“Secret Identity”

Here’s another new poem that I finalized just recently and debuted at an open mic night this week. I’m calling it “Secret Identity.”

Question for discussion: do you prefer poems with a definite rhyme or rhythm (like this one will be), or ones written in free verse (like the last one I posted)? I feel like free verse is more “in vogue” these days, and so for a while most of what I wrote was free verse. But personally, I find that when I write for spoken word or specifically for performance (as I have been doing lately), I like to go back to consistent rhyme and rhythm if I can. Having a rhythm and a pattern or beat helps me to keep my pace when the audible sounds are the focus more than the written word.

Anyway, here’s “Secret Identity.” I hope you enjoy it.

——

Shirt & tie
Image taken from user jopperbok on Flickr Creative Commons.

My shirt and tie may cover me.

These glasses hide my eyes.

But still this outer man you see

is merely a disguise.

By day I speak on words and books.

Your minds I try to fill.

I may give disapproving looks

or tell you to sit still.

But underneath there’s so much more

than what you could dream of:

a soldier fighting holy war,

a heart that’s full of love

and far-too-idealistic hopes

in my heroic quest

to talk of more than tomes and tropes

but make your life feel blessed.

Behind the desk, behind the beard,

behind the endless puns

lies something more than first appeared:

deep care for broken ones.

I see you there, alone and lost

like sheep, a shepherd needing.

You don’t know I’d pay any cost

to simply stop the bleeding.

You’ll never know how much I care

or how I long to hold you

or how I wish I could be there

though outwardly I scold you.

Oh, how I longed to draw you near

like a hen unto her chicks,

to chase off every hurt and fear—

to shield, to heal, to fix.

Of burdens I would bear the brunt—

but alas, I am unable,

for I stand up here at the front

while you sit at your table.

For after all, I’m only one

flawed, finite, mortal creature,

and when it all is said and done,

I’m just a high school teacher.

But I’ll always be here on your side.

I’ll always be your fan.

I couldn’t save you if I tried,

but I’ll do what I can.

Clark changing
Image taken from user Porta-john on Flickr Creative Commons. Originally published by DC Comics.

Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

Cast-of-DollhouseDoes anyone remember the show Dollhouse? It ran for two seasons a few years back and, all in all, it was pretty good. The show revolved around an organization that took in desperate volunteers (often criminals who saw this as a way to commute their sentence), asked for five years of their lives in return for a large sum of money ($5 million dollars if memory serves) and their freedom. What did they do for those five years? Well, the organization erased their memories and implanted new memories and personalities in order to rent them out for a variety of purposes ranging from prostitution to mediation to assassination. Sounds pretty immoral, right? I generally agree, and the show brought up this point more than once. However, one of the less obvious and more interesting questions that the show dealt with in some depth (for a television show at least) is the question of what makes me… well me.

Some popular arguments posit that what makes me a meaningful individual organism is entirely biological. My personality is a result of key events in my lives that develop into memories (what the movie Inside Out called ‘core memories’) which shape and mold the person I become. Thus, my memory is the core of who I am and without my memory I can be made into someone entirely different with no meaningful connection to my previous self.

However, others have rejected this idea and argued that there is something in the human individual that is more fundamental than memory. Some point to the concept of a human soul that exists beyond memory, will, or feeling and is the core of human identity. Others argue that memory, will, feeling, sense, etc are all simply parts of a large whole, which is the human soul, and that removing any one of them is detrimental to the identity, but does not simply destroy it entirely. Those who are of a more physicalist bent, but still reject the idea that my identity is defined entirely by my memories, have argued for a more fundamental biological or existential source of identity that memory enhances and supports, but does not and cannot simply define. Dollhouse tended toward this general set of theories, but never explicitly supported any one of them in particular.

For your challenge today, I want you to consider this issue in depth. What is it that makes you who you are. Is your identity entirely based on your memories? Without your memory would you be someone else entirely? Or is there something more fundamental than memory that defines identity?

As always, I would like you to write a story of 1000 words that presents your answer to the question.

Bad guys are people too

Hello internet,

I’ve been on a bit of a Star Wars binge recently

Neeeeerd

Yes, yes, we established that two weeks ago. Keep up.

Anyway, it’s probably just because of the new trailers coming out for The Force Awakens and Battlefront – but I’m hyped. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since 2003, when I was ten years old and the original Clone Wars cartoon (not the CGI series) was airing in five-minute shorts between other shows on Cartoon Network. At the time, I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my entire life. It was produced by Genndy Tartakovksy, who also produced Samurai Jack, and it had the same pacing style and the same gorgeous animation. Minimalist but seamlessly functional, with as little exposition as possible, focusing on sharp bursts of action broken up by long periods of quiet suspense, with casual acts of badassery thrown in, and interjections of funny dialogue. Looking back, it was probably a big influence on my writing style. Except I need to learn to be a bit more economical with my exposition.

I can highly recommend watching it. It’s all on YouTube, and it puts the CGI follow-up series to shame. (And it is, so far, the only media from the Star Wars universe to feature high-velocity speeder bike jousting.)

But this post wasn’t supposed to be about Clone Wars. I watched the series again this week, as well as playing through some of my old favourite Star Wars video games and watching the original film trilogy, and I enjoyed them as much as ever.

I’ve harboured secret desires to be a Jedi ever since I first saw Obi Wan Kenobi leaping off that speeder bike, but one of the things that’s always fascinated me about the Star Wars universe is the minor characters. Particularly, in the original movies, the officers and starship crews of the Imperial Navy. Maybe it’s just superb acting from one or two minor actors, but I’ve always found them to be quite tragic characters, in their own way. I’m thinking mainly of Admiral Piett and Commander Jerjerrod. You remember Commander Jerjerrod?

Jerjerrod

In their minds, they’re serving their emperor, bringing order and justice to a galaxy which is full of “scum and villainy” even by the appraisal of Master Kenobi, who’s apparently the most philosophically enlightened being in the entire universe, given his power to become one with the living force and appear as a glowy blue ghost. The opening scrawl of Episode IV denounces the Galactic Empire categorically as “evil”, but it probably doesn’t seem like an evil organisation to the men who work for it. The Old Republic was more democratic, but it was also more corrupt: corruption which has been swept away by the New Order. Under the empire, does the galaxy still have the problem of huge militarised corporations laying siege to planets which won’t agree to exploitative trading rights, while the politicians – many of them with Trade Federation credits in their pockets – bicker over an appropriate response? Is slavery still common practice on the outer rim worlds? It doesn’t seem like it, from what we see in the original trilogy.

I’m not trying to make the case that the empire are the good guys (even though I do always play as the empire on Battlefront 2 and Empire at War). They did, after all, perpetuate genocide on a planetary scale. And more importantly, they’re supposed to be the bad guys. That’s their function in the story. But what I like is that not every servant of the Galactic Empire actually seems like a ‘bad guy’. Palpatine’s supposed to be maleficence given form, and I’m prepared to believe that he has a core group of supporters and agents whose motivations are wholly evil. But the wider empire must be held together by billions of front-line officers who think that they’re the good guys, or else they wouldn’t get out of bed every morning, pull on their jackboots, and report for duty. For people like Piett and Jerjerrod, the empire probably seems like a breath of fresh air, and Palpatine probably seems like a hero: a reformer who finally made sure that the galactic government had the ability to end corruption and exercise real power to end slavery and other shady practices on the outer rim worlds.

