The Importance of World Building

World building is typically associated with genre fiction like fantasy or sci-fi, but I’d argue that it’s just as important for stories set in the real world.

Why? Check out my full article on Pop Culture Uncovered!

World building is a key element of story craft in which an author creates and defines the universe in which he or she will write. Good world building is consistent above all else—and also gives the story meaning. A Google search of “world building” pulls up almost 150 million results, almost all of them relating […]

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Make Your Own Luck

Recently I was asked to speak to a group of undergraduate students about my freelancing job as a writer and editor, answering the usual “How did you get your first project?” and “When did you know you wanted to write?” sort of questions. Those are easy to answer–my first project was for a friend, and I figured out I wanted to write as a career in 2014–but harder to do was create an actionable piece of advice. In the audience were students of diverse backgrounds and work experience. Some were in their 30’s; others were not long out of high school. Some wanted to work in creative fields and others didn’t.

What could I say that might help all of them?

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Photo Credit: Nilufer Gadgieva

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Character Development in Harvest Moon

Howdy, everyone!

With the semester as busy as it’s been, I haven’t been able to write as much as I would have liked, but the good news is, I did have some time to put together a piece on one of my favorite video games of all time, Harvest Moon. Even better, I got to write about how some of the characters were especially well-developed for a kids’ video game.

Check it out! 🙂

Pop Culture Uncovered

Character development—the process of creating a believable, nuanced character—can be tricky. Spend too much time detailing a character’s past experiences and you risk boring your audience; don’t give them enough depth or information, and your characters feel flat and two-dimensional, Mary Sues less than fully fleshed out.

Video games in particular struggle with this—books and movies have to make us care about the protagonist to keep us watching or reading, but we don’t have to care much about Master Chief’s past or his relationship to Cortana to finish playing Halo; fun multiplayer, good graphics, a cool story mode, etc. are enough to keep people playing whether or not Master Chief seems like a believable, complex character (if you want more info on him, check out this interview with his voice actor Steve Downes).

Marcus Schulzke sums the character development issue up best in an essay anthologized in Game on…

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To Choose or Not to Choose: Biological versus Chosen Family in GOTG 2

I’m a big supporter of people doing what works best for them — and that includes choosing their own family when biological family isn’t treating them right, a theme brought up by the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Check it out on Pop Culture Uncovered!

Pop Culture Uncovered

Haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 yet? Then you might want to bookmark this page and come back later – this is about to get spoiler-heavy.

Though some people are lucky enough to experience love and protection from their biological family, that doesn’t happen for everyone – and Marvel tackles the complicated problem of biological versus chosen family in their recent release Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Unlike most movies – which feature a main character happily reconnecting or reestablishing a relationship with a family member, or forgiving an absent or cruel relation – GOTG 2 cuts straight to the chase: There’s nothing wrong with trying to connect with your biological family, but if they aren’t treating you right, you can choose your family instead. No guilt attached.

Quill’s relationship to Ego and Yondu, as well as Gamora’s relationship with Nebula, are far more complicated and nuanced…

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Choosing Your Family

When it comes to friendships, it’s easy to say “Cut ties” if the relationship turns toxic, a fact evidenced by the sheer number of articles published by all sorts of big-name sites like Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, and WebMD. The same can be said for romantic relationships — though emotions often run higher here, the final advice is the same: If your partner is mistreating you, end the relationship.

But when it comes to mothers, brothers, grandparents, and cousins — or any toxic family relation — cutting ties may lead to backlash from onlookers. “But he’s your father,” a well-meaning friend or family member might say. “You have to love him!”

No, no you do not.

Women on bed with head in hands, man sitting in chair across room

Photo Credit: smile_kerry

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The Power of Something

Procrastinating is easy, especially when something is difficult or time-consuming. We let ourselves off the hook now by promising to do the work later. I always tell myself that I’ll get around to it tomorrow — but sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t end up being tomorrow, or the day after, or even the day after that. Sometimes weeks go by before I get to something, because doing a little something isn’t worth it. No time to run a 5K? Then I’ll run tomorrow. No time to write a full chapter of my novel? I’ll write tomorrow instead. Starting and finishing an activity on separate days made me feel like I wasn’t giving it my full attention.

Never mind productivity, that insisting on completion might mean I wouldn’t write a blog post for three months, or that because I wasn’t running at all, I’d gain weight — anything less than complete was partial credit. It wasn’t worth my time.

Sneaker in the sun

Photo Credit: Paolo Negri

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Know Your Limits

We had screwed up.

A local orchestra had asked us to accompany one of their songs with a waltz showcase in an upcoming performance, and they were specifically looking for an amateur couple. My partner and I were honored and excited, so of course we said yes. We’d connected with the orchestra director and examined the stage. We’d set aside time to choreograph.

But now, as we were listening to the music, we discovered that the song was actually a Viennese waltz, a much faster dance that required more space — and stamina and knowledge — than we had. Six minutes of Viennese? Could we survive? Would it get too repetitive? How would we fit the steps onto a small stage? Could we dance a regular-speed waltz instead? Was it too late to back out?

We had screwed up — and now we had to deal with the consequences.

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