More Stuff I’ve Learned

So doing this long project of reading and writing fan fiction, I have learned a few things. First, I learned that stories have rhythms: action/inaction, noise/quiet, angst/fluff, questioning/answering, planning/executing. I feel like this is sort of like beats in a movie, but apparently there, a beat, according to Wikipedia, is an act or discovery that alters the way the main character goes about his/her purpose.

Second, people really love the word “smirk,” practically to a criminal extent.

Third, many, many people, people who consider themselves writers, are completely capable of having read fiction all their lives without actually ever learning the rules for punctuating dialogue. “This one bothers me most,” she said, smirking. I have probably left comments on this, encouraging people to look at their favorite novel to figure out the rules, maybe twenty times.

My Project, or At Least the Most Recent One

GSyPX-XS_400x400

So, to answer our pal, HeyLookAWriterFellow, who asked me what my project is, the answer is pretty much what you would expect from a writer. My project is procrastination.

But what might be less expectable is that the project I “should” be working on, the Great American Novel, has been replaced by the Great American FanFiction Magnum Opus. So I am putting off writing another two hundred pages of one project by writing almost 800 pages of another project.

People who know me well probably aren’t surprised by this. I can be remarkably constructive when the spirit hits me. Also, about 650 pages of that is based on Season Two of Supergirl, and the rest is a series of “one shots,” which are basically short stories, but linked together by a theme (in this case how all the characters got to be where they were by the time of the pilot, Season One, Episode One. Also a story about Pink Kryptonite which took way too long to get off the ground. Like twenty chapters or something.

But the beautiful thing about being a writing teacher is that as long as I am learning things from the process, it’s all good. And I have been learning a lot!

Projects as Improving Happiness

The following paragraphs appeared in the New Yorker on 7 July 2016. I just discovered them today. They conclude a piece about how scientists are trying to find the things that make happy people healthier, and it appears to have less to do with hedonic pleasure and more to do with human connection and this, having goals:

A further tantalizing clue might come from a distant corner of the academy. Since the early nineteen-seventies, the psychologist Brian R. Little has been interested in what he calls personal projects. He and his colleagues at Cambridge University, he told me, have “looked at literally tens of thousands of personal projects in thousands of participants.” Most people, Little’s work suggests, have around fifteen projects going at any time, ranging from the banal, like trying to get your wife to remember to switch off your computer once she’s used it (that’s one of mine), to the lofty, like trying to bring peace to the Middle East. Little refers to this second category as the “core” projects. One of his consistent findings is that, in order to bring us happiness, a project must have two qualities: it must be meaningful in some way, and we must have efficacy over it. (That is, there’s little use trying to be the fastest human in the world if you’re an overweight, agoraphobic retiree.) When I described Cole and Fredrickson’s research, Little noted that it was remarkably congruent with his ideas. As with eudaemonia, though, the precise definition of a core project is malleable. “Core projects can increase the possibilities for social connection, but not necessarily,” Little said. It all depends on an individual’s needs. “A Trappist monk’s core projects don’t require the same kind of connection as an everyday bloke from Birmingham.”

Indeed, this malleability is perhaps the most encouraging quality of both Little’s core project and Aristotle’s eudaemonia, because it makes finding happiness a real possibility. Even the most temperamentally introverted or miserable among us has the capacity to find a meaningful project that suits who we are. Locating it won’t just bring pleasure; it might also bring a few more years of life in which to get the project done.

Writing Lesson of the Day

A few years back I worked with a very good writer who was getting an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Business. He came in after he had defended his very interesting thesis and threw himself into the chair beside me. He said, “I have figured out the one thing I have learned at Sloan.”

“What’s that?” I asked, curious.

“If your figure isn’t working, add arrows.”

Now on the one hand, he was kind of kidding, but really he also sort of wasn’t. When you are making a figure that explains some phenomenon, the arrows are the moving parts, the dynamic part of the system. So if your figure doesn’t she the important bit, of course it’s not going to work.

So the main thing I have learned from churning out angst and fluff and action and a few other things at a superhuman (yeah, it’s a pun, deal with it) rate these last two months is this:

(fanfare)

If your scene/story/chapter isn’t working, you are probably in the wrong point of view.

cat_pov

Why I’ve Been AWOL

Okay, so I have spent the last 71 days writing over 205,000 words of fan fiction for the TV show Supergirl, because the damn writers took a great show and started really fucking it up, putting the main character into a toxic and verbally abusive relationship, probably because the powers that be are trying to “balance” out the canon lesbian relationship and the show started getting very gay. And even Katie McGrath, who plays Lena Luthor, after Melissa Benoist told her about the existence of SuperCorp in fan hearts, rewatched the episodes she has played with Melissa and said, yes, it is completely reasonable. So yes. I have been AWOL here because I have been using my superpower of writing quickly and reasonably brilliantly because I have seen people on the Supergirl fan pages saying how triggered they are being by this iconic character dating a jerk.

