Friday, June 28, 2013

Protagonist Club!

I've gotten out of the habit of talking about my WIPs, but I think I've already mentioned how my friend (who has asked to be called Lieutenant Sarcasm here) and I are working on a story together. We're calling it Protagonist Club, but the protagonists do not belong to a club. In fact, there is no club because there are only two of them.



Serenity (left) is Lieutenant Sarcasm's character; Justine (right) is mine (I am Captain Obvious).

Process: LS and I have a google doc organized thus: Resources (including this), Dramatis Personae, the Story Itself, and Amusing Gifs/Videos/Pictures. LS writes Serenity's parts, I write Justine's, but we're not really focusing on a certain plot yet, just writing whatever we feel like. Thank goodness for the internet: real-time collaboration is a whole lot of fun, as well as being productive.

Premise: Serenity and Justine, who have both been learning magic since the age of eight, find out about one another's magicianhood in freshman year and spend the rest of high school solving problems, causing problems, getting into trouble, getting out of trouble, crushing on boys, and having adventures.

Genre: Suburban fantasy. I keep on putting off the post about that, but really it's self-explanatory: magic hidden in a suburban setting. As the following excerpt shall demonstrate:

-

Justine Fischer was, by her own admission, not observant. It took her days to notice haircuts, weeks to notice braces, and months to notice that the girl who sat next to her in freshman English knew magic.

December 2010. The last final before Winter Break. Justine had just finished the essay portion and sat wringing her hand energetically, trying to get it to feel less like it had been used for a pincushion. She glanced around the classroom and saw several people still sitting with their heads bent over their papers, scribbling furiously. The teacher, an iron-haired, weak-willed woman who had pasted Frida Kahlo prints all over the walls behind her desk, sat dozing over a stack of Scantrons.

Justine looked back at the clock, and then over at her other side. Strange, she thought, that Serenity Fontaine, who usually finished everything first and best, should still be writing. Justine told herself that she wasn’t trying to be sneaky (she lied), and casually looked over.

Yellow ink for an in-class essay? Shocking! Still more shocking was what Serenity was writing - or, was that drawing? It looked like a Celtic knot, but with clouds and leaves. Justine began to think that it was not for the essay at all.

“That’s cool,” she said, in a whisper because she didn’t want anyone to think she was cheating. “What’s it for?”

Serenity’s head jerked up. She looked horrified. “You can see -?” she started, then stopped abruptly. “It’s for art,” she said.

“Oh,” said Justine. What had she meant, “You can see?” She wasn’t exactly writing in invisible ink, was she? Though, that ink did glimmer strangely in the light, as if it were...

What had Elivia told her, just last Sunday? Certain plants, if plucked and smashed and strained at the right times, will yield inks with interesting properties, like being visible only to people who know certain things. Justine said, “Did you make that ink yourself?”

“I - what?” Serenity stared at her. Her fingers gripped the pen tightly - and didn’t the shaft, if you tilted your head the right way, look as though it were made of wood, and carved all over with strange symbols? - and then she set it down on her desk.

The bell rang, and the rest of the class erupted into the sound of bags packed and papers thrown toward the Frida Kahlo desk corner and people wishing one another to have fun over break. Justine and Serenity looked at one another. Outside, the sky was overcast, perfect weather for hot chocolate and a book, or for climbing a tree and transforming into a storm petrel, after you had applied the correct marks to your arms, of course.

“Out of crushed almond blossoms and eyebright? Stirred with crow feathers?” said Justine. She put her pencil case back into her backpack and passed her essay forward, stalling for time as she searched her memory for the last property. Aha! “Collected at new moon last February?”

Serenity’s expression of horror was fading now into surprise and consideration. Slowly she folded the paper on which she’d been drawing and put it into her coat pocket. She stuck her pen behind her ear, revealing feathered earrings.

“Yeah,” she said. “Exactly.”

