The Brown Main Supporting Character & The White Side Protagonist

I watched The New Mutants a few days ago.

Based on the trailers, I was expecting something unique and hoping for something cool.

What I got was something a little meh.

And a lotta racist.

Yeah, New Mutants really pissed me off.

Because it starts and we’re introduced to Dani Moonstar, our brown protagonist, and immediately, the part of me that went, “Oh, man! Awesome!” was curtailed by the fact that, having watched the trailers, I had no idea she was even in the movie.

That’s a really bad sign, the old, embittered part of my brain told me.

And as the movie rolled on, that part of my brain was absolutely justified.

Because, on one hand, Dani was prominently featured in the movie as a protagonist.

But, on the other, she was suffering from a phenomenon that I’ve seen somewhere else recently: The Falcon & the Winter Soldier. Something I’m going to call . . .

The White Side Protagonist /
Brown Main Supporting Character Syndrome

I’m going to call it “WSP/BMS” for short. I know. Doesn’t roll off the tongue. But it’s 4:45 in the morning and I’m angry.

If you haven’t seen New Mutants, I’ll spare you spoilers.

Suffice it to say there’s a white character in this movie who gets an inordinate amount of attention.

And, of course, it’s a team movie–so everyone in the team is going to get some attention.

But one character, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana Rasputin, aka Magik, blows the idea of unfair character bias out of the goddamn water.

In a film that is supposed to center around Dani, Magik–a blonde white girl–is the center of many, many scenes.

When the titular mutants are quietly coexisting in a common room, Magik comes in and starts saying openly racist shit to our protagonist, starting a fight.

When the titular mutants are momentarily free to blow off some steam because someone (Magik) drugged the person in charge of them, it’s Magik’s idea to use the lie detector the scene is based around. And the conclusion of that scene is that Magik stoically tells everyone about something dark from her past that leaves everyone in stunned silence.

When people start getting chased by living nightmares, Magik’s are the most unique and prevalent ones.

And, at the end of the film, even though no one else has any, Magik has a series of ridiculous, over-the-top hero shots that watch like ridiculous, at moments cringey, fanfiction.

All of this–especially the ending–left me with a pretty clear idea of what happened behind the scenes:

Someone, at some point during the production of this film, wrote this story entirely for Magik. It was basically Sucker Punch 2, pulling for that same vibe. Even if they didn’t put it down to paper, someone wanted to make that movie.

Then, someone else told them, “No. Actually, we want Dani Moonstar to be the protagonist.” And that Magik-obsessed writer was super pissed.

So they did an edit of their original script that pulled some focus from Magik to give to Dani . . . but then pulled focus away from the rest of the cast to give more to Magik (because, seriously, the other characters get very little development in comparison).

So, in the end, we wound up with a weird, extremely hokey moment at the end of the story, where Magik goes full super hero, complete with wind-swept-hair close-ups that feel wildly out of place with the rest of the film. There’s even a heavily contrived super hero name drop that the supporting cast awkwardly sets up for Magik (“You can’t fight that thing! It’s magic!” even though literally no one in the entire film suggested the thing they were fighting was magical, just so Magik could follow up with, “So am I.”).

Or absolutely none of this happened. Maybe instead, a few Hollywood writers got together, researched some characters, picked a diverse mutant for their protagonist, but then just fell in love with their rendition of a white character. And they saw absolutely nothing wrong with giving that white character a ton of attention.

Writer A: “I mean, she’s not even the protagonist.”

Writer B: “Right.”

Writer A: “So it can’t be racist if we give her a ton of attention! She’s a side character!”

Writer B: “Didn’t even need to say it! Clearly not racist!”

A: “So, yeah, wouldn’t it be so cute if she talks to Lockheed at the end and he reacts!? Like, not once, but twice!?”

B: “Yes! OMFG! And we can have her shout at one point that she’s the most powerful mutant in the team!”

A: “Essential! And we can have her murder the final threat in the third act by stabbing it with her sword!”

B: “YES! And–actually, wait . . . Shouldn’t the protagonist defeat the final threat in the third act?”

A: ” . . . Oh! Right! Pfft! I’m so stupid–totally forgot! Magik isn’t the protagonist! That Native girl is our protagonist! Ha ha! Slipped my mind somehow!”

B: “Ho ho! No problem! A mistake anyone would make!”

A: “Yes. An honest mistake and, most importantly, not a racist one!”

B: “Again, didn’t even need to say it, my friend!”

. . .

Yeah, either of these scenarios are bad.

If a writer wedged in and then steadily undermined a brown protagonist with a white side character, that’s bad.

And if a writer accidentally pulled focus from a brown protagonist to give more attention to a white side character they loved, that is also bad.

And, of course, to finally put a stamp on it, that’s what WSP/BMS Syndrome is. The tendency for writers in charge of a story with an ethnically diverse protagonist . . . to focus so much on a white side character that said white character might as well be the protagonist.

Now, most people can see right off the bat why that’s bad. But for anyone who doesn’t get it, WSP/BMS is an evolution of the practice of studios dooming minority-led or woman-led projects to fail by assigning terrible writers and artists to them. It is the act of demanding writers who don’t care about or don’t understand the need for diversity to write diverse stories. And then either not caring when those stories sideline their protagonists or . . . not even realizing that it’s happening.

And it sucks, because what gets lost in translation are a lot of great opportunities for telling that protagonist’s story.

Dani Moonstar’s entire personality focuses exclusively on the night when her reservation was destroyed. It makes sense she would think of that night a lot (it is the inciting incident of the plot). But . . . we see literally nothing else about her past and know nothing else about her as a person. She is a mutant whose reservation was destroyed. That is her character.

The same way that Sam Wilson’s character came dangerously close to being boiled down to, “He’s the guy Steve Rogers gave his shield to.”

Yeah, I’m bringing all of this around to something recent. Because The Falcon & The Winter Soldier comes dangerously close to being . . .

The Winter Soldier & Falcon

I am aware that this is the freshest of hottakes. The show isn’t even over yet.

However, it is very strange to me that in a show where the Falcon is the protagonist, there is a full episode where he just stands in the background.

And his personal arc with his family starts in Episode 1 and isn’t picked up again until Episode 5.

While, in the meantime, his partner, Bucky Barnes, gets intense, heartfelt moments in almost every episode. We get looks into Bucky’s past, intensely emotional moments of him coping with that past, complexity between him and Baron Zemo, questions about how much of the Winter Soldier is still inside of him.

While Sam Wilson is, for a bizarre amount of time, just standing in the background.

Sam gets a handful of good character moments, but 5 episodes in, we still don’t know why he gave up the shield. What he was feeling–why he thought it was the right thing to do, which I thought he’d explain in an emotional exchange with literally anyone by now.

We get Sam using his experience as a therapist for soldiers, which is great . . . but somehow, the plot does absolutely nothing with the fact that Sam was a goddamn soldier. Which is insane to me. Even in moments where he could easily relate to John Walker’s Captain America, we don’t get a story from Sam about the one time he had to make a hard choice while he was on a mission. No admission to anyone about how he felt when he came home from war. No former war buddy Sam calls to talk. No venting about how coming back from being an Avenger and finding corporate America ungrateful feels like coming back from defending the country abroad and finding the same social injustices are still in place. The latter is conveyed by another character entirely while Sam just stares at him and shakes his head, as if Sam would not have experienced any of that himself.

And all of this is a major bummer. Especially when a white villain, Baron Zemo, joins the cast and sucks up even more screen time (in a show that already gives time to another white villain, John Walker). Seriously, I know the Zemo dance became a meme, but at that point in my viewing experience, I threw up my hands like, “Why the fuck am I watching Zemo dance!? More of Sam’s family drama, please!”

Of course, a part of me should be like, “Whatever! It’s cool that we got a show prominently featuring Falcon and they are, at this point, doing a good job showing him becoming Captain America.” And also, a total surprise: they actually have the MCU’s first Hispanic super hero getting a tiny origin story of his own in the background (which, wow, no one is talking about at all–probably because Torres will forever be in the background [I know how these things work–I call it ‘Star Trek style’]).

