Goal Post: First Day of the Post-Camp Break

Where to even begin with this week?

Leaving the personal drama out, I made it about halfway through before my body decided it had enough.  My mind agreed and proceeded to get distracted by shiny objects as long as I wasn’t driving.  Needless to say, I wasn’t that productive after Wednesday.  Why I thought I would be is beyond my comprehension.   So, what exactly took the wind from my sails?

It really came down to Tuesday and Wednesday requiring a lot more activity than I’ve done all summer.  These were the days I had to go into work for special training, which was a lot of fun.  My brain was iffy on the first day because of the heat and I had a rough night’s sleep.  Still, I absorbed as much as I could and processed it when I gained some time later.  Tuesday also required that I wander around stores for 2 hours before I could pick up my son from camp.  He was just down the block from my school, so it was pointless to go home.  Too hot to hang out in the car too.  Shopping didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked though. Target isn’t as great as it used to be.  Barnes & Noble was good though.

I was kind of lucky that I didn’t have to pick my son up on Wednesday since that was his mom’s day.  So, I was able to head right home after training.  Well, I had to go back to Target to get what my son requested using a his birthday gift card.  After that it was home to write . . . I passed out for an hour on my bed.  Then, I wrote . . . I went grocery shopping and got pizza for dinner.  After all of that, I definitely . . . gave up on trying to write and worked on a ‘Witcher’ puzzle until I fell asleep.

Unfortunately, pushing myself for two days without really resting resulted in my Thursday being severe brain fog. This was supposed to be my 3-section day.  I got 1 section done in the morning before my mind just gave up.  Tried to play a video game after that, but got motion sickness, which was a sign that I was really out of it.  I tried to rest up, but only had enough time to get another section done on Friday.

My goal to get 4 chapters of Darwin & the Avenging Elf done ended up being 3.5.  Not bad, but it leaves me with more than half of the book left.  At a 3-section per day rate, it would take me 12 days.  That’s not happening with long Covid.  I might get a little done this week if my son decides to play with his friend, but that’s a long shot.  Either way, I’m looking at it taking all of September to finish this book.  Maybe longer if I find myself too exhausted to write after work and then helping my son with homework.  It shouldn’t be that bad if I can get within 2-3 chapters of the finale before school starts, but it looks like it will be closer to 4-5.  Really hope my September weekends aren’t too crazy, which might not be the case.

This has been a big part of my frustration lately.  I had a great plan to finish 2 books this summer and gave myself a cushion of about 2.5 weeks.  Things just didn’t work out and now I’m nervous about having another school year where I can’t go near my books.  The thought of having to wait 10 months to finish this story makes me physically ill.  Getting back into the swing of things after last year took a while and I still have severe bouts of feeling like a hack when I finish.  Working with brain fog doesn’t help that matter and has resulted in a few weeping bouts.  Maybe I’ll figure out a way to at least do some outlining during my break periods.

Can’t really think of anything else that was exciting.  My son had his last week of camp, so I get all of this coming week with him.  We’re going to the zoo tomorrow, but that’s the extent of our solid plans.  Video games, Lego sets, art projects, walks in parks, and everything else aren’t really planned.  He’s supposed to get braces too, which is going to be an event.  He’s nervous and I’m doing my best to keep him calm about it.  Promised him Penne with homemade vodka sauce on that day.  We’ll get ice cream before coming home too.  Knew this day was coming eventually, so I’m prepared for it.

Television-wise, I haven’t done anything new.  Still working through a rewatch of ‘That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime’ and I don’t know what to start after that.  I keep trying to think of any live action stuff, but my mind comes up blank.  Think I don’t have the focus for hour long shows too.  I need to take refocusing breaks every 2 episodes of an anime, so it would probably take a long time to get through longer things.  Can’t really think of any interesting shows beyond ‘Umbrella Academy’ either.

