Sunday, August 05, 2012

Character Foil Writing Excuses Prompt

Writing Excuses episode 6.29 talks about writing character foils. A foil being a character that offers a contrasting role that casts the other characters attributes in a sharper light. Several examples are given in the podcast.
  • A straight man being the foil to a funny guy.
  • The sidekick to the superhero
  • The wise man and the apprentice/student
  • Sherlock Homes and Dr Watson.
  • A theologian versus a scientist
  • A human who can't relate to humanity versus a monster that can
  • A person who believes in visions versus someone who thinks they're crazy
  • And probably some others as well
I think this is a great thing to consider when writing. The two points that I think are good to keep in mind here are that the two characters can be very alike in other respects and that both characters should have something to give. In other words the foil should have a reason for being beyond just highlighting the other characters attributes.

The prompt for this episode was:

Generate a list of five character pairs. Pick the most interesting of the set, and write about them.
So here are five character pairs of my own design:
  1. Absolutist versus relativistic
  2. Gluttonous eater versus picky eater
  3. Pessimist and optimist
  4. Desiring success versus having success
  5. A dandy versus a slob
And here is what I wrote on the pair I picked:
Albert sighed as he rolled the pea around with his fork as his brother ate heartily, shoveling mouthfuls of mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and roast into his maw. "Mom knows that I hate peas, why does she keep giving them to me?"  
Swallowing his mouthful, Greg answered, "She probably hopes that you'll be like me." waving his fork around with chubby little fingers and dripping gravy on his shirt. 
"I'd rather think she'd want you to be more like me." Albert wiped his clean fingers on a napkin and stared at his plate wondering if he should make an attempt to eat more as his brother made his plate as clean as Albert's fingers, mopping everything up with a soft roll. "I'm probably a lot cheaper to take car of, not that it makes any difference in my allowance." he frowned. 
"Yeah, well at least you get some, I'm still paying for that broken window, you know." Greg said buttering another roll as Albert got up from the table and dropped his plate in the sink. "Since you've got the money and all, do you want to go and get some ice cream?"
"Only if they have rocky road, I don't even know why they make other kinds of ice cream." 
"I do, because all the different flavors are awesome, you have your classics, chocolate and vanilla, butter pecan, mint chocolate chip, oreo cream, fudge ripple, each one delicious in it's own way." Greg said his mouth on his sleeve. 
Albert scraped the remains of the meal into the trash, setting his plate in the sink, "Ok then." he said washing his hands. "Let's go."

If it isn't the character pair I was aiming at was number 2 a glutton versus a picky eater. I also tried rolling in some of the other ones, but really I didn't write enough to develop them. It feels like there should be more but I've run out of time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Steam Punk Alice in Wonderland Prompt

I've listened to a few of the Writing Excuses podcasts and decided to try writing the prompt from the episode Pigeon Holes.
Today his prompt for you is to write the opening scene of a steampunk version of Alice in Wonderland.
Which seemed like a fine prompt, but in all honesty, I've never read the book Alice in Wonderland, so I wasn't sure how it began. So I went ahead and read the whole book, which was actually quite short and then thought about it and wrote the following in 15 minutes.

Alice starred at the sky, watching the near silent airship float by on the breath of the wind as she listened to the ticker-tack of her sisters portable computation device. There were beeps and whirrs as her sister typed away at the keys producing a long ribbon of paper spilling out one side. She looked at that strip filled with numbers, letters and symbols but saw no pictures. She sighed, how boring, she'd much rather look at an automated picture book. She laid there and pondered if she could make a paper necklace as a white rabbit whizzed by. Nothing seemed particularly odd about a rabbit rushing by but this rabbit rode on a miniature steam bike, dressed in a fine vest. The thing that caught Alice's eye was the pocket watch he took out of his vest, looking worried about some appointment. 

