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TF2's Meet the Pyro and Pyromania: A Writer's Perspective

Before finishing this, I was watching a series of tutorials.

Instead of having the usually scheduled yMusic, I'm going to dip into one of the few video games I play, even on a monthly basis: Team Fortress 2.

Specifically,  the Meet the Pyro video, the Pyromania update, and how this event affects the future of the game.

Don't worry if you don't know anything about TF2, even though this post is mostly aimed at players of the game. I have something for you writers and bookworms too.

Because TF2 shines with its out-of-game material.

Meet the Pyro

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Meet the Pyro is the last installment of a series of videos highlighting each of the nine player characters. Considering this is video game writing, Valve does a great job with making every character memorable, even though their radically distinctive appearances already do their part.

Heavy names his weapons and has a thing for Sandviches. Scout is full of it and is not afraid to go on and on about it. Medic is more of a mad scientist than a honest doctor, although Engineer takes the role of an affable yet coldly friendly Texan who doesn't mind a few bodies piling up.

And Pyro? Let me show you:

Weekly Round-up: 6/29/12

Still figuring out what to do Saturday. I might be throwing a curve-ball you guys way.



Monday:




Tuesday:




Wednesday:




Thursday:



If you liked this round-up, don't forget to share it!

Liebster Award: My First One!

This week has been a busy, busy week. So far, we had a craft post on Monday, a book review on Tuesday, and an update on Wednesday.

And an award on Thursday. My first one, which I receive with humble hands and keyboard fingers.

I would like to thank Theresa of Keepin up with the Joneses...in the Writer's World. Last week, on Saturday, she commented on the yMusic post and planted a Liebster Award on the way back. Reminds me of DeviantART, but with five times the brag swag brag.


Should I put this in my sidebar?



What is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award is given to bloggers who are up and coming and who have less than 200 followers.

Writer's Update: 6/27/12 (Stage Play Reflection)

As I'm starting this on Tuesday afternoon, I'm home alone, eating from a bowl of ice cream.

I wrote a blog post this morning, but progress on Manifestation Files, as usual, hasn't started yet. I doesn't help that one of my siblings snatched my laptop ten minutes before the first alarm.

And now I'm going to take a walk to walk off the ice cream chill.

...

Okay, I'm back.

Blogging

Yeah, progress on Manifestation Files has been slow lately, but only because I'm pumping most of my writing effort into this blog.

First, I got my Tumblr set out. Second, I started using StumbleUpon regularly (you can see I'm putting upcoming posts for the weekly round-up it into, along with my own work). Third, I added a new sharing system. More options, more fun! Six flags!

Yeah, I shouldn't be putting this much focus, especially when I have all this time in my hands to focus on my main personal project.

And I procrastinated another hour before coming back to this paragraph.

Yeah, dedication is down on my end. Fortunately, I'm building up the buffer more and more, getting my name out more and more, and the number of views on this blog this month will exceed June's.

Also, three things that I'll probably do by the end of the year:


  1. Guest post on multiple blogs at once.
  2. Launch a controversial blog series (still in-progress).
  3. Change the blog's name. (More on this later).

Stageplay

On Friday, my five-day summer camp for playwrighting ended. The high school troupe performed all the finished scripts, although the two largest ones weren't shown in its entirely due to only having fifty minutes for the entire showcase. I filmed the entire thing and got good footage, even if the sound's a little soft.

Oh, and for both my one-act play and monologue, I was peeking back to see if anyone was laughing. It was quiet, but there was laughter.

At the end, I stayed around with Mom (who couldn't attend due to her having to monitor her own showcase--Harry Potter camp) and talked with the teacher. Mostly for feedback. Both positive and negative.

I forgot to record the positive feedback (how hypocritical of me), but from the top of my head, I have:

  • Great ideas
  • Good dialogue
  • Realistic female characters (gender ratio in art is always skewered)
  • Good storytelling sense

On the other hand, I also got a few criticisms and constructive advice. This I did recorded, on the green one-sheet Playbill:

  • Work on finding stakes on conflict
  • Work on subtext
  • When writing stage plays, don't think too largely.

The first one I'm trying to work on. Maybe in Manifestation Files, Bryan needs more of a social life that starts dying at one point. For the second one, it's more about keeping dialogue from being too direct, since "people don't always say what they're saying", in my acting teacher's words.

The third one is more complicated, and it relates more to stage plays than general fiction. "He has a cinematic mind," my acting teacher said to Mom. A lot of the revising I did on my two one-act plays involved scaling down and focusing more on what I have. 

