Tag Archives: literature

What stories represent and what they tell us about ourselves

This week I wanted to discuss something on the more serious side of writing and representing the real world through story. So without further ado, allow me to take to the stage of the blogging world.

Gorgmenghast.

peake2

The name quietly stirs in your mind as you read the tale of its 77th Earl, Titus Groan. Complicated words, but colorful imagery. Small events and tragedies, we take for granted in our epic fantasy tales but under the careful magnifying glass of Mervyn Peake’s imagination, you feel its weight on your tired eyes.

The Gormenghast trilogy is quite different from your standard fantasy epic, even if you put in A Song of Ice and Fire in the mix. When you read it, you can see why publishers at the same had a hard time categorizing it. This was one of the reasons that prevented these novels from being published and recognized in writing circles.

If I described the Gormenghast trilogy, on face value it wouldn’t stir much interest let alone be considered a treasure in the literary world. Yet, while I read Gormenghast, I was wondering why the story stirred something inside of me. The writing and description was extraordinary but something about the story made me realize its true value.

I couldn’t put my finger on what is was though.

The story is about the life Titus Groan from birth to….well until the author died and never really completed the series. However, it shows how his life is ruled by rituals and traditions that have lost their meaning. Somehow, everyone in the castle goes along with this, as if its some sort of law.

Gormenghast was and is the law. Defying it, challenging it and any form of rebellion was unheard of that it even drove Titus’s father mad.

There is no escape, only submission.

mervyn peake illustration of dr. jekyl and mr hyde

After reading a bit about the author’s life,  I learnt that in his early years he lived in China. The way Gormenghast, the castle, and all its inhabitants live separately from the rest of society sort of reminded me of the Forbidden City.

Then it hit me.

No questions, go along with everyone, obey traditions that have lost any meaning and relevance in today and forget any individual happiness?

Maybe I’m over thinking this, but it felt like the story was representing a sort of Gothic form of collective societies. I’m not saying all collective societies are bad or every single characteristic they possess makes them bad. But anything in excess is usually bad, even individualism (I’m looking at you Ayn Rand).

atlasshrugged200

Back to my point, the Gormenghast novels seemed to resonate with some of my childhood (and even adulthood) experiences regarding collectivism. I grew up in a culture that emphasized on following traditions to the point that they had, figuratively, broken life down into an ordered grocery list. If you fall out of line or do something not accepted or done before, you risk being ostracized.

From a psychological point of view and personal experience, this conflict between choosing for yourself and following what the group does come at a price regardless of the choice you make. Now, if you reject certain traditions not only are you ostracized but you also, within your community, loose that sense of assurance you’re accepted. Maybe to some people that doesn’t sound so bad, but it can have devastating effects on a person’s emotional health.

And forget about ‘middle ground’ in these situations. It’s a dead concept.

Gormenghast offers readers a story about a family, specifically a boy, whose whole life has been planned before he takes his first breath. The senseless rituals he has to commit to have lost all meaning but no one dares question carrying them out or their relevance.

This reminded me of several arguments when I questioned certain traditions and mentalities about the collectivist society I was born into. Any direct question was pretty much met with the same answer (maybe an adverb or adjective if I was lucky):

Because that's what's best because- *insert rest of answer*

Because it’s what’s best because- *insert rest of answer*

This was especially true if I brought up about the role of women in today’s society. Out of my own stupidity and the sweet taste of rebellion (plus the added bonus of pissing off relatives), I wanted to insist certain values were….quite Victorian in nature.

Though doing this would’ve been more productive use of my time:

normal_headdesk

Nevertheless, books like the Gormenghast novels capture difficult concepts to weave into a story, let alone be the central theme.  Also, certain values that are morally grey are harder to come across effectively. But its these stories that bring a wealth of culture and the ability to look at ourselves and the world around us more closely.

It is these stories that we keep in our hearts and minds much longer than your standard white knight saves the world from dark wizard.


