Kris Marshall is The Doctor?

So rumors have been floating around that Death in Paradise’s Kris Marshall may be taking up the mantle of The Doctor following Capaldi’s departure.

And, of course, you realize what this means….

THE DOCTOR WILL FINALLY BE GINGER!!!

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I thought this would be the main topic of discussion when it came to his potential role. However, this was what most people had to say about the matter:

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My questions is why are people so adverse to him playing The Doctor? I’ve read quite a few tweets and I’ve been able to determine two reasons for the wave of haters:

  1. They don’t like him because he was in that one thing that they didn’t like so that automatically means he’ll be crap at being The Doctor because reasons, I guess.
  2. He’s a straight white male.

If your reason for not liking him being The Doctor is reason #1, give him a break. Sometimes actors get cast in crappy roles in crappy movies/tv shows. It happens. There are a lot of factors that go into making a production. Sometimes actors have poor direction or the writing is bad. Even the best actors can’t turn straw into gold.

If your reason for being up in arms is #2, well, I suggest you listen to this on full blast.

Okay, perhaps a bit harsh.

All the same, I think it’s a dumb reason to be upset. Yes, I’ve said in a post before that it would be cool if The Doctor was a woman. Nevertheless, I’m not up in arms that he’s not. I just want the show to improve and I thought him being a woman would give us a new dynamic to work with. However, I think we’re going to see plenty of different now that we’re getting a new head writer AND he’s bringing in a whole new group of writers.

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Of course, it’s only a rumor that he’ll be the 13th Doctor. Still, I’m actually really hoping it’s true (and it seems to be since nobody from BBC has denied it).

I know from Death in Paradise that he does socially awkward and smart well so he seems like he’d be a perfect fit.

As most people have pointed out, people usually hate the guy that’s replacing the old Doctor, only to fall in love with the new one. That didn’t necessarily happen to me with Capaldi, but I know where they are coming from and have experienced it myself when Tennant became Smith.

So, if he truly is the Ginger Doctor, we should all give him a chance.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll become your favorite Doctor.

How to Mary Sue Proof Your Characters

Last week I wrote a post about Mary Sues and why people write them. Today, I want to give you some unsolicited pointers on how to avoid writing a Mary Sue, or even a Gary Stu (the male equivalent).

Enjoy!

Start with a real person. While it may not be a good idea to base a character’s entire identity around one person, it can be a helpful place to begin. If you’re like me you have had at least some exposure to interesting people. Think about what makes them so compelling. Is it their sense of humor? Do they have a hair-trigger temper? Think of a person you know who might fit well within the universe you have created. Then take interesting elements from other people’s lives and add them to the mix. Voila! You have a person.

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Consider the small things. This is the part where you need to start studying people. Just about everyone has body language that is unique to them. What do your friends do when they’re frustrated? Do they puff out their cheeks like a chipmunk and blow out air? Do they drum their fingers on the table? Do they pace? Do they play with their hair? Including these tiny details can really bring your character to life.

Nix the Chosen One premise. I would be incorrect if I said this trope is never well-done or can’t work. However, it’s problematic to use with reckless abandon because you come dangerously close to spreading the dreaded The-Main-Character-Is-Special-Cuz-Reasons virus. Once it enters the atmosphere, it will cause every other character to speak in cryptic phrases regarding the protagonist’s destiny. Perhaps you should just make the main character stand-apart by having them actually do something.

Have them fail at least once. Which is more interesting? The tail of the Underdog that overcame insurmountable odds and repeated failures to eventually reach victory, or the story about the person that wins every single time? One Punch man doesn’t count.

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Give them interests and hobbies. This seems like an obvious one, but it’s something that’s often overlooked. You can tell quite a bit about a person by what activities they engage in during their free time. Perhaps your person likes medieval reenactments, or beekeeping. The sky is the limit. Just find a way to make them stand out.

FLAWWWWWWS! Every character needs flaws because that is what makes us human. It’s how you can tell a real person from a fictional person and the reader needs to believe they are reading about a real-fictional person. If you aren’t sure where to start with this, I highly recommend The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It’s a very detailed book that not only defines negative traits but also gives you possible causes for them, shows you how they could manifest in the character’s everyday life, and even how a character can overcome these flaws.

I hope this was helpful. Good luck with your writing projects!

Why Do People Write Mary Sues?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a Mary Sue is, it’s essentially a female character that is too perfect. A character that is always morally correct no matter what, has all the male protagonists drooling themselves over her even though she would describe herself as plain, and is special without having to try.

