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Writing Anime: Land of Gods and Monsters

  • Posted on January 31, 2016 at 10:50 am

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.

 

Ipsy January Unveiling

  • Posted on February 25, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Alright, so you might not know this about me, but I am a beauty-holic. Basically, I’ve fallen in love with things like makeup, jewelry, hair-and-body-care things, and in general just girly things. This means that I, like so many others, have fallen prey to the Subscription Box charm. Specifically, Ipsy.

Now, for those of you who don’t know (and probably don’t care) Ipsy is a makeup subscription service that you can get for $10/mo, and it sends you four or five makeup-items. It’s rather nice, actually, because there’s a quiz you fill out and then you get makeup based on your profile. Like having a personal shopper do it for you, you get the goods, without all the fuss.

Now, why am I, an author, writing about this on my author-y blog? Because, ladies and gentlemen, if you want to make money in the writing field, sometimes, you’re going to have to do things outside your normal range of writing! It’s a lesson in expanding your abilities. So, in my case, I’m going to provide a review of the items I received in my January Ipsy Bag.

Starting with:

The Glam Bag itself:

 

 

As you can see, this cute pink bag has a lovely diamond pattern to it. It’s made of an interesting material, most likely a poly-blend. The pink and the gray offset each other nicely, and it’s a decent size if all you want to do is carry a small amount of makeup. I have to carry some outside of it, because I am a pack-rat, and use a lot of makeup. The cute Ipsy pull makes for advertising in a cheeky way.  Way to go, Ipsy, for putting yourself out there!

 

 

Cargo Cosmetics Mini-Lipgloss in Anguilla

This lip-gloss is one of the best lip-glosses I’ve ever had. Despite having a stick-applicator with that fuzzy-tip that I hate, it’s still really easy to put on. It does have an odd sort of almost-tacky leftover feel, but it glides on smooth. The color is fantastic as well, when mixed with a Nyx Simply Red Lip Creme (in Candy Apple) it does the most amazing pink-ombre on my lips ever. It does smell a tiny bit funky, but other than that, it’s lovely! Definitely a recommend.

 

 

 

Model co BLUSH cheek powder in Peach Bellini

A blush for the ages. I adore this thing, no doubt about it. This blush gives me the rosiest cheeks, and makes me look five years younger, it’s great. I can’t wait to try out more from this company. It even comes in a nice round container, without being overly large! It fits beautifully in the Glambag, and in my hand!

Luxie Beauty Large-Angled Face Brush 504

This brush is mainly what I was buying this Ipsy subscription for! I had been hoping for an angled eye-shadow brush, but this beauty is just AMAZING. It’s great for applying the BLUSH we talked about earlier. Plus, it is soft as a button! It’s survived two weeks in my purse now, and I think it’s going to survive a lot longer! The pink handle is absolutely darling too. I have NO complaints.

 

Pencil Me In cosmetics Natural Eyeliner in Amethyst

Oh where was this eyeliner when I was eighteen and going through my emo-phase? It’s a lovely purple color, just like the name implies. Although I do find this particular eyeliner breaks at the tip pretty easily, the natural formula really entices. I have to admit, however, this one lives on my dresser, and I rarely use it.

And last, but most certainly least:

Eva NYC Up-All-Night Volumizing Spray

This one was the let down of the whole bag. I honestly didn’t get to try it! It broke open on transit, dousing the rest of the bag. Thank goodness it didn’t damage anything. However, since I had stated that I didn’t really WANT any hair-products in my bag (I have a pixie-ish A-line, as you can see in my photos), it was more a blessing in disguise. I let Ipsy know about the situation, and they were more than happy to send out a replacement. I haven’t received that replacement yet, but I’ll be happy to update this review once I do, if anyone is interested!

 

 

 

 

All in all, I’m really satisfied with the first Ipsy bag. The makeup is nice, the lip-gloss to die for, and I found everything else quite happily living in my purse during the week. Not only is much of it useful for my daily apply-makeup-on-bus schedule, but it looks GREAT on me too!  I am a little disappointed that one of the products was damaged, but I couldn’t really blame Ipsy for that. I blame the postal service! Damn postal workers.

Look at him. That smile is so fake. I’m watching you.

(All pictures (except mr. Mailman) courtesy of the Ipsy website. No offense meant to our fine national postal workers, they work hard, and I couldn’t help making the joke. Sorry!)

9 Ways to Fix your Stereotyped Character – A guestpost by Cindy Grigg

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

So You Wrote a Stereotyped Character…9 Ways to Fix Your Story

 

I’ve recently been doing a blog post series on How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters, which included a list of 19 Female Character Stereotypes to Avoid.

Since Nicohle and I are swapping blog posts today, I would love to take that list one step further and show how I would fix a stereotyped female character (but the same concepts apply to any character).

Why You Don’t Have to Start Over

If your female character falls into a stereotype, it’s not so much that you’ve written her wrong as that you’re just not done writing her.

Writers revert to stereotypes or tropes rather than fully articulating what makes a character unique. It’s tricky because you may not feel lazy as you write a stereotypical character. You’re still sitting in the writer’s chair fulfilling your daily word count or time quota, but essentially you’re being creatively lazy about who you are writing about.

1. Rearrange what you’ve got. A lot of creativity is a matter of how you arrange the disparate parts of something to make a whole. Which aspect of your character is the focal point? By restructuring which personality traits are pivotal, you could create a more fresh character.

2. Add something to the character that scares, stretches, or otherwise challenges you. If writing about a certain characteristic your character possesses makes you think about the world in a new way, it likely will do the same for many readers.

3. Change how long your character stays a stereotype. Maybe your character can start out as a character but be changed by a new event. Maybe reveal they were hiding their true nature for some good reason. Think: Scarlet Pimpernel.

4. Look around you. Think of the most unique people you know and add some part of their personality to your character.

Rarity gives you an example reaction.

5. Add more weaknesses, flaws,  fears, and losses! I like the trick of thinking, What is the worst thing that could happen to my character? Then consider adding that to your plot so your character has to really solve and struggle.

6. Put your character in strange situations. Brainstorm several seemingly unrelated scenes and put your character in them. Consider crossing genres with this exercise. Put your fantasy heroine in a murder mystery and see how she behaves, etc. You may stumble upon an interesting nuance to add to your story.

7. Change your character’s past or future. If the character seems flat or one-dimensional, hook the audience into caring based on something terrible or wonderful they went through or will go through.

8. Give your character a unique motivation. Most of humanity is motivated to some degree by love of family, romance, personal gain, or moral/spiritual paradigms, for example. But what if you made your character also motivated by something kooky like a love of snails, and wanting to save those snails from extinction, for example?

9. Create personality contradictions. I love giving a character two characteristics that seem paradoxical or at odds with one another, then showing why they are this way.

Both fixing characters or scrapping them will require a lot of editing, so I figure you might as well refurbish your stereotyped character rather than starting from square one.

While it takes more effort, it’s more fun and interesting to write well-rounded characters. For me, this comes down to asking, But who else is she/he?! By consciously steering clear of stereotypes, writing becomes more adventure. More fun.

Cindy Grigg

Cindy Grigg writes speculative fiction and instructional non-fiction. She is the author of the HULDUSNOOPS series, a middle grade mystery and fantasy adventure about Icelandic Huldufolk or “hidden people”. As About.com’s Office Software Expert, Cindy also writes about technology and productivity (www.Office.About.com). Find her writing advice, blog, and other projects she’s working on at www.CindyGrigg.com.

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