Pretty much everything I have to announce here is gonna be announced in the main Fanon Con main blog this Friday, so make sure to check that out.
Fall Fanon Con is happening, in case you somehow missed that. Hope you guys are having fun!
Busy work is the cancer of educational institutions.
Lesson 21: Reusing Words
"Hey, you know what gets kind of annoying sometimes?" CaT said.
"No, what?" Lightningfur said.
"When people use the same words to express an action over and over." CaT said.
"Oh, I guess that can get kind of annoying." Lightningfur said. "But how would you fix that?"
"Use a goddamn thesaurus." CaT spoke.
"But there are only so many words you can use to say the exact same thing." Lightningfur said.
"Yeah, well, don't do it too much, then." CaT spoke. "Use other words that are similar to the word you keep reusing but have some variation in the exact meaning."
"What do you mean?" Lightingfur asked.
"Even repetitive actions don't always have the same meaning on each repeat." CaT explained. "For example, a conversation between two characters could just use the word 'said' over and over, or it could use specific words that better describe exactly what the characters are saying or doing."
"Oh, I get it." Lightningfur nodded. "By using more specific wording, you avoid repeating stock phrases that annoy the audience."
"And even beyond that, using more specific wording gives the audience a much clearer picture of what's going on." CaT affirmed. "You can give information on how the characters are presenting their actions without spelling it out with overdone dialogue."
"Show, don't tell, right." Lightningfur scratched the side of his head. "What about for things other than conversation?"
"Like what?" CaT raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Like fight scenes." Lightningfur made a mock jab to accentuate his point. "If you have two people hitting each other over and over, how would make the wording for that more interesting?"
"If your fight scenes consist only of two people hitting each other over and over, you're screwed anyways." CaT yawned. "But that's a topic for another lesson. Anyways, you can change up the verbage to change the implication of an action. For example, what sounds like a bigger hit? Someone getting punched, or someone getting smashed with a fist?"
"Getting smashed with a fist sounds a lot more painful." Lightningfur winced.
"Bingo." CaT said. "If you look at the technical meanings of the words, getting punched pretty much is getting smashed with a fist, but describing the action more dynamically can leave more of an impact on your audience."
"Well, I'll be damned." Lightningfur sat up and put his paws on his hips in contemplation. "That's almost as crazy as this whole 'teaching a lesson using dialogue' thing."
A redesign of Albedo for Ben 10: Milky Way Race that gives him more of a mad scientist vibe.
Ben 10 News
A promo for Season 2 of the Ben 10 reboot has been spotted on TV, showing off more of the new alien armor. The aesthetic of the armor definitely links it to the new alien we have a blurry screenshot of, but hell if I know how it's gonna work in-show.
Well, that's it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed the sixty-seventh issue of The CaT Gazette! Feedback and support are appreciated!
Every day keeps passing by faster and faster and it feels like I'm barely keeping up.
Lesson 20: Writing Sadness Without Melodrama
Let's face it, whenever you write something sad, your main goal is usually going to be getting the audience to feel sadness as well. According to common logic, bigger=better, so obviously the more over-the-top dramatic you make the scene, the sadder the audience is going to feel, right?
A problem a lot of "sad" scenes have is that they go too far in trying to make the audience feel for what's going on, making the scene loop around into absurdist territory instead of depressing territory. This can also happen if you try to force a sad scene where it's really unnecessary or nonsensical; you break your audience's suspension of disbelief and end up taking them out of the story.
To write a sad scene without it coming across as forced or cringy, keep the following things in mind:
Cut down on any excessive drama. There's reacting, and then there's overreacting.
Make the scene warranted. Putting in a sad scene for the sake of putting in a sad scene when it doesn't fit with the narrative makes it seem like you're just trying to get a reaction instead of telling an actual story.
Give the audience attachments. You can't just throw drama about random people at us and expect us to care about it; give the audience time to connect with the characters involved in the scene before throwing it out there.
There's probably more to say on this topic, but it's frankly kind of a vague thing to cover, so if you have any specific questions I didn't answer here, just ask.
I felt like this scene from If: Part 1 needed a visual representation
The other two Star Spirit designs for this guy sucked ass, so I decided to do one that was a bit more stylized. I think this one properly shows off his ironically contradictory retro fashion sense he thinks makes him look edgy but in reality just makes him look like a tool.
it also furthermore exemplifies why anyone allowing him to be responsible for raising a child was a terrible mistake.
