Friday, June 24, 2011

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My

No, this isn't Wizard of Oz, but animals populate our writing every bit as much as people do. I like to have horses in much of my writing, but I also have a story where shape-shifters are the dominate population and any mammal of suitable weight was possible, though a werwolf is my main. I even have one story where human DNA and wolf DNA were mixed with very unexpected results.

If you're going to have animals in your stories, remember that they have a certain way of acting and reacting to certain stimulus. Even those half animals or wer-animals should be part animal in their actions and reactions. I try for a wolf feel in my half wolf character, though in nearly every way he looks human. My werwolf has a wolfish temper when it shows up.

Another thing to remember is when your people encounter an animal, they too will react in a very predictable manner. For instance, if a man encounters a bear, what will he do? What will the bear do? There are several options depending on how the encounter started. I read a story not long ago where a woman was tackled by a lion. The lion was very human by day but very lion (with a human mind) by night, but there was no way the woman would know that at that moment. The moment was handled very poorly in the story. Before she fainted, she took the time to notice how kind the eyes looked. I'm sorry, if I were tackled by a lion, the last thing I would be noticing would be how kind its eyes were; I'd be far too worried about where those huge teeth were going and how to keep them away from their target.

I grew up with horses and I like to think I am familiar with most kinds of temperaments. Just like your people, each member of a herd of horses would have its own personality. There is the ever-watchful stallion and the wise lead mare, the playful colts and the new-born just learning about his feet. There's the mare who bites everything that comes close and the gentle one who tries to mother everyone.

When you're writing a scene that involves animals, even in the background like your person's cat, remember them. Don't announce the cat and then forget it. Cats may not do much more than sleep, but they seem to manage to sleep right there in the way most of the time. The family dog will always greet whoever comes to the door in some manner, and if there's two dogs, they may greet differently.

What animals do you include in your stories? What is your favorite scene involving an animal, half animal, or wer-animal?

Friday, June 17, 2011

A World Beyond Books

Hmmm - would there ever really be such a thing? I really don't think so, but since paper is supposedly made from trees, there may need to be something else. Last week, we all kinda agreed that the internet, while rather cool, isn't reliably permanent enough to preserve all our written knowledge. Though it may make it all easily accessible, unless you don't happen to have a computer.

So, with the treat of not being able to make paper any more, what else is there? We could go the Star Trek route and put everything in crystals or on chips the size of a credit card, but I'm thinking the concept of a real book would remain popular for a very long time.

Parchment was made from specially treated animal skins. Anyone want a book made out of parchment? We butcher plenty of cows, sheep and pigs for food, but would that be enough parchment for all the books generated these days? No, I'm thinking we'll need to go back to some woodish type material, just not trees. Trees will become a protected species one day, as more and more asphalt and concrete covers the world.

Maybe someone will figure out a way to utilize the leaves when they fall. Or maybe they'll be plastic, or not. Plastic is a petroleum product, and everyone says we are running out of oil. What about fiber? Something like cotton or silk might make good paper, and that's a renewable crop.

Oh, and can you imagine what would happen to the price of books made from real paper? What would be the value of a collection of books like you see in some movies sometimes, where some scene is taking place in a den and the walls are covered with books.

Oh gee, and that would start a whole new kind of theft wave. Stealing books. You'd have to insure them like rich people do with their pricey jewelry. Maybe you'd have to keep them behind locked and barred doors. How would you protect your precious books if it came to that? What kind of book would you settle for? What other ways are there for making paper?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A World Without Books

That is the topic of this Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour organized by Pandora Poikilos

Ever since I was invited and told the topic, I've been thinking about this subject. Books - think about it - all our worldly knowledge is written down in some book somewhere. Even considering the internet now, books came first, and are still first, and will remain first for a very long time. A lot of information is being stored in the internet somewhere, but for it to be permanent, it has to be on paper somewhere.

Now consider, what if no one had managed to figure out how to make paper? Oh my! What would we have used instead? Stone came first, then clay, I believe, and to make it more permanent I believe it was cast in ceramic or something similar. Such a thing is certainly more durable than paper but it is also so heavy and bulky - inefficient. Just think of the volumes and volumes of vital information we have on books. Being vital, that would be the kinds of things diligently chiseled into our stone tablets. But what about everything else?

Think of the loss. Think about all the writing media out there - newspapers, magazines, and of course books - now think of all the people intimately involved with them, writing them or reading them every day. Without them, people would of course be doing other things. If no one had ever invented paper, people wouldn't know what they were missing. I'm sure such things as bards and storytellers would still abound, just as I'm sure that, like writers, they would still be 'starving artists' haha.

What else do you think would fill the void? Without a treasured book to curl up on on the couch or read late into the night, what else would there be? What in the home would change? Would there be less couches? Less lamps in the bedroom?

Of course, there is another view one could take on this subject - what would it be like if suddenly you woke up in the morning and all reading material of the paper variety was just gone? Now that would be traumatizing to the max. A loss would be putting it mildly. Such a loss could drop us back into the stone age cause if something broke or someone died the thing would remain broke - so much useless technological junk.

