janewilliams20: (Default)
We're looking at making "rounded" characters by taking a stereotype and adding a contradiction to give them depth. Several of us have pointed out that some of this is already clichéd - the woman in a  man's world who does well by being more technical and aggressive than the men, for instance, taking all their stereotypical behaviour and beating them at it. Latest exercise:
"Write a brief scene, around 300–500 words, in your notebook, in which you portray a character in a complex way, going against the usual expectations for such a character."
After a bit of thought, this is semi-autobiographical - names have been changed to protect the guilty, but this is a condensed summary of a few real conversations and situations. It's also in excess of the 500- words...

She leaned back in her seat, cradled the phone more comfortably.
"Yes, Brian, I heard you the first time. We deliver this project by Thursday, or the sales director who promised it by Thursday looks like an idiot. Guess how much this worries me? If he doesn't want to look like an idiot, he should stop being one."
What worried her rather more was that the promise had been made to one of their best customers, and if they lost that contract, they lost their main source of income. At the other end of the line, the panicked babbling had been continuing.
"Yes, I've seen your project plan. It won't work. You've got the man-hours - call them woman-hours - nicely charted, but there is no way that server can handle that data analysis load as well as running your main website, and it'll take twice as much coding time as you've put in, even without allowing for contingency planning. You know when I recommended investing in new architecture last year? And again last month? Right. This is why."
She could have recited the excuses from memory, but she'd had enough.
"Stop it. We can emote about this, or we can fix it. Tell them I won't be in today, tell Steve to take over the routine code fixes, tell Tony to remember to watch the database open threads and give it a kick when it starts to slow - I've shown him how. I'm going to download the lot to my home machine, process it here, write the scripts to produce the reports, and upload the lot Wednesday night in the 2-3 slot in the morning when the network's quiet. It won't be what they were promised, but it'll do the job for now."
She listened a little longer. "I can tell them that, and if necessary I will, and if they want to sack me, have fun getting your precious project in this year, never mind this week. I won't be doing timesheets. You don't want the hours I'll be working in writing anyway, God knows how many regulations I'll be breaching. I'll send you an expenses claim for pizza and Coke."
She put the phone down. Yes, the M.D. had been known to sack people in childish fits of temper, but some employees he knew were just too good at their jobs to lose, and she was most definitely one of them. Also, Brian knew from experience that her threat to tell directors in general exactly what she thought of them was not a bluff.
She fired off the data transfer - the network would still be quiet now, before most people got into the office. Pulling her pink fluffy dressing gown round her shoulders, she wandered back from study to bedroom, and contemplated the assorted teddy bears eyeing her expectantly from the pillows. "Right, guys. Bradley is on coding duty, so I'll take you through now and sit you next to the printer. Cody and James, downstairs with me, I want company over breakfast. No, sorry, I won't have time to knit you that new jumper today, I have work to do."
They sat quietly while she poured the orange juice, lifted the fresh bread from the breadmaker, poached an egg, and whisked up a quick Hollandaise sauce. "Camomile or green tea this morning, do you think?" She listened to speech that no-one else present would have heard. "Yes, I know, camomile has honey in. All right, consider me talked into it." She didn't like to hurt their feelings, after all.
janewilliams20: (Default)
I'm doing a free on-line course in writing fiction, and they want us to post the result of one exercise in our blogs (the forum has a 2000-character limit on posts).

The idea was to take a random phrase (they suggested turning on the radio), and base a story or opening scene on it. I used a phrase that someone (Marion?) mentioned a while back: "The bananas had always wanted to be umbrellas".

This is, intentionally, a first draft. Re-reading, reviewing, and generally editing, is a later exercise. It was supposed to be 500 words, but I got a bit carried away.

Annette ducked through the hanging curtain into the hothouse, dodging the constant drip, drip of the irrigation system, and noting as she did so that Specimen 2b had grown another two feet overnight. "That's a good banana vine!" she said encouragingly. "Now, if you could just speed up the fruit production as well as leaf production..?"

She didn't touch it, of course, or feed it, or carry out any of the tests the hothouse was equipped for, that was someone else's job. Hers was to talk to them, and as bizarre vacation jobs went, this one was at least more interesting than the time she'd been hired to watch paint dry.

