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Of Gnomes and Trolls – Cameo

Ruadhrí peeked over the ridge one more time, counting the number of soldiers blocking the road.  One, two …too many.  They would have to go around.

“Well your High-and-mightyness,” the old dwarf sighed, sitting down on the ground, “We’re gonna have ‘ta go North to take the Vilhelm Pass.  Can’t get through down there.”

Shaking her head from the back of the pony, the young woman kept her chin up, “No, we’ll take Hydra Pass.”

“Are you daft!?” Ruadhrí barked in exasperation, “That path changes constantly.  We can’t be goin’ there or we’ll be lost fer months!”

The dwarven baker looked up at the huge troll Fraaphknot who seemed to be counting something on his fingers.  He would bring two together, separate them, hold one up, hold all five together … over and over the monster’s beady eyes watched his fingers until suddenly they stopped.

He was holding up his middle finger to Ruadhrí.

“Oh hardy har!” the dwarf rolled his eyes.

“How dare you!” Caoilinn gasped.

A small voice answered from the trees, “I bet she says that a lot, but he means to take the middle path.”

Looking up, Ruadhrí saw a small dragon perched in the tree under which they were sitting.  He was the gleaming color of an amethyst, maybe three feet long and had a golden, antler-like horn (the other was broken off).  It was a fey dragon!

“Oh!” the princess squealed, “He’s so cute!  Get him for me!”

Fraaphknot rolled his eyes while Ruadhrí rubbed the bridge of his nose between his eyes, “Ya don’t just ‘get’ a fey dragon lass.  Seein’ one is good luck.  Catchin’ one is really bad luck.”

“And we’re extremely venomous,” the little dragon added, smiling a toothy grin.  “I would suggest the bunny trail myself.  Vilhelm is much safer.”

A fat, green caterpillar slowly made its way along the branch toward the little dragon.  Cocking his head slightly, watching the insect for a moment, the diminutive wrym snapped out and gobbled up the bug.

Then spit it out.

Scrapping his tongue with his back leg, the little dragon hacked and gagged, “Gah!  It’s … like … like … black licorice and toe jam!  Bleh!”

“Disgusting!” Caoilinn gasped.

The troll snickered while the little dragon ran back and forth along the branch, dragging his tongue on the bark.  Hacking and coughing, he scraped his tongue on the branch, trying to get the rancid flavor of the bug out of his mouth.

Fraaphknot laughed loudly, stunning Ruadhrí.  It was impossible!  The troll didn’t have a personality!

Watching the nonsense with saucer-eyes, the old dwarf mumbled, “That’s two votes and one tongue drag for Vilhelm’s Pass and two votes for the Hydra’s Pass.”

Watching the little dragon roll around and fall off the branch into the bushes, Ruadhrí shook his head, “The tongue drag and spaz attack is the tie breaker.  We go north!”

Mounting his pony in front of the princess, the old dwarf took one last look at the choking, hacking little dragon.  Who would have thought that little dragon had saved the kingdom only a year ago?

As they rode north, Ruadhrí smiled to himself.  There was another reason he wanted to take Vilhelm Pass.

Erin would be at the Stumble Inn at the entrance to the pass.  A perfect nanny for Ruadhrí’s riding companion.

Yes, that little purple dragon was Dink from my first book.  He gets to make cameo appearances in pretty much everything I write.


Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Well isn’t this curious?  I was actually nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by the IdesOfLife blog.  I don’t usually get nominated for anything other than extra duties at work.  (I said doodies.)

Anyway, according to the rules someone came up with:

1. Display the Award Certificate on your website
2. Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award
3. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers
4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post
5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

 

very-inspirational-blogger1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, got that, let’s see … seven interesting things:

