“Tag!” or “Timeout to Catch Up”

Ah, Tag – when a young man’s fancy turns and flees… Back in the day when kids had nothing better to do than chase each other around all day, that’s what they did: Run to avoiding getting caught, in regular Tag. Run to avoid getting shot in Laser Tag. Run until a sorcerous touch from the almighty It rooted them to the spot in Freeze Tag. Run, run, as fast as they could, like so many gingerbread dudes. …Or, if you’d rather stay in your seat, there’s always Blog Tag.

            Here, according to my buddy Ben over at Storymultiverse, is how you play.

1. You must post the rules. (…which I now so do.)

2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create ten new questions to ask the people that you have tagged.

3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.

4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

            Now, what Ben did (and I thought this was a neat way to go about it) was, instead of tagging a specific eleven people, he just said, “If you’re reading this, you can play!” Therefore, my fellow bloggers and blog-less readers alike, you are one and all invited to join in the “getting to know you” fun! By the power of It vested in me, I’ll start by answering the questions sent my way.

1. Who are some of the biggest influences on your writing and… 2. Why? (Can be authors, family members, your pet, etc.)

            I probably owe a great deal to my mother, whose certifiably-insane sense of humor seems to have proven somewhat genetic. And I’ve spent much of my life honing my quips, experimenting with complicated plot lines, and stretching the limits of my imagination in original role-playing games with my sister. Let’s see, who else can I blame?…

            On the Wilderhark side of things, I should probably give a shout-out to E.D. Baker, author of “The Frog Princess” and its subsequent series; I never so badly wanted to write a fairytale prince until after meeting her Eadric. Huge thanks to Robin McKinley’s “Outlaws of Sherwood” and the Bristol Renaissance Faire for driving me to create “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. And Tirzah and Lute… you know what you’ve done.

3. What is one of the best blog posts that you’ve read?

            Oh, gosh – memory, are you up to this?… Well, okay, I’ll go easy on me and keep this recent. You don’t mind if I invoke the name of Rachel Aaron again, do you? Good. ‘Cause if you’ve got goals and shiny dreams, writerly or otherwise, then hey, you should read this.

            I also really enjoyed this piece about shape-shifters in fantasy by Fabulous Realms, the House of Happy’s tribute to summer, and a little snapshot of a short story from My Other Book is a Tolstoy (also a grand source of poetry), just to spread the kudos around.

4. Name five of your favorite movies. They don’t have to be the top five, just five that you would put on that list of favorites.

            “The Phantom of the Opera” (the one with Gerard Butler ‘n’ ‘em) – I love the music, it was visually stunning, and… I love the music. (For the sake of three, I justify. Plus I truly do love the music double. Bravo, Andrew Lloyd Webber.)

Gettin’ all ‘90s TV, up in here. That’s Steve/Aladdin’s voice in the upper-right corner.

            “Aladdin” (Disney, of course) – THE movie of my childhood. I watched all three movies and the TV series; I owned the action figures; D.J’s. boyfriend, Steve, on “Full House” got that much cooler once I realized he was Aladdin’s voice. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to be more: Jasmine, because she got Aladdin, or Aladdin himself, because he was da man. Given the choice today, it’d still be a toss-up.

            “Kung Fu Panda” – Hilarious, gorgeously animated, and Hans Zimmer did the music (‘nough said).

            “The Emperor’s New Groove” (Disney again; this list could have so easily become all Disney, all the time) – Silliness at its finest. Please ignore the sequel.

            “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” (Andrew Lloyd Webber again. Yay! – now my list is like a palindrome! *happy dance of symmetry*) – Donny Osmond as Joseph was a treat, and his brothers were so individualistically zany, and the whole thing was in song, so it was a breeze to memorize from start to finish. Cue me up – I’ll sing “Canaan Days” right now.

5. Name five of your favorite books. (Same as before.)

            I’ve made considerable mention of my recent obsession with Eli Monpress, so let’s just count the omnibus as “one” and move on from there. What books haven’t I ranted about, yet?…

            Well, in that same spirit of consolidation, we’ll count the “Bonemender” trilogy by Holly Bennett at “two”. She wrote some wonderful elves; some pretty cool humans, too.

            And there’s “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield. A bit creepier and more mature than I usually go for, but quite gripping.

            I’ll open a can of controversy by freely admitting that I like Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. (I’ve always been Team Emmett, if that makes any difference to anyone.)

            As for number five… arrgh, this is killing me. I don’t know which to choose!

            “When in doubt,” Lute advises, “pick a book with me in it.”

            Um, I wasn’t aware that was the rule, but okay. “Ballad”s sequel, then.

