Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Word Doc episode 2- Cartography

New episode of the Word Doc today. We're continuing our world building series, focusing this time on the importance of maps and cartography. Get those pencils ready!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Word Doc- Episode 1

Happy Sunday everyone! Kicking off another vlog series this Sunday with The Word Doc!

This series is a vlog on writing and publishing tips. Each video is pretty short and sweet, so they shouldn't take up too much of your time.

This is episode one starting a series on world building. Because world building, as we all know, is a monster. But also a whole lot of fun.

Hope you enjoy and happy Sunday!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Villain Spotlight- Dolores Umbridge and Joffery Baratheon

Last week on the spotlight, I fangirled. This week? Its time for a rant.

Not that you haven’t heard a rant in this vein before. Because today I am discussing two of the most infamously hated villains of all time. Dolores Umbridge and Joffery Baratheon.

Oh my god, where to start.

I think it says a lot about a Harry Potter character’s evil when people want them dead more than Voldemort. VOLDEMORT! The main villain of the series. The monsterous man who ruined the lives of our young hero. But if given the choice? Oh yeah. Everyone would take out Umbridge. Because she is just the most unpleasant woman.

Oh sure, she hasn’t killed anyone (though she did help sentence several muggle borns to Azkaban in book seven). But she weasels her way into your soft spots and hits you where it hurts. What I mean by that is, she’s familiar.

Most people haven’t personally known a Voldemort. We’re pretty familiar with the archetype at least. But a lot of people have known an Umbridge. That person who is so bigoted and so ignorant and yet so very sure of their righteous intentions. The person who shames you and makes you feel lesser than them with just a condescending laugh. Plenty of people have had teachers or coworkers like this. Voldemort is a threat sure. But a far off threat.

If you don't get this last one, you haven't watched the Very Potter musicals. And you should

As one of my friends once put it: “Umbridge is personal”.

And then there’s Joffery. Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know Joffery. As far as evil goes, he definitely takes the cake from Umbridge for pure number of people hurt and kingdoms screwed up. He does a lot more damage with his power. He tortures people and punishes them for misdemeanors and makes foolish decisions that throw the seven kingdoms into war. Which destroys supplies. Right before a winter. And winters last several years in this world.

Not his brightest moment.

There are certainly people who do as much damage as him. Tywin Lannister for instance, causes tons of pain. But he doesn’t do it for the sake of causing pain but for some sort of aim. And also he’s not STUPID. At least he’s aware of what he’s doing. Joffery knows nothing and he causes pain for the fun of it. And even Ramsay Bolton (who is totally more twisted) at least is smart. That’s a redeeming quality right?

At least he gets slapped a lot

Joffery has no redeeming qualities. And that is why he is so hated. Though it will be interested to see who ultimately comes out of Game of Thrones the most hated. Because there are some recent new contenders.

*Cough* episode nine season five *cough*

Still, these are good villains. As much as I hate them, it’s really because they do their job to well. Because they get under my skin to the point where I can’t enjoy them. That’s a well written villain right there. Making villainy as disgusting as it is in reality.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The One you Hate

Remember how last week I talked about villains you just can’t hate? And how in general I’ve discussed a lot of villains on this series that I also love to hate or hate to love for all their delicious villainy.

Well this week, we’re covering the opposite of that category. Because there are some villains that are, objectively, great villains. They do evil things and they advance the plot wonderfully.
But oh my god, you’ve just got to hate them.

Just wait for the spotlight on Friday. Its coming

This week is less a type of villain and more a… category of response to villains. The spine tingling, stomach roiling disgust that you feel when you walk on screen? That’s one of these villains. And this is probably different for everyone honestly. Everyone responds differently to certain villains. But there are definitely some baddies that… no one likes.

Like Lady Tremaine from Cinderella. Don’t you just want to smite her when she gives one of those looks to Cinderella.
Or Hans. Does anyone not want to punch Hans in the face for deceiving us with his charm?

Get him Ana
These villains are, however, in a lot of ways, some of the best villains. Because in the end, aren’t you supposed to hate the villains? These are the ones that actually do their job. Often I’ve found myself in the position of liking a villain more than a hero because they’re more interesting.

With these baddies? I never have that problem. I guess it’s good to know that I have standards.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Reflection on Game of Thrones Season 5

Another year, another season of Game of Thrones gone. And this season's finale dealt us a mix of justice, enjoyment and great, salty barrels of tears.

Though I'd hesitate to call the finale shocking (in fact most of the deaths were well foreshadowed throughout the season), it was emotional none the less.

