I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2009, and I’ve even “won” a few years, but I’ve had trouble feeling the same motivation in later years that I felt as a college student finishing her first manuscript. I talk about it more in a recent episode of the writing podcast I co-host, but I’ve been searching for a way to reclaim some of that motivation.
So this year, I’m treating it like an outlining exercise instead. My goal isn’t to come out of November with a manuscript, it’s to come out of November with enough scenes and background information to write a manuscript the rest of the year.
To help me achieve this, I’ve come up with daily prompts to lead me through plot and character development. Although they’re meant more for outling, I tried to follow the basic flow of a book, so they should also work for people who are writing a novel straight-out.
If you’re feeling a little stuck, I hope some of these will work for you, as well!
Character 1 at the beginning
Character 2 at the beginning
Character 3 at the beginning
Main characters past together
Something that haunts them (individually or together)
A major past event
Where does Chara 1 hang out?
Where does Chara 2 hang out?
Where does Chara 3 hang out?
Other important locations
Their current connections to each other
Minor character biography 1
Minor character biography 2
Minor character biography 3
Minor character biography 4
Minor character biography 5
One antagonistic force/person
Another antagonistic force/person
Chara 1’s family
Chara 2’s family
Chara 3’s family
What does Chara 1 think about Chara 2?
What does Chara 2 think about Chara 1?
History of their world/neighborhood/area of importance
Done as a final project for my Women’s Literature class, this alternative-ending to the novel Jane Eyre provides a new spin on an old classic. I loved this novel, but in many ways, I found the original ending unsatisfying. So I wrote my own.
As you can probably imagine, I was in quite a state when I discovered the burned ruins of my former lodging. After collecting myself, it seemed the only way to find out the truth of the matter was to return to the inn, which I did at once. There I was treated to a harrowing story. I shall spare you the details, and the spat of emotions that followed them. Suffice to say, it was a grim matter, made only grimmer by my regretful and heavy heart.
Reader, he died. In the great fire that consumed the place, lit by that raving woman he worked so hard for so long to keep from me, my dear Rochester was struck down. All the servants survived, I was assured, but Rochester and his cursed wife—poor wretched creature—perished in the flames.
In my grief, I forgot to ask after Mrs. Fairfax or the rest, beyond their basic survival. I didn’t know where they ended up, but I fancy they were in a happier spot than I found myself. Their burdens were, if anything, lifted by the ghastly fire, while mine seemed only heavier. My one solace was that he, my dear Rochester, died attempting to make up for all those follies of his life. Attempting to save his servants, and succeeding; attempting to save his suicidal and murderous wife, and, alas, falling with her instead.
I had not until then given much thought to the poor creature, that woman who had been half my punishment and half my shame. What kind of creature she had truly been I may never know; I only knew the final result of a cursed life, and I hope she rests easier in death than she did in that windowless room on the third floor. I hope they both rest easy, at last.
I do not remember the day following my journey to the manor, and the final revelation at the inn. I imagine I took a room there, but whatever I did, I was acting out of pure instinct. I have no memory of ascending to lodging, of taking dinner, of even the conclusion of the conversation. In truth, I remember little until many months later, when the dark shroud of grief began to lift, and my life began, slowly, to resume.
Last summer, June 2019, I quite my job as a marketer (and occasional customer-service-representative) for a small company, and went back to school. This week, I begin my second year in a Business degree program. I’m planning to major in marketing, but am getting a lot of basic training in accounting, financing, and management along the way. It’s been an good program so far, and should only get better as I am able to take higher level classes.
Of course, that’s not the most interesting thing about this year.
Spring term, as the Covid-19 pandemic went from theoretical to pervasive, I got my first taste of remote learning. Before this, I did have a little experience with online classes, from both perspectives. I worked as a teaching assistant for a few online classes back in grad school (around 2011), and my first term back at school last summer included two online classes. But these classes felt very different.
Some of it was the panic in the air, as students and teachers alike scrambled to make the best of a chaotic, painful situation. Some of it was the suddenness. Sure, online classes are nothing new, but most teachers had maybe two weeks notice before they were suddenly online teachers…some of whom had never taught online before. My classes actually went really smoothly, but many of my classmates had less stellar experiences.
