Trope Fail: A Competent Adult

You know how in all horror movies involving teenagers, they don’t have guardians?  It’s always like a pack of teenagers just getting mowed down left and right, and the parents and the teachers and the neighbors either A) don’t notice or B) don’t believe or C) don’t function.  It’s like all adults in the horror movie universe have the IQ of an eggplant.

Yeah. That trope. Urg.

Competant Adult

This comic was A PAIN. Not because it’s in and of itself particularly difficult. (Although there were a few rather annoying technofails setting me back, and I finally just gave up on those purple dialog bubbles.) But just because this whole month has been a pain. (Thank goodness it’s nearly over. I could use a couple fewer commitments in my life right now.)

The first day late with the post, I was like, ‘It’s okay, I’ll just put it up late.’ And the second day, I was like, ‘Ah, geez, I should do some kind of apology bonus. Like a funny extra panel!’ And the third day, I was like, ‘Man, this is really late, I should color it or something.’ And the fourth day, I was like, ‘Maaaaybe I should just concentrate on posting it at all.’

By the end of the whole affair, I was about as annoyed as Nurse Linda. But I did manage a lame bonus doodle. Nurse Linda is so over this.

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She keeps telling the principle to seal off the crypts. But nooobody listens to the nurse.

Happy Blogiversary!

Whew! Four years, guys!  Thanks for sticking it out with me!

In celebration, I made you a nifty coloring sheet.  (Apologies in advance for the wonky dimensions.  I never think about these things when I start a project, augh.)  I plan to color this and print it out as a poster for hubby’s classroom, (The original is hugenormous.) so you’ll probably see a color version up eventually.  In the meantime, feel free to print it out, color it, stick it on your bathroom mirror, but respect the copyright, man.

Happy blogiversary! Wahoo!

FrizzleB+W

Creating Cultures

(Sorry I didn’t post yesterday.  I am dying of an exciting new plague [again]. Today’s CYOA was: will I spend the evening posting on the blog, or languishing in a hospital gurney?  I figured posting was cheaper.  If you don’t hear from me next week, assume I died.)

culture

Image from the Anthropology Dept of Drew University. Thanks, guys!

Toward the end of last year’s post Setting the Scene, I mentioned the importance and influence of realistic cultures in a story’s setting.  This week, we’re going to geek out on sociology to create a flexible framework for cultures.

While there’s a bit of overlap between them, there are five widely accepted aspects of culture: symbols, language, values, beliefs, and norms.  When creating your own cultures, try to incorporate something of each of these aspects to have a layered, realistic culture.  If you’re not creating your own culture, but rather writing about a premade one (maybe you’re writing historical, contemporary, fanfic, whatevs), you should also include these aspects to avoid a society that seems more like a cardboard cutout than an actual culture.

But before we get into any definitions, let’s chat for a moment about keeping things appropriate.  No, I’m not talking about your characters’ potty language or sextivities.  I’m talking about keeping your culture in sync with your setting.  It wouldn’t make sense for a language to have forty words for ice if its speakers lived in the tropics.  Or if it does, there had better be a good reason, like mass immigration or cultural appropriation or whatnot.

As we work through each of these aspects (and order really doesn’t matter), keep in mind the climate and resources this culture would develop in.  Don’t make all the houses log cabins if they live on the tundra.  Don’t develop detailed hunting ceremonies for your herbivorous aliens.  Don’t have your country’s national flower be a blossom that doesn’t grow there.  You get the idea.  (But seriously, if there are great reasons, let ‘er rip.  Weird little discrepancies are wonderful, like how California’s state animal doesn’t actually exist in California because settlers and gold panners hunted it to extinction a century ago.)

Values  Although this will vary a bit from person to person, each culture has an ‘average’ set of values that people care about.  Values help to define acceptable behaviors within the cultural group by delineating between good and bad.  Keep in mind that a single character commonly juggles the values of multiple culture groups, such as a character who holds the values of an average Australian (such as egalitarianism) in addition to the values of an Orthodox Jew (such as daily study of the Torah).   For your culture, think about the values that people hold dear, such as freedom, wealth, lineage, etc.

Beliefs  Belief systems are the convictions and understandings that people hold as truth, and are structured upon values.  These beliefs often mirror those of a religion, but can also be purely secular.  Think about people’s beliefs concerning the dangers of GMOs (value of health and safety) or the glory of communism (value of cooperation and group-before-self) or the messianic Coming of Trump (value of success and independence); no matter where you stand on these issues, there are little culture pockets at the fringes of the spectrum with irrational beliefs about whether these things will save or destroy the world, and there is no convincing them otherwise.  Whether your culture has strong ties to religion, or strives to keep itself separate from such things, make sure to have a set of beliefs that factor into the decision-making process of your characters.

