A NaSty Outline – Character Grid.

Being a writer can be compared to being a sportsman. Every person has something that he or she is good at, and then – they have something that they struggle with. I like to believe that I’m pretty good with dialogue but, my weakness is number of characters. I never put more than three main characters in a story, and use no more than five as back up cast. It’s therefore quite a new experience to me to write a story that has 10 main characters. After completion of the last two Nasty Pixie Tale chapters, I realized that I was slowly but surely coming apart at the seams. Some characters were falling back and becoming back up characters were as others were threatening to become quite monotonous. I had to stop this immediately and try to pull back what was threatening to become lost.

So, today I did something I have never done before. I started planning and outlining, two words which have never been associated with my writing up until this moment. I’m a fly by night writer, sitting down in front of my computer and just letting the words spill out as they come. It’s worked pretty good up until now, but things were changing. I’ve been rethinking my style and process the past couple of months and it’s become clear that I couldn’t write this way anymore. The length of my fics and the strength and unpredictability of my characters didn’t allow it.

I needed help and luckily, I knew where to get it.

During November, the urban fantasy author Kim Harrison had posted a series of blog posts detailing how she planned her writing and her books. Among her hints, one thing stood out namely her character grid. This concept pulled at me immediately, but at the time I didn’t have any use for it. Now, when I desperately tried to regain order in my story, I realized that it might just be the thing to bring what might be a potential mess in order.

This is what I came up with (click on it for a bigger document):

Β 

The layout is quite simple. On the far left, you have a list of the characters, alphabetically listed. On the top, you have the location, day and the part of the story which it was posted in. At the bottom, you have a brief description of what’s been happening in the set location. And then, you have the colours.

These are my own initiative with the character grid. I needed a way to see how active the characters have been and this seemed to be the best method. I believe it’s quite simple.

The PURPLE blocks are ‘introduction’ blocks which basically say when the character stepped into the story. BLUE blocks are general blocks. This is when a character doesn’t take up a main conversational role or when all characters are general even in their actions. Blue means balance. Then, the GREEN blocks are ‘absent’ blocks. They count as indicators when a character hardly had any conversation or lines in a part. They are mentioned and might have one line, but in general, they do not hold a conversation. The RED blocks are active blocks. They indicate intense reaction between characters, when their plight/conversation/role in the part becomes the main focus, ie – Mud having a feisty dialogue with Tiffany when they needed to enter the club house.

By using this, I get a very good perspective about what’s going on in my story, and whether I’m maintaining a balance between the characters. I can see through this for instance that two characters, Phil and Marsha, need more main interaction as they are acting mostly like supportive characters than main characters at the moment. Mud’s not there yet, but threatening to slip down to their role. Kylie’s an interesting character, because although she doesn’t take a lot of main action, she’s constantly in the general action, more so than any of the others. She does this through her dialogue and her actions so, although she doesn’t have a lot of red blocks, she’s pretty well settled in the story.

I am pretty pleased with myself as this grid produced the result that I wanted from it. I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll be able to incorporate it into all of my fics. The layout is there, now I just need to use it accordingly.

You can find the original Kim Harrison post here:
http://kimharrison.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/character-grid/

How to Filter out Vuvuzela’s on your TV

I found this article on my iGoogle today and I find it very amusing. πŸ™‚ Mainly because for the past 4 weeks I’ve been waking up to the sound of vuvuzela’s in the morning (seeing as how I live in one of the cities in South Africa which hosts matches). There is no equalizer in real life, no sound, material or ear plug which can really drown out this noise. πŸ˜‰ But, WikiHowTo seems to think that they can, so I will give them their dues. πŸ˜‰

How to Filter the Vuvuzela Noise

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
When you’re tired of the World Cup broadcast being a cacophony of vuvuzelas, it’s a relief to know that you can tone it down. Here are some ways to drown out the drone.

Steps

Equalizer (EQ) option (TV or Stereo)
The benefit of this option despite having to fiddle a bit more is that you don’t need a computer. You can perform this fix straight on your TV or stereo.

  1. Locate the equalizer. Either use equalizer on your stereo if you’re using that to listen with, or the one on your TV, if it has one. If needed, read the manual accompanying the stereo or TV for instructions on how to adjust the equalizer settings.
  2. Adjust the hardware settings of your equalizer. It is recommended to turn the frequency down as low as your equipment can go; Adam Pash recommends lowering sound level of the the frequencies 235 Hz and 465 Hz with about 40 decibels.[1] The drone sound should be considerably reduced, or even removed.
  3. Continue to adjust the different frequencies until you are comfortable with the sound. Given that all TV sets differ, only you will be the ultimate judge of what works best here. Things to consider include:
    • Level of sound of the commentators’ voices;
    • Ability to enjoy the rest of the atmosphere; and
    • The level of comfort of all persons watching at home.

