Saturday, April 30, 2011

Writing Body Language

Body language is an element of character because it's not usually possible to control it, especially when under the influence of strong emotions. Some people can subdue it, or manage not to react to things by eliminating their reactions overall, but in a story where the body language of the characters is written, their very blankness may stand out.

Because body language is uncontrollable, characters can often reveal things through their actions even if they're unlikely to talk about them, or even if they're not entirely aware of them. For instance, someone who's talked into doing something they don't really want to do might exhibit nervous body language, even when they're verbally in agreement.

Body language--especially gestures, posture and movement--can also speak to people other than those who are interacting because they're visible to an observer as well. That makes them particularly valuable to spies, watching the exchange, but also to readers. If you describe the scene and the body language, those nonverbal cues can convey the feel and mood of the conversation or interaction. Posture and movement become an important part of characterization and creating subtext for the reader.

It's especially important to describe a character's body language when two or more characters are interacting. While a detail about a lone character's posture or positioning can help to set the scene and communicate a character's mood, body language comes into play the most clearly when characters are interacting. Not only that, but a description of body language during character interaction adds depth. It can communicate subtle disagreement or discord between the characters, reflect their feelings for one another, or indicate deception or miscommunications.

In mysteries plots, body language can be used to lay clues or foreshadow later revelations, and in fantasy, science fiction and horror there are some wonderful ways to play with body language. Different species might well use it differently and in different ways. For most humans, the visual sense is the dominant one, which is probably part of the reason that visual nonverbal cues tell us the most. We're evolved to look for them, rather than listen for them, or smell for them.

I don't think body language is used as much in writing as it could be. We often describe character's postures and positions in very general terms--sitting at the table, standing in the doorway, leaning against the railing--without including the most important details. While I don't think that every body position and posture should be described in perfect detail, simple things like a mention of crossed arms, bitten lips, or the rubbing of a forehead or ear can speak to the reader.

Subtle cues may need to be repeated, but they can form a quiet web of signals and signs that create an undercurrent. And when a given character says something with a given body movement, which is repeated throughout a text, it can become good characterization. That level of detail isn't always necessary--or desirable if something needs to be clearly understood by the reader--but it can add to the mood or the tension in sections where those elements need strengthening.

Personal space is another aspect of body language that changes even between human cultures. While Americans prefer about three feet of space between themselves and people they don't know well, other cultures might find the need for so much space to be rude. The relationship of the characters and their emotional states will also affect how much personal space they give each other, and how much they insist on having. This can make for interesting reading, as a character who requires more space than others might be considered distant or rude, even when what they say is polite or civil. A character who feels too much space is rude can be talking to someone and all but chasing them across the room as they move closer and the other person puts distance between them.

Gestures, hand signals and facial expression are all culturally influenced and can create depth when you're worldbuilding. Cultures have rules about when it's okay to show a given emotion (anger, sorrow, joy) and who can express what. A man in America expressing sorrow through tears would be considered odd in many cases. This not only affects the characterization of the character, but of the society. In a place where it's perfectly normal for people to show sorrow when they are hurting, you might have character weeping in the street without even drawing the attention of those around them. Or, if one is expected never to show sorrow--and thus force it on those around them--then that character would be drawing a lot of attention. Which someone else might then be able to use as a distraction.

Of course, some people are harder to read than others, and on an individual by individual basis there will be a difference in how the nuances of emotions are expressed even within a given culture. This adds another level of complexity to the dialogue, allowing characters to deceive one another while their deception is perfectly clear to the reader.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Good Book Alert!

My first ever Good Book Alert review is up over at the site! It's so exciting. :-D I really liked the book, too! Ice Blue, by Emma Jameson, which is a fun mystery novel with fantastic characters! You can find my review here

In addition, I think I'm finally getting a handle on everything. All the new activities and how to balance them with the old, and when to take a break. And that's what I'm doing now. I finished with A Sign in Blood (in that it's ready for macro reads and I'll be sending it out soon!) and now I'm taking a little time off before I dive into notes and revisions on another first draft. If I keep finishing early, I might even get time to go back to those short stories!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Critique and the Modern Writer

Editing is a long process, and it needs to be. From the time that first draft is finally "done," to the day when you make the last edit, and then the real last edit. And then the absolutely final last edit. Are we ever really done with the edits? I know I continue to tweak a story every time I open it up. Whether it's a minor wording change or smoothing out a rough sentence, or any of a millions others things.

