TV and Story Taste

I’ve blogged extensively about my reading taste. I thought today I will do an ‘old wine in new bottle’ trick and turn to my story taste in TV. By TV, I actually mean both TV and movies since I have identical taste in the type of stories I enjoy (plus I’ve always preferred watching a movie at home on a DVD relative to the cinema, I personally never liked the cinema surround sounds etc.). 

First up, I like fast-paced stories because the most I want to get out of a TV series or a movie is entertainment value. So I watch a fair bit of action movies/blockbusters and a new pickup was the spy thriller genre of TV series from mainland China, set in the period of WWII when Japan invaded China. I also tended to enjoy a fair bit of the Hong Kong TV series in the romantic comedy genre that I watched, mainly taking the form of a couple starting off ‘on the wrong foot’ with each other. Basically, there was plenty of witty dialogue where the two bickered with each other and plenty of humour. They are like the equivalent of light reading to me. 

The three types of stories that I really like or really empathise with me, however, remain the following, not in any order:

  • Heartwarming stories: I tend to prefer family love as a theme. For example, I quite liked the Family Man starring Nicholas Cage. 
  • Uplifting stories: They can be the ‘pursuit of a dream story’- I felt like I would be interested in watching The Pursuit of Happyness ever since I heard about its synopsis. Or there is this Hong Kong TV series made in 1989 starring Stephen Chow that I’ve watched three times already- I basically keep watching re-runs of it whenever it comes on. It’s called the Final Combat and is the story of an unlikely hero. I admit I was in it more for the humour and the dynamics between Stephen Chow and the female lead as a child but I also think it speaks to me on a personal level and reinforces my worldview, hence uplifting to me personally. 
  • Insightful stories: I never liked any of the Oscar nominees due to slow pace and sometimes content that I have no personal knowledge like Dances with Wolves (I was in primary school and still living in Hong Kong when it came out). But I enjoy stories that can shed useful insights into life. Nothing springs to mind at the moment but I think that’s because I don’t go out looking for these types of stories, I just encounter them on ‘chance’. 

I’m not sure how close my TV story taste conforms to my book taste, to be honest. At least, I’m not seeing a very close connection. But perhaps my taste does change across different mediums through which I consume a story. What about all of you? 

The Meaning of Happiness

Happiness has a slightly different meaning for everyone. Recently I had this really resonant one that came to me (or rather it was a rediscovery, I think I re-discover things a lot. I’ve recently thought about my core personality and it hadn’t changed from when I was a teenager) so I thought it worthwhile to record it here. 

So what is my personal definition for happiness? I can basically sum it up in exactly four words: loving what I love. Coincidentally, its Chinese equivalent is also exactly four Chinese characters and the wording would be more or less identical. 

So what does loving what I love entail exactly? For me, it’s the following 3 things:

  1. Loving myself every day
  2. Doing what I love every day
  3. Loving who I love every day

I am a simple person who has simple pleasures and having the above already makes me full. Once in a while, I get a bit more ambitious than usual and my mood goes up and down. But this personal definition of happiness is my anchor and brings me back every time. 

And how does my current life tally? I’m hitting it on all 3 counts. Upon reflection, I tend to hit it on all 3 counts for most of my life so far. And I hope that I will continue to keep this in my sight and continue hitting it on all 3 counts in the future. 

That’s my short share for today. Feel free to let me know in comments if you feel up to sharing your own definition of happiness. 

Moonlake as a person and random life update

Ever since the Corona virus lock-down I’ve been working at home and I have to admit that it’s testing my self-discipline (then again, it’s coinciding with the structural edit on my WIP that I realise I have to do and I have to admit that I’m procrastinating because I dread the amount of work I have to do). To be honest, I’m just very lethargic towards writing right now. Today, I completely ran out of ideas of what to write about and in my infinite boredom leading to FB surfing, I took a “which 2 animals summarise your two sides” quizz with the following results: 

You got: Eagle and Owl

You are intelligent and wise beyond your years. Your intelligence is vast, and you have common sense along with book smarts. Above all, you have perspective that always allows you to see the bigger picture.

And this inspired me to write about myself because this should be the easiest thing to write. And let me start off by saying the quizz result above is a relatively good fit for me on an intellectual/mental level. Relationship-wise, I’m loyal and guarded, tending to stick with a small social circle with a few who are very close to my heart but otherwise being very slow to warm up to new acquaintances (Internet excepted). My love life is non-existent as I’ve mentioned before. My medium/long term ambition is to debut with my first Chinese fantasy series and I’m currently working on book 1. 