Of course the internet responded in typical overreacting fashion, my favorite of which include the people vowing to quit Game of Thrones (no you're not. You said that after the Red Wedding too. You're a liar), or the people lamenting that there are 'no good characters left on game of thrones' (Yeah, except for Tyrion, Dany, Arya, Sansa, Brienne, Podrick, Bran, Jaime, Sam... Really guys there are still fifty characters on this show and you know it). But, oh well, typical internet.

*Spoilers past this Point*

However this season of Game of Thrones was probably the most controversial yet as the creators had to stray away from the books and invent some new material. For the most part, they did a decent job keeping the characters engaged and maintaining the huge plot (something that the kind of meandering fourth and fifth book failed to do). We got a lot of awesome moments like Dany and Tyrion finally meeting and the white walkers making a big attack with their armies. Stuff like this hasn't happened yet in the books and there it was on the screen.

Of course there were weak points too. The Dorne arc was a little uneven with some of the worst writing of the season. Not terrible, but certainly mediocre, which is a shame. The ending of that arc of course gave it some consequences but they needed to come sooner. A lot of the middle section of the show was a bit meandering and could have been tightened up a bit. But it was no more inconsistent than season 4 honestly.

The deaths were big and controversial as well. Shireen's burning alive ripped out all of our hearts, and we were all so happy to see Stannis go in only the next episode (and by my girl Brienne no less!). Myrcella died in her father's arms right after a sweet moment (And Game of Thrones doesn't allow sweet moments for long). Really, the last few episodes felt like making up for lost time with deaths. There was one more big death too... what was it?

Ah yes. Not going to say I didn't see it coming, but I think there is still hope for resurrection, despite what interviews say. (Seriously if he's still alive, do you really think they're going to tell you?) If he doesn't come back, I'll be more angry for pointless scenes suggesting that he will in the books and show. I guess the blow is softened because I was bored by his character arc until this season so... *shrug*. Rest in peace Jon. For now.

Its also fair to say after this season that while Cersei is still a terrible human being, Lena Heady is amazing and her performance during the walk of shame was so very powerful. Really. Give her an award. Give her all of the awards. 

However, without a doubt, the most controversial of the changes was the additions to Sansa's story. I.E, her marriage to Ramsay Bolton. This was the kind of thing that made many people rage quit the show for real because Sansa, a character dear to all of our hearts, was raped on her wedding night to one of the more terrifying characters on the show.

I'm not saying that this event wasn't awful, because it was. I guess the reaction did surprise me a little bit. For a couple of reasons.

1. The scene was not at all gratuitous

They could have indulged this scene for its nudity. They've done that in the past with sex AND rape scenes. The scene at Craster's house in season 4 had gratuitous, pointless rape that wasn't in the books just to show that the rebel night's watch people were bad. Nothing was shown in this scene. It cut away, and kept it short. Unlike the similar scene in the book. And speaking of which...

2. The scene did, technically happen in the book

In fact it happened worse. Just not to Sansa Stark. In the book the victim was another character called Jeyne Poole was, an old friend of Sansa's cut from the show. The scenes were gratuitous and horrifying and more numerous in the show. And it kind of pisses me off just a little bit that people were okay with this happening to Jeyne but not to their favorite Sansa. The act should be terrible no matter the victim. And some people justify it by saying 'Sansa has been through so much already' and if you researched a bit you'd know Jeyne went through a lot as well. We just don't see as much of it. The show makers didn't make this one up guys. Blame George.

3. There are many more scenes that seem more 'quit worthy'

Remember when I raged last year at Game of Thrones at a rape scene in the show that did not happen in the books? In fact the rape scene went completely against one of the character's arcs and was over all unnecessary? That right there was the scene I thought would make people quit. In fact it was more gratuitous, longer and far more out of character. It made no sense in the context of the story. It didn't need to be there.

There was also the scene in season 2 where Joffery tortures to whores. Or the scene in season 4 that I mentioned earlier at Crasters Keep. Both were longer and unnecessarily terrible.

Why didn't people quit then? Well maybe because Cersei isn't as loved as Sansa, or we didn't know the other victims. Which is kind of sick and twisted. Why should rape be worse or more offensive depending on which character it happens to?

Story wise, it made sense to me why they put Sansa back at Winterfell. They needed new story material for her and we needed a POV character we cared about at the center of the Boltons. If not Sansa, they would have introduced another nameless girl and it would been just as terrible, in my opinion. But it moved the story along.