  1. By education I’m actually a chemical engineer.  By the time I decided to call it quits I had ten years of experience and was a New Product Engineer working for GE Energy … and finally made as much as the guys in the shop.  I was scheduled for a trip to Japan, then California and then China and that’s when I decided family was more important than the less than amazing salary I was getting.
  2. My religious practice is actually Buddhist.  Can’t really see that in my writing though … or can you?  (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
  3. I’ve been married to Mrs. Webgoji for 13 years now and have three amazing children, a son-in-law who has really come into his own in the Army and two grandchildren that are quite a riot.  Yep, I’m a grandpa at age 40 and could feasibly be a great-grandpa by 55.  Yikes.
  4. I’ve been writing most of my life and the main focus of my writing was actually poetry through high school and college.  I got so sick of hearing poetry about who doesn’t love whom though that ran as fast as I could to prose.  I technically have written three books so far, one of which was written in two weeks during NaNoWriMo and it sucks mightily.  The other two I will be self-publishing in the near future.
  5. I write using a method called Dramatica Theory.  It doesn’t work quite so well for my short stories though.
  6. My writing isn’t pure horror nor is it pure science fiction.  Mrs. Webgoji has probably best described it as “Traumatic Drama”.  I like that!  Rather than being plot focused as most horror and science fiction is, I like to character oriented giving some great conflict outside of the usual physical threats.
  7. Harold the Cat, Liza the Lab, Ben the Doofus … they were all real pets.  The stories I’ve told about them, while embellished because frankly dogs and cats can’t talk, are real events based around real animals.

Okay, the fifteen other nominations will take a while so I’ll be working on those as time rolls on.

 


Sorry, No Update Today

I apologize for not being able to provide an update today.  I was wrapping up the next Harold story last night and came down with a nasty stomach bug of some kind.  I’ll have it ready for everyone tomorrow though!


Dang Plot Bunnies! – A Short Story

Since the news is reporting 13 inches of snow in places and they are expecting 12-15 total inches of snow, I’m stuck at home today.  Literally.  So here is a little bonus story to celebrate a snow day in Kansas!

Type, type, type.  It was finally flowing.  John knew this story was going to be hard, but the level of violence and emotional anger had made it insanely difficult.  Some stories told themselves, others had to be wrestled to the ground, punched a few times, kicked once or twice and then the real fight started.

The glimmering golden line of sunlight draped itself across John’s keyboard like a lounging cat.  Early morning was a great time to write.  The steam off his coffee haunted the sunbeam like an ethereal wraith.  Wraith … wraith …

Perfect!

John hammered away at the story some more before he heard a soft padding sound.  It was the soft, warm sound of paws on the hardwood floor.  But it wasn’t the constant padding of Doctor Fizzywinkle, his cat.  Fizzball … no, it was an intermittent padding.  Something soft was hopping toward him.

Turning around, John saw an odd little blue bunny hopping toward him.  A blue haze was drifting off the rabbit’s body, like the steam emitted by his coffee and it had a little pair of square glasses on its wiggly pink nose.

“Pardon me sir,” the rabbit said, sitting down next to John’s leg.

John’s hands were shaking and his breath was lodged in his gut, “Y … wha …”

“Don’t worry,” the rabbit smiled, “I’m going to be your plot bunny today.”

That rabbit talked!  It was a blue ghost rabbit with glasses and it could talk!

“You’re my what?” John scratched his nose.  The wiggling of the bunny’s nose made his own nose itch.

“I’m your plot bunny for the day,” the rabbit smiled.  “My name is Science Fiction.”

“I don’t get it,” John watched the rabbit closely.  Plot bunnies were just ideas, they weren’t … real.

“Oh yes you do,” the rabbit grinned with ornery intent.  “Because you just got a brilliant idea for an interstellar exotic dancer.”  Science Fiction bunny pushed his glasses up his nose.

John felt his eyes grow wide, “And her planet gets attacked by a rival race.  Then she is taken as a slave for the ruler of the other planet and is forced to dance for him!”

“You got it!” the bunny cheered, clapping his paws.  “Then what?”

Grabbing his notepad, John started sketching and making character notes.  It was brilliant!  He could explore so many concepts!  What was the Grand Argument going to be?  He needed an impact character …

John typed and scratched madly as the bunny hopped away.  Hour after hour he plugged away at his science fiction story until he looked up at dinner time.  He hadn’t written anything!  And his agent wanted the first ten chapters of his horror story by the next week.

“Dang it!” John exclaimed out loud and pulled up his horror story again.

