Bountiful Books

Mythic Orbits Blog Tour:

Sorry to those counting on this; I had midterms and it slipped my mind. I had it written and waiting too!

Mythic Orbits 2016 and Volume 2 are two anthologies of Christian short stories from a variety of Authors. They range from sad to whimsical and all are immensely well written. They’re all engaging and interesting and I had no problems devouring both books.

As a special treat, I have interviews with two of the wonderful authours of the book.  Both were incredibly kind to answer all my questions.

Kat Heckenbach

1. What was the best part of working on these anthologies?

Honestly, the fire it lit under me to get back to short story writing. I was quite prolific when it came to short stories years ago, but over time that slowed down and I really missed it. When Travis Perry approached me about contributing to the anthologies, it sparked that desire again and it felt so good to delve back into short story writing.

2. What is your creative kryptonite?

More than anything, self-doubt and fear that I’m following a false calling. And of course Facebook.

3. Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes and no. I think we can become stuck in a story, unable to figure out what comes next. There is usually some cause behind that, though, such as burnout or fear. But I don’t think we can just force our way out of that every time as those who don’t believe in writer’s block advise. Sometimes we have to wait, maybe even let go of writing for a short period in order to rest and restore ourselves, and then we can jump back in.

4. Does a big ego help or hinder a literary career?

That’s a really hard question to answer. I tend to suffer from the opposite problem–that self-doubt I mentioned above, so I definitely don’t have experience with a big ego helping or hindering my own career. But I’ve met authors who talked quite egotistically about their own writing, and sometimes it seems to help in the sense that it draws attention to them. Sometimes it turns people off. Of course, I have no idea whether those authors actually have big egos or are compensating for the self-doubt most writers deal with.

5. A common stereotype is that people in the writing industry are socially inept, how true is that for you?

I would not consider myself socially inept, nor would I consider most of the writers I know as such. Are most of us introverts? Yes, probably. I know some very extroverted authors as well, though, and agents and editors often lean toward the extroverted side, or at least don’t suffer from shyness. The main thing is we tend to be focused, and because we’re creative we think out of the box. Most of us aren’t concerned with fitting a certain mold and we let our passions show.

6. What was the first novel/book you ever read?

I would consider that either The Phantom Tollbooth or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I’m not sure which of those I read first. If those are too “young” then A Wrinkle in Time. I read all three in elementary school. Yes, I was an avid reader quite early, and I was a speculative fiction fan early on as well.

7. What interested you about these anthologies?

They’re focused on speculative fiction by Christians, but the stories themselves aren’t necessarily overt. So often writing for and by Christians focuses on the message, and these anthologies are about finding the best writing regardless of message (or lack thereof). In MythicOrbits I, my story “Clay’s Fire” has absolutely nothing Christian about it other than me as the author. In MythicOrbits II, my story “Mark the Days” does have some Christian elements, but the focus of the story is on the speculative aspects and what the character is going through and only leans into the Christian message. Other authors’ stories range from overt to subtle as well. I love that the anthologies show that Christians aren’t cookie-cutter writers.

 

Kat Heckenbach Author Head Shot.JPGKat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally, she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools while writing. She is the author of YA fantasy series Toch Island Chronicles and paranormal romance Relent, as well as dozens of fantasy, science fiction, and horror short stories in magazines and anthologies.

 Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com.

 

Linda Burklin:

  1. What was the best part of working on these anthologies?

I was just really thrilled to have a chance to get some of my short fiction out there. For me, writing short stories is much harder than writing novels, so when I write one I like, I feel such a sense of accomplishment, and to find out that someone else likes it enough to publish is a big relief!

  1. What is your creative kryptonite?

Stress. We had a serious family crisis a few years ago and I wasn’t able to write for almost three years. Every molecule of my emotional energy went into that crisis and there was nothing left for stories.

  1. Do you believe in writer’s block?

Not as such. If I am “blocked” on one story I just work on something else for a while—editing an earlier story, brainstorming new ideas, etc. Sooner or later I’ll figure out what to do with the story I had trouble with. And I love it when that “Aha!” moment happens.

  1. Does a big ego help or hinder a literary career?

I may never know since I don’t have a literary career! But I would assume it would be a hindrance. Most authors I have met have been very friendly and personable and accessible. I think it would be hard to keep your readers if you are condescending to them.

  1. A common stereotype is that people in the writing industry are socially inept, how true is that for you?

Well, I’m an introvert for sure, but I’m an introvert that LOVES people. So I’m not so much inept as unlikely to insert myself into a group where I don’t really know people. I have no problem with public speaking or meeting people one on one.

