stuff i like

Roleplay and the Writer: An Exercise in Immersion

If I got into MMORPGs for one thing outside of story and entertainment, it was Roleplay. Now, some of you may read ‘Roleplay’ and think of the sort of kinky stuff come couples do involving costumes and toys and such. As I am talking about a game where I play an elf, this is unlikely the same time of Roleplay.

Roleplay—or RP—in games generally means that you create your character, but give them a backstory and personality. You go through the gaming world as if you are this character, who lives in this world, and who may or may not have been witness to key events from the game’s story. Your character interacts with other characters and you form bonds with them—good or bad—as you move through your own plots and watch the character change before your eyes.

It’s a very immersive process, really, and it has given me better insight on getting inside my character’s head.

For the sake of clarity and focus, I play World of Warcraft. WoW operated on an instant messaging chat for communication between players. This is the method I prefer RP in for the sake of immersion. When RPing with someone else in this setup, you don’t have tons of time to respond. Your partner is waiting somewhere on the other end of the game you’re the next thing your character will do or say. You can’t respond two hours later. You can’t get up and come back to it after you’ve had some time to think. You’ve got maybe a few minutes to read what they’re saying, assess the situation, and determine how the character you’ve crafted will respond. You make the circumstances of past RPs into consideration as you get into your character’s head and make each move.

For example, not too long ago, I was involved in a storyline where my character—an Elven mage—had her son kidnapped. Her allies in recovering him were the boy’s instructor—a rather powerful priest—an old friend of her family—a burly, disgruntled paladin—and a man she’d been cultivating a relationship with over several months—a warlock nobleman.

Through magical means, they find where the kidnapper is keeping her son, managing to avoid the traps waiting for them until they reach the building…only to find that boy is gone but for some blood and a scrap from his robe.

Now, over the past few months, the warlock character had become very close to my mage and her son. The kidnapper was actually one of his enemies and he held a lot of anger on himself for failing to protect the boy. Seeing that they were too late only made it worse.

And this character has a literally explosive temper. I’m talking fire everywhere. He was radiating flames, screaming like a madman, and every so often his magic would burst, causing damage to the building they were in. At the time, he was with two characters—my mage and the priest.

This had been an aspect of the warlock that his player and I had been discussing: the idea that she should see him at his worst. I had to think of how she would react. What she would do. And take in past RPs to know what would affect those actions.

In this case, it was the knowledge that she had seen him lose control like this, briefly, when they’d discovered who’d taken her son.

Had she not seen this, her reaction would have been pure terror. Frightened screaming. Possibly trying to talk to him, but through panic and begging him to calm down. She may have even let the priest—whom had never seen such a reaction from the warlock—knock him unconscious.

However, because she had seen a hint of this before, I was able to turn to a core aspect of her personality. My mage can keep calm in a stressful situation if she has logic to cling to. In this case, it was knowing that she could use the scrap of her son’s clothing to divine where he might be. Having seen his flaring temper before, and knowing the warlock for who he was, she was able to take the situation differently.

She was still scared out of her wits—the man was losing control of his magic right before her eyes—but she was able to talk to him, and her worry for his personal safety overrode the fear she was feeling. She was able to give him logic to cling to as well, and he was able to calm down enough to tell them to get away from him so he could release the magic that was currently threatening to overpower him.

As writers, it is important that we are able to get right inside our characters heads and live in their moments. And nothing has taught me to do so better than knowing there is someone waiting for my response to their own actions.

It is an exercise I would recommend trying, if you are in to RPGs. If not, try to write as if you are. As if you’re trapped in a moment, and someone is waiting to see what you’ll do next.

Because your reader certainly will be.

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My Favourite Place for Names

A while back I wrote about names. I offered some stories and strategies I use for coming up with names. What I didn’t talk about, however, was how sometimes names just won’t come. Everything you try doesn’t sound right. Or you aren’t sure where to start looking when it comes to names for people from different cultures. Or maybe it’s not a person you need to name, it’s a place. What do you do then?

Find yourself a name generator.

I have a personal favourite for this task that I wish to share. Fantasy Name Generators was a website I came across while bored browsing the web. The Fantasy Name Generator is an endless source of naming delight. Their random generators touch all corners of your writing needs, from fictional people in a modern setting, to fantasy worlds, and the realm of fanfiction.