But, at this point in my life, that bitter side of me can’t help thinking, “They could’ve done more.”

With New Mutants, that’s extremely obvious, what with the one character saying blatantly racist shit and other characters being white-washed.

But, with The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, even though it’s subtle by comparison, it’s still something we need to fight.

Because I don’t want to live through, like, ten years of movies with Black and brown protagonists who aren’t actually protagonists. With writers who ignore entire facets of their lives so they can give tons of screen time to a white side character.

Seriously, I want to get to the point where we get an MCU film or show that’s headlined by a Hispanic super hero before I die.

And, when I get it, if that hero gets shoved aside in their own show or movie so their sidekick or villain can get more of the attention they’ve no doubt gotten already in the source material, I will fucking scream.

~~~

Man, it’s been a while since I wrote something . . . angry. But goddamn, I really want the world to nip this one in the bud.

If you’re new here, and you were expecting something chill, yeah, I was too when I turned on The New Mutants. Wasn’t expecting to get a bunch of racist shit in my silly horror movie about super heroes in a haunted hospital–that’s for goddamn sure. But, hey, that’s the experience. The fun of being a minority and trying to watch anything.

Anyway, I’m definitely going to wind down for next weekend. Unless the last episode of The Falcon & The Winter Soldier really pisses me off. Who knows.

Either way, you can find out by stopping by next Sunday!

Until then, take care, stay safe, and if you haven’t read it, oh man, The Raven Tower blew my mind. It takes a while to get going, but once it gets good, it gets so good. Anyway, bye!

Monster Showcase – Mother Longlegs from Kong: Skull Island

Disclaimer 1: Yes, this post contains minor spoilers for Kong: Skull Island, which I only point out because if you haven’t seen it, KSI is actually good. Seriously, I just watched it for the first time earlier in this week, and I was floored not only by how entertaining it was but how that movie exists and–only four years after its release–no one talks about it. I’m actually going to write a post about the micro-genre I think that movie exists in, but whatever–for now, my point is if you haven’t seen this movie and don’t want a good scene spoiled, go watch it first, then come back here. And, seriously, get popcorn and beer, watch it with friends if you can. You’ll absolutely have a good time.

Disclaimer 2: The biggest trigger warning for people with Arachnophobia. Navigate away from this post, burn your computer, charter a boat to the middle of the ocean, weigh down the remains and throw them overboard. And if you watch KSI, just know that there’s one scene you need to skip. But, seriously, read no further.

Disclaimer 3: I’m sick. Like, sharp headaches, congestion, dizzy sick. So if I do anything weird, like start a post with three disclaimers, please cut me some slack.

All of that said, hello and welcome back.

Today, I just wanted to add another entry to Monster Showcase. Not just because the monster I talked about in the first one was pro-o-o-obably too weird, but because I was genuinely floored by what Gojipedia calls . . .

Mother Longlegs

This is a species of giant spiders living on Skull Island (yes, if you haven’t seen the movie, those are not bushes–those are tree tops).

Now, the thing is, I know Fantasy, you know Fantasy; there are a ton of giant spiders a-a-a-all over Fantasy. So why would I ever write an entire post about a pretend giant spider from anything?

Because of the worldbuilding.

What Makes It Cool

It’s fucking legs look like bamboo stalks. Because it hunts in bamboo forests.

How fucking awesome is that? A Mother Longlegs hunts like this:

Absolutely terrifying.

It just stands in place in a bamboo forest, obscured by the canopy, waiting for prey to wander close. When that happens, the Mother Longlegs might quietly spear them with one of its legs, or fire sticky tendrils down and draw them up to its massive pinchers. In KSI, the characters being stalked by it only notice it because it decides to kill one of them. Which invites the thought, If it didn’t decide to kill any of them, would they have just walked through the forest never knowing they were walking through the legs of a 20 foot spider? Would they have just not been aware it was there? And that, my friends, is, like the fear of spiders perfectly embodied. The terror of seeing a large spider scurry behind your wall unit and thinking, “Oh fuck . . . I don’t know where it is!” Sitting down and jumping because a chord brushed your leg. Or just glancing down and seeing a spider (or any large bug) inches away from your bare foot and flipping a table.

I’m getting a little carried away here, but my point is, all of the elements of this weird, giant spider immediately make sense. Its niche, its mutations, all of it comes together to make a very believable nightmare.

But, on top of that, all of those details that I just laid out–the things that make the Mother Longlegs feel real–didn’t come from the wiki.

They came from just watching the one scene this monster is in. From a cumulative 30 seconds of screen time, where everything anyone ever needed to know about this monster was conveyed in-story.

We get a short exchange between characters before this thing even reveals itself. It kills someone and the other characters turn around to attack it. In the confusion, it shoots its weird tendrils at someone, starts drawing them up to its massive pinchers, and another character calls out for everyone to “Cut the legs!” so that maybe if you didn’t realize some of the bamboo stalks were it’s legs, you definitely know now. The monster is killed, the characters continue their trek, and you get to just nod like, “Cool nightmare I’m gonna have tonight. Thanks. Can’t wait.”

All jokes aside, you come away from that one scene able to write the Gojipedia entry for Mother Longlegs yourself.

And that is amazingly clean conveyance. Like, Masterclass Show Don’t Tell.

What I Learned From It

The Mother Longlegs itself is a showcase on how to create a monster that feels like a living, breathing creature.

But its scene is a clinic on how to convey all the things that make it feel real–in seconds.

And that’s what I really want to master. I want to both make a monster that’s weirdly believable and convey all of the things that make it believable in a single scene. Without a character walking up like, “Oy. You heard about them big spiders? They ‘ide in the tree tops and scoop you up.”

Like, no. I want no lead up. No suspense building. Just clean, awe-inspiring design.

Seriously, last word here: just Google “Mother Longlegs” and marvel at the crazy amount of fan art there is of this thing.

~~~

Okay. That said, it’s 4:30 AM and I am going to go Flying Elbow Drop my bed.

If you’re new here, I post every Sunday. So stop by next week, when I’m going to talk about something other than Kong: Skull Island–I promise.

Until then, stay safe, take care, and make sure to double check the expiration date on your antibiotic ointment. Seriously, expired antibiotic ointment makes your skin red and itchy so it looks like you have an infection and need to apply more ointment. Slipperiest of slopes. Bye!

An Essential Reset

I’ve been saving this one for a while, because, total honesty: I’ve just been recovering and processing a lot of stuff.

But, to finally break some news, I moved out of that terrible room I was living in. The place with the neighbors downstairs blasting music all day every day. The neighborhood where I was totally present for a gas station getting robbed.

Yeah. I moved out of there.

To the only place I could move during COVID and unemployment–back with the family. It’s a little depressing, but it was an essential reset. And it is out of this world how much better my living situation got the moment I moved back in. Like, we’re talkin’ “Wait–why did I stay at the other place for so long??” level.

Because, on top of the downstairs neighbors starting with the all day parties again, stereo blasting directly under my room, my roommates started with incense–the kind that’s made with benzene (which, if you don’t know, some incense is made with harmful chemicals, like benzene, that induce headaches and fatigue). Seriously, the first time they burned incense, I nearly lost a full day because, at 5pm, I got really tired, lay down for a nap, and woke up the next day at 2PM. It’s pretty bad.

So, in late February, there came a day–the fourth day in a row–where the downstairs neighbors turned on their four-song playlist. And I decided to take a shower to hopefully drown out the music for a bit. But when I stepped out of my room, I immediately got hit with the benzene–extremely strong, like my roommates had been burning incense all morning and walking around the apartment with it. And I just remember walking to the bathroom with an immediate ache behind my eyes, shutting the bathroom door . . .

And there was just shit in the toilet.

Like, no toilet paper. Just shit.

To this day, I don’t understand the logistics. But I don’t want to.

I definitely didn’t try to figure it out in that moment. I just blinked and said, out loud, “I’m moving out of here.” Like it was a realization of an empirical fact. “I’m just gonna go.”

