Miang - I want to be myself

100 Things #015: Characterization- it's like being stood up for a lunch date.

You go to meet your friend for lunch, sit down at the table, look at the menu. You're looking forward to talking about this or that, about trying that new sandwich, hearing about your friend's life. But she doesn't show up. It turns out she's just really late - and she never has been punctual as far as you know, but punctuality isn't everything! - and in the meantime you get tired of sitting around. Your mind moves to other things - things to write, things you could be doing. You're bored. You order lunch and start eating, and you're mostly done by the time your friend gets there. When she does, it all goes mostly as planned.

When I try to write a story, the characters do not tell me what they're going to do, as I've seen other writers describe. They don't "talk" to me. Those are metaphors, yes, but what they are metaphors for - that doesn't happen. I start a story, waiting to go along for the ride and watch what these strange people will do, and-- they do nothing. Sometimes they're not even really there until much later, after I've abandoned the story - because nothing was happening, and it bored me - and have left it to sit for years.

There's obviously an element of one's own creativity that has to drive this phase of development, something that happens beneath your awareness and inspires you to type "and then he pulled the trigger" or whatever, even if you're not consciously planning for that to happen. There's something you want to write about, maybe, or something you want to examine. For a long time I thought I lacked that. I still do a bit, because the things I want to examine, as it turns out, are a little too lofty for fiction, probably more suited to... you know, I don't think there's a genre for it, even in non-fiction. It's closest to the creative essay, I suppose. And maybe I'm in denial, and that's really what I want to write anyway, since I seem to enjoy posting here far more than I enjoy working on new stories.

But anyway, characters. Stories. Revelations! They're few and far between, and not for lack of freewriting. I start a story; nothing happens. I get bored waiting for my characters to really show up, so to speak, and start thinking about other things which look more interesting. By the time an idea comes to me, I'm not willing to follow it; I jot it down and then ditch the story, because I don't feel it can work. It has no soul, or event, or conflict, or whatever you want to call the element that gives it life. It barely has a mouthpiece. More like a stick figure.

I asked myself why this happens, and there are two potential answers that have merit. Both are probably right to some extent.

First, I'm not willing to wait. Patience is not one of my virtues. When I'm confronted with this situation - say, my character is sitting at a table waiting for her friend - and there's an opportunity for her to do something, I sometimes take it... and sometimes don't. This might be the perfect time to... see, I don't know what I'd do if I were sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for someone to show up. I'd write, I guess. (Hilarious.) I wouldn't strike up a conversation with anyone or do anything interesting. I think staging a sudden robbery would be kind of stupid, and I'm not really interested in that kind of event in a story, sooooo... lack of things to do. But--

Secondly, I guess I have a harder time moving outside of myself than I thought. It's not that I always think only of what I would do (which is incredibly limited), but that when I try to imagine what someone like my mom would do, I still draw a blank. She'd talk to the barista, I guess, or to another customer. What else? Just now I thought maybe a certain kind of character would try to steal something, slip a granola bar in her purse when she's distracting the employees with an amusing story... but it took this entire entry for me to think of that, which takes me back to the first point: patience.

You know what's nice about fan fiction? You know what the characters will and will not do. If you take Sanaki to a coffee shop, you know (or can guess) what will happen, and who she would go with. You take a new character in, whom you've never met before, and... suddenly you have to sit there for an hour and figure it out.

This is just one of the ways fan fiction has spoiled me, I guess. But it isn't true across the board that you'll know; this post was inspired by sitting here and wondering what an existing character might do in a situation I set him in, and I actually don't know; I know nothing about his past to this point, and I still have to make all of that up. Patience.

It turns out that being anti-social most of my life is now a bit of a problem. I don't know what real people do. I need to overcome that hurdle (hopefully that won't involve talking to anyone), but sitting down and thinking long enough will probably help a lot. But I've had bad experiences in social contexts. There's some fear in the idea of talking to and getting to know strangers, but there's also a barrier created by years of having to look inward for understanding or even entertainment. When I meet someone, and do not immediately see something we have in common, something I would want to talk about for more than five minutes, I dismiss the entire idea of getting to know them. It won't be worth it, I think; what would we talk about? And why would we do it?

