Sunday, November 21, 2010

Character Sacrifices = Greatness

I've noticed this often and have said it a few times, but never in detail or on this blog. Mostly because I was too chicken to use what I think is the greatest example of what I'm about to talk about. And what am I about to talk about?

Sacrifices.

But not personal sacrifices, which I also think are a big part of the writing journey, but sacrifices in stories and movies.

Has anyone noticed that really amazing stories have characters that make a huge sacrifice in the end? And the bigger the sacrifice, the better the story?




The following contains some spoilers to really awesome stories.




You have been warned.




In Lord of the Rings, we have Frodo's sacrifice of, well, his sanity. Also the other hobbits sacrifice their innocence, and Gandalf sacrificed his life in the first book/movie (yeah, okay, I never finished reading the books), and so forth.

In Harry Potter, we have...well we have a whole ton of sacrifices, but for me what really hit home was Snape's sacrifice. What did he sacrifice? Read/watch to find out.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, my favorite of the three, Jack Sparrow was sacrificed in the end (okay true, it didn't look like he had a choice, but I think he was fine with that end).

In the Night Angel Trilogy's third book, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks (well okay, not so famous, but I think it's AMAZING), Dorian, Kylar, Durzo, Elene, etc made sacrifices in the end. And Dorian, my favorite character, made the biggest sacrifice*. Coincidence, I think not!

In Ptolemy's Gate, another personal favorite and the final book of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, Nathaniel makes a huge sacrifice at the end. I bawled like a baby at the end of that story.

And the list goes on.

But there is one character, one story, one sacrifice that could be considered the greatest ever.

Two words.

Jesus Christ.

Now, for the record, I'm not debating whether or not it's fact or fiction. I'm not even Christian, but still believe the possibility of it being true. But that's not the point. The point is, this story has been around for thousands of years. It may not be the oldest story, but I would definitely bet it's the oldest most famous story of all time.

And why? Because if you actually do think it's true, if you actually believed that this guy, who was absolute good, was tortured and murdered to save the world, that it ACTUALLY happened and with your knowledge/experience of how everyday people actually are....

It becomes one of the biggest sacrifices in history. An overwhelming sense of love and gratitude for this person washes over everyone. A whole religion is built around this sacrifice and people buy his book by the billions.

That's what sacrifices can do.

Why do you think Gandhi, John Lennon, Martin Luther King and the many others who have sacrificed time, energy, reputation, dignity and/or their own lives for worthy causes are so loved long after their untimely deaths? For their great achievements of course, but they made a difference because they made monumental sacrifices for what they believed in.

Now we humans are often....well, lazy, selfish cowards. I know I am.

So we only see these great acts of sacrifice once in a blue moon, which probably makes them even more attractive. So we get our fix of these sacrifices from fiction and maybe this is a good thing. Maybe these stories can inspire real people to come forth and make personal sacrifices (like time, energy, reputation, personal pleasures, sense of security, etc) to make this world a better place (and hopefully next time we can appreciate their bravery and passion BEFORE we kill them and you know...NOT kill them).

So I encourage all writers and screenwriters, do your worse to your characters! Make them self-sacrificing heroes! Rape them, torture them, and kill them for the greater good!

It makes one hell of a story.



*About Beyond the Shadows: Big Spoilers here because I want to rant for a bit about this story. STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO READ THE NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY BY BRENT WEEKS.


You have been warned.


Dorian's was the biggest sacrifice because he didn't HAVE to do anything and he lost EVERYTHING.

Kylar had no choice, Durzo was all emo giving up the ka'kari and then dying, Elene gave up her life (and that of her unborn child) way too happily.

Meanwhile, Dorian pretty much saved the world for absolutely NO GAIN and he didn't have to do CRAP. Hell, a heroic death would have been preferable. Or he could have just stayed far far away from all this insanity, but NO he felt he had to use his power for good and pay for what he did, despite what happened HAD to happen (If he hadn't become the next Godking, then how would all the armies be at the right place at the right time?).

