Saturday, April 30, 2011

From Slumping to Hunting

                As an official sociologist (that's what is says on my diploma and I'm sticking to it), I thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit and share some insights in all of my years and experiences in this crazy thing we call life.

                The desire to write something like this came about after I had a discussion with my fiancé a couple days ago.  I had read an article on MSN about a man doing a study about the women who go to Ashley Madison (a sleazy site allowing married people to meet, mingle and ultimately indulge in some forbidden fruit if you catch my drift).  He wanted to find out why women chose to break their "vows" (I use the term loosely because they are so easily broken apparently).  The results were very interesting.

                Almost every women he talked to and met with state their reason for infidelity was due to the fact that their husbands had "lost the passion" for the relationship they once had.  Many of them stated that their husbands were so full of love at first that the women almost drowned from the excess romance and attention.  Then, over the years, it dwindled into nonexistence.  It was a great study and one amazing article to read.  Which leaves us to ask, who are we left to blame?  The cheating wives or the loveless husbands?

                So, in my expert opinion, I will attempt to answer.  At the behest of my fiancé, I've got to go with my gut on this one.  Of course, both parties are essentially to blame but sadly, I'm going to lay a tiny bit more fault at the women on this one.

                Before you go smiting me with words, hear me out for a second.  My reasoning isn't based on manly pride but on simple logic.  Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?  Before couples are even married, they have to go through a "courting process".  This is the part where one party (90% of the time, it's the men) tries their hardest to sway their desired lover into agreeing to an exclusive relationship.  Women are practically pampered day in and day out.  Of course they remember the good old days of "passion" because men had to try so flipping hard to get their attention in the first place.

                Now let's turn the tables.  We men are simple creatures.  Feed us, entertain us, and you have our eternal loyalty.  It's not hard.  We're fairly superficial as well.  I'll be the first to admit that I love the fact that women have to do so much (make up, working out, selecting clothes) to make themselves appear desirable.  This is supposed to be a give and take.  But when you really look at it, men are doing the majority of the giving in the early stages of the relationship.

                Don't believe me?  I'll pose this question just to the ladies?  How many times have you paid for the entire meal on a first date?  How many times have you paid for a meal over the course of your current relationship?  I know what you're thinking now.  Trying to jam "gender roles" only strengthens my argument.  Men practically kill themselves to win the favor of the opposite sex.  Depending on the girl, the process can stretch out for years.  After a while, don't you think we get exhausted, even for a little bit?

                Now, I will also admit that there is no excuse for men to hide/suppress their emotions.  Husbands should express their feelings every day and not fall into a rut just because their married.  But if you look at the evidence, what choice do we have?  By the time men get married, they are emotionally exhausted but it doesn't mean they are not full of love.  As we get older, our romantic energy is on reserve power.  We begin to enter a state of routine.  And this is where the confusion starts.

                Men, in our earliest stages in maturity, are wild, unpredictable, and fairly uncontrollable.  What I don't understand is how women don't see that domesticating a man is one of the greatest achievements one can attain.  We're yours, hook, line and sinker.  Our love is in our dedication.  While we may not show it all of the time, sometimes all it takes is to read between the lines.

                Of course, women are somewhat justified when concerning infidelity (even though I personally don't agree with it).  Why men lose passion for the ones they chose to spend the rest of their lives with is beyond me.  Even though I am not married myself, I feel like I've been with my fiancé forever.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without her.  She's my best friend.  If I allowed the passion to slip from my relationship then I honestly wouldn't be surprised that she would seek it elsewhere.  That is why I use whatever energy I can to let her know just how I love her every second I can.

                Marriages are the ultimate form of compromise.  As the divorce rates dance around a coin flips chance, I really want my vows to mean something.  They are beyond words.  This is a conscious choice to spend the rest of my life with one person and one person alone.  Why people can break them so easily shows the true nature of their character.  I have neither empathy nor sympathy for those who follow the path of infidelity and if I had a weighted opinion, I would ban the Ashley Madison website.

                To those who've read this, I hope I've provided a little bit of perspective.  Now, before you do anything else, stand up, find your significant other, and tell them how you feel.  Do this each and every day.  Let them know how you feel.  If you don't communicate your feelings, you'll never know when something is wrong and only have yourself to blame if it inevitably happens.