For example, one play had its first two scenes merged together, since jumping around a lot in theater is counter-productive, especially considering how short the scene was. For the new second scene, I started it off with a bang that directly translate with the merged ending of the first scene.

But with the one-act play that didn't make the cut, the problem were characters. For a sketchy feel, I had three walk-bys, all for the sake of setting up a joke. However, their presence on-stage is too fleeting, and my acting teacher wanted to know more about these people. Or at least have them stay around and make the jokes associated with them funnier.

Funny thing is, I stayed away from the multi-act plays. I was afraid of being too "kiddy", but the actors really brought the two multi-act plays out in terms of emotions. Something that I should have more in my scripts.

...

I think that's about all. Any questions?

Thoughts On: Grasping at Eternity

A peacock beauty asleep on a bed.
I received Grasping at Eternity from the author, Karen Amanda Hooper, offering it for free. At a price: one review. Long, short. Positive, negative, whatever. It has to be a review.

So here's the payment, although I spend some time making sure I craft a review that justify my thoughts on the book, and provide some constructive thoughts to the author.

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Maryah doesn't have the perfect family--but it doesn't stop her from falling into despair when they're all murdered.

Still traumatized from the event, Maryah goes to Arizona to visit her grandmother, Louise. However, the large and varied family she finds there convinces her to stay indefinitely--all while her dreams is haunted by a death angel, who she thinks will take her to her family in the afterlife.

The "death angel" is actually Nathaniel, Maryah's soul mate from several lifetimes.

What Maryah doesn't know is that Louise, Nathaniel, and the rest of the "kindrily" has been reincarnated throughout the centuries, reborn each time with their memories and supernatural powers. Yet, in her last lifetime, Maryah erased her memories and powers. Everyone is unsure if she will regain them.

Oh, and the guy that might have gotten her to erase her memories is causing havoc. And he's still after her.

If only Maryah realizes that Nathaniel isn't a nut job.s

Notes

I jumped into this book blind. As in, I knew almost zilch about the story of the book. When I received it, all I knew was the title, cover, author, and the fact that it was a YA fantasy. I didn't even bother reading the summary before leaping right in. 

My expectations were mostly hinged on the fact that I had interacted with the author several times over the Internet, to the point that I felt a little pressure, although I didn't let it bother me too much.

Review

First of all, Grasping at Eternity is definitely better written than Karen Hooper's last book, Tangled Ties. The latter's about 3.5 out of 5 stars.

First Impressions

When I received the e-book and downloaded it onto my iPhone, the first line stood out to me:

I wanted to punch a hole in the sky, rip it wide open, and fly out of this world and into a magical one.

I marveled over how good it was--then I started nitpicking onto it. (does "wide" belong there? Is the last clause awkwardly phrased?) How horrible I am. ;p

Really, the prose in Chapter One was bumpy, but what hooked me was the fact that Maryah's family was quickly set up--and then promptly killed. My thoughts? "No-no-no-no-no. Not now. Are you really...?"

Yes Karen did. And one of the murderers treated himself to a snicker doodle from a dead person. Dark, but chilling. Not mind-blowing, but it's a brutal enough of a beginning to draw me into what would happen next.

Oh, the Dramatic Irony!

The book overall is centered around the protagonist, Maryah, and her soul mate, Nathaniel. Oh, and the fact that her memory has been erased and he had been reduced to an angsty mess for the last lifetime leads to an interesting exercise of point-of-view.

Mainly, the fact that Maryah has no idea about the fact she's living with a reincarnated family. Therefore, Nathaniel acts as another set of eyes in what would otherwise be a story about a teenage girl recovering from an unusual tragedy.

This is what makes this story unusual: Maryah isn't let on into the masquerade onto very late into the book. On her end, she has to deal with the mystery of Nathaniel and her dreams (which are actually happening), along with a guy at her school named River, who doesn't want to stay friends.

Behind the scenes, Nathaniel is angsting over the fact she no longer has her memories, and dealing with the man that killed several of his kindrily last lifetime.

Unfortunately (for them), the dramatic irony truly kicks in when they first meet. The crossing of POV characters is almost always an important event.

So important, Nathaniel almost get the both of them killed in the following sequence.

And Maryah starts thinking of him as Nut Job and wants nothing to do with him.

Really, Karen Hooper have gotten better with POV, compared with Tangled Ties. It probably helps that there're only two narrators. And it makes the "romantic comedy misunderstanding" be less cliche.

Take That, Twilight!

It's hard not to think of this as a jab at other paranormal romances. Especially when River comes in to form a Type 3 love triangle. Although some readers might hate her for not realizing that he will not settle with being friends, it makes sense because she's new in this town, and that River is one of the few people to approach her.