It's funny; while I'm not dismissing people as worthless - just as individuals I probably have nothing in common with - the fact that I do that mental turning-away probably does give the impression that I think they're not worth knowing. And sometimes, even if I think a person is worth knowing, I'm just not able or willing to overcome whatever hurdles there are between us. If you think I'm going to hobble around San Francisco on crutches, with no idea which bus line goes where, just for a study session with someone I barely know? You expect too much from me.

That situation is in the past, but I remember it well.


I do like non-fiction now that I've tried it seriously a few times. Maybe it's because I have this erroneous idea that my opinion on something matters, or is at least interesting. My life is boring now, but things happened in my childhood, and in my recent history, that are perhaps worth talking about. In addition, things like bullying/being bullied are incredibly relevant right now, and I have always felt strongly about issues like school violence for that reason. I try to avoid these topics because I feel like I'd just be wallowing in old angst, but maybe feeling my experiences aren't valid is a hurdle I have to overcome as well, for both fiction and non-fiction. Certainly, there are topics I don't think I can write reasonably about in a fictional world, because I find it so easy to slip into angsty, inactive characters. While it might be worth the exercise to resist that urge, I also think the creative essay medium might be more appropriate for some of them.

So... what would you do while waiting in a coffee shop for someone to show up? Besides getting a drink-- though that could be an adventure too, I guess? Or an opportunity for a monologue on the quality of coffee beans and roasting techniques.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/820102.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.

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Avatar: All old people know each other

Fifteen years of writing - and progress, we hope. (excerpts)

I feel like I did this wrong. My selections are much longer than everyone else's. But if you're going to show a progression of any kind then shouldn't you try to pick excerpts that show more than one thing - like dialogue AND description, rather than just one of them? That's why this is long and probably tedious.


Some background:
I started writing online in June or so of 1998, right after I graduated from high school. It is also around this time I decided to write seriously. Before this, I wrote stories for my friends, or to keep myself busy over summer break, but it wasn't something I pursued with any intent - not even a hobby, because I didn't do it often enough. If I had time, I was reading instead. So yes, I liked to write, but until my senior year in high school, I also believed I was going to go to The Art Academy and train for a career as an illustrator. Writing wasn't even on the horizon! I wanted to paint book covers.

I believe my development as a writer really started in 1998, so that's where I'm starting with this meme. You'll see both fan and original work in the samples below, as well as some stuff that blurs the line a bit (e.g. stuff labeled DeM, IoM). I tried to choose work that falls into the middle of the quality spectrum for the time; in a few cases, I was able to get four consecutive years of samples about the same character and storyline, which... I'm not sure if that will help the exercise or not. But don't worry, there's ten years of other stuff to add variety.


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This took forever. :/ Not touching 2013 yet.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/816901.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.

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Saiunkoku - Shuurei talks a lot

100 Things 014: why does writing have to kill trees?

It's funny how, once I started to write by hand in spiral-bound notebooks, I realized that typing stories directly into Notepad felt like working on a final draft. For years now I've written with the assumption that what I type will be my final product because I believed I shouldn't need more than one draft to get something right. This was helped along by my relative success with posting first drafts, but for years I seriously believed (and still feel) that if I need to write more than one draft of a story, it isn't good enough and neither am I.

(I do know better, or at least pretend I do. Feelings and logic are not always friends.)

Another contributing factor is probably HTML. Since I do my own formatting and just cut-paste everything into the LJ/DW editors for posting, I type everything with tags as I go. Something about that feels final - like I'm doing my last run through a piece and adding all the fancy stuff to an otherwise finished story. And since that's all done the moment I stop typing, it IS very easy to slap the story online without any further thought and get that wonderful feeling of instant gratification.

Writing on paper introduces a mandatory drafting process if I want to put anything online. It gives me a chance to think a little more. That doesn't always help with stress (which usually starts with doubt, and doubt always starts with thinking), but it does hold the worst back long enough for some writing to happen first. Instant gratification is absent from this new formula, but this is balanced by how much less pressure I put on myself to get everything done perfectly the first time.

Since this is a complete 180 from what I used to feel, I thought it'd be interesting to note here and look back on it later, once I'm done with this challenge. Because sure, I did start working in notebooks to get myself away from the computer and all its distractions, but I didn't expect that to a) turn into a habit, or b) replace typing almost completely.


