Tag Archives: inspiration

New years, nightsticks, and tropes

New years have never been a big thing for me. Time rolls on, and January 1st isn’t much different from December 31st. There was a funny moment where my housemate, having made other plans, discovered that, instead of spending New Year’s Eve with my family, I would be staying home, as I was sick. She felt bad, at first, saddened by the thought of me ringing in the New Year all alone.

I nearly laughed. Then I proceeded to explain that it was not nearly as sad as she feared. In fact, being sick, I had spent about a week not sleeping well, and I was hopeful that I would be able to get a decent night’s worth. I had a supper of wonderful Korean dumpling soup (forget chicken noodle) and went to bed at 8PM. I slept like a ten-ton boulder. It was wonderful!

I don’t know what it is about New Years Eve that fails to thrill me. I guess I get my fireworks fix on the 4th of July, I’m not much of a drinker, I don’t like champagne… maybe it is because my family never made much of it?

Or maybe it is that I am a cynic when it comes to “fresh starts.” I shouldn’t be, I know that landmarks help some people. But I can make a landmark any time I please. I can say “enough, I am changing this part of my life right now,” and the start of a new year, or the end of an old one, doesn’t seem to make a difference for me.

But something has been building over the Christmas season, for me, and it spilled out on the first day of 2015. It’s still going. That thing is inspiration. My muse has sunken it’s wicked, pointy teeth deep into my arm and shows no sign, at present, of letting go.

Ah, the double-edged sword of inspiration. It is a great feeling, it gets my sluggish work moving. But it also leaves me raw and open to those voices that plague most writers, the whispers of “your work is crap.”

So far, they are just whispers. I shut them out. Eventually, they will be shouts, and I will have to struggle through this, again. But until that time, manuscript-ho!

As sometimes happens, regardless of the state of my muse, I’ve been digging into TVtropes.org in search of answers to questions about the tropes contained within my own work. I like to be aware of such things, and to keep them in mind as I write. In digging, I have discovered something… interesting.

Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing is up for debate.

If you have spent any time on TVtropes, you know that tropes are ubiquitous. They are all around you, all the time, and not just in fiction. Chances are, you, yourself, embody some tropes, or are at least touched by them. In a round about way, this is why tropes exist in the first place.

I keep searching for the “main” tropes for my main characters. You know, their main defining characteristic? Their archetype? I find, instead, tropes that touch them, but constantly miss the mark. Either this means that I have done a good job in creating well-rounded characters, or that I have, instead, created characters that are so off the beaten path that, for most people, they aren’t relateable. …yes, for any non-writers reading, this is the sort of idiocy that keeps writers up at night.

I know there are a lot of characters out there who defy/subvert/invert/play with tropes. I’m not suggesting that I am creating anything ground-breaking, here. I am more interested in figuring out why, even before I had a good understanding of tropes, I created a cast of characters who largely defy them. Does it have to do with my hatred of firm categories? Or my need to defy expectations? Quite probably… but often, those things create tropes of their own. I will continue to ponder.

Also, on a sort of side-note, I recently found an answer to a question that came up two years ago in my writing. One of my characters picked up a nightstick as a favored weapon. He still hasn’t put it down, but I now know where, in the tortuous caverns of my subconscious, he found the thing. I recently re-watched Terminator I and II with my brother. It turns out that in the latter, one Sarah Connor, picks up a nightstick and runs with it. The image of her gripping the side-handle, the weapon tucked, at the ready, against her arm, was like a light-bulb going off in my brain. I don’t know about you other writers out there, but I absolutely love it when I discover these connections.

Enough pointless rambling and crazy linkage. I would love to hear what any of you think about your own writing processes and how you analyze (or if you even analyze) your characters and plot.

May 2015 be a good year, for all of us.


Authorcide

Just a tidbit for today. I think my characters are trying to kill me.

Last night, no less than five character and plot points resolved themselves in my head. While I was driving.

My fellow authors might know the “grab your notebook” impulse that took hold of me, but I was good! No writing while driving. I kept my hands on the wheel. On a good day, my brain has a hard time holding onto three ideas for more than a few minutes. I reduced the thoughts to their essentials and repeated them to myself.

When I reached my destination, the first thing I did was open my notebook and pen. By that time I only remembered four of the points.

In the wee hours of this morning I woke to a tornado warning. In the distance, I could faintly hear the sirens. I dragged my quilt into the closet and sat with my dog. Asher, my gray cat, was cool and calm, so I wasn’t greatly concerned.