I did watch ‘Prey’, which is the new Predator movie.  Is it better than the original?  No, but it wasn’t boring.  I liked most of the characters and the plot was straightforward.  The effects were good aside from some of the CGI animals looking really off.  The Predator felt like a true menace, but also a thinking, evolving being.  Not the smartest one of the species, but I got a sense that it was supposed to be more instinct than cunning.  I was a little curious how they would have the main character face the Predator since she’s not as big as Arnold.  They did a good job showing how she could hold her own simply by using her speed, agility, and smarts.  Of course, she wasn’t immediately badass and worked her way up to it.  I genuinely can’t remember the last time I saw a hero who stumbled and grew during an adventure instead of starting off and remaining perfect.  Anyway, I’d recommend it.

Goals of the week?

  1. Time with son.
  2. Sleep when he’s not around, so I have energy to spend time with son.
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Can a Tower Princess Be Strong?

Rapunzel

Another big trope that has been loathed by many is the ‘Tower Princess’.

While not always involving a tower, this is a female character who has been locked up.  She is the prize for the male hero after he finishes his quest.  Various changes have been made such as a prince being locked up or the ‘Tower Princess’ escaping from bonds under her own power.  Both methods have been done so much that one could say they’ve become tropes.  This results in people simply avoiding having any female character who is helpless and in need of aide, especially from a man.

First, let’s be honest.  There are men and women out there who are helpless unless they get help from a stronger individual.  So, the ‘Tower Princess’ concept does have real-life examples even if we like to pretend they don’t exist.  This still doesn’t make it a great idea to have a woman as a prize.  Not unless you want to get a lot of backlash for both sexism and unoriginality.  So, is there any way to have a ‘Tower Princess’ shown in a positive light while still having a male hero?

It’s a tough challenge because you’re going to have people hating the concept as soon as they see it.  They won’t give it a chance and go in with a closed mind.  After all, the differences will be more subtle than a gender bend or removal of a male hero.  Yet, there are some ways to demonstrate that this woman isn’t really helpless.  There are a few things she can do even if she can’t escape.  It simply requires that you show what she is up to from time to time instead of staying solely with the male hero.

  1. Strength–  This is easier to demonstrate than one would think.  I’m not talking about physical strength, but mental and emotional.  A ‘Tower Princess’ can hold onto hope and sanity in the face of abuse and isolation.  Being unable to free herself, she can fight to hold out until rescue or finding an opening to do it herself.  Defiant behaviors in the face of trauma doesn’t have to be solely for the adventuring hero.  I’d say a story of captivity is where one would need to see such endurance demonstrated.  This makes the ‘Tower Princess’ more than a prize since they now have some influence over their own fate.
  2. Smarts/Cunning–  A ‘Tower Princess’ doesn’t have to sit around doing nothing beyond sleeping, eating, and bathing.  They may take some action to make a rescue or escape more likely.  I’m not talking about Rapunzel and her hair, but things that will help the approaching hero.  For example, throwing spoiled food into the moat to make the monster sick or making it so that the drawbridge cannot be lifted.  Leaving a back door unlocked at all times can help too.  Much of it depends on how they’re contained and the distance they can travel around the tower.  Show that they’re creative and somewhat proactive even if they still need to be rescued.
  3. Sharp Tongue–  This only works if the ‘Tower Princess’ has to constantly interact with her abductors.  It doesn’t even help in her escape or rescue, but it goes back to the strength concept.  A sharp tongue is what many people see as a sign of an unbroken will.

As you can see, these are more general categories.  The specifics are up to the author because they can change depending on the scenario.  A solitary tower with a dragon guarding it will have less to work with than a citadel guarded by a warlord and his semi-loyal soldiers.  The point is to not always toss out a trope because it’s typically shown with little change and in a negative light.  There’s always a way to change it up without flipping it entirely on its head.

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Poetry Day: Breasts and Blood

Google Image Search

(I remember this one causing a small uproar.  I’ve made posts about this topic too.  Boils to down to a simple fact.  Society glorifies violence and death while demonizing sex and nudity, which is how you make more life.  I’m sure the comments are going to be just as crazy this time as it was back in the day.)

