Style Imitations


One of my  advanced composition homework problems from the past involved imitating the style of other authors, even to the sentence level. It was an eye-opening experience, because I was able to think about every single choice that the author had made in order to construct a single sentence. My task was to recreate the same tone, mood, construction, and all that good stuff, while still giving different information. Here’s what I tried.


Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.


Soon there was found a meal of well-seasoned steak, and it through its seasoning redeemed the company picnic; but no one at the event cared about the steak.


Having been charged with the “Americanization” of the newcomers, they naturally had to take on the task of defining what “an American” was and was not.


Having agreed to reorganize the sock closet, he patiently began by starting the challenge of learning what “a sock” was and was not.

Anyone think they know the sources for the model sentences?


Book review: The Leviathan Trilogy

manual papers

I love Scott Westerfeld’s past work: the Midnighters trilogy is a favorite, and So Yesterday and Peeps are both fun, imaginative stand-along novels. As a result, I was thrilled when I heard about his steampunk trilogy. The steampunk genre has always been centered on aesthetics, with visual art and clothes being it’s most exemplary mediums. The only really great work of steampunk fiction, in my opinion, is the Girl Genius webcomic series, and it’s not even straight steampunk. However, Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy is sadly lackluster, particularly given the fun setting. Like most steampunk novels, the ideas are fun but the execution has problems. To be precise, I’ve boiled it down to two. Continue reading

Why You’re Creative: Stealing

Or ripping it up. Either works.

Carry on ripping off this poster

One quote gets attributed to Oscar Wilde, TS Eliot, and Pablo Picasso, but probably came from neither. Which is ironic, because the quote is “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.” Everyone learns by copying others, from screenwriters to painters to babies learning how to speak for the first time. And since someone else has already explored the history behind stealing and remixing, I’ll present it to you in lieu of my own words.


Film Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Tackling a classical novel by turning it into a blockbuster is always going to be tough. Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby is stunning and sensational, but can’t live up to Fitzgerald’s original prose. In my opinion, though, it comes about as close as it can get. Continue reading

Book Review: Artemis Fowl ~ The Last Guardian


Eoin Colfer is a remarkably stable author. I always get what I expect out of an Artemis Fowl novel, and not in stagnant manner. He’s found a method that works, and he sticks to it. This is the eighth and ostensibly the final one in the series, which is just as well. Colfer can’t keep continually coming up with the high-concept plots that the series needs to thrive on, so he’s decided to wrap it up with a bang.

The strengths, as always, are the punchy writing and dialogue, which remain a stunning combination of quirky world-building, punny authorial exposition, and biting sarcasm from the mouths of almost every single character. The sarcasm is a norm for the series, but I got a little tired of it. There’s only one way to make a sarcastic joke in the Artemis Fowl world: state the opposite of what you are trying to say, pump up the hyperbole, and use it to diss your friends. That’s about half of the jokes in this book.

Another point to address is the book’s habit of rushing through plot points at a break-neck (though only occasionally literally) pace. The Atlantis Complex, a fairy mental disorder ailing Artemis in the last installment, is decreed to have completely healed the the opening scene of this book. That makes sense; the complex was the last book’s high concept plot, and we’ve got a new one this time. The series has always been about plot over boring believablity, as you might be able to tell from the fact that it’s about fairies with laser guns. Colfer might be reaching a little more in this book, since he needs to make sure it’s a thematically appropriate send-off, but the plot still hold together decently.

A cover comparison. For fun.

A cover comparison. For fun.

Those problems included, I still enjoyed the book a great deal, mostly because it’s heavy on an element that I don’t see often enough. It has entire vignettes dedicated to moderately irrelevant, yet  fun (and funny) side-stories. For example, Artemis’ introduction in the opening six pages has the character of Dr. Jerbal Argon, who attempts to diagnose Artemis, fails, and is instead diagnosed by Artemis. The only purpose is to establish Artemis as a capable super genius, but it still tells us about Argon’s personality. More examples include the unneeded but entertaining chapter titled “Engineer Ozkopy Has The Last Word” in which a perfectly ordinary dwarf named Kolin Ozkopy (get it?) who, knowing he’s about to die by the hand of the recently escaped Opal Kobi, decides to at least annoy her as much as possible beforehand. Also, a slim chapter is devoted to explaining  to the reader how intelligent trolls are, how they’re drawn to magical hotspots, and how Gruff is the biggest and baddest, having been called both Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman in the past. This chapter does tie into the plot later, when the troll turns up and confuses everyone with his random arrival.

Colfer’s habit of writing entertaining side-stories not only serves to expand his world in a fun, anything-can-happen way, but it also lets him hide future plot points, setting up twists later. He understands the essential element to writing good plot twists: he must write in a manner so fun that no one realizes he’s setting up the future story. I haven’t liked any of Colfer’s other books as much as the Fowl series, but I’ll definitely take a look at what he comes out with next. I’m sure he’ll have another best-selling series in the pipeline.