My point – and yes, I do actually have one – is that as writers of any genre, it’s important (and often very rewarding) to make sure that the ‘bad guys’ aren’t uniformly evil. Even if they’re the ones wearing evil uniforms. A multifaceted presentation of any large group is always better than a flat, uniform depiction, but that’s particularly true when you’re dealing with a large organisation or empire that serves as the antagonist in your story. I get bored very quickly if the “good guys” in a story are all morally upstanding paragons of virtue – in Star Wars, we have figures like Han Solo to prevent that from happening – but I get disinterested even more quickly if the “bad guys” are carbon-copy evil scumbags from the emperor of the galaxy all the way down to the lowliest stormtrooper. Shades of grey are always more believable, and more entertaining. Misplaced loyalty from fundamentally honourable characters can be very compelling. Particularly if those characters start to suspect that they might be on the wrong side of history.

This is what I like about Piett and Jerjerrod, and to a lesser extent the regular officers on the command bridge of Darth Vader’s star destroyer, who look up from their stations in terror whenever he billows past. Not only do they seem like semi-decent human beings (or, at least, we never see them do anything outright evil without it seeming like they’re conflicted about it), but when we see them come into close contact with the leaders of the empire – Darth Vader, and the Emperor himself – we see that their loyalties begin to waver. They begin to wonder whether they want to be on the same side as people who are willing to commit such foul acts. In any story that depicts people fighting for a cause that they believe in, I’m always interested to see people stop and question their loyalties.

So I have a writing challenge for you, this week. Go and read whatever story you’re writing, or one you’ve already written. Look at the “bad guys”, whoever they are, whether they’re an evil interplanetary empire or just one person who serves as your book’s primary antagonist. Remain conscious of their motivations, and ask yourself whether they’re certain of what they’re doing. Is certainty realistic? Look at the good guys as well. Could you improve your story by making them more doubtful of their actions? I’d love to hear what you think, in the comments!

Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

What is the nature of the self? At the moment there are three major philosophical definitions of the self that are contesting with one another. The first is the foundation of the Western Liberal Tradition, and that is the conception of the self as an autonomous individual self. This self exists apart from anything and everything else. It is a self-contained unit, like an amoeba, and thus like an amoeba it lives in competition with everything in it surroundings. This competition can be expressed in a variety of ways, from friendly to hostile, but ultimately the autonomous individual is dependent upon him/herself, and thus his/her own needs must come first. This autonomous conception of the self has been posited as being the impetus behind the move from a covenant conception of relationships in the Western world (which dominated through the Medieval period) to a contract conception of relationships (which is now dominant). It has also been accused, by Henry Rosemont Jr. and others, as being the basis for many of the problems in western society, from the breakdown of families to the overreaching of financial enterprises.

The second major conception of the self is the social conception of self. This conception of self has been popularized by one side of the New Confucian school of thought and is behind what is known as Role Ethics. In this conception of the self, there is no individual apart from the roles that individual plays in society. Thus, I am fiancee, teacher, son, brother, friend, etc and apart from these things there is no actual me left that could possibly be recognizable. This conception of the self argues that the self can only exist in the context of community, and thus cooperation rather than competition is the natural model of human interaction. Since we are seen as inherently social beings, and in fact there is no I apart from we, what matters to us is extremely important. Thus, this model of the self tends to emphasize the community over the individual. Just as the autonomous conception of the self is blamed for the problems associated with individualism, selfishness, and with an emphasis on procedural justice that sacrifices all concept of social justice, the social self is blamed from problems such as ignoring basic human rights, emphasizing social justice over procedural justice, and forcing people to sacrifice their own good and happiness for the sake of others.

The third major conception of the self is the analogical self. This conception of the self is at least as old as Thomas Aquinas. In this version the self is an individual, and exists as an individual apart from other individuals, but is not autonomous. Instead of being an autonomous, self-deciding or self-creating individual, the individual is dependent upon a higher divine being for his/her form, function, and basic existence. Thus, there could be me without you, but there could be neither me nor you without God. In this conception of the self the individual is an analogy or image of God or of some piece of God (as an image does not necessarily reflect the whole) and thus is dependent upon him. Like any image it may be more or less complete and accurate, but in its essence (or those characteristics without which it could not exist) it is both dependent upon and derivative of God. This conception of the self has been accused of being determinative, and unnecessarily complex (as it supposes a divine being).