For a moment they stood there. Then Serenity laughed and said a few words in a language that could sound like birdsong, or the rustling of leaves in a forest, or - and this is what it sounded like to Justine - salt waves breaking on sea rocks. She replied in kind.

Their conversation could be transcribed thus:

“I, Serenity, who have slipped within wave upon wavebreak and defied the bonds of earth, do recognize you, Justine, as a fellow magician.”

“I, Justine, who have sung the song of whales through my bones and swum through the mountain’s veins, likewise recognize you, Serenity.”

Or thus:

“You, too?”

“Damn right.”

-

You guys get enough of my prose. Here, for your perusal, is an excerpt from one of LS's segments, with a description of the Coolest Room Ever:

-

Serenity left the kitchen, turning left down another wide hallway and up a set of stairs. On the second floor, there were a few white doors, but Serenity opened the one covered in dried jasmine vines and drawings of landscapes. Her room was much the same as her door. There were fresh ivy wreaths resting on the top of every lamp, and small potted plants on her desk and shelves. Pictures and posters of nature covered the white wallpaper, along with other stranger pieces of paper. On the left wall was a large aquarium, filled with plaster coral rocks and water plants, and no small amount of fish. Tucked into the far left corner was her bed, messy from where she left it that morning; in the right corner, a small wooden staircase wound straight up into the ceiling. A large window on the far wall spilled light on every surface.

Serenity dropped her backpack off near her desk with a thud, and hung her keys on her corkboard. Treading around the clothes strewn chaotically on the floor - as her dad liked to call it, her horizontal closet - she flopped onto her bed, warmed from the sunlight. There was just something relaxing about breathing in the crisp smell of clean, warm fabric. Serenity could’ve stayed there all afternoon until the sun disappeared behind the trees, but she had things to do. Serenity burrowed her head further into her pillow and gave herself five more blissful minutes. Then she got up and ascended the staircase.

Where the staircase met the ceiling there was a small trapdoor, to keep out the dust. Serenity flipped the door open and crawled into the spacious attic. It spanned the entire house, so it was huge: more space than what Serenity knew what to do with. It was still pretty dirty and dusty, but since Serenity and her family were so busy with their new work and unpacking, the attic had been a bit neglected. But in some of her free time Serenity had begun to clean most of the cobwebs and mothballs away, and to wipe the windows clean, so there was a little more light coming in every day.

-

LS has identified Yiruma's rendition of "River Flows in You" (which she can play on the piano) as Serenity's theme song.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Paper Chains

I've been feeling isolated. Have a gander at Matthew Battles's article, How Writers Interact with the World.

Early-modern European authors had their commonplace books: journals they filled with excerpts from classical and modern works, snippets of journalism and reflections gleaned from daily life. More than a mere journal, the commonplace book can be thought of as a paper-based interface for the social world of letters, in which Enlightenment-era writers continuously added, combined and swapped out snippets of found text gleaned from such new media as newspapers, broadsides and learned journals.
Meta moment: this is essentially what the "Good Hunting" posts are, though I have a lot of material to which I want to respond in a longer format, like this.

Later writers embraced such practices. Ralph Waldo Emerson kept journals assiduously; throughout his life they piled up, volume upon volume, constituting eventually a kind of search engine through which he could retrieve his vagrant thoughts and half-recollected ideas. Emerson’s practice of keeping journals combined the early-modern commonplace book with fragments of his own nascent essays, verse and drafts of letters. Emerson and his correspondents comprised a social network to be sure — and the degree of interoperability between letters, journals and finished, printed works was very high. The young Emerson sometimes saddled his diary book with the title “The Wide World” — a glimpse of his sententiousness, but also a premonition of the sage who would exhort the American scholar to “run eagerly into [the] resounding tumult” of the world, which furnishes “the raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid products.… The manufacture goes forward at all hours.”
I like the idea of sending paper letters to people, though I embrace the efficiency of das Interwebz. The more important inspiration from this paragraph is the message of collaboration: make an attempt at clarifying your thoughts on your own, refine them, show them to your closest friends, refine them some more, and then send your words out into the world.

