C.C.Cole

C.C.Cole
author C.C.Cole's blog

Saturday, June 30, 2012

On the Inspiration of Current Events

The United States Supreme Court

Most of the time, Dark Fantasy to me is a takeaway from the perplexing issues of today’s world.  In our 24/7 news cycle, the never-ending analysis, re-hashing, and sensationalism make me open my computer or e-reader to find something about a fierce knight rubbing out an army of evil skeletons while riding a dragon.  If I’m having a migraine, I prefer a biography or a classic to read to give me a break. While it’s perilous as an adult to keep one’s head in the sand, to get relief in a good book or writing gives me enough of a break to refuel for the everyday stressors.

Question:  Do current events inspire we new authors?  Answer:  Potentially.  Some say WWII inspired Tolkien.  (Quite a Current Event!)  I do believe that all writing is in part a summation of the writer’s life journey, based on the knowledge, experience and imagination. Knowledge arises from school, research, and self-education.  Imagination arises from our gray matter.  But experience arises only from life itself and no other way. 

Question:  Do current events inspire Dark Fantasy?  Answer:  Not directly.  I don’t create fictional characters from world leaders or politicians, though some writers may, I just haven’t seen it.  But to say today’s world doesn’t affect me at all would surely be closing my mind away.  In the fortunate times to live in a free society, we writers can create what we want, when we want, and these days, publish when we want.  That alone is an inspiration in its own way.

Question:  Do current events distract we new authors?  Answer:  Yes, if attention is paid to the news, but with so much “news” it’s almost a numbing effect.  Some days I feel like a glass of water overflowing, so I slam it shut and let nothing else in.  I try to take some time and process what is being told to me by others.  With so much opinion immersed in a small amount of fact, I prefer to think about the news and make up my own mind. 

Question:  Do I turn off the news when I’m settling down to write?  Answer:  Yes.  One of the best habits I’ve gained lately is to turn off the Internet and TV, sit and either write or read.  Sometimes an “Internet Holiday” isn’t a bad thing.  As writers, we need time to process the many distractions in our minds, to organize our thoughts into our work.  Some day’s current events hit us harder than others, or close to home.  To state the obvious, every person, writer or not, has his/her individual set of distractions, from family to occupation to nationality.

New authors, current events are part of our lives.  We can’t stop time.  The longer we live the more events we see and experience.  We add these experiences to our thoughts and cannot erase them.  The summation makes up a part of who we are.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Dual Characters

"Casino"

With my dialogue-writing preference, I think about what inspires me to latch on conversation while sequestering away my prose envy of other writers.  I love reading prose, especially smooth prose.  To me, the art of smooth prose is an art in itself.  But with dialogue, I don’t glide through it.  I chew it thoroughly like bubble gum, and when the sugar is out, create obnoxious bubbles to keep it going.  Dialogue peels my eyelids back in plays, glues me to the movie screen, and stuffs my poor e-readers or books into my belly like a dragon that hasn’t eaten in a couple of centuries.  I’m a nut about dialogue.

As I obsess about what I like about dialogue, mostly what I like is when a pair of characters “play off” one another.  My best example is my forever undecided on which film I like better “Goodfellas” or “Casino.”  (For the non-fans of gangster films, my terminal affliction started in the 1990’s, dang you Mr. Scorsese).   With the former film, there is a biographical narrative:  Check.  Romance:  Check.  Action:  Check.  Dark Humor:  Check.  Gangster insanity:  Check.  Gangster usual bad tidy ending:  Check.  So I think, “Yes, a perfect story.”  Then “Casino” comes on and I change my mind. 

What could possibly be missing in “Goodfellas,” other than the lead female character is less crazy?  Answer:  In the film, there isn’t a pair of leading characters to play off the other.  The magic captured in the writing, as well as the De Niro/Pesci acting didn’t exist in the Henry Hill story because it wasn’t there.  It doesn’t mean that one story is less compelling than the other; but the pair up added an element of tension amongst familiar characters, revealing a breakdown of friendship after three decades. 

