Category Articles

Old Findings 1

As part of my new life choices, I’ve been going through the storage unit that stores everything I own, and I’ve been deciding what to keep and what to throw away. Taking a minimalist approach, anything that I couldn’t think of a use for (minus sketchbooks and notebooks) was thrown away or donated. However, in so doing, I’ve come across a lot of things from my past. Including some things that I’ll be sharing with you guys here.

Specifically, I found several papers I wrote in highschool, and some speeches I wrote in college, that I’ll be transcribing up onto this blog so that you all can laugh at teeny-bopper me. Also, so that I can see how I’ve progressed since then.

Starting first with a paper entitled Journal 2, which contained the prompt, “Imagine if you were the sole Survivor, write your story.”

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Conspiracy Theories and You

Something writers, myself included, often forget is the fact that humankind is adept at fooling themselves. Constantly. As this video proves, monsters, conspiracy theories, major religions, all sorts of things we tell ourselves in order to make the world make sense, are in fact, just that, stories. Even the creation of the world is just that. A story, told to make sense of what we don’t understand. Horror stories are meant, not to teach us how to survive the things in the dark, but that there are in fact, things in the dark.

So what does that translate to as a writer? Well, what sort of conspiracy theories populate your world? What do people believe? If people here believe the moon landing was faked, is it possible for the denizens of your world to believe that all the stories of godly behavior are really just coverups for some shady government conspiracy.

In the world of Nightvale, from the podcast Welcome to Nightvale, mountains are in fact, not real. Despite there being one just outside of town.

Now I know what you’re thinking. ‘That’s never going to affect my story. Why do I care what the people of the world believe? Why do I care if some group of idiots thinks that stonehenge is a satellite built by aliens, when in my story it’s a secret fairy-ring!’

Well, they do say that 90% of what goes into a story is never seen by the reader. The sort of depth the world is given when you know what each NPC believes is the sort of depth that people look for. No one wants a story with cardboard for the background.

In the story, ‘The Time Machine’, all we hear about the Time Traveller are rumours, theories, until we meet him. So what theories or rumours surround your own characters? What do they believe about the famous people they’re about to meet? What do they know about the world around them?

Your main characters surely have heard some rumours. And one of the best ways to add conflict to a story is for a rumour like this to be taken seriously, and then, suddenly, to pan out at the worst possible time. Or worse, for a rumour to actually be true! Imagine the looks on your characters faces when it’s not the evil stepmother, but actually the spirit-infested tree growing out of the cursed ground in the back yard?

As an example, in my own series, The Kurylian Saga, the main character , Dirk, has heard rumours about the Priest-Queen and her Knight Templar. Namely, that the father of her children, rather than the God she serves, was in fact, the knight. When he meets the Princess Eamon, he can tell by her hair and her face, that the rumours are in fact, true. The realism of it adds to the depth of the story, even if it doesn’t actually DO much for the plot.

I will leave it here with a simple quote:

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Dream ideas into reality.

A question I don’t get asked very often is how I get my ideas for my various books and short stories. In this case, I’m going to walk you through the process, as I just had a strike of inspiration. You see, I get my ideas from Dreams. My dreams, often, are more creative than the ideas I come up with in reality. Then, I take a bit of real life intuition, awake logic, and turn it into something worth putting to page.

The dream I just had was a bit of a mess. It started out with me interviewing for a job, failing to get that job, demanding that I actually SEE the supervisor who wasn’t going to hire me, despite it being very late at night and the children needing sleep. Then, I wandered around the mall in which the job was located, and found a huge gym that wasn’t there before, and stairs leading up. The mall in my area is only one floor, so I was confused, and followed the stairs up, and they led to a room in which a famous band was playing.

Beyond the band, I could see a massive stadium filled with people. It was like reality had decided to fold in on itself, creating pockets of reality inside this mall. I wanted to find out why, but I was so very lost. Then, a bald man with dark skin found me, security, and I apologized so much, and he lead me in the direction that I had came. I saw a boy walk by, reading a book that I had read before, and I told him he was going to love it.

The dream then segwayed into what I assume was a scene from that book. A man was standing in a circle of people, facing off against a God, the god of his world. The God sneered, and gave him a chance to win. He would grant one single wish. The man used this wish to bind the God away “Until I have been loved enough.” The god sneered again, and did something that turned the people of the world odd shades of green and brown and yellow (I assume this indicated various shades of disgust, hate and disillusionment.), and it was like resetting the emotional counter on characters in a massive game.

In fact, with the god gone, the whole world was like a game. He separated an entire continent (in my dream there was this lovely sort of effect where a blue fire fox swirled around a peninsula/island chain that connected the two continents, and it was absolutely amazing.), and started putting the world the way he wanted. But the only people who cared for his works were his parents and the woman he loved.