The literary promise of this mundane manufactory was evident to Virginia Woolf as well. Throughout her fiction she attacked the problem of the world’s persistent demand upon our attention, which overcomes even the security and seclusion of a room of one’s own. Woolf asks us to imagine that room: one “like many thousands, with a window looking across people’s hats and vans and motor-cars to other windows” — only to plunge us immediately into the streetscape below, into the city of clattering coal-holes and careening cabs, whose citizens are “shot backwards and forwards on this plain foundation to make some pattern.” The room of one’s own Woolf calls for is no citadel but a kind of research vessel — not an abbey but an instrument, not a fortress, but a connection.
Soon (as soon as it gets returned to the library) I will read Woolf's essay "A Room of One's Own". It may be a preemptive move on my part to write this; however: what I think a room of one's own means is a place that is entirely yours, that you control and arrange to suit yourself, and from which you can launch yourself into the external world. If you bring people into your room it is solely on your terms.

The room, in other words, is the physical manifestation of your mind. (Which reminds me that I need to do a real mind map soon.)

Of course, Woolf hardly remained in seclusion. The Bloomsbury scene was famously hectic and vital, generating dense clouds of correspondence, terrible feuds and heady collaborations. With her husband, Leonard, Virginia started a press to publish not only their work but that of literary friends and colleagues — a premonition of Kickstarters to come.

Not unlike those earlier literary networks, the Internet now furnishes vivid and shifting interfaces for writerly composition, collection and competition.
Right now with one of my closest friends (let's call her J for now) I'm working on a Protagonist Club story. If she agrees I'll tell you all about it on Friday. For now, without going into details, we're collaborating over google docs and agree on major things before moving forward; however we each have our own "character" (though I'm consciously trying to make my girl, Justine, not exactly like me) over whose details we have final say. It's a splendid arrangement and I am enjoying it immensely.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Orsolya

It's been a few months since I last talked about my current WIP, Orsolya, in a post of its own. Progress has there been. Problems there remain (I'm actually somewhat in a slump right now. Hopefully this survey of where I am in the story will help shake me loose).

Some stats:

Time elapsed (real): 3 months
Time elapsed (story): 4 months
Chapters finished: 2
Words written: 30000+
Distance covered: c. 700 miles

Setting:

Landscape c. Chapter 2, beginning:
(source)
Landscape c. Chapter 2, end:
(source)
Chapter 3 has a few more towns. Imagine this:
(source)
Added to this:
(source)
The Lion Country is what happens if you put North Africa in the Great Plains. Don't forget a sprinkling of magic.

Chapter 4 (which I am writing now) takes place in what would happen if Poland was actually Illinois and other states bordering the Great Lakes. Plus magic, which changes everything.

Besen, a v. important town, is kind of like 19th century Krakow:
(source)
Added, perhaps, to Minnesota.

Techniques: when I have a scene or part of a scene fully planned out, with all nuances decided, I write a series of short sentences describing the action of the scene and then, the next time I write, simply go through and expand each sentence with more details. This works best on action scenes where there's little introspection or dialogue.

Every once in a while, when I feel stale, I'll take a Friday off to write snippets in a completely different style and setting (usually contemporary).

Macro: Orsolya is part of the GW-UO storyline (GW is the world, UO=Unwise Ones=the semi-contemporary setting in which I have most of my characters). This occasionally causes problems.

In Chapter 4, which I'm writing now, Orsolya and Nikodim meet up with a lot of the characters associated with Besen. I've written lots of stories about these people and know them pretty well. Readers of those other works will know right away who Thaddeus, Andreas, and Vin are, and their importance in the second half of the story (spoiler!) will make sense.

