The thing about emo (as a musical genre and a cultural phenomenon) is, I think, that it was a response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and the Bush administration’s painful mishandling thereof.
No, I’m serious. My Chemical Romance was formed as a direct result of Gerard Way witnessing the towers fall. Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ (an album that, at least as far as I can tell from having been a teenager in Canada at the time, was seminal in influencing the look and sound of emo) is all about the Bush administration – all the lyrics are about life under a democratic dystopia and many reference current events from the time – and it came out in 2004, halfway through the Bush presidency. A bunch of Linkin Park’s stuff makes reference to it also, especially their album ‘Minutes to Midnight’, where they first started moving out of the nu-metal/rap sound they’d been working with before and into a more mainstream emo-rock sound. That album came out in 2007. All of the really big bands with that kind of sound – and most of the smaller ones with more of a punk/hardcore sound but similar themes – were active in the mainstream from around 2001-2010. Many of them didn’t survive past 2009, and those that did either totally reinvented themselves (Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, MCR for the five minutes it took to produce Danger Days, Linkin Park) or became near-totally irrelevant (Paramore dropped an album sometime in the last two years; did any of you know that? And Green Day haven’t mattered since 21st Century Breakdown, which was released in 2009).
Why? Well, many of you are probably too young to remember this, but the 2001 terror attacks were what really made ‘Islamic terrorism’ a real threat in the minds of most Westerners. We’d never experienced an attack of that scale on American soil, and it was just as the internet was really becoming a mainstay in every house and my generation was getting online. As a result, it was not only a major political event, but it was hugely personal – the coverage was everywhere, in everybody’s home, all the time, and there were a lot of kids being exposed to the coverage in such a way that they often had no good way to process it. I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed the way we live. I’m Canadian and I felt this shit. Before, we could fly to America domestic, without a passport. Now? Half the draconian, ridiculous rules that hold you up at the TSA today were initiated in September and October of 2001. It was the only thing anyone could think of to do – lock down, protect your own. People were scared, on a continental scale.
And to make matters worse, George W. Bush’s government, which had to somehow respond to and take point in the response to this unprecedented event, didn’t seem to have the first foggiest clue what they were doing. This was a government that not only didn’t seem to listen to its people, not only lied blatantly to its people, but did it badly. They made hugely unpopular decisions, including starting a war in the Middle East that dragged in multiple countries and completely failed to achieve its stated goal of catching Osama bin Laden or proving that he had in his control weapons of mass destruction (the whole war was predicated on the fact that these so-called weapons of mass destruction existed, that the Bush administration had good reason to believe that they existed, were under the control of the Taliban, and were going to be used against Western targets, none of which was ever proven to be true).
So, from 2001-2009, the two (TWO) full terms of the Bush presidency, there were a whole lot of people who couldn’t vote (be they under the age of majority, like most of the emo kids I knew, or Canadians unhappily dragged along with the US’ boneheaded foreign policy decisions because we’re allies, also like most of the emo kids I knew) and therefore felt, not only scared of basically the impending end of their world in a way that they hadn’t previously had to feel, and not only angry about being clearly lied to and clumsily manipulated when the truth was obvious to anyone with eyes, but also powerless to do anything to change anything about that. And meanwhile, people kept dying in this pointless war and the president kept trying to hold together the illusion that everything was hunky-dory.
And what was popular with teenagers from about 2001-2009? Yep. Emo.
Emo as a genre was very personal, very focused on the individual (with the exception of the albums I noted above), but lyrically and musically, it fit right with the cultural atmosphere of the time. People were scared of the impending end of their world/their lives? Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and The Black Parade. People were angry about things they felt powerless to change? From Under The Cork Tree and Decemberunderground. Emo captured what kids were feeling about trying to fit into a world that was so clearly fucked up and broken and pretending to be okay, putting on a strong face to Show The Terrorists They Didn’t Win. Emo was about stripping away the mask, exposing the messy, angry, frightened, sad, true underbelly of American society at the time, and exposing hypocrisy – in individuals as much as in politicians. The hatred of ‘preps’ and ‘posers’? Totally not just a My Immortal thing. Emo was about wearing your heart on your sleeve, about it being okay to mourn, to rage, to be afraid for your life beyond this – and to keep moving forward regardless, step by slow step.