Now the whole thing ended when the new god started getting credit cards in the mail. He realized it was a trap, that the God had been planning this all along. Had enjoyed his freedom for a while, messing up the world, and then passed off the mess and debt to another. It had ALL been a TRAP!

And that was my dream. Fragmented and disjointed, isn’t it? A little bit odd too. BUT! With the proper logic, it can be turned into a pretty good short story. Let’s break it down into parts.

  1. The job – Clearly this is anxiety about my status as jobless. So for now, we’re going to cast it aside. We might use it as some kind of motivation for the main character later.
  2. The mall being weird – This we can use, but from the perspective, rather than mine, of the main character, I.E. The one who takes over for God. Let’s call him Bruce for now (in tribute to Bruce Almighty, a really good movie.)
  3. The God handing over his powers – This scene is important. It’s going to be the actual meat of our story, and the conflict the main character will face.
  4. The scenes where Bruce parts the sea-I MEAN- gets rid of the continent – These are clearly filler, the perks of the job, so to speak. It’s just basically the fun things
  5. The Trap – Now here’s where it gets exsistential. Because I woke up before the dream could really finish, I have to kind of mentally elaborate. The credit cards mean that there is in fact a higher power than the god that he’d bound away. These powers, in fact, are the worst sort. CREDITORS. So now he has to find a way out of this situation.

With those points, we now have an actual outline. After that, it’s a pretty simple thing to write the first draft, edit and edit and edit some more, and then have a workable short story. Now I’m going to do the SMART thing, post this up and then wait a few days to see if the idea still seems viable. A lot of people tell you to wait weeks, or even months, but honestly, I never know what my life is going to be like a few months down the road, so I rarely wait that long.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is how I take one of my dreams, and turn it into a work of fiction. I did the same with the dream that spawned the Kurylian Saga. Now go out and make your dreams come true! On paper, that is.

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Tax Return Season

In the United States of America, we pay taxes every single day. On the money we make, on the money we spend, on everything, just about. These taxes pay for our roadways. They pay for our city ordinances and libraries and public schools. They pay for the indigent health care that is the only health care I currently have. These taxes give disability payments to those who cannot work and welfare payments to those who can’t find work. These taxes give food to those who cannot buy their own.

In short, these taxes help save lives. A lot of people disagree. A lot of people feel we pay way too many taxes. To these people, I ask, what do you expect? What can be done without money these days, and where is the government meant to get that money without our support as citizens. You don’t complain about the tax money when it comes to the properly-paved roads, only when there are holes in them. You don’t complain about the libraries that provide the homeless with places to be during the day, until they close down and the homeless stand on your street corners. You don’t complain about law enforcement, until they’ve pulled you over. To the people who complain about taxes, I say this:

When you check our a book at the library, you’re asked to return it on time, correct? And when you don’t you pay a fee. That fee then goes to the librarians salaries. The librarians who help you find and check out books. That fee goes to the lease on the property that library sits on. That fee goes to purchasing new books. That fee goes to holding classes for those too poor to attend college. That fee is useful. So I never complain about paying the fee on a book I kept out too long. After all, if I didn’t want to pay the fee, I just wouldn’t use the service, would I? Taxes are just like that. If you don’t want to pay the taxes, move somewhere else.

The bright side to taxes comes down to this, however. And this bright side is Tax Returns.

So basically, the idea is, you pay exactly your fair share in taxes. Sometimes, however, because of the way the system is set up, you accidentally over pay! So, the government, after you file your taxes, and they double check their math, sends you a check with your tax returns!

It’s a little like hitting the lottery. I knew a family that when they filed their combined taxes, they got a return of $3000 dollars. My best friend got a return of around $1500. I’m getting close to $1200 dollars back this year. Last year, I only got about $500 dollars back. But what do you do, when you have a ton of money coming to you in one lump sum?

Some people, like a girl I know from work, payed off her credit card debt, and then bought a $300 purse. My best friend paid her son’s tuition for his school, and then bought her husband a giant tv. (and gave me the smaller one! Yay!) I know one friend who is planning to save it until Comicon in the summer, and spend it there. So what’s the right strategy when it comes to using your tax return?

Personally, I intend to make sure my tax return works for me this year. I don’t want to fritter it away on purses or food or anything like that. I really want to make sure I spend this money wisely. So I consulted some articles. Some, like Money Crasher’s article, were filled with a few good ideas, but mostly bland options. Others, like TurboTax’s article, are filled with more whimsical ideas. Personally, I like the idea of funding a business.

