Two, Two, Two Writing Styles in One

AcademicWritingCreativeWriting_SheltechConsultants

Two Types of Writing: “Formal” (Academic) and Creative Writing.  Image Source: Sheltech Consultants

Academic Writer

One the things that I’ve learned over the past two years is that I have two different writing styles–and they are incompatible with each other.  The first type of writing style is my academic writing style.  This style is super strange in that I need to first find a “container” or “form” for me to be successful.  Once I find a form/container, I’m good.  I can basically write and finish a draft and that draft will be very strong and either may be the one I turn in or only needs to be edited in order to be turned in.  The real time consuming element is finding that “container”/”form”/”design” (or Thesis).  Once I have that, the rest is just putting words on paper.  Writing this blog is akin to academic writing for me: my container = the headings.  Once I put the headings down into the blog post, the rest of it is just writing the words underneath (and that’s the “secret sauce” to the writing of my blog posts).

Creative Writer

So, what I’ve learned during my time at MTSU, is that my academic writing style does NOT work for my creative writing style.  To write creatively, I (personally–may not be applicable to anyone else), need to “build” my stories draft by draft.  I have to take the time to outline (foundation), rough draft (framing), “working draft” (interiors & finishing construction), and submission draft (cleaning and landscaping).  I HAVE to go through all these stages, adding, refining, and generally making the project better at each stage of the process.  One draft will NOT suffice under any circumstances for me (even if I have the container/form.  Skipping through these stages doesn’t work for me–either I go through these stages, or I end up with incomplete drafts or abandoned projects.

Two in One

What I’ve learned is that I need to switch between the two as necessary.  Why have I continued to try to force my academic writing style on myself as my creative writing style is unknown to me.  However, if school is about learning, then I’ve at least found one great thing out about myself that I may be able to use to my advantage in my writing life.

Sidney



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Mini-Review: Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2)

A New Beginning

Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2) marks a new beginning for the team.  I’m not sure, but I think I purchased this issue from a spinner in Waldenbooks well before they went of business (when they were still a thriving store).  The cover date is Oct. 1987 and since comics usually went on sale about a month or two prior to their cover date (the date was “fiction” to show how “new”/”fresh” it was), I probably got it in Aug/Sept of 1987, so please forgive me if my memory is a little off.

The basic gist of the comic is that the commander of the Alien Legion squadron, Sarigar, “lost” is squad on what appeared to be a suicide mission and he was the only one to make it out alive . . . or so it seems.  This issue marks the beginning of a new storyline with a new formulation of new team members (I think it also marks a new art team, but don’t quote me on that).

Sarigar For the Win

The focus is squarely on Sarigar in this issue.  There are very few other characters–and they are mostly secondary characters by which the commander gets to show off his characterization as being someone who loves the Legion, but who loved his squad more, and is willing to risk his life to get them back.

Duty and Honor

This issue very much focuses on the idea of “duty” to one’s fallen friends, especially when they might not be as . . . fallen as first supposed.  It also has the idea of “honor” in that Sarigar is too much of a “true” Legionnaire to allow the uniform that he wears be sullied with disgrace by engaging in a bar fight with three bar room bullies.  However, when he takes off the uniform, we get to see just what a complete warrior Sarigar really is–the fight scene is only 2-3 pages long, but Sarigar wipes the floor with them easily.

The only thing I wished was that there was more interaction/story about finding the team than there is currently.  Still, its a really good read and holds up pretty well even after all these years.

Overall Grade: B+

Sidney



Project “Space Trucker”

Project Space Trucker

So this will be a short blog entry today.  I just wanted to let you know that I’ve started the “Rough Draft” of a new project: Project Space Trucker.  Yes, I know the title is inelegant, but it is what the story is about.  Well, not literally about Semi-Trucks in space, but about the future and how a “Trucker” in the future might be realized in terms of world/setting, characterization, plot, etc.

This project has no relation to the 1996 movie Space Truckers.  I’ve never seen that movie & didn’t even know it existed until I googled the words Space & Truck for the above image.  After seeing the trailer (see below), I’ve no real desire to see the movie as it is apparently B movie in every sense of the word (bikini-clad female co-pilot and ship that apparently has a semi-truck “trailer” attached to the back of the ship).  If I ever run across it on streaming (& I have a couple of hours to kill), I might watch it now that I know it exists, but its not something I’m going to go searching for as you can see for yourself from the Trailer posted on YouTube.

Inspiration

No, this project was inspired quite a bit by my commute to school.  I often pass by Semi-Trucks on the road and I started noticing the names of the shipping companies on the trailers or the names of the transport and logistic companies on the sides of the trucks and that started me to thinking about how these companies might exist in a space/science fiction environment.

Also, along the route to school, there is a truck “pull-off stop area.”  It isn’t a rest area per se, but a small set of lanes where trucks can pull off the highway safely and sleep/rest before making their way to a mandatory truck checking area that is a few miles up the road.  This way truckers can sleep/rest and not get fined or penalized for not having taken mandatory rest breaks as required by American law.  On one trip, I saw a couple of truckers conversing with each other outside their trucks and also began to wonder how that interaction might play out in a sci-fi universe.