So what changed in 2009 that made the phenomenon fade without so much as a whimper? Simple. Hope. The Audacity of Hope, to be exact.
Barack Obama won his presidency largely because young people supported him. Those were the young people who suffered through feeling helpless and powerless under Bush, who wanted things to change but felt they had no chance of making it so. Barack Obama was a chance. One of his first campaign promises was to end the Iraq war, a promise he followed through on. And even if his presidency hasn’t been perfect, it has never been the Bush administration, with the feeling that the will of the people was being entirely and quietly ignored by those in power to further their own agendas.
What I am saying, then, I guess, is that it’s time to buy stocks in Hot Topic, because whatever happens in the upcoming US presidential election, there are a lot of young people who may soon be needing black, white, and red graphic band tees and Manic Panic hair dye.
From someone who was in American high school in 2001, we were also incredibly terrified for at least the early Bush years. We were all pretty sure that the draft could possibly be reinstated and we could get sucked into the war. Some of my friends and I had plans on how best to get Don’t Ask, Don’t Telled out of the draft. We were all absolutely terrified of the prospect.
Tag: thanks op!
That thing about how cats think humans are big kittens is a myth, y’know.
It’s basically born of false assumptions; folks were trying to explain how a naturally solitary animal could form such complex social bonds with humans, and the explanation they settled on is “it’s a displaced parent/child bond”.
The trouble is, cats aren’t naturally solitary. We just assumed they were based on observations of European wildcats – but housecats aren’t descended from European wildcats. They’re descended from African wildcats, which are known to hunt in bonded pairs and family groupings, and that social tendency is even stronger in their domesticated relatives. The natural social unit of the housecat is a colony: a loose affiliation of cats centred around a shared territory held by alliance of dominant females, who raise all of the colony’s kittens communally.
It’s often remarked that dogs understand that humans are different, while cats just think humans are big, clumsy cats, and that’s totally true – but they regard us as adult colonymates, not as kittens, and all of their social behaviour toward us makes a lot more sense through that lens.
The like to cuddle because communal grooming is how cats bond with colonymates – it establishes a shared scent-identity for the colony and helps clean spots that they can’t easily reach on their own.
They bring us dead animals because cats transport surplus kills back to the colony’s shared territory for consumption by pregnant, nursing, or sick colonymates who can’t easily hunt on their own. Indeed, that’s why they kill so much more than they individually need – it’s not for fun, but to generate enough surplus kills to sustain the colony’s non-hunting members.
They’re okay with us messing with their kittens because communal parenting is the norm in a colony setting, and us being colonymates in their minds automatically makes us co-parents.
It’s even why many cats are so much more tolerant toward very small children, as long as those children are related to one of their regular humans: they can tell the difference between human adults and human “kittens”, and your kittens are their kittens.
Basically, you’re going to have a much easier time getting a handle on why your cat does why your cat does if you remember that the natural mode of social organisation for cats is not as isolated solitary hunters, but as a big communal catpile – and for that purpose, you count as a cat.
for all my autistic/adhd followers or anyone who just likes to fidget:
There’s this website called Stimtastic that sells toys and jewelry specifically designed for fidgeting with!