I’d been determined to stick it out and find a new job and get a new apartment during COVID, all while staying away from the old apartment because I didn’t want my mother to potentially get sick from me going outside. But I’d just texted my mom about NYC Vaccine List and she already had her first shot scheduled.

And I just couldn’t anymore.

As if the world was egging me on too, I started watching Steven Universe Future, not expecting its main theme to be, “Stop torturing yourself–it’s time to move on,” the same week I watched the finale for WandaVision. Seriously, it almost felt like an audience somewhere was like, “Finally! We threw every goddamn hint at him but he just stood in that room for so long!”

I want to tell you that I gave a heartfelt goodbye to that place–my tiny room high up on Fordham Road.

But I really, really didn’t. I didn’t even sleep there for the last few nights I was renting the room; I just kept hauling stuff on the bus to the old apartment and sleeping here instead. The move was a surgical six hours where I was in zero-fucks mode, determinedly moving my property as quickly as I could to ensure the nightmare was over. Even when I walked around Fordham asking for spare boxes at stores, trying to drum up some emotion for a place I’d lived for nearly two years, I just couldn’t.

But . . . there was one thing that I knew I had to do before I left.

One thing that I liked about the room so much that I wrote about it here.

One thing that I wanted to contribute to the neighborhood.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

It was so old that it wouldn’t even turn on.

And I’m exactly the kind of Loki who couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Cause, seriously, can you even imagine when someone woke up the next day, made coffee, looked out the window and was like, “Wha . . . Wait. There’re two PS4 controllers out there? Who the fuck is throwing these controllers out there!?”

I mean, there’s every chance that no one will notice or care.

But I’d like to imagine that, in May, someone like me is going to move into an apartment over there.

And they’re going to look out their window, at the one roof across the way, and say, “Huh. There’s a PS4 controller out there. I wonder who–Wha–! There’re two!”

And maybe they’ll be so intrigued–by the fact that they’re the same color and facing the same way–that they’ll spend an afternoon thinking about them, the same way I thought about the first. Best case: they come up with their own story for how those controllers got there.

Or, even better case: they contribute their own controller.

Seriously, I’ll die happy if I go back one day and there are 300 broken PS4 controllers on that roof.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I didn’t want to fall back into life updates, but my other post ideas weren’t gelling and I couldn’t take the usual extra day to decide on something else.

That said, this will probably be my last life update for a while, because things are going to be calm for a bit (seriously, I moved nearly a month ago and I’ve been able to sleep, write, and think whenever I want, every single day–it’s been amazing).

But that means I will be back to writing-talk next week Sunday. Feel free to stop by then, or if you’d rather read the most recent thing I’ve posted about Fantasy writing, it’s my last post, which was about realistically messy worldbuilding.

Anyway, until next time, take care, stay safe, and Thin Mints come in two sleeves. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. This is a warning: a single box of Thin Mints has wa-a-a-a-a-ay too many Thin Mints in it. Like, a dangerous amount of Thin Mints to be surprised by.

Bye!

Let’s Talk About – “Uncanny Mess Realism” in Worldbuilding

Welcome back! Or Happy . . . First Time Here? Uh . . .

Welcome!

Holy shit, I’m never trying to write a normal intro ever again.

Today, I wanted to get back to writer talk. I have an important life update I’ll drop on you guys, but nothing crazy . . . Well, it is crazy, but not in a bad way or a great way. It can wait.

Especially because a really good topic came to me in my weekly zoom call with other writers last Saturday.

How to use a very specific type of realistic complexity in worldbuilding.

As I brought it up to my writing buddies, I realized, Maybe this isn’t a facet of worldbuilding everyone thinks about?

To put it simply, it’s the messy, microcosm-riddled complexity of both in-world institutions and pre-story timelines.

I took a week and tried doing some research about this topic, but I was only able to turn up a bunch of basic worldbuilding tips. Which means no one (from what I saw) has talked about this before. I’m choosing to believe that’s because I’m just obsessing over miniscule facets of writing again. But whatever.

I’d like to point out that I didn’t create this concept. I learned it from watching a DM on Twitch ages ago; Adam Koebel, who possibly still DM’s for the Rollplay D&D channel, used to do worldbuilding sessions for the games he ran and after watching a few, this one aspect of his approach to worldbuilding stood out to me. I don’t remember him calling special attention to it or naming it, but I’ve come to think of it as . . .

Uncanny Mess Realism

Okay. Hear me out.

Your basic worldbuilding for the guards in a Fantasy city is this:

The guards in this city are servants of the king and they ride horses from the stables at the castle’s guardhouse.

Uncanny Mess worldbuilding for the guards in a Fantasy city is this:

The guards in this city were a mercenary faction that was employed so long by the kingdom that they were folded into the military 300 years ago (which is why they’re called “the Wolves” [I dunno–it’s 3am] and why their coat of arms is the kingdom’s sigil with a full moon behind it. Among the Wolves, there are two pretty distinct mindsets–those who love the kingdom (who grew up here or came here because they heard stories of it and are content to protect it) and those who want to be Wolves because they have “Wolf’s blood” in their family line or grew up on stories about the sell swords (and who don’t care nearly as much about the kingdom and its citizens). Also, they use horses from three different stables–Lockley’s, West End, and Minish, which are all on retainer with the king. A normal person can still buy or rent horses from those stables, but their warhorses are technically property of the crown, shared by the Wolves when necessary. Yeah, the previous queen used the castle stables to outfit the Wolves, but the current king loves horses, so the castle stables are full of his personal stock.

Basic worldbuilding for a company that makes androids is this:

Android Co. [3:30am now] makes androids in its facility in Silicon Valley! They sell androids at their fancy chain stores, and even though they are the only android manufacturer in the world, their androids are incredibly high tech and basically human.

Uncanny Mess worldbuilding for a company that makes androids looks like this:

Android Co., like the 5 other major android manufacturers, gets a lot of their parts from third party manufacturers. Considering, for example, the highest quality processors come from one company and heat sinks come from another, they have a bunch of contracts with a lot of third party firms who ship parts to their factories. Even after you take into account proprietary technology, their androids are still about 40% identical to every other android on the market. Android Co.’s major claim to fame is the hyper realistic synthetic skin they use on their products, but even that is a commissioned variant from the same firm who sells to everyone because they make the best, least creepy-looking synthetic parts.

What I’m trying to get at here is that, in the real world, organizations and institutions are very messy.

If you go to the bear enclosure at your local zoo, and you see the one brown bear you’ve always seen there, who now has *gasp* an adorable bear cub with them, the temptation is go, “Aww! He/She had a baby!?” But, in reality, that cub was possibly brought in from another zoo or a sanctuary. In fact, if you’re not particularly keen on the bears, maybe you don’t even notice that the one brown bear you’ve always seen is a totally different bear–that yours was moved to a different zoo and a new one was brought in and you’re 30 feet away and can’t tell regardless.

Okay, it’s starting to sound like I’m roasting your ability to identify bears from 30 feet away, but no–what we’re focusing on here is that zoos 100% operate like that. All organizations do.

A security firm orders their uniforms from one local outfitter that buys shirts from a different company that mass produces them. Every pizza place in New York uses boxes that don’t advertise their pizzeria. I don’t know why, but clearly, there’s some needlessly complicated reason why that happens.

That complexity is just the way organizations actually work. They are these messy chimeras of intentions, business decisions, and contracts that are constantly changing. And making the organizations in your fictional worlds operate in this way will make them weirdly realistic.

If that is something you want to do.

As always, whether to use this approach depends entirely on what you want to do with your story. I build organizations like this in my stories for the same reason that I do pre-story timelines for my characters–it just adds potential fuel to my work and sometimes influences the entire story in important ways.

Another thing to keep in mind: organizations can be as Uncannily Messy as you want. Android Co. can purchase 100% of their parts from other manufacturers and have them assembled by a contractor. Or they can ship in 10% of their parts, the rest all proprietary, made in a massive complex of factories in Canada. Obviously, all of this is your call and subject to whatever facet of realism you think fits.