BTW for those not in the know (AKA most people), EarthCo. is the name of the company Isaac runs in-universe. So there's that.
Ben 10 News
We've received confirmation that the upcoming Ben 10 game for the Nintendo Switch will be released on November 10th in Europe and November 14th in the USA.
Well, that's it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed the sixty-sixth issue of The CaT Gazette! Feedback and support are appreciated!
Caffeine is neat and all but it puts a lot of stress on my heart, so I only drink it if I'm too tired to function otherwise.
Lesson 19: Writing Interesting Scenery
Geez, you people are really busting my balls here when it comes to writing lessons lately. I guess that's about what I should have expected to begin with for this section but eh at least I'm learning stuff while I'm teaching it.
Writing interesting scenery is a very important part of writing, but usually ends up being ignored because of the wiki's love of the Script format; there's nothing really wrong with the Script format, but it can be rather limiting, since it is essentially a bare-minimum method of storytelling.
In real life, scripts and scenery usually come from two completely different departments working on the same project and end up being put into a cohesive whole by the director; in the text-only format of the wiki, there is no "Scenery Department" for you to work with, so most of the Script-style narratives here (as well as a lot of traditional narratives) end up lacking a lot of panache.
If you want a personal example, I don't think Star Spirit is bad by any means, but I'm pretty unhappy with how the first two seasons turned out because of how much I was limited by the Script format. I might be changing the format to Paragraph in the revised edition, I might not, but the point is, even thought I ended up being comfortable enough with Script by the end, it didn't allow me enough wiggle room to write effective scenery.
What you can do to help fix this issue, assuming you're having it, is mix the Script and Paragraph formats. Script for dialogue, Paragraph for descriptions. I ended up using this style myself after some experimentation, but there are still some dialogue tricks you can only pull off in Paragraph; that's not the main point of this lesson, however, so let's just move on.
Getting down to brass tacks, the most important thing about writing scenery is making sure it contributes to the emotion of the narrative. Sure, you can go ahead and just list off basic attributes of the location, but that's a good way to end up boring both yourself and your audience. The best way to go about it is describing what it would be like to actually be there instead of what it would look like in a picture. What does the scene smell like? Feel like? Taste like? What is that scent on the breeze? What is the atmosphere given off by those trees? What does that lady calling the cops on you taste like?
Okay, maybe don't go quite that far, but I think you should be getting the point here. Remember that being somewhere is something you experience with all of your senses (okay usually not taste but hey sometimes it's applicable), not just your sight. Let me give you an example:
"The bar had a lamp hanging down from the ceiling in the middle of the room. Wooden tables and chairs were arranged on the floor, and the bartender stood behind the counter."
Boring as shit, right? This is what I call "Picture Writing", in that a picture of the place you're describing would be exactly as, if not even more, helpful to your audience than what you're writing about it. Now let me give you an example of how this could be improved into a description that takes advantage of your senses, or what I like to call "Experience Writing".
"The bar had only a single flickering old lamp illuminating the entirety of the room, giving the shoddy building an eerie atmosphere. Musty wooden tables and chairs that would let out an almost pained creaking if you were to use them were arranged haphazardly on the floor, as if they had been hastily thrown back into place after a particularly messy bar fight the night before. The bartender standing behind the counter wore the countenance and scent of a barely-functioning drunkard who had once been optimistic about his prospects in life but had long since turned to abusing his own stock to keep himself going."
Notice how that paragraph took a lot longer to read but didn't feel nearly as tedious? That's an example of how Expressive Writing can turn an okay bar scene into a full-fledged experience for the audience.
If you examine the Expressive Writing paragraph, you'll notice how I used adjectives and dynamic descriptions to describe the scenery in a way that it almost felt like a short story in and of itself, despite nothing actually happening. You can tell the bar has a lot of history, even though none of that history is directly described to you.
Of course, not every scenery description has to be particularly dragged out; sometimes a forest is just a normal-ass forest, and there's nothing special to describe about it. Overdoing it with your scenery descriptions is still going to bore your audience even if the descriptions themselves are fantastic. The most important aspect of writing these descriptions, as with pretty much everything I talk about in these writing sections, is finding the right balance between terse and interesting; figuring out how to get across the most information with the least words. Of course, you can sometimes subvert the terseness for establishing a particular atmosphere or simply for comedic effect, but that kind of decision ultimately comes down to the individual story and storyteller.