Female characters: The Enigma of the Writing World

Time to take a break from Disney bashing and take the opportunity to discuss female characters.

While slaving away at SPSS (a stats software), during my breaks where I’m allowed to experience what sunlight feels like I’ve abandoned that privilege for something better: I’ve been catching up reading A Song of Ice And Fire book 4, A feast for crows. Recent chapter-character perspectives and my Disney Princess bashing posts, I got to thinking about female characters.

The sole purpose of my existence: To read all the books!

The sole purpose of my existence: To read all the books!

In Game of Thrones, we are presented with several female characters. From the typical all girlie and all “princess-y” Sansa Stark to Asha Greyjoy “Man with breasts”.

images (1)

asha-greyjoy-game-of-thrones-30919471-600-902

The problem with most media is that female characters are often on two extremes of a spectrum. We got the Sansa side (Disney Princesses, Welcome) and on the other side Asha Greyjoy (one of my favorite characters). A while ago I mentioned there are very few female characters I’ve seen that have managed to be strong and yet retain their femininity without forgoing their individual strength.

Growing up, the media taught me women’s strength (no matter the character development) were the following:

  • Beauty: Duh. 
  • Sex: Cersei Lannister is currently teaching this lesson.
  • The Love interest: What? He’s a badass dude who has loads of superpowers? You don’t need a silly thing called inner strength dear. You got a MAN!
  • Innocence: Yes, this is a weapon. Allow me to explain, throughout certain types of media and even in real life, women have known the value of acting (or not) innocent. The writer will protect her and in the real world, the dudes fall for this tactic.
  • Intelligence: More recently, the ‘nerdy’ girl has been showing up. Cunning and all that jazz is creeping up too but still underplayed.

No wonder there’s no ‘real’ character role model for young girls. As a child, I always preferred the male characters (which made my parents question why wasn’t I like other little girls) because they were more developed, independent and dealt with their faults. Female characters, on the other hand…

Meh, Tiger.

Meh, Tiger.

Don’t get me started with inner conflict issues. Donald Maass wrote inner conflict for a character is important to set them apart and such. Most female characters’ inner conflict deals mainly, on a general level, with the ‘romance’ issues or body/confidence issues. Yet, there’s a variety of literature and other media outlets probably showing every type of inner conflict imaginable.

Yet, every now and then someone wrote a real female character without polarizing the spectrum.

360px-Elisa_Maza Samantha-Carter-samantha-carter-2511923-518-76813307445717974931683.jpeg___1_500_1_500_cb94de6a_

The problem with female characters is its a sort of Pandora’s box of extreme characterizations (Sansa Vs Asha). The other won’t be caught dead dressing or acting like the other. Occasionally  we get the fem fatale type character but that’s used more of the whole sexy but dangerous angle (and again reinforces certain issues about female sexuality). The problem with staying in the middle is that writers’ often write a great female character until Mr. Love Interest shows up.

This has often been the case in society if we think about it.

I’ve seen many young women have all sorts of dreams and goals, but everything gets tossed in the wind when “Mr. Right” shows up and relationships need their dues (compromises) paid.

There was even a research article I came across stating how female scientists’ goals and ambitions change when romance strolls into the lab.

With this in mind, its obvious that the media still wants to cling onto its ‘construct’ of what women want and what will make them happy. Then people watch, get influenced by the media, and the cycle continues.

Rinse. Repeat.

My washing machine has more originality than this. It has lots of buttons for so many options (and breaks down to keep things interesting). Wait a sec…I don’t think that metaphor is right….

Why do we do this? Because its safe, its known, its-

R-E-A-L-I-S-T-I-C!

R-E-A-L-I-S-T-I-C!

Happiness, goals, and ambitions cannot be generalized. According to the media and ‘construct’, as a little girl I would’ve wanted to be a princess and have a handsome prince to come to tea or something.

