Pinocchio, your nose is growing

Do you know what truth is? Because I don’t anymore.

When it comes to politics, I don’t think there is a truth. And I’m not talking politics, like presidents and government, because that’s a whole other can of worms. I’m talking politics as in the balance of personal opinions as it weighs on everyone’s beliefs. This is coming from my side job of teaching for those of you at home. 

I’m sorry. Let me explain:

Essentially the truth as we know it does not exist. The common belief that fact equates truth isn’t real, just as opinion doesn’t equate fact. The reality is truth equates opinion. Because the bottom line is this: As soon as you believe in what you’re saying, to you, that is the truth, no matter whether it’s right or wrong.

And this is where I struggle at work. I like to consider myself a blunt person. Maybe it’s because I over analyze my own actions and those of others, but I prefer a blunt nature than one hidden and contrived. I prefer someone to tell me their truth, if so I can see things from their point of view, maybe understand where they’re coming from. Because, everyone has a reason. Even if they don’t consciously know it. But as soon as someone begins to hide their truth, this is where I get frustrated. I like to know what people think, and you hiding your thoughts from me…that’s frustrating.

I want opinions. I want your truth. And maybe this is a personal thing, maybe it’s an author thing. Maybe it’s human. But, I like to think that out of all the things it means to be human, your belief is the most important one of all.

One of my truths:

If you can’t be right, be confident.

People are going to hate me for that. But, I like to think that we’re all going to be wrong at some point in our life, due to probability and such, so why not be confidant? What’s wrong with being wrong? It’s an opportunity for growth and learning, whether you teach somebody or somebody teaches you. We should celebrate learning, and we do – in the odd Western way of graduation after completing your pathway or monetized learning. But seriously, we should celebrate being wrong. Why be shy about it? If it happens to everyone, what’s the big deal?

Why do we have to lie about it?

Question

While I was watching my kids test today—may their grades rest in peace—I got distracted, thinking about how my kids are good at asking questions. And it’s sad sometimes to think that this is overlooked as a skill, a valuable one at that. Unless you’re asking questions, you’re not really learning, which is why I always push my kids so hard to ask when they’re confused. If they don’t ask, they’ll always be wondering what if…And until you try it, you’ll never know, which got me to thinking…

You’re not a student until you start asking questions. Until then, you’re only an observer.

Of course, now I’m stuck on the idea of wanting to slap that quote on a poster and hang it up in my classroom. And of course I want to put my name on it, because who wouldn’t be proud? It takes me so long to come up with anything, and I feel like lately it’s so rare, that I’m extremely proud of myself. I want everyone to see I can say smart stuff too, especially when the words seem to just congeal and spill out of my mouth in math. But I guess I can’t put my name on the poster…that would sound too conceited. So why can’t my excuse be because I’m a writer. And, isn’t that what writers do? Obsess over words?

Your death or others

I had a weird dream last night. And I just want to start off by saying if you don’t like disturbing things, then you probably shouldn’t keep reading. But if you want a creepy story prompt – go for it.

Suppose you’re on a lake. Not literally on it, as in sitting in a boat or what not, but you’re standing at the edge, your head tilted back, waiting for the sunshine, except these huge storm clouds are growing. Hulking grey giants, they quickly spawn several tornadoes.

Now you’re wondering where to run because it’s not like there are several buildings around, and the most you can do is follow the sidewalk, which somehow has a ladder spawn in the middle of the grass. Not knowing what else to do, and realizing underground is much better than above ground, you climb inside, finding a half open area still exposed to the weather. You can feel the wind picking up, and although you’re happier being somewhat covered, all you can think is lower. I must go lower. After all, these could be F5 tornadoes. They could destroy everything in their path.

So the next you thing you do is eye this hatch that looks like it’s made for a submarine, except it’s sitting in the middle of the wall, and thinking this looks safer, you open it up.

And…

There’s ash. Mountains and mountains of ash.

And bones.

What you’ve stumbled upon is an old cremation oven for human bodies, except these bodies don’t like they were fired all the way because some of the ash is still holding their shape, and some of that ash looks like bone, and you can barely make the shape of a few skulls holding themselves together.

You can’t stop thinking about the Holocaust anymore. How there’s too many bodies crammed inside, too much ash had collected for this to be a legal, medical thing. And standing there for a moment, slowly the aura builds. This huge creeping invisible cloud that sits like a weight on your lungs, and you find yourself struggling to breathe. But it could also be the wind picking up, starting to rip the air off your breathe.

You have to make a decision. Now.

Do you stay outside – die by tornado? Or do you go inside – and sweat among bodies that you know were probably murdered alive?

***

This dream has made me think a lot. It’s made me ask myself, am I more disturbed by death or the death of others? It’s also made me wonder, why are we as a species so concerned with macabre topics? Does the constant exposure dull the edge of the fact that are lives are finite? I know this is probably a highly researched topic, but it’s one I think all writers should consider.