We cheer at gore and pain

Splattered on our screens

Staring at the chunks of flesh

And corpses full of holes

Our eyes feed upon the action

And accept the violent views

Yet we cringe at human forms

Bare breasts and rears shake

With a hint of frontal show

Causing us to gasp and cry

Disgusted by the lewd display

Many rise to scream their rage

While others shield their eyes

It is a strange world

That we have built for us

Where death is cheered

And the human form is booed

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Being the Chosen One is a Curse

Matrix

One of the most common tropes in fiction is the ‘Chosen One’.

This is a character who is destined to go on the adventure and, many times, win.  This trope traditionally removes all tension once it’s revealed.  It’s only in the last decade or so that authors began having it that they lose to trick everyone.  I even stated many times that the champions in Legends of Windemere were destined to reach the final battle in some form, but not necessarily win.  This still treats the ‘Chosen One’ in positive terms with very few negatives.  So, it isn’t that different.

Now, what if you make it clear that the ‘Chosen One’ isn’t a gift, but a curse?

This isn’t that hard to demonstrate even if the character is unaware of how much of a negative this status is.  Look at the following possibilities:

  1. Being the ‘Chosen One’ means that they have no free will.  All of their actions and paths are decided upon.  The heroes can try to do something else, but they will always be pushed back on track.  Sometimes, this can be a rather violent and brutal shove that destroys things.  At that point, they may start questioning their role and wondering if they are being punished.
  2. Relationships can be difficult because they have this calling.  While non-destined heroes are free to establish solid relationships, a ‘Chosen One’ will be aware that doing so puts people in danger.  They can become distant or get a sense that they may never truly belong.  This can lead to them wanting to get their destiny over with in order to gain a normal life.  Recklessness and frustration can grow to make it clear that this isn’t a position anyone wants to be in.
  3. Plot armor is a constant complaint when it comes to ‘Chosen One’ characters.  Being destined to succeed or reach the end, they will never be killed off.  If they do then the concept of prophecy is a lie and much of the development is thrown out.  This is why many authors steer clear of this trope.  Yet, the plot armor can be used as another reason for this character to be seen as cursed.  They are surviving incredible odds while their non-destined friends are dying.  Again, we can see how this can push a Chosen One into emotional distance and possibly even try to go it alone.
  4. A positive part of being the ‘Chosen One’ is that they will become famous if their adventure goes on long enough.  Definitely nothing to be upset about.  That is unless the author is a jerk.  Being praised and doted on can make the character become pampered and spoiled.  Their personality may change into one that isn’t very appealing, which can cost them in some fashion.  This becomes a ‘pride before the fall’ even if the hero isn’t able to fall entirely.  They can lose everything due to their newfound ego and then be left wondering what they have to fight for.

There are plenty of other ways to show how the ‘Chosen One’ is cursed.  It all depends on the world, author, and type of destiny.  Think about how even characters who can’t be physically harmed can still be hurt emotionally and mentally.  The burden of having so much on your shoulders and not being able to hand it off can grind nearly every hero into the dirt if written correctly.  This is internal damage over time, which won’t be unnoticed until it’s a really big issue.  Also, this types of blows are harder to shrug off because potions and spells aren’t really able to repair that damage without psychic manipulation.  All because a character was unlucky enough to be born a ‘Chosen One’.

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Writing Chapter One – Tips

Greetings, Storytellers! Diana here today. I hope you’re all writing up a storm. I’ve wanted to write about first chapters for a while, primarily …

Writing Chapter One – Tips
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Teaser Tuesday: The Calm of Clouds

Google Image Search

It’s another conversation teaser.  Really hope people are enjoying these since I want to establish Darwin and his relationships.  The big one is with his cousin who also acts like a big brother and protector.  I loved how their relationship grew and changed as the story progressed.  Though, I have a soft spot for how kind and caring Arlinger is with Darwin at the beginning.

Continue reading

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We’re All Different

Seymour Stories

This started out as a reply to a blog post on Legends of Windemere (Writing Characters from Maligned and Abused Groups), but it struck a chord with me, and I ended up writing my own post about it.