But I will add that . . .

Uncanny Mess Can Also
Be Applied to Character Timelines

Obviously, Uncanny Mess is a beast of timelines; in all of the example above, it is a tool I used to flesh out the timelines of different organizations.

However, even though a character isn’t assembled at a bunch of different factories, their pasts can definitely be that complex.

Which I only say because, was I was younger, the reflex was always to be like, “And before this character walked into the plot, he was a knight. He grew up in this town, became a knight, fought in the Old War, and now he’s old. A-a-a-a-and done.”

But, really, that knight’s history should be, “He grew up in this town. Maybe right when its trade in–oh man . . . Okay. Wait. I have to come up with what they traded in. Fish? Okay. Wait. So I guess he was a fisherman’s son? Maybe that affects how he talks? Did he hate fishing? Maybe that’s why he became a knight? Or wait . . . Maybe he loved fishing but he had to leave that town anyway? Maybe he, like, fell in love with someone in the big city, but had to become a knight to gain the status necessary to marry him/her? Okay. Whatever. He was a fisherman until he was 16. Then he went on a trip with his family to the big city, maybe to deliver a bunch of fish, and that’s when he met–wait! . . . How did he get to the big city? Was it on a ship? His family probably didn’t own it, so was it a merchant’s vessel, commissioned by the king?”

I mean, look, you don’t have to be as crazy as I am when it comes to designing characters’ pasts, but the potential to find some interesting facet of a character is always somewhere back there. There could be an experience he has on that ship that inspires him to become a knight–anything from getting to see different ports to living through a pirate raid, thwarted by a royal vessel full of knights.

Again, none of this is essential. In fact, there’s a very real chance that going back and entertaining all of this for a story you’re already writing would just be detrimental.

But if you feel like your characters aren’t round enough–if you aren’t sure about their motivations or what story you want to tell through them, maybe give their past a second look.

And if you’re writing an intrigue story centered around some organization and you’re having a hard time figuring out the pieces of the plot, maybe take a second look at that organization’s past.

