Women And Fiction: A Fangirl’s Promise

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Imagination is encouraged in children and I was lucky enough to be a little girl who had a good one.  Turning my backyard into a place where horses and cats could talk to each other and treasures could be found in flowers, became a way for me explore reality while opening my mind to greater possibilities.  When I was about ten years old, I found that I could put this imagination into a page of words.  Writing solidified and extended worlds for me, taking them from fantasy and making them more real.  I knew I was different then because the other kids told me I was weird to want to spend so much of my time writing stories.  Fiction writing is something that has always made me special and I cherish it for that reason.

But as I grew older, my imagination became a concern to me.  I read too many books about sad women who would go home by themselves and alone indulge in an Austen novel, passively wishing that the fantasy they read would become real.  Being a writer with a love of the imagination, I have feared that I will become one of these sad women who only have a fantasy to hold on to.  It becomes a worry when I spend more time with the characters I create then with my real friends.  I should have a job that doesn’t involve reckless creativity.  I need to pursue a professional career that will tie down my passion for words and things that are just “stories.”  For an adult woman, imagination is dangerous when we are supposed to excel towards being a man’s equal in fields like entrepreneurship, politics, sciences, and criminal justice.  I have grown to fear my ability to imagine just as much as I have grown to love it.

latestIn the past, it seems like women have always been criticized for being fanciful, for reading too many novels, and for having dreams in their heads.  Novels and fiction make women senseless.  They allow us too much indulgence into our emotions causing us to be unruly, rebellious; or worse, hysterical.  Women today are still captivated and obsessed with stories that we like – it is only a natural, human response that comes from having a brain.  We have become what are called “fans” with lists and lists of unreal things we shower with admiration.

However, with the advent of the Internet, our interests and passions have become more obvious because we have the ability to share them instantly with the world.  So the “fangirl” has been born – a woman who indulges in her imagination.  But if only that were the sole definition for “fangirl.”  She is not just someone who embraces the things that she likes.  Look at urbandictionary.com and you will see that, for having these feelings, a fangirl is less than human.  She is a “rabid breed of female.”  Which sounds kind of like a description of a dog to me.  She’s ugly and unattractive.  We are victims of an “epidemic” like we don’t choose for ourselves what moves us.  We are obsessed stalkers – emotionally unstable – who act like idiots.  And the whole of our interests are made up of objectifying men and making our favorite characters have sex with each other.  We are stuck in the belittlement of forever remaining a “girl” when there are plenty of us who are the age of respected adults.  This is how the world see us and this is the stereotype we have been assigned.

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Despite the negativity included in the fangirl stereotype, I believe that my own fear of my imagination, my fictions, my stories, and my fantasies is not unfounded.  If one becomes too consumed with fiction, we become detached from the real world that we explored as children, which I believe is harmful to women.  We become passive, hoping that our goals and dreams will come to us, instead of us reaching out to them.  We have unreal expectations for ourselves – waiting for a man who looks like Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice – when the man sitting next to you in class, at work, or at the cafe is more handsome due to the fact that you can actually receive love and equality from him in a relationship.  Being overwhelmed with fatasy allows us to stop thinking for ourselves.  We let the fiction start to tell us what is right and wrong about who we are instead of own heads and hearts.  There really is damage that can be done by having too active of an imagination and by spending too much time with fantasy.  An imbalance of fiction and reality exists and an imbalance is rarely good.  There is truth in every stereoptype, and this is what scares me.

As a woman who writes fiction, who writes fan fiction for fun, and who considers herself to be a fangirl, how do I find that balance?  How do I maintain a level of imagination that expands my world of reality without losing myself with the fangirl stereotype?  How do I know when escapism has taken over?

How do I be a fan and a fiction writer in a way that is responsible and respectful to my identity as a woman?

In order to answer that question and maintain that responsibility/respect for my identity, I have decided to make some promise to myself.  This promise will hopefully give me peace of mind on the matter and also help to fight the negative stereotypes/truths of being a fangirl.

1) I promise to use fiction as not only a way of escaping from reality, but as a way of reflecting on my own reality.

Fiction is based in reality even if that fiction belongs in the science fiction or fantasy genre.  When I write fiction or fan fiction, I promise to think about what I’m writing about.  I will look for the reality within the fiction.  I will apply it to my own life and ask myself why it is significant to me.  I will use my own mind and my own heart to determine why I care about the things I admire and the things I write about.  I will ask myself:  How does this story change or contribute to how I see my own experiences?  Can I apply what I have learned from it to my future life?

2)  I promise to be respectful and responsible toward the identities of the individuals I Loki-Fangirls-loki-thor-2011-27649223-900-1371choose to admire and use that admiration to create something new for myself.