Semi-related, this warm-up exercise using different notebooks for different subjects is a marginal success. I don't work in these notebooks consistently, so sometimes a month will go by in which I don't even look at them (like now, cough), but when I'm stuck, or not in the mood to work on my primary project, they gave me an easy, guiltless way to explore other ideas I have hanging around. And since they're warm ups, and not obligated to be good in the slightest, I feel okay exploring characters or scenes more than once, and stuff. I don't always want to do that in my primary notebook because I've got a lot of note-taking and other stuff interspersed between actual prose, and that makes it hard to keep track of changes.

I added a notebook for fic too, which is what spurred the above revelation re: feeling like typing = writing a final draft. Unfortunately, my original project(s) are a long way away from the typing stage; the short story I was working on needs to sit (and now is the time to do research, if that's going to happen at all), and the new story I'm working on in the meantime is still in the early stages of development. Notebooks are currently the only thing keeping me writing actual prose.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/814693.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.

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Avatar - Lin Beifong

100 Things #013: I want to write awesome girls.

For the record, Sansa made me think about this topic, but it's actually something a commenter said via PM that reminded me of this little problem of mine.

Awhile ago I took a look at my original stories and realized that a lot of my protagonists were character types I hated. While writing them I was very sympathetic and totally into it, and thought they were great characters because I could relate to them so much! (That should've been warning sign #1.) And then, of course, I would take a look at them at the end of their respective stories and miss the problem with this, because I was too invested in them. These characters were useless: they never did anything to change their lives or fix their problems if they could whine about them instead, and they only acted when circumstances or other cast members pushed them so hard they had no choice but to react. They were, in short, whiny damsels in distress with no agency whatsoever.

I hate that when I read it in books or stories written by others. I will put a book down if the main character angsts too much, never mind being completely useless. Why would I write so many characters like this? Most of the cases I was looking at were old - one was written when I was seventeen - but I can't comfort myself with that because, when looking at a more recent story, I realized I was doing the same thing, and was just slightly better at hiding it.

I would say I wrote that character type over and over again because it was in my experience. I was like that. I let things happen to me and thought I was a victim, and let depression and inertia keep me from doing anything about it until someone grabbed me by the arm and threw an opportunity in my face. I hate that kind of character because I hate that I did that to myself, and I hate that I still have to fight the urge to sit in a corner and curl up until someone fixes things for me. But unlike a real experience of that sort, in which you or I may not be able to see the situation from the outside and come up with better decisions, a novel allows us a better view of what's happening. A character like this appears to be wasting their opportunities, being stubborn, stupid, being whiny. Who wants to read about a character angsting for thirty chapters when the solution is right there, in reach? Besides, characters are supposed to do things.

Now... this happens, of course, and I myself am an example in full living color. People behave like this, and I don't want to say it's stupid or annoying to be depressed or exhibit this behavior for some other reason. I know people who are doing this right now (and wow, is it frustrating!). And realistically, you can't always just do something about yoru situation, or fix it, or suck it up and deal with it. It's fair that characters exist who will not or cannot do those things. An article on characterization might even admit that characters who do nothing are also making a valid choice. Characters change-- unless the point is that they don't. But should every character be like that? I'm thinking... probably not.

I mentioned Sansa because she's another character type that annoys me, and I think the same reasons apply to a point. Near her age I was a lot like that. It bothers me, because reality was driven home pretty harshly at around that time, and it's sad to look back at myself when I was nine and realize how naive I was about how people work. It's only natural-- I was a child. Fictional Sansa was also a child. You can't blame a child for not understanding that a lot of people are assholes under their smiling faces, but Sansa frustrated me terribly because I wished she'd figure it out.

(Now it's Catelyn that frustrates me, and for different reasons. I would so NOT do that, my god. *head in hands*)

I'd really love to write a badass. Can I write a Toph or a Lin Beifong? I know the answer is 'yes.' Write what you want to read, and all that. How is it I ended up writing what I didn't want to read? >_>
Miang: The Emperess

100 Things #012: influences and the good sort of 'stealing.'

I wonder: if I keep telling myself to get to work, will it eventually happen? I'm flipping my schedule, more by accident than intent, so my odd hours are throwing everything off. It makes me curious about how we're wired to respond to cues like sunrise, sunset, and waking up to sunlight instead of darkness and streetlights. Is that social conditioning, or biological? Or a bit of both?


