Top Ten Articles – October 2014

2014 Artwork Top Ten Articles October

First of all, happy Halloween everyone :)

Anyway, since it’s the end of the month, I thought that I’d give you a list of links to my personal top ten articles about art and writing that have been posted here during October. I’ll also include a few honourable mentions too (since there are usually more than ten articles that I really like every month).

Anyway, without any further ado, here’s my top ten articles from this month (in no particular order):

- “Writing Splatterpunk Horror Fiction
– “Three Ways To Deal With Uncreative Guilt
– “If You Can Fill ‘Awkward Time’ Your Work Will Be Popular
– “Humour As A Perspective
– “Writing From A Second-Person Perspective
– “How To Work In A Totally New And Undiscovered Genre
– “Cynicism And Artistic Inspiration
– “Four Good Ideas For Shorter Artistic Projects
– “A Very Basic Tip For Drawing Things In Proportion
– “One Quick Tip For Writing Dramatic Death Scenes

Honourable Mentions:

- “Basic Tips For Painting Silhouette Landscapes
– “Three Basic Ways To Leave Your Story Open To Sequels And Spin-Offs
– “Six Creative Halloween Costumes For Writers And Artists (Comic)

Today’s Art (30th October 2014)

Well, I originally started sketching a picture of someone smoking a cigar in rather theatrical way (mainly because I wanted to see whether I could draw someone blowing smoke out of their nose in a melodramatic fashion).

But, as I expanded on it, it somehow ended up morphing into this vaguely suggestive 1980s/1990s-style painting. Seriously, I’ll never fully understand my imagination….

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Delight" By C. A. Brown

“Delight” By C. A. Brown

One Quick Tip To Add Some Atmosphere To Your Sci-fi Story

2014 Artwork Sci-fi Details sketch

Well, I’ve recently started re-watching the first three seasons of “Battlestar Galactica” on DVD and I noticed something really cool about the show that I’d almost forgotten about. It’s a really subtle thing, but it adds a lot of atmosphere to the show and this technique can easily be used in other sci-fi stories too.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this technique here before, but if I have, then I apologise (I’m still feeling fairly uninspired at the moment, so it’s more than possible that I might be inadvertantly repeating myself here).

So, what is it?

Simple. Subtly change the names and/or shapes of ordinary things. Yes, you heard me correctly. They do this a lot in “Battlestar Galactica” and it really adds something to the show.

For example, all of the books and sheets of paper in BSG have diagonal edges rather than square ones. Likewise, instead of using the word “RADAR” for their navigation system, they call it a “DRADIS” – even though it operates in exactly the same way as a radar system.

And, lest we forget, the show also brilliantly managed to get a lot of realistic informal dialogue past the puritanical American TV censors by using the word “frak” as a stand-in for one of the best and most versatile words in the English language.

Although these all sound like fairly subtle things, it really adds an extra level of “realism” and atmosphere to the show because it gives you a sense that literally everything is different about the “world” of the show.

You see, one of the best ways to show the passage of time is to look at the subtle details. I mean, twenty years ago, no-one carried a smartphone, no-one took selfies and no-one posted things on Twitter (although whether this is a good or a bad thing is debatable).

See what I mean about how small details can really capture the atmosphere of a particular period of time?

So, how do you do this in your sci-fi story?

There are a few ways of doing this, but a lot of it can be done from the context in which things are shown.

Basically, if you show your characters using something in a way which people recognise – then you can call it what you want and people will still understand what you mean (without having to add a glossary to the end of your story or anything like that).

For example: “Laura leant back on the sofa and stared at the HoloVis, there was literally nothing but chat shows and static on there.

As you probably guessed from this example, a “HoloVis” is some kind of futuristic television. You could replace the word in my example with literally anything (eg: “Unit76B”, “VisionTel”, “Dataportal” etc…) and your readers would still guess that it was some kind of television. Seriously, it’s that simple.