  1. What was the first novel/book you ever read?

I was a voracious reader as a kid and I have no idea what my “first” book might have been after the Dr. Suess days. Books that stand out in my memory include My Side of the Mountain, the Hardy Boys books, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series.

  1. What interested you about these anthologies?

I liked that the common denominator was the Christian authors, not the Christian content of the stories. My stories are not overtly Christian so I don’t know if I could even have found a home for them in a Christian publication.

IMG_8921 - Copy (1).jpgLinda Burklin has been a storyteller and writer since childhood. Raised primarily in Africa, she wrote for and edited her college newspaper for two years while earning her English degree. Writing took a back seat during the years she was raising and home-educating her seven children. For nineteen years, she has taught writing classes to her own and other homeschooled children, and authored the Story Quest creative writing curriculum. She has maintained a daily blog for 13 years, had several short stories published, and has written a memoir (This Rich & Wondrous Earth) and seven novels. Her passion is speculative fiction.

 

Both volumes of Mythic Orbits are available on Amazon and are fantastic!

 

2016

Volume Two

Anyways, I hope this was a fun post for you guys! Happy Reading!

Advertisements

Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems

Love Interests: When Cupid Falls Flat on His Face

Shut up. I’m funny. 

Anyways, romance and sexual attraction is something that many people hope to find in their day to day lives. (Shoutout to my asexuals and aromantics) It’s invigorating, exciting, a breath of fresh air in an otherwise depressing world. And we eat it up in literature and media. Even children’s shows have romantic interests in them and we get into violent ship wars over the smallest things.

So what are some of the most annoying/hated romantic tropes in media? Why do they fall flat and how do we write a healthy romance that readers can still consume with fervour?

Abuse Packaged As Kinks or Romance

This is a loaded one. It’s the Fifty Shades of Grey trope, the ‘I can Fix him’, Stockholm syndrome and about sixty percent of fanfiction trope. I’m not even joking. People really seem to think that abuse is kinky, loving. And that… Is gross. There are no words other than the words I just used to describe the abuse packaged as kinks or romance. It’s gross.

Part of me thinks that some women are simply unsatisfied in their sex lives so they just want something exciting and dangerous. And don’t get me wrong, if there’s some kinky, consensual stuff going on in the bedroom, that’s chill.

If it isn’t informed, consensual and safe for both partners, it’s not love, it’s abuse and rape and it’s wrong.

The Fairy Tale

You all know this one: Girl sees boy; boy sees girl; instant whirlwind romance that ends in a glorious wedding and Fairy tales.jpega happily ever after. It’s the perfect couple that never fights, they’re too in love.

And it’s boring and kind of weird to think about because like, normal people fight even if they’re the closest people in the world, there are going to be fights and arguments. A relationship isn’t flat, it’s dynamic and alive, it moves and changes people. Having a perfect relationship would only be possible with perfect people who mesh perfectly together and no matter how much you and your boo say that’s true, it’s not.

The Confused Lesbian

Fuck this shit.

Just Fuck it.

I’ve been trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for it for four days and I can’t. It’s weird, okay? I don’t know why conquering a woman who doesn’t like dick makes some people happy but it does. Stahp. .jpeg

It isn’t cute or funny, it’s annoying and degrading to both lesbian and bisexual women. This trope is bad and you should avoid using it at all costs.

If you have a bisexual or pansexual or polysexual character, great. They still don’t need a dick to make their lives complete. Your male character isn’t a hero for breaking up a healthy relationship because he finds one of them hot. Your male character is a scummy person if he does this.

Don’t do this.

What to Actually Do:

Real relationships are based on trust and love. They’re mutual and both partners should try to raise each other up. Of course, you can have toxic relationships in your story, they happen to the best of us. Just don’t glamorize it. Relationships also take a lot of time and effort to work. You don’t just marry a guy you met three days ago and live happily ever after.

Anyways, this took way too long to write, enjoy!

 

 

Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems

Male Characters

I figured this would be as good of a time as any, with Bojack Horseman Season 5 recently coming out and pointing out that bad people often get their giddies and justification from the critically acclaimed Troubled Male Protagonist.

Writing male characters is always difficult for me on some level. Most of my male characters are diverse but at the same time, as a girl, I really prefer writing as in a girl’s voice. I also don’t want to fall into the trap of writing a toxic male character when I meant to write him as I meant to write him as dynamic and flawed. So let’s look at Male characters and see if I can actually figure it out.

