Character Themes

Sometimes when I have access to a piano, I’ll play some of my favorite movies’ soundtracks for a bit before I just start playing stuff out of my head. This often ends up with me trying to put scenes from my current novels to music. Character themes are my favorite to work on–there’s something you learn about your characters when you try to make an instrumental piece about them.

Last night, my housemates were gone and one of them (a music major) had left her amazing keyboard out. I snuck into their room and played for about two hours. After a while I remembered that I have a recorder on my phone, so I started recording myself. I’m working on developing Melle’s voice in Blessings, so I decided to play around with a theme for her. And then… it just kind of expanded.

I’m by no means a professional (had a year of lessons when I was ten and have just been tinkering on my own since then) and my recorder isn’t the best, but I thought I’d upload a video for myself. It was really fun (if time consuming), and I’m hoping when I have more time (ha) I can make more themes. (I also have an old one from Popinjay, and a few for The Silver Eye, which I could record now that I know how to do so with something other than my parents’ dinky camera…)

Anyway! Themes from Blessings, including: Melle’s theme, the fair realm and the boy with 601 blessings (a.k.a. the song of the final blessing).

Blessings Themes from Alyssa Hollingsworth on Vimeo.

Playing around with character themes for a WIP.


Dear Dr. Tolkien

Wrote this while I was abroad, but I didn’t get the chance to take it to Tolkien’s grave. Thought I’d share anyway.

Dear Dr. Tolkien,

I wanted to thank you for changing my life.

When I was a little girl, my dad would read your books to me and my siblings. He read them three times to us, when I was eight, and again when I was twelve, and again when I was fourteen. When I was twelve I prayed for Frodo after he was stabbed. Later I remember running to the book and turning to the passage in the Mines of Moria, gasping in relief when I saw it said that Gandalf was gone, not dead.

I think I learned to love fiction as I listened to your books.

I think your books are why I began to love to write.

One day when you were writing your manuscript, your eyes were tired and you didn’t want to be working, and the words came out muddled and wrong. You couldn’t have known what those words would become. You didn’t know that one day my mother would read your words in her second edition of Lord of the Rings. You didn’t know my father would study your words in his college class. And you couldn’t have imagined a bunch of little American kids hanging on those words every night.

You couldn’t have known what those words would come to mean to me. It isn’t just a story. It’s the sound of my dad’s voice when he’s exhausted from working three jobs. It’s the smell of my mother’s edition—musty old pages wrapped in decades of my family. It’s the comfort on that night when my bloodwork came back bad, and I opened the book and read, “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”

One day those words stopped being yours and they became mine.

And that, I think, is the beauty of fiction. It just keeps growing, gathering lives and memories and interweaving them in a text.

That’s why I want to write.

Thank you, Mr. Tolkien, for your words. They have taught me that joy is sometimes like swords, that darkness will not endure, that healing doesn’t always come in this world. They have been my Sam when I thought I was carrying the Ring alone. Thank you.

Thank you for changing my life.


Alyssa Hollingsworth

Today I Wrestled a Sheep (And Other Thoughts on Disability)

One thing that fascinates me, perhaps in a morbid way, is how disability and disease effects every part of a person’s life–especially when it’s not an physically obvious diseases.

Today I read Nancy Mairs’s essay Disability, which I’d highly recommend. One of my favorite quotes comes at the end:

But it will be a good bit easier psychologically if you are accustomed to seeing disability as a normal characteristic, one that complicates but does not ruin human existence. Achieving this integration, for disabled and able-bodied people alike, requires that we insert disability daily into our field of vision: quietly, naturally, in the small and common scenes of our ordinary lives.

Here is a bit of disability in my daily field of vision:

Continue reading

Percy Jackson: Myth or Fairytale?

For my creative writing tutorial, I’ve had to look at a few essays from Uses of Enchantment. These essays explore the differences between myths and fairytales–an important thing for me to be thinking about in Blessings. As part of my study, I voluntarily wrote some thoughts about the role of both forms of story in the Percy Jackson books–specifically The Last Olympian and Mark of Athena. I don’t know if anyone else would be interested in them, but thought I’d throw it out there.

Spoilers below the cut!

Continue reading

21 Pictures of 21

I generally like to be sentimental about my birthday, so this year I thought I’d show off the highlights in 21 pictures.

21 was filled with the recovery from three surgeries on my hands.

Thanksgiving in wine country in CA. Being greeted by my siblings and nieces wearing mustaches.

Christmas is always exciting with my family.

Studying abroad and making fantastic friends!

The first pub visit, with Hilary!

The beginnings of a new story.

A spontaneous trip to Barcelona and the wonder of that cathedral.

The literary tour of Bath!

The Doctor Who Experience in London!

A visit to Germany with my sister.

Biking Inishmore in Ireland with some awesome people.

Wales and wind and walking.

Anna and our adventures!

Horseback riding in the Burren.

Mom and I in Scotland.

Hiking Hadrian’s Wall.

These shoes were new when I left.

Back at work at Berry.

Great Gatsby Gala.

My last Mountain Day–holding hands with a boy!

Friends at Mountain Day after our last march.

21 was a year of healing, of discovery, and of friendships. It wasn’t easy… but it was good.

Once Upon a Time There were Good Graphics

I’ve been complaining to my friends for some time about the promotional pictures this show uses. The one below is a facebook picture to promote the next episode. It’s a very good example of some basics in What Not To Do.

  • The photograph of the character is out of focus.
  • Hand-crop. Cropping at the hands is frowned upon and creates an unnecessary tension in the image.
  • That nature background looks like my dad took it on his digital camera. The color quality is terrible and the image itself is pixelized.
  • The lines on the maniped man are blurry. This is acceptable for a manip by a teenage girl, but not so much from a professional designer.
  • Why is there a texture of what looks like the starry sky set to lighten-only just on the man’s tunic? Does the man’s tunic contain the universe?
  • The light source on the character is not at all the light source of the background. Looking at the grass, it’s clear this is a pretty direct light from overhead. (I’m estimating that picture was taken on a sunny day at around, ummmm, 3:00? When the light was not as severe as noon but was still pretty harsh where the mountains hadn’t cut it off.) The dude should be more harshly lit if he’s going to match. (Note: On closer inspection, I think the dude is trying to blend in with the mountain/hill at his back. This doesn’t make sense for light/color/shadow though, because he’s obviously standing in the harshly lit grass.)
  • Don’t get me started on highlights and shadows in this completely flat picture.
  • Stock scroll image is placed too near his neck–is starting to dislocate his head.
  • Is the seal really necessary?
  • The gaps between lines of font are amateur. You should know better.
  • The quotation mark isn’t a quotation mark, it’s a prime inch mark. There’s no space after the ellipsis. There is no attempt at an end quotation mark.
  • Is there really no way the lighting on that scroll could match the overall image even a tiny bit?

Other than that… good job, guys!

Analysis of Character Voice in Mark of Athena

After consuming the Mark of Athena in a matter of days, I approached my writing professor to rave about my reading experience. Since I kept talking about character voice and the beginnings/endings of chapters, she recommended I have a look at the book and think about ways Riordan wrote these elements, so that I might glean something for my own novel.

She probably didn’t expect me to go through all four points of view with multicolor pens and margin notes.

Writing tips below the cut! I’ve taken the first chapter containing each character’s narration and analyzed the heck out of it. MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK. Nothing crazy, though.

Continue reading