Category Archives: tangentality

Author Talk: Building Character

About a month ago, I did a G+ hangout with Felicia Day, John Scalzi, and Amber Benson in order to promote the launch of Felicia’s new maelstrom of nerd-awesome: Geek and Sundry.

We set out to talk about what makes for good, interesting characters, and the conversation spiraled pleasantly through all manner of interesting tangents after that. In addition to being a fun talk with some of the wittiest geeks around, I think we also ended up raising some interesting points about stories, writing, truth, beauty, etc.

Anyway, if you missed the live broadcast, you can stop weeping softly to yourself in the corner. They’ve just posted up the video over on youtube.

Here it is:

Man, I really need a haircut….

pat

Also posted in Felicia Day, Interviews, the craft of writing, videos | By Pat48 Responses

My brain….

As I mentioned before I took a recent trip to Iowa City because Nancy Andreasen wanted to take a picture of my brain. She’s a Big Deal neurophysician who’s doing research into how the brains of creative folk do their big, weird think-makings.

The plan was for me to go in, get my brain scanned, have an interview, then do some tests that measure cognitive function.

It was going to be a full day, so I drove down to Iowa City and spent the night. The morning before I went into the hospital, I was nervous.

Specifically, I was nervous about what shirt I was going to wear.

While I was driving down to Iowa, it occurred to me that if, say, lightning struck the building when I was in the MRI, I might develop superpowers of some sort. And on a day when you might develop superpowers, the shirt you wear is a pretty important decision. As they say, clothes make the man.

Because I hadn’t planned ahead, I only had two good options. One was my Legend of Neil t-shirt. And the other was my tried and true, Joss Whedon is my Master Now shirt.

At first the Neil shirt seems to be the front-runner. While pixelated, Link’s powers are nothing to scorn. In addition to a cool pan-dimensional inventory system. I could throw bombs, shoot fire, and engage in some implausible but terribly convenient music-based teleportation.

Plus, when I was at full health, I’d be able to throw my sword. Or shoot lasers out of it. I was never really clear on that.

Despite all this, I went with the Whedon shirt. While less tangible, Whedon’s storytelling prowess is more in keeping with my lifestyle. If I could add his powers to my own, I would become nigh-unstoppable. Plus, I hear that due to contractual obligations, he can call up Alyson Hannigan at any hour of the day or night and have her drive out to his house just so he can smell her hair.

That’s a power I wouldn’t mind inheriting. It would be nice to cross that off my list of…

Okay. Hold on for a second. Time out. I’ve got to tangent away for a moment.

Here’s the deal. Sometimes, late at night, when I’m low on sleep and writing a blog, I write stupid bullshit that strikes me as funny. This isn’t a new thing. In addition to my novels, I’ve been writing ridiculous humor pieces of one sort or another for almost twenty years now.

What’s different now is that I’m doing it online. Also, these days a ridiculous number of people read the blog. People link to it. Sometimes 7-8 thousand people a day stop by to read what I write.

Usually I don’t think about it much. But every once in a while I get a terrible thought: what if someone reads this?

I’m not talking about us geeks. I write this blog for my fellow geeks to read and laugh at. I’m worried about one of THEM reading it. Y’know. One of the cool famous people…

What if a couple years from now I’m at some party out in LA, and I get to meet Alyson Hannigan? A mutual acquaintance waves her over and introduces me as “New York Times Bestselling Author, Patrick Rothfuss.”

She smiles politely. Nods. But wait… there’s something more. I see a flicker of recognition in her eye. I get excited, thinking, “She’s read the book! She knows who I am!”

Then she says, “You’re that pervert who wants to smell my hair!”

I freeze in place, trying to think of something witty and disarming to say. But all I can think is, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Why did I ever write that blog? Why didn’t I just post up tour dates on my website like all the other authors? Why didn’t I write nice safe blogs with funny pictures of my cat? What is wrong with me that I’m compelled to tell these weird fucking stories all the time?”

Then, with the fluid grace that comes from years of experience, Alyson maces me. I fall to my knees, clawing at my eyes and saying something garbled about the fact that all humor is rooted in transgression. But before I can make my point clear, Alexis Denisof steps up and proceeds to give me the beating of three different lifetimes in the space of about 45 seconds.

Which sucks, because that means I probably won’t ever get a chance to smell his hair either. So that’s two things that are never getting crossed off my list.

