Every writer will get stuck. You’ll start a mystery and suddenly realize you have no idea who the killer is. You create a masked villain and have no idea who is behind the mask. There are plenty of sources of advice for what to do when this happens.
I’m going to give you some tips for the opposite problem. When the Muses inspire you; revealing the guy behind the mask at the most inconvenient time. When you simply have no chance to immediately go write the suddenly brilliant ending or twist in story. I’ve had this happen in the middle of the night, in the bathtub, at family events and during power outages.
What do you at a wedding or funeral when you realize your solution other than shout,
“I know who the killer is!”
Your first solution is to carry around a notebook or piece of paper. The problem with this solution is that it could be awkward to start taking notes in the middle of a family dinner. The
advantages of a notebook are that nobody in the room won’t know what you’re writing. You will spoil the mystery for them and they won’t be able to spoil it for anybody else.
Your second option is telling somebody. The obvious drawback here, is that they might blab your ending. However, two heads are better than one.
My personal favourite option is carrying a recording device. You can immediately record your ending before you forget. As an extra bit of advice, you don’t need to buy a fancy digital voice recorder. Most of these are difficult to use or don’t pick up what you’re saying. high-quality voice recorders are expensive. Most smart phones will come with free a voice recorder or the ability to leave voice or written memos to yourself. If your phone is nearby you will never find yourself stuck unable to record or jot down your muse-inspired ending.
Whatever solution you choose there is nothing more disappointing than having a sudden good idea, going to write it and forgetting what it is.
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One of the most common character types you will hear about is the protagonist. Who exactly is this person. Put simply, this is a character you cheer for. The person you hope has all their dreams come true. The protagonist is usually main character. This allows you to get to know them and cheer on their dreams.
With this in mind let’s see how to build a good protagonist. There are some general rules I always use.
First, you need to know who your story is for. This character should be relatable to this audience. If I decide I am writing a story for 12-year-old boys, your protagonist should be a 12-year-old boy. This is automatically relatable. Familiars settings such as school are also helpful. You will also appeal to older audiences who have been 12 years old and remember going to school. Other ways of making your character relatable are giving them common problems. For example, bullying or bad grades.
Every protagonist needs a goal. This need to accomplish something is what causes your audience to be interested. This can be as simple as buying a video game or winning a sporting event at school. It can also be as complicated as saving the world. Your character not having enough money to buy the videogame or sucking at sports provides both your needs. The goal becomes getting money or better at the sport. This is also relatable because lots of your audience has one or both problems. The more difficult and positive the goal the more the audience cheers.
A protagonist can also be a form of wish fulfillment. This means that their goals and abilities are not something your audience has or relates to. Instead, they are things the audience wishes they could do.
This falls into two possible categories. The character who is slightly older than your audience and does things they think would be cool to do some day. A teenager learning to drive or on the first date, works here. The other version of wish fulfillment is more fantastical. This is where superheroes and characters with magical powers are handy. They give the audience the chance to dream and imagine themselves accomplishing amazing things. You can still make these characters relatable by giving them the issues already discussed.
The last and most important feature of a protagonist is making them likable to the audience. This is so important I will discuss it in its own post. Here, I will mention some key points. The protagonist should seem like a decent person. This means their goal should be something the audience wants them to accomplish. Avoid for example, seeking revenge. A vengeful protagonist probably won’t be fun to read about. The way the protagonist goes about accomplishing goals is also important. This means that by the time they’ve succeeded your audience should still like and relate to them. The audience should ultimately be happy after their success.
I will expand on likability later. I will also give some common traps to avoid.
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This is the beginning of a series of posts looking at some of the basic elements of urban legends. These are the telltale signs that a story that you hear from someone is in fact an urban legend. The interesting thing about urban legends is that they show up in unexpected places and are often taken as fact without anyone bothering to see if they are true. These places can include the Internet, school, work newspapers and television.
If you hear a story, there are many ways you could determine if it is an urban legend. In this post I will discuss one of the basic beginnings I have found for urban legends.
“Did you hear about the guy? Did you hear what he did?”
These two questions begin many urban legends. You hear about some sort of mysterious person who did something amazing or weird. It’s also possible that the weird or amazing things happened to them. The difference is the details are never the same or are incredibly vague in the first place. Let’s look at an example.
“Did you see the guy in the Halloween costume? He attacked a bunch of people. It was on a talk show!”
This is an urban legend that circulates occasionally. This example repeats the feature of the urban legend as being about an unspecified person many times. The guy in the costume has no name. If the event had happened recently, the talk show would’ve given a name for their guest.
The costume a person wears will also change over time. Some versions of the story will have the attacker wearing a Bo-Peep costume. They will sometimes be dressed as a clown. Often the guy will be dressed as whatever horror movie character is popular at the time.