Teenagers aren't perfect, but atleast Maryah isn't blindly falling in love and throwing her life away for either of them. You got to admire her for that.

Story Mountain

This book also got me thinking about it from a storyteller's perspective. What is the main point of the book?

Answer: It's a reverse-romance (with the guys doing the pursuing), a mystery (what are these dreams?), a relationship drama (River's girlfriend), and some slice-of-life to boot.

Kudos for worldbuilding! It's not the most detailed or the most extensive, but with the town and the fantasy elements, and you had me wondering about a third way through how I can write a similar story without ripping this one off. Maybe another time.

Mourning Maryah

I had a harder time thinking about Maryah and her virtue as a protagonist, along with her role in the narrative and plot.

From one perspective, you can say she doesn't work. She spends a lot of time swelling on how her family died along with all the other problems that come her way. For some people, this work, but there's also the risk that she could be seen as too much of a wreck (I have my eyes on you, Tris).

But I would say her number one role motivation is her trying to fit in with her new family and community. And this works, because Nathaniel's main motivation is to get Maryah's love again.

And thinking about it, the obliviousness Maryah has throughout the book is similar to the obliviousness Yara had in Tangled Tides. Both worked in this aspect. However, I think the romance is handled better in Grasping at Eternity. The progression is slower, and the justifiction is more natural.

Oh, and action-wise, Maryah plays her role in the climax without falling in another trap. I called it though, but not in the exact way I thought it would unfold.

Rating

It was hard, but I would say 4.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the world that Karen Hooper presented in the book, and I'm definitely getting the sequel. It's the concept. I want to know more about this reincarnation deal. Not to mention the presentation.

It missed that "it" factor that makes a five star. Maybe it's the structure, or it just didn't resonate enough.

I'm happy that I can provide a positive yet constructive review.

YOUR TURN: What are your thoughts on Grasping at Eternity?
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Share this post...and then jump on the offer. "Buy" this e-book in exchange for reviewing it right after.

PS: Mom wants to read it too once we go onto vacation. How do I deal with that?


What NOT to Do in Writing 2 (#BadWritingTips)

Verification that it actually happened.


Due to having tailored trends on, I received a chockload of #BadWritingTips in my personalized trends box. 


If you are a fellow writer, you might have received the same thing, because quite a lot of people in the niche were doing the same thing.


So, as a change (and as a semi-totally-not-a-sequel of my post about #storycraft) I'll let some of the top "experts" explain what not to do. In typical Twitter style.



Echo Chamber: Chekhov's Gun and Forgotten Birthday

First of all, I would like to thank the Echo Chamber crew for acknowledging my last review of Echo Chamber. Despite them sharing it late at night, I received a burst of views the following day, launching the post up to one of the most popular on this blog. Hopefully, this boost will last for a few more weeks.


Since it would be silly to not continue...

As a Sunday bonus, I'll jump from one nerdy production to another. Let's recap last week's two episodes: Chekhov's Gun and Forgotten Birthday.

yMusic: Epic Rap Battle of History: Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates.

So, as a change (and since it's too late for night to look for something else), I'll dip into a webseries that I have been watching for a while: Epic Rap Battles of History. It's nerdcore that parody the living trash out of both historical and fictional beings, in typical obscene Internet style.

I'll be covering last week's episode:

Content warning: Has some language and sexual references at PG-13 levels.



Weekly Round-up: 6/21/12

I'll do another Post of the Week...one day.

Monday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:


Writer's Update: Get Thee To the...Playwright

Darn, it's late at night, so I can't use my kitchen timer.

Oh well. Twenty-five minutes is plenty of time to do a last-minute blog post that I should have started yesterday, and instead I put it off to the last minute on the day I decide that I should start winding down an hour earlier so I can spend more time sleeping so I no longer am sleepy during the mornings and let one of my siblings snatch the computer from my room when it's 6:30.

On Monday, one of the less energetic of them knocked on my door at 4:30 in the morning. I told him that it was too early.

He returned a hour later. I gave it to him.

Yeah. It's time to do some sleep management.

Why Waiting Can Induce Procrastination

You're not the one driving your group to another place--especially when you don't have a driver's license yet. Everybody else is getting all their stuff together and getting ready to get into the car. But it takes five more minutes.

Meanwhile, you have all your stuff, including your laptop in its case and your writing folder in your backpack. You're standing against the wall, just standing there, waiting and waiting with all this stuff in your hands for it to be time to pile into the hot/cold car and go somewhere.

All the while, you're mentally unable to write.''

Your waiting froze it.