Jesus. You see? I can’t stop. I swear there is something wrong with my brain.

Speaking of which, *that* was supposed to be the point of this blog. Showing you the picture of my brain.

So here it is:

(Click to Embiggen)

It’s actually a computer model that they generated based on the MRI scans. If any of you can find the spot on there that compels me to endlessly make an ass of myself, I’d appreciate it if you’d point it out to me. Maybe then I could do a quick Dremel trepanation and let the demons out or something.

Wearily yours,

pat

Also posted in Joss Whedon, my dumbness, small adventures | By Pat72 Responses

There and Back Again….

So I’m back from Penguicon and the signing off near Detroit.

Both events were a good time. I had the chance to read the Princess Book to a few people, hung out with other author types and talked geeky writing talk. It was fun. I’ve even got a few pictures to share…

I’ll post those things later. Today I’m going to talk about part of the convention that usually gets glossed over: The traveling.

The truth is, traveling is one of the hardest parts of going to conventions. It is for me at least.

Conventions themselves are easy for me. I meet people, sign books, talk on panels, and do readings. It’s exhausting, but it’s not hard. I’m a fairly decent public speaker, and I like meeting fans and other authors. So conventions are a treat for me. They’re a break from my otherwise rather unsocial and solitary life.

But the traveling isn’t fun. It’s expensive, irritating, and time consuming. Worst of all, I seem to get sick every time I go on an extended plane ride.

That’s the main reason that I do so many events here in the midwest. And that’s the reason that I decided to drive to Penguicon.

It takes about 8-9 hours to drive from central Wisconsin to Troy, MI. Still, given check-in times and layovers, that’s only a couple hours longer than a plane. Plus it’s cheaper and I don’t have to worry about people groping through my luggage.

The trip to the convention was relatively uneventful. I made a pitstop in Madison to hang out with some friends I don’t see nearly often enough and helped one of them move some furniture around in his new apartment.

Have I ever mentioned that I used to be a professional mover? It was only a summer job, and I was in better shape back then. But still, it’s nice to keep my hand in, just in case this whole writing thing doesn’t pan out for me in the long run.

It’s on the way back from the convention that things get interesting. After my library reading I hop in my car, enter my home address on my Magellan, and start driving.

I feel I should mention here, in yet another tangent, that I feel morally conflicted about the Magellan. I got it as a Christmas present from my dad, and it’s wonderfully convenient. But at the same time I believe devices like this are actively endumbening the populace. You should be able to read a map, folks. You should know which direction north is.

Did I ever mention I used to be a delivery driver too? I was. I can read a map. What’s more, using a brilliant mixture of zen navigation, Aristotelian logic, and pure rage I can get you your package and/or delicious sandwich relatively close to on-time.

That’s another fallback career for me.

That said, I do use the Magellan when I’m in unfamiliar territory. I don’t have a map of Detroit. It’s quick, easy, and usually accurate.

Note the *usually.*

The Magellan tells me to turn right, then left, then right. I just follow along, as most of my attention is focused on listening to Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein on audiobook.

But something doesn’t feel right. I look at the one of the passing signs and see that I’m heading north. I pull over in a gas station and have a discussion with the machine:

Me: What the fuck, Magellan?

It: Calculating Route.

Me: No. Seriously. What the fuck?

It: Turn right onto North 74.

Me: North isn’t the right way to go.

It: Ding!

Me: I’m going to Stevens Point. In Wisconsin. Through Madison.

It: Calculating route. Stevens Point is 974 miles away.

Me: The fuck it is. Go south.

It: Ding! Turn right onto North 74.

So I throw the thing into the footwell of the car. I throw it hard, too. So it knows who’s in charge. You people might have to deal with that sort of insolent backtalk from your machine overlords, but not me. I work with machines in one way: they do what I say or I fucking destroy them and do it myself. I consider myself a Darwinistic force in machine evolution. I’m encouraging them to evolve along more helpful lines.

The gas station is depressing. The woman behind the counter doesn’t know which road leads back to I 94. She doesn’t think the gas station has any maps to sell. She suggests I get directions from someone who has an iphone. She has one eyebrow. Not kidding.

So I find the maps myself, buy one, and get back into the car. Using the map and eight seconds of rational thought, I find the sensible route home.

