Tag Archives: Creativity

Sleep, Lack of It, and Sleep Deficit

Something I’ve heard many times over the last decade is the idea that proper amounts of sleep is important not only because of the long term slow toll it takes on you, but also that a “sleep deficit” can’t be made up. For example; running on 4 hours of sleep a night during the work week and then trying to (partially) make up for it on the weekend.

Personally, I think this is yet another example of twisting scientific fact to try to scare people into good behavior. Lack of sleep always catches up with us eventually. It doesn’t matter how superhuman we try to kid ourselves into believing we are, nor how much we might abuse stimulants like caffeine or the toxic waste called energy drinks.

Yes, energy drinks are VERY bad for you. I’ve seen first hand what abusing them can do to a person. That’s a separate post however.

Staying on topic however, I can tell you that my body demands a sleep deficit be made partially up. My most recent experience here is after my acupuncture treatment roughly 36 hours ago.

Prior to that, my mid back was acting up so badly that I hadn’t gotten more than 3 hours of quality sleep in a night for over a month straight. Beyond that, it was laying there awake, or waking up every few minutes, etc… I was such a mess that my blood pressure readings at the clinic indicated I am now at the lower levels of stage two hyper-tension. O_O

The treatment released enough pain and tension that I finally have been able to sleep though, and I’ve spent probably 24 of the last 36 hours sleeping. Not the first time I’ve had similar experiences either (although I think this is the most extreme example). So some degree of sleep deficit does indeed need to be made up.

It makes a huge difference when you do also. Brain fog is lifting for me, my creativity is feeling close to normal again, I have more energy… I feel like that hyper-tension has gone down also. Meditation and yoga will hopefully fix the rest of it. I can tell I’m not out of the sleep deficit woods yet either, but I’m getting there.

Lesson for the day here; ideally to get proper sleep in the first place. You have to “Sharpen the Saw” (as Stephen Covey put it) if you’re going to function at peak efficiency. Barring that, make a real effort to catch up on missed sleep. If you don’t, it WILL catch up with you sooner or later, in one form or another.

Humor to “Sell” Writing Cliches

After a couple of heavy topics that were both social commentary and topical (not tropical) to authors, I think we need a little lighter topic here.  This came to mind after a recent reply in LittleFears blog.  We got joking about cliches in writing and the TV show Dallas came up.

For those too young to remember, Dallas was a massive hit TV show in the 80s about a Texas oil family.  An evening soap opera really.  People who write villains defined by the power they hold can really benefit from studying Larry Hagman’s character JR Ewing too.  That was a man who knew how to manipulate and outmaneuver at every turn.

Getting back on track though, one of the things Dallas is most infamous for though was a “RetCon” where they erased an entire season to bring a character back to life.  “It was all a dream!”.

Those who have followed my blog know I generally try to avoid reproducing cliches like that in my writing.  HOWEVER, used with humor, they can be used sparingly.  Here’s an example from almost two decades ago.  As a quick set-up, Nancy was a character of mine in City of Heroes.  She was a trick archer turned telepath / telekinetic.  Over the course of time, the character got dragged into weirder and weirder collaborative stories with my gaming guild.  At one point I got so fed up, I had the character get killed.   Convinced to give everything another chance, I brought her back to Earth as an angel on probation.  Kind of a silly option on it’s own but I was young.  When nothing changed, I decided I needed a clean break and to salvage my character concept.  I took an unusual route and actually copied Dallas’s playbook.  Oh yes, and it’s a little confusing but the other character in question was Max or Maxine who sometimes went by Sonya (her middle name IIRC).

 

NANCY’S TRIP TO DALLAS

Nancy heard a strange male voice stirring her from her sleep. She slowly pushed herself to regain consciousness and wearily opened her eyes partially. The first thing she noticed was that she ached all over.

“What the?”, she thought to herself. “I don’t remember getting hurt.” “Hell, I’m dead anyway… How do you hurt an angel, even one on probation?”

She managed to focus on the dresser and the wall across the room.

“OK, it is our room…”, she thought. “So I am at home in bed with Max.”

“No, Nancy, you’re not.”, came the same male voice that had stirred her from her sleep. “It’s time to wake up too.”

“Huh?!?”, Nancy muttered. Her mind raced as she tried to place the voice. She couldn’t though, despite it sounding vaguely familiar. Oddly enough, she couldn’t mentally detect another presence in the room either.

