Badassery Part 2: The Measure of a Mook

14 Aug

I’ll start off with saying that it’s difficult to define where to draw the lines, because fantasy is full of characters who can exceed human limitations. I’m not going to lecture you on what people are capable of, if you’re reading this you have the internet and can learn all about what a fit and healthy person is capable.

Mooks can be either villainous henchmen or cops you need to generically lose so Batman steps up. Obviously, the type of mook depends on the subcategory – the requirements of a ninja are different than that of a Viking raider, and depending on what your group is, once you have a team of elites, being better than just about everyone might be the status quo. Point being, sometimes you need a group who can be interchangeable – when you call 911 because your house is being robbed, I’m not sure if anyone says, “And make sure the cop has excellent listening skills!”

But if you want to make your band memorable, you should probably develop a bit of time making them different beyond their personalities.

I often use rangers in the series I’m working on, and I figure it’s a good group to reference. In this context, they’re woodsy folk whose order came from a military model, but over time have been amalgamated into a territorial police force. They do a variety of different tasks: beyond law enforcement, they deliver messages and supplies, maintain various trails, and can back up other agencies as necessary.

So the obvious skills would be nature survival – if the weather turns bad, they need to find shelter, find sustenance if supplies run thin (hunting and foraging) and orienteering. Other common skills would be horsemanship and maintenance, archery, as well as passing literacy for your common grunt. When they get into the higher ranks, there’s more administrative duties, as well as specialist training; it’s not uncommon for the child of a ranger to accompany their parent, work odd jobs in the stables, apprentice and pick up a specific skill, such as shoeing horses, do odd delivery jobs as they get a little older, become a ranger for most of their adulthood, then “retire” back to working the stables if they sustain a chronic injury.

I have dozens of these guys, and making them interchangeable would be boring as a writer, let alone as a reader. Beyond their sparkling personalities, I usually start to differentiate them based on what their past. For instance, one of my young recruits, Keefe, is the nephew of a ranger, and therefore before he begins has an idea as to what the job entails – he never states whether or not he ever went with his uncle or worked in the stables as a youth, but it’s implied he understands some of what the more experienced rangers are doing and he picks things up the fastest. When he starts out, he isn’t particularly good at anything, but his insider knowledge helps him give pointers to his friend. Vincent, who grew up knowing Keefe and started at the same time, is the son of a lumberjack. He is quite a bit stronger than Keefe, but he’s not as good with some seemingly nominal skills – he doesn’t like riding horses initially, and is more interested in learning weapons than learning some of the survival skills. As these two develop in their careers, there’s a marked difference between two characters of the same age of similar class and background, and I haven’t told you who’s the introvert or their main character flaws. One might argue that Keefe sounds like he’s better off in this situation. Vincent’s background can imply a different but still useful skillset – lumberjacks work in the woods, afterall, and so while he wouldn’t inherently know as much as Keefe, he might know more than say, a third character – I’ll use the MC, Rain – who is a little older, but from a very different part of the world. Because he grew up in a very different climate, other characters have to help him with things locals would automatically know, and out of all of them, he’s the most vulnerable to the elements. He’s not the guy you come looking to if you were to need a specific question answered about trying to get a shelter erected in a blizzard, but both younger characters would be behind him if they were having trouble with their horses or a fight was imminent. Again – you know nothing of their personalities.

I’ll talk about “Specialists” here because I think there’s plenty to talk about when we get to Part 3: Elites. Specialists would be characters who perform a certain function. In a larger setting, they might be non-combatants but, in a smaller setting, sometimes your bands tend to be more self-reliant.

In the commentary of Riddick, Katie Sackhoff talks about her character needing to have a reason why she’s with the group of mercenaries. She’s designated as a sniper, so it can explain why, if a character is a seeming token, especially in a brutal world, why she’s kept around or ranks higher than another character. Although Riddick’s technically worth more dead, her boss wants words with him first (additionally, he’s swiped a part necessary for their ship to leave the hostile planet) since Riddick is identified as highly dangerous, it shows that her boss is the sort of man who’s got the types of tranquilizers necessary to keep him from doing the up close and personal stuff that is his trademark.

