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4 Things to remember in case you are writing a European character

10 Ott

I am from Italy, and thus I’m European, so I thought it would be nice if I’d tell you 4 things to remember in case you are writing a European character in your novel.

I hope you enjoy.

Europe doesn’t have one culture, but many

After all, each continent has its own cultures. I mean: have you ever seen a map of Africa with its different ethnicities and cultures? And think about Asia: the Middle East, India and China don’t even seem to be on the same continent.

Something similar happens to Europe, where you have more than 50 states, but not all of them share the same culture.

As an example, yes, the majority of European languages derive from the Indo-European family, but there are countries that aren’t Indo-European (such as Finland, Hungary or Georgia).

With religion, not only you have countries that aren’t a Christian majority (most notably Turkey, at the gateway between Europe and Asia), but different branches of Christianity as well. Italy is Catholic, England is Anglican, Germany is Protestand and Russia is Orthodox, just to show you some examples.

And this would go on and on with cuisine, history, traditions and so on.

Difference between countries and within a country

In fact, you should consider this: in Europe, cultural differences don’t just happen between countries, but within a country as well.

Take my country for an example. Italy seems to have one omogenous culture if you take a look at it, but its regions often have their own history, separated from others.

Italy has 20 regions, and all of them have their traditions, cuisine, history and culture. On a website, for instance, I read that putting a character from northern Italy with a mandoline would be like having a newyorker playing a banjo.

And you would think “well, maybe this is the truth with countries that are large enough”, but you also have to consider smaller ones. Switzerland is literally divided into Cantons, and they belong to one of the four cultural parts of this confederation: German Switzerland, French Switzerland, Italian Switzerland and Romansch Switzerland.

Don’t underline stereotypical talking

Linguistic stereotypes can be bad when you create a character, because it shows lack of research.

Also, people fail to relize that the way they mimic a language would determine how they see it.

Of course you’d consider German to be an angry language if you speak German while angrily screaming. Of course you’d think Italian is a happy-go-lucky language if you use a high voicetone saying MAMMA MIA, BELLA PIZZA with a behavior similar to how you talk to kids.

And, be careful with gestures: you know the typical “Italian gesture” people make? That would mean something on the line of “what do you want?!”.

This goes on with every language. A Frenchman wouldn’t always carry a baguette and talk as if they’re romancing with you, and a Russian wouldn’t always say something threatening with a cold face.

Distance between places

Americans always have this vision of Europe as being so small that you could casually cross a border or two just to get some coffee. And, while there are parts where this can be true, there are places where crossing a border would require a long trip. For instance, someone from southern Italy would require at least 1.000 km just to reach the borders, and someone living close to Moscow would need a long trip, even by train, to leave Russia.

But this should also be considered within a single city. Not all monuments of Rome, Paris, London and others are so close between each other that you could see them all in a day. Sure, they could be in a city like Milan with a vast subway line, but even that would require just staring at the monument for a moment and then leave.

Those were some tips in writing a character coming from Europe. I hope you’ve enjoyed!

Annunci

Is there such a thing as “too much brainstorming”?

2 Ott

Next November, NaNoWriMo 2018 will officially happen, and, as such, those willing to take part to it, like yours truly, are starting to prepare it, unless of course they already did that. For instance, I could say that the creative process to build up my NaNoWriMo entry started off last Summer.

Anyway, on a writing Facebook group, someone posted a Preptober schedule, with the first thing to do being brainstorming.

I got blocked, and this is the reason why I’m writing this post.

No, the block wasn’t because I had no ideas on how to brainstorm, but for the opposite: I brainstorm too much!

From the moment I wake up to the one I go to sleep, my mind keeps fabricating ideas, concepts, characters and scenes. Even when I’m doing something that would otherwise require more concentration, like when I’m attending classes.

In fact, I could say that I just have too much brainstorming going on.

Yet, I wondered: is there such a thing? Can you actually brainstorm too much?

After all, your brain never stops, otherwise you’d be dead, so it shouldn’t be worrying that one’s brain is constantly active.

In my case, I guess creativity is what helps my own brain getting through the day.

And, now that I think about it, it does make boring or annoying things better.

I’m in the subway, surrounded by many people, and it’ll take 20 minutes to reach my destination? In the meantime, I create scenarios for my stories.

I’m getting bored when I’m studying? Let’s think about my characters for 10 minutes before resuming.

