Thanksgiving Songs and a Song Challenge

Thanksgiving can be an ambiguous holiday for me, since I’m a non-believer. I mean, to whom am I supposed to be thankful? Yet, I do feel gratitude for many things in my life, and I manage to find sources for those things and offer a thought or a song of thanks.

I am very thankful for my love of Music. I know this came from my biological father and his family and friends. While I don’t remember my mother’s family enjoying music, I have a couple of memories of my father that are related to music. So, I offer Abba’s Thank You for the Music to my paternal ancestors as a token of my gratitude.

Of course, I cannot forget my mother and her family on Thanksgiving. My mother gave me a love of event planning, especially during the holidays. I believe this also is where I gained a sense of Theatrics (set design, rehearsing, planning the big show, etc.) She would decorate the house and cook the entire feast. Our house would be the place where extended family would come and sit at the big table (and the kid’s table) to celebrate the big holidays, including Thanksgiving.

It’s been hard on my mom since my siblings married and have to share the holidays with in-laws. I live over a thousand miles away, so I usually cannot travel home for the holidays. Yet, my mom still tries to make her house a pleasant place to visit during the holidays. It may be corny and not so relevant since she lives in the city, but Over the River and Through the Woods is the song that conveys that feeling of wanting to spend time with family during the holidays.

Then, there’s my friend Darlene. She’s help me so much and for such a long time, I’d be a fool not to be thankful to her. Let’s see… “thanks,” “friend”… only one song will do. Darlene, Thank You for Being a Friend.

Popular Thanksgiving Songs

I was never a fan of Adam Sandler, but his song seems to be one of the most popular for this particular holiday. He sings The Thanksgiving Song in such an irritating falsetto that I want to throw a bowl of cranberry sauce at him. BUT, the song does mention turkey.

Speaking of turkey, Turkey in the Straw is probably the oldest and most popular song about turkeys.

Let’s not forget that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas Shopping Season. This is more true today than ever before, since many stores now open on Thanksgiving Day instead of waiting for Black Friday (but I’m not opening that can of worms – I know better).

Santa has already shown up at many malls, but the Thanksgiving Day Parade used to be his official method of arriving in town. What song would be played as Santa’s sleigh appeared down the block? It was Santa Claus is Coming to Town, one of the most popular Christmas songs about St. Nick.

A Christmas Song Challenge

Now that Santa is in town, I’m going to try and blog about Christmas and other Holiday songs each day until Christmas Day. I wonder if I can do it.

The End of a J-Pop Era: The Graduation of Sayumi

Sayumi Michishige of Morning Musume
Michishige san invented the Usa-chan Peace pose.

She cannot sing. She is clumsy and not at all athletic. Her ‘character’ is narcissistic. She calls herself the number one cutest member of not only Morning Musume but of the entire Hello Project and beyond.

Yet, today is a sad day for fans of Japanese Pop Music. It is the day that Sayumi Michishige graduates (leaves) Morning Musume.

End of a Golden Age

The ceremony will take place at Yokohama Arena during Morning Musume ’14’s final performance of their “Give Me More Love” Tour. The event will probably include the usual graduation rituals: members will present Sayu with flowers and emotionally tell her how they feel about her leaving, Sayu will pass her leadership of the group onto Mizuki Fukumura (the second oldest member), she’ll read her graduation speech, and sing her farewell song “Shaba Daba Do.” But this isn’t just a normal graduation, as many consider this the end of Morning Musume’s golden era.

Michishige joined the group in 2003 as part of its sixth generation. After 11 years and now at 25 years old, she has been in Morning Musume longer than any other memeber. During her time with Momusu, the group has had many number one hits on Japan’s Oricon charts. Morning Musume has traveled the globe, performing in Asia, Europe, and America (most recently in New York in October, 2014). Sayumi has been the group’s leader, since Risa Niigaki’s graduation in May, 2012.

The important issue surrounding this graduation is the fact that Mizuki (the new leader) is a ninth generation member. No one from the seventh or eight generation remains to connect the group to its pre-2011 past. Over the past few years, the group’s producer Tsunku has changed the style of their music from upbeat, pop-oriented sounds to a more techno sound, and he’s lower the average age of the group’s members. Additionally, the group’s name was changed to Morning Musume ’14. It’ll be Morning Musume ’15 come January.

