How To Be A Better Writer: Edition One

Nobody’s perfect; I’m sure even the Dalai Lama himself has a few character flaws left to work on before 2k18 rolls around. Improvement is always possible, no matter how skilled you are in a particular field. If you feel your way with words needs a tweak or two, here are some morsels of wisdom I’ve picked up as the years have ticked by and my pen has evolved into a QWERTY keyboard.

Let it flow. Like a menstrual cycle or a riverbank, your words should ooze out as organically as possible. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to pen something for somebody else? Naturally this is because you’re not invested in the results. Even if you care second-hand, if the words aren’t a reflection of you than the pressure is no way near your shoulders. Relax into your writing. Remove your judgement. Ignore the outcome. I guess I’m advocating ‘mindfulness’ here, which is just a buzzword way of saying ‘be in the moment’. A lifelong battle for all adults but one that pays off, particularly in the realm of wordplay.

Kill your darlings. Egocentricity is a habit of humanity. It seems ludicrous to the self-proclaimed writer that any element of their literary alchemy should be omitted from a paragraph because it might be a mis-match in tone, intent (etc.) but sometimes this is the case. Accepting that is the first step on the road to getting over yourself and producing more coherent texts. You can always save a killer line if it’s truly too poetic to dispose of entirely. That’s the beauty of CTRL+C.

Do it. You can’t be good at it if you never do it. So do it, a lot.

Narcotic abuse ‘Worked for Bukowksi. While I think it’s crass to present an image of yourself as a drinker who writes, rather than a writer that drinks, I will acknowledge the inspiration that uninhibited thinking and serotonin-depleted pondering brings. I’ve had inebriated states that enable me to stop procrastinating and continue wording, along with morning-afters that turn me into Socrates for a few hours on account of my philosophical word-vomit. Choose your poison wisely and don’t over-indulge. I’m not going to let my flippancy take the burden of your poor willpower, reader.

 

 

 

Buffy Turns 20 This Year; 8 Reasons Why We Love It.

Another win for our old friend Time.

Irony aside, a Buffy birthday is something to celebrate. Why? I polled a few friends of mine to ask why the show has a special place in their hearts and came up with some pretty unaminous answers… but you can’t have a blogpost that just says ‘BECAUSE IT’S REALLY GOOD‘, so let me expand.

Buffy Summers

We love to watch Buffy because she’s a multi-faceted heroine. Joss Whedon’s empathetic depiction of a female character enabled him to create a strong woman that anybody could admire. Her physical and emotional strength coexist with her interest in beauty and relationships, she can defend herself without being portrayed as a ‘bitch’ and her quips are just as loved as her looks. She’s interesting. She’s enviable. Or as mi amigo Adam put it,

‘Buffy is a kick-ass lady. And is hot.’

Big Bads: Vamps’ and Violence

Every episode delivers some fast-paced fight scenes courtesy of Mr Pointy and the Scooby gang. Vampires are textbook cool creatures: immortal, pretty and nonchalant, however they’re the arrogant enemy in a universe where ordinary humans are heroes. The Big Bads are often disguised as harmless, like ‘the trio’, who Whedon uses to highlight the threat posed by narcissistic entitlement.

Most of the fight scenes take place in the graveyard so we get a double scoop of spook, and you can often see the microphones in shot. So ’90s.

Coming of Age: The High School Setting

It’s the perfect platform for a lot of heart-wrenching character development, as my friend Bridie pointed out, and it enables us to look at the ‘cool kids’ dynamic with a fresh pair of ambivalent eyes. We follow Buffy on the familiar journey from angsty teen to reluctantly responsible adult and we watch her grow as if we’re holding a lens up to our own past.

Life Lessons

Buffy is so beloved due to its’ thematic variety. Some episodes are non-stop comedy, some are quasi-horror shows and others simply break your heart. The wisdom sieved into the making of each story arc (beyond the first Season perhaps) is Whedon’s way of sharing his own story in a way we all find accessible. He pinpointed the more discrete feelings we bury under the surface as though he was our personal psychologists, and that’s a big part of what gives Buffy meaning.

From depression to grief to unrequited love, no avenue of human pain was off limits.