Under the ‘Real Names’ section, seekers will find three columns listing generators by ethnicity. The names range from modern to archaic to ancient in some cultures. Within, you can select whether you want a male or female name, as the family names generated are the same for both, you can easily go through dozens of names before finding one that you think fits.

Some warning here though. As some cultures use different writing systems from us and have different naming conventions, it is always best to do some follow-up research on a name. Make sure you have the western spelling right, and maybe ask someone from that culture if the name looks right.

Under the Fantasy Names tab, you get a strange and assorted list. Anything from Amazons to serial killers to vampires to wizards can have their name generated here. You get goblin names like Plyz or Slivak. Detective names like Norah Sharpe or Dan Maxwell. Superhero names like Venombite, or Doctor Smooth Vulture.

Okay, that last one was a bit silly. Some of them are.

The Pop Culture section is a fanfiction writer’s dream. While it’s not as extensive, it does focus on the bigger names: Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Star Wars and such. Great if you’re trying to name that minor original character from your Avatar: The Last Airbender story. Or if you just can’t decide what to name your next World of Warcraft character.

But for some, naming a character is easy. It’s the places around them—the cityies and cafes the parks and mountains—that stump the writer-to-be. Your protagonist could have a date at The Royal Junction or buy their morning brew from Big Boulder Coffee or spend their nights with friends at Club Embassy. Information is exchanged during a foggy night at Sunnyside Memorial Park. The possibilities here are endless.

But that’s not where it ends. Need a title for that catchy tune the bard is always singing? They have a Song Name generator. They’ve got Guild Names and Spell Names and Afterlife Names and Currency Names. Within their “Other” section, you’ll find all sorts of miscellaneous names you never knew you needed!

But this site offers more than just names. Stuck on an idea for your next short story? It offers plot descriptions and prompts. Need an actual idea for a city? It won’t only give you a name, it will give you some history and attractions for you to use as a springboard when you develop your world. The descriptions can be tweaked of course, to better fit your story.

The Fantasy Name Generator is easily one of my favourite resources for names. Here’s hoping it may become one of yours.

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What I Want to See in Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events

One of my favourite series as a tween was Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I felt it a special sort of series in the way it was written and how the plot unfolded. I loved Snicket’s quirky narration–the way he would constantly define words, or break the fourth wall, or how he would insert little things like two completely black pages because there was no other way to describe how dark an elevator shaft was. I loved how ridiculous it could be. The adults never listened to the obvious, and you’d think after Olaf’s third attempt on the orphan Baudelaires, the adults would have been more wary. There was a sense of fun to the books, and you always wanted Violet, Klaus, and Sunny to make it out okay, even if you knew there was only misery ahead.

Recent word on the web promises the books are to be made into an official series by Netflix. It’s exciting news for fans, especially after the disappointing film starring Jim Carrey. Though the “official trailer” for the series turned out to be fan-made, it got a lot of us even more excited for what this series has to offer.

Though, perhaps Netflix ought to hire this person on. This video is a masterpiece.

I eagerly await to relive my childhood in full with the coming of this series, but there are a few things I would like to see from it.

Lemony Narration– The movie did this with a shadowed Jude Law cast as Mr. Snicket and I would love to see something similar from the show. Snicket’s unique commentary was part of what made the books so enjoyable. I want Mr. Snicket telling me to turn off my TV and watch something happier. I want him to apologize to the audience after an episode leaves us on a cliffhanger. Snicket’s job was to tell us all he had learned of the Baudelaires, and I want him to continue to do so.

Proper Pacing– A big issue with the movie was how they chose to organize the events. They combined the first three books in the film, splitting the events of the first book between the beginning and end. This did not work. Now, this will be unlikely with a full series as we’re dealing with a different format. I don’t know how the seasons will be paced though. Will each season be a couple of hour and a half long episodes following a single book? Will three books make up each season? There are thirteen books to get through. I wonder how Netflix will do this.