Why do pair ups entertain?  The writer can take two developed personalities and spin the commonalities along with the differences to move the plot.  The couple (any kind of couple, animal vegetable or mineral) can lie to one another (Shevata/Zermon in my books), fall in love, fall out of love, have a battle of the sexes, political debates or the tried and true fighting over a woman (or man).  However it’s used, as a reader, I find it an important part of character development.  While point of view can be compelling, seeing more than one point of view through dialogue can bring intrigue and/or lighten up the pace with humor. 

New authors, readers, like writers, have preferences.  I happen to like dialogue, and admire prose.  No worries, write what you like.  Most of the time when people do what they like it’s often their strong point.  Stories don’t always have to be dialogue driven, but if they are, you may find a dialogue reader/writer like me that loves it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Lawyers, Blades, and Real Estate


As clichéd as it seems to go directly from reading “Frankenstein” to “Dracula” for readers and writers, it’s still worth the time.  For non-monster-classic readers, Mary Shelley’s classic came out in the early 1800’s, and Bram Stoker’s eternal bad boy was published closer to 1900.   As much as we Dark Fantasy readers table pound over LOTR, the inspiration of the pre-Tolkien horrors span centuries, continuing with books, TV series, and of course, films.

I know I first read “Dracula” as a teenager but not sure exactly when.  I like it better than “Frankenstein.”  Overall, it’s more entertaining, but the journal-style writing gets a bit tiresome, the hero-fellas seem to overlap, and as I recall before, it should not have taken Lucy around three hundred pages to die (I know, insensitive!).  Our new-and-improved vampires of today don’t mess around; victims usually are dead by the end of the scene.

What happens in “Dracula” is that an English lawyer travels to meet the Count in Transylvania to complete a real estate transaction.  The vampire apparently wants to move his business around, and his human neighbors are getting weary of him.  While the young lawyer corresponds with his lovely finance, the Count intercepts and reads his mail.  (How rude!).  The lawyer returns to England after realizing his client is a horrific monster, but finds not only that he’s made himself several cozy nests throughout London, he’s moved next door.  The death of his fiancée’s friend Lucy sets of the chain of events leading to a great chase and bittersweet ending of this tale of good and evil.

First, the clichés:  If there is a horror story more clichéd than this one, I’m happy to stand corrected.  But in the original “Dracula” to me, it doesn’t read like clichés.  The garlic, crosses, holy water, wafers, coffins, wolves, and bats work with the story as extensions of the creature’s power and methods to limit it. These definitions give the reader the unnatural feeling needed for the horror jolt.  What’s old-fashioned today is what made it great in the first place. 

Second, the protagonist:  While the knee-jerk reaction when this story is mentioned is the title character, I suspect ace protagonist vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing inspired more writers than Hugh Jackman’s hair stylist (couldn’t resist that one).  Being intelligent, prepared, mature, and incorruptible, he stands strong against the very powerful antagonist.  He’s an easy favorite good guy.

Third, the antagonist:  Dracula, the ultimate vampire, sets the standard for the toothy night stalkers of today.  He’s at least three centuries old, can change shape, move weather, super-strong, manipulative, and can create attractive female vampires to keep him company and spread his evil.  But his ill deeds catch up with him, and though his demise is anti-climatic by today’s standards, considering the times, it still works. 

Elements of “Dracula” follow us as we write horror, dark fantasy, or paranormal romance.  Whether we remember the details of this prototype novel or not, we use them as we weave our own stories.  My recommendation for vampire-fans is to reel in the clichés and visit the Count.  Just don’t sell him any land, and don’t share your mail. 