They’ve got phone cases with infinite bubble wrap (you can pop it as much as you want):
Rings that you can spin:
Even necklaces and jewelry designed to chew on:
(I just bought their “phoenix” chewable pendant)
Anyway, I’m autistic and I stim a lot so I got reallly excited when I found this, thought I’d share it with you guys.
okay so hey let’s talk about something that bugs me in fanfic about artistic characters: not all artists will wistfully draw the dude they have a crush on’s face over and over in their sketchbooks. like, few of them. very few of them.
i went to a visual arts school full of horny, lonely young people ages 18-28 and we were all constantly showing each other our sketchbooks, as is the traditional combat maneuver of the visual artist, and you know how many sketches of anyone’s boyfriend or girlfriend or love interest i saw? several hundred, if you count anime characters. maybe two or three if you only count real life people. mostly we just drew our friends. as anime characters. i’m an illustrator. i live with other illustrators. i know my roommate’s girlfriend’s cute anthro dog oc’s better than i know her face.
so like— is your character an artistic? do they like to draw? do they have a crush on someone? is it unrequited? they’re going to fill their sketchbook up with like, inu yasha covered in blood. or whatever the cool sad anime is for kids these days, but definitely someone sad and covered in blood. or like two faceless dudes fucking a cake, i saw that once. i knew a girl who only drew people fucking cakes, her whole sketchbook. your character also might just draw dragons everywhere, or really bad robots in smudgey pencil. your character is at some point going to draw a really skinny girl with really big boobs, holding a sword.
but like, as a general rule, visual artists don’t casually or absent-mindedly render things that are hard or make them anxious. like, drawing realistically from memory a crush’s face. will your character draw maybe a wolf or a horse or a dragon that somehow symbolically represents the object of their affections? pretty good odds. absentmindedly launching into a whole portrait of their beloved without noticing because they are so romantically forlorn? very unlikely. drawing their crush’s favorite flower or food or animal or character or something? definitely.
anyway, drawing from life is tough. drawing from life from memory is tougher. unless an artistic character is stated in canon to be good at portraiture, they’re really unlikely to fill their sketchbook up with wistful handsome faces.
feel free to reblog this post and add your own opinion, though, if you’re another visual artist.
Writing with Color: Description Guide – Words for Skin Tone
We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!
This final portion focuses on describing skin tone, with photo and passage examples provided throughout. I hope to cover everything from the use of straight-forward description to the more creatively-inclined, keeping in mind the questions we’ve received on this topic.
So let’s get to it.
S T A N D A R D D E S C R I P T I O N
B a s i c C o l o r s
Pictured above: Black, Brown, Beige, White, Pink.
“She had brown skin.”
- This is a perfectly fine description that, while not providing the most detail, works well and will never become cliché.
- Describing characters’ skin as simply brown or beige works on its own, though it’s not particularly telling just from the range in brown alone.
C o m p l e x C o l o r s
These are more rarely used words that actually “mean” their color. Some of these have multiple meanings, so you’ll want to look into those to determine what other associations a word might have.
Pictured above: Umber, Sepia, Ochre, Russet, Terra-cotta, Gold, Tawny, Taupe, Khaki, Fawn.
Complex colors work well alone, though often pair well with a basic color in regards to narrowing down shade/tone.
For example: Golden brown, russet brown, tawny beige…
- As some of these are on the “rare” side, sliding in a definition of the word within the sentence itself may help readers who are unfamiliar with the term visualize the color without seeking a dictionary.
“He was tall and slim, his skin a russet, reddish-brown.”
- Comparisons to familiar colors or visuals are also helpful:
“His skin was an ochre color, much like the mellow-brown light that bathed the forest.”
M o d i f i e r s
Modifiers, often adjectives, make partial changes to a word.The following words are descriptors in reference to skin tone.
D a r k – D e e p – R i c h – C o o l
W a r m – M e d i u m – T a n
F a i r – L i g h t – P a l e
Rich Black, Dark brown, Warm beige, Pale pink…
If you’re looking to get more specific than “brown,” modifiers narrow down shade further.
- Keep in mind that these modifiers are not exactly colors.
- As an already brown-skinned person, I get tan from a lot of sun and resultingly become a darker, deeper brown. I turn a pale, more yellow-brown in the winter.
- While best used in combination with a color, I suppose words like “tan” “fair” and “light” do work alone; I’d just note that tan is less likely to be taken for “naturally tan” and much more likely a tanned white person.