I believe that part of being a fangirl who respects her own identity, is showing respect for what I choose to admire.  I promise to think about why I am a fan of someone or something.  Do I have reasons beyond superficial appearance for admiring celebrities?  If I do like someone just for their looks, what specific things do I like about them?  How does this physical admiration empower, contain, or define my own sexuality?

Another thing that personally concerns me about being a part of the fangirl stereotype are the actions/reactions fangirls supposedly exhibit when in contact with the person they admire – being a stalker or excessively emotional.  I will think about what is the correct way to express my admirations.  I will ask myself: Are my actions as a fan related to my own self-affirmation/importance or am I using the experience interacting with a celebrity to genuinely compliment them?  Is the interaction respectful or annoying and intrusive?  Is the interaction based on who they are, what they have done, or your possible common interests?  When is it the right time to go bat s**t crazy because I’ve just met him?!

I promise not to alter or portray the sexual identity of the person I admire.  How would I feel if someone took my body image and against my will, put that image into sexual situations that do not describe me?  What if someone I never met took an image of me and made that image having sexual relations with someone I’ve never wanted to have sex with?   It is an assault of an individual’s sexual identity.  It doesn’t matter to me if the celebrity sees it that way or not.  It doesn’t matter if it never hurts their feelings or if they never see it/think about it.  As a woman, I would personally like to have my own body image respected, so I promise never to be disrespectful to the body/sexual image of anyone else.

3)  I promise not to fear my passions, but to embrace them in order to see what new reality they will lead me towards.

It is never wrong to feel, no matter what the emotion is or to what it is connected.  Having fantasies, dreaming, and spending time with fiction is completely normal.  I promise to never stop imagining new things.  I promise never to turn my back on that child who wanted to explore the world.  I promise to never fear what I have freely chosen as a passion.  I promise that writing fiction will not keep me from real happiness or success.

A Personal Reflection on Pusuing Graduate Studies in Creative Writing

Choosing to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing has been both an emotionally dizzying and somewhat chaotic experience.  There is no question that it has been a journey.   After graduating in 2011 with my BA in English, I decided not to apply to grad schools because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life and I was reluctant to make the mistake of spending money on more education that I didn’t need or want.  Honestly, I don’t really know now what I was thinking back then.  Upon receiving my college diploma, anything seemed possible to me.  My life seemed like it could go any direction.  The paths were wide, welcoming, and numerous.  I lived on a dream cloud kept afloat by my achievement of completing a college education. I would get some kind of professional-like job related to writing or books – at a library or an office or publisher.  I would start publishing more of my writing in magazines and other places.  At a time when jobs were in short supply and while living in rural Idaho and in rural Indiana?    It took me a year to find a job and that job ended up being at Target.  But there were still possibilities.  Target would just be a small job to make some money while I looked for something that paid better and related to my field of study.  I wouldn’t stay there long.

I worked at Target for a month and two years before I decided that things needed to change.  My job description at Target was fairly simple, but it was also safe.  Living with my parents, the job provided all the money that I needed.  I would tell myself that Target was okay.  I was just happy to have a job after spending so much time hoping and hoping for the perfect job and then not finding one at all.  At least I had a job.  Those possibilities I’d wanted earlier would come to me when it was time.  My aunt sent me a card with a quote by Gilda Radner on it: “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity.”  This quote has given me comfort on many occasions.  It’s a very good quote.  However, the problem with ambiguity is that it’s ambiguous.  How long do you make the best of it?  The possibilities of life are wonderful, but in order to enjoy one, you have to make a decision.  You have to pick one and follow it, and not wait in a world of ambiguity. At Target I became too accustomed to living in that wonderful state of ignorance to what I was doing or not doing.  The possibilities were still there, I just didn’t care anymore.  I got bogged down in the comfort of working there and suddenly the idea of pursuing dreams became all the more frightening.  What would happen if I kept looking and looking for a better job and I wasn’t good enough to get one?  It was better to stay where I was.

It was a single moment of ridiculousness that inspired me to want to change my life.  You can laugh at me if you want, but it seems to me as I get older that most major changes in life are sparked by a small piece of ridiculousness.  One day I was at home before work watching a Youtube video of a celebrity that I admired.  This celebrity was being interviewed by the school where they got their post-grad training in theater.  They said that choosing to go to this particular school was an acknowledgement to themselves of what they wanted to devote their life to.  Up to that point, they hadn’t made that realization and they had been somewhat doubtful and indecisive about the whole situation.  They also expressed the fact that being successful at this school had better work for them because it was their dream and nothing else would have made them happy.  After that, I said, “Hey, perhaps the only thing that is keeping me from doing what I really want to do, is the fact that I have to decide to do it.”  And all my attitudes toward my current life changed.