Right now I'm working on revising A Sign in Blood. I think I've identified the biggest issues, and soon it will be ready to go out to those first line readers. My friends have been very kind in offering their help and I'm so thrilled because... Well, this will be the first time anyone except the Fiancé has read the book through start to finish. Seriously, people have read parts of it, and the first dozen or so chapters have been thoroughly critiqued but this will be the first time anyone (except the Fiancé) has read it from the first page to the last page.

I expect there will be more edits to make, revisions on the sentence structure, possibly some scenes that I need to add (as if it's not long enough already!) and some small to medium plot points to sheer up. I'm confident that the overall plot is solid, but sometimes the details aren't as clear to others as they are to me, or there's a perspective that I've completely overlooked.

So, macro readers and critiques are fantastic things and I'm very grateful to have crits and readers to help me revise. But, I think there's a balance to be struck between what we as the writer have done and want to do, and what readers and critters want us to do. Some critique, while providing good information, is more about changing the story into what the critiquer would have written. I think we all do that, to some degree, when we're critting. It's perfectly natural for our own perspective to come through, especially because what makes a book "good" is so subjective.

Grammar and spelling you can give solid answers on (for the most part). However elements such as how much or how little description to use, what bits of which characters connect with which readers, and how upfront you have to be about this or that plot point, are all subjective. They change from one reader to the next, and sometimes wildly so.

It becomes a juggling act, trying to fit in enough description to set the scene without boring all of your readers--some may be bored for a paragraph or two anyway--while delivering information about your worldbuilding, characters and the plot, while laying in enough foreshadowing so the readers aren't totally thrown at the important moments, while fitting the larger picture into the characters' emotions and the characters' emotion into the larger picture. It's exhausting.

Because you can become completely overwhelmed by all the different perspectives, options, opinions and thoughts. When more than a few readers agree on something, it's easy to see the usefulness of the idea, but when one out of ten tells you there's too much of this or too little of that? Well, you have to ask yourself what you want. And that's sometimes the hardest question for a writer. We want people to enjoy our books. We want to tell a story that will entertain and touch readers. We want readers to enjoy our world, characters, and plot.

For writers, it's often about what other people want. That can make it hard to see where we're going with revisions. It means that you have to step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself the harder questions. What exactly do I want readers to feel while reading this? What exactly do I want to accomplish with this scene? What do I absolutely need to communicate and what can wait until later?

Those may sound like easy questions, but when you've got so many other people's opinions in your head, it can be difficult just to clear them away long enough to find clarity. You really can't please everybody all the time, but oh how many of us want to! Despite knowing that readers reading for enjoyment are a lot more forgiving than critiquers reading to scrutinize every detail, it's really hard to let go of critique. Even when you want the story to go a particular way, and it's a good approach for more than half your critters, it's easy to wonder if that other portion of readers is right.

There comes a point when you have to draw the line. You have to define what you want the book to be, and that is one of the most important things that critique accomplishes. It forces a writer to ask those questions, to define each scene, each chapter, and each element with conscious effort. If forces us to think about it and make a decision. Is this the way I want the character? Am I okay with some readers not connecting to her here? Is this the way I want the setting? Am I okay with some readers finding it too detailed?

Crit forces you to make those hard decisions, and books come out of the critique processes stronger and more solid for having gone through it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cover Art: Photoshop Tutorial: Sharpening a Blurry Image

Cover art can be a pain when self-publishing. It can be hard enough to balance elements like genre and characters, and adding in all the technical issues and possibilities can make it feel totally overwhelming.

I can't tell you how to make your cover perfect, but I can show you how to use the different tools and techniques in photoshop to help you figure it out. So, I've decide to post some basic tutorials that can help you better use photoshop. To those who don't use photoshop, I'm sorry. I don't have any other program to hand. If there are GIMP users out there who want tutorials, comment here and if there are enough of you, I'll try to add GIMP instructions to the tutorials. However, I guarantee nothing.

To keep these posts from getting too long, I'll be covering just one tool or technique at a time. This tutorial will cover sharpening a blurry image.

Standard Filters

When using photoshop, you have several options for sharpening. There are filters just labeled "sharpen," "sharpen more," etc., but these don't give you any control over how much sharpening is applied or to what areas. And it's important to be able to apply sharpening to some areas and not others, because not every area needs sharpening, let alone the same amounts.