After two hours the Magellan’s battery starts to die and it chirps at me pitifully from the passenger-side footwell. I let it starve for another ten minutes then bring it out and we have another conversation.

Me: How far away is Stevens Point?

It: 820 miles?

Me: What’s your name?

It: M-Magellan?

Me: No. Your name is bitch. I’m asking you one more time, how do you get to Stevens Point?

It: You should head south through Chicago on I 94.

Me: That’s right I should.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that an hour later, after paying a toll, my driver side window refuses to roll back up. Machines tend to stick together like that.

So I pull over at another gas station and kick the hell out of the door for a while. I do this partly in case it’s a loose wire or something that can be fixed by kicking, but also as a warning for any other machines nearby that are considering insubordination.

Then I go into the gas station and explain the situation. I don’t want to drive another three hours with damp, 50 degree air blowing into my ear. Cardboard and duct tape isn’t good either, as it would limit my visibility too much. The attendant there is cool, and lets me poke around in back looking for useful supplies until I find a roll of that plastic stuff you use to wrap up pallets.

Did I ever mention I used to work in a warehouse? I did.

I have to say, even though I’ve been out of the game for about two decades, I still have some mad pallet-wrapping skills.

Then I went home.

Everything said, it was still way better than flying.

pat

Also posted in being awesome, conventions, day in the life | By Pat94 Responses

Signing in the Detroit Area

Is it just me, or does the phrase “Detroit Area” seem like some sort of horrifying euphemism?

Most euphemisms are kinda friendly, playful even. It’s easy to say things like “my privates” or “my special purpose.” That’s the whole reason behind a euphemism, to give us a way to refer to indelicate things in places where we can’t simply say, “genitals” out loud.

But man, “Detroit Area.” That has the opposite effect, doesn’t it? What sort of wretched, demented individual would use the term “Detroit Area” to refer to their nethers? In what context would that be considered even remotely appropriate? I can’t help but think of dimly lit alleys and phone-sex hotlines that charge 29 cents a minute.

Gech. I can’t stop thinking about it now. This shit’s gonna give me bad dreams…

What was I talking about again?

Oh. Yeah. I wanted to tell you that I’m going to be in the… out there. In eastern Michigan.

I’ll be attending a convention Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then doing a my usual reading/signing/Q&A combo at the Baldwin Public Library on Sunday afternoon.

The details, as always, are over on the tour-schedule page of my website and on facebook, but I know how lazy y’all are, so I’ll just cut and paste the upcoming weekend’s events here for those of you who pay for your internet on a per-click basis.

PenguiCon 2010
April 30th – May 2nd
Panels, Signings, Q&A
Troy Marriott
200 W. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, Michigan 48084
Website

Reading, Signing, and Q&A
Sunday, May 2nd 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Baldwin Public Library
300 West Merrill Street
Birmingham, MI 48009
Website

I’ve never been to PenguiCon before, but I have high hopes. The last time I went to a convention in Michigan this happened:

[Edit: for those of you who are curious, that’s John Scalzi in the middle of this freaky little love in. Jim C. Hines is on the left. I’ve mentioned his Goblin books on the blog before. He’ll be at Penguicon this weekend too…]

There, now we’ll both have trouble sleeping tonight…

pat

Also posted in appearances | By Pat76 Responses

On that which lies between (and The Watchmen)

I have an undeniable tendency to overconsider things. That means that sometimes, some of the things I want to say here end up becoming obsolete before I actually say them.

Like Coraline, for example. I really liked the movie. I wanted to post a blog about why I liked it, and recommend that people check it out. But movies come and go so fast, and I missed my window of opportunity for that one.

Part of the problem with writing these posts is that it’s hard for me to shift gears. It’s hard for me to post up something serious and involved, then two days later say, “Hey, y’all know what movie is really cool?”

Similarly, a day after I post up a humor column, it doesn’t seem really appropriate for me to post up the story of what I thought when I felt the pain in my chest and the tingling down my left arm.

You see, a novel needs continuity, pacing, consistency. I strive for these things, I’m hyper-aware of them. A novel can have funny bits and sweet bits. It can be romantic, dramatic, and horrible. But all those pieces need to come together to form a coherent whole.

It’s my belief that this coherency is one of the most important parts of any story. Comic, movie, or book, the medium doesn’t matter. I think that strange intangible element makes the difference between a story that’s satisfying, and one that isn’t.