In other words, she’s boring.

So why do so many writers write Mary Sues? Even ones that claim they hate them?

I have a few theories:

The writer is trying to live vicariously through their character. Most of us want to be special. Unfortunately, a lot of us lack the bravery or skill required to become a compelling protagonist. In order for us to be unique, something supernatural in nature would have to occur like a radioactive spider biting us. Many of us have problems with ourselves so we’re tempted to fix them when we create an ink-and-paper twin. However, flaws are essentially what makes a person a person so by removing them writers create a character that is as flat as cardboard.

They want readers to like their character. If the reader despises the main protagonist, it is likely they will stop reading the story. Sadly, many writers think that the best way of avoiding this is by creating a character that has zero flaws other than superficial ones like clumsiness or being “too nice.” Truth is, a person’s foibles can make them more endearing and relatable.

It’s easier than coming up with a real person. Creating a person from scratch is hard. Especially if that person doesn’t share the same background, race, or religion that you do. It’s easy to become intimidated at the prospect of being inside the head of such a person and dictating all that they do and say. It’s even more daunting granted how delicate some peoples’ sensibilities are these days and how eager they are to take offense by any perceived misrepresentation. The writer doesn’t want to step on people’s toes and so they stick to what they know, with a few choice alterations, of course.

Or, in some cases, it’s just laziness. They don’t want to have to go through the pains of creating someone more three-dimensional because it’s time consuming and requires a lot of planning.

So how does a writer avoid writing Mary Sues?

Fear not, fledgling writers.

I have a few suggestions.

Find out in the next blog post.

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Your Characters are NOT Your Friends: a Public Service Announcement for Writers

I’ve seen several Instagram posts that say things like “is it sad that my characters are my best friends?” or “I have more conversations with my characters than I do with real people. Is that bad?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

Not because you’re a wallflower with friends that exist only in your mind. That’s perfectly normal*.

It’s sad because this means one of two possibilities: One, you are a horrible friend, or two, you are way, way, way too nice to your characters.

It’s natural to form an attachment to people that you’ve created. People have been doing this for centuries. The problem is when you care too much about someone, you want to nurture them, perhaps even protect them from impending doom.

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You cannot do this with your characters.

If you want a good story, you must put your characters through hell. Kill their families, have their lovers break-up with them, have owls eat their dogs. Nothing is allowed to go their way, or at least not for very long.

Loving your character too much might encourage you to go easy on them, to pull punches. Don’t do this. The best characters are forged in fire.

Another problem you can run into is making your characters too perfect. You want the audience to love your characters as much as you do, so you will have them always put their best foot forward. Problem is no one actually wants to read about perfect characters. Real people aren’t perfect so reading about someone who is takes the reader out of the story, constantly reminding them that what they are seeing is an illusion. And not even an entertaining one at that.

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Lastly– and I hate to break this to you– if your characters were magically able to obtain a physical form and interact with you they would probably hate you.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person it’s just that….

Let’s face it, you are responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them. Every illness, every death, every catastrophe that has every entered their lives is on you. You could literally make all their problems go away with the scratch of a pen. And yet, you sit there, drinking your coffee like a psycho.

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about your characters at all, if you don’t care then the audience probably won’t be persuaded to either. Just keep in mind that in order for them to reach their full potential, you must keep an emotional barrier between yourself and your creations.

A mother hawk may love her babies, but she’ll still push them out of the nest so they can fly.

Some of them may die, but it’s a risk you’re going to have to take.

*I have been informed that this actually isn’t normal and that most people have friends that exist in the real world. I was so shocked I couldn’t even find a gif that appropriately conveys my emotions. 

How I’m Writing What I Don’t Know

Conventional wisdom says that you’re supposed to write what you know.

However, I have decided to go the harder route and try writing what I don’t know.

Why am I trying to carry out this obviously horrible idea?

Because if I never try anything new, every single protagonist I write will be an introverted middle-class white girl from the midwest.

In this particular case, I am writing military sci-fi so I have to learn more about the armed forces.

How hard could that be?

It was a challenge at first. However, once you get past all the acronyms it still feels like your brain is melting.

Once you learn the ranking, then there’s the weapons and machines/equipment they use, and the training regiment. Then there’s figuring out the difference between a fire team, a squad, a platoon, a company, a battalion, a brigade and corps.

