Review: The Disappointment of The Great Wall

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                                                             Image from Trailer Addict

I watched The Great Wall earlier this week and I’ve got to say I’m disappointed (as you can already tell from the title). Beyond the whitewashing and the white savior undertones, this movie is just really not up to Zhang Yimou’s standards. I’ve watched his movies growing up and I loved them. This movie has little of his style and even littler of the type of story he’s known to create. Frankly, it feels like a superhero film or some other generic action film. There’s no originality within it and everything just feels rushed. You know it’s a bad movie when, at the end, you can’t really recount what happened and felt that the last hour or so passed by really quickly. That’s what I felt after watching this.

I’ve seen some people blame the director for this and I don’t think that’s fair. He’s a Chinese director in the American film industry which means he doesn’t have much leeway when shooting this movie. There were also several prominent Chinese actors that were in the movie that got minimal screen time. I think this is all just a case of executive meddling. Hollywood is trying to reach out to a Chinese audience by using famous Chinese celebrities and a critically acclaimed Chinese director but that’s it. The director gets little room to exercise his creative potential and the actors are given few lines and even less screen time.

And this was on top of the fact that the film’s events are completely fictional. As far as Chinese culture goes, there’s little to see here. There’s no clear link between the movie and any Chinese dynasty (although you can estimate when the movie should have taken place because the wall has been finished for at least two millennium). There’s nothing that’s really uniquely Chinese (Perhaps the hot air “balloons” might count a little?). I mean, they can’t even get the monsters’ name right. It’s tao tie not tao tei and they don’t look like green versions of Avatar’s viperwolves. And the taotie didn’t come from a meteor like in the movie. The movie’s green lizards just look like any other generic alien monster.

And then, there’s Matt Damon that’s there just to sell to the American audience. He teaches an army that’s been battling these monsters every 60 years how to defeat said monsters. There’s a bit of something going on between him and the Nameless Order’s top commander. And then, he also gets something to say about his buddy’s greed and Western capitalism. Overall, William’s just a really swell guy, isn’t he?

The CGI effects in the movie aren’t really bad, but it is kind of excessive and unnecessary. Everything’s very dramatic but nothing seems to be well-thought-out. The Crane Corps are doing little against the tao tie and the mortality rate is staggering. I don’t even know what the Deer Corps do. (I guess they’re messengers or something? I just know they have horses.) The Death Squad can easily be replaced by hot tar or some other classic medieval siege weapon that would be more effective. And what the heck are rotating scissor blades doing on the Wall? Heck, I thought the flaming cannonballs were pretty cool but scissor blades? Come on! You’d think that they would already have learned that their tactics aren’t very effective from earlier attacks. Maybe that’s why the monsters can dig a huge tunnel through the wall and no one noticed until the next day.

Final grade: C-

American ADHD

Hello again! This Sunday, we’re going to talk about how America gets distracted. In the meantime, for those who get their news through blogs and Facebook, I hope you’ll read this. No, we’re not going to be talking about the overdiagnosis of ADHD in Americans or the fact that social media and technology is supposedly slowly destroying the millennials (all of which, I should remind you, are now all at least eighteen years old and the oldest of which would be over thirty). We’re going to be talking about a far older epidemic and that is America’s extraordinary ability to get distracted and also what they missed while distracted in the light of recent events.

Today, let’s start with a question. Why does America just seem to be eternally going in circles, each time only inching forward a little bit? Take the abolition movement. A dedicated group of abolitionists have existed in the United States since the beginning in the form of the Quakers and more joined their ranks in time (although their influence would remain limited throughout most of America’s history). And with each cycle of religious revivalism and war, the spirit of abolition would grow along with other humanitarian movements. And yet, when the Civil War handed the issue of abolition to the American people on a silver platter, it was dropped several years later and everything went back to the way they were before. The failure to follow through with the Reconstruction is what pushed the issue of true equality to the late 1900s. Since the beginning, Americans loved to dawdle on important issues because they either benefitted from whatever was controversial or they were distracted by something else.