"Yes, we know it's a complete waste of time," Colin had said, sardonically, when he hired her after what had been not so much an interview as an audition. "Our Noble Sponsor wants someone to talk nicely to the plants, so we hire someone to talk nicely to the plants. We keep our funding, and you get paid to chatter about nothing all day - every teenage girl's dream, right?" In fact, her dream was to spend the break from university working at one of the most advanced botanical research establishments in the country, but since that was what she was getting, she stayed quiet - for now.

She'd found it hard, the first few days, finding anything to talk about when there was no reply, and despite his cynicism, Colin took this seriously enough to insist that all conversation had to be positive and encouraging, so using the plants to vent to about her studies or social life wasn't an option. She'd suggested to him that if she were to spend the days explaining to the plants exactly what was hoped for from them, that would be about as positive and encouraging as it could get, and as a result, he'd handed her copies of the complete project documentation. She couldn't take the papers into an area as humid as this, of course, but she could explain to the plants what she'd read the previous night, and in her lunch break, and was finding it so useful that she thought she might try the same technique the next time she had an exam to revise for.

This plant didn't seem to have quite the right idea, though. "I know, anything with Russian Vine genes can grow long stems, but the idea is to make lots of lovely fruit. Then we can make lots more lovely banana vines just like you. Won't that be wonderful?" She tactfully omitted the fact that the fruit would actually be used for food, as that probably didn't count as positive.

"Go on, let's see those wonderful malleable bud cells that can turn into any body part turn into fruit, not stems. The Lamarck name is just a joke, it's all right, but there's some truth in it - when we find a vine that produces really big fruit, really fast, then we know those cells have adapted the way we want. Then Julia can take a DNA sample, and clone it, and we get bigger and better banana vines even faster." Eventually, they'd like to make them less dependent on this much water, too, but jungle plants grew the fastest, so that would take time. Personally she'd be happy if she could just talk to the plants without constantly being dripped on.

She carried on explaining DNA extraction techniques for the rest of the morning, escaping into the sunshine to eat her sandwiches with relief. By the time the hour was up, her hair would have just about dried out. When the Cactus House was open, she went in there, the dry air a welcome change, but it was closed to the public at the moment, and Julia was spending most of her time there.

Both Colin and Julia went back in with her this time, Colin to measure growth and Julia to take samples. She was, as usual, in a bad mood, possibly because the humidity always made her heavy glasses mist up. Annette held the curtain aside for her, and automatically dodged the drip - which wasn't there. She looked up, surprised, to see that Specimen 2b had grown a new leaf, even bigger than normal, right underneath the outlet. "Well, that's handy," she said, amused.

Colin looked up where she was pointing. "That's more than just handy. Have you seen any more leaves that shape?"

"I don't think so...." She didn't pay much attention to leaves, only the fruit.

"Look how the stem joins the main vine. It's channelling water down its own trunk. I've seen that in bromeliads, but in a jungle plant it should be impossible, they usually drain water away from themselves. See if we can find any more, I want samples of that."

Annette checked as she walked, this time, but didn't find anything until she was at her usual seat near the centre. Here, three more large leaves blocked the water outlets she would normally have to avoid.

Colin laughed. "Looks like it has your welfare in mind, Annie. Nice of it. Julia, could you...?"

The dark-haired woman climbed up onto the seat to reach the leaves.

"If these things have our welfare in mind, I wish they'd do something about the tourists poking their noses in. That "no entry" sign where I'm working needs an addition, "yes, this means you".  Something big and spiny just inside the door would be good, maybe exploding fruit."

Colin laughed. "Don't say that where the plants can hear you - you never know!"


That was when the tannoy crackled into life. "First aiders to the Cactus House, please, all first aiders to the Cactus House."

janewilliams20: (Default)
This is all Talis' fault. 

The house is deserted, the cat is away
Whey, for cheese-oh!
They think that the mice are contented to play?
No, we’re bound for pantry land!

Then away, bucks away
Whey, and cheese-oh!
So fare thee well, my bonny young doe
For we’re bound for pantry land!