“Author Quest”


“Author Quest” is an official contest to pick the author of a Dark Crystal prequel.

The newly established webpage and Facebook page for the “world of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal” has created the contest to rustle up a new series of prequel novels for the franchise. It makes sense… fantasy and science fiction have been going strong for the last decade, and so has resurrecting past commodities. The rules, furthermore, make it clear that it’s a work-for-pay situation. I’ve copied the most interesting section:

4. Each entry will be the sole property of the Sponsors. By competing in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to edit, adapt, publish, copy, display, reproduce and otherwise use their entry in connection with this Contest and in any other way, in any and all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world, in perpetuity, including publication on Further, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to use each entry and the winner’s name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising, trade and promotional materials, without notice, review or approval, or further compensation or permission, except as set forth herein, and except where prohibited by law. Sponsors are not obligated to use, publish, display or reproduce any entry.
5. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. By competing in this Contest and/or accepting a prize, entrants release Sponsors, their parent, subsidiary and affiliated companies, the agencies of any of them and the authors and/or editors of any books promoted hereby from any and all liability (including legal fees and expenses) of whatever nature or kind arising out of or relating to participation in this Contest or the awarding, acceptance, use or misuse of the prize. You understand that Sponsors may already be exploring, may have already explored, or may in the future explore programs and ideas generated by employees or others that resemble your idea. Therefore, you hereby forever waive, and release Sponsors from, any claim that you may at any time have that Sponsors misappropriated your idea or any portion of your idea in any present or future programs or activities of Sponsors.  By entering, you hereby forever waive, and release Sponsors from any claim, including any claim for injunctive relief, that you may have at any time in the future related to your entry and/or Sponsors use of your entry. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL THE RELEASED PARTIES BE LIABLE FOR INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES, ATTORNEYS’ FEES, OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES.

~The rules.

They’ve thrown in an entertaining introduction to the world, also, written from the viewpoints of several different races of the muppet-like creatures that populated the 1982 film: it’s titled The Gelfling Gathering.

To enter, fans must submit a 7,500 – 10,000 word manuscript of “the first chapters, final chapters, a collection of middle chapters, or a short piece that would form the inspiration for a novel-length story.” It’ll be judged based on storytelling, characters, creativity and originality, and writing ability. I think I’ll look into submitting an entry. The reward if it’s chosen is 10,000 dollars, and the only thing I stand to lose are a few cool ideas.


Recent happenings – 6/14/13




Here’s a few HackCollege posts I wrote:

How to Relieve Anxiety Naturally with Meditation

Plenty of people have praised meditation as a great way to relieve stress. But now we have the evidence to back up that claim. A recent academic article found that meditation “attenuates anxiety through mechanisms involved in the regulation of self-referential thought processes.” In other words, by calming yourself with meditation, you can beat your anxiety. Meditation is a great tool that everyone should figure out, especially college students trying to handle one of the most stressful tasks around: finding a career. Your heartbeat skipped just reading that, didn’t it?

Here’s how to get started on improving your well-being.

Read the rest.


The Professional Details of Job Searching

Pixar’s Andrew Stanton once said “If you want someone’s attention, whisper.” He means that the tiny details count. To succeed professionally after graduation, you need to stand out from the crowd. And nobody’s perfect, which means that in order to stand out, you need to have a few perfect touches that everyone else misses.

There are plenty of sources of information on the big things – resumes, connections, interview etiquette – but there are also plenty of more obscure details that need to be perfect, and are seldom mentioned by anyone. Here are a few of those tiny things that you need to keep professional:

Read the rest.

My thoughts on settings vs. story.


Now there’s a setting.

And here’s part of an interesting post I found on a subreddit. It explains one of the reasons why I dislike high fantasy (stories set in completely different fantasy worlds) — they very often focus on their uninteresting settings rather than give me an engaging story. I only like world-building if the world is inherently cool. Elves and dwarves were cool once.

One of the main complaints in genre fiction today is the amount of information the reader receives. It’s easy to set a scene that a reader is familiar with. But a new world, or galaxy, filled with strange sentient life? That’s an awful lot of information to throw at a reader. It was an awful lot of information for you as the writer to come up with, too. It’s a big accomplishment, without doubt. But all that effort means nothing if there’s no story to tell within it.

But what constitutes a setting? Most people answer with ‘the time and place a story takes place in’. So one answer could be Victorian Paris. Another could be in an arm of a distant galaxy. But the place isn’t the only thing that creates the setting. The general populace creates it too, and their cultures. Languages. All those things that go into your worldbuilding, before you even decide who the protagonist is.

Which is the problem, right there. To write about the struggle between two cultures isn’t a story. Broad stroke generalizations about the deep-set hatred between dwarves and elves is setting, even if you have one dwarven and one elven character that are forced to team up. It shouldn’t be a situation where you throw two characters together and they espouse for page after page about why their point of view is correct. Or go into the nuances of the conflict every time they open their mouths.

What is your central conflict?

~Tellenue, from “Write a Story, Not a Setting,” found on