I’m aware that some parts of the South still teach Reconstruction like it was an invasion of their values and an affront to their way of life. When you look at it, the method with which it was carried out did make it look that way. Certainly, martial law was not needed to enforce the three new amendments that came out of the Civil War. No. Of course, it was necessary! You can see that right after the North withdrew troops from the South, the Southerners went back to their old ways. However, there was a clear lack of effort in trying to really integrate the freedmen into society. Therefore, the old racial attitudes remained in place and reasserted itself after the North withdrew the troops. The dismal state of the Southern economy didn’t really help either and I can imagine that part of the blame fell on the freedmen. And what was the distraction that time around? The Northerners were tired of funding the troops in the South and the divided Republican party meant that policies were hotly debated and often not implemented. The economic boom of the North after the war also served as a distraction as new economic problems sprang up and had to be addressed. This half-assed effort is the first of the failures to address the follow-through of the Civil War and it only went from ok to really really bad. You can still see the residual hatred left over from something that should have been resolved over a century ago. Do you see what I mean? Missed opportunities and the constant backtracking after a little bit of progress.

Speaking of backtracking, this brings me to today’s main topic: what Congress and their Trump (or Trump and his Congress, I don’t know) has done in the recent weeks. Not only has he appointed people who are clearly not qualified to many of his Cabinet positions, he’s picked people that are not only detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the American people but can also affect the planet on a larger scale. He’s rolled back regulatory laws that restrict a company’s ability to dump their waste into nearby streams, he’s opened up protected ecosystems harboring endangered animals to logging and drilling and using the Congressional Review Act, he has undone so many of the things that President Obama has fought for in the last six months of his presidency including the decision to stop the crude oil pipeline that ran within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Native American reservation. Do you see this?

And of course, to serve as a distraction, Micheal Flynn and another potential connection to Russia pops up. I’ll explain why you should care more about what I said in the last paragraph rather than the Russians– because you can’t do anything about the Russians!! Let the CIA and the other intelligence agencies do their job and instead, worry about what’s going on right under your nose! Call your congressman, spread awareness and pay attention! It’s not all about Trump and his shady business. It’s also about you, me and the world. If the current government gets its way, the worse thing wouldn’t be Russia, it will be the toxic goop that will be our water supply. Wake up.

I’ll talk to you on Wednesday.

A more in-depth look at what’s happening.

 

The End of the World

The genie crossed his arms, “You do know you’re a bloody idiot, don’t you?”

Abubakar only moved his foot so that it rested on the rune that would cause unending pain to the genie. The genie only looked at him disdainfully.

“Do it.”

The genie snorted, “I only wish I could create a backup file of the world. Just to show you your idiocy.” When Abubakar didn’t budge, he sighed and extended his hands outwards. The vague light that had unsettled Abubakar before now extinguished. The runes around his feet disappeared in the darkness and he panicked.

“You damn demon! Come back!” The darkness remained the same.

Then, he felt like he was thrown forwards and backwards and in all directions at once. It almost felt like he was being pulled out of his body. No, he was out of his body. He didn’t feel the usual earthly energies through his feet and he couldn’t feel any resistance when he tried to move. What did he do? What did that damn demon do?

“You got your wish, young master. Now go see what you’ve done.” The genie’s voice boomed in his skull.

And he was back on Earth. The wind came and wrapped around him, purring at his touch. The earth, usually his dominant element, recoiled from him. The air was heavy even with the wind and water hung in a suffocating pressure.

This is your world of peace.” The darkness broke and light rushed in.

He was in a forest. There was no rustling even with the wind Abubakar summoned. There were no bird songs. The only thing that could be heard was buzzing. Abubakar opened his eyes and only saw trees and beehives. Every tree was adorned with a beehive. There were thick vegetation and all sorts of flowers but there were no nests. He forced the earth to obey him. It whimpered and offered him its secrets. Everything was heavy and too full of life with nothing to check it. No herbivores to eat the plants and no carnivores to eat the herbivores. There were no dens, no movements underground. There were no animals as far as he could feel. If he waited, would any timid creatures appear? Was this the silent spring? The silence made the buzzing seem deafening. Surely actual civilisation would have more to offer.

Offer? The forest was teeming with flora so surely there are animals? Maybe the demon’s peace was silence. A thriving forest that was also lifeless. In the damp air, he shivered.

He would have to find a city. On cue, the scene became urban. Many houses clustered together and to his relief, he found that people still existed. But these were a degraded people. They bore scars and their clothes were a mismatched mess and some didn’t even wear clothes. They grew their nails out and sharpened them. Many had missing teeth and the houses they lived in were falling apart. Further away, he saw as a group of humans tore each other apart over some unseen conflict.

