Writing: Haunted by the characters

After so long, here’s another writing tip that I have experienced. This one hasn’t been there for all of my characters from the start, so it’s not a compulsory one to begin with. Well, that’s a lie. Every story idea I ever tried to consider writing has haunted me at one time or another. Because I took it as a sign that I was really interested in telling their tales, I was willing to give them a chance. And that’s exactly my point (which fits nicely with the points I made in another post of mine ‘Idea’). If you are not haunted by the characters who keep giving you flashes of what things they go through, if you are not interested in their journey and its end, then why are you even trying to force what their story should be? If you think about it, you’ll realize that the actions that your characters take are not what their personality would make them choose, those actions are what you would choose in their position.

I remember that there was a test of how close you are to your main character. It was so long that I’ve forgotten the website but I do remember that results were quite surprising. Most of my characters were way too similar like me to have their own unique personality. It felt as if I was role playing in these stories as the main characters. Obviously on first sight, this doesn’t sound bad. But if you reread the whole stuff later, you’ll find a gap between the person and the personality. And the odd fact about the test was that the one story I was least willing to start (not because of personality but due to lack of knowledge regarding the setting) was just perfectly crafted as per the text. This realization was what made me think about what exactly were my responsibilities towards the characters and the story.

I realized that most of my work was done the moment I introduced the setting and put my characters in it. What happened from that point onwards was not to be influenced by me (at least not in any prominent way)  and all I had to do was simply report their thoughts and actions. It was kind of like watching a movie with all senses immersed. I can hear what they hear and say, I can smell what they smell, feel what they feel but I was not them. They were separate people with their strengths and weaknesses and we may not even have anything common at all.
But I didn’t dare to judge – or even restrict – them, letting their personalities and thoughts and pasts to settle in my mind so that they can make the choice most suited to their character.

Writing is said to be a solitary thing but if you do it right, you won’t be alone in the head. And if you have the luck in spades, you won’t be alone outside your head either.

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Reviewed: W3Schools, Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp

For some reason, I spent the entire day today (it’s almost 9 at night here) searching for good and free tutorials for web designing. I previously had studied from W3Schools but I wanted to see if others could help. The experience has been an eye-opener, to say it in a few words. Let me review each of them in a few lines.

W3Schools is completely text-based with every new item getting a ‘Try It Yourself!’ section of website for testing and understanding the working. It was a great site to quickly read through (and even download – though the site getting updated means the old one isn’t as good anymore) and these self-practice sections helped us play with options. But after seeing the other possibilities? I think it is more useful to be thought of as a reference site. It’s a great site, and more often than not I still think it is enough for basics, but to those who prefer videos in tutorials are going to be disappointed. One pro worth noting is that the site is free.

Codecademy is offering free lessons and practice but the main feature that lured me to the site – and believe me, that was not the option of more things to learn (though it did play a role) – was the prospect of using what we learned to carry out pseudo-real projects. That’s when I stumbled upon two of its major flaws. The more important one is that you are out of luck in the free account. Codecademy PRO offers access to everything while the free account cannot take quizzes or try projects. Personally, I would like to say that the inability to take projects doesn’t matter but I must confess that if the option were there, I would have gladly recommended it to everyone. The smaller issue, after being used to W3Schools, is the fact that the window is extremely disconcerting. There’s like 10% of vertical screen for text, rest all for practice (and preview). I think I would have liked the ability to resize the screen to be done with text first and then do practice (or maybe even have the text as a Lightbox screen (superimposed over the rest of the screen that can be hidden. Sorry, can’t think of a better phrase to explain). So, though there is a free, you are better off with a pro account.

FreeCodeCamp has two major advantages to its side: A very large active user forum and an open course that can be continuously edited and improved (including practice projects). The ultra huge disadvantages? The fact that the course is NOT good enough and this mediocre course asks for, theoretically, 200 hours for completion. (I will leave the mental math to you to figure out how you spare that much time and over how long a time). You can go through earlier challenges in a breeze but that doesn’t mean you know all there is to know or that you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing things. Plus, in the initial challenges, there was a lot, and I mean a lot of repetition in the challenge objectives. Plus, it suffers from a screen division issue like Codecademy. So there’s that. The course isn’t even complete but a major advantage over others was that it gave me a pathway on how to go on developing myself. The ‘MAP’ gives a complete idea of how you’ll develop as a Front-End Developer (developing the looks), Data Visualization (no idea, sorry) and Back-End Developer (developing the hidden infrastructure).

So basically, this is my report:

W3Schools is good for reference. Codecademy PRO seems good to work without any substitutes. FreeCodeCamp is good for projects after you’re done with theory and need to figure out how to go on learning.

If luck ever favors me again, there will be review of other sites that I may end up checking out.

Story Idea – Eclipsed

I won’t be taking this one on, most probably, so if you want it, take it. Just do comment here to tell me you are.

“My name is Amy Dawson. But ask anyone in my quiet and not-so-little town about Amy Dawson and they’ll say, ‘Amy who?’

