APADO, Life

An Interview With Emily {APADO #23}

(APADO is my blog series thingie that has me blogging once a day for the entire month of October. I’m so close to winning, I’m scared to fail.)

(And while we’re talking about kids…)

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this is to date the worst featured image ever. it looks like a potato.

My little sister is quite the character. She has a rough time, being the youngest of seven kids (and there’s an enormous age gap – there’s no one between me and her). She catches her fun where she can, though, and she’s definitely a light in my life.

I want to say how much I appreciate her, so I decided to give her a time to shine. To talk about herself. To showcase what a cool person she is. And honestly she’s such an actor that it’s almost too cute but since when has that stopped me before?

This is, without further adieu, an interview with Emily. Any mid-interview comments will be in italics.

The Interview

Me: *setting up camera*

Emily: What are you doing?

Me: Would you like to do an interview with me for my blog?

Emily: How…do I do it?

Me: I just ask you questions and you answer them.

Emily: Okay.

Me: You wanna do that?

Emily: Mmm-hmm.

Me: So – we’re going to pretend that I’m a newspaper interviewer and I don’t know anything about you. Because I do kind of know some of this stuff. I just want you to say it in your own words. Does that make sense?

Emily: Mmm-hmm *already bored*

Me: So. Ahem. What’s your name?

Emily: Emily Or’El.

Me: Wow, what does Or’El mean?

Emily: *thinks* I don’t know.

Or’El is Hebrew for “light of God” btw.

Me: *laughing*

Emily: *also laughing*

Me: What grade are you in?

Emily: Second.

Me: Can I talk to you about school?

Emily: *thinks* Like what?

Me: *laughing again, it’s impossible not to laugh around her* What’s your school like?

Emily: Mama.

It’s kind of a joke between her and I that Mama is the answer to everything. Any question can be answered with Mama.

Me: *laughing*

Emily: *also laughing*

Me: No really, what’s your school like?

Emily: Mmmmm…I like it. I like Language Arts the best.

she’ll make a great writer someday >:) 

Me: That’s awesome! What’s your least favorite subject?

Emily: Maaaaaaaaaaath.

Me: *trying not to laugh* What do you not like about it?

Emily: Mmmmm…*thinks* It’s too easy.

Me: *laughing, but mostly because this kid has beasted me and she’s less than half my age* Uh, what are your days like?

Emily: Mmmmm…*thinking again* Wake up, play with Emunah, drive them to Odessa, drive Tess to the barn…mmmm…go home, do JOS, aaand…go get Tony, drop Tony off, and go to bed. And read.

I feel so bad for her. Her days are tough. She rides around in the car a lot because us abusive big kids have places to be. What a little trooper.

Also, Emunah and Moses are my sister’s kids who come over to play while she’s at work. They live 20ish minutes away.

Me: What’s your favorite part of them?

Emily: *thinks* Reeeeeead.

Me: Like, before bed?

Emily: *nods*

Me: What’s your least favorite part of your days?

Emily: Going to sleeeeeep.

Me: *laughing because she’s making a neurotic face that indicates the amount of crazy I’ve rubbed off onto her*

Me: What do you like to play? Like with Emunah or with me or…whatever.

Emily: RUN RUN RUN.

Me: “Run run run”? How? Like, tell me more.

Emily: *thinking* Mmmmm…race.

Me: Race. Um…who are your friends? Like, who do you consider to be your friends?

Emily: Mama, Tess, and Tony.

Me: Awww *touched that I’m so high on the list*

Emily: And Avi. And Noah and Isaiah. And Madison.

Me: Madison! I have a friend named Madison.

Emily: Nooooo the Madison next doooooor.

Me: I don’t think we’re talking about the same Madison.

Madison Grace Lorfing I am looking at you madame

Me: Let’s see…what do you do when you’re alone?

Emily: Mmmmmm….*thinks for a really long time* Play Little Rabbits.

House term for Calico Critters. I actually walked in on her playing with them when I started the interview.

Me: Um…do you like Chase?

Emily: Mmmm-hmmm. Chaaaaase!

Me: Which Chase are we talking about?

Her dog is named Chase, and he’s named after her favorite character in PAW Patrol. Gotta get things clear here.

Emily: MY Chase.

Me: Uh…what’s your favorite movie?

Emily: Mmmm…Journey Beyond Sodor.

JBS is a Thomas and Friends movie.

Me: Aaand what’s your favorite TV show?

Emily: Thomas.

She’s wearing a Thomas t-shirt. Go figure.

Me: Do you like any other TV shows?

Emily: PAW Patrol. And Clifford and Busytown. And Barney.

Me: Ahmmmm…will you sing for me?

Emily: *shakes head* MMM-MMM.

Me: *laughs at failed attempt* Uhm, do you have any hobbies?

Emily: *thinks* Run. Race with Siggy.

Sigma is my sister’s Boston Terrier – Chihuahua mix. She has so much energy. But Emily keeps up with her.