- Calling someone “dark” as description on its own is offensive to some and also ambiguous. (See: Describing Skin as Dark)
U n d e r t o n e s
Undertones are the colors beneath the skin, seeing as skin isn’t just one even color but has more subdued tones within the dominating palette.
- Mentioning the undertones within a character’s skin is an even more precise way to denote skin tone.
- As shown, there’s a difference between say, brown skin with warm orange-red undertones (Kelly Rowland) and brown skin with cool, jewel undertones (Rutina Wesley).
“A dazzling smile revealed the bronze glow at her cheeks.”
“He always looked as if he’d ran a mile, a constant tinge of pink under his tawny skin.”
Standard Description Passage
“Farah’s skin, always fawn, had burned and freckled under the summer’s sun. Even at the cusp of autumn, an uneven tan clung to her skin like burrs. So unlike the smooth, red-brown ochre of her mother, which the sun had richened to a blessing.”
-From my story “Where Summer Ends” featured in Strange Little Girls
- Here the state of skin also gives insight on character.
- Note my use of “fawn” in regards to multiple meaning and association. While fawn is a color, it’s also a small, timid deer, which describes this very traumatized character of mine perfectly.
Though I use standard descriptions of skin tone more in my writing, at the same time I’m no stranger to creative descriptions, and do enjoy the occasional artsy detail of a character.
C R E A T I V E D E S C R I P T I O N
Whether compared to night-cast rivers or day’s first light…I actually enjoy seeing Characters of Colors dressed in artful detail.
I’ve read loads of descriptions in my day of white characters and their “smooth rose-tinged ivory skin”, while the PoC, if there, are reduced to something from a candy bowl or a Starbucks drink, so to actually read of PoC described in lavish detail can be somewhat of a treat.
Still, be mindful when you get creative with your character descriptions. Too many frills can become purple-prose–like, so do what feels right for your writing when and where.
Not every character or scene warrants a creative description, either. Especially if they’re not even a secondary character.
Using a combination of color descriptions from standard to creative is probably a better method than straight-up creative. But again, do what’s good for your tale.
N A T U R AL S E T T I N G S – S K Y
Pictured above: Harvest Moon -Twilight, Fall/Autumn Leaves, Clay, Desert/Sahara, Sunlight – Sunrise – Sunset – Afterglow – Dawn- Day- Daybreak, Field – Prairie – Wheat, Mountain/Cliff, Beach/Sand/Straw/Hay.
- Now before you run off to compare your heroine’s skin to the harvest moon or a cliff side, think about the associations to your words.
- When I think cliff, I think of jagged, perilous, rough. I hear sand and picture grainy, yet smooth. Calm. mellow.
- So consider your character and what you see fit to compare them to.
- Also consider whose perspective you’re describing them from. Someone describing a person they revere or admire may have a more pleasant, loftier description than someone who can’t stand said person.
“Her face was like the fire-gold glow of dawn, lifting my gaze, drawing me in.”
“She had a sandy complexion, smooth and tawny.”
- Even creative descriptions tend to draw help from your standard words.
F L O W E R S
Pictured above: Calla lilies, Western Coneflower, Hazel Fay, Hibiscus, Freesia, Rose
- It was a bit difficult to find flowers to my liking that didn’t have a 20 character name or wasn’t called something like “chocolate silk” so these are the finalists.
- You’ll definitely want to avoid purple-prose here.
- Also be aware of flowers that most might’ve never heard of. Roses are easy, as most know the look and coloring(s) of this plant. But Western coneflowers? Calla lilies? Maybe not so much.
“He entered the cottage in a huff, cheeks a blushing brown like the flowers Nana planted right under my window. Hazel Fay she called them, was it?”
A S S O R T E D P L A N T S & N A T U R E
Pictured above: Cattails, Seashell, Driftwood, Pinecone, Acorn, Amber
- These ones are kinda odd. Perhaps because I’ve never seen these in comparison to skin tone, With the exception of amber.