* * *

            Phew! That last question just took it out of me (the stress on readers asked to pick their fave reads is substantial!), and this blog post is running long enough as it is. So tell you what, folks: We’ll cut my end of the Q+A off here, and pick it back up another time. In the meanwhile, here are my first five questions for you!

1. What is the best or most horrifying dream you can remember having ever had, and what made it so great or awful?

2. Name a [humanly possible] talent you don’t have, but wish you did.

3. If you couldn’t have the name you’ve got, what would you like to be called?

4. Which musical instrument(s) do you most enjoy listening to?

5. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what would you most lament?

            What say you?! You can leave your response as a comment, or link to them on your blog or what have you; answer any or all, but not none! …Unless you call “olly olly oxen free”.

“Sunshine” or “When It Rains…”

Dear me, the blog awards are pouring it! Scarcely do I catch my breath following my Versatile Blogger acceptance speech, and in comes news that I am once again a winner – this time, of the Sunshine Award! ‘Twould seem that Emerald Barnes of Dreaming Awake deems Ever On Word “a source of cheerfulness”, and for this, I am most grateful.

As ever, the award comes with recommended rules of receipt:

1.  Thank the person(s) that gave you the award. (Thankity-thanks, Emerald!)

2. Write a post about it. (Like a rule to the contrary could stop me! …Well, actually, it would have done. I’m pretty big on rule-following.)

3. Answer the questions below. (Gladly!)

4. Pass the award on to 10 bloggers who you think deserve it. (See parenthetical note above.)

Righteo – first stop, the Q&A!

Favorite colour? The blues of the sky. (Me and my minstrel both.)

Favorite animal? The red fox. (Me and my fox both.)

Favorite number? 6. (Not me and anyone both, that I know of; I just enjoy the look of the numeral.) I’ve also got a certain fondness for 57. (Me and my momma both.)

Favorite non-alcoholic drink? Fruit smoothies (heavy on the strawberries, please!).

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook. The shorter a thought is meant to be, the longer it takes to edit to my satisfaction. Half-an-hour per tweet? No-o thank you.

My passion? Authoring. …Though I’d like to nudge that down to number two, with my Author in his rightful spot at number one.

Giving or getting presents? Giving, if it must be either/or.

Favorite pattern?: Let’s go with… Celtic knots. It smacks of the fantastic.

Favorite day of the week? Ausday – third day of the week on my Wilderhark calendar. I’m not sure why I like it best — (maybe because it feels like the day upon which my tailor was born) — but whenever I try to remember the Wilderhark weekdays, that’s the one that first comes to mind. I’m also fond of Aryaday (day five).

Favorite flower? I don’t generally care about flowers, but I care about a character who cares about peach blossoms, so I’ll say that. I also care about names, and like the sound of flowers like Christmas Bells, Ghost Flower, Glory of the Snow…

And now, 10 bloggers who may or may not have received an award from me in the past, and who are under no severe obligation to pass this particular award along if they’ve not the time/inclination, but they’ve brought me sunshine, so they’re gettin’ theirs.

            1 = Amy Lee Bell of Full Circle Homeschooing – One of my first ever sunny buddies here in Blog Land.

            2 = Ariel K. Price of the blog of the same name – Bringing the book-loving sunshine since… well, I’m not sure. I discovered her in October, in any case.

            3 = Ash Silverlock of Fabulous Realms – Wall-to-wall fantasy, and the latest post was on Robin Hood. It doesn’t get a whole lot sunnier than that.

            4 = Jesse “TheMaddRaven” Duncan of The Film CAT – A young film reviewer new to the blogging scene who brightens my life with lovely, obscure words that even I’ve never heard of. *Respect*

            5 = J.P. Cabit of House of Happy – With a name like House of Happy, it has to be good. (Or was that Smuckers?… Ah, well; it’s sunny over there, in any event.)

            6 = Kate Mardis of the kate that i know – Even on her stormiest days, she looks to the Son.

            7 = Leigh Townsend of Butterflies and DragonsOffers up a quick dose of sunbeams almost everyday.

            8 = Louise Jacques of My Other Book is a Tolstoy – Provider of skylight most lyrical, and Australian to boot. *Jealousy*

            9 = Tirzah Duncan of The Ink Caster – ‘Cause she’s my Tirzah, y’all.

            10 = Tiyana White of Seven & a Half First Drafts – Even the face of her blog is sunshiny yellow!

And that, my friends, is that. Have a sunny one!

“Q and A”

Fun news, Ever On Wordians: I was extended the honor of writing a guest post for a fellow blogger! (A brief pause whilst I indulge in some excitement-induced hand-clapping.)