And make an absolute mess of all of it.

~~~

Well, that was fun.

If you’re new here, I post in this web zone every Sunday. And I’m going to try to start posting as early in the day as I possibly can, because I’ve realized that by the time I’m posting every Sunday (usually at night), I’ve always missed a spike in visitation. So I tell people to stop by, and they do–to find nothing. I feel really bad about that, so I will officially start aiming for 12am on Sundays.

So, stop by next Sunday! Or, if you would rather just avoid all of this scheduling BS, you could always follow me here (a button on the left sidebar on desktop and the top right menu on mobile) so my posts can get emailed to you.

Either way, thanks for reading. I am flirting with the idea of making audio recordings of these posts–but that’s going to rely heavily on how easy it is for me to read them/the cost of apps and equipment. If it’s not too bad, I’m throwin’ the stimmy at it.

Anyway, until next time, take care, stay safe, and hug your cats! Just a full-on hug. Unless they’d hate that–LOL. Bye!

A March Break . . . with “Creme” Eggs

Yeah. That’s how they spell it. “Creme.”

Did I just Mandela Effect you? Cause I definitely just Mandela Effected myself when I glanced at the box.

Anyway, hello! I’m taking a break today.

On one hand because I woke up from weird dreams earlier. Dreams that were chok-full of people from my past. People I don’t even think about anymore until my brain decides to drop them into my dreams like, “Hyuck! Guess who!” I woke up from that immediately weirded out, didn’t eat breakfast . . . and then left the apartment to run errands, only realizing I forgot my glasses? Just not a great start.

On the other hand though, I’m taking a break because . . . I actually did write the majority of a good post, but I realized I really needed to do research before publishing it. Basically, I wanted to coin a term for a type of worldbuilding, but it occurred to me while writing that there must already be a term for it, so rather than pig-headedly pretending I came up with an idea that probably already exists, I want to do the proper research instead, find that term, and elevate the woman or man who came up with it.

So I figure I’m going to let that post sit, take a Sunday off, do a ton of research next week, and post a hardcore article with sources–which is something I want to start doing more of anyway.

In the meantime . . . someone gave me Cadbury Creme Eggs. I am not going to eat all of them in one sitting, because I’m at the age where I genuinely think I’d die if I did.

But a single Creme Egg with vanilla soy milk and Spiritfarer? That sounds like a beautiful night off.

So, I’m going to get to that.

If this is your first time here, I post every Sunday, but, once a month, I give myself the luxury of days off (like today). For a hint of what I’ll be posting in coming weeks, I have the aforementioned post about worldbuilding, a life update, and a post about the genre tropes of certain decades (and what they say about the generations who wrote them).

For tonight though, stay safe, wash your hands, and be careful when you’re buying glasses online. Seriously, if the website you use has a preview feature where they use your camera so you can virtually try glasses on, use it. Does not matter how good the glasses look on their own–they might just look wrong on your face.

Okay–bye!

Process in Progress #2 – The Character Wall

Hi there.

I had a bunch of things I wanted to write about today, and, in choosing one, I wound up shooting wa-a-a-a-ay over the typical release deadline. Apologies for that.

But I didn’t want to publish another life update. And I didn’t want to vent about my presence on social media either (which I’m displeased with not from a popularity standpoint, but from an “I hate what I do on there” standpoint [more on that in the Afterword]).

What I did want to do: actually talk about writing again, which I feel I haven’t done for a while.

The topic? The weird way a story requires you to prioritize certain character arcs. In a roundabout way. Let me explain.

I’m Honing One of My Protagonist’s Motivations
(& I Was Having a Harder Time with It Than I Wanted)

The situation: one of the protagonists in my current WIP is named Kole Buchanon. As that WIP is a rewrite of a book I wrote years ago, Kole’s personality has drastically changed.

In the original, he was insecure from a lifetime of being mistreated. Lacking in confidence, he was often unwilling to face challenges and his arc centered on defying that–putting himself in harm’s way to help other people. The hang up of being mistreated is something I still want to use in a future book somewhere, because I think that has merit, but the arc was as typical as they come.

New Kole is a capable, fledgling rebel. A person who’s challenged the setting’s corrupt Emperor by engaging in (admittedly low-impact) criminal activity. His hang up is experiencing, in the Prologue, the futility of challenging the Emperor when he tries a slightly higher-impact heist and it goes horribly wrong. His arc is . . . still up in the air actually, but that doesn’t matter for this post! Ha ha!

What matters is, in my outline for the rewrite, I kept referring to Original Kole’s arc.

I’m not sure how that happened. I knew he was a different character in the rewrite, but somehow, I focused so heavily on my other protagonist, Memory, that I just didn’t realize the adjustment to his personality was as intense as it was. Or maybe I was just so hellbent on getting the outline done that I didn’t realize I needed to slow down for Kole’s sake?

Either way, all of this came to a head when I got to the last chapters, and finally looked at the notes my writing group gave me about Kole’s motivations: that they weren’t clear. And, after I revisited those motivations and his arc as a whole, I finally realized the mix up.

Now, why am I writing about this at all?

Because, on one hand, after the last session of my writing group, I realized not only that Kole needed a totally new background story, but that the arc he needs for this first novel . . . isn’t going to be his best arc?

Like, I came up with a really awesome arc for him when I was brainstorming what his best character arc could be, but it just doesn’t fit in the first book? He needs to react to the situation in front of him, and that awesome potential arc works way better for a potential sequel?

I definitely explain, but first . . .

The Character Wall

When I realized I needed to rewrite Kole’s past, I realized that there were certain aspects of him that I wanted to focus on.

And, if you’re here exclusively for the “Process in Progress” part, then this is it.

I realized that, with Kole and all of my characters going forward, I want to know:

  1. The Hang Ups – Probably the most important thing for me is going to be the emotional problems that a character has. It’s “hang ups” plural because there are going to be a bunch of these. “Regrets abandoning his family.” “Experienced a lot of horrible things in the war.” Not all of these will heavily impact the plot, but in my mind, they’re as prevalent as “Favorite Color” and way more important.
  2. The Arcs – Specifically the arcs the character is going to go through and how those arcs are split up among the different entries in the series (if it’s a series). I can’t predict this right off the bat–I’ll have to work on each installment of the story before I know what arcs fit where.

But I’m here mentioning all of this now because . . .

A Character’s Arc in a Story Needs to Fit the Story

Okay. Seriously, forgive me for sounding dense.

But what I meant with that heading is . . . a character’s arc can’t just be what you want it to be for a novel.

You can’t just design a setting, establish a plot, and then just force the character’s best arc to happen in that setting and plot if it doesn’t fit.

Kole Buchanon is going to learn some hard truths about his past. It’s going to happen.

But as absolutely bizarre as it is to say, he’s not going to learn any of those truths in the first book.

Because it just doesn’t fit what’s happening and what he’s feeling in the setting and plot I’ve created for the first novel.

Kole can’t reconcile his bad experiences with his family because that just doesn’t work with the theme and plot of the first novel. Even if I tried to wedge it in, with would be rushed, rigid, and would not land like it would in book 2.

So I can’t do it in book one. And, as a person who’s never written a sequel, that blows my goddamn mind.

The Memory Roadmap–which is a things I have now?–is set for Kole to have his big arc in book 2 and Memory to have hers in book 3.

And, aside from that being weird and surprising, it also brings me a lot of hope.

Because, for the first time in my life, a sequel is coming together in my mind.

And just yes.

Please.

I am so goddamn pumped to write an amazing sequel.

This is a weird milestone that I have to imagine other writers hurdled right over.

But whatever. I’m not them, and I’m massively grateful to be experiencing this progress.

Book 2? I’m coming for you.

~Afterword~

Thanks for reading.

Yeah, about social media–I hate it. LOL I just don’t do it well. Like, when I hop on Twitter, it’s just to look at cute cat videos or get massively angry about political stuff. Or, at the worst of times, I scroll through fandom hashtags and get inspired to talk shit about things I don’t like.

And–I’ve said it so many times on here–I just don’t want to do that anymore. Dissecting multi-million dollar blockbuster films is one thing, but talking shit about something people love–on Twitter–is another thing entirely. Like . . . why? Why shit on someone for being excited about Justice League, or for liking the DCEU in general? I unironically loved Aquaman. It was a stupid, fun spectacle and I’m super excited for it’s sequel.

I’d just rather dole out that love than fling hate.

So, yeah, I’m deleting my Twitter. I would keep it and say positive things, but I’d feel trapped not being able to speak my mind, and speaking my mind has the chance to spark an argument, yadda yadda yadda.

So, on the chance you’re following me there, expect me to just disappear.

And, hey, just follow me here instead.

Where, ya know, we can chat about dumb stuff in more than 280 goddamn characters.

If you enjoyed this post, I do this every Sunday (unless it’s a day like today where I got to posting after 12am). You can always stop by next week for something else that could be anything. Between now and then, I could go to space and write about how that felt. Probably not gonna happen, but maybe.

Anyway, until next time, stay safe, and take care of yourself. Really though–make sure you’re drinking enough water and don’t push it all the time, even if you want to. You are the only person capable of pampering yourself the way you deserve to be pampered. Basic human rights, like water, are a good start.

Bye!

The “MCU Glorifies the Military” Hottake is Stupid, But This Other Take Isn’t

Like a large portion of America, I watched the finale of WandaVision this week.

And, before I continue, I know this isn’t what I said I’d write about. I will, forever and always, stop myself from making promises about what I’ll write on Sunday, because it almost always changes.

The thing is, like anything, WandaVision is prone to takes. I have friends who loved it and friends who hated the finale so much that it ruined the entire rest of the show for them. That is fine and totally normal. I still really enjoyed it while (as I usually do with absolutely anything) acknowledging that it was not perfect.

That said, I couldn’t help thinking about the weirder, hotter takes that’ve popped up about the MCU lately. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure the take I’m thinking of is a recent development, but I only recently heard about it.

It’s the idea that the MCU . . . glorifies the military?

Like, I’ve seen this vehemently passed around Twitter by someone who attached a photo of Brie Larson posing with fighter pilots.

And, I almost never use this platform to be like, “People’s hottakes are stupid.”

But holy shit is that a stupid hottake.

If you’re a person who believes in that take, I’m sorry, but it’s just a bad take. However . . . there is absolutely a solid, reasonable take available (one that I really think needs attention), and I am going to lay out that take in this post. Because I don’t think MCU films are all sunshine and rainbows (I straight-up hate a bunch of them), and I think superhero movies in general need a reckoning when it comes to this one issue.

But first . . .

The Stupid Military Industrial Complex Hottake

The belief: MCU films portray a worldwide police state as a good thing that is both essential and inevitable.

When I hear a take like that, my immediate reaction is, “Hmm. Is that true?” Because, ya know, I always want to deliberate and consider issues and, especially, criticisms of things that I like.

But, the weird thing about this hottake . . . is that Iron Man–like, part-fucking-1–portrays military weapons-mongering as wrong. It’s not a huge moral, it’s not given a ton of attention, but that lesson is a sizeable, noticeable part of Tony Stark’s arc. He goes to sell weapons to the someone, gets captured, is finally forced to come face-to-face with the violence and death his weapons cause, and decides he’s not going to take any more military contracts or sell weapons.

Part of the tension in Iron Man 2 is that James Rhodes, Tony’s friend, takes one of his suits and brings it to the military, and, yes, the soundtrack goes all brassy when Rhodey lands the high tech power armor at a military base (absolutely not a good look). However, even that moment does not equal “police state propaganda.” Does it show the military through a rose-tinted lens? Yes. The first Captain America also does that. Do either movies show anything that actually suggests it would be great if the military controlled the world? No. Does S.H.I.E.L.D. as portrayed in the first Avengers movie come close to depicting a “world policing organization” as good? Sure. There’s outright talk among S.H.I.E.L.D. agents about missions in other countries. It’s typical spy shit, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is never shown enforcing a 6PM curfew on protesters, but still, a bunch of American spies in a giant floating fortress that has stealth tech is absolutely not a good thing that was, undeniably, portrayed as cool.

But . . . All of the films I just mentioned are followed up by many films in the franchise that work directly portray police states as bad.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (a movie I hate), makes a very (beating you over the head) obvious case for a police state being wrong when Tony Stark tries to create one–with a legion of robots controlled by a single AI–and it creates a monster, for which everyone else on the team is understandably pissed In my opinion, the film doesn’t stay pissed at Tony nearly long enough, but there is a scene where everyone is mad at him and he’s played almost like a mad scientist.

Captain America: Winter Soldier focuses very, very heavily on how bad it would be for the military to obtain weapons they can use to “neutralize threats before they happen.” “Enforcement of the law through fear is wrong” is seriously a main theme of that film.

Captain America: Civil War actively challenges the idea of government control to the extent that it basically makes Iron Man a villain.

Both Infinity War and Endgame have the heroes fighting a militaristic dictator who wants to impose his will on everyone.

Even fucking Captain Marvel has a hero fighting a duplicitous space government that demands control from everyone.

And, seriously, between all of those movies, there are a bunch of N/A’s like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy that don’t glorify military might at all. In fact, I think the first Captain America is the only film where the American military was even portrayed as competent; every other movie has military personal in the background, getting their asses kicked, including S.H.I.E.L.D. more often than not.

So my point here is no.

If you ascribe to this hottake, you’re absolutely right to think that something is off about the MCU, but it’s not this. If the final goalpost is, “Well, in Endgame, they show that the heroes are, like, monitoring Earth,” then, seriously, just stop, because that’s a group of 5 characters trying to find problems to fix, not a militarized force monitoring the world. The films just don’t glorify the military or support the idea that the world is inevitably heading toward a necessary police state.

However . . .

MCU Films, Like Most Comic Book Media,
Absolutely Glorify Capitalist Control

Part of the reason I’m so annoyed about the military hottake is because it’s drawing attention away from a conversation that should be had about the MCU and too many comic books.

They glorify Capitalist ideals. Like, right out of the fucking gate, in your face, a lot of comic book media does it, because many of the superheroes who are popular now were made here in America, the Capitalist shithole of the world.

Seriously, it’s not even a contest. Iron Man was the guy in the MCU, and his entire thing was that he was a rich genius who was rich because he was a genius and a genius because he was rich and only he was capable of saving the universe!

I mean, you can contest this with the two, major cases where he was portrayed being completely wrong about big issues in the MCU (again, Age of Ultron and Civil War), but Iron Man was still the billionaire, Private Sector savior that the American government keeps saying exists but fucking doesn’t really.

Like, don’t get me wrong–I love Iron Man–but he glorifies a system that ruins countless fucking lives on the regular. He is a fairytale–born out of old timey America’s love of industry and business.

🎶 Just 👏 like 👏 fucki-i-i-ing Batman! 🎶

Yeah, that’s right. The same way Tony Stark is a rich dude who gets to be the bestest superhero ever because he has money, so is Batman. In fact, Batman goes around and studies a ton of martial arts (and whatever else a writer decides at the moment) because he’s rich. Because Capitalism is great, you guys. If it wasn’t for Capitalism, Batman wouldn’t have the amazing car he uses in Batman V Superman to explode people who don’t have as much money as he does–don’t you get it?

Look, I’m not going to pretend the majority of superheroes are rich, because they aren’t, but two of the most popular ones in the world are, and they seriously aren’t the only ones.

Oliver Queen is another rich kid.

Doctor Strange.

Iron Fist.

Aquaman (who I didn’t even realize was rich, but he’s the king of the vast majority of livable space on planet Earth, so of course).

Thor (also a literal prince).

Black Adam, which I only mention because we’re going to get a movie for him–get ready.

Wasp is rich, which I didn’t even know.

Black Panther.

And, for sure, there are a bunch of rich villains on both sides. It’s not insanely on the nose with Batman’s villain being, like, “The Socialist!” (although I’m not going to look it up, because I’m fucking sure there is a Socialist villain somewhere out there). But when a villain with money exists in the same world as a hero with money, the problem in that equation ceases to be the money. And before anyone is like, “Um, actually, Lex Luthor is Superman’s villain, not Batman’s,” holy shit, the point is that modern superhero media glorifies Capitalism by presenting rich dudes who go out and beat the shit out of people they don’t know as a good thing. We should be questioning that.

In the MCU, Iron Man is already dead and, hopefully, they’ll replace him with someone who isn’t a mascot for Capitalism. But Batman is alive and strong, mercilessly beating the shit out of people in the trailer for his new movie. And. I. Hate it.

Because we shouldn’t live in a country where some people are so rich that the law doesn’t apply to them while others are so poor that they need to work multiple jobs and come home too tired to do anything but go to sleep.

Or, at the very fucking least, when Iron Man decides he’s going to make an AI that’s going to police the planet Earth because he’s a genius and it’s okay, he should be punished really heavily for it instead of being given a pass for the world to see.

And when Batman beats the shit out of someone or indiscriminately murders them (which he just canonically does now) and the music swells and gets super triumphant, maybe we question why the rich people who made The Batman commissioned other rich people to write that music.

“Why do they want me to get super excited when Batman punches an underprivileged stranger in the face 8 times?”

And what does that say about them?

