Archive for January, 2013
A few months back I decided to try my hand at online roleplaying. I didn’t get involved with any of the really serious sites out there that have tons of people and really strict rules. In fact, there are only four of us in our roleplay at the moment, including myself, but it’s still pretty fun.
Basically, we each have a character or two that we control, and it’s like writing pieces of a story from that/those character’s/s’ perspective (s). So I might write about how my character is writing a letter to her parents and narrate everything she writes and where she is and what she’s thinking about, and then on her way to send that letter she might run into someone else’s character. At that point, I might write that my character says, “hi”, and then I have to wait for the person who controls that character to write from his or her perspective and continue the conversation.
Anyway, as you can see, since no one person controls all the characters, no one person can control all the events and happenings either. When a bunch of people are working together to create a story like this, you need to have rules and guidelines to set the boundaries of what each participant is allowed to do and to keep everything working the way it should. Since roleplaying is a well-established activity, it has some universal terms to refer to specific types of rulebreaking that every roleplayer should know about.
One of these is godmodding, which is basically making your character invincible. If something attacks them, they defeat it effortlessly. If they get into a sticky situation, they emerge without a scratch. Basically, it’s one participant trying to manipulate the roleplay so that everything turns out the way they want it to, and they’ll twist the situation in any way they can to make it happen. Quite understandably, this is the single most annoying thing that a roleplayer can do because it leaves everyone else’s characters in the dust. You can read more about it here, on this page that I used to learn about it: What is God Modding and Why is it Annoying?
What About Me?
Well, of course, in my roleplaying, I follow all the rules to the letter. I never control other people’s characters, I keep track of what my character knows and what she doesn’t, and I try my best to keep her words and actions consistent with her character and personality and abilities. I would never want to annoy or upset my fellow roleplayers by bending the rules in my favor.
A few days ago, however, I realized something. It had been a while since I’d written anything new in my novel, and I was considering where to pick back up when I realized that if I continued as I had planned, I would have a problem on my hands. You see, I was working on a few revisions to the latest section that I’d written, planning to change a bit here and there before having it meet back up with the point where I’d left off. But I realized that once I made these changes, it would take a lot of work to get the story back to the original track. I wanted this certain thing to happen, but if things stood as they were, I would have to really force it.
And that’s when I stopped and asked myself what would happen if I let the characters take their natural course, each one acting and reacting according to their situation and character traits. The answer spelled trouble for one of the main characters, and my immediate thought was, “I can’t let that happen to her.” Cue the alarm bells: I’ve been godmodding in my own novel!
And so I discovered a weakness of mine as a writer. I’m a nice person and I really like my main characters so it’s natural for me to want good things for them, but that becomes a definite problem when it starts to interfere with the plot. I’m not stupid enough to have taken it to extremes, of course. I do have my characters go through problems and hardships just like all characters should, but I never want anything TOO bad to happen to them.
I realized that in the last part I had written, I had gotten them out of trouble way too fast. I was 17,000 words in, and, although the plot had escalated up to that point, I’d just dropped it back down nearly to the bottom of the diagram with one move.
Plots are meant to get progressively worse and worse, increasing tension and suspense until the climax, where the situation is resolved for better or worse.
I chalk it up to a rookie mistake, but I do find it fascinating that it was online roleplaying that brought it out into the light. I suppose it really is any type of writing that can help you hone your skills: roleplaying, writing fanfiction, blogging… I hope so, anyway. 😉
So, you may have been wondering what I’ve been up to lately. I haven’t been doing as much reading or blogging as usual. Yes, there’s been work and, not too long ago, the holidays, but I’ve also been playing around with something new. I got into it (once again) because of my sister. See, she’s always on this site called Wattpad, where she’s been writing and publishing a One Direction fan fiction.
She really is obsessed with that band. Her and every other teenage girl in the world, it seems like. She’s got posters hung up all over her side of the room so that every time I go to open or close the door I see Liam (apparently the cutest one) staring back at me, she’s got a Twitter account just so she can follow them, and she’s always telling me all these random facts about them (and getting mad at me when I get them wrong). So it’s probably not surprising that she also happens to be writing a fictional romance about them as well, but she wanted me to join the site so that I could “fan” her and such. I agreed on the condition that she would start following my blog. Yes, even though it was thanks to her suggestion that I start this blog in the first place, she hadn’t been following me up to that point. Ok, so she hadn’t realized that you could follow a blog with just an email address but still.