Emily: Mmmmm…play dolls. And play play play!

Me: *laughing* Was this interview fun?

Emily: *thinks* Yaaaaash.

Me: Is it fun to talk about yourself?

Emily: Nawohhhh.

Me: *laughing* Would you please stop doing that.

At this point, she’s remembered that I’m filming her and that she can be cute and get away with it.

Me: You’re too cute, okay? Oh, one last thing – will you show me the way you do Chase’s “PAW Patrol, ready for action”?

Emily: *thinks about it*

Me: Please? Please please please?

Emily: Okay. *imitates Chase* PAW Patrol, ready for action, Ryder sir!

And then she proceeded to lick me.

I wonder where she gets that weird sense of humor?

Sometimes I take Emily for granted, or don’t appreciate the little things she does that make my life more fun. Sometimes I let things get in the way of spending time with her. Sometimes I deserve the Crummy Older Sister Of The Year Award™.

But to be honest, I think we all do that to some degree.

Enjoy your little siblings, if you have them. Love them. Care for them. Be interested in what they’re doing. They’re little people in their own right and will surprise you with how complex they are.

I know I’ve been bad about it recently.

And that’s something I don’t want to admit, but I want to fix.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

APADO, Life

4 Ways To Entertain Kids Under 4 {APADO #22}

(Ladeez and gents, this is the series you’ve waited for – a post on every day, for the entire month of october – I’m buried in the posts that I really shouldn’t ignore – Taking my breath, and stealing my mind – and early bedtimes are left behinddddd…)

(that was corny.)

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Between being an older sister, an aunt (I know, I can’t bring myself to say it either), and a babysitter, I wind up entertaining kids almost every day. And I’m no expert. In fact, most of the advice I would give a newbie would be how not to do it. From experience.

But y’all probably aren’t beginners, and that would make for a pretty negative post. Instead of lecturing, I’m going to serve up four different tested ways to entertain toddlers (and a few tips on how to keep older kids interested in the same stuff!)

A Few Things To Note

A toddler’s attention span is shorter than the fuse on a firecracker. Don’t expect anything you do with him or her to hold him there for more than fifteen minutes. If, by some miracle, it does, don’t touch anything and let him play with it for as long as he will. And praise the Lord for the break He’s given you.

Toddlers get overstimulated very easily. Don’t bring out too much at once. They’ll either become stone-like neandrotoddlers or little ticking time bombs of energy and meltdowns. Use your tricks slowly and present them like they’re something special – even if they’re just a few things laying around your house.

Thing No. 1: Pom-Poms

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There’s something about these little balls of neon fluff that are mezmerizing to a toddler. (Watch them in her mouth and make sure she know’s they’re not for eating. If you’re really worried about her choking on them, get the jumbo ones.) She’ll enjoy scooping them into a pile and chaotically spreading them around, or throwing them in the air and having them drop on her head.

Some other things you can do:

  • poke them into a wide-necked bottle (like a Gatorade bottle). This was really popular with my babysitting kid.
  • fill the divets of an egg carton with them. You could even sort them by color and be educational.
  • If you’re watching an older kid along with a toddler, she could get involved by using a big needle and some yarn to string them together and make caterpillars.

Thing No. 2: Sensory Bottles

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Firstly: these are better if you make them ahead.

Secondly: please, please, please tape the top of the bottle shut. Don’t let kids drink glitter.

Thirdly: These are so much fun to shake, roll and spin. You could fill them with glitter, colored oil, Orbeez, or sprinkles. Add a little water (or thinned clear hair gel for something a bit thicker) and tape the top closed, and you’ve got a toddler timekiller. These are especially good for quiet play on highchair trays and car rides.

A few other ideas:

  • These are somewhat artsy. Try theming your bottle contents for birthdays, holidays, and seasons.
  • Play with how much water you put in them. Less water = more shakable, more water = more swirlable.
  • Older kids will love to put together their own bottles with your supplies. But even though they’re more mature, don’t skip the tape for them – these things are awful when they explode.

Thing No. 3: Masking Tape

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This roll of semi-sticky goodness is your best friend. Never watch kids without it. There’s a ton you can do with it, but here are some ideas:

  • Use it to mark starting lines for races of all sorts – hopping on one foot, crawling on hands and knees, shuffling with a sock ball in between their feet (“emperor penguin egg”). It’s also handy as the end line for Red Light, Green Light.
  • Mark X’s on the floor and play The Floor Is Lava. Anyone not on an X is burnt. (This one’s fun for a big group of varied ages.)
  • Use similar X’s on the floor instead of cushions for Musical Chairs.
  • Tape one single line on the floor and have them walk across it. I call this the World’s Safest Balance Beam™.

Thing No. 4: Sticky Notes

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This one’s super simple but surprisingly enthralling. Get a pad of sticky notes you don’t particularly like and let him peel them off and stick them to stuff. He’ll be in love with the way he can put them on everything. What’s arguably even more fun, though, is peeling them off, crumpling them up and throwing them.