What would you do in this situation?

No pain, no gain

I haven’t posted a lot on here lately – luckily I can blame school for that x 2 – but there’s something I just want to marinate on: One thing I love about writing is that it allows you to explore the what if‘s. What if planes were never invented? What if humans never evolved? What if we evolved too far, breaking the limits of space exploration?

I love writing for that.

And one thing I’ve been stuck on today – and maybe this is a prompt you can use – what if you could share pain? All the sudden things that were violent are so much riskier because now there’s the possibility of the danger of pain, or at least more than normal. If someone murders someone, maybe they feel that pain. Maybe an EMT just isn’t medically trained, but someone with high pain tolerance that can share their support for those injured. How would this have impacted wars or the Holocaust if all the sudden people could share their pain? Would the Nazis have never done those horrible things to people if all the sudden they could share their pain, witness the terrible things they’ve done?

All the sudden you’re talking about war prevention, higher values of empathy. Maybe this is the difference between one society and ours – they can share pain. We cannot. And all the sudden, if pain is like energy, if you share it among many, then the pain is less. It doesn’t feel as bad, and all the sudden it is tolerable – when shared by the group, creating a society that is more structurally supportive of others.

Then this brings up the question, is this pain voluntary? Is it consensual? Or is it something you can force upon others? Is this a defense mechanism?

This is my brain dump in the middle of the night, when I find my mind wandering. Maybe this could be of some use to you.

Creating characters

I have to be honest with you guys – when I choose characters, I basically go through a list of characteristics until something pops out and fits the personality of my characters.

But there’s a few attributes I like to come up before my character is finalized.

  1. Likes – I like to think of this as hobbies. What does my character like to do in their free time? What makes them happy? Everyone has something, and I’ve actually been using this Wiki page as a source of ideas. There’s quite a few.
  2. Dislikes – Okay, everyone has something they hate. For me, that would be swimming. I really don’t like to swim. Maybe for my character, this can extend to a fear, a phobia, a bad experience, or a taste/flavor preference. Anything of the sorts.
  3. Friends – Who are they friends with? Are they all within the same age group? This will label them in one of those stereotypical friend circles you would’ve imagined in high school or college, i.e. the jocks, the nerds, the gamers, the cheerleaders, the dancers, the theatre kids, etc. (Notice how everyone is defined by their hobbies.)
  4. Family – They don’t have to have parents, but knowing whether or not they have siblings or still see their grandparents, this will help influence some of their family values, and whether or not they want a family of their own.
  5. Values – I talk to different friends of mine, and it’s interesting to hear about their varying culture/family values. One friend of mine prefers his friends over his family, and the other will put their family above all else even while they don’t like them. These are very abstract concepts, but you only need one.
  6. Looks – Google. Seriously, start googling people at a certain age, hair color, or feature, and copy down that picture. This will help you keep that character’s look in your head and make it easier to talk about them in your story.
  7. History – They should have a little bit of background that you can drop here or there, peppered throughout the story. Did anything traumatic happen? Any scarring experiences? Maybe not, but maybe they have a favorite memory.
  8. Flaws– To make your characters feel real, they need a flaw. Absolutely need it. I referenced this earlier here.

As Writers Write summarized, this could also be attributed into three separate categories: social, physical, and psychological aspects. But, I like to list these biography details as specifics since I actually go through my characters like this and have found out that this makes the character usually real enough in my head that I can write about them.

Anti-social skills

I think it’s great that we have the internet now, so anyone can look up anything and learn something. For instance, because I have access to a computer and the internet, I can look up any topic on writing and find something about it. Or just let YouTube suggest it for me.

I definitely haven’t talked about this enough even though this is a skill I use all the time. This is my skill when it comes to creating stories. People ask me what I do, and I honestly tell them day dream, become distracted.

And yet, it’s hard for me to put into words what happens when I day dream, which I find this video does a good job of breaking into a skill.

When I’m thinking about a story, it roils in my mind, disturbing any train of thought with a single line of distraction that balloons into this series of webs and tangents, eventually twisting back together to create a singular thread that will take me back to a final outcome.

For instance…I’m working on this new story of mine, and the characters, while defined, seem to be working pieces of art. While I have that image of the character in my mind, they’re alive. They speak. They have a voice. Which I believe is true for any author. When you write often enough, your characters come to life, and writing their story is simple because you’re simply the conduit that they speak through. But this is after time. After daydreaming. After training.

You must first become comfortable with gazing into a distance.

You have to be able to zone out and picture a setting in your head. Who’s there? What are they doing?

And the most important part: There must be conflict, and there must be something you’re interested in. It doesn’t matter if it’s an internal struggle, or a physical disturbance. There must be something that bothers you and your character and keeps you interested enough to follow a possible scenario from beginning to end.

