Friday, 28 August 2009
Card says that every story will fall into one of these categories. A story can be rewritten so that it falls into a different category, although it retains its plot and characters, but it will rarely be worth reading afterwards. A whodunnit is an exemplary idea story: the entire story focuses on answering a question; on finding the big idea. If a whodunnit was rewritten so that we knew all along who did it, but focused on character development, it would be pretty boring.
In my case, I think it would be more appropriate to use a m.i.C.e. quotient. Whenever I read (or write), my focus is on the characters. If I read a murder mystery, I am usually at least as interested in the murderer's psychological motivation and the why the detective cares about solving the case as I am in the solution to the mystery.
If the hero needs to save the world, I tend to see the big event as a means of character development, rather than the point of the story. I'm a little better about milieu, but I still tend to think of it as secondary to character, even in a book like Gulliver's Travels. When I'm reading, this probably means that I don't get everything I could out of most books, but it's not really a big deal.
When I attempt to write fiction, it's more of an issue. I conceptualise a really great story, except that it doesn't have a plot. I will not notice that until I actually try to write it down. Then I realise I have nothing to write. I may have a fascinating set of characters who will interact believably, but if they don't have anything to do, nobody will care. If they don't have a background, the story will be rather dull. (I'm not quite sure about Idea, though.)
It's taken me a while to figure out the roots of what I struggle with when writing fiction, but the M.I.C.E. quotient was a very useful tool. I'm surprised that I haven't seen similar concepts more often.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
I was beginning to think all that meant I was out of the (rather dubious in the first place) habit of blogging. I don't think I really am though; or perhaps it's simply that I'll never genuinely be in the habit of blogging. I've certainly read that I can get into the habit of things like blogging or bible reading, but I'm skeptical that I really can.
I have a bad habit of biting my bottom lip. I consider it a habit, because i don't decide to bite my lip: I just notice when it starts to hurt. That habit has developed over the last year or so. On the other hand, I've been reading my bible before I go to sleep for several years, but I still have to make a conscious effort to do so. I don't find it particularly more difficult to remember when I've missed a week for some reason. I don't think it's a habit.
There's certainly been time to develop a habit, though. In some ways it feels weird that I don't have the habits the books talk about, but there's a greater sense of something like relief. When the book says 'you can get into this great habit in just ten days', I can accept that it doesn't work for me.
I may have to take a longer route, but a long route is much better than a brick wall.
Friday, 21 August 2009
So, the camp is not very big, but it's going to be fun. I haven't been camping for nearly half a year, so any camp seems significant. Also, this camp has a lot of space for experimental pioneering. Trying-and-seeing is fun. Twenty-eight-ish hours of awesomeness are waiting!
XD (Because the way I'm feeling is expressed so much better in an emoticon than in words. It's not a rational feeling. It's just anticipation of friends and fun and stuff I'm not very good at putting into words. Maybe I'll be able to do it better afterwards.)
Thursday, 20 August 2009
There are critiques of work I could do myself, or that are similar to work I could do myself, and there are critiques of work that is significantly better than what I can write. The first set are easier, but I think the second are better for me.
In the first set, I see what I could do better in the piece and explain how to do it. Then I look at the aspects that I don't think are good as they stand and comment on those, although not necessarily in that order. There may be parts that are new to me, but on the whole, I'm just explaining something I've already learned and understood.
When I critique a piece that is better than I can produce, I really have to wrap my brain around it. There is a challenge in understanding what exactly makes the piece special. It's sort of like the inverse of the Anna Karenina principle: every excellent piece of writing can be excellent in it's own way. Then I have to look beyond what I like about the piece to what could be improved. I suppose that the more I go on, the easier it will become, but trying to improve on the (presently, by me) unattainable can feel a bit pointless. I usually get there, though, since none of us are perfect.