Working in a creative field like acting or writing can be difficult because a successful career isn’t necessarily based on talent or hard work, but the fact that your talent and hard work is recognized.  You have to balance reality with the dream of becoming a financially successful writer or actor.  I want to shoot high and try to achieve whatever I can, yet I need to realize that writing might also just be something that I do at home after coming back from a full-time job.  But maybe, I thought, because this celebrity made success possible for themself coming from the same situation on deciding to go to school than I could maybe make myself successful as well.  I probably won’t be a celebrity, but I was able to see again a path that might lead me closer to doing what I wanted with my life.

I started out with a list of 80 possible graduate creative writing programs.  I narrowed that down to about 30, narrowed that down to about 15, and narrowed that down the 8 schools at which I’m applying.  Even at this reduced amount, the application process seems overwhelming.  I created a binder with a divided section for every school.  Then for each school, I’ve written down deadlines and made checklists for the individual requirements for admission.  Each school requires that you fill out an online application, send in transcripts, have 2-3 letters of recommendation, and a sample of writing that is about 20-25 pages long.  Some schools ask for a resumé, and also other essays on your background on writing.  Then there are the fellowships to apply for and financial aid.  All of this didn’t seem to bad to me, even though it is a lot.  The thing that is overwhelming is that every school is a little different.  For example, I just can’t ask my old writing professors to make 8 copies of the same letter of recommendation and mail one to each place.   For some schools you have to submit the letters electronically, some you can only send by mail, others only by email, and one had a form that both myself and my recommender have to fill out.  It is the same way with the essays and writing samples.  Each school has their own specific requirements for every aspect of the application process.  So, to help I’ve made spreadsheet for each requirement – letters of recommendation has its own spreadsheet, transcripts has its own spreadsheet, and writing sample has its own spreadsheet – with a column for the school and a column for what they are asking for.  I also made a more detailed checklist for every online application telling me exactly what information I need for each section of the application.  These organization methods have been helpful, but it seems like that’s all I’ve been able to get done.  The process seems like it is going slow without very many visible results.  However, I think it will go much faster after I have finished my first application.

So far I’ve figured out how to get my transcripts sent and have finished all the basic personal information on each application.  Today I’m emailing my old professors to ask them to recommend me.  This part has made me nervous due to the fact that it has been over three years since I’ve had classes with any of them.  Will they remember me?  Will they have time to do the recommendations for someone who is no longer their student?  It also helps to just get the doubts out of my head.  I’m sure it will all be okay.  Anyway, that’s how I stand on the school situation.  We’ll see how it goes.  And I send out my best thoughts for anyone else who might be going through the same process.  Just think that it will all be over soon and we will hear acceptance from our favorite schools.

The Danger of Writing Stereotypes in a Politically Correct World

My Personal Experiences Related to Stereotypes

My own definition of a stereotype is a generalization made about a person based on their culture, religion, sexuality, socio-economic status, profession, or even their hobbies.  Stereotypes are used to categorize people into groups.  If you think about high school, some common stereotypes might be: 1.  The popular football player who has the “best” girlfriend, but who struggles with his grades.  2.  The kids who wear black, smoke in the bathroom, and skip class.  3.  The brainy kid with glasses and acne who sits by himself at lunch and who won the science olympiad.   The groups are then given certain characteristics that define the people within them.  Football players are popular, goths are druggies, and brainiacs have no friends.  Therefore; according to the stereotypes, if you are a football player you must be popular, if you wear black you must do drugs; and if you are smart, you are also friendless.  The generalizations don’t always make sense and limit individuality in our society.  There is no place for the stereotypical football player on the science olympiad team.  More importantly, stereotypes can also be used to promote racism and other forms of hate.

Throughout my life I’ve lived in communities that are highly open to diversity and in environments where stereotypes are avoided.  I’ve learned that every person is unique.  If someone is different from you, then you should try to understand them rather than shutting them out.  I  have to say that I believe that there are very few lifestyles or beliefs that are wrong.  They may be different from my own, but they are not wrong.  The only thing that I believe is wrong is closing off your mind from understanding differences between yourself and others.  The only thing that is wrong is closing the door.

This way of thinking makes me super sensitive to anything and everything that may offend someone else.  In addition, my training as an English major, has made me super observant to the world around me.  Even tiny details can bother me.  There was a TV commercial that I couldn’t stand to watch because of the way a man and a woman were standing next to each other – the man leaning toward her with his hand on the wall and she against the wall.  It was a rather subtle image of female vulnerability and male control and yet it made me cringe.  The result of this attention to detail is that I am easy offended by statements and images I see or hear everyday, even if I do not belong to the group they are directed towards.  Another good example of a stereotype that bothered me can be found in a film I watched recently called The Lorax.  The antagonist of the film wanted to produce more smog so that his company, which sold clean air, would become more profitable.   It was troublesome to me that this character’s appearance was somewhat stereotypically Asian.  Despite that fact that his voice was that of American Rob Riggle, the character was short with black hair cut in a bowl shape and had small, dark eyes.  I don’t belong to the group the stereotype represented, but still I have this fear and guilt that made me squirm when I saw something offensive towards another race.