An Intimidating Olaf– I get that the guy is over-the-top looking and that his design screams “eeeeevvviiiiillllll.” He’s so obviously evil it’s hilarious. The movie took the easy route, working with his absurd appearance by casting Jim Carrey and having him be whacky. I want Netflix to take the tougher route. I want then to keep the iconic look of the character, but cast an actor who can make me feel the same menace the Baudelaires felt. I want Olaf to be frightening. I want him to be somewhat dignified. I want him to feel like a real threat.

Story-telling Quirks– This sort of ties in with the narration, but Snicket always had these little things he would do that were interesting and entertaining. Above I mention two completely black pages being published in one of the books because Snicket decided this was the best way to describe the darkness of the elevator shaft the children are trapped in. I want the episode matching that scene to just have a few minutes of complete blackness, with Mr. Snicket narrating over it. Little additions like this would help keep the spirit of the books, even in a completely different medium.

Maintaining the Ending- Oh, how the series end screwed with people. There were so many questions! What was the purpose of the Sugar Bowl? Who were VFD? What was Olaf’s connection with them? These and many other questions were left hanging after The End. I want it to stay that way. Snicket’s opinion was that life never gives you all the answers, and I want Netflix to keep with that philosophy as best they can.

There’s a great deal of time between now and the premier of this series. The future will bring news of cast choices, sneak peeks, and eventually a release date. I pray to get my wishes for this series, and I look forward to watching it as each episode is released, and then binge watching the entire thing in proper Netflix fashion.

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Day at the Cirque

This should be a fairly image heavy post, but my camera tragically didn’t want to cooperate with me. I apologize in advance.

Before last weekend, I had never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance. The Cirque passes through my city on a fairly regular basis during their tours, but I’d never gone to see a show, usually because of the price of admission and my lack of funds at the time. Also, any friends who might join me were also affected by a lack of funds.

However, when the Cirque set up a city over with their Steampunk show Kurios, I had to see it. The result was a weekend trip through rain, wind, and weird smelling popcorn.

Since getting tickets, I was excited for the show, but in that subtle way most people are when they’re looking forward to something. That was until I saw the tent.

It was in a tent and I was suddenly seven.

We walked in to the smell of popcorn and cotton candy. Booths sold souvenirs ranging from keychains to soundtracks both vinyl and disc to shirts to DVDs of older shows. The center-most support pillars hosted bars selling beer and wine. Despite the pouring rain outside, the interior of the tent was quite warm. Our seats were nearly ring-side, giving us an excellent view of the stage, and the intricate steampunk devices set up there.

The soundtrack for this show—which I bought during the intermission—was upbeat, almost like swing. A woman in a gram-o-phone hat sang alongside the music, but there wasn’t much for actual lyrics. It was mostly musical sounds like “la” sung, though it fit, giving the illusion of lyrics, without words to distract from what was happening on stage.

The acts were varied, with balancing acts, acrobats, contortionists, and high-flying stunts. If I had to pick my top three parts, I would say the contortionists and the comedy acts. There were two comedy acts done between some major performances. One involved a tiny stage rigged with machinery to play an invisible circus. Another was a skit of a man trying to impress a girl, only for his cat to take over while he was getting them something to drink.

The guy did an absolutely brilliant impression of a cat, from kneading to sticking his ass in her face to hopping off the couch to use the litter box and then coming right back for attention.

While the acts were all very impressively performed and costumed in their own right, I thought the best act was the quartet of contortionists. They were wheeled in on the back of a giant mechanical hand, all intertwined in a pile. Dressed in fully body suits, they invoked the image of an orange, blue-spotted octopus when they moved. They were mesmerizing. Their bodies contorted in impossible ways that seemed to flow so naturally from them. And despite the fact that they were all five-nothing with ribs that were visible in some of their motions, you could see the strength to them.

I wouldn’t want to fight a contortionist. Just saying.

Kurios was a grand show, hampered by only two things: the torrential rain that poured throughout the day, and the smell of salt & vinegar barbeque popcorn my dad had purchased from the refreshment booth.

My first Cirque de Soleil was an absolutely fantastic one. I’d recommend seeing Kurios if you get the chance. And if you can’t see that one, well, they’ve got a plethora of other shows as well!