Where was he?  Oh!  The wraith.  That was it.  Ignoring the nagging thoughts about the visitation by the plot bunny, John wrote long into the night.

*  *  *

Opening his eyes, John groaned.  This one was purple and was lying on John’s other pillow.  Unlike the first, this one didn’t have glasses, but was wearing a fedora.  Purple wisps of smoke glided off of the rabbit as it winked at John.

“So, what’cha think?” the rabbit asked.

“Where the hell are you guys coming from?” John asked.  Was he going crazy?  The doctor had put him on a normal antidepressant and had said he didn’t need an antipsychotic.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” the grinning rabbit winked.

“Get out of here!” John shooed the new rabbit, “Your buddy cost me an entire day and I’ve got a deadline!”

The bunny didn’t even flinch, “Oh, I’m not going anywhere.”

John slapped his hands over his ears, “I can’t hear you!” he said, rolling out of bed.  “La! La! La!  You’re not here!”

Rushing into the bathroom, he froze in his tracks.  The shower was on and the little purple rabbit was scrubbing away, shampooing its fuzzy fur.

“Oh I’m a little bunny!” the rabbit sang, “And I’m here to say.  That me and my brothers are going to stay!”

John turned around and ran into the door, trying to hide from the bunny, “I love westerns, yes I do!  I love westerns and that’s what you’ll do!”

Nooo!  The idea was already blooming in John’s mind.  The year would be 4234 and the planet would be in chaos.

“You got it, you got it,” the rabbit changed its song, “Uh, uh, you got it.”  It shook its little tail in the shower.

Aaah!  The main character would be a gunslinger and he had to transport a cyborg woman across the desert.  She would be the key to turning on the new power source they had invented.

“Yeah, you got it!  Yeeeaah boyeeee,” the rabbit shook his bunny booty in the shower.

*  *  *

Another day blown!  Two days down on the hardest story he had ever written and those dang plot bunnies wouldn’t leave him alone!

Type, type, type.  John kept his head down, his focus was unshakable.  He was writing like a madman.  He was a machine, a writing robot.

A robot with a plan.

The heavy clank behind him told John that the new rabbit was caught.  Then another clank.  He had brought reinforcements, but John was ready.  Putting his earbuds in, John turned on his music just as another trap clanked shut.

They were good ideas, just not right now.

By the end of the day, John turned off his music.  It had been an extremely productive day.  He was back on schedule and ready to see what his traps had caught …

Twenty-two!  A rainbow of accessorized rabbits sat grumpily in their cages with pouty faces under their wiggly pink noses.

“So what do we do with you guys?” John asked them.  “Any ideas?”

A few of the rabbits shook their heads.  The others wouldn’t look at John.

“Well then,” John clapped his hands together.  “Lets get something to eat and I’ll see your buddies tomorrow!”

*  *  *

“Okay, you promised,” Sherryl whined, “You promised to tell me where your ideas come from if I published your cowboy and cyborg story.  You promised after the third book.”

John leaned against the doors of his shed with a smirk, “You sure you want to know?”

“Yes!” Sherryl pleaded, “I wanna know.”

An agent had never even wanted to read his book before, but now John had one visiting his house and wanting to know where his ideas came from.  Time to show her.

“Here you go,” John chuckled, opening the doors.

Inside, stacked to the ceiling were hundreds of cages.  Hundreds upon hundreds of cages and in each cage was a technicolor bunny with an accessory of some kind.

“What are they ..?” Sherryl said in awe.

“Plot bunnies,” John chuckled.  “Just a bunch of dang plot bunnies.”


Webgoji Gots Da Webcooties

Sorry folks, I came down with the flu yesterday and am still recovering.  Ergo, I wasn’t able to get off the couch yesterday and couldn’t write today’s post.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post though!


Please Help Troma Go To Cannes

Troma, known for their films like Class of Nuke ‘Em High and The Toxic Avengers wants to film a movie about the true independent folks taking on the big film giants.  Specifically they want to show how the big film giants always get the nod at places like the Cannes Film Festival while excellent independent film makers are left out because they don’t have the funds to attend.

Troma is one such group.