- At least they’re common enough that most may have an idea what you’re talking about at the mention of “pinecone.“
- I suggest reading out your sentences aloud to get a better feel of how it’ll sounds.
“Auburn hair swept past pointed ears, set around a face like an acorn both in shape and shade.”
- I pictured some tree-dwelling being or person from a fantasy world in this example, which makes the comparison more appropriate.
- I don’t suggest using a comparison just “’cuz you can” but actually being thoughtful about what you’re comparing your character to and how it applies to your character and/or setting.
W O O D
Pictured above: Mahogany, Walnut, Chestnut, Golden Oak, Ash
- Wood is definitely an iffy description for skin tone. Not only due to several of them having “foody” terminology within their names, but again, associations.
- Some people would prefer not to compare/be compared to wood at all, so get opinions, try it aloud, and make sure it’s appropriate to the character if you do use it.
“The old warlock’s skin was a deep shade of mahogany, his stare serious and firm as it held mine.”
M E T A L S
Pictured above: Platinum, Copper, Brass, Gold, Bronze
- Copper skin, brass-colored skin, golden skin…
- I’ve even heard variations of these used before by comparison to an object of the same properties/coloring, such as penny for copper.
- These also work well with modifiers.
“The dress of fine white silks popped against the deep bronze of her skin.”
G E M S T O N E S – M I N E R A LS
Pictured above: Onyx, Obsidian, Sard, Topaz, Carnelian, Smoky Quartz, Rutile, Pyrite, Citrine, Gypsum
- These are trickier to use. As with some complex colors, the writer will have to get us to understand what most of these look like.
- If you use these, or any more rare description, consider if it actually “fits” the book or scene.
- Even if you’re able to get us to picture what “rutile” looks like, why are you using this description as opposed to something else? Have that answer for yourself.
“His skin reminded her of the topaz ring her father wore at his finger, a gleaming stone of brown, mellow facades.”
P H Y S I C A L D E S C R I P T I ON
- Physical character description can be more than skin tone.
- Show us hair, eyes, noses, mouth, hands…body posture, body shape, skin texture… though not necessarily all of those nor at once.
- Describing features also helps indicate race, especially if your character has some traits common within the race they are, such as Afro hair to a Black character.
- How comprehensive you decide to get is up to you. I wouldn’t overdo it and get specific to every mole and birthmark. Noting defining characteristics is good, though, like slightly spaced front teeth, curls that stay flopping in their face, hands freckled with sunspots…
G E N E R A L T I P S
Indicate Race Early: I suggest indicators of race be made at the earliest convenience within the writing, with more hints threaded throughout here and there.
- Get Creative All On Your Own: Obviously, I couldn’t cover every proper color or comparison in which has been “approved” to use for your characters’ skin color, so it’s up to you to use discretion when seeking other ways and shades to describe skin tone.
- Skin Color May Not Be Enough: Describing skin tone isn’t always enough to indicate someone’s ethnicity. As timeless cases with readers equating brown to “dark white” or something, more indicators of race may be needed.
Describe White characters and PoC Alike: You should describe the race and/or skin tone of your White characters just as you do your Characters of Color. If you don’t, you risk implying that White is the default human being and PoC are the “Other”).
- PSA: Don’t use “Colored.” Based on some asks we’ve received using this word, I’d like to say that unless you or your character is a racist grandmama from the 1960s, do not call People of Color “colored” please.
- Not Sure Where to Start? You really can’t go wrong using basic colors for your skin descriptions. It’s actually what many people prefer and works best for most writing. Personally, I tend to describe my characters using a combo of basic colors + modifiers, with mentions of undertones at times. I do like to veer into more creative descriptions on occasion.
- Want some alternatives to “skin” or “skin color”? Try: Appearance, blend, blush, cast, coloring, complexion, flush, glow, hue, overtone, palette, pigmentation, rinse, shade, sheen, spectrum, tinge, tint, tone, undertone, value, wash.