There are 8 to 16  soldiers in a squad, 2 or 4 squads in a platoon, 3 to 5 platoons in a company, 6 companies in a battalion, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.

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When I venture out into uncharted territory, I always experience paralysis. Even after I do my homework and try to get as close to the facts as I can, there’s that persistent nagging sensation that tells me I’m going to get it wrong.

This leads to procrastination and mental gymnastics, all designed to keep me from trying.

Because not trying is better than trying and failing. Or at least that’s what my ego tells me.

Part of me wants to give up, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that the best way for a writer to understand something is for them to write about it. By doing that I was able to come up with a list of strategies to use to fix my problem and yours as well if you’re struggling like I am:

1. Get a beta reader who knows more about the subject you’re writing about than you. Hopefully, you have a friend or a friend of a friend who is knowledgeable about the topic you are writing about and would be willing to provide their services. If they are reluctant to do so, I would recommend bribery: a pizza dinner for every chapter they read.

2. Get another beta reader who knows less about the subject than you. While you want to write like someone who understands the subject they’re talking about, you don’t want to get so technical that only people who are directly involved in this line of work or have studied this subject comprehend what you’re saying.

3. Reconcile yourself with the fact that you may get something wrong anyway. Try as hard as you can to make a good product. But if you wait until everything is perfect you’ll never produce anything. Take it from someone who knows.

Now go out there, my pretties, and make good work!

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Thoughts on the “IT” 2017 Trailer

I am going to tell you something I wasn’t sure I would ever admit on this blog…..

A secret that I have been keeping under wraps for fear of being ostracized by the literary community.

*takes a breath*

I don’t like Stephen King novels.

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I know, I’m sorry. It’s not for want of trying. I’ve made the attempt to read several of his works in the past, but the only one I’ve been able to complete in its entirety is Carrie.

I think his writing style is excellent. His manner of describing things is very visceral and it’s easy for a person to feel as if they are standing right there beside the character, going through the same experience that they are.

It’s the stories themselves that don’t make a lot of sense. Reading King, for me, is a lot like doing drugs or alcohol. Everything you do makes sense while on these substances, but once you get off them you start to question what you could have possibly been thinking. Like how in the novel It, Beverly had to sleep with every boy in the group to protect them from the clown because….reasons…

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I just don’t think King is my thing. If you enjoy his work, good for you.

Regardless, I did watch the TV mini-series It when I was a kid and it scared the bejesus out of me. My best friend and I had to watch it while talking on the phone to draw strength from one another so we could watch the whole thing.

In hindsight, however, this movie is laughably awful. Especially after watching the Nostalgia Critic review of it. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend it. No pun intended.

Nonetheless, upon seeing the trailer for the remake, I was pleasantly surprised.

It was genuinely eerie and atmospheric. Not to mention, it seems more grounded in reality than the original movie….

That is…until Pennywise shows up.

A lot of people are complaining that he doesn’t look like the way the novel described. I’m complaining because it seems as if the scares are meant solely for people who are scared of clowns. I am not afraid of clowns (in spite of King’s best efforts to scar my childhood) so it doesn’t do much for me.

But I think I may actually give this film a watch because it appears like they’re going for a Stranger Things-isque approach to the story. Rather than having them switch back and forth from adulthood to childhood, they’re telling the story solely from the perspective of the characters as children. Personally, I thought the adults were the weakest part of that movie, so I’m happy they are going with this instead.

I’m also glad they are keeping the 80s vibe in leu of pushing it to modern times. They are most likely, again, trying to cash in on the Stranger Things craze, but I’m personally fine with that. It just feels right to have it set in this time period. If something like this happened in 2017, it would probably be a bunch of kids trying to film the clown on their iPhones to become internet famous. Not to mention today’s helicopter-parents would never allow children to play outside by themselves when there’s clearly a murderer on the loose.

Overall this movie looks miles better than the original.

I don’t think it’ll be a cinematic masterpiece by any means, nevertheless, I think it should be given a chance.

Who knows? Maybe this will be the one that makes balloons scary.

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Should the 13th Doctor be a Woman?

Unless you’ve given up on Doctor Who and unliked all the DW-related Facebook pages as I should have done long ago, you’ve likely heard everyone screaming from the ether: THE NEXT DOCTOR HAS TO BE A WOMAN!!

Now in the past, my opinion on a female playing The Doctor has been-

However, now that Moffat is on his way out and a much better character writer is slated to be the next show-runner, my opinion on the subject has changed slightly.