I’m waiting for a friend to come over but he’s overly late? At least I can distract myself with ideas.

Now, I understand that someone should be focusing more on the important stuff, but I have no idea how to stop it.

Okay, this post has derailed a lot, because this is what happens when I log in my blog thinking “I have an idea” but I write it before I can process it. And it’s actually a pretty good metaphor for my writing: if I don’t know exactly what I’m going to write, from start to finish, I end up writing a mess.

Well, this is kind of inspiring, but I guess you were there for the question I put as the title.

No, there is no such thing as too much brainstorming, but it depends on what you consider to be brainstorming.

For instance, are you brainstorming when you notice something interesting on the street? Are you doing it when you watch a movie and think “this is how I would have done this scene”? Are you doing it while you’re having lunch all by yourself?

Of course, each writer has their own method of brainstorming, but don’t worry if you feel like you’re doing this too much. The problem would be if you have no idea what to do with all the things you create.

Which is a topic I should be writing someday.

Well, thank you for reading my article!

That time my brain created “my sister” in a dream

21 Set

I only have one sibling, a younger brother. However, sometimes I did wonder what would have happened if I either had a sister or there was an older sibling.

Probably because of that, my brain decided to do something with it, and, as I was sleeping, decided to create a sister for me.

Let me explain.

In this dream, my parents call me to tell me something important, so we go to the kitchen, make sure my brother cannot hear us (I don’t know why he was going to be kept in the blue) and they start talking, revealing one thing: two years before they got eventually married, they had a daughter. Her name was Valeria (which is what I would have been named had I been born a female), but they had to keep her a secret, because they couldn’t handle raising a child back then.

Thus, I head to a specific white building in my city, and, in a basement, there was someone waiting for me.

Long, flowing black hair, a bright smile on her round face, deep black eyes, olive skin and so on.

It was her, Valeria, and she was glad to finally get to meet her little brother.

I don’t remember the specific details of how it went on, but something that surprised me was that my brain carefully designed Valeria by taking pieces from my cousins to make her look realistic, as in “this is what Valeria ACTUALLY would have looked like”.

Since then, I decided to have her as a character in the stories I write, and I like how my brain simply “gave” me a sister.

I hope you had found this story to be interesting.

10 things I would suggest to avoid in writing your story

16 Giu

10 things I would suggest to avoid in writing your story

Welcome back to my blog. Including today, there are only two weeks left until the start of the second Camp NaNoWriMo of this year. Have I ever talked about it on my blog?

Camp NaNoWriMo is an event held twice each year on April and July where you can set whatever writing goal you want (be it the number of pages, the hours you dedicate or the word count) and you can be included in a “cabin” with other writers.

If your hobby is writing like mine, then this event could prove you it is a nice experience to follow, and it gets you ready for November, when NaNoWriMo (yes, the same people are behind both) kick in, with only one goal: writing 50 thousand words over the course of a month. If you want to, I could even tell you how I managed to do it.

Anyway, I thought that, before I suggest you to join the website, I could tell you 10 things you should at least try to avoid in your story, mainly for two reasons: it may annoy the hell out of a reader and it could produce a worse story.

Of course, this is just an amateur’s suggestion list, so don’t worry, it will be fine if you choose not to follow any advice.

Okay, shall we begin?

Decoy protagonist

I should be clearer with this one. It is okay if you seemingly start off the story with a character, but then reveal that another one is the protagonist, but it has to happen in a specific way.

For instance, if the actual protagonist is already on the scene or the decoy one still appears in the story as a pivotal rule, then it can become acceptable.

What couldn’t be is if the character that appears at the beginning just carries over the entirety of the first chapter, and then by the second they’re either dead or no longer appear, and a character that wasn’t even mentioned steps in as the protagonist.

It can annoy the reader and also feel strange, because it may have them wonder why you didn’t start with the protagonist.

Everything regarding “shaggy dogs”

I know, I know: it feels good to have the characters go into all sorts of troubles to get something … and in the end they don’t get it.

However, you have to keep in your mind that, when someone reads your story, they could be reading something else, or even do something else, so imagine how they may feel if they realize that they just spent hours and hours reading about a quest, only to see it unaccomplished.

In fact, if you want to do it, it should be done well enough that the readers won’t feel like they just wasted their time.

My suggestion is that this can be done with a supporting character, or even for comedic effect.

Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome

Of course, this is only required if you are actually writing the sequel of a story.

You want to show your readers that the stakes are higher and that you won’t protect all the main characters just because they have been part of the story since the beginning, so you kill off one of them.

However, you need to be careful, especially with how the readers may feel. What if that character was their favourite, and they are reading the sequel just to see them, only to find out they die in Chapter 2?

Okay, that should not stop you from doing so, but this seriously overlaps with another couple of points.

Plot twists for shock value sake

When you are writing, you need to have everything planned out, and you should avoid doing stuff just to shock your readers.

For instance, if a character still has something more to say, don’t kill them because you want a nice plot twist, because they usually are not nice.

Averting Chekhov’s rules

If a gun is on stage, it should be fired. This is Chekhov’s rule, and it means that, if an object, a skill, a character or a setting appears in the story, it has to be used.

Speaking of weapons, for instance, you can’t have your main character carrying around a knife if they never stab anyone, and you should not reveal a particular skill if you are not going to use it.

Averting your own rules

Also, there is a non written rule when writing fantasy and science fiction, and it is that, however unrealistic and implausible they are, if you say that your World operates under certain rules, they have to be respected.

For instance, if you say that only a specific kind of people can operate magic, then you should not have someone that doesn’t belong there use it, unless you have a justification.

Your World has to feel like everything is on point.

Law of conservation of detail

Similar to Chekhov’s rule in that it means that you should not put something in a story if it isn’t pivotal to its plot.

Of course, you want the readers to be attached to your characters, so you want to put their backstory and have them talk and wander around to develop them, but, if nothing furthers the plot, then it is just a waste of time and space.

When you are writing, in fact, you should try to balance the depth of your character with the ongoing plot. If you want to develop them, show the reader how they have changed from the beginning to midpoint to the end.

Woman in the refrigerator

Another death trope, but be careful: just because I say “woman” doesn’t mean I only refer to female characters.

What I want to mention here, in fact, is that you should avoid one particular character death: the one done just so a particular character can weep and be sad about it, to show their sorrows.

It reduces the character’s importance to being just a mean for the character to go further.

Mary Sue and Gary Stu

Mary Sue and Gary Stu are two versions of the same character, the one that is so perfect it gets too boring.

You need to have flawed characters in your story, even if your goal is not to have the readers relate to them.

I mean, why would I be invested in reading the story of that knight, if they aren’t even partially wounded, always look perfect and seem to not have any flaw?

Plot armour

Sure, every now and then, it may even make sense, especially when you realize that the plot simply wouldn’t move further if something happens to the protagonist there.

However, you should not always have your main character avoid any danger or peril just because “they’re the protagonist”.

Those are 10 things I recommend you to avoid writing.

Here is the link to July’s Camp NaNoWriMo.

See you, next time, here, on the Empty Blog!

Motivation

24 Apr

Motivation

This article is some sort of paradox for me, because I want to write about what is blocking my writing creativity, but I don’t know what to do or say because of that very block.

The problem here is that this is way more than just your typical writer’s block. This goes beyond that.

Last year, I felt like my will to write had improved: not only I took part at both Camp NaNoWriMos of April and July (winning both), but I managed to write something every day from late March to early September. A semester of daily writing!

Then, on November, I participated at my first NaNoWriMo. I was so focused on my project that I almost stopped caring about everything else, which is both a good and a bad thing.

The goal was to write 50 thousand words, but I doubled that number, creating multiple drafts and alternate scenes over the course of the month.

My 2017 served as a build up to NaNoWriMo, which was my biggest accomplishment of the year (but the subject of how my 2017 went is a matter of something different that I think should have been published much earlier than in April of the following year). I was amazed!

Then. I noticed flaws, gaps, plot holes and the many errors of my story.

Now, I said earlier that I took part at both Camps, right? Well, the “two” stories were actually the same, and that’s what I can say about my NaNo project. On top of that, I stated outlining this WIP back in March 2016!

Sure, I didn’t spend the last 2 years writing only that: other projects did come to my mind during that span.

However, as 2018 kicked in, I started seeing my project falling apart. There were multiple boring parts, the stakes of the adventure were not clear, I had to deal with too many characters and so on.

Thus, I decided to try to use various elements of previous drafts, because there were multiple scenes I loved to write that I didn’t want to see wasted away. For a while, this was going well, and I even told myself that I could have finished it before my 25th birthday, which is in the middle of May.

