Hello, and welcome to my little corner of quirkiness. The purpose of this blog is to make it easier to connect with my readers. It's really that simple. The name of the blog, "Quirky Dreams," is relevant only in that my dreams are often quirky, unusual ones, and they are also where I get many of my writing ideas from. I dream in full-length, color, high-def story lines, and if they are remembered, I write them down. Parts or all of these dreams may enter a story. A story might be based around a single dream or an idea from a dream. Regardless of which it is, this is my writing blog, so kick back in your chair, bed, recliner, or airport terminal, and enjoy the blog.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Formulas and Middle Men

Let me first say that I'm not traditionally published. I've never dealt with a publishing house before, nor ever submitted my work to them for consideration.

That said, I do read articles written by published authors, and I do listen to what others have to say regarding the entertainment industry.

One of the most complained about problems with story lines, whether in movies or books, seems to be the formula stories. These are the ones that follow a tried and true formula, but they become almost predictable in the process. They are a much lower risk for publishers and television networks though, so they tend to be considered over truly original works.

I think this is why I value places like Smashwords and Amazon. They provide a place for indie authors to be heard, no matter what is written between the covers of a book. In essence, indie authors are cutting out the "middle man." The result is that more original content finds its way into my library (and probably the libraries of others). Smashwords and Amazon do the same thing for writers that Youtube does for amateur film makers. The beauty of it all is that the reader/viewer gets to decide what programming to watch or not watch.

Now, one writer explains this trend toward formulas as a "stabilizing" of the industry. For example, some writer makes a tremendous change, and it's a sensation, so from that point forward, publishers follow a formula to achieve that same success. Writing has gone through many shifts. If it hadn't, we might still be writing like Shakespeare, for all we know. Even good ol' Earth needs calm periods after changes like earthquakes.

I'm starting to suspect though that people are about ready for another shift again. While I'm not exactly sure where that shift may come from (maybe even the gaming industry--who knows?), I do know that many people are sick of the "formula story." When I can make a bet as to how a movie I have never seen will end, and actually win that bet, there's a problem. While there's nothing wrong with the comfortable and familiar, it's stories that give a unique experience that I'm craving now. After all, that's what fantasy and sci-fi are supposed to be, are they not?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Go the F**k to Sleep

So, I'll admit, those words caught my attention.

Go the F**k to Sleep is a book that at first glance looks like a children's book. The cover displays a child sleeping with adorable looking tigers.

In reality, it's described as a bedtime story for adults, specifically focusing on parents with children who just can't sleep.

What's even cooler is that this book made it to the #1 spot on the Amazon best seller list.

I'll admit, I think the idea of creating a bedtime story for adults is genius. I'm even tempted to buy the book for myself. It looks fun! Even more interesting is this article though, which details how the book became such a success.

Just goes to show that nothing beats a shocking title and a sense of humor!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Unreliable Narrator

This is probably my favorite literary tool. So what is it? It's when the person through whose eyes you are looking is not reliable, or their understanding of events is "compromised." Some good examples in movies have been American Psycho, The Sixth Sense, or Shutter Island. I won't go into details and spoilers for each of these, but for those of you who've seen them, you'll understand. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an example in literature, where the character only sees the good sides of people, so the reader's viewpoint is just as limited.

The unreliable narrator isn't a new tool. In fact, it's very old, but I think it's one that could be used more often (are you listening, film industry?!) to add new twists, turns, etc. Finding out at the end of the novel that everything you thought was going on was really skewed makes for a really unique experience. Nothing beats that "Wait, wait...HUH?!" reaction at the end of a book or movie, especially in a time when a lot of what the entertainment industry produces is so utterly predictable.

So next time you're thinking about writing, or filming, or even if you're the one doing the reading or watching, give a thought to this neat little tool and how it can make things so much more interesting. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ad-Ventures With Kindle

So marketers are looking for all new ways to get our attention again. This time, the medium isn't email, or television, or annoying pop-ups. The medium is the Kindle.