And this is all I want to share today. See you all next week. 

The Chinese influence in my Writing

Aside from the about page, I don’t think I’ve properly introduced myself so let’s do this here up front. I’m a Chinese who migrated to Australia at the age of 12 after I completed primary school. Because I came from Hong Kong, I lean towards modern values (at least in gender roles and such) but I also lean towards the conservative at the same time (I have all these conceptions about proper behaviour for women like not swearing, not that I judge others on them, just that I don’t do that myself and I prefer women not doing them). I also love ancient Chinese literature: the lyrical prose of Chinese poetry, classics like the Dream of the Red Chamber and just in general the magic of the Chinese language which encompass idioms, folklore etc. 

Now onto the meat of this post: in what forms do the Chinese influence in my writing occur? Well, one obvious answer is in my chosen sub-genre of Chinese fantasy. As a Chinese who loves fantasy, I write in the genre that I love to read and bring my ethnical identity into the genre. So that includes creating an entire world of fictional ancient China with fantasy elements, borrowing heavily from folklore and real history but ‘subverting’ them with my imagination as well as attempting to capture the essence and nuances of living as a Chinese in Chinese society. 

Then, there are less obvious influences. One example, which I detected long after it happened, was during that abandoned attempt at novelling aka the Genghis Khan and wife story. From the get go, each chapter of that story takes the format of being driven by exactly two events when I outline it. The two events might or might not be interrelated but there are always two for each chapter. That wasn’t something I did intentionally, just the way my mind told me to structure it in. Then one day years down the track, like last year when I was outlining my WIP and taking an online writing course on outlining, it suddenly hit me that this 2-event chapters style was actually the influence of Chinese classics: essentially the ones I had read all had chapter headings that were in the couplet format. For those who don’t know, couplets are basically 2 phrases each of 5 or 7 Chinese characters and the words or characters in each part of the couplet are supposed to have correspondence to each other. A well-known example of a couplet is “Distance tests a horse’s strength, time reveals a person’s heart.” where the correspondences are distance to time, tests to reveals etc. I’ve now migrated away from this format but I was quite surprised that my Chinese reading managed to creep into my writing that way. 

My fellow writer followers, how has your self-identify cropped up in your writing? Let me know in comments. For my reader followers, hope that you found this post interesting. 

Gaming and writing

I am someone with selective taste and that extends to the number of genres I read as well as my hobbies. I’ve previously blogged about jigsaw puzzles, I constantly blog about reading and today I’m going to talk about my gaming hobby and how it figures into my writing. 

Firstly, I do two different types of gaming: PC gaming which are mostly hidden objects but sometimes include match 3 and time management games. I was very into roleplaying games but I had given up the PC variety because they were too time consuming. Nowadays, I only play in roleplaying games of the dice-rolling variety (ala Dungeon and Dragons or Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone plot-your-own-advenutre/gaming books for those who don’t know what I’m talking about) and that is confined to one weekend session every week. 

So how does gaming figure into my writing? Well, it:

  • Fills up my creative well by exposing me to ideas about character, plot, elements of magic etc. 
  • Similar to the above, I do need a little pure leisure time for a balanced life and gaming fills that spot 
  • For the roleplaying game, I have hopes that it would eventually feedback into improving one of my shortcomings as a writer which is in characterisation. I often have difficulty getting into my characters and my weekly session gives me an opportunity to become another character for 4 hours every week so I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to apply such role-playing skills in getting closer into my characters so that I can write about them. 

What other hobbies do my writer followers have that figure into your writings? I would be interested to hear about them in comments. 

What my Favourite Characters tell me about Myself

The previous two posts have all been about my writing so I thought I would change the pace a bit by talking about a topic that leans towards the reading side: a reflection of the attributes of my favourite characters and what they show about me.  

Firstly, I like a female protagonist who is proud. I mean, I like Mr Darcy too so it’s not just female necessarily but I definitely have a special fondness for female protagonists who are proud so Lizzy Bennett is of course high on my list. As for connection to myself, it’s probably obvious but I am proud (though most probably won’t guess it) and I like being proud. That is not at all the same as being arrogant, just saying but you get the idea.

Secondly, I have a fondness for characters who are a bit ‘bumbling’- that’s the closest word I can come to. I cannot think of a good well-known example in fantasy example for your clumsy mage archetype and the ‘duckling to swan’ female protagonists that are more prominent features of women fiction. In similar veins, I like characters who are a bit odd in some way or socially awkward. For example, I’m rather taken with Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, a female sleuth who has a general people issue that crops up in many areas including relatives, romance and when she works on her cases.