Morning Musume 10th Anniversary album cover
Morning Musume’s 10th Anniversary album was released in 2007.
Morning Musume is not the same as it was when Sayumi joined in 2003. It’s not the same as it was a few years ago. It has a different feeling – a different image. This is, of course, expected. Things change. Music groups evolve. Morning Musume may be able to hold on to its position as one of the most popular girl groups in Japan, but many believe it will never be what it was. With Michishige’s graduation, all ties to the old Morning Musume are gone, its Golden Age over.

Tribute to Sayumi Michishige

During her years in Morning Musumem, Sayu has experienced being a singer (she admits that her voice is weak), a dancer, a model, an actress (on stage, film, and television), a voice actor, a Mistress of Ceremonies, a variety show personality, and other activities associated with idols of her level. It’s no wonder that she wants to take a break from the entertainment world after she graduates.

She took on the role of the self-loving, cute diva of the group, whose pointed tongue often hurled insults at those who would question her number one position. Yet, anyone who has followed the group over the years knows that she is actually a very caring person. She was always anxious about performing and getting things right. She is funny, beautiful, and confident – the last only coming after years of experience and effort.

Today we are sad that Sayumi Michishige is leaving. She may play at being someone we love to hate sometimes, but we know her secret. She is a wonderful person. She started her career as a doubtful girl who turned into an elegant beauty. No wonder Hello Project saw fit to make a music video dedicated to this Looking Back Beauty.

There is joy in the sadness. There is a reason to celebrate. There’s to you Sayumi Michishige. We can’t wait to see what you will do next.

We’re On A Comet! Don’t Stop Us Now

After a dry period, Bob has decided to take the blog in a new direction and write about his true passion: Music.

On November 12, 2014, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe on a comet. We human beings can sometimes do great things, and this event marks the beginning of a new understanding about comets and the beginnings of our solar system.

This great achievement makes me think of a recent song used on an episode of Doctor Who. The song is Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” – a song I previously did not know.

After a mellow introduction, the tempo speeds up to a pace that matches the comet’s speed of 41,000 miles an hour. With lyrics like “I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies” and “I’m burning through the sky”, the song seems to be about the comet and our little machine soaring through space around the Sun. There’s also mention of a rocket ship.

The best part about my discovering this song was the BBC’s music video. It features the English singer/songwriter Foxes singing a jazzy version of “Don’t Stop Me Now.” With action-packed clips from Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor, the video is full of energy. It’s the combination of the energy of the video, the tempo of the music, and the lyrics that made me associate the song with the comet.

What about you? Does the idea of a man-made device landing on a speeding comet bring a song to your mind? Register/Sign In and leave a comment below, or you can post your thoughts on my Facebook page.

Character Development in Moonlight Reflections: Rachael

A Victorian image of a moon woman
In 2011, I wrote a 10 minute play called “A Date with an Anime Princess.” It’s now 2014, and I’ve written a sequel. The positive reaction to the script has inspired me to write an entire series of short plays based on the characters. I’m calling the series Moonlight Reflections.

Rachael is one of the main characters of the series. She is a fangirl of the Princess Luna Kitty anime, and often cosplays as Luna. The series follows Rachael and Tim (another anime fan and cosplayer) from their first meeting through their eventual marriage and first pregnancy.

Phase One of Rachael’s Character Development

When I wrote the first play, I tried to make Rachael a lot like the anime character she so admired: cute, kind, and playful, but strong — with a need to fight injustice. She is a sweet girl, but tends to get angry when she feels someone is being unfair. This can be seen when Tim tries to inhibit her very public enthusiasm for cosplay:

“You’re asking me to give up my individuality, my creativity, to fit in — to give up my idea of fashion and art — of fun — just to make everyone else happy.”

I was writing a 10 minute play, and didn’t spend too much time developing the character. Now that I’ve decided to write more stories involving Rachael, I need to round out her personality, and I need to do it using the character traits I’ve already established. To do this, I’ll rely on the dialogue in the first script, because it provides clues to her basic personality. I’ll also need to work more on the character’s backstory and make her more realistic.

