Tag Archive: Firefly


high-pain-toleranceThere’s a common misconception about people with high pain tolerances. They tend to be big, beefy, and burly, usually men, and if female they’re all badasses. They shrug off bullets and sword-thrusts like they’re minor distractions; they grunt from the pain and rarely, if ever, scream.

Now, I frequently impress people around me with my high pain tolerance. Most of that is in awe; some few, such as my doctors and a close friend who helps me exercise, approach it with worry, because pain is an important thing. I have such a high pain tolerance that I often automatically ignore signals that I should really stop what I’m doing and rest. I threw out my back (a little over a year ago) and my knee (a couple months ago) precisely because I could just work through the pain . . . until I suddenly couldn’t.

How do I do that? Well, it’s not because I’m tougher than other people. I’m not beefy or burly, and I’m only big if I’m standing up and haven’t turned sideways. It’s never about your mass; it’s all about what you’re used to. Establishing that difference is the key to writing action heroes and other characters that deal with pain through the course of your story.  Continue reading

swearing-at-workWe do it a lot. Of course, we might call it different things. Profanity, swearing, cursing, cussing . . . yeah, we do it a lot.

Of course, not everyone does it to the same degree, or with the same words. Sometimes that can be amusing, at least in certain contexts. A common Australian word for a cigarette, for example, is the same word as an insult for a homosexual in the US. In the UK, a very common swear word (though less severe these days than a few decades ago) simply means to have the quality of blood in the US and Canada. And that’s where everyone speaks the same language.

Swearing serves an important function, and the fact that we all do it to some degree or another means our characters probably should as well; but when should we do it, how much, and why? Continue reading

Today, for the majority of the Novel Ninja audience, is tax day. April 15th, over half a year away from elections, because they hope we’ll forget how many extra forms they added by then.

As I described in another post (about the historical significance of March 25th), the US gets the date of April 15th by rounding off from the UK’s April 6th, which was shifted from March 25th by a medieval bigshot in Rome updating the calendar. The Canadians couldn’t let themselves be outdone by their cousins to the south, and delayed it all the way to the end of April. Australia, the land of reversed seasons, decided to flip their tax calendar and made it October 31st (yep, Monster Day). New Zealand decided to split the difference and stuck theirs in July.

The point is, everyone has different dates, and everyone knows the headaches involved. Yet taxes are often like the location of the toilet on the USS Enterprise: it’s got to be around here somewhere,  but you never see the characters interact with it.  Continue reading

Language is one of those things that people tend to be concerned with when writing science fiction and fantasy (mostly in fantasy), and yet how many SF&F authors are linguists? It’s quite possible that this is a natural outgrowth of trying to show a radically different culture from our own; or it might be that the godfather of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien, the Professor himself, put so much work into his languages.

Not everyone is a philologist, though, much less one of Tolkien’s caliber. How do we use languages in fiction without sounding like we just made it all up? How can we make it up if we’re going to keep the audience from feeling lost? How can we even hope to show a language barrier if the book’s all written in English? Continue reading

Okay, geek fans. We all know that Firefly was one of the most awesome things in the history of geekdom.

And if for some reason you disagree, then *fingers in ears* LALALALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOUUUUUU . . .

And if for some reason you disagree, then *fingers in ears* LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUUUU . . .

I could go into lots of reasons why it was a great show, but that’s not the point here. The point of this post is that there is a sort of shared community among Firefly fans that can’t ever be duplicated (well, except by Star Trek fans in the 70s . . . or Doctor Who fans in the 90s . . . never mind, you know what I mean). It’s a shared rapport over not just what it was, but what it could have been. There’s nothing more powerful than the imagination for that sort of thing.

And when you have a rapport like that, you tend to band together. And when you band together, you tend to find other fun things to share. And sometimes the people who help create those fun things show up too. And when that happens, you call it a convention.

And now Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion, with Gina Torres, Felicia Day, Seth Green, and James Gunn, are going to make a series about that experience.  Continue reading

ACDClogoThis Easter weekend happens to fall on the third weekend in April, which means only one thing: it’s time to cosplay as the Easter Bunny at AwesomeCon!

. . . okay, I won’t actually be in a bunny costume. But I will be at AwesomeCon. I was invited back to do another presentation at DC’s only genre convention (sorry, otaku, but Katsucon doesn’t count). I’ll be part of a panel this Friday at 4pm, called “Worldbuilding and Fantasy,” and giving a solo talk on Easter Sunday, “Writing Dynamic Characters,” at 11:15am.

I was at AwesomeCon last year, and it was pretty fun. It wasn’t the biggest convention I’ve ever been to (nor was it the smallest), but between what I observed and my brief conversations with Ben Penrod, the convention organizer, I could tell it wasn’t going to be satisfied with a small footprint.  Continue reading

Fooling the Audience

Normally I ignore April Fools’ Day, but it occurred to me that it would be thematically appropriate to talk about a valuable writing skill: hiding things from your audience.

“Wait, what? Hiding things? That doesn’t sound like a good idea! The whole point of writing is to tell them things!”

Exactly! But you don’t just tell them the end first, do you? You build up to it, with clues that set up the twists, but then hide those clues so that it’s still a surprise to all but the most eagle-eyed.

I feel I should issue a warning, though. Learning these concepts can lead some people to feel that all stories are ruined forever. If you’re just here for the reviews, don’t read any further. Personally, I find it enjoyable to spot the tricks, especially with a skilled author; it doesn’t ruin it any more than knowing how to spot individual brush strokes will ruin a masterful painting. Still, I’ve seen people become disappointed, and so I give you fair notice.  Continue reading

Sorry, Marvel. ALL heroes are super.

“Superpower” is a technical term used by some writers and editors, myself included. It’s awkward when used in superhero fiction, but generally speaking it’s a great term packed with a lot of information.

Your protagonist must have a superpower. Your secondary characters usually need them too. Your villain always has a superpower, but an antagonist doesn’t always need it. (Yes, there’s a difference between a villain and an antagonist. There’s also a difference between main characters, protagonists, heroes, and viewpoint characters, but that’s another blog post.) It’s advisable to have a kryptonite as well, but that’s not as important as long as you’ve practiced.

So what is this superpower thing? Flight? Super-strength? The ability to leap tall buildings faster than a speeding bullet while running alongside a train?

It can be, but it’s not necessarily supernatural. A character’s superpower is defined as anything they can do better than anyone else in the story. Similarly, a character’s kryptonite is that which forms an obstacle they cannot overcome. Continue reading

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