There's an old meme that goes around the f-list occasionally, asking people to list the influences that shaped their writing, artwork, or whatever it is they do. The easy, cop-out answer is, of course, "everything!" When you read interviews with writers and see the inevitable question, "where do you get your ideas?" the answer is always 'everywhere,' because life provides the experiences we draw from - and we probably unintentionally store the good ideas we see in shows we watch, books we read, or in visual art. I can only assume the meme is asking for the things you come back to again and again, or the things you fell in love with at age five, which are still with you today in some way.

I never do this meme because I have a hard time nailing down what my influences are. I know they must exist, but when I sit down and think about it, there are few names or titles I can say, definitively, had a huge influence on me. All I can give you is a list of things I really liked, obsessively:

1. Sleeping Beauty (the Disney version - shut up, I was a kid and their visual style is amazing)
2. Egyptian and Greek mythology
3. Star Wars (original trilogy)
4. Wheel of Time
5. Xenogears

Which means I am doomed to write cliches. So apparently I really like Joseph Campbell's breakdown of the hero's journey (i.e. a very basic plot), and I'm partial to arguably unnecessary integration of religious symbolism, specifically Kabbalah, in my stories.

Ouch. Maybe I have nailed down my influences.

We had a discussion about this with some friends, who were talking about Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. You can see a bit about it here. Basically, it's an expensive collection of motivational tips for artists, with an emphasis on allowing yourself to draw ideas and influences from other sources in order to grow and create your own work. I'm familiar with the concept, but how far you can take it is really up in the air as far as I'm concerned. I often find myself doing it accidentally, which drives me crazy, because the internet has placed a stigma on this practice - too much influence from another fan writer is copying. There are lines you shouldn't cross (for example, copying a scene point-for-point), and of course plagiarism, which I consider different from copying, since it involves pasting entire passages of someone else's work into your file, and 'copying' is more akin to reading a scene, and then trying to rewrite it in your own words.

But Kleon does have a point. In class, we were often told to copy classic or favorite writers to learn. You're supposed to "copy your heroes and their styles is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds" to "internalize their way of looking at the world" (36) Need to get a feel for pacing or dialogue? Copy someone else's paragraphs. Need to analyze a piece of fiction for class tomorrow? Write a fictional response to it - a sequel, you might say. In other words, write some fan fiction. I wonder sometimes why this is frowned on for writers; maybe because reading and digesting a text is more cerebral?

In any case, this caught my attention, because ages ago a friend made a post about the same thing:

Every other creative field you can name (art, theatre, music, dance) not only encourages but REQUIRES you to practice with other people’s technique and style. It’s accepted without question. No one even thinks to tell a new piano student that they can’t learn Chopsticks because they didn’t write it, or that they have to compose their own music so they can learn their craft. In art, we study other paintings and then try and replicate their style. How many beginning art students have painted from a photo? Or by using a grid over a well-known piece of art? (see the original post)

Writing is a strange art. People alternate between believing writers are magicians and thinking that it can't be that hard, because you can talk, can't you? If you can talk, surely you can write. I mean, everyone knows how to write. We do it every day. We know our own language. (Or do we.) Anyone can write a book!

And that book should be a completely new idea. You're a magician, aren't you?


The more I think about it, the more obvious Takahashi's influence is in my work - and that dovetails nicely with #2 on my list. He taught me how to draw inspiration from the mythologies I liked so much. In fact, he taught me that it was okay to look there at all, and inspired me to look at canons I had ignored until I experienced his work.

And I suppose I can blame Robert Jordan for making me think it was a good idea to have a large cast of characters and a thirteen book cycle. I drew a lot of early world-building inspiration from him when I was younger, though. Hm.

I guess I'll think about this some more. I suppose everyone else has done this multiple times, but feel free to do it again? I do like learning about what people find inspiring.
Lord of the Rings - Eternity

Re-reading Lord of the Rings #6: Backpeddaling on Denethor-- but only a little.

I've always skipped the appendices out of fatigue, so this would be my first time reading them. Until now I suppose I haven't been a fan of Tolkien, so much as someone who happened to like Lord of the Rings and occasional stories from Middle Earth, but The Silmarillion changed all of that. Now I'm willing to read tons and tons of basically useless - but interesting! - background material, though the tidbit I'm talking about in this entry is directly relevant to the story and not useless at all.

(Speaking of, I still like The Silmarillion better, even if the split of the line of kings WAS interesting. LOTR-proper has an awful lack of delectable renegade elves. I just. That is an absolutely necessary component. :P)

Aragorn's backstory was known to me in general, but I was surprised to learn that his sojourn in distant lands included a stint as a hero of Gondor under an assumed name (Thorongil), during which he served Denethor's father. Having seen the movies most recently, which mention that Aragorn was hanging around in Rohan, at least, during Theoden's youth, I kind of assumed he was also in Gondor (he says he has seen Minas Tirith, after all), but put it from my mind because I was more interested in his relationship with Elrond. Turns out I should've looked into that, because Thorongil was incredibly popular in Gondor and of special interest to Denethor's father, where as Denethor "was ever placed second to the stranger in the hearts of men and the esteem of his father," and rather disliked Aragorn. (I can't give you page numbers since I read the Kindle version; this is around location 23268, whatever that corresponds to in pages.) Since Denethor is supposed to be extremely perceptive, it's not a stretch to suspect he knew who "Thorongil" really was. In fact, since the text goes so far as saying exactly that, I will just assume he figured it out for real.

That's a long time to be looking over your shoulder for usurpers and glaring at old men in pointy grey hats. I can't fault Denethor for his attachment to his office; I can't fault him for being proud when it's clear he is deeper-seeing than men of his time, or for resenting a man who came between him and his father's love, or seemed to. And I keep thinking about Faramir's anecdote about his brother:

‘And this I remember of Boromir as a boy, when we together learned the tale of our sires and the history of our city, that always it displeased him that his father was not king. “How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?” he asked. “Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty,” my father answered. “In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.” Alas! poor Boromir. Does that not tell you something of him?’ (p.669)

This says as much about Denethor as it does about Boromir. They seem alike in temperament even if they're different in every other way. And Boromir always seemed to me the character most like classic mythical or literary hero - someone with heroic qualities and a fatal flaw to overcome. Neither he nor Denethor overcome, and that's too bad, because that transformation would turn them into that paragon of men that some readers or viewers want to see, which Aragorn and Faramir are seemingly by birth. Granted Aragorn goes through his own development arc, as Samu mentioned, but even in his youth it seemed he was placed above other men. He was simply born Better.

Well. That's all to say that I know too well what the long-term effects of paranoia are, and I'll cut Denethor some slack. Also, as Mark mentioned earlier, the staging of his death in the movie lends itself to an interpretation of his character that's not quite right. The movie makes me think he's committing suicide because he's completely out of it, and the book makes me think he was deeply, maybe irreversibly depressed-- despairing would be the theme-appropriate word, sorry. That does make a big difference.

I still don't like him, though.
VP - Shiho

100 Things #011: making (or failing at) various goals.

I'm done with Lord of the Rings and well into the Appendices, but I may as well finish them before posting. The sections on the line of kings and stewards are pretty relevant.


At about this time last year, I read Jeff VanderMeer's Booklife (with comments here, if you care), and found it pretty helpful for thinking about the parts of being a professional writer that don't involve fiction, per se. Blogging (without being a jerk about it, which is hard!), scheduling, setting goals, managing your work and handling administrative tasks, all things I'm pretty bad at! Guidance is good, or even just the beginning of guidance. I wouldn't know where to begin, especially with the 'blog nicely' part.

Since I'm not published or in the process of, most of these have nothing to do with me, excepting as an educational look at things I will have to think about later. The one thing I can do anything about up there is making goals.

many of my colleagues have daily, weekly, or monthly “to do” lists that help keep them focused but also keep them stuck in a tactical mode, which makes it hard to engage in strategic thinking. Yes, you know what you want or need to do for the next thirty days, but what about for the year? What about for the next five years? How do your daily/weekly/monthly tasks feed into short-term goals, and how do your short-term goals feed into your long-term goals?

He asks this question, and I'm like... oh, huh. Goals. You mean like "getting published?" Yeah, that's kind of the only one on my list.