But if a reader starts with Orsolya's story (and yes, I'm assuming that this is going to be published someday) then these characters seem to come out of the blue. Orsolya is meant to be able to stand alone as a novel, and the plot focuses on her character arc, so I can't put in too much background information on these lads just yet. Still - there has to be some way to handle this intersection of storylines.

What I'll probably end up doing: go back and put in more references to Orsolya's family. When Orsolya and Nik meet Vin, he's in a pretty important position already so I'll just have to watch that his past doesn't predominate. I'll exploit the Thaddeus scenes that will start appearing early in the second half to develop him and Andreas before they get thrown into action. And so on.

Summary of Findings: A little bit of travel journal flavor is not bad when the world you're describing is vastly different from the real one.

Allies as well as enemies can show up unexpectedly.

In a first draft, unless you have a deep gut feeling of something being wrong, it's usually better to blaze on through than worry about technique. If you do get a deep gut feeling of something being wrong, however - where you jump out of bed at 0200 to write down the way things should have gone down - act!

Make stuff go wrong. It keeps long journeys from being too dull.

Bonus:

It's the fourth Soul Eater ending. Mock not - it suits the writing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Story Bones: Hilari Bell's Structure Points

Last week I examined the story bones of Sabriel, by Garth Nix. This week I'm taking a more theoretical approach, summarizing Hilari Bell's writing tips on story structure points. Comparison with the Sabriel post will show parallels.

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Organizational note: Bell grouped her structure points in pairs; that's why only every other structure point has a link.

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Establishing Shot

MC's ordinary life; hints at character flaws and conflicts. Must be relevant to rest of story (so if MC spirited away into fantasy world, spending a lot of time on his/her school life doesn't optimize page use*).

*In hindsight, this is why the May Bird series (Jodi Lynn Anderson) was disappointing - because the reader got invested in May's mundane life and then it got taken away.

Inciting Incident

Primary goal introduced. Has been otherwise known as "call to action".

Rising Action 1

MC makes a plan to confront main problem, and begins to implement that plan.

Change of Direction 1

Plan falls apart, and the MC must use different tactics/strategy to resolve the problem. Bell makes a useful distinction between an obstacle and a plot twist: the obstacle doesn't require the MC to change directions, while the plot twist does.

Rising Action 2

The middle. Internal and external conflicts both. To keep things interesting, the author must mercilessly throw problems at the MC, perhaps even bringing in the villain's direct involvement. The MC faces doubts. This is probably the segment with the most room for satisfying variation.

Commitment

Escalation of stakes. MC now faces real possibility of having everything crash and burn. I envision this part as a conscious decision (cross Rubicon v. cross an unguarded border), so probably done when the MC has a chance, however brief, to catch his/her breath.

Leadup to Climax

Short and intense. Sacrifices happen. Side plots get resolved, allies gather, everything focuses on the main goal. Bell's image: a train going uphill one click at a time.

Dark Moment

Something goes wrong, big time. The MC's victory thrown into question.

Climax

Character development and external plotline intersect. MC may make a sacrifice (for anything less than his/her life, Bell advises, go through with it or else risk cheapening the victory) and difficult decisions (choosing between two wrongs). However things turn out, the problem is resolved.

Denouement

Wrapup/fallout/release of tension. May involve brief timeskip.

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Use these notes as you see fit.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Good Hunting

Let us begin with death:

Homage to a Storyteller - Robert Ingpen
(source)
Lines from the poem "Requiem", by Robert Louis Stevenson:
UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
I want this read at my funeral, right before they play 'Trumpet Voluntary' with a band of ten tubas.

As if I needed another reason to cry: Letting Go, by Atul Gawande.

Weird things:

Nisroch
(source)

Enochian magic: "a system of ceremonial magic based on the evocation and commanding of various spirits." Found while researching for a short story about angels.