That interesting smell is the fish, you can see
Whey, for cheese-oh!
My bonny said, "bring it back safely to me,"
So we’re bound for pantry land!

There’s Cheddar and Wensleydale on the top shelf
Whey, for cheese-oh!
If it should all vanish they’ll think t’was an elf
So we’re bound for pantry land!

Under a cloth is a big loaf of bread
Whey, for cheese-oh!
Get it down our hole, it will keep us well-fed
And we’re bound for pantry land!

The sugar's kept safely in a strong box
Whey, for cheese-oh!
Just eat through the hinges and ignore the locks
For  we’re bound for pantry land!

There's something looks interesting in that big bowl
Whey, for cheese-oh!
It could be quite tricky to get down the hole
But we’re bound for pantry land!


janewilliams20: (Default)
Drum and beaters
And a few other bits. Spent Saturday in a yurt near WGC, learning how to make a drum. We'd done a walk to meet the deer the hide would be coming from earlier in the year, then my actual workshop had been delayed due to the leg.

I'd chosen a 13" cedar frame (my main drum is 16", the big one 30", I wanted something a bit smaller). It's called a "Messenger" size, and that fitted in rather well with one of my reasons for wanting to make it. You may remember that a few years back, I set myself a story challenge - a story of each of the days of Xmas. The final one "Twelve drummers drumming" was about a storyteller making the drum he would use when he became a journeyman rather than an apprentice.
This drum frame was cedar, not ash, and pre-made, I didn't kill my own deer, and I used rawhide thong, not rope, but otherwise, the process was pretty much as he describes it.

Read more... )

Here's the end result:
Back of drum

That needs to dry for a week or so before being seriously used, but initial tentative taps are sounding good.

janewilliams20: (Default)
More of a note to myself than anything else, with thanks to [personal profile] pbristow

A writing challenge, with possible publication and consequent small amount of cash. The Earth has been conquered - by somebody! Who, I wonder? I can play SF, fantasy... I'm requested to avoid the obvious fantasy suspects of "vampires, werewolves, fairies, dragons, and zombies", but other than that, anything goes. 7-8K words requested.

I'll see what that stirs up from the subconscious.

janewilliams20: (Default)
No, this isn't about whether or not it works. just about what people believe.
I got pointed at a short story contest where each story had to be about a specific sign of the zodiac. So I went Googling the meaning of the signs. Different sources seem to have very different ideas, but in no case does Taurus have anything to do with Bulls (it's a feminine sign!), nor does Sagittarius have anything to do with archery or centaurs, nor Scorpio to do with scorpions. Capricorn is nothing to do with goats.
No inspiration ensued, which is probably a good thing, but it did show me just how much I don't know about astrology and the mythology behind it.

 Edit: a helpful answer on the Facebook echo points me at the Babylonian calendar, which was apparently the first to divide the year into 12 parts, and the correspondence between Taurus and the Month of the Bull.

janewilliams20: (Default)
 It started well on Friday in work, when the Project That Will Not Die, died. I'm not sure if my taking garlic and wooden stakes to the final project meeting helped, or not (yes, really, I did). Red Nose Day bake-in included my being asked for the recipe for the cheesy potato scones I'd provided (thank you, Julian Hayley and Slimming World, for the recipe).

Saturday I made the aforementioned soda bread, and another round of cheesy potato scones, and then we had a Sam and Anne with us, ate nibbles (Anne had produced cakes and bread and bacon, and....) and then headed off to TORM.

The idea was to get the fabric and buttons for the Victorian skirt and blouse I need for Easter, but in fact I didn't find either. So naturally I spent nothing... well, apart from a few books on cooking in periods I didn't yet know much about (Georgian, 1800s, Victorian), and some jerky from Martin Cowley , but that doesn't really count, does it? Got an 1880s petticoat that needs a little work on the waistband and seams to get it up to my size, but having all those frills done for me, in heavy canvas, helps enormously, and £30 is well worth it! OK, so maybe the new drum did count... we had to take the car apart slightly to get it home, since 30" is a big drum. We saw fun things, like the steam-punk crossbows, and met fun people, like Chris and Lee (shopping for bridesmaid dresses - what, you mean not everyone wants their bridesmaid in a houppelande?) and didn't buy a portable cannon, nor any more booze.