On the Teachable Moments: Review of “Savage Grace” by Natalie Robins and Steven M. Aronson

"Savage Grace"

With my combination of films-to-books and true crime interest, I clicked on the film “Savage Grace” while it aired on a cable channel last year.  Thinking I was “in the know” about infamous true crimes, somehow I missed this story of a wealthy socialite who was murdered by her son.  The film wasn’t so great despite a talented cast; but I suspected that the story it was based upon would be more compelling.  I underestimated.

The book is a collection of written narratives and letters by murder victim Barbara Daly Baekeland, her ex-husband Baekelite heir Brooks Baekeland, their troubled, deceased son Tony, and friends and other family members.  The history behind the invention of Baekelite (plastic) is chronicled along with the lives of the wealthy dysfunctional family (to say the least).  While this format is challenging to follow, the story still worked.  Considering the complexities of these people, it’s obvious to me how a book or film would be challenged to tell this disturbing story.

After marriage and the birth of their son, the Baekelands begin what reads like a 25-year vacation that’s no honeymoon.  Instead of establishing a residence, they indulge themselves on an American-European tour living in one place no more than a few months, or back-and-forth for a few years.  With limited family structure, the values held by the adults, especially Barbara, are all about socializing, dragging their young son along, leaving him confused about his own sexuality, overwhelmed with loneliness, and mental illness that later leads to tragedy.  What comes as no big surprise to the reader is the downward spiral of Barbara and Tony’s relationship after the departure of Brooks from the family.  Between the decadence, laziness, reported incest, and murder, it understandably looks to some that this family has very few redeeming qualities.

But, dysfunctional family aside, can a reader get inspiration from this story?  Answer:  Yes, on a level.  Part of what happens is that Barbara Baekeland had the incapacity to give herself to others in the way needed so badly in a family.  She led her life by making demands of others, to the poor example for her son, and enabled by her emotionally bankrupt husband.  Another point is the group that fought the hospital in London holding Tony after he murdered his mother, interfering with serious criminal issues, helped make it possible for Tony’s release to New York to attempt to murder his grandmother after a few days. Their shock (while on their own permanent tours) to his behavior following his release is the naive behavior of well-meaning wealthy friends.  Tony’s tragic death and possible suicide is the end-result of a lifestyle that seems dreamlike in the eyes of most of us, but in the long run, not something to envy. 

While we writers sit back and dream, the idea of being rich with no other agenda than traveling for the next resort or Fitzgerald-style cocktail party seems like a paradise.  But not all is, as it seems.  These tragic stories of indulgent people give us teachable moments.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Monstrous Tragedy: Review of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley


During my pre-teen years before interest in boys, I read “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley.  At that age, it disappointed me.  It was boring.  Who wants a talking monster?  Instead of a “Baron Frankenstein” like in the Peter Cushing films I was used to, (yes, post-Karloff, I know, blasphemy) it had a young Victor Frankenstein.  Nothing matched!  I tossed the paperback in a corner somewhere.  When the TV-film “Frankenstein: The True Story,” aired, I found pulling Jane Seymour’s head off at a party a turnoff.

Decades later, I’ve re-visited this classic novel considered by some to be ahead of its time or the frontrunner of many fantasy/horror stories today.  First, it’s written in the “frame” style where a narrator begins and ends the story, with the middle told by another person.  (“Heart of Darkness” also is done this way).  This makes for a laborious read, so it takes an interested reader to take the time to absorb the story, not the other way around.  Books written like this to me do not “hook” a reader easily. 

But the labor of the read is worth it.  For a story about a dangerous, homicidal monster, it contains almost no action.  The smart and talented Victor Frankenstein wanted to figure out a way to cure all disease.  In his passion for good deeds, he created something not meant for this world, a creature with no grounds of divinity and shunned by his creator and humanity.  Frankenstein narrates how the fiend destroyed his life by killing those he loved the most.  His emotional story is about the regret and sadness while reflecting on the consequences of his actions. 

