Thursday, March 23, 2017


So I got word of this course on Twitter, followed the link and blogged it here. Maybe tomorrow, if I feel like it, I'll actually sign up for the course. Motivation level 0.5
Still looking for the magic pill or device that allows me to sit work on my own book rather than prepare for classes - which I am not doing either, seeing as I am adding content to my blog. Truth Telling by Sykes 94.7
How writing fiction can get you out of poverty.
This may be me soon. Terror gives a +5 to motivation (=5.5)!
Tracking a novel's progress to help you get to completion.
“I knew I needed help to avoid it being just a stack of paper that sat in my bedside drawer. I know too many people who have written half a novel,” he says.
A cool graphic or GIF showing the author's highs and lows. It also shows he took around a year and a half longer than he theoretically needed to. Terror eased by 3.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TWIC: maps, Agatha Christie, writing sex scenes, Jen Lee interviewed, Purpose, libraries,

It might be time to make this a cartography blog. I've certainly offered a number of map generators, and design tools. Here's another.
So a few weeks ago, I discovered that you can use Google Maps to draw on existing cities and make custom maps of your fictional locations. Needless to say, I was EXTREMELY EXCITED. Being an author practically guarantees you will struggle with real life details like travel distance at some point in your book. If you're writing about a real city, the bar is even higher. Even if you're writing about your own city, a map can be a life saver just for keeping everything straight in your head.
For years now, I've had to draw those maps by hand, and let me just say: a cartographer I am not. Enter Google Maps. Let's say you're writing a story set in London. Going to Google Maps to look up a street map is obvious, but Google has given us tools to take that even further, allowing authors to draw new boundaries, set landmarks, and make notes right on a custom map that you can save! And best of all, it's free!! (Well, okay, there is a paid version that has more features, but for our purposes, the free version works perfectly well).
All that said, the Google Maps customization interface isn't exactly user friendly. Most people don't even know it exists (I found it by accident). This a crime! Something this useful should be known by all! Lots of people on Twitter agreed with me. So, by popular request, here is my guide to using Google Maps for world building.
Agatha Christie's secrets.
1. Christie introduced ROMANCE into the murder mystery.

2. Christie was very good at hiding the identity of the murderer. And she usually did this cleverly and fairly.

Today I’m only going to concentrate on (2), above. (If you would like to read more about including romance in a story, see: The Structure of a Romance Story.)

How to Make Readers Think the Murderer Couldn't Have Done It.

There’s no other way to say it: Agatha Christie deceived her readers! And we loved it. How did she do this?

7 Ways to Disguise a Murderer:

1. Agatha Christie made readers think the murderer was a victim
. (Peril at End House.)

Examples: Peril at End House, The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, And Then There Were None.
In PERIL AT END HOUSE Nick—the eventual murderer—convinces Poirot that someone is trying to kill her. She is subtle and drops clues she knows the great detective (who loves clues!) will pick up on.

Jen Lee draws comics documenting her life here in South Korea. Here is an interview.
Rob Beshizza shows us his writing space.
I'm one of those people who has trouble writing at length on my main machine, because of all the distractions it offers. Email and messaging and social networking: they all combine to form the "ludic loop" that Mark recently blogged about.
I've tried various things over the years to help keep me focused, from simple full-screen word processors such as WriteRoom and FocusWriter to gadgets like the Alphasmart and Freewrite. But apps are a tab away from fun, and glorified typewriters tend to expose their limitations in odd and frustrating ways.
Full-sized image at the link.