Skin Tone Resources
- List of Color Names
- The Color Thesaurus
- Things that are Brown (blog)
- Skin Undertone & Color Matching
- Tips and Words on Describing Skin
- Photos: Undertones Described (Modifiers included)
- Online Thesaurus (try colors, such as “red” & “brown”)
- Don’t Call me Pastries: Creative Skin Tones w/ pics 3 2 1
Writing & Description Guides
- WWC Guide: Words to Describe Hair
- Writing with Color: Description & Skin Color
- Describing Characters of Color (Passage Examples)
- 7 Offensive Mistakes Well-intentioned Writers Make
I tried to be as comprehensive as possible with this guide, but if you have a question regarding describing skin color that hasn’t been answered within part I or II of this guide, or have more questions after reading this post, feel free to ask!
~ Mod Colette
A quick tip for writers out there, who use Microsoft Words:
Change the background colour of the pages to a mint green shade.
It is said that green is a calming colour, however, the main reason why I like this, is because I can write for a much longer period of time now, as a white background I used before made my eyes dry and exhausted after just a few hours of working.
It is basically much more soft and careful to the eyes. I can’t precisely explain why that is. I think it’s that by making a pinch softer contrast of the text and the background, your eyes does not get exposed to as much light.
Just make sure to not make the background too dark, or else your eyes will get exhausted do to over-fixating the lack of contrast between text and background.
And maybe you find a nice pastel/light background shade that fits you; give it a try.
Different things work out and fits for different people. And I just felt like sharing this.
Here’s the shade numbers I used to get my preferred colour:
Thanks for reading.
You just solved a very real problem for me! Thanks!
For those who might not know where to find this: It’s in the Page Layout tab.
I had no idea this was possible before today!
5 Moral Dilemmas That Make Characters and Stories Even Better
Readers can’t resist turning pages when characters are facing tough choices. Use these 5 keys to weave moral dilemmas into your stories–and watch your fiction climb to new heights.
#1: Give Your Character Dueling Desires
Before our characters can face difficult moral decisions, we need to give them beliefs that matter: The assassin has his own moral code not to harm women or children, the missionary would rather die than renounce his faith, the father would sacrifice everything to pay the ransom to save his daughter.
A character without an attitude, without a spine, without convictions, is one who will be hard for readers to cheer for and easy for them to forget.
So, to create an intriguing character facing meaningful and difficult choices, give her two equally strong convictions that can be placed in opposition to each other.
For example: A woman wants (1) peace in her home and (2) openness between her and her husband. So, when she begins to suspect that he’s cheating on her, she’ll struggle with trying to decide whether or not to confront him about it. If she only wanted peace she could ignore the problem; if she only wanted openness she would bring it up regardless of the results. But her dueling desires won’t allow her such a simple solution.
That creates tension.
And tension drives a story forward.
So, find two things that your character is dedicated to and then make him choose between them. Look for ways to use his two desires to force him into doing something he doesn’t want to do.
For instance, a Mennonite pastor’s daughter is killed by a drunk driver. When the man is released on a technicality, does the minister forgive him (and what would that even look like?) or does he take justice into his own hands? In this case, his (1) pacifist beliefs are in conflict with his (2) desire for justice. What does he do?
Another example: Your protagonist believes (1) that cultures should be allowed to define their own subjective moralities, but also (2) that women should be treated with the same dignity and respect as men. She can’t stand the thought of women being oppressed by the cultures of certain countries, but she also feels it’s wrong to impose her values on someone else. When she is transplanted to one of those countries, then, what does she do?
Construct situations in which your character’s equally strong convictions are in opposition to each other, and you will create occasions for thorny moral choices.
#2: Put Your Character’s Convictions to the Test
We don’t usually think of it this way, but in a very real sense, to bribe someone is to pay him to go against his beliefs; to extort someone is to threaten him unless he goes against them.
- How much would you have to pay the vegan animal rights activist to eat a steak (bribery)? Or, how would you need to threaten her in order to coerce her into doing it (extortion)?