You should have asked them about ‘The Fearless Amelia'”.

For the past twenty-five years of her life, Amy has been living under the shadow of her ten years old self who became a town hero. People always saw ‘The Fearless Amelia’ instead of her and had expectations that the plain old Amy kept falling short of.

So when she is accused of still living in the past while trying to help out her town still preserve its soul against the destructive demands of progress, Amy will have to find acceptance between the two contrasting sides of her: the hero and the girl who got consumed in the hero’s shadow.

Snippet | “Just a Dream”

“You’re safe, kiddo. Calm down. You are safe.” I consoled him as he bawled in my arms. My heart cracked at his suffering but I knew there wasn’t anything more I could do than be his anchor. I kept making cooing noises as he slowly calmed down enough to take deep breaths.

“It was so scary, Pa.” He confessed and though he still had terror in his voice, I felt pride in his attempts to control himself. “I couldn’t find you. I was all alone.”

The words almost made me instantly take back my decision to give him a separate bedroom now that he was six. But even I knew that the lack of a mother figure was no longer a valid excuse for letting him sleep in my bed.

“Bud, what did I say about these nightmares? You must not be afraid to fight them.” I caressed his hair, making a mental note to take him to a barber – and wincing at the chaos of that situation, and continued while staring in his eyes. “They are just dreams, kiddo. Remember that when you wake up, I will be here for you.”

He doesn’t believe in the words but I do know he believes in me. And that is why, I let him return to an unavoidable and unpredictable battlefield.

“Yup, boy. They are just dreams.”

[POTENTIAL] Project ‘Shadow’

“There was a quote my father used to repeat.”

She drew her blade out from its sheath, feeling the silent caress of the steel and cloth. Her stance barely shifted as she moved her arms to position.

“The two legs should be in a line, one behind the other. Knees slightly bent, torso straight and the arms ready to embrace. Ready to sing a duet with the target’s skin at throat.”

“I’m like a leaf in a storm. Watch me fly.”

She took a deep breath, relaxing her muscles just enough to hold herself without even the slightest of strain. She took in the gifts of her senses. And then she felt.

“The body is all there is, the blade merely an extension of it. It can know things we may not realize instantly. Listen to what it hears. Watch all that it sees. Taste all that it smells. Feel everything… And then you will know all you need to know about things.”

“But I am not sure if that is the best way to see life.”

She felt the pleasure of the knowledge. Her body told her it was the right time. Without a delay, she reached forward and split the skin and all that lay beneath in two.

“To saw the neck is a barbaric act we mustn’t indulge in. Understand your own vessel and you will know just how much is enough. You need to deliver them to the precipice. The untrained will jump on their own.”

“After all, isn’t the leaf a slave to the winds? No. I shall be better. I shall be the winds themselves.”

With this entire act taking less than two seconds, she turned away and sheathed the crimson dagger before the target even realized what had happened. The doors behind her had already shut before the person fell. And she was long gone before the discovery was made.

“The hardest part comes long after. When the realization sets in. When the act is acknowledged. You cannot be guided through this. And unless you find your way through, you cannot be one of us.”

“I promise you father. I will become the storm.”

She took one last look at the anchor, loosening her hold to let it flit through the air to the ground. No parent would wanted this for their child. But she knew no child should shy from this route. Some wounds never heal. And then she was gone. All left behind of her presence was that picture. Of a young girl and her beloved father, both – in their own ways – dead a long time ago.

“You must move past your guilt to be one of us.

To be the Shadow.”

Nothing significant today

There won’t be a meaningful post today because my pre-planned post on the three lettered question ‘Why’ fell apart due to lack of ideas

AND

Because I got a second chance for something that was lost. But still, I must give something. I hope you enjoy the following.

“Are you ready for this?” He asked from behind his table and though I wanted to punch that smugness he was barely hiding, I knew I mustn’t. I was the one who had more to lose here. “There won’t be a third chance. Not for your colleagues, not for your juniors, no one.”
I could barely keep the anger from leaking into my voice. “Of course sir, I understand.” I failed though because his eyes narrowed. Or maybe it was my facial expressions that gave me away.

“Go on then. This lifting of the ban from contacting people is all the favor I will give you.” My anger surged to new levels and I turned before he saw it. I and my entire group of 124 colleagues had to get 85 new clients for ourselves in the final 60 days, which were already not in the most optimum time period.

I didn’t thank him, like I normally did with everyone else. I walked away as fast as I could and then began to run when I could. I ran out of the building and though I wanted to, I didn’t let out the scream I was holding within. I would never let it out now, I knew that, but repressing the negative was a small price.

“I have a second chance now. I won’t fail. Even if I don’t succeed, I won’t give up trying.” I promised myself. And then I pulled out my phone and began to inform others of this turn of events.

“We got a second chance

.”

I know. For most of you it may not feel relatable. But sometimes, the unspoken matters.