                Never forget that feeling when you first fell in love.  You'll thank me someday.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Plot vs Premise - The Eternal Struggle

                Alright boys and girls!  This week's lesson is on the essential framework of your story, the plot.  Or is it premise?


                What is the difference between to two?  That's a damn good question.  To answer it, I would like to bring up something my marketing professor would always ask:

                "Are we looking or are we seeing?"

                Another good question.  Simply put, one perceives the issue from the outside and the other from within.  This can be extrapolated to deciphering the difference between the plot and premise.  A story's premise is a vague description of what is to be expected and the plot has much more details.  When describing your story, normally someone would ask "what is the premise of your story" which pretty much means, "tell me everything about your story using little to no effort." 

                Now that we have this useful information...  What do we do with it? Knowing the difference is actually a crucial step.  If you are going to pursue the professional path to becoming a writer, then knowing how to efficiently and effectively convey your premise to your potential agent/publisher is a must.  I'm not saying I'm the authority when it comes to this matter, but it definitely helps to know the difference.  The best way to think about the premise is essentially everything you would write in your query letter.

                Agents and publishers alike read hundreds upon thousands of queries from young and hungry writers (like mine!) every year.  If you want to sell your story, then you're going to have to create the best possible query letter/premise that will steal their attention (and hopefully their heart as well.  More on that later).

                Once you've sold them on your premise, then they're probably going to ask for a synopsis, usually about 1-2 pages or so.  And so we've arrived at the second portion of our less.  A synopsis is where you're going to describe your plot in as much and little detail as possible.  Agents and publishers are testing you yet again at this point.  They want to see not just how well you can tell a story but also if you can do so with such little space.  The demands of creativity are unforgiving at sometimes but hey, if everything came easy, then nothing would be worth having.

                Once you know what an agent and publisher wants to read, it is up to you to craft it in the best way possible.  Time to you let your creative juices flow.  Crafting a query letter and/or synopsis can be just as taxing as writing your story.  Of course anyone would love to be able to sit and talk with an agent, pitch their story in person, and allow the passion of their thoughts pour through.  Sadly, this is not standard protocol.

                But a guy can dream!

                Since we are unable to sell our stories in person (or give an agent/publisher our 'word' that it's a good story) we must show them our creativity in writing.  After all, how can they believe you're a worthy writer if you can't even sell them on a simple pitch?

                Well, today's lesson is short and sweet.  I hope we all learned something today.  Always think about your readers above all else.  The premise is your hook and the plot steals the show.  Even after your story is written, there is still plenty of work left to do.  Creativity never sleeps.   Now we've all learned something today!

                "Remember your training...  And you will make it back alive!" - Starship Troopers

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh Agent, Where Art Thou?

The great hunt for the right agent continues.  My manuscript has been unofficially completed around the last week of February.  After a few weeks of revising and beta-reading (shout out to my wonderful readers for all of their help), I officially completed Agent M: Project Mabus during the first week of April.  Since then, I’ve been querying agents.

Yea…  It’s been kind of like that.

I’ve read a lot about the process of querying agents.  Some websites were helpful as well as a few books (Getting Your Book Published for Dummies, The Writer’s Market 2011).  Surprisingly, I’ve found contrasting information amongst some of the publications.  For example, some of the agencies featured in the Writer’s Market and do not accept email queries and would rather have you physically send your query letter/synopsis/manuscript with an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).  However, in Getting Your Book Published for Dummies, it explicably states that SASE are a thing of the past and only amateurs would send a query letter with one.
Now who are we supposed to believe?  Honestly.  In this case, I followed the guidelines posted on the agency’s website.  There’s nothing wrong with following their rules, right?
So my search for representation continues.  I asked some of my professors that have previously published books to look over my query letter to see if the concept resonates well and “jumps off the page” (so to speak).  So far, all of my reviews have been positive and I’ve gotten a lot of surprising glares.  Apparently my quiet demeanor in class does not equate to a creative mind.  Go figure.
The wait time for responses is increasingly intense but luckily I have the patience of a saint.  I’ve toyed with the idea of self publishing if I am unable to find an agent or publisher willing to purchase and distribute my story.  There are a few resources out there that have attempted to push me towards that decision (including one very convincing blog) but for the time being, I will continue to seek representation.
I’m curious to see how long this process will take.  Not from completion to publication but from querying to finding an agent willing to represent me.  Like many of my colleagues, I believe my concept is unique and entertaining enough to capture the masses but my inherent bias hinders any type of rational thinking.  Thus, I am seeking for outside guidance.
Mr. or Ms. Agent.  If you’re out there.  I am here, waiting, and ready to amaze you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From the Mind of Dr. Legend - Learning the Creative Writing Process

