Once Upon A Time…

Once Upon A Time…

By Orion Ryder

Once upon a time, there was a man who began pondering the meaning of life.

He asked his mother. He asked his brother. He asked the gold-fish in his pond; however he forgot to ask his father.

The man had no sister. No wife. No Saturday Night Live or Jimmy Kimmel.

He felt as though he lived each day in a boring shell. Those around him called the shells, “Bodies.”

Some bodies were small. Some large. Some very large. Some very, very small. Some tall. Some short. Some dead.

The man never learned the meaning of life.

Reading Plays for School

Back in elementary school and high school (primary and secondary), whenever we would read a play, we would read it aloud and act it out.

Last semester, when I started university, we read two plays, which our professor had playing on the screen for us. We would read along. Sometimes he would read each passage two us. The entire time we read the plays together. He said, “Plays are meant to be heard and seen, not just read.” He told us of the importance of acting out the play and explained that it was the only way one could be impacted by the play.

Even this semester, our professors tell us that the best way to understand a play is to read it aloud. They say that it is easier to hear the characters voice that way…however in our lectures and seminars we rarely read anything aloud. Why? Because everyone thinks that we students do not want to.

Yes there are people who loathe the idea of reading aloud in front of the class…especially if they have to act. However there are people who do enjoy it. So why not have those people perform a scene then have the rest of the students discuss it? It’s a win, win for everybody. We would all benefit, as the actors would be in character, therefore understanding the play that way and the audience would get an understanding of the play by watching it.

It’s so odd not actually reading anything aloud to one another or acting things out. My first year is practically over and though I’ve enjoyed all of my classes, I feel as though we should either have some sort of way to properly approach plays, or not even bother studying them. I mean, what’s the point of simply opening up a play and reading the dialogue? I’m almost positive that a lot of people pop it open and only read the dialogue. They don’t really care about the stage directions. Why do they matter if they’re not acting it out? It’s just extra reading to do, and when you’ve got 4 other books to read on top of that the play seems pointless.

If the play is interactive (as it was meant to be), then people take more interest in it and maybe I’m just being bias here but I think they enjoy it more.

You should not and cannot simply read the lines of a play. It has to be approached the way it was meant to be performed. If it isn’t done that way then there’s absolutely no point in reading it at all. It is impossible for people to completely understand a play by just skimming the dialogue.

Well, that’s my little rant for the day but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this? Feel free to answer one or all of those questions in your comments.

Do you agree or disagree? Are plays just a pain in the but to study period (whether performed or simply read)? What was your favourite play to study in school?

Train of Thought(s)

So it’s 1 am, and I’m so tired that my minds running like a get away train.

You know when you’re about to fall asleep and all those thoughts come rushing in, so you start thinking all these really deep things.

For example, last night before falling asleep I questioned why I was wearing black all week. I sure wasn’t grieving. I mean, nobody died… then I thought, “Maybe I’m just reflecting what I’m feeling on the inside? I’m feeling pretty down in the dumps…let’s face it I’m depressed.”

When you actually admit it to yourself, there’s this feeling you get. It’s not this feeling that you’re depressed, it’s this feeling like your choking from the inside. Like you wanna scream but you can’t.

I try not to admit those kind of things to myself. I’m scared of being crazy. I don’t think I’m crazy, but if I were crazy I don’t think anyone would ever talk to me. I’m lonely enough thanks. Just thinking things like that bugs me. Then again, a lot of things bug me lately. It rains too much, it’s too cold, people are too damn loud or too damn quiet. There’s not enough lighting, or it’s too bright. I’m thinking so much about everything that I can’t think at all. Its driving me up the wall. Up. The. Bloody. Wall.

You ever feel like you just wanna hit somebody? You know you won’t actually hit anyone, but you want to. You just wanna clench your fist and swing your arm real fast till smack, there she goes…and you can just stare at yourself in disbelief because you really hit that guy. Poor fella…didn’t really deserve it. You were just having a bad day.

