyes drifted to Dylan’s ball. I stared at it. It could be the only way for me to save my brother. But how would I—or we—get out? There had to be something.

            I crept to the object and picked it up. It had a couple buttons. I would not press any of them, though. One was green and the other was red.

            I carried the sphere and thought about where the instructions could be. Maybe in Dylan’s room?

            I walked upstairs and entered his bedroom. Toys, clothes, and games covered the floor. I picked up each item, but found nothing that could be a manual.

            Then I searched under Dylan’s bed. Still no sign of paper. I returned downstairs and looked everywhere in the family room. Nothing.

            What am I going to do? I asked myself. There’s got to be something.

            I stared into the ball’s buttons and gulped. Perhaps, I should take my chances and press one. Hands trembling, I aimed for the red button. I breathed and touched it. Then I pushed it. Nothing happened.

            I sighed and sat on a couch. But the thing lit from the inside and projected a ray. The noise of Dylan yelping occurred. His colors came out and formed his figure. He landed on the carpet and the beam reversed back into the sphere.

            “Dylan!” I stood and crouched by him. “Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine.” He lifted himself.

            “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” I said.

            “I shouldn’t have used that stupid ball,” said Dylan. “We’ve got to get rid of it.”

            “We will,” I said.

            “Can you not tell mom and dad about this, either?” asked Dylan.

            “I won’t tell them.” I hugged him. “I’m glad to have you back.”

cooking

The Most Delicious Homemade Brownies Ever…it’s a Miracle!

Homemade cooking involves less preservatives and more control from you. And with the coronavirus forcing people to be in their homes pretty much all the time, I have to do most of my own cooking. I do love going out, and I will admit that prior to the covid-19 crisis, I barely cooked and spent more time eating out, and a lot.

However, now that dining out is no longer an option (only takeout and delivery are available in New York), and I’ve been cooking at home, I’ve noticed that I feel more energetic and am losing weight again.

Okay, this is not a health post. But all of that is true. Anyway, let me talk about the brownies I made.

They taste kind of like the ones made from boxed mixes. I’m not kidding. The only difference is that their textures at the top aren’t flaky, and most importantly, I know what went in them.

My guess of why they are fudgy and not cakelike is that the flour ratio is sort of smaller than the rest of the ingredients. Not once have I seen that in any other homemade brownie recipe. So, bravo to the creator of this one.

I can’t find the recipe again through my Google search. But I do find that the other recipes have similar formulas, by using less flour. So, if you try one of those recipes, you may be satisfied.

movie

This Film of “Sonic the Hedgehog” is on Fire! Now Here is the Review (2020)

The story begins ten years early, when Sonic is just a young child hedgehog. Due to the threats happening, Sonic must leave his owl guardian and travel to Earth.

Years have passed, and Sonic finds ways to occupy himself. He plays games, such as baseball, with himself. However, he is sad and lonely. So, he speeds around the unoccupied baseball field, only to knock out the power everywhere in the entire region. Authorities investigate the mysterious wide-spread blackout.

Sonic meets a man, who is also a cop, named Tom Wachowski, and nicknames him “Doughnut Lord”. Tom does not like that, though. Although they struggle to get along, Tom agrees to help Sonic with finding his lost rings that allow him to go places instantly. But there is a villain out to hunt for Sonic.

I saw this movie with some friends, and although I am nowhere near familiar with the “Sonic the Hedgehog” franchise, I still enjoyed the film and felt that it wasn’t super-necessary to know a lot about Sonic. There were some moments that might have made you lost if you know little to nothing about the “Sonic” franchise. But overall, the movie easily stood on its own.

The film consisted of many twists and turns, as well as some emotional moments, both happy and sad. There is one scene that really stands out to me, though. That is when Sonic and Tom are in some country-like bar and lounge area with dancing, a bar, a bull machine for riding, and food. The waitress comes to take the guys’ orders, but when she sees Sonic, she says that there are no kids allowed in the building. I actually didn’t know that that setting was adults-only prior to the woman saying it. However, Sonic looks nothing like a human child or a person at all. Therefore, I found the waitress’s reaction to be too casually accepting of Sonic’s look as if she was completely used to seeing others who resemble him. I really don’t find that believable. The waitress would have been spooked by Sonic’s unfamiliar appearance. She would have freaked out and said something like, “Oh my God! What is that thing?!” Even Tom’s defense for Sonic, claiming that Sonic was in his 40’s and had a growth and skin issue, seemed unrealistic.

Okay, I spent a lot of time with that scene. Anyway, I appreciated the characterization as well as the humor at times. But I considered the plot to be well-executed.

I would rate this movie 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to everyone, even those who know nothing about Sonic the Hedgehog.

movie

Welcome to My Critique of “Bambi” (1942)

Warning: contains spoilers***

I saw this movie at a friend’s house. A fawn grows, makes friends, and even goes through challenges along the way.

Here are the parts of “Bambi” that I admired and those that I felt could’ve been better.

First the strengths:

1: The animation and artistic layout

I find it very unfortunate that Disney stopped doing 2D animated films as did pretty much all movie companies. So, seeing the beautifully illustrated backgrounds as well as the animation of the characters drew me in emotionally.

