Okay, I ripped this link off from Neil Gaiman’s blog, but this is really cool. Here’s the portfolio of Glenn Feron. If you mouse-over the images, you will see the ‘before’ shot, and then mouse-out and you’ll see the ‘after.’ We all knew photos were retouched, but this is uncanny. Take a look at the first row, third from left. And also the first row, first from left.
I went to Barnes & Noble last night, and, as I like to do when I have free time, I used it as a library. I pulled three books from the rack on characterization and plotting, because as I’ve said before I’m working on my novel a lot lately and I want to make sure I know as much about characterization as I can. The first book, of whose title I’ve forgotten, was pretty good, describing about twenty or so plots like “the oppressed rises up and defeats his cruel master” and “the dangerous journey and return.” I wish I could remember the name, because as cheesy as the examples sound I thought the book was quite good. It actually gave you beginnings, middles, and endings, and even asked the questions your characters should be asking at each point like, “Is there anyone who will help your character overcome his oppressor?” and “Will anyone betray him along the way?” I wouldn’t write a story based solely on these questions, but I thought they were a good reality check. If my character wasn’t asking these questions, or if I, the writer, hadn’t asked them, then I would have to seriously reexamine my story. Thankfully, I found for the most part that this wasn’t the case.
The second book read more like a D&D manual, talking about character emotions as if they were based on the throw of a die, and it broke down each emotion into a tree of sub-emotions and character traits. It seemed a little dry to me because I felt that characters should not be “programmed,” i.e.: my character is the “strong, determined, bound by honor type, but with a flaw of being sensitive.” Babylon Five’s Captain Sheridan was one such character. Yes, he was always in character (and for the most part I enjoyed the tension between his duty and his feelings), but he never really seemed human to me because he never broke character. That is, humans are unpredictable, and I could always predict what Sheridan was going to do. I just wanted him one day to shove Garibaldi out the airlock, or better, hit the bottle himself. (Before you berate me, I still loved the show).
The third book was written by an author I had never heard of, though she supposedly had several novels published. I was really enjoying her work until she started using examples from her own novels and praising them as if they were excellent evocations of subtle emotion. While I thought her examples were okay, they also weren’t great either. In fact, I found it quite tacky for this woman to use her own work as examples, but I suppose it was easier for her to get the copyrights and also wasn’t so bad for her ego. What her book came down to is this: “There are right ways and there are wrong ways, good ways and bad ways, and my way is the good and right way.” If she was trying to evoke my emotional agreement, she didn’t succeed. But the other points she made had some merit, so I can’t condemn her work entirely. But a word to other writers thinking of writing a book on writing: Don’t use your own work! I’ll take you more seriously if you’re not pausing every few pages to praise your own writing.
Finally, I just bought this CD yesterday called Bathe in the Light by JD Duvall. It’s a mix of southern bluegrass with some country/folk rhythms and even some Latin American or Brazilian love ballads, but with a little Zeppelin thrown in for good measure. The first track, “Love Love Love,” blew me away in the record store and it was only $10 to buy it. Think 12-string resonator playing bluegrass with rock and roll riffs inside and old barn that smells of old wood and dried chicken dung. If this is your type of thing, you should check it out.