I’ve felt like hitting someone lately and that someone is myself. Talk about beating yourself up. I literally would love to. If I could, I’d clone myself and beat myself to a pulp…I call myself an idiot in my head. I do it all the time. I’d never say it aloud. That’d be admitting to it. When words are said out loud they come true. They don’t come true when you think and un-think them. All this thinking and un-thinking…exhausting. I wish I could sleep but I can’t. I’m too tired to sleep. My minds racing. Worst part of it is, I can function on little sleep without coffee. I’ve had coffee twice in my life. It’s awful stuff. Bitter. I’ve got a sweet tooth. I’d rather drink pop or a cup of tea with three large spoons of sugar. That’s why I’ve had so many cavities in the past…it’s all this dang sugar. I can’t wait till I can go home. Don’t get me wrong, living on my own is fun and all, I can leave my room messy without my mom nagging me about it, and I don’t have anyone complaining to me about anything, but I need to get home. I feel like if I don’t get home I’ll break.

One can pretend they’re okay for so long until they just break.

I’m so tired my eyes sting. They’re watering. I’d sleep if I could…I sure would…but these dang thoughts just keep on coming. I’ve gotta get up for class at 8 am. It’s 2 now. I’m feeling hungry, light headed…feeling awful. Just awful. Why can’t I just push a button and say, “Racing thoughts let me sleep. Do not make another peep!” These thoughts make me sad…real sad. Like there’s something wrong with me. Guess there is something wrong with me. I still haven’t changed outta these dirty clothes and I’m talking to a brick wall. Yah a bloody, cold brick wall. Nothing’s getting through that thing. If I were a brick wall I’d be better off. No more of this feeling like beating myself up and curling up at night staring at the ceiling. No more being a big suck. No sir, I’d be unmovable…unless you took something and smashed me in. You’d need a wrecking ball for that. Sadly, I’m no brick wall….not emotionally anyways.

Some people must think I’m unapproachable but I just don’t approach people. There’s a difference. I like people. I like to watch them, talk to them….but I over think before I say anything. So instead of worrying myself about what I should say, I don’t say anything at all. Makes things much easier on me…being shy and all.

These are the kind of things that run through my head constantly. It’s like a runaway train. There’s no stopping it. It just keeps speeding down this track. I never know where it’ll end up…I think that’s the depressing part. Not knowing.

The Problem With YA Fiction

Some might argue that young adult fiction is not a good form of literature. They might say that it lacks quality or that the novels are simply written to please the audience.

Others would say the complete opposite. They would probably remind us not forget that some of the most popular YA novels have also reached adult audiences.

Now I’m not exactly a fan of “sitting on the fence” but in this case I will as I do have valid points for each side of argument.

I do feel as though YA novel is a real form of literature, though I’ve heard many of my teachers scoff at the novels we teenagers are currently reading especially those involving vampires and werewolves. I also cannot deny the fact that I too have turned up my nose many times at a vast amount of the novels being produced for this age group. However it is not because I think the novels are poorly written but because I find them to be fake.

fake

As you may or may not have noticed the word fake has been overused by us teenagers recently but I am going to use it in this case simply because it is the first word that comes to mind when discussing YA fiction.

The problem with young adult fiction is that the characters and what they go through is fake. Some of these authors write novels for teenagers thinking that they know so much about us without actually doing research.

Sorry folks there is no guide on How Teens Act and What They Are Going Through in 2014.

These authors have not been teenagers for some time and their children (if they have any) are either too young or too old for them to get some sort of idea of what teenagers are up to these days. This makes it hard for them to connect with their audience.

Sometimes I read these novels I picture a woman in her late thirties, with a pen and notepad sitting in her living watching Disney Channel on the T.V making a list of what teenagers are like.

  1. Teenagers are angsty.
  2. Teens are brats who talk back too much.
  3. Always rebel.
  4. Hate parents.
  5. Defy all authority.
  6. Over obsessive relationships.
  7. Snobs.
  8. Popularity is the most important thing in life.
  9. Nerd wear glasses and have braces.
  10. Mean Girls is a realistic representation of the life of average teenage girls.

While they create this list I also picture them drooling like a mindless zombie….

zonedout

If anyone actually believed anything on that list, you might want to stop watching today’s so-called popular forms of entertainment featuring teenagers (I don’t have cable so I don’t know what’s on these days).