"What's past is prologue" - William Shakespeare

As an added bonus to this little self started blog of awesomeness, I thought I would help those in need who could use a little extra boost in the creative writing department.  Thankfully, this isn't a trait you either "have" or "have not".  Everyone has an imagination (although some are more developed than others).  Oddly enough, it appears that most of us either repress it or flaunt it.  I believe this attributed to how we were raised as children.  Was your imagination reserved or flourishing?  With that in mind, we begin this week's lesson by talking about the history of our characters.

                Alright!  You've got a great idea for a story already scripted in your mind.  The plucky hero and/or heroine are ready to take your world by storm.  Soon, the battle is over and the day is saved.  Sound familiar?  Don't get discouraged.  Almost every element of fiction begins with this notion.  So what separates every story from one another?  That's right; the characters.  This little trinket of knowledge is just one of many lessons on how to bring your characters to life.

                One technique you might here about is to write out a character biography.  You know the drill.  Where did they grow up, how were they raised, key personality attributes.  This is the kind of this you'll find on the first page of Facebook; definitely not enough to truly know where your character comes from.  How can you really know how to write about a character when you're simply scratching the surface?  Your characters will be as flat as the paper they are printed on.  To really extract to true essence of the human being, you have to give it a little more than tapping a "like" button.

                So, now that you've decided I'm not talking completely out of my ass, let us begin.  Firstly (and honestly, the easiest method), take a page out of your book for inspiration.  Think about where you came from and any little quirks you have.  My brother, for example, has a hot blooded temper with a miniscule fuse.  This trait is something he inherited from my mother (damn that woman could scream) but developed over the years through countless disappointing losses in video games, sports, and life in general.

                And there we have it; instant inspiration.  All it took was a little drive down sweet memory lane.  Now we just need to focus this inspiration into something much more.  When your novel begins, the speed lane your character's history flies through stops dead in its tracks.  You need to know exactly what roads, shortcuts, and speed bumps they hit along the way.  That is why writing out your character's history, in as many details as possible, is an important element to effectively writing and humanizing said character.

                Now, don't think that I am recommending writing said history into your story. Far from it to be honest.  This is for your benefit alone.  Truth be told, writers forget things.  It's easy to say Character A came from a broken home in one book but then in the sequel you reference your character's mother dying from complications in labor.  Sketching a complete character history is a way to remind you just what your character has gone through up until this point.  Dive into the details.  Anything at all that inspires you should be put on paper.  As you move along through your book you'll find it much easier to decide and decipher how a character is going to act.

                Honestly, I can go on and on about the subject but I wanted to give you guys just a little taste on how to effectively use the creative process.  This method requires little effort but reaps maximum rewards.  So before you even think about writing line 1 of your new novel, try to remember what your characters have done to get you there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wednesday Low-Down 4-20-11

Since this blog is all about me and my journey through the waves of publication glory I thought it would be best to take some time out and talk about some different aspects of my life.  One of them I greatly enjoy is (what I like to call) Launch-Tuesday.  From DVDs to Video Games, almost everything is released on this faithful day.  Sadly, I'm usually so engrossed by the choices that day tends to fly fairly quickly.  I'll try to keep these up every Wednesday or Thursday if possible and provide you just a little more insight on what makes me tick.

