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I – Ibara no Ou (King of Thorns)

  • Posted on April 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

The japanese word for thorns is Ibara, and in this case, thorns are a deadly enemy. A story about how humanity deals with a mysterious disease turns into a horrific survival horror, and I was rivetted the entire time. A movie, instead of a series, I personally think this narrative is one of the twisty-turniest I’ve ever seen or read.

Why I recommend it to writers: if you want to write any kind of suspense or horror, Ibara no Ou is a great resource for both. It shows a mastery of psychology that I greatly enjoy.

Warnings: Death, Dismemberment, tons of imagery that might be displeasing.

For the rest of the articles in this series, please visit this page.

Have you seen this anime? What about it made you want to be a better writer? Do you intend to go shotgun this anime now that I’ve shown it to you? Comment below and tell me what you think!

Writing Anime: An Interview

  • Posted on August 21, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Today, instead of lecturing you on what to cherry-pick from certain animes, I’ve met with and interviewed an individual who knows his stuff. Cuchallain has a long career of analysing and reviewing anime, manga and video games. So much so in fact that I greatly respect his opinions on most of the review videos I’ve watched. He also happens to have my favorite Let’s Play of Tales of Zestiria on the entirety of the internet, so let’s put that out there too.

As the first interview I ever conducted, Cu and I started with just a few questions, and while he didn’t exactly consider himself an expert to start with, it quickly became apparent to me that he was, in fact, quite knowledgeable. An avid anime fan since the age of ten years old, a convention-goer on the regular, and now the personality behind a youtube channel with over five thousand subscribers, Cu is also incredibly humble.

When asked what goes into his writing for his typical reviews, he explained that he’s actually very unscripted with them. At most, he takes a few notes, generally about the speech of the characters and the themes behind the videos. He in fact, doesn’t even script his theory videos. Then, unfortunately, we devolved into a discussion about his online name, and then that devolved into a conversation on fanfiction and the wonders of Inuyasha as a gateway drug.

Ab Ovo – A review of a Literary Term

  • Posted on January 15, 2016 at 2:57 pm

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.

Weekly Writing Update – 01/22/15

  • Posted on January 22, 2015 at 10:04 am

This week has been a major improvement! <3 I’m so glad! See what I’ve been up to?

 

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 1.5 sections rewritten (Current total: 14,990 words)

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted

Blue Roses – 9,971 words – Dystopian Love Story

Blog Posts

Before You Were Born

Surprise Midnight Dumpster Diving

Books Read

None this week…

Goals 

Finish Real Money Answers by Patrice C. Washington

Finish The Bag of Bones by Stephen King (Mr. King’s LAST chance with me, I’m afraid.)

Keep Bullet Journaling

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

Vassilissa the Fair

  • Posted on April 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

There was once a fair young maiden, with hair like a river of gold. Her beauty was a gift passed down from mother to daughter. Plagued by illness, her mother had grown sicker, and sicker, until finally, only her deathbed await. With her father gone to seek a cure for her mother, Vassilissa, as the maiden was called, saw over her mother’s last words.

“Vassilissa, my sweet daughter, I am so sorry. I will not be here to aide you in your troubles. But do not fear.” Her mother breathed, and Vassilissa, sweet girl that she was, shook her head, begging her mother silent. But her mother continued to speak with the last of her strength. “Go to the cupboard. Inside, there is a doll. This doll will be your companion when I cannot. If you ever find yourself for loss of what to do, feed her a bit of food, and give her just a sip of water, and tell her your troubles.”

Vassilissa swore that she would, and held the doll close to her breast as her mother slipped from this world. And as all things must, her story continued. Her father returned, not with a cure, but with a new bride. Vassilissa tried not to let her heart harden against the man, but it was impossible not to when he left not three days after, leaving her alone with her new step mother and the woman’s daughter.

Her step-sister was not a dutiful girl, spending her time instead in town, flirting with the boys and pushing off the chores of the farm upon Vassilissa. Vassilissa’s step-mother grew angrier and angrier, but instead of punishing the step-sister, she blamed it on the golden haired girl. Vassilissa learned true cruelty at her step-mother’s hands.

 

The step-mother grew colder and more hateful each day, as she watched Vassilissa grow even more beautiful and dutiful and intelligent, while her own daughter grew lazy and spiteful and ignorant. One day, she just couldn’t take it any longer. Her husband had not sent enough money for all three of them to live comfortably, and she was not going to let her daughter starve for this wretch.