Bojack Horseman

Bojack-Horseman-2.jpg Bojack starts the series as a textbook example of a male character who wallows in his own self-pity and ‘fetishizes his own sadness’. He refuses to listen to the positive influence of those who care about him and is constantly self-sabotaging.

By the fifth and most recent season, Bojack recognizes that he’s a shitty person/horse and he’s making a half-assed attempt to better himself. He’s constantly paralleled with the character he’s playing, a gritty detective named Philbert, and when the series is released to critical acclaim, he’s still not happy. Diane, his best friend, is also unhappy, both with her failed marriage and her role in writing Philbert. She calls Bojack out on the shitty things he does, and he can’t handle it, going on another bender.

Bojack is both a realistic portrayal of an addict and of someone who doesn’t know how to be loved. He had unloving, emotionally abusive parents and he’s drowning in his attempts to break the cycle of addiction and abuse that followed him growing up. He’s flawed, recognizes that he’s flawed at least some of the time and he finally asks for help. His growth arc is unstable and frequently regresses but it still happens. That’s one of the best parts of this show and titular character. His growth isn’t stagnant but it isn’t rushed either and there are consequences for everything he does.

Tony Stark

Iron Man.jpg The original hero of the MCU has some nasty skeletons in his closet. Suffering from PTSD, alcoholism, and a slight touch of narcissism, Tony Stark has been through hell and back. Throughout the MCU, Tony carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, a weight that shows heavily on him, especially in the later phases. (Captain America: Civil War, Spiderman: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War)He’s more than willing to die and is torn between his life as a hero and the life of a friend.

His growth arc is brilliant, changing him from a billionaire playboy philanthropist to a man who panics because he thinks his protege is going to get himself killed. He’s probably one of the more interesting and fleshed out of the MCU heroes because he struggles to be better, he needs to be better so he can undo some of the harm he’s inadvertently done. Tony Stark is flawed but not toxic. He sees the flaws in himself and others and pushes for change from all parties involved.

Jared Leto’s Joker

Whooo, boy. The DCEU has some fundamental issues. And one of those issues is the writing in Suicide Squad. Jared Leto doesn’t get much screentime in general and what little we see of him is offputting. He’s manipulative and sadistic and visually uncomfortable, looking more like a gangster than the anarchist we know and love. Not only is this version of the Joker toxic and abusive, nothing in the story redeems him and that’s a good thing. It doesn’t give people room to forgive him and use him to justify his shitty behaviour.

However, Jared Leto’s Joker presents another problem; it romanticizes and glamourizes the relationship between him and Harley Quinn. I don’t have the brain power to explain why this is wrong at the moment, but I’ll elaborate later.

Edward Cullen

Creepy, sparkly and downright boring at times, Edward Cullen is often used as an example of a bad male character and p192gjm9qg11ho1p7o1tm4orrmma3I agree with that statement. Throughout the series, he remains stubborn and controlling; he doesn’t change and he doesn’t intend to.

He’s an example of an archetype that’s quite popular in YA fiction: The ‘Bad Boy’. Unlike the original archetype, which was a boy who fought against the man and had nothing left to lose, the modern version of the archetype is about shifting the blame. He’s not controlling and creepy, he’s just misunderstood. No, no, honey, he’s a stalker and he’s bad for you.

Zuko

You thought I was going to avoid talking about Avatar, didn’t you? Yeah, no. I’m back. All of the explored male characters in A:TLAB are stunning and unique. Sokka is sarcastic but insecure, Aang is fun but often gets distracted.

And… Then there’s Zuko.

HONOUR!!!HOnour.gif

Okay, I’m done. Zuko is a complicated and dynamic young man. He doesn’t quite know what he wants. He wants the approval of his father but when he gets it, he still isn’t happy. He gets sick when he tries to figure out whether he’s good or bad. He’s constantly working to balance the prince he thinks he is and the person he wants to be; the person Iroh and he can be proud of.

Even when he’s technically an antagonist, we see moments of his true character. He gives up a chance to capture Aang to protect his crew. Zuko may be brusque, unattentive and downright surly at times, but he genuinely cares about those close to him and wants to find happiness, eventually instigating the changes that will allow him to find it.

Male characters only become toxic when they refuse to change, when they refuse to grow and learn from their mistakes. Even though some of their mistakes can’t be forgiven, it’s not for lack of trying. Flawed characters are human. Toxic characters suck all of joy and love and happiness out of a room and other characters. Snape is toxic, Hagrid is not.

Anyways, I hope this helps and happy writing!

 

 

 

Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems

A young hero is wandering through the forest; they’re alone, confused and probably having a mild panic attack because this new world is terrifying. Suddenly, a figure, wrapped in robes and surrounded by good nature and mystery approaches them and offers them a blanket, a guiding hand. Of course, they do, they’re the mentor character!

Humans venerate the elderly because it wasn’t even that long ago that living to 60 was kind of a miracle. We kind of forget it now but being old meant that a) You were rich or b) You had figured out a way to survive, you had beaten everything life had thrown at you. This leads to the idea that your elders are wise because they’ve lived and learned from more than you can imagine. This, combined with other factors, lead to the birth of the Mentor archetype all the way back in The Odessey. Mentor is an old friend of Odysseus and he looks after Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Athena takes his form when she goes to convince Telemachus to look for his dad. (READ THE BOOK)

Mentors are sort of interesting characters because they’re never really placed in the role of protagonists or antagonists but rather, they exist sort of in the middle as a teacher and sometimes as a bodyguard. They espouse and help your characters and are not always the ‘good’ guys. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Gandalf

Inspired by Merlin and the recurring theme in mythology that the gods will come down in the form of old men, GANDALF BITCHGandalf is one of the quintessential examples of a modern mentor character. Wizened by hundreds of years of life and ‘graced’ with magic, Gandalf is first a mentor to Bilbo after he ‘nudges’ him out of Bag End and he also becomes a mentor to Aragorn, Frodo and the other Hobbits. His wisdom and strength of character guide them through the most treacherous passes and he’s chastising when he needs to be.

Gandalf’s character is a traditional mentor in the sense that he guides and advises Frodo to take action as well as being far older and far more tied to the world at large than we originally realize because we’re distracted by the shiny fireworks. He’s a maia, equivalent to an angel and has lived for thousands of years.

Blinky And Strickler

Blinkus Galadrigal is well learned, good-hearted, dorky conspiracy enthusiast. He’s also a troll who lives underground BLINKEYwho puts more whipped cream than coffee in his coffee but those are details. Blinky is, initially, an example of a mentor who exists to help the perspective character navigate a dangerous and unforgiving world. However, he is not all knowing, a fact that he considers a flaw, he’s failed before, and he genuinely cares for Jim.

On the other hand, Strickler doesn’t so much offer affectionate mentoring that borders on surrogacy Stricklerbut rather, is a mentor in the way that he teaches Jim that life is hard, there’s nothing consistent and the best thing you can do is be prepared. While he does care for Jim and his mother, he doesn’t let it influence the fact that Jim sometimes needs to learn to take it down a few notches. He’s an example of an initially antagonistic mentor character who influences and is influenced by the pupil. Jim becomes more jaded and less trusting and Strickler gradually opens and changes his perspective on humanity.

One of the factors that make mentors so popular is that they are someone who cares for their pupils without necessarily being related or forced to and a lot of people have had someone like that in their lives and it makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside even if they don’t know someone like that.

Iroh

Iroh is a mentor figure thatPacing Iroh influences both Zuko and others in the world through his gentle demeanour and wise words. He doesn’t force change, he makes suggestions and gives advice but the choice to change always comes from the people he’s teaching. Iroh always loves first and teaches later. With Zuko, he’s patient and kind, only becoming harsh when Zuko needs it. With the people in the Tale of Iroh, he’s gentle and fun, singing and playing games with kids and advising them to admit their mistakes but also when to run away. He’s also incredibly badass and is stronger than he initially seems.

Gaius

Gaius is a doctor who takes young MerlinGaius under his wing. An old friend of Merlin’s parents, Gaius is often the voice of reason in Merlin’s life and as a young man in a city where his existence is kind of illegal, Merlin needs this voice more often than not. Gaius is willing to dispense knowledge about medicine and magic, as well as the history behind Uther hating magic. He’s reasonable and willing to protect Merlin from most things, even going as far as to be willing to die for Merlin.

Having a voice of reason in the life of an impetuous young hero is pretty important. You can’t just have your hero run headlong into danger every time without someone trying to stop them because it’s not very strategic for keeping them alive. We need that voice of reason, be it our parents, teachers or older siblings or we won’t survive because surprise, surprise, teenagers are stupid.

I’m going to take a moment to talk about Batman because he’s a mentor in that he takes in young people with potential and shapes them into the future heroes of Gotham and he succeeds, some of the time. He avoids the typical mentor duty of protecting his pupils from emotional or physical harm, although it hurts him when things like that happen.  He’s an influencer but in sharing his influence, he pushes the pupils away.

In conclusion, mentor characters are a combination of elder veneration, belief in divine aid and the need for reason and love in the hero’s lives. They’re generally old men but there are women mentors as well. (Katara in LOK, Frigg to Loki, Athena, etc.) They offer something that the hero doesn’t have: knowledge of either techniques or the world at large.

I hope this helps and happy writing!

 

 

Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems

As I read back on my blog, I realized something. Pacing Iroh

I haven’t made a post about tea in months. So I wracked my brain and decided to find a writing topic that also includes tea.

Pacing: Why Breaks are Important

Pacing in writing is important because it gives a story balance. You need to find that balance between the action scenes and the heartfelt slow scenes that help audiences and your characters inhale and process what the actual fuck just happened. Having a story that’s all action is comparable to having a school day with no lunch break or a really busy day with no time to yourself. It’s exhausting and most people need that break in order to function better for the rest of the day.

There’s no real way to dictate how you pace your writing, but one simple method is to have your characters in a scene where they just talk. No explosions, no plot reveals, they just talk. This can be considered ‘filler’ when using a visual medium and while it may not have any impact on your plot as a whole, it can reveal aspects of your characters that won’t come to light when you’re just writing action scene after action scene.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I should just rename this blog as an Avatar; The Last Airbender analysis blog but anyways, this show does pacing really well, specifically with the episode Tales of Ba Sing Sei. The episode takes place in the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing SBa Sing Sei.pngei and it’s a refreshing breather from all the fighting and pain that the main group is going through. Katara and Toph go to a spa, Sokka has a poetry battle, Aang relocates a sad zoo, Zuko goes on a date, Momo looks for Appa and Iroh destroys our souls.

Anyways, these short stories show us facets of the characters we don’t normally see. Zuko is shown to be vulnerable, Sokka gets to demonstrate his wit in something other than battle tactics and Iroh becomes even dearer to us.

Lord of the Rings

One of the things Tolkien gets ribbed about constantly is the slowness of his books, in how he describes every single leaf and while this is true, his style of pacing allows us to drink in the amazing world he built and appreciate the costs of war that much more.

In the first book, soon after Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin leave the Shire, they run into trouble in the woods, from which they are saved by Tom Bombadil. He invites them into his home, where they rest while it rains. TOM BOMBADIL.jpeg

This isn’t the only example of when this happens but it is one of my favourites because it a) echoes Bilbo’s stay with Bjorn and b) presents a comforting view on someone wild and untameable. It gives Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin a couple days where they don’t have to worry about Ringwraiths and the Dark Lord and they can just breathe and realize how much farther they still have to go.

It happens again and again. Every ten-twenty pages, Tolkien takes the time to write about the cast just sitting and eating and talking. It helps us bond to the characters and makes everyone seem more human, from the wild force that is Tom Bombadil and the Ents to the creepy, slimy bulbous Gollum.

Harry Potter

Apart from the castle itself, the place the Trio spends much of their time at is Hagrid’s cottage. The homely building on the edge of the Forbidden Forest is much like the half-giant himself.Fite me A little shabby and a little worn but still full of love. The visits to Hagrid’s hut and Hagrid himself allows the trio to reflect and form opinions without the pressure of Snape or Draco looking over their shoulder.

JK Rowling uses these breaks and other little moments, like the Yule Ball in The Goblet of Fire to give Harry and the reader just to enjoy the beauty of Hogwarts. The candles floating in the great hall, the fluffiness of Fang, Hagrid’s mismatched tea set. It draws the eye away from the doom and gloom of the looming prophecy.

Pacing is about more than just pausing to give the reader a moment to appreciate the wildness of your world. Unless your heroes aren’t human, having them just fight battle after battle is unrealistic and your readers will eventually be desensitized to all the gore. Show us the backroom deals that allow your villain to evade the consequences, have a little farming couple take in the hero after he’s hurt, have a mentor share a pot of tea with their student. Show that there’s more to your writing than death and destruction.

A story is like a pot of tea, drink too much too fast and you burn your tongue and ruin the rest of the pot, drink too little too late and your pot is cold and while iced tea is good, if it’s the middle of winter you just want that hot tea. A good story, like a pot of tea, takes the time to brew and then is drunk in cups to space it out.