Adjust Treble or Speakers (TV or Stereo)

  1. If you can’t locate an equalizer on your TV or stereo, or just can’t be bothered fiddling with it, try using your TV’s treble sound control. Locate the treble control, and turn the treble sound down as far as is possible. Doing this should reduce the vuvuzela sound enough to be bearable.[2]
  2. Try adjusting your speakers if you have a surround sound system. Try lowering the volume of the speaker that brings out the crowd noise and raise the volume of the one with the commentator’s voices.[3] Keep adjusting until you get the balance right.

Easy Free Software Option (Computer Assisted)
With this option, you’ll need to use the computer linked up to the audio of the TV. The benefit of this option is that the software will do all of the fiddling for you. The only adjustments that you’ll need to make are dependent on the age and speed of your computer.

  1. Go to the National Instruments site. Download the free software here: http://decibel.ni.com/content/blogs/Simon/2010/06/16/world-cup-2010–filtering-the-annoying-vuvuzela-noise. There is a Windows and a Mac version available, choose whichever one suits your needs.
  2. Install the software. If you don’t have the LabView Run-Time engine, you’ll need to install this also (it’s free).
  3. Insert your computer into the audio signal flow of your TV.
    • If the TV has an audio output, connect the sound card line in to this outlet. Connect the sound card’s output to your usual listening devices (such as speakers or headphones).
  4. Listen and check if it sounds better. If still needed, adjust the frequency on your computer. How much and whether you need to adjust will depend on the speed of your computer.

Video

Consumer Reports shows several easy ways to reduce the noise of the vuvuzela. Note that it doesn’t recommend paying money to do this!

Tips

  • Mute it. Watch in peace!
  • The vuvuzelas can pump out as much a 131 decibels.[4]
  • Apparently the horn “drones” (is at its most annoying) at 233Hz.[5]

Warnings

  • Not all TVs have a built-in equalizer. If you can’t find one, try one of the other methods instead.

Things You’ll Need

  • Computer for first option
  • TV or stereo for both options
  • Speakers or headphones

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. ↑ Adam Pash, http://lifehacker.com/5564085/how-to-silence-vuvuzela-horns-with-an-eq-filter
  2. ↑ Consumer Reports.org, http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2010/06/fifa-world-cup-2010-vuvuzela-annoying-buzz-sound-audio-filter-app-noise-killer-scam-setting-minimize-horns-tips.html
  3. ↑ Consumer Reports.org, http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2010/06/fifa-world-cup-2010-vuvuzela-annoying-buzz-sound-audio-filter-app-noise-killer-scam-setting-minimize-horns-tips.html
  4. ↑ Wikipedia, Vuvuzela, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vuvuzela
  5. ↑ Sharon Machlis, How to lower vuvuzela noise when watching the World Cup, http://blogs.computerworld.com/16345/how_to_lower_vuvuzela_noise_when_watching_the_world_cup

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Filter the Vuvuzela Noise. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Remembering Arlene.

If some of you have read my fan fiction, you’d have noticed that I dedicate most of it to a woman called Arlene. So, on this day the 27th of June, I thought it appropriate to tell you a little more about her and perhaps, through that – a little bit more about myself.

I was a quiet child, forced into silence by my own thoughts, imaginations and the actions of others that had given me a very unique childhood. People had always deemed my silence to be a speech impairment and perhaps to an extent it was, but the truth was that I choose not to speak. I had precious little control over anything in my life and not giving people the words they sought was my way of trying to keep some sense of control over something I considered to be mine. My mother was always at a slight loss of what to do with me because she never wanted to force me into anything that would drive me deeper into my silence. Holidays were a real challenge because she had to work very long hours and couldn’t just send me off to friends like she did with my brother. In search of a solution, she came up with child holiday courses at our local zoo and hesitantly enrolled me into one. I was eight and her action that holiday changed my life.

I loved the idea of going to the zoo, of being around the animals and of learning about the world around me. I remember my first day and as excited as I was, I was also terrified. Would they force me to speak? Would I be expected to? Will I manage or will I be left behind as I always was? Those fears became unfounded as I met Arlene.