Finally, I have a preference for characters who are morally good. If you wonder how come I’ve never given an example in relation to my favourite genre of fantasy, well, this is where it comes in. In at least 80% of the fantasy I’ve read and enjoyed, they are good triumph over evil stories so you get the picture. Having said that, I think I’ve come to appreciate grey more than black and white as I age so my definition of good has changed or relaxed. But I’ve never been interested in a ‘fallen into the darkness’ story such as how Anniken Skywalker became Darthvader. I think this reflects my own moral stance but also I think it’s just part of my reading taste in general.

And there you go: I think that’s a pretty neat summary of myself at your disposal. 🙂

The Short Story and Me (2)

As a change, this week we are skipping author interviews. It will come back next week though.

Thought I will do a re-run on this since my stance on it has changed yet again now that I have broken off my association with the epub completely.

Previously, I’ve talked about myself as a writer and the pros and cons of short story writing as I experience it. In this post, I’m just going to cut to the chase and say that I’ve now definitely decided that for now, short story won’t be my focus unless I am doing a collaborative piece with another writer. Not only am I less experienced with the short story form but through personal experience, I’ve found that I really enjoy planning and writing a short story far less than I do of a novel.

I have a sprawling mind as I think Robin Hobb puts it, my natural tendency is to think up multi-plot stories held up by a substantial side cast. As such, I feel that it’s just a hassle to limit myself to the short story form which I feel, given my current expertise, is better for single-plot stories.

However, here comes the twist to the short story and me. Through chance, I’ve met another author on Facebook who has chatted me up to do a collaborative piece with him which is a short story/novella. We are going to finalise the story concept this month and then start writing this collab piece.

Forgiving and Closed Doors

To an event experienced yesterday and the one who sent me the email:

Forget and forgive,

I’m not ready for you.

Fully aware of my own faults,

I was nevertheless hurt.

I’m applying the best cure for my wounds:

Time and Distance Away.

 

On a more uplifting note, concurrent to the above event I remembered the following from when I first got my graduate job after being one of the latest of my Honours cohort to get an offer:

Don’t lament Closed Doors,

They are often the wrong ones for you.

The Right Door will open

If you are Patient and Persistent.

 

 

What I learnt from the ePub (2)

Continued on from my post last week, here’s what I learnt about communication and collaboration from my involvement in the epub:

Communication

  • Never speak to each other under the influence of emotion. This doesn’t mean you push your own emotions aside or never speak up for yourself. Just wait till you feel you are calm before you start compiling your email responses or in the case of chat, just say “I’m not calm now, I don’t want to speak any more, we carry where we leave on now another day”. But make sure that you do actually come back to it with the other person promptly otherwise it’s like leaving stuff on the burner without attendance.
  • Words can hurt and there’s no means to undo or take back hurt. It doesn’t matter that your intention wasn’t to hurt and the other person misunderstood your intentions. If someone actually tells you that they have issues with your words/conduct, acknowledge their feelings first and then explain about your original intention. Please don’t rush to dismiss the other’s feelings (remember that all feelings are valid, you can disagree with other people’s opinions, you can’t disagree with other people’s feelings) and justify yourself by saying that the other person is just over-reacting or have an agenda against you.
  • To fulfil the purpose of real communication, both parties need to be assertive as opposed to aggressive or submissive. It’s not good enough that you intended to communicate but phrased things so aggressively that the other person gets offended and you effectively say “I’m just being yourself, I’ve always been like this, if you understand my true intentions, why are you taking me up on phrasing issues?” Well, if you really mean to communicate, the basic idea is to get the content of what you want to say across to the other person, not some negative tone underlying your words which then triggers adverse feelings in the other person who then closes down in intellectual comprehension due to such feelings. So really, everyone please read over your own emails before sending them off and when someone reports that they are upset over certain phrasing of yours, just acknowledge this as being valid.