GRR Martin does something similar. He uses an old word processor that does 'all the things he needs and none of the things he doesn't'. Autoplay video and GRRM interview here. Specifically, he uses Wordstar.
What is the purpose of creativity? This is a question at Quora that I answered. I think Velikovsky's answers is excellent and contains links to interesting articles on creativity and evolution. His blog is here.
Gaiman on reading and libraries
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
R.L. Stine's Writing Program

Songwriting at Literature suggestions An ESL instructor colleague asked for suggestions for a Songwriting as Literature course. Here are some of the suggestions
Bob Dylan - Nobel Prize winner
The Road Goes on Forever - Robert Earl Keen
Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay"
Rappers, sorted by the size of their vocabulary
 The Logical Song - Supertramp
Simon and Garfunkel
They Might Be Giants
Wesley Willis
American Pie
American Songwriter.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads

Pixar Story Telling class - Did I offer this link before?
Starting writing late in life. The writer started writing novels at age 47 and says that's old. I guess at 49, I am in trouble.
So what about those thirty years I wasted in self-doubt?
I don’t think they were wasted, actually. In fact, I’d argue that the best thing a writer can do is delay publishing for as long as possible.
This isn’t an attractive argument; it’s not sexy. Nobody’s going to make any Top Thirty Under Thirty lists that way. And dammit, writing is difficult. It takes so much hard work and dedication. How long can a person go on working with nothing to show for it?
As long as you can.
Those thirty years didn’t just make me a writer. They made me a good writer. That paralyzing self-doubt morphed into a keen sense for quality in my own work. When I write something that stinks, I can usually smell it. I’ve been reading for more than forty years, so I have thousands of great books and stories banked for information and inspiration. And best of all, I have a lifetime’s worth of unplumbed material to draw on—I’ve seen the world in all its glory and ugliness.

Monday, March 13, 2017

TWIC: busy,diy coffin, music, motivation, maps

It seems like even easy posts like This Week In Creativiti are shrinking.  I normally start a new TWIC around the same day I post the finished one. Then I add to it all week.

Big news! I have a job! Last year we moved to a new city in South Korea and I took on various short contracts while looking for more full time work. I am fully employed again!

It is a new position and I need to plan new lessons and organize homework and such so posting here has been infrequent.

Indeed, it is now Sunday and TWIC normally goes up on Monday evening or Tuesday. I gotta find some stuff.
Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. The book doesn't come out for another six or seven weeks (May 2) but it looks interesting for a variety of reasons.
Theft. A history of music. The link goes to a site to buy the book or download a PDF free.
shortlist for Sony's world photography awards.
Unintended consequences  What would you want if you could any one thing, real or imaginary? How difficult would it be to keep it?
Tremendously wealthy and still working on Sundays. Why? The article is about ambition and motivation. Things I need.
Consider the journalist Ryan Avent, who recently wrote a piece titled Why do we work so hard? He confesses to an internal struggle about the pros and cons of his self-described workaholic life. But he ends up optimistic about his tradeoffs. For his grandparents, he says, work was a means to an end. “Work” was the thing you did during the week to make money in order to enjoy “life” on the weekends. For our grandparents, in a different economy, work was duller and more physically taxing. Today, for the educated among us, work can be intellectually invigorating as never before. It’s easier to love your work, as he says he loves journalism. When his parents worry about his job and its long hours, Avent observes the disconnect: They are asking him about his “work,” he says, but “I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.”

The Components of Happy Ambition: Tweaks to Prioritize Happiness As You Quest for Meaning
Become mindful of status triggers with mindfulness meditation
Set fewer goals. Love the craft itself: be process-driven, not goal-driven
Choose work and set goals where relative status is harder to compare or measure
The people around you shape the nature of your ambition, so pick your peer group carefully
Diversify your identity by operating a portfolio
Operate a dashboard, not a leaderboard. Play against yourself, not an opponent
Physically move and be a big fish in a small pond
Designing the graphics for Harry Potter movies. I am a 'get the function right and don't worry about the design' guy. I make some useful things but I seldom go the extra mile to work on the presentation.  My PPTs of lesson materials carry the details I want and I value simplicity but they could be better organized. One thing I know I should fix is consistency - A constant style in how I display information so students know where to look. On one slide I might have nouns in blue but on the next slide I have circled the nouns. Ah, enough about me. I like the depth of planning that went into basically all movies and this example shines.
A fantasy map generator. Kottke does a good job of summarizing how this generator works and why it is special. There are some small scale generators too play with but the completed work is posted to Twitter @unchartedatlas.