Identifying a given character as important at a task can add a dynamic if said needs to be accomplished but the usual character can’t do it. Let’s go back to my rangers: Rain’s the fighter, but in this instance, he’s sustained injuries so he can’t defend the group like he normally would. It heightens the drama as say, Vincent, who was keen for it, saw what fighting is really like, and is struggling with doing something that not only scares him, he might find it repugnant. Juxtapose any guilt, even misguided, that Rain got hurt because he hesitated last time. What would be easy for Rain might be nearly impossible for Vincent. Tell me, as a reader, what do you find more interesting?

Let’s finish off with some mook-on-mook action. Our three above rangers have been captured, by let’s say some robber bandits, and they’re outnumbered and taken back to the jolly camp of ne’er-do-wells. They’ve identified Rain as the fighter, and Vincent, well, the guy looks strong, but they went and underestimated Keefe, so while Rain and Vincent are kept locked and under guard, Keefe is kept lightly chained and forced to do work around the camp, much to some stereotypical jeering because I’m being lazy.

Keefe is effectively the non-combat protagonist I talked about in the previous post. Assuming one of his captors gives him a sword and goads him into fighting, the reality is that short of Keefe revealing he was a wizard all along, fighting isn’t going to get him out of his situation. Let’s look at the skills Keefe has: The odds of him freeing the other two are slim to none by himself, but if he escapes, he can go get help. In this example, I haven’t established whether or not he can pick locks, so it would be a saving butt-pull for him to unchain himself or suddenly have a wide set of improbable ninja skills. If he lets the robbers know he’s competent, he’s going to get just as guarded as the other two, so he might play dumb to his advantage. I’ve established Keefe knows his foraging – and while I’ve never established him as a truffle hunter, I’ll bet you he knows certain mushrooms that definitely shouldn’t go in the soup pot.  This can totally backfire;  if someone figures this out they might force Keefe or someone he cares about to eat the soup. This example is all about thinking of creative ways of solving problems. You know your characters, I know if Keefe tries to seduce the robber’s daughter, it will end poorly (although given his character, that still wouldn’t be a deterrent). The minute that Keefe gets free he goes back to standard mook –but if I want the reader to sympathize with Keefe, he’s best off being proactive when the situation allows it, whether that’s sneaking Vincent a weapon or leaving marks on a tree while he “tends to nature” to tell other rangers where they’re going, the reader will probably recognize that the character did what they could, based on the situation. Keefe joining the bandits might be a plot twist or lazy writing, depending on how it’s handled.

So all and all – sometimes you just need a generic force and, let’s be honest, not all teams are the same. But taking the time to develop how this force’s skill set might differ, might help you utilize small details to make your crews seem not only authentic, but relatable.

Badassery Part 1: The Non-Combat Protagonist

10 Aug

I first started to write when I was fairly young – I loved sport and was competitive. This, combined with a love of pulp-novels and adventure movies, probably made me write characters who, were capable of a variety of physical activity.

After I got my BA, I studied firefighting and paramedicine, and, while I’ll attest to the limitations of my own body (Chronic R ankle injury, yo) it has made my suspension of disbelief really fail really fast. I’m that jerk who kind of accepts that most people get CPR wrong in the movies, and whenever I see violence on screen, I am looking for mechanism of injury and start speculating what injuries are likely.

And, with the market as competitive as it is, I often watch movies and notice how we’re told that a character isn’t only cool – they’re badass. My main issue? It effectively becomes beating up Worf. I’m not saying you can’t have characters who are extremely powerful, but that means as a writer, I need to come up with characters that are even more badass, or make the threat to the character something that can’t be handled via physical prowess.

