Monday, 13 April 2015

My guide to having fun with your fictional characters

...or something like that.

I suppose there are some writers out there who are so painfully serious about their craft that they don't even raise a finger unless it has something to do with word count or the existential pain and social injustice of the human race. In my case, however, that kind of thinking would do nothing but kill my creative drive.

When I'm not writing my characters are still as real as ever in my head and constantly beg for attention. I imagine it isn't this way for writers who primarily write around some sort of cause, social concept or idea to which the characters are only vessels. I, on the other hand, feel like the characters just form in my head on their own and so their story is inevitable. (So why not do something with it and write it down?) The characters have their own value for me, they're the thing that makes me want to write, so obviously I enjoy thinking about them even when I'm not making direct progress with a novel.

Just thinking about them is hardly enough for me though. I almost always feel the need to have some kind of tangible form for these... extra activities with my characters. Drawing them in various pictures that try to capture their essense or some situation in their life is the most straightforward way of course, but sometimes that also seems too serious and purposeful and ceases to be any fun or relaxing since my perfectionism tends to manifest the most in writing stories and drawing ”serious art”. That's why I sometimes feel the need to engage in forms of creation which celebrate brain farts. :D And ignore my inner perfectionist who is never satisfied with any outcome.

The main purpose of these activities for me is, well, play and relaxation but it's not like they're entirely useless from a writing point of view either, since they definitely bring aspects of the characters, which I may have ignored, to daylight and so provide me a better understanding of their entire person and story. That's also why I think these activities can be useful to any writer at some point, since it's easy to lose perspective if you're too immersed in your story for too long time.

So, for my own reflection and for the amusement of anyone who may find it entertaining (or even useful) I'm going to go over my favourite outlets for having fun with my fictional characters.

Drawing memes is definitely one of them, and widely popular form around the internet. If you're on Deviantart you cannot escape the meme randomness. I mostly stick to one form of it: number replacement memes. Basically, they give you a series of situations which have numbers representing the characters and you just randomly sign each character one of those numbers and then draw them in whatever situations the meme says. When I can't find good ones online, I have my roommate make some situations up for me. xD After all, it's more fun to get unbiased situations. If I make them up myself, they might actually rise from the characters and that's not the point of this activity.

For writers who have trouble getting a grip of their character in the beginning of creating a story, this might also be one of the greatest ways of learning about their characters' personalities and relationships.

The memes are also possibly the funniest way ever to pick on your characters' quirks and weaknesses.

Sketching with music, is something I do fairly often as well. (Especially when I'm in a train or a buss). It's a great way to get out of perfectionism's grip, since there's only a few minutes to spend on each sketch! So, I just put my playlist on and channel my characters through the songs. Usually each song immediately brings one of my characters to mind and then I do a quick sketch representing what that song means from that character's viewpoint. Sometimes I also sum it up in some kind of allegorical phrase in the picture.

This one I drew while listening to Emilie Autumn's song "Rapunzel".

Crossovers with my favourite stories aren't something I do that often because it would inspire me to make too long stories if I let myself think about it and I don't have time for that, (since I couldn't actually use them for anything purposeful) so I tend to just repress these ideas. But sometimes I try to make something short out of them. I don't actually write stories where my characters meet characters from other works of fiction but I sometimes like to throw my characters into another setting that I know well, such as, well Hogwards for example. Like I said, I see very little point in actually writing about it so I just do stuff like make my characters short ”student profiles” or something, because it's facinating to think about which house they would be in, which subjects they'd be good at, what their daily life would be like in the wizarding world.

Anyway, I avoid this activity but sometimes it's just too much fun. :)

Poems and Monologues narrated by characters I like to write fairly often. I usually use some kind of word list for this, like the various ”100 theme challenges” around the web. I like to have a theme word, which I interpret from the character's viewpoint and then write a poem or a monologue around that word. Storywise this has got to be one of the most productive of these activities since I usually end up summarizing a dilemma, an agenda, or something in their story, in a way that helps me express it better in the actual story. Sometimes I even come up with something I could use as a prology for the story. And these are not something I could come up with when I'm in the flow of moving the story forward.

Drawing opening videos for a story, obviously takes quite a lot of time so I've actually only done it a few times (and have way too many great songs I'd like to make an opening video with but it's hardly worth the time). But it's definitely something unique, as it really gives a life to the characters. I don't have the patience to learn animation but slide shows with special effects are really inspiring too, especially in the beginning of the writing process. They provide a feeling of... legitimateness, I guess. xD Really gives you the feeling your characters are no longer just inside your head.