- What would it cost to get the loving, dedicated couple to agree never to see each other again (bribery)? Or, how would you need to threaten them to get them to do so (extortion)?
- What would you need to pay the pregnant teenage Catholic girl to convince her to have an abortion (bribery)? What threat could you use to get her to do it (extortion)?
Look for ways to bribe and extort your characters. Don’t be easy on them. As writers we sometimes care about our characters so much that we don’t want them to suffer. As a result we might shy away from putting them into difficult situations.
That’s the exact opposite of what needs to happen in order for our fiction to be compelling.
What’s the worst thing you can think of happening to your character, contextually, within this story? Now, challenge yourself—try to think of something else just
as bad, and force your character to decide between
Plumb the depths of your character’s convictions by asking, “How far will s/he go to … ?” and “What would it take for … ?”
(1) How far will Frank go to protect the one he loves?
(2) What would it take for him to stand by and watch the one he loves die when he has the power to save her?
(1) How far will Angie go to find freedom?
(2) What would it take for her to choose to be buried alive?
(1) How far will Detective Rodriguez go to pursue justice?
(2) What would it take for him to commit perjury and send an innocent person to death row?
Ask yourself: What does my character believe in? What priorities does she have? What prejudices does she need to overcome? Then, put her convictions to the ultimate test to make her truest desires and priorities come to the surface.
#3: Force Your Character into a Corner
Don’t give him an easy out. Don’t give him any wiggle room. Force him to make a choice, to act. He cannot abstain. Take him through the process of dilemma, choice, action and consequence:
(1) Something that matters must be at stake.
(2) There’s no easy solution, no easy way out.
(3) Your character must make a choice. He must act.
(4) That choice deepens the tension and propels the story forward.
(5) The character must live with the consequences of his decisions and actions.
If there’s an easy solution there’s no true moral dilemma. Don’t make one of the choices “the lesser of two evils”; after all, if one is lesser, it makes the decision easier.
For example, say you’ve taken the suggestion in the first key above and forced your character to choose between honoring equal obligations. He could be caught between loyalty to two parties, or perhaps be torn between his family obligations and his job responsibilities. Now, raise the stakes—his marriage is at risk and so is his job, but he can’t save them both. What does he do?
The more imminent you make the choice and the higher the stakes that decision carries, the sharper the dramatic tension and the greater your readers’ emotional engagement. To achieve this, ask “What if?” and the questions that naturally follow:
- What if she knows that being with the man she loves will cause him to lose his career? How much of her lover’s happiness would she be willing to sacrifice to be with him?
- What if an attorney finds herself defending someone she knows is guilty? What does she do? What if that person is her best friend?
- What if your character has to choose between killing himself or being forced to watch a friend die?
Again, make your character reevaluate his beliefs, question his assumptions and justify his choices. Ask yourself: How is he going to get out of this? What will he have to give up (something precious) or take upon himself (something painful) in the process?
Explore those slippery slopes. Delve into those gray areas. Avoid questions that elicit a yes or no answer, such as: “Is killing the innocent ever justified?” Instead, frame the question in a way that forces you to take things deeper: “When is killing the innocent justified?” Rather than, “Does the end justify the means?” ask, “When does the end justify the means?”
#4: Let the Dilemmas Grow From the Genre
Examine your genre and allow it to influence the choices your character must face. For instance, crime stories naturally lend themselves to exploring issues of justice and injustice: At what point do revenge and justice converge? What does that require of this character? When is preemptive justice really injustice?
Love, romance and relationship stories often deal with themes of faithfulness and betrayal: When is it better to hide the truth than to share it? How far can you shade the truth before it becomes a lie? When do you tell someone a secret that would hurt him? For example, your protagonist, a young bride-to-be, has a one-night stand. She feels terrible because she loves her fiancé, but should she tell him what happened and shatter him—and perhaps lose him—or keep the truth hidden?