Overall, the main thing you need to do to get good at scenery writing is practice, which applies to most things about writing, really. Work on using "Experience Writing" instead of "Picture Writing" and eventually you'll be writing some really engaging scenes for your audience to get absorbed into.
I don't wanna live but I'm not particularly fond of death
I really don't want to give up doing the Gazette but jesus christ the depression is making it hard to manage anything beyond sleeping right now
Work started back up this past week, so that's another thing to add on to the "reasons not to live" pile
no news on my actual projects for obvious reasons
Nothing really of note.
The reboot honestly feels like the staff behind it really want to make a great show but Cartoon Network's executives keep shoving them back in their box like "NO STORY ONLY COMEDY MAKE US MONEY REEEEEEEEE" and Omni-Tricked and the Alien Worlds shorts are their actual intentions for the show breaking through.
Lesson 18: Romantic Relationships
If I see the "two characters reach for the same object at the same time and get flustered about it and fall in love" trope one more goddamn time i'm going to hurl
Seriously I'm an uncoordinated mess in real life if i fell in love with every random asshole i accidentally tried to grab something with i'd be number one on the "Top 10 Largest Harems in Anime" list
Getting to the meat of the lesson, I think the main thing writers concerned with this topic want to figure out is how to avoid cliche trite like the trope I just mentioned above. I'm just going to go ahead and list off a few of the most common ones here, explain why they (usually) don't work, and offer some suggestions on how to fix them or use them correctly (although I would still recommend avoiding the majority of these).
Getting Accidentally Physical
The Problem: Already mentioned a specific case of this, but to be more professional about it, people accidentally grab or bump or trip or fall into each other all the time in real life because humans are naturally clumsy shits. Playing it up as important without any prior context for the people involved to be awkward about it is inherently ridiculous.
The Fix: If you really want this to happen in your story, something needs to be done to address how mundane it is and why this specific accident is unique in any way. If one or both of the characters react as if this has any significance, there needs to be a specific reason for it, such as some already-present feelings for the other party involved or one of the characters in question just being an awkward mess in general.
The Problem: If you've seen almost any Disney movie ever made, you've seen this issue: characters falling in love in a very short amount of time. "Love at first sight" is something that does happen, but A: not as often as the movies make it out to be, and B: is inherently very superficial. A meaningful relationship between two people is realistically going to take time to develop, and impulse romances in real life usually end badly for both parties.
The Fix: It's going to be difficult to justify short-term major romances unless the time the characters have together is short-term in-universe, such as if one or both are terminally ill or something (see: John Green's library of work). If the characters know they don't have much time left together, shotgun romances become a much more reasonable development.
The Problem: Mary Jane loves Herb, but Herb doesn't love Mary Jane, Herb actually loves Reefer! Wacky hijinks ensue!!!1! MANY FUN TIMES AND DRAMATIC MOMENTS TO FOLLOW!!!!!XD111! IS IT NOT JUST THE BEST WHEN SUCH GOOFY SHENANIGANS COMBINE WITH SUCH COMPELLING DRAMA?!?!?!??!:!:@!:?!!!!!!!11111!!!!!!!
The Fix: Avoid like the goddamn plague. If you actually happen to like these drawn-out soap opera bits of melodrama, please at least try not to be predictable about the end result. These plots are almost always an exercise in frustration, and while they can be pulled off well, I would go so far as to say 99% of all love triangles are just frustrating time-wasters.
So, cliches aside, how do you write a good romance?
Focus on the characters.
This may sound like some "no shit, Sherlock" obvious advice, but you'd be surprised at how many authors just make romance a checklist of stock relationship tropes instead of writing something unique to their characters. What I like to call the "Rom-Com Romance" (lame boy falls in love with hot girl and if you've seen any movie ever you know what happens from there) has become so prevalent that you could just call it an industry standard at this point. This isn't necessarily a bad way to write romance, but it's so overdone that it's hard not to wonder if the entertainment industry is aware that other kinds of relationships exist.
If you're writing a romance, throw your preconceived checklist of plot points out the window and buckle down for a minute to look at what you're actually doing. If you want two characters to get together, ask yourself why you want them to get together, and why you think it's a good idea. From there, you should take your characters as individuals and ask yourself why they would want to get together. What traits does each character have that the other character is attracted to?