Once home, Anne cooked at us. She'd wanted to do Irish cooking for an appreciative audience, so we let her, and did St Paddy's Day a few hours early. Mmm.... there aren't many people I'd let loose in my kitchen unsupervised, but she's definitely one of them.

Sunday, nibbles (her bread, my bread), then the Lounge for brunch (at their request), then home, watching the rain get harder, and then they headed back to London before the weather got any worse.

Afternoon - clearing up, sorting PCs (Dave's building me a new one), trying to find the craft room again, and trying to design the next birthday card I'm due to produce. Also meant to be writing a Swords turn, writing a review of Age of Arthur, writing an extra army list for publication, and just spotted a short story competition that looks interesting and I should make note of. But really, this is the weekend, and taking things easy and catching up on sleep may be more important, judging by yesterday.

janewilliams20: (Default)
 Well maybe.. it's fun, anyway. The Pulp-o-mizer.

It will generate a magazine cover for your pulp SF story. If you can't think of a story that deserves this treatment, there's the Title-o-tron

janewilliams20: (Default)
Since a lot of people are doing it, and it's a writing challenge, here's my job description using the Up-goer Five editor - only the "ten hundred" most commonly used words are allowed.

 I tell computers how to help people find out about things they want to know. Sometimes the people do not know what it is they want to know, or how it should be shown to them to make it easy to understand, so I help them work it out.
Sometimes I tell other people how to tell the computers what to do, and then check that they have got it right. If they have got it wrong, I tell them how to put it right.
I like making computers help people instead of getting in their way. The best part is when they tell me that their job is much easier because I have helped them.
That really wasn't all that difficult.compared with some I've seen.
janewilliams20: (Default)
 I had a request recently for anyone who enjoyed writing short stories, with the intention being to turn said short stories into radio scripts and make them available as pod-casts.  Yes, I could do that - I'd need to change writing style a bit to have more dialogue and less description, but I could do it. What stopped me submitting any existing work, though was the setting. I've written what I think are pretty good stories over the last few years, but they're set in Glorantha, and that just isn't sufficiently well-known to make sense to the wider audience.

I like writing in Glorantha. I know the place, I have some well-developed characters to use and re-use, I can invent more without any trouble, the people I'm writing for enjoy the result, I have publishers asking me for stories rather than me asking to be published. But...

But if I want to develop as a writer, to move beyond that comfortable little audience, I have to move on. The next move shouldn't be to finish the Kallyr/Talloran cross-over, or the Whitewall novel. It should be something new.

So, what settings should I consider? Not something that has the same problem of requiring the audience to already be familiar with an existing universe, where that may not be the case. So either real-world, or something new and self-contained.
  • The real world as I know it, and limited to areas where I do know it. It's too easy to make errors by choosing a setting that some readers will know far better than the author. But, I write fantasy, possibly SF. The real world doesn't interest me as a setting.
  • The real world, but with a twist, where the twist is a lot of the point of the story - it'll have to be properly thought out, but it's a limited bit of creation/research. Add in a few vampires, or a few elves, or a ghost, something like that. Something that's rare, and hidden, so the main-stream Real World is unaffected. Nothing immediately springs to mind here, but it might.
  • A pure fantasy pseudo-medieval world, where "all" I have to get right is the pseudo-medieval technology. Oh, and the basic economics. And politics. And geography, and weather, and history to explain the current politics, and the differences between cultures and how they happened, and between races and how they happened, and the languages, and.... aarggh! Trouble is, I would not be satisfied with a superficial, sloppy job. World building to the standards I'd require of myself is hard. A complete world-build from scratch is not going to happen. So, how many ways can I find round the problem?
    • A spoof one. One of the things people seem to like about my writing is the humour. So I have a world that I openly admit doesn't make sense, and I write amusing little stories in it. It worked for Terry Pratchett, it's worked for a few other people. But I also write the odd scene or two that's intense and serious and very obviously has real characters in it, not cartoons. I'm not sure those scenes would fit.
    • "Here's one I made earlier". You see, years back, I created a universe a bit like that, or at least, made a good start on it. The intention was a setting where I could drop the generic fantasy role-playing scenarios, so it contained generic orcs, dwarves, elves, and so on. I posted about it a while back. I could take another look at that - after all, I'd developed the place so it made sense from the plate tectonics upwards!
    • Start the setting small. One village, perhaps two. I don't need to specify what happens outside it, because the characters in the story neither know nor care. I've done this before, it seems to come quite naturally. There's a few of the tales in the Twelve Stories of Xmas set in one tiny Sartarite clan, and there's one I wrote for the universe of the Renaissance Kingdoms game that does the same thing. Little Twitching, which is near Greater Twitching, and Higher-Bredon-on-the-Hill.
And, in the meantime, I was passed a link to an interesting article about world-building, and how to set characters in your world. This uses "Game of Thrones" as an example, but the principle is clear. Yes, you need to have several different contrasting cultures in any fully developed world. Those cultures should be noticeably different from each other. But, a character from an "other" culture should not necessarily be typical of that culture. Yes, you need some around to demonstrate "normal", but the hero of the main plot will differ from the norm for her culture,  and the same should apply to lead characters from "other" cultures, or you're effectively being racist. I don't think I've fallen into that trap in my existing writing, but it's one to watch.