Fantasy, myth and science fiction are good venues for exploring issues of consciousness, humanity and morality: How self-aware does something need to be (an animal, a computer, an unborn baby) before it should be afforded the same rights as fully developed humans? At what point does destroying an AI computer become murder? Do we really have free will or are our choices determined by our genetic makeup and environmental cues?
#5: Look the Third Way
You want your readers to be thinking, I have no idea how this is going to play out. And then, when they see where things go, you want them to be satisfied.
There’s a story in the Bible about a time religious leaders caught a woman committing adultery and brought her to Jesus. In those days, in that culture, adultery was an offense that was punishable by death. The men asked Jesus what they should do with this woman. Now, if Jesus had told them to simply let her go free he would have been contravening the law; if, however, he told them to put her to death, he would have undermined his message of “forgiveness and mercy.”
It seemed like a pretty good trap, until he said, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”
I call this finding the Third Way. It’s a solution that’s consistent with the character’s attitude, beliefs and priorities, while also being logical and surprising.
We want the solutions that our heroes come up with to be unexpected and inevitable.
Present yours with a seemingly impossible conundrum.
And then help him find the Third Way out.
I hope this helped! I’ve been really busy today, seeing how my mom had surgery and I’ve been trying to continue writing my novel today as well. I thought I’d squeeze in some more stuff for you guys!
If you have any questions or just want to talk, feel free to visit my ask box!
Tagged for future reference
Les Miserables Audio gift 01.04.16
I also was in Les Miserables on Friday ( 01.04.16) and i made an Audio:)
Jean Valjean: Peter Lockyer Javert: Jeremy Secomb
Fantine: Jessamy Stoddart Madame Thenardier: Tamsin Dowsett
Thenardier: Phil Daniels Marius: Craig Mather
Enjolras: Bradley Jaden Cosette: Zoe Doano
Eponine: Danielle Hope Grantaire: Jo Parson
Jean Prouvaire: Edd Campbell Bird
Courfeyrac: Matthew Harvey Combeferre: Matthew Jeans
Feuilly: Luke McCall Joly: Jonny Purchase
Montparnasse: Michael Riseley
Child Actors: Barcy Jacobs, Imogen Darwen, Toby Ungelson
Rest of the cast: Adam Bayjou, Josie Brightwell, Oliver Brenin, David Burnip, Jordan Lee Davies, Sanne den Besten, Katy Hanna, Charlotte Kennedy, Jo Loxton, Adam Pearce, Courtney Stapelton
Act 1 http://www.4shared.com/music/iZDJ2umWce/Act_1_Les_Miz.html
Act 2 http://www.4shared.com/music/d5Aw0bP_ba/Act_2_Les_Miz.html
The American primary election process is, by any measure, arcane, drawn-out, and at times maddeningly confusing.
This Tuesday, March 1, is “Super Tuesday,” aka the “SEC Primary,” (the latter comes from a college athletics conference that includes many of the states voting). A whole slew of states are holding primaries and caucuses. I’ll address the basics of How To Caucus in a separate post — it can be a bit confusing the first time, but don’t let that deter you!
Delegates on Super Tuesday will be allotted proportionately — winner-take-all contests aren’t allowed until March 15. Some states do it directly proportional, but many have clauses where the winner will take most of the votes or candidates have to meet a certain threshold before getting delegates. The math for the Republicans, in particular, will probably get complicated.
If you want some great voter guides, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has an easy-to-use state by state breakdown [here] — you can even use it if you’re voting for Hillary! The League of Women Voters has a great non-partisan search tool as well [here], and has an awesome voter’s guide [here] to help you compare candidates — remember, you might have local races that have primaries as well! Be an informed citizen, and remember that local government often has more of an influence on your day-to-day life than the President.
Also, on Tuesday night, check out The Guardian’s live election returns page. If they continue doing what they’ve done so far, they have little animated figures of the candidates coloring in the counties they’ve won while they spout off talking points. It’s adorable and hilarious.
Answers to FAQs under the cut (corrections welcome):