“What is this?”

The genie didn’t answer. Abubakar started shaking. “What sick joke is this? I told you to create a world of peace.”

Again, no answer.

He did the only thing he could think of. He forcefully summoned the genie, “Sadaaqat!”

The ground in front of Abubakar was set ablaze and the genie materialised. The runes once again appeared around his feet. In a fury, he stomped on all the runes he knew could hurt the genie, creating a cloud of white dust around him. The genie’s image wavered but nothing happened.

“Why isn’t this working? Damnit, what did you do?”

The genie extended a hand towards the people. “Why? Do you not like this peace?”

“What kind of peace is this? You tricked me! This isn’t what I asked for.”

“Oh, it is. Your exact words were to ‘create world peace’. To do that, I would have to wipe out the human race and turn back time several hundred years because to make humans live without war is impossible and ultimate peace is only possible if humans were never allowed to spread from their cradles of Africa and Asia.” The genie’s face twisted up at the word impossible. “But considering that you envisioned a world where humans can live together without destroying their world and eventually themselves, this was the best I can do.”

“No! This is not what I imagined. They’re living like animals. This isn’t what we’re meant to be!”

“Ah, human arrogance.” The genie suddenly turned red and the fire around him spiked until Abubakar could feel the heat energy even within the protection of his circle. “Do you really think you are any different from the beasts? You’ve just evolved more efficient ways to kill each other. Your sense of compassion is far exceeded by your territorialism and your greed. Oh, I think this world fits all of you vermin perfectly!”

Shaking with fury, Abubakar summoned as much energy as he could into himself, “Turn everything back. This contract is void. You will be punished!”

The genie laughed. “I’m afraid not. I granted your wish to the best of my ability. I was even generous and kept your species on the face of the earth. You should be grateful. Now, you no longer have power over me. Our contract is done.” He disappeared.

Fencing for Dummies

 

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Running with pointy objects, attacking first, hitting the other person back– fencing is everything your mother told you not to do.

 

Yo! It’s time to talk about one of my favorite things: fencing. There are some basic things you should know to fence well. Both Nemoullyseus and I are fencers and today, I’m going to share some little things that can decide the outcome of each bout. I should say that I fence epee and I know nothing about foil or sabre, so new foil and sabre fencers, your weapons have some different techniques and although the basic idea of each of my tips should apply, follow your coach’s instructions first. You should have heard of a bunch of these already from your coach, but if not, here it is.

First, EXTEND your weapon arm. No matter what, you can never go wrong with extending (at least in the early game). If you see someone lunging at you, extending gives you more of a chance to hit than not extending (duh). That applies for when you’re the one lunging as well. The key to all of this is to EXTEND before you lunge so the sequence should go extend, lunge, recover, retreat and en garde. Never pull back your arm before an attack and never extend while lunging. Always do it before. As you train more, this should become muscle memory but this small thing is crucial to maximize your chances of winning.

The next thing you need to remember is to keep a proper distance from your opponent. If the tips of your weapons cross each other, you’re too close. Against fencers with better reflexes and more training, you will lose every time. If you keep out of distance, you minimize surprises and you give yourself more time to think. Of course, you need to know when to attack and when the other person is in range for a lunge, then lunge with all you got. Don’t hesitate. Also remember not to drop your arm or else they can hit you on your shoulder or arm while you’re lunging. Always aim a little up when lunging. If the lunge fails, then recover and retreat– NEVER PULL BACK YOUR ARM WHEN YOU’RE RECOVERING FROM A FAILED ATTACK. The other thing you can do is to keep going forward. There are two ways to do this: recovering forward and lunging again or recovering forward and turning it into a fleche. If the other person is prepared for you and has their weapon extended (which, if they are good fencers, it should be), you can recover forward then step forward and duck at the same time while extending your weapon. This only works if their weapon is aimed at head or chest level because you’re ducking under their weapon and only have your arm to extend your reach instead of your legs in a lunge and thus, you need to step forward while ducking to achieve the proper distance to make contact. In any case, distance is key to stop your opponent from getting touches on you and being able to judge distance and timing accurately will really up your game. However, most of these things only happen after extensive training. Now, while we’re on the topic of distance, then what do you do when you’re fencing a tall person?