I can’t say I’d be over the moon about The Doctor being a woman, but, let’s face it, Doctor Who needs a change. Fast.

Theoretically this show could go on forever. Since it has a continually revolving cast that changes every few years or so, there’s no reason for it to stop even if actors or producers quit.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t get formulaic and predictable after a while.

If you have played a Doctor Who drinking game in the last four years or so, then you’re probably reading this post from a coffin. How’s the wifi down there, by the way?

No one I know watches Doctor Who casually anymore. Or at all, actually.

Most of them stopped watching after Matt Smith left, or even before the baby-faced wonder bid us adeu.

And I think the reason why is obvious: the writing got boring.

It’s the same shtick over and over.

First act: The Doctor, meaning to take companions one place, ends up taking them to another place. They are then confronted with a deadly danger/dangerous mystery/deady dangerous mystery and are forced to run from alien monsters of some description.

Second act: The Doctor becomes discouraged, but then the companion needlessly reminds him that he’s “The Doctor” and he’s amazing and stuff. The companion is usually captured and The Doctor is forced to contend with seemingly impossible odds. He does a thing and confronts the big bad.

Third act: The Doctor performs a now paint-by-numbers speech about how awesome he is, defeats the villain, then sods off with his companion who usually has a witty quip or two to offer about the whole situation. They then pop into the TARDIS and all is well. Cue end credits.

See what I mean?

So…perhaps…just perhaps…changing The Doctor into a woman wouldn’t be the worst idea? For one thing, it would give us an opportunity to explore The Doctor’s character on a level we never have before. We’ve already done the “am I actually a good guy?” thing a million times by this point. Changing him into a woman would give us a whole new dynamic to work with. And if he had a male companion we wouldn’t have to watch them constantly measuring dicks all the time. That’d be a nice change of pace.

I envision a female Doctor as like a Romana/10th Doctor hybrid.

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Only not a colossal disappointment. Damn you Hell Bent. The fandom will never recover.

Realistically, however, it’s very likely that they will cast another man. Because safety is better than creative risks when it comes to television. At least that’s what most people in the biz seem to believe.

However, if they cast Eddie Redmayne all would be forgiven.

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The Doctor would finally be ginger. And adorable.

Regardless, I swear to Cthulu, if this show disappoints me again once Chibnail takes the lead, I am leaving!

FemmeDoctor or no FemmeDoctor.

Social Media Killed My Curiosity About Authors

When I was a child I daydreamed all the time about talking to my favorite writers.

While I was toiling for hours over my own horrible manuscripts, I would wonder to myself what wisdom they would impart onto me if I ever mustered up the courage to write to them.

Writers back then were these mystical figures I imagined as silhouettes, tapping away at a typewriter in a clocktower alone all day everyday.

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Their lives were a mystery to me and the only connection I had to them was their work. I could only speculate as to what they did all day, what their hobbies were, what their childhood was like.

Now that I’m adult we have social media, and authors can communicate directly with their readers (and vice versa) at the push of a button…….

I wish they could go back to being silhouettes in clocktowers.

Perhaps it’s because I’m an adult now (technically), but I’ve lost that desire to know more about the people that create the works I read. In fact, I seldom follow well-known authors on any social media platform.

When it comes to famous authors, their social media platforms are usually divided into one of two categories: generic/bland or annoying/repetitive.

The authors in the first camp usually post motivational platitudes about determination and never giving up on your dreams. This on, the surface, isn’t a bad thing, but when that’s all they ever post it’s like “are you a real person, or are you an AI that’s been programed to monitor human behavior?”

The authors in the other camp are the ones that believe that because they are the creators of a universe that doesn’t exist, they know absolutely everything about everything and must, therefore, inform the poor plebeians about what to think. In addition, it would seem they have to tell their readers absolutely everything that is going on with their lives.

EVERYTHING.

“Getting my nails done!”

“Some guy at the mall said something rude to me.”

“Obsessing over (insert popular show here)!”

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I miss being able to imagine what my favorite authors were like because the authors themselves became part of the fantasy. They were just as metaphysical as the characters they wrote. They were untapped pools of mystery and wisdom.

Now that you can learn just about anything there is to know about a person with a quick Google search, the desire for knowledge is gone.

Nobody is interesting anymore.

They’ve become too accessible.

Perhaps I’m just longing for the days when I was more young and naive to the ways of the world. Back when I thought writers were these heroes of myth that brushed hands with the gods and had their lives together. Now that I’m older and social media has pulled back the curtain, I’ve been exposed to the naked truth. Or at least the naked, slightly airbrushed truth.