Going through this whole process can take a while, but at the end I've definitely learned something from it. I think I've given something more valuable to the author, too: if I use a critique to explain punctuation of dialogue or to suggest observing people in real life as a basis for characerisation, I'm not really giving the author something that's uniquely mine or uniquely theirs. If I can find something that touches me in a piece, or I notice an uncommon flaw, then I can tell the author something that might not be relevant to most people and that might not be noticed by everyone.
I'll certainly carry on reviewing all sorts of work, but I'm going to try to remember that the harder critiques to write are also the more rewarding. Falling back on doing what's easy doesn't grow me. Actually, that's probably true of everything I do.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
(subtitled, an exercise in strange capitalisation and parentheticals)
- a Parker Pen (I've written a couple of pages with it already. It's different to a ballpoint pen, but very cool.)
- a grown-up handbag (Thanks, Grandma!)
- a poetry anthology with at least one poet for every letter of the alphabet. I think it's a really fun idea.
- The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable I've wanted a phrase and fable dictionary for a while, so I'm very happy with this. (Yes, also very nerdy. Seriously, this is even more cool than an ordinary dictionary, especially for browsing. (Oh, do most people not browse the dictionary? I do.))
- a gold cross and chain. Well, technically I haven't got this yet, but we're going shopping on Saturday (I think) so I can pick one I like.
- locked in my room with strings of balloons. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I did wake up with balloons strung across the doorway. And a cup of tea that said 'Happy 18th, Charlotte'. And crumpets just about to be made. I love you, brothers.
- chocolate cake. Yummy!
Monday, 17 August 2009
I do know exactly how old I am, but when I fit myself into the age scale, I put myself at eighteen-and-three-quarters. If somebody is seventeen I think they're younger than me - which admittedly, they probably are. If somebody's nineteen, though, I think they're only a touch older than me, when they must be older by more than a year.
I think this is linked to the real insignificance of birthdays: that being seven years, three hundred and sixty four days old is not that different from being eight years old exactly. Still, seven-year-old and eight-year-old are useful descriptions, so we use them anyway. Sometimes we fit into different categories mentally, emotionally and physically.
Considering myself to be an age I'm not is a sort of automatic coping mechanism. All seventeen-year-olds do that? Well, that's because they're younger than me. Eighteen-year-olds act like that? Well, I'm only seventeen. As long as I keep on growing, I don't think it matters what age I'm at, but it's interesting to look at the numbers. I just have to remember to get the right age on the forms, or thing could get very complicated!
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Our church is relatively small. I know most - probably all - of the church leaders at some level. That means that when I receive the elements, I am often addressed by name. For some reason, this always strikes me as special. I don't particularly take note if the same people greet me by name before the service, or address me by name at any other time, but during communion the use of my name has more significance.
It reminds me that Christ died for me, personally. It reminds me that He knows me by name; that two thousand years ago He knew me by name; even before that, He knew me. I may be just one girl in a very big world, but I'm special enough to God that he knows my name and everything about me. I'm even special enough that he's put me in a place where I can be reminded of that through Communion.
I know I don't deserve to be that special, but I'm glad that I am. I am gladder of that than of anything else I can think of.
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
I wonder what 'this' is, exactly. My first thought is that it is the poem, but I'm not entirely convinced that Shakespeare could have predicted the longevity of his work. The poem will only give life to its subject for as long as it is read. It also seems a little strange to write a love poem showing how the author has made the subject lovable. It's possible, of course, that the poem is simply an arrogant piece of work, but I'd rather think of it differently.
I like to think that 'this' might be humanity. It is showcased in Shakespeare's ability to write, but also in the subject's soul, that won't die, even when the physical signs of age are overcoming her. It's not a very well supported conclusion, but I like it.
By drawing that conclusion, I can say that the sonnet suggests that each person exists as a person because other people exist. We immortalise one another, in a sense. I don't think that gives us the whole picture, but it is remarkable in its similarity to the Ubuntu philosophy. It's interesting that such similar concepts can arise independently. I think there are certain ideals to which almost everyone subscribes at some level and that a more general version of Ubuntu is one of them.