Why We Need Gods and Monsters, by Mary SanGiovanni:
It’s almost as if we believe the older something is, the closer a connection it has to the origins of all things supernatural, like maybe in simpler times, other entities existed much more openly, and so did the ability to experience and understand those entities. Before so much existed to distract or get in the way, before time and flawed thinking burned and wiped such arcane knowledge from the earth, maybe once the mysteries we look to unravel were nearly solved.

...

I think we have a desire, maybe even the need, to solve puzzles, to create something from nothing, to understand what defies explanation. I don’t know whether we do that because we need to believe something greater exists beyond us and after us, once our short time on earth has ended, or because we take comfort in finding proof that there is nothing big and intimidating waiting for us and we can look forward to an eternal, oblivious rest.

Maybe we don’t always need something to believe in. Maybe sometimes, we just need something to wonder about, or something to try and prove. Or it’s possible that what we need to believe in is our ability to put all of our human experiences in perspective – even the ones outside of personal or societal norm.
In sum: we need fictional monsters to examine the monsters we are or can be.

Short stories!

Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy and Ballad of a Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl, both by Douglas F. Warrick

Portrait of a Chair, by Reggie Oliver

A longer post about Surrealism forthcoming.

Useful stuff:

Il Quartier Generale dei Piemontesi in Crimea - Gerolamo Induno
(source)

Essential Equipment, by Greg Wilson:
  • Peace and quiet
  • Comfortable seating
  • Gridded paper + ballpoint pens
  • Heavy mug with hot drink
  • Rubber duck to which to explain things
  • Kleenex
  • Chess set
  • Medicine balls to keep hands from cramping
  • Reference books
  • Shoes in case you need to run
  • Pictures
Advice from Anna Ho in Note to Self:
  • Working harder < working strategically and identifying what you're doing wrong
  • Get off campus regularly (see new sights)
  • You don't need to be the leader of every group you're in; other people are competent and dedicated too
  • Sleep; go to bed earlier
  • Smile

Average female faces globally: a resource for drawing.

Beauty:
Among the Bernese Alps - Albert Bierstadt
(source)

A poem: "Once", by the author of the Eldrum Tree blog. I may not partake of that ethereal elven forest pre-Raphaelite vibe, but a poem from the perspective of the questing prince is welcome.

The ships of Victoria Semykina. Essentially, collage on a theme with awesomeness. I haven't done much art lately; maybe I'll try something like this.

Happy things:

Crags of Capella - Robert Ingpen
(source)

Watching Birdwatchers, by Anna Ho:
Being an expert birdwatcher isn't just about making distinctions - it's about being excited about those distinctions. So excited that one is willing to make them in conditions that, to quote Davie, "change your understanding of what it means to be cold." It was really cold out there, but the birdwatchers still eagerly called out their observations, through runny noses. It was beautiful: the birdwatchers peered into lenses, scopes pointed out to a glittering blue Atlantic Ocean, while little birds bobbed up and down on the waves...One couldn't help but feel excited, too. I loved to watch the birdwatchers, for the same reason that I love watching concerts...There's something special about watching a human being doing something he or she loves. When I watch people singing, for example I always feel like they're higher: like they've lifted up into the air, and have taken me with them. Whenever a birdwatcher announced an exciting discovery, it felt like an exciting discovery for all of humanity, as exaggerated as that may sound.

...

In total, we saw 53 species of birds. Each species had its own special name, and each one looked different. It made me realize that there's enormous diversity that I'm absolutely blind to: in trees, for example, or plants or cars. I remember how proud I was after taking an Art History class in High School; I could walk around and really see buildings. I could place them in an approximate date range, rationalize why they had been designed that way and who for - appreciate the range of architectural styles around my home and through the ages. Architecture, birds, trees, people: It's a lovely way to see the world.
Plans for the summer: learn to look at the trees and other plants in my neighborhood.*

Tropical Marginal World - Robert Ingpen
(source)

*By learn to look, I mean, of course, to see.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Story Bones: Sabriel

I should really be writing this post after reading some Joseph Campbell, but I'm usually not a person who throws caution to the winds and I'd like to do something different. Besides, if I read his work then my own opinions will likely bow to the weight of his authority and I'd like to do a before/after comparison.