Arlene worked as the educational officer in the department which run the courses. In retrospect, she was short, with dark long hair already riddled with gray despite the fact that she was only 28, thick glasses and a smile that made you feel as if you are the most important person in her life. My mother had taken her aside when she dropped me off and explained to her that I might not interact with anybody. I had inwardly cringed, expecting the usual pity or puzzlement that I got from other people but Arlene laughed it off and said that it’s alright – she does all the talking away. She then took my hand and instead of taking me to the rest of the kids, took me to her office where she said I should help her carry her stuff.

I liked her immediately and although I didn’t say a word to her in the two days I did my course, I went home with my head filled with stories and wonders that she inspired. It was a turning point in my life and the first ammunition I had against the silence that ruled my life. Arlene never demanded anything of me, never placed me in a situation where I’d feel forced to answer and it wasn’t soon after my second course at the zoo that I started talking to her. She never made a fuss and acted as if I had been speaking to her ever since we met. Thinking back, I realized that I had felt a resonance in Arlene, a part of me and my life that I had always been looking for. She and the zoo became a safe haven to me and slowly but surely I started thriving. When I realized that my silence wasn’t an issue, I found my voice and started using it. When my mother saw the change, she recognized the value that Arlene had added into my life and asked her if it would be alright she dropped me off at the zoo if she had to work nearby. Arlene conceded and I became a part of the Education Office, spending my time in the corner of her office until I was almost old enough to become a part of the zoo’s volunteer children’s club.

Looking back, those were the happiest days of my life, a time in which I discovered myself, discovered other people and discovered the rich diversity which the world offered us. I worked there for many years until Arlene was offered another job at the local botanical garden. Things changed then and although I didn’t lose her, it became another turning point in my life, one which put me on a path to adulthood. Arlene leaving the zoo was a big shock to me, and I was petrified that I would lose her but my fears were unfounded as her exit provided a true door of friendship for us. We started spending our Saturdays together and, because our birthdays were quite close, we would celebrate them together even though she was twenty years older than I was. Even when Arlene eventually got married at a very late age and had a child of her own, I was never far from her life and she was never far from my thoughts.

And then, seven years ago today, my life changed and turned again, once again at her hand.

Arlene went on an educational trip to Namibia and involved in a freak accident where her driver had overturned their car on a sandy road. Her seatbelt broke and she was thrown out of the window against a tree where, by all’s believe, she died on impact.

My world, my safety, my voice was destroyed.

Her death, although it was not the first one that I’ve experienced in my life, left me with a pain so unbearable that for the better part of two weeks I hardly said a word even though I had long since left my days of silence behind me. As I sit here, it is still so real, so vast that I feel the only way to deal with it is to ignore it, to force it away and pretend that it never happened.

Mostly, that is what I do. I ignore it, ‘forget’ Arlene even though her hand in my life is still so visible in my speech patterns, my reading, my stories and my interests. But then, from this day onwards until the 31st of July which was her birthday, I allow myself to remember her, to feel the pain and emptiness of her death but also to remember all the joy that she had given me. The gift that she had given me of a life without fear, the love of teaching and the love of learning.

So, I will carry her with me in the next 33 days, I will carry her memory, her voice and her laughter with me. I will thank her for the gifts she had given me, mourn the loss of her, and hold the hope that I can one day mean as much to someone as she had meant to me.

NaSty Pixie Tale Part 9

We’re continuing with the Nasty Pixie tale. I discovered today that you can time set your posts. I think it’s a very cool feature, but I didn’t need to use it for this one because I ‘posted’ this one on a different day than my last post, lol. Anyway, enjoy! Two more Nasties will be joining us shortly…

Nasty Pixie Tale Part 9

There were a few shocked moments of silence, then Phil started running, his eyes wide as he yelled.

“Flap your wings Alyssa!! FLAP THEM!!”

Antonio and Marsha broke into a run with Phil, and before long all three of them were running underneath the large, gliding shape. They couldn’t see Alyssa’s face as she glided from the roof, but they clearly heard her curse as she started to flap her large wings.

“Shit!” she yelled and started beating them strongly, gaining a little bit of altitude. “Shit, shit shit!”

Phil laughed heartily and flapped his arms in demonstration. “Don’t curse!” he yelled. “Flap your wings! Focus!”