So, here is your challenge for today: which of these three conceptions of the self do you think is most accurate? Or do you have some different conception of the self that you think is more accurate? Remember, write a 1000 word story that presents and defends your position.

The Role of Roles in Character Development

Do you like my title? I like my title. I have to admit that at times I am far to easily amused by my own antics. Anyway, there is a concept in the philosophy of self that the self is entirely defined by the roles that an individual plays in society makes up the entirety of who that individual is. A really easy way to envision this is to consider character roles in MMORPGs or D&D 4.0. There is a tendency in both of these to be identified entirely by one’s role (i.e. striker, controller, leader, tank, etc) and the ‘character’ of the character might be a piecemeal pasting of disconnected ideas over that central aspect. This sometimes happened with the 2.0 D&D class system as well where a character was incapable of changing classes. Obviously, this says less about the system itself than it does about the individual playing the character, but I think that this is something that we need to be very careful of in our writing as well. Role-based character development is a good way to wind up with flat characters.

Consider, if I create a character (let’s call him Rick) and my concept of the character is entirely based on a particular role or set of roles (for instance, let’s say that Rick is a warrior, priest, and husband) then I set myself up to intrinsically limit who and what the character can become. I’ve argued before that character development in fiction, both in pre-writing and in writing the actual story, should be a natural process. I am not Tobias the writer, Tobias the theologian, Tobias the Christian, Tobias the philosopher, Tobias the professor, Tobias the student, Tobias the boyfriend, etc, etc… honestly, I’m pretty sure I could come up with a whole page or more of these, and that itself is the problem. I do fill these roles, and in some ways these roles help to define who I am. However, I am not a Christian at church and a student at school. Nor am I simply a student christian writer theologian philosopher professor etc. Each of these roles informs my self and helps to shape my self, but that self exists apart from any one or set of these roles. Thus, when I leave school I will stop being a student (formally at least), but who I am won’t change. Similarly, if I close down the blog tomorrow and never write again, who I am doesn’t disappear, nor does the skill and creativity that is intrinsic to being a writer. Certainly, we can argue that some of that skill may ebb over time, but it doesn’t simply vanish, it ebbs in the way that any unused skill ebbs. So, the I that is my self fills out and gives meaning in ways to each of these labels (for instance, someone who meets me and learns that I am a Christian will assume certain things about Christianity because of me as well as assuming certain things about me because of Christianity), and each of these labels helps to define the I that is myself.

So, what does this mean for writing? All too often (and I catch myself doing this as well) we base our characters around a certain very limited set of roles (i.e. my character in this story is an orphan, beggar, thief) that inherently limits not only the realism of the character now, but also limits who the character can actually become in the long-run. We are more than just roles, and even if we weren’t I don’t know of anyone who only plays 3-5 roles in life. However, as a writer rushing (oh… wait… that should be a clue) to develop a character it is very easy to throw a few roles around that character’s neck and call him/her done(ish). This is a bad thing.

However, does this mean that we shouldn’t use roles at all in developing characters? Should we just forget about roles entirely? Of course not. We all play numerous roles in life, and so roles are important in some ways. For instance, Rick might be a warrior, priest, and husband. However, he is probably also a son, grandson, brother, nature lover, amateur philosopher, roller derby fanatic, etc, etc, etc. None of us is going to think through all of the roles that a character might have in a few days. At the same time, if a character’s suddenly estranged father who has never been mentioned before in any of the other three novels about him shows up in the fourth… well, as a reader I might be a little bit cynical (yes, this is an extreme example, but the same problem arises if he suddenly becomes a nature lover). Characters will grow and change over time, and their roles will change as well. However, a character should start your story with a realistic array of roles to avoid being a flat character, and you should be away of the roles that are changing and how those changes will affect the character. For instance, a character who suddenly stops being a son in the middle of a story is likely to spend some time grieving.