Instead, my parents got a kid who wanted to be a Beast Wars Transformer (I wanted a Fox for my beast mode) or be part of the SG1 team and kick some serious ass. Funny enough, I did own a few Barbies but my sister and I made them part of this magical kingdom (with our other toys) that was always under threat from evil monsters. Their adventures required tactical espionage, using decoys (what the Ken doll was for), breaking defensive positions and I think we even cut off the bad guys’ supply lines at one point.

To make your characters more memorable and realistic in their world and life, you have to find out what will make them happy not what a template says.

The good thing is we’re seeing an emergence of strong female characters based on their individuality, history, family background and circumstances (a quick thank you to GRR Martin and several other writers out there). However, there’s still a long way to go before the playing field is equal.


Accurate Story Titles: The case with Disney’s Princesses Part 2

In the game of creating-accurate-story-titles-for-your-audience-to-read, you either

meme

Make them laugh or be lame!

The latter is pretty much death on the internet. Just much slower and more painful than loosing your head.

Let’s see, we’ve cover Mulan, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderalla…

Who’s next?

Wait…You. So we meet again.

My mortal Enemy

My mortal Enemy

From the dawn of my existence, your theme song played in the background of my home whenever you saw the opportunity, like your cousins the sirens when they saw new ships with young sailors, to tempt the women in my family to have a ‘girls’ movie night’. I was forced to watch treacherous ill gotten stories which neglected the very fabric of healthy relationships.

It nearly drove me mad. But I survived, persevered even because I knew one day, I shall have my vengeance upon you.

Then, you decided these taunts were not enough to thrill you in our game of TV remotes. You recruited countless radio stations and music stores to promote, sell and replay what only your most loyal of banner-men  or..um women, to sing your theme song over and over again. Along with that Titanic song I still believe you were one of its main architects.

I thought patience was the best way to go about my plans, but then you did the unthinkable.

You infiltrated my ‘real book’ of saxophone sheet music.

Tonight, I shall unveil to the world your true tale.

Prepare yourself!

This is our final battle!

Alright, Beauty and the Beast is one of those classics that will probably haunt humanity until we’re extinct or be a treasured artifact in  a post-apocalyptic zombie world where alien archaeologists are trying to figure out what happened.

A tale of Stockholm syndrome, forced redemption and re-enforcement of certain stereotypes

A tale of Stockholm syndrome, forced redemption, re-enforcement of certain stereotypes and how you can change your man with your love!

At the beginning of the film, the narrator tells us of a spoiled and selfish prince who was unkind. Hey, he turned away an old woman during a storm! That’s just extra points on the ‘typical-bad-guy-meter’.

Hmm, selfish, unkind to the poor, appreciates beauty, only apologized when there’s a bigger more powerful fish in the kingdom, you know he’s just an incestuous lineage and headless main character away from being-

Joffrey

Joffrey.

But Joffrey being a powerful beast would not be good. Tyrion Lannister won’t be able to protect us.

Anyways, Belle sings how boring her life is and she doesn’t want to marry the village quarterback. Funny thing, in the end she just ends up marrying the ‘changed’ prince and lives happily ever after. What’s the difference between that choice and marrying the quarterback? Both of them had their failings and issues. The only difference is one is rich and a prince!

At least Arya Stark knew she wanted something different and she wasn’t afraid to say what it was. And that’s a princess who knew what she wanted and what to sing about if she broke out into a musical number.

So let’s cut the plotline and get straight to it, she plays hostage trade with the beast. Then, begins a love story of stockholm syndrome.

Firstly, the beast gets pissy and actually orders the servants to let her starve (this sounds like something Joffrey would do). It seems like the time spent not being a human prince with everything didn’t teach him any humility.

If anything, just enraged him.

The enchantress that cursed him is obviously not an accredited psychologist. We need to alert the Enchantress Psychologists Board about malpractice and proper certification of a certain someone. Seriously, if I was an enchantress and wanted to teach him about inner beauty and humility well, there’s a whole bunch of recycled plotlines I could use that would fit better! Make him ugly and a peasant, then he learns his lesson, etc etc etc.