Need to add whale song to your life? Here is a whale synthesizer. It sounds awfully like a theremin to me.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

TWIC: bees,dialog, azimov, card design, eatables,

I gotta eat more bees. Vital writing advice from Chuck Wendig.
10. Write 1,000 Words A Day. But don’t write them in order. That’s how you confuse the witches. You can put the words in order later when the witches are asleep in their tower.
11. Study Other Successful Writers. Other writers have done this well, so study what they do. Look at their sentence structure. Examine the rhythm of their storytelling. Chart the map of their many footsteps, ideally tracking them with RFID tags. Rifle through their trash like a raccoon. Steal their debit cards. Eat their food and their bank statements and the hair you find in their shower drains, all while miming their mannerisms in a mirror. Live under their floors or behind their walls. That way, you find the ideal time to strike — pop them with a tranq dart and once asleep, search their bodies for ancient sigils and secret messages tattooed there. Then lock them in a cage and steal their manuscripts for your own. Become them by performing The Rites. Or say fuck it and then go back to number four, where you bludgeon them and eat their brains.
12. Eat Bees. You gotta eat some bees, man. C’mon. Just fuckin’ eat ‘em already. We all do it. They’re full of protein. They also sting you as you eat them which activates your Imaginatory Gland, so eat a handful of bees and then you get jacked on cool thoughts and ideas. Eat the bees. Don’t be a baby about it.
13. Stop Eating Bees. All right, you’ve eaten too many bees. It’s weird. You got a problem. Go to a meeting. Bees are going extinct the fuck is wrong with you.
14. Don’t Ever Look At The News. Because like Fiona Apple said, “This world is bullshit.” It is. It’s all bullshit. It’ll just make you sad and then you won’t write, you’ll just sit around eating cheesecake and offering up stupid writing advice on the Internet. The news is dumb. The world is dumb. Retreat into your land of unicorns where it’s safe.
More writing tips blogs here.
I think my attempts at dialog are clunky. I want to add some humour and sarcasm but I also want them to sound natural. My own real life attempts at sarcasm and humour I must admit are also weird and unnatural. One of the discussions here is on that subject:

Crafting believable dialogue is tough. But here’s one piece of advice that will make it easier: Characters should say things we wish we had said. What does that mean? Remember Elmore Leonard? His dialogue is a great example of this notion. Leonard’s characters don’t speak like anybody in real life. And that’s very important indeed.
Good dialogue does not mimic natural speech. Regular chit-chat is boring and pedestrian. It’s filled with too many “Ums” and “Ahs” and overstocked with superfluous details, social niceties, and fluff.
An example. Say our protagonist (let’s call her Jane) is meeting another character (Bob, who is secretly in league with the main villain) for a drink at the local. Jane’s determined to confront Bob about his double dealing. Here’s what regular speech might sound like:

“Hi Bob. How’s it going? Um, I haven’t seen you in a while. You well?”
Bob looked up from his beer and said, “Oh, hi Jane. I wasn’t sure when you were coming, so I ordered a beer already. What can I get you?”
Jane thought for a while. “Um, I’ll just have a soda thanks. So… What have you been up to?”
“Not much. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, you know..” ...
And some of the less natural, better version:
Jane sat down and waved away the waiter.
Before Bob could say anything, she said, “So Bob, I ever tell you about my uncle Richard? No? Yeah, well he died last year. Upstate.”
“What do you mean, Jane? I don’t—“
“He spent most of his life in solitary, Bob. Terrible thing, solitary. Makes a man wish he’d made some different choices in his life. Like maybe not selling out his buddies to the highest bidder. My uncle, he got put away for treason, Bob. Treason.”
Describing what you see in Rorchach's ink blots seems like a creative enterprise. Here are some details on the blots.