Friday, 14 August 2009
Yesterday, I was cleaning out a table - at any rate, I was shifting the junk around - when I found that left-over gift, still in the wrapping paper. I figured there was zero chance of its going to the intended owner now, so I put it in my room, since I can always use another pen. Later in the day, I was feeling quite frustrated and inadequate. I think the exact words I wrote in my journal were 'I don't know if I can do this'. Shortly afterwards, I read the inscription on the pencil I'd just opened. 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' (Coincidence #2) I didn't want to be convinced, but God is pretty convincing. In case I was in any doubt, I read Isaiah 48:3 last night (Coincidence #3).
I foretold the former things long ago,(NIV)
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
This led me to think of other coincidences, like #4: I thought there was a pen in the package, but it was actually a mechanical pencil. I've been meaning to buy one of those for ages. (Although I'm not convinced that one's divine intervention.) More seriously, #5: I know one of my friends used one of those Christmas pens to share Christ with a colleague. I hadn't really known why I thought Jeremiah 29:11 would be a particularly good choice for him, but I guess God did.
Sometimes, God is weird (I mean that in a respectful way). Also, do you think he did this because I used to tnk those pens were as gimmicky as things got?
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
When I was little - I guess about ten or twelve - I used to invent the parties I would have for my three coming of age birthdays. The first coming of age birthday is at sixteen. At that age, I thought, one is not exactly grown up, but not a child either (which is not so far off from the truth, actually). My sixteenth birthday party was going to be like an old fashioned 'coming out' party. That never happened, but I did have a sixteenth birthday party, which seems to be good going for me.
My seventeenth birthday was my wizard's coming of age: I've never heard of seventeen being a significant birthday outside of Harry Potter. My seventeenth birthday party was going to be Harry Potter themed, with everyone dressed up as one of the characters. When I got to seventeen, I had friends who believed the Harry Potter books were wrong and I was in the middle of Matric exams, trying to pretend there was no such thing as a social life. It was a good birthday, but there certainly wasn't a party.
My eighteenth was going to be one of those affairs in high heels and cocktail dresses (although I didn't know what the dresses were called at the time). That is not going to happen. I have a small enough number of birthday party-invitable friends to begin with. Adding the fact that most of them are too far away to come anyway, I'd do well to get five or six people together. Besides that, my family is in an almost constant state of varying degrees of turmoil this year. It's sometimes a challenge to get supper cooked before bedtime. I don't think a party is really going to happen.
In a sense, that's the end of my childhood dreams about adulthood. For some reason - probably because of the amounts of fantasy I consume - I never considered my twenty-first to be all that significant. I'm sorry that it won't happen the way I planned it out all those years back, but I think I've grown up enough to accept it. There are other good things. There is next year. I don't even own a cocktail dress and finding one would have been stressful in the best of circumstances. For me, that attitude epitomises growing up. It's been easier and harder than I thought. The parts about understanding money and looking out for other people came easily. The parts about deciding what to do with the money and who to look out for, I'm still struggling with.
It's a big ol' mixed up world. I don't think changing a digit in my age will change much, but it's giving me an opportunity to look back. I have grown up (though I'm not finished). I miss irresponsible childhood, but the richer taste of responsiblity is more satisfying. One season is drawing to a close, but I'm sure the next will be just as beautiful.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
I think there are two reasons for this. One is the often cited fact that we don't tend to see people as people when we interact over the internet. It's not difficult to begin a discussion with somebody and then leave it hanging when 'real life' gets in the way (I've been guilty of this one) or just because you're bored. That's not really conducive to a meaningful discussion.
The other thing that I think frustrates me is that internet conversations are written down and recorded. That makes it incredibly obvious if your argument is inconsistent. In a spoken conversation, I can believe that you've just forgotten what you said about x five minutes ago. If it's written five centimetres up the page, you should reread it even if you don't remember it and I think it ought to be easier to remember it. People still contradict themselves though.
