Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Shapes a Person?

So I've run into a bit of a snag. The post-dead story's main character is, well, me, with some minor differences. Which brings up the question: how do I make character development happen on Me when I'm not sure why I am the way I am?
     Intelligent. Observant. Vulgar. Apathetic. "Metal." These were words used to describe my main character. I don't doubt that I have all of these aspects. But I don't particularly recall being any other way. Except for maybe the Vulgar part. That developed...probably around college. And then I've promptly spiraled off into my personal identity crisis. Don't look myself in the eye in the mirror, might not recognize who is staring back. And if I did, would it be me?
     I've been trying to write a character who would react how I react. Do I think too highly of myself? It's not necessarily that I keep a level head in a crisis; more like the part that freaks out is sent to cry in a corner and leaves the analytic part of the brain to try to figure out how to deal with the situation. Then the part that freaks out comes back and makes my mental state messy at random inconvenient times. It's embarrassing to start leaking liquid when I really just want to get through my work day.
     I've come to realize that what seems like logical ways to deal with situations may not come off to other people as realistic. I think I haven't effectively communicated the actual mental state of the character, which is basically frozen. Going to go back and try to weave in some mention of vulnerability, of an unwillingness to actually deal with the world as it is occurring.
     I also like Toranel (the guide) better than myself, but isn't that generally the case - sidekicks are more interesting people? Although Toranel has her own story, so she's not really a sidekick. I'm trying for "each person's a champion in their own story," because I think that's how it is in real life. This whole scenario is my personal challenge - can I make two stories about people in the same situation and make them both come off as the main character/hero in their own stories while they aren't necessarily in the other person's?
     I think I freak out when I attempt to analyze myself. I'm not sure how I've changed, exactly. Sure, some core beliefs have changed, but do beliefs necessarily encompass the whole of the person? I'm still reluctant to talk around strangers, and even when I get to know a group of people, I shield myself automatically behind a wall of witty reactions and sarcastic comments. Do people know, in my casual encounters, that my "Joking level: mild" is stuck on? Would it matter if they did?
     I guess it comes down to this: I don't really know myself. I am a random assortment of cells attempting to keep the world crushing me to a pancake on the outside while holding back the darkness fighting to break out on the inside. Can't let myself be defined by the inside, because the world's a horrible place in there, and can't let the outside do all the defining, or I'm just a very lumpy little rock with a fistful of failures that tests software , and that's a sorry sort of world as well.
     Well, at some point this went from random ramblings to churn out a wordcount to a blog post. And that's enough of me sloshing my emotions out onto the internet for today. And don't worry about me, I'm going to wave at this episodic freak-out as it goes by. They usually do. In the meantime, there's a world to observe, and I'm going to do it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

So much for posting regularly...Now, about French.

So much for my fantasy of posting on my blog regularly. Sigh.

You know what? I'm going to yammer about French. Because that has been one of those things actively honing in on my free time lately.

Why am I learning French? Well, it's one of the Big Three I want to learn in terms of languages (the other two being Spanish and German), but more notably, there's an after-hours French class that meets at my work once a week. As to why I'm learning a language, period, well...I'm not getting any bloody younger and if I'm going to learn another language in my lifetime I should get started.

French is...interesting. I feel like I'm having to learn two languages: the written and the oral, because if French ever heard of phonetics it promptly drowned the idea and went back to it's standard form of not mentioning the consonants that come at the end of words. I have a hard enough time understanding oral English, so yea, transcribing spoken French is proving a challenge.

I also discovered a couple of websites that seem to be much more helpful than the curriculum we were using in class. These sites also have Kindle apps, which I find helpful. I'm going to talk about both, briefly, because it's my blog, I'm running out of whiskey and cherry Pepsi, and I got a good forty minutes for ships to come in (Virtual ships. Carrying virtual goods. It's a minigame in a game).

Memrise is by far my favorite of the two sites. It uses the simile of a garden, where it "plants" words or phrases and then you come back at regular intervals to "water" them. Remembering has been my weak spot in the past, so having regular intervals to go over Previously Learned Material is proving super helpful. Also, you get practice writing out the words, which can be helpful if you're making a serious effort to learn the accents and ^ and hyphens.

Duolingo has you write down translations of the phrase in either (in this case) French or English. I find this site a bit more helpful for sentence structure because it severely dings you on incorrect verb tenses. On any given lesson, you have three "hearts" or lives, and you lose one each time you make an error. Lose them all, and you have to retry the lesson. This is the one where "transcribing spoken French" gets me so very, very often.

I actually find these two sites to be useful together - Memrise for the vocabulary and Duolingo for the sentence structure. Also, with the mobile app, it's easy enough to whip them out and do five minutes of review or learning new things at random intervals. Memrise's app has an offline mode, so you could use it without an Internet connection, and it will update your online account next time you connect. is the site we've been using for class. I haven't tried any of their other courses besides French, but it's nice that there's all these classes online for free. Their French lesson seems more classic class-learning, which does not work so well for me.

Another site I've used in the past is LiveMocha. LiveMocha has you actively interacting with people around the world, and might be good if you want to speak with real, actual people.

All of these sites are (mostly) free, which amazes me. Well, I'm still amazed by the Internet. People produce and give away so much useful content for free...I don't think I could spend money on Rosetta Stone or any other program when there's so much out there to be learned for free. These sites are for the most part slick and easy to use, and it seems like you'd be able to find anything to suit your personal learning style. At least, they'd be worth trying before you spend money on something else.

One last thing: please don't try French on me yet. I've only really got je ne sais pas mastered for quick use.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year!

Since this is the first post of 2014, I get to use it to wish a happy new year, even if it's the 4th already. This is also the first 500 word chunk that I've written all year (yes, I've been slacking a bit). My new years was a success by my standards, and I didn't even have a hangover the next day, although my sleep schedule has remained wonky.

     I am, by nature, a night person. Years of 8 am classes, normal day jobs, and so forth have failed to fix that. Give me any length of time without a reason to be up during the day, and my schedule snaps back to getting up in the evening and going to bed after sunrise harder than a fresh rubber band.

     I also went to a New Year's Party, which, going to any sort of party in general is sort of rare for me. This party was made up mostly of people from my writers' group, so maybe it's not like a standard party. Meh. Food, booze, and Cards Against Humanity are good enough for me. Although in retrospect, champagne, Jim Bean, and Jello shots probably aren't the best thing to combine in large quantities. Not that I care. Past me already paid that price and if I do it again in the future that will be a problem for Future Me.

     The Story is currently sitting at 40,507 words, and is probably getting close to halfway done. I read through what's been put down, and my guess that it's going to get substantially longer during the editing process. The end is already written, and the midpoint, it's just filling in the other bits that will take time. Unfortunately, most journeys of a thousand steps don't mention what happens  after you take the first one.

     Again, ya'all have a happy new year, and I'll try to write a longer post next time!

P.S. Yes, I know this is more in the neighborhood of 300 words. Words are hard today.