This is just…it just feels strange. For the past week or two, I’ve been trying to get on track with various…well, ways to spend my time constructively. So I’ve been participating in classes, and investigating whether I even want to take the classes, which has the effect of drawing me out of a contemplative mood (and into a responsive one).

One of the things I’ve found, though: when I’m learning, I get very engaged. I’ve been reading a number of books relating to story structure…none of which, am I all the way through. I am lucky, however, in that I’ve been able to learn certain principles relating to Critical Thinking which keep me from being drawn in by tautologies (as in, a story is what I define it to be, or it isn’t [defined as] a story [to me]. Apologies for the lyrics: they weren’t intentional [but I’m not deleting them]).

I can also spot pop-psychology being passed off as fact (or at least, as valuable theory). Both of these have come up in one of my readings, which I’m not going to name right now, because I don’t want to be pushed to defend myself.

I understand that different modes of thinking about something as messy as Creative Writing, are pretty much inevitable; but attempting to apply an Ancient Greek lens to all work…all work…well, I can see that my viewpoint is not, “traditional,” and that forcing this Author’s/Editor’s lens on my work would amount to a misreading. This is not a person I would want to submit my work to, that is.

There are a number of qualms I have with the book I’m speaking about. It’s very formulaic. I’m reading it primarily to assure myself that I don’t want to take the class the author gives, and to see what — if anything — of value I can glean from his thoughts.

At the same time, I recall Meander, Spiral, Explode, which goes over alternate story patterns than the traditional one I was taught in school, which looks a lot like a model of climax. Meander, Spiral, Explode is probably best read along with the books it references as examples, however.

Then there is Craft in the Real World, which is a critique of the academic Creative Writing establishment from a PoC (apparently, Asian male) perspective. It’s interesting, but I’ve read (in a review) that the author never really paves out a solution to the problems he has encountered. Still, raising the question (of why Creative Writing in Academia is, philosophically, so White-Cis-Het-Male-[add-dominant-status-here]-centric) is the first step to remediating it.

Neither of the latter, have I finished so far.

I have also heard within the last 48 hours, someone expressing the idea of creating a character and then, “putting my words in their mouth,” to paraphrase. The repetition of this by family indicates that they don’t understand my own writing process.

This gets back to the point I was attempting to talk about before, as relates to building a character from the inside-out, rather than building a character from the outside-in.

Granted, I don’t get into all of that in this post…because it’s a lot to explain. My work is less puppeteering, more method-acting. I want to get into it; but it requires an amount of mental heavy-lifting that I didn’t expect to enter into, today. It would take days, at least, to express my thoughts fully and cogently to someone who doesn’t know me, in writing. And actually, I could probably write on this topic, on its own, for quite a while.

Maybe what I’m meaning to get at is the idea that a good number of people don’t necessarily take the care I’d like, when they create characters and character motivation. Granted that creativity is not even parallel to reality (it can’t be, if it isn’t a straight line…and in my experience, creativity is more spreading and mossy, than geometric).

One of the things that really drew me to manga and anime in the first place, is the fact that the characters — particularly antagonistic characters — in my experience, tended to be better thought-out and more relatable than most Western antagonists, who tended to be the way they were, “just ‘cause.”

I haven’t read any Murakami (to my memory), however, to reference a famous counterexample. Some have found issues in his characterization, particularly for female characters as a group existing only as the male characters wished. I can also think of examples of some pretty bad anime where the above generalization doesn’t hold, possibly related to the fact that the premise of the anime itself is a mess and the investment of the characters comes off as false…often not helped, by the voice actors.

I’m fairly certain that the relatively believable character motivations relate abstractly to the cultural ideal that everything that exists relies on causes and conditions which bring it into existence. When those causes and conditions change, their outcome changes. This thought I was first exposed to via Buddhism, but whether it originated in folk knowledge or is specifically Buddhist in nature, I don’t know.

This is as versus the idea that some people are “evil” just because they feel like it; i.e., they were created that way by some other being, or made the choice not to act, “correctly” (assuming they know what, “correct,” is, or how or why it is, “correct,” or care about the rationale as to why it is, “correct”).

