On Faerie-Tales

May 5, 2011By jayart, miscelany, Writing

The title of this post is a tribute to JRR Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories. In it he lays out his understanding of fantasy (fairy-tales) and expounds on their utility.

One of my peeves with “modern” fairy-tales is that fact that most, not all, utilize the same worn out characters. They are Greek gods, fairies, ogres, trolls, giants, hobbits (Oh, wait, that one was new.), elves, fawns, and the like. They are old. They are used. Yes, sometimes, like in Tolkien’s work they are revitalized images of ancient ideas—though his is not usually the case.

For the most part, rarely are there faerie tales that create new creatures and use them creatively—unless of course modern comics as updated versions of the faerie tale are included, which isn’t necessarily too off-base. As for the proper faerie tale: one rarely finds a new creature that captures the heart and mind like those of old (hobbits and balrogs excluded).

It is hard to imagine new beings that rivet listeners and readers, like the minotaur—whose terrible circumstances of birth, the harrowing life, caged (should I say caved?) away like an animal, and its final death ensnares the reader/listener and creates sympathy for the poor creature. Its tale informs us that this being was a monstrous victim. Many of us can relate.

The idea of elfs (or elves as is proper) draws the reader into the story: the sagacious humanoid that can quickly and quietly vanish—astonishes. Their speed and super-human abilities endears them to the listener and carries us away with an earnest desire to have the same abilities. Few haven’t wished that they could be elvish impersonators—their aura of mystery, magically, imbues us with hopes and dreams.

But, what of the new creatures? What of the new myths and faerie tales? (I am not talking about the Disnified versions. Those are meant to entertain.) What of the new tales that help us to understand the incomprehensible? Faerie tales are (often, terribly-heart-rending) lessons—yes, I am sure someone could point to a few that don’t make sense, but overall they are lessons, short (Tolkien excluded here) lessons, nonetheless.

True faerie tales are tragic and heroic. They have weighty concepts and often deal with ideas that can’t be expressed in society, but can be digested when wrapped up in the thinly veiled disguise of a tale.

So, how does one go about creating tales and new creatures that will enrapture a generation with the intensity of The Hobbit or the faeries of old? I don’t know what will work exactly. But, here are some suggestions that can help.

  • Throw out the Hollywood model. (Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy saves girl from monster—or whatever—and lives happily ever after).
  • Grab a chair. Sit in it. Or better yet, go for a walk in the woods experience life revel in the mystery around you.
  • Ask yourself questions about nature and how certain things work, eg. thunder.
  • Determine either the moral, idyllic, or commonsense truth that you wish to convey or the world mystery that isn’t easily explained.
  • Don’t plan on being overt with your message. Remember this is a story. The reader/listener needs to learn through the hero and other characters—not through a sermon.
  • Rake the hero over the coals and dragging him/her through hell and back.
  • Kill off the the hero (either figuratively or actually).
  • Send the tragedy into a deeper spiral. Grinding in the intensity to elevate the lesson.
  • When everything is at its worst—revive the hero (or the heroic muse).

Life is pain. Anybody that says different is selling something. ~Fezzik’s Mother.

  • Don’t end your story with a 100% happy ending or a happy one at all. Kill off an important person—if it adds to the overall understanding of the truth that is being written about.

Once this is done, build characters based around weakness, but with internal or veiled strengths. Strengths that they don’t even know they’re capable of. All truly well developed characters are both weak and strong—often they become stronger even as they weaken. Remember Frodo. He is timid, yet willing to be brave. He is physically weaker than his companions, yet of stronger mental/moral character. He emotionally, mentally, and physically embodies the best of humanity. Physically, he endures trauma and with uplifted spirits continues when he has all right to quit.

Build a character like Frodo, Perseus, Luke Skywalker, Theseus, and others—then, have tragedy haunt them and have victory gird their ideals.

Make them unique and you will have created a character that is unforgettable and lovable—one readers can connect with.

Obviously, story building is up to you—if you should chose to do so—to go out into the world experience the mystery and then explain it through your own tale.

Oh yeah, most importantly… enjoy it.


May 4, 2011By jayapplications, miscelany, technology

There has been a multitude of blog posts about Tweetbot, the newest Twitter app to hit iOS devices. Most of the reviews have been highly favorable, however, The Brooks Review has had a few unfavorable (although not unkind) comments about it.

And I don’t, exactly, disagree with his position—although, I do disagree with his final thoughts about UX and UI style.

I am not much of a tweeter. I don’t care to tweet my every moments or thoughts, so, I am biased toward the reader side of tweeting, but Tweetbot is the first twitter client that I actually enjoy using.

This is the part of UX and UI that is most important to me, as an UX Designer.

How does it feel? How does it make me feel: unlike other twitter tools, using Tweetbot I, actually, want to tweet more. I agree that the postability of the app is not as easy as it should be: It’s missing hashtags (#) and @ signs. Those are two annoyances that I hope get fixed in the app updates.

To me, this app feels good to use. I enjoy it and easily understand it’s added gestures. Tweetbot reminds me of an Apple product. Yes, the “chrome” is more than Apple would do, but it feels like an Apple product. That is the important part—the feeling.

Apple isn’t exactly known for their new innovation. Yes, they innovate, but it is often in areas already created. Apple re-innovates—more often than not—they take something that is working (smartphones, mp3 players, tablets, etc.) and they make it work well. They make it feel good.

This is what Tweetbot does for me.


May 3, 2011By jayart

Daily Sketches: Lately, you may have noticed that, I have been adding some daily sketches. Previously, these were only being posted on Instagram. This is a sketch that I did last week. Last night, I spent about 30 minutes painting it.