So she sent Vassilissa on an errand. In the dead of winter, with the wind howling and the snow falling, she sent the girl out into the woods surrounding their farm, to gather flowers. Fresh ones. Dutiful and sweet, Vassilissa could find no way to say no, to beg pardon from the awful cold outside. However, she was unable, and was sent into the cold. Her tears froze on her cheeks, and her hands trembled around the basket and the little doll she always carried.

At least she had a bit of bread and some cheese to have for a snack. Finding a small hollow beneath a great huge tree, she lifted the bread and the crumbs to her mouth. And then, as suddenly as a lightning bolt, she remembered her mother’s words. With shaking fingers, she fed the little doll instead. And then, she told it of her troubles.

To her surprise, she heard the doll speak. In a voice as cold as the ice around them, the doll told her to continue walking into the wind, and not to stop until she smelt a fire. This seemed a cruel thing, but she was used to cruelty now, and so, after chewing slowly her own respite meal, she did as she was bid.

Cold ate at her, and soon, she felt hope, for she smelt a fire. The light and warmth of it were desperately desired by Vassilissa, and it was only when she heard voices that she cautioned herself to stop. In the clearing there was no snow, there was no wind. There was a fire, and around it, twelve man sat. Three were boys, three were young men, three were men grown, and three were old men. She listened to them speak and tell stories for just a moment, before the cold drove her closer, and she stepped into the Field.

“Forgive me, good sirs, please pardon the intrusion, but might I share your fire, if only until the snow passes? I will be happy to share what little food I carry?” She offered, and waited while the men conferred. Eventually, one of the old men bid her sit, and they all asked her to tell her story, to explain why a girl so fair and young was out in such horrid weather.

“My step-mother sent me for flowers to weave into my step-sister’s hair.” She did not complain, did not whine, but explained truthfully. The men respected this, and when she was done, one of the young men stood, and went to the eldest man.

“January, my friend, might I borrow thy crown for but an hour, to lend this poor girl aid?” And the old man passed his crown to the young, and once it sat upon the young man’s head, the snow stopped, and melted away, trees turned leafy and grass turned green. Soon, flowers were blooming everywhere, and Vassilissa was beside herself with joy. She gathered up snowdrops and tulips, daffodils and wild daisies, and then thanked the two profusely. “Your thanks are not needed, but hurry, for I must return the crown to January in an hour. Run home, and stay where it is warm, sweet girl.”

Vassilissa did as she was bid, running home through the bright warm woods, and only minutes after she was inside, did January sweep April away like a tempest, the blizzard all the colder now for having been warm. Her step-mother and step-sister stared in awe at the basket of flowers, fresh and impossible in Vassilissa’s hand. The step-sister snatched an empty basket, and ran off, following Vassilissa’s story. When she returned she was an old woman, cursed by the twelve men in the little clearing for having demanded where Vassilissa had been given.

#

Again, the step-mother grew resentful and hateful towards the young and beautiful Vassilissa, this time for making an old maid of her daughter. This time, she demanded that Vassilissa seek out the help of the old witch who lives in the woods, that she go to her and get a cure for the curse that her step-sister was under. Being a good, sweet girl, Vassilissa did as she was bid and took a basket full of cheese and bread for the journey.

The wind was cold and the snow still falling as Vassilissa trailed through the woods. She knew stories of Baba Yaga, the old witch who lived in the wood, and she knew that she would not return alive. In her despair, she thought again of the little doll and fed it some cheese and some water melted from snow. The doll asked her her troubles, and she told it her errand.

“Be careful, fair Vassilissa. Drink nothing the old witch gives you. Eat nothing the old witch makes for you. And do not ever open your eyes after dark. She will eat them from your head, should you see her secrets.” The doll spoke in a voice black as the evening sky, which slowly filled with stars.

Vassilissa did as she was told, and when she found the old woman’s hut, her legs shook with the want to turn around. The hut stood upon chicken’s legs, surrounded by a fence made of bones and topped with skulls whose eyes burned with fire. She made her legs move forward, onto the green grass around the hut, and she lifted a hand to knock on the door.

An old woman answered, her eyes dark as night, and her teeth sharp as a cat’s. Vassilissa begged her to help her step-sister, and in the end Baba Yaga refused. Vassilissa pleaded with the old woman, and finally, Baba Yaga declared that if Vassilissa could serve her for three days, she would cure her sister. But if she failed even one chore, Vassilissa would be her meal.

She had no choice but to agree, for Vassilissa wouldn’t be welcome home without the cure.

The first day, her only test was to search out all of the mice in the old woman’s hut, and cook them into a stew. Vassilissa was terrified of this, as mice were biting little things and she did not wish to cook them. But after she fed the doll and gave it some water, the Doll told her to take the cheese from her basket and crumble it up. Scattering it like breadcrumbs, the mice came out of hiding in seconds starved as they were.