So how do we keep in mind character struggles, especially when genres such as science fiction, horror and fantasy involve characters that can be much stronger than average?

To me, the answer to how to create dynamic struggles with a very powerful character is considering how to solve a problem when you can’t punch your way through it. Obviously, one could argue that the use of superior technology is in the role of a combatant (in other words, if I give regular Joe a tank with training, and the best swordsman on the planet is across a field, their fight is a little one sided). Making your characters a force to be reckoned with but making their struggle real is gonna be split into several parts, and I’m going to start with “lightweights” – these would be characters most would assume no to light threat, followed by a standard mook, then the Uber Warriors. Feel free to nitpick and argue, because I am a firm believer in tactics over raw power. I believe most humans throughout historical conflict died from infection and, no matter how much of a magnificent creature you are, you and I are still prone to dying from minute concentrations of chemicals, heat exposure, and lots of stuff is poisonous. Look up “Carfentanyl” and how much is needed to tank one of us.

I’ll also point out the average human being, even if they are pacifists – is capable of fighting back. This is about a character who recognizes that, all things being fair, they’re likely to lose against a regular human being, let alone a hero amongst heroes. This might be because they’re very young or old, or they might have a disability or relatively weak.

Take this into consideration if you’re writing about individuals you would never consider physical if you were to place them in the population as a whole. Pretend, in a pre-cell phone era, we have a group of urbanite retirees out hiking, and their rough-and-tumble tour-guide gets injured in a rock slide, blocking the fastest route back to help. Someone has to go get help, so they’ll probably chose from amongst themselves the individual best suited to make the journey while the rest make camp and wait for help. They’d probably pick someone with orienteering skills or in the best shape physically, but if they’re in a very specific area, they might pick the person who is the most familiar with the type of terrain. They might argue about if the individual should go around the long way, compromising the injured guide as time takes its effect, or if they have the skill and equipment to repel down and go directly for help, knowing that if anything happens to the person going, they’ll have more than one injured person to contend with.

How does this relate to the speculative fiction genre? Especially when we have superheroes who need kryptonite for there to be drama? Perhaps there’s an extremely famous version in one of fantasy’s best examples: Hobbits.

You don’t have to save kingdoms and destroy ancient evils to prove your species is capable of accomplishing great tasks, but let’s be honest: If somehow you were to invoke trial by combat and allowed to pick any fictional character to defend you, and you probably wouldn’t pick any of Tolkien’s hobbits as your first choice. I’m not saying you couldn’t write a hobbit who was a powerhouse, but even this hypothetical character would probably recognize that his reach and jump isn’t as good as the average sized human.

One of the strengths of a hobbit is that they’re seen as not a threat, that allows them to go unnoticed – much to the detriment of Dark Lords everywhere. So for us, the battle seems like a physical impossibility. For the hobbits – even the journey is that much longer with shorter legs. But, not only are they capable, they are able to triumph because they hold onto what is good and just longer than humans might. Pretend, for instance, that another character took the ring from the council of Elrond, and for argument’s sake, they’ve got a hobbit-like constitution in terms of being corrupted by it. Virtually every other character at the council would be likely to slay golem or not be listened to by Faramir. Because they have strength, they might better rely on it rather than Frodo taking it seriously about destroying it the way he was told.

My character of Naguset from Tower of Obsidian plays in this theme. She’s a young Miq’Mac woman who was kidnapped and kept in slavery, she’s underweight and her value is as a guide. The aforementioned Tower was designed to defeat warriors and sorcerers. One of my MCs, Aaron, is let’s just say, as strong as a normal mook can get. The son of a blacksmith who became a man-at-arms, you don’t get to be either of those if you can’t open a jar of pickles. Aaron’s reliance on his strength got him into trouble more than once, and ultimately his going at things head first was useful in some instances, but ultimately failed him in getting the sword he needed to challenge the immortals of the tower. Naguset, by contrast, was able to perform a difficult swimming task and injured one of the dragons (albeit in human form) because he assumed she was helpless, whereas Aaron was incapacitated and left to starve to death. Stabbing someone when they’re not expecting it is hardly honorable, but given the character was going to Do Bad Things to her, Sir Wellington’s Rules of Fisticuffs need not apply.