Waiting for the Ride Causes Procrastination

In my case, when I'm waiting for Mom or Dad to drive my siblings and I to school or anything else, I get stuck in a state of waiting and inactivity. It's one of the most unproductive mindsets you can get yourself into, next to sheer tiredness, or sitting in a comfy chair in a way that you don't want to reach for the keyboard.

And it doesn't have to be just for a ride. Maybe you're on hold for something important, or you're waiting for the exact moment your favorite webcomic to be posted, or you're waiting for your bladder to get full enough to be able to relieve. (Disgusting thought, but it sure put you into the waiting mood.)

It's partly fueled by fear. You don't want to be caught unprepared once whatever you are waiting for arrives. So you tense up, feet on the starting line, so you'll won't get caught in the dust when the pistol is fired.

You can do better than that, though.

How to Turn Waiting into Productivity

It's simple.

  • Sit down and stay a while: Unless you're going to leave within less than a minute, relax, put your stuff down, whip out your writing folder, and write. Don't worry. I doubt your group won't leave without you. And if you're doing it right, you'll be able to put everything away quickly to get to what you were expecting.
  • Turn the waiting period into a deadline: Right now, I'm waiting for Mom to come home from work to pick all of us up for dining out. She's coming any minute now. For some reason, upon her calling us with a twenty-minute warning, I received a bolt of energy I was unable to harnessed earlier. Perhaps it's the pressure? In any case, think of the waiting time more of a kitchen timer ticking, and squeeze in a page. 

Little things add up, after all.

YOUR TURN: Does your productivity freeze up while you're waiting? How do you use your short waiting time?

yMusic: Cover of Starships by Megan Nicole and Lindsey Stirling

yMusic is back with Nicki Minaj! Or rather, a cover of her song:



Review

If I had only one word to describe it, it would be fun. No, not "FUN." as in the band. "fun" as in the adjective.


Writer's Update: Back From Hiatus

Blog

Hello, followers/little monsters/minions! After a dry two weeks, I have came roaring back in with a writing craft post on embarrassment and a quick mini-review of the webseries Echo Chamber as a bonus. Which got some attention by the creators. Which is what I aimed for.

In any case, I hope you guys didn't miss this blog too much. Or rather, I hope you guys did miss this blog. I doubt that, but it's a possibility.

In any case, I hit two milestones: 50 followers for Thoughts of a Young Aspiring Writer, and 400 followers on Twitter. Both are modest, but both are decent numbers for someone who doesn't even own a credit card.

Writing

One reason why I took the hiatus in the first place because writing production went stagnant. In 2011 I was pumping the words out at about 2000 per writing day. With the revision stage, I hit a brick wall. Since I had no idea how to revise at a nice pace. I was also worrying about my blog's buffer.

I also quit 750 Words, since it does squat for revision and I thought it was causing me to hold off writing more. That's probably not true, but I still quit it for a while. Goodbye, 100 day streak. At least I got that daily commitment out of the way.

But it probably bit me in the butt in the end. I suffered some emotional whiplash, mostly of the listless kind.

Guess what saved me?

Writing Group

It's something Mom signed me up for. And I don't regret it.

Already in the last two weeks, I have been in five sessions. In those five sessions, I did a bunch of flash fiction, some poetry, a satire essay about the United Queendom of America, and a little work on Manifestation Files.

Yes, a little work.

But it's more work than it had been. And I'm building up slowly and slowly.

Basically, the set-up of the writing group is this. Two siblings, a poet and an upcoming author, has been hosting it for many, many years in their house. We're a group of fellow high schoolers, writing in a general atmosphere of positivity. We write to prompts (although we're allowed to ignore them), we read what we wrote, and the group offers positive yet constructive criticism.

To be honest, I'm slightly jealous of some of the writing. Mostly about content. 

One thing for sure though, is that I write fast. One of the teachers says to shut down your editorial voice and just write, and that's what I do. So there's that awkward situation where we're writing sestinas and and I asked whether I should read the one that followed the prompt of choosing words from science textbooks or the one--:

"You wrote two?"

In my eyes, it could have been better (I screwed myself over by choosing one of the words that I repeat with "hot"), but every piece, poem or prose, can be better.

If only if I can channel that energy into my revising. But I'm sure I can do that.

Because I am a writer, and I will become an author.

More on the writing group next week.

YOUR TURN: How have writer's groups help you? 

Echo Chamber: An Awesome Webseries

Besides my blogroll, and the small amount of webcomics I causally watch for, there had been one webseries I have been watching since last week: Echo Chamber.


About Echo Chamber

To steal the description from its TV Tropes wiki page:

Echo Chamber: The Adventures of a TV Tropes Vlogger is a TV Tropes video show. The show is about the travails of a group of tropers trying to make a "Trope of the Week" video series. Which they do. Sort of. In spite of their best efforts.