For almost a year, I have been considering starting an Apiary. Often, with a $500 start up cost, you can get a decent 3-4 hive Apiary going. Enough to supply honey for a small shop. I’m thinking of it as a great way to make sure I have revenue coming in in the future. A second blade, if you will, were I to use terms from Assassination Classroom. It would be difficult, of course, to run a business, work full time AND attend College. Which is what my plans are for this year. However, it’s going to be worth it.

My other plan is glasses. My own are wearing down, and I can barely see. Glasses, when one doesn’t have insurance, generally cost anywhere from $500 to $1200, depending on your perscription and the frames you chose. I may just ask them to reuse my frames.

In general, however, this is how it always goes. I pledge to myself I will spend my return wisely, and then it’s gone before I know it. Hopefully, this year, my return season goes better than last, and hopefully, yours too. Tell us what you plan on spending your tax return on  in the comments! If you live in a country that doesn’t do tax returns, tell us how your tax system works! I’m very curious.

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Writing Anime: Valentine’s Edition!

It is Valentine’s Day for most of us, February 14th, a day when we celebrate romance and love (and sex) in all it’s myriad forms. From the loving married couple giving each other lovingly prepared gifts, to the cute young lovebirds declaring their affections with homemade cards, to the cute japanese schoolgirl baring her feelings with homemade chocolates. Lately, we also celebrate the other half of that dichotomy, the lonely single sitting on their couch eating chocolates bought with their own money, the friend who gives his single friend a rose so she won’t feel bad about valentines day, the guy desperate for love who decides to do valentine’s blind dates.

So today, we’re going to celebrate writing love! In fact, I have an example for you of REALLY well done romance. Oddly enough, the story it finds itself in, is quite literally, a tragedy. The story? Katanagatari. The couple? Shichika Yasuri and his wielder (this is explained in the series.) Tougame, the self-proclaimed Strategian. First thing I’d like to point out, Shichika is absolutely the youngest of the two, which in and of itself in literature, is rare. I’ll give you a breakdown of the series a little bit before going into the actual relationship.

Katanagatari started as a series of light novels, twelve in total, by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Take.  These novels depicted the journey of Shichika Yasuri and his attempts to recover the Deviant Blades. The swordmaster Kiki Shikizaki made 1000 swords in his lifetime, and the shogunate has managed to find 988 of them. HOWEVER, the final twelve are the most dangerous. These Deviant Blades turn their wielders mad, and give them immense strength. Togame has been tasked with this mission.

Shogunate strategist Togame has been ordered to recover them. She first hired a ninja…but the worth of the swords is so great that the entire ninja clan defected the moment they recovered one. Then she hired a swordsman… but he kept the sword for himself after finding it and went rogue.

Her last hope is Shichika Yasuri, the seventh head and last practitioner of Kyotouryuu, the No Sword School. He and his elder sister live on an island cut off from civilization, and as such they need no money. His fighting style doesn’t use a sword, so the famous weapons are useless to him

TvTropes page on Katanagatari

The true story here, however, is how Shichika and Togame fall in love. One of the iconic quotes of the series is Togame’s first orders to Shichika on how he is to conduct himself during the journey. Her exact words I’ll leave for when you to discover, but suffice to say, they’re very sweet, if one thinks about it. Through the course of the series, we see her slowly teach Shichika more about humanity, more about himself, and, without meaning to, more about herself.

Part of what makes this series so well written, however, and this romance specifically, is that while outright STATED that the romance will go down, (“Fall for me!” – Togame) it is also shown in all the small things. There are scenes of Shichika dressing Togame. Scenes of her allowing him to wrap himself in her hair, to learn her scent. Scenes of the two of them holding one another, and depending on one another.

The progression is rational, and slow. Fair warning, however, this anime is a tragedy. So don’t go into this expecting it all to be feel good feelings and love. But then again, when is love like that? And you can see that too, with Shichika growing a little cruel when he thinks Togame has gone to far, and with Togame crying and being cruel herself when Shichika seems interested in another woman. The series makes sure to show the ups and the downs.

Another brilliant thing depicted is how each partner supports the other in times of sadness. Just a warning, there are a few spoilers here, but the series is relatively old, so any look up of it will definitely yield these spoilers anyway. Now that you’ve been fairly warned, I’ll be happy to go into more detail.

Later in the series, we find out that Shichika’s older sister is a little… Well. She’s nuts. She goes and finds one of the deviant blades in order to force Shichika to fight her, and hopefully, kill her. Togame stands by his side (And in fact is way too close to the battle) while he fights the only other person he’s known for his entire life, and at the end, lets him grieve as he needs to.