All this to say, keep roles in mind when your writing your characters. Consider what roles are realistic for the character, and what roles aren’t realistic for the character. Further, keep in mind how role changes will affect the character, and let the character develop roles naturally in your pre-writing. Consider that there aren’t many people who are going to tell you both their parents are dead upon your first meeting. Don’t expect your characters to do that either.

What’s in a Name?

Today’s topic is about an aspect of fiction writing that seems relatively minor, but can actually be fairly important. It’s something that (in my experience, at least) isn’t usually the first big idea that pops into the mind of the writer, but often, when well-chosen, ends up being an important aspect that sticks in the mind of the readers. What I’m talking about is naming characters.

NametagPersonally, I’m not very good at coming up with names. That can apply to titles of a work, or, more along the lines of what I’m talking about here, to character names. I usually can figure out easily what I want my characters to be like–their personalities, backstories, driving motivations, manners of speaking, and more. But not their names. This results in me having a well-developed person in my mind who I feel like I know very well, and yet it’s a bit awkward because I don’t know what to call them. Sometimes, when writing an early draft, I’ll just refer to the characters with titles such as “Male Lead” or “Female Lead” or “Villain” or whatever until I think of something more permanent–and I’ve heard of some fellow writers doing this too.

On the contrary, I’ve heard some writers say that, once they know a character well enough, the right name just comes to them, and it feels like the only one that fits that character. If you’re one of those writers, then that’s great! However, as I somewhat touched on in my last post, I personally am not the type of writer who can just churn out something on a whim and have it be good. I need to put thought, time, and good reasoning into my writing before I’m satisfied with it–and that applies to character names as well.

So, if character names don’t just come to you in random bursts of inspiration, then what’s the best way to think of them? I’m afraid I don’t know. But I’ll tell you a few methods that I’ve used in the past.

