Monday, January 31, 2011

Signing "Saturday" (Belated)

Sorry for the delay on Signing Saturday guys! My weekend was quite busy, as my roommate and I just applied for a lease on our first apartment! Ain't that exciting?

This week's sentence is brought to you by Summer Ross, one of the most regular commenters on the blog (and for that I thank her a ton!). She requested that I sign "I believe in fairies."


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Now for the dissection. For the first three or four signs of the sentence, notice how my eyebrows are up. That's some of that facial grammar in American Sign Language. Basically, your eyebrows are up for the 'topic' or subject of the sentence, and they go down and you nod for the 'comment' or information about that topic. This sentence, I sign literally: "I BELIEVE FAIRIES-fs FAIRIES LIVE." The "I BELIEVE" is pretty simple: "I believe in." The last part is a bit more tricky. Now, just to say fairies isn't enough, since believe is used for "I believe in God", so there might be some ambiguity. I added "LIVE" or, exist at the end to clarify the context. In the gloss (the literal word for word, grammatical writing of the sentence) I spelled "fairies" using the manual alphabet (fingerspelling), then did my sign for it. The reason I reinforced the idea that the little flapping sign was "fairies" is also for clarity, since that sign could also mean "angel(s)" or just be me flapping my hands to someone who doesn't know the context of the sign.

So there! Feel free to send in your sentences to cheesysigning @ gmail.com. I don't have anything for next week (after this week's book review), so don't be shy. If you're curious, send me in anything: long, short, simple, complicated, etc. And if Elena and Summer want to send in something else, feel free. :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Determining Distance

I got an idea for this post when I saw a status update on Facebook of all things. It seems like a valid issue and so today is getting two posts rather than one.

There is an author I watch on Facebook who is very passionate about her writing. It acts as a catharsis for her personal issues, a therapeutic push through her past and the present of her imaginary friends. I can attest that my characters gain virtual lives of their own the more I write with them, their experiences become close to me and all that. I think every writer who works through a particular story, especially a series, becomes attached to their 'baby(ies)' and knows what this is like.

However, how much attachment is too much?

In my Consecutive Interpreting class today (more sign language) we talked about the proper way of addressing an interpretation. We talked about separating it from the signer and referring to it in neutral terms (talking about the product not the performer). In a way, we were talking about keeping professional distance. Through my writing classes, they talk about writing as a process, a technical art form. Characters are tools to achieve a thematic end. Fiction remains fiction and the creation doesn't take on a life of its own apart from what the reader feels.

With either of these approaches to writing fiction, no matter the genre, there is a risk of either losing your own identity in the work or the work losing its identity because you're not in it. I agree that passion is an integral part of writing, or else why would you write? It certainly isn't the easiest job on earth, and never the most lucrative unless you're extremely lucky. If the characters are alive on the page, if their struggles are a visceral experience, then the story is a success. Everybody knows that. But keeping that professional distance is key to not letting the lines between them and you blur.

When I was younger (yes, middle and high school where hormones are high and everything is big) I lost myself in my characters, used them to cope with my melodrama. Unfortunately, that stunted my growth as an independent entity, that prevented me from being the real, flesh and blood me. Now I know a little better and developing my own voice apart from theirs. I can relate to them all I want, but vicariously living through them just isn't healthy. I had to learn to separate myself and become a "god," guiding the lives of my creations through their trials and tribulations until they come to their natural end. I learn to delight in their hardships, find entertainment in their struggles, knowing in the back of my mind I have absolute control of the outcome. I'm the one with the control, not them.

So, letting the characters lead the story is all well and good, but as Authors/Writers we can't forget we have absolute control of our creations and ourselves. We can delight in torturing our friends for our own entertainment and nothing will happen. They are words on a page, thoughts in a mind, fiction! That is so empowering to me, that I can let my imagination play and let it create all it likes. In the end, the identity of 'maker' is the strongest thing protecting me from my characters and myself. Face it, if something out of Inkheart ever happens, writers/storytellers/authors are the first on the chopping block. So don't give the characters a chance to possess you and get their payback!

If you have had any experiences where it feels like characters are more real than they actually are, please share! What's your perfect balance of distance and vicarious living? Are characters more friends or tools to you? Are stories more art or product?

Wikipedia: The Muse

School is off to a roaring start. I had some webcam troubles (new fancy-fangled thing it is) for homework, but finally I can record and finish homework! Can't wait to use it for Signing Saturday.

Regardless, today's topic revolves around the ever controversial and useful Wikipedia. Being any kind of school, Elementary and up, you have to do research for things. Ever since the internet popped up, there have been warnings to take the information there with a grain of salt. I, honestly, love this tool. In my writing, I use a ton of mythology. I have to say, my biggest tool in doing my research is Wikipedia.

Now, tons of critics call Wikipedia unreliable, a good information source for casual browsing. I'm not saying I'll site the thing in my acknowledgements. It does work as a beautiful springboard, however. A lot of times, mythology books are expensive, offer broad stories rather than specific information, and go with conventional or popular things. With Celtic mythology or fairy lore, much of the resources I've come across aren't culture specific (either that or they're nothing but Greek stuff). Wikipedia, I can type in what specifically I'm looking for and get an entire profile of it. Their articles are really well informed too, especially if I click off from the resources. I've spent hours just going on Wiki-hunts, researching, soaking up all the info so I can shape my own ideas around it. The best thing about fantasy, also, is it's so flexible. I can tweak the myths however I like.