Asimov on writing:
6. The Secret Sauce
A struggling writer friend of Asimov’s once asked him, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Asimov replied, “By thinking and thinking and thinking till I’m ready to kill myself. […] Did you ever think it was easy to get a good idea?”
Many of his nights were spent alone with his mind —
I couldn’t sleep last night so I lay awake thinking of an article to write and I’d think and think and cry at the sad parts. I had a wonderful night.
Nobody ever said having ideas was going to be easy.
If it were, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
To outsiders, thinking about design often seems a pretty but unnecessary option.Or at least, I often think of it that way and hope there is a group called 'outsiders' that consists of more than just me. The recent mix up at the Oscars shows why design concepts are important. Full size image and all three advantages to the new design at the link.

3. Emma Stone’s name is bigger than the title, “La La Land,” because she is the winner of this category. The winner should be the most emphasized thing on the card with all other information, like the film’s title, in a smaller or a less thick font...
Apparently, the announcers were given the wrong award envelope and that wasn't immediately clear. The 'after' image shows a different set of priorities - the name of the award ceremony is not nearly so important because everyone involved knows where they are.
A chart book from India has better art work than mine but looks similar to grids of images I have made for my ESL classes.
Meant to teach children good behavior, and to assist their reading skills, these inexpensive posters were plastered everywhere by local printers.
Here is my favorite image:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

TWIC: Sci-am, prologues, nonsense, support, presentations

Sci Am has a lot of stuff relating to creativity but much of it is behind their paywall. The Science of Creativity has all the links.

Ink Spots and Fractal patterns.

I enjoy Sci Am's '100 years ago' posts. Repeats or summaries of articles written for the magazine that long ago. I think they have a "150 years ago' section as well. The current one describes new (in 1917) submarines.

Can you (I) be more rational?
Brent Weeks offers tips on how to write prologues.
As a writer, I think a prologue is a wonderful tool for a certain jobs, but it’s a heavy tool that should be handled with care, intention, and skill—or not handled at all. A prologue struts onto the stage of your book and grabs the microphone, saying, “I’m sorry, Taylor, Imma let you start, but first…” More seriously, it does tell a reader that what they’re about to read isn’t exactly part of the story proper. “I’m going to tell you a story, but first you need to know…” What is this, Great Expectations? “I’m going to tell you the story an orphan, but first, you need to know his entire family history….”
nonsense word generator. They look so real:

atinquitator, weapsts, recruidly, galawfulathers, skulatted, sketess,
humediveroully, polevianian, arbilitties, flassungs
Maybe I'm describing a lack of creativity, maybe I'm sharing my browsing habits on a forum that I designed for other reasons. Maybe someone wants to write a book with KKK characters and wants to learn a little about them. Anonymous (the hacker group) deliberately friended many Blue Lives Matter supporters to gain entrance to KKK. The tradecraft they use to attempt to maintain secrecy is interesting:
a Klansman asks "AYAK" ("Are you a Klansman") and listens for the response "AKIA" (A Klansman I am)
More at the Wikipedia page on KKK terminology.
Needed: A support group of creative friends.
Likewise, whatever criticism takes place during our CA [Creatives Anonymous[ meetings is meant to strengthen the work and its creator. The most important element of these meetings would be the anonymity. Not anonymity for the individual, but for the works being shared with the group – being shared in a smaller circler with the knowledge that it won’t be shared with the outside world…not yet, anyway. Instead of building a platform and showing something off to the whole world at the click of a mouse, many of us need to rebuild a safe place where we can display our work to a small group of trusted colleagues, get feedback, and refine…or abandon as needed.
Yet another subject I am trying to shoehorn into my blog's genre: presentation skills and tips.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TWIC: Best question, fan fiction, lessons from pixar, maps and handwriting