  • Just pick whatever sounds good.
    • There’s not a whole lot I can say about this one because it’s fairly subjective and imprecise–just a matter of personal preference, really. Go through the baby name book (is that still a thing?) or search for online name generators, because there are a lot of them out there–some for ordinary, everyday names, and some for more unique fields such as fantasy and science fiction. Just pick a name that you like and that seems to fit with your conception of the character.
  • Pick (or avoid) names with personal significance.
    • Some writers like to pick names based on people they know, such as if a certain character is based on or reminds them of a real-life friend or acquaintance. Personally, I used to do the opposite. I would try to avoid using names of people I knew, because I didn’t want my perceptions of those people to influence my perceptions of the characters. Of course, the more people I knew, the more difficult it became to find names that weren’t attached to anyone in particular for me, so I usually don’t make this my primary criterion anymore. Still, names of people you know, and their personal connotations for you as the author, can sometimes be a good way to decide whether or not to use a certain name.
  • Put in some secret or special significance.
    • This is one that I, personally, like to do whenever I can. If you want your character’s name to mean something, but you don’t want it to be super obvious or directly connected to real people, then find some distant connection that’s not so easily recognized, such as a rearrangement of letters or a reference to another character.
    • For example: About five years ago, for my first-ever NaNoWriMo, I wrote a story about aliens, with a heartfelt but painfully obvious Christian allegory underneath. I named the Christ-figure Ussej Thrisc, and I’m sure I thought at the time that I was being incredibly clever by rearranging the letters of “Jesus Christ,” and calling the villain who betrayed him Usdaj Troicasi. Some of my friends who read the story told me that they enjoyed figuring out the name puzzles of those characters and others, but I have to acknowledge in hindsight that in this case, once the names and their significance are figured out, the cleverness is thinly veiled from that point on.
    • These days, I don’t do as many anagrams, but I still like the names to have some significance, even if it’s one that only I know about and others might not recognize as readily. Sometimes, if a character is loosely based on a previously established character, or if I see a connection in my mind to another work, I’ll try to “borrow” parts of the other character’s name in order to pay homage. For example, in my superhero story, the dark vigilante’s secret identity is Wayne Murphy, and I fully admit that I took the first name “Wayne” from the last name of anotherWayne dark vigilante’s secret identity. (The other names in that story have similar significances, but that’s the only one I’m giving away, so if you ever read it, then you’ll have to guess.) Similarly, in my dystopian story about the dangers of forced or unhealthy romantic relationships, I’ve tried to appropriate the names of various literary and historical figures who were known for their bad relationships, such as Romeo, Juliet, Lancelot, Bathsheba, and Delilah (and I slightly alter them for the purposes of subtlety, resulting in characters named Lance, Sheba, and Lilah). The readers may or may not get all the connections, but the names at least mean something to me, and I still get to feel like I’m being clever and sophisticated by putting subtle literary and historical allusions into my novel that the common man probably won’t get right away. So if you want your characters’ names to mean something, try taking the name of a person or character who already means something to you, and rearrange or alter it a bit. Be creative and see what you can come up with!
  • Remember to pick something that works with the setting. This is more of a side issue and may not help you actually generate the names themselves, but you want to make sure that you pick names that are appropriate with the time, place, and tone of your work. For example, if you’re writing an epic high-fantasy adventure far removed from Earth, then you probably don’t want your main hero to be “Bob.” The name is casual and sounds silly in the context of the serious world around it (unless you’re writing a tongue-in-cheek satire, in which case it’s perfectly appropriate to feature an android named Marvin). Similarly, if it’s a real-world drama of ordinary people, then don’t pick anything too eccentric just for its own sake. But sometimes a good balance of the familiar and the exotic can be helpful. For example, futuristic stories like the one mentioned above will sometimes go with names that are less common, but not entirely unheard of. I like to think that names like Lance, Sheba, and Lilah help to give the setting some distance from our own culture, but also enough familiarity that the story still feels tangible and possible on some level.

Those are some of my best suggestions for coming up with character names. What methods or techniques do you use? Sound off below!

Philosophical Story Challenge

ARISTOTLE-VS-PLATOHey everyone, I apologize for the late post but I was really tired last night so I decided to wait until this morning to post. Anyway, Saturday has rolled around again so its time for another Philosophical Story Challenge. This week’s topic goes all the way back to the days of Plato and Aristotle: identity. What makes you who you are? What makes anything that particular thing. How can we look at a horse and know that it is a horse even if it’s missing a leg or has some deformation? Where does identity really lie? Plato’s view, or at least the view that has been derived from Plato’s works, is that identity is entirely within the soul. To him, there is a level of distrust of the physical world because our senses are so clearly fallible. On the other hand we have Aristotle who argued that all of our knowledge and experience comes from the physical, observable world. It is important to note that Aristotle is not denying the existence or importance of the soul, but rather denying that our identity could be so completely contained within it. In his view, your identity is as much a part of your body as it is your soul. If your soul were removed from your body we would no longer say that your body was you, and Aristotle would also argue that your soul isn’t you either. A human is a body and a soul; take away one and while the other may remain it is not that person in their entirety. Conversely, Plato would argue that your body, because it is physical, is a hindrance; your real being is that of your soul unshackled to your body. Your challenge this week is to write a story that explains identity like Plato or like Aristotle. As always, please keep your stories under 1,000 words if you want to post them on here, but feel free to write more!