My favorite part of the story now is the narration by the creature.  (Amazing what a few decades do for reading).  He was intelligent, horrifying in appearance, super-human in strength, and shared a flaw with his creator:  Good cannot be made from evil.  As he felt he needed vindication, he felt tremendous sorrow when his creator died and no longer wanted to live.

When I think about monster stories since, so many features can be found in this classic.  What hit me the most is how emotional and tragic this story is.  Fantasy fans, the classics are always with us.  Sometimes it’s worth a look in the past to see how far we’ve come.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On How We’re Made

"Mrs. Doubtfire"
While I was doing a bit of net-surfing looking for a Father’s Day inspiration, I noticed that Robin William’s character in the film “Mrs. Doubtfire” made a list of “Bad Dads.”  I suspect this was in jest, as the character cared a lot about his children and wanted to raise them in an unconventional way only Williams can deliver that made the film fun, making the best out of a dividing family.

In my own family, as kids, like so many, we were taught to fear our fathers.  We didn’t have “Ward Cleaver” moments when a nice Dad sat on the bed to explain something humbly to us when we were confused.  Are you kidding?  Trouble in school meant hell at home.  My parents divorced before I finished high school.  With child support ignored, he got to live his life the way he wanted without the burden of a wife and kids.  And we all said, “Good for him, and good for us.”

After I started college, he came to our house for some reason and I was the only one home.

Hey.  Your momma here?  No.

No, Sir!  Don’t get smart with me!  (I back away).  No, sir.

Where is she?  At work.

Your brother? He ever come home from school?  No, sir.

Hell, he’s been down there ten years.  He needs to get out of school and get a damn job.  Is that what you’re gonna do, just go to school?  No sir.

(He picks up a paper)  What the hell is this?  My semester grades.

This good?  Yes, sir, it’s the President’s List.  It means all A’s.

All A’s?  Well good for you.  You tell ‘em it runs in the family?  (I nod).

(He turns to leave).  Well hell, girl.  If you keep at this you’ll be a god damned doctor of something. 

He had his own way of inspiring.  I can’t say I didn’t learn anything from him.  He made me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Keeping the Fantasy in Fantasy


Anyone with a computer or cable news in this past couple of days will know of the either delight of some or outrage of others of the proud display of an American President on the  “Game of Thrones” DVD set.

I’ve known about this for a few months, because I purchased a set for a friend, and was told about it and didn’t pick it up on the series.  While I thought it was in bad taste, our Presidents are often made fun of by the entertainment industry in non-humor and non-political backdrops. The industry does this sort of thing, and they will do this in the future. When I see Fantasy, I want to see Fantasy.   An American President is not Fantasy to me.

When the story broke, cold water was thrown over “Game of Thrones” and HBO, as I suspected it would, if it ever got out.  So now what is a potential masterpiece is spinning in the piranhas of all political labels cyberspace has to offer and not looking kindly to a great series, great creativity, and seen by several as disrespect for the office of American leaders.  The apology resonated and made it worse; the toothy fishes are in a second frenzy over every word of the press release, dissecting down almost every punctuation mark bringing more negative attention.  As the news cycle moves, so will the story, so hopefully it will move to memory.

This is what happens when Fantasy is taken out of Fantasy.  Meaning, (I can only speak for myself) I want my Fantasy to stay with the story only.  No Presidents, not even George Washington.  I do know about the Lincoln-Vampire story, but that’s written in the story, not just put there.  Why American Presidents?  If the industry wanted to be bold, what about other world leaders?  Other countries in current events? Never mind.