This is what I call zoning out.

It comes from practicing skills, like the video mentioned: eavesdropping, observing, imagining. These are truly anti-social skills because this is something you have to practice by yourself. But they don’t all have to be.

When you’re knew, it helps to bounce ideas off a friend, maybe a fellow writer. Observe people in a public place. What do they do? What makes them upset? What makes you upset?

The whole idea is if you practice enough, if your character feels real enough that they’ve developed a body and voice, scenes will come easy. Dialogue will come easy. Reactions will come easy. But it all takes practice. And I’m sorry this skill isn’t any easier to learn.

Story-Telling with Games

The best idea generator for you as a writer: your friends, your colleagues, random people you find on the street…

I recently went to PAX, and although this is a video game convention, there’s a lot of story telling in video games.

As background, I’m the type of player that goes for active-interaction stories, survival games. I just can’t survive any other type of game because when you insert me in a game with shooters or actual violence (or real-live players rather than NPC’s), I die. Figuratively – in the game. Not in real life.

For example, I just got one called, This War is Mine. I’ve enjoyed it. It has a lot of strategy to plan how your civilians will survive the war, and although the setting is great, the story isn’t really in depth. You basically get a bio on each of your characters. But I guess since you play the story, you determine the course of the game. Other story games have included State of Decay, Transistor, Bioshock Series

There’s also a card game I tried. Somewhat similar to Cards Against Humanity, and yet more similar to something like Story Cubes. It’s called Skip Trace Game.

This game has 4 sets of cards, and they’re divided between the player and boss. The boss gets 3 sets: location, target, and method while the players get 1 set: item cards. Basically, the boss draws one card from each of the three decks and frames a story, in which the player must act out the method, using the item they draw. For example, I think our mission was to wreck a bro at the airport, i.e. method to target at location. The winning player played a hangover with an air horn (two items being the max to play during one turn). The idea of this game is to BS your entire story. The boss BS’s the mission. The player makes up a story that fits the items to the story.

This whole game is about story telling.

I’m not saying these stories were anything good enough to integrate within a short story, novel, etc. But it certainly sets yourself up for creativity and originality since the originality is determined by the randomness of the cards, and the creativity is up to your “team.”

Idea Generator

Help! My brain’s broken!

This can be your first thoughts when you sit down and force yourself to daydream, which seems ironic because whenever you’re busy, you daydream and yet as soon as you devote time to it…you come up blank. This seems true for most of us, including myself. You can’t force distracted-ness (though showering certainly helps me).

For those times that you can’t think or your brain’s been overworked, here’s a few ways to brainstorm ideas:

1. reddit writing prompts

The nice part about these prompts is they’re randomly submitted by multiple users with new ones appearing many times throughout day! And, these are all free! You don’t have to be a user or sign up. You can go to the website and casually surf through different prompt postings, and if one sticks out to you, take it. If you are a reddit user, you can actually respond to the prompt and possibly get feedback. (But, feedback is open to the internet so it may be extreme in either direction: good or bad.)

2. story cubes

The plus-side to this is they’re randomly generated. You’re relying on fate to give you a prompt. And, it doesn’t necessarily give you the prompt so much as ideas to force you to make up the story. Kind of like leading a horse to water. Plus you can mix and match all these cubes. The only down side is you have to buy them, but it’s a good birthday present idea!

3. writer’s write

This is a wonderful writing resource I can’t talk about enough. They’ll give advice, facts, and many, many other things, one of those being prompts. If you find the search bar on the left-hand side of the page, search for “prompts,” multiple pages of their previous posts will come up. I find their website not to be organized in the best of manners, but it really does have some of the best resources.

4. legends/myths

It’s not stealing if you give the story your own flavor. This means all the legends and stories that have been around for generations are open for manipulation, such as how “The Little Mermaid” has been revamped many times over. The nice part about this is there are multiple cultures, multiple histories, each with their own belief system of curses, gods, legends, myths, etc. This link takes you to Wikipedia to flip through different stories, but I wanted to add Writer’s Write’s own myth-related writing prompt as proof that it works.

5. conversation/experiences

This one time I saw this guy walking down the street with a bouquet of flowers and a huge jug of maple syrup. It ended up being a great start for a story. Many of your conversations and experiences can work out the same way. For this to work, it might be a great idea to record your experiences through a journal, blog, or diary. I had a friend keep a list of our stupidest quotes. You never know when you might be able to use it.

6. dreams

Another idea that requires journals are dreams. Dreams are a great source of inspiration because it’s your brain’s random merging of experiences, imagination until it forms chaotic reasoning that may or may not make sense when you wake up. I have used these plenty of times, and I try to keep a list of my dreams as something to pull from. Fun fact: “Unaccomplished” actually originated as a dream scene. Guess which scene was the dream.