The idea, that is, is not that the human world is dysfunctional, its norms are dysfunctional, and this character is the way they are because they have intergenerational trauma, they’ve suffered, they don’t ultimately understand why, and they can’t cope with existing in this world in a harmonic and nondestructive way…but I’d say that the latter is closer to reality, on many fronts.

Of course, that expands the scope of culpability from the ultra-individualistic actor, to the entire society. And we’re trying to sell this story, to society.

I’ve never really gotten into a study of the dominant Western ideas of evil or the origin of evil; it turns me off, for multiple reasons. Prime among them is the fact that I can’t see the people who wrote the work ostensibly about studying or defining the, “evil,” as in any way, “good.” It’s more likely, in my experience, that they are scapegoating others, inventing absolute villains, and writing political propaganda; and there is the very real question of why I would want to waste any of my precious life, listening to that.

Remember, this is coming from someone who has repeatedly asked, “why not read,” any particular text to which I’ve had access. But crap in written form, is still crap (this is one of the rare times you’ll see me swear on this blog: there’s no way around it). Did it encourage death and harm to innocent people? Why are we still listening to it?

The upshot of the Buddhist idea of anatman, or as loosely and perhaps antagonistically translated, “no-soul”…(I’m not getting into Robert Spence Hardy [again] here, though I now realize I may have written about him in some Academic context, not on this blog)…is that it becomes far easier to retain compassion for people or characters one may not agree with. There is a cause (or multiple causes) and a path that brought them to whatever point at which, one may observe them. Not all of their circumstances are of their own choosing. This can lead an antagonistic character ultimately to become a tragic character.

I think it’s safe to say, however, that what I mean by, “soul,” may be qualitatively different from the idea of, “soul,” or atman, as negated in some thousands-of-years-old version of anatman. There may be no duality between “soul” and “no-soul”, as what we are talking about may be closer to the present-day idea of identity, especially the continuation of identity, between lives. Identity is not the same thing as essence. Identity can be fluid, even within one life.

I’ve written out a bunch of material on this, which is unpublished. I’m not sure I want to get into it again, right now. It takes a lot of effort to explain, and could use expansion/fleshing out on some (many) points (such as the actual Hindu idea[s?] of atman, which I have not been able yet to access [and truly understand]…though understanding may be much easier, given hyperlinking, than I’ve thought). Plus, I’m not even confident my thought is a truth, rather than intuition on the page.

But I could very well use it as an organizing principle for the story I’m hoping to work on, in the near future.

I began this post talking about entering into a lot of different teaching environments, which has the effect of deliciously diversifying what my brain is engaging with, on a day-to-day basis. That’s still going on, on top of researching and applying for jobs (and it is so rare to hear back from anyone). What I’m finding is that writing and posting, now takes me out of my new routine. The latter is still (probably) a good thing: as I mentioned recently, it helps when writing, to have something to write, about.

It also helps, though, to have a (constant) writing routine established. The closest thing I have to that right now, is the 15 minutes of free-writing which I’m attempting to accomplish every day, with mixed success (though I am writing, most days). The thing about free-writing — where you write anything that comes to mind, just so long as you keep writing — is that it will show you what you really want to write about. It will break down the psychic walls that are reinforced in Editing.

Even 15 minutes a day can be tough, when I’m working on other, simultaneous, written projects (this blog, my beadwork blog [and site], my current unpublished in-progress Fiction project — and until I realized I didn’t want to do it, a submission to an online Literary Magazine) and haven’t yet satisfactorily solved the problem of consistently tracking my time with them.

For that matter, it can be difficult to really intentionally reach into myself and find these characters and build a world and have them spill themselves to me. The “woo” factor is not absent, which — I gather — is why it is unusual to see anyone writing about a process like my own. But at least with blogging and free-writes, I am keeping some kind of a channel and skill-based practice going.