As yet no plot bunnies have hit me for any of this. I need a conflict - a minor one perhaps, but a conflict. From that, I'll meet the characters it happens to, and it'll expand from there. So, where do I find conflict? Let me think back to when I was running RPG scenarios, and presenting the players with problems, Now remove the "adventuring party" from the equation, let the villagers fix it themselves, and.... ah. Yes, that might work.


Nov. 11th, 2012 12:06 am
janewilliams20: (Default)
Nothing new written for the day, but a FB discussion of the current emotional blackmail to wear a poppy, and/or the assumption that if you do, you approve of war, reminded me that I once wrote this.
janewilliams20: (Default)
Usually, yes, it is. Obviously. But yesterday I was trying to pick a poem or two to post for National Poetry Day, and I kept thinking today about poems I've liked and been haunted or inspired by, and Ozymandias came to mind.
Today, I wondered vaguely who the real Ozymandias had been, and hit Wikipedia to find out. Egyptian king. Fine. I nod, and move on.

But way way back, when I was still in school, I didn't have the Internet to find out things like that. It wasn't in the big encyclopaedia, or any other books round the house, or, on a quick look, in the library.

So, still being curious, I made it up.

Read more... )If I'd had access to Wikipedia, back then, I'd never have created all that.

janewilliams20: (Kallyr)
 While I can still just about remember what I did.

I'd promised myself that I would take it easy this year - only just done my first full (nearly!) week back at work after over 2 months off sick, so I'd need to allow for getting tired easily. So, minimise prep. activities, think of myself as a consumer not a producer, chill.... yeah, right. The pre-Continuum to-do list posted Wednesday night shows how well that went.
Read more... )So, during that weekend, I've been Lunars in three events, Sundomer in one,  non-Gloranthan in one, and Sartarite only for a few songs. There's something wrong here. 
janewilliams20: (Kallyr)
Finished on the netbook, with 15 min to go before the Storytelling. "The three Sundomers and the Big Bad Orlanthi". So, who's going to want it - Newt? RR, for Rule 1? Nobody in their right mind? It's a fun little story, anyway, and at only 650-odd words, I do mean "little".

Later on, Oliver read us "The Lady of Alone", and I am reminded that when he first wrote it, I wanted to tell Kallyr's side of that story. I should look into that.

Yes, the Storytelling went well. I thought at first it was going to be just me and Malk before Oliver, but lots of other people joined in, including one who was being born at the same time as the first Continuum/Convulsions, and is 20 today.

janewilliams20: (Default)
There was this suggestion that some new songs for the Singalong at Continuum might be nice. I heard about this while in Wales, having been listening to Bryn Terfel singing Welsh songs in the car, and remembered that I'd produced a version of "Land of my Fathers" years ago. Well, when I say a version, I'd taken the English translation, noted that it fitted Glorantha pretty well anyway, and changed a few words.

I offered it, and was told that it didn't seem all that Gloranthan. OK, tastes differ... so I went back and had a look, it had been ten years after all.