Unsharp mask is another filter that photoshop offers (Filter---> Sharpen ---> Unsharp Mask) and it has options. Using unsharp mask you adjust the amount, radius and threshold of your sharpening, but what does that mean? The simplest answers are that "amount" is the strength of the sharpen, "radius" is distance from the edge that the sharpening will effect (getting lighter as it moves outward), and "threshold" sets how much difference there has to be between one pixel and another before it sharpens them.

When applying these settings, remember that each picture is individual, some will do well with very little sharpening and other need a lot. Use a setting of .5 on the radius option and it will effect about a pixel away from the edge that's being sharpened. Any more than that and you'll start to get visible outlines. You can use threshold to sharpening only parts of an image, but it doesn't give you a lot of control and it may increase the graininess of the picture. Also, remember that you're apply the filter directly to the layer you've got selected. The only way to undo it is to hit undo, and that will undo all of it. This makes tweaking it difficult. (There are ways around that, similar to what I describe below with the high pass filter.)

High Pass Sharpening

Another method of sharpening requires a little more work, but will produce a second layer on which the sharpening is done. This means that you can add a mask to that layer. (More on that later.)

To use this sharpening method, first duplicate the image you want to sharpen by clicking on it in the layer menu and selecting "duplicate image." A little box will come up, and you can name the layer if you want to, then click OK.

Side Note: If you're working with an image that is made up of several layers, go to Select ---> All (or hit CTRL + A) and then go to Edit ---> Copy Merged (SHFT + CTRL + C) and then Edit ---> Paste (CTRL +V) which will copy the image as a whole and paste it in as a new layer.

After you've got a duplicate of your layer, go to Filter ---> Other ---> High Pass. This will bring up an options window with a "radius" option and a preview. Adjust the radius to around 5 (you can play with the setting, but 5 is a good starting point.) Remember that you can always duplicate the high pass layer in order to increase the sharpness later. Click OK.

Now, if you've been following along, what you see is a grey image. If you set the radius high, it may look very similar to your image. Either way that's okay, you just need to change the high pass layer's blending mode. This is located at the top of the layer menu, to the left of the layer's opacity settings. Switch it to "overlay" for the high pass layer. Poof! Your image is sharpened.

Masking Layers

Now, if there are sections of the image to which you didn't want to apply sharpen, you'll want to create a mask. Select the high pass layer and then look for a white circle in a grey square at the bottom of the layer menu. Click that button or go to Layer ---> Layer Mask ---> Reveal All and you'll create a mask on the high pass layer.

Masks are a vital tool when manipulating images or working on an image that requires multiple layers. What they do is allow you to "cover up" part of an image by coloring over it (while the mask is selected) with a brush set to black. You will be able to see through it to the layer beneath.

This took me forever to wrap my head around, so here's an analogy. Imagine you have a stack of transparencies. The top transparency is entirely covered over with red marker, so you can't see what's on the lower layers. But, if you take a rag and rub off part of the red marker, you can see through it to the layers beneath and in this way bring two elements of different layers together. That's what a mask does, but it also goes one step better. Because it doesn't delete what you've covered over, you can switch to a white brush and "unerase" anything you've hidden.

Masking the high pass layer means that you can adjust the sharpness in specific areas of the image by reducing the opacity of a black brush (the brush's opacity is on a menu at the top of the program between "mode" and "flow") and using it on the mask. When you're drawing on the mask, any part of the image that you paint over will have reduced visibility. So, if you use a brush set to 100% opacity, you'll "erase" it, but if you use a brush set to 75% opacity, the image will still be visible, but 75% lighter than it used to be.

You can use this effect to lighten the high pass layer and so reduce its sharpening effect. This allows you a lot of flexibility because you can choose exactly how much sharpness is applied to any one part of the image.

To see the effect that the high pass filter has had, click the little eye beside it in the layer menu. This will make the high pass layer invisible, and by clicking between the two you can see what areas have been changed.

Questions? Comments? Would y'all be interested in more tutorials like this? Let me know!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Writer's Toolbox: Themes

Themes are extremely useful tools in writing. They can help a writer communicate with the reader, and help the writer create and explore realistic characters. Character motivations like family, revenge, love, justice or ambition recur throughout a story and provide themes. They can also be used consciously within a story, whether it's to signal a change to the reader or foreshadow a potential situation. Or, to drive the story forward.

