Transform your main character into a real hero

Are you considering writing heroic fiction? If it’s going to be your first venture into this sub genre there are a few issues you need to address. There is a lot of fiction about heroes and more being written even as this article is being written. A lot of these heroes fade into obscurity because they aren’t carefully crafted.

Here are a few tips on creating a hero readers will root for:

Give your hero some drive

It’s one of the basic elements in story telling but if you really want to create an original hero then you can’t use the same strategy as past writers. Granted most of the angles have been taken but if you try hard enough you can put your own spin on this old genre. Got a story about revenge? Redemption? Your hero’s reason can be pretty original if you put your imagination to task. Revenge is usually over someone that was lost and redemption is always about setting things right. The trick is making this reason have a high impact on the reader. It needs to tug at their heart strings. Your hero’s drive is also the reason why readers will root for him.

Must there always be obstacles?

Yes. Giving your hero a straightforward story to the final climax will make it a stereotypical, forgettable book to read. Anyone that reads will recommend that others don’t read it. Making your hero experience setbacks helps to build his resolve. Showing his efforts to overcome his challenges will earn him admiration in the eyes of your readers. But this also needs a lot of thought. You could easily fall into the trap of making obstacles that are basic. It’s best to come up with something in depth, something that really hurts your main character. First you’ve got to build your main character up so that readers will root for him, then you need to strike him down for them to beg for him to get up.

What kind of hero is he?

This too can be a tricky goal to tackle. Pretty often you have a hero who is idealistic. That doesn’t go down well anymore. Nowadays though it’s getting pretty common to have a hero with questionable ideals. How about having an idealistic hero who finds it difficult to uphold his ideals? Maybe he’s the type of person other characters dislike because he always makes the unpopular decisions. Give readers a hero who doesn’t have everything going for him.

What makes him special?

If you’re going to write heroic fiction or fantasy you need to be able to create a character that will become legendary. He’s got to be the kind of hero that will inspire others. Maybe he’s the stubborn kind which can translate into someone that’s determined to achieve his goals no matter the cost to himself. On the comical side he could have some ridiculous fear. Think of Indiana Jones’s aversion to snakes.

It’s not necessarily about his skills although these too need attention since lately it’s pretty hard to attract big audiences with swordsmanship, gunplay and  hand to hand combat. Don’t get me wrong, this stuff still sells but make sure you do plenty of research before you attempt to write any fight scenes. Your hero has to be impressive.

There is more but that’s up to you

Once you look at these issues you may realize what other ideas you can add to the uniqueness of your character. It’s your story after all. If you’re serious about creating a quality hero you’ll create an environment around him that helps him to become a real legend.

Image Credit: Obra19 via Wikimedia Commons

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When to Branch Away From Source Material

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Since the first few years of the 21st century, we’ve seen a major influx of movies adapted from comic book franchises. While some of these films were commercial successes, fans of the original source material gave way to extreme outrage at how unrecognizable their beloved heroes had become on the big screen.

Let’s take a look at these adaptations.

Changing the source material to suit the big screen does make sense. Some features of the comics could never make it onto the big screen otherwise newer potential audiences wouldn’t find the adaptations appealing. They might end up laughing it off, saying it’s too childish or ridiculous. An example would be the upcoming movie Amazing Spider-Man 2. Just Google it, and you’ll come across Jamie Foxx looking really blue. He’s playing the villain Electro who has direct control over electricity. His original costume is so outlandish that audiences probably would have thought he was a clown. So for the sake of common sense that look was abandoned. These are the kinds of adaptations that most people will agree make sense.

But then there are the adaptations which are loosely based on the source material. This is the type of film which antagonizes most fans. You can change the look of the character. Maybe even change the event which molds their personalities. But when the character is portrayed in a manner that is totally unlike the source material, it counts as a considerable loss of the original fanbase. The tragedy for fans is that in some cases these adaptations were box office smashes. The best example is probably the X-Men franchise. Good movies – but a lot of fans of the comics totally disagree. Too many of their characters were not fully portrayed and others bore little resemblance to their comic book versions. They can give you an extremely long list on what they found wrong with this movie.

