Tag Archives: writing

Q&A: Reject Cynicism. Inner Strength is about Courage

Thoughts on the gentle and compassionate character that is perceived as weak but has “inner strength”? What is your personal definition of inner strength in the context of this archetype, and would it actually be beneficial in a semi-realistic setting? And how would you go about deconstructing, and subsequently reconstructing it? I hate cynical endings that show kindness is meaningless or a hindrance, I was wondering if I could subvert such a message without eyeroll-ness using such a character.

Coming out with the hard questions, huh?

The truth is there is no right way to write this type of character because “inner strength” isn’t a generic term but a personal one. In terms of meaning, strength changes from individual to individual. So, for a writer, that means defining what “inner strength” means to you.

Strong is a State of Mind.

Let’s redefine “inner strength” as courage. Courage is not being without weakness, it’s about overcoming fears and insecurities. It’s about facing uncomfortable truths even when the lies those truths hide make up the fabric of your memory.

There’s no single right answer or way to go about portraying a character who is courageous in their daily life, who stands up, who faces down what makes them afraid, and who tries even knowing they might fail. Kindness is a gift given to someone else, and while you might hope for reciprocation you’re not guaranteed a response.

“This is about what I can do,” this type of character says. “This is not about what you or what you deserve. I’m kind because I believe in kindness. You can be cruel to me, that’s you’re choice. I’ll continue to be kind to you because that’s the approach I’ve chosen.”

You don’t need to subvert, or deconstruct, or reconstruct. What you’ve got to do is play the archetype straight. Write the character who genuinely believes kindness can change the world. You don’t need a character who starts out “strong” and inner strength isn’t easily quantified in the general sense. You need a character who is wiling to stand up for their beliefs, even when their insecure, frightened, unsure, and hopeless. Creating a character who genuinely is mentally and emotionally strong is creating a character who is learning how to be strong as they go through their experiences, in figuring out what that means for them and for you, discovering how they got there, throwing aside cynicism, and in the end believing that  kindness really can make a difference.

You’ve got to decide what “inner strength” is in the context of your story. For me, inner strength is the most important quality for any character. I define “strength” by their emotional experiences, how they deal with them, if they face them, their decisions, their beliefs, and how those shape their story within the narrative. Each one has their own qualities, their own strengths.

“Yes, the world can be a dark and dangerous place. Yes, people can by cynical and self-interested. Yes, cruelty, indifference, and ambivalence are all easier to accept. Yes, sometimes, changing even one small aspect of this world seems impossible. Hope can be frightening, it’s painful to see your dreams crushed. I know this task is Sisyphean, every time we get that boulder to the top of the hill it just rolls back down. Sometimes, for me, even just getting out of the bed in the morning can be herculean. But you? You’re just using cynicism to excuse action. In your world, we’re already doomed. That attitude just protects the status quo. I won’t stand aside. I won’t do nothing. I won’t let fear stop me and I won’t let you stop me either. I’m going whether you come with me or not.”

The irony for all the cynics will tell you their way is more “realistic” is that it’s much more difficult to maintain hope, to stay hopeful, positive, and to keep chasing after your dreams. It’s more difficult to be kind than it is to be cruel. You risk more in being open to others than you do in being closed, and its much harder to keep sticking your hand back into the fire after you’ve been burned. The mistake comes with assuming that being kind is easy. It is under most circumstances, but there are those where you need to dig deep to maintain that smile. It’s easy to see the flaws and failings in other people, and much harder to reach out. The mistake is in assuming these characters have never seen the world’s darkness, that they’re sheltered, and that once they’re exposed to that darkness they’ll change their tune. That’s not necessarily true.

Now, there are those kinds of characters whose kindness is based in both innocence and ignorance. Who are open because they have the privilege of living in an environment where they don’t regularly encounter cruelty, where no one has specifically been directly cruel to them, where they’ve never had the values they espouse challenged. Then, there are the characters who have had their values challenged. The ones who locked hands with misery and despair, who went through their crucibles, and came out the other side fire forged. These characters genuinely believe in the values they espouse, all the way down to the extreme end of pacifism where even when their life is threatened they never raise a hand to defend themselves with violence. They choose words instead.

There isn’t anything unrealistic about characters choosing a path of peace over one of war. Diplomacy is a real skill set with real value in the real world. There are plenty of people out there every day making a difference, by giving time to good causes, who chase after their own dreams of a better world. There are plenty of examples out there to show you can’t make a better world through violence. Plenty of different philosophies on the subject too.

Strength comes from growth, from picking ourselves back up when we fall down, and standing up again. Like Sisyphus with his boulder, there’s no shortage of pitfalls to knock us back down to square one. That “inner strength” comes from fortitude, from the willingness to keep going, from acknowledging our own failings, and being patient with others for theirs.