LGBTQ Representation

My friend Bridie articulated it’s importance beautifully when she said ‘the relationship between Willow and Tara was the first instance of a female same-sex relationship I’d ever seen on television. I know a lot of queer women my age credit that as something that helped them feel comfortable in their own sexualities.’ Even now, onscreen lesbian love is often sexualised. Tara and Willow were so beloved because of how tender they were to each other (we’ll glide over the obvious error he made when dealing with a certain character’s treatment).

Spike

Spike isn’t really a villain because we don’t love to hate him, – we just love him. His aesthetic is based on punk rock Londoner Billy Idol and his personality reeks of a man trapped in the toxic masculinity of pretending to be tough when all you want is to feel love. We hate the things he does but only sometimes. His backstory shows us the sensitivity his current incarnation denies him and his flawed relations with Buffy are ultimately endearing.

He’s there to remind us that nobody is entirely evil/give many fans a sexual awakening.

Five By Five

Quips and puns line the mouths of each character, whether part of the Scooby gang or not. Whedon has the talent of any hugely successful writer in that all Sunnydale residents speak with alien vernacular, where phrases like ‘totally wigging‘ and ‘five by five‘ apparently make sense. Despite this, every piece of dialogue is paced to perfection so it never feels stilted or unrealistic.

Once More With Feeling

The musical episode is one of the greatest pieces of television aired to date. Importantly, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and thus throwaway humour and cheesiness is imbued into each installment of the chosen one. The musical episode is masterful because it gives us a dose of something different while proving that experimenting with format can pay off.

The list could go on and on….

It’s camp, dated and hugely sentimental but still it stands the test of time. Buffy is the show that inspired lots of young women and made many alienated young people feel as though they weren’t alone after all.

12 simple cures for temporary sadness

1.Cook yourself a huge portion of your favourite meal so you feel full of love (and more importantly, food).

2.Watch some comedy! Viral videos, comedy shows, pranks, sketches etc. Go back to old favourites if you know they’re guaranteed to make you laugh.

3. Open up Messenger and click the name of a friend you love to talk to. Don’t be afraid of rejection – they want to hear from you! 

4.Look at inspirational quotes on Pinterest, Twitter, Google Images… let the words do the positive thinking for you.

5.Pick an item from your To-Do list and make it a Done list.

6.Help anybody that needs it, from your best friend to a homeless person. Focus on giving out hope and you’ll receive it back.

7.Seek comfort! Go to sleep : wake up happier. Win.

8.Acknowledge how you feel, accept it, then let it go.

9.Listen to upbeat songs to curb any dwelling on feelings early (it doesn’t matter if the music is classified as cheesy). Bonus points for dancing around uninhibitedly.

10.Think of the last 3 compliments you received and let yourself believe them.

11.Dig for gratitude – this includes any good experiences occurring in recent times to you or anyone else, whether big or small. 

12.Do an everyday activity that feels suspiciously adult as a victorious distraction.

 

 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Zodiac (Star/Sun signs)

Buffy Zodiac SignsWant more detail? I’ve written an analysis of why each character matches their allotted Sun sign in a 4 part series!

Part 1: Buffy, Giles & Willow,

Part 2: Spike, Xander & Cordelia,

Part 3: Tara, Anya & Angel,

Part 4: Oz, Dawn & Drusilla.

Enjoy!

Internet Nuggets: Tips for writers, Lady Gaga & Madonna are comeback Queens, Voting & More!

It’s March, somehow! Spring will fully blossom between the 19th – 21st of the month and with it, the days will finally get brighter. In the meantime, I want to share with you some of the fascinating viewpoints, pop culture highlights and morsels of news I’ve read about over the past few weeks.


Did you catch Lady Gaga at the Oscars? Her phenomenal voice slayed so magnificently, it stunned the fickle media into proclaiming her the comeback Queen.

Speaking of the Oscars, here’s some statistics on how diverse (or not) the Oscar nominees tend to be: White men everywhere.

Women have periods, whereby the uterus releases blood via the vagina for around 7 days of every month. Surprisingly, none of us consider this a luxurious event. –  It needs to stop being taxed as such.

Kurt Cobain was a feminist and his songs reflected his strong views on non-discrimination. Yes, even the unfortunately titled one.