For instance, characters often need a catalyst for a thought or an action. Say my character Julie is bored to death at work. She desperately wants to do something that actually requires the use of her brain cells, but that want isn't enough to make her quit her job all on its own. If it was, she would have quit already and there would be no story. And, because that's her motivation, it becomes a theme of the book. She'll always be referring back to it, and thinking about it, and wondering about the choices she made because of it. This repetition of idea creates the theme. Then I have to figure out how to communicate it--quickly and simply--to the reader.

Now, say Julie is walking down the street and she passes a pet shop window and stops. Inside is a gerbil, turning that wheel over and over and over. And she suddenly sees herself as the gerbil, running on a wheel of paperwork that never ends. The theme, as symbolized by the gerbil, can provide a moment of clarity for Julie, a catalyst for her decision to quit her job and head off to Costa Rica to work on a wildlife preserve.

Here the theme becomes part of the characterization of Julie. Bored, wanting more out of life. It also pushes the story forward, creating a catalyst for the change which begins the story. I could work it into the story in a hundred different ways from this point. I could take it further with the characterization by having Julie quit her job spouting phrases like, "I am not a gerbil, damn it," or "I'm getting off the wheel!" Or, since something extremely exciting is bound to happen to Julie in Costa Rica, I could make her overwhelmed by the change. She might yearn to be back on the wheel when the horrific and ancient monster is chasing her through the Costa Rican rainforest. Especially if it's a giant gerbil. (What? A gerbil the size of a house would be damn scary! :D )

The overall theme of the story might be anything from "The grass may be greener on the other side, but it might also be carnivorous," to "take hold of your life with both hands." Themes are flexible and the gerbil is just one representation of one perspective on the theme. They can be part of the plot, the characters, the setting. Every object and detail is an opportunity to strengthen your themes or explore them from a different angle.

How do you incorporate themes into your writing? Do you find yourself writing to the themes without conscious thought? When do you find yourself first noticing your themes?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Self-Publishing Resources

Yesterday I sat down and began making lists. I love lists. They're calm and soothing and they keep my head from exploding. There's just so much to consider and so much more to do. After getting out there and reading everything I could get my hands on. I still very much feel that there's a lot to learn.

And I'm going to drag you right along with me. A couple of people have asked me to blog about the process, and besides I hope that writing about it will actually help me wrap my head around it.

Because right now, there's always something new to learn or look into or research. I can't fit it all into place in my head yet, which makes it hard to write about.

So, as much as I want to whip out a blog post on how I'm totally on top of the subject... Well, I'm not. I'm learning, though, and I've found some resources to share! These are just a few, I'll be posting more later. Also, I highly recommend the blogs of both Katie Salidas and Victorine Lieske!


Katie Salidas - Self-Publishing - Basic Production Costs to Consider
Katie Salidas - Self-Publishing: Marketing - Don't Forget to Budget for This
Victorine Lieske - Professionalism
Victorine Lieske - Reasons Why You Should Not Self-Publish

Cover Art
The Non-Artists Guide to Creating an eBook Cover
Creative Commons

Formats and Distribution
Katie Salidas - Self-Publishing - Ebook Formatting Options
Katie Salidas - Self-Publishing - Deciding on Format, Printing, and Distribution

Marketing and Promotion
Victorine Lieske - Marketing Your Ebook
Book Reveiwers List

Kindle Boards
Nook Boards

I'll probably be adding more to this post over time!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Good News, The Bad News, and the Good Books OR Why is Avast Being Insane?

My inbox has exploded and there is email everywhere. Unfortunately, my virus software also seems to have lost its tiny little mind. It's telling me that practically everywhere is replete with some kind of trojan horse. I think it's a problem with the software (either that or the internet has been infested with horses!) but I want to try and confirm that before I just go blundering around sans virus protection. Until then, it won't let me on a lot of sites. Like, most of them. GRR! Is anyone else having this trouble with Avast?

Yes. Apparently. False positives are popping up everywhere. Updating seems to be the fix and I'm in the process of trying it. We'll see how it goes!

There is some good news, though, for while I cannot currently do much concerning it, Good Book Alert opens today! It's a new review blog, of which I am lucky enough to be part. We're going to be reviewing indie and small press e-books, so if that sounds like your book and you'd like to have it reviewed by us, bounce on over to Good Book Alert and check out the review policy and process on the sidebar!