Fantasy stands strongest when the story is told.  Why risk ruining it by throwing in something that may be clever but likely offensive to a lot of fans that is not part of the story.  Writers want to tell a story.  The film industry translates the story into visual entertainment and makes written characters come to life. When that happens, it’s wonderful.  Real world current events and politics is only a click away.  Filmmakers, we viewers can find world leaders and humor about them on our own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On the Economics of Dark Fantasy

"The Hunger Games"

When I read Dark Fantasy epics, I like details that bring an element of everyday life to the story.  Most of us can relate to financial issues.  Money makes the world go around.  People work, steal, lie, die, and kill for money.  Revenge and love are major character triggers, but so is the need of money, be it in dollars, gold, gems, or some form of “fantasy money” like the Angarak gold in the Belgariad series by David Eddings.

When I think of widely read fantasy novels, “Dune” comes to mind as keeping in check the finances of the story.  The Emperor granted the Duke Arrakis but funded the attack by the Harkonnens.  And as all who’ve read the story know all too well:  The spice was the most valuable substance in that society.  Without spice there was no transportation, and we know today if we had no transportation in our world we’d have no society as we live now.

Let’s think about stories that leave out worries about the pocketbook.  In LOTR, Sauron apparently didn’t have a monetary problem; or perhaps he stole it from wherever.  It isn’t really clear, though it’s as much a favorite epic of mine as any other.   Bilbo was a well-to-do Hobbit, and maybe I didn’t read clearly enough as to why the elves had such nice things.  The dwarves dug for their treasure.  To be fair to Tolkien (as he definitely deserves it!), that wasn’t his message in the story.

In the recent hits “Hunger Games” and “A Song of Ice and Fire” the stories kept close to financial lines.  Katniss was from a poor family and after winning the Games she could provide a better life for her family in the beginning of the second book.  In Martin’s books, (“Game of Thrones”), most of the large houses were in the wealthy Lannister’s pocket, suggesting Tywin Lannister “defecated” gold, which was disproven by his son Tyrion, an unpleasant but understandable part of the books.  (I will explain that no further).

Writers, having money isn’t everything, but unlike how they say in football, it isn’t the only thing.  In the creation of worlds, we create societies, families, and hierarchies; fiancés may or may not fit into your story.  It’s hardly a must, but sometimes makes a compelling fit.  Now go write something great and tweet us about it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Stories and Culture

Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

American "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

If there’s anything I like best about fiction or non-fiction it’s the setting of the story the author drops me in to.  Like other readers, I want to feel the world, the characters, the buildings, the clothing, whatever it is, the setting and culture of the story is every bit as part of the story as the plot itself.

As an American, I do read many novels that take place in the United States, like political, crime, and legal thrillers.  While these are enjoyable and are part of the “mainstream genre,” I get a treat when I pick up a book with a setting elsewhere in the world, having little to nothing to do with the United States.  It’s like traveling without traveling (of course not exactly the same), but I find it refreshing to see how circumstances in my own country happen in other countries.  Though cultures may vary, on some level people are the same when it comes to love, hate, courage, fear, and revenge.

A lot of my reading of non-US stories has been in biographies, like Napoleon, Churchill, and Attaturk.  I’ve found some novels with excellent historical backdrops, like Elizabeth’s Marshall’s “When Fate Dictates” or Paul Anthony’s international crime ace novel “Bushfire.”  Fortunately I haven’t run into many readers set on “American only” novels; to me that would defeat the purpose of reading; we want to read and expand our minds instead of reeling them in.  Also, some of the most treasured classics are non-American writers (Shakespeare, Austen, amongst many others).

But with my film obsession, I do have a bit more scrutiny.  I’ve seen enough of the “Foreign film” category and in this day of filmmaking, good films are created in many countries.  I tend to prefer subtitles with actors from the setting created by the story over an “American-ized” version.  As I write this, believe me, I’ve been taken to task with arguments, especially with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” films.  I agree, I liked both films, both were well acted, and Daniel Craig is never a bad thing on screen.  Also, point made about which was more loyal to the book.  But, overall, I like seeing actors I don’t see everyday.  Other examples would be Dutch film “Black Book,” and “Downfall,” which were excellent historic films made by the culture that lived the history.  As well-produced and hyped as “Valkyrie” was, it didn’t give the message “Downfall” did, though the story deserved telling. 