So, the question becomes do you believe in the values this character espouses? Can you be genuine when you write them? Can you be honest with their struggles? Can you be honest? Can you write from the perspective where you believe in what they stand for, but are willing to challenge them and put those beliefs to the test? Are you willing to let them fall short? Willing to see them fail?

Maybe I don’t want to be gentle all the time? I always try to be kind! I try and I try, and I try, and I’m sick of it! I’m not getting anywhere, and when I do you’re there with some witty crack about how it couldn’t get better than this! Why are you doing this to me? How can you go through life like this doesn’t affect you? People are suffering! They’re suffering and I can’t do anything about it!

Ultimately, the difference between a character who affects the audience and a character who is eye-roll worthy is whether you admit that they’re human. Even then, so what if they are eye-roll worthy? Sometimes, you need to start with a cliche and then when given context the character emerges. There’s nothing generic about this sort of character’s strength, they are an individual whose beliefs are challenged and shaped by their experiences.

Bravery requires we take risks. Risks mean that sometimes we fail, but we can’t allow fear of failing to stop us. Learning about “inner strength” requires taking a long hard look at yourself. There aren’t any special tricks to getting past the boulder, no special means of ensuring success. Sometimes, you just need to be willing to stand there and risk letting the boulder hit you. The cynic will tell you that its better not to try anyway because you were always going to fail. However, the honest truth is that you don’t know until you try.

The act of facing your fears is growth all by itself. Putting yourself out there, even if you fail, is an act of courage.

That’s really how we do it.

One step at a time.

-Michi

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Q&A: Write It

I’ve been a fan of this page for a long time, and this isn’t a combat question, but it is a writing question. I’ve had a horrible plot and character idea since I was eleven, a twist on religion and the multiverse. I do not want to write that idea, it’s confusing to myself even. Whenever I try and write something else, I suffer from writers block and can only think of that world. Is there an escape from this damnation?

Write it.

The answer to any idea that won’t leave you alone is to write it. You’re not eleven years old anymore, there are things you can do with this setting and this story that you couldn’t then. It’s hanging on because it wants to be told. You can lock it up in a deep dark place when you’re done and never show it to anyone. There’s writing Starke and I will never show or share with anyone.

Just do yourself a favor, escape from purgatory.

Let it out.

It doesn’t have to be in total, just in pieces. You can try letting it free then working on something else at the same time. Much as your conscious mind insists it’s a terrible idea, there is a part of you that is desperate for this story to get out. So, listen to this part of you.

Give it life.

You will not be judged by every horrible idea you begin with, and honestly many, many ideas are terrible in the beginning.  If we don’t let ourselves be awful we never give ourselves the chance to become great.

Writing is a process, like with everything. We never have all the answers in the beginning, just an idea. A spark that lives in the quiet corner of our minds. Most of us will never have an idea that emerges whole. When I get far enough in a story, (usually around 20,000 words) I need to step back and do research as a breather. I did through research materials and get a sense for where I want the world to be like. This is the part for me where the most interesting ideas happen, the story changes and a new plot emerges. Give your creative mind time to get there. What you imagine and what makes it onto the page will be different, and it will be further refined as time goes on.

This is also the part where I tell you that every single horrible thought and plot you think up has the potential to become your best writing. The bad ideas are the ones that initially sound good, then disappear on the evening tide. The really good ones? They’re the ideas that stick with you. They come back, time and again. There’s something in them which attracts your mind, a nugget of creative brilliance or some exploration you haven’t realized you need yet.

One of the most important truths as a writer is learning to listen to yourself. Beneath all the noise of the outside world, society, and our thoughts, there’s another voice in there.

Creativity lives in what interests and excites us, often in what seems terrible but we just can’t let it go. It isn’t in the politically correct, or the should be’s, or the best ideas. Sometimes, it’s silly, and confusing, and disconcerting, and you don’t know what to do.

Let the eleven year old you come out to play.  Give them the gift they weren’t able or ready to give themselves. If you can come up with no other reason to write this story then do it for them.

Tell them their story.

We find peace when we remember to love ourselves, when we love the shades of who we were. Those people in our past, who we’ve outgrown but never left behind. Writing is, in many ways, an expression of the dreams we never lost. Some stories stick around until we find the words to express them, when we’re ready to tell them. In that moment, they become more insistent. When they do, they’re telling you that you’re ready. There are doors in all our hearts which take us back in time to the dreams we had when we were young. The voice of our inner child is the source of creativity, its where our magic and wonder exists. Writing is just an extension of playing make believe. Canonized and uplifted, maybe, but that’s what it is. Listen to the parts of you that remembers joy without judgement or criticism. All ideas are horrible in initial concept. In the end, we all write about what we want rather than what’s right. Self-acceptance is, perhaps, the most important part of any creative pursuit. Creative catharsis as it were.