All of my classes had a live check-in of some kind or another; one had fully live lectures. Now I know the term for these are “synchronous classes”–where you meet online at a specific time, as opposed to just watching recorded lectures and posting in message boards at your leisure. I found this much easier to handle than the “asynchronous” classes I’d participated in, and it really helped it feel like a class that was worth my time and money.
When I went back to school, I knew it would be different than my previous degrees, but I had no idea how different. I probably still don’t.
This blog has been quiet, and I’m sure my return to school has something to do with that. But, I haven’t been completely idle! I find I only have so much creative energy in me at any given time, and I’ve been making the most of it.
I plan to make a whole post (or two) about this, but the most envirgorating thing I’ve been doing over the last year and a half is podcasting with my friend Robin. We currently have two podcasts!
CLAMPcast in Wonderland is a retrospective on the works of manga superstar group CLAMP, where we discuss their publications from the last thirty years, and the influence they had on us as teens and now as adult creators.
In April we started a second podcast, Write for Me, Write for You, which focuses on (you guessed it) writing. Robin and I are each committed to drafting a book in 2020, and this podcast chronicles that journey. In each episode, we also tackle different challenges that writers face, bringing our experiences in publishing and comics to the table.
The Great Ouran Analysis
Some of you may remember this blog series I started…in like 2017. In it, I analyze the anime Ouran High School Host Club episode by episode. It never got past five episodes, but I’ve been re-writing the original posts, and should be continuing the series this fall. After all the analysis we do in our CLAMP podcast, I feel like my voice has really grown, and I can tackle this series with new insight. Well, and it’s fun.
Check it out with the intro post (it should be interesting even if you’re not an anime fan).
I’d feel really horrible if this wasn’t on the list somewhere. I’ve been working through a few different WIPs, and trying to get back into the habit of daily writing (with mixed success). The podcast has helped give me a focus and a deadline, and I’m currently about a fourth of the way through a story about a school’s D&D club. Still figuring it out, but I like the direction it’s going. It’s YA, of course, and pretty queer.
Thank you for sticking with this little blog as my voice changes and my focus shifts. I still consider this my home-base, and I have no plans to abandon it, even if I may get sidetracked occasionally. I decided to go back to school so that I could pursue the things I love, and my blog and writing are both a big part of that. Here’s to many years ahead!
Although we met all these delightful characters in the first episode, Episode 2 is where we really get to see the club in action. Haruhi’s a full-time host now, and everyone in the club is aware that she’s a girl (although the rest of the school is still none the wiser). However, although she’s a somewhat willing participant, she’s still not very attached to this strange club.
The episode opens as Haruhi rushes to be on time for club, only to open the doors and find a tropical oasis waiting for her instead of the usual room. All the hosts dress for the occasion in Balinese-inspired outfits, except for Haruhi, who prefers to stick with her seasonally-appropriate school uniform.
Today, Haruhi encounters a new client, Kasugazaki Kanako. Although she’s most recently been Tamaki’s client, Kanako has a history of switching between hosts (while most clients stick with the same host), and Haruhi is her new favorite. Seemingly jealous of this development, Tamaki announces that Haruhi should stop dressing as a boy—insisting that he wants to see her as she used to be, with long hair and a girl’s school uniform. Of course, this would make it difficult to pay off her debt to the club, since she’s able to make much more hosting than just doing chores. When Haruhi is also resistant to attending the dance the club is planning for the end of the week, Tamaki proclaims that if Haruhi doesn’t learn to waltz in time, he’ll reveal her gender to the school.
For the rest of the week, Kanako teaches Haruhi to waltz, and Haruhi notices that Kanako has an especial affection for fine china. It turns out that Kanako was betrothed at a young age to Suzushima Toru, the heir to a china supplier. However, the two have drifted apart, and he’s going to be studying abroad soon. Once Haruhi and the rest of the club realize this, Tamaki announces they must enact a new strategy, because the club exists to bring happiness to women. Despite her smile, Kanako is not happy.