The original blog post is about writing from perspectives other than your own, and doing it sensitively. If your character has a disability, for example, and you don’t, you need to know how that affects your character in their day-to-day lives, how it’s shaped their personality, how it affects their relationships, and their perspective on the world. It requires research and understanding of how real people with that particular disability think and feel.

I completely agree that writers should include characters from all walks of life. I also think there is a place for including minority groups without making a big deal about it. I’ve read so many books that…

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Perspectives of Tropes

Sauron

We all know this topic since I touch on it from time to time.  For those who don’t know, tropes are things that are used very often in a genre.  They are similar to clichés, but not always seen as a negative.  Yet, the two words tend to be used interchangeably these days, which is part of the reason for the post.  Best examples are the ‘Chosen One’ and the ‘Tower Princess’.  Both are getting their own post this week.

So, where does perspective come into play?  At first, you may think I’m talking about the readers.  If a person has limited experience with a trope then it won’t appear to be stale or overdone.  Not until they run into more often.  Younger readers will find these common characters and plot twists as amazing while older ones will be annoyed.  This is one reason why many authors seek to avoid using them.  They’re targeting the older demographics even though you have members of those groups who may not read the genre often enough to be over the tropes.  Anyway, that’s not the perspective I’m talking about.

I mean the way a trope is presented by an author.  Not turning it entirely on its head, but coming at it from a different direction.  The character or object will still have the same purpose it always does.  You’re just seeing it from a different angle.  This can change the entire story too.  Some tropes that people think show weakness can be demonstrated as strong.  Those who are amazing can be seen as weak or pathetic.  Again, it’s all about perspective and how we show these things to the reader.  The author has full control over this, so take advantage of the god-like status.

Best example, which has become a trope itself, would be showing that the evil villain isn’t as evil as people thought.  Instead of the pure evil character like older stories, you see things from their perspective.  It could be that they’re still doing evil, but now you see the reason.  It could wrong and not how any sane person would do it.  May even be downright messed up.  Yet, you now have a trope that has been altered enough to stand out among its peers.  In fact, each new reason for doing evil can be seen as a change of perspective enough that you can always keep the ‘evil villain’ trope in some form.

Doing this isn’t easy.  You can go too far and lose the trope entirely, which isn’t bad.  It just means you may have to alter other things that depended on it.  You may not go far enough, which will show and bring about the using braying of ‘cliché’ from those who read books like their lives depend on it.  To be fair, it does in some cases.  This is why I think one has to be careful with altering the perspective of the trope.  You need to make it clear that you’re using one and clear that it’s different.  Go too far in either direction and you’re left with a mess.  Good luck.

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Author Growth

Hello, SEers, and welcome to another Mae Day on Story Empire. Let’s chat writer growth.  Last winter, a local newspaper featured me in an article. I …

Author Growth
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The Coatimundi: Arboreally Adorable

What is a coati or coatimundi?

This omnivore is found in North, Central, and South America.  They’re a relative of the raccoon, but they’re diurnal (daytime) instead of nocturnal.  You’ll see in the pictures that they have long tails, which are used for balance.  This is why somebody mistake them for a type of lemur.  They are very similar since they’re arboreal, which is a species that mostly live in trees.  While coatis hunt on the ground, they sleep, mate, and birth children in the canopy.  This lifestyle is helped by them having double-jointed ankles, which can rotate 180 degrees.  This allows them to easily climb down headfirst.

It’s unclear how threatened the coatis are.  All 4 species have to contend with deforestation, hunting, and getting attacked by domestic animals.  Yet, it’s difficult to get an exact idea of their population.  The two mountain species are listed as threatened/endangered though.  A problem is that there aren’t any solid populations to use for study.  They’ve been found to be highly adaptable too, which adds to the problem of locking down a clear picture.  So, it seems they’re listed as endangered on the belief that we underestimate the influence of the issues.

Let’s get to the pictures and videos.  Coatis are cool, but I’m finding they’re better to see than read about.

White-Nosed Coati

South American Coati

Easter Mountain Coati

Western Mountain Coati

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