Philosophical Story Challenge

seat_anim_framesHey guys, sorry for how late this post is; it completely slipped my mind this week. Anyway, it’s Saturday again so it’s time for another philosophical story challenge. For this week’s challenge I’d like to take us back to the problem of identity. This hails from the metaphysical side of philosophy, and the basic idea is that there seems no way to really prove that we, as beings, are the same being today that we were yesterday. Physically and mentally we change over time, and yet common sense dictates that our being persists across time despite the fact that we are constantly changing; our bodies and our minds are never the same so there must be something more that creates identity. There are two main theories that contend for an explanation of this phenomenon. The first, Endurantism, holds that a whole objects exists at all points in its timeline, and that it is the same object in existence. Your being then, is the whole object, and your body and your mind are simply changing parts. The other theory, Pendurantism, holds that objects are multi-dimensional entities made up of many smaller, changing parts–much like frames in a movie. Each frame exists separately but you don’t have the whole movie until you put them all together. Your challenge this week is to write a story with a character whose identity is not preserved through time. That is, where changes in body and changes in mind change who he is as a character in a fundamental way. As always, try to keep it under 1,000 words if you want to post it on here, but feel free to write more! Have fun!

Go With the Flow

mythsandpropagandaSomething that I can say without any doubt is that as writers we have all had moments where the words just stopped. It’s not that I don’t have a story to tell (okay, sometimes it is), but that I just don’t know how to tell that story in any way that seems even remotely satisfactory. The words that should be coming out with easy aplomb simply stop, and if I can get them out at all, it is only with an effort that makes smashing rocks look like easy work. Of course, this kind of writers block is frustrating, especially when you have deadlines, or even worse, a story that you really want to tell, but can’t. So, one of the things that a writer has to master is the art of going with the flow. We all know that muses are fickle beings, and much as (sometimes) we’d all like to chain up our muse in the closet so that he’ll/she’ll be within easy reach for a quick smack whenever necessary, life just doesn’t work that way. Even if it did doing something like that would probably be considered kidnapping.

So, when inspiration strikes go with it, even if that inspiration takes you to weird places. This past week I sat down to write what was supposed to be the start of a story. What I got was the introduction to a fictional research paper, written by a fictional author, in a fictional world. Nonetheless, it’s been an interesting project (I’m about half-way through), and thoroughly enjoyable. So far I think that it’s also quite good. Needless to say this isn’t what I’d planned to write. Really, I was pretty surprised at what it turned into, especially when I put in the first footnote. However, as I said above, when inspiration strikes you have to go with the flow.

Pushing limits is also something that is important for artists of any kind. This doesn’t mean that limits shouldn’t be respected (some of them are there for very good reasons), but never be afraid to try something new. This has certainly been new for me, but I have to say that it flows well into my own style. I’m used to academic writing, and I’m fairly good at it. Applying that to fictional purposes simply hadn’t occurred to me before. I have no doubt that others have done this before (in fact I’m fairly sure that both Terry Prachett and Douglas Adams had something similar), but it certainly isn’t common, and we all like to be unique… right?

Regardless, I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say: write what you write. Don’t try to be your favorite author because you never will be. No matter how much you try you will never be J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Clive Cussler, or Stephen King. No matter how much I want to I will never be H.P. Lovecraft, Glen Cook, or Steven Erikson. It won’t happen because it shouldn’t happen. Trust me, one Steven Erikson is enough for the world. As writers we all have our own unique voices and we need to find those voices instead of trying to copy the voices of others. Focus on developing the way you write and if that means trying something new then go for it. Maybe you’ll invent a new genre.

Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

   ImageHappy Saturday everyone, Neal here bringing you another philosophical story challenge in which I present to you a philosophical problem and you write a 100-1000 word story that deals with that challenge. This week’s challenge deals with the problem of identity. Some of you may be familiar with Theseus’ Ship, but for those who aren’t, it goes like this. Theseus has a ship in a harbor, if in the course of a year every single piece of the original ship is replaced with identical new pieces and the old pieces are then put back together, which one is Theseus’ ship and why? Similarly, this can be applied to humans because every cell in our body is replaced every 7-10 years and yet we do not seem to think this makes us new people. Where do you think identitiy lies?