Her arms shot over, reaching behind her for Sonya. There was nobody there however. She rolled off her side and sat bolt upright in bed. Now wide awake, she stared across the room at a man in his late 20s impeccably dressed in an expensive dark blue suit and light grey felt Stetson cowboy hat.

“Who the hell are you, what are you doing in my room and where’s my wife!?!”, Nancy demanded in a fierce tone. Slight recognition dawned on her face & her expression turned from one of anger to one of complete confusion. “Huh… wait..”, she said sounding completely bewildered. “B… Bobby Ewing???”

The man just flashed an amused smile.

“This doesn’t make any sense…”, Nancy said, trying to collect herself. “You… You’re just a TV show character.”

Bobby Ewing laughed a bit. “You’re just a fictional character in some realities also.”, he replied amusedly. “And no, this isn’t some Arachnos trick.”

“Then how…”, Nancy asked in a puzzled tone.

“I’m just a manifestation of your subconscious.”, Bobby replied. “As for the form I took, blame your parents and all those Dallas DVDs your momma watches.” Bobby grinned and chuckled slightly. “It’s fitting though, given what you’re about to find out.”

“What are you talking about?”, Nancy asked, frustration now added to her confusion.

“You’re still asleep, girl.”, Bobby replied in a more serious tone. “It’s past time you woke up though.”

“What?”, Nancy blurted out, surprised. “No, I…”

“Do yah always sleep in your costume then?”, Bobby replied.

Nancy looked down at herself and saw she was indeed wearing not just her costume, but her older one, from when she was still a member of the All Star Teen Sentinels.

“You’ve been out for a while.”, Bobby continued in a serious tone. “It’s time to return to the real world though.” “You have people that miss you and are worried sick about you.”

“No”, Nancy objected. “This is real, I am awake.”, she insisted.

She wanted to continue, but the aches in her body grew worse and her head began to hurt terribly. She began to hear disembodied voices calling to her as well. She heard Elaine and her parents telling her to come back to her. There was an increasingly bright white light above her too. Suddenly, Nancy gasped deeply and opened her eyes…

She looked around with her eyes, not moving her head. She recognized she was in a medical center, explaining why she ached all over.

“She’s awake!”, Elaine screamed in an elated tone. She reached down and hugged Nancy fiercely, causing a groan of pain from the girl. “Ah’m sorry sugah.”, Elaine said with tears in her eyes as she released Nancy. “Ah’m just happy yah finally came back tah us.”

 

So net result; Nancy is returned to the world of the living (or awake at least) to find out she’d been in a coma for almost half a year after being led into a villain ambush and beaten near to death.  She was still a psi, never married and never an angel of any sort.  The rest of the story went into several of the nonsense plots that I was pulled into and is so embarrassing I don’t even want to reprint the rest of the story here.

The bigger point is that even an obvious cliche this big can be done if handled with a little humor and even acknowledging you’re using the cliche.  I doubt I’d be as blatant as I was in this example.  It was completely over the top, but it was meant to be AND it was a game based story that I never had any intention of publishing, so that minimized any potential copyright issues.  Remember this is another one of those tools that should be used rarely.  You kill it’s impact otherwise.

Regrouping

I decided to nix my post on how various sources out there are manipulating the messages we receive via TV, the internet, etc…  I got a couple of likes, one intelligent comment and a whole lot of looks but nothing else.  Between that last fact and losing one follower after I published…  Well, message received.

I get it a little.  I re-read it and was frustrated that I rambled a bit and drifted between a couple of supporting points or arguments.  To do it right would require an entire series articles on the general patterns of manipulation that are used to play communication games.  Here, I’d have to leave political and social references out too.  People just don’t want to hear that the environmental movement is a great thing, BUT that they’re hurting their own cause with distorted facts.  They’re hardly the only cause like that too. News lies are always only the other side too…  *le sigh*

Soooo…  Getting back to the regrouping part…  Not only have I decided to set that stuff aside, I have been working on Witchfire’s material also.  Mainly re-reading and seeing where I’ve gone wrong, mapping the new story, discussing plot ideas and character developments with Deanna Troi and Comixfana, etc…

I’m realizing how dialog tag heavy the stories are thus far as one needed fix.  Probably some of my other erotica could use that fix also.