The night of the dance arrives, and all their usual clients have turned out for a chance to dance with the hosts, and win the ultimate prize at the end of the night: whoever is crowned “queen” of the dance will receive a kiss on the cheek from the “king”, Tamaki. Haruhi’s usual clients are eager to dance with her, but Kanako snatches her up first—only just before she is literally snatched up by Mori and Honey, and carted to the back room to be part of their plan. They (the twins and Kyouya) have sent a love letter to Toru, and they need Haruhi to meet him in disguise and pretend to be a girl who has fallen for him. She complies, and Toru tells her that he can’t return her feelings—there’s already a girl he likes, but that girl deserves someone much more confident and impressive than him, so he’s working on bettering himself.
Haruhi has a wonderful way of being blunt, and she wastes no time telling Toru he’s being selfish, and that if he likes this girl, there’s no reason he shouldn’t tell her now, so they can grow and change together. Meanwhile, Tamaki has led Kanako away from the party and arranged for her to catch them talking. Although she doesn’t hear their conversation, Kanako is clearly emotional at seeing Toru with a girl (alone in a dark room, no less), and runs off crying. Fortunately, Toru follows her.
The couple makes it outside, and the hosts shine spotlights down on them, announcing that they get to have the last dance. Toru asks Kanako to dance with him, tells her he has always loved her, and proposes to her.
All that’s left is to resolve this kiss issue, and the twins announce that Kanako is the queen—but there’s been a change! Now, the winner gets a kiss on the cheek from Haruhi, instead of Tamaki. Honey points out that this might be Haruhi’s first kiss, and Tamaki rushes to stop it, but he trips and ends up pushing Haruhi into Kanako, causing a chaste kiss on the cheek to become a real kiss on the lips. And that’s how Haruhi’s first kiss ends up being with a girl.
The first episode of Ouran High School Host Club opens with a studious, frumpy student, Fujioka Haruhi, trying to find a place to study in their luxurious private school (the titular Ouran Academy). All the libraries on campus are full of chatting students, but when they try the abandoned 3rd Music Room, they stumble into the Host Club: a group of attractive boys that are ready to entertain bored [usually female] students in the most extravagant way possible. Before Haruhi can escape, they accidentally break an expensive vase, and are roped into doing odd-jobs for the club to pay off the incredible sum of money that Haruhi’s family would never be able to afford. When the club members discover that, despite their sloppy attire, Haruhi actually cleans up well, they are upgraded to a “rookie host”, and soon discover they’re a bit of a natural when it comes to entertaining their guests over tea. They quickly charm the girls (and Tamaki) with a story about their later mother, and how they feel close to her by recreating her old recipes.
Haruhi proceeds to follow instructions through most of the episode, as Tamaki and the twins encourage and deride them. When they purchase instant coffee instead of coffee beans, the hosts and their guests are intrigued by this “commoner coffee,” and make Haruhi serve it to them. For the most part, Haruhi is well-received, with their “lowly” background being considered a novelty. However, one of Tamaki’s guests is anything but supportive, and when Haruhi continues to capture attention, she throws Haruhi’s bag into a fountain, and, when Haruhi points out that she’s acting like she’s jealous, she accuses Haruhi of attacking her.
Fortunately, the hosts are more observant than they look. The twins splash water over her, and Tamaki reveals that she was the one bullying Haruhi. She’s kicked out of the club, and told never to return.
There’s still a catch, though. Although everyone assumed Haruhi to be male, she is actually female. Throughout the first episode, the club members all discover her “secret”, but Haruhi isn’t terribly bothered by this. By the end of the episode, she decides to keep up the ruse so she can continue working as a host to pay off her debt to the club, and the show is born.
If you’ve not watched much anime, this is going to seem like a pretty strange premise to you, but it’s actually a bit of a cliché in shojo stories. As I discussed in the intro post, Ouran is set up as a light satire of many popular tropes from its era, among them the notion of a commoner at a rich private school, and a heroine who is cross-dressing to blend in among male students. However, Ouran takes a few steps to distinguish itself from other series, even if this first episode.
When you open the door at the end of the North corridor, in the third music room, you’ll enter…the Host Club!
Today, I’d like to start a bit of a project. I’ve been in love with the anime Ouran High School Host Club for a long time, and well, we’re gonna talk about it. A lot.