Anyway.

I went through the book Sabriel, by Garth Nix, and did a chapter by chapter outline - fewer than eight words per chapter - to see the progression of the story, the rise and fall of tension, where important characters entered, so on. Then I broke the chapters up into rough arcs, which I will discuss below.

Warning: no specific plot details discussed, but potentially lots of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

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Safety/origins

The protagonist (henceforth referred to as MC) is safe, ensconced in one lifestyle, perhaps on the verge of a transition - graduation, in this case, or in general terms on the border between child and adult. Pacing note: one or two representative scenes will suffice.

Call to action

Danger calls, someone close to the MC needs their help, and MC must decide whether or not to leave the comfort of the past. The answer in a satisfying story is yes.

Crossing the border

Leaving behind the known for the unknown, the dangerous; usually a world that feels more "real" or vital. In Sabriel, going into a world with advanced magic (unpredictable) instead of advanced technology (which usually plays nice with humans).

Thrown into danger

Before the MC can get comfortable in their new world, danger strikes and they must immediately respond. They often do so with panic. This initial danger is often indirectly related to the big danger that drew them in. Rarely does the Big Bad itself make an appearance.

Refueling/safe haven

Help comes from an unexpected quarter and the MC has some time (usually limited) to get acclimatized, or at the very least to catch their breath. May gain an important ally and lay plans.

Tangential crisis and resolution

Those plans go astray and MC is thrown off track. Often wind up exactly where they need to be anyway - that is, the pit stop won't be an arbitrary place.

Gain ally

Team member(s) added. Good to have someone to rely on, though interpersonal problems may arise.

Journeying toward danger

In Sabriel, this segment is something for which I've not coined an appropriate phrase: some conglomeration of unpursued/has a lead on the enemy/not in immediate danger. Steady, deliberately-paced progress toward the goal. Pacing note: can be skipped over if monotonous (mini time skip). Get more info about the threat. Not usually a physically comfortable part of the story, but low on terror.

Refueling

Last stop before venturing out into the wilderness. Lay final plans, catch breath again, get more supplies.

Into danger

Pacing note: usually there's a pretty short space (in time/space/pages) between refueling and confrontation. Mostly the point is to show the MC walking unflinchingly toward the goal/turning down the last change to go back.

Encounter with enemy

MC and allies find out that they underestimated the enemy or are otherwise underprepared, or that the problem is more complex than they anticipated. Either way, they come out of it by sheer luck or a sacrifice or some panic-born stratagem.

Strategic retreat/Regrouping with more allies

Withdraw from the arena and dig within for more useful information and such. Preparations. Very time sensitive. More likely than any other part of the story for mobilization of many people.

Final battle

Last confrontation with the enemy, draw on all inner reserves. Most likely place in story for people to die; in certain types of stories, this includes the MC. In better stories, the MC uses some information or skill the reader has seen them acquire over the course of the story (foreshadowing) to defeat the Big Bad. (And I would argue that in satisfying stories, the MC does win, even if at a great price.)

Denouement

Wrapping things up. In some stories, the epilogue falls under this category.

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General pacing notes: the first half of the story usually takes much longer (in in-story time) than the second half, because events move quickly after the last stop (see refueling, above). The reader's reading pace also tends to accelerate with in-story danger, so very likely once the reader passes the last stop the rest of book will be read in one sitting.