Though film viewers and readers have preferences, what’s good about the writing/film industry is variability (controversial these days).  We have a lot to choose from and I read and see other cultural stories as a further expansion of the human experience, through words or film.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On the Work of Paul Thomas Anderson


While at a national academic meeting, I found myself at an airport hotel with nothing to do, my colleagues finding things to do without me, so after hours of sleeplessness and boredom, I did a pay-for-view at the hotel on a new film that had a 70’s backdrop that seemed cool called “Boogie Nights.”

"Boogie Nights"
 
Oh my!  While I found the film intriguing, the last thing I expected was a story about the pornographic film industry!  And I did a pay-for-view that showed up on my hotel bill!  Great.  I left, now feeling like I’ve joined a club of perverts.  After getting home and informing my husband of the misinformation on the previews, he laughed and said it didn’t understand how I couldn’t know the film’s subject matter.

OK, OK, clueless check.  I saw a movie with more adult material than I’m used to.  Worse things happen to people.  Later I noticed the critical acclaim, like the actors, and have appreciated the latter films I’ve seen them in.  Also, it was great to see Burt Reynolds since Smokey and the Bandit.

"Magnolia"
 
Years pass.  I’m awake with a midnight migraine as usual.  Another film piqued my interested that showed up on a cable movie channel called “Magnolia.”  I wanted to see this movie because I could relate to a level to Tom Cruise’s character (as obnoxious as he was), having experienced similar issues with my own family.  Aside from Cruise, who did some great dramatic acting at the end (his Oscar nomination) the actors were in Boogie Nights.  Also, I really liked the music in “Magnolia” of musician Amiee Mann.  After finding the soundtrack, later I saw a singer on a Buffy episode I tracked down.  Again, it was Aimee Mann.  Four CDs later, I enjoy her music.  Later, I found out the director of these films were the same and it made sense:  Paul Thomas Anderson.

Next, “There Will Be Blood” starring Daniel Day-Lewis came out.  I heard mixed reviews, and some thought it was boring.  I had to agree, but the writing interested me, because antagonist characters rarely make a lead role work.  Apparently, the film industry agreed.

Paul Thomas Anderson
When I see books translated into film, it’s usually a diluted version with less detail, less compelling concepts.  With Anderson’s films (that he reportedly writes) I feel like I’m reading a book on film.  That may sound bizarre, but his films have complex plots, multiple characters, and take on unusual topics.  I’m not suggesting his films are for everyone, but as a writer, I do admire a director that takes on the entire effort of the beginning to end of film creation (meaning writing the script and direction).  With his new film about Scientology upcoming, I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Anderson has for us.


On The Effect of Words and Butterflies


My writer colleague and cool person Niamh Clune after bringing together a class act with Orangeberry Books, now strikes again with another excellent site Plum Tree Books.  As another new group of bringing readers and writers together, this time Niamh and her imaginative team brought in alternative elements to creative energy and more for children.  Check out “Youth Tube,” with our “Self as Child” recent blog hop, and the upcoming “Butterfly Effect” which will take in other areas of creativity than writing, especially photography, art, and music.  As writers the words we create we hope to be experienced in the minds of the readers; we want them to see, we want them to hear, we want them to feel the story.  Niamh and her colleagues put together first-rate work with class and beauty. 

 
Check out The Plum Tree site http://ontheplumtree.wordpress.com/


Plum Tree Books
“The theme might be expressed on an emotional, personal level through a passionate desire, which, if fulfilled, might cause devastation to all around you.”  Niamh Clune

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review of “Cracks” by Shelia Kohler


I saw the film “Cracks” and out of curiosity decided to read the book and found it to be more deviated from the movie than expected.  As in the above description, (book summary) the setting is in South Africa and Fiamma is an Italian girl from an aristocratic family.  As a teenager, she enrolls in an isolated school with other girls her age but has little in common with them, and with the aid of a favored but abusive teacher, the situation degenerates into bullying and finally tragedy.