The kind of adaptations that smash the box office and appease fans

As a fan of some franchise, you have to be fair towards filmmakers. Your favourite comic could never make an exact transition to the big screen. The whole point of movies is to produce a film that sells well. And for some filmmakers that means not only striving to appease the original fanbase but to try and attract a new fanbase for the films.

A truly high quality movie has good acting, a cleverly constructed storyline, the right setting, and all the other elements which are necessary in making a good movie. A high quality adaptation has all these qualities, but it has a few things extra. These are the key issues:

Strong resemblance to the original characters

You can change the look of the character, don’t misunderstand. It’s inevitable at times that the look will change. Sometimes the look won’t change but that’s based on how deeply rooted it is in the character’s history. It also depends on how popular it is.

The resemblance that is especially important is the portrayal of the characters. While they should never have the same dialogue to the original characters, they should at least act in a way that is resembles the portrayal of the original character. One of the best examples is The Dark Knight. While this movie branched away from the world which exists in the original Batman comics, its realistic approach is intelligently constructed. The feature that cements it as a good adaptation is the portrayal of Batman and the Joker. Christian Bale’s performance truly captured the darkness of Batman’s character while Heath Ledger’s approach was a true reflection of the almost hilarious madness of the Joker.

Other issues inevitably come up but whether they’re really important again depends on how deeply they are entrenched in the franchise. Issues like this can refer to the abilities of characters, their nationalities, etc. But these decisions also fall into the hands of the filmmakers. Fans will just have to have faith that these movie makers will remain respectful of the original source material.

Ultimately you should just go to the movies to watch a good movie

As much as it may hurt fans, it might be better to let go of the issue of whether the adaptation is faithful to the original source material. The only issue that should concern fans is whether it’s a truly reasonable adaptation and whether it makes up a high quality movie.

Image credit: Eva Rinaldi

The Cure for Alzheimer’s?

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In today’s times, scientists are constantly doing extensive research to find ways to treat some of the world’s most infamous diseases. More and more discoveries are being made these days. And late last year a discovery was made that may hold the key to finding the cure for Alzheimer’s.

Meghan Mott says that in the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, a research team was going through an investigation into how the brain gets rid of waste (http://nih.gov). Up until now it was understood that cerebrospinal fluid cleanses the brain tissue. But scientists were baffled as to how this process works. Up until now scientists believed that waste in the brain was transferred out via the long process of diffusion.

A previously undiscovered cleaning system

But this research team discovered that cerebrospinal fluid travels through the brain in an entirely different manner. Up until now scientists could only observe the brain tissue of animals that were already dead. But while conducting the research, this team used a process called 2-photon laser scanning microscopy to observe the cerebrospinal fluid in the brains of mice. This is a new method and it allowed the scientists to observe the brains of living mice. They injected tracers into the brain in the region where cerebrospinal fluid exists. They found that the tracers moved at a quicker rate than expected through channels surrounding the blood vessels. These channels are cells which surround the blood vessels and they are known as astrocytes.

Astrocytes are types of cells known as glial cells – which are types of cells that support neurons. By way of small appendages they can latch onto the blood vessels like an extra layer. And it is through this layer that the cerebrospinal fluid travels. It meant that scientists now know that the brain gets rid of waste in a similar manner to the lymphatic system in our bodies which exists to dispose of dead blood cells. They called this newly discovered system the ‘glymphatic system’ because it is a similar system to the lymphatic system and it is managed by these glial cells.

Scientists discussed the idea that problems in the glymphatic system may lead to an accumulation of waste in the brain. In the case of Alzheimer’s there is a buildup of a protein known as amyloid beta which builds up in the brain and harms the cells. The research team then conducted an experiment where they injected amyloid beta into the brains of healthy mice and the brains of mice whose glymphatic system’s had been genetically disabled. They found that with the healthy mice the protein was removed quickly from the system but in the case of the other group of mice the protein was removed at a much slower rate.

A possible cure for Alzheimer’s?