Okay, so the beast starts becoming nice and all lovey dovey with Belle because love changes you! This of course is one the major assumptions about relationships in today’s society. Kiddies, you can’t make people change. You can help them but the whole causality is wrong.

Also, it takes steps. A long process to get a person to change. I’m not saying people can’t change but….

Have any of you watched Gargoyles?

One Disney character (I'm still in shock) that tells you the hard truth

One Disney character (I’m still in shock) that tells you the hard truth

 Do you remember what Goliath told Angela, his daughter, about her mother’s actions in season 3 (Generations)? Well, I can’t post a direct link to the speech, but it sums up everything I want to say about changing a person:

“To truly change or redeem oneself is terribly difficult. Some work their entire lives and never manage it. “

-Goliath

I read that in Goliath’s voice….Anyways, Demona didn’t really change even in the face of her own beloved daughter’s pleas.

How can you expect the Prince to change?

This only re-enforces two stereotypes or tropes in romance media, (1) Stockholm = love and (2) your love can change him!

Here’s another issue, the woman is always beautiful. The man can be ugly. If its ever reversed, the woman is actually a flower waiting to bloom and turns out…wait for it…she’s actually beautiful!


Accurate Story Titles: A special case for Mulan

Fun fact kids!

The great wall of China

The Great Wall of China actually took quite some time to be built. Some of the walls were built as early as the 7th Century B.C. The one that we all know and love to visit (and comment to your mother that you are in fact standing on a large graveyard), was built between 220-206 BC as the great Wikipedia gods have told me. (If I’m wrong guys, please email/comment so I may correct this information.)

So, uh, Shan Yu

Yes, you, good sir. The one with the demonic eyes and the evil animal sidekick

Yes, you, good sir. The one with the demonic eyes and the evil animal sidekick

I have some rather concerning issues regarding your invasion of China, I have prepared a list for you so we can get straight to the point:

  • Why did you wait for the Great Wall to be completed? I’ve walked on that thing and I must say, climbing through those mountains then seeing a big ass wall on the mountain top would make me say to my buddy “we don’t realllllyyyy need to conquer China do we?” Plus amassing a whole army to climb the Great Wall would be a tad bit…I dunno…
Noticeable?

Noticeable?

Like, how did you carry your horses? Supplies and all that? If you did, and decided to take the really long ass scenic route, damn someone would’ve noticed by now. According to the original ballad of Mulan, she fought for twelve years. Maybe you spent that time getting your logistics sorted?

  • Killing the emperor only. Seriously? That’s your plan? Um, sorry kids but it was well known the Emperors had gardens/mazes dedicated to the Emperor playing games (no, not that kind perverts) with his concubines (which at that point you hear your mother asking the tour guide what about the Empress?). Let’s not forget, they had several children. So..um…See my point?
  • Your whole army gets killed and a handful of you go off into enemy central? You’re quite….well…obvious you’re not from around here. Plus what would that accomplish, kill the emperor and any successors. Then what? Oh and ever heard of army morale?

I could go on but…

Your bird is giving me a weird look

Your bird is giving me a weird look. And about your eyes, I know a good Doctor who can check that out…

Okay, so about Mulan…

Technically, she isn’t a princess. Disney added her as a princess I guess to negate certain issues. Although she did marry a General, she still is not a princess.

Mulan

Disney could have justified its decision in making Mulan a princess if they made General Shang one of the Emperor’s sons. Then again,

We couldn't use the wise old king trope

We couldn’t use the wise old king trope

In Hua Mulan, the man Mulan fell in love with was one of the Emperor’s son (number 7 I think).

Okay, that’s it. End of story.

Nope. I still have issues.