A More Rounded Rachael

Starting out, I have a young woman who has the following traits: cute, kind, playful, flirtatious, just, and nerdy (she cosplays). She tells Tim she is a music therapist in a mental hospital, so she is also musical, caring, and giving.

Rachael didn’t have a last name in the first script, so I started there. I think I just picked the name Rachael randomly, and it has no meaning for the character, therefore, I decided that I’d give her the middle name of Catherine, since Kitty is one of its nicknames. For a last name, I chose Landere. According to some baby name sites, Llandere is a girl’s name that means “moon woman” — very appropriate for someone who pretends to be a princess named Luna. Rachael Catherine Landere is a pretty nice name.

Next, I need to ask some questions. Why did Rachael become a music therapist? Why is she into cosplay, and why is she so attached to Princess Luna Kitty? I may not share the answers to these questions in the plays, but having the information will help me write a better character.

I decided to make Rachael a pianist. She’s studied music for many years and is quite accomplished, but that doesn’t explain why she is a therapist at a mental institution.

From my research, I’ve found out that many cosplayers dress up as characters and go to conventions to escape the worries and boredom of everyday life. What if Rachael’s inclination to study music therapy and her desire to cosplay were inspired by the same things: a need to help mentally ill patients and a passion for escape into fantasy.

Perhaps a member of Rachael’s family suffered from a mental illness. Perhaps she found that her music helped to sooth the person’s suffering. Maybe she used cosplay as a way to temporarily remove herself from the reality of caring for a mentally ill person.

Rachael’s Story

Rachael Catherine Landere’s mother suffers from Schizophrenia. Rachael found that playing the piano often helped her mother’s condition, so she decided to help others and majored in Music Therapy.

Yet, the stress of caring for her mother and the workload at college was tough for Rachael. When she discovered anime and cosplay, she enthusiastically entered the world of conventions and cosplay competitions, because it helped her escape from her troubles. She particularly liked portraying Princess Luna Kitty because the character shared a lot of her traits, displayed a calmness during hard times, and had the ability to heal illness.

A Step on My Journey as a Writer

In coming up with Rachael’s backstory, I’m not only creating a more rounded character, I’m adding a lot more detail to Rachael’s life. The details fit together well and could happen in real life, so it makes the character more plausible.

This will help me write better dialog, because I know Rachael and her story. It’s only one step of my journey as a playwright, but it’s an important one.

Moonlight Reflections: A Cosplay Love Story

528691main_Super_Moon

In 2011, I wrote a short play for the Carrollwood Players’ One Act Weekend. The 10 minute play was called “A Date with an Anime Princess.” It was the story of a first date between two cosplayers who are fans of an anime called Princess Luna Kitty.

Now it’s 2014, and I’ve written a sequel entitled “The Fall of Princess Luna.” Rachael and Tim, the two main characters of both plays, are now married. Tim’s brother Frank is staying with the couple at their home, and he has an accident that initializes the conflict in the story.

“The Fall” is currently in rehearsal, but the reaction to the script, both at auditions and during the rehearsal process, has been so positive, that I’ve decided to write an entire series of 10 minute plays based on Rachael and Tim’s relationship. Since the characters are so passionate about Princess Luna Kitty, both anime and cosplay will be featured throughout the series. Each play will explore the love story between Rachael and Tim and involve incidents that revolve around their passion for Princess Luna.

I don’t have all of the chapters of the series figured out yet, but I am in the process of writing the first installment, where Rachael and Tim meet at an anime convention. The working title is “The Trial of a Wisdom Warrior.” When all of the scripts are finished, they’ll be combined into a book. Producers will be able to obtain rights to an individual one act or license all of them for an evening of entertainment.

The name of the entire series will be Moonlight Reflections. I think its a great title, since Rachael, Tim, and their friends cosplay as characters in the Princess Luna Kitty anime. Also, many of the ‘real life’ characters share traits with the anime characters.

And yes, Princess Luna Kitty is a fictitious anime, but it was inspired by Sailor Moon. To avoid copyright and licensing problems, I had to create an entirely new anime story, but you’ll be able to see many similarities. There are also many details borrowed from other anime, plus some created in my own imagination.

