The Greatest Hero

Stop. Who are you thinking of right now? Superman? Batman? James Bond? John McClane? Some firefighter? Your dad? Whatever the case, you’re wrong. The greatest hero is Link from the Legend of Zelda. Why? Because Link is you and you are Link.

Although actions help characterize Link, the blonde, elfin boy is speechless and thus a fairly flat character. Well, perhaps “flat” is not the correct word. Empty. That’s better. You see, the glory of an empty character is that you can fill in your own personality. Say you’re playing through Ocarina of Time and you get hit with this:Since Link doesn’t actually respond, you respond. Maybe your response is this:

Now imagine doing that again and again and again. Link forces you to create your own dialogue, your own responses, your own feelings. He forces you to be the hero.

But not everyone is brave enough to be a hero. True. You’re not like everyone, however. You’re Link. Link may not have a personality of his own, but one thing he can give you is courage. He is the Triforce of Courage, the living embodiment of courage. He gives you the strength to face the ugliest, scariest, and most powerful enemies. He makes you more than you already are. And let’s face it. You need a little boost. How else are you getting past that thing?The greatest hero is you, the best you, the Link version of you, the version that fights through the thickest twilight

against the darkest enemiesincluding your own demons

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Why Writers Torture Characters

Everyone does it and everyone should do it. Writing like most things in the world involves patterns. People pick up those patterns and thus expect what is to come.

That’s tension people. Tension is what people love. They know what’s coming, but they don’t know when, how, and/or why. You might be thinking, “Oh! Like mystery novels.” No. Not quite. Oftentimes, mystery makes you guess what will happen or who will make it happen. If you have to guess that, and don’t know it already, then the story doesn’t make sense. Gasp! Andrew, are you dissing mystery? Yes, readers. Yes, I am. Well…only the bad mystery writers.

But I digress. Tension. Right. Well, torturing characters plays on that tension. A well-flushed out character has clear goals. You know what the character wants most and you know that they’re going to get what they want (at least, you think they’re going to get it). Now you’re just wondering when and how. Thus, by torturing a character, you’re delaying when they get it and now make you rethink how they’re going to get it…whatever “it” actually is. Like Kvothe in The Kingkiller Chronicle (SPOILERS INBOUND).

Kvothe and Denna are destined to be together. They both love each other, obviously, but author Patrick Rothfuss keeps pushing them apart whenever they get close. Damn you Patrick!

All this torturous tension sticks you to the pages, makes you beg for a final resolution. Then, you might get a little step closer to that goal. But then….you’re shoved back far far away from the goal. Dammit! Kiss her, Kvothe. Just kiss her already! She loves you.

Okay, no more spoilers.

Now, when you think of torturing characters, you might also think about killing characters, and if you think about killing characters, you definitely think about George R.R. Martin. So here’s why we love (to hate) George R.R. Martin:

You recognize the patterns. You see characters moving towards their goals. You don’t know when they’re going to reach their goals, but you’re saying, “Hey, it’s definitely going to happen soon.” And then…DEAD! He subverts your expectations. It’s like George R.R. Martin puts his characters on rollercoasters. There are ups and downs like any character might have. But then, halfway through, you realize that the coaster was never finished and the character crashes to his death. Sure. It’s not fun for the character, but come on…if you have ever played Rollercoaster Tycoon, you know it’s fun to watch that coaster crash.

Authors in Their Novels

Whenever I talk about my novels, I always get asked the same things: “Is this inspired by your life?” “Are you this character?” “Did this actually happen?” I get the feeling that other authors experience the same thing. Most of the time we roll our eyes and tell you through a grumble, “No!” Well, that’s not entirely true.

Image result for write what you know
“Write what you know.” I’ve heard that piece of advice again and again. It makes sense too. That’s why we all do it. I don’t know anything about sailing, so I never write about it. I know about human behavior, though. That’s why I always pay special attention to how characters stand, how they say what they say, and what motions they make. If I wanted to write about sailing, though, I could simply read enough about it until I knew about sailing. I just did that for the current novel I’m working on. Well, actually I researched about starting fire and living in the wild, not sailing. Maybe I’ll research sailing for later, though.

Whatever. I’m getting sidetracked. Point is that writers often incorporate parts of their own lives because it’s easier to write about something you’re familiar with. If you notice, some of my characters are quiet and socially awkward because I am quiet and socially awkward.

But don’t get caught up on that idea. Don’t look at my characters and assume they’re me. Don’t look at the plot and assume it’s my life. It’s not.

Return to the sailing example. I don’t know anything about it now. Sailing has nothing to do with my life. But what if sailing interested me? Maybe I’d write about it to force myself to do research. Thus, each time I talked about sailing, I would talk about something foreign to me and my life. Sailing would simply be something I’d like to know more about.