Yes. Rather stilted Victorian English. I was listening to Bryn in Welsh. I'd heard that the "translation" was more a case of putting some words or other to the same tune, in any case...

So, I tracked down the real meaning of the Welsh. I tracked down the Welsh lyrics. What I've almost produced is a closer translation (despite adaptation for a different universe), and retains the same rhyming pattern as the Welsh. It's pretty close to done, and has much more punch than what I had before. I'm pretty pleased with it - but I'm also stuck on a few lines.

But, "almost" done, and it's gone 22:00, and I got four hours sleep last night, and... maybe time to drop it, and do some simpler and more basic things that also need doing before I leave tomorrow morning? Two army lists, print out the scenario I'm running Saturday morning, and maybe finish writing the new story I'm telling Friday night?

janewilliams20: (Default)
Not one I expect to use all that often, but this time it's the two possible meanings I like.

obsidional, adj.
1.  Of or relating to a siege; spec. designating a wreath of grass or weeds conferred as a mark of honour upon a Roman general who raised a siege, esp. in obsidional crown, or designating coins struck, or another object serving the purpose of a coin, in a besieged town as a substitute for regular coins.
2.  Inclined to bore people by staying too long. 
janewilliams20: (Default)
 On the assumption that I am in fact going to get there, Id' better start planning what I'm going to run, and therefore what I'm going to write. I'm stuck at home for a bit, this is a good time to try to get at least some prep done. So, O fellow Continuum-goers, here are the possible things I could do some work on. Yes, all are Gloranthan.

1) The Great Duck Point Boat Race. I've run it before, I had requests last time to run it again. I could do it straight out of the bag, but I'd like to get the rules written up better, some sample boats and crews written up ready to go, and a few more "enemy" models painted up. I'm considering providing models rather than cards with numbers on for the player boats, too, but this may cause bias towards the sample boats rather than those created by the players.
Dragon boat as "normally" used for the Boat Race, with duck crew (several)
Mostali hovercraft
any other ideas?

edit: much more detailed description of the game in the comments

2) "In Pavis Fair City" - a HQ 1.5 lite scenario I've got half-written. Detective work in Pavis, involving free beer (for PCs, not players, sorry)

3) Miniatures gaming - HOTT. I'd supply the armies, the 3*3 playing areas, a simplified writeup of the rules, and scenarios for each army to fight each other army. Games last about an hour. Each scenario would score runes (Storm, Moon, etc.)  to add up to a total at the end. Given enough participants, we could probably end up with a Big Battle if we wanted to. Ideally, though, I'd need help from another experienced HOTT player to help run this.

4) In keeping with the "end of everything" theme, a scenario for which I currently have only vague ideas, set in the fall of Whitewall. I already intend to run the Swords campaign through this from the Orlanthi point of view, this would be done from the Lunar side. The final major magical attack is underway, and somehow, the Orlanthi are resisting. Your job is to get inside and sabotage whatever and whoever is organising those unexpected defences (getting out again alive, as the city collapses around you, is optional).

5) Since I'm hosting the Storytelling, I'd better come up with a story. Anyone got any prompts for me, or suggested themes? Things you'd like to hear more of, older stories you'd like to hear again?

janewilliams20: (Default)
 I've been realising recently that while I know how to use English grammar, I lack the vocabulary to describe it. I learnt it by absorption, not by formal teaching, so while I understand and use the differences between, say "I walked", "I was walking", "I have walked", "I walked the dog", I have no idea what any of these structures are called.

I'd like to correct this. I've tried Googling variations on "English grammar" and only found very trivial tuition sites, or ones that say what you should do in what circumstances (which I already knew), but without explaining the underlying structure. Can anyone recommend a text book or equivalent website that would give me what I need?

New Words

Jan. 15th, 2012 04:30 pm
janewilliams20: (Default)
Sitting in the Old Maltings today awaiting lunch, I was skimming a copy of National Geographic, and came across a page full of New Words that may or may not make it into the OED. Two of them appealed - so I furgled in my handbag to find a pen, and wrote them down. I will try not to dunandunate them the way I possibly did with my last New Word, "nimbose".


janewilliams20: (Default)

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