Yet, this was a period where I started “falling apart” myself. During the autumn, I had spent more time than usual to study for my winter exams, and the good feeling of “fusing studying and free time hobbies” was amazing, because, if I was not studying, I was using my knowledge on my stories.

I felt like never before, and I thought nothing could have stopped me.

Then, the day of the exam arrived … and, well, if I slacked off and didn’t pick up a book the entire autumn, I would have probably gotten the same bad result.

During the same period, both my writing and my studying skills let me down, and my lack of motivation kicked in.

Now, for the studying part, I started going to the library more often, so at least I can say it “recovered” (not to mention that I did pass one exam later, and it was one of the most difficult ones).

The writing, however …

The more time it was passing, the more I figured out how bad I am at writing.

Now, I need to digress a little here. I am the kind of person that does something but disagrees with his friends over whether I am good or bad. All my friends believe my writing is good, but I always think I am a bad and boring content maker who needs to improve a lot.

And I thought I was pulling it off, but, then, I noticed that my writing flaws were always there.

My characters are always flat, especially the male ones, who seem to only be there for cheap fanservice romance (I am serious: even though I am a guy, I cannot seem to conceive a male character without giving him a love interest and a background centred around their love).

Some have also mentioned how they always seem to be “prepared” and skilful in what they are supposed to do, but that’s just because I hate when a story tells you “the main character has no training nor experience whatsoever in this topic” but then they are able to learn what to do within days. I prefer when you show and tell me that he or she knows what to do thanks to years of training, and not just because “they are the main characters”.

The tones don’t seem to mix well with each other. In the case of my project, everything seems to have come out of a fairy tale, with beautiful places, colourful landscapes and “cute” adventures … and then my main characters have always a dark backstory and are in a constant existential crisis. The problem is that I don’t know what to do, if lighten up the characters or make the place darker.

Then, we reach the writing itself. When I talk in real life, I am incredibly talkative, to the point I have so many topics to discuss that my friends don’t always follow what I am saying, and they could be different from each other, like going from a chat about life and nature to what I watched on Netflix, all without transitions.

This I something I translate into writing, because I want to tell you so much that my pacing is all over the place.

There is also a flaw I actually “like” about my writing, which is that I tend to be too much “cultural”. A character has to have a specific name because it’s a reference to Japanese literature, or because that’s what gives away what they are going to be and do in my story. Throwaway lines, places, clothing and many other things have a cultural background, and some believe it may be “pointless” since not so many readers would notice it. However, I love learning so much that it is impossible for me not to use what I learn in my creativity.

I spent the whole month of March trying to fix my flaws, but I always seem to circle around it and never being able to fix it.

Okay, I just wrote more than one thousand word, and I don’t seem to have gotten to the point of what I wanted to say. Kind of ironic how I wrote something too “wordy” when I also mentioned that I am not able to stay focused on a particular aspect for too long. Well, at least now I know that this flaw can be corrected sooner.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about here is … motivation.

In those months, I came close to having a breakdown because of writing. Multiple times.

With breakdown, I mean crying, feeling desperate, having dark thoughts (though it’s not like my mind usually tells me good and positive stuff anyways …), becoming angrier with no reason and other things. Also, I have “wasted” so many hours trying to write with no effort, getting to the point where I thought “let’s see how much I’ll write this weekend”, only to spend it being sad and unable to do stuff.

I never experienced something like this because of writing. The other times, it was something much different, something I don’t want to talk about because I already “digressed a little” for a page, so let’s get back on track!

One of the reasons is that I lack of motivation. I do not have that one thing, that goal that tells me “you should keep writing”. When I write, it’s always for myself, and myself only. I need writing in my life because it makes it much better, but what happens when it starts worsening it?

The voice inside my head is a huge mess. During the same afternoon, I can go from “I could do this all day” to “I need to quit writing” and vice versa.

In addition, I have now developed a specific feeling, which is my brain “shutting down” when I force myself into writing. I actually feel like nothing is in my head when I get this feeling, and, when it happens, I do not go any further, knowing it would be pointless.

Even when I try to give myself “fake” goals, it never gets me good stuff. An example would be this Camp NaNoWriMo. I decided to use a completely different project to “train” myself, but I stopped having ideas after a few days. Sure, there’s still a lot of time before the end of April, and I set for a small goal of 10 thousand words, but I am still stuck where I have been for the last months.