You could also:

  • Draw designs on them (before sticking them to the wall!).
  • Fold them.
  • Rip them.
  • Older kids can stay interested, too. They can fold teeny annoying paper airplanes or make a puzzle by putting a bunch of them in a grid and drawing a picture, then challenging you or a sibling to put it back together.

In short:

Toddlers don’t need elaborate games to keep them interested. Sometimes all you need is a simple object and a bit of direction.

A final tip: don’t over-manage. Show her how to do it a few times, then let her do her thing. There’s nothing worse than having someone breathing down your neck when you’re trying to poke pom-poms in a bottle.

And if you don’t have siblings or babysitting clients? I hope that on the day when you somehow get picked to watch the church daycare classroom, these ideas will float down your mental stream of consciousness and be useful.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

Animation, APADO

A Quick Update On My Second MAP {APADO #21}

(This is APADO yadda yadda yadda I’m sure y’all are as sick of this intro as I am. Haha.)

(And since I’m running short on time, this will be an extremely quick post. Better content tomorrow, I swear.)

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After finishing my first MAP part, I decided to jump right in on a second. I haven’t been working very faithfully on it, but it’s coming along nonetheless.

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I decided to do a horse this time, just because I haven’t done one before. My part has two sections – one that’s slow (purple) and one that’s faster (yellow). I’ve decided to go for a walk cycle with creative backgrounds for the first section and a gallop cycle for the second, and hopefully it’ll be inventive enough to look good.

3

I’ve been using Richard William’s Animator’s Survival Kit. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s scathing in places, but has so much useful knowledge.

That’s pretty much what I have so far. I’m hoping to try and wrap up the keyframes before Nanowrimo starts – honestly, the fact that it begins in a week or so is terrifying me.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

APADO, Thoughts, Writing

Landscapey Stuff {APADO #20}

(How am I already 2/3 of the way through APADO? It seems like it’s gone by pretty quickly. Who knew that posting once a day would be so much fun?)
(Also I apologize for yesterday’s sorry excuse for a post. I was in a hurry. In fact I didn’t even go through that twice. And I’m really, REALLY regretting that. Hehe.)

APADO 20

I don’t think it’d be fair to say that I “do” photography. Do I like taking pictures? Yes. Do I think about taking photos all the time? No.

Really, the reason I take photos is to create a visual trigger for something I could describe in more detail. Be that a place I really love, or good times with friends and family, that’s the extent of my “love” of photography.

(And then I turn around and take photos for my blog and that has nothing to do with visual triggers. I hate it when I can’t make a reason for something absolute.)

I’ve got a folder called “Lanscapey stuff”. (To say that my file naming system is bizarre is an understatement.) In addition to myriads of blurry photos I can’t decide if I should delete or not, it’s got a lot of my visual triggers in it. Today, I’ve decided to pull ten of those out of the vault and see if I can jar my memory.


Back before I knew how to use a camera, I went to the Grand Canyon and had the opportunity to take the photos of a lifetime.

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Unfortunately, hardly any of my pictures turned out to be any good. However, there were a few good shots, like this one.

But do photos really do this place justice? In real life, this place was bigger than any frame. All I could see from one side of the horizon to the other was the canyon, the striped rocks descending down toward the river. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so small.


Icy trees look pretty cool.

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I froze my fingers off trying to capture how cool it was. My hot breath hanging in the air, my hands trembling, but a triumphant smile spreading across my red face as I got a shot that looked alright. That was an interesting afternoon.


I took a camping/hiking trip to Caprock Canyons State Park – a ton of my “good” photos are from that trip. The area is really arid, but we heard that there was a cave where a bunch of ferns grew naturally, thanks to a spring and some irrigating rocks. So we hiked to the unimaginatively named Fern Cave.

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I was not disappointed.

It was at least ten degrees cooler on the enormous rock I was sitting on – just the thing to cheer up a group of hot, dusty hikers. The constant drip of the water off the edges of the ferns echoed off the sides of the little alcove where they hung, swinging in the breeze, growing despite the desert around them.

And I saw a wild frog for the first time. That was pretty neat.


During that same trip, we got so hot in the afternoon that we decided to go drive around in the car for some relief and some wind through our hair. We wandered down a bunch of country roads and by several farms and ended up finding this relaxing tunnel of scraggly oak trees:

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It was so quiet here, I could here my own thoughts.


We also found a dirt road that led out to the middle of nowhere that was sort of anticlimatic but very pictreusque.

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I think the most wonderful thing about this photo is that there are absolutely no power lines – just the ribbon of caliche stretching for a good mile and the tawny brush swaying as the wind tickled the top of it.


But to be honest, God’s beautiful creation is everywhere.

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Like this gorgeous sunset that painted the sky back home one night. Not even the power lines can spoil this one.