And what did he get in return? Insanity. He's a drooling idiot now and no one will ever realize the extent of what he did save for a tiny few. He can't even enjoy the world he helped save. I love him so much! SEE! We love SACRIFICES! We're masochistic, sadistic bastards!

And I love it!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Have Unshakable Faith



I love how even though I may be failing my goals, procrastinating like crazy, and just not getting anything done, I can watch myself and still learn lessons from my mistakes even as I make them.

For example, I realized that, for me, having faith in myself is crucial. If I don't think that eventually I will make it, that my writing and stories are worth it, then I won't write. Or it's like pulling teeth and I stop early to plunge myself into the pit of despair that is my bed.

Faith has a lot to do with real life as well. Faith has gotten me through the dark times after my mother died. And it was a stupid faith, really. A tiny little belief that no matter how bad it is, I can change it. I can still make my amazing dreams come true no matter what.

When I say faith, I don't mean religion. Though, I guess it is a bit spiritual.

It's like magic almost. By believing, even if I have no evidence to support it, that I am something, can do something, will be and have something, and it's only a matter of time before that happens, everything becomes much easier.

It's easier to breathe. It's easier to get up in the morning. It's easier to smile.

Often, that feeling is good enough. I don't even need for it to actually happen, the feeling is enough. But I will get up and take actions to make it happen, strengthening my faith. If I don't, my faith wavers and inactivity and unhappiness ensues.

I think that's key. I have to take action without every REALLY knowing if I'm going to make it or if my dreams are going to come true. Focusing on the current moment where I am actually taking action and making things happen does something wonderful.

It takes away the worry, the stress, and desire to procrastinate.

I feel like my dream has already come true, and that's the most important thing.

I encourage everyone to seek that state, that feeling that it's already happened. I am a writer (or whatever it is you want to be). I am living the life I have always dreamed of. And do the things you would do if as if you really were living that life.

True, there are somethings you can't change right away. I know I would LOVE to leave my current job and move to the USA right now. I mean, if it's my dream life, that would be two of the things that would happen. Of course, at the moment, my faith isn't strong enough to believe that I can actually do that without starving to death.

So instead, I will focus on what I CAN do. If I were the person I've always craved to be, what would she do first thing in the morning? What would she eat? What would she write? What would her day look like? How would she treat herself and others?

I may not be able to control certain things, but I can control my behavior, attitude and state of mind. And if I can control these things, then I control my life.

It starts with having faith in myself.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Music = Instant Inspiration (just press play)

I'm writing this as I'm sitting at a laundromat doing my laundry and getting some work done. I got my headphones one, listening to "Summer 78" from the Good Bye Lennin! Soundtrack by Yann Tiersen on my iPod. And I have to say, I don't know how I'd be able to get anything done without music.

I'm pretty sure I have ADD or just have an easily distracted mind, and music helps me focus on a point. Sometimes, when I have a particular scene to write and have the perfect song that evokes the perfect feeling for it, I put it on repeat and let it play over and over till I'm barely even registering the music as I type, lost in the movie in the mind.

Sometimes, when you go to see a movie, you don't even notice the music. It sort of blends in with the plot. And I always noticed that when you listen to a soundtrack without seeing the movie, the effect is less than after you see the movie. The emotions behind the music become clearer and it's like a natural high.

Well, for me anyways. I'm crazy like that.

I have plenty of playlists. Tons even. I have playlists that share the same songs except for maybe a few. Each categorized not just by novel or story, but by mood. I have an angry list, an action list, a dramatic moment list, an emotional list. And when I don't know what I need for the moment, I just hit shuffle and discover forgotten gems.

I wonder how many others also use music as a way to invoke inspiration when it doesn't come naturally. For me, I need movie music, which are pretty much DESIGNED to evoke emotion. But the good dramatic, emotional rock song or classical music by J.S. Bach works for me as well.

So what about you? What music do you listen to when writing/working?

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit





Happy NaNoWriMo!