I’ll let you know when I’ve finished the series and where you’ll be able to get a copy of the book. If you get a chance to read the series or see any of the plays in production, let me know what you think in the comments area.

A Valentine’s Day Gift

While searching for new music this week, I found a lovely little song that was recorded by the Korean Pop group Secret. Secret was one of the first K-pop girl groups I discovered when I first explored the genre, and they are one of the sweetest and charming groups I’ve ever seen.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I can appreciate charm, sweetness, beauty, and the excitement of new love. I must confess that when I first watched this video, I teared up. You can judge me if you will, but I am glad I have the ability to enjoy this type of music and video.

Because it means something to me, I am linking to it here as a Valentine’s gift for those who share my passion for such things. (I’m not claiming ownership or copyright, of course, I’m just sharing something wonderful. The music and video are owned by TS Entertainment.)

This was recorded for Christmas, but I think it fits well for Valentine’s Day also.

So, ladies, please be my Valentine, if only for a few minutes while you watch the video.

On a technical note: The entire video is done in one shot! No cuts, no edits. It just makes it that much more special.

As I watch the video again for this post, I’m getting all sorts of inspiration and ideas for the Master Plan.

Some Character Names You May Not Know

I am working on several writing projects at the moment. Right now, I’m working on the characters’ names.

Naming characters can be a tricky business. I struggle with the process of creating my characters’ monikers. I’ll talk more about how I do it in an upcoming post. In the mean time, let’s look at some famous characters whose real names you may not know.

You are probably familiar with Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts comic strip and Charlie Brown cartoons. Her real name is Patricia Reichardt. Twitter’s little feathered mascot is Larry Bird. Yes, it’s true. Another famous Larry is the Quaker Oats guy on the oatmeal box – it’s not William Penn.

Mental Floss on YouTube has a video featuring 44 Fictional Characters whose names you may not know.

I was very surprised by some of the names.

A character’s name can remind a reader or viewer about an idea the writer is trying to convey. Do any of the names of the characters presented change how you feel about the characters? Perhaps you felt that some names didn’t match the character at all, while others seemed to be a perfect fit.

When you create characters, be aware that the names you give them may influence how the character is perceived by your audience.

Building Plot with Dramatic Situations

Georges Polti was a 19th century writer who created a list of "Dramatic Situations." He read scores of stories and scripts (mostly Classical works), and analyzed the plots to create his list of 36 situations – what today might be called plot points.

Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations can provide ideas for conflict in all types of stories. He also developed detailed explanations of each of the situations, along with the character types that would be involved in each scene.

The 36 situations are listed below. A wise writer could use one or more of them as inspiration when stuck for a story idea or conflict.

The 36 Dramatic Situations

  1. Supplication
  2. Deliverance
  3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance
  4. Vengeance Taken for Kin Upon Kin
  5. Pursuit
  6. Disaster
  7. Fall Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune
  8. Revolt
  9. Daring Enterprise
  10. Abduction
  11. Enigma
  12. Obtaining
  13. Enmity of Kin
  14. Rivalry of Kin
  15. Murderous Adultery
  16. Madness
  17. Fatal Imprudence
  18. Involuntary Crimes of Love
  19. Slaying of Kin Unrecognized
  20. Self-sacrifice for an Ideal
  21. All Sacrificed for Passion
  22. Self-sacrifice for Kin
  23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
  24. Rivalry of Superior vs Inferior
  25. Adultery
  26. Crimes of Love
  27. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
  28. Obstacles to Love
  29. An Enemy Loved
  30. Ambition
  31. Conflict with a God
  32. Mistaken Jealousy
  33. Erroneous Judgement
  34. Remorse
  35. Recovery of a Lost One
  36. Loss of Loved Ones

Expand on one or more of these "situations" and you could have the foundation of a great scene or even an entire story.

Story Structure: Beginning, Middle, Ending

Basic tools of writing - an inkstand, quill, and blotter.There is something to be said for occasionally reviewing the basics. We often tend to get so involved in our writing that we forget to keep the simple things in mind.

It’s the elementary stuff that can foul us up the most, so let’s go over something that seems self-explanatory but sometimes eludes the most experienced of writers: basic story structure.

