As part of my test to 5th degree black belt in early 2016, I was required to write a thesis on some aspect of taekwondo.

In my standard application of the philosophy, “Excessiveness is excellent,” I wrote two theses…

This is the more universal of the two, applicable to not only taekwondo tournaments, but any martial arts tournament or other multi-event competition where an all-around award is given.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts and mathematical proofs on how to improve the scoring theory for the award commonly known as “Grand Champion.”

analysis-and-revision-of-grand-champion-award-methodology-and-rules

If you’d like to use this methodology, here are some documents that you are welcome to use:

grand-champion-instructions

grand-champion-tally-sheet

grand-champion-tracking-sheet

 

If you have ideas or recommendations for improvement, please share your comments. I love to discuss this sort of stuff!

At the moment, I am in the process of deciding (or at least refining) the topic for my next black belt thesis. As you may or may not know, within the realms of taekwondo where I practice,  a written thesis is an integral part of each black belt promotion from 4th dan onward. I personally enjoy writing theses, and am only stymied by the abundance of topics on which I would like to write. I will stop waffling and pick one and write something on it in the next few months, in anticipation of being allowed/told/volunteered/compelled to test for my 5th degree sometime in 2016. (It’s a complex decision/motivation.)

Anyhoo, while pondering the many possibilities and figuring out all the physical aspects of the testing as well, I reread my 4th dan thesis and just in case someone else wants to read it (I apologize in advance for a few typos. You may not believe this, but I might have procrastinated and delivered it hot off the fingers rather than after a time of considerate editing…)

Here it is, my bit on how to set up a breaking competition and why the rules should be one way or another.

Power Breaking Competition: A Competitor’s Experience and Insights

[this would be an example of that “write what you know” theory.]

 

[Update: I ended up writing two 5th Dan theses, and here’s one of them:

5th Dan Taekwondo Thesis | Analysis and Revision of Grand Champion Award Methodology and Rules

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was training. Been doing too much of that lately. Gonna be doing a lot more over the next couple of months. (and I am no longer the alternate for 4th Dan patterns, so add another layer to the training cake.)

But I’m at work and apparently they frown on flying kettle bells in the tutoring center… Alliteration is a different matter entirely.

Lucky for someone, I’ve decided to write about fighting rather than the alternative.

Here we go.

The Fight Itself

There is nothing quite like a fight. Not even another one. Because no two fights are ever the same. Each is a war unto itself; a timeless battle that takes forever, but is always over too soon.

When you are writing about a fight, there are two very different perspectives that you might take. To put it simply, there is inside the fight and outside the fight; the observer’s perspective and the fighter’s perspective.

Let’s start with the easy one. *heh*

The external perspective on a fight is description; the fighter(s) did this, then that happened, and eventually it appears to be over, one way or another. It varies, depending on the personality of the character POV that is observing.

The question of course, is how do we figure this out for a character so that is helps us write about the fight from his/her specific perspective?

Let me give you my answer, then I’ll show you how to get there.

Know the character’s focus.

We’re talking about observation and description here, frequently the most boring kind of writing. All showing, no telling, right?

Eh, hopefully not so much.

Here’s my process: Ask the character questions. Use those answers to color the description with focus and voice.

Questions like:

How does the character react to the fight? To the fact that it is happening? To the fact that it is close? Or distant?

 

How does the character react to the fighter(s)? Fear? Envy? Disdain? Respect?

 

The answers can tell you a lot about the character and consequently, give you a great opportunity to convey some of that character to your reader in a subtle, enjoyable fashion.

Let’s invent a basic description and then color it in for various characters.

Basic Description Example:

The two men squared off to fight. The blue fighter attacked with a kick to the gut followed by a punch to his opponent’s head. But before the punch could land, the red fighter stepped to the side and landed a pair of his own punches. Then he kicked the blue fighter once and then retreated.

Okay, that’s boring. That’s the point. It’s just the bare, observed facts. It’s also out of context and therefore stakeless. With nothing important riding on the outcome, it is emotionally hollow as well. So, can we make this short, boring exchange between two anonymous fighters more interesting? I’m gonna go with yes.