~~~

Thanks for reading. This one’s been brewing for a while because it’s an issue I’ve had with comics in general for some time, but I only just realized it applies to the MCU. I guess that in the same way that the Punisher is significantly less appealing now after 2020, rich assholes who people deify are always going to be a sticking point for me.

If you enjoyed this post, I’ll be back next week to talk about something less . . . charged. Maybe. Not definitely, but maybe?

Until next time, take care, and if you see Love Crunch Espresso Vanilla Cream Granola, just trust me, it’s the crack of granolas. Like, obviously not something you can have a lot of, but if you want to treat yourself, it’s insane. Okay, bye!

Dream Diary – A Ton of Dreams in 1 Night

There is a bizarre disconnect that happens when you (apparently) remember every single dream you had over the course of one night.

Disclaimer: I don’t know if that’s actually what happened to me Tuesday evening–I don’t know how dreams work.

But by the second time I woke up exhausted and confused by the batch of dreams I’d just had and remembered, I remember thinking, Okay. That’s it. There can’t possibly be more of them.

And then I went back to sleep, and had, I swear, more.

I don’t know why I had double-digits dreams on Tuesday night, but I do know there are a few factors that might have contributed to it:

  1. I finally got my sleeping schedule in order that night. Went to sleep around 12am and woke up at 10am.
  2. I ate right before bed. I know–terrible. But I was that level of hungry where I just wouldn’t have been able to fall asleep if I didn’t have something.
  3. A-a-a-a-and melatonin. As a man who doesn’t even drink anymore, melatonin hits me in genuinely bizarre ways, I guess.

Somehow, all of that led to a crazy marathon that I’m going to describe . . . part of. Because, A) the idea of describing absolutely everything is really daunting, B) I did eventually forget most of it, and C) not all of what I remember was interesting. What I will say here is, combined with things I’d forgotten, I think I hit all genres–horror, comedy, mystery. It was ridiculous.

Okay. That said, let’s jump in–in the order I remember these:

The Girder Sword

I was walking into a forge in the woods, carrying half of a girder that I know I’d cut (length-wise) myself, in a previous dream that I can’t remember.

The forge was lit yellow, like a movie set–designed to convey a different tone from the sun-backed green waving through the loose slat walls.

There was an old master smith in that forge, and although I don’t remember anything about him, I know he said I could make the half-girder into a sword, and I proceeded to do so. A super difficult feat to achieve in real life, but I montaged straight through it in 10 dream-seconds.

In the end, the sword I made was a two-handed, curved blade. Oddly flat and unrealistically thin, I remember it having a strange pattern on it. Not damascus; this was more like brushed steel, crossing the blade in weird directions–like its entire profile was haphazardly ground into the edge using a power tool.

Which meant it looked really cheap and unfinished. As if my brain was like, “You better take some more melatonin and keep on dreaming you think you can make a giant sword from a girder in 10 seconds. The fuck outta here.”

Still, I was super proud, and totally ready to take it outside (I don’t know why–sharpness test on fruit?), but the old smith said I should wait. He didn’t specify why–didn’t suggest sharpening it, working on the handle, heat-treating, or anything else that might actually be good reasons to wait. He just said I should give it a day, and I was like, “. . . Okay!”

So I just walked out of the forge, gleeful and proud until I discovered there were fucking

Monsters in the Forest

I think that even in the dream, I was like, “Fuck . . . This is why I wanted to bring the sword with me!”

I don’t remember exactly how I encountered the monsters–I just knew they were there, and then, at some point, one of them slashed me, full on, in the back.

Which should’ve just killed me, because they were video game-style armored monster dudes with swords. In fact, if you’re familiar, I’m sure they were Abyss Watchers from Dark Souls III:

Dark Souls 3 concept art of the Abyss Watchers.

I didn’t get a good look because I just started running, which must’ve come directly from my experience in the gas station last week. However, I don’t want to send the wrong message that I’m still massively hung up about that, so I will say that, somehow, this was not a nightmare.

Maybe because the monsters were video game enemies, this entire part of the dream just felt like a video game; the fear maxed out at the tension of having 1 HP and trying to run past enemies to get to a checkpoint. Only a little less tense because, even in the dream, I thought, “I’ve fought the Abyss Watchers so many times. I got this.”

So this part of the dream was me running, turning around, dodging an attack at the last second, and then turning, running again. I was trying to stick to a thin, dirt path that snaked through the forest, but it was dotted with other monsters, so I kept veering off into the brush, ducking, listening for footsteps, dodging again, running. At some point, I knew the Abyss Watcher chasing me would see another monster on the road and attack them instead.