So I joined the site, read her story, fanned her, voted for her, all that jazz. And then I thought, “Hey, as long as I have one of these things, why not use it?” As it turns out, I have a fan fiction of my own that I started writing just for fun a while back. (Not One Direction) I knew I was never going to be able to do anything with it seriously because that’s just the nature of fan fiction, but I saw it as a fun writing exercise and it turned out pretty well. So I published the first part on the site. And then the second soon after. Now I’m up to five parts, a few pages each. I just love having something out there that people can actually read for once as opposed to the novels I’m endlessly working on alone in the hopes of getting them published sometime in the far-off future.
Anyway, I thought you blog readers might be interested in checking it out. I’ve tried to take a fresh approach to it so that you won’t even know what type of fan fiction it is at first. No prior knowledge required.
Here’s a link to mine:
And here’s my sister’s, if you’re interested in checking out hers, too:
I love the variety that can be found in literature. It’s so easy to get lost in the world of a good book, and the beauty is that there are so many possible worlds to lose yourself in. One week you can be reading Pride and Prejudice, absorbed in the world of English high society with dances and social calls and the hunt for a husband, and the next you can be far into the future, hunting down escaped and highly dangerous robots in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Or in a piece of alternative history in 20th century America, facing the growing forces of Anti-Semitism with a Jewish family (The Plot Against America). Or fighting a war in Vietnam with the men of The Things They Carried. And each one seems fresh and real and expansive, as though each tale has endless room in which to stretch.
Today I started reading Heart of Darkness, and this was immediately the feeling that I got. The story opens on a boat on the Thames. Four people are on board, and a man named Marlow begins to tell a story of the days when he sailed down the Congo. It’s a setting as strange to me as any, having never been to Africa or having spent any large amount of time onboard a boat, and certainly never having lived in that time period, but it draws me in. As Marlow began telling his story, I felt that this was a book that should be read out loud because I can really hear a voice behind it, just like a sailor settling in to tell a long tale.
This is one of the things I love about literature. A million doors to open, and once I finish exploring this one, the next will be just as good.
So, it took me quite a while to read this book. Part of that was because I had to return my first copy and the second took a long time arriving. Part of that was because, hey, it was Christmas! And then New Years! And I’m still on winter break, so it feels like I should be lying around doing nothing all day. Well, when I’m not at work, that is. But I finally finished it, and I’ll try to blog a little more often from now on.
This book didn’t turn out the way I had expected. I’ve read one of Douglas Adams’s other books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as a part of the list previously, so, if anything, I imagined it would be something like that. The style of humor was similar, and this book did make me laugh a few times, but the story line of this one was less straightforward. Whereas in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the plot got a jump start with the destruction of the earth, and the characters’ subsequent adventures made up the rest, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency starts out with many different story threads. These threads all weave together to make a cohesive picture eventually, but in some cases, it takes quite a while. For example, the opening image of a mysterious tower remains mysterious until the very end. This made for an interesting dynamic, but it also makes it very difficult to explain exactly what the story is about.
On one hand, there’s a man named Richard who’s visiting an old college professor. He works for a man named Gordon Way. Then you’ve got Susan Way, who’s Richard’s girlfriend. And a robot called an Electric Monk who rides around on a horse and is slightly malfunctioning. And a guy named Michael Wenton-Weakes, who’s just upset because he’s lost control of his magazine. And later on you finally meet the Dirk Gently of the title. And, well, it all comes together in the end. Honestly, I think that I liked the horse the best. Just an ordinary horse, but he sure had to put up with a lot of strange situations, and he just dealt with it all the way an ordinary horse does, by going wherever his rider wants and munching on grass when it happens to be nearby.
I enjoyed the scattered bits of humor and the Coleridge references. I don’t have much to say about the rest one way or another. I didn’t especially like or dislike it. I just feel kind of lukewarm about the whole thing. So I guess I’ll just give it 3 stars.
January first. The perfect time to look back on the past year and all its successes, failures, and challenges. The good and the bad. And as this blog tracks my 1001 journey, I’ll take some time now to write about my year of books in review.
If you were around for my third ever post An Overview of my 1001 Journey Part 2, you’ll remember that I spoke briefly about what I read last summer, which was definitely a large portion of what I read last year. I read a total of 21 books from the list last year, and 10 of those were read during the summer. But for the purposes of this post, I’ll start back at the beginning.
The first book I read in 2012 was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This one was a nice short book in terms of the time it took me to read it, which also made it a good book to start the year with. At that time, I was pretty busy with college work, which explains why I only got in one more book, The Glass Bead Game, before the semester ended. Oroonoko and Hard Times were both read for a British Literature class.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time had an interesting perspective and Hard Times was my very first Charles Dickens book, but it was the other two books that stuck out in my mind, one in a good way and one in a bad.