I guess all my good landscapey stuff photos are taken while hiking and camping. Go figure. Needle Rock is a neat natural monument on a Boy Scout ranch in Fort Davis.

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Unlike the Grand Canyon, pictures do this one visual justice. But they don’t show the feeling of passing under this spire of twisted rock, the shadow that falls over you as you stare up at it in awe, the sun sparkling from behind it…


Yeah, I swear all my good photos are hiking photos.

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My brother had wandered ahead of us when I took this photo. I didn’t realize until I went back through all these photos that he makes this photo eighty times better. A man, walking all alone in the desert while stormclouds loom over him…

…I promise no more camping photos. Hehe.


Sometimes, a new angle changes everything.

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These icicles look really neat from the underside. Kind of like teeth, I imagine. What’s even cooler is how the ones on the right are bent from the winter wind blowing them as they melt.


And finally, oleander flowers.

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They’re some of the prettiest things out there, and they come from the strangest source. Who would’ve thought that these big, green, lumpy bushes would have nice flowers?


I can’t decide if this was a photography post or a writing post. Maybe it was both.

I suppose I need to start taking my camera more places. Who knows what I’ll find that’ll a visual trigger?

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

APADO, Thoughts, Writing

A Quick Chat About Flawed Characters {APADO #19}

(is-thay is pado-ay, y-may og-blay eries-say at-thay i’m ired-tay of troducing-inay. one ost-pay ery-evay ay-day or-fay the tire-enay onth-may of ober-octay.)
(I’m going to pretend like I actually know what I’m talking about today okay? Okay.)

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As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, a complex character is a good character. One of the ways that authors flesh out characters is by giving them flaws. But I’ve seen time and time again where a character’s flaws aren’t actually flaws. I’m hoping to shed some light on the subject of flawed characters with some examples and a lot of satire.

But are your characters’ flaws actual flaws?

For it to be a flaw, it has to actually have an effect. If your character has anger issues, they have to actually hurt friendships and make things difficult. Because is it really a flaw if it has no impact?

If you say that your character’s flaw is clumsiness, but all their clumsiness does is make them endearing, is that really a flaw? What about dropping the important object and breaking it? Tripping over a sleeping guard’s foot?

When you give your character flaws, make sure they actually have an impact.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

APADO, Thoughts

My “Torc” {APADO #18}

(thubis ubis ubapubadubo, my lubittle blubog suberubies thubat ubi’m subo tubired ubof ubintrubodubucubing. subo ubi dubecubidubed tubo dubo ubit ubin ububbubi dububbubi.)

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Brandy wears a braided chain / made of the finest silver from the north of Spain…

…or a piece of steel stock from an engineering workshop.

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restraunts, swimming, in the car, photobombing at my sister’s wedding…

I’ve worn my necklace every day since I got it, and I’m still not sure why.

Maybe it’s because I’ve tied the leather cord it’s hanging from so tight that I can’t get it off. I have to pull it off the hitch ring every time I go through a metal detector.

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penny for scale

For awhile, I was calling it my torc. I forgot what it means. It’s something in Russian, because when I got it, I was obsessed with a race of Russian wolves I was trying to come up with for my infamous dogstory.

I got it from a professor at our local university who really took a fancy to our family after he met my older sister. He made it out of some scrap steel and told me, “I dunno what you’re supposed to do with it, but it sure looks cool.”

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oh yeah, this was the journal where I was pretending I had a twin brother.

I wanted the torc to mean something. Maybe a reminder, or a symbol.

So I found a shoelace in one of my drawers and worked up a necklace. Somehow, the shoelace lasted for way longer than it should have, but when it got nasty, I kidnapped a leather strip from a Moleskine notebook and I think it looks alright.

It’s been a year and a half, and I still have no idea what it’s supposed to stand for.

Any ideas?

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

APADO, Life

Taking A Casual Saturday Stroll On A Wednesday {APADO #17}

(It has come to my attention that some of the individuals who have not subscribed to this weblog are unfamiliar with the series depicted by the above acronym. Each letter in the acronym is the initial letter of a word in the phrase “A Post A Day – October”, combined in sequence to create the nonsensical word “APADO”.)
(that was unnecessarily verbose)

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I like to take walks – on Saturdays. When it’s sunny and people are home to walk with.

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But today was a Wednesday, I was on my own, and it’s been forty degrees and drizzling all week. Which is great when you’re watching from behind glass and worth complaining over when you’re out in it with no gloves.

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^ raw enthusiasm.

I had big plans. I was going to attempt some aesthetic photography and selfies, just to see if I could. And possibly for the vain reason that I wanted a good picture of myself.

And as far as I could see, it wasn’t going to be too difficult.

Hehe.

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Three days of drizzle means beautiful water beads on the grass.

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Which is great until you walk through that grass and soak your shoes that are not meant for this kind of weather. And then the West Texas Wind™ kicked in and thoroughly refrigerated my feet.