And, after I jumped into a bush and started sneaking (while muttering, “Please don’t see me, please don’t see me, please don’t see me”), the Abyss Watcher finally did just that and ran off to wail on some other monster.

The River Ruin Museum

I know for a fact that there were a bunch of dreams in between this and the forest of monsters, but all I remember is winding up in a museum.

Just a totally normal museum . . . until the side of one hallway opened up to an outdoor river, a ruin on its other side.

The ruin itself was vague dream-construction–old stone in slanted, long strips at different elevations, leading nowhere. Some of that stone was on the museum side of the river, sloping down into the green water, but most of it was on the other bank, flanking a giant goddess statue, cross-legged, arms out, hair big.

I’m pretty sure this was just the part of my brain that misses being outside going nuts, because it was totally acceptable to just jump into the river, swim around, check out the ruin, and then return to the museum.

I don’t remember ever going back to the museum though. I just stood out there, laid back on an empty slope on the museum-side of the river, looking around at the sandstone hills rolling up and away from the goddess.

The Sea Creature Crafts Show
with a Former Supervisor of Mine

This is the last dream I remember well enough to talk about.

In a dream that happened after the River Ruin Museum and this one . . . I got a job at the River Ruin Museum.

That meant (I guess) that I would be working in the section devoted to aquatic life, which totally makes sense–I love sea creatures despite having Thalassophobia.

What made less sense is that I had to make a quilt of aquatic wildlife for a contest . . . with my coworkers . . . and all of it was being judged by one of my least favorite supervisors from my last job IRL?

And I somehow used a net . . . to make a quilt that was made out of water?

I mean . . . That just feels a little unfair to everyone else, really. Fucking water magic in a work talent show? Come on.

In typical dream speed, the preparations and the contest were all set to take place in the same location: the Aquatic Life Hall of the museum.

And, because I remember it so well, I’ll describe that Hall. All old, polished wood. Just, head-to-toe; every surface that could be rich, dark wood was. It had the kind of fittings and moldings you’d expect from the walls of an old building, only with an extra bit of weird embellishment–molds sanded into rounded waves, rolling up walls that were three stories high for reasons I don’t understand. At ground level, there were display cases with real sea creatures in them, but there were also mountings of creatures that ran up the walls, higher up than anyone could be expected to examine them (with no stairs or ladders to reach them).

And as I stood in that hall with my net, an old supervisor of mine walked in and said something that I must not have listened to because I don’t remember it at all (which is the most accurate-to-life moment in any of my dreams ever).

Without instruction, I proceeded to toss out the net, which hovered in the air (because, of course), did whatever the fuck I did to fill it with water (I think I just said, “And now . . . water!” and it was there), and then proceeded to put replicas of animals into the water.

And if you’re asking, “Wait. Why replicas? It’s real water,” well, fuck, I don’t know. I vaguely remember that, even in the dream, my supervisor came back and asked why they couldn’t be real animals, and I was like, “They need to be replicas or it won’t work.”

But then, the replica animals did start moving, but only because they were in the water. And my old supervisor was like, “Whoa! Dude, they’re alive!?” and I was like, “omfg you’re so annoying.

I grudgingly explained that they weren’t, but, “Ha ha. Shucks–yeah, they sure do look real though, boss. Ho ho,” and then continued putting more of them into the quilt, one-by-one.

And, because my dreams are just like this, that was the end of the dream. The contest never happened, although, again, fucking water magic–I won.

In Conclusion

After, between, and around all of those dreams, I had a bunch more that I remembered while waking up but lost minutes after. There was definitely a horror one that had something to do with a YouTuber. And another one where I had a task I needed to complete but just could not remember it. There was even a weird recurring one that acted like . . . a dream meta-game? Like, I kept coming back to a resting state where, having completed another dream, I got a point to put towards leveling up a dream skill tree? And I remember going all-fucking-in on one stat . . . which I think was Inventory Size?

Whatever. It was fucking bizarre.

And I’ve been trying to do it again every night since with no success.

I’m probably going to look up info on having vivid dreams after this.

Not only because I think I’ll find crazy story ideas in those dreams . . .

. . . but also because I just kind of love it?

I definitely wouldn’t want to do it every single night, but one night a week of vivid dreams sounds pretty cool.