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Take or leave these notes as you see fit. I am going to do more examinations of story structure, simply for my own use, to see what pulls readers along with the story and what stops them short. Next week I may take a look at Hilari Bell's story structure points, unless a shiny other topic catches my attention. We shall see.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Turnus's Objection to the Fates

Death of Turnus - Luigi Ratini
(source)

You may say that I had no hope
That the earthshaker chose Aeneas
To be father of kings, founder of empires
That I was naïve to issue a challenge
Against one so loved by the immortal gods:
Very well. Then was I foolish, in defense
Of my honor and country, foolish
For the love of a girl and of war
To fight? Well, did I not kill
The Trojans when they brought me,
Like the fatal horse, within their walls?
For my pride, for my impatience
I was ruined: but dead I am yet a warrior -
I won and was destroyed by my own right arm.
Fates, leave me only this last, human dignity.

-

versione italiana:

L’Obiezione di Turno Alle Parche

Potreste dire che nessuna speranza mi veniva
Che il Signore del terremoto ha scelto Enea
Per essere padre dei re, fondatore dell’Impero
Che ero ingenuo lanciando una sfida
Ad uno cosi’ amato dagli immortali dei:
Va bene. Ecco, era una follia, la difesa
Del mio onore e paese; una follia
Per l’amore di una ragazza e della guerra
Combattere? Eh, ma non ho ucciso
I troiani quando mi avevano portato,
Come il cavallo fatale, dentro le pareti?
Per l’orgoglio, per mancanza di pazienza
Sono rovinato: ma morto sono ancora guerriero -
Vincevo e sono stato distrutto grazie al mio braccio destro.
Parche, lasciatemi solo quest’ultima, umana dignita’.

--

I have an issue with cheering for the wrong side in epic poems.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Doppelgangers and Mana Personalities

Welcome to my personal lexicon.

All writers use other people, whether it is stealing lines and gestures and character tics, or modeling relationships, or sounding ideas. Writers can also use people to understand themselves better, and I do that in two main ways: through Doppelgangers and Mana Personalities. By projecting yourself onto a character or another figure, you can more clearly examine who you are. The process also occurs unconsciously, in which case becoming aware of it helps spot trends.

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Doppelgangers:

Traditional definition: a supernatural body double of a living person. Often an omen of death and bad luck, impersonating the real person and causing destruction.

How I use it: a character you create that is at least two steps away from a self-insert but with whom you identify and empathize more than with your other characters. Symptoms include writing through them as an outlet for powerful emotions, wanting them to have happy endings even if they suffer a lot, having difficulty giving them huge character flaws that you do not possess and accept in yourself, and general favoritism in terms of screen time and powers.

Brief examples: all of mine have dark hair, are introverted, are or were angry, have a weak relationship with their biological family, can fight and do magic, and are taller than me. I'm planning to do more general character posts for my story casts; for now, here are some short descriptions of my GW Doppelgangers:

-Vincent Adam Linden: my main Doppelganger (since his invention, I have become more like him). Tall, Jewish, adept at mind magic. Banished with his family from his home country of Sekkedina after accidentally driving three boys insane when he was eight; powerful enough that the gods held trial. Has the protection of the Serpent, god of Chaos. Was deeply misanthropic all through middle and high school. Opened up some more in college, where he studied civil engineering. Loves: knowledge, the ocean, and (after age 25) a hazel-eyed healer named Andreas Kale.

-Orsolya Markov: main character of my current WIP. Angry about pretty much everything. Suppresses her emotions. Not good enough at magic to attract the attention of any of the gods, but uses her earth/metal elemental powers to great advantage. Can beat anyone in a one-on-one spar. Heavily scarred. Works as a Peacekeeper in the Metallic Citadel when she's not rescuing people. Fights with any weapon of reach (halberd preferred). Falls in love and hates every minute of it.

Note: when Vin and Orsolya meet, they don't like one another very much.

-Evan Squall: motif of sharks. Immensely powerful wizard, but also a Dark Storm Knight. Essentially abandoned to be trained as a knight at the age of six after his father (a landowner from Pont Island) died. Hates people, all people. Loyal to the traitor-prince Cameron until betrayed; post banishment, wanders the continent getting into trouble. I have only very vague ideas about his story, particularly its timing relative to the main GW-UO storyline. It might take place a generation earlier.