There are an infinite number of types of characters that might observe this fight. Let’s pick a few and see what we can do with them.

How about another fighter; someone who knows something about what is going on, but without any investment to speak of.

The two men squared off to fight. The blue fighter immediately went on the offensive, landing a side-kick to the solar-plexus before shooting a short jab intended for his opponent’s jaw. Red is quick, he dodged to the side and left Blue wide open for a counter. One punch low, one punch high, and then a kick out.

That was what I call announcer mode. The observer knew something about what he was seeing, but didn’t care very much, he was just there to relay the facts, albeit with a more trained focus. I gave him three focuses that any fighter ought to have.

Number one was specific targeting. This is a big difference, in my experience, between trained/experienced fighters and not.

Number two was a how he used strategic jargon to describe each fighter’s actions like “offense” and “counter.” He also used more specific language to describe the techniques used. and last but not least, he showed a comfort with the subject as he shortened and summarized automatically, even to the detriment of the less informed.

Number three was specific technique references. He didn’t use all generic terms like ‘kick’ and ‘punch.’

Now, let’s try on a little bit more of an insider.

The two fighters squared off. Blue went straight in with a side-kick that shoulda knocked out some air, or even some ribs. Red didn’t let it slow him down. He sidestepped that jab and opened Blue up good. High, low, and out.

This observer is mentally in that fight. He’s not seeing the through the eyes of a spectator, he’s seeing it through the eyes of a fighter. Right off, he calls them for what he sees and expects. Unlike the others so far, he doesn’t even mention the fight itself. It’s a given. That’s what fighters do, but it’s not the point. And that’s what he thinks of them as, “fighters,” not competitors, not opponents, just “fighters.” What does that say about our observer?

This observer is really focused on one thing, immediate consequence. He’s not looking for points, or pretty techniques, he’s making and then evaluating predictions. It’s not about the kick, it’s about how much it probably hurts, then its about how the Red fighter isn’t phased by the blow. Describing the counter setup, is when we see our observer in the shoes of a fighter for sure. He’s seeing the openings, the possible targets, not the specific techniques Red decided to use. (Not that doesn’t know the specifics, it’s just not his highest priority. How the move works rather than what the move is called.)

This type of observer, this fighter, could easily drop some judgements in as well. He might mention what he would have done instead of what happens, or even think of it before it happens. If he’s watching the fight long enough, and he’s an experienced strategist, he could start making predictions about a fighter’s moves, and when he starts getting them right, adding plans to counter the predictable moves, and after that, after he has a plan to deal with a move he thinks he’ll be able to see coming, he might even come up with a plan to force such a move. Three moves ahead.

Depending on how experienced, and how, shall we say, good, your fighter-observer is, you can change how correct such observations are. A good fighter with lots of experience might make a surprisingly accurate and thorough strategic analysis of the fight. A less effective or less experienced observer might make both good and bad predictions, and not go quite as deep.

If there is any one way to clearly differentiate level of experience, I would say it is in the depth and ease of such strategic thought.

I’m going to leave it at that for today, but consider other viewpoints for an observer. What about a complete stranger to fighting. How’s his or her pain tolerance. Maybe he or she empathizes and focuses on the perceived pain, or the possible damage. Does (he) have a personal interest for some reason in one of the fighters? Maybe (his) empathy is one-sided, maybe (he) even feels good about the other side getting hit/hurt.

We could keep going and going and going. The possibilities are rather large, but the idea is simple. Figure out what you want to say about the character observing the fight, and then pick one or two focuses that somehow illustrate those chosen facets of a character.

(And we will discuss the inside-the-fight perspective…eventually!)

Next time: Writing About Fighting III: One Ring Strategy To Rule Them All

 

 

 

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

– Sun Tzu

Or it this fighting about writing? Wait, no.

I’m mostly planning to talk about one-on-one, hand-to-hand fighting. Why? Because I just got back from the ABQ where I watched a good friend of mine dominate his first pro-mma fight, so guess what’s on my mind? Yeah. The same thing as usual. The other reason I want to talk about such nigh-palendromic, highly-hyphenated combat is because it’s the kind I like to do. Yeah, get over it. I like to hit people in the face—it’s not my fault if they cry. They need to toughen up and quit blocking with the face.