A non-combatant specialist can be more than helpful – their help might be vital in a struggle. An obvious character who might be tagging along in a war might be an engineer who recognizes structural weaknesses in fortresses or an individual who builds siege weapons. In Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire, we’re introduced to Beetee, who won his Hunger Games by electrocuting his opponents. One of the most influential characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, Petyr Baelish, fell in love with Catalyn Tully and, when she was betrothed to Brandon Stark, he challenged him for her hand. Petyr was badly beaten, and realized from that young age he wasn’t going to win by fighting his enemies directly, so he manipulated others to his will to accomplish what he wanted, creating a wonderful Machiavellian manipulator. Characters like Beetee and Peter would die if they tried to act out directly, but because they were able to utilize other means, they become extraordinarily lethal. Molly Grue from Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn comes across as excess baggage – but she proves to be brave, loyal and fierce, learning the secrets of Haggard’s Castle and giving Prince Lyr the words he needs to face the Red Bull.

I don’t want this blog to get much longer, so I’ll wrap it up with a final thought. Am I off the mark? Does writing a non-combatant character change the way, as writers, a physically powerful character addresses the plot? Not all plots are physical, but we’ll get into that more on the next post.

The Prequel or Parallel Series Or; On the Importance of keeping notes

7 Jul

When I started writing this, I was thinking mostly my own experience in writing the Prequel that is Witchslayer’s Scion, but I realized that this advice can be used for supplemental novellas or shorts, and isn’t limited just to prequels. So for starters, let’s start with some definitions:

Prequels: Events-wise most of the story predates a work that comes out first – like the Magician’s Apprentice in the Narnia series, which chronologically came out book 6 but is book 1 in the sequence, or the Dunk and Egg novellas, set in the Song of Ice and Fire Universe about a century prior to the main books. This is not about a flashback, or about stories like ‘Til We Have Faces when the narrator is telling an event that happened, although a framing device can be used, such as in The Hobbit movies.

Technically, the main series isn’t picked up yet, but in terms of what order I wrote them, Witchslayer’s Scion is a prequel.

Parallel Series: A parallel series would be novels that take place within the same universe, and may or may not have influence on each other. I tend to think of things like Agents of Shield as they reflect on the larger Marvel Movie Universe.

I could go on and on – but these are similar ideas I’m just lightly going to mention here.

Interbetwequels are essentially things like The Lion King 1 ½ that focuses on different characters, or told from another perspective, like Grey by E. L. James.

Shared Universes would be something where both authors agree and work on different stories, such as the Malazan Books worked on by both Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont.

Finally, Extended Universes would be stuff like supplemental Star Wars novels that expand on an established story – which in this case is a terrible example due to new movies tearing down something like 20+ years of books.

I haven’t done any of the last three, but I suppose taking notes would be helpful in all of these cases to help you be consistent later – you never know where your creative process will take you, and while you might think to yourself, “Why would I want to go back and revisit X?” keeping notes helps you quickly relearn something when you might have shifted your focus to another project. Because the publishing process takes forever, it might be prudent for you to be working on other projects and for you to be able to get back into the groove quickly.

Also for the sake of this post, I’m speaking mostly about series with an epic scope, as opposed to a more intimate character-driven series. In other words, one can dive into the extended mythology of say, Middle Earth, but reading The Children of Hurin isn’t essential to enjoying The Lord of the Rings. I mostly think about it as another means of exploring the world you’ve created.