To further elaborate on that summary, it's a very meta webseries involving the Jerkass creator of the vlog (Tom), the Deadpan Snarker producer (Dana), and the Cloudcuckoolander cameraman (Zack). Together, they attempt to appease their Mysterious Employer by making a vlog for TV Tropes.


So there's a fictional and real-life Echo Chamber. And to put the cherry on the top, the characters share their actor's names? Does your brain hurt yet?

Why Should I Watch This

First of all, it's funny in many different ways. Zack is an utter weirdo, and during the first season, it's fun seeing how they self-demonstrate the very trope (story device) that they're setting out to film an episode about.

Its main virtue is of a comedy, but the humor is quite meta. It's very interesting to watch as a writer or an aspiring film maker.

However, Season Two has a positive bump in quality. While Season One is mostly about intentionally sucking at parts, Season Two, even with only three shows so far, shows that its delving into even more unconventional devices. Even more Show Within a Show drama, two Shaky Cams instead of one, and the question about whatever Echo Chamber will be undone by their Wikipedian competition, [citation needed].

Oh, and don't miss The Stingers at the end of each episode.

Am I confusing my non-TV Tropes readers?

Even if you don't know about TV Tropes, you should at least take a peek at the first episode of Season One. It's right below this paragraph.




YOUR TURN: So, what are your thoughts?


PS. This was made while using my handy, dandy new kitchen timer. I had plenty of time left though.

Fremdschämen, or Feeling the Character's Embarrassment

A baby facepalming into a blanket.
Babby is ashamed!
Guess who learned a new German word while on hiatus?

Good ol' TV Tropes helped me define a certain type of feeling that keeps recurring again and again to me while reading or watching television.

Have you ever seen a sort of situation where a character gets into a totally awkward situation and starts embarrassing themselves?

And for some reason, you're feeling ashamed?

Or you're plugging your fingers into your ears and going "la, la, la" until the scene is over?

It's not just you; it's not just me.

What is Fremdschämen?

Fremdschämen is a German word that means "external shame". Mutual embarrassment, vicarious shame, cringe-worthy, and those "la, la, la" moments.

Someone, especially a character, is making such a fool out of themselves, that you just want the moment to end so you can stop feeling embarrassed.

It's the type of train-wreck you don't want to stay around to watch.

One classic scenario that induces fremdschämen is a case of Freaky Friday going on. With the two characters trying to pretend to be the other, their fumbling and failed attempts at replicating the other's behavior is anything but boring. Because it can go both ways.

The Double-Edged Sword

So why does this matter to you as a writer?

You can achieve a fremdschämen situation with ease and easily get an emotional response out of a reader! For example:

  • As above, a Freaky Friday Flip.
  • Preferably with some dramatic irony, have the character act or talk like a complete idiot.
  • Or have the character try to cover something up, like a boyfriend hiding under his bed.
  • Have the character discover something like a body, and when he leads the local authorities to the site--the body's gone! Awkward!
  • Have the teen protagonist's teachers make an absolutely corny music video for the sake of education! Hey, you're emphasizing with the protagonist's shame that "adults are so out of touch with us".

Plenty of writing prompts there, eh? Be careful though: if the reader decides to plug their ears right in the middle of a scene, they'll lose their spot!

Or they might try to read past it.

But yet again, it's a quirky kind of intensity.

YOUR TURN: Do you have an instance of fremdschämen in your work? Do you have a great story about it that you witness or you were apart of?

BY THE WAY: If you like this blog, don't forget to share it! Like it, Tweet it, whatever! :D

Crazy Cozy Blogfest

Note to regular followers: This blogfest was scheduled before the hiatus, so don't get your hopes up. ;)



  1.  Sleuth: 20 years old. He can press the right buttons in people to receive the information he wants, yet his obsession with duck tape leads him to run an online business that refuses to take off.
  2. Sidekick: 20 year old girl who possesses a daring streak. She says the wrong things, but is out of it enough to notice the littlest things. She's more inclined toward packing tape. It's music to her ears.
  3. Setting: A small town by the Mississippi River, surrounded with hills, and overlooked by an university that the main duo don't have the money to go too. There' s a festival every week for just about everything: Bonsai, karaoke, tape etc.
  4. Theme: The excessive murders involves the festival. For example, leaves laced with poison, an electrocuting machine, an improvised noose used to frame the sleuth, etc.
  5. Twist: Oh, and for some reason, nobody can catch the pesky Chihuahua roaming about.



Now go check out the rest!