The research team then speculated that increasing activity in the glymphatic system might prevent a buildup and also possibly lead to the removal of the amyloid beta accumulation. They hope that the discovery of this cleaning system will help medicine find ways to treat brain injuries and treat neurological diseases.

This has proven to be highly significant discovery and could mean the beginning of the end of the incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s

Image credit: adrigu via Flickr

Does Your Audience Know What You’re Saying?

 

Blank message

No Message

 

You’re obviously on the right track when you consider how you’re going to get people’s attention through marketing. Your product or service won’t go anywhere if nobody knows about it. But before you think about all that, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you know what you’re saying.

It may seem obvious to you what you’re saying but the challenge lies in how you present that message to the public. You might have covered all the bases in marketing but if your message isn’t really clear, a lot of people won’t be coming back for a second look.

Tips about what goes into your message and getting it across

  • The message itself

The message is basically what you’re going to say to convince people to buy into your idea. Just saying what you have on offer’s not going to cut it. How does it sound when you say it? Can you do anything to make it sound more interesting, more engaging, more memorable? You need to put quality into your message.

  • Who is your audience?

This might seem obvious. But it’s vital. It’s one of the issues you should have already covered because in forming your idea, it’s essential to form it with an audience in mind. The audience is why the idea exists. It also might take some research to find out where you could target your advertising to get the most effective results. You could take a certain demographic, but within that demographic would be the concentrated interest within one particular group. So putting your ad about a new strategy in getting children fit up where you know moms generally look is a good idea, but it’s a much better idea to put it up where mothers who firmly believe in their children’s health will look.

  • How are you going to get the message across?

As much as being emotional about the product may seem too much, it’s an incredibly powerful tool in hooking people’s attention. You might argue that your idea sells itself. That it’s so good that people will immediately be interested in your idea. But that only happens when you have something that’s completely original. In today’s times being original’s the ultimate quest. But how you present it is still important. You can never leave the pitch out.

You could use some humour; people will always remember a really funny advert. Another angle to consider is that these days, advertisers use a lot of imagery. They associate the product with a class of people, so you’re saying by using this product they will become part of such a group. That’s when they’re trying to make people feel good when they’re using the product. Making them pause to think about something is also effective. Just think of those adverts against drinking and driving from Arrive Alive. They weren’t pleasant but the message struck home. The best message will touch people’s hearts as well as their minds. Once you’ve done that it’s a done deal.

Never forget that effective communication is vital

Never take it for granted that people will always automatically buy your product or into your idea just by presenting it in a flashy way. Superb special effects or strategies are great in selling your product but then you have to make sure all the action is saying something. Your message is the driving force behind the advertisement. Let it be channelled throughout every aspect.

Image credit: Microsoft Images

Mob Violence in South Africa

mobs fighting the police

What kind of country do you want?

Mob justice has become a common solution to outrage in South Africa. Included in that solution is violence.

I remember one day I had just left work and I had walked to the bus station. There was a big commotion as I arrived and I noticed a man running past me and a few seconds later another man came after him throwing a brick. Apparently he had been caught stealing. It was clear from the mood of the crowd that many wanted more than just the thief’s apprehension.

For another example I refer to an article I read today on the web. The article is named ‘Cops save 3 men from mob’.  The article mentioned how police had to intervene after three men were nearly killed by a mob, because they were suspected of breaking into and stealing from shacks. One of the worst things is that the men were not even proven to be guilty at the time, and yet the residents were quick to attack them.

More recently there have been a large amount of violent strikes in the country over wage disputes. In one case there was a clash between miners and police at the Marikana mine. Miners were shot dead. Apparently they had been brandishing weapons and rushing the police.

In other cases strikers have blocked main roads causing major upheaval to the economic sector.

The problem here is that these people no longer believe in resolving their arguments with logic and reason, but instead with violence. Is that the kind of country they want? Where for the right thing to be done, acts of barbarism are acceptable?

Is violence the answer to every problem?

Image Credit: Jordogbeton, via Wikimedia Commons

The Earth is a Gift We Abuse

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I am aware that not everyone in the world is religious. But have you ever thought about the air that you breathe, the people you know and love, etc? They all form part of the environment. We don’t pay for these things. Are they not then more like gifts?