What I found interesting is how the story crosses so many layers in human culture that fulminates in the horrendous ending.  Culture differences with Fiamma being from Italy, class difference with her wealthy background, and the way aristocracy sees commoners in their eyes; Fiamma wasn’t interested in the other girls, though she intended no ill will.  However, being beautiful, rich, well read, and an excellent swimmer, everyone had some level of obsession with Fiamma. 

The swimming teacher, Miss G, was the favorite of the girls because she made them feel special.  But when she found Fiamma more special than everyone else, it drew the ire of them all, despite of her known mental instability.  Miss G abused her position as teacher by manipulating the girls, abusing Fiamma and the other teachers turned a blind eye to the obvious behavior.

Last, but not least, is the ultimate breakdown of humanity by bullying kids not understanding the consequences of their actions.  In the “Lord of the Flies” moment, the girls showed they were little different from animals as they degenerated into teenage bullies ganging up on a girl made to be a pariah because of jealousy; to be punished only by their own guilt as they aged.  The lack of accountability to society of the crime is disturbing and opens the bare truth that young people do terrible things with few good answers regarding rule of law.

“Cracks” is a mesmerizing read, a bit laborious and devastating.  The book adds many more elements than the film.  Four stars!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On Beer and Anime

"Ghost in the Shell"

When I think back to my entry into undergraduate college, I have the “do as I say, not as I do” moments as others do when we reminisce about days we had a drink or ten. My roommate and I decided on our first day of college, we wouldn’t drink beer.  No worries.  A nice looking guy greeting us at a party cured that little bout of insanity that evening, as “the one that makes sure everyone here has a beer.”  I realized that beer is an acquired taste.  Once you’re used to it, and in the right company, it works.  These days, I still like beer, but left the kegs in the past where they belong.

What does beer have to do with Japanese animation (Anime)?  To me, it’s an acquired taste.  I didn’t grow up watching it, or reading mangas, so my late introduction to this fascinating industry has me still in the process of getting used to it.  When I think animation, I’m into Bugs Bunny as a kid or the ever-offending SouthPark as an adult.  But animation is all that Anime has in common with in any cartoon I’ve seen.

I appreciate Japanese culture with my past experience in martial arts, and with Anime it’s more of what they do well:  More with less, simple drawing, simple dialogue, and complex concept.  While “Akira” is considered a classic, it’s a bit over-the-top for me, but the latter shows I’ve enjoyed, like “Ghost in the Shell,” and “Hell Girl.” 

Boring is not an issue with Anime to me.  The stories tend to be intense, with fatalistic undertones.  If someone goes down, it happens Anime-style, and that’s a style you won’t forget.  Strong female characters often take lead roles, so that’s an extra treat for me. 

In the art, my husband, a long-time Anime fanatic, tells me the protagonists have round eyes, the antagonists have slanted or slit eyes, and the ones “in between” have a straight line along the top of their eyes.  It takes a moment to adjust, but yes, one can often see the good and bad by the art of the eyes.

Amine is not without violence.  I saw one that said something about “scarlet tears” followed by the slash of a sword across another’s eyes.  Yikes!  I haven’t thought of that!  Hey, that’s intensity.

The hardest adjustment to Anime for me is the music.  For simple art, deep, conceptual stories, violence, it ends with some kind of la-la that never seems to match the scene.  But I remind myself; this isn’t another film with John Williams writing the score.  Anime is different, so the music is meant to be different.  Can I embrace something creative and different?