To fence a person taller than you, you need to know how to parry. Here is a diagram on what parries look like:

 

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If you’re left-handed (like me), these parries still occur on the same side of the body; you’re just using different hands so just copy what the right-handed folks are doing except using your left hand.

 

But just parrying might not be enough. Parrying only means you block their blade. To get a point, you need to parry and then take their blade. This is a croise, where you push the opponent’s blade to the side so that it can’t hit you but you can hit them. Ask your coach to demonstrate if you have any questions. Sadly, pictures can’t convey motion very well.

The other thing you can do if you can’t counterattack is to still take their blade and then slide down it so that you’re past the point of their blade. That way, the taller fencer has to draw back their arm first before they can hit you (since epee registers touches only on the tip, so this is not true for sabre since sabre can score all along the blade). In that case, you just have to disengage and poke them faster than they can poke you, which you have an advantage in since you don’t need to first draw back the considerable length of your arm. In that case, it is called in-fighting.

When parrying, it is also important to know when to disengage. If you’re stuck in a disadvantageous situation, disengage. Simply stop pushing against the other person’s blade and instead, go around it. Just dip your point a little and extend your point towards your target and if they don’t react in time, you just got a touch.

 

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A helpful diagram showing proper lunging posture

 

There’s another thing that I see some new fencers do a lot and it has to do with how they lunge. They kick off with their front leg before they lower into the lunge position. This not only looks stupid, but it also means you waste time doing something you didn’t need to do, giving the other person more time to react. So don’t do that. Don’t excessively stomp your foot either. I have several new members in my fencing club that think it’s cool to stomp their foot every couple of seconds to “scare” their opponent. Once again, it’s unnecessary and just takes up time that your opponent can use to attack you.

I am a small person. That means I don’t have as much mass behind my movements and thus, generally less strength. However, I don’t usually lose just because I wasn’t as strong as the other person. My epee isn’t suited for someone of my stature and it’s too long and heavy to fit my hand comfortably. This means I’m often slower and less accurate than I could be. I also tire pretty quickly in long bouts and quickly lose steam in the second period during the nine-minute bouts. I’m planning on getting a new epee soon, but I’ve heard that this is a common problem with smaller fencers. If you are one, get a weapon that fits you. Even if your blade needs to be shorter to take off some weight, it’s worth it because then, you’re faster, more accurate and also less likely to develop some sort of wrist condition from straining your muscles too much.

One of the things I see even in experienced fencers is the tendency to make movements that are too big and that either leaves you wide open for a counterattack or doesn’t leave you enough time to move your arm where you want it to go since it’s all the way to the side somewhere. So make small precise movements and don’t put too much strength into pushing against your opponent’s blade, like I said above, disengage and then attack. Waving around your arm also means you lost point control and that will definitely lose you your point.

 

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Another helpful diagram. This is a foil weapon though so don’t hold your epees with your palm up like that.

 

One last thing I’m going to talk about is the position of your arm. I like getting hand touches and arm touches since I’m short; it’s the closest part of the opponent’s body that I can hit. So I take advantage whenever someone lifts or lowers their arm too much while I’m in attacking distance. Sometimes, it’s a small movement but it’s just enough for me to advance, duck and angling my blade up a little, hit them just behind their bell guard. (The top of the hand is harder because 1)it’s higher up and 2)they’re usually aware and they’re just resting their arm and 3)it’s riskier for me to hit. Keep your wrist slightly pointing inwards; it helps keep your point on your biggest target–their torso– and also means your forearm is out slightly to compensate for it. That keeps your bell guard over your forearm and minimizes the chance of getting touched on your hand or forearm. Putting your hand at the proper height also effectively blocks any attempt at your dominant shoulder.

And that’s it. These are some of the basic things to keep in mind while fencing and if you follow these instructions, you’re bound to see yourself winning more. What other basic tips do you think will be useful for starting fencers? And to the new fencers, what other questions do you have? Comment below or drop us a line at whentheskyisovercast@gmail.com.

I’ll talk to you on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

Nevermind.