Then, Vassilissa caught them all up in a burlap sack, and it wriggled and it squeaked, and she dumped them all, fur and tail, into a pot. She covered it with a lid. Ignoring the terrified scratching, she lifted the pot and set it atop the fire. The shrieks of the mice haunted her dreams that night, and she had no trouble keeping her eyes closed while Baba Yaga bustled around her.

The second day was not nearly so easy. Baba Yaga set her to finding and feeding her chickens. The moment she saw one of these chickens, she knew she would be dinner tonight. Tears bubbled on her cheeks as she gazed upon the razor winged, lion-mawed creatures that had only the barest traces of feathers to call themselves chickens. She hid in a corner, near the hut’s chicken legs, and fed the doll some crumbs of bread, and the salty water of her tears. She begged it’s help and it told her to braid a rope of her long golden hair, and cut it off. Then she was to dip it into the mouse-soup she had made the night before. After this was done, the doll told her to tie it between two trees and to scatter the buckets of feed underneath it. She did as she was told and was startled to see the beasts racing for the rope, gnawing on it. And when her golden hair snapped and fell, the beasts began to eat their own breakfast as well.

When she returned to the hut, and laid down, the sounds of screaming kept her awake that night, and she flinched whenever she heard the drop of a metal cleaver. She only barely managed to keep her eyes closed through the night.

The next morning, Baba Yaga had an even harder task for her. “You must go into the depths of the underworld, and bring me three teeth of the ruler of that realm.”

The old witch took down a cloak of black feathers, and wrapped it around the girl’s shoulders. “This will let you pass unharmed through the gates of the underworld. Do not lose it girl, and bring it back to me.”

Once again, Vassilissa begged the little doll for help, after feeding it its fill.

“Walk towards the setting sun. As you walk, you will see three horsemen. Do not speak to the first or the second, do not even look at their faces. The third, you must ask him to take you home. He will take you to the bowels of hell. When you are there, you must find and pick the largest apple you can find. Give this to the king of the dead, and he will break his teeth upon it. Take the teeth, and run. Do not look back, do not fear, and do not stop running, even if the ground falls out from beneath your feet.”

#

The fair Vassilissa set foot to road, and walked. Dawn came, and with it, a rider upon a white horse. She didn’t dare look up to see his face, and past him without seeing more than the flick of his horse’s white tail, and the flying hem of his white cloak.

She walked, and walked, and walked. And then, when the sun was high in the sky and the world was warmer than she could remember it ever having been in winter before, a red rider came thundering down the pass, the hooves of his great beast running swiftly. She did not even see the flutter of his hem as he passed, and for that she was grateful. The goosepimples on her skin were tickled by the feathers of the cloak.

She walked, and walked, and walked again. Finally, as the sun set and the night sky filled with stars, she saw the black horse, as it stood, fidgeting, in the middle of her path. She swallowed, and looked up to his face. She was suddenly glad she did not look at the other two, for this creature had no true face, had only bones and burning red eyes that felt as if they pierced her heart.

She begged in a quiet voice that he take her home, and soon, found herself over the front of his saddle, and the horse careening like a creature possessed through the woods. The girl screamed, and squeezed her eyes closed, and then, as suddenly as her journey began, it was over. She was standing in a dark place, the ground beneath her glowing faintly blue. Twisted trees made of crystal and rock spiraled up around her.

Remembering the little doll’s words, she searched desperately for an apple. But all she found growing on the trees were rocks. Red rocks, blue rocks, green rocks. All oddly shaped and hanging from branches like fruit. Finally, she picked one, a green rock that was roughly the size of both of her fists put together.

“Who are you?” A voice called behind her, and she saw a woman, dressed in black and with long black hair that fell over one side of her face. “Where did you come from?”

Vassilissa couldn’t get words to come from her throat, and instead, held out what she hoped was the Apple. Vassilissa desperately hoped that perhaps Baba Yaga wouldn’t realize if she took this woman’s teeth instead. They were only teeth after all, how could one tell the difference between one person’s teeth and another? The woman took the fruit, and as if compelled, bit into it. Just as the doll had said, the ghostly woman’s teeth cracked and broke into the fruit, and the fair girl snatched the fruit and ran.

It was hard not to look back, it was hard not to stop when she heard the woman shriek, and felt the walls coming down around her and when it felt like she might die if she ran any longer. But eventually, she found herself back on the road. The road that lead to Baba Yaga’s house. She had succeeded. She had won.