That entire list can be found in over half of the YA novels that I have read between the 6th and 12th grade. Now in the 6th grade I didn’t know better. I thought that in middle school girls and boys dated and that dating was really important because like anyone who’s anyone is dating. Then I got to the 7th and 8th grade and realized that was stupid. Only two of my friends dated and the relationships lasted a couple days. If they were lucky it lasted two weeks tops. However I then formed an idea of what high school might be like, however I realized before I arrived (thank the Lord), that what these books and what T.V told me about high school was nothing like high school at all. The other 9th graders hadn’t figured it out so quickly, but they did by October.

The young adult novels that moved me the most were the ones where the characters acted their age. I’m not saying that there aren’t mature thirteen year olds out there but most thirteen year olds are at a point in their lives where they are now trying to decide on whether or not they want to make a change in who they are or if they’re happy with themselves. Unfortunately many of them are unhappy with who they are because they think that they’re losers due to the idiots who write television for that age group.

Anyone ever watch the show Drake and Josh or maybe the show Unfabulous?

Don’t watch those if you want an idea of what teenagers are like. Please…I’m begging you.

When I was glued to a book it was because I knew the character and I could trust them to be an accurate representation of those around me. When I got to the point where I could no longer relate to the majority of the books I was reading I began to create my own characters who were like those in my age group.

I hope that this post will encourage YA authors to take into consideration that when writing for a young adult audience, the characters are extremely important. If your character is fake, your book won’t be read. If your character is relatable and someone that your young readers can truly connect with, then your book will remain with them even after they’ve read from cover to cover.

reading

Denmark

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Oh morbid Denmark, you wreak of rotting flesh. Blood stains the tapestry that hangs in your castle.

In your state, all that once flourished, withers into nothing: even, rue, the flower of repentance cannot grow here.

This dreadful prison, was once home to a prince, who mourned for his father daily. Now the ears of this head have become filled with poison, and all who caught the disease now lay in an eternal sleep.

Bodies lay in rows, dressed in white, but the purity of their garments touches the filth of the earth.

Even the clouds growl at the sight of Denmark, where the prince once walked, dressed in black, up and down the looming halls. His words bounced off each wall, crumbling them; crushing those who were too slow to get away.

Now the castle lies in ruins and worms eat at its flesh.

All is rotten in this state.

Train Story: My Entry for Open Book Toronto

This is a short story that I entered into the Open Book Toronto competition back in December. We were given a prompt, which you can find here. I didn’t end up winning, but it was a fun challenge for me, since I have little experience with writing short stories. Well, I hope you enjoy.

Also, please feel free to give feedback.

Orion.

Found on Google.

Found on Google.

It was Kris who was the first to react. He jumped up out of his seat and raced towards the closed door; eyes wide. His friends followed him with their faces pale as the three of them watched the knapsack fade off into the distance.

After Caz got his friends to calm down, Jackie decided to go and find someone who could help them figure out what to do. When she returned, she told the two boys that they had been advised to get off at the next stop and walk back to the other station—this was the train’s last root for the day. “Guys I’m really sorry…I should have kept better track of my things.” Jackie choked as she lowered her head.

As usual Caz tried to sooth her. He was always good at keeping things together. The three of them waited until the train came to a stop. Jackie said that she was told the last station was about an hour’s walk from where they were let off, and if they kept at a steady pace they could get there before it got too dark.

“Hey, let’s try taking a short cut.” Kris suggested a sly smirk crawling across his face. Before the others could protest, Kris had already started off into the alley on his own. He looked over his shoulder and grinned deviously. “You guys coming or what?”

“I guess.” Jackie mumbled following in after him.

Caz hesitated for a moment but stormed after them. “Guys this is dangerous. We don’t know this city very well, and—.”

“Don’t be such a baby.” Kris snickered. He pulled himself up onto the fire exit of an old apartment building and shot Caz a daring look. “Should I jump?”

“You’re an idiot.” Caz spat as Kris climbed up to the second set of stairs. He flashed his friends a devious grin that caused Caz to grit his teeth, “Kris you’re wasting time.”

“Guys, please not another fight.” Jackie choked. Without looking at either of the boys she fled from the alley in tears.

The two boys stopped and looked at one another shamefully. Caz waited for Kris to climb down before the two of them went off to look for their friend.

“Ever since you came along she’s been getting mad at me.” Kris said softly as they scanned the street.