What’s Next?

So, I really like the way this project is headed so far.  I have a fairly clear idea of the character.  I’m working on the Rough Draft this week and over the weekend, I hope to work on character sketches for the two main characters.  Right now, I’m plugging away on the “Working Draft” of Project Poet (Poet).  I’m not sure what’s on deck after Poet as I still need to go back and do another draft for Project Skye as well, but I’ll update you next week.

Well, looks like I’m out of time for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney



 

Reclaiming Lara Croft

Reclaiming Lara

Okay, so this blog post is liable to be controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway: “old” Lara Croft (Old Lara) as a character was better in many ways than “new” Lara Croft (new Lara).  Old Lara Croft was portrayed as a “sex symbol” by the media of the late 90s & early 2000s in order to understand this new female character representation in gaming that had traditionally been infused with male characters and male sensibilities.  Old Lara was a breaking of the stereotype, but paradoxically a part of the stereotype in that it was her gender and sexuality (unrealistic proportions) that marked her as an unrealistic construct.  New Lara is meant to counter this: a realistic representation of a feminine body type and a new, more “realistic” backstory.  However, as both old and new film adaptations have shown, people (including the team at Crystal Dynamics currently tasked with developing new games) don’t really “get” Lara Croft and what makes her tick.

Mind Over Matter

Lara Croft is brilliant and I don’t mean that in the “great” sense of the word.  No, I mean it literally.  She is brilliant and much like another British-created character, Doctor Who, she is the “smartest person in the room.”  The Doctor works because he is a “madman in a box” while Lara Croft never was given that one sentence that summed up her character.  For me, Lara Croft is a “raider of Tombs.”  This is where so many representations of her go wrong–they neglect to give her a reason for her to raid tombs (a why is she doing this/why does it matter).  Tomb Raider 2 (from Core) and Tomb Raider Legend (Crystal Dynamics) are the purest expressions of why does what she does and what is at stake if she fails in her quest.

Some might argue that the new games (the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider), the subsequent sequels, and the newest movie (sans Angelina Jolie) depict a better “version” of Lara, but I argue that’s not true.  Lara, who is emotionally blasted from killing a deer in the 2013 reboot, is not much different than stereotypical representations of females of the past.

Puzzles, Traps, Solutions

Everyone keeps making the same mistake of comparing Lara Croft with Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones movies) or Nathan Drake (Uncharted video game series), when her true comparison is Doctor Who. In every room, Lara is (as is the player through the extension of agency) looking for the “exit” or the solution to the puzzle, trap, or what have you. Once located, it becomes a “game” to figure out how to get Lara from point A to that exit.  However, you (the player) and Lara (the character) go into the situation believing and expecting that there is ALWAYS an exit and always a SOLUTION to the problem, so long as you can reason it out.  This is exactly the same characterization used to describe The Doctor: “he always wins because he always assumes he’s going to win”  (paraphrased from Series 9, Episode 2, “The Witch’s Familiar”).  Lara goes into any situation knowing there’s a solution, she just has to find it. Again, she’s smartest person in the room–no matter her physique.  Now we just need for Hollywood to discover this fact and for Crystal Dynamics to rediscover Lara as an actual “Tomb Raider” instead of just relying on it as a “brand name” used to market and sell games in the “franchise.”

Sidney



Mini-Review: Saban’s Power Rangers (2017)

Over the weekend, I was in the mood for some lighter fare, so I streamed Saban’s The Power Rangers (2017)–which is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime.  It had a four star rating and didn’t look terrible so I thought I’d give it a try.  While not a great movie, it still wasn’t the absolute abomination that the last Turtles movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows turned out to be last year when I watched it.

A Typical “Teen” Movie

One of its faults (& strengths, I suppose if you’re a part of that demographic) is that it is like any other “teen” movie you’ve seen a thousand times before.  A group of misfit teens must overcome their differences and band together to become much more than they could be on their own.  While the characters aren’t really new and interesting, the actors portraying them do a fairly good job of showing the characters’ emotions.  The script, however, leaves a lot of things to be desired: chiefly, more time spent on fleshing out the characters, less on silly jokes that are more than a little cringe-worthy.

A Typical “Team” Movie

Also, like any other “team” movie, you’ll find that they don’t fully “gel” as a team until the end of the movie because they’ve got “issues.”  What those issues are, I won’t spoil, but while they are “major” to the characters, I got to say, it didn’t really feel like they were major to the audience.  Similarly, much of the destruction by and against our heroes is largely ignored until the plot calls for it.  Remember the scene in the trailers where Rita attacks one of the Rangers alone in her bedroom?  Well, that was part of a longer five minute scene which the bedroom and surrounding walls were pretty much trashed, yet no parent or sibling ever came to check to see what the heck was going on, let alone cops being called at the sight of a crazy witch-lady assaulting one of your kids in your own home.

Krispy Kreme Much?