Even though stereotypes are often negative, I think that sometimes we are too focused on sensitivity.  Political correctness has become such a big deal in our society that sometimes I feel like we have to tiptoe around everything to the point of being ridiculous.  Our society is haunted by the fear of offending.  The fact that we are over sensitive to hurting someone can be just as damaging as using too many stereotypes.  Political correctness can suck all of our enjoyment out of something like the film The Lorax which was made for children.  You might think that because the movie is for kids that makes it even worse that it contains hurtful stereotypes.  On the other hand, does a character’s haircut or height really matter to the 10 year-olds watching the film?  Should we not allow children to view the film (with an overall positive message)
because a detail makes us adults feel uncomfortable?  It’s hard to say.

Political correctness and the fear of offending someone prevents us from discussing the stereotypes at all.  Our need to avoid stereotypes in a way continues to close the door on understanding differences of culture and beliefs.  The golden rule if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, although it is a good rule, it doesn’t solve the problem of the deeper discord that caused us to have to censor ourselves.  The stereotypes don’t go away just because we don’t want to see them.  Is there a way to balance the use of stereotypes and the fear that we may offend someone or close the door on them?  How do we teach our children to be sensitive without instilling in them a fear that will prevent us from solving problems of racism, sexism, etc, later on in life?

Stereotypes Positive or Negative when Writing Fiction?

In the same way that stereotypes reduce unique qualities in individuals in the real world, they have the same effect on the quality of writing when used in fiction.  When a character becomes too stereotypical it can limit creativity.  I’m guilty of having stereotypical characters.  It’s hard to avoid because certain images/ideas have become so engrained into how we view the world.  I’ve tried my hand at writing chick lit. before, and the main temptation for me was to create a gay best friend who acts as the leading lady’s fashion/relationship consultant.  This character would have lacked originality and detail.  He would have been boring, cliché, and predictable to anyone familiar with the stereotype.  Anyone could write this character which also means that we would know every detail about him even if we saw him from two miles away.

However, like I explained above, I don’t want to be over sensitive and throw out stereotypes in writing altogether.  Categories do exist in society if we want them to or not.  Placing characters into certain stereotypes can be helpful in understanding who the character is that we are writing about.  It might be good to start out with a stereotype if you are having trouble developing a character.  There is nothing wrong with a heroine in chick lit. having a gay best friend.  But perhaps you can twist his character a bit from there.  Maybe he had no mother growing up so he doesn’t know how to dress himself well.  Perhaps he tries to become the fashionable stereotype, but fails.  Perhaps he has a fear of becoming a stereotype and avoids fashion completely.  What the character thinks about other people seeing them as a stereotype can change who the character wants to be.  By using a stereotype as a jumping point, we’ve now created a more interesting and complex person.

Stereotypes can also add more meaning to a story if you want to make a critical statement about a greater issue we face.  One of the benefits about stereotypes in writing is that they give straight forward, solid definitions of the people they represent.  They might get rid of unique details, but everyone will understand who it is that you writing about.  Your gay best friend character could be an advocate for gay rights by generally representing the legal/social challenges faced by LGBT individuals all over the world.  By categorizing the character and giving them a solid definition, we can now critique that definition and say what is good or bad about how society reacts to the definition.  By using the stereotype of the gay best friend we can show how love and acceptance towards individuals that we place within the stereotype can positively change the world.  Or perhaps if your fictional world mistreats the stereotypical character, we can better see issues of discrimination against that stereotype in the real world.

The ironic problem is that we don’t really want to offend anyone.  To go back to The Lorax, there should be a line between making a positive statement about environmental issues and attaching that issue to a certain race.  The stereotype becomes more strongly racist than it promotes awareness of the issue of air pollution.  To help find a balance, I’ve come up with some questions to ask yourself about a character that you might think is too stereotypical.

1.  Did you intentionally make the character stereotypical or did it just turn out that way?  If you did intentionally choose a stereotype then:

2.  What is the purpose of having a stereotypical character?  What statement are you trying to make about the world by using a stereotype?  What issue would you like to bring to light?  Does the rest of your writing focus on this issue or do you get caught up in trying to define the stereotype itself?  Does the stereotype exist in a world that never acknowledges it?

3.  What is positive and negative about the stereotypical character you’ve created?

4.  If you did not intend to make a character stereotypical: Are there any details about the character that are not necessary?  If you can delete any of the details about the character that seem more stereotypical without taking away from the plot or image of the character, than do it.  What makes your character unique?  Create a detail that makes them different from all your other characters and emphasize that one thing.

