Monday, March 2, 2015

History Makes You Uncomfortable? Too Bad, Those are the Best Bits.

I try to stay away from politics in my blog. But I have to have this rant. In Oklahoma, they are planning to do away with AP history classes. For all the reasons stated, the one that gets me riled is; because some parts of history are too "uncomfortable."

For me, those are the best part history.

History should not just be about the best part of history. It should not be about the victories and the glorifying the good parts. And what do you consider uncomfortable?
Is uncomfortable, learning about the bloodiest battle in the Revolutionary War*? Or one of the worst man made disasters in the US, prior to 9/11?  Or a race riot so horrible, that there was an attempt to delete the history of it**?

Am I the weird one? Because I find the gore and disasters and horrible events the best parts of history. NO. Author Terry Deary made his career by telling kids about history using the awful bits. Horrible Histories would have be devoured by me if I had been lucky enough to have them when I was a kid. Yes, they are told with humor, but why is that wrong? History shouldn't be dry. It was interesting when it was happening, so it should be interesting for us.

Also has many articles about history that talk about the stupid, the strange, the unbelieveable, the badassardy of people in the past. Seriously, I think they made Simo Hayha's name known outside of Finland (HERE). Unless you were a WWII buff, you might have never heard of him.

I guess I got sidetracked... All of history is uncomfortable. But that doesn't you shouldn't learn about it. It what makes history so interesting.  Those strange, gory, or just plain weird facts about the people and places in history are far more memorable than just the dates.

And to end this, a video from Horrible Histories, at least until the BBC blocks it in America.

* I have and will be volunteering at Fort Stanwix National Monument. The Battle of Oriskany is tied to the fort's history. I recommend stopping by the fort and seeing the battlefield which is a few minutes away by car.
**Also happened in Oklahoma, so this is not the first time they have tried to alter the history.

by Mari Miniatt

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Create a Fictional Town

How to Create a Fictional Town


Mini world building.

Write about what you know. That is why it is the easiest to set a story in a real place. Especially, if it is a place that you are familiar with. But there are issues with that. Someone might call you out because you didn't put a building in the right place. Or the real place, doens't quite fit the mood of your story.

For me, it's easier to create a new place. My recent work in progress takes place in a village. And coming up with the basics of the village, took a few hours work.

Here is how I did it:

1st. Think about how much the setting will effect the story. Is it going to have it's own character? Is it just a place? How recognizable do you want it to be?

2. How big? In my Coiree series I came up with Deerbow. A large city somewhere in the midwest. My latest WIP, the little village where everyone thinks they know everyone else. I needed Deerbow to be a large city, so it could hide my characters better. The small village, because how tiny, yet remote it is.

3. Basic layout: There are two ways I have done this.
Deerbow: I hung a piece of blank paper on the wall. I drew some of the major features in, ie: the rivers and where some of neighborhoods were. I didn't have names, but concepts of the what type of neighborhoods they were. As I wrote, I would add details.
The village: I cheated. I found a map of a small town. I didn't copy it exactly. I took the main roads, then filled in my own features. Since the village was named after the falls, the river was the main feature I added. Like Deerbow, the map is hanging on my wall.

Glory in my wonderful map making skills. And the potato I use for a camera.

4. Give the place a personality. Blue-collar? Sports fanatic town? College town? A lot of retired people? A place that has seen better days? A town that only has a population boom in the summer? It's personality should fit with the mood of your story.

As you can see, you don't have to come up with the layout of everybuilsing with a complete history on each one. Make notes as you write. The church you mention in the beginning of the story, might become the scene of a major plot point later. I find it's best, not to spend too much time in the basic planning of the setting.

If a place becomes important. You may need to map out that out and fill it with the imformation you need to write the story.

Also remember, this information is for your benefit, to help set the stage for your characters. If you start to tell the readers the history of every small cafe. Something you might have created for background information, but if the characters don't need to know it. Don't bore your reader with it.

by Mari Miniatt

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why Only Lovers Left Alive is now my favorite vampire film.

Only Lovers Left Alive A movie by Jim Jarmusch.  After watching the film once, it has now taken place as my favorite vampire film. Sorry Near Dark, but you couldn't compete with Tom Hiddleston.

Yes, the appeal of having Tom Hiddleston playing a vampire was the reason I wanted to see the film. Plus, Jim Jarmusch's movies appeal to me, no matter what genre.

A few moments into the film, it became clear, this was not going to be a typical vampire film. When people ask me about the film, I say it's a slice of life type and the main characters happen to be a married vampire couple that don't live together. If you took the word vampire out of that sentence, it would be boring.

The film sets the atmosphere quickly. You are still in the real world, but you are taken into the vampire's perspective of it. What helps with the atmosphere is the ruins of Detroit. But in the film, the urban decay takes on a beauty of its own. Many of the scenes are the couple driving through Detroit looking over ruins of an former industrial giant. Again, that sounds boring, but in this film those become some of the most endearing scenes.

So many vampire films deal with the moral dilemma of being a vampire.  ie. should they kill and does that make them monsters? The film side steps that for a long time. Humans have polluted their own blood. They cannot just take anyone for a meal. Most of their blood is collected for them by medical staff. But that doesn't mean they have stopped being vampires.

A younger, annoying vampire, shows up and disrupts their quiet life together.  And she does kill someone. But their response is more of two people that are tired of her drama, and too tired to make a scene about it.

And there is the music. The soundtrack is enough to keep you watching.

I did like the new twist on the vampires. Humans that were around them, had no clue, unless the vampire had told them, what they were. The vampires struck you as slightly odd, but not menacing. They are the quiet people that sit in the back of the bar, watching everyone, and quietly talking to themselves.

The humor is dry. The observations the main characters make about us "zombies" could be heavy handed, but they are not. Overall a nice refreshing film.

Do I still like my monstrous vampires? Yes, but it is nice to see how they would be when they are not thinking about only hunting humans."

by Mari Miniatt