Ok, so nevermind about the last Update post. We are going to focus mostly on political topics and historical topics that relate to what’s happening to America today. We will add a Science category and start uploading about topics that will highlight new technological advances and scientific findings. We’ll continue posting APUSH help and may add other AP classes in the future. We will still post creative works on this site but only occasionally. We will still post about things like fencing, video games or books but all of those will be moved so that they’re under the Hobbies category. The Quote of the Month is here to stay and occasionally a poem analysis will pop up there as well. That’s all for this Update and we’ll go from there. Peace!

Maybe Actually Be More of an Ass

 

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Get your ass out of your ass, ass.

 

Let me just say straight out that I am a fan of Bill Maher’s show, Real Time. Recently, in his shows, he’s brought up an interesting point that I have also noticed. That is, the average Democrat and especially those who are famous are way too soft. Why do we fear offending people so much? More importantly, why do we think so many things can be offensive at all? And why do some of us apologise when anyone accuses us of being insensitive or offensive when most of the time, the people who demand these apologies aren’t the people who are supposedly supposed to be offended?

Stop apologising and start actually doing things. Stop apologising for nonexistent offences and for other people who aren’t actually offended. Okay, I’m done with this rant. Moving on.

Then there’s the problem of people focusing on the wrong things. I see people focusing on the size of Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd more than they are focusing on what he has actually done in the past several weeks. And there’s a lot he’s done, but these media outlets are still talking about the size of his crowd and the comment sections are exploding with arguments about the topic. Seriously? This isn’t a popularity contest. It doesn’t matter how many people attended his inauguration. It matters more what he has done in the weeks since the inauguration. And stop arguing with people who believe that Trump actually won if they subtract the millions of dead and “illegal” people (seriously, calling people illegal? that’s just lazy. Really though, this is just a euphemism for minorities, as everyone knows) that supposedly voted for Hillary. Why would anyone care? (That was a rhetorical question.) The US presidential election is decided by the College and that’s that. Stop arguing over stupid things that don’t matter and things that you can’t change (however much change.org tries to convince you that you can; the College isn’t going anywhere).

What matters is that while people were looking at polls and how a lot of famous people were denouncing Trump, he had struck a chord in half of the country and attracted the interest of many of the country’s biggest moneymakers (and Russia). So stop being distracted by the sensational headlines and faux-indignation, clear your head and see what’s really there. This isn’t a high school where rumours fly around and drama is the headline of the day–this is American politics and already, Trump is making ripples in the world. Wake the hell up and get the sane people elected, not only as president but also in Congress and at the state and local level. Participate and you’ll see that you’ll have less to whine about afterwards.

By the way, I highly recommend Bill’s show (this is not sponsored) but even I have to admit that recently, the show’s got a bit too much ham with the whole Trump thing.

That’s all for this time. I would love to know what you think. Comment below or contact our Outlet team privately here.

This is where I originally found the cartoon that I used at the top of this page. The image doesn’t belong to me. The credit goes to whomever it is due.

 

A Proud Hypocrite

There is always one phrase on the news that gets repeated over and over again– America, the leader of the free world. First, that’s awfully pretentious. And secondly, it seems ironic that America also has the highest number of incarcerated adults per capita. The leader of the free world also has the most inmates. However, this isn’t the only example of hypocrisy in American.

Take note: this is not to bash America, it’s only to give you the facts so that you don’t blindly believe in propaganda that is blatantly not true. The most dangerous type of belief is blind faith. Don’t only listen to things that sound good, pay attention to things that sound true.

Despite constant railing against religious extremism, the US supports Israel and Saudi Arabia who are quite religiously stubborn and would like to force their faith on people who don’t believe in the same things they do. This is justified by the US’s invested interest in both countries.

America’s boasted democracy is limited to, at most, elections of the House and Senate. The President is elected by the College and everyone else in the government is appointed by other officials (elected and unelected). The two-party system is run by big corporations, with people from elite schools that has the same connections and the same policies as their predecessors. No wonder why even though America is a wealthy first-world country, it is definitely not considered one of the more progressive ones.

Another thing about America’s democracy: even though America says that democracy is the best form of government, the country has had a hand in overthrowing many fairly elected governments for their own interests, namely access to the other country’s resources.