5.  What is the character’s background?  Do they have universal experiences?  Is their history something that could happen to anyone or a history that happens to one in a million?  How does the one-in-a-million experience in the past change who the character is in the present?   If you can create a unique past for the character, than it is easier for them to have a unique future in the story.

My Current Writing Project

I’m having doubts right now about a character that I’m working on that I feel might be too stereotypical.  She is from Mexico and her family is faced with the challenge of become financially successful in America.  She works as a maid at a hotel and ends up stealing from guests at the hotel to add to her income.  I feel that her employment is rather stereotypical and that the stereotype becomes negative when she commits a criminal act.  I’d like to address each of the questions I asked above in terms of my own writing project.

1.  I did not intend to make the character stereotypical.  I’m most familiar with Latino culture and I wanted her character to be a minority.  It just seemed natural that she should come from Mexico.

2.  I didn’t intentionally create a stereotype, but I did want to make a statement.  I wanted to bring to light that fact that America is meant to be the land of opportunity and yet there are citizens living here that can’t make enough money to live.  I wanted to write about how opportunities are limited for minorities despite the fact that America prides itself on equality.  I also wanted to create awareness about what Latinos experience when they come to the United States – that many of them are harmless people who face incredible hardships.  The problem again is that my character commits theft.  This has a reverse effect on the statements that I want to make.

3.  The positive things about the stereotype are connected to the issues that I want to highlight.  The negative aspect again is the criminality and lower level of employment of the character.

4.  Unfortunately, the fact that she is stealing is essential to the plot of my story.  It’s a detail I can’t change.  In this case, I think I need to reconsider the importance of this character being a minority.  She could be a white American from a middle-class family that comes upon hard financial times.  Perhaps the idea that she is a minority can come from her gender and not from her race.   She could have a partial education from a university and career goals.  This would take care of the negative aspects of the stereotype.

5.  I could focus on the past of her family coming to America from Europe hundreds of years ago.  This would still maintain a theme related to immigration issues in America by stating that we are all immigrants.  It would also create a unique past for the character that we don’t always hear about in regards to modern, American characters.

 

I Hope this has been helpful to you in developing your own characters.  It has been very helpful for me to think about and the process of answering these questions might later lead to new connections in the plot of my story that I hadn’t thought about before.

Reaching My Word Count Goal

I’d like to do something fun on this blog that will help me reach my daily word count goal for the piece I’m working on.  On my days off from work, my goal is 1000 words, and on days that I have to work, 700 words.  Starting tomorrow, everyday that I meet my goal, I’ll post something fun and literature/writing related like this:

Are you working on writing a paper for school or maybe a speech? Maybe you’ve written something already and want to have a little fun.  Maybe you want to write something right now.   In any case, try putting some writing into this BlaBlaMeter and see what it has to say.

http://www.blablameter.com/

If I don’t reach my word count goal, I’ll have to make up a story about why I didn’t.  Like this:

I started working on my story when my cat threw up on my dad’s $5,000 dollar suit that he’d left out to take to the dry cleaner.  I washed it up as well as I could, but there was still a nasty stain right on the front of the jacket.  I had to do something before my dad got home from work, so I got in my car.  I drove to the store to buy stain remover.  On the way to Wal-Mart, the police were chasing down a criminal driving a Corvette.  The villain had escaped from prison and hijacked the governor’s car.  The Corvette came right at me.  I couldn’t let the convict get away.  Swerving in front of his car, I helped the cops block his route.  The thief slammed into my car and crushed the passenger side, but I was a hero.  They wanted to interview me on the local news station.  How could refuse that?  I had to stay at the scene of the car wreck until the media arrived.  Then the governor promised to get me a new car just like my old one.  For now, he gave me an entourage to escort me back to Wal-Mart in a limo.  I bought the stain remover and fixed up the suit when I got home.  In the meantime, the governor had my new car dropped off at my house.  I had just enough time to sit down and write before my parents got home.  But then somehow I found this video that I had to watch:

You get the idea.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll do one kind of post or the other.  Hope you have fun reading them!

Writing the Identity of a Ghost

My current writing project has come to a point in which I’m in need of further brainstorming on characters and plot.   I’ve spent a lot of time making backstory for the characters and my ideas are fairly detailed.  For these reasons, it’s been harder to find consistency.  That’s the main challenge.   I hope by explaining to you the plot details and my inspiration for them, I will be able to see things that don’t make sense in the story. This post will help me discover any details that don’t match up with each other and lead me to questions that I still need to answer.