My major problem, at this point, is how to avoid throwing out my schedule for a day, and devoting it all to writing…let alone, devoting it all to writing on my blog! But this practice actually does get me to clarify (and process) my thoughts. Spirit willing, someday it will be as easy to delve into my own Fiction writing (and retain my emotional health at the same time), as it is to blog…

5 responses to “Prism”

  1. You know, I can understand a bit how your approach is to writing a story. I tend to write stories that I want to read which are not characters in a framework, but people with souls, identities, and while they have lives, seem to have some level of freewill and action. I do not like soulless characters.

    This goes to my next point, I hate writing evil characters. I don’t believe truly evil people exist. Some people are evil but evilness implies as if that’s their only level of soul and they can’t be anything other than evil. I always wonder why people do ridiculous things, but I do not understand and unless they tell me truthfully, I will not understand. I can only write in the realm of my understanding and the realm of my identity and my firsthand experiences and the beliefs I choose to have. One belief I chose to have is the belief on no absolute truth. This affects my writing because I don’t feel like I have any villains or heroes (unless they’re written to be). All my characters are neutral.

    Anywho, I don’t believe you are writing your characters and adding your voice. You are writing the character and they may sound like you. I hate to get too metaphysical, new agey, or esoteric because it would make my point sound like trash, but I believe your characters are made in “your own image” or your own “conscious.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can definitely see your point, though I also remember Whitman’s, “I contain multitudes,” quote. The question there is how large or unlimited you see yourself to be, thus how far you’re willing to go with your characters — if they are offshoots of you. And in this light, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to write, “evil,” characters.

      I also didn’t believe in evil, for a long time. As for whether I do now; that depends on whether the character in question molds themselves after the idea. I should note that the idea itself doesn’t make sense, unless you’re dealing with someone with serious psychological issues (such as not seeing other people as people, like themselves).

      Aspiring to “evil” is possible (even given the nebulousness of the designation), but then you always retain the possibility of getting an unrealistic character who is, “trying to be evil,” and not necessarily succeeding. 😜

      I’m going to avoid mentioning the name of the clearest Disney villain who exemplifies this…

      Liked by 1 person

      • 😂😂😂 I get it and omg at that ending.

        It’s more like a thing of I can’t consciously write a “evil” character.

        (you may disagree with the sentiment and that’s what makes it difficult) I’ll use one of my ocs:

        This oc loves his spouse even though she’s darker skinned, considered evil for having a different religion, has no idea about gender roles in his culture, and has a child with another man previously, and is disabled from racism. He, however, hates the child and only wants to care because he loves his wife and knows she cares about her son a lot. He hates how his son looks, thinks, hates his nappy hair, but he cares for him and still develops a bond with him and actively tries to care.

        Or, another character and her child:

        She beats her husband in front of her kids. She stops after her husband runs away but her child personalizes it and once they get into a relationship they beat their husband at the time into a pulp, screams at them, and threatens their death.

        I don’t necessarily think any of the characters are extremely evil but they’re certainly not good people and would be labeled under my close to black of black and white lists. They’re not redeemable (or excusable), but they have dimensions about them that make them fascinating to write about.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I get it! Complexity, right?

        Right now I’m dealing with a couple of original characters who each have the possibility of going down unsavory paths. What they’re up against is their surrounding society. The thing that is missing in the text I’ve been reading on story premise (the one I was griping about, above) is the acknowledgment that society isn’t always good, or right. Society can be downright corrupt.

        I wrote a few paragraphs here and then realized it was my elevator pitch, and that I shouldn’t put it in a public place (at this stage of the game, at least)!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh. Yeah, I see. 😂 And that’s kinda funny.

        I like your premise and I can understand it personally and I would like to hear or read your story because it sounds cool.

        I think a lot of people personalize society as an entity that is evil (not in your way, one that’s evil because it doesn’t bend over backwards) or a good necessary thing that prevents us from being animals not realizing it’s a collective of human ideas that typically are repressive, stressful, an all sides suffer event and that people think societal ideas are made by the grace of G*d and should be done regardless how much someone suffers or can’t do it and there’s no other way. It’s ridiculous.😵‍💫

        Liked by 1 person

%d bloggers like this: