Friday, February 28, 2014

Dialogue, part two

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

Last time around, I talked about the actual words your characters say. Here's the link to that post. This time, we're going to discuss another important part of writing dialogue--Grammar and dialogue tags.

The grammar of dialogue is fairly simple--Start a new paragraph every time someone starts talking, and use quotation marks to indicate when someone is speaking. For example:

I chewed the inside of my lip, working up the courage to ask the question I’d wanted to for a week. “Um... Where were you two at?”
“Does it matter?” Ferry snapped.
“Uh, no,” I said. “Just curious.”
Ferry narrowed his eyes at me. “What do you know?”

 (Just a little excerpt from the novella I'm working on right now.)

Easy enough. There's another bit of dialogue grammar I'd like to mention, though. While you should use good grammar, avoid passive voice and weasel words, etc., in your prose, in dialogue those rules are exempt. Which in English means that your characters can use "was" and "tried" and "ain't" as much as they wants, so long as it goes with their personality. 

Enough English-teacher-Catsi, now. Dialogue tags.

The word "said" is used so often in writing that it's become something of an invisible word. Read through the example at the beginning of this post again. Which dialogue tag stuck out to you: when Ferry spoke, or the narrator? Ferry's, right? Because the narrator just said his line. Ferry snapped. While I've been told to avoid using any other word than said, told, asked, whispered, shouted, and yelled, I often am a naughty little girl and use words like threatened, snapped, and demanded. I agree that said is an invisible word, and I agree that when you use a different word it pulls the attention away from the dialogue and to the tag itself. You probably don't want to be using "expostulated" and  "reiterated," but I don't think that "threatened" is too distracting. But that's just me, so if you're happy with your said's, then use them.

But there's an alternative to dialogue tags. There are four lines of dialogue in the example, and only two of them have a dialogue tag attached. The other two have action beats. Instead of sticking "said Bob" on the end, you could put "Bob wiped the sweat from his forehead." It tells us who's talking, and what they're doing. We can see what Bob is doing, rather than just hearing him talk.

Okay, one more little bit of grammar. When you end a line of dialogue and put a dialogue tag on the end, you end the line with a comma. If you're using an action beat, end it with a period. If you want to end your line of dialogue with a question mark or exclamation mark, then it doesn't matter whether you're using a dialogue tag or action beat. It'll end the same either way.

Hope you guys find this helpful! If you have any questions, comments, or just want to chat about grammar, post in the comments. I'd love to hear from you. :)

To learn more about Catsi, see the About Us page.

     We have an art contest going on right now, for those who are interested. The winner gets their entry displayed at the top of the blog. To see the details and submit, click here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Make Things Look Metallic in Photophop

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     So, I'm a Photoshop tinker. I've messed with countless pictures I got from the internet, and even a few of my own. But if you look at my stuff, you'll see that I'm not very good at drawing, and I'm worse at coloring it on the computer. Something that has long evaded me was how to make something look metallic, particularly silver. I recently found out how. Keep in mind that I am using CS4, so you may have a different layout than I do.



     Here I have all of the layers labeled. "Outline" is everything black, "shine" is set on Overlay and gives the gem and silver their slight sheen, "shadow 1" is set to Overlay and is the shadow near the gem, "shadow 2" is also Overlay and is the one that touches the runes, "runes" is the runes carved into the metal, "color" is the grey of the metal and blue of the gem, light is simply there for reference of the direction of the light source, and "original" is the original drawing.

     In preparation for the next step, I hid every layer but "outline" and "color" (accomplished by pressing the eye icon next to the layer) and then merged them using the Merge Visible command found by right-clicking a visible layer. As you can see, this leaves it looking very bare and flat.

     Next I go into the Filter drop-down menu, then the Sharpen menu, and select Smart Sharpen. A window similar to this should show up:

     Turn the Radius up to about half way or higher. Play with it until you find a good combination of Amount and Radius (I would say at least a quarter of each) and press Ok. You can't read it here, but I have Amount set to 20 and Radius to 24.3.