“Maybe if you weren’t such an idiot all the time, she wouldn’t be getting so ticked off?” Caz spat.

“I wouldn’t act like such an idiot if she never told me that she liked you!” Kris’ voice echoed out through the darkness; in front of them stood Jackie alone under the glow of a streetlight. The tear stains on her cheeks added to the flushed look on her face. “Let’s go find my bag.” she mumbled, glaring at Kris. She took Caz by the arm.

Slowly, Kris trudged behind his friends in silence. For once he had nothing to say.

Writing Dialogue

Being an active reader allowed me to pick out the things that I liked about different authors and their writing styles. One thing that I found extremely important in a novel (especially those labelled under the Young Adult fiction category) was how well the dialogue was written.

I would make note of what the author did throughout the areas of speech. Some authors used an accent to indicate where a character was from. Another thing I picked out was the use of diction. For example, if the person speaking simply “said” a phrase or if they “mumbled” it. I also kept a close eye on how quickly the dialogue helped move the story along as well as how it pulled on the heartstrings of the reader, making them sympathise with a specific character.

The first thing to keep in mind about dialogue is the length. Dialogue should not drag on for twelve pages non-stop. It should especially not go on and on as one character tells their entire backstory to the reader in one big phrase. In reality people wouldn’t speak like this. If we did, we would constantly be drifting off onto different topics, which would take away from the point we were trying to make in the first place. This is why the length of the dialogue is extremely important.

Here is an example:

  1. Bad Dialogue: “Frankie never hurt anyone. He was so kind to others. He had this sort of demeanour that drew people to him. He was such a good boy.” she sobbed.
  2. Good Dialogue: “Frankie was a good little boy,” she whispered. Her voice caught in her throat.

Notice how in the first example the character speaks on and on about Frankie? Even though this does help to move the story along, having all of that information packed into one big clump of speech is not only a pain to read but it also gives away too much information to the reader at once. This is why the second example is better. This example is short and simple. It allows the writer to feed the dialogue to the reader in smaller bits as the story progresses.

The next thing to remember about dialogue is that it helps bring life to a character. Using the same example as before where the female character speaks about the boy, Frankie, you can assume that she,

a)      Knew him well.

b)      Cared for him.

c)      Is upset by whatever happened to him.

This information was pulled out of one simple phrase said by this character. You can now try and determine who the speaker is to Frankie. It could be his girlfriend, his mother, his teacher, his babysitter, etc. Whichever you choose can add even more emotion to the phrase as well as contribute to forming a three dimensional character.

The first two points are why the dialogue must have purpose.

Why is the female character telling someone about Frankie? Is she being interviewed by a reporter about the death of her child, or is she standing up for him because he got into a fight with another boy in his class?

The reason behind each phrase said by a character must be significant to the story itself. If the character were in a fast food restaurant, serving hamburgers to costumers and randomly telling them, “Frankie was a good boy,” they would think she was a lunatic.

Now let’s make this female character more three dimensional by giving her a quick description through some dialogue.

“Frankie was a good little boy,” she whisper. Her voice caught in her throat.

“Who is she?” Questioned the detective

“Eloise Johnson,” Muttered Carlton. “The kid’s mother.”

From this short bit of dialogue we can gather up basic information about the character that is not only important but it helps contribute to the story.

We know now that the female character is named Eloise Johnson and that she is Frankie’s mother. We also know that her son may have been involved in a crime due to the other characters that are present. All of those things we learned from a few simple but significant phrases.

Now let’s say that the character Carlton has an accent. Instead of simply writing, “Eloise Johnson,” Muttered Carlton with an Irish accent. “The kid’s mother,” his accent should be shown to the reader.

Writing, “Eloise Johnson,” muttered Carlton. “The kid’s mither,” is much more effective. Why? Because from this way the reader is able to see that Carlton may not be from the same place as our other two characters, Eloise Johnson and the detective. Even though mither isn’t exactly a word, it adds depth to Carlton’s character. It also shows the reader that Carlton has a specific way of speaking. This is important because now the reader is able to link the accent back to the character for future references.

Though adding a dialect is good, please remember that using too much could confuse the reader. Keep the dialect to a minimum!

Now that we have covered some of the important things to keep in mind while creating dialogue, there is one last thing that I feel is I need to share with you in order to help you improve your dialogue: read it aloud.