The old adage of "opposites attract" is applicable because a relationship between two people is all about give and take. What can one character offer the other that the other doesn't already have? A good relationship should be built on the people involved supporting each other and filling in for each other's faults. That's not to say they shouldn't have anything in common; they absolutely should for any good relationship to work. It's just that each party should be able to offer something that improves the other's life. You wouldn't want to be in a relationship with yourself, for example, because you'd just double down on your own flaws.
Now obviously there are a lot of caveats to writing each specific part of a romance, but those are complicated enough for lessons of their own. For now, the main thing to note is that good romance is built on genuine character interaction and not just going through the motions of a series of plot points and cliches. Write your character interactions like...well, characters interacting, and you'll be doing a lot better than the majority of professional media.
The rest of the Alien Worlds shorts have aired, and my god, if there's one thing you have to give the reboot credit for, it's the lore. All of the shorts are now available in English, and since I already posted the Khoros short in English in last week's Gazette, I'll just list the other English shorts here.
Anyways, the Tech 10 Renovation Project is not officially back on, but I have been doing a couple things for it lately. I'm not committing to anything, but I am considering writing to at least the end of Ultimatrix Unleashed. I'd ask how many of you would be interested in me actually continuing it, but I know it would be like one person at best.
I can't really blame anyone too much since even with the rewrite the first ten entries of UU are boring as sin. There's relatively little actual conflict and 99% of what happens is just setup for later. I will say the second arc gets a lot better, but I don't have a whole ton of that rewritten yet.
At any rate, congratulations to the winners, and may god have mercy on your souls.
(On a side note, any winners interested in displaying their awards can use this template on their pages.)
but seriously OV CHROMASTONE WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD-
I'd officially move the Gazette's release to Tuesday but I'd probably end up putting it off until Wednesday.
Lesson 17: Writing Longer Stories
A few different people on the Discord requested this one, and I have to say while this lesson might be useful for them, there's simply not a terrible amount to be said on the topic. I already talked at length about putting details into your writing, and beyond doing that, there's only one way to legitimately extend your stories with repeating yourself:
There's no magic trick to it, you just kind of have to take the stuff you have and shove more stuff onto it to make it bigger. For some examples of what you could add:
More characters = more people you have to have do things in the story = a bigger story. Note that this is generally not the best route to go unless you're fairly confident in your ability to comfortably juggle writing multiple character arcs.
Did your episode about things happening end up too short? Add more things happening! Adding more action or character scenes or what not is a decent way to extend a story, but try to keep everything focused around advancing towards the end point of the episode instead of just stalling the plot for the sake of filler.
Do you have a plot? Does that plot not take up as much physical space as you want it to? Just add another one! And another one! And another one!
Okay, that much is obviously exaggeration, but it doesn't hurt to have subplots if you feel your main story is lacking in content potential. Just make sure to keep the main focus of the story on the main plot so you don't end up annoying the audience by meandering around with diversions. A solution I personally like using is the A Plot/B Plot formula, which basically means you have two "main stories" per episode. These stories should be related to each other in some way, but there is a decent amount of wiggle room as far as that goes.
Of course, aside from all that, there is always another option to consider when deciding how to add extra stuff to your story:
Sometimes your story is short, and that's all there is to it. You don't always need to make something longer just for the sake of making it longer; if the story you want to tell is best told short, then by all means, keep it short. The integrity of your storytelling should always be your first priority.
The Renovation Project for my old stuff may be abandoned but I still wanted to make an updated design for this guy.
Not too long after the end of Ultimatrix Unleashed, where Tech swears off fighting, he gets dragged back into the fight regardless of his personal opinion due to the sudden appearance of a new enemy known as Dethrouge. Dethrouge aims to reach the mythical Gateway of Reality, which will grant whoever passes through it their heart's greatest desires, no matter how destructive these desires might be. After getting utterly trashed by Dethrouge in their first battle, Tech travels to Egypt to find the source of Dethrouge's power, and ends up receiving the BIOME Suit, an ancient piece of alien technology that acts as a counterpart to Dethrouge's own armor.
The BIOME Suit is stored as a blue gauntlet (the thing on Tech's left arm) and is activated by pulling the handle on the device. Once activated, the rest of the suit will generate around the user's body. It leaves the Ultimatrix Dial free, allowing Tech to transform into aliens while using it, but covers up the module slots, making it impossible for Tech to combine or evolve his aliens while the suit is in use.