Deanna Troi has been insistent that I’ve been too vague in my revelations about the greater evil lurking behind the villains, so I’m working on how to change that without giving away the whole farm in chapter one. 🙂

I think I’ve been a bit inconsistent with my portrayal of Krystal / Witchfire also.  Sometimes she acts the part of a vixen, sometimes she’s come across as if she was 15 and unsure of herself and what she wants.  I think I would have gotten called on that more if so much of her behavior couldn’t be explained away by her world being turned upside down.

There will probably be a few minor “RetCon”s also as I change a few small facts here and there to fit how she’s currently envisioned and the new direction the stories will take.

The biggest lesson I’ve learn though is to follow the rules for writing about sitting down, focusing and working without distractions.  No pressure to meet artificial deadlines either.  Relax, focus, get it done and get it done right.  When it’s quality, then I’ll release it.  Stress kills my creativity faster than anything.

Lastly, just as Witchfire is going to start being truer to herself, I’m going to be doing the same.  Her stories were meant to be kinky, and it’s time I stopped worrying about if I might offend somebody.

THAT said, I will still keep ALL my stories and any related digital art off my main page.  I *do* respect that a few of you come here for the other posts, and that others just may not want to worry about a NSFW email notification.  That much is courtesy to readers and as much of an attempt as I can make within the bounds of WP’s system to keep within laws regarding risque material.

4 Hours Down…

12 to go…  What am I talking about?  My writing distraction for the day.  We’re having dinner guests who have all but demanded my brisket:

IMG_1544 (1) - Copy

But 16 hours?!? I hear some of you saying.  A good brisket is slow cooked over wood to give it maximum smoke flavor and tenderness.  Beef brisket and pork ribs are weird critters anyway.  To get to a proper Texas competition tenderness and flavor, you have to cook them to a higher internal temperature than something like a steak.  Ribs are done at about 185.  Brisket can be anywhere between 195 and 210 depending upon the individual piece of meat.  When slow cooked properly, both should hold together but the meat should tear with a gentle pull and still be tender and juicy.  Something like this:

IMG_1547

That lovely red around the outer edge is a smoke ring.  The darker the better.  🙂

Oh and another reason a brisket takes so long; a full “packer” cut of brisket starts at about 14 pounds.  You can count on having to trim a couple pounds of fat away though.

I’ve been told by Texas competition BBQers and judges that they like the look of my brisket.  I’ve been told by other Texans that mine is the best they’ve had since leaving Texas.  DivaQ eat your heart out, hehehe.

And for those of you who don’t get the Texas references, brisket is solidly a Texas thing, and they take it serious.  You can talk bad about a Texan’s momma before you badmouth their brisket, LOL.

So yeah, a little food bragging to take my mind off the neighborhood, the way nobody listens anymore, and having to clean house for tonight.

Oh and since I’m bragging…  Remember I said I bake too?  Here’s a Goo-Goo Cluster cheesecake I made last year:

IMG_1550 (1)

Now, as far as offering any Brisket lessons; just check out Aaron Franklin’s youtube channel or get his book “Franklin Barbeque; A Meat Smoking Manifesto”.  His BBQ is so good people line up at his restaurant at 4am for a noon opening.  He’s free with his secrets too, unlike many professional chefs.

A Look at the Comics Book Code

A post at LuaraVent69’s blog got me thinking about the role of the entertainment media in the violent, scary state of modern life.  I advocated in a reply that maybe the media needed to dial things back just a bit.  THAT, in turn, got me thinking about the ever present conundrum of “where do we draw the line”.  People rightfully have some concerns about restrictions of any sort of rights being a gateway to a total denial of said right.  It happens all the time in totalitarian systems.

Before I wander off into a tangent though… one past option came to mind and I began wondering if it would work today.  That being the now defunct “Comic Books Code”.

Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_Authority

Now, for those who aren’t familiar with it, I’ll start with a little background.  I’m running from memory, so if I goof a fact, it’s not intentional.  The code got it’s start in the the 1950s.  1954 if I’m not mistaken.  Some grown ups were concerned that comic books were becoming an increasingly bad influence on kids.  More adult content, etc…  Back then, kids were the only buyers too.  Anyway, the outrage got to the point that the major comic publishers were worried that Congress was going to take some heavy handed actions to regulate them.  Their alternative to head this off was a self-imposed code of conduct about what would appear in comic books.

