Saturday, July 25, 2015

Apostate 2.2

     Weeks have passed since my last post in the Apostate series. That is because I am going to do something I do not want to do.
     I am going to disagree with Libbie Hawker.
     "OMG I met the perfect guy! Maybe I can fix him." –Women --@MensHumor (Twitter)
     In my view, that quote encapsulates Libbie's paradigm. Libbie sees her hero as starting with a flaw. (She uses the word 'flaw' 155 times in Take Off Your Pants!) The hero has two quests: 1) one to achieve an external goal (toss the ring into Mount Doom) and 2) another to overcome an internal flaw (give up the love of power). The hero fails to achieve the external goal until he has repaired his flaw, overcome his flaw, or grown beyond his flaw.
    One of those. I dunno.

    Libbie's paradigm is valid, and it works. I know it works. I have seen it over and over and over again in countless stories.
     But I find those stories cookie-cutter predictable and a little boring. And they feel 100% fake.

     Who is the hero of Star Wars?
     If, like me, you are old enough to remember the movie as just Star Wars and not as A New Hope, you may think Luke Skywalker is the hero, and it is a coming-of-age story. But once you have the series -- either Episodes IV, V, and VI or Episodes I - VI -- according to Libbie's paradigm, the hero is clearly AnakinSkywalker, aka Darth Vader.
     I don't buy it.

     In The Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader 'fixes' his flaw and defeats the Emperor. (Click the title for the clip to see how contrived the ending is.) At the beginning of the scene, Vader offers Luke a choice: join me or die. Five minutes later, paternal feeling arises and Vader saves Luke from death by flinging the evil (and needlessly ugly) Emperor to his doom. Flaw fixed. External goal -- return to the Light Side -- achieved. All is right with the galaxy.

     When did Vader develop this paternal bond?
     Anakin Skywalker was not present when his children were born. He never held either in his arms when they were babes. He did not read to them while snuggled in blankets. He did not walk them to the park. He had no hand in their upbringing.
     Parenting is not instinctual. It is learned. The bond between parent and child is a chainmail shirt that is forged link by link, day by day.
     Vader never had it. George Lucas forced the ending to fit the paradigm.

     That Lucas's story fails is not an indictment of the paradigm. The paradigm of the 'flawed' hero can work.
     But it ain't for me.
     As I see it, people have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a trait that is a strength in on situation can be a weakness in another.

     There is a scene in John Carter that defines the man and the movie for me. John Carter dismounts and tells Sola to take Dejah Thoris to safety while he fights the Warhoon to buy them time. He says to Dejah, "I was too late once. I won't be again."
     That's it. That is a man. That is a character.
     A man is defined not by some 'flaw' that he 'fixes' in an epiphany. No. He is defined by all the moments in his life that have gone before, and these build his character and motivate him to rise above the commonplace and fight.
     That is the message of Robin Hood: Rise and rise again, until lambs become lionsBrian Helgeland's version of Robin Hood's story is the best I have seen. It neatly explains the reason a nobleman, Robin Locksley, was capable with a yeoman's weapon, the longbow. But I ask you, at what point does Robin Hood overcome his internal flaw?
     He doesn't.  He is as flawed at the end as he was at the beginning. But he follows the maxim his father chiseled into stone: Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions. And he wins.
     To beat a dead horse, what flaw did Sherlock Holmes overcome? As he was when each story began, so he was when each story ended. Okay, maybe he was a little more arrogant and disdainful of others, but flaw-fixing? Nah. That's not Sherlock's thing. (I'm talking about the original, the Basil Rathbone movies, the Jeremy Brett TV episodes, the Benedict Cumberbatch TV series, and the Robert Downey, Jr, movies. Not the TV series Elementary which tries to inject some flaw-fixing into Holmes. I pay little attention to it, but I do watch it, because I am a big fan of Lucy Liu. I would watch this show just to see her walk into a room. Hey, you like what you want and I'll like what I want.)

     I say again, Libbie's approach is valid and you can use it to write some great stories. If you go down that road, your skeleton outline is right there in the book Take Off Your Pants! All you have to do is add some meat here and there.
     But it ain't my way.

     I shall go back to Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better and her three pronged approach: knowledge, time, and enthusiasm.
     Next time, Apostate 3.0.

Stay tuned.

Happy trails.

Links to the posts in this series:
Apostate 2.1
Apostate 2.0
Apostate 1.4
Apostate 1.3
Apostate 1.2
Apostate 1.1
Apostate 1.0
Apostate 0.2
Apostate 0.1

Links to the books:
Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better
Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!

Links to the authors' websites:
Rachel Aaron
Libbie Hawker

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



     That was the first word I ever read.
     It was the first hour of the first day of my first year of school. Like my classmates, I sat obedient and quiet and happy and quite a bit curious and more than a little excited in my seat. The teacher walked by the desks and placed a book on each one, each book open to the first page. I saw a picture of a winter coat on one side of the page and another of a country road on the other side. Below each picture was a collection of letters. I knew because I knew my letters from my building blocks.
     All the books distributed, the teacher stood before us and asked, "Who can tell me what the first word is?"
     Jim Morgan raised his hand. The teacher nodded to him and Jim said, "Coat."
     In that instant my world changed. I stared wide-eyed at that word. Coat. I realized that the letters on my building blocks held a power unknown to me before. I saw on that very page that there were other words, and I wondered how many more words letters could make.
     My parents were not readers. They grew up in hard times when all able hands were needed to earn bread to feed the family. But they wanted me to have the education circumstances denied them. They thought books might help with that, and they were easy marks for an encyclopedia salesman. They bought the World Book Encyclopedia (with the yearly update subscription), Lands and Peoples (a multi-volume geography), and the twenty-volume Book of Knowledge. They arranged these books in a built-in bookcase in our living room and never disturbed them.
     I came home from my first day of school with the wonder of words still gripping my imagination. I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the bookcase and pulled a book from the middle and opened it. There on the page I saw flocks and herds and stampedes of words. I could not read any of them, but I knew that would change.
     I looked up at the books standing in the bookcase and I saw the future, that I would learn the words and one day these books would yield me their secrets.


     That was the first word I read. I never stopped.