To be honest, while I would like to write novels and have people read them, I'm not sure if that's a thing I will ever accomplish. Not because I can't or won't, but because the more I learn about the process of making a book, the more I want to cower over here at my desk and just write stories for whatever reason, and who cares if anybody reads them. It's a lot of work to make people care about what you're doing. Consider some occasion you may have presented your original fiction to your fanfic friends; they like your writing already, right? And they're interested in you, and your ideas. But how many of them are interested in reading anything you do at length? Have you ever put any original fiction up on your blog and heard the crickets cheeping, because nobody gives a shit? I have! Many times! And these are people who are already invested in you to some extent. So if it's hard to make them fans, how about everyone else?

So anyway, planning my professional career from here seems silly. But I can try to plan my practice, story schedule, etc. up to the point where I might have something to send out, so that's what I did. Vandermeer talked about having several plans; keeping the monthly and weekly to-do lists, but also planning year-long, two year, and five year plans. My one year plan started in October 2011 and ended this year, today. Here's what I learned!

I really, really suck at meeting goals. It burns. Year-long is too long.

My priorities changed significantly over the course of the year, and I didn't modify them along the way like I was supposed to, because I forgot I had written it down. (One of my goals for the next year should be get all that shit off your desk and keep it off.) But my biggest mistake was probably to write my plan down like this:

a. send Youth story out to a few magazines (And I fail at this, instantly, because it's too terrifying to put in writing.)
b. write Eve--Lilith story.
c. write librarian story.
d. write steampunk dragon story.
e. write automaton story.
f. write the Meiji diplomat story.

I can write this many stories in a year if all I care about is getting them down. For a while I was writing one a month by doing only basic research and planning, and then just hacking it all out in one go. But if I'm making an effort to fully develop anything? Well then, suddenly having a plan like this dooms me to being derailed over and over, because having that many stories on my plate in one sitting means that I can't work on just one - I have to taste all of it, and I WILL, because the moment B gets hard to deal with I'll move to C, and when that gets hard... you get the idea. Also, this list is underestimating how many drafts I have to write of anything before I can leave it alone. At least three of those require significant research, which I can't do on a schedule of a story every two months.

GOOD JOB. I failed at that pretty hard. But I do finally see what a bad idea it is to allow myself to work on more than one story at a time, even if I'm only actively writing one, while only picking at details for the other.

New Goal #1: do not put specific stories in the plan unless we are already writing them. (I can win this one instantly!)
New Goal #2: you're only allowed to work on one story at a time.

But we can't just set down goals, oh no. No, we have to have high level and low-level goals, apparently-- can you tell how thrilled I am about this? I suppose polish Story A could be considered a high-level goal, which has tons of lower-level ones that feed into it, like one: outline new scenes; two: write the first new scene, etc.. I'm still not sure I like thinking about it this way. It's much easier to think of the "low-level" as a to-do list, which I have a better chance of finishing during any given week, and the "higher level" as real goals. Plan as far as a month in advance and it's touch-and-go.

So... not sure how this is working out for me, because I screwed it up the first time. But I guess it does help to have goals. Saying to myself that I have to have a draft of Novel #1 at the end of five years is infinitely easier to deal with than thinking I have to do it now - but eventually, five years in the future will be now, and it'll be terrifying again unless I can dredge up some confidence from where I left it back in 2008.

I'm starting to think it'll take me ten years to get published just because I can't keep a schedule or set of goals to save my life. I have no idea why that's so hard for me.
Lord of the Rings - Into the West

Re-Reading Lord of the Rings 05: a palantir isn't an excuse.

Since I'm supposed to be sleeping so I can get to an early appointment tomorrow, it's time for an LJ post instead.

So like. I don't see that the movie did Denethor any terrible injustice, now that I've re-read him in Return of the King. Collapse )

One thing I do agree with wholeheartedly, though: there was no call for the Witch King shattering Gandalf's staff. That's just ridiculous. Their confrontation could've been averted the same way it was in the books.

Since Gandalf isn't a mortal man, and perhaps not bound by the prophecy, technically (?), I'll just pretend that the Witch King ran off for easier prey because he knew Gandalf's fist had an appointment with his (spectral) teeth, and they wouldn't survive the encounter. In the book, I mean, because the movie treated him too well.