I’ve spoken on writing the Uber Series before, but there’s a difference writing a sequel as compared to a prequel. On the surface, they’re quite similar; you’ve established rules, and most likely, characters and settings. Unlike the sequel, you already have more than a vague idea where the characters need to end up. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at my first attempt in revisiting a series, but going back in time and focusing on a very different cast. My MCs in the main series are more or less traditionally heroic. My MC in Witchslayer’s Scion is more of a traditional anti-hero.

I started writing it for myself to flesh out a character’s backstory, and decided to keep going. It’s one thing to have a bunch of point-form information and characters to reference events that happened in story, it was another thing to imagine someone setting out from home and to really delve into his mindset and what it must have been like to be in those situations. I knew who certain characters had to become – but it made me think about similar themes as they were handled by a different cast, as well as made me as an author ask questions. Moreover, I got to explore part of the world where I didn’t get to spend as much time in the main series, so I had a chance to flesh it out. It feels like it belongs and is consistent in tone, but is different enough where I feel that it’s relevant enough to the series overall.

For my writing process, details are key to getting into a character’s mindset. It’s one thing to say “He was involved in battle X.” But it was another thing to plunk him in as a conscripted man who didn’t want to be there, and watch him essentially flee the first chance he got. I quickly established that, being in a tropical area, they dressed much more differently than the colder countries in the north, and watched the MC flounder once he lost the home team advantage. But, moving away from the character, I found while I had established general rules, I had to now be more specific. He was from the north and everyone had practical clothing – especially in winter months – but moving to a more tropical area, there could be way more differences between the way the classes dressed. I referred to the Nation we spend the most time in as an empire – so it was made up of different kingdoms. How long were certain areas in the Empire, and how did they interact with one another? For me, it was especially fun to delve into an area that interested me but I couldn’t focus on, if only because the other series established the world and had a big plot. In a way, I told what felt like a smaller story and I felt like I could let the prose breathe a little more, if only because I didn’t feel that I had to get. Every. Detail. Established. And, when I went back and did subsequent rewrites, I was able to make it so both books could start as an entryway – that it didn’t matter where the reader started.

So for me, it was a positive experience that helped me revisit a story I’d been working on for a while, and examine the same old big sandbox with a different focus. Obviously, you can revisit any character or event – I’ve got enough notes where I could start following someone else with the same established rules – that I could spend my entire time only writing on this series.

Don’t think I want to, as I tend to have more ideas than time. But, if you’re considering the idea, here’s some seemingly simple questions to ask yourself:

Who do these characters become? What effect does this event have on the other story?

Does this story affect how the readers may interpret other established material?

Personally, I didn’t think we really needed to know what happened in Rogue One. Now, there’s no shame in writing something that never sees the light of day, but serves as information for you, writer, to make the main story better.

How is this story different?Or is it?

I was joking with another writer at Keycon that I could redo the same plot over and over again and probably be successful. I think it’s fun to revisit the same world, but at the same time, I don’t want to only be known as a one trick pony. Readers like revisiting the same world if they’re a fan, and I also think there’s a fine line of giving the audience what they want and pandering. But then the question becomes: When am I deviating too much from the original idea – and when am I simply rehashing what I’ve already done?

And as a final point: If the entire story makes what follows or just followed moot, the audience has a right to be a wee bit upset. Keep this in mind when writing your sequels, as well.

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If you end your movie saving the kid as the climax… maybe let’s not kill the kid offscreen in the next story…

 

Well, I don’t know if I touched on everything, but I have been meandering through a bunch of topics and I figured I should hurry up and post this one. I’m trying to get myself to When Words Collide next month; I had the time banked and I have a ticket, but I have to deal with work and someone from payroll who can’t do math. Huzzah~

Quick Update on Witchslayer’s Scion Release Date

4 Jun

I’ve been rather quiet on the subject, and it has nothing to do with work for a change. We’re going to be delayed – I know, as with Tower of Obsidian, due to editing – and I do not have a firm release date at this time. It won’t be a month or two, more like, more; will keep you updated as I know.

Now, last year I promised a new book this year – and I will deliver something, even if I self-publish. Which means me learning how to use Sygil, I guess, but I shall keep you posted. Witchslayer’s Scion is under contract which means it’s off the table, and I’ve been a wimp about the novel I was going to self-publish, so perhaps it’s time to revisit that option.

But, on the plus side, Ron and I have a table at the Highland Festival in Selkirk June 24 & 25. Never been, but looks like fun; I have a conditional day off on the 24.

Want vs Need in Story – Endings

3 May

I got excited when I learned this year’s Rainbow Stage production includes Little Shop of Horrors. I hadn’t seen the film version since Jr. High, but I remembered it enough to decide quickly that I am going, regardless of who is coming with. I wiki’d the film – and now I’m curious – is this stage production going with the original ending, or are they going for something that tests positive with audiences?

This isn’t the only series that the ending changes from the original: I am Legend, The Lord of the Rings, The Witches; to name a few.

This isn’t so much about the necessary adaptation from the various mediums, because what I can take pages describing can be shown relatively quickly on a screen. I’ve seen things work in live theater that don’t carry over so well into the movie. And, if I’m writing a serialized story with monthly installments, it’s probably going to fit into a series better than Hollywood’s three-act system (or theater’s two-act). Personally, I think that you can be faithful to the original in keeping with the spirit.

That being said, I find more than any other aspect, that endings are one of the most important aspects of fiction, so I’m way more upset if the adaptation changes it dramatically, without justification. I think sometimes it is a matter of respecting the audience, namely that if you’re making a movie with a huge budget, you expect a return on the investment, so it’s best to play it safe with the formula that tests well. It’s the reason The Hero’s Journey is seen again and again in fiction.

This doesn’t always sit well with those of us who like our expectations teased. There are certain sub genres of science fiction revels in the And I must Scream, whereas historically, Romances can end tragically, but usually on a high note of hope, such as Tristan and Isolde or the Arthurian Romance of Arthur, Gwenevere, and Lancelot – they may be torn asunder in life, but together in death/exile, etc. Those who don’t read much fantasy assume it’s all wish-fulfillment, failing to recognize fantasy’s long history, and I need only point to the cautionary Brother’s Grimm originals to prove my point, let alone The Epic of Gilgamesh or The Odyssey.

This isn’t to say that all science fiction ends with self-loathing and Nietzsche, but I have different expectations putting on an episode of Murdoch Mysteries as compared to Heartland. In giving the viewer what we want, usually, good prevails or at least solves the problem at hand, but the ending has to fit the tone of the story more than the beginning or middle. If it doesn’t answer a question or satisfy me, even the most casual “I just want the good guys to win” audience member would probably lose interest in the next part. Why is the ending so important?

Even when we have stories of Grey vs. Grey morality, audiences usually pick a side. We might even be with a villain protagonist, who we might subconsciously want to get caught, but at the same time, we know his getting caught ends the romp, so we don’t. We’re conflicted. How long can he pull this off, exactly?

But some of our most well-loved stories end in a loss. The Empire Strikes Back, seen probably as the ‘best’ of the movies by most, ends with Han potentially being lost forever, Luke losing his hand and the rebellion is in shambles, with Luke reeling from a forty-year-spoiler. I wouldn’t call this a win for our heroes– but the story still ends with hope. If this was the first installment of Star Wars, I think it’s safe to say that it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as well-received by the audiences – but there was pretty much a guarantee to a third installment at that time, so maybe it wasn’t as big of a challenge to the audience as I’m making it out to be.

So what are some of the best endings you’ve read? And are there stories that you thought were fantastic, but couldn’t stand the ending?

Is Gaston Dumb?

6 Apr

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I’ll start out with stating that I refuse to go and see the live action remake of my favourite Disney Animated Feature. It’s probably inevitable that I will see it, but my FB feed is full of nothing but how the live action movie is better than the original, because of the ‘problematic content’ (Stockholm syndrome, Belle’s supposed snobbery, etc). If you know me at all, I happen to be a fan of animation and puppetry in general, and, while I don’t think it’s wrong to be critical of something, I think there is something to say for, “That’s obviously not what they were going for, but mmmkay.” This is my quiet bit of rebellion, talking about the original.