Drawing short humor comics of characters or making a scene in a story into a comic form is something I often do. The first is sort of an alternative of the memes since they usually turn out just as random. The second one is a great form of reflection, since it often allows me to see a scene from a new perspective and make its description more vivid since I get a better grasp on how the characters' emotions, motives and surroundings actually get through visually. It often makes me see the details that bring the scene into life (at least in my eyes). My advice to anyone who is having trouble with a particular scene: Draw it! But it's also just fun because I get to experience my favourite moments in the story again in another form.

Here's a part of a comic scene I actually even started colouring (with grey water colour). I don't usually do that. :D

Fairytale retellings should probably be a sub-category of crossovers but it's a different enough thing for me. This is actually greatly inspired by school life manga. So many of them have a chapter where the class is performing a play of a classic fairytale but it gets pretty messed up because the students' personalities and relationships change the course of the original tale. I always find it extremely hilarious so I've often done the same with my characters (though it's not usually in a play form). I did this quite a lot when I was younger but now it's something I avoid too, since it's not that beneficial for the actual story. Anyway, the thoughts still sometimes can't help but occur to me: This character would really bring a new side to Cinderella's story! (Maybe I'll get and actual fairytale retelling novel done someday.)

Here's a very quick and bad sketch I drew (and a monologue) while I was inspired to put a character of mine into the Little Mermaid's shoes.

Writing character theme songs is something I don't have the patience to do very often since I'm not very good at playing any instrument. (Like, seriously I probably don't do it more than once a year anymore.) I get more lyrics written than actually making them into a whole piece but when I do, it feels like worth it. After all it's nice if I don't have to steal other people's music to represent my characters' feelings all the time. :)

And, finally, the Absolutely Unproductive Stuff that sometimes occurs in the state of complete lack of energy:

  • Answering nonsensical tests on behalf of characters. I probably haven't done this in a couple of years but there definitely are times when I suddenly seem to find it very relevant to see what jewel, movie, genre of music or element etc. my characters resemble. xD
  • Using Doll Makers to recreate characters. This can definitely be fun when I have a total art block.

    I like using the LOTR doll maker in Dolldivine because it has the best variety of facial features and clothes and stuff. And I kinda like how the guys are all stepping on each other's toes in this one. xD

  • Listening to music while imagining my characters appear in the songs like in a music video. Yeah, sort of overlaps with the sketch & opening video stuff but these fantasies I never plan to put into a visual form in the first place. Sometimes I actually imagine the characters performing the songs. That sure is fun.

Ok, I think that's about it. :D I've let another aspect of my weirdness out there, and would gladly hear what other writers/artists do with their fictional characters!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Hello fellow humans...

 (or whatever you consider yourself as)!

This is obviously the first post of this blog so I won't bore you by going out of my way to express that fact in some cheesy pseudo-artistic excuse of meaningful phrasing. (Whoops I guess I did.) I would very much like to say something profound and inspiring and introduce a theme or a concept for this blog that would awaken your interests and make you wait for the next post on the edge of your toes like a ballerina but (a) my previous blogs have fallen down exactly because I always try to set up too limiting theme (such as book reviews) and I always find myself wanting to write about other things but don't want to make separate blogs for them so this time my theme is no theme! Ehe... or my theme is whatever happens to interest me. (In the end my interests don't even vary that much so I think I'm good here). And (b) I've been wanting to give a blog a new chance for a long time but I've been so busy with school and other stuff that I've kept putting it off and off...

But then I just couldn't take it anymore.

I don't have that much time (or even a scanner so excuse the comic!) which is why I'm not thinking this post through that carefully. Most of my posts probably won't be this erratic but this time I'm counting this as therapy between exam books because if I don't take a good break now I'm pretty sure I won't remember anything I read the rest of the day.

Oh, and if you know me you might be wondering why I'm writing this blog in English. Well, that's partially because I just like English and most of my creative writing is in Finnish for practical reasons. But online it's actually more practical to write in English because it's way more inclusive. There's so many English speaking people out there who have similar interests with me, so rambling here is at least one attempt to have conversation with more people. (Also, I'm lazy enough to post most stuff in Facebook in Finnish so this is also a way for my English speaking friends to know what's going on with me if that happens to be something they're interested in.) Of course, if you want to leave a comment or e-mail me, you can do it in either language!

Which brings me to what you can expect me to talk about in my posts. Like I said, I'm not narrowing down my topics but I think I should still give you a list of my obsessions(=interests), so... if you have similar ones we can talk about them and if you don't... you've been warned. :D

SO, this is my... TOP Something. Let's see what and how many of them it turns out to be.