Yes, writers write what they know, but perhaps more important is what writers don’t know. In fact, that’s what my second novel Becoming God is based on. I’ve always dreamed of having super powers, but I never knew whether or not I’d become a superhero. I thought more of all the tricks I could play and the personal adventures I could have. Maintaining a peaceful, crimeless world never really interested me that much. “So,” I thought, “What would happen if I actually had super powers?”

Like I said, don’t assume. I’m not Bogdan. I’m not Vladimir. And that doesn’t mean Vladimir is my brother, Mom! God damn. Bogdan and Vladimir are experiments so to speak. Purely good characters are boring. I didn’t want some goody two shoes guy like Superman. Instead I created a more neutral character like Bogdan and a character like Vladimir who gives into his urges. I just wondered what would happen if someone with super powers went about his life like normal and what would happen if someone did whatever they liked because they could.

Writing is an adventure for the writer and the reader. Yes, we write about what we know, but what we know is often boring. So sometimes we write about what we don’t know. What if? Writers love “what ifs.” “What if” is the greatest question if you ask me.

Oh, and if you wanted to take a look at Becoming God now that I explained it a little deeper, here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0147FX71M?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Are High Standards a Bad Thing?

I always have my head in the clouds. I pass the time by receding into my mind and disappearing into elaborate fantasies. Of course, when you’re as obsessed with romance as I am, you can’t help but to imagine a nice, pretty girl to woo. Now, think how many times I imagine this girl over the course of a day, a week, a month…Each time I perfect the girl more and more, making a more and more ideal partner. Then, send me out into the real world. I search for the girl and realize after finding no one…I have high standards.

But what’s wrong with that?

Well for one, the probability of dating a girl becomes tiny. About half the world is made up of women. How many of those women are close enough in age to me? How many of those women are close enough in location to me? How many of those women are single? How many of those women like my personality and looks? In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small number. Now add in all my preferences in women. That number gets even smaller. Since I haven’t found anyone “perfect” just yet, who’s to say that that number isn’t zero?

So…I need to lower my standards to make the number bigger. That way I can actually find and get a girlfriend. But why should I do that? If I do lower my standards, I’ll be saying, “Well, she’s not great, but she’s the best I can do.” And while I say that to myself, I’ll plant a seed of doubt, which will grow and grow and grow…Also, no girl wants to hear that you settled for her. That’s for sure. Not that I would say it, but you never know. Maybe she’d find out somehow.

Bear in mind that my standards aren’t so high that I am actually looking for the perfect woman. No. She’s just freaking fantastic! What if she’s out there too? I don’t want to end up with someone who’s good enough when I could have someone who’s freaking fantastic!

I get the feeling that I’m not explaining this well enough. Alright. There’s another problem that I can definitely argue against.

Maybe I’m not good enough for my fantasy girl. That’s fine. We can fix that. I’m not fit enough? Exercise more and eat better. Check! I’m a sarcastic asshole? Practice manners and toning down the sarcasm. Check! I’m not smart enough? Read and study more. Check! 

Here’s my thought: you want someone special, be someone special. Make it a daily goal to improve yourself in every way. Because when you meet someone who passes your high standards, you want to impress her. You want to deserve her and you want her to know you deserve her. Worst case scenario: you become a better person and feel better about who you are. What’s wrong with that?

Dots

I stumbled across a short film called “Kropki” (Polish for dots). The film points out how mechanical we are. We do what we need to do and never ask more. We never question why this happens and that happens, who that person over there is, what that person thinks, why they dress the way they do…There is an endless amount of dots, an endless amount of details, but we ignore the ones that aren’t necessary to our survival. We stop chasing after knowledge. We abandon curiosity. More than that, we stop looking for connections between details. Everything is connected one way or another, directly or indirectly. True understanding lies in those connections. When we figure out how this is related to that, then we have true knowledge.

But enough of my summary and analysis. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=197&v=O6UBkXLN4PI

Certainly this is useful for all people, but writers especially. Writing carries knowledge. Kropki takes a jab at education and knowledge simply existing in several unconnected dots. Here’s a book. That’s one dot. Here’s another book. That’s another dot. But a book should be more than that. A book should hold true knowledge. Writers, connect those dots and record the connection for all to see. Search for dots no one has seen before. Look at the most subtle and most remote details. Do not look at the shining light of the sun. Look at the wavering glint in the emerald shard of broken glass cast down to the floor.

Novel=Self-Esteem?

There’s nothing like logging onto Amazon to see you’ve sold several copies of your novel. Yeah, money is great. But I would sell my work for free and still enjoy watching sales increase. People like my work. It’s quite flattering.

Published!

Becoming God cover flt2

At last! BECOMING GOD is published. Take a look. Spread the word. But it. Come on…look at the cover. You know you want to. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-God-Andrew-Layden-ebook/dp/B0147FX71M/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1440123340&sr=8-4&keywords=becoming+god