So, without further ado, here are some short reviews about my latest purchase/play testing endeavors:

                I'll be honest; I've never played a SOCOM game in my life.  I was enticed by this offer because they had a Full Deployment Edition that bundled everything in the Playstation Move Starter pack (Minus Sports Champions), the Sharp Shooter attachment, and the game for only $150.  It's pretty much like getting SOCOM for free.  I was very impressed with the Playstation Move when I demoed it at Best Buy so this was a win-win situation.
                Unfortunately, after playing with it for a few hours, it's more like a so-so situation.  Don't get me wrong, I loved the SOCOM beta and the new perspective it took on tactical shooting games.  Without playing the originals, I set myself apart from the core members of the franchise.  While so-called "SOCOM 2 vets" abhor this new direction, newcomers like myself welcome it.  However, my actual experience with the final build was a letdown.
                The key feature I was hoping to use and abuse was the Playstation Move/Sharp Shooter combo.  I don't know about everyone else but to me, FPS and Shooter games alike need to be played with a keyboard and mouse, no ifs/ands/buts.  You lose a tremendous amount of precision fiddling around with the thumb sticks hoping to set up a clean aimed shot.  The Sharp Shooter alleviated many of those precision issues but caused horrible pain after usage of more than 20-30 minutes.  My wrist would begin to feel soar and I wouldn't want to play much longer which is sad because the button mapping on the Sharpshooter is brilliant.  I flawlessly transitioned from the controller and really don't see a reason to go back to it.
                Playing online is a lot of fun.  Definitely a change of pace from the shooters I'm used to (Team Fortress 2, Counterstrike: Source) but welcomed.  If only the Sharpshooter wasn't so much of a drag on my hands I'd probably be out there playing it right now.  Overall, it's a solid game and worthy of shelf space on any PS3 enthusiast's shelf.  Just be weary of the Sharp Shooter and you're golden.

Final Rating: B

Mortal Kombat
                I have a tenured history with this franchise.  Mortal Monday fell on my brother's 9th birthday and my father was 1st in line at Toys R' Us to pick up a copy.  When we came home from school we were treated to the most memorably lackluster experience of all time.  Granted, this may have been because we purchased the toned down SNES version but also because the game itself wasn't as good as people made it out to be.
                So here we are, almost 20 years later and what does the new developer NetherRealm bring to the table?  The exact same game with a shiny new coat of paint.  I swear, it felt like I was playing the old arcade version with the same clunky jump mechanics, robotic hit detection, and painfully complex special moves.  Now, I love fighting games.  Over 50% of my Dreamcast collection is filled with them.  I've played them all from the amazing (Project Justice, Capcom vs. SNK) to the less fortunate (Plasma Sword).  I'm definitely no stranger to the genre.  After playing Street Fighter 2 to death on the SNES, Mortal Kombat was supposed to be a refreshing change.  But sadly, the mechanics and fighting system were borderline terrible.  After that experienced, I could never be a true fan of the franchise, and that's what I believed when I was only 10 years old.  Now this rendition of Mortal Kombat takes the same tried and true formula which sadly only appeals to fans of excess and downright ridiculous violence.
                I'll admit, NetherRealm completely stepped up their game by producing some of the most horrendous and creative fatalities of all time.  Noob Saibot takes the cake with a devastating move in which he clones himself and splits the victim in half by pulling their legs in the opposite direction.  Watching the opponent gasp in horror as they reach the neck is downright painful and hard to watch the first time through.
                This is the essential flaw with Mortal Kombat.  Everything seems cool and original...  At first.  As soon as you are used to seeing everything (in this case, being desensitized) then what are you left with?  A mediocre fighting game not even worthy of being on the Annual Evolution Fighting Tournament.  Fans of GTA will enjoy watching all of the fatalities and bone crunching hits for a good month because afterwards, things become stale and boring.  If anything, this is a rental at best.  Spend a weekend ripping out the each other's intestines and then take pleasure in the purity of a true fighting engine with Super Street Fighter 4 or Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Final Rating: D

I really...  REALLY wanted to buy Portal 2 this week as well but sadly my budget constraints and common sense did not allow any wiggle room this week.  That and I'm waiting for a price drop.  I played the original when the Orange Box launched back in 2007 and it was worth every penny.  I just couldn't see myself dropping $40-50 on it.  Definitely a $30 and under purchase though.  Owners of the game, no spoilers please to maintain my sanity.

Truth be told, I'll probably break by the end of the week.