Of course I can!  At this time I’m still acquiring a taste, but enjoy it so far.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On the New Favorite Dark Fantasy Character

"The Imp" from "Game of Thrones"

After mentioning “The Imp” in every review I posted of the series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, and following the well-done extrapolated “Blackwater” episode of the cable series “Game of Thrones” the name “Tyrion Lannister” is almost a household name.  When I read in an article today by a well-known political writer about how he watched the series and he was disappointed that there wasn’t enough of Tyrion, I suspect Martin’s “half-man” is truly reaching new heights with attention in a part of the media usually disassociated with fiction, especially Dark Fantasy.

For the non- “Game of Thrones” informed, to give a brief summary of Tyrion:  He is a physical dwarf, whose mother died giving birth to him.  As part of the rich and powerful Lannister family, his older incestuous twins Jaime and Cersei and his father Tywin blame him for the death of his mother, and disrespect him for his imperfect physical form.  Tyrion is intelligent, well read, and spends his generous sums of gold on prostitutes, food, and wine; he understands the brutal world he lives in.  He knows truth is carried through lies, and life is carried by avoiding death; not by the generosity of others.  His biggest flaw is looking for love in all the wrong places; as a Lannister he can buy loyalty from sellswords easier than love.  He is cunning, quick-witted, and humorous.  Obviously, because of his dwarfism, his nickname that he dislikes is “The Imp.”

How did we get so “Imp-crazy?” We former gamers know “Dwarves” as in LOTR, but a real physical dwarf used in this kind of story is quite innovative and a knock-it-out-of-the-park creation, to be fair to Martin.  To give this character strength with wit and wisdom hits us in our “root for the underdog” instincts.  We like beautiful heroines and handsome heroes, but it’s a great takeaway from Dark Fantasy clichés (criticisms aside about this over-extended epic). 

Last, but not least, is the life that actor Peter Dinklage brilliantly brought to “The Imp.”  I saw the first season of the cable series before I read the books, and it’s as if Tyrion stepped out of the pages.  As a skeptic of Dark Fantasy translation from books into films, this is one of the best character transitions I’ve ever seen. 

Is the series “Game of Thrones” for everyone?  No.  Are the books for everyone?  No.  But for the readers and viewers, that do like it, will everyone like Tyrion?  Yes. 

On Taking On Character Traits

"Last of the Mohicans"

As we create our lead character in fiction, we’re creating someone we’re channeling most of our energy in, nearly betting it all, because in fiction, if the audience does not connect with the lead character, the story falls flat.  I hear about this most often in “method acting” when the actors “become” the characters in order to bring them to life on screen (looks difficult to me). 

In fantasy, do we writers daydream?  I hope so.  Because that’s what fantasy is, drummed up in our minds.  New exciting worlds, enchanting conflict, tension between human and non-human characters, and most often with some kind of protagonist/antagonist concept. 

But when we authors face our reality day-to-day, do we ever feel the traits we created in our characters?  Or did we keep their traits hidden inside, brought to the page, and now feel bolder to expose the alter ego depending on real-life challenges? 

Obviously the above can lead to destructive and even dangerous behavior, so certainly I don’t suggest fantasy writers take on the negative traits of even protagonist characters.  In life, sometimes we feel like we have antagonists, but the complexities of reality reach far beyond any fantasy.   If I thought I was Shevata for a day…let’s not think about such things.  That level of destruction should stay where it is, inside the mind.

Can our fantasy writing ever help us through the tough realistic times?  I think so.  We writers don’t need to pretend we’re someone else for our work.  I like to think about the world I’ve created and of other stories I’ve read.  Creative outlets help relieve stress, and if nothing else, my expanded reading helps my verbal vocabulary.  When I’m cornered professionally, these days I have a verbal answer with “teeth” (no biting) that makes sense, instead of defensiveness.  Professionals need that ability in any field.

Writers, your work is your strength, on and off the page.  Our work is part of us.  While I think it’s a bit far-fetched to go around acting out my character, as I’m not an actor by trade, still our characters we create give something back to us during the times we least expect.  Though limited to our minds, that’s still enough to give us strength when we need it.