Another changing detail of the story will be the host of the talk show which also changes depending on the popular talk show of the time.
There are other details that makes these tales detectable as an urban legend. Those will be discussed in future posts.
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The following quote is from Chapter 3 of “The Adventures of The Guardian: Urban Legends. On page 15 it is stated:
“As the field trip progressed Kevin began to think Alex might have
a point. As Dr. Sharpe gave them the tour, the things he showed them
did seem like they belonged in a science fiction movie. There were
normal experiments like computer models which showed what the
earth might look like in three hundred years, plants he claimed had
been especially genetically engineered to be more resistant to cold
and a computer with a processing system designed to allow it to pass
something called the Turing Test.”
The above quote shows how a science fiction writer can make their fiction more believable by sprinkling bits of science in the story they are writing. There are of course new computer programs and systems being developed all the time. The more interesting part of this quote however, is the fact that the program that Eureka Industries is developing passes the Turing test. The Turing test actually exists and is mixed into the fictional projects Eureka industry is studying to make Kevin’s story more real.
So, what is the goal of doing this? Why would they want a computer that is indistinguishable from a human being?
In this post I am going to take you back into the interesting mix of science fiction and fact that is the Turing test.
The Turing test was developed in the 1950s by Dr. Alan Turing, who proposed that a computer’s measurable intelligence would eventually equal or exceed that of human beings. He also suggested that interactions with computers and humans would be impossible to distinguish.
The Turing test involves having a participant have a series of conversations with humans and computer programs. When a participant couldn’t tell the difference between a conversation with a computer and the human, Turing argued true artificial intelligence would have been achieved.
I once took a computer science course where we were shown a program that had won a Turing test competition that year. This was considered the best program possible at the time to meet the requirements of the test. The point was to have a simple conversation through typing with the program that referred to itself as Alan.
The conversation was friendly and engaging. However, it was almost immediately obvious that Allen was not a person. Every conversation would go something like this:
“Hello, my name is Alan. What is your name?”
“My name is Lee.”
“Hello, Lee. What do you want to talk about?”
“That’s a type of entertainment, right?”
“What’s your favourite movie, Lee?”
“A Christmas Carol. What about you?”
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
Every conversation went like this. The program would ask for a conversation topic followed by an attempt to categorize the question. Any attempt to ask for personal opinions or information was answered by:
“I don’t want to talk about that,”
For me, the precise nature of these conversations quickly told me I was talking to a computer. Meaning that the program failed the Turing test. At the time of this post passing the Turing test remains science fiction.
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The Truth Revealed website and television show are both vital parts of the story told in The Adventures Of The Guardian: Urban legends. Neither the website or television show exist. The story of the creation of these elements will hopefully help aspiring writers understand how their everyday experiences and hobbies can inspire their storytelling.
I have always enjoyed urban legends. I have also been intrigued by the reasons people believe conspiracy theories, and why both have such staying power. These interests were always part of the story, and a personal hobby. The Truth Revealed franchise was inspired by an actual event.
One night after finishing an essay, I decided to look for ideas for stories by typing random topics into search engines on the Internet. Eventually, I decide to search for three terms at once. These were: time travel, UFOs and ghosts.
This search led to all kinds of results about how these things might be related and how governments and corporations were covering up secret information on each of these topics.
The results got stranger and more extreme with each link I clicked. Eventually, I came across a supposedly true story about two girls who took a road trip, time traveled and were chased by aliens.
I decided to check out the original version through a link provided by the website. Very quickly I realized I was the reading what seemed to be a humorous short story. The story even contained dialogue. Going back to the first website, I found links to many other websites devoted to things like alien autopsies, conspiracy theories and secret societies.
About a year later, I was writing my book and this experience stuck in my mind and informed almost the entire story. Therefore, The Truth Revealed franchise was born.
Hopefully, this post was interesting and helpful. Please leave your comments and share and like this post.
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If you happen to find yourself in Flin Flon on Friday December 15, stop by the Moonlight Madness Sale at the Flin Flon Public Library, 5-8pm. Check out the books by local authors and don't forget to pick up your copy of The Adventures of The Guardian: Urban Legends; the perfect gift for the comic book and superhero fans in your life!
The Adventures of The Guardian: Urban Legends is now available for sale at the Flin Flon Public Library. Get yours just in time for Christmas!!
The Quality Control Cat inspects the books before delivery!
Here is a copy of the article that appeared in the October 18, 2017 edition of the Reminder
Click the link below to see the article
Check out my new interview in the October 18, 2017 issue of the Reminder, Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada
Thank you to everyone who visited me, helped out and bought a book on September 24
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