What I wanted to point out in this special ‘interlude’ was the different  interpretations of Mulan. I’ll forget about Disney’s list of wrong  assumptions. Seriously guys, if her family owns that land and let’s face it, it looks like she’s from a ‘rich’ well moderately rich family, she’d have more brothers and sistersandwhatthehellseriouslyguys?Alsoculturalintepretationsjustbecauseshewentagainstsociety’snormsdoesn’tmeaneverysinglecharacterhastobeloveableclumsythatisjusttheshortcuttotheaudiencelikingher!Whatiswrongwithyou-

ARGGHHHH

ARGGHHHH

I feel better now.

Anyways, Disney took what I’d like to call the ‘standard’ route to introduce Western audiences to an unfamiliar culture and time period.

Heroine is against cultural norms, therefore lovably clumsy but smart, does something drastic to protect her father, goes to war, triumphs. Also, the war looked like it didn’t last too long.

Now have a look at this trailer:

I’ve watched this movie recently and although it has certain issues I’d love to discuss, I think it had something more to offer older audiences regarding the original legend. How being at war for 12 years affected the heroine as well as the ultimate decision she made at the very ending. It isn’t a happy ending, more like bittersweet, when you think about the implications of her decision but I won’t spoil it.

I could write a whole PhD thesis on what’s wrong with the Disney movie but-

Hey, that’s an idea!


Accurate Story Titles: The case with Disney’s Princesses

Some of you may have watched the latest YouTube parody for the Disney Princesses:

Or  the latest Nostalgia Critic

We’ve all heard the usual criticisms of how these Disney Princesses are. Perhaps, it wouldn’t be so controversial if the titles of these iconic movies were more accurate!

The parenting trials of the Three Fairies and their Cursed adopted Daughter

The parenting trials of the Three Fairies and their Cursed adopted Daughter

Seriously, those Fairies did everything. They gave her gifts, raised her, told her she can’t stay out too late in the forest with that handsome stranger (shhessh, teenagers) and then when they take her to meet her relatives…she gets all dramatic and then goes and gets cursed…

Like all dutiful parents who did not teach their kids independence, the Three Fairies had to go get the Prince to do all the heavy lifting or else their beloved adopted daughter would’ve gone on a rampage on how they interfere with her life.  It was also a great rouse to see her new boyfriend. Is he trustworthy? Is he from a good family, etc etc.

I love puns.

Moving on.

And how she mended her relationship with her possessive father by running off with a boy from a different species

A cautionary Tale to overprotective and controlling fathers: A lesson on how to deal with your daughter’s ‘first love’

Think about it. Ariel’s father got upset, forbid her as any overprotective/controlling father would, then she runs off to the sea-witch next thing you know missing trident, your whole species has been discovered, and your little mer-daughter brought home a human boy.

A valuable lesson can be learned in all of this.

NEXT!

A story about what happens when you don't write a will for your only daughter: A tale of family dysfunction, betrayal and hallucinogens

A story about what happens when you don’t write a will for your only daughter: A tale of betrayal and hallucinogens

Her father married a horrible woman, which brings to question his tastes in women…

Out of all the women in the kingdom, you pick this woman?

Out of all the women in the kingdom, you pick her?

Let’s be realistic, just a tad bit please. Obviously, Cinderella was from one of the noble families, mom dies, okay father re-marries. He could have his pick on anyone. But the narrator covered that (I checked). He wanted to get Cinderella a mother and probably some siblings too.

Seriously dude, you couldn’t find someone else. Someone less…evil looking and more motherly? Don’t forget you’ll be waking up to that face.

Every morning. For the rest of your- Hey wait a sec.

Plus, Cinderella didn’t look too bad at the beginning with the whole no mother issue. Maybe you watched the previous movie entry of this post first?

And if you hear the narrator again (on youtube), this is just a bigger argument about having a lawyer and a will.

Also, Cinderella must have been on something to deal with her troubles. To be cheerful all the time, singing to animals (then again many of the Disney Princesses do sing or talk to animals…).

Okay, getting side tracked!

Just look at the dress she made!

Don'tsayitdon'tsayitdon'tsayit...ah hell....Its a tad bit lolita-ish....