To digress, I’m personally passionate about boldly using split infinitives because the old guidelines are definitely obsolete…

The speculation might be over by now, but Emma Watson’s response to the rumour that she scored a Prince still rules.

Not to shock you, but Apple lied. ‘Shuffle’ isn’t truly random.

THERE IS GOING TO BE AN ‘ADVENTURE TIME’ FILM by the same producers as the Lego Movie and it’s going to be awesome-sauce.

50 Shades of Grey glamourises an abusive relationship and that’s all it does. Take it from someone who knows.

When I discovered Madonna had fallen down a staircase, I mostly hoped it meant her new single gets 10x the radio play, thus silencing the misogynistic notion that she’s “too old” to make music.

If you’re a writer who hopes to produce long fiction one day, I think these 7 tips for writing a novel are pretty useful.

Noel Gallagher insulted another musician again. Only this time it was an ill thought-out slight against Beyonce’s talent.

London is becoming gentrified, including the underwhelming parts I grew up in. A writer produced a thought-provoking piece on the fetishisation of working class culture.

If you live in the UK, you need to vote. There are links to register here.

One of my favourite programmes at the moment is Cucumber, an original drama about LGBTQ lives from stellar writer Russell T. Davies.

Debbie Harry still performs with Blondie and watches The X Factor in her downtime, apparently.

Politics is interesting – don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Recently I took the ‘Vote for Policies’ survey and this is one I’m keen to see come into fruition.

INXS – Never Tear Us Apart is one of my favourite songs ever. A writer for the AV Club recently agreed with me.


I hope you’ve enjoyed these nuggets! Let me know if any of the articles inspire or enrage you particularly and I’ll respond in kind.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Character Signs. Part 3

Tara:Virgo

Tara is often cited as a perfect character due to her exceptional maturity and habit of making consistently good decisions. When Willow becomes a ‘magic junkie’ whose actions lose morality, Tara has enough self-respect to leave their increasingly toxic relationship. A Virgo has a nurturing approach to others with their incessant favours and practical advice, but this is only carried out after they’ve tended to their own needs. Virgo’s are notoriously plagued by self-doubt, causing them to evolve into perfectionists. In Tara’s case, her family capitalised on this emotional intelligence by bullying her into believing her fears were real. While she is open-minded enough to believe them in her formative years, a Virgo will not tolerate abuse for long and we soon see her defend herself. The past is not easily forgotten where a Virgo is concerned, and Tara’s scars are shown in the form of a stutter and unassuming manner, despite her considerable wiccan skill and physical beauty.This unassuming character is common in Virgo, as well as her despair at people who ignore the small details in life, “I go online sometimes, but everyone’s spelling is really bad. It’s depressing.” Notably, she provides comfort to people in need – specifically Buffy and Dawn. When a young Dawn loses her mother, Tara assumes her role by ensuring Dawn eats breakfast and distracts her from the pain by treating her to milkshakes and films. Simultaneously, she compartmentalises the other parts of her life into working order while looking effortlessly serene, like a Virgo.

Anya:Sagittarius

Anya is a Sagittarius because she’s blunt and awkward. If you’re a Sagittarian reader, I’m sorry to remind you of this truth but I thought I’d get the obvious out of the way so I can make like a fire sign and be more positive. Like Anya. She’s gone through hell – literally, and yet she’s a vengeance demon who is perpetually upbeat and childlike. She’s aware of the bigger picture and therefore chooses to avenge broken-hearted women particularly, as an act of far-reaching kindness to those most likely to suffer. Those around the Sagittarian woman know of her innocent motives so become adept at dodging the verbal arrows she carelessly slings at them. Some people (and demons) however lack the same good nature, as demonstrated by her husband Olaf’s affair and the manipulation that led to Xander leaving her at a crucial moment. To the oblivious Sagittarius, these acts of betrayal are unexpected and heart-breaking, although they do learn to forgive and we slowly see Anya rebuild her self-esteem towards the end of Series 7. A lover of the luxuries in life, Sagittarius is motivated by money a lot of the time and Anya loves money above all; not in a cynical, scheming way but because it leads to what she desires most: happiness. Her smile resembles the infamous Sagittarian grin and radiates joy, while her ever-changing hair colour reflects Sagittarian spontaneity. Sagittarius is often called a lone wolf; likewise Anya isn’t the most popular member of the gang but she’s happy in her independent experiences.

