Top Ten Articles – June 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles June

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to give you a list of links to what I feel are the ten best articles about writing and/or art that I’ve posted here over the past month. I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this month has been reasonably good – even though I’ll be the first to admit that there was something of a dip in quality during a couple of weeks this month, I’m quite proud of some of the articles I wrote for June.

So, in no particular order, here are my top ten articles for June 2015 (plus some honourable mentions):

Top Ten Articles For June 2015:

– “Another Three Ways To Be Creative Before The Apocalypse
– “The One Magic Power That All Artists And Writers (And Some Game Designers) Have
– “Dangerous Settings In Fiction
– “Four Ways To Make Your Story or Comic More Addictive (That I Learnt From Watching “24”)
– “Five Qualities That The Main Character In Your Thriller Story Should Have
– “The Power Of Deadlines (For Artists)
– “One Way To Learn How To Paint Realistic Colours (Using MS Paint)
– “Four Lazy Ways To Be Creative On Lazy Days
– “Three Very Basic Tips For Getting Creative Again If You’re Out Of Practice
– “Should The Main Character In Your Detective Story Be An Official Or An Unofficial Detective?

Honourable mentions:

– “Why Learning B&W Drawing Can Really Useful To Painters
– “Can Artists And Writers Give Their Audiences A Look ‘Behind The Scenes’?
– “You Can’t Copyright A Feeling – My Thoughts On The “Blurred Lines” Verdict

Today’s Art (29th June 2015)

Well, I wanted to experiment with using a slightly different perspective in today’s painting and – although this really didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, I’m still quite proud of how this picture as a whole turned out (even if the perspective is kind of crappy).

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

"City Stairs" By C. A. Brown

“City Stairs” By C. A. Brown

Five Qualities That The Main Character In Your Thriller Story Should Have

2015 Artwork Qualities Thriller Protagonists Should Have sketch

Well, as I’ve probably mentioned before, I’ve been watching a TV show called “24” quite a lot recently. Although I don’t plan to review any of it, it’s probably the closest televised equivalent to a well-written series of thriller novels (such as Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” novels) that I’ve ever seen.

And, as anyone who has watched “24” knows – the show revolves around a protagonist called Jack Bauer who is, in many ways, something of a traditional “action hero” character. Yes, he’s a little bit more morally grey than traditional heroic characters – but he’s a handsome, muscular, ex-military character who is (mostly, but not completely) emotionless.

But, as anyone with any experience of the genre will probably know – good thriller protagonists don’t necessarily have to be action heroes. In fact, a good thriller protagonist can be literally anyone, as long as they have at least one or two of these qualities. Some of these qualities might even surprise you:

1) Individualism: Thriller novels are at their most thrilling when the protagonist is essentially on their own. This goes back a long way and it can be seen in one of the first modern thriller novels ever written – “The Thirty-Nine Steps” by John Buchan, where the protagonist (Richard Hannay) is on the run from the police for most of the novel, after being falsely accused of murder.

In Dan Brown’s more recent thriller novels – his protagonist (Robert Langdon) is a university professor. He isn’t a member of any organisation and sometimes even ends up being chased by the authorities. Likewise, in Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” novels, the eponymous Mr. Reacher is essentially just a hobo who wanders around America.

Whilst there are plenty of thriller stories where the main character is part of a team or an organisation (and, technically, “24” falls into this category), a good thriller protagonist will usually find themselves completely alone against the world.

So, why do thriller writers do this?

As well as adding more suspense to the story, it’s also because of the emotional payoff at the end of the story. Basically, it’s a lot more satisfying to see one person defeat a hundred villains than it is to see a hundred people defeat one villain.

2) Intelligence: Even if the main character in your thriller novel is a muscle-bound action hero, then they can’t be an idiot.

Yes, action movies and first-person shooter games might have cemented the idea that heroic characters in thrilling stories should be slightly stupid – but this is most emphatically not the case in the thriller genre.

Why? Because having a stupid protagonist in a thriller story is hilariously unrealistic. If someone was being pursued by a group of powerful villains and/or by the authorities, then they wouldn’t last long if they weren’t intelligent.

Likewise, if your main character is trying to solve a crime or uncover a conspiracy, then they’re probably going to have to be fairly smart in order to do this.

So, brains can often count for far more than brawn in a good thriller story. Not only is it more realistic, but it’s also a lot more satisfying for your audience to see your main character outsmarting the villains occasionally, than it is for them to see your main character fighting the villains again and again.

3) Courage: This one should be fairly self-explanatory, but most people enjoy the thriller genre because thriller stories allow us to vicariously feel like badasses. So, it goes without saying that a good thriller protagonist should be courageous.

However, be very careful not to confuse courage with foolishness. In other words, if your main character is going to do something dangerous, then they better have a good reason for doing it. And they should probably also be smart enough to know if there’s a less dangerous way to do the same thing.

4) An Outlaw: If your thriller story is set in even a vague approximation of the real world, then it’s important to remember that no-one in your story is above the law. This includes your main character too. Generally speaking, the kinds of things that thriller protagonists do tend to be very legally questionable in the real world.

Even if your main character lives in a country with extremely lax weapons and self-defence laws (eg: America), then they’re probably still going to have to answer to the police if they even so much as get into a fist-fight, let alone a gun fight, with anyone.