I was not ready to give up yet.

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With things all nice and overcast, it was time to try for those shots.

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Nope. I just look like I’m wondering if it’ll rain. Which it is raining.

Maybe I can get some walking shots.

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Eh. Um. I think the gravel is filling the frame and ruining my composition.

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Is it just me or do I look like an android trying to imitate a human?

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After this little gem of a photo, I decided to pull the plug on my whole aesthetic photography thing. What’s the point?

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So I just played around on the cold, stiff playground equipment and froze my fingers off.

Which was definitely a lot more fun than trying to be someone I know I’m not.

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I found this tiny pine tree and played around with the self timer on my camera and ended up looking like Godzilla, roaring over a towering pine tree…

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The minute I let go of this ideal that photos of me should look a certain way, the minute I stopped noticing the cold and the fact that I was alone.

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^ actually enjoying myself

My feet were still frigid. Oh well.

On the way home, I took some cool pictures of the largest river in my hometown.

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I was so worried that I’d plunk my camera in it, though.

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Fortunately, it survived.

I stood in the middle of the street and took pictures of this puddle because why not.

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I almost felt…like a photographer. Like I was having fun taking photos. Maybe I finally understand why y’all like cameras so much.

Before my fingers were completely done for, I ran over my camera.

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And somehow it looks cool?

I found this key on the sidewalk just before I went back inside to sit on my hands and laugh my head off at my failed aesthetic photography.

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I like to think it’s symbolic.

Because I may have unlocked a big secret that many people are too embarrassed to share.

The harder I try to make myself look good, the worse I feel about myself.

But the minute I throw all the aesthetic-Pintrest goals out the window and just have some fun, I end up with photos I like?

It’s a weird paradox, isn’t it?

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

APADO, Thoughts

Today I Found Out… {APADO #16}

(*insert spiel about APADO here*)

(and we’re back to inspirational stuff. honestly i now know why people don’t try to post every day.)

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First thing this morning, I found out that humans need sleep. Or perhaps they don’t, and are just weak enough to crave it.

While studying genetics today, I found out that I’m probably heterozygous for blue eyes. Meaning if I have kids, there’s a good chance one of them will be blue-eyed, thanks to our recessive gene buddies.

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closeup of my eye (feat. heterochromia)

That’s comforting. I’ve always wanted blue eyes, even though I like my hazel/central heterochromia iridium.

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In my government course, of all places, I found out that the CIA and the US Postal Service are on the same legal level – independent agencies working for the Executive Branch.

(Also I discovered that taking a photo of sunglasses that doesn’t have a weird reflection is impossible.)

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At the barn today, I found out that you really should break a flake of hay in half to feed it to two horses. They will chase eachother around over it. Aren’t we all possessive over food?

Maybe I already knew it. But I also discovered something else today.

Staying curious is staying positive and connected to this world. Asking questions, choosing to be interested in what you’re learning, and making mistakes go a long way to making life exciting.

Even if it’s just over genetics.

Today, I found out that not everybody is curious.

But maybe tomorrow, I’ll find people realizing that they’re a lot more curious than they think.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

APADO, Thoughts, Writing

A Brief Rant-Review Of Great Expectations {APADO #15}

(this post marks the halfway mark of apado – the only blog series that I know of that involves posting once a day for the entire month of october and chocolate-covered cactus fruit.)
(okay tess, let’s not rant about this little booger of a book. focus on the calming piano music. the sun’s getting real low.)
(with that in mind, we’re going to keep this brief)

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Since I apparently have a knack for triggering people with my thoughts on critically acclaimed works, let’s talk about Great Expectations and everything I dislike about it everything it has taught me about storytelling.

If you like this book, I don’t mean you any offense. You’re totally allowed to like what you like and no one’s stopping you. In fact, I’d like to hear what it was that made this book worth it for you.

But for me?

I was done with it after about chapter four, but for some strange reason, I read the entire thing. Maybe it was a willpower issue.

At the end of everything, I thumped it closed, took a deep breath and said aloud – “I hated everyone and everything in that book and I’m so glad it’s over.” Of course, hate is a very strong word and I try to avoid overusing it…but this was not an overstatement.

Reading the first stage of Pip's Expectations
a little gif i animated during this nightmare of a reading process

There are a few reasons why I was so frustrated with it.

  • For starters, it’s very verbose. This is the least of its problems, but I kept on losing track of what I was reading because I was distracted by one of his incredibly long sentences. I read that the story was originally published in serial format – a little each week, paid by the word. It shows. The interruptions and rambling made me focus less on the actual story and more on his unorthodox way of saying things.
  • It also feels kind of creepy. In my opinion, the synopsis on the jacket doesn’t merit the spooky, crumbling-to-pieces setting and tone the book has. Everything is disturbed, off-kilter and missing the spark of vivacity and brightness that most classics have. I don’t like this feeling for the same reason that I don’t like Tim Burton – it creeps me out.