Angel:Scorpio

Scorpio is often steeped in mystery and Angel has mastered the art of brooding intensity. His words are few and his facial expressions even fewer, thereby epitomising the Scorpio character. Famed for their passionate personality and unyielding love, Scorpio will act obsessively towards the object of their desire. Before Buffy even knew of her fate, Angel lurked in the shadows of her school grounds and pined after her once she arrived in Sunnydale. Unlike other water signs, Scorpio will act upon their vengeful streak when wronged and utilise their Machiavellian tendencies. Given Angel’s notoriously evil past and penchant for taunting the more vulnerable Spike, his love of power play is duly noted. Moreover, his betrayal of Buffy is not easily forgiven by anybody, including himself, where other souls (pun intended) would choose to allude personal responsibility. Scorpio has a special relationship with absolutes: pain and truth. Physically, his imposing figure, deep-set eyes and black attire are the stereotype of a Scorpio man and so accurately match his persona.


Looking for Part 4?

Or you can start from the beginning: Part 1 and Part 2.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Character star signs. PART 2

Spike: Leo

Before becoming the notorious slayer of Slayers, Spike’s mortal friends knew him as William the bloody; a lousy Romantic poet. His words were profound and his manner was reserved, as he valued looking after his mother more than any hedonistic pursuits. Like a Leo, he never gives up on love, especially if it’s all-consuming and torturous: Druisilla taunts him relentlessly but he follows her across the centuries, while Buffy eventually steals his heart just by being the fiery badass he secretly desires. Spike’s egocentricity and flair for a dramatic story lead him to the unbeatable slayer as he knows she will never love him back. There’s an endearing sense of openness about a Leo that engenders forgiveness for their wrongdoings, and as an audience we’re tempted to root for him.

Leo’s express their individuality through their
 well-groomed hair and Spike’s peroxide ‘do trumps any other Vampire on the show. Underneath the badboy leather jacket lies a big heart.

Xander: Cancer

Xander harris is often taunted for his lack of special ability in the Scooby gang, but it would be fair to say he’s there to boost morale. When times get rough, he is there to provide comic relief in the form of puns and specialist geeky knowledge. He’s the emotional glue of the group and his cute demeanour makes him the apple of Willow, Cordelia and Anya’s eye at various points. His sensitivity means he’s not the most masculine figure among Sunnydale folk and is at first self-conscious but eventually realises kindness and interpersonal skills are worth more than being popular ever will be. When Cordelia teases him about his inefficiency, we’re taken on a journey where Xander is the accidental hero but doesn’t need the recognition others crave. It’s often said that Cancerians are particularly connected to the home and family, so it’s no surprise that his dysfunctional family instill the perpetual anxiety stirring inside of him.

Due to their loving nature, Cancerians excel in relationships. He’s also got the large, round eyes prominent in the moon-ruled Cancerian, matched with the comfort over style motto that lets their personality shine instead of a false projection.

Cordelia:Gemini

Cordelia. On first appearances, Cordelia seems like a leo. If you delve beyond the luscious mane and the fact Charisma Carpenter herself is a leo however, you can see the duality of the Gemini perfectly embodies ‘Queen C’. Cordelia starts life at Sunnydale High as the catty popular girl, but when she learns to stay true to herself she slowly hangs around with the Scooby gang with less shame. Of course, she doesn’t have a choice once her popularity is forsaken but a Gemini looks after number one. Her clumsy backhanded compliments are delivered from the mouthpiece of somebody who lives inside their head and frankly doesn’t care. Cordelia is competitive and duplicitous with people because she’s smart enough to understand how people work, like a Gemini. On first appearances, she is shallow due to her fondness for shopping and designer clothes, but this only proves she wants to enjoy life. 

A gemini knows how to live in the moment and this is why Cordelia’s reaction to hearing of an apocalypse is to appreciate the fact she doesn’t have to do homework. It’s her time to have fun and she’s going to do it.


Go backBuffy the Vampire Slayer Character Signs Part 1: Buffy, Giles and Willow

Go forward: Part 3: Tara, Anya and Angel