I was not impressed with Oroonoko, as you may have gathered from the post where I compare it to Olaudah Equiano’s book, which I read later in the year. I didn’t think it was very realistic, I didn’t like the characters, and I didn’t like the way the narrator told the story. But it did stick. Perhaps because I found it disturbing in a peculiar way. Of course the ending is disturbing, but I got that feeling throughout the entire thing. Or maybe it stuck because I was trying to understand it, particularly the unusual way that it addressed questions of race and slavery. This one just goes to show that even books you don’t care for can have an impact.
The Glass Bead Game was an usual book also, but I found that I enjoyed it in spite of the fact that there wasn’t a lot of action or excitement to it. The whole book read like a biography, and it was clear from the beginning that this was the author’s intent. I suppose I liked the particular way in which it encourages the reader to think even while going down the page. It’s difficult to explain, but then, I find that I feel that way about many of the books on this list, so much so that I’m beginning to believe that it’s a common factor, a particular flavor belonging to it. I find that the more I read the better sense I get of what the list really is, and that’s an interesting experience in itself, one that goes beyond the experience of each book individually. In the coming year, I hope to experience more like that.
As mentioned previously, once I finished school for the semester, I read a total of ten books before it started up again in the fall. Having so much free time, I started flying through them. The Invisible Man, The Thirteen Clocks, I, Robot, Crossfire, 1Q84… Ok, so I didn’t exactly “fly” through 1Q84, but you get my point. And I read more books that weren’t on the list.
You might notice that I had a bit of a sci-fi kick. Two books about robots, two classics by H. G. Wells. I wasn’t impressed with The Invisible Man, apart from a few minor things that I mentioned in my review, but I did like all the other ones. I guess I have a certain interest in robots. And who hasn’t wondered about time travel?
The Thirteen Clocks is perhaps different from any other book on the list because it’s an illustrated fairy tale, really more of a children’s book than a standard novel. I’m not sure why this one is on the list in the first place. Perhaps I’ll have to reference my new book later to find out.
Great Expectations also takes a prominent position for me this year, not only because it’s the one of the first ones I read after starting this blog but also because it surprised me. If you’ll remember my earlier post Reading Dickens Can be Fun?, I discovered firsthand that a book is not always what popular opinion might make it out to be. Now, I should have known that already, but, as I mentioned, classics like this one are different in a way. I could repeat the same points here, but I feel that I covered it pretty well already in the previous post. So if you’re curious, feel free to follow the link. But then come back here to finish reading this one, please!
Back at college again, I picked up my copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a perfect book to read in little bits at a time. For class, I read the first portion of Olaudah Equiano’s book and subsequently finished it in my free time. Actually, I got quite a lot of slavery-related reading in this year between this book and Oroonoko plus portions of slave narratives and Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the same American Lit class. It got me feeling a bit depressed, actually, but, as I discussed in my post Sometimes You Have to Read Something Depressing, well, sometimes you have to read something depressing! Couldn’t have said it better myself. There can be great benefit even in reading books that make you feel terribly sad, and no book has made me realize that more than Olaudah Equiano’s.
Other books read last fall include Villete and Wittgenstein’s Mistress, which was another book that was a bit different. Actually, this one was a lot differents. Despite its unusual style and setup, it kept me reading. It was an interesting taste of the experimental.
Incidentally, another reason I love this list is because it offers so much variety. Sure, you could get caught up reading all the Jane Austens or all the Charles Dickens or whatever (The list contains 6 by Austen and 10 by Dickens), but if you really choose to spread your options, it can have a lot to offer you.
Well, as it’s January 1st now, winter has really only just begun, but I have read one book since coming home for winter break. A Christmas Carol, a very nice book for the season. I’m also currently about halfway through Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but I’m afraid that any overview of that one will have to wait for next year. A review, on the other hand, will be forthcoming within a much shorter time span.
2012 was a pretty good year. I read the 1000+ page Clarissa, started this blog, and had a lot of great experiences. My goal for this year was to read 20 books. Since I met it, I think that next year I’ll go for 25. Thanks for following me, and I hope that 2013 will be an awesome year for all of you!
Guess what I got for Christmas? This brand new copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, the 2010 edition!
So, confession time: I didn’t actually have a copy of this book until now. What? I’m running a blog all about reading the books on the list and I don’t even have the book containing the list? Um… yeah. Poor college student, remember? Anyway, I have a copy now! That’s good enough, right?
So from now on, if the book has anything interesting to say about why the editors made a particular choice or just about the book I happen to be reading, I can write about it here. The start of new things in 2013!