     If you have a large image, like mine was, it may display something like this.

     Here's the final product! Using different settings can give you a different look if you want, but as you can see it looks a lot more natural than the original version.

Miss TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet, as well as co-founder of the blog.

     We have an art contest going on right now, for those who are interested. The winner gets their entry displayed at the top of the blog. To see the details and submit, click here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

How To Write A Haiku

Post by co-founder Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley

     So, haiku. To start, I will tell you what a haiku is, and where they came from. Haiku are an ancient Japanese poem, and you can probably find a good few of them on the internet written by actual Samurai. Unlike many other poem types, haiku have no set rhyme scheme. In fact, they rarely rhyme at all. To be a haiku, it must have three lines, the first with five syllables, the second with seven, and the last with five again. While there are many beautiful haiku that I could use as examples, I’ll instead have to use mine, so as to avoid any copyright issues.


A ray of the sun
Reflected off the bright floor
And dazzled my eyes

     As you can see, haiku are very short, and the last line having fewer syllables than the previous one gives it a sense of trailing off. Because of these two things, it is often tempting to make a silly haiku, but I would recommend against it. While, as with all writing types, you can make anything your own in poetry, haiku came from a noble people, and were used to express small beauties. While you could say that mine hardly expresses a beauty, I found something profound about having my eyes stabbed with light. This shows that it doesn’t need to be something commonly seen as a beauty, but something that the poet finds beautiful, profound, or thought-provoking.
     Now let’s analyze my poem a little for the syllables.

(A) (ray) (of) (the) (sun)

     This line is simple; each word is one syllable.

(Re)(flect)(ed) (off) (the) (bright) (floor)

     This one has seven syllables, yet the same number of words because “reflected” is a three syllable word.

(And) (daz)(zled) (my) (eyes)

     Here I return to five. I have found that this last line tends to be a strange type of conclusion, but it usually does conclude. An example (which I can’t show here in full, for the reason I said earlier)would be one that in its last line revealed the “flower” that was flying as a butterfly.
     To find the number of syllables in each line, it really does work to clap your hands. If you are in a place where that would cause strange looks, or you’d just rather something easier, you can usually find an internet program to do it for you. If you look up “Flesch-Kincaid grade level finder” you’ll probably find a few things that ask you to input your text, and then they tell you the grade level. But the cool thing (and what matters to you at the moment) is that some of them will tell you the number of syllables in your text. Once you’ve found on of these, just copy and paste the lines individually, and now you know if you have a haiku!

     That you everyone for reading, I hope I've been helpful, and may your haiku turn out as great as those of the Samurai!

Miss TenBrink Kelley is the co-founder of this blog and an aspiring author and poet. For more of her poetry, see her mostly-abandoned blog here.

We currently have one on-going contest. It is an art contest, and the winner's entry will replace the banner at the top! See details here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dialogue, part one

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

Dialogue is a funny thing. If you get it right, your writing flows better and is more realistic. If you get it wrong, all of your characters will seem stiff and about as real as a flannel graph.
So what makes good dialogue? And, more importantly, how do you write it?
The first thing about realistic dialogue is that it needs to be realistic. (Bet you didn't see that one coming!) Different people talk differently. Your characters should too.

We'll take a look at a few of the characters from my novel, Worlds Apart. (I'm working on editing it right now, so hopefully this will help me with their dialogue as well as you with your characters.)
First of all, there's my main character, Bree. Jonaver is from Mreda, another world that Bree is transported to. (Think Middle Earth.) Then we have Quarl, a random guard who is awesome fun. And last but not least, Kauvin, the villain.

They all speak differently. Bree is your typical teenage girl, so it's fairly easy to tell that she's talking--she's the only one who says, "Yeah," and "Whatever."
Jonaver, since he's from Mreda, talks a bit different from Bree. He mixes Mredaic words in with English, and sounds slightly more formal than Bree.
Quarl is one of two guards in a scene from the beginning of the story. I needed a way to tell them apart, since Bree doesn't know their names, and "first guard" and "second guard" were starting to get old. So, the answer was to give one of them an accent.
Kauvin is Mredan, like Jonaver, but more refined. He doesn't use contractions, which makes him sound very stuck-up. He's also a good speaker, so his words need to be smooth and convincing.