1. My number one interest(=obsession, life purpose...) is writing. Fiction. Novels. I do other stuff, sometimes I write poems or lyrics or short stories and my diary consists mainly of rantings, ravings and musings about... stuff I'm probably going to talk about in this blog as well (but hopefully in more coherent manner). But what I most want to do for living is to be an author (which sadly often makes people snort) and I'm well aware of how unlikely it is to make your living on this field (which is partially why I'm studying to also have a more ”down to earth” profession). As it is, I don't have time to write everyday (because if I start it's very likely the next time I eat or sleep or go to the bath room will be after about 48 hours. Writing is very much about the flow.) but I think about it everyday. It's impossible to get through a class or an exam book without being interrupted (a lot) by a dialogue between my characters or a stricking revelation about where the events in my story are going to lead. 

My writing is first and foremostly character oriented. I know my characters to the core like they were real human beings. I don't plot. I never set out to tell a story in which I want to include specific events for the sake of those events. And I don't sit around wondering which direction I should lead my characters to. The story is inevitable once the charactes are in my head, they are what they are so they make the desicions they make and it often feels like I'm just waching a good show.

That doesn't mean I take writing lightly, though. It may feel like that when I'm writing the first draft but then comes re-writing and editing which is all work. There's always stuff to describe more and stuff to describe less. There's always a better way to phrase something. It's always possible to make the world-building more precise and better structured. Sometimes drawing the line between too little and too much is indescribably hard.

Fantasy is my preferred genre. There's also, more likely than not, elements of adventure and mystery but in the center of things, there's always the characters and their intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships.

So, yes, you will see me talking about writing a lot, not neccesssarily that much about the stuff I'm actually writing at the moment but maybe about... more general writing related issues. Things other writers may relate to. Or something somewhere around that kind of stuff.

2. Naturally, here comes reading. Books are the media I consume the most. I read about two books a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. My preferences are the same as in writing and I also often like historical or philosophy oriented fiction but I try my best to read outside my comfort zone (which sometimes leads to ranting about a very badly written chick-lit, YA romance, or thriller) because anything can be great as long as the characters are well-written and it's obviously very important for a writer to read books that can broaden perspective, something completely alien at times too. You can learn from anything. (From other writers' mistakes as well.)

I don't read too much non-fiction outside of school, because really, there's enough of it and my interests are pretty much covered by the classes I take (theology, philosophy, psychology). Theology is my major, so when I read non-fiction for fun, it's usually something else.

I won't go into too much detail about my favourite books here (because that's a field where I have A LOT to talk about) but I'll give you a very general view:

    • Well, Harry freaking Potter
    • Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit
    • All Sherlock Holmes stories by sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympians & Heros of Olympus by Rick Riordan
    • Pride and Prejudice (or anything) by Jane Austen
    • The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n
    • The Passage by Justin Cronin
    • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    • Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
    • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
    • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
    • Demian by Herman Hesse
    • All Anne and Emily books by L.M. Montgomery
    • Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

Here's a random Saber (Fate/Stay Night) skecth for you.

Manga is also quite a big part of my reading. I don't like to read that many on-going series but every now and then I feel like marathoning a completed one, so I feel like making a separate list for some of my favourite mangas as well:

    • Inuyasha & Ranma ½ by Rumiko Takahashi
    • Emma by Kaoru Mori
    • Helen ESP by Katsuhisa Kigitsu
    • Yotsuba&! & Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma
    • Full Moon wo sagashite & Time Stranger Kyoko by Arina Tanemura
    • Card Captor Sakura & Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle by CLAMP
    • Fate/Stay Night by Datto Nishiwaki & TYPE-MOON
    • Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
    • Warau Kanoko-sama & Koi dano ai dano by Ririko Tsujita
    • Meitantei Conan by Gosho Aoyama

Other favourite comics/graphic novels:

    • Habibi by Graig Thompson
    • Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup
    • Tintin by Herge
    • The Bright Side by Amber Francis (webcomic)
    • Shades of A by T A Kimpton (webcomic)
    • Kirjoitukset by Marja Siira (webcomic, in Finnish)

I tried to keep it short. If you feel like sharing your opinion on some of them, go ahead! 

3. Drawing, too, goes hand in hand with writing. I illustrate my stories a lot and draw random memes about my characters for my own amusement. (So random they're hardly gonna see any daylight ever.) Comics have been my passion for quite a while. I already drew them before I could read or write, around when I was four years old. They usually involved a picture form of a story I had acted out with my favourite dolls/figurines or something similar. My longest comic so far is actually an exchange/impro story I drew with a friend of mine when we were 11-16 years old and it reached 500+ pages before we both began to have too many other things in mind.