Anyways, I hope this helps and happy writing!

 

 

 

Epic Fantasy and Stupendous Sci-Fi Mashup

Let’s get one thing out of the way: most people are uncomfortable with death. (Except for George R.R Martin, he seems chill with it.) It’s painful to giphylose someone you love and who loves you back. It hurts and tears you inside a little bit. There’s no way around that pain, even if that person is fictional.

For those of you whom could not infer what I was talking about from my introduction and laughing grim reaper, today we are talking about Death, specifically different ways to organize the deaths in your stories and how to punch your readers in the nuts.

NOTE: THIS ESSAY IS FULL OF SPOILERS. READ PAST THE READ MORE LINE AT YOUR OWN RISK If you do continue, it is safe to start reading when you see red. 

 

Continue reading “Epic Fantasy and Stupendous Sci-Fi Mashup”

Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems

Found Family

Found Family is a trope that became popular relatively recently. It’s when your main characters, all coming from different walks of life and who are all more than a little broken. It’s a trope about hope, about misfits and about how coming together makes us stronger than if we stood alone.

Most found families originally come together through circumstance. They wouldn’t be together if they hadn’t been forced but now that they are together, you’d better watch out. Found families are great for character development because they have to learn to work together. guardians.gif

In mainstream media, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are an excellent example of a circumstantial found family. A group of criminals brought together in the first movie because of an orb Quill stole, they are forced to work together to save the galaxy because as Quill insists: They live in it. This massive problem, which forces the team to bond to the point that Groot is willing to die for the rest of them, is eventually solved by them working together to stop Ronin from destroying Xandar. We're familyTheir family later expands, adding Gamora’s adoptive sister, Nebula, Mantis and Yondu. They become a family because the pressure of saving the galaxy forces them to push together and bond. (Also, near-death experiences are great for helping that process along) Even though they bicker constantly, they’ll always have each other’s backs.

Hiccup and Toothless On the other hand, we have the enemies to friends to family. Hiccup and Toothless are originally pitted against each other, but they find solace in the fact that they are both different. Toothless is all alone and Hiccup is isolated from the other Vikings because he’s not really Viking material. When they look at each other, they see themselves. The spunk, the creativity, the feeling of being alone. It takes a lot of effort from both of them to build the foundations of a bond that’s stronger than a Bewilderbeast’s call. Anyways, this kind of found family is different from the circumstantial found family because rather than forcing them to work together for the greater good, they have to come together to save themselves. Hiccup needed a way to use his creativity and Toothless needed to fly. Also, bribing people with food is a good strategy.

Team avatar.gifTeam Avatar is more of a literal found family. Katara and Sokka found Aang in the iceberg and they bonded from there. The family is constantly growing and expanding, with additions like Toph, Zuko and Suki, but even when it’s just the first season, Katara and Sokka treat Aang like he’s a member of their family. They need Aang and Aang needs them. They stabilize and round each others’ personalities out, which is one of the reasons why the found family trope is really cool. It allows characters to grow and change with the help and support of people who love them.

Sometimes, found families don’t fall seamlessly together, there’s fighting, the newest member doesn’t always click with another member. They might have two aliens chasing the newest member of the family because the aforementioned newest member is a fluffy blue weapon.

picgifs-disney-lilo-and-stitch-126.gifScrew it, I’m talking about Lilo and Stitch. Brought together by chance, Lilo’s love for Stitch is unconditional from the start. She doesn’t care how weird he is, she likes him the way he is. Nani is a little more skeptical and worried about Stitch. By the end of the film, however, their family grows to include surfer/dancer David, Jumba and Pleakly. Stitch.gif That’s the great thing about families and the whole premise behind this incredibly heart-warming trope. Your family isn’t just who’s related to you by blood. It’s what you make of it and once you’re a family:

No one gets left behind.

 

Continue reading “Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems”

Epic Fantasy and Stupendous Sci-Fi Mashup

Character Mirroring

Character mirroring and parallels are interesting because we get to see how two characters from different worlds and backgrounds are linked and tied together. It also lets me use my favourite line in all of literature and mass media.

“We’re not so different, you and I.” I need this.gif

That phrase actually makes so many parts of my life better and I love it. It’s a horrible, overused trope that doesn’t make sense some of the time and I love it so fricking much.

One of the shows that does character mirroring so awesomely well is Avatar: The Last Airbender. The characters all have parallels running amongst them and I find one of the most striking, if undertalked about, ones is between Sokka and Zuko.

Both are in the middle of adolescence. (Sokka is 15 and Zuko is 16) Both of them lost their mothers at an early age, both seek their fathers’ approval, both have immensely powerful sisters and end up dating warrior girls. (Suki and Mei) The contrast comes from SrL4.giftheir families. Everyone remaining in Sokka’s family loves him dearly. His father teaches him, his sister protects him and his grandmother provided a home to go back to. There’s no need for Sokka to worry about losing his family’s love. He’s got a firm base to go back to no matter where he goes in the world. They’ll always love him and keep him close in their hearts. Zuko’s family is the opposite. His father doesn’t respect or love him unconditionally. He even burns Zuko’s face for speaking out of turn, something that most children do at that age. His sister is unsupportive and kind of scary. The only source of unconditional love Zuko has is from Iroh. Iroh loves him so much and Zuko is so uncertain of that love until the end.

Another parallel is between Azula and Katara. I’ve already established that they’re ParallelAcademicGibbon-size_restricted.gifpowerful benders but they’re younger siblings and they’re both 14. The difference is in both their families, as I established above with their brothers, and their hearts. Azula is motivated by her lust for power and her own desperation to be loved. Katara is motivated by hope and her desire to help. Katara wants to help, Azula wants to control.

This isn’t the only place it pops up in the show. It appears with Katara and Haru, a young earthbender, whose father is taken away from him by the Fire Nation in a similar way to her mother. Both of their bending abilities have to be hidden or they’ll be taken away as well. It also shows up, in a much eerier way between Hama and Katara.

Hama is a Southern Waterbender who was taken away from by the Fire Nation, so she learns to blood bend and as a way to enact her revenge, she kidnaps members of a small village during the full moon. Katara later learns this method from Hama and uses it against her to protect Sokka and Aang. thissanehapuka-max-1mbThe similarities between Hama and Katara are eerie because we actually see Hama change from a hopeful and brave waterbender like Katara to a twisted and broken mirror of the pride that once ran through the South Pole. She’s like Katara, so what’s stopping Katara from falling in the same way?

Character mirroring also pops up in How To Train Your Dragon: Race to Edge and it’s between Hiccup and the principle antagonist, Viggo. Both are incredibly talented, intelligent and charismatic.tumblr_o0przjfaUM1qf9ni3o1_500.gif They differ in their opinions on Dragons and People. Viggo views them as a commodity; however, Hiccup views them as friends and loves them. It’s why they’re on par with each other and the tension between them is so high. They know that they’re similar and it drives them batty. They have to be better than one another. They can’t be similar, one of them has to be smarter, braver, a better strategist. It’s one of the things that this show does really well; the tension between the two of them is great and raises the personal stakes of the characters.

Showing similarities between villains and heroes creates tension and humanizes the villains. Like many tropes, it’s useful when done well but you have to tread lightly so the similarities aren’t just physical or drawing on one single thing. It’ll seem weak and shaky and readers won’t actually buy it.

Anyways, I hope this helps and Happy Writing!

 

Stupendous Sci-Fi: Errors and Reroutes

Redemption Equals Death

A big issue with redeemed villains and fallen-then-redeemed heroes is a lot of the time, people simply won’t buy that they’ve gone back to the good side. So an easy way to sidestep this is to simply have them redeemed through a heroic act of self-sacrifice and they die.

No consequences for the awful stuff they’ve done, no need for awkward moments of ‘Hey you almost murdered me’ between the heroes and reformed villains.

The most obvious example of this would be Darth Vader. VADER

He throws the Emperor to his doom and in doing so, saves Luke and redeems himself in the eyes of his son, his daughter and his ghost buddies.

I mean, if he hadn’t done that, Luke would have died, the Empire would have kept going forever and ever and ever. Also even if they had beaten the Empire in another way and he had reformed, can you imagine the family dinners? Killing Vader off let us have a clean ending that a certain company shouldn’t have messed with.

Anyways, redemption equals death is an easy way to make everything seem neater and cleaner. It cuts back on the awkward tension and we don’t have to think about the consequences of the villains’ actions.

And sometimes, a villain can’t be redeemed in any other way. Sometimes, the things that they’ve done are too heinous, too horrible to just be forgiven. Sometimes, the only option is death because they realize that living with the things that they’ve done is too hard. They don’t want to deal with the awful thing that they did, so they don’t.