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The town’s calling her odd, but she’s not trying hard enough to win them over. *SLOW CLAP*

But we’re here to discuss… Gaston isn’t supposed to be bright, but is he dumb?

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Gaston, among other things, doesn’t come across as brilliant, but that doesn’t mean he’s a basic bro jock. Making him stupid diminishes his threat factor somewhat. What’s my argument, other than that perhaps there’s more to this character than meets the eye (as per the theme of the film, dur hur).

1) Maurice suggests that Belle should try talking to him
When Belle mentions there’s no one in town she can really talk to, Maurice suggests Gaston. Child me thought it was because he was an important character and Disney with your average Disney film, this counts as character development. Grown up me suspects Maurice isn’t a complete nitwit – he’s an eccentric inventor ahead of his time, but still – if the pickings in town are slim, Gaston isn’t the dullest knife in the cupboard.

2) If you’re not with us, you’re against us
The actual biblical quote is along the lines of, “Whoever is not against us is for us”. I’m not saying you have to be brilliant to twist something out of context to get it to suit you; but it’s a quick bit of rhetoric when he’s already got the town riled behind him.

3) Mount your Courage to the Sticking Place

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This, to me, is more about good writers hiding things rather than really alluding much to Gaston. However, he must have heard it from somewhere…

4) “It’s not right for a woman to read… soon she starts getting ideas, and thinking…”
Small girl-child knew this mindset was backwards and meant to make the audience dislike Gaston. Minutes later, he thanks Belle for calling him “Primeval” it’s probably assumed that he doesn’t know what this means… but, what if he does, and he takes it as a complement? For all we know, he’s fully aware of a world out there that’s more, but he represents the sure thing – he’s a practical hunter, afterall.

5) The Plot against Maurice
He tells Le Fou that he has been thinking – a dangerous past time. HOWEVER, he downplays it. He’s downplaying his threat – society likes manly biting, losing at chess Gaston.

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Gaston knows this, and he wants approval and everybody to love him. He’ll get what he wants, but he plays the game. He’s strong enough to put a boot to Maurice and force Belle down the altar. He’s not doing it that way. Why? (Other than that it’s a Disney movie…) Because in his own mind, he’s the good guy, the hero – he’s a product of the world.

So what do you think? Am I off the mark here?

 

And for the record, I don’t hate the town. This part of the song is comedy gold, y’all.

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Kudos to whoever was principle animator on Gaston, I love his expressions.

Why do We Ship?

21 Feb

I’m going to start by saying I’m okay with someone having a preference for a non-canon couple.  Heck, there’s lots of times when most of the audience agrees that the wrong people got together, and I’m not innocent of such opinions either. This isn’t about arguing who needs to hook up with who, but why do we, the reader, like what we do, and why it’s such a contentious issue between fans who like the same work.

But this doesn’t come from literature but from hanging out with my coworkers when they were in the middle of a marathon of Rookie Blue.

I’m not going to talk about the accuracy of first responder shows (I haven’t seen many episodes, but I rather like Chicago Fire) but how much one of my co-worker ships a couple – Andy and Sam.

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This series has like, five seasons, between exploring their feelings and general drama, they hook up with a bunch of other people before they eventually end up together. My one co-worker, well, let’s just say she’s an adamant supporter, calling everyone else “Gross” or “She’s crazy, stay away!”

She’s not alone. I recall that in the Twilight craze, fans were on Team Edward or Team Jacob.  In a marketing move, this tried to extend to other series as well – such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Even if you didn’t like Twilight, people would point out that they hated X – but Bella should pick Jacob because it’s less weird, somehow.

