Friday, May 16, 2008

Potential Grading Rubric


Plot can be simply defined as "what happens in a story." Therefore, this segment of the rubric will be used to judge the events that occurs in the writer's story, specifically in terms of how satisfying the story itself is too read. At the very least, it should be intriguing. X/10


Characters should be well developed with a clear, defined personality. A character may save the world from the apocalypse, get the girl, and redefine the very confines of reality, but if he does it all in a monotone voice, it falls flat anyways. In other words, make sure the character(s) show a fair amount of depth. X/10


Most people can tell you that setting is important. As such, the objects and events that take place within that setting are arguably just as important.



Obviously, this ties into plot somewhat. However, this is, to me at least, the most important part of the story. If the entire lead up to the conclusion was epic, but the last few pages simply state that they rode off into the sunset, the reader is bound to be left with at least a slight feeling of disappointment. As such, a writer should take special care to make sure that his or her conclusion is able to engross the reader as much as his or her opening sentences.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Importance of Character

Eric Cartman (South Park)

By now, nearly everyone has heard of the little hell raiser known only as Eric Cartman. If their is an offensive thing to say about any person, place, or thing its probably safe to assume that Eric had either said that thing, or is thinking about saying it. But what people don't realize is that Eric Cartman has an impact on society much larger than many other T.V. show characters. Simply put, he represents (in a funny and usually offensive way) the dark side of humans. He isn't afraid to speak what’s on his mind, he has more stereotypes then I care to count or comment on, and he is generally just uncaring of other people. Indeed, one could make the case that Eric Cartman is narcissistic. As such, he gives the viewers of South Park a glimpse into a more self absorbed self centered world that many people have not experienced. This, to me at least, makes him noteworthy.

Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Ah yes, Lord Vader. The very image of evil depicted in a nearly seven foot tall robot like suit. Anyone who's seen the original Star Wars trilogy (and many who haven't) can tell you who this giant vision of evil is and why he is important to the story of Star Wars. However, he is more important than that, more important than just "the villain" in a famous trilogy. That importance comes from his complex character. When we first meet Vader, all we can see is a being in a mask-truly, we are not even sure if he is human. We are led to believe that Darth Vader is in fact, nothing but evil. His thoughts are evil, his actions are evil, and his ambitions are evil. Everything about him screams evil. But as the movies go on, we start to see a different side. We learn a bit of his past, specifically his past with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Of course, up until the last few sequences of the final movie do we begin to suspect that is in fact, NOT the tower of malevolence we have been led to believe he is, and he is finally revealed (in an appropriately dramatic manner, of course) that he is in fact Luke's father. As the movie begins to draw to a close, Vader finally turns on the Emperor, and ultimately, he sacrifices his life for his son, leaving us wondering what he could have been had he not been corrupted by "the dark side." Vader, therefore, is important beyond the obvious because he makes the average person reconsider their so called concrete views of good and evil, and, perhaps, in some cases, causes a viewer to question whether they themselves would be able to perform a noble sacrifice to save someone's life.

Elric of Melnibone-This is a character that few have heard of and even fewer have read about. Elric hails from the Elric Saga (shocking, I know) written by Michael Moorcock. He is the ruler of a land known as Melnibone the Dragon Isle. Despite this, he is, for all intents and purposes, a total outcast for one very simple reason. He has has empathy for other people. The folk of Melnibone are basically cold hearted sadistic killers who have ruled the world for thousands of years. For Elric, the very act of posessing an emotion other then an insane lust for power exiles him, at least in spirit, from his people. Elric, at his very core, forces the reader to wonder how far he or she would go to mantain his or her ideals.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Importance of Stories

Part 1: Why in childhood?

Stories in childhood have a very important role. Simply put, they allow the child to open their mind to possible realities. In other words, simple stories develop a child's imagination. It allows them to absorb basic facts about the world, and are simply generally beneficial. More then that though, reading to a child allows that child to develop an early love of reading. If a child truly loves his "Charlotte's Web" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" then it stands to reason that the child would become curious about other types of books, and become motivated to read simply for their own enjoyment later in life.

Part 2: Why later in life?