Now you can probably figure out who of the above characters are talking in each of these dialogue snatches:

"Hope you two know where you're going, 'cause I'll be lost in, like, thirty seconds." (Bree)

"Oi! It's the queen!" (Quarl)
"Oi! No, it ain't!" (Bree being snarky)

"Welcome to Arwole, Bree." (Jonaver)

"It cannot be McKinley. Surely you meant something else." (Kauvin)

Aside from the line where Bree copies Quarl's accent, it's fairly obvious who's talking. Even if they don't have an obvious accent or dialect, even just their personality can come through their dialogue:

Bree: Well, that worked. On to plan B.
Lana: We have a plan B?
Bree: Nope. But we're going to make one up.

Sometimes a character will have a favorite word or phrase that they use whenever given half the chance. Bree will say "Go away" when someone is bugging her. She doesn't really mean it, it's just her version of "Shut up."
You have to be careful with this, though. If they use a certain word too much, it will start to get on your reader's nerves.

Now, before I go, I've got an exercise for you. Gather up your characters, and start asking them the names for several different things. (Eg, a purse, Coke, the bathroom, etc.) Different characters will call them different things.

Me: *drops handbag on table* What is this?
Bree: *boredly* A purse.
Jonaver: A bag.
Aster: *grabs handbag* *tears it open* What? It's empty!

Me: *sets bottle of Coke on table* How about this?
Bree: *tries to get knife to balance on tip* Soda.
Jonaver: ...I have no idea.
Aster: Can I drink it?

Me: What would you say if you were surprised?
Bree: Do you really need to use us for examples?
Me: ..That is not what you would say.
Bree: ... *pushes back chair* *stomps out of room*
Jonaver: *watches her leave*
Me: You two still haven't answered me.
Jonaver: What?!
Me: I said, you two still haven't-
Jonaver: No, that's what I'd say if I were surprised.
Me: Oh. And you, Aster?
Aster: Interesting.
Me: Try again.
Aster: Wonder where Bree went... *walks out after Bree*

(Well, now you all know about the legendary cooperation of my characters.)

So how about you? What are some ways you use dialogue to show your characters as individual people?

To learn more about Catsi, see the About Us page.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to draw a chibi, with Josephine Paige

Guest post by Josephine Paige

Hi everyone!
My name is Josephine Paige--Most people call me Josie--and I’m invading the blog with a guest post. I’ve actually never guest posted for anyone before, so this is quite a new experience. Bear with me--I’m here to talk about drawing.
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. (It’s more than a hobby, actually, it’s a bit of an obsession.) I’ve always loved dabbling in different styles and mediums, I love taking lessons when I can--Art is one of my passions. It was about two years ago that I discovered Manga--Japanese cartoons, and since then I’ve been doodling people and Chibis all over my math books. This post is leading up to a chibi tutorial, but before I begin, I’d like to say a few things.
First off: What exactly is a chibi? A chibi is basically a wildly disproportionate mini-person, with big heads and little bodies. (A lot of people I know refer to them as “Josie’s big-headed little people.”) They can be drawn many, many ways, but I’m only going to be going over one of them. So keep this in mind while you’re reading this: This is not the only way. This is just the way I happen to draw them. The way you might do it is not wrong. It’s art. Everyone draws differently.
Secondly: I am not a professional. As I said, I started Manga two years ago. This is also my first tutorial. So please don’t lynch me for offering this; it’s all I have to offer at the moment, and I’m just trying, however successfully, to be helpful. Also, this isn’t a tutorial for coloring or shading or anything--It’s simply focused on drawing the basic thing.
And on that confident note... Shall we begin?

Step One
I usually start with three circles--An abnormally large one for the head, a much smaller one a little beneath, and the third, a bit bigger than the second, at the bottom. Don’t stress if they aren’t perfect circles--You can fix them up later. The two little circles will make the chibi’s bean body--Abdomen. Leave a tiny space between the top two circles for the neck.

Step Two
Here we’re connecting the baby circles and forming the bean. Recently, I’ve been making my chibis kind of fat, or at least on the chubby side. Because of their weird proportions, this only seems to make them cuter. However, if you want a leaner chibi, simply connect the circles in a skinnier way.
Next, draw a line down the middle of the chibi’s head. If you’re using a pencil, and not a computer program, do this very, very lightly. You’ll be erasing it later.
After you’ve drawn the vertical line, lightly add a horizontal one, slightly below the middle of the head. These lines are to help position the features of the face.

Step Three

I’m trying not to do that annoying thing that most tutorials do, where they draw three or four circles and then get really complicated, really fast. That being said, what I’m doing here is a bit weird looking, but pretty easy.
Between the head and the bean, draw a tiny circle. In a few moments, this will become the neck. On either side of the bean, add two more tiny circles. These are basically shoulder joints--Where the arms will be coming off of.
What’s next is pretty much two curvy lines--Curving off the neck and the shoulders. (This is why pencils have erasers, folks--You don’t need to get it right the first time.) Since I don’t really know how to describe it, take a look at the picture above.
After you’ve finished indicating the neck, you’re going to, very lightly, draw two more circles at the bottom of your bean. These are the places where the legs will shortly be sprouting from. (Again, the picture is above and I have no idea how to explain it.)

Step Four

Don’t freak out. Yes, I did just do the legs and arms at once. I probably should have separated them into two steps. The thing about chibi legs and arms is that they’re usually creepily thin, and have incredibly simplified feet and hands. They’re not too bad, you just need a little patience.
If you’re having trouble, draw little mini circles where you want the knees and feet to go, and simply connect the dots like you did with the bean. Ditto with the arms. Remember, fat is cute, so if you “mess up,” it’s not a problem.
I make my chibi’s legs a little longer than most people do, so feel free to shorten them a bit if I’m cramping your style.

Step Five

I’ve kind of zoomed in on my misshapen head here, because I needed a close up to do the eyes. Eyes are some of my favorite parts, but they can also throw some people off. Think of it as a circle inside a squashed oval.
The thing about eyes is that there are hundreds of ways to draw them, and none of them are “right.” You can really have fun here. If you want to do just little black dots, go ahead. Heck, if your chibi is madly in love with someone, little pink hearts can do instead. If you’re stuck, try googling chibi eyes and trying out the ones that you like best. At this point, don’t worry about coloring it. It’s just the shape at present.

Step Six

I didn’t do that much in this step--Eyebrows, a bit of a nose, and a mouth. Chibis generally have more simplified features, so this is easy. Little dashes do the trick. Remember, eyebrows are hugely important in conveying expression. The entire meaning can be changed by raising one or dropping the other. Experiment!

Step Seven

Okay, I kind of dumped the whole head of hair on at once. The truth is, hair is at once the most annoying and most wonderful thing to draw. And everyone’s is different. Chibi hair usually stands off the head a bit--Give it some volume--Give this girl HAIR.
Or not. Hats are cute, too. If you give her a hat instead, there are two ways to go about it. Either make it strangely small and set it on top of your chibi’s head, or make it incredibly big, so as to fit the rather large head. Hats come in all styles, so have fun with it.
If you want, you can take this step to fix up the circle of the head. Make it rounder, smoother, or just leave it the way it is.

Step Eight

Step eight has always been my favorite--When I was younger, I wanted to design clothes for a living. That’s right--Step eight is clothing.
I put my chibi in a Captain America shirt and jean shorts, mostly because I spent most of last summer in that outfit, but also because it’s just fun. I skipped shoes, because it’s summer. Okay, maybe it isn’t, but it is for my chibi.
Clothes are fun, but remember that they’re not part of the body--They’re fabric, so they may at times stick off a bit. (Unless we’re talking leggings or something, in which case, yes, they can be form-fitting.)
So, whether you’re dressing your chibi as an Asgardian prince, or a cowboy, or a Timelord, feel free to be as simple or as complicated as you want. You don’t have to use my outfit, though you’re more than welcome to--Throw them in bunny pajamas if you want.

Step Nine

What I did here was that I actually created a whole other layer on my art program and went over the whole thing with a black brush. However, if you’re using a pencil, this is the part when you go over the picture and darken the lines you want to keep.

Step Ten

Step ten: Erase the unwanted lines. BEHOLD YOUR MASTERPIECE. You have done brilliantly.
When drawing anything, I think the hardest thing that I have to tell myself is not to be too afraid of messing up. You really do learn from your mistakes in art, and if you never mess up, you’ll never learn. Actually, strike that--If you never mess up, call me up right now, and let me learn from your brilliance.

I hope this helped a bit! I wasn’t doing a colored tutorial, but here’s how mine turned out.

Hope this was as fun to use as it was to make, and thanks so much for reading!

Until next time,
Josephine Paige

Miss Paige's blog Paperclips and Pencils can be found here. It has her daily ramblings as well as her many drawings.

Window to the Soul Banner Contest

This contest is closed.

     Today is our official initiation, and in honor of that, we will have our first art contest. If you look up at the top of the page you will see that all we have is a black image with the title and subtitle of the blog. Obviously, this is not what we want to have permanently. So, the theme of this contest, is "windows". Incorporate them how you wish, be creative! Simply keep in mind our title and you'll be good. The winner will have their art displayed as our banner. Remember, we will want a place to have the title and subtitle. We will do this ourselves normally, but if you've a particular idea of the text, go ahead and place it yourself! We'd love to see it done imaginatively.

Include "Banner Contest" in the subject line of your email

Attach as a PNG, GIF, or PSD

Your submission may be drawn, painted, digital art, etc. colored or non colored (Though we are more likely to accept a colored submission, but don't let that discourage your from submitting uncolored art. Remember, we are just beginning, so we'll have rather few submissions, and colored or not, we want to see a well-done submission)

Your name, or pen name, may ONLY appear in the body of the email. If your name is in the submission (which we actually encourage) simply use the Blur tool in Photoshop or some other method, we'll understand why that part looks funny. You should attach a second version in your original email for us to use, should you win.

Your submission must NOT be pornographic. This site is run by teens, we don't want anything that makes us feel like throwing up. A submission that is inappropriate but does not show nudity will not be automatically disqualified, but has little chance of winning, depending on how inappropriate.

We reserve the right to not have a winner, if none of the submissions are of sufficient quality. However, we are more likely to extend the deadline.

We ask the winner for the right to display their work on our website as the banner until we decide to cease displaying it. (Thus the winner cannot ask us not to display their work) However, if you ask that your work no be displayed, then that will apply if you are an honorable mention. If you haven't seen our previous newsletter, then you should know that we like honorable mentions.

The entry must be your own work. We are not responsible for any copyright infringements. You may submit a collaborative work if the others have agreed to it being submitted and you were an integral part of the creation. (For example, if one of you did the drawing, and the other drew over and colored it on the computer)

There are no fees or age requirements.

 We ask that the winning entry not be submitted or used elsewhere unless we decide to stop using it. (If you would like to be notified if/when we decide to stop using it, let us know in your beginning email) All rights remain with the honorable mentions, we only ask to display in in the newsletter and on the blog. However, you can ask that we not do that and we won't.

You may include a short bio, as well as a photo of yourself, if you wish. You may also include your Twitter handle, Facebook page, website/blog address, etc. This can either be in your bio or elsewhere in the email.

We accept simultaneous submissions, but not previous submissions, this does not include a closed forum or a website/blog with low traffic. (Meaning that it can be something that is under consideration elsewhere)

The contest deadline is March 20th, winters will be announced on April 1st.

The winners will be shown here as well as in the newsletter.

Send your entries to windowtothesoulcontests[at] Any questions may be sent to the same email.