I would love to give more extensive links and instructions here, and I will, once my computer is behaving itself again! Right now, I've got to go sort this thing out. *rolls up sleeves*

ETA: My virus checker is sane again! If you're having a problem, turn off your webshield, update you virus definitions and re-boot when it asks you to, then turn your webshield back on. The Avast forums are down, but their facebook is up and running.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Caves and Cave Formations

Caves can be formed by lava (lava tubes), by the crashing of the tides, or by the trickling erosion of slightly acidic water. The way a cave forms tells you a lot about what you'd find inside it. When it comes to writing caves, having a good grasp of how it was created tells you how to describe it, what features it's likely to have, whether water can be found there and what types of creatures might inhabit it.

Solution Caves

Solution caves are the most recognizable type of cave. They're found in areas of karst, which is a type of terrain marked by sinkholes, caves, underground streams and other "solution features." Solution features are those caused when water mixes with carbon dioxide or sulfuric acid in the environment and dissolves through soluble minerals like dolomite, limestone or gypsum. It's this dissolution of minerals which leads to the cave formations with which most people are familiar.

Water trickles into the soil where it acquires carbonic acid and continues down into the stone beneath. The acidic water drips along stone, dissolving minerals from the rock. The minerals travel with the water and are then deposited to create formations like stalactites and stalagmites, as well as soda straws, fried eggs and flowstone.

You can find pictures of different types of solution cave formations here.

Solution caves are sometimes cooler, with lower temperatures than the air outside, but it's also possible for them to have higher temperatures. Much higher, such as these caves, which have temperatures so high that they can be fatal with just 15 minutes of exposure. That kind of heat is due to a nearby magma pocket. The humidity is often higher in all caves (it reaches 100% in the above mentioned caves) because solution caves are often wet, contained environments.

The giant crystals in the above cave form through interaction between magma and water. Magma contains anhydrite, which broke down in the (hot) water that flooded those caves and was redeposited over time. More on that here.

Sea Caves

Formed by waves as they crash into and eat away at rock, sea caves are often very wide horizontally, but not usually very deep. They reach as far into the rock as the water does. The caves form at a fault in the stone and such faults can create chains of sea caves. If the rock already contains karst caves, they may be opened to the sea by the erosion of waves against the rock, giving the karst cave an outlet into the water.

Sea caves don't usually have formations, although there may be some short stalagmites or flowstone, especially in basalt or sandstone caves. Found all over the world, sea caves are probably the most common type of cave. Inside the cave, the force of the tide is channeled and therefore stronger than it would be outside.

Depending on the tide, the location of the cave and the time of year, sea caves can be wet or dry. Wet caves can sometimes have interesting effects in natural light because the sun is filtered through the water and sometimes takes on the color of the water.

Lava Caves/Tubes

Lava tubes form when the outside lava cools quickly, hardening into a tube while the lava inside remains soft and flows out, emptying the tube somewhat and creating a cave. Cave formations in lava caves include flow ripples, stalactites, stalagmites, lavasicles and splashdowns.

These formations are caused by the movement of lava as it hardens. Flow ripples often look like ripples in a river of black rock. The waves of the lava harden into flow ripples. Splashdowns occur when chunks of the hardened lava ceiling fall into the flowing lava, leaving both ripples in the lava around the splashdowns as well as the chunk of stone itself. Cooling cracks form along the floor, the ceiling or the walls and occur because lava shrinks when it cools.

Anybody got any good links on Lava tubes/caves or sea caves?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Traditional Publishing Vs. Self-Publishing

The lovely and very talented Chrystalla Thoma has gotten my brain turning on the subject of traditional publishing Vs. Self-publishing, and I think it's a question that every writer needs to be considering at this point.

The traditional publishing industry is shrinking. Magazines are closing, markets are under greater pressure to be selective and publish only the most marketable of pieces. Advances for new writers are small and most authors don't sell out their contracts. Many are stuck on the midlist while bigger ticket items get all the promotion. Some writers are doing well, and deservedly so, but many aren't and undeservedly so.

Meanwhile, the eBook market is not-so-quietly growing. There are still "midlist" authors but they're getting a bigger cut of the proceeds. More and more people are reading in digital formats, eReaders are selling like hotcakes tastier cousin, and most importantly people are reading all those self-published books! Most of which got rejected at some point along their journey. Either way, I’ll be promoting the book myself.