Because of that, I don't tend to do the forum thing. Comments are another matter though. Having a focus, a blog post, a picture or what-have-you, seems to keep a discussion more careful. Even an off-topic comment thread often has more rigour than a forum thread. I suppose the quality of the original item commented on might dictate the quality of the discussion too.
I do enjoy discussion, but I think I'll keep it to the comments, to avoid frustrating myself. Because while I enjoy discusions and debates, arguments and fights are a different story.
Monday, 10 August 2009
Saturday, 08 August 2009
One of the boys, who was, I think, as uninspired as he was smart, volunteered himself and his friends to read every single part. Why he would do that may not be clear until you imagine a tough, eighteen year old boy reading Desdemona's part in falsetto. The entire class was almost in hysterics.
What was remarkable about the performance was that as the boys tried to rip the characters off, they had to dig a little deeper into the play. They were melodramatic and ridiculous, but they pulled a bit of meaning out of the play. The words weren't always quite right, but there was sense in what they were saying. The class may have been watching the first hockey team passionately addressing one another, but at the same time, they were seeing a pieces of Shakespeare's character's that I doubt they had seen anywhere else. It was a glorious lesson.
Those boys showed me that Shakespeare shouldn't be taken too seriously. There are certainly serious parts, but there are funny parts too. The plays should be entertaining as much as they should be intellectually stimulating. Shakespeare should be fun.
Friday, 07 August 2009
One of the places I found this was in Orual, the narrator and protagonist of Till We Have Faces. Orual is ugly. She's sufficiently ugly that she's repeatedly insulted about her looks and finally chooses to spend her whole life behind a veil. This in itself is unusual, since most storybook heroines fall somewhere between passably pretty and ravishingly beautiful. The majority of the remainder are plain, but very rarely is a heroine so shockingly ugly that she resents her own reflection. That is the first part of Orual's ugliness.
The second part is that while Orual's lack of beauty is recognised and continually influences her, it is not central to the plot. I expected that her ugliness would fade away and be forgotten or else that it would become a sort of fixation. I was impressed and delighted that it was neither. Lewis shapes Orual's character by the responses she gets to her appearance, but he also shows us her intelligence, her compassion and her righteous-seeming bitterness. There are things she doesn't know or understand that one imagines might be the result of her ugliness (or people's reactions to it), but at the forefront is the lack of understanding, not the ugliness. Being ugly is an explanation, but not a justification. Despite this, Orual's life is much , much more than her ugliness.
I don't think it's streching things too far to see her ugliness as symbolising human imperfection. It can't be ignored or forgotten, but it's not the centre of our stories either.
Wednesday, 05 August 2009
I only worried about putting in my hair band for an instant, but it's a ridiculous symptom of something I should probably watch. The obvious reason for this is that I'll become paranoid if I start worrying what people think of every move I make. There's a subtler reason too, though.
When I worry too much about what people think, I start putting excessive effort into everything. It's draining, and I end up doing things that might legitimately offend people. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there. After the third complete rewrite, I might send a commented without rereading it. That's not the end of the world, but I almost always reread comments. It means I'm getting careless and if I'm too careless, I'll do something I regret.
My new mission is to relax, because endorphins do just about everything better than stale adrenaline. In the meantime, if I do something stupid you know why.
Monday, 03 August 2009
I think that concept can be applied to the rest of life too. Writing is very verbal, but I decided that I wanted a picture to help me focus. (You can see it here now that it's finished.) I'm also somewhat addicted to hitting the word count shortcut to see just how much I've written. Blogs have pictures to draw attention, even though they're all about the words. Computers represent the colour of a picture in hexadecimal digits. They're all mixed up.