Don’t be afraid, that was my ring-attitude speaking. I invited her for this post. She is kind of, uh, how do I put this? Cool? Confident? Aloof? Unapologetic and supremely confident? A scary mofo? A mean b***h? Opinions vary—as intended. She is a character created to win a little thing I’m calling the attitude game. She is as much a part of getting ready to fight as stretching my legs. She is the persona designed to illicit fan-fiction…?

Let me tell you about her. She tries to scare her opponents before the fight even starts. She might be seen bouncing a little on her toes, rolling and stretching her neck (always intimidating), throwing a few nasty punches at the air, or if a friend is there, loudly reminiscing (and strategically emphasizing to perhaps convey an exaggerated tale) about all those times she beat her opponents to a pulp. She means to be intimidating. She will smile at you while she sticks her foot in your face. Hit her, she hits back harder. She is all business, all about the fight. She will enjoy making you cry and bleed and lose, but she’s not so bad… As soon as the fight is over, even if she loses, she’ll hug her opponent and grin and mean it. She has no ill will towards her opponents, she’d root for them if she was not the one to beat, and back behind the ring, she’ll spend a few minutes giving the best advice she can to her opponent. She will tell them how she won, give them advice on how to fix it next time, and wish she had more time to explain, but she has to get ready for the next fight.

That’s her. Once a tournament starts, she’s there, ready to play.

That’s leads me to my first point about fighting. One of the main components is attitude. Attitude, Conflict, and Feeling are the true heart of a fight. (and we’ll get to them all in time.)

Attitude is first because it comes into play before the fight even starts. It is a battle of it’s own, a preliminary to the face-pounding, and very important. It is also difficult to portay in certain mediums, because unless you are part of a big, televised, mildly scripted tv fight, the battle of attitude is almost invisible. They can be true or a lie, but unless they already know the truth of each other, it matters little the authenticity of the attitude. All that matters is perception in the pre-fight attitude game.

There are a few primary attitude archetypes.

Cocky / Annoying – There are those who will taunt and verbally harass their opponent, but they are not the ones to worry about, only the most timid will fall before the attitude of cockiness—or what I like to call, annoying. Though it can on occasion be triumphant, the cocky, annoying tactic is likely to backfire. Those who do not react with fear, are likely to react with a desire to prove the cockiness wrong. Most with this attitude are deluded or scared and I’d say it leans towards the former. Nonetheless, there are always a few, far between, who just like to be annoying, but can back it up.

Confident / Intimidating – This is ranges from the silent to the strategically intimidating. But it is not as in your face like the previously mentioned attitude. This is where I like to be. This is also the hardest to judge. Without making people mad, the confident attitude makes opponents wonder. Is she really that good? She seems very calm… The confident fighter is much like an effective writing technique. She does not tell, she implies, she alludes, merely influences the opinions that form. Her opponents are given enough room to create their own narrative. Over time, the narrative is cumulative and can become very powerful if handled correctly.

Timid / Plain / Sneaky – This is usually just what it appears, a fighter who is not confident, not cocky, and not even trying to pretend. This fighter has probably already lost. They can’t compete in the pre-game, why would they be up for the fight? It is possible, however, that this is simply a ruse, a disguise. The fighter may gain the advantage of surprise. Or the fighter may simply wish to abstain from the attitude game. Or they are so freaking awesome that they plain don’t care. They are rare, but beware the fighter who does not feel the need to vie for an advantage by playing the attitude game before a fight. (But it is a weakness. To give up any chance at advantage, not matter how small, is unwise.)

The Cocky presents a yes or no question. Is he as good as he says/thinks?

The Confident is the question. Who is she? And tries to present clues that lead towards her desired answer: She must be good.

The Plain does not want any questions. The fighter is not to be noticed or considered a threat.

The Plain is a low-risk strategy. The fighter risks nothing in the attitude game, and can only win if all the other players lose.

The Confident is a long play, but if played right, it can lead to the creation of myth and legend.