America is a big preacher of civil rights to other countries, but there is a serious threat to such rights within the country. The gov’t admonishes other countries for their oppression of the people and being aggressive in their foreign campaigns, but they have no room to say any of that because of the problems that they themselves have in their country and their own foreign policy. The same can be said for the general American populace who seem to preach but their own conduct and situation doesn’t support their viewpoint. In terms of domestic affairs, Americans also can’t seem to keep their heads straight on what they want. They complain about gun violence, but they get defensive whenever someone so much as touches their gun laws. 9/11 remains a dark spot in America’s history, but the two atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan doesn’t seem to be much of a big deal.

An older example: the Boston Massacre that killed five civilians occurred around the same time as the veritable genocide of Native Americans. The death of entire nations of Native Americans didn’t deserve a name but a “massacre” of five people was widely publicised and the name is still used today. I understand that the word massacre was propaganda, but really, for Christians and preachers of freedom and liberty, you’d think that thousands of lives would matter more, if not to them then, then to us now. Instead, conflicts with Native Americans are at most marginal in US history classes.

Being part of a minority myself, I can’t help but feel the power of economic and political “persuasion” in everything America does and teaches in relation to foreign countries. The Nanjing Massacre at the hands of the Japanese was passed over in the unit for WWII while Germany, the Allies’ primary enemy, and its Holocaust has been put on a pedestal to overanalyse and discuss. In the end, Japan became one of America’s best friends when it came to like-mindedness of foreign policy and suffered little consequences and no long-lasting condemnation from the international community at large for its war crimes. In the meantime, Emperor Hirohito got only a marginal mention in history classes while Hitler takes up entire pages. There is a clear lack of knowledge when it comes to one event to the other although they are the same in importance and cruelty. When you don’t have background on certain countries, it becomes a lot easier to judge them for any current shortcomings. But that is an article for another time.

The US also has a history of doing anything to stop communism and socialism. For example, Taiwan was readily accepted as a country because it defied China’s Communist regime and also because it harboured many enemies of China, the Guomintang. For those that didn’t know, the Guomintang before and during WWII caused just as much destruction politically and economically as any other invading country during the last years of and after the Qing Dynasty in China. One of the reasons why they were chased out was because of this and the other reason was because Mao Zedong, who was seen as the savior of the country, defeated them in the later part of the Chinese civil war. Now, the reason why someone like him even rose to power at all was because the country was already in turmoil. Happy, healthy countries don’t feel the need to become communist or socialist. There’s a reason why the Chinese people accepted a Communist regime– because what they had before was bad and was made worse by powerful outside forces. All of this just shows how limited the average American’s understanding of world history, recent world history, really is and they condemn what they don’t really understand.

The US says that they are the guardians of liberty, justice, and freedom. That is just not true. The main problem isn’t this hypocrisy though. Being a country with a lot of power, I understand foreign policy becomes complicated and maintaining a consistent stance in the face of different situations is difficult. However, the main problem for me is the fact that the country preaches something it blatantly ignores due to economic and political greed.

That’s all for this time. I’ll talk to you again on Sunday.

Top Mistakes (Fanfic) Writers Make

 

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What you think it looks like vs What it actually looks like

I’m going to say first off that fanfiction can generally be considered the cancer of online writing. There are really well-written fanfiction; they’re just hard to find. If you are a BatCat fan, here’s one for you here. I’m gonna reference a lot of books here and there are also some terms that most people don’t know. If you don’t know the books, you can clearly tell which ones I like so check those out and if you don’t know any of the terms, don’t worry about it (there’s a reason why you don’t know). Otherwise, let’s jump into it.

 

P.S. This is directed at the fanfiction writers since writing fanfic online generally means you don’t have to go through a publishing company first with their pesky editors. However, if you’re looking for some general don’ts to writing, this is a good place for you too.

Using words you don’t know how to use/Using words the wrong way

This is one of the cringiest things a writer can do. Some people try to sound fancy or more sophisticated by using words that they have recently searched up in the dictionary. Instead of achieving the desired result, it just sounds awfully pretentious or just plain wrong. A prime example comes from the book Tiger’s Quest when the main character complains of aching muscles by claiming that they were “unionising against her”. Unionise? Cue massive cringe. In the midst of cheesy dialogue and an over-used plot line, there was this shit and I flipping flipped when I read it. It was just so ridiculous! So.. make sure you don’t do something like that and stick with words you do know how to use. Besides, most people read books for the story and the characters. If they wanted long fancy words, they’d rather pick up a thesaurus.

Starting with a question or a rhetorical situation

God, I hate this one so much. Most people use this type of opening wrong and it ends up being so cliche. The general rule of thumb is if it sounds like an infomercial, don’t use it.

Being too happy

Your job as a writer is to make trouble for your characters. Don’t start with a scene where everything is all right in the world. Nobody is ever totally content and no story should start off in Happyland. It totally ruins the reader’s suspense of disbelief and it makes for flat characters. Make trouble for your characters whenever you can but don’t be like Bleach or Noblesse where endless battles seem to be en vogue. Nobody wants boss after boss after boss and then have some sort of Deus Ex Machina come in on a white horse to save the day. It’s tiresome and frankly not very impressive. I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent, let’s keep moving.

Too much brave isn’t good

Despite what you think, having fearless and virtuous protagonists really isn’t a good idea. It means conflicts are often heroically resolved and the good always knows what to do to defeat the bad– and it means that it’s boring. Take Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Series and Milo Weaver in the series named after him and you see that these characters are really flawed. They hurt people for selfish reasons, they neglect the people closest to them and they have a skewed moral compass. That’s what makes a character relatable and dynamic. Nobody is perfect and perfect is boring and predictable and neither of these traits are known to keep the readers flipping pages. There should be a threat of death over the entirety of the story, whether it be literal death or metaphorical death. Conflict is what drives a story but if the characters fall flat on their faces, then it’s like having a muscular body with no arms or legs. It has a lot of potential but no way to demonstrate it. I’m done with strange similes- let’s move on!

OOC

This one is exclusively for fanfic writers. OOC means out-of-character. In the pursuit of perfecting a ship, the fanfic writer often twists the characters’ personalities to make it possible. It would be like instead of having Mr. Darcy be snobby and proud for the majority of the book, Jane Austen decided to make him act like Bingley after he confessed. That is just not who he is and the sudden flip between the canon and the fanfic means that either the writer doesn’t know the character or is a fan of cheesy romance novels (don’t be like Twilight). I’ve read fanfics of my favourite animes and some of them have the characters so wrong, the only things the fanfic and the canon have in common are setting and character names. Mikasa shouldn’t have a Historia-type personality but she’s not a tsundere either (I don’t know why people like to make Jean perverted but he’s not so just stop it). Other strong female characters like Temari aren’t going to suddenly become moe to make the ship possible. Please don’t make Kougami or Levi softies either.  THAT’S NOT WHO THEY ARE!! Why do you do this? If you like a franchise enough to write fanfic about it, at least keep the integrity of the characters.

The convoluted back-and-forth plotline

Soooo many fanfic writers like to do this with their ships and it’s supposed to turn readers off but I guess some people love melodrama. In any case, this type of plot is characterised by the sheer amount of times the two main characters fight, break up and come back together again. It’s okay if one or both of them have some sort of mental problem (insecurity, depression, paranoia, trauma etc) but it is NOT okay if it’s over some petty thing. Jealousy is believable but a lot of the characters in fanfics get jealous and mad over every single little thing. It’s so stupid. It also doesn’t help that the characters themselves are basic. Besides the point I made above in OOC, the worst thing you can do to a character besides drastically changing their personality is giving them no personality at all. You effectively kill characters by making them ordinary. John McCain was more of a “people’s man” in terms of the way he spoke (he had an accent and spoke more informally) but Obama made way more of an impact both with his booming voice and his eloquent words. People don’t want to relate to an ordinary character; they want substance, something they can look up to and judge at the same time. Add details, little personality quirks and a little history and plausible motives to inform their decisions. Make the character come alive and once the character becomes more than just a Mary Sue, then the plot will naturally follow. Take care of your characters and they’ll take care of you.

Grammar and spelling

This should be something basic that everyone should know how to do: how to English. Hell, you people have gone through school and got graded for it. You should know how to spell and how English syntax works. No matter how well you write, you have to first make sure that you can be understood correctly so no matter what other problems there may be in your writing, having sloppy spelling and careless grammar is inexcusable. One of worst (maybe the worse) fanfics ever written, My Immortal, is a prime example. To this day, I still don’t know whether it is trash or comedy gold.