Likewise, if your protagonist breaks into somewhere in order to gather evidence – then there’s a good chance that they might have to explain their actions in court if they get caught. Plus, the evidence they’ve collected may not even be admissable in court.

In effect, most thriller story protagonists are criminals. But, they’re often very good criminals with good motivations. What this means is that they can’t take a conservative attitude towards authority, rules, regulations and laws. They have to be willing to rebel against authority and break the rules when they feel that it is the right thing to do.

5) Non-aggression: This sounds counterintuitive but, as anyone who has ever taken any martial arts lessons will probably tell you – even half-speed free fights in the safety of a dojo can be painful, exhausting and unpredictable things.

So, imagine how much worse an actual fight (where both people actually intend to injure each other) would probably be.

When I studied martial arts for a while when I was about sixteen or seventeen, I remember the sensei (who was a retired policeman) once pointing out that most real fights only last for something like ten or fifteen seconds. He also pointed out that if the other person is carrying a knife then, regardless of how well-practiced you are at disarming techniques, you’re probably still going to get injured. So, yes, real fights of any kind are something to be avoided at all costs.

Likewise, if you’ve ever been paintballing, then you’ll probably know how unpredictable and painful even a safe simulation of a gun fight can be. How, unlike in the movies, you have just as much of a chance of being shot as you do of shooting anyone on the other team.

There’s a reason why people who have done anything even vaguely close to real combat usually don’t tend to be aggressive people who like to start fights.

Violent conflicts are unpredictable things that – at the very least- tend to result in a lot of pain for everyone involved. So, if the main character in your thriller story is ex-military, ex-police or anything like that and has had actual experience of violence, then they’re probably going to be sensible enough to know not to start any fights unless it’s absolutely necessary to do so.

In other words, a good thriller protagonist should only use violence reluctantly and/or in genuine self-defence (eg: when there’s no way to quickly retreat from the situation or resolve it peacefully).

Yes, hyper-aggressive “action hero” characters might look cool but they’re also hilariously unrealistic – and are probably very likely to spend most of their time in hospitals, graveyards and/or prisons.

———————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th June 2015)

Ha! I’m finally feeling inspired again! Surprisingly, I actually had a fairly good idea of what this painting would look like before I painted it – although the final painting ended up looking a lot gloomier than I’d expected. Still, I’m really proud of how it turned out 🙂

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

"Industrial Wastes" By C. A. Brown

“Industrial Wastes” By C. A. Brown

Drawing In The Dark – A Ramble

(Recycling is good for the environment... and for this blog)

Even though this is an article about artistic inspiration, I’m probably going to have to start with what might be a mildly depressing ramble about something annoying that happened to me a couple of months ago.

Although they’ve long since been repaired, I had a problem with the lights in my room a couple of months ago. One of the most annoying things about this was that – being somewhat nocturnal – it meant that I couldn’t really make any art at night.

Don’t get me wrong, I could sort of manage to make fairly basic drawings if I used a torch (and this is why some of the sketches for the past few articles have been kind of crappy). But, painting in the dark was nigh on impossible.

What this meant was that I had a fairly limited amount of time to make my daily paintings (eg: during daylight) and this had a rather strange effect on how inspired I felt. I’d originally thought that this would have made me more inspired- since I only had a limited amount of time to make paintings, so I had to make it count. But, surprisingly, it had the opposite effect.

Because I had such a limited amount of time and such high expectations about what I should achieve in that time, I felt almost completely blocked. If you only have a couple of hours to make a painting and you feel that it has to be magnificent, then that’s a lot of pressure.

And, whilst a small amount of pressure can be a good thing (eg: setting a daily deadline), too much tends to make me feel overwhelmed and overloaded. I’m not really a high-stress kind of person.

So, the quality my art suffered slightly as a result. I was able to mask this on some days by making slightly lazier types of art (eg: still life paintings, a painting based on an old photo my parents took etc…), but the fact remained that this one little thing had a huge effect on my creatiivity.

And, well, this made me think about inspiration and creativity in general. Whilst having some problems with the lights in my room made me feel uninspired, I’ve also felt uninspired during times where everything is going perfectly (eg: in the days after my lights were repaired). As the old saying goes, inspiration is a fickle thing.

But, I guess that the true test of a writer or artist is whether they’re still able to make stuff when they aren’t feeling inspired.

Inspiration can be a random and strange thing and if you only create things when you’re feeling inspired, then you’re leaving everything to random chance.

So, it’s always a good idea to keep creating stuff even when you aren’t feeling inspired. Yes, you might not create something great when you aren’t feeling inspired- but you will at least feel like you are in control of your own work.

——

Sorry for such a short and rambling article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (27th June 2015)

Well, when it came to thinking of an idea for today’s painting, my mind went completely blank. So, eventually, I looked at one of my old sketchbooks and decided to make a new version of one of my favourite landscape paintings from last year.

The new version I made is slightly better on a technical level, although it’s probably slightly less atmospheric than the original was. Even so, I’ll provide both versions for comparison.

As usual, both paintings in this post are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"And The Devil Came To Kansas (II)" By C. A. Brown

“And The Devil Came To Kansas (II)” By C. A. Brown

And here’s the original version of the painting from 2014:

"And The Devil Came To Kansas" By C. A. Brown

“And The Devil Came To Kansas” By C. A. Brown