Thursday, May 30, 2019
Why they want these things—the motivations behind these goals—are interesting and complex enough to fill a book, but it’s the characters acting to achieve these goals, fulfill their wants, that supports a story where we get to ask them why they want it in the first place.
Characters can change what they want later on, that’s fine, but active characters are the ones who’ve set out to do something. They succeed or fail, but dammit, they try. That trying is the muscle of the story. Wanting that luring goal is what keeps them and the narrative moving. Taking a ring back to a mountain, helping a friend take a ring back to a mountain, getting the ring back so I’m not alone, my precious, are good examples of simple wants that motivate character to act. Without those wants, simple and plain as these are, the characters wouldn’t leave the shire (or the cave) and we’d have to Deus Ex Machina their butts into gear if we want more than a mood piece.
To borrow from Tony Flaner again, there’s a the push and the pull. If the action is thrust upon them, that’s reactive—the push. “Run there are dark baddies chasing us.” Once the character chooses to do something, that’s active—the pull. “I will recycle this ring because someone needs to do it.” Both function, but which is heroic?
Ay, there’s the rub.
What if we apply this simple self examination and story telling device to real life? What if I ask myself, what do I want? Then I carry it on to you. What do you want? Look at anyone, can you get a handle on them by figuring out their goal is? Hell yes. They want money, a girl, health, a puppy. It is a powerful tool when applied to others, but let’s face it, it is terrifying when applied to ourselves.
In the story of our own lives, are we the protagonist or a side character? A walk on? An extra? Background noise? Are we an actor or a reactor?
Are we our hero?
It’s scary to think about.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Remember when “show me your papers” was a clichéd Gestapo stereotype? That’s an airport now. Searches and questions and show ID and delays and suspicion. It’s how it’s done. You are made to feel like a criminal. Show me your shampoo bottle. Let me RFID your wallet.
The inconvenience and suspicion is not equally applied. Hell no. Not even close. You can pre-screen through the TSA if you have time and a computer and resources. You can buy an upgrade that lets you go through the fast lane at the security checkpoint where there’s less rigmarole. I guess terrorists can’t upgrade. it’s a microcosm of a failed state, a peek into dystopian America; one set of rules for the upper class, another set for the rest.
We board by classes. First class, Comfort Class (which is a middle thing on Delta and has some leg room) and then economy, or the cattle. I saw that first class passengers also had their baggage marked so they’d be the first out of the plane. Egalitarian ideals do not extend past the curb in any way.
Airports are huge. I thought I’d have a stroke changing gates for a connection in Detroit. Nobody told me there was a train until I was off my fifteenth conveyer belt and the gate was finally in sight. (Don’t they move cattle that way?) The distance to be a mile down the concourse. Similar experience in St. Paul.
Compared to most, since I did have some leg room by upgrading my ticket, I had it better on this last trip of mine than most. Not glass highballs like first class, but a complimentary bourbon in plastic. It was something. Nevertheless, if there’s a way for me not to fly, not to go through that humiliation of searches, the degradation of suspicion, the inconvenience of crowds, the insult of claustrophobic seating, I won’t fly. It’s discouraging.
I have to wonder if that isn’t the point.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Hey kids, sorry to miss last week. I’ve been busy. Not much to show for any of it. Yet, but it’s coming.
I write to you today from a friendly but bustling concourse at Salt Lake International Airport. I’m on my way to StokerCon™ (remember the ™ or they’ll mess you up.) I’m going this time as an editor Omnium Gatherum Media as well as an author. I'm presenting three classes and taking pitches like Johnny Bench.
It’s in Grand Rapids Michigan. I’ve never been to Grand Rapids before. Or Michigan. My first impression is that it’s removed. I couldn’t find a direct flight. I’ll be visiting Detroit in a few hours. I’ll look for Tigers and Elmore Leonard references.
I hear there’s a Lyft and Uber strike, so my already late arrival will probably be later still. Taxi it is. I don’t cross picket lines. Not me. Neither should you.
This will be my second StokerCon™. The last one I was at was in Long Beach, California, aboard the Queen Mary. I met George R. R. Martin that trip. It was pretty great. The whole con, not just the ten minutes I talked to the Game of Thrones God. I’m looking forward this time to meeting new people and reacquainting myself with some horrible writers. It’s a horror writers conference. Get it?
I’m a little nervous about the trip. Flight included. Airline travel used to be fun. I’m old enough to remember that time. I’m old. It’s a trial now. Half an hour to have TSA question my choices of pumpkin seed brand. Twelve dollars for a three dollar salad and boarding forty minutes before the pilot comes out of the bar.
I’m flying mid class, called Comfort Plus because middle-class sounds too middle middle class. I board right after first class. So we’ll be the first to run the gauntlet, since they’re up front. They get to sit and pass judgement on my class and the economy people, thinking we’re peasants but trying hard as hell to avoid eye contact.
At the conference there’ll be no class. I’m going.
Okay. The nervous blog must end.
I’ll report an interim blog report if the occasion warrants . In the meantime, look for me by the big lakes.