I suspect that there are more elements in the equation, but I'm beginning to learn to balance these ones. Each one complements the others; all three in moderation is better than four times as much of any one of them. It forms a predator prey model, where because maths has taken up my writing time, I write better when I get the chance. Since I write instead of looking at art, I steal my maths time to do that, but I try to apply it to maths as well. When I do maths, I analyse the prose in my textbook.
Mixing things up makes their applications clearer, as well as getting more done. I allocate time to each activity, but putting the focus on spot doesn't cause the others to disappear. It's obvious, perhaps,but nonetheless a revelation.
Sunday, 02 August 2009
And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions
Joel 2:28 (NKJV)
I was walking along a path through dark green grass, in an empty field or maybe a vacant plot of land. As I walked, I was searching for something, but I was not sure what it was I was looking for. After I had walked a way through the field, it came to me that I was looking for God. I didn't know what he looked like or what he might be doing, but I thought I would know when I found him.
A few minutes later I saw a large wooden structure in my path. It looked like a barn, but it was better tended and more beautiful than any barn could be. When I got closer to the building, I realised that God was in the building. He was the cause of its beauty. The doors were open, so I stepped inside.
The room was filled with long wooden counters. On the counters were various contraptions, beakers and vials. They were fascinating and I stared at them, but I could not understand how they worked. Some of the mechanisms scared me horribly, but I continued to watch the others closely. I thought these inventions were more marvellous than anything I had seen before.
After I had been watching the contraptions for some time, I realised that God was moving from counter to counter. Sometimes he paused to make an adjustment to some part; at other places, he decanted liquids from the machines. Most of the time he only gave a pleased nod and moved on. I wanted to be with him and to talk to him. I stepped forward to enter his laboratory, but I couldn't.
When I approached the counters, it was as if I had encountered an invisible wall. No matter what I tried, I could not move forward. I gave up and looked at God. “Why won't you let me in? I thought you loved me.”
God turned and spoke to me. “I do love you, my child. I love you more than you can imagine, but I cannot let you in here until you are safe. If you come into this room as you are now, you will be destroyed.”
I didn't understand what he was saying. I wondered if he was lying to me, but something deep within me insisted that he would not do that. I kept pushing toward him, trying to make my way through the invisible barrier, but all my efforts were futile. Eventually, with tears pouring down my face, I turned to leave the building. I didn't know why God didn't want me, but I knew I wasn't strong enough to get to him. Before I walked out the door, I saw a young man who I hadn't noticed before.
“If you're quite sure, then of course you may,” he said.
“Quite sure about what?” I asked. He had the air of continuing a conversation, but I was certain that I hadn't spoken a word to him.
“Quite sure that you want to leave,” he said. “I've been trying to get your attention so I can give you one of these lab coats, but you didn't seem to notice me.”
I stood frozen as what he had said sank in. The only reason God hadn't let me into his laboratory was because it wasn't safe without a lab coat. I had been incredibly stupid to try to push my way through his safety barrier.
“I'm sorry I was so foolish. Do you think I could possibly have a second chance?”
“Of course!” His face lit up as he helped me into a lab coat. “There's nothing I love better than showing people the way in.” Moments later he was sending me on to the lab. I ran in, right up to where God was standing. Something prompted me to kneel down in front of him. I suppose I wanted to show him how grateful I was that he had let me in, and how sorry I was for being stupid and pigheaded.
I stayed there for a little while. Then he reached down, pulled me up and hugged me. “I am so glad that you have come, my child,” he said. “Now, you will need some of these.” He gathered up bottles of different shapes, sizes and colours. From each he poured a few drops onto my forehead. I felt that I was being anointed.
“That is exactly what is happening,” he told me. I am giving you my blessing and also my mission. I read some of the labels as he replaced the bottles: love and peace and forgiveness. Some of the labels I couldn't read and others I didn't see. but I began to feel that I was ready for God's mission.
“What do you want me to do?”