Norms  The rules and traditions of a culture make up its social norms.  Norms run the gamut from the practice of ‘folkways’, or things that are expected but not insisted upon (American examples: handshake at first meeting, eye contact during conversation), to the observance of taboos (no pedophilia, no cannibalism, nooo).  Breaking of norms can result in mild censure (an annoyed parent sighing “Kids these days”) to severe societal punishment (imprisonment, exile, execution) depending on the values and beliefs that they violate.  The more precious the value, the more harsh the punishment.  When creating your culture, think of the traditions and social rules that would arise surrounding a high value on knowing one’s lineage, or maintaining a prescribed diet, or raising children to be successful hunters, or whatever values your culture holds, and weave that into the norms.

Symbols  You know how Americans can look at a picture of a flying eagle and immediately start shooting off fireworks and chanting, “USA! USA!”?  That’s because this bird, who doesn’t give a flying poop about nationality, is a culture symbol (as are the fireworks and the USA chanting).  Symbols can be a physical object, such as the cross of Christianity, or a nonphysical act, such as a formal bow typifying Japanese politeness.  So think about what kind of symbols you can work into your culture.  What styles of art, music, architecture do your characters employ?  What significance do certain colors carry/shapes/etc carry?  What goes on the banner snapping in the wind over the troops?

Language  You don’t really have to go out and make up a whole language from scratch- although it is way fun- but have an understanding of how your characters speak.  What words and ideas come up frequently?  What kinds of phrases and idioms arise that wouldn’t necessarily find use in whatever language your book is written in?  Make sure that these language quirks shine through in your characters’ voices.  (If you do want to make a language from scratch, check out Language Building Basics to get started.)

Once you have considered each of these cultural aspects, go back and make sure that they make sense as a whole.  Do the different aspects all support one another?  Are these social norms something a person would actually be willing to live?  Does the culture make sense within the region that gave birth to it (allowing for the natural evolution of human societies)?  And as always, give yourself lots of room to tweak and adjust, since it probably won’t all come together on the first go.

A final note on creating cultures: as with all worldbuilding, not everything you come up with will make its way into the story (hopefully).  But understanding it as the author will lend more depth to your work, allowing for deeper immersion and a richer backdrop.  Plus, I am a nerd and this stuff is more fun than dishes.

Until next week, happy writing!

Book Boyfriends

I may as well just admit it- for about as long as I can remember, I’ve had terrible crushes on Sherlock Holmes and Peter Parker.  Bruce Wayne is a more recent addition- I think I picked him up when I was between twelve and fifteen- but I don’t know if he’ll ever quite catch up to the first two.  I think I married my husband based at least forty-two-percent on the fact that he’s the closest real-world equivalent I’ll ever find to Spiderman- he’s got the build, he wears spandex, and he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.  It didn’t hurt that he was a Sherlock nerd as well.

For fun, and in mocking observance of Valentine’s Day (which is a hard holiday to win at whether you’re single or not), I did some research on imaginary crushes! Because I enjoy bothering people and graphs are fun.

Participants were asked to answer this question:

Which of the following statements best describes you?

A.  I am nearly constantly in love with one fictional character or another.

B.  I fall occasionally in love with fictional characters.

C.  I only fall in love with real people, thank you very much.

D.  I am a mere robot and cannot feel.

I bothered only eighteen people about this, but the results delicious.  Pie!

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An interesting sidenote: Most of the men questioned answered C, whereas most of the women answered A.  B was a mixed bag, and I don’t know which of my associates is secretly an android plotting humanity’s downfall.  But my husband had an explanation for why men tend to answer C: Guy Code.  Apparently Guy Code dictates that you cannot pine for another guy’s girl, and since most female characters are someone’s love interest, they are not allowed to crush on them.  I don’t know if I buy it, but that’s how he explains his cold, cold heart.

Need some more imaginary romance goofiness?  Well the internet’s got you covered!  Check out these fun links to more literary loveboats, and until next week, happy writing!

What Your Book Crush Says About You

Our Biggest Literary Crushes (wherein self-aware staffers at B&N explain themselves)

Totally Crush-Worthy Literary Characters (this one got in based almost solely on #21. Like I said, I have a problem.)