I think the reason for this differs depending on the person. Some people read for information, or because it is required by school or by work. Perhaps they simply want to learn how operate a new appliance, or because they want someone else's imput on an issue (political or otherwise). Others enjoy reading for the sake of reading, and genuinely enjoy the story. They do not read factual stories-ergo, they do not enjoy autobiographies, historical documents, or scientific analysis, but instead immerse themselves in the world of make believe. It should be noted that "the world of make believe" does not necessarily refer to the world of fantasy, but instead simply refers to make believe stories in general.

Part 3: Why in our nation?

I do not think that is an exaggeration to say that books, or rather, massively popular books unite the nation in a way. Look, for example, at the Harry Potter series. Nearly anyone you talk to has read at least one of the seven books. Books also serve to unite people on more important, pivotal issues. It is, to me, a wondrous thing to see two well read adults argue about a key political issue. It also irritates me to no end to hear two people argue about an issue without an understanding that goes past the basics you can pick up on any random news site. Therefore, books in our nation serve not only to unite us as a nation on things like politics, but also can bring people together in an unexpected way-a bond created over a touching story, for example.

Part 4: Your stories

Truth be told, I don't remember very many stories from my childhood. However, their are two that stand out to me. One is the classic Charlotte's Web. I remember being profoundly effected by Charlotte's death at the end of the book. That was, I think, the first time I had been confronted with death of any kind, and several questions came of it. I think that my early exposure to darker concepts allowed me to deal with stressful events later in life. I also remember watching the old cartoon movie version at least once a week. The second book I remember is not a book at all, but rather a series-Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. It was, looking back, a simple story (or simple compared to the things I read now) about an alien invasion, and a group of friends who came into an extraordinary power that allowed them to fight back. Although the series was written for kids, it dealt with surprisingly mature issues, namely the idea of what constitutes acceptable losses during a war, and what sacrifices must be made to ensure that you continue to live. This series was the reason that I became engrossed in the fantasy genre, and to this day, I am still fascinated by it.

Part 5: Characteristics of a well-told story

Theme-As simple as this sounds, I can not tell you how many stories I have read that have no coherent theme whatsoever. Reading stories without a theme is like wading through molasses. Ergo, you must force yourself to just keep moving forward, and may eventually just give up and throw it away.

Character Development-Again, simple enough right? Not so, apparently. I have read many a book where a character is just as flat and undeveloped as at the start of the novel. When a story is like this, it doesn't feel rewarding at all. Everything, to me, feels rushed and contrived when a character simply doesn't move on from what he or she originally was.

Believable storylines-This is fairly self explanatory. Even in fantasy, stories make some degree of sense. There isn't a whole lot to say about this.

A good sidekick-A character can be as well developed as any other character ever created, but if the spotlight never leaves him, the story will eventually, without fail, fall flat. I can't count the amount of times that I've been enjoying a story at the onset, only to end the story disappointed because none of the other characters had any time in the spotlight.

A good antagonist-I do not want to read a story where the main character is trying to stop Random McRandomson from burning down an orphanage. I want to read about a scheming villain that has an intriguing and well thought out plan. Again, this is self explanatory, but you'd be surprised the number of novels out there where the villain has no clear plan, or even worse, no clear motive (which brings me to my next point).

Motive-This is almost as important as theme. If the farmer has no good reason to leave his farm, then why is he leaving? If a villain has no reason to want to take over the world other then "I'm evil, fear me!" then reading about his so called amazing scheme just feels dull.

A satisfying conclusion-I don't care if the hero saves the world from evil, the destroyed town is restored to all its former glory, and the villain is forever banished and/or killed if the story ends with "And they all lived happily ever after." If I wanted that ending, I would read Sleeping Beauty. I want to know what happened to the characters, or at the very least, the important characters after the fact. Otherwise, it feels rather like the characters were simply brought to life for just that one adventure, and then laid to rest forevermore after the story's conclusion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Unpoetic