We see something very similar later on in the series, when in the search of another deviant blade, they meet the Sage. He forces Togame to confront the death of her father, and his last words to her, and it takes a long, long time for that to happen, along with a lot of manual labor in the form of digging. But Shichika is not the one doing the manual labor this time. Togame digs from day until night, and Shichika stays by her side as much as he can, as well as serving as a place where she can rest at the end of a hard day.

I meant literally a place for her to rest, by the way.

These sorts of scenes are necessary to show us the love that has blossomed between them. The trust and the camaraderie between them is more important than any outward romantic display of any kiss or hand-holding. These little moments, they’re more of a love story than fifty shades of grey and twilight put together.

To make it simple, here are a few points to make sure your romance doesn’t fall flat, or worse, turn into a farce.

  • Show the small moments. The things that aren’t ROMANCE per se, but are, in fact, companionship.
  • Make the romance about the PEOPLE, not the sex.
  • Make memories for them. Beautiful memories that we as the reader can share in the intimacy of.
  • Try not to push your version of romance on them. Let it grow. Let them be people.
  • Above all, make sure that there is story to surround the romance. Even in Romance Novels this is paramount.

Remember, the story in and of itself is about the people, and if these people happen to be in love, show us that! In love, show-don’t-tell is essential. So go out there and tell the best love story you possibly can!

 

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Writing Anime: Land of Gods and Monsters

Noragami is a sensational series that gives whole new definition to Gods and Demons. Or rather, in this case, Kami and Ayakashi (Phantoms). The series follows Yato, a down-on-his-luck god, who in general seems to have no real power. In fact, he’s honestly a god-for-hire, who will “Grant any wish for just 5 yen!” as he so cheerfully exclaims all over media networks. Seriously, this guy has a TWITTER.

Poor guy only has two followers though.

Along with him are Yukine, a spirit that he has allowed second life to serve him as a Regalia (a system that will be explained later), and Yatori, a human girl whom made a wish, and Yato is having trouble granting it. All in all a beautiful story with great characters and a lovely, multi-faceted protagonist.

So why is it so interesting? Well, because of the fact that the WORLD in which it is built is so very interesting. As normal humans, this world isn’t something WE would be able to see, but none the less, might exist along side us anyway.

Today, we’ll be exploring that world in detail, as well as the various ways we could use these details in our own writing.

In the world of Noragami, there are approximately four types of spirits. Gods known as Kami, Humans from the Near Shore, which are just regular people like you and me, Spirits which can be either human shaped or corrupted into Ayakashi, and Regalia (or Shinki) which are used by gods to cleanse and purify Ayakashi.

Of the various classes, Kami are perhaps the oddly vulnerable powerhouses of the series. One of the major arc-words of the series is “A god can do no wrong.” An article by Martin Wisse explains why this might not be such a good thing. Gods are unchangeable, eternal beings. So much so in fact that when one dies, if they have followers, they are immediately reborn, sans memories and in a childlike form. If they do not have followers… Well.

To that end, Gods are tasked with removing Ayakashi from existence, cleansing them sometimes, or destroying them others. Ayakashi are what happens when a soul stays too long on the Near Side (I.E. Our world) and gets corrupted by negative emotion, fear, doubt, or by other Ayakashi. These spirits turn into giant monstrous beasts that cause misfortune, unrest, and negative emotions in humans. If one were strong enough, it might even cause a human to fall into such deep depression that they could decide to kill themselves, thus feeding the Ayakashi following them.

Before an Ayakashi forms, however, it is most likely a Near Side Soul, or basically, a ghost. These are spirits that linger, and these are the spirits that can be turned into Shinki, or Regalia. Regalia are the most important thing for a god to have, when dealing with Ayakashi. As gods will become corrupted and suffer blight if they touch or get near an Ayakashi for too long, Shinki allow the gods to combat and purify the phantoms. Shinki act as weapons, or sometimes objects, that are intermediaries between the gods and the world around them. In fact, Regalia are so important that THEY themselves choose what their god can strike at.

If a god can get to a Near-Side Soul before it turns into Ayakashi, they can choose to send it on to the next life, or take it on as a Regalia. Shinki, however, are not easy to maintain. They are essentially human, and so each negative emotion they have affects their God. Lying, stealing, cheating, all of it physically HURTS the god they are tied to. In fact, if it goes on long enough and the human doesn’t repent, it can actually cause the god so much illness that the god has to die to be set arights. But again, a god with followers has nothing to fear from being killed, except that they would lose their current selves and start over as a child.

What we, as writers, can take from this is that magic systems are sometimes extremely complex. If your magic system is as complex as this, it MUST impact not just the plot, but the characters entirely! Yato is entirely absorbed in his role as a God. In fact, it’s what DRIVES him as the main character, and what drives him to change. The problem is, as a Kami, Yato CANNOT change on his own. He requires external forces to enact change in him. There comes in Yukine and Hiyori. But it is the Magic System that requires such measures.