I get people who don't watch the show because of rape or gratuitous sex and violence. I get people who don't want to keep watching because the show seems like one terrible event after another. Its not everyone's bag. Not everyone is going to enjoy Game of Thrones. Not everyone should. Those people aren't wrong for not watching.

But if you've made it to season 5 of this show without getting offended by all of those things, I kind of wonder what made you decide to care now?

I'm not going to be one of those people who argues, 'well its historically accurate so we have to show the rape' or, 'well we have to see the rape to show that Ramsay is a bad guy' (cause uh... we got the gist of that). I won't even defend the whole 'we have to see the rape to feel the character's struggle' argument, because I think we've seen from Mad Max, that stuff can be implied. I will however defend the show for taking a situation from the books and in many ways improving how it was handled.

That's just my two cents on the matter. At this point I'm kind of bound to keep watching the show, since there are probably only two more seasons. I have to see how it ends. There is a lot of work to be done in our media in how we handle rape on screen and Game of Thrones has faltered plenty of times. But those failing do not permanently mar what is, in most other respects, an excellent show.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Writer's Thoughts!!!

Today, a rare Saturday post!

A few days ago I posted the first episode of a new video series called Writer's Thoughts. I just wanted to give a bit more information about the series here on the blog. These are short, hopefully humorous videos capturing the erratic thoughts of the writer during the various stages of the writing and publishing process. They're only 3-5 minutes long so short and sweet.

I don't know how often I'll be updating this series (optimistically once every two weeks), but take a gander if your interested  and subscribe to me on youtube!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Villain Spotlight- Maleficent and Azula

So… Maleficent and Azula are fabulous.

Like, I know I should hate them but… I just can’t. They wear their evil so well. Something about animated villains just gets me, man. So let’s talk about why I like them. 

First off, Maleficent. The evil queen might be the first but Maleficent perfected the art. She cursed Sleeping Beauty because she wasn’t invited to a birthday party (which was actually a pretty serious snub back in the day). Petty, perhaps, but she was a little justified based on medieval customs. And she really knows how to leave a party

Maleficent is one of those villains that embodies class. She knows how to carry herself, how to speak, and even when she loses her cool, she never seems like a child throwing a tantrum. She’s scary and maintains her dignity.


Where were you on that one live action remake?
She’s just one of those powerhouse villains that will go down in history. And she’s still probably one of the best Disney villains of all time.

Another monarch I adore is Princess Azula, from Avatar the Last Airbender. She was raised in a life of privilege but rather than act like a spoiled brat, she is a genuinely capable strategist. She knows how to play the game better than most of the other characters, often outwitting the adults of other nations. And she’s only fourteen! This was a Maleficent in the making if you ask me.
She’s also completely nuts.

Azula is pretty much unlike any other villain I’ve ever seen before. Young but intelligent, crazy but put together the next minute, a capable villainous with her own backstory. I could go on forever about how much I adore this show in general, but Azula is the star today. And I just cannot hate her. Its so much fun to watch her play off the heroes and there are points she even draws sympathy from you.

What I appreciate about both of these female villains is that neither are motivated by men or beauty as so many evil women seem to be in the media. Not that some aren’t but its nice to see villains who are strong and own their femininity without compromise or reliance on men. Maybe that’s why I like them so much.

Maleficent and Azula. Fabulous villains you just can’t hate.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The Monarch

This week on the blog, we’re talking about the monarch archetype. Now this one is very similar to the tyrant archetype, because monarchs can indeed be tyrants. But I do classify them as different for a few reasons.

1.  Monarchs have a more regal bearing about them. Tyrants more often are war lords and dictators. Monarchs are royalty. Now of course the line here is thin and easily crossed. The Lord Ruler, for instance, who we talked about earlier, certainly had a regal bearing. But this leads to my second distinction:

2. While tyrants are those who seize power, monarchs are usually born into it. This causes very different character traits. Tyrants believe they have earned their power while monarchs are born thinking they have an inherent right to it. This often means very different character arcs and goals. Again theirs a fine line if some monarchs come into their power by dethroning the previous dynasty, but you get the gist.

Of course this distinction is my own and can’t be found any books. Its also very likely that I made this a separate category to brag about more villains. I only want to spotlight two villains a week… because I’m particular about patterns in that way.

One of the reasons spotlighting monarchs is so important is because we get some of our best evil women from this category!