In recognition of my knack of harnessing authorial schizophrenia to further my creative ends, Andrea S. Michaels requested a piece on how to engage in meaningful dialogue with one’s fictional characters. It was my pleasure (along with my minstrel’s, my fox’s, my Dream World Deliverer’s, and my tailor’s) to oblige. Hop on over to Andrea’s blog via this lovely little link, and be sure to give my host some love while you’re in the neighborhood. (:

Edit: Should the day ever come that the lovely little link fails (Aragorn insists that it is not this day, but it could be that he’s referring to something else), I’ve included the full “Q and A” piece below. Enjoy!

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“Oh, Author…” (This generally said with a pitying sigh, or perhaps merely a condescending headshake, on the part of my minstrel marvel, Gant-o’-the-Lute.) “Wherever would you be without me?”

I usually try to get around answering that question, on the grounds that the asker’s ego doesn’t need the boost. But the fact is, my writing truly would be worth little without the characters who live the books and, thereby, give them life. The characters make the story, and the author makes the characters (…with “the usual exception” of Gant-o’-the-Lute who, I swear, half-created himself). It is imperative, then, that We the Authors of the World, in Order to form a more-perfect-than-not work of Fiction, do our darnedest to make our characters seem real.

“What’s real in your world about a talking, five-foot-five, practically primatial wild fox in a top hat?” questions Glyph, with a lazy swish of his bright, bushy tail.

Well, of course I didn’t mean “real” in the “being or occurring in fact or actuality” sense. We’re talking fiction; reality need have little place here, but realness is requisite. Therefore, the characters must come across as the “genuine and authentic” sort of real to the readers, which is easiest done when they feel that sort of real to their authors.

So what do you do when you just can’t seem to get a sense of who your characters are? When their innermost hearts are closed to you? When you have no idea how they would react to that wild plot point you plan to throw at them in Chapter Seven because you don’t know what makes them tic? That’s when it’s time for a little Q and A; an author/character chitchat.

“An interrogation under a hot bulb, with everyone and their secondary antagonist sniggering from the other side of the two-way mirror,” grumbles Bruno, because he’s a Mr. Sunshine type o’ teen, like that.

As Bruno’s grousing demonstrates, not every character will be eager to bare their souls to you. Something broad and open-ended like “So, tell me about yourself” may not yield the sort information you were hoping to get. For your more reluctant charries, I would recommend you take a more organized approach. Get together a list of specific questions, and tackle them one by one in a thorough interview. My preferred resource? What I call The Anything and Everything Character Questionnaire.

“…Of doom,” my tailor Edgwyn adds, in the laughing, extra-deep version of his otherwise baritone voice that signifies he’s looking to amuse.

It’s not actually meant to be doomful (despite what Bruno would have you believe) – although, I admit, some questions can be inherently awkward, or else lead unexpectedly to some pretty painful stuff. I’ve had characters break down crying mid-quiz, or storm off in a rage that only a few hours’ timeout could lessen. When you’re talking about anything and everything from their first memories, to their sense of morals, to their love life, you really never know what’s going to come up. And that’s the beauty of it: Just letting your characters talk, and learning what their words reveal.

You could unearth bits of backstory you’d never thought to imagine (for example, extracted from Glyph’s turn at the questionnaire):

Most Prized Possession and Why: It’s bound to be that hat again.

“Because it’s important,” Glyph says. “It was to be my first ever hat, and the payment the spider wanted for it was a damselfly, because her webs had never once caught a damselfly, and she’d grown terribly curious about how one would taste. So I set out to catch the required damselfly, and found one being pursued by a dragonfly. And I decided that I would rather save the damselfly, and kill the dragonfly, and give it to the spider instead. So I did, and she was most excited (because, of course, dragonflies are bigger than damselflies), so I got my hat, and I got Jewel.” (His damselfly sidekick.) “A very good day.”

You could discover secret desires that are a fundamental part of the character’s makeup (e.g., from Bruno’s session):

If Granted One Wish, What Would it Be and Why: “Oh, boy, I get a wish,” he says with lackluster glee. “…I wish that American cheese was actually cheese.”

Or you could watch in amazement as various answers work together in such a way that you’re almost looking at a short story within the dialogue (which would take too much space to illustrate here, so I’ll just hope I’ve managed to build up enough credibility in your eyes that you can take my word for it). And these mini dramas can serve as inspiration for other short stories, or even for new novels. (For goodness’ sake, I hadn’t been planning to write a sequel for my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” until the rich storylines within various Merry Men questionnaires drove me to it!)

Getting to know your characters is one of the best things you can do for your stories. More than that, turning your author/character relationship into one of friendship just makes for a more rewarding experience all around. Isn’t that so, Lute old buddy?

“Oh, absolutely,” he says, tone suggestive of humoring a mental patient.

Ah, well. What’s the life of an author of fiction without a little harmless delusion?