To enact this sort of magic system, however, you have to think of it as a sort of ecosystem. If there is one section of the ecosystem, it must serve another, as the Kami serve the humans to get prayers and worship, and the shinki serve the Kami as a way to gain a second life. Generally, however, your story won’t work unless this ecosystem IS the central plot, when tied into the characters. A few tips for implementing it:

  • Have one character from each section of the ecosystem, so as to show how they interact.
  • Make sure that each section has drawbacks as well as gains from the other sections.
  • Clearly delineate how this ecosystem would fall apart if one part were removed.
    • For example, if the Kami are removed, the Ayakashi overrun humanity, and if the Shinki are removed, the Gods would fall to blight.
  • Show how the ecosystem works even when one or more of the pieces is missing. Don’t just leave it to chance, work it into your plot.
  • Make it a part of the characters. Don’t SAY the character is in this part of the ecosystem, SHOW it in their actions.

If you were to adapt this to another culture, say, norse gods, it could still work on the fundamental basis. Change ‘Shinki’ to Valkyries. Change gods to Aesir. Change Ayakashi to Giants, or Aelfs, or any other number of norse nasties. You could easily tell the story of Noragami with Loki instead of Yato. Just be careful, because that could be copyright infringement.

 

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Writing Anime – Colorful

There are very few movies that have managed to reduce me to tears. One I can name was A.I., the movie that was basically a pinocchio parallel except with robots. This movie, Colorful? It reduced me to tears halfway through the movie, and then just kept them coming. I recommend this movie for anyone who is going through hard times, suffering depression, or any sort of problem with belief in oneself.

The premise of the movie is simple. A soul is given a second chance, and that second chance requires that they figure out the crime they committed in their past life, as well as why the boy who’s body they inhabit killed himself. The ending is staggering. I definately didn’t see it coming. But what really did it for me was how it drew me in. The first sequence of the movie is entirely in first person. That is, the characters talk to YOU directly, and there is a beautiful falling sequence that just plain made me sigh with happiness.

Then, after a heart-wrenching scene where the family greets you, and then hands you a mirror to see yourself, it switches from first person into third, but you continue to hold onto that connection. You’re STILL that person, and you’ve STILL got the wonder and the fear and the anxiety that the opening instilled in you. It’s a wonderful technique that often isn’t pulled off well. However, this movie does it masterfully.

How can we translate this work into a literary practice? Well, let’s take a look at a few authors who make regular changes in point of view, and what delineates how well it is done. One of my favorite books that I read recently was Haruki Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore. In the book, his two main characters, an old man named Nakata and a young boy named Kafka have different point of views. When the book speaks of Kafka’s adventures, they’re all first person. Nakata’s part of the story however, is always in third person.

The way this ends up working is very different from what you might think. In fact, in even more jarring, and therefore attention grabbing, parts in Kafka’s sections, parts of it drop into second person, telling me what is occuring to ME while I read it. Those parts were designed to make one uncomfortable, and they did. It was very uncomfortable reading those parts, but again, it drew you in.

Here are a few things you might consider when doing POV switches:

  • Consider which point of view is necessary for which character
  • if you do switch point of view, make sure it is clearly outlined who is using what pov.
  • if you switch points of view with the same character, only do so when the section needs to be unsettling or paid very close attention to.

Another book that did Point of View changes is one of my favorites, Patricia Briggs‘ Dragon Blood. The sequel to her Dragon Bones, Dragon Blood is told in a different way than her first book. In the first book, it was entirely from her main character, Ward’s perspective. Although we were privy to bits of excitement that happened to other people when Ward wasn’t present, it was clearly presented in a way of “Ward is telling the story, and adding parts he was told after the fact”. In Dragon Blood, however, it’s very clear that the Main Character-ship was shared between Tisala and Ward.

The way this was done was very simple. Each chapter had a denotation of WHO was the perspective character. This made it easy to follow, and also kept the linearness that Briggs is so exemplary for. I would definitely emulate her, were I writing something so straight forward.

These three examples prove that no matter what your medium, you’re going to have to keep an eye out for your POV. It’s not something you should spend only a few seconds considering. And if you get stuck? Well, try a new perspective!

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Ab Ovo – A review of a Literary Term

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that my writing mentor, Chris Votey, is someone who inspires and encourages me to go beyond what I already know in the world of literary writing. This month, he’s assigned me to read one of his articles on a literary term and respond to it. He chose for me Ab Ovo, a term I had never heard before, much less considered writing on. To be honest, most of the literary theory I know comes from Tumblr’s various teardowns and theory discussions on various manga, anime and shows.