I know that for some people, the prevailing attitude towards the environment (and all that it consists of), is like an unwanted gift. It’s is the place that we live in. Not exclusively like our houses; our homes. But it’s something that we share with everyone. And yet there are those who negligently toss their papers out of car windows. People who are insensitive to all the pollution in the air. For these people, it’s like ‘we just happen to live here, we aren’t responsible for the rest of the environment’.

They are the kind of people who clearly do not think of the consequences of their actions. They do not think of the inconvenience they are causing random strangers. Don’t we have the right to respect, in all its forms? Anyone who lives with other people in one house understands that we all have to do our part. We all have to keep our living space clean. In some cases we take pride in our homes. Should we not take pride in our environment?

Ever thought about it from the spiritual angle? Have you ever wondered where this lovely world of ours came from? God gave man dominion over the world. Anyone can see that man is the top of the food chain. We have the intelligence if not the strength, speed or physical adaptability of wild animals. If you gave your child a gift that you knew was fragile, you would advise your child to treat the gift with care, wouldn’t you? The environment is a gift to us.

People don’t truly appreciate their animals. I know there are those who are responsible when it comes to this. If so, be assured I am not directing this at you. People complain about stray animals. Not too long ago,  a child was killed by a pack of stray dogs. The community responded with outrage and wanted dogs put down because of this naturally. But that’s only a short-term solution. There will always be strays if people do not keep more control over their animals. Dogs that are allowed to run free for many hours will naturally result in more puppies being born. If you don’t want to deal with strays anymore, do your part in making sure there aren’t any more in the future.

These are just a few examples of what I mean. The world is our gift. It is ours to use as we see fit. But if we do not want to see it get out of control, let us take more care in how we treat it.

Image credit: edwin.11, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Does the taxi association believe in humanity?

We all know that money is an important factor in our lives. It’s important for our survival in this world. We have so many demanding factors in our lives that make us depend on money. But sometimes, I believe there are some who place profit above everything else, most importantly, above human dignity and respect.

The ones that have caught my attention these days are not unknown to the general public, at least here in South Africa. They are the drivers of the taxi association.

I know that I do not have all of the facts surrounding the circumstances in which these drivers find themselves. What I do know, is that some of them behave virtually like criminals, supposedly forced by their circumstances to earn money in the quickest ways.

Now the taxi association falls under public transport. But I think they defeat the purpose of public transport. Their job is to serve the public. I think that instead they are serving themselves.

Taxi drivers do not adhere to a schedule that I could determine. The only thing that they seem concerned with is how many passengers they can serve. So when one is the first one to board a taxi, it is possible that one may find oneself waiting for an undetermined amount of time until the taxi driver is satisfied with the amount of passengers on board.

So, yes it is wonderful that there are so many taxis on the road to get us to work and wherever else. But what good is it if because of these taxis we sometimes may not get to work on time, we may not be able to make our appointments, we may not be able to fulfil promises we have made?

Over the years, I have seen just how despicable the taxi association can be over the issue of profit. It seems they do not believe in fair competition. They believe in demands and intimidation. A few years ago, I found out that the Jammie Shuttle service which runs for students of the University of Cape Town, had to suspend services in certain areas because the taxi services threatened violence because they believed that the Jammie Shuttle service was stealing their profit. The flaw in their argument is this: students of UCT pay a lot of money to study at said institution. They have the right to choose how they get to campus, and if they can save money, good for them! I believe the taxi services really do not care about the wants or needs of the consumer.

I believe roads would be much safer, and more peaceful, without taxis. It would be a perfect world if there were more buses for people to use. At least buses adhere to schedules and generally they drive safely. Yes, there have been accidents involving buses, but in recent years accidents involving taxis have become more prominent.

For now, that is all I have time to say on taxi drivers in general. One thing I would like to add, that we find ways to avoid the use of taxis. Yes, they may get you to work, but they promote disrespect, recklessness and violence.

Where is their humanity?

Image Credit: By Dillon Marsh (Own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons