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Attaching the Flesh: A Character Questionnaire

Attaching the Flesh: Character Questionnaire

Characters easily make or break a story. It’s not about having a “good” or “bad” character; rather, it’s a difference of dimensions. To give your characters that third dimension of presence requires adding layers to who they are—patching sinews of flesh onto their waiting bones.

Okay, that’s a bit morbid. The point is that it’s crucial that you take time to develop your characters. This questionnaire will help you start thinking about your character in a deeper, fleshier way.

It’s 50 questions long (with bonus and sub-questions to boot), so I won’t be saying anything extra after the last question’s been asked. Hop past the break to start the survey.

Read more.

ICftW: Written Kitten

For those of you looking for a way to motivate yourselves to write, this week’s ICFTW is a true boon. Check out WrittenKitten.net. The concept is simple. You write, and once every set number of words (e.g., 100, 500, etc.), you will be rewarded with …

Stalwart Kitten

an awesome kitten picture. So, for those of you who are motivated by all things soft and cuddly, this tool can help you get out from writer’s block and into “awww” mode.

Enjoy, and as always, write on,

Rob D Young

Google Docs, How I Love Thee

A brief nod to Google Docs:

This morning I wrote a news piece, about three pages long, that involved direct quotes from an interviewed source, a lot of compiled data from several outside studies, etc., etc. I sent it off to my editor and, as I normally do, completely wiped the document – assuming that the copy in my “sent” box would be a good enough record. The problem was I sent an article I wrote yesterday.

From what I could tell, I’d deleted more than an hour of work, and I would need to start from scratch. Then I went into the revision history:

It had everything. My last several articles, in fact, were fully restorable. I’ve never used this feature before, but gee golly gosh, I’m glad it was there.
Thanks, Google Docs.


6 Reasons Writers Will Want to Have Google Chrome’s Babies

It’s no secret amongst my friends, family, and even readership on sites like Search Engine Journal (hi guys!) that I’m a big fan of Google. It’s not as though I pretend the company doesn’t have issues (this is capitalism, and thus perpetually “profits first” – with no help from GOOG’s practical monopoly status). But I use Google Search, an Android phone, Gmail, Google Docs, Blogger, and – heavens help me – I even tried Buzz. While search is certainly the key to my love for Google, the second most useful element should also be discussed: Google Chrome.

And Now, a Word for the Competition

Before I delve into why I choose Chrome, I wanted to talk about IE9 and Firefox, both of which are solid browsers. (The only reason I’m not touching on Opera and Safari is that I’m not a Mac-rat, and thus don’t know those mediums.)

Note that I did say “IE9,” specifically. IE8 would have been fine to discuss as well, since it too is a modern browser. Versions of Internet Explorer that came prior to that were archaic and they liked to screw with web code. Their hardware acceleration, java support, and access to critical upcoming web standards like HTML 5 and CSS 3 were non-existent. It’s not to be unexpected. IE was the browser for a long time, and the idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can be repeated as Microsoft’s common sense logic. Until, of course, the era of Firefox and Chrome.

Then IE was playing catchup, but you know what? They did. They have a very competitive browser that integrates the strengths people found in Chrome and FF. So, yes, anyone out there still using IE6, you nauseate me. Anyone using IE8 or 9? A fine choice, if not my preference.

Meanwhile, Firefox has gone through its own stages of development, but even in problematic phases FF can be seen as a critical innovator. And now it’s smooth, stable, pretty, and it’s got add-ons coming out of every orifice. Especially since Firefox 3, this browser has been really killer.

What I want to make clear here is that the bar is set excruciatingly high. Due in part to Chrome’s own competition, Mozilla and Microsoft have both come with their guns blazing. Check out IE or Firefox for yourself if you have any doubts. Nevertheless, Chrome is absolutely my top pick.

Why Chrome Still Kicks Their Asses

I promised you six reasons why Chrome will make your quiver with technophilic joy, and honestly, it’s going to be hard keeping it to just that. This list is specifically oriented to writers, but many of these items are good for anyone who isn’t connecting to the web via dial-up.

6. Six Week Release Cycle.

The world of technology moves quickly, with new web standards, options, and gaping security issues coming up on a regular basis. Obviously, all companies will try to meet the standards of the day and counter the brilliant, lovable hackers of the world. However, while Firefox and IE both run on release cycles that take three to six months, Chrome has an established release cycle of six weeks. That means that new features, stability patches, improved speed, and everything else will get a boost eight to nine times per year. Better yet, the updates don’t require any action from you and have one of the best reputations for stability I’ve ever seen.

5. Nothing but Web.

I’m a pathological minimalist (I literally gave away rooms full of furniture last month just because I didn’t want to deal with owning them anymore), so maybe I’m exaggerating the importance of this issue. However, if you like to focus on the actual web – rather than the oh-so-pretty design of the web browser – Chrome is the top choice. There’s no bottom bar except when necessary, the tab bar has a reduced size, the omnibar (which allows you to do quick searches, pop into your history, or go to a new URL) takes an appropriate center stage position, and the important function-oriented buttons are easy to find. Chrome gets rid of unnecessary extras and leaves actual web pages with more space to breathe.

4. A Store Full of Goodies.

The Chrome Web Store is a great way to find neat themes to decorate Chrome, apps that give new functions (such as productivity apps, web-based photo editing software, games, and more), and extensions (see below for more on that). While some of these apps and themes come with a reasonable price (a few dollars), even many of the most impressive are completely free.

I don’t use apps for productivity all the much myself (most of my necessary resources are found on cloud websites or in my Chrome extensions), but still, there’s nothing quite like a game of Angry Birds in your browser.

3. Synchronization.

For writers, bookmarks represent more than “neat sites to visit.” They’re our research, our resources, our very lifeblood for projects. In Chrome, you can synchronize your bookmarks with your Google account, allowing you to access all the same information and resources via any computer where you have access to Chrome and the internet. Beyond bookmarks, Chrome also lets you sync up password data, extensions, and even themes – giving you the work station you’re used to no matter where you’re at. I’ve done this at college computer labs, libraries, friends’ homes, and even display computers in stores.

2. Extensions.

This category honestly deserves its own entry, just because extensions are so damn useful. The extensions make small additions to your interface or add simple access to useful tools in your browser. This includes items like a notepad and calculator, but there are also critical items like an SEO evaluation tool for web pages, a word counting tool (which I use constantly), and a task list that lets me organize my time.

Right now I have 14 extensions installed. On an average day I make use of roughly half of them. It boosts my productivity and all of it synchronizes with my Google account so I can access these extensions from anywhere.

1. Speed.

Okay, so maybe you don’t care about using this browser on every computer you run across. Maybe you don’t give a Mac-rat’s ass about extensions. Maybe you don’t want to waste your time on Angry birds, oggle the release cycle, or worry about the minimalism of the design. But do you want to do things fast? Yeah, I thought so.

Chrome is the fastest browser out there, full stop. It’s true that IE9 surpassed it in certain tests on the initial release of IE9, but Microsoft invented those tests – and Chrome then released a new version that exponentially increased Chrome’s hardware acceleration, nullifying any advantage Microsoft may have had. Chrome lets you browse the web more quickly, even if you’re visiting high-end sites with advanced Java, PHP, or Flash functionality. It may just save you a second or two with each site, but if you visit hundreds of pages per day (like I do) then it definitely adds up.

There are plenty of other “Chrome extras” to discuss (security, privacy, the Chrome OS, yada yada), but honestly they haven’t come up often in my writing projects. The items above, however, have. If these six reasons don’t make you sob with desire for Chrome, then I don’t know what will. Meanwhile, if you think Chrome is at least worth a test drive, check it out today, and check back to this site in the coming weeks since I’ll be covering some useful extensions, apps, and functions for those who live to write.