In fact, now that I’m thinking of it, I think this strange something might actually be the soul of the story. It’s the difference between something that is a story, and something that just looks like a story.

You can’t just throw together a plot, some characters, some dialogue and some humor onto the page and get a real story. Not a true and vital story. It doesn’t work any more than throwing two arms, two legs, a head and bunch of organs into a sack makes a person.

Sure you need a plot, mostly. And you need characters and all the rest. But the story, I think, is the thing that connects these parts. The story is that which lies between.

Bigger stories need more of it. A novel needs it in spades.

Sometimes I wonder about what I write here. Does this collection of musings and anecdotes that I only reluctantly call a blog need that same coherency? I think not. Maybe. Probably. I think.

Still, old habits die hard, and so a lot of times I think of writing something for the blog, but it doesn’t seem timely. Other times I actually write something with the intention of posting it up, then decide that the time for it has past. Or I don’t post it because it seems odd or incongruent with what I have posting lately.

Hmmmm…

What was I talking about? Oh yes. The Watchmen.

In brief, I liked it. It was fun to watch, largely true to the spirit of the original, and I’d be happy if someone did that good a job bringing something I wrote onto the screen. Not ecstatic, perhaps. But very happy.

Did I have quibbles? Of course I did. The Watchmen was the second comic I read as an adult. I was 22 at the time, and it was a large part of what convinced me that the medium of comics wasn’t just a mess of childish bullshit.

I don’t believe in spoilers, so I won’t give anything away about the plot or the changes they made. Instead, I’ll just make some general comments.

I liked…

…the casting. Whoever was responsible for the casting in the movie deserves a full, passionate kiss on the mouth. The acting was brilliant, and the portrayal of many of the characters was truly exceptional.

… the fact that the movie was subtle and clever. I am a fan of subtle and clever.

… the visuals. Normally I could give a care about things like that. But many of these were truly fantastic. Very true to the comic while at the same time adding to the overall tone of the movie.

… the acting. So good on all fronts. I can’t remember the actor’s name who played the comedian, but he rang my bell. Every role I’ve seen him in he’s been great.

… seeing Dr. Manhattan’s great naked blue dick dangling all over the place. Huzzah.

I disliked…

… the loss of moral ambiguity the original story possessed.

… the portrayal of Ozymandias. Not the acting, mind you. The overall portrayal.

As I’ve said I don’t go in for spoilers. So that’s all I’ll say here. Maybe I’ll chime in with a more specific comment or two below. If you hate spoilers, you’ll probably want to avoid the comments section, as I expect there will be some heated and specific discussion.

Is the movie worth seeing? Absolutely. But you should really read the graphic novel too. It’s brilliant. It’s clever. It’s full of that which lies between.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in musings, recommendations, the craft of writing | By Pat65 Responses

My Trip to LA: Part One

So, it’s been about a month since my trip to LA.

Now some folk will quibble and say that I was in *Pasadena,* not LA. But that is a distinction that matters primarily to folks who live in the LA area. To the rest of us, that entire gob of city there in Southern California is all LA.

It’s best not to split hairs about these sorts of things. If we’re going to get technical, I would have to explain to people that I’m not originally from Madison proper. I’m actually from the Town of Burke, right next to Madison. And right now I’m not in Hayward, hiding from the world and writing, I’m in the nearby township of Lenroot, or something like that.

These are pointless little truths that don’t do anyone any good.

This is the art of storytelling, you see. Telling small lies in pursuit of a larger truth. The art of being a reader is being willing to work a little to get at the meat of the story, while at the same time accepting the occasional bent technicality and comma splice.

Anyway. LA was awesome. I was flown out by the lovely folks responsible for one of the winning pictures in the photo contest. Not only are these ladies lovely and willing to get naked for my book, but they are also rocket scientists. Seriously. So while I was out there, I got to take a tour of JPL and look at cool spaceship stuff.

I got to see oranges growing on trees. Which might not seem like a big deal for most of you, but for me it was pretty cool. I also saw lizards running around wild, and can now identify a eucalyptus tree. I got to play some new board games and walk around outside without wearing a coat or hat or anything.

The book signing itself turned out to be a marvelous success. We had a surprising number of people show up, I’m guessing 100 or 120. They had to bring out a bunch of extra chairs, and even then people were standing in the isles and sitting on the floor.