She took the doll out of her pocket, hoping to share her success with it. She fed it a bit of the stone apple and a bit of the juice from it as well and the doll awoke. She told it of her success, and the doll told her not to return to Baba Yaga, to take the fruit and go back home and give her sister a single bite of the fruit, instead.

Vassilissa returned home, quick despite the slick snow melting between the trees. When she opened the door, her step-mother seemed not to recognize her. Vassilissa wondered how long she’d really been gone. Happily, upon giving her step-sister a single bite of the apple, she saw that it reversed whatever curse the men had cast. Her sister was once again young.

The three women lived in harmony for a bit, the rest of the apple hidden beneath Vassilissa’s bed along with the doll. In her happiness, Vassilissa fed the doll one last time, and it spoke to her.  ”All your troubles will be soon forgotten and one day I will leave you. I ask that you do not come to find me.” She didn’t know what to say, but agreed, weeping tears for her mother’s doll. 

It wasn’t until months later, in the month of April, that a handsome young man rode through their farm and Vassilissa caught his eye. She was instantly enamored with the handsome man as well, and when he returned with his father, the king, to ask for her hand in marriage she said yes.

Angry beyond all compare at being cheated out of such an opportunity, the step-sister, still lazy and mean-spirited and ignorant, stole the doll and the apple from beneath Vassilissa’s bed. She went into the forest to find and demand that Baba Yaga give her a spell to win the prince and make her better than Vassilissa. No one saw the step-sister again, and all throughout Vassilissa’s wedding, her step-mother cried bitter tears of grief for her lost daughter.

A new skull sat upon Baba Yaga’s fence, and she kept the helpful little doll sitting right next to the odd green rock with the wrong teeth in it. She wondered where that Vassilissa girl wandered off to, but was preparing for the next tale she would appear in. She had a broth to brew before they arrived, after all.  

Snow White

  • Posted on April 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm

((based off a nightmare I had last night. This is gonna be fun!))

The entire world has gone mental. No one seems to realise that killing and eating each other isn’t something that should be done. They just don’t care. It’s terrifying. And as Snow huddles in with the other survivors, she can’t help but wonder if it’s her fault. Her Step-Mother had laughed and laughed when her father attacked them both. Now her Step-Mother sat across the way, talking with the leader of their little caravan.

Snow looked next to her, to the various members of their community they’d saved. Two old men, who seemed to do nothing but bicker back and forth, one of them sneezing every other minute. A young doctor, and his brother, who happened to be a bit touched in the head. The narcoleptic and his friend who seemed to be halfway to a nervous breakdown simply by the way he was smiling. The other member brought from their household seemed to be lost in himself, refusing to talk to anyone. She wondered if he was going to be alright.

They’d hidden out in the mayors old house. A two-winged thing, she’d checked and double checked all the doors, absolutely determined to make sure every. single. one. was locked. They couldn’t turn on the lights, not after what she’d seen happen tot he neighbors. They’d been torn apart after several people crawled in their windows. All because the wife had turned the light on in the kitchen. Not even candles were safe. She shivvered, cold in her tshirt and jeans, and her boyfriend, Reggie leaned over, wrapping an arm around her.  She leaned into him, and listened to the sounds of chaos outside.

The group didn’t talk, not really, because if they did, it would attract attention. Outside, a dog that had miraculously survived barked, wildly. The two trucks and the van they’d managed to steal were sitting out front, plain as day, but none of the aggressors seemed interested in driving, so they didn’t worry too much.

Her belly rumbled, and Reggie pulled her closer. She shivvered again, wanting to cry. There was nothing she could do, nothing to be done around the house, nothing to be done about the fact that her father had tried to rip her face off. Reggie’s father, judge King was dead. torn apart by several members of the local gun club. She could still remember how she’d had to drag Reggie away from the carnage. So many people dead.

Their hope was that they could make it until morning, and then just… drive. For as long as possible. No one knew if this had gone beyond their little town. God, she hoped not. She prayed for it. She never prayed for anything, not since her mother died, and she prayed for it.

Snow got up, shivvering still, and did her rounds, checking the doors. Touching each lock to make sure it was in the right position, checking to make sure none of the windows were open or un-curtained.

The front door was unlocked.

It was swinging open.

She heard a shriek, it sounded like the Doc. She turned, and darted towards the sound, stupid, stupid, should have run away. The door swung closed and locked. She didn’t look. She should have. She would have seen her step mother’s cruel red smile.

Her last sight was of all of her friends being torn apart. Her Reggie died, beaten to death with his own arm by one of them. Snow White died screaming.

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