The manga, written and drawn by Hatori Bisco, ran in LaLa Magazine from 2002 to 2010, and in the midst of that, in 2006, Studio Bones released a 26 episode anime series.
I was unaware of the manga at the time, even though it was released in the US starting in 2005, but watched the anime when it was still coming out in Japan in 2006, and fell in love.
On its surface, it did not look like something I would like; certainly not something I would fall in love with, and revisit on and off for the next decade+. When I discovered it in 2006, I was between my first and second years of college, and although I felt so much older than the characters, we were really only separated by a few years. I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be, like a number of the characters. And more than that, I was struggling with the idea of “girly” media.
Ouran is undeniably aimed at a female audience, but it’s more self-aware (and, frankly, better-produced) than a lot of other shojo series of the era. I wasn’t used to seeing shows as they aired in Japan (remember, this was before simulcasts or streaming services—if you lived outside Japan and wanted to watch the latest anime, you or someone you knew had to be comfortable with torrenting). The animation was so fresh and crisp.
This was a show aimed at girls that I also felt was intelligent and carefully-crafted enough that I, a “intellectual woman,” could feel comfortable loving it. Whether I was loving it despite or because of the “girly” elements could be left unsaid.
It has been over ten years, and I still love it, for the girly aspects as well as the symbolism and quality of production. So, let’s get into it, shall we?Continue reading →
I wasn’t really a part of the fandom when Battle of Gods or Resurrection F came out, so this was my first experience getting to see a DBZ movie in a theater…and it definitely did not disappoint.
I’ll admit, I was kind of…we’ll say apprehensive, when they announced the 2018 movie would be bringing back good-old-never-been-interesting Broly. I didn’t hate his original movie, exactly, but his character development left something to be desired, and the fanboy fervor and general continuing on of the character has always frustrated me. But, with Toriyama actually in on it this time, I was hopeful that if they had to do another Broly movie, and least this one would be able to make the character interesting.
Overall, I’m actually really happy with how they handled Broly in this movie. Ironically, by taking away some of his motivation (he no longer has an illogical hatred of Goku based on being exposed to his wailing as an infant), and letting him just be a rage monster, they actually made the character more likable. Sure, he’s a rage monster, but he’s a sad rage monster. They make it clear that the character is working without motivation—following uncontrolled instinct and brutal conditioning, without his own beliefs to back it up. He’s a victim of circumstance, and even our heroes know it, so it really feels like everyone’s just game for a good fight. Even Freiza, who instigates everything, doesn’t seem terribly invested in the outcome. Like us, he’s just here for the show.
I am still a little frustrated at the show’s continual habit of reusing old material, and this movie doesn’t break from that pattern. Whereas Battle of Gods struck out into new territory, creating fascinating characters that lived on to be some of the best parts of Super, Broly follows in the footsteps of Resurrection F, giving us villains we’ve seen before and heroes we already know and love, without much new to speak of. Yes, the animation is gorgeous; yes, the way they handle Broly is a refreshing take on the character. Yes, the soundtrack was a delightful mix of intense and ridiculous (for the dub anyway; I have yet to see the subbed version).
Did it rock the Dragon Ball world? Not really. Will I see it again? Hell yeah.
Dragon Ball GT is generally considered the trash-fire of Dragon Ball series, especially now that we’ve had Super carry the torch. It ran for 64 episodes, beginning right after Dragon Ball Z finally ran down in 1996, and unlike the previous seasons, was not based of off the manga, and had very little input from the original creator, Akira Toriyama, outside of some initial concept art and general well-wishing. Many fans don’t even consider it canon, and it felt a lot like what happens when a show is run by committee. People miss kid Goku? We’ll make him tiny again! People loved Future Trucks? We’ll give them adult Trunks! Want a female Saiyan? Have Gohan’s daughter!
On paper, a lot of things about GT could have been really good. Trying to reclaim the charm of the original Dragon Ball series, utilizing Future Trunks, and having female characters that aren’t horrible, are all things that Super has also tried to do, with what I think are much better results. But going into the intricacies of how GT failed or not could take us forever. Maybe I’ll dive into that later, but today I feel like a good old top-five list, so lets hit it!
