Do You Like Brainal?

No, brainal. Do you like brainal?

Ok. No. Before your mind goes too far into the gutter, let me explain. I’m not sure who coined the term – it seems like Matthew Hussey made up this version of the word since the urban dictionary versions seem a bit different – however, I like the little neologism of puzzle pieces. Its sly inferences make it the perfect word for what it is. Like an innuendo that isn’t as dirty as you expect that becomes a kind of inside joke.

Why Smart Is Sexy
(AKA Do You Like Brainal?)

Anyway.

Long story short: smart is sexy. If you want more details, watch the video – he explains the definition far better than I could ever do. Plus, it’s funny, so watch, learn, and enjoy.

Hilarious, yeah? Plus, it’s true.

Just like grammar is sexy, smart is sexy. People like having intelligent conversation, and opening up to each other (even in little bits) is how we bond.

You know what that means, right? It means that the days of women acting dumb to attract men is over (one can hope – sorry, pet peeve). Today, if you want to attract a man, entice him by discussing intellectual topics that interest him (and you. preferably.).

If brainal is sexy, then going to book clubs and writing circles could be considered a kind of training. In fact, someday, getting an education and practicing conversation could replace reading those “How to Get a Man” magazines.

Ok. I know. But a girl can dream!

5 Ways to Use Inspirational Speeches in Your Story

ways to use inspirational speeches in your storyPersuasive speeches are such a strong, traditional way to motivate people that they show up not only in life but also in books, movies, musicals, and more. Here are a handful of examples of ways to use inspirational speeches in your story.

How Persuasive Speeches Affect Plots

It may seem like an inspirational or persuasive speech has an obvious purpose, and from the speaker’s viewpoint, that may be true (Persuade so-in-so of x). Within the arc of a larger story, however, things can be a bit more complicated.

Sustaining Suspension of Disbelief

The perfect example for this use is William Shakespeare’s Henry V. Henry’s army is hungry, tired, and likely suffering from malnutrition issues like dysentery. They’re faced with overwhelming odds of better armed, better trained, and better fed/rested soldiers. They’d have to be complete and utter idiots to willingly go into that battle when faced with another option.

Yet from history, we know that they not only went into battle, they won.

As a reader or viewer, there’s a very strong question of “Why?” in that situation. And there needs to be an equally strong answer, or the fact that they stayed to fight (and die) becomes unbelievable. So you see, for Henry, the purpose of the speech may be to convince his men to fight, but for the bigger picture, the purpose of the speech is to make us believe that they would stay. That he successfully convinced them.

Either way, it has to be a phenomenal speech. Luckily, Shakespeare was up to the task.

Sustain & Entertain

A weaker version of the first option happens when the answer to “Why?” doesn’t need to be as strong. Then, the speech is only partly showing the audience that, yes, the leader convinced the rest to do x, y, or z. The other part? Well, the other part is for form – it’s there to entertain.

Parody, Comedy, & Commentary

In stories that are especially trying to be funny or that are trying to bring attention to a specific problem, the main purpose of the speech may be its similarity to another speech.

In a comedy, the similarities combine with the plot to add different levels of humor. In a commentary, the reactions to the speech and the resulting plot paint a picture of either the world the author wants or the world the author fears.

And, of course, speeches can be used in both ways at the same time.

Characterization

Not to say that the others don’t include this reason, but there are times when the main purpose of the speech is characterization. Or to give Dean Martin a chance to sing. Take your pick.

Exposition

Most of the time, inspiring speeches happen towards the end – right before or even during the climax. On rare occasions, however, it comes close to the start of the story. For example, it could be

  • said by a small faction who play a very small role in the plot (like a group of crazies that everyone pretty much ignores). In this case, it’s usually a speech about something that no one else really cares about that happens to provide details on the setting and social situation.
  • given by the losing side of a conflict that happens before this particular story starts (like the first episode of Firefly, for example)
  • spoken by a side character, but the focus is on the main character’s reaction to it

And so on.

Here’s an example that not only provides exposition but also works as a part of the inciting incident – both through it’s delivery system and message.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch Star Wars Episodes IV-VI again. Have fun using inspirational speeches in stories!

What Is DISC and Why Should I Use It for Characterization

If there’s one thing people like to do, it’s categorize types of people. Myers-Briggs, a Jung Typology Test, combinations of the two, other variations – there are tons of options. So the short answer to “What is DISC?” is that it’s another of those personality tests. Why should I use it for characterization? It’s simple.

No, seriously, it’s simple – DISC is simpler and in many ways more concise than the other personality tests because of the terms it uses for its 4 characteristics. They’re characteristics that can easily be broken down into terms the average person can understand – and apply.

What Is DISC?

Want to learn more? Here’s a video that explains DISC far better than I ever could.

Seems pretty understandable, right? (There’s nothing better than clearcut and funny for really teaching you something, is there?)

We watched this video the other night in my first real estate training course (Woohoo!), and I immediately started thinking about how to use it in my writing (I guess I have a one-track mind.).