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Fringe Reviews: Dirk Darrow

Fringe has started up in Edmonton, so these next two weeks will be short reviews of the plays I saw while I was there. First up: 2 Ruby Knockers, 1 Jaded Dick: A Dirk Darrow Investigation.

            I saw the first Dirk Darrow play about two years ago. For those unaware, the play is a one-man parody of film noir following one of Darrow’s improve-littered investigations. This year, Darrow was working to solve the case of a massive bank heist, all while trying to figure out what connection the mysterious and beautiful Ruby “Knockers” has to it all.

            In addition to mystery and comedy, there’s a bit of magic as well. Darrow’s got a few clever card tricks and sleight of hand up his sleeve that’s sure to some applause. Some tricks start early, leading to pay offs near the end that will leave you asking “When did he do that?”

            The real treat comes with the comedy, however. While the play is littered with clever jokes and jokes that are so bad you’ll laugh anyway, the real gold is in the improv. Experience will vary between audiences, depending on how stage-shy the unexpected volunteer might be. I was lucky to witness one unintentional smartass and one gentleman who was more than happy to take on the role of the beautiful Ruby. Together, their antics even managed to trip up the actor once, leaving both Darrow and the audience in hysterics.     

            If I had to say anything negative about the play, it’s that I felt like it went by too fast. But maybe that was because I was having so much fun.

            If you’re out Fringing this week, check out Dirk Darrow before he’s back on the case.

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Book Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon UK

 

“Hey, so I found this book you might like. It’s called Throne of the Crescent Moon. It’s a fantasy book, but it takes place in an Islamic-Middle Eastern society. Also, one chick can turn into a lion and it’s pretty awesome.”

            This is more or less what I told a Muslim friend of mine after I’d finished reading the first book of Saladin Ahmed’s Crescent Moon Kingdoms series. However, I think it’s a good reason for non-Muslims to read it as well.

            I picked the book up on a whim because the front cover was cool looking, and the blurb on the back promised an interesting story. I’m also a sucker for Arabian Nights-style stories, which may be largely because Disney’s Aladdin was my favourite movie as a kid.

            But I digress.

            The book takes place in the city of Dhamsawaat, where ghul-hunter Doctor Adoulla Makhslood finds that he’s getting too old to face the dangers of his job. However, there is no rest for him, as a recent ghul attack thrusts him and his partner, Raseed bas Raseed, into further dangers. Matters become more pressing as Adoulla and Raseed, along with Dawoud and Litaz—old friends of Adoulla’s, a magus and an alkhemist, respectfully—and Zamia Banu Laith Badawi—an Angel-touched girl who transforms into a lioness—must face an evil sorcerer who could cause the Kingdoms to descend into chaos. And all of this is going smack in the middle of political strife as the mysterious Falcon Prince seeks to overthrow the corrupt Khalif.

            It’s a fantastic world of swords and sorcery, and the characters are really the heart of the whole thing. Adoulla is a ridiculous old man, often blatantly rude, but don’t let that make you think he’s not a total badass. The man smites foul beasts for a living in the name of God. His dervish sidekick Raseed is a powerful ally, especially armed with his forked sword, but he struggles with his desire to do good by his order. Zamia, though seeking vengeance for her murdered band, is equally as complex. And she turns into a lion. Which is awesome.

            The other characters are wonderfully imagined as well. Dawoud, though burdened by his magic, is a strong ally and trustworthy friend. His wife Litaz may not have magic, but she’s clever and skilled in her own right. The Falcon Prince is charming rogue. The villains are mysterious and intimidating. Even the side characters have distinct things about them that make you want to know more.

            Throne of the Crescent Moon has a lot of great qualities to it. Equal parts drama, action, and comedy drive the story forward. The characters are wonderfully complex. Though Ahmed plays the “love at first sight” card (I won’t tell you on whom), the budding romance is actually very sweet and entertaining. The world is interesting and it begs more expansion. Anyone who has done research on the Middle East will see a lot of cultural aspects cleverly realized, especially in regards to religion and mythology.

            Throne of the Crescent Moon has garnered quite a bit of attention based on the fact that it’s not set in a counter-part to medieval Europe, like so many fantasies are. I think this is a good thing for it. I know there are some who feel different, but I’m personally way more interested in the Golden Age of Arabia than the Dark Ages. Plus, you can only read so many medieval fantasies before you want some variety.