Evil queens! Evil queens everywhere. From Disney, to Game of Thrones, to Once Upon a Time. Some of the most iconic villainesses come from this category and they make their bad deeds so fabulous.

Some of my favorites include Queen Cersei from Game of Thrones, Regina from Once Upon a Time, and of course her ancestor, the original Evil Queen.

As stated before, any villainous monarch can deal with a lot of interesting issues. They often think the world is owed to them because of how they have been raised. But there is a great variety to be found here. Some are petty and treat their kingdom like a child might a toy. Others believe they are working for the greater good but their actions get lost among the way. You can make a monarch villain as complex and sympathetic or as completely horrible as you like...

We’ll get to you later, Joffery.

Whatever the case, its important to consider how their roots have effected them and how their lavish way of life might explain their terrible actions. This will make them human. And that, if you might have noticed, is the theme here in our keys to successful villains.

Join me on Friday for a look at two of my favorite monarchs! Warning, expect a lot of fangirling J

Monday, June 8, 2015

Villain Spotlight: The Joker and Ramsay Snow

I hinted at one of our spotlights on Wednesday so let’s jump right in with the obvious choice: The Joker.

The joker, in every incarnation, loves to laugh. It’s part of his name, you know. From the Jack Nickelson version to the Animated Series version to the chilling Heath Ledger portrayal in Dark Knight. All of these characters have a distinct laugh and distinct look. There’s a reason why the joker is one of the most beloved villains of the Batman universe. Because he has fun and we can’t help but have fun with him.

My personal favorite interpretation of the joker is Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance in the Dark Knight. From his pencil magic trick, to his puns, to his casual reaction to catastrophes. He’s an agent of chaos who goes through life with a smile. He’s not quite as openly a joker as the others, but that makes him a lot more interesting as a character. And his laugh is pretty terrifying as well. He’s definitely the most frightening version of the joker, which gets him a lot of points in my book.

Our other spotlight is on Ramsay Snow, from Game of Thrones. He's another side of the coin. Less the really enjoyable to watch joker and more the 'oh god, my soul, help, he's terrifying' kind of joker.

The bastard of Roose Bolton, Ramsay spends much of his time on screen torturing Theon Greyjoy, to the point we actually feel sorry for him. Which is saying a lot. 
Just leave him alone Ramsay. He's paid his dues

Ramsay almost never stops smiling when he’s causing pain and he loves to troll people. Blowing horns, lying and…

Ramsay has a sick sense of humor and it makes him without a doubt the most frightening villain in Game of Thrones. Which is saying a lot. Yet, he’s still definitively human. He’s afraid of his father and anxious to prove himself. He has motives outside of causing pain. But causing pain and psychologically torturing people is clearly what he’s best at. Not that this is unusual for Game of Thrones. But for all of the terrible people in this show, he seems to enjoy his villany the most, which sets him apart. He’s a laughing, burning train wreck you just can’t look away from.

He also needs to die. Because he is just about the worst person in existence. Which I guess makes for a great villain
*choked noises of fear and hatred*

That’s my spotlight for this week! What are some of your favorite jokers? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Villains and Villainy- The Joker

Whew! I'm back. I know I haven't been updating for the past couple of weeks. Ending the school year and moving back home has been crazy. But at last the summer has begun and we can continue our villain series where we left off.

This Wednesday, we're covering a villain type which can be easily lumped in with ‘The Crazies’ but is different in some ways. I call it the Joker. And yes, the Joker himself is a member of this little sect, but more on him in our villain spotlight Friday.

A villain can be a joker without being crazy. Though often the two do seem linked. I’ve talked about villains who have fun with their work and the joker is the epitome of that.

Joker villains have a twisted sense of humor about life. They’re often smiling and usually have a witty quip ready to go no matter how devious their actions. They take the heroes pursuit of them not as an offense to their power but rather as a fun game to play. Often times, the most psychopathic of villains fall into this group because they find humor in the darkest of things. They’re terrifying but always interesting to watch.

The joker is a very flexible villain type as well. They can be the mastermind, the henchman or an agent of chaos out for themselves, but they’re always intriguing. It is important however, to ground them. They can’t find everything funny. They have a method to their sense of humor. And there are probably some things they can’t laugh off. Making a joker that can laugh at anything makes them untouchable which dispels any tension between the hero and the villain. We want to have hope that the hero can get to them or we’ll detach from the conflict.

So go ahead, make your villain a comedian or a clown. Give them a sense of humor as black as pitch. But remember, there’s a human face behind the makeup that will make them all the more interesting.