My topic is slightly unorthadox-it is a card game. But no ordinary card game-oh no, this is not your poker, your Texas hold'em. I speak instead of a fantasy card game, one that many people have not heard of, or, having heard of it, have dismissed entirely as something only a "nerd" would do. I speak of the game "Magic: The Gathering" (I believe I mentioned it briefly in a previous post. To me, this particular game is a huge part of my life. You make a deck of 60 cards out of a huge pool of cards, and pit yourself against opponents in a bid for...well, whatever's one the line, be it pride or something else. The ability to create your own deck, based on your own thoughts and analysis of the game is what makes it, to me, more interesting then the ever-the-same deck of Kings, Queens, and Jacks. To me, the most interesting part of the game is tournament magic. You meet so many different types of people-its spectacular. No matter their quirks, every person at the tournament is united by a common love and comittment to the game that one would normally expect to see in, say, football. Of course, no game could do so well without a savvy company to promote it, and for that you have the company "Wizards of the Coast." They not only release new sets at intervals to keep the game fresh and interesting, they, in their incredible commitment to seeing the game succeed, host tournaments of all kinds, up to and including the Pro Tour-yes, their is in fact a pro circuit. Of course, you don't need to be a hardcore tournament player to enjoy the game. A kitchen table can support the game just as well as a table in a tournament venue should you so choose-to many people (and to me, at times) the draw of the game is simply playing casually, nothing on the line, for nothing but laughs and fun (although theirs plenty of that in tournaments as well, believe you me). Yes, dynamic, ever shifting, a wonderful social exercise, and, to me, something to be me, that is Magic.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finding devices within poems

Success is counted Sweetest
By Emily Dickenson

SUCCESS is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host 5
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear 10
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.


I chose this poem because it really stood out to me. The words seemed put together better then most other poems I have seen-in particular, the last two lines of the poem "The distant stress of triumph
Break agonized and clear" really made this poem unique to me-the "strains of triumph" can arguably refer to the strain of the battle itself, and hence, refer in turn to the death cry of another, who was probably also straining for the same triumph. This particular irony was, to me, quite well done.

The title of the poem, "Success is considered sweetest" is self explanatory. It relates the strugges of a person (probably a soldier, from the tone of the rest of the poem) who doesn't know success. It goes on to detail that
"Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory"

One can take this to mean simply that even though someone may have achieved a victory, it may not feel like a victory-indeed, how could it? If you take the poem at face value, it appears that while one side is celebrating its victory, the other is lamenting its defeat with death cries. This is probably why the strains of victory break "so agonized and clear."

To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Here is a prime example of a metaphor. Prior to these lines, she speaks of people who never succeed. Hence, here she is saying that to really appreciate something, like success (nectar), you have to need it really badly (sorest need). This firmly establishes what the poem will be about, as well as what mood the reader can expect.

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.

This is the most powerful stanza in the poem, in my opinion, and a good example of imagery. The mental image of defeated, broken soldiers, lying forlornly on the ground is powerful enough, but to imagine such broken people being forced to hear the cries of victory from those who may have kill them, that is truly powerful.

The tone becomes quickly appearent as something very sombre and dark. It already gives a sense of foreboding when one begins reading, but it quickly turns to a dark thing when you reach the second stanza, and the subject of the poem becomes apparent. She creates the mood through use of powerful imagery, painting a vivid picture of fearful things in the mind of the reader.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Writing Territories

Every person has a passion-something that they always feel that they must get better at, something that drives them. For me, that is, as cheesy as it sounds, a card game. Not a normal card game-this is no poker I speak of, but rather a fantasy card game called Magic: The Gathering. (Incidentally, my love of fantasy novels probably helped to draw me into this). I first discovered the game when I was a very young child. A friend of mine introduced me to it, and showed me some very basic cards from the game. I was, to put it simply, only mildly interested at the time. I did not imagine then, what a huge part of my life that card game would become. A while after this, my mother (whom I had told about this) noticed an advertisement for a class about the game. I figured "why not?" and enrolled. I still remember the room where we learned. It was pretty bare bones, mostly grey. But they had several great huge tables throughout the room, and the instructor, who I remember only vaguely, informed us that if we did not have our own decks, we would each recieve what he called "a starter deck." Looking back on it now, the deck wasn't very strong at all, and needless to say, I lost nearly every game I played. Even still, I fell in love almost immediately. What wasn't too love? We got to battle our opponents with all magnificent arrays of creatures and spells! I soon began buying my own cards and creating my own deck, which, beginner as I was, wasn't very strong either, but I began winning, at least. I played off and on for a few years, until about seventh grade, when Magic became a fad at my middle school. Suddenly, everyone was playing! It was at about this time that I started getting interested in playing competitively...I don't know if it is an exxageration to say that if I hadn't had that experience, I never would have continued with magic as I did, but it definately contributed. Retelling my entire story would take hours on end to do, but suffice it to say that today, I still play the game every weekend, at a competitive level. It's a huge part of my life...but to be honest, I wouldn't trade it for the world. And I would definately do it all again, if I had to.