The idea for my story originated from something kind of silly – a Bed and Breakfast in Colorado.  I’ll be staying there for my cousin’s wedding this August.  But while making reservations at this B&B, my family discovered that one of the rooms is called The English Ghost Room.  This sparked questions that I wanted to answer.  What was a dead Englishman doing in Colorado?  How did he get there and why?  What was his purpose in being there?

Within these thoughts there was a main character of a story – a ghost whom I named James Bertram.

Around the same time, I had read a poem by Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues.  The poem was about knowing who you are in our current world.  The part of the poem that struck me referred to the richest people in our society.  Here it is:

Everyone’s having “benefits” and throwing fancy parties with lots of swag so the rich people feel good about giving

away the tiny little bit of the whole lot they have.

But no one really wants to change anything.  If you really want it, you have to give something up

like everything and then those that have wouldn’t

and then who would they be?

The poem hints at having an identity crisis.  Who better to have an identity crisis than someone who has just died?  My ghost, out of his element in the United States would surely be struggling to figure out who he was/is.  Like the people mentioned in the poem, I decided I wanted to make James Bertram a very rich man who has a questionable relationship with money.

James’ father is one of the richest men in England.  He started out going to medical school and ended up owning a shipping company.  This shipping company sends medical supplies to hospitals in war torn countries such as Afghanistan.  Through this controversial means of using wars to make a considerable profit, James’ father has become much loved by his country. The media has turned and twisted him into a celebrity for helping those in need, a hero.  James however, wants to be his own man and make his way in the world separate from the publicity his father receives.

James becomes an actor who does stage acting until he lands a job on a television show.  At this point, I had another dose of inspiration.  I had watched film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V plays starring Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston.  It hit me that James’  relationship with his father was not unlike that of Prince Hal’s with the King.  Like Prince Hal, James is a young man who is trying to discover who he should be independently from his father.  Therefore the television show James would star in is about two brothers-in-arms that fight in Henry IV’s army.

The man who co-stars with James, Andy Pratchett, soon becomes his best friend off screen as well as on.  Their relationship is similar to the one shared between Prince Hal and Ned Poins in Shakespeare’s play.  Together they enjoy going to nightclubs and getting into trouble.  So far James sees himself as being disassociated from his father.  It is Pratchett (who came from a very poor family) who reveals to James that he can’t sever himself from his father no matter how much James wishes to do so.  James still lives off of the prominence his father has in society and it was probably his father’s name that allowed him to become a celebrity in his own right.  Pratchett shows James that because of this connection, James cannot separate himself from the ethically questionable way his father gained his position of wealth (Henry IV deposed Richard from the throne).  So for these reasons, James comes to resent his father.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I’ve recently taken a stab into the world of fan fiction.  It was this which lead me to my next ideas for this story.  I happened upon a Youtube video of an interview with Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of Sherlock, which was partly the subject of my fan fiction.  Cumberbatch shared his thoughts on fan art that depicted himself in sexually graphic situations involving his co-star Martin Freeman.  He said something to the effect that it was to an extent flattering, but yet it felt strange that these were images of himself doing things with his body that he would never choose to do.  As a woman, I can imagine what it might be like to type something into Google and be able to see my body before the world being involved in sexual actions which I had no power to control.  This is an assault against someone’s body image – a rape of physical identity.  Fan art is a visual medium and so the images do not just represent fictional characters but the people themselves that are behind the representation.  We might just see the character Sherlock Holmes, but how can Cumberbatch look at the images and not see himself?  I wanted to show the possible negative effects of such images on a person’s self-identity.  This fit well within my plot and so I had to include it.

In my story, Pratchett and James are faced with such images.  Pratchett, who ironically feels less deserving of his position of fame despite working for it his entire life, takes the assault of the images to heart more fiercely.  After spending the evening drinking at the nightclubs, James goes drunk to his friend’s apartment only to find Pratchett has already taken his own life.  The actor’s television show, Unto the Breach, is canceled and James’ father is pressing him to work at his shipping company instead.  James’ dislike for his father and his father’s fame comes to a head at Pratchett’s death and James escapes to America.  James also wants to be away from the lifestyle which holds memories of his best friend – the life which caused Pratchett’s death.  Meanwhile, his father believes that he is shirking responsibility.

James is now at the peak of his identity crisis.  He travels from one city to the next, from one bar to the next and constantly trades in his vehicles for new ones.  He’s finally shot and killed as a bystander of a fight outside one of the bars in Colorado.  As a ghost, James fears that he will forget who he was in life, so he tells his story to an old, fat man (Falstaff) in the bar where he died.

Ghosts_57c04a_4962838-1James’ identity is now defined by the stories he tells the man, but also by who can sense his presence.  This amounts to no one until a hotel maid walks into the bar.  James is fascinated by her because she is the most real thing that he has experienced since the death of his friend.  Watching her reminds him of what it was like to feel and perform tasks as a living person.  He soon finds that the maid has a secret which is that she steals things from guest’s hotel rooms.