The Cocky is too direct, it does not grow and accumulate as a legend because it constantly begs to be challenged, to be disproved.

There are many common subtypes that exist within these generalities. Styles vary, emphasis varies, skill varies, and even the fighters sometimes change for one reason or another. But I think this give a good picture of the attitude game.

So onward!

Next time: Writing About Fighting II: The Fight Itself

The bad news: I should be writing.

The good news: I am writing.

Tough Target, my long neglected thriller-adventure-etc novel is almost done. Don’t roll your eyes are me. I mean it! It’s more almost-done than it ever has been.

As in, less than 10 chapters to go. Less than 20000 words till my goal!

i have even written a chapter during the daytime. As in, just before I wrote this post as an intermission. Cause guess what? I’m about to write another chapter—in the daytime. I know. My head may explode, but not until Tough Target is done.

Want to know my secret? No, not the one about that trapdoor under the rug. Forget it. I got to get back to writing.

Lo and behold, I have a new hobby. Big surprise, yes?
No.
A curse and a blessing it is to be a “renaissance” woman. (That’s a nice way of saying I have attention issues…)
But, sometimes, I manage to come up with a new interest that is both interesting and potentially useful and complementary.
Please hold your applause and welcome…SCREENWRITING…to the fold. (Don’t worry, I’m still writing books too. This is all part of my devious plan. I’ve tricked myself into using this new hobby as a procrastination technique. Don’t tell me, but I’m putting off writing, by writing. It’s genius, I know!) now, shhh

So, I’m working on a feature, a short, and a sample episode of Hannibal. But don’t take my word for it, behold my home.

The Study – Oft mistaken for a common ‘office.’

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20130517-225931.jpg

The Kitchen – A place for cooking up plots rather than cooking with pots.

20130517-225835.jpg

20130517-225910.jpg

And everywhere you need it to be, may I introduce you to The Light at the End of the Tunnel.

20130517-230043.jpg

Mumble, grumble, paying off my word-war debts….

 

Hi, it’s Courtney from Syncopated Synonyms once again. Today’s topic? Zombies.

As recently as last year, there were several zombie scares in the U.S. news, and, although the hysteria was quickly debunked, the CDC felt it necessary to address zombies on its website. Interestingly, said website has since morphed into an attempt to make tongue in cheek zombie “updates” useful to public health in general: CDC Zombie Preparedness.

Their website states:

Wonder why Zombies, Zombie Apocalypse, and Zombie Preparedness continue to live or walk dead on a CDC web site? As it turns out what first began as a tongue in cheek campaign to engage new audiences with preparedness messages has proven to be a very effective platform. We continue to reach and engage a wide variety of audiences on all hazards preparedness via Zombie Preparedness; and as our own director, Dr. Ali Khan, notes, “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” So please log on, get a kit, make a plan, and be prepared!

But zombies aren’t just useful in terms of public health preparedness; they often serve as handy-catchall symbols (who, usefully, can’t complain about being catchalls) for any social ills we writers/film makers wish to throw their way.

But I have a few bones to pick with zombie lit. (Hmm, maybe I shoulda gone with brains to pick there). First, it’s often unrealistic: something with a rotting body shouldn’t have super-strength or super-speed or super-anything (except stench). Sure, if you happen to get snuck-up on, or have the terrible luck to wander into the midst of a horde, you’re gonna die, but zombies rarely have the potential to be strong, believable adversaries.(I do have a caveat, which will be addressed later on).

Second, zombie lit tends to be churned out formulaic-ly, which is just lame considering the potential for social commentary and overall awesome.

Third (and here is where I’d like to place my focus in this post), the whole mythology of zombies is greatly misunderstood.

The zombie mythology comes, primarily, from Carribean lore–although myths about the dead have been around for as long as people, I’d guess. These zombies were really just people in catatonic states: they looked dead while they were under the thrall of some sort of voodoo master. Or, they were actually dead but were raised by a specific person for a specific person and then went away. These zombies could be undone, which is really handy.

A lot of “zombie lore” nowadays can be attributed to George Romero, whose films (including the classics Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead) have defined the zombie film genre as we know it.