Writers are mortal.

They’re people with flaws and stupid opinions.

And those stupid opinions might discourage me from reading their books.Books I might need those in my life without realizing it.

As such, I choose not to peek behind the curtain.

I think I’ll stick to my clocktower.

When a Writer You Admire is a Jerk

A few years ago, my novel writing class had a high-profile guest speaker come talk to us: the award-winning author of a YA book we had been assigned to read about a week prior.

I was pretty jazzed about it considering how much I’d enjoyed the story. I’ve had predominately good experiences with meeting published authors in the past and have always learned quite a bit from talking with them, so I thought this would be a positive encounter.

My first impression of her was not a bad one. She glided into the room on a cloud of confidence, cool oozing from every pore. She made us laugh, told us a bit about her writing process, and then she opened the floor for questions.

I was the first to raise my hand. She called on me and I asked her how much of the book was based on her own life.

I knew she was an army brat from the bio on the back cover of her novel, but I was curious as to how much of her MC’s life mirrored hers. I had a hunch there were quite a few parallels since most authors derive minute details from their own experiences, but I didn’t want to assume that everything was a perfect representation of her youth.

“Oh,” she replied, “that’s a tourist question. That’s not a good question at all.”

Me:

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Her:

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It’s always disappointing when you discover someone you admire is a jerk.

However, it can be a beneficial lesson to learn. It’s a reminder that, in spite of all that someone may have accomplished, they are still a human being, capable of fallibility. Some foibles are more significant than others, but we all have them. Even the most gifted of us. Especially the most gifted of us.

I’m happy this woman could teach me this lesson. So… very… happy.

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In fact, I’m so happy that I’ve been inspired to write the ultimate novel that will earn me critical praise as well as sacks and sacks of money. I will then use those sacks of money to create a giant pyre and burn all her books in a ceremonial fire.

Beware, jerk writer, I will be avenged through the power of literature!

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Unpopular Opinion: Censorship and “Offensive”Bookstagram Pictures

I don’t consider myself a controversial person, nor do I try to stir the pot when I see a problem brewing. However, it’s becoming progressively more difficult to stay quiet on certain issues, particularly issues involving censorship.

Today I was exploring Bookstagram when I came across a picture from one of the content creators I follow. In this photo advertising the book “Carve The Mark” the photographer painted her arm twilight blue and golden slash marks on her forearm.

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Wow. That’s a lot of dedication, I thought.

I proceeded to scroll on.

Later, I discovered the same photograph covered in white text reading “TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING.” Curious, I investigated to find a crap storm of biblical proportions.

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Apparently many people were complaining that this photograph promoted self-harm and that the photographer should take it down immediately or else they would file a formal complaint. The content creator explained that it was just art and she hadn’t meant any harm by it (she suffers from depression herself). Nevertheless, commentators were not appeased and continued to espouse PC rhetoric about how this could trigger someone or that this was somehow romanticizing cutting.

I’m not in the business of offending people, but I am in the business of creating and defending others that choose the arts as their vocation.

As such I have to say I’m getting tired of this cultural elitism that demands artists change their message or content because someone somewhere might be offended by it. Art has many interpretations and just because you interpreted something a certain way doesn’t give you the right to say something needs to be taken down. What gets me is most of the people that rushed to their keyboards don’t even have depression. They are becoming offended on another person’s behalf.

“What if someone with depression saw this and it triggered them?!”

“What if someone who self-harms saw this?!” 

I don’t know. What if aliens saw Keeping Up With The Kardashians and decided they didn’t want to make first contact anymore? Are we really going to crucify someone based on a hypothetical?

In their quest to come to depressed peoples’ aid they verbally attacked a person with actual depression for posting a picture they didn’t like.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not dissuading criticism. I think critique is perfectly fine. The problem occurs when someone tries to shut a person up or hurl vulgar abuse at them rather than have an intelligent discussion on the subject.

My problem, first and foremost, is with censorship. People being offended by everything is a close second, but censorship is by far the most important issue.

Anyone with any creative background should support another person’s right to make art. It’s as simple as that.

If you don’t like someone’s work, don’t follow that person. Don’t give them your money. Don’t give them your time.

You are not the definitive voice on what is and is not offensive. You don’t have the right to try to de-platform someone just because you don’t agree with their views or what they have created.