Tag Archive: reading


Start Your Engines!

As a blogging site, it is almost to be expected that a good deal of people here know of NaNoWriMo, something that occurs annually in November. For those of you who don’t know what it is, the handy acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month. This year being my first year, having signed up for it almost immediately after bumbling into it, I am prepared for anything. I’ve been flexing my writing muscles and working on them daily. 50,000 words as a minimum for a single month when I go all out is beginning to sound pretty easy.

Since I have also just started to utilize plot outlines after realizing that, as much as I might wish to be able to, I cannot complete a massive and expansive tale without them, I have also started to work on a plot outline for NaNoWriMo, as much as it might sound like it could ruin the spontaneity of it. According to the website, it is fair game to do so, but writing of the material cannot begin until November first at 12:01PM and all. All fine and dandy with me! Figuring I want to move on from what I’m currently writing and work on something new, I started a story that has been burrowing at the back of my mind for as long as I can remember. First rough, uncompleted draft of the idea went alright, not too great. For at least one of the difficulties, see my last post.

Then I decided that for the initial book, the plot was too massive. Rather than a single tome of some huge epic, I figured it would be better to do a series. I already am working on a series of books that shows no end, which, in this train of thought, has begun to look rather discouraging. I’d really rather not get wrapped up into a second series when I’m not even sure I can end the first. Ditching this series for  a month to move onto another wouldn’t be my best idea. Then, of course, the brilliant idea of a trilogy struck me and actually sounded pretty good. Something about a set of three just works out well. Not sure if it will work out, though, because I can’t think of a proper enough filling in that is original, and, thinking about the plot outline vaguely reminds me of countless other fantasy books that are also a trilogy, something that isn’t too great. For a trilogy to work, the initial conflict cannot be changed, which also provided an irritating dilemma.

From the look of things, this current idea I have, tentatively called “Under Grey Skies” will go the way of Neil Gaiman and “The Graveyard Book.” Maybe it will rattle around in my skull for twenty-some odd years like his did, and then it will come clear to me. Or maybe it will crystallize itself overnight and I can stop staying awake at night trying to wrestle with it. Now I’m no great writer, but I can already offer some advice to other authors, advice, which, if I could follow, would make my writing a lot easier.

Don’t try to  cram all of your favorite ideas into a single book.

You have the great idea of an individualistic hero and leader and also about a trio of pure-hearted leaders, oh, and then the one about a rebellious man who is aware of the fourth wall and keeps getting called into supernatural investigations? (Yes, all three ideas I’m having some trouble with; the last is the one I am currently working on, the series.)

Maybe those three are not supposed to live in the same world. There is no division. My main conflict is that the hero of “Under Grey Skies” is quite possibly my favorite character and I want to make him the best as well, so I am tempted to drag his story on or else put in elements of other character’s tales, ideas which alone warrant their own story. Example? A man who has the willpower to stand up to death. Completely different tale, but I feel like I should incorporate it and give my hero this heavy background. But it doesn’t fit in. Other ideas run around in my head late at night, but for now they refuse to come to my call; maybe that’s for the better? I cannot say for certain. Maybe their refusal to come to my beck and call is a good sign. Maybe it is a hint that my complaining about this and rambling nonsensically about it is coming down to something in the end and I’ll be able to start on “Under Grey Skies” without any further issues. I doubt it, though.

What do you think? What are your problems with ideas bogging themselves down in your mind? How do you manage to single out the ideas and limit which belongs where? If you’ve suffered through this post, you can tell why I could use the help!

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Mental vs. Physical

Lately, quite a bit lately, and before that too, I’m often told by those around me that I’m lazy. It’s mostly as a joke because it’s always the excuse that I use to get out of doing something. Usually I’m one of the more active people out there. I mean, sure, I don’t do any sports like a lot of people do, but that isn’t what I’d consider all that constitutes  a lack of laziness. I work out every day, can run like a champ when necessary, not to brag, often have to do a job which involves physical labor and, to boot, when I go to friend’s houses, I quite often end up walking the distance to get there, which is usually a mile minimum.

More recently, summer has started and so has my summer job. My mom, who only works during the school year because of her job, now has decided to work with my dad and on the few days when she can’t, I have to work for a  few hours. Being a job of labor, it isn’t something I particularly care for but it isn’t exactly hard. Just boring. I come home from working and I’m fine to keep going with the day like I normally would. My mom comes home bitching and complaining about how hard it is for her and how tough it is. Irritating point number one is that she’s a lot slower than me and complains a lot more than me on the job. I get paid minimum wage and she gets paid about four or five bucks an hour more than me. Bullshit? Oh yeah. No doubt. I just ignore it, or at least try to.

And then she always ends up starting into how I don’t like to work, about how lazy I am for not wanting to work the rest of my life as some mindless laborer who is money-hungry and unable to stop working. Only once have I lost my temper to turn the argument around and point out that just because I don’t want to labor, it doesn’t make me lazy. That there are plenty of people who make a living off of their thoughts and that those people aren’t lazy, that they have had a huge impact on the world.  Now, sure, most people wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing to have a great work ethic like my dad but when your opinion on life is pretty much that there is nothing more important than working, I think you have problems. Probably the reason that I never had a father-figure growing up in the formative years and when he was there it was mostly to snap something at me and storm away. Real nice guy. This isn’t a counselling session though, so I’m getting off the point a little and should stop ranting about this.