Alice was on her feet in a flash racing after, just in time to see the rabbit and contraption roll into a large pipe. She was forced on to her knees to follow after, and crawling along in the dark feeling her way along the cool metal tube, she didn't quite notice the ground give out under her until she was falling, turning and tumbling. She fell for to great deep depths, or perhaps she fell very slowly, giving her a chance to look around at the walls as she fell. They were covered in all manner of cupboards and gears, filled with springs and sprockets gleaming metal and brass. She picked up a particularly beautiful set of binoculars, hoping to look through them and see the bottom of the hole she was falling in to. But when she put them to her eyes she found the lens to be cracked. Sadly she set them on a slowly rotating propeller mindful of her fingers as she passed. 

After a good long while, she finally felt the ground beneath her feet and looking around she found herself in a great hall lined with doors of all shapes and sizes, some big, some small, some wood and others metal but all locked. She tried the handle of each going along until she found a beautiful glass door. She looked through the glass and could see the gears and mechanisms that worked the lock and just down the hallway past the door she saw a beautiful garden. She thought to herself, '"Oh what a lovely garden. If only I had the key." 

Feel free to comment, but please take things with a grain of salt since I really haven't read any steam punk either. In the end, I think it was a fair go, but the thing that makes steam punk fun from my perspective is the fantastical machines, but Alice in Wonderland is already such a fantastical story that it seems difficult to one-up what's already there, and to top it off there isn't a lot of plot to speak of, it's the peculiar situations and dream like world that give the book it's feel.

Also if you feel like reading a hard copy you can buy it from or read get the text from Project Gutenburg.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Disney's The Princess and the Frog

I went to see Disney's The Princess and the Frog this weekend and it was quite enjoyable. I'd say it was somewhere in between Pocahontas and Cats Don't Dance. I say Pocahontas because to me it was the turning point for Disney's animated musicals and Cats Don't Dance it is my favorite animated musical and Princess and the Frog had moments that reminded me of it.

I really enjoyed The Princess and the Frog. It was cute and touching and just a little bit scary. There were moments that definitely made me laugh. I was also surprised at how sinister the bad guy was, I mean he was sleazy too, but dealing with the "other side" and bargaining with other peoples souls? Bad. I also loved how the rich girl wasn't stuck up. She might have been oblivious but she "believed" and when it mattered most didn't hold back to do what she could.

The animation of the film was also wonderful. There might have been a few moments when I thought, "Oh that was definitely CG." But overall it was beautiful, seamless and rich. And even a couple magical moments.

Unfortunately, the film wasn't without a couple rough spots for me. From the initial setting I set my suspension of disbelief to low. Talking animals, ok; music playing animals, um ... ok; getting lost then having millions of fireflies with unblinking lights, who you were just thinking of eating singing and dancing to lead you all the way across the swamp and also fireflies that use walkers? Well let me dial that way back for you! There sure that works out fine. It certainly made for a pretty sequence.

The thing that really let me down, were the musicals. Don't get me wrong, it's not that they sang and dance, I love that stuff, it just didn't quite make it for me. I feel like they fell into the trap that musicals can fall into, singing when you could have just said or done something to express it better.

I think a great example of this is the difference between the scene in the original Lion King and the Special Edition version. In the original Zazu is making the morning report and is stopped by Simba's pounce. But in the Special Edition it turns into a song that doesn't add anything to the story. It's a cute song, but it overshadowed the important interaction between Simba and Mufasa.

In most of my favorite Disney movies the songs serve to add depth to a character, to accentuate a point, to gloss over things that are hard to express or make a boring passage of time interesting. And Princess and the Frog does some of it that too. But some of the songs seem like they were put there just because they could. I'll have to watch it again to come up with a more concrete example.

The other problem I had with the songs in Princess in the Frog was the fact that the lyrics weren't strong. That is to say I couldn't always tell what they were singing about. I like to sing, I like to sing Disney songs, I have a hard time thinking what the lyrics to any of the songs in Princess in the Frog were.

Overall though, I think that The Princess and the Frog is an excellent return for Disney to some of its animation roots. Or at least some of my favorite Disney movies. I do feel that the songs felt a little bit talked on but they didn't detract from the magical visuals and cute love story.

