Characterisation- Moonlake’s List of Moods

I won’t be able to post tomorrow so I’m posting in advance today and it is about yet another list I’ve created as a result of my 10 by 10 exercise for characterisation, which is on the possible moods that a character typically goes through.

·         affectionate
·         aloof
·         angry
·         anguish
·         argumentative
·         authoritative
·         avoidance
·         bashful
·         boastful
·         boisterous
·         calculating
·         cheerful
·         concentrated
·         confusion
·         contemplative
·         content
·         demanding
·         depression
·         despair
·         directing
·         directionless
·         disappointment
·         dreamy
·         excited/hyperactive
·         Exhaustion
·         firm/forceful
·         focused
·         frustrated
·         gleeful
·         grumbling
·         grumpy
·         happy
·         hopeful
·         humorous
·         ice-cold
·         intense thinking
·         introspection
·         isolation
·         killing edge
·         lamenting
·         lecturing
·         lethargic
·         lighthearted
·         lightning
·         longing
·         malice
·         mischievous
·         numb
·         obedient
·         philosophical
·         playful
·         quiet
·         reasoning
·         regret
·         relaxed
·         reminiscent
·         restless
·         sleepy
·         stubborn
·         sweet
·         tender
·         unfazed
·         vulnerable
·         wistful
·         worrisome
·         zone out

Characterisation- Moonlake’s List of Personal Values

Before delving into the actual topic of this post, I have to mention that I edited the previous post about Catalyst Events and Elements yesterday rather than going with 2 separate posts on the same topic as previously planned.

So in today’s post, I’m going to share yet another list I had created that aids characterisation- a list of personal values, what is particularly important for a particular character that potentially drive a significant part of his/her actions . This list might not be as comprehensive as that in the previous post. It’s basically made up of items that I had come up with in the process of filling out my 10 by 10 character grids that I had talked about. So anyone reading this should treat it as a post for starting ideas rather than a comprehensive article on the topic.

I’m going to go by alphabetical order this time since it’s quite short at the moment:

  • Affection- mainly thinking of people who want to please others all the time
  • Comfort- not necessarily lazy people but could be for example women who dislikes high heels because they’re uncomfortable and don’t have occasion to wear them
  • Compassion
  • Convenience- people who likes taking shortcuts, people who dawdle on tasks that are complicated….
  • Duty
  • Equity
  • External approval/praise
  • Freedom
  • Happiness
  • Harmony
  • Idealism
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Love
  • Materialism
  • Momentary gratification versus long term welfare
  • Moderation- mainly thinking of how likely the person is to go to extremes
  • Planning versus improvisation- mainly thinking about personal preferences for planning or not
  • Power
  • Practicality
  • Security
  • Self versus collective achievement- “self achievers” are more ambitious and seek credits whereas “collective achievers” care about whether they make good contributions to a collective cause the way I see it
  • Self expression
  • Self sufficiency- distinguished from independence in the sense that the ultimate driver for the character is to not rely on others
  • Stability
  • Status
  • Visibility- attention seekers basically
  • Wealth

Plotting with Catalyst Events and Elements

Today I’m going to talk about a particular approach to creating plots- the use of catalyst events and elements, which is just my term for any event or element that moves the story along. Normally, the grand skeleton of a story comes to me of their own accords but I find this catalyst event approach quite useful for filling up a particular plot arc. For example, I might have decided that a particular plot arc involves my protagonists adventuring in a desert and then I could just consult my list of catalyst events in order to fill up what the protagonists actually encounter during this desert plot arc. It also comes in handy when I’m particularly stuck on what happens to the protagonists next.

I was going for completeness of coverage for a fantasy story when I created the list and in total the list has about 100 items.