I know that sometimes it can be a little strange to go around talking to yourself but it you don’t have to actually act out the scenes. We don’t want any of your family members to become concerned about your well-being, however just taking the time to read over your dialogue (quietly) after you have written it can help you to determine whether or not it is indeed good dialogue.

There have been times where I was writing dialogue for a character in their teens and the way that they were speaking made them sound like an elderly man. If I hadn’t read my dialogue out loud, versus in my head I wouldn’t have realized how strange it sounded.

So remember:

  • Dialogue should be simple but significant: do not go on and on and on in one big phrase. Especially if it has nothing to do with the story.
  • Show Don’t Tell!
  • Read it aloud: seriously this make a huge difference.

Pen Names

What is a Pen Name?

A pen name is often described as a pseudonym (pron. soo-doh-Nim), adopted by an author to mask his or her identity.

A pseudonym is another word for alias, which simply means a false identity.

Why Do Author’s Use Pen Names?

There are several reasons why an author may choose to use a fake name. Many female authors, use pen names to hide their gender in hopes that they will be accepted not only by publishers but by the public. It was once believed that no one would read books written by women.

Some authors are also shy about the things they write, and prefer not to be known by their readers. Using a pen name can also take off the pressure that these authors may feel when a book doesn’t turn out the way that they planned.

Another reason why authors may choose to use a pen name, is that their real name is too difficult to remember and or pronounce. It is better to have something that rolls easily off the tongue, so that others will remember not only the name of the book, but the name of the person who wrote it.

Would You Say it is better to Use a Pen Name?

I wouldn’t say that it is better. Personally, I think that pen names are great for people who want to live a private life, and not be hassled by others who don’t agree with the things that they write. For example, if you were a doctor it would be pretty risky to write a sci-fi romance novel about a nurse, who gets turned into a half-robot by a doctor she is secretly having an affair with. If you wrote something like that under your real name, it might damage your career. Yet, if you can take constructive, and sometimes harsh criticism, and if you are able to handle being popular with book lovers everywhere, then by all means go ahead and use your own name.

What are Some Things to Think about When Choosing a Pen Name?

There are several things that you should take into consideration, when coming up with your pen name. One of the first things to think about is, the genre in which you are writing for. If you are say, writing a horror novel, you probably want to choose a more mysterious and alluring name. This is because it will add to the overall atmosphere of the book.

Another thing you want to think about is how the name flows. When authors create characters, they usually give their main character a name that is easy to pronounce. This is so that their readers don’t need to spend too much of their time trying to figure out how to say the character’s name. Creating characters is similar to coming up with a pen name, so it is very important to give yourself a name that isn’t difficult to say. If the name you choose is long or hard to remember, use initials rather than your full name on your books. This way it is much easier for readers to find the work that you have done. Remember the name you use is extremely important when it comes to marketing your books. Choose something that will best suit the identity you are trying to create.

Are There Any Famous Authors That Use Pen Names?

Of course there are! Why, there has to be over a dozen, well-known authors that have used a pen name. I’m sure many people are familiar with Benjamin Franklin. He once used a female pen name, to disguise himself as a middle-aged woman back when he was a teenager. He was also quite successful with it too, and got himself published in the newspaper. Another author you may recognize is S.E Hinton, the author of The Outsiders. She used a pen name because at the time, it was strange having a female author write from a male’s perspective. Just after publishing her first book, she became known as, “The Voice of the Youth.”

 

 

Robert Daniels: Undefined

The following was inspired by a writing exercise from The English Emporium. Check them out, they’ve got a lot of great resources for students, teachers, and writers.

Every year since Robert Daniels had entered school, he had never been defined by a label. He wasn’t a jock, even though he did play sports, he wasn’t a geek, even though he indulged in science fiction comic books and he wasn’t a hipster, even though he was very good at being ironic. Robert Daniels was undefined, and therefore he felt that he was nobody. This year however, Robert decided that he was going to get a label. He devised a plan that would hopefully help him crawl up the social ladder. Robert was going to spend the first week back at high school being, whoever he wanted to be.

 

If you are interested in hearing more about this story, please let me know in the comment section.

Till next time,

 

Orion.