Month: May 2020

Politics is Not the Solution: Or The Problem of Power

Right now there is a crisis in America, and I don’t just mean the pandemic. There is a clash of cultures going on, one which prizes empowerment of the disenfranchised and another which prizes profits over people.

One side claims that government regulations are the only way to curb irresponsible overreach by corporations. Government regulations keep us safe from pollution and climate change and ensure equity and fairness for the less fortunate in the community and those who live on the margins of WASP society. The other side claims that the first side just wants a socialist nightmare where the government controls every aspect of life.

Socialism and capitalism have been at war for over a century, and the only casualties so far have been the working poor, the oppressed, and other social minority groups. Even when environmental or other types of regulations are passed, small businesses suffer to live up to these regulations while large corporations are able to buy their way out of the rules.

It is no secret that there exists one set of rules for the super-rich and another set of rules for you and me. The solution, it would seem, would be to imitate Europe, tax the super-rich into nonexistence, and institute a socialist state, one in which equity and fairness for all could be ensured at the cost of individual choice. In short, if you won’t play by our rules, you don’t get to play at all.

Unfortunately, I fear the redistribution of wealth would only bring about a super-powerful government with powers unlimited by the Constitution or the petty demands of the little people.

Once again, the rich and powerful would clamber to the top on the backs of the poor. It seems to be the way of things.

Another possible solution would be armed revolt, as exemplified in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. If America itself were to undergo an armed socialist insurrection, what power on Earth would be able to intervene? It wouldn’t be like the communist revolutions in the Third World, where the CIA was able to use its influence to sabotage socialist movements, assassinate leaders, or install puppet regimes. Who could stop such a revolution?

Possibly the rest of the world. Or possibly no one. What would be the outcome? I’ve no earthly idea.

But if armed revolt fall to the same bane of compromise and corruption as peaceful, diplomatic strategies for social change, what then is left for those of us who still want to effect the improvement of our shining blue marble?

A great philosopher once said that is not enough to bash in heads. You have to bash in minds. But how do you win hearts and minds? Christian missionaries have been asking this question for over 2000 years. Too often, the answer we’ve come up with has been beating people until they concede the point. That answer is no longer acceptable.

But art and literature can touch us in ways no weapon can. If we devote ourselves to inspiring others, to spreading knowledge and sharing our wisdom, we have no choice but to prevail. It’s not a glamorous route. We run the risk of being mocked, hated, or worst of all ignored. But it seems to me the only sure avenue of success.

Words, sounds, pictures, and constructions can succeed where bullets and berating fail.

So write your writing. Draw your drawing. Make the world better by being in it.

And vote. Because there’s no reason not to have a backup plan.

What To Do: Can’t Write

Here’s seven quick things you can do to get the creative juices flowing.

Creative juices. Ew. What are creative juices anyway? Is it like blood? Some kind of special brain phlegm? Spinal fluid, maybe? Or maybe it’s cranberry juice. I bet it’s cranberry juice.

You know, I was having trouble working on the novel today. Just couldn’t seem to get in the zone. So I thought I’d make this list post about how to get the creative juices flowing. But now I’m hung up on juices. What carries creative juices? And why “juice?” Why that word? Why not “creative waters” or “creative liquids?”

And why is it plural? Is there more than one type of creative juice? Is there a diet creative juice? How many calories are in creative juices? Can you buy it at the store? Clearly not.

Do adding tags do anything to my stats? I’m guessing not since I average about 5 readers a week. Not to insult any of you. I’m sure you’re lovely people. But it’d be nice to get into double digits now and again. Ah well.

Anyway, the book is coming along. Trying to get in 1000 words a day, but it’s tough. Because I’m lazy and easily distracted.

Distracted by juices.

How to Arc Characters?

In the dark times before Youtube, there was a website called Homestar Runner. It was written all in flash, with pages for characters, games, toons, etc. The character page introduced each of the characters you could find in the games and videos on the site. Every character had a thing they wanted, something that stood in their way, and a flaw to work on.

Of course, characters never got what they wanted or worked on their flaws much because then the stories would’ve stopped. Much like how Spider-Man can never learn how to be responsible, Clark Kent can never figure out how to relate to humanity, etc. without their respective comics ending.

That’s why marrying Lois Lane should have been the culmination of Superman’s arc and the end of his story, but that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway, I’ve been watching Brandon Sanderson’s awesome Youtube videos in which he talks about how to write fantasy and science fiction novels. I haven’t gotten to the lecture on characters yet, but he’s been mentioning characters throughout and the importance of character arcs.

Having characters that change, that learn something, or fail to learn something, and the consequences of that. It’s what stories are really all about: The human condition. Who we are, how we became who we are, and what we will do to become who we want to be.

And it’s just that process of becoming which I struggle with as an author. How to portray that? How do I portray change in my characters effectively? So far, the characters in my book have been mainly static. There have been hints at ways they should change, but I’ve struggled to actually show them changing. Why is that?

I know for myself, it’s hard for me to see my own progress as a writer and as a man. I’ve come a long way in life. Plenty of people can see it. But I couldn’t tell you because I don’t see it. I feel the same at 36 as I did at 26 and 16, more or less. It’s hard for me to see my own growth, so I’m not sure how to portray growth in my characters.

How do you writers portray this character change in your own novels? Send me a link to your writing or leave a comment/advice in the space below. I’m eager to hear what you have to say. Maybe it’s less complicated than I’m making it sound.

Reading List

Lately, I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the hottest fantasy novels of the year. When I say lately, I mean over the last several years, as it’s taken me forever lately to finish a book. What that means is that I’m currently 2/3 of the way through the Mistborn trilogy, which I heartily recommend. Sanderson is a wonderful author with an astute grasp of characterization and turning tropes on their head.

I’ve also been reading the Cycle of Galand series by Edward W. Robertson. He’s a self-published author (I think), and his work is delicious. Dante and Blays make an entertaining duo. I’ve enjoyed following their journeys and adventures, though I missed the original Cycle of Arawn. What I treasure about Robertson’s writing is how he’s able to combine adventure stories with an element of puzzle-solving. Each story has at least one central problem which requires outside-of-the-box thinking to solve. Sometimes it’s simple battle tactics, other times it’s something related to the unique magical system he’s created. Right now, I’m on book three of the series “The Wound of the World.”

Alex Marshall is the pseudonym for another author I hadn’t read previously (Jesse Bullington). His “Crown for Cold Silver” stretches the limits of traditional European-based fantasy by including influences from Vedic myth, as well as offering true gender diversity in an empowering way. His world-building is astounding, and I can’t wait to read part two of his trilogy, which is only ten years newer than Mistborn. I told you I’m taking a long time to finish books.

“The Ten Thousand Doors of January” did not take me long to read at all. I only wish I’d picked it up sooner. Alix Harrow‘s stunning portal fantasy transports the reader (sorry, couldn’t resist) to a world where anything can happen. Or rather, it takes the protagonist, a woman of color, on a journey far from the bounds of her racist, elitist 19th century society to worlds where witch-queens rule, panther-women stalk, and vampires lurk. Some worlds are closer than she thinks. It’s beautiful. I nearly cried near the end. (Don’t worry, there is a happy ending.)

As writers, we need to fill the well occasionally. Sometimes that means reading The Metabarons. Sometimes that means catching up on well-written fantasy by some of the greatest masters on Earth.