(Can we also talk about how Pip has this huge crush on Estella even though she treats him like a doormat and he knows it? I don’t think that’s flirtatious banter anymore, buddy. I think that’s abuse.)

Romance advice aside, though, the characters were the biggest problem in this story. I had to ponder as to why I was so indifferent toward them, seeing as one of the only good things about this book was the diverse cast. After a while, I finally cracked it.

  • I hated everything about this book because I didn’t care about any of the characters. Their goals, their ambitions, their expectations…all of it was lost on me because I couldn’t get over their whiny attitudes, intense revenge plots, and so on. There were barely any people in the book that I felt like I could stand behind, and this made everyone’s goals seem pointless.

I guess the thing with Great Expectations is (for me) that the cast fails to complete the goal of every character: to build a connection with the reader and get them hooked into the story. If no one cares about a character, they’re not going to care about their goals, the plot, or the point the novel is trying to make.

This is a really important point that I want to emphasize before I talk any more about character creation. The only way to keep a reader’s interest is to maintain that connection from the page to the real world.

Nothing is as important in storytelling as this.

tl;dr: I have to like your characters to care about your book.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

APADO, Writing

300,000 Words {APADO #14}

(i’m now two weeks into APADO – a freaky-awesome blog series that has me posting something every single day. it’s been fun. and panic-inducing. and fun.)

(golden rule of blogging: when you’re stuck, go back and look at something you haven’t touched in at least a year. you will have inspiration.)

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I guess I had never realized just how much I written until, back in March, I decided to make a cohesive list of everything I’d ever written. It was not a simple task. Instead of just listing my Nanowrimo novels, I dug through my old notebooks and found even the scraps of stories I’d started and abandoned.

Really, I’ve already spoiled how many words that adds up to, but now I have to prove it. Right?

Let’s get into it.

Nanowrimo

2015’s YWP sorry excuse for a novel was A Falcon of Gold. Also known as the most horrible piece of garbage to grace my writerapp. Somehow 40k words long.

2016’s novel, A Charger In Command, was the equally trashy, but at least not stereotyped. And it was the first Nanowrimo I actually won. 50k words.

I got busy in 2017, starting in April’s camp event with the 15k words of ridiculously confusing narrative entitled The Taiso Senshu. It’s so inchoerent it’s not worth anything, but it was good practice.

July 2017’s camp project was the first one I was actually somewhat proud of, even though it’s just as confusing as the others. The secret is the characters. Brother Robin weighs in at 50k words.

For the actual event in 2017, I wrote up Project Orion, which has promise but is a mess. It’s still on the brain, though, and I may rewrite its not-so-abhorrent 50k words.

I didn’t do any actual writing for this year’s April camp, but in July I wrote a 50k word novel called The Sentinel…which is still missing a scene or two, and honestly I need to fix that.

Short Stories

I competed in Zielle’s AAWC competition, which churned out some pretty decent short stories earlier this year. These are:

Ettiquette (somewhat of a crowd favorite!) – 2.5k words
House of Ghosts (my personal favorite) – 2.5k words
Syre’s Comic Stand Fling (this title is just awful!) – 2k words
The New City (ambitious but somewhat disappointing) – 7k words.

Abandoned Stories

A Genius In Paradise/Egg Pie: I tried to rip off Counting By 7s, got about 3k words in, and quit. I have it somewhere in my files, but I can’t find where.

The Journeyman is a world-building venture involving anthropomorphic dogs and four books worth of information? I haven’t gotten past 9k words with it – mostly because though it would make a beautiful movie, it makes a horrible book.

Random Stories

These are all the little random stories I’ve ever created. I’m not even going to try to explain them. I’d average that each one is about a thousand words long.

Runaway
“Crimple”
The Daweseseses
Gurks
Yearbooks
Cierra Leone
Detective McPheean
Autumn & The Chair (oh this story was weird!)
Phreedom Phor Phinn
Sonata Island
Penney & Mr. Dawson
Island-Group-Wreck
Grandma’s Tuition
Riiin & Rory – The Basement
Wild Horses
Army Horses
Westwood
That Tablecloth Skirt
RfR Substory

This adds up like so:

255k words from Nanowrimo + 14k words from short stories + 12k words from abandoned stories + ~19k words from little snippet stories in notebooks =

All-time estimate: an even 300,000 words!

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I almost can’t believe it. And I’m going to add 50,000 more words to this count next month.