The other option is redemption doesn’t necessarily equal death, but it does equal sacrifice. This isn’t nearly as effective because believe it or not; people don’t buy it when someone who has everything gives it up and decides to become a good guy. It really doesn’t connect with your audience because it’s often shabbily done. It’s why Killmonger dying was really the only option. He’s a shitty person. He isn’t going to change if you imprison him.*

Imagine if you were the ruler of the world, then suddenly, because you had a change of heart you give it all up and become a hermit. Seems shady, right?

Now, it can work sometimes, but you can’t just have a character give something up and just be redeemed.

One of the most effective examples of this is Dagur from the TV shows that bridge the gap between the first two How to Train Your Dragon films. He’s a villain for the first series and begins his slow reformation in the second one.

It climaxes when Dagur seemingly sacrifices himself to prevent his newfound friends and his younger sister from flying into a traptumblr_oelz7sbO9z1sx82u9o1_500

He’s later found to be alive, but he still has to work his way into being trusted by his sister and the Dragon Riders. He initially does this because he bonds immensely well with a Gronkle, a slow, dog-like dragon, named Shattermaster. He’s willing to go to the ends of the earth for this Gronkle, whereas before, he only viewed dragons as commodities and enemies. He also helps them retrieve Berk’s gold and is immensely protective of his younger sister.

The redemption equals sacrifice only works if the characters and you as the author are willing to put the work in. Otherwise, like in my example before the Dagur one, it’ll feel fake. People don’t just give stuff up because they feel bad because humans are really stubborn and petty.

Hopes this helps and happy writing

Continue reading “Stupendous Sci-Fi: Errors and Reroutes”

Epic Fantasy: Peeves and Problems

Furthering Strong Female Characters: The Problems with Badasses

Okay, okay. Before you murder me:

I like Badass women. Kyoshi is one of my favourite incarnations of the Avatar that we get to see on the show.

phonygentlehoneycreeper

It’s the women who are nothing but badass and have no depth that bother me. I’m all for women being powerful and strong, but if the reason for them being strong is just because she had an older brother, or she’s purely there to fill a slot that could be filled by anyone, what’s the point?

Strength doesn’t just pop up randomly in people, male or female and while male characters often have reasons for their strength, female characters are often left in the dust with the lame explanation “I have x number of older male relatives.” Um, what the hell. I have two younger brothers, that doesn’t explain why I can physically kick most people’s butt.

I can kick most people’s asses because my sister and I were bullied and joined a martial arts club so I could protect her. My brothers were still toddlers when this happened.

See how shaky the motivation is without the elaboration? I have my brothers, but they aren’t the reason I’m strong.

People aren’t just aren’t just strong. It has to come from somewhere. There has to be a reason and if it’s lacking, the characters feel hollow and flat. It doesn’t matter if the character is a girl, boy or gender queer person, if there’s no filling out of the character, it’s not a character. It’s a doll. You need to write characters, with hopes and dreams, with somewhere to go that may not be better than where they left but they’ll be better for going. They don’t even have to know where they’re going and neither do you; however, they are still going.

Who are you?

The other problem I have with supposedly strong female warriors is the armour.

News Flash: Girls have internal organs as well and we’d like to keep them. I get it, plate armour is unflattering. Suck it up. I don’t care if the chainmail bikini looks great on your cover, it’s impractical.

In fact, given the chance, many women would probably react the same way Leia did if you gave them a chain mail bikini.

You’d be strangled.

Actually, let’s talk about Leia for a minute because she’s one of my favourite female characters of all time. She’s an adopted princess who’s a trained strategist and gunman. She’s an excellent leader and she’s a fully fleshed out, dynamic character who changes over her tenure as a badass general.

Back to the rant.

The other part of this rant is from a more sexist time, when women weren’t allowed to be anything but mother, brewsters or spinsters. No military jobs except for nurses. (And that’s only in the past 200 years or so) It’s the stereotype where a woman isn’t allowed to be anything but a healer or have a ranged weapon.

Women are perfectly qualified fencers if you train them correctly. Also, have you tried drawing back a bow? It’s so difficult to do properly, it changed the bone structure of English bowman’s arms and shoulders! If we’re going on build, women would be better suited to be spies and rogues because we’re more flexible. We wouldn’t be archers, we’d be the people flashing the generals on the other side and then stabbing them.

On the other hand, women are predispositioned to be better at diplomacy then men. So maybe, we should have more queens and female generals in litterature.

Anyways, I basically spewed my guts. Thanks to my friends in the Hello Future Me discord for the topic idea. Hope this helps and happy writing!