Roughly, they fall into 6 groups:

  1. Related to nature: natural disasters (famine, drought, earthquake, tidal wave, volcano eruption, typhoon, flood), weather related events that could have interesting interactions with the terrain and hinder protagonists’ movement (storm, blizzard, rainfall, fog, nightfall), other bad events (avalanche, pestilence), good events (bounty)
  2. Societal changes: “threats” from outside a society (war, different plane [of reality], divinity, alien sentience, breakout of ‘evil’ sealed in), change in authority (just ruler coming on, tyranny), within a people/group (dissension, corruption, conservatism, a break of tradition, a forbidden rule broken), discovery/rediscovery of knowledge, discovery of old/ lost civilisation
  3. Related to people, relationships and personal fortunes: life class, widening of social circle, growing apart from friends/lovers, increasing intimacy with someone, maturing/growing up, moving on versus stuck in the past, losing all/going on a brand new start, unemployment, sudden fame, personal loss, memory abnormality, minor illness/injury, reincarnation, being lost, being trapped, indecision, oversight, travel to foreign lands, mutation, exiled, poisonings, enslaved), power dynamics (old bloodline versus a new power), layers of truth (misunderstanding, misconception, mistaken impression, rumour/gossip, lie/untruth), character actions, not necessarily that of protagonists but all characters in general, I sometimes think actions by other characters besides protagonists are more interesting catalyst events (reunion, union of lovers, lovers who missed each other, a promise kept/broken, revenge, past trauma, family feud, oath/geis, family heirloom/duty, penance, personal sacrifice, act of generousity/mercy, act of small malice, act of curiousity)
  4. Sources of dispute: treasure, relic of power, legacy of power, ill begotten wealth, new ability that surfaces, racial/ethnic feud
  5. Symbolic elements and other standard troupe of fantasy: prophecy, dream/vision/oracle, illusion/mirage, a fortune telling, local lore, legends, curse, secret, portal, non-aging (effect of the Ring on Bilbo and Frodo in LoR, fountains of youth etc.), possession by ghost, secret meeting, duels, hauntings, sacrifices (as in cult sacrifices ala Indiana Jones style)
  6. Chance encounters: chance meeting/stranger, chance acquiring, mysterious note, overheard conversation

Moonlake’s Lyrics (12)

What is your ultimate pursuit in life? Everyone has different answers. For me, it has always been something internal that I seek so the lyrics that I’m going to share today chimes with me particularly.

The title of the song is Extraordinary Bum. It is the theme song for a HK drama whose protagonist is an advisor to the Emperor in the Qing dynasty but who acts like a bum most of the time (in the story, the protagonist doesn’t have an official rank but goes by the title of “personal assistant” of the Emperor). Of course, it is wholly made-up without making use of any historical reference whatsoever but I rather like the central theme of the drama and the theme song which is really about having low desires of fame and status.

The actual lyrics is as follows:

*Not greedy for rise in official ranks and the attainment of nobility
Haven’t seen such achieving anything
Maybe a bum is bound to be looked down upon
Never sought to outshine you                   with endless depth in terms of handling affairs

Don’t laugh at me                                            I no longer have the heart for competition
Only one leisurely like me                            can discover love
If one does not have the inborn ability for leisure
Who would know how to let go

Don’t be envious of working for the Emperor
Maybe it’s ultimately a dream
Not greedy of fame and the claiming of accomplishments (*here specifically referring to those that allow one to climb up in status)
Inappropriately dream of riding phoenixes and dragons

If you’re arrogant of inborn intelligence and show off your prestige
Maybe you will be ultimately fooled
Only one wise can think through (fame and status)

Repeat *

Notes: riding phoenixes and dragons is a term that refers to climbing up in rank, specifically through sucking to those already in a high position

Writing Challenges

This is the made-up post that I had promised earlier for the post I had skipped due to sickness. In this post, I’m going to talk about writing challenges. How are these different from writing prompts, you ask? Well, not different at all in essence as they are both meant to spark off ideas. It’s merely that this is what they are called over at my virtual writer’s home that I’ve blogged about previously (since they are challenges thrown out by specific Strolenatis) so I stick to the term.