I found this particular literary term to be quite rudimentary. In other words, it’s a word I should have already known, but didn’t KNOW it was tied to something. What Ab Ovo is, is simply this: A story that starts at the beginning. It’s a latin term that means ‘In Egg’, or at the beginning.

Now, you’re most likely considering the fact that all stories start at the beginning. But no, not all do. In the article, he explains stories like Star Wars: A New Hope and Shaun of the Dead are both In Media Res (or Starting in the Middle). So I had to go out of my way to find stories that start Ab Ovo. I started off by thinking of as many stories as I knew, anime, manga, books I’d read, various other things as well, and I found a lot of them are In Media Res. In fact, it got me to thinking about how all of these stories start.

It began to get a bit frustrating after a while, and when I finally found one that actually ISN’T In Media Res, I almost laughed. One of the few Ab Ovo stories I found was actually a story we all know and love. Thumbelina. The story starts with the BIRTH of our main character, the most important character, and goes from there. There is no previous conflict, other than the old woman wanting a child, and that’s solved with Thumbelina’s arrival.

Most fairy tales start this way too. Sleeping Beauty starts with the birth of the princess. Snow white, the original tales anyway, start with the Queen wishing for a baby, and spilling two drops of blood on her sewing. Pinocchio starts with Gepetto wishing for a child on the blue star, and getting a moving puppet instead.

The moral of the story here is, I suppose, if you want to give your story a fairy-tale like quality, have it start Ab Ovo.

Now, the original article that Chris wrote mentioned that it was also possible for the story to be Ab Ovo if it began with the Beginning Conflict. Not the conflict the character themselves face, as most of the time that would be In Media Res, but rather with a larger conflict, such as War or Famine, something that CAUSES the conflicts the character later faces.

For examples of that, I could only really find a technical example. In “A Journey To the West”, it is generally accepted that The Monkey King is the most important character (or at least, he’s the fan favorite), where as the MAIN character is in fact the Priest that he accompanies on the eponymous Journey. However, the story BEGINS with the Monkey King getting himself thrown in Monkey Jail for arguing with God. (There are numerous versions of this story, including but not limited to Saiyuki, two TV series’ in both 1986 and 1996, and my personal favorite: Patalliro Saiyuki. More examples can be found here. )

Now, if the Monkey King had minded his own damned business and stayed in his lane, he might have been able to stop the Ox King’s rampage, which is what caused the Priest to have to set out in the first place. So, by that definition, this story would start Ab Ovo.

This doesn’t seem to discredit the theory that you should perhaps only use Ab Ovo in your story if you wish it to be fairy-tale like in quality. In fact, it gives it more credence. Really, it’s very difficult to hold an audience’s attention with a story that begins before the main character is even born. That’s why it’s generally considered rude to have a prologue, and many writers tell you not to bother with it, and to just turn it into later exposition. However, if the story is compelling enough (or culturally known well enough), you can most likely get away with it.

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The Anatomy of an Anime Mental Breakdown

As defined by TV tropes, Sanity Slippage  is when it is apparent that a character is losing their edge, and slowly sliding down the slippery slope to insanity. It may be that they now have a verbal tic they didn’t before, perhaps they’re spouting a Madness Mantra. Perhaps they’re simply not sleeping, or not eating, or maybe, just maybe, they’ve gone off the deep end, and are completely different from the character they were before.

So, how does one define a Mental Breakdown of this sort? How does one describe and even characterize such a thing? After all, nothing is more interesting than the breaking and splintering of a human psyche. Nothing gets us more than the suffering of another. Perhaps it’s Schadenfruede, or perhaps it’s just a need to see how far a person can be pushed before they break.

That's one hell of a smile you got there, Shinji

See, Shinji knows what I’m talking about.

So, we’re going to break down that amazing phenomena that is the Anime Breakdown.

Step One: Stress

So, How do we take a perfectly normal character, and make them into something broken and weeping? First, we have to start with that perfectly normal character! Whether this is your villain or your hero, or both, you need a base line for them. So start them off at their normal. Perhaps they’re a normal high-school student?

Yeahhh, I'd be bored in geometry too.

Take Light Yagami here. He’s a perfectly normal, bored high school student.

Stressors would be required to remove them from this normalcy state, and into something close to the sanity slippage we mentioned earlier. In the case of our example here, Mr. Yagami is introduced to a book titled the Death Note. This Death Note provides him a literal example of how “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”.