Another thing to bear in mind is that you don’t have to change literally every detail in your sci-fi story in order to give it a more futuristic atmosphere. This is one of those “less is more” type of things.

A few changed details can make your story unique, but too many can just make it confusing. So, think carefully before you change anything.

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Sorry for such a short, basic and possibly repetitious article, but I hope that it was useful :)

Today’s Art (29th October 2014)

Well, originally, I’d planned to make a silhouette painting of a viking. But, after testing this out in my old watercolour sketchbook, it didn’t really look that good. So, eventually, I started randomly doodling on the slightly better watercolour paper I’ve been using recently and this post-apocalpytic landscape just kind of emerged.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Remains" By C. A. Brown

“Remains” By C. A. Brown

Three Things To Do When You Think That You’ve Used Up All Your Good Ideas

2014 Artwork Finding Good Ideas Sketch

If you’re creating a lot of stuff, then it’s only natural that you’re going to worry about running out of good ideas every now and then. This happens to all of us and it’s certainly happened to me once or twice with this blog (hell, I wouldn’t be writing this article if it hadn’t).

But, the good news is that it is almost impossible to run out of ideas, let alone good ideas. There are just too many out there for just one person to use up.

But, still, it can sometimes feel like you’ve run out of good ideas and, if you’re not careful, this feeling can seriously affect your creativity. So, I thought that I’d offer you a few quick tips about what to do when you feel like this.

1) Look around for ideas: Yes, you heard me correctly, look around you. The best ideas can often be hiding in plain sight. Sometimes a good idea can come from something that you’ve experienced recently or sometimes a good idea can come from thinking about something that you watched and/or read recently in a slightly different way than usual.

Whilst you shouldn’t directly rip off any pre-existing ideas, looking at a commonly-known and old idea from your own unique perspective (or even just from a neutral one) or looking at someone else’s brilliant idea from a different perspective (as long as you acknowledge the source) can be a good way to come up with new ideas.

Although I’m not a lawyer and this shouldn’t be considered legal advice, it’s important to remember that whilst copyright covers the way that an idea is expressed (eg: the characters, storylines, aliens and ships from “Star Trek”), it doesn’t cover the underlying idea itself (eg: A sci-fi show about a spaceship full of people who explore the galaxy).

However, if you’ve found an idea through looking at something else, it’s always good to make sure that whatever you make looks distinctly different from the thing that inspired you and/or to acknowledge the source in some way or another.

2) Don’t be afraid to be strange: Yes, although you might say that you don’t have any good ideas, there’s a good chance that you actually do. It’s just that you’ve probably dismissed quite a few of the good ideas that you already have because they’re too “strange” or “crazy” or whatever.

Yes, some ideas are completely nonsensical and won’t work. But, on the other hand, at least one or two of your strange ideas probably has some potential to it. Yes, it might need a few changes or you might have to re-think parts of it. But there’s probably something there.

So, if you think that you’re totally out of ideas, don’t be afraid to take another look at the stranger ones that you discarded back when you first came up with them.

3) Don’t lose hope: I know that I’ve already said this before, but it’s very important that you don’t give up hope when you feel like you’ve run out of ideas. Yes, it can be depressing when it happens and you can feel like there’s nothing more to create, but there usually is.

Sometimes great ideas can just come to you suddenly when you least expect them too and sometimes, as I said earlier, you can find them around you. But, regardless, they are there and they are waiting for you.

But if you end up feeling hopeless and keep telling yourself that you’ve got no good ideas, then it can be a lot harder for you to get into that open-minded state that you need to be in for the ideas to appear.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Today’s Art (28th October 2014)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling hugely imaginative when I painted today’s picture and, whilst I’d originally planned to make a gothic “Ancient Egypt” painting, the final painting didn’t end up being as atmospheric or detailed as I had hoped.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"City Of The Pyramids" By C. A. Brown

“City Of The Pyramids” By C. A. Brown