What do you think of Wikipedia, or even the internet in general to do your research? Is a quick Google search all you need or do you need research journals up the wazoo?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I am Twitterpated

For those of you who have seen Disney's classic matricide film, Bambi -- I know people who haven't -- we all remember the scene where Spring is in bloom and the owl talks about how everyone is "twitterpated."

"For example, you're walkin' along, minding your own business. You're neither looking to the left, or to the right. Then all of the sudden, you walk smack into a pretty face! Woowoo!" ~Owl from Bambi

This described my first relationship with Twitter. I always thought it was strange that people would give a random internet audience updates on their daily lives. It's like asking for e-stalkers. Then I read that it was actually a good way to...get ready for this...connect with people! So, I decided to give it a try. At first it was okay, I minded my business, followed a few of my friends. I had a few freak-outs over Glee episodes, informed people about my blog, and everything was swell. Then smack into the pretty face, I found people whose blogs I follow and followed them. I commented on their tweets, they commented on mine. Woowoo! It was a mystifying experience, really.

"You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl! And then you feel liiiiight as a feather and before you know it, you're walkin' on air." ~Owl from Bambi

I continue to tweet myself and reply, and retweet anything I find interesting. Then strangely enough, people continue to follow me. I even get a few direct messages. I check it on a once-daily basis, read a few more tips about how exactly to twitter well, then just decide to go with it. If this is what "e-stalkers" do, then I like connecting with other people's life updates.

"And then y'know what? You're knocked for a loop! And you completely lose your head!" ~ Owl from Bambi

The more fellow writers I follow, and helpful bloggers and everything, the more resources I'm finding. It was just like when I first started blogging and found so many wonderful people through that avenue. Not only has Twitter helped me feel encouraged as a writer, but it's also shown me some good tips to improving my craft.

"And that ain't all...It can happen to anybody. So you'd better be caaareful. It can happen to you, and you and...yes, it can even happen to you." ~Owl from Bambi

So, if you aren't on Twitter at the moment, I would love for you to join me in being twitterpated for Twitter. I'm BETartaglia if you feel like following me, and even if you don't, feel free to leave your name in the comments so I can e-stalk you in your writerly, interpreterly, regular personly journeys.

If you are already tweeting away, what's your experience with the site been like? Am I still riding the beginning high of the relationship or does it just get better from here?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Signing Saturday!

As per my New Year's resolution for the blog, since last week was Review Friday, this week is Signing Saturday!

This year's first phrase was submitted by Elena Solodow: "She was a writer."


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A little breakdown: The first sign is "BEFORE" usually meaning "in the past" or denoting the past tense of something. The pointing, or "SHE" is the generic pronoun of American Sign Language. Gender and location are entirely based on context, you just point to who you're referencing and you have "she/he/him/her" etc. The last two signs were a compound of the verb "WRITE" and a person marker of sorts. Combined they make "WRITER."

For basic sentences I can do breakdowns like that pretty easily. For longer ones, well you'll have to take my word for it.

The original concept was to translate chunks of English text people sent me into American Sign Language. I've decided to expand a bit on that idea to include little tidbits about Sign Language Interpreting. You may see these interpreters at Church if it has a Deaf Ministry, perhaps at school in a class, perhaps at a lecture or a conference, even at a play. They are nearly everywhere you could imagine! So, today's tidbit of information: a little bit about how Interpreters dress and why.


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So, I hope you enjoyed Signing Sunday! If you want to take part in the Translation portion, send your statement/text to btartaglia29 @ gmail.com.

Monday, January 10, 2011

All About the Voices in Our Heads: Characters

I recently read an interview with Nicole Macdonald, the author of the book I reviewed on Friday. There was a question in there about how her main characters were inspired by her real life best friends. Then the author, herself, commented on that in her latest blog post:

"If you read the interview I did with Kerrin (the one on her blog not mine) you'll see that some of the characters were inspired by people I know. This is very common for me to do and I have a character in mind based on a friend but I have realized that she will very possibly be killed off in book three (nothing set in stone yet, but I'm processing the possibility). It is a weird thing to say to a friend 'yeah I had an idea for a character that's rather you… but I think she dies in book three…' *hee*"

This got me thinking about what 'makes' a writer's characters. I've read plenty on a frustrating muse, plenty on how to get to know your characters and flesh them out, and plenty on how they lead your story. Laurell K. Hamilton, an author I've been reading more of recently, talks about how her characters almost literally tell her the story she writes down as she's writing it and derail her best laid plans constantly. I've personally experienced that once I have a picture of someone, they suddenly take on lives of their own. Other people, like Miss MacDonald, base their characters off people in their lives.

In a sense, I can see how this applies to some of mine. For instance, in the manuscript I'm serializing right now on The Fianna blog, there's a character named Helen Harper who loosely resembles the overbearing nature of my mom I experienced growing up and the devil-may-care, eternal teenager attitude of another mom I knew. Helen's daughter Lucy's family situation loosely resembles my own. Of course, nothing in my life involves hunting magical nymphomaniacs or homicidal ex-gods.

What would you say? Are your characters more along the lines of people in your every day life or are they a contrived mesh of seemingly random traits compiled into a single entity? Do you work with subjects you already have or play God and make up something completely different? Perhaps something in between?