Lastly, product placement.  Look, I like Krispy Kreme donuts as much as the next person (we have one in Chattanooga that I frequent at least twice a year), but the “product/brand” placement was over the top in this movie.  So much so, that it took me out of the movie when we found out that’s where the movie’s macguffin is hidden.  It is like the only major product that we see in the movie and it really calls attention to itself in an obnoxiously obvious way.  No donuts for you!

Overall Grade: C (+/- depending on whether you like or dislike these types of movies)

It is a competently made movie that you’ve likely seen a dozen or more times in other genres or places.  It isn’t stellar but it isn’t completely horrible either.  You might like it (or hate it) more than I did depending on your taste for these types of movies (which is why I added the +/-), but for me it is solidly average.  At least, it wasn’t as bad as TMNT: OotS (for me, at least) and I was able to have a fairly good time with Power Rangers once I shut off the analytical part of my brain and enjoyed it for the teen super hero/nostalgia movie that it was trying so hard to be for fans of the original show.

Sidney



A Culture of Spoilers

Apologies for not posting yesterday (my first missed post of the month–boo!), but I simply ran out of time.  I wanted to make sure that I finished my project (which I was able to do–yay!), but in order to do it well, I just couldn’t do it and the normal blog post as well.  However, today I’m back–so on with the regularly scheduled blog post.

Spoilers

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen tons of spoilers online.  It as if there has been an uptick in the amount spoilers out there.  No, I take that back, actually spoilers have always been online every since it became a thing, but now, it seems that people either going out of their way to spoil things or they have become less inclined to guard themselves from spoiling something.

What’s Worse than Game of Thrones for me?  Spoilers, that’s What.

A case in point–I’m not a huge fan of Game of Thrones (you might even say that I’m an anti-fan of it, wishing there was a Lord of the Rings equivalent without all the exploitative sex & violence featured on the show).  However, I keep myself from spoilers from the show (and others like it that I dislike, like say The Walking Dead) in the off-chance that I ever want to see the series in their entirety for school (I am a Rhetoric & Composition/Popular Culture student after all), or for some other reason.   I want to able to watch them without knowing/being able to guess major plot points based on clues and hints which weren’t in the major narrative.

Yet, in the past couple of weeks, I had a major plot point spoiled and know the name of a major character who will die on the show.  Now, here’s the important bit: how did I learn about this?  Was I cruising GoT fan forums? No.  Was I looking a Reaction Videos from the show?  No. Was I on Wikipedia, IMDB, or a site where someone mentioned it in the comments section? No.  No, I was watching a Let’s Play for a video game called The Last of Us on YouTube when the Youtuber dropped the spoiler at the end of the gameplay loop while discussing a surprising development in the game.  There was no warning–I guessed the spoiler was coming a sentence before it was uttered, but I couldn’t get to my phone’s volume controls in time and I had a major character’s death spoiled–including when it occurs in the show’s timeline, so there’s absolutely no suspense left at all regarding that character.

The Quest for Views/Hits/Clicks/Whatever

A similar thing has been happening on YouTube for a while where YouTubers are often posting “spoilery” things in their “Thumbnail” images that go out to promote their videos.  There is a video game called Nier Automata that I really want to get and play later in the year when I’ve cleared some of my backlog of games.  It is supposed to have multiple endings with a mind-blowing reveal.  However, somebody thought it would be “fun” to post that ending in his/her thumbnail in the form of Hey what did you think about  [this incredibly important topic that happens at the END OF THE GAME]?

Really?

The YouTuber knows full well that the video is not going out to just subscribers to his/her channel, but to anyone who YouTube’s algorithms think in a good match (that’s how these videos get so many views–not from subscribers but those who are tangentially/incidentally targeted because YouTube thinks the content is similar to what you’ve already watched).  This is pervasive in the Web arena as well–clicks/likes = revenue, so being all spoilery some is a legitimate tactic (in their minds) to enhance traffic and to bring people in, but it has the opposite affect on me.

To quote a famous queen–“I do not approve.”  To all those would be spoilers out there: if you want to spoil something–great, but please, give those of us who would rather enjoy the story on our terms the time (& ability) to leave your content before you do so.

Sidney



Working on a Project for School

Project_KentState_University

So, having posted everyday this month, some might have noticed that my posts have been posting later and later in the day.  So sorry about that–for this past week, I’ve either been sick or brainstorming for two projects that I have (one tomorrow, Thurs. 3/22 and the other on Mon, 3/26).  I’ve been working really hard on them, esp. the one for Thursday and I’ve let the blog slid a bit.  Unfortunately, it won’t get appreciably better until at least April where I have a little more “space,” but even then I have an Annotated Bibliography and 2 papers to write (in addition to a Final Exam).  So, in other words, April may be “touch-and-go” as well.  So please, bear with me as school exerts its inexorable hand and causes the blog to a little more “spotty” than normal.  Push comes to shove, I’ll try my best to get a shorter entry (like this one) out as a “update” as to what is happening, but the longer blog entries (like the one I wanted to write on Spoilers which I have outlined and ready to write for today) will just have to wait for a more “convenient” (i.e., less project intensive) time.  Sorry!

Now back to your regularly scheduled program (or in this case, my “break” is over, back to getting that project done for tomorrow’s class).

Sidney