Firstly, I have to admit that I’m quite “picky” when it comes to writing prompts. That is, I have to find the ‘right’ writing prompts for me so that I could write. As for writing challenges, at the least they’ve prompted me to create a submission for the Citadel which is usually less than 2000 words but tend to be longer labours of love than the random passages that I tended to write off any other prompts. So in this post, I am mainly going through those writing challenges I encountered that inspired me personally. They include:

  • The Bizarre Lifeform Challenge- based on the premise that in theory, anything could be the sustenance of a particular lifeform. Personally, I came up with the Sheen Leech which made a ‘diet’ of sheens as part of its mating process. As for the physical appearance of these creatures, I came up with the idea that they look like caterpillars but have frog-like tongues that have a suction-cup located at the tip that they use to capture flies.
  • The Red Herring- not the standard term for detective books but referring to some item utterly useless to standard adventurers starred in fantasy. For this I came up with the idea of Fools’ Gems that are coloured due to exposure to magic but would very quickly lose their colouring when ‘mined’ and taken out from where they are found.
  • Placeholder Gods- the idea that standard gods had left a realm, resulting in a new set of unconventional Gods to step in as replacements, meant to be silly in nature really. My personal contributions include Zxtkvf, God of the Unfathomable and Unbelievable and Setam, the Goddess of Nerves. Both of these I had written a neat 100-word snippet for. Both are fun ideas but I’m not quite geared for silly/humorous pieces for that’s the most I want to push out for these ideas.
  • Archaic Words challenge- did anyone know the special name given to the “miniature reflection of himself which a person sees in the pupil of another’s eye on looking closely into it”? no, well, it’s called babies-in-the-eyes. Based on this term, I came up with a method of fortune telling purely revolving around gazing intently at the babies-in-the-eyes reflected in the fortune teller’s eyes.

Btw, there are heaps more writing challenges actually on the Citadel if anyone is interested in them. I’ve given out the link before but here it is again for new followers: http://strolen.com/main. It is a fun community for writers really, especially fantasy writers (there’s a fair amount of sci-fi as well). So visit it and join if you are as keen on fantasy and writing and improving with honest feedback as I am.

Worldbuilding- Moonlake’s Favourite Elements

This post is somewhat inspired by the post of Berkeley Kerr that I’ve reblogged under this same category some months back but compared to his very extensive article, mine is more modest in scope. I’m merely talking about my favourite elements in world building aka things I like to include whilst building my own fantasy world. In no particular order, they are:

  1. Lore (including creation myth): personally, this is the element that always draws me to fantasy. Whether it’s stories/poetry/ballads about past ages, lost races, fallen empires or plain creation myths, they fascinate me. I’m less interested in treasures and tales of dragons except on a light reading basis. Anyway, for me, lore adds complexity and depth to a world and is an integral element of building up the history of my world. In fact, I’ve personally found that it is way easier to construct these relative to actual history of a fantasy world (probably because I never actually care for history myself)- sometimes they even come to me of their own accords.
  2. Speculative biology: basically the creation of fantasy fauna and flora. Personally, I tend to create more fantasy plants in the process of world creation for my novels- don’t know why, just happens to be. These are just tidbits that I drop in to spice up the world.
  3. Constellation: personally I always create constellation that embodies a particular culture’s values and ways of living
  4. Cultural adverbs & fantasy vocab: something I always create despite myself, I use them both as spices and to reveal the underlying culture that I’m writing
  5. Social customs: this encompasses things like special festivals, various habits in daily life, gestures etc.

Again, I stress that this is not meant to be comprehensive in nature, merely a discussion of my favourite elements when constructing my own fantasy world. And that’s all for today. And oh, I haven’t forgotten that I’m still owing a post. I will make it up shortly.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (11)

This set of lyrics that I want to share is about breaking up. Moreover, it’s about positive breaking up and that’s what I like about it. It’s from a Cantonese song about ten years’ back.