“Backseat flyer,” Marsha barked with a laugh as she looked up at Alyssa, who was gaining more altitude, then in front of her to see where she was running. “Oh… ALYSSA! TREES! WATCH OUT!” They were approaching the tree line and unless Alyssa turned out or pulled up, she was going to fly straight into them. There was a strangled gasp from the sky as Alyssa noticed the green barrier coming her way.

“Pull up!” Antonio yelled as he raced next to Marsha. “Pull up now!”

Alyssa made a desperate attempt to change direction and fly higher but her reaction time was too slow. With a loud yell of something that could only be rude in her own language she disappeared into a tree with a loud crack of branches and a shower of leaves. The three Nasties raced to a stop below it and looked up, Phil leaning forward to catch his breath before he too peered up.

“Alyssa!” Antonio yelled as he reared up against the bark and peered into the dark depths of the tree. “Are you alright?” He shook his head to get rid of the leaves that fallen on his face.

“Bloody awesome!” The Nasty’s yell came down.

Marsha peered up and just managed to spot a dark shape clambering towards the tree trunk. “Come down slowly!” she yelled. “We might have to change the direction that you start off in next!” There was a pause followed by the alarming sound of a branch cracking.

“Look out below!” Alyssa yelled as the branch which she had broken started dropping down. The Nasties scattered but the branch got caught halfway down and stayed put. The three gathered around the bottom again, trying to determine whether Alyssa was coming down. It looked more as if she was climbing up.

“Alyssa!” Marsha yelled again. “Are you coming down?!”

“Not enough time!” Came Alyss’s breathless reply. “Gonna jump!”

A feral grin spread over Antonio’s face as he moved out from underneath the tree. “Knew she’d get into the swing of things,” he said to Marsha and Phil before looking up again. “Don’t break your neck! Tell Suzanne we’ll clear a landing patch!” His holler was met with silence as the other two joined him. “Alyssa?”

Without warning, a black shape launched itself from the tree yelling. “BATMAAAN!” Alyssa plummeted to the ground at an alarming rate but managed to spread her wings quickly enough and did an almost 180 degree turn as she flew up at the same speed she had been falling. The three looked at her surprised and then, a zombie “WOOT!” from the cottage spurred them into a wild chorus of celebrating cheers with Alyssa disappearing from their view in pursue of the tiny light in a fit of manic laughter.

&&&

Kylie was of the firm opinion that Ninja’s could do anything, but even she had to admit that they didn’t have limitless strength and stamina. She was getting very tired but she pushed herself onwards to make sure that she didn’t lose sight of Suzanne’s airship and through that let down her Nasty friends. She could deal with a lot of things in her life, but that wasn’t one of them.

Taking a breather in an old, burned tree top she stood up and rubbed her brow. She had long since taken off her mask, but she debated putting it on again as the air was getting colder as darkness fell. The light was getting depressingly small in the distance and Kylie knew with a bitter certainty that it was only a matter of time before she lost it completely. She took out her mask and was about to pull it over her face when someone whistled to her. Kylie turned surprised to see a dark mass fly towards her.

“Kylie!” The mass yelled. “Mask! Please!”

Kylie blinked and yelled joyously. “Alyssa! You’re flying!” She punched her fist into the air but almost lost her balance. Luckily, she managed to steady herself with her super ninja balance.

“I am batman!” The flying Nasty laughed as she made a quick circle around Kylie. “I’m cold too! Mask, please!”

She snatched the piece of material from Kylie’s hands as she held it out with a laugh. “Fly my pretties, fly!” The ninja yelled and almost lost her balance again. She hunched down this time to watch Alyssa fly off towards the airship with a grateful; “Thank you!”

“Well,” Kylie said to no one in particular as she looked back in the direction which she had come in and where she judged the cottage should be. “My work here is done.”

&&&

Alyssa rarely admitted that she was wrong or rarely believed that she was really. But on the odd occasion, being proven wrong wasn’t as bad as it could be and in this moment, with the wind howling in her ears and nothing but air between herself and the dark landscape, she was quite happy to admit that she had been terribly, rudely and stubbornly wrong.

Flying was incredible and with every passing second she could feel her perception of her surroundings increase as her muscles remembered an act she had never done before. She ‘remembered’ turning, diving, flying higher and lower and, she hoped that she ‘remembered’ landing. But that wasn’t really her concern at the moment as she gained ground (or rather air) on the airship. It was a magnificent flying machine, much larger than she had originally anticipated. There was a cargo net hanging from the one side, strapped down securely to the bottom of the ship to form a ladder of sorts on the side. Alyss decided to aim for that instead of attempting to navigate between the ropes and cables keeping the blimp and ship together. She flew quickly until she was right next to the cargo net and reached out to pull herself closer. In the wind and with the limited space that she had she couldn’t fold her wings immediately and rather just pulled herself up, keeping her wings at such an angle that prevented the wind from pulling her away from the side. She just managed to get her arm over the side of the ship’s railing when a bright light suddenly exploded before her eyes, followed by a very loud, very angry, battle cry.