Collaboration

  • This is specific to my own personality but it is almost a prerequisite for me to actually work out some basic premise of the conditions surrounding the collaboration before joining rather than jumping on board based on emotions and specifically friendship. I already had a taste of this when I automatically agreed to be my best friend’s bridesmaid but then pulled out upon further consideration. I’m happy to report that this didn’t end up blemishing our friendship but instead made it stronger. But in terms of the epub, this jumping on board on my behalf has been entirely disastrous. I actually wanted to discuss between all collaborators at the very start so we can work out differences or just compare notes in visions. But one collaborator of mine convinced me and everyone that we have an experimental enterprise and it’s better to fine-tune things as we go. And then it’s basically constant warfare between me and him because of our differing visions. Again, this is specific to me and him but I think in general, working out common grounds before a collaboration even started is a good strategy for ensuring group harmony.
  • When disagreements occur, don’t go for compromises. Instead, go back to square 1 and actually try to find the lowest denominator of agreement between the two of you over the issue and start from there.
  • Trust each other as collaborators. Don’t hold back when you encounter problems. Notify each other promptly. Especially don’t hold back with the view that you are sacrificing for the common good. If all of you are true collaborators, no self-sacrifices are needed, that is just some excuse you make up yourself because you are conflict avoiding in some way. And you can’t trust yourself to hold onto such a martyr attitude for the long term.
  • If you genuinely believe yourself to be incompatible with a collaboration, gracefully exit. No matter of your emotional attachment, if you’ve been genuinely accumulated a large stock of negative emotions associated with a collaboration venture and you just can’t resolve this with your collaborators, then just cut your ties. It’s really not worth your time, effort and emotional attachment to stay in a collaboration where you can’t work with people who share the same values with you.

That’s all of my self-reflection on the epub and it’s probably obvious that I went through some intense communication and relationship problems during the course of the epub. But I’m happy to report that I still feel that I gained more than I had lost and I have much more promising collaborative creative writing projects planned ahead with my other collaborator who co-wrote Empress with me in issue 1 of Excursions from the Citadel. I won’t be appearing in future issues of the Excursions beyond issue 3 but I’m not disappearing as a writer. You will continue to hear about writing updates from me so stay tuned.

What I learnt from the ePub (1)

Even though I ultimately decided that I’m a bad match for the Excursions epub, it has been a fruitful and educational enterprise for me across multiple areas. In this post, I would like to document all of the things I’ve learnt about myself as a writer and a person and about communication and collaboration. This is both for personal reference and general sharing.

Moonlake as a Writer

  • I am less a short story writer compared to a novel writer even though I had yet to finish a novel to date but had at least had a collaborative piece published in issue 1 of the Excursions from the Citadel and finished the first draft of my serial story Thread. I’ve always suspected this but through this epub, I actually find out exactly why: A short story is best matched to a single tight plot but I have a personal penchant for thinking up and preferring to write complex stories with multiple plot lines running parallel to each other AKA I’m Miss Complexity.
  • Some writers can write very fast and believe in writing very fast. I don’t. I like to work at my own pace and occasionally let things simmer so my speed fluctuates. But bottom line is that I am a slow writer overall. Sometimes I wish I’m faster but mostly I don’t. I like taking my time with things. It’s part of my life philosophy.
  • While I tend towards planning before writing (in fact, I just cannot completely wing it, I really need to plan somewhat before I can start writing anything), I still often under-plan. Part of this is an inability to completely imagine myself in the scene 100% of the time.
  • I’m very inflexible when actual writing starts deviating from m plan.
  • I really need to do pre-writing which I did for my stalled novel where I expand each scene out almost completely before I write actual words for a story. I discarded this completely for Thread, my solo serial for the epub and now things are in a mess in terms of revision.
  • I insist that I can’t function as a writer without feedback but I also need to balance this eager embracing of/chasing after feedback with an ability of reconciling feedback with my own author’s vision for the story where they differ. For Thread, the latter became an issue but luckily, I asked another contributing author for issue 2 for help and she very correctly encouraged me to pursue my own vision as the author.

Moonlake as a Person

  • I’ve always classified myself as mild-tempered and this is also my public image. Also, I’ve always abhorred conflict, whether it’s being involved myself or even just observing it. But when it comes to something I really care about, then my real temper can show and it did show for this epub. While it had led to ugliness, I celebrate the fact that I had stood for myself and my genuine feelings.
  • I still hold back too much, especially my own emotions. This only gives them a chance to fester, leading up to explosions later and grudges being built up with long shadows.
  • My intuition is strong and I should learn to trust it more.
  • While I tend to get along with everyone, there are certain communication styles that I dislike. I should accept this aspect of myself and remember it for future reference.
  • Internet friendships are to be taken cautiously as there are little that they are based on other than the words you write on a keyboard to each other. I shouldn’t have the expectation that they would be as steadfast as real life friendships. While this might not be true of and for everyone, I should again accept that this is just my nature.