I really like one of his recent films, Survival of the Dead, in which the desperate residents of a tiny island teach zombies to eat animals instead of people.

But I, alas, am far from a full-fledged expert on the subject of authentic-zombie lore. So, this rambling introduction has been leading up to a world-class passing of the buck. Check out this resource, put together by the University of Michigan, for more information:

http://www.umich.edu/~engl415/zombies/zombie.html

 

 

Once again, it’s Courtney from Syncopated Synonyms. Before you throw your rotten tomatoes in disappointment at hearing from me yet again due to this hundred-years’-word-war, I’d just like to note that I have been writing upwards of 10,000 words a week, just on a Master’s Thesis rather than a novel.

Once the semester ends your Master erm, benevolent host, will have to watch out. Because it really will be war. Again.

Anyhow, my task this week is to talk to all of you about writing the non-action bits of your novel, something otherwise known as “sequel” (where “action” bits are known as scenes). If this is a bit confusing to you, refer to Jack Bickam’s Scene & Structure, which is part of Writer’s Digest’s Elements of Fiction Writing Series.

Now, before I get into great detail about the purpose of these “sequel,” or non-action parts, I’d like to share a few quotes with you:

“Writing is both mask and unveiling.” E.B. White

“I would solve a lot of literary problems just thinking about a character in the subway, where you can’t do anything anyway.” Toni Morrison

Writing is sort of a push and pull act of creation, it’s ambiguous, and it’s often not as simple as it seems it should be. Famous authors, such as the two (some of my favorite Literary authors) I quote above struggle with many of the same things as us not-so-famous authors. One thing in particular is finding balance between “action” and “calm” in writing.

There’s something about writing–especially the writing of fiction–that really needs non-action moments, even though, for writers and readers, the excitement, glamour, or shock and awe value–whatever you want to call it–may seem to lie in the action scenes.

I get it, action is so much more fun to write.

But just like people, stories need moments of calm, of apparent solitude, so that they can make connections and plan out future action and let the reality of things really, truly set in. Now, this “calm” can take many forms. For example:

In Renaissance Drama, the “sequel” bits often took the forms of soliloquies )the monologue that happen when only one character is on stage [or at least appears to be the only person on stage]). In these moments, characters process information and regroup or proceed with their plans.

In Urban Fantasy, these are usually the rare moments when the protagonist gets to enjoy a “normal” and “everyday” occasion, like a family party, a date, a night at home away from all of the monsters and mayhem. These are also the moments when the characters either grapple with their identities or experience satisfaction in who they are and how they live. As readers, we get to see who and what these character love, not just what they hate/fight against. We also get to see the “real” character rather than the “action-hero” he or she becomes during action scenes.

As these two highly divergent examples illustrate, however, these moments are important for far more than plot purposes. They allow readers to glimpse the “essence” of the characters, they allow the writer to solidify characterization or to point to some driving motivation beneath the surface of the action-packed scenes.

These moments are somewhat uncanny in action-genres such as Urban Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, etc., because the conventions of the genre ultimately predetermine reader expectations. We expect danger and explosions, adrenaline-filled moments of awesome. We don’t expect to see a the protagonist slip on some reading glasses and open up a worn copy of Pride and Prejudice, or talk to a supposed enemy over a civil gourmet dinner, or geek out over Monty Python after a long day battling evil. But these moments often tell us much more about the character than the action scenes do, just because they allow both the readers and the characters to figuratively step-back from the pressing immediacy of the plot and just be themselves.

At least, that’s my take. Please chime in with your ideas, as well.

It’s been fun,

Courtney

Hi again, it’s me—Courtney from Syncopated Synonyms. Yes, yes, this does mean that I lost another word war to your tyrannical host really enjoy my role as guest blogger here.

In case you didn’t catch this from the ridiculously long title, I’m here today to discuss trolls. No, not those awesome and slightly disturbing toys from the 90’s, and I’m certainly not talking about internet trolls, because that would be dull and irritating. No, I am talking about honest-to-goodness mythological trolls.

Why, you may be asking yourself, would a writer devote a blog post to trolls? What, you may then ask yourself, makes this writer qualified to write about trolls?