No, after seeing him and experiencing his job I’ve decided that I’d rather be a more intellectual figure. My goal is to be a writer in life. I have some preferences, but in general just a writer; there’s nothing I love doing as much as writing. My family  considers this sort of job to be lazy, which is what sparks my question: does is make you lazy to want to do something besides labor?

I personally don’t think so. I’ve always been more of a fan of intellectual activities than physical ones. Sure, the usual argument that nothing would get done if it weren’t for physical work does hold water, however, most action, meaningful action, comes  from deep thought. And even as far as physical labors go, what I’m doing isn’t something that is as large of a physical impact as Genghis Khan had when he invaded. Genghis Khan was someone who had physical actions that had an enormous impact on the world whereas my job isn’t something with the same physical impact. This is an unnecessary train of thought because my writing will never be as influential as the greats, it will never compare to Aristotle, Machiavelli, Shakespeare or any of the countless others.

But by going off the logic shown by my family, every author, including those listed above, would have been lazy people. So would any teacher, professor or manager. Sure, most people would realize  how essential these talents can be,  but they would find it easy to discount them as lazy.

I’ll cut off the last two paragraphs of useless rambling to pose the question once more: do you believe that mental labors are laziness? What do you think? Which is more important? If you are someone who believes that anything besides physical labor is laziness, I would love to hear your opinion and why you think that way more than anything. Get at it!

“In Cold Blood”

This weekend I read Truman Capote’s nonfiction crime novel which tells the story of the murder of four  members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. For those of you who haven’t  read it, it is very well written, but don’t come out expecting a happy ending. It is no spoiler to say that the murderers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, are executed at the end; this is revealed on the back flap. This book is one of those far more about the journey than the destination. At the conclusion of the novel, you would think that there would be some sense of closure in reading about the deaths of the two murderers, but it doesn’t; it just leaves you with a feeling of loss, knowing that two more people have perished, even if they were two men who have murdered four innocents.

It is intriguing the way that the book progresses, something I’ve seen before. One begins to read and learns of Perry and Dick and their actions with nothing but disgust. Then, after the murders have been committed, Capote focuses on their story as well. Throughout the second section of the book, you feel, slowly, a degree of empathy for Perry due to his terrible upbringing and how he was forced to go through life. Dick remains a stone-like object who does not seem very personable, presumably because he never takes on the temporary role of third-person narrator. One of the only times that any empathy can be found for the character is when someone calls the police to confess to the crime; though never revealed with certainty, it is implied that this is Dick, who wishes to gain the reward money to repay his family. Adding on to the empathy one feels for Perry, the words frequently used to describe him make him appear child-like because of his small, deformed legs. Though I have yet to find a picture of him to see just how accurate these descriptions are, the pitiful way Capote describes him certainly do find a way of gaining empathy from the reader, in this case, me. Extra empathy must be given to Perry, especially during the trial; the mentions of the squirrel that he manages to tame in his jail cell  make him appear just that much more human and more touching as a person and character.

Dick Hickock, however, is not entirely an emotionless character. Towards the end of the book, in the final section, he becomes a much more empathetic character as the focus shifts more towards him than Perry. It also is revealed that in spite of Dick’s cold exterior, making him seem to be the obvious killer of the pair, it was Perry who killed all four members of the Clutter family; earlier when this had been claimed, it was hinted to  be something of a lie, put forward by a desperate Dick to try and cover himself and lessen his own punishment. This revelation makes one feel a certain degree of empathy for the character and begin to realize that perhaps he has been incorrectly personified with Perry as the third-person narrator. In this section, Dick also states the dislike for Perry that has developed among the other prisoners on Death Row, in the Corner, as it is called. Appeals and the like manage to push the date of their execution back for several years. When they are finally forced to go through with their execution, one goes to the gallows almost hoping to feel good about the death of these prisoners, who have killed four innocents without emotion. When they are killed, no good feeling comes in return; someone simply realizes how tragic it is that two more have perished, even if it is, perhaps, rightful. More empathy is put with the residents of Holcomb who primarily did not advocate the death penalty and instead wish for the prisoners to be given life imprisonment and pray for them. The ending pages, which tell the tale of Alvin Dewey and his last encounter with the friend of Nancy Clutter, on of those murdered, are certainly strange and touching, with timeless and beautiful prose.

Overall, the book was good and well-written, definitely a classic, however it is not the book for people used to happy-endings like those of the Harry Potter series or other fantasy novels or fiction that are so common to this time. It envelopes someone in the world of Holcomb and the many places that Dick and Perry flee too, making someone realize that criminals are still people and they still can be empathized with; just because they have committed terrible crimes, such as murder, it does not make it impossible to feel for them, to suffer with them through their troubles. I would certainly recommend it to someone interested in a good read.

Now, though, it probably is time to move on; luckily this isn’t a school essay, huh? Much too random and unorganized. Glad that that’s what a blog is for, pretty much! Hopefully this isn’t too hard or  irritating to read, but for those of you who have gotten so far, any idea just what Perry looks like in real life? His legs more specifically; the novel conjured up an image in my head that I have not been able to confirm or deny as true.