When discussing plot structure or how a story is put together, many experts go back to Aristotle and his work Poetics. This seems to be one of the oldest texts about writing, and in it, Aristotle states what seems to be the obvious. A story must have:

  • a beginning,
  • a middle,
  • and an ending.

Simple enough, right? Almost too simple. Yet, we often get so excited about a new idea that we start writing a story without considering these three basic parts. What we can end up with is a mash-up of characters and plot points with no real order.

To avoid the problem, we have to remember these basics when we are in the first steps of creating a story. Like theme, keeping the basic story structure in mind while writing keeps us on track.

In the Beginning

When we start thinking about a new story, we usually begin in the Middle. We come up with some characters who are dealing with a conflict and begin expanding the story from there.

What we don’t want to forget is that the audience needs to know who these characters are and how they ended up in conflict. This is where the Beginning of the story becomes important. The Beginning provides an introduction to the characters and the setting of the story. It provides the exposition needed for the audience to know who is involved and why they are in conflict.

Hopefully, we make the characters and the introduction of the conflict so interesting in the Beginning that it “hooks” our audience into staying with the story. The Beginning must grab the attention of the audience while answering the Who, What, Where, When, and Why questions needed to understand the rest of the plot.

The Middle

The Middle is supported by the Beginning. Without a good Beginning, our audience can easily get lost. We must establish the main characters and the setting(s) early, so that when we reach the Middle and conflict begins, the audience knows who to cheer on.

Once we’ve introduced the characters and the conflict, we get to the heart of a story. The Middle is where characters are developed and the plot becomes interesting. Through a series of increasingly difficult problems, the conflict between the characters grows until we get to the climax of the story.

The climax is where everything changes. The protagonist has conquered or been defeated by his major conflict or the antagonist. Now, everything must be neatly wrapped up with a good Ending.

The Ending

It is a good idea to write the Ending first. In this way, we know from the start where everything is going – where the characters end up. If we know the ending while we write a story, it is easier to stay focused and not get lost in unnecessary plot lines.

A good Ending satisfies an audience. It ties up all the loose ends in a story. Unless we are writing a series, the Ending should resolve all of the conflicts and show how the main characters have changed.

Too Basic?

Reminding ourselves that a story has a Beginning, a Middle, and and Ending may seem too basic. It’s obvious. Yet, many a story has been abandoned during the writing process because the author did not keep this basic idea in mind.

We must establish our characters and hook the audience with a good Beginning. Then, we have to keep the action going by throwing in lots of conflict and character development in the Middle. Finally, wrap everything up with a satisfying Ending.

What To Write: Coming Up With Ideas

Kulikov_Writer_E.N.Chirikov_1904
There you sit, in front of a blank screen or an untouched piece of paper, reaching into the depths of your imagination trying to find a character, setting, or plot idea – anything that will get the writing process started. You might become frustrated and feel blocked.

Many writing gurus tell us that ideas are everywhere. You know what? They’re right!

The problem with creativity is that often it doesn’t come when you are focused on it. It doesn’t work when you want it to. So, you have to un-focus your mind and warm up your imagination before it will give you what you want.

Below is a list of activities that might help spark your imagination and get rid of that writer’s block. While involved in these activities, keep the concepts of good storytelling in mind: character, setting, conflict, plot. You should soon have a list of words or images that you can use to break down that wall. Just start asking yourself questions about them.

  • Browse websites like Pinterest or Tumblr.com.
  • Write down the name of the person you most admire and three of his/her qualities. Do the same for someone you dislike. Write down a place you visited in the past few days. Now, write down the subject of the last argument you had. There are your story elements.
  • If you already have a topic, write a list of related words about it.
  • Use vocabulary websites like Enchanted Learning for word lists and elementary facts about specific topics.
  • Play free association games with a family member or friend – give the person a word and write down the word they think of first. Repeat until you have a nice list.
  • Type “writing prompts” into Google and visit several of the websites listed.
  • Visit story generator websites

These are just a few suggestions that should help stimulate your imagination. Like everything else with writing, it will take a bit of time and effort, but the results are worth it. After an hour or so, you’ll hopefully have more than enough ideas to create a few characters and an interesting setting. You might even have some ideas about the conflict of your story.

Now, you can move on. Ask questions about each of these new ideas. The answers you come up with could be the basis of a great new story.