Let me start off by saying I am in no way claiming to be an expert on the subject, all of the information I discuss today has been gathered from varying sources (which have been linked to at the end of this post) and, because this is a mythical topic based off of the folk lores and religions of several countries, no true absolute statements can be made. Except the previous one, apparently.

I am interested in troll mythology because it is the central concept in one of my current works-in-progress, the working title of which is The Monster In My Pocket. You can read more about that project here. And now, to the featured presentation:

***

Trolls come from a primarily Germanic tradition. The major lore comes from Iceland, Norway, and Scandinavia. Originally, the term troll was sort of a catchall for monster of an extremely gross and scary variety. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know…but we’re just building a base of knowledge, not doing extensive academic research—yet) these catchall monsters may sometimes overlap with something called a vaettir which is, as far as I can tell, a nature spirit or a spirit of the dead. Spirit isn’t quite literal here, as these beings were considered quite material.

Later incarnations of the troll myth include Huldra (female) or huldrakarl (male), which are pretty much land-sirens (well, they don’t necessarily sing). There are mountain trolls and forest trolls and, as everybody knows, bridge trolls. Changelings can be troll children (although elves and fairies are probably more associated with the term). Trolls can be enormous or human sized, extraordinarily ugly or extremely beautiful. Most are very, very old. Some are basically animals—they lack even basic intelligence, yet, others are cunning enough to swindle humans out of wealth.

In Norse mythology, trolls are often referred to as Jotun, and they are descendents of the first being—the giant, Ymer, whose body turned into the world. Ymer is also responsible for the race of gods and the humans.

In Part II, we can discuss typical literary depictions of these ambiguous creatures, and attempt to answer the question: why would anybody be crazy enough to make a troll a primary character in one of her books?

 

Until then, peruse these links…

Norse Mythology: www.bergen-guide.com/345.htm

Wikipedia definitions: Huldra, Vaettir, Troll, and Jotun

 

The life of a writer is difficult, risky, and full of a bunch of other unpleasantness.

At least, that seems to be the general consensus. I cannot disagree. In the few years since I confirmed the fact that I wanted to be a writer and jumped off the lovely cliff in pursuit of my destination, I will attest to a certain…departure from what most seem to prioritize. There is no financial security, not even a prayer of real income until a ridiculous amount of time, money, and soul is spent writing something that has both a beginning, an end, and plenty of fiddly middle bits. It is all risk, tons of work, and absolutely zero guarantees.

I’m told that this is supposedly a deterrent for many aspiring writers. I found it to be exactly like the way I’ve always preferred to live my life and in some ways, actually easier. Believe it or not, writing is the cheapest and least risky venture I have ever committed myself to.

Ever heard of the cattle business? Well, that’s the business I’ve been in for the last seventeen or so years and even after a short slowdown in college, here I am, back at it again.

For the last three months and for at least two more, maybe three, all of my money and all that the bank would loan me has been walking around on four hooves. My job is simple: keep all the calves alive, watered, and fed. Sounds easy, right? I guess it does. But it never is.

Wheat calves are a lot like zombies in that a most apt moniker for both is “The Walking Dead.” On a good year, nothing dies. On a bad year, maybe 3-5% expire. This year…let’s just say that I’d kill for a 5% death loss average and zombies are looking downright healthy. I’m considering looking into the zombie business next year. I’ve heard that they don’t get BRD, BVD, pneumonia, bloat, sudden death, or any of the other conditions that I’ve been battling fruitlessly for the last few years since November.

In summary, it looks like six months of work, worry, and risking all my money is going to net me a whopping income of not-enough-to-even-count and that’s the best case scenario. Equally probable is that I will have less money in the bank than I started with just a couple of months ago.

Now perhaps it is clear why I look at the life of a writer, eyes open, and still see a really cushy career. I mean, come on, you can write in any weather, words don’t get pneumonia, and I can eat away at my savings over the course of years, not days. How much easier can you make it?

Now, I must go haul hay, feed hay, doctor some zombies—I mean calves, count them, check the water, haul off a dead one, and hope that the fence is up, the calves are in, alive and fat,…and I better stop now or I won’t get it all done before dark.

Later!