This is what plot I have created so far, but as you can tell I’m only half way there.  Some things I still need to figure out are: 1) Who is this maid and what challenges will she present to James?  She has to have problems in her own life or she wouldn’t be stealing things.  What are her problems and how will they effect James’ obsession with her? 2)  What exactly do I want James to learn about himself and how will he learn it?  3)  What will be the turning point of the story?

I have a feeling that all of these questions are connected. There’s work to be done.

Writing this out has helped make some details in the story more clear to me.  I see now that there are some things in the story that are a little less believable than others such as James’ reasons for going to America.  I’ve also been able to see how I can make the characters feelings for each other more consistent.  In my next post, I’ll do some brainstorming as the to answers to the above questions.

Note: comic borrowed from http://www.funnyjunk.com/Ghosts/funny-pictures/4963282/

So…Fan Fiction?…Wholock?

Basically, I’m writing this as some silly justification for wanting to write fan fiction.  Everything is okay if you can explain it away with literary theory, right?  I’ll get to that later.

Being a bit of an academic snob, I’ve never been much for fan fiction.  I love the idea of it, but I’ve never tried writing it…before.  I guess there’s a tiny fear in the back of my mind that by allowing myself to enjoy fan fiction, I’ll become some crazy lady who lives more in her imagination than in reality.  In addition, fan fiction is not entirely original.  It bothered me that someone could come up with all kinds of stories about Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy characters and sell them as novels.  What right have we to make up some relationship (possibly containing “sexy” scenes) between them for our own pleasure when Austen never would have wanted it or understood it?  Those characters belong to her.  For those reasons, I have steered clear of fandom.

However, there is an aspect of fan fiction that I appreciate.  It allows you to change a story in ways that make the original characters and plot more meaningful.  It lets the mind go to places it never would have gone and this means new discoveries.

What could be more exciting?

Wholock.  I found it on the Internet last night and I can’t get it out of my brain.  It’s a mash up of the television series Doctor Who and Sherlock.   Because it’s a mash up, I’m wondering if the fan fiction surrounding it still counts (as much) as borrowing from an original source.  This argument is based on a postmodern literary theory.  I’ll explain.

Postmodernism is in part about smashing two unlike things together to get something new, which is exactly what Wholock is.  Then there was this French guy named Jean Baudrillard.  Jean came along and said, “Hey, there are four stages in which these two unlike things become one, completely new thing – a new reality or rather no reality at all.”  I’m not sure if Wholock is a perfect example of this theory, but we’ll apply it anyway.  So the series Doctor Who contains its own world or reality.  It has its own unique characters and plots.  We can say the same of Sherlock.  Holmes and Watson exist in their own world or reality untouched by the world of Doctor Who.  They are two unlike realities that stand on their own.  However, when the two things smash together, they become a third reality.  Wholock is not Doctor Who, nor is it Sherlock.  It is something new that exists separately from the original two things that smashed together.  Baudrillard’s theory is much more complicated and detailed than that, but you get the main idea.

How is this connected to fan fiction?  Well, my main concern about writing fan fiction was that I would be borrowing from someone’s original ideas.  But if Wholock exists in it’s own reality separate from both of the original TV series, than am I doing as much borrowing?

This is a horrible argument!  I know that.  I just want to write Wholock fan fiction, but my sad, little, scholarly mind is preventing me!  I don’t care!  I don’t care!  Kill me with your judgements, college professors!  I can take it.  So here goes…I’m diving into Wholock.  I’ll keep you updated!

Writing Prompt 10 : Music and Writing

Prompt:

Elvis Costello said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture.  Discuss.

This is what I think.  What are your thoughts and opinions?

First of all, let’s look at what this quote by Costello can possibly mean.  To me he is saying that music is so different from writing that it’s very difficult to create an image, description, or analysis of music through the use of words.  In order to get this idea across, he uses two seemingly unlike things (dancing and architecture) as an analogy.  Music is to writing as dancing is to architecture.  A way to discuss this quote might then be to ask myself whether this is a good comparison.  Does this analogy work?  I would say no.  I don’t believe that this is a good analogy because all the components are, in a way, some form of art; and the nature of art allows for anything to be represented or described, which disproves the meaning of the analogy.