The code essentially established that comics wouldn’t have any overtly sexual material, that the good guys would always win in the end, criminals wouldn’t be glorified in any way, and that things like drug use would be avoided also.  Gory violence was to be avoided, etc…   Well, heck, here’s the whole code for those who are interested:

http://cbldf.org/the-comics-code-of-1954/

Some of it gets a bit silly, like the prohibition against vampires and werewolves.  ANYWAY… the code was enforced by a review board called the “Comics Code Authority”.  The whole thing came crashing down when rebellious comics writers wanted to do stories related to the drug trade.  They planned on portraying the effects of drugs in a negative manner, etc… but that didn’t matter to the Authority.  Net result; one by one the publishers pulled out and did their own thing.  If I recall correctly it started with a story Marvel wanted to run in Spider-Man comics but I might be wrong.

NOW, everything but hardcore porn seems to go in comic books.  How much of that is a good thing is open for a bit of debate.  For example, we wouldn’t have Power Girl’s massive mammaries if the code was still in effect.  Boys and lesbians love them, some women scream objectification and unrealistic body standards.

OK, let’s state the obvious…  Some of the code is silly in the modern world:

Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority

Really??  Is there a single reader out there that thinks all government officials are above reproach?

But in terms of some of the rest of it… Are we really in a better place in the world for books, films and TV shows that do glorify crime and criminals?  Is excessive gore in movies REALLY anything more than a crutch for poor story telling?  Alfred Hitchcock is considered a master of suspense and early horror, but never had to show anyone getting mutilated.  Is all the violence and glorification of gunplay as a way to resolve the plot really necessary?  Yes, I could by a hypocrite and ask the same questions about sex scenes also.

My personal opinion here?  Going back to something as restrictive as the Code probably isn’t a real answer.  Maybe taking a voluntary step back in that general direction wouldn’t hurt though.  There’s something wrong when a show like Breaking Bad that glorifies a man selling meth and ruining peoples’ lives, is a huge hit.  Before anyone argues that with me, they should google up pictures of what meth does to people.

methface

That’s what the poison Walter White was selling to people did.

Would the alternative work?  Just look at the original Star Wars trilogy.

Maybe if we quit glorifying all the darkest elements of society, we’ll get less of them in real life.

 

200!

Yep, despite my off and on posting, and wandering all over the place topics wise…

followed-blog-200-2x

Miracles happen, LOL.

I’m grateful for everyone that has decided to follow me also.  Thank you all. 🙂

Related to all of this, I have been reflecting on the blog and my writing since getting back from Hawai’i.  Aside from the lessons I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’ve realized that I need to get my life better organized.  I also need to re-focus on my actual writing instead of dancing around it like I have been the last few months.

Being in Hawai’i and having life on hold for a week, and then coming home, I realized just how spread thin I’ve felt (hell, actually been).  Worse, it’s led to a sort of analysis paralysis.  Trying to juggle priorities and adapt to a steady stream of changes has resulted in me just outright shutting down at times.  That, of course, only makes things worse, because it allows things to backlog even further.  If I’m going to regain control of my life and work on my writing, the pattern needs to change.

Dancing around my writing…  That, I believe, is a combination of time issues and some lingering doubts about writing erotica.  Instead of actually doing writing, I’m writing about everything else.

Granted, I also don’t want to blog work that I can potentially publish and sell.  I can write about writing rules, philosophy and strategy as well as come up with stories that are “Fan Fiction” or such and therefore can’t be published for profit without a licensing agreement.  Nothing wrong with other material also, so long as it’s not the bulk of my writing here.  It’s all about balance.  A writing blog has to be about writing though.

 

Realizations on Writing

I teased this a couple of posts ago, and I suppose its time to pay it off.  I’m not getting any sleep tonight either with a pack of teenage hooligans roaming the neighborhood on foot for since 1:30am

So long story short, I’ve spent my down time trying to figure out why I was feeling so frustrated, (and thus burnt out) with my writing before my long break.  I came to a couple of conclusions:  I wasn’t writing for me, I was overly concerned about offending people, and I’m still trying to find my exact niche on writing.

The not writing for me thing is ironic, since during my time on twitter, I was constantly encouraging people and telling them that if THEY don’t enjoy what they’re writing, it will show through in their writing and it won’t be their best work.  I’ve studied public speaking and communication, and let myself get too wrapped up in the admonitions to tailor your communication to your audience.  That’s fine if you have a specific audience you’re reaching out to.  When you’re trying to write something that will appeal to wider demographics though, you have to set those admonitions aside to a degree and be true to yourself.  Otherwise your writing or words won’t be genuine.  People pick up on that too, at least on a subconscious level.