Or what I like to call, when writing is fun day!

Lately, I've been focusing way too much on "OMG I MUST GET PUBLISHED" and honestly, I'm not even close to that stage yet. I can't even keep a blog updated every couple of months. So starting...yesterday (hey, I'm a work on progress), I will be updating every Sunday. If I can update once a week and my blog is actually benefiting other people, then I shall be the professional I wish to be and update on more days.

Deal? Good.


I'm doing NaNoWriMo again, but I have this feeling this time will be better than 2009. I feel motivated as I was in 2008, which is good since that is my first and only NaNo win. The project shall be the sequel to my NaNo 2008 novel (Prophecy of the Eternals), currently titled Reign of the Eternals.

It's subject to change.

Now, back to the subject of this post. NaNoWriMo. What tools do I use to make sure this year would be a successful one?

First, I have my laptop of course. Last NaNo, I used Q10 to get most of my writing done (I am very easily distracted), but this year I discovered FocusWriter which is amazing! It's Q10 but better! The timer which also tells you how much you've written in the time you set alone is worth it! I have the theme set up the way I like it, black background with red text. I also love that you can use an image for the background. Really awesome.




Second, I have music. My iTunes and Pandora Radio are godsends. I don't know where my novels would be without them. Music is my main source of inspiration. Finding the right song could lead to discovering the perfect plot twist, perfect line of dialogue, the perfect scene...

(Thank You Hans Zimmer, Craig Armstrong, E.S. Posthumus, Lisa Gerrard, Muse, 30 Seconds to Mars, Dethklok, etc. You all should have a mention in my acknowledgments.)

Third, I have my Redbull. I LOVE Redbull. I drink it and it's like I'm awake. Sometimes I feel buzzed, but for the most part I just feel not-sleepy anymore and that is awesome. All other drinks give me a weird feeling, but not Redbull! *nuzzles* I also have green tea, which I drink every morning.

Fourth, are my commitment posters. I have a calendar, telling me my days, I have my daily and weekly NaNo goals, and my NaNo schedule. I also have a print out of the email nanowrimo.org sends us participants at on the 30th of October, charting out your NaNoWriMo journey.





Needless to say, I'm very clear on what needs to be done to win NaNoWriMo. All that's necessary now is to take action and DO IT.

Fifth, I have my writing buddies from Wriye Forums and Absolute Write Water Cooler through IRC and AIM chat for encouragement and companionship in this crazy adventure.

This is my attempt at getting back into "Writing is for Fun!" mentality. And writing SHOULD be fun. It shouldn't be a means to an end (unless that end is entertainment and fulfillment). It shouldn't be just to get the agent and get published so I can quit the job I hate. That's just the bonus benefit.

I would read comments and posts about people so frustrated with the publishing process, about how long it takes and how hard it is. Impatient as I am, I also got very frustrated with it all too and understood why people self-published. But then I decided to do this with a different mentality.

My novel is for me. For my own pleasure, pride and satisfaction I will make it the best it can be. After writing, revising it, getting feedback and polishing it to a shine, I will be happy with that. Those who want to read it, such as my friends, need only to ask and they can read it. I will go and seek out agents to publish, but if it doesn't sell or get any attention, then that's okay too.

That's their loss of an opportunity. I've lost nothing. I'm still where I was before I queried. So there's no need to be upset. Nothing has changed.


If my novel never sells, then it shall be cherished on my shelf for my own amusement and my friends as I write the next one that might have better luck (which it should just by all that I've learned from the previous one alone).

From that mentality, I never lose. There is no stress. It becomes easier. I still have my inner critic nagging me at the change and I still keep switching back to the I MUST BE PRODUCTIVE/MAKE MONEY/GET PUBLISHED mentality occasionally, but it takes practice to change a way of thinking and doing something.

I'm simply progressing through my always changing journey through life. It's really exciting and fun.

So to all who are doing NaNoWriMo this month and to all those who are simply doing what they were born to do...

Have Fun!