And there, in the closet, in the middle of a tornado warning with wind and rain driving against the house, I remembered the fifth point.

Maybe I am too blasé about tornadoes. I left my refuge and got my notebook.


Implications

Mom, I dedicate this rambling post to you and your valiant war against video-games during my youth.  If it had not been for your efforts, my brother and I might have spent so much time playing that we would have lost the ability to step back and appreciate what we played.

A virtual cookie to anyone who knows instantly who these men are.

The above images come from the game Final Fantasy IV (yes, there is much irony in that name).  I suspect that my first encounter with this game came in the mid 1990’s, but I forget.

What I do not forget is the impression it left on me.

The dialog was simplistic, even childish, the graphics left most of the work to the player’s imagination, and the plot was linear. In some ways, this simplicity was better food for the imagination (or maybe just to my developing imagination) than the intricate and complete worlds of current games. There was elbow-room for creative translation.

Despite its relative simplicity, Final Fantasy IV was complex for its time.  It told a story through which a myriad of characters moved. There were interactions and character-arcs which evoked emotional reactions and some that even fascinated me. Friendship, guilt, doubt, bravery, sacrifice, loss, love, betrayal, and difficult choices ran throughout.

This post is concerned with a single event in this game, one of many, that has stuck with me over the years. I think it unlikely that any reader who has not already played this game will choose to do so because of my post, but even so, Spoilers Follow. You have been warned.

The main protagonist of Final Fantasy IV is Cecil Harvey (his name cracks me up, I can’t help it!).  He begins the story as a Dark Knight, a warrior so focused on destruction that his most powerful attack not only does massive damage to his enemies, but harms him as well. It is mentioned that the training of Dark Knights often causes trainees to lose their minds.

In the course of the story it becomes clear that, as a Dark Knight, Cecil will be unable to defeat the enemies threatening his world (Final Fantasy games are always rather apocalyptic, it becomes charming after a while).  The implication is that, as a destroyer only, he is unable to be a protector.

There is nothing too revolutionary about what happens next. In the annals of fiction this arc is well-worn, and yet my encounter with this game’s version changed my perspective a little. Cecil is sent to Mt. Ordeals (allegorical much?) in order to purify him and redeem him from the atrocities in his past.

The moment that spurred me to make this post is the one where Cecil literally faces himself. Cecil the Dark Knight steps out of a mirror and attacks Cecil the emerging Paladin.

This battle has been mulling in my head lately in connection to a story of my own. There are many kinds of enemies and challenges in the lives of real human beings and I find within myself one of the most insidious and dangerous of all. Being a Christian, I have no intention of belittling the danger of our Enemy with a capital “E,” but the enemy I find within myself is a tool Satan may use, a manifestation of the corruption that has befallen creation.

The me that is mine enemy is dangerous because she knows exactly where the pressure-points are. She knows my sins and my temptations, she knows what frightens me, draws me, weakens me and what has the potential to destroy me. She is most dangerous when I fail to notice her because, after all, she is me.

If only it were as simple as a game and I could pull her out and face her once and for all. But life is not so simple, nor should it be. This is a prolonged war, one of the few in which it is appropriate to say “God is on my side.”

This post is in danger of becoming massive because the thoughts I have on this subject are too many to name. I am working through a puzzle, and I imagine I will continue to do so for a long time. It helps to see some of the thought-process in print, though.

I recently discovered the implications of Final Fantasy IV bleeding into a story I am writing.  Who is my protagonist really up against? Sure, she has no shortage of enemies without, but what of her enemy within? What does struggling with that enemy entail? Also, if, in this fictional world, one wishes to test the caliber of a person’s character, how would one go about it?

One of my professors likens the human creative process to a coffee-maker. We shovel in beans (art, music, literature, life, nature etc.) and see what drips out later. I think his observation is astute.  For better or for worse, the video-games of my childhood are nestled among the various other beans in my mind creating a very strange and ever-changing blend of coffee. Here is hoping it turns out to be drinkable.

For the amusement of those who are familiar with the characters of the story I am writing, the heroine of Final Fantasy IV is named Rosa Farrell. I did not remember this fact until today. Thankfully, she has little in common with my Rosa, though I have to wonder if my subconscious is playing with me when it comes to the name.

Cecil

Yes, they are the same character. I never liked this style of FF art, but here is Cecil looking very spiky on one side, and very feminine on the other. Are those pouty-lips? Seriously?


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