I hope this didn’t come off as bragadocious. Regular posting resumes tomorrow.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

APADO, Thoughts, Writing

What Makes A Good Character? (Tess’s Character Theory, part I) {APADO #13}

(you’re reading APADO, my wittle one-post-a-day-for-a-whole-month series that i somehow haven’t failed yet.)
(a bunch of disclaimers: i’m not a master author, in fact i legit just called myself a fauxthor™ and it’s true. however, i’ve received a lot of praise for the characters i come up with. i’m going to try to ride the line between hoarding the knowledge i have and puffing myself up bigger than a wacky arm-waving inflatable tubeman. let’s hope i don’t step into either too much.)
(and now i’m like “isn’t it a bad thing to doubt myself? but isn’t it also a bad idea to think you know more than you actually do?” hello anxiety, i haven’t missed you but here you are.)
(now let’s turn this into a series)

APADO 13

Characters are an integral part of fiction. Actually, they’re more than half of what storytellers worry about. They can make or break a story, and they often do – which is what we’re going to take a look at today.

Trigger warning: my preferences are weird. Even if you don’t agree with everything I say, please be nice about it.

I recently sat down and watched Interstellar.

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Let me first preface this by saying that I’m not a scientific person and only understood about 52% of this film’s dialogue. There was a lot of infodumping, which I’m not a fan of.

(quick, poorly-written plot rundown for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie: earth is dying and no one’s sure how to fix it. cooper, our main character, is alarmed that his daughter’s bedroom seems to be alive – there are morse code patterns in the dust in the floor, books falling off the shelf in morse code messages, etc. they say pretty much two things: a set of map coordinates and the word “stay”. visiting the map coordinates reveals the secret location of nasa’s last base and the main plot: earth is about to become really uninhabitable and cooper, due to his experience as a fighter pilot, will be needed to help execute one of the two plans. “plan a” is to relocate all of earth’s population to another planet. “plan b” is to leave the population to die and take 700 new embroyos to a new planet to start a new colony and save humanity. all the characters are on different sides of this ethical question. cooper and his team fly off into space to have a look at some planet prospects. long story short, nothing looks good and everything’s sad and we lose one of the crew members. they’re running out of fuel, too. in order to get to the last chance of a planet, cooper volunteers to go off into the black hole that’s messing with the time of everything and honestly i didn’t catch how all of this is working because infodumps. once in the blackhole (which somehow works as like a time sphere/way to communicate with the past and future?) cooper realizes that this was a horrible idea and he should never have come and tries to tell his past self to “stay” (books coming off the shelves and stuff). i have no idea what happened here. murph is grown up now and gets stuff going back on earth because he can also somehow communicate with her through this watch that he gave her. everyone evacuates, somehow they rescue cooper, cooper learns that his female friend went to start that embroyo colony on the last planet and that she’s all alone and vows to go rescue her. THE END.)

I was extremely disappointed at the end of it. I was expecting this movie to be amazing – it’s Christopher Nolan, for crying out loud. Though I will give it props for its amazing visual effects, terrific music, and interesting take on the “end-of-the-world” idea, it commits a sin that makes me never want to see it again: blank, thin characters.

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Now, I understand that I am not the target audience for this film (it’s very popular in the nerdy, scientific circles) but this is a problem that could have been fixed with just a little more time and a little less word salad.

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Yes, they have a few motivations and remotely memorable personalities, but they don’t seem to do anything. Things are happening all around them, and they react to them, but their reactions are the only thing they’re giving to the movie. The black hole, the space travel, the time discrepancies and the emergencies push out the characters and take over the plot.

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And we never answer the big ethical question this movie asks (save the living or start over?) because the characters don’t have enough screentime or enough depth to make a choice. They’re weak, passive, and almost forgettable.

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I could have loved this movie if the characters had been given more time of day. It was visually beautiful, sported terrific world-building, had a larger-than-life stake, and would have made an amazing point if they had gotten around to answering their ethical question. They didn’t answer the question because the characters were too weak to form a good opinion.

Interstellar was a frustrating movie because the characters weren’t allowed to lead the plot.

Now, an example of a horrible plot with terrific characters: Thor: The Dark World.

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(Please lower your stones.)

This is a hated movie. This is a weird movie. This is one of the “worst” Marvel movies in the entire franchise, and yet I enjoyed it way more than I should have. Its merit is with one thing and one thing only: the characters.