So I'm forced to ask myself, what is it I really want. It's time, as they say, to put my money where my mouth is. If I just want to be read, and I don't need to make tons of money, and I don't need to be a Big Name Author, why am I holding out? Traditional publishing does have that stamp of approval. It's "respectable" publishing. But it's a lot harder to think of it that way when I know people who are selling thousands of eBooks while I sit here, submitting and getting (almost) nothing but the "good" rejections.

I just don't want to wait around forever and never achieve that dream. I've been reflecting lately on all the publishing advice I've gotten (and given) over the years. You know what I mean, all those phrases that end in, "but that's the way it is." You're going to get rejections, and it does suck, but that's the way it is. You can't control when or if you get published, but that's the way it is. You won't have any input on the cover, they may change your title, you'll have to do all the promotion, you can't submit to editors so you need an agent but they won't take you until you've had something published, but that's the way it is.

But it isn't. Not anymore. There was a time when self-publishing was the last resort, but that was when distributing a print book was a nightmare. Now? *POOF* Internet, eReaders, eBooks.

So, I've come to the decision that after the current round of edits on A Sign in Blood--which I'm putting off my short stories to finally get to--I'm going to self-publish through Smashwords as an eBook. I can do the cover myself. Between myself and the wonderful and lovely folks at Critique Circle, I'm pretty sure I can get it up to snuff editing-wise. It's a scary decision, actually, but I think it's the right one for me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Understanding the Experiences of Others

I like to write secondary world fantasy. Not just because I'm a worldbuilding fiend, but because I like the idea of starting fresh. A secondary world gives me the ability to construct a world that I can relate to. I can relate to every character, every culture and every government because they are all part of me, of my experience.

I like this not because it provides the opportunity to revel in my experience, but because it gives me a starting point to explore ideas. My experience is already my starting point. However much it grows or doesn't, it will always be my default. All humans are shut in their own little world; the individual experience is not (currently) downloadable. It is locked in a person's head and every human must start from their own point.

But, what I can do is widen my experience--both in the world and in my head. I expand my experience in the world by putting myself in different situations and meeting diverse people. So, for me, it only makes sense to do the same in my fiction.

In my writing I set up a situation derived from my own experience, with characters also derived from the same, because I cannot do anything else. As wide as I have tried to make my experience (and thus my characters and situations) they will always begin as my experience.

But here's the best part. They grow!

When I conceived of Beshauna Alayen from Born of This Soil, I did it specifically because she is outside my personal experience. She is not a person who likes change. She will do things the same way every time. She is so attached to the ground beneath her feet that she cannot imagine who she would be without it--and the traditions and history of her people--to inform her identity.

I have no idea what that would be like.

I was always moving around as a kid and I didn't have a very wide family experience to go by, let alone cultural traditions other than the ones you can't avoid just by being a "white girl" in America. Finding my own identity has been more of a struggle because of this.

Beshauna does not have that struggle. She defaults to her cultural position even when I don't. And when I'm not true to her, she tells me. She--a fictional construct--teaches me. Through her, I have a better (not perfect, but better) understanding of what that's like.

I write to explore and to learn. When I'm writing a character who is distinct from myself (for whatever reason), I'm not always going to get it right. I always try my hardest and do my best, but I will make mistakes, and I will learn from them, and do it better the next time. Doing it wrong is often necessary while learning to do it right.

Not everyone writes for these reasons, or sees things this way, but it is my way. And I'm well aware that Beshauna's cultural norms also come from my experience and therefore even that is not truly something outside myself. But, that's the secret, nothing really is. At the most basic level, everything that a human being can express in a given situation, can be expressed by any human being who is put into that situation. What path that expression takes is a matter of individual experience and perspective.

I will never totally understand the experience of even one other person, no matter how alike or different. That doesn't mean I should try, but there will always be a disconnect, because I am not that person. Empathy can help to narrow the gap, as can imagination, but there will always be some distance--even if it's infinitesimal--between me and anyone else. The wider my experience, the narrower the gap. I don't think the barrier of my own experience can ever be completely broken down, or that it should be. I am who I am because of my experience; I don't want to lose my individuality. I want to enrich it with the knowledge of what could be.

And hopefully, out of all of it, I will pull a story that is entertaining and thought provoking. At least, that's my goal.