Do be sure to visit other on the tour:
1. Dora -
2. Kriti -
3. Sonia Rumzi -
4. Paula -
5. Kate & Ashley -
6. Roy -
7. Shaeeza -
8. Me - here
9. Lisa -
10. Jessica -
11. Corinne -
12. Nicole -
13. Tosh -
14. Desiree -
15. Shelley -
16. Tessa -
17. DK Levick -
18. La Vonya -
19. Janet -
20. Jim -
21. Linda -
22. Sibylla -
23. Amber -
24. Lori -
25. Neil -
26. Tina -
27. Babz -
28. John -
29. Violet -
30. Dora -

Friday, June 3, 2011

Acronyms in Fiction

Acronyms - abbreviations in all caps most of the time, but sometimes not, and sometimes with a number. Here is a list of a few examples as found on Wikipedia:

* Pronounced as a word, containing only initial letters
o AIDS: acquired immune deficiency syndrome
o ASBO: Anti-Social Behavior Order
o NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
o Scuba: self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
o Laser: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

* Pronounced as a word, containing non-initial letters
o Amphetamine: alpha-methyl-phenethylamine
o Gestapo: Geheime Staatspolizei (secret state police)
o Interpol: International Criminal Police Organization
o Radar: radio detection and ranging

* Pronounced as a word, containing a mixture of initial and non-initial letters
o Nabisco: National Biscuit Company
o Necco: New England Confectionery Company
o Mavica: Magnetic video camera

* Pronounced as a word or names of letters, depending on speaker or context
o FAQ: ([fæk] or F A Q) frequently asked questions
o IRA: When used for Individual Retirement Account, can be pronounced as letters (I R A) or as a word [ˈaɪrə]
o SAT: ([sæt] or S A T) (previously) Scholastic Achievement (or Aptitude) Test(s), now claimed not to stand for anything.
o SQL: ([siːkwəl] or S Q L) Structured Query Language.

* Pronounced as a combination of names of letters and a word
o CD-ROM: (C-D-[rɒm]) Compact Disc read-only memory
o IUPAC: (I-U-[pæk]) International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
o JPEG: (J-[pɛɡ]) Joint Photographic Experts Group
o SFMOMA: (S-F-[moʊmə]) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

* Pronounced only as the names of letters
o BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation
o DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid
o OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer
o USA: United States of America
o IRA: When used for the Irish Republican Army

* Pronounced as the names of letters but with a shortcut
o AAA:
+ (triple A) American Automobile Association; abdominal aortic aneurysm; anti-aircraft artillery; Asistencia Asesoría y Administración
+ (three As) Amateur Athletic Association
o IEEE: (I triple E) Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
o NAACP: (N double A C P) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
o NCAA: (N C double A or N C two A or N C A A) National Collegiate Athletic Association

* Shortcut incorporated into name
o 3M: (three M) originally Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company
o E3: (E three) Electronic Entertainment Exposition
o W3C: (W three C) World Wide Web Consortium
o C4ISTAR: (C four I star) Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance

* Multi-layered acronyms
o NAC Breda: (Dutch football club) NOAD ADVENDO Combinatie ("NOAD ADVENDO Combination"), formed by the 1912 merger of two clubs, NOAD (Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorgaan "Never give up, always persevere") and ADVENDO (Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning "Pleasant for its entertainment and useful for its relaxation") from Breda
o GAIM: GTK+ AOL Instant Messenger
o GIMP: GNU Image Manipulation Program
o PAC-3: PATRIOT Advanced Capability 3 i.e., Phased Array Tracking RADAR Intercept on Target i.e., RAdio Detection And Ranging
o VHDL: VHSIC hardware description language, where VHSIC stands for very-high-speed integrated circuit.

* Recursive acronyms, in which the abbreviation refers to itself
o GNU: GNU's not Unix!
o LAME: LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder
o WINE: WINE Is Not an Emulator
o PHP: PHP hypertext pre-processor (formerly personal home page)
o These may go through multiple layers before the self-reference is found:
+ HURD: HIRD of Unix-replacing daemons, where "HIRD" stands for "HURD of interfaces representing depth"

* Pseudo-acronyms, which consist of a sequence of characters that, when pronounced as intended, invoke other, longer words with less typing (see also Internet slang)
o CQ: "Seek you", a code used by radio operators (also is an editorial term meaning "Copy Qualified" in print media)
o IOU: "I owe you" (true acronym would be IOY)
o K9: "Canine", used to designate police units utilizing dogs
o Q8: "Kuwait"

* Initialisms whose last abbreviated word is often redundantly included anyway
o ATM machine: Automated Teller Machine machine
o HIV virus: Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus
o PIN number: Personal Identification Number number
o VIN number: Vehicle Identification Number number

Now that we have a bit of an understanding of what they are, how could they be used in your writing?

To begin with, if you're going to use them, make sure they are spelled correctly and used correctly. Some have become a part of our every-day speech and most everyone knows what is meant by their use, even if they couldn't offer you their meaning if asked.

Some I would never use, and that's not because they refer to things I don't write about; it's just that unless you are writing a technical manual pertaining to the subject, most people wouldn't understand the acronym unless it was spelled out, and even then, they might not know what it was.

Some of those listed above, I can't even pronounce the spelled out version. And those with numbers in them; they are too close to texting shorthand and in my opinion, that has no place in a book. It makes me glad I can't use a cell phone out here. If I had one, someone would be sure to text me and it would drive me nuts.

Now, let's talk about how to use them in your writing. As I said before, make sure they are spelled correctly and if you happen to be making one up, make sure you aren't accidentally mimicking one that already has a meaning.

In dialog - all books that aren't textbooks have dialog - just using the appropriate letters may not be enough. For instance AAA is pronounced in two different ways with two different meanings. Be sure what comes out of your characters mouth is what would be heard. Most of those in this list have a pronunciation where it matters. For dialogue, it's pronunciation that is important. And in the occasion where the acronym is somewhat less than familiar or made-up, it is important to clue your reader in to what your acronym stands for. The last thing you want your reader to do is stop and go get a dictionary or go on reading and be slightly confused, if not totally lost.

Personally, I prefer to avoid them altogether, but then there weren't too many acronyms in the days of knights and high magic, nor was there any on Planet Wer, haha. I guess you'll have to read them to see though - just as soon as they come out.

Do you use Acronyms? Tell us what you do to make them clear for your readers.