An ancient Pharaoh whose grief drove him to ignore the warnings given to him and abuse the power of the Underworld Suit until it drove him mad. The suit grants him the ability to distort and destroy life, allowing him to create twisted creatures that serve his will and cause those who oppose him to wither away into nothingness.
Dethrouge seeks to uncover the Gateway of Reality and reshape the universe in his image. Though it is impossible to truly know what image a madman would create, it is near certain that the resulting twisted world would be a living hell.
Ben 10 News
A promotional event called "Alien of the Week" (trailer here) is set to begin airing in the states in a couple of weeks. Part of the event is evidently the series of "Alien Worlds" shorts, two of which have already been released...in Norwegian.
The Alien Worlds shorts goes into the lore of each reboot alien's species and their home world. The two episodes released thus far are about Khoros and Petropia, which are much different (and dare I say better) in the reboot's universe. An English version of the Khoros short has been found, but the Petropia short is only in Norwegian so far. Thankfully, the visuals of the latter are usually enough to get the point across, and I would recommend giving it a watch anyways if you're interested.
SUBTERRANEAN DIAMOND KAIJU
Well, that's it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed the sixty-third issue of The CaT Gazette! Feedback and support are appreciated!
Remember around this time last year when I could write 12,000 words in the span of a few days and actually had motivation and a will to live? Good times. Now it's a struggle just getting out of bed in the morning and the only thing I do all day is hope this drawn-out period of excess stress, depression, and anxiety ends up giving me a fatal heart attack sooner rather than later.
Lesson 16: Writing an Interesting Main Character
In Lesson 12, we discussed how to make interesting side characters. This could be considered a sort of continuation of that lesson, and more or less everything I said there still applies here. Again, make sure to check out this TVTropes page on the subject if you get the time, as it's an immensely informative resource.
So, main characters. They're the people who your story is going to focus on the majority of the time, so logic says you better make damn sure they're interesting (or at least bearable); unfortunately, as you can see in pretty much all media, having an uninteresting main character is more or less the status quo for escapist fiction, and I'd like to cover why that is and how you can avoid it.
The primary reason main characters in escapist fiction are so generic and bland is because the genre is just that; escapist fiction. A book with a main character people can latch onto and imagine themselves in place of is the easiest way to grab a reader's attention and keep them reading. This isn't necessarily a terrible idea in and of itself, but it's extremely uninspired and overplayed, and anyone with any literary experience beyond entry-level bare minimum is going to get tired of this trope very, very quickly.
You can get someone to read a book using a bland main character, but to get someone to experience a book, you need to go above and beyond the bare minimum and make your character human.
Let's face it, humans are humans and we like other humans; a bland main character is a handy dandy writing tool, but nothing more beyond that, and eventually your audience is going to want to spend as much time with them as they would want to spend with a socket wrench (and hell, at least the socket wrench is practical). If you want your audience to get really invested, you're going to need more than a paint-by-numbers stereotype of what a person should be; you're going to need character.
Character is sort of an interesting thing in that it's basically the concentrated version of what makes something feel human. Write about a normal rock and you're just writing what might as well be a technical essay; write about a rock with character and suddenly you're storyboarding for Steven Universe. If you want to upgrade your cardboard cutout to the status of "good", you're going to need to sprinkle some magic character dust on it, and while it's not super easy to do so, it's not exactly as hard as you might think.
To start off with, think about what makes you...you! Who is<name>, really? If that's a bit too philosophical for your tastes, just ask yourself some basic questions such as "What do I like? What do I dislike? Why the hell do I put up with this purple assweed spamming my Message Wall every week?"
Once you have that line of thinking down, try applying it to your character. What do they like? What do they dislike? What is their motivation for doing what they do? How would they react in a certain situation? How does the way they handle the situation differ from anyone else's? Ask questions about your character as if they were a real person, because ideally speaking, they should feel like a real person.
This is a bit of unorthodox advice, but I would actually recommend taking this personality test if you're having trouble figuring out this line of thinking by yourself. It asks questions that force you to think about the kind of person you are. If you find you're still having trouble pinning down you characters, try extending the "roleplaying" advice i gave in Lesson 12 and taking the quiz again, but this time answering as if you were the character you're trying to figure out. The only real downside to this quiz is that it is fairly time-consuming, so learning to do this on your own is eventually going to do you better in the long run.
Like I said in Lesson 12, characters are an extremely complicated topic (about as complicated as real people, as a matter of fact), so I can't cover anywhere near everything here. Make sure to check out the resources I've linked if you get the time.