For just a few dollars less than the normal retail price, you too can be bombarded by ads!

Amazon put out a Kindle that is $25 cheaper in return for displaying a stream of ads on it. You'd think that for having to put up with a slew of annoying marketing, they would give you a slightly larger discount.

I can't speak for everyone else, but I very much enjoy my ad-free Kindle. I'm incredibly burned out on internet ads. My eyes are trained to skip over them, unless they happen to be entertaining. If an ad is too annoying, I leave the page, especially if it has obnoxious audio or irritating flash sequences.

So why would I buy a Kindle that displays the very things I can't stand looking at?

Not everyone thinks the way I do though. Some people are happy to save an extra $25 on price if it means they just have to ignore a few ads to use their Kindle. Cool. Go for it. Enjoy yourself!

This writer though is tired of ads appearing in every possible medium. I'd like to keep my Kindle pure and unsullied, even if it means paying a little more for that luxury.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mary Sue - Irritating Character or Literary Tool?

Someone I once knew found out I was writing, and he said to me, "It's not a Mary Sue story, is it?"

I went "Huh? What's that?" and this person proceeded to direct me to a Mary Sue test.

Now, for everyone who is currently just as confused as I was in that moment, let me provide a definition. Wikipedia defines Mary Sue as "a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader." See the link for more info about the origin of the term and other details.

My first characters were very Mary Sue (thank goodness I never actually published those stories). I was never quite satisfied with my writing until I began writing about characters who were so little like me as to be completely alien. It ended up being the only time I could be objective and craft a decent story.

To be honest though, there have been successful characters that are overly idealized, have hackneyed mannerisms, lack noteworthy flaws, and still managed to succeed as a character. James T. Kirk from Star Trek has been pointed out as one such character.

So, this makes me wonder. Why do we pick on Mary Sue characters if they can be used to some good in story lines?

Well, you really only have to read some fan fiction to understand that. Most of the time, the Mary Sue character isn't used very artfully. They can become sickeningly sweet, or angsty over non-problems to the point of nausea.

Now, we can probably all agree that no one likes to read a story about Little Miss Perfect or Mister Wonderful and their wonderful lives with tiny little molehills that turn into mountains. However, I wonder if you could take a Mary Sue character and put them in abnormal circumstances to make a meaningful and interesting story. I believe the movie Pleasantville did something similar to that. It started out with the perfection of an old TV show that eventually became more "real" thanks to the invasion of real life. It was interesting because the characters in the movie started out Mary Sue and eventually became real.

I'm thinking, though, that it could be interesting to take a Mary Sue and place him/her in circumstances that make the very act of being a Mary Sue type character awkward or inevitably disastrous. For example, take a wonderful, handsome, perfect man who every woman wants, and place him in a situation where he is out of his element. Such as an accidental member of an all-male submarine crew. Or take your typical Mary Sue type woman and force her to make a decision that has no good answer.

The argument can be made that because you're no longer being nice to your "Mary Sue" character, they're no longer Mary Sue. But perhaps that's a good alternative to completely revamping a character. To be honest, I think there's a very fine line between a Mary Sue-like character and a literary tool at times. I believe the real difference is how attached the author becomes to the character.

It's always important to keep in mind (when writing) that characters are tools. You're helping others to live vicariously through them and experience their lives, if only for a few hours. You, the author, however, need to remain slightly detached so that you can mercilessly torment them, challenge them, and even kill them off (not entirely detached though - we do need to consider what the character would do by putting ourselves in their shoes!). I think Mary Sue really becomes Mary Sue the moment an author stops treating a character like a tool, and in my (very) humble opinion, anything else is an exaggeration of the term.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Ugly Kids

There is a new, free short story available on Smashwords here. If you enjoy comedy, ogres, goblins, fish, and garbage, it is probably for you. The title of the short story is The Ugly Kids.

In addition, I'm thinking about turning this short story into a series or mini-series. If that is something you'd like to see, feel free to let me know by replying to this post!

I hope you all enjoy it!