Over time, the toll of his body count, as well as the things he needs to do to keep from being prosecuted, begin to take a toll on his sanity. Light grows paranoid, increasingly so, and emotionally manipulative. He hides from those who care about him, and performs actions that most would consider appalling. He meets people he’d never thought to meet, but can’t really call any of them friends. In fact, he’s withdrawn from humanity so much that he honestly begins to believe he’s a god.

These stressors cause his reactions to become more and more terrifying and odd, until we get this lovely number:

Yeahhhh….

So Stressors. But what happens once stressors take their toll?

Step Two: Symptoms

This is when we begin to show our homework. A lot of this is going to require research, because honestly, every character is going to react differently. Your stressors are different, and while there will be some crossover sometimes, you can’t just slap a sticker on it and call it good.

So, first, take into account the exact stressors. Is your character being spoken to by the whispering voices of dark gods, dreaming in the beyond? Well then, maybe they’d start listening to music, accidentally yell at their friends, maybe they would end up gouging out their ears? Oh, wait. We’ aren’t there yet, are we…

Here are some common symptoms and examples:

Madness Mantra – A character begins to repeat over and over something that was said to them, something they heard, something they thought, some small phrase that means a lot. This could also double as arch words, if the author is thoughtful about it!

Room Full of Crazy – Perhaps the character begins posting pictures of the victims on their walls, writing the connecting facts between them? Perhaps they start carving out a calender, representing all the times they’d lost time. Or maybe they simply don’t control their room any more. Things go missing, they can’t find something, and then it turns up in places they didn’t put it.

Paranoia – They may begin to grow distrustful of those they once loved, and those they cared about. Maybe they don’t quite know who they can trust. Maybe they worry that someone they don’t know at all will turn out to be their downfall? Who knows.

That’s right Shinji, You listen to Evenescence. That’ll fix everything.

Running Away from Responsibilities – That’s right. When a person is pushed to the limit, they often try to escape from the pressures restraining them. In this case, that means they refuse to fight, they hide. There might be a scene in which they lay about, while others do important things, or perhaps the character hides under blankets.

Now these are just a few symptoms, and to be honest, there are as many symptoms as there are characters. Each one is going to have it’s own reaction. But now you have a general idea of what to do.

Step three: The Catalyst

On  TvTropes, this is referred to as The Despair Event Horizon, which basically just means, the thing that pushes them over the edge into complete and utter breakdown. My favorite culmination for this is into what is known as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Which is basically a character who has undergone such a life of misery and woe, that they have decided the only way to end it is to kill themselves and everyone else along with them. It’s a great trope, give it a read!

Anyway, so the Catalyst can be just about anything. From a Woman in the Fridge to a Kick the Dog moment, it really depends. Basically, the final straw that breaks the camels back. This is the thing that will finally cause that “Everything is over” moment that shatters the character’s (and if you did it right, your reader’s) hearts. This should be your climax, the high point in your story, and the culmination of this character’s arc. After this, it’s all downhill, and healing.

So congratulations! Those are the three big ingredients to writing an Anime Mental Breakdown. There are of course other tropes you can invoke, or even revoke, in order to make it more interesting, and more unique, however, these are the three main things you need. I would recommend reading through those pages, if only so that you can get an idea of what’s already been done. You don’t wanna accidentally overlap, after all.

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Ulysses Bucket List

While scrolling through Tumblr, I found this beautiful story, reblogged by Tumblr User despairtsumikie, and wanted to share it with all of you. I honestly thought this was so beautiful, that I read it out loud to two good friends of mine the very moment I finished it. So now, I’m passing it along to you all.

“When I was 15 years old, I ran away from home because I was pissed off at my parents for a reason I can’t remember. I didn’t have much money, so I decided to hop onto the skytrain (public transport train in British Columbia) and ride it as far as it would go. I reached the end of the line in less than an hour, and decided I wanted to ride it all the way back again, while trying to formulate some kind of plan of how I wanted to live the rest of my life without my parents or anyone. At the last stop, or the first stop depending on your perspective of it, a girl came on and sat in the row right behind me. I didn’t pay much attention to her at first, as I was busy writing my life plan on a napkin. It was a few minutes later that she got up and came sat next to me, curious as to what I was writing. I told her the story, and after a few laughs, we began talking about everything and anything. Her name was Amanda, 17 years old, and absolutely wonderful. She told me she was getting off at the last stop, which was also the first stop, depending on how you look at it. It was also the stop I had gotten on originally, and I told her we would ride to it together. The train ride took less than an hour, and what a wonderful hour indeed.

When the last stop did come, we both knew we probably wouldn’t see each other ever again(this was before the days of cellphones, and I was a shy little kid afraid to make moves). As we got to the end of the sidewalk which split in two different directions, she went right and I went left. Before saying goodbye she turned to me and asked me a question that has become a wonderful part of my life; she asked me, “Tell me something you have done, or want to do, that you think I should do? It can be anything, as challenging as you want it to be, or as easy. As long as you give me the rest of my life to complete it, I promise I will do it..” I was confused as to why, but I thought about it, and told her, “Sing a song acapella in a room full of strangers.” She said perfect and asked me if I would like a challenge as well. I told her I did, and she told me, “read, from start to finish, ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce.” I had never heard of it at the time, but I agreed, and we said our goodbyes.

I have an awful memory, and can’t remember most conversations I have with most people. But I remember all of that clearly. You know why? Because of the challenge she gave me. In the 12 years that have past since, I have tried to read that book in over 150 different sittings. Everytime I open my copy of the 780 page monster of a book, I always think of her, and I always think of that day. I’ve never been sure if it was her intent or not, but she left her lasting memory on me with that challenge. I soon after learned what she did, was a completey wonderful and amazing thing for me. So I decided to keep it going. I’ve met a lot of strangers in my life; some that have become friends, and some, due to living in different time zones and whatnot, didnt. I don’t want to just have experiences and then let them go. I want to remember these meetings, and embrace the fact that they happened. So whenever I leave someone who has left an amazing impact of my life, I always make sure to add them to my Ulysses Bucket List. I ask them to give me a challenge, as difficult or as easy as they want it to be, and regardless of the fact that they have done it or not; simply something their heart has had wanted to do.

Some have been easy and fun; I met a man in India 9 years ago who told me to, for a week or a month, cook/buy twice as much food as I intend on eating, and give the other half to a stranger in need. I completed that mission 8 years ago, and thought about that man and the time we had all the way through. I met a girl on a cruise 6 years ago, who told me to jump into a body of water on a slightly cold day, without touching or feeling the temperature of the water first. I did that the very same year. I met a couple at an outdoor music festival a few years ago that told me to wear the most bizarre outfit imaginable and walk through a public place, completely oblivious to the fact that you aren’t looking normal. I did that task the very next day, at the same festival. Some have been difficult, to say the least: three guys I met in Amsterdam and smoked all night with, told me to go to a mall and give 10 strangers 10 presents. That one took a lot of courage, but I did it a year or so after I met them. It was nerve racking, but at the same time exhilerating leaving my comfort zone. A girl I met on a plane told me to sky dive; Im still in the process of getting that done. A couple I met in Cali on the beach told me to tell the 5 people I hated the most, that I love them and respect them. That one was very difficult because of my stubborness, but I’ve come close to completing that list many a times(still in the process, 2 more people to go).

And some things, have had an everlasting impact on my daily life. I met a girl at burning man, who told me that whenever I get mad at someone, walk away, sing my happy song in my head for 5 minutes, go back to the person I’m mad at with a calm heart and mind, and work things out. I’ve made this my way of life. I once met a man at a gym in a hotel I was staying at, that told me “whenever your body and brain tells your that you are exhausted and done…use your heart instead and push out 2 more reps.” I’ve made this my motto when working out or working on any kind of extrenuating exercise in which my body demands me to quit. I also use it while working on anything, and while studying. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received.

There are many others that each brought joy to my life. There are still many tasks I have yet to accomplish, and everytime I think of these tasks, I think of the people that gave them to me. It amazes me how well I remember all these people, while I cant remember so many aspects of even yesterday. These experiences, not only do I take from them a “mission” or a “challenge”, I also take from them a memory of them that never fails to appear inside of my mind. I opened my Ulysses book for probably the 300th time yesterday, and read a few pages, which prompted me to share this story with you today. I’m in the final 30 pages of the book, also known as the most dreaded of the read(in the last 40 pages or so, James Joyce doesn’t use a single punctuation mark; no periods, no commas, no nothing; a straight 50 page run-on sentence).

I never saw Amanda after that day, nor do I know if she ever did get a chance to sing a song to a room full of strangers. But what I do know, is that she gave me a gift that has never once stopped giving. So wherever you may be, thank you for giving me the Ulysses Bucket List. And I swear i’ll finish it one day. My life advice? Simple: Create your own Ulysses bucket list.”

-Reddit User Yoinkie2013 when asked to “Share a story they’ve been dying to tell.”

Since then, a subReddit has been created for people to challenge each other, and create their own Ulysses Bucket List. Personally, I find this idea amazing, and intend to start my own, post haste. I think I’ll perhaps start with those closest to me, and work out from there. Because that is an amazing way to remember, forever, those that you hold close and who may pass on beyond your reach.

So please, go out and make your own Ulysses Bucket List. It may seem silly at the time, but it is worth every second. I’m sure of it.

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