Why Should I Use It for Characterization

Having already thought about using personality tests for characterization, I could easily see the advantages of using DISC rather than other personality tests – you can figure out the character’s main type without taking any tests. Maybe, if you have a really strong understanding of the other tests, you could do that, but if you don’t (like me), then, analyzing all the parts of the character’s personality is probably more intimidating than thinking: My character likes numbers and facts. My character’s a C.

Ok, yes, people (and characters) are going to have overlap into the different types. Maybe, the character’s mostly a C with equal parts D and S, and a weaker I tendency. That’s still useful for figuring out character behavior – it’s like a rough summary as opposed to the detailed analysis (if you’re a strong C, you might not like this version…).

The video even starts to go into this. It also discusses how the main character type can change in different circumstances. That’s my favorite part because I think those differences are an integral tie between characterization and realism. People act differently surrounded by friends than they do surrounded by enemies (usually, anyway).

Is DISC a substitute for fleshing out your character’s background and knowing your characters well?

No. Absolutely not. DISC is a useful tool for exploring your characters – it’s a way to get that vital information, not a way to bypass that information. It’s also a useful reference tool for once you have the information. Instead of reading through the whole character history, you can glance at a character’s DISC  evaluation and use that to figure out an appropriate response.

You could even make a graph of it if you’re visual. Or use an existing graph that you think fits as a reference.

what is disc and why should i use it for characterization

There you go – 4 opposing options

I also like that the video talks about the way these personality traits are distributed in society. It’s useful for examining the overall layout of characters in your book. Although I wouldn’t worry too much if your protagonist group doesn’t match those percentages – it’s not uncommon for similar personality types to wind up in the same field or social groups. So there will definitely be subgroups in society where the DISC percentages are more highly I or D. Just be aware that conflicts and tensions may also be more common or more commonly dramatic as a result (like he said).

Welp, there you go. Lots of different facets of DISC to consider using in your writing. What do you think? I figure the video answered “What is DISC” pretty fully, but did I answer “Why should I use it for characterization?” Are you sold?

Mad Lib Theater with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jimmy Fallon: Genius

Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Mad Lib Theatre is geniusI don’t know about you, but growing up, Mad Libs were one of my favorite school games. Maybe that’s why I like making my own Mad Lib-style versions of famous works (Like Romeo & Juliet Performed by an Actor with Malapropism Problems, Malapropism & Robert Frost, and Malapropisms in Wonderland), but then, of course, I love words – so I like most word games.

As an adult, Mad Libs are the type of somewhat-safe-yet-funny icebreaker games that businesses or family-friendly gatherings can use. The kind that the “cool” coworkers snicker at. Let’s face it, word games don’t get as much respect as say, I don’t know, sports.

Unless you’re Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch.

They took the Mad Lib idea and made it into an acting improv exercise (ok, yes, they had cue cards, but still…). Basically, the Mad Lib became the script for the scene. They made Mad Lib Theater – which is hilarious, by the way!

From watching them fill it out to watching them act it out, this clip has plenty of funny moments. I gotta say, it’s given me an even greater appreciation for these two. You have to watch it (srsly) – although, warning, the audio is a bit NSFW (depending on your work), so you may want to wear your headphones.

Mad Lib Theater

How awesome is that? Like many golden comedy moments, the best part of it is watching the two of them try to keep a straight face while saying completely ridiculous things. And ridiculous things are practically guaranteed with you put a creative wordsmith and a Mad Lib together.

Experienced Mad Libbers know that random, unrelated answers make for the best results, and there is no doubt that Benedict Cumberbatch is an experienced Mad Libber. Either that or drunk (It’s amazing how similar the creative mind and the drunken mind can appear to the uninitiated.).

Come to think of it, I wonder if anyone’s turned Mad Libs into a drinking game…

Of course, they have. And, of course, they’re available on amazon. I wonder if this came before or after CAH… (And what’s next… The adult version of MasterMind? No, don’t tell me.).

But I digress…

Long story short: Mad Libs are still awesome (“cool” coworkers aside), Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch found a new way to make Mad Libs even more awesome (Huzzah!), and we should 1. Watch and enjoy their Mad Lib Theater and 2. Follow their example and come up with new and creative ways to use Mad Libs.

Lay on, ____________ !
                  a name

Expert Wordplay: Victor Borge’s Phonetic Punctuation & Inflationary Language

If you like wordplay (especially with onomatopoeia and homophones), then start out your Sunday with a good laugh with Victor Borge’s “Phonetic Punctuation” and “Inflationary Language.”

“Phonetic Punctuation” by Victor Borge

Victor Borge combines onomatopoeia, nonverbal gestures, and punctuation into this hysterically funny bit. There are any number of cuts for these videos, but I think the explanation beforehand is very valuable for the buildup.

“Inflationary Language” with Victor Borge (the first half of the video clip)

Watching Victor Borge’s “Inflationary Language” will make you think, but it is well worth the brainpower. If you enjoy worldplay and twisting words and meanings around for humor, then Victor Borge should be right up your alley.