He smiled at me and chose two small vials from the counter. “Held within these are love and peace. I am going to give them to you and I want you to share them with everyone you meet.”
At first I had been a little surprised at how small the vials were, but when he handed them to me I nearly dropped them. Love and peace were heavier burdens than I had expected. “Father,” I said a little tentatively. He smiled at me, so I carried on. “Shouldn't you be the one giving these things out? I don't think I know how to use them.”
He pulled two lab stools out from under the counter and told me to sit down. He sat on the other began to explain. If he were to go directly to people who weren't wearing protective gear, like my lab coat, it would be more than they could stand. He loved them very much, but it was only safe to send them that love and the other good things he had made for them through people like me.
“But can I still ask you to help my friends?”
“Of course you can. Some of your friends come and visit me here, too. I can also give you the things that they need, or send those things by another person.”
As I spoke to him, I began to realise all sorts of things that I had never thought possible. I saw that I had been creating love all my life. It seemed watered down compared to his strong, pure love, but he said that didn't mean it wasn't valuable. At another point I realised that even while he was sitting talking to me, he was moving from counter to counter, keeping his contraptions in order. It doesn't make sense, but when I was sitting there, it seemed the most natural thing in the world.
At some point he told me that the vials he had given me might run out very soon. “But when you come back here, I'll give you more, so that you can give it to the world.” I stuck my hand in my pocket, looking for my handkerchief. I wanted to tie a knot in it to remind me to come back. I couldn't find the handkerchief, but I heard God laughing softly. It wasn't an unkind laugh and soon I had joined in with him. How could I ever forget to come back to him? Even if I did, there were thousands of people he could send to remind me. The handkerchief was ridiculously unnecessary. I laughed until once again there were tears streaming down my face. God hugged me and lifted me off the stool.
“Now you are ready to go out and begin your work, my daughter.” He kissed me and sent me back out into the field.
This time, the field didn't seem empty. There were hundreds, or thousands, or millions of people walking to and from the laboratory. Many of them were human, but some seemed different. I occurred to me that these were angels and shortly afterwards that they were working as lab techs.
I said to one of them, “You have the most wonderful job I can imagine, helping God to make these amazing things.”
But he said to me, “Nothing could be wonderful than your job, for you give out his gifts and see their work.” He moved on quickly, not out of a lack of politeness, but because we were not in a place to tarry. I moved on too and kept walking until I came to our world.
When I opened my eyes and saw my bible on the floor before me, I was, at first, terrified, but I knew that God wanted me to write down what I had experienced. The writing is perhaps clearer than the experience, and certainly less perturbed by my doubts and fears; understanding of some things only came to me as I wrote. This is written as best I may recollect and formulate it.
Saturday, 01 August 2009
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
(from As You Like It)
I've learned to interpret this passage as the epitome of art vs. reality and the interplay between the two. While I think that's a valid and meaningful interpretation, I've recently begun to think that it puts a lot of the emphasis on the stage and very little on the players.
The view of people as players is very interesting. It suggests that we don't show our true selves to the world. Usually, this is seen as a bad thing, but Jaques (and so, I would guess, Shakespeare) seems more concerned with the fact that it is inevitable. I would agree with him. None is us is willing to expose our whole self to another person.
Exhortations to "come out from behind your mask" or to "be your true self" become meaningless in this view. While Jaques' opinion seems to be that we have no choice of our role in the play, I would say that we do have a choice, but that we choose to remain players in some senses through morality.
We play the part of an interested friend; most of the time it is a expression of how we really feel, but sometimes, when we are tired or unhappy, we are only playing a part. It's right, I think, to play that part in order to preserve the friendship.
Sometimes I feel like shouting and screaming, but I play the part of a rational person. Other times, I show my true feelings. I regret the latter far more than I've ever regretted the former.
I am happy to be a player, so long as I am not a puppet. I'll give my life my interpretation and live it the way I believe is best, but there are some things the audience doesn't need to know.