If you can donate just a little or want to share their story, please post this link on your blog or visit it to donate.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/occupy-cannes-a-documentary-about-independents-at-the-cannes-film-festival?c=home


The Webgoji Wants Your Input! (And your severed limbs …)

So I’ve posted several types of short stories recently and am even kicking around the idea of doing a zombie Blovel (look it up).  Well, here’s your chance to help me decide what I should do.  Most votes decides what I write!


So What’s Scary Now?

Last time, I mentioned how horror is an emotion (and then argued that there should still be a horror section at B&N).  Therefore, it necessarily follows that I should ask the question, “Where does horror come from?”

So, where?  A peek into the way that horror has changed over the years might give us some insight.

In the beginning, there were monsters.  Werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein’s monster; all of them were creatures that lurked at the edges of our imagination.  Then along came a writer by the name of H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft was the master of the creepy setting.  In his stories, he would set up eerie worlds and build tension masterfully.  Creepy, creeeeepy, creeeeeeepy … BOO MONSTER!  But again, there were the monsters.

Then along came a young writer by the name of Stephen King.  Again, masterful at building that tension, but now we see the advent of violence.  Creepy, creeeepy, MONSTER!  GORE!  King had seen that people were getting bored with just the same old monsters.  So he raised the level of violence.  Not gratuitously mind you, but he started to “go there”.  Violence with and against children, frightening things from childhood … you get the gist.

Shortly after the explosion of horror brought on by the success of Stephen King, one writer stood atop the mound of garbage on the shelves.  His name was Clive Barker.  Clive Barker could take what started as a normal setting and twist it into a hellish nightmare world.  In addition, we see that he again cranked up the level of violence.

So we have seen that horror went from monsters, to monsters and violence, to monsters and extreme violence.  Shortly after the appearance of Clive Barker, we see the advent of … splatterpunk.

Splatterpunk was horror that reveled in wanton violence and gore.  Not really my cup of tea, I must admit, but it had taken what was started by Stephen King and Clive Barker to a whole new level.

So where was the horror in all of this?  We have all seen the arguments before; that the monsters and violence are a reflection of our own inner demons.  Okay, I’ll go with that.  But how come we get jaded to these monster and violence if it’s reflecting our own selves.

Because kiddies … monsters and wanton violence sugar coat the truth.  Horror comes from showing the reader the horrible things that they are capable of doing.  Horror IS the reader.  Let me say that again for effect.

Horror IS the reader.

Therefore it is the job of the horror writer to grab the reader by the nose hair and say, “HERE!  This is YOU!  You could do this!”

I know what you’re thinking.  Mmmm … Oreos sound good.  But really, you’re thinking, “That’s all fine and dandy Darin, but how do we do that?”  Or maybe you aren’t thinking that … think what I want you to think darnit!

Showing the reader their inner demons is a matter of research.  Not the kind of what are the origins of werewolf stories kind of research.  Not even the A Brief History of Serial Killers.  People can distance themselves from psychotics and monsters.  A reader can put the book down and say, “Well that monster isn’t in my room.  I’m safe.”  Or, “Yes, serial killers are real, but I’m not one.  I’m safe.”

No, look at what people are doing in the world today.  Within your level of comfort, check on the news of what’s happening in Africa and the Middle East.  What atrocities are being committed by otherwise perfectly sane people in the name of religion or money?  What do we do to each other because of bigotry and ignorance?

When you can point out the failings in the reader, then when they put the book down, they realize they aren’t really safe at all.  “I … I would do that if someone hurt my kids.”

Yes you would.  The zombie isn’t the monster.  The monster is you dear reader.  The monster is you.


If Everyone’s a Critic, Why Can’t I get a Good Critique?

Before talking about how to put the halt on writer’s block, I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about the art of the critique.  Many writers I have corresponded with talk about being very nervous about letting other people see their work or even starting a blog.

Why would writers feel this way?  Don’t we see campaigns to support the arts every day?

http://www.americansforthearts.org/Public_Awareness/

And aren’t we inundated with information that we’re special and that we can create?

http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

 So why would anyone hesitate to let someone read their short story, poem or novel?

I’ll tell you why . . . because we, as a whole, are immensely two-faced!  I’m special, but frankly, you’re not.  And since I’ve been told I’m special my whole life, then I’m the expert at . . . well, everything.

So when a new writer let’s someone read their work and asks for an opinion, they often get answers like:

  • Sucks.
  • I didn’t like it.
  • It’s not very good.
  • I didn’t even finish it.

Especially in the world of the Internet, writers really have to fight their way through a muddled mess of self-proclaimed experts (we shall call them Trolls from here on out).  If I had a nickel for every review I’ve seen of “author doesn’t know what their doing” (complete with misspelling) or “totally amateurish” . . . well, I would have a bunch of nickels.  It’s so bad that sites like Critters have to establish rules and regulations on how critiques have to be done and will ban people that don’t follow them.

http://www.critters.org/

Well that’s enough ranting about bad critiques, why don’t we get to how to give a good critique?  Now keep in mind, these are my opinions and based on what I have done in the past.  Every writer is different so the critic must consider this when providing a critique.

Step 1:  Thank the author.

This seems self explanatory, but is often overlooked.  If Stephen King, even if you don’t like his writing, asked you to read his new book before anyone else and actually wanted your opinion on it, wouldn’t you be excited?  I know I would “squee”.  How is an unknown author any different?  You may have the opportunity to read a novel/poem/short story that university professors might be discussion for years to come.  Are you going to pass that up?  Of course not, so thank the author for the opportunity to read their work.

Step 2:  Read what you said you were going to read.

Again, this seems self explanatory, but rarely happens.  As the critic, you said you would read the author’s work whether it be a paragraph, entire novel, poem or short story.  Just because you don’t like the story doesn’t give you the option of deciding not to finish it.  For example, if I agreed to provide a critique for someone’s romance novel (I hate romance novels), I would probably not like the story line, but should still finish the novel.

Let me add a corallary to this step.  If you really just didn’t know what you were getting into, then you should contact the author.  For example, you’ve read the entire Twighlight series and a few of the Goosebumps books.  You offer to read your friend’s new horror novel and in no time, there is violence against children, rape or other graphic concepts/images.  Or maybe you read Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, but then find your friend’s novel has a graphic sex scene.  Either way, if you can’t make it through some content, it doesn’t immediately mean the work is substandard.  Simply contact the author and thank them (see step 1) and let them know that the work was too much for you.  NOT too much, just too much for you.

But again, if you just don’t like the story, you still have an obligation to fill. Just stopping reading is like walking off the job . . . and it shows up on your “resume'”.  If you have a habit of walking off your job, companies won’t hire you.  If you dump people’s works because you don’t like it, people won’t ask you to read their work and you may have just put yourself in a situation where you miss out on reading something amazing.

Step 3:  Take Notes

This is actually pretty simple.  Note what you like, where that section was that you liked and why you liked it.  Why?  Because after 300 pages, you’ll forget that cool 3rd paragraph.  Note areas you didn’t like or that didn’t work for you.  Again, remember these are areas that didn’t work for you and won’t necessarily be an issue for everyone.  Note why they didn’t work, but don’t rewrite.  Leave that to the author, let them make the changes.

Step 4:  Provide the feedback requested

The key word here is “requested”.  Sometimes authors want the overall feeling you got, sometimes they just want comments over a chapter in general and sometimes they want a line-by-line, word-by-word critique.  Give them what they want in the following way:

  1. What you liked
  2. Why you liked it
  3. What you didn’t like
  4. Why you didn’t like it (make sure explain that it’s an opinion)
  5. Your overall experience

Step 5:  Thank the author

Yup, don’t forget that part.

Whew, so that’s the guts of a critique.  The details lay in your conversations with the author.  Good luck out there and remember:

There are many people that will never enjoy the luxury of sitting down to read a book.  Don’t waste yours by trolling.


Archetypal Characters – Avoiding the Stereotype

Characters.  It seems like every other month, the discussion moves to characters; how to make them believable, how to make the reader like them, how to give them personality.  You know what never comes up in those conversations?

How to ensure our characters fill all the necessary dramatic roles for a good story.