“FΓ©roun tiΜ± maΓ―moΓΊ!”

Startled, Alyssa barely had time to see a tiny sword flash mere millimetres from her face before the wind jerked her away from the ship because she had moved her wings in the wrong position. She plummeted several feet before she managed to get her body in order again and make the transition from falling to flying.

Cursing to herself as she once again tried to get close to the airship, Alyss knew with certainty that Suzanne wasn’t alone…

&&&

To Be Continued…

To speak again,

Hello everybody,

It’s been sometime that I’ve put down a proper blog post and I thought here in this moment is as good a time as any. Things have been interesting on this side. I have been studying like mad to get some modules of financial management for a potential job at one of our banks. I had taken my studying seriously, but had hoped that it would be unnecessary because I was waiting for a job at an animal feed company to be awarded to me. Sadly, after three interviews and six weeks of agonizing over it, the company decided that I didn’t have enough sales experience to take on the job. To say that I am crushed would be an understatement and the only reason I’m not dropping down into a complete depression is because they had messed me around the past few weeks. I can’t help but feel: You know you bastards, I didn’t want to work for you anyway.

If I say it enough, I might just start to believe it.

My options are becoming fewer at an escalating pace. This job had been one of the only opportunities that I had to the agricultural sector here. Or rather, the sector that I wanted to be in. There are always different sides to the same coin and now, it seems that it might just be the financial part that opens itself up to me. Or rather, I hope so – I suspect that at the end of the day they might also tell me that I do not have enough experience as well. It’s a depressing concept but one I have to deal with.

My countries been quite exciting to live in the past couple of days with the Fifa World Cup in progress. Our team, Bafana Bafana had drawn their first match (1-1), lost their second (3-0) and finally won their last match (1-2). This happened last Tuesday evening and, although they didn’t win with a big enough lead to go through to the second round, I have to say – I am very proud of our boys. They went in as the lowest ranking team and still managed to finish with their heads held high. Tuesday’s match was something to be seen as they carried the hearts and souls of our whole nation. I hope that their triumph will be one for my country as well, so that we can continue to stand as a nation united.

So – for interest sake, I have received my very first blog award! It’s called The Versatile Blogger. I tried to google it to give you a little bit of a history as to who had started it but alas, all I came up with was previous winners, lol. But, that’s alright! I can brag anyway.

Now, this blog does not come for free. Oh noo… Like most things in the world worth having, you have to work for it by:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (in no particular order)
  4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

So, yes. <laughs> Let’s begin.

Firstly – I would like to thank Aheila from The Writeaholic’s blog for giving me this award. She is one of my Nasties and, I have to say – I admire her very much. I sometimes feel as if Aheila has her shit together a lot more than most of us. πŸ˜‰ No offense to you other Nasties. She works, she teaches, she writes, she blogs, she cooks for 60 people and she wears her hair bright blue. If I’d do half of those things I’d pass out from exhaustion. So, Aheila – to you in admiration, thank you. You can find the link to her website in my Blogroll.

Secondly – to share 7 things of myself.

Oh dear. Ah.

  1. I don’t like mushrooms. Don’t even try to sneak them into food, I know all, I see all, I spit all out…
  2. I worked as a spinal care worker for 3 months.
  3. I dream of flying almost every night for as long as I can remember.
  4. I am, sadly, happier with horses than I will ever be with people.
  5. I can wiggle my ears.
  6. I like swaying from side to side on one spot. In a queue, in a line, in a supermarket, in my restaurant. I can’t help it, I love the sensation it creates in my brain… (Probably the loose bits shaking around on the inside).
  7. I got kicked in the face by a cow and I survived.

Right. The third task is a bit trickier (and through that, the fourth one as well). I can pass it onto my other Nasties, but they’ve already received it from Aheila. So, I’m going to take note, and come back to you guys on this one. I need to still find 15 other blogs, lol.

So, on this note – I am going to love and leave you all for the day with a quote from Richard Bach. Thank you again for reading, for sharing in my life and for just being there. It’s always appreciated.

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”Β