And I’m sure it’ll continue being pretty cool until I have a night of horrific nightmares! : D

~~~

Thanks for joining me on this weird dream-venture.

If you’re new here, I post every Sunday, usually about things other than my dreams, although I have done that before too (the most popular by far was the time I dreamt I was Willy Wonka and there was a Game of Thrones-style plot where someone in the Wonka family was trying to steal the Chocolate Factory].

Usually though, I’m talking about writing, my life, or I’m issuing brutal takedowns of multi-million dollar budget Hollywood films that are horribly written. Feel free to pass by next week, where I think I’m finally going to muse on how story tropes manifest in different generations.

Until then, take care, stay safe, and, ya know what? It’s time. If you have the choice today . . . maybe actually pick oatmeal raisin. I know! I know! It was terrible last time, but we’re older now and, who knows? Maybe oatmeal raisin is amazing now. Some people reading this already love it. We’ll never know unless we try it.

And if you do try it, hit me up after with #oatmealraisinstillsucks.

Bye!

Writer’s Workshop – Being in a Gas Station While It’s Getting Robbed

This post was written on Monday the 15th, the day after my February “break” post.

A lot of things happened today.

By way of update: I was woken up by the guy upstairs playing his music. But when I went on an investigation (fully contemplating gross sabotage of their front door), I discovered that not only was the music actually coming from downstairs, the people blasting it were an old couple. Which I discovered because they cranked it so loud that I heard it through my noise-cancelling headphones (which work, but aren’t literal magic capable of perfectly muting 80 decibels), so I just had to go down there, knock, ask nicely for whoever to turn it down, and pray for the best. Thankfully, they turned down the music enough where I barely hear it without the headphones, and don’t hear it at all with the headphones.

With that out of the way, I was also in a gas station earlier, when it was getting robbed.

And, this totally was not what I intended to write about.

But how the fuck could I not?

Because, on one hand, I’m still processing. And, on the other hand, in the most mercenary-writer way, it’s at least a useful experience.

I will say immediately that I’m pretty sure the other people involved were fine. I was literally the only person not behind a counter, and the people the robber was threatening were behind a protective barrier, but they still immediately gave him money (meaning the chances of him shooting them were extremely low–if you don’t know, people committing robberies in real life usually don’t want to shoot anyone and make their rap sheet worse). Anyway, this was also not a small mom and pop gas station, so the only loser today was the gas station chain (and, whatever–get fucked American corporation).

That said . . .

The confusion hit first. Something like the Uncanny Valley. I was hearing an amalgam of a million movie quotes, but spoken aloud–sincerely.

My brain took a moment to catch up, so it’s impossible to remember what he said, but it was something like, “Alright! I am not fucking around! Let’s go!The words of a caricature, stepping out of the fourth wall to remind me that, yes, these things happen.

I looked and saw a man poised against the gas station’s counter, his hands on it, arranged to conceal what could only be a gun (there was no way clerks behind a wall wound freak out for a knife). And as I turned back, I realized a few of things:

  1. I didn’t wear my glasses today. Half-awake and in the heat of preparing to confront a noisy neighbor, I stumbled out of my apartment without putting them on. Because of course I did.
  2. A lifetime of action movies trained me to expect Arnold Schwarzenegger, Spider-Man, or whoever to show up and stop this. As a writer hearing dialogue and auto-assigning the next step in the action, I know I thought of this for a moment, but only in relation to whatever process reigned it in–the part of my brain that sounded the This Is Not A Fucking Movie alarm.
  3. I was the only person standing on the store floor. There were people behind the gas station’s counter–women who were screaming and a guy who kept shouting something–and one guy behind its mini Dunkin Donuts counter (who disappeared into the back immediately to–I assume–call the police) but I was the only person on the floor itself.
  4. And I was standing at the ATM, which still had my card, and was slowly dispensing my rent.

All it would take was for this man to look to his left, see me at the ATM, and he could’ve walked up and demanded what I was taking out. Because I, a person who has experienced guns before, knew that they are the ultimate means of control. If someone points a gun at you and tells you to do something, you do it–unless you have real life training that gives you other options (which almost no one does).

In that scenario, I would either give him the money, or he’d shoot me for it.

But . . . he was too busy shouting for the clerks to “Get the other one! The other one!” which I guess meant “the other register.”

I stood there, frozen, staring at the ATM screen as it processed the withdrawal, contemplating if I should just leave, aware that the clerks would be fine because this was a chain (they had nothing to lose, were already giving the robber the money, and thus, he was extremely unlikely to shoot them). Honestly never for a single second did I think I should help (all of the boyhood fantasies I’ve had about confronting a robber and / or talking them down were lost immediately in the sea of adulthood–the cold, hard realization that “there is no wall protecting me, so on the off-chance that he really is trigger happy, he can just fucking shoot me whenever”).

A thousand breathless thoughts before the ATM flicked to “Your transaction is approved!” and the male clerk behind the gas station counter shouted, “That’s it! We’re closed, man!” And then, in an oddly casual way, like either he was tired of shouting or he and the other clerks had retreated far enough–into a room behind the counter–that they knew they were fine, “We’re closed, man. Nah, we’re closed.” I still don’t know what that means.

But the ATM whirred and finally finished dispensing.

And then, I did not even look back, certain that if I did, I’d be spotted.

I just took the money–folding it into my wallet in one quick motion which, in retrospect, was probably the dumbest thing I could’ve done (guaranteeing that if he saw me, “Give me the money!” would’ve turned into “Give me the wallet!”).

But, if he did see, he deemed the risk of trying to rob a dude who was already walking out of the store–a man who maybe didn’t see him?–not worth it.

The only reason I didn’t run is because, when I came out, there was another guy standing near the door who had to be a look out, and I didn’t want to draw attention. For the same reason (I honestly did not remember the Dunkin worker at the time), I didn’t call the cops, assuming that keeping an eye out for snitches was part of guy #2’s job. I just crossed the street immediately, looked back (which was another stupid mistake because, without my glasses, the station and guy #2 were just a massive blur from that distance [so all looking back did was almost get me caught]) and then kept walking.

I’ve been checking the news since to see if I could find details about the robbery. I even made the mistake of downloading Citizen App again–which, if you’re unfamiliar, is an app that shows incidents, like stabbings and fires, in a region (which means it’s massively depressing for New York)–but I’ve found nothing. [Edit: Even checking back now, on Sunday afternoon, I found nothing about my robbery.]

Which cranks the hopelessness meter to ‘Ultra Max,’ even though I didn’t lose anything, and–to my knowledge–no one else did either.

In part, it’s because I could not give a single detail about this robber–the ATM was far enough away from the counter that I, a blind man without his glasses, couldn’t have made out the dude’s face even if he looked back at me and I stared, neither of which happened. The glance I took was on the dude’s hands and posture, so I’m not even secure in the observation that he had a dark jacket on.

So, basically, I would be less-than-no-help in this situation, which makes me feel so oddly stupid.

And that’s probably the major takeaway here, writing-wise; I’ve been robbed at gunpoint before–when I was much, much younger–and that came with its own, way more acute sense of hopelessness, but even just being a bystander, realizing that there was genuinely nothing helpful that I could do in the moment (that legitimately I would only make the situation worse) fucking sucks. But that feeling goes beyond the moment; having been involved in police investigations before–working security and the aforementioned time I was mugged–I can’t help imagining the look on an officer’s face when I tell him, “No, I didn’t have my glasses, but maybe he had a dark jacket on?” I can almost hear him sighing, “Waste of my fucking time.” Like, thanks. I fucking hate it. I hate that sleepily deciding not to go back for my glasses impacted the day that strongly. And I hate that, even if I had gone back for them, I would only be able to provide a detail or two to the NYPD, an institution that, after 2020, demonstrably doesn’t give a fuck about me or any of the minorities working that gas station–an institution that would only be motivated to catch that robber if it turned out he wasn’t white.

Okay. I’m just moving on from that. I’m frustrated, guys. My bad. Focusing now–we’re focusing.

Another writing takeaway: in the moment, information is crystal clear but processing at such a hectic rate that you easily forget things. Like, all data is streamlined for your survival (i.e. “I’m at the ATM,” “he has a gun,” “no one else is on this side of the counters with him but me,” etc.), but that means some data is shoved right the fuck out of your brain to make space; I saw that dude working the Dunkin Donuts counter, looked at his face and acknowledged he was not the dude who was normally there, and then noted that he disappeared during the incident, but by the time I was outside (10 seconds later) I completely forgot he’d been there at all when I was considering calling the cops. That weird survival instinct to, I guess, override non-threatening information is totally new to me. Like, if it wasn’t pertinent to me getting the fuck out of that gas station, it did not exist.

And, last thing, having that event just absorbed by the general horror of life–finding that it was not bad enough to make headlines–is also kind of terrible.

Because worse things happened in the Bronx [that day].

At least it’s a soft confirmation that no one in that gas station got shot.

The little things, I guess.

~~~

Phew.

I genuinely don’t get how my life has become this batshit. Like, everything is a bad mess lately. I don’t want to go into detail, but yeah, the rest of the week was bad too.

But I’m just tired of focusing on all of that. I really want to get back to posting happy, fun stuff. I also want to redesign the website (I made a new logo for it and everything, and I’m excited to settle into a new, more fun vibe).

So, today, I’m gonna go order a veggie burger with coffee and get to work making things better for myself–in whatever ways I can.

Thanks for listening, and hopefully my account of this experience can be useful to your writing.

If you’re new here, thanks for passing by. I post every Sunday, so if you’re keen to hear more–about my life or my writing progress–feel free to stop by next Sunday.

Until then, take care, breathe deep, and maybe just lie down for a minute. Like, just breathe slowly and let a nap happen if you can. Cause we all deserve it.

My Valentine’s Day Gift to Myself: A Break

Last week, I predicted that I would either be bummed but chill or happy but stressed.

Oh, my sweet Summer child.

Somehow, I didn’t account for the possibility that I’d be bummed and stressed, but here we are!

To make a long story short, that freelancing gig is taking forever, and the dude who lives directly above me has started blasting the same bodega-top-40 playlist (by which I mean the set of songs that are currently playing in bodegas) for at least five hours every. Single. Day. And, to be clear, as a Puerto Rican man, I have nothing against reggaetón, bachata, etc. But when it’s muffled by a ceiling, primarily what you get are percussions. And the percussions are extremely formulaic for each type of Latin music.

Which means that it sounds like the same five songs are on loop for (again, at best) five hours every day. On Friday, the loop was playing from 4pm to 2am.

Now, I would like to clarify first that I am not exaggerating.

But, on top of that, I think I’ve just become especially susceptible to noise. Whether it’s because I’m just a quiet dude who doesn’t like loud noises because of his past, or because I’m just physically wired to dislike noise, I dunno. I am not a “cover my ears when trains pull into a station” person. But I am, 100%, a “please stop blasting your music–it’s 12am on a Thursday and I’m trying to write” person.

Who is stuck in a room during COVID where he has no lease and literally can’t go upstairs to confront a dickhead who does. At best, I’ll be told to fuck off, and, at worst, I’ll have a knife put in my body (I live in a legitimately terrible neighborhood).

What I’m saying here is, I managed to get some light graphic design work done at the beginning of the week, but then started getting headaches and ultimately switched to zero-fucks mode, tanking the rest of the week playing Slay the Spire.

Yesterday, I splurged on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and today–for the first time in a week–the dickhead upstairs didn’t play music at all, so there is hope for next week.

But, for me, today’s vibe is still “what-the fuck-ever.”

Which means I needed a break from the blog too.

I will be back next week, of course, and, hopefully, I’ll be able to develop the topic I have into a weird post.

Until then, take care. And if you live somewhere safe and quiet, just take a minute today to sit down with a coffee or tea at a window, and enjoy the underrated freedom of inviolable thought.