(quick plot rundown: there’s this creepy alien liquid virus called the aether, unleashed in some ancient battle, and it’s super gimmicky and the sole reason why this movie is weird. after the events of everything in all the movies leading up to this in the MCU, loki’s being imprisoned for invading earth, thor is trying to make peace in what’s going to be his new kingdom, and jane foster, his girlfriend, is really wishing he were around more often. there’s going to be a cool cosmic convergence thing happening, which will make people be able to travel between the nine realms and meet eachother, yay. a portal has already appeared in a warehouse. although jane and darcy don’t know where it leads to, it definitely takes things places. jane, without realizing it, follows a similar portal and gets infected with the aforementioned space virus, the aether…and it really doesn’t make sense. meanwhile, back on asgard, heimdall, everyone’s favorite gatekeeper/living nest camera tells thor that he can’t see where jane is anymore, prompting him to go to earth to find her. he finds her, she’s full of aether juice, and it’s not good. we learn that the aether is connected to this creepy pale dude named malekith who plans to take over the nine realms…or something. he wants the aether cuz it’s apparently able to be weaponized. he attacks asgard looking for it, because thor brought jane there, and frigga, thor’s mother, dies protecting her. malekith and his dudes are barely repulsed. thor has a plan, and it’s a hairbrained scheme, really, but it just might work and it’s all they can do. with the help of loki (who thor convinces to help him based on frigga’s death), the warriors three, sif (who’s causing tension because she’s romantically interested in thor), and jane, thor goes to try to find and stop malekith. which he sort of does. thor and loki trick him into getting the aether out of jane, but they fail to destroy it and loki dies (well, he doesn’t really, but we don’t know that yet). the aether isn’t in jane anymore (?) but it’s now roosting in malekith. the convergence is imminent. the warehouse portal apparently led to the place where they were, so thor and jane (minus loki and everyone else) go to earth to try to beat malekith, who’s planning to unleash the aether while the convergence thing is going on and so destroy all the worlds. they have a big fight, thor beats him up, he gets crushed by his own ship and dies, the aether is contained in an infinity stone and stashed away, problems have been solved and yay life is good until the next thor adventure, which i didn’t like but oh well. THE END.)

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Yes, we have a similar weird space-themed plot with confusing element (what exactly does the Aether do again?) and word salad. Yes, we have a movie almost devoid of anything good. It’s the exact opposite of Interstellar: the plot is horribly paced and confusing, yet… I liked it. And I certainly wasn’t the only one.

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It’s obvious now that the main difference between Interstellar and Thor: The Dark World lies in the characters. In T:TDW, the characters are actively driving the story, despite the Convergence-thing being out of their control. They’re going after the cosmic liquid space virus. They’re reluctantly teaming up.

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In fact, most of the conflict is character-centered, despite this movie’s overly-massive stakes. This doesn’t make it any less confusing, but it makes it infinitely more likable.

If the characters had been reactive, this movie would be utter trash. It still kind of is. But the characters bring it from a -70 to a 5/10.

The point:

yes, I just praised Thor: The Dark World and trashed Interstellar:

If your characters are flat, uncompelling, and make no choices of their own, they can take your A+ amazing plot and turn it into something without a soul.

If your characters are well-rounded, decisive, and bounce well off eachother, you can take something confusing and weird and make it mostly enjoyable (even if it’s still confusing and weird.)

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A story is only as good as the people who are making it happen. As an author, the very worst thing you can do is just make them react to what’s going on.

tl;dr: Good characters are proactive.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

(what have i done?)

 

 

 

APADO, Life

Everyday Miracles {APADO #12}

(APADO = a post a day, october = nerve-wracking heart-attacking self-inflicted blog challenge i should be regretting but i’m not)

(this is going to be a short post, seeing how yesterday’s was as long as four cvs receipts)

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I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it, but I really love to roller skate. I’ve been doing it off and on for years, but I get the same thrill every time I pull a pair of skates on.

But life’s been busy recently, and I haven’t had a chance to get to the rink. It doesn’t help that I outgrew my skates (which were hand-me-downs from one of my sisters). They were a good little pair of quads…before I got gargantuan feet.

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from a go pro vid at the the skating rink (and feat. my older older brother mac)

It’s not as easy when you don’t own your own skates. I have to bring an extra dollar to rent a pair, and they really aren’t terrific. (I mean, if you consider the constant abuse they go through, they’re astonishingly good. But the wheels are really slippery. Maybe it’s a ploy by the management to get insurance money or something.)

Earlier this year, I was considering buying a pair of roller blades. But they’re expensive, and although I have some spending money, I can’t justify spending a hundred dollars like that.

That hasn’t stopped me from wanting a pair, though. They’ve been on the brain since the beginning of summer.

So let’s flash forward to today. My granddad was going to this giant fair-thrift-store-rummage-sale-thing, and being the spontaneous person I am, I came along.

(Now when I say “Granddad”, please imagine a 70-year-old man who looks like he’s 40, laughs like he’s 20, and gives advice like he’s 104. He’s the definition of hardcore awesomeness.)

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I give you – an ENFP paradise!

This place was awash with awesome stuff. I brought my camera, meaning to take lots of pictures, but honestly I was too busy looking at everything on the tables.

At least I got a shot of these baskets of records, though. Aren’t they minorly aesthetic?

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Anyways. I was having fun looking at everything, destressing from a very long week, forgetting about all the things I really should have been doing – when I saw them.

Rollerblades.

Beautiful rollerblades from the era where they had the joint for your ankle to flex correctly. In my size.

For – I could have sworn I was dreaming – $3. Three dollars.

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I still can’t get over how amazing God is. How I had almost given up on getting roller blades, and He dropped them in my lap when I was least expecting it. How He works in big, big ways – but still cares about little things like…rollerblades.

It’s been a really, really good day.

tl;dr: Little miracles happen every day. You’ll never know until you start looking for them.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}