2: The morals

The lessons that are communicated throughout this movie apply to real life etiquette. I especially love Thumper’s quoting of his father after he criticizes Bambi’s walking abilities. He says, “If you can’t say something nice…don’t say nothing at all.” I’ve heard kids being told that many times, although the wording they received was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” If only more people took this seriously, though.

3: The characters’ relations to one another

Bambi’s bond with his mother, as well as his friends, Thumper, Flower, and eventual love interest, Faline, were beautiful. The portrayals and importance of friendships, family, and more mattered to me.

That being said…

1: Why doesn’t Bambi’s father play more of a role in his life?

Could it be that deer dads don’t get to know their young like the mothers do? Disney animals are shown to be very scientifically inaccurate all the time. So, while times Bambi and his mom together were sweet, I found it unsatisfying that his father hadn’t been involved in his life until his mother died. We also don’t get to see Bambi learning to grow and change after losing his mom in this film. There is a sequel where it might be more emphasized. However, a characters’ evolution after a tragic event should happen in the same story, not in a later one. After his mother’s death, the scene transitions to when Bambi is an adult and reuniting with his friends, as happy as they can be.

2: What is Bambi’s goal exactly?

Unlike other movies, Bambi’s goal isn’t made clear enough. What does he really want? What was he working toward?

While his development from birth is essential, I couldn’t see what he had an eager desire for. Take other Disney films, like “The Lion King”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and “Hercules”, where they start when the main characters were babies. Simba, Quasimodo, and Hercules still all had goals they worked toward and did everything they could to achieve them. And they were made obvious to the audience.

Therefore, it kind of disappointed me that Bambi’s ambitions didn’t feel clear.

3: Structure being too similar to “The Lion King”

Well, technically, it’s the other way around. “Bambi” came out decades before “The Lion King”. It’s also common for Disney to recycle animation movements. But the plotlines of both films mirrored a little too much.

And onto the part I’m kind of unsure about

Bambi and his friends finding love interests

I get that this was made in the 1940’s, when standards were different. And Bambi’s romance with Faline does become crucial, even if Bambi, sadly, didn’t join Faline after she gave birth to two fawns. But why did Thumper and Flower need to fall in love? Satisfaction? I do, however, admire the rabbit Thumper develops feelings for. She reminded me of Snow White.

While I found “Bambi” to be a beautiful experience, I felt it could’ve done better with a few more literary elements. So, I would rate the movie 3.5 out of 5 stars.

movie

A “Hercules” Mystery: Why Can’t Mortals Live on Mount Olympus?

Warning: contains spoilers from the 1997 film***

Hercules was born on Mount Olympus as a god. However, when Hades has Pain and Panic abduct him, they give him a potion in a bottle that would make him remove not only his immortality, but also his powerful strength. Luckily, a couple finds him and raises him with loving care.

The gods do try to look for him, too, but they discover that he has become mortal. Therefore, they cannot let him back. Years later, when Hercules has grown, he discovers that he was found and where he actually came from. The Zeus statue reveals that he was stolen and that only gods can live on Mount Olympus.

So, why is it like that? There could be a reason in the original myth. But, of course, it could differ in the Disney movie. After all, Disney does drastically change stories from the original sources as well as sugarcoat them a lot.

My guess is…could there be something on Mount Olympus that makes it unsafe for mortals to be there too long? At the end of the film, Hercules is brought back to Mount Olympus with Meg, his love interest. Meg stands outside of it, unharmed. And, of course, she was never a goddess.

But what if she stayed there for days, weeks, months, years, and so forth? Someone in a YouTube video pointed out that Zeus could change that law of only gods getting to live on Mount Olympus.

I can’t think of any other reasons why that rule is in place, except for my guess or Zeus’s possible inflexibility to change the law.

art

Lost Fonts? How to Fix That

Adobe Suite changes over time, including Photoshop. That means they gain new features as well as alter existing ones. Unfortunately, a handful of elements go away, too, such as fonts.

When my computer needed to be rebooted due to some virus, I had to reinstall and download everything. So, when I downloaded Photoshop, it was a newer version. Therefore, changes have been made and I had to adjust to them.

But when I opened a file of an image I had with text, the fonts were missing. So, I could not use them. I had to delete them and replace them with available fonts.

However, this was a cover of a published book that needed to be updated. I was giving the story a new title. So, without the designated font, I had to figure out what to do.

I considered downloading the font from the Internet, which you can do. I might have found that removed font. However, it didn’t seem to make it into the software.

That was when I came up with another solution. I opened Microsoft word, and luckily, I could still get that font there. So, I wrote some letters in big sizes, took a screenshot, opened that file in Photoshop, and altered them to match the font I’d originally used. I also created a library designated for symbols of that font.

But they are images and not symbols you can use your keypads with. For instance, you can’t delete them with the backspace, move them with a space or return key, and so forth. If you want to make a word, you have to drag them with your mouse or touchpad. You can use keyboard shortcuts to put them near or far from each other with the transport tool, though.

I think it would be good for anyone to create a library of different symbols in various fonts, just in case they go. If they’re common or standard fonts, such as “Times New Roman”, then it’s unlikely that they’ll disappear from a program. Still—better prepared than to have to scramble for the same or similar styles.