            “But wait!” you might cry. “If this book takes place in a fictional Islamic country, don’t they talk about God a lot?”

            Well, yes. And the thing about any story where God is frequently discussed is that it runs the risk of getting preachy. It takes a good author to avoid that, and Saladin Ahmed does it well. Religion is heavily integrated into this world, but it comes off very naturally. Even when characters are quoting the “Heavenly Chapters,” the dialogue doesn’t seem stilted or preachy. A scripture quote comes across more like a comforting platitude you might hear after having a bad day.

            And Adoulla usually interrupts a few of them anyway.

            Aside from this, you might need to look up what a dervish actually is.

            The only real issue I have with Ahmed’s writing is that he can be rather repetitive at times. This is more noticeable at the beginning of the book and wanes as the story continues. I believe he mentions Adoulla’s spotless, moonlight white kaftan several times in a single chapter and some of Raseed and Zamia’s thoughts do tend to play on repeat. It doesn’t take away from the story at all, but it was one thing I noticed.

            I truly recommend this book to any lover of fantasy. Go and pick it up.

            And then sit with me in frustration as we wait for the sequel to be released.    

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Review: Rat Queens, Vol. 1

I don’t read a lot of comic books, at least not mainstream ones. I’ve got maybe one volume of Gail Simone’s recent Batgirl run, and that’s it for Marvel or DC. Any comics I do read are collected in volume format, and have nothing to do with super heroes.

I’m here to talk to you about one of those comics. It’s called Rat Queens.

Cover of Rat Queens Issue 5

Cover of Rat Queens Issue 5

Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Roc Upchurch, Rat Queens is about your near-typical fantasy RPG group—consisting of a dwarf warrior, elf mage, human cleric, and smidgen (Halfling) thief—with the twist being that the entire group is made up of women. The story follows Hannah (elf), Dee (human), Violet (dwarf), and Betty (smidgen) as they do everything from starting bar brawls to slaying trolls, to out-classing assassins.

While I’m not intimately involved in comic book culture, I know that it’s not an easy place for women. Sexism is abound with unimagined ladies who are killed off to cause man-pain, and women are drawn without the figure necessary for housing vital organs and apparently have snakes for spines. The lack of diversity and development for female characters is a serious issue with female fans. It’s to the point where DC has put out a slew of Superman and Batman movies, but Wonder Woman has been stuck in development hell for years because the idea of a super hero movie with a female lead was deemed “too confusing.”

There’s nothing confusing about Rat Queens.

When Wiebe created these characters, he set out to make women that people could relate to, or recognize as a friend, family member, or lover. His goal was to create realistic women, and I think he succeeded. These ladies are vulgar and badass, but they’ve got kind, sensitive sides, and struggles that are only hinted at so far. Dee the Cleric, a class that relies of divine magic, seriously questions her religion; Violet has struggles with her family; Hannah, easily the most vulgar of the group, has a soft-side that comes out in her relationship with the guard captain Sawyer Silver; Betty has relationship troubles (largely thanks to Hannah). They’ve got very real lives outside of their day-jobs as battle-maidens-for-hire, and the friendship they share is genuine. I would totally hang out with any of these women (and sometimes I get the impression that I have) even at the risk of horrible mutilation via orcs.

And they’re backed up by an equally interesting and hilarious cast. Outside of the ladies, we’ve got Tizzie, another elf mage who has an intense rivalry with Hannah; Braga, a half-orc woman and all around badass whose part of Tizzie’s group; Old Lady Bernadette (who’s only thirty-nine); The Four Daves, another group of adventurers similar to our heroines but made up of four guys named Dave; and fucking Gary.

And that’s just a few. There’s promises of more in future issues.

Upchurch’s art is fantastic. The characters are wonderfully expressive and all of them are identifiable at a glance. The women actually look like women, and if they’re being twisted into uncomfortable positions, it’s because some monster is trying to rip them apart. Rather than make fun of the typical skimpy female armor, the characters all have proper outfits: Violet wears metal armor, Betty wears loose clothes to allow for maximum range of movement, Hannah and Dee both wear cloth armor, with Hannah’s being more elfish while Dee has a cool tribal voodoo look going on. The cast showcases a variety of body-types (rare stuff with female comic book characters), species, and ethnicities. The world is well-imagined despite not going far out of the city of Palisade, and has a lot of room for expansion.