Music, writing, and dancing are all forms of art and expression.  Even architecture can be art with some mathematics included.  The power behind art is creativity – the ability to combine things and ideas in a way that makes something different from what you originally started with.  I believe that art has the potential to mean or express anything that we want.  Art is not necessarily concrete, but has the ability to represent an individual’s most nonsensical dreams and still be beautiful.  Writing, music, architecture, and dancing have the potential to represent or describe any idea that it is possible for humans to understand and more.  If your medium of art can’t create the meaning that you want it to create, than you simply do not know enough about using that medium.  In addition, words are not just a medium of art, but language – for every concept known to men both concrete and abstract there is a word.  What would our ideas be if we could not put them into words?    In conclusion, if you can’t use writing to describe music, than you don’t know how to use words.  It is humans who limit the possibilities of art and not the art itself which is limited.  Yes, it would be difficult to create an image of architecture through the medium of dance, but it’s not impossible, if a dancer works hard enough at achieving it.

Secondly, in my opinion, words are a form of music.  That’s one thing that makes poetry so attractive – the way that the sounds of words interact with each other and create rhythms, patterns.  We have literary terms to describe this such as alliteration, assonance, syllables, iambs, and rhyme.  All these things are used to create music out of writing.  What are the lyrics to a song, if not poetry?   Not only that, but the sounds of words can create different emotions in listeners no matter what the words actually mean.  Harsh or abrupt sounds like “k,” “t,” and “p” can emote feelings of anger and frustration while softer sounds “f,” “sh,” and “m” can emote feelings of comfort and gentleness.  The fact that we don’t need the definitions of words to create emotions is just like notes of a song which can work together to create the same emotions without concrete meaning.  In connection to the analogy, music and writing are so like each other that presenting them as two unlike things that cannot be mixed simply does not work.

Prompt borrowed from:
642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto
Chronicle Books; San Francisco, 2011

Writing Prompt 7: Death of a Journalist

Today I brainstormed all the different ways that a journalist can die.  I hope something here gives you an idea to write about.  Another thing to think about when working with these ideas might be what are the consequences of a journalist’s death?  How had their life impacted people and what do those people do after the journalist dies?

blown into the ocean during a hurricane • choking during a charity bake-off • blood clot on a plane from traveling too much • kidnapped by terrorists • run over by a stampede of paparazzi • knowing too much about the government • hit in head by camera • trying to get a photo of a subject too near the edge of the Grand Canyon • attacked by animals at the zoo • hit by drunk drivers/spectators after reporting at a football game • fall down and stabbed by pen • fall in volcano • scuba diving and eaten by sharks • a hate crime arising from a fake scandal involving the journalist • drug dealers • heart problems after tasting too many sweet things • anxiety attack • getting bitten by diseased bug • intestinal trouble after eating in a foreign country • working late and sleep walking • burned by hot coffee • lost in the woods • electric shock from a cell phone • spontaneous combustion • fall out of helicopter • test to see if people will help an injured person – no one helped • taking part in volunteer firefighter training

Prompt borrowed from:
642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto
Chronicle Books; San Francisco, 2011

Writing Prompt 6: Carpenters And Candy

Prompt:

Describe the carpenter who brought candy.

He brought the candy for himself – not for me.  Would I take some if he offered it to me?  I could sometimes hear the crinkle of plastic as he unwrapped the Jolly Ranchers while working on my parents bathroom.  I didn’t know what to do while he was around.  I tried to pretend that no one else was there, but there was always an unwelcome feeling – you know the one.  Kind of like you constantly have to be thinking about what you’re doing.  I don’t know why I cared.  I tried to sit down and read in the living room (the guy probably thinks that all I do is read and eat).  It was hard when he tramping across the wood floor in his work boots, paint-covered jeans, and flannel shirt.  The guy was unattractive – missing teeth and the whole bit.  Maybe he ate too much candy.  He kind of reminded me of my father in a strange way.  He talked to himself non-stop as he worked.  When I started to listen to him, I didn’t mind the distraction so much.  You have to be entertained when you hear, “God, dammit!  Why did I do that?” Coming from down the hall followed by a melody of whistled notes.

But the thing that bothered me most was that he was always coming and going without telling me.  I never knew how much time I’d have to myself.  One time he caught me in the living room.

Note:  What was she doing and how did it change the relationship between the characters?  You finish the story.  Hope you have fun with it!

Prompt borrowed from:
642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto
Chronicle Books; San Francisco, 2011

Writing Prompt 2: An hour to go…

•before you can eat after a fluoride treatment• before going home• until your parents get home• until the plane leaves• until the bomb explodes• before the story goes to press• before the wedding• until you break up with him• until the paint dries• before making the phone call• until your mom’s done with her hair appointment• until the car is fixed• before you take the test• with nothing to do• babysitting the kids• until you can cash the check• before the movie starts• before the car runs out of gas• until you hear the news• until the doctor takes off the bandage• before the storm comes• until your favorite TV show is on• until the download is complete• before you finish your workout• before the mail arrives

Hope this gives you some writing ideas!  Anything else to add to this brainstorm?

Prompt borrowed from:
642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto
Chronicle Books; San Francisco, 2011