These excerpts are a great example of the art of the unexpected because his unique ideas put a wonderfully unusual twist on the English usage and meaning. On top of that, the examples are expertly crafted for humor. In fact, check out the whole show (The Best of Victor Borge), and you’ll see that he uses both pronunciation (through accent/inflection) and the different meanings of language regularly. You could learn a lot from studying how it’s put together – let alone his timing and delivery.

Or you could just watch them repeatedly and laugh yourself silly like I do.

The World’s Oldest Living Things Make Great Inspiration for Worldbuilding

Rachel Sussman’s TED talk, “The World’s Oldest Living Things,” is amazingly eye opening. I don’t know about you, but I never realized how old some plants, fungus, coral, etc. live to be. Some of them are thousands of years old! In fact, all the creatures I saw in this list were at least over 1,000. Some were over 80,000. Actually, at least 1 is over 400,000 years old.

Holy crap, that’s old!

Anything that survives that long is pretty special in my book, which makes it great fodder for writing books. Here’s the video, and the transcript is below. It’s definitely worth a look!

5 Celebrities Reading Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky

Speaking of celebrities reading poetry and other literature on youtube, a lot of people seem to like to post themselves or celebrities reading Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”

Why that poem in particular? I’m not sure. Perhaps, it’s because of the acting challenge. When so many words are made up, reading with meaning and feeling can be more difficult (how do you say that?). The trick (IMHO) is to remember that each of the nonsense words has meaning – even if you don’t know exactly what that meaning is. Assume something and go from there.

In any case, here are some famous celebrities reading, reciting, or otherwise performing “Jabberwocky” on youtube – because why not?

  1. Benedict Cumberbatch reciting “Jabberwocky”
  2. Neil Gaiman reciting “Jabberwocky”
  3. Christopher Lee reading “Jabberwocky”
  4. The Muppets performing “Jabberwocky”
  5. Ian McKellen reading “Jabberwocky”

Which is your favorite?

Brave New Voices Competitors Shout the Power of Poetry

I don’t know about you, but I think the fact that some young people are embracing poetry as a means of expression is awesome. The Brave New Voices Festival encourages teenagers to get involved in poetry and gives them a place to share their works, and these three girls used that podium to make a big statement. The continuing recognition and strong responses they’ve received for their performances of their poem “Somewhere in America” goes to show how powerful poetry can be.

At the same time I worry that the poetry slam style has taught them to insert keywords for cheers and to shout every word. I think the keyword problem would always happen when given an audience, but the shouting worries me. If they didn’t have a mic, that would be different (although projecting and shouting are different, and the former is much healthier for your voice). But choosing to shout everything ignores the strength of the words alone. Like writing in all caps, shouting takes away from that strength and emphasizes I am shouting.

When I watch some of the other videos from the poetry slam, I see more and more group poems that follow this trend, some that go beyond poetry recitation into theatre, and finally, a few others that use the strengths of the poem to improve the delivery (“I Am a Man“). I see some that vary their rhythms, that use dynamics, that do not always shout their refrain.

I see hope.

I see hope that America’s youth will not only express themselves and get into poetry but also learn that the words and the rhythms and the rhymes have power. And that they do not need to be shouted.

Double Your Character List with Doubling

Technically, I suppose that doubling (or double-casting) isn’t a playwriting technique: it’s more a casting/directing technique. On the other hand, if your story requires a decent number of characters (especially bit parts), it can sure help to keep doubling in mind when you’re writing the play.

Doubling: when the same actor or actress plays multiple parts in the same performance

For the most part, doubling is used for background characters (waitresses, clerks, people walking by, etc.). Legally Blonde: The Musical is an extremely good example of this kind of doubling. If you watch closely, you can follow specific actresses and actors through a variety of roles (most background characters play at least three roles, and even the actress who plays Vivian has a smaller role before that character is introduced).

If you want a big character list on a tight budget, doubling can help. In fact, as far back as Shakespearian times (possibly earlier), small troupes have used doubling to perform plays with more characters than they had actors – or more actors than they could afford.

Can’t afford another actor? No problem! Have Bob play two parts.

Think about it: yes, you still need two costumes, but you only have to pay 1 actor. That makes your play easier to perform, which makes people more likely to perform it. As a playwright, all you have to do is to make sure that certain characters aren’t written into the same scenes. If two characters are onstage at the same time, those roles can’t be doubled (unless you have a really creative director… The Flying Karamazov Brothers did manage it).

In any case, doubling is an opportunity that’s easily overlooked when you’re writing (that’s the director’s problem, right?). You may not always want to use it. You may use it all the time – it’s hard to say.

But if doubling really works for the play, wouldn’t you rather think of it as you’re writing instead of having to go back to make it work later?

Speaking of Inspiration, Watch This Forest Breathe

If I were out hiking and saw the ground breathing, I would 1. fall down and sh*t myself, 2. take a video on my phone (once I realized it wasn’t an earthquake/giant/the world wasn’t ending), and 3. run home as fast as I could to write a story based off of it.

Luckily, someone already did the first 2 steps for me (and you).