I will see this one again and hope to see more like it in the future.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Homeward Bound meets The Truman Show and Inspector Gadget!

I saw Bolt over the weekend with my Brother and Father and it was awesome!

I had my doubts and while there me be a few minor things that lack I would gladly see it again. Actually that's not quite true, I can't wait to see it again. Of course this is partially because I missed the first few minutes, but the characters were well-developed and the story entertaining and the animation was very impressive. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

First Post of the Year

It's amazing, I have so much that I could write about and yet I have written so very little. Here it is the last day of the month and I'm just barely getting around to posting something. But if I wished to I could write hundreds of pages about what has transpired since my last post.

Of course that is part of the problem. There is just so much that I could write about. There is too much to actually write. So what should I write? Not everything is interesting enough to be passed on though. In any case I suppose it's what is interesting to me that is the most important.

Howl's Moving Castle - Movie vs Book

A few month's ago I watched Howl's Moving Castle, an animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. At which time I noticed that it was based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones. She is an author who I've read several books by and enjoyed greatly. In fact I would have to say that Dogsbody is one of my favorites. In any case since that time I've wanted to read the book as well.

And just recently I purchased it from and got a chance to read it. I have to say that I enjoyed it greatly, but I was really surprised at how different the two different stories are. The premise are both the same and in summary they are remarkably similar, but the little differences add up to be quite a lot.

So the question comes up, which one is better? I don't think that I can really say. Comparing the mediums of movies and books is a difficult proposition. But sometimes a story lends itself to one medium or the other. But in this case the stories are really quite different, each one has its good parts that accentuate the medium. The movie is a bit more exciting but the book is more understandable in some cases. In the end I would have to say that while it is a good book, it is an excellent movie.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Final Final Exam

Yesterday marked the day of my last final exam. And I felt exhausted. I'm doing a bit better today though. Of course thats mainly due to about 11 hours of sleep. It's amazing how a little sleep can make the world seem not quite so daunting.

Anyway, back to my lamentations about finals week. It actually wasn't that bad. I only had 3 finals to complete and only one per day. So I had my Operating Systems final on Monday at 9:30-11:30 PM. Followed by a two day break until my next final, Introduction to Physics on Thursday. What really made that one a pain was that it started at 8:00 am. Which meant that I had to get up an hour earlier than usual. And since I was already having trouble getting up at the appointed time for my 9:00 am classes that was a real chore. In fact I ended up being a little late anyway. But it was fine the test itself took less than an hour to finish and I had two hours allotted. And with only one day left my last final was on Friday and it started at 10:00 am. Which was especially nice because it gave me a chance to read the last chapter the final was on. The other chapter I finished the previous day. Despite the last minute studying I did well enough and got 17 out of 20 correct.

All in all I've passed all my classes. Of course I could have told you that last week. Even if I had completely skipped out on my finals I would have passed. My passing grade wouldn't have been as nice but I would have passed.

Anyway, I guess the point I was trying to eventually get to was that school is done for the semester. I have passed all my classes, but school isn't over. In another 3 weeks the cycle will start all over again. I have to figure out what classes to take. I need to take some classes but not too many that I overload myself. I've already picked out two, Graphics Programming and Dynamic Web Development. I should pick out a third but I don't want to pick from the ones I should take. At some point I have to take Biology and Advanced English and then I have to choose one of the Social Sciences. Blah. I'll probably end up taking one I just don't want to right now.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I just found a rather interesting web browers called Flock. It seems unique in that it has built in functions for several web services. Such as photobucket or flicker. Neither of which I have. But I do have blogger and supposedly I can use Flock to post to blogger. And it actually works pretty well. It seems pretty slick and I'll have to play around with it to see what other cool things it can do.
What really impressed me right away was the fact that it was very straight forward to import my bookmarks. In fact the first thing it did when I started it. Which it did quite well, it even seems to have imported my browsing history.
Overall the interface seems really quite smooth. And since it is based on firefox it looks like it can do pretty much anything firefox can too.