Most of my fiction comics are relatively short, around 20-40 pages. Most of them I drew in middle school. I was able to get one published in an amateur magazine (called Finnmanga) when I was 13 but reading it now... well, I just hope anyone who happens to come across it, realizes that I was immature and 13. I've come a long way since. (Not that I have published much else though.) Since I graduated high school I've been drawing comics significantly less because I've been focusing on writing so much but I haven't given up the dream of publishing a graphic novel someday as well.

I still draw (and paint) whenever I have time and it's usually writing related but not neccessarily for any other purpose than for myself. Sometimes I make short (like one or two page) humor comics about my life or some topic I find relevant. You can expect to see more comic diary type of narrative in this blog in the future! I'll probably share some of my old comics around here too.

4. I'm pretty much a total MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) geek. It's a personality theory based on the work of Isabel Myers, Katherine Briggs and Carl Jung. Those who know a little about the theory are probably rolling their eyes about now, since MBTI is often called the modern horoscope and if you have any experience about the online tests, you've probably noticed they have pretty much no reliability whatsoever. Yes, the tests should not be used as any sort of life quide and the type descriptions that relate to those tests are almost equally poor. However, the actual theory the tests, and the four letter dichotomies, are based on, is facinating, and much, much deeper than it seems if you think about the letters too much.

Basically the test sorts people into 16 personality types based on whether they're more Introverted-Extroverted, Sensing-iNtuitive, Thinking-Feeling and Percieving-Judging, giving a result such as INFP, ENTJ, ISFP and so on, with a description of the personality type. Of course a system like this is going to lead to nothing but useless, or even harmful stereotypes (in case it's taken too seriously) if people don't study the theory themselves, the cognitive functions, which the letter dichotomies are based on.

Soo, I'm not trying to sound like I know everything about this subject, I'm obviously learning myself, but I think I've come to know something about how to NOT type and trying to become better at typing according to the cognitive functions (Introverted and extraverted intuition, sensing, feeling and thinking). The personality theory is not really about whether someone is introverted or extraverted, feeling or thinking and so on. Everyone is all of that. The question is what kind of thinking or feeling or sensing or intuition is your preference and in what order do they manifest.

I'll most likely go deeper into my thoughts about the theory in some posts in the future. I also really enjoy typing fictional characters (Why? Because why not!) so that's something you can expect to see me doing here. And of course, you're welcome to argue (or agree) with me if you like! (I might also touch a little on the alternative theory of Socionics (which is based on the same functions) and Enneagram which I've found to add depth to the function theory.)

5. Okay, I think I've covered the things I'll probably be talking about the most, so I'll just give you a short description about other things that I probably won't talk about that often but very possibly on occasion:

    • Movies and TV series. I may not be very up-to-date about them because I don't own a TV (and don't watch it that much when I'm home at my parents' either). I keep up with my favourite series online and often re-watch old favourites. I usually go to movies when there's an adaptation about a book I've read but I don't think I'm that enthusiatic about them. I probably like movies as much as the next person. About my favourites I'll just say I wouldn't say no to an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, Gilmore Girls, Los Serrano or to most Disney and Ghibli movies.

    • Theology (Don't worry, I'm not gonna preach!) or religions in general might sometimes inspire something. Probably not that much because I have to deal with them everyday whether I'm inspired or not and write all my thoughts out on long esseys... but who knows, every now and then I come accross some pretty interesting thinkers...
    • Asexuality (and other related things) because, well, I still come across people who've never heard of it or who it would've helped if they knew more about it earlier (and it's something I also identify with). There's a lot of misconception and ignorance which is not only harmful to asexuals but affect people of other orientations as well. If this happens to be the first time you've come across this term or just want to know more about it I recommed you to visit this site: (Of course, I'm happy to answer (respectful) questions myself.)
    • Other more random personality/human related stuff. I just think and talk about and observe people a lot (no, really, someone who writes character oriented fiction?) so... stuff comes to mind. Sometimes I might rant a little but it's out of love.
    • And, it's not really a topic at all but I also like photographing (though I'm not at all serious about it) so you will definitely see more random photos like and unlike the ones you've seen in this post, decorating corners around here. I'm actually quite bad at remembering to take photos of actual life events so most of my photography is very... intentional/staged or just pure cosplay. I don't have Photoshop (yet) but I like playing with Picasa, so more pseudo-artistic stuff ahead. 

Hmm... Okay, I think that's about it for now. This post turned out a little longer than I intented so... Thank you very much for reading this far. I hope you found something awesome we have in common or otherwise gets your sympathies.

Have a great night, or day, or whatever and I hope to see you around here again!