I just don’t know what to do or to say, and I’ve tried a lot. Improving my reading, going to the library, writing in multiple languages, doing sprints, talking to fellow writer friends (some of whom really helped me out). However, my lack of motivation keeps stopping myself.

Okay, after almost three pages, this should be the ending. Usually, articles like this would provide an end where the writer would tell you how it worked out, but I am still in the middle of this period where I don’t know what to do, and it would probably continue for a while.

In fact, I want to use the final part of the article to address eventual fellow writers in a similar situation. You should not worry. If you feel “anxious” about something, it’s because you care about it. Sure, you could end up in a paradox of writing a battle scene in an hour and then spending weeks for a simple dialogue about cherry blossoms, but that’s okay.

Yet, if you can’t seem to find motivation, what I can suggest is that waiting it would be the equivalent of waiting for Godot. This is the kind of path where you should start walking, even just for a few steps, because things like motivations prefer people who decided to walk the walk, instead of talk the talk (I hope you get what I am saying).

My steps are little and careful, because I don’t even understand where I am going, but, as long as I am walking, I know I will find something.

Wouldn’t you like to go see that something as well?

 

(Special thanks to my friend Alex who helped me writing this article)

Just have a little Patience

14 Feb

Nella giornata di San Valentino del 2007, ispirato da varie cose, inizia a scrivere. Venne fuori la prima versione di Che Splendida Estate, per cui considero questo il giorno in cui ho iniziato a scrivere. Sono trascorsi 11 anni esatti, e volevo celebrare la cosa postando la canzone che ascoltavo tantissimo in quel periodo, e che tutt’ora ascolto quando ho voglia di scrivere belle scene di coppia.

 

Occupazione: Scrivere Storie

5 Feb

Io sono in un periodo in cui mi sembra di non essere in grado di combinarne una giusta. È quasi come se ogni singolo aspetto della mia vita facesse a gara a chi mi fa sentire un fallito buono a nulla senza pregi.

Eppure, nonostante tutto, c’è un aspetto che non sembra esserne affetto: la scrittura.

Vedete, io mi sento dipendente dalla scrittura. E no, non parlo di “dipendente” in modo scherzoso: per me, scrivere è come quando sei abituato a fare qualcosa (mangiare un alimento specifico, bere, hobby specifici e via dicendo), sai che a lungo andare può fare male ma proprio non puoi farne a meno.

“Dai, quanto può fare male scrivere?” vi starete chiedendo. In effetti, non è che scrivere procuri troppo dolore, ma provate a immaginare di passare un intero pomeriggio appresso alla realizzazione di un capitolo per poi trovarvi a scartarlo, oppure a non riuscire a compiere il vostro dovere perché troppo presi dalla scrittura.

Insomma, a lungo andare, scrivere può diventare una sorta di spreco di tempo e risorse.

Ciononostante, io sono felice di poterle “sprecare” creando un mondo tutto mio, fatto di storie, personaggi e avventure varie.

Certo, persino altri scrittori (e non solo appassionati, proprio degli scrittori in carne ed ossa) mi hanno detto che dedico troppo tempo alla scrittura, ma è perché è una di quelle cose che c’è sempre.

Passo la giornata a studiare e sono nervoso per questo? Ecco che scrivo.

Ho quei momenti in cui penso che a nessuno importi di me e che sia giusto? Ecco che scrivo per distrarmi e sentirmi meglio.

Mi sembra di deludere tutto e tutti con la mia semplice esistenza? Ecco che scrivo per rifugiarmi in un posto speciale per un po’, anche se dovesse prendersi tutto il resto della giornata.

Insomma, non so quanto “bene” faccia alla mia mente e, in parte, al mio corpo, ma scrivere fa bene alla mia anima, le permette di trovare uno spiraglio, una sensazione che qualcosa di buono posso crearlo.

Magari, un giorno, mi sentirò in dovere di farne a meno, di lasciare andare la scrittura, ma, considerando che quel giorno sembra essere molto lontano, vorrei godermi questa mia passione il più possibile, poiché sono gli unici pensieri dei quali non mi pento e che mi fanno sentire bene.

 

Questo articolo è una collaborazione con la mia amica Alessandra Sandoni, che da qualche giorno mi chiedeva di collaborare in qualche modo tramite i nostri blog. Ecco il link del suo articolo, sperando sia di vostro gradimento!