Well, either this will start an argument or it'll be ignored. I hope for the latter, personally, since I'm not saying anything new.

The last stretch in Mordor, which is coming up, is really not my favorite thing. I would love to skim. But Sam will be doing great things, and I wouldn't want to miss that, now would I?
Lord of the Rings - Eternity

Re-Reading Lord of the Rings 04: Sam declares his love. Also, plants.

Went from my last place to the beginning of "Shelob's Lair," and despite Faramir being a sweetie, there's only one thing that needs to be said about this entire section of the story:

Frodo’s face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiselling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed. Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: ‘I love him. He’s like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.’

J.R.R. Tolkien (2009-04-17). The Lord of the Rings (p. 652).

Like we didn't know before, right? But I wasn't expecting to see it in black and white! Hahahahaha oh Tolkien, if only you had known what twists and turns society would take after you wrote that down. Makes me wonder if, later, he regretted things like Celeborn's other name. :D

Ithilien reminds me that I need to do some studying next time I want to write a scene involving plants. I'm pretty bad - in fanfic, at least - about using the same set of plants over and over again because I like them. Also, because they're on the short list of stuff I would recognize if I saw it. I can name desert plants, at least in the desert I grew up in, but give me another environment and the result is kind of sad. The last time we were on a drive down south, maybe a year ago, my mother pointed out a bunch of oak trees along the freeway, and that was the first time I had ever seen and identified an oak in person (so to speak) that I can recall.

Thirty years of life, and I had no idea what an oak tree looked like.

This is why I'm a self-professed imagery addict. Because I can totally nail that and know what I'm talking about while doing so.

(I abuse Google to find what I need, and to double check the plants I want to write in with the climates they're supposed to thrive in, and that sort of thing, but seeing a photo of a tree and being able to recognize it in real life doesn't always work out for me. The proportions are all skewed, for one, and a photo of a whole tree cannot show me the details by nature, so if I'm standing right next to one, well.

Anyway, these are all excuses. I need to be prepared to study this as a big chunk of my initial world-building stage. It's stunning, really, to realize how many details I neglect sometimes.)
Lord of the Rings - Noldolante

Lord of the Rings Re-Read 03: food is always the important part.

These two reading sessions covered, uhhh... from "The Uruk-hai" chapter, where the Merry-Pippin-Ents narrative starts, to somewhat into book four, in the middle of the Dead Marshes. I'll probably read more later, but right now my back would appreciate a break from sitting. We managed to fit in a trip down to SoCal and back this weekend - that's six hours sitting, each way, not to mention the part of the wedding that was all sitting - and my muscles haven't forgiven me for that yet.

I'm going to stop pretending I have anything coherent to say and make lists instead.

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We're making applesauce again. Somewhat randomly, this made me wonder how hobbits might make applesauce - and how elves would do it differently. And I thought, hm, hobbits probably didn't have vanilla or cinnamon handy - maybe they'd use allspice, or something more local...ish? And perhaps the elves would have access to vanilla beans and cinnamon, since after all Cirdan's people are sea-faring, and there's no reason they couldn't have traveled far in trade at one time - or Gondor, or someone.

Or is there? (<--- a real question, for the record. I have no idea.)

I should look into this. Hobbit recipes and Elf recipes could be interesting to try puzzling out! Just for fun, mind you. As I have not read nearly enough of the additional material to say anything intelligent, I may as well default to saying things that might be tasty instead. I don't think that's at odds with books in which hobbits are major characters. Checking out the opening chapters of The Hobbit might be a good place to start, now that I think of it, since Bilbo has to make a whole lot of food in a hurry, and I know he says something or other about ingredients. I also recall that later he was disgusted by the idea of hunting to eat and having to prepare one's own kill, because as far as he knew, meat came from a butcher, all wrapped nicely and such.

So anyway, it'd be interesting to pay attention to what sort of food they definitely have access to. Corn has been mentioned a lot during this stretch in Rohan, so my initial thought that the list might be restricted to "old world food" isn't necessarily right.

I've seen recipes pop up on middleearthnews now and then, though the only one I recall was lembas; I've seen a few recipes for that, but have never agreed with any of them. I think there's a site dedicated to this sort of thing, though, so I'll dig around. They might have citations, which would save me a lot of time.