Dialogue

I’m not surprised that a lot of people mess this one up since their characters aren’t fully developed, therefore their plot is lukewarm and therefore their dialogue is all fluff and no substance. Two things drive good dialogue: purpose and flow. Don’t make your characters say something they can show instead. Make sure each piece of dialogue is essential to either furthering the plot or developing the character. Flow is how natural it sounds. For example, don’t add the name of the person being addressed at the end of every sentence. Just as important is the use of dialogue tags: he said, she said. You should use them liberally since readers don’t even register the word said as much as people think they do. Using too many descriptive verbs, however, and the reader’s attention gets drawn to that instead and if the reader pays more attention to your writing than your story, then that’s bad news. Too many fanfics have dialogue that is mundane and plain old stupid. Dialogue isn’t there to take up space- make it count.

The Dan Brown Effect

I’ve named this literary phenomenon after Dan Brown, the guy that wrote The Da Vinci Code and Inferno. I’ve read his earlier book Digital Fortress and that book was pretty good but the two other books I’ve mentioned was especially rife with the Dan Brown disease. If you have the Dan Brown disease, it just means you put in too many details and like to show off your research way too much (and if you’re like Dan Brown, you’ll still get the facts wrong anyway). If you cut out all of the unnecessary descriptions of scenery or art or architecture from Dan Brown’s later books, you’ll be left with a book half the size of the original. (lot of his information is inaccurate or just not true. If you want a full list, tvtropes has a page specifically for Dan Brown here.) Don’t feel the need to display everything you’ve researched to your readers. They don’t care. Instead, put your reference material at the back of the book and if your readers want to know more, they can go read it themselves.

Too much drama or too much action

Unlike movies where you can pull off having an action-based plot without the watchers being turned off, this type of imbalance in a book isn’t going to fly with the right type of readers. Too much drama turns off the less patient readers and you’ll attract fewer male readers. Too much action leaves you with no time to rest and no character development. Finding the right balance between drama and action means you can optimise the quality of your story and also increase interest from a wider group of readers.

That’s the end of my list. Hope you’ve gotten some ideas out of it. Of course, you might say that this list is false because there are popular fanfics that defy everything I say not to do here and people still love them. But then, it’s the same reason why people like McDonald’s. It doesn’t have to be good for a lot of people to like it and the people who know better would never touch it.

That’s all for today. See you on Sunday.

P.S. For those who are more interested in the steamier side of fanfiction, there is a good website here. Do not click if you are not over 18 and if you are offended by things like this, don’t read either. You have been warned. I will not be held responsible.

Silent Judges

silent_judges__by_ltdemonlord-d8p2v0v

This the first of my neo-surrealistic style works. I only draw in graphite and so far, I’ve found it good enough for what I’m drawing. This was back when I first began drawing so you can see quite clearly that the concept wasn’t very well executed.

In any case, you see the barrel of a gun at the left side of the screen and that the main subject has been shot. He seems to have a clock for a head but his shadow shows a normal human head. His clock head is damaged by the bullet and has stopped. The reflections on the clock face show his dreams and thoughts. In the background, there is a circle of faceless figures that watch silently. On the side of the man’s clock face protrudes some sort of projector with the man’s life story and the faceless figures stand by silently, watching it. While he is dying, the man is totally helpless, both over his current situation and his future. The shirt he wore that day now ironically echo his loss of life.

 

More Content and Writers

Hello, everyone! Thank you to the four people who have followed this blog so far. XD I appreciate it.

I have recruited two other writers to occasionally help me put out content, so watch the name of the author if you’re going to leave a comment. I’m also thinking of expanding the number of categories on this site (once again). The new categories include Gaming, Tales and a poems subcategory under the Books and Quotes category.

And yes, I am a high school student and that’s why I upload APUSH essay prep. Next year, I’m going to take more AP classes, so watch out for help in those classes…

If you guys want us to talk about a specific topic or recommend us a book or poem or want our take on something, feel free to send the Outlet team an e-mail at whentheskyisovercast@gmail.com. In the sidebar is a link to a SurveyMonkey poll about the potential topics I’ll write about next Wednesday. Voting closes on Sunday at noon. You can also write-in your own topic and if I like it, I might pick your suggestion. That’s all. Have a great rest of the week y’all!