One of the longest-running series is based on Archie Andrews not being able to decide between two girls. And we, the audience, all have opinions, even if that the ‘choices’ should murder the hypotenuse and move on.

Back in my Uni days, one of my friends didn’t care much for the LotR films, asked me, “The ranger guy – he hooks up with the dark haired girl, not the blonde one, right?” This friend has since been put right and has sat through all the films with her husband, so she can learn first hand that yes, that scene on the bridge with the jewel had a point.

And, I’m not innocent in this, either. Once upon a time, I joined a forum waiting for Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children. I joined a group that preferred Cloud x Tifa to Cloud x Aerith. And let’s just say, I made some online friends to whom I still chat with everything other than things FF related, but let’s say, between the clubs, things got heated.

There were people dedicated to how much Cloud really hated Tifa. In hindsight, we were pretty secure in our ship and didn’t have to do much other than make fun of the other side’s webpages of craziness. And FFVII isn’t the only story to have it’s share of crazy-shippers, it is among the more legendary, because of a dating mechanism midgame that doesn’t really effect the ending because, Cloud’s motivations aren’t as important as him saving the planet from the Bad Guy who’s really been dead all along, [/spoiler for 20 year old game. Feel old yet?].

So why do seemingly sane and rational people argue about who the better love interest for the hero is?

Is it to do with the romance genre – different than the love story – (Tristan and Isolde and Romeo and Juliet are love stories, not romances) or is it something else? I think this has two parts – one of which is cultural, and then, looking at it from a childish angle to a more mature angle.

I’m not saying that Christianity has any onus on the love story, but I think there’s something culturally going on here. Because so many of our stories have been lost over time, the ones that were saved over time had themes that people in the past found important. These were the works of the virtuous pagans that various monks viewed important enough to transcribe to survive the dark ages, such as the works of Homer and Aristotle.

My theory is that in the Book of Revelation, Jesus returns to his Bride, the Faithful Church. This is why so many of our stories end with marriage and happily ever after, as opposed to stories that originated elsewhere, and we saw virtues in married characters remaining faithful (The Odyssey – well okay, Penelope was faithful) or not (Tristan and Isolde).  It was only the more complicated stories that we see stories generally exemplify virtues – such as resisting the forbidden fruit as exemplified as virtue in stories such as Gawain and the Green Knight. I think a mistake I often made was that simple stories were of lesser value to more complicated stories – but we’re a story telling species, and some times, when we can’t express an idea, we do our best to tell that story in whatever media we have – song, dance, art, and the written and oral tradition.

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Sir George and the Dragon. No parallels to anything in the Bible here. Nope.

The other aspect of shipping is where we see ourselves in characters – we identify with someone, and we want them to ‘win’ – and when I was younger, it was more or less that my preferred character got the object of their affection. We get introduced to Snow White and her Prince Charming, they’re a designated couple, even if, let’s be honest, they’re boring, because WINNING.

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My official emblem when I was a kid; never mind that I preferred chocolate.

It’s funny listening to my niece talk about Archie Comics, and she says something along the lines of “Betty always wins” when I seem to recall Veronica usually being the first choice, although he’d dodder back to the blonde if other guys were paying attention to her. I too was a Betty fan, if only because I wanted the underdog to win, plus she was nice – don’t make me use that vanilla picture again.

Now, as a grown-up who let’s be honest, doesn’t read Archie; I do prefer the Archie x Veronica ship – the main reason why is that Veronica might not be the healthier choice if I was a marriage councilor, but demands his respect. She may be high maintenance and scheming, but in a way, it’s also because I meet girls like Betty – and to you I say, you can do better. Betty would probably be the supporting wife who puts up with too much – with Veronica, you don’t need crazy goings on to happen, she brings the drama. Exhausting in real life, but for fiction – entertaining. Plus, a potential cautionary tale.

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Because after you spend all the money on botox, she’s still going to be a handful.

So what’s your opinion on shipping, at least, why do we get so up in arms about it?