-Ingrid Unterbrink/Serpensalv, the Sorceress: ran away from home at the age of six to become apprentice to Enchantress Yvon. Saved Chaos and Order before she turned sixteen. Henceforth a priest of Chaos. Wandered the earth for about ten years (studying at the prestigious Ailin University) before settling down in a stone tower to advance magic. Long braids, powerful jewelry, heavy duty traveling cloak. Trained three young magicians Riming, Elspeth, and Marcantonio in her spare time. Friend and legal advisor to the Falcon Knight Dominic Waldfogel.

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Mana Personalities:

Traditional definition: Jungian psychology. Powerful archetypes. Wise Old Wo/Man, Earth Mother, superior of same gender (same-sex parent). Has both whole and twisted/chthonic/dark sides.

How I use it: a historical or literary figure (meaning: someone you haven’t met personally) who seems to embody what you want for yourself, or whom you admire, or whose symbolism and representation in popular culture fascinates you, or to whom you feel inexplicably drawn.

Brief examples: Back in the day when I was semi-obsessed with the Myer-Briggs test, I scoured the “historical and literary INTJ” pages. Some of this list is built from that. Some is from reading or school and finding resonance. Much is simply aspirational.

Some names in no particular order, with explanations:

-Augustus Caesar: an INTJ, a general, the first emperor, more successful than Julius at getting power. Gave his name to my birth month.

Augustus Caesar
(source)
-Imhotep: Renaissance man from Old Kingdom Egypt. An engineer and a priest. Deified. Mysterious and powerful.

-Napoleon Bonaparte: short but powerful. Said “Death is nothing. But to live, defeated and without glory - that is to die every day.” Came to power legitimately and then kept on taking. Established lycees. Emerged from the heady Enlightenment days.

detail from Napoleon Crossing the Alps, by Jacques-Louis David
(source)

-Patroklos: loyal and doomed. Though not as good a warrior as Achilles, far more mature. Also had a great sense of humor. After stabbing a guy who then fell off his chariot: “Bless my heart, how active he is, and how well he dives. If we had been at sea this fellow would have dived from the ship’s side and brought up as many oysters as the whole crew could stomach, even in rough water, for he has dived beautifully off his chariot on to the ground. It seems, then, that there are divers also among the Trojans.” (Iliad, Book 16)

-Turnus: enemy of Aeneas, had the more legitimate claim to Lavinia’s h/land. Awesome warrior. Not favored by the gods or fate, but strove mightily anyway. I wrote a poem about him, which I will post later.

-Alexander Hamilton: first Secretary of the Treasury of the USA, founding father, Federalist (and co-author of the Federalist Papers). Elitist but forward-thinking, and honorable (take that, Burr!). Not bad-looking.

$10 bill
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-Niccolo Machiavelli: my admiration solidified following his portrayal in Michael Scott’s series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Smart, perceptive, contradictory. Way before his time in calling for Italian unification.

-Fa Mulan: the Disney movie is my favorite. Not sure I identify with a strong sense of family, but: break the rules, be awesome at it. Cunning > brute force.

-Isaac Newton: though I know the Newtonian worldview is incomplete, how beautiful it is! I have a soft spot for rationalists, deists, and the Enlightenment in general, and Newton to a large extent brought that about. The man invented calculus!

-Tezcatlipoca: Smoking Mirror. Aztec god of the night, north, obsidian, jaguars, sorcery, war. Enemy/rival of Quetzalcoatl even though they collaborated to make the world in some accounts.

(source)
Trends? I see sneakiness, subtlety, war, honor, rationality, elitism. I also note that there's only one female, Mulan, who dressed up as a man...hm. That troubles me a little. Joan of Arc would have been up there but, well, religion. A surprising number of politicians and warriors.

My self-indulgence aside: it may be useful for you to identify Doppelgangers and Mana Personalities your own. Just another brick in the edifice of the self.