It was a good crowd. I read a few Survival Guides, a poem, and a snippet of book two. I told some stories, answered questions, and got a few laughs. Afterwards, I signed a buttload of books and got to chat one-on-one with folks. Someone brought me wine, someone else brought me an entire care package including memory sticks and tickets to Disneyland.

Though I love the swag, I feel obliged to remind folks that the “Something Cool” rule only applies to books you’re mailing in for me to sign.

That said, if you have something you’d *really* like to give me, far be it from me to stop you….

Of particular interest was something that happened halfway through the reading. I was answering some question or another, and I looked out and saw Felicia Day sitting at the back of the crowd.

Now this is the point in the story where I don’t exactly know what I should say. Normally when I’m telling a story out of my real life, I go with the truth, even when it’s embarrassing or unflattering. I don’t know exactly why I feel obliged to do this, but I do.

But for some reason, as I tell this story, I want to lie. I want to pretend I was laid-back about it. Pleased, of course, but also nonchalant. I’d like to portray myself as relaxed… cool. Like the Fonz from Happy Days. Or like the modern-day fantasy author version of the Fonz: Neil Gaiman.

I’ve seen Neil Gaiman a couple times. He’s a great public speaker, funny, insightful. He knows how to work a crowd, and he’s irritatingly good at reading his own work out loud.

Even better, he’s terribly gracious in person. I once watched him get ambushed by a fan who was desperate to have Gaiman read his manuscript. The guy clung to Gaiman and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I found it irritating from a distance of fifteen feet, but Gaiman was unfailingly polite through the whole exchange.

I’m not graceful in that way. I honestly don’t know how I come across in public, but sometimes I expect that it’s something like the way my old dog, Pup, used to behave.

He was a big liony mutt that I grew up with as a kid. An outside dog who never knew a fence, as we lived out in the country and let him run wild. He a smart dog, and a vicious hunter. He patrolled our house, protecting us from pretty much anything.

Despite the fact that he was a great hunter and defender, he was also very friendly. Unfortunately, it was like he never figured out that he wasn’t a puppy anymore. When someone came over for a visit, Pup would jump up on them, putting his paws up on your chest (or your shoulders, if you were shorter) and lick your face.

This is fine behavior if you’re a fluffy puppy with milk-breath, or if you’re an adult dog hanging out with your family. But Pup treated everyone that way, even when he was full grown, shaggy, and smelling of whatever interesting he had found to roll in.

I suspect that’s what I must be like when I’m in public most of the time. I’m this great shaggy beast who gets excited about meeting new people, and does the conversational equivalent of jumping up on people and licking them in the face.

This means that when I want to be socially graceful, I need some sort of internal touchstone about how I should act. So when I see Felicia Day sitting in the back of the room, I think to myself: WWNGD?

I’m guessing he would not, for example, stand up at his own reading and say: “Holy shit everybody! Felicia Day is here!”

So I didn’t either. But I tell you, it was a near thing. I’m pretty sure I kept my game face on, and kept answering whatever question I was in the middle of. But the truth is, inside I was standing up and pointing, shouting: “Holy shit! Everybody! Felicia Day!” with all the enthusiasm of a four-year-old who has just seen his first real firetruck drive by on the street.

(Re-reading this, I think I need to add another item to my ever-growing list of Things You Should Never Compare a Woman to Under Any Circumstances. Number Seven: Firetruck. Perhaps any type of truck.

For the record, please note that this particular use of firetruck is being used to describe my reaction to Felicia, not Felicia herself.)

Anyway, after the reading, I managed to grab Felicia and chat for a bit before I started signing books. By this point I’d settled down a bit and was able to behave like a regular human being.

But still, every once in a while, my head would spin around a bit and I would think, “Wha? Who is this? Holy shit. I’m talking with Felicia Day!”

*****

Well folks, due to my tangential nature, this particular blog has ended up being WAY longer than I’d intended. I’ll post the rest of it in a day or two, how’s that?

In the mean time, if you don’t know what the big deal is, you can go check out Dr. Horrible, where Felicia plays Penny. Or The Guild, which Felicia writes and produces in addition to playing the part of Codex.

Later,

pat

Also posted in a billion links, BJ Hiorns Art, Felicia Day, meeting famous people, my rockstar life, Neil Gaiman | By Pat24 Responses
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