Don’tsayitdon’tsayitdon’t..ah hell….Its a tad bit lolita-ish don’t you think?

To be continued!

My Browser can only take so much Disney Princess stuff…

Okay, let’s see…1001 things to do on the internet…where is it…

Ah! #10, Diss Disney!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!


The different types of writers

In any endeavor, we often view things in the ‘romantic’ sense.

Take playing the saxophone for example,

Put a saxophone in anyone's hands and its automatically sexy

Put a saxophone in anyone’s hands and its automatically sexy

Sexy, cool and totally badass.

With your sexy playing, you’ll seduce everyone in the audience.

Guess what?

Get used to cleaning up your spit after playing it.

Sexy isn’t it?

Somehow just saying you’re a writer gets a similar reaction. Everyone forgets there’s hard work and stuff to clean up (hopefully, not spit in this case).

There are three self-proclaimed writers, probably among your friends, that fit these ‘extreme’ archetypes.

1. The show-off:

This writer can be equated with the ‘it’ girl in any social group. She/he will always bring up any opportunity that they are a writer, especially whenever there’s a delicious word play. Any failings to spot obvious play on words or lacks certain articulations expected from a writer, the show-off will use her/his most famous line as a defensive shield:

‘I didn’t see that! And I’m a writer!’

Or something like that.

This writer hates constructive criticism. Even if you have your friend’s best interests at heart and genuinely believe they have a diamond in the rough, be careful.

This writer will rally the support of her/his family and friends to get their blog numbers up or any comments in any published material on the net.

For example, you may find his/her mother defending  or praising the writer’s views in the comment section.

2. The Free spirit:

Writing has been equated with being a free spirit, meaning stuff like planning and contacting publishers are so…technical and not-free-spirity. Some may view that writing a ‘plan’ hinders the creative process.

This type of writer often has an innocence in his/her demeanor. They believe that their work will be automatically picked up thanks to their creativity but when it comes down to getting an agent/editor/publisher to look at their work, things get complicated.

Free spirits maybe more open to criticism of their story, however, don’t try your luck out when advising them on how to improve their writing methods.

Just as every writer is different, so are their methods. The free spirit is lodged on an ideal that creativity alone will push through all the business-y stuff.

3. The Analyst:

He/she spots the common mistakes and other issues with other pieces of work. This archetype writer believes he/she has avoided these mistakes in creating their debut work or magnum opus. If you point out this person’s mistakes, he/she might have an explanation on why they did this or that in the story.

The analyst also believes in following a religious pathway in publication. Anyone who diverges from this path will not be successful.

All in all, every writer is different just as every sax player is (quick info: each sax player’s mouth is slightly different so they have to practice to find the ‘right’ position for their lips on the mouth piece, how ‘plump’ their lips are, how to use their cheek muscles, etc). And like each sax player, each writer needs to figure out what works for him/her.

This annoyingly takes time, patience, practice and self-reflection.

And take risks in the roads to publication.

Despite all of this, it’s still ‘romantic’ in some sense.


Perfectionism: The common cold of the writing world

One the worst diseases in the writing world is the common cold   author perfectionism.

Knock knock, new chapter, knock knock, new chapter, knock knock rewrite

Knock knock, new chapter, knock knock, new chapter, knock knock rewrite new chapter

There’s a book I’m dying to write, but every time I get around to actually writing it… I end up re-writing the whole damn thing.

I, too, suffer from the crippling disease of author perfectionism. When you overcome it, a new strand of author perfectionism infects you. This is another reason I haven’t chained myself to my laptop to write Ladders Into the Grave properly.

Any antibiotics out there? As your quack author doctor, I prescribe one book for you. Read it daily and tell me how you feel after 90 days and I’ll prescribe you something else.

41AsVnidC-L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-63,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_

This is your fee for the prescription. Please fill it out on the way to book/kindle store.

Pretty please? Or else I’ll have to resort to the internet’s number one strategy!

Its low, its immoral but an effective tactic

Its low, its immoral but an effective tactic


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