Twitter was a horrible experience for me in terms of creating that worry about offending people.  Despite all the talk about how great the writing community is, I saw alot of clique behavior.  Erotica authors aren’t real writers.  If you do this in your erotica (such as mentioning bra sizes), you’re a crappy writer and I won’t read you, etc…

The main gaggle of female erotica authors would even ghost you if you didn’t support their beliefs that women shouldn’t be held to any conduct, dress, etc… standards and similar extreme SJW ideas.  heaven help you if you supported a male erotica author also.  Kind of sad really.

I could (and maybe will do) a whole separate post on my thoughts there.  It does impact my writing after all.  LONG story short however, suffice it to say I do believe in women’s sexual empowerment, but I also believe in common sense limits on everything.  Wear a short, tight dress and flaunt what you’ve got for example.  Just don’t get mad if you’re dressing sexy and guys (or other women) flirt with you or check you out.  You have EVERY right to be completely safe dressed like that.  No should always mean no as well.  How you dress does nothing to change that.  Getting bitchy when you get harmless attention when you’re dressing to get attention is immature at best though.

As much as I love sex and sensuality, I also believe some things belong behind closed doors.  That’s another thing that seems to set me apart at least from some of the younger erotica authors.  I’m libertarian enough to believe anything kinky you want to do behind closed doors is fine.  Common decency and general self respect dictate some things should stay private, not flaunted in public though.  Bottom line, I’ve learned to stop caring what the twitter crowd thinks.  Shame since Twitter could be a good marketing tool.

Then there’s the whole finding my niche thing.  My Witchfire stories have been an attempt to see if I could combine superheroes and erotica in a real way.  The trouble with that specific genre is that the internet is loaded with sites catering to pubescent boys and outright misogynists, that glorify raping superheroines and “putting them in their place”.   They completely dehumanize woman, and mock strong, capable women.  That’s the last thing I want to contribute to.

At the same time, you have women fighting the worst elements of humanity in these stories, so there’s a question realism with never having it happen.  My original thinking was to keep it rare, not glorify it, and also have the heroine(s) escape / turn the tables, or at least get back at their attackers later.  Avoiding it entirely would be easy if I was only writing a sexy story.  I have been trying to spin a real, ongoing story between the sex scenes though.  Intrigue, personality conflicts, human problems, etc…

Part of the problem with Witchfire was that I was rushing the content also.  I think it made the story chapters far more sloppy than they should have been, and took a few aspects of the stories in directions I didn’t intend to go also.  If I pick up work there again, I’m likely to start over from scratch and treat the existing content thus far as rough drafts.

I admit, I’ve also felt dirty at times writing erotica.  My sexy, passionate side is balanced by a fairly strong religious and spiritual side as well.  To thine own self be true however.  I can’t pretend the sexy side doesn’t exist.  I have a real talent for smut also, lol.  I know ultimately I’d like to evolve into more of a mainstream fiction writer who includes some very racy scenes.  Yes, the unicorn known as porn with a plot for you cynical people, LOL.  Getting there means accepting all of me though, and seeing what that allows me to grow into.

And there you have it.  My continuing path to self-realization thus far as a would be author.

Le Sigh…

I’ve been trying to get something written the last day or so, but my neck and back acting up have been killing my creativity and focus.

I’ve become good at mentally blocking out part of the pain and some of the other side effects (for lack of a better term).  Mental focus and memory though… those go out the window.  I suppose because it takes so much mental energy to tune out the pain and pretend I’m functional.

I’m in a kind of rough spot in that physical activity hurts and throws things out of whack.  Being largely sedentary has me slowly deteriorating though.  Loss of muscle mass and endurance, weight gain, etc…  Life changes when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired though.  That’s me now.  Somewhere in the middle there is a “sweet spot” of activity level and better eating that will help pull me out of the figurative gutter.

I’m going to work on finding it, getting better AND being able to start writing for real.

What Writers Can Learn From Comic Books

Payoff for something hinted at a couple days ago. 🙂

Some of my readers may still think of comic books as a kid’s media.  Reality is, that started going away in the 60s.  They deal with all kinds of social issues and topics that would be considered more mature.  They just also do it in a grandiose setting much like ancient myths.  I’ve read them for decades, and I’ve seen the good and bad in the work.  I believe there are multiple lessons for other writers to take away from them as well.  So, here we go:

  1. Begin with the end in mind: I know about half the writers out there at least partially fly by the seat of their pants.  That’s OK, BUT, know the direction you’re heading.  If you have an outline (mental or written) of how that final chapter is going to go, you will have an easier time getting your characters to that point.  For better or worse, this is one thing the comic companies are good at doing.  We have a 12 issue story arc that will end with X being defeated this way.

 

2. Think About the Long Term Implications of the Story’s Events: This is mainly for authors writing sequels.  You never know when that one shot story or novel will inspire you to write more however.  You may have fans push for a sequel also.  This is something the comic companies have done very poorly since the 80s, hence all the reboots.  Actions have consequences, even in good fiction.  Destruction will cause public insecurity and backlash.  Captured doomsday devices are potentially going to end up in wrong hands again, etc…

My favorite example here it Geoff Johns unleashing a whole rainbow of different Lantern rings on the DC Universe.  It was pretty clearly, “oh this is cool, let’s take it a step farther” thinking with no thought for the impact on the story universe.  So we went from Sinestro having a yellow ring, to him recruiting an army of yellow ringed psychos terrorizing the universe with the yellow rings.  Then there were Red Rings based on rage, then came Blue rings based on hope, and Violet rings based on passion (not love), Indigo rings based on Compassion, an Orange Ring based on greed, White Rings based on Life, and Black Rings based on Death that reanimated dead characters as zombie black lanterns…  By the time all was said and done, DC had the universe overflowing with various lanterns running amok.  They had to go back and destroy most of the rings to restore some semblance of balance to the story universe.  Recently, not having learned, they started doubling down and introduced non-visible light spectrum rings for hidden emotions like shame.

Learn from this.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a spy story and the bad guy discovers our secret agent’s real name and that they have a family.  There’s long term implications there of the bad guy repeatedly coming after the family, and selling the information to other villains so they can do the same.  It’s OK to do that, just have a plan on how to handle it long term, like the family being relocated with new identities.

 

3 Every Character Should Have A Purpose:  The comic companies have gotten big the last decade or so on throwing out new characters in the hopes of appealing to new readers.  On the surface, that may seem logical.  It’s really trying to side step the fact that the story telling is suffering.  It’s treating a symptom, not the cause.  The characters are frequently introduced with little though and poor or no backstories also.

Principle characters should have a decent backstory to define their motivations and goals.  It can be as simple as the heroine works with the hero because they’re childhood friends and she has a secret crush.  It’s a reason for them to be there, then all you need is what skills, observations, connections, etc… do they add to the story, and how those will come into play in the story.

Even minor or cameo character should have a reason for being there.  The co-worker passed in the hall tells the protagonist about an event, etc…  If they’re just there to show the office has a staff, they’re not needed in the story.

Note that major characters / the protagonist should have as much depth as possible also.  Stan Lee talked about how what made Spider-Man successful was that it wasn’t his powers that let him win the day so often, it was Peter’s heart and scientific knowledge.  The more clearly the character is defined, the easier it is to avoid that Mary Sue ending where the protagonist is simply better than the antagonist at their game.

4 Make your heroes actually be heroes and your villains be villains: A major failing of almost all mass media anymore.  There’s precious little difference between protagonists and antagonists in so many TV stories, movies, etc…

A villain with depth is great.  Magneto from the X-Men being a classic example.  He has a cause, and a reason why he goes about it the way he does.  At the end of the day though, he’s still a villain.  The irony of the character that’s lost on many modern readers is that he was oppressed by Nazis so he feels justified in using the same logic and ideology as Nazis to protect mutants.

Nowadays, everything is moral relativism though, and some try to justify that as realism.  It’s about as realistic as saying there’s no difference between a peace loving Muslim and a suicide bomber.  Think about all the best selling books and movies in recent memory also.  Every one of them had a hero that was standing up for what was right.  Everything from Hunger Games to Avengers.  The heroes may be flawed, and should be to some degree, but at their core, they’re still heroes.  Likewise no matter how the villains try to justify themselves, or how tragic a character they might be, they’re still villains.

5 Do NOT Get Overly Preachy with Social Messages: Something the Twitter crowd doesn’t understand.  You LOSE and outright alienate more readers this way than you gain.  Comics have gotten BAD about this the last decade also.  It’s the same kind of mentality that led Jussie Smollett to do what he did, with the same result that less people are going to be willing to listen to similar issues in the future.