Rat Queens also has a lot of offer in the way of comedy. From the main group’s antics, to the vulgarity, to the good natured jabs at fantasy MMORPGs, there’s a lot of laughs to be had. Readers may get a sudden laugh at unexpected gore or an accurately placed curse.

Rat Queens has a lot to offer in the way of character, comedy, and adventure.  The first volume started and ended with a bang, and now I’m hungry for volume two. Whether you’re a guy who enjoys fantasy, a girl who wants to see more strong female leads, or someone off the binary who just loves a good story, I recommend seeing what the Rat Queens have to offer.

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Rediscovering Old Literary Loves: Thieves’ World

When you’re going through your book collection for the umpteenth time, you tend to rediscover old loves. Sometimes, those loves are not as great as you remember them. Sometimes you had started loving them, never finished, and then decided that you were going to bother anyway. And sometimes, you’re taken back and inspired.

If you asked me what my first experience with the short story was, I don’t think I’d really say it was during school. I would say that it started out with an anthology I picked up at a used book store without knowing it was an anthology—I’m pretty sure I just chose it based on the cool cover.

It was called Thieves’ World, and the first book was published in 1979.

I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the stories, even though I was probably in junior high and it was not a book meant for my reading group. As with most anthologies, I enjoyed some stories better than others, but for a long time I was drawn to these books and I find that I haven’t been able to enjoy any anthologies as much as I did Thieves’ World. I have several anthologies, and while I do enjoy a few stories, I just don’t get as into them.

When I look back at this series, I think my enjoyment came from the fact that Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey did something very unique for an anthology series. There was a commonality to every story: the setting. Every contributor created their characters and wrote their story to fit within the city of Sanctuary. It was a rich environment of magic, somewhat honest and criminal citizens, royalty, and gods. And rather than focus on the adventures of a single character, the anthology had its contributors create familiar citizens, many of whom crossed over into other stories. It was the idea of showing the lives of many different people in a single setting that made Thieves’ World so unique.

If anything, I think I’d say that Thieves’ World may have contributed to my love of Terry Prachett’s Discworld series, which carries a similar format of various characters existing in one world. And from there, it was a stepping stone for what I plan to do with a lot of my writing.

Truthfully, until I’d dug up these old books with their cracked spines, yellowed pages, and assorted grammatical errors, I didn’t realize just how much of an influence they’d had on not only my writing, but my reading as well.

Hell, it even makes me want to do something similar with the talented people I know. Granted, I think we’d all need some publication credits behind us first!

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Family-oriented Baddies are my Weak Point.

Everyone has their favourite type of villain. Not ‘antagonist,’ as that can refer to any number of obstacles going against our main character. I’m talking the human obstacle: the dark overlord, the crime kingpin, the local psychopath. Some of us like them remorseless and cold, some like them tragic, some like them mysterious, and some like them with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

I like it when they have families, but not families that are downtrodden and fearful of them. I don’t want a cowering wife or cautious husband, and dead-eyed children. If the Dark Lord has a wife, she’s his Queen and a badass in every measure. And these two? If they have kids, they are surprisingly doting parents, and those kids aren’t in the dark about what their parents do. Hell, they might even be on the way to taking over for mom and dad.

I really enjoy seeing the typical, loving family dynamic applied to villains. While some might say it’s been done to near cliché-ness, I still enjoy the contrast. We don’t expect villains to be loving, or we expect that the loss of their loved ones is the reason they’re villains. But I like the idea of a family scheming together, without all the plans to kill each other off for power or have one betray everyone else to the heroes (I’m looking at you, Overlord’s-Daughter-who-falls-in-love-with-the-Hero.) Seeing that family dynamic in our villains gives the audience a reason to like him, a possible weakness for the hero to exploit, and world-shattering consequences should anything happen to any member of the villain’s family.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the idea of tragedy surrounding the villain’s families, or said families being the key to the villain’s redemption. If I had to pick my current favourite villains (though, by season three, they’re more ‘morally ambiguous’ than outright evil), I would say it’s Queen Regina and Rumplestiltskin from ABC’s Once Upon a Time. Both are heavily motivated by family, a factor which leads to their downfall, and later redemption.