 

But it has taught me the difficulties of sorting out POV when there are a lot of characters and action in a scene, the joys of dialogue, the ease/difficulty of capturing different characters’ voices, and a few other things. It turns out I am very good at writing yearning and very bad at writing snark, but maybe we knew that…18033287_10208755731351480_4425490238029206143_n

Caring about Stories in a World Hemorrhaging Empathy

16388352_257861987968285_2005729941804739843_n

So yes, giant nerd that I am, I am on a Facebook group for Supergirl fans, who have been celebrating the relationship between Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer (Sanvers), and one of the members wrote:

“Have you ever been (or are) in relationship where your partner isn’t into TV shows, fandoms, ships and all this stuff? My girlfriend isn’t in fandoms. In fact, she doesn’t get being a fan at all. And the whole concept of being interested in for example an actor and having emotions towards them (like being sad when an actor dies) is something she doesn’t get at all. I’m the exact opposite. I mean I wrote my last school paper in 12th grade about Star Trek and just yesterday I cried again when I thought about John Hurt.
“I don’t need my partner to watch my shows with me but sometimes I get very excited about things like when Alex did came out to Maggie. That was so wonderful and important and I told my girlfriend about it but she actually got kinda angry that I considered it important to tell her that some fictional characters are getting together or coming out. Later I tried to explain to her why I think Sanvers is so important but she wasn’t open to this. She thinks it’s ‘just’ a TV show so one shouldn’t be too invested even if it has a good message. So now I pretty much avoid mentioning this kind of topic or getting into fangirl mode when I’m around her. Although she did watch the pilot of Supergirl a while ago and she did like it a bit (until it became to much superhero stuff lol).”

So I replied, “Have you tried a representation matters argument, like the example of Whoopi Goldberg seeing Lt. Uhura for the first time? Or Martin Luther King Jr. calling up Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) to tell her that she couldn’t quite the show because of fans’ negativity because black people needed to see her representing? And don’t forget the Bury Your Gays trope. Sanvers matters.”

She said, “Yes I brought a few of these things up but she just doesn’t like the fact that something like TV show does have such an impact on people. She thinks people should concentrate and be influenced by ‘real’ people and the ‘real life’. I don’t like it in general if people start talking about living in the ‘real world’. My world is as real as theirs it’s just different. I’m rather be influenced by the ‘fictional’ messages of Star Trek or Supergirl than the narrow-minded opinions of my real neighbors or relatives. If a positive message comes in form of a book by a Pulitzer prize winner people accept it but comes the same message in the context of a TV show some people declare it as trivial or non existent.”

I agreed and pointed out that people always disrespect popular culture, but once Shakespeare was popular culture, and the messages of Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo, etc. are valid. The stories we tell ourselves in today’s world are just as valid. Art of the people helps us process that real world that everyone is so fond of talking about.

Other people pointed out that part of the problem was her girlfriend’s seeming lack of respect, and I let them handle that part of the argument. My expertise is on the writing and story side. As I have written about feminism, post-modernism, fan (relation)shipping and other topics, including my list of Badass Women In Combat Gear™, a lot of these shows and the relationships on them give us strength for the hard times.

Another person pointed out: “I can relate to this, I really can. These shows, or ships, they’re more than just that. They’re an escape from our reality for a little while. We form an emotional bond with these characters because we relate to them on an emotional level. They become important to us and we become invested in them. Not many people outside of the fandom may get this but we’re lucky that the Internet exists so we can meet people anywhere in the world who can relate to us.”

Interestingly, JRR Tolkien wrote an essay on the importance of fantasy as escape, referring to the soldier POW’s responsibility to escape. He says, “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

And recently, Owen Gleiberman in Variety had this to say about Meryl Streep’s Oscars speech16388352_257861987968285_2005729941804739843_n: “Roger Ebert, in one of my favorite quotes about movies, called the cinema ‘a machine that generates empathy,’ and surely that’s the essence of it. To watch a good movie is to feel connected to the souls of the characters it’s about. That’s why a movie doesn’t need to be ‘political’ to be a moral experience. That act of connection — of empathy — realigns how we feel about the world. The people who work in Hollywood may be wealthy and lucky, but to suggest that they’re simply a colony of ‘narcissists’ is to radically bypass what they do. Empathy is their art, their business, their mission. That’s why, at their best, the movies they make show us a higher way of being.”

 

So this is just a mess of not entirely unconnected thoughts, but what do you all think? How do stories help us?

On refugees and Christianity, again

Some coherent thoughts from our pal, Luther M. Siler.

Infinitefreetime.com

24OPINION-diptych-articleLarge.jpg On the right, Rouwaida Hanoun, a Syrian five-year-old who is, as far as I know, still alive.  On the left, Anne Frank, who is not.

There are– it is horrifying to think, but it is true– people who believe that the orange fascist currently occupying the White House is a Christian.  Many of these people are the same people who believed Barack Obama to not be a Christian, so it’s immediately and apparently clear that when they say “Christianity,” what they mean is “White supremacy,” and they have little to no idea of what Jesus actually preached, what he might have believed, or– rather importantly– what he looked like.

I noticed this morning that the post I wrote about refugees last year is spiking in page views again, which is not surprising.  The monster in the White House has chosen to ban desperately frightened and endangered people– the “least among…

View original post 541 more words