Social issues have had a place in story telling since the dawn of time.  Comics started with them in the 60s.  They did a fine job up until the 90s also.  My favorite old example is a Captain America storyline where the government tried to compel him back into gvernment service.  It was a great story about the meaning of patriotism.  Steve ultimately told the government to stuff it, and that while he believed in the country and the American Dream, the government had no right to control a citizen’s life.  It was a good story that acknowledged the good and bad of patriotism and loyalty in general; how there had to be common sense and balance.  Compare that with today how everything is about how horrible the West is while more and more of it’s critics flee TO the West.

Even when part of a story is racism or sexism; things with no upside…  Don’t aggressively beat people to death with it, or portray any group as all bad.  Yes, there are sexist men out there, but labeling every straight male in your story as a rapist is unrealistic and will alienate the average reader.  Strive for a rational portrayal of social issues and you’ll reach more people.

 

OK, long post.  Took forever to write also.  Hopefully I gave some of my fellow authors some food for thought however. 🙂

Retroactive Continuity Fun & Games

I’ve mentioned the concept of Retroactive Continuity a few times in the past.  It’s when something gets changed in a story’s or character’s past.  The usual idea is to make the past fit better with a turn the story has has taken.  It could be as simple as the writer came up with what they think is a better idea also.  Since you can’t go back and change the whole story, particularly if it’s part of a published prequel, you have to get creative.

“RetCons” as they’re called for short, are very common in soap operas and comic books.  Fiction writers of all types can benefit from learning to work with them though.  A RetCon can be as simple as a flashback that includes new information that changes the dynamic of a character’s past, or relationship with another character.  Suddenly, there’s a bit more origin for that heinous antagonist, and they used to be a trusted ally.  That one’s been done so much it’s cliche to be honest.  Easy example though.

Shondra Rhimes uses this gimmick so often in “How to Get Away With Murder” that the show is impossible to watch in my opinion.  If she didn’t have a few previous hit shows, I doubt she would have gotten a pilot episode for this one.  The lesson here is use RetCons and flashbacks sparingly and with forethought.  If you’re constantly changing the story, readers or viewers will just think you don’t know how to plot a story properly.

Then there’s the world’s most famous RetCon; The “Dallas” plot twist to bring Bobby Ewing back from the dead after being gone a season.  It was all just a dream.  The show and network caught a good deal of flack for that one back in the day.  Primarily because it erased an entire season of the show’s continuity, and that just felt too unbelievable there.  “It was just a dream” can work for smaller events though.  Heck, I’ve even used it very tongue in cheek to undo years of a character’s game history in City of Heroes and reduced it to dreams while in a coma for five months.

Nancy’s Trip to Dallas

Just keep in mind, it has to be a bit campy or very clever if you’re doing a Dallas level wipe of events.

On the soap opera side of things, there’s the evil twin, or the spy with plastic surgery to look like a character while said character is otherwise occupied (lost, imprisoned, etc…).

RetCons can be as simple as a character misspoke or outright lied (maybe they were forced to), all the way up to something as fantastic as DC Comics’ “Flashpoint” reset that unleashed the New 52 (titles) continuity on us.  That one has become as infamous as the Dallas event, and even used on CW’s Flash show.  There’s all kinds of possibilities in between also, such as incorrect or altered scientific test or lab results.

Here’s one example I’ve done very recently; readers will recall the drama my Champions character ‘Liberty Gold’ had with her old guild.  I gave the character a fresh start by bringing in a clone of her that’s still at her younger 17 year old age.  That trick works in comic books, sci-fi, and to a lesser extent fantasy if there are powerful enough mages in the world.

My personal rules for RetCons is keep them as plausible as your story’s reality allows, use them sparingly, and think about the long term implications for your story’s character and world.  My biggest gripe with Marvel and DC is that they never think about the long term consequences of their stories anymore.  Thus they paint themselves into a corner of never ending reboots.  More on that and other things we can learn from comics tomorrow.

I’ve made a game out of watching TV and movies, and reading books, and trying to decide how I would have told the story.  I figure out what I would have RetConned to get there also.  So, I’m going to put out a little challenge here.  Fun for me and maybe it’ll help inspire some creativity in readers as well.  Toss me a scenario and what you’d want it changed to, and I’ll see if I can come up with a RetCon path to get you there.  Doesn’t matter the genre, even erotica.