Regina is shown before her time as the Evil Queen as having a very close and loving relationship with her father, while she seeks her mother’s love and approval. Though she is more driven by her desire for revenge, her actions lead her to kill her beloved father as payment for the curse that sets the series off. In recent seasons, she’s less antagonistic towards the other main characters, but not exactly one of them. Her desire to change is influenced by her love for Henry, her adopted son. Regina’s family based character development is a wonderful thing to see. It’s well-paced, sticks to her character, and doesn’t play off her maternal instinct as a weakness. Her badassery hasn’t decreased at all.

Rumple is a more clear-cut example of family motivation. He kills and takes on the mantle of the Dark One to gain the power to prevent his son from being sent off to war. Despite his best intentions, this power corrupts him, and gradually pushes his son away. Though he wants to give up magic to make his son happy, he’s been corrupted by the power and can’t bring himself to do so, even when it means his son is lost in another world. Much of his motivation from that point is centered on getting to where his son went and reconciling. Like Regina, this leads him to become less of an antagonist, and more of an ally.

Really, I don’t do the characters justice in a hundred words. If I haven’t already spoiled too much of it, I suggest you give the series a try.

Perhaps it’s my love of my own family that makes me enjoy this dynamic in a villain. I think a good family brings out a lot of potential for character development.

What about you?

Categories: musings, On Writing, stuff i like, television and movies | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Steampunk: My Genre of Choice

A friend asked me, “Why Steampunk? Why the Victorian Era?”

A good question. Here’s why.

Before university, I was only vaguely aware if the Steampunk movement. It was collection of technologies and fashion that was just sort of emerging in popular culture. I saw bits of it in movies and television shows, but I didn’t think there was an actual name for the aesthetic.

Flashback to Halloween during my first year of university. I chose to re-use one of my old costumes—something called the Dark Princess, which I got because it was sexy while leaving some things to the imagination and had a circus thing going for it. My friend, Roya, had dressed up in an epic ensemble dominated by what she called her “Mage Coat,” a garment worthy of any self-respecting magic user. As we wandered the campus halls, we were found by a woman who looked as if she had just been caught in a small steam-engine explosion. Made up in soot, goggles, and Victorian working clothes, she swooped in and addressed us as Steampunks.

I had no idea what she—Katie, her name was, and we’ve been friends since this—was talking about, but we went along. It was through her that I found out about the Edmonton Steampunk Group. I was encouraged to attend one of their monthly events—Brass ‘n Brew—where I met an assortment of amazingly creative people.

And it all sort of went from there. I was introduced to this whole new world of fashion, film, and, most importantly, literature. I just ended up absorbing Steampunk as a genre. I loved the aesthetics and technology. I loved the time period (more on that in a moment) and what the movement did with it. I loved the plucky heroines and the dashing gents.

But most of all, I loved the versatility. Its fantasy and science fiction all in one, with some historical fiction thrown in for good measure. You can be as close to history as you want, to take several liberties. You can focus solely on technology, or include fantastic beings like faeries or goblins. The occult has a perfect spot in Victorian culture, and there are many tales of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and ghouls. Steampunk was a playground. I could do whatever I wanted with it and it left my creative mind teeming with possibilities.

So, why the Victorian Era? Well, that’s the time period for Steampunk. You go in different directions, and you get things like Clockpunk or Dieselpunk or Cyberpunk, which are different genres all together. Sticking to the era seemed best.

Granted, I did choose the tail end of the era, starting in 1886, because I do eventually desire to write a story involving Jack the Ripper.

As for the setting, I do realize that London is the most common backdrop for Steampunk stories, with America being a close second. Knowing that Victoria ruled an Empire, I wanted to see where I could go further. I didn’t just want to allude to things happening in other parts of the Victorian world, but show them.

I also have plans to implement a Steampunk world of my own, but that’s far off for now.

So, why Steampunk?

Because I’ve never felt like my writing has had so many possibilities before.

Categories: musings, On Writing, stuff i like, This is my life | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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