We cannot write for any audience other than ourselves until we learn to write selfishly. This means engaging with the silly ideas, the terrible ideas, the horrible ideas, the destructive ideas, the frustrating ideas, the cliche ideas, and all the others when they decide to stick around. It’s not just okay to be selfish, it’s necessary. The creative must believe in themselves, and realize that sometimes we don’t get to decide which stories we tell. Sometimes, we tell them because want to. Sometimes because we need to. Listen to your inner world. When the same idea returns time and again, brought to the beach that is your conscious mind, accept it for what it is. Don’t fight the tide.

You may find, when you finally do tell this story, you’ll be greeted not by a stranger but an old friend who wondered why you were gone so long.

-Michi

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does making ocs count as writing?

Yes.

Fanfiction also counts as writing. As with everything some exercises are more valuable than others, but all of it counts. The creation of your own characters as a small addition within a limited sphere or scope of another person’s work is writing.

It counts.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

obsidianmichi:

On “Good” Writing:

This isn’t about popular writing. Popular writing is a matter of some skill, but mostly luck and providing a niche that appeals. Lightning strikes, you get lucky. I’ll take a consistent audience over a massive audience any day of the week. If a lot of people overlook your work or they don’t get many likes or no one notices you, don’t worry. It’s not a sign that you’re a bad writer. Over a thousand things could be factoring into this decision that have nothing to do with you. So, keep writing.

Don’t be discouraged by anyone who you perceive to be a better writer than you. When you read something that gives you even just a moment’s enjoyment (regardless of whether or not it stays with you for the rest of your life or you forget about it in the next five minutes), you’re not seeing the hours, weeks, months, and, quite honestly, years of work it took the writer to reach their level of skill.

You like someone? Learn from them. Learn from their style, learn from their words. What they do with their characters, what words they put into a row, where they put their commas and semi-colons, and put some effort into looking at what they’re doing. Look at how they did it, how the pieces came together to give you a story that you enjoy.

Then, apply it to you.

Every fanfic. Every book. Every article. Everything you read is your teacher. You can use it all to make yourself better. What you need to do is not copy, but instead think. In copying, we learn nothing except how to trace the outer shell. Ideas are neat, but so are coherent wholes.

A story is a painting. When you look at it, it seems like a complete image. Except each brushstroke is important, even the ones that it feels like you could do without. A character is many traits together, not just one. A whole personality, if you want to extract a trait from a person then look at the person. The whole person, including the extraneous bits, the ugly bits, and all the parts you don’t like. Those parts are just important to making the image complete. When you understand how pieces come together, it’s easier to separate them out.

Ask yourself why you enjoy what you do. Examine it. Study it. Rip it apart. Look at it from the inside out. If you switched up these pieces, how does it all change? There’s your story.

Patience. Practice. Persistence. Perseverance.

If you want to become better then choose the uncomfortable.

On one hand, there’s something to be said for working with what interests you. On the other, if you forever stay with your preferences then you limit yourself. Try new things or stagnate. Don’t flit from new thing to thing, attempt to master each, but if you find yourself slowing or getting bored then go with what makes you uncomfortable. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid you’re no good at? What have you avoided because you don’t know how to do it? What haven’t you looked at because you think you’re bad at it?

Action? Romance? Drama? Horror? What?

Do that. Learn about it. Borrow a bunch of books from the library. Read up on articles by the experts. Challenge yourself.

Are there characters you avoid because you don’t like them? Write about those characters. Study them. Learn about them. Learn to see things from their perspective. You don’t have to agree with them, but a part of writing is learning to separate yourself out from your characters. The more perspectives you can write from, the more you learn to see beyond your own worldview, and the more you try to stretch, the better you’ll become.

Art is understanding people. If you don’t understand people, you will fall short. Understanding people in all their beautiful flaws and foibles is the journey of a lifetime. You’re not going to be able to do it all in one day, or one year, or fifty. So pick one. You have to start someplace.

Keep writing.

The only way to fail is to quit.

So, keep writing.

We struggle and we strive. Writing is a journey, just keep walking. Eventually, you’ll find your sunrise and it’ll be a whole new day.

yeahwriters:

5 Books on Writing That Every Writer Should Read

To be a better writer, there are really only things that you need to do: Read, and write. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t read about being a writer, and that having a well-rounded understanding of how writing “works” isn’t beneficial.

These 5 books were all assigned to me as a creative writing undergrad, and all have pieces of wisdom in them that have etched themselves so thoroughly into my consciousness that I feel like they’re all floating over my head while I’m writing.

While there are loads of other great books on writing, I specifically chose these because they aren’t all just saying “here’s how I write, you should do it too”the topics of these books are very diverse!

1. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose: Like I said, the best thing you can do to be a better writer is read. But what does that mean? What should you read? Francine Prose (yes, that is her real last name, if you can even believe it!) helps you answer those questions, and shows how looking for certain things while you read and reread can strengthen your own writing. Check it!

2. On Writing by Stephen King: This is the one book on my list that is saying “here’s how I write, you should too”. But Stephen King is basically the most prolific writer ever, so I was happy to listen to his advice. Two points of his really stuck with me: 1. Adverbs are lazy and 2. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is put it down for a long timelike, 6 months or a yearand come back to it with eyes so fresh that it’s like you’re editing someone else’s story. I’d be interested to know what points of his sticks with you guys!

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: I posted about this the other day, but this book is like my writing Bible. In fact, a friend of mine who doesn’t even write got to reading it, and he loved it, too. Basically if you’re a human with a goal, this book will help you. And Anne Lamott writes kinda like this wise, kind mother who isn’t afraid to also tell you what’s up. Whereas a lot of other books on writing are about the actual storytelling, I like this book because it’s more about the writer’s “lifestyle”. Go get it now so that we can gush together!

4. The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe: This is actually just an essay, but considering that Poe is often credited with being the inventor of the modern short story, I had to include it on this list. It’s in this essay that Poe famously defined a short story as one that can be told in one sitting. Whereas King’s On Writing is really “zoomed in” on topics like word choice, this essay is a high level, theoretical piece on what a story actually is. You can get it for 99 cents on Kindle, or, even better, read it as part of a collection of all of his stories… ugh, they’re SO good!!!

5. Elements of Style by Strunk & White: I cannot tell you how often I’ve received this little book as a giftfor high school graduation, for college graduation, and for many Christmases and birthdays. But it’s all good because it is kinda essential for a writer to have. Elements of Style is all aboutgasp!grammar. (I should probably give it a read-through again so that I can re-center and remember my grammatical skillz, actually!) Also, there are some cute versions out now that make it seem less snore-fest-yI really want this illustrated copy!

If you read any of these books and post quotes from them on your Tumblr, tag them #yeahwritingbooks and I’ll reblog you!

forensicasks:

whiskey-wolf:

Cross Sections Of Various Ammunition

It’s what on the inside that counts

Let us number the ones which are illegal, and learn their names.

Note, there is a potential that I’ve got some of the names wrong. I’m not exactly the best person to ask about guns…nor do I particularly like them.

Hauge Conventions are the international legislations which dictate what form of ammunition/weaponry is allowed to be used during warfare. Most hollow point, soft point, and deliberately fragmentary rounds are illegal for warfare…but are allowed to be used in the civilian market, especially by police forces.

HOWEVER, higher velocity bullets (such as those common for usage in NATO country rifles) have a nasty tendency to fragment ‘by accident’ when they make impact.

Bottom row, left to right: Lead (not jacketed)- legal to own and allowed under the Hauge Conventions. The one pictured is likely for a revolver, such as the .455 British Service Webley.
I want to say the second one is a wadcutter (a form of revolver ammuntion used mostly for target shooting, as it punches really big ‘neat’ holes in things)

Next up from bottom, left to right: Glaser Safety Shot- US police forces use them, illegal under Hauge Conventions. The one pictured is copper jacketed. They’re essentially a marble capped container filled with buckshot.
Copper jacketed- Not entirely certain if it’s a hollow point or not.

Third row from bottom, left to right: Both forms of ammo seen on this row are banned under the Hauge Conventions. The one of the left appears both to be developed to be a hollow nose AND fragment…where as the other is a fragmentary round.
I’m actually interested, in the one on the right, given that you more commonly see ‘buckshot’ within shotgun rounds.

Fourth row from bottom: Rifle rounds, the lot of them. Other than that, I’m not certain on identifying them. One on the right is, once again, developed specifically to fragment, making it illegal under the Hauge Conventions.

Fifth row from the bottom, left to right: Copper jacketed- allowed under the Hauge Conventions. Likely for a 9mm pistol.
Hollow point- though given how deep the hollow is, I’m wondering if there’s not something specific to why it’s such a deep point.
Soft point- The metal at the top is thinner than the remainder of the body, the yellow ‘dot’ at the top is probably silicone. On impact, the tip of the bullet will expand out, increasing the caliber of the bullet drastically. Illegal under the Hauge Conventions

Top row, left to right: Again, this row is all rifle rounds of some variation or another.
I have no idea what the one on the far left is. It looks like a tracer round of some variation, but I’m not certain enough to say.
Fully jacketed (likely steel) bullet- legal to use under the Hauge Conventions.A wooden…rifle round….I’m mildly confused and can’t make comment on legality, not knowing caliber and bullet velocity

Fourth row, center looks like a flichette to me. Basically a steel dart. But, I’ve never heard of these being used in a rifle round without a sabot system.

-Starke