The song title roughly translate to “good start, good finish”.

Hugging each other with a smile                     till it’s time to let go
Let all the eyes on the street                             watch as they please
Pray and then pray again                                    that a sweet impression would be left
Making me feel warm                                          and able to recollect it later

*Having too much to say                                   but not able to connect up in speech
Haven’t opened my mouth                               there’s nothing more suitable for this time
Look fixedly and then look fixedly again      Departure is like this
Calm but long

Looking ahead                                                        see how bright the sky is
Each facing the future with each’s hopes
To love needs two                                                  to separate also needs two
Because of having loved once                            having a good start and finish
Will guarantee a calmness of heart even in separation

Thinking of how ideal it is                                   even my steps are light
Yet I did not expect that in the dark
Two streams of tears have stealthily appeared on my face
Pain have surfaced from within my heart

Did not hasten and chase after the other         to lay the truth bare
I am hurt slightly                                                      but haven’t lost direction yet
Look back and then look back again                   what if we meet again
We’ll still wave and say goodbye to each other

Chinese Lore- Tian Gou (Heavenly Dog)

Physical Description:

A fox-like creature whose head is white, said to be originating from a pre-histoical mammal.

Lore:

Originally seen as an animal that can counter evil, it somehow became the synonym to comets which are seen as bad omen in ancient China.

In particular, the Tian Gou eating the Sun or the Moon is a common story passed down through folklore, which was how the ancient populace explained the phenomenon of sun or moon eclipses. During such times, the populace often rang gongs, played drums or even used firecrackers so as to ‘scare away’ the Tian Gou. Closely related to this story is the legend that when Chang E stole the immortal pills rewarded to her husband Hou Yi for shooting down nine Suns (and thus only leaving one sun in the sky), Hou Yi’s hunting hound chased her all through her ascent up to the sky. Hearing its bark, Chang E hid herself in the Moon. Meanwhile, all the hair on the hound’s body stood up erect and its body kept on expanding. Then in one motion, it leapt up and swallowed the Moon whole.  When the Heavenly King and Queen heard about this event, they sent the Heavenly Guards to apprehend the black dog. When it was brought forth, the Heavenly Queen recognised it as Hou Yi’s hunting hound and gave it the title of Heavenly Dog and the responsibility of guarding the Southern Heavenly Door. As a result of the honour given to it, the hound spat out Chang E and the Moon. Thereafter, Change E made the Moon her home.

There is another story concerning how Chang Xian (an immortal in Chinese lore) shot the Heavenly Dog. In this story, the Heavenly Dog was obstructing the constellations from going to the mortal realm as children. When Chang Xian shot the Heavenly Dog and made it run away, the people were then able to get children and as a result, Chang Xian was known as “the children-giving Chang Xian”.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (10)

I had been sick for the last week so skipped the Friday post last week and the post yesterday. I got better but then it got worse again and I’m still very much plagued by a blocked nose so I’ve decided that the make-up post for last Friday will have to come later. Today’s lyrics is the theme song of a HK drama that is back in the 90s. It is yet another archaic Chinese themed song given that the series itself is set in ancient China in the Qing dynasty (or the last dynasty, the one ruled by Manchurians).

The title of the song is “The thought of love will forever endure”

The love of white clouds has used up everything I owned this life

Mending the mistake made by the grey sky at this moment

Even if I turn back            there is anything left except for a waft of clear wind

I am willing to clear the worries of the world

The whole of this life of mine is not enough to pay back this love

How come we meet amidst beacon smoke?

Raising my head in righteousness             leaving the love within my heart

Silently stepping towards fire                     crying within my heart

Within the millions of populace there is endless worries and difficulties

Let me take all the sadness or pain

My devotion will always hold despite waves of fierce flame

Within darkness there is destined to be dawn

Even if I turn to ashes                                    my dreams would be as they were

The thought of love will forever endure