I realize most of the world is obsessing over the ongoing third season, or has abandoned ship altogether, but I put off watching Riverdale for awhile, so I’m only now adjusting to the odd combo that is classic Archie comics meets Veronica Mars. And I gotta say…I don’t hate it.
I grew up on Archie comics. A friend turned me on to them around 4th grade, and they were like a whole new world. I’d never been into comic books. I’d gotten close with comic strips in the newspaper, but had never considered going in a comic book store. I thought of DC and Marvel comics as “boys stuff”. Of course now I know how ridiculous that was, but at the time I didn’t think they were something I would be interested in.
Archie comics were like magic. I could buy them at the grocery store, so they were easy to get, and they almost always had new ones. It triggered my collector’s instincts as well–I’d already fallen for beanie babies, and this involved story and characters.
I remember vividly sitting in a lawn chair one summer, a giant bag of Archie comics next to me, methodically devouring them one by one. It was a perfect day.
Riverdale is a far cry from the comics I grew up loving, but I think that’s a good thing. They inspired an interest in comics, but they couldn’t sustain it. In the idyllic world of classic Riverdale, nothing changed. Archie was always veering between Betty and Veronica; Jughead was always eating; no matter what happened in any one volume, everything always reset by the next one.
I eventually moved on from Archie to fall in love with shojo manga, which had all the drama but with actual consequences, character development, and resolution. But you never forget your first love.
Riverdale is, quite simply, fanfiction at it’s best. It’s an excellent AU (alternative universe) that’s so far removed from it’s original characters that no one would notice the connection if you changed all the proper nouns. It does what great fanfiction does; shakes up the characters, changes the rules, and suddenly those stiff characters are forced to grow and change and evolve in ways most people could never have imagined.
That’s not to say it’s without issue. It’s so different that I almost wish it weren’t Archie; there’s nothing that really requires it to be set in that world. The similarities it shares to it’s original source material are the similarities any teen drama shares: love triangles, the girl next door, the tortured soul of a musician, the reclusive rebel. But I suppose without the backdrop of nostalgia, it would lose some of it’s flavor. Sure, the murder mystery at the core of the story is intriguing, but what’s more intriguing is finding out that (spoilers!) goody-goody Archie is sleeping with his teacher; Veronica’s wealthy father is in jail; Jughead cares for something other than hamburgers. And yeah, almost everyone is a suspect in the mysterious death of Jason Blossom.
Without the history of Archie comics lending that strange disorientation to the show, I think it would be unremarkable in a sea of teen drama. Other shows have done the drama better; still others have done the mystery better. But by combining them, Riverdale has done Archie probably better than it’s ever been done before, and I think that’s pretty remarkable.
This week we’re jumping back into that bittersweet nostalgic feeling I apparently really like in songs (see, I’m learning things as this experiment goes!). We’re also bringing back Kesha, but this time she’s backing up Macklemore, and her tone’s a bit different than it was all those years ago when she did Tik Tok.
I love that the music video for this song swings back and forth from fun and care-free to contemplative; it gives the feeling of looking back, and getting lost in memories, without completely losing track of your perspective.
This song reminds us to live in the moment, but also seems to acknowledge how difficult that is to do. Everything looks a little rosier in hindsight, doesn’t it? Horrible ordeals can become funny stories; boring days can take on a sheen of wonder. It’s easy to get lost in the frustrations of daily life, and not see how wonderful things are, simply because it feels like they will always be that way.
I think there’s a danger to nostalgia, though. If you’re always looking back at the “good old days,” you’re not living in the current days…and soon you’ll be looking back on them. It’s a cycle that just continues; I don’t think we can truly break out of it, but we can try to appreciate things as they currently are.
Life can change so quickly. It’s amazing how something can become routine in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t even have to be through something dramatic, like graduating college or moving to a new town. Maybe you never knew how to knit until your friend bought you a knitting book for Christmas, and a few months later it’s become an intrinsic part of your identity. You’re suddenly a Knitter. We don’t see it happening until it’s already done, but looking back, the steps seem so clear.
“I wish somebody would have told me, babe, Someday, these will be the good old days, All the love you won’t forget, And all these reckless nights you won’t regret, Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change, You’ll miss the magic of these good old days…”