Discussing Fan Fiction. Below are three points I pasted out of order:
There is a lot of explicit content in many FanFic sites, which makes it something to consider when introducing young writers (like mine) to the prospects of fan fiction. So, yeah, don’t start fanfic in your classroom with a tour of some of these sites. Just saying
  • FanFiction sites are composed of significantly more readers (ie, lurkers) than writers, which makes a certain kind of sense, I guess, although one wishes that more people were writing (that’s the writing teacher in me talking). What kinds of hurdles are there for new writers? What kinds of entry points are there? Is there as welcome wagon?
  • Finally, FanFic sites are built under the radar, purposefully (except for Harry Potter worlds, which is supported by Rowling and her publisher). If teachers teach fanfic, do we suck the fun out of it and ruin the very thing that makes fan fiction so wonderfully unique and important to communities of young people? (FanFic is mostly the domain of teens and younger adults). I grapple with this question on many occasions (ie, video game design).
Free lessons from Pixar!
There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week.
Maps: From literature in general. Of the Iliad characters' homes. From the latter (my old eyes could barely make out the numbers so I redid them in black - follow the link for the larger original):
The art and commerce of Minecraft.

Since I just mentioned one of my son's favorite games, let me also give a shoutout to Roblox. My son was naughty with a gift card and the service people at Roblox were able to cancel his purchases and refund me a lot of money. I don't know much about the game but the service people were outstanding.
Thanks Banny, Brooke and Ashley.
How Louie C.K, tells a joke. I sometimes look at magician routines when considering how to teach a class; I don't have the time to rehearse every single class I give the way a magician or a stand up comedian does but I do like to work out some of the positioning and preparation. And when I teach similar material to several classes and will likely teach the same thing next year, I also like to think about this kind of planning.
Handwriting, fancy and not (both images have been shrunk. Follow links for full sized images):
Library script was used to fill out card catalogs and was deliberately spare and clear.

It made me wonder what 'copperplate' was because I had heard the term but never thought about examples of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Improving your imagination

My answers at Quora
I hope I am not breaking a Quora rule but I received these two questions within hours of each other. Wait, I can check ... 23 minutes and 1 hour ago. They are similar in a way that allows me to use one to introduce the other. I am going to post my combined answer to both locations.
All I want to know is how can I make my mental images clearer , more colourfull and more dimensional . In general I want to know how can I improve my cognitive ability of visualization.
I will highly appreciate sharing your own ideas and experiences about this topic .
Google definition: imagination
the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
"she'd never been blessed with a vivid imagination"
synonyms: creative power, fancy, vision
the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
"technology gives workers the chance to use their imagination"
synonyms: creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness;
the part of the mind that imagines things.
"a girl who existed only in my imagination"
There are a few ways to increase your imagination. I don't know much about drugs but alcohol and some others do reduce your inhibitions so your mind wanders more freely. Hemingway famous said, "Write drunk, edit sober". He also killed himself so he is not a role model in all things.
Another is finding variety in life. This could be anything from walking through a new part of town, taking a new course or starting anew hobby. Read a book in a genre you don't normally read. Listen to a different genre of music.
The last one I am offering is to force a connection between random things. As an English as a Second Language instructor, I often randomly choose four words from vocabulary lists for the students to use in a story. Or I use Rory's Story dice. I also ask my son to name a sport, a thing in the kitchen and something from school then make a story using those three ingredients.
Rory’s Story dice:
I've been writing about writing, but you can do this in other fields, too. A biology researcher might consider how a mouse might view the ecosystem to gain new imaginative insights.
Now to increase the quality of your imagination. This is the tough one. It gets clearer in the details as the person wants better visualization.
I am going to take this a little sideways and look at relaxation techniques that I learned from sports psychologists that involved visualization. I was taught to do various relaxation routines for my muscles and then visualize a calming place. I wasn't merely to describe it, but to add as much detail as I could. I chose a gentle hillside, under a tree, in the spring, warm and with a fresh breeze. In the distance I could see church steeples, grass and farmland and, .... Well, you make your own.
I think the audio files for guided visualizations here will help:
This site describes them a little: Using the Power of the Relaxation Response to Reduce Stress and Boost Mood One important point is that not everyone can visualize things:
Galton gave people some very detailed surveys, and found that some people did have mental imagery and others didn't. The ones who did had simply assumed everyone did, and the ones who didn't had simply assumed everyone didn't, to the point of coming up with absurd justifications for why they were lying or misunderstanding the question.
It may be that a search like this one can help increase your visual creativity