It’s one thing to have a character that’s fun or tough or snarky.  A lovable character only takes up space if they aren’t moving the story (which is why my biography would be a total snooze-fest).

To quote Glen C. Strathy:

The process of creating archetypal characters who perform specific dramatic functions in your novel is the least understood aspect of characterization. Fortunately, it is also an area where Dramatica Theory offers the most profound help.

So what are “archetypal” characters?  Archetypal characters are those characters that fill specific functions that are common and vital to most stories.  I have to emphasize that archetypal characters are NOT just characters to support your main character or group of main characters.

You see, many stories actually start with a character or group of characters and then the story is built to fit the characters or a concept around them.  The problem with this is that the characters are normally never developed to fill the necessary functions of moving the story along.  They are images in our minds, actors playing out a few scenes.  But they are not ready to fill the roles necessary to tell a great story.

Therefore, we start with the Grand Argument.  Archetypal characters are a MUST for exploring the Grand Argument.  They give the story mind the vehicle to explore the various options and pathways, alleys and streets, tunnels and dungeons of the Grand Argument.

Before I go a little further into character archetypes and complex character formation, I want to take a little aside.  Just because a character fills an archetypal role doesn’t mean they are stolid, dusty and boring.  All of the normal rules for making good characters apply, just this time your characters will actually fill another layer in the story.  They will now give your story the depth it was lacking.

To avoid sounding like a broken record, following are the archetypes and their functions:

  1. Protagonist.  Ever heard of this one?  To keep it simple, the protagonist is the main driver of the plot.  The protagonist is the one trying to achieve the goal of the story.  This does NOT mean they are always the main character, just the main driving force.
  2. Antagonist.  Yup, the character dimet . . . dimimetric . . . trying to stop the protagonist from achieving the story goal.
  3. Impact Character.  Now here’s a new one.  Since the story mind is trying to solve the Grand Argument, it would make sense that you would want to present two points of view.  That’s the function of the impact character.  The impact character may or may not have the same goal as the protagonist, but their main function is to present an alternative view for the protagonist.
  4. Reason.  The reason character is that character is believes in the logic and can sometimes be cold.  The easiest way to picture this character?  Think of Dr. Spock.
  5. Emotion.  The emotion character is the opposite of the reason character.  This character is the spaz, the one that runs on pure emotion.
  6. Sidekick.  No, not Robin . . . well, actually . . . You see, the sidekick is the faith and confidence in the story mind.  The sidekick is the character with unwavering confidence that the story goal can be reached and that the decisions of the protagonist is the one that can get there.
  7. Skeptic.  The skeptic is the balance for the sidekick.  They are the one that doesn’t think the protagonist can achieve the story goal.
  8. Guardian.  Anyone ever see Warf or Obi Wan Kenobi?  Nuff said.
  9. Contagonist.  Con . . . contag . . . WHAAAAT?  Yep, here’s another new one.  The contagonist is the the temptation for the story mind.  They do not function to oppose the protagonist, but do function to hinder their progress.

Boy, this sounds stodgy, dusty and boring doesn’t it?  Nobody would ever be interested in such a dull concept would they?  Would they?

  1. Luke Skywalker – Protagonist
  2. The Empire – Antagonist
  3. Obi Wan Kenobi – Guardian
  4. Sidekick – R2D2 & C3PO
  5. Skeptic – Han Solo
  6. Reason – Princess Leia
  7. Emotion – Chewbacca
  8. Contagonist – Darth Vader

Just watch the Spike channel some time if you don’t believe me.  (Seriously, one of Star Wars movies is on constantly.)  Quite possibly the most successful franchise in the history of movies is filled with archetypal characters.  Of course the story writing tempers some of the Sidekick (due to subplot) and Reason functions, but it’s pretty much tit-for-tat.

Maybe you don’t want your characters to be so easily defined though.  Well, that’s good because next time I’ll be talking about complex characters.  Time to give our characters some good dimension.  I’ll even show how this happened in The Seraphim Protocol:

  1. Jacob – Protagonist / Emotion / Guardian
  2. Draghixa – Impact Character / Reason / Guardian

Whaaa?  How can they both fill the guardian role?  We’ll see next time.


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